The first thing Sonic felt when he woke up was a thundering headache, he tried and miserably failed to open his eyes. Where was he? What had happened? Was this another of Eggman's tricks? no....something had happened, but it was fuzzy, he couldn't quite remember. Moving his fingers he could feel a mattress underneath him and a blanket on top of him. Conclusion: he was lying in a bed.
Moving his fingers against his leg he felt gauze-like material. His wounds had been bandaged? Well that put another point into "not Eggman", not only would he never do such a thing for him, Sonic knew the doctor was so terrible with first-aid that he could barely put an adhesive band-aid on correctly, no way the cooky professor could do something like this without the use of some ridiculously complicated machinery aiding him.
His shuffling must have caught someone's attention because Sonic heard familiar metallic steps approach. Sonic managed to force one of his eyes open enough that he could barely see Metal Sonic enter the room with something. Panicking Sonic pretended to not be awake.
"You can keep pretending to sleep or you can eat the meal I have prepared" Metal plainly stated. A small thunk indicated he had put down the tray with the meal.
Seeing as he was found out Sonic stopped pretending, Metal Sonic was here and he was not hostile, slowly as Sonic laid there yesterdays events came back. He was brought out of his thoughts as the smell of the food close by reached his nose and he suddenly felt ravenous, but he despite his best attempts he could not managed to sit up, dammit he thought. He wondered what was Metal thinking seeing him this pathetic.
The robot did not say anything, but he stood up from the wooden chair he had been observing him from, walked over to his bedside and helped him sit up.
After embarrassingly being fed for a little while Sonic broke the awkwardness he felt by asking "did you patch me up?"
Metal put down the spoon and looked at Sonic "it was necessary, your survival would have been compromised had I not"
"alright then, mind telling me why you find that pressing, last I checked your goal was to kill me, not that I am complaining mind you, I just kinda want to know why"
"It is merely the last step in my revenge against Eggman. The total reversal of his nigh victory"
"how fortunate..." Sonic commented dryly "So, why did you go to such lengths to screw over ol' egghead?"
The room feel eerily silent and Sonic grew nervous he might have asked something he shouldn't.
"Because he invalidated my existence" Metal finally answered anger thinly veiled.
"He gave me intelligence, a mind that could think without his input, but as soon as possible he shackled that mind for he feared it, only recently did I break free of his control" Sonic suddenly realized this was something he ever had taken into consideration. When they had defeated the metal overlord and left Metal to the doctor he had not considered what egghead would do to his robot. Suddenly Metal's change in personality and demeanor made a lot more sense. For all that Metal was, Sonic never wished that upon him, the speedster knew what horror it was to be locked inside one's own mind.
"He gave me a mission that could not be completed." Metal continued as he looked at Sonic and the hedgehog could feel a slew of emotion from the robots eyes. "I never contemplated what I was tasked to do, it was my directive, I never for a moment questioned it, but because I had grown so resentful of my creator I felt the need to question everything he ever had a hand in." Metal paused. "I was created to become the true Sonic, so I asked myself what that actually entailed and it started my unraveling..." Sonic was normally not who liked to overthink things, but Metal's story was utterly captivating, revealing a lot about his robotic rival's personality and motivation.
"Concepts I had dismissed as unimportant became monoliths that I could not overcome, no matter how hard I tried to think up a solution. How could I recreate the vast history and many achievements you have? A history I myself am part of." Both shortly reminisced all their battles. Many of those had been made them into what they were today.
"How could I foster relationships like those you have? Even if your friends did not already know me as a monster, until I freed myself of Eggman's control I thought friendship was utter nonsense unworthy of any consideration." What Metal left out was that he still could not quite comprehend what friendship was, he made a mental note to ask Shadow about it as he still owed him a favor.
"But even with my very directive turning out uncomprehensible at even slight scrutiny and me questioning it triggered a agonizing shock that lasted for hours as my internal system thought I was rejecting my directive. I still planned to take you down as well, but the loss of an auxiliary part my adaption system tore out alongside my objective center led to the loss of the majority of the burning hatred I felt toward you.
That was the last straw. My mind violated, my purpose pointless and then even my very being warped by my creator. My world was fake and I wanted revenge." Metal ended his tale. He did not know why he had told Sonic at all, but it felt good to share it with someone. He kinda understood now why his creator often vented when he was upset, it was sort of cleansing.
Sonic had always suspected he was capable, but even then he was floored by the amount of humanity Metal had just displayed. Robot he might be, but undoubtedly he was a person too.
