I was born on Cocoa Island.

But I don't know when.

I never saw my parents.

But they named me all the same.

Miles "Tails" Prower snorted to himself. When he described his early life it sounded like a riddle out of some cheap Christmas cracker. The only mobian fox in all the world, the genius with two tails and a past so mysterious even he had no idea what it was or where he came from.

Sonic stirred, fidgeting where he lay wrapped between Miles' tails, spines digging gently into Miles' stomach beneath. Miles laid a gloved hand against the blue hedgehog's head, gently squeezing with his tails until his hero settled once more.

Last mission had been a bad one. Even for Sonic.

Perhaps especially for Sonic. The legendary hero's usual approach to dealing with the stress of adventuring was simply to find a new adventure to occupy himself, not to coop himself up for a week. To be stationary was unusual for the hero, and normally Miles would have been travelling himself, shadowing Sonic's endless roaming, either settling into one of his old labs or setting up a new one. Whatever was needed to provide his hero with the support he needed.

Or, more typically, didn't need. Miles spent more days alone than not when the day didn't need saving. Unless someone needed something from him, or Amy wasn't hanging around waiting for Sonic, they left him to his own devices, fulfilling contracts, procuring supplies, fixing gadgets, scanning for Eggman's latest plot, and a dozen other "details" that helped ensure that Sonic never even had to think about things like "money" or "logistics". A hero needed to save the world, after all, and Miles needed to keep himself busy. His head wasn't a fun place to be when he was idle.

But the last few days were different. Sonic was here, which meant that he needed Miles here. Even if that was just for a friendly face and moral support, or, in this case, literal support, Miles had spent most of the last few days laying on the couch reading while Sonic caught up on sleep and a dozen TV shows he'd missed while they'd been fighting. Miles did whatever was needed, after all. Whatever was useful.

Miles prided himself on being useful. His parents presumably hadn't thought him useful or pleasant enough to keep around when they abandoned him on Cocoa to fend for himself in the wilderness, or, shortly after that, against a military empire bent on world domination. He wasn't going to make that mistake again.

He'd estimated his age as being around eight when he first met Sonic all those years ago, fresh off Cocoa island, a dead empire in his wake. And given the blue hedgehog's tendency to forget the details, Miles had spent that whole time, over half his life - half his known life, at least - desperately making sure that if he was a detail, he was a detail that was too useful to be forgotten. Always useful, always smiling.

He was still waiting to turn nine.

However many years passed by, however many of his friends he watched mature towards adulthood, Miles was barely taller than he had been when he left Cocoa, Still small and cute and innocent. Still unmistakably a child - at least on the outside.

So, with no idea how old he really was and no way of finding out, Sonic had come up with the idea of the unbirthday, a cake with eight candles, once each year while they waited for the day that Miles finally caught up with the age he'd first dreamed up for himself.

At least when they remembered. His last unbirthday had gone by unnoticed and unremarked last week. Celebrating a non-event came second to saving the world, after all. Not the first year that had happened.

Not that it really mattered. It was just another day after all, nothing about it, or him, much worth celebrating.

With the amount of time dilation and outright time travel he'd involved himself in over the years there was no chance that it was even the right day anyway.

But if Miles had been the type to pay much attention to the passage of time then he'd never have been in this state to begin with. What would it matter even if he'd been eight years old longer than most people had been alive? He just kept on going, same as always, wearing a smile and being useful.

Miles shook his head with a sigh. What did someone like him need adulthood for anyway? The only adult smarter than him was far more childish, and it wasn't like there was much he couldn't do now anyway, after all. It was just…

"Knock knock!"

A cheery voice broke through the silence of his lab. Sonic jerked awake as though struck, spines scraping across Miles as he struggled blearily upright.

"I was never here, alright little buddy?"

Miles barely had time to nod before the speedster had bolted, window rattling shut behind him a moment before a pink quilled hedgehog poked her head around the doorway, a bright smile on her lips.

"Hi, Tails!" She glanced around. "I thought Sonic was here?"

Miles mimicked her smile as best he could, rubbing his newly perforated stomach. Amy's ability to track down Sonic was practically a superpower all of its own.

"Sorry, Amy, you just missed him." Miles inclined his head towards the window. Amy had a hammer and a quick temper, and his lab had too many breakables to try lying about something so subjectively important to her.

