Features: Undertaker (Mark Calaway)
Rating: NC17 for language
Usual disclaimer - own nothing but my original characters, all the other people own themselves, WWE owns the trademark names, I'm doing this to exercise my creativity and for the sheer pleasure of writing. Ask my therapist!
As always, comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!
The following month, the crew and the talent were flying out for a ten day overseas tour. They took up most of a plane themselves, and on the long haul flight, a lot of them were up and down the plane, talking with other people. Harley was mostly content to stay in her seat, listening to the music channels on the in-flight entertainment menu while she waited for one of the movies to start.
She had a seat in business class because she was now considered part of the senior crew, although she would have been just as happy back in coach. Still, make the most of it while it was offered and all, she figured. Glenn Jacobs was sitting a few rows in front of her, and they'd chatted a little earlier. As she was heading back to her seat, Mark had been coming up the aisle.
She'd stepped aside to give him room to pass, but still found herself in rather close quarters with him as he did. It reminded her of that first day she'd met him, when he'd helped her out at ringside with Glenn. Giving him a quick smile, she'd ducked past him and gone back to her seat. Now, from where she sat, her head resting against the seat, she could see him up near where Glenn sat. He was sitting on the arm of a seat in the row in front, leaning over the seat back to talk.
Her eyes were drawn to his arms in the sleeveless shirt he invariably wore. He had some impressive looking tattoos there, she thought idly. She sipped her drink, not really thinking about anything in particular, when Christina Aguilera was suddenly in her ear. "He had tattoos up and down his arm, there's nothing more dangerous than a boy with charm."
She couldn't help her laughter at that, trying to muffle it with her hand. Amused, she listened to the rest of the lyrics while she watched Mark talking with Glenn.
(Sweet, sugar, candy man)
He's a one stop, gotcha hot, makin' all the panties drop
(Sweet, sugar, candy man)
He's a one stop, got me hot, makin' my *uh* pop
(Sweet, sugar, candy man)
He's a one stop, get it while it's hot, baby don't stop
From what she'd heard, and from the fans she'd seen, the Undertaker was definitely a favourite with the ladies, so that was sounding spot on.
He got those lips like sugar cane
Good things come for boys who wait
He's a one stop stop with a real big *uh*
He's a sweet talkin' sugar coated candy man
Her eyes lingered on his lips. Sweet? Probably not, he was too much of a man's man for that, but they did look rather . . . kissable. At the next line, her eyes dropped downwards almost involuntarily to his crotch, and she covered her face with her hand as she dissolved into helpless laughter. It wasn't really obvious in his blue jeans, but the man wore tights in the ring, and they certainly . . . highlighted his assets. So yes, "a one stop shop with a real big *uh*" indeed!
That was it. As Christina crooned, "Candy man" over and over, she lost it completely, laughing until tears ran down her cheeks. Every time she almost got herself under control, she would glance at Mark and the laughter would start again.
Heads began to turn as she continued to laugh, and Mark among others gave her a puzzled look. She took out her headphones and rose to her feet, still giggling helplessly, and headed for one of the restrooms. Which unfortunately meant moving past Mark again. She bit hard on her lips, trying to stop the laughter that bubbled up in her, edging past him, when a sudden dip in the plane's level flight pitched her against him. One big arm came out to steady her, and she caught sight of the tattoos up close. And couldn't help the giggle that escaped her.
As she righted herself, her eyes met Mark's, and he could have sworn she'd whispered "candy man" before she started giggling again and fled up the aisle. He looked at Glenn, raising an eyebrow.
"They start drink service early on this flight, or was she half-lit when she got on board?"
Glenn just shrugged, and they went back to their conversation.
That damned song haunted Harley the entire tour, even after she downloaded it to her iPod to try some desensitization therapy. Everytime she saw Mark, it was all she could think of, and she found herself giggling around him uncontrollably. Jeff had finally cornered her one afternoon to ask what was so funny, and she took out her iPod and shared the song with him. He'd looked at her with a shocked expression when she explained why she was associating it with Mark, and then he too had burst out laughing.
He got into the habit of sneaking up behind her while she was working and whispering "Candy man" in her ear, just to make her laugh. Which in turn made her whisper "Candy man" to him every time she saw Mark - which was surprisingly often during the tour, with everyone rather trapped together in their travel arrangements.
Mark for his part was getting downright twitchy around Harley - first it was the giggling. She wasn't drunk, and it wasn't nervous schoolgirl giggling, which he'd heard more than his fair share of when meeting fans. No, this was amusement, and it seemed to be at his expense. And what the hell was it with "candy man" anyway?
He'd asked Glenn if it meant anything to him. Glenn, with his fascination for horror films, had immediately thought of the slasher movie with the same title, and happily expounded the urban myth that one could summon the bad guy by looking in a mirror and saying "Candyman" five times. That could be it, Mark thought. Although he was damned if he knew why that was so funny.
By the time the crew and roster returned to the States, Harley had her "Candy man" obsession fairly well under control. It still made her grin every time she saw Mark, but that was better than the uncontrollable giggling.
Mark wasn't sure he liked the grinning any more than he had enjoyed the giggling. He wondered if the woman was deranged, frankly. However, he had to admit, she was a genius with pyrotechnics. The new rig that she'd got for his entrance was brilliant, and he'd actually enjoyed spending an hour with her while she tested it, showing him the various difference flame effects that it could produce. He was only too happy to leave her to rotate them randomly, so that they remained a surprise to the fans even though they were being used every week.
He was sitting in Bob's office, waiting for him to discuss a new entrance routine with the stage director, and he looked around idly. What he wasn't expecting was for Harley to arrive with both men, and he grit his teeth as she grinned at him. What the fuck was so damned funny?
"Hey Mark, you remember Harley, right?" Bob couldn't help a grin of his own. He knew damned well that Mark remembered her. It was always entertaining to watch the two of them spark off one another.
Harley perched on the edge of Bob's desk, waving a casual hand at him. "Hey, chief."
Mark resisted the urge to growl, and refused to meet Harley's eyes, but his gaze was caught by the name tag hanging around her neck. All the crew wore one, it was policy, and his eyebrows raised as he noticed for the first time the name printed there. He could feel a grin coming on.
"Sure I do, Bob. How you doing, Katherine?"
That got a reaction, to his delight. The grin faded and those blue gray eyes bored into his. "My name is Harley."
Mark chuckled. "Your name is Katherine. It says so right there." He pointed at her name tag.
Harley resisted the urge to stamp her foot. Damn the rules that refused to let her put her preferred name on her name tag! But she'd be damned if she let him get away with calling her that.
"I don't answer to Katherine."
Bob would have let them wrangle on, simply because he found it amusing, but the stage director was beginning to look antsy. So he forestalled any further discussion about names and got them talking about the new entrance.
Mark was bemused at how quickly she could go from being pissed at him to being a professional. Hell, she was even smiling as they talked about pyro effects and lighting, nodding when he came up with ideas, even being polite when she shot them down. She really did know her stuff, he had to admit.
Finally, they'd come to an agreement to put the new entrance into use in a month, and Harley nodded, getting off Bob's desk and leaving his office, her mind still working over the changes that would need to be made. Mark followed her out, thinking about heading over to Catering to grab some lunch. He wasn't really looking, so when she suddenly stopped and turned around, they collided in the middle of the hallway.
Stepping back from him, Harley rubbed her forehead, which had smacked into the centre of his chest. "Jeez chief, watch where you're going!"
"Like you were doing, Katherine?" His hand came up to his chest - her head was hard, damn it.
She looked up at him, gritting her teeth. "Don't call me that."
He grinned. "You're right. You don't look like a Katherine." He assumed a contemplative pose, one hand stroking his beard. "And you're definitely not a Kathie, or even a Katie. How about Kat?"
Harley wanted to growl - she hated every possible diminutive of her name, and here he was using them all. Bastard. "You're on thin ice, chief."
He laughed. "No, I didn't think so - not a Kat either. You're much more of a Kate, I think." He resisted the urge to remind her of Shakespeare's Kate and her shrewish ways - he figured that might put him in peril of his life, if her expression was anything to go by.
"I told you, chief, my name is Harley," she ground out.
His eyes met hers. "And mine is Mark, remember?"
Shit, he had her there. Her hands clenched into fists, something that didn't escape his notice. Oh yeah, now he knew what to call her.
"See you around, Kate," he chuckled, stepping around her and heading down the hallway to Catering, leaving her seething in his wake.
It didn't take Harley long to work out what would wipe that grin off his face. She'd had her iPod on one day when he'd passed her with a cheery "Hey Kate", and it was just after she'd heard Christina's crooning. She didn't even think about it, just grinned and murmured "Candy man", eyes raking over him from top to toe. And he'd bolted, just like that. She'd called after him, "Seeya, chief", chuckling to herself.
It quickly became a cold war - and a rather childish one at that. He called her Kate, she retorted with Candy man, which he had yet to discover the meaning of, and then they stalked away from one another. Sometimes, Mark wondered why it was exactly that they couldn't get along. It wasn't that she didn't know her stuff - incompetence was something he couldn't and wouldn't tolerate, in anyone. When they were talking about work, it was fine. But anything other than that, and it just fell apart.
Harley wasn't sure what to make of it herself - it wasn't like she had a problem with anyone else. Sure, there were people she didn't really warm to, but she could be civil to them at least. And yet, with Mark, she degenerated into this stupid schoolgirl behaviour. The hell of it was that they'd started out on the right foot - she remembered him helping her at the ring the first time they met. The thing about her bat utility belt had made her smile - at least he was of a similar vintage to know that, back in the day, and long before the movies, Batman really had carried batarangs and grappling hooks on his utility belt.
However, it had gone to shit right after that, and she had no idea how to make it right again, or at least to stop making it worse. She began to wonder if she hadn't made a mistake taking this job. If she couldn't get along with one of the leading performers, just how long was she going to last anyway?
She was taking a break one afternoon, sitting out on the loading dock with a cup of coffee, looking at the venue across the parking lot. The marquee was advertising a concert in a few days, for a band she'd heard was touring again. She sipped her coffee, sighing to herself. Maybe it was time she put out some feelers, see if anyone was hiring.
Her first mistake was not leaving those thoughts outside when she went back to work. The second was not realizing how badly shot her concentration was and plowing on regardless. And those two mistakes were what had led this, she mused, grimacing as Pete, one of the EMTs, gently rotated her foot as he held her calf.
"The good news is that I don't think it's broken. Badly sprained though - what happened?"
She winced. "Took a fall off a ladder."
Pete grinned at her. "Ain't that supposed to be a job for the likes of Jeff Hardy?"
She couldn't help but laugh. "Obviously I'm an amateur at ladder matches."
Reaching for the first aid kit at his side, Pete shook his head. "I can strap this, but you know the rules, Harley - work-related injury means a hospital trip to be on the safe side."
She turned pleading eyes on him. "Come on, Pete - a hospital visit for a sprain? You strap it, I'll lace my workboot tight and I'll be fine."
"No way, Harley - you need an x-ray and medical clearance."
She grumbled, but she knew he was right. It was going to put a big hole in her work schedule though. She was gonna owe the crew a round of beers for picking up her slack.
Three hours later, her ankle strapped firmly and a packet of pain pills in her pocket, along with her medical clearance, she was back at the venue. Bob wisely kept her out of the worst of the pre-show chaos and put her to work setting up the connections for the big board, which she could do without moving around very much. This time, her attention was very firmly focused on what she was doing - one stupid mistake a day was too many for her.
She was heading for Catering on her break when Jeff caught up with her. Not that it was difficult - she wasn't moving all that quickly.
"Harley, what happened?"
She gave him a quick grin, shaking off his concern. "It's nothing - took a wrong step coming down a ladder."
"Shouldn't you be resting then?"
Harley laughed. "Nah, I'll be fine. I worked for six months in a knee brace - this is nothing. Will hardly slow me down at all."
Mark had just stepped into the hallway as they passed the locker room, his eyebrows raising as he watched her limping along beside Jeff, who gave her a grin.
"How did you rack up your knee so bad? Another ladder incident?"
She grinned at him. "Nah, usually I'm better with ladders than you are! The knee I busted up falling off a tour bus."
"Off a . . . how the hell do you fall off a tour bus?"
"You ever hear of train surfing?" Harley grinned.
Jeff's eyes widened, as did Mark's behind them. "You were on top of it while it was moving?"
"Ha! Gotcha! Actually it was far more mundane than that - I was drunk and fell down the steps," she chuckled.
"And you spent six months in a brace? How come?"
She shrugged as they headed for the Catering table. "Didn't go and have it checked out straight away. Once I realised I was still gimping around after a few weeks and went to an emergency room, the damage was worse than the original fall had caused. Which meant reconstructive surgery, and I didn't want to take time off from the tour, so I wore the brace and . . . self-medicated with Jack Daniels."
It wasn't like Mark hadn't heard similar stories from the guys he'd worked with over the years, back before common sense and the Wellness Policy were facts of life, but it was kind of surprising to hear it from a woman. It certainly appeared that Kate was a lot tougher than he was giving her credit for.
Jeff shook his head. "Not a good idea."
"You think I don't know that now? At the time, it seemed to make sense though."
"I wouldn't try it here - they take the Wellness Policy pretty seriously," Jeff said with a rueful look.
Mark resisted the urge to chuckle - if Jeff was talking that way, his own brushes with that particular policy were getting through to him. Finally. He grabbed a bottle of water, which was why he'd come down here in the first place, and made his way back to the locker room.
The show was over, and the set break down was underway as Mark exited the locker room. The walk to the car park took him past the backstage area, where Harley was sitting on a stool, dismantling the control boards. His glance went to her feet - the ankle she'd been limping on was held away from the stool, and he knew it was going to hurt like a bastard the moment she stood up and went to put any weight on it. She should have had it propped up.
He wanted to offer some kind of help, but what the hell did he know about the work the crew did? And besides, the way they clashed constantly, she'd likely resent it anyway. He was walking away from her when he heard the clatter of something metal hitting the ground, and he turned to see her slip down off the stool and wince as the movement jarred her ankle, even though she kept it off the ground. He didn't stop to think, moving quickly over to retrieve the pliers and handing them to her with a smile.
"There you go."
Harley looked up at him with a strained smile, nodding as she took the pliers from him. "Thanks."
"You got much more to do here?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Yeah. Load out's a big job."
He didn't know what to say, or how to offer to help. "Take it easy, okay?"
Managing to get herself back onto the stool without banging her ankle again, Harley gave him a quick smile. "Plenty of time for that once the trucks are loaded. You have a good night - oh, and congratulations. That match was great."
His eyebrows raised - that was a first. "Thanks. See you around." She was already back at work, giving him a nod to acknowledge his words as she bent to her task.
The next time he saw her was during the set up for the follow night's house show. He wasn't scheduled to appear, but he'd wanted to catch up with some people, and this was the best place to do it. Apparently, one night off was all she was going to give that ankle, he thought, as he watched her scaling a ladder to the lighting rigs. While she did appear to be favouring the ankle a bit, she didn't let it slow her down all that much. He had to give her full points for toughness.
He was sprawled in a seat at ringside, waiting for Glenn to show up, as the crew worked on getting things set up. He was musing on his new entrance, looking up at the Titan-tron, toying with an idea, when Harley appeared on the entrance ramp, dragging a wheeled toolbox and carrying a tray of pyro cannisters. She set the tray down on the ring and pushed it under the ropes before boosting herself up and climbing through them herself.
She was a lot quicker with these pyros than she had been, and certainly less nervous about them. It was hard to crouch with her ankle still so sore, but if she kept that leg extended, she could manage just fine. As she moved across the ring to start on the other side, she spotted Mark sitting there. He'd been kind of nice to her last night. Perhaps she could extend him the same courtesy?
Spotting movement in the ring, Mark watched Harley work setting up Glenn's pyros. He remembered that first day he'd been back, giving her a hand with them when she'd dropped the duct tape. He noted with a grin that the tape in question was now hooked over a pair of pliers on her workbelt.
"I see you took my advice about the duct tape, Batgirl," he smiled up at her.
Startled, Harley's eyebrows raised and a moment later she grinned back at him. "Yes, I did. I decided it probably wasn't a wise idea to always depend on the kindness of strangers." She tipped him a wink.
He'd never really noticed that slight Southern accent before, not until she exaggerated it now. It was cute. She continued her work with the pyros, crouching on one foot, the other poised for balance, keeping her weight off it, as she reached around the ring post and smoothed the tape down over the wire. Rising to her feet again, she began the work of wrapping the cannister in place, while Mark went back to his contemplation of the Titan-tron.
"Penny for your thoughts," she said, as she moved to the other ring post.
He looked up at her. "Was thinking about lightning."
"Lightning? Anything specific, or just general musing on Mother Nature?"
"Actually, I was thinking about what kind of lightning effect might be possible for my new entrance," he smiled up at her.
Her hands paused in their work while she considered what he said. "I'm assuming you're thinking about something more than video footage on the big screen?"
"Yeah. Something that actually looks like a lightning strike."
Her hands started moving again, but her expression showed that she was deep in thought. "Lemme think about that for a bit, 'kay?" she asked.
"Hey, it wasn't a demand or anything," he responded.
"No, I know, just . . . let me work some stuff out in my mind?" She gave him a quick smile as she climbed back through the ropes and dropped to the floor, landing on one foot as she avoided putting too much weight on the other ankle.
He nodded, watching as she ran the wires from all four ring posts around the underside of the ring and secured them swiftly into the relay, and then connected them to the main wiring for the control board. Her expression retained that thoughtfulness though, and he wondered what she might come up with. He didn't have to wonder long. Leaving her toolbox at the entrance ramp, she moved over to where he sat, leaning back against the ring, facing him.
"Okay, here's what I'm thinking. We mount a white laser up the ceiling, about there," she pointed to a spot on the central lighting rig. "Then we hit that to a spot on the top right of the Titan-tron, to mesh with some seriously good footage of electrical arcing, which runs down the big screen from top right to bottom left. And then, we have a pyro that shoots like an extension of that electrical arc to a flash pot on the entrance stage, right there." Her hand moved through the path of the 'lightning', pointing now to spot on the edge of the stage at the far left.
His eyes followed her pointing finger as she spoke and he grinned at her. "Just like that, huh?"
She laughed. "Well okay, that's what I want to happen - it remains to be seen if I can make it work exactly that way. But I'm willing to give it a shot - it'll be fun."
He nodded. "I'd really appreciate it."
"Look, I'll be honest with you, it's probably not going to be ready for you to use with your new entrance next month."
"Perfectly alright - I was kinda thinking of it as a Pay Per View kinda thing anyway, so it has more impact."
Her eyebrows raised. "Yeah? That gives me some more scope - we can do more stuff with a Pay Per set up than we can with the weekly shows. I'll let you know when I've got something to show you, okay?"
Mark spotted Glenn coming down the entrance ramp and nodded. "I look forward to seeing it - thanks."
"Any time," she smiled at him and headed back to her toolbox, giving Glenn a grin and a wave as she passed him, already moving on to her next task.
Glenn watched her go with a little frown, then turned to Mark. "I heard someone say Harley took a fall last night and banged up her ankle - what's she doing still working?"
"And when was the last time you took a day off with anything less than a broken bone or a torn muscle?"
"Yeah, but she's . . . "
"A lot tougher than you think," Mark finished the sentence for him.
Glenn could only stare at him - this from Mark, who usually frothed at the mouth when Harley was around? Somewhere, he was sure, a small corner of hell was beginning to experience a cold snap.
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