Hold On by Skyblaze

Hold On

Hold On

Chapter 15 - This Corrosion

The noise was beginning to become deafening.

Even though it wasn't the kind of noise you heard with your ears, the overwhelming song of the Master Emerald seemed to blot out everything else, echoing in his head and rinsing away all thoughts except the most basic of impressions and feelings.

Shadow resisted the urge to clutch at his head as Knuckles led them over the rickety wooden rope bridge and up the stone steps to the Emerald Shrine. The bright sunlight gleamed off the flawless facets of the enormous green gemstone, adding to his growing migraine.

A hand settled on his shoulder, its warmth seeming to flow into his body and relieve at least some of the physical tension, "You ok, Shads?" Sonic's voice said into his ear.

Shadow grunted in pain, "Too much Chaos Energy, it's like staring at the sun too long." That was only a fraction of how difficult and painful this was, but that was all he was willing to reveal right now. He despised feeling vulnerable. Oddly, Sonic didn't seem affected, but then Sonic's sensitivity was lower than his own.

Sonic's hand gently squeezed his shoulder, "Hold on, Stripes. This shouldn't take too long."

Strangely, Sonic didn't remove his hand after that gesture, simply left it loosely clasping Shadow's shoulder as his attention turned to what was happening at the altar.

Knuckles was stood with his hands raised over the Master Emeralds, chanting quietly in a language none of them understood. The Emerald glowed, pulsing in time to the steady rhythm of the chanting. Sally and Tails watched in rapt attention, Sally holding out her small computer to record the event.

Sonic stood nonchalant, only half paying attention, as if ancient powers summoned up by sacred rituals were an everyday occurrence for him. In actuality he was trying to surreptitiously watch over Shadow, since the other hedgehog did not look well at all. Sonic actually felt great, bright and energised - almost too energised, like he was on a sugar high. Everything felt vivid, sharp, in perfect focus. Shadow's wiry shoulder felt weirdly good under his hand, as did the tickling brush of Shadow's chaos aura which seemed to dance across his fingers like tiny jolts of electricity.

Shadow, oblivious to all this, shielded his eyes as the pulsing light from the Emerald suddenly felt like twin knives stabbing right into his brain. Everything else felt blurry, off kilter, the only thing that felt steady was the feeling of Sonic's hand on his shoulder and the gentle, soothing warmth of the Chaos Energy in Sonic's body as it radiated steadily into Shadow, somehow blocking out the worst of the Chaos overload that was slowly burning out Shadow's senses.

Professor Gerald had taught him about something called Harmonic Damping, perhaps this was similar, but beyond that, the pounding in his head obliterated all thought. All he knew was the gentle fire pouring into him from Sonic's hand, offering a lifeline. He clung to it desperately, swimming up through the white-streaked haze of pain.

Distantly, he could hear the murmuring of Sally and Knuckles and they discussed… whatever it was the echidna was showing them, he couldn't see clearly enough to check what it was, and his hearing was blotted out by the shattering crystalline song of the Master. Finally, mercifully, the light faded and the song became softer, dying down enough to let him think again.

'This shouldn't be happening…' His thoughts were sluggish from the pain, but that one fact was clear. He was a being of Chaos, this power should not hurt him so.

Shadow realised that Sonic had released his shoulder and was heading down the steps after Sally and Tails, glancing back with a concerned look in his eyes, asking with a gesture and a look if Shadow was ok and was coming with them. Shadow nodded, gathering the energy to lift his leaden legs. Sonic offered him a tiny smile before resuming his descent down the stairs.

"The Master Emerald told me to tell you something."

The voice was harsh, abrupt, business-like. Wearily, Shadow turned to see Knuckles stood in front of the Master Emerald, his arms folded, eyes narrowed. If the pain hadn't been so severe, Shadow might have laughed.

"The rock told you to give me a message?"

Knuckles scowled, "That 'rock' is the most powerful thing on this planet. It has been around since before even Echidna civilisation, and will be here long after we are all gone. Its wisdom is beyond your comprehension."

Too tired to argue, Shadow just rolled his eyes, carefully keeping them averted from looking directly at the Master Emerald. "Fine. What does your wise and powerful rock have to tell me?"

"The mirror should not have been broken and your fire will only burn cold, here."

Shadow stared at him, "What the Hell is that supposed to mean?" Shadow demanded. Lack of understanding clawed at him, dread coiled up in his gut. He didn't understand, but the pounding in his head and the ice water in his veins told him that soon, he might.

Knuckles just shrugged, uncaring, "I don't know. I serve the Master Emerald, I'm not its interpreter. As it tells me, so I tell you." the echidna's scowl deepened, "Now, I've done my job. So get the hell of my island!"

Shadow managed to stumble down to the bottom of the stairs, his stomach churning and head throbbing. His fur stood on end as he shivered enough through the warm sunlight that bathed the Floating Isle. He could barely see, but he could feel the blue/gold flame of Sonic's presence and he headed for it, the sound of his breathing harsh in his own ears.

He heard an oddly muffled cry, his name… then there was only the soft blue/gold fire. The warmth wrapped around him, cradling him as though he were floating in a warm bath. The pain faded at last and Shadow sank gratefully into the oblivion of unconsciousness.


The fire around him eclipsed the stars above, the embrace of the flame no longer comforting, but burning. Like a falling phoenix, the shadow fell. His fur shone silver, the streaks on his fur and quills shining brilliant red like the flames licking at his body.

A hand gripped his. A surge of pure chaos shot through his veins like an injection of molten lava. Shadow opened his eyes and bright green eyes held his gaze.

'Hold on…' a voice said. He heard the whispered words even over the screech of atmospheric re-entry. Golden light, even brighter than the fire blinded him as the golden form wrapped his arms around him, holding him close as they both fell into fiery destruction.

Shadow panicked. He couldn't let this one follow him into oblivion. That one was needed. He had promised. No more broken promises. No more deaths. He offered up his own life freely in exchange for theirs - for his.

The gold turned slowly into blue, the power draining like water poured from a cup. Blue like the ocean, like the planet below, like Maria's tear-filled eyes. Blue and cold - like death.

In desperation, Shadow reached for his Chaos-born power. But it turned to ice in his grasp and shattered into a million fragments…


Shadow opened his eyes.

A cool breeze from an open window gently brushed his quills. No fire, no burning, just the remnants of a dream that had felt so utterly real. His body felt delicate, like if he made a wrong move it might break. His limbs felt stiff and his head was throbbing slightly, but the pain was nowhere near the brain-searing agony he had felt earlier. He relaxed, and then realised that he was no longer on Angel Island, it was now night-time and he was back in Knothole in the hut he shared with Tails and Sonic.

And Sonic was sat on the bed right next to him.

With a startled intake of breath, Shadow sat up, realising as his fingers brushed across the rough, home-spun sheets that both his shoes and gloves had been removed - though thankfully his cuffs were still in place.

Sonic blinked owlishly at him, "Hey, Stripes. Feelin' better?" he grinned.

Shadow frowned, "How did I get here? Last I remember I was on the island…" Gaps in his memory worried him. He was still a little uncertain of the veracity of his own memory, ever since he had found out what his creator had done to him after Maria's death. Not being able to fully rely on your own recollections was disconcerting and Shadow had no wish to go through that again, questioning everything he knew.

Sonic nodded, "Yeah, you were. Passed out when you got the bottom of those steps. I had to carry ya back to the Tornado. Boy, I tell ya, Sally really didn't like the whole wing-walking thing. At least you were cool with it, cos, lets face it, it is way past cool, right?"

Sonic was talking a little too fast, even for him, sliding from subject to subject with hardly a pause. Shadow looked at him closely, seeing that Sonic's eyes were wide, almost luminous in the gloom of the hut… and ringed around the outside of the iris was a thin sliver of bright emerald green.

“Sonic…” Shadow began uncertainly.

