Work Header

Lost in Translation

Chapter Text

"Okay… Open your eyes!"

Sonic did so without any hesitation, focusing on the brightly smiling fox in front of him. The blue blur rose a brow at his kid brother before looking around the slightly cluttered garage. He was searching for anything new he hadn't seen coming in; Tails obviously had a surprise waiting for him. But what?

"Uh." Sonic refocused on the kit, putting a hand on his hip. "So, what did ya call me out here for, bud?"

Tails' namesakes were wagging back and forth in excitement. "For this!" His hands, which had been hidden behind his back, sprung forward. Sonic leaned forward to get closer to the open palms, and he noticed that the fox was showcasing a tiny black box.

The hero didn't know what he had been expecting, but this wasn't it. It was so…small. Tails was more into building things flashy and high-tech, the opposite of this box.

Sonic was still curious though. Tails was known for exceeding his expectations. "What is it?"

The kit was clearly proud of his accomplishment. "It's a multilingual translator! It can translate any language into our own!" Tails giggled, positioning the petite device between his pointer finger and thumb. "Additional features include simple functionality! There's only an on and off switch!" He pointed to the tiny lever. "And it's easily portable so it won't become a burden!"

Sonic laughed. "Careful Tails! You're startin' to sound like an infomercial!"

Tails chuckled a bit sheepishly. "I did sound like one, didn't I?" Enthusiastic sapphire blues shined up at the speedster. "How sold are you?"

"If I had money, you'd be takin' all of it." Sonic ruffled the kit's bangs, snickering at Tails' half-hearted attempt to swat him away.

After fixing his fringe, Tails held the translator out for the hedgehog to take. "Here! Try it out!"

"Right now?" Sonic asked, the device being dropped into his open palm. "But there's nothin' to translate!"

"I added something special to it!" Tails was rocking back and forth on his heels. "Go ahead!"

"Okay okay!" Sonic better get started before the kit became any more impatient. He inwardly chuckled. He was really rubbing off on this kid. "So I just flip the switch and talk?" Tails nodded adamantly. With a flick of a finger, the translator was on. A tiny green light was blinking. Sonic thought of what to say. "Um…"

He startled a bit when his own voice emitted from the translator. 'My mind is totally blank right now.'

"Wha…" The hero blinked in shock. "What?"

The device started up again. 'What is this thing doing?'

"It's translating what you really mean!" Tails happily chirped. "Along with languages, it basically reads your mind!"

'Man, I am such a genius!' the translator said in the kitsune's voice.

"Wow Tails!" Sonic looked at the device in newfound awe. "This is awesome!"

'I'm going to have so much fun with this!'

The fox cocked his head up at the grinning speedster. "Fun? What do you mean?"

'Sonic…what are you going to do…?'

The azure hedgie's grin widened when an idea popped into his mind. This translator would be best used with people who barely talked, was angry ninety percent of the time, and had striped quills. Today was one of Shadow's days off, right?

Sonic turned the device off and patted the other's shoulder in reassurance. "Nothin' too dangerous!" Though, it really depended if Shadow had a gun on him or not.

Tails didn't look to sure. "Just don't get it destroyed. I worked long and hard on that!"

The hedgehog turned in the direction of the exit, waving the kit off. "Don't worry about it, bro!" Sonic then tucked the device inside his quills. "I'll keep it safe and sound!" He blasted off before Tails could reply.

Sonic's smile couldn't be wider as he knocked on Shadow's apartment door. This was about to be grade A entertainment right here. He'd have to thank Tails for this opportunity.

The speedster didn't hear any noise from the inside for a long while, and Sonic was beginning to wonder of his rival was even home. Just because he wasn't busy being an agent didn't mean that he was just lounging around. Sonic pursed his lips, glancing behind him at the busy city. Maybe he could run into him somewhere out there…?

However, that thought was soon forgotten when the sound of someone unlocking the door reached his ears.

Sonic decided to control his smile so Shadow wouldn't be suspicious right out of the gate. He had to look natural, not like he had just won the lottery.

The door was opened to reveal a grumpy Ultimate Lifeform, and wow, bedhead alert. Shadow most likely had just rolled out of his bed. His quills were in disarray, his eyes were droopy, and he didn't even have his shoes on yet. Sonic was surprised that the other actually got the door in that state. Sonic would've just ignored the knocking.

The blue blur waved, disregarding the slightly irritated look he was receiving. "Long time no see, Shads! Missed me?" He then used his other hand to pretend to scratch his head, finding the translator and turning it on.

"No." Shadow was about to shut the door in his face. "Leave, hedgehog."

A robotic version of his voice filled the air. 'A bit, actually, but come back when I'm more awake.'

Sonic rose a brow at that, smirking, while Shadow froze where he stood, eyes wide. "I always knew that you valued our friendship!" He pushed past the petrified striped 'hog, entering the spotless apartment. "And well, you seem more awake now!"

'You're a great actor, Shads, I give you that! I'll just let myself in, hope you don't mind.'

Shadow turned toward him, closing the door. His eyes were now narrowed into slits. "Faker, what is talking?"

'What in the absolute hell is that?'

Sonic chuckled. This was getting better by the second. Shadow couldn't hide behind that stoic exterior of his anymore. "It's a translator! Tails built it! It can translate any language and well…" He gestured to Shadow. "…call out any liars!"

'My bro is amazing, and it's time for you to open up!'

Shadow blinked before scowling at him, throwing his shoe-less feet a swift glance. He couldn't utilize his usual speed, and Sonic couldn't feel any type of Chaos emerald nearby. Shadow couldn't get away. Perfect.

"Turn it off before you regret it." Shadow threatened, stepping closer to Sonic.

'Destroy that damn thing before it says something it shouldn't.'

Sonic's grin nearly covered his entire face. Half of his amusement came from the fact that he was about to get something juicy, and the other half was Shadow's hilarious reaction. His muzzle had paled somewhat, and his glare had a small bit of panic in it. Oh man. What was about to be dug up? Shadow slept with a teddy bear? He secretly adored sappy romance movies? He actually loved chili dogs as much as Sonic did?

"Nah uh uh!" Sonic wiggled a finger before taking out the small translator. Shadow's heated scarlets snapped to it. "Promised Tails that it wouldn't get destroyed!" He replaced it, and his rival's frown deepened. "Now, what are you hidin', Shads?"

'Tails will throw me out if it gets broken. Spill the beans! I know there's something!'

"There's nothing!" Shadow snapped, fists clenched at his sides. He closed the distance between the two a little more.

'There's something.'

Sonic spread his arms out wide. "C'mon Shads! I'm your friend, right? You can tell me!"

'I totally wouldn't tell anyone. Probably.'

Shadow was about to respond, but he snapped his jaw shut. His quills bristled as he growled loudly.

The device still somehow translated that. 'More than a friend, and that's why I can't tell you.'

Sonic's brow furrowed, his smile melting off of his face at that. "Wha-" He didn't finish his inquiry, for a frenzied Shadow launched himself at him. The azure hedgie had been too caught off guard to properly dodge the attack, breath being knocked out of him. "Gah!" He gasped in pain when his back hit the floor.

His scrambled brain snapped back together when he felt fingers in his quills. Sonic grabbed Shadow's wrists and struggled to hold them away from his head. "Gonna have to stop you there, Shads! No touching the goods!"

'Gotta try harder!'

The striped hedgehog continued to try to get to the device, teeth bared. "Give it to me!"

'Give it to me!'

Sonic needed to mend this situation. He wouldn't admit it out loud, but Shadow was the tiniest bit stronger than him. In his current position, the translator wasn't going to make it out of this apartment. With a strong twist of his torso, the speedster quickly rolled them over, him now straddling the other and using his weight to pin Shadow's wrists to the floor.

Shadow didn't stop fighting him, glaring with the heat of a thousand suns. Sonic wasn't affected. He simply smiled, glad that his rival was still tired. At a hundred percent, Sonic would've been thrown off.

"So tell me…" The blue blur began, mentally going through theories himself, "…what do you mean about me being more than a friend to you?"

'I'm super curious and I'll never get this chance again and I'm not letting you go unless you spill.'

Shadow's ears were plastered against his head. He had ceased growling, apparently learning that any sound could trigger the device, but his red orbs were still enraged. He didn't answer.

Sonic hummed before leaning closer to him, a lightbulb going off in his mind. Shadow turning his head to the side didn't deter him. "I'm more than a friend…" He smirked. "I'm your best friend then! Aw Shads, that's so sweet!" The azure speedster then imitated a girl's voice. "We're gonna be best friends forever!"

'Rouge is so gonna be ticked off when she finds out. You're going to be the one to break it to her, okay bestie?'

That seemed to push Shadow over the edge. He snarled deeply. "That's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard! That translator is wrong, dammit! I-" The striped mammal gritted his teeth together, the regret in his eyes clear as day. Before Sonic could question that however, the device spoke up.

'You're not my best friend, but the device was still right. I like you, you damned idiot. Why can't you see that?'

Those words repeated in Sonic's head over and over again. "Like me? What…" It all clicked with the help of context clues, how tense Shadow had gotten, and how his rival didn't even attempt to refute it. Once he understood, his mind short-circuited and he yanked away from Shadow like he had been burnt.

'You like me, as in romantically?'

Sonic winced at the words the translator emitted, feeling highly uncomfortable now. He didn't know what to do nor say. Shadow wasn't looking at him, his jaw clenched. His ruby irises were duller now. Sonic was keenly aware that he was still straddling the other.

He made a move to put more space in between them two, but Shadow's arm suddenly shot out, grabbing his chin. It would've been easy to just jerk out of the hold, but Sonic went stock-still when his rival's other hand fingered through the fur on his shoulder. It then journeyed up into the hero's mess of quills, the digits leaving tingles in their wake.

Ruby orbs were focused on him now, but they lacked something. If Sonic hadn't been so distracted by his increased heart rate, the fingers combing through his spines, and the verbal bomb that had just been dropped on him, he would've pinpointed that Shadow's eyes lacked spark, resolve…hope.

The azure speedster forgot the ability to breathe when Shadow pulled him closer, noses almost touching. Sonic was mentally screaming at himself to stop whatever this was and to just go, but his body wasn't listening to him because Shadow was pretty much showing him right now that he liked him romantically. Shadow had feelings for him! Sonic couldn't comprehend this.

They were friends, yeah, maybe leaning towards good friends depending on the day and whether Shadow was in a positive mood or not. But that was it! Nothing else…or was there? Sonic thoughts were a whirlwind high on sugar and was Shadow about to kiss him?!

The striped one was so close. Sonic could feel his warmth, his breath…but in a blink, his presence was gone.

Sonic's breaths were rapid and shallow, wide eyes watching Shadow watch him. His rival had swiftly leaned back. His scarlet orbs were unreadable as he held up his hand. Sonic tore his attention from Shadow's face and focused…on the translator now in the other's possession.

The blue blur's lips twitched downwards as Shadow turned the device off with the flick of a switch. It was tossed his way, and Sonic instinctively caught it. He didn't care about the invention right now though. He was more confused than ever. The whole…whatever it was…had been done to get the translator? Sonic guessed that he was relieved…? But Shadow still liked him though…and that…

"Get off."

Sonic was thrown out of his musings at Shadow's voice. It was quiet and hollow. The azure hedgie scrambled to his feet, not taking his eyes off the other. The striped 'hog got up as well, avoiding Sonic's gaze. Without saying anything, Shadow turned away and walked in the direction of a branching hallway.

Sonic finally got his voice back as he reached out. "Wait…Shads!" The other paused in his stride, his back to the hero. Sonic floundered for something to say, anything to say, to make things…better? Less confusing? But, all he came up with was, "W-Where are you going?"

"Back to bed." Those toneless words hit Sonic like a bag of bricks. "Let yourself out."

Shadow disappeared deeper into the apartment, and Sonic still had no idea about what to do. He could go talk to him, but he was sure that Shadow wouldn't appreciate it. At all. It wasn't like Sonic had anything to say anyway.

However, he couldn't just ignore it, right? Shadow wasn't Amy. Shadow wasn't Amy…

Sonic let out a shaky breath. He gingerly rubbed his head where his rival's hands had been.

Shadow and Amy weren't identical, but…maybe pretending it didn't happen would work for him too? Amy always bounced back. Shadow was strong. He should too. Things would go back to normal.

With one last long look, Sonic left the apartment and ran away from his thoughts.

Chapter Text

When Sonic had returned to the garage, his kid brother was busy tinkering with the controls of the bi-plane, hunched over in the cockpit.

The azure hedgehog had decided on the way over not to tell Tails what happened back in Shadow's apartment. Sharing his experience would make it too real, and it was easier to pretend that nothing changed if no one kept reminding him. If Shadow did the same, then their friendship would be like it had always been: kicking butts, fast races, and fun arguments.

Nodding to himself, Sonic grinned as he neared the aircraft. "Hiya Tails!" He stifled a chuckle when the kit jumped out of his skin, accidently throwing a pair of pliers and having them clatter on the floor. Sonic fetched them and held the tool out once he was beside the kitsune, leaning against the plane. "Little jumpy, aren't we?"

Tails' cheeks reddened in embarrassment as he took the pliers. Sonic couldn't hold in his snickers, and the kid weakly glared at him. "Nevermind how you almost gave me a heart attack…" The blush faded marginally as his gaze turned accusatory. "Where's the translator? It better not be broken!"

Sonic pulled the device out of his quills, somewhat regretting taking it for a spin in the first place. He shook it a bit. "Ye of little faith! It's right here, all in one piece!"

The blue blur tossed the translator over and instantly wanted to undo that action when Tails asked, "So what did you do with it?"

Sonic would've told the little white lie of 'messed with Shadow' without any worry, but he stopped any words from passing through his lips. Tails was waiting for an answer; however, he was also turning the device off and on, checking for any malfunctions. The hedgehog must have been quiet for too long, because Tails gave him his full attention, unknowingly leaving the translator on.

The hero opened and closed his mouth like a fish, trying and failing to come up with words that wouldn't translate into information that should be avoided.

Tails seemed to notice how nervous he was, glancing suspiciously between him and the device until it clicked. His sapphire orbs widened. "Sonic…what did you do?"

'You did something terrible, didn't you?'

Curse Tails and his above average intelligence.

Sonic maintained his grin and shook his head, taking a risk. "C'mon Tails! You know me! I wouldn't do anythin' like that!"

'You nailed it right on the head, kiddo.'

Sonic wanted to hide the twitch his grin had acquired, but Tails was too observant for his own good. The kit gave the translator one last glance before turning it off and placing it in his lap, hands off. Tails stared him down, blue irises unwavering. "Sonic, tell me what happened. With how you're acting, you did something bad. And it's not the good bad or the funny bad either."

Sonic had to get rid of that look. His walls were crumbling. He couldn't remember the last time he had kept a secret from his best friend. Sonic scoffed. "You seriously don't have to worry-"

"Tell me the truth, Sonic. Please?" Tails implored.

The speedster inwardly sighed. So much for keeping it hush-hush. Sonic ran a hand down his face before breathing out, "Alright alright. I'll tell you…but you can't tell anyone, okay?"

Tails blinked, obviously confused. "What-"

"Just promise me."

The kit eventually nodded, and Sonic scratched his cheek, avoiding those curious eyes. "So I went to Shadow's place," he started, having to build himself up.

"Okay…" Tails trailed off.

"I used the translator on him, some uh…things happened, and well…" Might as well rip the band-aid off, right? Sonic faced Tails, rubbing his neck in discomfort. His tongue felt heavy all of a sudden. Sonic cleared his throat and blurted it out. "Shadow likes me."

Tails frowned, looking underwhelmed and clearly missing the point. "Uh yeah…you two are friends and liking each other does come with the territory…" Sonic inwardly groaned. He was hoping that he wouldn't have to explain this, but often enough he did forget that Tails was an eight-year-old kid.

"No, Tails!" Sonic lowered his voice even though no one else was around. "Shadow…like likes me."

The fox understood that perfectly, for his lips formed a surprised 'o'.

Sonic would've laughed at the other's comical expression if this had been any other situation. As it was, the hero absently scraped his shoe across the concrete. "Yeah."

"I…didn't expect that…"

Sonic snorted. "Imagine my surprise!"

It was quiet for a moment in the garage. Tails' brows had creased, and Sonic almost could see the gears turning in his head. A frown then formed on the kit's muzzle. "Wait…you said you figured that out with the translator?" Sonic barely had the chance to nod before the vulpine gasped. "He didn't mean to tell you!"

The hero softly tapped a finger against the hide of the plane. "That's my guess…" He pictured his striped rival turning his back on him, and something inside him twisted. It wasn't his intention to hurt Shadow like that. If he had known… "He was pretty upset."

"I bet…" Tails then bit his lip, staring at the blue blur expectedly.

Sonic rose a brow. "What?"

The kit fiddled with his fingers. "So um…do you…like him back?"

Sonic froze up at the question. Did he like Shadow back? His mind first told him no, that he didn't. It was because he never had those kind of 'romantic' thoughts about him. But, Sonic honestly hadn't thought about anyone in that way. He was too busy being a hero to pay attention to that kind of stuff. Yeah, he's had fans after him from time to time, and Amy had her affections too, but Sonic never thought about actual relationships.

He liked being around Shadow. The striped 'hog was his own version of fun once he stopped being so stoic all the time. Sonic enjoyed being around Tails and Knuckles too though. The thought of liking them in that way almost made him laugh with how absurd it was. However, the thought of him liking Shadow didn't. He had no idea what that meant.

Subtly frowning, Sonic replied, "No…don't think so. I just want things to stay the way they are. Wild 'n free, y'know?"

Tails slowly nodded, but he seemed uneasy. "And is…Shadow okay with that?"

Sonic chewed the inside of his cheek. Though it didn't seem like it, Shadow would be alright. He hadn't dwelled on many things for long, so why start now? Sonic's grin was lopsided. "'Course he is! It's not like we hate each other now! We're still pals!"

The kit allowed a relieved smile to grow. "That's good to hear!"

Sonic put a finger over his mouth and patted Tails on the shoulder good-naturedly. "Don't forget to keep this a secret, 'kay?" Shadow would not be a happy camper if this got out.

The fox zipped his lips closed and pretended to throw away the key.

He was stupid.

His fantasy was just that, a dream world not fit for reality.

Gloved fingers were shaking from strain, for they were tightly clenched around a pillow.

Shadow didn't know how long he had been laying in his bed for. It could've been minutes or hours after the front door had shut. He hadn't been keeping track.

It wasn't because he had gone back to sleep. No. It was because of Sonic and that damned invention.

Shadow curled up more in his bed, facing a bland wall. He had been glaring at a particular spot for so long that he was shocked a hole hadn't been melted through.

He didn't even know who he was angrier at: Sonic, the translator, or himself.

The faker… Shadow would love to blame him for all of this. Just to point fingers at him and just to rage at that idiotic hedgehog. He couldn't though. Because he knew if Sonic hadn't had the translator, Shadow wouldn't have minded losing a few minutes of sleep fighting to shut the door in the other's face and mindlessly bickering. It had happened before.

However, that invention was there, and it caused him hell. Sonic wasn't supposed to know dammit. He wasn't supposed to know. Now it was out there, without Shadow's consent. The way Sonic reacted to those words pained him more than he could explain. The hero had wanted to get away from him. It was there that Shadow knew it was over, or rather, it was never there to begin with.

With how Sonic had always acted towards him – all smiles, laughs, an overall ray of annoying sunshine – Shadow thought that something extra was there. He was wrong though. It was nothing. Sonic was like that with everyone. Shadow wasn't special.

He had allowed for these feelings to grow, and look at him now. Pathetically curled up in his blankets, blocking out the world, and wishing that he had just stayed in bed in the first place. Chaos, he was so stupid.

Why had he been so hopeful?

Love hadn't worked out for him in the past, so why in the hell would it now?

Shadow sucked in a breath when knocking echoed throughout his apartment. His leg twitched, but he continued laying there. Only two people would come visit him. He didn't want to talk to either of them. One had already shot him in the heart today and Shadow was damn sure that he wasn't going to take another bullet. The other…she was going to have to come back later, when he was done bleeding.

The knocking eventually stopped. Shadow believed that they had gone away, but then he heard the door open. The hedgehog cursed to himself. Sonic had left it unlocked.


He shouldn't have felt disappointed that it wasn't the faker. He should have been relieved. Though, it was difficult to feel any positive emotion after one learned that reality was cruel. Shadow was its punching bag, taking hit after hit after hit. Time healed all wounds? Wrong. It ripped the scars right back open.

"Shadow? Are you in here?"

Her heels were clacking against the floor. The sound faded into the kitchen before it raised again in volume. The clicking went on before abruptly stopping, and Shadow felt her gaze on his back.

"He's still asleep?" She whispered, and the edge of his mattress dipped.

Shadow inwardly sighed. There was no point in faking. Rouge wasn't going to leave him alone. "I'm not," he uttered lowly.

There was a brief pause before she asked, "Then why are you still in your bed, hon? It's almost two o'clock!"

That answered his question from before. He had been in bed for hours, wallowing in self-pity.

What had he become? He was a bioengineered weapon of mass destruction with the force and willpower to bring any foe to their knees. Now though, he had been reduced to a weak shell of his former self just because Sonic communicated a clear no. Pathetic.

He just wished that it would stop hurting.

"He knows." His throat constricted after saying those words.

Why did it hurt so much? So what if Sonic had stayed by his side every time he pushed him away, so what if they foiled each other perfectly, so what if his day got a bit more bearable if he saw Sonic for a single minute? So what?

Just…dammit Sonic.

"He knows? As in…he knows?"

Shadow heavily exhaled before straining to sit up, his blanket pooling in his lap. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Rouge stiffen as she took in his disheveled appearance. Concerned teals eventually settled back on his face, and his dull scarlets met them.

Rouge scooted more onto the bed, her expression solemn. "And I'm assuming it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows…" Shadow didn't have to answer, his body language telling that and more. The bat's lips curled downwards. "What happened?"

Shadow almost didn't want to relive it, the words 'leave me alone' on the tip of his tongue. He couldn't say that though. She had helped him when the feelings first emerged. She helped make sense of everything, so she had the right to know. And well, she wouldn't let it go until he told her anyway.

He clenched his jaw for a moment before avoiding her gaze and retelling everything. Every detail was touched, including how close Sonic was when they were wrestling for the translator and how easy it would've been to kiss him then and there. He couldn't do it though. He couldn't force himself upon Sonic and completely shatter whatever they had left.

Rouge was silent until he finished. She hummed thoughtfully. "Now that's an interesting way to fully come out of the closet."

Shadow wasn't amused. He glared at her, but it was lacking its usual heat. "Leave if you're just going to-"

The bat held up an innocent hand. "I'm not making fun of you or this situation, sugar. All of it is still sinking in." She gave him another once-over, leaning back on her arm. "From what I heard, all isn't lost."

Shadow derisively scoffed. He didn't know what in his story led her to that conclusion. Sonic had been repulsed by him and left. Yes, Shadow did tell him to leave, but usually, the faker was all for doing the complete opposite of what he said. Not this time though. If that wasn't a sign that everything was lost, he didn't know what was.

"At least hear me out, hon." Rouge chastised with an eye roll. "If Blue doesn't talk to you anymore after what happened, I'd honestly be surprised." Shadow rose a brow, a muted curiosity flowing through him. The ghost of a smirk grew on her face. "After all that you've done in the past, I seriously doubt having feelings for him would be the thing that he pushes you away for."

She had a point, Shadow knew. The things he had done in the past – hell, some things he did in the present – would be enough to drive anyone away. But yet, Sonic still had been there.

Shadow fisted his sheets at the thought of running into that speedster again. The prospect of seeing his face and knowing that nothing would be returned wasn't pleasant. It tore him up because dammit, he had built his hope up so high that the crash was beyond devastating.

He was thrown out of his musings by a tap on the shoulder. Rouge was peering at him, her smirk gone. "But remember, you can't be the one pushing either. If you want to keep him in your life, then-"

"What's the point?" Shadow growled, quills bristling. "What's the point if when every time I see him, I'm reminded that I'm nothing but a damn fool who…" His throat was constricting again.

Rouge looked sadly at him, and he hated it. "You can't help who you fall in love with, Shadow."

He didn't acknowledge that. He detangled from his blanket, got out of the bed, and left her behind in the bedroom. Shadow stalked into the kitchen, muscles tense as he poured himself a cup of water. He downed it in one go and slammed the glass on the counter almost hard enough for it to crack.

Why him?

Shadow fought to keep his breaths steady, glaring hard at the granite countertop like it was the one to blame for all of this.

"Have you eaten at all today?"

Black ears perked, but he didn't turn around. He didn't want to see Rouge's expression. "No."

"Good." There was clanking behind him, and Shadow couldn't help but to look. His hover shoes were sitting pretty on the floor. His gaze drifted upward to find Rouge standing in the doorway, smiling. "Then let's de-stress and grab some lunch. Weekends are supposed to be relaxing, aren't they?"

Shadow blinked at her before refocusing on his shoes. Despite how he was feeling, he might as well go. She was clearly worried and provided a way to distract him. Nothing would keep him from thinking about the deep hole he had dug himself into, but she wasn't going to leave him by himself even if he said no.

He sighed. "Fine."

Chapter Text

The café they entered had a cheerful atmosphere. The workers were smiling at customers even though this was busy hour, the place was cozy and inviting, and the delicious smells of the food was enough to brighten anyone's day.

Well, anyone's except a particular Ultimate Lifeform's.

The metaphorical dark cloud over his head didn't dissipate as he followed Rouge to an empty booth. When he sat down, he crossed his arms and glared down at the table, avoiding glancing out of the window beside him and hating himself for acting like this.

On the way over, he had been tense with anticipation. With every step, he had been fearing the call of his name from a disembodied voice that stood out from the noise of the bustling city. And that fear – that uncontrollable nervousness – pissed him off.

He had stared death in the face more times than he could count, but the prospect of seeing a flash of blue anywhere was enough to make every single one of his nerves stand on end.

Shadow clenched his jaw, and the heat of his stare increased. He hated feeling this way. However, it seemed like he didn't have a choice because…no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't look out of that damned window.

"Hello! Welcome to SS Café!" When Shadow's glare slid up to meet their unassuming waitress, she wilted a bit, and her smile became strained. "W-What would you two like?"

Rouge placed down a menu that Shadow hadn't noticed before. The bat grinned. "Ignore him. He woke up on the wrong side of the bed today." Molten scarlets snapped over to her, but the bat didn't react to them. Instead, she ordered. "I would like a chicken salad with a water, please."

The worker nodded and wrote it down on her pad. She then turned to Shadow and hesitantly asked, "A-And you, sir?"

"Water." He grunted out. He wasn't in the mood to eat.

Without missing a beat, Rouge ordered for him, but not without rolling her eyes first. "He would like a ham and cheese sandwich, light on the mayo."

"Alright! That should be out soon!" The waitress then hurriedly scampered away.

Rouge watched her go before releasing a quiet sigh. "She didn't deserve that, hon."

Shadow didn't respond. She didn't deserve that? Well, he didn't deserve having his emotions turn on him with no mercy in response to having his hope shattered into a million pieces. She would get over it.

Rouge said nothing else for a while, her teal orbs peering out of that dreaded window. He returned his heated gaze to the table, allowing the chatter around him to cloud any self-deprecating thoughts. It worked…until Rouge opened her mouth.

"Thinking about it, I'm actually surprised that Blue doesn't like you back."

Shadow inhaled sharply, glancing around them to make sure that no one had overheard that for Rouge apparently didn't care about eavesdropping ears. It didn't seem like anyone was paying attention to them, but he didn't want to take any chances.

He leaned forward and lowered his voice to a deadly whisper. "I'd rather not have the whole café know about my careless mistakes."

Rouge wasn't intimidated at all, and sometimes that put him at a disadvantage. She waved him off, leaning on her elbows. "I doubt anyone's listening sugar. They've got their own problems." The bat had that sad look again – though it was more muted here in public – but he still disliked it nonetheless. "And what you did was neither careless nor a mistake, hon."

Shadow begged to differ. "What in the hell are you going on about? Of course it was-"

She cut him off with a shrug. "Well, if I was in your place, I would've thought that he had felt something too."

The striped hedgehog narrowed his eyes at her. Where was she going with this?

Rouge allowed a small smile. "I don't know if you've noticed it, but when he's with you, something's…different."

Shadow stiffened before growling lowly. "Now's not the time for jokes, Rouge."

"I'm not joking, Shadow." She hummed to herself, a thoughtful expression on her face. "I can't put my finger on it, but it's a subtle difference."

He pointedly glanced away from her, mood darkening. "It is nothing, Rouge."

"You assume."

Shadow's quills marginally bristled at that. "There are no assumptions here. There are nothing but facts." He hissed, his tone cold. "He found out, and he left. Speculation is a waste of ti-"

"Your drinks!"

The striped hedgie snapped his mouth closed and settled his back against the booth. The waitress smiled politely as she placed the glasses of water down between them. Shadow's annoyed gaze hadn't strayed from Rouge as the bat thanked the waitress.

"Your orders should be almost done," the worker said, not completely hiding her curiosity but smart enough not to vocalize it. "Usually it would be out by now, but with how busy we are-"

"You're fine, hon." Rouge placated before sipping her drink. "It's not your fault." She finished after swallowing.

"I should be back soon!" The waitress then went to cover another table.

Shadow didn't touch his glass. He was debating on leaving Rouge here alone, for it was obvious that she had brought him here to discuss impossibilities he was nowhere in the state of mind to talk about. There was no point in finding the light in this situation since he was drowning in an emotional abyss.

Why exactly was Rouge doing this? If she cared at all about him, she should just drop the subject altogether. She should just leave him alone until the crushing disappointment and loathing faded away.

However, it seemed like the bat planned to do the complete opposite of that. "Now where were we…right." Rouge traced the rim of her cup with her finger. "Maybe there's something you're missing, hon. Maybe that whole…event didn't mean anything."

"Didn't mean…" Venom leaked into Shadow's voice, and leaving the bat where as she was seemed like a great idea at the moment. "Didn't mean anything? I-"

Rouge held up a hand before he could say any more. "Before you get too riled up, just listen." Shadow narrowed his eyes, giving her one last chance before he stormed out. "What I mean is that if I had learned that someone liked me the way Blue had learned, I would've left the place too. It might be because I didn't like him back, but it would be mostly because I'd be overwhelmed and confused."

Shadow thought about blocking her out. Her words meant nothing because she wasn't Sonic. She couldn't know what he had been thinking, feeling. She hadn't seen his face.

The female agent tasted her drink again. "For as long as we have known Blue, I haven't seen him with a girlfriend…or a boyfriend for that matter. Haven't even seen him show that kind of interest in someone else. Well…" Her lips curled up at him, and Shadow glared, silently communicating that if she finished that thought, then she would be paying for both of their meals. Faker didn't return his affections, period. She wisely moved along. "Sonic is inexperienced sugar, plain and simple."

Shadow derisively scoffed at that. "I somehow doubt that. With all of his fans throwing themselves at him, he surely-"

"Have you seen how he pushes away Pinky?" Rouge interjected, raising a brow. Shadow didn't answer aloud, but yes he had, and he remembered the satisfaction of every time Sonic turned down that pink hedgehog. Though – he just realized now – they…were in the same boat, weren't they? No. He refused to believe that. Rose was insistent and acted exactly like Faker's more rabid fans. The only difference was that she had somehow became a friend.

Shadow was hardly just an admirer who had a crush on their 'hero'. He was an equal. An equal who had come to grow attached to his former rival only to have the consequence of that to slap him hard in the face.

Oblivious to his thoughts, Rouge rambled on. "If he had a chance to get with anyone, it would've been her." Shadow stiffened at that, fingers clenched. The bat relaxed her features. "All I'm saying is that I doubt that Blue knew how to handle that information how it was given. That's why he bolted. He is good at running, after all."

Shadow saw the logic in her words, but the dark part of him denied every single one of them. "You weren't there, Rouge. You can't possibly know anything."

The white Mobian groaned in frustration. "I'm trying to help, Shadow!" She then lowered her voice, being considerate of their surroundings this time. "You do like him, don't you? Then why are you so opposed to-"

"Hey guys!"

Shadow went rigid at that familiar voice. He was about to convince himself that his mind was playing tricks on him and that it wasn't Faker calling out to them, but Rouge's shocked gaze peering over his shoulder made him realize that punching out the window and high-tailing through it would not be a bad move.

The striped hedgie saw blue appear in the corner of his eye, but he didn't acknowledge it. He absently wondered if the pounding of his traitorous heart could be heard.

Rouge was the first one to recover. She looked up at him and warmly greeted. "Well hello to you too, Blue."

Shadow felt those expressive emerald orbs on him. The gaze that always had a spark of life no matter the situation. There was light there that Shadow had thought was only reserved for him…but he was wrong.

He didn't want to stare into those green depths, so instead, he looked out of the window. It was safe to now.

Unfortunately, because of how his life loved throwing surprises at him, he could clearly see Sonic in the reflection.

The azure hedgehog cocked his head before leaning his hands against the table, throwing Shadow a teasing smirk that normally would make something inside him twist. Now though, it just sent yet another bullet through him.

"C'mon Shads!" The nickname that he loved to hate – hated to love – caused another wave of pain, loathing…hopelessness…to crash into him. "Don't I at least get a hi?"

In the reflection, he saw Rouge subtly frown at the hero. "Now's not a good time, hon."

Sonic rose a brow at her. "What do you mean?"

"Shadow just-"

"Needs to stop being a grump all the time?" Sonic chuckled. "That's been established, Rouge. Have you been livin' under a rock?"

Rouge threw the azure 'hog a suspicious look, and Shadow almost did too. Sonic was acting…off. If this had been a normal day, this wouldn't have been strange, but considering what had happened…how Sonic was talking was rubbing Shadow the wrong way.

Was Sonic…ignoring what had happened? Ignoring how he had ripped something away from him? Ignoring how Shadow felt about it?

With Rouge's next question, Shadow figured that his were about to be answered. "Yeah, he might need to work on his attitude…but enough about him." She planted a grin on her face. "I haven't seen you in a while, hon. What have you been up to today?"

The quick glance over to Shadow was almost missed. Sonic tapped his chin. "Nothin' really. I went on a mornin' run, Tails showed me a couple of inventions in his workshop-" Shadow barely swallowed his growl. "-and uh…I decided to take a stroll in the city and ended up spotting you two!"

There it was. Sonic was pretending that it didn't happen. He was pretending that he hadn't barged in, hadn't tore a dear secret out of him, and hadn't left him alone to wallow in his…

"Leave." His voice was strained, nearly shaking from rage.

Sonic was bewildered, eyes widening. "What? But-"

"I said leave!" Shadow snarled, whirling his head toward the blue Mobian and watching as the other flinched backwards. The café had gone dead silent. Shadow didn't care. He was too angry to give a damn about how he looked or sounded.

Sonic hadn't moved, now frowning at him like he was the one who had stepped out of line. "Shadow, why are-" The striped hedgie didn't give him a chance to finish. Since Sonic wasn't leaving, Shadow would gladly do so. He stood out of his seat and harshly bumped shoulders with the other, planning to head for the exit.

"Hey wait!" A hand grasped his arm.

Shadow yanked it off of him and squeezed the wrist until Sonic's features twisted up in pain. If only that equaled his own. "Don't. Touch. Me." He bit before letting go of the hedgehog's hand and exiting the café.

Shadow chose a random direction and blasted away without looking back.

Sonic inwardly hissed as he held his throbbing wrist close to himself. However, whether or not it was sprained wasn't top priority at the moment. He had done something terribly wrong, and he was a step away from racing after his striped rival.

Before he made a move though, a feminine voice stopped him in his tracks. "Sit down, Sonic." Said speedster glanced back at Rouge, and she gestured to the now empty seat in front of her. "Let's talk for a minute, hon."

Sonic was torn. He wanted to go find Shadow and fix what just happened because things had went south real fast, but Rouge's tone was inarguable and he was a bit nervous now. There was no wrath like a woman's wrath.



Sonic gulped before sliding into the booth, rotating his wrist marginally and finding out that it was just bruised. Rouge's stare was unreadable as she tapped her finger on the table, the sound seemingly echoing around the quiet eatery.

The bat glanced around at the curious onlookers. The smile that formed wasn't friendly. "I suggest that all of you start minding your own business now," she said it loud enough for all to hear, and just like that, the café was busy again with clattering plates and chattering voices filling the air.

Sonic observed their surroundings for a bit before grinning – he hoped that she couldn't tell that it was twitching – at the bat in front of him. "So…um. What did you want to talk about?"

Rouge swirled the water in her cup, her movements jerky. "Why did you think that would work?"

Sonic bounced his leg up and down under the table, knowing what she was talking about but not knowing if she knew what she was talking about. "You gotta be more specific…"

The cup stilled. She harshly whispered. "Please tell me why you thought pretending that it didn't happen would work? I'd love to hear that explanation."

Sonic's sucked in a breath at that before stressfully raking his fingers through his quills. He was surprised that she knew, but…it wasn't totally unexpected. "I just thought that nothing would change if we didn't-"

"Acknowledge it?" She finished for him, and he nodded. Though, that turned out to be the wrong move because her teal irises hardened. "Problems don't go away if you ignore them. They only get bigger."

Sonic knew that, but with this kind of situation, he had learned that ignorance was bliss. Fans didn't hate him, Amy was still a close friend, so…he just believed that Shadow would act the same way.

"I…" He absently tapped his foot on the ground. "It always had worked before, y'know? With Ames and…"

Sonic trailed off when Rouge heavily sighed, her gaze losing some of its sharpness. "I'm sorry, sugar, if it seems like I'm mad at you. This whole situation is…" She sipped her drink. "I understand why you would've thought that. But…" She paused for a second with a look on her face like she wasn't sure if she should continue or not. "But with how he likes you, doing that just made it worse. As you can see."

The speedster rubbed his wrist. Yeah, he saw. "So, I'm going to need to talk to him then? About it?" It was going to be really awkward. No one else had reacted like that. What would he say? Sorry? He had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't going to be so easy.

He had to try though. Underneath how angry Shadow was, he saw the pain. Sonic honestly didn't mean to hurt him like that.

She nodded. "Bingo. But not right now though."

Sonic frowned at her. "Why not?"

Rouge stood up just as a waitress with two plates came over. The bat didn't answer him at first. She focused on the worker. "Can you put those in to-go plates please?" The waitress blinked before obliging. Rouge turned her attention on a perplexed Sonic and smirked. "You can't right now because you're paying for the food."

Sonic gaped at that before glancing over to the insanely long check-out line. When emerald eyes found Rouge again to protest, she was already halfway through the doors with the food.

Sonic slumped, accepting his fate. He knew that he deserved it.

Chapter Text

Sonic searched, but he hadn't been able to find Shadow…

…for the past few days.

Though, he shouldn't be surprised that he hadn't found him. The world was massive, after all. Shadow could've put up camp in a cave somewhere in the arctic for all he knew. He could be anywhere.

Normally, he wouldn't be distraught about Shadow's sudden disappearance. Heck, there were times when months would go by and he hadn't seen the guy once. Sonic wouldn't worry at all because Shadow was more than capable of taking care of himself in almost any situation. When they met up again, Sonic would tease him and he would retaliate and life was normal.

Wait…had Shadow liked him then? How exactly long had Shadow felt this way about him? Had it been from the very beginning? Or had it developed over time? If it happened the latter way, then Shadow needed an award because nothing had changed about him. Shadow had still been the brooding edgehog he always was.

And honestly – how his rival had kept this under wraps – that made this whole situation worse. Sonic had ripped that secret out, and now Shadow was gone because of what he did. The guilt had been bubbling up inside him. He just wanted to find Shadow to apologize for ignoring what happened, and…

And what? Shadow still had feelings for him. Disregarding those feelings made things worse, and the hurt on his face…Sonic wanted to make that go away, however he could. He hadn't ever seen that expression on Shadow's face in his life, and he had been the jerk to pull it out of the depths.

If only he could just find him…


Sonic was thrown out of his troubled musings by Tails' loud voice. He glanced away from the untouched chili dog in front of him to focus on the fox. Tails was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, a concerned frown on his muzzle.

"I've been calling your name…" The kit said as he joined Sonic the table, sapphires not straying from the hero's face. He then glanced to the food on the hedgehog's plate, and the downturn of his lips grew more prominent. "You haven't touched your chili dog yet?"

Sonic stared down at the 'dog for a moment, but he couldn't bring himself to eat it. He'd lost his appetite. He shrugged. "Guess I'm not that hungry anymore! I'll just wrap it up and put it in the fridge for later."

"…Shadow's okay, you know." Tails brought up. "He's the second strongest hedgehog I've ever met."

Sonic chuckled at that, and a small smile brightened the kid's expression. It was honestly hard to be down in the dumps around Tails. "And that's twenty brownie points for you!" The hedgie chirped before sighing, leaning back in his chair. "But yeah…I know he's fine, wherever he is. I just want to get to him, y'know? Make things right."

Tails nodded at that, understanding. Sonic had told him everything that had happened at the café, and the kid had given the same advice as Rouge: to go talk to him. Easier said than done…

"Maybe he just needs some alone time?" Tails suggested, his namesakes leisurely swishing behind him. "He'll come back when he's ready."

"I guess…" Sonic leaned his elbow on the table and propped his chin in his palm. "I really screwed up, Tails."

The fox's ears drooped marginally. "You didn't know, Sonic. And plus, I should've thought of situations like this when I built-"

Sonic had to stop him there. "Don't blame yourself for this! It was all me. I was the one who went over there, and I was the one who thought just ignoring it would-"

He was interrupted by a shrill ringing. Blue ears swiveled in the direction of the phone hanging on the nearby wall. "I'll get it," Sonic said as he stood up, wondering who it could be. Picking the phone up, he greeted, "Hello! Fastest thing alive speaking, how may I be of service?"

"I couldn't have expected anything less from you, Blue."

"Oh, hey Rouge!" Sonic glimpsed over at Tails, who was looking on in curiosity. "You need anythin'?" He asked, hope rising. Along with him, Rouge had been searching high and low for Shadow too until she had to go back to work today. The last thing she had said to him was that she'd call if she had any news.

"What I need is for you to lace up your shoes and go find Shadow. I've got his location, hon."

Grinning threatening to split his face in half, Sonic gave Tails a thumbs up, and the kit beamed. Relief flooded the speedster's veins. "Where is he?"

"I can't exactly tell you that, but just a minute ago, he was using a phone from a convenience store about a hundred miles northwest of here. He had called in to take tomorrow off, and I managed to track down where he was."

"Got it!" Sonic was more than ready to blast away. He had to fix what he had broken. "I'll find 'im!"

"You better. Make things right, sugar. If you can't, at least try your best." Sonic nodded even though she couldn't see him. "Bring him back too. I'm not spending another day here by myself."

"I hear ya. Talk to you later, Rouge!"

"Good luck, hon."

The azure hero hung up and faced Tails. "Alright bud, I'll be back soon!" The kit genially waved, and Sonic was about to step in the direction of the exit, but he paused for a second. "Wrap the chili dog up for me, would ya?"

He was gone before Tails could answer.

A bell rung over his head as he swung open a door, emerald orbs surveying the shelves of low priced goodies. Sonic ignored them in favor of strolling over to the bored looking cashier and giving his signature grin.

"Hey there!" The elderly man slowly glanced up from the newspaper he had been reading. Sonic figured that the guy didn't want anything to do with this job or customer service in general so he made this quick. "I'm lookin' for somebody. Have you seen a black hedgehog around here?"

The man's brow twitched upwards. "Do you mean the black hedgehog who had ducked behind a shelf the moment you came in here?"

Before Sonic could fully register what had been said, there was a gust of wind behind him and the chiming of bells.

Thinking on his feet, he zoomed out of the store after yelling a hasty thanks to the cashier. Sonic frantically glanced around and quickly found Shadow's form skating away. Glad that they were in the middle of nowhere and that there were virtually no obstacles, Sonic sprinted after him. His feet were thudding against the ground as the world blurred, the only thing remaining in focus was his red and black target who tried to take unexpected turns and curves to throw him off his tail.

Shadow should've known better though. Because of Sonic's experiences in the field, keeping up with his rival was child's play. Catching up with him in the other hand was another story. They both were quick on their feet – the distance between them not decreasing in the slightest – so he had to come up with another plan of action.

"Shads!" Sonic shouted, wanting the other to simply stop and listen. Shadow kept going like he hadn't even heard him. "Shadow!" The blue blur tried again to no avail. He wasn't one to give up however. "I just want to talk!"

To his surprise, Shadow actually started to slow down. Sonic grinned as they both eventually came to a stop. He was still looking at the other's back, but he wouldn't let that deter him. The azure hero stepped forward and raised a hand to clasp an ebony shoulder. "Thanks for slowin', Shads! Not that I needed you to do it, but-"

He was cut off by a fist square in his jaw.

Sonic staggered backwards as pain blossomed in his chin. It took a moment to realize that he had been hit, and by the time he had recovered, another fist was flying towards his face. "Whoa!" The blue blur caught the offending hand before it could do any lasting damage. He gently rubbed his throbbing jaw – yep, that was definitely gonna bruise – before focusing on his rival.

Emerald orbs widened at the amount of fury present in Shadow's expression. He was baring his teeth in a scowl, and those scarlet eyes of this were a raging wildfire. Even so, with all the anger being pushed upon him, there was more lurking underneath. More that Shadow was trying to mask.

Sonic attempted conversation again. "Hey-" He didn't manage anymore before having to duck a kick aimed for his head. He then hopped over a low sweep. Sonic's lips twitched downwards when he landed. As much as he enjoyed their spars, now wasn't the time. "Can't you just-"

He nearly doubled over when Shadow landed a hit on his torso. That was it. If Shadow wanted to fight, then they'll fight. Maybe afterwards – when Shads got his butt handed to him – he'd be calm enough to hear him out.

Sonic smirked at his current adversary, the pain in his stomach pushed to the back of his mind. "Wanna rumble, Shads? Then let's go!" He shot his hands out and wrapped his fingers around Shadow's arm before he could pull away. Turning on his heel, he slung the striped one around and released him.

Shadow righted himself in the air before landing in a kneeling position, slightly sliding backwards. He wasn't scowling anymore, but the deep frown and glare he wore projected his displeasure loud and clear.

Sonic's smirk only grew. Shadow wasn't running away again. That was good. But, he wasn't surprised though. Shadow never backed down from a fight.

The blue speedster rubbed his jaw again before rushing the darker hedgie, aiming a fist to the chest. Shadow sidestepped him and countered with a punch to Sonic's own torso. It would've landed if the hero hadn't backflipped out of range – he always went for style points when he could – kicking his adversary right in the chin in the process.

Shadow's snarl was guttural; Sonic didn't give him a chance to attack though. He dove right back in, roundhouse kicking the spot Shadow would've been in if he hadn't jumped up high into the air. His rival became a wheel of spinning quills. He launched himself at Sonic, who dodged before doing the same, tearing up the ground under him.

He ricocheted right off of Shadow's stomach, and he grinned victoriously as the other bounced once against the grass, quickly finding his footing again. They didn't move for a handful of seconds, staring each other down. Then, like a flare had gone off, the duo lunged for each other.

Fists and feet flew. Many hits were made, and just as many bruises followed. Sonic didn't mind though. Because, despite how this situation started and how it was going to end, sparring like this always lit a fire under him. It got his adrenaline pumping and well, it was something he could do with Shadow that no one else could. And it was like no matter how the day was – good or bad – for either of them, fighting took them out of the moment.

Honestly, both physically and verbally fighting with Shadow was fun. And he wanted it to stay like that. He didn't want anything to change. However, with Shadow's confession, things might do just that. His teasing nature was a fatal flaw if he ever had one…

Sonic gasped when Shadow harshly tackled him, having distracted himself for one quick moment. That was all it took though with them. His back hit the ground hard, and Shadow was instantly over him, frown still present as he pinned down Sonic's arms.

The hero tried to wriggle out of the other's grip, but it was futile. Shadow had won, this time. Sonic relaxed his body, panting. He was beat – in all meanings of the word: exhausted, full of bruises, and not the winner – and he could tell Shadow was as spent as he was, breathing heavier than normal.

Sonic guessed that it was the perfect time to remind Shadow why he chased him down in the first place. "Got it all outta your system now?"

For some reason, those words made Shadow freeze up. The striped 'hog glanced down at their position before scowling again and sitting up, letting Sonic go. Shadow shifted like he was about to get up – and possibly skate away – but Sonic wasn't going allow that.

The azure hedgehog hastily grasped the ebony hedgie's forearm. Shadow resisted, but with them both running on fumes, he didn't quite escape the speedster. Sonic understood the other's standoffish behavior, but he was trying to make it right! Couldn't Shadow see that?

"C'mon, Shadow! I'm tryin' to-"

"I don't care." Shadow spat, his efforts doubling.

"But I do!" Sonic retorted, hints of exasperation in his voice. "Give me five minutes, tops! Then…you can go if you want."

The Ultimate Lifeform's stare was heated as he successfully yanked his arm free. He then pointedly looked away. "Three minutes." Shadow somewhat wobblily got to his feet. He put a little distance between them before turning his back and crossing his arms.

Sonic chewed the inside of his cheek. Right. Three minutes to save whatever remnants of friendship they had left. It was a tall order, but he could do it. His mouth had gotten him out of hairy situations…and also had put him into worse ones…

Exhaling deeply, Sonic stood up, painfully pulling some of his forming bruises. "Well, I came here to talk, like I said before you decided to throw a surprise attack." He massaged his jaw that was still aching. "Always playin' dirty, huh?" he said in jest.

Shadow didn't react at all, the weak breeze rustling his quills.

Sonic took that in stride. "Anyway…I came to say that I'm sorry." Shadow's head moved marginally, just enough to be noticeable. He didn't anything though. Sonic figured that he was doing something right. "I'm sorry for comin' to you with the translator, sorry for ignoring what happened, and sorry for…lumping you with all of the others."

Shadow was still as a statue.

Sonic sighed. "I messed up. I should've done this with you instead of running out of your apartment." He chuckled. It lacked the usual mirth. "But you know me, running's kinda my thing."

Nothing from his rival, and Sonic had no idea how much time he had left.

"But I'm here now, and that counts, right?" Sonic tried, only to get no response. He pushed on. "It was just…out of the blue and…I never expected that…you were the last person-" The hero cut himself off, realizing that finishing that statement wouldn't help him. He scratched his cheek, gaze shifting to the clouds above. "H…How long have you…you know…"

"Too long."

Those words were curt and crisp, and Sonic's attention snapped back to Shadow. For a reason unknown to the hero, they resonated like a cracking whip inside him. "Okay, for a while then…" He then took a risk, his curiosity rising. "Why exactly…do you like me?" Sonic forced a smirk. "Is it my boyish charm?" Or because of his speed, his heroism, his looks…anything that the magazines listed.

It was silent for a long while. Sonic fully realized that he might've overstepped his boundaries, and Shadow was about to blast off the next second.

However, the striped Mobian didn't move. Sonic saw the other's body tense, so he was momentarily confused when Shadow's voice came out softer. He was clearly still angry, yeah, but his tone wasn't dripping with poison. "…You're an idiot."

"Huh." A genuine snicker escaped Sonic's throat. "I've never heard that reason before."

"That doesn't make it any less true." The speedster rolled his eyes. Teasing was familiar territory. He could deal with that. Though, the familiarity only lasted a few beats before Shadow continued. "You're like a damn rash that never goes away. When I think it's gone, I scratch it, and…" He trailed off, and Sonic waited quietly, mind spinning. That was new. The hero heard the other exhale harshly. "You gave me a second chance even though it was completely idiotic to. I didn't deserve it."

Now that was nonsense of Sonic ever heard it. "Of course you did!" He took a step closer. "You're an awesome guy, Shads! You were just a little confused, that's all." He chuckled. "And plus, if I hadn't given you another chance, things wouldn't be like they are now!"

"Yeah." Sonic figured that he should've phrased that last sentence a bit differently. Shadow's voice had gained a somber tone. "We wouldn't be standing here. Going through this."

Sonic paused at that before steeling himself. He went around Shadow in order to look him in his eyes. There was a split second where those dark scarlets expressed too many emotions to name, but they were instantly gone. Covered by anger and irritation.

The azure hedgie softly smiled, hating that he had done this to Shadow. If he had to name the most sure and sturdy person in his life, he would've said it was his striped rival. Seeing him now…

Sonic put a hand on his hip. "Hey Shads, we're friends, right?" Shadow derisively scoffed, his glare unrelenting. Sonic rolled his eyes. "Alright alright…it's just the two of us out here! Admit it!" The other hedgehog stayed silent. However, some of the heat in his gaze dissipated, and the blue blur assumed that was an implied yes. Sonic could roll with that.

Then, despite what had happened a couple days ago at the café, Sonic put a hand on Shadow's shoulder. The striped 'hog tensed at his touch and narrowed his eyes, but the azure's wrist hadn't become a target this time. That was a good sign of progress.

"Crush or no crush, nothing's gonna change, okay?" Sonic was sure in his statement, blinking and missing how his rival's ruby pools dulled. "I'm still gonna be there to annoy you, to spar with you, to be your friend." He barked out a laugh when a thought occurred to him. "And oh man, my range of teasing just got larger!"

Sonic removed his hand, his smile morphing into a jeering smirk. "I'm flattered that Mr. Stoic is attracted to me of all people. What, guns don't do it for ya?"

Shadow glanced to the side, not looking as relaxed and okay as Sonic thought he would be. "Like I said, you're an idiot." His tone was still off too.

The hero eyed him, drawing a blank. He didn't know what else to say so Shadow would go back to his normal self. He was stumped until a lightbulb went off in his mind. Maybe he didn't have to say anything at all. He might get punched in the gut for this, but he had to try.

Quickly – so Shadow had no opportunity to move – Sonic wrapped his arms around his rival and hugged him. Everyone deserved a hug once in a while, and Shadow was long overdue. The one he was embracing went ramrod straight. Shadow hadn't pushed him off yet however, so he held on.

"I'll still be there, okay? Don't you worry," Sonic whispered, chin resting on the ebony's shoulder. When was the last time Shadow's been hugged? He didn't even know, but Sonic knew for sure that this was his first time holding the striped one. Shad's white chest fur was as soft as it looked, and…

Sonic sucked in a quiet breath when he felt arms encircling him as well. They were somewhat shaky, but they were there and he felt the warmth. Shadow then buried his face into his shoulder, his embrace pulling them closer together.

Sonic could feel another heartbeat against his chest, matching his own.

This was unexpected, but he couldn't say that he was uncomfortable. Shadow clearly needed this. Sonic would gladly stay in this position if it helped him out with everything. That's what friends did for each other.

"So…how am I on time?" Sonic asked breathily after a minute or so.

"...I never started counting." Shadow's murmur was muffled.

Sonic couldn't hold in his laughter.

Chapter Text

Ebony ears perked up when the sound of knocking filled his apartment.

Shadow debated not answering it. He was comfortable on his couch, wrapped in a warm blanket and watching some documentary he hadn't been paying attention to.

He had been back for a little over an hour. The hedgie didn't waste time in relaxing his used muscles, finding the soft cushions, mindful of his bruises. Sonic hadn't followed him over. Shadow had been disappointed – and enraged at himself for feeling like that – but not surprised.

He knew how everything stood, after all.

Sonic was a friend: no more, no less. That hug was for comfort, and no matter how much Shadow had longed for the warmth to mean something different, something more, he couldn't refute that fact. The black anthro enjoyed it, more than he would admit. That was probably the closest he had ever been to his former rival. Shadow had let him go too quickly; he hadn't wanted to push the other's boundaries. However, he should have held on. Held on to that fantasy.

Sonic wasn't going to leave him alone. He accepted that. Avoiding the idiot would do nothing but hurt the both of them. He was fated to be reminded that what he yearned for was always within arm's reach but never in his grasp. He was putting himself through this torture, for what? To see that damned smile? To hear his cheerful voice. To…

He was helpless, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

"Shadow! I know you're in there, hon. Open up!"

A heavy sigh was breathed out through parted lips. He carefully detangled his limbs from the blanket, deciding to let Rouge in. She wouldn't leave him alone until he did anyway.

Shadow shuffled over to the door – his bruises feeling less than comfortable – before unlocking and pulling it open. Scarlet orbs met content teals. Rouge was grinning at him with a bag in her hands.

"I'm glad that you didn't make me kick down the door, sugar." She held the bag out for him to take, and Shadow noticed a styrofoam container inside. "It's the sandwich you left behind the other day. Kept it safe in my fridge."

Shadow took it. An appreciative 'thanks' sat on his tongue, but it never reached the bat's ears. Instead, he asked, "Why did you tell him where I was, Rouge?" He wasn't mad at her. In fact, he should've seen it coming. He was more irritated at himself than anything.

Rouge put her hands on her hips, arching a brow. "Why do you think? It was for Blue to talk to you." Her grin widened. "And what I heard from him…there was a hug involved?"

Shadow didn't have it in him to glare at her. He simply turned on his heels and made his way to his kitchen, leaving the door open.

It soon closed with a click. "What's the matter, Shadow?" she inquired behind him. "Blue told me that it went well…besides the bruises and all."

"For him." Shadow didn't mean for his tone to be so snappy, but it was hard to contain it. Sonic was happy to know that he had stolen another person's heart, and Shadow had no other choice but to exist with a gaping hole in his chest.

Chair legs scraped against the tiled floor as he sat down at the small kitchen table. He took the sandwich out and bit into it, having felt the beginnings of hunger pangs before Rouge had arrived.

Said bat's heels were clanking against the ground as she got closer. Rouge's lips were pursed in thought as she sat down next to him. Shadow didn't give her a glance, eating his gift in peace.

"Tell me your side then," she said softly, a fingernail gently tapping on the table.

Shadow took another bite, movements stiff. "There's nothing to tell," he responded curtly. "Him finding me didn't change anything."

He saw the frown in his periphery. "Of course it di-"

"What did it change?" Shadow nearly barked, dropping the sandwich harshly into the container. He scowled at her. "Nothing. It only put in concrete that he and I will never be on the same page, in the same book, or in the same damn library."

Rouge didn't look too fazed with his outburst, but she didn't immediately reply. Shadow took a deep breath before chewing another piece of his sandwich. It was when he was almost done with the meal when the bat spoke up.

"Are you sure about that, hon?"

Shadow managed to glare at Rouge this time. This was the exact argument they had in the café, and look how that turned out. "Rouge-"

"Who let go first?"

Shadow's next words died on his lips, not expecting that question. Rouge's expression was neutral, but there was a glint in her eyes that made him pause.

He finished off his meal, eying her. "I don't see how that's relevant at all."

Rouge then smirked, learning forward and propping her chin on her palm. "Who ended the hug?" she repeated. "You or Sonic?"

Shadow had no idea where she was going with this. He was hesitant to answer, wondering if he was walking into one of her traps. "I did."

He didn't understand why she looked so smug. "Really?" She dragged that word out, and Shadow narrowed his ruby orbs at her. Rouge marginally tilted her head. "How long was the hug?"

He deadpanned. "Do you seriously think that I kept track?" He had been too busy enjoying the forbidden fruit to manually count.

Rouge hummed her herself. "So it was long enough for you to stop paying attention? More than a minute then." She giggled. "Well Shadow, it seemed like Sonic was more than comfortable in your arms to me."

The striped Mobian scoffed, crossing his arms. She was trying diligently to get his hopes up. It was a futile effort. "You can't possibly be attempting to use a hug to determine the Faker's feelings." Sonic was no stranger to contact.

"I'm not…" Rouge leaned back in her chair, mischievously smirking. "I'm using the hug as a potential lead, hon."

Shadow didn't verbally question her. The lost expression on his face was enough to get her to continue.

"Okay…so." She pointed to him. "You think that it's just friendship, but I think there's something more there. To settle this little dispute, I have a plan."

Shadow didn't want to touch her 'plan' with a ten-foot pole. "Stay out of this, Rouge. You stepping in won't-"

"I'm not going to be the one stepping in, sugar."

The hedgehog still didn't want to have anything to do with this, but his curiosity was too strong. "What exactly are you planning, Rouge?"

The bat was radiating smugness at this point. Her teal irises glistened. "Do you want to see if we can get Blue jealous?"

"Jeal…" Shadow shook his head. That plan was ridiculous. "Even if I did agree to that and if he felt…something-" Which he didn't. "-he knows how you are and would automatically think that it's a prank or something similar."

Her smirk didn't wane. "Didn't I say that I wasn't going to step in?"

Shadow's eyes widened in comprehension before dangerously narrowing. "No." Absolutely not.

Rouge crossed her legs at the knee. "She'd be onboard if I tell her that Blue would be jealous of you being close to her. When in fact, we're hoping for the other way around." Shadow remained silent, his heated scarlets staring her down. The bat sighed. "What's the worst thing that could happen, hon?"

"Many things." Shadow's voice was a near growl. This was a terrible idea.

Rouge snorted. "Really? I can't think of one. You know that he won't go to Pinky-" His frame stiffened. "-and if it's true that Blue only likes you as a friend, you can rub it in my face forever, sugar."

Shadow wasn't budging. "I don't want to be near her."

"At the price of Blue possibly returning your affections and making you the happiest you've been in a long time?" Rouge's expression had softened to a gentle smile.

Shadow wanted to say that the risk outweighed the reward, but…that wasn't the case. Rouge was right. The worst outcome of this was no better than his current situation.

"…Do what you want," he forced out, quiet and reluctant.

She patted him reassuringly on his shoulder. "We'll start in a few days so Blue will be the least assuming. And good news, you won't even need to talk to her to complete the first step."

He drummed his fingers on his upper arm. "What about the other steps?"

Rouge just grinned at him.

Shadow inwardly sighed. What had he gotten himself into?

"Ugh…I'm so full!"

Sonic chuckled, glancing up at Tails who was carrying him through the air. "Well, you did chow down at the stand, lil bro!" It was impressive too. Tails had eaten two and a half chili dogs. That was a record for him!

Tails groaned as he grounded himself and Sonic, them now in their front yard. The kit rubbed his stomach. "How in the world can you get down four of them?"

Sonic winked at the kid, smirking. "It takes practice! It helps that I'm older, too." He snickered as Tails rolled his eyes. They walked toward the front door. "Now, if you want professional chili dog eating advice, then – Huh?" The blue blur interrupted himself when he noticed a bundle of roses at his doorstep.

Tails followed his gaze and furrowed his brow. "Flowers? Do you think that they're from Amy?"

"Either from her or another one of my adoring fans." Sonic jogged over to the red blossoms, Tails on his heels. This had happened many times before. He would receive cards, flowers, or other small gifts on a weekly basis. It was about that time to get another wave of them.

Stepping up to the flowers, Sonic picked up the bundle and sniffed the petals. They smelled great, as always. The speedster then checked the little tag attached to the string binding the stems. On it read: "From Amy".

He should've known. Roses were Amy's favorite flower after all. Her gestures were sweet, but man where they constant and overbearing. She was a great friend, however-

"Hey Sonic…"

The azure Mobian turned his attention to Tails, who had a notecard in his hand. Sonic's curiosity peaked at the fox's uncertain look. "What is it bud?"

The kit held the paper out, the ghost of a frown on his muzzle. "You should read it yourself…"

Sonic's lips subtly twisted downwards as he gripped the notecard. Why was Tails acting so off? It was definitely Amy's hand-writing. He read it to himself.

"Hello, Shadow! I know that this might be very unexpected, but I hope you like these flowers! You might just…throw them away, but I really want you to read this first. I've…been thinking about you. I don't know why though! I still like Sonic a lot, but sometimes I think about you and how sad and lonely you always seem to be. I know that if you want to talk about anything, you could just go to Rouge, but I'm all ears too! Let's catch dinner sometime if you just want someone who'll listen, okay? I hope I'll see you soon!"

-Sincerely, Amy."

There were then more words on the bottom of the card, smaller and more hastily written.

"To Sonic or Tails, I stopped by so you could give me Shadow's address, but I must've missed you! Could you please give Shadow these flowers for me? It would mean a lot! Thank you!"

Sonic lowered the paper when he finished, mind whirling. He seriously didn't know what to make of this. Amy was reaching out to Shadow? Because she's…been thinking about him. Did she like Shadow…? It said that Amy still was into Sonic, but he assumed that someone could be attracted to multiple people at one time…

He guessed he understood why though. If people could ignore Shadow's rough and tough personality, he would probably be as popular as Sonic. He had the looks, that's for sure.

However…Sonic just couldn't believe that it was Amy. Then that begged the question…would Shadow take her up on her offer? Sonic scoffed. Probably not. Because Shadow was just Shadow and he just a few days ago had said that he liked Sonic.

But again, it's not a crime to want to be close to more than one person…

Sonic reread the letter a second time, something twisting deep within him.

"Sonic?" The hero was thrown out of his thoughts when Tails called him. The kit was staring at the flowers with pursed lips. "So are you going to deliver them?"

'No' was the first thing that popped into his head. Shadow wasn't going to accept these. Sonic knew that Shadow didn't have Amy on his 'closest friends' list, and well, he didn't want his rival getting even more mad at the pinkette for making an attempt to know him better.

However, Sonic knew that Amy would get angry with him if he didn't deliver them. That hammer was something to fear alright.

So Sonic shrugged. "Why not? She did ask nicely!"

Tails' namesakes swished behind him. "I wonder if he's going to keep them…"

"There's only one way to find out!" Sonic smiled, shifting his weight away from the house. "I'll tell ya the deets when I come back!"

The speedster zoomed away, holding the flowers close to his body to minimize the damage, and he was standing in front of Shadow's apartment door within five minutes.

Believing that his rival was home – it was late enough in the day to be off work, after all – Sonic knocked on the door. The incoming footsteps were almost instant. He must've been right there in the living room.

The azure speedster grinned when Shadow revealed himself. Unlike the last time Sonic had been here, the striped hedgie's quills were tamer and his ruby pools were more alert.

Though, the level of irritation Sonic saw in them were about the same. "What do you want, Faker?" Shadow gruffly asked.

Sonic tisked. "Is that anyway to talk to your crush, Shads?" Shadow didn't react like he had thought he would, however. Instead of glaring, scoffing, or rolling his eyes, Shadow just stared at him, clearly unenthused.

"I'm not going to ask again."

Sonic nearly frowned at the bite in the other's tone. He hadn't even done anything yet! Sonic held out at the purpose of his trip, flashing his pearly whites. "I'm here to give you these!"

Shadow glanced down at the bundle of flowers, having just noticed them. He remade eye contact with Sonic, his stare even flatter than before. "Why in the hell are you giving me these?"

Sonic rolled his eyes. Shadow must've had a rough work day or something. "Don't get your quills in a knot, Shads! Don't shoot the messenger!" The darker Mobian rose a brow at that, and Sonic explained, watching the other's reaction carefully. "These are actually from Amy. She's warmin' up to you or something."

The blue hedgehog was minutely surprised when Shadow took them, examining the flowers. He looked as confused as Sonic had initially been. "From Rose?"

Sonic then held out the card. "Yeah, she wrote a whole note for you and everythin'."

Shadow accepted the handout. Sonic stood by as he read it, red eyes scanning the words and mouth silently muttering. When he finished, Sonic had fully expected the striped one to forcefully decline the offer, so he blinked a couple times in shock when Shadow's expression subtly relaxed.

"She's gotten bold," Shadow stated lowly.

Sonic had the urge to pinch himself because he had to be dreaming, right? He played his surprise off though, a teasing smirk growing. "What? Mr. Stoic's finally grown a heart? You're really considerin' her offer?"

Shadow didn't answer him, feeling the softness of one of the rose petals.

Sonic put a hand on his hip. "Because you can talk to me if you need somethin' off your chest! I said that I'll always be there, remember?"

Shadow sharply sighed, giving the azure hedgehog his attention again. "Why do you care so much about me getting a note and a few dying flowers, Faker?"

Sonic floundered for a moment. "Because I'm worried about Ames! You have to know that you intimidate almost everyone you walk by, Shads!" He mentally patted himself on the back. Good save.

The striped Mobian twirled the paper once between his fingers. "Does it seem like she's intimidated to you?"

Sonic blinked. "No, but-"

Shadow stepped back, about to shut the door in his face. "If this is all you came for, then you can leave."

"Aw, you're gonna leave me high and dry out here?" Sonic fought to regather his wits. "Don't I get an invite in?"

"I'm busy with paperwork. Unless you're suddenly good with claims, arguments, and numbers, then I don't need you here."

As much as Sonic didn't like it, Shadow had a point. "Yeah, don't have the first clue to do that kind of stuff. I'm better at chasin' the bad guys." He chuckled before lifting a hand to wave. "See you later then, Shads!" His emerald orbs glimpsed at the roses. "And tell me all about that date, yeah?"

Shadow grunted in response and closed the door.

Sonic stared at it for a couple of seconds and shouted, "And you're welcome!" before running back home.

When he heard Sonic's footsteps fading, Shadow slowly exhaled, his fingers slipping off the door knob.

"That went well."

Shadow peered over his shoulder to see Rouge emerging from the kitchen and leaning against the wall. Her lips were twisted upwards. "So was I right, or was I right?"

The striped hedgehog quietly scoffed, focusing on the flowers and paper in his hand. "I'm still doubtful. For all we know, he actually is concerned for Rose and nothing else." He had no choice but to be pessimistic. Optimism gave him false highs. Those hurt more if he fell.

Rouge approached him, her stubborn positivity staying put. "Oh honey, your naïve little mind is so cute at times." He glared at her, not appreciating that phrasing at all. The bat stopped in front of him, feeling one of the roses. "It might not have been full-blown jealously, but a seed has definitely been planted. We just have to water it and watch it grow."

Shadow was going to question it, but he just let it go. There was no point in poking around Rouge's strange train of thought. He was going to end up getting run over.

The bat then plucked the bundle from his grip and gave it a sniff. "Mmm, these would look wonderful in my window sill, unless you want to keep them?"

He rolled his eyes as he began to tear up the letter. "Take them away."

"Don't mind if I do," she replied lightly. Rouge grabbed the doorknob and partially opened the door. "I'll go over to Pinky's and tell her that the plan's starting smooth. Then in a couple days we can make another move."

Why in the hell were the gaps in between the steps so big? Shadow's brow creased. "And we can't do it tomorrow because-?"

"Because we have to let things marinate, hon." It was clear that Rouge was enjoying herself. She briefly waved. "Have fun with your 'paperwork'." Rouge left with a pep in her step.

Shadow was then left alone. He sighed once more before finding his trash can and dumping the shredded paper in it. He knew it was dangerous to hope, but…

He just hoped that Rouge knew what she was doing.

Chapter Text

Shadow couldn't believe that he was doing this.

Yes, when the idea was first pitched to him in his apartment, he had just left Rouge to it and gone with the flow. Now that he was sitting at a table outside of an ice cream joint however…he was having second thoughts.

There was no way in hell that this was going to work. There were too many uncertain variables.

First off, he knew that he would have to put up with Rose for an indeterminant amount of time. Shadow couldn't remember the last time he'd had a proper conversation with her, so this was going to be rough. He already could tell.

Secondly, Sonic wasn't the jealous type…from what Shadow had seen, anyway. The faker was too happy-go-lucky for that kind of dark and selfish emotion. Shadow didn't know what Rouge had seen in Sonic when they'd exchanged roses, but he knew that it couldn't have been jealousy. Sonic was most likely confused about the completely unexpected turn of events.

And third…

Shadow crossed his arms over his furred chest, taking note of his surroundings. He had claimed the only empty table available, surrounded by chatty citizens enjoying their ice cream. Shadow eyed a particular couple sitting too close to be labelled as just friends.

The striped hedgehog tore his gaze away from them and glared at the decorative tablecloth in front of him. How far was Rouge taking this? She should know better to expect anything more than talking. She knew his limits…

"I want to know exactly what that table did to you."

Black ears perked at the new voice. Shadow glanced up to see Rouge approaching him with an amused grin. Shadow resisted the urge to sigh when he saw Amy strolling beside her, waving genially.

The circular table was only big enough to sit two people. Rose claimed the seat across from him, and Rouge stood to the side, looking way too entertained by this.

Rouge examined the cheery place, grin widening. "You really stick out like a sore thumb here, hon. Would it kill you to crack a smile?" Her teal orbs glinted when they refocused on him. "Especially because of what we're about to do."

Shadow made sure to keep any uncertainty out of his expression. He had to play the part of a rival who would enjoy making the faker squirm, not act like a lovesick pathetic excuse for a hedgehog who was betting all he had on this dubious plan that may or may not – most likely the former – make him regret saying yes in the first place.

Subtly clenching his fists, the striped hedgie disregarded those words and inquired, "How long do we have until he gets here?"

Amy was the one to speak. She was clearly excited about this, a smile permanently etched onto her muzzle. "It should be another five minutes or so!" The pinkette glanced over to the side, and Shadow followed her gaze. Across the street and past the light traffic was a populated food stand. "Sonic always goes to that hot dog cart around six on Wednesdays and Fridays. Never fails!"

Shadow kept his outward displeasure to a minimum while annoyance bubbled up within. "And how exactly do you know that, Rose?"

Amy smoothed out some wrinkles in her sun dress. "I'm just around," she said lightly. "And it's hard to miss the blue blur, you know?"

Shadow knew that. However, he also knew that it was difficult to miss Sonic if someone was constantly stalking him, bothering him, and invading his personal space. Shadow breathed harshly through his nose. "I assume so."

His tone had a bit of an edge to it, but Amy didn't seem to acknowledge it. But of course, it didn't escape Rouge. She sent him a subtle yet sharp warning glance. Shadow pointedly looked away from her, forcing himself to calm while she clasped her hands together. "Well, that leaves just enough time for me to get you two ice cream, hm? Any requests?"

Amy perked up and chirped, "A strawberry cup please, two scoops! Thanks Rouge, I owe you one!"

Rouge waved her off. "Don't worry about it, hon. I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart." She winked, and Shadow inwardly scoffed. Rouge had an ulterior motive for almost everything she did, so 'goodness of my heart' meant 'I know something you don't'. Rose hadn't been around her enough to catch onto that. Thankfully.

"I don't care," Shadow responded to Rouge, mentally preparing himself for being alone with the bubblegum hedgehog.

"Vanilla cone it is!" The bat turned toward the entrance of the ice cream shop before peering over her shoulder at them. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Don't get too handsy, you two."

Shadow shot her a glare she didn't pay attention to while Amy giggled. "You don't have to worry about that, Rouge! I'm sure these people wouldn't appreciate PDA!"

The girls shared a chuckle before Rouge went inside.

Shadow wasn't amused. Rouge was a barely manageable handful by herself without someone edging her on. Ruby irises drifted back over to the hot dog stand and settled, hoping that the pinkette humming a quiet tune would refrain from initiating conversation until either Rouge returned or Sonic made his appearance.

Though, Shadow should've known that simply hoping for things wasn't enough. He'd had plenty experience of that as of late.

"So, Shadow…" The Ultimate Lifeform accepted his unfortunate fate and looked at Amy, who was staring back at him, curiosity swirling in her jade orbs. He subtly rose a brow, and she continued. "Why exactly are you doing this for me?" Shadow swallowed the scoff threatening to escape. Amy then stumbled over her words a bit. "I mean, it's not that I'm not appreciative, but it is kinda weird…"

Of course Rouge would leave him to come up with a cover. Even though it was her damn plan.

"Because he pissed me off." Those words were spat out without any thought, and he realized that it was slightly true. This whole thing started with him tired and full of anger. At Amy's slightly shocked expression, Shadow expounded rather briefly, "I'm getting revenge." That was what past Shadow would've done, but now…

Rose pondered that for a bit. "You want to get under Sonic's skin by making him jealous of us pretending to date?" Shadow's breath hitched at that word, wondering exactly what Rouge had told her. They weren't doing that, pretend or otherwise. "Isn't that kinda complicated? I'm glad that you don't plan to attack him, but…why don't you just punch him, like you usually do?"

Because he'd already tried that, and it ended up in a hug that only dug the massive hole even deeper. This was his last chance of…either validating or completely shutting down Rouge's assumption…his wish.

He wasn't going to tell Rose that, though. Hell no. So he crisply replied, "It's none of your concern."

Amy blinked before brushing her pink bangs out of her face, slightly nodding. "Okay…guess it's not important… At least you're not hurting him too badly." Her smile was back, innocent and unknowing. "But anyway, thanks for this! It could be the push Sonic needs to realize his feelings!"

If only she knew the ambiguity of her words. Shadow just emitted a noncommittal grunt that ended the conversation. Amy happily busied herself with people watching; Shadow was waiting solely for a hint of blue.

A couple minutes or so passed, and Rouge's voice reached their ears.

"I'm impressed. I thought that there would be at least a couple hickies by now." The bat was sauntering to their table with their orders of ice cream, strawberry in one hand and vanilla in the other.

A rosy blush spread across Amy's cheeks as she gasped, sounding somewhat insulted. "Rouge! That's a bit too far! I'm Sonic's and Sonic's only!"

Shadow wanted to throw ice cream at both of them.

"You know that I'm only kidding, Pinky." Rouge grinned as she held out the cold treats. Amy huffed indignantly before taking her cup, humming in contentment after eating a spoonful. Shadow took his cone – not without sending the bat a withering glare that did nothing to ruin her mood – and gave it a tentative lick. It was good, especially on this hot day.

Rouge then leaned on the table, gaining a hushed tone. "Now listen, for this to work, you two have to play nicely. Put on a show."

Shadow lowered his cone, a scowl set. "I didn't sign up for a show, Rouge."

He saw Rose's lips twitch downwards in his periphery. "Wait, Rouge, if he doesn't-"

The winged Mobian held a hand up at her. "He's just fine, sugar. If he wants results, then he's going to have to play the part." Shadow hated how she was right. He broke eye contact when she smirked at him. "Am I wrong, Shadow?"

He didn't answer. Amy's glanced between them two before piping up. "It'll be okay, Shadow! I'm sure we barely have to do anything to get Sonic thinking!"

Rouge put her hands on her hips. "Exactly." She glimpsed in the direction of the stand across the street. "It's getting close to time, so I'm going to find a perch to watch this unfold." Her purple wings spread out, but before she took off, she added, "And remember you two, no breaking character!"

Amy excitedly nodded. "No need to worry!"

"Just go, Rouge," Shadow uttered, leaning back in his chair and taking another lick. Sonic would possibly be suspicious if he saw the bat talking to them. The last thing he needed were complications knocking down the already low chances of this working.

He felt her gaze on him for a quick moment before she took off, wings fluttering away.

"She has a point though…" Amy swallowed some more of her strawberry ice cream. "Would it really kill you to crack a smile? I don't think I've ever seen you do it once." Shadow didn't grace that question with a response. She pointed her spoon at him. "Smiling makes you happier! I read that online somewhere, I think."

"Thanks for the advice." Shadow's tone was flat as he returned to his treat.

It looked like Rose was going to say something else, but the increased volume of voices across the street caught both of their attentions.

It was the speedster they had been waiting for. Sonic was waving to the people in line for the stand. The citizens greeted him back, the children louder than the adults. Sonic and the hot dog vender exchanged a few words that couldn't be heard from where Shadow was before they laughed. The blue hedgie then stood in the back of the long line, whistling to himself.

"There he is!" Shadow flickered his gaze to Amy, and the fond look in her eyes sent a spark of possessiveness through him. The pinkette then pursed her lips. "How are we going to get him to look over here?"

"He'll do it eventually," Shadow said blandly as he swallowed some ice cream, fighting to get a hold of himself. Faker had never been his, and probably never would be.

Amy brightened as she consumed another spoonful. She was still staring at Sonic, who was leisurely observing his surroundings, having nothing better to do while waiting in line. "You're right. I shouldn't be worried!" Rose then unexpectedly hopped out of her seat.

Shadow's gaze became heated when she pushed her chair closer to him and sat back down. Their arms were nearly touching. "What in the hell are you doing?"

Amy wasn't nearly as affected by his glare as she should've been. Was he losing his touch? The pinkette smiled at him. "It's to make our pretend date more believable when he sees us!"

Shadow believed that the previous distance they had between them was just fine. He debated scooting over, but he had noticed something in his periphery. Sonic was looking right at them.

The striped 'hog remained relaxed, not wanting to mess things up. "He's seen us," he whispered to Amy. Before she made any type of move, he told her, "Don't look at him."

Rose giggled and slurped up more of her ice cream. "I'm not dumb, Shadow," she replied just as lowly before going back to normal volume. "Now…" Shadow had not been ready for the spoon filled with pink dessert to be held up to his muzzle. "Do you want to taste?"

Shadow would rather chuck the spoon into the road. However, he had to restrain himself because he was being watched. His teeth were gritting so hard that he was surprised they didn't shatter.

"You don't have to eat it," Amy muttered with a playful look in her eyes. "Just pretend to."

He tried to not let his relief so too much. Telling himself that the potential reward for this was worth it, Shadow marginally leaned forward and opened his mouth.

"Am I interruptin' something?"

None of them were actually startled by Sonic's appearance, but Amy made a show of it. She jumped a bit in her chair, lowering her spoon. Her smile was too bright for Shadow's liking as she regarded him. "Oh hey Sonic! What are you doing out on this beautiful day?"

Sonic, standing where Rouge had been earlier, bobbed his head in the direction of the food stand. "I was 'bout to get me a couple chili dogs, but then I saw you two over here and I had to say hi!" A grin grew on the blue blur's face as he focused on Shadow. The striped one's kept his expression schooled, not giving anything away. "So Shads, I didn't know that you liked strawberry ice cream!"

"I've recently began to tolerate it," Shadow said, watching for any response. Sonic's grin didn't drop, but something subtly changed about his expression that he couldn't pinpoint.

"It is pretty good!" Amy agreed, the breeze rustling her hanging pink quills.

"Huh." Sonic shrugged. "Never really liked the taste, but anyway, have you thanked Ames for the roses yet?"

The pinkette nodded her head. "He sure did the first time we met up!" Shadow licked his cone to hide any surprise. She had obviously had thought about this beforehand, so he was going to let it play out. Unless she went too far.

"The first time?" Sonic blinked before chuckling. "I bet that he didn't even say more than a single sentence! He isn't the best conversationalist in the world, y'know."

Ignoring how pleasant the hero's laugh was, Shadow snorted. "As far as you know, faker."

"Not a conversationalist?" Amy tilted her head at Sonic in confusion. "What are you talking about? He might not talk as much as you do, but he can carry out conversations! Interesting ones at that!"

Sonic arched a brow. "Uh huh, and I love swimming."

"I'm serious!" Shadow subtly tensed when Amy gently leaned against him, waving the speedster off. "You just gotta get him to open up, that's all!"

Shadow observed Sonic as Rose spoke. He was staring at the agent in muted shock. Sonic was probably waiting for him to push Amy away, and when he didn't, the blue blur's emerald gaze landed on the pinkette. The shock was still there, but something else was lurking underneath that made Shadow inhale sharply.

However, it was gone before he could make complete sense of it.

"Oh!" Amy gasped before sitting up straight. She locked eyes with Shadow. "We've been here too long! We're going to miss the movie!"

"Movie?" Sonic echoed incredulously.

Shadow had no idea what she was talking about, but if that was just an excuse to get away from Sonic and end this 'get together', then he was all for it. "Right." He got to his feet, biting the crisp side of his cone. "We should still make it in time."

Amy stood as well, using her unoccupied hand to smooth her dress. "We have to hurry!" They both turned in a random direction to go in. Rose waved over her shoulder. "See you later, Sonic! Enjoy your chili dogs!"

"Wait!" Shadow glanced back to see Sonic holding a hand out, looking at him. "Before you go…Shads, can I talk with you for a sec?"

The striped Mobian pretended to think about it, continuing to enjoy his treat. "No. We're on a time crunch, if you couldn't tell."

"I'm sure it can wait a bit!" Amy exclaimed as they walked away. "See you!"

After a beat, the hand Sonic was holding out lifted and waved as they went. "It better not be a rom com!"

Amy snickered while Shadow turned his head forward, leaving Sonic behind. They strolled side-by-side down the street until they finished their ice cream. Shadow had the small thought that Sonic might've followed them, but after a quick scan of their surroundings – people going in and out a wide assortment of stores – there was no sign of the hero.

Rose was jumping up and down, squealing to herself. "That totally worked! Oh my gosh!" Wired jades met exasperated scarlets. "Did you see how he was looking? His body language? He even wanted to speak with you! Probably going to tell you to give me space or something! This was the best idea ever, Shadow!"

He tuned out her girly noises and mentally went back to what he saw before. Sonic had been bothered that Rose had pressed herself against him. But what did that mean…?

"You two deserve awards for that little performance there." Rouge flew down in front of them, looking impressed. "That seed had definitely sprouted, lovebirds."

"I think so too!" Amy dreamily sighed. "It's only a matter of time!"

Rouge smirked. "Can't argue with you there, Pinky."

Amy glanced behind them before asking, "You saw everything, right?" The bat nodded. "What did Sonic do after we left?"

"He just moseyed back over to the food cart line." Rouge put a hand on her hip. "He was looking mighty pensive from what I saw on top of the ice cream building."

Amy was so happy that she looked like she might explode. She flung herself forward and unexpectedly hugged Rouge. She pulled back before the bat could get over the initial surprise. "This is going to work out perfectly! You're the best, Rouge! You too, Shadow!" Amy didn't dare do the same thing to the hedgehog though, and he was grateful for that. "I'll see you on our next date!"

Rose began to skip away with a pep in her step.

"I'll call you, hon!" Rouge called after her.

"I'll be waiting!" Amy answered cheerfully.

When she was gone, the female agent grinned knowingly at Shadow. "Believe me now?"

He released a long-winded sigh, going over that moment again and again. "It'd be idiotic not too." He was still reserved about it however. He couldn't get too hopeful. One misstep and a sprout could easily be crushed.

She nudged him. "I'm glad you finally see it my way!" Shadow resisted rolling his eyes. "Oh, and you owe me for the ice cream, sugar."

He should've expected that.

Sonic was pacing back and forth in his kitchen, occasionally muttering under his breath. He kept on giving the nearby phone looks until he heavily exhaled and reached for it. After punching in a few numbers and having the other pick up, he parted his lips:

"Hey Rouge…can you do me a favor?"

Chapter Text

"…What?" Shadow asked, for he surely hadn't heard the words out of Rouge's mouth correctly. His ears had to be playing tricks on him.

Rouge grinned as they approached G.U.N. headquarters. "You know that you heard me the first time, sugar." Shadow glared at her, but he couldn't manage the usual heat because his mind was spinning so rapidly. "But since you need clarification, I'll repeat it." Her tone was so smug. "Blue called me yesterday asking me tell him whenever you and Pinky 'go out'."

So Shadow had heard it correctly then.

How was he supposed to react to this? On one hand, Sonic supposedly didn't like it when he and Rose were together, but on the other, he had no idea why. Shadow had noticed the look Sonic gave him at the ice cream shop, but-

"Shadow, if you're thinking that Blue is just protective of Pinky, I will hit you."

The striped hedgehog clenched his jaw. "I wasn't. I was just-"

"Busy putting up walls just in case this fails, right?" Those teal irises were looking at him knowingly. Sometimes, Shadow wished that he hadn't let her get so close to him. Rouge put a hand on her hip. "This plan isn't going to flop. I saw it, and you saw it. Blue'll break soon enough." She winked.

Shadow took a deep breath. He wanted to believe her, but until it happened, he was going to prepare himself for the fallout.

East Emerald Coast, seven o'clock.

That was the time and location Rouge had told him.

Sonic had assured himself that he wasn't stalking them. No, he was just checking on them. He was a slightly curious friend just…concerned about the current situation. There was nothing wrong with that. Nope.

He was going to simply keep an eye on things and maybe find out exactly why Shadow and Amy had been so buddy-buddy lately. Don't get him wrong, Sonic was glad that Shadow was finally learning how to socialize, but this whole thing was weird.

Shadow had barely looked Amy's way unless everyone was needed to fight Eggman's robots, but even then, he would say a couple words to her and that was it. That was a stark contrast to now. Shads and Amy had been get together multiples times, it seemed. Talking to each other.

But why? What changed? Was it because Sonic didn't want anything to change between him and Shadow? That had to be it, because Sonic couldn't think of anything else eventful in that time frame.

This wasn't what Sonic wanted though. He said that he'd still be there for Shadow to talk to or spar with or whatever, and then his rival basically ignored him completely and found a companion in Amy.

Why did Shadow choose her? Rouge surely was all ears too, right? Sonic knew those two were good friends, so it wasn't strange, but Shadow going to Amy was just…

The unknown factor was putting Sonic on edge for some reason. He just wanted answers, that's all.

Now, whether he'd get them was a different story…

Sonic slowed down as he reached the beach, the golden sand and the bright blue waves contrasting the somewhat monotone city he had just left behind. His shoes shuffled through the warm grains as he stepped forward, holding a hand over his eyes to escape the harsh sun. He was searching for the any sign of pink or black anywhere.

The coast was a bit populated, but that didn't keep him from spotting the ones he was looking for. Shadow and Amy were standing right where the tides washed around their shoes, gazing at the sparkling ocean.

Sonic could only see their backs, so their expressions were unknown to him. However, from how Shadow slightly inclined his head in Amy's direction and how the pinkette's shoulders would rise and fall, signifying some type of laughter, Sonic could tell that they were having a conversation.

What had Shadow, the guy who couldn't tell a joke to save his life, said to Amy to make her giggle?

Amy giggled. "He's seriously staring at us? That's adorable!"

Shadow was about to nod at the girl's question, but then he stopped himself at her exclamation. While he agreed that Sonic was being rather…interesting at the moment, he wasn't going to outwardly admit that. It might cause unwanted suspicion.

So instead, he derisively scoffed, bypassing words altogether.

The pinkette rocked back and forth on her heels, smiling brightly and visibly restraining herself from turning around. "I wonder if he's going to come over!"

A voice from a well-hidden earpiece sounded in Shadow's right ear. "Doesn't look like it, sugars. Blue's staying put and hiding among the other beachgoers. Looks like he's doing a little spying of his own."

Shadow didn't expect that at all. They believed that Sonic would've been over here in a swirl of sand, like at the ice cream shop.

Amy leaned closer to him, and he had the urge to lean in the opposite direction. "What did she say?"

"That he's watching from afar," he answered curtly before addressing Rouge, "So what next?"

It was silent on the other end, then, "Go to the boardwalk and browse along the stores there. Like I said, let's give Blue a show, hm?"

Shadow didn't know if he liked the sound of that.

Sonic perked up when the pair began to walk off. He hadn't gone up to them because he was thinking of a way to pull Shadow to the side so they could talk. Because simply asking surely didn't work last time.

The 'couple' were still chatting, it looked like.

That was fine and all, but it was just that Sonic had been clawing at Shadow's walls for so long to get him to stop talking in grunts, and now Amy was having full-on conversations with him with little effort.

Sonic's work paid off, he guessed, just not for him right now.

His feet decided to follow the duo before his brain did.

Shadow and Amy had led him to the boardwalk. It was very crowded with people milling about shopping and playing the carnival games lining the street.

It took some effort, but Sonic managed to keep his eyes on them so far, weaving through the large groups of people. However, after ten minutes of trailing after them – torn between laughing and feeling slightly strange about Amy offering Shadow a stuffed animal. Laughing won out when the striped hedgie declined – Sonic had turned away for a second to apologize for bumping into a little girl and completely lost the two.


"So he lost us…and you lost him?"

"Sorry! You two looked so cute racing your rubber ducks, so-"

Shadow's growl cut her off. He and Amy were currently standing by a funnel cake stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder. Shadow didn't like this position, but it was necessary to keep up with each other. It was that crowded here.

However, that shouldn't matter though. Rouge was a master at reconnaissance, so she shouldn't be slipping like this.

His tone was sharp. "You had one job, Rouge. Now what in the hell-"

"Hey Shadow?" The striped hedgie glanced at Amy. She looked a bit uncomfortable, eyes focused on something over his shoulder. "Since we're basically just waiting around now, can you stay here while I go to the lady's room?"

Before Shadow could answer, she hurriedly walked past him and in the direction of the public bathroom across the street. He released a long-winded sigh. "Rouge, I know that I should be appreciative, but this is ridiculous." He was way out of his comfort zone here. There were too many people, it was too loud, he was out here with Rose, and Sonic was nowhere to be found.

"Don't worry hon! Things will smoothen out. It won't be too hard to find Blue agai – there he is! Shadow, he's at your two o'clock!"

Shadow blinked before glancing a bit to his right. What Rouge said rung true, for Sonic was making his way toward him, grinning and waving like he hadn't been stalking Shadow the whole time.

He subtly relaxed at the other's appearance though, despite everything.

…What had Sonic done to him?

"Heya Shads!" The blue hedgehog called once he was close enough. Sonic had stopped right in front of him, similar to the closeness he and Rose shared before, but Shadow didn't mind this nearly as much. Sonic grinned. "What are you doin' out here? Tryin' to win some dollar goldfish?"

"Well, you are trying to win something here."

Shadow ignored the teasing bat in favor of answering, "It has nothing to do with you, hedgehog."

Sonic put a hand over his heart. "Ouch, Shadow! I got feelings too, y'know!" Shadow rolled his eyes and caught the other sneakily searching for something, or rather someone. The faker wasn't great at being covert, Shadow had learned. "Well, can I steal you for a sec? To talk?"


The ebony speedster crossed his arms, an eye marginally twitching. "Is there any reason we can't do it here?"

