Author's note: If you're looking for a slow(ish)-burn fic, with LOTS of pining and romance and fluff, but also with a deeper analysis of how a traumatized time traveller who knows too much, and a guilt-ridden Ultimate Life Form who knows too little, desperately try to make things work while fighting their own demons...then you've come to the right place! :D
MalexMale relationship (Shadow/Silver). Rating is currently at T, but could go up. If it does go up in a chapter, I will put a warning at the start of said chapter.
Thanks to Skyeapplepie, who has helped with endless chapters and encouraged me throughout, even when I asked the most boring of questions, like whether I should write in past or present tense — but who also lent me her spirit, picked me up when I was down and has been my rock. Thank you!
Disclaimer: I own nothing! All rights belong to the respective owners.
Please leave a review, to help me improve and to make me happy beyond belief!
Dazzling, purple flashes dance around each other, miles and miles above him. They swirl and swoop, with a will of their own, before connecting together and enveloping him. He snaps his eyes shut, until the light dies down, and then tentatively looks around.
Solaris is dead. Or gone, at the very least. There's no sign of it, not anymore — but, still, the endless abyss of moody cloud remains, like a bad omen. He can just see to the end of the platform, to the sandstone boarder, perhaps a tiny bit beyond, but nothing after that. Glancing down, he lifts his hand from the ground; he is lying on a chalk-yellow painted sun, right in the centre.
"We're still in the rift. Sonic and Princess Elise were sent to put out the Flame of Solaris."
Silver's eyes dart left. A solemn, dark figure looms, about three paces away, with his arms defensively folded over his chest. His head turns, briefly. Silver swallows something down, in his throat, as he drowns in that crimson stare.
"Put out the Flame of Solaris?" Silver echoes, blearily clambering to his feet. He ponders upon decreasing the distance between them: it wouldn't be difficult, one step forward, and then a second, that's all it would take. But he can't muster the courage, "You mean, it's not over?"
The arms are uncrossed, and then lowered, slowly freeing the stiff tension in the upper muscles. He blinks, but it's just one beat too long: No, it's not over. Searching for a distraction, Silver marvels at the black quills, streaked with red, before the figure catches him. The offensive stance is militarized; perfect in posture.
Slightly unnerved, Silver takes a step back and clenches his fists, staring at the ground. The gruff clearing of a throat cuts through the air — he looks up. The black and red hedgehog is regarding him, questioningly, albeit with a suspicious edge.
"...How do you know that?" Silver, clamping his eyes shut, berates himself and runs his tongue over his lips. He sounds so nervous, alarmed and unsure of himself. Good going, Silver, "I mean, about the Flame? Did you see it?"
He considers this, for a moment, clearly deeming it a valid question. When their eyes meet, the blood red stare glows. Is that a sign of danger, or warmth? Silver doesn't know. It frightens him; it excites him. Right now, it's impossible to pinpoint the ebony hedgehog's emotions — they are shoved to the back, in hidden depths. Silver longs to know what's going through his mind: Just what is he thinking?
Their exchange — Is it hopeful? Lost? Yearning? Again, Silver doesn't know — won't be resolved until one of them speaks. The roof of his mouth is instantly dry, but Silver manages to summon the name, "...Shadow?"
Now the defences rise even higher. The taut fabric of Shadow's gloves strains against his clenched fists; his stance is wide, legs far apart, shoulders pushed back; his eyes burn and bellow with their mistrust.
Something constricts in Silver's stomach. That look is tearing him to pieces, but he can't explain why. It's not fear, though Shadow's expression is easily the most intimidating thing he's ever seen — something else is dwelling in the pit of his belly, consuming him, coiling and tightening. Is that...disappointment?
"What is it?" Shadow scowls at him, from where he stands. Silver's pause seems to irritate him further, as the scathing look deepens.
"I-I'm not sure. It's nothing, really."
Unsatisfied by that answer, Shadow cruelly lets the silence drag on. It suffocates them both, when they have so much to say, and so much to ask, and not enough time to do it in. Silver knows that he can't let this moment pass — soon, they will be thrown back into their own lives, with their connection torn. He doesn't know why he feels such a strong pull, towards the ebony hedgehog, but it has grown and grown, in the short time since they met. If Silver can just prompt Shadow to open up, even a little bit, then perhaps their parting won't feel so raw.
