Chapter Five - Falling

Some time ago...

The two collapse against the ground, panting and shaking from exhaustion. Shadow looks over at the blue prince next to him, watching him sit on all fours, head against the ground, struggling to catch his breath.

"Sonic," he calls out, scrambling over to him and helping him sit up. He sits him against the wall in the short, narrow hallway, grabbing his arms and holding them above his head to help him breathe. "Sonic, are you okay?"

The hedgehog nods, turning his head to cough. "Y-Yeah, I-I'm f-fine," he grunts out.

Shadow gently lets go of him and sits back, putting a hand on his chest to try and calm his own breathing, feeling his heart hammer in his chest. "What was that?" he asks, looking back to see if they were being followed. Sonic looks with him, ears falling back irritably.

"Silver Sonic," he huffs out. "He usually throws that robot on the Death Egg to protect it. Usually I'd be excited to fight it but, with our energy so low…"

"It's a problem," Shadow finishes, running a hand over his striped head. "You were right when you said this might be a trap."

"I had a feeling," the hero sighs, letting his head fall back against the wall and closing his eyes. "It was too good of a lead. I guess we can find out what he's hiding here."

"If I may ask," Shadow starts, turning to give the hero a cautious look. "What exactly are we looking for? You still haven't said."

"I…" Sonic pauses, looking away. "I don't know how to explain without…getting in trouble?" He rubs his temples and frowns. "I just can't say until I have more proof."

"Does it," Shadow hesitantly asks, "does it have something to do with the Queen?"

Sonic winces and looks away. "I can't say right now."

Shadow's brows furrow. So his assumptions were close. Whatever it was Sonic had hired them for, had something to do with Queen Aleena's death. He didn't know what that specifically was, but the way Sonic was being so hush-hush about it, meant he was paranoid about the wrong person finding out. The only thing he could think of was that maybe there was a traitor responsible for it.

Shadow watches the hedgehog slowly push himself to his feet.

"We've been in this building for too long," the prince says tiredly. "Let's figure out whatever the hell Eggman is hiding here and move on." He turns and offers a hand to Shadow, who meets his eyes with startled ones. Sonic smiles at him, and he takes his hand, letting him help him to his feet. Sonic turns to keep moving, but Shadow grabs his hand again, stopping him.

"You've earned my full loyalty," the Ultimate Lifeform says quietly. "Whatever it is you need, I can do it, and I can keep it quiet."

Sonic turns and looks at him in surprise, emerald eyes staring hard into his own red ones. They study each other for a minute, before Sonic looks away, smiling.

"Thank you, Shadow," he says back just as quietly. "If I tell anyone, you'll be the first and only."

Shadow feels his chest tighten in a strange way and he nods back. They keep walking, and it almost takes him a second to realize Sonic was still holding his hand.

He subconsciously tightens his grip.

Sonic squeezes back.

His head is spinning. He feels sick, frustrated, angry, scared.

He can't find him.

There was no way Sonic was here. It was a trick to waste time. He didn't know what to do.

He stops in the middle of the hallway, holding his head and cursing under his breath. What was he supposed to do? Every time he would get down to the end of the hall, a set of stairs would be waiting for him, and he would go down again and check the rooms and find nothing.

If going down wasn't working… He turns around, looking back. Should he go up?

It was a risky chance. He could just be wasting time.

No, he needed to stop and think. Running around aimlessly wasn't helping. He needed a clue, anything, to tell him where Sonic was.

Then it hits him, and he almost smacks himself in the head for it.

He kneels down, focusing on his energy and spreading it out as far as he could, feeling for the familiar energy signature that belonged to no one but Sonic.

It was there.

"Sonic, can you hear me?" he asks through the link. "Where are you?"

No response, but the link strengthened. It continued to strengthen until he could practically see blue everywhere around him, pointing him in the right direction.

He follows it, feeling the pull grow the closer he got. He was running back up the stairs, back the way he came.