The smile vanished. Amy wilted her way into the room, a large beribboned white box gripped in her gloved hands. Miles sighed. Today apparently wasn't going to be a good one for the young hedgehog.

Heh. Young. Amy had been eight years old when she met Sonic as well, barely taller than Miles and completely out of her depth in every possible way. Miles had been split between sympathy for her and irritation at this newcomer's attempts to push her way between the sidekick and his hero.

Now, half a decade on, he was still the snot-nosed kid, and she was growing into a pretty young lady, still trying desperately to find some way to get Sonic to notice her. They were both trapped, unable to move forward one way or another.

"So was that for him? I can make sure he gets it if you like?" Miles gestured to the box.

Amy recoiled, hugging the box closer to her chest. "... Yeah, but… I'll just hang onto it." She loitered just inside the door, grinding the toe of her sneaker against the carpet as she stared down at the floor.

Miles rubbed the back of his head with a frown. "Did you want to wait here for him? I have some errands to run, but he should be back soon."

When he thinks you're gone.

The words went unsaid, but implied all the same. Amy flinched as if struck, but stepped deeper into the room anyway.

"Alright." Miles nodded, fishing for the remote from behind a couch cushion before remembering it was useless, then walking to meet her half way. "There's food in the fridge if you're hungry, don't touch the machine on my desk no matter what, I'll be back in-"

A hand slipped out, grabbing the cuff of his glove.

"Stay." Amy didn't look up at him, eyes still on the package in her hand. "Please."

Miles hesitated a moment, tails spiralling together as he stood, but then he relented, turning back to accompany her to the couch.

Busy or not, he'd never been any good at turning Amy down. He could never bear to see her upset. He could just head out later, once she'd cheered up a bit.

"So… can I get you anything? I think I finally got the soft-serve machine I built here working right. It's out in the hangar if you want to try it."

"No." Amy still didn't look up, still gripping his glove. "Just sit with me for a bit. Please."

"Uh, sure thing."

Miles sat with a frown. Amy was the type to get mad, not sad. She'd break a few things, maybe smash him around the head with her hammer, sure. Dealing with her fallout was just one more thing he handled for Sonic. And when Mount Amy erupted, she'd go back to being the sweet, pleasant person who sometimes broke into his house and hid under his bed. At least until the next time Sonic broke her heart.

But her current mood? That was new. And worrying. Miles fidgeted next to her, playing with the tip of one of his tails as he flailed for something to say.

"Uh, sorry, Sonic broke the TV last night. I've been meaning to fix it, but-"

"It's fine." Amy gave a small smile as she glanced sideways up at him. "You always fall asleep when you watch it anyway, right?"

"Well, not always." Miles rubbed the back of his head. "Just… usually."

"That's so like you." Amy sighed, placing the large box carefully by her feet. "Keeping a TV in every lab in case someone visits. How many ice cream machines did you build for me?"

"Well... eight, I guess."

So far. Distracting Amy with her favourite sweets was usually the easiest way to avoid a concussion, so he'd made it a habit to build one for each lab as he migrated between them.

"I bet I'd find some grapes in the kitchen too, just in case Knuckles comes over, right?"

"Maybe a few." Miles grinned weakly.

"You're always trying to take care of everyone. You're like, the nicest hermit I know." Amy scowled. "Not like that other hermit"

"Sonic's not a-"

"I meant Knuckles." Amy's expression darkened again.

"Oh. Sorry." Miles stared at his tail again, coiling his thick fur between his fingers. "Knuckles is pretty cranky sometimes."

"He accused me of trying to steal the Master Emerald when I was over there yesterday." Amy looked up at Miles, big green eyes tinged with more familiar anger. "Me. When have I ever even cared about all these glowing rocks you guys play around with? Treating me like that bat."

She trailed off, snatching Miles' free tail as it brushed against her hand.

"Hey!" Miles stared at her, half expecting a body slam in his near future.

"What? You already have one. Learn to share."

"I don't randomly grab you!"

"Because I'd whack you if you did." Amy stuck her tongue out at him before turning her attention back to her stolen appendage. "You know, I wish I was a fox sometimes."

"R- really?"

"Sure. I'd love to have a big fluffy tail. It's like a pillow, a blanket, a scarf-"
"An invitation for people to keep grabbing it."