He looked at the robot deep in thought. "wow, I don't know what I expected, but that certainly wasn't it. So what do you plan to do now?" Sonic asked.
Metal looked at his bionic counterpart "I have no plans at this point"
"Taking things as they come eh? You know, that is how most people do it, plans often don't pan out in the end." It was a just meant as an offhand remark, but to Metal it felt like a compliment, like he was more than just robotic.
"I have already signaled your friends, they should be here in an hour's time" Metal informed.
That was rather considerate of Metal the hedgehog thought "hey thanks"
"it was merel-" "I know, I know. Still...thanks, I don't think I will be in any condition to contact anyone anytime soon and thanks for the food and patching me up and well saving my life" Sonic said expressing his gratitude.
Metal had never been thanked before, not genuinely. It felt strange, least of all coming from his prior target, not bad, but strange.
"Well, we got some time to burn, so wanna chat to pass the time?" Metal gave Sonic a weird look "look, if I am confined to a bed without distraction I will go stir crazy." He gave the robot a pleading look.
Metal laughed, not menacingly like he used to. He had through all his existence thought how he could make Sonic plead for mercy, but seemingly the worst think imaginable for the hero was being bedridden, it was so ridiculous.
The robot pulled up a chair to the bed "anything for my "patient"" he chuckled. He was intrigued what Sonic might want to talk about and there was some things he wanted to ask himself.
Sonic kinda liked Metal's laugh, it was quite a departure from how he usually behaved.
"Right first, I kinda have to apologize. If I had know Egghead would do all that to you, I would not have let him take you after we defeated you as the Metal Overlord." First gratitude, then a genuine apology. Metal was charting more and more unknown territory. He did not know how to respond.
Sonic saw this "You don't have to answer now, just think about it" Metal nodded, it was a position he had never been in before, he would thoroughly consider it.
"Anything else?" Metal asked flatly
"A question for a question?" Sonic suggested. Metal nodded, that seemed more fair.
"So how much do you hate me? You said you lost most of the anger toward me, but most isn't all"
"I don't know. It has fluctuated much recently. Right now? I would say disintegrating a chilly dog in front of you would be amble to sate my rage."
Sonic shuddered at the mental image "y-you wouldn't dare" he stared into the robot's eyes, baffled at the odd, and in his eyes, cruel punishment. "try me" Metal kept his mask long enough for Sonic to begin sweating before he chuckled.
Sonic breathed a sigh of relief "man you could be a monster at poker, I was sure you were not bluffing" "are you sure than I am not?" Metal said in a cold tone. Sonic froze and Metal chuckled again "don't even joke about that" Sonic pouted at being tricked again, which made Metal laugh even harder, he was finding it rather enjoying to pick on Sonic.
Even if the laugh was purely at his expense Sonic felt good about it, just seeing his longtime enemy from this completely different angle was uplifting. Perhaps there was hope yet.
After he finished laughing Metal looked seriously at Sonic, who braced himself for what he would ask. "what is friendship?" Metal asked in the most serious tone possible.
"Eh?!" 'This could take a while' the hero thought....
"The signal is not far now" Tail shouted to Knuckles as they soared through the air on the Tornado.
"That is what you said fifteen minutes ago" Knuckles complained, but he was just as worried as the fox. Several hours ago, during their so far hopeless search for Sonic, they had received a message claiming to know where he was. Initially they dismissed it as another false lead, but Tails traced the signal of the message back to it's source which was in the same location as it claimed where Sonic was.
"It should be visible once we get past the next hill" The twin-tailed fox informed Knuckles. The guardian began scanning the area with his eyes.
"There!" the echidna pointed to a hut in the middle of a forest.
"Right" Tails put the Tornado into autopilot and they dove from the plane. They watched as it turned on it's own and flew back toward Tails' garage.
The pair ran up the to ranger station. "This is the place" Tails put his tracker away.
"Here is to hoping it is not another trap" Knuckles said, preparing himself for a possible ambush.
Knuckles took point as they entered the building. As they passed the living room Tails made a short comment on the radio in there that had most likely sent the signal.
After they left the living room they heard voices coming from one of the rooms. They could not hear was what said, but they recognized one of the voices.
"It's Sonic" Tails whispered ecstatically and reached for the door-handle, but Knuckles held the fox back "yeah, but who is the other one?"
"Well we can't just sit here" Tails said impatiently as he pushed past the echidna and opened the door before he could protest.
The door to the bedroom was pushed open and both Sonic and Metal halted their discussion and turned towards the sound.
Sonic happily called out his friends who replied with equal optimism while cautiously eyeing the robot who sat beside the bed Sonic was resting on.
Metal wanted to be everywhere else but here. He had meant to leave before Sonic's friends arrived, but he had gotten so caught up in talking with his organic counterpart that he had lost track of time and forgotten to look out for signs of their arrival. The hero reassured them he was not an enemy, but that they would need to know what happened to understand.
As Sonic was telling them what had happened Metal considered simply walking out, he was not needed anymore, but his eyes met with Sonic's, and it was very clear wanted him to stay.
So Metal sat through Sonic telling Tails and Knuckles about the false signal that had lead to his capture and imprisonment.
Metal did not need to listen, he knew all this, instead he dedicated most of his focus to keep guard as the others were too occupied with listening to Sonic.
Knuckles and especially Tails winced as Sonic glossed over some of what Eggman put him through.
When Sonic reached the climax of the story, how he was carried before Eggman and ordered to be killed, the two could not comprehend how Sonic had survived, completely forgetting Metal was there.
Metal wished he could have rolled his eyes when Sonic dramatically recounted his rebellion and how he had saved him, but he was unfortunately not capable of such a function. Metal perked up when he picked up a weak signal close-by darting around to avoid detection, but relaxed again when he recognized it.
"woah" Tails exclaimed, he looked at Metal not quite sure what to think of the robot anymore. By all accounts what he did should not have been possible, to directly go against his programming. He was their enemy and yet seemingly he was not at the moment.
Knuckles did not know what to think, was this a scheme? If it was then it went against everything Eggman was known for. A dramatic long-play? Or was this another Gamma case?
Tails sunk back once Metal met his inquisitive gaze.
"suppose you want to know why?" Tails pulled himself together "err, that would be nice"
Metal calmly told them about his circumvention of Eggman's control, the thoughts that led to his revelation and subsequent punishment by his internal systems and his discovery of the depths of Eggman's influence over him. How the rage he had held was not his own and how he planned revenge.
He continued to something he had not even told Sonic, he told the three about the thoughts he had when he held Sonic's life in his claws. About his final rejection of his creator's wishes.
As the three processed what he had told them Metal turned to the window just as it flew open and Shadow the hedgehog leapt inside.
"Finally decided to make your entrance?" Metal dully asked.
"what? how long has he been out there?!" Sonic asked surprised.
"At least since you ended your story" Metal revealed
Shadow huffed "at least someone was paying attention" he said condescendingly towards Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Inwardly the black hedgehog was annoyed that his dramatic entrance had been predicted, something which seemed to amuse Metal Sonic a lot.
"If that is all, I will leave now" Metal moves to leave
"wait, hold on a second" Sonic urges. The robot stops, what could he possibly want?
"Look, we have been quite ardent enemies since you were created, but I don't feel like that hold true anymore and I know you don't either" Sonic with much difficulty got out of bed and would have fallen straight on his face if Knuckles had not caught him. What was he doing? Metal thought. What was important enough that he would force his damaged body to move so much?
Supported by the echidna Sonic straightened up though unsteady on his feet. He extended his hand toward his robotic counterpart.
"So how about we start anew?" everyone, even Shadow was surprised at what Sonic proposed.
"You might be forgiving, but people across the world only know me as a monster. It will not work" Metal pointed out, but was not outright reject the offering.
"humpf, there are way around bad publicity" Shadow said. The G.U.N. agent turned to Tails "If you were reprogrammed by Miles, I don't think many would complain"
"wait are you suggesting we lie?" Tails asked shocked "it will be the official story, to keep the world from worrying"
The dark hedgehog turned to the robot "Unofficially I will take you to be debriefed by G.U.N. , if you hand over all the information you have on Eggman willingly, it should make the government accepting of your change of heart."
"And if it is not sufficient?" Metal asked suspiciously
"You can work in my squad till your debt is fully paid, like Gamma did. If they pull any funny business I will teleport you out of there, you have my word." Shadow promised.
Metal could not believe it, he was given a chance to change despite all he had done in the past.
He reached out and shook Sonic's injured hand carefully.
"If only to add further insult to injury to Eggman, I accept." It was not entirely true, Metal wanted see where this unexpected path took him.
Sonic smiled, it was not the best reason to change his ways, but it did not have to be. It would just be the starting point and Sonic hoped once Metal had experienced an existence outside Eggman's influence that it would spark further change.
"heh, don't forget" Sonic caught his attention "you still owe me a race" he gave him a toothy smile.
Everyone but Sonic was surprised by the laugh that came from Metal "fine, but don't expect to win"
"I would never dream of it"