Night had fallen. The landscape was calm, a soft breeze tugging on the surrounding trees, its mysteries filling the branches. Nothing could be heard save for the soft chirping of the crickets and the rustling of leaves as nimble feet dashed over them.
She was almost out of breath, but she was almost there. Her breath was coming out sharp and ragged, her mind racing almost as fast as she was. She forgot, she couldn't believe it. She had been waiting for this day ever since they left and she forgot. They could be home right now, and everyone would have welcomed them back except her.
Suddenly Sonic's private, modestly large villa loomed into view. He had decided to take some of his savings and build himself a house, with a perfect view, even though he only used it for sleeping. The rest of the time he was visiting Tails or running, but he always let any of his friends use it when need be. They had decided to all meet there for the heroes' homecoming. Amy halted, not able to take the strain on her lungs anymore. Slowly she walked over to the door, anticipation pumping through her veins. It would be so awkward, walking in when everyone would be inside.
The pink hedgehog steeled herself over and turned the doorknob. She closed her eyes and walked inside.
"I'm home!" She called out tentatively. No response. She opened her eyes and looked around. The entrance hall was deserted.
"Amy? Is that you?" a small voice called out. Amy turned her head to see Cream peaking around the corner. Cream, Cheese and Amy had stayed home from the mission. Cream and Cheese were likely to be a liability and Amy had stayed home to take care of them.
"Cream! Did the others come home?" She asked, walking into the lounge.
"Hiya Amy." A voice greeted the rose hedgehog. Amy looked up to see the beautiful white bat, Rouge sitting on one of the sofas. Next to her was the small yellow, two-tailed fox, Tails, who was waving at her.
"Rouge! Tails!" Amy said. "Welcome back! Where are the others?"
Rouge and Tails glanced at each other then back at Amy.
"Well, Knuckles went back to Angel Island…." Rouge started.
"And Sonic?" Amy asked, knowing she wasn't going to like the answer. "Shadow?"
"We got separated on the way back. There was a storm, a sand storm, in the desert, so we lost sight of each other. But you shouldn't worry, Amy, they can easily find their way back." Tails smiled reassuringly, seeing the fear in Amy's eyes.
"Yeah, Shadow'll take care of your boyfriend, Amy." Rouge said, smiling. The hedgehog blushed. "And in the slight chance that they do get lost, well, we'll just have to go out and look for them."
"But what if those two also got separated? What if they didn't-"
"Amy, don't worry about it. They'll be back at most by tomorrow, okay?" Rouge said, trying to comfort the petite hedgehog.
Amy smiled at the white bat, knowing she was only trying to help. "So, who wants dinner?"
Sapphire eyes scanned the flawless grounds. Lush green fields and meadows ran from here as far as the eye could see, slowly meeting a lake's edge, then the rocky surface of surrounding limestone hills. A chuckle escaped a pair of full lips. The arrogant blue hero had done a good job when it came to location. If there was one thing Rouge loved more than gems, it was good scenery.
The ivory bat sighed and placed her chin in her palm as she let her mind wander. A tall, black figure obscured her thoughts. Large, bright, blood-red ruby colored eyes stuck out in her vision, almost as if the owner were here. A small frown was formed on the figure's mouth, which was consistently held in place, but it always moved when he was around her.
The female thief smiled as she remembered the hedgehog, Shadow. He was still something she hadn't quite figured out yet. However, she was sure of one thing, he was special to her, but in what way, she still wasn't sure of. All she knew was that whenever they were sent out together on some sort of mission, she felt elated, happy, like she was where she was supposed to be, and that was where she had the most fun. In a very short time, Rouge had developed a very strong liking to-
The white bat's ears pricked up to the sound of the familiar, deep voice. She looked down under the balcony. She smiled. The two hedgehogs had returned. She never doubted they wouldn't return, especially if Shadow was there to take care of the carefree, sometimes thickheaded, Sonic.
"Hiya!" she called back.
But as quickly as the smile came, it vanished. Shadow was bent over slightly, but not because he was wounded. He was supporting Sonic. He looked up at her, eyes hardened over, concern clearly there, his mouth pressed into a deeper frown than usual.
She quickly swooped down to the two rivals. She stifled a gasp when she saw Sonic. He was unconscious. Small scratches littered his body, but a huge gash ran across his stomach, staining his azure blue fur into a dull maroon.
"What- what- Shadow how did this happen? He wasn't like this when we left the base." Rouge asked, wanting to help Sonic, but not knowing where to support him without hurting him.
"We'll talk later. We need to help Sonic right now." Shadow said, slowly carrying Sonic to the door.
"I'll call Amy and Tails!" Rouge said, quickly flying to Amy's window. "Amy!" a pile of clothes on the pink hedgehog's bed showed that she had been busy with the laundry. "Quick, get Tails and meet me downstairs!"
"Huh? Why Rouge? I-"
"I'll explain later, Amy." Amy shot her a quizzical look, but ran out the door anyway. Rouge stared after here for a few more seconds, then quietly glided downstairs.
"Shadow?" she called out in the deserted corridor. In a flash, the ebony hedgehog appeared in the doorway leading to the basement.
"He's downstairs. I put him in the med-lab, and once Tails sees him, he should be okay. Where is Tails?" Shadow asked.
"They'll be here any minute now." No sooner had the words come out of her mouth when the little fox and Amy came rushing in.
"What is it? What's the emergency?" Tails asked.
"It's Sonic, he's-" Rouge started.
"Sonic! He's back? Where is he?" Amy cried breathlessly. Rouge decided not to explain the condition he was in, knowing it would create too much commotion.
"He's in the basement." She replied, and without another word, Amy rushed downstairs. She turned to Tails.
