Author's note: Originally posted on Ao3 under the same username. If you love it, please consider leaving kudos over there too.
1) The first time, he doesn't feel like he can be blamed for not noticing.
In his defense, Kelly Shumaker is at least 17 years old, arguably the best looking senior at Gotham Academy, and has never even looked in Dick's direction before. But here she is, wearing a face so full of make-up that she looks alarmingly like a female version of the Joker, to Dick's uncomfortable displeasure, and a dress so low cut Dick feels his face flushing as he tilts his head way back to keep his eyes above her neck.
Their conversation is innocent enough. Her laugh is high and obnoxious, and when she leans closer to pat Dick's cheek condescendingly, her breath smells like the champagne that's being passed around so freely.
"Oh, Richard! Who knew you were so funny?" Kelly trills, all syrupy sweetness that makes Dick's teeth ache.
"That wasn't a joke." Dick mumbles, disconcerted. He'd made a comment on the sad state of foster care system, having witnessed it first hand, and how the Foundation should really strive not just to donate to the orphanages, but to actively recruit and train foster parents, be they single or otherwise.
Kelly either doesn't hear him, or flat out ignores him as she slips her hand from his cheek to his shoulder, down to his bicep, where she squeezes firmly. "Funny and toned!" She exclaims. "You must work out."
That's when the wheels really start spinning in Dick's brain, taking in her open body language and their relatively secluded position on the fringe of the ballroom, and flushing uncertainly. Is she flirting with me? Dick can't help but wonder, followed immediately by, No, there's no way she's flirting with me.
Because sure, he is fairly toned, definitely strong for his height and weight, but he's not muscled in the classical sense that girls usually drool over, and he's about half as tall as her, especially with the stilettos Kelly's wearing. "Um." He says intelligently, blinking wide-eyed at Kelly, who leans even closer, cleavage all but shoved in his face.
"Maybe we should go somewhere a little more quiet and you can show me some exercises." The way she says exercises with a certain husky lilt makes Dick's blush rush to the tips of his ears and down under the collar of his starched white shirt and carefully tied bowtie.
Holy shit! She is flirting with me! "Um." Dick says again, superstitiously trying to pull his arm free of Kelly's clawed grip. He feels stupid for not noticing where this conversation was headed from the beginning. Though to be fair, it's not like at 12 years old, he's all that experienced with flirting, or with the fairer sex at all for that matter.
Sure, he's seen women throw themselves at Bruce, has heard the things society women whisper loudly, to each other during galas about Bruce's height and deep voice, (and his incredibly deep pockets) but he's never had any of that uncomfortable attention directed his way.
He's never even held an actual full length conversation with a girl his own age who's not related to him, while out of costume. Barbara's the closest he's come, and they only say hi to each other while passing in the hallways.
Dick finds himself torn between making a scene just to get away from her, and playing this out to see just how far Kelly's planning to take it. A quick glimpse at Kelly's blood red saccharine smile has Dick looking around for an easy escape.
"Richard, you're so flushed, maybe you need some fresh air?" Kelly suggests, towing him towards the balcony with the iron grip still clasped around Dick's bicep.
"No-no, I'm fine." Dick stammers, seriously considering biting her hand as he's dragged farther and farther away from the crowd. "Actually, I think Bruce is looking for me, so if you'll just-"
"Dick! There you are, I've been looking all over for you."
Dick has never been more grateful to see Roy in his life. "Roy!" Dick tries not to sound as relieved as he feels. "Sorry, I've just been having a lovely conversation with Kelly."
Roy raises an eyebrow in disbelief as he takes in Kelly's death grip on Dick's arm, and the clearly pleading expression on Dick's face. "Really." Roy drawls.
Kelly, seemingly pissed at the interruption, tugs at Dick's captive arm. "If you'll excuse us-"
"Roy Queen." Roy interrupts her smoothly, holding out a hand in introduction.
Dick opens his mouth, about to ask Roy what the hell he's doing, because Roy's last name is definitely not Queen, when he catches Roy's sly wink and Kelly's grip suddenly loosens around his arm.
"Queen? As in Oliver Queen? He's your father?"
Dick's sure if Kelly weren't trying to appear composed and sophisticated, she'd be clapping her hands in glee.
"Adoptive, yes." Roy takes Kelly's newly freed hand and brings it to his lips, smiling charmingly at Kelly. "Ollie took me in when I had nowhere else to go, and made me his heir. Such a kind hearted man, Ollie is."
Dick bites the inside of his cheek to keep from busting out laughing as Roy lays it on thick. There are many words Roy has used to describe Ollie, but kind hearted has never been among them.
