FEVER-DREAM ; echo/reader
summary: echo is fine-tuning his new prosthesis. you have experience, you help. unspoken feelings are acted on. adoration blooms. you learn what mesh’la means.
word count: 3k
pairing: echo / f!reader
tags: mutual pining, lots of tender looks, victorian-era hand-touching sluttiness, echo is a gentle soul, reader is head over heels, a touch of ptsd mention, set on ord mantell, mention of our boy fives, in this house we love assistive devices, enough sexual tension to power the death star
a/n: this is me round-house kicking the bad batch writers in the throat because they made echo cosplay a droid — but, also because this man deserves to be treated as more than a means to a mission’s end. majority of you know i am ~bitter~ (understatement of the century) of tbb’s plot/design/writing. but echo has been a favorite from the original days... so have some very soft fic.
i reference character redesigns by @nibeul in this piece — please go peep them here, and some updated character spreads here! they’re really beautiful and add a phenomenal layer of storytelling to the existing designs that’s lacking. nibuel’s art and writing is lovely. please give them a follow — i can’t rec their work enough.
“How does it feel?”
The words are nearly whispered; it’s clear you didn’t want to startle him, and Echo can feel the pinch in his brow soften at your sudden appearence in the doorway.
His bunk, at the back of the Havoc Marauder, is small — the space itself even more so. There’s a makeshift partition, hooked together with spare parts and meant to offer a bit of privacy on the cramped vessel. Its slate grey color has faded, and the edges have become tattered in the cycles of use.
When Echo pulls his dark eyes up from his work, you’re leaning against the frame — your expression is earnest.
For a moment, the once-ARC Trooper is quiet.
He wonders if he’ll ever get used to your attention. Each and every time, it sends him into a spiral; his heart catches as he inhales and tries to push down the warm stir in his gut. The sight of you is enough, nowadays, to melt Echo’s well-maintained irritability. His attention is stolen from his ever-present pain, if only for a bit.
There are plenty of days where he misses the old him — the wide-eyed, eager ARC Trooper who had his brothers by his side. His real brothers. Hevy, Cutup, Droidbait... Fives.
Fuckin’ hell, Fives was probably staring down at him now laughing.
No matter what changes, you’re still shit with the ladies, vod’ika.
In a way he hasn’t fully admitted to himself, you make him feel like himself again. Like... Like some shiny cadet, on leave and distracted by the promises of pretty smiles passing-by. It’s good.
This makes him feel... good.
He flexes, and his right hand — the new, gunmetal durasteel cyberized-prosthesis — closes into a tight fist. It’s taken him a bit, but the feeling isn’t so foreign now. It’s still... slow. Slower than he’s used to, but you’d mentioned it may take some time. The phantom feelings get better, too. All in all, it’s a good thing.
Your own hand, your left, glimmers back in the same gunmetal color.
(Echo had never pressed you about the missing limb — not until one day, in Cid’s, you’d joined him in a quiet corner. You’d spilled your drink and a complaint about getting the star-cherry syrup out of the joints had slipped out. Echo had laughed; a real laugh, the sort that was so rare coming from him, it had you staring at him as if he’d hung ever star in the sky.
Can I ask how it happened? he’d said, breaking the heavy silence when your eyes never left his.
The Pykes, you’d said, and that was enough.)
“I haven’t, uh... Haven’t gotten the sensory calibration right yet.”
Then, his prosthesis cramps. His fingers go rigid, and Echo curses sharply as he reaches around his forearm to quickly reboot the appendage. It goes slack, then hums alive once more.
You’re slow to move into the room — and you settle atop one of the crates Echo had stolen from the belly of the ship, an old Mantell Mix shipping container. You’re mindful to set his datapad aside, to not disturb his space too much. Before you reach for his hand, however, you lift your chin and open your hands in your lap.
“May I?” you ask, just as soft as before.
Echo feels small under your gaze.
Truth be told, you’re doing more than just... asking. You’re taking him in — appreciating him. It’s a habit that’s grown more and more apparent to not only himself, but the others.
In recent rotations, Echo has let his hair grow out — not long, but the once close buzz he’d kept has begun to curl at the top. Not entirely dissimilair to how it was before the Citadel. The dermal implants, the ones the Techno Union installed in order to parse the nuerological data in his head, stand out against his warm-colored skin.
His usual AJ^6-inspired headpiece is resting on his bunk.
That damn thing.
A neccesary tool. One that, given the amount of user data Tech had procured when working on modifying the implant, Echo found himself immediately distrusting. It wasn’t as if the AJ^6 cyborg construct had a beautiful track record, and frankly, Echo would like to keep his personality in tact, thank you very much. There were plenty of days he felt machine enough.
It wasn’t often you saw him without the headset; you knew it made linking in via his scomp easier to handle, it made the visualization of data transfers as easy as breathing. For Echo, it was a part of his vast kit, an important tool. For you, seeing him without it bubbles up a bit of a smile.
Echo catches it.
His eyes narrow playfully.
He looks... well. You — hell, are there words for it? For the way the sight of him makes you feel? It’s like there’s a world full of potential there, a thousand words unsaid, and feelings that have steeped in the warmth of longing gazes and half-there touches.
You’re still looking up at him, knees bent on the crate.
You blink, realizing you’ve been caught staring — not for the first time and certainly not for the last. In the beginning, it had left a sour taste in Echo’s mouth. But, now... Well, it stokes a sort of pride in his chest that he hangs onto.
It never gets easier to recover from — certainly not when Echo smirks. He moves to allow you to take his prosthesis into your lap. The gesture is gentle; your fingers cradle the firm yet pliable metal.
“What?” he asks. His voice, low and rough and warm, is tinted with amusement.
“Nothing,” you say vaguely with a shrug — as if that’s supposed to explain any part of your enamored stare. Your attention moves to the prosthesis.
“Nothing?” he asks, moving to thumb his left ear with his free hand with a dash of nervousness. A habit. Echo tilts his head as his fingers brush the cochlear implant there. The panel rests neatly against the side of his head, a small rounded-off square. The bite of self-consciousness has dwindled around you — but still, it creeps back up every now and again.
The Corporal’s brows knot playfully as you turn his new hand over in your lap; you’re admiring the upgraded feel, the more seamless panelling in comparison to your own. Echo watches your lashes flutter in silent thought.
“You’re a terrible liar, you know.”
You blink slowly at the hand, swallow down your sudden sheepishness and ignore his gaze. You bite back the smile digging into your cheeks. “Maybe.”
“Do I have something on my face?” he asks suddenly, and you look up.
A baited trick. He’s smiling.
The warm sort — the sort reserved for you and for Omega. The two souls that hold a piece of his heart, with all its ticking valves and electric timed pulses. There are machinisms that keep him alive, and then there is you. Your wide-eyed expression melts, giving way to the sort of smile he’s tried to memorize over and over. It’s the same smile that has warded off that reoccuring nightmare of the night on the tarmac at the Citadel, the same smile that has pulled him through the grit of phantom pains.
“What—” a sudden laugh bursts from your chest, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You were staring, mesh’la,” he rumbles out as a reminder, enjoying the fact he’s suddenly become the center of your attention. Echo leans back, his boot toeing yours. You nudge it back. Your face feels hot. You ignore his pointedly teasing look with a roll of your eyes.
The nickname started a few weeks ago. You haven’t asked what it means — no, for now it’s meaning hangs in the balance. Untouched but there. The affection the word carries makes your heart feel heavier and unbelievably full.
“Bad habit,” you chirp back, looking up at him through your lashes.
His laugh is warm.
“No,” you say quietly; your voice is soft as your eyes bounce across his face, tracing the lines of his face with your gaze, “I don’t think it is.”
There’s a silence that slips between you — a comfortable one. It’s heavier than before. That has begun to happen recently, especially with the petal-soft utterance of mesh’la becoming more and more frequent. You hold his gaze. Echo lets out a soft, contented sigh.
Then, you remember the task at hand.
You clear your throat.
“Uh... The access panel I’m looking for,” you say slowly as your raise your finger to point to your own arm, “It’s on your bicep.”
Echo blinks. He clears his own throat before looking down — he hadn’t even noticed that access panel. That could explain the jarring miscommunication stalling the limb. This model had more bells and whistles than he initally realized.
Better than a fuckin’ scomp link, that’s for sure.
Wordlessly, Echo makes room on his bunk. You move to settle beside him, your bent leg resting aginst his hip as you half-straddle the bed; your other knee brushes his thigh — and Echo tries to sit still. You’re close, now.
“Is it okay if...?” you trail off, fingers tugging on the short sleeve of his blacks; you pause until Echo offers a curt nod. You catch him swallow. You push onward, fingers nimbly rolling the fabric up over his broad bicep.
Echo steals a glance your way as your fingers pass across a slip of his bare skin.
In his lap, both his hands twitch.
He’s no small man. Lean and athletic, Echo is built like a soldier. Omega had said once that Echo was an ARC Trooper, one of the best of the best. You believed every bit of it, and you’d hung on her words when she’d rambled on about ARC training, about Kamino, and about who Echo was before you knew him. It was all in the past, though. That Echo is a part of this Echo but... They’re different men. He’s been changed by the things that have happened.
You don’t press him on the details.
In time, they’re slipped into conversation here and there — between the here and now.
In the beginning, when you’d found yourself amongst the crew of the Havoc Marauder — be it for a simple job on Cid’s behalf — Echo had hardly paid you a moment of attention, though you admit you’d been curious from the start. It had taken three jobs for you to finally see his face. Then began the slow and gradual bonding over catching joints, grating plates, and hardware updates. His legs, your arm. Two pieces of a pair.
Now, he has this. A beautiful new upgrade — something he’s wanted for a long time. A part of his old self is back, in a way.
You liked that it was more than just a tool. That, in having this piece of his body back, he felt like more than a tool. More than a scomp link.
After all, he is a man — a... a very handsome man. One whose proximity is sort of distracting you, again, from the task at hand.
“The panel here,” you say as you slowly press on the seam that enables the settings panel to be revealed; you’re mindful to explain, “It controls sensory outputs, as well as synchonized synaptic commands. The panel on my forearm does the same to my hand, yours is just... well, you’ve got the new and improve version.”
Echo ducks his head as you work, watching you from the corner of his eye. “Feeling a bit jealous, mesh’la?”
“Maybe,” you breathe out with a smile.
Then, you lift your eyes. You intended to see that he was still comfortable, but instead you come face to face with the Corporal. His nose nearly brushes yours when you lift you chin, completely dragged in by the closeness shared.
There’s a beat of tension. Echo’s mouth goes dry.
You fingers pause. You swallow hard. “How... uh, how does it feel?”
Echo tightens his grip, then releases. His breath tickles your cheeks. His eyes, a deep, warm brown, flit from your eyes to your mouth, and then back. His voice is a croak.
“...Same as before.”
You tinker with a dial, eyes never leaving his; your voice is above a whisper. “And now?”
It’s immediate. Like a rush of cold air up his arm — and on instinct, Echo’s hand twitches. His fingers grip the fabric of his blacks, along his thigh, and... he feels it. The smooth, stretch of the material. It’s... it feels like a lot. His fingertips, metallic and cyberized, tingle. It’s distracting.
He can feel.
His hand is slow. It moves across to bridge the space between you. His pointer finger settles on the curve of your knee; the feeling of your tactical pants beneath his fingertip is ignored, instead he chases the heat of your body.
Your breath catches at the touch.
Echo’s face is turned to you, but... his attention has settled on his hand. His palm then sweeps across your thigh. He follows the curve, soaks in the feeling. You’re frozen in place, beating back the desperate sound of appreciation that threatens to be pulled from your throat. The touch is... more than welcomed.
The closeness itself is making you dizzy.
Then, Echo turns — and the warm, durasteel-plated palm finds your cheek.
Your skin is hot.
