Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Nine

    is anyone else seeing a pirate ship outside rn or do i need to go to the hospital
  • Black-Knight@super.heroes:
    Hey @Coatimundi there’s a guy at the harbor who wants to talk to you apparently. Kind of surprised it’s not @therealghostdevlin – how many pirates do you know?
  • Coatimundi@super.heroes:
    @Black-Knight be right there!!

“Fill me in on the boat guy,” Coatimundi said, dropping down from a nearby crane. It had been kind of a pain to get on top of the crane, but she’d felt like the drama was warranted. She was having that kind of a day.

“You know as much as I do,” Black Knight said. The screen on his faceplate displayed ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. “Couldn’t exactly learn a lot when he says he’ll only talk to you.”

Coatimundi shaded her eyes with one hand and squinted at the old-timey ship sitting in the harbor, trying to get a better look at the man standing at the front of it. The head? The… aft? She didn’t know boat terminology.

“It’s a caravel,” Black Knight added.


“The ship. I looked it up. It’s a square-rigged caravel.”

“Oh. Neat?”

“Yeah, I thought that would be useful. Don’t think it is. Still good to know.” His faceplate was back to blank. “My sensors aren’t picking up on anything dangerous from here, but I still don’t like it.”

“Think he’s a time traveler?” she asked.

“Why would a time traveler want to talk to you?”

“Because I’m cool.” She wiped her hands on her skirt, swishing her petticoats in the process. “Do we have a little raft or something? I feel like if I do a big heroic leap I’ll put a hole in his boat.”

“Caravel. Yeah, I’ll—” He cut himself off abruptly, grabbing Coatimundi with one arm to push her behind him. She immediately bypassed his protective instincts by pulling herself up by his shoulders, balancing on her hands to see what he was seeing. The man on the Caravel fell into the water. “Something got him,” Black Knight said. “There.” A robotic glove pointed to one of the cranes.

A shadow of a person holding a spyglass, outlined before the setting sun.

“Coati,” Black Knight began.

“No,” she said. “I’ll take care of this. See if you can save him, okay? Your suit does better in water than I do.” She leapt over his shoulders, bounding as much as running, heels shoving against the pavement to propel her forward with too much airtime. Her heart raced, her stomach churning.

Her target was on the ground by the time she reached him.

“What the fuck, Ghost,” she said, her hands balled into fists, her ears pinned back in her hair and her tail lashing. She thought of the figure of a man falling into the water and felt sick.

“Language,” he said.

“Don’t start with me,” she said. “Did you kill him?” Her eyes raked over him, found the empty loop at his hip. “A knife? You threw a—that’s too far to throw a knife.”

“Maybe,” he shrugged.

“You can’t just kill people,” she snapped.

“It won’t keep,” Ghost said. “I’ve killed him before. I might need to do it again. I’ll keep doing it, if I must.”

“Who is he?” she pressed, trying to get over her revulsion long enough to figure him out. “Was that the guy from our date?”

“It was,” Ghost said. “He was my neighbor.”


“He is henching for someone,” he said. He wasn’t looking directly at her. She didn’t want to look directly at him. “They seem not to like you, whoever they are.” His hand went to where his knife had been and found nothing there to grip.

“You should have told me,” she said, sicker still at the thought that he was going around killing people for her.

“It was taken care of,” he said.

“I didn’t ask you to do that,” she said, stepping closer. “I would never ask you to do that. If you told me, I could have taken care of it myself. Coatimundi can’t lose.”

“Maybe,” he said, which made her grit her teeth. “He will be back, if it makes you feel better. Or else he will never have died. I am not sure, with him.”

“Ghost,” she repeated. “No killing. I thought we agreed you weren’t going to kill anymore.”

“Did we?”

“We did,” she insisted.

He pulled out his cigarette case, took his time getting out a cigarette and lighting it. The longer he took, the more she wanted to scream. He exhaled smoke. “Must not have written it down,” he apologized.

The fur on her tail was standing straight up. “Ghost,” she snapped, with more teeth than she intended. “Don’t do this to me. I can’t—you need to promise you won’t kill.”


She hissed in frustration, and he raised an eyebrow. “You’re so—you’re full of it! All that my life is in your hands but now you won’t even—it’s not a big ask! Don’t kill people!”

He frowned, exhaling smoke through his nose. “I,” he said, “don’t make promises I cannot keep.”

“Don’t say that like you’re taking the high ground!”

“Promise me you’ll remember me tomorrow,” he snapped, and she recoiled, ears pinned back in her hair again. “Promise me you’ll wake up tomorrow in Metro City. Promise me that your parents lived, that your grandmother lived, that Black Knight lived long enough for you to be Coatimundi.” He was gesturing wildly with his cigarette. “I can ask for promises too, see? But I don’t. I will keep my promises to you, Pizote, even if you forget them. If you forget me. So I don’t make promises I can’t keep. “

She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down before she said something ill-advised. “I understand,” she said, “that your situation is complicated.”

“You don’t have to believe me,” he said.

“I didn’t say I don’t believe you, but—”

“I’m aware of what it looks like.”

“You killed a guy!” she snapped. “I just watched you kill a guy! All I want is for you to not do that! Don’t make me sound like the unreasonable one, here! There are steps you could have taken that weren’t killing a guy!”

“Maybe,” he said, and she was so annoyed she stomped on one of his toes before she could stop herself. He yelped, hopping back on one foot and cursing through his teeth.

“Stop with the maybes!” she said, feeling for all the world like milk left on the stove too long. “I’m trying to have a conversation instead of kicking your ass like anyone else would have!”

“Start a fair fucking fight, then,” he said, cigarette hanging off his lip, sounding like an underwater cowboy again.

“I am de-escalating,” she insisted.

“Horseshit,” he said. “All my playing housewife got you convinced I’d been domesticated, and now you’re pissy because your pet bastard still bites.”

“That’s not what this is,” she said.

“Ain’t it?” He stood, took the cigarette out of his mouth and held his arms wide. “Maybe it should be.”


“You want to kick my ass, let’s see you try it.” He gestured with his fingers, inviting her to come closer. “Let loose, live a little.”

“That’s—no, absolutely not,” she said.

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” he asked. “Since last time we fought?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Is this a sex thing?”

He snorted. “I mean it.” He dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his boot. “You’re a good girl, you don’t tolerate a killer. Show me that violence in you, teach an old dog a new trick. See if you can keep me down.”

“I don’t want to hurt you, Ghost,” she said. He snorted again. “I can hurt you,” she reminded him.

