Rated T for upcoming violence, blood/graphic scenes, and personal hardships. Hi all. I have to build the story up … but there will be swell amounts of all the main characters dripping in and a decent amount of spotlight for each: Sonic, Tails, Amy, Rouge, Shadow, Knuckles, Eggman. Some humor, but I don't write primarily humor fics. And there will be some romance, though this isn't primarily a romance fic. There's an OC who plays a main role, but he's not an overpowering type. Lots of drama, tragedy, pain, and of course, a good ending. Let me know if you enjoy the story...

My OCs are copyrighted to me: Dylan, Isolena, Richard, Jameson. Please do not use them anywhere or claim ownership of them. Everything else isn't mine. Do I even have to say that?

The voices were at first indistinct, but she knew the tones well enough to know who was speaking. They were stressed, a human male's voice, tenor, speaking quickly; and a human woman, mid-range, smooth almost like butter, but with a strain of agitation she was barely containing. The two were bent over before panels and tapping on screens at a fast pace.

Then the female slouched, her back turned away from the wall of monitors and schematics of something slowly revolving before them. A thing. A serious of diagrams. A set of something that looked like chains of DNA slowly revolving.

The male tapped into the strands on the screen and gestured to a part of it. To wit, the female turned, slowly, let out a physical gesture of weariness by her bent back, and then swiftly left the laboratory.

For a few more minutes, Rouge kept her position up in the air vent, watching the single overworked scientist plunge onward further into the night. He certainly was a determined human! She'd seen her fair share of zealous scientists in her years of working for GUN. This man, still relatively young, was an interesting exception as far as the length of time he'd diligently worked at this single project. He hadn't turned his attention to anything else. For him, and then the woman later, it had always, only, ever been this one project.

Just, what that project was, Rouge hadn't fully learned. Not that she was particularly interested in the actual substance of the project. Just, this man—there had been something in his sparkling, youthful eyes a handful of years ago that had impressed her when she'd first joined GUN. Was that spark still there? Rarely did Rouge have opportunity to draw near enough to truly see if it was or not.

After all, he was a GUN scientist; and she, a GUN agent, was technically on his side. Therefore, she hadn't pried into the project in any significant way. Oh, GUN held a vast Bible of spells and secrets, though. At times, Rouge wondered if GUN was as good-intentioned as they spouted to the media, and therefore to the public.

So she'd taken to, as she told herself, observing this man and his co-worker, his wife, as they pressed forth through their project. They'd fought, laughed, cried, comforted the other. And yet-

Were they any closer or not to the successful result they were so painfully giving their hours of life to? Why did she still skulk about after-hours watching them? She wasn't the same innocent GUN agent as she'd been years ago when she'd first started. That These two touted supposedly genuine and optimistically simplistic to do something good should have felt more like a laugh to her now.

Rouge was sullied by the realities she'd been through. No more was she the new agent who'd read through the rose-colored GUN briefings and eaten up every word. She knew better now, painfully so. People were never as clean as they presented—or even as they told themselves.

Yet, she crept back week after week, curious, hoping subconsciously that these two scientists were true people that would see their ideas to fruition. Whatever they were doing, she hoped they succeeded.

Rouge watched the poor man groan and turn the monitors off. He picked up some tablets and placed them in a locked drawer. And with a weary sigh, watching him take his leave, Rouge stood and slid away through the vents, back through locks and encryptions that she easily bypassed with her high-ranking access codes. No one at GUN knew she'd been watching this project for years.

If those two scientists were as good as she hoped, whatever they were striving for could only be something good.

Now that the hours were longer and the days accordingly warmer, with blooms bursting, the sun shining, and puffy cumulus clouds inching across the sky, he'd had more time to walk down to the beach and feel the sand between his toes.

His days were about the same: wake, school, homework, beach, and baking in-between that. Oh, and look after his chao Berry. His friend.

Not that Dylan could complain or feel melancholy. He tried not to focus on the things he couldn't do and improve daily with the talents and things he could do. There were precious few of those, so Dylan had devoted himself to them wholeheartedly.

Berry fluttered around him, landing on his shoulder.

Dylan picked up the pace to get to the bus stop. He'd hurried to finish his homework so he could spend even a few more minutes at the beach. When the days lengthened, he missed less sunsets. The beginning and ending of the day were his favorite times.

"Are you okay, Berry?" Dylan poked at his little friend.

Berry chirped happily and stood up, grabbing at Dylan's choppy, dirty blonde hair for footing.

They stood at the station waiting for a couple minutes, before a large semi-truck came barreling down the road at a rather accelerated pace. As it half flew by, Dylan closed his eyes. Dust and road debris wasn't something he liked to have bothering his eyes.

Then his shoulder felt light.

Dylan gasped, "Berry?"

His chao was gone.

Dylan tried not to panic. He whirled about and—there! Berry was helplessly fluttering about in the air over the road! The tractor trailer's blast of wind must have blown his friend away!

"Berry!" Dylan made to rush out right into traffic.

"Kid, are you insane?" One of the strangers at the bus station grabbed Dylan by the arm, yanking him back. "It's just a chao!"

"But—no! That's my friend! Let go!"

Of course, the man only clenched onto Dylan harder. As the teenager struggled to break free, the lights changed and oncoming traffic commenced at a quickly-accelerating approach. He swallowed, protesting harder. His poor little chao had not only been blown into the air above the street, but had hit a stop sign and had fallen right onto the pavement senseless!

Desperate, Dylan turned to try to do anything to get free. Then, another blast of wind and some sort of sound burst past him. He and the other people nearly dropped. That wasn't the same type as cars blowing by too quickly. It had gone by in a second, if that, with nothing left to show for it.

Completely stupefied, Dylan found that the man had released him. He struggled to his feet, turning in agony to the street to see what had become of his precious friend.

But Berry wasn't squashed in the road. The little blue chao wasn't anywhere in the road at all. Had some horrible car run him over and peeled him off the hot pavement to who knew where?

The thought brought tears to Dylan's eyes. He was about to have a breakdown, when his chao was suddenly presented to him! On impulse, Dylan gasped and clutched the little creature against his chest, unable to stop a stream of tears from running down his face.

"Who?" He looked over and down a little. A blue hedgehog was standing there, smiling, observing how Berry snuggled against the boy with much reciprocated love.

"Are you okay now?" The blue hedgehog asked, a bit concerned but overly energetic in tone.

The hedgehog's enthusiastic demeanor encouraged Dylan, "Yes. Are you the one that saved Berry?"

"Yep! Looks like I got here just in time!"

"I—thank you so much! You don't know what this means to me."

"No," the hedgehog's smile slipped just a fraction. "I think I understand. Well, I have to go. C'ya!"

And with another shocking burst, he was gone in a blue streak that left Dylan and the other travelers stunned silent. But then Dylan overheard those about him discussing the event, with some exclaiming that blue hedgehog was one they'd seen more than once on the news before. The hedgehog's name was Sonic. He always zoomed to and fro in that expeditious manner.

Dylan recalled also having read news articles and watched some video about that hedgehog, too. And some others, but the details were hazy. Such fast activity didn't concern him personally that much. Therefore, when the bus arrived, he boarded with a renewed heart of contentment and sat near a back window, with Berry propped up so he could look out at Central City.

Their journey didn't take long. Dylan exited to a soft flow of evening wind, sweet as flowers, and to a spread of lovely beach waiting just for them. The sun was almost ready to set. Few other people were slowly walking about, waiting also for the brilliant burst of the ending of the day to begin.

Dylan comfortably walked down the gravel path and stepped out atop the sand. He came before a long, thick piece of driftwood that had no doubt landed there many decades ago, and there he sat, with Berry in his lap. This was their ritual. Here, he took his shoes and socks off and pressed his naked feet into the sand. It felt so good, that he shut his eyes and felt the wind and imagined what things could have been like if not for his condition. Just for a minute. But then he stopped such vain things and opened his eyes to the pleasure of sunbursts rising over a spill of gold and pink.

Whenever he saw that sky, Dylan knew everything would be fine.

They lingered silently for a few minutes. Then, a happy laugh tingled his ears. To the right, down near the water's edge, a pink hedgehog and a little cream-toned rabbit were skipping together. He'd seen them a few times before, always together, always eating candy or talking about silly nothings.

