{dead echoes}

"Do not touch me," a boy said in a bored tone, his cloudy blue eyes cast up at a pulsating black sky. There was an echo of neon lights sliding through, stringing throughout grayish masses that tumbled along the abysmal skyline, sinking away into the ever night. The light was yellow and flickering, a nightlight about to shudder out of life and bathe the world into darkness. There was no wind, only clouds and neon and soot falling from the sky and dancing along, turning to snowflakes as it caught them, bit them, and melted in their hair. "Do not touch me."

A girl was sitting on her heels, her skinny body tense and curled, her masked eyes glowing white hot in the gloomy ever night. When she moved, she left a streak of white in the air, and it hung there for moments and moments, beautiful white light suspended in time and beating against the air, shimmering luminously until it crumbled like ash and dispersed into darkness. She was not very old, not much older than him at all, really, a teenager with a fair face and a big smile. Her hair was flaxen, and it bounced as she moved, curling around her shoulders when she laughed and flowing against the air in slow movements when she jumped. Her outfit was much like his own, but made to fit her body and her gender. Red tunic that came down to her thighs, green Kevlar leggings tucked into knee-high boots. She poked his cheek with a gloved finger, and he did not spare her a single glance.

"Do not touch me," he repeated, his eyes watching the black sky tumble away, clouds lurching and churning, a massive bulk of gray ash and dark waves crashing and dragging and crushing the world, devouring neon lights and chewing it up, spitting it upwards and outwards. Yellow fire crackled across the sky, dizzying prongs of light zig-zagging across blackness and fog. "Do not touch me."

"You keep saying that," sighed the girl, poking his cheek once again. He said nothing. His chest hurt. "Why don't you just stop me?"

"Do not touch me."

The girl sighed, and yet, she kept poking his cheek, as if it was the only thing she could do. He could hear her heart beat. Or, lack there of. She was not alive. He knew this, as he stared at the lightning leaping across the sky, dancing and writhing, prongs of fire reaching out and snarling into the abyss and snapping back. The night was silent. She did not breathe. He did not notice. And then the crack came, a gunshot in the dark, and he jolted up right, blinking rapidly as he felt something hot smack into his stomach.

Lightning bloomed across the night. It slithered across the rooftop he'd been laying on, caught him by the cloak, and shot him through the stomach. He was caught frozen in a state of arrest, his entire body buckling as a hole broke through his chest, bursting his rib cage open. A gunshot had not done this. But there was a gunman before him, pointing his weapon without care. A gunshot had not killed the boy. And still he lurched, and coughed, and his throat felt raw as he choked and coughed and wretched. Blood dribbled down his chin, and he spat a bullet into his hand.

The gunman dropped the gun at the boy's feet. He sat down, and the three of them looked at each other. They had nothing in common but for the bold red R's stitched to their breast. The gunman looked apathetic. His hair was a dark umber color, but it looked black against the churning night. There was ash dancing from the neon tinged sky. The ash sailed, and sparked, and hissed until it froze and smoked, and kissed their cheeks icily.

"You shot me," the boy said faintly, pressing his fingers to the hole in his chest. The girl had stopped poking him. He didn't know her name. Not anymore, he thought numbly. But I knew her once. Perhaps… in another life.

"Maybe," the gunman said. He wasn't much of a man. He was the girl's age, perhaps maybe even younger. The boy knew him. Not like how he knew the girl, because the boy was certain he was familiar with the man to the point where his name was aching on his tongue. He could taste it, and it tasted acrid like blood and embers. Lightning pulsed against the sky, a world of black turning gray and white and yellow and churning fast and fading faster. For a moment the gunman's skin burst, and blood pooled along his broken limbs and torn flesh and his entire body was ravaged by burns and bruises and lacerations running jaggedly across his already marred skin. The gunman was back to normal in a flicker of light, and the boy was breathless. Dizzy. Something isn't right here. "What does it matter, though? You're already dead."

"Oh," the boy said, dropping the bullet between them. He stuck his fingers between his gaping ribs where the hole was, and he wiggled them. "When did that happen?"

"Oh, it was months ago," the girl said, tossing her hair over her shoulder. It left the air with dancing golden strands as they fell. "Wasn't it, Jason?" Jason, the boy thought, blinking fast. I know you. I know you, damn it!

"Yep," Jason said. He cocked his head, his hair curling around his eyes as he smirked. The sky rumbled and sputtered as lightning shuddered across it, piercing through it and bursting in all directions. The girl looked at the boy, and her mask peeled away, tearing to shreds in the matter of moments as her face morphed into a sickly sallow bruise, cuts and gashes marring her sweet looking face. He reached out for a moment, stunned by it, and she burst into giggles when his gloved fingers brushed the mauve bruise stretching across her cheek bone.

"Do not touch me," she mimicked, covering a giggle with her hand. "What? Never seen a dead girl before?"

"You're dead," the boy said, closing his eyes. "I'm dead." He pressed his hand to his gaping chest, and he felt a little sick. Emotions were blocked off, comprehension lost on him. He looked up at Jason. "Jason Todd." The boy remembered him. He did, he remembered him and his stupid red hood, and he remembered something crucial. "You're alive."

"Well," Jason said, resting his elbow on his knee and plopping his chin in his palm. "I'm also kinda dead, too."

