No More Secrets
Amy wheezed, her legs burning like they dipped in a blazing inferno. Her bangs stuck to her sweaty forehead, covering her eyes. She nearly ran into several people and cars. But she kept sprinting after the blue figure ahead.
They turned a corner and exited the city, moving to the rural area. A cool breeze caressed Amy's face, lifting her chin up and encouraging her to press on. The intense sun wanted otherwise and beat down upon her, immediately forcing her head to drop. She stumbled, slowing to a pathetic jog. One of her boots came loose and was close to falling off.
"Sonic!" she called out. It was a weak croak, yet he heard her all the same and glanced over his shoulder. "Can't we just go somewhere together for once?" He touched his fingers to his forehead, then he tipped them to her.
"Sorry, Ames! Got somewhere I need to be!" With that, he was gone, zipping down the dirt road.
Amy stopped and bent over, hands on her knees. Her lungs were compressed, wrenched tight in her chest, and the air she gulped did little to help. As the minutes passed, she slowly stood up, dizzy and exhausted. She shielded her eyes from the sun and searched the horizon. Sonic was nowhere in sight, but Amy would bet that he ran to Tails' workshop.
Even if he's not there, Tails might know where he is, she thought. She straightened her red dress, pulling the skirt down, and re-laced her cherry boots, making sure they were tight. I know deep down, you feel something for me, Sonic. If it takes everything I have, I'm going to find it. Then she pushed her bangs aside and lightly jogged toward Tails' place, saving her energy for a second chase.
* * *
Tails looked up from his invention when he heard a thunderous slam! from the front door. "Yo, Tails?"
"In my lab, Sonic!" he called. He left his current invention and tools on the workbench as Sonic entered.
"So, bud, what did you need me for?" The blue hedgehog leaned against the open lab door's frame and crossed his arms.
The young fox removed his safety goggles and thick gloves, tossing both on his workbench. "I need to test a new machine." He pointed to a large device covered by a beige tarp. Walking over to it, he ripped the tarp off and spread his arms before it. "Ta-da!" There was a chair with a metal helmet dangling above it. The helmet was attached to several wires, all connecting to a large control panel that resembled an arcade machine. Along the top of the entire control panel were tubes holding different colored liquids.
"And this is?"
"My latest creation," Tails said. "You know how we have natural reflexes that kick in when we're in danger? This," he tapped the control panel, "is designed to help the user tap some of those into those at any time."
"Not all of them?" Sonic asked.
"I haven't gotten that far yet," Tails said. "I need to know if this works though."
Sonic examined the chair and turned to Tails. "This isn't going to hurt, is it?"
"It shouldn't. And if it works, you'll be able to react faster."
"I do like fast," he said, smirking. "Alright, bud." He sat down in the chair and Tails fastened the chair's leather straps on his arms and legs.
"Just to keep you still," Tails said, answering Sonic's confused face. "Need to make sure you don't move or it might not work." The hedgehog nodded and settled into his seat. Tails flipped a switch on the wooden wall and the control panel hummed to life. He pressed a button on the panel and the helmet lowered until it was on top of Sonic's head. Tails tied the strap hanging from the helmet under Sonic's chin. Then he stood at the control panel, adjusting the parameters and preparing the sequence.
"At any time, if you feel intense pain or want to stop, just tell me. Okay?" Tails asked. Sonic gave him a thumbs up. "Ready?" His hand hovered over the start lever.
Worming in his seat and gritting his teeth, Sonic gripped the chair's arms. "Let's do this."
Tails pulled the lever down and the fluids from the tubes were sucked into the top of the control panel. They reappeared moments, sliding through the tubes connected to the helmet. The helmet itself began to light up with red and green bulbs on its surface and there was a steadily increasing buzz from it.
"How you doing?" Tails asked.
"Fine so far."
As the tubes finished unloading all the liquids into the helmet, Tails turned a knob and the bulbs became brighter. Several burst, popping one by one. A spark of electricity jumped from the helmet. Sonic hissed sharply and bit his lip. "Tails?"
"Hang on!" It's not supposed to do that! he thought. More bulbs shattered.
"Tails!" He grimaced and clenched his eyes shut.
"Shutting it down!" Tails hit the kill switch and the entire machine powered down. Sonic went limp in his seat and Tails ran to him. Please be okay. He bit his own tongue as he untied the helmet and lifted it off the hedgehog. "Sonic? Are you okay?"
