Silently, Cream trudged through the streets of Station Square. She felt a little guilty for leaving Tails behind with Eggman, but what choice did she have? She was bound to be found out sooner or later, and it had been ages since she'd been in a fight. Besides, she wasn't confident in using Chaos Control yet, and a battle was hardly a safe testing environment.
It is worth noting, at this point, that she had unwittingly just walked into the road...
Shadow grinned as the garage door slowly opened. It had been ages since he'd gone for a spin on his motorbike. There was a thrill he got from it which no amount of running could match. He had taken it from a G.U.N soldier during the events with the Black Arms, but after G.U.N hired him, nobody had asked for it to be returned.
Walking the bike out of the garage, he turned on the ignition and got it off to a running start about 50 miles an hour. Just before he got to a corner, he hopped into the seat and did a tight drift...
...right into the path of a terrified Cream.
Panicking, Shadow instinctively used Chaos Control to teleport him and the bike a few feet forward a split second before he would have surely killed the girl. Still drifting, he somehow managed to stop inches away from a street light.
"Are you okay?" he called, leaving the bike on the side of the road and hurrying over to the trembling rabbit.
" she managed, turning around to face him.
"You don't look it," said Shadow, noting how her hands were still shaking. "You're probably in shock. Where do you live?"
Cream hesitated before replying, as if deciding whether he could be trusted. "The edge of Leaf Forest."
Shadow frowned. "That's at the other side of the city, and you're in no fit state to use Chaos Control or fly." He thought for a moment, before continuing. "Tell you what, I'll ride you there. This is my fault, so it's only fair."
After ushering the girl onto the back of the seat, he started up the bike again, driving a little slower this time to prevent extra passengers.
The two of them said nothing to each other for the first few minutes. Cream had mostly recovered from the shock by now. Eventually, she decided to break the silence.
"Why did you help me, Mr Shadow?" she asked. "You could have just left me."
Shadow sighed. "I already told you, it was my fault for driving like an idiot. I felt like I owed you a favour in return for nearly killing you."
"True," she nodded, "But it just seems out of character for you, giving an 8-year old a lift."
Shadow didn't turn his head, but Cream imagined he was probably scowling right now. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Uh, well," she replied, hardly believing what she was about to say, "Mr Sonic and the others keep saying you're an emo
Shadow began driving a little more vigorously. "I am NOT an emo! Why does everyone keep saying that?"
"Hey, don't shoot the messenger!" exclaimed Cream. "It's not like I'd believe Mr Sonic anyway. He's got an edge to his voice that just screams 'I'm making this up to please my ego!'"
"Too right," muttered Shadow, apparently simmering down a little. "Anyways, tell me about yourself. As it is, I barely know you."
"Um, there's not really much to tell," she said, thrown off a little by the question. "I live with my Mom and Cheese
"Speaking of which, where is that chao of yours?" asked Shadow, turning his head a little.
Cream panicked that was the second time today. "Oh God, I've left him behind again! I hope Tails brings him back
"Hey, calm down! I'm sure he's fine keep talking."
"O-okay," she stammered. "Well, like I said, I can't really tell you much. I just hang around with Sonic and the others a lot."
"I'm guessing you help out when they fight the Doctor?" Shadow asked, as they stopped at some traffic lights.
Cream looked down. "I used to, but nowadays everyone seems to ignore me because I'm young." She could feel the tears coming, but she knew she wouldn't be able to stop them. "They all think I'm useless, but I'm not! I just never get the chance to show them what I can do! It's so unfair!"
Shadow sighed as he waited for the lights to turn green. "You think you have problems. I watched as everyone I knew and the one person I considered family died."
Cream gaped. "I'm so sorry, I didn't know! W-what did they die of?"
"Bullets," growled Shadow.
"That... puts my problems into perspective, I guess."
There was a moment of silence before she spoke again. "It must hurt a lot."
"Gunshots generally do," Shadow replied in an annoyed tone of voice.
"That's not what I meant!" said Cream, as they finally got moving again. "I was talking about you! Losing somebody close to you must be horrible don't you ever talk to anyone about it?"
