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Fireworks (16/?)

Fireworks
Features: Undertaker (Mark Calaway) 
Rating: NC17 for language and sexual situations

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!

Thanks so much for the feedback so far - so glad to know people are enjoying the story!  After a little . . . detour . . . I'm happy to say that things are now moving in the right direction again!  Told you to trust me, didn't I?

###

Harley made her way to the security entrance, smiling as she saw Ben waiting there. Her eyes flicked over him - this was more like the Ben she remembered. A pair of relaxed boot cut Levis and a dark t-shirt under a leather jacket. Even a pair of well worn boots and a heavy pewter belt buckle, and a discreet stud in his left earlobe. She grinned.

"You look like a rockstar, Ben."

He grinned back at her. For the show, she'd changed into a pair of black jeans and her crew t-shirt. Her headset was looped around her neck.

"And you look as good as you did in college, Harley."

He gathered into a hug, and she laughed, her arms going around him.

"You're a terrible liar, Ben, but I love you anyway." She stepped back from him. "Come on, lemme show you around."

Ben was fascinated by the backstage processes of the event - everyone seemed so focused, crew and talent alike. Before the audience was allowed into the arena, Harley took him out to walk through the set up. She particularly wanted to discuss the pyro she was working on for Glenn, showing him the overhead lighting rig that she hoped to mount it on, and the area it would fall in.

As she explained the concept to him, his own imagination was fired. This was something no one had ever really tried before - if they could pull it off, it was worth a lot in publicity and sales. He was only to eager to partner with her in a collaboration to see if they could make it work. He noted the pyro set ups she had in place, spotting some of his own tubes and shells in amongst them, eager to see what it looked like when it was fired.

Walking backstage, she introduced him to various people in the crew, including Bob Threadgood, who had nice things to say about his company's products. They stood in a hallway, and he was waiting while Harley answered a check in page, when a man wandered up behind her, snaking an arm around her waist and kissing her cheek. She grinned at him, patting his cheek as she slipped her headset back off.

"Jeff, I'd like you to meet Ben Martin. Ben, allow me to introduce Jeff Hardy, the Ultimate Thrill Seeker."

Ah, so this was 'Jeff'. A well built six footer, perhaps an inch or so shorter than himself, with shoulder length dark blonde hair like his own, except dyed a startling red and gold in swatches. The rockstar touches were there too, both ears pierced, and his labret. And some impressive tattoos down one muscular arm. Deep green eyes with a touch of hazel - a good looking young man indeed. And that grin was infectious, as Ben found himself returning it as he held out his hand.

"Nice to meet you, Jeff."

"Any friend of Harley's, man," Jeff shook his hand and nodded.

"I have to ask - the 'Ultimate Thrill Seeker'? What's that all about?"

Jeff's grin broadened, and the southern accent deepened. "I never met a risk I wouldn't take."

Harley rolled her eyes and laughed. "Believing your own hype now, Jeff?" She smiled at Ben. "Jeff's got a high-risk style. They're probably going to show video of some of his more extreme moments tonight leading up to his match - you'll see what I mean."

Ben chuckled. "Harley, I'm beginning to think this wrestling is full of more surprises than a tour bus full of rockstars!"

Jeff laughed. "You don't know the half of it, man!" He hugged Harley with one arm. "I gotta hit Wardrobe - can I get a kiss for luck?"

She chuckled, leaning up to kiss his cheek. "For 'luck' - right. How about one for staying marginally safe?"

He grinned and presented the other cheek, which she duly kissed, smiling.

"Now I know I'm gonna have a great night! Seeya later!"

He loped off with a wave, and Harley grinned, watching him go. She turned to find Ben's eyes on her, a grin on his face.

"What?"

"I'd ask what he was doing in your room this morning while you were in the shower, but on seeing him, I think I know the answer to that."

Harley laughed, wrapping her arm around Ben's waist as they headed down the hallway. "He's rather too devastating for his own good, I'm afraid."

"And damn near irresistible too. He grinned and even I felt like swooning," Ben laughed.

"Lost Boys and their charm - it's a potent combination, Ben."

"Whatever you say, Tinker Bell," Ben pressed a kiss to her temple as she laughed.

