wow its been awhile hasnt it? this story is actually from 2015 and i very slightly rehashed it, so don't count on any new work (im so sorry). i hope you enjoy! i might write a part 2 for this though asdhgjhjl;

EDIT: I AM SO STUPID. I had this concept for years and I completely forgot that this freaking storyline and some of its specific details are from a story I read like six years ago when i was nine or ten. I just chanced upon it-this exchange and a lot of its elements are from the epilogue of a story from 2000-FRIGGING-SIX. I am so embarrassed holy crap. The original story is Love's Burn by UltrraShaddow here on FF. Please read that and I'm so sorry I can't believe myself. I won't delete this for archive purposes but PLEASE GO THERE.
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The world was stable again—it had stopped its rapid spinning. The screaming voices and searing pain had stopped as well, to Rouge's relief. But instead of the intense darkness that had embraced her, the world was bright white. Her short-lived relief was promptly replaced by weariness. How had she gotten here? The last thing she remembered was a loud sound, red hot pain and then concerned yelling and calling of her name.

Now, in this white world, she was standing, staring blankly ahead only to see more white. Where were the other agents? Where was Shadow?

Her gaze shifted down to her feet to look at herself from the bottom up. All the minor injuries she remembered having were gone. Scanning her once scraped hands, she saw her skin was gorgeously perfect as well as healthily moist under her touch. She was no longer in her tight uniform that smelled like coffee and gun powder, but a light white gown. She didn't remember owning any like this.

Maybe she got hit during the mission and she was dreaming in the GUN infirmary. But—even if her head was a little light, everything felt oddly lucid. Where could she be?

"Hmm," she murmured thoughtfully.

"Hello!"

Rouge swung her head to pinpoint the origin of the softly spoken words. She saw a young blonde girl ten feet behind her. Rouge slowly turned towards her.

She was the most beautiful thing Rouge had ever seen. Every diamond, every amethyst, every jewel she ever laid her eyes upon did not compare to the perfection and purity of the tiny girl standing in front of her. Glowing pale skin, moist blue eyes, a simple white dress, golden locks of hair held back with a pearled headband…

The girl had to be only twelve years old. Her stature was tiny and her gentle smile radiated with all the love and caring Rouge had known. She's like an angel. The child also looked familiar as well, but no, she was lacking the pallid posture and monotone colors. The eyes looking at her were gorgeously saturated and just the figure's aura was affecting her. It felt...spiritual under it.

"Thank you for taking care of my dear friend, Miss Rouge."

"Who—who are you?" asked Rouge, transfixed by the girl's beauty. What was she talking about?

"My name is Maria. Shadow has told me a lot about you. You're as beautiful as he says," the girl laced her dainty fingers.

Rouge took a step back, her expression growing confused and concerned. What? That Maria? She didn't want to believe it but Maria's smile was too entrancing and honest for her to want to argue with this information.

"He is so stubborn," Maria looked to the side, seemingly exasperated just thinking about it. Her expressions and presence seemed too clear and alive to be any vision or dream. It didn't compare to the sepia-toned photos and files Rouge had seen of her previously at all. Those hadn't prepared her for the ethereal image before the bat. The Maria who existed back then still had a certain spiritual air in pictures, but no illness or time periods existed in this place where she was full color and full health, unlike those dusty snapshots.

"He jumps into situations without thinking. He is very proud and pushed anyone who tried to help after his awakening away, but you have overlooked all of my friend's flaws and helped him when even his pride could not." She shook her head, laughing softly. It sounded like light bells. She smiled again in an amused manner. "I'm sorry that you had to work through that. Please know he is so grateful to you no matter how cold he acted to protect himself. He tells me about you all the time, actually."

Rouge clenched her fists. So…so…"So…I'm dead?" Or dreaming? But again, this couldn't just be a vision. Her voice was slightly shaking.

Maria nodded once with a sad smile. "You have passed on from the world Shadow lives in."

Everything about this girl was too seraphic for Rouge to have any suspicion or doubt about her claim. The bat bit her lip. Her thoughts briefly went to her late mama before regaining focus on the current issue. How could this have happened? Nothing had happened that she specifically remembered-

"These guys won't give up, will they?"

Something simple. A major drug raid, with six other agents. Weapons were involved. A day off from week-long field or reconnaissance missions. Thirty or so bastards were in the building they stormed. Shadow was taking on three by himself, and Rouge was searching for the crack-cocaine within the room. She was skilled in finding anything stolen, counterfeit or illegal in these raid operations. While it wasn't exciting as fighting, it was quite easier and still necessary. She swiftly dodged the gunfire and proceeded to dig in the drawers of the large concrete space.

"In the name of the law…" she could Shadow's out-of-breath voice. "…You're under arrest!"

She smirked at her partner's tone of authority. They dispatched half of the criminals already. None of them made an attempt to run; just fight. Big meatheads, they all were. He probably had his knee on one of those guys' backs, handcuffing him. Rouge paid more attention to the task at hand.

