Ergh…. Ugh…. Hunh..?

"Look! He's waking up!"

"Sonic! Are you all right?"

Sonic struggled to open his eyelids. His vision was blurry, but he could make out four figures standing by him. He blinked a few times, and once everything cleared up, he could clearly see Tails, Sally, and his parents Jules and Bernie.

"Oh Sonic!" Bernie jumped forward and wrapped her arms tightly around Sonic's neck, "You gave us quite a scare!"

Jules chuckled. "Easy, Bernie," he patted his robot hand on his wife's back, "He's still a little out of it."

Bernie pulled back, and Sonic was able to get a good look around. He was in a bed, looked like a hospital. New Mobotropolis? Wasn't it totaled?

So many questions… Let's start with the most practical one.

"What just happened..?"

Sally smiled. "The Xorda and the Black Arms are gone… for good! You and Shadow made sure of it."

"What about everyone else? Where are they?"

"Home, safe and sound. Including the Bem hostages. We're all here in New Mobotropolis."

"It's back up and running?"

"Once NICOLE was back to 100%, she was able to restore everything." Sally then looked away somberly, "Except… the casualties…"

Sonic glanced downwards. "I see… So how did I manage to survive? I remember falling back to Mobius before I blacked out…"

Tails gave a shrug. "Dunno," he replied, "We found you unconscious in the middle of the forest, near the city. You didn't have a scratch on you."

"And Eggman?"

"Retreated," said Sally, "He escaped the Space Colony before we could find him."

"I see…" Sonic sighed, "Sorry about losing the Super Emeralds. He's probably long gone with them…"

"Don't be," said Sally, "Eggman doesn't have them. They mysteriously disappeared as well."

"Guess we got ourselves a new mission," smiled Sonic.

"Another time, perhaps," Sally stroked Sonic on the forehead, "Sonic… listen. I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

Sonic blinked. "Sorry for what?"

"Figures you wouldn't remember," Sally smirked, "I'm sorry that I blamed you for the entire alien invasion. Turns out your craziness ended up saving the world… if not the entire universe!" She planted a kiss on the hedgehog's cheek.

"Okay, everybody," spoke Jules, "That's enough of the catching up. Time for the patient to get his rest. Let's go."

"Oh..! I'm sorry… did I come at a bad time?"

Everyone looked over to the doorway, where a young, green Seedrian girl stood with a bouquet of roses.

Tails' face beamed. "Hi, Cosmo!"

Sonic glanced over. "Heeeey!" he smiled, "Good to see you up and about as well."

"I have you to thank for that, Mr. Sonic," Cosmo walked in and approached the side of Sonic's bed. "As well as saving my mother and my family. These flowers are just a small token of my appreciation."

"Aw, thanks," said Sonic, "But I couldn't have done it alone. Tails played a big role too."

"I know," Cosmo looked to Tails, smiling, "I gave him my thanks as well." Tails blushed in response.

Sonic smirked. "So yeah… Sorry about taking away the whole 'savior of the universe' role from you."

"It's okay," said Cosmo, "It was too much for me anyway. I'm happier just being a normal kid."

"Enjoy that life, kiddo," Sonic winked, "It might get a little hectic, but it's a lot of fun!"

Over in the Badlands where his casino once stood, Mammoth Mogul observed the ruins, taking in a deep breath. There was much to be done. The world was safe, and now the emeralds were anybody's to grab. He just wanted his one emerald back. He'll worry about the rest later.

But how to obtain his emerald? Shadow still probably has it. Hmm… maybe he should find an apprentice like the lower-class Ixis wizard Naugus did. Wouldn't hurt.

Mogul decided he'd figure it all out while he rebuilt his casino.

Billions of light-years away, Naugus stood alone on a cold, dark, solitary planet, enraged. That black speedster will pay dearly for sending him across the universe! Now he had to find a way to return to Mobius! If the blue hedgehog could do it, he, the master of elements, could certainly do better!

And when he did, he'll make Shadow pay a million times for what he did! Hell, he'll make EVERYBODY on Mobius feel his wrath!

You just wait..!

In the ruins of New Megaopolis, Snivley and Lien-Da cowered in the corner in fear as Dr. Eggman loomed over them, quite displeased.

"So… what's this about you two doing a victory dance after my abduction?"

Later that week, a celebration was held at the newly rebuilt Castle Acorn. It was no problem for NICOLE, since her full recovery.

Almost the entire kingdom was in the Grand Hall, expanded slightly to fit everybody, courtesy of NICOLE. All the Freedom Fighters and their families were there, including Rotor, who shortly was left alone, was found by two large, burly, but friendly bears in all-terrain vehicles who took Rotor to their home and cared for him until Royal Acorn soldiers were able to locate him. Tails was reunited with his father Amadeus, who was injured but luckily managed to survive his battle against the Xorda, and his mother Rosemary, who hid in the basement alongside Chopper until it was safe to come out. Chopper was ecstatic to finally see Cosmo (and not a look-a-like) and hugged the heck out of her. Friends were reunited and celebrated together, and even Mina Mongoose and the Forget Me Knots put on a little concert to celebrate the victory against the alien invasion.

