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!
Things were slowly entering a state of detente between Mark and Harley, which Bob was pleased to note.
The one thing that hadn't changed was the names - Mark really couldn't get past calling her a bike's name, any more than she could stop calling him 'chief'. But he refrained from calling her 'Kate' just to annoy her, although he couldn't help that it slipped out sometimes. In fact, the more he was around her, the more it seemed to fit her. And less in terms of Shakespeare's Kate, too. More like that other indomitable Kate, Katherine Hepburn, although she lacked the New England accent.
When the conversation turned serious, or he referred to her to a third person, that was another matter, but when he did call her 'Kate' to her face, it became less of a barb in a conflict and more in the nature of a nickname.
Harley had at first been suspicious of this thawing of relations between her and Mark, but as time went on and it continued, she realized he was making an effort to be nicer to her. And she did appreciate it. She began to be less defensive around him, and found to her surprise that he was actually rather likeable. It didn't change her decision to look for another job, though - she felt the damage had already been done.
Bob was feeling more relaxed about leaving Harley in charge as a result - there was much less potential for major conflict to brew between them at this point. And so he happily went off for his month long vacation.
Harley was astonished by the amount of paperwork that Bob's job entailed, and it quickly became the bane of her existence. Mark got very used to seeing her with folders spread out in front of her in Catering, in whatever office she was assigned at venues, even on plane flights.
Grabbing a cup of coffee after his stint at Fan Axxess for the Great American Bash, he came over to the table where she was working on the omni-present folders.
Harley looked up and gave him a quick smile. "You done with Axxess already, chief?" She glanced at her watch, eyebrows raising at the time.
"Yeah, day's pretty much done for me. Can I get you a coffee?" He held up his cup.
"Would you?" She was still a little surprised at how nice he was being to her. But anything to keep things calm while Bob was on vacation. "That would be great, thanks - black, no sugar," she smiled, returning her attention to the paperwork again.
He returned with her coffee, taking a seat opposite her and setting the cup down where she could reach it. "I don't envy you the paperwork."
She chuckled. "Yeah, you don't strike me as the masochistic type, chief." She set aside a sheaf of papers and closed the folder they were in. "Although, and I do hesitate to say this in case I jinx myself, I think I'm getting a handle on it." She picked up the coffee and sipped it.
"You've never had to do this stuff before?" He was curious.
"Well, it's pretty standard stuff - payroll, hours, OSHA stuff, inventory, shipping. But the scale of everything here is just mind-boggling, and of course that means it takes more time. The biggest crew I ever managed before was maybe five guys - there's five times that here in lighting and pyros alone, not counting the ring crews and support staff."
"Which would you prefer - managing the crew, or being part of it?" he asked, knowing the answer. He'd seen her pacing while others worked the last week or so.
"Oh that's a no-brainer, chief - I'm a powder monkey first and foremost. In a small crew, you can do both. Here - someone's got to direct traffic, if nothing else. But Bob's lucky - he's got a great crew here, and they don't need my managing all that much."
But they did need her, because a few minutes later, one of the crew arrived needing her assistance. She bundled together her folders and gave Mark a quick smile.
"Thanks for the coffee, chief. Have a good show later."
"I'll try, Kate. Don't work too hard."
Her only response was to laugh and give him a wave as she headed off to solve the latest problem.
The Pay Per View went off without a hitch, and as the following night's Raw was in the same venue, Harley took advantage of the relaxed schedule to get on top of the paperwork, which improved her mood no end. She wandered out to the arena to check on progress, just in time to see the ring crew hoisting a steel structure up into the rafters above the ring. She stopped dead in her tracks, looking up at it. Vaguely, she was aware of someone standing beside her.
"What in hell is that contraption?" she asked, before she even registered that the big figure beside her was Glenn Jacobs.
"That, darlin', is a steel cage," he grinned.
She smacked his arm with a laugh. "That much I can see for myself, thank you! What is it doing here?"
"You've never seen a cell match before?" Glenn looked at her, puzzled.
"Not something rockstars do very often," she snickered.
Glenn grinned again. "Oh, you're in for a treat then - cos Mark and I are having a match inside that thing tonight."
"Wrestling inside it. Hell, on top of it, around it, you name it - we're gonna be all over that bad boy like cheap cologne," he grinned, looking pleased as punch at the prospect.
Mark's deep voice came from behind them. "Well, it is wrestling, Kate - not synchronised swimming."
She looked from one big man to the other. "You're serious - you're going to wrestle inside that thing?"
Mark nodded. "Absolutely."
All she could do was shake her head in disbelief.
Despite the easier schedule, there was still plenty of bustle and activity backstage leading up to Raw, and Harley was kept busy right up to the start of the warm up matches.
She donned her headphones and took her place at the big board, reporting all in readiness. There were some slight changes to the normal routine, given the cage match, and she'd made sure to highlight them on her run sheet so she wouldn't forget them. Despite that, things were running smoothly as usual, and she once again realized how lucky Bob was to have a team that worked so well together.
Watching the monitor as the cage was lowered into place, she shook her head again. That thing just went against all logic. Her conversation with Jeff over dinner had enlightened her, but certainly hadn't reassured her. There were too many things that could go wrong logistically, not even counting the human factor. She had to hope that Glenn and Mark were skilled enough to avoid the worst case scenarios.
As it turned out, all the skill in the world was no match for bad luck. Things had been going fine, until Glenn, who was bleeding rather profusely from a gash on his forehead as a result of a collision with the steel cage, had missed a step and, instead of hurling Mark against the ropes, had catapulted him into one of the steel supports of the cage instead.
There was a breathless silence backstage as everyone watched the monitors, where Mark took a few shaky steps backward, quite obviously dazed. Glenn had swiped his forearm across his face, clearing the blood from his eyes, and then the voices on Harley's headphones began barking orders. The referee was shouted instructions to bring the match to an end, the EMTs were summoned and the techs in the truck were scrambling for a promo to cover what was about to happen in the ring.
Harley noticed Paul Levesque heading down the hallway at a dead run, pulling off his shirt and replacing it with one of his merchandising ones, while someone from Makeup dashed along beside him, ready to give him a quick touch-up before he began his "interview".
In the ring, Glenn had knocked Mark off his feet as gently as possible and dropped down to cover him while the referee made a very quick three count, and the commentators were "fed" some lines to explain the foreshortened match. The moment the techs announced that the promo with Paul was live, the EMTs hurried out to the ring, where Glenn and the referee were helping Mark to his feet as the steel cage was winched back up and out of the way.
Watching the monitor which showed the ring, regardless of where the cameras for the show were live, Harley could see him refusing to sit down on the stretcher the EMTs had brought with them, and Glenn instead assisting him up the entrance ramp, while the fans applauded.
Harley found that strange, and turned to one of the crew standing nearby.
"Why on earth are they applauding? Do they like seeing someone get hurt, for god's sake?"
He shook his head. "No way! They're . . . showing their appreciation, I guess you'd say. They know 'Taker and Kane were putting on a hell of match til 'Taker hit his head, and they want to acknowledge the effort. I'll bet most of them are busy hoping he's okay, not getting off on the fact that he's been hurt."
She would never understand this business, she thought helplessly, as Mark and Glenn, both liberally smeared with blood and flanked by the EMTs, arrived backstage and were whisked away to the trainer's rooms to be attended to.
Now, two hours later, as the crew began the work of load out, Harley made sure everything was on track and then headed down to the trainer's rooms to see how Mark and Glenn were faring.
Glenn, who was now dressed in his own clothes and sporting a large dressing on his forehead, was waiting outside the treatment room. Harley approached him, giving him a small smile.
"How are you doing?"
Glenn shrugged. "Ten stitches. I'll live. I'm more concerned about Mark."
There came the sound of raised voices from behind the door, and Harley glanced around. She'd heard one of those voices before, mostly aimed at her.
"Uh oh," said Glenn.
The door swung open, and Mark clutched at the doorframe, swaying on his feet. Glenn hurried forward.
"Whoa, buddy, what's your hurry?"
Mark looked at Glenn, a frown creasing his forehead. "What are you still doing here? Aren't you supposed to be on a plane?" The roster had three days off, and everyone had made plans to fly out that night for their homes.
"I changed it to a later one. What about you? What's the verdict?" Glenn glanced over Mark's shoulder to the doctor and EMTs.
"Concussion," was the grunted response.
Glenn shook his head. "Guess that means you aren't flying home tonight then?"
Mark shot a venomous look at the doctor. "Nope. Someone's seen fit to ground me."
The doctor just shrugged. "You're lucky I don't insist on you being hospitalised, 'Taker - you should be having a CT scan, given how long it took you to come around after that knock. But no way in hell are you in any shape to fly. And you should be under observation tonight, if you won't be in hospital."
"I'll cancel my flight," Glenn immediately volunteered. "Make sure you're okay overnight."
"Like hell you will!" Mark growled, still clutching the door frame for support. "You'll get your ass out to the airport and go home like you're supposed to. I'll be fine at the hotel overnight."
"And who's going to wake you every two hours there?" Glenn asked.
Mark shrugged. "I'll get them to call me every two hours. It ain't exactly my first concussion, Glenn."
The doctor spoke up. "Which is precisely why you should be in the hospital, 'Taker."
Harley stayed back from them, her own brow furrowed with concern. She knew what Bob would do, but she hesitated to offer even so. It was only that Mark had unbent towards her of late that she even considered it. It was the doctor's concern that decided her.
"I've got a suite at the hotel - you can stay with me. You really shouldn't be alone if you've been hurt," she offered tentatively. "And if someone can tell me what I need to do, I can make sure you're okay."
Mark stared at her, as the doctor nodded.
"That would be acceptable. 'Taker, I'm serious here - your options are hospital or staying with Harley. I'm not letting you leave under any other circumstances."
Glenn looked from Mark to Harley. Things between them had improved, but he wasn't sure this was such a good idea. Still, she looked serious about wanting to help. Then he glanced at his watch. If he was going to make his flight, he would have to leave now.
Mark didn't miss Glenn's look at his watch. "Go, Glenn. Don't miss your flight on my account." He managed a wry smile. "I'll be in good hands here, it seems."
Patting Mark's shoulder, Glenn grinned. "Don't give her too much of a hard time, okay?"
Without waiting for a response, Glenn gathered his bag and headed for his car, and Mark looked at Harley.
She gulped inwardly. Right thing to do or not, this might well be tough to pull off. Fortunately, the doctor stepped in.
"I take it you've never had a concussion yourself - have you ever taken care of someone with one?"
She had to admit that she hadn't, on either count.
"It's pretty simple - 'Taker's going to want to sleep, which is the best medicine. But you'll need to wake him every two hours, and make sure he's coming to properly - you know, check to make sure he knows where he is, what's going on. He can take Tylenol for the pain . . . " Mark's grunt at that made him pause a moment, "although he's not likely to, knowing him. If he's feeling better in the morning, able to stand without being dizzy, the pain reduced, his memory okay, then he can fly out. If anything else happens - if you can't rouse him during the night, or he has a seizure, or starts vomiting, call 911 and have him hospitalized. I'll give you a summary of his treatment tonight just in case you need it."
Harley blanched - this was a lot more serious than she had thought! Mark saw the expression on her face and reached out to pat her shoulder gently.
"Relax. The doc's just giving you the worst case scenario. My head's a lot harder than he thinks - so long as you wake me up a few times tonight, everything will be fine."
The doctor handed Harley an envelope and a packet of Tylenol. "Let's hope so."
As she pocketed them, she silently uttered a fervent prayer that would be the case. Mark looked back at the doctor.
"Okay, can I go now? I really need a shower."
"Not on your own, you can barely stand up. Harley, you go with him," the doctor said, and both of them looked at him wide-eyed. "I'm serious, Mark - you need someone else in the locker room just in case you fall."
Harley shook her head. "I'll grab someone from the crew to stay with him."
Mark sighed - the last thing he wanted was some crew member around when he already felt like an idiot for getting his bell rung like a rookie. "It's okay, Kate - I'm not going to fall down in the shower. You won't need to do anything but sit and wait, okay?"
Suddenly she realized how tough this must be for Mark - she sensed he wasn't a man who was used to showing any kind of weakness or fallibility. She nodded. "Okay."
The doctor nodded and went back into the treatment room, and Mark pushed himself off the doorframe and started slowly down the corridor, and Harley walked beside him. She wanted to offer a shoulder to lean on, but she knew he would never take it. When they came to the locker room, Mark pushed the door open and headed in, and Harley followed him, still a bit unsure about this.
Mark gestured to the long bench in front of the row of open lockers, all of them cleared now but one, containing his gear.
"Have a seat. I'll try not to take too long."
Harley sank down onto the bench at the other end from his locker, watching him with concern in her expression. He sat down and bent over to unlace his boots, groaning at the pain that caused in his head. She didn't even stop to think about it, rising to her feet and coming over to him, patting his shoulder gently.
"Let me do that."
He sat upright slowly, clenching his fists until the pain in his head lessened. She crouched in front of him, looking at the lacing on his boots, her fingers moving deftly to loosen it all the way down before easing the first boot off. He looked at her in surprise.
"How did you know not to take the laces out?" Perhaps she'd seen Jeff do that - except that Jeff's boots didn't lace up like these.
She couldn't help her soft chuckle, her hands moving to his other boot as she shifted to stick one foot out from under her, showing him her ankle length workboots with their tight lacing. "Because I know what a bastard it is to have to relace these when I put them on?" She took off his second boot, and then quickly stripped off his socks. She looked up at him with a tiny smile. "I hope you can handle the rest on your own, though."
He felt his face getting warm as she rose to her feet. He'd undressed in front of complete strangers before - EMTs, wardrobe people, new wrestlers. Hell, he had to pee in a cup in front of a new complete stranger almost every month, thanks to the Wellness Policy. But stripping off in front of her . . . this was a new one. And feeling as dizzy as he was, he was going to have to do it sitting down. He was grateful beyond words as she moved back to the end of the bench and sat down with her back to him.
Harley heard the soft rustling behind her that told her that Mark was undressing. She stared down at her hands in her lap. Not long afterwards, she heard the shower start from the adjoining room. At least he'd made it that far. There was a knock at the door, and one of the wardrobe assistants poked her head in.
"I've come to get 'Taker's stuff," she said, and Harley just nodded.
The woman bustled into the room, collecting Mark's discarded clothing, setting his boots next to his bag in the open locker. As she was leaving, a crew member caught Harley's eye, and she rose to her feet, going over to the door, still keeping an ear out for the shower. He gave her a nod and gestured to the pull case beside him.
"Glenn dropped this off, said that 'Taker would need it."
His luggage, Harley realized.
"Thanks. Listen, I'm going back to the hotel to keep an eye on him. Tell Troy he's in charge of the load out," Harley said, naming one of Bob's senior crew. Bob himself rarely stayed for load out, so she didn't feel like she was shirking her responsibilities at least.
He nodded again and she let the door to the locker room close as she took the pullcase over to Mark's locker, hesitating only a moment before lifting it up and laying it down on the bench. At least she could save him from having to bend over to get it - she knew how much that made her head pound when she had a hangover, and could only imagine it felt even worse with a concussion. She was just sitting down on the bench again when the water shut off in the shower.
There was silence for a few minutes, and then Mark's voice came to her.
She whirled around, worried about what had happened. Mark stood in the doorway to the shower area, a towel around his waist, his long red hair dripping around his shoulders. Her hand went to her throat.
"Jeez chief, you scared me! Are you okay?"
He nodded, then winced as the movement aggravated his headache. "Yeah, just realized that my luggage was in Glenn's car . . . " His voice trailed off as he saw the case sitting on the bench.
"Glenn dropped it off before he left," Harley said. "I brought it in for you - oh, and someone from Wardrobe picked up your clothes too."
"Thank God for Glenn then. And thank you." He grabbed another towel, using it to dry his hair off, as gently as he could, given the pain in his head.
Harley found herself fascinated by his tattoos as she watched him. And there was another one she'd never seen before, across his stomach - BSK Pride. She wondered idly what that meant, but her musings were brought up short as Mark cleared his throat rather pointedly. Her eyes darted back to his face and she had the good grace to look embarrassed at being caught staring.
"Not that I mind the adoration, Kate, but unless you want to see a really fine physique in the raw, you might want to turn around," he drawled.
She looked cute when she blushed, Mark thought to himself, as she hurriedly turned her back. He sat down on the bench and opened the case beside him, reaching for fresh clothes and getting dressed. Rather than dealing with laces, he dug out a pair of loafers and slipped them on, and then packed up his gear, glancing around to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.
Harley's head came around as he came up behind her, laying a hand on her shoulder.
"Okay, I'm done."
Truthfully, he looked it too, Harley thought as she rose to her feet. She didn't think she'd ever seen anyone look so tired and still be upright. She held out a hand to him, and he looked at quizically.
"Give me one of those bags."
"I can manage."
"I'm sure you can, chief. But give me one anyway."
Damn it, she was stubborn. And so was he, but he was also damned tired, so he just shrugged and handed her the bag with his workout gear and boots in it. She nodded and then held the door of the locker room open for him. They made their way down to the parking garage, where Harley used the remote to pop the locks on a plain black truck. He lifted his case into the back seat and then climbed into the passenger seat with a soft groan, which didn't go unnoticed.
As she settled behind the wheel, Harley looked over at him. She shook her head, but said nothing, starting the engine and backing the truck up before driving out of the garage. Mark's eyes closed almost immediately, and she felt bad when they stopped at the hotel that she had to wake him so soon. She reached out to shake his shoulder gently.
"Chief? We're here."
He came awake with a little start, then nodded, climbing out of the truck slowly. She'd beaten him to the bags, he noticed fuzzily, and was heading for the elevators. He followed her, leaning against the wall of the elevator as it started its upward journey. She honestly didn't know how he kept moving, but then she'd certainly had nights on load out when she'd thought she'd fall asleep standing up in the elevator coming back to a hotel.
She unlocked the door to the suite they'd booked her into - as acting crew chief, apparently she warranted one. She led him into the bedroom, where fortunately this morning she'd had time to pack her own clothes away relatively neatly. She lay his case next to hers on the top of the low bureau, and dropped his other bag out of the way in a corner before turning to look at him.
Mark's eyes took in the suite tiredly, really only noting thankfully that it was a king size bed. Harley moved over to fold down the covers, and then leaned over to snag one of the pillows. Checking the wardrobe, she pulled out the spare blanket as well.
"I'll take the couch, chief. But I'm gonna grab a quick shower, so you'll have some privacy to change first," she said, opening her case and digging through it for a nightgown, thanking her lucky stars that she'd even packed one, as she rarely bothered with night clothes of any sort.
He nodded, waiting for her to go into the bathroom before going to his case to dig out a t-shirt. He sat down on the bed to undress to his shorts and then pulled the t-shirt on. Hearing the water running in the shower, he went out the living room of the suite and found a bottle of water in the mini bar, taking a few long swallows. God, he had never felt so tired. He went back into the bedroom and sat down on the bed, leaving the bottle of water on the nightstand. He lay back very gingerly, trying to avoid that spot on his head that ached the most, turning onto his side slightly as he pulled the covers up.
When Harley opened the door of the bathroom a few minutes later, he was fast asleep already. She moved quietly to lay down her clothes, and turned out the lights as she went out to the couch. She set the alarm on her wristwatch, which she'd put back on after her shower, and shut off the lights before laying back on the couch and closing her eyes.
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