He never thought it would happen.
All his childhood he’d grown up never being quite good enough, the sneers of those far older than himself becoming a crushing weight of shame and misery that remained right through his life, hidden behind layers of confidence as he boasted about how he would take over the world. Make them all pay, bow down before the child they had so ruthlessly torn down.
He’d decided early on he wouldn’t have children of his own. Whether that was because they would be a hindrance to his rule, or because of the underlying memories of his own miserable childhood, he was unsure.
A small island off the coast of the mainland is where he settled, surrounded by forests and beaches and a seemingly random area of blizzard-level snow. He created bases, countless robots, to wreak havoc on that little island, and the even more little unnamed village that resided there.
Then he showed up.
A streak of blue had erupted from the bushes, launching towards his bots that were cutting down the surrounding trees.
He had barked out an insult, hours of work gone just like that, but all he got in return was a grin and a laugh before the blue being returned to the trees.
The laugh echoed in his ears for days.
The second time it happened he was in that same area, scouting for potential places for a new base. Ironically he had been thinking of the blue blur as he passed by, a quick glance towards the trees they had emerged from before retreating just as quickly, before the sound of another attack brought him from his thoughts.
Several of his robots once again lay scattered and broken, the blue figure standing between the wreckage, poised to pounce at any others they caught sight of.
Another insult he had barked, getting a better look at their face than before. They had a peach muzzle, same grin as before on their face, dishevelled quills that stuck out in all directions from the fight.
The laugh again, and they ran out of sight.
The third time he returned was several weeks later, in the hopes they had left the area by then so he could continue his work in peace.
He was foolish to have thought as such.
Metal once again covered the forest floor, and on either side of the clearing the two of them stood.
They were still grinning.
Clenching his fists, he was about to insult the menace standing before him, for continuously wreaking havoc with his plans, for continuously staring up at him with that smug face-
He was interrupted.
“Y’know you can’t win, right?” they said, bright green eyes staring up at him. “I’m not letting you have the forest.”
“We’ll see about that, rodent,” was his reply.
Again came the laughter. “As if, Egghead!”
And then they were gone, darting back into the trees.
It became somewhat of a routine, a game , every time he neared that particular area of the forest. He found himself reinforcing his robots for these excursions, thinking of new ways they could withstand the blows of the blur, who he had now learned to be a hedgehog after many a rebuttal to the term ‘rodent.’
He refused to admit that he felt joy at the thought of these outings, at the thought of their game.
As the weeks and months passed, he learned more about his pesky nemesis. They, who turned out to be a he, were quick and agile, capable of running at speeds others could only dream of, darting between his bots before landing his own blows with that well known laugh. He didn’t hold back either, taunting with every victory before returning to the forest once more, eyes bright with mischief and a permanent grin on his face.
The nuisance insisted on calling him Eggman. He didn’t know how to feel about the fact he didn’t mind it.
One thing became increasingly obvious over time though, the little voice in the back of his mind that would remind him before promptly being shoved underneath everything else, locked away until the dead of night before it would rise again.
The hedgehog he was fighting was a child .
Try as he might to deny it, this fact couldn’t be ignored. He was smaller than any mobian adult would be, even with his long limbs, with large eyes and a voice that only the most arrogant of preteens had.
Memories of his own childhood would follow this thought, leaving him to stare at the plain wall in the dead of night as he wondered how this child ended up as the sole protector of the forest. How this child had managed to always be there, where his parents were, if they knew he was putting himself in harm's way…
Another little voice would interrupt then, with a bleak answer to the final few questions.
He didn’t want to consider that possibility.
Six months into this little routine is when it started to change.
Winter was drawing nearer, the warm rays of the summer sun giving way to biting winds as they continued their battle for the forest. Dead leaves covered their battle ground, crunching underfoot as the hedgehog ran circles around the robots once more.
Something was different though.
Their usual playful banter was the same, insults and threats thrown at each other with no real malice as the kid destroyed his robots with ease, and yet something felt… strange.
Pauses, as if the hedgehog was about to say something else, his faltering grin barely noticeable to the untrained eye before returning to normal.
Eggman, as he was now called by the child, said nothing.
