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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!  

###

Harley wasn't sure quite she had expected Mark's house to look like, but as they drove down a tree lined drive, she realized it was at least as secluded as her cabin, given the amount of land it appeared to be built on. Through a break in the oak trees, she spotted a sprawling stone house, its white stuccoed walls almost gleaming in the late morning sunshine.

Mark pulled the truck around in the circular drive, parking it opposite the front doors, giving her a smile.

"Stay there, Kate, and I'll come round and help you out."

She undid her seat belt, grateful to him for the offer of assistance. This truck was even higher off the ground than hers, and she wasn't sure she could manage the climb with her tummy aching the way it did. Mark came around to open her door, leaning in to lift her down from the seat, setting her gently on her feet. He retrieved her case as she walked around the front of the truck, taking in the arched windows along the front of the house. She gave him a smile as he came to stand beside her.

"It's a beautiful house, Mark."

He nodded, offering her his arm, which she took gratefully, as he led her towards the front door.

"I think so. I was attracted to the location first, and the land, but the house is certainly designed to look great here."

The front door opened before they reached it, and a smiling woman in her fifties, with faded blonde hair, stood in the entryway.

Mark smiled. "Lizzie, meet Kate Quinn. Kate, this is Lizzie."

Harley extended her hand to the woman, who took it with a grin. "Howdy, Kate. Come on in, shug, let's get you situated. Mark, don't you have bags? And you ain't gonna leave that truck in the drive now, are you?"

Mark chuckled. "Home less than five minutes, and you're already nagging me, Lizzie. Tell me again why I need to get married?" He ducked the hand Lizzie swung at him in a playful cuff. "Kate, I'll leave you in Lizzie's capable hands for the moment."

Lizzie took Harley's case from Mark and gave her a smile. "You just follow me, shug."

Lizzie led the way down the hallway and Harley followed her, taking in the high ceilings and the exposed beams, and the polished wood floors. Lizzie passed a set of double doors and waved a hand at them.

"That's the master suite, shug. I thought you'd be most comfortable in here," Lizzie said, opening a doorway a little further down the hall.

Harley followed her into the room, her eyes widening. A large four post spindle bed sat between two tall windows covered with wooden shutters. A spread of rose toile covered the bed, and draped swags in a similiar fabric covered the windows. Opposite the bed, a window seat was tucked into a set of similarly shuttered bay windows. Lizzie lifted Harley's case to the padded bench at the end of the bed.

"This room is almost bigger than my whole cabin in North Carolina," Harley stammered.

Lizzie chuckled. "The house is on a bit of a grand scale, but Mark's a big man, so he kind of needs that. Of course, there's far too much room for just one person, but he's stubborn and refuses to find himself a wife. Now, if you've been on the road, then I'm sure you've got laundry to be done. If you want to put it in the hamper in the bathroom," Lizzie gestured to a door on one side of the room, "I'd be happy to do it for you. Feel free to use the closets if you'd like."

Harley could only shake her head. "No, really, I couldn't do that." As it sometimes did under times of stress, her Southern accent became a bit more pronounced

Lizzie put her hands on her ample hips, giving Harley a long look. "Mark tells me you're fresh out of hospital, shug. Which means you need taking care of. That happens to be my specialty, and Mark doesn't need much of it. It'd make me happy to fuss over you."

Harley could only chuckle. "I'm a little out of practice with being fussed over, Lizzie."

"Mark told me you were on your own, shug. No folks?"

Lizzie moved around the room, adjusting the window blinds, and Harley sank down onto the window seat.

"They retired to Boca about five years ago."

"You got brothers or sisters?"

"Two brothers. One in Arizona, the other in Virginia."

"And just you left in North Carolina, shug? Well, that must get lonely."

Lizzie fluffed the pillows on the bed, more for something to do with her hands than any real need. She was wild with curiousity about Harley - Mark's usual guests were his wrestling buddies sometimes, but it had been years since he brought a woman home. And never one who was going to stay in the guest room.

Harley shrugged. "I'm hardly ever there to be lonely," she said, trying not to think about it.

Something in Harley's tone caught Lizzie's ear, and she bustled back to where Harley was sitting. "Now, here's me chattering on and not even thinkin' about what you need. How about I show you down to the family room? You can relax there and enjoy the view. Unless you'd like to lie down?"

"No, I've done enough lying down, I think. The family room would be fine, thank you. I really don't want to get in anyone's way."

Lizzie chuckled. "Shug, you're not going to get in anyone's way, trust me."

