Disclaimer - I do not own sonic or any other characters. They are property of SEGA and anything sonic the hedgehog affiliated with it.

Arch City was greeted by partly cloudy skies the next day, the bright light of the sun shined through the cracks of the clouds which were now almost a normal color again. Not pitch black, but a semblance of gray. Blaze and Sonic figured their worlds might still be merging, but it seemed that they had a second to breathe now that the skies had cleared up. The weather calmed down as well. The temperature was a comfortable seventy degrees and the ocean waves that hit the beach were smooth as the water splashed up onto the shore. Sun light landed atop the heads of citizens returning to the city, and they observed the damage that was done. Some of the city's larger buildings were damaged, and if not some, it seemed as if everyone's home or business had been broken into by Nega's robots. All homes and buildings were damaged in one way or another. Broken windows, doors, and much property in minor and major ways.

The citizens only hoped that some of the chaos might have scared away some of the criminals that had nestled into the city. Many citizens who were returning to the city passed by military personnel and construction workers as they attempted to assess the damage that had been caused in yesterday's battle. When the King and Queen returned to the city, there was a citywide cleanup effort to collect all the robots bodies, and since they were everywhere they weren't hard to find.

As for Blaze, Sonic, Marine, the mercs, and the people who helped them, they all returned to the Castle and rested well into the day. The mercs and all of those who helped stop Eggman Nega were treated specially by the doctors of the Royal Family and the Military.

Still though they were all separated by groups. The ship captains and engineers and such were treated in separate facilities throughout the Castle. The mercs had their own special section that they regularly came to after doing mercenary work out in the city. Tiara was there, and Blaze and Marine were treated there as well. It was a section for them with higher clearance for the kind of work they did. Though Blaze was not in their infirmary at the moment.

Blaze just pushed through brown flapping doors, heading back into the hallway from the room she'd just came out from. Blaze carried a small square purple cloth in her hand, and she walked straight down the hallway back to the infirmary where she'd personally sent Sonic.

Blaze held her usual stoic expression as she walked down the hall on the long red carpets that extended throughout all the halls in the Castle. The hills of her red and white striped shoes tick-tacked against the stone floors, and echoed off the walls of this quiet empty hallway. She of course was not going to let Sonic be alone in a room full of females, female mercs no less. Tiara included; she didn't know Honey's deal yet. She sustained a few injuries herself, but she could not sit still. She had business to attend to, her duties as Princess and as the Guardian of the Sol Emeralds called to her...

After her bandages were placed on her with the other female mercs in their usual infirmary, she had to get right back up and get to work. She couldn't keep an eye on Sonic as she had to leave the infirmary often. To talk to the King and the Queen about the battle, and deal with political ramifications of the battle. Dealing with how the other nations were reacting to it. Talking to the Generals and other military figures about security now that Eggmman Nega had retreated.

She had paperwork to fill out because of the battle, and other duties as Princess such as making a brief public announcement to the citizens and even briefly interacting with them at a press conference. Even though they didn't like her. The blame for all the damage and destruction was cast upon her because of her abilities, and because she wasn't like them. She was abnormal from almost all the people in her world, and they judged her for it. Still looking upon her as an other…

Looking at her and talking to her...still seeing her as a freak…

It certainly was a long and fast paced morning. Marine was not enough to keep the likes of female mercs away from a male. They were aggressive like Tiara. And she had just finished all those things and was finally heading back to check up on Sonic in the special infirmary where she'd sent him. She did not do political work often or even at all. It was optional, and she chose to do it this time because of the battle. She did not have to, even though she had in the past.

Blaze turned a corner, and not far away, down a hall full of doors, at the very end of the hall was the special infirmary where Sonic was at. Two female koala doctors walked out of a door and pass Blaze as she headed down the hall. She wondered if Tiara or any of the mercs had snuck into Sonic's room while she was gone. She had sent him to this special infirmary, a place that was set up for her on her demand and authority. Her power as Princess and Guardian of the Sol Emeralds, to keep him away from the female's advances and...for her own reasons…

As Blaze approached Sonic's door, she couldn't help but feel a bit off put knowing that their fight with Nega was televised. And it was watched by everyone from her city, Arch City, and from other nations. Knowing they were watching and hoping that Eggman Nega was stopped so he would not come to destroy their homes. She also just felt uncomfortable knowing that they'd had an audience on such a wide-scale…she was sure she wouldn't like what they might have said about her…

She didn't want to hear it either…

Blaze reached his door, a wooden door, and opened it to find that Marine was gone, and he was alone watching the television hanging on the wall. Sonic acknowledged her presence with a nod as he flipped the TV off. Sonic was sitting on a white bed inclined at an angle so he could sit up. The doctors had looked over Sonic separately; she and Marine were checked with the mercenaries. The doctors had found that Marine needed little to no medical attention. However, Sonic and she needed bandages on multiple places over their torsos, arms, legs, and even fingers. They both had bruises and cuts all over themselves, but throughout the day, excluding herself because she already had hers removed, the doctors had slowly begun removing Sonic's bandages. They both were ok thankfully; nothing too serious. Right now as he sat on the medical bed only a large bandage wrapped around his waist and head was left.

Blaze's face was stoic as she glanced behind herself into the hallway, then turned back around walking into the room and closing the door behind herself. As Blaze approached his bed, she could see the bandages on his head and waist had not been messed with. It seemed there was no funny business with the mercs since the last few times she left. She had caught a female merc near Sonic's hallway earlier, and needless to say she had scared the female away. Though they knew she meant no harm they continued to pursue Sonic.

Blaze even caught Honey trying to relay a message to Sonic from Tiara. She wanted to get him out of the Castle away from the mercs and all the amorous females in the city; she was sure he was quite uncomfortable with all the attention. And also what Sonic might consider a threat…marriage...

She wanted to depart back to her island soon as well. His mind would be put to ease as soon as they hit the ocean…he had to go home now…

Blaze moved pass his bed and the chair next to his bed, and dipped the purple cloth in her hand in a small container of water. She then turned to his bed and handed him the wet cloth. Blaze spoke with a stoic expression as she stood by his bedside. She crossed her arms watching him pat himself with the wet cloth she'd given him "This should help you remove your bandages, when the doctor returns and does her final checks on you, we will leave. I have had a special meal prepared for us, once eaten we will depart the city."

The cloth she had given him helped him remove the sticky bandages that had been placed on them. He first patted down the bandaged wrapped around his head and began removing it. He questioned her as he focused on removing his bandages "Hey what time is it? How's the weather today?"

Blaze figured he was talking about the Emeralds. Blaze let her last words slip, and her eyes darted away from him for a moment though Sonic didn't seem to notice "It is noon, and the skies have cleared a bit. It seems we have some time before you head home…"

"Sounds good…" he said struggling to remove the sticky bandages from his head.

"Where did Marine get off to?" Blaze said returning her gaze to him keeping her stoic expression.

Sonic removed the sticky bandages from himself; they made unsnapping noises as he removed it from his head "She's over there hanging with the mercs, Honey more so I guess. She and Honey are getting along well."

"…." Blaze nodded uncrossing her arms, and she sat in the chair next to his bedside. The metal chair creaked...they were alone again…

Sonic then began patting his waist with the wet cloth Blaze had provided him with, and he spoke with his brows furrowed in concentration "Say Blaze?"

Blaze had crossed her legs and placed her hands on her lap. She looked to him, and her tail became stationary as it limped near the floor "Yes Sonic?"

"Your relationship with the mercenaries, it's always been this way huh?" Sonic said still not looking at her.

Blaze blinked her eyes thinking for a moment before she spoke "If you mean our interactions, then yes, they have always been business first but…" Blaze looked for the words to describe it "…Friendly..." Blaze watched him as he began ripping off the bandage wrapped around his waist "In the past Tiara had a partner who Marine had become friends with, we have not seen her since as she has settled in another city."

Sonic grunted as he rolled onto his side trying to remove his bandages, and it suddenly became quiet in the room. Sonic was so focused on his bandages that he didn't notice as Blaze sat up straight in her chair, and she stared at him with a stoical expression not able to think of anything else to say. She had nothing left to say…

In this third meeting with him, she went through significant changes yet again. In every subsequent meeting with him, she enjoyed his company and now, just like other times, she was sad to see his company go. She had opened up to someone for the first time in her life about her own private matters…she had never told anyone the things she had told Sonic...

She'd grown socially with him around. Though to the extent she boasted, much of her growing revolved around him…which she was fine with…

Overall, she felt as if she had opened up more than she ever had in her life. With Sonic meeting her parents and dealing with Tiara and…her muddled feelings revolving around him…

It was a learning experience she was not soon to forget. With it, she would travel into the future and be able to approach future situations better. She had Sonic to thank for that…

She guessed being more social and opening up might not sound like a big deal to anyone else. However, she spent a lot of time in her head, in her mind, thinking more than feeling and to her, the biggest thing that had happened in Sonic's stay was her coming even further out of her shell. She would have figured she was a hermit when she first met him, but now she had almost crawled out of her shell seeing the light of day. Her being this open was a big deal to her…

It made her feel uncomfortable; she guessed any kind of change would make you feel that way. She was not used to being this far out in the open, and she'd crawled further out every time with Sonic. Never mind the grand adventure they'd all gone through to get to this point. All the action, the danger, tension, excitement, the emotions…the other stuff…

Blaze continued to watch him rip off his bandages with her stoic expression. To her, becoming so open in all wakes of her life was a heavy change she knew she would be dealing with adjusting to as the time went on. And their adventures up until this point had made the experience all the more grand.

