After relaying Gadget’s information to the Resistance, Silver found himself thinking about the wolf a lot. Sometimes just idle consideration, others openly worrying. Not that Gadget couldn’t take care of himself, he’d managed for over two months already, but…
The hardest part of his future had been the lack of companionship. Sure there were people around, some even friendly, but everyone’s focus was on surviving another day. Silver’s quest to save their world meant he was always on the move and never stayed with any of them for long.
Gadget’s situation reminded him of those days. Always on the move, never able to connect with anyone. And the thought of someone else going through that cut deep into barely scabbed wounds.
In the end, he lasted about five days before sending Gadget a message via his communicator.
Hey, where have your travels taken you now?
This is Silver btw
Silver moved to tuck the com away, only to whip it back out when it chirped immediately. Already a response? That was…
He paused as he read Gadget’s response. How in Chaos’ name did he end up on a different continent? It hadn’t even been a week?!
Shaking off the surprise, he punched in a response.
That’s pretty far, I wanted to come say hi but maybe not
I can message when I’m back over there
That would be great! How’d you get there anyway?
Silver snorted and tucked his com away. At least he was doing alright, even if he was a secretive dork.
(He still wanted to know how Gadget managed to travel so far so fast. One day he’d wheedle it out of him. Maybe after the war was over.)
The next time he heard from Gadget was a week after that, fortunately right after a mission. The message was simple, just a city and a direction to head in from there, but that was plenty for Silver to go on. And a few hundred miles was worth the effort, even if it did leave him drained. He’d just need an hour or two to rest before making his way back to base.
Gadget was sitting cross legged on the edge of a cracked stone fountain, staring at the murky greenish water left at the bottom. He glanced up and smiled when Silver settled on the concrete next to him.
“Long time no see,” Silver said. “Find anything cool on your journey?”
Gadget tapped his chin briefly before grinning and nodding. “There’s a lot of jungle over there. And some nice waterfalls. And a lake that was good to swim in.” He paused for a moment. His voice was softer when he continued. “Lots of small towns too. Too many to visit them all.”
And even with the vague statement, Silver immediately understood. “I’m sure you did your best. No matter what… we can’t protect everyone. We can only save as many as possible, and live to fight another day.”
Gadget nodded, eyes trained on where his finger traced cracks in the concrete. “It still hurts.”
“It always does.”
Gadget looked up at him, their eyes meeting for a moment in mutual understanding before he looked away again. He placed both his palms on the concrete, spread his fingers wide, then curled them in, then spread them again.
Silver watched him repeat this process a few times before looking away and stretching his legs out in front of him, just to move a little. He couldn’t think of a good way to break the silence, especially with someone who spoke so little in general.
He frowned, realizing he’d forgotten that little detail for a minute. “Hey Gadget… you don’t have to answer, but. You try not to talk usually, right?”
Gadget glanced at him, nodding. “It takes too much energy. I usually can, I just don’t.”
Gadget hesitated, looking conflicted. “I… go nonverbal sometimes. And can’t talk at all. But usually I’m semiverbal.”
“Ah.” Silver thought for a moment. “You know sign language, right? Do you think you could teach me a few signs? That way you won’t have to speak or write everything.”
Gadget grinned and nodded.
(Gadget turned out to be a good teacher, and Silver was an eager student. Finding a Mobian sign language book for Silver to study between meetings helped too.)
Silver watched curiously as Gadget folded his wispon into a rectangle and tucked it away in his pocket. “You did that yourself, right? The modifications?”
Gadget grinned and nodded.
“That’s really neat. I’ve never been much of a tech person, but it’s so amazing how you can just… come up with something that could exist and then make it happen.”
“[Engineer thing,]” Gadget signed, then finger spelled engineer and repeated the sign. Silver copied him, slower, adjusting when Gadget corrected his form.
“Makes sense,” Silver said, running the motions a couple more times before dropping his hands to his lap. “Tails does that kind of thing all the time. Though… I think he pushes himself a bit too hard.” His ears drooped at the thought. He remembered Tails being such a bright spirit the last time they’d met, but these days… “He worries he’s not doing enough.” To make up for what wasn’t his fault.
Gadget was quiet for a long time. Silver eventually raised his eyes to look at him askance just before Gadget blurted “I made my hook too!”