He reaches the top floor and runs straight to the door at the end of the hall, slamming it open and praying to Chaos it was it.

He nearly trips over himself as he runs into Sonic's room.

His eyes are wide as he looks around, turning and seeing that the normal hallway of the castle was behind him as it should be. The illusion was gone.

He turns back to the bedroom, and jumps when he sees him.

Sonic was there, but...he was under a very dangerous trap.

He was tied to his bed with glowing, purple rope. The ropes traveled upwards to the canopy of the bed, and they were attached to large, sharp, terrifying spikes.

If the ropes came loose…

"Sonic," the biohog calls, running over to the bed. The prince was blindfolded with the same thick purple ropes as the ones tying him down. There was one over his mouth as well, and attached to that rope, was a green card.

Sonic's ears fly up at the presence of the striped hog, and he makes a muffled sound, shaking his head. The ropes pulled and the spikes above their heads shook dangerously.

"Don't move," Shadow ordered softly. "I need to figure out how to get you out of here."

Sonic made a sound but listened, staying still. Shadow takes the card from the rope and turns it over in his hands, reading it with furrowed brows.

'Find the correct cord to untie. Untie the wrong one, and we'll find out what happens to immortal hedgehogs when spikes go through their whole bodies. Better hurry.'

Shadow nearly growls out loud, crushing the card in his hands. This was too ridiculous. A board game shouldn't have this much power, let alone any at all.

He looks back to the hedgehog tied up and tries to ignore the way his face heats up, focusing on finding the right rope to untie. There were many tied tightly around him, looking tight and digging into his arms, legs, thighs, and some were even underneath him. How was he supposed to do this?

The ropes glowed with some kind of purple energy, a kind of energy he didn't recognize. Was there any cord that didn't glow? He couldn't tell with Sonic laying on most of them, hiding them from view. Maybe… Maybe he could trace them with his energy, the same way he found Sonic.

"Don't move," he says, hoping his voice didn't give away how on edge he was. He rests a hand on Sonic's chest, making the hero flinch in surprise. Ignoring the butterflies in his stomach, he uses his energy to trace Sonic's body and every rope attached to him, searching for the one that would save him.

It was under him. His face reddens as he feels it. It was attached to the hero's tail.

Well, this was going to be awkward.

"There's a rope I need to untie," he starts, almost choking on his words. "It's attached to your tail."

"It's fine, do what you have to," he hears through their energy.

He nods, despite Sonic not being able to see him, and tries to figure out the best way to reach it.

This was extremely awkward.

The way Sonic was tied down was with his arms and legs spread out around him, tight against the bed. Some ropes were keeping him tied down, while others were going up towards the trap. There wasn't a lot of room to move him without the trap going off.

That's even if this was the right cord. What if it wasn't?

No, it had to be, he tells himself. He couldn't second guess it. He didn't have time. Sonic didn't have time.

The only way to get the cord was reaching from between Sonic's legs and underneath him. He felt perverted doing this, but he didn't have much of a choice. He swallows his breath and goes for it, reaching underneath the hero and feeling for his tail.

Sonic makes a high pitched grunt and Shadow focuses on being as quick as possible. He feels the rope tied painfully tight around Sonic's tail and works on getting it undone, trying to ignore how personal this felt. He gets the rope untied, holding on to it with a pounding heart.

Moment of truth…

He lets go of it, pulling back, and all the ropes vanish.

Sonic sits up so fast it nearly scares him, and he catches him on reflex. They stare at each other with wide eyes, and Shadow notices Sonic's muzzle has a red tint to it. He knows for a fact his own face is red as well.

"Th-Thanks," Sonic stutters out, his voice cracking. He clears his throat, and Shadow looks away, feeling his ears heat up.

"No problem," he barely manages to get out.

The trap above them makes a loud sound then, and natural instinct has Shadow pulling Sonic to the floor, just before the trap comes down and completely destroys the bed.

They stare at it, both with mouths dropped open and eyes wide.

