She hadn’t been sticking her dismounts she realized. She’d gotten lax in the past few years. With no judges to impress it all added up to not falling off the building rather than not taking an extra step. And Bats didn’t know the difference. Mistah J certainly didn’t, all he cared about was if she could pack a good punch or not mid-flip.
And somehow... competing against oneself just wasn’t as exhilarating. Plus, she’d always loved an audience.
Thus, Harley was more out of practice than she’d thought when she’d stepped up to the balance beam at Gotham’s gym at half past one am. Sure her tricks had gotten more difficult in recent years, (they’d had to take a step up in order for her to survive), but she’d stopped paying attention to the finer details.
The rosin basin was still set up, but closed. Would she even need it with her gloves on? She opened it, and the sound of it clicking open resonated through the whole empty gym and surrounding stadium seats.
“Harleen come on, you won’t get hurt!” her mother pleaded.
“I will! I will!”
“Quinzell if you don’t get up here now and run as fast as you can, I’m going to have one of the boys chase you!”
She smiled as she remembered her first time on the vault and a boy only a year older than herself at five chasing her across the room before she leaped powerfully, flipped, and stuck her landing on the first try.
Her first boyfriend.
The white rosin powder looked funny on her red and black gloves, like she’d stuck her hand into confectioners sugar. She remembered that strings players put rosin on their bows to help keep their music smooth.
She used to think of herself as something of a musician from the way she glided through the air, her movements singing. Now she just thought of herself as being owned but that was wonderful too in its own strange way, like she’d been picked out as something special and shiny and wonderful.
She smiled wider and jumped onto the lowest of the uneven bars, swinging gracefully, falling into an old routine.
Closing her eyes, because it was so familiar, the roar of the crowd engulfed her, a blanket of affection. The feeling of a thousand eyes upon her, three pairs in particular writing comments: Incredible! ... A perfect ten! ... A triumph! Oh how she loved to please.
And it was the only thing that ever pleased her mother. Her mother, the poised, beautiful, Olympian of yesteryears... How she wanted just one daughter to follow in her footsteps.
Harley gasped. Her hands left the bar only to grasp the higher one, her legs coming up above her as she twirled in a handstand holding it... one one-thousand, two- and swinging into a magnificent triple flip.
”Unbelievable! Her coaches said she wasn’t going to attempt it but she just performed that flawlessly! She’s got a record breaking score for that one!”
With a final mighty swing, Harley dismounted. Four spins, four somersaults, she broke her own record and- her feet hit the ground. Time slowed as it always had for her on the landings. Her legs ached with the effort but she stuck to the ground with out a single extra step or hop. She glowed with pride.
Adrenaline rushed through her as she raised her arms, turned, and raised her arms again, thanking her imaginary judges.
And then she turned toward the balance beam.
Harley ran into their lair, grabbing a bag and rapidly shoving some necessities into it. She was going, that was all there was to it.
There were some coaches down in Beijing that owed her a favor or two, she was sure she could get added as an alternate. There was some rule they could twist, there always was. From there, she was just a few heinous acts away from the US’s front runners getting sick and having her substitute.
She looked up into her beloved puddin’s face, delighted by some new spontaneous idea.
“Come!” he said and snapped his fingers at her and she followed with an excited squeal.
To be honest, she wasn’t exactly sure what her puddin had in mind for tonight. All she knew was that she was to wait for The Bat and hold him off as long as possible. Harley examined her nails before sliding her glove back on, smudges of white still impressed into the fabric.
A rustle made her head shoot up. As a black hand made a grab for her collar, she leapt into action, taking more time than usual to add finesse into her movements. With one hand she pushed off of Batman’s head and somersaulted onto an awning of the building she’d been waiting by.
She followed instructions and made it appear as though she were running from him, not leading him. Even still she couldn’t resist showing off her newly refreshed moves. A pole stuck out horizontally from the building to hang a flag and she grabbed onto it with both hands and swinging herself around it three hundred and sixty degrees. She released her hold and flew, flipping and spinning the entire way, to a ledge higher up on the building. She stuck the landing.
Down below Batman used his magic tricks, safely stored within his belt, to follow her to the top of the building. One thought was on his mind: follow the girl, find the clown.
Harley took the time to cartwheel and back flip across the ledge. It was narrower than a real balance beam. One misstep and she would surely plummet to her death. Laughing, she jumped up clutching the top of the building with one hand, expecting to pull herself up. She was surprised to find another larger hand grasp hers and hoist her up.
Joker didn’t look at her but rather down at the Bat, giggling madly. Still, he’d thought to help her up. Harley swooned.
Batman reached them seconds later and came forward menacingly. Joker pushed a button in his jacket and the William Tell Overture blasted from unseen speakers on top of the building. The night sky lit up with buildings exploding off in the distance and Joker finally let forth an unrestrained horrifically joyous laugh.
Batman lunged at him but Joker, with one arm firmly around Harley’s waste, leapt off the roof. The Bat was left to decide between chasing the clown or saving lives. Growling, he turned toward the flames.
“Pooh,” her puddin’ said later that evening back at home, “What’s that suitcase out for?”
“That?” Harley said, looking at it warily, “I thought I’d left something in it from the last time we went to Metropolis.”
“Mmm,” he murmured, ignored her explanation, and kissed the top of her head, “You made Daddy proud tonight.”
Harley snuggled into him. Who needed China? This was so much better than a gold medal.
Well, she doesn't actually go to China. That'd be a bit odd.
Chapter End Notes:
What can I do better?