Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Summary: Echo won't stop looking at Claire.
Author's Note: I apologize if there are more typos in this than usual. It was written and edited in a mildly inebriated state (which I will deny still being in). Forgive me.
Echo was fascinated by Claire's scars, much to Claire's chagrin. When she moved through Echo's exercises after a mission, Echo's eyes would hold on her face, the woman's wide brown eyes tracing over her features, her gaze so concentrated that Claire could almost feel it, like fingers trailing gently over her skin.
She hated people staring at the scars. She knew why they drew people stares, she had a story of tragedy carved into her face, and people were fascinated and horrified and repulsed by it. They wanted to know what had happened to her, what horrible nightmarish episode she had gone through, what kind of miraculous story or courage and survival was buried inside of her. The scars made her a person of interest.
She didn't hate it when Echo looked at her, and she was unnerved by it. She didn't understand the look in Echo's eyes when the young woman watched her. Echo's gaze wasn't intense and probing, it wasn't intrusively speculative; it didn't judge or assume things about her because of what had been done to her face. Echo's gaze wasn't like any of the others she had gotten from people since the incident.
When Echo looked at her, Claire almost felt as if the woman didn't see the scars at all. Claire could usually feel people's eyes as they cut across her scars, their gazes slashing across her old wounds again and again before they suddenly looked away. The scars were all most people saw of her. But, Echo … Echo didn't seem to see the scars at all. No, no, that wasn't right. Echo did see the scars, but they were not the sum total of her. To Echo they were just another part of her, like her eyes or her nose or her mouth. They were part of what made her up, but they did not define her. They were not all Echo saw when she looked at her.
When Echo looked at her, it was soft and wondering. When Echo looked at her, it felt like a caress instead of a slap. Echo's gaze didn't strike her, sting in horrified silence for a moment, and then fade again. Echo's gaze lingered on her features, dusted and caressed them, reveling in discovering the wonder of her face. When Echo looked at her, Claire felt beautiful, and that unnerved her because it had been such a very long time since she had felt anything that even distantly resembled beautiful.
"Why are you scared of me?"
Claire blinked, her gaze slowly focusing on Echo on the table in front of her. Echo was sitting up on the table, her right arm outstretched towards her, and Claire realized that she was leaning away from Echo, her back arched almost painfully as she recoiled from the woman's fingers. She hadn't even realized what had happened. She had turned so often from people since the incident that it was her natural instinct now to fear touch instead of crave it.
"I'm not, Echo," Claire said softly, straightening her back as she reached for Echo's hand and took it into her own, cradling it gently. "You surprised me. That's all," Claire murmured gently, glancing down at Echo's pale fingers for a moment before she bent her head and pressed her lips against Echo's pale fingers for a moment, hoping to distract the woman, before she lowered Echo's arm.
"But," Echo began, her gaze dropping down to look at the hand Claire had kissed as if she were fascinated by the way the light was reflecting off of a small patch of skin where Claire's lips had left a touch of moisture on her. "You never let me touch you," Echo continued, tearing her eyes away from her hand so that she could look at Claire. "You always turn. Just usually slower," she continued, staring at Claire again, this time with confusion.
"I let you touch me," Claire said, careful to keep her voice carefully modulated for ease and contentment. "I let you walk me in here," Claire continued, reminding Echo of the way she had let Echo take her arm and guide her gallantly into the lab.
It wasn't something that Echo had done before, and Claire suspected that it had something to do with Echo's last mission. Echo had been imprinted with the memories of an avid buff, with a particular love for the Golden Age of cinema, where panache and manners counted for something. She had long suspected that the wiping process wasn't as complete as Topher claimed, and the more Echo and the other Dolls did things like taking a lady's hand to help her enter a room, the more Claire became convinced that there was much about the technology they were using that they didn't understand.
"Yes," Echo said, her gaze losing focus as she remembered walking Claire to the lab. Her lips curved up into a smile, and Claire smiled back, seeing the faraway look in Echo's eyes that meant she had been distracted and would lose the thread of conversation any moment. "But not your face," Echo said blinking, her gaze clearing as she focused her thoughts once more.
Claire blinked and had to control the urge to jerk away. Echo had forced herself to focus, to remember what they had been discussing. When one of the Dolls got a look like that in their eyes, Claire had never known them to regroup and refocus.
"I don't like people touching my face," Claire responded, turning her back on Echo as she moved to the side of the room to fiddle needlessly in a few drawers in order to give herself an excuse not to look at Echo.
"Why?" Echo asked, angling her body so that she could follow Claire's progress as she stalked her way from one part of the lab to another.
"I just don't," Claire replied, wishing that Echo wasn't so curious.
"Why?" Echo asked, her eyebrows furrowing as Claire's tone became more stressed, and her movement more hurried.
"I don't want people looking at me," Claire said, pausing as she moved over to the sink, her eyes closing for a moment as she realized what she had said. She hadn't meant to say that out loud. It was one of the truths about herself that she was aware other people knew, but it wasn't something to be spoken of out loud.
"I look at you," Echo said firmly, her voice ringing with a faint edge of passion, even as confusion curled around her words as well. "I like looking at you," she continued, that passion in her voice taking control as she determined to go head and say what she wanted to say. "It's nice to look at you. You're beautiful," Echo went on, focusing her eyes on Claire's face. "Looking at you makes me feel happy."
Claire's back stiffened, and then she turned her head to gaze at Echo, her heart clenching powerfully beneath her breast as she saw the conviction and the longing in Echo's face. She could feel the truth of the woman's words, and it took her breath away. Could she have meant it? Claire wondered, her mind boggling at the idea. No. No!
"You mustn't," Claire began, moving towards Echo unconsciously. "You mustn't," she repeated from Echo's said, her hands clasping Echo's own, "tell lies," Claire continued, her voice shaking slightly as she stared at Echo firmly. "You mustn't tell lies," Claire said urgently, ignoring the fact that the woman's entire life was a lie. "Not even if you think it's something someone wants to hear."
"I'm not," Echo protested, her face scrunching up with genuine offense as she looked up at Claire. "I like your face. It's soft. And kind," Echo said tracing Claire with her eyes again. "I like to see the way your lips curve up when you smile. It makes my heart beat fast," Echo said blinking, her eyes dropping down to look at her chest for a moment, as if she could see her heart beginning to pump double-time. "Your face is beautiful."
Claire's hands squeezed at Echo's unconsciously as her eyes began to burn, and warm, salty tears began to trickle from her eyes. She looked ugly and scared and washed up, and she felt ugly and scared and washed up. But she didn't want to feel that way! She didn't want to hope, for hope was the true crusher of souls. But, somewhere inside of herself she did. She hoped that she would feel beautiful, and wanted and robust again. Somewhere deep inside of herself, she allowed for the hope that one day she would meet someone who would see past her scars, who would take the time to stop and look and see her.
"I said something wrong," Echo said, a touch of alarm and panic in her voice as she reached up to take Claire's face in her hands. Her thumbs moved to Claire's cheeks and began to rub them almost desperately, trying to take away her tears. "I'm sorry," Echo said, her thumb, swiping tenderly over the slash that ran across Claire's left cheek. The soft, concerned caress brought a fresh wave of tears from Claire's eyes, and Echo's fingers trembled with worry. "I want you to be happy. I won't look at you anymore. I won't look. I promise," she said bending forward to press her lips against Claire's cheek, reaching up to clutch the doctor's body against her own as Claire began to cry again. "I won't look," Echo promised again, pressing her lips against Claire's cheeks again and again, drinking her tears.
"No," Claire said blinking, capturing Echo's hands again and holding them in her faintly shaking own. "No, no, don't," she continued, shaking her head from side to side as a weak, watery smile touched her lips. "Don't do that," she said squeezing Echo's hands. "It's alright," she said, breathing in and out slowly in an attempt to get control of herself. "It's alright," she repeated, trying to reassure herself as much as Echo. "What you said, was very nice. It was very kind Echo," she continued, blinking as her heart began to calm. "Thank you."
"Thank you," Echo repeated, her body relaxing, as a tentative smile touched her lips.
"No," Claire said smiling as she shook her head gently. "You don't have to say that back, I was just …" Claire continued, Echo's thumb suddenly moving against her cheek drawing a soft gasp from her and then silence.
"Thank you," Echo said softly, gently touching her cheek again.
"Oh," Claire breathed out, her eyelids fluttering, threatening to close as Echo's thumb ran tenderly over her scar again.
Echo smiled, and a rush of warmth enveloped Claire, momentarily making her breathless.
"Dr. Saunders," a voice called from Claire's back at the doorway of the lab.
Claire started, her eyes blinking rapidly as her heart thundered.
She hadn't heard the door to the lab open.
"Yes," Claire responded in what she hoped was a mild tone. She took Echo's hands in hers and lowered them from her face, keeping her back turned to whoever it was that had been assigned the job of summoning her as she did.
"The Director wants to see you," the nameless, faceless man at the door said.
"Thank you," Claire replied evenly as she smiled softly at Echo, and stroked the back of her hand soothingly with her thumb. She knew that Echo would have picked up on the change in her tone of voice – the Dolls were very sensitive to tone, like babies – and she didn't want Echo to think that she was upset with her.
Claire waited until she heard the footfalls of Adelle's henchman fade, and then she gave Echo's hand a squeeze before she focused her attention on the woman once again.
"Your session is over," Claire said, helping Echo off of the table.
"Where are you will you go now?" Echo asked as Claire released her hand and turned towards the door.
"To my office," Claire responded truthfully. She had to go meet with Adelle, but she needed to pick up her things first.
"Can I walk you?" Echo asked falling in step beside Claire.
"Yes," Claire said, smiling a little as Echo immediately linked their arms together. "But after you drop me off, you must go straight to bed. You know you need to sleep after a treatment."
"I promise," Echo swore before leaning forward to pull the lab door open for Claire, nodding for the doctor to walk through before her.
"Thank you, Echo," Claire murmured, smiling as the other woman fell in step beside her once more.
"You're welcome," Echo said returning Claire's happy expression.
Claire placed her hand over Echo's as they walked towards her office, her lips involuntary curving up into a soft smile as they moved together. She let the smile come to her face, and for the first time in a long while she didn't worry about how it would twist the scar that ran over the right side of her lips. Echo's face made her happy, as hers inexplicably did for the young Doll, and she determined to hold onto the feeling for as long as possible.