Knuckles stood at the front desk in the hotel lobby wondering what in his right mind had convinced him to come down here. Naturally he would've turned down any invitation that would drive him away from his confinement on that altar on Angel Island. But Sonic had insisted that Knuckles just needed a day to relax and hang out. They –Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails- wasted the whole day walking around Station Square, eating and just wandering around checking out the sights. Knuckles was surprised how much things have changed since he had been there, but he still had that never-ending nag in the back of his head that reminded him of the emerald that he had left on the island with the most trust-worthy inhabitants of the village nearby to watch over it during his absence.
Sonic had promised him that he'd only have to stay until the early evening hours but hadn't predicted the storm that moved in as the sun disappeared behind the horizon. Knuckles knew there was no chance that he could get to his island that night so he had to stay in a hotel overnight. So there he stood, while the clerk rang him up and handed him a card key, labeled Room 191. Knuckles forced a tired smile and dragged himself up the stairs up to his room. He wanted this night to be over already, so he could just get back up to Angel Island and end this torment. The crackling thunder shook the walls as he walked down the narrow hallways of the hotel, looking at each of the room numbers.
Room 188, Room 189, Room 190, until finally he reached Room 191. He sighed and slid the card through the slot. A tiny green light twinkled on the machine, welcoming his entrance into the room. But something was wrong. As he entered, he noticed a dim light coming from the nightstand by the single double bed, suitcases were already lying against the wall, and a jacket draped over the back of the chair. He looked down at his card key once more and stumbled backwards.
There must be some mistake, he thought and as he reached out for the doorknob, he glanced up from his key, just in time for him to see the silhouette of a familiar white bat sitting up on the bed.
Rouge the bat stood there, staring back at him.
"What are you doing here?" both of their voices rang in harmony.
"This is my room!"
Rouge shook her head and held up her hand, "Whoa, wait. You sure? What's your room number?"
Knuckles stubbed him finger at his key, directly at the Room 191. "This one! Room 191."
"That's impossible. Are you sure you're not holding it upside down and it's really 161?"
"Nope, that's what it says," He handed the card to her, "See for yourself."
Rouge took a quick glimpse. "There's been some mistake. Come on," she said heading for the door, "Let's go check down at the clerk's desk."
But of course, the clerk wasn't at his desk and there was a cardboard stand that read, "On break. Wait in lobby to be checked in."
They waited but an hour later, he still hadn't showed up.
Knuckles threw up his hands, "This is insane"
Rouge, who had been filing her nails, looked up, "You're the one who got the wrong number. Not me. You can always sleep in the hallway."
"You're not helping." Knuckles growled.
"I'm trying to! I'm down here waiting with you, aren't I?"
Even though this was true, Knuckles refused to agree with her. He let out a sigh and crossed his arms. The storm outside was kicking up a notch. The trees were bent backwards by the winds and a lone umbrella tumbled across the parking lot. Clouds in the sky were a deep indigo.
"Well, if you want to, you can just stay in the room with me until the morning." she suggested.
He looked over at her.
"Except there's one problem," she added.
She blew on her nails and didn't meet his eyes, "There's only one bed."
He chewed on his bottom lip and tried to hold back the blush that was creeping up his neck.
"I could sleep on the floor." he said.
She smiled, "I don't have cooties Knuckles. Besides, it's a wide double bed. I think if we're careful, we can avoid the obvious." At that, her smile faded down to a seductive smirk.
He sighed again and looked at the wall clock. She was right. It was only for one night and Knuckles was so tired, he could probably fall right asleep before she tried anything on him.
"Okay" he said slowly as they both rose from their chairs, "I'll do it."
Back up in the room, Knuckles stood there awkwardly as Rouge was clearing away her stuff so he would have more space.
"Sorry," she said, lifting her duffel bag and moving it across the room, "I wasn't expecting company tonight."
He couldn't help but grin, "Do you need help?"
She looked back at him over her shoulder, "I'm a big girl Knuxie. I can do it myself."
She walked back over to him.
"Thanks for the offer, though."
He didn't say anything and sank down on the chair.
"Where's your stuff?" she asked.
He shook his head, "I don't have any. I didn't really expect to stay the night; I only came to visit for the day then all that changed when this blew in." He motioned towards the window where a bolt of lightning zigzagged across the sky.
"Oh," she said and sat down on the bed.
There was a few minutes of awkward silence as they watched the storm rage on outside.
"So, why are you here?" Knuckles asked finally.
"Business matters." she said in a bored voice, "The government sent me here for a convention. It was boring as hell and this was only day one."
"You still work for the government?"
Knuckles nodded and looked over at the side table. He dared not ask about her other job, he was afraid of the answer that might come.
He noticed some bottles of Jack Daniels and Smirnoff vodka crammed in the corner of the desk, behind her toiletries bag.
"Were you planning on throwing some grand big party tonight?" he asked pointing at them.
"What?" she spun around, "Oh, those. Naw, they're here just in case I wanted to have some fun."
Knuckles felt his cheeks grow warm. "Fun?"
"You know, going to the bar, dancing, bringing a guy up to the room to have a drink, and maybe to mess around a bit," She grinned, "That kind of fun."
"Have you ever done something like that before?" she asked.
"No. There aren't any bars on Angel Island. And I've never really left my post until now." he admitted.
"So, you've never done that with any girl?"
"Dang, boy." She lowered her voice as if there was another person in the room, "So, are you a virgin?"
Knuckles felt a lump form in his throat, "What's that?"
Her face fell and she gaped at him, "Oh. My. God."
She didn't say anything and ran over to the bottle of vodka. She picked up one of the plastic cups that belonged to the hotel and poured some in.
"Here," she shoved the cup under his nose. "Drink," she demanded, "Now."
Knuckles looked into the cup and frowned, "What is it?"
"Sparkling water," she said sarcastically, plopping down on the armrest.
He took the cup from her and sipped it. Almost immediately he spit it out, sending it spraying across the room. "Ugh," he said, wiping his mouth. "That's awful."
Rouge put her hands on the cup and directed it back up to his mouth. He cringed.
"Come on Knuckles. It'll be good for you. I'm telling you to drink the whole cup. Look, I'll drink some too if it will make you feel better."
She went back over the bottle and poured a cup for herself. Then she rejoined him.
"Rouge, why are you doing this?" he asked looking up at her.
"Because, you are missing out on so many things and this is gonna help you."
He wrinkled his nose as he glanced down into the cup, "I don't wanna be shit-faced. Honestly, I just want to sleep."
"Just one cup Knuckles. You won't get drunk after one." She insisted.
"Will it shut you up if I do?"
He sighed and lifted the cup to his lips and drank it in three big glugs.
Smiling, Rouge watched as he finished it and squeezed his eyes shut while clenching his teeth.
Impressive, she thought.
Straightening his face, he nodded at her, "Now you."
She looked down at it as if she just noticed it for the first time, "Oh yeah."
She placed it down in her lap when she finished drinking it.
"See?" she said, "I didn't make any face, like you did, wussy. And I did it in one gulp. That's how you really do it." She winked at him.
Knuckles snorted, "Good for you, you're an alcoholic expert. Bravo."
Rouge ran her tongue over her teeth and lips, "I bet you can't do it," she said.
"It's not like it's that hard." Knuckles scoffed, in his usual stubborn fashion.
"Oh yeah? Prove it." she challenged, lifting the bottle and grinning.
Knuckles was quiet for a moment letting the thunder fill in the silence. Then he snatched it from her hands, the corner of his mouth lifting into a smile. "Fine," he said, untwisting the cap. "You're on."