Kelly titers and sways a step closer to Roy, barest hint of a blush gracing her cheeks as she lowers her eyelashes coyly. "I've heard such great things about Mr. Queen, and his company." She gushes.
Roy makes an affirming noise and tilts his head invitingly towards the same balcony Kelly had been dragging Dick towards just moments before. "Maybe we can go somewhere and talk about other things we have in common?" Roy suggests, before glancing at Dick with feigned disinterest and saying offhand, "Oh, Dick, I almost forgot. Bruce is looking for you."
Dick takes the offered escape for the lifeline that it is. "I better go find him before he sends out a search party." He pauses for a second so it doesn't look like he's running away from the situation, but Kelly has completely lost interest in him, and doesn't even deign to respond. Dick shoots Roy one last grateful smile before he beats a hasty retreat.
Later that night, when Dick's getting ready to change into the Robin uniform, he gets a text from Roy that says:
You're welcome for the rescue Boy Wonder. I nearly lost a limb when I asked Kelly if she wanted to meet my girlfriend. Next time, try to stay away from the harpies looking to be the next Wayne Heiress.
Dick's response of: I'm not even a Wayne! Goes completely ignored. Regardless, Dick heeds Roy's advice at the next Wayne Gala and sticks close to Bruce's side all night.
2) The second time, he's a little busy focusing on other things.
Dick takes a deep breath and shoves his shaking hands into the pockets of his uniform, trying to quell the excited energy making him want to flip and tumble all over the Batcave as he waits for his temporary partner to arrive.
Well, partner might not be the right word, more like partner adjacent.
In any case, Dick is going to get to spend patrol with not only Batman, but also Kid Flash! The Flash will be there too, but Dick sees him all the time. He barely gets to spend any time with Wally, and tonight, while Bruce and Barry are off doing the real heavy lifting on their mission to take down a gun and drug smuggler, Dick will get to be back-up with Wally.
He has to sit out the real mission, which would normally make him furious, but at least this time he gets to play overwatch with Wally at his side. He won't even pout or complain about Bruce's obvious overprotectiveness in sidelining him, because he doesn't want to give Bruce a reason to not let him work with other heroes again, especially one only a few years older than him. This is a rare opportunity that Dick definitely isn't going to waste.
Just as Dick is debating doing a quick routine on the bars in the corner of the cave, just to work out some excess energy, there's a gust of wind, and then Dick is being picked up and squeezed to a chest not that much bigger than his.
"He-ey Wally!" Dick chokes out from where his face is pressed against Wally's yellow-clad shoulder.
"Rob!Rob!Rob!Rob!" Wally chants excitedly, spinning Dick around in dizzyingly fast circles. "Howexcitingisthis?Canyoubelievewegettoworktogether?Thisissocool!"
"Breathe, Wally." Flash says in amusement as he skids to a stop beside Bruce. "And maybe don't choke Robin to death. I don't think Batman would like that."
"Whoops." Wally drops Dick as fast as he picked him up. "Sorry, Rob. But seriously, how cool is this?!"
"It's a mission, Wallace. You should be focused, not excited." Batman drawls. Dick's pretty sure Wally only hears the growly tone, but Dick can hear the heavily veiled amusement. "Listen closely, I'm going to go over the plan one more time."
Bruce would kill him if he knew, but Dick tunes Bruce's voice out. He knows Bruce is really only repeating the plan for Barry and Wally's benefit, and he could probably recite it word for word along with Batman by this point.
It's a pretty simple plan. Batman and Robin will arrive by the Batmobile while Flash and Kid Flash will run along a different route. Robin and Kid Flash will rendezvous on the rooftop cattycorner to the warehouse suspected of housing a literal boatload of illegally smuggled in drugs and weapons Flash and Batman will enter via skylight.
Dick only pays attention again when Kid Flash shoots him a huge grin and takes off out of the Cave exit, Flash hot on his hells. Dick tries to look innocent when Batman motions him into the Batmobile with a resigned air. He can't see Bruce's eyebrows, but he's pretty sure they're judging him. Bruce has very judgey eyebrows.
Dick manages to wait for Bruce to park the car before he's out and firing off his grapple gun at the roof Wally is supposed to be waiting for him. Bruce's gruff, "Keep your eyes open.", follows him up.
Sure enough a bright yellow speedster is vibrating in place on top of the roof, hands braced on the ledge on either side of Dick's grappling hook. "Dude!"
"Dude!" Robin agrees, vaulting over the ledge and tackling his best friend to the harsh cement. "How awesome is this?!"
Kid Flash laughs and rolls them over a few times until they bump into the ledge. "It would only be cooler if we actually got to be a part of the action."
