Melinda stared up at the brilliant rainbow of colors filtering through the stained glass windows. It bathed the inside of the darkened church in subdued color that only enhanced her sombre mood, yet somehow relaxed her when coupled with the promise of safety that holy ground provided. It was a strange kind of solace that almost cleared her troubled mind and made her forget everything.
She didn’t even stir when she felt the familiar buzz, the almost charge in the air warning of another immortal and then heard the familiar sound of bare foot-paws on the carpeted aisle.
“I’m starting to see why you moved here, Kai, even though I have no idea how you don’t stick out like a sore thumb hanging around this place while looking like that,” she said.
Kai was a grey wolf, a member of a long thinned out tribe commonly known to history as the Wolf Pack. A man appearing to be around 30 with long and thick white hair pulled into a braid that Amy had once told her made her sincerely envious. He wore blue jeans held up with a silver buckle that was inlaid with tortoise stones and a brown leather jacket over a white t-shirt.
“I manage,” he sat down on the pew next to her, “Besides, it’s worth it for the built-in security system that living on holy ground includes.”
“I can’t really argue, it would be wonderful if I wasn’t perpetually afraid the church would collapse on me,” she chuckled.
“The building’s insured, so you’re fine,” Kai leaned his head back into his hands and crossed one leg over the other.
“Gee, that’s real reassuring,” she teased.
They sat in silence for a moment before Kai spoke again, causing her to let out a sigh of relief that she didn’t have to be the one to bring it up.
“You seem troubled, anything you want to talk about?” He asked.
“You remember Maxwell, right?” She asked.
“How could I forget him? I still remember the night you adopted him,” Kai answered.
“Yeah, it was quite a night,” Melinda drifted off into her own memories.
“Just try to relax, okay? You’re safe now.” Melinda threw a second bloodied rag into the bowl of water and began to wet a fresh one.
Max now sat in the hotel bed, his back leaning against the pillows and the blanket over his legs. She had started to clean his wounds, most of which luckily seemed to be superficial and just in need of bandages. The only major wound she had found was his eye, and she was still trying to work out how she was going to treat it.
The child gave her a worried glance as someone knocked on the door and calmly called inside.
“Melissa, are you there?” The voice said.
“It’s okay Max, it’s just my friend,” she said, “You can come in, Kai!”
The door creaked open and Kai slipped inside, “I saw you running back inside from my window, were being pursued?”
“No, I just had to get him back here before someone saw,” she said, watching as Kai followed her gaze to Max,
“Melissa, what happened here?” Kai quickly rushed over where he could get a better look.
“He was attacked, but I took care of it. He’s an orphan, so I brought him back here to treat his wounds because I doubt any hospital would care about him,” she crouched back down and went to work cleaning another of the cuts.
“His eye…” Kai trailed off.
“I know, I’m not even sure how I’m going to deal with that so I’m concentrating on getting him cleaned up.” Melissa felt Max grab one of her arms, “What’s wrong?”
“Melissa, are my eyes going to stop working?” Max asked.
“Honey, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for the one that’s already hurt, but your other eye is going to be fine,” she wrapped an arm around him, “it’s just going to be a little tough to get used to at first.”
“So I’m going to be okay?” Max asked.
“You’re going to be fine, all you need to do now is relax so I can finish taking care of you.” she said, “I just to need my friend here to find some supplies since we don’t happen to have any.”
“You were the one that said it would be pointless to carry such things around,” Kai said.
“Well, now I’m saying we obviously do need them.” she said.
“Just finish up here first so I know what we need,” Kai sat down on the end of the bed, “I’ll have to figure something out down at the general store.”
She merely laughed and turned back to Max, “I know it still hurts, but I need to gte your face cleaned up so I can see better, okay?”
He shook his head and she gently tilted his face back before dabbing at the wound on his cheek, “I might just get your eye covered for tonight so you can get some rest, it looks like the bleeding has stopped, anyway,”
“Yes, Max?” she answered.
