Disclaimer: Well, ah do disclaim.

Continuity: Mostly SatAM, some Archie Comics, with a little bit of the Sega games thrown in. It's just a great big hodgepodge of universes, really.

A/N: Originally written for the 1sentence challenge on LiveJournal, though I totally blame it on Orin, who drew two gorgeous pieces of Bunnie/Knuckles fanart that just begged to have fic written for them. Uses Theme Set Alpha as a base, for those who know what that means and are even vaguely interested.

NB: These are not a list, nor are they a non-story. They are fifty thematic parts of a single story collected in one document.

Feedback: Reviews welcomed like prodigal children.

A Love Story in Fifty Sentences

© Scribbler, February 2006.

#42 – Clouds

The first time he meets her, Knuckles thinks she's a beast with her head completely in the clouds – later he berates himself for not realising she's seen more of life than he has, the evidence as plain as her arm and legs.

#11 – Name

She actually giggles after introductions, when he incredulously repeats her name, and says, "Yeah, it ain't exactly an original handle for a gal like me, is it?"

#32 – Confusion

She balances coyness and exuberance as if with a spirit gage, and Knuckles, unused to the ways of females who are not Princess Sally – practical, serious, kind but rarely playful – has absolutely no idea how to act around her.

#01 – Comfort

"Don't worry about it, you'll get used to everyone in no time," Sally comforts as he walks dazedly beside her towards her work hut – she has two huts, of course, to keep her commander role and her real self separate – but Knuckles isn't sure he'll ever get used to such an active place as Knothole after Angel Island.

#20 – Freedom

Before Sally tempted him to come down to earth to help their cause, Knuckles thought the Freedom Fighters' mission wasn't worth the precious time of a Guardian, but after meeting Bunnie and seeing what obvious differences Robotnik has wrought in her life, he starts to think that maybe he shouldn't have stayed so long in the sky.

#43 – Sky

"You really live up there in the sky," Bunnie repeats, not quite making it a question and pointing with her flesh hand, as if he might have forgotten where the sky is – obviously Sally was brief with the details when she told her troops about him.

#41 – Completion

He rises before the sun, as he does every day, and goes for a brisk walk before the rest of Knothole wakes, but is surprised to find Bunnie near the bridge, running through kata so intensely that she doesn't even notice he's there until she's completed the last one.

#12 – Sensual

She's a paradox; despite the metal she gives off innocent vibes (teasing, flighty, like she never really grew up) but every soft curve is just as dangerous in some way – some more than others.

#48 – Waves

He is loath to admit it, but she makes him feel strange – like when he was consulting with Sally over maps of the far-flung areas he's floated over on the Island, and she came in with a basket of snacks from Rosie's kitchen, and suddenly his stomach felt twisty, like waves on a choppy sea.

#21 – Life

He never thought of his life as empty before – he has a purpose, and a damn fine one at that – but somehow the life she leads seems so much more fulfilling, even when all she's doing is picking lettuce for Rosie for a nothing-special supper before a raid because the old chipmunk's arthritis is bad.

#10 – Ears

Her ears are the most expressive part of her – though she can disguise her expression with a smile and a shrug, they flick backwards with disappointment when he says he has to go back to Angel Island.

#06 – Rain

It rains the first night he spends back home, and he sits in the mouth of a cave, thinking about her little hut with its cosy fire and mismatching armchairs.

#25 – Devotion

Knuckles decides he won't see her again – she sparks too many odd feelings in him, and he'd much rather devote himself to his calling than concern himself with that sort of thing.

#39 – Smile

Bunnie has several different smiles, both public and private, but the smile she gives when she opens the door of her hut is surprised – he wasn't due to come down again for at least another few weeks, and they both know it, just as they know without saying that he didn't go to Sally's hut first.

#15 – Touch

The first time he touches Bunnie's metal is when she trips and falls into his arms, heavier than he expected, making him whuff with the effort of keeping her upright and making her flush and flee before he can comprehend what he's done wrong.

#05 – Potatoes

Frowning, Sally looks up from where she's digging weeds out of the potatoes and murmurs carefully, "Bunnie is … she acts like she doesn't care, but she's actually quite sensitive about being … different."

#04 – Pain

Though he's not very good at reading emotions, there's embarrassment and pain in her eyes when he finds her by the riverbank, just staring at the water; he doesn't have to say anything, he just sits down and they watch together, apologising and accepting the apology without speaking a word.

#22 – Jealousy

He watches Bunnie with her childhood friend, Antoine, and though the coyote clearly has designs on Princess Sally's heart, Knuckles realises that the tight feeling in the pit of his belly is something he's never felt before – he's jealous.

#09 – Telephone

Bunnie stores things in her hut like trophies, so you can barely turn your head without spotting a piece of broken pottery, a soot-stained doll she couldn't scrub completely clean, tattered silk ribbons, even an old telephone – scrap and salvage from old missions, she calls them, but Knuckles wonders whether she's trying to keep hold of a time when she didn't have to worry about rusting.

#24 – Taste

She shoves him backwards into a chair with her flesh hand when she learns he's never tasted chocolate before – he eats what grows on the Island, nothing more or less – and bustles about her small kitchen, throwing things into a mixing bowl to make chocolate and oat biscuits like when she was a kit.

#19 – Wind

That night a storm blows in, the tarpaulin over the equipment Rotor couldn't fit in his workshop comes loose and it's every beast on deck to help put things right; Bunnie doesn't even hesitate in climbing right up there where the metal stake whips about dangerously in the wind, stabbing at anyone who comes close, and Knuckles realises he's been holding his breath like some idiotic spectator only when she comes down again.

#16 – Weakness

He curses his own weakness at getting attached to someone like her when he's been marked as the Guardian of the Chaos Emerald since he was born, with all the isolation and dignity that entails.

#03 – Soft

The glow from her windows is soft and warm, but he still hesitates when she appears and asks if he'd like to dang well come inside instead of standing out in the cold all night.

#29 – Melody

She sits by the fire, playing a funny little reed instrument he's never heard of before (unexpectedly well, considering her mismatching hands), and Knuckles nods off to sleep in the other armchair with an empty mug on his chest, tired and vaguely surprised he could ever feel so content without the Emerald featuring into it somewhere.

#46 – Sun

The sun is just setting when he climbs aboard Dulcy and indulges in some uncharacteristic recklessness that makes Bunnie stare up at him and say, "But I thought non-Guardian folk weren't welcome up on that there hunk of rock."

#38 – Gift

He rehearses, but the first time she comes to Angel Island he greets her with no words and a small red flower he found growing on the furthest part of the eastern edge, near his Thinking Rock.

#31 – Home

"Your home's mighty beautiful," she says, the angle of her ears telling him she's being sincere, and he swells with pride.

#08 – Happiness

When she asks how he knows Princess Sally, Knuckles falls for a moment into a memory of watching a pod bearing the House of Acorn insignia touch down atop Green Hill, and a small, petulant girl in a tiara climb out – and he realises with some consternation that it's one the few truly happy memories he has.

#40 – Innocence

He tells her about his father, the Guardian before him, who 'went away' when he was small, and she tells him of her family; her own father, who brought her to court with him as a special treat right before Robotnik took over, her mother and sisters, trapped back in the south where she's heard nothing of them since the coup, and they don't say it but they mourn each other's lost innocence.

#33 – Fear

His clawed hands always feel like weapons, and he fears to touch her with them; her robot parts clank as she moves, and she fears she'll never again be touched intentionally by another creature without pity or revulsion behind their eyes.

#23 – Hands

Bunnie is surprisingly gentle when she disregards his claws, picks up his hands, holds onto one and places the other on her cheek, murmuring, "See, sugar, I'm like fake fruit – I don't bruise easy."

#34 - Lightning/Thunder

The Chaos Emerald has always been more alive to him than to anyone else – other beasts just can't see the threads that stretch away from it to all corners of Mobius – but it's been known to react badly when it feels threatened, so when he shows Bunnie into the chamber and she isn't hit by lightning, Knuckles breathes a small sigh of relief.

#30 – Star

"It's like … like a star fell right outta the sky," she breathes, green eyes nearly as huge as the Emerald itself; Knuckles isn't sure he likes the analogy, but he shrugs and mutters something appropriate anyway.

#36 – Market

"I always loved market day back home," she informs him, dabbling her flesh fingers in the stream just past Green Hill, "I loved the noise an' the life of it all, but there's times peace an' quiet does a body good."

#26 – Forever

"My stars, I reckon I could stay in a place like this forever," she murmurs sleepily, and Knuckles is suddenly seized by the wish to ask why she can't, but he's still too new at this and instead looks at the spectacular sunset, so much clearer up here than on the ground.

#18 – Speed

Sonic's speed has always been amazing, but when he arrives back at Knothole with Bunnie slumped in his arms, Knuckles almost matches it in his mad dash to reach them first.

#27 – Blood

There's so much blood, but it's not red; instead it's a sickly maroon, like old meat, and when Knuckles asks Sally what that means she distractedly tells him that it's the nanites in Bunnie's system, trying to keep her alive.

#28 – Sickness

Bunnie is unconscious for days, during which Knuckles is barely allowed to see her and her hut starts to reek of sickness and desperation.

#13 – Death

For a while he really thinks she's going to die, and while death is no stranger it hurts somewhere deep in his chest to think that this particular life can be snuffed out just as easily as anybody else's.

#35 – Bonds

He's been staying in one of the unused huts, neglecting his Guardian duties, but he is beginning to appreciate that there are some things that bind beasts just as forcefully as duty.

#37 – Technology

When she comes to tell him everything will be okay, that the worst is over now, that Bunnie will live, Sally is holding Nicole so tight he thinks her finger joints might snap under the pressure, and he wants to prise them loose but he's still too uneasy of hurting fragile creatures like her to try.

#49 – Hair

Bunnie's hair was always beautifully cared for; feathery hair like silk and flax, she brushed it every morning and evening without fail, but now it clings to her skull, a damp mass of knots and tangles as she sits up in bed and rasps, "Told you I'm like fake fruit."

#17 – Tears

Knuckles can't understand – he should be happy to see her, but suddenly all he wants to do his cry like he never let himself when he did lose his father.

#07 – Chocolate

"I, uh … I mi- … I brought you these," he says awkwardly, thrusting out the pewter dish of chocolate and oat biscuits he made according to an old recipe begged from Rosie – and though he's had to fend for himself for years, he's not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, so they're misshapen and lumpy in all the wrong places.

#02 – Kiss

"Uh, Sal, you gotta open the door if we're going in to see Bunnie," Sonic states, but Sally just shakes her head, keeps her hand behind her on the doorknob and mumbles something about privacy.

#50 – Supernova

Knothole explodes into sound when Bunnie finally emerges from her hut – a supernova of applause, whoops and greetings from those beasts who somehow never got around to visiting the girl who was nearly killed maintaining their freedom, and which Knuckles studiously ignores as he follows her out the door.

#14 – Sex

"You gotta know, I … I can't ever have kits," Bunnie says when they're alone, gesturing at herself, sunlight glinting off her roboticised limbs, but Knuckles just shakes his head, smiles a little and pulls her to him.

#47 – Moon

The moon is huge in the sky when someone knocks on his hut door – his hut now, decorated to suit him, even though he still doesn't live in Knothole – and Knuckles greets Sonic by placing on glove on either side of the frame.

#45 – Hell

"Bunnie's a pal," Sonic says, quills up – always confrontation with him, always competitiveness, like he sees Knuckles as some sort of threat to his status as Knothole's protector – "and she's been through even more hell than the rest of us, but she's … she trusts easily, so if you hurt her …" he leaves the sentence hanging.

#44 – Heaven

Knuckles considers his life before and after first coming to Knothole, and though neither version can be called heavenly, he decides he genuinely wouldn't want to go back to being alone, so he simply nods at Sonic and wordlessly closes his door.