"Tails, Sonic came home injured. That's why we called you, to help him." She said.
"Sonic wounded? Wow, that's a first. I'd better go check up on him." He replied, rather calmly. With that he hastened downstairs to tend to his best friend.
Rouge turned to the tall hedgehog next to her. "So Shadow, now you've got to-" Suddenly she spotted a small white gauze wrapped around his upper arm. A large glob of red had stained it, showing that Shadow had also been hurt.
"What's that?" Rouge asked. "You hurt yourself and didn't tell me?"
Shadow crossed his arms. "You know full well Sonic was our greatest priority at that moment. And it doesn't matter, I tended to it myself."
Rouge smiled. "And you sure did a good job. Did you want the band to unravel by itself or did you order it to?"
The dark hedgehog looked at her, then down at his arm.
Rouge smirked at him. "Come on, let me dress that for you properly. And you probably just ran it under the tap, right?"
As she took his hand and led him downstairs, she could swear she heard him mumble something like 'So what if I did.'
A lot of things had happened that Amy did not expect. First off, she had completely forgotten about the return of her friends' on the night of their arrival, which she had been planning for days.
Next, she had found out that two of her friends' had not arrived yet and had been separated during a sandstorm. She had also not anticipated her friends' calmness and trust for the two unreturned speed demons.
But what had surprised her most was the condition in which Sonic was in. The blue hedgehog almost never got hurt, due to his supreme speed. But on the rare occasions that he did, he still carried a smile on his face with enough determination and courage to fill the whole team. That was what she loved about him, the way he never gave up, no matter what was happening.
Seeing him so pale, so helpless, so weak made Amy never want to leave his side again. Sonic just wasn't made to look like that. He was meant to be forever seen with a smirk on his face, not a peaceful frown. He was meant to be a bright cobalt blue, not the color of the day sky. But more than that, he was supposed to have his eyes open, not closed seemingly forever. For Amy, an hour was the max. If he hadn't opened before that, she would wake him up forecefully.
After tending to his wounds, Tails had left, clearly uncomfortable with seeing his very best friend in this state. So that left the coral pink hedgehog by herself with her hero, but she didn't mind. Whatever she could do for Sonic, she would do.
"Oh Sonic, you don't know how much I love you, do you? You probably think that I'm some crazy fan girl who'll soon get over you, right? Well, it's not just a crush Sonic, I know that. In a crush my heart wouldn't start beating faster every time you looked at me. In a crush, my eyes wouldn't stay glued to yours. In a crush, my hands wouldn't get sweaty every time you came close to me. In a crush, my heart wouldn't get stuck in my throat every time you talked to me.
"Or maybe that does happen in a crush, I don't know. But I can tell, Sonic, I can feel that this isn't just a wavering crush. This is the real deal…." She trailed off. She must be sounding so stupid, talking to Sonic who was in such deep sleep.
She sighed. It was probably a good thing that he had come home like this. Now, he couldn't run away, he couldn't hurt her in any way; he was just in an innocent sleep-
'No!' she mentally scolded herself. 'That is so selfish of me, thinking like that. Sonic doesn't deserve this, never will he ever.'
"I'm so sorry, Sonic. I'm so selfish, you don't deserve someone so selfish. I'm sorry." She cried softly. Suddenly, his left ear twitched in her direction. Spotting this, Amy looked at his still closed eyes.
"Sonic? Sonic, are you awake? Sonic?" she asked. But he didn't move. She sighed. Maybe she'd imagined it. Well, one thing was for certain, she would be the first one to greet him in the waking world.
"Shadow, you're such a baby!" Rouge scolded, internally smiling.
"I – am – not! Not a baby!" the black hedgehog replied through clenched teeth, his eyes tightly shut.
"Yes you are. I haven't even used the antibiotics and you're wincing." Rouge said, this time, showing her teeth in a grin. At this, Shadow snapped his eyes open and glared at her.
"I was not wincing." He said indignantly. Rouge stared at him.
"Yes you were, and there's no point in denying it, it'll just make you look stupider."
"Now hold still." She crooned avoiding the deadly glare in his eye and holding his elbow to keep his arm steady. Just before applying the medicine dipped swab onto his wound, she looked up at Shadow. He had once again turned his head away and had his eyes shut. The ivory bat rolled her eyes, before gently dabbing the cotton ball onto his exposed flesh.
"Alright, all done." She said, sure that this time the dressing would stay. Shadow swiveled around and looked at her handiwork.
"That's it?" he asked, clearly surprised. "But I didn't feel a thing!"
"That's because Rouge the Bat treated ya. Now, you were going to tell me what happened when we got separated."
Shadow nodded, then started talking. "Well, you probably thought that we got lost, right? But I didn't get separated from the X-tornado; I could still here its engine roaring above us, so it was easy to follow. But all of a sudden, I noticed the Faker wasn't next to me. So I turned around and went looking for him. It took some time, but when I found him….well, I found him like this, but it looked like the desert sand was….trying to – swallow him whole."
Rouge stared at him. "The sand was swallowing Sonic." She repeated flatly. "I think you got a little sand stuck in your hole, Shadow."
He glared at her. "I'm serious. Do you think I would joke about something like this?" he asked, annoyed.
"Well, you don't joke to begin with." Rouge said. Shadow just glared at her with his crimson eyes for a while more, then stood up.
"I don't have anything more to say. I told you what I witnessed, and now it's up to you whether or not to believe me." He said icily.
"Wait, Shadow-" but before she could say anything else, he had zoomed off. Rouge sighed. Great, just great. The one guy with whom I can have an interesting conversation with and I shooed him away. Fantastic Rouge. Fantastic.