Well, people....we have finally reached the finish line. Yup, it's the last chapter. This is for all the fans and readers.....Enjoy!
It was quiet and dark when Rouge finally regained conscious. No nurses were around, no big grinning doctors, all the medical equipment was gone and the blinds were drawn.
She blinked several times and twisted her head around the room. Knuckles was sitting in a chair in the corner. His head was tilted downwards looking at a bundle in his arms. He seemed to be in a trance as if he couldn't believe what he was looking at.
"Knuckles?" she croaked, the labor had knocked the wind and energy out of her.
His head snapped up with a panicked expression at first but then it softened. "Hey," he said, "Are you okay?"
"I…I think so," she rubbed her head tenderly, "What happened?"
"You passed out after the delivery. The doctors said you had lost a lot of blood,"
"Oh, I see." Her eyes grew wider as they laid on the object in his arms, "Is that…..him?"
"Well give him here, silly. I haven't even seen him yet,"
The bundle wrapped in a little blue blanket was handed down to Rouge, who could barely lift her arms minutes before, reached up easily to hold her child.
A tiny frosty white hand reached up from the blanket and Rouge took it gently. Her heart grew heavy and her emotions took hold of her. She had to turn her head away for a moment so no tears fell on the baby.
It was a small white echidna boy that looked almost exactly like Knuckles. He even had tiny buds on the back of his hand. His fur was warm and soft, and the peach colored muzzle had a small rosy tint in it.
Knuckles crouched down next to the bed so his head was right next to Rouge's.
"Knuckles," she whispered, "Look at him. He's…ours. And you can tell with the white fur and the buds on his hand. I bet his eyes are bright purple, just like his daddy and…oh god. He's absolutely perfect," her voice was shaking and she knew her words weren't making much sense at the moment. So many thoughts and feelings were flooding over her that she only managed to spurt out a couple sentences.
It was the same with Knuckles; he stared soundlessly at his son. His heart pounding hard in his chest and he felt dizzy.
"Isn't this the most perfect moment?" Rouge asked him, "This is how I prefer to see my son for the first time, not surrounded by lights or bustling doctors, but all alone with the guy I love and my newborn. It's just the way I imagined it,"
And just like that as if her words had been overheard, the blue jay nurse had stuck her head in.
"Oh good," she said, "I thought I heard voices in here,"
She turned on the lights and crossed the room towards the bed, "So, what do you think? This was quite a difficult labor for you, but you pulled through. And now as a result, you have this beautiful boy."
She patted Rouge on the shoulder, "You must be a proud mama,"
"I am," Rouge said, "Who knew that something other than a diamond could mesmerize me this much?"
"Life is full of surprises, dear." the nurse replied. She turned her attention to a clipboard in her hand, "Well, I came to get some info out of you for the birth certificate. Is that okay?" She waited as Knuckles and Rouge both nodded, "Alright, so do you guys have a name in mind?
"Yeah, I think I do." Rouge said in a soft dreamy voice, "I want his name to be Langdon."
Both the nurse and Knuckles looked at each other.
"Really?" Knuckles asked hesitantly.
"I chose it because of its meaning,"
"What does it mean?"
"Son of a guardian," she said, looking up at him, "Fitting, huh? I mean, if you don't like it we could…."
"No, no I like it," he said quietly, his voice trailing off.
"So you guys agree? His legal name is Langdon?" the nurse asked, her eyes darted from Rouge to Knuckles, looking unsure.
"Yes," Rouge replied not taking her eyes off her son.
"Okay, then. Langdon it is," she jotted it down on the paper, "Oh, and you have two visitors that have been waiting out in the waiting room, should I send them in?"
"Oh crap," Knuckles said, "I almost forgot about Sonic and Amy,"
"Yeah, we know. Thanks a lot." Sonic scoffed, coming through the door, Amy following right behind him. They both looked immediately at the bundle in Rouge's arms, "Is that the little guy?" Sonic asked motioning at it.
Amy ran up to Rouge. "Oh my goodness, he's so adorable. Congrats girl!" she gave Rouge a small hug.
"Thanks," Rouge said.
"You too Knuckles!" Amy said turning to him.
"For what? I didn't do anything,"
"It doesn't matter just come here!" she gave him a hug as well.
Sonic went over to the bed to see the baby, "Wow, this is almost unbelievable to think you guys are now parents. It's so bizarre. I mean, who would have thought that Knuckles would be the first to reproduce out of our group, especially with a female?"
Knuckles scowled at him and clenched his fist.
"Knuckles," Rouge giggled putting a hand on his, "He's just messing around, as usual."
Meanwhile, Amy was squirming uncontrollably, "Oh Rouge, can I hold him?"
"Sure," Rouge lifted the baby into Amy's arms. At first, she was a little nervous, but it turned out that Amy was a natural. She held the baby echidna carefully in her arms; she even remembered to support his fragile head.
"What's his name?" she asked rocking him back and forth.
"Yeah," Rouge said winking at Knuckles, "It is."
"Where's Tails?" Knuckles asked.
"Working," Sonic watched Amy as she paced the room, carrying Langdon, "He promised to stop by as soon as he was done,"
"Oh, this would probably be the best time to tell you guys something then," Rouge said looking up at Knuckles. He knew at once what she was talking about.
"What?" Sonic asked.
"We want you guys to be Langdon's godparents,"
Amy's eyes widened and Sonic's eyebrows shot up, "Wow, guys," Amy said, "We'd love to be his godparents,"
"Wait, hold up," Sonic said suddenly, "What exactly do godparents do?"
"If Knuckles and I were to die all of a sudden, Langdon would be in your custody,"
"What?!" Knuckles leapt from his spot, "Sonic taking care of a kid?!?!?! You gotta be joking me! I wanna change my vote,"
Sonic stood up, "It's not like you could do any better. Heck, you can't even keep track of a stupid emerald."
"Guys! Stop!" Amy planted herself between the two, "This is supposed to be a happy moment. Look at you, fighting in front of poor little Langdon." She raised the baby echidna that was still sleeping peacefully in her arms.
Rouge frowned at them, "Can't you two just get over yourselves for one day?" She sat up, "Knuckles, you and I both agreed that Sonic and Amy would be the right choice for this. Remember?"
Knuckles looked down at Langdon and stroked his son's head with his fingertips, "Yeah, I know. I'm sorry."
"Here," Amy handed Langdon over to Knuckles, "You and Rouge have some time alone to enjoy this moment." She grabbed Sonic by the arm, "We'll just be outside." And with that, they left.
"Alone at last," Knuckles sighed, sitting on the edge of the hospital bed. Rouge rested her head on his shoulder, "You said it," she said and the new parents stared in quiet admiration and amazement at their newborn son.
Meanwhile out in the hallway…..
"Why did you do that Amy?" Sonic asked once they were out of the room.
"Rouge and Knuckles need their time alone. Besides you were just pissing Knuckles off."
"Oh come on, you know I just like to joke around with him,"
"Yes, I know," Amy said, "But that wasn't the appropriate time. Even I'd hope that you have better sense then that,"
"What do you mean?" Sonic asked jogging to catch up with her, "What's going on with you? Just last week you were at my front door acting like your usual giddy self and now you're…..different."
"I've changed since then."
"You're more mature."
"I wish I could say the same for you," Amy said.
Sonic laughed. He couldn't believe what he was hearing out of the pink hedgehog who for so long had always been sweet and loving towards him. He didn't fully buy it.
"So how long are you going to keep this up Amy?"
"The whole ignoring thing,"
Amy turned to him, "I'm not ignoring you, I just don't like you like that anymore. That's the past. I've changed. It's like you said, more mature."
"Oh, so you really mean it this time?" Sonic asked, being partly sarcastic, partly serious.
"Yes," Amy said, "Do you think we could just start over? As friends or as godparent partners thingys, or whatever?"
"Sure," he said, holding out his hand.
Amy looked at it funny, "What's that for?"
"You're supposed to shake it,"
"Oh right," She took his hand and shook it. Then the two parted awkwardly and retreated to different couches and didn't say a single word to each other the entire time.
9 months later….
"Knuckles!" Rouge hollered from the front door, "Are you watching Langdon carefully?"
"Yes!" he yelled back. It was the third time she had asked.
Knuckles was outside of their home on Angel Island with his son while Rouge was inside making lunch. She was on her lunch break at work and had flown up to Angel Island, like she does everyday to eat with them.
It was a nice spring day outside and the two echidnas sat in the shade of the trees. Knuckles watched as his son was attempting to make his first steps. He and Rouge had been working at it for days now. He held his arms out towards the smaller white echidna, in case of a sudden tumble.
"Come on," he cheered, "You can do it."
Langdon's knees wobbled but then stopped as he lifted a foot from the ground and reached it out to take one step…. but he wasn't gonna make it.
Knuckles noticed this and caught his son immediately, "Gotcha!" he said and scooped him up and raised him above his head.
Rouge stepped out of the house, "Come on you two," she said, "Lunch is finally ready. And hurry because I gotta be back at headquarters by one o'clock."
About 3 months after Langdon's birth, GUN called Rouge and asked her to come back. They had been forgiving about her early maternity leave, and the fact that she was the best they had, helped that decision a lot.
Rouge had been working the past months and often felt overtired and exhausted by the time she came home. She only got 3-5 hours of sleep at night sometimes because of Langdon's late night tantrums, but usually she stayed up way past her bedtime just to spend time with her new family. The only time she saw them during the day was at lunch time. She was unhappy about the distance and time it took to get up to Angel Island and she and Knuckles had been looking at apartments down in the city since she had sold hers.
Today was an important day especially for Knuckles. This was the day he told his dad that he was resigning the guardianship. He needed Locke's signature being that he was the prior guardian. Knuckles wasn't sure how his father was going to take it but he still had to get that signature. Especially seen he had agreed with Rouge to start looking for an apartment. After work, she was going to look at one that looked promising.
Knuckles felt mixed feelings about leaving his native home, but was excited, all the same, to get away.
After lunch, Rouge kissed Knuckles and Langdon goodbye and took off for the city once again. And Knuckles decided that he should head over to Locke's.
Knuckles strapped Langdon into his car seat, before getting behind the wheel and taking off towards his old man's house. Every so often Knuckles took a glance in the rearview mirror and saw his son, with a thumb in his mouth and staring out the window watching the scenery go by.
After about 30 minutes driving, he pulled up into Locke's driveway, got Langdon out of the car seat, and rang the doorbell.
His father came to the door and smiled when he saw who it was.
"Well, hello. What brings you two here today?" he said cheerfully. He had come to visit Rouge and Knuckles once in the first weeks they brought the baby home from the hospital so he had already seen his grandson.
"I thought we could stop by for a quick visit. Do you mind?" Knuckles said.
"Not at all, come on in." Locke said, motioning them inside.
They sat down in the living room and Knuckles let Langdon crawl around on the carpet.
"He really has grown since I've last seen him," Locke muttered in wonderment as he watched the young echidna, "It's amazing."
"Yeah, try living with it." Knuckles joked.
"Hey, I already did my time son. You were quite a handful."
"I guess he gets it from our side of the family. But of course, you know how Rouge is so I could've come from hers too,"
"How are you guys?" Locke asked.
"What do you mean?" Knuckles said, eyeing Langdon carefully making sure the enfant didn't crawl away into the next room.
"I mean, are you well? Relationship still as strong as it seemed that first day I met her?"
"Yes, I think so." But honestly it seemed like since Langdon was born, he and Rouge really hadn't had time to themselves. She was either working or sleeping most of the day and Knuckles was left to himself a lot, but he wasn't going to tell his dad that.
Knuckles looked down at his hands, "Actually Dad, there was a specific reason why I came here today."
"I've done some thinking especially since Langdon has been born and this is a decision both Rouge and I have agreed on."
"What is it? Is this a problem with money?"
"No, it's not that," Knuckles insisted, "I'm going to resign my guardianship."
Locke blinked, "What?!"
Knuckles just nodded. He knew his father had heard him.
"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Locke said, "This is rarely ever done and I don't think the Echidna Elders on the Brotherhood Council will be too happy about this."
"Why? If that's what you decide then you can't change your mind."
"I know," Knuckles said, then reached down and picked up Langdon who had been making his way towards the kitchen, "But I have a family now. I actually love it, more than I thought I ever would. I just wish you could've felt the same way."
Locke closed his eyes and sighed, "Listen, Knuckles. Your mother and I had our reasons for breaking up. The whole guardianship thing was finally did it, but before that we already had our issues. I loved your mother. Hell, I think that deep down, I still love her. But we weren't ready yet for that sort of commitment. We tended to rush into things without thinking of the consequences. And that's why we divorced. We weren't meant to be."
Knuckles didn't say anything as he digested all those words. I was the first time he heard those things about his parents.
"When I look at you and Rouge," Locke continued, "I don't see me and your mother. I see people who are truly in love." He swallowed and turned his head away, "Which is why, I will sign this form for you. Only if you swear to me that you are absolutely sure on this."
"Yes," Knuckles said not missing a beat, "It is."
"Then, it will be done,"
Knuckles pulled out the folded form that he kept in his pocket and handed it over. Locke walked over into the kitchen to get a pen. When he came back, it all became reality to Knuckles. When Knuckles tried to take it back from him, Locke just shook his head.
"You don't have to present it to the council. I will. I know how much you got on your hands already. Just let me deal with them crabby old folk."
"Thanks Dad, I appreciate it," Knuckles said, holding onto Langdon tightly.
"No problem," Locke looked at the baby echidna in Knuckles' embrace, "Your gonna make a good dad,"
"God," Knuckles groaned, "That makes me feel old,"
"Yeah? Try being called grandpa then we can talk about feeling old,"
Knuckles smirked, "Fair enough,"
He and Langdon started for the front door, it was about time for the baby's nap.
"Bye son. Good luck." Locke said.
"You too, good luck with those cranky elders." Knuckles replied winking at him.
Locke just chuckled before shutting the front door behind him.
Rouge came home in a good mood and with even better news.
"Knuckles, you will never believe it." she gasped as soon as she entered the house.
Langdon just had been put to bed after a long day and Knuckles, who was sprawled on the couch, was feeling exhausted, "What?"
"You know that apartment I went to check out? It's awesome and it's just perfect for a small family of three. So I signed a lease for it."
She stood there waiting for his reaction, but Knuckles didn't seem so excited.
"What's wrong with you?" she demanded, putting her hands on her hips.
Rouge just gave him a sly smirk, "Come on," she whined, "You can tell me."
"I'm just tired,"
"You won't be after I'm done with you," she said. She climbed onto his lap and stretched her body against his. All the baby weight was completely gone and she had reached her normal body size again.
He wrapped his arms around her middle, "It's been a long time since I've held you this close to me,"
Rouge grinned, "Well, let's see. You spent the first four months of my pregnancy being pissed off at me and by the time we got together, I was already fat."
"Things seem so different now,"
"Yeah, I know. I noticed the change especially in you,"
"Me? I didn't change much did I?"
"Omigod, you?" she snorted, "You were the most stubborn ass guy I've ever met in my life and now you're this nice, sensitive, and loving…."
Knuckles made a face.
Rouge giggled, "But I can't decide which one I like better."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, now that you're a dad I want you to be caring and sweet but later when it's just you and me," she brushed her lips against his, "I want you to be Mr. Hard-ass tough guy again. No offense, but your definitely sexier then."
"So, what about me? Do I seem more motherly?"
Knuckles snorted, "Oh hell no,"
Rouge pinched him on the arm.
Knuckles yelped in pain, "What the heck was that for?"
"You deserved that."
The day of moving out had finally come. Rouge had taken the day off of work to move into the new apartment and was now standing outside the house. Since there was no possible way on earth that they could move everything off of a floating island in the sky to the apartment down in Station Square, Knuckles had asked Tails if they could use his helicopter to transport everything. This included the bureau and bed, Rouge's sack of jewels that Knuckles ignored, and also the wooden crib he had made for Langdon. It was all packed away and ready to go to a new place.
"I think that's everything," Rouge announced, "You ready to go to a new home?" she cooed to Langdon who was balanced on her hip and sucking his thumb.
Rouge watched as Knuckles came out of the shack for the last time, "What's going to happen to that?" she asked motioning to the house.
"It belongs to whoever's guardian," Knuckles explained, "So everything is all arranged for it,"
He stared at the building. For many years he considered it home, but more than ever it looked like a prison that he had just escaped from. Although, he wasn't really happy that he let his dad take the hit for him from the Brotherhood Council. Those old guys could be tough, especially when they're armored with their wooden walking sticks.
"Hey," Rouge said putting her hand in his, "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah," Knuckles said shaking away the trance, "I'm fine,"
"Good. Listen, Sonic and Tails are waiting for us in the helicopter. I don't think we should keep them waiting for too long. Plus, the check-in time ends at four."
Just then, a thought struck Knuckles, "Would you mind if I went and took one last look at the altar?" he asked Rouge suddenly.
"Why? Don't tell me you're actually gonna miss that thing…"
"I dunno, I just feel like I should, for some odd reason."
"Okay, I guess that's cool. Don't be long; we have a certain check-in time at the apartment complex. Oh, and do you mind taking Langdon? Maybe he would like to see his could-of-been future,"
Knuckles rolled his eyes, "Ha ha, real funny," he muttered dryly. "Yeah, hand him over."
Rouge watched the two echidnas as they walked down the path towards the altar. Her heart swelled at the sight and she felt a strange happiness sweep over her like a brisk summer wind. The kind that calms you from head to toe and makes you feel peaceful and like everything will be alright. And that's why Rouge had no regret to turn around and let father and son have a moment to themselves.
Knuckles felt odd looking up at the master emerald altar. It seemed barren and deserted. His dad had told him a replacement was being decided by the Brotherhood Council, and should be ready for action as soon as possible. One lone security guard sat on the top stair, slumped over fast asleep not paying any attention to the former guardian and his son down below.
"Well," Knuckles sighed, holding onto Langdon tightly, "I guess this is it. Not like I'm sad though, all these steps ever did for me was giving me a sore ass," he looked down at his son who was sucking on his thumb, "Sorry."
'Suck, suck, suck,' was the only response Knuckles heard from his son. A hard gust blew, ruffling through Knuckles' dreads. The guard's hat tipped over to one side, threatening to fly off. Knuckles put up the hood of the Baby Gap hoodie on Langdon. The infant hardly noticed the wind and proceeded to suck on his thumb tirelessly.
Knuckles had nothing else to say. Even though most of the Brotherhood Council, not including his father, hated him for betraying their honor, he still felt no regret. The reason for this had its small pointy chin resting on Knuckles' shoulder and the sassy bat that waiting for him back at the helicopter.
When the temperature dropped another 5 degrees, Knuckles decided it was time to leave,
"I guess this is goodbye," he said. He looked at Langdon, "Can you say bye-bye?"
The young echidna raised its head and waved its small hand at the emerald, "Bye-bye," he peeped.
Knuckles was shocked, "Did you say what I thought you said? Oh man, Rouge will be so pissed that she missed your first words. Wait, I probably shouldn't say that around you, huh? Oh and just because you can talk now, doesn't mean you can go and rat me out, ok?"
Langdon just giggled, showing his toothless, drooly mouth. It usually took a lot to get Knuckles to even crack a smile, but he couldn't help but grin when he heard his son laugh. Rouge would be jealous to see this. He realized how much the sun had gone down and he knew Rouge would have a fit if Langdon was out in the chilly evening air for too long.
"Alright, I'm done here. You ready to go see mommy?" Knuckles asked.
"Ma ma ma," Langdon replied while gumming on his fist,
Knuckles turned towards the sunset and headed back down the path. His backside completely turned away from the altar and hugging his son even closer, he whispered, "That's my boy."
Yep, that's it folks. The last chapter is finally up and this story is finished. I hope that wasn't too abrupt. I never imagined this story to have 16 chapters. It's crazy. Thanks so much to all the readers and reviewers. You made writing this story really enjoyable.
'Expectations' is now completed. :)