“Is this okay, mesh’la?” he whispers, words riding on a quiet exhale — the sort that make you feel... well, you don’t even have words for the way he makes you feel. Echo is... kind, honest, and loyal. Above all else, he’s gentle. Despite it all, despite every bit of horror he’d been put through, he’d never lost sight of the importance of a gentle hand. Especially now in a moment as intimate as this. It coaxes you closer.
You lean into the cybernetic attachment, cheek resting in his palm. You nod, then, with eyes eager to take in every bit of this moment.
He chuckles at the enthusiasm. Echo’s thumb, deft and smooth, then traces the line of your lower lip.
The feeling is... the gnawing pain that he’s felt for nearly a year has melted. Finally, the itch has been scratched in his brain and the hollow ache of his bones is gone. It’s relief, and comfort, and excitement and all these beautiful things — and you.
You’re stuck — you don’t want to move, you won’t move. He’s rooted you completely, and when his other hand — the calloused and warm one of flesh and blood — finds it’s spot along your thigh, you swallow a lovesick sigh that would only exaserbate your desperation.
Your mouth is moving before you realize it.
“What does it mean?”
Echo’s eyes narrow, only a bit, and he runs his thumb up your cheekbone.
“What does what mean?”
“Mesh’la,” it sounds foreign on your tongue. It’s not Hutteese or Twi’leki, not like any language you know, “Will you tell me what it means, Echo?”
The corner of his lips quirk. Your eyes jump to it.
You feel like someone’s reached right into your chest and given your heart a squeeze — and it only worsens when he laughs. He laughs, deep and quiet and warm, like a thunderstorm on a summer night. It feels cruel, to string you along like this when you’re here, lips parted, hanging off his every touch and his every word.
“Beautiful,” he says quietly as his other hand touches your jaw — it’s so damn reverent, this little moment in time, that you almost don’t believe it’s real.
It feels like a dream — like someone has come in and stolen your thoughts from you; like the unrequited yearning has finally stoked a fire large enough to burn you up entirely, a fever you never knew you wanted.
His nose brushes yours.
Your fingers wind into the fabric of his chest. You’re clinging, lost to the moment — and you can’t help wonder if this is how it feels when he catches you adoring him. He’s admiring you so tenderly that you nearly break.
You want to kiss him.
He’s thought about nothing but kissing you for the last five days at least. Longer in his dreams. Nowadays, it’s a constant pull, a constant want.
And now, it’s here — a present and current moment where it can happen. Where he can stop being a shiny cadet and he can make a move...
“Echo, we’re back—!”
The telltale hammer of a girl’s boots on the floor signals that the party is back from their supply run — but you’re so far off, spinning in a different universe, you don’t even hear her until its too late... Until Echo is yanking himself away and clearing his throat and rolling his wrist to test the prosthesis in a different way, a less intimate way.
You blink, then rattle yourself back to the present. Omega is in the doorway staring with a quizzical look. Clearly, your state does little to dissuade the assumptions she’s already making and you can see the gears turning in her head. The dark-haired girl then slowly grins.
You swallow. “Hi, Omega.”
“...Whatcha guys doin’?”
Echo coughs. “Uh, just fine-tuning the new upgrade.”
You rub your cheeks and laugh — clearly forced and incredibly pained — as you stand up and nearly ram your head right into the top of Echo’s bunk. It’s met with a hiss of warning from the trooper as he jumps up to try and protect you from the impact.
“Well! Uh, thanks for letting me help, Echo,” you clap, rocking back and forth on your boots, “I, uh... Oh, Cid called. I should... I should get back—”
“Yea,” he says, straining a bit to find the words, “Yea, I’ll... I’ll comm you if it starts to, uh... If it starts to act up?”
Omega watches the exchange, big brown eyes moving from left to right.
“Good, great — yea, that’s,” you inhale as you rub your thighs and move towards the door, “Perfect. Okay.”
“Bye!” Omega calls, waving.
You wave back, smiling. “Bye, Omega.”
Then, once it’s only Echo and Omega in the bunk, the tween speaks.
“...What the kriff was that?”
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