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On Gilded Roses

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Gray skies, gray skies…

“What color is the sky?” we ask the child;
Undoubtedly she says that it is blue.
I wonder where she learned that ruse, and why.
I wonder where I’ll find those blue skies too.

“This is so… amateur,” Tails says with a resigned grin and shake of the head. “Or maybe it reads well enough, but ‘I wonder’ is weirdly stressed and then the end is just percussive. It drives the point home, sure, but it also makes the line sound obviously sad, instead of wistfully sad.”

Amy faces her, somewhat perplexed. “I don’t know, it sounded fine to me. You are right about it being sad, though. Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Tails reassures her. “There’s actually a funny story about this one; remember earlier this spring when it was cloudy and rainy for weeks?”

“Oh, yeah! That sucked!” Amy replies in disgust, as if she took the bout of bad weather personally.

“Yeah exactly! I mean, it went on for so long that it started to feel like maybe the gray skies were the normal ones all along.”

“OK, I think I’m following now. So, the blue sky is really a lie then, because we say it’s blue even though it’s always rainy.”

“Sure! That’s one way to interpret it.”

“What are the other ways?”

“Well, I’ve been taken with the idea of, um, overly reductive aphorisms – though that sounds a bit eggheady, I know.”

“I… think I know what you’re getting at?” Amy furrows her brow.

“Like recently I’ve been thinking about how we refer to things as being as obvious as the fact that the sky is blue. You know?”

“Yeah… actually, now that I think about it, that is pretty funny,” Amy giggles.

Right?” Tails responds excitedly.

“Since, you know, some days it’s gray, and every night it’s black…”

“It’s about the least consistent trait you could pick!”

“Also – you can take or leave this, I dunno,” Amy begins.

“Hmm?”

“Well, now I’m thinking about how saying that the sky is simply blue also ignores the more exciting colors it can be. Like, how yesterday there were streaks of pink and purple in the sunset.”

“Really? Aww, I must’ve missed it…”

“I took some pictures, if you’d like to see.”

“Ooh, I’d love to!”

Amy hands Tails her phone.

“But yeah, that’s a good point and I should remember that if I ever get around to finishing this,” Tails says. “Should I keep working on it?”

“Sure! I think it has potential.”

Tails smiles and Amy leans over to watch her browse through the photos, delighting in her compliments about their composition, and cheekily warning her to not scroll too far. After a couple minutes, Amy speaks up again.

“You know, we’ve talked about this before, but it’s been really nice to see you open up and share these with me. I never would’ve guessed that you had a poetic side.”

“…maybe it’s because you never asked?”

“Or maybe it’s because you never told us!” she says with a wry smile.

“I guess I didn’t see a reason to, or it didn’t seem important for people to know. Plus they’re kinda personal…” Tails shrinks into her shoulders.

“Does Sonic know?”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“Why not?”

“He… no offense or anything, but…” Tails leans in, thinks through her words so as not to offend, then starts with “well, maybe I see Sonic as more of an action-oriented kind of guy, you know? I could never see him willingly spend an afternoon reading, for instance.”

“True,” Amy ponders the idea, “I’m not sure I’ve seen him read anything longer than a menu.”

Tails chuckles.

“Still,” she continues, “I’m sure he would like it. Even if poetry’s not his thing, he’d like it because you made it, and because he likes you.”

“Well sure, but isn’t that… cheap? For him to only like it because I wrote it?”

“Maybe,” she pokes Tails’ nose, “but a person who likes your work is still a person who likes your work.”

Tails goes to interject, but after thinking better of it, she decides to hold her tongue. Amy playfully tousles her hair as the two of them sit side-by-side on a park bench, tracing the paths of the walkways as they recede toward the distant ocean, and feeling the early evening breeze.

 

On gilded roses (Scrapheap)

A gilded rose: how silly that must sound
To those with taste. How thoughtless to assume
The works of man surpass the beauty found
Within the fertile peak of natural bloom.

A gilded rose? What reason could one name
To cast a flower like a souvenir?
Better to be consumed in sapphire flame
Than bitter aurum tarnish one so pure.

(although she would be tarnished either way
she leaned. no, we weren’t made for purity.
so if not i, nor he, then time. she’d fade
and leave her fruit untasted, withering.)

Tails leans back in slight shock, unnerved by how effortlessly the words in that last stanza came to her. She considers rewriting it, but eventually comes to the conclusion that the whole poem is too creepy to be worth fixing and files it away to be recycled.

 

The Fast Boy: Maurice

“Oh, so you were dating…”

“Only for a few weeks,” Sonic replies.

“I guess I never noticed because she always acted like she was your betrothed.”

“Heh, pretty much. And then right after we started dating, she wanted out.”

“Do you know why she broke it off?” Tails asks.

“No idea, dude.” His use of dude stings, though she knows he means well. “But I’m not torn up about it. I kinda expected her to bail once the obsession wore off.”

“Is that why you gave in and finally dated her?”

“Eh, I was just bored and didn’t see what I had to lose.”

Uh huh.” The flippancy of this logic grates on her and, on a subconscious level, she seems to understand how Amy could’ve soured so quickly on someone she used to adore.
 

“You know, I’ve seen the way she acts when she’s around you. She’s totally into you.” He looks directly at Tails. “You could probably pick her up and fuck her tonight, if you wanted to.”

“What, no!” Tails starts to blush. “Or, maybe, or…” She hides her face, then softly stammers “I’d like to at least take her out to dinner first.”

“Oh, so you do like her!”

“She’s nice. She’s grown on me. I really like being around her,” she admits.

He teasingly pokes Tails. “I think you love her.”

“Love… is scary. I’d say I have feelings for her, and I could see myself loving her… But she’s also a really great friend, and I don’t want to risk losing that for a selfish desire.”

“It’s not selfish if she likes you back, dude.”

Tails doesn’t know how to respond.

 

The final page is turned. The story ends. All fades to silence, but you still have to live.

“I mean, what, you’re only twenty… one?”

“Twenty-two.”
 

“As if it matters, though, since everyone treats me like I’m still eight years old.” Tails rolls her eyes.

Amy pauses. “I admit, it’s easy to still think of you as the baby of the group, even if the age difference doesn’t mean much now.”

“No, I get it; old habits are hard to break. And to be fair, to some extent I want that too, so I probably shouldn’t complain about people thinking I’m younger than I am. It’s complicated.”

“You… want to be treated like the baby?”

“I mean, it’s not the worst position to be in,” Tails answers. “Nobody gets especially mad at you, and everybody loves you and wants to protect you.” She flutters her eyelashes coquettishly.

Amy squeals and squeezes her from behind. She then crosses her arms over Tails’ chest, to protect her.
 

“And, I know this sounds weird, but sometimes I wish I was still a kid. Everything was so much nicer. I had so much potential.”

“Hmm?” Amy mutters into her ear.

Tails continues, lost in thought. “Though it’s not like anything would’ve been made of it, either. I wanted to be an engineer, but try as I might, after a while I just… plateaued. I wasn’t able to move past needing to start from prefabs, and eventually realized that I didn’t have the intelligence to actually create anything unique.”

Amy lets go of her. “Wait, you can’t be serious, right? You made some amazing stuff! Like, you built an airplane! Not many people can do that!”

“Oh, the Tornado? It was a model kit. I just put in the screws.”

“Oh.” She looks down, slightly jaded.

“Yep. All of the things I made originally came from catalogs. I mean, you still had to put them together, but that’s about as trivial as building a computer or assembling furniture.”

“Computers are easy to build?”

“Put the parts in the sockets, connect all the cables, don’t go crazy with the paste.” Amy scratches her head at how paste would be involved. “Simple.”

“Even so,” Amy replies, “building an airplane seems a little more complicated than putting together a coffee table, you know?”

“I guess it takes longer, but the process is still the same, and you’d be surprised at what a kid with nothing but time can do.”

