A/N: This particular story is a bit special.

Sword: The author wrote it for someone veeeeeeeeery close to him, ain't that right?

Er, look! Candy! *throws some*

Sword: Candy!

All Sonic-related characters belong to Sega and the lyrics in bold belong to Eminem. Thanks goes to Chocovi for beta reading this. And we'd like to dedicate this to The Andromeda Rose.

Pen: Ugh.

Look! Fine literature! *throw some books*

Pen: I am not that easy.

Look! Stories to criticize and rip apart!

Pen: *dashes off*

Replacement

Most days, Shadow the Hedgehog would have little time to himself. As to be expected, G.U.N. assigned him some of the most dangerous tasks. Either out of confidence in his abilities or sheer spite, he could not say. But he completed each and every one with aplomb, only every once in a while failing to fully finish it as his superiors had hoped. They were satisfied nonetheless and would let him know as such when he would go to a debriefing. Not that their gratitude mattered much to him. It was just a job as far as he was concerned.

Some days, when he was not tracking down Eggman's latest machinery or traveling halfway around the world in search of some elusive object or person, he would be dragged to social gatherings by Rouge, who refused to take no as an answer. Her reasoning dictated that he needed some interaction with others. Which may have been true, he reasoned, if it were not for the fact that she always chose to meet up with Faker and his friends. He saw enough of them during his assignments and the last thing he wanted to do was visit them on his time off. Still, it was better than the stuffy parties G.U.N. hosted or the evenings his bat companion would force him to accompany her to visit some of her shallower friends.

Usually he would hang out near the back or the door, ready to leave at a moment's notice, when Rouge met up with Sonic and company. The blue hero's cheery and overconfident demeanor grated on his nerves. Knuckles he just found to be a hard-headed neanderthal overcompensating for his gullibility with his quick temper, but Rouge found him interesting, so he let it slide. And the others he did not mind one way or another, save for one.

Amy Rose.

Ever since that day on the ARK, he had felt some obligation to protect her. To defend the pink hedgehog no matter what danger threatened her. It was the same desire he had felt long ago for only one other person: Maria. Of course, as he was harshly reminded by his memories, he had failed that girl. Which is why when the opportunity arose to do the same for Amy, he doubled his efforts, keeping his promise to his late friend and assuring that the pink hedgehog- who constantly reminded him of Maria and could very well have been a replacement or reincarnation of her- was safe at all times.

On the days that he was allowed peace and quiet to himself at home, Shadow would take some of those days to sit, starin' out the window at nothing in particular. He would usually just stare into nothingness watchin' the world pass him by. People walking down the street either with a purpose and destination or just idly shuffling along with nothing better to do. Cars zooming by, never once following the speed limit clearly erected beside the road. The sun rose and set one these days with no deviation at all.

Sometimes, Shadowthought that there was nothin' to live for, given how his impact with G.U.N. never seemed to have any effect. Crime was still rampant and Eggman always escaped, returning with some new dangerous technology another day. And it was during these times that he would remember that he vowed to Maria to help the planet. But feeling like he was failing by having little to no impression on the state of things, it was enough to almost cause the ebony hedgehog to break down and cry. Yet his stoic nature never allowed him to. Instead, his emotions would be forced to be content with a deep sigh, expelling all the built-up negativity out into one breath that only added to his perceived darkness of the world.

Sometimes he would think he was crazy. After all, who else, but him would keep a promise from many years ago to protect a race of people that had nothing to do with him and, in some cases, hated and hunted him when they wanted to? That alone would register him as crazy. Oh so very crazy.

All these thoughts on his own sanity and the futility of what he did at times would just come full circle, culminating into thoughts of Why am I here? or Am I just wasting my time? The world would always have crime until the end of time, just like it would always have heroes. So what was he really changing? Who was he really protecting? He had failed to protect Maria. That one point would always hammer in his loathing at his inability, driving home the feeling that he had not done any good or anything that your ordinary cop, soldier, or citizen could not do.

Just as they would reach their boiling points, he would then see her. The one person on the entire planet whose very presence would tone down his emotions. One minute he would be stewing in them and suddenly, he was not crazy because of them anymore. That pink hedgehog would drive them away with her cheery smile. It all made sense to him when he looked into her jade eyes. He would remember his purpose and why he mattered. He would recall the times he had been desperately needed and had saved the day when no one else could, earning the world's gratitude and leaving an impact that stood out as much as her red dress and headband did in a crowd.

