Like A Rock
Cort had climbed up to sit on my legs and was watching the crowd…
Meanwhile, my friends acted as though the secret would kill them. They’d heard enough of my whispered conversation with Cort over the din of the stadium to know they weren’t in the loop.
I could feel them all staring at me, and the longer it went on, the more difficult it was to not laugh.
Watching the stadium fill from my seat, like a teeming ant hill of baseball fans, the insanity of the noise was already becoming too much for me… it was one of the reasons I’d never enjoyed organized sports. And I was beginning to wonder how a telepath could keep their sanity. In theory, they were hearing twice as many voices as I was.
Hunter finally started conversation with, “I bet half tha Yankees’re… bipolar.”
I chuckled… Vampires were ‘only-eat-organic weirdoes’ and Weres were ‘bipolar’…
Shifters… Multiple personality disorder? Daemons… Litigiously predisposed? Elves… Vertically impaired? Trolls… Aesthetically challenged?
Faeries… Faeries were psychotic… every one I’d ever had any contact with, but the hybrids… they were a breed of their own apparently.
Edward growled, “If they are, we don’t know. We don’t want to know. We refuse to look for clues and when we accidentally learn something, we keep it to ourselves as to not ruin it for the other.”
As Richard nodded in agreement, Hunter repeated, “Half.”
Cort offered, “We’re gonna get our balls signed anyway. We might’swell make it interesting.”
Connelly asked, “Exactly half?”
Hunter thought about that for a moment before correcting himself. “No… 40-60% ta leaf some room fr’error. Not everybody’s gonna come outta tha dugout.”
Edward and Richard argued… Even if they were spared the details of which Yankees were Weres, they would know the outcome of the bet. The numbers could spoil the game for them.
And wouldn’t that be tragic.
Sookie giggled, “You could buy their silence.”
Edward and Richard gasped while Connelly and I tested the saying about laughing one’s ass off.
Edward demanded, “How much!?”
She shrugged, “They only stand to gain $20 from Connelly. I wouldn’t let them shake you down for more than that.”
Connelly chuckled, “It’s the cost of my silence that’ll hurt.”
Sookie chided, “That’s not right… Richard, Edward, I’ll make you a deal, for the price of snacks and drinks, I’ll sell you a tidbit that’ll put your mind at ease and won’t spoil the game for-”
Before she could finish, they both barked, “Sold.”
She giggled as she reached under her seat for her purse and held a small notepad up, scribbling a message at an angle Connelly couldn’t see.
She squeezed past our legs and squatted between the boys’ feet, handing the note to Richard.
He looked afraid to open it even though he’d complained about how much time she spent writing. It had taken her several minutes, but she’d toyed with them by nibbling her pen cap.
He unfolded it carefully and stared at the note for a moment before passing it to Edward and waited for him to smile and give Sookie a grateful nod.
As Edward passed the note back to Sookie, Connelly grumbled, “No bet.”
Cort and Hunter complained, but Sookie offered, “It’s his prerogative to assume you know what I know… Y’all already burned him with the top-bottom experience.”
Connelly shook his head. “Not falling for it.”
Sookie snickered as she stepped over my legs, but before her ass landed on her seat, someone else sat in it…
Putting Sookie directly on Teague’s lap.
Just Teague. No last name. He’d laughed when he heard Pam had given one to me and darkly suggested his last name could be Headsman.
He laughed at the look on Sookie’s face, and held her hips to keep her from leaving his lap.
“When I checked my email to see the list of tourists in my Area, I couldn’t help myself. How have you been boys?”
His Area? When the fuck did that happen?
The pitch of his voice was like nails on a chalkboard, and his Irish accent made him a bit cartoonish, but that had always distracted people from how formidable he was. His eyes alone were intimidating because it seemed as though he was staring directly through a person.
He was speaking to all of us when he used the word ‘boys’… Given that he was well into his second millennia when I was brought over, he was allowed… but he hadn’t taken his eyes off Sookie.
Edward answered, “The Yankees made it to the Series. I’m splendid… What the fuck happened to Sheriff Baskin?”
Teague shrugged. “You know I never kiss and tell… I’ve been in place for a couple of weeks… I laughed when Rodrigo explained the errand, but I can’t say I mind being a Sheriff. Eric’s had the right idea.”
