"Jus' one sec, little buddy!" Sonic called, screeching to a halt and heading back. "I just thought of a gift we can leave Eggman!"
"I can wait, but the bomb won't!" Tails yelled, but Sonic went on as if he hadn't heard. Sonic had 15 seconds to leave his surprise, whatever it was, and get out. At 5 seconds Tails knew he'd need help. Tails flew towards the factory when all of a sudden it went up, sending him tumbling through the air. He caught himself and looked desperately for Sonic. His heart stopped. Sonic was draped over some jagged rocks, motionless. Tails dove down and pulled his friend into the air as pieces of the factory fell like rain around them.
"Sonic, the tests were done-"
"Who did them?" Sonic demanded.
"Dr-" Amy began.
"Not good enough," said Sonic. "It has to be Tails."
"Sonic, Tails isn't-"
"It has to be Tails!" Sonic shouted. Amy backed away in fear. "You should probably go," said Tails to Amy quietly. "He-he's not going to take this very well at all."
He closed the door behind Amy and stood next to the bed where Sonic was sitting. When he had woken up he had refused to remain lying down.
"Well, Tails?" he asked.
"I already did them," Tails said.
"I know that."
"Sonic...the damage is too extensive. I can't...no one can fix that much damage."
"So what're you trying to say."
"Sonic...Sonic, you'll...you'll never be able to...to run again," said Tails, trying not to cry, tails twisting together painfully.
Sonic stayed uncharacteristically calm.
"So you're saying I'm a cripple."
"N-no...no, of course not..."
"How can I not be, if I can't run?"
He gave Tails a level stare.
"Even if I could just walk, I would still be a cripple!" he shouted suddenly, frightening Tails so much he fell back. "This is all your fault! Why did you let me go back? Huh? You're jealous of me, aren't you! You did this to me! Tired of being the sidekick, huh? THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PLAY HERO!" Sonic yelled, gesturing at the useless, scarred legs hanging off of the bed. Tails still hadn't accepted the fact that those were Sonic's legs. It was as if one day he would wake up and Sonic would run up to him, laughing and telling him it was all a joke.
But Sonic would never, ever make a joke like this.
"sonic...I've never...I would never think of anything like that! You know I wouldn't!"
"You let me go back!"
"Sonic...since when have I been able to stop you from doing anything?"
"Nice excuse, Tails. How long'd you spend thinking that one up? Just go away. I don't want to see you anymore. I don't want to see you ever again."
"I hate you Tails! I HATE YOU! Leave me alone!" Sonic yelled, and Tails left the room in tears, wishing that he had known the right things to say.
Around midnight Tails gave up trying to sleep and decided he would try and reason with Sonic again. It might work, it might not. He would see. He was Sonic's best friend, after all. "Sonic, you awake?" Tails whispered, peering into Sonic's room.
After a long, long silence Sonic mumbled, "Yeah, I'm awake."
Tails slipped into the room and pulled up a chair, sitting next to Sonic's bed. Sonic was lying down, one arm behind his head, the other mindlessly running up and down his legs. Tails knew there was no sensation in them.
"I...I brought you something to eat. I thought you might be hungry," Tails said, a bit nervously. It still scared him when Sonic yelled at him, probably because it seldom happened.
"Yeah, I'm starved, thanks Tails," Sonic said, pulling himself into a sitting position. Tails looked at the floor, swinging his feet anxiously. There was another long, long silence that seemed to press at the back of Tails's eyes, making them water. He sniffled and swiped at them with the back of his hand.
"I'm sorry," said Sonic, and Tails jumped. "Uh...for what?" Tails asked, looking in Sonic's general direction. All he could see were Sonic's eyes, glowing green in the light coming from outside the room.
"For yelling at you and telling you I hated you," said Sonic in surprise. "I didn't mean it...but it's so hard to blame myself..."
"It's okay," said Tails.
Sonic sighed. "No, it isn't, Tails. You don't yell at me and blame me when things don't go your way. You've never said anything mean to me at all. You just put up with all the shit I throw at you and you deal with it alone."
"That's what best friends do," said Tails.
"I guess I suck at being a friend almost as much as I suck at listening to one," said Sonic.
"No you don't," said Tails.
"Stop being so nice to me," said Sonic.
"No," said Tails.
Sonic laughed. Tails felt a million pounds lighter. Everything was going to be okay, as long as he could still laugh.