Silver blinked, staring at Gadget’s slightly awkward expression as he pointed at the mechanism on his wrist. He decided not to ask. “That’s impressive. Got any details a mechanical idiot like me could understand?”
Gadget brightened instantly and started rambling in a mix of sign and speech. Sometimes he forgot to spell out unfamiliar signs, or switched mid-sentence and mixed up his grammar, but Silver didn’t mind. He wasn’t following more than general details anyway, and seeing Gadget happy was more than worth a little confusion.
(They met up as many weeks as they could manage. Sometimes Gadget was too far away; sometimes Silver was busy with Resistance work. Once in a while one of the other Resistance members would be in the area and meet up with Gadget. Silver was just happy that Gadget had people to talk to.)
“Running out of bandages is one thing,” Silver said as he carefully secured a large cotton pad to Gadget’s back with neat layers of gauze. “That happens. But running out of bandages and then not mentioning that you’re bleeding out when you text is not okay. How did you get that cut anyway? Do we need to get you a tetanus shot?” He finished securing the wrap and leaned back to wait for a response.
Gadget lowered his arms carefully, wincing at the stiffness in his torn muscles. The painkiller Silver made him take could only do so much, considering it couldn’t be strong enough to knock him out. “[E-M-P-T-Y head],” he signed.
“Empty is right. I’m still waiting to hear how you managed to slash your shoulder that bad.”
He grimaced before raising one hand to sign a name, the other picking at the torn edge of his shoulder strap where it lay in his lap. “[Infinite.]”
All of Silver’s anger shifted, but he managed to cool it down some. Getting angry with Infinite wouldn’t make Gadget feel any better. “Not directly, though?”
“[A-C-C-I-D-E-N-T. In the way.]”
“Okay. If it was one of his cubes or energy things you shouldn’t need a shot.” He narrowed his eyes again. “Which is good cause I didn’t bring one, considering all you mentioned was being out of bandages.”
Gadget ducked his head, scuffing the ground with the toe of his boot. “[Sorry.]”
Silver sighed, his anger draining all at once and leaving him exhausted. He never was that great with other people’s injuries. (Too much risk of something going wrong and-) “Accepted, but next time let me know the full problem, okay? Now let’s find you somewhere safe to rest and I can repair that strap of yours.”
A hand snagged his wristband, falling away as soon as he paused. Gadget opened his mouth, paused, and huffed. His mouth twisted as he raised his hands again. “[D-O-N-T say ?]”
Silver frowned. “Don’t – you mean don’t tell the others? Gadget, with your back injured like that you shouldn’t be using your grappling hook. Heck, you shouldn’t be moving your shoulder at all, especially not with a painkiller numbing it. I know I’m pushing it by helping even this much, but if something happens right now…”
He trailed off as Gadget shook his head, expression sad but resolute. Silver sighed. “Alright, come on. I’m still finding you somewhere to rest and fixing this strap. Sewing is hard enough with two functional arms.”
(The next time Silver saw Gadget, his shoulder was healed except for a jagged scar that would have been invisible if his fur was better kept. When asked about it, Gadget almost burst into tears, and Silver quickly changed the subject. He didn’t ask again.)
After seeing one of Gadget’s hide and seek rounds firsthand, Silver found himself worrying more than ever. More so because he hadn’t heard anything from Gadget since he left. When he finally received a new message, he shot off almost before he finished reading it.
When he found Gadget, the wolf jumped to greet him, but his smile was wavery and forced. Silver just held his arms out and waited.
Gadget crashed into him and wrapped his arms around Silver’s shoulders, sobbing distorted apologies that Silver could only make out because he knew. He knew what was going through Gadget’s head right now. Even though their situations didn’t have that much in common, he understood what this kind of life could do.
So instead of telling him it wasn’t his fault, he simply replied “I know” to each apology, letting him cry and yell and make wordless noises of indistinct emotion. Because right now, that’s what he needed. Someone to be there so he could release even a fraction of the emotions he’d bottled up over the last four months.
And as he gently stroked over a red back, tracing the line of an aged scar, as Gadget stopped speaking but continued to cry in silence, he came to a decision. He couldn’t protect Gadget, and Gadget wouldn’t want him to anyway. But he could be the friend that Gadget so badly needed to stand by him. And he would, for as long as Gadget let him.