A/N: Hi, guys. This is just a little Christmas- themed oneshot I wrote. It's set in the Sonic X universe, so you may have a little bit of trouble understanding it if you're not familiar with that universe. Specifically, this fanfic takes place during the six-month period between episodes 52 and 53. This is the time after Sonic and co. return to their world, but before the Metarex come.

The fanfic does contain a few spoilers for episodes 1-52 of Sonic X. It also contains a small spoiler for Episode 78. In other words, read at your own risk.

With that said, please read, enjoy and (hopefully) review!

Christmas on Angel Island

The snow coated Angel Island like the early-morning dew would coat the grass in milder times. The creatures in Ice Cap wouldn't have noticed a change, but for most of the island's inhabitants, the change in weather was extreme. Many animals had already succumbed to the cold, and those who hadn't were slowly dying as a result of a lack of food. Still, they would pull through. They had been through winters before and pulled through, so there was no reason why they wouldn't make it through this one.

Regardless, one of Angel Island's inhabitants who most certainly did notice the change was its guardian, Knuckles the Echidna. He sat at the top of the steps of the shrine of the Master Emerald, shivering. His thin coat of red fur did little to keep out cold of this magnitude. Even the parka he had hastily made up gave very little assistance in keeping out the cold. It was a very shoddy piece of work, having been made out of bits of fur from various animals, all of which had been stitched together shoddily using the animal's own entrails. Knuckles had casually observed Vanilla sewing on the few occasions they had actually met, and had thought that he could give it a try. Unfortunately, he neither had any thread nor any skill in that area. The result was the low-quality garment he currently wore.

Knuckles frowned. He shouldn't have had to be in this position. He had only experienced a few winters in his lifetime. Angel Island usually floated in such a way that it was always in fairly warm areas. Unfortunately, when he had returned from Chris' world a month ago, Angel Island had appeared way too far north for it to be able to reach the southern hemisphere in time. The random nature of the wind meant that any travel was slowed so greatly that, by the time Angel Island reached the southern hemisphere, the northern winter would already be over. As a result, Knuckles would be forced to rough out this winter.

Knuckles sighed. Maybe it was just the weather, but he was feeling rather depressed lately. When he'd woken up this morning, he'd realised what day it was. Somehow, he had an uncanny knack for remembering dates. So when he'd woken up, it immediately hit him what day it was: it was Christmas Day.

Knuckles had heard Chris talk about Christmas once or twice when he, along with Sonic and the others, had been in Chris' world. Indeed, they'd been planning to celebrate it with him before circumstances forced them to return to their world. Christmas was a time of celebration, a time of giving, a time of spending quality time with those whom you held dear. To Knuckles, though, it was just like any other day of the year. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what the others would be doing to celebrate the big day.

Chris would, of course, be at his home, spending it with his family. That would probably be nice for him, as he rarely got to spend much time with his parents. Vanilla would probably hold some sort of celebration as a treat for Cream, and Tails and Amy would probably join them. Amy would probably somehow accomplish the impossible and get Sonic to stop for long enough to drag him along. She'd probably even try to kiss him under the mistletoe, as was the apparent custom. Knuckles shook his head. He'd never understand the ways of mankind.

For Knuckles, though, there would be nothing: no party, no feast, no anything. It would just be another day, sitting at the shrine, guarding the Master Emerald. Knuckles casually turned back to check that the now snow-covered Master Emerald was still safe. Of course, it was. Not even Eggman would be insane to try and steal the Master Emerald in this weather.

It was, of course, because of the Master Emerald that Knuckles was effectively chained to Angel Island. It was his duty to guard the Master Emerald, and it was a duty that he took very seriously. Whenever the Master Emerald was threatened, as it often was, he was there to save the day. To many people, it would seem like a great honour to be chosen to guard such a powerful item, but sometimes it seemed more like a curse to Knuckles. This was one of those times.

Knuckles' thoughts were interrupted by a faint sound on the air. At first, it sounded like the howling of the wind, and Knuckles mentally prepared himself for a storm. As it drew closer, however, it was clear that it was actually the sound of laughter. It wasn't an evil laugh, like Dr Eggman's, but rather it was a high-pitched, mischievous laugh. Knuckles groaned. He knew that laugh.

