Sonic-Addict: Thanks :) (Tails: MEEP!) Aw, you scared him, talking about needles and shots like that :P

Private somebody: Thanks, glad you're enjoying it :P Heh, as far as reviews go the longer the better as far as I'm concerned :P Labyrinth boss in Sonic 1...never played the Genesis version but I didn't have much of a problem with Master System. Jungle boss on the other hand... ;)

As for the rest of it, no, Knuckles will not be putting in an appearance in this fic since this is written according to the original game, not with any add-ons or debugs or cheats. Knuckles isn't introduced until Sonic 3 ;) Super Tails, again no, for the same reasons...also, I like to keep the idea of going Super fairly exclusive to Sonic. A four year old going Super...can you imagine:P

Awdures: (grins) Thanks...Robotnik's thesaurus is based on my own experience...coming up with individual and appropriate egg-related names for a load of doomsday devices isn't as easy as I first thought :P

Asher Tye: This is very true ;) Sonic...well, he's not an airhead, but I just think that if anyone has as much contact with metal as he does, he's likely to find out about tetanus :P

Professor Vengeance: (blushes) Thanks :) And feel free to repeat yourself if you want :P

Bang: Mine too! Or at least, second favourite ;)

Shadow-spawn180: Yep, Casino Night Zone's up next :P

Hawk's Soul: Well...my plan isn't all that dramatic or special, it just fits with my own personal view of the Zone :P Yeah, Sonic was kinda scary when he told Tails off, though I guess Sonic himself was equally scared at the thought of swimming with Tails :P The shot thing...yeah, Tails is kinda cute ;)

Myuu-san: (blushes again) Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying it :D (And thanks for the second half of your review; I admit I read the first part and thought...huh?) ;)

Poridet: (scuffs toe in best Tails impression) Wow...thanks :)

HBKJOH: Sonic is fairly close to telling Tails to get lost at times, yes. He's torn between liking his privacy, liking Tails, wanting to keep him out of the fighting and wanting to protect him but not wanting to send him back to Emerald Hill Zone and also not knowing what else to do with him.

FriedBrickWall: Yes, Sonic is eleven...it's mentioned once or twice I think (can't be bothered to reread just now :P) SA2...no, no story in the works, for two reasons; 1, I've never played it (though I'm hoping Sega will release it on PC like they did SA1) and 2, adapting more story-based games isn't as much fun; I have to keep to the game script and don't get as much creative licence :P

D.C.111: Thanks :) Yeah, if I have Tails as four, Sonic has to be eleven. That's just how it goes :P

TrueVulcanRaven: Thanks, I'll try :)

Lewisty: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it :D

"What do you mean, underage?" Sonic demanded.

The bouncer on the entrance to the upper Casino levels remained unimpressed. "Just what I say. The above levels are out of bounds to all those under the age of fourteen, national heroes or not. Bingo is a very dangerous game; the mortality rate hovers right around forty percent."

"Ah, nuts." Sonic slumped down, muttering to himself.

"Even if I did let you in, there's the matter of your friend." The bouncer nodded towards Tails. "This is a casino, not a creche."

Sonic looked up at him. "Look. I can't explain right now because I don't have time, but we really, really need to get to the other side of this Zone."

The bouncer shrugged. "Not my problem. You want to get to the other side, use the lower levels; they don't have an age restriction. Casino Night would be your best bet. You can cut through there. I wouldn't advise it though; there've been some strange things going on. Makes me glad I work the upper levels."

Sonic took a deep breath. "If what's going on is what I think, working upper levels won't save you. We have to get through now."

Another shrug. "Go through Casino Night, if it's so desperate. Letting a couple of little kids through isn't worth my job."

"How 'bout your life?" Tails demanded belligerently. "Is it worth that?"

The gorilla shifted position. "Are you threatening me?"

"No, he's not," Sonic said tiredly. Damn, he should have thought of this beforehand. "Alright. Fine. How do we get to Casino Night from here?"

"Over there. Take the elevator all the way to the bottom. When the doors open, follow the signs."

"Thanks. C'mon squirt."

"I got my eye on you!" Tails said boldly to the gorilla, who looked unfazed.

"Come on." Sonic grabbed Tails' hand and practically hauled him into the elevator, pushing the button labelled G. "And Tails, it's not nice to threaten people who are three times the size of you. And me," he added under his breath.

"He shouldn't've been mean to you! You're Sonic the hedgehog!"

"He wasn't mean to me, kiddo, he was just doing his job. Besides, you'd have to be nuts to attack someone his size."

"Sonic, am I nuts?" Tails asked.

Sonic quirked an eye ridge at him as he stepped through the now opened doors. "No, Tails; you are completely and utterly psychotic."

Tails frowned perplexedly. "What's pie sottic?"

"Never mind. C'mon." Sonic held out a hand and Tails raced to grab it, swinging it happily as they walked into Casino Night Zone.

"It's real dark here, huh Sonic?"

