"You know the competition is starting on the other side of the pool," Dinah says with a touch of amusement in her voice.
"Hmm, hmm." Harley, obstinate to such gentle attempts at re-routing her attention, continues peering through her opera glasses. She brought them along hoping to catch something juicy in their sights.
They didn't disappoint. At the far corner of the pool, by his cubicle, the cute lifeguard Harley has taken a fancy to is chatting with an almost-but-not-quite-as-cute colleague.
"Why's he always zipped up to his chin?" she muses out loud and rest her chin on her hand. It's such a damn shame. He's gotta be ripped underneath that lifeguard jacket what with all the training that goes into the saving lives business, and why would be hide that?
"So you can have fun unzipping him in your mind?"
Okay, so maybe he doesn't want people like her to get into accidents because they can't take their eyes off of him. Though Harley would be taking accidents in stride if it led to him saving her. CPR is the closest thing she'd ever get to kissing him and she'd be okay with that.
"What do you think I'm doing?" In truth, her mind's long progressed from that. But Dinah doesn't need to know that. She already thinks the worst of Harley.
"You might want to wipe that drool away," Dinah suggests.
Harley starts and dabs at the edge of her mouth with a finger. In her peripheral vision, she notices Dinah offering her a handkerchief. "I don't really need that, do I?"
"No," Dinah says and folds it away, "but it added to the moment."
Harley sighs and continues fanning herself. It's barely ten o'clock and already blazing as hell. "How can any one person be this attractive? It's just not fair."
Harley rummages in the cooler they brought for something spritzy to drink. It's full of sandwiches and healthy snacks that Dinah packed and the children are certainly not going to eat.
"Says the woman who has suitors lining up around the block," Dinah teases.
"But he's not in it, that's the thing. He could cut the line anytime." Harley opens to bottle and holds it to her temple before taking a sip.
"Mom! Mom!" her cherubic child interrupts Harley's lamentation, waving to her from the pool. "Did you see that, did you see? It was so awesome."
Harley blinks. Some of the seats around her are empty, the parents formerly occupying them now by the water's edge to congratulate their children. Huh, so that already happened.
Dinah shoots her a look that says, I tried to tell you. So no sympathy there. Harley shrugs, throws her opera glasses into her bag, and walks over to Lucy, beaming like any proud mom would.
"You did wonderful, sweetie!"
Lucy's swimming competition was the whole reason Harley had dragged herself out of bed at six in the morning to be on time for warm-ups and now Harley hadn't even watched her daughter swim. Why did she have to pick a sport that was over if you didn't pay attention for like three seconds?
Harley inconspicuously peers over at Cute Lifeguard, who's still chatting with his colleague, but his attention is divided, much like Harley's is. He's keeping an eye on the folks surrounding the pool, Harley knows, but with a little imagination it's like he's looking right at her.
Ah, wishful thinking is such a fun occupation, Harley could do it all day. Except, she has a kid to congratulate.
"Mommy's so proud of you, angel."
Her little one doesn't look so angelic anymore. She's glaring off into the direction Harley has been making eyes at. When she turns back, she's pouting.
Oh no, could she be onto Harley?
She could. Drats. "What's wrong, honey?" Harley lilts in her most dulcet tones as she crouches down in front of her daughter – knees together of course, for modesty's sake. No slouching allowed today. She has impressions to make. And well, roles to fulfill as a parent. "You've been so chipper just now."
"You didn't even watch me!"
As if she didn't see enough of it at other times. "What do you mean, honey? You were wonderful." Before Lucy can accuse her some more, Harley adds: "Come now, don't let the other kids wait for their turn."
Her little rascal likes staying in the water until the very last minute and getting her out of it used to be a nightmare before they got a pool of their own. If Harley didn't know any better, she'd wonder if some Aquaman had fathered Lucy.
"Pull me up," her daughter says and extends her arm toward her.
Seeing as Lucy must be powered out now after the competition, Harley allows it and takes her hand. She's still light enough for Harley to be able to pull her at least halfway.
But it doesn't come to that.
The moment their palms touch, Lucy's face lights up with mischief. The next, Harley feels a tug and loses her balance. She splashes face first into the water.
Yup, there's no mistaking who her father was.
This is a bother, Harley thinks as chlorinated water gets into her nose. Now her makeup is ruined for sure. Not to mention her clothes. This was her favorite skirt, it accentuated her tush quite nicely.
In her shock, it takes Harley a moment to figure out which way is up and which is down – her eyes are squeezed shut against the sting, but once she hits the tile bottom, pushing herself the other way was easy. She is just about the break the surface, when something snags her around the middle and drags her upwards and away.
Until now, she hadn't noticed anything but her own movements in the water, but now she feels strong kicks pushing the water away beneath her.
Once she's on solid ground again, Harley coughs up half the Mediterranean, which is surprising, given that they are nowhere near it.
"Ma'am, are you okay?" someone asks her through the liquid cotton in her ears.
Harley has suffered a lot of things in her day, but she won't suffer anyone calling her "ma'am". Here she'd just internally celebrated the fact that she wouldn't need to sprout gills to be able to breathe again, and he'd have to go and tick her off like that.
There's a hand on her shoulder and she has half a mind to tell its owner to shove it, she could have handled herself just fine, thank you very much.
She will forever thank her lucky stars that she was unable to run her mouth that moment. Because had she done so, she would have realized the next that the person kneeling beside her is the lifeguard she'd been ogling. Had she actually said what had been on her mind just then, she'd have had to jump right back into the water to let it finish the job of drowning her.
"Oh," is all she manages, because he's as fine under that jacket as she thought he'd be.
She holds up a hand to silence him. And promptly evacuates some more water onto the ground. That was classy. At least she didn't spit it right into his face. Thank God for small mercies.
Harley has never been a religious person, but she might as well start being one now.
"I'm all right," she says and silently sends out praises to the universe for being close enough to touch his glistening abs.
He motions at the bystanders that no more assistance is needed and slowly helps her sit upright. Lucy has fled the crime scene to seek shelter at Dinah's side. Her arms are crossed and her tongue is sticking out.
That little— She'd planned all of it. She wanted to embarrass Harley in front of this gorgeous hunk of a man out of revenge. Gee, give it a rest already, kiddo. There are worse crimes than not paying attention for once.
But here's something she should have considered: two can play that game, little missy.
"Thank you," Harley clears her throat to sound more like a damsel in distress. She's found men react well to that. "Thank you for rescuing me."
"Just doing my job," he says with the biggest smile she's ever seen on someone who isn't her daughter. It's ten times more adorable on him, though. Never let it be said that Harley has a bias towards her child.
The trouble is, if he continues to smile at her like that, her brain is going to melt and she'll forget all about her cunning plan of getting back at her daughter and scoring a goal for herself in the process.
"No, no, I mean it," she presses on. It's not easy to convince someone when you possess all the charm of a drowned rat, but it's worth a try. "I'd very much like to invite you to dinner or something. You know, as thanks."
"Really, that's not necessary."
He's even cute when he's hedging.
"Please say yes. It would mean so much to my daughter. You're her hero now." She wraps her hands around his with as much earnestness as she can muster. "We could go to your favorite restaurant. Or try a new one, your pick."
"I don't think that's appropriate."
"I'd offer to cook, but I want to thank you, not poison you."
Harley counts it a win that he laughs at that. "As I said, it's okay. I really don't need—"
"I insist. It may be just a job to you, but this is my life we're talking about. If not for you, my daughter would be an orphan right now." Here, Harley sighs and clutches her heart for dramatic effect. It's not entirely true what she said. Lucy's father is still alive and rotting in a cell somewhere, but since he never bothered to pay alimony anyway, he's dead to Harley, so technically it counts.
"All right, all right. I'll make an exception," he finally gives in. "But just for the record, if I went to dinner with everyone I rescued, I wouldn't be able to do my job anymore. Too many extra pounds."
"Humor, I like that." More than like, she's absolutely weak for that. It's what attracted her to Lucy's father in the first place.
That thought is ringing some alarm bells, but Harley ignores them, just as she always does. Maybe this time will be different because she's been attracted to him for his looks first. A girl can hope.
"Can I ask your name?" she asks.
Harley chokes on a giggle. "Seriously?"
"Yeah, seriously," he says with a long-suffering smile, as if he had already anticipated her reaction. "And don't even bother. I've heard any variation of jokes out there."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to poke fun." Rather, she's been trying very hard not to think of what's inside his trunks. "I'm Harley. Pleased to meet you. Though I would have preferred different circumstances."
"It could have been worse," he says and helps her up. "I'm sorry, let me get you a towel."
"No need. I have enough towels for a whole armada with me. Kids these days dry each toe with a different one. Right before they jump back into the water, you know."
He smiles and once again Harley feels a little light-headed.
"What you could get me, however, is your number. So we can finalize our dinner plans – or lunch plans, if you'd prefer – once you're off work."
"I'll see what I can scrounge up."
Harley walks back to her seat as if in a trance. Around her, the shock of her near-emergency has ebbed away and been replaced with the buzz of excitement they've all come here for. The children who have already been up are now playing together on the nearby lawn or crowding around the snack stand.
"That went well," Dinah says and hands Harley a towel.
"If you're talking about the failed assassination attempt on my person as executed by my own daughter, then yeah, it did." Absently, Harley watches Dick banter with his colleague from inside the cubible, where he must be looking for something to write. At least. she hopes so.
"So-called assassination attempt got you to flirting with the lifeguard you like so much."
"Oh, it got me so much more than that." Once her hair is dry enough, Harley checks her makeup. It's not as bad as she expected, just a little black around the eyes. She looks worse when she tears up during engaging movies.
"Now I'm curious."
Dick's colleague gives him a good-natured elbow to the side when he exits the cubicle.
Harley pretends to be watching the children as Dick approaches. He's thrown on his jacket again, but at least it's not zipped up this time. Lucy looks up from her game of Uno with Connor and some other kids. Harley cups her hand to her mouth so Dick won't see, and sticks her tongue out at her daughter. Guess your plan didn't work out the way you thought, sweetie.
Dinah, bless her, starts puttering about and giving off the impression of not listening.
"I'm glad you decided to take me up on my offer," Harley says and walks a few paces towards Dick.
"Couldn't pass up the chance of a free meal," he says and holds out a card between the knuckles of his middle and forefinger.
"I'm more than happy to provide. Man like you needs his protein to be able to do his job right." Harley has to keep herself from reaching out and squeezing his biceps when she takes the card. It's the name and address of the swimming pool. He's scribbled his number on the back. "So when should I call you?"
"I'm getting off in a few hours, but I'm guessing you have kids to keep entertained for the rest of the day. How about tonight, around six or seven-ish?"
"Six sounds good." Harley cringes inwardly at the unintended double-entendre and hopes he didn't notice. (Or if he did, that he'd agree. Ahem.)
"Anyway, gotta get back to work. More lives to save," Dick says with a quirk to his lips and turns around. "Talk to you later."
"It's a date," Harley calls after him, a little hesitant, already feeling like she may have gone a step too far.
"Not yet, it isn't," Dick throws over his shoulder and grins.
"Look at you," Dinah says, impressed. Harley is proud of herself for coaxing that reaction out of her. "Scoring dates with hot young lifeguards."
"Still got it." Harley beams and stows away his card safely in her purse. After all the trouble she went through to get it, she doesn't want it to get wet or fly away or whatever. She better save his number in her phone right away.
From the lawn, Lucy is eying her suspiciously. Harley waves and blows her a kiss. She might just be her favorite child right now, but only because it was her own intervention that allowed Harley to one-up her. Better luck next time, kid.
Lucy stomps her foot and drags Connor over to the snack stand.
It clicks a moment too late that the twenty dollar bill in her fist is the one that's missing from her purse, but Harley's not going to address it now. In a way, Lucy has earned it, and Harley is not about to ruin her splendid mood anytime soon.
Parenting is overrated, anyway.