She playfully bumps her shoulder against Tails. “I still think you’re selling yourself short, but…” Amy thinks back to those days. They must’ve spent thousands of hours in that workshop, with Tails always making something or other while she listlessly cycled through TV channels, or – more likely – tried to figure out what Sonic was up to. The memory still feels so real, as if she could follow the highway for long enough and it would bring her back to that place once more, amidst the sheet metal and industrial AC mixing with the briny summer air. Yet she knows this reality is locked away behind her, with over a decade of distance separating the two.
 

“But it’s not like it matters anymore. I can go online right now and find someone half my age who is building machines that put anything I’ve made to shame.” Tails sighs in resignation. “I think I just got lucky, is all. I found good friends who had a use for what I could do, and they had a cause that turned out to be worth fighting for.”

Amy runs her fingers through Tails’ hair. “Out of curiosity, what do you want? Out of life.”

“I don’t know. I want more, but I don’t even know what that means. I can’t even say I want what I once had, since I think I’ve grown past that now.”

“Even if you don’t want it, you can still want the feeling of what you once had, perhaps.”

“That’s a good way of putting it, yeah,” Tails replies, thinking it through. “…I guess I want to matter the way I used to, where I felt like I was helping, and everybody else was gracious enough to play along. Where I felt like I was just as much of a hero as Sonic, even if he did most of the work.

“But it just got so difficult to cling to that naïveté. The more work I put in to feel like I was his equal, the more I came up short in comparison, and the more people seemed to realize it too. I wanted to believe that I would one day be as good as him. I thought that I would find my own place in the world, instead of floating, helplessly, uselessly… the same as I always had been, really.

“I didn’t want to end up here, stuck in the same place I’ve been my whole life…”

She locks up, and drops her head.

“I’m staring down the barrel of the far end of history. I peaked when I was eight and nobody realized it. I just assumed that things were only going to go up from there, instead of…” Tails chokes up, on the verge of crying.

Amy wraps her arms around Tails and encourages her to cry.

“I’m pathetic. All I’m doing is feeling sorry for myself.”

 

See… shining power!!

It’s the future, yet we still have dirt and grass.
And earthworms too; they’re wriggling through a field
In search of something more, but they won’t last
The summer, and will soon enough be killed
By radiation from an ancient sun –
A searing fate to which we all succumb.

It’s the future, and the earthworms dried to paste
On sewer grates, outside a parking lot.
Outdated billboards line this modern waste-
Land, each one shilling deals unsought.
A barren mall decays, demolished soon –
But once we thought it was the future too.

By monorail we left that ruined hell
In search of futures fit for our birthright,
To stand enchanted by their brilliant spell:
A universe of chrome and neon lights.
    The station drops us by the central square.
Our minds go blank, electric chimes cascade.
The restless crowd then pushes us somewhere
While katakana marks the entryway…
    Fluorescent hearts that beckon us to come;
Glass elevator rises ninety floors;
Pale bleach-stained carpet as we shuffle from
The hallway to the heaven through its doors.
    We gaze upon the cityscape below;
We strip our clothes and drink to drown our shame.
Skin touches skin and then we come to know
That past the vista, all is much the same.

We have it all, amidst the hyperreal,
Yet think it not enough to sate our lust.
We found an era to call home, but still
The march of progress makes demands on us.
We search for more, until we realize what
It’s the future, yet we’re still compelled to rut.

“Or should I write ‘nut?’ ” Tails rolls her eyes, scrawls that note in the margins, then sets the poem aside to be dealt with later.

“I’m making broccochee. Did you want to stick around?”

Oh sweet it’s broccochee night!” Tails takes that as a yes. “Are you serving it with garlic bread too? Like last time?”

“Nah, sorry. I do have some focaccia I could warm up, though.”

“Bread bowls?” Amy flutters her eyelashes.

“I don’t think it would work for that, unfortunately.”

“Awww.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t make all your dreams come true,” she says in a parodically dejected tone.

Amy sighs dramatically. “All hopes are dashed, on this night of broccochee…” Tails can’t help but smile at her mannerisms, even at their silliest. In a way, they’re charming.

“Is there anything I can help with?” Amy asks.

“Nope, I have everything almost taken care of. The soup still needs to simmer for a bit, and I’m about to wash up some of the dishes while we’re waiting. Feel free to make yourself at home— oh, also I need to get another bowl heating up now, and set out the bread…” and with that she promptly busies herself with these tasks. Amy smiles, finding her scattered work ethic to be charming.

As Tails finishes final preparations, Amy moves to excuse herself to the restroom. On the way there, she decides to peek into Tails’ study, just to see which papers are scattered around her desk this time. Amidst them, one happens to catch her eye, which appears to still be a work in progress. She quietly removes the pen holding down the page and reads through it while Tails is distracted.
 

Tails sets the table for the two of them, then grates some extra cheddar over the bowls of broccoli soup to garnish. As they eat, Amy decides to turn the conversation toward what she saw in Tails’ study:

“By the way, while you were finishing up, I just happened to see that poem you were working on…”

“Oh no.”

“It’s kinda lewd…”

She reflexively cringes.

“I liked it though! And I like how you’re starting to play with the sonnet form.”

Tails is only slightly relieved, since this means Amy must have read the poem she was working on today, and not the other one.

“I was especially intrigued by the section after the monorail.” She makes direct eye contact. “I guess I read it as like it’s rushing faster and faster – hotter and heavier – towards the climax.” Amy draws out every word, and takes delight in making her squirm.

Tails chokes on her soup. “…that was not my intention.”

Amy raises an eyebrow.

“…or it was, a little.”

The rest of the meal is strangely quiet. Yet as they ate, Tails couldn’t help but replay those words in her head over and over again, remembering the breathiness in Amy’s voice, the gleam in her eye, the way she lingered on climax… until Tails could no longer deny it. Sonic was right. Amy did like her. Yet somehow this realization only made the rest of the night seem more terrifying.

As soon as they both finished eating, Tails quickly sets about rinsing off their dishes and putting away the leftovers. Meanwhile, Amy moves over to the couch, eagerly waiting for her to return.

She locks eyes with Tails as she leaves the kitchen, smiles, and pats a space on the couch next to her. Tails walks over to the couch and sits down, still a couple feet away. Amy closes the distance in turn.

“Hey,” Amy begins. “What’s up?”

“Oh, um, nothing, I guess?” Tails notices that Amy’s thigh is brushing up against her own.

“I can tell that something’s got you rattled,” she replies. “Was it what I said about your poem? I’m sorry. I didn’t expect it to shake you up so much.”

“It wasn’t that, but… the way you said it… it—” Tails struggles to force the words out, and every word uttered makes the others that much harder to say. Still, she refuses to back down now. It’s now or never – as if it hasn’t already been now or never for almost a year.

“It made me wonder if you happened to actually like me, and if—but if you did…” Tails is flushed red.

Amy perks up. “Oh, I think I can guess what this is about.”

“…you can?”

“Well, let’s say that I have a hunch.” Amy smiles and briefly leans in to try to make eye contact with Tails, only to have her shy away in embarrassment.

Amy waits for a few moments before prompting her: “So, did you want to finish that thought?”

“I thought you already could tell…”

She notices that Tails is in a state of emotional lockdown, nervously fidgeting with a string on her hoodie. She takes pity on her and decides to make the move herself.

“In that case, maybe I should’ve asked this a while ago but… do you have feelings for me?”

Tails briefly makes eye contact and puts forth a grimaced nod.

“So, then, what if I told you…” Amy takes one of Tails’ hands and cups it in hers, “that I have feelings for you too?”

Tails looks up. She suddenly feels as if the ten-ton weight bearing down on her had now phased through her and vanished into the floorboards.

She tries to say something, but is too overcome with emotion. Near tears, she throws her arms around Amy instead, in hopes that it will get the point across just as well. As she buries her face in Amy’s shoulder, she begins to feel Amy’s hands stroking her back, and all tension leaks from her body as she sinks into her embrace.

 

“Now that that’s off your chest, are you feeling any better?”

“I think so… It might take me a couple minutes to calm myself down, but…” Her line of thought is lost upon being captivated by Amy’s beaming smile. It feels almost surreal to think that she gets to love someone as special as her.

“Although, now I can’t help but wonder – what with dinner and all – were you planning to make that confession tonight?”