"Oh my. That sentence out of context is very interesting."

Shadow almost choked on his spit. He was going to kill Rouge latter.

To make sure no more of those comments threw him off, Shadow pretended to itch his ear, turning the deactivating the small device.

He was relieved that Sonic didn't seem to notice anything off. "It's too noisy, don't you think? Come on!" He then unexpectedly grabbed Shadow's wrist and started pulling him in a random direction through the crowd.

The small amount of warmth seeping through his skin reminded of him of the other's earlier embrace and damnit he needed to focus. Shadow tugged at his arm with enough force to show his annoyance, but not enough to break out of the hold. "What in the hell are you doing, Faker?"

"This is the only way we won't lose each other!" Sonic peered back over his shoulder with a playful smirk. "We're technically holdin' hands, Shads! You don't mind this, right?"

Shadow gritted his teeth as he looked around. Everyone else around weren't paying attention to them. Sonic and Rouge always picked the best places to talk about personal information. "Just let me go." He made his tone as chilled as possible.

"In a little bit!" Sonic chirped, and the grip on his wrist increased.

Shadow assumed Rose would be alright until he came back.

Sonic let Shadow go after he found a place far enough away from the crowd, but not too far. They were behind a supply building that no one but workers went into, so they shouldn't be bothered here.

"Now that we've stopped, what do you want, Faker?"

The blue hedgehog put a hand on his hip and shrugged. "Nothin' too important." Sonic didn't know if that was a lie or not. "Just about you and Ames."

Shadow folded his arms over his chest, looking unimpressed. "What about us?"

Sonic filtered through a few answers in his mind, one being 'you guys doing this is making me feel weird', but he couldn't say that. Shadow would probably just walk away from that off-the-wall statement. So instead he said, "She and you have been gettin' pretty close, huh?"

Shadow let out a noncommittal hum, gaze level.

Sonic had no idea what that meant. "So, I was just wondering-"

"Why are you out here?" Shadow cut him off, tone somewhat accusatory.

Sonic chuckled, scratching his nose. "What? I can't come out and have a little fun once and a while?" His rival just deadpanned at him, obviously not believing a word he said. Sonic wondered how mad the other would get if he told the truth. Nothing he couldn't deal with…probably. Sonic switched tactics. "Okay okay, I kinda followed you two around after seein' you on the beach."

Shadow didn't seem to get mad though. He wasn't happy either, but Sonic wasn't in danger of getting punched. That was a good sign. Shadow's eyes narrowed. "Why are you bothered with me being in the same company as her?"

Sonic shook his head. "I'm not bothered by it! I just wanted to know why, is all! You barely spared her a second glance before, but now…"

Shadow rolled his eyes. "This is an absurd conversation." He turned to leave. "I don't have to explain myself to you."

"Hold on!" Sonic reached out and grabbed the striped one's upper arm. Shadow glared at him but didn't fight the grip. "Just…" Sonic ran his other hand through his quills as he got his thoughts together. He lowered his voice a bit, might as well put this in the air. "Do you still have feelings for me?"

Sonic wanted to know because if Shadow did, then him being friendlier with Amy – another person who liked him – didn't make any sense. But, if Shadow didn't, then…

He didn't get the chance to finish that thought, for Shadow had taken his hand and pried Sonic's fingers from around his arm. Shadow dropped the blue blur's hand after a lingering second and grunted. "Wouldn't you like to know?" The words didn't quite match the subtly softer tone.

Sonic didn't know what to make of that, but he should've known that Shadow would avoid the question. A bit exasperated, Sonic tried another one. "Well, are you doing this because of what I said? Can you at least answer that one?"

Shadow stared at him for a moment. Something in his gaze changed, but Sonic couldn't put a finger on it. Shadow seemed a little more guarded maybe? Or cautious… "And if I was? What would you do about it, Faker?"

Sonic didn't have an immediate response. What would he do about it? Shadow had sought out Amy because Sonic had said that he didn't want anything to change. But Shadow was changing things up anyway! So...hypothetically, would their lives stayed normal if Sonic had said the opposite? However, that would've been a lie because he didn't have the same feelings for Shadow…

He was just a very involved friend curious about the other's actions. Yeah, that's it.

"Let me ask you this." Shadow stepped forward a bit. "Why are you being jealous?"

"Jealous?" Sonic repeated incredulously. "I'm not being jealous!" Where did Shadow even get that from? He knew the definition of jealousy, and he was the antithesis of that! He was encouraging Shadow's social behavior. All Sonic wanted was for Shadow to go back to how he was, without having these weird 'outings' with Amy. Because that wasn't like him.

"Whatever you say, hedgehog." Shadow uttered before walking away. "Leave us alone."

Sonic didn't stop him this time – if he did, then Shads might think that was proving his point – puffing out his cheeks. "I'm not jealous!"

Sonic was jealous.

Even a blind man could see it.

Shadow allowed the tiniest upturn of his lips as he rounded the building and made his way back toward the crowd. Faker was clearly bothered by what he and Rose were doing, and it was obvious that he was more focused on him than the pinkette. This was the first time Shadow could see the glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. There was a chance.

The striped hedgehog glanced behind to see that Sonic wasn't following him. He noticed a blue streak out in the distance. Shadow snorted and then turned his earpiece back on. "Rouge, where are you?"

"I'm in a shop looking at these beautiful necklaces. I figured that you needed some alone time with Blue. How'd it go? Tell me something good!"

"The conversation was promising." A severe understatement. "He's showing signs of jealousy."

"Oh? And I'm assuming that he wants to take Pinky's place and not yours?" Shadow hummed in affirmation, and she chuckled. "See? I told you it was nothing to worry about. Now, say that I was right about ten times and I will be satisfied."

Shadow scoffed even though he owed her more than that. "In your dreams, Rouge." He struggled to push his way through the people back the way he came. "Do you know where Rose is?"

"Nope. I flew off as soon as she went in the bathroom. She's either still in it or waiting where you left. Is Blue still going to be watching?"

"No. He left, so we can call it a day."

"A rather successful one at that. I'll meet back up with you two at the bathrooms."


Rouge had cut her device off, so he did as well.

Amy hadn't been standing right where they had parted ways, but she was close enough for Shadow to easily find her in the mass of excited people. She was facing away from him, her head slightly ducked down.

Shadow approached her from behind. "Sonic's gone, so after Rouge meets back up with us, we can leave." The pinkette jumped a bit at his voice and whirled around. How glossy and damp her eyes were made Shadow's brow furrow. "Are you crying?"

Rose sniffed once and wiped the moistness away. She took a deep breath and met his gaze, her jade orbs dull and swirling with many emotions. Shadow had a bad feeling in his gut. Her words were shaky and quiet as she spoke.

"Shadow, is it true…that you have feelings for Sonic too?"

Chapter Text

"Shadow, is it true…that you have feelings for Sonic too?"

Shadow's veins instantly filled with ice, his breath hitching. His body had tensed, and a mental tornado effortlessly scattered his thoughts. He tried to not let this surprise show on the outside, but dammit, it was hard. How in the hell did she figure that out? There was no way she could've known unless he, Sonic, or Rouge told her, and that was impossible. So how did she…wait…did she hear Sonic and his conversation? But how…?

The striped hedgehog quickly schooled his expression into a more neutral one. Her knowing about his internal panic would not help his situation. He furrowed his brow and frowned. "How in the hell did you come to that conclusion, Rose?"

Her eyes were still damp, but anger swirled within those jade depths. "Do not play dumb with me, Shadow the hedgehog!" She was yelling now, gaining the attention of the crowd around. "Because the line was too long, I followed you two and I heard Sonic say that-!"

Shadow slammed a hand over her mouth before she could finish that sentence. "You are causing a scene," he growled lowly, heart rate increasing. He knew that he should've checked that he and Sonic were actually alone. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

Amy boldly slapped his hand away. "I don't care! I – hey!" The ebony hedgie hastily grabbed her wrist and dragged her through the mass of people, refusing to let any unwanted outbursts to happen here of all places. The whole city would know in less than an hour. She was struggling, but it was obviously futile. "Let me go!"

Shadow led her away from the nosey listeners and the boardwalk altogether. When he finally let her go, the chatter of the mass of people was nothing more than background noise.

He whirled around to face her, hoping that his irritation was palpable, overshadowing his shock. "Now, without yelling, tell me exactly what you heard of our conversation." Or more realistically, stall so he could think of a way to get out of this stupid mess.

Amy rubbed her wrist, sending him a weak glare. "I heard enough! I ran away after Sonic asked if you still had feelings for him, and…" She sniffed, and Shadow cursed his entire existence. A very recognizable hammer materialized in her hands; she gripped it tightly. "And you better explain yourself!"

"Put that thing away," Shadow said calmly as his mind raced. "Think about the nonsense your spouting. I am doing this with you right now because I despise him at the moment. This is all for revenge, or did you forget about that?"

Shadow gained some confidence when Amy wavered somewhat. "No, I didn't forget, but I heard what I heard!"

He deadpanned at her, hoping that this would actually work. "But did you really? It was loud as hell over there, and yes we were some distance from the crowd, it wasn't enough for you to hear us properly."

Amy stared at him for a moment before her muscles relaxed marginally. Her hammer poofed out of existence and she wiped the remaining moisture from her face. "If…If I didn't hear Sonic properly, then what did he really say?"

Shadow rolled his eyes. "He was asking if I was still mad at him, and you would've figured that out if you had listened to the whole thing." He was lucky she didn't though. Then there'd be no way he could save himself.

Amy bit her bottom lip before releasing a sigh. "Sorry about that, Shadow. It's just that I like him a lot…"

"I've noticed." He grunted though he was glad that he was in the clear.

She giggled, recovering from her bout of anger. "If only he'd accept me! I just don't get it!" Shadow did, especially now. "So…is he still here, or…?"

"No, he left," Shadow answered. Left to sort out his jealous thoughts. Shadow wished Sonic would do that quickly.

"Oh okay…" Rose glanced the way they came, the ghost of a smile on her muzzle. "Well, it's good that we're done, because I still have to go to the bathroom!" She trotted away, waving back at him. "See you, Shadow!"

Shadow watched her go, stress rolling off his shoulders. He turned his earpiece back on. "Rouge?"

"Shadow! I've been trying to get a hold of you! Where are you and Pinky?"

"She's going to the bathroom."

"What? But didn't she just go?"

"…It's a long story."

Amy shouldn't have believed him.

She knew what she heard. The people at the boardwalk hadn't been that loud.

Shadow had lied to her, and the next 'date' they went on proved it.

It was a few days after the boardwalk incident, and Rouge called her, disclosing the time and location of her and Shadow's meet-up. She had to find him in Station Square park in about an hour.

After Amy hung up, she hummed a bright tune to herself as she got ready, wanting to look her best for whenever Sonic showed up.

When the time came to leave, she was giddy and excited, wondering how long it would take for Sonic to get his act together and ask her out. Hanging around with Shadow wasn't bad, but she would replace him in a heartbeat!

She dreamily sighed, loving how this plan was working perfectly, before heading for the park.

Reaching the vast green space with scattered trees, multiple swing sets, and flying kites, Amy spotted Rouge and Shadow under the shade of an oak to her left. The pinkette skipped over, waving genially. "Hey guys!"

"Hey Pinky." Rouge waved back with one hand, the other holding a small basket. Shadow, who was leaning against the trunk, nodded in greeting. The bat held out the basket when Amy reached them. "Whipped a little something up to make this more authentic."

"You didn't have to do that, Rouge!" Amy took the handout and glanced into it. There were mini sandwiches inside. Even though she had eaten earlier, Amy wouldn't mind nibbling on these too. "Thanks!"

"No problem, hon." Rouge grinned. "Anything to catch Blue's attention quicker." The bat flapped her wings to get airborne. "Well, I'm gone. Make it believable!" Her teal eyes then focused on Shadow. "And make sure to leave you ear piece on this time, hon."

Shadow rolled his eyes. "Right."

Amy had a feeling that she was missing something, but she didn't dwell on it. After Rouge left to find a good place to spy, Amy stepped over to Shadow's side and sat on the grassy ground.

She glanced up at the striped hedgehog, who was eying their surroundings. She snickered. Shadow was always a bit tense until Sonic showed up. "You'll get you revenge soon enough!" She patted the spot next to her. "Sit and relax!"

"I don't want him to back out of it last minute," Shadow said as he sat down. "Then this would be a waste of time. Faker needs to hurry up and come."

Amy blinked when Shadow flinched like he'd been slapped. "What in the-"

"If you make another comment like that I swear you're going to regret it." Shadow borderline snarled into the microphone, Amy guessed. Because he surely wasn't talking to her.

She chuckled at the other's reaction. And…was he blushing? "I wanna know what in the world Rouge said to make you blush, Shadow!" she exclaimed, chuckling.

Shadow's eyes suddenly widened as he touched his cheeks. He cursed under his breath before stating, "Rouge is just being ridiculous." He reached over and grabbed a little sandwich. The striped hedgie took a bite as the pinkness in his face faded. "As usual."

It seemed like he wasn't going to share it, but Amy really wanted to know. She'd never seen Shadow show that kind of emotion before. He looked so flustered for a second. Hm… She took a 'wich too and chewed on it. What Rouge said had to be in response to Shadow's previous words, right? He just mentioned Sonic, but nothing about him could make Shadow blush unless…

Her chewing slowed a bit. Wait…there's no way, right? Shadow had said…

"Ooo! Are those sandwiches?"

Amy was thrown out of her thoughts at the sound of Sonic's voice. He was standing over them, and the sight of her one and only made her face light up, troubling thoughts gone.

"Yep!" She chirped. She gestured to the basket. "Want one?"

"You know it!" Sonic popped a squat in front of her and Shadow, grasping the food. "Thanks!" He stuffed the whole thing into his mouth. "So…" the blue blur started, talking around the food. "What you guys doin' out here?"

"Just chatting and enjoying Shadow's sandwiches!" That would get Sonic for sure! Amy turned towards the darker hedgehog and paused at what she saw. Shadow was looking at Sonic, and those scarlet irises didn't hold anger like they were supposed to. They held something warmer.

That was new…or was it? She's never seen him like that, but was it because she never looked…?

She tried to keep her confusion within, sending her 'date' a smile. "Thanks for much for that, Shadow!"

When he focused on her, the warmth instantly cooled. How had she not noticed this before? And…and what did this mean?

"Do you still have feelings for me?"

"It wasn't a problem." Shadow's voice was calm and level and...did he really lie to her? She had doubted what she had heard because of the possibility of mishearing things, but were her ears the ones telling the truth all along?

"You made them, Shads? Really? When did you grow a heart?"

Shadow turned his attention back on Sonic, and there it was again. The look he had on his face. If Amy hadn't been searching for it, she would've completely missed it. That was why she had all this time…

"Around noon."

Amy couldn't finish off her small sandwich, her mind a whirlwind. If Shadow actually liked Sonic, then why was he doing this? Why was he trying to make Sonic jealous of him? Her breath hitched when a thought came to her.

Shadow wasn't trying to make Sonic jealous of him, but…of her…?

Was he using her? She was using Shadow too in a way, but they both agreed to it! If Shadow was actually…

And Rouge! She…She was the one who started this whole thing! Did she…know too?

Her breath caught in her throat as she processed this whole thing. Amy was nothing but a pawn to them! In a plan to take Sonic away from her!

This was so much. Too much.

However, despite how much she wanted to scream and shout and hit something, Amy knew that she couldn't. She had to wait. She had to make sure Shadow got what he deserved, which was definitely not Sonic.

"Hey Ames, you okay?"

Amy hastily blinked any moisture that had accumulated in her eyes as she tilted her head at Sonic's question. "I'm fine! Why do you ask?"

Sonic glanced down at her leftover sandwich, which was crushed within her palm. "Uh…because of that."

"Oh! Oops! I was just thinking about something else!" Amy scanned the area and spotted a couple of wild birds hopping along the ground. She threw the piece of food in their direction. They started to peck at it. "Lucky that Shadow made enough for seconds, right?"

Sonic chortled. "Guess so!" He leaned back on his hands and threw her the charming grin she'd come to love. "Well then, what are you and Mr. Stoic here gonna do after this?"

Make you a hundred percent mine.

But of course Amy couldn't say that out loud.

"Sightseeing," she said instead, lips curling upwards.

"If you're not jealous, then why did you go see them today?"

Sonic rolled his eyes, but the kid fox in the cockpit working on his plane didn't catch it. "Are you seriously doubting me, Tails? I told you that Shadow called me jealous the other day, so I just went over there and acted cool, making sure that I wasn't givin' off those kinds of vibes!"

He believed he did a great job too. He just chatted with Shads and Ames, and when they went to go sightseeing or whatever, he only had the thought of following them, but he didn't go through with it. See? Not jealous.

…though he did want to yell 'no PDA' when Amy began to lean into Shadow's side as they walked, but that was neither here nor there.

Tails raised his head, peering at him behind protective goggles. "…Couldn't you just prove that by not going to the park?"

Sonic shrugged, leaning against the plane. "I mean, sure, but I got free sandwiches out of it!"

"Sonic…" Tails frowned at him. He placed his wrench down, giving the hedgehog his full attention. "Why don't you just tell Shadow that you don't like him hanging around Amy like that?"

The speedster absently tapped a finger on the hide of the aircraft. "I mean, it's not that I don't like them hanging together, it's just…" Just what? He didn't know. He just knew that he wasn't jealous. That was for sure.

Their conversation was then interrupted by loud knocking on the garage door.

Tails furrowed his brow. "I wonder who that is?"

"Only one way to find out." Sonic jogged over to a button on the nearby wall. The garage door rumbled as it rose, revealing a particular pink hedgehog. Her usually bright face was gloomy and dim. "Amy?"

She stepped into the room, sending a strained smile their way. "Hey…Sonic, we need to talk."

Sonic frowned, wondering what was going on. "What happened? What's wrong?"

"Yeah, why do you look so sad?" Tails added, concern taking over his features.

"It's about Shadow." She focused solely on Sonic.

The blue blur didn't expect that. "What about him, Ames?"

"He used me!" She exclaimed, eyes glossing over.

"Used you?" Tails echoed.

Amy nodded vehemently. "Yes! Sonic, the reason I and Shadow meet up is not to talk, but to make you jealous and realize your feelings for me!" Sonic stiffened in shock, and she went right up to him, jade irises contrite. "I know that it was wrong, and I'm sorry!"

Sonic didn't know how to feel about this. "So…you and Shadow weren't getting close like that?" He sort of felt bad that he felt a bit lighter at that news, for Amy was still clearly distressed. And he knew that he should be angry about being tricked like that, but he wasn't that much. Amy's done some stuff like this before.

She shook her head. "No! It was all part of the plan, and Rouge was in it too! She told us that you asked her for the details of when we got together!"

Okay, that kinda upset him a little. Yeah, he was basically spying and probably knew better to go to her, but wow. Alright, he'd use this for future reference. 'Don't ask the person who you're stalking's best friend to help you stalk them'…got it.

"But…" Amy clenched her fists. "Shadow and I'm pretty sure Rouge too had their own plan. While I was trying to get you jealous of Shadow, they were trying to get you jealous of me! Without telling me about it!"

Alright…that pushed it a tad too far. Messing with Sonic was fine, but dragging Amy into it wasn't cool. She was innocent – more or less – and she didn't deserve to be used like that. Plus, that plan didn't even work, so they got Amy worked up and hurt for no reason.

Sonic put his hands on her shoulders. "Calm down, Ames. I'll go talk to him and make sure he knows that he's been caught."

Amy allowed a small smile. "And can you hit him for me? Like really hard?'

He smirked. "Definitely." Sonic let his hands drop, and he was about to leave, but then an idea came to him. He knew that Shadow would try to worm his way out of this situation, so Sonic was going to make sure that he couldn't. The speedster glanced at Tails, who looked flabbergasted at this turn of events, and asked, "Hey Tails, where's that translator?"

The kit seemed a bit hesitant. "Are you sure about using it, Sonic?"

"What's the translator?" Amy questioned, curious.

"The thing that started this mess," Sonic ambiguously explained before nodding at the fox. "Yeah, bud. It'll make things quicker and easier, ironically."

"If you're positive…" Tails pointed to a workbench to the right. "It's on there behind the power drill."

"Thanks!" Sonic zipped over to the bench and moved the drill over. There the translator was, in all its glory. He picked it up before addressing the other two, "I'll be back soon!"

"Hurry!" Amy chirped, her mood improving. "But not before showing him not to mess with Amy Rose!" Tails just slowly shook his head in exasperation before continuing his work on the plane.

"I'll handle 'im!" Sonic saluted her before zooming out of the garage, device in hand.

Chapter Text

"Rouge, we are sharing this couch in case you've forgotten."

"I'm fully aware of that, hon."

Shadow wasn't sure that she was, for her sock-clad feet were settled over his lap. He and Rouge had been back from the 'date' for a while, and the bat had made herself at home, getting too comfortable for his tastes. She was stretched out on the sofa, absorbed in some soap opera she insisted they watch. They had to go to work in the morning, and Shadow wanted to relax before facing that inevitable stress.

The striped hedgehog weakly glared at the bat. "Then do you mind-"

"I don't mind at all." Rouge teasingly winked at him, and Shadow inwardly sighed. He would push her legs off, but then she would simply return them. He could let her have the whole couch; however, that was what Rouge probably wanted and he wasn't giving her that. So he endured their position, his thoughts drifting to earlier that day.

The meeting at the park went smoothly. Sonic showed up as expected, and while Rose had been acting a bit strange for a moment, all went well. Until they realized that Sonic hadn't followed them after leaving the park. He and Rose had parted ways once they realized that the get-together was cut short. There was no point in hanging around if Sonic wasn't there watching.

Shadow didn't know why Sonic hadn't, but Rouge had said that since he was called out on being jealous, Sonic just wanted to disprove that accusation. Though she had made sense, the dark part of Shadow wondered if they were reading Sonic all wrong. Shadow desperately didn't want that to be true.

"When do we start seeing results, Rouge?" he had to ask because he was seeing the small speck of light, and he didn't need his dark thoughts clouding it.

"Hm?" Rouge pried her eyes from the television to raise a brow at him. When his question eventually registered, she confidently waved him off. "Be patient, hon. Things are coming along. You can't rush these kinds of things!" She gave him a reassuring smile. "It won't be long before Blue-"

Rouge was interrupted by a knock on the front door, the duo whirling their heads in that direction. Shadow knew who it was by process of elimination – only two people knocked at his door, and Rouge was currently in the room with him – and the bat knowingly grinned. "Speak of the devil…"

There was another knock. "Hey Shadow! You in there?"

It was only then did Rouge moved her feet. Shadow glanced at her – thinking that maybe the process was farther along than the bat predicted – and she shrugged before shooing him the door with a smirk.

He resisted the urge to roll his eyes even though his heart was beating a little faster. This was the first time Sonic had sought him out alone since the boardwalk scare. What could he possibly want to talk about? Probably something inane – this was Faker he was thinking about.

The thought didn't do anything to ease his heartrate however.

Shadow exhaled deeply as he padded over to the door. He unlocked it and soon revealed a waving hedgie. Shadow was careful to control his emotions. He had to ignore the warm grin and the bright emerald eyes. "What do you want, Faker?"

Sonic put a hand on his hip, his grin staying put. "What? I can't check up on my rival from once in a while?"

"No." Yes. "Don't make me ask you again," Shadow uttered, folding his arms across his chest.

Scarlet orbs narrowed marginally when some of the light in the other's expression faded. "Always so pushy, Shads! I just came to talk, is that so bad?"