Jackpot!

Rouge found huge amounts of the white powder in the last drawer. She put the thousand dollar baggies in a large plastic one, tied it off and went to catch the last of the suckers. Around ten of them were left. The other twenty five were either handcuffed or shot dead by any of the eight agents.

"Put the gun down!"

The biggest meathead had a 9mm. pistol shaking in his hands. Rouge pulled out her own gun and joined the group circling the standing criminals.

'That's probably the head of the operation,' Rouge noted.

"You've obviously lost. Put the gun down or I'll be forced to shoot you and your cronies too," Shadow snarled.

"Ah! Wha-what do we do, Boss?" one of the mentioned cronies asked nervously, his hands already in the air.

The boss sighed. "Okay, okay, I surrender."

He bent to drop the gun.

BANG!

"Ah, SHIT!" Lieutenant James screamed, clutching his foot. He began to fire aimlessly at the drug lord who was now shooting in all directions after aiming at the soldier's feet and hitting. The building erupted in chaos after the first shot was fired; gunfire spilled everywhere, the other cronies were wrestling with three agents who had fallen over from the suddenness of the action. Rouge hastily sputtered into her communicator, "We need backup, right now, right now!"

She then left the dispatcher to yell back at her in the haste to click the safety off her pistol and run to the nearest shelter. And that's when she got shot. Right in the side by a stray bullet fired in the struggle to get it from the hands of the big boss, immediately destroying vital internal organs and killing her in a matter of minutes after she fell unconscious. And Rouge's last thoughts while that usually soft and stoic voice of her partner was screaming her name and shaking her wildly were simply 'Ah fuck, what a shitty way to die.'

"What a shitty way to die," she muttered, after her sudden recollection. Honestly, it was embarrassing. Not only uninteresting, but a big technical mistake on her own part. She'd been shot at and hit in her career before, but some crappy gunfire got her this time? Rouge thought she'd die saving the world, or pulling off the universe's greatest jewel heist, something freaking awesome like that. Whoops. Did reincarnation exist here?

Maria merely blinked.

"Um, yes. Is…this Heaven?"

The blonde girl brought her clasped hands to her chest and beamed. Her eyes were bright. "Yes! We are in the In-Between. This is where we can keep watch over our loved ones if they are thinking of us. This is also where family comes to escort the newcomers to the real part of Heaven.

"Don't worry—we only hear what they want us to hear. Shadow talks to me every day, and he has said many great things about you!"

Rouge took a deep breath. This was it: she was in Heaven, because she was shot dead at the age of 23. Why wasn't she crying, why couldn't she think properly, and moreover, why was she even here? She was never religious in her life, and she was a walking statue of sin! Wasn't that enough to send her to Hell? Was this a Christian kind of Heaven or some kind of Buddhist nirvana? She'd ask later. But…the important thing was…

"Shadow…"

Oh no. Maria talked about death as if it were the simplest thing in the world. But Rouge knew her partner was probably tearing himself up over hers. She could practically feel him suffering right now, most likely blaming himself, screaming at a concrete floor.

"…Will he be okay?"

Maria's eyes saddened, and she smiled grimly. Looking at the ground, she spoke in a soft and solemn voice. "Shadow has seen death before. He tells me he wishes to feel it someday soon. He worries about getting attached because he knows the inevitable."

When the girl looked up, there were tears in her sapphire eyes. "But he knew it was worth it for you! He was closed-off at first because he was afraid! But then he realized that a friend like you comes around once in his many lifetimes!" Maria hiccupped and choked out her words. "He knows. He's prepared. And even though it came sooner than expected…" she wiped her eyes, "…he will heal better than he did before. Even if it'll be so, so hard…"

Rouge's hands began to shake. Shadow the Hedgehog was afraid of something like that? Of course they depended on each other despite their independence—she was his main source of support, his housemate and best friend. Would he really…be okay? Would she be okay?

This seemed like her partner's worst nightmare, worst scenario possible come true. He was screwed once again by cruel fate. And she felt awful just realizing how this would affect him until the day he passed via unnatural means. She felt like she shouldn't have let this happen to him.

"But please have faith in him and help him through," the shaky and girlish voice continued, pleading. Maria then put her hands between her lap and bowed deeply. The agent didn't know what to say. It seemed so despairing, this situation, but Maria had told her to have faith. And…not everything about this was terrible.

"Y-yeah. I will, Maria." Rouge still didn't know if she was really processing all of this. Maybe she was disassociating at the moment.

The blonde girl came back up and sniffed. "Thank you." Her cheeks were flushed, but those deep sea irises were shining with gratitude.

Rouge racked her brain after being slightly dazed from Maria's beauty again. She needed to check on Shadow, sort this whole dead thing out, but first…

"…You said family would come to escort newcomers?"

The girl brushed a few more tears away and brightened. "Ah! Yes, Miss Rouge, your family is here. Would you like to see them?"