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!
Appreciate so much the feedback - I write mostly for my own amusement, so it's very nice to know that other people are enjoying the story!
Landing in Baton Rouge, it didn't take them long to collect their luggage and Mark's rental car, and they headed straight for the hotel to check in. Mark insisted on accompanying Harley to her room so she didn't have to carry her case, and promised to meet her back in the lobby in half an hour to head over to the venue. Harley changed into her crew t-shirt and a hoodie before heading downstairs to wait for him.
Once they reached the venue, they walked in together, and Mark leaned down to kiss her before they parted - she to find Bob Threadgood and check in with her crew, and he to the gym.
As she expected, Bob had already tasked her crew with the set build, and they sat in his on-site office together for a while catching up on the events of the last week. The only unexpected thing was the news that she was expected to attend a special meeting the following day with the rest of the senior crew to discuss the next Pay Per View. Bob wouldn't, or couldn't, tell her what it was about, so she had to be satisfied with waiting until the following day to find out.
Given her restriction to light duties, Bob handed over his office to her for the afternoon, grinning as he pointed to the large stack of paperwork that was waiting for her. She just chuckled and dived on in.
The time passed quickly as she plowed through the various reports and forms, and it was mid-afternoon when she decided to head to Catering for a coffee. She yawned a little and stretched carefully in her chair - she'd found out the hard way that a really serious stretch hurt at the moment - and then left the office, nodding to people she met along the corridors.
Catering was quiet, with only a few people gathered, and Harley poured a cup of coffee and sat down at one of the tables, yawning again. A deep chuckle came from behind her, and she looked around as Mark pulled out the chair next to hers and sat down with his bottled water.
"I'm boring you before I even open my mouth?"
She grinned and leaned in to kiss him lightly. "Never. You have to say a few words at least before I start needing to pinch myself not to nod off."
He shook his head and gently brushed her bangs from her eyes with one finger. "You taking it easy, Kate?"
Smiling, she nodded. "Doing paperwork in Bob's office, lifting nothing heavier than a pen, I promise."
He smiled then. "Good."
She chuckled, covering another yawn with her hand. "Sorry!"
"Maybe I kept you up too late last night?" he asked.
"No, I don't think so. But you did spoil me too much," she smiled.
"Sweetheart, I didn't even get started on the spoiling I wanted to do!"
Her eyes widened and she gave a happy little sigh, leaning her head on his shoulder briefly. "But you did let me take nice long afternoon naps. My body's rebelling like a teenager on a Friday night at having to actually work through the afternoon now!"
He laughed. "Some reason you can't sneak away and catch forty winks, if that's what you need?"
She lifted her head to smile at him. "Well, yesterday, nap time ended with a rather delicious snuggling, and I don't think I could be satisfied with anything less now. See? Spoiled completely!"
"Hell, now you got me thinking about how I can sneak you off with me for a nap with extras!"
She giggled then. "A nap with extras! I like that!"
He kissed her lightly. "But unfortunately I still have a meeting with the writers, just as soon as Glenn is done in the gym. So, no nap with extras for me."
Nuzzling her nose to his, she chuckled. "And I need to whip my body back into working shape, so no nap, with or without extras, for me."
He rested his hand on her shoulder, lightly caressing her. "Perhaps you should give the show a miss tonight? If you're tired, I mean."
Harley shook her head. "Nah, I'll be okay. I like running the board, and Bob's been pulling double duty with me out sick. He could use the night off."
Mark smiled. "Then I'll wait and drive you back to the hotel afterwards."
She nodded and leaned her head back on his shoulder. "But I should get back to work."
His arm wrapped around her even as he spoke, "Yeah, I'm thinking Glenn's probably about to come looking for me for our meeting."
It was still a few minutes before they actually moved away from one another, and they rose to their feet together. Mark leaned down to kiss her gently before heading out of Catering, and Harley smiled, watching him for a moment before going over to warm up her coffee. She was turning to leave when she saw Jeff coming towards her, and she gave him a smile.
"Hey stranger. You just getting in?"
Jeff shrugged and smiled. "Yeah, a few minutes ago. Was over talking with the guys - didn't want to intrude on you and Mark."
"Yeah, about that . . . "
He shook his head. "Harley, you don't have to explain yourself to me - we're friends. So long as you're happy, I'm happy."
She set down her coffee and hugged him, pleased when he hugged right back. "I don't want you to think that I'm keeping secrets, that's all. I know I didn't mention it when you called yesterday."
Jeff leaned back against the table, smiling at her. "I take it this is all new?"
Harley nodded. "When we had the chance to relax and spend time together, well, I guess it became obvious, even to me. It wasn't exactly how Mark planned it, but we talked."
"I'm glad. I kinda thought there might be something between you two, if you could give it a chance." He smiled. "Mark cares about you. That's all that matters to me, Harley."
She chuckled. "We'll see what happens, I suppose."
Matt called out to Jeff, beckoning to him, and he pushed himself off the table, hugging her again. "Gotta go! Catch you for dinner?"
"I'll be here - have a good afternoon!"
Jeff grinned and loped off after his brother, and Harley retrieved her coffee and headed back towards Bob's office and her paperwork.
Harley had made quite a dent in the paperwork by the time Bob and the stage director came to find her for a walk-through of the night's show. The three of them were gathered backstage, and she was making notations on the clipboard she carried as they talked. There was nothing out of the ordinary planned, for which she was grateful. A nice quiet house show would be the perfect way to ease back into work.
Checking her watch, she deposited the clipboard on the big board, leaving her headset around her neck as she headed for Catering. There were plenty of hellos and welcome backs, which made her smile. For all its size, the company really was like family, and it was nice to know she'd been missed.
Jeff and Matt caught up with her just after she got to Catering. Matt gave her a warm smile.
"Hey Harley, how's it going?" He gestured to her side.
"It's okay, Matt - thanks for asking," she replied, smiling back.
"We should get together and compare scars and war stories!" he chuckled.
A deep voice came from behind them. "You can trade war stories all you like, Hardy, but you can forget about comparing scars."
Harley turned to look at Mark, eyebrows raised, and then turned back to Matt. "When I actually have a scar, as opposed to a half-healed wound, I'd be happy to show it to you, Matt."
Matt glanced from Mark to Harley, looking very confused.
Mark glared at Harley. "I'll be damned if he gets to see it before I do, Kate!"
"Is that what all this chest beating is about? You could have just said so, Mark - I think that can be arranged."
Ignoring the heads that were turning to look at them, Mark's expression softened and he smiled, pulling Harley gently into his arms, bending his head to kiss her as he held her close. She leaned up to his kiss, one hand on his chest, the other behind his neck. As their lips parted, he brought one hand up to stroke her hair, still holding her close.
"I'm sorry, Kate. I was acting like I had a right to dictate what you do."
She smiled up at him. "Yeah, you were. Jealous, much?"
He chuckled, nodding. "Right then? Absolutely!"
"It's kind of nice you care enough to be jealous. But less with the unilateral decrees on what's going to happen, okay?"
"Like you're ever gonna let me get away with that, anyway!" He looped his arm around her shoulders.
She elbowed him in the ribs playfully. "Don't assume I'm gonna enjoy constantly calling you on it either!"
Matt had been looking between them with a baffled expression, even as they kissed.
"Ah, have I missed something here? When did you two become a real couple?"
Harley chuckled. "A 'real' couple? As opposed to what?"
Matt grinned. "Well, as opposed to just wanting everyone to think the rumours were true by yankin' our chains."
"I'm not going to confirm or deny that, Hardy," Mark said with a broad grin.
Jeff chuckled. "Like you even have to!" He gestured to Mark's arm, which was still curled protectively around Harley's shoulders.
They were interrupted by a startled voice behind them.
"Whoa! What the hell did I miss?"
Harley turned to see Glenn staring rather incredulously at her and Mark, and couldn't help her chuckle at his expression. Mark contented himself with a smug grin at his friend before leading Harley away. Glenn shook his head, watching them go, and then he laughed.
"Wondered how long that would take to happen!"
Amy looked surprised. "You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. My grandma always used to say there was only a hair's difference between love and hate. Besides, you haven't shared a car with Mark as often as I have - I've heard chapter and verse on Harley's sterling qualities for months. Figured he was working his way up to asking her out eventually."
Matt looked at Jeff. "What do you think about this?"
He shrugged, looking over to where Mark and Harley were choosing their food. "I told 'Taker that he'd answer to me if he was messin' with her. And she seems happy, so that's good enough for me."
Matt wisely left it at that.
Harley was tired by the time the show ended. No more tired than she'd been used to being when she was working load outs, but she was very glad that her night was almost over. She gathered the crew together and briefed them on the load out - they were in Memphis for Raw on Monday, so the next day would be a travel day for the crew. Leaving Troy in charge, she headed for Bob's office to put away the last of the paperwork.
She was just locking the file cabinet that travelled everywhere with them when there was a tap at the door, and she turned to see Mark leaning against the doorjamb.
"You almost done, Kate?"
She nodded, covering a yawn with one hand. "Sorry! Yeah, I'm finished."
He shifted the bag he was carrying over his shoulder and came over to lay a hand on her shoulder. "Tired?"
"And very glad I'm not working the load out," she smiled up at him.
"Come on. I'll take you back to the hotel."
She was silent on the drive, and Mark glanced over at her, not surprised to see her eyes closed. When they pulled into the parking garage, he reached out to touch her shoulder.
She opened her eyes, smiling sleepily at him. "Oops. Guess I fell asleep on you, Mark."
He chuckled as they got out of the car. "More tired than you thought, huh? Happens to me all the time - at least you don't snore. I get complaints about that from Glenn when I doze off in the car."
She grinned up at him as she slipped one arm around his waist. "Hey, I've heard Glenn when he's nodded off beside me on a flight home - he's pretty good at sawing logs himself!"
He kissed the top of her head, still chuckling. They took the elevator to Harley's floor, and Mark walked her to her door. She took out her keycard, smiling up at him.
"Last time we were outside a hotel door together like this, we were fighting."
"Only until I kissed you, sweetheart," Mark smiled, stroking his hand over her hair.
She chuckled. "That's one way to end an argument, I guess!"
"Does a pretty good job of shutting you up too, Kate," he murmured, leaning down to kiss her.
Which did, indeed, shut her up.
The following morning was like every other morning on the road - Harley was up fairly early, took a shower and packed her case, remembering at the last minute that she wasn't allowed to lift it. She scratched her head, considering this, and decided to shanghai someone into doing that for her after breakfast. She figured that dragging by its pull handle was okay.
She leaned against the wall of the elevator as she went down the hotel restaurant for breakfast, thinking idly over her morning. Once breakfast was over, she had the meeting to discuss the next Pay Per, and then a leisurely drive to Memphis with someone. Who, she hadn't quite figured out yet - depended how long her meeting was going to go, and who was still around afterwards. Lost in thought as she was, she barely did more than glance around the restaurant, wondering where she might sit.
Mark had been waiting for Harley to arrive - they hadn't made any firm plans to eat together, but he fully intended to take advantage of whatever time they could spend together on the road. When she arrived, he rose from where he was sitting with Glenn and Paul Levesque and walked towards her.
Harley noticed Mark heading her way, giving him a smile. Despite what he'd told her at his home during the week, she was surprised when he pulled her close and bent to kiss her. For about a second, anyway. That's about how long it took her to become an enthusiastic participant, her arms winding up around his neck as she returned his kiss. A kiss that lasted far longer than general propriety might have dictated, not that either of them cared.
When their lips finally parted, Harley gave him a slightly dazed little smile and whispered, "Oh boy, you've been holding out on me!"
Mark chuckled, brushing her bangs from her forehead with one finger. "Told you I was going to kiss you like this on the road, Kate."
She darted a glance around them at faces showing amazement and not a little shock and chuckled herself. "And it's definitely made quite a statement too!"
He led her to the table where he'd been sitting, and she gave Glenn and Paul a smile as she sat down, not missing the looks on their faces, busying herself with her napkin and the menu so that she wouldn't either blush or burst out laughing. Mark held her chair for her and then sat down beside her, looking smug. It was Paul who broke the silence.
"Good morning, Harley. Glad to see you back at work."
Even though Paul used no pyros for his entrance, she had worked on the lighting effects with him when he'd wanted to tweak them. She was aware of his position within the company as one of the leading members of the roster, held in the same kind of respect as Mark was. Most of the crew were of the opinion that Paul would probably go on to a senior position with the company once his wrestling career was over. And they had nothing but respect for him, because he knew exactly how hard they worked and was always quick with his thanks and praise for their efforts.
"Thanks, Paul," she said, smiling at him.
He gave her his trademark smirk then. "I'd ask you how you were feeling, but I'm guessing that 'Taker could probably tell me, given the thorough physical he's just given you!"
She couldn't help a giggle at that, but Paul wasn't done yet. He turned his attention to Mark.
"While we were eating?" he complained goodnaturedly. "Man, you could have warned us!"
Mark laughed and flipped Paul the bird, while Harley just shook her head. Glenn seemed unfazed by Harley and Mark's new closeness, and it was thanks to him that the conversation at the table flowed without much of a pause. The topic turned to the upcoming Pay Per View, and Harley sipped her coffee before asking the question that had been intriguing her.
"So, what is this Survivor Series deal?"
Paul was only too happy to enlighten her on the of the traditional Survivor Series elimination match and indeed the history of the Pay PerView itself, which had been running almost as long as Wrestlemania.
"What was it, Mark, the fourth Survivor Series when you beat Hogan for the WWE Championship?" Paul asked Mark.
Mark shook his head. "Fifth - it was 1991."
