Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Three

Andi tried to play it cool when Ghost showed up at her apartment. She did this by leaning too much of her weight against the frame when she opened the door.

“Hey,” she said, trying to do a sort of nod with her chin. She was wearing a grey skater dress and bunny slippers.

“Hello, Miss Bravo.” He was wearing something closer to his usual outfit, tall boots and all. He was wearing a red flannel. It was evocative of lumber being jacked. Forest pirates, perhaps.

“How did you know where I live?” she asked.

“I have known where Miss Davenport lives for some time now,” he admitted.

That’s creepy,” Carrie called from in the kitchen. Andi stopped leaning on the doorframe to stand with her hands clasped in front of her.

“Sorry about her,” she said under her breath.

“Why?” he asked. “She’s right.”


“I came to apologize for my behavior the other night,” Ghost said.

“It’s fine,” she said. “It’s not,” she corrected. “You totally ditched me and it sucked.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “I also came because I want my dinosaur.”

She blinked. “The toy?”

“I said that I would treasure it always,” he reminded her.

“Yeah,” she agreed, “but then you ditched me.”

“For which I have apologized.”

“You haven’t, though,” she said. “You just said you came to apologize. That’s not the same as apologizing.”

He grabbed her hands and raised them near his face. “I beg your forgiveness,” he said, before kissing her knuckles. “I was a cad, a wretch, a dog.” He kissed her knuckles again. “I am less than nothing.” Again with the kissing. “Can you lower yourself to forgiving me, merciful lady?”

That was not an apology. There was a laugh in his eyes at her expense. It made her feel all warm in pleasantly unpleasant ways.

“I’ll forgive you,” she said, getting him to smile. “But I won’t forget.”

He grinned. It was one of his dangerous grins. It seemed a bit much to turn it full force on a girl who wasn’t supposed to be a superhero. “Good,” he said, and that warm feeling deepened. “Now, about my dinosaur—”

Our dinosaur,” she said. “We’re going to have to arrange joint custody.”

“Will we?” he asked, eyebrows shooting up in surprise. He had thick, expressive eyebrows. She liked them best when he was pulling faces, chewing the scenery.

“You lost full custody when you ditched us,” she said.

“I’m a terrible father,” he agreed.

She frowned. “Are you?” He looked confused. “You’re crazy old,” she reminded him.

“I’m old and crazy,” he agreed and corrected. “I never had kids.”

“It seemed like a reasonable thing to ask,” she said defensively.

“It was,” he said. “But I’d be a terrible father. Ask our dinosaur son.”

“Our dinoson,” she attempted, not quite getting the emphasis onto the right syllables to make the pun work.

“How will this joint custody work?” he asked.

“You can keep it, if you want,” she said. “But I want you to send me pictures.”

“I see.”

“Of the dinosaur,” she added hastily. “I want confirmation that you’re taking good care of him. Making him healthy dinners.”

“Aah,” he said knowingly. “No dick pics.”

She choked on a snort. He’d hitched his thumbs in his pockets, his hips cocked just so and his shoulders rolled back. All cowboy swagger in his pirate boots and his lumberjack flannel. Too many synonyms for a certain kind of man, a parody of himself.

“Here,” she said instead of confirming, her face red. “Give me your phone and I’ll put my number in.” He slid his phone out of his back pocket to set it in her waiting hands. His phone looked like a display model, no apps or custom backgrounds. She navigated to his depressingly empty contacts list and added herself. On a whim, she took a quick selfie to add to it. Then she frowned and tried again, because the first selfie didn’t look cute enough. Three tries later, she was satisfied with the picture that would appear next to her text messages. She texted herself a sushi emoji so that she could add his number to her phone.

“Would you like to try getting dinner again?” he asked as he took his phone back.

“Now?” she asked, surprised.

“Thursday,” he suggested instead.

“That’s a weird day,” she said.

“Weekends are crowded,” he shrugged.

“You’re so old,” she said, opening the sushi text on her phone and adding him to her contacts. She held her phone up to get his picture, and he smiled for it like he practiced. She resolved to get a better one later but added it for now. “If you promise not to ditch me this time, sure,” she said.

“Cross my heart,” he said, dragging a finger over his chest. “Though I cannot die.”

“I’ll go get the dinosaur,” she said.



“He needs a name,” Ghost said. “I like Jesús.”

“I’m not committing to that,” Andi warned him, leaving him in the hallway. She would have liked to invite him inside, but the apartment was a mess, and Carrie would throw a fit. She picked up the dinosaur and smelled it again. It still smelled mostly like factory, and now garlic. When she brought it back to the hallway, she said, “I want a trade.”

“For our darling son Jesús?” he asked, feigning offense.

She set the dinosaur down by her feet and steeled herself to step closer to him.

It was Ghost. They’d thrown each other off buildings before. They’d caught each other falling off of mechs. This wasn’t anything.

She reached up to grab the collar of his flannel, not looking him in the eye. “I want this,” she decided. She glanced up to meet his eyes.

“The shirt off my back?” he asked, leaning his face a little closer to hers and pitching his voice low. She was blushing again, but that didn’t mean anything. Some people blushed a lot.

“I know we’re not ‘going steady’, or whatever it is you used to do a million years ago,” she said, her fingers dropping to his first button and waiting there, “but you don’t have a letterman jacket anyway. I want your flannel.”

It was hard to remember she wasn’t supposed to know him that well. Maybe that was better. No one could argue this was the behavior of a woman that was too nice.

“It’s yours, then,” he said, not moving. She started undoing his buttons, sliding them through the holes in the fabric until the white of his undershirt showed through. The space between them had closed and given her little room to work in, but she leaned into it anyway. It felt like calling his bluff, rising up on her toes and letting her cheek brush against his for no reason except that she wanted to.

“You don’t shave enough,” she murmured, his stubble rasping against her skin. “I’m kind of into it, though.” He set his hands on her hips, and her fingers fumbled.

“I’m glad,” he said, and for a moment they stood there. Too close, like they might start slow dancing. He was the one who stepped back to shrug out of his shirt. “I believe this is yours,” he said, holding it out to her. She could see the hair on his chest through the thin white of his undershirt, the gold rings in his nipples.

Andi claimed the shirt with shaky fingers, slipping her arms into sleeves too long and wrapping it around herself like a robe. She brought the collar to her nose to smell it, shutting her eyes.

Smoke, not just tobacco smoke but any number of other plants, skunky things and mossy things and a hint of something floral. His shirt smelled like a shady New Age store whose primary clientele was witchy biker gangs.

She rocked back on her heels and opened her eyes. There was an intensity in the way Ghost was watching her that made her heart skip.

“And this is yours,” she said, plucking the dinosaur off the floor to hand it to him.

“So it is,” he said, still looking at her as he claimed it.

Ghost texted Andi a picture of Jesús the dinosaur artfully arranged into a jungle of potted plants. The angle and lighting were a reminder that he’d been an artist, of a kind. It made her smile, lying in her bed with his flannel on.

Andi: His natural habitat!

Coatimundi shared a video of a cat on her feed, and Ghost liked it.

Ghost texted Andi another picture, this time of Jesús sitting at a small table with a large steak in front of him. She assumed it was actually Ghost’s dinner and not a T-bone he’d bought and cooked for the express purpose of novelty dinosaur pictures.

Andi: That doesn’t look like a balanced meal!

In the next picture he’d sent, he had attempted to make the round toy hold a knife with its small arm. He’d resorted to duct tape.

Andi: That’s unsafe!!!

It was another hour before he sent another picture. The dinosaur now had two knives taped to its hands, and a lit cigar carefully balanced in its mouth. The table was covered in playing cards implying a game of poker, which Jesús was losing. There was an ashtray filled with half-smoked cigarettes.

Andi: No!!!!!! What have you done

As part of a joke that had been ongoing since not long after they met, Ghost tagged Coatimundi in a picture of a mug of cocoa hanging half-off the edge of a table.

  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @therealghostdevlin why are you like this
  • therealghostdevlin@randos.troll:
    @Coatimundi I’m from a different time.
  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @therealghostdevlin there was never a time when this was acceptable!!!
  • therealghostdevlin@randos.troll:
    @Coatimundi This is how everyone kept their beverages in the 30s.
  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @therealghostdevlin you can’t use the 30s as a barometer for acceptable behavior, we’ve talked about this

Ghost posted a photo of a chocolate bar, bitten instead of broken apart at the designated seams and then set down without the wrapper on a table covered in cigarette ashes. He’d obviously turned off the lights in his apartment and turned on his phone’s flash. The cocoa mug still sat on the edge.

  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @therealghostdevlin unacceptable
  • Black-Knight@super.heroes:
    @Coatimundi @therealghostdevlin When are we meeting to fight?
  • therealghostdevlin@randos.troll:
    @Black-Knight Brand accounts aren’t invited.

Ghost texted Andi another picture. She switched apps to look at it, and bit her lip. He’d taken a selfie laying down with Jesús. He’d taken the knives off the stuffed toy so he could use it as a pillow, and claimed the cigar for himself. He was shirtless, his hair down. Andi tried to decide how long it had taken him to get the picture just right, how hard he’d worked to stage it as sexily as possible while still including the dinosaur. Had he carefully let a lock of hair fall across his eyes or was that a happy accident?

Andi: Nice piercings btw

Ghost: Thanks

Ghost: They were big in both of the 90s

Andi: I’m feeling very cozy in my new shirt

Ghost: Good

She rolled out of bed and squinted at herself in the mirror. She was still wearing bunny slippers, and her dress was wrinkled. She pulled off the dress and put the shirt back on, buttoning it up enough to cover the important parts. She tried to re-tousle her hair into something more sexy than sleepy. It still looked incomplete, so she started digging in her dresser until she found thigh-highs.

Her legs looked better in tall socks. This was a fact. She would not apologize for it.

She’d been in a half-transformation, and remembered at the last minute to get rid of the ears and tail. She took about twenty different pictures in her mirror and deleted nineteen, leaving the one that looked the least staged. She texted him that one, and then sat on the edge of her bed, staring at her phone and waiting for a reply. Her stomach was in knots.

Ghost: It looks better on you

Ghost: May I save it?

Her smile split her face as she fell back into her bed. Asking was such a weird old man thing to do. Theoretically polite, but in practice it left her with the knowledge that he was definitely saving it, for what reasons she could not imagine.

That wasn’t true. She could imagine plenty. She kicked her feet and nearly bit her phone.

He wouldn’t. It wasn’t even that sexy of a picture. Was it? Pinups they put on t-shirts now used to count as pornography. He couldn’t still think that, though. He had a smartphone and he joked about dick pics.

Andi: Yes

Andi: For sex reasons?

Andi: Like

Andi: I don’t know if you know what a spank bank is

Andi: Like are you saving it as a souvenir or do you want to look at it later because it’s sexy

Ghost: I don’t know how I’m supposed to answer that

Andi: I was going for sort of a soft sexy

Andi: You were supposed to think it was hot

Ghost: I do

She kicked her legs again before regrouping.

Andi: Okay good

Ghost: You needed to ask?

Andi: I’m pretty sure you’ve FAMOUSLY banged some REALLY hot people

Andi: I’m not good at being sexy

Andi: Guys like you don’t usually hit on me or ask me out

Andi: Not that there are a lot of guys like you, but you know what I mean

Ghost: Creepy old men?

Andi: No!!!

Andi: I meet a lot of guys who want a nice girl

Andi: A Nice Girl™

Andi: People don’t take me seriously as a grown-up

Andi: Probably because I still use the word grown-up

Ghost: You type very fast

Andi: Sorry

Ghost: You’re a grown woman with great legs

Andi: Thank you for not saying gams

She switched to her camera app and unbuttoned her shirt a bit more. She took another series of pictures, lifting her legs into the air and trying to get a good ‘retro pinup’ vibe going. When she had a selfie she was satisfied with, she sent it to him.

Andi: You can save that one, too

Andi: If you want

Ghost: I do want

Ghost: You’re making it difficult to wait until Thursday to see you

Andi: You could say that I’m making it………. hard

She gnawed at her lip as she waited for a reply.

Andi: Sorry, that was dumb

After an agonizing wait, he sent her a picture that took her a minute to parse. It was centered on his hips, a trail of hair down to the pants he was still wearing.

She was pretty sure a dick-print still counted as a dick pic, but she wasn’t going to call him on it. Instead, she put her phone down and grabbed a pillow to press into her face and screech.

Hot! Unbelievably hot! Why was that so hot! How did he get such a good angle—and with his hand

Andi: I’m saving that

Andi: For sex reasons

Ghost: Perfect

Coatimundi leapt over a police car to enter the battle zone. She cupped her hands around her face as she ran. “Put him down and let’s talk about this,” she shouted.

Captain Vortex was holding Black Knight twenty feet in the air. Or, not Black Knight: Kennedy Washington, CEO of Knight Industries, his armor beaten apart and sucked into a hole to a pocket dimension. His suit wasn’t faring great either, and the bruises on his face worried her. Kenny wasn’t much of a fighter without his armor. He was a regular guy, who happened to be a genius billionaire. Captain Vortex had attached himself to the side of a building using small holes in the bottoms of his shoes.

“Oh, god,” Captain Vortex said, rolling his eyes. “I’m not fighting you.”

Coatimundi jumped as soon as he threw out his hand so the hole that appeared in the ground didn’t swallow her. Her ears twitched in her hair as she landed.

“Get out of here, little girl,” he said, trying to catch her with another vortex and failing as she leapt again. “I’m not one of your globalist stooges here to make you look good.”

Oh. Okay. Cool.

Ordinarily, this would be the part where Coatimundi tried to talk it out first. But there wasn’t much point when it came to a human manifestation of the comments section on a local news article.

She dropped down to a crouch and launched herself at the building. Holes of void kept appearing in the wall as she climbed it, claws tearing at concrete and toes bouncing off architectural features, but she was faster than he was. It took time to summon a vortex, time to make it dissipate so that he could summon another. He was only holding on with one foot, now; he had trouble summoning more vortices than two.

She passed him as she climbed, then dropped off the building to land on Captain Vortex’s back. He grunted, planting his second foot harder against the building as she dug her heels in. Then she knelt and punched him in the back of the head.

Not hard. He had super strength, but not enough that she was going to go punching him as hard as she could. His head would come off, probably. She wasn’t sure. She’d never tried it.

It was enough to get him to drop Black Knight, which was all she needed. She jumped off of him so that she could catch Kennedy in mid-air, holding him around the middle of his body and careful of his spine.

Captain Vortex summoned a hole in the ground beneath them.

Coatimundi waited until they were close to it before throwing Kennedy up and away; he’d hit the ground from five feet up unless someone caught him, which wasn’t great but was better than the alternative. She managed to catch the edge of the pavement, claws digging into asphalt as she pulled herself with great effort out of the vortex. Midton police had grabbed Kennedy, and now they were holding him in a human chain—the easiest way to keep anyone from falling into a hole to nowhere.

As soon as her feet could touch the ground, she was leaping at the building again. This time when she got closer, Captain Vortex pulled himself off the wall, falling towards her to try and hit her with the holes in his soles. Coatimundi dodged it, reaching out to drag her claws up his back and catch him by the hair. He was only able to scream briefly before she slammed him like a ragdoll through a closed window. It shattered around him, but some of the crunching was of bone.

Fortunately, it was an empty office. Coatimundi looked inside, to where he was trying to pull himself up off the cheap carpet. His face was too bloody to tell how badly she’d mangled it. She kicked out more of the glass so that she could get inside after him, high enough up that the wind whipped through the open window. Captain Vortex managed to get upright in time to throw a punch across her jaw. She laughed involuntarily. Anyone with less than super-strength would only break their fingers on her chin, and his had been a weak attempt to start. She’d still expected better.

He was in the middle of summoning a vortex on his fist when she kicked him in the stomach and over a desk. His legs caught on the furniture and altered his trajectory, spinning him all limp-limbed into the wall before collapsing. She waited to see if he’d get back up, her tail drawing figure-eights in the air behind her, fur standing on end. Her claws were sticky, lip twitching in a fang-baring snarl.

He stayed down, and she tried not to feel disappointed.

  • Black-Knight@super.heroes:
    Big thanks to @Coatimundi for the assist today! I was almost murdered and it was terrifying and probably gave me lasting trauma. Working on a new suit of armor now!
  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @Black-Knight no problem dude!!! you know i’m always happy to help a bro
  • mistermuster@randos.troll:
    @Black-Knight @Coatimundi did you actually beat him or was it just the power of friendship again
  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @mistermuster making fun of the power of friendship is not a thing good guys do, my man!! maybe have a good think about your life choices!!!
  • therealghostdevlin@randos.troll:
    @mistermuster The power of friendship! I like that. As she is my friend, would you like to learn more about this power?
  • mistermuster@randos.troll:
    @therealghostdevlin No, sir. Sorry about that. I meant no disrespect to @Coatimundi. I’m a big fan of your work.

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Two

“This is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone, ever, in history.”

“Yes,” David agreed, deadpan, not looking up from his phone. In costume, he was Lynx Lad—though he’d been trying to drop the ‘lad’, now that he wasn’t a sidekick anymore. He was sprawled on the futon in Carrie and Andi’s apartment, his feet in entirely different zip codes, skinny legs in skinnier jeans.

“I don’t know how to be hot,” Andi complained, pouting at her own reflection. She didn’t have anything between ‘too frumpy’ and ‘too wholesome’.

“Don’t try to be hot on a date with Ghost,” Carrie said with disgust. She’d pulled her carroty curls into a ponytail to keep them out of the aloe slathered on her shoulders, a consequence of her day spent in a tree.

“I’m allowed to want to be hot!” Andi said, disappearing into the bathroom again.

“I don’t think that’s the problematic part,” Bug said. Their alter-ego was Chronofist, which they’d picked themselves when they were twelve and never regretted. They were sitting on a counter with a laptop, wearing a shower cap as they refreshed the green of their hair.

“It’s the Ghost part,” Carrie confirmed. She was distracting herself from the situation at hand by making tiny pancakes for her hamster, Penny.

“I can’t just not be hot,” Andi said. “Have you seen him?”

“She has a point,” David said. “He’s stupid hot.”

“He’s gross,” Carrie said.

“No,” Bug said, “he’s definitely hot.”

“He’s a creepy old psycho,” Carrie insisted. “He’ll probably stab you by accident.”

“He can stab me on purpose,” Bug said, waggling their eyebrows, and David laughed.

“Seriously,” Carrie said. “Are you guys messing with me?”

“You’re too asexual,” David suggested.

“I can still tell when people are hot.”

“Not everyone. Ghost has, like. An aura.”


“A sexy aura.”

“That’s not real.”

“It’s sort of real,” Bug said. “You might be immune to the sex vibes.”

“Vibes aren’t real.”

“I don’t know,” Andi said from the bathroom. “I think it’s the way he carries himself, or looks at you, or something. Where you end up thinking: this guy could totally do some stuff.”

“Sex stuff,” David agreed.

“Those are the vibes,” Bug said with a nod.

“I still think you’re all messing with me,” Carrie said, carefully arranging Penny’s tiny plate for maximum aesthetics.

“What about this?” Andi asked, emerging from the bathroom. She’d tried to de-frump an embroidered floral sweatshirt by pairing it with a swishy skirt and scrunchy thigh-high socks. “Is this anything?”

“Cutesy sleeves?” Bug asked, and Andi held up her hands to demonstrate, hidden inside sleeves long enough to dangle from them. “Excellent.”

“This is cute, though,” Andi said. “I don’t want to be cute.”

“I don’t think you have a choice in the matter,” Bug said.

“You’re cute,” David confirmed.

“If he wasn’t into cute, he wouldn’t have asked you out,” Bug said.

“Opposites attract,” David added.

“Gross,” Carrie muttered. Penny nibbled on tiny pancakes as Carrie took pictures.

“Are you gonna try to hit it?” Bug asked, and Carrie made a sound of disgusted horror as Andi covered her face. “What? We were all thinking it.”

“No we weren’t,” Carrie said.

“We sort of were,” David said.

“He doesn’t know my secret identity,” Andi sighed. “It wouldn’t be right.”

“Call if it turns into a trainwreck and we can come get you,” Carrie said.

“Call if you need us,” Bug corrected. “It’s definitely going to be a trainwreck, but that’s not a bad thing.”

“We’re superheroes,” David agreed. “Everything’s always a trainwreck.”

Some trainwrecks were worse than others.

For instance, if there’d been some kind of fight, or runaway Ferris wheel, that might have been cool. Assuming no one was hurt.

Getting ghosted by a guy named Ghost would be too apropos to be anything but hurtful.

He wasn’t late, yet. Andi had been early and was left to wonder if she was waiting in the wrong spot, the way she always did when she was early. She was always early.

The sun was setting behind the city, but Andi was watching the ocean. Being near the ocean filled her with the irrational desire to leap into the ocean, regardless of what she was wearing. She assumed this was universal.

“Hello, Miss Bravo.”

His voice was hot in her ear, and she spun around to see him. Ghost was standing further away than she’d expected, and her breath caught. He was wearing blue jeans and a cable-knit sweater in white, which left him looking far more normal than felt allowed. Except for the hair. Which was down around his shoulders, wavy and tousled and clearly illegal.

He held up a rose, and she clutched the strap of her purse. “You bought me flowers?”

“One,” he said with a shrug. “Easier to carry this way.”

She accepted it with careful fingertips. “I didn’t know they sold roses that still had thorns,” she said.

“They don’t.”

She contemplated the thorny stem with suspicion but didn’t ask the obvious question.

He offered her the crook of his arm, because of course he would. “Shall we?”

She started toward the boardwalk herself instead of accepting, still contemplating her rose. “You’re really…”

“Charming?” he suggested, walking alongside her.

“Old-fashioned,” she corrected.

“You are surprised?”

“I guess not.” She was trying to unpack the idea that this was what Ghost Devlin did in his free time, asked shy girls on dates and bought them flowers.

She wanted it to go well. She wanted him to be someone who took girls on nice dates. It felt important, that he be that kind of person.

She didn’t like lying.

“What would you like to do first?” he asked, looking out at the booths and rides available to them.

“I’m not—funnel cake!” Her answer changed as soon as she saw the booth, pointing with her rose and rising up onto her toes with the force of her enthusiasm. “Can we get funnel cake?” she asked, bouncing.

“As my lady commands,” he said. He took her so seriously that she tried to take him seriously in turn, clutching the rose in front of her to keep from waving her hands around.

“Do you come here a lot?” she wondered. “To the waterfront.”

“Not often,” he said with a shrug.

“When you were younger?” she suggested. There was his life before Atlantis, but there was also the life before that, the one that wasn’t on wiki pages.

“I lived in New York then,” he said. He paused. “There is still a New York?”

“… yes. New York is still there.”

He nodded. “Good.”

She bit her lip as he bought her a funnel cake. It was so hard to avoid fraught questions. Wasn’t it normal for a date to ask questions? She didn’t know how much her view was colored by the knowledge that she was undercover. Or, her own idea of undercover.

She tucked her rose carefully into the loop where her bag attached to its strap and accepted the funnel cake he offered her. Her fingers were immediately coated in powdered sugar she’d never touched. “Do you want some?” she offered.

“No, thank you,” he said. The wistful way he was looking at her was making her squirm.

“Okay.” She held the funnel cake closer but didn’t take a bite yet. She didn’t want to eat with him watching her. “Thank you,” she remembered to add. “For this.”

“Of course.”

She tore a strand of cake away with her fingers, thinking this might be a less messy way of eating it. She was wrong, but she felt better about it. Less sugar on her face. “What do you want to do?” she asked, between licks of her fingertips.

“Many things,” he said. She couldn’t tell if he was being deliberately provocative but turned red as a precautionary measure. “Let’s walk,” he suggested, “and you can tell me about yourself. Andi Bravo.”


He didn’t offer his arm again but stayed close to her as she took small steps forward. Compared to his usual stride, this was barely moving. She kept her eyes on her funnel cake. “I’m pretty normal,” she said, as all normal people did.

“You’ve said.”


“You are a student?” he asked. “Or do you work?”

He was much better at this than she was. “I… I work. From home. Data entry stuff. Nothing cool. It pays the bills.” She paused. “It doesn’t,” she corrected. “Carrie’s hamster—you know Carrie.” He nodded. “Her hamster is famous. Technically the hamster pays the bills.”

“An industrious rodent,” he said. She couldn’t tell if he was genuinely approving, or mocking her. It was always hard to tell with him. She thought that might be half his problem. He had resting villain snark. Maybe she could raise awareness. He doesn’t want to fight you, he just sounds like that.

“What about you?” she asked, eager to change the subject from herself.

“I’m the King of Atlantis,” he said, deadpan.


“I live off royalties,” he added, deigning to give her something closer to a real answer. “I used to write books.”

“I know,” she said, around a mouth full of funnel cake.

“Do you?” he asked, surprised.

Most people didn’t, she remembered, swallowing. “My grandpa,” she explained. “He had the magazines. The old ones.” The pulps with the drawings on the covers, Ghost Devlin punching Germans and getting attacked by anacondas. 100% True Tales of Terror written in a large red font that no one was meant to believe, From the Journals of Ghost Devlin. The spines were worn out and the pages were all yellowed, and they smelled like rotting paper and tobacco smoke. She’d read through the whole collection when she was young, ruined more than one of them reading after the shower with her hair still wet and dripping on the pages.

Even then she’d read something special in them, not in the action but in the tone. There was a self-deprecating wit that the other stories lacked, and they made his adventures seem more real. Personality infused every word, left her feeling like she knew him long before she learned he’d become better known as a supervillain. Made it hard for her to believe that he’d ever been a villain.

She didn’t think she’d tell him that part. She’d never told anyone that part.

“Aaah,” he said. “The magazines. Not the books.”

She shook her head. “He said those weren’t as good—they changed too much.”

Ghost grinned. She wondered if she could ask him what had happened to his teeth. “I like him already,” he said, as if it were inevitable that he’d be meeting her family someday. Andi finished her funnel cake, crumpling the dirty paper into a ball.

“What happened with those?” she ventured to ask. “The books.”

He shrugged, grin fading. “Made a bad deal,” he admitted. “Didn’t read the contract too close when I sold those stories, not that I’d’ve cared much at the time. I just needed the cash, didn’t expect anyone to read ’em. Guess they thought the originals weren’t interesting enough for paperbacks. Agreed to give me royalties, so I can’t complain too much.”

His accent lost some of its sharpness when he talked about old times, loped longer over his tongue. More like the cowboy he’d once been, before everything.

It made him sound snuggly. She wouldn’t be telling him that, either.

“At least you learned a lot about contract law,” she suggested, throwing the paper away as they finally passed a bin.

“Nah,” he said. “Still don’t read shit.”


“If the lady will pardon my language,” he added as an afterthought, but this time she was sure he was teasing her.

“It’s fine,” she said, wondering if she should curse more. That would distinguish her from Coatimundi, surely. Flinging all kinds of cusses every which way.

She liked to save them for special occasions, was all.

“Are you going to win me a dinosaur?” she asked, pointing to a carnival game. What the plush dinosaur lacked in accuracy, it made up for with a pleasing roundness.

“I don’t shoot,” he said, and she laughed.

“It’s a squirt gun!” she said. “Squirt guns don’t count.”

“Nah,” he said, and she tried not to admire his dedication to the gimmick. He killed plenty, she reminded herself. Just not with guns.

“I’ll win it for you,” she decided.

“Will you?” The amused tilt to his mouth gave her a frisson of indefinable something. Want, but not in any of the obvious ways.

“Yes,” she decided, determined now. She pulled a small change purse from her larger purse, shaped like a red panda, and counted out dollar coins to earn her place at a squirt gun.

“You’re very good at that,” Ghost observed as she took out cardboard ducks with precision strikes of water.

“Don’t distract me!” she warned. The game was rigged, but she compensated with speed. Her victory was inevitable, but still worth a gleeful clap.

Claiming the large ball of dinosaur, it occurred to her that this was stupid.

She shoved it at Ghost, eclipsing his face so she wouldn’t have to see it. “This is your problem now!” she announced, as if being annoying were an affectation she put on as a joke. She was turning red.

“I will treasure it always,” he said, taking it from her more gently.

“Sorry,” she said. “You don’t have to keep it.” He would, after all, now have to haul around what was almost a bean bag chair for the rest of the day. “Even if I think it’s really awesome.”

“I like it,” he said. He held it over his shoulder by one of its tiny arms, like a sack of gifts. His other hand touched hers. She froze. He took her hand in his, slid his fingers between hers, and she nearly fell over.

This was fine. Normal date stuff. Extremely normal. Her brain went into overdrive trying to remember the appropriate response to innocent hand-holding.

Except that it didn’t feel innocent, the way his fingers parted hers with the tips of them pressing friction into the seam between digits, big hands and rough callouses.

She was red, and he was grinning, and she wanted to scream.

I am an adult, she wanted to shout. I’ve had casual sex and hangovers after parties, she could have told him. She didn’t know if he’d believe her, because now she was undone by his fingers through hers and all the knowing in his mouth.

“What happened to your teeth?” she blurted.

His smile left. The tip of his tongue ran over the points like remembering. “Atlantis,” he said finally. That seemed like the answer to a lot of questions.


“How much do you know about Victorian dentists?”

What an absolutely wild thing it was, to hear the word ‘Victorian’ and remember that he’d known a time when it was only ‘now’. “Were they bad?”

“Terrible,” he said. “Mine were crooked to start with. I smoked a lot, got socked in the jaw plenty. Jolene had ’em fixed for me.”

His dead wife, his lost queen. Andi had more questions, and she didn’t ask them. “That’s cool,” she said instead, like that was better. He nodded. “Wanna go on the Ferris wheel?”

“Miss Bravo, you have read my mind,” he said. His thumb stroked the side of her index finger.

“Cool,” she said again, as they walked hand-in-hand. It was not cool. “So you were there when these things were invented, right?”

“I was alive,” he said. There was a hint of exasperation in it. “I wasn’t there. I was in the Amazon by then, I think.”

“Do people think you saw all the history happening because you were alive for it?”


“Do they ask you about people like you would have met them?”


“So you didn’t punch Hitler.”

“Only a clone.”

“Wait, really?”

He didn’t answer until he’d paid for their ride, and they’d situated themselves inside. He set the plush dinosaur across from them to claim the seats, allowing them something like privacy.

“I remember it happening,” he said. “It might not have, now.”

“Oh.” She toyed with the hem of her skirt. “I don’t know what that means.”

He looked out the window of the Ferris wheel car, and into the middle distance. “I have existed outside of time,” he said, “and am no longer subject to its whims.”

“Right,” she said, in that way that meant he hadn’t clarified anything.

“There are creatures in this world with the power to travel through time,” he said, “to change both the things they intend and the things they do not. The timeline changes, but I remain.” The wheel was turning, raising them higher.

“Like… time travelers?”

“Something like that.” He looked at her, green eyes dark. “You remember New York?”


“You remember Metro City?”

“Y—no? Is there… where is that?”

He sighed, leaning back in his seat. “There used to be a Metro City. It was in Oklahoma.” His fists clenched in his lap. “I remember it.”

“I believe you,” she said. She believed that he believed it, which wasn’t the same thing.

“You would have lived in Metro City,” he said wistfully.

“In Oklahoma?” she said doubtfully.

“No one would choose Midton,” he said scornfully, almost to himself. “Not if Metro City were a choice. So it isn’t.”

Andi wrung her hands a little. “That sucks,” she offered.

“It does,” he agreed. “Do you think I’m insane?”

“No,” she said firmly.

“I am,” Ghost said, and smiled. “I’ve always been, a little. Not about this.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, about a lot of things.

“My journals haven’t changed,” he said. “The things I wrote. Don’t know why. It’s all in there. Metro City. Punching Hitler.”