Like many of the cars, trees, and other people he saw in specific places at specific times, they'd become routine fixtures. And he was probably routine for them, too.

They eventually passed and their happy laughter faded. What would it have been like not to worry about cutting his legs or feet, so that he could have enjoyed the things others his age took for granted?

Well, whenever he started down that mental path, Dylan just saddened himself.

The sunset was starting to fade and the brightest of stars were twinkling into the sky.

"Let's go, Berry. I'll make you a mini cupcake like I did last week. Does that sound tasty?"

Berry squealed and rubbed his face against Dylan's cheek.

Dylan smiled and walked up the beach back to the bus stop. From here it was go home, take a bath, check his body to make sure he hadn't been cut anywhere considerable, and then make plans for a weekend of baking. Now and then, his parents would find a few minutes to come home and talk with him, but those times seemed to be growing rarer as he got older. That was yet one more thing Dylan wished would change. His parents were slowly, but consistently more tired and stressed as the months drifted by.

He worried about them. But, as they were GUN scientists, he really couldn't ask them just what about their job was draining them. Actually, Dylan knew next to nothing about anything they did, and it was supposed to be like that. Classified everything.

Berry fluttered around him and sat on his head as Dylan opened the door to his house and stepped inside.

"Want to soak in the sink while I take a bath?"

Berry clapped his hands together in happiness.

Dylan chuckled. Of course Berry wanted to do that. Almost every night, the little soft creature would splash about in the bathroom sink in nice, warm water, while Dylan stepped into the shower. The little guy was such a wonderful friend for him! Dylan would do anything for him. To give Berry anything he could. To stretch out the days on the earth that he could have with such a giving, innocent soul. It was his delight to pamper the chao in every way he could.

The two went about their bathing ritual and Dylan dried his friend off. Then he placed Berry on a soft cushion on the kitchen counter and opened a large three-ring binder. There was nothing but organized recipes of any pastry imaginable.

"Should I go for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, tortes, rolls, or something else this weekend? What do you think my social media fans would like this time? Vanilla, strawberry, cherry, chocolate, something else? Dipped fruit or chocolate bark or truffles?"

Berry was silent.

Dylan tilted his head, "How about I close my eyes and randomly open the recipe book to some page and that will be it?"

To that, Berry made a happy gurgle.

Dylan did just that, peering down at a chocolate cream-filled cupcake recipe with swirled pink frosting and blue sprinkles. "Okay, cupcakes it is! Glad that monumental decision is over with—whew! Let's go chill for a while. Catch up on social media comments."

Patisserie was one of the very few things Dylan was very talented at, and he knew it. Not that he was prideful per say, but he was proud that he had something he could do. What with mediocre grades, low self esteem, and a lack of athleticism, if not for this, he'd just be a boring, skinny teenage boy who had to watch out lest he leak blood.

That's what hemophilia was all about.

"Check that bad luck: the son of two scientists has to be careful so he doesn't hurt himself. So much for anything aggressive, like touch sports," so Dylan had chuckled sourly some years ago. But it couldn't be helped.

"Look at this comment," he smiled, showing the phone to Berry. "This girl really likes my photos. Think I should follow her advice and open a shop after high school? What—you do?" He blinked at the chao. "But shouldn't I go to a patisserie school first? You don't think I need to? Aww! So sweet of you!"

He lay on his bed and browsed through hundreds of comments of his delicious sweets. The photo account Dylan had on PicSnap always cheered him up. When he baked, he took pictures and uploaded them. It was unintentional, that he'd become so popular, but with two years of posts and over five hundred thousand followers currently, Dylan had been so encouraged that he'd improved in the kitchen expeditiously.

For a little while longer, he perused, and then his eyes grew heavy and he drifted away.

At sunset the next evening, Rouge thought back to how intensely upset those two scientists had looked. Sure, they'd had their expected share of upsets, but something about this felt new, felt heavier, felt oppressive. But, why did she care, again? She should let it all slide. It wasn't her business.

A black thing slowly passed before her. Rouge was thinking about those scientists too much to notice it much.

"What's on your mind?"

"Hm?" She slid her fist from her cheek and glanced over. Shadow had come up to sit next to her. "It's nothing of importance."

He was swiping through some text on a GUN tablet. Probably his current orders. Routine. And as he did so, the slightest sigh dropped from his mouth, but he expressed no outer emotion to whatever he was skimming through.

"Don't you have a mission right now?"

"Actually, no. Every now and then, a girl's gotta take a breather."

Shadow flickered a fraction of his eyes at her, then returned to the translucent, turquoise tablet with the white text.

Rouge stared around her at the usual setting of the five-star hotel's private suite. GUN had set her and Shadow up here in order to keep them conveniently close by in Central City. It worked. She and Shadow technically had a separate room a piece, which shared a living space. This is where they relaxed, talked, bothered each other—when they saw each other that was, and such happy reunions were becoming continually more infrequent. Usually, she enjoyed unwinding here with Shadow. But she just—those scientists—and she was bored.

"Omega's still off on that mission of his own?"

"Yes. He won't be back for months, if not longer," Shadow tapped the screen and a wall of nothing but text came up. Rouge heard the almost imperceptible growl of agitation he made at the presentation of nothing but dull, horrendous, mind-numbing text. Most likely required research GUN had sent him for whatever his latest mission was.

The three had ended their last joint mission months ago. Then Omega had been presented a mission of his own. A first, a shocking display of trust on GUN's part, and even more stunning, he'd readily accepted it. And then she and Shadow had also taken solo missions. At first, she'd enjoyed the flexibility of doing things completely alone as she often used to do. No babysitting or explaining things to a junior or waiting on the slower partner.

Now the renewed freedom in her work was boring, as well.

Then, intruding in her musings with that smooth voice of his, Shadow asked again, "What's on your mind?"

"Why do you think something's on my mind?"

"There's always something in there."

"Well, I'm glad you think so! Wouldn't want you to think that my skull is empty."

"Rouge," he smoothly spoke. "I know that, at least, you have jewels in there."

"My!" Rouge fake gasped and smirked. "Was that a joke? You?"

"Nothing is beyond the ultimate life form," Shadow's mouth twitched in a smirk, which he suppressed like his life depended on it. But he turned his tablet off and lay his head back against the plush couch.

Rouge knew her compatriot well. It had been—and still was—one of her secret pleasures to watch his inner growth. Still moody, still uptight, still secretive, he'd nonetheless relaxed enough to loosen up and be a bit open to a select few. She was one of them. And she also knew when to press buttons, when not to, and what buttons to press.

So, instead of waiting for him to prompt her again, and knowing that he putting the tablet down was such a mark that he was waiting, she leaned on her hand again and blinked at him, "Have you heard of Project Miracle?

"No," he simply responded.

That was also his way of telling her to explain. If he wasn't interested, he would have made some rude remark.

Rouge passed him a fleeting smirk, "I'm honestly not intimately familiar with it; however, GUN's been funding it for almost a decade. The two scientists in charge are a married couple. They've been dedicated to it all these years, and yet-"

"You seem to be more familiar with it than you think you are. Why are you bothered by it since it's not even one of your cases?"

"That's the thing. I'm not sure why. I'd just really like to see the project work out, but lately, something's changed. I think the project may fail."

"How can you say that, when you also said you don't even know what it's about?"

Rouge exhaled in a rare moment of vulnerable outward agitation. Shadow made no remark to her emotional display. She appreciated that about him when she didn't want him to react; and she disliked it about him when she did.

"Okay, so I've been watching them for a while."

"Spying," he let off a little chuckle.

"You could define it like that," she turned fully to him and smirked. "I like to think I've just been a silent supporter. But-"

Just then, her communicator flashed. Rouge had to take it, for it was always, only GUN or a mission partner, "This is Rouge?"

"Rouge, we need you to get us a chaos emerald right away. Any emerald. Then bring it to GUN HQ."

"A chaos emerald?" She darted her widened eyes to Shadow, suppressing a tone of glee. "I am going to ask, what for?"

"It's for a project."

"Well, of course!" She rolled her eyes and Shadow actually smirked quite a bit. "But, which one? Don't act like you can't tell me. I'm sure I have high enough clearance to know—and I do want to know. I'm not in the game of being a blind lackey."