Sonic finally unwrapped the bandage wrapped around his waist and balled them into a ball. He leaned over to the side of the bed, away from Blaze, and spotted a trash can a little ways away from his bed.

With a silly grin on his face, he aimed at the trash can "Do you think our audience may have had their minds swayed by the way you kicked Nega's butt?"

Blaze looked to the floor stating simply "No."

Sonic's face became confused as he shot the ball of wrapped bandages into the trashcan. It thunked into the bottom of the can and Sonic turned to look at Blaze "You mean even after you saved everyone? No one's going to change their way of thinking? No one's going to think the Princess might not be so bad after all?"

Blaze then stared straight ahead "It has never changed the populace's mind or stance about me before, it will not this time either."

Sonic frowned, and Blaze finally looked at him holding her stoic face "I am not a hero Sonic…this…it is my job…and everyone considers it as so. As for their stance about me being abnormal…that will never change. They will always dislike me." Blaze finished looking away from him again.

And though Sonic wanted to be the one to argue her, this time he knew he needed to take a step back. This whole world was a different place from his own, and swaying the minds of the masses is even something he considered near impossible. Sonic remained quiet as he settled back down onto his bed and placed his arms behind his head; he stared at the spinning ceiling fan on the ceiling speaking aloud lost in thought "….I think your cool…"

Blaze's heart briefly raced at his compliment "…" she remained quiet and her face remained stoic, and she quickly calmed down "About the Emeralds Sonic…"

Sonic broke out of his thoughts and turned on his side "Yeah?"

She turned to look at him "While I was busy this morning I went and checked on the Sol Emeralds. They were still safe but I was curious, and I took a Chaos Emerald and put them together."

"Did they react?" Sonic asked curiously.

Blaze shook her head "While I held a Sol Emerald, I felt no powerful reaction from them unlike when we were collecting them. I think they are stable again."

Sonic rubbed his chin "Maybe that's why the sky cleared up."

"They did glow in each other's presence." Blaze said shifting a bit in her chair.

"I guess the Emeralds brought me here to help stop Nega from whatever he was doing. He'd had robots all over the city before I got here apparently." Sonic shrugged.

Blaze donned a thoughtful face "Sometimes I wonder what purpose do the Emeralds have for dragging us between worlds."

"Hey?" Sonic suddenly grinned at her.

Blaze raised an eyebrow as she looked at him grinning "There may be more than one reason."

Blaze blinked her eyes then a small smile came across her face "It makes much more sense than anything else. If there are unseen motives by the Emeralds or energetic forces behind them, they are most certainly a guiding hand. And whatever universal forces at play seem to be watching ours and everyone's backs."

Sonic chuckled and Blaze did so along with him. The answer wasn't completely clear, but even with the mystery shrouded around the Emeralds they both felt it was something they did not need to overthink. They did not know exactly why, but they still had a knowing feeling as if everything would be ok. Despite their Emeralds being very dangerous sources of extreme power, they both had been keeping them under control as an invisible force guided them and helped them. They might never know why they both traversed each other's worlds, but they at least knew there were things they could not see around them, and the forces watched over them as they did for the Emeralds.

And even if they hadn't changed anyone's minds, they knew they just had to be persistent in life. Everything was not peachy, even after they saved everyone. The people still disliked Blaze and Tiara because they were not normal. Sonic knew, the hard truth was they always would. However, sometimes that's the way the story goes. Though in life, you had a choice. Fight or lay flat. Blaze knew she would never back down, and knew without asking Sonic would not either. That is why they were ok with vague explanations. In each others presence, they were unstoppable. And Blaze was glad she met him…she was glad he was her friend…

Just as their laughter died down the door to the room suddenly burst open. Blaze jumped out of her seat, and Sonic and she both had looks of surprise on their face. It was Marine, Honey, and Tiara.

Marine ran into the room looking exhausted "I tried to stop her Blaze…" she huffed moving around Blaze and taking her vacated seat "…but I couldn't outrun Tiara…she's fast…"

Blaze donned a slight frown as she looked to Tiara. Tiara was holding a bouquet of red flowers and a big grin on her face. Honey looked apologetic standing next to her "Hey guys…I'm sorry Princess Blaze but Tiara can be…well…creative..."

"Hey princess…hedgehog…" Tiara looked over at Sonic, and he looked nervous. Tiara did not even glance at Blaze "I brought you some get-well flowers, are you ok?"

Blaze took a step forward as her brows knotted in irritation "I told you he was fine when we were in our infirmary."

Tiara ignored Blaze "Yeah yeah princess..." she said walking into the room and moving to the other side of Sonic's bed. Tiara held a dreamy face "Here hedgehog, some of the best flowers around town."

Sonic looked embarrassed as he took the flowers from her; the flowers had a strong sweet smell. Blaze looked more upset as her eyes narrowed "Why did you follow Marine here? We were to meet at the docks once we were ready to depart."

Tiara then acknowledged Blaze with a grin "You didn't think I was just gonna sit around while you moved him around like cargo, did you princess?"

"This is the reason why I must move him around!" Blaze said with a frown.

Honey came fully into the room as Blaze and Tiara got into their argument mode. Sonic sighed as he was once again caught in the middle. He looked back and forth between them on each side of his bed as they went back and forth arguing. Marine tried to suppress her giggle at Sonic's predicament yet again. Honey chuckled rubbing the back of her head with a bashful face. She knew she wouldn't get a word in edge wise.

Just then right behind them the doctor, a female koala, and her nurse, a male koala, stepped into the room seeing the strange scene. Of the Princess and Tiara arguing while the hedgehog on the bed looked afraid. And Marine had burst into a fit of laughter, and Honey looked defeated.

The doctor and the nurse looked at each other, and the female koala doctor looked at her assistant with a light frown "What in the world is going on here?"

"You're the doctor." the male koala shrugged.

The female doctor rubbed her temples, and the male nurse scratched his head. The Princess and Tiara were already strange with their abilities, being abnormal and all. Then add the Princesses strange guest, and they were even weirder to them now than they ever were...

Around one P.M., Blaze, Sonic, and Marine finally got out of the special infirmary. It had taken longer than expected for the doctor to do her final checkup on Sonic as Blaze kept Tiara from making advances at Sonic. Yes, she was completely back to her old self, yet she was not the same. As could be seen now as Blaze, Sonic, and Marine had left the infirmary and were now in the same dining hall they'd eaten in a few days ago.

The mercs had got a big commission and were out celebrating. Tiara was still an outsider, so she celebrated alone, she'd taken Honey, and they were out celebrating themselves. Tiara had left Sonic alone for a little while, she had changed a little. The trio was sitting in the same lavish medium-sized room, at the same wooden table adorned with flowers, plastic fruit, and white laced cloth hanging from every edge of the table. The table could seat about ten people but again, other than the chefs, they were the only occupants in the room, and they were the only three occupants at the table.

Marine sat at the end, Sonic sat next to her, and Blaze sat next to him. Their food had been served, and they were already eating. They hadn't eaten breakfast to so they were all hungry. Just as Blaze had said a few days ago, she had a special meal prepared for their departure after they collected the Chaos Emeralds. They were served many seafood platters, it was a wide variety of fish Sonic had never seen. At first, he wasn't sure what to eat and had picked through the fish until he found something he liked. Marine had helped by having him try some of her favorites, and Blaze ate a few different types of fish but stuck to mostly eating tuna.

Right now, Marine was gathering food from all over the table onto her plate. She had a big smile, and she grabbed a red looking fish meat and put it on Sonic's plate "Try this one Sonic, this fish is always tender."

"If you say so…" Sonic said as he drove a fork into it. Taking only a small piece he chewed on it and his eyes widened "That's pretty good." he said cutting into the fish again with his fork and knife. He spoke while he chewed his food, he wasn't really expecting fish as a special meal, but he had to admit it was really tasty. Sonic spoke with a delighted face "Man this food is better than I expected."

"Hehe, you don't know what you're missing Sonic!" Marine said while stuffing her face.

Sonic glanced over to Blaze on his left still being her quiet and reserved self "Say blaze? Do your people eat a lot of fish?"

Blaze's eyes darted in his direction just as she swallowed her food. Still eating in the most proper of manner with a napkin on her lap, and her facial expression stoic. She stuck her fork into her tuna, and she spoke as she looked back at her food "Yes, fish is one of the city's biggest exports."

Sonic donned an innocent look on his face pausing "You don't happen to eat fish because…"

Marine looked curiously at Sonic as she sipped on her drink, and Sonic spoke looking sheepish about the question "…you know…because your cats?"

Blaze placed her medium sized fork down and patted her mouth with her napkin "…" Blaze looked fully at him, and he smiled with a weak grin. Marine swallowed her food with her mouth open, waiting for Blaze's response to Sonic's question.

Blaze remained stoic "…As a matter of fact Sonic, yes. We are Obligate Carnivores; we must eat meat. So yes, cats do like fish."

Blaze smirked as she returned to eating her food, and Sonic rubbed the back of his head looking bashful. He chuckled not knowing if it was a personal question, but he could see that Blaze did not mind "I see…"

Sonic then glanced over at Marine. She'd just took a big bite out of some fish wrapped in rice. She giggled at Blaze's response speaking as she chewed on her food "Hey don't look at me. I just like meat."

Sonic sighed "I guess I'm just not a big meat eater…." he paused just as Marine slapped some more food on his plate. He used an incorrect fork and took a bite out of the food. It was red, baked, and crunchy. A delighted smile came to his face "But it sure is tasty."

Blaze smiled a bit, closing her eyes as she took another bite of her food. When she reopened her eyes Sonic was holding a small fork up for her to see. He had a big smile, but Blaze's face returned to stoic as she shook her head. Sonic's face became upset as Blaze placed the medium-sized fork she was using down as she finished her tuna. She then pulled a bowl over filled with an assortment of diced fish and picked up a big fork.

Blaze smirked ever so subtly as this had got Sonic's attention again, and he tried to figure out what the right utensils were to use. Sonic raised an eyebrow with confusion on his face as he began peering in her direction, while Blaze calmly and slowly ate her food one bite at a time. Her dining etiquette came from her life in royalty of course.

Just then out of the flapping doors behind Marine, a female Castle worker walked into the room holding a stack of cards and spotted Blaze. She swiftly made her way over to her and bowed. She was an orange striped tiger, and she handed her the stack of cards addressed to her "Excuse my intrusion Princess, but I have these important messages for you."

Blaze's face returned to a stoical expression now that her attention had snapped away from Sonic. She placed her fork down questioning the woman as she took the cards from her "Thank you, if you don't mind, will you do me a favor?"

The woman looked shocked "Yes Princess! What do you ask of me?"

"Inform the King and Queen that I will be departing the Castle soon, I am setting sail this evening." Blaze said with a serious face.

The female nodded profusely, and she bowed swiftly leaving the room "Yes, right away Princess!"

Blaze nodded and looked at what had been delivered to her. They were post cards from her family members. Blaze began flipping through them as Marine burped. She did not seem to notice Marine's burp as Sonic finished another plate of food. Sonic then questioned aloud leaning back into his chair "So where is everybody? There's no celebration for the city being saved?"

"Ahhhhh!" Marine slapped her belly with closed eyes "That would be nice. There are plenty of celebrations going on in the city today."

Sonic glanced over at Blaze curiously "What are those?"

"They are post cards from my family congratulating me for protecting the city." Blaze said as she read over them.

Sonic knew as much since they talked about it in the infirmary, that if anyone was praising her, it was probably for other reasons than her saving them. Blaze flipped through another card "I have a few from my cousins, aunts, uncles, one from my grandmother..."

"So where are they?" Sonic asked curiously.

Blaze then frowned reading through the last few cards "…We are not close…they are busily involved in their own lives. All political, and they do not live close. Most do not even live in the city…"

Sonic paused blinking his eyes, and Blaze continued as she placed her post cards down and began eating her food again "There are no celebrations for us. We will leave, and it will be quiet."

Blaze knew she did not have to reiterate to Sonic about how people viewed her, as after her statement, their meal was a little quieter. As they all retreated into their own minds, pondering and digesting the adventure they'd just went on and what was next. Wondering what ramifications they caused throughout the city in their stay.

Sonic figured that the mercs got no celebrations either, evident as Tiara and the other mercs had gone out to celebrate own their own. They'd all become a little more somber with the knowledge that no one really cared what they did. Though it could never fully deter them while they were together, as soon, Marine and Sonic's banter picked up a little more as she tried to stuff him with more food. And Blaze got Sonic's attention again as he used the wrong spoon to eat his soup...

A few hours later, the trio had finally begun their trek out of the Castle. It was around a quarter to seven p.m., and the sun was getting low in the sky. It was still pretty warm out today as Blaze, Sonic, and Marine walked out of the entrance of the Castle. After they ate they took some time to rest and unwind. Sonic had lost another game of chess to Blaze wanting to get revenge, however, now he had to swab the deck once back on the S.S. Marine again.

Blaze's face was stoic, carrying a sack with the Sol Emeralds, and right beside her Sonic held a grin as he carried a sack containing the Chaos Emeralds. Marine was next to him carrying many papers; her designs for the reinforcement of the bottom of the S.S Marine. She'd picked them up on their way out. The ship had been fully reinforced in the latter half of today, though they had been working on it the few days they'd been in the city. She had many more ideas since, and she was sure to get started writing them down once they got back to South Island.

As they stepped out onto the Castle grounds, they were greeted by a mix of pink, red, orange, and blue colors in the skies caused by the setting sun. Sonic whistled "Sure is nice out."

Blaze, Marine, and Sonic observed all the construction workers and the noise they were making, the materials scatted around the courtyard, and scaffolding's erected just above them as they walked out the threshold of the Castle.

"Hopefully the weather will be acceptable on our trip back." Blaze spoke as they walked towards were the Castle gates used to be; there were two guards stationed by the two big holes in the ground now.

The Castle had taken considerable damage from Eggman Nega's lasers, but it seemed as they all glanced back once more, that they were already on their way to fixing the damage. The guards were the Castle gates used to be did a brief hand salute to them as they walked pass. Blaze nodded in their direction as they walked onto the streets. Many of the citizens had returned to the city, and the streets were pretty busy again. The nearby businesses on the left and right of the street were damaged beyond repair and needed to be rebuilt. There were many people just cleaning up the rubble now. The trio had to walk around the big cannon ball sized holes that covered this street as well.

Blaze did glance briefly at Marine with a stern look as they walked pass the holes in the ground. Marine grinned with embarrassment and Sonic laughed at the exchange as they continued on their way down the street and down the hill. They got onto the sidewalk as they walked down the hill. On people's porches they celebrated, large groups of individuals walked through the streets together, and even a small parade could be seen further down the road.

All around them was party music, the smell of food cooking, and just loud individuals. At first, the trio went unnoticed, but soon, Sonic began to notice that people were staring at them as they passed with accusing eyes. Sonic frowned and did his best to ignore them; Marine and Blaze were already good at it. Blaze kept her head straight and paid them no mind.

It was then it became even more crystal clear for Sonic, that the people who stared, the citizens and the politicians alike, blamed Blaze for all the collateral damage. He began seeing Blaze in a whole new perspective, understanding even more now why she did not smile much. Everything she had spoken to him about came together in a cumulative understanding now that he'd been with her to see it.

Though in a few minute's time the trio made their way from the Castle to the docks. Watching the citizens partake in celebratory activities all around them, and others doing the cleanup of the various damage to buildings, homes, and Nega's robots.

Once on the cobblestone of the docks they walked a few warehouses down to the newly reinforced S.S. Marine. There were female engineers walking down the ramp of the ship and Marine smiled brightly as she ran pass Sonic and Blaze. Marine waited for them as they walked down and began speaking to them "Hey! Hold a sec ladies!"

While Marine spoke to them Sonic noticed out of the corner of his eyes that two people not far away from the ship were watching Marine as she spoke to the engineers. Sonic's face became serious, and he elbowed Blaze gently on her side. Blaze looked at Sonic raising an eyebrow in curiosity, and he cocked his head at the male and female staring at Marine. Two gray and black striped furred cats. The female wore a sleeveless red top and a multicolored red dress, and the male wore brown pants and a blue dress shirt. Blaze looked curious "I thought Marine had called them already."

Sonic looked confused as Marine finished talking to the engineers, and as they walked away the male and female approached Marine. The male called to her "Marine?"

Marine was startled, and she froze as she dropped her papers. She slowly turned around as the male and female cats were right behind her. Marine looked embarrassed with widened eyes inching out her words "Mom? Dad?"

The male and female cat then grabbed a hold of her and hugged her. The female spoke with a happy face "We've missed you so much! We know you said you were leaving when you got to the docks, so we wanted to surprise you!"

Marine looked bewildered "You know you guys didn't have to come down here…"

"Oh we know, but after we got off the phone we just had to come see you off." the male responded happily.

Marine had a dry look on her face as the two people hugged her and Sonic was confused as ever. Blaze and he only stood a few feet away and heard everything that was said. Sonic silently looked to Blaze for answers, and she complied with her usual stoic expression "They are, or I should say, used to be Marine's step parents. They still worried for Marine's safety after I watched over her, so they still check on Marine whenever they can."

Sonic smiled "I knew it was more to it than that."

Blaze nodded placing a hand on her hip "Marine came from a far away place. She does not even remember her true home of origin. She does not know her biological parents either. She was very young when she left, and she came to Arch City. I am sure you are well aware of her goals."

Sonic crossed his arms "Well, she is a real captain now. She's got her own ship."

Blaze watched as Marine struggled to escape her step parents grasp "Indeed. When Marine arrived in Arch City her step parents took care of her for a short while. They took her off the streets, and before long she was pursuing her dream to be a pirate captain." Blaze said with less enthusiasm.

Blaze and Sonic looked at each other and rolled their eyes. It was a dangerous occupation for a young person to choose; Blaze continued as they both watched Marine talk to her step parents "Marine was only in the city for a short while before she got lost at sea and ended up on my island."

"I guess you should be thanking them." Sonic joked with a big grin at Blaze.

Blaze smirked at him "Silence."

Sonic laughed and Blaze smiled, then Marine's step parents came over to them. Marine's step mother spoke first "Hello Princes Blaze…" she paused when she saw Sonic, and her husband looked confused at the sight of Sonic too.

Blaze introduced him as her stoic expression returned "This is Sonic."

"Nice to meet you." Sonic smiled and extended his hand.

Marine's step father shook his hand first smiling "I've never seen a hedgehog before."

"Ditto." Marine's step mother shook his hand with a look of delight.

Sonic chuckled "I've been getting that a lot lately."

Marine looked a little annoyed as her step mother pulled her closer "Excuse us Princess…" they both chuckled and her step mother spoke again "So how is Marine doing? Has she been keeping out of trouble?"

"Mom! I'm a captain now!" Marine said with a bit of irritation on her face.

Blaze looked to Sonic handing her sack to him "Would you take our cargo onto the ship Sonic? We will be departing very shortly."

Sonic took it from her grinning "Sure thing."

He walked to their left and up the ramp of the ship as Blaze began talking to Marine's step parents. Sonic walked up the ramp, and the view and warm colors of orange and red skies was even better as he stepped on deck. The elevated position let him see the sun as it neared the horizon. He walked over near the railing on the other side of the ship to get a better view of the sun setting on the ocean. He smiled; it was a glorious sight. Planets could have gorgeous scenery to show off wherever he traveled. Sonic then made his way down into the cabin and placed the sack with the Sol Emeralds in Blaze's and Marine's room. He then placed the Chaos Emeralds in his own room and went back up to the main deck.

He was ready to go back down the ramp when he saw Blaze and Marine waving to Marine's step parents as they walked away. Sonic called out to them "Good-bye!"

They glanced back to see Sonic waving aboard the S.S. Marine; they smiled and silently waved back to him. Sonic then looked down at Blaze and Marine. Blaze was walking up the ramp and Marine was picking up her papers.

Sonic walked over to the ramp as Blaze stepped on deck. She stopped to look back at Marine as she finally picked up all her papers and began walking up the ramp, then she looked at Sonic as she walked towards the cabin "Let us go plot a course back to my island. My parents will arrive soon."

"Lead the way." Sonic said following her.

Marine was right on their tails as she ran onto the deck "Southern Island here we come!"

So for about ten minutes time Blaze and Sonic used the navigational computer, well mostly Blaze and Marine, to plot the course back to her island. Marine also brieflywent below deck to inspect her newly reinforced ship to see if they had got her ideas right. The Royal Family and Military also resupplied them for their trip back. Food, tools, clothing, etc. Items that would last Blaze and Marine almost a full year on their island.

Soon though a Royal guard, dressed in the similar purple clothing as Blaze came down the stairs into the cabin, and the three looked up away from the navigational computer. The guard did not have to speak for them to know her parents were on deck.

So they followed the Royal guard back up the stairs to the deck. The red hues of the sky flooded the walkway up, and their eyes had to readjust. The King and Queen were standing not far away from the entrance to the cabin, and all around the ship were Royal guards surrounding them all. The guard who had come down to get them went back into position as Blaze, Sonic, and Marine walked over to the Queen and King.

Blaze spoke with her stoic expression "Mother…father…"

"Good evening dear." Blaze's mother spoke with a smile.

Blaze's father had a serious face "Are you ready to depart? Have they stocked your ship?"

Blaze nodded "Everything is in order. We will be waiting for one more guest after you."

Blaze's father nodded and looked at the trio "You all did well."

"…" Blaze was quiet.

Sonic grinned rubbing the tip of his nose "It was a good challenge, nothing we couldn't handle."

Marine looked embarrassed holding an innocent face "Sorry about all the cannon balls..."

Blaze's father then smirked "You did what you had to do."

Blaze's mother spoke with her smile "You all not need worry about the damage, we will take care of that. You've done more in preventing another disaster than we could ever do. Despite the negative public outcry, there will be bright spots."

"In what way?" Sonic asked curiously.

"We will silence them." Blaze's mother said with a confident face. Sonic and Marine grinned, and Blaze's mother smirked.

"Aww nice one." Sonic pointed at Blaze's mother.

Blaze kept her stoical expression as she watched Sonic interact with her mother, and Blaze's father watched her reaction. Blaze's mother continued "Like in the past but unlike now, with your friends dear, you all have prevented a major catastrophe. If not for your intervention we would be at the mercy of Eggman Nega's will. The negativity of the populace because of their judgment of our daughter will be ignored. We will interject positivity for what you have done, even though there is none."

Blaze's mother paused with a thoughtful face "You would think there would be…but alas that is not the case..."

Blaze paused for a moment before speaking in a serious tone "…" glancing at Marine who gave her a reassuring smile, then to Sonic who winked at her and gave her a thumbs up. Blaze then looked to her parents with her stoical expression as the red hues of the sunset shined down on the ship "Then my business here is done….I will return to my island and resume my guard over the Sol Emeralds..."

Blaze's father nodded extending his arms "Guardian of the Sol Emeralds, Princess, my daughter. We will see you soon…"

Blaze instinctively moved forward and hugged him briefly, and she spoke as he patted her on the back "Father..."

Then she hugged her mother just the same "Mother..."

"We will miss you." Blaze's mother spoke hugging her tight before she released her.

Blaze stepped back as Marine ran into Blaze's mothers arms "We'll be back real soon."

"Take care of each other out there, and try to be more careful with cannon balls dear." Blaze's mother patted her on the head.

Sonic had stepped forward and shook Blaze's fathers hand grinning "If I'm ever in town I'll stop by."

Blaze's father shook his hand with a firm grip and a serious face "You are always welcome at the Royal Castle."

Once Marine and Sonic stepped back the Royal guards all around hand saluted the trio. Blaze's mother and father smiled at them all "Have a safe return, and you have a safe return to your home Sonic." Blaze's father said smiling at Sonic.

"Will do your highness." Sonic grinned.

Blaze's father chuckled "He does have a good sense of humor."

Blaze's mother looked at both Blaze and Sonic with a gentle smile, and she spoke in a suggestive tone "Blaze…honor your true feelings…when you are in a bad situation do what you feel is right..."

Blaze looked confused for a moment by her mother's sudden statement "Yes, I will mother…"

"Me too." Marine interjected with a big grin.

"I already do that." Sonic grinned.

This made Blaze's mother and father laugh; the Royal guards got a chuckle out of it as well "We thank you." Blaze's father spoke as their laughter died. Blaze's mother and father then bowed to the trio. The Royal guards followed suit, and all around them they all bowed.

Blaze, Sonic, and Marine looked all around themselves as the King and Queen stood fully up again along with the guards. Blaze's mother and father gave them all one last look of assurance, particularly smirking at Blaze and Sonic before they silently turned and walked to the ramp and departed the ship. The Royal guards followed them and Blaze, Sonic, and Marine moved to the rail of the ship and watched the Royal guards, and the King and Queen enter a few black vehicles and drive away.

"Your parents are pretty cool." Sonic said as they watched them drive away.

"They did not abandon me; I am grateful." Blaze said as she turned away from the railing. She wondered why her parents were looking at her and Sonic like that...

"Alright then, all we gotta do now is wait for Tiara." Marine said walking away from the railing and running up to the steering deck.

"You think she'll pass it up?" Sonic asked curiously looking to Blaze.

Blaze gave Sonic a dry look "She'll be here...she wouldn't pass this up for anything..."

Sonic chuckled nervously and Marine spoke to him from the steering deck "Yeah Sonic, you should have seen how enthusiastic she was in the infirmary."

Sonic slapped his forehead "Oh boy…"

Marine laughed up at the steering deck, and Blaze smirked as she aimlessly wandered around the deck. Yep, there were no celebrations for them, their journey was swift and silent, and though they got no recognition, Blaze had learned and found that she did not care as much as she used to. As she got older and more mature, she found that having someone who you could trust meant more to her than anything.

And Blaze was right to assume Tiara would show up, as not even ten minutes later Tiara and Honey stepped on deck. Sonic and Blaze were not standing far away from them, standing just near the ramp conversing. Blaze spoke directing her attention to her "We were wondering when you would arrive."

"Hello Princess, Sonic." Honey said with a big smile; she had a camera around her neck with the shutter on.

"Hello Honey." Blaze said crossing her arms.

Tiara had a big grin "Hey princess…" she looked at Sonic "Hedgehog…"

"Tiara..." Sonic said with a bit of hesitation.

Just then Marine ran down from the steering deck speaking happily "Hey guys, here to send the S.S. Marine off eh?"

Tiara thought for a moment sounding genuine "Kind of, I wanted to see Sonic off before he goes back home…"

Blaze's frown was slight "Say what you will, Sonic might not be back."

Blaze gave Tiara a wise look as Tiara looked around the deck. She observed the beautiful colors of the sun setting in the sky, then took notice of the other side of the ship where the open ocean was. And the setting sun was nearing the horizon. Tiara smiled getting an idea, and she grabbed a hold of Sonic's arm dragging him to the other side of the ship "Come on hedgehog!"

"Gahh!" Sonic exclaimed as she pulled him.

"Come on Honey." Tiara spoke to her.

"I'm on it boss!" Honey said running after her.

Blaze's eyes widened slightly looking surprised, but she quickly uncrossed her arms looking suspicious as she calmly walked and followed them.

Marine ran after Honey with a puzzled face "What are you mugs up to?"

Blaze was reserved while she listened to Tiara speak; she was inspecting the angle she was standing at "I thought I'd get a few pictures with Sonic, saying good-bye just isn't enough." Tiara put on an innocent face as she looked to Sonic speaking in a sweet voice, and twisting her hands together like a school girl "If you wouldn't mind hedgehog?"

Marine and Honey giggled while Blaze looked unamused rolling her eyes "Oh brother…"

Sonic looked at Tiara smiling her best, then to Blaze who suddenly had a frown on her face. Then back to Tiara who was smiling even brighter, then back to Blaze whose frown had deepened. Sonic looked exasperated then he shrugged; he couldn't win "…Sure…why not…"

Tiara giggled as she pulled Sonic close and stood right next to him "Hehe! Great!"

Sonic looked embarrassed by her close contact "Whoa!"

"Honey, ready the camera!" Tiara said with enthusiasm.

Blaze looked a bit angered but at the same time disappointed as she let Tiara go this once. She felt she wanted her body to move and act, but she restrained herself and watched Tiara take her pictures with Sonic.

Honey took off the lens cap and held the camera around her neck up "Say cheese!"

And the camera started flashing as Tiara began posing with Sonic in a number of positions. The Polaroid Camera took instant pictures, and they printed out and fell to the deck as Honey took them; Marine picked them up and inspected them. Tiara hugged him as he tried to get away, they stood back to back together and Sonic looked embarrassed, they took one where she twisted his arm and forced him to smile with her.

Tiara then winked at Honey, and she nodded, as before Sonic could react Tiara grabbed Sonic and pulled him close. Just as Honey took the photo Tiara kissed Sonic on the cheek. Sonic looked shocked and Marine looked shocked as she looked at Blaze, who looked mighty upset.

They had finally run out of positions though, and Blaze spoke in a stern cautioning tone looking visibly upset "Tiara!"

Tiara quickly let go of Sonic with a big grin "That was the last one Princess…"

Sonic looked bewildered as Honey lowered her camera "We only have a few shots left." Honey spoke aloud; she looked at Blaze with a curious face "Do you want to take one Princess?"

Blaze blinked her eyes at the offer, and she hesitated raising an eyebrow as the anger quickly washed from her face…she hadn't considered it "…"

Marine was busy laughing at all the Polaroid Camera pictures that had fallen to the deck and she'd picked up. Tiara quickly walked over to Honey and picked up the picture with her kissing Sonic on the cheek. Tiara sighed as she stared at the picture and hugged it close to her chest "Ahhhhh…"

Blaze's face was stoic, and she looked to Marine "Let us take a picture with Sonic…we don't know when or if he'll be back..."

Marine nodded "Oi your right, these pictures might be the last we see of him."

"Hey? I'm right here." Sonic joked but still looked a bit disheveled.

Marine handed the pictures she was holding to Tiara, and she gladly took them. Marine giggled as she ran over to him "Come on now, fix yourself up Sonic. You're taking a picture with royalty."

Blaze silently walked over to Sonic's side as well feeling a sinking feeling in her stomach…everything seemed to be reminding her that he was leaving…

Sonic shook himself and Marine stood to his right. Sonic then smiled as Blaze stood to his left. Marine waved at the camera with a big grin, Sonic smiled, and Blaze had a stoic expression as she crossed her arms.

"Here we go!" Honey held her camera up as the trio stared into her camera; the view behind them of the ocean and red skies was beautiful.

SNAP! The camera flashed, and the picture printed out. Honey grabbed this one and Blaze, Sonic, and Marine walked over to Honey to view the picture. Honey held it up, and all of them looked at it. Tiara purred "Looking good hedgehog."

Sonic chuckled nervously "Thanks…"

Blaze gave Tiara another stern look before she commented "Could you make a copy of this?"

Honey nodded with a smile "I can. It's a digital camera." she said as she pressed a button and another picture printed out. Honey handed it to Blaze, also taking the other picture from her. Blaze nodded satisfied with them, Sonic could have his own copy now.

Blaze stuffed the pictures into her pocket, and she was ready to intervene and get Marine and Tiara to stop teasing Sonic about their pictures, but Honey spoke again "Hmmmm…I still have two photos left." she turned to Tiara curiously "Did you want to take one more boss?"

Tiara stopped giggling along with Marine long enough to say "No thanks. I got everything I need."

"Do you really need that many?" Sonic questioned Tiara still looking embarrassed.

"Hehehe! I'm sorry Sonic, but your expression was funny." Marine giggled poking Sonic in the side with her elbow.

It was then Blaze got an idea in her head…an idea that made her feel uneasy...

However, today the more she faced the unresolved feelings inside herself, the more the feelings came out. Forcing her to speak without what she considered to be rational thought…the words blurted out of her mouth...

"…Honey?" Blaze asked with a curious face.

Honey was putting the lens cap back on but stopped and looked at Blaze "Yes Princess?"

Blaze quickly swallowed a lump in her throat "…I would like to take another picture…"

Honey then smiled "Oh ok! Of who?"

Blaze felt deafly nervous, but she glanced over at Sonic and everyone paused. Tiara and Marine stopped giggling and teasing Sonic about the pictures, and Sonic looked curious. Blaze's face was blank, but she felt like she was sweating "Sonic…let us take one last picture..."

Sonic blinked slowly "Yeah...sure…" he then smiled speaking with an air of smugness as he made his way over to the same picture spot; also to get away from the teasing "I know some people can't resist."

Blaze smirked a bit at Sonic's overconfidence; it made the whole situation feel a little better. As Blaze walked over to the picture taking spot Tiara looked a little upset speaking with disbelief "The Princess wants to take a picture?"

Even Marine looked surprised running over next to Honey "...Wha..What?"

Tiara and Marine had skeptical faces though Blaze ignored their accusing eyes as she felt nervous as it was already. Honey held her camera up "Ready?"

Blaze and Sonic stood close together but Sonic wasn't ready to take the picture "Hold up." he said with a grin as he suddenly wrapped his arm around Blaze's neck and pulled her close. Blaze didn't expect it and her face filled with embarrassment. Blaze's eyes widened, and her mouth had formed into a frown, more likely out of feeling uncomfortable.

"Ready!" Sonic said giving the camera a peace gesture with his hand.

Blaze's voice was lost in her throat, and she only hoped she wasn't blushing as the camera flashed again. And before she knew it Sonic had already let go of her. Blaze was left standing alone as Sonic ran over to Honey to see the results. Tiara and Marine did too, being more interested in Sonic's picture with Blaze as well.

Blaze did her best to calm down while everyone was ignoring her for the moment. She blinked her eyes and took a deep breath before she walked over and looked at the picture. Blaze felt a warm feeling in her stomach when she saw herself and Sonic in the picture.

"Well? What do you think…huh Princess?" Tiara said looking at her with suspicious eyes.

Marine, Honey, and Sonic looked at her and Blaze raised an eyebrow "It's a nice picture."

"Mmmhmp…" Tiara said in a skeptical tone.

Marine took the picture from Honey "I don't know Blaze…"

Everyone listened, and Blaze felt nervous again "This picture is good, but…I think it's missing me…"

Everyone chuckled, excluding Blaze, who let out a light sigh of relief as her worry about her feelings being exposed were still concealed. Marine shrugged with a grin "Then again, Blaze gets to see this beautiful mug every day!"

Blaze smirked with sarcasm "Won't someone help me."

Everyone laughed, and Honey printed out the second copy of Blaze's picture with Sonic. Blaze got the other picture from Marine and stuffed both of the pictures into the pocket of her coat again.

Tiara seemed to slow down as she spoke this time with a weak smile "Well…I guess it's time for you guys to go…"

"Yes, we must get going." Blaze spoke as her stoic face returned.

For a brief moment, everyone looked at one another feeling a bit of sadness. It was time to say farewell. Tiara gathered her pictures, and she pulled a rubber band out of her pocket and tied them together.

She stuffed the pictures into the back pocket of her jeans, and Tiara spoke as she and Honey made their way to the ramp of the ship and walked down it "We have to get back to work to soon."

"You guys take it easy." Sonic spoke with a smile walking over to the railing of the ship.

Blaze joined him at his side as Tiara and Honey stepped down onto the docks. Marine spoke excitedly as she ran up to the steering deck and began manning the controls "Well, we're wasting time, lets hit the seas!"

"We'll take care of the ramp!" Tiara yelled from down below.

Blaze and Sonic watched as Tiara and Honey grabbed the makeshift ramp and pulled it away and down from the S.S. Marine and onto the docks. The wooden plank smacked against the cobble stone of the docks. The people on the docks didn't seem to notice them though as they walked pass the S.S. Marine oblivious to them all.

Blaze walked over to the area were the ramp deployed and raised the hatch and locked it into place. Soon the engines of the S.S. Marine could be heard revving up down below. The ship began to lurch, and Marine spoke excitedly as she began turning the ship's wheel "We're on our way mates!"

The S.S Marine began to move backwards, slowly inching its way back away from the other ships. Sonic stood by the railing and Blaze went back to his side, and they waved at Tiara and Honey.

They smiled and waved back with equal vigor. Honey yelled to them as the S.S Marine was fully pulled away from the docks "Goodbye Sonic! Princes Blaze, Marine!"

"I'll see you around Princess! Later Marine! If you ever come back hedgehog you are mine! I won't hold back!" Tiara yelled with a big smile.

"I'll keep that in mind!" Sonic yelled back with a big smile "See you later!"

Blaze smiled a bit as well "I'm sure we'll run into one another soon enough!"

Marine yelled from the steering deck "Have a good one! We're setting sail to the high seas once again!"

So Blaze and Sonic waved to Tiara and Honey as they slowly disappeared from sight as the sun started to set. They leaned onto the railing looking back at the docks as they drifted further away into the sea.

"Man I am glad Amy isn't as persistent as Tiara." Sonic spoke aloud still waving.

Blaze smirked "Is she like Tiara?"

"You don't know the half of it." Sonic chuckled glancing briefly at Blaze; he turned back to continue waving at Tiara and Honey.

Blaze didn't know about the others, but she was glad to finally get away from all the drama…though it was ironic as now she had developed her own personal issues away from the people who despised her…

Now she had to face her own drama back on her island. And she intended to, but she knew more than anyone else that she had been avoiding the inevitable with Sonic…

She hadn't spoken of it or gave it any thought all day, but now she couldn't run anymore. They would reach her home Southern Island tomorrow and Sonic would be leaving. And truth be told…for the first time in a long time she didn't know what to do…

The next day was bright and sunny as the S.S. Marine cut through the waves on their journey back to Blaze's island. There were a few clouds in the sky, and their color ranged from gray to dark gray. It was an indication that the energies of the Emeralds were still mingling and Sonic needed to get home soon. There had been no trouble with pirates on their way back, which disappointed Marine a bit as she wanted to test the new reinforcement of her vessel. Instead, they'd run into a friendly vessel who was on its way to Arch City. Most of the day was gone, and it was evening. They would arrive at her island soon. It seemed as the trip back was much, much faster than Blaze had expected…

They slept through the night and Sonic had swabbed the deck most of the day. They had eaten not too long ago, a small meal prepared by Blaze, and now they were all resting and waiting for the radar to pick up the island. It still was not in sight, so they weren't their yet. The ship was on glide, and Marine had fallen asleep, napping in the hammock up in the crow's nest. Down on the deck Blaze sat on the stairs of the steering deck as she and Sonic conversed about all matter of things.

"Estaban used to watch me as a child; you could say he was my babysitter. He made sure I didn't get into any trouble around the Castle." Blaze leaned back on her elbows; she had a small smile on her face.

Sonic nodded with a grin "Speaking of getting away, you're a Princess. Don't you have duties as one, like political work?"

Blaze's expression became stoic as she shook her head and thought for a moment "…Yes I do…but I do not do political work, and I do not push paperwork. I am at an arms distance from it, but sometimes I still must be involved in it. I've chosen not to as I have much more pressing matters. There are many that will and are willing anyways; I am too busy with the Sol Emeralds."

Sonic put his fist on his hips "You do strike me as the studious type."

Blaze put on a small smile again "I am not busy due to my duty as Princess or political work tied to it. Because I became the Guardian of the Sol Emeralds, I risk my life. So I chose not to, political work is optional for me." Blaze responded, and they both smiled at one another.

However, soon the smile on Blaze's face became a frown as she stared out onto the ocean, and Sonic noticed but did not speak of it. Blaze then turned back and looked at Sonic with her stoic face "I believe I have been rude during our time together."

"Hmmm?" Sonic scratched his head.

"I have not once asked of your past Sonic." Blaze said with a serious face.

Sonic chuckled and waved a dismissive hand "There's not much to know about me."

"What of your family? Your parents?" Blaze now looked curious.

Sonic shrugged looking a tad embarrassed "I don't remember my parents. As a matter of fact, all I remember is...running..."

Blaze had a look of confusion on her face; she felt sympathy and the urge to giggle "…Running?" she said questioningly raising an eyebrow "That's what you've done in your life back home?"

Sonic nodded with a big grin "I've run for as long as I can remember and nothing much else. Things like Eggman and my friends came as I got older."

Blaze felt sadness overcome her and the urge to laugh at his strange response. She responded with a smirk "I am sorry to hear that."

Sonic shrugged "It's cool, I haven't had the normal family experience, but home is where you make it and I've got lots of good friends."

Blaze nodded as Sonic smiled at her "I must admit I am jealous. I have so many things to do…and you have…"

Sonic cut her off with a smirk "Nothing."

Blaze gave him a playful glare as she finished "Nothing to do…"

"I like it simple." Sonic began laughing.

Blaze smirked as she looked over to her side, staring out onto the ocean again. Her words seemed to shift away from the conversation completely as she donned a frown on her face again "Sometimes life can be long…"

Sonic stopped smiling and this time he intervened, he could clearly see something was bothering her "…What's wrong?"

Blaze quickly looked at him, interrupted from her thoughts "…" she darted her eyes to nowhere in particular "…I am fine…why do you ask?"

Sonic frowned seeing right through her "Come on…"

Blaze sighed, and she looked to him. It was another moment where she was exposing herself. Another time where she was going to tell Sonic something deeply personal to her. The last time she spoke this much is when she went to the doctor. She had never told anyone about this, and she never felt so natural talking about her feelings, especially now that she had developed a personal bond with Sonic after sharing with him at the Castle. Blaze looked down "My responsibilities…I feel as if I will do this dance for the rest of my life…I would like some change…"

Sonic frowned but knew it stemmed from all the stuff she dealt with, and had dealt with her whole life in Arch City. She had been more open than she usually was, and he could see now that the drama back home, it bothered her, though she did not talk about it. Though Sonic did not know that it was only half of why Blaze was saddened right now.

"Be happy with what you get, everything has a downside to it." Sonic said with a serious face.

Blaze looked up at him, and his harsh but truthful words made all the negative thoughts wash away for a moment. Blaze felt lightness in her stomach, and she smiled "I'd rather spend time on my island with my friends anyway."

And they both chuckled; she'd rather spend time with him. She'd found over the years spending time with true friends was more worthwhile than anything else in the world. Spending time with an individual who never got in her way, unless she happened to be going down...

"You know, if things were different we might not know each other because people would like you. We would have never met, and you would be off doing different things and might even be married or something." Sonic grinned.

Blaze shook her head "As nice as that sounds." Blaze spoke sarcastically "I have to disagree; everything happened as it was supposed to." there was a light beeping noise suddenly coming from the steering deck, and Blaze stood from the stairs.

Sonic caught her before she walked up the stairs "You never had any guy friends?"

Blaze glanced back at him; her expression stoic "You were..." a small smile came across her face as she looked away from him.

Sonic grinned at her response putting his hands on the back of his head "Fair enough."

Blaze walked up the stairs to the steering deck and took a glance at the computer next to the wheel. It was picking up a land mass on the radar. Blaze looked pass the bow and she could barely see a speck in the distance. Blaze frowned…they were back…

She did not immediately announce that they would be arriving soon, instead she tried to fight the distress she felt inside…of her feelings…feelings about Sonic…

It had finally come to pass…through all her denial and pushing people away throughout the years. It was not the same, and she had never spoken of it…

She did want someone in her life. Before Sonic came back a few days ago she'd been contemplating her life. Of how she'd been alone her whole life…then he showed up...

Now she didn't want to be alone all the time anymore...

She began to want…partnership…after every encounter with Sonic. And she didn't care if it was romantic or just friendship, she just wanted an individual she could be more…personal with…

Sonic seemed to fit the bill and part of why she did want partnership is because she was getting older. She'd even thought of it a few days ago as they traveled to Arch City. Many years had passed and she had changed, changed with Sonic, and this time she had transformed even more.

Blaze looked down at Sonic from the steering deck with a deep frown, and a feeling of dread in her stomach. She felt strongly for him…he was the one…and he might slip away today…

Blaze sighed but just as she was about to speak Marine yelled down to her from the crow's nest "Land ahoy!"

Blaze watched as Sonic ran to the bow and leaned forward on the bow of the ship "Hey! I see it!"

Marine began climbing down the crow's nest as the sun was blocked by a cloud, darkening everything for a brief moment. As the cloud passed the sunlight returned and washed over the deck. Marine hit the deck and she excitedly ran up to the steering deck "It's actually kind of nice to be home!"

Blaze took a step back as Marine began using the controls to unlock the ship's wheel. Sonic came up to the steering deck too, taking in the volcano and speaking aloud "I totally forgot about all the stuff on your island."

Marine was now steering the ship, and she looked at Sonic with a smile as the ship slowly turned to the left "We didn't see any of it before we left, we came out from the back side of the island. We're going around front this time."

Blaze remained quiet as Sonic observed Seagull Beach, the same place where they had spoken in the morning the day they left. The forest where the shrine of the Sol Emeralds were was right next to Windmill Village and the beach, and the dock Sonic and Tails used while they were here last time. Marine brought the ship around pass the village and the dock to the wharf just a little further down the shore. Marine typed a few commands into the computer console, and the two big wooden doors to the wharf opened, and Marine steered the S.S. Marine inside.

The doors to the wharf closed, and there was a large clicking noise heard as the doors fully shut. As the S.S Marine slowed and stopped in the shallow water, Marine dropped anchor and she spoke with a smile as she jogged down the steering deck stairs "Ships locked up, let's unpack some of our supplies."

"You've kept this place in good shape Marine." Sonic complimented her as he followed.

"I only have the finest docks for my vessels!" she said enthusiastically.

Their voices faded as Blaze stood still in her spot with a frown still on her face. Slowly, she moved and followed them down the stairs into the cabin. She knew there was no more time to wait...Sonic had to leave tonight…

Once they all were down in the cabins, they began collecting their belongings. Blaze gathered the Sol Emeralds, Marine gathered her tools, and Sonic gathered the Chaos Emeralds. They also grabbed some supplies from below deck and were taking them to Windmill Village and their bunkers.

Sonic was the first to gather his things, and he spoke with a grin as he headed up the stairs carrying a box of supplies "I'll wait for you guys outside."

Blaze nodded with a stoic face; she was standing near the desk "We will be there shortly."

Sonic nodded and he was gone. Marine was still in their room, and Blaze anxiously looked around to make sure no one was looking. Blaze had pinned their pictures they had taken yesterday to a pin board hanging on the wall next to the computer. It was filled up with other important documents pinned to it too, but just to the side she'd pinned their pictures. One particular picture she had interest in though. She looked back twice to make sure Marine was not looking. Once she was sure Blaze quickly took the picture of her and Sonic off the wall. But all did not go as planned…

"Hey? What are you doing Blaze?" said the voice of a confused Marine from behind her; she put down her supply box.

Blaze's adrenaline kicked in and her heart beat fast with widened eyes; she came up with a less than adequate excuse keeping her back turned to her "…This picture is cluttering up the wall…" Blaze felt fearful of her weak lie as she placed the picture in her pocket "…I will be placing it in my room…"

It was then Marine noticed something was truly off about Blaze's behavior. She had noticed something was different a few days ago as well but…not like this...Blaze didn't have any pictures in her room…

She certainly didn't have a photo album, none that she'd seen anytime she had been in her room. That's what struck her as odd…she couldn't imagine why she was putting a picture in her room...

No less of the one with her and Sonic. It left a lot of questions yet to be answered but this time Marine saw Blaze was hiding something. She had been surprised when she found out that Blaze and Tiara had a secret, she had never known Blaze to hide anything before that. Now with this strange behavior happening again Marine was now taking into consideration that Blaze might be hiding something right now.

Marine looked suspiciously at Blaze with her back turned, and there was a brief silence as Marine picked up her box of supplies "…Okay then mate…I'm going to go outside with Sonic…"

"…I won't be long…" Blaze kept her back turned.

Marine had a frown on her face, and she stared at Blaze for a moment longer before she turned and walked up the stairs and out of the cabin. Blaze kept her back turned hearing Marine's footsteps, and standing in the silence even after Marine left. Her eyes remained wide in embarrassment, she didn't know whether she had been caught or not...

Sometime later the group had made their way from the wharf and into Windmill Village to Marine's old house. They stored their supplies in various places around the island, and the village houses were one of them. It was also the place where Marine and the Coconut Crew stayed when Sonic and Tails where around last time; Marine had since then moved into the Sol Emerald shrine with Blaze. The village was empty now. The Coconut Crew had been sent to the mainland after a horrible storm, and they would be returning soon.

The sun was starting to set, and nighttime was almost upon them. They hoped to get back to the shrine before dark. Marine came out of a wooden red painted house and locked the door, and Sonic questioned her curiously "So what other technology do you have here?"

Marine walked passed him counting off with her fingers trying to think of more "Encrypted black box for communication, wireless communications systems, cameras, motion sensors are placed all over the island…"

"Marine does upkeep on all of it." Blaze spoke to Sonic with her usual stoical expression; she was holding the sack of Sol Emeralds.

"I am the best!" Marine grinned.

Sonic smiled holding the sack of Chaos Emeralds "So that's how you deal with intruders while your sleep."

Blaze nodded "I have computers in my room that alert me if the motion detectors go off."

"I control all of it from the structure just opposite where we slept at the shrine Sonic." Marine said as they began walking towards the forest.

"I was wondering what was in those other buildings." Sonic rubbed his chin.

"We usually make our phone calls in that building, but we use the encrypted black box for serious stuff like the Emeralds." Marine said walking just a bit ahead of them.

"So you guys know if anything comes on the island." Sonic said impressed.

"I have had a great deal of success protecting the Emeralds here." Blaze said as she walked along side Sonic.

Sonic then grinned at Blaze, and Blaze raised an eyebrow in confusion when she caught his stare. Sonic spoke as he stopped walking "Well, there's only one last thing to settle then."

Blaze stopped, and Marine turned around raising an eyebrow "What's he talkin about?"

"Here, catch Marine." Sonic said tossing her the sack of Chaos Emeralds.

Marine caught them with a look of confusion, and Sonic finished with a grin looking at Blaze "Our race."

Blaze thought for a moment blinking her eyes before she remembered their talk on the beach, and she responded with her usual stoical demeanor "Ah yes, our race….but we do not have a lot of time Sonic…"

"What…" Sonic donned a competitive face egging her on "You can't keep up?"

Blaze looked slightly surprised then she tossed the sack of Sol Emeralds to Marine; which she caught. Blaze stared Sonic down with an equally competitive face "Where is the finish line?"

Marine giggled walking closer to them "Oh this is gonna be good."

Sonic pointed down near the dock by the shore of the village and Blaze nodded. Blaze and Sonic looked back at each other "We race around the island once, all you have to do is…" and in a flash Sonic took off without warning.

Blaze looked shocked as a gust of wind blew pass Marine and her, and Sonic called back as he ran down to the beach "See you later!"

Without hesitation Blaze sprinted off after him, creating another large gust of wind next to Marine. Marine grinned as she ran after them, heading to the dock yelling to them as Blaze and Sonic ran down the beach "I'll be the judge!"

Blaze quickly caught up with Sonic as they tore through the sand, and she smiled and he grinned back at her. For his cheating, she conjured fire in her hands and began tossing fireballs at Sonic. The fireballs exploded as they hit the sand causing sand and fire to fly everywhere, and Sonic dodged them while keeping pace with her. They were moving so fast that before they knew it they were on the back side of the island, almost halfway done with their race already. Blaze smirked as she bumped into him and forced him onto the water.

Sonic grinned trying to use this to his advantage, skirting across the water and causing some of it to splash in Blaze's direction. Blaze used her flames to keep herself dry and deflect the water Sonic was splashing at her. Then they were on the final stretch as they began to pass by the wharf. Blaze had to come onto the water to reach around to the dock where Marine was waiting. With the finish line coming up both focused on running as they sped up. The water trails behind them flew into the air as they were neck and neck.

Marine was waiting and as they passed by Marine called it. Blaze and Sonic slowed down and ran back over to Marine looking expectant. Sonic questioned her "Well?"

Marine snickered "It was…"

"Just tell us." Blaze stated curiously.

Marine began laughing "It's a draw!"

Sonic and Blaze looked at each other with surprise, and Sonic rubbed his chin looking at Blaze with a grin "I was holding back."

Blaze then smirked at him as she conjured fire in her hands "Well, we can't have that can we."

Sonic stepped back from Blaze holding his hands up in defense with an innocent face "Alright you win, knock it off."

Blaze then tossed small fireballs at his feet. He hopped and skipped around them until Blaze caught him in an awkward position by the sand. As she threw one last fireball, he tripped and fell into the shallow part of the water by the sand. He made a big splash and sat on his hands and knees. Marine burst into laughter almost dropping the sacks with the Emeralds and Blaze giggled.

Sonic glared at Blaze for a moment, and she smiled placing her hands on her hips "Now I am the winner."

Sonic tried to look upset, but he couldn't control his snicker before he began to laugh as well. Blaze began laughing not long after too. They stayed by the dock for a little while longer, still getting a good chuckle from Sonic falling into the water by the way of Blaze's hands. He refused to be dried by her again, and instead air dried himself by running around the island once more. They waited for him, and the sun was getting lower in the sky. Their laughter did die down a bit as Sonic returned. They were heading back into the forest to the shrine of the Sol Emeralds. It was time for Sonic to go…

The sun was about to set as the trio finally arrived at the shrine of the Sol Emeralds within the forest minutes later. Marine was in the structure with the computers checking to see if everything was in order while they were gone. Sonic had gone to his room for a moment to check if he hadn't forgotten anything. And Blaze…

Blaze was atop the stairs inside the Sol Emerald chamber. She had just placed the last Sol Emerald into its slot. The Emeralds glowed, and she stared blankly at them…

She couldn't deal with the reality that she had these feelings for Sonic, and at the same time he needed to go for the safety of their worlds. She had to return to her duties as well. She didn't know what to do. She didn't want him to go, and yet she did because of her own stubborn pride…she had always handled everything own her own…

But now…with Sonic…she felt with him around she didn't have to, and she didn't want to...

Blaze frowned and her face was full of worry as she placed a hand on her head. Her head was swimming…

As much as she denied how she felt over the years, about her feelings and everything in her life, she thought she had complete control over herself. But she didn't anymore..she did have feelings for Sonic…

Then she heard her name being called by Marine yelling up to her "Hey Blaze! Sonic's ready!"

Blaze turned away from the Emeralds and looked to the exit of the chamber with her face still full of worry. For a few moments she was stuck in place, she couldn't move as fear crippled her. Blaze breathed out a shaky breath, and she donned her stoical expression as she slowly made her way out of the chamber. As she reached the threshold of the chamber, she looked down the stairs to see Sonic and Marine looking up at her…waiting for her…

Blaze felt light headed as she walked down the stairs, though her stoical expression did not show the emotion she felt on her face...it always hid her…

The red hues from the setting sun cracked through the trees and leaves of the forest; it was still enough light out to not be night. As Blaze reach the bottom of the stairs, she noticed that Sonic was holding all seven Chaos Emeralds and Sonic spoke with a grin "It's getting late..."

"…." Blaze nodded with her stoical expression, and she spoke but felt uncertainty in her words, betraying her unwavering independence "…Its time you went home…"

Marine looked saddened rapidly blinking her eyes "Yeah…we can't wait any longer…"

Sonic looked down at the Chaos Emeralds then back to Blaze and Marine "I want to thank you guys for helping me; I would have been in a big mess without your help."

Marine quickly rubbed her eyes and briefly turned her head away from them "You would have done the same for us…"

Blaze kept her stoical expression though was having a hard time keeping her self expressionless "I would expect no less from you…"

Sonic smiled "I had a great time exploring your world too…I hope I can come back again one day…"

Marine turned back around doing a poor job at hiding her tears; she sniffled "We're gonna miss you mate…"

Sonic smiled at them both as he closed his eyes and donned a serious face taking a few steps away from them. Blaze and Marine watched as Sonic focused with the Chaos Emeralds, and soon the Emeralds began to glow brighter, and brighter, until they began to float out of Sonic's grip and around him. Spinning very fast as he lifted into the air and in a bright blinding flash the Emeralds disappeared. Blaze and Marine briefly shielded their eyes to reveal Super Sonic.

Glowing golden colors Sonic grinned as he floated down to them, and they were all without words. Sonic spoke with a smile "Thanks for everything guys."

Marine burst into even more tears, crying as she glomped onto Sonic hugging him tight "I'm going to miss you!"

Sonic smiled as he patted her back "Its goodbye for now…"

Blaze felt a sting from his words as he released Marine; she was still crying. Sonic then turned his attention to Blaze who could not try and look tough any longer, and her stoic expression turned into a somewhat sad frown.

Sonic held his hand out for her to shake, and Blaze hesitated for a moment. They stared into each others eyes before she grabbed a hold of his hand, but he did something she didn't expect. He gave her a handshake hug. He shook her hand then pulled her into a brief hug patting her on the back. Blaze's eyes widened in shock but in those few brief moments of the hug, she closed her eyes enjoying his embrace.

"We'll cross paths again…" Sonic spoke to her as he released her.

Blaze quickly opened her eyes keeping her deepened frown "I believe so too…"

Sonic smiled at the both of them, but Blaze remembered something as he began to float away, and she reached into her pocket "Wait Sonic!"

Sonic looked curious as he stopped where he was, and Blaze pulled out the copies of the photos Honey had made. She held them up and Sonic took them with a smile "I'll be sure to tell the guys about everything when I get home."

"…" Blaze nodded though now her face had become more saddened. Her brows knotted together with her upset face and her lips stayed curled down into a frown. She swallowed a lump in her throat to control the sensation of crying she felt, and Marine was still wiping her face.

Sonic smiled one last time as he attempted to use the same line of thought that got him here. He thought of how he missed his home and his friends. Hoping they were ok and soon Sonic began to glow brighter and brighter. Blaze felt her heart breaking, and it was then Blaze moved forward, involuntarily reacting without thinking. Marine watched her bewildered. She walked forward, wanting to stop him, tell him something…anything…

She suddenly began losing all her inhibitions in this precious moment, about being independent, about controlling and hiding her feelings. In this moment, missing an opportunity, something that would pass her by for the rest of her life. They did not know if Sonic would ever come back. She wanted to yell to him, scream to him, let her feelings be known to him…even though she knew he had to go home…

Blaze almost ran as Sonic floated away disappearing into the light, and she threw a hand into the air reaching for him. Her mouth opened, but no words came out as fearfulness tingled through her body and showed on her face. Sonic smiled and waved at her as he faded. Slowly, the light began to fade, and all was quiet as the light completely faded…

Only the sound of the ocean and the wind blowing through the trees was audible. Blaze stared blankly at where Sonic had been, and her out reaching hand fell. Marine frowned as her tears slowed, now truly confused by Blaze's behavior. Blaze closed her eyes, and then began blinking away the welling sensation in her now watery eyes. A cold sweat came over her as her head fell, and she stood still. In her mind, she finally admitted...she wanted him...she needed him...

A few days later…

Blaze had awoke to another peaceful morning on her island. She got up, cleaned herself, and got dressed as she prepared herself mentally for another day to protect the Sol Emeralds. Blaze exited her room with a stoic expression, and she closed the door to her room behind herself. She glanced over at the Sol Emeralds; all seven were safe. Then she began to walk to the exit of the chamber and down the stairs of the chamber. It was still early so it was still sort of dark out; the sun would be up soon. It was warm out too so it looked like they were going to have another warm sunny day. Once she reached the bottom of the stairs she made her way to the structure on the left where Marine slept.

She promptly knocked on her door "Marine, it is time to wake up, we have work to do."

Blaze waited for a few moments, and she got no response. Blaze frowned as she slightly pushed her door open and peaked into her room. Marine was fast asleep, and her covers were strewn over the floor. Blaze closed her door and sighed. She made her way back up to the Sol Emerald chamber and went back into her room. Flicking on the lights she decided to let Marine sleep for a little longer. While she was doing so Blaze checked the computers in her room. Checking the radar, motion sensors, and cameras around the island. There didn't seem to be any activity last night, though she would have been alerted anyway.

Blaze put the computer monitor into standby; all the systems kept running. Blaze stood from the seat by the computer and looked around her room looking for something to do. It was quiet and Blaze looked at her bed, the trunk dresser in front of her bed, her closet dresser on the other side of the room, and finally at the sit-down dresser at the head of her room. It had a mirror and a certain something attached to it. Blaze stared at the mirror for a moment before she walked over to it. Though she tried to deny it in her head, she knew she was going over to her mirror.

Her hills clacked on the stone floors of her room as she stepped in front of the mirror. Her expression was stoic in the reflection of the mirror. Her mirror was medium sized, round, and made of a red wood. And sticking on the top right slit of the mirror was the picture of Sonic and her. Blaze took the photo out of its spot, and she stared down at the photo. She proceeded to her memory, and she could recall the phantom touch of his arm around her neck right now. The look of embarrassment on her face while he held her only reminded her more of her strong feelings for him. A small smile came across her face…Sonic had been gone for a few days now…

Blaze smiled as she stared at the photo for a few moments longer, then she placed it back into the top right slit of her mirror. Her expression became stoical again as she left her room. She made her way back to Marine's room and knocked on the door waiting for a response "Marine?"

There was none and Blaze now looked a bit irritated "Marine, it is time to get up. We have much work to do."

Again, there was no response and Blaze's ears bent back with frustration. Marine was still Marine…

So instead of chastising Marine like she usually would, Blaze made her way out of the forest to the water. Because she hadn't been her usual self for the last few days. She didn't feel like getting on Marine's case strangely. As a matter of fact, she felt she'd been in a funk these last few days. Marine noticed, and even she noticed. Blaze moved pass some brush as she neared the beach, and the skies became more visible. Blue skies as far as she could see, a few clouds, but it was nice out…

For a day or two after Sonic left the skies had blackened up again. Everything had turned black, but afterwards everything seemed to return to normal these last few days. The energies of her world and Sonic's worlds finally seemed to be in balance again. Soon Blaze stepped out of the brush and stepped onto the sand of the beach. It was always cool by the ocean…

As Blaze walked closer to the shore, she could see the sun was about to rise. So her face was stoical as she stepped near the water rushing up onto the beach, and stared out onto the endless ocean. The sound of the water was calming as it helped her get ready for another day…

Blaze crossed her arms, and her thoughts quickly drifted to Sonic. She missed him…and yes…she had cried…

In private, she wept…she was not afraid to say so anymore…

She wept for him…

Blaze then watched the natural beauty of nature as the sun rose. Its light scattered across the skies, orange, red, and dark azure colors spread everywhere. Blaze could now see what Sonic meant when he spoke of sunrises. The colors of a sunrise were brighter and more vibrant than the darker colors of a sunset. She enjoyed this new brightness and the person who introduced her to it.

She was sure to come out more often for sunrises now…it might remind her of him too. But she did not mind as she enjoyed his memory. She would always miss him, and she would always have her…feelings for him…

Blaze blinked her eyes as the sensation began to well up in her again as she thought of Sonic. She briefly wiped her eyes, and crossed her arms again swallowing the lump in her throat. She stared out onto the ocean blinking her eyes to stop her tears...her expression stoic…

In time her soul would heal…but until then she would always hold onto him…Sonic the Hedgehog…

Well we are finally at the end. It's been a long ride but I am tired and I hoped you enjoyed. But here's the thing…

Remember that question I mentioned in the previous chapter? Well I like how this chapter ended, I feel like the story could end right here. I've tied up all loose ends so I feel the story could end here.

Now before we go any further, from the very first few chapters I had endings to the story. This is not the ending I'm talking about though. I thought it might be fun to have my readers choose the ending, but now I like how this chapter ended. I truly feel the story could end here; I'd like to know what you think though. Do you think this is an abrupt end? I like it.

The endings I had evolved and changed over the course of the story. But after I wrote this chapter I kinda liked it as much as the endings I had planned. The ending of this chapter feels bitter sweet. I had two other endings in mind though. One ending is not so good and the other is good.

So choose: Not so good ending? Leave it as it is? Or Good Ending?

I hope you enjoyed reading this story as this was kind of the climax to the story, not including the final chapter which or which might not be written. I'll consider your feedback if you leave any. Feedback and critique of the story is encouraged as well.