© Beloved Doll
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"Tell me, Cream...Can you keep a secret?"
Cream raises her right hand like someone in court swearing in,"I promise, Mr Shadow. I won`t tell a soul."
"I have a very close friend..."
Shadow starts things out in this way, stepping away from the wall and towards Cream. Slowly, fluidly, he kneels down. At this point, he is very close to her. His left hand reaches out to grasp her shoulder and he looks into her eyes. It is the only time Cream has ever seen Shadow emotional. He does not smile, however. He only looks to her in an almost neutral fashion,"This close friend of mine...She`s sick...Very sick...She`s unwell...She might not make it..."
Shadow pauses, then he continues on,"...To answer your question from earlier...She could possibly be the only thing that would ever bring me happiness in this world..."
His eyes half close, as if day dreaming again,"She`s very dear to me..."
Cream`s smile drops as she listens to Shadow, seeming to be in-tune with his feelings right now. Both of her hands clasp over her mouth,"She`s sick? Is she seeing a doctor?"
"She`s in the hospital."
Shadow continues to look slightly dazed,"If she makes it, I want her to live with me...I want to spend every minute with her..."
These feelings, Cream could feel coming from Shadow, are perhaps the only remnants of positive feeling from his hollow heart.* "...I`d do anything for her..."
Cream lowers her hands from her mouth, letting them drop back down to her sides. She starts to smile again, seeing Shadow speak so wonderfully about this girl. If she were Rouge, she would be pointing out how Shadow doesn`t have a home for Maria to go home to. Nor does Cream have the full understanding enough to know that Shadow wouldn`t be allowed in the hospital to collect his friend.
"It`s a happy thought..."
Shadow`s reality begins to fall back and fill his mind. What would likely happen.
"But, it probably won`t happen..."
He stands back up and looks off towards the rest of the stretch of the road and the other apartments and town houses,"The way people think of me...The way things are..."
He closes his eyes again, looking back to Cream,"I wonder, sometimes, if she`ll even recognize me when she...gets better."
Cream nods her head once and begins to work her encouragement magic,"I`m sure she would still recognize you. Besides, if she is a friend of yours from long ago, she would probably be very scared having to face this world by herself. She would need you, Mr Shadow. You shouldn`t be scared to go see her."
"It`s not fear, exactly. Just....Things rarely ever simply 'work out' with me. Anything that can go wrong, usually, does."
It really seems that way with Shadow. As if a black cloud follows him to put him in impending doom and gloom, retaining that depressive mind set whenever he enters a situation. Or at least, this is how it feels in his mind.
"What could go wrong? I bet she would be very happy to see you."
Cream maintains her positive smile on her face. Ignorance is bliss as they say. But someday reality is going to smack them in the face.
"Things can always go wrong for me."
Shadow goes back to leaning against the wall. He has nothing else to do today,"...Don`t worry about it, Cream. Just go have fun, or something..."
"But, Mr Shadow, I want to help you. No one should feel that sad."
"No one can make everybody happy. I`m proof of that."
Shadow closes his eyes again as he crosses his arms. He isn`t sure of what to do now. One part of him tells him to keep on walking as Cream was "bothering" him. But the other part wants to stay with her, for whatever reason, so she was nice and sweet, reminiscent of Maria.
Cream suddenly grasps Shadow`s wrist with both hands and she starts pulling him with her, walking him to the direction of her home. A smile is still present on her face,"I bet mom will know what to do. She can help. I`m sure of it!"
"Cream, I...I don`t think your mom would like me coming."
Hesitantly, Shadow gets off from the wall and starts to follow after Cream with her pulling on him. He isn`t exactly sure if he wants to meet her mother, Vanilla. She is sweet, he is sure, but at the same time what would she think of him? Surely she has heard of his reputation and knows of the things he had done and almost done.
Cream pulls Shadow with her to the yard and they enter the house. Cream cheerfully calls for her mother. Cheese immediately comes, excited to see Cream, even pawing at Shadow`s pants for attention from him as well. Vanilla soon comes down the stairs to greet her daughter. At first, Vanilla is smiling, expecting it to be just Cream but she is surprised to see Shadow with Cream. Vanilla is drying her hands with a towel as she comes down the stairs,"Yes, Cream? Oh, hello, Shadow."
Vanilla is well aware of Shadow`s reputation, most of it is undeserved. But she has seen Shadow with Cream before in the Sonic Gang. She is pretty sure that despite the street-goth appearance, Cream isn`t in any real danger of him. It could be said that Vanilla knows more of Shadow than he knows of her. The few times she has seen him, he was always to the side, arms folded, quiet and deep in thought.
"Hello, Miss Vanilla."
Briefly, Shadow looks into Vanilla`s eyes, but shortly afterwards averts his own elsewhere. Although distant, he seems mannerly enough, standing up straight and greeting her in a formal way. His mouth remains a thin, grim line, as per usual. However, he doesn`t seem to be feeling uncomfortable about being in their house, just a little put off at how quickly Cream has changed her mind-set on him. After looking to the floor for a while, he begins to look elsewhere at the interior decor of the home. He says nothing else.
Vanilla slings the towel to resting over her shoulder after she is done drying her hands. She looks to her young daughter,"What can I do for you, Cream?"
Cream releases her grip on Shadow`s wrist and looks to her mom,"Mr Shadow needs some help I think."
Vanilla is a little surprised at this. No one in the Sonic Gang besides Cream has asked her for help. The whole lot of them otherwise seem to be able to handle their own problems on their own. She looks to Shadow,"What could I help you with, Shadow?"
It`s easy to see where Cream gets her respectful speech from.
Shadow almost regrets walking inside with Cream as he looks between them. But then he decides that this could possibly work out for the better. However, it is evident how hesitant he is with simply going with Cream, even being here. He turns his gaze to Vanilla,"There`s a friend that I have, who is now in the hospital. I`m not sure if you've seen the news, Miss Vanilla, about the missing girl..."
Vanilla`s smile drops but not out of fear or worry, more out of showing her seriousness on the issue,"Oh, yes I have. She is a friend of yours?"
Shadow continues on. His expression is deadly serious, but there seems to be something more. Is Shadow actually showing compassion? It only shows through his eyes, that look at mentioning this,"Her name is Maria Robotnik...She means the world to me..."
His gaze shifts towards the floor as he starts to go on, slowly,"Eggman stole her from the hospital. He felt that would help in getting the chaos emeralds. When I found out, I went by myself to save her...It wasn`t exactly a pleasant situation dealing with him when I got through the defense."
Pausing again, Shadow rolls through the memories at the utter apathy Eggman showed,"Maria was already in critical condition when she was found. Eggman only worsened that significantly. By the time I actually rescued her, she was on the verge of death. I left her somewhere where the police would easily see her, so they would take her to the hospital. You know what they would think of they saw me carrying her there myself..."
Vanilla looks more sympathetic to Shadow as she listens to his story. It doesn`t surprise her to see Eggman pull such a low stunt; the man has been known for his extreme selfishness. She puts a hand to her cheek as he finishes off,"Oh dear...Yes, they would most certainly put the blame on you and have you arrested at the least."
"Last night, I snuck into the hospital. I left some money and a note on the bed, to pay for the medical costs...They obviously aren`t going to let me just walk in and visit her...I came in because Cream brought me in here. That doesn`t mean you have to help me...But..."
Shadow looks back up towards Vanilla. Vanilla smiles to Shadow, the same smile he has seen Cream sport often when she`s with the gang,"I would love to help you, Shadow, in any way that I can."
"They wouldn`t let me take care of her. She`s just a couple of years younger than I am. I don`t even have a place yet. She needs a family to adopt her, you see...And, I can only ask if you could do it...I`d gladly pay for her to stay with you if it comes to that."
It is evident that Shadow is really serious about it by the look on his face.
Vanilla smiles again to Shadow,"That will not be a problem, Shadow. She can stay with me until you have everything situated for yourself. Your friend can stay in the guest room while she is here."