###

Ben had to admit - Harley's show had it all happening in terms of spectacle. Her opening pyro display was breathtaking - she had a real knack for design, and simultaneous detonations. Considering she was working all with close proximity stuff and indoors as well, she had put on a display that had rivalled some of the outdoor stuff he'd seen.

And then there were displays for some of the wrestlers - again, everything so individual and spectacular. From rising flame balls and lightning to in-ring pyros, it was impressive as hell.

He didn't really understand the actual wrestling, except for the entertainment of seeing powerfully built men tossing one another around. The big screens had indeed showed video footage of Jeff's exploits leading up to his match, and he could only shake his head, seeing the man leap blithely from the tops of ladders onto his opponents. There were no ladders in the match he saw, but certainly Jeff seemed to spend more time in the air than Michael Jordan.

The audience were as vocal in their support as at any rock concert he'd been at, and as he was escorted backstage again, he thought he could understand why Harley had made the transition. She was talking with Bob Threadgood and some of the other crew when he arrived, and he leaned back against a wall, watching her. As she finished her conversation and turned to walk over to him, he recognized the two men who'd had the last match of the show walking down the hallway.

In an evening populated by big men, these two were pretty much the biggest. They stopped to talk to Harley, and they towered over her by about a foot. And yet for all that, they seemed . . . gentle with her. One of them was heavily tattooed on both arms, with rockstar long hair, and a rather serious face. But Ben thought that his expression softened as he looked at Harley.

The three of them spoke briefly, and the tattooed one nodded, clapping his colleague on the shoulder before continuing down the hallway. Harley led the other one towards him. This one was . . . huge. His bare shoulders were not just wide but heavily muscled, as was his torso. Not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley, Ben thought. Until he smiled - a warm genuine expression.

"Ben, meet Glenn Jacobs, also known as Kane. Glenn, this is Ben Martin - I'm hoping Ben will help me come up with your rain of fire."

The big man's smiled widened, and he stuck out a massive hand. "Then I'm very pleased to meet you, Ben!"

Ben laughed, taking the offered hand, a bit startled at how large it felt compared to his own. "Thanks. No pressure at all, right, Harley?"

She just chuckled. "None whatsoever. Glenn's harmless."

A growl rumbled out of that massive chest, and his expression darkened for a moment. And Ben was right back to not wanting to meet him in a dark alley again, until he grinned, and Harley laughed.

"Fine, mostly harmless!"

Glenn patted Harley's shoulder very gently.

"Okay, I'm gonna hit the showers. Real nice to meet you, Ben."

"Likewise, Glenn," Ben smiled.

Harley smiled as the big man moved away, and Ben looked at her with his eyebrows raised.

"So am I going to need to enter some kind of Witness Protection program, change my identity and drop off the face of the earth if we aren't successful with this pyro?" he chuckled.

"Nah. Glenn's really a pussycat, and he totally understands that I'm gonna give it my best shot but if it can't be done, then it can't be done," Harley said. "Now if it were Mark we were dealing with, then . . . " She winked.

"Mark is the other big one? With the tattoos?"

"That'd be him," Harley nodded. "He's . . . intense." She seemed about to say something else, but then just shook her head. "Okay, I'm going to go change, and then dinner?"

Ben nodded. "Sounds good to me."

Harley escorted him to one of the hospitality suites, and then hurried off to change. She wasn't gone long, reappearing in a short black dress of some slinky material that hugged her body in graceful folds, ending just above her knees, and tied around the waist with a brightly coloured sash tied in a pussy cat bow. He took her in with a smile, and rose to his feet, holding his hand out for the tote bag she carried.

"Well worth the wait."

She tucked her hand through his arm. "Thank you, Ben. Now, since this is your town, how about a recommendation for someplace for dinner?"

He grinned at her. "I can do you one better - I've already made reservations for us."

"Ben!" she protested, as he led her out to his car. "I said I'd take you to dinner tonight!"

Unlocking the car, he took her tote bag from her. "You can pick up the check, if you must. But I'm buying the drinks."

It was pointless trying to argue with Ben, Harley realized. Dinner was at a remarkable rainforest restaurant at the Mirage, and afterwards they retired to one of the bars, spending a pleasant couple of hours catching up on the last few years of their lives. At one point, they were scrawling formulas and ideas on cocktail napkins as they talked about the new pyro for Glenn's interest.

