Disclaimer: I don't own it, simple as that. Never did, never will.

Summary: Even superheroes have days off where they can spend time being 'normal'. ...But there are just some things that they can never let go. Learning the hard way, Robin figures out that just having it in his pocket doesn't exactly make the situation any better.

Without Any Barriers

Part I

by Duchess of Darkness

--

"I'm going out," he said, already heading down the hall.

"Whatever for?" said one of his teammates.

"Patrolling," was his final word to them before he disappeared beyond the door.

--

Helmet crammed over his skull, Robin revved the R-cycle as he sped down the street; the wind just faintly whistled in his ears. His eyes shifted every so often from side to side to check out the stores as they displayed "CLOSED" and "OPEN" signs, some of the latter already starting to flicker off.

He eased off the gas pedal a bit, slowing down to a more leisured pace, allowing himself to scan the area better. Tonight was calm and surprisingly peaceful; it almost bothered him to witness it. Still, Robin made his way to the old warehouse, keeping an eye out still until he passed through the door, closing and locking it behind him.

He parked the R-cycle and circled the perimeter, going through a routine check: shifting objects, locking windows, and shuffling his feet in a certain manner as he walked. When he made it back to his bike, he gave another quick glance around the place before popping open the seat compartment and pulling out the contents inside.

The murmur of clothes met the silent, stale air. Staring at the articles through masked eyes, Robin frowned. He didn't like lying to his friends. He had said that he would go patrolling, like he always did; but tonight would be different. Tonight would be 'Robin Alone Time' -- 'Richard Grayson Alone Time'. Tonight would be a night for Dick to rise from the dead and enjoy the normal life for a scant few hours before he had to return to hiding and become Robin again.

Quickly shedding his clothes and changing into the ones from the seat compartment, more out of paranoia than anything, Robin paused, hand floating over his eyes-- over his mask. Ever since becoming a Teen Titan, Robin had been conscious of taking off his mask. Even when he slept, Robin did not allow himself the luxury of taking off his mask. There were too many incidences where robberies and heists and break-outs occurred at night that the boy could not sleep properly, could not sleep without a care for the welfare of the city beyond the Tower. So, when his fingers grazed over the edges of his mask, he hesitated before ripping off the fabric, adhesive and all.

Instantly, Robin touched his face with his free hand, feeling the uncovered skin, feeling the faint indentures from his mask. He frowned; that was going to take a while to rub out. Only Bruce had seen him without his mask, and now, so would many others. People he didn't know would get a glimpse of his bright blue eyes and they wouldn't know who he was, not even guess who he might be. Pressing the heel of his palm to his eye, he rubbed at the irritation starting there, giving his eyes time to get used to being so... naked.

He blinked several times before laying his gaze back on his mask, limp in his hand yet glaring with what power it held, with the knowledge of who its owner was. Robin quickly stuffed it into his pocket, already feeling alienated without it, knowing he couldn't stand to be completely without it while he was out in the open. In another pocket he stuffed his communicator, a second precaution in case anything happened.

A heavy sigh escaped his lips. Was he really ready for this? Dick was so much like a figment of his imagination, something that he just made up to make himself feel better, that perhaps he was just imagining again that he needed to do this, on his own no less.

Frowning at himself, Robin shook his head determinedly. No. He was going to do it. He was going to walk out of here with a high head and come back just the same.

Finally working a half-decent smile on his face, Robin made one last swipe over his eyes, bare fingers flitting over smooth skin. No marks. Good.

Satisfied, Robin turned away from his bike, taking the keys with him, and exited the warehouse, casting a look around before emerging from it. He locked the door and slipped his hands through black gloves. Just like his mask, he couldn't get himself to be rid of his gloves; but bold green elbow-length gloves stood out so much, Robin had to opt for simple black ones instead that cut off at the wrist. It was slightly uncomfortable, like wearing a shirt too big or too small, but Robin could ignore it. Dick could handle the minor change.

There was nothing Dick couldn't do; he was an acrobat's son, after all. Daredevil heights, fifteen-foot jumps, becoming a crime-fighting sidekick to one of the members of the Justice League, advancing to being the leader of an all-youth crime-fighting team in their very own town, becoming an obsessed crime-fighting teenager with no life other than kicking butt on the streets... Dick sighed. He had strayed so far, he hardly knew himself any more. He only recognized the character named "Robin", the crime-fighting machine that Batman molded. For all he knew nowadays, there was no such person named Richard John Grayson; and tonight, he would change that.

Noiselessly he turned out of an alley, catching the wave of the nocturnal and blending in, clenching his fists to keep from panicking at the sudden proximity of so many people around him. He was so paranoid he hardly knew where his feet were taking him. He just passed street after street, wandering aimlessly past people he knew he would not recognize after this night. Different faces and styles he knew existed, but never saw upfront; Jump City was a whole new world to Dick as he explored streets he knew by heart yet seemed lost to while viewing them through new eyes.

Snorting silently at the pun, Dick lifted his head to look over the crowd. There were so many people taller than him... He strained to see what buildings he was passing by, committing them all to memory. Just in case he ever needed to revisit these places, he wanted to know where they all were, and what kind of things they sold. He knew he would never go inside, there really wasn't a need to tonight, but just in case there was a crime in the area, he needed to know what was nearby. It wasn't as if he didn't already have the whole city map engraved in his brain; he just had to see all the buildings up close, just to make sure if ever the time arose.

Dick shook his head as he crossed the street at an intersection, still not entirely sure where exactly he was headed, and pushed aside his current train of thought. He was doing it again: playing Robin when he had no need to.

With an inward frown, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket, glad he didn't put his communicator or mask in those pockets lest he got shot with another reminder of who exactly he was, and what exactly he was trying to escape from.

Pounding music and intoxicating noises roared in the air as a door nearby opened, letting two people inside a large building. Dick turned in the direction of the noise, gratefully distracted by the loud sound. He saw a large line of people leading to the front door; the line varied from older teenagers around his age to more adult figures probably near their thirties. ...Was this place a club?

There was only one time that Robin went to a night club, and that was when Starfire's sister came into town to cause trouble. Dick, on the other hand, had no privilege to attend one on his own before. Now that he had that chance...

Dick shrugged mentally and headed for the club. He stood at the end of a long line leading to the entrance of the club and absently searched through his pockets for admission money. He was old enough to enter -- or at least he looked like he was -- and if the bouncer's questioned his validity, he always had IDs he could flash. One was fake, just in case he had to go undercover, and the other one was real, with Richard Grayson's sullen picture plastered on the front. Dick hoped he didn't have to fish out either of them.

The line moved very slowly, and halfway up Dick's legs started to feel cramped. He never had to stand in one position for a long time. Sure, Batman gave Robin rigorous training that he kept up with at the T-Tower, but just standing around in a line with only a little shifting space was a new challenge for Dick. He felt a little claustrophobic, crammed front to back with people he didn't know. The man standing behind him was just slightly too close for comfort, and several times as the line moved up, he bumped into Dick. Dick normally wouldn't mind so much since he accidentally ran into the couple in front of him a few times too, but at least he apologized; the man behind him, though, hadn't so much as said a word. As long as he didn't touch him inappropriately, Dick figured, then he wouldn't have to go "Robin" on his ass.

Brushing his hair back a bit from his face, Dick fiddled idly with the hem of his shirt. His eyes wandered from the front of the line out to different spots on the street. He never looked in one spot twice, his brain constantly finding new things for him to stare at and occupy him.

The line moved up again and Dick automatically followed, eyes trained on a billboard across the street. Behind him again, the man bumped against Dick's back, a little too forcefully to be on accident. Dick frowned and turned his attention away from the sign to look over his shoulder, opening his mouth to make a complaint. He stopped short when he saw how tall the man behind him was, not to mention out of place.

He had striking blue eyes, stranger than Dick's own. He was also a good head and some inches above Dick's five foot four. He had white hair just past his shoulders that was pulled back into a ponytail, yet by his features he looked no older than mid-to-late thirties. He had sharp cheekbones and thin mouth that was pulled into a line, not quite a frown and not quite a smile; it was as if the man didn't know how to do either, or at least he didn't care to.

"Yes?" the man said, lifting a white brow. His voice was a nice and deep, slightly accented yet hard to place, and most of all... flat. His single word held no particular inflection to it, making it sound almost like a statement rather than a question.

Dick quickly cleared his throat. "Could you please stop running into me?"

"Running into you?" the man repeated, his voice once again devoid of emotion.

Dick tried not to frown again. "Yeah. This is the sixth time already, and you haven't apologized for any of them."

"This is a line; it's tight-knit. It is also hard to move properly in this place, so if I 'run' into you, that's not my fault."

Dick shook his head and looked forward again as the line progressed on. "Fine, but please try not to push me so roughly. I keep crashing into the two in front of me."

No answer came from the man behind Dick and Dick didn't bother to turn around to demand for one. He fixed his gaze on the front, ignoring next few times the man bumped into him again. He also ignored the stare burning in the back of his skull. As the line continued to progress, Dick finally came to the front. He paid his way in, flashing his ID card when the bouncers questioned him. He heard the man behind him chuckle when he did this. Dick frowned over his shoulder at his behavior, but pushed inside the club before he could open his mouth and make a scene.

Immediately, his ears were bombarded with loud, bass-abused music. Dick tried not to wince at the sudden increase in noise. He knew it would be loud once he got in -- he could hear it from outside, after all -- but he didn't quite realize just how loud it actually was. With a mental sigh, he moved away from the door, skimming across the wall, away from the mob of dancers, and let his ears adjust to the noise.

He stayed pressed against the wall for a long moment and closed his eyes as a neon spotlight flashed in his direction. He felt someone settle next to him on the wall, yet he didn't move. He felt no malice from this person, so he let them be.

Dick couldn't let Robin take over his life and make him shun human contact. Dick wanted to be a normal circus boy that didn't flinch at the thought of close relations and friendly, or more than friendly touches. Robin, though, had no such luxury. He was forced to separate himself from the rest of the crowd and play guardian over Jump City, never to know the meaning of love for fear of that person getting murdered, and never to know the touch of someone beloved for fear of never feeling that again. Dick, so completely shrouded by Robin's life, could never allow himself a lover of sorts, no matter how much his adolescent body craved for affection. However, Dick could indulge in periodic nightly outgoings, taking off his mask, dressing in normal, casual clothes, socializing at different stores and nightspots, just enough to satisfy his little urges.

Of course, Dick knew better than to make light of his freedom. He didn't come out often enough to rouse suspicion from his comrades. He had a job to do, after all. But when the time came and stress was mounting high on Robin's shoulders, Dick was sure to find a solution and let it all go.

Thinking about what relief he could experience tonight, just from standing here amidst a throng of strangers, nodding his head ever-so-slightly to hard and heavy beats made a small smirk form on Dick's lips.

Next to him, just loud enough, close enough for him to hear over the music, was a deep chuckle that almost seemed to resonate inside Dick. He opened his eyes and looked up to see the same man from before standing next to him. The man looked out of the corner of his eye at Dick, and its unnatural brightness unsettled Dick. He quickly looked away from it, fully aware of its stare on him.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, not bothering to raise his voice above the music. He didn't really mean for the man to answer him.

When he did, Dick was startled into looking back at him, surprised that the man could hear him so well. "Am I not allowed to stand next to you?"

Dick blinked. "No, I guess not..."

The man smirked and chuckled again. "I wouldn't have imagined you to play the wallflower. You seem young and sociable enough to rave with the rest of them." He made an idle gesture toward the dance floor. "Or else... why are you even here if you're not going to join them?"

Dick looked away a second time. "I'm not here for a dance."

The blue-eyed man merely shrugged at that answer and turned his attention to the crowd as well.

"Your name?"

Dick glanced up at the man. "What?"

"What's your name?" the man said again.

Dick rolled the question over in his head, weighing the consequences.

"...Dick," he replied. He hesitated before asking, "You?"

The man looked down at him, that smirk on his face widening slightly. "Wilson."

Robin nodded and filed the name away in his head.

The two looked away from each other again, almost in unison, toward the crowd of people. Dick stuffed one hand in his back pocket, hooking his thumb outside the lip of the pocket. The bass of the techno music thumped in Dick's chest and he liked the strange feeling. He tapped the side of his thumbs against his jeans to the beat, and bopped his head ever-so-slightly in counter rhythm.

He closed his eyes and listened closely to the music. It was strangely hypnotic; different from the previous song that was playing. Was it Indian? He wondered. ...In a techno mix. Weird.

Dick smiled inwardly. He liked it. It was bizarre, but the longer he listened, the more he enjoyed it. The scratching wasn't half bad either. Who would've thought of sticking Indian and techno music together?

Dick relaxed against the wall and allowed himself to drown in the music. He kept tapping against his jeans to the erratic beat, stilling his head movement and leaning it back against the wall. He almost felt alienated, comfortable and naked (not literally, of course; oh god, no) in front of a stranger's crowd. He wasn't used to this respite; it was foreign, almost dangerous. And yet, though he knew the consequences, Dick couldn't care less. Robin did – oh how he screamed in the back of Dick's mind to be more careful, more cautious, more... Robin-like – but Dick pushed his warnings out the window.

Robin should've known better; Dick loved being out in the open, free from any Titan work, and devoid of superhero stress and all the other crap that went with it. Robin understood, of course, the problems of being a Teen Titan, but being the second-guesser he always was, he just had to wave the yellow flag every five minutes. Robin just had to try and ruin Dick's once-in-a-blue-moon fun. And that made Robin a bigger dick than Dick was.

But tonight, Dick decided, he would ignore the worst of Robin's prattle and just enjoy himself.

--

originally created 12/31/06
editted 4/1/08