It took another month, the biting cold of November cutting through his suit as he made his way to the forest. No bots accompanied him this time, just the eggmobile that flew him through the trees towards his destination, planning to scout for a possible new clearing for a base.
He heard the hedgehog before he saw him, quick footsteps crunching the leaves to his right audible before the kid himself appeared, dishevelled as ever as a cloud appeared around his muzzle each time he breathed out the frosty air.
“Heya, Egghead! Where’s your goons this time?”
“Please, I don’t need them to defeat you, you pesky rodent!”
“Okay one, I’m a hedgehog get it right, and two, I think you’re just too scared I’ll destroy them all again!”
“That would require you to be able to think, rodent.”
A biting wind blew by before he could retort, ruffling Eggman’s moustache and causing the kid to snuggle further into the old hoodie he wore. Above them the clouds were dark, blocking most of the feeble rays of sunlight and casting the world in a grey glow.
Snow would be falling before long.
They stayed in tense silence for a moment more, both reaching that same conclusion. The warmth of summer and early autumn was gone, instead replaced with the harsh frost of winter.
The little voice in the back of his mind returned again, asking why this kid was out here in the first place, with nothing but a thin hoodie for warmth.
He tried to ignore the concern he felt at the thought.
A cough interrupted his musing, the hedgehog sending an apologetic glance his way from behind the sleeve that covered his muzzle. He sniffled with a grumble, glancing at the dark sky once more.
“You shouldn't be out here if you have a cold,” Eggman said, not even registering the words until they were already out, the kid now looking up at him in confusion.
“It’s just a cough, I’m fine.”
“Sounds like one hell of a nasty cough, then.”
To his surprise, there was no witty reply this time. Instead the kid just stared at his shoes, ears lowering as he stuffed his hands in his pockets.
Silence. Painful silence.
And once again the words were out of his mouth before he even thought it through.
“You can come to my lair for a couple days til it clears up then, if you want.”
“Coughs become colds, and no offense but you don’t seem like you’ll stay indoors if I don’t drag you inside.”
“What makes you think I don’t have somewhere to stay, huh?”
“I never said that.”
A look of confusion, followed by a brief flicker of panic crossed the hedgehog’s face as he realised what he had implied.
“I- I don’t-”
“I’m not going to make you tell me,” he said, trying to soften his voice more as the child in front of him refused to make eye contact. “But… the door is open.”
He held his breath as the silence consumed them both, only the sound of the wind and the crinkling of leaves surrounding them.
Without waiting for a reply the hedgehog turned around and ran, leaving Eggman to hastily power the eggmobile onwards after him. It took only a few moments before they reached their destination, not at all far away from the clearing, covered by dense bushes that obscured the space between the roots of the tree they now stood beside.
With a cautious glance towards Eggman, the child moved forward once more, ducking beneath the roots into a gap that presumably led into a small burrow. He wasn’t given much time to wonder what the kid was doing before he returned, a bundle in his arms covered with a blanket.
He didn’t have time to continue the sentence as a face emerged from the bundle, large blue eyes glancing around warily before landing on him and widening comically, two fluffy tails beginning to twitch back and forth as they also escaped the blanket.
His heart was hammering, the feelings of confusion and concern overwhelming as he stared at the two young children standing before him.
“...Care to explain, Sonic?”
Even with the gentle tone, the hedgehog still flinched slightly, hugging the other that seemed to be a toddler closer to his chest. “Can- can we go inside first?”
He had let them ride on the eggmobile on the way home, huddled at his feet as he sped towards his current base, question after question running through his mind.
He’d had his suspicions that Sonic was an orphan, after so long it had become difficult to think anything else. Another child though, who he had learned was referred to as Tails, who was a toddler no less…
He wasn’t sure he wanted to know just how long the two had been out here alone. He knows he doesn’t want to know what would have happened had he left them in that burrow throughout the winter.
They remained eerily silent as they arrived at the base, the hedgehog’s quills bristling as he stepped inside, clutching the young fox defensively as his eyes flickered around in case of a trap.
