Knuckles had always been the tough one out of the team. Hardly anything fazed him, he taught himself to master any kind of situation to do with fighting to ensure he could protect his friends from danger.
He was the tough one. He was the one they could talk to when they needed somebody to listen to them. Knuckles was the one who didn't know what to say but he had a heart of gold. Anything on his friends' minds were no issue to him. He just wanted to be there for those he loved.
After all, they were the ones who had given him a forever home, and it was not including Angel Island. His forever home was with his team, his allies, those who had assisted him through the thick and thin.
He wouldn't admit it but Sonic and Tails were his bestest friends of all. Sure, they had a huge feud when they first met, and it was actually Eggman's fault for causing any ill feelings between them all, but in the end Knuckles saw he had been tricked.
He never stopped apologising for getting it all wrong. Even now, he still apologised. But, only Sonic and Tails knew about this. No one else wasn't allowed. He had a reputation to keep up. Though, for the hedgehog and fox?
He'd do anything for them. Anything. He felt he owed his life to them for all of the sticky situations they had gotten him out of. He made a promise to them two especially because of this. They were his best friends and he was not going to let anything happen to them.
But then if he was so protective and caring, why couldn't he protect Sonic from the torture and suffering he endured on the Death Egg? Why did it escape him?
Just thinking about it angered the red mobian. He felt so angry with Eggman, and Infinite, and those who turned against Sonic for their sick gains! He pissed him off. How could they hurt such a kind, gentle person who had done nothing wrong, and then leave him with such mental scars that he literally struggled to leave his his own home for three months straight?
Sonic had never done a thing wrong in his life. Knuckles would have argued about this statement years ago, but now? No. He would agree with whoever said this. He did nothing wrong. He had done nothing wrong.
He remembered the state he saw his best friend was in when they first rescued him. Blooded, bruised, sported a black eye. He looked awful. Deathly. Ill. He had lost so much weight from the stress and the lack of food. If Knuckles didn't know any better, he'd have believed they had been trying to starve him alive.
The red mobian sighed, arms folded across his chest as he stood still upon the shrine of the Master Emerald. He had been concentrating on his meditation practice more than ever lately. He was beginning to find he was prone to becoming very explosive whenever something pissed him off.
Yet, he felt there was nothing wrong with him. Not like what happened with Sonic. No, Sonic had been the one who suffered, not him. Why should he get a say in anything when he was the least affected one? He had it easy compared to the hedgehog, to Amy's leadership, to Tails' abandonment trauma as well.
It wasn't fair how his friends had suffered! They did nothing wrong! They never had done a thing wrong, damn it! Why them? Why? Why, why, why?
A familiar voice spoke to him, halting him from his spiral of anger in his mind. Good thing too, he was beginning to become angry with himself again.
"Oh, sup, kid."
It was Tails. The red mobian smiled warmly at the fox. "What brings you to my domain? Sonic boring you with his puns again?"
"Hah hah! No, no. Just wanted to check on you. See how you were doing lately. We've all been busy recently and haven't had the time to see each other, so I popped by. I'm surprised you didn't hear me."
"Eh, you know how it is; was in my meditation again."
"Ops, sorry Knuckles!"
"Hey, whoa, it's all good, kiddo. You know you are more than welcome to come and visit whenever you want."
Then it all became silent. The two stood at their spots, not moving or saying a word, just staring at each other like they had run out of things to talk about during a social meeting.
Tails was the first to break the silence with clearing his throat. His alarmed Knuckles a bit. He opened his mouth to speak, to ask what was wrong before the fox stopped him.
"I-- I need your help. Please."
Oh, Chaos. This was not just a visit was it? No, Knuckles could sense the shift of emotion in the air around them. Tails was so easy to read.
Knuckles frowned worryingly. "Okay."
"I-- I don't--"
"Whoa, hey, take your time--!"
"Oh Chaos, Knuckles, I can't do this any more! I can't! I can't I can't I can't!"
Knuckles moved immediately to catch Tails from falling, arms out to make sure he couldn't collapse and hurt himself. He didn't understand what was happening with his friend but he did not like it.
It was especially concerning when Tails started to break down in front of him. Whatever this was, Knuckles was not about to walk away from this. No, he was going to be there for Tails. No matter what.
A frown on Knuckles' muzzle appeared. "Kid, spill it out to me. Come on, I'm not letting you deal with this alone. Is it Sonic?"
"Okay, then what is it? Is it something to do with the others?"
"N-no, no. Just-- Just me."
"You? Wait, what have you done? What's on your mind?"
"I-- Oh, Knuckles. I can't stop having nightmares. I can't! I keep s-seeing them! All of them! I can't escape it! I don't know what to do! Knuckles, don't let them hurt me again, please don't! I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"
Knuckles grabs him tighter as the fox breaks down in his arms. Closing his eyes, he allowed his friend to cry it all out, listening to his screams with a heavy heart.
His friends had suffered enough. It was evident none of them were okay. This just proved it.
"It's okay kid, it's okay."
Even after two years, the memories, the feelings, they were all still so raw. It only made the mobian more angry the more he was learning about the trauma and horrible things they all endured during the war.
He was going to make Eggman pay for all of this the next time he saw him.