Opening one eye, then the other, Sonic shook his head. He leaned forward and grabbed his temple. "Ugh, what was that? You trying to create something worse than Eggman's toys?"
If there was one thing Tails knew about Sonic, it was that he never complained about being a guinea pig in his experiments. So the fact that he was doing so now alarmed and shamed Tails. He hung his head and unstrapped Sonic. "Sorry. I guess I made a mistake in my calculations."
"You can say that again. Ouch, that stings." He massaged his temple.
"I know, I know. I said 'I'm sorry'," Tails frowned and scratched his head.
Sonic looked up and patted his shoulder. "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't m-m-m," he cleared his throat. "What I mean is I don't know what came over me. It's not what I-I-I-neeah." He ran his tongue under his teeth.
Crossing his arms and tilting his head, Tails asked, "You mean what?"
"I wasn't trying to be mean. It just hurt is all," he said. Sonic touched his lips and wiped his fingers back and forth across them, as though having a mouth was a new experience for him.
"Is something wrong?" Tails asked. He peered at Sonic closer, afraid there might be some unseen damage from the test. Physically, he was fine. No change to eye or fur color, no bruising, lacerations, or any difference from before to worry about.
"I don't know," Sonic said. "It felt like I couldn't say what I was trying to."
"Maybe the test affected your nerves," Tails said. He headed to his workbench and jotted the information down on a notepad. "Are you feeling anything else that's strange?"
"Perhaps you should stay here so I can observe you. Just for today," he said. "After all, maybe the test did work."
"Then I should go try it out," Sonic said, standing up and pulling his legs up to his chest one at a time. He hopped up and down, loosening up his head and arms as he rotated them. "I need to stretch my legs anyway."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Tails said. "Your nerves could be more affected than you think."
Sonic waved him off. "It'll only be for a little while. I'll be back before you know. I'm a hedgehog of my word." With a quick raise of his hand as a solemn oath, he was gone, dashing out the door before Tails could protest.
With a weary sigh, Tails flipped off the switch on the wall. Then he opened a hatch on the bottom of the control panel and started to search for the reason why the test failed.
* * *
Over the hills, on a tiny outcrop, Amy spotted Tails' workshop. It was deceptively small for all the gizmos and contraptions hidden inside. Beneath his front walkway was a covered airstrip that would usually lower to retrieve his beloved Tornado. However, the plane was in dire need of repairs after Eggman's last attack on the city.
Amy's intuition told her that Sonic was inside. So she surmounted the hill and started to make her way down, sliding over bumpy terrain. As she landed on the bottom, she saw a figure exiting the workshop. Peering closer, Amy thought the figure was tinged blue. Got you now, Sonic! Amy sprinted toward the workshop.
Yet when she neared it, Sonic took off in the other direction. "Sonic!" she called, wheeling around and chasing him. He slowed down, turning his head and looking back at her. "Wait up!"
"Maybe later, Ames!" he shouted. He ducked his head low, a surefire signal he was about to speed away.
"Can't you wait up?" The fire in Amy's legs was flaring up again, already burning away the small energy she had stored up on her way to Tails' place.
"N-n-nyes, I can!" His feet faltered, bringing him to a screeching halt and carrying him further as he face-planted into the ground. Amy was instantly by his side, picking him up, holding him, and asking if he was alright. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he said, brushing dirt clods from his quills.
"You're sure?" she asked. "I could take you home."
"Nah, it's nothing. I just, I don't know, tripped up. It's nothing." One brief check while he twisted and turned confirmed that he was unhurt.
"Good," Amy said. Then she clasped her hands behind her back and rocked on her heels. "In that case, do you want to go on a date? We could go see a movie and I know a great restaurant we could eat at afterwards if you're up for it."
Instantly, Sonic went ramrod stiff and his lips trembled. Spit flung from his mouth as he made a buzzing sound, like he was trying to start a sentence, but was impeded by some force. He opened his mouth, his lips pulled back to bare his teeth and tilted his head backwards so that his uvula was clearly exposed to her and the sky. It was frightening Amy and she took a step back. "Yes," he finally said, chomping on the word.
"Yes?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. Her heart dared to beat faster, pumping enough blood to raise itself up to her shoulders. "Yes, you'll go on a date?"
