Content Warning for: brief mild nudity.
Annette loved the feeling of being married.
It seemed ridiculous, but the state of Clallam legalized polygamy just in time for the three of them. Annette didn’t know how Amy and Sinbad would respond. But she was in luck, as they were as open as she was about getting their ménage à trois officialized. The past several months had been sweet and exciting. Cuddles and perverted sexy times helped lift everyone’s spirits after a difficult time.
Plus, Annette hadn’t had a proper vacation since…ever. She did once hitchhike to Terminal City while she was trying to hail a ride home. But that was an accident and back when she was 26. A mixture of getting remarried and having a free weekend on her 49th birthday was an excuse for the proper vacation she needed. Not to mention that it was just before Labor Day, so everyone had some free time.
Annette had a new reason to love September 4th. It used to just be a time for beer and birthday sex, but now she could have them as anniversary gifts too! How wonderful it was, to have the perfect birthday, now with the sexiest people in her life.
Except…not just them.
The moment that Annette said that she was going to Bridgeport for her birthday, Franco burst into the room. Perhaps he had demonic super-hearing after all. But while Annette wanted clubs and a wedding, her son wanted to experience a little bit of the city. His top school was there, after all. The Bridgeport Institute of Design also had an overnight tour and stay for prospective students that weekend.
It was only a day later that he begged for Hannah to tag along. She wanted to go on a similar tour of the Bruegel College of Music that weekend. And she would pay for all of her expenses too!
However, they both had Friday free to cheer on the happy trio as they shared a kiss at City Hall. They were the only witnesses, and Annette was happy to have a small wedding again. Planning Amy and Sinbad’s extravagant one caused a lot of headaches. But all she needed for an eloping at City Hall was to make sure that everyone had something nice to wear.
Once Amy and Sinbad pulled away from kissing Annette’s cheek or grabbing her ass, Annette had to address her kids.
“So, we’re gonna head off the Banzai Lounge and pretend that we’re honoring half of Sinbad’s heritage,” Annette said. She looked up the place earlier, and it tried to channel modern Japanese nightlife. Something which Sinbad knew nothing about anyways. “You guys…can we just agree to meet up at the hotel at some point?”
The teens both shrugged. “It’s not like we planned anything else,” Franco said. Hannah just nodded along with him.
It was a great night, complete with Sinbad telling off a guy who questioned his new marriage. Amy and Annette made out on one of the sectional couches in the back, and the kids played shuffleboard. Most of the night was fun, from drinking games to ordering sushi rolls. Annette still had fond memories of the eel roll she ate.
By the end of the night, the three of them managed to convince two other attractive customers to come back to their hotel room. Annette promised sex toys and loving foreplay, which must have sealed the deal.
Of course, it was new and exciting with a group of five, but Annette had something else on her mind. Once everyone was asleep, she took out her laptop and made sure that a certain concert wasn’t cancelled.
It was scheduled for the next day: Sirius A, playing at Waylon’s Haunt after nightfall.
Annette liked music. She also enjoyed going to concerts when the band was good enough, but Sirius A wouldn’t have made the cut if they were just another band. Not without one certain frontman.
To say that Annette was obsessed with Harwood’s diaries was an understatement. It said a lot about him that his interviews didn’t at all. To think she once thought those were truthful. But ever since the encounter in the evidence room earlier that year, Annette had a lot of questions about her ring. His diaries gave few answers about that. Supernatural or extraterrestrial baddies have been clamoring for it for eons, but why? And what was so special about the ring that they’d put so much effort into finding it?
Even without addressing that, it did answer who could still have answers.
Annette kicked herself over never asking Harwood about it, though how could she? She got the idea far too late for that. If only someone was still living who could do the job…and she had to review a few details to find the last option.
Troy Lithgow was described as many things by Harwood. Hottest man in the state of Middlesex, or biggest mistake on the East Coast. Australia’s greatest or worst export. His ex-fiancé, who gave him a stunning amethyst ring. Also: an undying bloodsucker. Literally.
Annette kind of shrugged at that at first. Vampires weren’t an unfamiliar concept to her. She used to cook alongside one during night shifts. And Annette, of all people, had to know that immortality wasn’t impossible. A lot of people seemed to be okay with the concept. Much of the heavy metal community seemed to regard Troy as a mere curiosity for how he never changed. There were forum topics dedicated to it, but no one had a strong reaction either. She picked up two albums just to compare his photos in the liner notes. Whether it was 1994 when he released Blackbeard under his own name, or A Trip Beyond Persephone in 2047 with Sirius A, Troy looked the same. Forever young and handsome, and he would stay that way.
Aside from Annette envying his eternal youth as hers was running out, she loved this revelation. Though she was unsure how long he owned that ring for, Troy must have known some of its history. And barring an unfortunate accident in the sun, that could never be lost to death.