Harley could see now why Mark commanded the respect he did within the roster - hell, within the company, if he'd been around as a champion that long.
Glenn chuckled. "What were you doing in 1991, Harley?"
She had to think about it, and when the answer came to her, she chuckled rather ruefully. "Touring with Guns N' Roses, dodging hurled beer bottles and wishing to hell I was someplace else, mostly!"
Amidst the laughter, Harley checked her watch. She smiled and shook her head at the offered coffee warm up and laid her napkin on the table.
"Well, this meeting about the Pay Per is calling my name. Thank you, gentlemen, for your company this morning," she smiled at them as she rose to her feet, a little startled when all three of them rose with her in a very well mannered way.
Mark leaned in to kiss her lightly. "We've got an appearance this morning, Kate, so I probably won't see you until we get to Memphis. I'll catch up with you at the hotel, okay?"
She nodded, her hand caressing his face for a moment. "Have a good day, Mark. See you tonight."
As she walked away, the three men sat down again, and Glenn gave Mark a grin.
"You better be treating my little peach well, buddy."
Mark declined to comment, but Glenn had noted how his eyes had followed Harley out of the restaurant. He didn't need to be a genius to work out how much Mark cared for his friend.
"Excuse me - a what kind of match?" Harley had to have heard that wrong.
"The match between 'Taker and Kane will be an inferno match," one of the writers replied.
Harley still wasn't getting it, but Bob obviously was. "Hang on a minute - if you're planning an inferno match, we got a lot of things need to fall into place first. Did someone at least check the Florida gas laws?"
Gas laws? The ones that governed just how much flammable gas you could store within a building? Oh hell, thought Harley, that couldn't be good.
Bob was reassured that the initial groundwork had indeed been done - Florida laws would permit the match to go ahead, though Bob shook his head and muttered irritably under his breath through the rest of the meeting.
The writers, though, were happily oblivious to the crew chief's displeasure, and it was only after the meeting that Bob allowed his feelings to vent.
"Goddamned pencil necks!"
Harley's eyebrows shot up - she'd never seen Bob quite this riled up before.
"Don't they know how much work has to go into one of these matches? And we've got three weeks to make it happen! Okay, Harley, you better ride to Memphis with me - we got a lot of planning to do."
"Ah, Bob? I'm happy to ride with you, and you know I'll do whatever you need, but . . . "
Bob looked at her quizically. "What?"
"D'ya think you could tell me just what in the blue hell an inferno match is, first?"
Bob did one better - he hauled out the manual for the inferno match set up and procedures, and Harley sat beside him in his truck as he drove, opening it up. She hadn't even got through the first page when she used one of his favourite expressions.
"Jesus wept! Is this some kind of joke?" She stared at him, incredulous.
"No joke, Harley. But we've only done four of these matches since the first one Kane and 'Taker did in 1998."
"But this is insane! You've got naked flame less than a foot from the performers!" she protested.
"Keep reading, Harley - skip to the section on how an inferno match is won," Bob said grimly.
She buried herself in the manual, shaking her head as she read. It wasn't until they were an hour out of Baton Rouge that she got to the section he referred to, and she felt sick to her stomach as she looked at him.
"One of them has to be set on fire?"
"That's the rules."
She flicked further on. There were ways to set people on fire, of course - there were special suits, fabrics, that would burn and yet protect the wearer, but that kind of thing was usually left to stunt people who knew what the hell they were doing. Because the dangerous thing about working with fire was how quickly it could gobble up the oxygen in the surrounding air. When that happened, people could get light-headed and, worse, a bit loopy. She'd heard a story from one of her colleagues about a stuntman who'd ended up horribly burned because in that state, he'd critically misjudged how long he'd been alight and wasn't compos enough to call for the extinguishers.
But Mark and Glenn weren't stuntmen - they were sports entertainers. Highly trained professionals, to be sure, but not at this. She frowned, thinking on their current ring attire. Glenn was bare chested, and Mark wore a singlet. They were only covered fully from the waist down. How the hell were they going to set one of them on fire safely?
Even before they got to that point, how on earth did the set up work?
She unfolded the schematic that showed the inferno rig - the fire bars that were fitted around the ring, the piping to the external gas tanks, the sniffers used to monitor for leaks. At least the rig used methane - the propane she used for Mark's fireballs and other flame effects on the Titan-tron burned almost four times hotter than methane, although that much methane, in flames stretching around the whole ring, was going to be pretty damn toasty. She rubbed one hand over her forehead.
"Bob, this thing . . . dear God, every rational part of me is just screaming that this should not be done."