He champed his teeth, grabbed his ears, and yanked his head from side to side. Her hopes plummeted, almost dashing themselves until he said, "Yes," again.
Now her heart jumped into her head, spreading its love to every inch of her being. Amy couldn't believe it. She jumped on him, embracing him with a vice-like hold. "Oh, Sonic! You don't know how much I appreciate this!"
"Amy!" he wheezed and wiggled his limbs. "I enjoy your hugs, but you always squeeze too tight! Can you stop?"
She loosened her arms and nodded. "Sorry. I just get excited." He actually likes my hugs! He actually said that! This was too much for her. The whole encounter was like one of her dreams and too good to be true.
"I know you do." As she started to bury her face in his chest, he suddenly detached himself from her. He gripped her shoulders and stared her in the eye. "Wait, Amy, about the date…"
"What about it? Do you not want to go on a date?" she asked.
"No! I do!" He slapped his cheek and brushed his tongue with his fingers. "I mean I would love to go on a date with you!" Another slap and Amy leaned away from him. The initial shock and intoxication of love was gone. She was able to sense that something was wrong with Sonic, some unseen dilemma that she couldn't figure out.
"Are you sure you're okay? Maybe I should take you home and we can save our date for another time," Amy said.
"Take me home?" His eyes brightened and he smiled wide.
Amy reached up and caressed his cheek. "Sure. I don't want you to do something if you're not feeling up to it today. But when you're better, we'll go out okay? You said you would." He leaned into her hand, nodding against it. "Unless you're feeling up to it today." His eyes snapped open and he stared at her. "Are you?"
His lips returned to their quivering and he groaned, "Yyyes. I. Am." Sonic's head dropped and he leaned it against Amy's chest. She patted the top of his quills, unsure what to make of his erratic behavior. On one hand, she didn't want to push him if he was ill or if there was some underlying problem he wasn't telling her. On the other, he seemed to be telling the truth. There wasn't any deception in his eyes and from his own mouth, he had said he was fine. Besides, such a rare opportunity came about only once in a blue moon.
Maybe it's the date itself, she thought. Maybe he's nervous about it. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. Or is he going to do something special to make this one memorable? Amy knew Sonic was shy and figured that was why she had to ask him out half the time— the other half being him trying to fix a mistake he made that hurt her. What if he had been waiting for her to ask and he was planning to do something dramatic? Like confess his love. The idea made her giddy and her whole body tingled with joy. It might explain why he was a great bundle of nerves about the date.
That joy changed to confusion when Sonic unexpectedly dropped to his hands and knees. Amy knelt beside him, watching the hedgehog draw in the dirt with his forefinger. He smiled and raised his head. "Ask me if I'm up for it." She stayed silent, unsure what he meant. "Ask me if I'm up for the date again."
"Uh, okay? Are you up for going on our date today?"
He drew a straight line in the dirt before his arm started to shake. "No, no," he muttered, grinding his teeth and jutting out his jaw. "C'mon, write it!" His finger jerked up and to the left. Then it traced back and carved a similar line going up and to the right. He continued writing until the word "Yes" was spelled out.
"Sonic, you already told me that," Amy said.
"No, no, no!" He jabbed his finger in the dirt again, shaking as he wrote "Yes" once more. Amy wondered if there was some health issue underneath his actions. If she didn't know better, she might say he was having a series of mini-strokes. But the odd behavior was never consistent.
Sonic cried out, "Write it!" and jammed his head into the ground. She backed away as he ran past her, dragging his noggin through the dirt. Back and forth and in different angles he zipped along until he came to a stop several yards away. He ripped his head up when he was finished and stared back at his work. His face fell and he plopped into some grass. The hedgehog- sized trenches formed a large "YES" before them.
Any other time, Amy would've considered it a sweet, romantic gesture. Cautiously, she approached Sonic and patted his shoulder. He picked dirt and bits of debris out of his quills. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Now I got a little headache," he said with a sigh. "Let's go. No point in dragging it out."
He scooped her up in his arms, holding her like a bride. As he dashed off, his expression one of intense, troubled concentration, Amy kept watch of his feet, afraid he might trip again. But as they neared the city, no stumble occurred and she contented herself in his arms, nuzzling his chest. She sensed a jolt in his body and eyed him. Sonic stole a glance at her, then returned his focus on the city ahead. His face did soften and she thought there was the tiniest hint of a smile hidden in the corner of his lips.