While it seemed like a crapshoot to try and meet Troy after a concert, he was playing one on Saturday in Bridgeport. His tours never seemed to touch anywhere close to Terrebonne.
It was a small show at a dingy bar near the harbor. It was at night and inside, which was likely all the criteria Troy needed. Annette liked that setting too. She could have as much beer as she could pay for, and not care if the band sucked or not.
But she had only one bottle that night, and the performance could have been worse.
This incarnation of Troy’s band had a different kind of setup. It was just him on bass and occasional vocals, and a drummer in a hot pink t-shirt. Such minimalism stood in stark contrast to his heaps of progressive metal from the 1990’s, which Annette preferred. But she was fine with what was in front of her too. The heavy, stoned bass riffs reminded her of rainy days back when Shark was still alive. He’d hole himself up with his art or cats, and play albums from High Priest of Saturn or Om.
And, of course, Troy hadn’t changed a bit from old photos or old liner notes. Well, the left side of his face bore a strange rash, but Annette had a good guess as to where it came from. As she read, Harwood was pissed at him and locked him out of the house one night. And Troy got back in just a little too late for his immaculate skin. It seemed to get washed out in photos, but the speckles of sickly pink were clear in real-life.
Oh well, that was in the past. And Annette still felt giddy thinking of her luck. She had the answers to so many of the things she wondered just on the other side of the room.
Feeling distracted as the show went on, Annette turned towards the bartender. She had a lot of questions about the city, and absolutely none about having her come back to the hotel room.
“So, you think a demon like me would stand a chance in this city?” Annette asked. It was for the sake of Franco, but he was as much of one as his mum was. He had the skin and teeth down, anyways.
“Demon? I thought you were just here to support…one of your own.” The bartender gave a quick glance over to the stage, and to the glowing pale Troy. But Annette shook her head no. “Huh. He always makes stops here with his band. Everyone says it’s so he can just connect with his own kind.”
“Is he nice?” Annette asked her. The perspective from Harwood’s journals was a little too personal for her to use as a guide.
“Third time here. Hasn’t given me trouble yet.”
Annette got through about half of the concert with no trouble either. And she spent the entire time focused on Troy. With no disrespect to his drummer, who was doing a fine job, Annette was filled to the brim with excitement on getting easy answers for once. All she had to do was ask about that ring. No heavy, personal questions about his past romantic life. Just asking him what exactly her jewelry could do. There was a niggling feeling inside of her that it was more powerful than a gem that could blast enemies away to another dimension.
Her excitement kept up, until there was one passing glance.
Troy seemed to perform in a strange trance, rarely making direct eye contact with one audience member. But when he was turned towards the bar, he locked eyes with Annette for a moment. And she didn’t know what to do! In a swift moment, she nodded at him.
He didn’t seem to do much, from what Annette could see. All Troy did after that was back up towards one of the amplifiers, where there were a few effects pedals. He stepped on one of them with his heel.
If it was a normal concert, all that pedal would have done was a distorted effect on the bass. But it hit Annette fast. The new note he played, through some strange filter, hurt her head from the inside. It was like her brain was splitting in half. Like someone was cracking into her skull.
Whatever it was, Annette couldn’t bear it. She fell out of her barstool and onto the floor, holding her head and losing her senses. It was bad enough to make her want to cry. No one else in the audience seemed affected by it, so why her? Was it a coincidental side-effect of being Annette? No other concert did that to her. Or was it…she couldn’t spend her time mulling over baseless accusations. Annette started to crawl out of there.
After a minute of solid agony, she got to her feet and ran out of the bar with an uneven gait. The sound was much better outside, muffled by the old brick walls of the place and the sound of falling rain.
She dozed against the wall and waited until everything quieted down. Soon after that, Annette watched as Troy exited the building by himself. He held a cigarette between his fingers. Though about a foot away from her, he didn’t seem to notice Annette hiding right next to the door.
For all she knew, the noise that drove her out wasn’t meant to harm her. Maybe such a sickening chord was just a hallmark of the genre, even if Annette could listen to Sleep for hours on end. Or maybe Troy was mistaken into thinking that Annette was a terrifying alien force, instead of being a weak little humanoid who meant no harm. As if she could even dream of harming someone twice her size. He looked massive on stage.
There was only one way to find out. Annette walked along the side of the building, until she found Troy on his cigarette break. He sat on the ground, against a fence and near his van. He had a leather jacket on over his sleeveless vest, which made sense. Bridgeport’s nights often dipped to around 50 degrees in September. But thankfully for Troy, the cigarette smoldered hot as he held it in his sharp teeth.
It was going to be a simple conversation, immortal to immortal. She could leave out his past for the sake of learning a bit about hers.
Troy then turned his head, looking at Annette with a slow, neutral stare. She couldn’t read what he was planning with it, and took it as a welcome.
“Uh, nice show,” she said, ignoring what made it a dreadful concert for her. “Do…do you think we can talk about-”
“Look, you’re clearly not in too much of a rush to take a smoke. Can’t we just-”
Troy enunciated each of his words. “I know what you want, I don’t even have it anymore, and you better fucking leave.”
Annette rolled her eyes. “I’m not here to take anything from you. That’s ridiculous.”
That must have driven him over the edge. Troy clenched his teeth a bit, and then got up. He stamped his cigarette out under his shoe before going off at her again.
His voice became less careful. Annette had to listen carefully for his words beneath Troy’s anger and lingering accent. “Is this a joke? Or are you just a bloody moron? Why should I think that you’re different from the rest of them?” Annette tried not to flinch at his words and motions. She wasn’t going to admit to being scared of Troy, but he also looked like he could smash her like a banana.
But she clutched herself and tried to make a point. “Look, we’re both adults here,” Annette said. “So why can’t you just talk to me? I don’t have anything to steal from you.” It might have been a stupid move, but she held her left hand out, revealing her glimmering amethyst ring.
“How in the world,” Troy muttered, looking dazzled by his old ring. “Were you hitched to that awful bloke? I should feel sorry for you.”
“Long story, but I don’t wanna talk about Harwood. I just wanna talk about this ring.”
“Like I’ll give into some extraterrestrial bitch again.”
Annette took a deep breath, and calmed her voice. “I’m from Earth. How can I destroy you? You’re, like, 250 or something by now. I bet you’ve seen worse.”
“Yes…but you’re still trying to fuck me over,” he said. “And you were supposed to die-”
It might have been a stupid thing to say. “I can’t die! Maybe you should listen to me because of that.”
Troy narrowed his stern eyes. “So you’re one of those kinds,” he said.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“And you think you can mess around with me, don’t you?”
“Is that really what you’re calling this?”
He pointed a finger at Annette and raised his voice. “I don’t have to do anything for you. Because you’re probably nothing more than a kid compared to the rest of us.”
Annette just mirrored his actions. “And what makes you better anyways?” She asked him, in a sharp voice. Troy just rolled his eyes.
“I don’t have time for this,” he muttered.
There was a reason why Annette kept noting Troy’s size. He was massive and burly, standing over six feet tall. Not even Shark would want to fight him, if they met. As much as she didn’t want to be scared of him, Annette had a reason to once he pushed her to the ground. The fall smashed the left side of her face into the pavement. He then pinned her down with his weight.
Troy had a grip on each of her arms. “Now listen to me. I don’t ever want to see you or your kind again. I don’t care about that ring, and I don’t care about you either.”
Annette would have responded, but he was crushing her ribcage. It hurt to breathe, let alone speak. Not to mention the stinging pain in her face. She started to bruise and bleed around the eye, and her cheek swelled up a bit.
She went a little limp until Troy got up from on top of her. Is that one of those aliens you keep talking about? It sounded like someone else, probably his drummer.
That drummer must have been enough to distract Troy, as he then got up and chatted with her by the van. Annette crawled away. Nothing seemed broken on her, but her head took a beating from everything that day.
As much as she wanted a festival of group sex and debauchery that weekend, Annette wanted to return to a quiet hotel room after that concert.
It was late by the time Annette got back to the room. The lights were dim, and the room was too clean and quiet to have hosted an orgy.
Instead, Annette found her two new spouses and only them. Amy and Sinbad slept snuggled together, dressed in un-sexy pajamas. They lay next to a Parcheesi game they must have not finished. It looked like the blue side was winning.
She wanted that so much. Parcheesi was fun, of course, but she had grown to love being in the middle of Sinbad and Amy’s cuddle sandwiches. It happened back at home, whenever she asked. There was nothing saying she couldn’t get close to them the next night either. But Annette, exhausted of her magic source of the truth and with a black eye too, wanted anything to make that better.
Annette undressed, down to the tank top and boy shorts she wore under her clothes that day. As unwise as it might have been to leave her ring unattended, she still liked to keep it in the middle of her folded clothes. She considered making a cup of tea, but decided against it. The bags of chamomile citrus that the maid left near the coffee machine would be better in the morning.
Without any tea and without any spouses, Annette went out to the balcony instead. It was still raining outside, and Bridgeport looked even more dreary than usual. She just hoped that Franco knew what he was getting into. Over the past six months, he couldn’t shut up about how great the Bridgeport Institute of Design looked. How well he’d fit into both the rigor of school and the glamour of posh city life. While he looked on edge and barely touched his breakfast that morning, Annette was sure that Franco was having the time of his life at the school.
With at least a majority of his questions answered.
And an intact face too.
She shouldn’t have let it get to her, but Annette did anyways. Her whole vacation was planned around getting on Troy’s good side and learning more about…herself, in a strange way. She didn’t bring up anything about his past with someone she cared about. All she had were a few questions, and he answered none of them. All that Troy answered was what he really thought of whatever Annette was.
If she could have her way, she just wanted to be alone to think the future through. Troy wouldn’t tell her anything, so who would? Or was Annette left to turn her life into a slow-moving mystery about something beyond mankind?
She could mull over that, but not alone.
Sinbad appeared quickly. Annette didn’t notice him until he was standing beside the metal bench on the balcony, near a potted plant that was to the side of it.
They had the same thing to say to each other. “I’m sorry.”
“Huh?” Annette asked him.
“Look…I know where you were,” said Sinbad. “You left your laptop open, and I just knew that you had planned this whole fucking trip around…him. And I didn’t even stop you.”
“I had my reasons,” she muttered. Annette finally looked over at him, with her bruised and bleeding left eye. “And I paid the consequences. It happens.”
Sinbad pouted upon seeing her injury. It wasn’t his normal angry pouting, but one of tenderness towards her new second wife. He then knelt down in front of her to get a closer look.
“So Troy did that,” he said. “Should I be surprised?”
All Annette could do was shrug.
“I dunno. I guess he’s hard to read from those journals…I’d be better off with his drummer doing this instead. Troy’s huge! Like Shark, but more.”
“But why did you do it?”
“I wanted answers.”
“Like you need another source about my dad-”
“No! I have enough about him…for now. But I’m stuck with stuff that’s about, well, me. If he had that blasted ring for a century or so, then he had to have faced whoever’s looking for it. And I must have something to do with them.”
“Did he try worse?”
“Played this sound from his bass. I don’t know what it was supposed to do, but it hurt me so much…pretty pathetic of me, huh?”
Annette turned away in shame, but Sinbad took a seat next to her anyways. “I don’t blame you,” he said. “I’m…I shouldn’t be mad at you for this.”
“Should’ve known better,” Annette muttered. “I mean, I knew he’d be an ass. I just thought I’d be different to him.”
“At least you’re doing the polygamy thing better.”
“No…I think you are,” Sinbad said. “It’s been a nice weekend.”
“So you really do like cuddling with me,” she said. “I can always use those.” Sinbad then scooted closer to Annette, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.
“So…nothing’s broken?” Sinbad asked her.
“Nah, not right now,” Annette said. She closed her eyes and nuzzled Sinbad’s neck. “Not at all. Uh…you like the rain?”
“Did you forget that I grew up in Twinbrook? It’s…alright.”
“That’s good,” Annette said. She opened her eyes again, taking in the gorgeous view of the city. “I like it up here.”
Sinbad put his arm around her waist, and pulled Annette in a little closer.
Sometimes, Annette couldn’t think of anything better than Sinbad’s affections. He was so angry and aloof, even in a relationship, but it made the sweet moments even sweeter. Even as they spent their last night in The Brightmore, Annette forgot about drinks and dancing. She melted into getting kissed by Sinbad instead.
But only for a moment. They shared a basket of chips and didn’t touch each other with their greasy fingers. And while they chatted at the bar even more, something came up behind them.
Annette was so used to that purple imp. It was the same one that she met in the evidence room, and they loved to beam into Annette’s life ever so often. She counted at least a dozen times that she had to blast them away with her ring. It was annoying, but she had no other option. She doubted that they could be killed with a gun or their own sword (Annette kept it in her cellar).
It would be nice if Annette had some answers about them. Going to Bridgeport for those was a waste. But there was nothing that could stop the badass feeling of wielding that ring.
In a mysterious, crazy world without answers, Annette still had that going for her.
A/N: Welcome to Troy, the ill-mannered Creator’s Pet.
He was originally going to be a secondary character for later who didn’t have a bearing on the deep lore of Eight Cicadas, and I ended up enjoying constructing his character more than I should have. And tying him into the story’s background a lot more. It got to the point where we’re at now, where Troy is, in the end, the only reason Annette is in Twinbrook with her fancy shooting ring.
So I guess I’m having some apprehensions over introducing him properly.
Let’s listen to some Om, who Sirius A is meant to be an expy of (in a world where Om apparently exists too):
So, I’ve heard a lot of speculation on what city Bridgeport is based on. Some say New York City, but there’s something very West Coast about Bridgeport. I was torn between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, settling on the latter. Maybe it’s just a satellite city of some sorts. I do tend to refer to real US locations by their official nicknames.
The state of Clallam, naturally, corresponds to coastal Washington.