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maybe paper is paper, maybe kids will be kids.

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Jim wakes up to the sound of rattling and the feeling of sunlight bearing down harshly on his eyelids.

“Jesus Christ,” he groans, bringing an arm up to shade his eyes. The moment they’re open, a black silhouette appears in front of him, blocking the light out enough to let him adjust.

His eyes are burning. Shit. He slept with his contacts in.

“Good morning,” he says as he reaches toward the nightstand for his glasses. A hand takes his own and presses the wiry shape of his crutch into his palm, and he clumsily fumbles them on in his half-upright posture.

Cassandra waits patiently, as always.

“Right.” He shoves himself into a seated position and looks up into her still-masked face; the empty black eyeholes stare back at him, completely expressionless. It’s one thing to see that in the dark, he figures, where its purpose is to conceal and to terrify. But here in the daylight, it looks almost comical. If he didn’t know how dangerous the wearer is, he supposes it would be.

“Hello,” he says casually, like it’s completely normal to wake up in his boxers with a teenage girl dressed as a bat standing in his bedroom.

Cassandra holds out, of all things, a magic eight ball. That explains the rattling, at least. Jim takes it from her hands and finds a tiny white smiley-face staring up at him from the glass window. He smiles a bit, and when he looks up he smiles wider: Cass has taken the mask off, and she’s beaming.

“How many times did you have to shake this to get the smiley face?”

Cass shrugs. “Many.”

Jim huffs a laugh. “Man, I feel that,” he says, shoving himself to his feet on the other side of the bed. “Have you eaten?”

Cass thinks, then shakes her head.

“Go down to the kitchen, I’ll be there in a second.”

She smiles at him, holds out her hand, and when Jim gives her the eight ball back she trots down the hall toward the stairs. That should stand to say something, the ease and comfort with which she navigates the halls of his home, but he’s still too groggy to quite decipher the forty-seven layers of meaning behind it. Instead he leans over the bathroom mirror and pries the expired contacts out of his eyes.

Ten minutes later he’s mostly dressed for the day, save his shoes, tie, and coat, and he’s at the stove making Cassandra eggs with extra cheese. She’s still playing with the eight-ball, shaking it ferociously for a minute or so only to grunt in something like frustration and try again.

“What are you up to back there?” Jim asks as he takes down some paper plates from a shelf.

“Probility,” she answers.

“Prob-uh-bih-li-tee,” he sounds out for her.

“Probability,” she repeats slowly, testing out the grander scale of the word. She’s getting better at it, thanks to Babs and Bruce.

“Right. Probability of what, if I may ask?”

“Have good day.”

He splits the mound of scrambled eggs in two and places the larger portion onto Cass’ plate. “For you or me?”

“Yes,” she answers.

“Both.”

“Both.”

He sets the plate down in front of her. “Ketchup? Salt or pepper?”

She shakes her head. “No. Thank you.”

“Of course.”

The coffee maker beeps, and Jim pulls the jug off the burner as he whips a mug out of the cabinet. “Anything big happen last night?”

“Bust. Down by docks.”

“The docks.”

“The docks. Black Mask. Guns. Cole cane.”

Jim glances at her, an eyebrow raised. “What?”

“Cole cane.”

“Cocaine?”

Cass points at him and nods rapidly. “Cocaine,” she repeats.

Jim sits down across from her with his coffee and eggs. He thinks about running back upstairs to get his meds, then decides to wait at least until she leaves. If she doesn’t after breakfast, he’ll head up and get them anyway. It’s not like she doesn’t know he takes them.

“Was anyone hurt?” he asks.

Cass shakes her head. “A few henchmen. Be fine. Hospital.”

Jim grunts in acknowledgment around his mouthful. “How’s your dad?”

“Tired.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s just his constant state of being by now.”

Cass giggles and nods. “Always working. Like you.”

“No rest for the wicked.” He takes Cass’ empty plate and silverware as she watches him dutifully; the plate goes in the trash, the silverware in the sink with the pan. “Has he gotten hurt badly lately?”

“No. Last time was three weeks ago. Big gash on his shoulder.” She draws a line with her finger from her collarbone over her shoulder to somewhere on her back to illustrate. “Is fine now. Sleep helps.”

“That it does.”

She walks over beside him to study the potted plants on the windowsill. He’d gotten them as an incentive to come home every now and then: he was very determined to keep them alive, and so far it was working. Granted, succulents were fairly low-maintenance, but there was a satisfaction there nevertheless.

“Names?”

“I haven’t named them, no.” He glances down at her. “Would you like to?”

She nods eagerly.

“Go for it.” The clock over the stove says thirteen minutes past eight—in other words, last chance to beat the rush hour. He starts out of the room and up the stairs to grab his shoes—and his meds, can’t forget those. “I have to head out, but you can stay as long as you’d like. There’s extra clothes in the guest bedroom upstairs, if you wanna get out if that costume.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” he calls from halfway up the stairs. He slips into the bathroom and tosses the pills down his throat—Sertraline and Diazepam—before scooping up his shoes and dashing back downstairs.

Cass is sitting at the counter, waiting for him. She holds out the eight ball.

“Ask,” she says. He takes the eight ball and looks off at middle distance, considering his question.

“What’s the probability that Cass and I will both have a good day?” he asks finally, then gives it a firm shake.

The answer stares out at him through the glass: Outcome looks good.

He smiles up at her. “It says there’s a good chance.”

“Hope it’s right.”

“You and me both.”

“Don’t forget your coat.”

“Get some rest, kid.”

He snags his coat off the hook and slides out the door all in one smooth motion, flashing Cass one last smile as the door shuts.

The day is bright and warm, and as Jim walks to his car, he hopes beyond hope that it's an omen for a good day coming in. He knows there will be paperwork and crime scenes and meetings and who knows what else, but maybe it’ll be a bit better than most days.

As he drives away, he catches sight of Cass in the window and waves.

He just barely catches her own wave back before he’s halfway down his street.

Hope it’s right.