"Ahh…" Sonic breathes out. "Th-Thanks a-again…"

"Why…" Shadow starts slowly. "Why am I not surprised?"

Sonic slowly huffs out another large breath, falling over and leaning against the ebony hog next to him. Shadow holds him, his heart beating quickly in his chest, overwhelmed by the weight of Sonic against him. He finds himself wrapping his arms around him despite his anxiety, and he pulls him closer, because he may never get this chance again.

They sit there, holding on to each other tightly, watching feathers from the destroyed bed flutter around them. They take some time to relax, and almost feel at ease, feathers flying in the air around them.

'Break Tails's arm.'

Knuckles felt a cold sickness take over him, making him lightheaded and nauseous. He rereads the card again and again, hoping he was just imagining it. It couldn't possibly say that. It couldn't…

"Knuckles," suddenly Sonia is standing next to him, holding his shoulders and gently shaking him. "Knuckles what does it say?"

He can't even speak. He feels that if he tries to, he'll vomit.

She takes the card from him, slowly reading it herself. Her hand covers her mouth as she does, her eyes widening word by word.

"Sis?" Manic hesitantly asks. "Sis, what does it say?"

"The game wants…" Sonia starts, sounding sick herself. "The game wants Knuckles to break Tails's arm."

"What?!" Tails and three other friends cry out. Everyone stares at her, all trying to process what she had said.

"That's not…" Rouge speaks up. "That can't be right."

"No way can you do that!" Amy exclaims, standing up with her hands on the table. "That can't be your Dare!"

"That's what it says," Sonia answers, showing her the card. "It says since he didn't know what he was most guilty about, it would basically come up with something for him."

"This is…" the pink girl breathes, reading and showing the card to Sally next to her.

"I can't do it," Knuckles states firmly. "That's just completely out of the line."

"...but you have to," Tails speaks up quietly. "Who knows what the game will do if you don't."

The group looks at him in shock.

"Are you kidding?" the ruby echidna questions. "I can't do it! I rather it mess with me, not you."

"It'll do worse if you don't, though," the fox argues. "I don't mind. Don't you remember my last Truth? If I have to go through this, then I rather do it than someone being hurt worse."

"Sonic would kill me," Knuckles says, voice tight, and everyone knows it.

"Not if I stop him," Tails says sternly. "He would listen to me."

The Guardian of the Master Emerald shakes his head and looks away. "I can't do it, Tails. I can't hurt you."

The room goes quiet. Deathly quiet.

"What then?" Sonia asks softly. "The game won't continue. We're going to be stuck."

Everyone looks at the board. They knew what would happen if Knuckles didn't complete his Dare.

"Shadow isn't back yet," Manic says quietly.

"I was just about to say," Mighty speaks up. "Should someone go look for them?"

"I want to," Rouge admits. "I want to trust Shadow knows what he's doing, but when he gets one frantic thought in his mind he becomes kind of delusional."

"We shouldn't split up more than we are," Sonia sighs. "...but I think we could use a break. I just don't know how long the game will go until it starts to curse us."

Knuckles slumps down in his seat and holds his head, not saying a word.

"I trust Shadow," Tails says confidently. "I think they'll be okay."

They're all quiet for a few moments, before Knuckles leans back in his seat and looks over at Sonic's empty chair.

"Who knew Sonic was the person Shadow cared about most?"

"I don't think it's that surprising," Rouge answers with a tiny smile. "They spend a lot of time together."

"They do," Sonia adds. "Which I'm happy about. Sonic always seems more at ease after spending time with him."

"I've noticed too," Tails smiles. "Sonic's usually with him if not by himself."

"It's been doing Shadow good," Rouge looks up at the ceiling. "Even Towers noticed Shadow's been more…what's the word I'm looking for?"

"Not as grumpy?" Manic asks, ensuing a couple chuckles from around the room.

"Yeah, that's it," the female bat laughs lightly. "Definitely not as big of an asshole."