“Hitler’s clone,” she reminded him, bringing back his grin. “Did he have Hitler’s memories, or—?”

“No,” Ghost said. “Only his genes.”

“Wouldn’t that make him just a guy with an unfortunate face?”

“He was an asshole,” he said. “He was raised by people who thought it would be a good idea to clone Hitler.”

“That’s fair.”

Ghost rested his hand on hers, which rested on her thigh. His fingers brushed her leg in a plausibly deniable sort of way, and she didn’t call him on it. “This must be strange for you,” he said, “normal girl Andi Bravo.”


“Yes,” she said. “It’s very weird, and. Different. All this superhero stuff.”

Good save.

“Not so different,” he said, worryingly. “Your roommate is the good friend of Coatimundi, isn’t she?”

“Yes.” Andi paused. “I don’t—we’re not friends, though. I don’t hang out with Coatimundi. Even though I would. Because I think she’s cool. And kinda cute. Like, her costume is cute. I think. I don’t know if you think her costume is cute.”

“Cute enough,” Ghost shrugged, which was completely fair but also hurt her feelings a little.

“Do you not like it?” she pressed.

“It isn’t for me,” he said.

“Right.” She sat back a little. “That’s a good point.” They were at the highest point on the Ferris wheel, so she looked out the window. “We’re so high up!”


She turned to look at Ghost and found him looking intently at the ground outside his window. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“I know him,” he said thoughtfully.

“Yeah?” Andi leaned closer. “Who is it?”

“I killed him,” Ghost said, putting a chill down Andi’s spine.

“That’s not good.”

Ghost started to slide his upper body out of the car window. Andi squeaked and grabbed him by the belt. He untangled her fingers from the leather, this time all business and no gentleness. She resisted before remembering that she shouldn’t be able to resist. She was a normal girl, after all.

“Get back in here,” she asked, her heart pounding. Ghost seemed to have forgotten her entirely, fixated on his target. Hanging on the outside of the car, he jumped. She went to the window as it rocked, watching him catch spokes of the ride as he dropped to the ground.

And she couldn’t follow him, because she was a normal girl.

Being a normal girl sucked.

“Dangit,” she said, sitting back down. She contemplated the round dinosaur. Could she fit a transformation sequence in here? Even if she could, it would be pretty noticeable. She’d have to wait for the Ferris wheel to complete its rotation, get out, and find somewhere out of the way to transform so that she could catch him. She’d talk him down, and then… he’d try to introduce her to his date?

She could talk her way out of that. Unless he wanted her help finding his date, not knowing it was her. Or what if he thought it was suspicious, that she was so close at hand during his date? She didn’t want him to think she was spying on him. Even if she was. Secretly. Undercover. As his date. Which was actually, now that she was thinking about it, worse in every conceivable way than just following him around. He would find stalking a relatable hobby.

This had been a bad idea from the start.

Andi picked up the abandoned dinosaur and gave it a hug, smelling it. It smelled like factory and corn dogs. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting. It was new.

“Hey,” said the ride operator as she got out. “Did your date jump out of the Ferris wheel? Because you’re not allowed to do that.”

“He used to be a supervillain,” she explained. “He’s still working on rules and stuff.”

“We’re not allowed to let supervillains on the rides anymore.”

“He’s reformed.”

“Did you ever find him?” Bug asked.

“No,” Andi said, her voice muffled by the dinosaur because she was facedown in it on the floor. She turned her head so that she could talk. “No one called the cops or started screaming, though.”

“Oh, good,” Carrie said. “He got him to a second location before murdering him.”

“He didn’t murder anyone,” Andi said. “Probably. He implied that he’d murdered him before, but it obviously didn’t stick, so I don’t think that counts.”

“I think that counts,” Bug said.

“Yeah, it definitely counts,” Andi agreed with a heavy sigh. “It’s not like it’s news that he’s killed a guy.”

“It isn’t,” Carrie agreed, “which is why you shouldn’t go on dates with him. Because he’s a murderer. You shouldn’t date murderers.”

“We know a lot of people who’ve killed a guy,” Andi pointed out, as if that were a defense.

“I’ve killed a guy,” Bug said cheerfully.

“Punching a guy so hard he was never born doesn’t count,” Carrie said.

“Debatable,” Bug said.

“How much do you know about time stuff?” Andi asked, rolling onto her back.

“I know some stuff about time,” Bug said.

“Do you think the timeline changes sometimes?”

“I know it does. Because I do it. With my fists.”

Big stuff, though,” Andi said, looking up at where Bug sat upside-down on the futon. “Like, whole cities never existing.”

“It could be happening all the time and we’d never know about it,” Bug shrugged. “Time’s weird. Don’t start worrying about people who never existed, that’s a fast-track to crazytown.”

“He said he remembers,” Andi admitted. “Not just his memories, he said there’s things from other timelines in his journals. People who don’t exist anymore. Cities.”

“That might make sense,” Carrie mused, leaning over the kitchen counter toward the living room with her hands on a mug of tea. A good mystery always interested her more than trying to protect Andi from her own bad taste in men. “Normally, if a timeline changed, we’d all change with it. We’d all be native to that timeline, in a way. We were always here. If Ghost still remembers the way things used to be, there was never a Ghost to write anything different. Right?”

“Whatever happened in Atlantis might have knocked him out of sync,” Bug suggested. “Time doesn’t work right for him.”

“That seems like it would suck,” Andi said.

“Murder still isn’t cool,” Carrie added.

“I never said it was,” Andi said.

I think it’s cool,” Bug said.

“That’s because you’re a contrarian,” Carrie said.

“I wonder if I’m different,” Andi said, looking at the ceiling. “If there was a different version of me that he used to know.”

“Goth Coatimundi,” Bug suggested.

“You wore one of those stretchy bodysuits with the underwear on the outside,” Carrie countered.

“That’s the worst,” Andi said, sitting up. “This sucks. I wanna go fight crime.”

“Don’t take your feelings out on crime,” Bug warned.

“That’s the best use of feelings,” Carrie said. “Feelings are dumb. Solve a mystery with me.”

“Do you have a mystery?”

“I have a ton,” she said, setting down her mug, “but most of them are nasty serial killers.”


“Yeah, it’s not really your scene,” Carrie admitted. “There’s been a series of robberies, and all they take is butter knives.”


“I’m pretty sure Stabbsy’s back.”

“Stabbsy uses real knives,” Bug protested.

“That’s what he wants you to think,” Carrie said.

“Yeah, I’ll get in on that action,” Andi said, standing up. “I like Stabbsy, when he’s not stabbing.”

“I’m not comfortable with how many people that’s true of,” Carrie said.

“Like me!” Bug said.

“That was one time.”

“That you know of!”

Andi clapped her hands together, warmth spreading through her body as her skin started to glow. Her ears and her tail phased back into reality, the dark band reappearing around her eyes and down her nose. Her clothes phased out, replaced by the frills of her costume. There were noises of protest from everyone she hadn’t warned, but she ignored them, throwing her hands up over her head.

“Let’s go help Stabbsy with his stab-fever!”

Carrie leaned closer to Bug on their way out. “I’m still not convinced that’s a real medical condition.”

Coatimundi didn’t expect to see Ghost on her way home, but she never did. Ghost was sneaky. It was one of his things.

“Hello, Pizote,” he said from a fire escape, nearly startling her into falling off a building. She knew for a fact that he didn’t live there, so why he was using a stranger’s fire escape for a smoke break was a mystery Carrie wouldn’t be solving.

“Hey,” she said, trying to be super-casual about it as she bent over the rail of a fire escape landing above him. “Up to anything I should know about?” she asked. Like re-murder, she did not ask.

“No,” he said, which could have meant anything if he didn’t think she should know about it. “Or perhaps Miss Davenport has told you.”

“Told me what?”

“My date,” he said. “With her roommate.”

“Right,” she said. “She said something about that. About her roommate. She seems pretty…”

“Normal?” he suggested.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Extremely normal.” Coatimundi turned around to sit on the railing, and then hang upside-down from it. Her pigtails and their ribbons hung toward the ground. Her skirt flipped inside-out, but between the petticoats and the bloomers, it revealed less than nothing. “How’d it go?” she asked.

