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Living on the Sidelines

Written by Felicia Rondo, Edited by Cluster, Rated 18+

Summary: Whisper’s always had to rely on Tangle to take initiative in their relationship, as it was just too difficult for her to ever take the lead herself. But when it becomes clear she needs to learn how to express herself and her desires, luckily for her, Rouge is here to come rescue her from all her troubles~

Commission for qqHoneydew.

Contains: Girl Talk, Dating Advice, Sexual Themes, Trauma & Ongoing Recovery, and Rouge’s Very Good Plan to Seduce Jewel that She Definitely Isn't Invested In.

Knowing what you want is overrated. That’s what Rouge always thought, anyway.

In life, there was no knowledge more precious than knowing how to get what you want. Then whenever you do find yourself wanting something, you’re already halfway to getting whatever it may be. That’s what Rouge had spent years of her life obtaining, more than any precious gems she added to her collection - knowledge so valuable, she could afford so many more treasures with it than even the greatest fortune could buy her.

So what brought Rouge there, that afternoon, as she snuck her way into the secret entrance of the Restoration Headquarters? Not any treasure she could find in said headquarters, lest she offend the sensibilities of any friends of hers that don’t like being stolen from, but the people that dwelled in it themselves. Everyone knows something, after all, and Rouge never got to know as much as she did by minding her business.

As she let herself in, no one gave her a second look. They either only knew her for being friends with Sonic and figured she was probably trustworthy based on that or, if they knew better, they were simply too busy to care. Whatever they thought of her, it didn’t matter. She was good at listening, even if they hushed their voices down to where they thought she wouldn’t be able to hear.

All that said, some people really didn’t take any of that into account. Most people at least discovered ‘having an inside voice’ at some point in their lives… but then most people weren’t Tangle.

“So what do you wanna do?” the lemur asked Whisper, “We could go out hunting for badniks to smash, we could maybe see a movie…” her voice trailed off after receiving no response from the other girl, before throwing in a third option as casually as she could manage, “we could, I dunno, hang out at my place or something…?”

Yes, Rouge hadn’t come to Restoration HQ to tune into the Tangle & Whisper show, but it was the only thing playing if her ears were to be believed.

There was Tangle, standing probably a bit close to Whisper, throwing out several different ideas for what was obviously going to be a date between the two. It gave the wolf options but, Rouge noticed, it all largely seemed to serve to give Tangle any semblance of hope she’d come up with something Whisper would be interested in doing. Whisper, for her part, squeezed her elbow awkwardly as she listened. Not really giving the exuberant lemur all that much feedback.

Nothing like good ol’ young love to make a lady not miss her youth, Rouge thought.

“… ‘Movie… would be nice,” Whisper said, at an almost-unhearable frequency from where Rouge stood, after an unbearable pause.

“Great! I’ll go get us tickets to the one with Lesbians in it!” Tangle exclaimed in palpable relief, pulling Whisper into a quick smooch on the cheek, “Love you, babe! See you at 5!” she said, before running off to the theater like it was going to pick itself up and leave in the next ten minutes.

An interesting-enough scene as it was, the bat thought, before noticing the wolf quietly sighing after her girlfriend had left.

Rouge probably could’ve moved on to eavesdropping elsewhere, the day was still quite young and she could probably still come away from this visit to Restoration HQ with some useful intel, but sometimes she just couldn’t help herself. Looking at the troubled girl standing there, all alone without a soul to lend her guidance, she knew this was one of those times.

Casually, as if they were at all familiar with one another, Rouge walked over to the wolf facing away from her. Said wolf didn’t turn to notice as the sound of her heels clicked closer and closer, so Rouge was going to have to startle the poor girl. Oh well.

“So, you seem to have a lot on your mind,” Rouge started, causing Whisper to jump, “anything I can help with?”

N-no,” Whisper replied, pulling her mask over to cover her face, her heart rate gradually slowing after the initial shock, “I’m doing fine. I was just going to leave.”

“That’s great, glad to hear it, sister,” Rouge smirked, putting in only about as much effort to sound convincing as Whisper had, “it just really brings me down to see a sweet young thing like you having love troubles,” she slyly added, piquing the wolf’s interest.

