Advent of Equinox by Skyblaze, Taranea

Chapter 7: Creatures of Darkness, Creatures of Light

Chapter 7: Creatures of Darkness, Creatures of Light


The darkness had swallowed both the form of the wolf and the midnight hedgehog as if they were both more creatures of night than day now, the only tell-tale signs of their presence their gleaming eyes and the brightly blazing shoes of the Ultimate Lifeform as they departed from their site of battle. Robotnik's cries of rage faded away rapidly into the cold night air behind them, the man's general insults, curses and anatomically correct wishes of specific dismemberment concerning the two hedgehogs only occasionally interrupted by a  banging sound that sounded like the rotund scientist was either hitting his own head against his hovercraft, or, rather more probable, that of an unfortunate minion's.

It was Sonic who finally broke the silence on their side.

“So...that was kind of a bust, huh? I mean, we didn't get all that much from Eggman.” he asked, turning his large head a bit to the side as he was running on all fours, dark blue body stretching and straining to keep up with the speed the black-furred hedgehog maintained. His voice was still as dark and with that growling undertone it had already taken on during the fight, and a slight shiver ran down Shadow's spine as he heard it again. Ignoring that, Shadow shrugged, eyes straight ahead.

“Other than the Doctor himself is clueless, no. Perhaps the Emerald will yield some more information about what caused the Gaia imbalance, though.”

“Once we get it back to Tails, yeah,” Sonic agreed, mind obviously already elsewhere, for now concentrating on running. When they had made their way here from the kit's house it had been day time and with Sonic running at a comfortable pace that a flying Shadow could keep up with, it had taken them about three hours. Now that they were returning across moonlit plains, it seemed like Sonic the wolf was hell-bent on not taking longer than that time in his transformed state, even if it killed him.

“Interesting fighting style, by the way,” Shadow commented casually a few minutes later, having the satisfaction of seeing Sonic nearly briefly falter in his step.

There was only a slight falter in Sonic's rapid movement, but it was enough for Shadow to pick it up, a flash of an uncomfortable expression fluttering briefly across Sonic's transformed face.

"Uh...yeah, I guess." Sonic replied, before catching himself again with his characteristic cocky grin, that was even recognizable through a mouth full of razor-sharp lupine teeth. “There ain't nothing about yours truly that's not interesting, after all.”

"Its far more aggressive than your usual style. Very efficient, though." Shadow noted in a clinical tone. Sonic squirmed while trying to look like he wasn't bothered in the slightest.

"I doubt even those copies of me would be a threat to you in that form," Shadow continued, needling the speedster, "You could tear their limbs off with ease."

“Yeah, because that's what I do, y'know. Tearing limbs off,” Sonic replied dryly, obviously trying to steer the conversation into less unfamiliar waters with sarcasm. Then a grin began to creep up upon his face though, as apparently an idea had just drifted into his mind of how perhaps the tables could be turned. The smirk the wolf gave the darker hedgehog could already be classified as almost predatory.

“ almost sound like you...liked what you saw,” the blue speedster suggested slyly, and it was only the darkness that prevented Shadow from suddenly bolting on ahead, because that question, along with that playful growl that had underlined the words had for some reason caused heat to shoot into his face, and the Ultimate Lifeform wasn't sure whether his cheeks hadn't immediately turned a traitorous darker shade. Because...what Sonic said hadn't entirely been untrue...

Dammit, stop this. Just because it had caused his stomach to feel a bit funny as he'd seen the werehog fight, back when he had just been trying to get back to his feet after his head had been ringing due to his fall, it didn't mean anything. Even if...I would like to see it again. Except I didn't just think this, the black-furred hedgehog tried to assure himself in his own head, putting down Sonic's teasing question to the usual mockery he had to endure day in day out from him anyway.  

“Don't flatter yourself, hedgehog,” he replied instead with his own version of mock-derision. “I merely thought it was interesting to see you fight differently.”

 “Yeah, well, don't get too used to it,” Sonic said, his tone not letting any disappointment or other reaction to the put-down show as he changed the topic, “Once we've found out who's behind this mess this time, we'll both get to keep our quills again permanently.”

“Agreed,” Shadow replied easily, red eyes already watching the horizon again as his mind was once more trying to figure out their current puzzle. “So we've found out that the Doctor is not the main culprit but he thinks it's something equally big or bigger...not very helpful, but at least something to go on.”

“Yeah, and we've also found out Eggman likes silly Sci-fi. Does that get us anywhere, Mr. Holmes?” Sonic asked, amused at the Ultimate Lifeform's serious thinking expression, that immediately turned into a dead-pan stare at his friendly mocking question.

“Somehow, Sonic, I don't think the Doctor watching another Doctor and his timey-wimey adventures has anything to do with the current situation,” Shadow said dryly, although not entirely unfriendly. A bit of the enmity against the other hedgehog had gone after the battle where they had just now saved each other's lives once more. They ran and skated on in silence for just another few moments, when the black hedgehog to his surprise found himself even asking a question that was for once completely unnecessary and just for conversation.

“ do you even know that show, hedgehog? I thought it got cancelled years ago.”

Sonic gave an amiable shrug (no mean feat while still running on all fours), “They re-booted it some time back. There was a re-run on cable last time I was sick and had to stay in bed. Sucked less than day-time TV, too.” A smile crept onto his face, as he added. “'sides, Tails is absolutely nuts for that show. I swear, he's been trying to fabricate one of them sonic screwdrivers for years...” his voice trailed off for a few seconds, before it suddenly returned, along with a mischievous expression and a twinkle in the transformed hedgehog's eye.

“Why, when did you ever watch it, Shads? I didn't have you picked as the guy who would stoop to something as common as entertainment television with homicidal pepperpots.” He grinned.

Shadow gave him a hesitant stare. “Maria...was somewhat obsessed with the lead actor at some time.”

Sonic's eye ridges rose. “Really?” he laughed. “Hey, I bet you saw the original transmissions! In black and white and all!”

Shadow bristled. “Excuse me? I'm not that old!” he shouted, but by then Sonic had already pulled ahead laughing and the pair vanished mock-chasing each other into the night.




“Oh, hey, welcome back,” Tails smiled, poking his head from the laboratory as the two older Sapients trooped through his front door and into the kitchen. “How'd it go?”

“Well, not that great. Turns out Robotnik wasn't what knocked the Gaia so out of whack. We did manage to palm an Emerald from him, though,” Sonic summarized the events succinctly, pulling the pale, dull grey stone from his head quills and depositing it on the table, slumping on a chair himself. “Anything new here?”

“Still no contact to Knuckles,” the fox kit replied, biting his lip. “I was getting a bit worried, so I asked Rouge whether she couldn't fly up and take a look for us. If he's for some reason deliberately ignoring us, at least she would be able to coax him from hiding,” the two-tail gave a lop-sided smile. His expression brightened. “Oh, but while I didn't find out more about that asteroid, I at least could locate the next Chaos Emerald!”

That got the two hedgehogs' attention.


“Where?” Sonic had perked up and Shadow emerged from his half-body expedition into the fridge. Tails grinned with a bit of pride.

“It's really far, but my scanners managed to pick it up. The next Emerald is in Holoska, at the North Pole!”

Sonic grinned. “Awesome. I'll get my snowboard.”

Shadow grimaced. “Fantastic. I'll stay here.”

The next thing that happened was one of the werehog's arms lengthening freakishly and a finger poking the Ultimate Lifeform into the side.

“Aw, what's the matter? Scared of a little cold?”

“I prefer civilized temperatures,” Shadow scowled, swatting at the insulting digit, not feeling like explaining that yes, while his artificially engineered body could work at sub-zero temperatures, that didn't mean that the owner of this body - who had spent his entire childhood in a climate-controlled environment - liked it. “Right,” he said instead, emptying the last of a bottle of some sort of isotonic sports drink, “If we'll have to go to the goddamn arctic tomorrow, I'm spending the last few hours I still have before my body mutilates itself again asleep. See you in the morning,” he said, placing the empty bottle on the counter and striding toward the door of the house.

