Dating Advice For The Teenaged Superhero

Mostly based on comics canon, but with Timothy Drake as the son of deceased two-bit 'hood Steven 'Shifty' Drake and not CEO Jack Drake II.

"Holy fuck! You're a virgin?" Dick shrieked, voice cracking on the final word.

Cheeks pink with mortification underneath his mask, Tim glared at Dick. "I don't think they heard you on the western seaboard, Nightwing," he growled.

The not-so-subtle reminder that yes, they were on stakeout of a supposed drug factory, and having personal conversations – which were Not Bruce Approved (but what He didn't know wouldn't hurt them) – only worked if they were quiet and did not alert criminals to their presence.

Dick Grayson used to be able to pride himself on his stealth, his ability to blend into the shadows almost as well as Batman. Once Timothy Drake became Robin, that skill seemed to have flown the coop. Literally.

Clearing his throat to disguise his own embarrassment, Dick said, voice gruff, "Sorry." Bad enough he'd been overly nosy about Tim's love life – or lack thereof – no need to make a big deal out of it. And look, over there, a pile of refuse, which, from this angle, looked suspiciously like Catwoman…

Or…maybe that was just a result of his overactive imagination combined with his wish to change the subject.

Tim shook his head in exasperation. "Never mind, man."

"No, I just… I was surprised. I mean, you're seventeen…" Dick trailed off, unwilling to finish his thoughts aloud. By the time he was seventeen, he and Barbara had been partners on the street and in bed for almost a year.

Now that Barbara was off the streets as Oracle – and he and her had only renewed their acquaintance for barely a year – with Cassandra Cain taking her place as Batgirl, however, things were…different. To say the least.

"And I spent the first fifteen years of my life pretty much on my own and living on the streets," Tim reminded Dick in a wry tone of voice. "Not exactly conducive to learning social skills…or how to trust other people," he added under his breath.

"Neither was Cass' childhood," Dick pointed out bluntly. Only Cassandra seemed to be causing this problem…

Tim hunched over into himself, staring broodingly down at the warehouse they were staking out. "Yeah…but she's a lot more willing to take risks than I am." Left unsaid was that they were risks of the heart, not of the body. Tim's middle name could well have been 'Reckless' – if he'd actually had one – when it came to performing death-defying stunts in the name of crook catching. When it came to acknowledging and showing his emotions, however…

He wasn't quite as bad as Bruce, but only because he hadn't had decades to practice his broodiness.

Dick turned that idea over in his head for a moment. He considered it for a full minute from at least seven different angles. Pondered the possibility that Cassandra had outright propositioned Tim – using her ingrained 'actions speak louder than words' shtick – and barely kept himself from busting a gut with his laughter. Reminded him of his 'courtship' with Barbara. Apparently all Robins were attracted to forceful women. "When I asked you what was up with you and Cass, I wasn't exactly expecting this," Dick said through a smile, trying to get the conversation back on its metaphorical track.

Tim shrugged. "We're not exactly the kind of people to have petty fights over 'my father was eviler than your father'," he joked morbidly, eyes scanning for a distraction in the form of criminals perpetrating crimes – and coming up empty on that front.

Dick snorted. Funnily enough, he recalled a few conversations with Bruce over the whole 'my childhood was suckier than yours' debate. Bruce won, if only because he did the whole dark and brooding thing better – or was that worse? – at age twenty-seven than Dick at age twelve. "Is 'eviler' a word?" he asked, wondering if Tim and Cassie had actually had an argument about suchlike as the comparative badness of their respective sperm donors.

Chuckling, Tim said, "Don't know. Don't care."

Shaking his head as if to dispel the confusion of the past ten minutes, Dick returned to the topic at hand. "I really don't think that the fact that Cassandra kissed you means that she wants to have sex with you."

Tim snorted and rolled his eyes. "You weren't the one she was molesting on top of the Clocktower," he said bluntly, his blush belying his blusterous words. "Believe me, Dick, by the time I got her to let go of me, she had long since passed first base and was bidding a fond – and quick! – adieu to second."

Dick choked and almost strangled himself on his own surprise. "Way more information than I needed, bro," he said gruffly. Not the least of which reasons was because it gave him very disturbing mental images about his adopted 'siblings' that he really didn't need to be having.

"I know, I know…" Tim grinned crookedly and turned to do another sweep of the alley below them. "And it's not that I don't like her – a lot – it's just…" He sighed frustratedly and turned to look at Dick with an expression of pleading etched onto what features were visible around his mask. "It's just… Shouldn't we, you know, like, talk about it first? Or something?" He flushed slightly.

