A/N: Hey everyone!
Sword: We took on another request! But this one is different!
Pen: As in we do not have to write a romantic fanfic?
Sword: No, silly! As in we're sorta using another request to jump off from this! So this is a sequel to "The Past Held Hostage"! Shadow, Tikal, and all other material belong to Sega. Me and Pen belong to the author! This was requested by yuki-xue!
Pen: Next time, I am accepting the requests. I want something more serious than this.
The evening breeze was pretty chilly. It was a nice refresher from the hot summer day. The setting sun was nearly gone, turning its back so the stars could come out to play. Shadow stared blankly at the heavens, lost in thought.
Every now and again, he would be brought back down to earth by the party noises nearby. It was Rouge's birthday and her closest friends had gathered to celebrate. Shadow had stopped by, wished her well, and then disappeared to the front yard to be alone like he did with most social occasions. He knew that Rouge took no offense. It was simply his nature.
Besides, Rouge had plenty of people to celebrate her day with: Sonic, Knuckles, Amy, Cream, Tails, Tikal- Tikal. Shadow's thoughts stopped in their tracks and his mind turned to the echidna. Ever since rescuing Knuckles and Tikal, he had been dwelling on her constantly. At first, he believed it simply to be her strange nature. It was not every day that one finds an ancestor of a nearly extinct race pop out of an emerald.
But Shadow had experienced such curious entities before. The fact that he continued to think about her well beyond mere curiosity led him to suppose there was more to it. But as to what more there could be, he did not know.
Maybe he needed advice. Yet Shadow did not know who he could ask. Amy would turn any feeling into love and he was pretty confident that he was not about to chase anyone in a lovesick craze like Amy did. Cream was too young, and he did not feel like letting Rouge hold the answer over his head for a favor. Knuckles was too hard-headed, he did not feel comfortable confiding in Tails, and Sonic- Shadow shivered. Definitely not, he thought.
"Maria," he muttered. Where was she amongst the starry sky tonight? It was times like this that he wished she was still around. He could talk to her about anything and everything. Not only that, but Maria always seemed to have an answer to his questions. He imagined asking her, trying to gauge what she would tell him. He remembered she had once said when you think about someone often, that means you really care about them and love that person.
That did not sound right to Shadow. He hardly knew Tikal. They barely spoke to one another. Then again, the same could be said of all of his acquaintances. When his imagined answer from Maria failed, he tried a second time. As he did, his mental image of Maria slowly shifted and morphed into Tikal.
Shadow growled. That was another puzzling occurrence that had been happening lately. Everytime he thought of Maria or Tikal, he had the tendency to connect one to the other. Yes, there were similarities between the two, but Shadow could not fathom why that should matter.
So he was stuck, going about in circles, unable to figure out an answer to his niggling problem. It had been running him ragged. He shook away the mess of his mind and punched the tree he sat against.
He heard a gasp. In the ever-growing darkness, he could not make out who was nearby. Rouge's hut, with lit windows, was not helping. Shadows and silhouettes were cast around. He swept his eyes through his surroundings. Then he saw a figure merged into a bush.
"Who's there?" Shadow asked. The last thing he wanted was to be disturbed. It might be Amy or Cream, wondering where he was. But they would have spoken up by now. Was it Sonic, trying to pull a prank? "Sonic, if that's you, I will personally-"
His threat became lodged in his throat. It was Tikal. He narrowed his eyes, trying to adjust them to the darkness. He could make out her shape and dreadlocks. As his eyes further adjusted, he saw her unsure expression, like she knew she had interrupted somebody.
"What do you want?" Shadow asked, the question coming off colder than he meant it to. "What is it?" he tried again. But the second one sounded worse. He groaned and slapped his forehead.
"I was coming out for some fresh air and to look at the stars," she said. "What about you?"
"Thinking," he said.
"I'll leave you to it then. Sorry for disturbing you," she said, turning to walk off elsewhere.
"Tikal," he said. She glanced at him. Shadow's tongue was tied. What was he doing? He did want to be alone with his thoughts, right? So why was he calling after her? He could not answer that. He settled on saying, "It's alright." Then he added, "If you want to stay that is. It doesn't matter. Do whatever you want."
She lingered there as equally confused as him to his sudden offer. Shadow grew frustrated with himself until she thanked him and sat down in the grass. Tikal was underneath the shade of the tree, but was far from Shadow. He wondered if he should give up his seat for her? Did one do that in this situation? Then he asked why he was even debating something so silly anyway. There was plenty of room. She could sit nearby at any time if she chose to.
"Stars look nice tonight," Tikal commented. Shadow grunted. A painful silence settled over them, neither sure of what to talk about. Tikal tried to keep the star topic going by saying, "Of course, you can see more out on Angel Island. Sometimes, you feel as if you're up there."
"I take it you like star gazing?" Shadow asked. He shook his head. That was a ridiculous question. She was discussing different spots to watch the stars, so she must enjoy it. The longer Tikal stayed, the hazier his mind became. Shadow felt like his addled thoughts were falling apart with each passing second. Perhaps he should not say anything. It was either the silence or have his mind betray him, making him seem foolish.
"I do," Tikal said. "It's quite nice when you're away from the city. Do you like star gazing?"
Shadow shrugged. He had never given it much thought. If he was not using the stars for navigation, he was using them to recall the fateful incident on the ARK so many years ago.