The black hedgehog seemed surprised at this. "No... I don't really talk to anyone about anything. I'm always on my own."
Just then, Cream heard her cell phone ringing. "Sorry, I'll just deal with this..." After fishing it out of her pocket, she saw "Miles" flash up on the screen. Sighing, she accepted the call and put the phone next to her ear. "Hey Tails."
"Hey Cream!" the fox replied. "I was worried you weren't going to pick up after the, uh... incident. I'm really sorry about that, by the way..."
"No, Tails, I should be the one apologising. I shouldn't have stormed off like that in the middle of our date. How are things with Eggman, by the way?"
"Oh, don't worry I sent him packing. He's a pushover without a robot! But forget about that where did you get that emerald? And since when could you use Chaos Control?"
"Since this afternoon. I found the emerald in the park right before Little Planet appeared..."
"Wait a minute, why can I hear some sort of engine in the background?"
Typical Tails, she thought, he jumps at the sound of any machine. "Shadow gave me a lift on his bike."
"You know Shadow? Since when?"
"Again, since this afternoon. Anyway..."
"I should have known he'd have something to do with this when Chaos Control was involved! Pass me over to him!"
Cream poked Shadow on the shoulder. "He wants to speak to you."
Muttering something under his breath, he took the phone while holding onto the handlebars with his right hand. "Yes? No, I didn't teach her... How should I know? She figured it out for herself... Because I nearly killed her by accident... I said by accident! Damnit, don't you people listen?"
At this point, a police bike had started tailing them, presumably because Shadow was talking on the phone whilst driving. "I'm gonna have to hang up on you now, okay? Just drop off the chao at her Mom's..."
After passing the phone back to Cream, he pulled over to the side of the road. The police bike pulled up beside them.
"May I see your driver's license, sir?" asked the helmeted officer.
Cream watched gormlessly as Shadow pulled out some sort of badge and showed it to the officer, who saluted and drove away.
"What was that about?" she asked as they picked up speed again.
Shadow grinned. "I'm a G.U.N agent it comes with benefits."
"Oh," said Cream quietly. "Anyway
who was this friend of yours?"
Shadow grimaced. "I'd rather not talk about it. I promised myself I'd put my past behind me, and that's what I intend to do."
"I understand," said Cream, in a soft tone, "But if you ever need to talk to someone about it, I'll be waiting, okay?"
Shadow made no reply as they left the city and entered the lush greenery of Leaf Forest. It didn't take long before they came across a small cottage in a clearing.
"This is me," she said, although there was no real need. Her mother had just hurried out of the house to meet her.
"Cream!" she panted. "Are you alright, dear? Miles just called to tell me you were captured by Dr Eggman! Please tell me you're not hurt!"
"I'm fine, Mom," she said, hopping off the bike. "I just got separated from Cheese, that's all. Did Tails say anything about him?"
"Oh, yes, of course," her mother replied, her voice sounding less worried with every word. "He's coming by later to bring him home. Anyway, who's this?"
Shadow stepped forward. "I believe we met at Sonic's birthday party a few months ago. My name is Shadow the Hedgehog. I seem to remember yours is Vanilla?" He extended a hand.
"Oh, of course!" she exclaimed, taking the hand with a warm smile. "Where are my manners? Thank you so much for bringing Cream home! Such a gentleman!"
The hedgehog gave a surprised laugh. "I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've been called that!"
"Well, you must be tired, Mr Shadow. Would you like to come in? I can put the kettle on..."
Cream was surprised to see Shadow hesitate, as if he was actually considering the offer. "Thank you, but I think it would be best if Cream got some rest. She's been through a lot today."
Shadow couldn't help but look back as he drove away. Nobody had ever tried to sympathise with him before, let alone talk to him about Maria; not even Rouge. Who was this girl? Suddenly, the fact that she could use Chaos Control didn't matter anymore
As the ultimate life form rode into the night, one high-pitched sound pierced the silence of the moonlit forest:
"He did WHAT?!"