* * *
Tails plugged his laptop into the control panel and sat down in a chair. "Alright, let's see what the problem is," he said, tapping the keys. RUN DIAGNOSTIC PROGRAM. The screen went black and then typed out a question on the screen.
WHAT IS YOUR INQUIRY?
Tails typed in WHAT WERE THE RESULTS OF RECENT TEST? The computer paused for a moment, then spat out a list of information that only Tails understood. His eyes trailed over the list until he reached the area about the transfer of liquids to the helmet. The combination was wrong. WHAT HAPPENED DURING TRANSFER?
Again, the computer froze, then displayed Tails' own long, complicated calculations for many pages, adding TRANSFER COMPLETED ACCORDING TO EQUATIONS ENTERED BY USER at the bottom.
He ran his eyes over the equations and spotted a couple of mistakes. "Oh, this is bad." He wiped his face all over and rested his mouth in the palm of his hand. So that's why it hurt him. He had double checked his math beforehand and cursed not triple checking the equations.
WAS THERE ANY PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGE TO SUBJECT? Tails crossed his fingers, hoping against any damage.
NO PERMANENT OR LIFE-THREATENING DAMAGE TO SUBJECT. TEST AFFECTED SUBJECT'S BRAIN AND NERVOUS SYSTEM.
His breathing hitched and he slowly asked EXPLAIN EFFECT TO BRAIN AND NERVOUS SYSTEM.
The equations disappeared and another pile of text flooded the screen, detailing all the changes to Sonic, with a summary at the bottom. As soon as Tails read through it, he jumped to his feet. Oh, no. He grabbed a small device off his workbench that had a brass cylinder end. He flipped the switch on it and a tiny spark of electricity crackled out of the end. With speed to rival Sonic's, he bolted out the front door.
* * *
Within minutes of entering the city, Amy and Sonic arrived at the movie theater. He set her down and she began to browse through the selection while they waited in line. "What do you want to see?" However, he was looking off elsewhere, tapping his foot impatiently. "Sonic?"
"Hm?" He turned to her. "Oh. Uh, whatever you want to see."
Only one movie was starting at that time and it looked interesting from the poster on the outside. When they reached the front of the line, the ticket attendant welcomed them with a broad smile. "Hello, how are you two today?"
"Fine," Amy said.
"I'm a little sore from an experiment-turned-shock therapy," Sonic said, then froze at the attendant's curious stare. "No, that's not what I mean. I'm not crazy. I-" he heaved a large sigh and banged his head on the ticket counter. "Two tickets, please," he said, raising two fingers.
The attendant looked at Amy, who merely shrugged and offered an awkward laugh. "Enjoy the show," the attendant said, handing over their tickets.
Amy grabbed them. "Thank you." They went inside and found their movie. Sonic dragged his feet and head the whole time until they were seated. Then he sat back and closed his eyes, drumming his fingers on the armrest.
She ventured to rest her hand over his and asked, "Sonic?"
He cracked open an eye. "I'm fine. Really," he said.
"Okay." She enclosed his hand in hers and was afraid he would pull away when he lifted his head. But he just leaned back and flipped his hand over, squeezing hers. It definitely like one of her dreams come to life.
A sudden idea popped up in Amy's mind. A question of sorts that she had often asked Sonic, but never received an answer to. Namely, what he truly thought of her. So far, he had been much more receptive to her romantic gestures than most days, even returning the most recent one. Perhaps there would be no better opportunity than now to ask. The lights in the theater dimmed and the movie screen began to adjust. She opened her mouth, but he suddenly stood up.
"I could go for a soda. Do you want one? Some popcorn? Candy?" he asked rapidly.
"Uh, sure," she said. She barely had time to tell him "A soda and popcorn" before he rushed out of the theater. Amy watched the swinging doors in the back before settling down into her seat. At least his bizarre antics were lightening up. What if he really is going to confess and is planning something right now? She kicked her feet and hugged herself. Then stopped when she remembered that this was Sonic. Yet she argued that notion, using her earlier observation that he seemed to be open to romance today, so it was possible. Amy tried not to get her hopes up, but did daydream what he might do while the previews played.