"Is there anything you like to do?" Tikal asked.
A strange question. One that Shadow could not remember being asked off the top of his head. "Like for fun?" She nodded. His mind went blank. He never did anything for fun in a traditional sense. If he was not fighting Robotnik, he was preparing to fight Robotnik. Preparation was enjoyable to an extent for him. Sure, he had been dragged along on outings before with the other Freedom Fighters to do typical "fun" activities. However one could hardly call shopping with Amy or gorging chili dogs with Sonic "fun".
"Not really," he said. "What about you?"
"Well, I love to take care of the Chao," she said. "They're such wonderful creatures."
"You take care of all of them?" Shadow asked. "Must be a handful."
"It is," she said. "They can really tire you out. But I don't mind. I think it's worth it. Although, I wouldn't object to more breaks like this."
He suddenly had an urge to offer his services. "I'm free," he said. She quizzically raised an eyebrow. "If you need it," he added. She still did not understand. He growled and looked elsewhere. "To help that is."
"With the Chao?" she asked.
"I would appreciate that. Thank you," Tikal said. He grunted. She rested on her hands, staring up at the stars
Meanwhile, Shadow was beating himself up inside. Why had he done that? He knew nothing of Chao, much less taking care of them. They were mere gurgling pets that all withdrew when he was around. Even when Cream was nearby, Cheese was not comfortable with Shadow. He had once tried holding the little Chao. Cheese had quivered in his arms, cowering from Shadow's sight until Cream had taken him back. Yes, I'm perfect for Chao caretaking, he sarcastically thought.
After a while, he noticed that Tikal appeared rather uncomfortable in the grass. She was stretching her back, trying to find a good position to sit. Shadow rolled his eyes and said, "Just sit by the tree. It's more comfortable."
Tikal accepted his offer and sat on the other side of the tree trunk, separated from him. There was a twinge of disappointment in Shadow's chest. He ignored it and continued staring into space. But with Tikal so close now, he could not think straight. The trunk was thin, so he was overwhelmed by her scent: earthy and fresh like nature after it was washed by the rain.
"So, Shadow," Tikal said, "Rouge tells me you were created in a laboratory."
"I see." The conversation nearly died right there until she asked, "So you don't have family of any kind?"
He glanced over his shoulder, about to tell her that was a ridiculous question. But when he met her eyes, he was stifled. Those shimmering green eyes had him confounded. "I mean, you weren't created with any others like you? Like relatives that resulted from experiments," Tikal added.
"No," he said, facing away. What was happening to him?
"I'm sorry to hear that," she said. "I can't imagine how it must've been, not having a family."
"I had a family," he said. He clamped his mouth shut, but with the cat already out of the bag, he figured he may as well continue. "Dr. Gerald was my father. He and Maria were my family."
"Maria?" she asked.
"His granddaughter. We were…very close," he said.
"Sounds like they were special."
"That they were," Shadow said, nodding. He gazed at the stars. "That they were."
"Are they still around?" Tikal asked.
He shook his head. "No. They're gone."
"I'm sorry. I know how that's like. I lost my family too."
"I know," Shadow said. "Knuckles told us."
"Right," she said, nodding. "But I think I'll meet them again someday." She starred at the sky, a small smile gracing her lips. Shadow found himself staring at her.
He reached out, hovering his hand over hers. Then he pulled back. His body was moving on its own accord, reacting to her. Shadow lifted his hand again and patted hers. "Uh, I'm sure they are," he said. He quickly retracted his hand, balling it tightly and jamming it into his armpit.
"Thanks," she said. There was a soft rustling of grass. Tikal had scooted closer to him. He turned, glaring at her and she stopped. But Shadow looked elsewhere and sighed wearily, giving in. She sat next to him and turned to the hut when there was a bout of uproarious laughter. "So how long have you known Rouge?"
He shrugged. "A while. She's my partner."
"Your partner?" Tikal asked. Her eyes were a little downcast.
"My partner on missions," he said.
"You two must be good friends then," she said, her spirits lifted.
"I guess," Shadow said. Rouge was about as close as he could call a friend. Maybe Amy, but that was about it. Everyone else was merely people he was on good terms with. Well, everyone except Tikal. She was different. He did not know how to categorize her. Surely not one of the other people he felt little connection to, but she was an outlier from his friends. It was similar to how he felt for Maria, but in a curious manner. Different even from that. The sensation was one he had never quite experienced before. Whatever she was, it put him on edge.
She inched closer. When Tikal brushed her shoulder against his, his spine tingled. He stood as her fingers touched his. "Look, I can't stop thinking- I have to go," he said. "I'll see you tomorrow." With that brief, confusing farewell, he dashed off. He needed time to sort out his thoughts on Tikal.
But as he ran, he found that when he dwelled on her touch, he yearned for more. There was an aching desire to hold her hand- hold her- building inside of him. Shadow shook his head. For now, he wanted to occupy his mind with something else. Yet that would probably be easier said than done since he continued to think of Tikal. He may have to end up asking Rouge or Amy for advice. However, that could wait until tomorrow.
A/N: And there you have it. Given the two characters, we figured it would be a little awkward between them. Hope everyone enjoyed it and let us know what you thought about it. Thanks for reading!
Sword: Now let's do more romance! MOAR I SAY!
Pen: No. Now go away everyone. Shoo.