I sit alone in what used to be Tails' workshop. I've kept it in good repair, but there's something different about it still. The one person who gave it life, who brought all of his enthusiasm in here, who was always bright, eyes sparkling with life - he's dead. Tails is dead, long dead, like everybody else. I don't know why I've come back here. It's an empty shell without him. But I look around and I can almost see him out of the corner of my eye, laughing, or maybe running up excited to tell me about his latest invention. I don't think I ever told him how much that meant to me. I never will, now. It's too late.

I don't normally look back like this. The past is past and over with. But after all these years of not looking back, it seems it's all I can do. Tails died, in the end, like everybody else except for me and Shadow. The energy of the Chaos Emeralds, Tails said, is what keeps us going. It's extended our lifespan, perhaps indefinitely, but what good is that when everyone I care for dies?

Tails had a child, before he died, a child whose mother died giving birth to him. That kid meant almost as much to me as his father. But he died early, a stupid accident that didn't have to happen. He was helping out at a construction site, his twin tails - so much like his father's - an invaluable asset, when it happened. There was an accident, a part of the support structure collapsed. The stupid thing was, that wasn't what killed him, or the daring rescue he pulled off. It was afterwards, when he'd checked the whole collapsed part for others and found nobody else. He was flying out, the safety harness he'd used to drag the others out trailing behind him, when it caught on some wreckage. I wasn't there, but I can still see him in my mind's eye. The first tug at his waist, the look back, the quick turn to untangle the harness, the look up at the creak, the eyes - grey-blue eyes, full of life - widening in fear and a sudden realisation of what would happen next, the panicky struggle with the knots, knowing they couldn't be undone in time... They said that when they'd dug him out, he looked oddly at peace, as though in the final moment he'd accepted what was going to happen to him and just made his peace with the world. Tails and I missed him so, and Tails was already looking older, but I didn't seem to have aged a day. I still haven't.

Perhaps Tails could have found a way to use the Emeralds to stay with me, but that wasn't going to happen, because he died a few years later, whatever research project he'd been working on left forever unfinished. His notes are still on the table, another reminder of his constant presence in my life. Everything's just the way he left it; I haven't interfered except to keep the roof in repair and dust things... stuff like that. The planes have been in the hangars ever since, because I can't bear to fly them. Too many memories... all the things I've lost...

A sharp sound interrupts my thoughts, a knock on the door, tentative but still loud enough to penetrate my consciousness. Nobody but me has come here since Tails died. What could this one want? Doesn't matter; I don't care. I want to be alone, with all that's left of Tails.

"Go away!" I shout. My voice comes out funny, and I wonder just how long I've been sitting here, thinking. It doesn't really matter. Eggman's dead, too, there's little left for me to do anyway. I sometimes get the feeling that nobody knows quite what to do about me, like I'm some kind of living museum exhibit or something, and - another knock, breaking through my train of thought. Doesn't this person give up?! I get up and walk to the door, open it, already talking without really seeing what I'm looking at.

"Go away. I don't want visitors." Then I look at the stranger, and gasp in surprise. He's a fox, two tails - how?! It's surely such an uncommon occurrence, without Tails to pass it down it'd be a very long time before such a thing could occur again by chance. Has it really been that long? Clear blue eyes look up at me, like Tails' eyes, worried and filled with a mute entreaty.

"Please, Sonic, don't... I need your help, you're the only person who'll believe me, please just let me in, just listen?" He sounds so like Tails, it hurts, but I let him in, perhaps too stunned to do anything else. He walks in, oddly assured, like he knows where he's going.

"I've never been here before... I remember this. These plans... I know, I saw them, I worked on them - I've never seen them before in my life!" I just stare at him, then decide I'd better say something.

"What do you mean? Either you've been here before or you haven't! And there's no way you've been here, because the only person who's been here since Tails died is... is me." And occasionally Shadow, because every now and then he comes by to see me, check I'm still alive out here.