* * *
"What do you want Cheese?" Cream asked. Her little blue Chao cooed and inched along the candy counter, his face pressed against the glass. His tongue left a long trail of saliva as he examined every piece of candy. The attendant behind the theater's snack bar sneered and scrunched his nose.
Cheese finally lifted his head and pointed to a box of chocolate raisins. "We'll take those and the licorice, please!" Cream said politely. The attendant took out the candy and laid it on the counter. Cheese immediately tore open his box, laying on his back and pouring raisins into his mouth.
Sonic ran up to the counter as Cream paid the attendant. "Hey, you two."
"Hello, Mr. Sonic," Cream said. Cheese greeted him with a garbled noise, waving his stubby arm as raisins spilled out of his mouth. The attendant grumbled and grabbed some cleaner and a washcloth from behind the counter. He shooed Cheese away and wiped up the smeared stains.
"Seeing a movie?" Sonic asked.
Cream nodded. "Yes. Mama is here with us." She peered around the hedgehog and didn't see anyone following him. "Are you here by yourself?"
"Er, no," he said, rubbing his neck. "Me and Amy are seeing a movie."
Cheese spat several raisins out and Cream clapped her hands together. "Really? Oh, that's wonderful!" She calmed down and stepped aside. "Sorry. Didn't mean to keep you from her."
"No problem. It's only a mmm-date." He shook his head and smacked his lips, licking them.
"I'm happy for you two," she said, opening her licorice.
He nodded, then ordered a small popcorn and a soda. Cream lingered behind him, several questions about how and when they started dating buzzing around her mind, but she wondered if it would be appropriate to ask. Sonic was private about certain aspects of his life. Amy will probably tell me later anyway.
After Sonic paid the attendant, he leaned on the counter. "I can beat this," he muttered. "Need to start small and work up. A test, a test." Pursing his lips, he stared down his food as the attendant set it on the counter. He raised his finger and pointed at the popcorn. "This is a bag of ca-ca-ca." He rattled his body and focused on the popcorn. Cream watched intently, unsure what to make of the gestures.
"The contents of this bag are can-ca-can-can only be popcorn!" Sonic groaned and slammed the counter with his fist, earning a sharp glare from the attendant. "This cup," he said, turning to the drink, "is filled with wa-wa-wat-wa-"
"Water?" Cream asked.
"Yes!" he cried. "It's filled with wa-wa-wa-agh!" He smacked the glass with his head, resting against it.
"I think it's filled with soda," Cream said, puzzled. "Just like you ordered."
He turned to face her and sighed. "I know, Cream. I know." Then he buried his head in his arms and mumbled, "Not even one little lie."
Cream lost her confusion when the attendant began yelling. "Hey, hey! Get out of there!" Spinning around, she found Cheese in the popcorn machine, diving in popcorn and gulping it down. The attendant pointed at Cream. "Get him out of here!"
"Cheese! No!" She clapped her hands and Cheese flew out of the machine, a bag of popcorn in hand. "I'm so sorry." She handed over some more money.
"Scram!" the attendant yelled. They scurried back to their movie, leaving Sonic at the counter.
* * *
The movie had almost finished running through the credits when Sonic returned, much less enthusiastic than when he left. As he took his seat, Amy whispered, "Are you alright?"
He flashed one of his trademark smirks. "Never better." For the rest of the movie, she checked on him now and again. There was a measure of anxiety scrawled all over his face and she tried to ease it by holding his hand. That only seemed to worsen it, but he didn't pull away. He squeezed her hand, as though he needed support for some task. Amy wasn't sure of the reasoning, but was happy to aid however she could.
After the movie was over, they decided to walk to Amy's choice of restaurant, since it was only a few blocks away. Amy still wanted to ask her question, but rather than come right out with it, she thought it might be better to work up to the query. Put Sonic at ease with the topic and gently introduce her question. He was like a skittish animal in matters of the heart and although things were going swimmingly, he could shut down with one wrong move.
"What did you think of the movie?" she asked.
"Not really my kind of movie, but it was alright," he immediately said.
"I think that one roommate acted a lot like you." She moved a little closer to him.
"Oh, really? I thought he was more like Knuckles. Always managing to be goofy even when he didn't mean to."
Amy nudged his side. "You're that way, too."
"Not all the time," he said, elbowing her ribs. They passed the snack counter, where the attendant threw the harshest frown at Sonic. The pair sped up and he held the door open for Amy. "I did like the ending."
