A/N: We have another one-shot!
Pen: Ugh, typical.
But it's about something we haven't done in a while.
Pen: Death? Horror? The painful existence of life?
You're particularly macabre.
Pen: That is because you brought me in to do this instead of Sword. Sonic, Tails, Rouge, Amy, and all others in this story belong to Sega, as well as all other copyright material. Sword and I belong to the author. This story was inspired by Ed Sheeran's "The A Team." The author would like to dedicate this story to HedgehogNeesah on Deviantart.
Sword: Story time!
Pen: Gah! Do not sneak up like that!
Rouge backed away. He advanced, slowly. Without a word, she zipped into the air, wings flapping hard. She put as much distance between him and her as possible.
She did not understand. How, of all people, could he actually confess something like that? With no prompting on her part! Rouge had not been acting flirty. She had merely bumped into him. She did not believe it.
It was too much to think about. She had a heist to pull off. She did not need this new revelation distracting her. She beat her wings harder, flying toward the comforting city. Her hunting grounds. Where all the banks, jewelry stores, and pawn shops were locked safe and tight for the night as their owners dreamed pleasant dreams at home.
She landed on the roof of an office building overlooking its younger, wealthier sister: a jewelry store, laden with golden necklaces, diamond rings, and luscious gems of all sizes like a coquettish maiden. The night was cold. Shockingly freezing. She regretted not bringing along warmer attire. She cursed her earlier, foolish self, sacrificing toasty clothes in favor of moving soundlessly and effortlessly in her normal skin-tight suit.
That won't really help if I freeze to death, she thought. Rouge scouted the area. One guard on patrol, his flashlight sweeping the inner area. She counted his routine. Every fifteen minutes, like clockwork, he checked the inner sanctum, the building's perimeter, then headed back into the store.
Rouge floated down the ground, happy to be away from up high before she turned into a popsicle. She spied on the unsuspecting guard. He had a small television set up in his booth. He stood up for his rounds. Rouge flew to the roof, waited until he finished, then lowered back down to the street.
In the store window, a particular cut, flashy, royal navy blue gem caught her eye. A lapis lazuli, glittering with white speckles in the moonlight. "Hello, darling," she whispered. She slipped a glasscutter out of her glove. She touched the tip to the window. No alarm. Carefully, she cut a small hole in the glass, large enough for her arm.
Next, Rouge detached a spray can from her waist. She shook the can and sprayed the area in front of the hole. One horizontal laser in her way. Rouge smiled. Child's play, she thought. Using a dummy sensor, she shortened the beam out of her way, tricking it into thinking it connected with its actual brother on the opposite wall.
And now, she smiled, reaching inside. Rouge had to stretch her entire arm in. As her fingers touched the gem's surface, a banner above the display set caught her eye. It was pink, filled with hearts, and read "Give the one you love something memorable as well as your heart." Rouge looked at the gem, almost within her grasp, and turned away.
"Ugh," she grunted. She was distracted! Of all the moments he could have picked, tonight had been the absolute worst one.
"Hey!" The guard was staring at Rouge. He shined his flashlight at her. As he realized what she was doing, he hit the alarm button. Rouge yanked her hand out of the window and took to the skies. Already, sirens were blaring in the distance.
Great, Rouge thought. She had been so close. That jewel had literally been within her grasp and she blew her opportunity. She had staked out that store for a week. Grinding her teeth, Rouge flapped harder into the starry night. He will pay. But to do that, she had to find him.
Up ahead, she spied the ever-present silhouette of Angel Island. It lumbered slowly in its watchful place over the city's neighboring ocean. Rouge veered toward the island. Knuckles would most certainly be there. Yet, if he was not- Rouge smiled. Perhaps the evening would not be a total loss after all.
In the dead of night, the workshop door opening and closing was like a gunshot piercing the silence. Tails jumped, fumbling and dropping his book. He spun around on the sofa. Sonic stood in the doorway, chuckling. The hedgehog wiped his red shoes on the welcome mat. "Sorry, buddy. Did I scare you?"
"Scare me? No, no," Tails smiled, brushing off the embarrassment. He picked up his book and flipped back to his page. "How was the movie?"
"Awful. Nobody could stop crying," Sonic said, leaping over the sofa. "Especially Amy."
"That bad. It was laughably bad." He sat in a chair. "Whatcha reading?"
"A book about aerodynamics," Tails said, showing the cover. "I think if I outfit the Tornado with these sleeker wings, we may move faster."
"I do like fast," Sonic said, smiling.
"But we'll be sacrificing armor," Tails said. "I'm trying to see if there's a way around that." He shut the book on his finger. "So how did the rest of the date go?"
Sonic held up a stern hand. "It wasn't a date. I told you that. I told her that. Then we got into an argument."
"About what?" Tails asked, setting the book aside.