"See," the girl said, smoothing out her skirt. "Here's the thing about us. We're all dead in some manner of speaking. That's why we're here." The girl waved her hand, and the sky lit up. The entire city sparked with life for a fraction of a second, and the snow caught against the whiteness and the yellow, sparkling against glistening skyscrapers and spires and fire escapes and roof tops. Everything for a moment looked alive. The illusion died like a snapped neck. "This is a dead Gotham. It's where dead Robins like us belong."

"Gotham isn't dead," the boy objected, feeling his mind piece itself together. "No. Shut up. Stop talking, you're giving me a headache." He rubbed his temples and gritted his teeth as they both burst into laughter.

"Earth to Robin!" the girl laughed, poking his cheek. He smack her hand away and growled. "You're dead! You don't get headaches."

"Just shut up." The boy pulled his knees to his chest, and he shook his head. "I might be dead, but I know what I know, and I know that I don't know you."

That caused her laughing to cease abruptly. Jason watched, and he sighed, scratching his cheek and looking awkwardly between them. The world was pulsing with light and darkness, brimming with fire and fog. "She's a special case," Jason said.

"Special case, Todd?" the boy hissed. "I have no idea who she could be. Father—" He jolted, his entire body feeling an electric pulse like no other. "Father…"

"Bruce Wayne," the girl said gently. "Do you… remember? Damian?"

Damian, he thought, his eyes going wide as his shoulders began to shake. He held his head, and he felt so sick he could barely think straight. "Damian," he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut. "That's my name, isn't it? Damian Wayne. My name is Damian Wayne." He took a deep breath, his hands dropping into his lap as his body froze and cooled down. There were snowflakes melting against his cheeks, running down to his lips like tears. "And I am dead."

"Yes," the girl said, pressing her hand against his cheek. He flinched away. "My name is Stephanie Brown," she said softly. "And I don't even exist anymore."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he grumbled, resting his chin against his knees.

"It means she's so fucked she doesn't even know where her soul is right now," Jason said, watching the exchange with a bored expression.

Damian stared at him, his mouth opening and closing, a retort never quite catching. "What?" he asked finally, his teeth gritting in irritation. "What does that mean? And how are you here if you are alive?"

"We're echoes," Stephanie said quietly, smiling a little as the sky broke loose, and fire spat through the chasm. Gotham lit up for a moment, and it did truly look dead. "We're not really here, Damian. Our bodies are somewhere else, and our souls along with them. Jason is lucky. His body and soul reached the same place more or less in tact." Her smile became sad, and he stared at her incredulously. "I haven't got a clue where I am. If I exist anywhere. If Stephanie Brown… ever existed at all, or if this person you see…?" Stephanie gestured to herself, and her image flickered suddenly, her suit turning black for a glimmer of a moment before returning to red. "Maybe she's just someone you dreamed up so you wouldn't be alone."

"Doubt it," yawned Jason Todd. "That kid's got the imagination of a brick."

"Shut up, Todd!" Damian snarled, jumping to his feet. "Or I'll—!"

"You'll what?" The dead version of the tormented former Robin smirked, and laughed. "Gosh, you're such a little spazz. Sit down, I didn't say it to be mean."

"I hate you," Damian told him, plopping back down and scowling.

"Aw, Damian," Stephanie said, grinning broadly at him. "You hate everyone."

"I obviously don't hate you enough," Damian said, still scowling. "You haven't disappeared yet."

"Where would I go?" Stephanie sounded curious. "After all, I don't exist."

"Go to hell, maybe."

"C'mon, knock it off," Jason said, smacking Damian over the head. That startled the boy. I should have been able to block that, he thought. But… this isn't real. I'm dead. I don't feel dead. I don't understand. Father, where's Father…? "Steph's been through enough bullshit, she doesn't need to deal with you."

Stephanie looked at Jason, and her eyes went wide. All of her cuts and bruises melted away as she looked at him, and her smile grew into a strange, awed grin. "You know," she said, looking healthy and happy and hopeful. "I never knew you were such a sweetheart when you were younger, Jason. Why can't you just tap into baby Jay more often?"

"Yo, shut the fuck up." Jason wrinkled his nose, though he looked a little pensive. "I have about as much control over this shit as you do."

"Except you're alive," Damian said. "And we are dead."

"If you call what I am alive, then sure," Jason said. He stared upward at the sky, and a snowflake caught against the tip of his nose. It melted there. "I breathe. I eat. I sleep. I might even fuck for all I know. But I can feel it. That aching hollowness. When I came back to life, I lost part of myself." Jason tilted his head, and he looked down again, his entire body going lax. "This part of myself."

Damian stared at him for a moment, utterly lost. And then he began to piece it together.

"Robin…?" he asked.

"Hope," Stephanie said. She poked his cheek, and he could no longer see her eyes. There were clouds inside them as she smiled tremulously. There was a dull ache in Damian's chest. It wasn't from the gaping hole, either.

"Please," Damian said, pushing her hand away. "Do not touch me, Brown."

Just a short little one-shot from a prompt I got on tumblr. "Dead Robins bond." So yeah, I went with this. I was fun, and probably my best written prompt of the day! Don't expect me to continue it, though, I'm not bringing Damian back. I already wrote a story about that.