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(Again, a huge thank you to panthology and her mad skillz for this graphic!)

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 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 updating's a bit sporadic, 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




###
In Atlanta two days later, Mark had to concede that the time off alone had done Harley a world of good.

She looked well-rested. And the way her face lit up when she'd seen him at the venue that first afternoon - well, if he got to see that expression after being away from her, he figured it was worth every minute he'd spent missing her.

When they managed to find a little privacy later, the way she kissed him told him that she'd missed him about as much as he'd done her.

They were in an empty office with the door closed behind them. The moment it had shut, Harley had flung herself into his arms and pulled him down to kiss him.

Not that he'd resisted her in the slightest, pulling her tight against him as she deepened the kiss.

When their lips finally parted, both of them were breathing heavily, and she smiled up at him, her arms still around his neck.

"Hey chief," was all she said.

He chuckled, nuzzling his nose to hers. "Well hey yourself."

They hadn't spoken since Wednesday morning in Tallahassee. Not that he hadn't reached for his phone plenty of times to call her. But he'd stopped before dialling, each time. Just because he wasn't busy at that particular moment didn't mean she wasn't, he'd rationalized.

He had to admit, he had no idea what she would do with her time off. He had a housekeeper who could - and did - stock the fridge for him, so no matter when he got home, there was food in the house.

Lizzie did all his laundry for him too, so all he had to do on his days off was maybe discuss with her and Jake anything that had come up with the house or the property. And his daily workout, which almost went without saying.

That gave him plenty of time to relax, and to think about Harley. Which was what inevitably led to him reaching for his phone.

With her in his arms now, missing her morphed rapidly into wanting her. Very badly.

Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on how he looked at - they both had work to do.

Apart from the usual things, he and Glenn were meeting with the writers, setting the storyline for the next few months. It was getting to be more of a challenge, giving them new reasons to be at one another's throats after so many years.

True, they could fall back on the old excuses, or even refuse to explain it at all, but both he and Glenn were keen to keep it fresh and exciting for the fans.

Harley, too, had a side project, being involved in the redesign of the sets and lighting they used for house shows.

Mark realized this would be the normal pattern of things as their working week wound to a close. Now that Harley was recovering from her surgery, she was back to being more involved in her crew work. While they could and did spend their nights together after the shows, and managed breakfast and dinner together sometimes, travelling together between shows was another matter. If they had a late appearance, or weren't due anywhere but for the next show, most of the roster took advantage of a late check-out.

The crew didn't have that luxury, so most mornings saw Harley leaving early with Bob. They used the drive between venues for planning meetings and discussions - time both of them counted well-spent, and which left them free to dive right into the work of getting ready for the next show as soon as they arrived.

While Mark missed the opportunity to spend more time with Harley during the work week, he did acknowledge that it was preferable to having a relationship with someone who demanded all his time and attention. Her independence was part of what attracted him to her in the first place.

Plus it did make what time they could spend together all the sweeter. There still wasn't much better than being able to relax with her after the show before climbing into bed together.

The occasional necking session was good too, although he was quick to call a halt to them before things got out of hand. The last thing he wanted going into their days off together was a case of sexual frustration.

And although his head was very clear on this, his hands seemed to have their own agenda and were ignoring that directive. At least where Harley's breasts were concerned.

The longing to cup those sweet little breasts, to caress them, was too much of a temptation. Particularly when Harley's reaction when he did was so delightful, wriggling against him with a soft moan that severely tested his resolve.

Even with these minor frustrations, he was happy. His program with Glenn was shaping up to be something exciting, and he was looking forward to spending his days off with Harley.

###

After the SmackDown taping on Tuesday night, Mark and Harley headed for the airport with Glenn.

It wasn't a long flight to Knoxville, but Harley was asleep leaning against Mark's shoulder almost before they took off.

Glenn chuckled quietly at the look on Mark's face when he turned to speak to her and realized this.

"Night time flights she pretty much always does that," he explained to Mark in a low voice.

Mark's eyebrows rose at that, but he remembered that Harley and Glenn had been making the trip in and out of Knoxville together for months now.

Seeing his friend relax a notch, Glenn went on. "She apologized for it after the first time - said she still had a fair drive ahead of her once we landed, and that a nap on the plane meant she was more ready to face it."

"Makes sense," Mark agreed, keeping his own voice low.

Truth was, he rather enjoyed the feel of her head on his shoulder as she slept - it proved those intimacy issues were on the wane.

He and Glenn conversed quietly until the plane began its descent, when Harley woke with a stretch at his side.

"Welcome back," Glenn chuckled.

Harley smiled and patted Mark's arm. "Probably should have warned you about that, chief - but it's just that Glenn about bores me to tears on these flights. I find falling asleep straight away saves me from that."

Mark laughed, while Glenn just grinned.

###

Waiting at the baggage claim, Mark had to admit Harley's nap on the plane was a good strategy. From what she'd told him, they were still a bit over an hour from their trip being over, and she looked bright as a button and ready for the drive.

He took charge of their bags, and after bidding Glenn a good night, they headed for where Harley was parked. She'd said she had a Ford, but what was waiting for them was a hulking Lariat truck.

Harley chuckled at the expression on his face as she unlocked the cabin. "What? I'm a redneck, chief - of course I drive a truck!"

Mark scratched his head with a laugh. "There's trucks, and then there's . . .Truckasaurus here!"

He could see as she opened the rear door that half of the seat had been folded flat, obviously to stow her suitcase, so he lifted it in to the cab and placed his own bags on top of it.

She leaned against the driver's door, shrugging. "I needed something with enough guts to get me up the mountains when it's icy. Plus I can fit a deer carcass in the cargo box, or a cord of firewood if I need to." She gestured to the tonneau cover.

Closing up the door, he leaned in to kiss her forehead. "Sorry darlin'. I'm thinking about you not being able to lift things and forgetting that's a temporary condition." He smiled. "Kinda like that tough side of you, to be honest."

For a moment, something he couldn't quite explain flickered in her expression, and then she nodded. "Have to be, chief, as you'll see when we get to my place."

They climbed into the truck together. It was pretty obvious this was no luxury vehicle for someone who just wanted to look blue collar. No fancy leather seats and pretty woodgrain trim, the interior was standard issue, but the engine responded instantly with a growl of power, and a welcome flow of warm air a few minutes later. It was a good fifteen degrees colder here than it had been in Tallahassee.

The drive in the dark told him nothing of where they were going, beyond the evocative names of small towns like Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, and Gatlinburg. Harley had the radio tuned to a local rock station, but it was turned low. They made small talk.

There was a thirty mile stretch through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where they didn't even see another set of car lights. Out of curiosity, he took out his cellphone and wasn't surprised to see that he had no reception.

"Kate, don't you get worried, driving through this at night?"

She shrugged. "Hadn't really thought about it much. The truck's reliable. And while it looks like the middle of nowhere, ain't more than 15 miles from a town either direction, if worst came to worst. Plus, I got that if I'm in real trouble." She pointed to the GPS unit in the dash.

"And that helps how?" he asked.

"I upgraded it - that model allows me to call in and get help in an emergency. Can call the cops, or a tow, if I really need it."

He hadn't even realized how he'd tensed up, thinking of her in trouble out here alone. Knowing she had something that would let her get help had him made him aware of it, and he put his cellphone back in his pocket and leaned back in his seat, trying to relax. She'd been making this trip for close to a year now, every week - of course she had it handled.

He relaxed even more when they started passing though towns, although some of them were little more than wide spaces in the road. She stopped once they turned off the blacktop of 107, and put the truck into four wheel drive. It was nearing freezing outside, and they were heading up into the mountains.

The road they were on followed a series of switchbacks as it climbed further into the darkness, and the truck's headlights picked out little more than trees on either side of it. It wasn't until they were almost at the end of it that she slowed further and turned off onto a gravel drive. This took them probably another hundred yards through the trees before the lights showed a clearing with a cabin in its center.

"Home sweet home," Harley murmured as she drove around to the side of the cabin, parking in a large open garage. Floodlights, obviously sensor-activated, filled the clearing with light as she shut off the engine.

They climbed out of the truck, and Mark retrieved their bags while Harley unlocked the door into the cabin. He followed her inside, looking around curiously. From the outside, he knew it was brick or stone, but inside, as Harley flicked on lights and turned her attention to what he assumed was a security system, he could see the interior walls were clad with wood panelling.

They had come in to a large open room, with a kitchen tucked into the corner at one end, leading to a dining area and flowing into a comfortable living room at the other. A stone fireplace was set into the centre of the wall opposite them. A hallway led off through that wall, he presumed to a bedroom or bedrooms.

He set their bags down as Harley closed and locked the door behind them. As she came over to where he stood, she had that odd expression on her face again.

"Mark?"

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"You know how we've been, well, waiting?"

Mark nodded.

Harley smiled. "We don't have to wait any more."

He was silent for a long moment, and Harley wondered if maybe she'd made the wrong call.

Then he grinned and swept her off her feet. "Which one's the bedroom, Kate? Never mind, I'll find it myself."

Her arms went around his neck with a sigh of contentment as he carried her across the cabin, pausing only long enough to glance through the open doorways before entering the bedroom.

There, he set her down on her feet, giving her a level look. "You need a pit stop first?"

She blinked in surprise at the sudden change of mood, until he grinned. "If you've got to go, Kate, go now. Because once I get you in that bed, I'm not letting you out of it."

She leaned up on tiptoes to kiss him lightly before hurrying into the bathroom.

Mark sat down on the edge of the bed, noting with relief that it was a king size as he bent to take off his shoes. He looked up as Harley reappeared, patting her shoulder before taking his own turn in the bathroom.

Ignoring the flutter of nerves she felt, Harley carefully turned back the counterpane and toed off her own boots. Then she crossed the room and knelt in front of the fireplace, reaching for the matches to light the kindling already laid there.

She was intent on getting the fire burning and didn't hear Mark as he came up behind her. He lay a hand gently on her shoulder and she jumped a little.

He said nothing, merely patted her shoulder and moved away, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

Once she had the fire alight to her satisfaction, she rose to her feet and turned to face him. He looked steadily at her, then rose and came over to her, gently folding her into a hug.

As he suspected, she was tense for a moment before leaning into him, her own arms coming up around him. He bent his head over hers.

She was puzzled - this was not what she had expected. Not after his inital reaction to her news. News she'd been sitting on all week, unsure just exactly how to tell him. Maybe she'd made a mistake blurting it out like that the minute they'd arrived.

"Mark?"

"Shh, Kate, it's okay," he murmured, rocking her very gently as he held her.

When he finally felt her relax against him, he scooped her up and set her on the bed. She went to lay back and he shook his head, climbing up next to her. He arranged the pillows against the bedframe and sat back, opening his arms to her.

"Come here, darlin'."

Very confused now, she moved to sit beside him, and found herself again folded into a hug. She nuzzled her cheek against his chest.

"But . . . " she began, and he shook his head.

"We've waited this long, Kate. I'm not about to start rushing my fences now," he said quietly.

She looked up at him, and he leaned down to kiss her softly, then guided her head back to his chest. One big hand rubbed gently over her back. She snuggled in closer to him.

"It's late, Kate, and we're both tired," he said, then chuckled. "I'd kinda like to make it worth the wait, if you know what I mean."

It was exactly the right thing to say, he thought, as she laughed and wrapped her arm around him, nodding against his chest. He held her close. What he hadn't wanted to say was that the way she'd tensed up when he came up behind her told him she was still a bit nervous about this. Those intimacy issues again, most likely.

So letting her relax, letting them both get used to being together in her space, was going to be time well spent.

He looked around the room. Like the rest of the cabin, it was wood panelled, and furnished sparingly. The bed, a dresser, a single nightstand and a rocking chair in one corner. There was a wardrobe built into one wall, and from the bed he could see that the fireplace was actually double-sided, allowing him a glimpse of the living room beyond it.

"This is a nice place, Kate."

"Thanks, Mark." He could hear the smile in her voice.

"And the fire's real nice, but I have to ask - how is this place heated? It's damn cold out there, but even without the fire, it was warm when we came inside."

"Got a geosolar system," Harley replied.

"A what?" Mark was intrigued.

She chuckled. "A combination of ground source heat pump and a solar array."

"That doesn't help me, sweetheart!" he laughed.

She patted his side. "Under the cabin, there's a system that uses the earth as a heat sink, and there's solar panels on the roof to boost it. It's energy efficient, and low emission. And it's pretty much self-sustaining, so I don't need to worry about the place when I'm off for months at a time."

"How the hell did you come up with that?" he asked.

She lifted her head to grin at him. "You forgotten I'm an engineer, chief? When I decided to build out here, I figured I'd do it the smartest way possible. So I reached out to some of the guys I went to college with to get the latest thinking."

He hugged her, smiling. "I don't know about all that stuff, but it's damn nice not walking into a cold house, that's for certain. I guess Lizzie spoils me - she has the place ready for me every week."

Harley lay her head back on his chest, nodding, her cheek nuzzled against him. "Be nice if I had someone like that, but I don't. So I built something that's the next best thing."

His hand rubbed gently over her back again. "Quiet and cosy - I like it. It suits you."

She sighed with pleasure, relaxing more against him. "Thanks. It's not fancy, and I don't spend a lot of time here, but yeah, I like it too."

He was silent for a few minutes. He knew his next question was likely to make her tense up again, but better to get it out now and give her the chance to get past it. His hand moved to her hair, stroking it gently. "The not having to wait any more - when did you decide that, Kate?"

Feeling the warmth in her face through his shirt, he continued to stroke her hair, waiting for her to answer.

Finally, she spoke. "I saw my doctor last week, on my days off. He said I was healing fine, so I asked. He figured to give it another week, and to take it easy when I did."

That was important information to have, he thought. He kept his tone light. "So, no swinging from the chandeliers - got it."

She chuckled. "No chandeliers to swing from, I'm afraid."

"That'll make it easier to remember then," he smiled, still stroking her hair.

When she yawned a few moments later, he patted her shoulder. "Okay, it's definitely late. Let's get some sleep, hey sweetheart?"

She lifted her head to look at him, and he could see the question in her eyes. He smiled and kissed her lightly. "Anything else, we'll just play by ear, okay?"

She nodded and smiled.

While Mark brought their bags in from where he'd abandoned them in the living room, Harley retreated to the bathroom to change, and he did the same once she was done.

Even with the lights out, the fire gave enough illumination for him to make his way to the bed. He climbed in beside Harley and was pleased when she moved in to snuggle close to him. A pleasantly familiar sensation, he thought, wrapping one arm around her.

Harley rested her head on his chest, and listened as his breathing became deep and even. She lay awake a little longer, watching the play of shadows on the ceiling from the fire, before she too fell asleep.

###


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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
faithinfire
May. 6th, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow, I am so jealous of Harley's house! That's exactly the sort of place I want to live... although I'd put mine in Iceland rather than America. ^_^

And massive props to Mark for a good call on the whole "play it by ear" thing! Well done that man - you can't just expect to switch gears so fast on something like that and have it work out, so I'm very impressed with him for being smart, and selfless, enough to react as he did. *thumbs up!*
nephthys_abode
May. 6th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
And massive props to Mark for a good call on the whole "play it by ear" thing!

Bwahahaha! I actually plotted this part of the story out in my head while on a couple of long drives, and while I knew that was completely in character . . . let's just say the muse disagreed! For a little while, anyway - I suspect that was just sexual frustration talking though, so I ignored it. ;-)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )