``L-like this Dad?'' Scout sputtered, using my outstretched hand to keep his head above water. The small cyan pup was still learning to swim, and after the last incident at the lake, it had taken some coaxing to get the boy back into the water. And it didn't help that his mother, another certain blue-furred hedgehog, was clinging to my head like a monkey, refusing to let his body touch the water.
``Yes, you're doing wonderfully. Don't forget to kick your feet under you, it will help you stay above the water.'' I smile patiently, reaching out to grab my son's shoulders and lift him higher.
``Mommy look at meee!'' Scout's twin, Abilene, squeals in delight as she doggy-paddles around us. As much as I want to correct my daughter and teach her a more.. refined, and effective swimming style, she was proud of the aquatic flailing she'd mastered, and I don't want to tell her she's wrong when she's technically not. Sonic reacted to his daughter's call, lifting his head from the protective ball atop my head to watch his child swim.
``Y-you're doing g-great honey...'' Sonic managed, grinning weakly at his little girl as she made another circle around our family. Clinging to my quills and being nervous wasn't exactly the best way to encourage his children to enjoy swimming, but so far they seemed to be doing well.
I purred softly as I remembered the actions that had lead both me and him to this moment. It had been during a party that a more-than-tipsy Sonic had admitted his affections to me, and I had also been completely hammered. We spent the night together in a nearby hotel, and not long later Sonic had announced that he was pregnant. Unlike almost all males, Sonic is a hermaphrodite, meaning he could become pregnant. I wish I had known before I knocked him up, but I also don't regret it.
I had been completely shocked by this revelation, as I'd always been told that I would never have children, but I did my best to provide for Sonic during the nine months he carried my progeny. He was ecstatic when he found out I wanted to keep them, as he'd always wanted children of his own and was afraid I'd want to get rid of them.
Now, nearly seven years later, Sonic and I are married happily, with the blue maniac having finally retired from his heroism to raise the twins in a quiet village called Big Forest Town. I continued to work for GUN to ensure my family has food on the table.
In other words, we had become.... Normal. Almost, anyways. Raising two super-powered kids wasn't the easiest life.
Something cold and muscular touches my leg, and I look down, nearly lashing out when I realize what it is. A water moccasin. While hedgehogs are immune to most snake venom, my children are not fully grown. A single bite could easily be the end of my boy or my girl.
Without another thought, I grab Scout and toss him as far as I can toward the shore, ignoring his mother's shout of protest and his sister's squeal of surprise as I do the same to her, relieved that they are out of harms way at the moment.
Looking back down, I swallow as the snake has disappeared beneath the lake's somewhat murky waters. It's at this time I decide to inform my upset mate about the reason I chucked the kids across the lake.
``-can barely swim Shadow! What are you think-''
``Snake. Big one.'' The short response is all I need to quiet him, as he is also aware of the threat a snake poses to the children.
``Dad? Mom?'' The twins are calling for us from the bank, confused and scared.
Their mother is quick to keep them from returning to us. ``Stay where you are! There's a snake! Put your shoes on!'' I feel his form shift, and he lowers his legs into the water and starts wading towards them. I feel proud of him, that he's willing to fight his fears to make sure his children are okay, but another part of me wants to box his ears and put him back on my head. The moccasin's venom is completely negated by my immune system, but if it were to bite him, he'd be on bed-rest for at least three days.
He's aware of this, and continues anyways, taking great care to test his footing before he moves. I follow after him, ready to snatch my beloved out of the water at the slightest sign of the serpent. Thankfully, it never comes to that. We arrive back at the bank and hurriedly put our shoes back on. It's time to go home.
Sitting on the oversized recliner with my kids dozing in my lap is one of my favorite ways to end a day. Especially one that had a touch of danger to it. In front of me, Shadow tends to a crackling fire in the fireplace, the warmth of it making me drowsy as well. He's on his knees scraping the old ash out of the fireplace so that the new flame isn't smothered. He stands, dusts himself off, and then disposes of the ash. I can't help but purr as the fire grows, filling the room with warmth and light.
Shadow returns with the blanket from our bed, and in one smooth move he lifts his whole family into his arms and settles himself into the cushions, holding his pups close while I snuggle against his side.
As the night goes on, I find myself unbearably happy with the way my life has turned out. Many people thought that I wouldn't be able to raise a family due to my lack-luster education and general inability to sit still. But now, I'm glad to have proven them wrong. My kids are smart and respectful, and both have inherited my `goody-two-shoes personality' as Shadow has lovingly described it.