"Thank you, Miss Vanilla. I haven`t really had anyone else to turn to."
Shadow doubts that GUN would have anything to do with this as they rarely make attempts to right their past wrongs. As for the Sonic Gang, he just can`t bring himself to say it aloud to them. It surprises himself that he even spoke to Cream about it. Even if he had gone to GUN, there is doubt that they would have a clue on how to handle a sick girl; GUN is not known for being gentle or patient. Vanilla nods her head to Shadow,"You`re welcome, Shadow. Did the hospital say when she could leave the hospital?"
"Not yet. She will probably be in the hospital for a long time now..She was in a coma when I left her."
Shadow lets out a brief sigh as he re-straightens himself, and looks back to Vanilla,"I wasn`t sure what to do after I left her."
The tv news reporters couldn`t go and see Maria, so they couldn`t say what condition she was in. So, to get a better idea of what`s going on, Vanilla asks,"What is her condition like?"
"Stable, I'm hoping. They`re taking good care of her, I saw that much. The doctors and nurses patched her wounds and have her hooked up to a feeding tube; she`s still in a coma..."
That grim expression from earlier returns to Shadow`s face,"I hope she comes out fine."
It seems like a random and out of the blue question that Vanilla asks him next,"When you snuck in to the hospital to visit her, did you speak to her?"
"I wanted to...but she was sleeping. So no, I didn`t speak to her."
Shadow lets out a short sigh at being reminded of this. He averts his attention to a window, staring out at the sunlight filtering into the room,"I only spoke to her that night, that I had to leave her...I don't think she heard me..."
Vanilla gives Shadow an encouraging smile,"You should speak to her. People who are in comas can usually hear what is being said to them. They just can`t respond. I think she would feel comforted if you talk to her."
"I`ll try, if I can sneak in tonight..."
Slightly comforted at hearing that, Shadow wonders what the future would hold for her, for them,"Again, thanks for agreeing to take her in, Miss Vanilla."
"You`re welcome, Shadow. I will make the call later on today so that we can get her before someone else does. Anything else about her I should know?"
"She has a particular disease...NIDS. It`s..something you probably don`t know about. I wrote it in the note to the doctor, I just hope they can cure her of that."
Shadow doesn`t go on about the disease as he hardly understands it himself. Vanilla nods her head,"All right. I`ll do my best for us to have custody of her."
Cream hugs Vanilla around the waist as her young height only allows her to reach that far,"Thank you for helping Mr Shadow, mom."
Vanilla happily gives Cream a hug,"Sure thing."
"Again, thank you, Miss Vanilla, Cream."
It is a burden lifted off his back; at least Maria would now be accessible and in good hands with someone reliable and trust worthy. In addition, this neighbourhood was well-known for being safe. Even the Babylon Rogues won`t be found coming here. When Vanilla had moved to Station Square, she chose this area with Cream`s safety in mind. This would work out for Maria as well.
With the decision set on having Maria here, Vanilla leaves Cream and Shadow, going back upstairs to start preparing the guest room for the delicate girl that would be residing with them. Cream then turns to Shadow, looking up to him,"I`m so glad, Mr Shadow. When you`re friend is here, you won`t be so sad anymore."
"Probably not. You didn`t have to go to get your mother involved in all of this...but thanks."
Shadow is slowly losing himself in thought as a burden has just been lifted off his back. The job factor won`t be a problem. If GUN was worried about where he was, it is likely they have use for him and so he`s a prime candidate for work and assignments, which would result in missions. Missions would mean he would be paid again.
Now beginning to get excited over Shadow having a real friend, someone he was close to, Cream wants to ask some questions. She doesn`t know much about Maria, or even knowing that Maria was his motivation for nearly destroying Earth. Cream puts her hands behind her back and asks her first question,"When your friend is better, will she be going to school with you, Mr Shadow?"
Shadow nods slightly in response to her question. After thinking over all the new, opened up possibilities this could bring, he wakes up from his day dream and focuses his attention on Cream now. His crimson eyes look into her brown oculi. Although he isn`t altogether happy, he was seemingly content, which is the best she could hope to see out of Shadow.