“Who's gonna take care of me when you have to leave?” Max asked.
“I’ve actually been thinking about that, and I had an idea,” she said, “How would you like to come with us?”
“Can I really?” Max’s eyes lit up.
“I don’t see why not, I’m sure Kai doesn’t mind.” she gently patted Max on the head.
“I’m merely the student, so I couldn’t stop you bringing him even I wanted to,” Kai grinned.
“It’s settled then, as soon as you’re feeling better you’ll be on that boat out with us,” she said.
“Thank you,” Max hugged her, catching her off guard for a moment before she
came around and hugged him back
“You told me later that it was one of us who did that to him, an arctic fox named Isa,” Kai’s voice brought her back to reality, “That eye never did heal as as well I would hope but he learned to cope with it.”
“Kai, Isa’s back.” Melinda’s voice was barely above a whisper, “He’s working with Eggman.”
“So I’m guessing he found a way around the arm and leg you took from him?” he asked.
“Cybernetics of some kind, no clue how he survived that long without them because that’s recent tech,” she said, staring down at her feet.
“Did he challenge you?” Kai asked.
“No, but…” she tailed off, not wanting to say the word out loud.
“What’s wrong, Melissa?” Kai shifted in his seat and leaned down to see her face.
“The bastard threatened Miles, and Cream,” she struggled to remain calm, “He also mentioned Amy but I think that was a bluff because he’s not even that arrogant to think she’s an easy target.”
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Kai placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to protect him, or protect anybody because I won’t be able to face that monster,” she shook with a combination of anger and fear.
“You won’t fail them, and neither will I,” Kai said softly.
“You didn’t even give me a chance to ask,” she cracked a small smile.
“You don’t have to. I’ll always stand by you, and that includes keeping that promise I made to you that I would help watch out for Miles. The promise that also extends to the admittedly strange circle of friends you to seem to be attracting.” Kai grinned, “who I guess are are my strange friends as well, the way things are going.”
“It’s not that strange, Kai.”
“A vixen, her adopted kit, two hedgehogs, an echidna, a rabbit and her daughter…” Kai trailed off.
“Okay, maybe a little strange..” Melinda chuckled, beginning to calm down.
“Friendship is a funny thing, it often knows no boundaries,” Kai said with a gentle laugh.
“Thank, Kai. It’s good to know you have my back in this,” Melinda said.
“Glad I can help,” he said.
The room fell silent until Melinda worked up the courage to ask her final question, it was something that was painful for her to even think about, but something she had to know, none-the-less.
“Kai, there’s one more thing I need. Something serious that I need to know and hear straight from you to ease my mind,” she said.
“What is it?” He asked.
“I know Miles has Sonic and they’re like brothers, so he wouldn’t be alone, but if something ever happens to me, can you help look after him?” she once again hid her face.
“Of course, I’ve made that promise to all your children and it still stands. Whether you’re here or not I’ll be there for him,” he put an arm around her shoulders, to which she didn’t protest.
“Thank you, Kai. I don’t like to think about it but I know he’d be lost without me and having you there would help him pull through,” her eyes began to tear up.
“Just do me one favor and try not to call on that promise, no matter how I much need to spend more time with him, there’s ways that don’t involve a funeral.” Kai said.
“Don’t worry, I’ll try to hold out a few more centuries,” she couldn’t help but laugh, “I’ll also make sure we make some plans.”
“Maybe once this is all settled,” Kai’s face expression grew serious, “Now, do you want to just wait it out, or make the first move?”
The sudden shift in conversation, as well Kai’s forwardness shocked her because she had always seen him as someone to take a defensive stance and never seek conflict. Had Isa’s threats combined with the wolf’s own first-hand knowledge of what he was capable of proved to be a breaking point just like it was for her?
“Kai, I…” she made no effort to hide her shock.
