Disclaimer: Knuckles, Rouge, Shadow, Chaos, and Tikal do not belong to me. Which makes me a sad panda. :c
The wind blew, whipped his red dreads about his head. His arms were crossed over his chest, resting just below the white crescent mark on his chest. His hands were covered by white mittens with two spikes bulging from each one. His face was tilted towards the sun; his eyes were closed, masking his violet eyes.
It was so hard to come by in this world. Or maybe it was just his lifestyle… Between guarding the master Emerald and helping his friends thwart the evil Dr. Eggman, he really didn't have a lot of time to relax. Now, however, there was nothing he had to do, nothing he had to deal with. With Tikal and Chaos slowly taking over the duty of Guardian – they were trying to be subtle about the shift, but Knuckles understood very well what they were doing.
Anyway, with Tikal and Chaos taking over, he was getting more and more time to relax. To…what was the word? Sonic was always sayin' it… Chill. Yeah. He was getting more time to chill, to reflect.
And damned if he wasn't lonely.
With a sigh, the echidna opened his eyes and looked around him, staring about the floating island as far as he could. An echidna girl – who'd insisted on building a couple of cabins near the Master Emerald altar - and a water god were all that were up on Angel island with him. Before they'd arrived, it had just been him. He'd been fine when it was just him. No one to answer to and a heavy burden, designed for a loner such as himself.
He…He simply wasn't used to feeling lonely or uncomfortable. And ever since Tikal and Chaos had been freed of the Master Emerald nearly five years before, he was both. It was driving him crazy.
"Well, well, this is new. I've never seen you away from the Master Emerald by choice."
He didn't turn around. The source of the voice had haunted his dreams for nearly four years, driving him just as crazy as Tikal and Chaos. He didn't need to turn around to see the white bat with sly aquamarine eyes. Her generous curves neatly compacted into a black jumpsuit, her breasts enveloped by a large purple heart. Her knee-length boots were white, that same colored heart on the toe, and white elbow-length gloves ended with a cuff of the same color purple. A treasure hunter and government agent, this bat had caused him nothing but grief over the four years he'd known her. But just then he felt that maybe, just maybe, she would help him.
"Rouge, I've got a question…"
The white bat's ears perked with curiosity. Since when did Knucklehead want to ask her a question? "Hmm…Ask it. Maybe I have the answer," she teased.
"Have you ever felt like…like you were losing your place?" Now he turned, pinned her such an earnest stare she could hardly breathe. "As if you were slowly being nudged from your place? Taken from everything you ever knew?"
She frowned, shrugged. The seriousness she felt coming from him in waves seemed so uncharacteristic… She didn't know what to say. "No, I don't think so. If I've ever wanted something I just…" Their eyes met and her mouth dried up. "Take it."
Sighing, he turned away from her again. Expecting a useful answer from her was stupid anyway, he thought and began hiking down the cliff's side, his peace shattered. "See you 'round, bat girl."
More worried then she was willing to admit, Rouge spread her wings and glided alongside him as he climbed down. "Knuckles…do you feel that way?"
He wasn't going to answer her. It wasn't her business, he reasoned. Besides, she didn't really even care. "Guarding the Master Emerald is all I've ever known," he heard himself say. He sighed. Taking back the words wasn't an option, so he may as well say it all. "It's all I've ever needed to know. Now, Tikal and Chaos think I should get to know something else. I don't just feel as if I'm losing my place, Rouge. I am losing my place."
She reached out a hand. "Knuckles…"
He shook his head. "I don't even know why I told you," he muttered, not having seen her outstretched hand. "You don't even care."
That hand dropped abruptly, curled into a fist. "You don't know what I feel, Knucklehead. Did it even occur to you that…" She trailed, shook her head, turned, and silently flew away.
Not noticing this either, Knuckles blew out a breath. "Look, Rouge, I…" He looked up; she was gone. "I knew she didn't care," he grumbled, continuing his climb.
"What are you doing?"
Rouge sat on the edge of her club/hotel, Club Rouge. On the streets below her the lights and sounds of traffic looked like ants and sounded just as small and far away.
Night had fallen, so, from her perch, the bat could just make out the silhouette of the speaker, but she recognized his voice so well that she didn't need to see every detail. He was a black hedgehog with a tuft of white fur on his chest and red slashes on his arms, legs, the top corner of his eyes, and spiked up quills. His red eyes shone through the shadows he stood in and the smallest of smiles swept over Rouge's features.
Briefly, when she'd first met Shadow, she'd considered indulging in an affair with the devious hedgehog. But then she, along with the entire planet, had believed him to be dead. When she'd found him, alive, several months later the shock had erased any thought of sex from her mind. And by the time that shock was gone the two of them were friends, to close to even think about engaging in any sexual contact with one another. Now and again she thought it was a shame; he truly was…dashing. One day, she was sure, a very lucky woman was going to have him for more than just a friend.
"I'm sitting down on the roof of my building."
She could just see his eyes roll skyward. "That's obvious, and you know I meant to ask why you're doing so."
She shrugged. "I've just got a lot of thoughts rolling around in my head. I think best with the night's wind in my face, you know that."
"Hmm…" After a few seconds of self-debate, the hedgehog walked over and swung his legs over the edge of the roof so that he could sit next to Rouge.
They sat silently for several minutes before Rouge, frowning, turned to him. "Shadow, 'have you ever felt like you were losing your place?'" She remembered what Knuckles had said, had thought of it all day. "'As if you were slowly being nudged from your place? Taken from everything you ever knew?'"
"Perhaps I once did," he said slowly, staring at the traffic below. "My memories of the past are severely limited, so I may have felt that way in the past. Recently, however, I haven't."
There was another long pause as he gathered his thoughts. Rouge stayed quiet and didn't press him for an immediate answer. This was something he was grateful to her for, something a rare few allowed him. As a result, he tended to say little and what he did say was often just a tad foolish. Something along the lines of, "There's no time for games."
He sighed. Patience. She didn't have it for many, he knew.
"I could say because I have no place, no true purpose. But that wouldn't r5eally be true. I help fight Eggman when I'm needed (which is rather often), and I'm your partner for G.U.N. operations. Nothing and no one has ever made me feel as if I were being taken away from those things."
"And if someone did?"
"I suppose I would try to find something new to do with myself. If I couldn't," he continued, anticipating her next question, "I would fight to get my old purposes back. Now what's all this about, anyway?"
Now Rouge was the one eyeing the traffic below. "Tikal and Chaos want Knuckles to stop being the Master Emerald's Guardian."
"Did he ask you all this earlier?" She nodded and he frowned. "Humph. You gave him a stupid answer, didn't you?"
Eyes flashing with annoyance, Rouge snapped her head up. "I wasn't expecting him to ask me anything important! Besides, if I did say anything more meaningful, he might think that I–" She broke off and looked away.
"He might think that you love him, which you do."
"I do not," she mumbled.
Scowling, Shadow rose. "You're being ridiculous, denying something so obvious. He hasn't seen it because he's too wrapped up in avoiding his own feelings."
At this she glanced up. "What do you mean?"
Without a word, he turned on his heel and stalked away from her.
In a childish move, she stuck her tongue out at his retreating back and then turned around to study the moon. Half of it was gone, of course, thanks to the Eclipse Cannon aboard Space Colony A.R.K. For her, it was a constant reminder of Knuckles.
They'd been fighting on a thin strip of floor that rose high above a source of anti-gravity: some sort of boiling magma. Fighting over the Master Emerald, no less. She had half of the pieces and he the other half. And there they'd been, panting, hardly able to do much more than shout at one another for exhaustion. But then she'd taken a bad step and had slipped right off the edge. Her wings hadn't spread out because of the magma and for the longest second of her life, she'd been certain she was going to die.
Then, miraculously, she'd stopped falling. "What in the world?" she'd said and then had looked up to see who had captured her hand. Knuckles, clinging to the edge of the thin floor, had heaved himself over to save her.
Once he'd gotten himself, as well as her, back onto level ground, their eyes had met and held. For the second time in hardly a minute, she experienced the longest second of her life. She remembered very clearly the warm and gentle press of his hand over hers, the deepness of his violet eyes, and the overwhelming desire to kiss him.
And it had scared her enough to have reacted in a terrible, ridiculous manner. Her hand had jerked from his. "Keep your hands off me!"
Surprise, then annoyance, had gleaned his eyes. "Is that how you say thanks to someone who just saved your life?"
"Saving my life? Ha! Don't think I owe you one! You just wanted to hold my hand, didn't you? You're such a creep," she'd taunted.
"This isn't a game you know! Think what you want, bat girl. I was saving the Master Emerald."
That had hurt, she recalled, but she knew she'd deserved it. So she'd stood up and thrown the shards at him. "Fine! Then just take them. They stink! Like echidnas do."
"If that's what you thought, you should've handed them over in the first place." Knuckles had gathered the shards together and had reformed the Master Emerald. It was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen, not just the glow of the jewel or the magic of it being recreated, but the look of relief on his face as he'd run his hands over the gem. "Finally."
And then he'd looked up at her. "I'm sorry…if I hurt you," he muttered and ran off, the Master Emerald hefted over his head as if it were nothing.
Sitting atop her building, Rouge sighed. She'd never thanked him. She didn't believe for a second that the Master Emerald had been his sole purpose for rescuing her. Knuckles was just too good. No matter how upset or angry he had been, when she'd fallen, he'd seen it as his duty to save her. He was just too good…
Lying back atop the Master Emerald, Knuckles pillowed his head on his arms. Chaos and Tikal were somewhere or another, so he was, for the first time in too long, alone. He smiled softly, taking in the familiar warmth of the Master Emerald at his back, the familiar night sky above him. The moon overhead shone brightly. It should've been a full moon that night, but with only half of it available…
He sighed, remembering the news when he'd come back home to Angel Island after the whole A.R.K adventure. Eggman's destruction of the moon had caused mass flooding in several areas of the world and would've killed millions if Chaos hadn't gone to control the water at the last minute. As a water beast, Chaos had that ability. And he'd been hailed as somewhat of a hero for it, which delighted Tikal. After flooding Station Square when first released from the Master Emerald, the water creature had been hailed as everything except a hero.
But being on A.R.K… Now that had been something. They'd all come close to dying. Some closer then others, he mused, thinking of Rouge. Then he frowned. She'd been so ungrateful, but she'd still returned the Master Emerald shards to him. While insulting him, of course, but that was just her personality.
The sound of a twig snapping had him on his feet, his fists raised, within a second's time. "Who's out there?" he demanded.
And then, with a swish of hips, Rouge stepped out from the forest. "Oh, it's just me again."
"Twice in one day? That's just great," he muttered.
Not about to stand for his bad attitude, Rouge flew towards Knuckles and sat at the base of the Master Emerald. He glanced down, eyes wider then they'd been before. "What're you tryin' to pull?"
"Not a thing," she replied, tilting her head back. "Unless…you want me to pull something."
Unbidden and unwanted, the blush rushed to Knuckles's cheeks. "Just tell me what you're doing here, bat girl!"
"Have you told them you wanted to keep guarding the Master Emerald?"
"I…" He blinked, surprised. That hadn't been what he was expecting. "Sort of."
She smirked. "Hmm…I bet you just said it was your duty, blah, blah, blah, you have to do it, blah, blah, blah."
"Of course that's what I said! It's the truth!"
Her hand waved in dismissal. "Having to do something isn't the same as wanting to do it, Knucklehead. And, anyway, isn't there anything at all you'd rather do?"
That was an easy answer. "No."
Rouge rolled her eyes. "Listen, what's wrong with letting them guard it occasionally? You'd have a little bit of time to do something besides guarding this and fighting Eggman."
"Rouge, there's nothing else I want to do."
"Only because you've never done anything else!" Exasperated, she stood and grabbed his shoulders, yanking him into a sitting position. "Stop living in this little bubble you've got around yourself and take a chance! Try something and see where it gets you, you idiot!"
She continued to shout at him as his heart began to pulse in an erratic rhythm. Try something? If there was anything he wanted to do, it was… But he couldn't!
"Damn it, Knuckles! You're always so stoic and hardheaded! You seem like you're a daring, rough-and-ready guy, but you're not! You're a damn coward!"
That capped it. Forget 'couldn't'! "Something daring, huh? Spontaneous or whatever? Fine!"
Without warning, his hands spanned her waist and she was jerked into his lap. "Knuckles!"
Whatever else she might've said was cut off as his lips laid siege to hers. His tongue swept over her lips, commanded them to part. Without the smallest of protests, they did and his tongue darted inside.
The smallest of moans broke through and her eyes slid shut. She felt helpless, completely and utterly incapable of fighting what was happening. Overwhelming explosions were going off in her head, destroying each impulse to move away and end this kiss. Her hands clutched at his shoulders for some semblance of balance, but the surrounding world continued to shake.
Unconditional surrender. He felt it in the way her body seemed to melt against his, saw it when her eyes closed, and tasted it with each brush of his tongue. One hand slid up her back, the other remained at her waist, to draw her closer. The angle of the kiss changed and the hands at his shoulders seemed to convulse in surprise at his sudden gentleness. But, for him, the battle was won; it was now time to savor his victory.
The difference was so sudden, so startlingly different, she couldn't fight that either. Her limbs felt heavy as she brought her arms around him to hold him close to her. What had been the heat of frustration only a second before was now the warmth of desire. Rather than explode and shake, the emotions in her merely opened and spilled over the ravished battlefield. Cleansing, they swept everything away so that nothing but a soft glow remained.
Before she could dissect the glow and figure out what it was, he eased back. His breathing was labored and mixed with her own. Slowly, her eyes opened and met his. Those violet orbs were clouded, dazed, and her own reflected the same. "Knuckles…"
"Listen, Rouge, I… Tikal and Chaos, what they really want me to do is…"
"Knuckles! I have a-Oh!" An orange echidna stopped at the base of the altar and looked up, studying the couple atop the Master Emerald. They were wrapped around one another and Knuckles had the beginnings of a blush on his cheeks. Rouge looked a bit annoyed by the interruption. "I'm sorry," Tikal said and quickly sped away.
"I ran into her on the way up here," Rouge murmured. "What they want you to do, instead of being guardian, is to find someone who'll have a son for you so he can be the new guardian."
Now his blush was full, blending his cheeks into his fur. "That-that's not why I…I didn't kiss you because of that, Rouge."
"Why not?" she whispered, amused at his scramble for words.
"I came up here for a reason. Do you want to know what it was?"
Did he? Well, yes. But why wasn't she angry or something at him?
"A little while ago, I was called ridiculous for denying something obvious. I don't enjoy being insulted, particularly when the insult is true. So I came up here to convince you to take Tikal and Chaos up on their offer to guard the Master Emerald. Then I was going to convince you, by whatever means necessary, to take all that extra time you'd have and spend it with me."
"I love you, Knucklehead."
She smiled. He was cute when he was flustered. The blush, the dazed look in his eyes. "I love you."
"Yes. And if you don't say it back, I'll hurt you."
Now it was he who smiled. He wasn't losing a purpose, he was gaining one. "Rouge, I love you."
"It's about time you admitted it, you idiot!"
"You're the idiot! You couldn't get straight to the point when you got here?! You had to yell at me first?!"
"Of course I did! You annoyed me!"
"If you hadn't asked me all those stupid questions-"
"They weren't stupid! I was working my way around to the point! You were just stupid and didn't answer correctly!"
"What? Am I supposed to read your mind?" he demanded.
"Only when you're supposed to, yes!"
"That doesn't make sense!"
"Well, it does to me!"
"'Cause you're an idiot!"
"If you call me that one more time, I'll break your arms and throw you off this island. Then you'll never be able to marry me."
"Of course! I don't tell just anybody that I love them! You are going to marry me, Knucklehead, like it or not."
"Fine," he snapped, and their mouths fused together once again.
From a distance, Tikal cocked her head. "That was quite confusing. Do you think they're at all happy?"
Next to her, Shadow smirked. "Arguing always entertains Rouge and I'm certain Knuckles enjoys it as well." He took her hand. "They're happy, Tikal."
She linked their fingers. "I'm sure Knuckles will be distracted enough not to protest, so you can move in tomorrow."
Hooray! A Knuxouge! I haven't written one in a while...
And...ta-da! A lil piece of one of my new favorite pairings! Shadikal!!
Don't hate! Appreciate!
P.S. For all of you awaiting an update of any other fic: sorry. I've got so much school stuff going on, I can barely do anything on the computer except homework. I only got this done because it's for a contest on another site and the deadline's June 1. I had to get it done! But don't worry! School's out in 2 weeks! I'll update a lot then!