“She seems nice,” he said, and she bristled at being damned with faint praise. “Might be too nice for me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” she said.

“You didn’t see her blushing when I held her hand.”

Coatimundi started to turn red and hoped she could pass it off as the blood rushing to her head. “That doesn’t mean anything!” she snapped, ears pinned back and tail lashing behind her. “Some people blush, a lot. And maybe you did it weird.”

“Did it weird,” he repeated.

“Held her hand weird,” she said. “Like… in a sexy way. A weirdly sexy way.”


“Because she’s had boyfriends,” she added. “Carrie told me. She has boys over all the time. Some of the time. A normal amount of times. I don’t think regular hand-holding would have made her blush. You must have done it weird.”

“What are they like?”


He took a drag on his cigarette. “Her boyfriends.”

Coatimundi sat upright. She rubbed at her ears, trying to get them to look neutral. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know her that well. You’d have to ask Carrie.”

“You think she would tell me?”

“Probably not.” Coatimundi felt her cheeks to see if they’d cooled down at all. They hadn’t. “Did the date not go well?” she asked.

“She went home.”

He was not going to make this her fault. “What happened?” she pressed, looking between her knees and through the landing at the top of his head.

“I saw someone I thought I knew,” he admitted. “I got distracted.”

“You ditched her,” she accused.

“She chose not to join me.”

Coatimundi had to struggle to find a way to contradict him without making it clear that she knew exactly what had happened. “Are you sure?” she asked finally. “Because sometimes you do parkour. Old-timey parkour. Automatically, without thinking about it. Jumping off of buildings, and stuff. Normal girls can’t do that.”

Ghost ashed into the street. “And she’s a normal girl,” he said.

“Yeah, exactly. Totally normal.”

“Maybe too normal.”

“Not that normal. She agreed to go out with you.”

Ghost laughed. It was a rare sound, a kind of high-pitched bark filtered through a ragged throat. She loved it when she made him laugh. It felt like she’d won a fight he hadn’t known they were having.

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out of Time: Chapter One

Mr. Paul from downstairs was dead at the bottom of the stairwell. Ghost Devlin had put him there.

Ghost’s head wasn’t always right these days. There was a grounding quality to the fellow trying to shoot him from upstairs. Bullets and blood and a knife between his teeth, he knew this better than his heartbeat. No time to think, but that’s how he did best.

He’d liked Mr. Paul, right up until Mr. Paul had tried to kill him. Might have still been willing to overlook it, under the right circumstances. Lots of people tried to kill Ghost. Sometimes he deserved it.

Another shot pinged the wall, but Ghost was good at finding cover, climbing stairs faster than the man trying to shoot him. Unnatural life burned through his veins, feeling more alive than he had in months.

Another shot, but this one buried itself in Ghost’s thigh; he ignored the heat and the pain blossoming outward from it. He’d already lifted one boot to the rail to launch himself from it, up and across to grab the railing mere feet from his target. In one smooth motion he pulled himself up to kick the gunman, fell back to roll to his feet. The gunman tried to hit him with the butt of the gun instead of shooting, and Ghost dodged it, cracking his fist across the gunman’s jaw instead. Fast as death he had the knife out from between his teeth, held against the stranger’s throat.

“We’re the distraction!” the young man shrieked, holding up both his hands in surrender before Ghost could say a word. Fear and panic came off him in waves, wide-eyed and stinking.

“From what?” Ghost growled, but as soon as he’d said it he was sure he knew. Someone had wanted to get him out of his apartment. Mr. Paul was never actually trying to kill him.

Waste of a good neighbor. Shouldn’t have kicked him so hard. Ghost had been acting on instinct when he’d had a pistol pulled on him.


He didn’t bother killing the henchman. Ghost vaulted over the rail, caught the one of the floor of his apartment. Anyone else, it might have wrenched his arm out of the socket. Ghost just climbed back onto the stairs, burst into the hall to run back to his door. Every rapid beat of his heart pumped blood down his thigh, brought pain in throbs.

Door open. Ghost held his knife at ready as he stalked inside, low to the ground, fixing his eyes on dark corners. He took a deep breath to smell the air.

Gone, whoever they’d been—and they had been. A stink like cheap cologne and drugstore lotion left a trail through his home. Ghost had disabled the traps in anticipation of guests. Mr. Paul. Dead now.

He flipped the switch and tried to chase away the shadows. Couldn’t dwell on death, let his head turn in circles. He focused on finding whatever they’d been looking for, this person in his home. He checked his kitchen first, bowls and jars of carefully labeled plants and detritus. Nothing opened, nothing stolen.

He opened a jar of corpse sage, dried purple leaves all orange at the edges, and jammed them between his teeth. They tasted like mold, but the pain in his thigh eased as he crushed them. He hadn’t realized he’d had a headache until it went away.

His checked the bedroom. No furniture except for shelves to hold planters and grow lights to keep them thriving. He kept the room humid, paint peeling off the walls.

No plants missing.

He touched the leaves of a grafted dwarf tree in passing, a pat of affection.

Back to the living room, where one shelf was in a disarray not his own. He knew his usual mess. Someone had disrupted a pile of old journals.

Missing one. He’d need to go through them if he wanted to find the year. He felt a fury grow against his spine, and he bit down harder on the leaves in his teeth to make it mellow.

The phone in his bag went off. He checked it automatically. Only had alerts enabled for one person, and the thought made some of the tension wrapped around his bones unwind.

She needed him, and everything else went on a backburner. Nothing else mattered; he knew where his priorities were. He stood, and looked down at himself.

He was going to need to change into less bloody pants.

The city of Midton was overrun with enormous man-eating slugs, and the superhero known as Coatimundi was staring anxiously at her phone.

“Was this your plan?” Black Knight asked, waving an armored hand at her.

“No!” she shot back, defensive. Small fluffy ears were pinned back to her hair in annoyance, her tail lashing. “This is the pre-plan. I’m setting a plan for a plan into motion.”

“We should regroup at the Plaza,” said Helen of Troy, sheathing her sword.

“Go ahead without me,” Coatimundi said, dragging her thumb over the screen to manually refresh.

“That’s not how regrouping works,” Black Knight pointed out. “If you’re trying to find someone else who had this problem, don’t bother—I already looked and it’s just one guy who marked his thread as resolved without posting what he did.”

Explanations were interrupted when someone landed beside them, having jumped off a nearby roof for maximum dramatic effect.

“You came!” Coatimundi said, ears perked up with delight.

Helen of Troy unsheathed her sword.

Ghost shrugged, a roll of his shoulders. “I was nearby.” He was tall and broad and wearing what passed for a costume with him, which wasn’t much of a costume at all. Just tight pants and tall boots and a shirt open too low at the neck, faintly piratical with the gold rings in his ears. He kept a knife on one thigh and a saddlebag on the other, a machete at his back and a looped length of rope on his belt. His hair was long and black and tied loose at his neck, his skin tanned and scarred. He had a perpetual shadow of stubble that felt gratuitous.

Coatimundi sidestepped just enough to put herself between Black Knight and Ghost, despite being at least a foot shorter than either of them. “Did I leave my location on?” she asked, tucking her phone into a deep pocket on her thigh. She’d never actually told him where they were.

“Sure,” Ghost said noncommittally.

“Why are you here, knave?” Helen asked, pointing her sword at him.

“Former knave,” Coatimundi corrected, sidling in the opposite direction to put herself in the way again. Helen was at least two feet taller than she was. Ghost had a dangerous sort of glint in his eye, a grin that was a baring of sharp teeth. “It’s fine, he’s with me kinda.”

It really would make things much easier if people would stop picking fights with him.

“If you say so, kid,” Knight said, and reluctantly Helen lowered her blade.

“For her sake,” Helen said to Ghost, a warning.

“Of course,” said Ghost, a hint of mockery directed at no one in particular. His accent made it hard to tell, his vowels too long and his consonants cutting. A drawl with sharp edges. “What did you need?” he asked, directed at Coatimundi and no one else.

“I thought your expertise might help with the slug situation,” she said.

“What slug situation?” he asked.

They stared at him. Around them, Midton was a chaos of sirens and screams.

“I was busy,” he added.

“There are giant, man-eating slugs,” Coatimundi explained, throwing a hand over Black Knight’s face before he could make a clever comment. Since splaying her fingers over the glassy faceplate did nothing to stop him from speaking, his silence was instead a concession to her wishes.

“Giant for slugs, or for people? A regular slug is—” Ghost held his thumb and forefinger an inch or two apart.

Coatimundi pointed to the now-tallest skyscraper in the city, a sharp spiral whose silhouette was marred by a mass of slugs the approximate size of the Statue of Liberty. Helicopters were circling the building, slime trailing to the streets below. On every building between could be seen slugs the size of Saint Bernards, climbing up brickwork and crusting up windows.

Ghost squinted at the slimy trail of destruction. “I’ve been very busy,” he said eventually.

“Before you ask,” Coatimundi said, “we’ve already tried salt. They’re too big, and there’s too many of them.”

“None of the infrastructure in this city can handle that much salt,” Black Knight added.

“Nobody’s got a shrink ray?” Ghost asked.

“If you’re trying to be funny, it’s not working,” Knight said.

“What—oh.” Ghost scratched at his stubble. “Was he the only guy? Someone made them bigger, didn’t they?”

“No,” Coatimundi said, eager to change the subject. “They’re from one of those islands where big things are small and small things are huge. I thought maybe you’d have seen them before.”

“Usually it’s spiders,” he said, apologetic.

“Why spiders?”

“Because if there is a god, it is a hateful one.”

“In this case it’s slugs that are big, though,” she said, choosing to ignore that statement entirely rather than suggest he tone it down.

“And carnivorous,” Ghost said.


“That’s very unusual, for slugs.”

“We are aware that this is outside the realm of normal slug behaviors,” Knight said, exasperated.

“How did they even get so far?”

“They’re also fast,” Coatimundi said. “As fast as something can be when it’s just a big foot.”

“If it were me, I would probably just try the usual things,” Ghost admitted. “Salt, beer…”

“It is not our intent to eat them,” Helen said.

“We tried salt,” Coatimundi reminded him.

“Beer?” Ghost asked.

“Later,” Knight said.

“For the slugs,” Ghost clarified.

“I don’t think we want to be rewarding this behavior.”

“Garden slugs,” Ghost said, forming the shape of a circle with his hands in vague confusion. “Have you never had garden slugs? You set a trap with beer, the slugs drown before they get to your plants.”

“That’s brilliant!” Coatimundi said, bouncing on her toes. “There’s a bunch of brewpubs downtown that like to show off their big vats of beer.”

Helen gasped. “Not the microbrews!”

“Do none of you have gardens?” Ghost persisted, his brow furrowed. “I’d think one of you would have plant powers.”

Ghost had a tendency to lump all superheroes into a group that didn’t include him, some newfangled fad he didn’t understand.

“Red Orchid does,” Coatimundi said, “but I think their plants can usually just eat any slugs.”


“I found a brewery a little south of the city,” Black Knight said, his faceplate displaying a map in green lines. “Big, corporate, should have plenty—the microbrews are safe.”

Helen pressed a hand to her breastplate. “Hera’s Blessings.”

“Did you contact them about using their products?” Coatimundi asked.

“I bought the company,” Knight said, and Ghost snorted. Black Knight ignored the derision as a favor to Coatimundi. “It’s mine now, I’m sending out orders to gather up inflatable pools and as many beer vats as we can carry.”

Coatimundi and Helen’s phones pinged.

Coatimundi grabbed Ghost’s forearm. “Come on,” she said, before realizing he was looking toward a faraway building.

“Go ahead without me,” he said. “I want to get a closer look at one of these.”

“I don’t think you can taxidermy slugs,” Knight said, to which Ghost responded with a middle finger that Coatimundi tried to cover with her hand. “What? It’s true.”

“I’ll catch up with you later,” Coatimundi assured him before things could escalate.

“Thank you, Pizote,” Ghost said, and she squeezed his arm a little before letting him stalk away.

When the slug situation had someone abated, Coatimundi found Ghost with a glut of gutted gastropods. He was sitting on what should have been an inaccessible rooftop, and he had a journal open on his knees, bent over it with a pencil.

“Hello,” she said, leaning sideways into the edges of his vision.

“Hello, Pizote,” he said, with more warmth than before. He said it differently when they were alone, the little nickname he’d assigned her. She couldn’t pinpoint how. She inched closer, trying to get a better look at the pages.

His drawings were much more coherent than the reality, which just looked like a pile of slime to her. He’d diagrammed different organs with tentative labels, separated them out for more individual detail. They reminded her of drawings in an old encyclopedia.

Some of his drawings were in old encyclopedias.

“Figure anything out?” she asked.

“I’m not a scientist,” he said dismissively. “Maybe someone can use it.”

“Thank you for your help.”

“I did nothing.”

“You did a lot,” she insisted. “And… it means a lot that you came to help me.” The slow sway of her tail became a little faster.

Ghost looked up from his journal, green eyes locking fiercely onto hers. “Always,” he said, which made her stomach somersault. “I owe you my life.”

She shifted uncomfortably where she stood, ears lowering against her hair. “You don’t owe me anything.”

He shut his journal, tucked his pencil behind his ear, and stood. “You don’t like to hold my life in your hands?” he teased.

“Absolutely not.”

He chuckled as his journal slid into the bag on his thigh. “Would you prefer I be left to my own devices?”

She hesitated, her tail lashing.

“No,” he agreed, reaching out to take her hands in his. She froze, her ears standing up and alert. “Call, and I will answer; lead, and I will follow.”

She blinked. “I… if you needed help, I’d also. Answer. Because that’s what friends do.”


“I would!”

“Because you are you,” he corrected. “Even if we were not friends.”

She couldn’t really deny that. She hadn’t become a superhero to only help her friends. Still, she didn’t care for the imbalance he’d introduced to the equation, as if his friendship weren’t important to her.

“A lot of heroes are meeting up later,” she began.


“I think it would help if they had a chance to get to know you better.”

He released her hands gently, and she realized he’d been holding them the entire time. “I know enough.”

“You might be surprised.”

“I have tried this before,” he said, pulling from his bag a case filled with hand-rolled cigarettes. He struck a match against the case, and she watched the flickering flame as he lit up. He turned his head as he shook it out, exhaling smoke away from her. “It doesn’t end well.”

She frowned. “You have? When?” She thought she would have heard about it, Ghost Devlin trying to make friendly overtures toward anyone but her.

“Hmm.” His brow furrowed. “Maybe not anymore.”

“… I don’t know what that means.”

He flicked his thumb impatiently against the cigarette. “They won’t remember,” he said. “It never happened, now. You’d know if it had.”

She reached out to touch his arm, pull him back from his thousand-yard stare at the skyline. He wasn’t always stable, but he’d been doing well lately, she thought.

Ghost Devlin, The Devil Death Fears, Last King of Atlantis. Immortal, his adopted country swallowed by a rift in space-time. She wasn’t convinced he’d been particularly stable even before all that, based on what she’d heard. He’d inhaled and ingested a lot of things he probably shouldn’t have.

Coatimundi didn’t know how old he was, now. He’d be closer to two-hundred than one, but something had happened in Atlantis to make the math all wrong. Now he did this, sometimes, remembered things that never were or forgot the way things had always been.

“Things might be different with me there,” she suggested, and he softened.

“The weight of my past is not your burden to bear,” he said. It was an obtuse way to say he didn’t want to put her to trouble.

“Everyone needs friends.”

“I have one,” he reminded her, which was both flattering and horribly sad. Her phone chimed from her pocket. “And you have many.”

“Just give me one second,” she said, pulling it from her pocket to check the screen.

Carrie: Is it safe for me to leave this tree yet?

They’d been in the park when the danger started, and her roommate had been forced to take refuge in a tree with a thick circle of road salt around the trunk.

“Oh, heck. I have to go get Carrie.”

“Miss Davenport isn’t in danger?” he asked, an unspoken offer of assistance.

