Content warning for: blood
There was almost never a moment when Annette didn’t have something in her oven.
She always cooked breakfast for the kids on weekends. School started too early during the rest of the week for the to have anything more than toast, but Saturday was for pancakes. However, that morning, Samira and Julian waited by as mum focused on something browning in the oven. She creaked open the door to take a peek.
What a shame. The top was still too pale and soft for her tastes. And she had the oven at 400! Annette looked around and tapped her feet as she waited for the results.
“Mum, are we gonna get pancakes or what?” asked Samira.
“Don’t bug her,” Julian said to Samira. But he didn’t ever have much enthusiasm for breakfast anyways.
Annette turned towards them, with a motherly grin and a hand on her hip. “I just have to make something for me first, and hope it doesn’t burn,” she said. “And I have the batter mixed already. Sit tight.”
She just had to stop fiddling with the oven. Once it was given some time, the dessert inside had the golden top that Annette wanted. If only the smell matched. Annette used a different kind of fruit filling, which ended up smelling like soft onions and brown bananas. While it beat the stench of a fresh-cut durian, Annette wasn’t going to rank it as a delight for the senses.
It hurt to see the kids cringe when she cut into it, but she placated them with pancakes soon after.
Annette ate her dessert at a slow pace. Or, at least it was slow in comparison to how Samira inhaled her breakfast. She turned out more like Bill than Annette could ever dream of. And even disregarding that, the kids had delicious vanilla pancakes. She had to make sense of dessert before trying to enjoy it. Filled with something silky like an ataulfo mango, but tasting bland like an unripe jackfruit.
That settled it. Annette would never make dessert with unearthly produce again.
She didn’t even notice her spouses peering over her shoulder, until Amy had to excitedly ask her about her dish.
“Is this that magic recipe you were talking about?” she asked.
Annette nodded. “Yeah, the immortality one.”
“So…that’s it?” Sinbad asked. “Eat some fucking custard?”
“Magic custard, ya numbskull. It’s from the same plant I’m growing in my basement. Now I can be the reckless teenager I always try to be.”
“You…had to be successful, right?” he asked.
“So what was it?”
Annette wasn’t expecting any unusual mail. She expected bills and mail-order dildos, but a plain white envelope without a return address was a surprise. Instead of fearing anthrax, she opened it, and pulled out a handwritten note.
We seized the property, but I thought that I’d keep it low and throw you a bone. Enclosed is the deed to Julienne’s diner. I have a guy pulling some strings to get your name on all the books.
Thanks for your future cooperation. We look forward to hearing from you again.
Master Sergeant Goodwin Goode, Terrebonne State Police
He wrote it in neat cursive, and included the State’s official seal on the paper. She had never seen him so cordial.
But as much as she wanted to cringe, she couldn’t.
Once Annette walked into the diner the day before, it hit her. She owned the diner. Decades of working and waiting and failing, and it paid off. She didn’t know what to do first. Re-introduce herself, overhaul the menu, re-upholster the booths? Annette wanted burgundy, not sage green.
And just as she wished for in her darkest hours, it was at the expense of Julienne.
That sweet victory made her dessert more palatable. Next one was going to be a regular pear cobbler, for sure. But with minimal grouching, Annette choked down what was on her plate.
Disregarding the aftertaste, she didn’t regret it one bit.
Amy tackled her with a hug as soon as she got up from her barstool. She froze up a bit, before realizing that a hug from her wife was always welcomed. Annette didn’t expect such a positive turnout. Smiles from the kids, and Sinbad loosening up and cheering her on.
“I think it’s great that you did this…even if I don’t know a damn thing about it,” said Sinbad. “So…you’re stuck here forever?”
“Eh, I have a diner now. Now I’ll serve pancakes until the sun swallows us,” Annette said. “And all I have to do now is help lock Jules up.”
She smiled at Sinbad, as she rested her head on Amy’s shoulder. “I never thought it’d be this easy!”
He said nothing to that, and looked towards the walls.
A couple of afternoons later, the adults lounged in the garden and watched the sunset. Annette reclined on the ground with Amy, stroking her thigh. The kids were inside and entertained, and Sinbad often couldn’t care less about Annette gushing over Amy’s firm legs. Or talking about the joys of eating her out. But Annette looked up at him, grimacing right at her.
“Geez, I thought we agreed that we can say whatever gross, sexual things we want,” said Annette. “Pretty sure I wrote it in the vows.”
“Fine. Something else has been bothering me,” said Sinbad.
“As usual?” Even Amy gave Annette a nasty look when she said that.
“He’s your husband too. Let him speak,” said Amy.
Annette straightened her back, and brought one of her knees in. She looked Sinbad up into his eyes. “Give it to me.”
“You’re taking a lot of glee over Julienne getting arrested,” he said.
“Like you’re one to talk! I like petty revenge, so what?” said Annette. “You know what she did.”
“I don’t care…I don’t care, because you’re just gonna screw over her kids!”
Everyone took a few deep, silent breaths. Sinbad pinched his nose bridge, which did nothing to stop the tension in his face.
“Look, if their dad’s gone and mum’s going to jail, they’re probably gonna end up in foster care. And I won’t stand for that,” he said. He winced, as if keeping back a tear. “I don’t want to let that happen to anyone.”
“Why does it have to be my problem?” Annette asked. “Julienne was enough of mine.”
“I’m just saying…act with your conscience…”
“…as you keep telling us, we’re all good people here.”
It didn’t allow Annette to sleep. She tossed and turned while sandwiched between her spouses, and moving to the couch didn’t help much either. Goddamn that Sinbad. Goddamn him and his good argument. She did shake hands with Goodwin knowing that Julienne’s children would be collateral, didn’t she? They would be easy meat targets for a gang that hated them on principle.
And all because Julienne did some shady things to boost something she loved.
Kind of like Annette did too.
Sleep wasn’t going to happen that night. Annette went downstairs into her basement, and spent the night practicing with a sword.
She brought it to the Knack house that afternoon. None of her teenagers were interested in the history behind the sword stolen from an alien soldier. But while their mum was out, Annette had a good trio of hosts. Nothing wrong with waiting in the parlor. They bore her unsolicited chess tips or her rowdy Sagebear without much of a frown.
Julienne walked in some time later, in her civilian clothes. Annette and Goodwin did put her out of a job, after all.
“CHRIST, who invited you in here?” Julienne asked, in a shrill voice. “Why did you bring your dog? And what is that thing?”
Julienne shooed her kids out the room. Then Annette walked over, putting one of her boots up on a nearby couch. It allowed her to better hold her sword up for inspection. “You like it? I stole it from an otherworldly soldier,” she said.
“You don’t need weapons to antagonize me,” said Julienne. “But…why are you here? You won.”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
Julienne buried her face into a hand. “Just what I need…and get your muddy boots off my couch! I don’t care if we’re leaving town in less than a week. My parents-”
“Yeah…there’s something complicated about that skipping town thing,” said Annette. “Maybe that’s why I’m here.”
She turned her back to Annette. “Just…perfect,” said Julienne, sighing a little.
“But maybe I’m here to help,” said Annette, getting her foot off the couch. “Jules…why can’t you just accept that?”
“I never took you as stupid, Annette,” she said. “But why are you so stupid?”
Julienne turned around again, with clenched fists. “I don’t have a damn reason to trust you! You just wanted to ruin some troubled rich girl because you thought that she…I was a threat. You’re fucking heartless. You have no idea what I have to go through.”
“We’re all troubled here! I don’t discriminate,” said Annette. “Like your husband shot himself in front of you.”
“Cancer is much worse. I had two years of watching him die.”
“I’m not gonna turn this into a pissing match. What if I said that there’s a crazy and chaotic universe out there, that I’m tangled in? And that you aren’t worth being angry at anymore.”
“Yeah, maybe I’d bend to someone who uses space and time as her playthings.” Julienne narrowed her eyes. “But if you’re that, prove it.”
Annette held up her illuminated ring, and chuckled.
She aimed it at the ceiling, producing a rectangular, glowing interface. Annette pointed up at the display. “I can have it fill in some of my realm-hopping history,” she said.