"Def- " Robin starts but is interrupted by Batman growling down the line.
"Robin, Kid Flash, are you in position? Are we clear to move in?"
Robin and Kid Flash grimace at each and spring apart to look over the area with a critical eye. "Nearest civilians are three blocks away, no outside guards visible, infra-red scan shows 16 guys inside mostly centered around some crates. Two vehicles, one still warm, parked by the main bay doors." Robin reports succinctly.
"Got it, be on standby for backup. Going radio silent, only call in if there is an emergency."
Dick rolls his eyes. They're not going to need backup. "Putting coms on standby." He answers, and flicks a switch on his wrist computer. Now the only sounds that will be transmitted is if someone holds down the receiver and speaks. "Done." He grins at Wally.
"Dude, I thought you said the nearest civilians were blocks away." Wally points over Dick's shoulder. "Oh my god, they're heading straight for the warehouse. What do we do? Should we tell Batman?"
Dick spins around and immediately spots the people, teenagers not much older than Wally by the looks of it, are slinking their way down the back alleys heading right into the maze of warehouses. "Hold on, let me think, KF."
The teens' clothes are grungy and torn, and look like they haven't been washed in at least a week. They're all too thin and the way they look around them nervously would normally make them look suspicious, but Dick realizes they're scared. "I think they're homeless, KF. It's late, they're probably looking for a place to sleep. An empty warehouse would be the perfect spot, because the cops don't patrol down here that often."
"We've got to stop them. They're going to walk into a fire fight." Kid Flash gestures sharply. "Whatever we're going to do, we need to do it fast."
Dick bites back a curse and wraps an arm around Wally's waist. "Hold on, this is the fastest way to get down there." He fires a line back down to the street before Wally has a chance to argue.
They land a few feet in front of the startled teens, Wally wobbling uncertainly when his feet hit the ground. "Rob, I hate you."
"Sure you do, KF."
"Who're you?" One of the teens, a boy steps forward, shielding the other two as much as he can with his minimal body weight.
"It's Robin!" One of the girls says, grabbing the boy in front of her excitedly.
"And the other one, he's the speedster! What's his name? Speedy!" The other girl says, looking just as excited as her friend.
"Kid flash." Wally grounds out. "Speedy is the archer."
"Regardless, you guys need to leave this area. Batman and Flash are taking care of something down here, and it's too dangerous for you to be here." Robin cuts in before Wally can go off on a tangent. "We can escort you somewhere safer."
"Yes! I mean, that would be great Robin. We'd love for you to escort us somewhere." The girl who first recognized Robin says, smiling widely. "I'm Catrina, by the way, that's Kristine, and this big lug here is my brother Jacob."
"Nice to meet you." Robin says, years of Alfred drilling manors into his head coming to the surface. "Now am I right that you guys were looking for a place to sleep tonight?"
Jacob shrugs and looks embarrassed, but Catrina nods and takes a few quick steps forward until she's right in front of Robin. "Yeah! I bet you know lots of places for us to go, don't you?"
"Um, I wouldn't say lots of places, but I do know we're about 2 blocks away from a Wayne Foundation Youth Shelter." Dick ushers them back down the alley. "Let's get you guys there quickly. We have to get back to Batman and Flash."
"You're so smart, Robin!" Catrina giggles. "And so helpful. I mean, I knew you helped people but I didn't know you were so sweet to go out of your way to help us like this."
"Well it's part of the hero job." Robin says uncertainly, flustered by the compliments.
"But not every hero would escort us personally." Catrina argues, sidling closer to Robin.
"They should." Robin shrugs and turns down the next alley that leads back towards the main street the warehouse district is off of. "Here we go, it's the building right there with the giant W on the sign." Robin points for emphasis.
Catrina seems sad when Robin points out the shelter, though Robin has no idea why. "Thank you, Robin. Thank you, Kid Flash." Jacob says before Catrina can say, tugging her behind him as he heads for the shelter. "We appreciate your help."
Robin shrugs off the weird interaction and fires his grapple gun back in the direction of where he's supposed to be. "Race you there." He cackles at Wally as he takes off while Wally's still standing still.
They've only just gotten back on the roof when Wally nudges Dick in the ribs, hard. "Dude, she was totally hitting on you!"
"What? Who? Why?" Robin rubs the spot Wally just elbowed, blinking at the other hero in confusion.
"Maybe she likes a man in uniform." Wally pauses, and scrunches his nose. "Well, preteen in uniform." He corrects himself.
Dick punches Wally hard in the arm. "Rude, man." Dick watches Wally rub his arm in satisfaction. "She was really flirting with me?"
