A/N: It's that time of year again.
Sword: Whenever we eat so much candy that we puke?
No. Well, kind of.
Pen: The time of the year when you leave me alone?
Not yet. The holidays are upon us, so why not celebrate with a story? All characters belong to Sega. The story, Sword, and Pen belong to me. This was inspired by Phil Collins' rendition of "True Colors" and "HomeMade Vs Storebought Gifts" by Kimmie2. Please enjoy.
Chapter 1- At a Loss
Cream lifted her head from rolling a snowman's body and shook the snow off her mittens. Something was wrong. A stray squirrel bounded past her feet as she gazed down the road. She had thought she heard a person sniffing, as if crying.
Off in the distance, she caught sight of an orange fox, bundled in a green scarf and jacket. His two tails dragged against the ground, picking up snow in his fur and his ears were flattened against his scalp. Tails, Cream thought. He always traveled by her house on his way home in the Mystic Ruins, usually stopping by to visit and play.
But when she called out to him, he didn't even acknowledge her. She left her front yard and chased after him. "Tails!" He continued to walk, shuffling his feet. It wasn't hard for her to catch up to him. The little rabbit stood in front of him. "Tai—" Her voice caught in her throat.
Tails' baby blue eyes, normally so bright and happy, were downcast and depressed. His nose honked when he sniffed and his cheeks were matted with dried tears. He pulled his scarf higher over his face and greeted her. "Hey, Cream."
It wasn't the first time Cream had seen him in this state. She was the only one who ever did. Despite being a celebrated hero of Mobius, that didn't stave off hateful remarks thrown Tails' way about his namesakes. Especially from a particular set of bullies who he refused to identify, always telling Cream he could handle himself. But although he was brave, he was not cocky like Sonic or ruthless like Shadow. He was a younger, kindhearted spirit with a genius surpassing nearly everyone. While that attracted Cream to him, it was also a beacon, calling stronger personalities to pick him off like a weak member of a herd whenever he went into town alone.
Cream was positive the bullies were constant in their abuse and that Tails had hidden his sadness from her more often than not. The bullies didn't seem to physically harm him, so Tails didn't fight them, unwilling to engage in anything besides self-defense. But from what Cream gathered, they were relentless, bombarding him from all sides along with passerby who felt the same way. It boiled her blood to think of people sneering and looking down their nose at someone who dedicated his life to protecting them. And it always broke her heart to see her friend hurting.
"Do you want to come in?" she pointed at her house. "Mom could make us some hot chocolate. You look pretty cold."
He glanced at the house, like a daisy topped with snow and frost, then shook his head. "No, I have to get back home. Got to finish some work and wrap presents."
"Maybe I could help?" She wanted to cheer him up. To hug him and let him know she was there for him. They could go to his house, talk, he could tell her what happened, she could comfort him, then lean down and kiss him. Cream blushed red and pulled the tops of her orange jacket higher. She almost didn't hear Tails dismiss her offer.
"Thanks, but it shouldn't take too long. I'll see you at Amy's house tonight." Then he quickly strode past her.
She reached out for him, but couldn't think of anything else to say. Her mind was too flustered by her previous thought. It was one of many that had been cropping up over the past few months and its occurrence had grown in alarming frequency. They were close as friends could be, but not that close. Although Cream wished they were, she wasn't sure about Tails. Sometimes, he seemed to show more interest in her and other times, he was content with how they were.
Cream shook her head. This was no time to ponder her own dilemma. She wanted to help Tails. But how? With no lead on the bullies and Tails shutting himself off, there was little she could do.
Amy. Cream nodded. She could ask Amy for advice. She ran back to her house and told her mom where she was going. Cheese was snoozing in the corner underneath their Christmas tree. She pet him and whispered, "I'll be back later." Then she ran outside, flapped her ears, and lifted into the sky, flying as fast as she could to Amy's house.
Blaze created a torrent of fire and directed it at the ground. The flames burned away the snow on the sidewalk and path up to Amy's house. She took care to stick to the concrete only. Within minutes, she was finished. A neighbor nearby, in the middle of shoveling a pile of snow, was gawking at her. She smiled and headed back into the house.
The violet cat shirked off her jacket when she stepped inside and stomped the snow off her shoes. The fireplace was roaring in the living room and a Christmas tree was in the beside it, immaculately decorated with multi-colored lights that lit up in a colored cycle. Tinsel and various ornaments, some hand-made by Amy and Cream out of beads or paper, hung here and there. There was a collection of all of Amy's friends, crudely painted and placed on different branches. Some were hung closer to others, like Amy's pink hedgehog representation of herself in kissing range of a blue hedgehog with a determined expression. Blaze's figure dangled next to a silver hedgehog with striking golden eyes that matched hers.
That same hedgehog entered the room, levitating a wreath with each hand. They were surrounded in a teal glow, like his palms, and Amy was directing his movements. "Put one on the front door and the other over the fireplace, Silver," she said.
"Got it. Hey, Blaze," he said, walking past her. "All done?"
"Yeah. Anything else that needs doing, Amy?"
Amy entered the room, pulling on a red jacket over her scarlet turtleneck. "No, that's all for now, thank you. You've been a big help."
"Well, thanks for inviting us," Blaze said.
"You're welcome. I just need to run out to the mall really quick."
"Mind if I come?" Silver asked. "I have a few things to pick up."
"Sure," Amy said, sliding on a pair of earmuffs. "Blaze, can you stay here and watch the food? Take it out if we're not back in an hour."
"Alright," she said. Silver gathered up his jacket, earmuffs, and scarf and they left. Blaze sat in the living room, watching a Christmas special Silver had turned on. She found it very cheesy and saccharine at first, but was soon wrapped up in it.
Knock, knock, knock! She checked the clock. Fifteen minutes? They really flew there, she , waiting at the door was a cream-colored rabbit, her cheeks flushed pink by the cold. "Cream?"
"Hello, Ms. Blaze. Is Ms. Amy here?" she asked, shivering.
"No, but come in." Cream nodded her thanks and zipped over to the fireplace. She tore off her mittens and held her hands to the fire, content washing over her face. "Amy's at the mall with Silver."
"Oh." Cream deflated. "Do you know when she'll be back?" Blaze shook her head and Cream sighed, turning back to the fire.
"Is something wrong?" Blaze asked. Cream looked at her and nodded. "Anything I can do to help?"
She tilted her head to the side. "I don't know. Can you help me with someone?"
"I can try," Blaze said. She sat back down in her chair and muted the television. Cream climbed into a seat and twiddled her thumbs. Unlike the subjects of her kingdom, Cream didn't spill her problem right away. After a period of awkward silence, Blaze coughed into her hand. "Uh, you can tell me whenever you want." The little girl still waited, kicking her legs and biting her lip. Maybe it would be better to wait for Amy.
"I have this friend," Cream finally started, "who's being picked on. But he won't let me help him. And I don't know who the bullies are or what to do. I really want to help T- my friend, but nothing seems to work."
Blaze leaned against the arm of her chair. "You must really care about him." Cream blushed and shyly nodded and Blaze realized the extent of the situation. She chuckled, finding the rabbit's feelings endearing. "I actually had the same problem when I was your age."
"Yes, really," Blaze said.
"What did you do?" Cream asked.
Blaze leaned forward. "I'll tell you."
Years ago, when Blaze was a small child, she was ridiculed and feared by others. Those with powers like hers were an oddity and not always widely accepted, many fearing such power. None of the people who made the remarks did so to her face, and only a few dared to even say anything, but whispers spread fast throughout a castle. As such, Blaze was shunned now and then by children and parents alike who refused to even give her a chance. Sometimes, she felt as if she didn't know who to trust and grew to isolate herself from everyone, afraid to put her trust in the wrong person.
However, she was forced to socialize as much as possible with daily strolls through town. It was during one such stroll when her bodyguard had entered a shop for a few minutes that she heard jeering children and cruel names. At first, she thought they were directed at her. But as she listened, she found the catcalls coming from another street. Blaze dashed over there and found a small, silver hedgehog, surrounded by a group of children. They taunted and kicked dust into his face.
"Freak!" one boy said.
"Hey, Silver! Anyone tell you that you look like a stupid plant with those quills?" a girl sneered, pulling on said quills.
"Hey, stop that!" Blaze said. She ran between the children and Silver. Everyone froze, their eyes wide like dinner plates, and whispered to one another. None of the bullies were sure what to do.
One, who appeared to be the leader, looked around, as if checking for any adults. When he saw none, he grew bolder and crossed his arms. "What's it matter to you?" he asked.
The girl who had pulled on Silver's quills touched the boy's shoulder. "Let's get out of here," she said. But he wouldn't budge.
"My dad says your kind shouldn't even be allowed here. That you'll be the end of us true citizens," the boy continued. He shoved Blaze aside. There was a collective gasp from his backers and one by one, the other bullies ran off. Blaze pushed the boy back.
Before they could touch one another again, Silver stepped between Blaze and the boy. "Don't push the princess," he said, his voice unsure of himself.
"Or what? You going to do something about it, plant-boy?" When he turned around, he realized that his band was gone. Suddenly, he was lifted into the air, encased in a teal glow. He kicked his legs and whimpered as he was lifted several feet off the ground.
Below, Silver was glaring at him. "Yes," he said. "I won't let you hurt her."
Blaze smiled and tapped his shoulder. "Thanks," she said.
He blushed and mumbled, "It's okay."
"I think you can put him down now." Silver nodded and lowered the boy back to the ground. Blaze turned to him, emboldened by Silver's courage. "We're true citizens like everyone else. Now leave him alone, got that?"
The boy ran off, throwing one last "Freak!" over his shoulder. When he was gone, Blaze deflated. Yet another person in the town who made her feel like the world's largest social pariah.
"Thanks for that," Silver said.
She rubbed her arm. "You're welcome."
They stood standing there for what seemed like hours before Silver finally introduced himself. "I'm Silver."
"Blaze," she said.
"Do they give you a lot of trouble?"
He sighed and dropped his eyes to his white-striped navy boots. "Sometimes, yeah. I don't like fighting if I can help it."
"Garon, my bodyguard, says it would just make things worse," Blaze said.
"I guess you have to deal with this, too?" When she nodded, he scratched his head. "So it's true? You can make fire?" Again, a slow nod. "Could I see it?"
She was taken aback by that request. Nobody had ever asked for her to conjure up fire. She didn't know if she would be comfortable doing such a thing. Then again, he was in the same boat as her. Perhaps it would be alright. Maybe he wouldn't be afraid of her.
Blaze held out her hand and for a moment, nothing appeared. Then a tiny spark erupted, which swirled round and round, building into a small, flaming comet with a long tail. Finally, it evolved into a fireball, spinning in her hands. Silver jumped back and shec closed her hand, extinguished the fire. Then she looked away. So even among people like her, there were those who were afraid and thought her strange.
"Sorry. Just didn't expect it," he said. "That's pretty cool."
The hedgehog was full of surprises. "Really? You're not scared?"
He shrugged. "Why would I be? It's part of you. Like my parents used to say, we're all born with something special and we shouldn't be afraid to show the real us."
"I like that," she said.
"Princess Blaze?" Gardon must've been searching for her. "Princess Blaze?"
She thumbed at the voice. "I should go."
"Okay," he said. "It was nice meeting you."
"Nice meeting you, too." She was struck by an idea. "Would you like to come to the castle tomorrow?"
His jaw dropped and he stammered. "The c-castle? Me?"
She chuckled. He was adorable when flustered. "Yes, you. I don't see anyone else here."
"It would be an honor, Princess."
"Please, just Blaze," she said.
"Okay, Blaze." He shuffled his feet.
She beamed, enthusiastic inside that she had found someone like him. Someone who was like her, who wasn't afraid. This was a special chance for her. The joy inside burst forth into her hugging him. She swiftly realized what she was doing and pulled away, embarrassed and staring at her toes. "I'll see you tomorrow then," she said, looking up at him once more, then running off to Gardon.
"And then you and Mr. Silver became friends?" Cream asked, on the edge of her seat, her eyes sparkling.
"Yes," Blaze said. "We both helped one another."
She twiddled her thumbs. "I can't do that. I can never find Tai-er, my friend when he's being bullied."
Blaze smiled. "Don't worry. Something will happen and you'll be able to help. Until then, just be a friend to him. It sounds like he could use that more than anything else right now. Especially with Christmas tomorrow, I'm sure he would appreciate a good friend." When Cream still frowned and gazed down, Blaze leaned forward. "Cheer up. Everything will work out."
"You really think so?"
"I do." A thought clicked in her head. "If you don't believe me, believe Amy. Isn't she always saying this is a time of year for miracles and when good things happen?" The little rabbit nodded. "Then there you are. Everything is looking up for you."
"You're right, Ms. Blaze!" Cream hopped from her chair, raising a fist with a determined face. "I will help him any way I can! Thank you!"
"You're welcome," Blaze said. That had been easier than she thought. "Can I get you anything else? Would you like something to drink?"
She shook her head and rushed for the door. "No, thank you. I have to go." She paused with her hand on the knob. "Ms. Blaze?"
She twisted her right boot back and forth. "Did anything more happen between you Mr. Silver afterwards?"
Blaze sat up straighter and looked away for a moment. Then she shook her head. "No. We're close, but not that close. Although something like that could happen between you and your friend."
Cream pulled open the door and dashed outside. Blaze turned her attention to the Christmas tree, where several packages were wrapped. A purple one in particular was topped with a gold bow and read From: Blaze, To: Silver. She rested her cheek in her hand and sighed. Her words echoed in her mind. Not that close. Then she added, Not yet. I hope Amy's right about this time of year.
"Remind me again why I agreed to this?" Shadow said, tapping his foot impatiently as a blue hedgehog in a jacket and hand-knit scarf dug through a bin of movies.
"Because we're best friends?" the hedgehog said, burying himself further into the pile. "Or because we're helping each other find gifts? What about this one?" He held up a movie with a man standing in front of an explosion, shotgun held at the ready.
Shadow frowned, feeling a migraine setting in. "Honestly, Sonic. Do you ever think? Ask yourself if Knuckles would really like that?"
"Why not?" He flipped the box around and read parts of the synopsis. "Loner cool guy takes on a horde of thieves to recover missing gemstones. Sounds right up Knuckles' alley."
"Whatever, let's just go." The syrupy atmosphere of the department store and the constant cycle of only five Christmas carols on the speakers was grating on Shadow. After the four hours he had suffered here, he knew he would never be able to hear Jingle Bells again without maiming whoever sang it. He was stuffy even with his jacket slung over his shoulder.
Sonic hopped out of the pile, clutching the movie, and the hedgehogs walked through the store. "That almost takes care of mine. How about you?"
"One left," Shadow said. "Rouge."
"Saving the most important for last?" Sonic asked, a knowing grin creeping up his face.
"Are you?" Shadow countered. "I know you still haven't bought a gift for Amy."
Sonic put his hands behind his head and shrugged. "What can I say? She's hard to shop for."
"Jewelry, clothes, something handmade," Shadow ticked off on his fingers. They entered an electronics aisle. Maybe Rouge needed a new headset?
"Too serious, I have no fashion sense, and I was never good at arts and crafts. Not like Amy." He fingered the scarf.
"Then you could—dare I say?—show her the affection she craves." Shadow picked up a headset and looked it over. It didn't seem like right gift to get. Then again, nothing felt right when he tried to do something special for Rouge. It had to be memorable. Yet he couldn't think straight.
"Why does everyone get onto me for that? I show her I care well enough. Like any friend." Shadow raised a skeptical eyebrow and growled low in his throat. Sonic was a terrible liar, from his nervous eyes flitting back and forth as if something else had suddenly caught his attention to his limbs fidgeting. "Besides, I save her all the same. Don't actions speak louder than words?"
"I hit you all the time. But you still seem to think we're friends," Shadow said, putting the headset back.
Sonic smirked. "That's because I know you're a big softie inside, Shads."
"If you call me that one more time, I don't care if it's Christmas Eve, you'll be spending tomorrow in the ICU. I'll find a gift on my own." He broke off and headed for the store's exit.
"Hey!" Sonic shouted from behind. But Shadow was already out the door. He slipped his jacket on and walked down the length of the rest of the mall, searching for that one elusive gift.
He had resolved at the beginning of this month that things would be different. This year, he would make a change and move forward. But as he passed a jewelry store and caught sight of a blonde woman inside, he thought her face was younger and her eyes a deep blue, with skin like porcelain doll. Maria? His hopes were dashed when he peered closer and the woman aged by twenty years. She smiled and waved at him.
Shadow grunted and sat down on a nearby bench. He couldn't do this. Every time, every time he tried to move on, he was held back. Anyone he tried to get close to triggered Maria's memory to come up. Rouge had been the limit, the closest he achieved to reaching that level with anyone for the longest time.
Now, even trying to go beyond that with her caused him to relapse with Maria's death. It was like some sick psychopath inside his mind hovered over a button, waiting to push it when he bonded with a person. Then that entity would press the button, unleashing the full force of his memories, guilt, and his logic of "if I don't get close to anyone, it can never happen again."
Not that Rouge knew. Unlike Sonic, the black hedgehog was adept at hiding and burying his problems deep down. Although Rouge knew him better than all the others did, he was confident she had no idea what he was planning and the effect it was having on him.
He had to confront this. Had to. With a heavy sigh, he stood up, straightened his shoulders, and marched into the jewelry store.
Sonic had completely lost track of Shadow. But luck was on his side. He snuck around the corner of an aisle and peered out, grinning widely. "When what to my wondering eyes should appear," he muttered as Amy and Silver entered the store. Maybe if he saw what she bought for him, he could get an idea of what to buy for her. They headed to the clothing section and he followed, keeping his distance, yet staying close enough that he caught their conversation.
"I want to get her something special. Something that really suits her," Silver said. "Are you sure she would want a dress? Blaze is more practical than that."
"Absolutely," Amy said, searching through the clothes rack. "How many of her dresses allow her to fight or move easily?"
"Not many," he said. "She hates those kind."
"There you go." She lifted out a slim dress that reached her own knees. "She only has the one outfit for that, which isn't suitable for royal events. So find her something that lets her breathe, yet is elegant."
"Like this?" He held up a garish yellow outfit with red polka dots.
Amy recoiled and put both dresses back. She grabbed his hand and pulled him to another rack. "You're lucky you have me here."
Sonic ducked into the middle of one circular rack just as Amy and Silver approached it. He lifted his feet onto the base and hoped they wouldn't notice the red shoes sticking out. Amy pushed aside several dresses, nearly touching his hand.
"How about this one?" Amy said, showing off a silver dress with a cut back. "It would really bring out her eyes, don't you think?"
Silver stared at the dress, seemingly lost in thought. "Yeah," he mumbled, his eyes glazing over. Sonic smirked as Amy snapped her fingers in his face.
"Hey, lover boy, don't get too lost in your fantasy." He blushed and turned around, scratching his ear. Amy draped the dress over her arm and continued pushing clothes aside. Sonic weaved and dodged the gaping holes made here and there.
"Have you figured out what to get Sonic yet?" Silver asked. "Something special, I'll bet?"
"I thought of that at first," she said, leaving the rack and moving to another. Sonic breathed a sigh of relief. "But I think it only annoys him. Only reminds him that I love him while he doesn't. He only shops for me like any other friend."
"You're going to do the same then?" Silver pulled out a red dress ending a third of the way down the thigh. He flushed red and quickly hung it back on the rack.
"I don't know. Maybe," she said. "You see anything else you like besides this dress?"
"N-n-no. Nope. Nothing." He smiled wide.
"Well, let's go pay for this and hit another store. If we find something better, we can return it."
Sonic wormed his way out of the clothes rack and slipped outside ahead of the pair. Then he waited until they were outside and heading to another store before following them. He shivered, sticking his hands in his armpits. It was pretty cold outside compared to the toasty stores. The mall was large and expansive and if there was heat, it didn't do enough to warm his rattling bones.
"If you were to shop for him like a friend, what would you get him?" Silver asked.
Amy shrugged and rubbed her arms, supposedly shaking off a chill. "A movie maybe. Or some chili dogs." Sonic's stomach rumbled, suddenly craving the delicious food.
"And if you were to shop for him normally?"
Sonic strained his ear as Amy stopped and turned, biting her lip. "Something special. Something that says 'You mean the world to me'. But like I said, he hates that side of me anyway. He'd probably take the gift and forget about it." She swung the bag with Silver's present. "I just wish one year, he could—"
"Hey, you two. Last minute shopping?" A white bat sauntered up to them, with a furry white coat, boots, and earmuffs making her look like a sultry snowman. Sonic cursed her unfortunate timing. What did Amy want him to do? What?
"Hey, Rouge," Amy said. "Yes, just a few more gifts. You?"
"One more on my list. Mr. Grump himself."
"Why don't you join us?" Amy offered.
Rouge appeared to ponder it for a moment, then nodded. "Sure. Why not?" The three headed into an electronics store.
As he watched them enter, Sonic rubbed his chin. If Rouge and Amy are together, I could see what they're both getting. Might actually cheer up ol' Shads if he knows what his gift is. He grinned and ran into the store. Time for some spying, Santa style.
A/N: And that's the first chapter. Hope you guys are enjoying it so far. We tried a different style with the flashback, since italics might've been harder to read. Did it work better?
Sword: Woo! Let's get this done by Christmas!
Er, wait. I don't even know what we'll do for the rest of—
Sword: Christmas! Let's do it! Next chapter! *jumps to the next page*
Pen: Watch it! Agh!