Air Supply; A Sonuckles fanfic by bbbuuu
``At least the water isn't freezing.'' Sonic mumbled, as he hopped over the edge of the cracked stones surrounding the sunken entrance of the ruin. He kept his hand on the rim, hanging onto it to keep himself above the water as he looked up at the echidna, who still stood above him.
``This ruin isn't in Ice Cap Zone, hedgehog.'' Knuckles pointed out, sounding mildly amused. He reached up to his neck, and carefully removed the air necklace that rested there, before bending down to hand it over to Sonic. The blue hedgehog accepted it with his free hand, placing the necklace over his head.
``You're sure you're gonna be fine without it?'' Sonic asked tentatively, as Knuckles hopped into the water next to him, keeping his hand on the edge like Sonic.
``If I need more air, I'll just swim back to you to take a breath, don't worry.'' Knuckles turned to look at Sonic with a slight grin. ``Are you sure you're not too scared? No cold feet?'' Sonic scoffed at that.
``Of course not! I might not be able to swim, but I've got the air supply! No need to worry about drowning now!'' he tugged the necklace for emphasis. ``Just make sure you can get back to me if you need to... you know I can't go as fast underwater, so I won't be able to zoom over and save ya!''
``Yeah, yeah...'' Knuckles waved a hand dismissively, before he placed it back on the rim of the stone, turning so he was facing the wall, both hands in front of him, leaving his back open. ``Time to dive. Grab on.'' Sonic's cheeks grew slightly pink, his eyes sweeping over Knuckles' back, before he sighed, shimmying his way over to Knuckles along the wall.
``I won't be too heavy, will I?'' he asked, making Knuckles shoot him an amused look.
``Who do you think you're talking to?'' the Guardian smirked confidently. Sonic let out a chuckle at that, before he tentatively took one hand off the rim of the stones, and placed it on Knuckles' shoulder. His cheeks kept their pink hue, as he used the new leverage to reposition himself in the water, stretching out the arm that still rested on the stone, to push himself behind Knuckles. Once he was situated, he released the wall, and put his other hand on Knuckles' free shoulder as well. Knuckles glanced back at Sonic. ``Make sure you get a good grip, I don't want you slipping, and making me have to swim back for you. Put your arms around me if you have to.''
Sonic hoped his blush wasn't as obvious as it felt. Knuckles was very warm, and he could feel the muscles in the echidna's shoulders shifting as Knuckles continued to hold the rim of the stone, keeping them both above the water. He could feel the Guardian's crooked tail brushing between his legs, occasionally tickling his inner thighs, and though Sonic tried to keep himself from touching Knuckles beyond what was necessary to keep a grip on his shoulders, he couldn't exactly stop from idly floating closer, his chest brushing against Knuckles' back, and sending more warmth to the hedgehog's face and body. ``Sure thing, Red...'' he managed to chuckle nervously.
Knuckles' dreads were wavier in the water, and they tickled slightly on Sonic's collarbone. The blue hedgehog turned his head to look down at the water they were about to dive down into... the surface was dark, and Sonic could barely make out anything, though the echidna had insisted they'd be able to see once they got down there. ``Remember, there are still live traps down there, so be careful when I set you down, Sonic.'' Knuckles warned.
``Hey, all I have to do is turn a wheel, there shouldn't be anything I can set off, right?'' Sonic asked curiously, tilting his head to try and look around at Knuckles' face.
``Well... I didn't have time to map the place out exactly. There are probably old traps I didn't find, and on top of that, the speed that you'll be moving will probably send out some kind of vibrations that could trigger other things beyond traps. Stones might fall, stuff like that.'' Knuckles turned his head to look back at Sonic again, eyes narrowing, and his voice getting a firmer tone. ``Just stay where I put you, and wait for me to come take you further, alright?''
``Yeah yeah, I'll wait there for ya... the faster you get this done, the faster I can get back up here to the surface!'' Knuckles gave a grunt of confirmation at that, before he shifted them away from the wall suddenly, keeping just one hand on the edge. Sonic's eyes widened, fingers squeezing ever so slightly tighter on Knuckles' shoulders, and he barely resisted the urge to wrap his arms around the echidna's neck from behind as the feeling of having no control in the water hit his submerged body. He caught Knuckles giving him a slight glance out of the corner of his purple eyes, and thought he saw his mouth twitch, as if he was resisting the urge to comment on the obvious nervousness he could see in Sonic.
``You ready?'' the echidna asked after a moment of remaining still. Sonic had been fully ready to scowl, waiting for Knuckles to make a teasing comment on his fear of the water, but the blue hedgehog blinked slightly, his cheeks getting pinker at the subtle concern in Knuckles tone. It took him a second to regain his cocky composure, and he gave the echidna a grin.
``All set, Knucklehead!'' he replied, hoping his bravado didn't sound obviously flimsy to the echidna. Knuckles gave him a nod, as Sonic put the air necklace's regulator into his mouth. Knuckles took in a deep breath, and Sonic felt his muscles tense, before the Guardian suddenly dove downwards, the water rushing up to cover the two Mobians completely as they disappeared beneath the surface of the water.
Sonic always hated having to go underwater. The feel of being engulfed, of all sound suddenly becoming muted, feeling the pressure on all sides of him, like some sort of `soft restraints', allowing him full freedom of movement, just without any of his usual speed. Deep water was a true obstacle he hated, and despite Tails' attempts to teach him to swim, all he seemed to be able to do once he hit the water was sink to the bottom. Feeling Knuckles' body under his fingers, moving under the water with a skilled grace, despite the fact that he was towing a hedgehog behind him, was rather fascinating to Sonic.
As he hung onto Knuckles, eyes squinting as he tried to adjust to seeing in the dark water, he had to remind himself that he could still breath with the necklace, and he took a slow, deep breath. His eyes widened however, as taking air into his lungs also naturally seemed to make his body want to float upwards, and he reflexively gripped Knuckles' shoulders harder as it shifted his balance. Knuckles kept swimming nearly straight downwards, and Sonic glanced around as the echidna kept working... now that he'd been under for a moment, his vision did begin to adjust, and he could make out the shapes of the submerged ruins around them.
Pillars, some broken, some intact, all engraved with various images... what looked to be a few broken statues as well. Sonic took another slow breath, eyes turning to the back of Knuckles' head, as he wondered just what it must feel like for him. To swim down into the depths of the water, and find even more pieces of his people's broken legacy, so much history, hidden and buried by time and nature, pondering over how and why he could be the only one left, alone on Angel Island to watch over the Master Emerald...
``As much as I love staring at a pool of water, I am curious as to why you called me up here, Red...'' Sonic casually exclaimed, mild impatience in his tone, as he kicked a pebble across the surface of the water, sending ripples over it. He glanced to his right, looking over at the quiet echidna, who was merely standing there with his arms crossed, at the edge of the water. Knuckles let out a soft sigh, and Sonic tilted his head, as Knuckles half turned to face him, though he kept his purple gaze on the water.
``I need you, Sonic.'' Sonic froze, his cheeks flushing deep, and his heartbeat picking up, staring at Knuckles with a flustered expression, disbelief on his face. That was the last thing he'd expected to hear. He certainly hadn't expected Knuckles to be the one to admit the attraction between the two of them, especially not in such a direct way. The blue hedgehog had always thought he'd be the one to have to bring it up to Knuckles, not the other way around, and definitely not so bluntly! Sonic shuffled his feet a little in a rare display of shyness, running a hand through his quills as he tried to think of how to respond to the echidna's exclamation.
``W-Wow, um... heh... I, uh...'' Sonic stuttered slightly, a nervous chuckle escaping. ``I always knew you were a blunt guy, but I didn't expect you to be that direct with it, Knux...'' The echidna tilted his head, a look of confusion coming over his face.
``What do you mean? I just answered your question, Sonic.'' Knuckles took a step closer. ``I called you up here because I need you now.'' Sonic felt his cheeks get hotter and his surprise shot up even higher.
``Now?!'' the hedgehog gaped slightly. ``Y-You mean like, right here?'' He glanced around the area, fairly nondescript, aside from the big pool of water with the slightly cracked stone rim around it. Not exactly the most romantic place to get frisky with someone, but maybe it had some special significance to Knuckles? However, Knuckles' expression only grew more confused at Sonic's question.
``Well... yeah? I wouldn't call you up here to some random spot for no reason. This is right where I need you.'' Knuckles stepped closer, almost within arms reach, slowly bringing up one hand... Sonic found himself leaning in slightly, expecting Knuckles to pull him in close, an excitement coming through his surprised shyness. This hadn't happened the way he'd imagined it would go, but if Knuckles wanted to make the first moves, he was all for it. So when the echidna suddenly shifted in place, to turn slightly towards the pool, and used his raised hand to point at it, Sonic could only blink in confusion. ``I need you to help me with something down there.''
Sonic was broken out of his thoughts, as he felt Knuckles suddenly change their orientation. The Guardian shifted, turning them upright, as they reached what looked to be the entrance to a stone hallway. Sonic readjusted his grip on the echidna, taking another breath, as Knuckles glanced over his shoulder at Sonic. They met eyes, and Knuckles reached one mitted glove up to pat Sonic's hand on his shoulder. Sonic nodded, and prepared himself... he slowly let go of Knuckles. The echidna spun to face him in the water, reaching one hand out to hold Sonic in place where he was, lest he sink down farther.
Sonic took one more breath, before he reached up with his free hand, and removed the air necklace's regulator from his mouth. Knuckles drew Sonic closer with the hand he had on him, before using his other hand to reach up and take hold of the band on the necklace. Sonic could feel his cheeks warm up again, and he hoped the slight blush didn't show well in the water, as Knuckles leaned inwards, his other hand shifting slightly on Sonic's side as he held the hedgehog in place. The echidna's nose was practically touching Sonic's own, as Knuckles put the regulator into his own mouth, taking a few breaths, before finally removing it, and giving Sonic a confirmation nod that he was finished.
Sonic put the regulator back into his mouth, as Knuckles turned back around. The speedster gripped Knuckles' shoulders again, and tapped his fingers twice to let the echidna know he was ready. Knuckles suddenly tipped them forward again, and Sonic felt his chest bump once more against Knuckles' back, the echidna's crooked tail brushing between his thighs, and even their legs meeting for a moment, making Sonic's cheeks grow pink again. Knuckles was swimming forward now, both of them horizontal as the Guardian began to swim down the stone hallway.
Under the water, moss had grown along the walls of the hall, obscuring whatever designs or carvings had once been there... it seemed nature was trying to reclaim this ruin. In the dimness of the water, it seemed rather creepy, and Sonic couldn't help but get an uneasy vibe from it. Sonic blinked as he saw a huge tree root had even broken through the ceiling of the hall, and blocked it partway. Knuckles slowed down as the two approached it, and reached up to pat Sonic's hand again, turning to peer at him over his shoulder. Sonic tilted his head, giving Knuckles a confused expression. The echidna pointed towards a small gap in the tree root, one that looked just barely big enough to fit one person.
Knuckles slowly disengaged himself from Sonic's grip, to turn and face him in the water again. He tapped his chest, then pointed to the gap, before tapping Sonic, and making a beckoning motion. Sonic understood what he was going for, and nodded... they'd have to squeeze through the gap one at a time. Knuckles gently tugged Sonic towards the gap, before releasing his hand. Sonic watched as Knuckles ducked into the gap, squeezing through it, and disappearing from sight. Sonic reached out to hang onto a loose knot in the root, bending down to peer into the gap, squinting to try and make out the shape of the echidna. It was dark, and Sonic could only see small flecks of light peeking through, that made it past Knuckles' body as he shuffled through the tight space.
Sonic felt a slight chill roll along his spine suddenly, and he turned around swearing that he had felt something disturb the water behind him, barely brushing past his quills. He blinked, narrowing his eyes as he saw that there was nothing there, before shaking his head and turning to peer back into the gap in the root. He watched, until Knuckles cleared the gap, coming out on the other side, before the echidna turned to look back at Sonic, hand coming up to gesture for Sonic to follow.
Realizing that he probably should hurry, considering he had their air source, Sonic moved in, squeezing into the tight space of the gap. The space was small enough that Sonic had to curl his legs up and hunch down to move on his hands on knees... less of a crawl, and more of a shuffle through the root. He was rather used to tight spaces, what with having had to curl up and spindash through several of them over the years, but doing it underwater, so slowly, was a pain, and the added stress of having to hurry to get air to Knuckles only added to the unpleasantness.
As Sonic made it about halfway through the gnarled root, that chill he'd felt earlier hit him again. He couldn't spin around in the tight space, even though he could feel the water shift behind him, and he let out a gasp, bubbles escaping around the regulator, as he suddenly felt something ice cold wrap tightly around his ankle, jerking it hard. Sonic's hands scrabbled at the root, latching onto the first handhold he could find, as whatever had a hold of his ankle yanked again, trying to drag him back. Sonic nearly yelped, were it not for the fact that the regulator was in his mouth, and instead, he reached forward as far as he could with his other hand, waving it as wildly as possible in the water, trying to signal to Knuckles that he needed help.
Knuckles' eyes widened, and he leaned partway into the gap, reaching out and grabbing Sonic's flailing hand, beginning to pull as well. Sonic groaned into the regulator, as for a brief moment he was being yanked on both ends, until finally, whatever was holding his ankle gave out, and he was suddenly tugged free. The momentum of suddenly being released, with Knuckles still pulling on him, resulted in the blue hedgehog being yanked directly against the echidna. His face pressed against the echidna's chest, Sonic's arms automatically shot out to try to steady himself, grabbing at Knuckles as they both were knocked into a horizontal position in the water.
Sonic got a grip on Knuckles' sides, steadying himself, and he glanced back over his shoulder as they drifted slowly away from the gap. Sonic expected some sort of creature to come after them through the dark hole they'd just emerged from, but nothing of the sort happened. He let out a breath of relief, bubbles emerging from the regulator, before he jumped, as he felt two hands suddenly grip his shoulders. He turned his head forward, relaxing as he realized it was Knuckles, who had reached up to take a hold of him. Knuckles let go with one hand as Sonic turned to look at him, and he quickly patted at his own throat.
Sonic's eyes widened as he realized that Knuckles needed air, and the blue hedgehog hurriedly reached up to slip the necklace out of his mouth, turning the regulator around and moved upwards along Knuckles' body to bring it within reach. Knuckles reached up, taking a hold of the necklace, and put it into his mouth. Sonic's heart was beating faster than normal already from what had just happened a moment ago, but as he took in their current position, it kept up it's faster pace for a different reason beyond adrenaline.
The two of them were floating horizontally, Sonic over Knuckles, close together enough for Knuckles to have the necklace in his mouth... they drifted slowly, with Knuckles arm wrapped slightly around Sonic, the palm of his glove against Sonic's back to hold him in place as the echidna took his turn to breathe. Sonic watched as Knuckles tilted his head in confusion, using his free hand to gesture towards the gap they'd come from, before waving that same hand in a `what gives' manner. Sonic shook his head, shrugging... he hadn't managed to catch a glimpse of whatever had grabbed him, and whatever it was, it wasn't following them now.
Knuckles glanced back at the gap, which they'd made decent distance from by now, caution in his eyes, before he turned back to Sonic, and reached up to remove the necklace from his mouth. Sonic accepted it back, taking a deep breath himself, before giving Knuckles the thumbs up. Knuckles turned over in the water again, and began the descent once more, after Sonic took a hold of his shoulders again. Sonic couldn't help but glance over his shoulder every few moments, but he felt immensely safer in this close proximity to the echidna. He could see that they were approaching the ground, and he turned his eyes upward... from the surface, he'd have scarcely imagined that this sunken pool would be this deep, but it hid an entire temple beneath it, it seemed. The entrance to their destination was down just ahead.
Knuckles slowed as they neared the floor, and slowly adjusted their position so that they'd land on their feet, touching down gently. He turned his head slightly to glance at Sonic over his shoulder, gesturing with his thumb towards the stone arch ahead. Sonic nodded, and Knuckles took Sonic's hand. With a graceful sort of leap, Knuckles began to move them forward. Using one foot, he bounded forward in a hop, almost like an astronaut in zero gravity. As they entered the arch, Sonic couldn't help but feel watched, and he glanced around suspiciously again.
The courtyard past the archway was wide, and there a number of broken statues and rotted wood huts that had crumbled under the water. There was a rack with old, mossed over spears. It had all the creepy feeling that Sonic had felt back in the stone hallway, and his unease only grew, the deeper they went in. Knuckles hadn't told him exactly what this area had been like, and he wondered why the ancient tribe would keep a key behind locked doors down here.
``...The pool?'' Sonic asked dumbly. Knuckles nodded.
``It's not a pool, Sonic. It's a sunken ruin. There's a temple down there that I need to get to, and I can't, not without your help.'' Sonic blinked slowly, his cheeks growing a deep red for a different reason than they'd been before. He let out an abashed chuckle, turning slightly away from Knuckles to run his palms over his face, as though to wipe his blush away, embarrassment and disappointment spiking high at the way he'd misunderstood the echidna. At least Knuckles seemed to be oblivious to his plight, as he'd turned his attention back to the water.
``Hah... okay... a sunken ruin. Sunken. As in, underwater.'' Sonic answered after a moment, regaining his composure and trying to save face. ``You're aware that I can't swim right? Me and deep water aren't exactly a good combination.'' Knuckles nodded at that.
``I know. I've got something to deal with the air problem.'' Knuckles turned back to Sonic. ``I don't need you to swim, Sonic. I need you to run.'' Sonic tilted his head, confused.
``You're gonna have to be a little more in depth than that, Knuckles.'' the blue hedgehog crossed his arms, glancing at the water. ``I can build up enough energy to move my legs plenty fast underwater. The problem is that I can't go anywhere fast. The water practically keeps me in place when I try to run.''
``That's actually perfect for what I need!'' Knuckles exclaimed, a bit of a grin coming over his face. At the bewildered look on Sonic's face, Knuckles blinked, before seeming to realize he hadn't explained anything to the hedgehog, his grin turning slightly abashed. ``Ah, right... okay. I was patrolling the other day, after the Island had passed through a pretty bad storm. The rough weather unearthed an entrance to a ruin I've never seen before, and I went exploring.'' Sonic let out a hum of interest, stepping over to a pillar and leaning against it as Knuckles continued.
``There was a locked chamber inside the ruin. There were some hieroglyphics on the wall outside the chamber door, badly worn, but enough of it was legible that I could understand it vaguely.'' Knuckles gestured to the water. ``The key to the locked chamber, was kept in the temple down there. I took a few dives earlier, and found the place where the key was kept... and that's where the trouble is. It's locked behind a gate. A gate that needs two people to open it.''
Sonic tilted his head. ``Two people? How?''
``One person needs to spin a wheel, which holds open the locking mechanism. The other person needs to push four keystones into place, to unlock the gate.'' Knuckles explained. ``The key should be inside, and then we can come back up and use it to unlock the chamber I discovered. All you need to do is keep spinning the wheel, so I can push the keystones in.''
Sonic hummed, pondering. ``You never mentioned what's inside the locked chamber! What are we gonna find in there? Some ancient artifact? Old records?'' Knuckles' expression grew curious.
``I... I don't know what's inside. The hieroglyphics were too worn away to tell me what the chamber was.'' Knuckles got a determined look on his face. ``But, it had the symbol for the Guardian on it. Which means that whatever is in there, it was only for use by the Guardian. It's got to be important, Sonic. I have to find out what's in there... it's the history of my people, and possibly even new information on the duties of the Guardian.'' the echidna let out a sigh, before turning to look directly at Sonic. ``Will you help me, Sonic?''
Sonic blinked, as with the next bounding leap that Knuckles took, he could see the rather large gate looming over them. It was high, but very wide across, definitely no way for someone to spin the wheel on one side of it, while pushing the keystones in on the other side. Knuckles tugged Sonic over to the left side of the gate, and the blue speedster finally got a look at the wheel he was meant to turn for the echidna. It was fairly large, with big wooden slats, that Sonic was surprised had stayed intact under the water. Knuckles patted one of the slats, before releasing Sonic's hand, and turning to face him, tilting his head as if to ask `You ready?'. Sonic gave him the thumbs up, before tapping the air necklace.
Knuckles nodded, stepping forward once again, as Sonic slipped the regulator from his mouth. The echidna leaned in, taking another deep breath from the necklace. Sonic watched him, seeing that Knuckles' body language was far more excited than usual. The prospect of uncovering more mysteries of his ancient tribe had him raring to go, and Sonic rather liked seeing this eagerness in the usually stoic echidna... especially when he was standing in such close proximity. Knuckles released the necklace, and Sonic put it back in his mouth, as the echidna gave the hedgehog his own thumbs up, gesturing at the wheel, before turning around and kicking off the floor, to begin swimming quickly towards the other side of the gate.
As Knuckles' form faded out of sight in the water, Sonic felt that eerie atmosphere seem to grow even creepier, and he couldn't help but glance over his shoulder again. The temperature of the water seemed somehow colder without Knuckles nearby, or maybe it was just his imagination? Either way, he had a task to accomplish. Turning his attention to the wheel, Sonic placed his hand on one of the slats, before crouching down to gain leverage... he jumped upwards, floating over the wheel, and he grinned as he planted one foot on the wooden slat, forcing it to start turning down with his weight.
It was almost as though he was running on top of a hamster wheel, as he slowly picked up speed, using the slats as his running platform, and forcing it to spin below him as he ran atop the ancient wooden slats. The muted sound of gears turning could be heard rumbling through the water, and Sonic knew that on the other end of the gate, his actions with the wheel were opening the keystone slots for Knuckles. Glancing downwards, Sonic could see that the rapid spinning of the wheel, which had been still for who knows how long, was kicking up a rather thick cloud of dust from the floor around the area, obscuring a fair bit of his vision. He panted through the necklace; moving at high speeds with the resistance of the water around him was always tougher than running on land.
There was another sudden chill that shot up his spine, and Sonic actually stumbled in his motions at the strong and sudden sense of danger that suddenly rolled over him. Turning his head, he could swear he saw something shift in the cloud of dust and dirt that floated around the wheel, but it was gone from the corner of his eyes just as he would have seen it directly. He turned his head to try and squint over at the other end of the door, but couldn't see anything in the direction that Knuckles had swum to, and definitely couldn't signal the echidna that something was wrong.
``Trespasser.'' The rough voice in his ear, speaking so clearly despite the fact that they were hundreds of feet underwater, was the last thing Sonic had expected, and he swung out his arm in reflex to strike at whoever had spoken, only for his swing to hit nothing as he spun to face the opposite direction on the wheel, keeping his feet moving on top of the spinning slats. Quills tensed, Sonic turned his head, trying to spot anything, though the thick dust was obscuring almost everything around him. It churned in the water, and Sonic narrowed his eyes, swearing he could catch quick, subtle motions hidden in the spinning dust cloud, but not able to be entirely sure.
When the rotten spear came rocketing out of the cloud towards him however, it was a solid confirmation that it wasn't his imagination. Sonic jerked hard, throwing himself off the wheel, the spear just barely grazing by, nearly catching his ear. Here under the water, even just the short distance from the top of the wheel, to the floor, took a few seconds too long, and Sonic cursed that this wasn't happening on the surface. If he hadn't been tensed for an attack, that spear might well have run him through.
However, being on the floor now, had cost him his elevated position, and instead of getting a view of the cloud around the wheel, he was now inside the cloud around the wheel. Crouching slightly into a combative stance, Sonic glanced around, trying desperately to make out any motions in the swirling cloud around him, but whenever he thought he saw one, they were too quick to catch or spot his attacker. He panted hard through the necklace, and he glanced back, trying to see if Knuckles was returning yet, but the thick dust was blocking any vision immediately around him.
Sonic's ear flicked, as he felt the water shift again, and he spun, spotting another dark spear in the cloud, the jagged and cracked blade at the tip being thrust towards him. Sonic flung himself to the side as hard as he could, bringing his hands forward, and grabbing at the spear as it moved past... only for his eyes to widen, and his fur to stand on end, as the moment he tugged on the shaft of the spear, a solid shape became visible in the dust. It was as though the dust itself was clinging to the rough shape of an echidna. An echidna, who was gripping the spear that Sonic now had a hold of, and it was clear from the specter's stance, that it was the one that had thrust the spear towards him. It turned it's `head' towards him, in what Sonic could only imagine was a glare, despite the fact that this `echidna' didn't have any eyes, only the rough shape of empty sockets.
Sonic's eyes widened, as the ghostly form shifted in the cloud, jerking the spear upwards, and lifting Sonic clear off the ground, as he clung to the rotten wood of the spear. Sonic's legs flailed, kicking out at the apparition as it shook the spear, trying to jerk him loose. As his feet met it's `body', Sonic could feel how cold it was, though the kicks didn't seem to have any effect, merely swinging right through it's frigid form, disrupting the dust that seemed to cling to it. Sonic tried his best to tug on the spear, and with a groan into the necklace, he succeeded in ripping it away from the specter, as it swung him low enough for his feet to hit the floor again.
The speedster flung the spear (as best he could in the water) behind him, fists clenching, as he took a swing at the now disarmed `echidna'. As his fist passed through it's `face', the water there feeling cold as ice, the dust was disrupted, and the apparition seemed to step back, fading away into the churning cloud again. Sonic blinked, quills remaining tensed, as he turning his head, trying to spot movements in the dust cloud again, only to gasp into the necklace, as freezing hands suddenly grabbed at him from behind wrapping around his midsection and lifting him up off the ground.
``Trespasser.'' It wasn't merely one voice now, but the strong growl of several, and as Sonic struggled against the icy armlock he was held in, his eyes widened in fear as he could see a small crowd of shapes in the swirling dust, all of them echidnas, all of them slowly moving towards him, a few holding spears, a few with spiked fists raised. The only similarity between the dusty apparitions, was the fact that all of them had one familiar trait. The crescent mark on their chests. Sonic, beginning to panic, tensed his quills as much as he could, raking them through the ghost that held him, something that would have shredded a solid person up if he'd done it to them. The icy feeling of his quills moving through the ghost made him shiver, but to his brief relief, it did have the effect of the ghost releasing him from it's grasp.
Sonic scrambled to move as his feet touched the ground again, feeling like he was in a dream, the kind of nightmare where no matter how fast he tried to go, it was as though he was locked at a snail's pace. The dusty specters in front him moved more fluidly, and Sonic had to jerk to the side as another spear was hurled at him through the water, hitting the floor with enough force to snap the shaft as the sharp tip embedded itself into the dirt. Bubbles obscured Sonic's vision as he exhaled through the necklace, and as another ghost threw a punch his way, he was unable to dodge in time. The impact wasn't as hard, as it was cold. Sonic gasped, all the air whooshing out of his lungs, as it felt like artic winds had suddenly blown directly inside his ribs. He doubled over, as the dusty fist that had struck him swirled into nothing, fading into the dust cloud.
Sonic squinted as he looked up, fists clenching as he saw the crowd of ghostly Guardians surrounding him in the spinning cloud, like something out of a horror movie. Sonic clenched his jaw, his heart pounding as they started to move in, slowly tightening the circle around him, and his gaze darted over each specter, trying to find some way out, any gaps in the cloud, only to see nothing he could exploit to escape. His thoughts spun, wondering if this was it for him, if he was going to perish down here doing a favor for a friend, a friend he held an infatuation for, a friend he'd hoped to woo someday. The water seemed to grow colder, the closer they drew to him, and he shivered as they were nearly upon him... and it was then that he felt a warm hand suddenly grab his arm from behind.
Eyes widening, Sonic spun to look over his shoulder, seeing the familiar red form of Knuckles, having cut a swathe through the thick cloud of dust, worry in his purple eyes. He pulled Sonic to his feet, and the hedgehog felt a renewed courage light up inside him, combating the cold of the ghosts around them. Sonic reached up, pulling off the air necklace, and shoving it into Knuckles' free hand, giving the echidna a wink and a thumbs up. Knuckles hurriedly put the regulator in his mouth, letting go of Sonic's arm, and glancing around at the dust cloud. Sonic turned around, prepared to take on these specters with Knuckles at his back... only to blink in surprise as he saw nothing in the cloud.
No ghostly echidnas, no recognizable shapes in the dust... just oddly cold water. Sonic gestured wildly at the dust cloud, glancing over his shoulder at Knuckles, who merely tilted his head in confusion. Sonic glanced back at the cloud, tense, fists clenching. Surely, this was a trick of some kind, and the ghosts were ready to strike as soon as their guard was down? Knuckles patted his shoulder, and Sonic looked back at him, seeing the concerned echidna gesture towards the gate with his thumb. Sonic squinted past him, and he could make out the fact that the gate was now open... Knuckles must have managed to get the keystones into place. The echidna took his hand, gently pulling him out of the middle of the cloud, before reaching up with his free hand to remove the air necklace from his neck, reaching out to hand it to Sonic, who gave the dust cloud one more suspicious glare, before turning to accept the necklace from Knuckles.
The second that his hand made contact with the necklace, the dust cloud practically exploded. Dust suddenly swept past the two of them, and Sonic gasped, bubbles escaping upwards as several icy hands suddenly gripped him, yanking him backwards. If Knuckles hadn't had a grip on his hand, Sonic was sure he would have been dragged off into the shadows under the water. Their hands were freezing, the chill going straight down to his very bones, and he struggled hard, as Knuckles pulled on him, trying to wrench him free, his purple eyes wide with shock, as he stared at the cloud, the dusty shapes of the revenant Guardians apparent in the churning dirt again. Sonic's eyes widened, as he felt the air necklace ripped from his hand.
He snatched for it, only to see it vanish into the dust, panic firing high, as he kicked and flailed as much as he could, his grip on Knuckles' hand tightening. Sonic let out a yelp, more air escaping his lungs, as another freezing fist passed through his chest. It felt as though icicles were growing on his lungs, and he jolted hard, barely stopping himself from sucking in water on reflex in an attempt to breathe. His ears flicked, as he heard a low growl, and he opened his eyes, as he saw Knuckles gritting his teeth, digging his heels into the dirt, and reaching out with his free hand to grab Sonic's other arm.
With a mighty tug, Sonic felt himself be torn free from the grasp of the ghosts, the dust cloud dissipating with a heavy swirl, the shapes of the Guardians vanishing once more. Knuckles pulled him along, trying to swim towards the gate, and Sonic scrambled to grab onto him again, arms snaking around Knuckles' shoulders, wrapping fully around him as the hedgehog clung tightly. Knuckles was so warm, such a contrast to the frigid ghosts who had just had him a moment ago, and Sonic didn't care that his chest was fully pressed to Knuckles' back, didn't care that his face was buried in the crook of Knuckles' neck.
They made it past the gate, when Sonic felt the ache in his lungs. He'd lost a lot of air in that brief moment of icy struggle, and he clenched his jaw hard. Opening his eyes, he moved his head away from Knuckles' neck, staring around at the area they'd just entered. It seemed to be a large room, a number of worn statues around. They were shaped like echidnas, which wasn't surprisng... but each statue had a crescent on the chest. These were statues of the Guardians. Not that this observation helped him any with the rapidly growing need to breathe. He tensed up, and Knuckles glanced back at him as he felt it, blinking as he realized what was wrong.
Sonic felt Knuckles begin to swim faster, and he could only hope that he'd spotted a place to surface, as the burning need for air only grew more painful, and he closed his eyes tightly, trying to focus on holding his breath for just a little longer. Sonic could feel Knuckles shift their orientation in the water, and suddenly they started to rise. Sonic opened his eyes slightly, his muscles beginning to twitch, the urge to thrash and struggle as his lungs called out for oxygen, only getting more powerful. He could see, up above them, what looked to be the surface of the water, and his heart leaped... until he realized that it was still too far up, that there was no way he was going to be able to hold his breath until they got there.
Sonic twitched hard, shivering violently. Knuckles swam faster, and as the two of them rose up, he started to try to spin himself around in Sonic's tight grip, using his hands to try and dislodge Sonic from his back. Sonic couldn't stop a reflexive spasm, and he let go of Knuckles, to clap both hands over his mouth and nose, trying desperately to hold the air in, shuddering hard, almost like he was having some kind of seizure, but he couldn't hold it back. He felt Knuckles' mitts suddenly plant themselves on either side of his cheeks.
Opening his mouth, the last bubbles of air escaping, Sonic was just about to suck in a lungful of water, when suddenly he felt something warm press itself firmly to his mouth, and instead of sucking in water, he was breathing in air. Warm air, but air nonetheless, and Sonic breathed in deeply. Opening his eyes slightly, Sonic was stunned to see purple eyes looking right back at his own green ones. The warmth on his lips, was Knuckles' own mouth. Sonic stared at the echidna, cheeks growing deeply red, feeling his heart beating fast, warm tingles sparking throughout his nerves, along with the relief of having air in his lungs again. He didn't even blink, until they broke the surface of the water. Even having finally surfaced inside the chamber, the liplock remained for a moment, before Knuckles pulled away, and both of them took in deep breaths.
Panting softly, Sonic became aware of the fact that he'd grabbed onto Knuckles again during the initial meeting of mouths, and he turned his eyes back to the echidna, who was watching him closely. They were quiet for a moment, floating there on the surface, Sonic's hands on Knuckles' shoulders, green looking into purple. ``Thank you, Knuckles.'' Sonic managed, giving the echidna a smile. He knew that his cheeks were flushed, but he didn't care if Knuckles could see it, not now. ``I thought I was done for. Twice, I thought I was done for. You saved me. Both times.''
Sonic wished he'd had a camera to catch the look that came over Knuckles' face, somehow bashful and modest at the same time, turning away from Sonic. ``I am a Guardian, Sonic... I'd be a pretty bad one if I couldn't keep you safe, after I asked for your help.'' Knuckles managed to tease slightly, before he turned his eyes to Sonic again. ``But you're welcome.'' With that said, Knuckles glanced around the area they'd surfaced in. There was a cracked set of stairs near the edge of the water, leading up to a pedestal. The key was laid in plain sight. Sonic laughed.
``Well, at least one part of this trip was easy!'' the hedgehog snickered, as Knuckles began to gently backstroke them to the stairs. The echidna couldn't keep an amused grin off his face either, as they both touched the stone steps. Sonic smiled at Knuckles again, before taking a moment to let him go, and grabbing the stairs, to climb up out of the water. He watched Knuckles as the echidna followed him, his cheeks getting warm, as he watched Knuckles shake water from his dreads, droplets flowing down his body. Knuckles strode over, and picked up the key, giving a satisfied nod as he looked it over, before turning to face Sonic.
``Now that we've got this, we can just go right back up. If I'd have known where that gate ended up, I might have been able to drill us down into the chamber directly.'' Knuckles gestured towards a worn out wall in the chamber. ``How about I tunnel us out of here, and we skip the swim?''
- - - - -
Sonic watched Knuckles, as the echidna stood in front of the ancient chamber door. The blue hedgehog had let out an impressed whistle when Knuckles had brought him there... the door was elaborately decorated, though faded heavily from time. The hieroglyphics on the wall were cracked and worn away as well, like the echidna had described earlier. Sonic could see Knuckles holding the key, staring at the lock as if contemplating what he might find. Sonic grinned, stepping forward and patting Knuckles' shoulder, drawing his attention.
``Not to spoil the moment, Knux... but you'll probably find out a lot more about what's inside, if you actually go inside, won't ya?'' Sonic hopped impatiently from one foot to the other. ``You got me all curious, why keep up the suspense? Let's see what we went through all that trouble for!'' the speedster nodded towards the door. Knuckles let out a sigh, glancing back at the key again, before nodding in agreement. Inserting the key, Knuckles turned the handle, and with a soft groan of stone, the door opened. The two of them glanced at each other, both of them with bated breath, before they stepped inside.
The room was quite large, though it didn't seem to be all that furnished, beyond a very generously sized bed in the middle of the room. It looked like something royalty would sleep on. Designs with gemstones adorned the stone base, and the wooden pillars were intricately carved. The headboard looked to be carved out of gold, with embedded gemstones as well. Sonic hummed in curiosity, looking up, to see more fancy designs carved on the high ceiling. Knuckles had a curious look as well, slowly mixing with confusion as he looked at the bed.
``Maybe this was a bedroom just for the Guardian? Seems fancy enough...'' Sonic thought aloud, as he idly walked towards the bed. He trailed his hand along the sheets, surprised to find that they were actually in very nice shape, considering they'd been sealed in this chamber for ages. Nary a speck of dust. Knuckles didn't answer, putting his hands on his hips as he thought. There was no way this was just an exclusive bedroom to the Guardian, right? Why lock it, and keep the key stored in a temple for the Guardians down below? It clearly wasn't a room that was used very often, based on how clean it was. The echidna grumbled to himself, before turning to look at the walls. All of them had some sort of extremely elaborate design painted on, but the wall nearest to him had some hieroglyphic carvings, all in very good condition. Did they hold any answers for him?
``Gotta say, this bed wouldn't be out of place in one of Club Rouge's VIP rooms!'' Sonic called to him, chuckling as he pressed down on one of the pillows, finding it to be soft as the rest of the bed. Knuckles focused on the hieroglyphics, narrowing his eyes. It looked like... names. Names of the former Guardians, some of them already known from old documents and stories Knuckles had found in other ruins, some of them new to him. But all of them were connected on this wall. Knuckles slowly tilted his head. Along the top row, were listed the names of a Guardian. Some of them had female names listed next to them, connected to the Guardian with a line... and then below the two names, was another Guardian.
That new Guardian's name was then carved into the top row, connected to a new female name, and below that was another new Guardian's name. The pattern repeating down the wall. Knuckles blinked slowly, his mental gears turning, as he turned to look back at the bed, echidna symbols of fertility engraved along the wooden pillars, and charms for strength and stamina carved along the base of the bed. Knuckles felt his cheeks growing pink, as he looked back at the wall, and then back at the bed, things clicking in his mind. ``H-Hey, Sonic, we should go.''
Sonic turned to Knuckles, a dumbfounded look on his face. ``Go?'' he asked in disbelief. Knuckles nodded, bringing a hand up to rub the back of his head nervously.
``Yeah, there's nothing in here. Sorry to have wasted your time.'' Knuckles didn't look at Sonic as he said it, and his tone was awkward and tight. Sonic narrowed his eyes, tilting his head.
``I almost got skewered and drowned helping you get that key, Knucklehead.'' Sonic reminded the echidna. ``You were all set to come in here, and find what mystery awaited you, and now we've been in here for all of a couple minutes, and suddenly you want to leave? What gives?'' Knuckles shook his head, bringing up his hands in a defensive gesture.
``Nothing gives!'' he insisted, his voice equally as defensive as his stance. ``I just, uh...'' Knuckles gestured towards the bed. ``...I thought this room would be more important than normal, but I was wrong, it's just a bed! So I should get back to important stuff like guarding the Master Emerald!'' Sonic let out a suspicious hum, crossing his arms.
``You're a bad liar, Knux. You expect me to believe, that they'd keep the key to this room locked up in some old temple, a temple that had statues of all the old Guardians inside...'' he turned and gestured at the bed. ``...just so that the current Guardian could sleep in some super fancy bed? You're hiding something!'' Sonic stepped closer, trying to look Knuckles in the eyes, but the echidna merely flushed and tried to look away. ``C'mon, Knuckles, don't hold out on me!'' Sonic exclaimed, before he glanced at the wall Knuckles had been looking at. ``You got all weird after you looked at these. What does it say?''
``Nothing!'' Knuckles blurted out, quickly moving to stand between Sonic and the wall, not that it did much good. ``It's just some history stuff about the old Guardians!'' Sonic ignored him, trying to make sense of the carved symbols on the wall. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at it, and Knuckles glanced back at the wall as well. Sonic couldn't read the ancient echidna language, but the arrangement of the carved chart was easy enough for it's purpose to be deciphered if one applied a little thought. As Knuckles turned back to Sonic, he bit his lip, as he saw that Sonic had an odd expression on his face. The hedgehog's eyes were picking out the pattern, and Knuckles reached out to try and tug Sonic's arm, to get his attention off the wall, but Sonic casually stepped back out of reach. ``Sonic, it's nothing, really-''
``Knuckles.'' Sonic interrupted, and the echidna let out an embarrassed sigh.
``I almost died. Twice.'' Knuckles bit his lip again, before running a hand over his face. He glanced back at the wall, and then back at Sonic, who actually pouted at him. Knuckles grumbled guiltily to himself, letting out another long sigh, before he straightened up, and tried to steel himself for the embarrassment to hike higher.
``That...'' he started, gesturing back at the chart on the wall. ``...is a record.'' Sonic tilted his head, his pout fading as Knuckles began to explain.
``Record? Record for what?'' He asked, though the slight amusement on his face practically clued Knuckles in that Sonic was already piecing it together. Knuckles looked away from the hedgehog.
``It's a... birth record. Of the Guardians.'' Knuckles mumbled. A smile started to tease at the corners of Sonic's mouth.
``In a bedroom? With a big, elaborately decorated bed?'' Sonic asked, obviously trying to hide his amusement.
``...Yes.'' Knuckles answered. Sonic chuckled, slowly stepping closer, leaning in.
``Is this a honeymoon suite, Knuckles?'' Sonic asked in an exaggeratedly conspiratorial tone, mirth underlying his voice. The echidna closed his eyes, groaning as he rubbed a hand over his face again.
``It's a... conception chamber, if that's what you're getting at, yes, Sonic.'' Knuckles managed between gritted teeth. ``Where the current Guardian goes, with his chosen bride, when it's time to... conceive... the next in line to be the future Guardian.'' Knuckles finished, sounding more abashed than Sonic had ever heard him. ``Obviously, seeing as I'm the last one, this chamber isn't gonna get any use. Can we go now?'' Knuckles asked almost weakly. Sonic chuckled.
``Why so flustered, Knux?'' he asked, patting the echidna's shoulder. Knuckles looked up at him, incredulous.
``Why? I called you up here for help, convinced you to dive, which you hate, and then you almost died, twice! You risked your life, all to help me find a key to this room, which ultimately just turned out to be a...'' Knuckles face flushed, and he leaned in, speaking in a hushed tone as if someone might hear them. ``...a room for sex, Sonic! Excuse me for being a little bit embarrassed! For myself, and for you!'' he gestured with his arms, agitated, as Sonic watched quietly. ``What if you had died down there, helping me to discover this? Losing you over some ruins here, already wouldn't ever be acceptable to me, but coming up here afterwards, only to find out that this is what I lost you over? I can't even imagine it!''
Sonic watched as Knuckles let out a huff, putting his hands on his hips, and kicking slightly at the floor. He'd never admit it, but hearing Knuckles convey how much his life meant to him, had his own heart thumping a little faster. The hedgehog glanced back at the bed, and then back at the echidna, a smooth smile coming over his face as he stepped closer. ``You look like you need a little air, Knuckles.'' The echidna looked up at him, cheeks still pink.
``I'll be fine, don't worry.'' he insisted. Sonic stepped closer, his chest practically touching the echidna's and Knuckles blinked, confused at the closeness. Sonic leaned in, smiling.
``When I needed air down in those ruins, you gave me yours, Knuckles.'' Sonic murmured. ``Why don't I return the favor?'' The Guardian's already flushed cheeks grew slowly more red, and as he opened his mouth to reply, Sonic moved in. Knuckles' lips were just as warm and soft as earlier, and the subtle shiver that he felt roll through the echidna's body as he slid his hand slowly up Knuckles' chest, sent a warmth through his whole body. He could feel Knuckles' heartbeat, and Sonic inwardly smiled as he discovered his own heart wasn't the only one speeding up. The hedgehog broke the kiss after a long moment, smiling as he took a step back from Knuckles, taking one of the Guardian's hands, and slowly pulling him along.
``Sonic?'' the echidna managed softly, keeping eye contact with the playful hedgehog. Sonic winked at him, before turning around, and starting to slowly head towards the centerpiece of the room with the echidna.
``Who says that because you're the last Guardian, you can't get any use from this room?'' Sonic asked without looking back. ``I mean, sure... I can't conceive another Guardian with you, Knuckles.'' Sonic let go of Knuckles' hand, before he practically crawled into the bed on all fours, turning to peer back over his shoulder at the echidna, who stared, his cheeks only getting more deeply red. Sonic wagged his tail, eyes full of something that made the echidna's pulse quicken, and heat to pool in a southern region of his body. ``But you said yourself, what this room ultimately turned out to be.''