Sure enough, as Knuckles looked up at the sky, he saw the form of Bokkun, Dr Eggman's messenger robot, descending. It was hard to describe Bokkun's appearance. The black robot's appearance had been compared to that of an imp, a gnome and even a dark chao. Truthfully, though, the only adequate way to describe Bokkun's appearance was to say that he looked like Bokkun. He was just that unique.

Knuckles stood up, raised his fists, and prepared for the worst. He had never known Bokkun's messages to have anything positive in them. They usually contained vague hints at Eggman's latest insidious scheme. Then, of course, there was the slight problem that the television sets Bokkun used to broadcast the messages had a habit of exploding after the message was complete.

Much to Knuckles' surprise, though, Bokkun didn't pull out one of his trademark television sets as he descended to Knuckles' eye level. Instead, as Bokkun stood there hovering with the aid of the rocket that was strapped to his back, he simply said, "Hi, Knuckles!"

Knuckles wasn't going to take this friendly act for a moment. He'd been fooled one too many times to be so easily tricked again. "What's the message from Eggman, Bokkun?" Knuckles asked.

"Who says I have to have a message from Eggman? Aren't I allowed to just drop in and say hi?"

Knuckles wasn't sure what to think. Truthfully, Bokkun had been known to occasionally wander around on his own business, but it was still a rare thing. Still, Knuckles knew Bokkun well enough to know that there was one trick that was bound to work. Knuckles scowled, clenched his fists even tighter than usual, and began to grit his teeth together. He knew that he looked menacing, and he knew that, at heart, Bokkun wasn't the most courageous of robots. If he had anything to hide, he would soon reveal his secret, and start begging for mercy.

Knuckles waited, but the event didn't happen. Bokkun stood his ground. Satisfied, Knuckles lowered his fists and took on a more calm appearance. "Alright, then, what are you here for?" he asked.

"Do you know what today is, Knuckles?" Bokkun asked with an almost child-like eagerness.

Knuckles shrugged. "Christmas Day, but I don't see what that has to do with -"

"Exactly!" Bokkun interjected. "It's Christmas, and no one should spend Christmas alone! So I've come to spend the day with you!"

Somehow, the idea of spending a day with a hyperactive robot didn't exactly appeal to Knuckles. "Bokkun, why are you so into Christmas, anyway?"

"It's the coolest thing ever, Knuckles! All the lights and the songs and the Christmas trees, it can't be beat! Plus, those dancing Santas are great for hiding bombs in!"

Knuckles' eyes bulged in shock. He half-expected Bokkun to say that he was joking, but there was no such luck. Then, something occurred to Knuckles. "Oh, so you're the one who was responsible for all those exploding Santas back in Chris' world. You gave the whole country a nasty terrorism scare, you know."

Bokkun raised his hands, closed his eyes and shook his head in some sort of mock defence. "Hey, my bombs have never caused any permanent harm to anyone. Those idiots couldn't spot a real threat if it hit them in the face!"

Knuckles nodded. "That's true."

Bokkun looked around shiftily, before whispering, "Of course, I was aiming to cause a bit of chaos." Upon seeing Knuckles' unenthusiastic expression, Bokkun added, in a louder voice, "Come on, Knuckles! Those people could use a bit of fun in their boring lives. All I did was help liven things up a bit. Christmas is supposed to be exciting! That's why I'm here, to liven up your life a bit! You never get to do anything fun like Sonic. You just sit here, guarding that great big jewel of yours, and occasionally go fix up any mistakes you make!"

Knuckles objected to Bokkun mentioning such an awkward topic as the lapses in Knuckles guardianship, but he didn't voice those objections. The fact of the matter was that Bokkun made a point. Mere minutes ago, Knuckles had been dreading the idea of spending Christmas like he would spend any other day. Maybe this would work out after all.

Knuckles shrugged. "Alright, you win." He sat back down on the steps. He brushed away the snow next to him with his hand. He gestured at the clean spot. "Come on, have a seat."

Bokkun deactivated his rocket and sat down next to Knuckles. For a while, they just stared out at the white landscape before them. For some reason, Knuckles had never quite realised how beautiful it looked. After a while, Bokkun asked, "So, watcha' been up to, Knuckles?"

Knuckles smiled to himself. Bokkun would surely know the standard boring details of Knuckles' life. Still, he had to admit that it was a nice gesture, so he felt compelled to honour it. "Oh, you know, same as always. Guarding the Master Emerald, day in, day out. Angel Island was headed towards the south, but this weather seems to have stopped it. It's a shame really; the scenery down there's pretty good at this time of year."

Bokkun shook his head. "Nah, all that stuff's got nothing on snow. It's just so… cool."

Knuckles rolled his eyes. "Please tell me that pun wasn't intentional."

"Huh?" Bokkun stared at Knuckles blankly. A few seconds later, an expression of understanding spread across his face. "Nah, it wasn't. It's good that the weather's cool in that sense, too, though. I've been in hot places before, and it nearly makes my circuits melt."

Knuckles laughed quietly to himself. Bokkun was so crazy that sometimes Knuckles forgot he was a robot. Those words had slammed the point home, though. "So, what have you been up to, yourself, Bokkun? Has Eggman come up with another master plan to take over the world?"

"Nah, the Doc's taking a break from that sort of stuff. He's got to work on rebuilding his basic stuff before he can do any of that. Decoe and Bocoe do most of the work. I just give them messages and move a few things around." Bokkun shrugged. "I'd tell you more, but, you know…"

Knuckles nodded. Indeed, he did know. Even in this relaxed environment, neither he nor Bokkun could forget that they were still technically on opposite sides. "Don't worry about it, Bokkun. I doubt it really affects me anyway. Most of Eggman's schemes just seem to be about beating Sonic, anyway."

"Yeah, if you ask me, the Doc fusses way too much over that idiot." Knuckles resisted the urge to laugh at Bokkun insulting Sonic. "Sometimes I think he's more into fighting Sonic then he is into world domination."

Knuckles nodded vaguely. "Yeah, I remember Tails saying something along those lines a while ago. Apparently, Sonic and Eggman see each other more as rivals than as enemies. Still, if you ask me, they're both idiots. If they want to fight each other, fine, but they shouldn't do it in a way that jeopardises the rest of the world."

"I hear ya'. Still, I'm kind of glad they do it. I'm not really into the whole 'rule the world' thing, but I like all the havoc I can cause working for the Doc."

Knuckles' grin spread wider. "I kind of figured you would."

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot." Bokkun opened the satchel he always carried with him and quickly pulled out a package. He pulled it out so quickly that neither he nor Knuckles noticed another item slip out of the satchel and drop onto the stone steps of the shrine. "Here, this is for you."

Knuckles was shocked. He had vaguely heard of the standard Christmas tradition of exchanging presents, but he certainly hadn't expected Bokkun to bring one. Still, the shape of the package looked strangely like a bomb, so Knuckles knew not to be grateful just yet. Still, it was only polite to open the package. Taking the gift out of Bokkun's hands, Knuckles tore away the plain brown wrapping in an instant. He groaned as he saw what the gift was.

Sure enough, it was a bomb. While it was attached to some sort of ornamental stand to allow it to stand by itself, it still wasn't exactly what Knuckles was looking for in a gift. "Um, no offense, Bokkun, but I'm not sure I really want to get blown up this Christmas."

Bokkun did something that looked vaguely like rolling his eyes, although it wasn't truly possible for him to actually do so. "Knuckles, you idiot, it's not a bomb. Press the button under the base, and you'll see what it really is."

Knuckles cautiously felt around beneath the base. Sure enough, there was a button there. Knuckles looked at Bokkun. "If this blows up on me, you're dead, you know that?"

"Just press it, Knuckles."

Knuckles took a deep breath and pressed the button, fully expecting to get covered in soot. Much to his surprise, it didn't happen. Instead the top of the "bomb" flipped open, revealing a grill and a fire beneath it. "Um, what exactly is this for, Bokkun?"

"You use it to cook things. I see you don't have anything around here for that. How have you survived, eating your pies raw?"

Knuckles was tempted to mention that he very rarely ate any sort of pie, but he thought better of it. He knew that it was practically the only thing Bokkun ever ate, since robots need to eat a balanced diet. Also, Knuckles was quite sure that the things he did eat would probably taste better cooked. All in all, the gift could actually be quite useful.

"Oh, and you can also use it to keep your hands warm, if you hold them over the fire," Bokkun added.

Knuckles nodded, more to himself than to Bokkun. Truthfully, that was something very useful to Knuckles. It would certainly keep him warmer than the shoddy parka he wore. "Thanks, Bokkun," he said. He found it hard to believe that he was thanking someone whom he'd rather not have seen ever again when he woke up this morning. "Where did you get this, anyway?"