Cream continues her line of curious questions to Shadow about this mysterious Maria,"Do you think she will join our group?"
One would never hear Cream refer to the Sonic Gang as a gang. To her, the term "gang" is a bad thing, despite the Sonic Gang never do anything bad, unlike the Babylon Rogues. The gang is already large enough but Sonic and the others weren`t ones to just turn down people.
"I don`t think so."
Shadow answers the question outright. Little does Cream know, he plans that if, or rather, when Maria fully recovers, he is keeping her out of danger. He would likely become overprotective of her, which is somewhat understandable based on all she had been through thus far. One could never know what would happen in the near future. Maria is no fighter and would likely remain a pacifist to the very end.
Cream seems a little disappointed at hearing Shadow`s response, her facial expression showing this disappointment,"Awww, why not?"
"...Maybe a part of the group, but I`m keeping her out of danger. She`s faced enough already."
Now feeling that she has said something to upset Shadow, Cream looses the open-friendly attitude she has had towards Shadow the past while. She takes a step back and averts her eyes away from Shadow (in some cultures, this being a sign of high respect),"I`m sorry, Mr Shadow..."
For a while, Shadow just looks on in silence, as if debating things over to himself. Shadow obviously couldn`t watch over Maria twenty four seven but he`d be sure that he would see her through with the best of his abilities. After an extended period of silence, he speak,"It`s fine, Cream...Don`t worry about it."
Cream carefully turns her eyes back to Shadow. She doesn`t say anything, but her mind races over in excitement at the thought of having a big sister for a while. Though probably, Maria wouldn`t actually be at the house much as she is sure that Shadow would want to do things with her. And even though it would be just until Shadow has some place set for the two of them to live at, it would still be a fun experience for Cream. She looks to Amy as a big-sister but Amy doesn`t live with her.
"Are you hungry?"
Shadow finally asks her this question after the bout of silence, as if he is offering to buy her a meal or something along those lines. Imagine that. Cream beams up at Shadow`s question and her happy smile returns to her face,"Oh yes I am."
Slowly, almost hesitantly, Shadow extends his hand, offering to hold hands with her. Cream`s smile only seems to widen more at seeing Shadow seeming to be opening up to her a little. She happily takes Shadow`s hand in a little sister-like fashion. Turning his head, Shadow begins to walk towards the stairs,"Miss Vanilla?"
Hearing her name being called, Vanilla comes to the top of the stairs,"Yes, Shadow?"
"I'm taking Cream to the burger shop. Just thought I`d let you know."
Vanilla smiles,"All right. Bring her right back home afterwards, ok?"
Cream begins to swish herself side to side childishly, her excitement quite high at this point. She would get to do something with Shadow!
Nodding at the agreement, he will and so only offered her a nod as means of good bye. This is perhaps the most he spoke to Vanilla and Cream of all people. Shadow is known for his silence, Fang noting that he seemed to reflect upon the statement "Silent as the grave." Turning away, Shadow takes Cream along with him, opening the door and closing it after Cream. Walking down the street, a few of the well to do citizens gawk and stare at this development. Shadow, holding hands with Cream of all people? But Shadow ignores all the people around them,"You don`t mind the Burger Shop, do you?"
Cream pays the people no mind either. Long as they aren`t confronting them or doing any harm, it wouldn`t matter to her. For a child of her age, getting attention from one of "the big kids" is a big deal to her. She happily walks with Shadow down the road,"I don`t mind it at all!"
Shadow continues to walk her down the street. Today seems quiet. As it is a Saturday, Jet and the other gang probably moved off to the fringe of town to race on their gear boards. Typical behaviour, Jet was kind of lazy sometimes as far as gang activity goes. Although he did pranks, that was no question. They near the burger shop, with no one they knew in sight. Likely the others have gone to Twinkle Park or the movies. Who could know. Shadow doesn`t care.
Opening the door for her, Shadow lets Cream in. Cream excitedly skips to the booth table that is often chosen for the Sonic Gang to sit at when they come here. She plops herself down on the cushioned seat and looks to Shadow with a big smile on her face.
"One kids meal and a number one."
After Shadow puts in their orders, Andy, the soda jerk, just nods,"Coming right up, sir."
Andy is one of the few people that don`t seem to cling to the fact that Shadow was such a menace or threat to society, and thus goes on to put in their orders and carry them out.
Shadow looks over to Cream,"What made you decide to come and talk to me?"
Cream maintains her friendly smile to the dark one,"Well...I had never seen you in my neighbourhood by yourself before. And you looked more troubled than usual."
Shadow looks off out the window. It is difficult accepting the fact that he was just helped, by Vanilla, someone he hardly knew. But she is sweet, no denying that. It shows on Cream`s personality,"Before all that, you seemed eager to avoid me."
Cream`s smile now turns to more nervous than friendly,"You are kind of a scary person..."
That revelation and confession, does little to change Shadow`s expression. He isn`t all surprised with how people react to him,"So I am..."
He doesn`t deny it and knows that it works to have an effect on his enemies, usually. It may also be what contributes to his negative reputation. People are so willing to believe it because of his appearance. It works both for him and against him. It has also been the cause for stares where ever he goes. But at this point, he has gotten used to such things so they no longer bother him. The Sonic Gang have been the only group of people that have accepted him really. They have done their best to engage Shadow into social activities they do but by this point, they have learned that being social just wasn`t Shadow`s thing. But at least it was a group of people Shadow could be with without receiving stares from them and he was more allowed in places if he was with them than alone. Being in the group has provided Shadow with some benefits.
"I guess you saw past that."
Shadow opens his eyes after briefly closing them, as if re-living a former experience,"And-"
"Here you go."
Andy serves them both their meals. The kids meal features a tiny pocket-sized plush rabbit toy, with a smaller meal in comparison to Shadow`s meal. Half sized burger, with a small order of fries and a medium drink. Shadow`s meal, on the other hand, is a large drink with a large burger and a large order of fries. Andy walks off at this point,"Enjoy."
Shadow just looks at his meal for a while before he starts to eat, closing his eyes as he does so. At times, he would look at Cream with a mixed expression. After Andy leaves, Cream speaks up for Shadow to continue his speech that was interrupted by the server,"And what, Mr Shadow?"
She first open the rabbit plush from it`s plastic captive bag and sets it on the tabletop. Then she starts eating her kid`s burger, looking back to Shadow.
"And things might be better from now on. But not by much..."
Eggman and the Babylon Rogues are still around to pose them a threat. But with Maria around, Shadow would have uplifted spirits, a sense of a cause. Offering Cream a little bonus to the meal, as Shadow continues to eat at his,"We can have...ice cream after this...I guess."
As Cream finishes her burger off, she politely turns down the ice cream offer,"No thank you, Mr Shadow. I think my lunch here will fill me up."
She is still a young child, only 6 years old, so she has a child`s tiny stomach.
Shadow nods. Eating away at his meal, he slowly pushes his plate away from him and looks off. What is there to do in the day after this? It isn`t night yet, so he can`t make his sneak into Maria`s room. Cream makes short work of her fries and drinks down her soda. She can`t quite finish the soda so some is still left in the cup. Cream picks up her rabbit plush and starts playing with it at the table as any normal child would do. Shadow, oddly enough, just sits there and watches her play. Back on the Arc, Maria only had a small assortment of toys that were limited to the confines of her room. When they were younger, they played a little. That mostly changed into board games and cards as time went on, as they grew a little older.
Getting up, Shadow pays for their meal and even leaves a tip. Walking back to the table, he speaks again,"Are you ready to go?"
Cream smiles up to Shadow, holding the rabbit plush in both of her little hands,"Yes, I am. Thank you, Mr Shadow, for the meal."
She scoots to the side of the cushioned seat and stands up beside Shadow. Just nodding in response, Shadow slowly offers his hand again to take her home. Although the past few days after his rescue of Maria, he knows the quiet times won`t last. Eggman was cursing Shadow when he left the base with Maria and his red chaos emerald. Something is going to happen. Might as well "enjoy it" while it lasted.
Shadow asks Cream as they walk down the street,"What were you doing before you came to me?"
While one of Cream`s hands was holding Shadow`s hand, her remaining hand is occupied with carrying her rabbit plush,"I was playing with Cheese in the front yard."
He doesn`t respond. It is getting to be the evening, about six o clock. Not exactly dark yet, the sun is moving down. As they near the house, Shadow lets go of her hand and opens the front gate,"We`re here."
"Thank you, Mr Shadow."
Cream smiles to Shadow and enters her yard. Now she holds her rabbit plush with both hands and is looking down to it with a smile. Shadow didn`t get to meet Maria when she was 6 but Cream seems to be like what he imagined Maria was when she was that age.
Shadow whispers quietly, waving her off,"(You're welcome...)"
Slowly, he closes the gate behind her and just watches as she walks to her front door. Then, he begins to walk away, out of the neighborhood and into the rest of the city. He returns to thinking through things and what he was going to do for the rest of the day. Probably just sit around the hospitals park...
In the hospital itself, a nurse is finishing up a few things with Maria. The bandages have already been changed and Maria has been turned over to prevent bed sores from forming. She is brushing Maria`s hair, which is wet from a bath the nurses gave her a moment ago. They have placed a fresh, clean dress onto Maria after the bath and after the changing of bandages as well. Another nurse notes onto the records that her new NIDS medication was given to her today and how well her wounds are healing. She puts the records back into the slot at the end of Maria`s bed and she exits the room with the second nurse, once the second nurse has finished tending to Maria`s grooming. One of the nurses flips off the light switch and they close the door behind them, leaving Maria to herself.
Shadow waits until things turn to night fall, later into the night when things slow down in the hospital. He creeps through the outer gardens, rather stealthily, and then scales the sides of the tree. Reaching the top, he kneels down slightly, reaching forwards for the window, and leaps inside, much like he had in the previous night. Closing the window rather carefully, Shadow looks around to make sure nothing was going on. Walking over to the door, he sees that it is locked. Good. He`d have a few moments notice and means of escape if someone tries to come in at this late hour.
The nurses had set Maria up to be laying on her back in the bed. The bed mattress itself is an adjustable one so Maria is set to having her top half in a reclined position. Her head isn`t tilted to either side this time, it`s pointed forward.
Walking over towards the bed, Shadow pulls up a seat and sits down. Looking down at Maria, he reaches forwards and takes a hand very gently. Leaning his head closer to hers, he whispers into her ear,"Maria...I can only say I hope you can hear me...The road ahead, I don`t know what`s going to happen...A friend of mine, her mother, she agreed to try and take you in. It`ll make things easier for us, to see each other..."
Leaning back in the seat, he continues to speak to Maria at no more volume above a whisper. It would be disastrous if someone caught him with her at this late hour,"...I`ve been so lost ever since you died..."
Although she, technically speaking, didn`t die. He still refers to it as death,"Meandering through life, one day melting into another...Just goes on and on. I had no hope for anything...Until you came back..."
Maria can`t respond either verbally or physically. But there does seem to be a sign that what Vanilla told Shadow is true about people in a coma and being talked to. It seems as though Maria`s face relaxes a little at hearing Shadow`s deep voice.
"I bet this is just...all one big dream for you...I can`t stay all night. I`m already risking a lot just being here right now...But I will say this..."
Shadow sets his hands on the bed`s edge, leaning his face closer to hers. He whispers into her ears,"When you wake up, I`ll take care of you...Give you the best life possible..."
Looking around, he hears some footsteps in the halls,"I need to go now. Good night, good bye...Maria..."
Nearing the window, Shadow leaves as he had come in. He leaps to the nearby branch and closes the window. Then he drops to the ground as he climbs down the tree. He starts to wander off into the night to find a place to rest.