With a tired sigh, Eggman led the two to the living room, gesturing for them to sit down, before hastily going to the kitchen and grabbing two mugs he assumed the children would like, along with hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows.
He didn’t miss how their eyes lit up upon the first sip, and he couldn’t deny the small smile that crossed his face at the sight.
“Now… I know you won’t want to tell me everything, and that’s alright, I won’t force you to. All I want to know is if you have somewhere to stay that isn’t the forest, and…” a pause. “If you wish to stay with me for the time being.”
The stretches of silence from the normally talkative hedgehog were becoming all too familiar on this day, as he stared down at the mug in his hands thoughtfully, glancing towards the fox by his side, before returning his gaze to Eggman. “No, and… yes.”
The first snowflake fell.
It was an odd change. The very next day he had to make an emergency trip to the mainland to pick up things for the two, the boys tagging along beside him to pick out whatever they wanted, eyes bright even in spite of the odd looks the trio had thrown their way.
They quickly got to work setting up a room, and he’d honestly never been more thankful to have so many robots able to help with the labour, putting up beds and shelves and a desk to the side so that it felt a little less empty.
At least he knew the two’s ages now, and as a result was able to easier research how exactly to take care of a two year old and a nine year old with no prior experience.
In his research, he stumbled across a support group for new parents that had been mistreated by their own. He bookmarked the tab for future reference.
By that night he and Sonic were back to their usual snarky comments, albeit the kid was slightly more unsure than he had been in the forest. Eggman couldn’t fault him for it, just tried to reassure him that they could stay as long as they needed.
He learned that Tails, though young, was incredibly clever. The two year old was observant and wary, though had quickly warmed up to him after several mugs of hot chocolate. He seemed to enjoy stories before bed, as did his brother, their eyes wide as he would recount dramatic tales he wished someone had told him as a child.
The days became weeks, the cold the hedgehog initially had long gone, as the new year crept ever closer. The three had grown… dare he say comfortable living together.
He would wake up in the morning and make breakfast, sit at the table and throw snarky comments at each other, Tails flicking his namesakes happily, and the lair was filled with…
It’s something he never thought would happen. For so long he had only had the company of his robots, mechanical whirs and his own evil laughter filling the silence.
But now the place was full of life. Laughter, the sound of cutlery clashing together in the hands of clumsy children, playful jabs, footsteps sprinting around, children’s tv shows…
It felt like a home .
It was something Eggman found himself thinking about a lot now. How lively it felt, how his soul hadn’t felt this light in so long, how he didn’t think he wanted to give it up.
This realisation was both incredibly startling and also incredibly unsurprising at once. And from the looks of it, the two children that had taken over his life seemed to agree, gradually referring to the lair as ‘home’ and that they had their own room.
He’d said it was temporary at first, but…
As the evening of December 31st made way to night, he thought over the past month. How these kids clearly had nowhere to go after this, that they were becoming more comfortable each day, how they trusted him, how they didn’t want to leave.
How he didn’t want them to leave.
The sun had long set, and as it neared midnight they sat together in the living room, watching the final performances before the countdown to the new year would begin.
His heart was pounding even as he and Sonic shared jokes, Tails sound asleep between them. The offer repeated in his mind, over and over, rephrasing and editing it to make sure there was no room for miscommunication.
There was a brief lull in their conversation as the kid focused back on the performance, a glance at the clock showing it was 11:57, and he inhaled heavily.
Now was the time.
“Remember when you first got here. And I said my door was open for as long as you needed it.”
His hands were shaking.
“Yeah, what about it?”
The kid was confused.
“”Well, I’ve been thinking about how long that could be, and um…”
“How would you feel if…”
The clock ticked 11:59.
“That was a permanent offer?”
Wide emerald eyes stared back at him in disbelief.
“Are… are you for real?”
The countdown began.
The last 5 seconds.
The boom of fireworks erupted outside, the colours visible through the windows as cheers were heard from the village in the distance.
And yet they heard none of it, caught in their own new reality as this new year, new life , began. Where they didn’t need to rely on themselves anymore.
No, he never thought it would happen. But as he sat with his sleeping sons on that night, content smiles on their faces as he tucked them into their beds? He wouldn’t change a thing.