And so finally, we have it!: the last chapter. Please read and review.
"Knuckles!" came a violent pounding at the door. The red echidna was shaken out of his reverie, which largely involved him staring at the wall directly across the bed he was sitting on, completely devoid of emotion.
"W-who is it?" he asked, and his voice was rough for not having spoken so long. It was a stupid question, as there was only one person it could be.
"You know who it is," the voice answered tartly, and Knuckles couldn't help but give a wan smile, despite himself. He pulled himself up from the comforters and ambled out into the hall. He caught his reflection in one of the mirrors that adorned the wall and stopped for a moment. He contemplated his rumpled figure, and tried to compose himself. He knew what this was going to be about, and it he took a moment to decide whether or not to re-think what he was about to say. He knew he was about to tread in very dangerous, murky waters. But even after second thoughts, he was resolute.
"What the heck is taking so long?" said Amy crossly, and he could hear her tapping one of her shoes, very Sonic-eque. Surprisingly, the thought of his on-again, off-again rival didn't bring the same sick feeling he had gotten the last hundred times the hedgehog came up in thought and dreaming. "Are you indecent or something?"
"Amy," Knuckles said slowly and blandly as he finally unlocked the door and swung it open with one enormous, barbed fist. The light illuminated him from behind as it came streaming out into the cooridor in which she was standing in, giving him a gold-and-red silhoutte. "My entire body is covered in coarse hair. What could be possibly be showing?"
"Hey, I know that your pee has to come out of SOMEWHERE," she teased back, a little more tersely than she would have liked. Her voice was brave and steady, but her cheeks flushed with the notion of the echidna's nakedness.
"It comes out of my butt." He did not smile, nor move out of the doorway.
"How coincidental. That's where mine comes from, too." She could copy his expression perfectly.
"I am astonished that your vocabularly is expansive enough to include coincidental."
"Shush, you. I actually WENT to grade school. Meanwhile, you were running around like the little heathen he-child you are in the jungle or something. Can you even read?"
"I taught myself, thank you very much," Knuckles said, and he leaned against the doorfame, looking very bored. "So what brings you here at this time of night, Miss Rose?"
"Can we stop this for a second and act.. uh, normal?" Amy demanded suddenly, changing the atmosphere of the conversation entirely. "I want to talk to you. Can I come inside?"
Knuckles seemed to debate whether the suggestion was a good idea. Then he shrugged and turned away from the door, which Amy caught before it could catch HER in the face. She took it as the closest thing as an invitation that she was going to get, and quickly stumbled after him.
"Please, sit," Knuckles gestured to the sofa. Amy smiled, her expression softening, and took a seat. Instead of settling down beside her, however, he deliberately took the love sofa across from her. Amy's expression melted away into one of confusion, and mild annoyance.
"Are you trying to put a barrier up between you and me?" she demanded. "Because I hurt your feelings? Because you-never-told-me?" She said the last part very loud and fast, her skin flushing further.
Knuckles, momentairly, seemed alarmed. Then that gave way to relief, looking pleased that she instigated it so that he wouldn't have to be bold enough to bring it up himself. "Never TOLD you? Please. You must have caught on sooner or later that the whole thing wasn't a big charade like you liked to pretend it was. The kiss? At your house? Wasn't that indication enough? Are you so daft that I have to SPELL it out for you?"
"Oh, so I'm dumb, am I?" she scowled at him, her eyebrows furrowed in something that vaguely resembled dislike. The look did not suit the pink hedgehog at all. "Well if I'm dumb then, how did such a sophisticated animal like yourself fall - fall for -" It was at this moment she looked as though she might very like to cry.
"Amy!" Knuckles said quickly, and his hand flew as though to physically stop her. She flinched very violently at the sight of his barbed knuckles, as though he might strike her. "Look, I'm sorry, I don't mean to be a butthead and start a figh--"
"You're right, I'm sorry!" she cried desperately, and she wringed her hands in front of her futilely. "I was stupid... I-I shouldn't h-h-have used you; I shouldn't have toyed with your emotions like that for such... such selfish and s-STUPID r-r-r-reasons." The tears began to gently fall, casading over the curve of her cheek and down and off the tip of her nose.
