Disclaimer- I don't own anything (though I wish I did).

OOOOOOOOh my gosh, guys! You don't know how happy it makes me that all of you were just as pumped to start this series back up as I was! All of the support makes me smile, and I'll repay you with this new chapter! Hope you enjoy!

And again, I'd like to thank 18204 for beta-ing!

Chapter 2- You're Invited!

"No, Sonic! Don't-"

The sound of glass shattering filled the air.

"-step back…"

Sonic sucked in a breath as he glanced down, lifting his foot off the package of what used to be lightbulbs. He swore that they hadn't been there when he backed up. Chuckling sheepishly, he lifted his gaze to the other occupants of the room and scratched his cheek. "Oops…"

Knuckles, who had just finished installing a ceiling fan, stared down at Sonic in disbelief. His fist clenched around the screwdriver in his hand. He was so close to jumping down the ladder he was on and tackling the speedster to the ground. First Sonic tripped over some wires, then he spilled multiple buckets of paint, and now he ruined a good package of lightbulbs — that they had no more of.

Did Sonic want his new house fixed up or not?

Tails' ears drooped as he surveyed the damage from his position at the base of the ladder. He sighed. "Well, there go those…" His warning to save the bulbs had been one second too late, but how was he supposed to know that Sonic never looked down when he walked?

"Yeah, those are caput, but we have some more somewhere, right?" Sonic did a quick visual search around the rather bare living room, finding scattered chairs, random hammers, and other items that weren't the needed lightbulbs.

Tails sadly shook his head. "Those were the only ones we had, Sonic!" The kit then pointed at the front door, his expression morphing into a slightly mocking one. "And guess who has to get some more?"

Sonic knew it surely wasn't Knuckles. "Yeah, yeah…" He turned on his heel and waved over his shoulder. "Be right back!" He was about to zoom out and start his retrieval mission, but a thought came to him. A grin growing on his muzzle, he faced his friends again. Tails was cocking his head at him, and Knuckles had returned to the ceiling fan, making sure it was safely secure.

Sonic winked at his kid brother before addressing the echidna. "Hey Knux, remember that little bet we made a few days ago?"

Knuckles rolled his eyes. Did Sonic expect him to remember something as mundane as a bet after all that had happened? "No, I don't remember any stupid bet, Sonic."

"Really? Not even one regarding whether our doubles were actually real and the fact that our new fridge is lookin' mighty empty?"

Heated amethyst orbs narrowed at the speedster as said memory resurfaced.

"Hey, Blue."


Knuckles sent the hedgehog a smug smirk. "When we figure out that I'm right about all of this, thus winning the argument, you'll have to do something for me."

Sonic glanced over and returned the smirk. "Oh really, Knucklehead? And what would that be?"

"I don't know yet. Just know that it's going to be entertaining for me."

The blue hero scratched his nose. "Well, keep dreamin' because that will never happen. When it shows that I'm right…" The grin grew larger. "I'm just sayin' that our fridge has been looking really empty the past couple days."

...Yeah, now he remembered and wished that Sonic hadn't. "Are you serious? You still want me to go grocery shopping for you?"

"Yep!" Sonic chirped, emphasizing the 'p'. When the guardian didn't move from his spot upon the ladder, the hero snickered and held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, Knux. We can compromise! We can go shopping together." His smile widened. "So you won't just get grapes or somethin'. We're havin' a party later, and I gotta make sure only good stuff's on the menu!"

"So why don't you just go yourself?!" Knuckles focused on an observing Tails, who seemed somewhat amused, to his disdain. "Tails! Help me out here!"

The kit passively shrugged. "You did make the bet." When Knuckles groaned, the fox chuckled. "It shouldn't take that long! I'll find something else for me to do while you two are gone." The house was full of fixer-uppers, which he didn't mind, because it was kinda fun shaping it into their new home. It may take a while to get it how they wanted, but they had all the time in the world.

Sonic grinned in victory as Knuckles climbed down the ladder, grumbling angrily to himself. Tails was holding the base so the echidna wouldn't fall off. Knuckles handed the screwdriver over to the kit and stomped out of the house, muttering about hedgehogs and never agreeing to bets again.

"I think he forgot that he was the first to make the bet," Sonic said jovially before waving at his brother again. He was going to leave for real this time. "Have fun tinkering, Tails!"

"Don't forget the lightbulbs!"

"Don't worry!" Sonic saluted before leaving, closing the front door behind him.

The blue blur soaked in the morning sun's rays as a cool breeze weaved through his quills. Sonic stood in front of his house for a moment, taking in the view. His and Tails' house was sitting on top of a grassy knoll that gradually transformed into a sandy shore. They had picked a place at the far end of Emerald Coast. It was perfect. They didn't have any neighbors; they had enough room to do anything they wanted out here, and the ocean was close but not too close. Tails could visit the water while Sonic stayed well away from it.

Out there in the watery deathtrap was Angel Island, floating proud upon the shifting waves. Even though there was no threat to the Master Emerald at the moment — Sabo was detained, and Eggman surely wasn't ready to make any type of move yet — Knuckles still wanted the isle close by as he helped with the home.

The house had come with basic appliances, electricity, and plumbing, but that was about it. There was work to be done before it could compare to their home pre-explosion; however, he would love his place just the same. This time, no strange robots were allowed.

Sonic exhaled softly before searching for that hot-headed friend of his. Knuckles was gliding in the air, going in the direction of Station Square. The city wasn't far away at all, its looming buildings visible in the distance.

The azure speedster caught up to him in no time, slowing his speed so he wouldn't blow past the echidna. Knuckles didn't look any happier than he was on the inside. Sonic smirked up at him. "This isn't so bad, Knux! What's the difference between helping us with the house and helping us with groceries anyway?"

"Well, I volunteered to do one of them!" The guardian bit, squinting against the wind.

"You know the risks of betting, Knux!" Sonic chirped cheekily. "At least it wasn't something more embarrassing, which I should've thought of."

Knuckles was relieved that Sonic hadn't been more creative, for there were now many more faces that could've made the embarrassing act way worse. "Be lucky that you didn't, because I would probably be punching you right now."

Sonic barked out a laugh. "Hey, not my fault that you lost, Knux!" Emerald orbs focused at the city steadily getting closer. "Plus, we might see some of the others! Find out how they're doing!"

Knuckles grunted. "You know they're fine, Sonic! I just want to get the food as soon as possible." He really didn't want to linger around the city for too long. There were a couple of Mobians he'd rather not run into.

Sonic smiled knowingly. "Who are you tryin' to avoid, Knucklehead? Red, Rogue, or Boom?"

"All three." Knuckles subtly frowned. Though his opinion of Red had improved since their initial meeting, the guardian didn't wish to start a conversation with him. Red would probably fall asleep mid-sentence anyway. Rogue pushed his buttons like another bat he knew, but unlike Rouge, the male bat had made some major mistakes. With Boom… he doubted anyone wanted to talk to Boom.

"C'mon, Knux! Leave the past behind us, yeah?" Sonic advised, mirth in his tone. "Rogue and Red are pretty cool, and well… Boom's takin' baby steps." His twin had definitely changed after Mephiles died. At first glance, it didn't seem like it, but teaching Rosy and simply being around TT without any malicious intent was a huge step up.

Knuckles perked up a bit at that. "Oh yeah, he's supposed to be over at the Chaotix's now, right?" If he was, then he didn't have to worry about bumping into that loudmouth.

"Think so!" Sonic was planning on learning some sign language later at the party so he could talk to Rosy and not miss out on any secret conversations. "See? He's gettin' better!" He really appreciated his double not randomly hitting people anymore.

Well, Boom's 'better' was still pretty bad, Knuckles mused. He had a long way to go. Still, maybe Knuckles could take it a bit easier on him. Mephiles' death was… jarring, to say the least. It was more like being hit in the chest twenty times over.

It wasn't long before they reached the bustling city. Sonic slowed to a stop on the sidewalk, waiting for Knuckles to land beside him. "So the closest convenience store would be…" The blue blur glanced in multiple directions before pointing to the right. "This way! Follow the leader, Knux!" Sonic chuckled at the exasperated echidna before jogging off and weaving through pedestrians. He was going slow enough for the guardian to catch up.

The pair eventually made it to a one-stop shop. They could get lightbulbs and find all the food they needed. However, before Sonic and Knuckles could step inside, a voice called out to them.

"Hello, boys." The heroic duo searched around for the person, and it wasn't hard to find the culprit — a white bat was flying over to them, waving. Rouge touched down in front of the pair and raised a curious brow. "What are you doing this fine day?"

Sonic returned her cheerful wave. "Just pickin' up some stuff! I dragged Knucklehead along because he lost a bet."

Knuckles pointedly looked away from the mocking looks both Sonic and Rouge were giving him. Did he seriously have to bring that up?

"Oh, really?" Rouge put a hand on her hip, the mirth clear in her voice. "What kind of bet, Blue?"

"Does it matter?!" The echidna threw his hands in the air. "Let's just get this over with!"

Sonic laughed. "No need to get so riled up! It's not like I'm makin' you give up your rock or something." The speedster then focused on Rouge, gesturing inside the store. "Wanna come with and help? The more the merrier!"


"Sure." Rouge contrasted Knuckles, who huffed indignantly. The trio strolled inside the store. Teal orbs scanned the many aisles in front of them. "So, what are we shopping for, hon?"

Knuckles glared at Sonic. "If she's here to help you, then why can't I go back?"

"Because you lost, Knux! You're not gettin' out of this so easily!" Sonic wiggled a finger at him. Knuckles grumbled to himself and trained his glare on Rouge when she patted his shoulder in mock sympathy. Sonic then tapped his chin and regarded the bat. "Rouge, you can just find us some lightbulbs while Knux and I go do some grocery shoppin'."

Rouge was confused for a moment, but then she realized that the hedgehog had probably found a place to stay. "Can do, sugar." Before they split up, she added one more thing. "And Knuckie." Knuckles peered back at her. "It's not his fault you lost."

She smirked as the echidna marched angrily away, a snickering Sonic at his heels. Her day off just got a little better. Rouge's attention drifted away from the two and back to the shelves before her. If she were lightbulbs, where would she be? In the home improvement section, most likely.

Flapping her wings, Rouge headed in the opposite direction the boys went in. She slowly flew past aisles, glancing down them to see if they held the item she was looking for. This went on for a minute or so until something caught her eye, and it wasn't the lightbulbs.

Putting her little mission on hold for a moment, Rouge let her wings rest and sauntered through the shelves lined with various tools. She approached her oblivious target who was busy examining several hammers.

When she spoke, she was finally noticed. "Well, fancy meeting you here, Rogue."

The male released a charming grin after he realized she was there. He faced her fully, slightly leaning against the shelf. "Hey, Roo. What are you doing here?"

"Nothing much." Rouge subtly shrugged. "Just running a small errand. What about you?"

"Same here." Rogue turned to grab a hammer, weighing it in his grip. "About to pick up some tools."

The G.U.N agent hummed before trying something out. Her lips curved upwards at his curious expression. "Tools, huh? I do love a man who's good with his hands."

Rogue wasn't fazed. He chuckled, regaining eye contact. "Really? What a coincidence! Because I love a woman who knows exactly what she wants."

Rouge blinked before smiling, giving mini applause. "Impressive."

"Thank you, thank you." The male Mobian shallowly bowed. "I've got a whole arsenal in the back."

"I'm sure you do." She leisurely crossed her arms. "I'm glad you're here, hon. You're a breath of fresh air."

Rogue put down the hammer before reaching for another. "How so?"

"Everyone else is too stiff," she explained. "If I tease Knuckles like that, he doesn't know what to do with himself." Rogue snorted, seeing that happening. "And Shadow just ignores me altogether, and that's no fun."

"It's true that those guys need to lighten up a little. If you need to be entertained, I'll be happy to oblige!" Rogue laughed to himself. "And if Knuckles is around, that'll be icing on the cake. Seeing him flustered is hilarious."

"You see why I do it all the time." She absentmindedly tapped her finger against her arm, eyes shifting back the way she came. Rouge smirked. "Speaking of Knuckles…he and Sonic are here too."

"They are?" Rogue asked, and she nodded.


He replaced the hammer, sighing in relief. "I don't need that, then."

The female bat blinked. That wasn't the reaction she expected. "What did you need it for, hon? Don't tell me you broke something in your apartment already."

Rogue smiled sheepishly. "Not yet." He rubbed the back of his neck, a few chortles escaping him. "I was looking because… because little dude got stuck in the toilet."

It took a few moments for her mind to process that. "The kid bee… got stuck… in the toilet?" She repeated like she hadn't heard the words correctly.

Rogue gestured to himself. "It wasn't my fault! Silv's the one who probably left the seat up, since he wasn't there when we woke up." He heavily exhaled. "So I guess the kid needed to… do some business, and he didn't look before sitting."

Rouge pictured it, and she covered her mouth to help stifle her snickers.

"You can laugh." Rogue waved her off. "Hell, I nearly busted a lung as soon as I left the apartment."

Once she reined herself back in, she asked, "So why do you need Knuckie?"

His grin was lopsided. "For his strength and so we aren't the ones to blame if he breaks the toilet."

She patted his arm. "Smart thinking, sugar. Let's go find them."

On the other side of the store, Sonic was currently indecisive about which brand of hot dogs to get.

The speedster stared at the package in his left hand. "These are thicker…" He then focused on the food item in his right. "But these have a burst of flavor…"

Knuckles, who had been fuming beside him for the past few minutes, blindingly reached out and snatched one of the packages. "This one! We're taking this one!"

Sonic didn't seem too sure. "But these are bigger and…" A thought came to him. "Oh, wait! We can just get both of them! Best of both worlds!"

Knuckles was this close to throwing the hot dogs at Sonic's head. "So we stood here for who knows how long just for you to decide to get both-" The echidna cut himself off as he peered over the hedgehog's shoulder, focusing on the two familiar figures who were fast approaching them. "Great," he mumbled.

Sonic cocked his head at the echidna's rapid change in demeanor before glancing backwards. In stark contrast to the his frowning guardian neighbor, he smiled at the new arrival. "Hey, Rogue! Guess we're not the only ones shoppin' today!"

When Rogue had gotten close enough, the bat held out a fist and Sonic bumped it. Rogue grinned at the speedster. "You might be the only one, bro!"

Sonic furrowed his brow. "What do you mean by that?"

The male bat shifted his attention to Knuckles, making his expression as inviting as possible. The echidna didn't seem any more open to him. "What?" the red Mobian asked suspiciously. It was obvious that the bat wanted something from him. And with how amused Rouge seemed to be on the sidelines, it was something ridiculous.

"I – I mean, we – need your help, man." Rogue started, and before Knuckles could say no, he went on. "We need your super strength back at the apartment. Charmy got stuck."

Knuckles figured that it was CB rather than the Chaotix's bee. "Stuck where?"

"In the toilet."

Spittle flew out of Sonic's mouth before he covered it, his shoulders shaking from laughter.

Knuckles narrowed his eyes at Rogue before looking at Sonic and then at a very entertained Rouge. His frown deepened when he regarded the male winged mammal. "You're tricking me, aren't you? This is a prank!"

Teal orbs widened, and Rogue shook his head vehemently. "No, dude! I'm telling the truth! He's seriously stuck!" He pointed in the general direction he had come from. "I was over there about to buy a freakin' hammer to get him out! Right, Rouge?"

Said agent nodded, validating his statement. "It's true, Knuckie." She poked the red echidna in the chest, raising a brow. "You won't let the poor kid suffer, will you?"

Knuckles glanced back and forth between the two bats in front of him, not sure what to believe. He resorted to meeting Sonic's emerald gaze, silently requesting an opinion. Sonic's grin was nearly splitting his face in half as he replaced the hot dogs. "Look, Knux, if CB is really stuck, I seriously have to see that."

The echidna groaned before putting back his 'dogs as well and pointing at a relieved Rogue. "Fine! I'll go. But I swear if this is nothing but a joke-!"

"I give you permission to punch me, man. Right here." Rogue tapped his own cheek before jumping up into the air. "Alright, let's go!" He flew around to Knuckles' back and grabbed the echidna's arms in one swift movement.

"Hey!" the echidna shouted, suddenly airborne. He struggled to free himself, but Rogue was strong enough to hold on tight. "Let me go!"

"I will when we get there!" The bat laughed before leaving the store, a still chuckling Sonic and an interested Rouge following behind.

CB was extremely shocked when Rogue didn't come back with the tools he had promised, but with an audience.

An embarrassed flush reddened his cheeks as he squirmed futilely in his porcelain throne. It wasn't that others could see anything– his body was positioned like an unused folding chair– but…but there was a girl here!

Leaning against the bathroom wall was VC, who was thinking that this was a great way to start the morning. He addressed the flabbergasted Knuckles. "You seriously thought this was a joke? I thought so too until Rogue pulled me in here…"

"See!" The male bat gestured to the trapped bee. "I was telling the truth!"

"If only I had a camera…" Rouge mused aloud and CB hid his head in his hands, releasing a pitiful whimper.

Sonic knew that he should be more concerned, but he had to admit that this was the funniest thing he'd seen in a while. He nudged Knuckles forward. "Go ahead, Knux! Work some magic!"

Knuckles slowly blinked, and like VC, he secretly wished that this had been a prank. He would have Rogue's permission to punch him, and he wouldn't have to pull a bee out of a toilet. Accepting his fate, he strode forward and held his hands out. "Hold on, kid."

"We already tried doing this once!" CB exclaimed, rubbing his wrists. "VC pulled and pulled, but he couldn't get me out!"

Knuckles lowered his arms. "Then how in the heck am I…" He peered down at the porcelain, hating more and more that Sonic remembered that stupid bet. He kneeled down and gripped one side of the bowl as tightly as he could, barely wedging his fingers. Maybe if he somehow widened the opening just a bit,the bee would be able to get out. "Someone hold his hands."

Rogue flapped over and did so.

Gritting his teeth, Knuckles focused and pulled, straining the bowl until a small crack formed in it.

VC saw this and exhaled harshly. "I'm not gonna be a witness to this." He made his way toward the exit of the bathroom, the others stepping out of his way. He paused by Sonic. "Just a heads up, you might need to be ready to refer us to another apartment."

Sonic gave a thumbs up. "If it comes down to that, I will! No prob!"

The croc appreciatively smiled at him before busying himself in the kitchen and hoping that they wouldn't get evicted.

Rogue tugged, but CB wasn't budging. "It's a no-go, dude."

"I wanna get out!" The bee whined. "My butt hurts!"

Knuckles wondered if the Chaotix had dealt with this before. He wouldn't be surprised if the answer was yes. "Just wait a second, kid. I have to-"

And not unlike the lightbulbs from earlier, the toilet bowl shattered.

"I'm sure it won't happen again! They're good friends, and it was just a freak accident. Give 'em another shot, what do ya say?"

The landlord was not amused, tense arms folded across his chest. The group of heroes were currently standing just outside the apartment door, the man in charge looking a bit more than ticked off.

Sonic was standing in front of the group, a placating smile on his face. The landlord wasn't budging, so the speedster was going to have to pull out his trump card so his friends wouldn't get kicked out.

"C'mon, ease up! It wasn't even their fault. My bud Knuckles here just doesn't know how strong he really is!" He motioned to the frowning echidna, who hated that his shoes were soaked. "And plus, this building wouldn't even be here if I hadn't stopped Eggman way back! Give them one more chance!"

The gruff man exhaled sharply before shifting his gaze to Rogue and VC – in which those two quickly glanced away and began innocently whistling – and a toweled CB whose large puppy eyes were apparently effective because the landlord's stance relaxed marginally.

"Fine. They can stay," the man stated before glaring at the occupants of the apartment. "But one more incident like this, and you're out. Are we clear?"

"Clear as crystal!" VC agreed, glad to have a roof over his head. "Won't happen again!"

"Good." The landlord glanced back through the open door. "The men in there won't be done for a while. Come back in an hour or two." Before anyone could say anything, he entered the apartment and slammed the door shut.

Sonic turned around and grinned. "Well, that's that! My charm works every time!"

Knuckles just scoffed at that.

"What are we gonna do now?" CB questioned, looking up at the older Mobians. The bee then focused on the towel wrapped around him. "What am I gonna do with this? I know! I can wear it like a cape!"

Rouge would take the towel from the kid, but she did not want to touch the soiled cloth. "Do you really want to, hon? You dried off with it… because you fell in the toilet water."

It seemed like CB had just made that connection. "Ew!" He immediately dropped it on the ground, hovering away from it. "I wanna take a shower!"

VC wondered how the rest of his stay was going to go if this happened on the first day. "Nah, you don't. All you need is a good hose down." He tapped his chin. "I think there's one out back…"

CB gasped. "But whyyy? That water's cold!"

"Look before you leap next time, kid." The croc huffed.

While the bee pouted, Rouge's lips curved upwards. "That's one way to teach a lesson."

He copied her expression. "Well, someone has to be the adult around here."

"Hey!" Rogue shouted. "I'm more of an adult than you are, bro!"

VC scoffed. "As if!"

"I am."

"You're not."

"I am!"

"You're not!"

"If you two keep going like this, then I'm going to have to say that Grey has you two beat." Knuckles commented only for the two to round on him.

"It's his fault that it happened!" The pair chorused.

Rouge put a hand on her hip. "Let's just pretend that you two are perfect adults so you can stop yelling." VC snorted and rolled his eyes, while Rogue slumped in defeat. Rouge gestured to the closed door. "Since you boys can't go back in there, what are you going to do?"

"Well, we were supposed to be going to my double's place," VC answered.

"It was so mean for Silver to leave us!" CB shook his fist, cheeks puffing out. "I'm gonna get him for that!"

The croc continued like the bee hadn't spoken. "So, after hosing the kid down, we can make our way over there."

"Cool!" Sonic smiled. It was awesome that all these people were supporting Rosy. "I would go too, but I've got a house party to plan for… that you're all invited to!"

Everyone sans Knuckles was surprised.

"A party?" An excited smile grew on Rogue's muzzle. "I'm so there!"

"Me too!" CB chirped.

"I'm assuming that there will be good food there…?"

Sonic winked at the croc, nodding. "You bet!" VC patted his stomach, already daydreaming about the goodies.

"So that's the real reason you two were shopping…" Rouge pondered aloud. "When is it going to be?"

"'Round five! The house is on Emerald Coast, but it's not in a popular spot. It's way out there, but you won't miss it! And Rouge, can you tell Shads about it too?"

"Sure thing, hon," she agreed. "He should be off work by then."

Sonic rounded on the guys. "And can you tell everyone at the Chaotix's that they're invited too?"

