Three years after taking on the responsibilities of being guardian to an orphaned child and Bruce still wasn’t sure that he was very good at this whole “father” thing. He deferred to Alfred more often than he felt was right; Alfred hadn’t signed up for the unexpected additional caregiving. Not that the old man seemed to mind, but Bruce still felt a bit guilty whenever he had to have his help to solve some problem with Dick.
This new problem, however, Bruce had no idea how to solve. Dick was almost fifteen years old and Bruce wasn’t blind to the fact that he was noticing girls—he talked about girls in his class, stared a bit too long at a pretty girl as she passed, was more distracted during patrols than he normally was. Bruce knew it was just a matter of time before Dick dove headfirst into the realm of relationships and he had no idea how to prepare him for that.
The prospect of discussing things like romance and sex and all the complications that came with them was daunting. He decided that perhaps letting Dick figure things out for himself first was the best approach. If anything did happen and Dick needed help, Bruce felt fairly confident that the boy would come to him to talk.
He should have talked to Dick the moment he noticed Dick’s hormones kicking in.
The first time he regretted not giving Dick “the talk” sooner he had come home from a business trip in Japan. His flight got in later than expected, but Dick had assured him over and over that he could handle watching the streets of Gotham without him for a few days.
“Besides, I’ve got Babs to watch my back if anything goes wrong,” Dick had said. “Lighten up, Bruce. Everything’s fine.”
It had soothed Bruce’s anxiety some; Barbara was just a year older than Dick, but more mature, and her father would certainly make sure that they were alright. What he hadn’t expected was to come home to find Dick and Barbara entangled together on the couch, half-dressed and locked together at the lips.
For a moment all Bruce could do was stare, briefcase dangling uselessly in his left hand. His mind went to white noise. Finally, he cleared his throat as loudly as he could and flipped on the light to brighten the room.
Two terrified and red-faced teenagers sprung apart, scrambling for their shirts as quickly as possible.
“Bruce!” Dick grimaced as he flung his shirt over his head, not bothering with turning it right-side-out. “I thought you’d be home hours ago. We, uh… we figured you’d gone out for an early patrol or….” He trailed off, biting his lip.
Barbara hurriedly finished buttoning her shirt and dragged her fingers through her red hair to put it back into some semblance of order.
“S-Sorry, Bruce,” she said, wincing. “We… That is, I mean… it was an accident…”
“An accident…” Bruce said slowly.
“We were working on homework, I swear,” Dick said. “But things got a little…”
“…heated…” Barbara supplied. Dick nodded fervently.
Bruce just blinked at them. They stood there awkwardly, books scattered around the floor, Barbara’s bag half open and spilling its contents everywhere. Finally, he pulled out his cell phone.
“I think you should go home, Barbara,” he said. “I’ll call your father and have him pick you up.”
“No, don’t do that,” Barbara said quickly. “He’s working. Look, I’ll just leave, okay? I mean…” she glanced awkwardly between Bruce and Dick. “I can take the train.”
Bruce’s lips tightened and he shook his head. “At least let me have Alfred take you.”
A few minutes later Alfred—giving the two teens a knowing, conspiratorial look—took Barbara home and Bruce was left alone with a still very red-faced Dick, who was frantically clearing the mess from the apparent homework.
Bruce sat wearily down in one of the wingback chairs and pressed a hand to the bridge of his nose.
“Bruce, I’m so sorry,” Dick suddenly burst out, looking to his mentor with wide eyes. “I swear, it’ll never happen again, okay? It was an accident. We weren’t thinking and—“
“We need to talk,” Bruce cut him off. Dick nervously kept straightening papers and text books and Bruce looked pointedly to the couch. “Now, Dick. Sit down.”
Dick hesitated and then dropped the papers he was fidgeting with and sat down on the couch, shifting awkwardly.
“Okay,” Dick said slowly. “Let’s talk…”
Bruce had no idea where to begin. He remembered, vaguely, when Alfred had given him “the talk”, and remembered the little class program they’d had when he was thirteen, but he wasn’t entirely sure how to go about doing this for someone else.
“At your age…” Bruce hesitated. “At your age your hormones are going to be going crazy and—“
“Oh God, Bruce, please, no,” Dick looked horrified. “I already know about hormones and puberty. We watched that video when I was in middle school.”
Bruce frowned. “Dick, this is serious. It’s one thing to notice girls, but kissing them, doing what you and Barbara were doing…” Dick’s face turned bright red again but Bruce ignored that and continued on. “You’re growing up, Dick and I understand that. You’re going to want to… to… touch girls and kiss them and…”
“Please don’t say intercourse, Bruce, please,”
Bruce glared at the teenager. “I just want to make sure that you’re ready for this.”
“Mentally, emotionally. Are you sure that you’re prepared to face the challenges that come with having a romantic, sexual relationship?”
Dick made a face at the word ‘sexual’, but didn’t comment on it. “Oh come on, Bruce, we were just kissing. It’s not like we were gonna go all the way or anything. We just kinda… got caught up in the moment. We’re not dating or anything.”
“That’s irrelevant,” he said. “One moment of getting ‘caught up’ in something like that can change your life forever.”
Dick raised a brow. “Sex is just sex, Bruce. It doesn’t have to come with marriage vows or anything, y’know.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Bruce said. “I’m talking about… about STDs, about AIDS, about unexpected babies.”
“Ah, Bruce, c’mon, I told you we weren’t going that far!”
Bruce leveled Dick with a hard stare. “I just want to make sure that you understand how serious this is. It’s not just kissing. It’s a huge step forward into new direction, a new world. You need to be aware of the risks. It’s not a game, Dick.”
“I know, Bruce…” Dick said, sighing. “I’m not an idiot.”
“So you know how to use a condom?”
Dick went red faced again. “Bruce!”
“I’m serious, Dick,”
“Look, fine, alright. I get it. Sex is Serious Business and I should be careful. I got it. Can I go now?”
Bruce eyed the teenager warily. “Alright, fine. Just… keep that in mind, Dick.”
Bruce hadn’t been sure what he expected to come from Dick and Barbara’s little make-out session on the couch. They dated, mostly exclusively, for nearly six months. Bruce had probably been overly-optimistic to expect that they’d actually remain together forever.
When the relationship did end it ended surprisingly amicably; they’d been familiar with each other and perhaps it was best for their first real experience with relationships to be with someone they trusted and knew. Bruce was probably more upset about the break up than Dick or Barbara.
Still, Dick had seemed to take Bruce’s talk to heart and Bruce never walked in on anything else like that between them again. He had thought that he’d done his job and the lectures about sex and protection were over. No more need for that nonsense now that Dick was once again single and had handled his first relationship so well.
That was before Roy Harper came to Gotham.
Robin had become friends with Speedy long before he came to know Roy. Batman and Green Arrow didn’t work together often, but their sidekicks got on well and stayed in touch. It started with Dick taking Roy to football games at Gotham State. Bruce was glad to see Dick making friends with the other hero; he had worried at first that the two of them would antagonize each other. They had a competitive relationship, but it was all friendly.
They trained together whenever Roy was in Gotham and Bruce thought it was a good thing for Dick to train with someone more his own age. It was Oliver who first pointed out how much time they seemed to spend together, but Bruce thought nothing of that. They were close friends and there weren’t that many teenage boys out there fighting crime for either of them to relate to.
And then Bruce took it upon himself to interrupt one of their sparring sessions to see if either of them wanted an early lunch seeing as he was going to be leaving early that afternoon.
What he found was not the two sixteen-year-olds sparring, but instead was Roy laying on the mats, hands tangled in Dick’s hair while Dick was… while Dick’s mouth was… Bruce could not comprehend what he was seeing and he left the training room as quickly as possible, but not before Roy spotted him and let out a sound somewhere between a screech and a howl.
He could hear the two boys swearing loudly as he retreated down the hall, mind spinning with what he’d seen. He left for his business meeting and didn’t come back, going on patrol alone that night and avoiding Robin whenever he nearly crossed paths with the Boy Wonder.
When he returned to the Cave, Dick was there. Still in his Robin uniform, but without the mask. He was sitting at the computer terminal, biting his lip anxiously.
Bruce held up a hand and shook his head, removing his cowl and cape before slowly turning to face Dick. Dick was pale and looked terrified. Bruce wasn’t entirely sure why. Dick didn’t have to be the adult in this situation, talking about things like sex and relationships with a teenage boy. Christ, how was he supposed to handle this?
Finally, Bruce cleared his throat, deciding that he’d circumvent the issue of Dick giving someone a blow job and instead go for what was the real issue in this situation.
“What happened to you promising to use a condom?”
Dick blinked. “Are you serious?”
“It’s not a difficult question, Dick,” Bruce said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re having sex with a girl or a guy, protection is important.”
“We weren’t… Dude, it was just a blow job. It’s not like we were screwing.”
“You still should’ve been using a condom,”
“Come on, Bruce, have you ever tried to give a blow job with a condom?” Dick asked before frowning. “Well… no, I guess not. But seriously. Not a fun experience.”
“Fun isn’t the issue, Dick. Safety is.”
Dick made a face. “Oh please,”
“Fine,” he said sharply. “Fine. Whatever. We’ll use a condom. I guess I should be glad you’re not going all psycho on me for being with a guy.”
“I don’t care if you’re with a male or a female or a Martian, Dick. As long as you use protection.”
As it turned out, Bruce would come to regret that choice of words as well.
Starfire was an… interesting girl. Bruce hadn’t been sure what to make of the Tamaranean at first; she was overly-bright and enthusiastic for someone as contained as he was, but Dick and Alfred adored her and Alfred insisted that she was a good influence on Dick, pulling him away from some of Bruce’s less pleasant personality faults.
He liked her. She was sweet and bright, if a little strange. He had not, however, expected Dick to like her as much as he did. He probably should have seen it coming. Dick was overly protective of the girl, he took delight in showing her every single human thing he could think of, he suffered through her strange and unappetizing food just to make her happy…
It wasn’t until Bruce caught them kissing on the balcony that he realized Dick’s attraction to her might be a problem. He didn’t know how the alien girl’s biology matched up to human biology, but it there was a way to make it work, Bruce had no doubt Dick would find it. And if past experience proved correct, he would be less than eager to use protection.
Figuring it was best not to wait until he caught them half naked in bed together, Bruce pulled Dick aside after patrol one night and handed him a small box of condoms. Dick eyed it suspiciously.
“What are these for?”
“For you,” Bruce said. “I know how you are, Dick. You can be a bit irresponsible in this area. I want to make sure you have no excuse. If things go that far between you and Kori, promise me you’ll use them.”
Dick scowled. “Are you stalking me or something? Kori and me have hardly even kissed, Bruce! We’re not fucking like rabbits or something. Jesus, we just met like two months ago!”
“And things with you seem to escalate quickly,” Bruce said. “So I’m taking precaution beforehand. Promise me you’ll be smart about this, Dick.”
Dick sighed and grumbled. “Fine, Bruce. I promise.”
The last time Bruce had to deal with Dick and his ridiculous hormones he forwent the talking part altogether.
He went to tell Dick goodnight after their nighttime patrol—something that was happening less and less often as Bruce tried to get the boy to focus on his schooling and living a normal life. He heard the shower going in Dick’s bathroom and started to knock when he heard voices, plural, rise above the splashing of water.
“Cut it out, Wally!” Dick’s voice, high with amusement, rang over the water.
Wally. Bruce was almost too exhausted to feel shock. Wally West had taken a liking to Dick the moment they had met and the two had become fast friends. The kid was a lot like Dick in some ways, but less serious, if that were possible. And more of a flirt. Bruce had never been able to make heads or tails of their ridiculous banter, but of course he should’ve expected something like this eventually.
He sighed. He could hear more sounds, frantic hissing and muffled moans, coming from the other side of the bathroom door and he had no desire to see for himself what was going on in there. Instead he searched for the condoms he knew Dick kept in his bedside table and frowned at the unopened box. He opened it, pulled one out, and taped it to the door with a note before leaving.
When Dick and Wally finally left the shower it was Wally who spotted the note.
“What the hell is this?” He pulled the note and condom from the door and frowned. Dick peered over his shoulder and scowled as he read the note in Bruce’s handwriting.
USE THE DAMN CONDOM, DICK.
“Bruce,” he muttered under his breath.
“Whoa, what?” Wally spun around to face him, wide-eyed. “You don’t think he… Did he hear us?”
“Of course he did,” Dick snatched the condom from Wally and tore the foil wrapper open. “Bruce hears and sees everything that happens in this Manor. You get used to it.”
Wally stared at him like he’d lost his mind and fumbled when Dick handed him the condom.
“Come on, if we don’t use it he’ll know,” Dick said. “I don’t need another one of his protection lectures.”