"It depends," he said before stepping to the side to let the azure speedster in. Sonic didn't hesitate to accept the silent invitation.

As Shadow closed the door, he heard, "Oh hey Rouge! What are you doin' here? Planning out the next date?"

Ice flooded the Ultimate Lifeform's veins as he stiffly turned around, eyes wider than normal. Please be that he had misheard, that the plan wasn't flushed down the toilet, that his chances hadn't been cut to zero.

However, the surprise on Rouge's face and sharpness in Sonic's gaze was all the proof he needed to know that the world wasn't done screwing him over. Shadow was a fool to think that it had been.

Rouge was more composed than Shadow, schooling her expression into a curious and innocent one. "What are you talking about, Blue? Whatever the lovebirds do is between them."

"Really?" Shadow fought to relax his tense muscles when Sonic glanced at him, hoping that he looked unaffected by his formal rival's words. Those knowing emerald orbs told him that his body utterly betrayed him. "You and Ames are like that, Shads? That's not what she told me a while ago."

Many choice words that would surely taint the ears of children were shouted in Shadow's mind. Rose had went to him? Why? And what had she told him? The fact that Sonic was here right now made his gut drop.

The stomach in knots, Shadow took a deep breath and crossed his arms. "What exactly did she tell you, Faker?"

Sonic shrugged. "Oh I dunno, just that you used Amy to try to get me jealous of her."

Shadow subtly clenched his fists. He felt Rouge's slightly concerned eyes on him. How in the hell did Rose figure that out? He had made sure to keep everything from her. She had believed him at the boardwalk, so how…?

Before Shadow could somehow deny that, Rouge beat him to the punch. She stood up and put a hand on her hip, smirking. "Come on, Blue. Are you really that gullible? Pinky has fed you false information before to try to get her way-"

"Yeah, but what she said makes sense!" Sonic interrupted her, linking his fingers behind his head. "Especially because I know that he thinks of me as more than a friend." He met Shadow's eyes, gaze confident. "Am I right, Shads?"

The striped hedgehog scoffed, quickly thinking. He had to say something to get Sonic to doubt. "Once upon a time, Faker. But now, no."

'I still do, but I have to lie so you can believe us over Rose.'

Shadow's breath hitched as he tensed, recognizing that monotonous voice emitting from Sonic's quills. However, the surprise quickly morphed into rage, the grin on the speedster's muzzle making his own quills bristle.

How dare he use that damn thing against him again? That translator caused this entire mess, and Shadow was itching to paint a black eye on Sonic's face.

Rouge blinked confusedly at the blue blur. "What in the world?"

'What exactly is going on?'

Shadow scowled deeply, too angry to just walk away from this situation. "He's using a translator that picks the truth out whatever you say." He narrowed his enraged scarlet orbs. "Why in the hell did you bring that back here, Faker?"

'He's using the thing that exposed my secret, and I should've destroyed it at the first chance I got. Sonic, you're going to regret stepping though me door with that!'

Rouge frowned at Sonic. "Blue, why would you…"

'You know what it started. Did you seriously go out of your way to hurt Shadow again?'

Sonic's brow furrowed – his confidence sapping – and Shadow mentally applauded Rouge. Verbal hits were as good as physical ones. However, she didn't need to be in here to witness what he was about to do. And he didn't want her to be caught in the crossfire.

"Step outside, Rouge," he suggested, tone inarguable. His glare never left the blue hedgie, and he wondered exactly why he had fallen so hard for the damn irritating idiot.

'Leave before you get hurt.'

Rouge sighed, but she didn't argue. After slipping on her boots that were beside the couch, she strolled over to the door. She patted Shadow's shoulder as she passed him. "Don't rough him up too much, sugar."

'I won't blame you for going all out.'

"Hey!" Sonic put his hands on his hips, affronted. "This isn't my fault! Don't put it all on me!"

'I brought the translator so you guys wouldn't pull any tricks, like you just tried to.'

…That was a valid reason, but Shadow was still pissed.

Rouge rose a brow. "If that's the only reason, then do us all a favor and turn it off. I'll be outside."

'Turn it off. Get me when you two are done.'

The door closed behind her with a click.

Shadow narrowed his eyes at even more, gritting his teeth. "You heard her. Off."


Sonic's smirk reappeared, and Shadow stopped himself short of growling, remembering that the device picked that up as well. "Why? It's the only way I know you're telling the truth, Shads!"

'No one likes liars, you know?'

Shadow's voice was loud and dripping with contempt. "I have nothing to lie about anymore, hedgehog!"

'You know about the only thing I had been hiding. Are you happy now?'

Sonic scoffed. "No, because of what you did to Amy, but...fine!" He reached into his quills and revealed the tiny device, which was now turned off.

Shadow didn't waste a second. He blasted forward and aimed a fist right at Sonic's stomach. The azure hedgie reacted too slow to the surprise attack, doubling over from the satisfying hit. Shadow reached for the translator still in the other's grip, but Sonic recovered too fast. The blue blur hastily backpedaled away with a wince as he tucked the device in his quills.

Shadow wasn't deterred however, yearning to destroy that thing.

"What I did…to Rose?" Shadow rushed forward with a clenched fist. The best way to get that damned translator was to knock Sonic out first. He wasn't completely opposed to that. "I'm not the only one to blame!"

Sonic dodged his punch to the cheek. Shadow glowered as he was forced to hop over the azure one's low kick. "What are you talking about?" Sonic followed up with a jab to Shadow's chest. "You expect me to be mad at Amy?"

The Ultimate Lifeform grabbed the flying wrist before it made contact. Shadow spun on his heel and hurled Sonic into the nearby wall, knowing that his neighbors where too wary of him to make a noise complaint.

"Yes!" Shadow roared. He barely allowed Sonic to get his feet under him before slamming against his former rival, forearm pressing against the other's throat. He allowed Sonic to breathe – somewhat – but he sure as hell had enough pressure to the keep blue blur pinned. His glare increased ten-fold as he growled, "She did everything while I just sat there."

"That's the thing!" Sonic struggled to pry the arm away, but Shadow was going nowhere. Sonic was frowning at him now, emerald irises unwavering. "She didn't know that you had a secret agenda! Messin' with me is fine, but don't drag someone else into it!"

With his unoccupied hand, Shadow attempted to search in Sonic's quills for the translator, but they stiffened before he could do so. He couldn't do it unless he wanted his hand sliced up.

Shadow snarled when Sonic twitched his lips upwards. "Give it to me, Faker."

"No can do." Sonic responded, grin still in place. Shadow wanted to wipe it off his face. However, apparently he didn't have to do anything, for the grin somewhat melted as Sonic tilted his head. "I'm still mad, y'know. You should've seen how upset she was-"

Shadow did not desire to hear about her right now. "How is that different from normal? Rose throws a tantrum every time she doesn't get what she wants."

Those green orbs glinted. "Kinda like you?"

Shadow felt a spike of anger run through him. He pressed harder against Sonic's neck, hearing a gasp. "Don't compare me to her!" he snarled deeply. "I am nothing like her!"

Sonic's breathing was shallow, but he didn't seem too alarmed. "Really?" he rasped, pointedly glancing down at their current position.

Shadow's ears flattened against his head before yanking his arm away like he had been burnt. He hadn't realized how close they were until now. But he didn't care at the moment, because he was still livid.

His fists were clenched at his sides, watching as Sonic rubbed his abused throat. "I'm nothing like her," Shadow repeated, tone sharp and cutting. He was no squealy girl who obsessed over her crush.

Sonic – his quills were still dangerous, Shadow noticed – rolled his eyes. "Oh really?" Shadow's frown deepened at the sarcasm in the speedster's voice. "Because you two have at least one thing in common. You both wanted to make me jealous, yeah?"

The striped hedgehog refused to answer. Though it was true, he was not going to confirm it aloud.

"I understand Amy pulling something like that…but you?" Sonic peered at him, gaining a thoughtful expression. For some reason, Shadow felt his anger slipping away. He reminded himself about the translator and that Sonic had just compared him to Rose, but his rage was on the decline.

But this wasn't anything new. Sonic's presence always calmed him down, no matter the situation.

The azure hedgie scratched his cheek, releasing a quiet chuckle. "You must like me a lot, huh? To go through all of that?" Shadow remained silent, for the answer was obvious. "Why?" Sonic continued, "What makes you different from Amy?"

He was comparing them again. Exasperation fueled his mouth to unthinkingly move. "I'm different because Rose has some kind of psychotic adoration for you while I actually lo-" Shadow snapped his jaw shut, eyes widening at his stupid mistake. Did he really just…

Sonic went stock-still, eyes wider than his. He was searching Shadow's gaze, and the striped hedgehog wanted to disappear, to run away, to not exist anymore. Sonic's next words were shock-filled. "Shadow…were you about to say-"

"Leave." Shadow hastily uttered, not doing the best to cover his internal panic. He turned his back to Sonic and planned on blocking out the world for hours, days even. However, before he could go anywhere, there was a harsh grip on his arm. Shadow whipped his head around and glowered. "Let. Go."

"No, Shadow." Sonic was staring right at him, unwavering. He looked both lost yet determined at the same time. "Do…" Sonic swallowed, and why couldn't the ground swallow up Shadow right now? He wouldn't fight it. "Do you really…love me?" Shadow was one second from saying no, from saying that Sonic needed to get his ears checked, but the hero cut him off. "Don't make me pull the translator out." Sonic smirked, but it was weaker than normal.

Shadow didn't maintain eye contact. 'No' was on the tip of his tongue, but with how Sonic was looking at him, he couldn't push it out. Sonic was trusting him not to lie. He had no idea what was going to happen after admitting it though. Sonic was fine with Shadow being attracted to him, but love…?

Sonic giving his arm a squeeze pulled him out of his thoughts. Scarlets met emeralds once more, and Shadow eventually nodded, unable to speak. The movement was subtle, but Sonic caught it anyway.

The hand slipped from around his arm. Shadow fully expected for Sonic to put as much distance between them two as possible, but the azure hedgie didn't move. Sonic slowly blinked and released a whoosh of air. "Whoa, that's…wow…"

Shadow's pulse was in his ears, and his throat was constricting as he watched Sonic soak in this admission.

Sonic looked like he didn't know what to do. "I…don't know what to say…"

"Then don't say anything." Shadow forced out, voice strained and low.

Sonic bit his lip as he ran a hand down his face. Shadow heard a near silent sigh and prepared himself for the worst. "Shadow, I…I'm flattered, but you have to know that I don't…feel the same, right?"

Even though Shadow expected it, his heart felt like it had been gripped and squeezed, all of its life draining away.

The hollowness must've shown in his expression – despite trying to keep it neutral – and Sonic hastily spoke again. "But we're still friends, Shads! This won't change that!"

"Don't you think…that I hate being just friends with you?" Shadow borderline whispered, and he almost regretted the words when Sonic flinched as if he was hit. But he couldn't take them back. "It-" Hurts. Oh how did it hurt. "-is hard being around you knowing that…" His throat was betraying him again, trapping his words.

Sonic opened and closed his mouth a couple times before breathing out, "Shadow, I'm sorry… If it helps to not be friends with me, then-"

"No." Shadow had to stop him then and there. Sonic disappearing would make everything all the more unbearable. "It wouldn't help." Sonic hesitantly nodded, and there was silence.

Until the blue hero tentatively added, "Do you still want me to leave?"

The striped hedgie heavily exhaled, noticing that Sonic was cautious, like Shadow was a pane of glass threatening to shatter. Little did he know that Shadow was already in pieces.

"I…don't." There was no reason to lie. He hadn't done it before, so why would he now. Shadow glanced over to the exit and resumed quietly, "But…I believe that it's best for the both of us if you do." Sonic remaining here would be nothing but awkward and uncomfortable. There was no point in him staying.

Apparently, Sonic didn't see that point. He grinned a bit, it nowhere near its usual wattage. "You don't sound too convincing, Shads."

Shadow sent him a weak glare. Sonic was making this harder than it had to be. Shadow was about to reinforce his argument, but then his world became warmer, arms wrapping around him. His body stiffened for only a moment before melting into the embrace, head falling on Sonic's shoulder.

The hero held him tighter; Shadow hugged him back, releasing a shaky breath.

"I'm not going yet," he heard. "I'm not leaving like I did before." Sonic didn't say anything for a while, Shadow closing his eyes and focusing on his former rival's breathing, his heartrate, just him. The bundle of joy that Shadow couldn't have.

Sonic then whispered softly, "I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing." Shadow murmured, and the other lightly chuckled, his chest vibrating against his own. The sound was pleasant in his ear.

And then yet again, his body decided to betray him.

Before his brain could process anything, Shadow's lips had kissed Sonic's cheek. It was nothing but a simple brush, a chaste peck, but the action had caused both of them to stiffen.


Said hedgehog's frame was frozen. He was in complete shock because of what he just did. What was wrong with him? Why did he… "I didn't mean to-"

"It's…fine," Sonic interjected as he started to pull back. Shadow wanted to say that no it was not fine. Nothing was fine. However, he remained silent as he let the other go, struggling to keep from pulling him back closer. Shadow's arms fell limply at his sides.

"It's fine, really!" Sonic repeated, but it sounded like he didn't believe his own words. The way he was absently rubbing the cheek Shadow kissed and the way he was refusing to meet the striped one's eyes weren't helping his case either.

Shadow deserved it. He had said that he wouldn't force himself onto Sonic for a reason. He was being punished, and he deserved it.

"Let's uh…bring Rouge back in here, yeah? She's been outside for long enough right?"

Even though Sonic didn't take his offer to leave, he wanted to get out of this situation. Shadow didn't blame him. He subtly nodded. "I'll let her in." He stepped in the direction of the door, but then-

"Wait, Shadow."

The striped hedgie paused in time to catch whatever Sonic had tossed to him. Shadow glanced down at his hand, seeing the translator. He refocused back on Sonic only to find the azure heading over to the couch. "Let's see what else is on TV because, no offense Shads, soap operas aren't my thing."

Shadow's gaze dropped back down to the device, and he simply stared at it. It was obvious that Sonic had given it to him as another apology so he could destroy it, but Shadow could also use it to peer into the other's mind and…

Shadow swiftly crushed the translator in his palm, letting the pieces drop between his fingers.

He wouldn't do that, for he knew what it felt like to be on the other end.

The black hedgie walked over to the front door and opened it, finding Rouge leaning against the adjacent wall. As soon as she looked at him, he knew that she had heard everything.

Damn her oversensitive ears.

She examined him with concerned eyes, lips twisted downwards. "What did you do?" she whispered.

"Later," Shadow muttered before stepping aside and allowing her to pass.

Rouge gave him one more calculating look before planting a smirk on her face as she entered. Her voice had gained volume. "Huh, not as messy in here as I thought it would be."

"C'mon Rouge, I don't always destroy other people's property!"

"Sure you don't, Blue."

Shadow closed the door as Rouge and Sonic talked behind him. The azure hero sounded like his usual self, but he could tell something was off.

The striped hedgehog breathed out a slightly broken sigh before reluctantly going to join the other two.

Sonic's warmth still lingered on his lips.

Chapter Text

How was Sonic supposed to know that playing with Tails' new invention would end with a love confession?

If he had somehow seen this coming…he didn't have a clue to what he would've done, but he knew that he wouldn't be going through this.

Sonic was making his way back home, but he was in no hurry to do so. He just felt so heavy from…everything that he didn't have the urge to push past a measly jog.

Back in Shadow's apartment, Sonic had tried so hard to get things to turn back to normal. However, he had learned quickly that there was no use forcing it. Shadow had been silent the whole time, and this quiet had more weight to it than his usual silence. Sonic had made light conversation with Rouge, but she was acting off as well. Her gaze slipped to Shadow more often than not. Then, Sonic himself felt…uncomfortable, wrong even.

The false cheery atmosphere only lasted for so long, and Sonic excused himself with a smile, mentioning how Tails was waiting on him. He didn't dare bring up Amy again.

Shadow hadn't looked at him when he left.

Sonic didn't know why, but that made him feel even worse.

The speedster carefully dodged pedestrians, completely lost in his thoughts.

He couldn't understand why he felt so…he couldn't even describe it. Like, he wanted to feel guilty, but at same time, he hadn't done anything wrong. Shadow had said that he l…loved him, he gave familiar comfort because he didn't know what else to do, and it was going relatively fine until Shadow kissed him.

The confession itself was shocking. Definitely. But it was just words that Shadow didn't technically even say. They held meaning yeah; however, Sonic's heard 'I love you' so many times from so many cheering fans that they've been watered down. Sonic just didn't expect for Shadow to do the same and for it to feel...a bit different.

Sonic could handle a bit different. What he couldn't handle was that kiss.

It wasn't even a full-on kiss, just a peck on the cheek, so why did it make him tense? Why had it made his breath hitch? Why could he still feel it?

Sonic gingerly felt his cheek, passing the city limits.

It was just so weird. He had received unexpected pecks from over-excited members of the public, a sneaky Amy, and even Rouge once. The feeling barely lingered, and Sonic had forgotten about them within thirty seconds or so.

Was it because Shadow had confessed to him beforehand? Was it because Shadow was a guy? Or just because it was Shadow period?

Wow…his rival loved him and kissed him and Sonic wished that there was someone who could make any kind of sense out of this.

Shadow's empty face then popped into his head, and for once, Sonic had no clue to how to fix it. He had never seen Shadow like that. This was even worse than the first time Sonic had brought the translator over. Those scarlets were so hollow.

What was he supposed to do?

All Sonic could hope for was Rouge talking to Shadow and somehow making things better. He had heard their little exchange at the door, so they had to talk about what happened as soon as he walked out.

A hefty sigh passed his lips. Sonic could take on enormous robots, ugly monsters, and apocalypses easily, but dealing with emotions like this was a whole different ballgame.

Sonic attempted to clear his mind as he got closer to his home, for there was a high chance that Amy was still waiting. He didn't want her asking questions that he probably wouldn't be able to answer.

The speedster exhaled as he slowed down, arriving in his yard. The garage door was still open, and he heard both Amy's and Tails' voices.

"Sonic's been gone for a while…"

"I'm sure he's a-okay! He can hold his own against Shadow, and then some!"

There was a brief chuckle. "I'm not doubting him Amy! It's just that-"

It was then that Sonic stepped into the garage, planting a grin on his muzzle. He caught Amy's eye immediately, and she cut the kit off, chirping excitedly, "Sonic! You're back!"

Tails was still sitting in the cockpit in his plane, but he didn't seem to be working on it anymore. "It's about time! How'd it go?"

It could've went a lot better, but Sonic didn't voice that aloud. Instead, he gestured to himself. "Considering that I'm not too roughed up-" On the outside. "-it went great!"

"Good!" Tails looked relieved. "Where's the translator?"

In pieces on Shadow's floor. Sonic's grin turned meek, and he rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, about that…"

Tails gasped, a frown marring his face. "Sonic! Are you serious?"

"Nevermind that!" Amy smiled brightly at the hero. "So you roughed up Shadow enough for me?"

Sonic's grin slipped a bit, and he hoped that no one noticed. "More than enough!"

"Yay!" Leaving the plane's side, Amy skipped over to Sonic and threw her arms around him. "Thank you thank you!" Sonic blinked at the unexpected contact before making a move to end it. Then, he realized it was strange that he could hug Shadow for minutes on end when seconds with Amy seemed too much.

Amy pulled back quickly, not giving him a chance to pry her off. She was beaming. However, a bit of guilt leaked into her gaze. "And you forgive me for trying to trick you, right?"

Sonic nodded, forcing a snicker. "You were really worried about that, Ames? It wasn't that serious!" Well, between him and her it wasn't. Add a specific striped hedgehog to the equation, and that was a different complicated story.

Relief overshadowed the guilt in her eyes. "I know, but still! I didn't want you to be mad, you know?" Amy giggled and kissed his cheek so fast that he barely had time to register it. She had a pep in her step as she moved passed him. "I'll see you guys later! I've got a playdate with Cream!"

She exited with a jolly wave, and Sonic slowly rubbed at the spot that she and Shadow had pecked him.

He didn't need any additional proof that something weird was going on, but Amy had unintentionally given him more anyway.

Sonic didn't feel anything from that kiss besides confusion.


The azure hedgie was thrown out of his thoughts by the sound of his name. He focused on where it came from, and he was slightly surprised to see Tails standing right in front of him.

The angry frown had morphed into a concerned one. "Sonic…are you okay? You're acting kinda weird."

The words 'I'm fine' were about to slip through his lips, but then again, this was Tails. The kit had already realized that something was off; lying wouldn't placate the fox at all. And Sonic usually told Tails everything, so…

Sonic glanced behind him to find Amy strolling away in the distance. It didn't look like she was going to turn back around for any reason, but just to be safe, he went over to a button on the nearest wall and pressed it.

The garage door rumbled as it shut, making sure that this conversation stayed private.

Sonic faced Tails again and ran a hand through his quills, getting his thoughts straight. "Okay okay…let's start from the beginning, yeah?" Tails nodded, listening carefully. Sonic put a hand on his hip. "So I went to Shads' apartment with the translator, and he wasn't too happy about that. We fought over it."

"…But that's not all that happened." Tails guessed, using that smart brain of his.

Sonic shook his head. "No…We were yelling about the whole date thing, and then…" He decided to just let it all out in one go. His voice unconsciously lowered a bit. "Shadow admitted that he loved me." Tails' eyes flew wide, and the funny thing was that he wasn't even done yet. "I gave him a hug because I didn't know what the heck to do, and he kissed me."

The kit's jaw dropped in surprise. "T-That's…"

Sonic chewed the inside of his cheek. "Yeah."

Tails opened and closed his mouth multiple times before eventually saying, "You told me that he liked you, but love? For how long?"

The hedgehog shuffled his feet a bit. "Dunno. Didn't ask…"

The fox seemed highly concerned now. "Then…what did you say back? What did you do?"

Sonic rewound that moment in his mind. "After he confessed, he told me how it hurt just being friends with him. I asked if it would help not being friends anymore, and he said no." He weakly shrugged. "Then I hugged him because…you should have seen him, Tails." Sonic sighed again. "During the hug, he kissed me." He pointed to his cheek. "I…ended the hug and asked for Rouge to come in. She and I talked about nothing, and I left."

Tails' namesakes twisted frettingly behind him. "I can't imagine how he felt when you pushed him away…"

"Probably terrible! But I-" Sonic threw his hands in the air. "It was just a lot! Too much and I didn't know what to do or how to deal with the situation and I had made it a hundred times worse than it should've been." He rushed before gently pulling on his ears and giving the kit the puppy-dog look. "Tell me what I need to do to fix this, Tails."

"That's a tall order…" The fox attempted to grin, but it fell short. His sapphire gaze drifted to the side, and Sonic could practically see the gears turning in his mind. Tails eventually made eye contact again. "Okay so…I guess the first thing would be to ask something I already had before. Do you like him back? After all of this?"

Sonic hesitated. "…I don't know?"

Tails cocked his head. "You don't know? But last time you said you didn't like him."

"I know, but-" Sonic absently tapped his foot in the ground. "I don't know. So much stuff's been happening that I'm not used to, and I really just want to make things better, y'know?"

The kit hummed to himself, creasing his brow. "I'm trying to figure things out, and the best way to do that is to ask questions you're sure about. So…if you don't know if you actually like him, do you know if you…liked the kiss?"

With those words, Sonic felt Shadow's fleeting lips again. Did he like it? He couldn't exactly say that. But…he guessed that he didn't dislike it? "I didn't hate it, maybe? But then again I had been ambushed with surprise after surprise that I had no idea how I felt."

Tails scratched his cheek, unsure. "I can understand that…so let me rephrase the question. Would you…push him away if he did it again?"

Sonic folded his arms across his chest in thought. "If it makes him feel better, then…no." The only thing he wanted was for things to go back how they were, for Shadow to not look at him like he had made his whole world crumble.

The fox nodded after a moment. "How about…the hugs. Do you like hugging him?"

Sonic pursed his lips. "He's warm, so I don't mind it. But everyone's warm though."

Tails peered behind the speedster for a second, at the garage door a specific pink hedgie just exited out of. "Would you rather hug Amy or Shadow?"

"Shadow," his mouth provided before his brain caught up. He couldn't say it wasn't true though… Shadow had only accepted two hugs from him, and both times he needed them. They held meaning, while with Amy, hers were so often and Sonic was rarely the one to initiate them.

"Alright…how would you feel if Amy and Shadow got together? Like together together?"

Sonic eyed his brother. "I feel like I'm bein' interrogated now bud. And is this one about the jealousy thing? Because I wasn't-"

Tails interrupted, a bit exasperated. "This is my way of trying to help, Sonic! This is nothing to do with jealousy, I'm just curious. Honest!"

The azure hero let the other off the hook. He mulled the question over.

"Don't think about it." Tails pushed. "What would be your gut feeling?"

Sonic pictured the scenario, and he responded, "Maybe…I'd be confused or somethin', like how I felt when they were pretending."

"Confused about what?"

"Like…why Ames? What does she have that…other people don't?"

Sonic didn't know what Tails was getting from all of this. From what he could tell, most of his answers weren't helping them solve anything. Tails had to be up to something though, because-

"If he asked you, would you kiss him?"

The hedgie's train of thought crashed in a ball of flames. Sonic stared at the kit like he was spouting nonsense. However, Tails was looking at him expectedly, waiting for a response. Sonic imagined trading places with Shadow, and he had no idea how he felt about it.

He couldn't give a definite answer. "I…I don't know, Tails. I've never done anything like that before. Kissing or otherwise. Not exactly up my alley." He'd never been the one to initiate…anything really. Romance and all that stuff just wasn't him.

"I get it." The way Tails was staring at him made him feel a little wary, raising a questioning brow. Tails twirled his thumbs. "Sonic, if it was up to me, I'd say that you like Shadow…at least a little bit."

Sonic's breath hitched. That came out of leftfield. "What? Look, Tails, I-"

The fox's lips twitched downwards. "Isn't that what you wanted to hear? Shadow would feel at least a little better to know that you feel something too."

Sonic saw where the other was coming from, but, "I usually trust your judgement on things, bud. This time though…yeah, I want him happy but does that really mean that I like him?"

Tails' expression softened. "Isn't that part of it? And plus, you said that you liked hugging him and all…"

"Cream likes hugging everyone!"

"That's not a fair example, and you know it." Perplexed sapphires searched reluctant emeralds. "Why are you so against this, Sonic? You're usually up for taking all kinds of risks, no matter the chances!"

Sonic place his hands on the kit's shoulders. "I know! But Shadow loves me! Loves. I can't just start anything will-nilly with him without knowing exactly how I feel because love is…I don't know…" He subtly shook his head. "I refuse to hurt him more than I already have, Tails. He'll have expectations that I know I won't meet and-"

"But you don't know that!" Tails countered confidently.

"And that's the problem! I don't know." Sonic took a deep breath. "Possible attraction and love are completely different, and if I hurt him again-"

Tails finished for him. "Then you'd be completely devastated?"


Tails sent him the ghost of a smile. "We both are pretty much clueless about this kind of stuff, but Sonic, I think you like Shadow…more than a little bit actually."

Sonic stared at him, letting those words sink in. He inhaled deeply before squeezing his brother's shoulders and letting his hands fall. "I can't."

Tails clearly didn't expect that. "What? But-"

"What you think will be worse: loving someone who you know won't love you back and you eventually moving on, or regretting being with someone who doesn't return what you've given them? Love, happiness, everything?" Sonic asked, and when Tails fell silent, he barely managed a smile. "See what I'm saying?"

Tails hesitantly nodded.

Sonic gave him a brief hug. "Thanks for tryin' to help, bro." He pulled back. Tails still looked downcast, but at least he saw it Sonic's way. "Really appreciate it, but let's just…give Shads some time, okay?"


Sonic nodded at him. Wanting to forget these strange almost-feelings and Shadow's hollow expression for the time being, he took a few steps towards the doorway connecting the garage to their house. "I'm goin' to fish up some grub. You want anything?"

Tails was glancing at his plane now. "…In a bit. I'm thinking about going to the city to get some more tools."

"Don't be out too long, or I might get worried!"

"I won't. Promise. And don't forget that I'm still mad at you!"

Sonic managed a snicker before leaving the kit alone.

Tails was standing in front of a door, psyching himself up to knock. He clearly understood that he shouldn't be doing this, that his conversation with Sonic should stay between them two.

However, he also knew that doing so would be the worst decision. Sonic wasn't in a good place, and apparently neither was Shadow.

Tails decided that he should be the messenger. If he told Shadow, maybe he and Sonic could work something out. Shadow liking Sonic and Sonic not exploring his feelings to protect Shadow was completely counterproductive. The azure hedgehog was stubborn though, so Tails forwent another argument and traveled into Station Square on his own.

His confidence dropped to near zero now that he was standing in front of Shadow's door, however.

Shadow was simply intimidating on a good day, but today had been everything but a good day, and Tails would be lying if he said that he wasn't nervous.

Tails took a calming breath before raising a hand to knock. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the door flung open. Rather than a striped hedgehog, a white bat stood in the doorway.

Rouge stepped fully out of the apartment and closed the door before smiling down at the kit. "Hello, sugar. What brings you here?"

"Um…" Tails glanced between her and the closed door. "I wanted to talk to Shadow about something, but I guess he's not in the mood…"

"Your guess is right." Rouge crossed her arms and shook her head. "Shadow's holing himself up in his room right now, and he basically kicked me out. Which is understandable, considering-" She paused, eying him. "Blue filled you in on everything, I'm assuming?"

Tails nodded. "Everything, including what happened earlier." If he had somehow figured that his translator would cause this, he would've had second thoughts in building it. "So…Shadow's really mad?"

Rouge sighed somewhat somberly. "That, among other things." She tapped a finger on her forearm, looking pensive for a moment. Then she regarded him. "Why did you want to talk to him? No offense, I doubt what you have to say will make this situation better."

Tails opened his mouth to prove her wrong, but he hesitated. Sharing the conversation with Shadow – the other one mainly involved in this – was one thing, but telling it to Rouge? He was less sure about that.

But she would be the one to go to about this kind of topic…

The kit started, "I…just wanted to tell him that I think Sonic likes him back."

Rouge's teal orbs widened marginally. "What makes you think that?"

Tails peered back the way he came. "After he told me what happened, I asked him a few questions on how he feels about Shadow." The kit leaned forward a bit, not wanting his voice to be too loud, and whispered. "He said that he would let Shadow kiss him again, if it helped."

Rouge blinked before smirking. "That's some juicy stuff. Very interesting. Why didn't he come with you, though?"

The kit played with one of his namesakes. He hoped that he was making the right choice in sharing all of this with her. "Because he's not completely sure about how he feels, and he thinks that it's better not to risk it."

Rouge furrowed her brow. "What in the world is Blue thinking?"

"It's basically because he doesn't know if he'll love Shadow like how Shadow loves him, I guess. He doesn't want to hurt Shadow again." Tails took notice of her expression, wondering who was in the right here. "He's wrong for thinking that, right?"

The bat pursed her lips. "It's not simply black or white, hon." Tails tilted his head up at her, confused. "It's different for everyone, but for right now..." She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder. "Anything would be an improvement from his current situation. And plus, Shadow will adapt to Blue because he is the only…" She paused for a moment, taking the fox in. "Sonic is the only one he's loved in a long time."

Tails understood that Sonic meant a lot to Shadow, but that much? Wow…

"I'm sure Blue wouldn't believe that or change his mind unless it came from Shadow himself though." Rouge bobbed her head in direction of the apartment. "I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon."

"Sonic said that he wanted to give Shadow some time, but I have no clue how long it will be before he goes to Shadow…" Tails added, wondering how all of this was going to work out. If it did. "Is…there anything we can do?"

Rouge hummed lowly before releasing a single chuckle. "No plan is going to fail harder than the one that caused this." She put her hands on her hips, the smallest of smirks gracing her features. "What I'm thinking of might make us the targets of two angry hedgehogs later, but I do need your help with this. Are you up for it?"

Eager to fix this, Tails nodded with a grin.

Chapter Text

Shadow knew something was wrong before he fully woke up.

Drowsiness fading away, he felt blades of grass against his back and sunshine warming his face. He was outside. But why? The last thing he remembered was laying in the comfort of his own bedroom, gluing the pieces of his damned heart back together.

Shadow blinked his eyes open and hissed at the sudden bright light. He rubbed them as he sat up, frowning when his head swam a bit at the sudden motion. He silently groaned as his eyes quickly adjusted, his guard up.

Observant scarlets darted around, seeing that he was surrounded by grassy hills. The silhouette of the large skyscrapers of Station Square were in the distance.

Shadow's brow furrowed as he wracked his brain. It was a futile effort however, because he couldn't think of one answer to how he got here. He glanced up at the sun, and his frown deepened. It had been evening when Rouge left his apartment, and now it was noon?

He needed answers immediately.

The black hedgehog moved to stand up, but a sudden jerk of his left wrist made him pause. He snapped his gaze down to his hand and his breath hitched at the sight of handcuffs connecting him to a second arm.

Belonging to the last person he wanted to see right now.

Sonic was splayed out beside him, his breath steady and features relaxed. Many emotions flowed through Shadow at once before he forcefully shoved them to the back of his mind. He had something more pressing to worry about than his unrequited feelings.

Taking a deep breath and schooling his expression, Shadow grasped the other's shoulder with his free hand and shook it roughly. "Faker." When there was no response, Shadow called louder. "Faker!" Sonic's eyes remained closed.

Shadow's thoughts raced as he pulled his hand away. Sonic couldn't be sleeping that soundly. It had to be some kind of drug in his system because he hadn't noticed any bruises. He wasn't asleep…he was unconscious. And Shadow had to guess that he had been knocked out as well.

It made sense, because Shadow was a very light sleeper. He sure as hell would've woken up in the process of someone moving him and handcuffing him to Sonic.

Which begged the question of who – wait, no. He already knew who did it. He was sure a certain doctor was to blame. Shadow just didn't know how though, and his mysterious memory lapse wasn't helping either.

Slightly tense now, Shadow glanced around at his surroundings again. There were no incoming robot hordes, giant mech suits, or anything else similar. They were alone and safe, for now at least.

So what was the point of…?

Shadow shook his head. He had no need to understand the doctor's plans. He had things higher on his priority list. For example, breaking these handcuffs so he didn't have to talk to Sonic when he eventually woke up.

The black hedgie eyed the sturdy-looking chain connecting the two cuffs. He then grabbed it the best he could with his two hands and pulled. When they didn't budge, he gritted his test and strained his muscles. Regular handcuffs would've been delinked, but these…

"Damn it," he sharply muttered, glaring down at the metal. Pure strength wasn't going to do it, so now he needed some type of tool. He thought about a place with tools that would cut through this strong of a metal, and one location quickly came to mind: the kit's garage. Tails should have something for this, and he could possibly fill in the blanks for Shadow as well.

There was one problem however: Sonic wasn't showing any signs of waking up yet.

As much as Shadow might want to after all that has happened, he couldn't drag the other all the way there.

Shadow looked at Sonic's resting face for a moment, and there was a dull ache within him. He released a breathy sigh before shifting closer to the blue speedster. He slipped one arm under Sonic's legs and the other supported the azure's shoulders. The cuffs made it so Sonic's right arm was held awkwardly behind his back, but the angle wasn't too extreme so it should be fine.

Shadow secured him against his body as he stood up, ignoring the close warmth the best he could. His lips twitched downwards of the lack of response, and hoped that Sonic wouldn't be out for much longer.

Long enough for Shadow to avoid unneeded conflict, but not too long to become a concern.

He focused on the speedster's expression. Sonic didn't seem pained, so he was okay. Tails should be able to give a proper diagnosis too, if needed.

With that thought, Shadow tightened his hold on Sonic and blasted off. Singed blades of grass were left behind as he went, wind whipping through his quills.

Shadow fought to only think about the cuffs and the garage, but he constantly caught himself glancing down at the one in his arms.

He told himself that he was just checking if Sonic was awake, then he realized that it was pointless to lie to himself.

He knew that he should stop, that he should give up because it's been confirmed that Sonic would never feel the same way. He confessed, and Sonic shot it down without a second thought. And then that damn kiss didn't make things any easier…

Shadow's thoughts then drifted to Rouge and how he treated her. Maybe she didn't deserve to be kicked out because it wasn't exactly her fault that Rose somehow figured everything out, but if he hadn't gone with Rouge's plan, he would've been in a better situation than he was now.

Because no matter what Sonic said, things were going to change because of his stupid slip of the tongue.

Shadow sighed again before smothering his emotions slipping through the cracks.

It wasn't long before Shadow began to slow his speed, swiftly approaching the home. He was walking now, aiming for the front door, but then he noticed that the garage was open.

He switched directions and instantly froze mid-stride when the body in his arms tensed. Ruby orbs drifted down to meet alert and confused emeralds. They stared at each other awkwardly for a moment, Shadow too caught off guard to even begin to explain their position.

Thankfully Sonic wasn't one to stay quiet for long. An unsure grin grew on his peach muzzle. "So uh…wanna explain why my arm's fallin' asleep here?"

Shadow knew that going without any kind of interaction would be too good to be true. He let Sonic go, and the speedster stood under his own power. Shadow held up his chained wrist. "We're handcuffed together," he said, keeping everything under control because he refused to lose it, especially in front of the Faker.

Emerald irises followed the movement, his brow furrowing. "…Huh." With his free hand on his hip, Sonic refocused on Shadow. The black hedgie resisted the urge to avoid his gaze, and he cursed to himself. He shouldn't be here right now. He needed to be coping by himself so he could adjust and not feel like a kicked lovesick puppy. Just why had he-

"-ads? Shadow?"

Shadow blinked at the sound of his name, mentally berating himself for spacing out. "What?" he asked, a bit too sharply.

As usual, Sonic wasn't bothered by it. He grinned and chuckled; it sounded off, not forced, but just…wrong. Shadow's fist subtly clenched at his side. Sonic held one of his hands up innocently, joking good-naturedly. "I was the one gettin' ignored, but you're the angry one."

"Shut up." Shadow managed to glare at him. It was easier than he thought to go back to his old habits. Good. This situation may not be painful then.

Sonic rolled his eyes. "What I was sayin' was that this has Egghead written all over it."

"Obviously." Shadow went to cross his arms, but the sound of the jiggling chain stopped his movements. "I can't figure out how though. We were both knocked unconscious, it's currently noon, and I can't remember anything after you leaving my apartment." He was grateful that his voice remained steady at the end.

Sonic blinked slowly at him before shifting his attention to the sole star above. He then looked at the cuffs, deep in thought as fingers absently scratched his cheek. It was the same one that Shadow had kissed.

Before he could dwell on that, Sonic shook his head. "I don't…remember anything either! I left your place, went home, and-" He tapped his foot on the ground. "Well, this is a great way to start the day, yeah?"

"There's been worse," Shadow muttered to himself and wanted to immediately take those words back Sonic looked away from him, guilt flashing across his features. Apparently, Shadow wasn't as quiet as he thought he was. He attempted to cover up the suddenly tense atmosphere. "We'll get answers eventually. After we get these cuffs off."

Shadow started toward the garage, but his stride was cut short by his immobile partner. Shadow glared over his shoulder and instantly regretted it. Sonic was staring at him with open emotions swirling in his green eyes. "Shadow-"

That tone set Shadow on edge. He knew where this was going, so he cut it off before it got there. "Let's go, Faker." Shadow gritted out crisply. Sonic opened his mouth once more, but he interjected again. "Now."

Sonic's nod was delayed. He began walking, and they were side-by-side. Shadow was consciously trying not to touch the other's too close hand as Sonic called out, "Tails! You in there?" There was no answer, and the duo figured out why when they could fully see inside of the garage. Both the kit and the plane were gone. "Wonder where he went?"

"Doesn't matter." Shadow visually searched the place filled with all kinds of tools, looking to anything that could help them. "We just need to find something to cut the chain."

"It does kinda matter, Shads." Sonic refuted, "Being knocked out isn't an everyday thing and – Oh! There's a letter!"

The azure hedgie pointed in a random direction, and Shadow followed his finger. His words rung true, for there was a piece of paper laid out on a cluttered workbench. They didn't hesitate to go over to it; the letter might hold the answers they were looking for.

Sonic lifted the paper and held it so Shadow could read it as well.

"If I'm not here before you get back, I'm up at Angel Island! Rouge wanted me to drop her off. Well, it doesn't take long to get chili, so I'm sure you're back already! …I was going to leave the letter there, but… Sonic, you need to talk to Shadow. With him liking you and there being a chance that you like him back, you have to-"

At that point, Sonic had crumbled up the paper in his hand.

He was too slow though, because Shadow already read it.

The striped hedgie was frozen in place. He didn't care at all that Tails obviously knew what was going on. He'd be more surprised if Sonic didn't tell him. It was the words at the end that echoed around his head: 'There being a chance that you like him back'. What did that mean? Did Sonic…?

Shadow faced the speedster beside him. Sonic was staring wide-eyed at the ball of paper in his fist. He was stiff as well, looking surprised and almost…panicked? Expressions alone didn't solve anything for Shadow or his rapidly beating heart.


Sonic dropped the letter like he'd been burnt and gave Shadow a too wide smile. "No need for distractions! Let's just find the tool to set us free, yeah?"

The blue hero leaned to move away, but Shadow refused to follow. Sonic pulled, but he wasn't having it. "Sonic. What in the hell did Tails mean by that?"

"Nothing!" Sonic forced out a laugh, rubbing the back of his neck. "The kid doesn't know what he's talkin' about, heh."

A bit of a growl leaked into Shadow's voice. He wasn't going to let the other get out of this. His sanity was at stake. "I doubt that the kid genius doesn't know what he's talking about." Shadow kept his hopes low in case there was some kind of twist, that those words didn't mean what he thought they meant. He had taken too many blows already.

Emerald orbs focused on everything else in the garage, on anything other than Shadow. "Can't we just-"

"After all of the shit that happened?" Shadow hissed coldly. "No."

They finally locked gazes, and Sonic's own jaw was clenched now. Shadow's glare remained steady. If he wanted to get this – whatever it was – out of the other, he had to keep pushing. It was when Sonic ran his free hand through blue quills, stepping down, that Shadow let up marginally on his glare.

"Tails…" Sonic glanced down at the discarded paper before continuing, "knows what happened at the apartment."

"I figured." Shadow made sure his words were biting. "Considering what he said."

Sonic nodded, clearly uncomfortable. "We talked about it, and he asked me these weird questions that…" He weakly shrugged, and Shadow narrowed his scarlets. He inwardly prepared himself. "…that made him think that I…like you, or something."

Shadow wasn't prepared for that at all. He felt his eyes widen and his shoulders tense in shock, and he couldn't do a thing to stop them. Sonic watched his reaction, and Shadow reined himself back in, forcing a monotone, "What do you think?"

The azure speedster deeply exhaled. "I don't know."

That didn't help at all. "You don't know," Shadow repeated. Sonic gave a subtle nod, and a thought was pushed to the forefront of the darker hedgie's mind. Memories of their last conversation flashed, and a of anger sparked within. "So you lied."

Shocked etched into Sonic's features. "Wha-?"

"Back at the apartment." Shadow didn't know how he felt about this development. On one hand, this new bit of information had an ounce of promise, but on the other, Sonic had stomped on his confession and would have left it alone if they hadn't been put in this stupid situation. That damned idiot. "I opened up to you, and you shut it down like it was nothing." He took a step closer, growling. "Why? What in the hell did you gain-"

"Whoa, Shads!" Sonic put a hand on his shoulder, and he instantly shook it off. It fell limply at Sonic's side. Shadow ignored the subtle hurt present in the other's expression. That was how he felt multiplied by a hundred. Sonic kept going, "What are you talking about? I didn't lie to you!" Shadow's distrust must've showed on his face, for Sonic attempted to explain himself. "I…don't feel the same about you as you do about me! That's true!"

Shadow harshly jabbed a finger in his chest. "But you neglected mentioning anything about-"

Sonic pushed the digit away. "I didn't know anything then! It was when Tails questioned me that-"

Shadow was almost shouting now because the other wasn't getting it. "That doesn't matter! If we weren't here right now, you would've forgotten all about it while I forever questioned exactly why the universe hated me!"

Sonic gaped, his face softening. That only made Shadow angrier. "Shads, I would've-"

"Don't lie to me," he snarled, his chest tightening.

The blue Mobian ran a hand down his face. "I don't know!" he yelled, "I don't know what I would've done because I've never felt like this before! I don't know what I'm supposed to do, say, or anything!" He lowered his volume. "You…were – are – hurting and I don't want-"

Shadow cut him off with a swift punch to the jaw.

Damn did it feel good.

Sonic cried out in pain, and he would've fallen to the floor if Shadow hadn't grabbed his forearm. He jerked the blue one up so they were face-to-face, so Sonic could hear every word dripped in poison. "You're blaming your inexperience? I wish that I had that luxury." His voice was deep, guttural. "But no. This is the first time after the death of someone I loved that I allowed myself to feel again. I took the risk, and have been punished over and over…but that's fine." Shadow roughly squeezed the peach furred arm and saw the resulting wince. "It's fine because you were scared."

Shadow then put as much space between them two as he possibly could. Sonic was looking at him, for once speechless, and he pointedly turned away. He was seething, and he needed to get away from everything. "Find a tool." He fully expected Sonic to help him in setting them free of the cuffs, of this smothering atmosphere, so he subtly jolted at the hand on his shoulder. Shadow whirled around and managed to hiss, "What did I just say?" before a pair of lips covered his own.

Shadow's mind nearly short-circuited at the light pressure. They weren't moving and the contact was featherlight, but the warmth alone was almost enough to make him forget their argument. Almost. Shadow shoved Sonic away, a small part of him yearning for the touch again.

Sonic caught his balance, and Shadow itched to punch him a second time. "You can't do that." Rage flooded his system at this point. Sonic only did that because he insulted him. "Not to prove a damn point!" Giving in to his urges, Shadow aimed his fist at one of the other's shining emerald eyes.

Unfortunately, Sonic hastily caught his punch. His intense stare contrasted the pink dusting his cheeks, and Shadow hoped that he didn't look the same. "Do you really think that I'd throw away my…first kiss like that, Shads?" The striped hedgehog gritted his teeth and attempted to yank his hand free, but Sonic wasn't letting go. He hated how close they were and how that soft voice affected him so much. "I hadn't said anything because I didn't want to hurt you more than I already had. I…" Sonic swallowed. "I didn't want you to regret loving me, someone who might not ever return that amount of…affection, y'know?"