“Wait, where are you going? Aren't you staying here for the night? It's already late...” Sonic rose from his chair as the dark hedgehog yanked the handle, cool night air streaming into the warmly lit kitchen. The mouth of the blue-furred speedster snapped shut as Shadow's gaze snapped into his direction over his shoulder briskly, crimson eyes glinting in the twilight. For one moment it almost seemed as if the wolf was suddenly flustered by his own question...or had it been a request? Shadow's face remained unreadable for a moment as the silence stretched on, but then his expression half-hidden by darkness seemed to become just a tad softer. Red eyes closed themselves for a second, the Ultimate Lifeform briefly rubbing a gloved hand across his forehead, looking just a tad tired for once.

“I...appreciate the offer. But I'm going home.”

“Home?” Tails asked. “You mean to...”

“Club Rouge,” Shadow clarified. “Holoska is a longer expedition than a trip to White Acropolis and there's some stuff I need to sort out and pick up from my apartment.”

“Do you want me to fly you? Or Tails,” Sonic offered, adding the name of his kid brother as if a hastily tagged-on afterthought.

Shadow shook his head. “I'll be fine. Westopolis isn't that far and...”- and now a definite smirk crossed his face - “...until dawn the title of the Fastest Thing Alive is rightfully mine, I presume?”

Sonic gave a snort that could either have been offended dignity or slight amusement, Tails could only call out a short 'Bye, Shadow!' and then the dark form had already taken off, palm trees planted around the house rushing in the night breeze caused by the black whirlwind rushing through them on lightning skates.




“Well, seems like everything has gone okay today, at least. I'll print you guys some maps and info so all goes well tomorrow, too,” Tails said, closing the door after Shadow had left. Sonic still sat at the kitchen table and the picture of the werewolf carefully sipping tea from his too-small cup would have been quite comical, if the fox kit wouldn't have thought that there was an expression in his big brother's eyes, still staring at the door that had just closed, that for some reason looked almost a bit...forlorn?

“Sonic?” he enquired,  and that seemed to snap the transformed hero out of it. The expression was gone in a heartbeat and the blue Mobian shook his large head quickly.

“What? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Thanks, kiddo, that'll be great.”

“Is there something bothering you?” Tails asked, his tone conveying all the astuteness that came from being not only a kid genius, but also having known hedgehog currently trying not to sulk at the kitchen table for longer than half his life. For a fraction of a second, his big brother seemed to look a bit panicky, but then that was also gone so fast Tails wondered whether he had imagined that just now.

“Huh? No...I – I just thought he'd stay the night here, s'all.” 

“Well, that's probably Shadow for you,” Tails gave a little shrug with a helpless smile on his face. “Did you work well today together, then?”

“We did actually,” Sonic's face brightened up a bit at the memory. "It was pretty smooth after we got used to it. He even saved my life." Tails pricked up his ears at that last bit. He knew Sonic could probably have rescued himself from whatever his peril had been, and it seemed Sonic had been enjoying himself... perhaps something even more than enjoyment, at that. Instead, he simply took the dull Emerald from the table and nodded.

“Glad to hear that. If I manage to use this, I should be able to get more accurate readings on the rest of them, or maybe even find out what happened to them.” He briefly drummed his fingers on his chin, twin-tails swishing in thought. “Maybe, if Eggman isn't behind this, I could even propose an information-sharing alliance with him...”

“Uh-oh, bad idea, bro,” Sonic shook his head, looking pained.  “He didn't give this Emerald up that peacefully, and we had a run-in with some of his newest robots and...” his head dropped a bit and he looked away as he continued, voice just a tad more somber now as he relayed the story of their mountainside adventure, "If Shadow hadn't woken up and threatened to blow Robotnik's head off, at that point...” Sonic finished, unhappily, “Well, I don't think we would have been back so easily.”

“Oh.” Tails looked a bit unhappy at his big brother's somber account. “That's not so good.”

“Well, we managed,” Sonic shrugged, leaning back into a more relaxed pose as the conversation drifted into lighter waters. “Could have gone better, could have gone worse.”

“Hnh.” The fox kit bit his lip, toying a bit with the gem stone in his hands. Then, he seemed to make a decision and looked up. “Sonic...does it bother you to be a werehog again?”