“But,” Rouge sighed, spinning on her heel and beginning to slowly walk away, “if you’re fine…

“Wait!” Whisper said, her desperation finally showing.

Rouge turned back to look at Whisper, a knowing smile on her face, before gesturing for her to come walk with her. Hesitantly, Whisper gently pushed her mask off to the side and joined the bat as they walked.

They carried on like that for a short while, Whisper silently keeping pace with the lady that walked so confidently beside her. The diamond cutter ‘damsel’ would need a little more prodding before she’d give her a hint, it would seem. Some days it felt like Rouge had to do everything - but, luckily, she was really good at everything.

“Not that I don’t enjoy a good walk,” the bat remarked, “but you’re gonna need to start talking if I’m gonna help you, sweetheart.”

“…” Whisper’s brow softly furrowed, “That’s the problem…

“I’m… not good at talking about it, when something’s wrong… it always feels too late to say anything…” Whisper confessed, “… and when I want something, I spend so much time worrying if I deserve it or not that it passes me by… every time…”

“You talk like your life’s already been written for you,” Rouge commented.

“It can definitely feel that way… a lot of the time…” sighed Whisper, a weight behind every word she spoke. Rouge had read up on her, because of course there was a file on her, so she knew the story well enough. Obviously the girl knew herself enough to know these were problems she had, but she lacked the confidence to tackle any of it.

“You have a date tonight,” she told Whisper, “is that something you want?” With barely a pause, Whisper nodded.

“So why did you sigh after she left?” asked Rouge.

“She…” Whisper started, pausing to choose her words as carefully as she could, “… There was… another idea she had, that sounded good, but… I didn’t know how to tell her I wanted it too…”

“I’m going to assume it wasn’t the badnik hunt, since you’re not emotionally 12 years-old like Sonic,” Rouge joked, causing Whisper to let out the tiniest chuckle before she could catch it, “a good old-fashioned hangout, then. Tell me,” she asked, “do you two… ‘hang out,’ a lot?” Rouge made scissor motions with her fingers as she said the words ‘hang out,’ which made Whisper’s adorable eyes widen so much as she reached for her mask to cover her face once more.

“W-we…” stammered Whisper, before fully covering her face once more and getting back to her original train of thought, “I-I just… have a hard time… communicating, about that…”

“There you go again with writing your life out before you’ve lived it,” Rouge shook her head, “sure you’ve had a hard time with it, but that doesn’t have to stop you now! You could call that sporty little lemur up and tell her exactly what you need from her right now, and you know what she’d say?”


“No,” Rouge responded, though she wasn’t going to wait for an actual guess from Whisper anyway, “she’d say yes seventeen times in a row, so quickly it would only register in your brain two minutes later that ‘yes’ was what she was saying, and then she’d thank whatever gods she worships that a beautiful girl like you was interested in her.”

“I… couldn’t do that…” Whisper simply replied.

“Okay, maybe that was more my style than yours,” the bat admitted, “how about this, instead - you’re coming out of the theater, positively-glowing from the beautiful time you had. The sun’s only just set, a night of love and unspeakable passion still awaits, so you turn to Tangle and tell her,

Oh Tangle,” Rouge started, half-heartedly mimicking Whisper’s voice, “I’ve had such a beautiful time, must it end so soon?” she fluttered her eyelashes, before bringing her voice back to her usual register to finish the scenario, “Then, before you know it, she’s scooped you up into her arms and raced her way back home so you can make your love the first thing the moon sees tonight~”

It was at that point that Whisper’s face was glowing so red it was all but literally showing through her mask, so Rouge knew she’d gone far enough with her little scenario for now.

“Sorry, sorry,” sighed Rouge, with a smile, “I just don’t see any reason why you should be so hesitant - you’re not scaring that girl away by showing a little desire, every now and again.”

“I… I know…” Whisper nodded, still resigned in her hopelessness.

“There’s no girl worth your time who’ll hold it against you just for taking the slightest bit of initiative,” Rouge stated, “why, if I wanted a date - let’s say, random example, with Jewel - I’d just march up to that little thing, shove all that stuffy paperwork off her desk, and tell her, Jewel? I’ve seen the way you glance over at me when you think I’m not looking, and I think you could get a much better look at me when we’re having dinner together, tonight.

This time, Rouge had only made Whisper stare back at her with what she could tell was a very puzzled look, even with her mask on.

“What?” asked Rouge, defensively.

“… Why Jewel?” Whisper questioned.

“You don’t see it?” Rouge responded, “Her, a by-the-book sweetheart who’s wound-up too tightly by her work, having her world turned upside-down by a rule-breaking bat who’s ready to show her another side to the world she’s been missing out on all this time?”

“That doesn’t sound right to me…” the wolf answered.

“It was just a random example, anyway,” Rouge said, laughing softly in a way that surely convinced everyone how little she was invested in that hypothetical, “I could make it work if I wanted to, but it was a random example, and we’re getting off-topic!

“You can’t live on the sidelines of your own love-life forever,” the bold bat told the shy wolf, “you already have everything you need to make Tangle light up like a Christmas tree, you just need to know how to use what you’ve got.

“What I’ve… got?” Whisper echoed back at the bat.

“You’re the most beautiful girl that Tangle’s ever met,” Rouge declared, with enough confidence that it was almost physically impossible for Whisper to muster up any doubt, “I don’t even have to know about every girl that Tangle’s met in her life through some convoluted spy op to know that’s true - not when I have two perfectly-functioning eyes that can see you and how she looks at you.

“So,” Rouge posed the question, “what’s really stopping you?”

Whisper took a deep, long breath. Not a word could leave her lips without her scrutinizing every facet of it, and agonizing over every potential consequence of it. She’d never known any other way to be. Not since…

“I know what I want… it’s never stopped being simple for me to feel it, but doing anything with those feelings is so hard… it’s a miracle that Tangle and I are even together, honestly…” Whisper said, “I’ve had crushes in the past, but I never figured out what to do with them… and when I lost my friends…”

Rouge placed her hand on Whisper’s shoulder, as the girl’s voice briefly caught in her throat.

“There’s no going back to who I was before that…” the wolf sighed, “… and I guess a part of me connected that to my love life… before it really had a chance to start…”

Once the elevator to Restoration HQ’s secret entrance descended down to their level, the two got on it and let the silence hang in the air for a moment as it slowly lifted them up. Let it never be said that Rouge couldn’t take her time when she needed to.

“You’ve overcome a lot, since then,” Rouge reminded her, “I know you already know this, deep down, but nothing the world’s thrown at you has been able to stop you yet. You’re resilient.”

“I know how to survive… that’s not the same as living…” Whisper replied, dejectedly.

“So learn how to live,” suggested Rouge so simply, as the elevator arrived at the top, before walking the both of them outside, “take it from me, hon - you still have a lot of life ahead of you, and you’re never going to find a better girl to go out and live it than the one staring back at you in the mirror.”

With a bit of courage, Whisper took off her mask. Her eyes welled gently with tears, and a smile crept its way almost imperceptibly into her expression. She didn’t have to show her face for Rouge to know it, the bat had been seeing through her cover the whole time, but Whisper needed it.

To let her true self out, the one she’d hidden away for so long, so that she might let the world in again… Not all at once, perhaps, but enough for a beginning.

“I should go… ‘Find something to wear…” Whisper smiled, “Thank you, Rouge…”

Maybe there was something to be said for knowing what you want. No matter what it takes to get it, having a guiding star that leads you wherever your heart needs you to be in order to get it can make even distant dreams come true eventually. Whether you’re a worldly woman or a young lady still figuring it all out, wanting is the first step to having - in collecting precious gems, and in love.

“Don’t mention it, sister,” Rouge chuckled as she watched the wolf begin to take her leave, before stopping her in her tracks as she added, “and make sure you don’t cover up too much skin! She knows what you’ve got, but a reminder never hurt a gal!”


The End

Originally-published on June 28, 2023

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