(Again, a huge thank you to panthology and her mad skillz for this graphic!)
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!
This chapter's a promised birthday present for little_saiyajin - happy birthday, lovie! Enjoy!
Thanks for reading and remember - feedback is always appreciated. I'm writing for the love of it, but I'm publishing to hear the opinions of others.
And since it has been such a long time between updates, and to save you trawling back through the archives (although I have helpfully tagged all the chapters!), you'll find links to all the earlier chapters here
Harley could not have been prouder of her crew. They performed perfectly at the critical fire marshall's rehearsal, setting the inferno rig up quickly, and with a minimum of fuss.
The match run-through also went smoothly, and she felt confident in her own role with the flame effects. Perhaps not confident enough to go off-script, but the fire marshalls had already made it clear that wasn't going to be tolerated anyway.
Bob Threadgood, in his capacity as crew chief for the PPV, was only too happy to get the go ahead from the fire marshalls, even with the limitations they'd already flagged.
Neither he nor Harley wanted to be in the position of having to tell management the match would have to be scrubbed, particularly not at this late stage.
With the sign-off in hand, Mark and Glenn left to hit the gym, and Harley found her on-site office and went back to her paperwork.
In recognition of the work she'd done leading up to the PPV, and in view of her role in the inferno match, Bob had relieved her of responsibility for anything else over the next couple of days.
Which gave her a chance to get the paperwork under control, and would mean she had some time to spend with her parents, who were due to arrive the following morning.
Bob found her a few hours later as she worked through a stack of time sheets. And promptly tossed her out. They were in good shape for the PPV, thanks to the hard work of the second crew, and the paperwork wasn't that urgent. Far better she relax and be ready for the following night, he explained.
He could get used to this, Mark thought to himself as he and Harley headed up to her suite in the hotel. Not that it was ever likely to be common occurrence, having an afternoon off together on the road.
Typically, they were both involved in the shows, but this weekend, given the hype that was surrounding the PPV, neither he nor Glenn had been booked for the house shows.
Tonight would mark the end of his freedom, though. The PPV would kick off a fresh round of sibling rivalry between his character and Glenn's, and they could expect to be booked solidly up to the next PPV, some six weeks away.
Not that he minded, really - he liked working with Glenn, and the two of them had undeniable chemistry both in the ring and out of it, whether they were allies or enemies.
Come Armageddon, though, it would be Glenn's turn for the spotlight as he took the belt. And he deserved it.
For a while, Mark would enjoy taking a bit of a back seat, and a lighter program.
He knew himself, though, and knew he'd be content with that for only so long before he was champing at the bit and demanding a larger share of the limelight. He was an entertainer, after all. He fed off crowd reaction, off the thrill of performing. Then too, WrestleMania would be just around the corner, and he had that show by the throat.
But that was in the future. Now, he was just a man looking forward to some quiet time with his woman.
Comfortable though it was, the living room sofa just wasn't built for a man of his stature. Such a hardship to be forced to relax on the bed.
Which was why he was grinning to himself as he led Harley into the bedroom.
Stretched out on the bed a few minutes later, one arm wrapped around her as she nestled into his side, he was a happy man.
He'd missed her far more than he'd expected. And that wasn't about wanting to drag her into bed. He'd gotten very used to her company, and their friendship. Perhaps because she hadn't been with the company all that long, she had a very different perspective on things, which was refreshing.
But no matter whether they were clashing over differences of opinion, or agreeing on things, she never backed down. That forthright nature was what had attracted him in the first place. What continued to attract him.
They had a couple more days here in Orlando, for the PPV and RAW, and then they were in Tallahassee for SmackDown. Much as he wanted Harley to come back to Texas with him after that, he accepted that she needed to go home to North Carolina and relax completely before they started back at work next Friday.
It went without saying that he was going to miss her. Again. But it also meant he planned to enjoy every minute they could spend together before then.
He stroked his fingers gently over Harley's hair. "Any particular preference for dinner, sweetheart?"
She snuggled closer to him, her arm over his waist. "Someplace quiet would be good," she murmured.
More nerves, he wondered to himself, before nodding. "We could try the restaurant here," he offered.
"Nah," she replied after a moment's thought. "That'll be full of wrestlers."
