There was something about him that piqued her curiosity, entranced her, drew her to him; some element of danger, perhaps, or mystique, that first sparked her crush. The others complained of his renegade behavior, warned her that he was more villain than hero; that his loyalties could turn at the drop of a hat. The fact that he referred to Eggman as the 'good Doctor' was indication enough; his neither like nor dislike of the technological tyrant should've sent off warning sirens in her head. He was unpredictable, uncontained, potentially lethal, they had said. But she couldn't help but remember his self-sacrifice for the greater good back during the whole Biolizard episode; she remember watching him die, regarding him not as an anti-hero but a tragic figure, someone who should be mourned and pitied. After all, his acts of evil had been only because he was trying to get revenge for Maria - he had been doing it all for love, and that was beautiful. Although perhaps his methods and reasoning were a bit twisted, Amy found it all unusually romantic, in its way. She liked him, thought highly of him.

Even if he had tried to kill her boyfriend. Twice.

Maybe that was another thing that charmed her; well, not the fact that he had tried to kill Sonic, but just how incredibly and utterly unlike Sonic he was. The two were polar opposites - Sonic was cheery and bright, an eternal optimist, and a protagonist through and through, always striving for the greater good. Shadow was shadier, stoic and guarded, sometimes brutal; not quite an antagonist, maybe, but definitely not a brilliant ray of sunshine like his blue-quilled counterpart. Sonic and Shadow respected one another, but there was also mutual dislike between them; they would occasionally form an alliance together if deemed necessary, but they would never simply just 'hang out.' (Then again, this was something Sonic's other friendly nemesis, Knuckles, also swore he'd never do, but Amy saw him with increasing frequency as the years went on.)

Their paths rarely crossed; when they did, she was usually accompanied with Sonic and the others, and Sonic did most of the talking. Still, she couldn't help but find herself admiring his physique, listening the deep rumble of his voice; she was always struck by how calm and unconcerned no matter what the circumstance was. The world could be on the brink of destruction, millions of lives could be at stake, and Shadow himself could be at risk of total annihilation, and he would hardly bat an eye. He took everything in stride, and Amy found his unruffled persona commendable at first. It wasn't until he had helped Sonic save the world for a second time that she realized she was watching him with a hard, blazing look - that she had developed a crush of such magnitude that it rivaled her one for Sonic.

And so, Sonic had gotten himself a rival, in the form of his adversary and fellow hedgehog, Shadow.

She had not confided her love interest to anyone, but she must have been painfully obvious, because the others seemed to have picked up on this curious infatuation as well. One day in the ice-cream shop in Station Square Tails had cornered her, after he caught her reading a blurb about Shadow in People's Magazine.

"He's bad news, Amy," the little fox told her, causing her to choke on her scoop of Double Chocolate Chip. "If Sonic thinks he's bad news, he's bad news." And he glared at her, as if Sonic's word was law. Although Amy had been completely mortified, the comment had stung her. Just what did Sonic know? Not everything was so black-and-white, so distinctively good, or evil. There was a middle ground, a grey area, and that was the path in which Shadow walked. That didn't necessarily make him a bad guy, didn't they understand that?

But she found that she couldn't properly defend herself, in fear that Tails would take her defense up with Sonic himself.

Knuckles, on the other hand, seemed deeply entertained by the notion of a potential Shadow-Amy love affair. "You should do it," he told her unexpectedly one day, after the whole Sonic Heroes fiasco.

"Do what?" she asked him, genuinely confused.

"Go out with him," Knuckles said, and jabbed a finger at the headline in the Newspaper stand Amy had been browsing. She had been caught admiring him - again. She could've cried. "It would really piss Sonic off." He threw her an uncharacteristic wink and abruptly sauntered off, chuckling.

For a minute, Amy had hated him. Later, she almost considered it. Then she told herself she was being silly.

And so, she continued to admire him from afar, to fantasize about what could have been, but never would be. She toyed with the idea in her head, imagined how it would play out - but never actively pursued it, or sought him out in general. Sonic, thankfully, seemed to be the only one blissfully unaware - Amy wasn't sure why Tails hadn't ratted her out to her beloved Hero, but was thankful none-the-less. Meanwhile, Amy tried to resist the urge to go out of her way to talk to Shadow - which was easy, since she rarely saw him other than in snippets of Newspapers or magazine articles, or catching a glimpse of him on TV.

And this was the way it was for a very long time, until something very unexpected happened to her on an otherwise perfectly normal Tuesday night.

She had gotten a midnight craving for ice-cream, something so undeniably delicious that she had to satisfy the craving. So she had headed over to the local Supermarket that was open twenty-four hours a day. She didn't worry about going out so late - Station Square had been peaceful and virtually crime-less since Perfect Chaos' destruction, and even if danger did come looking for her, Amy Rose never came unprepared - her pico pico hammer was stuffed down the front of her dress, toy-sized, lying in wait until its mistress needed it next.

Amy was a firm believer that there were no coincidences, no such thing as happenstance - perhaps that's why she had such an insatiable desire to go out for ice cream during the wee hours of the morning. After she had gotten a gallon worth of Vanilla and some chocolate syrup and 

bananas on top, she headed out back toward her apartment. She was about half-way home when she saw it - a flicker of red amongst the shadows, something darting into the alleyway.

At first she thought it was a cat, but she heard coughing, and the undeniable sound of someone retching their guts out. Curiosity got the best of her, and she stopped between the two buildings, peering into the looming darkness.

"Hello?" she called, and she heard coughing again. "Are you okay?"

"Leave me alone," came a weak voice.

"Do you need me to get you some help?" Amy asked concernedly, and she took a step forward. Immediately there was a commotion of failed movement; whoever it was, they were clutching the side of a dumpster, having apparently tried unsuccessfully to retreat into the encroaching darkness that lead further back into the alleyway. This failed attempt had left him bent over at the waist, one hand grabbing the metal frame of the trash can while the other clutched his stomach.

"Leave me alone!" he heaved.

"Are you sick? Did someone hurt you?" Amy asked, and as she drew nearer, she immediately recognized the familiar posture, the upturned quills streaked with scarlet. "Shadow?"

"I said go away," he said, and he looked up, brilliant red optics locking with bright green ones. There was something very much like hatred there, which unnerved her, but there was something very, very wrong here and he wasn't in his right mind; he very obviously needed help.

Amy crossed the threshold between them, "Shadow, I think we need to get you to a hospital."

"I don't need to go anywhere. I just want you to go away!" he said, and as she reached out to touch him, he let go of the trashcan and spun to meet her. He went to push her, to strike her, to do something but his strength failed him and he fell forwards, collapsing in her arms.

"Shadow!" she cried as he fell against her, causing her to nearly lose her balance. He was heavy, a dead weight in her skinny arms, and she realized that he had fallen unconscious. "Shadow!" she said again, fearful for his safety, and began to drag him out of the alleyway, towards the nearest shop so that she could call an ambulance.