Wally laughs. "Rob, my man, you are completely clueless."
3) The third time, he has no excuse for not realizing he's being flirted with.
Dick's been officially a part of the Young Justice team for six months when the team becomes aware of what Wally and Roy have affectionately dubbed the 'Clueless Robin Situation'. Well, Wally calls it that. Roy calls it 'Boy Wonder's complete inability to know when he's being hit on' but Wally's name is shorter.
It all starts with Zatanna.
Dick wouldn't call his introduction to Zatanna particularly impressive, embarrassing might be a more accurate description, at least according to Artemis, but he thinks there is a certain kinship between him and Zatanna. Overprotective fathers for one, but also a similar sense of humor.
He doesn't call what they do flirting, not the least because he doesn't actually know how to flirt with anyone, he just thinks of it as bonding. Sure they joke and wink, and nudge each other with not so gentle elbows, but that doesn't mean anything. Zatanna is older and cooler, and drop dead gorgeous, and Dick is man enough to admit that he has slim to no chance of being anything other than friends with her.
He doesn't want to turn into Wally, hopelessly pining after someone that is not interested in him that way, and while he likes Zatanna, Dick's not completely sure he 'like-likes' her, so he puts on his big boy tights and sets to making Zatanna feel like she's an integral part of the team.
It's everyone else who clues him in he might have read the situation wrong.
Zatanna isn't meant for close up fights, she's much better at staying back and taking care of the threats before they even know she's there. The team does their best to give her every opportunity to stay out of harm's way, to keep her protected, to watch her back.
Which is why it's surprising that about a month after Zatanna joined the team, during a fight with Kobra's goons to keep a new shipment of Venom being loaded into an aircraft carrier and taken somewhere far away where the team won't be able to keep it from hurting innocent people, Dick is shocked when Zatanna yells his name and drops in front of him, translucent shield coming up and around them as a barrage of bullets heads directly at them.
A second later the machine gun goes flying as Kid Flash crashes into the thug doing his level best to blow Dick's brains out.
Dick shrugs off the miniscule annoyance that Zatanna thought he needed the backup, and focuses on being grateful for the moment to catch his breath. "Thanks." He grins at her and uses the break in fighting to see how the rest of the team is doing. The last of the goons are barely holding on, and with Superboy heading in their direction, Dick figures the fight is all but over. "You can drop the shield, Z, it's over. I know how much it drains you."
Zatanna looks around like it's the first time she's noticed the lapse of violent sounds around them. "Oh, I guess it is." She drops the shield, and they both watch as Superboy throws the last of the goons clear across the field they're standing in. "You're okay, right?"
"Me?" Dick grins, "Never better. Not even a scratch."
"That's good, I'd hate for you to get hurt." Zatanna lets out a relieved breath.
Dick tries not wince, keep the smile fixed firmly on his face. He can take care of himself. He's been doing this a hell of a lot longer than her, after all. "They'd need to do a lot better than some Kobra thugs." He says and ignores the way Wally's grinning at him like a loon. Wally's weird.
Dick sort of notices a pattern after that. Whenever Zatanna is with the team during a fight, she tends to gravitate towards Dick. He just can't decide whether Zatanna trusts him to keep her safe, or if she doesn't trust him to keep himself safe. Either way, it's confusing.
He tries not to let it throw him off his game. He uses it to fuel him to fight better and harder, so there can be no confusion that he can take care of himself, and the team. He doesn't need anyone keeping him safe, he can damn well do it himself.
It isn't until Roy joins them for a mission that it all comes to a head.
They're fighting Penguin and his legion of trigger happy thugs in a warehouse stockpiled with shipments of weapons headed for Star City's underbelly, which is why Roy deigned to join the team in the first place. Robin is in his element, fighting one of his villains. No one can deny that out of everyone present, he's the expert on dealing with Penguin.
So he's a little more angry than usual when he goes to launch himself at Penguin, and Penguin disappears in a puff of smoke, only to reappear less than a moment latter chained to one of the warehouse's steel support beams.
"Got him!" Zatanna cries happily, grinning at Robin.
Dick grits his teeth so hard his jaw cracks. He channels all his frustrations into taking out the rest of Penguin's guys, and if he's a little bit more brutal than normal, well, Batman's not there to give him a disappointed glare.
"Well, that was easier than I expected. Nice work taking out Penguin, Zatanna." Roy says, smiling for once. "I might actually make it back in time for my date."
Zatanna blushes prettily, and the rest of the team exchanges adrenaline fueled grins, but Dick finally can't hold back his frustration any longer, and shouts, "I could've had him!"
