No, No, NO!

"This can't be happening! How are they closed?!"

"You need to relax, Sonic." Amy mocks my grief from behind my right shoulder.

"Relax?! It's broad daylight and they're closed! What does this mean for my hunger?!"

"Well, for one," Amy starts, "I think you should relocate your choice of dining. Three weeks is a long vacation." I roll my eyes at her suggestion, but she continues, anyway. "There are tons of chilidog vendors around."

"No, Amy. You don't understand… After hours of running anywhere and everywhere, having the wind in your quills and the morning dew on your feet, Don Fachio's Chilidogs are just what I need to fuel myself for the day!" Amy cocks an eyebrow when I shake my head at her. She clearly doesn't understand my despair. "Not to mention, his location between the public water fountain and the way-too-loud music from Twinkle Park three blocks away provides the perfect blend of refreshments and music!"

I'm on my knees at the foot of my fallen god as Amy, crouched on her toes next to me, rubs my back. Despite her mockery, her eyes are soft as she casts me a sweet smile.

"I'm intrigued. Sonic the Hedgehog: world saviour, brave fighter, huge baby!" Amy giggles. "Who would have thought you'd be so high maintenance?"

"I'm glad my pain is entertaining to you, Amy," I scold, smirking at her. I stand up to closer inspect the sign left on Don's cart as I extend a hand behind my back to help Amy off the ground. "Well, hopefully Spagonia is fun for him, but where am I supposed to get my chilidogs?"

Amy giggles, running her hands along her dress to straighten it out. "I swear the only two things you think about are running and chilidogs, Sonic."

"Hey, that's not true! It's running and food… and of course, adventure!"

Amy's ears detract slightly as a little growl escapes her mouth. She narrows her eyes at me, her jade-green irises pointedly attacking. "You're missing my point, wise guy. I don't think you've noticed, but you've gone into autopilot! You do the same thing every day, and as shown by this fiasco–" Amy makes quite the performance of waving her arms around the closed chilidog stand, encouraging civilians to side-eye the scene while I sheepishly laugh off her behaviour. "–you've become entirety dependant it."

"Hey, now! Don't talk to me about routines, missy! You're the queen of routines, Miss 'marry-me-Sonic-don't-leave-me-Sonic-love-me-Sonic-rinse-and-repeat!'" I hop in circles around Amy, trotting on my tiptoes as I, admittedly poorly, mimic the pitch of her voice.

Amy scoffs, puts a hand on her hip, and scowls. "When was the last time I asked you to marry me?" She asks.

I stop hopping around to cross my arms, a confident answer in tow. That's a silly question! Obviously, it was– actually a while ago. Now that I think about it, Amy hasn't obsessed or ogled or fawned over me in weeks… wait, months? Man, I really gotta give her more credit. My ears depress against my head as I turn to face her, but Amy's already thirty feet behind me in a huff. Oh, shoot.

"Erm… Amy! W-Wait! Relax!" I break into a jog to catch up with her, but her steps overtake multiple feet at a time. I side-step past a couple as I pick up my pace, chuckling slightly. Damn, she's fast.

When I reach her, I leap into her path and put my hands on her shoulders. "I'm sorry, but what can I say? I've just grown so used to you adoring me!"

A wink and a joke that would have once melted Amy into a puddle of giggles now only prompts a mere blush on her cheeks and a deeper scowl on her face. "That really sounds like a 'you' problem."

"Oh, come on, Amy! Stop frowning and listen to me!"

"Why should I? You never pay attention to me."

"Hey, I always pay attention to you!" I press, and Amy's eyes blink wide. Catching myself, I dart my eyes away for a second before shaking my head and focus my gaze on her again. Might as well roll with it. "Erm… Like right now, for instance, I can see that you're upset with me, which is fair – none of that was cool of me to say. How can I make it up to you?"

I cast a soft smile at her and lean down a little, so our heads are level. Amy studies my eyes before lowering her head, noticing something incredibly interesting about her shoe.

"Can we hang out?" She asks, her irises popping up at me. I cock an eyebrow at her and smirk, but I feel my ears flatten a little.

"Is that really all you want?"

She nods with a small smile. "It's been a while," she whispers.

"No fancy date? Nothing special?"

"This is special enough for me…" Amy breaks eye contact again and pouts. Oh, man… I think I broke her. I take a slow, deep breath before responding.

"Well, uh, sure thing! Whatever you wanna do, consider it done!" I say, and soon enough her wide eyes are back on me, brighter than ever. Her meekness makes me chuckle a bit. "What's the plan?" I ask.

Amy stands a little taller, now, and her meek expression shifts into smugness as she narrows her eyes and draws a smirk on her face. "Now looks who's obsessing!"

If not for her distinctive giggle I could've mistaken her for myself. That's my girl.

I roll my eyes before lightly pushing Amy away from me, but she just shoves back twice as hard and runs past me. I tilt my head, scoff, and laugh as a fading "I'll race you to Emerald Coast!" tickles my ears from behind. My head swivels to face the source.

"What? You know I'll win," I shout at her sprinting form.

"Which is why I get a five-minute head start!"

"Okay, Amy, I give up. You win. Happy?"

"What?!" She gasps, incredulous. "Sonic the Hedgehog doesn't give up! When did you become so lame?!"

"Since you started cheating!" I shout, tapping my foot on the sand.

"I'm not cheating! I'm just using my surroundings to my advantage!"

Hmm, she has a point. Gallons and gallons of liquid point.

Our race to Emerald Coast quickly turned into a game of tag. Amy actually beat me here, but only because I felt generous – I gave her seven minutes instead of five and kept my pace to a leisurely jog. However, as soon as I cut through the Station Square Hotel and hopped the fence to Emerald Coast, Amy pelted me with her boot, knocking me to the ground.

"Tag!" She shouted, hopping on her bare foot as she pulled off her other boot.

Talk about ungrateful!

With a smile, I picked myself up off the sand and discarded Amy's boot from my quills. I readied my legs to lunge at her, but when I looked up to scan the horizon, Amy stood fifteen feet into the ocean tide... Right where she knew I wouldn't touch.

"Well, that just unfair, using water against me!" I scoff, my simmering anger manifesting into a pout.

"Sonic, the water's barely touching my ankles." Amy sighs as she walks toward me. "I was hoping that your ego and competitive streak would've been enough of a distraction."

"Well, you got your hopes up. Can we move on?" I ask impatiently, not enjoying my weaknesses being the center of attention. Amy recoils from the question, raising her eyebrows.

"You know what? No, we can't. It's about time that you begin to face your fear!" She says, crossing her arms as she shifts her weight onto her hip.

Oh no, not this again. I purse my lips and rub my eyes, drawing a sharp breath through my nose. Amy, sweet as can be, has this really annoying habit of involving herself in business she has no business being involved in. Usually, she's needlessly throwing herself into danger, giving me something else to worry about on top of the problem at hand. Today, however, she'll just give me a migraine.

"Amy, I deal with water all the time," I groan.

"Yeah, when you're fueled by adrenaline and not contemplating whatever half-baked plan your brain concocts. There's a difference between suppressing your fear when it's necessary and facing your fear when you can suppress it." Amy scolds me as I internally will this conversation to end.

Yet, when Amy grabs my hands with her own, she brings my full attention to her. "Please let me help you," she whispers.

Normally, I have no issues saying no to Amy, whether it be about a gushy, silly date idea or her coming with me on a dangerous mission. Yet, when she looks at me with her jade green doe eyes and speaks in such a hushed tone that I need to open my ears to hear her…

I see how she so easily charms people.

"Ugh…" I look away from her, failing to suppress a wobbly smile. "I better not drown."

What am I doing?

"Yay! Thank you, Sonic!" Her giggle rings in my ears.

Seriously, why am I taking off my shoes? Why am I walking toward the water? Why am I not running away from all this?

Why am I not afraid?

My quills stiffen as the cold water hits my feet, but when I tear my eyes from my fear and watch the girl pulling me in, I smile.

I guess that's why I'm not afraid.

Amy, much to my relief, clarifies that we won't go too deep – just up to my knees – and I feel my confidence grow. I let go of her hands, and her laughter fuels me to delve deeper into the water. I even forge past the water level we agreed on – not by much. Like, half an inch – but Amy makes me feel triumphant.

"Wow, Sonic, bold move. I'm impressed," she quips.

I scoff at Amy's sarcasm, accept her compliment, and spin around to face her.

"You like that, Ames? Check this out!" I dare another step further into the ocean and find myself completely submerged.

I shoot my head out of the shallow water and gasp before I stabilize myself on the ocean floor. Amy's cackle mocks me relentlessly, no matter how much I splash her with water.

"What just happened?" I shout. "That was too fast, even for– Hey! Stop laughing!" Finally, my pleas get through to Amy and she finally tries to calm herself down.

"You probably slipped on a rock or something. The smoother ones are pretty big hazards," Amy, between gasps, cautions me a little too late as she extends her hand to help me out of the water. "Are you okay, Sonic? You're not hurt, are you?"

"Don't worry, I'm fine, but next time I'm keeping my shoes on." By the time I'm out of the water her worry is gone, but I still don't let go of her hand. "Water and I are thoroughly acquainted, now, but this was enough for one day."

"No worries… You did good," Amy whispers, gazing at me.

I stare into her doe eyes again and bask in the comfortable silence until my stomach growls. Loudly.

"Oh, my!" Amy laughs as I rub the back of my neck.

"What can I say? I never got my lunch…" I trot back to shore as Amy's laugh echoes around my brain. I bend down to grab my shoes when a pair of red boots meet my eyes.

Amy sits in front of me and pulls her boots on. "Why don't we find you some chilidogs, then?"

"Where? Don Fachio's is closed, and no one makes them as good as he does."

"Is that a challenge?" I glance up to see Amy looking straight at me, the sharpest smirk I've ever seen slicing through her muzzle. "Because I bet I could out-do Don any day."

"Is that a fact? Because I don't know, his dogs are quite top-tier…" I counter, studying the spark and fire in her eyes.

"Try me. One bite of my chilidogs and Don Fachio will have officially lost a customer!"

I tilt my head and raise my eyebrows. She winks, and her smirk cuts even deeper.

I don't think I've ever seen her like this.

But I kinda like it.

"You're on!"

The scents of flowers and sweets tickle my nose as Amy opens the door to her home, moving aside to let me pass. While I'm not here often, I've always liked Amy's home. On the edge of Station Square, the two-storey house feels small and cozy. In a curious contrast to her erratic spunk and bubbly attitude, Amy's home is serene and calm, begging you to stay awhile.

On that note, though, she's been rather tame today…

"Make yourself at home, Sonic," Amy, halfway to the kitchen with her grocery bags, calls out over her shoulder. "The chili will take some time. Feel free to watch some television or have a nap and I'll come find you when things are ready."

"Maybe I could just… stay with you, instead?" I ask, surprisingly earnestly. Despite myself, I leap a couple of steps to catch up with her. "Erm, I mean… Y'know, study your process? Make sure you're doing things properly." I flash a grin at Amy, but her flushed cheeks and perky ears tell me she's already caught on. Regardless, she considers my request.

"O-Okay, if you want… But don't go on about 'making sure I do things properly,'" Amy mocks. "You love the food, but I know that you have no clue how to make it! You just wanna spend more time with me."

Amy smiles teasingly until she spins around and sees the sheepish smile on my face. Her face falters, but she turns away before I can really study it.

"I, uh… Sorry!" She mumbles, forcing a half-hearted chuckle as she wraps her arms around herself. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." She scurries into the kitchen, and all I can do is watch her with depressed ears, furrowed brows, and a stinging feeling in my chest. That quip wasn't even the cheekiest one she made today, let alone ever. That was nothing…

Man, is she still upset about this morning?

I shake my head in a weak attempt to clear my thoughts. Amy's clever – I'm sure she just read my face in the moment and made a call. With a deep breath, I push away my worries and stride into the kitchen.

Amy darts around the room, gathering ingredients for the chili, so I sit on her counter to stay out of the way. I want to say that I knew everything she was doing, but she really did see right through me earlier – I wouldn't know where to start.

That doesn't mean I can't pretend, though.

Once she's evidently done her unpredictable path around the kitchen, I hop off the counter and stand behind her. Standing extra tall, I puff out my chest, snuff my nose at her, and clear my throat.

"So, Miss Rose–" Amy cuts my botched obnoxious-chef impression off to keel over her counter, laughing. Her knees buckle under her, and she lowers herself into a squat, a hand still gripping the countertop. I put my hands on my hips and wait for her to relax, but she just doesn't stop. I roll my eyes, grab her waist, and pick Amy off the ground to settle her back on her feet. "Okay, the impression was not that funny."

Amy laughs even harder, and her legs give out again, but since I'm still holding her waist, she leans back on me instead. I adjust my footing to support her full weight and sigh.

"I'm starting to think I'm a walking embarrassment, given how much you've laughed at me today," I mutter into her ear with a smile, but her head whips toward me as she immediately tries to stifle her laughter.

"No, no, no… Sonic, wait!" Amy stands up straight and looks at me with wide eyes. When she sees me gazing back at her, all-well, she seems to relax a bit. "Jeez… I thought you were actually a little upset…"

"Nope, just speechless!" I say, letting her go. "Don't worry so much. Seriously… Okay?"

Amy watches me as a sheepish smile forms on her lips. "Okay," she whispers.

"Good." I grin and lean against the countertop. "Now, let's try this again. What do you put in your chili?"

Amy turns back to her counter and picks up her knife from the cutting board. With a final burst of giggles, she grabs her first tomato and chops.

"Well, tomatoes are a must. I also put hot chili peppers, red peppers, red onion, ground beef, red beans, various herbs and spices, and normally mushrooms, but you hate those, so not today."

"H-How did you know that I hate mushrooms?" I ask. That's not something that I go out of my way to tell the world.

"I noticed recently, actually," she says. "Do you remember last month when we and Knuckles met up with Tails at his workshop and ordered a pizza?" When I nod, she continues. "Well, you kept picking the mushrooms off your slices and Knuckles kept eating them off your plate…" Amy lowers her head to hide the blush forming on her face. "I don't know… I just try to pay attention, is all."

I turn my head away to hide the goofy smile on my face. That is such an insignificant thing to know about someone, and yet she knows.

I wonder what else she knows about me.

"Holy Chaos, that smell is incredible!"

Heavenly smells waft into the kitchen as I lift the lid off of simmering chili and stir. The hour-long wait nears its end while Amy tends to the boiling hotdogs and toasting buns. "Ames, I think you might have won this challenge… My tail hurts because I'm so excited!"

"Don't call any shots until you try it, Sonic, but thanks for the confidence!" Amy grins widely at me before giggling, taking the wieners out of the boiling water and placing them onto a plate. "Can you do me a favour and set the dining room table?"

"Sure thing!" I all but jump toward the dish cabinet to grab the required plates and napkins before dashing to the small table in the next room over. I set the plates and napkins next to each other at the table and take a seat to wait for Amy to arrive with dinner.

Out the window, the sun's just started to set, giving the dining room an orange, fiery glow. The atmosphere has the power to pacify and soothe any bad emotion away if you soak in it long enough. But then…

Why is Amy still so tense? Even after I called her out on it, she didn't calm down all that much… she's nervous, and not nearly as bubbly or as energetic as normal. Maybe if I ask–

"Sonic?" A curious voice calls out.

"Huh? Oh… Hey. I guess I zoned out…"

"Yeah, that's for sure. I didn't think a chair could be that interesting." Amy sets the bowl of chili and plates of buns and hotdogs on the opposite end of the table and takes a seat next to me. "Either way, not to worry! I present to you, my chilidogs! Give them a try and tell me what you think."

The smell of the chili came back to me, and I can finally satisfy the craving that started today's adventure. I waste no time in grabbing a bun, a wiener, and a spoonful of chili before assembling my masterpiece and taking a bite.

"Oh my…"

"Is it okay, Sonic?"

"I could kiss you right now."

Amy, shocked by my claim, ironically slaps a hand over her mouth. Immediately, however, my words catch up to me and I nearly choke on my dog as I mentally beat myself up. "Erm… Sorry!" I laugh. "To answer your question, it's amazing, Amy! One bite nearly put me in a pleasure coma!"

"Oh, good! I'm glad I did well. Thanks!"

That's a huge understatement, but at least she knows her gift.

I take my time scarfing down probably nine more chilidogs while Amy contently nibbles on two, hopefully pleased with herself on her triumph. As I finish my meal, I re-live the experience all over again in my mind. However, as I think about that first bite, something doesn't sit right with me: Amy barely budged when I said I'd kiss her. No sassy quip, no slap on the arm, no attempt, jokingly or otherwise. Nothing.

"Amy, are you okay?"

"Huh?" She glances at me, blankly.

"You're not still upset about what I said this morning, are you? Because you're not acting like yourself."

Amy raises her eyebrows and delivers a bad attempt of a reassuring smile. "N-No worries, Sonic. I'm fine! How do you figure that I'm not acting like myself?"

I raise an eyebrow at her, and she quickly looks away, leaning her chin against her hand, propped against the table. I answer her question.

"You've been incredibly on edge, as if you're… afraid to say something wrong. Earlier, before we came here, you seemed more at ease, but I couldn't help but notice you… holding back?" I look to Amy to see a smile on her face and yet another blush on her cheeks.

"Do… Do you want my honest answer?" she mumbles, staring out the window.

"Uh, yeah?" I chuckle.

She doesn't respond right away, taking several breathes before looking me in the eye.

"To be completely honest with you… I'm freaking out on the inside. I have been all day, same as always. I've known you for years, and if these years have taught me anything it's that if I want you to want to spend time with me… I can't chase you anymore. I need to respect your space and freedom, and I want to respect your space and freedom because that's what you love. I want us to have more days like today, where we can just hang out and, you know, be friends! All I can ask of you at this point in our relationship, after everything I have put you through, is to be your friend. I just want us to be closer…"

Amy studies my face, perhaps willing me to say something, but I can't bring myself to move a muscle. However, when she's confident that she has my undivided attention, she presses on.

"You're my everything, Sonic the Hedgehog. I cannot heave my heart into my throat to tell you just how important you are to me. I wake up every morning terrified that I might lose you, as a friend or, dare I say it, as a soul. I love you to pieces, Sonic… and I… I just want to be by your side in any way that I can."

Amy looks away from me, signalling that she's confessed everything she has. We sit in silence for a minute while I absorb her words. There are so many thoughts flowing through my mind… So many emotions.

But when my hand reaches out to Amy's chin and turns her head to me, and I look into her watery eyes, one thing is certain.

She's mine.

I pull Amy into a hug and hold her as her silent tears soak into my fur. I lose track of how many kisses I plant on her head. For a long time, we hug, and when I'm ready to say something, it's in a hushed whisper for her ears only.

"Amy… No matter what you do and no matter what I do, you will never lose me. I appreciate you more than I think I understand. Don't ever worry about me drifting away."

Amy hugs me tighter and softly sobs into my chest, and I rest my head on hers until she's calmed down. I push her away from me to get a proper look at her face, and when she smiles at me, all I can do is smile back. However, smiles fade as we look out the window, see the near lack of sunlight, and understand that I should take off.

I lean my forehead against Amy's for a few seconds before we stand up and walk hand-in-hand to the front door.

"Call me for anything, yeah?" I tell Amy, squeezing her hand one last time.

"I will, and you, too," Amy responds, and despite everything, smiles her contagious smile.

"You better believe that I'm coming back," I say, and her eyes light up the evening sky.

"I do. Where else are you gonna get your chilidogs?"