Nope. This wasn’t how I expected this night to have gone at all. The thought only really crossed my mind during dinner, when…”

“When I made it weird.”

“Well,” Tails thinks it over, “yeah.”

“Sorry for bringing that up. And sorry for snooping,” Amy says with only a little regret.

“Nah, it’s fine. But I figured that, even if you decided to stay for dinner, we’d chat for a bit afterwards and then you’d head out. Or maybe we would get around to finishing Chao in Space 4, since we’ve had that paused for, what, weeks now?”

“Yeah, something like that. At this point I don’t remember anything about the plot,” she admits.

“Same, honestly, but I still feel bad about not finishing it. Yet I also don’t feel like starting over from the beginning… but I don’t want to continue from where we left off either if it’s not going to make sense. You know?”

“Truly the dilemma of our time…”

Tails giggles.

“You know,” Amy suggests, “if you wanna watch it but don’t actually wanna watch it, we could always just put it on in the background and say that counts.”

“That’s not a bad idea…” Tails replies. “Do you have an opinion on where we should start it from?”

“I don’t think it matters, really.”

“Fair.” Tails turns on the TV, presses the play button on the remote, then promptly forgets about the movie.

 

“But anyway, I completely wasn’t planning to confess tonight. Although I will admit that it has been on my mind lately.”

“Really?”

“Like, I know we’ve been friends for years, but ever since you moved back here and we started hanging out more, I like to think we’ve gotten pretty close. And, well, I started to realize that I had fallen for you.”

“I’m surprised it took you so long!” Amy flips her hair back.

“Hey, love is scary. Didn’t you see what I just went through?”

“Very true…”

“Though if you really want to know, I think the main reason was that it came up when I was talking to Sonic. He was, um, teasing me for having a crush on you.”

“Typical,” Amy sighs, looking slightly disgusted.

“By now I kind of expect it. But it got me thinking about how wonderful you are to me, and how I really care about you, and how I love spending time with you…”

“That’s so sweet…”

“And talking to him about it wasn’t all bad, since he did push me to ask you out. He even said that you had a thing for me already, though not quite in those words.”

“Oh? How did he say it, then?”

“He said something about me being able to take you home and… fuck you, whenever I wanted.”

Amy stifles a laugh. “Wait, did he actually say that?”

Tails sheepishly pulls her hoodie up over her mouth.

“I swear, that guy is something else.”

“I think he meant it to be encouraging? Like, so I wouldn’t have to worry about being turned down.”

“Sure, that’s one way to go about it, I guess!

“Yeah it was uncalled for, but it got me thinking about how much I really do want to… well, hold you close, and cook dinner for you, and watch movies together, and just be by your side.”

“And then fuck.”

Tails turns bright red again.

“Sorry, but you are a lot of fun to tease! I can see why he does it.”

Tails rolls her eyes and tries to smile.

“Although…”

Amy stares down Tails and licks her lips.

“The thing is… he wasn’t wrong.”

With a mischievous spark in her eye, Amy lurches forward and pounces on Tails, pinning her to the couch with Amy on top. She looks down to see Tails shocked at what just happened, yet the goofy grin on her face suggests that this approach wasn’t unwanted. Amy runs her fingers across Tails’ cheek, letting her nails drag across her skin and hearing soft hums of pleasure in response. As Tails warms up to Amy’s caresses, Amy slowly moves in to kiss her. Yet before she can get too close, Tails interjects:

“Wait, don’t you think we’re moving too fast here?”

Amy sits up. “Maybe, but just think: how long have you wanted me? How long have we known each other?”

“Good point,” and she reaches up to draw Amy back to her. Tails stares up at Amy, mesmerized by her hair swaying as she moves while her body obscures the lights above. The room slowly darkens as Amy draws closer, until finally Amy’s lips meet hers – somewhat forcefully, but she appreciates the passion. As they settle into each other, Tails begins to concentrate on the feeling of Amy’s body against her own, then the scent of Amy’s hair brushing against her nose, then the taste of her lips, then the taste of her tongue…

Tails’ mind is fuzzy when Amy finally gets up and leaves her lying on the couch, still in a daze. She then takes the opportunity to remove her summer dress and then her undergarments. In time, Tails begins to recover, and she swings her legs off the side of the couch to stand up. She then looks over to see Amy standing in front of her, one hand on her hip, fully bare. It strikes Tails that, for as long as they have known each other, she had never seen her like this. Yet despite knowing her for years, Tails wasn’t expecting her to be quite so stunning.

“…God, you’re perfect,” Tails gasps.

With Amy’s help, Tails lifts the comfort hoodie up and off her torso, then works on the shirt underneath as Amy undoes her pants. In a moment of impulse, Tails then grabs Amy as she’s standing up and holds her close; their naked bodies interlocking as Amy’s breasts rest atop her own frail buds. Amy is taken aback by the move, but quickly returns the embrace – one hand holding the base of Tails’ head, the other hand against her back to draw her even closer – as she moves in for another kiss.
 

As they kiss, Tails loses her balance and stumbles back down onto the couch. Amy spins around and crashes right next to Tails before resting her leg atop Tails’ lap. Tails inadvertently places her hand on Amy’s leg, but then she shyly retracts it. Amy grabs her hand and puts it back where it was.

Tails thinks she sees Amy mouth the words touch me and so she begins to let her hand wander – across her stomach, along her back, then down her side and torso, until finally tracing the contour of her breast. The sensation of holding Amy’s breast in her hand arouses Tails to the point of being slightly painful, with her cock feeling like it’s trying to burst past its physical limits. And in the same way, Tails’ desire starts to grow past her inhibition; she begins to want more too.

Eagerly, she lets her hand travel once more across her stomach, down the outside of one leg and up along the inner thigh of the other, before letting two fingers drift toward a place she never thought she’d get to touch. Yet as she begins to fondle the hood of Amy’s clit, a circuit snaps in her brain – its fraying wires sending electricity down from her shoulders through to her feet and setting her head ablaze. Her whole body goes numb, her ears start ringing, and she soon realizes that cum is now dripping down her inner thigh.

“You feel so… good,” Tails squeaks out. She massages Amy, letting her fingers softly run up and down her lips, entranced by the sensation. As she begins to zone out, she hears a soft giggle coming from beside her, and slowly looks over to realize where Amy is staring.

“Yes, I know. Sorry.”

“It’s OK, It’s OK.” Amy replies with an eager smile. “I can help you clean it up, if you want…”

“What… what do you mean—” Tails tries to ask, but Amy has already pushed her down on the couch before she can get the words out. She then awkwardly straddles Tails and crawls forward until her head is right above Tails’ legs. She bends to lap up Tails’ cum, starting at the far end of her thigh and working her way back, licking and sucking on her leg. Tails shudders once Amy reaches the most tender part of her inner thigh, and she lets out a hiccup.

Amy then takes Tails’ penis in her hand, wrapping two fingers around the base of the shaft and massaging it upwards to draw out any remaining goo. The excess spills over the top and onto her fingers, and Tails’ virility seems to come back as she plays with its clear viscous liquid. Then, with a swipe of her tongue, she licks in a circle around the head, and plunges herself downward onto Tails completely.

After gently moving Amy’s knee so that it’s no longer on her shoulder, Tails finds herself staring up between Amy’s legs, her head bobbing in the distance, her vulva inches away from her face. It pulsates and shivers with every descent of Amy’s head, and sparkles as traces of dew line its innermost lips. Its presence feels inviting; it calls out to Tails. Hesitantly, she stretches her neck forward just a bit and sticks out her tongue…

Upon making contact, Amy instinctually tenses up, bonking Tails’ nose. Still, this doesn’t dissuade Amy, with Tails feeling the unabated caress from Amy’s tongue moving across her shaft up toward the tip and back again. The sensation is almost too much to bear, and yet she doesn't want it to stop. Tails grabs Amy’s hips and pulls them back, seeking to immerse herself within her. As she nestles into Amy, Tails reaches up to massage her back and side, letting her fingernails lightly drag across Amy’s skin. Together they grow more fervent in their actions – Tails licking Amy and being licked in turn, Tails running her fingers along Amy’s body while Amy strokes the inside of Tails’ thighs – until suddenly Tails is knocked back by a jerk of Amy’s hips, accompanied by a breathy moan.
 

