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Liabilities

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There was a scale that people often used to rate pain. A zero was no pain, a one to three was mild pain, a four or five was moderate, a six or seven was severe, an eight or nine was very severe, and a ten was the worst pain possible.

Mia Dearden had gone through enough in her life to know what most of the numbers meant to her.

When Mia was four, she stubbed her toe against a wall. Because she was so young, she claimed that the pain was a nine – overwhelming and agonizing. The tears in her eyes were a testament to the sensation. In hindsight though, that pain was actually more of a two, but she was young and had not experienced a lot of life by that point.

Not too long ago, Mia had been shot in the shoulder with an arrow, and a little bit after that, she had been shot in the stomach with a bullet. But despite the severity of both injuries, Mia had mentally dubbed those occasions as a five. Surprisingly, she had managed to keep herself calm and collected during both predicaments.

The only thing she could logically pinpoint as the worst pain she had ever been in was during an incident last year. She broke three ribs while on patrol after a particularly unfortunate fall.

It wasn’t even the impact of injury that hurt the most, but her attempts to move afterwards instead.

Every time Mia took a breath, she could feel her ribs move in ways that they never should. Each step was painful, she could barely walk, let alone fight or use her bow. It was one of the first times an injury had brought her close to tears in a while.

The whole predicament put Mia out of the game for seven weeks – six to heal, one to re-learn how to use a bow.

All in all, Mia rated the injury as a nine.

But not a ten, she was saving her ten for when it truly mattered.

So her injury now? She rated aspects of it in different ways.

The impact of getting shot point blank with a pistol? A nine.

The sensation of getting knocked backwards and smacking her head on the ground? An eight.

The concussion and headache that followed after regaining consciousness? A solid seven.

But the humiliation that followed the mission, and the harrowing acknowledgement that she was getting damn close to becoming a liability? A nine.

Needless to say, while her physical recovery went on without a hitch, it was nothing compared for the mental one she now had to overcome.

Mia had woken up in the Tower’s infirmary, the time between the start of the mission and the present being completely lost to her. There was a discomforting strain in both her head and her torso.

On everyone’s accounts, Mia had leapt into battle from the jet, managed to fire exactly one arrow, and gunned down by a mook before she could do anything else. But the mission was still a success nonetheless. The bad guys got captured and the day was saved.

While the Teen Titans assured her that everything went well and that all she needed to do was rest, their words did nothing to quell the disappointment in Mia’s heart.

The team at least took care of her after the gunshot. They flew her back to San Francisco on the T-Jet and gave her the best treatment they could. They promised her that she could stay in the Tower as long as she needed to.

Mia wasn’t sure how her prolonged stay at the Tower would impact her work back home. Seattle was a far way from San Francisco, and she didn’t have much of a way to keep tabs on the place while she was gone.

There was no one back in her city either who could hold down the fort while she was gone. Ever since she moved from Star City, she had been taking care of things on her own. Protecting a major city was a lot to handle for someone just barely out of her teens.

When the Titans asked her to help on the mission, Tim had promised Mia that they only needed her for two days at the most. That time had eventually extended to four.

Cassie suggested staying for a week, just until they were sure that her concussion had no long-lasting effects.

Less than an hour after getting back on her feet, Mia found herself wandering the Tower. Cassie had offered her a spare room so save her from having to spend another night in that uncomfortable infirmary cot.

It only occured to Mia now that she had not been in the Tower in over a year. The walls of the place felt foreign to her.

She got the strange feeling that she should have felt at home at Titans Tower, there were plenty of other team members who did. But unfortunately, as she walked through the grey halls, every step felt like falling into her own personal rabbit hole.

At one point, Mia found herself in the training room. The place was dark. A look out of the window revealed to Mia that the sunset had just ended outside. Natural light was leaving the world, now to be replaced with the artificial illumination of the city.

In the past, Mia had spent hours in the training room either perfecting her archery form or working on her striking techniques.

In the present, there was a lot less to do in the dark, vacant room.

The temptation to let it all out on the heavy bag in the corner burned in Mia’s hands. She wanted to do something physical – maybe grab a training sword or grappling dummy and work until she became a sweaty mess.

But Mia knew better than that. She didn’t want to put herself in worse shape than she already was.

So she stood still and alone in the dark room, staring at her reflection in the mirror near the training mat. She hadn’t even seen herself in the last few days. There was a scrape on her chin she didn’t notice, as well as a slight bruise on her forehead that was obscured by her bangs.

Mia wanted to believe that she was okay. Despite her hopes, she was a little bit battered, off-puttingly disheveled, and looked scrawny in the lumpy sweatshirt Tim had lent her.

But aside from that, she was alive. In the end, wasn’t that the only thing that mattered?

“Back on your feet already?” came a voice.

Mia turned her head to see a person standing in the doorway. Truthfully, she identified them on their voice alone. Mia was smart, she would know that upfront, slightly sardonic tone anywhere.

“I’d like to think so,” Mia replied simply.

Nodding her head, Rose Wilson entered the room and flicked the light switch on. She stepped towards Mia and made sure to smirk as she did so.

“How’s your head?” Rose asked. She sounded genuine, for some reason.

For a brief moment, Mia tried to think of the best word to describe her current state, then finally decided on:

“Hurting.”

“And everything else?”

“Not much better.”

Rose scoffed. “I’m not surprised. You did get shot point blank after all.”

“Yeah, not really the best feeling in the world,” replied Mia.

She looked back to the mirror and raised her hand up and held it to her chest, holding it close to the spot where she had been hit. Even though her fingers were gentle, she could still feel the bruising on her torso starting to ache.

Slowly, Mia took in a breath. “Feels like getting hit by a goddamn bus…”

It was insane for Mia to think that the thin line between her life and her death was cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technology not even accessible to the general public. Usually, it was either her instincts or guts that saved her life, not a bunch of titanium-dipped tri-weave fibres.

It was in good taste for her to upgrade her uniform, seeing as certain incidents in her heroic career reminded her that while arrows were effective, so were bullets, and there were a lot of bullets in this world.

Now if only one day, there was bulletproof material that could make getting shot feel less like getting struck in the chest with a baseball bat.

“Be honest with me,” Mia started, lowering her hand. She was now facing Rose completely. “Am I dead weight to you guys?”

Rose leaned her head to the side in a sharp, sudden motion. “What do you mean?”

“If you knew I’d go down after one hit, then would you guys have brought me along in the first place?”

“You’re asking the wrong person, Dearden,” Rose admitted. Her voice sounded both nonchalant and blunt. “If my precog actually worked on my command, then you’d have your answer by now.”

“I’m serious, Rose,” Mia said firmly, having sensed some unnecessary playfulness in Rose’s tone. “I’m supposed to be a Titan, not a liability.”

“If that’s how you feel, then why’d you come along?” Rose brought up. “Are things really that boring in Seattle that you had to drag your sorry ass all the way over here for some action?”

There was a beat. Neither Rose nor Mia said a thing. Throughout the silence, their gazes were locked.

Mia couldn’t think of a thing to say. She felt as if she had been caught doing she shouldn’t have. Her head was starting to hurt again, in addition to the initial pain she had been battling for the last few days.

Rose had her arms crossed. She glared daggers at Mia, waiting rather patiently for the answer to her question.

“It’s nice to feel useful sometimes,” Mia eventually decided to say.

“If you weren’t useful, then I don’t think any of us would’ve called you at all,” Rose replied as quickly and bluntly as she could. “Y’know, considering the fact that there’s a damn graveyard on the ground floor of this tower, we don’t really take in people who can’t handle a fight… anymore. Just think about that the next time you decide to throw yourself a little pity party.”

Mia had known Rose long enough to know that she did not mince her words. Sometimes what Rose said would hurt, her statements had a tendency for being prickly and callous. But she rooted every thought in honesty, making them as blunt and unfiltered as they could be.

For a few seconds, Mia let Rose’s words resonate in her head. Truth be told, it had been the least painful thing she had experienced in a while.

Eventually, Rose took a few steps towards and door, but then stopped halfway there. “So… are you just gonna brood in here for the next few hours or what?”

Mia shrugged. She wanted to think about something else for a while. “I dunno. What do you guys usually do on Thursday nights?”

“Gar and Kiran are gonna watch a movie,” Rose stated. “It’s one of those black and white ones. It’s got Cary Grant and this Russell lady or something?”

“His Girl Friday?” guessed Mia.

Rose nodded. “Yeah, that.”

“Yeah, sure, I could dig it,” Mia agreed. She figured that in terms of coping with her current life predicaments, watching an old movie could be one of the healthiest ways to deal.

She walked to the door and exited the training room with Rose. The two walked down the hallway like teammates would.

“Did you know that Cary Grant is second greatest male film star?” Mia brought up, the tone of her voice getting just a little less dreary.

Rose shook her head. “And who’s the first?”

“Humphrey Bogart.”

Rose raised an eyebrow in confusion. “You serious? Why? Humphrey Bogart is ugly as fuck.”

Mia sighed, rolling her eyes as a small smile crept on her face. It was the first time she had smiled in days.

“I love how you keep things classy, Rose.”