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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!  

###

They worked together to clean up after breakfast and then Harley retreated to the guest room. She made the bed and then took a shower, before dressing in a pair of loose cargo pants and a t shirt, pulling on her chambray workshirt in place of a jacket. She donned her sneakers again, and then wandered out to the family room, where Mark looked up from the newspaper with a smile.

"I didn't mean to intrude," she said with a smile.

He folded the paper and lay it aside. "You aren't intruding, Kate. What would you like to do?"

She blushed. "Me? Mark, please, you don't have to entertain me - I don't want to get in the way of whatever you usually do on your days off."

"Kate, it's not often I have company on my days off - I'd like to take advantage of it. How about a walk?"

Harley's eyes were drawn to the view outside the windows, and Mark chuckled, rising to his feet.

"I'll take that as a yes. Let me just leave a note for Lizzie, let her know where we are."

He was back in the family room a few minutes later, and he opened the door to the porch, allowing Harley to go out first. She smiled, taking a deep breath of the fresh air, and they set off together, crossing a rustic little stone bridge over the ornamental ponds and heading for the woods. Mark slowed his strides to match hers, mindful of not setting a pace that would tire her. The sun was warm on their shoulders and they both appreciated the cool of the woods once they entered them.

They walked in silence, broken only by a tiny sigh of contentment from Harley as they walked through the woods. She could see some autumn wildflowers that she recognized from the area around her own cabin, which made this area seem comfortably familiar. Then she spotted something else.

"Good hunting around here, Mark?"

"It can be - why do you ask?" Mark was a little surprised at the question.

"Because that looks a lot like a deer path." She pointed to where she was looking.

He chuckled. "You've got a good eye, Kate. You been hunting before?"

She nodded. "Used to hunt all the time with my daddy. We'd go out every year, see if we couldn't take momma home a nice deer."

"Well, I'll be damned!"

Chuckling, Harley raised an eyebrow. "Something wrong?"

"Hell, no! What'd you hunt with?"

"Rifle."

He looked at her with astonishment. "I can't picture it!"

She laughed. "Mark, I could field-dress a deer before I could legally hunt one. You were the one who pegged me as a country girl, why does this surprise you so much?"

"I don't know. But I'm not so much surprised as I am impressed."

Harley shrugged. "Nothing much to be impressed about - I'm no different to any other redneck."

Mark laughed. "That's the part that I guess I'm having trouble with - you don't meet that many rednecks with electrical engineering degrees!"

She nudged him with her shoulder, laughing. "Hey, I resemble that remark!"

He grinned and looped his arm around her shoulder as they continued on their walk. Harley caught the sparkle of sunlight on water through the trees, and smiled when they came out into a clearing beside a lake.

"Hey, this is nice! Is it natural?"

Mark made a seesawing motion with his hand. "It's fed from a stream, but Jake dug it out and made it bigger."

Harley chuckled. "To improve the fishing, perchance?"

"Why else would you do it?" Mark grinned.

"Oh I don't know - so you could indulge your secret love of skinny dipping?" she grinned.

"I got a pool back at the house to go skinny dipping in, if the mood catches me," Mark winked.

"And what kind of fish do you find around here?" Harley looked at the lake, which was pleasantly overgrown at the banks.

"Trout, mostly. I've taken some decent size browns out of it, and even the occasional rainbow. They stock the stream every couple of years further up, and there's always a few that make their way here."

"Must be a nice fishing spot," she smiled.

Mark pointed back to the woods a little further around the clearing, where a neat little shack stood, with a tiny porch out in front.

"Ya think?"

She laughed. "So I don't even have to suggest walking back to the house and grabbing a couple of poles?"

"Nope. Come on, I got a sudden hankering for fresh fish for dinner."

He led the way to the shack, reaching up to take down a key left hanging on a nail overhead and unlocking the door. To Harley's surprise, it was a comfortable sized building inside, complete with indoor plumbing and electricity. Mark lifted out a pair of folding lawn chairs and then collected two fishing poles, taking them down to a spot on the bank. The small refrigerator held containers of frozen bait worms, easily defrosted by dumping them in a tin of water. The final item was a steel tub that Mark set down under a handy bush and half filled from the lake using a bucket.

Harley slipped off her shirt and sank down into one of the chairs. Mark handed her one of the poles.

"Am I going to need to bait that hook for you?"