Sonic raised an eye ridge, for a moment seemingly trying to read his little bother's thoughts behind that serious small face. And he thought of telling him about the the pain, the speed taken as if he was crippled now, the darkness that took you, smothered you, changed so many parts of you that you didn't even know who you were when it let you go again. And then he smiled.

“It's not the greatest feeling in the world, no. I miss running, proper running during the night, a lot. Plus, the transformations are a pain in the literal sense,” he added dryly, scrunching up his impressive snout. “But hey, as long as I got you,” he said, suddenly grinning as broadly as only a wolf could, at the same time snatching up the small fox cub in one of his giant paws, holding him above his own face just beneath the ceiling, laughing as Tails gave a shriek of surprise, “and you treat me like your bro and not some monster, I think I can cope,” the hero of Mobius said with a wink of his eye, just before opening his hand and letting Tails tumble downward onto his now considerably broader chest, catching him in a bear hug that drove the wind out of the kit's lungs, but was nevertheless returned fiercely by stick-thin golden-furred arms only a second later.

“Of course, Sonic,” Tails assured him, words mumbled into thick dark blue fur, “I promise.”

“That's my bro,” the blue hero smiled, putting the two-tail down again, the fox shaking himself like a dog with roughed-up fur would. “Well, let's hit the hay for now, okay?”

“Yeah,” Tails agreed as the two unlike brothers headed for upstairs and the kit yawned. “I also found out some new stuff about Gaia that I can investigate tomorrow. My reasoning is by now that the reason Shadow is affected by Gaia this time around when he wasn't the last time is that the object that fell from the sky and caused the eclipse either brought its own Gaia or somehow changed or imbalanced ours, and if I can only find out what connection Shadow could have to-”

“Tails. Kiddo. I'm barely awake as it is.”

“Oh. Sorry,” Tails gave a little embarrassed laugh, his enthusiasm currently having overwhelmed his own need for sleep. “Good night, then. See you in the morning, Sonic.”

“Sure,” Sonic nodded. “Night, Tails. If you see any bogeyman hiding under your bed, tell them that they should be afraid of me.

Both of them laughed as they entered their separate chambers, Sonic closing the door of his behind him  as he stepped into the more than familiar surroundings of what qualified as Tails' guest room and Sonic's semi-permanent lodging place, this night no longer occupied by Rouge.  The transformed hedgehog sunk down upon his mattress with a sigh. This night promised to be more comfortably spent than the last one when he had had to share the living room with Shadow and slept on the floor, but...

Sonic the Hedgehog stared at the ceiling, somehow knowing that the discontentment Tails had spotted earlier had not only to do with his forced transformation, but also with the fact that a certain black hedgehog had left, but even while the hero of Mobius was still trying to figure out why this had disappointed him exactly, sleep had already claimed him, and the night was spent alone and dreamless...




Westopolis. He dropped to the cold asphalt as the fire of his skates died and let himself in with practiced ease – the apartment above the Club had been his home for the better part of two years, and it was a comfortable arrangement, Rouge being a landlord who charged no rent as long as Shadow helped out occasionally with unreasonable guests at the club or more...secretive work (where he usually had to help out with unreasonable security guards at museums). The dark-furred hedgehog strode through the deserted club area, scaling the stairs to his living quarters while feeling the strains the day and its transformations had left on his body. And only seven miserable hours till sunrise when the whole circus would start again...

The Ultimate Lifeform growled.


He whirled around at the noise, almost ready to pull out his gun out of reflex, but relaxed when he recognized the form in the door.

“Hey, Rouge. Thought you'd be off looking for Emeralds.”

“Well, I was, but the fox kit called me off earlier when he had discovered the second one ahead of me. He also suggested I go up to Angel Island to see if that echidna is alright." She pointedly ignored Shadow's smirk as she off-handedly referred to Knuckles – they both knew that the Master Emerald was only half the reason for her countless invasions of the Floating Island, "Apparently hasn't been returning their calls. I'm just having a bit of beauty sleep here before I leave. And you, sunshine?”

Shadow frowned at her address, not appreciating any mentions of sun or the shining thereof

at the moment.

“I have been conscripted to visit the Antarctic tomorrow,” Shadow replied in a tone that was fittingly icy. “One of the blasted stones is there.”

“Oh, honey,” Rouge gave a sympathetic smile, stepping closer into his room. The 20 squaremetre domain of the Ultimate Lifeform showed few signs of habitation, the only personal effects lying around a case with DVDs  in one corner, a few catalogues on the writing desk  mostly featuring things that looked dangerous, a wardrobe filled with the usual amount of gloves. Also there, though cunningly hidden under heavy books, was a faded picture of a young girl and an old man. Sometimes Rouge wondered whether Shadow realized she knew it was there.  

“Urgh,” Shadow commented, sinking down on his bed.

“Hey,” Rouge smiled at him, settling herself next to the grumpy hedgehog and snaking an arm around his prickly back.  “Don't pretend it's the end of the world.” There was another bat-fanged grin. “I think there's worse things than wings on your back.” 

“Easy for you to say,” Shadow grumbled, still not looking at her. “Your wings are natural. They don't cause you to wake up nearly screaming each morning.”

There was a moment of silence after that, and then Shadow could feel the light weight of the female bat leaving the mattress beside him, heard her heels softly treading across the wooden floor of his room. It surprised him a bit, he hadn't expected her to walk out on him like that, but then again, she hadn't. When he did raise his head, eventually, Rouge the Bat was instead leaning next to the window, the moonlight falling through it in such a way that she was just in the shadows. Shadow heard his friend give a sigh. Turquoise eyes opened to look at them then with a rare expression, a kind of strange mixture of detached sadness and empathy, but also a bit of faint amusement that always seemed to accompany near everything the white-furred jewel thief said or did. 

“That is true,“ Rouge finally said slowly, “But it wasn't always like that. You know what it's like being the only kid with wings at school?” she asked, and asked it calmly, but something in her tone let Shadow imagine, just faintly, a picture of a small girl, and a group of other kids, surrounding her,  pulling...

“Not everyone takes kindly to your ability of flight when they don't have it,” Rouge stated casually, crossing her arms and looking out at the night sky, her face now devoid of any emotion but remembrance. Shadow frowned.

“Didn't your parents-”

“Never met them.” Rouge shrugged, but there wasn't much sadness attached to that statement. “I grew up in a foster home and later in a foster family. Mice, all of them, the mother and some of the kids even albinos, so I didn't look too out of place. Except for, well, these,” she told him a story, then, detailing some of her history. Despite her matter-of-fact tone, Shadow could sense the echoes of bitterness and isolation in the bat's words as she wove a tale of rejection and bullying, or having to hide what she was beneath baggy clothes, of how she had struck back at her tormentors... and how those acts of rebellion and revenge had backfired on her:

" ...And then, one day, there was the theft of a rare jewel necklace from the mayor's wife.” Her voice assumed an ironic tone. “Now, contrary to all of today's evidence, back then, that wasn't me. They caught the actual burglar later, a band of birds. But what they could confirm pretty quickly the next day was that the crime definitely had committed by someone who could fly...” said, briefly flapping the black, leathery appendages on her back. "So I did they only thing I could. I skipped town and struck out on my own. There... wasn't anything left for me, back there." she finished here tale, finally.


There was smile on her face again, a smile that seemed a bit uncertain on features both too young and eyes too old for a girl that was already running a club, was a wanted jewel thief and secret government agent, and not even 22 years old. Shadow suddenly wondered just how old his friend must have been when she had had to leave her home hounded, how young when she arrived in the big city and what might have happened to her there that made her learn so quickly to achieve all this when she was barely older than her friends.

A white-gloved hand moved to rest lightly on his shoulder, ready to move in an instant if Shadow reacted badly - he rarely received physical comfort, so accepting it wasn't easy for him, but Rouge's touch was pure friendship and sympathy, warmth against the encroaching night they both usually dwelled within. Shadow relaxed as she sat on the bed next to him.

“So, what I wanted to say was – I don't think wings are ever easy. Nor is being different. No matter whether you're born like that or get transformed. But I probably don't need to tell you anything about a tough childhood, huh?” she asked, and finally, there was almost something like a twitching of the Ultimate Lifeform's lips.

“No,” he said, But I'm glad that you did, was what he didn't say, and they still heard it. However badly Shadow wanted to deny it most of the time, even he needed a friend to talk to, sometimes.





Morning came to the Mystic Ruins and with it came a hedgehog flying from the sky.

“Hey, Faker. Wake up.”


Sonic's unintelligible reply was accompanied by the surprised blue hero yanking his sheets instinctively higher in shock – quite an understandable reaction when you accounted for the impressive figure perching on his window sill and leaning over his bed next to it, dark wings spread out for balance wide enough to block the sun.  

“It's seven o'clock,” Shadow pointed out reasonably, “Sun's been up for at least half an hour.”

“You've apparently gained some more control over your landing abilities, then,” Sonic commented a bit crankily as he heaved himself out of bed, quills in total disarray. “Fine. I'll be downstairs in a minute,” he yawned. “Get yourself some breakfast and we can be off.”

Shadow dropped from the window at his words and Sonic, looking after him, couldn't help but feel a pang of envy at the grace with which the dark-furred hedgehog landed expertly on his feet with only two massive wing beats to break his fall...and perhaps he also thought it a The blue hero quickly made his way down to the kitchen himself.         




“Alrigh'. Goog mornging, Fadow,” Tails greeted the two of them, speech only slightly hindered by two large slices of white bread sticking out of his mouth while he was tracing something on a map lying on the table. “I've narrowed down the coordinates as much as I could,” he said once his mouth was bread-free once more. “I think I can drop you off reasonably close.”

“So we're taking the tornado again?” Shadow asked. “Why don't you stay here and let Sonic fly the thing?”

“Because to get to another continent we need to use the special turbo,” the two-tail said, “otherwise it would take hours.”


“You don't want Sonic to use the special turbo.”


“Yeah.” Tails finished their conversation, while Sonic at the table tried to look as innocent as possible with an I-don't-know-about-any-holes-in-any-skyscrapers -expression, and after the little fox had left the kitchen with the documents, the two hedgehogs soon followed him into the hangar.

“The tornado still doesn't seat three people very well if one of them has such large wings, and when we go as fast as we're about to, Sonic can't stand on the wingtips, either,” Tails said as he pushed a button that let the huge doors open and the light stream in from the runway, “but luckily, Sonic had an idea for that.”

Shadow frowned. “Well, whatever it is, I hope it's not another-”

Tails held out a steel-reinforced rope. Shadow's expression fell.

“-goddamn rope. I hate you both.”




“Woooh! Shadow, you holding up okay?!”

Sonic's question was yelled over the rushing winds as the Tornado roared across the sky above the ocean, and the black hedgehog with his spread pinions had to read the words more from his lips than he actually heard them. It was hard enough to balance himself in the jet's slipstream and keep his hands holding the rope from freezing, anyway. Though he never would have admitted it, the Ultimate Lifeform was glad when finally, the white-and-grey northernmost continent that was their destination came into view and he could let go of the rope as Tails brought the Tornado in to land. 

“I'm going to drop you off here,” the fox kit said, not even bothering to turn off the engine as Sonic climbed out of the plane. “Just keep heading north, and you should eventually get to some civilisation. Chaos Emeralds have a habit of not staying undetected long, I don't think they should be too hard to find. Someone's probably noticed something. Oh, and Sonic...” the small fox kit bit his lip, as if he had to be the bearer of unwelcome news and didn't want to be. The hero of Mobius laid a hand on the shoulder.

“What is it, bro?”

“As you keep heading North, the sun will sink. You'll head ever deeper into the Arctic circle. And...” Tails took a deep breath. “It won't come up again while you're there.” 

“...right.” Sonic nodded, his face set. He sighed, his breath clouding in little white puffs in front of his face. “Well at least we'll be spared the transforming pain, I guess,” he summed it up sardonically. “Plus, I think the wolf will be better suited to dealing with these temperatures than our songbird here....”

“The 'songbird' is going to rip your vocal cords out in a minute.”

“Right. Moving along...” Sonic strode off along the path quickly, although it had to be said that cutting Shadow's words though were, by now they lacked some of the venom they earlier had been loaded with. Tails' guess was that the dark hedgehog was either getting more used to his transformation, or, (was that possible?) was getting more used to Sonic...

“Okay,” the kit said instead. “I'll try to locate the next emerald while you're gone and have a look at the two you brought in. I've given you that transmitter, Sonic – Shadow, try not to let him lose it – just call me when you need to be picked up again, wherever you are.”

“Sure. Thanks, bro!” Sonic called, waving as the plane soared into the stormy heavens again, leaving the two hedgehogs behind on the frozen ground. There were patches of snow around already, though mostly it was a brownish-grey tundra-like wasteland, the only plants clinging fiercely to the ground like moss, the only noise the rushing of the winds and the thunder of the icy sea against the rocky shores. Up ahead, the sky was getting darker and that would be their course.

“Holoska,” Sonic said, the name itself seeming to tinkle in the air like ice. “Ever been there, Shadow?”

“No,” the black hedgehog shook his head.

“Alright then,” the blue-furred hedgehog nodded, rubbing his arms in the freezing wind, and there was a smile on his face again. “I've been here before. Looking forward to showing you all the sights.”

He really means it, Shadow thought as the blue hero had taken off, running below him at a speedy pace that the winged hedgehog nevertheless could keep up with, he really IS looking forward to this adventure with me. Even if it means he will have to spend night and day in his wolf form....

And for some reason, Shadow couldn't help himself but feel at least a tiny bit flattered.




The landscape changed as they kept running. At first, snow started to fall, and when they didn't slow down, soon covered the ground the deeper they pushed north. They had come across a road, which, even if not asphalt, was at least downtrodden snow, and made running easier for Sonic, so they stuck to it. There were already ice crystals sticking to the end of their quills and night was beginning to fall fast, letting the temperature drop down further. None of them was shivering yet – Shadow was built to resist environments well below zero degrees and Sonic had a metabolism that cheerfully ignored any air temperatures above absolute freezing point anyway, as long as its owner kept running and eating – but nightfall would mean other problems.

“Shadow!” Sonic called up. “The sun's gonna vanish soon! You should fly above the road, just in case!”

“Yeah, yeah!” the black hedgehog replied, not really paying attention to the other's words. He would know when he had to land, and the snow beside the road looked softer to land in, anyway. And just as the Ultimate Lifeform had expected, the sun did go under just then, and the tell-tale shudders began to crawl through his body. He spread his wings as wide as he could, to break his fall as the feathers trailed away on the Northern winds.

“Shadow, no! I told you to-!”

It turned out the only thing he hadn't expected....


...was the depth of the snow beside the road.

“Having fun down there?” An amused Sonic's face appeared in the bit of grey sky Shadow could barely see from his icy hole.

“Ha-ha. Help me out of here.”

“The impression you made looks really funny from above, you know. Like a starfish.”

“I said-

“I know, I know. Hold on,” the blue hedgehog said, at the same time taking off the green scarf he seemed to be wearing more for fashionable than practical use anyway. “Here. Grab a hold.”

“...thank you.” Shadow uttered the words with a bit, as it were, coldness in his voice, but to Sonic they seemed warm enough. He gave Shadow another smile.

“You're welcome.”

Then the blue hero cocked his head. “Hey, you don't seem to be as grumpy as usual today. What changed?”

“Well...” the black hedgehog shook the last bit of snow out of his quills, stretching his back a bit now that it wasn't full of feathers. “I...had a bit of a talk with Rouge. About how wings aren't the worst that can happen.”

“Glad you think so,” the blue speedster replied, his smile becoming a bit wider and reaching his eyes now. “Because, you know, “ he said, looking at the sky now, “I don't think this adventure was the worst that could happen, either.”

And before Shadow could say anything else, the blue hero had already taken off again, running along at a speed close to sound, apparently determined to cover as much ground as possible in the short time span from nightfall till moonrise. Shadow, a bit taken aback for just a heartbeat, recovered quickly enough and followed the other into darkness, territory uncharted.




There were lights in the distance. Shadow, whose eyes were better than Sonic's, could barely see them, but they indicated finally a town not too far away. Before he could say anything to the blue speedster, though, Sonic stopped him himself.

“One moment. It's starting.”