Shadow gave up in trying to dislodge his hand. He glared, but it was nowhere near the wattage it had been. His body was betraying him. "Don't assume anything. Nothing you can think of would've made me hurt worse back there." His world had been shattered. Darkness had surrounded at him at all sides. All he had felt was pain. "Damn it, I-"

He stiffened when Sonic held him in a comforting embrace. It was awkward, for only one arm wrapped around him. It didn't matter, because Shadow accepted it nonetheless, reaching around and palming Sonic's back quills to hold him closer. It wasn't fair how Sonic could do this, make him feel better with a simple touch, his mere presence. It wasn't fair…

"I'm really sorry, Shadow." Sonic's words were barely a whisper near his ear. "I…don't know exactly how I feel, but I'll…work it out with you, okay? I do know one thing though. I like this…" Shadow's chest tightened, breath catching. This was actually happening. All that he had hoped for, could be coming true right here, right now.

Sonic made a move to pull back, and Shadow let him. All of his anger had disappeared in a puff of smoke at this point. The genuine smile aimed at him caused his throat to constrict. "And I like seeing you happy, so I guess that's a good start, right?"

"…Whatever you say, hedgehog," Shadow managed to breathe out. Ruby orbs were drowning themselves in emeralds, soaking in this new kind of attention he'd been longing for.

"Hey." Sonic hesitated before lightly cupping Shadow's chin. The blue speedster was an odd mixture of flustered and confident, the soft smile not leaving his face. Shadow knew that he was done for; he was trapped. A chuckle escaped Sonic's throat. "Um…do you want me to…kiss you again?" At Shadow's silence, he rushed somewhat unsurely, "Because the one before was barely nothing and short and aren't they supposed to be-"

Shadow had said that he wasn't going to push himself onto Sonic, but screw it.

He silenced the blabbering idiot with a kiss. A muffed gasp reached his ears, but he ignored it as he slipped his eyes closed. He slightly moved his lips against the other's, and eventually, Sonic slowly but surely reciprocated. Tingles rushed up and down Shadow's spine, and he was sure that his cheeks were on fire right now. What this boy could do to him…

Sonic's left arm then trapped him against the hero's chest, Shadow not fighting the action. The black hedgie sighed out of his nose, barely keeping himself from melting then and there. Yes, Sonic didn't love him yet, but he didn't care. He could be patient for him.

Scarlets blinked back open when Sonic reluctantly ended the kiss, lips hovering over his own. Sonic was panting slightly, a darker blush dying his muzzle. It wasn't a bad look on him. Sonic quietly cleared his throat. "I…like that too…" He lowly snickered. "Guess this is what I was missin' out on, huh?"

Shadow scoffed. "You don't know the half of it, Faker." He'd been waiting for this for so long. Too long.

Both him and Sonic then nearly jumped out of their skins when a loud clatter snapped them out of the moment. Sonic's arm slipped from around him as Shadow took a step back. They glanced down at the handcuffs laying on the floor.

Sonic rubbed his freed wrist. "What in the…"

Shadow bent down to pick the chain up, wondering why it decided to just pop off, but a new voice made him pause. It came from the cuffs.

"You're welcome, sugars."

"Please don't be too mad at us!"

Shadow stared blankly before looking up at Sonic. Said hero was frozen, his cheeks colored similarly to Knuckles fur at this point. "I don't think it was Eggman…"

Shadow was going to kill them.

Chapter Text

Sonic wasn't nearly as mad as Shadow, no, but his embarrassment definitely made up for it.

He felt heat take residence in his cheeks, gaping like a fish out of water. Tails and Rouge had heard…all of that? And they probably knew what he and Shadow did too…

Sonic touched his lips with his fingers, reliving the warm kiss. His emerald gaze focused on Shadow, who was picking up the handcuffs, his expression a mix between shock and rage. Like Sonic's, his cheeks were dusted red as well.

Shadow's voice was sharp. "What in the hell? You two-!"

"Hold off on your yelling, hon. We're almost there."

"Hold off? I'm not holding off!" When neither Rouge nor Tails replied, Shadow scowled and dropped the cuffs, making them clatter to the ground again. The black hedgehog crossed his arms. "Damn them."

Sonic ran his fingers through his quills, hoping that all signs of his blush would disappear before the other two got here. He wasn't that mad at them. He was just a bit upset that they – Tails – had listened and had probably heard what an eight-year-old shouldn't have.

The blue hedgie shuffled his feet a bit. "Don't be too mad at them, Shads..." In a very roundabout way, they helped the two speedsters out by pushing them together. Sonic was glad for that, because otherwise, he didn't know when he would've built enough courage to talk to Shadow and fix things. Even then, that confrontation most likely wouldn't have ended up as good as this one had.

Shadow scoffed at him, scarlets locking with greens. "I'm allowed to be pissed, Faker. They drugged us, or did you forget?"

Yeah, Sonic could admit that was a little too much, but, "They did because how else would they have gotten us to talk?" Sonic grinned; however, it waned at the slightly guarded look Shadow gave him before those rubies shifted somewhere else.

"You're right. I should be mad at you instead of them."

Sonic should've known better that their argument would conclude so easily. It was his fault. If he had somehow figured things out before Tails and Rouge did their brainstorming, they wouldn't have been drugged by their best friends. "I-"

"This could've been avoided if you had admitted that you were jealous."

Sonic blinked before recalling their conversation at the boardwalk and chuckling. "Well, okay…Looking back on it I guess I could've been a little jealous." Shadow rolled his eyes, but his scarlets weren't as sharp. It was a sign that Shadow wasn't aiming to restart the argument, but to take a jab at him. Familiar territory.

"You guess?" Shadow rose a disbelieving brow. "Faker, you basically stalked us. It is a fact that you were, but you were too stubborn and ignorant to notice."

Sonic knew he couldn't argue about being stubborn, but ignorant? Not completely. Tails had brought up the whole jealousy thing and that was where his stubbornness kicked in, but he knew that the things he had felt when Shadow and Amy were together were new. He just didn't know exactly what they meant. He knew now, though. Sorta.

Sonic held his hands up innocently. "Facts or not, can we just agree to forget-" Shadow's eyes narrowed marginally, and Sonic suddenly remembered that forgetting ended up in a fight. He righted his words. "-to move past all of that craziness and focus on what we have now, yeah?"

Shadow fully faced him. "And what exactly do we have now?"

The striped hedgie kept his face blank; however, Sonic had known Shadow enough to detect curiosity and…wariness? The azure speedster reassuringly smiled, putting a hand on his hip. "We have what we've always had, Shads! Well, besides the fact that I may or may not want to take things further? See how things go?"

Shadow scoffed, but there was a hint of a smile on his face and Sonic felt a little lighter. He always liked making Shadow smile, as rare as it was. And he had just found the elusive reason why.

"Of course you couldn't give a straight answer," his former rival uttered. "Why did I fall for an idiot?"

Sonic chuckled as he threw an arm around Shadow's shoulders. "I've gotta have some redeeming qualities, don't I? The Ultimate Lifeform wouldn't have such low standards, right?"

"Hell no he wouldn't." Shadow lowly huffed, and Sonic's blush came back full force when the other subtly leaned into his hold. "But then again, I could just be having a severe lapse in judgement."

"Can never let me win, huh?

"Never in a million years, hedgehog."

Sonic smiled. He had been missing this. Ever since he had found out Shadow's secret, things hadn't been right between them two, to put it lightly. He was glad that they were getting back into their routine and well, Sonic wouldn't mind if it blossomed into something more. If it kept Shadow happy, he was all for it. The lightness he felt was a plus too.

Blue ears perked at the sound of an incoming aircraft. Sonic let his arm fall from Shadow's shoulders before jogging over to the opening of the garage. He glanced up and yep, the Tornado was circling around the house, about to land.

Sonic peered over his shoulder to Shadow, whose mood had drastically dropped.

Before he could say anything along the lines of 'don't hurt them too badly', the plane pulled into the garage, both Sonic and Shadow stepping to the side to avoid getting hit.

Tails was in the pilot seat with Rouge sitting behind him. When the engine was cut, the smirking bat hopped out of the aircraft while slow clapping. Tails exited as well, giving the frowning Shadow fleeting looks.

Rouge put her hands on her hips, glancing between them. "You finally did it, boys! It's about time."

Shadow stepped up to her, scowling. "Explain yourself, Rouge. What gave you the right-"

Rouge patted Tails' shoulder, still grinning. "Well, when he came to me saying that neither of you were going to make a move, I decided that we should give you a little push in the right direction."

"A push," Shadow repeated, almost incredulously.

Sonic had to agree; it had been a bit more than a push, but something else took priority. He faced Tails, who caught his gaze and instantly looked guity. "You told her what I said, Tails?"

"Yeah, I'm sorry, but…" The kit trailed off, his namesakes swishing behind him. "But it didn't feel right just leaving how you leave it, you know?" A soft smile then grew on his muzzle, looking at Shadow who was avoiding his gaze before refocusing on Sonic. "And I'm happy that I did it. Both of you weren't...okay, and you guys are my friends. I had to do something!"

Sonic couldn't be mad at that face. He fondly ruffled the kit's bangs. "I know, bud… Now I feel bad that I put you in that situation in the first place!"

"Don't be!" Tails said as he playfully swatted away the offending hand, fixing his fur.

Rouge, after observing their interaction, rose a brow over at a silent Shadow. "What do you have to say to that?"

Shadow narrowed his eyes at her, and Sonic didn't think he was going to say anything, but then he asked, "Did you have to drug us?"

Rouge giggled. "Of course we did! Be honest with me sugar, had you been planning on leaving your apartment anytime soon?"

Shadow pointedly looked away from her, huffing. "Eventually."

She knowingly scoffed. "Right. And then Blue here being in denial wasn't helping things either. We couldn't have expected you two to do anything."

"Where'd you get it from?" Sonic questioned, racking his brain for any suspicious activity. His mind was blank. "And how in the heck did you manage to do it?"

"Believe it or not, but GUN has some creative weapons," Rouge uttered with a grin.

Tails nodded while he wrung his fingers together, his smile turning sheepish. "Do you remember the milkshake I brought back for you?"

Sonic furrowed his brow. "No?"

"You will soon enough." Rouge then addressed Shadow, "I'm sure you don't remember when I delivered a pint of ice cream through your bedroom window?"

Shadow blinked in shock. "You what?"

The bat shrugged. "I knew that you wouldn't come to the door in your condition, so I knocked on the window. You accepted my gift without any fuss and then slammed the window down in my face. Which was rude, by the way."

The striped hedgie slowly shook his head. "I don't…"

Rouge waved him off. "Like with Blue, it'll come to you." A mischievous glint appeared in her teal eyes as she focused on Sonic, who had no idea what that look meant. "So, how was your first kiss?"

Sonic suddenly found the plane very interesting. He couldn't look at her or the expectant Tails. "Uh...I um...can we not talk about this with Tails right here?"

Tails didn't seem offended. "I don't mind!"

"With that, I'm leaving." Shadow swiftly marched out of the garage, and Sonic managed to see the rosiness in his cheeks.

Rouge called after him, amusement clear in her tone. "Where are you going? Aren't you going to kiss your boyfriend goodbye?"

Shadow strolled right out of the garage. "You're ridiculous, Rouge."

Sonic stared at his retreating back for a moment, wondering or not if he should go after him. Yeah, leaving like that was a very Shadow-y thing to do, but Shadow didn't really oppose the boyfriend title, and shouldn't something now? Like go on a date, or something?

As if she was reading his mind, Rouge nodded over in Shadow's direction, smirking. "You're just going to let him walk away like that?"

"I...guess not?"

Tails was the one to gently push him toward the exit. "You two just got together! New couples should go on a date, right?" He glanced up at Rouge for confirmation, and Sonic was glad that he wasn't the only one in the dark here.

Rouge's lips twisted upwards. "You do have a lot of daylight left, hon. And you have a lot to make up for."

Sonic understood that was a very implied yes.

"You'll be fine until I get back?" he asked Tails.

The kid nodded. "I always am!"

Sonic chuckled before locking eyes with Rouge and saying, "Thanks, Rouge! For helping Shadow and all."

"No need to thank me. It's practically my second job." Rouge gestured to the opening. "Now go get him, tiger."

Sonic winked. "On it!" He raced out of the home with a certain giddiness fluttering inside him. He was flying right into the unknown now, and when was he ever one to back down from a new adventure? Sonic pumped the brakes beside Shadow, causing the other to falter in his step for a second before regaining his stride. Sonic peered at him, easily smiling. "Where you goin', Shads?"

"Anywhere away from her," he responded with a huff, not seeming as flustered as before.

"Well…" Sonic mentally went through all the places he knew, all that he'd discovered that they could quickly get to. There were a lot. "Do you want to...race to Carnival Island?" When Shadow side-eyed him confusedly, slowing his pace, Sonic went on, hoping for a more positive reaction. "Or maybe Spagonia for a hot balloon ride?" Shadow had stopped at this point, frowning. "Or uh…"

"Sonic-" The azure speedster's breath hitched at the sound of his name. He could count on one hand how many times he'd heard it come out of Shadow's mouth. The striped hedgehog had crossed his arms, giving him a calculated stare. "Are you asking me out on a date?"

Sonic scratched his cheek, letting out an uneasy laugh. "Yeah, I was, but if you're not into that kind of stuff then-"

"I didn't say that," Shadow interrupted. He glanced in the way he had been going. "I just had to make sure, because you're floundering like a damn fish out of water."

Sonic let that insult slide this time. He was still preoccupied in figuring out if Shadow was up for it. "So you're okay with going on one?"

Shadow didn't say anything for the longest before facing him. "You better make it worth my while, hedgehog." Sonic grinned widely, but his celebration was cut short, for Shadow continued with a, "But we aren't going anywhere until you set Rose straight."

Sonic's gut dropped.

Shadow heard yelling. He couldn't exactly make it out, but he knew that a majority of it came from a specific female hedgehog.

He was leaning on the wall in front of Rose's apartment, it being the first place Sonic thought to find the pinkette. Shadow was relieved that she was here and that they didn't have to scour the city looking for her. He wanted to let her know the situation as soon as possible, because he wouldn't have the patience to deal with her strong opinions at any later date. He didn't have the patience now. That was why he sent Sonic in there alone.

Sonic had been in there for a good ten minutes now. Shadow was going to give him another five before entering and ending the 'conversation' himself. Though, he soon learned that he wouldn't have to do that when the front door flew open.

Amy stopped outside, her eyes bloodshot with tears threatening to fall.

"Amy!" Sonic's call emitted from behind her. "Wait-!"

By that time, she had found Shadow.

The striped hedgie marginally narrowed his eyes at her aggressive approach. Her hands were empty, but it usually didn't take much for her infamous hammer to make its appearance. His hardened rubies stared down into emotional jades when she stopped in front of him. He wasn't intimidated, not a tiny bit, but her weapon was nothing to laugh at, and he was ready to dodge at any second.

Sonic was chewing his lip a couple of paces behind the pinkette, looking conflicted.

After sniffing and wiping away any moisture in her eyes, Amy jabbed a finger against Shadow's chest. Her voice was heavy as she spoke. "If you ever hurt him in any way, I will know, and I'll track you down. Do you hear me, Shadow the hedgehog?"

Shadow didn't allow for his shock to show. Instead, he evenly responded, "There isn't any point in threatening me, Rose. Because if I hurt him, I would personally deliver myself to you."

Amy stared at him a little longer before heavily exhaling, wiping her face some more. She turned to the uncertain Sonic and managed a shaky, hesitant smile. "I…" She swallowed, clenching the fabric of her dress. "You know...that I'll always be here for you…right? You...Y-You…" She was on the verge of crying again.

Sonic's expression softened before giving her a hug. It was brief, but it got his point across. No tears had fallen, Amy sniffling as he reassured, "I know, Ames. Thanks for understanding, and well, thanks for not taking a swing at Shads." He added with a muffled chuckle.

"D-Don't thank me yet…" Her voice was still wobbly, but she was slowly but surely pulling herself together. Amy took a deep breath before asking, "So...where are you going to go?"

Sonic shrugged, sending the black Mobian a playful glare that he brushed off. "Dunno. Shadow here hasn't made up his mind yet."

"Oh…" Amy gave Shadow one more glance. "Wherever you go, have fun, but not too much fun!"

Shadow turned his head away, inwardly scowling and hoping that the warmth in his face wasn't visible.

"Don't worry about us!" Sonic chirped while rubbing the back of his neck, obviously embarrassed. "We'll be good!"

"You better!" Amy exclaimed, but now it seemed she was making an effort to lighten her tone. She lifted her hand in a wave. "I guess I'll see you two later?"

Sonic returned the wave. "Yep! See ya, Ames!"

There was a fondness in her gaze until she went back into her apartment, shutting the door behind her.

Sonic exhaled heavily, snickering. "That went better than I thought!"

Shadow rolled his eyes. "I wasn't going to allow her to attack me, if that was what you were thinking."

"You not letting her was the problem I was thinking of." Sonic smirked. "I didn't want to get in the middle of a fight. Though, it would be one thing to cross off my bucket list, two people literally fighting over me…"

If it was going to be this kind of commentary the whole day, then Shadow was going to have to call it off. "I will fight you if you don't shut up."

"Aw...don't you want to protect this beautiful face?"

"Funny how you're embracing this so well even though you're 'inexperienced'."

Sonic poked him in his side, and Shadow wondered exactly how he tolerated someone popping his personal bubble so often. These feelings were making him soft, and he hated it.

But there was nothing he could do.

"I gotta learn somehow, yeah?" Sonic beamed and damnit...he was in deep. Beyond saving. "So, have you decided on the spot yet?"

It was then that Sonic's stomach made itself known, rumbling lowly. The azure hedgie patted it, sheepishly grinning.

Shadow glanced down at the offending torso before turning his attention to the populous city. It was lunch hour, and many people were taking up space on the sidewalks, but… Shadow bobbed his head in a general direction. "That toxic waste stand is a good place to start."

Apparently, the brash nickname for the chili dog cart Shadow used flew right over the other's head. Sonic looked like he wanted to get excited, but he controlled himself. "You sure? We could seriously like go anywhere else, and-"

Shadow rose a brow. "Are you complaining, hedgehog?"

"No!" Sonic was quick with the reply, eyes lighting up.

"Then let's go."

Sonic's smile was so genuine and happy that maybe one day...Shadow might eventually thank Tails for building that damn translator.

Shadow sighed as he returned to his apartment, drained. After opening his door, he dragged his feet in, itching to finally relax. Today had been hectic at GUN with the Commander, paperwork that came with tying up a very tedious mission, and he just wanted to forget all of it. He was tired, hungry, and his kitchen was finally within his reach.

He languidly turned around and locked the door after slipping off his shoes. His breath then hitched and his weariness instantly disappeared when arms wrapped around his midsection, a chin resting on his right shoulder. "Welcome back!"

Once Shadow realized that it wasn't a robber or something similar, he let out a content sigh as his cheek was nuzzled, muscles relaxing. He fought to keep his words sharp as he welcomed the touch. "What did I tell you about breaking into my apartment, Faker?"

"It's not really breaking in if you leave the door unlocked, right Shads?"

"That doesn't matter," Shadow opposed, recalling the first time Sonic broke in. It had been a couple of days or so after things got settled, and he just had forgotten to lock his door on the way out. When he had returned, he had yelled at the intruder and Sonic laughed him off, hugging him as an 'apology'. Shadow may or may not have been leaving his door unlocked more often ever since.

They were two weeks in, and Sonic has popped up at least four times.

Sonic pulled away, and Shadow turned around. "Of course it does! You leave the door unlocked because you obviously want me here!" The striped hedgehog scoffed. Sonic tilted his head at him before reaching up and gently curving Shadow's lips up into a poor excuse of a smile. "Well aren't you at least a little happy to see me? You've been gone for days!"

Three days in fact, and Sonic was currently in the way of food and rest.

"Don't make me bite your fingers off," Shadow warned, Sonic wisely dropping his hands not a second later. At the azure hedgie's concerned expression, Shadow had the urge to explain. "It's been a long three days. I just want to get something in my system and sleep."

Sonic brightened up. "That's it? I know just the thing!" He unexpectedly grabbed Shadow's wrist and pulled.

Shadow wasn't putting up as much as a fight as he should have. "Faker, what in the hell are you doing?"

He didn't receive an answer. Sonic dragged him over to his living room couch before guiding him down to sit on it. The blue hero's grin was too wide. "Stay right here! I'll be right back!"

Sonic zipped into his adjacent kitchen before Shadow could open his mouth. Black ears perked at the rattling sounds coming from the next room over, and his brow creased. "Sonic, what are you-"

"Shhh! It's a secret! Wait until I get back out there!"

Shadow should've went marching in there, demanding to know what the other was doing, but the couch was comfortable. It felt great to sit down, and he didn't want to give up this feeling just yet. So instead, he sighed and palmed the remote off the arm of the sofa, turning on his TV. Some random action movie was playing. He decided that it was decent after a moment, setting down the control.

It wasn't long after that when Sonic reappeared, carrying a bowl of something with steam rising out of it. Sonic was smiling as he plopped down beside Shadow. He held out the bowl and a spoon. "Here you go! It should fill you up!"

Shadow took it, examined it, and soon realized that Sonic had prepared him soup; chicken noodle to be precise. Shadow subtly frowned. "I'm not sick, Faker."

Sonic rolled his eyes. "Duh, I know that, Shads. I wanted to give you it because it's good! And since you're tired and all…"

Shadow stared at him out of the corner of his eye before shifting his attention back to the soup. Sonic had just wanted to help. He inwardly sighed, ignoring the butterflies that had suddenly taken residence in his stomach, and used the spoon to slurp some of the soup. It was good, and the warmth spread throughout him. It wasn't what he planned his dinner to be, but it'll do.

"Have you eaten?" Shadow asked once he was almost done with his meal.

Sonic had to pry his focus off of the explosion on-screen to answer him. "Yep! Ate a while before I came here." Shadow nodded as he chewed his last noddle, placing the bowl at his feet and stifling a yawn. Sonic's chuckles reached his ears. "Tired? Want me to tuck you in? Read you a bedtime story?"

"Shut up." Shadow leaned back into the cushion of the couch. "Eating woke me up." That was a lie. The fullness was urging him to crawl into his bed. He refused to fall asleep until Sonic left however. Who knew what he would do to him while he was out.

"Uh huh," Sonic said, clearly not believing him. "Shads, it looks like you're about to-"

"I'm not."

Sonic blinked before his lips curled up. "You're not sleepy, huh?"

Shadow narrowed his eyes at him, wishing that he knew what was going on in the other's head. "I'm not," he repeated with more emphasis.

"So you wouldn't fall asleep if this!"

Shadow's breath caught in his throat when fingers started to scratch behind his ears. He couldn't help himself from leaning into the hand, his eyelids threatening to slip closed. It was only when he felt the side of his head meet a shoulder that he jolted awake.

He glared at an innocent looking Sonic, who hadn't pulled back his hand yet. His former rival was watching the TV again, covering spots on Shadow's head that basically made his body melt into the couch. His head lolled back against the cushion, and the embrace of sleep was too strong to resist.

Shadow didn't react when the fingers eventually went away, too far gone to even think about opening his eyes. None of his mental alarms were going off either, not detecting any danger. He was dancing on the line of consciousness and unconsciousness as an arm tucked itself under his legs, another supporting his upper back. He was lifted, and now he was warm.

Shadow turned towards the comfortable source, snuggling his muzzle in the warmth. He was either moving or being moved; he wasn't sure. But what he knew was that the movement lasted for a while until he was placed on something soft.

He recognized the feeling of a pillow, a mattress, and the blankets currently being pulled over him.

After Shadow buried himself in them, fingers scratched behind his ears again. His chest rumbled.

There was a quiet chuckle, and then the feeling was gone, replaced by a brief pressure against his lips.

The next morning, Shadow knew that Sonic had tucked him into bed, and dammit…

...He didn't mind.