“I don’t think so. She just, you know…”

“Needs you,” he finished for her.

“I’m sorry I can’t stick around,” she said, sliding her phone away. “You should think about what I said—what I was trying to say. About meeting people, and making friends.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“I still don’t get where the slugs came from,” Carrie said, walking along the park paths beside Andi. Andi had transformed back into her civvies, no more ears or tail or band of black across her eyes and down her nose. The lack of them was an annoyance, but she made do.

The sun was setting, and the park lights had all turned on. The evidence of the day’s events was mostly disappearing, scattered ambulances and teenagers trying to steal drinks from kiddie pools swimming with dead slugs.

“I guess a couple ended up on a shipping freighter,” Andi said, scrolling through articles. “From there they multiplied, and once it docked it was a free-for-all.”

“That was a lot of slugs for one boat,” Carrie said suspiciously. As a former teen detective, now twenty-something busybody, it was how she said most things. “And it seemed like the city was full of them all at once. That’s pretty sudden, for a slug.”

“I’m seeing a couple places saying they might have ended up in the sewers first.”

“Wouldn’t the Gators have noticed?”

“Yeah, a lot of this is still speculation.” She switched apps into her social media feed. “Oh my gosh, there are slug memes.”

Obviously there are slug memes.”

“There are so many slug memes.”

“Don’t meme and walk at the same time,” Carrie warned.

“Memes aren’t that distracting,” Andi said. “I don’t understand this one with the snake.”

“There are a bunch of those, I think some show had a finale today.”

“I’ll check if anyone tagged it in the replies.”


Andi failed to heed Carrie’s verbal warning in time, face still buried in her phone, and walked directly into what seemed to be a wall. She over-corrected backward into a stumble, eyes wide as she struggled to catch the device now bouncing between her hands. Her balance was thrown off without her tail, her focus on keeping her phone from breaking.

Then the wall swept her halfway off her feet, much the way she might be dipped for a kiss. She snatched her phone from the air and clutched it to her chest.

“Ghost!” she said automatically, surprised.

He smiled, all crooked and rakish. Charm laid on obnoxiously thick in ways she wasn’t used to seeing directed at her. “You’ve heard of me,” he said—nearly purred.

She looked at Carrie, whose expression offered no useful information. She looked back at Ghost. He still hadn’t let her go. “Yes. Yes!” Was her voice usually that high? She felt like it wasn’t. “We haven’t met. I don’t know you. I know of you. I’m very normal.”

“Miss Davenport,” he said, still not taking his eyes off of Andi, “you never mentioned you were acquainted with such a ravishing creature.”

Andi’s face felt hot.

Carrie squinted at Ghost. She looked at Andi. She looked at Ghost again. “Seriously? Seriously.”

Andi considered Carrie’s ability to recognize secret identities to be a power honed through years of detective work. Carrie considered it ‘common fucking sense’ and ‘basic observation’.

“I have never been more serious,” Ghost said, apparently closer to Andi than Carrie on the observation spectrum. “May I have your name?”

“N—yes.” Andi held out her hand in the minimal space between them, still held mid-swoon and unsure how to escape. Her grip on her phone was white-knuckled. “Andi Bravo it is very nice to meet you for the first time ever in my life Mr. Devlin sir.”

Carrie covered her face with her hand.

“Miss Bravo,” he said, taking her hand to kiss the backs of her fingers. Her face grew hotter. He smelled like smoke, cigars and cigarettes and some kind of liquor and none of that should have been comforting but together it was. He smelled like summer nights at her grandfather’s house, cookouts full of old men and helping them cheat at card games. Cold winters with her uncle, who never married so there was no one to stop them from smoking indoors, and no one ever said that was why they liked his house best but everyone always knew.

He brought her up to stand straight and let her go, which felt anti-climactic and she didn’t know why. She was still holding her phone against her heart, and thought the force of her pulse might trigger the pedometer.

“We should get going,” Carrie said, putting her hands on Andi’s shoulders to herd her away. Andi was as responsive as a cupboard, and her shoes dragged along the pavement accordingly.

“You’re going to the same place?” Ghost asked, following along instead of taking the hint. Andi was, she realized, staring at him. His grin was cocky, a swagger in his step instead of his usual intensity of purpose. A different kind of prowl altogether.

“We’re roommates,” Carrie said with an edge to her tongue.

“Oh? But I’ve never seen you before.”

Andi looked at Carrie with alarm. “I’m shy,” she blurted, before Carrie could craft a better explanation. Carrie rolled her eyes.

“I see,” he said seriously, lending undue gravity to her declaration. “Not many dates,” he suggested. Andi shook her head mutely as Carrie tried to convey something with her eyes that wasn’t making it to her target. “No Saturday plans,” he added, and Andi shook her head again. “Around seven, say.”

Nope,” Carrie said.

Andi was completely lost.

“I wasn’t asking you, Miss Davenport,” Ghost reminded her.

“Her answer is no,” Carrie said.

“My answer to what?” Andi asked, looking between the two of them.

“You,” he said, pointing to her, “and me,” he said, pointing to his chest, “getting dinner on Saturday.”

“Oh. Oh!” Andi planted her feet completely, standing straighter. Carrie’s pushing came to an immediate halt, unable to move Andi at all when she put up resistance. “You’re asking me out?” Andi asked, stunned.

“I am,” Ghost said, rocking back on his heels and looking pleased with himself.



“Andi Bravo?” Not Coatimundi. Not Pizote.

“That is your name.”

“Right. Yes.” There was a giggle forming at the bottom of her stomach that she refused to let out. “We could do that. If you want.”

“I do want,” he said, and part of a giggle hiccuped out of her. Carrie made a sound of disgust. “Where shall I pick you up?”

“You’re not telling him where we live,” Carrie said before Andi could respond.

Andi had the foresight not to point out that he could find it if he really wanted. Reminders of his stalking abilities would do no one any good.

“We could meet at the Plaza?” Andi suggested.

“The waterfront,” he countered.

Her ears would have perked up, at that. “We can do carnival things!” she said, almost bouncing at the thought.

“We can,” he agreed. His grin seemed to curl.

“Right, that’s settled, so—” Carrie tried and failed to push Andi again.

“It’s a date,” Ghost said, and then he winked and Andi’s insides all fluttered in that giggly way she didn’t want them to. He sauntered away, really sauntered, and it took her too long to relax enough that Carrie could herd her successfully.

“I have a date,” Andi said, awestruck.

“With a supervillain,” Carrie reminded her.

“Reformed.” Andi shoved her phone in her pocket as they walked, her feed forgotten.

“Possibly reformed.”

Definitely reformed.”

“You’re the only one who seems to think so,” Carrie pointed out, “and it’s just as likely that he only behaves himself when you’re around. We don’t know what he’s up to the rest of the time.”

Andi frowned. “I thought you two were getting along.”

“Professionally, sure. That doesn’t mean I want him dating my best human friend. I’d be just as suspicious if it were Black Knight.”

“Ew.” Andi stuck out her tongue. “He’s old.”

“And Ghost isn’t?”

“Ghost is like a bajillion,” Andi said with confidence. “That’s different. It’s like vampire rules.”

“He can’t come inside unless he’s invited?”

“That’s just common courtesy. Vampire rules means that once someone’s a million years old they can’t date people their own age. Because they’re dead. They have to date people whose age they look like, instead.”

“That’s a dumb rule. High schoolers shouldn’t date the undead.”

“Okay, agreed, but I’m not a high schooler. I’m a grown adult woman.”

“Debatable,” Carrie said, deliberately tousling Andi’s hair. “And I’m not giving the guy points just for not creeping on teens. He still looks older than you, and he’s still creeping. Why did you say yes?”

It had seemed like the obvious thing to do, at the time. This was not the correct answer. “It… felt like what a normal person would do.”

“Normal people don’t agree to dates with strange men who manhandle them in parks.”

Andi turned pink. “Maybe I was curious,” she said. “What he’s like with people who aren’t Coatimundi.”


“It’s like a fact-finding mission!” Andi insisted. “Besides. It’s just Ghost. It’s not a big deal.”