(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!
Kinda funny that I'm publishing this chapter today, on the day Trish Stratus, one of my all-time favourite Divas, gets inducted into the Hall of Fame because . . . you guessed it, this one's got some serious Diva-bashing happening.
What can I tell you - I'm a bitch! I should of course preface this chapter with that hoary (whore-y?) old chestnut about this being a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual persons being wholly accidental. Or maybe you'll buy "although inspired in part by a true incident, the story is fictional and does not depict any real person or event"? (Totally stole that one from Law and Order, yanno?)
But . . . yeah. It is what it is. Deal. Or don't, your choice. Just don't come at me later, bro, getting all up in my grill about it, you hear what I'm saying? ;-)
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
As Harley had warned him, they were up fairly early the next morning. They'd agreed to grab breakfast at the airport to save time.
Still, it was with a pang that Mark carried their bags out to Harley's truck. It had been such a pleasant time in her cabin with her, he was loathe to leave it behind.
The only saving grace was knowing they'd be together all week, and then at his home on their next days off.
He left Harley to her routine of locking up, leaning against the truck while he waited. No great hardship in the clear mountain air, although this early, it was a little chilly.
They swung through downtown Cullowhee on their way to the airport, stopping just long enough to grab coffee to go and for Harley to clear her post office box.
The drive back to Knoxville was more interesting in daylight, although Mark mused that once you'd seen one of them, pretty much all of small town America looked the same. The stretch through the national park was scenic, at least.
Much as Mark would have liked to keep Harley to himself a little longer, they ran into Glenn when they arrived at the airport. Which he should have expected. Everyone on the roster or crew travelled enough to know to leave way longer than normal for check in and security clearance at airports. Even if it meant a long wait if you got through quickly.
He and Harley planned to use the wait to grab breakfast. It would have been churlish of him not to invite Glenn to join them. Particularly not when they were going to be seated together on the flight.
As it turned out, breakfast at Ruby Tuesday was very pleasant. Harley and Glenn had formed a friendship by dint of travelling together so often if nothing else, and the conversation between the three of them flowed smoothly.
Once their flight took off, they slipped into work mode. Harley took her laptop out of her carry on bag, and he and Glenn spent the time tossing ideas back and forth for their coming matches.
As he looked over to where Harley was working on the design for the house show sets, Mark reflected this would be the norm now. And that wasn't in any way a bad thing.
At the hotel, he had no qualms about using his not-inconsiderable Texan charm to ensure he and Harley had rooms close together.
Eventually, he thought as the clerk moved other bookings around to accommodate his request, they might end up changing their travel preferences to be booked into a joint room. But for now, separate rooms, close together, was good enough. Even if he hoped Harley would spend precious little time in hers.
He left her in her room, once he'd deposited her bag for her, before going across the hall to his own room.
While he might have preferred to linger with her, they were both due at the arena. So while she changed into her crew t-shirt, he was busy making sure he had everything he needed for the night's house show.
They travelled to the arena with Glenn in his rental. Listening to Harley and Glenn talking and laughing, Mark found himself in an uncharacteristically good frame of mind for the start of the work week.
So much so that when it came time to part ways with Harley and start work, he was in a playful mood. One she shared, if the twinkle in her blue eyes was anything to go by.
He adjusted the collar of her hoodie, smiling at her. "Now, mind you keep warm, sweetheart. Have you got your lunch money?"
Giggling helplessly, Harley shook her head. "You big goof - come down here so I can kiss you."
Grinning, he bent down to her, and she took his face in her hands and kissed him.
His arms went around her and he pulled her gently into a hug as their lips parted. His hand rubbed over her back.
"You take it easy, Kate - let's not mess up your recovery at this late stage, okay?"
She smiled up at him. "Thanks for worrying about me, Mark."
He tapped one finger on her nose with a wink. "Got to take care of my woman, don't I?"
As they went their separate ways, they were watched by someone with an incredulous expression.