"I'll really never walk again?"
"I didn't say that," said Tails. "I can build you legs, but if you try to run in them you'll hurt yourself worse, and they'll shatter."
"Besides, Sonic," he said, swinging his legs again, "running always was walking, to you."
"You know me too well," said Sonic.
"Or not well enough," said Tails. "I couldn't save you."
He tried to blink away his tears, but couldn't.
"Hey bro, c'mere. I think you need a hug, pal."
Tails sat down on the bed and Sonic pulled Tails into his arms, which only made Tails cry harder. "I'm so sorry, Sonic! I should've set the timer for longer or I should've made you stop or-"
"Nuh-uh-uh, Tails, hold it right there. You're the only reason I'm even alive right now. Without you, I'd be the puddle of blue goo Eggy's been prayin' for."
"But I wasn't enough," Tails sniffed.
"No, Tails, " said Sonic. "I wasn't enough. Don't blame yourself 'cause I'm an idiot. But Tails, " Sonic said soberly, "I...I'm gonna need you more than ever now. You're the only one who can put up with me when I'm being a jerk...which is most of the time. I mean, I told you to go away forever and yet here you are. I don't know how you do it, buddy!"
Tails giggled. "It's 'cause I love you, Sonic," he said shyly. "I love you too, buddy, but if you told me all that shit I'd yell back and I sure wouldn't be around anytime soon."
"I just...hate it when we fight, " said Tails.
"I'm sorry, Tails, " said Sonic, hugging Tails tighter.
"I'm sorry too, " said the little kitsune.
A few weeks later Tails came out of his workshop to get something to eat when he saw Sonic sitting on his front porch, staring blankly into the distance. Tails had built Sonic legs, the best work he had ever done, slaving over them day and night until they were perfect, spending such long hours writing the code to make them work that sometimes he could still see it in front of him. Sonic had seemed very happy to receive them-going so far as to put his shoes o n them-but Tails knew they were only a sad reminder of what he had once been. Tails had never worked on anything so hard in his life. They were his best, his all.
And they still weren't enough.
Tails decided to postpone his snack and go talk to his friend. "Hey Sonic!" he said cheerily. "Yo," said Sonic.
"What's up?" said Tails, taking a seat.
"Nothing," said Sonic, and Tails was shocked to see tears in Sonic's eyes.
"What is it?" asked Tails.
"Everyone has somewhere to go but me. Running was all I had, Tails," said Sonic brokenly. "I'm not creative like Cream, or productive like Amy. I'm not satisfied with doing nothing, like Knuckles, and I'm not smart like you. I can't even fight Eggman anymore." He looked at Tails. "You're on your own there, buddy."
Tails gave Sonic a quick, firm hug. "You're still the best, Sonic. You're still way past cool."
"Thanks, Tails," said Sonic. "I wish I could believe it."
The next day Tails looked at his phone to see a text from Sonic, asking to come over right away. Tails ran out of his workshop and into Sonic's house. Sonic was on the living room floor, crying uncontrollably at the bottom of the stairs, the prostheses that Tails had so painstakingly built shattered into useless pieces all over the floor. For the first time in his life Tails was angry with Sonic.
"Why?" he whispered, trying to contain it, trying to remember what Sonic was feeling, what he must be feeling.
"I-I tripped and I-c-couldn't t-take it-I h-had to t-take it out on s-something s-so I-"
"There are so many people who would have been grateful!" screamed Tails, tears in his eyes. "But no! Not you! You're just angry that you can't run! You STILL BLAME ME! I did my best, Sonic! I put everything I had into those! I put everything on hold for you! My projects, my life! I didn't eat or sleep or leave the workshop! I didn't give up, like you just did! I DIDN'T TRIP YOU! God, Sonic! If I gave you my all, HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK I HAVE LEFT?"
Tails was sobbing now, his body stiff with rage and his tails thrashing in frustration. Sonic did nothing, and Tails stalked over, slamming him into the stairs so they would be eye-to-eye. "Grow up, Sonic! Just how long did you think you could go on like that for, anyway? Do you see grown-ups spending their days running around in circles? You're not a child anymore, you don't get to have it your own way! I tried to help you! I know you hate needing help, but couldn't you hold onto it just this once? WHAT IS IT YOU WANT ME TO DO?"
Tails saw the fear in Sonic's eyes and recoiled. He stumbled back and started to run. Sonic...afraid of Tails? Who knew a simple factory mission would descend into this? Somewhere, Eggman was laughing.