There was a pause, then the man on the other end spoke, "Acknowledged. Your clearance is high enough. This mission is for Project Miracle. We'll send you a debriefing after the call."

Speechless, Rouge whipped her eyes to Shadow. He'd crossed his arms when that interesting bit of coincidental information had come up, but his eyes were slightly narrowed.

Recovering, Rouge answered, "Well, you want me to go find a big gem and get it by any means I think is required? And for Project Miracle? I like the name of that project. I'll do it and will head out tonight!"

"Good. Agent out."

"Is this fate or what?" Rouge hopped off the couch, energetic and self-satisfied.

Shadow rolled his eyes, "Fate is nonsense. However, nothing happens by chance."

"And the difference between the two is?" She asked, without looking for an answer. "You're such a philosopher, Shadow! Who taught you to speak like that?"

He only sneered, "Want to trade missions with me? Yours sounds more exciting."

"No way, junior!" Laughing, Rouge walked off.

Shadow waited until he couldn't see her; and then he waited yet more until his sensitive ears could no longer hear the soft clattering of her boots in the building. Rouge was more than a tolerable colleague to him, though he'd not yet learned how to bypass his own discomfort to admit those things fully to himself. She was even companionable at times. However, he only let himself enjoy a genuine smile after she'd left.

She slammed the glass down and quite a bit of the water spilled out on the marble countertop. With a pained sigh and back aching from lack of sleep, she slid her fingers slowly over the counter and gripped the edge.

"What if they don't find a chaos emerald in time? It's not like you can just call one and it will come to you like a dog!"

"Isolena, please. They'll get one in time. Things are going according to the time table! I also have to run some more blood match tests, so a couple days should work out fine."

"Nonsense. You've run over a hundred tests. Why'd GUN wait so long to approve our requests for this stage? Everything depends on it! The specimen won't last but another month—max!"

There was a sudden silence, a discomfiting few seconds in which Isolena glared up at her husband's face to see if he was withholding something from her. He wouldn't look back at her, and she knew she was right. The look of guilt had whitened his already pale skin from the hours of isolation in their lab.

"Richard," she sternly spoke.

He eyed her, then stared down, again, into their sink, as if everything and nothing were on his mind.

"GUN's been strapped for cash for almost a decade now. They've shuttered dozens of projects—some very promising! How was it that we got a sudden bulk donation, and at just this critical phase?"

"Maybe GUN was holding back?"

"Please, Richard," she stepped up before him. "Where'd that money really come from?"

"An anonymous donor," he quickly responded, still not allowing himself to turn to her. "The money was marked specifically for Project Miracle, so GUN sent it directly to us."

Isolena rotated her body so her back pressed against the counter. Before her on the island sat a lovely three-tier dish of cupcakes with layers of swirled yellow and blue frosting. She absently examined the way the frosting formed a sort of circular road littered with the trash of sprinkles and candy.

"So then GUN was able to send an agent to get us a chaos emerald, because we somehow, mysteriously, finally had the finances to do so," she stated flatly.

Richard nodded, "One of the best agents. We should have an emerald, at the latest, in two days."

Another pause. Then, the front door opened and a teenage boy with a backpack slung over his shoulders entered. A chao hovered near him. He dropped his luggage and scratched at his head, then noticing his parents standing in the dimly-lit kitchen, forms still, observing him with masks of some weird expression that made him uncomfortable.

"Uh—I didn't expect you both to be home tonight?"

"Something came up," Richard broke from the counter to go to his son. As he hugged the skinny frame, he sighed, "Have you been doing okay, Dylan?"

"Yeah. Same stuff."

"That's a relief. Can you give your mom and I another minute? I'd like to catch up with you, but we were in the middle of a work discussion."


Work discussion meant Dylan always had to make himself scarce. Work discussions were confidential. Everything about his parents' jobs were. But every time Dylan heard it, he felt excluded, even though it couldn't be helped. Perhaps, he just wished his parents would leave work at work, and when they came home, would be able to relax and just be his parents.

So much for that. "Sure. I'll be in my room," Dylan passed them a courageous smile and took Berry with him down the hall.

When his door closed, Isolena approached her husband, speaking a little low, "Who's the anonymous donor, Richard?"

"I can't say. I promised I wouldn't."

She huffed impatiently, "I'm not some scientist lackey. I'm your equal in rank on this project. We agreed we'd completely trust each other. So, tell me."

"I-" He sighed heavily. His wife was a hard, stern woman. She didn't often raise her voice to the point of yelling or screaming. Sometimes though, he wished she would. The tone she'd mastered years ago and was using on him now—ice and stone—was almost terrifying at times. Her expression of determined winter bore on him. "This is confidential. You can't tell anyone, or he'll withdraw all the funds."

"Of course I understand," she merely responded.

Richard swallowed, "It's Dr. Eggman."

Isolena didn't speak for some seconds. She kept her stance and almost bored look. Then she blinked and altered her pose with a disgusted, "That psychopath? How and why would you ever take anything that narcissist imbecile would offer?"

"He had conditions," Richard admitted.

Isolena sat down on the couch, "Of course. What are they?"

"After we complete the project successfully, he wants an entire copy of everything."

"What?" Her voice rose a second in surprise. "I may not be Eggman's psychologist, and I certainly don't have the pleasure that sassy brat Sonic has in seeing the man up close on a daily basis, but I know enough from what I've been exposed to of him in the media to feel two things about this: first, this isn't the typical fodder for Eggman. This is a medical project. Not a power-grabbing expedition for one of his erroneous world domination schemes. But second, despite that, I know he'll try to use our research for his own malicious plans. Richard, you have to withdraw his funding!"

"I've thought about the potential repercussions, but even if Eggman had a copy of everything, we'd still have the project—we could still save countless lives with it! So what about Eggman!"

Isolena was speechless for a few more, lengthy seconds, studying her husband's face to see if he truly believed his own words. There was nothing but sincerity and hope there. He still felt the same way he had over a decade ago when he'd launched the project. She'd gone along, believing in him and his good heart, for his intentions had truly been to help sick people heal.

That desire had touched her. Though Richard was a bit gullible because of his sincerity, Isolena admired and loved him for it. She'd put up with many ups and downs through their decade of stress; they'd neglected their son and both carried guilt about it. But she'd always told herself this was worth it. With this, they'd also be able to heal their son's hemophilia.

Yet, now? Eggman? She was more than horrified. Accepting anything from that person was like announcing the entire project had failed.

"What if Eggman blackmails GUN? Takes the research and destroys the lab? Destroys all our digital backups? Then sells the product for a mass profit? Who could get the medicine then?"

Richard immediately responded, proof that he'd thought about that, "We'll save the intranet copies to external disks and send him corrupted data. Then we'll tell GUN what happened."

She fell silent. This was so risky, but Isolena couldn't let everything fall apart now. They were so close—it was incredible! Maybe things would work out. She had to support her husband! What were all their sacrifices if she just abandoned it all here?

She sat closer to him, "Okay, but saying I don't like this is a gross understatement."

"I know," he half-whispered. "I'm so sorry. There was no other way I could see. And like you said, the specimen can't hold out longer than a month. But if things go according to schedule, that's far more time than we need. It all depends on that chaos emerald!"

Rouge hummed a bit, fingering through a magazine of sparkling, shining things and the women attached to them. Silk gowns and satin gloves and more than enough bedazzle to interest her. She had a few minutes to kill on this flight, so why not put in some research? As she flipped through, she stopped at a full-body glamour shot of a thin, ginger woman in a little black dress, posing rather boldly. The woman and her getup wasn't particularly interesting. It was the bulky, golden gem she foolishly held out to the camera—to the entire world.

"So, Miss Loveswirl the singer sent a team of archaeologists out to the ruins of an echidna city and found a chaos emerald? Couldn't keep such a treasure to yourself, darling?"

Rouge ripped the page off, folded it, and stuffed it down her chest. "A ditsy fool and her wealth are soon parted! Oh, looks like my flight's over!"

This would be far too easy. Rouge slid out of her seat and exited the jet. Without bothering with the required airport regulations, she jumped up and flew off over the massive structure. All the while, she smirked and chuckled inwardly.

"Oh, honey, why ever did you think walking around with a chaos emerald was a good idea? I guess I give you too many points to assume you thought at all. Let's see how you handle it when your jewel disappears at your party tonight!"