Harley's fingers itched for her manual. It had been a long time since she'd had this kind of discussion on research, and she was enjoying every minute of it. They agreed to a working breakfast on Tuesday morning, before she was due to fly home, and Ben promised to have some more concrete ideas for her then. He kissed her goodnight in the hotel lobby, and she smiled as she watched him leave. Covering a yawn with her hand, she headed for the elevators, carrying her tote bag. She had an early start in the morning.

###

After the work of the Pay Per View, the set build for Raw was comparatively easy, and Harley was able to take a break mid-morning, heading to Catering with her manual and the handful of cocktail napkins from the night before. To her amusement, even working from memory, she and Ben were still pretty sharp - they'd gotten most of the formulas right. She copied them onto her pad, correcting them where necessary, and then started looking up shaped charges, sipping her coffee as she read.

She glanced up as someone sat down opposite her, smiling as she saw Mark there.

"Good morning chief - or maybe I should call you champ now, hmmm?" she chuckled.

At the Pay Per View last night, Mark had been awarded the championship belt - well, one of them, anyway. She couldn't actually keep all the titles separate yet. Still, it was an honour, and from what she'd learned about the company, Mark more than deserved it.

He gave her a pleased smile. "Thanks Kate."

She smiled back. "Hey, congratulations where they're due, yanno?"

"Then I got to say, right back atcha. The opening pyros last night were amazing."

She looked surprised. "Really?"

"Wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it, Kate," he sipped his coffee.

A little blush coloured her cheeks. "Thanks, Mark."

He leaned back in his chair, looking over at the manual open in front of her. "Glenn tells me you got someone helping you come up with a new pyro for him."

She nodded. "My guest last night - he and I worked together while I was in college. He's got his own company out here now, making pyrotechnics and staging them as well. I think we're going to have to develop something new, and he's got the facilities to actually do the manufacture and testing."

He shook his head with a smile. "I guess all those smarts are pretty handy for something like that, huh?"

Ducking her head a little, she nodded again. "You don't forget it, it's true. And we think it'll be pretty spectacular if we can get it to work properly."

"I got no doubts on your abilities, Kate - you know that."

She looked up at him, smiling. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mark."

"My pleasure."

Closing up her manual, she took another mouthful of her coffee, and they sat in silence for a few minutes. Then Harley smiled at him, remembering his invitation from the night before.

"How about dinner tonight? My treat, to celebrate your championship," she offered.

It was his turn to look surprised. "Ah, sure. Thanks, Kate."

She shrugged, smiling. "No problem, Mark."

"What time?"

"Hotel lobby around nine o'clock suit you?"

"Yeah, I can manage that." His brows came together momentarily. "You aren't thinkin' about any place fancy, are you?"

She laughed and shook her head. "Nah, had my fill of places like that this week. I know a place that specializes in good old home cooking, almost. Only place I've ever been in Vegas where I can get collard greens, anyway!"

He relaxed and nodded, chuckling himself. "Sounds like my kind of place. Was a little afraid you'd want me in a monkey suit and tie so you could wear one of those little black dresses again."

"Little black dresses?" Harley was puzzled.

"Saw you going out on Thursday night wearing one. You looked mighty fine in it too. But I'm not a suit and tie kinda guy."

She thought back, and then nodded. "Oh yeah, I remember. Well, I'm not a little black dress kinda gal, usually. This place is more casual."

"Glad to hear it." He glanced at his watch. "Okay, I got an appointment for a photoshoot as new champion." His expression said he was anything but thrilled at the prospect.

She couldn't help her chuckle. "Hmmm, I'm thinking wind machines, get that whole sexy, tousled, just out of bed look happening."

He glared at her. "Very funny."

"No windswept hair thing? Damn. How about . . . oh! Oiled up muscles - that's always a keeper!" She winked at him, grinning.

"You think this is funny?"

"Only because you obviously don't! Who's a grumpy 'Taker then?" she giggled.

"Shut up, Kate." But he was grinning when he said it.

###

Backing up after the Pay Per View, Raw was running on full energy. Glenn exercised his "re-match clause", and he and Mark had the highlight match, which was disrupted by "interference" by Dave Batista, in what even Harley could see was becoming an overused plot device. However, it did ensure further titanic battles over the championship, which was the point.

She and Bob met with the crew after the show concluded, and left them in charge of the load out. She caught an early shuttle back to the hotel, and went upstairs to shower and change. She knew just what she wanted to wear tonight - she'd managed to get in some shopping on her days off, and she pulled out one of her purchases, a maxi length sundress that reminded her of the things she'd worn as a girl, which was why she couldn't resist it.

This one was white, with a subtle pattern of tiny dots, with a deep ruffled hem and bodice in a more vibrant version of the same pattern. The bodice was a halter neck with spaghetti straps, and the low back showed off her tattoo. She teamed it with a pair of high heeled sandals, smiling at her reflection as she slicked on some lip gloss and picked up her evening purse. It wasn't a little black dress, but there were times a girl wanted to feel, well, girly. She hurried downstairs just before nine o'clock.

Mark was waiting in the lobby, dressed casually in jeans and a button down short sleeve shirt. He smiled when he saw Harley walking towards him.

"You look terrific," he said, his eyes sweeping over her.

She couldn't help her grin, doing a little twirl for him, liking how the skirt billowed around her as she did. "I went shopping last week."

His smile widened. "Last time I saw a dress like that was probably at the spring dance when I was a junior in high school, Kate."

Laughing, she nodded excitedly. "I wore one almost exactly the same to the summer dance my freshman year! There's just nothing new under the sun, is there?"

He extended his arm to her, grinning. "I'm not complaining. There's something kind of nice about seeing the things I remember from back then coming around again."

Tucking her hand into his arm, she giggled. "I'm just glad I can still get away with wearing it!"

He was a little surprised when their cab drew up at Caesars Palace, taking Harley's hand to help her out. She smiled up at him and patted his arm gently.

"Relax, it's not a dressy place, trust me."

He chuckled when he realized where she was taking him, shaking his head as they were seated in the Mesa Grill.

"Nice choice, Kate."

She winked at him. "Southwestern grill? I knew a Texan would like it."

Their waitress came to take drink orders, and Harley couldn't resist the signature Black Widow Mojito, while Mark settled for a beer. They shared a quesadilla starter, and both ordered the house specialty strip steaks. Mark chuckled when Harley ordered the collard greens and mashed potato as side dishes, while he decided on a baked potato and sauteed spinach.

The restaurant had a quiet ambiance, despite being located in a major casino hotel, and they laughed and talked their way through dinner, again finding plenty to talk about. They were enjoying their coffee when Harley admitted that she hadn't gambled a single dime since arriving in Vegas, and Mark grinned at her.

"We'll have to fix that, Kate."

"Oh really?" she chuckled.

"Yep. Right now, I reckon." He beckoned to their waitress for the check.

She laughed, grabbing for his hand. "Hey! This is my treat, remember?"

The waitress hesitated at their table while Mark frowned at Harley, finally sitting back with an exasperated expression and letting her hand over her credit card. She chuckled at him.

"This is your celebration, remember champ? Besides, you paid last time, at Enzo's."

"Kate, you're a mule, you know that?" He smiled as he said it though.

"Oh, and you've never dug your heels in over anything? Ha!" she grinned.

The waitress returned with her credit card, and she added a generous tip before signing. Mark stood up and held out his hand to her as she tucked her credit card away. She took it, rising to her feet.

"Where are we going?"

"This is our last night in Vegas, Kate - I think you need to gamble, just a little."

She laughed, shaking her head. "Quarter slots?"

"Hell no! We're going to the poker room, play us a few hands," he grinned.

"Poker," she said.

"That's right. You're gonna have all these nights off, right? Well, we usually have a poker game going most nights on the road. I wanna see whether you can play before I invite you in," he chuckled.

"Well, if you insist," she sounded bored, but her eyes were twinkling.

The poker room was still moderately busy, even after the evening's tournaments had wrapped up. Mark staked them both to join a new game of Hold 'em, leaning in to ask her quietly if she knew how to play. She just rolled her eyes at him, and he grinned and held out a chair for her. She swept her skirt under her and sat down, tucking her purse on the shelf under the table's edge without needing to be told it couldn't be put on the table. And she stacked her chips evenly in front of her with a cool expression.

To Mark's surprise, Harley wasn't half bad. She played conservatively to start, not afraid to fold a hand right at the outset unless she had chips in the pot. He thought she was betting tentatively until she won a few hands by suckering other players into thinking she had a weak hand and getting them to contribute more to the pot in hopes of beating her. And she had a pretty good poker face too.

Her stack of chips rose almost as quickly as his, and he had to grin when her soft "girly" bet suckered one of the other players into going all in on a hand where the flop and the turn were both queens. Once he went all in, Mark folded, as did the other player still at the table.

Not Harley though - she coolly matched his bet, and revealed that she, like he, also held a queen. But her other card was a jack, which was better than his five. Mark stifled his grin - she'd obviously picked up that the guy often played a hand with a a royal and a much lower card and was betting he'd done the same this time.

There was always the possibility that the river would be a five, giving him a full house. But the chances of that were pretty low. Any other card, and she'd have the pot won with her set of queens and jack kicker. The outcome rested on the deal of the river, and Mark just laughed when a jack was laid onto the table. Harley could have won it with any card other than a five, but her grin at seeing her hand improve to queens full of jacks said she was more than pleased with the result as she stood up and offered her hand to the losing player.

For a long moment, Mark thought he would refuse to take it, but finally he shook it, albeit a little grudgingly. There were some mutters from the other remaining player, but she just shook her head and sat back down, scooping the pile of chips towards her and stacking them neatly. But the smile never left her face, and Mark realized that, somewhere in her touring past, this was a lady who'd played a fair amount of poker.

The game continued, until Harley, chasing a flush, was defeated by the other player with two pair. His win of a fairly large pot made him a little cocky, and two hands later, he went all in against Mark when Harley folded. The river gave Mark two pair, which was better than the trips his opponent held. Which left the tournament between Mark and Harley.

She smiled, looking at his impressive stack of chips, and just shook her head, extending her hand to him.

"What do you say we call it quits?"

He regarded her quizzically. She hadn't backed down once tonight, why was she quitting now? Belatedly, he realized that she was simply avoiding them going head to head, a fairly smart move, considering their rather mercurial relationship. He took her hand with a grin, shaking it.

"Okay Kate. But you played a great game."

She smiled and nodded. "So did you, Mark."

He cashed out his chips for the winner's stake of the game buy in, and waited while Harley collected her purse before offering her his arm. Without discussing it, they headed for the front door and had the doorman flag them down a cab. He handed her in and settled beside her.

"Thanks, Mark."

"For?" he asked, turning to look at her.

She smiled at him. "A nice evening? Fun playing poker? Take your pick!"

He laughed. "You've played before, Kate - admit it."

She gave him a look that fell somewhat short of the innocence she might have been going for, her eyes twinkling. "You can't party all the time on tour. I played a little poker along the way."

He just shook his head, grinning. "Yeah, sure you did. So, you wanna join the game we got going?"

"Sure. Sounds like one way to stay out of trouble at night," she chuckled.

"I got to admit, I'm looking forward to the first game with you. You're gonna have an awful unfair advantage over a lot of the guys."

"And not over you, Mark?" she grinned.

"Hey, I've seen you in action. You surprised me tonight - I'm looking forward to seeing you do the same to them!"

"Always happy to help," she winked.

At the hotel, he handed her out of the cab and drew her hand through his arm as he led her into the lobby.

"Feel like a nightcap?"

She looked up at him with a smile. "Sure, why not?"

They took the elevator up to the rooftop restaurant and bar, where there was a small swing combo and vocalist providing dance music. Harley smiled as they found a small table.

"Clubs are okay, but there's nothing that beats live music, is there?"

Mark had to agree. The music wasn't loud enough to interfere with conversation, but provided pleasant background sound. They sipped their drinks and chatted about inconsequentialities for a little while, and then the band began to play a Sinatra standard. Mark stood up and held his hand out to Harley.

"May I have this dance?"

She put her hand in his and rose to her feet, smiling. "I'd love to."