"Why, because it was the end?" Amy asked, rolling her eyes.
"No, no. The stunt the guy pulled to get to the girl in time. Where he jumped off the bridge in his car? That was pretty cool." They turned in the direction of the restaurant.
"I liked that, too. It was so romantic he would risk himself like that to try and reach her," she said. "Thanks for taking me. I really enjoyed it."
"M-Me, too," he said. "Maybe we can it again sometime." He faced away from her and bit his knuckles, stuffing them in his mouth.
"Sure," Amy said. Up ahead at the end of the block were Cream and Cheese, both waiting to cross the street. When the pair stopped beside her, Amy greeted the two. "Hi, Cream. Hi, Cheese."
"Hello, Ms. Amy!" Cream said. She had a knowing twinkle in her eye and swung her arms back and forth. Cheese perched on her head, lazily waving hello and groaning as he rubbed his stomach. "How was the movie?"
"It was good," Amy said. "Did you see one, too?"
"Yes." The crosswalk signal flashed WALK and they crossed the street. "We're on our way home while Mama is shopping," she said when they stepped onto the next block. "We'll see you later. Enjoy your date." She took off, jogging through the crowd until Cheese whined and patted her head. She slowed down and touched his arm. "Sorry, Cheese. I forgot."
"I saw her while getting the snacks," Sonic explained.
"I thought as much." The restaurant was in view. It was a small diner, designed in the style of a soda shop with checkered floors, red-seated booths, and mint green walls. The employees all wore white, including paper soda jerk hats longer than they were wide. Amy tried to slow their pace and pick out how best to ask him her question. Cream's presence was timely and gave her an idea. "She must've been excited to hear we were on a date."
He nodded. "You got that right."
She leaned closer to him. "She had told me she's been hoping we would go out for a while."
"I'm not surprised." He was focused straight ahead, no longer making any eye contact. Amy reached out and brushed the tips of his fingers.
"Yeah, she just wasn't sure if you ever would. She didn't know what you thought of me or if you considered me to be a friend only."
His hand was twitching and his expression took on one of abject terror. His pupils dilated and his mouth clamped shut tight. There was a barely audible, "Oh?" that squeaked from his lips.
"I was a little shocked myself when you agreed to this date," Amy said, slowing down her pace. However, he didn't appear to be relaxing. Better move faster before he locks up for good. "After all, I don't know what you think of me either."
"Is that so?" he asked, his cheeks sucked in. The front of his lips smacked like a fish and his entire body tensed up.
"Yeah," Amy said. However, she had misjudged their distance from the restaurant. They were in front of it and Sonic held the door open for her. Once inside, a waitress welcomed them and led them to a table, setting a couple of menus before them.
"Would you two like something to drink before you order?"
"Yes, please," Amy said. "A soda."
The waitress scribbled on a notepad. "And you, sir? What would you like to drink?"
"Pepto Bismol," Sonic mumbled, groaning into his palm.
"I'll take a soda, too, thanks," he said louder.
The waitress jotted his order down and cast a puzzled look at Amy, who shrugged and gave a forced chuckle. "I'll be right back with your sodas," she said before leaving.
With the waitress gone, Amy returned to Sonic. He was clenching his fist and gnawing at his fingers. Anytime his eyes landed on her, his fist squeezed tighter and his biting increased. Nothing is working. I need a game plan here. But first, she had to ease the tension between them.
She spotted a restroom in the corner. Perfect. She scooted away from the table. "Be right back. Have to use the restroom," she said.
Sonic appeared to relax ever so slightly and waved as she walked off. As soon as Amy was in the restroom, she locked herself in a stall and sat down on the toilet. Now, think, Amy. Think.
* * *
"Are you two ready to order?" A waiter held his notepad at the ready, his smile met with Shadow's deep frown. The black hedgehog gazed out the window next to their booth.
"I'm not hungry," he said, propping his arm on the top of his seat.
Across from him, Rouge closed her menu and handed it to the waiter. "I'll take the burger, no mayonnaise."
He wrote down her order and snatched Shadow's menu, pulling away fearfully, his fearful feet backing him into a table, when the hedgehog glared at him. "I'll be right back with your burger," he said. Then he powerwalked away, disappearing into the kitchen.
