Sirens rang in Tails ears as he stood not ten feet away from the crumpled heap that used to his mother’s car in a state of shock, trying to cope with the conflicting feelings. It like a kind of cognitive dissonance between his emotional instincts crying out at the idea she was dead in every clinical sense and what that should mean, and his rational mind reminding him that she was an immortal and thus her death was only temporary.
“Hey bro, are you still with me?”
His best friend’s voice partially awoke him from his shock. Even if the situation wasn’t quite as dire as everyone else was forced to assume he was once again glad Sonic had refused to leave his side from the minute he got the phone-call, and insisted on tagging along for support.
“Yeah, I’m just a little shaken up, but I’ll be fine,” Tails replied, carefully choosing his words.
“I know it’s hard and I know you’re scared, but I’m gonna be right here next to you the whole time and we’re going to get through this, okay?” Sonic’s voice was calm, but carried an uncurrent of nervousness.
“Thanks, I know I tried to blow you off but I was just upset and I really don’t want to do this alone,” It wasn’t a lie, despite every rational thought telling him it would be okay he couldn’t will away his emotions and having his surrogate big brother there helped to calm him.
“It’s no problem, I promised you I’d always be here and I’m not going to break that because things get hard,” Sonic gave a sincere smile.
Tail’s noticed one of the emts out of the corner of his eye, a female cat with blue fur, as she climbed out of the ambulance and looked around before setting her attention on them and approaching.
“I know it’s probably dumb I even have to ask, but your Sonic and Tails, right?” she asked, “My name is Cassie and I was the responder here.”
“Nice to meet you, Cassie,” Sonic said, “to bad we have to meet like this, though.”
“I know, I never like meeting new people under such horrible circumstances,” Cassie said, looking down.
She didn’t stand much taller than Tails, but still crouched down in front of him and looked up at his face.
“I’m sorry, honey,” she spoke sweetly in a soothing voice not unlike a mother speaking to her child, ”I know this is hard, but I need you to come with me and verify that it’s her, and collect the belongings we found on her person”
“Can Sonic come with me?” Tails asked.
“Of course, I’m not going to make you go in there alone,” Cassie smiled, “ready to go?”
“Yes,” Tails said.
Even though it couldn't have been more than a few seconds long, the walk to the ambulance felt like an eternity and he found himself closing his eyes and taking a deep breath as he climbed inside with Sonic right behind him. He felt a hand on his shoulder guiding him to what felt like a bench running along the wall and felt Sonic sit down beside him.
“Just open your eyes and look when you’re ready, I won’t rush you,” he heard Cassie say from the other side of the cramped space.
“Just try to relax and take your time, buddy.” Sonic spoke softly and Tails felt an arm around his shoulders.
For several moments he merely kept his eyes closed and mentally reminded himself over and over that no matter he saw she would be okay and he merely had to make it through this and hold out for a few hours until she woke up, and somehow re-grouped with him. It was just like they had planned in case something like this ever happened.
He finally opened his eyes and looked up, wincing when the blood streaked down her face from a gash in her forehead and soaking through the thin-sheet from he assumed was a severe wound on her chest.
Sonic’s arm tightened around his shoulders and he looked up to notice him averting eyes from the stretcher.
“It’s gonna be okay, bro. I’m gonna be right here and we’re going to get through this, I promise,” he said softly, “I’m not gonna leave you.”
“Tails, honey. you can talk to her and say goodbye if you want. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Cassie said.
Sonic helped him to his feet and he leaned over, bringing his mouth close to her ear.
“I love you mom, just please wake up soon because I’m worried about what’s going to happen next and I just need to talk to you, real bad,” he whispered quietly enough to keep anyone else from hearing.
“Cassie, can you give us a minute?” Sonic asked.
“Of course, take as much time as you need. Her things are in this bag. “Cassie motioned to a cheap duffle-bag bearing the hospital's logo as she stood up, “and no-one is touching the car until you guys give the go-ahead so you’re welcome to take anything you need from it.”
Cassie looked back at Tails one last time before stepping outside, “I’m sorry about all this, but if makes you feel any better her neck broke when it rolled, so it was quick and painless.”
“Thank you,” Tails said.
Cassie merely gave him a reassuring smile before stepping out and closing the door behind her.
“Tails?” Sonic asked, “Turn around and look at me for a minute.”
Tails took one last deep breath before removing his hand, which he had just fully realized has been resting on his mother’s shoulder, and turned to face Sonic. The expression on his brother’s face was almost alien to the kit, confusion mixed with what he could almost swear was pain. It was jarring seeing it on the face of someone was almost always boundlessly happy and carefree.
“Sonic, are you okay?” he asked.
“Come here, buddy.” Sonic stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Tails, hugging him tightly.
“Thanks, Sonic.” Tails returned the hug, carefully avoiding Sonic’s quills as wrapped his arms around him. Even knowing she would be okay, he couldn’t deny how nervous standing right next to her clinically dead body made him and that hugging his brother was making him feel better.
“Feel better?” Sonic asked as they finally broke apart.
“Yeah, I think I needed that.” Tails said
“You know, I’m gonna miss her to. She was a really good person and I don’t know if mission prep is ever going to be the same without her correcting us and threatening to throttle me if I let anything happen to you,” Sonic looked over Tail’s shoulder with a mournful smile, “of course I knew she’d never do it and it was just the mother in her talking,”
“I think she decided the day you drug me home and promised to protect me that she could trust you,” Tails said.
“I remember mistaking her for your sister and asking where your mom was,” Sonic said, “I couldn’t tell if she was insulted or flattered.”
Tails watched as Sonic reached over and shifted the sheet out of the way so he could hold her hand. Sonic motioned for him to hold it as well and he complied, flinching at how cold she already was.
“Hey, whenever you feel weirded at people thinking you’re my little brother, just remember that some people think your Uncle Kai is my dad even though I changed his diapers,” Melinda chucked.
It was a random and irrelevant memory brought on by Sonic’s comment, but he still couldn’t help but smile as her words echoed in his head.
“Something wrong, bro?” Sonic asked.
“No, that just made me remember a funny joke she once told me,” Tails said, “I know it seems wrong to be smiling right now when I’m still standing next to her but I couldn’t help it.”
“Hey, she wouldn’t want remembering her to hurt and I bet she’s smiling right now, too.” Sonic reached out and ruffled Tails’ hair, “Is there anything you needed to do before we go out there?”
“No, I think I’m ready,” Tails slid his hand free and watched as Sonic reached over and grabbed the bag.
“Is there anything you need from the car?” Sonic asked.
Her sword, Tails mentally noted that it wasn’t it anywhere in the ambulance and she didn’t go anywhere without it, keeping it hidden under the back seat. He just hoped he could come up with some excuse for it because there would be no hiding something like that from Sonic.
“Yeah, there actually is,” Tails said nervously.
“Come on then, I’ll help you,” Sonic opened the back door and motioned for him to follow.
Tails noted as they approached that the car had landed right-side up and the back door had been ripped off. It was a small relief because he knew it would be easy to fish the offending item out without drawing too much attention. A knot rose his stomach and he willed himself not to get sick when he got close enough to see the blood soaking the light-colored fabric of the driver’s seat and the dashboard.
“Oh man,” Sonic muttered the words, but Tails still heard them as he leaned against the frame and looked into the back of the car.
He barely noticed the sound of Sonic messing with something upfront when he saw a familiar piece of tan fabric pinned in the broken seat. Careful as not to tear it, he gently pulled the trench coat free and brushed off the dust and broken glass clinging to it. A smile crept across his face as he held it against his chest and smelled the faint odor of her perfume.
It was an article of clothing that he had grown to associate closely with his mother and memories being safely nestled under and snuggled up to her flooded his mind and left him happily spaced out until Sonic got his attention.
“You okay, bud?” Sonic gently nudged his shoulder, “you’ve been that way for a while, now and I was getting worried”
“Yeah, I’m fine, just trying to think about happy memories,” Tails gave a weak smile.
“Just wanted to make sure you we’re still with me,” Sonic reached out and offered him an object he quickly recognized as the knob off the gear-shift, “It may seem dumb, but I thought you might like to have this since you and her worked on this car together. I thought maybe you could rig it up to the Tornado for luck or something.”
“Thanks,” Tails took the handle and turned it over in his hand for a moment before remembering what he was looking for, “hold on, I almost forgot something.”
The inside was dark and cramped, but he felt around until his hand found a leather wrapped handle and carefully slid the sword out of the wreckage. He held it close his chest in some attempt to hide it.
“Whoa,” Sonic let out a long whistle, “that looks something out of Braveheart, what was it doing in there?”
“My mom studied history, remember? She liked historical weapons and this one was one of her favorites because she had Scottish blood. I remembered she had taken it with her this morning to have an expert look it over so she could learn more about it’s history,” It was a quickly made-up lie, but a simple and believable one.
“I guess I know what I could’ve gotten her for Christmas this year, even if it’s a little late,” Sonic closed his eyes and shook his head, “This still all seems so surreal, like a bad dream.”
“I still don’t know what to think,” Tails absent-mindedly hugged the coat even tighter.
“Oh God, this is horrible!”
Both boys were brought back to reality by a screaming pink hedgehog running towards them.
“I heard about what happened, is it true that she’s…” Amy trailed off.
“It’s true, Melinda’s gone,” Sonic said quietly.
“Oh God, No,” Amy’s voice shook as she spoke and she quickly brought her hands to her mouth, “are they sure it’s her?”
“Yes, Amy, it’s my mom in there,” Tails mumbled
“God, I’m so sorry,” Amy sobbed and wrapped her arms around Tails so tight he thought he could feel his ribs cracking and wheezed as the breath was forced from his lungs. He was thankful he had managed to quickly move the sword out of the way
“I’m gonna miss her so much,” Amy sniffed
“Uh, Amy. I know this all very upsetting but Tails still needs to breathe,” Sonic said.
“Oh, Sorry,” Amy tearfully let go of Tails and placed her hands on his shoulders, “please, don’t think twice about calling me if you need something or even just need to talk, okay?”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Amy,” Tails said
Shock, fear, and the burning urge to just scream it to everybody that she wasn’t really dead had put him on the verge of just shutting down because he could barely stand seeing how painful it was for everyone else and couldn’t even reassure himself when he had to keep playing along.
“Sonic, I think I’m ready to go home,” Tails said.
“Sure, buddy.” Sonic put an arm around his shoulder before turning to Amy, “Take it easy, Amy.”