Sonic glanced at Tails, somewhat quizzically. With all the lights, neon signs and slot machines, 'dark' wasn't the first description that sprang to his mind. "You think so?"

Tails nodded. "Uh huh. 'Cause the sky's all black but there's no stars. Look." He pointed up and Sonic followed his gaze.

"Oh yeah, I see." He grinned. "That's a hologram. Casino Zones are all like that; they have fake night twenty four seven."

"How come?"

"They want you to lose track of time and spend as much money here as possible," Sonic said succinctly. "That's why you'll never find any clocks in here either." He looked around. "Besides, dark surroundings make it easy to see the lights." The hedgehog sighed. He wished they could have gone up to the higher levels. The view up there must be spectacular…

"Wow! Look at that, Sonic!"

Sonic glanced at the fox, followed his pointing finger and caught sight of the robot crawling towards them. He frowned; it was a completely new robot. New robots meant new threats, ones that Sonic hadn't yet developed counterattacks for.

Well, he's not likely to use the ones that you smashed last time, is he? something inside him whispered.

"C'mon Sonic, let's whump it!" Tails started towards the robot, but Sonic held him back.

"Let's not. Or at least, let's not you whump it."

Tails frowned. "How come not?"

"Because...because..." Sonic racked his brains frantically, trying to come up with a reason that Tails would understand and accept at face value without arguing. "Because you whumped the last one."

"An' I'm gonna whump this one too!"

So much for reason. Sonic caught hold of one of Tails' ankles and dug his heels in as the fox took off, and the little fact that this caused him to be dragged behind Tails in a kind of water-skiing position only increased his irritation.

Tails might well have pulled Sonic through the entire Zone – for a little guy, he sure was strong, Sonic thought grimly – but at that point the fox's sneaker came off, causing Sonic to shoot backwards and Tails forwards.

Picking himself up, Sonic raced towards the bot again, leaping to the top of the platform just in time to take a two-tailed fox to the midriff, the resultant lack of friction in the air sending him flying all the way back to the elevator.

"Wow!" Tails said again, beaming as he got to his feet. "That was the best pounce attack ever, Sonic! Let's go back to the robot an' do it again!"

"Let's not, okay?" Sonic croaked. Tails' attack had knocked the wind out of him and for long minutes all he could do was lie there and gasp for breath.

"Aw, c'mon Sonic!" Tails leapt into the air, landing on the hedgehog's stomach.

"Tails, no. Not now." Sonic managed to slide out from under him. "Just...lemme get my breath back, okay?"

Worried now, Tails scrambled off – accidentally placing another foot squarely in the hedgehog's chest – and padded up to peer down into Sonic's face.

"Sonic? Sonic, did I hurt you? Please say I didn't, I don't wanna hurt you."

"No." Sonic managed to suck a small amount of air into his lungs. "No, kiddo, you didn't hurt me. Just...let me lie here a few minutes, okay?"

"'Kay." Tails sat down next to Sonic, got up, spent at least ten seconds attempting to sneak up and pounce on his own shadow and then raced back to the hedgehog. "Is it a few minutes yet?"

"No."

"Oh. Okay." Tails played with his namesakes for a few seconds. "How 'bout now?"

"No."

"Now?"

"No," Sonic grated. "Look, I'll tell you when it's a few minutes, okay?"

"Okay. I'll guard you from bots!" Tails started striding up and down...or to be more accurate, round and round, making three full circuits of the hedgehog's prone form before flinging himself down. "Is it a few minutes now?"

Sonic closed his eyes. "I said I'd tell you when it was up, didn't I?"

"Oh sure, but it's been ages an' I thought mebbe you'd forgot. How 'bout now?"

"Tails?" Sonic said very patiently.

"Yup?"

"The few minutes only count if you're quiet. You know what quiet means?"

Tails jammed small paws on hips and fixed Sonic with his very best glare.

"Course I do!"

"Don't say it like that, kiddo; from what I've heard so far, you don't seem to do it much."

Tails sighed gustily. "Being quiet's boring, Sonic. I wanna go back an' bounce on that bot some more!"

"No."

The fox sighed again, louder this time. "You're no fun anymore, Sonic."

"Combat isn't about fun, Tails. I don't want you to get hurt, and if you go against a strange bot by yourself, chances are that's what's gonna happen."

Tails plopped down by Sonic with a glum look on his face. "But I'm bored."

Sonic somehow found the strength to sit up. "I'll be ready in a couple minutes, Tails."

"Is a couple more or less than a few?"

"Less."

"Yeah!" Tails punched the air triumphantly. "C'mon then, let's go!"

"In a little while." Sonic's lungs seemed to be working alright now, but he wasn't taking any chances. If he was going up against robots again, he wanted to be in the peak of health. "Sing a song or something if you're bored."

Tails' ears drooped. "You said I had to be quiet, Sonic, an' I on'y know two songs."

"Singing doesn't count as making a noise if you do it quietly." Sonic was talking more or less at random, trying to distract Tails long enough to recover.

