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!
It had taken her close to six weeks, experimenting and refining, before she was ready to show Mark her attempt at his lightning strike. And now, with the set almost finished for Night of Champions, she was waiting in the ring for him to come and see what she'd come up with. She was wearing a wireless headset that connected her with the control truck, who were ready with the video footage and would take their cue from her when she hit the laser effect.
She glanced at her watch - he was running late. And she really didn't have time to wait - she still had work to do. She tapped her fingers on the top rope impatiently. Ten minutes passed, and then twenty. Finally, she spoke into the mic on her headset.
"Sorry guys, looks like this is a no go."
A voice came back in her ear. "Hey, it happens. We'll keep it cued up, Harley - just give us a heads up when you want it," one of the techs reassured her.
She climbed out through the ropes, pulling off the headset and handing it and the control box she carried to one of the ring crew. "If the Undertaker comes out here looking to see his new lighting effect, you show it to him."
"What do I know about that stuff?" he protested.
She shrugged impatiently. "You don't need to know anything - tell the guys in the truck you want to cue it, and then say go when you hit that button. Everything will happen automatically after that."
Harley strode off without a backward glance. Six weeks of work and the bastard couldn't even show up to see it - well, that was the last time she was going to go out of her way for him. She grabbed her toolbox and headed for the control panel to finish up there.
Mark hurried up the stairs to the Titan-tron - there had been a storyline meeting set for this afternoon that had gone on way longer than he'd anticipated, and then he'd gotten held up in Wardrobe. He'd grabbed a crew member to send Harley a message to say he'd been delayed, but he had no way of knowing that unexpected problems with the lighting rigs had diverted him before he'd had a chance to deliver it.
Reaching the entrance stage, Mark sighed. Harley was nowhere in sight. He moved down towards the ring, shaking his head. One of the crew approached him.
"Ah, are you here to see your new lighting effect?"
Mark nodded. "I was expecting to see K . . . Harley here and I got held up."
The crew member put on a headset and spoke into the mic. "Hey guys, are you still ready with that effect for 'Taker?"
Getting the go ahead, the crew member turned back to him. "She told me to show it to you. Ready?" At Mark's nod, he spoke into the headset again. "Okay guys, I'm triggering this in three . . . two . . . one . . . go!"
An intense beam of light shot from the overhead rig, accompanied by a sharp electrical crackle. The moment the light touched the Titan-tron, video flashed onto the screen, drawing an arc of electricity across the screen to the opposite corner, and a pyro effect arced down to a flash pot on the front of the stage, accompanied by a loud crack as it exploded.
"Whoa!" the crew member beside him breathed. "That was awesome!"
Mark was speechless. She'd done exactly what she'd described, but it was better than he could have imagined. He grinned from ear to ear. "Yeah, it was. Did she say where she was going when she got the message I'd been delayed?"
The crew member shook his head. "Ah, she didn't get any message. She was waiting and then she just handed me this stuff and told me that I could show you if you came looking to see it."
Oh shit. "Well I really appreciate it. I'm gonna go find her, tell her how good it is."
Mark headed backstage, his eyes scanning the dozens of black shirted crew members, looking for the one with the multicoloured streaks in her hair. He finally found her in Catering, sitting at a table by herself, picking listlessly at a plate of salad. He headed straight for her, pulling out a chair opposite her.
Harley looked up and saw Mark sitting down opposite her, and dropped her eyes back to her plate again. "Hey chief," she said, her tone flat.
"I . . . they just showed me the lightning effect. It's brilliant, better than I could ever have expected. Thank you."
She shrugged, glancing up at him briefly before returning her attention to the salad she was toying with. "No problem."
"I'm sorry I got held up - I sent someone to let you know, I have no idea why you didn't get my message."
She just shrugged again. "It happens. So, you want to use the lightning tonight?" She didn't even look up at him.
"Is that possible?"
"Sure. I already have it wired in, just need to let the guys in the truck know."
"Then yes, I'd love to use it tonight - thanks."
She pushed her chair back and picked up her largely untouched tray. "I gotta go set up the pyros then, and talk to the guys in the truck about the timing." She turned and walked away without another word.
Mark sighed. Whatever tentative steps they'd taken towards a cessation of hostilities had been thoroughly halted, if the set of her shoulders was anything to go by. Not that he could blame her - she'd obviously put in a lot of work getting that lightning just right, and she didn't even get the chance to show it to him herself and get his immediate reaction to it.
Harley dropped her tray off and headed for the trucks, climbing up into the back of one of them for a new flash pot and a flare. She'd already given the guys in the truck the timing sheet that included the lightning effect, hoping that Mark liked it enough to want to use it straight away. She'd let them know when she got back inside that they should use that one tonight.
It wasn't that her ego was so huge that it needed constant stroking. It wasn't even that she'd worked so hard on something and hadn't gotten a chance to show it off. It was just . . . she was trying so hard, and no matter what she did, she always seemed to run afoul of Mark. It really was time she looked for another job.
Taking the pyros back into the venue, she headed onto the stage with a ladder to wire them in, replacing the used ones. There was a bit of buzz about the new effect, and she smiled automatically at the praise she was given, not really hearing it.
She ran the big board backstage during the show, while Bob looked on. Everything went smoothly, even allowing for a longer transition when there was a wardrobe glitch for one of the Divas, and before Bob could even suggest a solution, she was already talking to the truck, getting them to loop the promo footage to cover the delay. He smiled - everything was going to work out perfectly when he went on vacation next month and left her in charge.
Mark couldn't hide his grin as he came backstage after his match. The audience pop for that lightning effect had been huge, and he could feel the wave of energy that brought to the match even now. He told anyone who asked that it had all been Harley's work, and how damn thrilled he was at the job she'd done on it. And he wanted to tell her that himself, but she'd been at the control board until the end of the show, and then she'd disappeared.
He thought he knew where to find her, heading for the loading dock where he'd seen her that first night.
As soon as she'd been able to get away, Harley had fled to the loading dock. Sitting down against the wall, she drew her knees up and rested her arms on them, closing her eyes as she tilted her head back against the wall. She tried some deep breaths, willing the tension to leave her, but it wasn't working. It was time to stop kidding herself - she didn't belong here.
She loved working with Bob, and the challenge was there, not to mention her skills being up to the task, but the fact that she couldn't get along with the performers wasn't going away. Sooner or later, that was going to lead to a problem. Better to move on than end up being fired, surely. She dropped her head onto her arms, swallowing a sob.
Jeff approached her cautiously, laying a hand on her shoulder. "Harley? Is everything okay?" He crouched down beside her.
She swiped a hand over her eyes before lifting her head, nodding at him. "Yeah, I'm cool."
"Let's say I'll pretend to believe that. But this is me you're talking to."
Dragging one hand through her hair, she sighed. "It's nothing important, Jeff. And it'll sort itself out."
He couldn't think of anything to say, so he settled for sitting down beside her and putting his arm around her, giving her a hug. Which was what Mark saw when he came out onto the dock, and the reason why he turned and walked away without saying anything. It kind of made sense, he supposed - he was always seeing them together, and he guessed they'd gotten a lot closer than just friends. Still, he felt bad about not being able to thank Harley properly for that lightning effect.
When she and Jeff went back into the venue, Harley was feeling . . . well, not better, but resolved, perhaps. Tomorrow, she'd tell Bob she was going to look for another job. That should give him time to arrange a replacement - it wasn't like she'd be walking out tomorrow. She bid Jeff goodnight as he went back to the hotel and she headed in to help with the load out.
It was almost 3.00am when she made it back to the hotel, and she was half asleep when she let herself into her room. She didn't even bother turning the lights on, settling for stripping her clothes off as she made her way to the bed, sitting down to unlace her workboots and kick them off before crawling up onto the bed and kicking the covers down as she fell face first onto the pillow, asleep almost before her head was down.
She came blearily awake about six hours later, pushing herself upright and grimacing at the furry feel of her teeth. She bent down to strip off her socks, which were currently her only items of clothing, and tossed them aside, heading into the bathroom and turning on the shower. Her morning routine was interrupted by a knock on the door. She spat toothpaste into the sink and put down her toothbrush, wiping the back of her hand over her lips as she headed out to answer it.
Suspecting it might be Jeff, she didn't bother checking the peep hole, or even worry that she wasn't wearing anything but a towel, opening the door and peering out.
"You're lucky I was awake, or you'd be a dead man . . . " her voice trailed off when she saw a muscular chest where she expected Jeff's face to be. Her eyes travelled up to Mark's face and she snapped her mouth shut.
Mark couldn't help but chuckle at the look on her face. "Dunno how to tell you this, Kate, but I already am a dead man." For added emphasis, he rolled his eyes back into his head for her.
"Eww! Fuck chief, don't do that, it's creepy as hell!" Harley protested. "And don't call me Kate."
Still chuckling, Mark looked at her again. There was a smear of toothpaste on her lips, and her multicoloured hair was wet and sticking up all over the place. And that towel wasn't really covering much of anything. Looking over her shoulder, he saw an untidy litter of clothing strewn over the floor, and her workboots at the foot of the bed. "You're really not a morning person, are you?"
Harley glared at him. "I wasn't aware I needed to meet your approval at this hour!"
He held his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. "Whoa, hold on, I never said you did."
"Then what the hell do you want?" Harley was confused.
"I was going to offer to buy you breakfast, to say thanks for the lightning bolt last night. It went over great, and I just wanted to show you how much I appreciated it," Mark said.
Whatever Harley was about to say was cut short by Jeff's arrival, and his eyes went from her, clad in a towel, to Mark, whose eyes were quite obviously enjoying the sight. That was not what he wanted to see, and he felt a little jealous, if he were honest with himself.
"Hey Mark, didn't really expect to find you here. Morning, Harley - wanna go grab some breakfast?"
"Hold on a minute, Hardy - I've already invited Kate to breakfast with me. At least let her give me an answer before you go asking her yourself."
Harley looked from one man to another in astonishment. What in the blue hell? A door opened across the hall and Glenn Jacobs emerged from his room, looking over at Harley and giving a low wolf whistle, winking at her. Looking down at herself, she resisted the urge to stamp her foot - for god's sake, what was wrong with all of them? She'd worn less than this at the hotel pool yesterday and nobody had even looked twice at her!
Mark looked over his shoulder and glared at Glenn, who just laughed and gave the three of them a cheery wave as he headed off down the hallway.
Turning back to her, Mark gave her a speculative look. "Well, Kate? Will you let me buy you breakfast?"
Jeff turned pleading eyes on her and she threw her hands up, unaware that it raised the hem of the towel to a dangerous level. "Thanks chief, but I'll pass." Noting Jeff's triumphant smirk, she turned to him. "Don't bother celebrating, Jeff. I'm not accepting your invitation either. I've got some stuff to do this morning."
Ignoring Jeff's now-crestfallen look, she smiled at Mark. "It was nice of you to offer, chief. I'm just glad the effect went over well." Then she reached out and patted Jeff's cheek. "Dinner, I promise."
Then she stepped back and closed the door gently in both their faces, shaking her head. It had to be the testosterone, she mused, as she went back into the bathroom. Rockstars were never like this.
Once she'd dressed and packed her suitcase, she sat down with her laptop and brought up her resume. It wasn't much time to have spent in the job, she thought dismally as she updated it. Luckily, the rest of her career experience could probably overcome that black mark. Then she picked up the hotel phone and asked for Bob's room.
Bob Threadgood looked at Harley over his coffee cup as they sat in the hotel's restaurant, his face showing his shock.
"You can't be serious, Harley!"
She shrugged, finding it hard to meet his gaze. "I am, Bob."
"But why? I mean, you're doing a hell of a job here."
Swirling her coffee, she sighed. "It's not the work, Bob. I'm just not hitting it off with the performers, and that's bound to cause problems. I kinda figure it might be better for everyone if I left of my own accord now rather than get asked to leave later."
"Wait - you're leaving because of that thing you and Mark have going on between you?" Bob looked at her, wide eyed.
"Jeez, Bob, he's one of the top guys here and he can't stand me. And I've been behaving like a five year old around him, which I'm not proud of. If it comes down to which one of us needs to move on to re-establish harmony in the workforce, it's a no-brainer that I'd be the one packing up my stuff."
"Aw hell, Harley, that's as much my fault as it is either of yours. You're both stubborn as all get out, and I've gone out of my way to toss you into one another's paths, just because it's fun watching you try to out-bully one another. But you're wrong about Mark - the man was telling anyone who asked, and plenty who didn't, how damn thrilled he was with that lightning bolt effect you designed for him!"
She shrugged again. "Yeah. He came to ask me out to breakfast to say thanks too. But how long before I start pissing him off again, huh?"
This was a disaster, Bob thought. But he did have a trump card to play. "Look, I can't stop you from looking for something else, Harley. But I was counting on you filling in for me next month - I've got the tickets to the Bahamas already paid for, and Sidda Lee is already buying out the stores for resort wear."
"Shit, Bob, I'd completely forgotten about that! Okay, you have my word - I'll stay until you get back, and then give you time to find a replacement," Harley promised him.
Right. Now he had maybe three months grace. With any luck, after that, she wouldn't want to leave. But first, he needed to have a little chat with a certain Dead Man.
Mark was as stunned as Bob had been to learn that Harley was contemplating leaving. And Bob hadn't sugar-coated it either - he was placing the blame for it firmly on Mark's doorstep. He'd admitted that he hadn't helped matters by pitting them against one another, but he told Mark in no uncertain terms that the game stopped now. He wasn't about to lose someone as talented as Harley because Mark was giving her a hard time.
Only trouble was - how the hell did he stop it?
He could stop calling her 'Kate' for starters, he thought, given how much it pissed her off. He didn't actually mind her calling him 'chief', now that he thought about it. And that thing with 'candy man', whatever the hell it meant - well, jeez, if that was the worst thing to happen to him, he was still doing okay.
He needed to be more forthcoming with praise too - she'd done a brilliant job with his entrances, and he'd never really told her that.
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