"Would it kill you to at least grimace and not scare everybody?" Rouge asked. She bared her teeth held together with her mouth open wide. "At least like this? Then everyone might think you're trying to be polite." He grunted. "And despite what you believe, not beating someone's head in doesn't count as being polite."
"We could just not come here."
"I like the food," Rouge said. "It's also a good place to pick up information." Her attention was suddenly caught by something behind Shadow. "What have we here?"
He turned around and there was Sonic, head in his hands, sitting at a two-seated table. Shadow slipped lower into his seat, cursing his rival's presence. "Why can we never do anything without Faker showing up?"
"Looks like he's waiting for someone," she said. "He seems really nervous."
"Good. Then let's leave him to it and hope he doesn't notice us." Shadow scoped out the exits, wondering if they could sneak out of the restaurant without being seen.
"Oh, he's looking this way." Rouge waved.
"What are you doing?" Shadow hissed. "Don't call him over her-"
"Hey, guys," Sonic said. "I'm glad you're here."
Shadow sat up in his seat and sighed. "That makes one of us."
"I need you to hide me."
"Why? What's going on?" Rouge asked. "Are you here with someone?"
"Yes, Amy. She's in the restroom. You have to hide me before she comes back." His tone was frantic, which Shadow dismissed.
"What, afraid you might be asked out and have a good date?" he said sarcastically.
"She already did and I already am." He slapped himself. "Was." Another slap. "Have been." His cheek was turning red, as he hit once more and stole a chair from another table. "Look, I need help."
"That's an understatement," Shadow said. "As much as I'd love to stay and watch you abuse yourself, we should be leaving." He caught Rouge's gaze and looked toward the street outside.
Sonic ignored him. "I think Amy's planning to ask me what I think of her and I can't be here when that happens."
"So?" the black hedgehog asked. "What does that have to do with us?"
"Because you guys are secret agents. You can hide things," he said.
Rouge rested her chin in her palm. "Why not just answer her? I doubt this is the first time she's asked you."
Sonic looked back and forth at them and took a deep breath. "I can't lie."
Shadow cut his eyes at Rouge, sending a clear message of "You had to invite him over." He could feel an oncoming headache pounding at his forehead. "Look, your honesty is not our concern."
"No, you don't understand." He leaned closer to them and spoke through gritted teeth. "I can't lie. At all."
Again, Shadow met Rouge's look and she wore the same expression of doubt that he felt. "Right. And why should we help you?"
Sitting back in his chair, Sonic jolted violently and then burst out, "Because I respect you two and I've always found you a worthy rival, Shadow! You're always a real help no matter what!" When he finished, he collapsed on their table.
Shadow and Rouge scooted closer to Sonic. "This is serious," the black hedgehog said.
"Yeah," she agreed. "Why don't you just run right now?"
"I can't," Sonic said. "I agreed to go out with her. I have to keep my word."
"Well," Shadow said slowly, "why not tell her the truth?"
"What?!" Sonic jerked his head up.
"It seems to me you don't have any other choice. Would it really be so bad?"
Sonic plopped his head in his hands for a few moments and looked back at them. "I don't know. I mean, it's actually been a little nice to get everything off my chest so far. I feel lighter. But this…"
"This is no different," Rouge said. "You said yourself you've been enjoying the date and her company. So just be honest and true with her. Women love that, trust me."
He sucked on his teeth and hung his head. "Alright. I'll try. Thanks."
"Good luck," she said as he stood up and headed back to his table. Then she turned back to Shadow. "That was an unusual."
"Yeah," he agreed, watching his rival.
"You don't usually help him so willingly."
Shadow smirked and crossed his arms. "Oh, I thought you were referring to you of all people telling someone to be 'honest and true'," he countered. He ducked when she swung at him.
* * *
Tails made a mad dash across crosswalks, over newspaper stands, and around pedestrians as he searched for any hint of blue. So far, he had been unable to find anyone recognizable in the city. He had asked a few passerby, but no one had seen Sonic anywhere.
He was on the verge of giving up when he picked Cream out of a crowd. "Cream!" he yelled, his tired voice a mere wheeze. She stopped and waved to him. He flew over to her, gulping down air as he asked, "Have you seen Sonic?"
"Yes," she said. Cheese was lying on her head, soundly snoozing. "He and Ms. Amy are on a date." She clapped her hands and covered her crimson cheeks. "You should have seen them. It was romantic."