They joined the other couples on the floor, Harley's hand resting on Mark's upper arm rather than his shoulder. He held her lightly as they moved around the floor. The band continued with slow dances, and the floor grew more crowded. Mark pulled Harley a little closer, pleased when her hand moved to wrap around his back - that felt very nice, he thought, as they swayed together. He felt rather than heard her sigh, and looked down as she nuzzled her cheek unconsciously against his chest.

When the vocalist announced that they were taking five, Mark felt rather murderous intent towards him as Harley moved away from him again, and he forced those thoughts away as he looked down at her. He still held her hand, and she made no move to take it away as she smiled up at him.

"Thank you Mark, that was just lovely."

"My pleasure, Kate," he smiled at her and led her back to their table.

She sipped her drink, smiling at him over the rim of the glass. "Now my nostalgia is complete - it's not quite the junior prom, but it's been just as nice. At least you didn't trample my feet while we were dancing."

Mark couldn't help his chuckle. "And I didn't have to spring for a tux and a corsage either."

Giggling, she put down her glass. "You did stake me in a poker game - I'd say that more than makes up for it!"

They talked a little while longer, but Harley refused the offer of a second drink. "I have a breakfast meeting. I probably should get some sleep."

Mark smiled. "Then I'll walk you to your room, Kate."

She smiled, collecting her evening purse and standing up. "Going to keep that whole prom nostalgia going, huh?"

He just laughed, drawing her hand through his arm. "A gentleman always sees a lady home, Kate."

There wasn't much she could say to that, she thought, as they rode down in the elevator together to the tenth floor. Outside her door, Mark waited behind her as she took out her keycard and opened her door, and then she turned to him.

"Thanks for a lovely evening, Mark," her smile was very warm as she looked up at him.

"Very much my pleasure, Kate," his voice was low, and his eyes were looking straight into hers.

What the hell? Why was it suddenly hard to breathe, she wondered. His eyes were mesmerizing, she felt a little lost in them. She tried a couple of times to speak, but nothing would come. Finally she managed to get the words out.

"Well, goodnight then."

"Goodnight, Kate," he replied.

She stepped into her room and closed the door behind her, sagging against it. That had been officially weird, she thought. Damn that Guatemalan rum in her Mojita! It obviously had snuck up on her - how else could she explain that sudden dizziness? Okay, so no more Mojitas, not if they were gonna do that to her.

Undressing, she folded her dress into her case, adding her high heels as she took them off. She crawled into bed after brushing her teeth, but it took a surprisingly long time to fall asleep.

###

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
kaotic_princez
Jul. 26th, 2008 07:33 am (UTC)
Damn that Guatemalan rum in her Mojita! It obviously had snuck up on her - how else could she explain that sudden dizziness? Okay, so no more Mojitas, not if they were gonna do that to her.

I wonder how long it's gonna take Harley to realize that it was Mark that made her dizzy and not a damn mojita?

The whole poker game gots me fenin' to play. May have to call up some friends and get a game going tonight :)

Great chapter can't wati to read more.
nephthys_abode
Jul. 26th, 2008 07:35 am (UTC)
I wonder how long it's gonna take Harley to realize that it was Mark that made her dizzy and not a damn mojita?

Told ya she was clueless!! And I guess you're just gonna have to wait and see, aren't you? ;-)

Thanks so much for reading - it makes me do the happy dance to know you're enjoying it!
utssq
Jul. 26th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
Clueless...more like oblivious. I'd be fighting myself not to climb Taker's leg like he's a tree lol
nephthys_abode
Jul. 26th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh icon luuuuuurve!! ;-)

Harley ain't ever gonna win prizes for bein' quick off the mark with this kinda thing, it's true.

But you gotta admit, ain't it fun wondering when she will finally buy a clue and figure it out?
utssq
Jul. 27th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
No it's not fun...I'm impatient lol S'allright tho, I can abuse Taker all I want to - at least in my fic lol

And thank you - we were bored the other night and made silly Kane icons lol
nephthys_abode
Jul. 27th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
we were bored the other night and made silly Kane icons lol

-mufflesnerk- Like that one, huh?

And don't worry, Harley's gonna get around to abusing 'Taker sooner or later ;-)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )