Amy sighed in frustration. Each click of her screen displayed another mission or reconstruction project that would need to be addressed by tomorrow. She had been working for hours, going through and assigning tasks and resources to those who could best fit each role. She had barely left the main control room in HQ all day, staying there to answer questions and lead the recruits. Ever since the end of the War with Eggman, a humongous pile of work fell onto her lap, especially after Knuckles decided he no longer wanted to lead the Resistance if it was only doing 'trivial clean-up work.' She understood his role as Guardian of the Master Emerald was important, but she also had a life outside of leading the Resistance! Sonic and Tails weren't much help either. Both had return to mainly doing their own set of adventuring and clean-up, helping the Resistance out with missions when they could but never really helping with the technical behind the scenes work.
She would never show her frustration to the others in the Resistance though. They looked to her as their optimistic leader, someone who could brighten the darkest of rooms and give them the direction they needed. She had to be strong for everyone, but on days like these, she found it harder and harder to fully maintain her persona. She was tired, and deep down, as selfish as she knew it was, she wished Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles would recognize the full amount of effort she put into keeping the Resistance chugging forward.
Refusing to throw herself a pity party, Amy checked her wristwatch for the time. A slight gasp left her mouth when she realized how late it was. All the other recruits had long gone home or to their cabins in HQ, but here she was yet again alone in the office. She powered down her monitor, leaving the rest of her work for tomorrow.
'I need a break any way,' she reasoned to herself. 'A nice cup of tea and a good book before bed. Then I'll come in early and finish.' Amy grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair and started to slide it on as she exited the control room.
A loud low grunt caught her attention and sparked worry through her. 'No one else should be here this late,' she thought. She hastily finished throwing her jacket on before whipping out her hammer in a defensive stance. She strained her ear in the direction of the noise.
The grunting continued, becoming slightly more aggressive. Amy tiptoed along the tiled floor of HQ careful to not make a noise. She soon approached the training gym and deduced that was the source of the grunts.
Amy released a breath of relief, dissipating her hammer. The noise had just been someone training, albeit very late. She listened closely trying to figure out who it might have be. The grunts were much too low and harsh to have been Sonic or Tails or any of the other younger recruits, yet they still sounded familiar. Maybe they were… Knuckles?
Amy huffed. How dare he leave her all this work late into the night, yet have the gall to use the training room meant for current members of the Resistance? She slammed the door open, ready to give Knuckles a piece of her mind.
"Why on Earth are you in here!? You know this room is reserved for-" Amy halted midway through her rant, a slight blush of embarrassment scrawling across her face. The culprit in question was not a red echidna, but instead a black and red hedgehog.
Shadow stood next to the punching bag of the training room. Huge dents clung to it sides, most likely caused by the hedgehog himself. Sweat clung to the sides of his face, slightly glistening in the low lights of the gym. He reached for a rag next to him and began to dry his face. His brilliant red eyes remained plastered to Amy's.
"I thought this room was opened to all in the Resistance," he turned his body to face her completely, with an amused look of questioning rising on his face.
"Oh well, it uh it is," Amy began, not knowing how she managed to dig herself into such an embarrassing situation. Never in a million years would she have guessed Shadow of all people to be in the HQ training room so late into the night. She had not been alone with Shadow in many years, and this was how she meets with him again? By screaming at him for no good reason?
"Sorry, I just, I thought you were someone else. I didn't mean to yell at you." Amy wanted to hide her face which could feel was still on fire. Shadow seemed mainly unfazed at her apology, tossing his rag towards a hamper of used ones. A slight pause of silence clung between the two. Amy wished the Eggman Attack alarm would go off, giving her a good excuse to leave this encounter.
After what felt like an eternity, he finally spoke. "Why are you here so late? All your other little worker bees left hours ago."
Amy frowned, crossing her arms. "I was trying to finish up some Resistance work to get ready for tomorrow, you know the usual: assigning missions, finishing writing review reports of the day, allocating resources for the recruits, reviewing Eggman's movements. It takes a lot of time, but someone has to do it. I would have been done earlier if I had a little help from Knuckles or Tails or Sonic, but nooo they have better things to do besides paperwork."
Amy paused, realizing she had just been rambling all her troubles out loud. Amy knew she tended to be an open book with people, but really right now with Shadow? Embarrassment crept back up to her cheeks. She was not on her A-game tonight.
A slight chuckle broke her train of thought. She glanced upwards to see the black hedgehog in front of her. She could have sworn a soft grin rested on his lips.
"Omega and Rouge never do paperwork. We always get yelled at by the officials, so I just end up doing it. A thankless job, but the strong-willed can complete it."
Amy was taken aback. She tended to forget that Shadow and Team Dark were part of GUN and even when she did remember, she had never really imagined what all they did. She originally thought they just went around blowing stuff up on missions, but to picture Shadow, of all people, in an office filling out paperwork, it made her want to laugh. She could just see how frustrated he would be.
She also felt slightly touched at his words. Though it wasn't the most eloquently worded, Amy felt as though his last remark was meant as a compliment to her dedication to finishing the more boring parts of her work. She smiled back at Shadow.
"Well, what can I say? People like us keep the world rolling!" Joy flooded to her features, and Amy felt a lot lighter than she had in a long time. The black hedgehog merely nodded before returning to the punching bag next to him. He seemed to be done with the conversation, but she didn't want it to end so soon.