Harley followed Lizzie to the other end of the house, through a huge kitchen and into a sunny room with floor to ceiling windows that looked out over a series of ornamental ponds and past them to grassy fields and the woods. Lizzie excused herself to go and see to something in the kitchen, and Harley found herself drawn to the windows. The landscape was so restful.

She spied a pair of French doors leading out onto a porch, and she opened them and stepped out, crossing the porch and walking down the steps into the sunshine. She turned her face up to it, and took a deep breath. The air was so sweet and clean. She was a little startled when a voice came from behind her.

"Better than hospital air, I bet."

She turned to smile over her shoulder at Mark.

"That's a sucker bet. This is the perfect antidote to hospital air."

He nodded, taking her elbow gently and pointing to a pair of chairs that sat in dappled shade under one of the huge oaks. She allowed him to lead her over to them, and she sank down into one slowly. He took the other chair, stretching his legs out in front of him and crossing them at the ankles. She gave a little sigh as she leaned back in the chair, closing her eyes. He smiled, looking at her.

"You're a country girl at heart, aren't you Kate?"

She chuckled, not bothering to open her eyes. "What gave me away, chief?"

"Probably the immediate stampede to the great outdoors."

"Nothing beats fresh air, when you've been living in airconditioning and city fumes all week."

"That why you live in the mountains?"

She opened one eye to look at him, a little smile curving her lips. "Glenn's been talking, I see."

He just shrugged, and she nodded, tilting her head back before answering his question. "Partly."

"What's the other part?"

"The land belonged to my granddaddy, and his granddaddy before him. It came to my mother, and she gave it to me. I guess she figured it was one way to make sure I had a home somewhere. I built my cabin there in between tours. It's my place of quiet in between the noise."

He knew just what she meant. A thought struck him, and he chuckled.

"So if I were to take out one of my bikes, you'd object to the noise pollution?"

This time, she opened both eyes as she chuckled. "At least you can only ride one at a time. It gets kind of noisy in Cameron when Matt, Jeff and Shannon are all on bikes."

He made a disgusted noise. "Motocross bikes are like buzzing mosquitoes, that's a nuisance noise."

She shrugged, still smiling. "Boys and their toys."

He was about to be offended at being called a "boy", but thought better of it. His bikes were his toys - it wasn't like he needed them for transport, he just liked riding them. They sat in silence for a while, until Lizzie called them back to the house for lunch, which she'd set out on the side porch overlooking the pool. Harley was a little astonished at the amount of food, but Mark seemed to be amused.

"Lizzie cooks like there's a family of five living here. Not that I mind, because it means I can coast on leftovers when she's not here."

Lizzie came out of the kitchen with a tray containing a pitcher of iced tea and glasses, which she set down carefully before cuffing Mark's shoulder with a laugh.

"Not that you leave much in the way of leftovers, anyway!" She glanced at Harley's plate, shaking her head. "Shug, you got to eat more than that! You're skin and bones. Mark, tell her!"

Mark shook his head. "Kate's fine exactly how she is, Lizzie."

Harley smiled at her. "It's very good, Lizzie, but I've been in hospital for four days. I need to work my way back up to proper food."

That seemed to satisfy Lizzie, who went back to the kitchen, leaving Mark to pour the iced tea.

"She means well," he said, handing Harley a glass.

She smiled. "It's okay. It's kind of nice to be fussed over - that's a bit of a rarity for me."

Mark smiled to himself. She might not realize it, but she'd just opened herself up to all kinds of fussing over, and not just from Lizzie either. After all, there were more ways to kill a cat than choking it with butter.

###

After lunch, Harley was content to stay on the porch - the southern orientation meant it was catching the sun, making it more than warm enough to stay outside. Mark was in the kitchen with Lizzie, going over various things relating to the house and land, when he saw Harley stretching out on one of the loungers by the pool. He wondered why he didn't do the same and said as much to Lizzie. She laughed, following his gaze.

"Mark Calaway, you're sweet on that girl!"

He glared at her, which she just laughed off.

"Go on, go out there. You never relax enough when you're at home anyway - if she can get you to do that much, I'll adopt her myself!"

"What about all this stuff?" Mark gestured to the pile of papers.

"There's nothing urgent, we can talk about it later. Or you can just trust Jake and I to do what's best," Lizzie said.

Mark chuckled. "You'll do that anyway."

He left the kitchen and walked out over the porch towards the side of the pool. Harley held one hand up over her eyes, shading them as she looked up at him.

"You've picked the prime spot, Kate."

She smiled. "It's warm and comfortable - I may never want to move."

Mark sat down on the lounger next to the one she occupied, and leaned back, swinging his legs up. "No one says you have to."

There was a tiny sound of contentment from her, and she closed her eyes, lowering her hand to her side again. He watched her for a time before his own eyes slipped closed, the warmth of the sun lulling him into a doze.

###

He woke later as Lizzie shook his shoulder. He was startled to see that the sun was close to setting. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept away the whole afternoon, but damned if he didn't feel finer than frog hair as a result.

"You best get that girl in the house, Mark - you don't want her takin' a chill right out of the hospital," Lizzie said, keeping her voice low.

He nodded, scrubbing the last remnants of sleep from his face with both hands as he sat up.

Lizzie went on. "There's lasagna in the oven, and a salad in the Frigidaire. Make sure she eats. I'll be back tomorrow with Jake, he's got some fencing to finish up." Lizzie's husband Jake looked after the property, while Lizzie tended to the house.

She didn't wait for a response, turning and heading off the porch towards the garage off to the side of the house, where he could hear what he assumed was Jake's pickup idling. Mark turned his attention to Harley.

Her face was turned towards him as she slept on the lounger, one hand curled lightly at her side. He didn't know why exactly he liked watching her sleep, but he did. It was odd - in her sleep, she seemed younger, and softer, and yet what attracted him to her was exactly the opposite traits. He liked her toughness, her no-nonsense attitude, her maturity.

The sun dipped further in the sky, falling below the treeline, and Harley shivered a little as the porch fell into shadow. Lizzie was right, he didn't want her getting chilled - he reached out and touched her shoulder gently.

"Kate?"

Harley opened her eyes sleepily. "Mmmm?"

Mark smiled. "It's going to get cold out here soon. We should go in the house."

She nodded and went to sit up, and then winced, her hand going to her right side as she was reminded that her abdominal muscles were not in their usual condition. "Ouch."

"Need some help?" Mark asked, his brow furrowing with concern.

Shaking her head, Harley pushed herself up with her hands, still wincing a little, and then slowly swung her feet over the edge of the lounger. They now sat almost facing one another, and Mark rose to his feet, holding his hand out to her. She took it with a grateful smile, pulling herself up at the same time he lifted her. He didn't let go of her hand straight away, smiling down at her as they stood close together. He only moved when he saw her shiver as the sun continued to sink lower.

He held the door open for her when they reached the house, and she found herself in the living room, another room on a large scale. More exposed beam high ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows to the porch, overlooking the pool and, beyond it, the woods. Mark closed the door behind them, and Harley moved more into the room, which was warmly inviting in spite of its size. A large sectional sofa and armchairs, grouped around a large brick feature wall that was part chimney, surrounding a fireplace. Someone, Harley assumed it was Lizzie, had turned on the lamps on the endtables, which cast a soft glow through the room.

She turned to Mark with a little smile. "I'm just going to go and freshen up."

He nodded, moving over to the fireplace, where Lizzie had laid kindling for a fire. "Can you find your way?"

Harley chuckled a little. "Yeah, I left a trail of breadcrumbs earlier."

Actually, if she hadn't recognized the wall hanging out in the hall opposite her, she would have had to admit to being lost. He just laughed as he moved the screen from in front of the fireplace, reaching for the matches to start the fire.

When she returned to the living room, she was wearing the zip up hoodie that matched her sweatpants, and she was chuckling. He looked at her quizically.

"Something wrong?"

She shook her head. "Lizzie doesn't take no for an answer much, does she?"

Mark laughed. "Not so's you'd notice! What did she do?"

Harley sank down onto the edge of a large ottoman not far from where he was working on the fire. "She offered to do my laundry for me, which was very kind, but I said it was okay. I mean, I can handle a little laundry."

"Lizzie likes to fuss. And she regularly complains that I'm paying her too much for the little she says she has to do, so I'm hardly surprised she offered."

"She did more than offer!" Harley laughed. "She's unpacked for me, and she's already done all my laundry! Not to mention turning down my bed and laying out my pajamas!"

Mark grinned. "She must like you - she never turns my bed down!" Silently, he was blessing Lizzie - he wanted Harley to feel welcomed, and at home here.

Once he had the fire started to his satisfaction, he moved the heavy screen back in front of it and rose to his feet. He excused himself and went into the kitchen to wash his hands, and to check on the lasagna, noting the time remaining on the oven. He came back into the living room, giving Harley a smile.

"Dinner's going to be about an hour. Anything you'd like to do while we wait?"

She darted a glance at him. "You didn't happen to record the Pay Per View, did you?"

He laughed. "Well, as a matter of fact I did. We turned you into a wrestling fan, Kate?"

She shook her head, grinning. "Nah. Why would I want to see that stuff? I'm more interested in how my opening pyro display looked, since I wasn't there to oversee it."

Mark laughed, extending a hand to her. "Come on, then, we'll watch your pyro display. Think you might be able to sit through just a little wrestling action as well? Just to humour me?"

She took his hand and rose from the ottoman, laughing. "Oh, if you insist."

He led her to the sofa, and as he sat down beside her, he reached for a remote control, and at the flick of a button, what Harley had taken for a print on the feature wall rose smoothly to reveal a flat screen tv hidden behind it. As he cued up the start of the show, Harley reached for one of the cushions, wedging it behind her back and wriggling into a more comfortable position.

As the show started, the pyros exploded - it looked like any opening pyro display to Mark, spectacular and beautiful, but Harley frowned a little.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

"Can we watch it again at slow speed?" she said.

"Sure," he agreed readily enough, going back to the start of the show and handing her the remote, pointing out the buttons for the slow motion playback.

Harley watched the display frame by frame, and at that speed he could see the various detonations, including some shells that flared a brilliant gold before fading to a shower of sparks.

"Are they new?" he asked, and she nodded.

"They're some new ones that Ban has been working on. But they fade against the background of the other shells, so either he has to intensify the colour or I have to use them to start or finish. We hoped they'd have enough impact to pop against the other shells, but doesn't seem like they do. Or maybe they do when it's live, and they just don't televise as well."

"Hey, to me it looked spectacular anyway."

She smiled at him, handing back the remote. "Thanks, Mark. But I'm a perfectionist - I want people who see it televised to see what the folks see live."

He could understand that. They flicked through some of the matches, and Harley raised her eyebrows as the lead up to his match with Glenn started, looking at the screen as figures in dark robes began to make their way to the ring, holding burning torches.

"This is a new one!"

He shrugged, grinning. "Nah, I've been using it for a while. Drag it out on special occasions, you know."

She chuckled. "You make it sound like the good china!"

The sound swelled, and she turned to look at him.

"Plainchant?"

"Now, how come you don't call it a 'Gregorian chant' like everybody else?" Mark wanted to know.

She shook her head. "Well, I'm pretty damned sure those guys aren't Benedictine monks!" She grinned at him.

"They're druids," Mark said.

"Druids," she snorted. She listened closely a little longer, and then she looked at him. "I stand corrected - that is a Gregorian chant!"

"You can understand Latin?"

Harley shook her head. "Well, I can recognize it's Latin, but I've heard that chant before. In Spain, I think."

Mark paused the playback and turned to look at her. "Now I'm intrigued."

She chuckled, shrugging. "I did some tours in Europe with rockbands. Well, more importantly, with rockbands who were also passionate musicians. There was this monastery in Belgium that was quite incredible, but I'm pretty sure I heard that chant as the processional when we were at Solis Abbey. And then, of course, when the monks there released their album, it was pretty heavily on the band's playlist for a while. So maybe I have it confused with the album."

Mark just chuckled. "You gonna get on my case now for using a Gregorian chant without Benedictine monks?"

Harley grinned. "Only thing I'd be getting on your case about is if you were using their music without paying them royalties for it!"

He shook his head, still chuckling. "I'm assuming that the company's doing the right thing."

"Just as well," she chuckled. "Karmically speaking, I think it's pretty uncool to rip off monks. You might not want that on your conscience."

He laughed out loud then. "Kate, you really have no idea the kind of stuff I've done with that character, have you?"

She shook her head. "Nope."

He gave her a wide grin. "Let's just say that with the kidnapping, sacrificing and such, ripping off monks is probably the least of my problems."

Her eyebrows climbed, and he laughed at her expression. The timer on the oven buzzed a few minutes later, and Harley went with him into the kitchen, insisting on helping him with dinner.

He had to admit, he rather liked it, the two of them working together, taking things to the table and serving Lizzie's lasagna. They sat at the table in the dining room, where Lizzie had already laid two places at one end in a cosy setting, which made him laugh to himself. She had even set out a bottle of wine, which Harley refused, so they instead went with sparkling mineral water.

Lizzie had outdone herself with the lasagna, and they laughed and talked their way through dinner. There was something comfortable about having Harley in his home that surprised Mark - he was usually a very private person. Glenn stayed with him occasionally, but mostly he liked keeping to himself at home. As they stood at the kitchen sink after dinner, she rinsing plates, he stacking the dishwasher, it felt . . . nice.

They went back to the living room after the kitchen was tidied, and he settled Harley on the sofa while he checked the fire and then joined her. They watched the Pay Per View for a little while, before Harley began yawning. He smiled.

"Okay, probably time you called it a night, Kate."

She chuckled. "I don't really understand how I can be tired after spending three days in bed, and doing little or nothing today."

It was on the tip to his tongue to tell her that he could bet that she'd be tired after three days in bed with him, but he thought better of it. Instead, he rose to his feet and extended his hands to her to help her up, smiling as she got to her feet. He held her hands as he looked down into her face.

"You got everything you need?"

She nodded, smiling back at him. "Yeah, thanks. Goodnight, Mark."

He wanted very much to kiss her goodnight, but he settled for giving her hands a gentle squeeze before letting them go. "Sleep well, Kate."

He watched her go down the hallway, and then sank back onto the sofa, turning off the tv and watching the fire instead, letting his mind wander.

###

Harley woke the next morning as the first rays of sunshine touched the windows in the guestroom. The bed was warm and comfortable, and she lay quietly, drifting in a half doze. She loved this time of day in her cabin, listening to the particular stillness of the dawn. Even here in Mark's house, given its size, she couldn't hear a thing beyond the door.

She was contemplating getting up when there was a tap at the door.

"Come in," she called out, pushing herself up carefully in the bed, mindful of her healing tummy.

Mark opened the door enough to look in at her, giving her a warm smile.

"I hope I didn't wake you, Kate," he said.

She shook her head. "You didn't. Good morning."

"Good morning. Can I interest you in some breakfast?"

Now that the door was opened, she could smell coffee and she nodded with a smile. "Just give me a few minutes to dress."

He chuckled. "There's just us, Kate. I won't mind you staying in your pajamas."

"Well, okay. I'll be right there."

He nodded, closing the door, and she turned back the covers and slipped off the bed. She did take a few minutes to wash her face and hands before leaving the guest room and following her nose down to the kitchen.

Any concerns she had over appearing in her pajamas were allayed when she saw Mark similarly casually dressed in faded sweatpants and a t-shirt. His hair was pulled back in a ponytail and he was laying bacon into a pan on the stove. He smiled at her and pointed to the coffee pot.

"Coffee's ready. Or there's orange juice, once I squeeze it."

Harley couldn't help her grin. "Fresh squeezed orange juice? Oh boy, I think I like it here! Can I help with anything?"

He laughed, pointing at a motorized citrus press on one of the benches, next to a bowl of oranges. "Think you can operate that?"

She chuckled, moving around the bench to where he pointed. "I got a degree in electrical engineering, chief - I think I can manage it."

"Okay then - knives in the block there, and you should find a pitcher in the cupboard above your head."

Nodding, she went to work, halving the oranges and juicing them, while Mark cooked the bacon. Once Harley was done with the juice, she took it over to the sunny breakfast nook where Mark had already laid places for them.

"What next, chief?"

"Toast? And how do you like your eggs?" Mark lay the last of the bacon onto a plate lined with paper towels and transferred it to the warming oven.

Harley could see the toaster, and the bread. She loaded four slices into it and then turned to Mark.

"Sunny side up, thanks chief."

"Woman after my own heart," he chuckled, cracking eggs into the pan.

He stole glances at her as he cooked the eggs. She was once again wearing those leopard print pajamas, and he had to admire how the hot pink piping matched the new streaks in her hair. He served up their breakfast and brought the plates over to the breakfast nook, where she was pouring juice for them both.

At her first mouthful of bacon, Harley's eyes widened.

"This didn't come from any store!"

Mark chuckled. "Lizzie's brother is a hog farmer out near San Antonio."

"There is nothing that beats home cured bacon. It's delicious. And I'll bet these eggs are fresh too - you got chickens stashed around here somewhere?"

"Lizzie keeps me in eggs."

Harley chuckled. "Lizzie happen to have a sister living in North Carolina?"

"Nope, sorry. She's a Texas treasure."

Harley had to agree.

###

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kaotic_princez
Sep. 12th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
Mark and Harley are getting along so well which is a beautiful thing. I hope this means that their friendship will start heating up in the very near future not that I'm not enjoying the way things are right now :)

Can't wait to read more!
nephthys_abode
Sep. 12th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)


So glad you're still enjoying the ride, hon!!



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )