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!
After a quick dinner with Bob and some of the other senior crew, where they discussed the audit the following evening, Harley went upstairs with her log books. In the quiet of her hotel room, it hadn't taken her more than an hour to go through and make sure everything tallied and was signed off, and she set the books aside with a satisfied smile and a long stretch.
She took a shower and made sure to carefully wash and dry her new tattoos, and then found a pair of pyjamas to wear, although she left the camisole top off for the moment - she would put it on later, when she needed to. She glanced at her watch and flicked on the tv, scanning the channels for something to keep her occupied until Mark came back from dinner.
Twenty minutes later, she was lying on her stomach, watching an old favourite. Before long, she was caught up in the lives of Truvy, Clairee, Ouisa, Annelle, M'Lynn and the lovely but doomed Shelby, giggling and laughing. It was one of her favourite movies, and the perfect way to pass the time. So perfect that she completely forgot that Mark was coming by.
M'Lynn was driving to Aunt Fern's to pick up Jack Jr after Shelby died, and Harley felt the familiar prickle of tears. No matter how many times she saw this movie, it always made her cry. Truvy and Spud were getting ready for the funeral, and she was sniffling. When the knock came at the door, the girls were gathering around the casket at the cemetery, and she reached for her camisole top, struggling into it, dragging it over her head as she tried to put the movie out of her mind.
She looked around for the remote and couldn't find it, so she left the tv on and went to answer the door. Surely if she couldn't see the screen, she'd be okay. Swiping away the moisture from her eyes, she opened the door.
Mark had enjoyed a few beers with Glenn over dinner, and was feeling pretty relaxed as he waited outside Harley's door. He smiled as she opened the door, taking in the bright heart print boxers and the red camisole style top.
If he was hoping for a reaction, he was disappointed, as Harley just stepped aside to let him enter the room, closing the door behind him.
Oh hell no, was her strangled thought. Annelle was telling M'Lynn that Shelby was with her King - shit, where was the damn remote? Maybe if she talked to him, she could put the movie out of her mind.
"How was dinner?"
"It was good." He took the aftercare cream out of his pocket. "Ready?"
"Uh huh," she nodded, turning her back on the tv and slipping the straps of the camisole off her shoulders, letting it fall down her back a little.
She was awfully quiet, Mark thought, as he took the cap off the cream. And nowhere near as skittish, he realized, as there wasn't a protest as he gently pushed the camisole down further. The tattoos were clean and dry - Denny was right about her skin, it looked like it was going to heal up quickly and beautifully. He squeezed the cream out onto her skin and began the careful process of spreading it thinly over the new tattoo.
Even though she couldn't see the tv, she could still hear it, as M'Lynn was talking about how Shelby died.
"I find it amusin'. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something. I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh god. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life."
She fought hard not to cry.
Mark could feel her tensing up. He was being as gentle as he could on the still slightly puffy skin, but maybe he was hurting her. He patted her shoulder. "Almost done, Kate. Just need to do the ones on your neck." His hand moved to lift her hair away.
Harley bit her lip. No matter how many times she saw this movie, no matter how she tried to convince herself that this time she wouldn't cry, she couldn't help it. M'Lynn's anguished wail came to her ears.
"I'm fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can't! She never could! Oh God! I am so mad I don't know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know why Shelby's life is over! I wanna know how that baby will ever know how wonderful his mother was! Will he ever know what she went through for him! Oh God I wanna know why! Why? Lord, I wish I could understand!"
It destroyed her, as always, and she couldn't keep her sobs quiet any longer.
At the sound of those sobs, Mark's eyebrows raised in surprise. He wasn't even touching her any more. He put the cap on the tube of cream and came around to stand in front of her, his hand going to her shoulder.
"Kate? What's wrong?"
She couldn't speak, her head still hung forward, the sobs shaking her body.
"Aw hell, Kate, don't cry." There was something about a woman crying that always got to him, and he did the only thing he could think of, gently pulling her into his arms, holding her head to his chest as he patted her shoulder.
Harley lost it completely then - the kindness in his touch overwhelmed her, and her arms went around his waist as she buried her face in his chest and wept. Mark had no idea what was wrong, but he did the best he could, his hand gently stroking her hair as she clung to him.
A few moments later, as her tears tapered off, Harley realized what she was doing, and with her breath hitching, she took a step back from Mark, her arms falling away from him, one hand coming up to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
As she moved away from him, Mark looked at her, concerned, his hand moving away from her hair, but not without one last gentle stroke.
She sniffled, flapping a hand towards the tv, sounding embarrassed. "Steel Magnolias - that movie always makes me cry."
He chuckled, but his expression was kind. "I was afraid I'd hurt you or something."
Shaking her head, she gave him a shamefaced little look. "Just arrived at the wrong moment." She spied the damp patches on his shirt front where her tears had soaked into it. "Oh Mark, I'm sorry!"
He glanced down at himself and laughed. "A few tears won't melt me, Kate, don't worry about it." He wouldn't admit it, but it had felt kind of nice, having her hugging him that way, even if she was crying on him at the time. "You sure you're okay, though?"
"Oh yeah. By the time the movie's over, I'm usually laughing again. As Truvy says, laughter through tears is my favourite emotion. Must be a Southern gal thing." That Southern accent was a little more pronounced tonight.
He just shook his head, chuckling. She was tough enough to work even with a busted up knee, to fall asleep getting a tattoo, and a movie could reduce her to tears. An old movie, for Chrissakes. "Kate, you're strange."
She chuckled herself. "Never claimed to be otherwise, chief." She pulled the straps on her camisole up onto her shoulders.
Funny, he knew he should be leaving, but the memory of that hug had his feet rooted firmly to the spot, it seemed. Harley sniffled again, and smiled at him.
"The cream - and for not laughing at me cryin' over an old movie," she smiled.
"Not a problem, on either count. You need me to drop by in the morning?" He gestured at the tube of cream he'd left laying on the table.
She wriggled her shoulders a little. "I think I'll be okay. It's hardly weeping at all any more, so I think it's healing fine."
He nodded. "It certainly looks that way. Well, if you need me, you know where to find me."
"Yep, I do." She walked over to the door, opening it for him. "Goodnight, Mark."
He smiled as he walked out of her room. "Goodnight Kate."
She closed the door quietly and put the safety chain on, and then went back to the bed. Carefully, she slipped off the camisole again, and lay back down on her stomach, sighing as she did. The movie continued, and she smiled a little. It was kind of nice to be held while she cried over it, she thought absently - that was something that had never happened to her before. Mark was sweet for doing that.
When the movie ended, she searched again for the remote and found it on the floor beside the bed. Turning the tv off, she turned down the covers on the bed and lay down on her stomach, pulling the covers up to her waist. Nestling her head into the pillow as she pulled it under her, she gave a soft sigh as she closed her eyes. Tomorrow was a big day. Her last waking thought, tinged with sleepy surprise, was the feel of Mark's hand stroking her hair.
The following morning, she stood with her back to the mirror in the hotel bathroom, looking over her shoulder as she applied the aftercare cream. The spots on her neck were easy to deal with, and with a little wriggling, she thought she'd done a pretty fair job on the new work. Perhaps not as precise and even as Mark had done, but she couldn't rely on him forever.
She had to think about how to manage tonight though - finally, she packed her crew t-shirt and her antibacterial soap into a tote bag. She'd wear a tank and bikini top again today, and then shower and change into her t-shirt at the venue. No cream, she didn't want it rubbing off on the t-shirt. She'd apply it when she got back to the hotel, probably. She tossed it into the tote bag anyway - maybe she'd get Jeff to apply it before she started work on the load out after the show.
Breakfast was a little hurried, but she didn't miss the looks that came her way when Mark arrived in the restaurant. She tried to hide her smile, but he gave her a wide grin and a wink as he joined another table, and she just shook her head. He was really enjoying the stir he was creating, the devil. Come to think of it, so was she.
When she left the restaurant, she went by his table, a smile still flirting around her lips, and made a point of stopping by his chair.
She put her hand on his shoulder and bent down to kiss his cheek, saying quietly, but not too quietly to be overheard, "Thanks for last night, Mark."
He was lucky he hadn't managed to get his coffee to his mouth, he thought later, as she surprised the hell out of him with that. He set the cup down again carefully and reached up to pat her hand, giving her a big grin. "Anytime, Kate. You know that."
She winked at him, and he shook his head almost imperceptibly, still grinning as she left the restaurant, and not missing the number of people who watched her go.
Work at the venue was well underway, with set dressing almost completed, when Harley took a break for lunch. She was sitting with the latest edition of the PGI Bulletin, picking at a salad as she read. Pushing her plate away, she sat tapping her fingernails idly on the journal, chewing her lip thoughtfully as she looked at the page.
"Earth to Harley," said a voice beside her, and she looked up with a start to see Jeff grinning at her.
"Hey Jeff," she said, closing up the journal as he dropped into a chair opposite her.
He glanced over at the cover as he dug into his lunch. "What's PGI?"
"Pyrotechnics Guild International," she said.
"Ah. Anything interesting?"
She shook her head. "Not really. Some new stuff with airburst shells, but it's not like we use those around here."
"So how come you looked a million miles away?"
Jeff was always interested in what she was doing, she realized with a smile. "Just a couple of conversations I've had making me think about trying something."
"I used to work at a pyrotechnics company as a research engineer - used to be pretty good at it too. And Glenn and I were talking about trying something new for his entrance the other day. I just realized that maybe if it doesn't exist, I might be able to design it."
Jeff's eyes widened. "Some new kind of pyro?"
"You can do that?"
"I can certainly try."
"Wow." He was silent a moment, and then he grinned. "Will you design something special and new for me too?"
Laughing, she shook her head. "One thing at a time - let me see what I can do with this idea for Glenn first!"
He nodded. "Okay, but remember, I'm next in line!"
She chuckled. "Yes, Jeff, you're next in line."
"So did you get your work done last night?"
"Yep. I'm ready for anything tonight . . . wait. You aren't doing anything foolhardy like a ladder match tonight, are you?"
He stuck his tongue out at her. "Very funny. As a matter of fact, I'm not. Not tonight, anyway."
"Thank heavens for small mercies then. Last thing I want happening tonight is someone getting hurt while OSHA's here. Well, I don't want that to happen any night, just especially not tonight."
"Harley, we all know the risks when we go into this line of work," Jeff's tone was serious.
She dragged her hands through her hair. "I'm not used to that side of it yet - I still feel sick thinking about the night Glenn and Mark got hurt in that cage match."
He shrugged. "Nothing you could have done to prevent that, Harley."
"I guess." She sighed, and then picked up her tray and journal. "Okay, I'm back to work. Might catch you for dinner, okay?"
He nodded and waved as she left.
As Bob suspected, the OSHA auditors were very much interested in what had happened the night Mark and Glenn had had their fateful cage match. Both men had given the auditors a fairly simple message - the fault, if there was any to be apportioned, lay with both of them and no one else.
Harley, dressed in her black crew t-shirt, had escorted them everywhere they wished to see, wearing a headset so she knew where backstage filming was taking place and could avoid it. And true to her word, she had made damn sure they went nowhere near any of the talent, excepting Glenn and Mark, who they had formally requested to interview.
After the show, the auditors withdrew into Bob's office for an hour, while she and Bob began the work of the load out, and then joined them for an informal exit interview. Which provided anticlimactic - they had found no fault with anything, and did not even issue the most minor of findings to be dealt with. Bob thanked them for their efforts, and escorted them out of the venue, and Harley stood in the corridor near the loading docks, stretching.
There had been dark clouds earlier in the evening, and there was thunder rumbling around the skies, while the air felt particularly close, She tugged her t-shirt away from her skin and hoped that it would rain and break the heat. A sharp crackle of lightning made her jump, and there was a deep chuckle behind her. She turned to see Mark grinning at her, on his way to the carpark.
"Gonna tell me you're afraid of storms now?"
She shook her head, laughing. "As if I'd admit it if I were!" Truth be told, she didn't much care for lightning, and she had edged a bit closer into the building after it had struck.
"Everything go okay with the audit?" Mark asked, shifting his bag to his other shoulder as he dug out the keys to his rental car.
"Yep. Not even a minor finding, although they may take swipes at us in the report - nothing stopping them doing that, especially if there's nothing officially to be addressed. I'm just glad they're out of here - we got a load out to get done."
"I don't envy you that, Kate."
She shrugged. "I'm used to it. You headed home tomorrow?" Only those wrestlers required for the show tomorrow night would stay on - the rest would take advantage of having an extra day off.
He nodded. "Guess I'll see you in Vegas on Friday?"
"I'll be there. Travel safe, Mark." She smiled at him.
"Thanks. You take care of that tattoo, Kate - I'll be checking on it in Vegas!"
She laughed and waved him off as she went back into the building, twirling her headset on one finger.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Please check the terms of this license before reproducing any part of this work.