"You quit," says the voice on the other end of the phone, and it's a familiar voice. It's older, more amused than effusive, but Bruce still reacts to it.
He can keep the reaction to a moment's pause. "It wasn't safe."
A laugh, as achingly familiar as ever. "It never was."
"No," Bruce admits, and at least here, in his own study, he can admit that he has been wrong. "It wasn't."
"It's going to be weird not seeing you in the papers," the voice says. He's not laughing, not entirely teasing anymore.
"Not in that role, but I expect I will still have more than enough publicity."
"Wayne Enterprises, and all that." That's colder, more like when they last spoke. When they fought.
There is a silence that lasts too long for an empty house that can no longer believe it sits above what really matters. If the cave is locked, there's nothing here anymore that's important.
"Dick," Bruce says. It's the only apology he can give.
"I should get back to the Titans before someone blows something up," Dick says.
"At two in the morning."
Now it's Dick's turn to pause. "No, they're asleep."
There have been many nights when Bruce missed having someone else awake with him at this hour, but saying that will only lead to recriminations. "Hm."
"But I should --"
"Come to Gotham. Let me take you to dinner."
He says it quickly, the way he always has when he risks rejection. There's a brief sensation of freefall.
"All right," Dick says, catching him in a grip as strong and sure as ever.
"But now that she's got the heat vision under control, it's much easier on the linoleum." Dick pauses and glances at Bruce over the remains of his linguine and the check and tip, which he hadn't even argued about trying to pay. "Maybe I shouldn't be talking shop."
The loss is still fresh enough that he forgets it. This brings it back full force. "It's all right," Bruce says.
Dick's smile is quick and disbelieving. "If you're going to lie to me, we may not have dinner together again for another decade."
Bruce reaches across the table and touches his hand. "Don't."
He hadn't realized until now how much he missed the quick play of emotions across someone else's face. It's like spending time with Jim again, or Barbara, except that neither of them were ever quite as unguarded around him as Dick used to be.
Dick's frown now is like a wholly deserved slap on the face. "I didn't lie to you."
"No. I know." Bruce shakes his head. "I missed you."
For a second he can see Dick again, vulnerable and baffled. As much as part of his mind is noting the effect of a simple admission, he's timing how long it takes for the pained detachment to come back.
It doesn't. Dick's smile this time is more rueful and genuine. So he had been lying. "I missed you, too."
Bruce takes a breath. It's not a gasp; he means to do it. It's instead of a gasp. "When do you have to be back?"
"Damage and Argent can keep them from doing too much, well, damage around the place for a few hours," Dick says.
"Is that all?" Bruce narrows his eyes. "Your subordinates leave something to be desired."
Dick shakes his head slightly but doesn't lose his smile. "They're my teammates."
"But you can only rely on them for a few hours."
"I'm not staying longer than that," Dick says firmly, reaching for his cane and standing with that painful blend of grace and weakness. "I'm really not interested in inheriting the family business."
The thought of Dick patrolling alone with his old injuries is enough to get Bruce to his feet as well. "No. Nothing of the sort."
Perhaps Dick's posture has worsened with his serial injuries and only loosens when he has walked a few steps. "Well, good. I've got obligations."
"I won't forget."
They fall into rhythms that they shouldn't be able to find again with ease and patterns neither of them has moved in for too many years. Simple things like who flips on the light when and unspoken decisions about where they'll sit and whether they'll be idle.
And that Dick plays white, and uses his knights with far more care than his bishops.
The timeclock comes out, too, even though Alfred is no longer there to insist on it. Dick makes his move to put Bruce in check and presses the button, saying, "I keep meaning to diversify my portfolio, but --"
Bruce takes his hand -- still callused, strong, and familiar -- and meets his eyes when Dick frowns at him. "It's nothing you need to worry about."
"Maybe not right now," Dick says -- and he's not pulling his hand away, not leaving, yet -- "but what happens the next time you find some kid who --"
Bruce leans across the table and sees his eyes widen. He licks his lips and blinks once. In that simple gesture he seems as young as he ever has, though not as innocent. He has time to dodge or move away before Bruce kisses him.
Dick leans into it, sighing, before he pulls away with a rueful look. "This is nuts. You know that?"
Bruce laces their fingers together. "I've never been known as a model of stability."
"Jesus, Bruce." Dick laughs, and it isn't happy enough, but the press of his mouth against Bruce's is as sweet as anything could be.
"I do have to get back," Dick says in the shower.
Bruce kisses his shoulder. "Yes."
There is a spot at the base of Dick's neck that makes him wriggle when it's kissed. "Hm."
Dick runs his fingers idly through Bruce's hair. "They're going to think I died."
Bruce sits up and gets him the voice-only phone from the bedside table. "Here."
He raises his eyebrows. "You're not even going to pretend you're not listening? No -- no. There wouldn't be any point."
"I did miss you," Bruce says.
"Just don't call me Robin." Dick dials the number.
In a week and a half, Dick is back, unannounced. "My turn to take you to dinner," he says.
There's something gratifying in the speed and precision of his driving. "I think I've skipped an important step in this mid-life crisis," Bruce says. "Somehow I neglected to acquire a new car."
Dick shakes his head. "That'd be redundant for you, wouldn't it?"
"Nevertheless, it's traditional."
Dick reaches over and pats his knee. "If it was traditional, you'd be driving, wouldn't you?"
Bruce lets himself laugh. "True."
"Maybe I should let you on the way home," Dick says. "That way we can go nice and slow. This can't be good for your heart."
"I believe we disagree on that score."
It becomes a new rhythm that fits with the old ones, a rhythm of nights alone and shared beds, alternating. They don't talk about the past unless they're clothed, except that they don't talk about masks while they can see each other's eyes.
It fits the trained insomnia.
At three-thirty in the morning, Dick tends to shiver and start to fall asleep. He's usually relaxed by then, and they've often had enough time to talk that there's little more to say.
After a particularly rough week with the Titans, he's still awake at four-fifteen, restlessly rubbing Bruce's shoulders. "I never thought we could actually have this."
Bruce yawns. It's one of the few habits he's picked up with age, and he resents it. "No?"
"I wanted --" Dick grins at him in the dark, his teeth reflecting moonlight for a moment, before he sobers. "Batman always got in the way."
"You were waiting, then."
"For this? No. For you to let it go -- grow out of it -- something -- well. Yes."
Bruce puts an arm around him. "Ah."
Dick sighs contentedly. "I'm glad you did."
"Hm," Bruce says. When Dick's breathing starts to even out, he says, "Good night, Dick," softly enough that Dick doesn't wake.