"Oh. Okay." Tails took a deep breath. "Ten billion green bottles hanging on the wall. Ten billion green bottles hanging on the wall, an' if one green bottle should ax'dentally fall, there'll be...uh...nine billion nine hundred million nine hundred an' ninety nine thousand nine hundred an' ninety nine green bottles—" he took another deep breath— "hanging on the wall. Nine billion nine hundred—"

"What's the other song you know?" Sonic interrupted. Tails hesitated.

"Well...I dunno all the words an' I dunno what they mean, but the tune's real nice, Sonic. You want me to sing that one?"

Not really. Sonic wanted some peace and quiet, but at least if Tails was singing the hedgehog wouldn't have to answer the little fox's numerous questions.

"Sure, go for it," he said easily.

"Okay!" Tails frowned as he tried to remember the words, then opened his mouth. "Well, I was walking through the park an' my daily life it sucked, so I went on my first date an' I got well an' truly—"

"Yeah, you know what?" Sonic said suddenly, forcing himself to his feet and cutting Tails off. "I think I'm good to go now. C'mon."

"Yeah!" Tails seized Sonic's hand again and tugged him along. "Let's go! I wanna bounce on the bot some more!"

"Tails..." Sonic slowed. "Tails, where'd you learn that song?"

Tails' small face scrunched up in a frown as he thought. "Back home. I used to wait round the back of a bar though 'cause they throw out some real neat food, Sonic, an' they used to sing it late at night. Don't you like it, Sonic?"

"Not...exactly, no," Sonic said evasively. In fact, he did like the song – it had a catchy tune and the lyrics appealed to his distinctly unrefined tastes – but the idea of a four year old singing it didn't do a great deal for him.

"Oh. Okay." Tails took off, carrying Sonic underneath him and dropping him just in front of the bot before landing on top of it and bouncing off the large bumpers. "C'mon Sonic, this is fun!"

Sonic eyed the bot nervously. It wasn't doing anything except crawling, but he thought that could probably change at any minute. Should he risk a spindash?

He was just about making up his mind to try it when Tails settled the matter for him by misjudging one landing and coming down hard on top of the robot, putting it out of action and then looking down at it despondently.

"Nice one," Sonic said.

"But I didn't wanna whump it, Sonic. I liked that bot, it was fun." Tails' ears drooped as they walked along and didn't lift again until they reached a huge, brightly lit machine with a grid halfway up. "Wow! What's that?"

"Slot machine," Sonic said briefly; he'd never had much luck with them and would have preferred to have tried the bingo slides.

"What does it do?"

"You get in that grid and if the symbols match, you win..." Sonic frowned slightly, voice trailing off.

"Win what? Huh? What do you win? C'mon Sonic, what do you win?" Tails was bouncing up and down eagerly.

"Rings," Sonic said, staring. He supposed it made a strange kind of sense – there were enough lying around, after all – but since when had rings been a substitute for good ol'-fashioned Mobiums?

"Cool!" Tails bounced into the air again, and this time he didn't come down but flew straight for the grid, dropping neatly into it. As Sonic watched, the wheels clicked in to reveal three rings in a row, and at least ten cascaded down on top of the little fox, who managed to gather them all up just before the bottom of the grid slid open and dropped him to the ground, where the hedgehog was waiting.

"I winned! Didja see me, Sonic? I winned all these rings!" Tails held out his winnings, beaming. "I'm gonna go win some more!"

Turning, he raced back and flew into the grid. Sonic shook his head, grinning as he watched the wheels spinning. The chances of Tails pulling off another jackpot win were below negligible.

The grin abruptly vanished as one of the wheels clicked into place to reveal Robotnik's face, followed by a second and then a third. This time, what looked like spiky magnets dropped into the grid, pulling all the rings away before dumping Tails unceremoniously onto the ground again.

"He-e-ey!" Tails scowled up at the machine. "Gimme back my rings!"

Sonic caught hold of him as the little fox raced past. "Leave it, kiddo. You lost, that's all."

"Don't wanna lose! Make it gimme back my rings, Sonic!"

"Nobody ever wants to lose, squirt," Sonic said lightly. "And I can't make it do anything; it's a machine. C'mon, let's keep moving, okay?"

"You got it. I don't wanna play this anymore anyway." Tails looked back at the machine, made the same hand gesture at it he'd often received from the jackal back in Emerald Hill Zone and blew a raspberry at it.

"Tails!" Scandalised, Sonic seized the fox's hand and returned it firmly to its owner's side. "Don't ever do that again, not where people can see you! You don't even know what it means!"

Tails blinked up at Sonic. "Sure I do, it means you don't like someone."

"It's a little stronger than that, kiddo."

"It is? Is it like telling someone to piss off?"

"Stronger even than that, Tails, and that's another thing; don't say that around people either. They'll think I taught it to you."

Tails' eyes widened, then he turned to the nearest family and said loudly, "'Sokay, Sonic didn't teach me to say piss off, I learned it all by myself!"