“So can I,” he said. “It ain’t hard.” He unsheathed the machete on his back, and she sucked in air. He hesitated. “What?”

“Sorry,” she said. “For a second I thought you were going to cut yourself to prove a point.”

“What? No.” He pointed the machete at her. “I was going to try and get that big bow off the back of your dress.”

She stiffened, fur standing on end. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I thought it’d be funny.” His sharp-toothed grin had her tail lashing behind her.

“You’re not convincing me this isn’t a sex thing,” she said, goosebumps on her arms.

“Could be,” he said, starting to step closer, lowering the machete. She stepped backward, but his legs were longer. He came close enough to slide the blade sideways behind her back, and she twirled away from him, unsure yet if he was fucking with her. “Might be that I’m a little bit frustrated,” he said, twirling along with her, the blade still nearly touching the fabric of her skirt. “Gotta work it out somehow.” He grabbed her wrist to pull her closer, but she dug her heels in and tried to pull away.

“You’re being weird,” she said.

“For me?” he asked, eyebrow raised. She felt on edge and jittery. Was this weird for him? She was forced to confront the reality that she only knew some of him. She knew that he had episodes, a hair-trigger temper that had made him the villain he’d been. But he’d always let her talk him down, before. “Knock me down, babygirl, you want to make the rules then you better enforce them.”

She hesitated. Then she stopped resisting, let him pull her closer so she could hook her leg around his knees. He let himself fall but grabbed her in the process, pulling her down with him. She took the wrist of the hand that held his machete, trying to keep it up and away from them both but letting him get the upper hand in the process. He pinned her to the concrete with a hand on her other wrist, and they paused.

“That didn’t take long,” he said, grinning again. She scowled at him, felt her face turn red.

Under other circumstances, she would have been perfectly willing to admit that the situation was actually kind of hot. But he’d just killed a guy, and also, was being an asshole about it. Which was definitely not as important as the first thing. But she really wished he weren’t being such an asshole about it.

So she rammed her forehead into his nose with a noisy crack.

He swore, letting her go and rolling away from her as she released her grip on him. “Cheap fucking shot,” he muttered, muffled.

“I will beat you up for real,” she warned him, huffing as she stood upright and tried to fix her skirt. His nose made a terrible sound as he set it, wiping blood from his mouth onto his sleeve. He stood, twirling the machete as a flourish before pouncing toward her blade-first. She yelped in surprise, dodging sideways, but when he pulled away he looked pleased with himself.

One of the ribbons fell out of her hair.

“Got one,” he said.

“You jerk,” she said, more irritated than anything as the hair over one shoulder fell loose and got in her eye.

“You’re not even trying,” he said.

“Are you?” she asked.

He pounced toward her again, but this time when she dodged she caught his hand, pulling him into a spin before tossing him aside. He skidded on his feet instead of losing his balance. He stalked closer, holding the machete backward so the flat of the blade was against his forearm. She got a running start and leapt higher than human legs would allow, high enough that she could clear him entirely; her plan was to get behind him and catch him by the throat. But he was almost as fast as she was, spun around to catch her. His machete touched her neck before she could roll backward to get away from it.

She touched her throat to assess the damage and realized he’d cut away the bow around her neck along with a few of the buttons, leaving her collar open.

“Seriously?” she demanded, and he laughed. She realized she was blushing again. She pulled the remaining ribbon out of her hair so that she could tie it all back into a ponytail.

“I’m not nice,” he reminded her.

“Is that what this is?” she asked. “Trying to drive me away, make some kind of point about how you’re a bad guy?”

He shrugged. “You’re angry with me. I’m annoyed with you. We’re working it out the old-fashioned way.”

“You know, it’s possible to be emotionally intimate with someone without beating each other up first,” she said.

“I’ll have to take your word for it.” He stalked toward her again, and this time she aimed a kick at his sternum; he blocked it with his forearm, and as her right leg fell she twisted to hit him with her left. His machete followed the shape of her skirt, but this time when she grabbed his arm she spun her whole body around to throw him over her head and slam him into the ground. It knocked the air out of him and probably broke some of his ribs—which she did feel bad about—but while he tried to breathe again she took the machete out of his hands and tossed it aside.

She could have bent it in half, but she thought he might want it later, and didn’t want to be rude.

“Stay d—OW!” Still on the ground, he grabbed her legs and pulled them out from under her, holding onto them so she couldn’t catch herself. She kicked him in the stomach so he’d let her go, putting her weight on her hands so she could rise into a crouch. He rolled onto his stomach, palms against the ground and watching her as he worked his way toward getting up. Some of his hair had fallen loose from his ponytail, and there was blood on his teeth.

It was, if she was honest, a good look on him.

“I’m not imagining that there’s, like, a weird horny energy happening here, right?” she asked breathlessly, and he laughed. “I didn’t want to say anything the first time because we’d just met, but this is definitely a thing.”

He pounced on her in earnest, and they were a tangle of confused limbs on the pavement as each tried to get the upper hand. She managed to straddle his chest long enough to punch him in the jaw, but it was hard to figure out how hard she could get away with. He rolled hard enough to slam her into the ground, grabbing her ponytail as stars swam behind her eyes.

“It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?” he said too close to her ear, and she laughed before trying to bite his face. He retreated in time, but not fast enough to keep her claws from swiping at his cheek. He hissed through his teeth, letting her hair go to try and grab her wrists. “Don’t think I won’t use this goddamn rope, I swear to—”

“Hey,” said Black Knight, and they both froze. His mask was amplifying his voice so he could stay at a distance, standing on top of a shipping container. “Not to interrupt, but should I be interrupting?”

“Hey,” Coatimundi said, turning her head to look at Black Knight and pointedly not looking at Ghost’s face. “We’re, uh. I got it.”

“Okay,” Black Knight said. “Because my mics picked up on the phrase ‘horny energy’ and now you’re on the ground. And I think I heard him say something about a rope? So.”

“Yeah,” Coatimundi said. “It’s under control.”

“I get if you guys have a whole thing going on,” Black Knight said, “but he’s about a million years old and you’re twelve.”

“It’s vampire rules,” Coatimundi insisted. “I’m twenty-six, it’s fine.”

“What? No. You’re in high school.”

“I was in high school when we met,” Coatimundi said. “That was ten years ago.”

“Jesus,” Black Knight said, looking down at his gloves. “Am I old?” he asked.

“So old,” Coatimundi said.

“What’s vampire rules?” Ghost asked.

