Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Notes: Takes place post "Epitaph Two."
Echo had told Adelle once that she had no fantasies. But the truth was that she did, that nearly every moment now of her existence involved a degree of mental self-delusion. For though Paul was once again in part resurrected, existing now in Echo's mind, she could not fully have him, as was once possible with so little effort needed, back when she was too foolish, too unthinking- too afraid- to take advantage.
It was true that at any moment Echo could speak to Paul for as long and as often as she wished, with a level of intimacy, privacy, and a depth of understanding that could never have been possible before. It was true that how well and deeply as Echo now knew Paul and knew he knew her, in a manner that ten years of togetherness in proximity and separateness of minds could not foster. It was true that Paul, with their new relationship, now never failed to know what to say to make her laugh, to bring her hope and happiness, to calm her restlessness and even when to leave her be.
But although all of this was true, what it came down to in the end was that Paul was within her, inside her…but he was not with her. He could know Echo's mind and feel her emotions, but he could not stand before her and look into her eyes; he could not smile and step forward to take her into his arms. Paul could touch Echo's soul, but he could not touch her body.
Echo did not voice to Paul her feelings about this; she didn't have to. She knew he saw and understood. There was no point in speaking of what could not be, not when she had so much.
Still…sometimes, when Echo helped Mag in the shower or restroom, or helped her stretch her damaged leg in a modified form of physical therapy, if she tried not to look at her too often or listen too closely to the sound of Mag's voice, she could almost pretend to herself that it was Paul who had survived a serious gunshot, Paul whose body she was helping to heal. Sometimes, when Echo hugged Anthony, she turned her head away and breathed in his masculine scent, soaking up the feel of a larger form near hers and muscular arms around her, and she could see Paul's face in her mind's eye, even when Paul was silent. And even with Priya, at times, when her friend touched her shoulder or arm with affection, slipped an arm around her or carefully braided Echo's hair in the quiet stillness of their evenings…if Echo closed her eyes, she could almost imagine that it was another hand, another's touch in her stead.
Priya never asked why Echo, who had been so self-possessed and remote physically as well as emotionally, sometimes huddled beside her, leaning her head against her shoulder without words, and Echo did not tell her how the warmth and closeness of her body against hers triggered sensory memories of another. Memories that made the experiences mean more and the imagination last longer than by thought alone. And sometimes, when Echo lay awake in her bed at night, Paul's voice murmuring softly inside, she let one hand trail with feather light touch over her form, and she could almost convince herself that the touch is not her own.
Echo is learning now that fantasies belong to all of us; the only difference exists in the labels we assign them. For some, fantasies are an embellishment upon life; for Echo, it seems at time as if they make up life itself.