The warehouse goes deathly silent.
"Rob, man, what are you talking about?" Kid Flash asks, concern clear in his eyes because Robin doesn't lose his temper often, but when he does, it's nuclear.
"Penguin! I almost had him and then Zatanna magicked him away!" Dick realizes as he says it how stupid it sounds. He's complaining about the team doing their job efficiently, but he's too frustrated to explain himself better. "It's not just today. Every time we're on a mission, Zatanna just pops up wherever I am and gets rid of whatever villain I'm fighting. Do you not think I can take care of myself or something?"
Zatanna flushes, avoiding everyone's gaze. Dick hates that he brought this up in front of the whole team, but there's no going back now. "No, of course not! I just- it's not like that- I just-" She stutters.
Roy's sudden bark of laughter startles them all. Dick swings around to glare at him, but Roy just keeps on laughing until he's doubled over with tears in his eyes. Dick doesn't know what's so funny about his teammates thinking he's incapable of defending himself.
Dick glances around at his teammates, looking for support or some kind of clue as to what made Roy lose his damn mind, but he finds the rest of the team snickering into their hands. "What is so funny?" He yells.
"She likes you dude. She's flirting with you by keeping you safe in battle, bro. I think she's trying to impress you." Roy grins, wiping away a few tears.
Zatanna makes a strangled sound and hides her face in her hands. "Thanks a lot, Red Arrow." She mutters.
"Oh." Dick blinks and blushes from the tips of his ears down.
"Absolutely hopeless." Roy cackles.
4) The fourth time, he doesn't know how he didn't figure it out.
Dick is fourteen the first time a boy hits on him. Not that he knows it at the time.
He's a newly minted sophomore, with an added four inches of height curtesy of a summer growth spurt, and for once he isn't the shortest boy in his grade. He's the second shortest, but at least this year he looks less like a lost child on campus and more like a young, short freshman.
School is, strange, to say the least for Dick. He's popular in the sense that every person in the school knows who he is, and he even has friends, well a friend, Barbara, but he's also what most kids at Gotham Academy would consider a nerd.
He's a mathlete for goodness sake.
So, with the exception of Barbara and a few of the other mathletes, and the not so occasional attempts by random students to become Dick's newest, fakest friend, Dick's pretty much left alone.
It's a bit of a shock when a boy one grade ahead of him sits down next to Dick at lunch and says, "Hi, I'm Nick. You're in my advanced Anatomy and Physiology class right? Want to study with me for the test on Monday?"
Dick assumes the guy just wants what everyone else seems to want from him, an in with Bruce Wayne, but there's something about the genuine nervousness in Nick's smile when he asks that makes Dick say yes anyway.
After that, Nick slots his way into Dick's life seamlessly. They say hi to each other whenever they pass in the hallways, sit next to each other in the four classes they share, and Nick joins Dick and Barbara for lunch every day.
Nick is funny and nice, tells Dick he's "Obviously the smartest person in their class, if not the whole school", and brings Dick's favorite snacks to their study groups. Dick assumes Nick, like him, doesn't have many friends.
About a month after he and Nick became friends, Dick, Barbara, and Nick are eating lunch in the sunny school courtyard, not really talking about much of anything, just enjoying the weather and the company. Barbara gets up to throw her trash away, and Nick leans over the table so he's closer to Dick.
"You're going to Cameron's party tonight, right?" Nick asks, and then before Dick can answer, he blurts, "Do you maybe want to grab something to eat beforehand? There's this cute hole in the wall diner near my house, I bet you'd love it." He seems oddly flushed when Barbara sits back down while he's still talking, but he powers through it.
Dick, who is going to spend his evening on patrol with Bruce and not at some stupid house party a kid he doesn't even know is throwing, shakes his head. "Sorry, man. Bruce doesn't like me going to parties, so I'll be staying home."
Nick looks like Dick just kicked his puppy. He deflates, curling in on himself and looks away from Dick. "Oh, that's too bad." He's silent for a second before he seems to gather himself and looks Dick straight in the eye. "Maybe we could just go check it out some other time? Your dad doesn't have an issue with diners, does he?"
Dick laughs. "Nah, Bruce loves greasy diner food. And so do I. What do you think, Barbara? Hole in the wall diner food sound like a good idea to you?"
Barbara looks at Dick like he's lost his mind, which is strange because Barbara loves greasy diner food as much as he does. "Maybe. I'm pretty busy after school most days, so I don't know when I'd be able to go. You two should probably go without me."
"We're not in any hurry, are we Nick? We can just plan around your schedule." Dick glances at Nick, who looks like he swallowed a lemon and isn't sure what to do about it. "You okay, Nick?"
