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A Peaceful Morning

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Jason stumbles out of his room, idly scratching at his temple as he yawns. He’s barely awake, having only slept two hours, and he’s so hungry he wouldn’t be surprised if his stomach started to actually eat itself. This is why Alfred always harps on me about three meals a day , he thinks, only a little self reproach in his inner voice.

Three meals a day is way harder to maintain than people might think. Facts are, he usually only eats one meal and a few snacks a day. But this morning, he’s going to eat, dammit. 

He doesn’t realize Cass is sitting on his couch until he accidentally stubs his toe. At his loud and abrupt cursing, she snickers, though he notices immediately it’s not quite as lively as it usually is.

Shaking his head at himself, he rubs his toes, trying to soothe the pain. As he does, he thinks about how really, it’s not surprising she’s here. Here being his actual place instead of one of his many safehouses, only a few of which are known to Bruce. The other kids and Alfred know more locations than dear old dad does, but of them, Cass and Alfred are the only ones who knows where he actually lives.

After a nasty accident a few years ago in which case Jason needed a blood transfusion, they’ve known about how Shiva actually was Jason’s mom, not Sheila. And yeah, okay, it took months for Jason to come to terms with that, but ever since? He and Cass have been cool. He’s softened quite a bit to the idea of having a sister, and hell, a family. Well, mostly the sister part. The family part is a work in progress.

His relationship with Cass is totally different, though—she’s the only one he can really, truly relax with. Plus, when they train together, she always kicks his ass seven ways to Sunday. It’s fun, and more than that, there’s way less pressure to be better than there is when he trains with his brothers. It’s only partly because he knows he’ll never win against her.

All of this is just to say: duh. Of course she knows where he lives.

She doesn’t know everything, though. Case in point: the surprise on her face when Lizzy trots out from behind him, only briefly interested in the new person as opposed to breakfast.

“Sup,” says Jason, not waiting for a response to walk into the kitchen. He can still see her over the counter, though, and makes sure to wait to get Lizzy’s food until he sees Cass sign a greeting back.

They’re quiet while he gets her bowl filled up, and then he offers, “You want some cereal?”

Her response is a signed “yes”.

Yeah, definitely not having a good day. That’s okay, he can deal. The more time they spend with each other, the more they’re both getting used to how to act when one is going through a rough time. 

Silently, he makes them both bowls, cereal first and then the milk. He brings them out to the living room carefully, and after handing her bowl over, he joins her on the couch. Mirroring her, he ends up with his legs curled criss-cross, his back to the corner where the arm meets the back.

For a while, the only sounds are the munching of their Frosted Flakes and Lizzy moving her bowl around on the floor as she noses around for more.

Lizzy ambles over to the couch just as Jason is finishing his last bite. Instead of putting her head in Jason’s lap like he expects her to, she goes over to Cass. 

As far as Jason knows, Cass doesn’t like dogs—he’s certainly heard Damian happily regale Duke about how she never wants to steal Titus away like some people do. 

“Liz,” he says, about to lean forward to pull her off by the collar. A big dog like her is probably the last thing Cass wants bothering her right now.

Cass surprises him, though. She welcomes Lizzy into her lap with a little coo, barely vocalized, and Jason watches with some awe as Lizzy starts to whine and nudge at Cass’s neck and shoulders, the exact same way she does to him when he needs help calming down.

See, the thing about Lizzy—something Cass most assuredly doesn’t know, something nobody knows—is that she’s a service dog. A PTSD-trained service dog. She’s not really supposed to go to other people, seeing as she’s Jason’s.

Cass doesn’t seek him out much during the day, especially not at his place. Her presence here alone is a sign that she isn’t feeling well. Another thing is that she isn’t talking—she still prefers to sign most days, but she can speak and often does. Her sentences are on the shorter side, yeah, but she also jokes and every once in a while, insults. When she gets like this, nonverbal, it usually means she’s needing a break and isn’t up to expending all the mental energy it takes to talk.

Which is fine with Jason. It’s nice to have someone he can be quiet with. Most of the time when they hang out, he reads while she practices ASL or ballet. Neither of them can really have that with the other kids—the ones who come closest are Tim and Damian, when Tim is working and Damian drawing, but together, they bicker a lot. And even alone, Dick is always coming to find one of them, Duke wanting to show a video he just saw, Bruce needing one or the other for this or that reason.

So, yeah. He understands.

But it’s still kind of surprising to see how Cass reacts to Lizzy. She welcomes the dog into her lap and immediately starts to pet her, gently scratching behind her ears. Lizzy, for her part, whines and sniffles and is generally just there for Cass in a way he is intimately familiar with. Being on the receiving end of a dog’s care and attention is great anyway, but Lizzy, having been trained since she was a pup, is amazing at it.

Jason relaxes back into the cushions, making sure not to stare too much as the tension in Cass’ shoulders loosens and her lips curl up.

He finishes his bowl before she does, trying not to slurp the milk. He stands with a groan and heads to the sink. From the different vantage point, he has to say Lizzy looks adorable in his sister’s lap.

He spends some time cleaning up the kitchen, letting Cass and Lizzy be as alone as they can be. But eventually, he starts feeling twitchy, bored by the tedious work. He isn’t here often enough that it’s all that dirty, anyway. 

When he steps back into the living room, he goes right to his bookshelves and finds one of his old favorites, Pride and Prejudice . It’s where he got Lizzy’s name from—Elizabeth Bennett, one of his favorite characters, sometimes goes by Lizzy in the book. Jane Austen has been a comfort to him for so long, it honestly felt wrong to name his dog after anything or anyone else. 

He finds his place back on the couch, and asks, “Want me to read out loud?”

She scrunches up her nose like she always does before giving a negative answer—like, the answer is obviously no and he’s silly for not realizing that. Amused but also understanding, he nods and settles in, opening up to where he left his bookmark yesterday morning. 

For over an hour, they sit together, the only sounds coming from outside—ah, good ole Gotham and her non-stop police sirens—and Lizzy’s gentle snores and sighs and content little grumbles, the brush of Cass’ fingers over her fur.

It’s peaceful and grounding, and maybe there’s a jealous worry in the back of his head that Cass is totally stealing his dog right now, but whatever. It’s a perfect morning.