The blue hedgehog shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it. I think I'm going to go to bed." He dragged himself upstairs, yawning. "Good night," he waved.
"Night." Tails cracked open the book.
Rouge landed on the soft grass. She surveyed the scene, stamping her feet and rubbing her arms. Knuckles was nowhere in sight. The luscious Master Emerald was completely unguarded, floating perfectly on its altar. Rouge stepped forward, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
Out of the dark forest around the altar, a rock flew by her head. A warning throw. She turned and saw the protective echidna emerge from the brush. Rouge grinned and cocked her hip to the side. "Now, Knuckie. Is that any way to treat a friend? I'm merely here for a social call."
"So you weren't at all thinking about taking the Master Emerald?" Knuckles asked, crossing his arms.
"Of course not," she said, purring. When Knuckles raised a skeptical eyebrow, she dropped the act. "Okay, fine. Yes, it crossed my mind. But you're here now and I'm not in the mood to fight, Knuckie."
"Yeah, right," he said, muttering under his breath. "And stop calling me 'Knuckie'. I hate that."
"Why do you think I keep doing it?" She teasingly winked. "But seriously, maybe another time. I'm looking for Shadow. Have you seen him?"
"Why on Mobius would I know where he is? Shouldn't you know?"
"He said he would be out."
Knuckles dropped his arms. "Why don't you ask Sonic, Tails, or Amy?"
She shrugged. "I saw you first. Thought I'd ask." She looked around. There were a couple of places she could check. If those did not pan out, there was always Tails' workshop. "I'll be going," she said, blowing a kiss at Knuckles. "Take care, Knuckie."
He growled as she darted off to the sky. Flying back to the city, Rouge tried Shadow's apartment, hoping he had returned. He did not answer. But there were fresh imprints in the carpet outside his door. The size and pattern matches Shadow's shoes.
She ran outside. Maybe I can catch him, Rouge thought. So she coasted along the skyscrapers and tall buildings, keeping an eye out for the midnight black hedgehog. He could not be hard to find. It was the middle of the night. Where would he go?
As if on cue, a black streak zipped in and out of traffic below. Rouge could not hope to keep up, but she tracked his movements. He was heading for the outer part of the city, where people resided in quiet houses and suburban neighborhoods. Only two acquaintances lived there that she could think of: Amy and Cream. Of the two, Amy made more sense.
Amy it is, she thought, turning mid-flight toward the right house.
Brrrring! Brrrring! Tails launched into the air like a cat. His book clattered to the floor. Some part of his mind was thankful he was not reading a horror novel. Who knows how shot his nerves would be with the sudden, startling interruptions? He reached for the phone and answered the call. "Hello?"
"Tails?" It was Cream. She sounded worried.
"Cream? What's wrong?" He sat up straighter.
"Is Mister Sonic there?" she asked.
"Yeah," Tails said slowly, "but he went to bed."
"Oh." Tails could almost see her hang her head. "Miss Amy just called me and told me that she and Mister Sonic had a fight."
"Yeah, Sonic said the same. Did she tell you what it was about?"
"No, but she sounded really upset," Cream said. "She said she would call Mister Shadow."
Tails turned to the stairs. "Alright. Hey, Cream? I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Okay. Bye." She hung up.
He set the phone down and walked up the stairs. If Amy was inconsolable as to call Cream and Shadow, one could only wonder what they had argued about. At the very least, Tails assumed Sonic would need someone to talk to as well. He pushed open Sonic's bedroom door and peeked his head in.
"Sonic?" he called to the darkness. Faint moonlight from the ceiling window illuminated the hedgehog's bed. He was relaxing, staring up at the sky. "Sonic?" Tails gained his attention. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, bud," Sonic said, giving a half-grin. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, Cream just called," Tails said. "Amy is really upset."
Sonic frowned. "Oh? What did she say?"
Tails shrugged. "Cream didn't tell me." He paused and stared at his friend. "What happened?"
Sonic sighed and gazed at the stars overhead. "It's nothing. Just stuff. You'll understand when you're older and start asking girls out."
"Who says I haven't?" Tails asked.
Perking up his ears, Sonic smiled cheekily. "Oh-ho! Got yourself a girl, huh? Who is it? Cream? Someone else?"
The young fox visibly flushed scarlet, but regained his composure. He had to discover what had happened between Sonic and Amy. "Please, don't change the subject. Now what happened?"
Sonic appeared to toss the idea around whether to let Tails in on the secret. After several moments, he sat up against the bed's headboard. "Alright, sit down." Tails grabbed a chair. "There's a couple of things you need to know first."
The street Amy lived on was packed with houses. The yards barely passed the qualification to be called such. It was as if the city had finished building everything else first, realized they had plenty of homes left over, and shoved them together as close as possible. To be honest, the neighborhood was more cramped and claustrophobic than the overcrowded city.