It was a constant cycle like this. Sometimes it would feel like the world was on his shoulders. Everyone leanin' on him with no relief in sight whatsoever. Yet whenever it felt like the world was almost over, Amy would be there. She was his unshakeable pillar of support and he would remember why he was doing this.When she came back to him each time, he almost could envision it was Maria. Even though one was a pink hedgehog and the other a blonde human, Shadow could have sworn Amy had at least some of the same spirit of her, if not at least related somehow or a reincarnation of his old friend altogether. Maybe it was a cruel joke by fate, taking Maria away and giving him a hedgehog in love with his blue rival and look-a-like Sonic, or maybe it was a gift by God, giving him exactly what he needed. Whatever the reason, he appreciated her and protected her as best as possible in all the areas he failed Maria.

It had been a couple of years since they first met. In that time,what he called his self-imposed charge over the girl had led him to watch her keep gettin' older and mature. She had grown more beautiful with time, yet still retained that cheerful, optimistic attitude that drew people to her. Most notably her crush, who still refused his feelings for her. And while he could not understand her devotion to him fully, he knew there must be something there he could not see. Just like there had been between him and his dearly departed friend. So he did not judge her or try to tell her what she should do, but merely stood back, letting her make her own decisions. He watched her grow up with pride, almost like a doting father.Some people made jokes, cuz they didn't understand him, believing that he was some crazy obsession with the girl. But they just didn't see his real side and the hedgehog's reasoning for acting the way he did.

On the surface, he would try to push these feelings down as low as they could go. He had earned a reputation for acting like stuff didn't phase him. Thankfully, the only ribbing he had to put up with constantly were playful jabs from Sonic. But every once in a while, he would have to restrain himself not to let loose on those who called him evil, a monster, and much nastier names. And while they did not earn a reaction from him on the outside, inside it would drive him crazy. His insecurities could eat him alive, worrying at times if he had failed in his promise to Maria; if he was really an irredeemable villain; what should happen if he were to lose control and kill these people. And those were only the most common ones. For all years of experience and immortality, he still had some of the same DNA that made up everyone else. So like others, he did wonder these things from time to time.

But then he see that lady again. The one who would wipe away all his cares in the world with bubbly laughter, a twinkle in her luminescent eyes, and that infectious, bright grin that only left her face during rare, private moments that she had only let a few be privy to; him included. Suddenly, he did not feel crazy or stressed anymore. She would drop everything to pick him back up from his low point, like she did all her close friends and anyone else she could assist. It would all make sense when he looked into her eyes. He would be almost instantaneously assured that he was no threat to mankind of evil creature, but one meant to guard her and the rest of the planet, which she always reminded him of and thanked him for.

So even though sometimes it would feel like the world was on his shoulders and that everyone was leanin' on him, Shadow was always comforted when he was paid a visit by Amy or whenever he ran into her. Both situations always seemed to occur when he needed it the most. While their conversations would be a bit one-sided, with him doing more listening than actual talking, he was fine with that. He was truly interested to hear about everything happening with her, whether it be what a great day she was having or Sonic troubles. And almost everytime, either before they left or at some pause in their conversation, she would turn to him, flash a sweet smile at him, and say something along the lines of, "Thanks for talking with me Shadow. You're a great friend."

Sure, she may have said that to Cream, Tails, and anyone else who she considered close to her- almost everyone she knew-, but that really meant a lot to Shadow. Even though he was sure Rouge felt the same way, she never openly said it and neither did he. And even if some of his other acquaintances meant to say it, they never did, choosing to hesitate and flip-flop indecisively over it before deciding to compliment him in some other way. He attributed that to his whole demeanor and appearance.

Yet like anyone else, he wanted- and sometimes needed- to hear it. Cuz sometimes it would feels like the world was almost over and only he was standing between it and its destruction with no support or backing at all. But then she would comes back to him, rushing up to her friend to encourage and help him. So while she may have had Rouge and while he could easily rationalize that he showered Amy with such attention because of she reminded him of his old friend, Shadow knew that he cared for her deeply. He only hoped she felt the same. Past experiences would usually reassure him of this, like when only Tails and her cheered him in his journey to square off against Black Doom or, and most importantly, reminding him of Maria on the space station.

And each time this train of thought would run its course as he gazed lethargically out the window, a ghost of a smile would trace his lips before leaving just as suddenly. It may even linger when he saw the pink hedgehog out and about and especially if she came up to visit him, which he would then have to force himself to wear an indifferent frown on his face lest she questioned what he was thinking about. Because he knew that he would not trade anything in the world for the special friendship like the one he had with Amy Rose.

A/N: Hm, this one was a bit hard to end. Not sure I care for the ending and the whole thing just seems odd now that we look at it. But we hope you liked it, Andi! Happy Birthday!

Sword: Happy B-Day! Say something, Pen!

Pen: *grunts while reading*

Sword: Why, you-! En garde!