After all the fun and excitement, things finally started to quiet down as King Elias took the stand to speak to his subject. "My people, we are gathered here in celebration… Celebration in victory, and in life. Once again, we managed to avert a worldwide crisis! The Xorda and the Black Arms wanted to take away out happiness and our lives for their own selfish purposes. But because we all pulled together, we were able to see it through! Our quick actions have saved the lives of thousands of Mobians, although I am sad to say many died to ensure the safety of others, most of them our own soldiers… Let us remember them, and never forget their sacrifice, for they fell in the line of duty and we must honor them. We will do that by living life to the fullest! Thanks to them, we can continue to move on, and protect this world from hardship, if we continue to fight together!"

The entire hall erupted in cheer and applause. Elias waited for it to quiet down a little before continuing. "But we cannot forget four heroes who went above and beyond to ensure our survival. Most of them have done it before, and hopefully will continue in the years to come. Congratulations, and thank you! Everybody please give it up for Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, and…."

Elias looked around the stage, noticing only the three there. He peered around the room, but couldn't find the fourth. He whispered to an aide, who only shrugged his shoulders. The king cleared his throat, "… And Shadow the Hedgehog… Where ever he may be."

The room was filled with applause once more as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles approached Elias, each one giving a proper bow. Sally, standing by Elias, opened a silver box containing four medals. She pulled each one out and put it around the neck of her friends. They straightened back up, gave a wave to the crowd, and returned to the floor.

"And on a final note," Elias continued, "As King of Mobotropolis, it is my honor to welcome our newest subjects… the Bem and the Seedrians!"

Everyone turned to locate the aliens, and gave them applause as well as they waved their thanks.

"And now… Let's party!"

Everyone cheered and returned to celebrating.

Chopper wrapped his arms around Tails' waist. "Way 'ta go, bro!" he chimed, "My hero's a REAL hero now!"

Tails patted Chopper on the head, "Thanks."

"How does it feel?" Cosmo asked, approaching the two.

Tails grinned. "How does Sonic put it? Way past cool!"

"Congratulations, hero," Cosmo leaned in and kissed Tails on the cheek. Tails blinked, and put a hand up to his cheek, blushing and smiling a bit.

"Yeeesh!" Chopper gagged, "Warn me before you do that!"

On stage, Sally smiled down at the three friends. She thought about stepping down to find her own group, when she spotted something in the corner of her eye. Somebody was on the balcony, and she had a feeling she knew who. She excused herself and headed towards that direction.

Meanwhile, Sonic got together with his friends Antoine, Bunnie, and Rotor, who was wheel-chair bound.

"Rote, I can't tell you how sorry I am for leaving you behind… Given the situation, I still wish I did something different than leave you all alone out there, and-"

"Sonic, don't worry about it," Rotor smiled, "You did what I asked you to do. Besides, 'Da Bearz took good care of."

Sonic raised an eyebrow, "You mean THE bears…"

"Nope. 'DA Bearz."

The hedgehog scratched his head. "If you say so…"

Bunnie put a hand on Rotor's shoulder. "Let us know if there's anythin' we can do for ya, sugah."

"This won't be permanent, I assure you," said Rotor, "I am going to walk again! I'll keep fighting!"

"You do that, Rote," said Sonic, "But right now, just take it easy. You've done more than enough to help."

"Thanks Sonic," said Rotor, "But it's nothing compared to what you did."

"Oui," added Antoine, "And much more 'zan what I did… I should 'ave stayed and fought 'ze aliens. Alas, I 'ave allowed my allies to fall in battle as I escaped with my life…"

"Don't beat yourself up, Ant," Sonic patted the coyote's shoulder, "Somebody had to pilot the Freedom Fighter Special."

"And 'sides," said Bunnie, "Yer still mah hero, y'ol daddy rabbit."

The two giggled, embraced, and kissed the night away. Rotor sighed. The grand hall was full so he couldn't maneuver his wheelchair around very much, so he resorted to looking awkwardly away at the wall or the ceiling, trying to give the two their privacy.

Sonic, on the other hand, watched intently. Not that he had a thing for watching people swap spit, even IF they didn't really try to hide it in public, but it was making him think. He finally noticed that he was staring longer that what would be considered "normal", so he finally broke his stare, but not his thought pattern…

It seemed like no matter where he looked, there were couples… Not only was there Antoine and Bunnie, happily married as usual, but Tails looked like he was in the start of having his first girlfriend in Cosmo, and then there was Knuckles… that knucklehead didn't have just one, but TWO girls fighting over him. Lucky guy…

Something was missing in all of this…

Where was Sally?

Wait… Did he REALLY want to go down this route?

He and Sally had always had an on-off thing. There were times he wondered why he'd bother wanting to make her happy, nothing ever seemed to… Yet when she was never around, she was all he ever wanted and would do anything for her.

If he were to really settle down with her, then that meant a lot of sacrifices. After all, his favorite hobby was running laps, breaking his own speed records, practically being as free as the wind. He was no diplomat, he was an adventuring, he was the kicker of Ro-butt-nik! Being with Sally meant no more of that freedom, lose the cool attitude, drop everything he ever stood for…

You know what? For Sally, he'll gladly take up that ball and chain! He loved her, and it's time they stopped playing games!

"Hey Rote… you by chance seen Sally?"

"Um…" Rotor thought back, "I think I saw her go out on the balcony a moment ago…"

"Perfect. Catch you later!" Sonic gently nudged his way through the crowd, trying to make his way towards the balcony.

The entire Grand Hall was aglow with happy people. He figured his place was outside where it was dark, and he could be alone. After all he did, he didn't deserve to mingle with anybody. He didn't even know why he was there. Just to make sure everyone was all right… that she was all right. But how could he face her now, after all he's done?

He overstayed his welcomed. This would be just another hard lesson learned, just another bad memory he'd have to get over. He turned off to leave.

"So here's where you're hiding."

Shadow turned to see Princess Sally standing by the doorway, smiling over at him. The hedgehog gave a sigh and turned away once more.

"Wait!" Sally cried, stopping Shadow in his tracks, "Don't go!" She approached him, pulling out a small silver box from under her arm. "Here…" She opened the box and pulled out a medal. "In appreciation of your role in saving Mobius, I present you with his medal of honor."

"Keep it," Shadow turned away once more, "I don't deserve it. Half of Mobius is in shambles because of me."

"It wasn't your fault," said Sally, "You were under Black Doom's control."

"I'm supposed to be the Ultimate Lifeform. How can my will be so weak?"

"You can't punish yourself. If you were so bad, you wouldn't have saved Sonic."

Shadow blinked. "How did you know?"

"You were the only one in hyper form at that time. Sonic couldn't have survived that fall," Sally smirked, "It was pretty obvious.

"You also made sure Eggman didn't keep the Super Emeralds and thus averted another worldwide crisis," the princess continued, "So where are they anyway?"

"I put them in safe keeping," said Shadow, "I will be holding onto them for now."

Sally shifted her stance, "And what gives you right of possession?"

"Well, I am the Ultimate Lifeform," Shadow scoffed, "I should have something to back that up."

Sally chuckled at this, "You sound as egotistic as Sonic."

"Don't compare me to that blue faker."

The chipmunk smirked.

"Anyway," said Shadow, "I will give you an emerald, but only when you need it. Until then, I will keep them from getting into the wrong hands. I owe that much to the commander… and Maria…"


Shadow turned his head, lowering it. "I… I promised her that I would protect mankind, and I nearly wiped it out. What would she think?"

"If she was anything how you once described her, then I know she'll forgive you." Sally took a hold of Shadow's hand, "Because I know I can."

The hedgehog turned to face Sally. She was smiling at him. That beautiful smile of hers… The side of his own mouth creaked up just a little in response. "…Thank you…"

Sally held up the medal. "Now will you please take this medal?"

Shadow stared at the medal for a moment… Then he glanced towards Sally, and finally gave a smile. He took hold of the medal. "You can count on me, Princess."

Without warning, Sally suddenly jumped forward and wrapped her arms around Shadow's neck. The so-called ultimate weapon wasn't sure how to handle this, but before he could even fathom a thought, Sally pulled back slightly and placed a kiss on Shadow's cheek.

Shadow just stood there, taking it all in. He had secretly found the princess of Mobotropolis attractive, but never really bothered to do anything about it. He had more important things to worry about, he didn't want to bother with silly stuff like crushes and cute girls. Besides, wasn't she dating that blue faker?

Sally pulled back and looked up a Shadow, giving him a good look at her face, which shone more beautiful than ever in the bright moonlight. Those eyes… he had never seen more beautiful eyes. Only Maria's could match them.

Sally stared back into Shadow's eyes. Behind those red eyes, there was no killer. This was no bad man. This was a poor lost soul. She didn't want him to be hurt anymore. She wanted to protect him. She just… wanted him.

She pressed forward, leaning closer into Shadow. The hedgehog pulled back slightly, surprised by her actions, but the more he looked at her, the more he wanted to return the gesture. So he did.

And their lips met.

They stayed that way for a good long while. They didn't care what was going on, who was around, so long as they were together…

…. Much to the dismay of a blue hedgehog, standing at the doorway of the balcony, watching the two kiss. He sighed, turned away, and moped off.

Maybe he'll keep his freedom and his love of adventure for a little while longer.

The Adventure is Over…..