The living room was dark and quiet. Threads of starlight snuck through the blinds and stained everything shades of white and blue. Everyone had eventually settled on the air mattress in a row, plus some more blankets to make a proper pile, and by now even those who didn't sleep as much were taking the chance to regain some energy.
A pair of lime green eyes blinked open, their owner staring at the ceiling for a moment before glancing around. Silver had settled to one side of him, with Sonic on the other and Shadow past him on the outside edge. Which wasn't an issue except that he'd kind of like to get up without waking anyone.
He glanced over and froze when his eyes met another pair. Shadow held a finger to his lips before getting up, moving to the other edge of the mattress, and simply scooping Mephiles up.
Mephiles nodded his thanks as he was placed back on his feet, then tilted his head toward the rarely used dining area. Shadow followed him over. "They'll still wake up if we're loud," he warned in the barest whisper.
"I know," Mephiles replied at the same volume. "But if we're both awake, I thought now would be as good a time as any to talk."
There was a brief silence, broken when Shadow spoke. "I told you that you wouldn't do anything stupid."
"And I still don't understand how you could be certain," Mephiles shot back. "Perhaps I couldn't have merged with Iblis in that form, but leaving it free is another story." His eyes gained a haunted look. "Before anything else, Iblis is my other half. You of all people should understand how easy it would have been to let the seal fail, let the consequences happen..." He trailed off, letting the rest of that sentence speak itself. "Do you really think you can afford to trust me?"
"Why shouldn't we?"
Mephiles stared at him, his unflinching calm, for a long moment before responding. "I was a villain, one who would have destroyed all of spacetime had you not stopped me. If things hadn't gone the way they did in this timeline, I probably would have done the same. And I could so easily decide to change my mind. I didn't do any of this because it was the right thing, you know."
Shadow didn't even blink, almost unnervingly calm. "Granted. But would the you of before do what you did today?"
There was another pause. Mephiles straightened slightly, his eyes slipping to a corner of the room as if he couldn't quite keep them on Shadow. One hand slid to the other wrist, squeezing subtly, rhythmically.
Shadow broke the silence to speak again. "You didn't do these things because they're right. You did them because you knew someone else believed they were right, and you did them for that someone. And you will continue to do the right thing for that person, because you want to do right by them." His expression finally shifted, a hint of melancholy softening his gaze. "That's something I understand very well."
They were quiet for another few minutes. When Mephiles spoke, his words were slow, and his eyes remained fixed away from Shadow's. "I can't tell you what to think. I can't stop you from trusting me. But I can say, I'm not the same person I was in my memories. And perhaps..." He finally shifted his gaze to Shadow's. "Perhaps this me is someone worth trusting."
They stood in quiet for a while before slipping back to bed with their housemates none the wiser.
Mephiles woke up when Sonic bounced rather violently off the bed. He hissed something decidedly unhappy and glared up at the beaming hedgehog. "Do you mind?"
"Nope!" Sonic said cheerfully. "I'll start breakfast while you sleepy hogs get your eyes open, we got things to do today."
He took about two steps before a teal glow stopped him in his tracks. "Don't you dare," Silver said, voice muffled by the pillow he was still faceplanted in. His raised hand was the only thing that moved. "You and Shadow aren't allowed to cook anymore."
Sonic gave Silver a pleading look. "I thought that only counted when both of us were cooking together?"
"Intent of the law, not word, Sonic. Don't try me. It's too early."
"It's like nine already! Come on Silv, you know my metabolism, I'm half starved!"
"There's a pan of stuff in the fridge, you're allowed to use the damn microwave. Now shut up!"
Sonic huffed, but headed for the fridge as soon as the glow faded. Silver let his hand drop to the mattress and continued to not move. Mephiles glanced at him, then over to Shadow, currently sitting on the couch and messing with his phone. They met eyes for a moment before returning to their respective forms of doing nothing.
They headed over to Tails' house as soon as everyone was marginally awake. (Silver made a comment about overusing his powers the previous day and agreed to go along anyway.) Sonic went on his own way, saying something about getting the sparknotes from Tails later as he sped off, leaving the others to get things settled.
"So what exactly did you do with the whole bees and sealing thing?" Tails asked as he set up his scanner. They'd already checked in on the hive, currently still in the crate out back until they could move it somewhere better.
Mephiles watched him work with an air of resignation. "I can explain the details later if you're curious. Basically, the requirement was that the vessel be royalty. Since that's a fairly arbitrary standard to begin with, bending the rules to include a queen bee wasn't too hard. The complicated bit was setting up a sort of reincarnating loop - as long as there's at least one queen in the hive, the seal will still work."
