Characters/Pairings: Echo/Paul Ballard
Spoilers: Epitaph II
Disclaimer: Lies, all lies!
A/N: Written for jossverse_las for the prompt “emotional baggage.”
Summary: For once, Echo would like everyone in her to reach an understanding about her and Paul.
Echo pressed up against Paul’s body in the dark, both of the scarcely warmed by the meager fire at the edge of the ruined city. She slung an arm around him, feeling the heat of his skin below the layers of fabric, along with a rising sensation of choking, smothering, as Eleanor Page protested the intimacy.
Quiet, Ellen, Echo murmured. This is Paul, this isn’t some ghost come back to haunt us. Eleanor subsided, but then Taffy pushed to the forefront, eager to take advantage of the darkness for a little fun. It was all blue skies for her.
Echo had to get stern with her, forcibly reminding her of the damnable situation they were in, that Paul didn’t realize what he was missing. Miffed, Taffy backed down.
Echo found her hand moving restlessly against Paul’s side, stiffening in prim aloofness, kneading his muscles sensuously, lightly tickling, digging in painfully, clutching desperately. It was hard, after a long, exhausting day, to keep everyone on the same page, and even Paul, who’d been more dead than asleep, realized it.
He turned in her grasp, barely visible in the dim light.
“You ok?” he whispered.
“I just-,” she started, and stopped to say what she needed to, not what she wanted. “I have a lot of baggage in here,” Echo said, brushing her fingers over her temple. “And right now they’re all overpacked and stacked wrong on the cart and they’re starting to fall off.”
Paul tapped one finger against Echo’s head, glaring at her forehead sternly. “Hey, all you in there, settle down so she can get some sleep.”
Echo found herself giggling at the absurdity of it all, and Paul smiled. She almost caught her breath as he wrapped his arms around her and tucked her closer.
“You’re freezing, Echo,” he murmured, fatigue pulling him back under. Echo stayed in his arms, letting herself believe, just for a second, that this was more than brotherly. A dozen different responses came to her lips, and she discarded them all with an effort.
Paul smiled vaguely as their warmth pooled between them, and Echo let a few frustrated tears soak into his coat. It wasn’t fair that she should have to carry all her own problems and his too, but since when had life ever been fair?
Echo breathed in his scent, and for an instant, tried to imagine herself unburdened by anyone but them.