“Okay, well,” Black Knight began. Coatimundi considered doing something about the fact that Ghost was still on top of her. “He did kill that guy. For the record. He’s dead.” Black Knight’s faceplate showed Xs for eyes. She swallowed hard. “But he was also already dead? Something about death certificates, I don’t know.”

“Ah!” Ghost sat up straighter, letting go of Coatimundi’s wrist to point at Black Knight. “I knew it!” He pointed back to Coatimundi. “You see? And now we know it’s—there’s two, in one timeline. This is the same timeline as when I killed the other one. This is useful information.”

“Wait, so you’ve murdered that guy twice now?” Black Knight asked.

“I—we’re investigating,” Coatimundi, still on the ground with Ghost practically sitting on her stomach. “We have an ongoing investigation.”

“I’ve heard that one before,” Black Knight said. “But this is very uncomfortable for me to look at, because he’s creepy and you’re a baby—”


“—so I’m gonna bounce before I start fighting him on principle. But maybe find an abandoned warehouse or something. Somewhere with privacy, you know?”

“Oh my god, Kenny.”

“That’s sexy nemesis 101. You have a safeword, right? You don’t have to tell me what it is, but—”


“All right, all right, I’m going.” He activated the thrusters in his boots, hovering briefly in the air. “I still don’t like him,” he added. Ghost gave him the finger as he flew away. She reached up to half-heartedly slap him, smearing blood across his cheek. He made a sound of irritation and tapped her cheek with the backs of his fingers.

“The moment’s gone,” Coatimundi admitted. Whatever the moment had been.

“Seems like,” Ghost said. “I can still tie you up, if you want.”

She exhaled an echo of a laugh. “Not—not this time, I think. Is this… what is this. What was that.”

Ghost shrugged. “It seemed we were about to start yelling. I thought this might be better.”

“That says more about you than the situation,” she said, watching as he dug into one of his pockets. He pulled out his phone and held it suspiciously aloft. “You’re not taking a picture.”

“I am.”

Ghost!” she shrieked, rising onto her elbows. “Why?

“You know why.”

She felt herself turn hot. Her hair was half out of her ponytail and lopsided, the top buttons of her shirt all missing. She couldn’t tell if it was sweat or blood rolling down her temple to her cheek. “That’s messed.”

“I am messy,” he agreed, tucking his phone back away. He took her chin in his hand, and she could feel a slight tremor to it, pain or adrenaline catching up to him. It made her heart hurt despite the circumstances. “Coatimundi can’t lose,” he said, “yet here you are.”

“Don’t push it,” she warned. She could keep going. She could beat him to a paste if she wanted. She didn’t want. She could feel him shaking.

“When a man makes clear, repeatedly, his intent to kill you,” Ghost said, “self defense is warranted.”

“You can’t die,” Andi reminded him.

“You could have hit me harder,” he said.

She didn’t want to. She didn’t know how many of his bones she’d broken. The slash marks she’d left across his face still bled. She didn’t know what it would do to him, having his head twisted backward or his limbs ripped off.

“There are worse things than death,” he confirmed.

“You shouldn’t kill people,” she said, sounding petulant to herself.

“For this, I will,” he said, “and you cannot stop me. I will have your hate if it keeps your life.”

“I can take care of myself,” she said, but he shook his head.

“You misunderstand me, Pizote. It isn’t for you. You survive, always. But it is this life, this girl that I want. I will accept no less than this. I would have my treasure untarnished.”

“That’s an unhealthy way to think about a person.”

“Yes.” He was still holding her chin.

“It isn’t good for you,” she said. “Killing.”

“You would save my soul the stain?” he asked. “It’s been dyed black too long to matter. Death is nothing to me. I’ve fought in three world wars.”



“There’s only been two world wars,” she said.

He let her go with a frown. “Really?” he asked. “Which two?”

“The German ones,” she said, but his expression didn’t change. “Franz Ferdinand and Hitler.”

“Huh.” He wiped blood from his cheek. “I wonder what that did to my pension.”

“I don’t think they pay that based on number of world wars fought.”

“No?” he said, aghast. “I don’t see why not.”

“Do you even still get a pension if you try to kill the president?”

“It was Reagan,” Ghost said. “That hardly counts.”

“I’m not disagreeing,” she said, “but the government has pretty strict rules about that kind of thing.”

Aha,” he said, tapping her nose with a finger. “You see? You agree. Murder is fine sometimes.

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Eight

“You have a car?” Andi asked, surprised. She didn’t know why she was surprised. Plenty of people had cars, even in the city. But she didn’t understand his driver’s license situation. How did an American-born king of a no-longer-existent foreign country go about getting a driver’s license?

“I do,” he said. It looked like he’d taken it home from World War II and kept it, all utilitarian off-road army green. There was a telescope and a folded tent in the back seat. She wanted to ask, but didn’t.

“How far is your place?” she asked, clambering into the passenger seat and setting her purse by her feet.

“A ways,” he said noncommittally.

“You’re not reassuring me,” she said. “I’m already agreeing to let you take me to a second location.”

He grinned under his sunglasses. There was something funny about seeing him in sunglasses. Too modern, somehow. He’d worn jeans and a long-sleeved henley today. “Where do you think I’m taking you?” he asked.

“Abandoned warehouse?” she suggested.

“You think I live in an abandoned warehouse?” he asked, pulling away from the sidewalk.

“I’m not saying you live there, I’m saying you’re taking me there,” she said. “I wouldn’t put that past you, though. Living in an abandoned warehouse. Full of trees, like a jungle-themed mall restaurant. Then, in the middle, a cabin.”

“I can see that,” he agreed.

Andi fidgeted with her skirt. “Carrie asked me about Doc,” she blurted.

Ghost’s grip on the steering wheel tightened, jaw a little squarer. “Ah,” he said mildly.

“I told her that Doc Colossal was an asshole and I don’t care.”

His double-take nearly took them off the road, and he had to take a moment to correct his steering. “You’re feeling yourself?” he checked.

“I feel fine,” she said. “I’m allowed to curse, when the situation calls for it. And it does. Because he was. I just—I wanted you to know that. We’ve never talked about it before.”

“We haven’t,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about… him.”

“We don’t have to,” she said. “It felt important. As a thing you should know about me.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Have you been feeling better?” she asked.

“I have,” he said.

“I’ve been really excited about this,” she admitted. “Coming over to your place. Not because—not like that. But I don’t know what to expect? Aside from a cabin in a rainforest in an abandoned warehouse.”

“I will warn you now, that’s not where I live.”