"Huh. I'll have to hear those details, I'm curious about the manipulations required. That's why you needed Eggman, though, right? To figure out the details?"
"Correct. It may be more magic than technology, but he was able to help. The rest was just a matter of making sure I knew what to do and had the skills to pull it off."
"But why not ask Tails?" Silver asked. "It would've been way less risky."
There was a pause, interrupted by a loud beep as the scanner finished prepping. "We should probably do the scan now," Tails suggested with a slightly sheepish smile. "It'll take a while to process the data, so..."
Mephiles nodded and stepped forward, steadfastly looking away from Silver's face.
Silver looked at Shadow, but couldn't read his expression. But that itself told him that Shadow did have some opinion.
Shadow glanced over at that moment, perhaps feeling eyes on him. He huffed softly when he noticed Silver looking and proceeded to ignore him. Silver frowned and waited in silence for the remaining minutes it took Tails to complete the scan.
Mephiles emerged looking uncomfortable and rubbing at his arm. "That is never pleasant," he muttered.
"I think everyone here can agree with that," Tails said, already back at his console. "Speaking of, Silver I'd like to check you too once Mephiles' results come back. Just to be safe."
Silver grimaced, but nodded. He trusted Tails' judgment even if he'd rather avoid the scanner.
"About your question," Mephiles said, calling their attention back to him. "The simplest explanation is, even Eggman doesn't want the world destroyed, at least not unless he's the one doing the destroying. I could trust him to a point with the planning required. And if I came to anyone here... there was a risk that people wouldn't trust me, considering my actions regarding Iblis the last time. I couldn't risk the delay."
Silver opened his mouth to protest, then slowly shut it as he realized that Mephiles was absolutely right. Knuckles had been the most vocal, but he wouldn't have been the only one to be concerned at a situation too remniscent of past events. But it bothered him that Mephiles hadn't told anyone.
(It bothered him that Mephiles hadn't told him. Selfish as it felt, that was the part that really stung.)
Mephiles looked at him, then turned away. "In any case, what's done is done. You all know now, Iblis is sealed, and the regressions are over with it." His eyes clouded a bit.
"Guess we'll never find out how the eyes thing worked," Silver joked, trying to lighten the mood.
Mephiles blinked at him. "...I can change my form at will. I wanted people to notice, at least I did during the regressions."
"Wait, you did? Why?"
The only answer he got was a shrug.
"So what will you do now?"
They all turned to Shadow. "What do you mean?" Mephiles asked.
Shadow adjusted his position to lean more comfortably against the wall. "Most of your energy was sealed with Iblis. What are-"
"I'm not going to do anything," he said, his harsh tone making even Shadow jump a bit. He closed his eyes, taking a slow breath before opening them. "The sealed energy was a piece of me, so it's not something I can regain over time, any more than one of you could regrow a limb. But the fact that it's sealed means there's no getting it back, either."
"I can see if there's a way to siphon off energy?" Tails asked, his voice hesitant. "I wouldn't want to risk something that could hurt you, but if there's a chance..."
Mephiles stared at him, looking like he'd maybe not seen the fox properly before. He shook his head, but slowly, almost reluctant. "Not the best of plans. A misstep could release Iblis as a whole, obviously undesirable." He paused only a moment before adding, "But... thank you." And it was clear he meant it.
Silver waited a moment before speaking up. "There's one other thing I wanted to ask. You said the flashbacks will stop now, right? How's that even work?"
Mephiles was quiet for a minute, but it seemed more thoughtful than anything. "It's hard to explain," he finally said. "It has to do with the way me and Iblis still exist, even though we should have been removed from the time stream entirely. We're... too important, somehow, to just cease existing." His eyes dimmed. "It's part of the reason I never suggested trying to completely destroy Iblis."
"The other reason being that you didn't want to."
Mephiles looked at Shadow. "That, and Iblis being immortal in much the same fashion I am. Impracticality at its finest."
"Um," Tails said, waving to get their attention. "Mephiles' scans look fine, so... Silver?"
Mephiles took advantage of the distraction to vanish. Silver blinked, then sighed and moved forward to get his own scan done.
Silver found Mephiles sitting on the back patio, leaning against the wall and looking at nothing in particular. He waited for a moment and, when Mephiles didn't react to his presence, sat down next to him.
It was a nice enough day out, Silver thought. Calm, clear, a hint of breeze but not enough to make the chill of the season unbearable. At least not if you were moving around a bit. It would be too cold in no more than a few minutes, as far as Silver was concerned.
"Anger was one of my earliest emotions."
Silver jumped and spun back to Mephiles, who didn't even look at him as he went on. "Fear was the first, though. Not that I recognized it as such until later. The lab where I came into being... especially right then, when I barely knew what I was..." He paused, then continued, his voice empty, emotionless. "After the fear, though. Then all I felt was anger. Anger at the people who split me apart, at the ones who sealed us without a second thought, at the world for letting it happen when we'd never even had a chance to do wrong. That anger... it was all that fueled me through ten years of absolute nothing. That, and knowing Iblis was out there somewhere, waiting for me as our mind to free us."
There was another pause. Silver kept quiet and waited to see if Mephiles had more to say.
He continued after less than a minute. "I spent most of that time plotting my revenge, biding my time til some hapless fool ended my imprisonment. I'd actually intended to spare the sucker, as long as they stayed out of my way thereafter, but plans change. Destroying all of time and space wasn't my plan either, but once it was suggested... well I could put the blame on Shadow, but I didn't exactly try to stop myself either. I was so, so angry, so ready to give every last being in this cursed world a taste of what I suffered. If not for the seal on those memories, doubtless I would have felt the same this time too."
The silence this time lasted long enough that Silver ventured a tentative question. "But you have all your memories back now. So... what changed?"
Mephiles finally turned to meet his eyes with an unblinking stare. "Very little. But at the same time, everything."
With that, he rolled onto his feet and offered Silver a hand. "Come on. We should figure out what we'll tell the others."
Silver almost protested, wanted badly to say 'that's it?', to try and get an explanation at least for where that came from. Instead he took Mephiles' hand and stood up beside him. "Okay. Let's go."
A cool breeze blew in from over the ocean, carrying the scent of salt and the sound of rippling waves over the nearby beaches and cliffs. Mephiles closed his eyes and took a deep breath, opening them as he leaned forward on the fence bordering the cliff.
"Thought I'd find you here."
He glanced back over his shoulder. "And how did you figure that?"
Silver walked up to him, footsteps crunching softly in the grass. "A hunch. Also Shadow may have mentioned he felt your energy around the Mystic Ruins a few times recently. And that GUN finally stopped confusing you for him."
Mephiles snorted and turned forward again. "It's about time. Am I no longer allowed visitation rights?"
There was a pause, long enough that Mephiles glanced over briefly to see Silver looking... uncertain. He rolled his eyes and added, "That was a joke. I don't give a damn what they say I can or can't do, the only reason they're guarding the hive at all is because Shadow knows the right people to deal with it, and unless they can figure out how my powers work without help there's not a whole lot they can do to stop me doing exactly as I like."
Silver gave a startled laugh. "Guess not, huh? Actually, uh, from what Shadow told me they wanted him to make you stop, and he said basically the same thing."
"I don't know what they expect. Sealed or not, Iblis is still my other half. I'm not about to give up something as harmless as being close to the hive because they don't approve for whatever reason."
"GUN's history of understanding people is pretty bad, but they won't be able to do much. Waste of government funding and all."
"Well at least they have that much sense."
Silver laughed, but his smile faded quickly after. Mephiles noticed too. "Something on your mind?"
Silver sighed and came to lean on the fence next to Mephiles. "Sort of. It just seems like a lot's happened, but at the same time not much. You know? I mean, everything with Iblis was only a couple weeks ago, repairs in Soleanna are well under way... with the flashbacks ending everyone's getting back to their old routines too. I haven't seen Sonic since the repair crews kicked us out, Shadow's doing GUN things most days, I assume the others are doing the same..."
They both looked up at a crashing sound followed by a yell that could have been either frustrated or excited, both coming from the lab on the hill. Mephiles sighed. "Yes, it seems like things are going back to the old normal. Inasmuch as anyone in this group can achieve normalcy."
"It's the norm for us."
Mephiles turned to face Silver. "And you're here for a reason."
Silver sighed, returning his gaze out toward the sea. "I don't know what I'll do next. The only normal I have is either for disasters, or for the sort of setup we had established. I'm not part of this time the way the others are... I don't know how to find a new normal."
Mephiles considered him for a moment, then returned to leaning on the fence, nudging Silver's arm as he did. "Then it's a good thing we'll be figuring it out together, isn't it?"
Silver blinked at him for a moment, then let a small smile form. "Yeah."
We did it folks. We climbed the whole mountain. Thanks to everyone who's made this journey with me, whether you've been here for years or only just started reading. All your support means a lot to me, and I wouldn't have stuck with this for so long if not for that.
You can find me on tumblr at lessinkmoregraphite. I'm posting some of my mini ficlets there, and I have some from Wake that I'll probably share soon. And feel free to check out the askblog at ask-the-wake-hedgehogs. The timeline there will be updating to present time shortly, so you can address any confusions to the characters themselves. Or to me. Whatever works for you.
With that, thank you again for reading, and I hope you had as much fun as I did!