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The atmosphere is strangely oppressive when he unlocks the door. The curtains are drawn, every light out, and is that organ music?

Jason has always had a flair for the dramatic, so as long as he's living it out Dick is not too worried.

As he's doing the carefully coordinated homecoming dance – juggling the containers of takeout while hanging up his coat, toeing off his shoes and throwing his keys into their designated bowl by the door – he pricks up his ears to locate Jason.

He tries his office first.

"Hey, I brought dinner."

"Can't."

Jason is staring fixedly at his computer screen, which is the only illumination in the room. Dick's eyes hurt just to watch. He flicks on the light switch.

"How long have you been sitting like this?"

"Huh? Oh." Jason pushes up his reading glasses. They glint in the lamp light, obscuring Jason's eyes from view. "I haven't been paying attention."

His expression is pinched, his eyebrows drawn together, and his face pale.

"What's got you so worked up?" Dick asks, walking toward the desk while looking for some free space to place their dinner. He finds a little corner on the windowsill, the rest is covered in books and printed pages, loose or stapled together, but every last of them scrawled on.

"Same old." Jason sounds so exhausted, as though he wants to breathe a sigh but lacks the energy for even that much.

"I thought you'd be done writing your paper today," Dick says, carefully leaning against one of the overflowing shelves.

"I'm rewriting it."

"What? Why?"

Jason takes off his glasses and squeezes his eyes shut. "It wasn't working."

"Jason, you've been talking me through your approach since the moment you started working on it. I'm no expert, but it sounded fine. What's really going on?"

Dick squats down in front of Jason, gently rubbing his knees and peering up at his hollow eyes.

"They're not going to publish it."

"The paper you submitted?"

Jason nods and squeezes his eyes shut again. Dick feels for him. After all the hard work he put into that.

"Oh, babe." Dick straightens his legs and leans over Jason, carefully tilting his face up to place a kiss upon his lips. He's relieved Jason lets him, that he softens into the kiss, and allows Dick to deepen it. Dick tries to convey how sorry he is, but also that they'll get through this.

Slowly but surely, Jason relaxes.

"Was that all they said?" Dick asks, just to cover the bases.

"They gave me a list of improvement suggestions, saying I can resubmit once I've implemented them."

"That's good, right? Gives you something to work with."

Jason just shrugs his shoulders.

"Okay, so they want you to edit that paper," Dick rejoins and nudges Jason. "Doesn't mean you have to trash your current one just yet. Come on, let's get some food in you before it gets cold. You'll see clearer after you've had a moment to relax."