“Bloodshed may not be an outcome to strive for, but sometimes conflict is the lesser of two evils if it means stopping innocent blood from being spilled,” he gently removed his arm from around her.
“So you’re saying you wouldn’t try to stop me if I decided to hunt him down?” she asked.
“No, because I know you’d be fighting for the right reasons.” Kai said.
“I think you have more faith in me than I do myself,” she said.
“Melissa, you lived with my pack and helped raise me. Do you think I could see anything other than good in the woman that tucked me in on so many cold winter nights and held me when I had nightmares?” he asked.
“I guess not,” it was all she said aloud, but she mentally finished the statement, “how can I expect someone who might as well be one of my own children to see my flaws?”
There was yet another long silence before Kai finally spoke again, alleviating the awkwardness and easing the tension that had slowly began to fill the air between them.
“Whatever you decide, we need a plan to keep everyone safe,” he said.
“Sonic was there, so he already knows about the threats and I could talk to him about keeping an extra eye on Miles, even though he’s a smart kid that can take care of himself if he has to. You’re Vanilla’s friend so you could keep an eye on her and Cream,” Melinda said.
“It might also be wise to figure out WHY and he’s working with Eggman,” Kai said, “knowledge is often a valuable weapon.”
“I’d say two maniacs causing trouble, but I’d be lying if I said it made sense for someone with a calculated purpose like Eggman to be working together with someone as unpredictable and hedonistic as Isa seems to be, there’s also one other troubling factor…” she trailed off.
“What?” Kai asked
“That robot was programmed to target me, the only reason it stopped is because Eggman’s usual obsession compelled him to include an emergency over-ride that made Sonic a target of opportunity,” Melinda said.
“Could Isa have informed him about you?” Kai leaned back in the pew.
“That wouldn’t make me a priority, even Miles is a bigger threat to him than me when he has his gadgets and plane at his disposal.” Melinda sighed in frustration and leaned back in defeat, “Now that I think about it, none of it makes any sense. Has he finally just gone off the deep end?”
“That might explain their alliance, but it doesn’t give in any insight into how they crossed paths for it to happen,” Kai said.
“Yeah, I highly doubt they belong to the same social circles,” Melinda rubbed her eyes and ran a hand a through her hair, “normally I wouldn’t care why that whackjob does anything because he’d not known for picking good friends, but this is extreme even for him and it bothers me that I’m suddenly on his hit list.”
“Could you get any information out of Rouge?” Kai asked, “she’s often well-informed.
“The thief? How do I know I could even trust her when she’d worked for Eggman herself?” Melinda said, shock evident in her voice.
“She may be a thief and not above working for him if it means a shot at the emeralds or a chance to rip off GUN, but she’s no monster and no murderer,” Kai answered.
“You mean might side with us if she understands what kind of bastard Isa is?” Melinda asked.
“That’s a colorful way of putting it, but yes. I’ve seen her interactions with everyone and she doesn’t strike as someone that would ever actually bring someone unjust harm like that,” Kai said.
“True, but I’m afraid enlisting her help might entail telling her more than I feel comfortable with, that is if she hasn’t already somehow found out,” Melinda stared up at the stained-glass, “of course, even knowing I’m alive would tip her-off that something’s up.”
“She’ll find out about us sooner or later, it’s not like she’s someone we can keep it a secret from,” Kai joined followed her gaze to the window, “beautiful, aren’t they? To think of the amount of work that went into creating them.”
“Yes, and they also remind me of someone,” Melinda almost lost herself in another memory before snapping back to reality. There was no more time for reminiscing, “but that’s not important right now. We have a plan and we have to start moving before Isa makes another play.”
“Doesn’t Rouge own a Casino around here? We could check in with her before we part ways,” Kai stood and headed down the aisle towards the door.
“Are you offering back-up, or offering to keep from throttling someone if things don’t go as planned?” Melinda teased as she caught up with him.
“A little of both,” he grinned.