“So you’re telling me that there’s a little gem in there that shoots out portals,” said Julienne. “When did your life turn into some sci-fi bullshit?”
“I didn’t ask to be who I am,” said Annette. “But let’s fill in the blanks…”
It filled in lines of entries inside the interface, written in a script that even Annette could barely read. The end of the list was the stuff Annette did. Everything else was too old and unknown to touch.
“What…the hell,” Julienne whispered to Annette. “What is this?”
“My travels, and others’ too. I’m just the most recent owner of this thing,” said Annette. “Oh, I remember that one. How about I show you what the rest of the universe thinks about me.” She clenched her hand, and aimed her ring towards a door at the other side of the parlor. It created a light-indigo portal.
Three soldiers marched out.
They were not much unlike the Diamanda that pestered Annette. Those three differed from them only in uniform and palette. They acted in complete unison. All raised their swords. All of them had an outstretched free hand reaching towards Annette, and they all knew exactly what to say.
“Who authorized you to open this portal?” they said together. All three of them focused on the ring on Annette’s finger, furrowing their brows. “Are you the earthling?”
Annette nodded at them. “Hope I am.”
“We all have warrants for-”
Annette wouldn’t let them finish. She heaved her sword up for a swing, while Julienne cowered behind her. Sagebear watched as if it was just a conversation between two humans.
“Yeah, whatever. I’m on Earth now,” said Annette. She then lunged towards the soldiers, blade-first. With one heavy swing, she slashed through the first one. The second one too, after blocking their own sword. The third tried to run back home, but Annette cleaved through their middle.
They all disappeared in a cloud of fog, instead of leaving bodies.
“What…were those?!” Julienne asked, looking ready to sprint out the door.
“Oh, them? Dii’aaihjmaainv’ndlag-lanj. Expendable foot soldiers and a real pain in my ass,” said Annette. She smiled one cocky smile, and heaved her sword back.
“And they just poof away?”
“The perks of not being physical, huh? Pretty sure they’re just energy beings, or hard-light projections. They won’t be missed.”
“Is this a normal thing for you?”
“Nowadays, yeah,” Annette said. “Do I have to prove something else to you? There is a way to talk about the real criminal shit I deal with…as the good guy.”
“You as the good guy,” said Julienne, sneering.
“Yeah, me as the good guy. I don’t try to label myself that way, but it’s how I want you to see me,” said Annette. “I want to put this past us, because we’re all in danger unless we can work together for something.” Julienne remained silent, and crossed her arms. “Fine. I’ll show you another one of my tricks. This one comes from Dimension H-Sigma-076. I blasted him there some years ago.”
With another flick of her wrist, Annette opened a glowing hole, and a man stumbled out. He looked human, and had a machine gun mounted on his back.
After some heavy breaths, he jerked his head up, staring at Annette. “You, the Racket bitch!”
“Yeah, it’s me,” she said, priming her sword. “Thanks for ruining my friends’ wedding.”
He started to crawl closer, and tried to loosen the rifle from his back. “How did you escape anyways?” he muttered. “We had everyone else-”
“What can I say?” Annette asked, giving a friendly shrug as she approached him. “I’m just so…well…”
She finished her sentence with one strong, forward thrust of her blade. “…skilled.”
He froze in place once the sword exited out through his back. Annette twisted it in place, as opposed to forcing it up or down. Bones snapped, probably ribs and spine. It tore something vital, like the cartoid artery, as he started bleeding out fast. It created a giant puddle on the hardwood floor.
Annette pulled her sword out of the new corpse, leaving him to flop down into his own blood. “Eh, I’ll open another portal to throw him in.”
“Why did you…so this is your normal?” Julienne asked, holding her hand over her mouth in horror. “What else do you know?!”
Annette held her sword behind her, and gave Julienne a serious look. “That his boss and the state police are together and both after you. I’m offering to ward them off in my own special way, and let you…do whatever was planned.”
“And what’s in it for me?” Julienne asked.
“Safety? My silence? Except I’m not a two-timing asshole like my enemies are.”
She pouted at Annette. “Whatever. Trust the girl who bends space and time.”
A/N: Never claimed to be a special effects expert…:P