"I... please, you have to believe me... I've been... remembering... things that I've never seen. I've been drawing plans even I can't make sense of a few minutes later. I say things and then I wonder what I'm talking about, because Robotnik was dead before I was even born. But I can see all these things, like aeroplanes powered by Chaos Emeralds, and robots... lots of robots. Nobody believes me, they think I'm going mad, and so did I, but I looked up some stuff after I mentioned Robotnik and everything I see is stuff that really happened. Sonic, this doesn't make any sense to me, I can't understand it, but it's the only explanation that makes any sense at all because I don't know what I'm seeing. Sonic... the only thing that I can come up with is... this is gonna sound crazy, but I... I think I'm, I think I must be... well, Tails reincarnate."

"No! No! That's not possible! The Tails I knew is dead! Dead!!! Get out! Go away!" But he looks and sounds so much like him, and I want to believe him so badly, it hurts. His head drops and his eyes fill with tears as he turns away, walking out of the workshop, walking away.

"I'm sorry... but you were my last chance..."

He's gone, but my mind's in turmoil. Tails? He can't be Tails, can't have anything to do with Tails. Robotnik outlived Tails and he was dead before this kid was born! It's not possible! But oh, how I want it to be... I want it so badly, like I've never wanted anything else before. I want this kid to be Tails like I remember him, young and bright and full of laughter and new ideas, new designs for his planes, full of enthusiasm and running to tell me about things... Did I chase him off because I thought he was making fun of me, or because I was afraid he was telling the truth? I have to go after him. Tails... maybe this is crazy, but if this is you... I miss you so much, Tails, I didn't know how much I cared 'til it was too late. Now I'm getting a second chance, and I might have just thrown it away! I run out the still-open door, skid to a halt at the top of the steps, looking around. I can see him, walking slowly away, head down, scuffing at the floor like Tails would have if I'd yelled at him for something.

"Tails! I'm sorry! Come back! Please, Tails, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it!"

His head snaps up and around, looking back at me, hope shining on his face, before he spins those tails and flies up to me again.

"Come in, no, what am I saying, it's your workshop! Tails, is it really you?!"

"Well... yeah, I guess."

We go in together. I'm almost unable to believe what's going on, but it's not a dream. I can tell it's not a dream. I won't let it be a dream. Tails and I sit down on a couple of his old chairs; mine creaks alarmingly. They're too old, but I'm not, and now nor is he. I guess I should let him go slowly, he's not used to who he seems to be.

"Tell me everything you remember, Tails. It'll help me realise this is all true, that you're really who you say you are, that this is possible and really happening."

He's quiet for a long moment before speaking.

"All my life I've tried to suppress these memories. I thought I was going mad, like everybody else said. But now... I recognise you, Sonic, like I've known you all my life. I've never been here before, but I could navigate the workshop blindfold. Hey, Sonic, now I'm letting myself remember I know so much! Do you remember that time when I was testing the Tornado 2 and it crashed? You came and rescued me then... I think you've just rescued me now." We're both silent for a moment, then his face breaks into a delighted grin.

"Anyway, Sonic, it's so good to see you! What've you been doing? Oh, I remember, I had a project to complete! Hey, Sonic, I had this great idea for what I could do with my plane..." and he's off, chattering nineteen to the dozen, memories integrating back into his personality as I listen. This is so incredible... an immense joy washes through my spirit, lifting a weight from my heart I hadn't even known was there. I don't know how much time we spend reminiscing, certainly long enough for it to get dark. Tails and I carry on talking through the night, ignoring tiredness.

Come morning, Tails has drifted off in the chair. I'm happy to just sit there, realising how wonderful this is. Then, there's another knock on the door. I get up, chair creaking again - I should get Tails to get some new ones, partly because these are too old, partly just because he CAN! It's Shadow, standing on the doorstep; I greet him cheerfully.

"Hey Shadow! It's been a while! Come in!"

Shadow looks amazed, surprised, pleased. I realise with a shock that I haven't sounded so good in a long time.

"Shadow, this is gonna be really hard to believe, but this kid just turned up here yesterday and it seems he's Tails! Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but he remembers everything Tails should! He said something about reincarnation - he's asleep right now, but you have to come in and meet him!" Shadow's expression turns dubious, but he allows me to lead him into the workshop, where I point to Tails, asleep in the chair still.

"There he is, see? I'll wake him up."

"Sonic..." Shadow looks right at me. His voice is a curious mixture of sorrow, pain, and pity. "Sonic, there's nothing there."