“Aw. I was getting attached to the idea.”

“I could tell.”

She glanced at the line of cars behind them in her side mirror, and then at the speedometer. “You drive like an old man,” she observed.

“Shocking,” he said, and she giggled.

“Do you know how old you are?” she wondered. “It’s okay if you don’t want to answer.”

“I don’t know,” he said.


“I think it might be close to eight-hundred,” he admitted.

She stared at him. “… really?”

“I can’t be sure,” he said. “Time stopped working, for a while.” She gnawed at her lip and contemplated the chasm between eight hundred years and twenty-six. How young did she seem? How small was the whole of her life? It was no wonder he seemed crazy. “Everything would reset,” he continued, though she hadn’t expected him to clarify. “Every twenty-four hours. Not all at once. Twenty-four hours between when you cut your hand off and when it came back.”

“Oh.” That was a specific kind of example.

“It made it hard to keep track,” he said. “I had a system. If I kept multiple journals I could copy them into each other. They reset at different times. I had shorthand. They weren’t detailed, but I tried.”

The very idea made her anxious. “You brought it with you?” she asked. “When you got out?”

“Not intact,” he said. “Some. I keep it at home.” He pulled into his driveway.

“… you have a house?” she demanded. “I thought—didn’t you say you had an apartment?”

“I have a few places,” he said, sliding out of the car.

“With royalty money?”

“Good investments,” he said.

“Like stocks? There’s a guy out there who’s Ghost Devlin’s stockbroker?”

“I have a lot of things,” Ghost said.

“Yeah, I’m getting that impression.” It was a nice house, two stories with a willow tree out front. There was a front garden that managed to imply the presence of a larger and nicer back garden. It wasn’t a Victorian, but it was old enough to have character. It seemed like the house of a man who ought to have a large dog. Everything about him suggested he ought to have a large dog. She followed him awkwardly inside, gawking all the while at his nice floors and his welcome mat and the bench he kept for shoes.

“I imagined you more rustic,” she said, and he shrugged. “Where do you take all those cursed pictures of food, if your house is this nice?”

“I have ways.”

“Please don’t tell me you keep a second, shittier house to keep up appearances.”

“I might.”

“Weren’t you a communist?”

“You don’t have to be a communist to punch McCarthy,” he said. “I was broke and then I was royalty, I don’t know what that makes me.”

“Really cool?” she suggested.

“Thank you,” he said. His house did have a rainforest vibe. Plants hanging from hooks in every window, pots on shelves and sitting in corners, special planters with built-in grow lights. “You are being very normal today?” he asked.

He was always prompting her to stop hiding her tail. Sometimes she worried it was a sex thing. She shouldn’t verbalize that.

“Do you have a thing for when I have a tail?” she verbalized.

He frowned. “I was under the impression that it was more comfortable for you,” he said.

“It is.”

“I want you to be comfortable,” he said. “I want to see you and know that you can be comfortable. With me.”

She clapped her hands together to draw them out. “Like this?” she asked.

“Don’t do it for my sake, Pizote.” he said.

“I’m doing it to be comfortable,” she said. “And also because it’s cute that you want me to be comfy.”

He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Would you like to join me in the kitchen?”

“Heck yes,” she said, feeling pleasantly domestic all over again.

“There’s something I want to show you,” he warned, leading her by the hand.

“It better not be a mug too close to the edge of the counter.”

He let out a surprised laugh. “I should have! Shit. Go back and give me a moment.”

“Absolutely not,” she said, delighted by his delight.

“It’s about the butterflies, and the slugs,” he explained.

“Do you have a theory about that?” she asked. “They definitely seem related, right? Bugs doing weird things.”

“I believe they are related,” he said. “I have theories, but nothing concrete. I am not confident of my conclusions.” He let her go, and she sat herself on a barstool at the island of his kitchen. She admired his wooden countertops and the size of his sink. He’d set out several maps, one of them smaller and hand-drawn. “I was sent that map in a message,” he explained, opening his fridge. “It was on the day of the butterflies.”

If this lacked specificity, it wasn’t the kind of vagary that worried her. “You think it’s related?”

“I have strong reason to suspect as much.”

She set the hand-drawn map of an island next to the map of the world, where a small space in the Atlantic Ocean had been circled. If there was an island there, she couldn’t see it. She moved it aside to find a topographic map of the Atlantic, where another circle marked the island’s location. The shape of it looked similar enough, to her untrained eye. Another space on the same map, too close for comfort, had been drawn on. ‘Atlantis’, he’d labeled it, in his careful handwriting like an old textbook.

“Do you think they came from this island? The slugs, and so on?”

“Do you recognize it?” he asked, chopping potatoes. Logically he couldn’t use the machete for everything, and yet somehow she’d thought he’d try.

“I don’t,” she admitted.

“Have you heard of Xenoia?”

She gnawed at her lip. “Is it one of those land-before-time islands? Where there’s dinosaurs but also big gorillas for some reason?”

“Exactly,” he said.

“Wait—okay.” She rubbed her temple. “Is this the aliens one? I remember hearing about aliens making a dinosaur island, but I assumed it was fake.”

“Real enough,” Ghost said, dropping potatoes into a bowl of water before starting in on an onion. She pulled out her phone to check the wiki. She opened up the camera first and stealthily took a picture of him cooking. She couldn’t help herself. It was too cute.

“Okay, yeah,” she said, scrolling the article. “This says alien nature preserve, from dinosaur times. Except they also experimented on the animals? So there’s weird ones. Did you ever go here?”

“Once,” he said, with a shake of his head. “I was shipwrecked there. It’s where I met Jolene.”

“Oh,” she said. “I… don’t remember that one.”

“I never wrote about it,” he shrugged. “It was personal to me, and not that interesting, I thought. Lots of giant spiders.”

“That would have been in…”

“1941,” he said. He started frying potatoes. The fact that he didn’t flinch from the popping oil definitely counted as a superpower. “I also did not think anyone would be interested in my excuses for showing up late to the war,” he admitted.

“That’s fair,” she said. “You didn’t know about Atlantis until later, though?”

“It seemed plausible to me that she could have ended up there from Europe,” he said. “I had ended up there, after all. But I did not ask many questions. We were busy with the spiders, and the bees.”

“Giant bees?”

“Robot bees.”


“Part of the security,” he said. “Perhaps they were meant to resemble whatever beings created the island—but to me, at the time, they looked like bees.”

Andi looked over the series of maps again. “Someone is sending weird bugs from Xenoia, then,” she said.

“It seems that way,” he said. “Or they only want me to think so. It’s difficult to say.”

“Who knows that you were on Xenoia?” she asked.

“Someone stole my journal from that time,” he said. “But that would have been after the slugs had already been released in Midton, and so it may have been a poorly-timed feint.”

“This is really weird,” Andi fretted, as Ghost drained away oil and used what remained to start cooking onions. The whole kitchen smelled divine.

“Is it vanity to assume this relates to me, somehow?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “Especially not if someone sent you this map. This makes it seem like someone’s trying to get your attention.”

“That was what I thought,” he said, “but I cannot imagine who.” He dropped a steak into the skillet, and it started to sizzle and smoke. “Who knows I was there, except my wife?” he asked quietly. She shrank in on herself. “And the bees, I suppose.”

He turned on the fan above the stove, and Andi didn’t bother trying to say anything that would need to be yelled to be heard.

The problem with getting swallowed up into some kind of space-time anomaly is that it didn’t exactly leave a body. Just an emptiness where once there was a person, was a country. How was a person supposed to get closure? Especially when coming back was so common? It was almost a meme now, that you couldn’t be sure unless you saw the body. Black Knight had been presumed dead twice. Skulltina had been presumed dead twenty years before she reappeared. Doc Colossal’s wife—what was her name?—had ‘died’ so many times it was almost a joke.

What if she was alive? His wife, out there somewhere, trying to get Ghost’s attention while he made Andi dinner. She rested her chin in her hands, covered her mouth with curled fingers. That would be wonderful if he didn’t have to mourn. He loved his wife. They’d been together for seven hundred years, by the end. How could Andi ever want anything but for the two of them to be reunited?

She watched him fry eggs with a sense of defeat unfamiliar to her.

“Do you think it’s her?” she asked quietly when he’d finally turned off the fan and started plating their food. Steak topped with onions topped with eggs, and a side of homemade fries. It was deeply unhealthy and she could already tell she’d wish for seconds and not ask for them. She told herself her heart was hurting in anticipation of all that cholesterol. That was a thing, right?

“It would make no sense,” he said, tipping his head to suggest she follow him into the next room. “It isn’t her style, these roundabout ways. She was always direct in her demands. If she were alive, she would have announced herself unmistakably. I’m sure of it.”

She reminded herself that this was a disappointment because she wanted him to be happy and have his wife back.

His dining room table was small, and he hadn’t bothered with anything like candles. There were four chairs, and he’d set Jesús the dinosaur into one of the extras. She snorted when she saw it, and he grinned at her.

“I am told it is important to eat meals together, as a family,” he said, setting out her plate.

“Very important,” she said, sitting down.

“What would you like to drink?”

“Water is fine,” she said, watching him disappear back into the kitchen. She prodded the yolk of her egg to make it run before it solidified in the heat of the steak beneath it. He set a glass in front of her before finally sitting down across from her. “It would be a good thing, right?” she asked, poking at the threat of an open wound. “If it were her.”

“I would be happy beyond compare,” he said, so she shoved a fry into her mouth. “I won’t get my hopes up.” He frowned at his glass of wine. “I… worry that it might be Tilzer.”

“… is that a person?”

“One of our husbands,” he said, and Andi choked on a bite of steak. Which was unfortunate, because it was delicious. “Of all of them, I have most often wondered if he was the one to blame for our downfall. His machinations were many, and subtle.”

“Roll back,” Andi said, swallowing. “Husbands, go back to husbands.”

“Ah.” Ghost sliced at his steak. “No, you wouldn’t know, would you.”

“I would not.”

“Seahorses,” he said.

“… seahorses.”

“Atlanteans are not—were not—human. They carried their young as seahorses do. Not exactly the same, but close enough.”

Andi squinted at him. “… the men… carry the babies?” she ventured. He nodded. “You. You were the king of mpreg country.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Don’t look it up.”

“You know that I will.”

“I guess it won’t be anything you haven’t seen before,” she said, sipping at her water.

“It was tradition for the Queen of Atlantis to take a King with whom to rule, and many consorts beside him.” He twirled the stem of his wine glass between his fingers. “She knew that I was not familiar with the ways of Atlantis. In deference to me, she took only husbands who would be my consorts, also.”

She jammed bites of steak in her mouth so she wouldn’t be tempted to say anything. If she focused on her food, he might not notice that she was having an absolute crisis at the moment.

Had there been orgies? This was Ghost. Of course there’d been orgies. Drug orgies, probably. With pregnant men. For seven hundred years. She was reconsidering the part where she tried to convince him that she was a woman of the world. She’d never even been to a sober orgy. She’d just assumed it would never come up, like a fool.

“Is this a problem?” Ghost asked softly. She realized he was watching her. His expression was… worried.

“That’s not—no,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m not about to… slutshame you?” That didn’t sound as reassuring as it had felt. His fork bounced in his hand, fidgety.

“It doesn’t bother you,” he pressed. “That I was with men.”

“What!” She dropped her fork. “Oh, my god, no. That’s—no. That’s fine. I’m cool with—oh my god.” She pointed at herself. “I’m totally bisexual. I sort of assume everyone is until they correct me, which is kind of problematic actually, but, I mean. I’m cool with it. That’s not—I’m sorry. Are you—were you coming out to me? Was that a big trust thing you did, and I totally dropped the ball because I didn’t realize? Oh my god, I’m the worst.”

The worry had left him, replaced by that easy smile as he watched her flounder. “I forgot,” he admitted. “Until I said it. I was in Atlantis for a very long time.”


“It was… strange. When I came back. I had forgotten many things about America. Being American.”

“Going from Atlantis and your royal husbands to the 80s is kind of a worst-case scenario,” Andi sympathized.

“Even when I managed to find my old things—my journals—things had changed. Not only with time, but time had changed. People and places missing. No more hippos.”

“It’s really impressive,” she said, “that you’re doing as well as you are.”

“I’m not,” he said. “I fake it well.”

“I think it counts,” she said.

“Did you hit it yet?” David asked from the futon, still looking at his phone.

Andi slammed the door behind her. “We’re taking it slow,” she snapped.

David looked up. “You are, or he is?”

“It’s fine,” she said, careful not to slam her bedroom door.

Say the word, he said, but that was before she’d known about the orgies. How was she supposed to compete with orgies? She had superpowers, sure, but she also still had a gag reflex. This was going to be a disaster.

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Seven

Ghost Devlin was sitting in her apartment, and she had no idea how he got there. She had to assume he’d broken in through the balcony. He was sitting on the futon in the living room, his knee bouncing, with a thousand-yard stare in front of him. The television was off.

“Ghost?” she asked, setting down her purse.

“Andi,” he said. She couldn’t place his tone of voice. It made her nervous. “When did you last see me?” he asked.

“Three days ago?” she said nervously. “We went hiking?” Considering their previous conversations, the question worried her. She didn’t know what she’d do if he remembered something different, if her memories weren’t his. Could a changed timeline give her memories of him when he hadn’t been there?

He rubbed his hands over his face and then kept them there, obscuring his expression. This was not reassuring.

“Is that right?” she asked. “Is that what you remember?”

“Yes,” he said, muffled. “I remember.”

“Is everything okay?” she asked, coming closer to him. He seemed upset.

“Everything is good,” he said, rubbing at the bridge of his nose with both hands. “Will you sit with me, please?”

She perched herself at the edge of the futon. He finally took his hands away from his face and looked at her. His eyes looked red and watering, but he took her face in his hands. They weren’t as rough as she remembered.

“Look at you,” he said, almost awestruck.

“It’s me,” she agreed, not sure what he wanted her to say. He pulled her into his arms, so gently it seemed like she might break. His chin rested on her shoulder.

“It’s so good to see you,” he said. ” Pizote.”

She tried to relax into him, but she was worried. “Did something happen?” It seemed like something had happened.

“No,” he said, implausibly.

“Did something… not happen?” she tried instead.

“Don’t ask me that,” he said.

“Okay.” She rubbed his back. “That’s okay. We’re good now. Right?”

“Yes.” He buried his face in her hair and took a deep breath. “It’s so good to see you,” he said again.

“Did you want to go out?” she ventured. “We could go somewhere.”

“I.” He swallowed. “Shouldn’t impose,” he finished. He was still wrapped around her.

“Tell me what you need,” she said.

“I’d like to stay here,” he admitted. “I want to be with you, for a while.”

“Okay,” she said. That might get awkward once Carrie got home. And if anyone else came over. “Is it okay if we sit in my room?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, not moving. She had to coax him in the right direction as she stood, walking with him latched onto her like a starfish. He eventually let her go long enough to stand listlessly in the middle of her bedroom, watching her the entire time. His hair looked longer than she remembered.

“You seem a little traumatized,” she ventured.

“Usually,” he agreed.

She held his hands. “Do you… wanna cuddle?”

He pressed his forehead to hers, nearly a headbutt. ” Yes,” he said, with more vehemence than a theoretical cuddle had ever demanded.

“No boots in my bed,” she warned, kicking off her shoes.

“Yes’m,” he said, sinking into the comforter at the corner. She sat on the other side of it and watched him unlace his boots. It felt more domestic than evocative. Something had happened to sap away the intensity that usually suffused his every action. He just seemed… tired.

He reached for her as soon as his boots were off, and they began the clumsy process of figuring out how to lie in bed together comfortably. Figuring out what to do with her arms was a whole thing.

In the end, they went for a traditional spoon configuration. Cuddling wasn’t the time to try to get creative. He wrapped his arms tight around her waist, and she rested her hands over his.

“This good?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said against her hair.

Ghost went back to his old apartment, his current apartment, his whatever-it-was. It was all as he’d left it, peeling paint and butterflies pinned to the wall. He’d spent a lot of time thinking about those butterflies. About that map. He’d even figured out where it was, though he hadn’t been able to do anything about it. Couldn’t change too much, couldn’t break time. Not when it meant doing it all over again. He’d needed it done right the first time.

As far as this apartment was concerned, he’d been here three days ago. All his plants still alive and thriving. All his journals on the shelves. Except the one, the missing one, the one that had been stolen the first time he killed Mr. Paul.

The rotund dinosaur sat in his hammock, same as he remembered it. He’d forgotten about the hammock. A bed would take up too much space, he’d thought.

A past self, the same self, not long ago, a lifetime ago.

He’d tried to take up more hobbies in the last fifteen years. The alternative was obsessing. That wouldn’t be fair to her, obsessing too much. He’d definitely obsessed. There was no avoiding that. But he liked to think he’d struck a balance.

He could never tell her. He’d decided that a long time ago. It would feel like too much. Like he’d given her fifteen years. He didn’t think he could explain that in the grand scheme of his life, fifteen years was nothing. How many hundreds of years had he spent in the library of the royal castle in Atlantis, after time stopped working? He couldn’t say. Fifteen years was nothing. If he could explain, it would make her feel small.

Another thing to swallow until it stopped making him sick. This was nothing. It barely bled.

He would pack up his things, and move in with himself. He would settle back in to who he was and who he’d been.

He had a place that he could actually invite people to, now. That was something.

“So,” Carrie said, stirring honey into her tea. “Ghost.”

“Ghost,” Andi agreed, stirring her macaroni.

“You slept with him.”

“We slept,” Andi corrected. “Literally. We cuddled and ended up taking a nap.”

“That’s kind of worse,” Carrie said.

“Kind of,” Andi agreed.

“You’re serious about this?” Carrie pressed. “Ghost Devlin. That’s who you’re going with. You’re dating the Devil.”

“No one ever really called him that,” Andi said, focusing on watching cheese melt. “I know you don’t like it, you’ve made that clear.”

“I want to understand, that’s all,” Carrie said. “I worry about you, you know that.”

“I know.”

“Is it a sex thing? A sexy supervillain thing I don’t get?”

“You’re too focused on the supervillain idea,” Andi said. “Even if he weren’t reformed, he was barely even a supervillain in the first place.”

He killed Doc Colossal,” Carrie said, louder than felt warranted. “You know everyone’s not bringing it up to be polite, right? That’s a big deal, and you’ve been ignoring it for years now.”

Andi shut the burner off. “Doc Colossal was a Nazi,” she said.


Definitely,” Andi said, trying not to lose her temper with her best friend. “He admitted it. He was a Nazi.”

“Everyone knows there were extenuating circumstances,” Carrie said. “He was probably being mind-controlled. We never found out, because Ghost killed him first.”

“Why is everyone so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt?” Andi snapped. Carrie blinked in surprise. Andi never snapped at her. “People have been saying that for years now, but no one’s ever proved it. Who was mind-controlling him? What evil plan was it a part of? Nothing’s ever come out about it. I understand why his wife defends him, but I don’t understand why everyone else is so insistent that he had some good reason to be a Nazi.”

“Obviously we don’t mean it like that,” Carrie began.

“You kind of do, though,” Andi said. “Ghost is—most people don’t even know Ghost. It’s like everyone forgets that he used to be a hero. He was a hero! Until he fought Doc. Now that’s all anyone remembers, that he’s a supervillain, because he was always trying to kill Doc. But Doc was a Nazi.”

“He didn’t used to be,” Carrie said. “We know he wasn’t. And it wouldn’t be the first time he was mind-controlled.”

“Yeah, and that’s really convenient for him, that every time he did something terrible it turned out it was aliens, or brain-slugs, or hypnosis, or a clone from an alternate reality. Didn’t you ever think it was weird, that it seemed to happen to him so often? That he was always making doomsday machines, or starting interdimensional wars, or creating weird quasi-governmental police agencies that turned out to be evil? Black Knight never did that. But for some reason with Doc Colossal everyone accepted that it was a thing that happened, all the time, somehow.”

Carrie set her mug down. “Did you not like Doc?”

Andi leaned back against the counter. “Let’s not make this a whole thing.”

“It feels like a thing,” Carrie said. “Doc Colossal was the hero.”

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me!” Andi said. “I honestly—I didn’t care about Doc Colossal. I just didn’t.”

“Not once you were older.”

“Never! Especially not when I was a kid. And I never talk about it because it seems like sacrilege for some reason, but I did not get the whole thing with Doc Colossal. If we were talking mainstream heroes, I always thought Black Knight should have been the more popular one. I’m not saying that because he was my first team-up, he was my first team-up because I thought he was the cooler one. Doc Colossal was just… some white guy.”

“I guess,” Carrie said dubiously.

“I don’t mean it’s not cool to like him, lots of people like him, obviously. You probably had the lunchbox.”

“Everyone had the lunchbox.”

“I didn’t have the lunchbox! I didn’t have any Doc Colossal anything. I didn’t care about him, and the one time I met him, he didn’t care about me. Which is fine! It was mutual. I didn’t… you know? I didn’t like him. He was a rich guy who made a big deal about how much smarter he was than everyone else, and I didn’t like him! I don’t care if he was actually a genius, and he saved the world. There are a lot of geniuses, and a lot of people who save the world, and most of them never make a doomsday device even once. I grew up reading stories about Ghost Devlin going on adventures and doing good, and hearing news about how Doc Colossal nearly killed us all again, and I’m sick of feeling like I’m the weird one for thinking Ghost deserves a chance. I’m sick of people acting like Ghost killing a Nazi was some kind of fluke! He does that! He literally fought in the second World War! If it weren’t for Doc Colossal, I think people would like Ghost fine.”

“You’ve been holding this in for a while,” Carrie said.

“I guess?” Andi said. She didn’t know where all that had come from, hadn’t realized it was sitting inside her somewhere.

“Black Knight is also a rich guy who makes a big deal about how much smarter he is than everyone else,” Carrie pointed out.

“When he does it it’s charming,” Andi said, well aware of her own hypocrisy.

Carrie took a sip of her tea. “You could have told me I was being a bitch, before.”

“You weren’t—you were being a bitch,” Andi conceded. “But I like that about you. You were raising reasonable concerns. I like Ghost, and I think he’s a fundamentally good person, but I also recognize that he’s not entirely stable.”

“I kind of thought he was the ‘some white guy’ one,” Carrie admitted. “What with the whole. You know. Exploring the Amazon, thing.”

“I don’t know,” Andi said. “It’s hard to explain. The stories got collected into books and the books added a bunch of weird stuff with, like, native women. Trying to make him seem cool? But I read the magazine ones and in those he mostly got dunked on. That was the whole thing. They didn’t all age well but language didn’t age well in general I think. It’s like, if you read them and pretend they’re modern they’re offensive, but if you remember they’re old then they’re cool. If that makes sense. I don’t know if that makes sense.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” Carrie said. Andi wasn’t sure she believed her but appreciated that she was willing to pretend. Andi was well aware that she was making excuses, self-justifying as much as anything.

“Right,” Andi said. “It would have been different if he’d… I don’t know. Given me shit about my Spanish. Or if he’d done that thing, putting his arm up to mine and teasing me about how he’s darker.”

“Who does that?”

“A lot of people,” Andi said. She finally got a bowl for her macaroni. “You’d like him, if you got to know him better.”

“I do like him,” Carrie insisted. “I didn’t like him for you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him. He’s saved my life at least three times. Now that I know you’re serious about him, I’ll keep an open mind and be less bitchy about it. Okay?”

“I appreciate it,” Andi said, hunting for a clean fork. “You don’t have to be nice, just chill with the supervillain talk. You know?”

“I get it,” Carrie said. “I don’t think you’re going to get many people on board with your ‘Doc Colossus, Science Wizard, was a supervillain the whole time’ theory.”

“That’s why I don’t bring it up,” Andi muttered, taking a bite of cheesy pasta. There was too much cheese, which was almost enough cheese. “You know,” she said, “one of the first things Ghost did when he got out of the space-time whatever was try to kill Reagan.” She’d never asked him about it because it hadn’t ended well for him, but she was under the impression it had something to do with drug policy.

“You should have led with that,” Carrie said. “Ugh, wait, that means Doc saved Reagan. Okay, I lied, I’m provisionally on board with your crackpot theories.”

“See?” Andi said with a triumphant poke of her fork. “That’s what I’ve been saying! I should start leading with that.”

“Are you going to make it official?” Carrie asked. “Coatimundi and Ghost, a couple?”

“I’m not going to announce it or anything,” she said. “We’ll see if it comes up. I don’t know. Ghost doesn’t usually show at team-ups unless I specifically invite him, so it might not even be an issue.”

“Don’t say that,” Carrie said. “If you say that, then a week from now Helen of Troy is going to be trying to cut his head off, and you’re going to think back to this conversation and be mad about it.”

“Irony isn’t actually a law,” Andi said. “Unless Ironicarl is back, in which case we have bigger things to worry about than my love life.”

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Six

Andi was practically singing on the way home from work. There’d been a break in the case—her break—and she was riding the high of success. Carrie had stayed behind to follow up on a few loose ends, but she was pretty sure they had their man.

It wouldn’t be right to say that private investigation was fun, with all the horrors it entailed, but something about it suited her. Some small thing that she could do to feel less powerless. Later she’d drag Carrie with her to the bar for company, and see if she could get lucky twice in one day. Weirder things had happened.