Amy moves herself forward to stand up, and then squeezes herself onto the couch so she can lie next to Tails, face to face.

“I—I cleaned it up,” she says, short of breath.

“…that was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced.”

“What, eating me out?”

“It… I don’t know how to describe it. It just felt right to be there.”

“Sounds like someone found a fetish.”

“I mean, you’re not in a position to judge, here.”

Amy looks away, slightly bashful. “Maybe we can be thankful that we found something we both enjoy?”

“True, although, um, next time we should really use my bed for stuff like this.”

In sync, both of them look over to the TV to see Chao in Space 4 nearing the end of its credit roll.

Amy turns back toward Tails and props her head up with her hand. “So, what’d you think of the movie?”

Tails shrugs. “It was OK, but personally I don’t see why they felt the need to bring it back after the original trilogy. And – this might be mean – but I think its existence besmirches the reputation of the originals, in a way that makes me wonder if those were ever any good.”

“Oh, wait, were you actually paying attention to it?”

“No.”

They both laugh.

Tails grabs the back of the couch and boosts herself up. She then looks into Amy’s eyes and feels her heart flutter once more.

“Thanks, for— well, for everything. I think I had a really good time tonight.”

Amy leans in close to Tails. “You know, the night doesn’t have to end just yet.” Then, with a single hand she caresses Tails’ cheek, and their lips meet each other’s.

For hours they remain suspended in bliss, enshrouded by time, with only their sighs to mark its passage. When she awakes late next morning, Tails will remember being captivated by the way Amy’s eyes shone as they caught the light from nightstand lamp; she’ll remember the feeling of Amy’s skin as it pressed against her body from head to toe, their legs entangled as they sought to hold each other even closer, and Amy’s quip about being glad that they didn’t have garlic bread.

Together they chase their passion into the deepest night, until they both are utterly spent. With nothing but their love left to give, the two of them find a home in each other’s arms, unable to do more than stare into each other’s eyes, yet unwilling to give up the feeling of the other’s body against their own.

Eventually, Tails is forced to break the silence. “I think I should get ready for bed.”

“…that’s responsible,” Amy drowsily murmurs.
 

Amy is already asleep by the time she returns. For a moment, she feels a bit dismayed that their night happened to end like this, with no goodnights and no I-love-yous. But maybe that’s for the best, Tails thinks, because did she really love her? She wants to believe that she wouldn’t have gone as far as they had if she didn’t, but maybe she just got caught up in the moment. Doesn’t love require more dedication? More sacrifice? Or is she overthinking all of this, as usual?

Tails slips into bed beside her and curls herself around her back, only to hear a soft moan of pleasure in response; she places her arm around Amy, only for Amy to reflexively grab her arm and hold it close. Tails feels the soft pulse of her heartbeat and is overcome by how much she treasures her, and how lucky she is to be with her. She lifts her head up to see a soft smile on Amy’s face, and moves to bring herself closer.

As Amy leans into her body, Tails is reassured that she does love her. Truly, this is the only way such a blissful night could have ended. And so, comfortable and perfectly content, Tails happily drifts off to sleep – one hand resting on Amy’s chest, and one tail curled around to keep them both warm.

 

Silver sword enchantress, believer in the final flame.

“Regrettably, I must inform you that your girlfriend is a bottom.
 

“Maybe, but she’s my bottom… Though I’m not sure what that means here. I mean, we definitely did” – Amy mimes insertion with her fingers – “so I don’t know if that makes a difference?”

“My child,” Blaze begins facetiously, “topness and bottomness is less about what you do and more about how you do it. Or how you react when it’s done to you. Or about what you do. It’s an energy field.”

“Can’t say that helps, but thanks.”

“Just trust me. With enough experience, it becomes easy to pick up on the signs. They’ll get flustered when you stare at them for too long, or zone out when stroked on the thigh, or cum before you have a chance to do anything to make them cum… etcetera etcetera.”

Amy guiltily blushes.

Wait, no, did she?

“Yeah, something like that.”

Blaze gasps, “Oh my god that’s so cute.

“Really? It seemed pretty normal though.”

“You’d be surprised how rare it is for sex to feel ‘normal,’ ” Blaze says with a cheeky smile, before deciding to go in for the kill. “Of all people, you should know. After all, didnʼt you…”

“Ugh, donʼt remind me. That was such a mistake. An inevitable mistake, but still.”

“Don’t worry, I understand.”

“No, I mean, it was fine, just…”

Blaze stares.

“OK, it was horrible. Like sex with a jackhammer.” Amy chuckles to herself. “I still like him, donʼt get me wrong, but I think I just wanted something more… despite getting a whole lot more than I wanted.”

“Ah, now that sounds like sex with a guy.”
 

“Wait, I thought you weren’t into guys, though,” Amy retorts.

“I’m not.”

“So how would you know?”

“Let’s call it intuition.”

“Or preconceived bias?”

“Extrapolation from past platonic experience.”

“Sounds dubious.”

“Prove me wrong.”

Amy opts not to drag anybody she knows into this debate.
 

“Do you think we have a future?” Amy asks. A lump wells in Blaze’s throat as Amy looks up into her eyes and she’s one again taken by just how beautiful they are. They’re so bright, so clear and pure, and nothing like the bloodshot eyes she’s struggled with.

“I, um, well, who knows, really.”

“That’s not very reassuring.”

“I really do want you both to find happiness – you two completely deserve it – and it seems like such a natural fit. I really want to believe that you’ll make it together, honestly. It would be perfect for this to be your happy ending, and I want to watch that story play out as much as you want to have it be yours.”

“But?”

“But I’ve seen too much to make those claims in good conscience. I’ve seen couples break up that I thought would last forever, and I’ve seen couples who I thought would never make it stay together for good. I’ve seen soulmates leverage their preternatural knowledge of each other to attack them at their most vulnerable, and I’ve seen shattered, deeply unhealthy people manage to splint themselves to each other and help each other heal.

“Love is unpredictable. That’s what makes it so interesting. Any outcome is as likely as any other, so I don’t speculate about others’ relationships anymore.”

“Except I know you do.”

I absolutely do.

 

Of language, of anguish and mystery…

“How has that kid been doing, anyway?”

“Tails? I guess she’s the same as ever, though recently she’s started to open up more – to me at least. I learned that she’s taken up poetry, and she seems to really like that.”

“Poetry, huh?”

“Yeah. She writes sonnets, and sometimes she reads them to me.”

“That’s cute,” Blaze replies. “A very traditional choice for our little technonerd.”

“She’s started to play with the form a bit, for what it’s worth. But I think it makes sense, since she’s secretly a huge romantic.”

That’s so sapphic! I love it.”

“Although I do find it interesting that she only writes sonnets. Is that unusual?”

“Not necessarily, though it is atypical in my experience. But then again, the few of my friends who write poetry tend to be drawn to more freeform structures – blank verse, free verse, etcetera.”

“Interesting…”

“Truthfully, it makes sense for her to have chosen sonnets, since she has a systematic mindset.”

You’re not wrong there… though she’s getting better.”
 

“But I’m glad to hear that she has a creative outlet, even if it’s one of the more psychically dangerous choices for her to have selected. If left unchecked, I could see her going mad and succumbing to even more rigid poetic structures,” Blaze cautions. “Like villanelles, or worse…”

“…Worse?”

“She becomes infatuated with a system of her own design: a beautiful and byzantine structure handcrafted by her alone, with meter and rhyme interlocking like septa bisecting a nautilus.”

Blaze stares forward blankly. “I can see it now: the structure elaborated until it begins to consume her, the vestiges of intelligibility falling away as she begins to operate purely on the phonemic level… The medium becomes the message, the syntax the semantics, the token the type…”

Amy realizes that Blaze is having a moment, and sees fit to let her continue.

“Her tongue will recite the language of the terrifying real angels, in their six wings covered with eyes. ‘Babl el, babl del, babl vel, babl von, babl onn,’ she will mutter, entranced by her constructed world, enamored with her petty godhood, and seeing no need for an external audience nor ever finding one.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Amy bites her lip, giggling, “I think Sonic would like it.”

 

Dindan, turapu tikyan.

“I don’t know if I would consider it my medium, per se, but it’s something to fill the time,” Tails says. “Like putting together a puzzle.”

“Huh, I hadn’t thought about it like that,” Amy replies.

“I find poems interesting because, even though the rules are simple, there are so many constraints you need to manage when writing. You have to figure out how to say what you want to say with only a certain number of syllables, a certain rhyme scheme and meter, a certain number of stanzas – and you can’t make it cliché either.”

“Sounds limiting.”

“Kinda, yeah. But the challenge is part of the fun! And if it gets too hard, I guess I could always give up and write free verse,” Tails jokes.

“What’s wrong with free verse?”

“Nothing, really. But it’s scary, or maybe I don’t understand how to do it well. Most of the works I’ve read just look like someone was trying to write a sentence but kept accidentally hitting the enter key.”

“Hey, I’ve had those days…”
 

“But also, I find a sort of comfort in the constraints inherent in poetic forms, and I like how the structure somewhat determines the feeling of the work as a whole. The medium is the message, in a way.”

“That phrase sounds really familiar,” Amy remarks.

“It’s a pretty common phrase, I think, though I don’t remember who coined it.” Amy is fairly certain that Tails does, in fact, know who coined the phrase, but opts not to press her.

“What made you think about that?” Tails asks.

“Oh! Blaze said it, the last time we talked.”

“That checks out for her.”

“We talked about how you started writing poetry, and she joked that you would go mad devising a form of poetry so intricate that you couldn’t use language to express it.”

Tails doesn’t respond, mulling the idea over.

Amy continues, “It would just be a string of sounds, and nobody would be able to understand it.”

“Admittedly, I’ve thought about doing that, on occasion…”

“You have?”

“Yeah, usually when I get frustrated trying to think of a rhyme, or when I can’t think of a word that expresses what’s in my head. But I’m too insecure to go all the way with that idea, though.”

“Insecure?”

“Deep down, I want people to understand my poems, and maybe even like some of them too. And I don’t want to make it any harder on them than it needs to be. I’ve noticed that people already have a hard time understanding me – I don’t need to make it worse.”

“But there is one thing like that which I’ve been working on, though it’s far from finished.”

“Oh? Tell me more.”

“Hmm, I could explain it first, or I could just recite it and you can tell me what you think, if that’s OK with you.”

“Sure!”

“Alright, let me see if I remember.” Tails closes her eyes, and spends a few moments mouthing through her words before beginning…
 

Ki savo tairo mithirlin, tu ekthu saa, tu ektai vin.” Her eyes begin to burn, in the same way that Amy remembers from when Blaze entered her fugue state. Amy finds it both humorous and haunting.

Ki kaerha bakhla ta majin, eiẍa! lukeru blah blah blih—” the flame dies out. “That’s all I have. Even though the rules aren’t set in stone, I can’t help but overthink it. The language has to be consistent, even if I’m just making it all up.”

“It sounded vicious…”

“Yeah, it’s a bit sharper than the style I’m typically drawn to, but as I’ve worked on this I’ve started to find a dark beauty in these sounds.”

“If you say so. I mean, what even was that one sound in there? ‘Eigra?’ ”

Eiẍa?

God… yes, that one.”

Tails lights up at the chance to explain it. “OK, so start with a th sound, and notice that your tongue is at the front of your mouth. If you move the point of friction back toward the middle of the mouth you get ch; move it a bit further back and you get sh; move it even further back and you get kuh, or kh if you’re able to do that. Make sense so far?”

Amy tries sounding out these different consonants, then nods.

“Good! So, for ẍa, you just push the farthest back part of your tongue against the roof of your mouth – or maybe back of your throat, I’m not sure. Then, try sounding out ch while keeping your tongue in that position. Eiẍa!

Amy sputters violently, choking, trying to make the sound.

“Hey, you’ve just about got it! Good job!”

“…yay, what do I win,” she replies, winded.

“Your prize is that you never have to make that noise again.”
 

“I’m guessing you haven’t told her about this.”

“Oh, Blaze? Nah. I don’t think I’ve seen her in a while, actually.”

“You should tell her when you get the chance. She’d probably be interested.”

“I don’t doubt that, but that’s the problem. She encourages this sort of thing.”

“So? It might be good for you to have a kindred spirit!”

“If nobody’s there to stop us, we would start to feed off each other’s eccentricity, and who knows where we’d end up. Don’t you see?”

Tails stretches her arms to the heavens.

“We would both go mad!”

 

Tell me your feelings and we’ll work from there.

“Oh… So you did…”

“He didn’t tell you?”

“Why would he?”

“I dunno, I thought that’s what guys do—”

“Uhm.”

“Oh, right, sorry.”
 

“But anyway, no, he never said anything about it,” Tails clarifies. “He only mentioned that you two even dated a few weeks ago. He doesn’t talk a whole lot about his private life.”

Amy chuckles. “I can see why you two get along well.”

“Hey, I tell him stuff!… sometimes.”

“Have you told him about us yet?”

“I told him that we were together, but only because he had been pestering me about it for months.”

“Months, huh?”

“He noticed that we had been hanging out a lot, and also noticed that I was too much of a coward to ask you out that whole time.”

“Aww… But that’s kinda funny. I just thought you didn’t like me that way!”

“No, I did, but I assumed you wanted to be just friends too.”

“So you didn’t pick up on any of the flirting?”

“Not until recently.”

Hm, I thought I was laying it on pretty thick,” Amy remarks to herself.

“I just figured that’s how you were with everybody. Plus, I thought you still had feelings for you-know-who, so I didn’t want to get in the way between you and him, I guess.”

Oh… that makes sense now.” A thought strikes her, and she continues: “So wait, were you just biding your time, and didn’t realize how long ago that ship had sailed?”

“Look, I’m not great at parsing relationship dynamics. I’m not the most… blivious.”

“No, it was awful. You remember how I used to have an embarrassingly-huge crush on him, right? It didn’t take long for that to vanish.”

“Oh huh, that’s strange,” Tails responds.

“How so?”

“Well— don’t spread this around, but growing up alongside him, I assumed his more masculine, take-charge attitude was what girls wanted… and probably made him better in bed too,” Tails shyly admits.

“Maybe, but that wasn’t what I wanted! I don’t even think that’s what attracted me to him in the first place.”

“Ah fair… I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s… look, I can see that this is getting to you.”

“Yes, but I know it shouldn’t. Like, I hate saying this but, for a long time, Sonic represented everything I’m not – and can’t be. And it made me feel inferior in comparison.”

Amy’s curiosity compels her. “Sorry if this is over the line, but is that why you decided to…”

“Nah nah… maybe, actually. Or it’s more like,” Tails thinks, “realizing who I can’t be led me to think about who I can be, or would like to be.”

“Interesting…”

“This is just something I’ve had to work through, don’t worry about it.”

“Gotcha. Although, I think I get what you mean. I know it isn’t quite the same, but I’ve felt the same way about myself.”

“Wait, really? How? You’re so pretty and charming; I’d think that everyone would want to be with you.”

“Hah, good one.”

“Well, you are to me. You always have been.”

“That makes you one of the few, I suppose.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Hardly. Or, I guess I don’t see myself as being especially girly. I’m a lover, but I’m also a fighter, you know?” Amy giggles, before looking downcast. “And… back when I was obsessed with him, I sometimes wondered if that was why he didn’t like me. Part of me always feared that someone more ‘properly’ feminine, or less outspoken, or just prettier, would sweep him away… out of my arms for good…”

“Oh, you mean like that one prin—”

She smacks Tails, lightly enough to be considered playful, but hard enough to get the point across.
 

“Although – and I may regret asking this – what exactly did he do?”

“I honestly don’t remember,” Amy says with a shrug. “I mentally checked out pretty quick, usually. I know he tried a lot of things, but none of them did anything for me. Or, he’d start something and then, when it wasn’t getting immediate results, he’d move on to something else. Like he was getting impatient.”

She continues, “I mostly remember him trying to get me off with his hand, digging like three fingers into me, and almost ramming them in and out as he grit his teeth. I think he wanted something to happen, but when you’re going that fast and hard it hurts more than anything else.”

Tails instantly blushes, and squeaks “oh my god that’s totally a porn thing.”

“Wait really?”

“Yeah uh you use multiple fingers to try to make her” – Tails hides her face in her hands – “squirt.”

Silence.

“…he’s into that, or at least I suspected it.”

More silence.

“I’ve had to use his computer a couple times and he doesn’t clear his browser history,” she spills out, her voice muffled by her hands.

“Why doesn’t he just turn on private mode?” Amy responds, before realizing that this incriminates her. “Not that I’m speaking from experience, or anything,” she says, blushing.
 

“I do have one last question, though.”

Amy turns.

“Does his motto about going fast… apply there too?”

“Well, I think we’ve both learned that you’re faster,” she says with a wink. “You can slap me for that one.”

She gently slaps Amy, just barely grazing her, fingertips lingering on her cheek. Amy smiles and wraps Tails up in her arms, before playfully bonking her head.

“But no, if you must know. He actually couldn’t finish. That might also be why he was trying so many things, so that one of us could get some pleasure out of it.”

“Chivalrous, I guess.”

“I wish he wasn’t…”

 

Like a present that you had wanted for years, only to open the box and find that it had corroded inside.

“But there is one night I feel like you should know about.”
 

“It happened pretty early on, when we were together. I actually called it off halfway through. I told him that I just wasn’t in the mood, and I went home.”

Tails moves closer and places an arm around her.

“I spent the whole night crying. I remember that part pretty vividly. I started thinking about him and… something must’ve snapped.

“I realized that I got something that I had wanted for a really long time – for so long that I forgot why I wanted it in the first place – and… I got it. I don’t know what else to say! He was exactly who he is… and I guess over the years I had made him out to be so much more.”

She pauses, fighting back tears, trying to find words for the void that ate away at her. “I felt worthless. I felt like an idiot, really. I mean, you know how many years I spent chasing after him, right?”

Tails nods.

“He was my life, but without him, then who was I? I sank all my dreams into him, even though I knew he didn’t like me, believing that one day it would be worth it. One day he would come around…”

Amy sighs and rests her head on Tails’ shoulder. “But time passed, and I kept waiting, and when he finally came around, I realized that my dream of us together had diverged from reality long, long ago.” She chuckles bitterly. “So like, I’m over him now, but… it still hurts to think about all the years I had wasted, and how I can never get them back.”

“And from that day on, the sky was never quite as blue…” Tails unconsciously mutters.

“Hey. I’m not being that melodramatic, am I?”
 

“Sorry. I shouldn’t be so flippant.”

“Well, you’re not wrong, though. There’s something exhilarating about being hopelessly, foolishly in love, and after it sends you crashing to the ground you start to wonder if you could ever reach those heights again.”

“That’s so… poignant,” Tails coos.

“Maybe, but it hurts all the same.”

“Fair…” Tails scratches her chin. “Still, I hope you don’t think those years were a complete waste. I mean, if it wasn’t for you tracking him down and moving here, you wouldn’t have met me!” She flashes an intentionally-corny smile.

“No, that somehow turned out all right. That’s not the part I regret. It’s more that I didn’t do anything with myself. I got here, and then got stuck in stasis for way too long.”

“I guess that makes sense, though I figured you were off doing things with your own friend group at the time. Or is that different?”

“Well, like, I did, but it’s not like anything we did really mattered, you know. I think we helped out with a couple operations? But most of the time it felt like we were just along for the ride.”

“Oh.”

“Honestly, I did kind of envy you. You all had way more going for yourselves than I ever did. Like, Sonic had his charisma, and you had your curiosity, and what did I have in comparison? My creepiness?”

“Or your cuteness.” Tails pulls back, slightly flustered. “Or charm, or, well, I could tell you what you mean to me, but there’s a chance that I would break the alliteration.”

Amy smiles and shakes her head. “You’re such a dork. But still, I did kinda feel like the load back then, since he was out there fighting for a better future, and you—” The words get caught in her throat after realizing how she was going to finish that sentence.

“Yeah?”

“…you were always there to help him.”

“And we saw how that turned out.”

“Even though this is weird for me to say, I also think it’s sad that you weren’t able to hang onto your dream ending,” Tails muses. “There was something wonderfully storybook-esque about the idea of you two being together.”

“Yeah, huh,” Amy absently replies.

“Like, it’s the archetypical ‘boy saves girl’ story, writ out in time and cast with you in the leading role,” she continues, not noticing Amy’s pained expression. “I’d want to live through that too, honestly.”

“…and now it’s become ‘boy saves girl and then boy’s friend gets his sloppy seconds.’ ”

“No! I would never think of you like that…” Then, when she doesn’t respond, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dig up these memories.”

“It’s just,” Amy chokes out through defeated tears, “that’s exactly what I wanted it to be! I wanted the storybook ending; I wanted to be the princess…”

“I’m sorry!”

“…this is where you’re supposed to say that I can be your princess,” Amy whispers bitterly.

“I thought about saying that, but it seemed insulting. You deserve so much better than what I could ever give you. You deserve a castle with servants and gardens and gold chandeliers, not my one-bedroom hole lined with paper scraps and tangled cords.

“But if you can be happy with that, then I’d be honored to call you my Princess Rose.”
 

“I can’t say that has the same charm, sorry…”

“I understand.”

“But I know that nothing could.

“Like your dream was too good to be true?”

“Like it was created by a delusional kid who couldn’t control her feelings,” Amy sulks.

“I wouldn’t go that far…”

“You can’t deny it, though! You knew me back then!”

“Well,” she pauses, “you’ve gotten a lot better.”

“Have I?” Amy’s eyes burn with rage. “Sure, I might be better at containing it, but deep down I’m the same impulsive, obsessive, inconsiderate… Why would anybody want to be around that?! How could anyone really love me, when I’m so, so…

Tails hesitantly places a hand on her back.

“…you’re afraid of me, I know it.”

 

Years ago, you fell for someone who captured your heart and imagination – someone who gave you a dream.

“It’s hopeless. I never deserved a happy ending.”

Tails can’t help but be hurt by her words.
 

Amy looks up. “Sorry, you probably feel like dirt now, huh.”

“A little. Or, actually it hurts a lot to hear the love of your life imply that being with you won’t make her happy.”

“Please don’t listen to me. I don’t mean it.”

“I know, and I’ve had to keep reminding myself that you want more than just to be loved.”

“Well I did, but… maybe I’m a brat. Shouldn’t that be enough?”

“The heart wants what it wants, I guess, and I’m in no place to say whether anyone’s desires are better than another’s.”

“Fair. But still, I just feel like I’m too needy. Especially compared to you.”

“Compared to me?” Tails asks incredulously. “Compared to the girl who whines about her gifted kid burnout on a weekly basis?”

“OK,” Amy shrugs, “so we’re both hot messes, then.”

“And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She looks over at Amy and smiles, though Amy doesn’t respond.
 

As minutes pass with the two of them vaguely glancing at each other, Tails decides to speak up again: “But really I think all we can do is be understanding toward each other, and respect that we might not want the same things out of this relationship.”

“That seems,” Amy scratches at the carpet, “oddly cynical, coming from you.”

“Hmm? How so?”

“Or maybe not cynical, but… it’s like you’ve made peace with our relationship never being truly fulfilling.”

“I mean, I feel perfectly fulfilled, but I can’t speak for you. Even if our desires might be different, I still think you’re wonderful in all the ways that matter to me.”

“Thanks, I guess, though I’m still not sure why you think I’m so great.”

“Would you rather I didn’t?”

Amy finds herself at a loss for words, and a tear wells up in the corner of her eye.

Tails jumps up. “Wait no, I’m sorry.”

Amy remains stunned, biting down on her lip to quell the tears. Then, she responds:

“…what if I said yes?”