She laughed, dipping her hand into the tin and fishing out a half-defrosted worm. Sitting forward on the chair, with the pole propped between her knees, she threaded the worm onto the hook, twisting it back around to make sure it was well secured. She leaned down and wiped her fingers clean on the grass before looking up and poking her tongue out at him.

"I can bait my own hooks, thank you very much."

Mark just chuckled, shaking his head as he baited his own hook. Harley stood up, surveying the waters of the lake, before casting her line with a flick of her wrist, sending the hook into the deeper water at its centre. She sat down, holding the pole loosely in her hands as Mark cast his own line, and then leaned back in her chair, giving occasional tiny little tugs on the line to move the hook.

Lizzie found them there a couple of hours later, as she carried a picnic hamper into the clearing. Mark looked around and gave her a grin.

"Mark Calaway!" she scolded. "Did you drag this poor girl out here to watch you drown worms?"

Harley couldn't help her giggle. "Actually, it was my idea to go fishing, Lizzie, once I found out this place was here."

"Really, shug?"

Mark waved a hand at the tub. "Go look if you don't believe me, Lizzie. Kate caught that one."

Lizzie couldn't resist a peek, surprised to see a fair sized rainbow trout swimming in the water. She turned back to Mark.

"Well that's all well and good, but remember my rule about cleaning fish," Lizzie said.

"You catch it, you clean it?" Harley chuckled.

Lizzie patted her shoulder. "No, shug - you catch it, he cleans it!"

Harley grinned. "I think I like that rule even better!"

Mark laughed. "Guess I'm going to have to even things up here, Kate - I can't have you making me look bad."

"After you've had some lunch, please." Lizzie brought the hamper over and set it between their chairs. "I've put a blanket in there for you to sit on."

Mark hid his chuckle. Lizzie was doing everything she could to push him and Harley closer, which wasn't exactly hurting. In the absence of any better plan that he could come up with, anyway. They both washed up in the shack, and took the picnic basket under one of the trees. Mark took out the blanket, which Lizzie had to have chosen because it was so damn small, and spread it over the grass. Once they sat down on it, they were pretty close together, but Harley didn't seem to mind.

Lunch was sandwiches and fruit, rounded off with a couple of beers from the refrigerator in the shack. They lingered over their beers, the picnic basket moved off to one side, talking idly, before moving back to the banks of the lake and taking up their poles again. The fishing was better in the afternoon, and they called it quits with two rainbow and two brown trout in the tub. Mark returned their poles to the shack and Harley followed him.

"So, I need a knife to clean these fish."

"I can do that, Kate."

She shook her head. "I'm not going to get squeamish over a little fish guts, Mark. Besides, if I clean 'em, perhaps you'll cook 'em." She looked up at him and batted her eyelashes with a grin.

"If you think that's going to work on me . . . " he laughed, but he handed her a knife all the same.

She giggled, winking at him. "You want these skinned, chief, or just scaled?"

"Kate, you keep surprising me like this and I'm gonna end up with gray hairs! Ah, whatever's easier for you - I don't have a preference," he laughed helplessly.

"Skinned it is, then. I hate scaling fish," she winked at him.

While he packed their chairs back into the shack, Harley made short work of cleaning and skinning the trout, rinsing them clean in the lake as she worked. He handed her a pair of ziplock bags from the shack to put them in as she finished up. She washed up as he emptied out the tub and returned it to its spot inside the shack. They made their way back to the house, Mark carrying the picnic basket with the bags of fish inside it, while Harley carried the blanket.

As the house came into view, she turned to him with a smile.

"Thanks, Mark."

"For what, Kate?"

"Fresh air, fishing, conversation, a picnic - I've had a really great day."

He shifted the basket to his other hand and put his arm around her shoulders. "It's been fun for me, too."

To his delight, her arm went around his waist, and it remained there until they reached the house. He opened the door into the kitchen and she stepped inside, smiling at him as he set the picnic basket down.

"Which fish would you prefer for dinner, Kate?"

"I'll happily eat either, Mark."

"Then let's have the brown. We can have the rainbow next time you come to visit."

He transferred the ziplock bag with the brown trout to the refrigerator, and stowed the rainbow trout in the freezer. Then he turned back to her with a smile.

"Would you like to rest before dinner?"

How had he guessed, she wondered, nodding a little. "Would you mind?"

"Not at all, Kate."

She gave him a smile. "Then I think I will. Please, come and wake me if I nap too long?"

"Of course."

Harley retreated to the guest room and sat down on the window seat to take off her sneakers and her shirt, and then climbed onto the bed and stretched out. She was asleep almost as soon as she closed her eyes.

Mark tidied the picnic hamper in the kitchen and then decided to get in a workout while Harley slept. He headed for the master suite. That was what had really sold him on this house - he had a bedroom that stretched across half the house, with a huge fireplace and room for large armchairs and a desk at the opposite end to his bed. And the master bath was big enough to contain his workout equipment, though he had another set out in a purpose built room off the garage for when he wanted to work out with someone, Glenn usually.

After his workout, he showered and changed into fresh jeans and a t shirt and made his way to the living room. Lizzie had been her usual efficient self - the fireplace had been cleaned and fresh kindling had been laid. He lit the fire and turned on the lamps before heading for the kitchen. As he passed the dining table, he paused only long enough to take the candlesticks from the settings Lizzie had already laid out. He wasn't quite ready to try dinner by candlelight with Harley, although he chuckled to himself that Lizzie seemed to think that was entirely appropriate!

As he suspected, Lizzie was way ahead of him in the kitchen too - her red beans and rice were in a pot on the stove, and he turned them on to re-heat, and a bowl with lemon parsley butter sauce sat nearby. He wasn't going to complain though - Lizzie's cooking was much better than his. He was just slicing a lemon to cook with the fish when Harley appeared in the kitchen.

She had woken a little earlier, and had decided to shower and change before rejoining him. Lizzie was proving to be the laundry fairy, because she'd found the sweatpants and hoodie she'd worn the previous day freshly washed and back in the closet, and that was what she was wearing, along with her sneakers.

"Can I do anything to help?" she asked.

Mark pointed to a stool on the other side of the island bench. "You can sit there and keep me company while I cook the fish."

"Mark, I'm serious! I'd like to help."

He looked at her sternly and then pointed to the stool again. "Just sit!"

She chuckled, taking a seat. "You're a bully."

He grinned. "Shut up, Kate."

Giggling, she poked her tongue out at him.

"Fine, if you're going to be a mule, come over here and make sure the beans and rice don't catch while they re-heat," he laughed.

Once again, he was struck by how pleasant it was to work with her in the kitchen. Not that there was much work to be done - Harley occasionally stirred the pot of beans and rice as he dredged the fish lightly in flour and fried it in butter and olive oil, brushing it with Lizzie's lemon parsley butter sauce as he did.

They sat down at the table together with the fish served on a bed of beans and rice, and Mark opened a bottle of white wine, which went beautifully with the fish. After dinner, and once the kitchen was cleaned up, they retreated to the living room with the bottle of wine and their glasses. Mark checked the fire, and then picked up the remote to turn on the stereo system.

Harley smiled at the music, leaning back into the sofa. "Stevie Ray."

Mark nodded, sitting down next to her. "You know your music."

She chuckled. "I did pick up a thing or two working with all those musicians." She sipped her wine. "They have one of Stevie Ray's guitars on display at the Hard Rock in Gatlinburg. My usual table is the one right underneath it."

"You have a usual table at the Hard Rock Cafe?" Mark smiled.

Shrugging, she nodded. "It's about halfway home from the airport. If I've flown in at night, it's a good place to stop for coffee. Sometimes, maybe even a little apple cobbler."

They sat, talking quietly over their wine. Harley had turned to sit sideways on the sofa so she could look him as they talked, and Mark smiled at her. He raised his hand and brushed his finger along her bangs, pushing them back from her eyes gently.

She sighed very softly at his touch, and he smiled. The music changed in the background, and she smiled at him. "Gershwin?"

Nodding, Mark rose to his feet and held his hand out to her. "Would you like to dance?"

She set her glass on the coffee table and took his hand, smiling as she stood up beside him. "I'd love to."

They moved to the rug in front of the fireplace, and Mark drew her into his arms. Her arm went around his waist as they began to sway to the music. Harley closed her eyes and nuzzled her cheek to his chest as they danced, while the lyrics of the music swirled around them:

Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you

Just one look at you
My heart grew tipsy in me
You and you alone
Bring out the gypsy in me

I love all the many charms about you
Above all, I want these arms about you

Don't be a naughty baby
Come to papa, come to papa do
My sweet embraceable you

I love all the many charms about you
Above all, I want these arms about you

Don't be a naughty baby
Come to papa, come to papa do
My sweet embraceable you

(George Gershwin)

There was silence as the track ended, and they stopped dancing, although Harley didn't move away from him. Mark stroked his hand gently over her back, looking down at her. Their eyes met, and Mark slowly bent his head to kiss her.

Harley leaned up to his kiss, her eyes closing, making a tiny sound of pleasure against his lips. As the kiss ended, Mark led her back to the sofa, and they sat close together. He slid his arm around her and pulled her close against him, pressing a soft kiss to her temple. She reached for his other hand, holding it between hers as she looked up at him.

"Perhaps it's time we talked?"

"I can't even remember what I was going to say to you, Kate. Things seem to have moved on since then."

She laughed softly. "They do appear to have changed, yes."

He stroked his fingers over her hair gently. "I wanted you know that I wanted . . ."

"What, Mark?" Her eyes were looking into his.

"Not what, Kate - who. I wanted you." He brushed his lips to hers gently. "I want you."

"Oh!" she breathed.

"You seem surprised," he smiled, his hand cupping the back of her head gently.

"A little," she admitted. "Probably because we haven't gotten on so well in the past. It's kind of a leap to go from that to . . . "

He shook his head, smiling. "Kate, we've been moving on from that for months. Surely you've seen that?"

She shrugged helplessly. "I always figured that I was one bone-headed act away from bouncing us back to first impressions, which were none too favourable."

"You're wrong about that."

"Mark, you can't deny that I rubbed you the wrong way from the start."

"The start was at the ring that day, Kate. And you were a pretty woman who was smart enough to ask for help when she needed it, and sweet enough to thank us for nicely for it afterwards. And who got my outdated Batman joke!"

Harley couldn't help but laugh, leaning her head against Mark's chest. "And I went from that right to pissing you off!"

"I can't deny that, Kate. But once I stopped being stubborn about that, and just making it worse, I realized that the whole reason you were pissing me off was actually the reason I should like you."

Her eyebrows raised. "Huh?"

He chuckled. "Kate, you've got yards of spunk, and you don't take crap from anyone, including a big jerk like me. You're good at what you do, and you're professional as hell. And once I realized that, I started to see you in a different light."

"I have to admit, when you started being nicer to me, I could see how badly I'd misjudged you. It didn't take me long to start liking you. Which is why I was so afraid of doing something stupid and pissing you off again."

His fingers stroked through her hair gently. "Kate, I think it's a given that you're going to continue pissing me off for a very long time."

Again, she was the soul of eloquence, although this time her utterance held a note of annoyance. "Huh?"

Mark chuckled, but his smile was very warm. "And I'm just as sure I'll keep pissing you off too. You and I are going to spark off one another constantly, because that's who we are. We can't change that. What we can change, hopefully, is what happens after we blow up at one another."

"You suggesting we always make sure we kiss and make up?" Harley's lips curved into a smile.

"Hug, kiss, make love - whatever works," he smiled. "Just saying that whenever one of us storms out and slams the door after us, the other needs to count to ten and then come looking."

She lifted one hand to his face, caressing it as she smiled at him. "I think that sounds like it might just work."

He bent to kiss her then, delighting in the softness of her lips, pulling her close to him as his tongue explored her mouth. Her arms wound up around his neck as she stroked her tongue over his. They were both breathing more heavily when their lips parted, and Mark caressed her face gently.

"I'm guessing we should stop now, huh?"

Harley nuzzled her cheek to his hand with a rueful little smile. "I hope you're in favour of long . . . courtships, Mark."

He laughed, leaning in to kiss her lightly. "I'm happy just knowing we're on the same page, Kate. And I'll wait as long as it takes - I've waited this long for you."

She sighed softly against his lips and then cuddled closer to him. "It will give me time to get used to the idea, at least."

He wrapped his arms around her and rested his cheek against her hair. "So long as you're doing it right where you are, I'll be happy."

They sat together, talking quietly, as the fire burned lower, before finally saying goodnight. Mark wanted nothing more than to scoop Harley up and take her to his bed, just to have her near, but he was wise enough to realize that they both needed some time to get used to their new relationship before that happened. He did think, as he was closing his eyes in bed alone, that if everything went well, they might just get to celebrate Christmas a little early. With a bang, even. He was chuckling as he fell asleep.

###

The following morning, when Harley woke, she lay quietly, thinking. Today, she needed to talk to the company travel people and get herself booked on whatever flight Mark was taking the next day. The shows were in Louisiana and Arkansas this week. And she should be able to get a flight afterwards that would get her into Knoxville early enough to take her time driving home.

She stretched, carefully, and then threw back the covers. Last night, when they'd cleaned the kitchen, Mark had set up the coffee pot for breakfast. If he wasn't up yet, she could at least turn it on. She went into the bathroom and washed her face and hands, and then, with a little grin, she brushed her teeth quickly too.

Nothing says 'I care' like fresh breath first thing in the morning, she thought to herself with a chuckle as she left the guestroom.

The house was still quiet, and so she turned on the coffee pot and then went into the family room, sitting on one of the sofas with her feet drawn up, looking out at the slightly misty fields and the woods beyond them.

When Mark came out of his bedroom, he could smell the coffee brewing and he smiled, coming through the kitchen and seeing a tousled head further along the hallway in the family room. He came up behind her, laying his hands on her shoulders as he bent to kiss her cheek.

"Good morning."

Harley turned to smile over her shoulder at him, one hand coming up to cover his on her shoulder.

"Hi."

Mark smiled, gesturing to his bathrobe. "I was just going to turn on the coffee before I got dressed, but I see you beat me to it. I'll be right back, okay?"

She nodded, sitting back to wait for him. It wasn't long before he reappeared, dressed in the same faded sweats and t-shirt he'd worn the morning before. He came around to sit beside her on the sofa, resting one hand on her back, lightly caressing her as he smiled at her.

"Sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you," she smiled, moving closer to him.

"Good," he murmured, leaning in to kiss her softly.

She leaned up to his kiss, her eyes closing, and a moment later she gave a soft laugh. He ran his hand over her hair, smiling.

"What's so funny?"

"Well, first, you brushed your teeth too! You're deliciously minty fresh, thank you." She kissed him again quickly. "But what's really funny is thinking what the reaction is going to be the first time one of us walks into breakfast on the road and greets the other just like that."

Mark shook his head, laughing.

"Kate, sweetheart, there is no way I'm going to be greeting you at breakfast on the road like that!"

Her eyes flashed dangerously. "Oh really?"

He grinned at her expression and stood up, taking her hand and giving it a gentle tug. "Come here, Kate."

She laughed in spite of herself as she rose to her feet. "Bully. Now, you want to tell me why you won't kiss me on the road?"

"Did I say that, you mule?" Mark chuckled.

She opened her mouth and then closed it again, looking a bit shamefaced. "No, you didn't. I'm sorry."

He grinned. "I won't greet you at breakfast like that, because I'm going to do it like this."

He pulled her closer and bent to kiss her deeply, bending her backwards as he did. After a moment of surprise, her arms went up around his neck and she returned his kiss enthusiastically, her hands tangling in his long hair. He felt her moan into his mouth as he gently brought her upright, breaking the kiss slowly. Her eyes were wide, and she withdrew her hands from his hair, sliding them down over his chest as she looked up at him. After a long moment, she broke the silence.

"That . . . is gonna make quite the statement!"

They both laughed, and Mark hugged her close. "Hey, they've been assuming the worst about us for months. I figure, why not remove all doubt?"

Harley could only grin, her arms around him.

Lizzie stepped back from the kitchen door, a wide grin on her face. It was about time, she thought to herself. Composing herself, she stepped up to the door again and rapped lightly before opening it.

"Anyone awake?" Best not to let on she knew anything. Even if inside, she was still grinning.

###

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
faithinfire
Sep. 21st, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
Yay! *readreadread*

whenever one of us storms out and slams the door after us, the other needs to count to ten and then come looking

And yet again you demonstrate exactly why I love your stories. Your knack for observing human nature is just wonderful. ^_^

nephthys_abode
Sep. 21st, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)
Awww, thankies hon!

It's people like you who encourage me to keep writing . . . well, more to keep writing and publishing to the 'net, as opposed to keeping my stories on my harddrive!
(Deleted comment)
nephthys_abode
Oct. 8th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
Whoa! You read fast - chapter 9 to chapter 25 in a day!

It was good when those two finally bought a clue, huh? I did tell people to trust me . . . and that Harley was generally clueless, so could be relied upon to miss opportunities others might have taken.

(Deleted comment)
nephthys_abode
Oct. 8th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
I bought a keyring version of the game Clue just so I could say that I actually have an official Clue. :)

Bwahahahahaha!!

That's brilliant!!!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )