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!
Bob returned from his vacation sporting a deep tan and looking truly relaxed. He was pleased to see that the peace was holding between Mark and Harley, and began to hope that Harley might change her mind about leaving. Certainly, she had said nothing to him about it since he'd been back at work.
The company had just arrived in Los Angeles for a week long series of shows. Both crew and roster had flown in and had checked in to their hotel, and the crew and some of the wrestlers were heading over to the venue. Set construction under the secondary crew had already begun, but the senior crew had yet to see what they were dealing with, and the wrestlers wanted to check out the gym facilities on site.
As the bus turned into the staging parking garage at the complex, Harley looked up at the marquee. There were a few large venues here, and her eyes widened when she saw who else was playing here for the next three days. She was out of the shuttle almost before it stopped, with a hurried 'be right back' aimed in Bob's general direction. He glanced over towards where she was heading and sighed. The trucks there were painted with the name of a rock band.
"Damn it," he muttered.
Mark was leaning back in his seat as the shuttle came to a stop, and his eye was caught by a familiar figure with distinctive multicoloured streaks in her hair running across the underground parking garage towards a number of trucks. He watched as heads came up at her approach, and then she was hurling herself into the arms of a burly man with his long hair in a ponytail. He could see the grins on their faces.
As he got out of the shuttle, he spoke to Bob, who was staring morosely at the scene.
"Did you know about this?"
"Unfortunately, no." Bob sighed. As he spoke, a bus painted in the same livery pulled up beside the trucks, and both men clearly heard the delighted shout that went up as the band members came down the stairs.
Jeff came down from the shuttle, looking over curiously as Harley hugged a blonde man who was running his hands through her hair as he smiled down at her. "What the hell?"
Bob looked at him. "Harley used to tour with them. I hear they're only just starting out again with this new tour."
Harley felt like her face might just split from the grin she was wearing. The blonde man in front of her returned it, his hands now holding her face as he looked at her.
"Harley, you sexy wench, where the hell you been, girl?"
She chuckled, gesturing with her thumb towards the WWE trucks. "Got a new gig, daddy-o."
"JT, did you know about this?" he demanded, and the burly man nodded.
"Yep. She was the first person I called when you guys told me we were heading out again. She said she was taken."
The blonde man grinned. "Oh come on, you know her heart belongs to us! How hard did you try to seduce her back?"
"Offered her your first-born. She said she didn't want no pimply teenager hanging around," JT grinned.
Looping his arm around her shoulders, the blonde man grinned. "You don't know shit about seducing, JT. Come on, Harley - we got us some serious bidness to discuss. 'Taken', my ass!" He turned and led her towards the tour bus, as the rest of the band laughed and the crew applauded.
Harley laughed, letting her hand drift down to cup the blonde man's ass, turning to wink over her shoulder at the rest of the band before going up the stairs to the tour bus.
Mark felt a coldness in the pit of his stomach, watching Harley with the band and their crew. Jeff, standing at his side, just shook his head.
"Never say never," he murmured.
Mark turned to him. "What?"
Jeff blew out a sigh. "I asked Harley once if she'd ever go back to touring with a band, and that's what she told me - 'never say never'." He seemed about to say something else, but instead just shrugged and turned to go into the arena.
Taking one last look at the tour bus, Mark followed him.
Harley looked around the tour bus and sank onto one of the couches, smiling at her companion, who lounged opposite her.
"Long time, no see. How you been?" she asked.
He shrugged, smiling at her. "About the same. You're looking good, Harleykins."
She laughed. "Oh shit, I'd forgotten all about that! Damn, that brings back some memories."
"Good ones, I hope?"
"Oh yeah, for sure."
"JT didn't really call you about the tour, did he?"
"No, he didn't," she smiled. "But he knew I was working with the WWE - we email occasionally."
He sighed. "If he had, what would you have said?"
She thought for a moment, and then moved to sit beside him, her hand on his face as she smiled at him. "I might have said 'yes', if he'd called in the last few months. And we both know that would have been a mistake."
He nuzzled his face to her hand with a smile. "Yeah, I know."
Dropping her hand, she leaned her head against his shoulder with a sigh of her own. His arm went around her.
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Not much to talk about - I love the job, but I've kinda had some problems with one of the talent. It's making me reconsider my position."
He held her back from him a little and turned to look at her. "Don't let something like that make you give up the job, Harley. Not like it did here. You don't know how often I wished you'd stayed and we'd worked things out."
She nodded slowly. "Yeah, but once bitten, twice shy, yanno?"
"Yeah." He was silent for a moment, then smiled at her again. "So, gonna come see the show?"
She laughed. "Wanna come see mine?"
"You got a deal!"
"Only you got to promise to come out on the town with us after the show!"
She grinned at him. "Light it up til we burn it down?"
He hugged her with a laugh. "You know it!"
Harley came into the venue, a pair of backstage passes to the concert that night in her shorts pocket. She couldn't help the grin that was on her face as she sought out the road manager and arranged for a similar pair of passes to be sent over to the band.
She was hoping JT would come to the show tomorrow night. She had some seriously good stuff planned for the Pay Per View, and she wanted to show off a bit. She was just as proud of her work on the weekly shows, but a Pay Per was special.
She made her way through the corridors to the arena proper, wanting to get a look at the space for herself. Pictures and video were one thing, but there was nothing that compared to actually eyeballing the place first hand to know how the set ups would work. Bob saw her coming, and wondered if she was about to offer her resignation. But she said nothing, merely pacing around the arena floor, looking up at rigging points and the spot where the Titan-tron was being erected.
There was plenty of head space here, she thought to herself - that meant she could use the big rig for Mark's fireballs. And with the height of the ceiling, she'd need to adjust the timing for his lightning effect, if he wanted it - it would have major impact in a place this big. She made some notes on the run sheet she was carrying on her clipboard. She turned, looking up at the ceiling, taking a few steps back as she did, head craning to see where she might mount the laser, maybe augmented with a spot, and bumped into someone behind her.
She turned and looked up, giving Mark a grin. "Hey chief. I got good news."
Mark had reached out with one hand to steady her as she backed into him, and his heart sank at her words. "What's that?"
"This place is big enough for me to use the big rig for your fire balls tomorrow night," she grinned. "Oh, and do you think you wanna use your lightning effect?"
He blinked in surprise. He'd been sure she was about to tell him she was going to be leaving, after what he'd seen in the parking garage. It took him a moment to respond. "That's great - about the big rig, I mean. What do you think about the lightning effect - will it be too much with that?"
She shook her head. "Not in a place this big. In fact, I think it might have an even bigger impact, just because of the scale of it. I will have to tinker with it, the timing will need adjusting, but I think it'll blow people away." She took his arm, turning him around towards the Titan-tron, and then pointed up to the ceiling. "Look how far that white laser will go - it's going to look awesome!"
He looked across the expanse of the arena, and couldn't stop the grin from spreading over his face. She was right, it would look spectacular. "I'd love to use it, if that's possible."
"Wouldn't have suggested it if it weren't, chief," she grinned. A thought struck her, particularly in light of her conversation in the tour bus. "Hey, you got any plans for tonight?"
He looked at her curiously. "Nothing in particular. Why?"
She fished the concert passes out of her pocket and held them up so he could see the name of the band. "These guys are playing tonight - I used to work for them. Wanna come with me? The show's always good, and the guys are cool."
He couldn't hide his surprise. "Yeah, I like their stuff. But . . . you sure you want to invite me? I would have thought, well, Jeff maybe . . . "
Harley shook her head. "Jeff isn't into music like this. And, well," she darted a look around and then chuckled, leaning in a bit closer to him. "He's a nice kid, don't get me wrong, but I think I'd rather have some adult company for a change."
Mark laughed. "Adult company to go backstage at a rock concent? Isn't that kind of a non sequitur, Kate?"
She laughed, shrugging. "Yeah, maybe. At least you know what a non sequitur is! So, you wanna come with?
To his surprise, he did. "Yeah, I do."
"Cool! Meet me in the lobby at the hotel around seven?"
Harley grinned and nodded, tapping his arm gently with her clipboard as she walked off, making more notes on her clipboard. He watched her go, feeling a bit surprised and rather pleased. It wasn't like he couldn't have scored himself a free pass to the concert - it was always a bit surprising how many people were wrestling fans. But having Harley offer to share hers was . . . well, it was kind of nice. He just hoped that it wasn't a prelude to her leaving.
Mark was waiting in the hotel lobby just before seven o'clock. He wore black jeans and a black shirt, his hair pulled back into a ponytail. He was hoping that he might enjoy a little anonymity tonight, just so that he could enjoy the concert in peace. He looked up as the elevator chimed, and Harley emerged. He couldn't help but grin - they were dressed almost identically.
Harley looked down at her black jeans and t-shirt and then at Mark's clothes and grinned herself.
"Okay, my excuse is that I've spent half my life dressed in black to work in the back - what's yours?"
He laughed. "Black is supposed to be slimming, and anonymous - I was kind of hoping to blend into the background if I wore it!"
"Ah, chief? You wear all black every time you appear in the ring. It's one of your defining characteristics. If you really wanted no-one to notice you, you shoulda picked pink, maybe. Maybe a nice green to go with your eyes?" she laughed.
His eyebrows rose, but the idea of dressing in pink, or green, just made him laugh. "Kate, shut up with the fashion tips."
She grinned and snapped him a salute. "Whatever you say, chief. We gonna stand here and argue, or we gonna do this?"
He shook his head. "We gave up arguing, remember? And you promised me a rock concert. So yeah, we're gonna do this."
She handed him one of the passes with a grin. "Then let's go already!"
They took a cab to the venue, and Harley used her WWE pass to get them dropped in the parking garage. As they approached the backstage entrance for the concert, the massive security guard gave her a grin.
"Harley Quinn! You're a sight for sore eyes!"
She smiled. "Hey Bear. Wondered if you'd still be around."
"Wouldn't miss it, gal. Who's your friend?" Bear looked Mark up and down - Mark might have had a few inches on him, but Bear was built like a refrigerator.
"Mark, this is Bear. Bear, meet Mark."
Mark extended a hand, which was almost swallowed up by Bear's massive fist.
"Any friend of Harley's is welcome here, man. Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?"
Mark chuckled. "Probably not - I just got one of those faces. Nice to meet you, Bear."
As they moved into the backstage area, Harley chuckled, leaning in to speak quietly to Mark.
" 'One of those faces', chief?"
Mark shrugged, grinning. "Hey, it's my night off. Last thing I want to do is spend it signing autographs or having my picture taken."
She nodded. "You got it."
As they made their way to the hospitality room, Mark watched as Harley was greeted by name by almost everyone. It occurred to him that in her line of work, she was probably at least as well known as he was. She continued to introduce him only as 'Mark', for which he was grateful, although one or two people had tipped him a wink as he'd passed - letting him know he'd been recognized, but not drawing attention to the fact.
When the band arrived, he and Harley were sitting towards the back of the room, each with a beer. She watched them move through the room, greeting contest winners and special guests, sipping her beer. Finally, they made their way to Mark and Harley, and the blonde lead singer grinned.
"Glad to see you could make it, Harley."
"Wouldn't miss it, daddy-o. This is Mark Calaway." She made the rest of the introductions quickly, and Mark stood and shook hands. With the band, she could admit to Mark's role with the WWE, and there were broad grins all round.
The bass guitarist chuckled. "Yeah, I heard a rumour the Undertaker was in the house. It's a blast having you here, man."
Mark grinned. "Hey, it's a blast for me to be here - long time admirer. But I was hoping to keep a low profile."
"Oh, it's cool. No one back here will bother you."
They made small talk for a few minutes, and then the stage manager came to get the band. Mark was prepared to sit back down, but the lead singer shook his head, beckoning for them to follow. Curious, Mark followed Harley and the tall blonde man out into the corridor, and into a second, larger room. The burly man he'd seen earlier today in the parking garage was handing around paper cups, and another man was following with a bottle, pouring a drink for everyone.
Raising the cup to his nose, Mark sniffed, and Harley leaned in to whisper with a grin, "It's Jägermeister."
He nodded - he recognised the scent of the sweet liqueur. This had the hallmarks of some kind of tradition, and he waited to see what would happen. The blonde man held up his cup with a grin.
"Wanna do something different tonight because I think we need to acknowledge a special occasion. So first, a toast - to an old friend!" He grinned at Harley, who grinned right back.
"To Harley!" The shout startled him, coming as it did from everyone in the room, and every cup was raised. He grinned, raising his as well.
Everyone tossed off their shot, and the cups were tossed away as the crew crowded in around the band. Harley stepped back out of the melee, shaking her head, and the bass player nodded. She came to stand beside Mark, but he could see the wistful expression on her face as everyone extended their hands towards the centre and gave the phrase of the night with a loud whoop.
As the crew dispersed, all grinning, to take up their positions before the show started, the lead singer came to stand in front of them. He grinned.
"I hope you enjoy the show. And don't forget, we're gonna go out and party like rockstars later!"
Harley grinned. "You know it!"
The band departed, and Mark and Harley were shown to the VIP area where they'd watch the concert. Harley tapped his arm as they took their seats, and he turned to look at her. She put out her hand, holding a pair of earplugs. He looked at them and then at her, and she grinned.
"Cuts the decibels down to a manageable level. Thought you might like a pair." She had to lean in to him to make herself heard over the audio track already playing. She tucked her hair behind her ear, showing him she was already wearing a pair herself.
He laughed, nodding as he put the earplugs in, then leaned in to speak to her. "Thanks."
She patted his hand with a smile. Talking was pretty much impossible.
The announcement that the band were about to appear caused a roar of approval from the crowd, and a moment later the pyrotechnics display went off. He could see Harley's grin in the lights from the display, and he grinned himself.
The concert was high energy, and the music was great - especially once the earplugs took off the excess decibels. He found himself nodding in time with the beat of familiar songs, enjoying the opportunity to hear them live. The crowd were roaring with every new song, and he wondered whether that was a boost for the band, the way it was for him in the ring, or a distraction.
Intermission brought a welcome break from the noise, and Harley leaned in to speak to him.
"They're great, aren't they?"
He nodded. "They sound brilliant live - that isn't always the case with bands."
"These guys have always been about keeping it real."
"Listen, about going out with them after the show - I'll grab a cab back to the hotel so you can go."
Harley shook her head. "Oh no, I'm counting on you to come with me so you can drag me away after a few drinks!"
He looked at her in surprise. "I thought you wanted to party like a rockstar?"
"My days of partying like that are long gone - besides, I got a full day tomorrow, and I don't want to be facing it with a hangover." She gave him a shame-faced little grin. "And I know that when they start begging me to stay for 'just one more drink', I won't be able to resist. I never could."
He got the feeling there was more to that admission than she was letting on, and he couldn't miss how her eyes were pleading with his. "Okay, I'll come. But when I say we have to go, I'll mean it."
She chuckled and nodded. "Why do you think I'm asking you to do it, chief?"
The second half of the show was even more high energy than the first, as the band played more of their older stuff. He didn't miss the look that the lead singer directed towards the VIP area before one of those songs, and with a shock, Mark realized this might well have been written for Harley. He darted a sideways glance at her, and saw the expression on her face and the slight shake of her head, even as she smiled a little. The lyrics took on new meaning for him now, and he looked at Harley with something like sympathy and renewed respect.
The show ended on a high note with a track from the new album and a massive pyro display, and he could see Harley smiling in the light from it. The crowd began to disperse as the house lights came up, and a security guard appeared, beckoning to them to come backstage with him. Mark took out the earplugs with a smile at Harley.
"I really appreciated these - thanks."
"No problem," she smiled back, removing her own.
The band were on a high after the show, and Mark could certainly relate to that. They headed off to change their clothes while Mark and Harley waited in the hospitality room, and then they piled into a sleek Mercedes van with a few of the crew. Mark looked up at the mirrored ceiling with its LED lighting and couldn't help but laugh, leaning in to Harley.
"Makes the hotel shuttle seem kind of . . . drab, doesn't it?"
Harley could only laugh as the lead singer dropped down to sit on the other side of her.
"Hey, we're rockstars, man. We got an image to maintain!"
That provoked general laughter and the van sped off down the freeway towards the club they were going to.
Mark had to admit, even though they'd been fairly scathing of the rockstar lifestyle in the past, the band knew how to use their fame to their advantage when they wanted to. They'd been shown straight to the VIP lounge of the club, and were settled around a table with a round of beers within minutes of their arrival.
The conversation was mostly about the show, to begin with, as the band unwound, and then moved onto other subjects. Harley and JT were talking about the pyros, and he and the drummer and bass player were talking about audience reactions. And while it was a pleasant evening, Mark remembered what he'd promised Harley. He refused the offer of a third beer, and looked over at Harley, who had ended up sitting between JT and the lead singer, who had his arm around her shoulders.
There were a few eyebrows raised at the unfamiliar name, but Harley smiled. "Yeah, chief?"
"We got a big day tomorrow, remember?"
There was a chorus of protest around the table, but Harley shook her head. "Sorry guys, Mark is right. Tomorrow night's a big deal for us. You are coming, right?"
She turned to JT, who nodded. Mark had already promised to send over a few more passes, once he'd heard how many fans were in the crew. She turned to smile at the lead singer, who tightened his hold on her shoulder and shook his head.
"No way, Harleykins - you promised to light it up til we burn it down."
She chuckled and kissed his cheek. "I think you can manage that without me, daddy-o."
The bass player leaned in to speak quietly to Mark. "Be a good idea if she left now. Take the van - they can come back for us."
Mark nodded, and stood up, coming around to stand by Harley's chair, holding out his hand. She shot him a grateful look, taking it as she rose to her feet. She grinned at them all. "We'll see you at our show tomorrow night, guys."
The bass player beckoned their security guard over, and he accompanied Mark and Harley to the van, passing on the instructions to the driver. Harley gave him the name of their hotel and she and Mark climbed into the van and sat down.
"Thanks, chief - I owe you one," she smiled.
"Hey, I'm the one should be thanking you. The concert was a blast," Mark responded with a smile of his own.
"Yeah, it was, wasn't it?"
It wasn't long before the van pulled up outside their hotel, and the doorman opened the door for them. Harley chuckled as they climbed out.
"Must be nice to be a rockstar, huh?"
Mark grinned. "Yeah, I guess. But we ain't got it so bad ourselves."
They walked over to the elevators, and he could hear Harley humming one of the songs from the show, and he smiled.
"Thanks, Kate - I had a great time tonight."
She smiled at him. "Me too, chief." The elevator opened on her floor and she stepped out, giving him a wave. "Catch you tomorrow!"
Harley was at the venue early the next morning, keen to get a start on the set ups for the Pay Per View. She was flat on her back under the entrance stage, bolting together the propane rig, when someone bent down to speak to her.
She craned her head to one side, smiling when she saw Jeff Hardy.
"Hey Jeff. Do me a favour - hand me that wrench?"
She pointed to her toolbox, and he crouched down, picking up the wrench and holding it out to her. She took it with a nod, tightening it around one section of piping and using the wrench to hold it steady while she connected a t-valve to it. Her hand slipped on the other wrench she was using, and she scraped her knuckles against one of the stage supports with a curse. It took a few minutes for her to finally get the pipes connected as she intended, and she crawled out from under the stage.
Jeff looked at her - she had a smudge of dust over one cheek, and her knuckles were oozing blood from the scrape. He chuckled.
"You're in the wars early today!"
She shrugged. "Comes with the territory. How come you're here so early?"
"Wanted to use the gym." He looked at her curiously. "I heard rumours you and Mark were out on a date last night."
Her eyes widened and she burst out laughing. "Oh man, that is priceless!"
Jeff grinned. "I knew it couldn't be right, you and Mark out together."
"Oh, we went out together."
"But . . . you just said . . ." Jeff looked confused.
Harley chuckled. "I had tickets to a rock concert last night, and I asked Mark if he'd like to come with me. But it wasn't a date."
She tried not to grin at his crestfallen expression. "I didn't think you liked their music, otherwise I might have asked you."
"Well, no, I don't. But . . . Mark?"
She shrugged. "He's a fan of the band. Besides, well, we're trying to get on better lately."
"I guess." Jeff gave her a grin. "It's just weird, that's all. It's good, but weird."
"Hey, you never know what's going to happen, right? Okay, I gotta test this rig - catch you later, Jeff."
With a grin, Harley dropped down and crawled back under the stage, wriggling herself into position to check the connections on the flame rig.
Mark heard the rumour mill over breakfast, and couldn't help his grin. He was always amused by the speed at which people got the wrong end of stories and spread them throughout the company, but this really was hysterical.
He hadn't seen Harley at the hotel, and figured that she was already at the venue. He wondered what her reaction would be to the news that they were now dating. After his autograph session in the morning, he packed his gear and headed over to the venue in the hotel shuttle. The show tonight was shaping up to be a great one, and he was especially pleased with the plans he and Dave Batista had for their match. They had some ring time booked, and after arriving at the venue and changing into his workout gear, he headed out to the arena.
As he came up the stairs to the Titan-tron, he heard the distinctive crackle of his lightning effect. Harley stood midway up the entrance ramp, wearing a headset and carrying a remote button. As he started down the ramp, he heard her talking to the techs.
"It's still not meshing, guys. Can we try a half second display on the soundtrack after the laser is triggered?"
She gave him a quick smile, listening to the voice in her headset, nodding. He waited, watching as she waited, then counted in the laser. Her attention was focused on the top point of the Titan-tron, and she nodded as the laser hit and the video footage started. It was stopped a few seconds later and she spoke into her headset.
"That's much better - can we program that for tonight?" She listened for a moment and then shook her head. "No, everything else is fine. We just need that extra half second at the beginning, and I'd rather delay the sound than try remixing it at this point."
He smiled as she took off the headset. "Half a second, Kate? Perfectionist, much?"
She chuckled, looping the headset over her pliers on her workbelt. "Hey, might not sound like much, but it's kind of a big deal to me. You want it to be perfect, don't you?"
He shrugged. "I already think it's perfect, but if it makes you happy, by all means, tinker with it."
Dave Batista appeared at the top of the ramp and gave them a broad grin. "Aw, don't you two make the cutest couple?"
Harley and Mark grinned at one another and burst out laughing. Mark was the first to speak. "I take it you've heard the news then?"
She nodded, still grinning. "Jeff told me this morning. Priceless, isn't it?"
He could only grin. "Hell yeah. Doesn't take much to get the gossip going around here."
She shook her head. "Okay, I gotta get back to work."
"You know, Kate, JT will be impressed by what he sees tonight," he smiled at her.
"Am I that obvious?" she chuckled.
"Nah. It's just I'm the same way every night. Sure, I want to give the crowd a good show, but I'm also hoping that I can get the guys who are watching in the back to say 'Jeez, what a match, I'm impressed'."
She nodded. "I get ya. And yeah, that's what I'm hoping too."
She gave him a wave as she headed back up the ramp, and he headed down it, to where Dave was waiting in the ring.
As usual, there were a million details to be taken care of leading up the show, and Harley was busy all afternoon. At least she had a chance to take a break for dinner, and she headed to Catering with some of the other crew. Jeff chuckled when he saw her, reaching out to gently run his thumb over the smudge of dirt that still adorned her cheek.
"Busy day, huh?"
She looked at him in surprise, and the scrubbed her hand over her face with a little chuckle. "Usual thing, I guess. Remind me to go wash my face after dinner, please? I've got guests coming to the show tonight, and I'd rather not look like a street person when they arrive!"
He looked pointedly at the dried blood on her knuckles and laughed. "Especially one who's gone a few rounds in a fight!"
When she followed his gaze, she shook her head. "Okay, I'm gonna go clean up before dinner. Back in few, Jeff," she said, heading back down the corridor to the nearest locker room set aside for the female roster and crew.
She could only shake her head, looking at her reflection. Her hair looked like she'd been dragged through a hedge backwards, thanks to having to crawl around under the stage half the day, and she was liberally smudged with dirt. This was going to require more than a quick wash and brush up. Fortunately, it wasn't like she had to go far for assistance with all of that. A quick trip to Wardrobe got her a new crew t-shirt, and her shorts just needed a quick dusting. Hair and Makeup provided a hairbrush and some cleanser, and she borrowed soap and shampoo from one of the Divas to take a quick shower.
As a result, she was fresh and clean fifteen minutes later. She even had time to stop by the trainer's rooms for a bandaid, as she'd made her knuckles bleed again. She slipped into a seat next to Jeff with her usual salad and he grinned at her.
"Much better! At least now people won't think you and Mark had the bust up to end all bust ups and came to blows!"
She just laughed. After her break, she took care of a few last minute tasks, and was down checking the wiring on Glenn's in-ring pyros when one of the crew came to let her know that her guests had arrived. She headed backstage, taking off her headphones and leaving them around her neck, and was on her way to the hospitality suite when she saw Mark coming towards her. He gave her a smile, holding the door open for her.
They introduced the band and crew to the wrestlers who were currently in the suite, and then Mark excused himself to go and get ready for his match. Harley took JT and her friends from the band on a tour backstage, and JT could not get over the size of the crew, or the sophistication of the set ups they had in place. At the thirty minute mark, Harley's headphones beeped, and she slipped them on to report in to the techs.
Bob was a little surprised to find JT visiting backstage, but he greeted him warmly enough. He'd heard that Harley had been at their show the night before, and he wondered whether she was tempted to join them again. She seemed pretty relaxed, pointing out some of their systems backstage to JT, introducing them around. But soon she handed them off to a security man, who would take them out to their seats behind the announce table. Once they had left, Harley was all business, doing her check ins with the truck, keeping an eye on preparations backstage.
He let her run the big board tonight, remaining as her back up if needed, and watched with pride as she handled it like she'd been with the company for years. He did have to chuckle when she requested a track from the band for part of the audio during intermission, and he didn't miss her grin seeing the expressions on her guests' faces from the camera covering the announce table.
Mark and Dave's match was the next to last on the card, and Bob didn't miss the audience reaction to the lightning bolt effect and the fire balls that heralded Mark's entrance, and he thought he could see the satisfaction on Harley's face at that. The energy of that match flowed over to the final match of the card, and the show ended on a definite high, which made everyone happy.
Harley slipped off her headphones, leaving them around her neck, and stretched. There would be no load out tonight, but some minor set breakdown would happen, just to make the job of re-setting for tomorrow night's Raw easier. She smiled as she saw JT and her friends from the band being brought backstage, and JT just shook his head with a grin.
"Holy shit, Harley - you guys got some great stuff happening with your shows!"
She nodded, smiling. "Why do you think I took this job? It ain't just Bob's charming personality - they were using most of this stuff when I got here."
"Man, that lightning bolt the Undertaker uses is fantastic!"
Mark, showered and dressed after his match, had come up behind them as they spoke, and he chuckled, pointing at Harley. "That's Kate's work - it's brilliant, isn't it?"
Harley flapped a hand, blushing a little. JT laughed.
"You realize, these guys are gonna want something like that now?"
Mark stepped up behind Harley and gave them 'Taker's stare. "They can't have it. It's mine."
The bass guitarist laughed at JT's expression. "Hey man, I'd rather not have this guy on my ass, so don't get any bright ideas about stealing it!"
The lead singer gave Harley a smile. "Come out with us for a drink, Harley."
Mark wondered what her reaction might be, given what she'd asked him to do the night before.
She shook her head. "No can do, guys. We got another show tomorrow night."
And they were in the same venue for it too. Most of the crew had tonight off, and tomorrow was an easy day. He realized she was trying to get out of this in as graceful a way as possible. He wondered if there was anything he could do to help.
"Yeah, but just a few drinks? Pretty please?"
"I can't, really."
Mark chuckled - now he knew how he could help. "Because she runs my pyros, and she knows I'd never forgive her if she screwed up and put me in the Burns Ward."
Harley shot him a grateful look and then grinned at the band. "He's right, guys - I need my wits about me for the set build tomorrow."
"Then what about after both shows tomorrow?"
"Nah, I got load out tomorrow night, we gotta be in Fresno the following day." She gave them a helpless smile.
The bass guitarist gave her a grin. "Life on the road, gotta love it, huh?"
"You know it. Come on, I'll walk you guys out," Harley said.
As they left, Bob looked at Mark.
"You think she's gonna want to go back on the road with them?"
Mark shook his head. "I don't think so. Not with that band, anyway. I get the feeling there's some history there she's not keen to see repeated."
Bob sighed. "Then I guess I can still hope she'll stay. Great show tonight, Mark."
Mark clapped Bob on the shoulder as he went back to the locker room to collect his bag. As the shuttle for the hotel left the venue, Mark spotted Harley deep in conversation with the blonde singer from the band.
The following day saw the temperatures skyrocketing, and Harley and most of the rest of the crew abandoned their usual black t-shirts for tank tops in the heat. They worked around the roster for part of the morning, as the post-show recap went on.
Harley was taking a break in Catering late in the morning when Mark came in. Her back was to him, and to his surprise, her tank top revealed a tattoo on her right shoulder. He walked over to her holding the bottle of water he'd come in for, and as he got closer, he could see the detail of the ink - an almost delicate tracery of vines covering her shoulderblade, with small tattoos here and there amongst it.
"I had no idea you had tattoos, Kate," he finally said, and she looked up over her shoulder at him.
"Oh, hey, chief." Her eyes dropped to her shoulder and she shrugged. "Never thought to mention it - I mean, they're pretty commonplace around here."
He gestured to her shoulder. "You mind if I take a closer look?"
"Nah, go ahead," she said, reaching behind her with her left hand to lift her shoulder length hair up from her neck.
He grabbed the chair beside her and sat down, leaning in closer to examine her body art. It began up near her hairline, and without touching her tank top, he couldn't see how far down her back it went. The vines had a real organic feel about them, giving a real sense that they had "grown" there, and the small pieces of actual tattoo art were intricate and incredibly detailed.
"This is some really nice work, Kate. How long you had it?"
She turned again to look over her shoulder at him. "I got the first part done, oh, must be almost eighteen years ago now."
He chuckled. "How did you get started?"
"It was my first tour with a band. We were out after a show, gettin' drunk, and someone got the brilliant idea to all go get tattoos." She chuckled. "I wasn't going to get one at first, and while the guys were getting theirs done, I was looking over the flash on the walls, yanno, and I spotted this." She placed her fingertip on the motif that was near her hairline on the back of her neck, a complex design of a shield and leaves and vines in autumn tones. "I asked them if they could do it this kind of size, and suddenly it was a real challenge they wanted to take on."
"Yeah, I can see that," he said, leaning in so close she could feel his breath against her skin. "But man, they did a great job."
"I know. And I loved it. I kind of wimped out in where I got it - I figured there, at least if I didn't like it, I could easy cover it with my hair. But once I had one, well, getting the next one was easier."
He sat back, grinning at her. His arms were uncovered in his own tank top, and he took a mouthful of his water. "The next one is always easier. Then it gets to be an addiction!"
She laughed, letting her hair fall down over her neck again. "Tell me about it. Got to be that I was the one who was saying after a night out, hey let's go get tattoos!"
"So how did you come up with the overall design?"
She sat sideways in her chair so she was looking at him as they spoke. "I didn't - not really. I always chose the motifs by just looking at the flash art in whatever ink parlour I was in and letting the right one just come to me. Only for a while, I didn't find anything, but I really wanted to get a tattoo. One guy suggested just extending the vines on the original motif a bit until I could decide. And I liked that idea - it was like the original tattoo was 'growing'."
He nodded. "Sounds like a good idea - nothing worse than getting something just to be inking, and then hating it."
"Oh yeah. Then I started to get ideas - like, I wanted something to symbolize the night. I mean, that was mostly when we worked, when we partied. Daytime was for sleeping or driving, nighttime was when we lived. So I looked for something I liked that said that to me."
He cocked his head to one side, trying to see what one she would associate with night, and she chuckled, turning her back to him again and pushing the strap of her tank top and her bra off her shoulder to show a design of a crescent moon and stars entwined with the vines.
He couldn't resist reaching out to run his fingers over it - it was a simple line tattoo, uncoloured, but it had exquisite cross-hatching to create shadows. "That's beautiful. And it looks like it belongs with the vines too."
She smiled. "The design for that one had its own swirls through it, so I got the artist to use the vines instead."
Now that she had shifted the strap, he could see the edge of another motif, and he reached out, raising his eyebrows as his fingertips touched the edge of her tank top. "You mind?"
She shook her head, smiling, knowing which one he wanted to see. "Go ahead."
He gently pushed the fabric down, looking at the motif that was exposed - an intricate Celtic medallion that morphed into a five pointed fireball. He chuckled. "I knew there had to be flames on here somewhere!"
She laughed. "It was actually really hard to find the right piece of art for that."
He let her shirt go and sat back. "You made a good choice. How long since you had anything new on it?"
Pushing her straps back onto her shoulder, she thought a moment. "It's been a couple of years, I think."
"Lost your taste for ink?"
"No, not exactly. The last band I was on the road with weren't big into tattoos. Titty bars now, that was a different story," she winked at him.
He laughed, shaking his head. "Give me a good tattoo parlour any day! You never know where the girls in those places have been!"
Chuckling, she nodded. "That's not to say I haven't seen some dreadful parlours in my day."
"There are some bad ones, I know. What amazes me is that people still go to them. It's not even like they're cheaper sometimes."
Harley shrugged. "I've been dragged into parlours that I wouldn't let tattoo a dog's ear to show he'd been fixed, and they called me a wimp for refusing to let anyone in the place touch me with a needle."
"It looks like you take ink really well." He took another mouthful of water and then smiled. "Listen, if you're interested, I know a great guy in Sacramento. I could take you to meet him."
She looked surprised at the offer, but then she smiled. "You know, I think I'd like that. Thanks."
"Don't mention it. Okay, I'm gonna hit the gym - I'll see you around, Kate."
She gave him a wave as he left, and then went back to work herself.
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