The week of midterms, his roommate Brian poked his head in the door to say, "Dick! There's a phone call for you!"
Dick wearily raised his head from his econ textbook. "If it's Greg, no, and also, I'm never drinking that much again."
Brian looked like he was trying really hard not to smile. "It's not Greg, it's your old man."
"He's not my old man," Dick said, a little more sharply than he'd intended.
Brian held up his hands defensively. "Okay, okay. Mr. Wayne-who-is-not-your-old-man is on the phone."
He pushed his chair out and stood up, and clapped Brian on the shoulder on his way out the door. "Sorry, Brian," he said, and mustered a contrite smile. "Midterms, you know?"
"No problem," Brian said affably.
He went down the hall to the little closet with the phone for their floor. "Hello?"
"Dick," Bruce said, and his voice was warm and familiar and Dick actually closed his eyes so he could concentrate on it more. "How are classes?"
"Midterms this week," Dick said succinctly, and curled up on the little bench, pulling his knees up against his chest and leaning his head against the wall. "Why am I taking economics, again?"
"Being well-rounded is important," Bruce said, which was actually Bruce's answer for just about everything college-related.
"Be honest, you just wanted me to suffer through Professor Alpert, too," Dick said, and it wasn't too hard to find a real smile for Bruce, even if he couldn't see it.
He'd bet just about anything that Bruce was smiling, too. He could hear some papers shuffling over the phone, and Bruce said, "I was actually calling to see if they mailed your 1098-T to your dorm."
"My what?" Dick asked blankly.
"1098-T," Bruce repeated. "I need it for taxes this year."
"Do you even know what you're saying, or are you just repeating what your accountants tell you?" Dick asked.
"Testy," Bruce observed, but he sounded indulgent instead of irritated. "And I'll have you know, I need it to write off your tuition."
"Oh," Dick said, and squirmed a little in his seat. Bruce had made it clear that he was going to pay for Dick's education, and while he'd known that Bruce would happily have sent him to the most expensive private school in the country if that was what Dick had wanted, he'd settled on Gotham State University -- it wasn't too far away, it was a public school with a good reputation, and it didn't make him feel quite so guilty about Bruce paying his way. This wasn't to say that he didn't still feel a little uneasy about the whole thing. "Um, I haven't really looked through my mail this week -- I'll see if it's in my room, okay?"
"All right," Bruce said. "Good luck with your studies. Don't forget to sleep."
"Urgh," Dick said feelingly.
"Good night," Bruce said, and there was something deep and soft in his voice that made Dick squirm for different reasons altogether.
"Night," Dick said, and he held on to the phone for a few more seconds after the line went dead.
The next time Bruce called, Dick really was making an effort to unearth the requested form from his desk. The best he'd managed were a few unopened envelopes from various university administrative units when his RA pounded on his door and told him he had a phone call.
"Did you find it?" Bruce asked.
Dick shuffled frantically through the envelopes in his hand. "Uh. Here's something -- oh wait, that's just the tuition receipt from the bursar."
"It would be nice if you could bring that, too," Bruce said dryly, and then there was a slight pause. "You are coming home this weekend, right?"
"What?" Dick asked, trying to remember if he'd already promised to do so.
"Alfred's making your favorite for Sunday dinner," Bruce said in his best coaxing voice.
"Dirty pool," Dick muttered. "Hey, if I'm home for the whole weekend, can we -- go out?" He could really stand to work off some of his energy on patrol.
"How's that econ class coming?" Bruce asked in lieu of a direct answer.
"It's totally fine," Dick said, rolling his eyes. "Honestly, it's not like I'm in sixth grade anymore. I can take it."
"I know you can," Bruce said, and whoa, Dick was spending too much time with some of the fellas down the hall, because that sounded downright dirty for a second.
He shook his head once, as if to clear it, and then it sort of came to him that his half of the conversation could be misconstrued. "Hey. You know it's not like I don't want to come home, right?" he said, a little anxious. "I mean, you don't need to have Alfred bribe me or anything. You know I'd move back if you just --"
"Dick," Bruce said reproachfully. "We agreed. It's important for you to have this experience."
Dick frowned. "Look, I'm not saying I'm not having a good time or anything, I just don't think it's as important as -- I don't like you going out without someone to watch your back," he said, and there was something about not having to actually look Bruce in the face that made it easier to say. "I miss...I miss doing that."
"Dick," Bruce said again, and sighed. "We'll talk about it again after you finish up the year."
"Fine," he said, too aware that he sounded petulant and not at all like a responsible young adult.
Another sigh, and then Bruce said, "I'll pick you up on Friday."
"I'll see you then," Dick said, and hung up the phone before stalking back to his room, muttering darkly to himself.
On Thursday afternoon, he was passing by the phone closet when it rang. He leaned inside to snag the receiver off the hook, and said cheerfully, "Wilson Dorm."
"Dick?" the voice on the other end of the line said.
"Hey, Bruce," he said, and settled down on the bench. Then he looked at his watch. "Aren't you at the office?"
"Yes," Bruce said, but he sounded slightly evasive. "I just wanted to ask you a question."
Dick had had a few nights to sleep on it, so he was prepared to be conciliatory and less sulky than in their last conversation. "Yes, I'm still coming home this weekend," he said, twining the phone cord around his fingers.
"Good," Bruce said, and he did sound relieved. "But that wasn't what I was going to ask you."
"...How much did you spend on books last semester?"
Dick stared at the wall blankly. "Uh."
"Never mind, I'll look through my bank statements from last September," Bruce said.
"You were going to do that anyway, weren't you?" Dick asked, and the moment of silence on the other end was confirmation enough. Trust Bruce to work up some totally lame excuse just to call. "So, anything new and exciting at Wayne Enterprises?"
Bruce's tone lightened as he said, "Oh, I saw this proposal today -- the technology isn't all in place, but wait until you see it--"
And before Dick knew it, a half hour had passed, and Bruce said regretfully, "I think I have to go do work now. My secretary keeps poking her head in the door."
Dick smiled. "See you tomorrow?"
"Right after you get out of class," Bruce said.
"Which is totally two o'clock, and not five -- ooh, going to cut out of the office early?"
"Maybe," Bruce said, and there was a bit of slyness in his tone that promised good things for tomorrow evening. "Don't forget to bring that 1098-T."
"Oh, I get it -- an exiting evening of tax preparation, for just the two of us?" Dick asked, mock-flirtatiously.
"Among other things," Bruce said, and it was Dick's fault for teasing, because Bruce could tease right back, and that was probably not a good idea -- heaven knew that Bruce could charm the birds out of the trees when he put his mind to it, but when he flirted -- oh.
"Tomorrow, then," Dick said, and Bruce murmured his goodbyes.
Finding that form was really starting to seem the least of his worries.
After a stupefyingly good dinner out, Bruce drove them back to the manor, and once in the study, Dick triumphantly pulled the 1098-T out of his bag. "Ta-dah," he said, waving it in front of Bruce.
Bruce gave it a cursory glance, then put it on his desk. "Congratulations. My accountants will be pleased."
"What, that's it? I think I'm disappointed," Dick said. "After I went to all that hard work to find it and all." He sat on Bruce's desk, a gargantuan antique made out of what seemed like miles of mahogany.
From his desk chair, Bruce gave him a look. "Dare I ask where you found it?"
Dick laughed. "Would you believe I stuck it in the front of my econ textbook?"
Bruce looked heavenward and sighed in mock-despair.
"Yeah, yeah," Dick said affectionately. "Like you'd know where half the things in this joint were if Alfred didn't keep everything tidy."
Dick leaned back on his hands a little. "You know," he began hesitantly. "If you want to see me, if you want to talk to me, you don't have to use taxes as an excuse. You know that, right?"
Bruce was trying to meet his eyes, but Dick stubbornly kept them focused over Bruce's shoulder. Finally Bruce laid one warm hand on Dick's knee.
"I'm not the one who wanted to move out," Dick reminded him quietly.
"I know," Bruce said, and there some indefinable weight to that acknowledgment. "I thought it would be best."
"There you go, making decisions for me again," Dick said, leaning forward to rest one hand on Bruce's broad shoulder. "Why don't you just ask me what I want?"
"I know what you want," Bruce said, and Dick froze as Bruce slid his hand underneath Dick's knee to grip his thigh. It made a small shiver run through him, and when he met Bruce's eyes in shock, he was even more startled to see that Bruce had meant what he'd said -- he knew, and the heated look in his eyes suggested he wasn't indifferent to the idea. "I'm just not sure I should give it to you."
Dick swallowed, and then said, with no small amount of false courage, "Maybe you should try giving me a little."
"You'll take a mile," Bruce said, but he pulled gently forward on Dick's thigh -- not enough to move him, just a suggestion, and one that Dick took with alacrity. He straddled Bruce's lap on the desk chair, his knees sinking into the leather seat. And before he could talk himself out of it, he leaned forward and kissed Bruce -- gently, carefully, like he'd kissed a few girls.
That lasted for less than thirty seconds before Bruce gripped his rear end and stood, pushing Dick back on the desk and kissing him not carefully at all, and he was pretty sure he was sitting on some important papers but he couldn't care, because Bruce was shoving up his sweater vest with one hand and undoing his fly with the other, and Dick had excellent breath control but he was drowning in kisses and god, Bruce was still entirely clothed. He knew Bruce's hands like he knew his own, but feeling one wrapped around him was like some kind of epiphany, like yes yes yes, and oh god, he was saying this stuff out loud, wasn't he? He locked his ankles around Bruce's back, and he didn't have much time to wonder if it was all part of those dreams that made him hope his roommate didn't hear him say incriminating things in his sleep, because his back was arching and he was coming hard, and he was lying dazed on the desk while Bruce looked down at him, and the hunger and determination on Bruce's face looked out of place without the mask.
Dick sat up slowly, and then realized what he'd been sitting (or more accurately, writhing) upon -- one very crumpled 1098-T. He tried to catch his breath, and then said, "At least it's still legible?"
"Don't worry," Bruce said. "I called and had another copy sent here."
If he hadn't still been riding high on endorphins, he might have been irritated -- but instead, he reached forward and caught Bruce by his belt. "You're not going to do taxes now, are you?"
"Not taxes," Bruce agreed, and the implication of that statement didn't really hit Dick until Bruce had hustled him up to his bedroom, and he never thought he'd be grateful to the IRS, but, well -- stranger things had happened to him.