Shadow is also expected to get a raise soon, so we have almost saved enough money to take the kids to Mystic Jungle to meet their Uncle Knuckles for the first time since they were born. Tails visits them often, and Amy practically drowns the poor things in gifts and affection. Shadow worries that she's spoiling them. I don't mind it quite so much, as I love to see their happy faces when they get something new. And I'm not afraid to admit that Shadow and I both enjoy our romantic rendezvous when the twins stay with their Godmother Vanilla for the weekend.
Speaking of the twin devils, Scout is turning out to be quite the little mini-me. There's barely a shade of difference between our coats, if you look past the charcoal colored stripes on his upturned quills. Out of the two of them, he is the one who doesn't need rocket shoes to keep up. My little Abi, on the other hand, is almost a carbon copy of her dad. She is a dark, almost blue-black kind of color. Shadow calls it `navy', but it's a more saturated color than that. She had down-turned quills like mine, accented with bright, royal blue stripes. Her only oddity is a bright green line that runs along her top quill, ending in a diamond on her forehead. Scout has a similar spot on his forehead, with his being a cyan dot.
I'm woken before dawn by Shadow, shifting beneath us to check his phone. It's lit up, buzzing like mad. I lift my head from the tuft of white fur on his chest, ears flicking. He frowns apologetically at me before answering it.
``Hello?'' he asks, quiet enough to not wake the kids. I'm close enough that I can hear the person on the other side. It sounds like Rouge's partner, Topaz.
``Agent Shadow, there's a problem at Station Square, Commander Towers is calling in all units to respond. He's specifically demanding you be there before 0600.'' I glance at the clock, grimacing as that's barely ten minutes from now. What on earth are they thinking calling at this hour and giving him ten minutes to cross the country? Shads doesn't keep a chaos emerald around because he doesn't want Abi or Scout playing with it.
``I'm not sure I can make it by then, I have no way of chaos controlling, and running would take at least twenty minutes.'' he informed, voice neutral but his expression is enough. He's irritated by how little thought Towers gave to Shadow's location. It makes me angry too. For all the hard work he's put into the job, he's gotten surprisingly little appreciation for it. I think it's about time he goes and knocks some sense into Towers. Shadow thinks that's a bad idea.
``Just be quick Shadow.'' Topaz loses her authoritative tone in favor of something more understanding, ``Station Square is under attack and people are getting hurt. Towers also wanted you to bring Sonic, but I'm not sure-''
``No.'' Shadow interrupts, baring his teeth, ``Sonic does not work for GUN, Towers cannot command him. Besides, we have two kids at home, we can't just leave them.''
``Yes, I know. I'm just the messenger, Shadow. Whatever you decide, make it fast. We're suffering casualties.'' My head lifts higher, eyes widening as I meet Shadow's gaze. He hangs up the phone without another word and gently shifts the kids into my lap so he can stand.
``Casualties?'' I whisper, alarmed by the thought. My old hero instincts are still there, and if I didn't have two young kids I'd be putting my shoes on.
Shadow sighs softly, ``Honestly it's probably a ploy Towers put her up to to get your attention. At worst, Eggman's kicking up some dust. Don't worry about it.'' Shadow then leaves to get his uniform and shoes. When he returns, I silently admire the sight of my beloved. Tall and noble, with a look of refined power. Something I've always loved about him. He leans down and kisses each child on the forehead, whispering his love for them and saying he's got to go to work. Then, satisfied that they've heard him, he raises himself to my level and presses his lips to mine. It's heartfelt and I can practically feel his desire to stay, to snuggle back up with us and forget about the situation that's two hundred miles east.
He finally lets go, his eyes reflecting his inner frustration as the soldier looks over the furry pile that is his family. I don't want him to go. I never do. I think he can see it in my eyes, the same way I can see his desires. He whispers a broken apology, kisses me again, and leaves.
I can't shake the feeling that I should never have let him go this time.
Hours later, I rouse the kids for school, shepherding the two as they amble around like zombies looking for reasons to stay home and/or trying to play sick. I am, however, not as naive as I once was when it comes to the tricks children play. All it takes is for me to cross my arms and look stern, and my troublesome duo give up on the antics. Thankfully.
I have just finished making their lunches for them when the phone goes off, catching my attention. I lift it and check the number, surprised to find that it's Shadow. He almost never calls when he's at work. Hesitantly, I answer it.
``Sonic, I don't have a lot of time, it's dangerous here, but I need to let you know. We're being invaded by an army. Robots, and they're not Eggman's robots either. They're designed to kill everyone and everything. Keep the kids home, call the mayor and get him to keep the town on alert.
``We were trying to keep them confined to the city, but they got past the blockade. These robots are running loose and we still don't know what their main objective is. They're extremely fast too. I don't know how far they've gotten, but be careful. I love you, I'll be home as soon as I can.''
``I love you too-'' I manage to say it before we lose connection, the phone he was using died or the connection was cut or something. I turn back to see the kids waiting for me at the door, eyes wide with concern and confusion.
``Mommy, are you okay?'' Abi asks, dropping her backpack and hugging me. I blink, rubbing my head to disrupt the fearful thoughts that were threatening to make me panic.
``Yeah, I'm okay.'' I manage, ``Mommy's okay. Daddy called, and says you guys can stay home today.'' Seeing their widening eyes fill with joy made me feel a little bit better, but I couldn't help but worry about my husband. Scout mentioned something about going for ice cream which once again pulled me from my thoughts, ``Sorry honey but no. If you're going to play sick today, then we are all gonna stay home.''
``Aww Mom...'' both of them whine, crestfallen at my decision. I scoop them both up, on in each arm, and head for the kitchen, ``However, we do have a small container of chocolate ice cream left over from Daddy's birthday-'' the twins cut me off with a whoop of joy, giggling and debating who gets to have the bigger bowl. Smiling, I give each of them an equal serving, watching Scout fuss as Abi teased him. Scout is always convinced he'll get the bigger share, which is why I will never let them get their own ice cream. The duo are very, very competitive.
Reminding myself to do what Shads has asked of me, I called the Mayor to tell him what I just learned. Needless to say, he was not happy about me calling him at six in the morning to tell him there was a robot invasion on the other side of the continent. He refused to do anything, believing whole-heartedly in the government's ability to control the situation. I did my best to explain to him that they already failed to do so, but during the middle of my angry tirade, the line made a familiar clicking noise. I'd been hung up on like some common instigator.
Slapping the phone down on the counter with a growl, I turned to the table, smiling softly at the sight of my children giggling to each other, their faces covered in sticky, melted ice cream. I run a small washcloth under some warm water, and go over to clean their faces.
Part of me feels like I'm not doing enough. Like I should be out there fighting to protect people. Like I'm failing the world by staying home. But another, bigger part tells me that there is nothing wrong about what I'm doing. I'm choosing to protect my kids... my babies... I can't leave them and charge off to war, possibly never to return. I can't do that to them. It was done to me, once, and I'll never forget what it felt like.
Tossing the dirty rag into the laundry room -while scowling as I remember I need to wash the rest of Abi's school clothes- I step out onto the front porch and gaze into the giant forest. I know that Shadow isn't about to erupt from the bushes like the sneaky bastard he is, but I wish he would. I want him home already. I hate that he's out there, alone, fighting off some robot monsters. Undoubtedly he's thinking about us. He's sweet that way, always thoughtful and gentle and...
Chaos, what's wrong with me? Thinking about him isn't going to bring him home sooner. It'll just distract me from caring for my kids. He'll come home when he can. I turn and walk back inside, deciding to do the laundry while I wait. Going into the twins' room, I collect their laundry hamper and balance it on my hip, heading next for the bathroom to retrieve the dirty towels and whatnot.
As I'm coming out, Scout nearly domes himself on the underside of the hamper, Abi careens to a halt behind him, wide grin vanishing the moment my eyes meet hers.
``Will you two stop running in the hallway? How many times have I told you?'' I scold lightly, looking every bit like a frazzled mom as I shift to scan Scout's face. Aside from a small red mark on his forehead, he seems fine.
``Sorry.'' the two squeak out, ducking under the basket of clothes to escape to their room, where they are bound to partake in some silly game of pretend. I roll my eyes and smile, remembering when Tails and I were like that, little enough to play carelessly, without worry of robots or aliens or anything else that sound like it could come from a comic or video game.
I lightly kick a toy away from my feet as I re-enter the laundry room, not wanting to step on it and hurt my foot... or gods forbid I break it, the kids would have a meltdown. I plop the heavy basket down on the top of the dryer with a huff, frowning as a wave of dizziness washes over me. I haven't drank anything today, but I shouldn't be dizzy either. I had more than my fair share of water yesterday when Scout practically mowed me down in the lake. That was part of the reason I ended up clinging to Shadow's head like a particularly large and affectionate parasite. Thank Chaos he can hold me up without much effort. I would feel horrible if I had drowned us both.
Without much thought, I load Abi's uniforms into the washer and start it on the usual cycle, then head to the kitchen for breakfast. I had fed the kids earlier, just before we were going to leave, while I had been planning to eat once I got home. I make my way to the kitchen and open the fridge with a tug, frowning at what I saw. I'll need to go grocery shopping soon. I had just grabbed the eggs when I heard a loud ``Moooooooooooom! Scout took Noodle and won't give her back!''
I deflate against the door of the fridge, suddenly feeling tired, ``Then take Rocket.'' I call back, almost immediately hearing Scout return the stuffed toy he took from his sister. Noodle and Rocket. Interesting names for my kid's toys. Noodle is a cream colored bunny toy Vanilla made for Abi, while Rocket is a grey dog toy, made by the same gentle old bunny. Both kids have had these toys from the moment of their birth, and have stubbornly refused to put them down. I caught Scout yesterday trying to sneak his to the lake with us.
I know Shadow would have let him do it, but then it would need to be washed, and that means Scout would have to live without it for at least an hour, and separating a seven year old with their favorite toy is like trying to separate two halves of an atom. It doesn't end well. Chaos only knows how I managed to do it yesterday without the kids each having their own mental breakdown.
I look at the egg carton in my hands and grimace, hunger slowly replaced by swelling nausea. I put it back in the fridge and make my way to the bathroom, shutting the door and fanning myself as a wave of heat rolls over me. I think I'm about to puke, and no amount of swallowing or water guzzling is gonna help me.
Hardly a full minute later, I empty my already hollow stomach into the toilet. Once, twice, and a third time leaves me dry heaving. I cough and spit, downing more water with a grimace as I try to banish the foul after-taste. I still feel unusually hot, with an aching stomach and slowly forming headache. The sensation is familiar, but I can't place the last time I felt quite like this. It doesn't feel quite like any other time I caught a cold, despite how similar it sounds. I lean up and flush the toilet, before sitting on the small rug and leaning on the wall. Today is not my best day.
Was it anxiety perhaps? Becoming a mother has come with a whole bundle of new stresses, especially now that I'm alone with the kids while my mate is far away, unable to help if something goes wrong.
The door slowly creaks open, and I'm presented with the worried faces of my twins, one hanging off the doorknob, while the other is leaning around the foot of the door.
``Are you okay?'' as if on que, both pups ask the same question. I wonder, briefly, if I should have given them similar names. I nod, giving a weak smile.
``I'm okay, just not feeling very good.''
``You haven't eaten, have you? Daddy always says you get sick when you don't eat.'' Abilene proclaims, sounding slightly like me when I'm miffed. My seven year old daughter is scolding me. I quirk an eye ridge at her, as if to ask her what she think she's doing. The small blue hoglet frowns and tucks herself behind the door again, aware she may have just overstepped her bounds.
Deciding to let the transgression pass, I stand and shakily make my way out of the bathroom, heading towards the bedroom. I want to lay down and rest. Food just sounds bad right now, my appetite has gone from me. My kids follow along like little ducklings, swarming my feet and clinging to my legs. I have barely made it into my bed when suddenly the duo are also up there, snuggling into the covers with me.
I'm too tired to chase them off. I'll fuss at them later, if I remember to anyways.
I wake at noon, finding the twins already awake and playing a game of Toy War, with their respective stuffed animals as the armies, and my side as the playing field. Already, I can see a pile of `deceased' critters at the foot of the bed, while Noodle defeats another unnamed stuffed animal and tosses it with the others.
Maybe Shadow shouldn't have told them what his job was...
Grocery shopping turned out to be a mad man's task, as rumor of Station Square's attack has finally reached the people of Big Forest and has caused a surge in doomsday preppers. The racks are practically empty, with the occasional can of baked beans or instant pasta left behind. None the less, I manage to find enough food to last our little trio a few weeks, and I go to check out, only to be greeted by an empty check-out isle. The clerk was probably hiding in the back afraid we'd do something to him if we saw him.
I make a mental note to pay them later, and take my family and our goods home. On the way out to the parking lot, I catch sight of our car -a cherry red one Shadow got me for my birthday- being scoped out by a stranger. ``Kids, stay near me.'' I say, feeling the twins grasp my wrist as I continue heading towards the car. When we get close enough for the man to hear us, I call out: ``Hey, can you step away from my car please?'' His reaction is immediate, taking several steps backward and raising his hands.
``Sorry! I thought it was mine.'' Right. He hurries away, disappearing around then corner of the store briefly before tearing out of the parking lot in a run-down pick up truck. How could you possibly mistake a brand-new cherry-red car, for your nasty rust bucket? I think to myself in irritation as I load the groceries into the trunk and buckle my kids into their car seats. Just some looter probably looking to get his hands on an expensive car. I plop into the driver's seat, still feeling drained from this morning and having not eaten at all today.
I start the car while grabbing a pack of old crackers from the middle console. They're stale, but honestly I don't care. I just need to get something into my stomach. Popping one into my mouth, I carefully weave through the parking lot and all the stray shopping carts until I get to the main road and drive us all home.
I felt a lot better for most of the day, with the weird sickness beginning to return later at night.