Rogue mock-saluted him. "Will do, bro!"

Knuckles was ready to get back to doing what he and Sonic had come out there for. "Now that we're done here, can we go back to the store and-"

"Actually…" The echidna didn't like that smirk on Sonic's face. "You and Rouge can go shoppin' for a bit while I go do something."

The guardian furrowed his brow. "Go do wha-"

"I'll meet you back at the store!" Those were Sonic's parting words before he zipped away, a blue streak disappearing in the distance.

Knuckles erratically waved his hands in the air. "Why am I even friends with him?!"

"Because he's a lifesaver." VC provided.

"And he's cool!" CB added happily.

Rogue chuckled. "And he's more down to earth than you seem to be, Knuckie." Knuckles gaped before clenching his fists while Rouge softly giggled. "So relax a bit, dude!"

The guardian gritted his teeth. "Two things! One, once you've known Sonic as long as I have, you'll understand. And two." He took a step forward, irked. "Don't you ever call me that again! Or I'll– hey!"

Rouge had grabbed his wrists and lifted him off the ground. "Come on, sugar. Let's get back to our errand before you start a fight."

Knuckles growled. "But he started it!"

"And I'm finishing it," she lightly chastised before regarding the amused audience. "See you boys later!" The bat flew off with the grumbling echidna in her grip.

CB waved before turning to the older males, who were still watching her go. "Hey… I have an idea!"

Teal and yellow irises found him. "What is it, lil' man?" Rogue inquired.

When the bee didn't respond at first, fiddling with his fingers, the bat and croc shared a confused look. "Something wrong, Charmy?" the latter asked.

The bee shook his head. "There's nothing wrong! I just…" He took a deep breath. "Can we visit Mephy and Cream before we go to the Chaotix?"

Rogue blinked before sadly smiling. "'Course we can, kiddo." He rubbed the top of CB's head, messing up his helmet a little. Rogue raised a brow at the croc. "You up for it?"

"You seriously think that I would say no?" VC replied before addressing the bee. "But don't you think that we forgot about hosing you down."

"Aw, man!" CB shuffled back and forth on his feet. "And uh... I kinda still have to go to the bathroom…"

Rogue and VC sighed in sync. "We figured."

Once Sonic reached the house he was looking for, he stepped right up to the front door and knocked. Only a few beats passed before the door creaked open, revealing a purple cat.

The speedster raised his hand in a friendly wave. "Hey, Blaze! How's it going?"

"All's well," the feline replied warmly. "It's nice to relax after all the chaos of yesterday."

"Yeah, I hear ya!" That was putting it lightly. "And thanks again for comin' back for us, Blaze. You and Silver are lifesavers!"

Blaze allowed a quiet chuckle. "Literally."

Sonic joined in with her for a moment. "So…" He drawled out. "How long are you stayin'?"

"A couple of days at least. Like I said, it's good to relax and that will be the last thing I do if I return now." Blaze glanced inside the house for a moment before her golden orbs refocused on a slightly downtrodden Sonic. He knew that she had a duty, but still. "I want to stay around to make sure Cream's okay without Cheese. She's been distracted so far. And plus, the ones from the other dimension are interesting. Especially Penumbra."

The blue blur didn't expect that. "How c-"

"Blaze!" A deep raspy voice called out, and Sonic would've thought it was Shadow if he didn't know any better. "Come back! Your turn!"

A purple ear twitched at the words, and Blaze opened the door wider, silently inviting the speedster inside. "He's a sponge," she explained as she led Sonic to the kitchen of the quaint home. "Cream teaches him things, and he sucks them right up."

Sonic raised a brow at that. "So we got a brainiac in the making?"

"Not necessarily." Blaze opposed. "He's a fast learner, but him potentially having the IQ of Tails is stretching it."

"What's he learned between last night and now?"

"Because of Cream and I, he's learned how to talk more fluently, how to count to around fifty, and how to name some colors."

Sonic whistled lowly. "Wow." It made sense, though. Nummy learning their language before this point without proper help was impressive— especially coming from a point when he hadn't known anything.

"I know." Blaze understood his shock. "And we didn't even go to bed that late last night." It was then that they entered the kitchen. Sonic's attention immediately snapped to a small table which was holding a rectangular board game. Penumbra, Cream, and Vanilla were sitting in chairs, and there was an extra empty one. It had to be Blaze's spot.

Both of the rabbits had pleasantly surprised expressions on their faces, but Nummy was the first one to speak up. "Hey, Sonic!" The striped hedgie's tail was thudding against the seat in excitement. He pointed a clawed finger at the game of chutes and ladders. "Want play a game?"

"Want to play a game." Blaze corrected as she reclaimed her seat.

Nummy frowned at her. "I said that." He turned to the bunny for her opinion. "Right?"

The rabbit looked like she wanted to side with the darker 'hog, but then again, she desired to teach him the right things. "You missed a word, Mr. Penumbra! Miss Blaze was right."

Penumbra seemed disappointed in himself. It wasn't long before maroon eyes found Sonic again. "Do you want to play?"

The speedster just stared at him for a second. Blaze hadn't been joking. He beamed. "Thanks, but no thanks! And I'm impressed, Nummy. You've come a long way!"

Penumbra tilted his head. "A long way from what?"

"It's a saying!" Cream enlightened him. "Mr. Sonic means that you've learned a lot since he first met you!"

"Oh… well yeah!" The tail worked overtime now. "It fun to-"


Tail stilling, Nummy covertly sent Blaze a sharp look– Sonic assumed that the cat might be filling the role of the 'strict teacher' – before starting over. "It's fun to learn new words. And numbers. And games." He gestured to the board game once more. "You really don't want to play?"

"I'm good!" Sonic scratched under his nose. "It seems like fun, but I actually came here to tell you all somethin'!"

"What is it?" Blaze questioned, pausing in rolling the die.

"Me and Tails are havin' a house party later, and I want you all to come!"

Vanilla didn't hesitate in saying, "We'll gladly go, sweetie." Cream nodded enthusiastically.

"When and where? You are missing those two important facts." Blaze pointed out, her tone light and teasing.

"I was gettin' there!" Sonic defended himself in jest. "Our house is on the empty edge of Emerald Coast. It's gonna start at five!"

"…What is a house party?"

Penumbra looked lost, a shallow crease in his brow. Cream eagerly answered, "You know what a house is, so at a house, a bunch of people get together to have fun. That's a house party!"

"Okay…" The short tail started up again as Nummy grinned. "I going!"


Sonic inwardly laughed when Nummy's ears instantly drooped. "Words are hard."

The hero was about to leave them to their game, but he realized that someone wasn't going to get an invite to the party. He hadn't seen a specific echidna today, and he wasn't sure if any of the others would run into him. Red could be sleeping anywhere right now.

Sonic pursed his lips as Blaze rolled a six, moving her purple piece to a space with a ladder. Both Penumbra and Cream quietly whimpered as the cat jumped in front of them in the game.

Red needed to be tracked down… and in order to do that…

"Hey, Nummy." Sonic began, regaining the striped one's attention. "Don't hate me, but can I borrow you for a sec?"

Penumbra narrowed his eyes at him before regarding Blaze. "He spoke wrong! Why did not you say anything?"

Blaze handed Cream the pair of dice. "Because he's not trying to learn the language. And you're supposed to say 'didn't' there."

Nummy just stared at her before standing up and sending Cream a smile. "I'm going with Sonic. I will be back soon!"

"Okay!" Cream giggled. "We'll pause the game for you!"

"You won't have to wait long!" Sonic reassured them before waving for Penumbra to follow.

Nummy was on his heels until they made it outside. "Why do you want me?"

Sonic glanced around the yard before facing the striped hedgehog, who was peering at him with wide, curious eyes. It was funny how Penumbra was making expressions that Shadow probably hadn't made in his whole life. "I was hopin' that I could use that amazing nose of yours!"

Penumbra didn't seem to get it at first. "My nose?"

"Yep!" Sonic chirped. "Think you can track down Red for me?"

"Red…" The blue blur could almost see the gears turning in the other's mind. "…Knuckles?" Nummy marginally leaned in and sniffed the air once. "You been-" Penumbra paused before glimpsing back at the house for a second. "You've been with him, right?"

Sonic should've seen that coming. "Wrong Knuckles. I'm looking for the one you met first!" Realization spread across Nummy's face, and Sonic continued. "Can you tell the difference between their scents?"

The striped hedgie tilted his head. "Maybe?"

"Well, let's find out!" Sonic motioned around the yard. Red had been here yesterday, so Nummy should be able to pick something up. "Hopefully we'll find him, because I want to invite him to the party too."

Penumbra perked up at that. "Knuckles will be sad if he doesn't get to go…" He nodded confidently. "I try– I'll try to find him." He crouched low to the ground and walked on all fours, his nose almost buried in the grass.

Sonic watched as the darker mammal searched the yard, imagining Shadow in Penumbra's place and snickering to himself. This went on for a minute or two, and Sonic was already thinking of a plan B. But then Nummy froze at a spot by the edge of the yard where the trees started.

Penumbra lifted his head up and gestured for Sonic to come. "Found smell!"

Sonic fist pumped. "Awesome!" He zipped to where the second Ultimate Lifeform was. "Lead the way!"

Nummy wasn't as excited. "It's really weak, so sorry if I lose..."

The speedster playfully nudged the striped one. "Don't doubt yourself, Nummy! I believe in ya!"

The ebony 'hog softly smiled before running ahead, his hands and feet kicking up dust. Sonic caught up to him easily, the other not wanting to lose the hero. Once Penumbra saw that the azure speedster had caught up, he increased his speed until Sonic was sure they were about to break the sound barrier.

The wind was whipping through his hanging quills as he kept in step with Penumbra, who was laser focused. It was somewhat difficult to keep up, because Nummy was ducking and dodging trees, branches, and the like with little difficulty while Sonic had to pay attention to nature's obstacles while paying attention to whenever his friend unexpectedly turned on a dime. There were no warnings beforehand, and Sonic had almost run into tree trunks twice because of it.

Dare he say it, but the hero had to admit, it looked like Penumbra might have him beat with reaction times. Maybe he could get the other to spar with him later to test that theory out.

That train of thought derailed when he realized what site they were getting close to. In hindsight, it would've been a good idea to check there first, considering…

Sonic breathed in deeply as Penumbra slowed, knowing where the trail was taking them. They were getting close. Nummy's speed decreased to a measly trot as they approached the clearing. The striped hedgehog eventually stopped and peered through the foliage. "There," he whispered to his neighbor.

Sonic noticed the red echidna as well; he was standing by the two graves. "Good job," he responded just as lowly. Penumbra barely managed a smile. The blue blur then bobbed his head toward the center. "Come on. It can't hurt to say goodbye again, right?"

He stepped out into the open, and after a producing a meek whine, Nummy did too.

As soon as he heard footsteps, Red glanced over his shoulder to watch Sonic and Penumbra close the distance. He nodded in greeting once they stood beside him. "Hey."

"Hey." Sonic returned the gesture while Nummy remained silent, both of them blanketed by the somber atmosphere. However, the azure 'hog shook it off. They couldn't be sad all the time when they came here. The buried heroes didn't deserve that.

The beginnings of a smile adorned Sonic's muzzle. "Oh man, Mephy… what you missed today!" Red blinked in shock at him while Nummy furrowed his brow. Sonic went on. "Wished you could've seen it, bud! You see, Rogue, VC, and CB are all livin' in an apartment, and Rogue had to get me and Knux's help to get the kid out of the toilet. Can you believe that?"

Sonic snickered before drifting his attention over to where Cream and her family were. "And… I didn't get the chance to know you, but I'm sure you guys would've got a kick out of it as well. Even a G.U.N member would've thought it was funny!"

Red allowed a small chuckle. He didn't know if CB getting stuck was actually true, but he could see it happening and it was too ridiculous to make up. He understood what Sonic was doing. The sadness was oppressive, and it felt good to get rid of it.

"If only all of you were here when we won the big fight." The echidna piggybacked on the azure Mobian's idea. "The chameleon's not going to bother any of us anymore." Red silently sighed. "Rest easy."

Nummy glanced between the echidna, hedgehog, and the graves. "They… can hear us?"

Sonic and Red looked at him, but only the former answered, "Yeah."

Penumbra didn't reply immediately. He quietly stared at the graves for a few seconds before uttering, "I… feel sad. Tell Knuckles about party– about the party so we leave and not feel sad."

The echidna was speechless for a moment, for that was probably the longest coherent sentence he'd ever heard the striped one say.

"He's, uh… learned a lot." Sonic provided before doing what Nummy asked. "But yeah, I'm havin' a party this evening at the new house. It's at the far end of the beach, can't miss it."

"Got it," Red said, his expression relaxing. "I'll be there. I'll try not to take a nap between then and now, because I might miss it if I do."

Sonic placed a hand on his hip with a snort. "Yeah, keep busy." He met Penumbra's gaze. "Now that we've found 'im, I gotta go back to my Knux. You know how to get back to Cream's place, right?" Nummy sniffed the air in the direction they had come before nodding. Sonic turned towards the city. "Alright, I'll see you guys later!" He gave the graves one more look. It would've been better with all of you there.

A gust of wind signified his departure.

Subdued maroon orbs gazed on as Sonic disappeared into the trees. They then shifted over to Red. "Do you want play a game at Cream's house?"

The echidna thought for a moment. He had promised to stay busy. "Sure. Why not?"

A dark tail subtly twitched.

And there's chapter two! Yeah, it was another 'check up on everyone and see how they're doing' chapter, but things will start rolling really soon, if you catch my drift. Oh, I want to mention that updates for this is going to be around two weeks...give or take. So yeah, not fast, but not too slow either (hopefully).