Epilogue

I'm sorry I came here.

I'm sorry I need his help.

God Tails, please forgive me.

He looks so scared. And if Tails thinks Sonic should stay here, he probably should.

But I need his help.

I hope I'm not going to watch him die.

I try not to look at them as Sonic says goodbye. When I hear him telling Tails he loves him, I know that Sonic knows he might not come back. He tells Tails he'll be back soon, a lot sonner than possible, and we take off. I tell Sonic what's been going on, and I watch as he files it all away. He has a good memory, I'll give him that.

He looks okay. A little skinny, but okay.

He tells me about his sickness and his heart attacks, and I feel bad for dragging him out. He had done a number on himself. He wasn't 100%. He had been unable to get out of bed yesterday.

"Don't worry about me," says Sonic. "I'll be fine."

I remember the look on the little kitsune's face and I hope he will be.

We stop for the night in a cave halfway there and he tells me a ghost story that is actually really scary, but of course I can't tell him that. He goes to sleep but I can't relax. He sleeps like a rock the whole night and I only get a few fitful hours. I can't bury the feeling that I've done the wrong thing. I'm worrying now. About Sonic and Tails and if we can stop Eggman.

When the sun starts to come up Sonic looks around, then jumps to his feet. "Let's juice!" he says. We catch the doctor soon after, and we have to destroy a whole army of robots to get to him. I'm tired and don't feel like fighting, but Sonic's having the time of his life, jumping and smashing things and yelling like there's no tomorrow. He reaches Eggman first.

Do I leave him to it? I know he's angry for what Eggman did to him, but he's not ready to go swinging into action like that. He does it anyway, laughing and taunting Eggman, he's giving him the finger and running rings around him. He's so happy. I think it's the freedom. He's been gone so long. He's all hopped up on adrenaline and endorphins and the thrill of being the hero again.

Then he falls out of the sky and hits the ground, throwing up a dust cloud. Eggman senses he has a way out and takes off. I bend over Sonic.

He's shaking like a leaf and trying to get up, but then he gags and collapses. He starts to throw up and when he's done I move him over a little.

His eyes are rolled up in his head and he keeps saying, "Too much, too much" over and over, breathing too hard, and choking on his saliva. I lay him on his side and rub his back. I hope it helps but I don't know what I'm doing. Suddenly he's moaning and curling into a ball, and his arms are wrapped so tightly around his chest they're white. He starts screaming.

I'm useless.

Abruptly he stops screaming and gasps for breath, me still stupidly rubbing his back.

And then he breaks off without warning.

I turn him on his back. His eyes are closed and he's too limp. He's still shaking.

"Sonic?"

He doesn't wake up.

"Sonic, Tails is waiting for you!"

But he's dead and can't hear me.

"Shit," I say. "Shit."

I took Sonic from Tails so he could die out here in the middle of nowhere.

And we hadn't even won.

A rage comes up out of my gut, throwing my vision into a red haze. I get up and walk after Eggman. I don't stop moving until I reach him, and then I kill him.

When I return to Sonic I'm exhausted. But I can't stop.

I have to bring him home.

I pick him up and almost drop him.

He's alive.

Barely.

"Sonic?"

His eyelids flutter but nothing else.

I put him down and look him over. His breathing is loud and harsh, almost a tortured scream for air. He's very weak, but if I get him home maybe Tails can save him.

Sonic coughs and draws another desperate breath.

"Just hang on," I say.

He tries to talk but is paralyzed with coughing.

"Save it," I say. "I'm taking you home."

He moans a little and stops moving.

I'm running as fast as I can but I'm so tired. I have to stop. My legs are going numb.

I find myself at the same cave we were at before. I lay him down carefully. His breaths are too short and he's shaking. Remembering his story, I feel his arm, and his heart his beating frantically, erratically, much too fast and in no pattern. It's not beating. It's literally fighting. It's beating so hard it's screwing up his breathing. God he must be in pain right now.

He looks at me with tired green eyes. "You'll be okay," I say. "We're almost home."

He just looks at me, straining for breath.

Judging from what he had told me, I figured fighting Eggman had given him an adrenaline overload, which caused a heart attack. I had taken motionlessness for death. If his heart didn't slow down he wasn't going to make it.

I know I have to stay awake and watch him, so I sit and wish I could give some of my life to him. He stays unconscious but holds on to life stubbornly.

Then I hear him say something, I think he asks for Tails. I'm jolted awake.

Damn it! I fell asleep!

I rush over to him but it's too late. He vomits blood and moans, weakly clutching at his chest, and as I touch his arm I know his heart is beating too fast for it to take. If it was regular there might have been hope. But it refuses to settle and just stops.

I'm crushed with such guilt it hurts. I dragged him out here, got him hurt, then I didn't take him home and let him die alone while I slept, when he should have been with Tails. I had brought him out here and let him come with me even when I knew that he had been very sick so recently.

I was such a jerk.

And now I had to take him to his brother, when he had promised to come back.

I hope Tails will forgive me.

Goodbye, Sonic.

I'm sorry.