Having spare time and the freedom to do almost whatever the fuck I wanted wasn’t the problem… It was finding something I wanted to do that had always been difficult.
Connelly chuckled, “Rodrigo’s appointing sheriffs for his annexes? Isn’t that a bit beneath him?”
Teague whispered, “I’m only here for a while. Babysitting. Rodrigo isn’t pleased with the Caribbean annex. Wyannie seems to have her head in her ass. He was hoping for more collaboration from his oldest child…” He took the piece of paper from Sookie’s hand and asked, “What’s this?”
I answered, “That’s Mine. Her name is Sookie and these are her children, Cort and Hunter. Everyone, this is Teague.”
He sneered, but that was just how he smiled. “I meant the message.”
I didn’t care what he was talking about… Sookie looked like she was going to rattle apart.
He unfolded the paper and read the message, holding it so I could see…
“MLB teams can have as many Weres under contract as they want, but they’re only allowed to field two at a time. The usual positions are pitchers with mixed support in the outfield. The running theory is that Were pitchers stand out. The NFL and NHL have similar rules. The NBA bans Weres altogether because the uniforms make it more obvious when they aren’t fatigued.”
When he was finished reading, Teague looked up at her and asked, “And how do you know something so guarded that Edward and Richard don’t know?”
She shrugged. “They said they always avoided the discovery, I assume for fear of being disenchanted… it was explained to me by a friend, a Were, who warmed the bench for the Broncos for a couple of seasons.”
“You have a lot of Were friends, do you?”
More than a few.
“And why would they reveal themselves to you?”
“My uncle and cousin are Weres. They didn’t really reveal themselves.”
Connelly asked, “Have you forgotten we’re here, brother?”
It wasn’t until Connelly had spoken that I realized I wasn’t alone in my anxiety.
Teague looked past me and chuckled, “Don’t be a cunt. This is the first pet I’ve ever known Eric to have. I’m allowed to be awestruck… Fuck, I want to call the Pope and tell him I’m witnessing a miracle.”
Sookie relaxed when he dropped his seriousness.
I corrected, “Not true, I’ve kept pets before…”
Edward’s wife and children were officially claimed under the Lord of the District I sent them to live in.
Teague snorted, “Acting as benefactor for Edward’s widow and orphans doesn’t count.”
When I couldn’t offer another example, Connelly, Edward and Richard started laughing with Teague.
Assholes. All of them.
At least Sookie had testimony about my pet-keeping habits, if she still had doubts.
He leaned back, releasing Sookie’s hips and asked, “And where is the rest of your clique?”
I offered, “Most of them are in Shreveport. Sookie and I were last minute additions to their trip. Gawain, Simza and Bronya are entertaining Pam.”
“Happy birthday to her… I think I’ll join the party… Eric, watch my Area.”
Sookie started giggling and was quickly joined by the boys, but my Area wouldn’t hold up to the five of them. Pam and Gawain had done enough damage as a pair.
I grabbed his arm when he moved to stand. “Nice try… What have you been up to? You’re hard to keep a bead on.”
“I went back to the Old World shortly after you left Los Angeles. I was bored… I did a few favors, visited old friends… Everything is just as stagnant as it ever was without Human bickering to make things interesting… I had some fun with Wouter and Nicholas, but Halfdan heard I was nearby and sent for me. He wanted me to run an errand… He’s going mad, you know? He’s worse than ever before. His sanity is deteriorating at an alarming rate. He sent me to…” He glanced at the boys and changed his mind about sharing any details. “He offered his child as payment.”
“No!” I wasn’t the only one who was appalled. Connelly, Edward and Richard were just as disgusted.
It sounded like something Appius would do.
Teague nodded. “Eight hundred years at his side, and her parting gift was a litter of puppies. He released her penniless. He’s destitute and paranoid after the coup, but I can’t blame Wouter and Nicholas for that.”
Sookie looked like she was on the verge of tears. “What happened to her, his child?”
He pointed to the large wall of glass over home plate. “See the stunning red-head in purple in the owner’s box? That’s her… Do any of you boys want her? I’ll owe you a favor.”
That boded well.
“What’s wrong with her that you’re trying to unload her?”
“Nothing really… You know I’m not fond of company and she’s been with me for eleven years… Her mentality conflicts with mine. She needs a night to say goodbye to all of her friends every time we leave somewhere. Halfdan treated her like a maid and she seems perfectly content with service. She’s a bleeding-heart. Everywhere we’ve been since she became mine, she’s volunteered as a midwife and vet assistant. She’s miserably bored now that she can’t practice… Connelly, do you still have horses? Animal husbandry is second nature to her.”
He sighed, “My equine vet is actually a Werehorse. I flew him in from Norway and he’s already training his daughter to join him.”
Edward and Richard shook their heads, stating they couldn’t think of a use for her. Most of New England was crawling with unemployed Vampires with medical backgrounds.
How fucking sad… to be useless at that age.
“I’ll take her.”
Cort and Hunter gasped and Sookie actually gave me a slight smile.
Teague chuckled, “You’re joking.”
I shook my head. “Why do you look like you just won a lifetime supply of AB-negative?”
“Because… Have you seen The Stepford Wives?”
Halfdan had trained his child as a pet? Appalled, but not surprised.
“No, but I read it. If she suffers from a lack of independence, I’m sure Pam can help.”
“Really? Have you become a bleeding-heart too?”
“Supporting her won’t be an imposition…. And I can actually think of a use for her. My Area has a Supernatural doctor. Her- What’s her name? Was it Kajsa? I’ve only seen her in passing and it’s been centuries.”
“Klaasje. Klaasje Van Baaren.”
“Klaasje’s experience with midwifery stands out because of a recent incident with local-pack members. And I’m finally enjoying some cooperation from law-enforcement, so she could be helpful in that regard as well.”
“Alright. I am calling the Pope.”
Sookie giggled, “You’re a shitty salesman. You aren’t supposed to dance until the customer drives off the lot.”
He chuckled and winked at her. “I don’t sell them. I take them apart and make the best of the parts… She isn’t a lemon in any case. It’s just that I’m not settled down, but she lived in Kiel for centuries…” He stretched out his arm and curled his finger… and Klaasje immediately left the view of the window to answer her summons.
Hopefully, Pam would enjoy helping Klaasje break old habits. If I’d done the same, to my own child, she would have at least rolled her eyes because I was adding to the wear and tear on her pumps.
While we waited for Klaasje to make her way through the crowd, I had the boys move to Edward and Richard’s laps so Sookie could move to mine and I pulled out my phone.
Dr. Ludwig answered during the first ring. “Northman. I was just about to call you.”
“You should settle down. You aren’t my type…”
She laughed… actually laughed. It was unnerving.
“Why were you planning to call?”
“The infant is thriving and has already gained an ounce… And Domina wanted me to thank you on behalf of her family. Flood wanted me to thank you on behalf of Long Tooth… The patient shows promise. The surgery just ended a couple of hours ago, but with electro-stimulation, we have movement in his lower extremities.”
I leaned towards the children and asked, “How do we feel about Natalie gaining weight and Nestor’s twitching toes?”
Their eyes lit up and they pumped their fists.
I chuckled, “We’re excited to hear the news.”
She droned, “I’m happy that you’re happy… Why did you call?”
“I’m curious. Would you by any chance be looking for an assistant?”
“Brass tacks: 800 year old Vampire who can no longer treat Humans even though she has centuries of experience as a midwife.”
“Have we discussed how stupid Humans are?”
I chuckled, “Not together, no, but I doubt our opinions clash on the matter.”
“Well then, to put it mildly, fuck yes, I want an assistant with that kind of experience. If she can birth a baby, she can triage injuries and illnesses and make the occasional house call. I might eventually get a night off…”
When Klaasje arrived, stopping attentively at Teague’s side, he held his finger up to have her wait.
She looked as though Pam had dressed her in the perfectly accessorized lavender silk and black patent leather ensemble of high-end couture… but her anxious demeanor screamed ‘recently released slave’ rather than ‘conceited child of a King’.
After placing Ludwig on hold, Teague introduced us, “Eric Northman, Sheriff of Louisiana’s Area 5, this is Klaasje Van Baaren.”
She offered a deep nod. “A pleasure to meet you, Sheriff Northman. I’ve heard quite a bit about you.”
Her tone made me sound legendary.
“Teague was just explaining your medical experience and subsequent frustration.”
She forced a smile and offered, “I’m spending far too much time with my dogs, I’m afraid.”
Cort and Hunter waved at her and she gave them a genuine smile and waved back.
That was a bonus. She didn’t look at the children as though they had extra heads… she hadn’t been with Teague long enough to pick up his idiosyncrasies. He hadn’t as much as looked at them.
I explained, “Shreveport is annoyingly suburban, but we have a doctor who’s eager for your assistance if you want to consider the move so you can continue to practice.”
Her eyes lit up and shot to Teague, so he quietly explained in German that he was releasing her to my care so she could pursue her own interests… She argued that she hadn’t worked off her Maker’s debt to him yet… Teague actually had it in him to lie, promising her companionship over the past decade had been payment enough. It was an immeasurably charitable lie… I’d never spent more than two nights in his company because he was a loner to his core.
She looked conflicted, disappointed yet excited, but it wasn’t as though she could argue. When someone like Teague (or any Vampire four times your age, for that matter) makes plans for your future, there aren’t many pleasant options.
He excused himself, leaving her to make small talk while he left in favor of intimidating another group of tourists who’d checked in for the sake of the Series.
Klaasje sat in Teague’s vacated seat, but the awkward small talk I expected was waylaid by Cort… He turned to Connelly and argued, “Ya gotta open yer beard when ya talk. Teague’s much easier ta understand!”
We all laughed at the wounded look left on Connelly’s face, but Klaasje covered her mouth and apologized for her amusement.
Connelly argued, “I just have a deeper voice. He whines like a cat in heat.”
Cort nodded. “An’ ya barely open yer mouth, Mr. Mumble-Brogue.”
Cort interrupted, “Mum-mum-mumble.”
He was teasing a Vampire… and we were all too amused to discourage him.
“You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
He nodded. “An’ ya can’t do nothin’ to me, ‘cuz I hid yer Lucky Charms.”
Sookie folded over to laugh against her knees, while Edward and Richard cackled and took the boys to have their balls signed.
Connelly waited until Cort and Hunter were a few sections away before he let himself laugh. I don’t know how he held it so long.
“Sookie, when you’re bored with Eric, come to Saratoga. Bring the lads.”
She was still laughing as she wiped her eyes. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks…” She turned to me and nodded towards my phone because I’d forgotten Ludwig was on hold.
I’d call her back.
“Klaasje, do you have so many dogs you’d need more than a few acres? I have a house close to the one where I’ve been resting most frequently. The second floor is already light-proofed and it’s on four acres with a small pond.”
“I have three Danes, so that sounds lovely. That’s very generous of you. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m not sure of the specifics of your medical experience, but Dr. Ludwig’s reaction to hearing you’ve been a midwife for centuries was ‘fuck yes, I’d be interested’. She thinks your services could be valuable for triage and home visits.”
Her eyes rimmed with blood and she breathed, “God bless you. I didn’t think I was ever going to be allowed… In Kiel, I tended to the p-”
She gave Sookie a nervous look and stopped talking.
I offered, “It’s alright. Sookie reeks of Were on a regular basis. She’s quite familiar with Shreveport’s pack.”
Sookie added, “And as soon as I get home, I’m telling every Were I know to get their pregnant wives and girlfriends to you. Most of them have buried more babies than they’ve weaned.”
I explained, “Last night a friend of hers nearly lost a premature infant. They’d already lost two and weren’t aware of Dr. Ludwig’s presence in the Area. The baby only needed Vampire blood to begin thriving…”
Klaasje gasped, “You support the medical use of Vampire blood!”
“Is that a problem?”
She shook her head fast enough to rattle something loose. “No… I’m just surprised. I had hoped it would reduce the shock of our Revelation, but the suggestion wasn’t well-received by parties in a position to make the necessary course.”
There was more to it than that.
“Meaning your Maker ignored your idea, yes?”
Klaasje begrudgingly nodded, so Connelly grumbled, “Fucking fool… Klaasje, you should know I have no respect for your Maker. Ana was a dear friend of mine.”
She nodded solemnly. “He wasn’t ever popular, but ending her cost him dearly…”
That’s what happens when one ends the most accommodating monarch in Europe for nothing more than diamond profits.
“She was actually a lovely Vampire. I was quite fond of her myself.”
I volunteered, “And my hands are dirty. I was part of Nicholas and Wouter’s coup. I think we were all fond of Ana.”
She nodded again. “I’m not exactly in a position to defend his actions… Wouter and I were lovers for years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help their cause. He knows I supported their effort as much as possible without actually betraying my Maker. I removed myself from most conversations on the matter.”
That was more forthcoming than I expected… honesty without notes of bitterness.
I offered, “You aren’t the only one with a daft Maker who has droves more enemies than friends… As for you, Teague mentioned you enjoy service. Thanks to Sookie, I’m finally enjoying some cooperation from law enforcement in my Area. We’re planning a gathering so I can look through their unsolved cases. You’re welcome to join the effort. I’m sure you’ve had experience with wet-work in some capacity…”
Her eyes lit up again. “I’d love to! That sounds very exciting.”
I corrected, “It sounds like paperwork, crime-scene photos, and coffee-belching detectives… but Pam, my child, is eager to lay her hands on the files. She isn’t happy unless she knows everything… When do you think you’ll be ready to relocate?”
“I only have to pack a few bags. My dogs travel in kennels. I can be ready tonight.”
“We’re leaving Saturday night after the game… My day-guy is your day-guy. I’ll have him call you about preparing the house. Do you have a preference of cars?”
She looked completely surprised.
“No. I’m not… I’m not particular.”
“Sookie, you’re the resident expert. What say you?”
She rolled her eyes up while she considered it. “Ummmm… I’m gonna say Suburban. It’s a land-yacht, but she’ll be able to haul her Danes and all of their food… And the OnStar will definitely help her get around in a new town, especially if she’s making house-calls.”
“Can you make that happen from here?”
“Yes sir. Not a problem. First thing in the morning. We still had a 2500 LT, Dark Grey Metallic with leather interior when I was at the showroom this morning.”
“Does it need mods?”
Sookie giggled, “No. It’s fine.”
“Klaasje, anything else you can think of?”
She shook her head, but Sookie asked, “What about your dogs? Do you feed them something special? Don’t Great Danes have sensitive stomachs?”
Klaasje smiled and nodded. “They do. They’re on a raw diet. I’m sure I’ll find a market.”
Sookie nodded. “But Bobby needs to make sure the fridge is in working order.”
“Thank you for thinking of that. It’s not as though I have much to pack, so I don’t have an excuse to miss details.”
She was being passed from one Vampire to another after being rejected by her Maker and she was apologetic for not thinking about her dogs. Pam was going to have her work cut out for her.
Sookie grinned. “Pshhhh. It’s always easy when you’re not the one moving. If it hadn’t been for my brothers’ help, I probably would’ve forgotten Cort at my old house… I might need your advice eventually…” She leaned over and whispered, “The boys are getting a puppy for Christmas.”
Klaasje beamed, “Really? What breed?”
“Catahoula Cur. An old friend of mine just had a litter. He’s been trying to talk me into getting one since Cort was born. I think the boys are old enough now.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that breed.”
“It’s a Louisiana original. They’re also known as leopard dogs. They’re kind of like a German Short-haired Pointer. Merle markings with a similar body. I keep hearing from my Were friends that the best breeds for small kids are from the herding and sporting classes because they have the temperament for chaos. That’s what Catahoulas are mostly used for.”
“Oh, that would be a lovely dog for small boys. Have you already chosen one?”
I was getting the distinct impression Klaasje was more comfortable speaking to Sookie.
“Oh no. I let the breeder do that for me. If I lay eyes on it, the boys’ll catch me jotting down possible names or catch me staring at pet supplies while we’re out shopping. I’ve got to be careful with those little turds.”
More like they’d catch her thinking about the puppy… and I finally managed to fill in the blanks, coming to the conclusion that innuendo and double-entendre inspired Sookie’s imagination. The boys didn’t understand, but they would if they heard Sookie’s thoughts.
Sookie reached for her purse again and retrieved her notepad to begin scribbling a note about Klaasje’s Suburban and asking if I wanted to jot down relevant phone numbers for Klaasje… all the while they talked as though they were old friends. They discussed dogs, farmers’ markets with live chickens and fresh eggs, a ‘fang-centric slut factory’ where Klaasje could easily find donors… they were completely casual with each other, while Klaasje seemed to be cowed by Connelly and me. And it actually became more obvious when Edward and Richard returned with the children. Connelly and I had been Knights, working closely with most of the Kings her Maker was not so secretly terrified of… but Edward and Richard were ‘just’ the children of an American Queen and she was centuries older than them, but she was still shy about socializing with them.
She wasn’t just humble for her position; she was humble for her age as well.
I couldn’t imagine why a fulsome prick like Halfdan would dismiss his only real accomplishment. He’d successfully broken her… and un-breaking her enough to fend for herself would take heroic efforts.
After Gloria Estefan sang the National Anthem, Klaasje happily accepted her list of phone numbers and excused herself…
Sookie moved to sit in her own seat, but she turned her attention back to her note pad…
She was still writing as the first two batters approached the plate. She seemed to be oblivious to the game being played until she tilted her notebook to let me see what she’d written…
“Teague pities her, really hates her Maker, and was hopeful when you said you’d take her; not relieved. She’s terrified, sad, confused. When Teague gave her to you, she was hurt and anxious. When you mentioned she could work again, her mind opened up like she was having a party. When you offered to let her help with the police work, she was excited and hurt. When you made arrangements to get her a car, she was surprised and hurt. It’s the same kind of hurt she felt when y’all mentioned her Maker. All in all, I’m getting the gist that she’s really not used to not being shit on because the nicer you were to her, the more she questioned it. I’m sorry I talked so much, but she seems really comfortable with domestic topics. I think she was probably excluded from man-talk. She agreed with what y’all said about her Maker. She genuinely liked Ana. She has mad-love for Wouter. And whenever y’all mentioned Teague, she felt insecure, but he did just pass her like a joint. That’s all I got. Sorry.”
She was a walking lie-detector.
I leaned over and whispered into her ear, “That’s very reassuring, thank you.”
She breathed, “Tell me to stop if you don’t want me to do it again.”
“I’m not telling you to stop. I want to know what you do for an encore.”
She giggled, “I ‘do’ tall sexy Vampires.”
She nodded. “Yeah. I’m thinking about trying this bar I heard about.”
I snorted, “Not funny.”
“I’ve got this leather dress…”
“It’s really short and cut just right…”
“Can’t wait to tear it, I mean, see it.”
She snickered, “It’s so tight it creaks like a saddle…”
“Did you bring it with you?”
She breathed, “Oh noooo, that’s not ball-field attire… I’ll save it for later.”
“When you’re trolling for Vampires at the slut factory, yes?”
She hummed, “Mmmmmm hmmmmm,” against my ear… and I felt it everywhere.
Fuck the crowd of 65,000 screaming fans…
One fucking hum and my fangs were down.
She made a little grunt and shivered when she heard them snap into place… and squirmed in her seat, squeezing her thighs together.
“Is it just me, or is your cage getting smaller too?”
I growled, “It’s not just you.”
“I didn’t think so… You need to behave.”
She started it.
“Yeah you… How am I supposed to focus on the game when you’re making me think abou-”
Before she could finish her thought, she squealed and left her seat…
He lifted Sookie from her seat and passed her over our row to Edward. With all the effort they used to pass her over their heads, they couldn’t have been more obviously Vampires.
He slouched into her seat and blew a kiss at me. “I’m separating you two so the rest of us can enjoy the game. It was only a matter of time before the players were distracted too.”
Sookie’s scent. It had been wafting. Fuck.
The woman just behind him patted his shoulder and praised, “God bless you… I’ve been a baseball fan all my life and never left a game needing a cold shower.”
The man next to her argued, “Speak for yourself, Lois. If they kept at it, I might have had a chance later.”
She scoffed, “Maybe if you looked like him…”
He returned, “That isn’t fair! I didn’t say anything about you not looking like her.”
I huffed at Connelly, “See what you started.”
He rolled his eyes and turned to face them. “Oy!” Once they were both looking at him he instructed, “You’ll go home after the game and fuck like neither of you are old, haggard, and repugnant. Understand?”
When they nodded blankly, he turned back to the game…
I grumbled, “You didn’t have to move her. We didn’t realize anyone was paying attention.”
He scoffed, “Shut the fuck up. You sound like I took your favorite toy away.”
That was exactly what he’d done.