Hold On by Skyblaze

Chapter notes:
Thanks to Greyfore for the beta, and Taranea for encouragement.
Chapter Thirteen - All This and Nothing

Chapter Thirteen - All This and Nothing


Even under his gloves, Shadow's hands felt inexplicably cold.

He raced along with Sonic as they ran back towards the centre of Knothole. He barely listened and Sonic commented that such meetings as this would usually be held in the 'War Room' but since that was still full of refugees from Westfold, they were going to Sally's personal hut instead. Shadow barely managed to murmur an acknowledgement of Sonic's words, still unable to focus.

The day was bright; the sun warm even under the filtered canopy of trees, but Shadow still felt like ice was seeping through his veins as the cold seemed to move from his hands through the rest of his body. Absently, Shadow rubbed at the empty place where one of his gold cuffs would usually sit, suppressing a shudder as he did so.


He looked up as Sonic knocked briefly on the door before stepping inside, motioning Shadow to follow. Shadow crossed the threshold, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light inside.


The first thing he noticed was the crude wooden table in the middle of the room, piled high with dusty old books and weather-beaten maps along with various battered-looking computer data solids - presumably of the type used in Sally's little palm-top computer.


"Oh, there you all are," Sally commented, looking up from her intense perusal of one of the maps, "did the lesson go well?"


"Yeah, Sal, it went great!" Sonic enthused. Shadow was sure Sonic would have elaborated, but Sally cut him off.


"Good. I'm glad you're making progress." She replied, turning back to her pile of documents, "Now, I've been doing some research on these 'Chaos Emeralds' and I think I've found a possible place to start our search."


Shadow couldn't help but notice that Sonic almost recoiled at the almost naked dismissal in Sally's voice, his blue spines drooping ever-so-slightly, though when he spoke again, his voice showed no sign of it as he spoke in his usual upbeat tone.


"Cool, Sal. Where are we headin' to?"


Strange. Sonic's façade was almost flawless, save for the tell-tale signs displayed in his quills… but perhaps that was a subtlety only obvious to other hedgehogs.


"There's an island mentioned in several texts," Sally continued in her business-like voice, "It's taken me several hours to translate them, but they all fairly consistently say that the Echidna empire kept one last stronghold inviolate to protect their 'Greatest Treasure' - from what I can make out, that treasure seems to either be a Chaos Emeralds or connected to them in some way."


Shadow sighed and leaned against the wall, letting her plod on towards the conclusion that he already knew - Angel Island. Home of the Master Emerald and the last Echidna, the Guardian Knuckles. It should have occurred to him before, really, as it would be a good place to search for information about the Emeralds of this dimension. But he had no proof that the island even existed in this world and no means of getting to it even if it did. The Master Emerald was shielded from his Chaos Sense, and since the island constantly changed position, that would make it near impossible to Chaos Control to its location. Even if he did mange to make it up there, he'd still have to deal with Knuckles.


“Do you have a way for us to get up there? It’s called ‘The Floating Island’ for a reason.” Shadow asked quietly.


Sally gave him a slightly suspicious glance, “Have you been there before?”


Shadow shook his head, "No, but I am aware of its existence."


The suspicion in her eyes remained, as if she knew he wasn't telling her everything, but when she spoke again, her tone was once again businesslike, "Rotor and Tails have been working on something that will be able to get us there."


Tails eagerly pricked his ears forward at the mention of his name, "Oh yeah!" Tails chirruped, "We've been workin' on rebuilding the Freedom Stormer!"


Sonic rolled his eyes, “Oh man, not that bucket of bolts!”


Tails shook his head, “Nuh uh! We rebuilt it from the ground up and it’s awesome!” Tails seized his brother’s hand and began insistently dragging him from the hut, “Come and see, Sonic!”


Shadow followed along primarily out of idle curiosity, that and the fact that he was certain he was about to be dragged along on this field trip, so he was somewhat curious as to what form their transport would take.


Tails dragged them out to a clearing out beyond the main village. A large blue tarp covered a large piece of equipment. Tails released Sonic’s hand to take hold of one corner of the tarp.


“Me an’ Rotor added a jet engine so it isn’t a glider anymore. We strengthened the wings and rebuilt the controls and even repainted it!” Tails chattered happily.


Sonic tapped his foot, “C’mon, Tails! Show us the thing already!”


Tails grinned, the tips of his sharp canine teeth showing as he pulled back the tarpaulin with a flourish.


Beneath the tarp was an old-fashioned bi-plane with a modern jet engine attached to the bottom. It was painted a bright cherry red with white stripes across the wings and fuselage. A symbol like a gold ring surmounted with wings was adorned the tail-fin. Shadow frowned. If it wasn’t for the paintwork, that plane would look awfully familiar.


Sonic was staring at the thing in astonishment. He blinked, then turned to Tails, who was peering up at his big brother with open hunger for approval in his eyes. Sonic grinned and gave him a thumbs-up, "It looks awesome, Big Guy! You are Rote did a really cool job at fixin' it up."