"I'm on a diet." Barbara grits out, damn near glaring at Dick.
Dick eyes Barbara's tray, complete with hamburger and French fries. "But you-"
"Just let me know what you guys decide, I have to go….do something." Nick sputters and is out of there before Dick can stop him.
"Way to go, Barbara. You're going to make him think you don't want to hang out with him."
Barbara slaps Dick upside the head. It isn't a love tap. "You're an idiot."
"Me?" Dick cries, rubbing his ear. "That hurt, Barbara."
"Good. You're hurting that boy. Just let him down already if you're not interested. Stringing him along like this is just cruel, Dick."
Dick chokes on his own spit. "What? Let him down? What are you talking about?"
"Oh, Dick." Barbara looks torn between laughing and hitting Dick again. "Seriously, Dick, you haven't realized that Nick is trying to date you?"
Barbara finally gives in to the laughter, patting Dick sympathetically on the back. "I am never going to let you live this down."
So much for sympathy.
5) The fifth time, he refuses to believe it's happening.
Dick figures he's got the whole being blindsided by flirtation from both sexes thing under wraps. He might not always be the first to recognize when he's being hit on, but a year after the Nick Incident (Trademark pending by Barbara Gordon) he thinks he knows what to look out for.
However, nothing prepared him to be in the middle of a down and dirty fight, birdarangs flying through the air, dodging the menacing sword of a man a solid half a foot taller than him, and the guy on the other end of the sword with only one eye visible through his tacky half orange, half black mask to start, well, complimenting him.
It starts off like most other fights Robin takes part in, with Robin back-flipping and tumbling all over the rooftop he'd stationed himself on and making snarky comments about the man's taste in costume colors. He intends for the fight to be over fast, he doesn't want to draw attention from the mass of guests wandering around just forty feet below at a ceremony Dick and the team had been assigned to protect.
It does not go as Dick intended.
The villain, codename Deathstroke if Bruce's meticulously organized files are correct, and they usually are, seems more interested in fighting than he does in whatever his original purpose was before Dick stopped him from diving head first into the mass of guests below.
Not only does Deathstroke give Dick his undivided attention, he seems invested in keeping the fight going, and at close quarters no less. Normally, Dick would think the guy is too cocky, because he was trained by Batman after all, and Batman is known for his close quarter fighting skills, but about five minutes into the fight, Dick gets the uncomfortable feeling that Deathstroke is actually holding back to keep the fight going as long as possible.
So far, nothing Dick has done has broken through Deathstroke's defense, and as frustrating as that is, it makes Dick positively livid when Deathstroke mutters, "I know you can do better than this, Robin. Or has your training really been that ineffectual?"
Dick can just make out Bruce laughing his charming, and completely fake, Brucie laugh down below over the sudden roaring in his ears. Dick has to take a deep breath to keep from launching himself at Deathstroke, because the one thing he knows from his ineffectual training is to never fight angry. Dick cocks his head to the side and gives the masked villain his best shit-eating grin. "Dude, you don't know the first thing about me or my training." He pauses for dramatic effect. "But you're about to."
The thing is, that the only thing in the file on the Batcomputer about this guy was his name and what his uniform looks like. Dick knows next to nothing about his fighting style, weapons of choice, or any meta powers. Dick wants to end this before they attract unwanted attention from the party Dick was assigned to protect, but he also doesn't want to get his ass handed to him when Bruce is otherwise occupied playing Bruce Wayne down below. And he definitely doesn't want to distract the team from keeping guard while Dick is otherwise occupied. So Dick goes for pomp and flash and hopes it will be distracting enough to give him an opening to knock the guy out.
He backflips out of Deathstroke's reach, throwing a batarang while he's still in the air, and then using his momentum to kick of the ledge he's barely landed on and launch a kick directly into Deathstrok'es stomach. "Still think my training is ineffectual?" He cackles as the villain grunts.
"I think your kick would be more effective if you aimed for a more vulnerable place." The slightly mechanized voice replies calmly. "Your moves are impressive nonetheless."
"Um, thanks?" Dick says, because Alfred has spent the last five years teaching him manners, and then has to immediately dodge a sword stroke. He makes a mental note to add 'weapon of choice: sword' to Deathstroke's file when he gets back to the Cave.
"Your offense is passable, now I would like to see your defense." Deathstroke wields the sword like it's an extension of his body, swinging with precision and grace, and without the obvious killing intent Dick has come to expect from opponents in battle.
"You do realize this is a fight and not show on command, right?" Dick ducks and weaves, flips away and over Deathstroke, raining down blows as he see's openings. "I'm a hero, not a performing monkey."
"I would never mistake you for such." The voice shows no sign of the strain of the fight, in fact, though it's hard to tell with the distorter Deathstroke is obviously using, the voice actually sounds amused. Like he's having fun. "Monkeys are not nearly as good looking."
Dick botches his landing, nearly twisting his ankle as he under-rotates his flip and nearly face plants on the roof. "What?" Dick can't help but blurt.
Dick cuts Deathstroke off with a roundhouse kick to the chest. "I don't want to know." As Dick attempts to flip away, Deathstroke catches his leg and yanks him back.
Deathstroke drops Robin at his feet, sword resting lazily on his shoulder. "You fight with an unpredictability that is refreshing, Robin. Imagine what you could be with even more training and purpose."
Dick kicks him in the shin and rolls away. "I think I'm doing a good enough job of kicking your ass now, thanks."
"You must have very nice muscle tone, Robin. I would not have expected you to be as strong as you are, being as lean as you are." Deathstroke tilts his head thoughtfully. "Imagine how strong you'll be once you've finished going through puberty."
"Who says shit like that during a fight?" Dick cries, and launches a flurry of batarangs in Deathstroke's direction. Out of his peripheral vision, he can see Superboy making his sweep of the perimeter, getting closer by the second. "Seriously, what is wrong with you?"
"I'm only admiring your form and technique, Robin. No need to get upset." Dick thinks Deathstroke might actually be trying to soothe him.
"Well could you not? It's weird." Dick says just as Conner touches down on the roof, looking like he's one second away from tearing Deathstroke to pieces.
"Everything alright here, Robin?" Conner asks.
Deathstroke eyes Conner calmly, seemingly unconcerned by the Superman symbol on his chest. "I see our time is up. I enjoyed our time together, Robin. Until next time." He drops a pellet at his feet that immediately explodes into thick, grey smoke. By the time it clears, Deathstroke is gone.
Dick states at the space the man had occupied seconds before and tries to wrap his head around the very confusing confrontation. When he catches Conner's eye, Conner looks just as confused.
"Dude, was that guy flirting with you?" Conner asks, bewildered.
"I really, really hope not."
+1) The first time Bruce realizes that someone is flirting with his son.
Dick can honestly say that by the time he's sixteen, he's more than aware of when people are trying to pick him up. He's finally caught up in height with his peers, and if tabloids are anything to go by, he's considered pretty handsome. So getting hit on? It happens fairly often. Being aware of it doesn't make it any easier, or any less awkward, as his latest run on with someone trying to pick him up clearly shows.
There are several things about the whole situation that give Dick the heebie-jeebies. The guy is at least twice Dick's age, probably around Bruce's age, but looks closer to Alfred's with a badly balding head of white hair he's trying to keep hidden with Trump-esque comb-over. The guy is pretty wasted on the cheap champagne being passed around, and Dick's guessing, some much harder stuff he's hiding in a flask in his jacket pocket. And Dick is positive he was introduced to the man's wife and daughter not two hours earlier.
All in all, he's not the type of person Dick really wants pawing at him.
"Um, Mr. Stevens, I think you should sit down. You're looking a little flushed. Let me escort you to your seat." To your wife. Dick adds silently, resisting the urge to roll his eyes when Stevens laughs much too loudly and places an overly sweaty hand on Dick's shoulder, squeezing it roughly.
"Paul, Richard. I told you to call me Paul." Paul's breath smells like something crawled up and died in his mouth, and his hand makes Dick's skin crawl when he slides it over Dick's shoulder to grip the back of his neck tightly. "We're friends after all."
Dick's tried to be polite, tried to keep the charming high-society smile he's gotten so much practice at keeping on his face instead of the grimace he wants to let loose. In fact, Dick had done everything possible to avoid this exact situation ever since Paul had held on to his hand just a little too long when they'd been introduced earlier.
That and the obvious once over Paul had given him had set the hairs on the back of Dick's neck standing straight up, making Dick do his best to stay as far away from Paul as physically possible. Unfortunately, in a ballroom even as grand as the Wayne ballroom, there are only so many places to hide.
"Mr. Stevens, Paul, I think it's time we made our way back to the ballroom, Bruce's speech is about to begin, and we don't want to miss that." Dick tries again to direct Paul's attention back to the very crowded party they're in, superstitiously trying to shrug off Paul's grip to no avail.
"Oh, if you've heard one Bruce Wayne speech, you've heard them all." Paul says loftily, carelessly waving the hand not making Dick's skin itch. "I'm sure you know that better than anyone Richard."