"Wait! Uh, Shadow, what are you doing here so late? I usually never see you around HQ, much less training in here by yourself." She glanced towards him expectantly, truly eager to know what brought him here.
Shadow merely shrugged before punching the bag in front of him. It croaked from the force of his hand, the ceiling of the room even seeming to shake slightly. "Just training."
Amy didn't buy it. Shadow might put up his front of apathy, but she could tell something was wrong. She had a six sense for these kinds of things. Whenever someone was hiding their true emotions from her, she could just feel it.
"The 'Ultimate Lifeform' just training? Yeah right." She stepped closer to Shadow, offering a comforting expression. "Shadow, if something is bothering you, you can tell me. Sometimes it can feel good if you talk with someone about your feelings. It might help you make more sense of them."
Shadow turned slightly, meeting her eyes. His features tensed, his lips forming a tight line before opening to speak.
"My last encounter with Infinite. His illusion for me…" Shadow paused; his voice not much louder than a whisper. "I was running through Green Hill Zone, trying to contact Rouge and Omega, but I lost them. Everything went grainy, and all of a sudden, I was back on the Colony Arc. The alarms were blaring, and I couldn't remember what I was running from, but I knew I just needed to run."
Shadow's fists tightened. He turned away from her again, as if he were ashamed of what he was saying. "Then, I… I saw her. Maria. I could see what they had done to her, where she was injured. I called to her. She screamed. She told me… she said this was all my fault. That I was the one that caused her death. And that every day after, I've done nothing but let her down."
Shadow began to return to the punching bag before he felt two arms wrap around his torso.
Amy held onto him in a tight hug, burying her head into his back quills. She could feel soft droplets of warm liquid falling onto her arms.
"Maria would never say that. She loved you so much, Shadow." Amy tightened her grip, as if to force him to feel the compassion she knew his old friend had for him. "You didn't cause her death. You are not the reason she died."
Amy could feel his breathing becoming shaky. She so desperately wanted to take his pain away. "Shadow, she would be so proud of everything you've done now. All the people you've helped, you've saved, you've given a second chance at life! If Maria knew what you did to save us all from Biolizard, she would be so proud. Don't let Infinite taint your memory of her with lies. She loved you so much, Shadow."
Amy felt his hands reach up around her arms, and for a moment, the two stayed like that. The soft hum of the HQ lights being the only sound between them.
His hands tightened around her arms and pulled down. Amy complied and released him from her grip. Shadow stayed facing away from her, his head turning upwards as if he could see the sky.
Amy took a step closer, lifting a hand to place on his shoulder before a low chuckle made her jump back. Shadow turned, scarlet eyes meeting emerald.
"Back when I was first reawakened, you were one of the only people to show me the kindness and compassion she had before." He chuckled again. It was deep yet soft, as if he was fondly remembering the past. "Even if that hug was meant for the faker, it was the first one I had since her. It made me feel like she was really with me again."
He reached up to his heart, laying his hand on his white chest fur. Amy stared on in shock. She remembered her accidental hug and the pure shock and terror of seeing Eggman right after, but she never believed Shadow had given a second thought to it. To know it had meant so much to him made her own heart begin to race. She made a mental note to give Shadow more hugs when possible.
"And you reminded me of her promise, the push I needed to save the people of Earth. I would have been lost without it. You remind me of her so much." Shadow smiled at Amy, and for the first time in a long time, she could tell it was a genuine smile, not just a smirk. His eyes shone, and his dark mood from before had lifted slightly. Amy couldn't help but smile back. She never thought she would have gotten Shadow to open up like this and have a heart-to-heart. Their unexpected encounter tonight might have just been a blessing in disguise for both of them.
Before Amy could react, a piece of fabric smacked into her face blocking her eyes. She heard a soft grunt of "Here" followed by footsteps. She pulled the fabric off and saw that Shadow had disappeared. She snapped her head back and forth through the training room seeing no sign of the red and black hedgehog. She quickly bolted to the door, gripping the frame as she swung her head outside.
"SHADOW, come on! I thought we were having a moment! What did you have to do that for?" Her call echoed in the empty hallway. The hedgehog was long gone, leaving only her in the vacant HQ.
Amy huffed, angry at his sudden departure. She and him had just shared a special moment, and he just ups and leaves by throwing some old blue cloth in her face. She held up the fabric to the light trying to get a good look at it. Upon closer inspection, she realized it was actually a headband. The blue was very faded, signifying it had to have been old. She turned it over and saw golden letters stitched into the fabric. They read: "MR."
Amy gasped, realizing who this headband belonged to. A soft smile began creeping onto her lips. She held the headband close to her heart for a minute before reaching up to undo her signature red one. She placed the blue one snuggly in her quills, glancing at the training room door wishing he were there again. Hitting the lights, she headed out of HQ to her house, energized for whatever tomorrow would bring.
In the weeks following, no one else in HQ ever understood her sudden change in wardrobe. Knuckles teased her for wearing something so old, while Tails just shrugged his shoulders. Sonic feigned disinterest but couldn't help but ask her occasionally, though she would never explain. Only one person ever knew why, and each time he saw her, a warm smile would grace his face.