To The Sea
The shoes that Arkham Asylum provided their inmates with were surprisingly good running shoes. The Joker laughed once in gratitude with a panting breath as he glanced down at the pair helping his feet propel themselves along the rocky shore of southern Gotham. The institute's sirens blared behind him, and his loyal girlfriend had to really shout to be heard over the wails of the cops' cars parked behind the chain link fence of the asylum's perimeter. "Where the hell are we going!?!?!"
With a small slip in his step, he laughed over his shoulder at her agile body following his lead. "To the sea!!!" Although his answer confused her, she was satisfied to know that he at least had an idea of a destination. When she broke him out of Arkham fifteen minutes ago, she was ready to pull him back out to the masked car she brought and parked in the parking lot. He turned out to be the one who pulled her, only in the opposite direction. The spotlights from the roof of Arkham were locked onto them, keeping the police officers right on their ass, but also lighting up the area around them which aided their sight of the treacherous terrain in the dark of the night. The black fringes of the ocean lapped at the sharp rocks ahead of them, making Harley's stomach twirl. She had a hidden fear of water.
By the appearance of Joker's sudden side to side glances, it looked as if he was looking both ways before crossing the street, in this case, heading right into the ocean. Harley feared that was exactly what he was planning on doing. Much to her relief, he banked left and led the way along the water's edge, police officers still flashing their flashlights and roaring at them from only fifty feet behind. She followed him closely, staying in sync with his frantic footsteps.
Here, the rocks were covered in moss. They were forced to run slower if they wished to stay on their feet. A slip up at this point could mean a broken nose or a scraped knee. A nice clean blood trail for the cops to easily follow. Despite knowing that fact, Joker refused to slow down, simultaneously forcing Harley to keep up the dangerous pace as well. The clown prince of crime wished to gain some ground while the cops were held at the same disadvantage of poor footing. It was a risky gamble. Too risky.
His right shoe slipped on a slimy stretch of moss and slid in a crevice between two medium sized boulders. Barely catching himself before breaking his face on the stalagmite stone, he collapsed and twisted his ankle further into the aperture. Harley instinctively dropped as well, seeing immediately what he'd done to himself. In a second, she shoved all her weight into her shoulder and pushed the rock up enough for him to scramble free. He was back on his feet before he had time to regain the breath that was knocked out of him.
Within the next few strides, he found himself beginning to limp as the pain of his injury grew to overpower the subduing adrenaline. Luckily they weren't in a position to have a foot race with the cops anymore. At this point the brush had grown out over the rocks, as if it was slowly reaching for the polluted ocean water. With a few more careful paces, they were concealed in the scraggly foliage.
Harley put her arm to his back and brought herself closer to Joker to support him, but was rejected as he stumbled further, looking around and cautiously raising himself upward to look over the brush. They stayed quiet, knowing their shaky footsteps would be loud enough for the cops to follow. The water was higher over here, covering their shoes and hiding more slippery rocks. Taller reeds began to sprout as the shore stretched further into the ocean, sloping a bit deeper with every step. Harley desired to stay on stable ground, but even if Joker wanted the same thing, it would be impossible with how thick the shrubbery was becoming. Soon they'd be forced in the shallows of the water.
The bushes shook as the cops beat a path behind them. Flashlights darted in the air, half searching, half flailed by the wavering balance of their owners. "Are you okay?" Harley whispered under her breath, staying close to her mate as they continued creeping along. He ignored her out of hot embarrassment regarding his fall. The strained pain in his leg was hindering, but not a catastrophic inconvenience. The water slowly rose to their knees as slimy plants investigated their legs traveling underwater. The buzz of faded radios mildly gave away the location of their pursuers, telling the clowns that they were steadily gaining distance.
"There it is!" Joker snarled under his breath as he surged through the tangling foliage to wade into waist-deep water, frequently slipping and slightly flailing his arms to balance as he went. Harley reluctantly followed, tentative with the lapping water around her. The cops' flashlights ran through the undergrowth around them, searching hungrily. They were relentless in their desperate chase. "Joker..." Harley warned fearfully, her eyes wide at the cold black liquid inspecting her stomach.
She jumped in startlement as she caught sight of something big floating on the water in front of her prince. Although the water made it have an animal-like bobbing movement, its aerodynamic shape gave away its true identity of a machine. "What is that?" She whispered in astonishment as he grabbed hold of it and pulled it out of the reeds. "A waverunner. Like a snowmobile on water. Watermobile." He muttered half heartedly, glancing back as the flashlights slowly multiplied. The cops had discovered and were following the clowns' exact trail through the brush now, their voices raising.
The machine was beautifully crafted, but still daunting. Every wave of the water sent it tilting back and forth. The handles were stout but strong, the conjoined seats were stiff and smooth, and the framing around the bottom of the watercraft was widely brimmed and sleek in design. "You gonna get over here and help me Harl!?" Joker hissed, staying on his good foot underneath the water. She crept over to him as the water level rose to the level just below their chest and helped him situate the machine. "Where'd--" She began to ask quietly, still astonished.
"I put it here a few days ago." He answered, proud of his preparation. Grabbing onto the plastic handles on the side of the back seat, he hauled himself on board, the weight making the waverunner shift and wobble even more. Harley flinched as some water was splashed in her face, uncomfortable as they drifted further away from the shore. The silhouettes of the officers could be seen through Arkham's scanning spotlight. The clowns would be visible to them in seconds. After seating himself at driver's position, Joker turned to see Harley still shivering in the water. "Get on!"
"Joker I'm scared." She whispered, unable to hold in her fear any longer as she looked up at him with budding tears in her eyes. He was the only other person besides her parents that she'd ever confessed her fear of drowning to. His sympathies weren't aroused. "You wanna get left behind!?" He snarled as he threateningly put his hand on the awaiting key. At that moment, the spotlight engulfed them and the cops shouted in surprise at them from the bushes behind. Harley threw herself up on the waverunner as her boyfriend twisted the key and started the engine with an escalating pur. Harley yelped as she scrambled on her seat to cling onto Joker's back as he pulled his fist closed over the gas clutch and ordered the machine forward.
Scrambling to her seat, she latched onto his orange shirt as the waverunner reared and rumbled with immense horse power. She buried her face in between his shoulder blades and cried, taking advantage of the noise around her to hide her sobs. Ignoring her grip around his ribs, Joker threw a mocking laugh back at the astounded cops and sped away through the water. The waves heading inland were moderately big, posing a delaying obstacle for his desired speed. Nonetheless, the waverunner pushed through them, dipping up and down like a slow motion-- but not necessarily smooth-- mechanical bull, until they were clear of the island's wake.
With another glance back to see the cops retreating frantically back to their cars and the spotlight on Arkham trying it's best not to lose track of the clowns on the ocean, Joker laughed again and surged forward, taking the speedometer as high as it could go. The ocean was aggressive, always keeping a steady roll of waves headed from them. The waverunner teetered and tottered, sometimes breaking past a wave with a triumphant jerk, other times losing its momentum with a hard halt. There was rarely a moment of bliss skimming, which was what the watercraft was designed for. Joker enjoyed every moment of the struggle.
With the skyline of Gotham on the horizon behind them and no sign of the cops or Batman anywhere in sight, he decided to take a small rest and deal with the pitiful cowering woman on his back. Killing the engine, he sighed and ran his hands through his wind-blown hair. 'Wasn't that fun?" He laughed.
Harley stayed buried in his back, shaking and convulsing with quiet sobs. The waves continued to rock the watercraft in a gentle roll as it floated like a bobbing apple in the middle of a warped black desert. After taking a second to smirk to himself at her paralyzing fear, he softened his excitement down to her solemn level. "Hey... You're alright. Mmkay?" He overlapped her arms with his own and craned his head back to focus on her over his shoulder.
She sniffled and peeked through her watering eyes to gaze down at the black water around them. "Talk to me. What's wrong?" He whispered in the dark. She let her spiteful emotions come out and remained hugging him like a reluctant child who hated him but needed him. "You know how much I hate water."
"You don't hate water, you hate the thought of drowning in water." He corrected. She hissed through a sob in return, "We're in the middle, of the ocean!!!" Every roll of the waves below made her stomach do somersaults. He humored her anger by keeping up a little argument. "No we're not. The city is right over there!" Joker pointed with one arm at the twinkling skyscrapers on the horizon.
Harley saw it with exasperation. "Thats too far!! If this thing breaks or runs out of gas, we're never going to be able to swim back there!!!" Seeing exactly how far he'd taken them away from safety was the last straw for her. Her pounding heart was crushed with overwhelming fear, her comforting hopes and thoughts of being on stable dirt again were proven never to be a reality. They were in the middle of the ocean without lifejackets or any means of staying afloat besides this foreign machine that could break down any minute.
"Harl, it's not going to break! It has a full tank!" He growled, trying to reason with the overreacting girl. She burrowed into his back again and wished she'd never jumped on this ride to hell. "Just take us home. Please." She hyperventilated, breathing in the smell of seawater mixed with his sweat through his orange uniform as if it was the best aromatherapy she could ever receive.
With a condescending sigh, he left the machine off. "Harley..." She quivered in his back, secretly clinging to all the comfort she could find in the sound of his voice. "Harley, I want you to have fun on this thing." She didn't respond. "...Do you want to drive it?" He offered her some control of the situation. With a few more attempts at convincing her to take the offer, she agreed with a small nod. She figured if she allowed him to keep driving, he'd take them further and further out to sea. After carefully switching seats, he showed her how to work the machine with one arm around her waist, tightly keeping her shivering body in the safe curve of his huddle.
Calmed by his secure hold and gentle words, she took a deep breath and turned the key, wanting to get back to Gotham as soon as she could. With a few tentative squeezes on the gas clutch, the waverunner jerked forward, the rough movement supported by the impatient waves. "I can't do it. I can't!" She whimpered in fear, her shaking hands frozen idly on the handlebars.
"It's going to be bumpy, but it's not going to tip over Harl." He kept his head close to hers and checked on the city's skyline again. With all of the lighted windows twinkling in the distance, the identifying lights of a helicopter could be easily disguised. Surely there was one out looking for them now, spotlight turned off until it flew far enough out to sea.
"It IS going to tip, I just know it!!" She sobbed. Sick of her whimpers, he gripped his fingers into her stomach. "Harley, if it does tip, it will still float!! This thing can't sink!! Alright!?" She sniffled and tried not to let the image strike more fear into her. He let out a frustrated snarl in her ear. "I won't let you drown!"
Her breath hiccupped as she closed her eyes and let her last tears fall as he repeated softer, "I will NOT let you drown. I promise." With a gentle nuzzle of his nose in her neck, he wrapped both his arms securely around her chest. With his comfort, she was convinced. He was a man of his word, always had been, always will be. She knew that more than anyone.
The movement of the rocking waves no longer made her stomach churn. With a few synched breaths of their adjacent lungs, Harley found the sea to be rather relaxing. The black water conjoined with the black sky which previously seemed to be hell bent on swallowing her up was now appearing to be a cushion of solitude, an atmosphere all their own to share and enjoy. A dark world with him to guide her through, dangerous and cold and lonely, but survivable. because of his company. The city in the distance no longer seemed to be twinkling a farewell. Now it seemed to be twinkling irritatedly, jealous of the clowns' freedom. The machine under her wasn't a hearse, it was a horse. Holding speed and power, ferocity and mischief. Excitement and fun.
Harley turned the key again and let her emotions restart along with the motor. Joker simply smirked at his ability to manipulate her feelings so easily, adjusting himself and letting her go from his hold. She let the waverunner jerk forward with another tentative squeeze on the gas, bearing through the shaky movement. Slowly, she accelerated and overpowered the waves, watching the bowed nose of the waverunner part the water like it was designed to do. She found that the jerky surging wasn't all that treacherous.
Before long she found herself biting her lip in eagerness, accepting the watery challenge to go faster and faster. With another discreet check on the skyline, Joker relaxed and encouraged her to accelerate further. Before long, she had the feeling of laughter in her lungs. She carved through the water and grew bolder every second, clutching the gas and allowing her her arms to steer the inobedient handlebars with a daring grip.
"Alright!" She laughed as Joker gloated silently behind her. "It isn't that bad!" With a giggle over her shoulder, she rose up a little to ride the machine with more dexterity. He resisted the urge to say that he told her so and jealously waited for her turn to end.
Although she knew that she wouldn't get another turn after she handed it back to Joker, she wasn't one to selfishly hog a toy. After a few more circles and doughnuts through the unsettled water, she killed the engine. Harley giggled and swept her tangled golden hair out of her face with a triumphant sigh. "That was badass!"
"You drive like my grandma." Joker muttered acrimoniously as he exchanged seats with her, disagreeing with her self evaluation of a daredevil. Harley laughed like the good sport she was and clutched his shoulders in anticipation after settling down. "Your grandma must have been a badass."
He smirked and sped off, taking a sharp turn right to follow the distant shoreline north. Right now he primarily wanted to get a bit of distance from the shores of Arkham where they escaped from. That will be the first place a searching helicopter flies to, if there even is one out here. He had a feeling there was, but so far none had revealed itself.
Harley kept her hands lightly on his orange shoulders, yelling and screaming in delight at each jump over the waves. She even called to him to go faster at one point, surprising the hell out of him. Half an hour ago, she was scared shitless. He accepted the challenge, though, and soon found himself whirling around in sharp, wide turns, attempting to throw her off the back of the waverunner. Her arms became wound around him and her laughter warmed his back. as she held on, enjoying every jarring minute of the hellish ride. He swerved a few doughnuts and kept his balance after each humongous wave passed below them. His driving grew bolder and bolder. But still, Harley never protested.
The machine bucked and bobbed, skipped and skimmed, repeatedly almost tipped and hardly ever stayed level. He threw a sharp right after working the MPH gauge up to its maximum, attempting to swing the rear of the vehicle in a satisfyingly wave-sweeping motion. By fault of a stealthy dark wave rolling into position directly next to them, along with the clown prince's reckless driving, the waverunner tipped. The combination of the wave and the ridiculously sharp turn sent the watercraft in a toppling side roll. With an off-guard squeak from Harley, and a small laughing "Shit!" from Joker, they submerged.
Her hands immediately went to her face, attempting to pinch her nose closed even when she knew she was already underwater. The sensation of a flooded nose sent all of her fears swarming back to her. Her lungs were seized in uncomfortable shock as her ventilation was blocked and her airflow was barricaded. She thrashed and felt her feet kick off from the overturned seat of the waverunner, pushing her deeper underwater. In panic, she struggled to swim with one arm and a pair of shocked legs, unconscious of direction.
The water was as sharp as ice, providing another deathly shock to her nerves. With water already inside of her, she abandoned the pointless effort to plug her nose and swam with all her limbs as she felt the shrouding waves tug at her soaked clothes. Which way were they pulling her? Down? Up? She had no way of knowing, but she did know they were pulling her in some undesired direction. In her swimming she tried to feel for the waverunner, for Joker, anything besides transparent water. Something to get a grip on. She felt nothing.
And then she felt the frostbitten air on her forehead. She coughed through her plastered hair and splashed viciously at the water, still trying to swim up. Having only her head above water still wasn't enough. She might as well be hanging on a cliff with one finger. She still wasn't safe.
She coughed and gagged too much to attempt to say his name. The waves were still tremulous above water, and after a few heavy blows, she was convinced they'd permanently push her back down, never to return. She managed to get her hair out of her face, struggling to float on her back with all of the shock and fear running through her.
"Harley!" He projected his strong, angry voice. She could barely keep her eyes open for a full second without having them veiled over by water. She squirmed in the churning liquid and twisted around until she could see the concrete shape of the waverunner's belly in the watery hills and valleys. With his green hair darkened to a brown by the water, the remains of his colored face-paint washed clean away, and his bright orange body submerged underneath the black ocean, he was almost impossible to spot. He was holding onto the side of the upturned watercraft, snarling at her though his bubbling fear of losing her. "Harley! Get over here!"
Like it's my fault!? She bitterly thought in response to his hiss, paddling as best she could in his direction. He was having difficulty keeping himself above water as well, frequently coughing and shaking water from his dripping hair. With the boost of another wave, Joker hauled himself up on the belly of the waverunner, grabbing the edge of the other side and pulling back as hard as he could. The machine slowly tilted with him and bobbed upright with his pull.
Seeing the watercraft floating normally again calmed her slightly. With uncontrollable shivers, she thrashed her way in his direction, attempting to hold what little breath she had whenever a wave crashed over her. He turned and gazed in her direction with a confused expression. She ignored the odd look he was giving her and focused on swimming. "We've got company Harl!!!" He yelled, taking his gaze off of a point behind her and scrambling up on the slippery machine.
Her heart leapt in her throat as she craned her head around to see a few bright lights on the ocean water in the distance. They weren't city lights. They were bobbing up and down, growling and purring with the power of an inner engine. Still coughing up water, she tried her best to swim faster to Joker. The waves were against her, and it seemed like she wasn't moving at all. With a low hum and quiet crashing of beaten waves, the approaching lights behind her identified themselves as other waverunners. "HURRY UP!!" Joker yelled as he held the handlebars and fingered the key, eager to leave before being spotted.
She gasped, unable to shout back through the choking water in her airways and the restraining fear in her gut. I'm coming! Please don't leave me! She begged even though she knew her chances of being plucked up from the water were threateningly slim. His fingers twisted the key and sent the engine purring to life. "J-oker!!" She coughed as a temperamental wave forced her under again. With her lungs still flooding, she found it almost impossible to get her head above water again.