"I feel the same way, Harley. And I've been lucky - they've only wanted to use it four times before. This will be the fifth. So we're going to need to make it happen, as safely as we possibly can."
Harley flicked to the safety section of the manual, reading through the requirements there. She hadn't gotten very far when she raised her head to look at Bob.
"We're going to need both crews for the Pay Per weekend, even if we are in Florida."
"That's what I figured too. We're going to need one full pyro crew to set that thing up right before the match and then break it down instantly after."
She pulled out her planner, flicking it open to their schedule, doing some quick thinking.
"We might want the second crew in Florida in the days between Milwaukee and Detroit - that would be the best time to do a live demonstration for the fire marshalls. We're going to need a full ring set up, and I'd rather use the second crew than mess with the main equipment in that short period."
"I think we'll probably bring the second crew online full time at that point - keep them in Florida, just in case we need to adjust the rig. The last time we used it, we had a lot of trouble keeping continuous ignition."
Harley rolled her eyes. "Hardly surprising - who the hell burns that much methane continuously for, what, twenty minutes? But you know, I seem to recall an article in the PGI in the last year or so about continuous ignition issues. I'll look that up when we get to Memphis."
Bob nodded. "Sounds like a plan. Listen, Harley, I'm going to have to get you to take the lead on this. I know that's tossing you in the deep end, but with you on restricted duties, I don't think you'd be able to act as crew chief if I do it."
"Sure, Bob," Harley agreed instantly. "I'm sure I can work with the crew on the set up and covering off the safety issues."
"You'll also be running the motherboard at ringside during the match."
"I'll . . . what?"
"It's one of the safety features we had to build in - the whole set up is run from a dedicated motherboard, run by a senior pyro technician right at ringside. You're in charge of lighting the thing up right before the match and controlling the effects during the match itself. Then supervising the break down afterwards."
"Whoa, wait - what effects during the match? This thing just lights and burns, right?"
Bob had to chuckle. "Where's the spectacle in that, Harley? Nope, during the match, we have the flames leap up real high, like when one of the guys does a big move. We get 'em leaping eight feet in the air at some points."
Her mouth opened and closed a number of times before she was able to speak, and even then it was barely more than a squeak. "But . . . I don't know anything about wrestling, Bob! How am I supposed to know when to do that?"
"Relax, Harley. We'll have you patched in with an earpiece, and you'll sit in on the match run-throughs, so you have a general idea of when we'll want the big flames."
She could only shake her head in disbelief.
By the time they arrived in Memphis, though, she and Bob had a plan to manage the work to be done. Once they finished up next week in Milwaukee, she would fly to Orlando and meet the second crew there. They would assemble the ring and the inferno rig, test it and demonstrate it for Orlando fire marshalls. While the roster and first crew went on to Detroit after their days off, they would remain in Orlando, continuing to test and rehearse with the inferno rig, as well as beginning whatever preliminary set building was possible. Bob confirmed that they at least had space in the venue they would be using for the Pay Per View, if not the arena itself, during that time.
It was going to be tight, but hopefully, it was do-able. The only thing missing from the equation at that point was knowledge of the match itself, and Bob remarked caustically that the writers probably hadn't thought that far ahead yet, but he promised to remind them as forcefully as possible of the need to include Harley in those discussions, to ensure the inferno rig was fully integrated in their planning.
At the hotel, she'd requested a porter to carry her case for her, and once she saw him out of her room, she sank down on the end of the bed with a sigh. In all the planning she'd been doing with Bob, two things had escaped her notice until right at the end.
The first was that this inferno match was going to involve a man she was starting to care very deeply about, and another who'd become a good friend. She didn't know how she felt about that - particularly after the accident they'd had with the steel cage. She'd been upset enough about that before she'd formed friendships with Mark and Glenn - how on earth would she cope now, if, God forbid, something went wrong?
The second was that instead of being able to spend more time with Mark as they got used to their new relationship, in just over a week she'd be heading off to Florida without him, and she wouldn't see him again until the company caught up with them in Orlando over a week later.
And she couldn't do anything about either of those things. She wondered idly if a temper tantrum on the bed might help, but dismissed it almost instantly. It hurt to sleep on her tummy, so laying face down kicking and screaming was likely to be painful. Even if it might prove satisfying.
The only possible up side to this whole debacle was that she should be able to catch up with her parents for more than just her typical flying visit on her way through with a tour.
She gave herself a mental shake - she had to look more positively at this. She was going to learn a new pyro technique, and work with some new equipment - that was always a plus in terms of the resume. She was going to be more involved in the show than she had been in the past - again, a plus for the resume. And things with Mark would go just fine - once she actually managed to wrap her brain around the idea of them having a relationship at all.
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