Black and White Roses

By T. 'RockChick' Evans

Disclaimer: I own no one.


Author's Note:

This is a sequel/ follow up to my STC fanfic 'Sayonara'. You asked for it, and you got it…

And I'm not too good at writing emotional stuff, so don't expect a masterpiece!

This is mainly Shadow's side of the story… warning: corny moments, angst and general cuteness ahead. Couple of flashback scene etc, but nothing truly brain - melting.


Credit goes to Mark Teo and Latifah 27 for giving me the idea. And thanks again to Latifah for encouraging me to continue with this… reading her fic 'May & December' would be a good move if you like this kind of thing- I'm gonna do an A.U of it, when it's finished.

Also, thanks to Orin for being such a damn good writer, thus encouraging me to try to get my backside in gear as far as writing goes. Envy is a great motivator…


Is there such a thing as a black and white rosebush? Dunno. Well, there is on Mobius, because I said so. So there!

Lastly, I think the Guns and Roses song 'November Rain' would make a great soundtrack to some of the scenes in this fic… I dunno, it just has the same kinda feel to it.


* * * *

'Black and White Roses'

Shadow the hedgehog looked out into the blackness of space, and took in the view of the planet below.

Mobius. Through the viewing window of ARK, the serene blue world was distant and alien.

Alien, yes. Especially to him, a creature whose first memories were of the sterile corridors and laboratories of the space colony. He had only briefly set foot on the world below, and even then he had been blind to its beauty… blinded by hate and vengeance.

Mobius was strange to him. Populated by people he didn't understand and could never hope to trust.

And yet, still he had helped to save them…

Why? Because the only real friend he had ever known had asked him to. It was her dying wish.

Give them a chance to be happy.

And he had. Now, Shadow felt more at peace than he ever had before… yet strangely empty. He had fulfilled his purpose, completed the task he had been created for; and now he had nothing left to give.

But then again… how could he know what she had really wanted?

It wasn't as if he hadn't got it wrong before--

"Maria… I'll be with you soon…" he murmured quietly, staring down at Planet Mobius.

The illusion was perfect.

The planet, the window, even the cold metal floor beneath his feet was nothing more than a memory. The black hedgehog wasn't really there. He was somewhere in space… dying, perhaps already dead, as he plummeted towards the slowly rotating planet. After he had faded out of his Super form, he had not waited to pass out from lack of oxygen or energy- he had simply closed his eyes, retreating from the outside world and allowing his mind to create this hallucination. A sort of limbo, where he could just think and await his fate.

He realised that he was not alone.

She stood at his side, somewhat taller than he was. Golden hair falling past her shoulders, wide blue eyes filled with innocence and life… seemingly reflecting the image of Mobius…


So it was finally over, Shadow thought. The two gazed silently at each other for a moment.

Maria, pale skinned and dressed in white. Shadow, dark as midnight…

Yin and yang reunited.

"You remembered," Maria said softly, wonderingly.

Shadow glanced through the window for a moment.

"I kept my promise…" he said, before reminding himself that he had only done it with the help of others. "This is what you wanted, right?"

When he looked up, the young girl's eyes were tearful.

"I… I didn't want you to die!" she cried.


She didn't want him to die?


The view outside caught his eye again… he could see her reflection in the glass, superimposed on the planet below. But he couldn't see himself there. Not even the crimson streaks which ran through his black quills showed in the reflection. There was only darkness.

He didn't belong on Mobius. He didn't belong anywhere. So why should he live? What was the point, when he had no purpose?

Why couldn't he just stay here, with Maria?


She wanted him to live…

--Then… Maria's image was fading, becoming translucent…

"No!" the hedgehog thought desperately. "Don't leave me again…"

But she still faded, and soon vanished completely from sight.

If she wasn't here with him, then… did that mean that it wasn't his time yet?

That they weren't meant to be together?

The familiar sadness washed over him; but for some reason Shadow felt a ghost of a smile on his lips.

If Maria wanted him to live, then he would have to try. He would do it for her.

Even if he didn't know why…

"Who said anything about dying?" he whispered, even as the illusion of ARK disintegrated around him.


…And as his senses returned, the pain began to register… his eyes shut tight against the searing heat of re- entry, the planet's atmosphere scorching his skin as he hurtled through the stratosphere. Felt like he was burning up on the inside, too, as his starved lungs strained for air…

Nothing could survive this! What was he thinking?! Especially since he had no energy left, nothing at all… he was so tired…

It would be so easy just to give in…

No… there had to be something left, he told himself furiously as everything started to fade out again. He pictured Maria, drawing strength from the memory. He had said he would survive. He would do it for her.

He would not break another promise.

Shadow concentrated, reaching deep inside himself. Finding nothing at first…

Then… he tapped into some small reserve of energy- his very life force, perhaps- buried so deep that he hadn't known it was there…

"Chaos Control--" he thought…


Somewhere on Mobius, a small green flash lit the night air, and a dark object appeared about ten feet off the ground. A loud rustle and crackling of twigs heralded its rough landing in a large rosebush.

Entangled in the branches and scratched in a hundred different places by the thorns, the hedgehog lay motionless and seemingly dead.

Suddenly, however--

--Shadow violently gasped for air, looking for a moment like a fish out of water. Even though each shuddering breath sent waves of pain through his battered body, he had no control over his struggle for oxygen…

He lay there for a few minutes, panting and too exhausted to move. After a while, his racing heart and lungs slowed enough that he was able to think of something other than getting as much air as possible.

The hedgehog determined that he was lying on his back. There was a smell… floral, familiar.

He tried moving, and instantly regretted it; the slightest shift in position and he was jabbed from all sides by something sharp and painful, irritating his already smarting skin. On top of that, he was so weak that even that small movement left him exhausted. It had taken everything he had to get here… wherever 'here' was.

Could be anywhere, Shadow thought. He hadn't really been thinking about where he wanted to reappear. It was a miracle he had re- materialised at all. But this should be somewhere he had been before, or seen somewhere… that was how Chaos Control worked. If you didn't have a clear picture of where you wanted to go, or something to home in on, you were nowhere.


So, what had his mind homed in on this time?

Shadow cautiously opened his eyes. There was a maze of thorn- encrusted branches inches from his face. He groaned slightly, now knowing why he felt like someone was sticking pins in him…

Then he saw them. Swaying all around him; a delicate contrast to the vicious thorns.

Black and white roses…

"Oh… that explains it…" the battered hedgehog thought to himself in a detached way. Then he passed out…


Shadow dreamed, and remembered. Dream and memory intertwining as thickly as the branches around him, and always permeated with those black and white roses.

He remembered when he had first seen them, over fifty years earlier…

He was walking in ARK's garden with… Maria…

It wasn't really a garden, as such. Just a large lab containing Mobian plants. But to Maria, it had been a garden- so Shadow had come to think of it that way, too.

He had been… how old? A few months perhaps, but already had the appearance of an eighteen year old.

The hedgehog had been fascinated by the plants. He had never seen anything like them before; he knew what they were, of course- having been 'programmed' with basic knowledge by Dr. Gerald. But knowledge and experience aren't the same thing, so Shadow had examined the garden with all the curiosity of a child. The plants were especially interesting considering they had come from the mysterious planet below…

One plant in particular had intrigued him. Thick woody stems bedecked with thorns, and delicate blooms. About half of the flowers were snow white; the other half as black as his fur. Roses, his brain told him.

Seeing him scrutinising the rosebush, Maria had walked over.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" she said. Shadow nodded.

"Yes…" he replied in his usual smooth, calm tones. "But… why are some black, and some white?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. "I guess a lot of things are like that. Like people.. some are different to others."

Maria carefully reached into the bush, mindful of the thorns. She gently picked a white rose.

Shadow peered at it thoughtfully, then turned his gaze to the thorny plant.

"They're all part of the same plant, though…" he observed, picking a flower for himself. He wasn't so careful of the thorns, as his gloves gave some protection. His rose was a dark one, of course…

Maria contemplated this silently for a second, then held out her white rose.

"Let's trade," she smiled. Shadow complied, giving her the black one; then frowned puzzledly. He gazed down at the pale flower in his paw.

"Why white? Wouldn't black suit me better?"

"Oh, I don't think so." The girl said kindly. "You're not dark on the inside."

Shadow didn't reply, simply continuing to stare down at the pure white rose. He absently ran the fingers of his other hand through the patch of long white fur on his chest. It wasn't really supposed to be there; but that was where his life support had been connected when he was first created. For some reason the fur there had grown in white- maybe due to the influx of Chaos energy, or a small genetic anomaly. Or perhaps something else entirely.

"I don't think black suits you, either," He said after a silence. "Perhaps…" Shadow moved to pluck a second white rose, for Maria.

"No, don't," she said, stopping him. "I'll keep this one. To show we're friends, okay?"

Shadow replied with a small smile- a rare occurrence even then, hardly ever seen now.

"Always," the hedgehog murmured. He had been so alone until he had literally bumped into her in one of ARK's corridors. Likewise, Maria had had no real friends on the space colony, no one her age anyway.

Shadow and Maria were best friends… no, more like siblings. Neither would be alone again so long as they were there for each other.

Or so they thought.

Shadow gave the white rose another glance, and saw a tiny bead of blood clinging to one of the thorns…


Engulfed in the rosebush, Shadow twitched uneasily for a few moments before waking up.

"Maria..." he moaned softly, his half- asleep mind still fixed on the small drop of blood. He should have paid more attention to that little omen…

Now he was alone again. He should have died; they would have been together then…

But… Maria had said she wanted him to live… and live he must.

He opened an eye, and gradually recalled where he was.

"I'm… sleeping in a bush," he recalled blearily, finding it a bit absurd. His gaze shifted upwards, detecting daylight. "It's the middle of the day," he thought, "and I'm sleeping in a bush."

He mulled it over for a minute or two.

"Well… I am a hedgehog," he concluded eventually. "mostly anyway."

He realised that he really wasn't thinking straight. But considering the condition he was in, that was understandable…

Not considering the thorns, he shook his head violently… with obvious results. But at least the pain helped snap him out of his groggy state.


Shadow's body was telling him to stay put, but his better judgement soon started screaming at him that he was lying out in the open, the military was no doubt hot on his trail, and wouldn't it be a good idea to get out of there?

He really didn't look forward to getting himself out of that bush. As well as cutting him up even more badly than he was already, fighting his way out of the thorns would probably use up what little strength he had managed to regain since… well, whenever it was that he had landed there. He had no idea how long he had been out of it.

The black hedgehog sighed, braced himself, and started the lengthy process of dragging himself free.


Some time later…

Shadow sat on the grass, breathing heavily, and half- heartedly kicked at the branch still wrapped around his right leg. Managing to disentangle himself, the hedgehog glowered at the offending rosebush.

It wasn't as big a bush as it had appeared from the inside; it had only seemed huge because it had taken so long for him to extricate himself. And when he came to think about it he realised that the plant had probably saved his life- if he hadn't been partly concealed by the boughs, someone might have found him…

Strange… the flowers themselves were so delicate and fragile. But the plant itself was another matter…

Beauty, but with inner strength.

Maria had been like that… in the end…

The hedgehog shook his head. It would be no good having another flashback at a time like this. He quickly turned his eyes away, looking at his surroundings instead. He was relieved to notice that he was basically in the middle of nowhere, on the outskirts of a forest- no sign of people anywhere.

At least he was safe, for now…

Shadow then turned his attention to himself, after discarding the burnt remnants of his gloves. He didn't remove the single bracelet on his right wrist, and kept his shoes- although they were also damaged, they were wearable and would do for the time being.

The hedgehog was bleeding in several different places from scratches caused by the thorns, both from his landing and his subsequent escape from the thorny maze.. His fur was singed and patchy, but fortunately the burns on the skin beneath weren't serious. Shadow carefully ran a hand over his quills and found that some of the sharp tips were missing. But that was no problem- they would grow back within a few weeks.

All in all, nothing he couldn't survive. Shadow was tough; he had been designed to withstand this kind of thing. The only really serious problem was that his energy was badly depleted.

He sighed wearily. He would be weak and vulnerable for some time to come; so the first thing he needed to do was find somewhere safe where he could rest and regain his strength.

Anyone else would have looked for help. But the black hedgehog had no desire whatsoever to go anywhere near other people, especially not in his condition. He would survive by himself or not at all.

Maybe he could take refuge in the forest… it would be dark in there, and quiet…

He judged the distance between himself and the cool green depths of the woods. About a quarter of a mile, he estimated.

Damn, he thought. He didn't even know if he could stand up, let alone walk…

Only one way to find out.

Shadow slowly struggled to his feet, grimacing a little with pain. For a few seconds he stood with his feet planted wide apart for balance, swaying slightly.

So far, so good… he thought. Moments before his legs sagged and went limp under him.

Falling to his knees, the hedgehog swore quietly to himself through gritted teeth.

A raucous bird call drifted out from the treetops, like a laugh. Laughing at him.

"…pathetic…" Shadow snarled, his breath coming in laboured gasps. He was just too weak. He would have to stay here awhile...

No way, he told himself firmly. He was the ultimate life form. He was neither weak nor beaten, not yet anyway…

"Now get up," he muttered. And did.

Moving almost by willpower alone, Shadow staggered for the tree line. He glanced quickly behind him, fixing the rosebush into his memory- he knew he would be coming here again.

* * * *

Three days later, elsewhere on Mobius- the Groovy Train coffee shop, to be precise…

Ebony the cat leaned across the table and regarded her friend seriously.

"I'm getting really worried about you, Pyjamas," she said. "What's wrong? You just aren't yourself--"

The older woman shook her head.

"I'm more 'myself' than I've been in years…" she replied, her voice sounding strange and distant. Sad, too…

The black cat frowned at her confusedly, feeling a little unnerved. She couldn't remember the last time she had been able to clearly see Pyjamas' eyes staring at her; normally they were concealed by a thick fringe of white hair. It was her trademark.

Now, however, her fringe was trimmed and brushed back away from her face, the rest of her snowy hair tied into a short ponytail. Ebony hadn't even known what colour her eyes were until today, when she had turned up with the new hairstyle.

The eyes were blue, she noticed absently for the umpteenth time.

"So what's with the new look?" Ebony asked, trying a different approach.

"Thought it was time for a change."

The dark- furred sorceress sighed, exasperated. Pyjamas just wasn't being very forthcoming.

"You show up yesterday acting like you've seen a ghost, and the next thing I know you've got a new hairdo and you're behaving like a completely different person. I've known you all my life, Pyjamas, and I can tell when something is up…" Ebony paused, concern in her green eyes. "Can't you at least tell me what's going on?"

Pyjamas looked down at her hands.

"I…I'm sorry, Ebony." The old psychic brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes, a habit she had definitely not had a few days earlier. "You're right. I should explain. I looked like I'd seen a ghost because… in a way, I had."

"Go on," Ebony encouraged her, intrigued.

"Remember when I told you about how I was found?"

Ebony nodded. It had been before she was born- around fifty years ago- but the cat had been told how the teenaged Pyjamas had been discovered in some kind of escape pod. She was injured, and had amnesia; her rescuers couldn't even tell what species she was. With her almost canine black nose and shock of white hair, it was assumed she was some kind of hybrid…

"Wait a minute- you're not saying you finally got your memory back?!"

Pyjamas nodded silently.

"Well, it's about time!" Ebony beamed. "So tell me, who exactly are you?"

"My name," she replied, regarding Ebony steadily, "is Maria Kintobor."



"Wow," breathed Ebony, after listening to her friend's explanation of how she had been saved from near death, then genetically altered so as not to be recognised by the military. "That's incredible. Sonic told me about the whole ARK thing, but…" she shook her head, amazed. "You're saying that you're the one that Shadow…?"

"Yes… and now he's gone…" she replied sadly. "If only I'd known, maybe I could have saved him. I know I asked him to give the people a chance, but… I didn't mean for him to die doing it…"

"It wasn't your fault," Ebony tried to reassure her. "Besides, Shadow said he wasn't going to die, didn't he? In your vision?"

"Could have been wishful thinking. You know how unreliable my visions are…" She managed a smile. But Ebony could see it was false; and although she was glad the truth was finally out in the open, she hated to see her best friend this upset.

"I guess I'm still Pyjamas. But I'm Maria too…I suppose that's the problem… I… I just don't know who I am anymore…" Pyjamas stopped abruptly, then shut her eyes tightly against the threat of tears. "Oh…"

"What's wrong?" the black cat asked gently.

"Th… that's what Shadow said to me, just before…"

She suddenly pushed back her chair and hurried for the door. "I… I have to go," the psychic choked. It had all been so long ago, and yet… yet it was as if it had happened yesterday. They were all gone; Grandfather, and now Shadow. Everyone.


A flash frame in her head. A black rose, and a white one- growing together…

"Pyjamas… uh, Maria-- wait!" Ebony called, but she was already gone.

* * * *

Later that evening…

A light drizzle fell through the gloomy twilight air. The dismal weather was unusual for the Emerald Hill Zone, but it suited Shadow's mood just fine.

He wasn't worried about being recognised. Wrapped in a floor- length, hooded brown cloak, eyes downcast and stance weary and depressed, he could have been anyone- especially considering his location.

The hedgehog ignored the rain and trudged deeper into the graveyard.

He had spent some time resting in the comforting darkness of the forest, but had left as soon as he felt strong enough to walk. Better to keep on the move; even though his recovery was going more slowly than he would have expected. Shadow still felt worryingly weak. Although he didn't know if a person's state of mind really could affect their physical condition, in his case he was willing to believe it…

Looking for somewhere to catch a few hours sleep, he'd come across this little graveyard in the small Emerald Hill village. He hadn't ventured into the town itself, as always avoiding contact with people- Shadow didn't want to show himself just yet. He needed some time to think.

It was fitting, he thought, that his next stop had been this place of the dead. After all, in his own eyes he was nothing more than a ghost--

So he had hardly been surprised to find a stone bearing his own name. It was newly erected, and he suspected Sonic and his friends had a lot to do with it. What did surprise him was that they had even bothered. He had tried to kill them… he didn't deserve it.

…But still, they had remembered him…

For a moment he had felt… something. A sense of not being alone; emotions stronger than he had allowed himself to feel in a long time. Perhaps he did have friends in this world.

For in instant- no, less than an instant- he had even considered making his survival known to Sonic. To anyone.


How could he?

How could he associate with the people of this world, when his own existence had caused the death of his first and only friend?

Never again. He must never let it happen again.

And if he did break this self- imposed exile? What then? How could he know whether the people around him were good… like Maria… or as treacherous and evil as those who had killed her?

How could he know?

He couldn't.

No… it was better to be alone…


She had a marker, too. Next to his.

No body to bury for either of them. But obviously someone had found it fitting… the stone was simple, white. Just the name and a small inscription:

"Wishes Are Eternal."

Two stones. Shadow the hedgehog, Maria Kintobor. Together.

If wishes were eternal, then Shadow wished that was true.

He had felt faint then, his throat closing. For a moment he thought there would be tears… but there were none. He didn't think he was capable of it any more.

The black hedgehog had known what he had to do at that moment. He had gone back to his rosebush.

Now he found himself making his way back, steps still slow and painful. A single black rose held gently in his hand.

Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted as he saw someone approaching from the opposite direction…

Shadow pulled his cloak more tightly around himself while veering to the darker side of the path. He made no move to speak, and simply gave the stranger a furtive glance as they silently passed each other.

He saw a Mobian woman, no umbrella, standing head and shoulders taller than he was. She looked to be somewhere in her sixties, and her hair was brilliant white--

--For a second, their gazes met… her eyes were a hauntingly familiar blue, and for a second he thought there was… something. A flicker of recognition perhaps.

Shadow looked away, a shiver running down his spine. He increased his stride.


Maria-- no, Pyjamas, she told herself firmly, she was Pyjamas now-- was purposefully making her way out of the graveyard. She had thought long and hard, and made her decision. After today, she wouldn't dwell on things that happened fifty years ago. She had changed.

The psychic didn't know whether or not it was the right choice, but she was torn between two worlds- one that came to an end half a century ago, and one that was alive and well.

She had to choose, and so she had chosen to get on with her life.

Pyjamas barely noticed the hooded figure half hidden in the shadows. But she couldn't help casting a quick glance as she passed him.

By some coincidence, he looked at her in the exact same moment. In the dark void of his hood, she caught a glimpse of his eyes; a quick gleam of red…

Calm yet melancholy. Haunted eyes.

But he looked away just as quickly, and she wasn't even sure of what she had seen. Probably nothing but her imagination, a trick of the darkness…

Still, she couldn't help but pause and look back as the stranger hurried on his- or her- way. The figure was the right height; and through the cloth there was a suggestion of protrusions along its back and head…

It couldn't be…

It wasn't. Her mind was playing tricks on her, Pyjamas thought. Besides, all that was in the past. She had paid her respects… so why was she still being haunted?

She shook her head and carried on walking.


It was strange to be looking at your own gravestone.

Especially when you were alive.

But, Shadow thought, was he?

Could he claim to be alive, when he no longer had anything to live for? When he didn't have a purpose?

But he couldn't end it, either. Not after Maria's words…

"…I didn't want you to die…"

He hadn't wanted her to die, either.

Was he supposed to just… live for the sake of living?

But that wasn't what he had come here for.

The hedgehog bent down, preparing to place the black rose on his friend's grave.

"For you, Maria…" he murmured. "I'll always remember…"

Only then did his eyes flick back to his own stone; only then did he see, on the earth in front of it, a single white rose.

A black rose for her, a white one for him.

He thought of the white -haired woman he had walked past.

…Those familiar blue eyes.

"Wait…" he gasped, glancing desperately in the direction she had gone. "Wait!" Not heeding the persistent weakness in his legs, Shadow broke into a run after her- the black rose held tightly in his hand, so tight that the thorns drew blood…



Hearing hurried footsteps, then a breathless voice behind her, Pyjamas turned to see the cloaked figure. He stopped several metres away, face still hidden in the folds of his hood. Then, after a nervous pause he slowly began making his way towards her again. He was holding something. In the gloom and misty drizzle, she couldn't tell what.

Warily, the psychic took a step back. There was hardly any trouble in this Zone, what with Sonic living there, but you couldn't be too careful…

A hooded figure in the middle of a graveyard at night, carrying some unseen object. If that wasn't suspicious, nothing was.

The stranger seemed to sense her fear. He stopped. Even with the loose garment wrapped around him, Pyjamas could see his chest heaving… he must have been running after her, she realised…

She couldn't see his face, but she could feel his stare. His head shifted, and again she caught a red gleam in the shadows beneath the hood.

Pyjamas began to walk towards him.

Shadow squinted and studied the details of the woman's face. She was old… what? sixty? Sixty five? The dim light, the blurring rain, made her look younger. If he ignored the black nose, concentrated on the eyes, she could have been…

She was.

She wasn't.

He didn't know… the eyes, they were so familiar, and yet so different.

She was coming towards him now, and the hedgehog's mind ran in circles. He was confused. Afraid. He wanted to speak to her, and he wanted to run away… what if he was wrong…

What if he was right?!

How else would she have known about the rose, if she wasn't… Maria…

But he had seen her die, hadn't he?

But Shadow didn't run. He stood his ground.

He had to know.

The woman stopped a few feet away. He could see her face properly now. Afraid. Confused. Just like him.

"Is… is it you?" She asked simply.

He gasped, looked down for a moment. Moved his hand from the folds of his robe, and revealed the dark rose.

She inhaled sharply… then reached forward and pushed back his hood. For once the hedgehog didn't resist, and allowed it to fall away.

"Shadow…" the white- haired Mobian breathed. Shadow looked into her eyes again; they were Maria's eyes… and someone else's…

"…Maria?" he whispered.

She nodded, silently.

"I… I thought you were dead… how…" Shadow was finding it very hard to speak all of a sudden… he could only stare at her; she was a Mobian, yet she was Maria.

Felt like his brain was going into meltdown.

"Genetic splicing," she quickly explained, seeing where the hedgehog was looking. "…I thought you were dead, too…"

"I would have died," Shadow said quietly. But…You said you didn't want me to…"

"You heard me?" Pyjamas- Maria- exclaimed. "But I didn't have that vision until…?"

She shook her head. Shadow gazed at her for a few moments, not really understanding.

"You've… changed…" he said eventually.

"Fifty years is a long time," she smiled gently. "Yes… I've changed." More than Shadow could ever know, Pyjamas added silently. She looked his face over carefully; the hedgehog was in a pitiful state, what with the scratches and angry- looking skin that showed where his fur was thin or missing. But he didn't appear to have aged a day- this was the same Shadow that she had known fifty years earlier.

"You haven't changed much, though," She told him.

"I have…" he replied sadly, looking away for a moment. When he returned her gaze, Pyjamas saw the change in his eyes… no, he wasn't the same hedgehog she had befriended on ARK. His ruby eyes had undoubtedly been melancholy then, and contemplative; always trying, failing, to find some meaning to his own existence. Now they were just… lifeless. The eyes of a hedgehog who had done terrible things and seen worse; and who had now simply had enough.

The part of Pyjamas that was still Maria was disturbed, and felt infinitely sad for him. It was as if Shadow had… had lost his soul. She wanted to say something, anything, to comfort him… but she didn't think it was possible.

Instead, she tried to change the subject.

"I suppose they'll have to get rid of those gravestones now." It was supposed to be a light- hearted comment; they were both alive. But it came out sounding morbid.

He didn't reply for a few moments. The two of them just stood there for a moment or two; best friends yet perfect strangers.

Shadow eventually broke the silence.

"They can leave my stone," he said quietly, thoughtfully. "That day on ARK… I did die, in a way. I…I lost something…"

His words confirmed what Pyjamas had already suspected. The person she had known was long gone.

She supposed the same could be said for her.

"Me too." She paused.

Another silence. Then…

"Maria… you wanted me to live… why? When I had fulfilled my promise?" Shadow asked searchingly. The question had been plaguing him since he'd had that vision in space.

"Because you're still my friend," Pyjamas replied, surprised. Not even fifty years could change that.

Shadow looked down at the black rose he still carried.

"Always…" he whispered, agreeing with her unspoken works. She didn't need to say it out loud.

"Then come back with me. I think Ebony would love to meet you--"

The hedgehog looked up, but couldn't meet her gaze. He took a step back and shook his head.

"I can't, Maria…"

"Why not?"

He lowered his eyes.

"The military." The black hedgehog spat out the words as if they were poison. "What if they find out I'm alive? I won't bring that on you again. Never. I… have to leave…"

Pyjamas shook her head in disbelief. Didn't he know…?

"Haven't you seen the news?" She exclaimed. He frowned puzzledly; of course he hadn't- he'd been hiding…

"Shadow, you saved the world, for goodness sake! Sonic gave you all the credit. Even G.U.N have said you're a hero…" she paused. "They aren't after you anymore."

Shadow looked hopeful for an instant, then downcast again.

"…They're probably lying…" he muttered.

Pyjamas now knew what he had lost. The ability to trust. Innocence.

"And what if they are? They won't find you; no one knows how to hide someone as well as me and Ebony do. We've done it before."

He still looked unsure, still didn't look her in the eye.

"I…" the hedgehog started. "I don't know… everything's different…"

"Is that a bad thing? We can both put the past behind us. Start again."

"You think so?" Shadow said softly. Pyjamas nodded.

"It's time you gave yourself a chance to be happy, Shadow."

The black and red hedgehog looked down, eyes fixing for a moment on the delicate petals of the dark rose. When he raised his head, something inexplicable had changed.

Gazes met; sky blue and sunset red. Shadow slowly reached out with the hand that held the rose.

Pyjamas… Maria… took it, and smiled warmly.

He felt himself smile in return; a real smile. Strange, he thought… what was this he was feeling? It was new…

Shadow didn't fight it. And for the first time in his memory, the tears flowed freely.

* * * *

Epilogue; some time later…

Shadow sat in the Groovy Train coffee shop, people-watching. Customers came and went, each one different.

He still felt uncomfortable around people, and probably always would; but it was getting easier now.

He had been staying here for… how long? A week? He wasn't really sure; the first few days were a blur to him. It was as if as soon as the hedgehog had let his guard down, all the exhaustion he had been fighting back had come down on him like a ton of bricks. He dimly remembered Ebony trying to clean the dirt and dried blood out of his fur-- "Kid, no one knows how to care for black fur better than me. Now hold still," -- and his suspicion of her had vanished when he learned she was a friend of Maria's.

What was that saying? A friend of hers is a friend of mine?

Maria-- no, Pyjamas, he had to remember that-- had reached a compromise… she had gone back to her old hairstyle, but minus the fringe that covered her eyes- and that was reflected in her character. As far as Ebony was concerned, she was still Pyjamas, but to the hedgehog she was Maria.

As for Shadow himself; he was healing, and not just physically. With Pyjamas' and Ebony's support, he was changing… the difference was very subtle, there just seemed to be some quality in his eyes that hadn't been there before. Whether it was something regained or entirely new, not even he could tell you. His strength was returning, more quickly now that he didn't feel so directionless. Shadow was starting to wonder if he even needed a direction.

What he would do when his body recovered, he didn't know. What he did know was that Mobius faced a lot of problems, a lot of evil to be battled…

Which brought up the question of whether or not to reveal himself to Sonic and his friends. Shadow had thought it over, and decided that yes, he would. But he hadn't been able to figure out the best way to go about it.

Sonic came to the Groovy Train a lot, Pyjamas had said… before jokingly suggesting that the next time the blue hedgehog turned up, Shadow should sneak up behind him and enjoy the look on Sonic's face when he turned around.

Surprisingly enough, Shadow had liked the idea.

Maybe one day, he thought, he might even develop a sense of humour.

But for now, he just sat and watched the people come and go. Trying to understand… and he was getting there, slowly.

As he sat there, the black hedgehog started to realise something- for the first time ever, he was glad to be alive…

* * * *

~ End ~

* * * *

Weird? Yes. Out of character? Yes. Corny? Yes. Cliched? Definitely. Do I care? No.

And before you ask… no, Maria and Shadow aren't, um, an item. If it came out that way, it wasn't supposed to. They're friends. Just… very good friends. That's it. OK?

If you don't like it, tough. I've read a few fanfics where Shadow and Maria are reunited, and it's always a happy reunion. I wanted to do something different; where it's all a bit awkward to begin with, but it turns out okay in the end. And I wanted to write a cute Shadow fic. Come on, you have to admit he is cute. You just wanna hug him…

C'mere Shadow, give us a hug…

Shadow: (glares) *Growl.* Don't touch me. You and your stupid fanfics…

RockChick: What? You were happy in the end weren't you? Sheesh, there's no pleasing some people.

Shadow: You turned me into a crispy - fried Shadow.

RockChick: So did just about every other fanfic writer on the planet. Besides, you recovered.

Shadow: …I cried in that fic. *snarl*

RockChick: Nothing to be ashamed of…

Shadow: I looked like a wuss. I don't blub!

RockChick: You did in SA2, so don't give me that.

Shadow: One tear does not constitute blubbing!

RockChick: Yes it does, cry baby. *snigger*

Shadow: Oh, what's the use? Pathetic flipping mortals… gahh…

RockChick: Geez, lighten up will you?

Shadow: No.

RockChick: Sourpuss.


RockChick: Ow…

* * * *