Hey guys! This is Mecoda here. This story is a little different from my previous work but I really like this concept and I hope you guys do too. Also it's rated M for later content. Please read and review. I hope you enjoy the story.

Step 1: Find Him

These days, in world where natural habitats are shrinking and sometimes disappearing all together, wild animals can be found in a number of unexpected places. Many move into cities and suburban neighbourhoods where they can steal food from the trash cans and gardens to survive. Many call these species who live outside of the wild pests. What choice do they really have, though?

I felt the cool night breeze swish past me. It was autumn and I was outside in my garden. I had bundled myself up in the warmest sweater I owned but it wasn't quite enough to protect from the cold. Why was I out here? The reason was simple. Some nasty little creature had been stealing the vegetables from my garden.

You humans might not think that's a big deal but on my planet things work in a more natural way. As a poor 17-year-old living on my own I didn't have a lot of money so I sold the flowers and vegetables in my garden, occasionally using some of them for my own meals. A lot of us do it. We live off the land. So this problem was a matter of my livelihood. If I had no vegetables how would I save enough money to survive through the winter? The answer was I wouldn't.

I sat on the ground with my legs crossed, hugging myself with one arm and using my free hand to hold the flashlight to my garden. Even the slightest rustling of leaves set me on edge. I wasn't sure if it was paranoia but I could feel a presence. I had tendencies towards paranoia sometimes. This morning I could have sworn I saw Miss Vanilla the Rabbit's mouth water at the sight of my carrots. Again the paranoia is kicking in but it could have been anyone in this town. A more logical part of me felt silly for the thought. It was probably just some wild chao. Either way, I needed to keep watch. If it was a neighbour I would confront them. If it was a chao I could set up a scare crow.

There I was sitting in front of my garden when all of a sudden a blue streak of light passed in between me and the plants. It was so brief that if I had blinked I would have missed it. I looked around for the cause and found nothing.

I checked the garden. 12 roses, check. 7 sunflowers, check. 6 tomatoes, check. 8 cabbages...there are only 7 there. I looked around again. Was someone there? Nope, so where did my cabbage go? I huffed and was determined to find the culprit.

"Hello," I whispered into the darkness, still keeping my eyes on the garden.

No reply.

"I know you're there."

Still nothing.

"Get your ass out here you little thief!" Shit! My temper flared. When I say flared, I mean literally flared. I might as well become an explosive ball of fire when I'm upset. I heard a whine from a the big maple tree that stood in my front yard. I turned on it quickly and saw a pair of glowing jade eyes staring back at me.

"Did you take my cabbage!?" I yelled.

The eyes responded by slinking back into the leaves.

"I still see you! Get back down here!"

I heard groans coming from the neighbours' homes. Lights went on in windows and I knew I didn't have long before people came out and the sheriff talked to me about disturbing the peace...again. I had to get to that thing so they'd know this wasn't just a random melt down.

I jumped up to grab the lowest branch. I was small in stature but I had enough muscle to jump high enough to grab it. Carefully I pulled myself up and started to attempt to climb the tree. The eyes looked down at me in horror. I climbed just high enough to attach the eyes to a male hedgehogs body. I saw his black silhouette scurry up the tree in a flash of blue, out of my reach.

"Miss Rose! What are you doing?" I heard the fat, pear shaped chipmunk who lives across the street yell. I looked down to see her in a bright yellow bath robe with rollers in her hair and a green face mask.

"I'm trying to catch the guy who's been stealing from my garden!" I yelled back down.

"What guy?" She yelled back. I saw a small crowd gathering with the chipmunk lady around my maple tree.

"That one!" I pointed up and saw they were all very confused. I looked up as well to see the figure was gone, as well as the eyes. Damn it!

"Miss Rose, I think I'll have to call the sheriff so he can have a talk with you about your antics."

Who did she think she was, my mother? I huffed and slid carefully down the bark of the tree. I couldn't believe I had lost him. He was right there too! How could that guy be so fast?

Miss Vanilla, the suspicious rabbit who always eyed my carrots, walked up to me with a blanket and put it around my shoulders. She was odd but she was still very motherly and I appreciated her thoughtfulness. I nodded my thanks to her and looked around to see the angry looks on the faces of my neighbours. They all looked pretty funny in their pyjamas. I giggled lightly and the chipmunk huffed.

"I'm sorry, Miss Rose, does this look funny to you?" I nodded before realizing that was the wrong choice and shook my head.

"Montie!" The chipmunk screamed out to her mate. The shy chipmunk man came out from the crowd, armed with a phone. Oh, no, please don't. "Call the sheriff."

"What am I going to do with you," Sheriff Hound asked.

I was sitting in his old western themed office in front of his big mahogany desk. I had sat in this seat many times before. It was plush and comfy. I would have enjoyed my stay in it if it weren't for the conversations I had with Sheriff Hound in this chair.

"There was a reason, sir, I promise."