"Um." Dick tilts his head back, trying to see around Paul's bulky, overweight frame for a chance at escape. But this time, Roy isn't around to bail him out. "Mr. Stevens, I should really-"
"Come now, Richard, I'm sure Bruce won't miss you. Why don't we just go talk somewhere more quiet? I'd much rather listen to what you have to say. I'm sure you have some," He pauses to leer at Dick, having given up completely on subtlety. "insightful thoughts to share."
"I really don't." Dick glares. "And I'd like it if you'd stopped touching me, Paul."
"Don't be like that, Richard. We were having such a lovely time together." Paul, in his alcohol induced wisdom, decides it's a good idea to help himself to an unwanted, and uninvited, feel of Dick's ass.
"Don't be like what? I know I taught my son to be a perfect gentleman, surely he's behaving as such." Bruce's menacing voice, sounding eerily similar to Batman's intimidation voice, comes from the space directly behind Paul.
Dick doesn't think he's ever seen a drunk man move that quickly before.
Paul whips around so fast he almost topples over, only Bruce's firm grip around his upper arm keeps him from hitting the ground. "Bruce- I mean, Mr. Wayne." Paul stutters, flushed face going rapidly pale as he catches Bruce's cold gaze, made all the more intimidating by the smile still fixed on his face. "I- I didn't see you there. I thought you had a speech to give?"
"I do, but it's not like they can start without me." Bruce laughs and waves Paul's comment aside, hard eyes never leaving Paul's face. "Now what did I miss? You two seemed to be having quite the conversation, and so intimate. Why, even your wife isn't here, Paul."
"We were just-" Paul spares a wide-eyed look at Dick, who's trying not to smirk at the pure panic on Paul's lecherous face.
"Richard was behaving himself wasn't he? I'd hate to think he was doing anything untoward." Bruce says, raising one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at Paul, making it perfectly clear to all three of them it's not Richard he's talking about.
"No, I mean yes! He's been on his best behavior, Mr. Wayne." Paul's voice honest to god cracks in the middle of his assurance, and Dick thanks every deity known to man he's had enough training to keep from busting out laughing on the spot.
"Oh good, it's so unbecoming when people use these galas as an excuse to overindulge and let loose a little too much, isn't it? All the wine and champagne can really go to someone's head." Bruce pauses to fake a sip of his own full champagne glass. "Of course, that isn't an issue for you Richard, or it better not be at least." Bruce jokes, smiling encouragingly at Paul until he too laughs.
"But as I was saying, it really is a travesty how some people behave at these shindigs. Why just think of their poor families, having to see their loved ones act like drunk lechers!" Bruce's look of faux outrage is so unconvincing Dick has to bite hard on the inside of his cheek to keep from giving it away. "I've even heard of people getting fired for their poor performance at these things, can you believe that?"
Dick has to give it to Bruce. He's pretty sure Paul is going to be afraid to even have so much as an impure thought about anyone besides his wife ever again. And Bruce did it all with a polite smile on his face. Hell, he could have insinuated that Batman himself would come swarming down upon Paul if he came near Dick again and it would not have appeared strange. Dick is impressed despite knowing just how intimidating Batman can be, because it's somehow more frightening when Bruce is using the Brucie persona.
"I-I-that is-I mean-"
The conversation has apparently robbed Paul of his ability to hold a coherent conversation. Dick hopes Bruce is proud of himself.
"Oh well, we better be going. I do have a speech to give after all. Richard?" Bruce motions Dick to his side, who goes willingly, catching a quick glimpse of Paul's dumbstruck face as he does so.
Dick waits until they're several feet away to let out the snicker he's been holding in for at least five minutes. "That was amazing, Bruce."
"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about, Dick." Bruce shepherds Dick further into the crowd, absently placing his still full glass on a passing server's tray.
"Of course." Dick nods knowingly. "Thanks for the save at any rate. I thought I was going to have to resort to drastic measures to get away from him."
"I was thinking something a-la 'Pirates of the Caribbean'." Dick shrugs.
"You were going to pull out a sword and stab him?"
"I was going to faint." Dick chokes out, laughing.
"Oh, well now I feel silly. That's a much better idea than what I was thinking."
"You know, no one believes me when I tell them how funny you are." Dick says seriously as they come to a stop besides the steps to the stage Bruce is supposed to give his speech on.
"Good, it would ruin my reputation." Bruce gives Dick's shoulder a firm squeeze, before he starts his ascent to the stage. "And Dick? Does that happen often?" Bruce sounds genuinely concerned.
Dick smiles back warmly when he answers, "Not that I'm aware of."