"Amy! Amy!" Knuckles said, near-frantic at the sight of watching his friend dissolve into tears. He got up from his seat across from her and came over on his knees before. He gathered her hands, now twisting in her lap, and gathered them into his own, much larger ones. "Don't cry, Amy, it's not your fault. I was just being a jerk, and there was no excuse for me flying off the handle like that."
"It's fine," Amy said, dabbing away the tears with the hem of her dress. Knuckles deliberately avoided looking at her exposed legs before she dropped the skirt back down aagin. He was looking at her, very concerned. "Really. It's okay." She added, more reassuring now that she didn't sound so shaky. "Anyway, I've given it a lot of thought and--"
Amy looked up with a complete lack of understanding. She looked at him a moment, saw his furrowed brow, and started again. "What I'm trying to say is that maybe I jumped into things with Sonic, and maybe he shouldn't be the person I'm so desperately seeking to find happiness, maybe the source of REAL happiness is staring me right in the--"
"No, Amy, listen to me." Amy looked down at him, and waited. The echidna took a deep breath, and then he spoke, although his voice wasn't as steady as before. Suddenly he looked very, very tired. "I've been giving it a lot of thought also, and I've come to the conclusion that.. no, we shouldn't be together."
"..But.. I don't get it..."
"Listen, practically all of your life you've been striving to get Sonic's attention. Now that you've gotten him; now that you've reached your seemingly unattainable goal, who am I to stand in the way? THAT would be stupid and selfish."
"But.. maybe I've realized... that we're the better match? That I adore you, everything about you--"
"Amy," Knuckles shook his head. "You have.. no idea, how much I wanted you to say this before. But I'm really, REALLY glad you didn't."
"I can't believe that you would say that," Amy said, and her lower lip trembled threateningly, once again brought to the edge of tears.
"I'm not saying that because I don't WANT you," Knuckles said, and he winced at his choice of words. He stood up and moved so that he could sit beside her on the couch. Awkwardly, but lovingly, he placed one muscular arm and draped it around her shoulder. "I want to be with you a lot, Amy, it's... weird, really." He looked away, a little embarassed, but did not move his arm. "My whole life has been about being independent, striving to be self-sufficient. I do my job, and live my life - alone."
"But you didn't CHOOSE that life, Knuckles!" Amy protested, sniffling. "It was forced upon you. You were made to live a life of soltitude - your parents.. they.. they abandoned you?"
"I don't know what the story is," Knuckles said, and finally he could return his gaze to her. "But that's not the point. The point is that we couldn't work... at least not now. And probably not.. ever."
"Because we are from two different worlds. We're two different people. Two different SPECIES. Look at me, Amy. I'm... I'm a monster." He stared down at the back of his hands, at the barbed ends that jutted out so violently. "I don't think you realize how careful I have to be. I could... I could really HURT you, without even trying."
"You've been careful," Amy defended quietly. "And I can be careful too. I mean, I'm not going to say we should take up boxing together." She gave a futile, and very fake sounding, laugh.
"It wouldn't work, Amy. I've come to realize this. I have duties.. as a Guardian.. I can't stay here, and I can't expect you to come back to the Island with me. It wouldn't be fair to you, Amy; you're a very social creature, and your entire LIFE is here."
"I don't mind rural areas," she said feebly, and Knuckles smiled sadly at her.
"Not to mention, I'm not very well socialized. Look at how much trouble I have with communication, let alone touching? I can't ever see myself... well, y'know..." Here he seemed to get really uncomfortable, and had to look away again. "...I just don't ever see myself ever being able to give you the things you may want.. or need..."
This time Amy pulled away from him, glowering. "Just what kind of girl do you think I am, anyway?"
"I'm not insinuating anything," Knuckles explained, closing his eyes. "But you know.. those things come with a relationship... at least eventually. But I.. I don't know if I'm capable like that. It will take me YEARS to get to that point, if I'm ever able."
"Anyway, it's not that I'm trying to deter you forever, I'm just saying - you've got what you want so... live your life," he finished lamely, and he moved to stand. Amy let him, eyes following him doggedly. "You've found your shining star; don't let me take your happiness away. I've still got some.. filling out to do... at least emotionally and psychologically, you know?"
"...We can still be friends though, right?" Amy asked quietly, finally giving way to failure. Her entire figure hunched over in a way that clearly stated defeat. Knuckles felt deeply sorry for her - and for himself.