Tails beamed, "Thanks Sonic!" his namesakes swished, "but it really needs a new name, now, don't you think so, Aunt Sally?" He asked earnestly, his big blue eyes shifting over to her.


Sally laid a hand on his shoulder and smiled benevolently down at him, "You helped build it, honey and Rotor tells me you did most of the work, so you should get to name it." Sonic nodded in agreement.


Tails' face scrunched up in thought as he regarded the plane, "But…how? I don't know what to choose…"


Sonic shrugged, "Think about what it can do, what it means, what it represents."


Tails frowned, his bushy tails stirring up dust as they lashed back and forth. Shadow regarded the fox and the hedgehog and thought on Sonic's words. He vaguely remembered a book he had read when he had been with Maria, it had been about traditional Mobian culture and it had said that Mobian names were meant to be representations of one's attributes - your name was meant to say something about you, to explain who you were and what you represented.


Sonic - the wind rushing by, the bright burst of noise. Freedom and speed and soaring through the air as people watched in awestruck amazement.

Shadow - Silence and darkness, cold and quiet. Forever slipping away into the night, never seen or noticed.


Shadow sighed. They were so different, even in their names. Light against dark - two totally different sides of the coin. Shadow shifted slightly, the thought suddenly bothering him now as it never had before… could he ever really live as a part of Sonic's world?


He forced himself out of his introspective trance and focussed again on Tails' words. The little kit was speaking slowly, almost tasting the words.


"Well…" He began, "It's manoeuvrable, it can fly in almost any weather and…"


"Aaaannd?" Sonic prompted.


"It's fast!" Tails blurted, "I mean really fast! I couldn't make it as fast as you, Sonic, but I sure wanted to. It's as fast as… as… as a tornado!" His eyes lit up, "That's it! We'll call it the Tornado!"


Sonic laughed, "Good name, little bro!"


Tails beamed again, "Thanks, Sonic!"


Sonic looked around, "So, we ready to get movin'?"


Sally shook her head, "We'll need to gather up some supplies - and Sir Charles said he wanted to see you, Sonic. Apparently he has something for you."


"Cool!" Sonic smiled, "Be back in a flash!" with a gust of wind, Sonic was gone, presumably to see his Uncle.


Silently, Shadow assisted Sally and Tails as they gathered some suitable supplies for the trip and packed them into the narrow confines of the plane. When they were done, Shadow glanced at Sally and asked, "Who is actually going on this trip?"


"Me, Sonic, Tails is piloting the plane-"


"The Tornado!" Tails interrupted insistently. Sally rolled her eyes.


"All right, all right - to pilot the Tornado." At Tails' grin, she smiled, "Tails, do you think you could go grab that pile of data solids from my hut?"


"Sure, Aunt Sally!" He chirped, jumping down from the cockpit and heading off.


"I also think you ought to come along." Sally continued as she resumed loading.


Shadow raised a quizzical eyebrow, "Me? Why?"


Sally looked away, "Sonic hasn't had much practice at those new powers of his and you're the only one who knows anything about controlling them. I want you to keep an eye on him."


Shadow considered that, "Hmm. So, you really do care about him."


Sally stiffened, "Of course! I care about all my friends."


Shadow tightened the strap on the bag he was loading, "You mean 'your people', right?  You are a princess after all - their ruler."


Sally rounded on him, dropping the water bottle she had been loading, "Out here that means nothing! And it won't mean anything until we retake the planet from Robotnik! Just because I'm a princess doesn't mean I can't care about hi- them!"


Shadow caught her slip and smirked, "And yet you keep your status clearly in front of everyone. Consciously or not, you're using it as an excuse to keep people at a distance - especially Sonic."


Her eyes narrowed dangerously, "And you don't?"


"What are you talking about?" He demanded harshly.


"You keep up this façade of coldness, darkness. You act like you're so separate from everyone, so different. But when he's near you, you practically light up - is it because he's the same as you, despite being so different… or is it something else?"


Shadow struggled not to flinch, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” He half snarled, looking away from her.


“Oh, I think I know exactly what I’m talking about, you just don’t want to admit it.”


Then Tails came flying back in, a small case containing all Sally’s data solids held tightly in his hands and they both fell silent, agreeing without words that Tails shouldn’t get involved in this argument. Shadow glared down at the supplies he was loading, his hands clenching and unclenching as he struggled to control his boiling emotions.


“Hey guys, we all set?” The sound of Sonic’s relaxed, cheerful voice instantly made him look up, his arms draining of their tension. He ignored the sidelong glance Sally was giving him as he fixed his gaze on the new adornment on Sonic’s left wrist – it was a cuff, much like his own gold restriction cuffs, only this one was far less polished, though the finish was uneven, Shadow could see that they weren’t pure gold like his own, they were instead a peculiar silvery-gold colour and odd circuit-like designs had been etched into the metal.


“Hey, Stripes,” Sonic smiled when he spotted the black hedgehog, “Uh, how do I get these things off?” He asked, holding up his right arm to display the gold cuff still clamped around his wrist. Shadow reached over and clicked off the cuff, but when Shadow brushed against Sonic’s hand as he was removing the cuff, he felt a sudden surge of energy race down his fingers and up his arm, the jolt left him breathless and tingling, as though he had just grabbed hold of a live electrical cable.


Sonic jerked away, “What the… what was that?”


Shadow drew a calming breath, “I don’t know.” He murmured. With trembling hands, he replaced the gold cuff on his own wrist, feeling the strange shivering sensation decrease as he did so. Sonic snapped on his own new cuff and they exchanged a brief, troubled glance.


Sonic turned his attention back to the plane, “Uh, hate to break it to ya, lil bro, but there’s only two seats in this thing – where are me and Stripes meant to sit?”


Tails gave him an impish smile and climbed up onto the wing, “I installed some straps to hold your feet so you can ride on the wings” he grinned, indicating the white straps fastened securely to the top of the wing.


Sonic stared, wide-eyed for a moment, then a slow smile spread across his face, “Way past cool!”


Shadow sighed in quiet despair.



Not too long after, they all found themselves sailing through the air far above the sea. The jet engines of the Tornado were humming as they soared towards the place where the fabled island was meant to be.

Sonic looked down to watch the waves below them, the sun sparkling merrily across the deep blue water, reflecting the white puffball clouds that dotted the soaring blue sky. Sonic smiled to himself as the sun warmed his quills – this was the nicest day he had experienced in quite some time, since Robotnik’s pollution meant that beautiful sun-drenched days like this were a rarity, now.

Best of all, though, was that he got to share it with friends. Tails, Sally… even Stripes.


Sonic glanced over to ask Shadow what he thought of the experience of wing-walking at 8,000 feet, but the words suddenly died in his throat when he clapped eyes on the other hedgehog.


Shadow was in a half-crouch, only his right foot caught by the secure straps, his left knee almost touching the wing. One hand was gripping the leading edge of the wing while his other hand was held up, fingers spread to feel the sensation of wind rushing through his fingers. His head was tilted back, the sun gleaming on his black quills and fur as his garnet eyes stared at the sky, an expression of absolute calm on his usually grim face.

The plane banked slightly and Shadow was suddenly silhouetted by the bright orange glow of the afternoon sun as it highlighted the fiery red streaks on Shadow’s arms and head quills. Sonic stared, feeling like he couldn’t even breathe for the butterflies who had apparently taken up residence somewhere in his stomach.


“Wow.” Sonic breathed.


“Yes, it is impressive.” Shadow replied calmly, his gaze still fixed in front.


“Huh?” Sonic blinked. Confused, he turned his head and saw the looming shape of a huge island floating effortlessly in the sky. “Whoa!”


“See if you can find us a place to land, Tails.” Sally instructed from the passenger seat.


“Will do, Aunt Sally!”


“Sonic, Shadow, keep a close eye out, we don’t know what kind of traps or defences the Ancient Echidnas left behind.”


I do.” Sonic heard Shadow mutter under his breath. Sonic gave him a curious glance, but there was no time for conversation as the plane swooped down for a landing.


The wheels of the place dug deeply into the soft, golden sands of the beach as they skidded to a slightly uneven stop. Sonic quickly unstrapped himself and jumped down. He looked around. The place was beautiful, the golden sands of the beach eventually gave way to a thick canopy of greenery, tall trees covered with thick vines shaded the profusion of exotic wildflowers which spilled their rich scents into the warm afternoon air.

Shaking himself out of the bemused admiration for the stunning beauty around him, Sonic turned back to his brother, “Hey, Tails, you sure you can get this thing back off the beach?”


Tails nodded confidently, “Sure can, Sonic!”


“Then you better do so, right now!” A deep, rough voice boomed from the tree line at the edge of the beach, “You aren’t welcome here!”


Sonic span around, dropping into a defensive crouch as his eyes sought out the person who had called to them. He finally spotted a weird-looking creature perched on a branch. It had deep red fur, which seemed to be overgrown and matted atop its head to form weird spiky bangs that hung down to its shoulders. It had its hands raised in a belligerent posture, two oversized knuckles protruding from its huge fists.


“An’ who’re you, pal?” Sonic asked cheekily, dropping out of his defensive stance and affecting an almost bored pose.


Violet eyes burned with fury as the red creature glared at him, “I am Knuckles the Echidna, Guardian of Angel Island, and you are not welcome here! I will make you leave if I have to!”


Sonic smirked. He could feel the fire-bright flare of Shadow’s presence behind him and he felt completely certain that between them – and with Tails’ and Sally’s back-up – they could do anything.


“Go ahead and try it, Knucklehead.”  Sonic taunted, dropping once again into a fighting stance, feeling Shadow do the same behind him.


Today was definitely an awesome day.


To be continued in Chapter 14 – High Hopes

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