Angelina Perez was not happy. And that was an understatement. Ever since she'd been dumped, rather ignominiously, back to FCW for 'further development', she'd been planning her triumphant return.
Planning and actively agitating for it. The agitating hadn't started until Mark Calaway returned from his injury, though. Angelina was no fool.
Lina, as she was generally known, was what her detractors called an 'operator'. She preferred to think of herself as 'savvy'.
She had the looks the WWE wanted - slim, but with a set of expensive breast implants. Darkly pretty Latino features and a mane of black hair.
Her in-ring abilities weren't brilliant, but she was no worse than most of the current Divas. And she knew it.
She'd summed up her future within days of first landing in the company, and realized if she wanted to be the undisputed star of the Divas, she needed an advantage.
The advantage she decided on was Mark Calaway. There were more attractive men on the roster, younger ones as well. And she knew if she played her cards right, she could have them too.
What Mark had was power. The ear of the bosses, from what she'd seen and heard. And he was the undisputed leader in the locker room.
It had been simple enough. First, making it seem casual, she'd asked for his help in perfecting a move. Giving him a seemingly spur of the moment hug of thanks when she 'mastered' it.
Hanging on his every word in meetings. Showing up conspicuously early, and leaving late - again, making sure he noticed her 'dedication'.
The trump card was almost ridiculously easy. There was a Divas lingerie photo shoot planned. She approached him with her very best worried little girl expression, wearing a robe, and asked very deferentially if she could get his opinion on what 'they' wanted her to wear.
'They' had nothing to do with it - she'd chosen this outfit very carefully. And the look of animal lust on his face when she'd opened the robe to show him the skimpy bra and panties she wore told her they were worth every penny she'd paid for them.
She let him think he was chasing her after that, but she gave him ample opportunity to catch her. And when he did?
Well, she could play at flattering adoration just fine.
Even if she was bored out of her mind within the first week. The sex was okay, but he never wanted to take her out to the clubs or anywhere fun. Having a beer after a show and then going to sleep was not how she wanted to spend her nights.
Plus he spent way too much time in the gym, even on his days off. Lina didn't believe in the gym - she didn't want to ruin her figure with bulgy muscles.
What she did like about the relationship was the push that it gave her career. If Mark worked a show, the right kind of hints she dropped made sure she had a match as well. Or some TV time at least. She didn't care which - so long as she was getting the spotlight.
She wasn't stupid - she never came right out and said anything that might get back to Mark. But she insinuated plenty.
The same went for her dalliances with some of the younger members of the roster. Most of whom were bright enough to realize that losing out on the hot piece of ass they were enjoying was nothing compared to what Mark might do to them if he ever found out.
Then Mark got injured. Lina's distress was quite genuine - without Mark around, would she continue to enjoy the perks of being his girlfriend?
The first few weeks, she did. Mostly because that's as far as ahead as had already been planned. After that, though, there was a definite drop off in her spotlight.
She held her tongue. For about a week. Then she started making demands. Usually prefaced with, "You do know whose girlfriend I am, don't you?"
Coincidentally, that was about how long it took for her to replace Mark in her bed every night, instead of stolen hours here and there.
It wasn't like he was around to see any of it, she reasoned.
Truth was, Mark was too laid up to even consider travelling for the first few months. And Lina hated his house in Houston with a passion, so she wasn't breaking land speed records going to visit him.
She was wrong about him being none the wiser, though, either about her demands or her cheating. He had plenty of friends on the roster and while none of them particularly relished the task, they were quick enough to reach out to him and let him know what was going on.
Management finally decided they'd had enough of Lina after two instances where her sloppy work in the ring had left other Divas injured. And while they acknowledged, at least to themselves, that fault for the injuries lay on both sides, it was Lina and her attitude that ended up being shipped back to FCW.
They'd discussed it with Mark first - Lina was right about him having that kind of power. And given what he'd already heard from Glenn and others, he wasn't the least bit broken up about it.
Mark figured that was pretty much it for the relationship. Lina hadn't even bothered to call him for weeks, but he was too much of a gentleman to break up with her by phone. She deserved to hear that face to face.
He thought he'd take a trip to Florida before he was due to go back to work. When that opportunity came and went, and he'd still not heard from Lina, he figured the next time they swung through Florida would be soon enough.
Except that by the time that rolled around, he'd found himself falling for Harley. And forgetting completely about Lina.
Which led to the present day.
Lina had assumed that all she'd have to do was engage in some empty flattery, stroke Mark's ego and do a little billing and cooing and she'd be right back at his side. She'd even cool it for a bit with the other guys, just to make sure Mark was hooked. Then it would be business as usual and she'd have her spotlight back.
Mark playing kissy-face with some damned crew person was not part of the plan.
Lina could not even begin to understand what Mark was doing with that woman. Not that it mattered, Lina thought to herself - she was younger, and hotter.
Still, there was worrying talk all around her, it seemed. About how Mark and Harley had been an item for some time.
And apparently people liked that! She'd never heard anyone describe her and Mark as a 'nice couple', or 'good together'.
She brushed that aside - she was a Diva. And she deserved to be with the top guy on the roster. A few casual questions later, and Lina was ready. Time to put that crew bitch back in her place.
Harley and Bob had met and caught up on the week's priorities. Now she was putting off the inevitable round of reports and paperwork by taking a wander around the arena. Ostensibly looking at the progress of the set build, but also checking in with her crew.
She stood down near the ring, looking back up at the entrance set. She'd had some ideas on the plan for the new design, and was visualizing these when a voice behind her brought her sharply back to reality.
"I want to talk to you."
Harley turned, and found the unfamiliar voice coming from an unrecognized face.
"You have to design a new entrance for me," Lina said, in what was about the unfriendliest tone Harley had heard lately.
But this was the woman who'd gone head to head with The Undertaker for months. Some skinny girl wasn't about to intimidate her.
"I see," Harley said. "And who might you be?"
Lina's expression turned smug. "I'm Mark's girlfriend."
Harley's carefully neutral expression didn't change - all that poker playing came in handy like that.
She kept her tone even. "Well, 'Mark's girlfriend', let me educate you about how things work around here. I don't take orders from you."
Lina was confused. Didn't this crew bitch get it? "What part of 'I'm Mark Calaway's girlfriend' are you not getting? You're designing a new entrance for me or he'll be very unhappy." That threat usually worked.
Harley shrugged. "Nothing in my job description about that. Like I said, I don't take orders from you. You want a new entrance, you run that past Creative. If they agree, they'll let me know. But if I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath on it."
She turned on her heel and walked away, leaving Lina gaping in surprise behind her.
There were plenty of people who'd seen Lina around the venue. But Jeff Hardy was the first to find Mark to clue him in.
Mark was in the locker room after his workout. He was sitting on a bench in front of the locker he'd claimed for himself, wiping his face with a towel.
Jeff didn't particularly relish being the bearer of this news. He, like most of the roster, has seen Lina's behaviour at its disrespectful worst - her turning up again was nothing good.
Mark turned to look over his shoulder. "Yeah, Jeff?"
Jeff paused. "Um, I thought you should know - Lina's back."
"Aw hell," Mark murmured, rubbing his fingers over his forehead.
"There's more," Jeff paused again. Because if that part was the bad news, what he had to say next came under the heading of 'really bad news'.
"More?" Mark asked, eyebrows raising.
Jeff nodded. "She's already talked to Harley."
Mark rose to his feet, tossing his towel towards a hamper. "I can't imagine any way that could be a good thing." He sighed. "But thanks for the heads up."
He was out of the door before Jeff could say anything more.
Mark headed through the corridors, looking for the offices Bob and Harley were using. And keeping an eye out for Lina. That was something he couldn't avoid forever, but damage control needed to come first.
He did take a moment to gather his courage before tapping on the door with a paper 'Crew chief' sign scotch-taped to it.
Harley's voice came from inside. "Come on in."
She looked up from her laptop as the door opened and Mark walked in.
"Hi chief," she responded.
He closed the door behind him. "I'm guessing I got some explaining to do." The atmosphere was more than a bit frosty.
She folded her hands on the desk in front of her. "I'm listening."
Sitting down opposite her, he looked into her eyes. "I dated Lina a while back. Before you started here. Long and short of it is, I got injured. Was looking at months off work. She hardly said a word to me after that. Wouldn't come and visit me at home. It didn't stop her throwing my name around here at work though."
"Newsflash," Harley said. "She's still doing that."
"Aw jeez," Mark muttered. He scrubbed a hand over his face and went on. "She was cheating on me too, and that was it, as far as I was concerned. Only . . ."
Mark cleared his throat. "I never actually told her it was over."
"Hedging your bets there, chief?"
"What? No! Look, I'll admit it wasn't the greatest relationship - if I'm honest, I was thinking from below my belt when I started chasing her. But it was a relationship, and I figured she deserved to hear face to face that it was over."
"So why didn't you tell her?"
Mark sighed. "At first, I was still too laid up to travel. And she wasn't coming near me. By the time I was up to travelling, they'd sent her back to Florida for further training. I figured to let the dust from that settle first. Then I started thinking I'd go before I went back to work, but I got so busy getting back in shape that it never happened. I thought I could do it when the company next went through Florida. In the meantime, you happened." He gave her a wry smile.
"Yeah. First I was fighting with you. Then we were working on being friends. And then I found I was attracted to you. I'm ashamed to say I completely forgot about Lina, or the fact that I hadn't actually broken up with her officially."
For the first time since he'd come into the office, Harley started to unbend, giving him a smile.
"Well, your heart's in the right place, I'll give you that. It's right nice of you, thinking a woman deserves better than a break up by phone. But if you've not even spoken to her in over a year? Most women would get the message you were quits."
Mark shook his head. "Lina's not most women. And if she's still throwin' my name around, it points to the real reason she was with me in the first place." He sighed again. "Which I always suspected. But knowing it still smarts."
He dropped his eyes from Harley's for the first time, staring down at his hands for a long moment. When he looked up, his expression was bleak.
"Kate, tell me the truth - have I screwed us up?"
"I'll admit, when she came up to me and said she was your girlfriend, all I could think was, I've had him in my home - in my bed. How did I not figure out there was someone else?"
She rose to her feet and came around the desk, leaning back against it as she looked at him. Mark's spirits sank.
And then she smiled.
"But I remembered having you in my bed. In my home. And all the time before that. Talking. Laughing. Making out. And I knew in my heart there wasn't anyone else."
His shoulders slumped in relief. He reached out, placing his hands on her hips and drawing her down onto his lap before wrapping his arms around her.
As her arms went around his shoulders, he buried his face in her neck. She stroked her hands over his back slowly.
Eventually, he lifted his head and looked into her face. She caressed his cheek with one hand. He nuzzled into her touch.
"Thank you, Kate," he said quietly.
"For what, Mark?"
He smiled. "Not tossing me out on my ass before I had the chance to explain?"
She chuckled. "Not allowed to lift anything, remember?"
Hugging her closer, his smile widened. "Then thank you for not giving me the rough edge of your tongue without hearing me out."
She kissed him lightly. "I trust you, Mark."
Before she could draw away, he deepened the kiss, pulling her in closer to him.
When their lips finally parted, they were both breathing more heavily.
He nuzzled his cheek to hers, his voice husky. "Not that I want to go, but I should."
She stroked his hair back from his face, smiling. "I should get back to work."
"And I need to go and find Lina." His tone said he wasn't thrilled at the prosepct.
"Yes. You do."
He smiled. Not that he'd picked her to let him off the hook. But he liked that tough side of her.
Lina hid a triumphant smile as she saw Mark coming towards her. She'd figured it wouldn't take long before he came back to her, but this was even quicker than she'd imagined.
She wasn't so triumphant as Mark explained, nicely, that their relationship was over. When she protested, he refused to rise to the bait, merely reminding her that she hadn't even spoken to him in almost a year.
Of course she had excuses for that, but he held up a hand, forestalling them. They were two very different people, he explained. And he'd met someone who was much better suited to him.
"There's no hard feelings, Lina. I wish you the best going forward, but you and I are over."
And with that, Mark walked away, leaving Lina seething in his wake.
He was wrong about the hard feelings - Lina had plenty of them. How dare he reject her? He should be glad a woman like her wanted him!
But what really rankled was the notion that she'd been replaced by that crew bitch. Another Diva - maybe she could see that, but someone on the crew?
With her own inflated sense of self-importance, Lina imagined that everyone had been laughing at her when Mark took up with this woman. The truth was, once Lina had been sent back to Florida, most people quickly forgot she existed, let alone that Mark had been dating her.
This was most definitely not over. Not by a long shot.
Mark and Harley had not discussed the situation with Lina any further at work, preferring to do so in private.
Once they arrived at the hotel, Mark asked her if she'd spend the night in his room. And was relieved when she agreed.
She made a stop in her room first, just long enough to brush her teeth, and was at his door a few minutes later.
With a smile, Mark led her to the bed, undressing her before stripping himself. They climbed into bed together, and he opened his arms to her. Once she was snuggled against him, her head on his chest, she raised the subject.
"So, I take it that it went okay with Lina?"
His hand stroked gently over her back. "Yeah. She took it pretty well, I think."
She patted his chest. "And are you okay with it?"
He didn't answer right away, instead moving her so she lay facing him. His fingers tucked her hair behind her ear. "Kate, I never did this with Lina."
She gave him a puzzled look.
Kissing her lightly, he smiled. "I mean, just lay in bed together and talked. Or cuddled. At the time, I didn't really mind, but since I met you, I remembered how damn nice it is. And I realized how much I missed it."
She caressed his face gently. "How did you end up with her? I mean, if it's okay for me to ask."
He thought for a moment, nuzzling into her touch. "You want the truth? Part of it was me thinking with my dick, but . . . I guess I was lonely."
She nodded, knowing only too well what he meant. It didn't matter how many friends you had, once you closed your hotel room door at night, it could be the loneliest place on the planet.
Mark went on. "But once that first mad rush of sex settled, I realized I didn't really even know her. We had next to nothing in common - not even wrestling. Because she viewed that as a chore she had to do in order to be a star. So we had nothing to talk about."
She reached out and took his hand, and he smiled.
"One of the downfalls of just going for it, right?" he asked, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
Chuckling, she nodded. "Oh yeah, know that part pretty well myself."
"Makes me glad that we were friends first. And that we had to wait. With Lina - well, my dick might have been happy, but I wasn't. Because - and it pains me to admit it - I didn't actually like her very much. She was manipulative and pretty self-centered."
"And yet you stayed." Harley's fingers caressed his big hand.
He nodded. "In the beginning, I hoped maybe she'd change. And then - I guess it was inertia. With all her faults, she never stinted me in bed. Not with sex, anyway. At those times at least, I didn't feel so lonely."
"Oh, Mark," she whispered, moving closer and wrapping her arms around his neck.
He hugged her close. "So yeah, I'm okay with it being over."
She could hardly judge him, because she'd done exactly the same thing over and over again over the years. Now? The experience of being with Mark - the simple pleasure of companionship, friendship, even without the intimacy of sex, was showing her how empty those relationships had been.
She didn't wish Lina any harm, but she was glad that Mark had chosen to stay with her rather than going back to the younger woman.
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