"Of course, Amy. I may be stupid, but I'm not crazy." He offered her his hand, and she took it. Her grip was not strong, but he enclosed his fist around her and pulled her suddenly into a delicate embrace. "I'm not a lost cause, Amy," he whispered into her brilliant pink quills. "I just want you to give your shining star a shot before you blow everything to heck just to take a chance on some retard echidna who can barely tie his own shoes."
"Your shoes don't have laces," Amy said blandly.
"And there's a reason for that, you see now?" he whispered conspiratorily, and she gave him a small smile.
"Crisis averted!" she said, a little more brightly.
"Give me a ring in a few years if things don't work out with you and Sonic, okay?" he said, getting a little pink in the cheeks. "And you know... you've exhausted all of your other available options."
"Stop downplaying yourself, Knuckles," Amy said, giving him a little push. She could hardly move mountains but he gave an exaggerated stumble, just to humor her. "You're quite the catch; you just don't know it yet."
"That push you administered with such mighty force has caused me to stumble my already delicate knee bone," he cried, in mock-alarm. "I have been mortally wounded!"
"Psh, shattered knee? More like temporarily handicapped."
"Mortally wounded, Amy," he said, fixing her with an evil eye. "MORTALLY. WOUNDED."
"You're a freak," she said, in her own parody of disgust, and turned away with dramatic flourish. "I can no longer stand to be within your despicable company. Walk me out the front."
"Fine. I know when I'm not wanted." And he showed her out to the front. As she eclipsed the doorway she turned abruptly to face him, and reached out to touch his arm. "Knuckles," she said, suddenly serious. "Can I have one last kiss...?"
"Sorry, Amy," Knuckles said, although he looked like he dearly wanted to. "I can't." And they parted ways.
Less than fourty-eight hours later, Knuckles was back on the Floating Island, catching up with the Chaotix on what had happened in his absence. He re-assumed his position as Guardian of the Floating island, demoting his friends to lowly lackies once again. (They complained loudly for being just stand-in's whenever Knux wanted a break to pick up on some hot Station Square babes.) He offered to duel anyone who wanted to jockey for position as Guardian, and Vector accepted, mostly kidding himself. They had a throw-down, and Knuckles was (of course) proclaimed the victor. And all was normal, and grand, and the Island was quiet and peaceful, and his heart was turbulent but he ignored it. And so it went on.
Amy, meanwhile, pursued what ended up being a long-lasting relationship with Sonic. He could be a bit of a butthead, but she adored him anyway. And overwhelming everyone's irony sensors, he seemed to adore her even MORE. And so that went on, for a very long time, and she managed to force back her feelings for Knuckles and even forget about them for a while.
Two years later Knuckles was jostled out of slumber by Espio, who was peering into his face with his luminous, bright eyes. Judging by the lightening of the sky, it fast approaching dawn.
"Sorry, boss," Espio said, and he seemed apologetic. "But you've got a call on the radio. Some friend of your's, from the mainland."
"Man, if it's Sonic asking for me to bail him out again with some jam he's gotten himself into with Robotnik, tell him to forget about it," Knuckles said irritably, waving him over as he flipped himself over on his side to resume sleeping.
"No, it's not Sonic. It was some girl... uh.. I forget her name... Alisha? Amanda?"
"Amy?" Knuckles said, feeling the hair on the back of his neck prickle in excitement and dread. "Amy Rose?"
"That's the one." Espio said, nodding, as recogonition dawned upon him. "You want me to tell her you'll call back at a more reasonable hour?" He was already turning away, ready to relay the mesage.
"Actually," came Knuckles' voice, sounding far more awake now. Espio turned back to see the echidna swing into the upright position, ready to slip on his shoes. "No need to tell her off, Espio. I think I'm going to take that call."
Thanks to all my wonderful, amazing readers. Also, thanks to Matt, my beta-reader for the first few chapters before he turned into a meanie butt-head and stopped reading them altogether just to spite me. Thanks also to all of you who stayed with me; who pestered and bugged me through the years to just finish this thing off already. Even if you're not a SonAmy shipper, or not a Knuxamy shipper, or you think this story is totally whack and jumped all over the place, I hope this can appease a little of everyone, and take away the fact that it took me like THREE YEARS TO FINISH THE STUPID THING. Thank you, thank you so very much.