So I had a lot of crazy ideas about Sonic 2006...

Elise doesn't cry – she can't. It's hard at first, when everyone looks at her like they expect her to start sobbing at a moment's notice, but it gets easier. All she has to do is hold that glistening blue gemstone – "It's a lucky charm," the white hedgehog had told her back when everything went wrong – and her strength is restored.

In her dreams, she dances on the rooftops of a ruined city, leaping and twirling in the air as she runs toward a destination she can't fathom. Flames swirl dizzyingly below her, and there's nothing to stop her from falling, but she knows that she will be fine – the white hedgehog will make sure of it.

In her dreams, the white hedgehog never left, and they are always, always together.

But the years pass by, and the white hedgehog never returns. Elise doesn't cry – she can't.

She doesn't tell anyone that when she closes her eyes, she can see Soleanna swathed in flames. The halidom burns and crumbles around her, and Elise knows that this is her fault, for all the reasons she absolutely cannot cry.

Silver is always, always with her. His presence is something that just is, was always supposed to be, and Blaze doesn't question it.

In her dreams, tears pour from her eyes like torrential rain, a dam bursting after being forced shut for far too long. Silver turns his back to her and walks away - "We'll see each other again," he promises her - and there's nothing to stop her from falling.

In her dreams, flames swirl around her, consuming everything - harsh and bright and somehow beautiful. Blaze doesn't question it, in the same sense that she doesn't question Silver's constant presence as he is always, always with her.

She doesn't tell anyone that when she closes her eyes, she can see a blue sky without ash and smoke clouding it. There's the sound of water rushing nearby, and the air smells of salt. But Silver is not there, even though he is always, always supposed to be.

Elise's life ended ten years ago - at least, this is what she would tell you if you were to ask.

It began with the death of her father, in an explosion at the laboratory in the old castle that now lies in ruins. Sometimes, she can still feel herself falling into the white hedgehog's outstretched arms as her father collapses before her. "Don't cry, no matter what happens," Father had said then with his dying breath, "or your tears will summon the flames within you."

She'd almost broken her promise right then and there, her eyes stinging with the beginnings of tears. The white hedgehog took her hand then, entwining his fingers with her, and guided her outside. His expression remained solemn, the corners of his mouth twitching as he struggled with words that likely couldn't express what he was thinking.

He'd waited with her until another black hedgehog joined them, carrying a scepter with black smoke swirling about it. "Take this," the black hedgehog had said as he handed the scepter to her. "Keep it safe."

Elise nodded. "I will."

The black hedgehog turned away. "It's time we return," he said in a low voice.

For an instant, the white hedgehog's hand tightened around hers. "Y-Yeah..." He broke away from her, and lifted a sparkling blue gemstone into the air. The black hedgehog lifted a similar green one as well, locking arms with the white hedgehog. They simultaneously shouted words that didn't make sense to her, and a swirling blue circle appeared in the air above them. The black hedgehog leapt into the circle and disappeared, and the white hedgehog began to follow suit.

And then, the coil sprung. "No!" Elise shouted as she threw her arms around the white hedgehog's torso. "Don't leave me!"

"I..." the white hedgehog said, his voice wavering. "I'm sorry..."

"Please..." She buried her face into his fur, and he went still. "I... I'll be all alone..."

"Elise..." She loosened her grip slightly, and he turned to face her. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "This isn't forever. We'll see each other again."

"But when?"

"Soon," he answered, and he sounded so firm and resolute that she had to believe him. He took her free hand, the one not wrapped tightly around the black hedgehog's scepter, and pressed the blue gemstone into it. "It's a lucky charm," he said. "So... keep smiling, okay? It's... easier not to cry, when you smile."

It was easy to smile then - the easiest it had been for a long, long time. "Okay," she said. And then, the white hedgehog disappeared into the blue circle, which vanished as he did.

And from then on, her life became an endless loop of forced smiles and false hopes that the white hedgehog would return - but now, ten years later, the white hedgehog is still gone, and her smile now feels hollow and fake.

Blaze's life never truly began until she met Silver. At least, this is what she would tell you if you were to ask.

The children used to call her the spawn of Iblis - after all, why else would she have such precise control over flames? But she looked nothing like the monsters that crushed what was left of the buildings, that ravaged the streets. But that didn't stop their harsh glares, their biting words.

And then, one day, they were cut off mid-tirade when their bodies were suddenly enveloped in something shimmering and blue. "Leave her alone!" shouted the white hedgehog that had saved her. With a flick of his wrist, he sent them flying. "She didn't do anything wrong!" The children ran, shooting one last glare at both of them. "Are you okay?" the hedgehog asked.

But then, his knees buckled and he crumpled into Blaze. "I'm the one who should be asking that," she said. Her voice sounded calm then, but her heart was racing.

Bracing himself against her, he stood, though his legs shook so much that Blaze thought he was going to collapse again. "I'm Silver," she said.

And somehow, she already knew. "Blaze," she said in response.

Just as she predicted, he stumbled onto her again, his forehead slamming into her shoulder. Please don't leave me, she wanted to say. "We should stick together," she said instead.

And Silver agreed. He depended on her strength - too much, Blaze thought at times, because what if something were to happen to her? How would Silver go on then? But if Silver were to leave her... she'd carry on. She'd have to.

But don't you see, Silver? Blaze wanted to say, but never did. I'm not strong at all. Not without you.

Sometimes, nothing feels real.

Sometimes, Elise wishes for the halidom to burn like it does in her dreams. It's awful of her to even think such a thing, but to deny it would be to lie to herself - and she already lies so much to the world outside that she can't bring herself to lie about this, even if it's for her own benefit.

But sometimes, Elise wants to just let everything unravel, to let tears flow so freely and unabashedly that nothing can ever stop them - so that nothing can stop the flames within her from spilling forth.

And then, she thinks, she'll be free. She'll be able to run just as fast as Sonic - no, faster than Sonic, because she has run that fast before, in a dream or something not entirely real - and her soul will no longer be bound to the Eternal Sun.

And the white hedgehog, the one that promised that he'd see her again - she'd find him. She'd leave everything behind and search for him, and then scream and sob everything that is wrong to him, just as she's always wanted to do but has never been able to.

But instead, she has Sonic. "Just smile," he says with a grin of his own as he saves her again and again and again.

She doesn't tell him that she wants him to stop saving her - that she never wanted him to save her in the first place.

Sometimes, everything feels too real.

Blaze never saw the blue hedgehog - only Silver did, but really, the words "blue hedgehog" is enough to identify the Iblis Trigger - but an image exists in her mind nonetheless. An image that, by all means, should not exist.

When she lands on the beach - and she can't say how she knows the word "beach" either - everything is too vibrant and loud around her. The water constantly moving and flowing around her, the sand beneath her toes, the birds chirping in the air, the leaves on the trees rustling in the wind...

Just like in her dreams.

The sun gives off a different heat than Iblis and the eternal flames do - but it's a pleasant kind of heat. Everything around her is so, so beautiful - but not unfamiliar.

And when given the opportunity, Blaze runs.

She runs because she knows that sometime, somewhere, she couldn't. She runs because Silver isn't there, and he needs to be.

"If you have time to worry, then run!"

She runs, and when she finds Silver a few hours later, it's as if no time has passed. That doesn't stop her from keeping a close eye on him, though, in case they're separated again.

Sonic, Elise quickly learns, is uncannily good at worming his way into her graces. "Just smile," he'd said to her, just as the white hedgehog did all those many years ago, and as she follows his advice, Elise finds that it actually does make her feel a little happier.

And when Sonic falls, taken from her so suddenly as he'd appeared in her life, she lets everything burn. It's selfish of her, she realizes, to end everything on a whim like this, but the world has already taken too much from her.

For the first time in what feels like an eternity, tears pour from her eyes like torrential rain, a dam bursting after being forced shut for far too long.

Silver, Blaze learns too slowly and too late, is far too dependent on her for her to leave him alone. "We're friends, right?" he asks her in a breaking voice.

Oh, Silver, Blaze wants to say but doesn't. That's exactly why I have to do this.

The flames swirl about her, into her, and for the first time, everything feels right. As she rises higher and higher, moving farther and farther away from Silver as the flames consume her, become her, she manages a small smile for him and a few words of luck.

This is exactly where she is supposed to be.

Two princesses meet at the end of the world. One is bound to the Eternal Sun - the other is now free.

"I'm sorry," says the princess that is now free. She stands proud and tall, no longer weighed down by the flames' burden.

"You will choose this fate of your own free will," says the princess bound to the Eternal Sun, "to protect that which has protected you for so long." The flames feel more like a blessing now, than a burden.

Elise smiles a bitter smile. "So there's no hope, then. I can never truly be free."

Blaze shakes her head. "You and I are the same, and we are forever bound to our fate."

Elise looks to the black and white hedgehogs, at the end of the world, who fight to save their comrade. "Unless..."

Blaze looks to the blue hedgehog, at the end of the world, the final component in breaking the cycle once and for all. "It's possible."

The solution is obvious. "Take care of him," Blaze says, thinking of her companion.

Elise smiles as she goes to the one that she loves. "I won't fail this time."