“So, you ok now, right? Me and Tails were worried about ya. You weren’t lookin’ too good out there on the island.” Sonic gave a fond glance over at Tails, who was lying on his own bed, fast asleep.

“I am feeling better, yes.” Shadow also glanced at Tails, “are you sure we won’t wake him?”

“Who, Tails? Nah. Would take a Cat 5 hurricane to wake my lil’ bro now.” Sonic smiled and placed a gentle hand on his arm, “So, just you and me right now, huh?”

Shadow froze. He could feel Sonic’s Chaos aura, warm and soothing, the peach colour of his hand a sharp contrast against his black fur. Shadow noticed distantly that Sonic’s gloves (and shoes) were also absent. Freed from the gloves, Sonic had surprisingly slender, elegant fingers; they were the hands of a musician or artist, not a warrior.

“So, what happened out there? You said somethin’ about a Chaos overload, then you dropped like a sack of bricks.” Sonic has absently begun to run his hand up and down Shadow’s arm as he spoke, and Shadow felt his heartbeat quicken in response.

"I…" He took a breath, trying to speak with a suddenly dry mouth, "The Master Emerald is the controller of all Chaos on Mobius; it's essentially the heart of all chaos. Being so close to it was like walking into an unshielded nuclear reactor."

Sonic tilted his head, his fingers now tracing random patterns across Shadow's hand, Shadow wondered why he felt unable to pull away, "So, why didn't it hurt me?"

Shadow looked at him askance, "It didn't? Not at all?"

Sonic shrugged, "Nah. Felt pretty good actually." He grinned. Shadow blinked.

"Well," Shadow swallowed, trying very hard to ignore the fingers tracing the outline of the red streaks on his arm, "Your chaos powers aren't as developed as mine. You weren't designed to live almost solely on chaos energy, so you aren't as sensitive to it as I am."

Sonic smirked at him, and there was a smouldering, challenging edge in that smile that made Shadow's stomach tie itself into extremely intricate knots. "I dunno, Shadow, I think I'm a pretty sensitive kinda guy."

Shadow licked his lips, hardly believing what was happening. He lowered his eyes to where Sonic's hand was still lightly petting the fur on his arm, "Why are you doing that?" he asked softly, almost afraid to draw attention to it.

Sonic looked down at his hand, as if just noticing where it was. Shadow noticed that even without the worrying green outline, his eyes seemed slightly… unfocussed. Sonic smiled, too broadly, too easily, "You feel good." Was all the blue speedster said, his tone almost matter-of-fact.

Shadow tried to remember how to breathe, paralysed by the confused bubble of fear/hope that rose up inside him. "So do you, Sonniku." he whispered softly.

A puzzled look crossed Sonic's face, "Hey, been meaning to ask, why do you call me that, anyway?"

A flash of memory constricted his lungs as he remembered the flames, the battle, Maria's eyes, full of tears, begging him… he shook it off, trying not to let it add to the confused whorl of emotions swirling around inside his head.

"In… the other universe. The place where I came from, you and I didn't start out as friends."

"Yeah?" Sonic asked, the casual, friendly tone at odds with what the rest of him was doing, as they now sat, shoulders and hips brushing together, Sonic playing gently with Shadow's fingers.

"We were enemies at first; until a friend of yours convinced me I was wrong."

Sonic looked at him, an almost languid surprise on his face, "Enemies? For real? Why?"

Shadow sighed, "I felt angry, betrayed. I wanted… revenge for Maria, for the other people of the station. I'd forgotten that revenge wasn't something Maria would ever have wanted." Shadow looked down to see that Sonic had threaded their fingers together. He swallowed, "You had appointed yourself the protector of the planet, so you opposed me."

Sonic nodded slowly, "After what you told me about your friend and people wanting to make you into a weapon, I can understand you being pretty pissed. Heh, I woulda been, too. But yeah, I couldn't let you hurt anybody if I could help it."

Shadow shivered, 'They're so alike… despite the differences, they're the same at the core…' he thought, his fingers reflexively tightening around Sonic's slender hand.

"So, what happened?" Sonic prompted, his eyes wide with curiosity as well as the green shimmer of chaos-intoxication.

Shadow closed his yes and remembered…

Amy had been stood there, pink quills almost white under the glare of the lights aboard the ARK. Her fists planted defiantly on her hips as she delivered a speech that resided somewhere between a plea for mercy and a dressing-down.

He remembered the vision in the glass, the ghost-memory of Maria, her eyes wet with tears as she begged him, pleaded with him to give the people on the planet a chance. She had been so tender, so gentle; there had never been a hateful bone in her body. How could he have ever believed that she would have wanted this? All this violence would have appalled her.

Then, as now, tears had filled his eyes as the thought of her hurt and disappointment filled his mind.

"All right," he breathed, "I'll stop it. I'll help you."

Amy had smiled her body relaxing out of its rigid posture.

That was when Sonic walked in.

Of course, upon seeing his dark rival, Sonic had immediately dropped into a fighting stance, Shadow, reacting reflexively to that implicit violence, had done the same. Until Amy had run in between them.

"No, no, Sonniku! He's on our side, now!" she had cried, tugging insistently on Sonic's arm like a small child begging for a much-wanted treat.

The full weight of Sonic's gaze settled on Shadow. He raised an eye ridge, "Is that true?" he asked.

The tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife. Sonic was suspicious, Amy desperate and Shadow was just starting to feel the tidal wave of guilt and remorse trickle into him. A vague thought of throwing himself to his knees and begging for forgiveness crossed his mind and was quickly dismissed. High drama like that was not in his nature.

Instead, he offered simply a tight nod and said, "That's right… Sonniku."

Sonic relaxed instantly, and a mischievous smile of the 'I'll-get-you-for-that' variety crossed his face, "Ok." he said easily, "Then let's do this!"

Sonic - this universe's Sonic - had slumped sideways during Shadow's story, and was now peering at him sleepily, "So, I just let it go, just like that?"

"Yes." Shadow said very softly, "I never understood why. But you - that other you - always seemed to… understand, somehow. You always accepted me, even when I didn't really want you to."

Sonic was no longer sitting upright, he was instead semi-sprawled across Shadow's bed, eyes half-lidded and quills in disarray. He blinked owlishly at the darker hedgehog, "Well sure, Stripes. Me an' you, two of a kind."

Shadow frowned, "What do you mean?" there was no reply, "Sonic?"

His only answer was a soft snore as the blue hedgehog buried himself in Shadow's sheets.

Shadow sat silently for a moment, before reaching out tentatively to stroke Sonic's ears, his touch feather-light. "Sleep well, Sonic."

He padded over to Sonic's bed, curling up on it and breathing in the scent that lingered on the sheets. 'Chaos, what the hell am I doing?' he thought. His thoughts were a torrent, tumbling over each other like pebbles in a fast-moving stream.

Shadow thought of the acceptance the other Sonic had given him. This new Sonic had suffered so much, lost so much - would he ever be able to forgive so freely, to understand so easily? The touches he had been offered so freely this night - would Sonic regret his actions, fuelled as they had been by the chaos buzz he had obviously been feeling.

Then there was the added worry of his reaction to being in the presence of the Master Emerald, and the cryptic warning the Guardian had offered him.

Sleep didn't come easily to the Ultimate Lifeform that night.


Author's notes: Wow, damn. Over one hundred and fifteen reviews. I am so grateful to everyone still reading this story. You guys all rock. I owe you all a hug, or a pint. Or both.

But yeah, I went to 'Summer of Sonic' in London and it was brilliant! I met Taranea and Forgotten Muse and my new friend Angelgotchi and I saw Crush 40 play live (they were AWESOME!). If anyone saw someone dressed as Blaze hanging out with Shadow the Hedgehog… yeah, that was me.

Next year's SoS is already announced, maybe I'll see some of you there?

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