Knuckles was fighting a battle he couldn't win. Fang had gotten a lot stronger since their last fight, and the bullet wound in his right arm was causing more pain then he could handle during a fight.

"What's the matter Knucklehead?" the Weasel taunted. "Too strong for you am I? How disappointing." He kicked Knuckles hard in the side.

"Ahh!" He cried out. There was nothing Knuckles could do, he was weak injured and completely unable to move.

Fang pointed his gun at Knuckles head. "Guess this is it then eh pal? G'Bye Knuckles, I'll see you in Hell." Right as he was about to pull the trigger, someone flew out of know where and kicked Fang in the face.

"Don't you touch him you bastard!" Rouge cried out angrily as she touched ground.

"Damn!" Fang said as he rubbed his jaw. " Who the hell are you."

"Rouge the Bat, a good friend of Knuckles. I came here to talk to him, wasn't expecting I'd have to save his life." She glared daggers at Nak as she said it.

"Well I guess I'll just have to take you out as well girly." Fang grinned as he stood up.

"Fat chance!" Rouge responded immediately, kicking him again in the side of his skull. Even if he did see it coming this time, Fang had no time to react to the attack: Rouge was too fast. He flew backwards and Rouge leapt into the air above him using a downward kick to slam the Weasel hard into the ground.

He groaned in pain as he pulled himself back up. "Okay!" he coughed out "I know when I'm beat, I'll go. But don't think I won't be back for that Emerald." With that, he dashed off into the forest.

Rouge glared after him before turning her full attention to the groaning Echidna near the Emerald Altar. "Knuckles, are you alright?" She asked kneeling next to him and placing a hand on his shoulder.

"I am now." he mumbled through the pain. "Thanks."

" Hey, no problem. I owed you one for Meteor Herd anyway." She let out a small laugh.

"The Emerald." Knuckles grumbled as he tried to get up.

Rouge pushed him back down. "Don't try to move on your own, you're too badly injured. The Master Emerald will be fine. I'm here, and I'm not got let anyone touch either of you." She gave him a warm smile. "Now tell me, is there any source of water around here? We have to clean that wound so I can get the bullet out."

"Yeah, there's a small lake not far from here. But are you really qualified to do that?" He looked skeptical.

Rouge just laughed. "I'm a government spy Knuckles, I know how to handle bullet wounds. Now come on," She lifted one of his arms over her shoulders to support him and stood up. "Point me in the right direction so I can get you fixed up."

Knuckles pointed off into the forest and they began to walk. "Rouge?" He asked after a while. "What were you doing here?"

"Like I said to the weasel, I came to talk."

"What about?"

She blushed slightly and turned her head away. "That's not really important right now. What is important is fixing you up. I think I see the lake ahead."

Once they emerged from the trees, Rouge lay Knuckles down next to the bank. "Stay here." she told him before pulling a cloth from nowhere and soaking it with water.

"Why do you-" Knuckles began before Rouge cut him off.

"Government spy." she leaned over him with a smile. "Now stay still, this is probably going to sting a bit."

Knuckles gasped in pain as he felt the moisture sting the wound.

Rouge just laughed. "If you think this hurts, wait until I pull that chunk of metal out of your arm." She continued to clean the wound as gently as possible before pulling out a pair of tweezers and one of those sterilizing wipes you usually see at the doctor. "There's not much I can do to keep this from hurting like hell, so brace yourself and stay perfectly still."

Knuckles nodded before closing his eyes as tight as he could. His arm seared with pain as the cold metal instrument plunged into his flesh to remove the bullet, and all Knuckles could was hold his breath and wait for it to be over.

Moments later Rouge let out a sigh and said "Got it."

He opened his eyes to see her sitting there with a triumphant grin on her face, and a bloody pair of tweezers in her hand, the bullet tightly clamped between its prongs. "Good job." he managed to say.

"Not done yet." she stated flatly as she set the bloody instrument aside and brought out a cotton pad and a role of gauze. "I'm like a boy scout," she said with a playful smile. "Always prepared."

Knuckles laughed as she began to wrap the wound.

"Oh good, I was hoping I could get you to laugh. It is the best medicine after all."

Knuckles stopped for a moment and stared at her.

"What?" she asked, noticing the stare.

"Why are you being so kind to me Rouge? I'd have thought you would have run off with the Emerald by now."

She gave him a sad look. " I'm not heartless you know. Your life is far more important than some dumb rock. Besides, I've already told you, I don't care about stealing the Master Emerald anymore. It means too much to you."

She looked at him for a moment before going back to her task.

"Thank you Rouge." Knuckles finally said.

"You already thanked me for saving your life." She reminded him.

"Well I'm no less grateful."

When she'd finished she gave a small sigh of relief. "I've never actually had to do that before. Shadow is usually my partner and he never gets shot, too fast to hit." She wiped the sweat from her brow and flopped down ont the grass next to Knuckles.

"Shouldn't we head back to the shrine?" He asked. "What if someone tries to take it?"

"Don't worry, if anyone goes near the thing I'll hear it."

"From this distance?"

She pointed to her large ears. "I'm a bat Knuckles, ultra-sonic hearing. Nobody's touching it. Besides," she rolled onto her side to face him. "I don't want to move you too much if I can help it. Even if I did get that part fixed up," She pointed to his now tightly wrapped arm. "You still got the crap kicked out of you. The less exertion you get the better."

Knuckles turned his head to look at her. There was a lot of concern in those soft turquoise eyes of hers. She smiled at him and he couldn't help but smile back.

"Knuckles?" She asked." We're friends right?"

At first, he wasn't sure what to say. Rouge had been his enemy from the start, but after tonight… "I guess so." he finally said. "Yeah, I guess you could call us friends to some extent."

"Good." She seemed relieved by his answer.

There was silence for a while.

"So," she said after a moment. "how come you don't have a house around here?"

"Huh. I guess I never really thought about it." It was the truth, the only thing he ever really thought about was keeping the M.E. safe.

"You really should," she went on. "You could have a real bed, an actual bathroom, and somewhere to keep a first aid kit for when I'm not around. Not to mention you could keep a refrigerator with some actual food in it, and not just the stuff that grows around here, since I'm assuming that's what you live off of."

"Well, that would be nice. I love getting steaks and things like that when I actually get out of here, but there isn't really anywhere to keep meat on the island."

"Tell you what," Rouge said with a grin. "When you get better, how about you and I build you a place to live? We can use materials that are already here for the most part, and ask the fox kid to help with the electronic stuff."

Knuckles was taken aback for a moment, but once he started to think about it, it made a lot of sense. "Yeah, I'm sure Tails wouldn't mind. And a soft comfortable place to sleep would be nice. It would have to be next to the Altar though."


"But… Why would you want to help me build a house?"

"Because we're friends. And because I'll be much more comfortable with the idea of you being here by yourself once you have the supplies necessary to take care of yourself. I don't want to imagine what would have happened tonight if I hadn't come along." She closed her eyes as if trying to block out the thoughts. "But if you had a first aid kit, you would have been okay even without me."

"I didn't know you cared that much Rouge." He gave her a warm thankful smile and she blushed.

"Even if we haven't always been on the best of terms, I still wouldn't want anything to happen to you."

They were silent for a few minutes, neither of them sure what to say next.

"You should get some sleep." Rouge finally said.

"Yeah, your right. Goodnight Rouge." Knuckles closed his eyes and relaxed.

"Goodnight Knuckles." Rouge did the same, without even bothering to roll onto her back again.

Soon the were both asleep, the peaceful sounds of the forests of Angel Island were the only sounds that could be heard for miles off.


tinybit92 here, do you like so far? Yes? No? R&R please.