Bokkun looked around shiftily. "Um, I just found it."

Knuckles wasn't going to buy that act for a moment. "Bokkun, did you steal this from Eggman?"

Bokkun waved his arms in front of his face in some feeble attempt at defence, and said, "I borrowed it, without asking… and with no real intention of giving it back." He stopped. "So yeah, I guess I did steal it. What's your point?"

Knuckles shrugged. "No point." He didn't really care whether a few things went missing from Eggman's stocks. It was then that Knuckles realised the unfortunate dilemma he was in. Bokkun had given him a present, and it was tradition to give one back. Unfortunately, Knuckles didn't really have anything of value, apart from the Master Emerald, but there was no way he was giving that to anyone. Then, an idea popped into his head. "Say Bokkun, can robots feel the cold?"

Bokkun scratched his head. "Well, we don't exactly feel the cold. When it gets cold, though, our joints tend to get stiff. So I guess we feel the cold in a way."

"Here you go, then." Knuckles hastily took off his parka and tossed it to Bokkun. "It's not much, but hopefully it will help. Just don't ask what I used to put the patches together."

With a gleeful look on his face, Bokkun eagerly put the parka on. Unfortunately, it proved to be far too big. The sleeves went way past his arms, the hood hung so low that it must have been impossible for him to see, and a large amount of excess garment hung around his feet.

Knuckles pulled the hood back and rolled up the sleeves of the parka, so that Bokkun didn't look completely ridiculous. "You might want to shorten it a bit when you get the chance," Knuckles said, stifling a laugh.

Bokkun nodded. "Thanks, Knuckles," he said. Then he looked down at his feet in an awkward manner. "Um, Knuckles, I've got to ask you something."

Knuckles was taken aback. Bokkun wasn't one to ever ask questions. Still, it was only fair to answer Bokkun's question, whatever it was. "Okay, what is it?"

"Well, why have you been so nice to me today? Sonic and everyone else usually just take cover or pick on me whenever I show up, but you've actually bothered to listen to me. Why?"

Knuckles was tempted to tell Bokkun that, maybe if he didn't go around trying to blow up everyone, they would treat him better, but he thought better of it. Bokkun was only following orders, and quite possibly he was even programmed to be that way. There was no way something like that was going to change over night. Besides, that wouldn't really answer Bokkun's question. Truthfully, it was a question to which Knuckles didn't really know the answer. Still, he could take a guess. "Well, I guess it's because I sort of know how you feel. Neither of us really fit in with our respective groups. You're always the one being picked on by Eggman, Decoe and Bocoe, and I'm just completely out of place with Sonic and the others."

"That can't be the only reason, though. I mean, you've never been this nice to me before. Why are you today?"

Knuckles scratched his head as he pondered the problem. Bokkun made a good point. His behaviour today was most unlike him. Ordinarily, he would have sent Bokkun packing without as much as a word. Today, though, they'd shared an entire conversation. It just didn't make any sense. As he racked his brain trying to figure out the answer, he discovered it within the depths of his memory. "Bokkun, did you know that, beneath all the glitz and glamour that you love so much, Christmas is really just about celebrating some guy's birthday?"

Bokkun looked disappointed. "That's all it's about?"

Knuckles nodded. "Yeah, but apparently he was a pretty great guy. From what I've heard, he did a lot of great things, and had a great philosophy to live by. Not that I could ever live by it, though."

Bokkun nodded. "Okay, but what's your point?"

"Well, one of the things this guy wanted people to do was love their enemies."

Knuckles expected Bokkun to make some sort of childish comment at this point, but much to his surprise, the robot simply stood there, seemingly lost in thought. "Do you really think that someone could love an enemy?"

"Well, I suppose it's possible. I couldn't keep it up all the time, though, that's for sure. Still, I think everyone can manage it for one day a year. Why do you ask?"

Bokkun opened and closed his mouth a few times, as if trying to say something, but no sound came out. Finally, he whispered, "No reason, just curious."

Knuckles raised an eyebrow. Clearly, there was something Bokkun wasn't telling him, but he knew better than to pry into other people's business. Besides, something told him that Bokkun would defend this secret far more fiercely than he would any other.

"Are you boys going to have a big enough break in your deep and meaningful conversation to welcome me?" asked a smooth, familiar voice from behind Knuckles.

Knuckles leapt to his feet, turning around as he did so. His hunch had been correct, because now the familiar figure of Rouge the Bat stood before him. She was leaning casually against the Master Emerald, with her arms folded across her chest. Rouge wore her trademark black lather outfit, with long white gloves and boots, and heart-shaped shirt. She had that same sly, flirtatious smirk that she usually had.

Knuckles raised his fists in hostility. He had a bad feeling about what Rouge was here for. She had stolen the Master Emerald once when they were in Chris' world, and, although she had given it up and shown no interest in it since, the fact of the matter was that jewels weren't as easy to find here as they were in Chris' world.

"My, my, isn't that a welcome reception?" Rouge asked, clearly unfazed.

"What are you here for, Rouge?" Knuckles growled.

"What, I'm not allowed to drop in and say hi?" Knuckles kept his fists raised. "Come on, Knuckles, you know I'm not here to take your emerald. I'd have to be mad to try and take it in this weather." Knuckles slowly lowered his fists. He wasn't one to take chances, but the fact of the matter was that Rouge wouldn't be able to get the Master Emerald away in a hurry.

"Uh, hi, Rouge," Bokkun said awkwardly. "I would have brought something to give you, too, but I didn't know you'd be here. Oh, wait; actually, I know what I can give you!" Bokkun plunged his hand into his satchel. A moment later, he pulled out an object that was thoroughly unfamiliar to Knuckles. It almost looked like someone had tried to wrap up a tube, but had left too much on the ends, and had simply tightened up that excess wrapping paper to make it look like it belonged there. "Here you go, Rouge!" Bokkun held out the strange object.

With some slight hesitation, Rouge took the object from Bokkun. "Thank you. Um, what is it?" Knuckles was wondering the same thing.

"It's a cracker," Bokkun replied. Knuckles and Rouge shared the same blank expression. Bokkun added, "Basically, you just get one person to hold each end, and then you pull it apart. There's a surprise inside. Why don't you and Knuckles pull it apart?"

Knuckles and Rouge both shrugged. Rouge held the cracker horizontal at one end, and Knuckles grabbed the other. Their eyes met, and for a second, Knuckles saw something more there. The image was gone in a second, though, as they both pulled.

There was a thunderous explosion. As the dust cleared, Knuckles and Rouge both stood there, their bodies completely covered by soot. Bokkun flew away on his jetpack, laughing as he ascended.

Knuckles scowled and gritted his teeth. He and Rouge shook off all the soot in an instant. "You're dead the next time we meet, Bokkun!" Knuckles shouted.

Bokkun turned around to face Knuckles. "Same time next year, Knuckles?" he replied with a grin. "I'll find a way to get a Christmas tree up here."

Knuckles sighed and looked at the ground. As he raised his head, he smiled. "You bet." Bokkun turned away and flew off into the distance. Knuckles and Rouge kept watching him, until he vanished from sight.

"Well, that was interesting," Rouge said.

Knuckles nodded. "Yeah, things tend to be pretty interesting when Bokkun's around."

"I know what you mean." Rouge pointed at a spot near where Bokkun had been sitting. "Hey, what's that?"

Knuckles looked at the spot where Rouge had pointed, but she had already bent down and picked up the object. She stood up and held it in front of Knuckles. It was a heart-shaped locket on a chain.

"Is there something you're not telling me, Knuckles?" Rouge remarked with a raised eyebrow.

"Don't be ridiculous," Knuckles replied, although he was sure he was blushing at that moment. "It must be Bokkun's."

Rouge smirked and gazed at the locket. "Do you think we should look at what's inside?"

Knuckles shook his head. "Rouge, don't be ridiculous. Whatever's in there is Bokkun's private business. We shouldn't look at it."

"Come on, don't even try and tell me you're not curious. Besides, I think we deserve a little payback after that trick he played on us." Knuckles would have raised further objections, but Rouge had already opened the locket. They both gasped as they saw what was inside.

It was a picture of Cream. The young rabbit looked as she always did: cute, cheery, a proverbial ray of sunshine. She appeared to have been heading away from the camera when she'd glanced back for the photo. Her ears appeared to be swaying gently. The photo was clearly taken on a sunny day, and the result was that Cream's fur almost appeared to be glowing, and there was a faint sparkle in her brown eyes.

For a moment, Knuckles and Rouge stood agape, staring at the photo. "Please don't tell me that's saying what I think it is," Knuckles finally whispered.

"Okay, I won't tell you," Rouge replied with a wink.

Knuckles rolled his eyes. With a sigh, he said, "Okay, let me get this straight. Does that photo mean that Bokkun loves Cream?"

"I wouldn't go that far, but it's pretty clear that he at least has a crush on her."

"How can that possibly work?" Knuckles questioned.

"Come on, Knuckles, you should know what's going on. You've known Cream for longer than I have. You should know how easily robots tend to fall for her."

Knuckles nodded in agreement. Thinking back, he could remember some examples. When he and the others had played that ridiculous baseball game against Eggman for a Chaos Emerald, the robot pitcher had been unable to resist Cream's charms. More recently, there was the example of Emerl, but Knuckles didn't like to think about that one. It always brought back memories of seeing Cream and her chao friend Cheese crying their eyes out after they'd had to destroy him. "Alright, so maybe it happens a lot, but surely Bokkun should know that those things never work out."

"Knuckles, we're talking about someone who gives people bombs for the fun of it. I don't think he has much common sense."

"Okay, okay, maybe you're right. Regardless, one of us had better give that locket back to Bokkun."

"I'll handle it," Rouge said. "I've been meaning to pay Eggman a visit anyway." Knuckles knew better than to ask as to what the purposes of that visit were. Rouge's visits normally involved robbing people. Frankly though, Knuckles didn't care if she robbed Eggman. It would probably actually help keep peace on the planet for a while longer.

Rouge snapped the locket shut. Then, she deftly slipped the locket under her shirt. Knuckles turned his head away, trying not to blush but failing miserably. "You'd better not tell Bokkun where you've put that thing," he remarked.

"Oh come on, like you don't want to get in there yourself."

Knuckles turned around in an instant. He raised one hand, as if to object. His mouth opened and closed rapidly, but no words came out. Knuckles was dimly aware of his muzzle becoming almost as red as his fur.

Rouge laughed. "You're so fun to tease, Knuckles," she said. Knuckles stopped blushing and scowled at this latest insult. Rouge didn't seem to notice, though, and continued to talk. "So, 'love your enemies', huh? Great philosophy, if you ask me? Maybe we should all follow Bokkun's example and start applying it to our everyday lives."

Knuckles groaned to himself. He could see where Rouge was going. Ever since they'd first met, Rouge had been known to flirt with Knuckles. Since the day he save her on the ARK, those actions had only increased in regularity and intensity. The fact that Rouge still came to visit him when she had no apparent interest in the Master Emerald could mean only one thing: she was falling in love with him. As much as Knuckles hated to admit it, he had begun to return those feelings recently, though he had no idea why. The only reason he could think of was that it was nice to finally have someone who didn't just view him as a great fighter or the guardian of the Master Emerald.

Knuckles sighed. "Rouge, I think we both know how we feel, but it would never work out. You'd only be a distraction to my duties as guardian and, as much as you may try to convince yourself otherwise, it would only be a matter of time before you gave into temptation and tried to steal the Master Emerald. I don't think either of us wants to deal with the consequences of that. I'm sorry."

Rouge looked downcast, a most unusual thing for her. "I'm sorry, too." For the next few minutes, Knuckles and Rouge barely moved. Knuckles occasionally glanced around as he racked his brain to try and think of a way to end this awkward situation. No such solution came. As a result of his isolated lifestyle, Knuckles was socially inept, and at this point in time, it showed.

Finally, Rouge walked up to Knuckles, her spirits seemingly raised. "Still," she said, "for one day a year, it can't hurt, right?" Then Rouge gave Knuckles a quick peck on the cheek. It was, of course, over in an instant, but it was perhaps the most wonderful sensation Knuckles had ever felt.

Knuckles blushed as he rubbed his cheek. For a moment, that was all he did. Then, he finally said, "You know, Rouge, one day a year actually sounds pretty good." Then, he grabbed Rouge in a tight but loving embrace. He kissed her deeply on her luscious lips. Rouge returned both the embrace and the kiss, closing her eyes as she did so.

As Knuckles closed his eyes, no longer cared about the cold of winter. Rouge provided all the warmth he needed. For a moment, he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. That image was gone in an instant, though. Knuckles knew that he was still on Angel Island. He knew that he still had to guard the Master Emerald, and he knew that tomorrow would be another cold, lonely day. Still, at least now he knew that, for one day a year, he could be in paradise.