"TAILS, NO!" Sonic screamed as Tails ran. "DON'T LEAVE ME! YOU'RE ALL I HAVE LEFT! PLEASE!"
But hearing Sonic, the once proud hedgehog who took no shit from anyone and did what he wanted, begging for him only made it worse. He didn't want to know what he would do or what he would become if he went back.
Tails stayed away for two days. Then he went, albeit nervously, to visit his big brother. Sonic was on the porch again, staring.
"S-sonic?" Tails said.
"Hiya, bro, " said Sonic. "What's up?" said Tails.
"Will you take me flying?"
"Sure," said Tails.
"No planes," said Sonic.
"Just you, and me, like it used to be. When it was just you, and me, and no one else."
"Okay, Sonic," said Tails, taking Sonic's wrists and lifting into the air. He flew as fast as he could-Sonic needed the speed as much as he needed anything. "Thank you so much, Tails," said Sonic. "I love you, little bro."
"I love you too, Sonic," said Tails, wondering what had brought this on. He yelled in pain as Sonic suddenly squeezed his wrists with indecent strength, causing Tails to let go of Sonic, and when Sonic let go of Tails he knew instantly what it was all about. But he was two seconds too late to catch his brother, who didn't want to be caught anyway, and landed on the hard ground already in tears.
Long, long hours later, Tails landed at his house thoroughly exhausted. He had never felt so tired or so destroyed. Sonic hadn't even bothered to say goodbye. He had just leapt into oblivion without a backward glance. That was what Sonic had always done. Tails rubbed at his wrists. They still ached where Sonic had squeezed them. Tails half wanted them to; it was all he had left of his big brother. There was an envelope on the living room table.
He stopped and opened it.
It was from Sonic.
How could it be from Sonic?
He never wrote letters, and besides, it had taken Tails the last five hours just to cremate him, considering half the time he couldn't see for his tears.
He opened it.
It was from Sonic.
Heya, little brother. Sorry for tricking you.
A For a microsecond Tails wondered if Sonic really was dead...then mentally kicked himself for his idiocy. Of course Sonic was dead. He had died the instant he had been told by his best friend that he could no longer run. That was what had killed the blue hedghehog. Not the fall.
...but I knew you wouldn't let me do it. You understood that I had to be able to run, but I guess you could never understand just how much it meant to me. It didn't mean more to me than you do, Tails, but it was hurting you just as much as it was hurting me. Maybe more, 'cause you always felt my pain, sometimes more than I did. Thank you for taking me flying, little buddy; I needed that more than anything. I needed to remember who I used to be, before anything happened, when it was just you and me, Sonic and Tails, and no one else. When we were young and carefree, when our parents were still alive, when everything was funny and evil was just a word said behind closed doors. Do you remember being a baby, Tails? I loved watching you, we all did. Everything was new to you, everything needed to be explored. And the days when you taught yourself to fly, because you knew you could but no one believed you. No matter what happened you kept on trying. We all know how wonderful it was on that day you finally did fly, when you showed us all that there was so much more inside of you. And all those times you tried to be brave, like when your parents died and you tried not to show me your tears. I don't know what I would've done without you...I'm a loner, but even a loner needs someone to talk to. You were my special friend. Whenever I needed you all I had to do was turn around, because you already knew. Can't say I was always there for you, but I did try. Anyways, there's no way I can possibly say everything I need to say. I miss you already. I hope that when I let go, it's forever; I don't want to be alone wherever else I end up. I know it hurts you that I did that...but you also know that I need to be free. Thank you for all the things you did for me and and all the wasted time you spent on me; I cherish the memories while I can. I love you, little brother, and I always have and always will. Don't give up...you're stronger than that. You go out and do what you do best, and make me proud, 'cause whether there's nothing or something after I die, I'll be watching you and cheering you on. I love you so much right now...goodbye Tails! Fly high!
Love your big brother Sonic the Hedgehog.
Tails carefully put the letter back into its envelope, put it gently on his desk, curled up into a ball on the couch like he was five years old again, and cried. He cried for Sonic and his broken spirit, and he cried for himself and his broken heart. He cried for everything they had and could have been, and he felt as if he would have gone on crying forever until he felt Sonic beside him, saying don't cry little buddy, it's gonna be okay, and he fell asleep knowing that even if Sonic wasn't really there, he was right.