Maybe One Day
Summary: Espio is a Chameleon and a ninja, so he has many secrets, and Knuckles is getting closer to finding out one secret in particular. However, until he does, Espio will remain silent in the background, standing by his side.
Pairings: None really, unless you squint really hard.
Disclaimer: I don't own the series Sonic the Hedgehog or any character associated with this franchise.
Warnings: Espio the Chameleon is portrayed as female in gender in this story. I'm well aware that he's really a guy; I don't need to be informed.
AN: Hello everyone. Ok, this is my first attempt at a Sonic fanfic. This is just an experiment at the moment, no real thought about extending it, but I might sometime in the future. It all depends. It contains Female!Espio as I adore genderbending fics. I haven't seen one with Female!Espio yet, so I wanted to try my hand at this concept.
Remember, this is my first Espio fic, so do be gentle, no harsh flames. Do let me know what you think, though. I'm just doing a little experimenting. Well, I hope you enjoy this fic nevertheless. Don't be afraid to leave a review.
Meditating normally came easily to the level-headed Chameleon, but tonight, as he sat silently in the corner of the Chaotix's lair as they had their annual meeting with Knuckles present, Espio could not concentrate on his breathing or indulge in the sense of inner calmness.
He could feel eyes staring at him from the other side of the room, two sets of eyes actually. One set was staring with a sense of utter confusion, narrowed in slight frustration as he studied him. He knew those eyes belonged to the Island's Guardian, Knuckles. He could sense that the Echidna was getting more and more frustrated as he silently stared at him.
Espio knew why Knuckles was staring at him in such an intent manner, but preferred not to inform him of what was confusing him just yet.
The other set of eyes belonged to his good friend, Mighty. He's gaze was not that of frustration, but more out of silent concern. He knew why Knuckles was staring at him, but he too refused to inform the Echidna. It was not his place to and Espio was grateful for his sense of honour.
Normally able to withstand being scrutinized from a distance, Espio found himself becoming unsettled and pulled himself out of his mediative state. He glanced toward the window at the rapidly darkening sky and narrowed his eyes at the full moon hanging silently in the sky.
"Is there something wrong, Espio?" Knuckles asked as he leaned against the opposite wall in the room, his arms folded over his chest, noting that Espio was know making his way to his feet.
Espio could feel the concern and curiosity in Knuckles' voice and nodded his head once sharply, his eyes not betraying the feelings of mixed emotions of uneasiness inside.
"I sensed that there was something outside," Espio quickly informed his fellow Chaotix members and moved to step outside. "I won't be long, continue without me."
Knuckles seemed hesitant, still staring at him in slight suspicion. "Are you sure you're alright?"
The Guardian was becoming more and more spiritual aware of his surroundings and it was only a matter of time before he could easily see through Espio's calm exterior.
"Don't waste your concern on me," Espio quickly informed him as he began to fade into the background. "I won't be long."
With those parting words, he slipped out into the darkness of the night, feeling a bit more at ease within the shadows were all he could do was hide. Hiding and remaining silent was a natural habit of a Chameleon such as he, and because of his inability to reveal himself, it was causing Knuckles some minor annoyances.
There was no doubt that Knuckles could see that he was hiding something, but he was an Echidna who as of yet, was not fully introduced into the world of looking beyond sight like a Chameleon was from the moment they were born.
He will learn one day, though.
The movement he sensed was nothing to be alarmed about, merely a small night creature looking for food. Truthfully, Espio merely wanted to get away from those gazes, he wanted to think to himself.
He paused in his movements to gaze upon the still waters of a lake, the moon's silver light reflecting off the mirror surface. Slowly, he trained his eyes downwards to look upon the familiar reflection of a young female purple Chameleon that gazed unflinching up at him.
It was 'his' reflection, 'his' true appearance.
Espio the Chameleon was, in fact, female in gender.
Not many know of this, but the Chameleon race was far better at hiding than anyone could have dreamed. Not only could they change the colour of the skin and fade into the background, they could also change the appearance of unanimated objects (i.e., causing clothes, shoes and weapons to literally disappear) and alter their appearance, hiding flaws or scars.
However, there is one technique that only a few Chameleons knew of, let alone could master. A technique that granted them the ability to hide their gender, giving them the cover of a boring and unassuming civilian.
And Espio just happened to be one of the few who were granted this ability.
The Technique, often refused to as the Facade, was a week long process that was mentally and emotionally draining. One had to have complete control over their Chakra and emotions, training their mind into not seeing the differences between male and female, but the strengths within.
It was because of that training that when Espio saw an enemy, it made no difference what sex, race or species they were. A threat was a threat in her eyes.
Taking a moment to glance at her surroundings, noting that no one else was around, Espio formed a quick seal with her hand and then placed them on her chest. Then, her appearance began to alter in a rather undramatic way, and soon she took on the form of her reflection in the water.
Her hair was long, really long. It hovered a mere inch off the ground and was held together in a thick and loose braid, tied at the end with a thin piece of white ribbon. Black spiky bangs framed around her face and eyes, easily covering the reptilian appearance of her head, but with her gold horn poking through the dark tresses. Two long bangs wrapped in white ribbon fell on either side of her face where her ears were, reaching her ankles.
Of course, with having such long hair came a minor discomfort; severe headaches and neck pain. She wished to shorten the length, but it was forbidden for a Chameleon of her class and skill to cut her hair. A strange Chameleon tradition that she could not comprehend no matter how hard she tried.
Was it any wonder she usually wore a scowl on her face?
She wore a short white kimono with a purple belt and trimming around the sleeves, and simple white laced up boots on her feet. The kimono was loose and comfortable, not hindering movement and made of a soft silk in material, so made minimal sound when she moved.
In her kimono was hidden an array of kunai, all at easy access for her to reveal once in battle. She wore this kimono constantly for that reason, to carry objects with her, hidden from sight so her enemies thought of her to be unarmed.
Her facial expression didn't change at all and neither did her eyes, only now thick lashes surround the deep colour of gold. She has as of yet been unable to master the technique of changing her hair and eye colour. And she has no desire to. She was hiding her appearance, why would she feel the need to alter it further?
Her figure changed very little, only a few minor feminine curves, her glove free hands now slender, and the most obvious were her bust. Average in size, but most definitely female. On her chest was a scrawling tattoo in the shape of a circle, ancient Chameleon wording on the out layer. It was black in colour and drew attention from any stand point, even though she often wished it didn't. But she could not choose where the tattoo was to take up residency.
It was an ancient ninja symbol, the one that gave her the ability to alter her appearance, giving her a considerably male profile. The tattoo was a side effect of the ancient technique, one she will have to carry with her for the rest of her days or until she uses up all of her sacral chakra and Chi. Only a few Chameleons possessed the right amount of Chakra to withstand the ancient ritual one had to go through to gain his mark and to gain the ability to alter their appearance. The ancient tool of disguise did not discriminate. Males and females could both use this technique.
The tattoo also acted as a Chakra restraint as the Chameleon's were very careful on who could discover their fighting abilities. They did not wish for their skills to be use for situations other than helping themselves or those they care for within their hearts.
With their abilities to disappear into the background and fight with stealth others could only dream about made the Chameleon race highly sought after by those who wish to abuse their gifts.
Although the tattoo concealed some of her Chakra, it was not something, when broken, would make her ten times more powerful and deadly. No, it was just a tool to help keep her Chakra bases balanced. Her speed or strength would not increase to a point that it overwhelmed her. No, her speed, regardless of the tattoo, was still considerably less than Sonic's and her strength much less than that of Knuckles' and Mighty's.
She was not so extraordinarily powerful that her masters' felt she had to be restrained somehow. She was not that special, no more so than those around her in her daily life.
In the world of Chameleon ninjas, gender and appearance were irrelevant. It was about ones' inner power and skills that mattered, not whether you were male or female. Chameleon's have the ability to look underneath the underneath, seeing right through an opponent facade to see their inner weaknesses and strengths.
Some of the female ninjas decided that while their species saw no difference between male and female ninja warriors, cultures outside their own did, and no longer wanting to feel underestimated by their male opponents, they chose to conceal their gender with the ancient technique. They could hide their long hair, thick eyelashes and clothing if they wished, choosing to reveal their true gender on 'secret' missions or when they felt they are no longer discriminated against.
It was unknown why her true appearance was revealed under the light of the full moon reflection off still water. Espio could keep up the facade in front of a mirror and reflective windows under the moonlight, just not water.
There were so many things about this technique that she did not understand, but she resigned herself to the fact that she will never be able to understand everything in her life.
The Chameleon species are a quiet and modest race, choosing not to brag about their skills, instead opting to stay silent in the background until they are needed, disappearing all together when they are not.
Only one other person, other than her fellow Chameleons of course, knew of her true gender and appearance. Mighty was aware of her secret, hence the reason why he was gazing at her in concern earlier in the evening.
It was during a mission where they were paired together. They were ambushed by a few hundred robots, all thanks to Robotnik, of course, and she used a bit too much Chakra trying to get her and Mighty out of danger. Of course, when she over exerted herself, the symbol on her chest revealed itself to the concerned Armadillo. She had to release the seal in effort of piecing together the last bit of Chakra she had to defeat the last remaining enemies. Mighty carried her back to their meeting spot, a few good hours before the others were to return and she had to tell him about the technique. He didn't ask her why she was using it, as Espio wasn't entirely sure herself, and took it on face value, saying that she was his friend regardless of what she appeared to be.
Mighty was a great friend to have and she enjoyed his company. She trusted the Armadillo with her secret and her life. She trusted her other comrades with her life as well, but not with her secret. While Mighty was a true gentleman at heart, the rest of her comrades were a bit louder and unrestrained. Vector would not hesitate to use her secret in an argument if he thought it would help him win the verbal sparring match, not that he would mean too.
Besides, she preferred that they find out on their own. She did not like to talk about herself to anyone so freely. It was not in her nature, nor was it the ninja's way.
Standing under the full moon for a few moments longer, relishing in the feel of total freedom for once, Espio quickly released a sigh and pressed her hands together in a seal, her appearance quickly dissipating into her male exterior. She would often disappear into the night but to remove the Facade as it was good for her chakra control.
She slipped back into the HQ and as she had expected, both Knuckles and Mighty was waiting for her. It seemed to others either got into a fight and took off in different ways or had decided to have an early night.
"Was there something out there?" Knuckles asked as he appeared to have not moved from the position she last saw him in.
"Just a night creature," Espio informed him with a slight bow of her posture. "Nothing to be concerned about."
"Doesn't hurt to be careful," Mighty quipped from his position on the worn out couch.
Once again, Espio bowed her head. "That is true."
She then turned her attention back to Knuckles, who appeared to be scrutinizing her again, studying her closer with his eyes narrowed into a minor glare. Had it not been for her extensive ninja training, she would have snapped and told him to quit staring, that she was really female in gender and for him to get over it.
But she did not; her posture and facade not wavering, instead letting her friend study her as she stood silent and still, waiting to see how much the guardian's spiritual senses had grown over the years. She knew that would be a time in the future that Knuckle's guardian instinct would grow so advanced not even the powerful Chameleon technique of hiding one's appearance would get past him.
"Is there something about my presence that bothers you, Knuckles?" Espio asked.
"There's something not quite right about you," Knuckle finally said, to which Espio tilted her head at the wording of his words.
She knew that he meant no harm, but those words did tumble out of his mouth without much thought. It was mildly amusing whenever he did that as with some insistences he immediately realized what he said sounded different to what he meant and he would immediately begin to try to rectify his wording.
And sure enough Knuckle quickly realized what he said and shook his head. "I don't mean in a bad way or anything, I just keep seeing something strange around you."
"Define strange," Espio queried as she tried to keep the alarm out of her voice. Perhaps he could see what others could not.
"Well, it's almost like there's this shimmery thing behind you or something," Knuckles said as he placed his hands on his hips, a frown on his face. "It's all around you, actually and it's hard to explain."
He must be seeing my hair, Espio mused to herself and nodded, resisting the urge to touch her hair, a common response that anyone would have if another was staring at them so intently.
"Is it something that causes you concern?" she asked in a calm voice.
Once again, Knuckles shook his head in the negative. "No, it's just bothering me as I can't really see it and I don't know what it could be."
"That's understandable," Espio replied, knowing that the guardian before her was not overly fond of secrets, even though some secrets are best kept that way.
However, Knuckles' eyes suddenly narrowed and he gave her a very pointed look. "You're not hiding anything, are you?"
That was a pretty standard question, and yet when directed at a Chameleon who was a high classed ninja, a very stupid one. "Of course, I would not be a ninja if I was fully exposed."
Knuckles sighed, expecting that sort of response. The many secrets that Espio kept was something that drove the Echidna crazy, even more so when he realized that there was nothing he could say or do about it, and Espio knew that. She did not lie to her friend; she just did not speak the truth. If there was an instance where the truth should not be spoken, she would remain silent. She never told a lie, nor bend the truth. It was either the blatant truth or nothing at all.
While Knuckles had the authority to order her to spill her guts, he refused to abuse his power in such a way, especially on someone he considered a close friend. He also realized that if she did not want to talk, then she did not speak.
"I do posses secrets of my own, Knuckles," Espio said as she casually folded her arms over her chest. "Everyone we've come across in our travels does as well; we're no different. One day, I will reveal my secrets, but not today. I apologize if that makes you out of sorts."
"No, it's alright," Knuckles said as he quickly interrupted her. "You're right; we all have secrets to carry, it was wrong of me to ask that question. I trust you, regardless of knowing practically nothing about you."
Hearing those words caused Espio's usually blank expression to soften into a tender smile.
"I feel that my past is irrelevant as it would not make you life any easier, Knuckles," Espio carried on saying, being honest and sincere. "There is no need to burden you further."
The corner of Knuckles' mouth twitched into a tiny smile of gratitude. "That's just like you," he said. "I may not know everything, but I do know when someone is being honest."
"You are a remarkable being, Knuckles," Espio found herself saying softly. "Continue to grow with that in mind."
Knuckles appeared embarrassed for a moment and scratched the back of his head. "Well, anyway, I'm heading home. I'll see you tomorrow, ok? Night Esp, night Mighty."
"Night, Knux!" Mighty farewelled from his seat.
"Goodnight, Knuckles," Espio said as the red Echidna turned around and left the HQ, he too quickly disappearing into the night.
Remaining silent for a moment, listening to Knuckles' fading footsteps, Espio walked over to the couch and took a seat next to Mighty.
"He's getting closer to finding out," Mighty commented, inwardly wondering how Espio could be so calm about a secret of hers getting closer to being exposed.
Espio, however, simply nodded. "He is."
Strangely enough, Espio felt a sense of pride within her chest. Knuckles continued to grow stronger and wiser everyday and he was beginning to question things he previous took on face value. It showed that he was a true leader, willing to put his beliefs aside to look at the world through another's eyes.
"You won't be about to hide forever, Espy."
"I do realize that, Mighty," Espio said in a calm and level voice, showing no hint of any inner fear or unease, in fact, she sounded like she was looking forward to the day Knuckles sees past her facade. "When the time comes, I'll reveal who I really am. Just not yet."
Mighty nodded and slung a friendly arm around her shoulders. "Whatever happens, I will be there for you," he told her with a smile.
Espio returned his grin with a soft one of her own. "Thank you. I appreciate that."
She was a Chameleon and a ninja; it was against her beliefs and understandings to reveal such intimate secrets. Then again, no other Chameleon was as closer to the outside world then she was. Her secrets will be revealed one day and hopefully, she won't have to hide every again.
But until then, she'll remain in the background, offering her assistance to Knuckles in whatever he asks of her. She was loyal to him now and always will be, regardless of the secrets she kept.