Rouge landed daintily on Amy's doorstep. Through a window, she saw Amy and Shadow inside, the latter comforting the former in his awkward way. Rouge laughed. He was trembling and bumbling as he tried to handle Amy latching onto him. How Shadow had ever formed a friendly relationship with anyone was beyond Rouge.
She rang the doorbell. Shadow left Amy to answer the door. "Rouge?" he asked when he opened the door.
"Hey," she said. She leaned to the side and waved to Amy. The despondent hedgehog feebly waved back. "Hands full?"
"Yes," he said. "Look, Rouge. I really don't have time for this now."
"Hello, Rouge," Amy said, standing at the door. "Would you like to come in?"
Hospitable as always. That was Amy to the letter. "I'd love to," Rouge said.
"Let me get you some tea," Amy said, turning to the kitchen.
"No, I'll get it," Shadow said. He guided Amy back to the sofa. "Rouge, would you come with me to the kitchen?" His stern eyes glared at Rouge. She nodded.
Once they were out of earshot of Amy, Shadow asked, "What do you want? Can't you see that she's upset?"
He shrugged. "Faker, of course. I'll wring his neck the next time I see him." Shadow's cold eyes had a murderous tint to them. Rouge was surprised that he was actually upset. He turned and poured her a cup of tea. "So what did you come here for?"
"To talk to you actually," she said, accepting the cup. It was an herbal blend. Not at all suited to her taste. She set the cup aside after one sip. "Something that'll top this."
"Try me," Shadow said, gulping down his tea. He sucked in air, cooling his mouth.
Tails sat, his eyes transfixed to Sonic's. Even though he had asked the hedgehog to clarify again and again, Tails was shocked by his reasoning. Well, shocked may not have been appropriate. Taken aback would have fit more. After all, Sonic shared everything with Tails as he did with Sonic. So in a way, he had expected such a cause to manifest, but only as a slim possibility.
Then again, slim possibilities always happened among their group. Tails scratched his head, trying to think of a response. What could he say? Where did he start? Sonic had told all. Tails mind was buzzing, as if hundreds of questions were swarming around, but none could be caught and asked.
"It's alright, bud," Sonic said. "I didn't see it coming either."
"I don't think any of us did," Tails said. "I always thought- well, I guess that doesn't matter now." He shook his head. "So what are you going to do about Amy?"
Sonic frowned. "I don't know. Try to make it up to her. Not sure how." He stood and headed for the door. "I'm gonna take a walk. Don't wait up."
A walk? Sonic? This was eating at him more than Tails thought. But the hedgehog was gone before he could say anything or offer to join him.
The dribbling tea was now flowing freely out of Shadow's stunned mouth. Rouge stared at him, waiting for some sign of life. "I don't have all day," she said.
Shadow wiped the corners of his lips and set the cup aside. "Are you serious? But he's so, so," he swirled his hands about, reaching for the right word, "young."
Rouge crossed her arms. "Excuse me? Are you calling me old? You're one to talk."
"Okay, younger," Shadow said.
"So you're an ageist now?"
"No," Shadow said. "So what did you do after he confessed?"
Rouge dropped her head and looked away. Shadow grumbled under his breath. "You ran away."
"I didn't come here for a lecture," Rouge said. "I just need some advice."
"Well, I'm no expert, but do you feel the same?"
Did she? Rouge had not posed that question to herself. Sure, he was cute, in a goofy sort of way. He did possess a certain charm that attracted her to him. She could not deny that over the years, she had grown fond of him as well to the point that she did like him a lot. The constant adventures had allowed them to bond in their own way, however brief that may have been sometimes.
Why not give him a chance? Sure, it was an odd match. But Rouge could not think of a good argument to reject him.
Shadow nodded and refilled his tea. "I see," he said. "Now, I take it you'll leave now?"
"Yeah," she said. She glanced at Amy, who was settling down. "Will you be okay with her?"
"Yeah," Shadow said. "Go on."
After wishing Amy well, Rouge zoomed off to her next destination: Tails'. His workshop was further away than Angel Island. The location had always puzzled her, as he had a long trip to the city whenever he needed supplies. But he had always maintained that the serene peace of nature provided perfect concentration.
Nevertheless, as she flapped her wings faster, she wished he would have built his workshop closer. After a good half hour, the deceivingly simple shack was in sight, nestled against a hill. She landed on the Tornado's runway outside and knocked on his door.
No answer. He's probably asleep, she thought. She knocked harder. Again, no sign of life. The windows were dim. She took out a set of lockpicks that she had planned for her ruined jewel heist. Might as well get some use out of these.
The lock clicked open easily. As Rouge pushed the door open, the lights came on. Her ears detected a heavy object swinging at her head. She ducked, narrowly missing a wrench clocking her.
