Night Watch

Author notes: Takes place post "Epitaph," pre "Epitaph Two."

From the other small bed across the darkened room, Paul lay on his back, his head turned to the side as he watched the figure in the other bed. She had fallen asleep some time ago, whereas he could not even begin yet to feel weariness, and so he observed her unmoving form, allowing his thoughts to focus on his companion uninterrupted in a manner he could not afford to do when she was awake and aware of his gaze.

Echo was lying on her side, her back curved slightly, her arms and legs loosely curled towards her torso under the bed's thin, threadworn blanket. She had always fallen asleep in this manner in her pod in the Dollhouse as well, back when the place was still standing, and Paul wondered if this had been a habit of Caroline's too once, or if it was unique to Echo.

She was not a restless sleeper; she never stirred, never shifted her limbs or adjusted her position once asleep, and Paul wondered if this was courtesy of her time in the Dollhouse too, if there had not been enough room for much movement during sleep inside the pods. It was Echo's face in sleep that grew animated. She would frown and smile, twitch or even laugh, groan or sigh, her breathing quickening, her eyes moving rapidly beneath their lids, all without her body moving at all. Sometimes she even spoke aloud, and for someone who was not used to it, who didn't' know her as well as Paul did, it might have been a startling or even frightening thing to witness. But with over forty personalities forced into her mind in coexistence, Paul supposed that Echo's subconscious must really need to unload through dreams throughout the night, or else risk going insane.

She never spoke of her dreams in the morning. He was sure she remembered them, for she was often quiet upon awakening, a shadow coming over her eyes briefly before she busied herself dressing. Even now, with their close partnership, Echo was not one to open up about her feelings or darker thoughts. It was only in sleep that she seemed softer, more open, and willing to provide hints to the battle still raging inside her mind, her struggle to cope and maintain control not only of life, but of herself.

Paul watched as Echo's eyebrows knitted into a frown, as her mouth thinned and her eyes twitched, and he wanted to go to her, to climb into bed and pull her into his arms. But he wouldn't. He couldn't. He knew the boundaries, and Echo had made it quite clear that they could not be crossed by him, not now.

They could, however, be circumvented.

Pushing back his covers slowly, Paul stood, taking the few steps over to Echo's bedside. With gentle precision and care, he lay his hand on her shoulder and held it there lightly yet firmly, closely observing her face. He watched as Echo gradually settled, her brow relaxing, the lines of her face smoothing out, and when her dreams appeared to be calming, he carefully smoothed her hair back from her face before withdrawing his hand. Turning, he moved back towards his own bed.

In the morning Echo would remember nothing, but it was Paul's hope that some part of her would unconsciously grow in its trust in him, in her reassurance that he was a strong presence to be relied on, if she ever needed. And if she did not, then it did not matter. To touch her, to know that he calmed her, was enough.

He wondered sometimes if she ever watched him. He doubted it.