"There's always a reason, Amy. There's always something that sets you off. That's no excuse for disturbing the community, though." He frowned and leaned over the big desk. I liked the Sheriff. He was friendly and he cared about me. He did everything he could to help me out but I understood that this was his job. Keeping quiet little Knothole quiet.

"There's a garden thief roaming around town," I warned him. "You should be out there tracking him, not in here lecturing me."

"Amy," he sighed. "Amy, Amy, Amy. Do you know what people are saying about you?" It was a drastic change of subject but he looked me dead in the eye. His question made me nervous with the weight of it's importance.

I only mustered a shrug in response.

"They say that a 17-year-old girl, like you, should not be living by herself. They say you're not capable."

"What!" I screamed out. I knew that the other residents doubted me. If I were a normal person I would doubt me too. But to think they would go this far was unbearable. "Plenty of girls younger than me move out! We're adults at 13 for Chaos sake! I think I can handle myself!"

"But those girls have someone taking care of them," the Sheriff pointed out. "A mate."

"So I, as a female, must be taken care of by a man!"

The Sheriff winced. The truth was he was right. A lot of girls around my age and younger lived away from their parents. The difference between them and me is that they usually had a mate. I shivered at the very thought of someone else in my home, ruling my life. I hated that it was okay for a man my age to live alone but for a girl it was preposterous.

"Not by a man specifically," he said, trying to dig himself out of the hole he was in with me. "If you go that way you could very well have another girl with you. Girls your age just shouldn't be alone the way you are."

"I left home because I didn't want a mate! You know that!"

The Sheriff sighed. "Amy, I know how upsetting this must be for you. I can't imagine what this must be like-"

"Sir," I said, losing the attitude and resorting to begging. "Please, I'm too young."

"The law says that since you're above 13-"

"Please, sir." I could feel tears brewing in my eyes. I fought them back as best I could but to no avail. One escaped and cascaded down my cheek. I knew about girls like me. They were forced to either find a mate within a certain time or leave.

The Sheriff sighed. I could tell what the disputed look in his eyes was. He had orders.

"I'm sorry, Amy. The best I can do is extend your time to find someone."

I let out a shaky breath. I couldn't fight this. It wasn't fair that I, and girls much younger than me, had to mate to be accepted by society but I couldn't fight it.

"How long do I have?"

"Until New Years."

I hid myself in the bushes beside my garden. When he came back I'd get him. Considering I was being evicted it wasn't really necessary but this had become personal. After this eviction I will have been kicked out of every village in the area. I would either have to leave, which I didn't have any money to do, or live on the streets.

Why don't you just mate, Amy? I could hear the annoying logical inner voice in my head say.

Because I'm too young.

The law says-

The laws wrong.

Are you too young or are you not ready?

I'm perfectly capable and ready for anything.

Then what is it?

If I mate, which I won't, it will be because I fell in love. Not because I have to.

But you'll starve out there.

It was a chance I was willing to take. I remembered my home. It was far from here. I had saved up all my money since I was a child to move away from that place. My mother had been like me. She left home and had to move villages 12 times. She would have been left on the street if my father hadn't taken her in. I think she would have been better off on the street. He was possessive and controlling. He said it was because he was the man. That was his job, but if you could see the look on his face you would know. You would know, just like I did that he enjoyed every second of it. When Mom didn't obey him he didn't hit her. He'd never get physical, but he threatened divorce. Divorced women are looked down on even more than single ones. She'd starve for sure. Within a year of making their mating official I was born. My mother was only 14 when she had me. After years of this hellish life my mother would have left. I knew that. The problem was she had me now. If she left I'd be thrown out on the street with her. It made me sick just thinking about giving in like that. Any man I found now would surely be just like my father. Some guy looking for free labour around the house and unlimited sex. I hated him.

I saw the blue streak cross my vision again. This time, though, the silhouette didn't disappear. There I saw the luminous jade eyes, taking in my garden. I would catch him. The kneeling silhouette of the hedgehog reached his hand out to pick one of my vegetables when I decided to act. I grabbed him by one of his pointed ears and yanked hard.

He whined like a cub but I kept pulling. It was obvious he didn't want to make a racket and get caught but I didn't care. Let them come out. Let them see this. I had nothing left to lose. I dragged him by the ear into my house. His whimpering turned into growls of defiance. I was stronger than my petite form suggested though. He could not break free of my grasp.

When we were inside I shut the door and threw him down the hall. He slid across the floor before jumping up and trying to escape. I was blocking the entrance. As he sped towards me his eyes met mine and he could tell I meant business. So he did what he did best. He slinked back into the shadows in my house and watched me with fearful jade eyes. I would have none of that though. I slammed my hand against the wall and he winced before finding I was only turning on the light switch.

When the light turned on I saw him. He was a tall blue hedgehog. He had long, messy and his eyes dodged everywhere in the room as though he expected to be ambushed. He wore nothing but a pair of ragged red shoes with a white stripe and a pair of surprisingly well kept gloves. He was dirty. I could see dry mud caught on the end of his fur and smears of brown, fertile earth on his muzzle. I recognized what he was immediately from his lack of clothing. He was a Wilding. The one thing my society worried about more than single girls was wildings. He leaned against a wall in a corner, putting as much distance between us as possible. Wildlings were like us in every biological way except for the fact that they lived in the forest like animals. Under the law they were animals, not people like us. I knew that since the deforestation project conducted by Eggman Inc. had reached its peak, that many had become scavengers in cities and villages. I never suspected one might be in ours.

