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All The Friends You Had Got Paid

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Jason hears someone yell out "bitch" and the sound of a slap, and reaches the mouth of the alley in the fading twilight just in time to see a girl punch a man in the face. She grimaces and shakes her hand and that gives him a chance to recover and shove her back into the brick wall with a grunt.

Arsenal's arrow wings down from the fire escape behind Jason and clips the man's sleeve. He turns and stares at the two of them. He doesn't look up to notice Starfire hovering above him, though the girl does, her bright eyes flicking around to take them all in.

"I would seriously consider my next action if I were you," Jason growls, sighting his gun at the man's head.

The man turns around and runs for the other end of the alleyway, and Jason lets him go for now so that they can take care of the girl. But he makes sure to memorize the man's face and build. Two strikes and you are definitely out.

He runs even faster when Starfire lets off a bolt at his heels. Just a little one, though; they don't want to draw attention with too much light and noise.

Lowering his gun, Jason takes a step toward the girl as Arsenal swings over the fire escape railing and lands behind him. She's watching them warily. She's probably fourteen or fifteen, wearing platform heels, thigh-high fishnets, a shiny halter top, a miniskirt that is slightly askew, and heavy makeup, smudged now around the split lip and the older, fading bruise high on her cheekbone. He can tell that her back is scraped up as she pulls away from the wall, running a hand through her messy blonde hair.

Clearly a working girl.

Slowly Starfire settles down with Jason and Arsenal. "You are injured," she says to the girl. "Let us help you."

"I think I'll be fine on my own," the girl answers. Out of the corner of his eye Jason can see Arsenal tip the brim of his trucker hat at her as he puts his bow away.

"We are here to help," Starfire repeats.

"It'd help if Red Face there didn't have a gun on me."

"Red Hood," Jason corrects as he holsters his gun.

"The little riding kind?" When she says that Arsenal snickers. He'd made the same joke himself, unfortunately, when Jason first met him.

Jason reaches up and pops off his helmet.

"Oh my god," the girl giggles, her hands to her mouth. "You have a mask on under your mask." Jason glares from behind the lenses of the domino mask. Then he forces himself to stop glaring and smile reassuringly at her.

"We'll leave you alone if you want," he says. "We aren't here to pressure you. But we can help. I've got some antibiotic ointment, at least..."

"I'm fine. I was fine," she snaps. She takes a shaky step forward as if to brush past them and away.

Never trust anyone. Never let anyone have anything on you. Never owe anyone.

Jason rolls the helmet around in his hands. "Look, honey, I get it. I was sleeping in a cardboard box when I first met Batman."

"Batman?" She sounds disbelieving.

It's a long way away from Gotham, from Bruce...

"I jacked the tires from his car, you know, the famous one. And instead of beating me up or turning me in, he took me home with him. I figured he just wanted what any dude does when he takes you to his big fancy house. Took a while for him to convince me otherwise. But somehow, the public spent more time complaining about what he had me doing on the streets than what those other guys did."

She's still staring at him with wide eyes and a wry twist to her mouth when Arsenal adds quietly, "I did some pretty dumb stuff when I was running out of smack."

"Oh," she says.

"Humans," Starfire snorts. "I expect never to understand anything you think about the joining of bodies."

"Says the woman wearing even less than me," the girl replies.

"Or your insistence on covering up your forms."

The girl grins. "And together, they fight crime," she mutters.

Jason laughs at that, hears Arsenal echoing him. She's a spunky one.

"Mia?" a voice calls as someone rounds the corner. They all whirl and Jason starts to pull out his gun again, but stops at the girl's shouted, "Whoa, whoa."

Standing in the mouth of the alley now is a guy barely older than the girl, dressed in orange Buddhist monk's robes, his shaven hair a paler patch across his scalp, his eyes wide. In one hand he's actually holding a rough wooden bowl full of coins and bills and in the other... in the other, a bag from Big Belly Burger, and that is just ludicrous.

"It's okay, Connor," the girl says, "they just like to dress up in weird clothes and go around trying to help people who don't necessarily need it."

Jason can see exactly when the guy stops being distracted by superheroes and notices the injuries on the girl. He bows slightly to the three of them. "Then thank you for helping my sister." Jason's pretty sure from looking at them that's more like his brothers than anything related by blood.

Starfire copies the bow. "It is our pleasure and our honor."

The girl stalks past them to join the guy and they all fall away to let her. The guy casts an apologetic glance back as he follows in the girl's wake around the corner. Starfire lifts up above the roofs and points delicately in the direction the two went. Jason shrugs and slides his helmet back on.

"Time for the next job of the night," he says as he readies his grapple.

As he turns to throw he catches the thoughtful expression on Arsenal's face. "Something about that guy reminds me of something, but I can't think what. Maybe I'll check up on them in a bit."

"Whatever floats your boat," Jason responds as he swings off the ground, Arsenal only a moment behind him.

"We are not on a boat," Starfire states. Her hair billows as she blazes upward, and Jason hears Arsenal laughing again. He grins himself. The streetlights are coming on below them. It's a fine night to be out working this job.