"Didn't they use to fight a lot?" Amy asks from her chair, leaning her hand on her chin.

Rouge shrugs. "Occasionally, but they're both pretty hard headed. I think the reason Shadow likes Sonic so much is because he reminds him of Maria."

There's a few looks of surprise at her words, but not at the context.

"Who was Maria?" Mighty asks curiously. "I don't know too much about Shadow."

"Maria was the human girl Shadow was created to cure," Rouge explains. "She had a very dangerous, deadly illness, and Shadow was supposed to be able to cure that. Unfortunately, there were some corrupt people in the military that were responsible for her death. She was like a sister to him. Everything Shadow does for this world is actually for her."

"That's…surprising," Mighty hums. "I guess that explains his closed off personality. Does he see Sonic as family, too?"

Rouge, Sonia, and Tails exchange looks, before the bat smiles and shrugs.

"I think there's more to it, but…I can't say for sure."

"What do you mean?" Knuckles questions, raising a suspicious brow at her. The bat smirks.

"Let's just say it's between Sonic and Shadow, and leave it with them."

Sonia is giving her a look that spoke between concern and curiosity. Rouge winks at her but doesn't elaborate on the subject any further.

"I think we should come up with ideas on what to do," Tails speaks up almost too quickly, as if trying to change the subject. "What do we do about the Dare card?"

"Is there any way around it?" Sally asks. "We've been able to work around some of these so far." She sounded like she wanted to change the conversation, too.

Mighty raises a hand, frowning. "How do we go around something like this? It says for Knuckles to break Tails's arm… How do we not do that?"

"I'm also sure it doesn't mean the arms of any of my inventions," the fox chuckles anxiously.

"Your humor is starting to get like Sonic's," Manic observes. "We can truly welcome you to the family."

Sonia gives him a look. "You and Sonic, maybe. I don't understand how you guys can make jokes out of situations like these."

"Easy," the green hedgehog grins, holding out both his hands. "Only stuck up girls can't get it."

Rouge and Mighty both laugh, and Tails covers his beaming face with his right hand. Knuckles and Espio have tiny smirks on their faces, and Amy and Sally look annoyed.

"I'm stuck up?" Sonia huffs out offendedly. "How does being worried about something make me stuck up?"

"He means you can't make light of a situation, darling," Rouge drawls lovingly. "You need to not take every bad thing that happens to you so heavily, or you're just going to be depressed."

"All bad things come to an end eventually," Espio, who is usually quiet, tells her. "There's no point in making a fuss over a situation that will eventually not matter."

Sonia sits back, her brows furrowing as she took in his words. "So how does having dark humor correlate to that?"

"Making fun of the shitty things that happen makes it easier to accept them," Knuckles explains. "It allows you to move on from it. That doesn't mean what happened was okay, but it does help you get over the fact that it happened and move on."

"It makes it so we see it from a different point of view," Rouge adds on. "Like, yeah it's pretty bad you tripped and stubbed your toe, and sure it hurts, but you can be sure you looked hilarious when it happened."

"Or when you lose something and can't find it," Tails smiles. "You freak out and feel terrible that it was lost, but then you realize you've been carrying it the whole time, and you laugh because it was so silly of you to forget that."

"Even if someone you love dies," Manic says, smiling almost sadly. "Yeah, they're gone, and that's terrible, but then you remember that everything happens for a reason, and then you make fun of that it happened, and you can accept it easier."

The magenta hedgehog they were addressing rests her cheek in her hand, sighing. "Okay, sure. I don't think it's for everyone, though."

"It's not easy if you're directly related to whatever it was," Rouge tells her. "It takes time. Situations that you're not directly related to are easier."

Sonia hums but doesn't say anything else. Manic takes over then.

"So, what do we do about the Dare? Preferably before Sonic gets back."

"That's a good idea," Tails says warrily.

"He's going to be upset no matter what," Knuckles huffs out. "What do we do? I'm not doing it myself. "

"Hmm…" Tails rests his head in his hands, his namesakes swishing thoughtfully behind him. "It doesn't say Sonic can't heal me after, so I'm not too upset."

"You're handling this really well," Sonia says gently. "I'm impressed. I'd be extremely upset."

"I'm…kind of surprised too?" the golden kitsune responds almost bashfully. "I'm just not worried. Sonic can heal me; he's done it before when I've had bad injuries, so it doesn't matter to me."

"That's the beauty of Chaos Energy," Rouge chuckles. "Shadow heals me all the time during missions, so I get it."

"The problem is doing it," Knuckles sighs. "How?"

"Well," Sally speaks up. "It says to break his arm. It doesn't say how, so technically, he can break his arm any way."

"Yeah!" Sonia exclaims, standing up. "As long as Knuckles doesn't stop it from happening, he technically allowed it to happen, meaning he did it himself."

"Whoa…" Manic stutters out. "That's smart."

"So it's free reign," Mighty states. "It doesn't even have to be a bad break."

"It could be a hairline fracture," Tails supposes. "That counts, right?"

"It should," Rouge mutters. "It definitely hurts enough to be considered a break."

"I think…" Tails starts slowly. "In my lab, I have a metal compressor…"

"I like how we're all having a jolly conversation about how to break Tails's arm," Manic chuckles dryly.

"It could work, though," Sonia points out. "We can monitor the compressor, so it only does just enough damage to count."

Amy holds up her hand. "...but we need to get to the lab. If we all go, and the others get back, they might get scared."

"...and splitting up even more is a bad idea," Knuckles grumbles. "It's done us more harm than good."

"Waiting until they get back is probably the worst option," Tails says thoughtfully. "I think if we all leave, Sonic will panic when they get back, so the best option is to split up half and half."

"I'm with Tails," Sonia agrees. "Half of us can go to Tails's lab, the other half can stay here and wait for Sonic and Shadow. If Sonic and Shadow get back before Tails does, then we can head out to look for you guys all together."

"Stalling while doing so," Espio speaks up. "We don't want Sonic walking in on what's happening."

"Good point," the magenta hedgehog hums.

"So...that's our plan?" Knuckles asks. "Are we really doing this?"

"We don't have a choice," Tails states, standing up. "Who's going on what team?"

"Manic, Rouge, Amy, and Sally will stay here. Mighty, Espio, and myself will go with Tails and Knuckles," Sonia explains. "We need to be quick. I don't know how much time we have before the game gets impatient, and we don't know when Sonic will be back."

"What if Sonic and Shadow aren't back by the time we are?" Knuckles asks. "It's Sonic's turn next."

Sonia looks down at the table at Sonic's player piece. She takes in a deep breath, then sighs shakily. "Then we'll all go together to find them."

"Okay then," Tails says, sounding anxious. "I guess let's do this."

The two hedgehogs held onto each other almost desperately. Sonic turns his head and meets Shadow's eyes, the two both mirroring expressions of shock. Shadow notices the prince has slightly noticeable bruises from the ropes around his muzzle, and subconsciously reaches up and gently rubs his thumb over the hurt area on his cheek. Sonic subconsciously leans into the touch, mouth falling open slightly as he tried to find words to say.

"Are you okay?" Shadow speaks first. He almost doesn't even recognize his own voice, which is soft and heavy.

"Y-Yeah I'm.." Sonic starts, seemingly choking on his own words. "I'm okay."

Feathers are still flying everywhere. One passes between them, but isn't able to break the spell between them.

"What happened?" the younger of the two questions, his blue head turning to look at the exploded bed.

"We…" Shadow says slowly, earning the prince's attention. "We put you in bed to recover, but the game set a trap. I had to find you."

"You, specifically?" Sonic questions, tilting his head.

Shadow feels his face heat up, and hopes Sonic can't tell. " was my Dare."

Sonic's brows furrow as he thinks, his head tilting the other way. "Your Dare was…"

Before he can finish, something other than a feather falls between them. They both jump back, letting go of each other, looking down at the green card now on the floor.