"Woah, woah!" she said, backing away. Tails stood there, his fur puffed fearfully and trembling arm holding his wrench. "It's me!"
"Rouge?" Tails looked at her, then the wrench, and dropped his weapon. "Eh-heh. Sorry." He shuffled his shoes. "So what can I help you with?"
She eyed him. Smirking, she strutted over to Tails and leaned close. "You already know what I'm here for." He gulped, inching away from her face. "Where is he?"
"Out for a walk," Tails said.
"A walk?" That did not sound like Sonic.
"I know. I thought the same thing." Then Tails' face fell. "You know, it really affected him."
"I know," she said. As much as she hated to leave the warm house, she had to find Sonic. Rouge braced herself and flew back into the cold night.
She scanned the surrounding area for an hour, searching high and low. Eventually, her wings could not take the chilly air. She landed, shivering. It was far too freezing to fly at a high altitude. Keep going. The faster you find him, the faster you can go home. Home. Heat. A soothing, warm bath. She might even trade all her jewels for those comforts at the moment.
Walking along, she happened upon the dirt road where he had confessed not even a few hours ago. She picked a random direction and traveled along the path.
What would she say? Rouge had not planned that far ahead. She did not know what she would do or say to Sonic. I'll just wing it.
Looking around, she saw him, sitting past some trees and staring at the stars. Rouge headed over to him. "Hey there," she said. Sonic turned, his eyes widening. Despite the frigid conditions, Rouge tried to present her usual coy air. Hands on her hips, she sashayed over to him. She smirked at his gaping expression. "Bat got your tongue?"
He closed his mouth. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you," she said. She sat beside him. "You know, you ruined a good job tonight." Rouge held her fingers up like a claw. "I was this close, this close to a great gem. But you had to go and ask me out."
Sonic chuckled. "Well, when was I supposed to ask?"
"How about when I don't have a heist planned?" Rouge said.
"You always do have a heist planned," he pointed out. "You kleptomaniac."
She raised an eyebrow. "Tails teach you that word?" He sheepishly grinned. "And for your information, G.U.N. hired me for the job. Something to do with a smuggling ring." Rouge sighed and rested her head on her knees. "What am I going to do with you?"
He shrugged. "Accept my offer?"
"Is that why you and Amy fought?" Rouge asked.
Sonic nodded. "Yeah. It wasn't so much a fight as much as it was Amy upset. I tried to let her down easy, tell her what I felt, but that didn't help."
"I know. I saw her." Rouge assumed he had not told Amy all the specifics. Otherwise, she might have shut the door in Rouge's face.
He rubbed his eyes and groaned. "How was she?"
"Not great, but doing alright thanks to Shadow," Rouge said. "I think he'll help her."
He grinned cheekily. "Shadow, eh? Always knew he had something for her." Rouge playfully shoved him. "But that's good. I didn't want to hurt her."
The conversation died after that. Rouge rested on her arms, enjoying the short break from flying around everywhere. She was still cold, but being in another person's vicinity was helping. The twinkling stars were beautiful out away from the city, but Rouge did not understand the obsession people had with them. While pretty to gaze at for a brief period, she preferred the high-rise apartments and whizzing taillights of commuting cars.
When Sonic did not add anything else, Rouge revived their talk. "So what were you thinking?" she asked. Sonic looked at her curiously. "The date. What were you thinking of doing?"
"Oh," he said, his face lighting up and dissolving nervously. He regained his composure and plucked a blade of grass. "I was thinking dinner and a movie. There's this nice restaurant I know about. Supposed to serve some good fish."
"What? No chilidogs?" Rouge asked teasingly.
He grinned. "So when do you want to be picked up? Seven? Eight?"
"You're assuming I've agreed," Rouge said. She chuckled at his stuttering, fumbling gesturing as he futilely backpedaled.
"Well, that is, if you want-" he started.
"Fish sounds good," she said. "I'm free tomorrow. Seven."
"Great," he said.
"Now, what do you say we get out of the cold, hm?"
They headed back to the path. Sonic offered to carry her home, like he often had with Amy. Rouge was hesitant, but climbed into his waiting arms all the same. Within a minute, they were back in the city. She held her ears down, trying to block the loud, rushing wind. They moved so fast, Rouge did not have time to be cold by running through the night.
When they arrived at her apartment, she vowed that flying was the only way for her. She bade Sonic "Good night", kissed his cheek, and winked as she closed the door on the blushing, fidgeting hedgehog.
Now, Rouge thought, heading to her room. What to wear tomorrow?
A/N: And there you have it! Hope you all enjoyed it!
Sword: When are you going to take me on another date, Pen?
Pen: When the rivers run black with ink.
Sword: No problem! *picks Pen up* Time to go swimming!
Pen: Put me down!
Anyway, please let us know what you thought. We appreciate all reviews and comments!