A box fan drones on in another room.

“I guess I should make it clear,” Amy begins, before hesitating. Tails looks over at her and waits for her to finish.

“It’s not like I broke up with him just because of the bad sex. That would be shallow, and it’s not like we couldn’t have worked through it in time.”

“Can’t say I’ve been thinking about that,” Tails remarks to herself.

“And I really did try to make it work between us. He was everything I wanted, right? ‘My hero,’ right?”

Tails sadly nods.

“But even outside of sex, whenever we spent time with each other, something still felt off. Like there was something between us that just didn’t line up. Like he wasn’t all there. And then it clicked – and in the downturned corners of his smile, I could tell that he pitied me.”

“And that’s what made you decide to break up with him?” Tails asks.

“Yeah… I tried to stick it out after I realized that, but I just couldn’t. I hated how he saw me. It felt humiliating, demeaning; I felt pathetic, though I know he didn’t mean it. And it proved what I knew all along: the only reason anybody would want to be with me is out of sympathy.”

“That’s not true…”

“Maybe, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be true, either.”
 

“I’ve started to think that…” Amy begins, “usually, we think of unrequited love as being head over heels for somebody who doesn’t love you back. And in all honesty? That’s really not so bad, because even if he doesn’t love you now, there is still hope that one day he will. He just doesn’t know the real you yet.

“But there’s another kind – of unrequited love – that you only feel when it’s just the two of you together, naked and vulnerable.”

Her voice starts to crack.

“And you look into his eyes, and you love him so much, but you get only a vacant stare in return. And that one hits like a truck, because you know there’s no hope that it’ll ever get better. You’ve played all your cards. You’ve tried your best to make him love you,” Amy chokes up, “and he’s trying his best to love you too.”

She buries her face in her hands.

“…I don’t think we were made to handle that one.”

“God, I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t love him anymore, but I miss loving him.

“And, like, I love you, but not like how I used to love him. I love you, but not in a way where…

“…where I expect that being with you will solve my problems.”

She hangs her head and closes her eyes. “I love you, but I’m still stuck with myself. I’m still me.”

“But I love you, and I wouldn’t want to love anyone else.” Tails tries to say this as tenderly as possible, and hopes that Amy understands what she means.

Amy’s throat dries up as her mind starts racing, unable to decide whether to say but I don’t! or so then what? or simply why? Overwhelmed by these responses, and what each of them says about her opinion of herself, she can’t help but cry.

Tails is unsure whether to consider this a success, but wraps her arms around Amy to try to comfort her anyway.

 

“It’s OK. It’s not your fault. We both dreamed too big, expected too much, and didn’t know how dangerous that was.”

No response.

“We were both just children. We didn’t know.”

No response. Tails starts to tear up too.

“But we found each other in there, somehow. Miraculously, though we didn’t deserve it.”

Amy sinks into her embrace.

“And we can love each other, and maybe that can be enough to get by.”

 

 

 

 

On gilded roses (Reprise)

A gilded rose: a simple wish, it seems,
To bet on hope and paint a life sublime;
To grasp a beauty only found in dreams
…and have it last until the end of time.

To gild yourself and glimmer, bright as day,
Concealing flaws that none but you notice.
To yearn to see your essence masked away,
And make your cloak your reason to exist.

We’re all too quick to judge this shining form
As unrealistic for the likes of her,
Yet it protects a psyche badly torn
And held together by her gilding. Sure,

She’d fallen for a childish fantasy,
But it was her survival strategy.

 

 

 

 

When I look into your eyes I see the fear but not the reason.

As the overcast clears to uncover a glowing moon, Amy is awoken by a whimpered “I’m sorry…” in her ear. Too drowsy to be startled, she rolls over to face Tails, who is still asleep.

As her vision slowly focuses, she notices tears forming around the corners of Tails’ eyes. She wipes them away with her thumb and places her arm around Tails.

“I didn’t mean to…”

Amy yawns and brings herself closer until the two of them are bound up together in embrace, and her leg is curled around Tails’ body. In that moment she receives a vague impression of just how small and frail Tails really is, and then the night overtakes her once more.
 

She awakens to an empty bed, and to the sound of shuffling in the kitchen. After a few minutes, she gets up and walks out to investigate.

“Good morning,” she cheerily sings. “What’s my cutie makin’ for breakfast?”

“Toast.”

“Ooh…” She starts to follow up, but is cut off by “I’m sorry I’m not feeling up to making anything nicer.” Instantly she remembers what happened last night – the muffled apology, the tears – and decides to see if she can coax a conversation about it.

“How’d you sleep last night?”

“OK, I think. You?”

Unsurprised by Tails dodging the issue, she tries to bring dreams into the conversation. “That’s good! I slept pretty well too, though I had kind of a weird dream…”

“Oh? What was it about?”

Even though she knew Tails would ask, she wasn’t prepared for her to actually ask, and she’s forced to make something up on the spot: “Well, um, I don’t really remember much of it now, but…

“I think I remember floating in the middle of the ocean, all alone, with no land in sight. Maybe, looking back, it seems like it would be scary, but I found it kinda peaceful.”

“Floating sounds nice.”

After an awkward pause, Amy tries to ask if she had any dreams last night as well, but before she can say anything, the bell on the toaster chimes. Tails removes both slices onto a plate, and invites her over to fix her toast while it’s still hot. She then puts a slice into the toaster for herself.

“You don’t want any?”

Tails points to the toaster. “I’m not that hungry. I can wait.”

“What if” – she slides one of the pieces onto a separate plate – “we each take one, and then whoever’s still hungry can have the other one later?”

“Sure.”
 

They each prepare their toast, Tails pours Amy a cup of coffee, and the two sit down to eat. Still, unwilling to let go of the memory of last night, Amy tries again, taking a more direct approach this time. “You know, I’ve noticed that you tend to apologize a lot.”

“Oh. I’m—” Tails catches herself. “I can’t help it.”

“It’s not a bad thing,” Amy reassures her. “It’s just that…”

She pauses for a second, deciding whether or not to just come out with it.

“OK, look. I heard you apologizing in your sleep last night.”

“Huh, I genuinely do not remember that.”

“It looked like you were crying.” Her lip begins to wrinkle, and she does her best to hold back empathetic tears.

“Was it really that dire?”

“I don’t know, but it looked like you were in pain, and you seemed so fragile, and I wanted to protect you.”

“I guess that explains why I had to force you off of me when I woke up.”

“Oh, sorry, eheh…” Amy nervously laughs.

“Nah, it was comfy. I would’ve been fine with it; I just really had to pee…”

The bell on the toaster chimes, but goes unnoticed.

After they finish eating, the two make their way to the living room. Amy sits near the edge of the couch and invites Tails to lie down and rest her head on her lap.

“So,” Amy begins. “You don’t remember having any dreams last night?”

“Not that I can recall.”

“Hm. What about in the past? Do you have any recurring dreams that come up for you?”

“Like, specific scenarios?”

“Sure, or just general themes.”

“I guess,” she thinks, “if there’s one thing that keeps coming up…”

Amy waits patiently.

“I’d say that they’re mostly about me, well, screwing up in some way.”
 

“Do you dream about screwing up now? Or… in the past?”

“The latter. They usually start off pretty nice, like I’m back there again and flying around with all my old friends. But then, somehow, I’d screw up exactly once and never hear the end of it. Also just like old times.”

“Ah, I see,” Amy murmurs, trying to think back to when that would’ve been. “Wow, it’s been a hot minute since those days, huh?”

“Basically, yeah, and yet I can never seem to escape them.”

“True… I know you’ve talked about how it’s been hard to live up to your past self’s reputation.”

“That too, though I also meant ‘escape’ quite literally.” Tails softly laughs. “I’ve had at least a few recurring dreams where I just felt compelled to get away, for reasons I couldn’t explain. I’d just be running, and hoping to find someplace where I wouldn’t be seen.”

“Oh…”

“Yeah. Maybe the logic is that, if they can’t see me, then they can’t ask me to help.”

“ ‘They?’ ”

“Sonic mostly, and then whoever else decided to be part of Team Sonic that day.”

“Ah, that ragtag bunch.”

“And I tried to help; I really did…” She starts to look injured.

Amy strokes her hair, and soothingly mutters “It’s OK, I know you did. And you did help, so many times.”

“But not every time, and that’s the problem,” Tails replies, mist forming on her eyes. “They weren’t expecting me to fail, which means that when I did, they had no backup plan.”

“Sounds about right for Sonic.”

“Really, it’s almost hypocritical of him to have sent me in without a backup plan, since I rarely had the chance to come up with a plan myself. They all relied on my ability to just ‘figure things out,’ and would throw me into the fire and trust that I would have it all worked out by the end.”

“I guess I never realized how stressful it must’ve been. You always seemed like you had everything under control.”

“I can understand why you’d think that, but it took so much work to maintain…” She closes her eyes. “I pushed myself to the brink so that I wouldn’t let everybody down. It didn’t come naturally to me. It never did.”

“True; I remember us talking about this.”

“I think so, yeah, and about how it got harder and harder for me to keep up with what they expected from me.”

“Mhm,” she affirms while stroking Tails’ cheek.

“Especially once I started to lose my…”

 

God I miss being able to fly.”

“What’s it like?”

“It’s tiring. I’d compare it to running at a full sprint, so it’s difficult to sustain without training.”

“Oh,” Amy replies, not expecting her to lead off with that.

“But.”

She looks at Tails with anticipation.

“When you get going – when you build up enough momentum to start putting everything you can into moving forward – there’s nothing that can stop you. No ground friction to slow you down, or loose stones to trip you up. It’s pure kinetic bliss.”

“I guess that explains how you were able to keep up with Sonic.”

“Yeah, and I think I was one of the few who could.” She looks up, eyes shining. “You know, he may have been humoring me, but on days with a good tailwind he’d often be telling me to wait up.”

“Aww, and it sounds like you two shared a bond there.”

“Oh, absolutely. We were both speed junkies; he was just more outspoken about it.”
 

“And I’m guessing you can’t do that anymore.”

“Nope, and now I can’t even glide. I grew too many bones, Amy!” she half-jokes.

“Doesn’t it work the other way?”

“Yeah, they fuse and get denser. Which makes you heavier, and harder to lift, and pretty soon you realize that you’re starting to lose one of the few things that made you special, and made you valuable to the people around you.

“And then you start screwing up. Over and over again.

“They laugh it off at first, but the laughter soon begins to sting. And once it finally stops – after months of missed cues and failed missions – you find that it had been replaced with the bitter silence of their disappointment, and you learn how contingent everyone’s love for you really is.”

 

“I do sometimes think about if— never mind, I shouldn’t say this.”

“What is it?” Amy asks.

“…if I’d have been able to keep my flight, were I born a girl.”

“Oh? Umm, honestly? I’m not sure about that. You’re already pretty thin, so I don’t think it would’ve changed much.”

“Wouldn’t I still be lighter, though?”

“Speaking as someone who grew up as a girl – no offense – once you hit your teens, everything goes straight to the hips. It’s not pretty.”

“Oh, huh…”

“Not to discount what you went through or anything; from how you’ve described it, dysphoria sounds way worse. But still, you know…”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Bones. Can’t escape ’em.”
 

“But anyway, going back to what you said earlier,” Amy says, “it seems like being around them must’ve traumatized you.”

“Maybe? I mean, there were days that really sucked, but I had a lot of fun when things were going well.”

“I think that’s normal. It might even make it worse, honestly, since the good emotions get mixed with the bad and it’s hard to sort them out.”

“Sure, but I guess I feel bad calling it trauma, since, well, maybe it devalues people who actually went through trauma.”

“ ‘Actually?’ ”

“Like, I dunno, I don’t remember anything especially bad happening to me…”

“Well, trauma doesn’t need to come from a single big event. It can also come from more mundane events that add up to create an environment that makes you feel unsafe – physically or emotionally.”

Tails suddenly remembers that she is dating a psychology graduate.

“Or even little things that happen so often that they don’t feel like a big deal, but they still grate on you, bit by bit, until you’re raw. And you’ve talked about a lot of stuff which would eat away at you, with enough time.”

“I guess, but you get used to it,” Tails replies.

“So, after a while, you became completely numb to their teasing? It stopped stinging?”

“Well…”

“Were you able to laugh at it too?”

Tails freezes up.

“So maybe they really did hurt you more than you’re willing to admit.”

“It wasn’t that bad. They were just jokes. I should’ve been able to take it. I should’ve had a thicker skin. I shouldn’t have taken myself so seriously,” she says while fighting back tears.

“Is that what they said to you?”

Tails nods, with a pained expression.

Amy moves to lie down alongside her on the couch and embraces her tightly.

“They told you that to make themselves feel better about bullying you.”
 

“So I guess now you know why I apologize so much. Is that what you were trying to figure out?”

“I don’t know if I was trying to ‘figure anything out,’ per se, so much as try to start a conversation,” Amy responds. “To try to learn a little more about that girl I love so much.”

“Aww…” Tails blushes.

“I guess it just seems like there’s a lot from your past that still weighs on you, and I feel like just being able to talk about it might be helpful, you know?”

“Maybe, yeah. Although there’s not really much I can do about that now; I think I just have to let it go.”

“Like, put it all behind you and forget about it?”

I wish. Honestly. I wish I could pretend none of that ever happened. I think I would be better off that way, but my vanity won’t let me.”

“And also – as you’re so fond of reminding me — if it never happened then you wouldn’t have met me.”

Tails smiles.

 

“Still, I hope that in the future we can spend more time talking about this. I do think all that stuff that happened years ago managed to do some real damage – which is pretty obvious once you know what to look for.”

“What, you mean like me apparently apologizing in my sleep?”

“It wasn’t just the dream-apologizing that tipped me off,” Amy replies. “There are other things that I’ve been wanting to ask about too, but those can wait for another day.”

“Hm?”

“Or maybe I’m thinking of one thing in particular… though it’s not important.” Amy nervously smiles, in an attempt to reassure her.

“OK, now I’m curious too.”

“Are you sure you want me to bring it up now?”

Tails nods cautiously.

“Well, I’ve noticed that when you try to open up, you grow – this isn’t the right word but – cold? Like, you become much more distant, and hesitant.

“And I can tell that you’re scared.”

Tails ponders her words, though she knows what Amy means all too well. Then, without looking up, she responds.

“…if people know how I feel, then they can use it to attack me.”

The words are delivered with an almost monotonic cadence, yet the impact of them breaks Amy’s heart in two. Suddenly, everything makes sense: her guarded nature, her many secret interests, her keeping most of her childhood friends at arm’s length… Amy remembers the cheery ray of sunshine she first met over a decade ago, and realizes that she hasn’t seen that same unabashed joy from her in years. She feels a morose pity in seeing her reduced to the state she’s in now, and a faint rage at whoever must have done this to her. And, amidst the flood of emotions, she also realizes how much courage it must have taken her to begin sharing her poetry, and how much she must trust her to not use her most personal feelings against her.

“You’re not going to tell anyone about this, are you?”

Already in tears, Amy fervently shakes her head before embracing Tails, clutching onto her for dear life so that nothing could tear her away.

 

Across a devil’s ocean, beyond the ivory sky.

Silence blankets the northernmost coast of Mobius while a chilly wind passes through its palm trees, bringing microscopic dewdrops to coalesce on their fronds in a premonition of autumn. From a distance, all appears like it always has, yet the rustling fronds and migrating birds bring with them the reminder that nothing is truly unchanging.

Somewhere Sonic looks in his mailbox and notices a letter addressed to him by Tails, and he opens it without a clue as to what it could contain. Somewhere Blaze stares at the back of her throat through a mirror caked with spittle as she repeatedly tries to pronounce ẍ. Somewhere Amy and Tails cuddle in bed irresponsibly as the hour hand approaches its zenith, content to stay where they are.

The distant waves lap onto the shore and recede again, taking sand in their wake, and depositing sand in return. A golden fissure forms in the clouds above; though it’s still too thin to see what lies beyond them, its promise might be enough.