"You," I started, breathless from putting up a fight with him, "Did you steal from me?"

His ears pressed back against his head. He obviously understood me but he didn't speak a peep.

"Did you steal from me?"

He started to shrink into the corner even more if that was possible. Talk about wearing your guilt on your sleeve.

"Thar's my food you know," I scolded him as though I had known him my whole life. "You shouldn't go around stealing other peoples food. Would you steal someone's TV, cloths or china? No, so don't steal peoples food."

He had a disgruntled look on his face. I didn't see what he had to be angry about. I was the one about to be thrown out on the streets.

"Go find somewhere else to run amuck! You're wild, aren't you? Then go back to the wild!"

He stood up straight. Did I say he was tall before. I was wrong. He towered over me. In a second he wasn't in the corner anymore. He took a few steps towards me. His large presence was threatening. I refused to back off though. I stood up straighter, trying to make myself look less fragile and looked him in the eye. Looking that far up kind of hurt my neck but it was better than seeming weak.

"What wild?" He asked me. His voice was deep and smooth. It was the kind of voice that would be appealing to me if it weren't for the venomous tinge in it. "You cut it down. You paved over it. When I came here I had no other choice. I'm Wildling, though. Under the law I'm not a person. I couldn't get a home or a job. I have nothing else I can do except for lay down and die. That's what you would like though, isn't it?"

He was furious now. He didn't raise his voice though. His anger wasn't like mine. It wasn't loud and random. It was quiet and calculating, like a snake. It slithered around me and sent chills down my spine. It coiled around my neck making me feel like I was suffocating. His anger was clearly much more dangerous than mine but that didn't mean I wouldn't put up a fight.

"I didn't say anything about death!" I yelled out in desperation. "But because of you I'm going to be out on the streets! I'm going to starve! I had stayed out of trouble for a whole week!"

"Impressive," he muttered sarcastically.

"Shut up!"

"If you're a trouble maker you're getting what you deserved."

"That's just it!" I screamed out. My voice cracked at the end of my last word and my eyes filled with tears. Damn it! How many times would I have to cry today? "I...I didn't do anything wrong. I-if I were anyone else in town t-they would have helped. T-they would have believed them about a thief. But I'm a dangerous loon because I'm a lone girl. I need to be protected from myself." I couldn't help but sob. The thief suddenly went very still. I could see an awkward look on his face that screamed 'what am I supposed to do?'

"So get a new home." He suggested trying to slip past me towards the door.

"I can't" I cried. He stopped abruptly at that I looked me over with curiosity and nervousness.


"I got kicked out of every village in the area. I have no money to find a new place anyways." I took in reality and for the first time it sunk in. "I have to mate or die."

He was still for a second but the mood had changed. There was now some sort of connection. He felt pity for me, his enemy. He reached out a hand to touch me reassuringly on the shoulder. His chivalry did not go unpunished by me. I grabbed his hand and used it to turn him around by propelling his arm behind his back. I pushed up on the bent arm and I heard him grit his teeth and groan.

"This is all your fault!" I yelled. He struggled against. It only made his pain worsen. He molded his lips together, muffling his cry. "If you hadn't come along I would-"

"Delay the inevitable." His strange words stung me. I shoved him into the wall and watched him topple to the ground before trying to get up.

"What are you talking about?"

"They would have kicked you out anyways," he said. His words weren't angry. They spoke to me in a tone that highlighted his honesty. He was the first person honest enough to tell me that this was unavoidable. My fate was always to end up on the streets. His honesty hurt. "You blame me but they would have found something else. Trust me. The second you slipped up even the slightest bit you would be out."

It killed me to hear it because it was true. The tension of rage left my muscles and I felt them relax. My previously whirling mind calmed. To someone seeing me I might look at peace. The truth was I felt like a piece of me had died. I didn't have the will to fight it anymore.

"Get out." I was surprised by the calmness in my voice. I didn't yell or hiss. I made a barely audible whisper.

The blue hedgehog titled his head. "What?"

I spoke up a little and it caused my voice to crack. "Please leave."

He moved cautiously past me and stepped towards the door. I stayed there, facing the wall. I couldn't bear to watch my chance at revenge go. More than that I couldn't bear taking someone down with me while I fell.

I heard his gloved hand tightly grip the knob. He paused before opening the door.

"You shouldn't have to mate."

"You shouldn't have to steal."

I felt an overpowering urge to look over my shoulder at him. I saw him looking back. A moment of understanding passed between us. For the first time some one felt the same way I did. Nothing more needed to be said. With a small smile of acknowledgement he left in a blue flash. With him went my hope.

Thank you for reading and please remember to review the story. Bye! I hope you liked this chapter.