He chuckled, leaning up to press a kiss to her hair. "And that's never quiet! Got someplace else in mind?"
"On a Saturday night? Not really." She paused. "How about room service?"
An evening where he truly had her to himself? "Perfect, sweetheart."
And it had been, he mused to himself later. They had shared a bottle of wine with a good meal, and were now sitting together on the sofa, Harley tucked into his side with her head on his shoulder.
They'd been talking idly when Harley asked a question. "Are you nervous?"
"About what, sweetheart?"
"The PPV tomorrow - do you get nervous about them?"
He chuckled. "Yeah, a little."
"Even after you've been doing it for so many years?"
He shrugged. "Every time is different, Kate. And I get nervous about different things."
"Such as?" she wanted to know.
"Well, if I've got a match with someone I haven't worked with much, or someone who hasn't got a lot of experience in big matches, I worry if we've put in enough time blocking the match, if everything will go off as we planned."
She considered this. "You and Glenn have worked together plenty, right?"
"Oh hell yeah. And we blocked this one out good. I'm not worried about that."
"So what are you nervous about?" Her finger traced over the design on his t-shirt.
"You mostly, darlin'. I know this is hard on you," he said.
She lifted her head, looking at him. "Worried I'll screw it up?"
His hand came up to caress her cheek as he smiled at her, shaking his head. "Not in the slightest. You're as professional as hell, Kate - I got no worries on that. I'm worried about you being nervous."
She sighed as she nuzzled into his touch. "I am nervous."
He'd thought so. Now he gently pulled her closer. "Wise man told me once it's only a fool who isn't nervous about performing. He said the nerves kept you on your toes, kept you sharp."
She snuggled into him. "I don't usually feel nerves. At least, not this much before. Mine kick in right about when we're ramping up for the show, usually. When it's too damn late to do anything but pray my crew and I have got it right."
He wouldn't insult her intelligence by telling her not to worry. That urge to drag her into bed was back, though - partly because that would be one way to distract her. At least, he hoped it would.
But since that was out of the question, instead he turned and slipped one hand under her thighs, lifting her easily and sitting her on his lap.
She made a sound of surprise, grabbing onto his arm as he lifted her. "What are you doing?"
He chuckled, nuzzling at her neck. "Distracting you, hopefully."
How was it, she thought fuzzily, even as she arched her head back to give him better access, that he unerringly found that spot on her neck that turned her brain straight to mush? Then again, it was also very possible that it was just the touch of his lips that did that. "It's working."
His lips moved to her ear, adding a shiver to that mushy feeling as he murmured, "Good."
His arms went around her, holding her close. She nestled into him with a soft sigh of pleasure. His lips pressed a line of kisses across her cheek before capturing her mouth. That sigh turned to a moan into his kiss, a sound that sent a shiver through him this time.
Arousal be damned though, he thought as he kissed her again. This was just a make out session - it didn't need to go anywhere.
Not for the first time, Harley felt herself lost in Mark. Cradled against him, she felt safe and secure. And his kisses were so . . . affectionate. Demanding nothing of her, but making it very apparent how he felt about her.
Truth be told, she felt very much the same about him. She liked him. Sure, she wanted him. Very badly. But right now, that was in a very distant second place. His kindness, his gentleness, his unfailing Southern courtesy - a gentleman who was also all man. Who was divinely comfortable to cuddle into. Frankly, she didn't care if they never left this couch.
When finally they did rouse from kissing and nuzzling, Mark excused himself to go back to his room to get something to sleep in, and a bemused Harley changed into her night clothes while he was gone.
When he returned, Harley couldn't help her giggle.
"What's tickling you, sweetheart?" Mark asked, closing the door behind him, t-shirt, shorts and toothbrush in one big hand.
She giggled harder at that. "I had a sudden flashback to summer camp - persuading one of the counselors to let my new best friend sleep in my cabin for the night!"
Mark grinned, advancing on her. "Oh yeah? Then sounds like there should be tickling going on, in that case!"
Harley backed away from him with a grin of her own. "You try it and I'll hit you with a pillow!"
He paused, giving her a speculative look. "A pillow fight? Darlin', you put on a pair of those little shortie pajamas, and you can hit me with a pillow all night long. I guaran-damn-tee you it'd make me a very happy man."
She came closer and leaned up on tiptoes, beckoning him down to her. He bent forward obligingly and she kissed his cheek. "Let's save the pillow fights and shortie pajamas for some other time."
When she wasn't off-limits, he realized. "Something else to look forward to, Kate. We'll settle for another summer camp stand-by - we can whisper to one another in the dark until we fall asleep."
Once he'd changed, they climbed into bed together, and he turned out the lights and took her in his arms. "Liking this a whole lot, Kate," he murmured as she snuggled close to him.
"Oh?" she asked, wrapping one arm over his waist and pillowing her head on his chest.
He nuzzled his cheek to her hair, his voice low. "Oh yeah. Never really picked you for the snugglebunny type but it's damn nice."
"You're good to snuggle with," she whispered, and he could feel the warmth of her blush against his chest. "I feel so safe with you, Mark."
His heart leapt a little at that, and his hand stroked her back gently. "I'm glad, Kate," he whispered back, pressing a soft kiss to her hair.
Waking the next morning with Harley still held close to him, Mark found himself in an introspective mood. In the space of 24 hours, he'd grown even closer to Harley, and so it seemed had she to him.
He was wise enough to know that most of last night's whispers in the dark weren't going to be repeated in the light of day just yet, but the fact that they'd been said at all was a start.
Not for the first time, he thought how lucky they'd been. Had they been able to fall into bed together straight away, they would almost certainly have missed out on the opportunities their long courtship was giving them.
Like whispered conversations that lasted half the night. Like re-discovering the joys of kissing and cuddling.
He was also well aware that delaying the physical side of their relationship was heightening anticipation of it. At least, it certainly was for him.
For now though, he was happy simply being with her. He'd missed her far more than he would have credited while she'd been here in Florida with the second crew.
So waking up with her head on his chest, snuggled in close to him, was pretty damned fine.
She'd slid one hand up under his t-shirt again. Apparently, in addition to being such a delightful snugglebunny in her sleep, she was also prone to disregarding their hands-off policy.
He wasn't about to complain. Not when his own hand was currently resting on the bared skin of her back, where her sleep shirt had ridden up.
He'd be content to lay here for hours, to be honest.
All too soon for his liking, though, Harley began to stir next him. Her cheek nuzzled against his chest as she gave a sleepy yawn.
Gently, he pulled her closer, leaning up to press a kiss to her hair before lying back again, his voice a low rumble against his ear. "Good morning, sweetheart."
"Morning, Mark," she murmured, sounding not very awake.
He sighed with contentment, his hand gently caressing her back. It was rare enough on the road not to have to be out of bed early to travel or make appearances, so he intended to enjoy it as long as he could. Harley with him made that slight luxury even more pleasurable.
Harley's arm stole over his waist, and she sounded more alert now. "Did you sleep well?"
He smiled. "I did, darlin'. How about you?"
Lifting her head, she gave a little chuckle. "Yep - I'm about ready to rassle alligators!"
With a chuckle of his own, his hand reached for that ticklish spot on her ribs. "Sounds like it might be time for me to break out some of my submission moves then!"
Giggling, she squirmed again him, to his delight. "I said rassle alligators, not you! Besides, who says I'd submit to you?"
He wasn't about to pass up a challenge like that. "Is that so, sweetheart? You mean to tell me if I were to do this," he moved quickly, turning on his side and gently pushing her onto her back, leaning in to nuzzle at her neck, his voice low in her ear,"you'd tell me to stop?"
He had her there, she had to admit, even as her arms came up to wind around his neck. "Well, let's not be hasty about this."
He chuckled in her ear. "Thought as much!"
She trailed one hand down over his chest, and before he knew it, she'd slid it up under his t-shirt again, stroking very gently over his skin.
Which felt very damn good, but a moment later she was dragging her short nails lightly down his back. Not hard enough to break the skin, but just enough to startle a moan out of him, his breath puffing deliciously in her ear.
She smiled, her own voice a throaty whisper, "Going to tell me to stop, Mark?"
He pulled her closer to him with a growl. "Not a chance in hell, Kate."
It was her turn to sound smug. "Thought as much."
It took him a moment, lost as he was in a sea of very carnal thoughts, but soon he was laughing, hugging her close. "You are ready to rassle alligators!"
She hugged him right back. She had to admit, she never would have picked him as a man who was physically demonstrative. Or so openly affectionate, even in private. But she liked it. A lot.
There was something about that combination of affection and "all man". She wasn't sure what part of that was making it easier to trust him, to feel closer to him, but she was liking that too.
She also couldn't deny the pleasure she got from their physical closeness. Forget his sensuality, which held its own powerful allure, he was simply nice to be near. Being wrapped in his arms was not just comfortable but comforting.
Mark's voice broke into her musing as he nuzzled the top of her head. "Almost time we got up, Kate."
Her arms tightened around him. "Hmmm, we probably should. You first."
He chuckled, patting her hip. "Okay, you twisted my arm - five more minutes."
She grinned up at him. "Way too easy! So much for you not submitting to anyone!"
He stared at her for a long moment, then moved swiftly to claim her lips in a passionate kiss, pulling her body tightly to his.
When their lips parted, she was left wide-eyed, speechless and pretty much senseless.
His lips moved to her ear and he murmured, "Time to get up, Kate."
She nodded, still in somewhat of a daze, and then she blinked at him, realizing what he'd done.
He grinned. "Now we're even."
She couldn't help her laughter.
Mark gently tucked her hair back behind her ear. "What time are your folks arriving, sweetheart?"
Harley nuzzled to his touch. "Their flight lands at ten."
"You reckon there's time for me to take you to breakfast before then?"
"Good," was his response as he folded her back into a hug.
After breakfast, Harley dropped Mark at the venue so he could hit the gym, and then drove out to the airport to collect her parents.
Allan and Clare Quinn were active retirees, and well used to air travel, with their children living in three different states.
They emerged from the jetway with their pullcases, and to Harley's amusement, they looked for all the world like ageing members of the roster or crew.
It was her father who spotted her first, leading his wife over to where she waited. Once again, she wore a plain t-shirt rather than crew issue, with a pair of cargo shorts and her workboots.
Her father grinned and gave her a hug. "Ain't you a sight for sore eyes, snooks!"
She chuckled at his use of the affectionate nickname, which had been hers since she was a baby, and hugged him. "It's good to see you too, daddy."
Clare Quinn took her turn for a hug next. "Goodness, Katie, you're barely a shadow! Are you still sick?"
"I'm fine, momma," Harley assured her mother, hugging her.
"But you were just in the hospital! Should you even be working?"
Allan rolled his eyes, and Harley hid her smile as she answered her mother. "It was a minor surgery, momma, and I've had good friends looking out for me since then. And I'm on light duties - paperwork, mostly."
Seeing his wife about to start protesting, Allan forestalled her. "We can take her out to lunch, momma, and you can feed her up a bit. But how about we start by heading for the hotel?"
The suite had her parents exclaiming over the extravagance, until Harley explained her status as second crew chief, and that the suite was part of the perks of that, as she sometimes had to work from it.
Once she had them settled in their room, they went down to the hotel coffee shop for lunch.
There was a lot of catching up to do - the last time she'd seen her parents was Christmas, with the family gathered at her brother's home in Arizona. Her mother had dozens of photos to show, both from that occasion and others that Harley hadn't been able to attend.
Her news was far more prosaic, being more a list of the places she'd been working, although the overseas tour was a little more exciting. She had a few snapshots of the phone of the places she'd seen, and some of the people she worked with.
Her mother was mollified slightly, seeing Harley eat a decent lunch, and the meal passed pleasantly enough.
It was soon time for Harley to head into work at the venue. She tried to ignore her mounting nerves as she showed her parents around Axxess.
The Quinns couldn't help but notice the warm reactions to their daughter as she introduced them to various people.
Seeing his daughter checking her watch, and not for the first time, Allan asked, "You got someplace you got to be, snooks?"
She nodded. "Uh huh."
"That what's got you so nervous?"
Harley chuckled ruefully. "Shows, huh?"
Her father nodded. "Yeah, it does."
She smiled. "Tonight's show . . . well, instead of me being out in back, I got to do something out near the ring. In front of everyone. Can't say I'm looking forward to it, exactly - I prefer being out of sight."
"You need us to give you some time?" her mother asked.
"Why don't you come with me?" Harley suggested. "We just got a meeting to go over this match - you can check out the arena before it fills up with people, if you like."
Her father grinned. "Damn fine idea, snooks - lead the way!"
Glenn was already at the ring when Harley and her parents arrived, and she made the introductions. As they talked, she headed for the time keeper's area, near where the motherboard would be set up later that night. She'd stashed her clipboard there after their last rehearsal the day before.
As she straightened up with it in her hand, she saw Mark approaching and couldn't help her smile.
He came over to her, giving her a gentle one armed hug, his voice low, "Hey, sweetheart."
"Hey, chief," she responded quietly, looking up at him.
His hand caressed her upper arm lightly. "You doing okay?"
She nodded. "Little nervous, but so far, so good."
He gave her another hug, a more lingering one, before they headed for the ring together.
Allan, now sitting at the announce table with Clare, hadn't missed seeing any of that. He'd seen his daughter hugged plenty so far today, including a pretty exuberant one from a young man with hair almost as outrageously colored as hers, and with a very familiar down home accent, but he was pretty sure there was more to it than just a hug from the big man who'd just arrived.
As Harley approached the ring, Glenn held the ropes apart for her, and Mark climbed swiftly through on the other side of the turnbuckle and offered his hand to assist her. Giving them both a smile, she took the offered hand gratefully, and almost unconsciously kept hold of it as the match briefing began.
Apart from Mark, Glenn, the stage director and herself, Mike Chioda, who would be officiating, was also present, as were Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, looking for some pointers for their commentary.
There was no physical rehearsal, just a rundown of the flow of the match as it had been planned. Harley let go of Mark's hand to refer to her clipboard and make notes, and he settled his arm around her shoulders as they spoke.
It didn't take long for everyone to be assured they were on the same page, and about as prepared for a live match as it was possible to be, barring unforeseen incident - a possibility no one wanted to even think about, let alone voice.
As they exited the ring, Harley made another round of introductions. While Jerry charmed Clare and Jim played straight man, Allan took advantage of his wife's and Harley's attention being on the announcers and approached Mark and Glenn.
After a round of handshakes and small talk, Glenn excused himself and Mark found himself alone with Allan. The man's eyes were the same color as Harley's, he noted as those eyes fixed on him with exactly her steely gaze. Now he guessed he knew where she got that, too. He returned the look steadily.
Allan nodded to himself - at least Mark had the guts to look him straight in the eye.
Mincing words wasn't Allan's style either, so he got right to the point. "Son, you sparkin' my girl?"
Mark hid a smile at the old fashioned term and nodded. "Yes sir, I believe I am."
Allan nodded himself. "Thought so. Seems like she's agreeable to that."
"She is. If she wasn't - well, I'm not the kind of man'd pursue a woman who made it clear she wasn't interested."
That statement took Allan's estimation of Mark up a notch or two. But this needed to be said. "That's good. Son, I'm only going to tell you this once - Katie's my little girl, for all she's a woman grown now. She's my only daughter, and she means the world to me. You best be treating her right."
Mark took a moment to gather his thoughts before speaking. "I appreciate your candor, sir. Let me assure you that your daughter is important to me too. As a friend, and yes, I hope someday as more than that."
Allan considered this for a bit, and then held out his hand. "Then you got my blessing. Not that you need it - like I said, Katie's a grown woman, and more'n capable of making up her own mind about this."
Mark shook the offered hand with a nod, then darted a glance over to where Harley and her mother were standing, still talking to Jim and Jerry. He kept his voice low. "And I reckon you and me'd never hear the end of it if she got wind of me asking or you offering your blessing on it at that!"
Allan gave a chuckle and a grin. "Ain't that the truth? Snooks can be a real wildcat when she sets her mind to it!"
Mark's eyebrows raised. " 'Snooks'?"
"It's what I been calling her since she was born," Allan explained.
Mark regarded Harley, and Allan clearly saw the affection in his gaze. "It kinda suits her. Ain't about to try calling her that myself, though - that brave a man, I'm not!"
That made them both chuckle.
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