"What happens, when the Flame disappears? Will Solaris be gone for good?" He hates feeling so lost, so disorientated, by all that has happened. Everything has been unexpected and impossible to predict, with no clear path for them to follow. Yet, even so, Shadow has always radiated this omniscient air of knowing, as if he's calculated a response for every eventuality. Maybe he has. This idea calms Silver.
He fears that Shadow is still angry about his vague response. He doesn't look entirely happy, that much is true, but he grudgingly answers, "...It seems that, without the Flame, Solaris will be eradicated from the universe, in all time streams. It will be wiped from history," Shadow lets his stare linger, and Silver picks up on the heavy significance of his words.
"...The future will be saved?" A joyous melody bubbles up, in his voice.
"Yes. None of this will have happened."
The unimaginable weight, which Silver hadn't even known he was carrying, is finally lifted from his shoulders. At last, after all the sacrifices that he's made and seen, everything will be alright. And, not only that, the horrors he's witnessed will be reversed. Blaze will be returned to him! He will be able to leave all of this behind, and...!
"...You and I..." Silver swallows against the catch in his victory, "We'll have never met, will we?"
"W-Will we remember? All of this? All that we went through?"
The scowl had faded, long before now, and Shadow replaces it with an unfamiliar look of pity. It softens his features and makes them look quite beautiful, "...No. We won't."
The burden is released back into his body and wrenches his heart down from its elevated position. Silver scrunches his face up, in furious despair, and spins on his heel, not wanting Shadow to see his hurt. Why had he not seen this coming? Everything so far — absolutely everything — had come with a price. And this is the price for his freedom, from all this.
Shadow doesn't say anything. Silver numbly realises that his upset is completely ridiculous: they practically met yesterday (two days ago, if being generous), and haven't spent more than an hour in each other's company. Their contact has been strictly professional — Silver had been too distracted to even think about getting to know Shadow, on a deeper level. How can he feel so distraught, at the prospect of leaving someone he hardly knows?
His chest feels tight and constricting, and he's trying to hold everything in. Silver doesn't even know that he's crying, until a tear slips down the curve of his jaw. Why am I crying? "...I-I'm fine."
The stagnant pause in the air presses against him. Shadow doesn't say a single word, but his scepticism roars, loudly: he knows that Silver isn't alright, not in the slightest, but doesn't make any moves to do something about it.
Then there is the faint tap of skates, stepping forward, and Silver's breath hitches.
Hastily, he tries to swipe away the stray tear from his face, without Shadow seeing. His heart thuds and smacks against his chest. Silver can sense the ebony hedgehog behind him, emitting a strange atmosphere, one which he can't quite place. There it is again: that strained tug, in his stomach, which is fluttery and solid, all at once.
"It's as if it never happened," Shadow's cold tone slashes Silver's fluttering sensation into pieces, as he suddenly moves away; "It will be better, this way."
"How can you say that?" Silver is taken aback by the hurt in his voice, amongst the aching feelings that linger with it. He chances a sly look over his shoulder, to gage Shadow's reaction. Their stares are drawn together, again, and his golden eyes flee in the other direction. The crimson orbs appear blank, but are set in a frown.
"Have I upset you?"
Silver doesn't blame him for being angry, because he knows that this whole conversation is stilted, weird and downright off. He himself finds it all just as confusing: none of these feelings make sense. He is ecstatic with the knowledge that he will see Blaze again, unharmed, and dreams of the future that awaits them. He really wants to forget that any of this ever happened, to block it from his memory, as if that's true.
But then that means turning his back on Shadow, breaking the bond between them, whatever it is. Silver's longing for him has come out of nowhere, but it is there, and it is begging him not to do this.
If he could stop it, he would try, he really would. But they have mere minutes together — Sonic and Elise are removing Solaris from history, at this very moment. It's too late to do anything. Why are they even here, anyway? Is it to inflame his feelings towards Shadow, one last time, only to then rip him away from Silver? Is that it? One final victory, for Mephiles and Iblis, against Silver?
Mere minutes together. He needs to make them count, "Shadow? Can we...can we talk?" His voice is remarkably calm, considering the tension in his throat.
"We are talking."
"No, I mean, talk about something else. Please?"
"Something else? Like what?"
"Anything. Absolutely anything—" Silver turns, overcome by the desire to know what Shadow is thinking. Guarded, but somehow receptive to Silver's request, he stares and silently asks him to continue, "...I just...well, I guess I'm curious. We saved the universe together and...I don't know anything about you. I-I'd like to get to know you better."
He seems to be trying to decode what Silver is saying, "You won't remember any of it."
"That doesn't matter. I'll know it, for a short amount of time, and I'll know that I tried."
"I see," It's obvious that he doesn't quite understand, but Silver is grateful for him trying. He wonders if Shadow also feels these strange feelings and is just as nervous as he is, right now. It doesn't seem likely: Shadow is aloof and controlled, always keeping his emotions in check; Silver can pour his whole heart out, in one sentence, "What do you wish to know?"
Silver's lips part, but no sound comes out. The intrigue on Shadow's face implores him to think of a question, one which will truly connect them — but, suddenly, everything feels wrong. The light questions are too simple, not powerful enough. He can't just ask what Shadow does for a living, or where he lives, or how old he is — he can't fritter away their time, on such casual topics.
But he can't dive into the big stuff, either. It's far too early in their relati— friendship, to ask about Shadow's past, or the hugely traumatic experience that he is clearly still suffering from, or how he had ended up in this place, right here, right now.
There just isn't enough time for them.
Frantic with indecision and pressure, Silver is at a loss for words, "I-I don't know. I mean, there's so much that...a-and I just can't...it's not fair that—!"
Hearing his name, uttered from those lips, by that voice, in this place...Silver shivers. It feels like the stunning ring of metal, slicing the tension, and passing into his bones. His whole presence has been shattered and messily placed back together, but it's strangely alluring, and he likes it.
He wants to hear it again.
"I'm sorry," Silver clings onto composure, flittering between feelings of embarrassment, confusion and warmth, "I know, none of that made any sense; it's all awkward and coming out wrong, but I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm...nervous, or because I'm racing against the clock."
"Why are you nervous?"
"I-I'm not sure," An obvious lie, but both of them decide to ignore it, "Aren't you?"
"I don't see any need to be."
"Oh," It comes out much louder than he intends, and Silver wants to kick himself, because Shadow has most definitely heard it, along with the hurt in his voice. He probably looks completely crestfallen, too — Blaze calls the expression 'Puppy-dog eyes' and absolutely hates it. His next words come out in a tangled mess, quiet and mumbling, "Nevermind."
The embarrassment swells. For his own sake, Silver turns away from Shadow, dutifully staring at the floor, wishing that he couldn't feel the ebony hedgehog's intense stare, digging into his back.
"Something is troubling you."
Listening to that spine-chilling, low rumble only serves to hurt him more, because it sounds so inviting and caring, "What gave you that idea? I'm fine, Shadow, really. Nothing is troubling me; I'm just wondering what's happening with Sonic, and how he's getting on with the Flame, and whether he—"
He cautiously looks back, frozen in place, and promptly crumbles under the heat of Shadow's glare. Silver's legs threaten to give out, from underneath him — he'd been reprimanded, before, but it had never sounded like that. Dangerous and scolding and frustrated...yet, enticing and resolute and attractive.
Argh, and those eyes! They're practically smouldering. The flames of Crisis City couldn't even compare!
Shadow watches, confused, as the grey hedgehog attempts to avoid his gaze. It seems to really irritate him, for some reason — he swiftly grips Silver's left shoulder, firmly but not painfully, and only seems to have a moment of clarity when their eyes meet, "I'm the reason for your nervousness."
Even though it is said as a statement, Silver can tell that he wants some form of affirmation, "W-Well...!" He blushes, and Shadow straightens up.
"You can at least tell me why."
"I...I really can't."
He frowns again, at that, "Why not?"
"You won't like it when you hear it."
A lustrous flash of white light interrupts him. Silver shields his eyes, as he throws a hand over them, and Shadow grits his teeth in a burning hiss. When the glow finally dies down, and they've been sufficiently blinded, two figures emerge and perk up with surprised recognition. Silver rapidly blinks and watches a streak of blue move towards them.
"Shadow?" Sonic places his hand on the ebony hedgehog's shoulder, who disdainfully glares at it but seems glad for the distraction. Silver tries to ignore the feeling of knots enclosed around his heart, and swallows when Sonic's glimmering eyes land on him, "Silver? What's going on?"
"I'd ask you the same," Shadow juts his chin upwards, to the girl standing behind Sonic, awkwardly out-of-place. It's Princess Elise, Silver realises, and wonders if he should bow or something. She doesn't seem to notice the lack of respectful gestures, however, as her eyes are firmly fixed on the floor, shimmering. He wonders what's wrong and why she's close to tears, "Were you successful? Has the Flame been blown out?"
"Yeah, it's done. I assumed that it'd take us back and sort everything out, but I guess not..." Sonic shrugs, casually, as if it's a minor hindrance but oh well, "Now what? Use the Chaos Emeralds to teleport out?"
"Chaos Emeralds?" Silver repeats. What on Mobius can he be talking about? There's no Chaos Emeralds anywhere to be found—
He eats his words, when he follows Sonic's pointed finger, and spies two jewels, neatly resting on the ground behind him. Silver approaches the nearest one — beautiful sapphire-blue — and turns it over in his hand. He glances over at Shadow, who's crouched beside him, glaring at the other Chaos Emerald. It's lime-green. (They're the emeralds from before, Silver recalls, from when we fought and created that portal. The first time I used Chaos Control.)
"These weren't here before," Shadow mutters, angrily, but doesn't ask Silver to back him up. Silver nods, anyway, "They must have arrived with you two."
The black and red hedgehog stands, gripping it tightly in one hand, and purposefully ignores Silver's pleading stare, by glaring at the emerald. He suddenly seems furious and he's doing an awful job at hiding it. Is this about earlier, when Silver wouldn't answer his question? It must be. He'd seemed fine before that.
"Hate to break up the party," Sonic buts in, "But this place ain't gonna last long. Time's being erased and rewritten, right? I don't think we'll wanna be here, when that happens. Unless you wanna spend an eternity with me, Shads?"
"Sonic's right," Quietly, Elise lets a smile spread across her lips, her eyes distant with a memory, "We need to let nature take its course and...and move back, into our old lives."
Silver toys with the emerald, in his hands, watching the light reflect off, in pretty rays and beams. Tightening his grip, he looks up and blinks, determinedly fixing his gaze on Sonic and Elise. Shadow looms at the edge of his sight, "Let's go then."
Elise's features soften, almost pitifully, but Silver tries not to think about that. Even Sonic stills in confusion, casting a look at the grey hedgehog, before frowning and glancing towards Shadow.
Silver can't bear to look at him, but meets his gaze as they raise their arms, emeralds in hand. Shadow is entirely expressionless. It shouldn't hurt as much as it does.
"Chaos...Control!" They yell in unison.
Two portals explode into existence: one steadily beats behind Elise; the other flickers at Silver's shoulders. Shadow stares at the gateway, which presumably leads to the future, and then resettles his roaring eyes on Silver, who instantly flushes.
"Guess that's our ride," Sonic comments, experimentally reaching for his own portal — the one that leads to the past.
Elise smiles at Silver, again, as she steps closer to the blue hedgehog, "We should go, Sonic."
He jumps, when he catches on, "Right! Yeah! Uh, see you on the other side, Shadow? And Silver...thanks, buddy."
"Goodbye," Silver manages to choke out, as they share a glance and are enveloped by the pulsating light. The portal remains intact, and doesn't close in on itself, as it waits for the last person, "...I suppose...this is it."
He's staring at the floor.
"Yes..." The hesitance in Shadow's voice is almost enough to persuade him, to force him to look up and confess. Not quite enough, though, "It is."
"I hope we meet again, b-but..." That definitely won't happen.
"Yeah," Silver drags his boot across the floor and hates himself, because this could be his last chance to look into his eyes and say something, but he can't look up, "Look after yourself, okay, Shadow?"
"I will. Same to you. I hope this has changed things for you, Silver."
He waits, analysing the risks, but decides to throw caution to the wind and raises his head, "Shadow, I—"
His heartbeat slows, with each beat delayed by disappointment and regret. As he stares at his desolate surroundings, abandoned by everyone, save for him — (but he's been abandoned too, so his presence means little, he glumly thinks) — he wonders what would be the harm in remaining here, staring at the spot where the portal had been; where Shadow had once stood.
But there's a whole future behind him, flickering and calling out. A future where his mind and heart are intact, healthy, unbroken. Where everything is full of promise, and happiness, and it's good. He should want to go there, seek refuge there, and try to forget the pain that he won't even remember.
He tries to kill the nagging, teasing voice that says but what if there's some way to change all of this, to hold onto these memories, and maybe do something differently? There has to be a way, right? It can't end like this!
But Silver has had his fair share of miracles.
He doesn't expect any more.