Sonic awoke to a blurring, shifting room, fuzzy and unfocused, that seemed to change every time he moved his head. A voice sounded from one side, Tails' voice, oddly strained in a way that Sonic had never heard before.
"Sonic? Are you awake?"
Sonic took only a moment before replying, sorting out his various impressions of the room, which was beginning to stabilise. He was in the bedroom in Tails' workshop, a couple of chairs brought up and pushed together with blankets thrown over them to make up his bed. And on Tails' bed, a dark shape, touched here and there with red - Shadow.
"...Yes. Tails, is he... is he all right, still?"
"Uh-huh, Sonic. Shadow's gonna be fine."
There was an odd emphasis on the word 'Shadow', as though Tails thought Sonic might have meant somebody else. And his voice was shot through with strain and weariness.
"Tails... how long was I out?"
"The better part of a week, I guess. It gets hard to tell, after a while."
Tails mentally berated himself for that, regretting it instantly the words had been said. Sonic had enough to worry about as it was, without becoming concerned for Tails over cryptic comments like that! And sure enough, Sonic, even in his still-weakened state, caught up the comment and tried to follow it back to its source.
"What do you mean, Tails?"
Sonic's voice seemed to be growing stronger as he spoke, shaking off the dullness of sleep. He had been recovering with his usual rapidity, as Tails had expected him to, and was now returning to a semblance of his former alertness.
"It's nothing, Sonic. Really, I'm fine."
Tails guarded his words carefully for that sentence, tiredness making him more likely to let something slip, tired mind trying to hold onto the thoughts he didn't want Sonic to hear.
Sonic wasn't certain what Tails had meant, or what the strange tension running through his voice was, why it was underlying his every word, but he wasn't going to let his young friend keep whatever was bothering him to himself like that. That wasn't like Tails, anyway, not hiding things from him. Not from Sonic, not his best friend. Sonic had to know what was going on. When Tails showed no sign of having so much as heard him, he repeated himself.
Tails gave a start, as though he'd forgotten his friend was even there.
"Sonic? Shadow is going to be fine. And I'm fine too. Just tired. You still need to rest."
Tails delivered it in short, jerky sentences, disconnected from each other, and still strained, too. There was something else, something that he wasn't saying, as if he was almost... afraid. But why? Why would Tails be afraid? What could have happened that would make him feel that way? Sonic didn't understand. He looked at his friend, sharp-eyed now, mind clear and thoughts rapid. Tails seemed so terribly tired... and worried. Worried for Sonic? For Shadow? He had no way of telling, but he thought Tails was worried for him, not Shadow.
"Tails? What happened... when I tried to save him?" Sonic asked. Had it done something to him, caused something bad to happen? Was that what Tails feared?
Tails replied slowly, awkwardly, as if not really thinking about it, thoughts fuzzy with the tiredness he was fighting.
"When you... exceeded the speed of light... somehow you went back in time, and saved him. You must have thought you could do it, or you wouldn't have tried - right?"
"Yes, I'd thought I might be able to do it. But... did something happen?" He felt all right... somewhat weak, perhaps, but that would go away, given time. Tails shook his head, confusing Sonic further. If nothing had happened to him, at least nothing too serious, then what was his friend so worried about? What was he concealing? And why?
"Tails... what's wrong?" he asked, gently, quietly. "I'm fine... you said so yourself." But... maybe he'd been wrong about the reason for his friend's worry - had he? "Is it - is it Shadow?"
Tails' reply was already partly spoken before he caught himself. "Ye- no, no, Shadow will be all right. He's been getting better, slowly..." Very slowly, but it was happening. Shadow, too, had a will to live that had kept him fighting, that had kept him on the slow road to recovery, and though it would be a long time yet, Tails believed Shadow would heal. It was what would happen then that he feared, what Sonic would do... And though he never admitted it, even to himself, in the deepest corners of his mind, he couldn't help but wonder... would Sonic have done the same for him?