"Oh brother." Sonic collapsed onto a blue square in the floor, head in his hands. "Tails, do you practise being embarrassing, or is it a natural talent?"

"What?"

"Never mind. What do you say we—hey!" Movement from underneath caught the hedgehog off guard as the block he was sitting on slid up towards the ceiling. Looking up, Sonic felt his blood run cold. It...surely it wasn't going to crush him against the ceiling, was it?

To his relief, it started to descend again, Tails leaping onto it as soon as it was low enough.

"Sonic, are you okay? Did you get squished?"

Sonic shook his head. "I'm okay, lil buddy. It just surprised me, that's all." Leaping neatly off, he saw another identical block rising and falling up ahead and groaned. "Just what are these doing here, anyway?"

Tails shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe they were gonna put something else up there on'y they forgot. C'mon." Grabbing Sonic's hand, he pulled him over the second block and on through the Zone until they wound up in a narrow shaft with what looked like a spring at the bottom.

Tails frowned. "What's this?"

"Some kinda spring, I guess."

The frown deepened. "Well, sure it looks like a spring but it's not bouncy. How come it's not bouncy, Sonic?"

"I don't know," Sonic admitted. "Maybe we have to compress it somehow."

"What's compress?"

"Just...hang on." Sonic curled up and started spinning, feeling with some gratification the spring begin to grind down underneath him.

"Cool!" Tails rolled into a ball and attempted to emulate Sonic, but had to give up, partly because his first spin attack had propelled him forward about three feet into the wall but mostly because Sonic inadvertently chose that moment to stop spinning and the spring fired back up, propelling them through a vertical shaft and round a loop before spitting them out into what looked like several shallow triangles.

Tails landed on one of them and yipped in surprise and delight as it propelled him a full ten feet into the air, ricocheted him off another bumper and a large blue block (although that wasn't as much fun because it wasn't all bouncy) and finally back down to the triangles again.

"Whee! Hey Sonic, c'mon, you gotta try this, you gotta—" One of Tails' bounces took him a little too far to the right, sending him back down the same passage they'd only just left. A few minutes later, he reappeared, both namesakes spinning determinedly before giving out and sending him to crash down on the bumper again.

Sonic, meanwhile, had spotted two of the same blue blocks – they seemed to be the main form of transport around here, along with the elevators – sailing from side to side above him and was desperately trying to bounce high enough to get a foothold on one of them. He succeeded eventually, but only because Tails had flown up to ride on one and pulled the hedgehog up.

"Thanks." Breathless – it wasn't often he was bounced off every available surface – Sonic looked around.

Now where?

He broke into a jog, not too fast for Tails to keep up, and kept jogging until the ground sloped steeply away to form what looked like an enclosed rectangle, albeit one with rounded ends. There was no way forward.

"We must've taken a wrong turn," Sonic said aloud.

"Whatcha mean, we?" Tails panted indignantly from some ten yards behind him. Contrite, Sonic turned.

"I'm sorry, squirt. I forgot you were beat. C'mon, we might as well rest down there as up here; at least it's not so closed in."

Later, he would wonder how he could have been so stupid. How often did a corridor lead to an empty room and a dead end?

As it was, he didn't realise how much trouble they were in until the now familiar purr of Robotnik's engine sounded and the doctor pulled into sight.

Sonic closed his eyes. "Oh, look who it is."

Next to him, Tails' jaw dropped. "Wow! What'd you do to your flying ball thingy?"

Robotnik grinned. "I thought it might be a good idea to fix it up with some camouflage."

Which was all very well, Sonic thought, until you took into consideration the little fact that the camouflage in question was nothing more than slender neon lights wrapped around the base and a large star affixed to the top, all cycling through colours at a frantic rate around a giant egg-shaped grey transport containing an equally egg-shaped occupant with what looked like two bright yellow prongs underneath.

"How tacky can you get?" Sonic said disbelievingly. "What d'you call that thing, anyway?"

"This is my Eleggtrocutor."

"Eleggtrocutor, huh?" Sonic said flatly. "And lemme guess, you're gonna try and zap us with it?"

"The name does spoil the surprise, I grant you," Robotnik conceded, "but it was this or the Eggsploitation Device."

"Eggsploitation Device?" Sonic echoed. "What's that do, steal my bank account details and try to kill me through poverty?"

"There are far richer people than you on Mobius, Sonic. Unless circumstances have changed drastically, I very much doubt whether you have a Mobium to your name. You never were much good at money management and so I would probably spend far more building such a machine than I would receive."

For the first time when facing Robotnik, Sonic grinned broadly. "That was then, doc. This is now."

Robotnik was right, of course; Sonic had taken all his own money when he'd left the Green Hill Zone, all three hundred and twenty seven Mobiums of it, and now he had about thirteen left.

"Yeah!" Tails bounded up, flying on an eye level with Robotnik. "An' Sonic's gonna whump you good, Robotnik!"

