Having just barely made it back to the floating space station before the gold completely bled out of his azure fur, Sonic watches through a small window as the hedgehog he had quickly grown to call a friend and rival during their fight against the Bio-lizard (despite their rather violent first encounter) turns into a flaming streak of light against the backdrop of the blue planet. Tears still streaming down his fawn muzzle, Sonic repeatedly beats the thick metal of the hull with tattered gloved fists, denting it in his rage and grief.
Finally wiping away any lingering tears, the azure hero carefully composes himself before heading over to everyone in the main control room. When he gets there, they all run up to him, this time congratulating him in person. Immediately Rouge and several seconds later Tails, notice that they are one hedgehog short and giving a quick look around the immediate vicinity to be sure that they hadn’t overlooked the hog in question, Tails turns to Sonic. Upon closer inspection, Tails sees that the hedgehog is unusually emotionless. His smile is too small and lacks real feeling, his eyes dull and without their usual fire.
Speaking up and gaining the groups attention, Rouge turns to the hero, “Sonic, where is Shadow? I though he would have come back with you?”
Flinching at the expected question and turning to face the white bat, the azure hedgehog takes a deep shuddering breath and completely lets it out before locking it back inside and answering the curious stairs.
“Shadow......he, didn’t make it.”
Hearing this, the group becomes shocked as they let this information sink in. Rouge is understandably distraught as she had been the closest to the misguided ebony. Tails and Knuckles both place a hand each on a blue and fawn shoulder knowing how much he was affected by the bio-hogs death. Sonic was the type to go to the ends of the universe for those he considered friends and had a special spot for those who had it particularly hard. Shadow, being the special case he was, what with his past and present troubles, had fallen directly under Sonic's sights. As such, the hero had made it his personal mission to help him along despite Shadow's constant negativity (and constantly trying to kill him) as he was a strong believer of giving others another chance.
They may not agree with this philosophy of his, Knuckles in particular thought it naive of Sonic to so completely trust in someone he just met, to only see the good in them as he though that his freely given trust would get him killed someday. Sonic had done the same for him when they had first met. He had tried to kill the cocky azure, had nearly succeeded, but Sonic was stubborn and had gained his trust, undying loyalty and respect. Though he still manged to drive Knuckles ten different ways up the wall, he was grateful for what Sonic had done for him, but it might not end so well with the next person. Shadow had nearly proven him right by trying to blow up the planet and very nearly succeeding had he not had a change of heart and started helping them at the last moment.
For Sonic who's very nature compels him to help those in need and to not let a single person get hurt, let alone die, to not be able to save someone who he had invested so much into, someone he would have gladly given up more for, when he was right there with them and still not being able to help them, they knew it had hit him hard, knew that it just had to be tearing the hero apart.
“All he had needed was someone to help him see the truth and when he finally had, this happens! It's just too sad!” Amy sniffles.
Sonic pulls her into a comforting hug, Knuckles doing the same to a grieving Rouge. After a moment of silence punctuated by the occasional sniffle or hiccup, Amy and the rest of the group follow Tails back to his ship since they have nothing left there, Sonic lagging behind. Being the last to leave the room, Sonic takes a moment to stare out the long glass window at the beautiful planet outside, left hand fiddling with a single golden ring clamped around his right wrist, a lone tear dampening his cheek.
'I will find you Shadow, you better count on it.'
Since that incident, a week has passed and Sonic had been searching the glob for even the smallest trace of Shadow's remains with the unknowing help of Tails. At first the little fox did not want to help him.
“Sonic! There's no way anything could have survived reentry through the planets atmosphere without any protective shielding!”
“Dammit Tails! He's the Ultimate Lifeform! I'm sure he could have survived something like that!”
“Even if some of him did manage to survive, it would probably be unrecognizable! Sonic, I don't want you to see that, you would only be hurting your self unnecessarily by looking for him and I don't want that to happen.”
With Tails' refusal, Sonic had gotten desperate as he didn't think he could find Shadow without the foxes help. Thinking quickly and remembering the lone inhibitor ring he had found floating near the A.R.K. that was now under his protection, he got an idea.
“Fine then! But please, at least help me look for his inhibitor rings! I don't want them falling into Eggman's hands. Who knows what kind of havoc he could do with them.”
Happy that Sonic seemed to have abandoned his plan of looking for Shadow's remains, Tails had jumped at the opportunity to help look for the lost ebony's rings, hoping that in finding them, his brother would be able to let go of his guilt from not being able to save his dark counterpart. Of course Sonic hadn't told Tails that he already had one of the rings, and though he had appeared to give up, he had every intention of finding the missing hedgehog.
After all, he is the Ultimate Lifeform that just so happened to be extremely hard to kill and particularly stubborn. He just had to be alive. Sonic couldn't take it if he really was dead. And chaos forbid, if he really is dead, he at least deserves a proper burial, one he would see to personally. As it just so happens, Sonic did actually have a plan. He was hoping that the other ring hadn't strayed too far from Shadow and if he could find said inhibitor ring, then Shadow (or his remains) will hopefully be in the same general vicinity.
At least, that's what he was hoping. To make sure that Tails did not find out about the ring he already had, he had gone a long way off to hide it in an old homely shack he had found and converted so that the scanner wouldn't pick it up and he could extend the duration of the search in hopes of finding the rings owner. With the added bonus of keeping Tails from getting suspicious of his actions. He thought about letting Rouge in on his plan, as he felt that she had just as much right to know about it considering how close she was to the Ultimate Lifeform, but had decided against it as the less people who knew about it, the less chance there was of someone finding out about it.
Now that he had Tails help, Sonic had thought that his search would have gone much faster. In a way it had as he didn't have to spend as much time going through each area before moving on, but even so, he hadn’t found any trace of Shadow or his inhibitor ring and this made Sonic that much more desperate. The longer it took for him to find his dark counterpart the higher the chances were of him not making it in time. He had to keep telling himself that Shadow was still alive as the days dragged by, more and more passing as he fought the ever growing voice in the back of his head telling him that he was already too late and that it was no use. For as long as he could keep the voice quiet and the doubts at bay, he could keep himself together.
At least, that’s what he kept telling himself. The longer it took, the more he broke. For a while he had managed to cover it up, acting like he normally would around his friends, even when alone he kept the facade up, not letting anything slip through the outer shell while inside he was a damn mess. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep it up forever and as he started to crack, he secluded himself to his shack deep in the forest. After all, it was all his fault, right? If he had noticed in time, he could have been able to save Shadow. Would have had enough energy to get the both of them back to the A.R.K. safely. Shadow wouldn’t have had to get burnt to a crisp only to fall through space to become an unrecognizable filthy bloody mangled smear on the planet while every one goes on with their life like nothing was wrong!
But then again, why is he getting mad at them? It's him after all, that let Shadow fall to his death. So logically, it's him who has to save him right? Even so, he had to keep strong, to keep looking for the lost hedgehog even as his hopes of finding him alive dwindled to nothing. At least he had one thing he could be thankful for. Since their return to the planet Eggman had not shown his face once, probably still wallowing in his defeat at their hands. Or perhaps he too was morning Shadow's untimely death, they hadn't been close but had shared a slight mutual respect for each other. Thinking about Shadow had spurred him back into action and with the sudden overwhelmingly lonely feel of the shed/cabin, he was more than happy to continue his search.
From the previous thought of Eggman an idea had taken hold of Sonic. Why not try looking for Eggman's abandoned bases? It was unlikely that Shadow's trajectory would have landed him near one, but even so, why not give it a shot? After hours of searching random forests and mountain ranges and still not finding any of the elusive bases, Sonic had become rather frustrated. Usually it doesn't take long to find the fat man's damn lairs so the fact that he hadn’t found even one yet was absolutely ridiculous! Pissed and severely feed up, Sonic threw Tails' scanner as hard as he could towards a tree several yards away and surprisingly missed, the scanner instead falling into a large bush off to the side of the intended tree.
Sonic would have just left it there too and just walked away had his sensitive ears not picked up the sound of faint beeping. Astonished, he paused a moment hoping that he wasn't hallucinating before rushing over to the bush and diving in, coming back up with his brother's scanner and a rather large golden ring. A rather large golden ring that just so happened to belong to a rather pissy ebony hedgehog. He couldn’t believe it. He'd been running around this particular forest for the last five minutes and not once did the scanner go off! Why? He knows that Tails had told him that the machine had a large search radius so it should have picked up on the ring some time ago! Whatever, he was too happy to care!
With renewed hope Sonic began his search anew, almost flying from one area of the forest to another.