"Cassandra isn't really much for talking, Tim," Dick pointed out gently. Barbara was working on that with her, but Cass would most likely never speak proper English.

She could outfight Batman, however, and seemed to think it was a fair trade – linguistic skills for marital arts skills. Social skills, however…

"But I am," Tim replied. "I mean, she's…great, you know? She likes cheeseburgers and action movies and doesn't think I'm an idiot just because I'm in Algebra I… I…I really like her." He shifted uncomfortably on the roof of the warehouse. "It's just…I don't know why she's… And what it means… If it doesn't mean anything to her…" The third Robin growled underneath his breath, expressing his disgust at his lack of ability to verbalize his feelings with a noise akin to that of a pissed off cat.

And that pretty much said it all.

But… "Maybe you should try talking with her anyway," Dick suggested. Halting Tim's protests with raised hands, he quickly said, "I know, I know, it's hard to have a conversation with her when she only says one word every five minutes or so, but you shouldn't just write her conversational skills off. She says a lot more in those one word utterances than a lot of people do with a whole monologue."

Lips quirking up in a nostalgic grin, Tim agreed, "Yeah, I know."

Continuing from where he'd left off, Dick said, "And I know it's difficult, especially because Cass tends to get frustrated when she doesn't think people are taking her seriously and then reverts to her old standby of using fists instead of words." Fists, lips…

Tim snorted. "It'd be difficult not to take a woman seriously who can outfight Br– Batman," he corrected quickly, as always, aware that the very air had ears this deep in the harbor district.

Nodding slowly, Dick said, quietly, "Yeah, but just because she doesn't have a handle on spoken language doesn't mean her thinking's impaired."

Tim blinked, startled. He shook his head slowly from side to side as trying to realign this new information with his worldview, and blinked again. "That's…a very good point," he admitted. "I've been so busy trying to avoid her 'cause I thought she wouldn't want to talk that I never thought about the fact that maybe that's why she…"

"Kissed you?" Dick prompted teasingly.

Flushing, Tim ribbed back, "Yeah. Yuck it up, 'bro.' At least my sort-of-girlfriend will admit she wants me."

A pang of distress sliced through Dick's heart, but he was careful not to let it show on his face. Tim couldn't know how it hurt to keep having Babs push him away – even though she was doing it less and less as time passed; she'd finally realized that the chair didn't make a difference to Dick in regards to how he felt about her, but was still holding back – after all, Tim wasn't even aware that he and the original Batgirl had been an item once upon a time, and a pretty hot one.

"I thought that was the problem," Dick joked to cover his distress. "That she wanted you too much."

"Yeah, I know…" Tim's face scrunched up, an outward showing of his inward confliction. He was torn between his feelings for Cassandra and the fact that he didn't know what she was feeling.

Easily fixed, Dick decided. "Look, tell her how you feel," he counseled. "She understands a lot more than people give her credit for – just use words of three syllables or less and don't talk down to her and you'll be able to sort things out." Probably. Maybe. Hopefully.

With any of the good luck that occasionally hit their flying family in their personal lives – and not the bad luck that plagued them in their professional ones.

"Yeah, okay. I'll do that," Tim agreed, after mulling the advice over for a few minutes. He perked up as his sharp eyes caught sight of a mountain of a man in a black trenchcoat – with a very suspicious bulge on his back. Squinting, but unable to make anything more out, Tim brought up his night vision binoculars and gasped as the walking mammoth came into focus. "Hey, isn't that Bane?" he asked, voice shaking but (thankfully for his masculine pride) not cracking.

Oracle had heard rumors that the former Gilgamesh lab subject had altered his super-strength serum to try to market it as a new steroid drug, but they had had no way to confirm it.

Until now.

Following the line of Robin's surreptitiously pointed finger, Nightwing's blue eyes hardened to cold ice. "That's him, all right," he growled. No love lost there; Bane had almost crippled Bruce at one point, and was now Villain #2 on the Batclan's Most Hated list – right below the Joker.

"You take point, I'll guard your six," Robin said, wanting to be professional and mature. Even though Gotham wasn't technically Nightwing's town, Dick had had more experience at the superhero gig and Batman had put him in charge of tonight's operation. Giving in gracefully – and subtly altered wording – would give him a measure of control.

Which he sorely needed after baring his soul on a drafty rooftop.

Nightwing nodded, once, firmly. "Follow on five," he said, and jumped down to the street, landing on silent cat's feet.

Robin waited the requested five seconds and followed, pleased that his landing was just as smooth.

Love life problems aside, it was great being a costumed crime fighter and being able to help others (if not always themselves). Now if only Bruce could find someone more stable (or at least less larcenous) to date than Selina Kyle…