"I'll believe that when I see it, cub," Robotnik sneered.

"You already seen it loadsa times," Tails protested, "so when're you gonna start believing it?" He shook his head. "You're really dumb for a genius, aren't you?"

There was a shift of the moustache that suggested Robotnik had curled his lip. "I grow tired of this immature banter. You may have won previous battles, Sonic, but I think you'll find that this is where you lose the war."

"You always were melodramatic, doc," Sonic said coolly. "Shall we begin?"

Without waiting for a reply, he leapt towards the machine and almost got hit by what looked like a red spiky ball that dropped out of the bottom and exploded on the ground.

"I thought you said this thing used electricity!" he shouted up at Robotnik, who grinned down at him.

"Oh, but it does, Sonic. All machines like this one rely on batteries, which in turn rely on electricity. You never were a great one for science, were you?"

Ice shot down Sonic's spine, effectively fusing it. Was Robotnik planning to reveal their shared past? Here, in front of Tails?

There was a scuffling sound as Tails raced past him. His relatively easy victories in Emerald Hill and Chemical Plant had made him overconfident, and so he leapt for Robotnik's machine, aiming to hit it underneath.

Electrical current leapt from one prong across to the other, catching Tails in the blast and making him yelp shrilly. Dropping to the ground, he whimpered as electrical currents continued to flicker and play in his fur.

"How's that for electricity, Sonic?" Robotnik called from above. "Is that enough, or do you want me to do it again?"

Sonic stared up at him balefully, then shifted his gaze past Robotnik to the large bumper he was currently hovering underneath and his eyes narrowed. Thanks to his time in the Special Zones back in the first fight, he'd learned the physics of bumpers and hedgehogs very, very quickly. Incorporating one of the flippers was simple enough; Sonic managed to hit the bumper at the exact angle and land on top of the machine. This time, instead of attempting to hammer it into submission, he dropped into the cockpit just in front of Robotnik and started to burrow through the controls.

Robotnik, however, hadn't come unprepared for such an occurrence – he'd learned very quickly in previous fights against Sonic that the hedgehog would literally try anything to win – and so he reached down, located a lever by the side of his seat and pulled it hard, diverting the electricity from the two prongs to the control panel and blasting Sonic through the air and into the wall.

The hedgehog slithered down, not dead, not even badly hurt, but too dazed to attack again.

Although the Egg-O-Matic was still running reasonably smoothly (or as smoothly as any machine could be expected to run after being pounded constantly by a living buzz saw) Robotnik saw no reason to continue the fight...not to mention the little fact that he didn't think Sonic was stupid enough to fall for the same trick twice.

A slight smile flickered over the doctor's face. No, there was no point killing Sonic now. He had a little surprise waiting for Sonic in Hill Top Zone and wanted to make sure it was ready; it was a much more pleasing prospect than just blowing the hedgehog up.

Besides, he'd just run out of bombs.

Robotnik pulled up and sped away. He'd learned his lesson from the last battle and had taken time to encase his engine and power source in a near-unbreakable substance inside the Egg-O-Matic; there was no way he was going to get caught by something as trivial as a power failure this time!

For once Sonic didn't chase him, partly because he was still smarting from the electricity and partly because he wanted to check on Tails.

Dropping to one knee next to the fox, he put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Tails nodded. He was still jittering slightly, although Sonic didn't know whether that was due to adrenaline, electricity, nerves or a combination of all three.

"Uh huh! I'm okay!"

"You sure?" Sonic said dubiously; Tails' tones were much the same as he'd used when telling the gang back in Emerald Hill Zone that what they'd done to him was a 'real good joke'.

"Sure I'm sure! Can we go free the people now?"

Sonic gave up. "Okay. C'mon."

He and Tails raced up and through the far wall, which had risen up into the ceiling as though it had never existed, and on to the Egg Prison.

"Uh." Tails hesitated. "You wanna do this one, Sonic?"

Sonic quirked an eye ridge at him. "How about we do it together?"

"Yeah!" Tails caught hold of the hedgehog, taking him by surprise, then lifted him into the air and dropped him squarely on the plunger.

"Not quite what I meant," Sonic informed the little fox as he leapt to the ground just in time to be seized by the first of the newly freed prisoners and hugged so tightly he thought his brains were about to squirt out his ears, as Tails had once so aptly put it.

"Thankyou! Thankyou so much, you saved us!"

"'Sokay," Sonic choked, while wondering how offended this person was likely to be if he struggled out of their grasp enough to breathe. Fortunately, Tails swooped down to his rescue, announcing to all and sundry, "Yeah, an' I'm his sidekick!" and diverting Sonic's hugger long enough for the hedgehog to wriggle free.

"Can someone please tell me what the next Zone is?"

He regretted it a moment later, as he was bombarded with different answers from all directions and groaned.