The gaze of the Ultimate Lifeform whipped to the sky, although of course he already knew what the other meant. Up above, pale and beautiful and unfeeling, rose the moon – and the first rays of reflected light were just falling down on them, letting the snow glisten beneath the starry sky and the blue hero next to him shiver like not even the cold could have made him.

“Ah-!” Sonic had dropped to his hands and knees now, a strangled cry of pain dying in his throat as even his larynx was forced to transform. Shadow's hands balled to fists as he had to watch the hero of Mobius lower his head in pain, pressing his face into the snow in agony. It wasn't right that either of them had to suffer like this!

Bones cracked. Teeth broke forth, staining the snow beneath red. Tendons snapped and healed.  A stifled scream escaped from contorted lips that had grinned at him just moments ago, eyes squeezed shut in hurting. Shadow had seen lots of displays of pain before, had experienced it himself, on his own body, just that very morning but this...the dark hedgehog's closed fist began to tremble. Why was this suddenly so much worse?

I...I want to help you, I really do...Sonic...

The Ultimate Lifeform stretched out a hand to the prone figure writhing, the sounds of the other's agony cutting into his heart like they hadn't when they had fought before. It was the first time he witnessed the other's transformation properly and decided it was just as bad as his own, if not worse. But still his hand hovered in the air, and he couldn't bring himself to even touch the shuddering hero, provide some comfort if nothing else. His hand lowered and the dark hedgehog closed his eyes instead, standing like a silent watchman next to the other as the transformation finally, mercifully, ended, even if his insides were screaming. 

“Ugh...” Sonic's lower timbre indicated that the process was over as the wolf rose, shaking his dark blue fur free of clinging snow. “Sorry you had to see that. I don't think it's very pretty from the outside, either,” he said, stretching himself a bit like a giant dog.

Shadow shook his head. “It's okay.” His face hardened. “But if I find the one responsible for putting us through this, I will make sure they suffer worse.”

Sonic sucked some air through his teeth. The Ultimate Lifeform's words had sounded sharper than the cutting wind.

“Damn, Shads...” he mumbled, taking a step closer to him in the snow, the bulk of his body protecting the now smaller hedgehog a bit against the gale. “That bad for you, huh?”

“Well...” his black-furred doppelganger seemed to fight for words for one moment, crossing his arms and looking the other way before he continued. “Just now I...I just don't like what it does to either of us.” He turned around abruptly as soon as he'd said it. “Let's get going before we freeze to death.”




The night flew by like a curtain of stars, chilly and silent and endless. The footprints of the pair of travelers were the only ones visible, huge, paired and five-padded imprints where the wolf had run, and a trail that looked like some kind of skiing madman had come through behind Shadow, snow blasted aside by skating shoes. Nevertheless, the lights ahead were drawing closer, and soon they were able to see structures of the dwellings, low wooden huts, small stone houses and round things that Shadow wondered might be igloos, even if he had only ever seen those things in picture books when  younger. They slowed down when they approached what qualified as perhaps the first outpost of this 'town', something that in summer perhaps could have been a hut with a fence around a garden. There were somewhat strange-looking marks in the snow around a smaller tool shed with some canisters stacked in front of it, indicating that there was probably someone living in there, too. A lamp burning at the doorway bathed the place at least in semi-darkness, even if it only made the shadows at the edge of the circle of light dance; Shadow began to feel as if there was something in the darkness, just waiting to pounce on them, when their back was turned. Sonic seemed to feel the same, apparently – the wolf's fur on his back had started to rise, and there was a low growl rising from his throat. They paused in their approach to the houses.

“Something is not right here,” Shadow said quietly. “We should-”

And that was all he could say, because next he was already cut off by that most distinctive of sounds which was a gun clicking in the dark.

“Stay right there, you misshapen creature! We all knew you would be back!”


To be continued...



Chapter end notes:
Author's Note: Well, here it is at last. Sorry its taken so long, but I lost my job and Taranea sadly lost a family member, so we've been a bit screwed up for a while.
But you guys have got your fix just before Summer of Sonic rolls around again. And if anyone else is attending that event, look out for Tails the Blacksmith hanging out with Sir Blaze Percival and Sir Shadow Lancelot... that'll be me and Tara in cosplay. Feel free to say hi!
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