"What?" Sonic murmurs, and Shadow picks it up, holding it so they can both read it. Sonic takes it and reads it out loud: "'Forgetting someone?'" Looking at Shadow, the blue male frowns. "What does that mean?"

Oh, shit, he thinks.

"Blaze," he says with a scowl. "She was supposed to be watching over you."

Sonic's eyes widen. "Where is she?"

"I don't know," the biohog growls. "She didn't do much of a good job."

"Maybe she's in trouble," Sonic counters worriedly, standing to his feet. "She wouldn't leave me by myself. You know the game is powerful."

Shadow stands up as well, trying to ignore his doubt. He didn't want to upset Sonic. He was right, anyway. "How do we find her?"

"Does the card say anything else?" Sonic asks, leaning forward. He's practically leaning against Shadow's arm. The black and red hedgehog lets out a breath and turns the card.

'What happens when a fire is put in a freezer?' it says.

"A freezer?" Sonic whispers out. "Fire in a…" His eyes widen. "Shadow...I think she's in the castle freezer!"

It registers to him just as Sonic says it. The blue hedgehog grabs his hand and pulls him out into the hallway. "We need to go!"

Shadow almost points out that he needs his shoes, then realizes with confusion that Sonic has them on already. He doesn't get much time to think on it before they're running down the hall.

The group of five make it to Tails's lab, all anxious and fidgety.

"We need to be careful," Knuckles had said. "Last time we split up we were attacked by that monster."

They cautiously enter the lab with this in mind, all checking the room for any signs of terrifying creatures. After it's been cleared, they all gather around each other, exchanging nervous looks and shifting uncomfortably.

"So…" Sonia starts. "What…do we do now?"

Tails takes in a deep breath and motions for them to follow him to the back of his lab, into another small room. There was a glass window in front of a control console, and behind the glass was another room with a large compressor inside.

"Are we seriously doing this?" Knuckles asks, feeling wheezy inside. "This is insane."

"We...we don't have a choice," Tails says, the heaviness of the situation finally starting to get to him. "Let's just…get it over with."

"First," Sonia stops him. "Do you have anything for pain?"

Tails shakes his head. "Nothing that will help this. I'll just have to wait for Sonic."

The fox then calls Knuckles over. "We can't risk the game not taking our excuse. You'll have to operate the controls."

"I…" the echidna starts, but the fox cuts him off.

"It'll be okay," he reassures him. "We've got to do this."

"Mighty, stand in the room with Tails," Sonia gives direction. "If something goes wrong or the machine can't stop…"

"I'll stop it," the armadillo says, cracking his knuckles.

Sonia turns to Espio. "I'll need you to run for help if things go wrong, but stand watch. I don't want the game pulling anything on us."

"Understood," the chameleon nods to her.

She turns to watch Tails explain the controls to Knuckles, who was visibly sweating at this point. They both were, but Knuckles looked as if he was going to be sick.

This…was going to be hard.

Notes -

It's been a while, hasn't it? This is one of our most asked about stories, so we finally worked passed our writer's block to get it done. Shadow has been cowriting with me, and by gods is it so much nicer than writing alone. She's an amazing writer.

Chapter 6 won't take too long to write. I've got my eyes on stories I haven't written for a while now, especially since Shadow is writing with me. I'm also planning on bringing back a couple stories, one of which that hasn't been on fanfiction since I went by "Anonymoux the Hedgehog" lol. Those were the old days…

Also, if you haven't been seeing, Shadow and Capi are working on a couple comics right now, one for the Sadist and the Masochist, and one called Sonic the Fancomix that is currently rewriting Shadow the Hedgehog. You can find these on our twitter or inkbunny, so be sure to check them out. Lots of good stuff there.

We're also featuring comments on our twitter! We feature two comments a week that are some of our favourites.

Okay, enough chit chatter… We may not have extras until next chapter. I'll see you guys then!