Author's Note: My gifted friend, known as Sonic Rose here on FFnet, has created a very nice fanart pic based on this story! Check it out at http/sonicrose(dot)deviantart(dot)com/art/Petal-Hinges-A-Chance-Meeting-70702513 (be sure to change the (dot) to periods)!

Part 1 – Amy

Chapter 1 – The Encounter

Moonlight cast an eerie hue over Seabright Beach, where Amy Rose stood breathlessly outside the door of a dilapidated four-story beach house. Each thud of her heart resided within its own surreal second as her conscience struggled to be heard over it.

don't go in

It had all started out simply enough. After working as a cashier at the local Mega Market of Station Square for nearly three years, she had accumulated plenty of vacation time, more than enough to take the week off. The weather had been absolutely gorgeous lately, so she thought it would be nice to hang out at the beach. An all-new boardwalk had been built there last year, which had in turn spawned a plethora of additional tourist shops and concession stands.

Amy spent the first half of her first day of vacation admiring the attractions and sampling a variety of tasty treats. A team of skilled inline skaters whizzed by just as she was taking in a mouthful of strawberry-flavored funnel cake.

Hey, she thought to herself, that looks like fun!

A couple of hours later, a brand new pair of rollerblades with cute little hearts and sparkles on them were strapped to her feet. She was on vacation, so why not? She pushed herself up from the bench and took her first step on the boardwalk. Her ankle immediately went crooked as the skate tipped off balance. She had to reach for the bench again just to hold herself up. Ugh, this was harder than it looked!

Little by little, Amy began to get the hang of it. Her balance was a nightmare; she looked like a wobbly old lady struggling to cross the street. She could feel herself blushing as people laughed. Once she finally got herself on a good, solid roll, she found out how hard it was to stop. Half-eaten food and ketchup-soiled wrappers tumbled across the boardwalk as she tipped over a trash can.

"Ow," she breathed, pushing away from the can. It was right about that moment that a fondly familiar form caught the corner of her eye. Sonic! Her head whipped about, but it wasn't Sonic. She gasped at the realization that she was suddenly beholding Shadow the hedgehog for the first time in years. …He didn't look much different!

Shadow stood nearby, peering down at her with the cocked eyebrow of mild curiosity. Moments after they made eye contact, he stepped over and offered his hand. Instinctive fear washed over her at the gesture; the last she'd heard of him, he was in the explosive midst of some crazy alien invasion and GUN scandal. That, and he was just plain kinda creepy. Nevertheless, she took his hand and allowed him to help her to her feet.

"Thanks," she managed, to no reply. She quickly turned her eyes back to her skates. "It's my first time doing this," she added, to avoid an awkward silence more than anything. There were actually quite a few things she wanted to ask him, like where he'd been all this time and what he was doing here, but she didn't dare. As she started to push off, his hand caught her arm and jerked her back. What was he doing? Before she could cry out, two skaters raced by, grazing her. One of them called out his apologies as they continued on.

"You might want to start by watching where you're going," Shadow said flatly. Amy swallowed and caught her breath, feeling even more embarrassed that she'd assumed the worst.

"…Thanks again," she replied sheepishly. She couldn't wait to get out of there. She clumsily pushed off again, eyes up this time, and rolled forward. Her balance quickly left her, and the next thing she knew her arms were windmilling in a futile effort to keep her from falling. As she was sent spilling backwards, all at once she was in Shadow's grip again, spared from another hard lesson. Gawd…where were all the crawl-in-and-die holes when she needed one?

"Bend your knees," he directed as he pushed her back upright. She complied. "More." He put a hand on her shoulder and firmly guided her. If her face wasn't red before, it certainly was now. "They should stick out at least as far as your nose. It'll help keep you from falling back and make it easier to maneuver. Push off with your heel and bring your knees close together." Wow…apparently he couldn't stand watching her make a fool of herself anymore.

With Shadow's tips, Amy did feel a much better sense of control over the skates, but her legs were absolutely on fire from the extra strain. After a while she realized that he'd accompanied her across the entire length of the boardwalk, answering her questions and correcting her mistakes. She was a bit surprised to see this patient, attentive side of him. Had he always been like this, or had he changed over the years? She didn't know him well enough to say, but she did work up the nerve to inquire about what he'd been doing with his life. His response was mostly obscure, touching on time spent on Mobius and Earth, reminding her somewhat of Sonic's rootless style of travel. She decided against prying any further.

When her legs couldn't stand it anymore, Amy called it a day. She bid polite goodbye to Shadow and extended additional thanks for his trouble. He actually acknowledged them for once, albeit with a decidedly cold tone. "You're welcome."

It felt so good to have the skates off. Amy stepped off the monorail train at her stop and glanced around. The sun was already starting to set. She'd best pick up the pace if she wanted to make it home before dark. Yeah, her legs were gonna hate her tomorrow.

A few blocks from her apartment, her Sonic radar had someone in its sights again, a ways up the street. She leaned to see around the parked cars. It really was him—and in the very same day at that!

"Sonic!" she called out happily. He stopped and turned her way, and best of all, he didn't run. It was a small but significant victory for her, getting to this point, for which she owed her thanks to the specialized Mobian Research Team that had been formed exclusively for the purpose of studying Mobian beings on Earth. In exchange for allowing them to collect blood and tissue samples and conduct various tests, she was promised free medical treatment for life. Not a bad deal to her; in fact, it was one of the reasons she'd remained here instead of returning to Mobius. Even better still, she also learned that they were extremely interested in studying the social and physical aspects of reproduction, and thus it was in both their interests for her to get together with Sonic. They'd been giving her advice on how she could help put him at ease around her, such as not running up and throwing herself on him and not chasing him if he did run. It hadn't happened overnight, but there was definitely progress—and she couldn't be happier.

"Hey, Amy," Sonic greeted as she trotted up. She stopped right next to him but recalled the research team's advice and backed off a bit. Sonic made a strange face, kind of similar to the one Shadow had made when she first saw him that day.

"What are you up to? Going to visit Chris?" she asked with suppressed excitement. The destination was a logical speculation since her place was on the way to Chris' home.

"Just came from there, actually. Chris got his driver's permit and wanted me to take a ride with him in his dad's car." He chuckled. "His dad's not gonna be happy when he sees how that went." The comment reminded Amy of her own little incident with the trash can earlier, and she suddenly remembered Shadow.

"Oh, guess who I ran into today!"

Sonic was silent for a moment and then stated the answer without a hint of doubt. "Shadow."

"How'd you know?"

"I can smell him on you," Sonic replied, much to Amy's surprise.

"You can?"

"Yeah, a little. What's he been up to?"

Amy told Sonic about her rollerblading mishaps and Shadow's unexpected help, along with what vague info she got out of him about his life in recent years. Sonic snorted a short laugh.

"Hopefully he's getting his act cleaned up. That dude's got issues."