"Yep. My tail's so small and boring." Amy poked her finger into the depths of his fur. "Is there even anything in here, or is it fluff all the way down? Is that how you fly with them? You have a lighter than air butt?"

"You fell asleep the last time I tried to explain to you how my tails work."

"Well you shouldn't have made math so boring."

"I didn't invent mathematics."

"Well you should have. Go invent a new math that's not lame, then explain your tails with it."

Miles groaned. At least she wasn't as gloomy now.

"Fine. I'll go get the blackboard and some chalk."

"Not unless you have a detachable tail." Amy's grip tightened.

"Well, there is a level of "give" thanks to the non-eucli-"

"And no explaining your tails."

Miles sighed. Even after all these years he still had no idea how to deal with the most frequent intruder into his solitary life.

It wasn't exactly uncomfortable having Amy around. Quite the opposite really. So long as Sonic was around, she was too. They'd spent so much time together over the years Miles would have said they'd grown up together - if he'd grown up. Best of all, Miles didn't need to worry as much about being useful to her, or about her abandoning him, because it was never him that she was there to see in the first place.

"Spacing out again?" Amy tugged on his tail. "You have this beautiful-"

A horrendous crash from outside interrupted whatever Amy was about to say. Miles almost bolted out of his seat save for the death grip Amy had on his tail.

"Wh-wh-what was that?" Amy scooched closer. "That was weird. Right?"

"I'd go check it out if you'd let go of my tail." Miles gazed at her half-lidded.

"Oh. Right. Your tail." Amy looked away. "Yeah, I should let go of it. Right?"

"Tails! You here little guy?"

"Knuckles?"

Amy's grip on him relented as the red echidna walked into the room, his mittened hand clutching the doorframe as he peered around the room.

"Oh, there you are. On a date with Amy? Cool."

"Hey!" Amy scowled at the echidna, furless cheeks flushing with anger.

"What did you break this time, Knuckles?" Miles checked the walls for any new cracks. The echidna's super strength was almost as hazardous to his lab as Amy's anger.

"Sort of bumped your plane. Just a little. Seems fine though. Anyway listen, I needed you to, uh, fix this for me?" He raised his hand, revealing a handful of crumpled machinery.

"The emerald detector?" Miles ears perked up, ignoring Amy's glares at both of them as he hopped over the back of his couch to pluck the mess from Knuckles' mitten'd hand. "How'd it get in such a state? Is the Master Emerald okay?"

"Ask Rouge." Knuckles pinched the bridge of his nose, teeth gritted. "Apparently she stole it while someone was visiting."
Amy and Knuckles glared at each other, mouthing words at one another silently. Miles didn't pay any attention, fingers drifting across the broken machinery.

"It's going to be quicker to build you a new one. It looks like somebody crushed this in a hydraulic press." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Rouge the Bat generally stole the jewel to annoy Knuckles and show off, not to fuel world-ending schemes of world domination, but it was probably something he'd need to deal with now.

Why was all of this happening when he already had a backlog of stuff he needed to do?

"Hey, since when did you need a machine to find the emerald? Losing your touch?" Amy gave a sly grin.

"At least I always find the right emerald." Knuckles snorted at her.

"That was a one time thing!"

"You grabbed Shadow last week!"

"That was on purpose!"

Miles had already wandered over to his desk, carefully avoiding touching the machine already there as he dragged parts and tools towards him, tails serving as a second pair of hands as he worked.

Behind him, the two's bickering dropped low as they whispered back and forth to one another. Miles paid them little attention. He had always liked building things. One of his earliest memories was building a small remote operated scout robot. Generally he didn't tell people about his earliest memory, which was mass producing bombs strong enough to blow a hole in six inches of steel. And, since it was his earliest memory, he still had no idea why he'd been doing that in the first place. Plenty of memories using them though, which Miles pushed deep down almost as fast as they came up.

"Okay, all done!" Miles smiled, holding up a sleek metal pocket watch. "It doubles as a timepiece, and if you push the button to open the watch it'll cycle between scanning for Master Emeralds, Sol Emeralds, Chaos Emeralds, and Power Rings."

"Wait. What?" Knuckles paused his hushed argument with Amy, mouth dropping open. "It's not even been five minutes!"

"Well, you needed it, right?" Miles shrugged. "And I already had a pocket watch chassis handy. It's not like I had to design anything new."

Tossing the scanner to the echidna, the fox slipped off his chair.

"Alright, I guess I have a plane to fix. Do you need a lift to find Rouge when I'm done?"

"Hey, you're supposed to be comforting my wounded maiden's heart, remember?" Amy put her hands on her hips.

"Sorry, Amy, I know it's not Eggman but this is still important. I can fix the TV before I leave if you like, shouldn't take more than a few minutes."

"No!" Knuckles and Amy spoke out in unison.

Miles leaned back, ears flattening in surprise. "Whah?"

Knuckles mimicked Amy's pose. "You can't leave yet!"

"What? Why?" Miles frowned. "Weren't you in a hurry to save the Master Emerald?"

"Well, uh, yeah, but…

"But we're fighting!" Amy nodded. "Glide boy here has insulted me for the last time, and we can't leave until it's settled!"

"Uh, yeah!" Knuckles pumped his fist. "The Master Emerald can wait, we're settling this here and now!"

"... Okay? I'm not sure what that's got to do with me?" Miles tilted his head, a confused smile on his lips.

"Well obviously you need to stay here to..." Knuckles glanced at Amy.

"To referee." Amy glowered at the echidna. "I don't trust him not to do anything sneaky. You've seen how he can be."

Miles shook his head, wearily staring at his two friends. Why was everyone acting so weird lately?

"Alright, whatever. I'll go make you both something to drink, I guess. Try not to break anything, and don't touch the machine on my desk, Knuckles. I'm serious."

Miles barely had time to wander into the kitchen before the door opened yet again.

"Oh, hey Tails. Has-" Sonic stepped part way through the door, stopping the moment he saw the pink hedgehog within. "Whoa! Sorry, wrong, uh, house!" He bolted.

"Soniiic!" Amy yelled, grabbing her package off the floor and running out after him.

"Oh. Uh, I guess I can go and, uh, find that emerald then." Knuckles followed her out the door not a moment later.

Miles blinked, suddenly alone again, a teapot held in one hand.

Yeah, okay. That was it. Miles shook his head. He was going to fix his plane, then he was building a scanner to see if Eggman was beaming crazy-waves into his lab. Again.

A minute later, Miles stepped into his hangar, teapot traded for a toolbox, grumbling to himself as he went to see the damage done to his… perfectly… spotless… plane?

"SURPRISE!" A dozen voices roared in unison, coloured streams of paper spraying through the air.

"Eep!" Miles flinched, fur standing on end, as people emerged from hiding, Sonic first, a broad grin on his face as he ruffled Miles' fur.

"Surprised?" The blue hedgehog's expression was as smug as it was happy.

"Sonic, what is this? What's going on?" Miles stared about the hangar in confusion. Team Chaotix... Cream and her mother... Rouge? Wave the Swallow? Even Shadow was there, the black hedgehog staring grimly at Miles with arms folded and a frown on his face.

"Does this answer your question?" Knuckles popped into view with a smile, wheeling a large cake studded with his favourite mint candies and twinkling candles, the base of Amy's box still visible poking out from underneath.

"What? But... my unbirthday was…" Miles trailed off, staring at the nine dancing flames on top of the cake.

"Happy birthday, Tails." Amy kissed him on the top of his head as she hugged him from behind. "I hope you like the cake. I baked it myself."

"Happy birthday, little buddy." Sonic grinned, putting an arm around his shoulders and leading him towards the cake as a cheerful, if not particularly tuneful, rendition of the Birthday Song burst out all around him. "Don't forget to make a wish."

"Tha-" Miles wiped a gloved hand across his cheek as he stared at the nine tiny flames dancing before him. "Thank you, everybody."

Miles blew out the candles on his first ever birthday cake and made his first ever birthday wish.

And, for the first time in a long time, he wasn't just wearing a smile.

The End

Author's Notes

Thank you for reading this alternative look at Tails the Fox.

With so many stories in ET focusing on the darker, more dysfunctional side of Miles and his friends, it's nice sometimes to remember that Miles is never quite so unloved as he might think in his gloomier moments. I hope the comparative lack of Tails abuse this time around wasn't too disappointing.

Thanks, as always, for reading. See you next time I feel like procrastinating on my next chapter.