Should've known better than to ask a tourist. Oh well. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

One of the residents stepped carefully around the group of kids now clustered beneath Tails, who was regaling them with the story of how he'd whumped Robotnik (mostly accurate, although there was some snappy repartee on Tails' part that Sonic didn't seem to remember being in the actual fight) and came to stand in front of the hedgehog.

"You mean you're not sticking around?"

Sonic shook his head. "Love to, but can't. I gotta keep moving. Robotnik's still out there, and I have to find him."

"Your sidekick could probably use a nap though. I'm the manager of one of the top hotels in the Zone. Why don't you at least stay the night, spend a little time here?"

Sonic hesitated, sorely tempted, then shook his head. "Sorry, I can't. Besides, I don't have that kind of money."

"Free of charge. You have to spend the night somewhere, why not here?"

The hedgehog glanced up at Tails. "What do you think, squirt?"

"—an' then ol' Robotnik fired three, no, four great big cannons at me an' I zipped outta the way like this an' kicked one, punched the other an' zipped back to save Sonic from ol' Robotnik's death ray an'—"

"Yeah, well, zip down here a minute, would you?" Sonic interrupted. "C'mere and tell me if you wanna spend the night in a top hotel."

"Sure!" Tails yawned and immediately tried to hide it. "Jus' as soon as I finish telling these guys all 'bout Robotnik an' his six great big cannons!"

"It was four a minute ago," Sonic couldn't resist pointing out. Tails squirmed.

"Yeah...but I jus' 'membered he brought two more out while I was...was..."

"Saving me from his death ray?" Sonic offered pleasantly, causing the little fox to squirm some more.

"Well...uh..." The rest of his words were lost in another yawn, one which made up Sonic's mind and he turned back to the manager.

"Yeah. Thanks; a little time out would really hit the spot." He looked up at Tails. "C'mon kiddo, it's been a long day and it's time you got some sleep."

Tails protested that he could go much longer without sleep (though it was okay if Sonic wanted a rest) but he didn't put up much of a fight when Sonic pulled him down from the air and carried him, and he was all but asleep in the hedgehog's arms by the time they reached their hotel room.

"I'm gonna go play one or two of those slot machines, okay kiddo?" Sonic said, once Tails was in bed – and had insisted on being tucked in by the hedgehog – and half asleep again.

"'Kay. You're gonna come back, though, right Sonic?"

"Yeah, you bet I am." Sonic reached down to ruffle the fur between Tails' ears.

"C'n I still look after the Em'ralds? 'Cause, you know, you might drop them when you're playing an' I don't want anyone stealing 'em."

"Sure." Sonic passed four of the five Emeralds over to Tails, who stuffed three under his pillow and snuggled up to the fourth, cuddling it like a plush toy. "You take good care of them, okay squirt?"

Tails nodded sleepily, then yawned so wide that the hedgehog could see down the back of his throat. He was already asleep by the time Sonic reached the door and slept right through that night and the following day, finally waking up at quarter to six in the evening. Sonic was nowhere to be seen, and Tails' trepidation at this was only alleviated when he found the Chaos Emeralds still under his pillow. Sonic wouldn't have gone without those, no way!

Looking around, Tails' gaze fell upon the telephone and he brightened up. Sonic must still be out playing and winning loads of rings, and that meant he was probably going to be real hungry when he got back. The hedgehog had looked after him all this time, and Tails wanted to do something to give him a nice surprise. He could get Sonic a big dinner and if the hedgehog didn't come back in time to eat it, well, Tails could always eat it for him and try again the next night.

Picking up the phone, he frowned as he heard the dial tone, then caught sight of the card next to it and inspiration struck. He couldn't find the word food anywhere, but there was something else that said room service, which probably meant they sent servants to your room and those servants would feed you.

Happy now, and feeling very proud of himself for having worked this out, Tails dialed 192.

"Hi, I'm in room 1012 an' I wanna have some food." Remembering what Sonic had told him back in Aquatic Ruin Zone, he added, "please."

Beaming, he focused on the menu, skipping over the words he didn't know and hugging himself. Boy, Sonic was sure gonna get a surprise!

---

It was actually the second surprise Sonic got that day, the first being that he'd lost over twenty four hours doing nothing but play the slots, and the only reason that it hadn't stretched into forty eight was because he'd overheard a family talking about packing to check out the next day and – more out of idle curiosity than anything – had asked them what time they were leaving, and the father's comment about 'only visiting from Friday to Monday' had rung loud alarm bells in the hedgehog's mind.

He sighed. It was easy to see how you could become addicted to this...in fact, if he hadn't had Tails to look after...

Sonic froze, guilt sloshing through him. Tails. Oh man, all this time, how could he have forgotten Tails?

Turning, he sped away, not bothering with the door but accelerating straight up the side of the hotel to the top and through the window, which he had instructed Tails never, ever to close in case the hedgehog had to do...well, what he was doing now.

Lying on the bed, surrounded by what looked like an entire restaurant's worth of food, Tails waved at him. "Hi Sonic!"

Sonic stared around at the food. "Where'd all this come from?"

"Room fervif," Tails said around a mouthful of chips.

"What?"

Swallowing with a visible effort, Tails nodded. "Yup! I ordered it an' said I was your sidekick an' that you'd prob'ly pay, an' they said they wouldn't dreama asking Sonic to pay. Cool, huh?" He picked up a chocolate milkshake and hoovered noisily around the bottom with a straw.

Sonic sat down and dropped his head into his hands.

"Why can't I have a normal sidekick like all the other heroes?" he muttered, too quietly for Tails to hear, then looked up at him. "Tails, you cannot use my name to get free food!"

Tails frowned. "Huh? How come not? I got you some too, Sonic, look." He offered Sonic a chilli dog. "They don't usually do these but when I 'splained that it was your favouritest food, they made some jus' for you. An' I had some caviar too. Sonic, why do people wanna pay so much for eating salty jelly? An' what's so special 'bout champagne? It tastes weird an' makes my nose all tingly."

Sonic stared dully at the little fox. "Tails, tell me you did not order caviar and champagne!"

"Uh...well, I would, but it said on that commercial that you liked people to tell the truth, Sonic."

"You're four years old! How the hell did you persuade them to give you a glass of champagne?"

Tails, aware that Sonic was angry with him but still unsure why, hesitated. "Sonic, did I do something bad?"

"Well, you cheated these people out of what must be at least a hundred Mobiums' worth of food, to say nothing of how much the champagne must be, so yeah, you did something bad, Tails! Very bad!"

Tails flattened his ears. He'd never had Sonic talk to him like this before.

"Is this 'cause of all the champagne?" he ventured. Sonic shot him a look.

"Are you being deliberately stup—what do you mean, all the champagne? How much have you had?"

"Oh, on'y a sip," Tails hastened to assure him. "Like I said, it tastes weird an' I don't like it. I tried two of the bottles, but they were the same."

Sonic closed his eyes. "Tails, I want you to be very, very truthful when you answer this question. How many bottles of champagne did you order?"

"Well...I dunno how many bottles people usually drink, but I heard people talking 'bout a six pack, an' all alcohol is the same, right? So I jus'...well..."

"Tails," Sonic said in dangerous tones, opening his eyes to fix the fox with a steely gaze, "you ordered six bottles, didn't you?"

"Uh...yeah. You c'n have some if you want, Sonic. I told the waiter they were all for you."

Sonic closed his eyes again. "Great. Not only am I Mobius' national hero, I'm a dipsomaniac. Any more bad news?"

Tails squirmed.

"I...with the second bottle of champagne...uh...I accidentally spilled a little bit."

"How much is a little bit?"

"Well...mebbe you better come see. I didn't mean to, honest, it jus'...kinda happened." Tails opened the door to the bedroom and Sonic stared at the sodden sheets, stained wall and cracked mirror.

"You call this a little bit?" he said, dazed. "Tails, what the hell happened?"

"Well, I shook the second bottle 'cause I wanted to make it fizzier an' the cork jus' went pow an' hit the mirror an' that surprised me so I dropped the bottle on the bed an' all the champagne jus' splurgled out."

"Oh man." Sitting down on the dryest part of the bed, Sonic dropped his head into his hands. "Thirty Mobiums for the mirror, twenty for the bed linen, who knows how much for the food and drink and if the champagne's soaked through, at least a couple hundred for a new mattress...five hundred Mobiums might cover it. Might." He glanced up long enough to shoot Tails a killing look. "Damn you, kid, can't I leave you alone for five minutes?"

Tails' ears were now so flat they blended perfectly into his skull. "'M sorry, Sonic."

"So I should hope." Turning on his heel, Sonic stalked out, slamming the door hard behind him and leaving Tails quivering all over, feeling thoroughly sick. How could he have done something as dumb as that, when he knew Sonic didn't like using his fame?

The next day wasn't a happy one as far as Tails was concerned. Sonic was still clearly furious and refused to return hugs or smiles, refused even to talk to the little fox despite Tails' very best efforts to make friends again. It wasn't until that evening that Sonic finally broke the silence, and that was only because he'd found a white rectangle on his pillow, a card made of hotel writing paper and which depicted a clearly very angry Sonic – his mouth was down so much it almost formed a circle – with a crying Tails. Frowning more in perplexity than anger – Sonic wasn't sure if the fox was taking the piss or not – he opened it. Written in sprawling red crayon were the words sorree sonnick pleez tork to me agen luv tails.

Sonic took a long deep breath. "Tails, come in here please."

There was a scuffle, such as might be made by someone who was looking through the keyhole backing away very rapidly.

"You said you wanted me to talk to you again, fine. Let's talk. But I'm not going to do it through a door."

The door was opened the barest crack and Tails peeked out.

"I'm not going to talk to your eyeball either," Sonic said calmly. "C'mon."

"I'm sorry, Sonic." Tails' voice was very hoarse. He came to stand in front of Sonic, face puffy and eyes so red from crying it almost looked like the little fox was wearing trick contact lenses. Watching him, Sonic felt a pang of conscience. In all fairness, he hadn't been ignoring Tails to punish him; he'd been ignoring the little fox because after what had happened he wasn't sure whether or not he could open his mouth without yelling at him. "I was jus' curious, 'sall. An' I was real hungry too."

Sonic patted the area of mattress next to him and Tails clambered up obediently. "I know, kiddo. I'm sorry too; I just…I got carried away on the slots and lost track of time. I forgot you hadn't eaten." He smiled slightly. "Guess I'm still getting used to having a sidekick around." Slipping an arm around Tails' shoulders, he squeezed. "Next time, just tell me what you want and I'll see about ordering it, okay?"

"I on'y wanted to give you a surprise. A nice one. You've been real nice to me, Sonic, an' I thought you'd like me to get you dinner."

"Oh kiddo." Sonic rubbed Tails' shoulder gently. "What am I gonna do with you, huh?"

Tails sniffed. "I dunno, Sonic. You keep asking that an' you never seem to work it out, but I don't gotta wait for you to come up with the answer in Emerald Hill Zone, right? I c'n wait with you, right? Right?"

Sonic raised an eye ridge. "If you mean am I going to send you back, the answer is no. Where'd I get another sidekick like you, huh?" He winked. "C'mon squirt, gimme a smile."

It took a few minutes, and several interesting expressions on Tails' part before Sonic agreed that the little fox had smiled, and they went down to reception together. The manager himself was there, talking to the receptionist. Catching sight of Sonic, he broke off his conversation abruptly and came to stand in front of the hedgehog with an attentive air.

Sonic took a long, deep breath. This was it. The moment of truth.

"How much do I owe you?" he said.

A muscle twitched once or twice in the manager's cheek before he said, "Don't worry about it."

"How much?" Sonic repeated firmly.

"Seven hundred and thirty two Mobiums."

Tails yipped in alarm and looked up at the hedgehog with huge eyes. "I'm sorry, Sonic."

"It's alright," Sonic said resignedly, then returned his attention to the manager. "Why so much? The mattress is fine and it was only six bottles of champagne."

"Six bottles of champagne plus one bottle of every wine we stock." The manager looked around, then leaned in, lowering his voice to a more confidential level. "Listen, Sonic, if you have a problem then there are people who can help you—"

"Look, I didn't bloody order it!" Sonic said stridently. "One bottle of every wine?" he repeated, glaring at a suddenly squirming Tails.

"I wanted to see if any of it tasted diff'rent to the champagne. 'Sokay though, Sonic; I on'y tasted one or two. I didn't open the rest, honest."

"Then where is it?"

"Erm..." Tails scuffed a toe on the floor. "I stuffed it in your wardrobe. I wanted to give you a surprise."

Sonic groaned. "Tails, do me a favour and lay off the surprises, okay?"

"Lotsa people like drinking wine, Sonic," Tails mumbled. "I thought you'd be happy."

"I'm very happy you're helping me out, Tails. I'm delighted you picked me to pounce attack on the beach that day. And I would be positively ecstatic if you could stay out of trouble for...just...one...day."

"Well, I wanna make you elastic, Sonic, but...well...I never try to get in trouble." Tails' ears drooped. "It jus' always gets into me."

He looked so downcast that Sonic was moved to ruffle the fur between the little fox's flat ears. "Hey kiddo, c'mon. It's not such a big deal, not really."

"But you're mad at me, Sonic, an' I don't want you mad at me. You're cool."

The hedgehog sighed. "No, Tails, I'm not mad at you anymore." He looked up at the manager again. "Give me the account number," he said wearily, "and I'll have a cheque transferred from Metropolis Zone as soon as I get there."

"Zero seven oh four two nine eight one." As the hedgehog made a note of it and then turned to speed away, the manager raised his voice. "Who's gonna be sending this cheque?"

Glancing over his shoulder, Sonic smiled broadly. "Offerings Publishing House and Manufacturers. They owe me a few royalties."

"But you said you weren't royal, Sonic," Tails piped up.

Sonic glanced down at him. "It's not royalty as in kings and queens, squirt; it means that for every book or comic or toy or anything they make and sell based on me, they have to pay me some money."

Tails' eyes grew huge. "Every toy, or just every type of toy?"

"Every toy."

"Wow." The fox barely breathed the word, eyes now seeming to fill his entire face. "You're gonna be rich, Sonic! Real, real, real rich!"

"We can but hope, kiddo."

"Sonic?" Tails trotted next to the hedgehog, peering up at him. "Sonic, how come you never told me before that Off'rings Pubbing House an' Mannyfaxes was gonna give you loadsa money an' royalties things?"

"Well, I couldn't really, could I?" Good mood fully restored, Sonic winked at the little fox. "C'mon, kiddo, be fair; I haven't even told them yet."

Okay, that's it for Casino Night :P On to Hill Top Zone :D Hope you enjoyed this and if you read, please review!