Tired but undefeated, Sonic and Shadow walked out of the blast area to a surprised and joyful greeting from the other members of the resistance. Everyone was there, even the human children, who'd left the hideout at the sound of the explosion and had been guided by Tikal to where the others stood, waiting. She was there, too, by Knuckles' side, projecting an image of herself as she had once looked hundreds of years before.

"Sonic!" Tails shouted, dashing forward to his friend. Amy spoke at the same time, her voice quieter, but no less happy.

"Shadow, you did it…"

Shadow walked across to her, a slightly strange, unbalanced-looking figure with his left hand and lower arm gone, but Amy barely noticed. At last, at long last their dreams had come true, the hopes they'd barely dared to hold realised before them.

"We did it, Tails!" Sonic's voice rang out across the empty street, strong and confident despite the exhaustion evident in his stance and expression.

"I knew you could, Sonic!"

"Well done, all of you." For a few moments, no-one recognised the speaker, calm and mature, almost serene in the midst of the destruction and death they had faced. Then, almost as one, they turned to face Crossfire, standing with a supportive hand on his younger brother's shoulder. With the power of the Chaos Emerald gone from them, the two squirrels were barely recognisable, only their identically blue eyes hinting at who and what they had been. Crossfire held himself with a graceful poise most people could only envy, the constant fury that had always hardened his expression, been present in every line of his stance, gone completely. In sharp contrast to his older brother, Blaze stood awkwardly, as if he barely knew how to do so. The positive side of the Chaos Emerald's power had aided him for so long, giving him so much unquestioned knowledge, that he no longer even really knew how to walk, his sure and certain knowledge of the best path lost forever. His power had supported him, and he had grown to rely on it, whereas Crossfire had fought the power possessing him up until the very end, and now the result was clear to see.

"I want to apologise to you all for everything I did to hurt you. I… I hope you can forgive me."

Standing with one arm around Shadow, Amy's smile broadened slightly, and she spoke for the resistance as a whole when she replied.

"It wasn't you doing that, Crossfire. It was the Chaos Emerald inside you… you did well to hold it back as much as you did."

Beside Sonic, Tails nodded. He knew better than most of them the sheer power of the Chaos Emeralds. Even though it must have been mostly dormant within the squirrels at first, Tails was surprised Crossfire had been able to withstand it.

Crossfire smiled back, an expression none of them had ever seen before. "Thank you, Amy." He paused, uncertain, glancing towards the rubble. Somewhere beneath it lay Chess' body, wherever Blaze had told Shadow to set her down. With the destruction of the surrounding buildings, it was unlikely they'd ever find her. "…There's something else I want to say." Another pause, shorter than the first, but still noticeable. "I'm not sure who I am any more. I'm not the person I used to be." He shook his head, looking down. "I know we need to rebuild, but I don't think I can help you, not like this. I have to understand who I've become." Again, he paused, glancing in the direction of the ruins once more. "I'd like to take my brother and look for Abigail's parents. She believed they were still alive, and if they are, they deserve to know what happened."

"Abigail?" Rouge asked.

"Chess," Tails replied absently. Chess hadn't used her real name much, although he did remember her pestering Crossfire to tell her his more than once. Everyone in the resistance had known it, like they knew Tails', but nobody used it.

Amy nodded, understanding. She knew as well as the others that Chess' parents were almost certainly long dead, quite a bit closer to the epicentre of the blast that destroyed her home than Chess herself had been, but only Crossfire had ever tried to disillusion her. His search for her family would probably never end until he chose to stop… but perhaps that was what he wanted.

"I understand, Crossfire."

Sonic looked around. This was probably the last time he'd see most of this mismatched group together. With Crossfire leaving and taking Blaze with him, and Knuckles, Tikal, and Rouge almost certainly returning to Angel Island with the Master Emerald, that left only Tails, Shadow and Amy, and the human children, Trick and Gaze.

Shadow and Amy, eh? Who'd have thought? It was certainly just about the last thing he'd have expected… but then, she'd changed since he knew her, grown into someone very different – and she wasn't the only one. Shadow was different, too, if not as much, and even Tails had changed in some ways.

"We're leaving, too," Knuckles said bluntly. "The Master Emerald must be returned to Angel Island." After so long spent away from his home, running and hiding and running again, the Echidna wanted nothing more than to return to his peaceful life on his island. Now that that chance had finally come, he had no intention of waiting any longer than he had to.

"What about you, Sonic? What will you do?" Amy asked.

"Oh," Sonic said, grinning, "I'll be around."

Tails smiled. Sonic hadn't changed at all…

The End

Credits and Acknowledgements

Only Yesterday was inspired by the Blind Guardian song "I'm Alive". Sonic and all related characters are © SEGA, and are used without permission. I don't own any of them, don't have anything to do with SEGA, and don't make any money out of this.

Blaze, Crossfire, Chess, Trick and Gaze, and the Only Yesterday storyline are all my own invention, and any resemblance to anyone alive, dead, or fictional, or to any other story, is purely a coincidence. Honest.

Many thanks to:
Sparky Lurkdragon, best friend, beta-reader, and fellow author. Read her awesome Ecco stuff!
All my reviewers, without whose encouragement I would almost certainly have never finished writing this!
My family, for being generally awesome.
SEGA, for the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
Blind Guardian, for the inspiration behind this story.

Thank you once again for reading and reviewing! I hope you've all enjoyed reading the story as much as I have writing it.
Should any of you fanfic writers want to base a story on Only Yesterday and/or its original characters, then by all means, go ahead! This is fanfiction, after all – just please, remember to credit me, and please let me know so I can read it! I'd be happy to beta-read if asked, too!

Ardil the Traveller