Sonic? Date?! I better hurry. "Cream, I need your help," he said, grabbing her shoulders. "Sonic was affected by one of my experiments and he needs help. Where is he now?"
"Um, I saw him enter a diner with Ms. Amy." She gave him the directions and he sped off, praying that he wasn't too late. When he arrived at the diner, he was relieved to find Sonic walking over to a table and plopping down. Tails dashed in and tapped his shoulder.
"Tails?" he asked.
"No time. I know how to fix what happened to you," Tails said. Before Sonic could say any more, he flipped the switch on his device and held it to the hedgehog's scalp. "Hold still. This should only take a moment." Sonic jumped in his seat as the device shocked him. Tails turned the device off and turned Sonic toward him. "How do you feel?"
"Like I did after your experiment. What was that?" he asked, rubbing the zapped spot.
"Try telling a lie. Anything. Just say it."
"Uh, I hate chili dogs," Sonic said. His eyes widened and he touched his mouth. "I hate chili dogs!"
Tails twirled his device in his fingers. "Yes! It worked! The experiment affected your nervous system, making you incapable of lying. Which I suppose you've seen firsthand," he said, shrugging sheepishly. "But a well-placed shock corrected the problem. I'm sorry about all this. I didn't mean for it to happen."
Sonic patted his shoulder. "Tails, it's alright. Today hasn't turned out as bad as I thought it would. More of the opposite really. Thanks though. I appreciate it." He held out his fist and Tails bumped his own fist into Sonic's. "I'll see you back at the workshop. Have to finish this date first."
"Okay," Tails said. He was curious to witness the results of the date, but waved farewell to Sonic, leaving him to his privacy. As he walked out the door, Tails bumped into Shadow and Rouge, who were bickering.
"I got the food to go, happy?" she said. He grunted and they took off down the street. Tails headed back to his workshop, his mind half preparing questions to ask Sonic about his day—specifically, the date under the pretext of "experimental data"—and the other half working through his calculations on how to fix his machine.
* * *
Amy gripped the edges of a sink and stared down her reflection in the mirror. There's no point beating around the bush. March out there and ask him straight. Get it out there and he can just answer. It was now or never. Yet now that she was in reach of finally hearing the truth from Sonic's own lips, she was afraid. There was the chance Sonic would run, but there was also the chance she was wrong. Little doubts sprung up in her mind, telling her that maybe Sonic didn't love her or maybe he only saw her as a friend.
But she was Amy Rose, heroine and fighter. She had been in worse situations and come out on top. She could beat this. Back straight. She stood tall. Chin up. Her head raised confidently. Now march.
With a powerful stride, she exited the restroom and returned to her seat. The drinks had arrived and Sonic was sipping on his. "Waitress said she'll be back in a few minutes," he said.
"Good," she said. Jitters were bouncing up her spine and encasing her ribs. She took a long sip of her drink, cooling them before clearing her throat. You can do it. "Sonic, what do you think of me?"
He finished slurping his drink and set it aside. She did the same and he folded his hands together. His eyes rolled to the side, the restaurant's door opening and closing as people walked in and out. Amy's fears roped her in, forcing her inside self to cower and hold up the façade of a straight-lipped, sharp-eyed, poker face. He's going to run, the fears said.
However, his gaze shifted to an empty booth, away from the rest of the crowd. Perhaps he wanted to move somewhere else to answer her? Somewhere private? Then he returned to his hands and twiddled his thumbs.
"I think," he started and paused, pursing his lips. She leaned over the table involuntarily, the edge digging into her chest. "I think I like hanging out with you and I want to do this again."
"You mean," she licked her dry lips, "another date?"
He smiled broadly and in the next instant was dashing out the door, leaving some money on the table for their drinks. Amy sat still for a moment in shock, millions of questions running through her mind. She fast regained control and followed him, shouting, "How about this weekend?" at his figure ahead of her.
Sonic glanced over his shoulder and Amy thought she saw the tiniest, almost imperceptible nod from him. Then he disappeared off into the distance, leaving Amy to slow down and collapse onto a wall. Inside, she was jumping for joy that her tired legs could not muster the strength to accomplish. I knew it!
Overhead, the sun was shining brightly and everything was vibrant and colorful. Amy walked on air toward her house, happily anticipating the weekend.
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