She froze as soon as she’d entered their apartment and closed the door behind her, aware of a presence that didn’t belong. She reached into her purse, but she hadn’t brought her gun. She’d been trying not to keep it on her since that night at the docks the month before.

The sensible thing to do would have been to back out and close the door, instead of taking curious steps forward. She realized this and prepared to retreat. Before she even could, a man came out of her kitchen. She froze.

“Knight’s Tower is missing,” he said, in an accent she didn’t recognize. “I knew this was going to happen, I didn’t think it would be this, but—I don’t even know if you remember.”

She realized that she recognized him, from posters and television and book covers. Andi’s heart beat against her ribs. “Why are you in my apartment?” she demanded.

Ghost Devlin, the Ghost Devlin, in the too-much-flesh, stepped closer. “You don’t remember.” It wasn’t a question. His hair was falling half in front of his face, his eyes wild.

“What am I supposed to remember?” She wanted to keep him talking, try to talk him down. She knew he was supposed to have had a psychotic break at some point, his grip on reality tenuous at best. He had powers, there wasn’t anything she could do in the face of someone with powers except try to talk her way out of it. He was looking her over, her jeans and her boots and her leather jacket.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked, his enunciation careful.

“You’re Ghost Devlin,” she said, “the Last King of Atlantis.” A glimmer of hope passed over his face. “I’ve read some of the books.” His jaw tightened, expression shattering into a worrying nothing.

“Okay,” he said. He took a deep breath, fists clenching and releasing. She took a step back. He looked like a man on the edge, and she didn’t want to be anywhere near it with him. “This will be a strange question, and I need you to answer me honestly, P—please.” His voice broke, but he rallied. “Your thirteenth birthday. What happened on your thirteenth birthday?”

The question felt personal and that made her feel a little sick. “Nothing?” she said, helpless. He listened more carefully than a single word required.

“Your parents?” he asked.

“Dead,” she said, unable to hide that the question upset her, hands balling into fists. It always upset her, but especially now, asked by him and like this. Like it was his business.

Shit.” He dragged his fingers through his hair, pressed his palms to the side of his head and dropped to a crouch with his head between his knees. “Oh, no. No no no.”

He looked like he was having an episode. She didn’t know of what. She only knew that it scared her, the fear of a man acting irrational and unstable. The fear she’d feel even if he weren’t a literal supervillain. “Do you need help?” she asked. She felt like she ought to do something, even if she were being menaced. People didn’t stop needing help just because they terrified her. She leaned a little closer, started to reach out but thought better of it.

“I can fix this,” he said, standing abruptly. She recoiled as he all at once took up all the space in the room. “I’ll fix this.”

“I don’t know what you’re—” He grabbed her wrist faster than she could react, and sheer instinct made her try to pull away.

“How did it happen?” he demanded. She felt hot and cold all over, his fingers digging into her skin. “When? I’m sorry, I really am, but I need you to tell me.”

“Fuck you,” she snapped before she could think better of it. He looked surprised.


Fuck you,” she said with venom, trying to claw his hand from hers with nails all bitten to the quick.

“I’m not complaining,” he said, remarkably conversational for the situation. “I’m not used to it. You’ve never been the type.”

“You don’t know me,” she said, trying to stomp at his leg. It had no apparent effect on him.

“Miss Bravo,” he said, slowly as if with great patience. “I’m sure I could look it up. What happened to your parents?”

She was tearing up, and she rubbed irritably at her eyes with the palm of her free hand. “Someone broke into our house and killed them while I was at school,” she said. “Some serial killer or something. We never—they never caught him.”


“I was eleven,” she spat.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and she almost believed him. “You are friends with Miss Davenport?” he asked.

She stiffened. “Leave her out of it,” she said. “I don’t know what you want, but leave her out of it.”

He held up a staying hand. “Okay. That’s fine. Just checking. Chronofist, you’re friends with Chronofist?”

She frowned. “The superhero?” Of all the heroes to have brought up, that was a random one. She’d never heard anything about Ghost Devlin fighting with Chronofist. They had a much weirder stable of villains, as a rule.

“Shit,” he said again. “No, this is fine. You know of Chronofist. That’s something.”

“I don’t know Chronofist,” she stressed. “If you want to fight Chronofist, there’s no reason to involve me. I’m a private investigator, I don’t do hero stuff.”

His hold on her loosened, and she dared to hope.

The front door opened, and Carrie froze when she saw them.

“Hello,” Ghost said.

Carrie started fumbling through her bag for her gun.

“Shit,” Ghost said, grabbing Andi by the waist and throwing her over his shoulder. She yelped in protest before all the air was knocked out of her. “Sorry,” he said, before running to the balcony, sliding the door open, and leaping down to the street.

“Put me down,” she shouted, hitting her fist against his spine.


“I don’t get involved with hero stuff!” She was breathless as she watched the ground beneath them move, jamming her eyes shut before she could get motion sick. The bouncing of her stomach against his shoulder didn’t help, his arm around her legs and holding on to one of her thighs. “I’m not going to be any use as a hostage.”

“Maybe I like the pleasure of your company,” he suggested.

Why?” That was the thing she didn’t understand, the why of it. It felt completely random. She’d have understood if they’d been investigating him, if he’d been a suspect, if she’d done anything at all that involved him.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said, which didn’t surprise her. She opened her eyes, glimpsed how far they’d gotten from the ground, and jammed her eyes shut again. “If this works, you never will.”

“What could killing me possibly accomplish?” she asked. She didn’t want to be pleading, but she was. Everything about this was bad, but the worst part was how senseless it all felt.

He set her down, and her legs almost gave out as she took in the rooftop on which they stood. Wind was whipping at her jacket. Her heart stopped with the certainty that his hands were about to wrap around her throat to choke her, but he held her face instead, green eyes bright with what could only be madness. “You will not die while I live,” he said, solemn.

“Bullshit,” she said, pulling away enough that she could rub at her eyes again.

“You don’t have to believe me.” He pulled out his phone, and she was tempted to slap it out of his hand. He was so casual about it, taking her hostage and then getting his phone out to text. This was just another day for him, she was sure. A day job as boring as any other.

“Can you at least try to explain this to me?” she asked. “All I want to know is why I’m here.” He ignored her, still on his phone. She swallowed. “I’m scared,” she tried, and it was true. At that, he looked up and put his phone away. He grabbed her hands and started kissing her knuckles. She shivered and didn’t know what she was feeling.

“So am I,” he said. It hardened her certainty that he was having some kind of episode. “Chronofist will be here to save you soon,” he said.

“You don’t have to do this,” she tried.

“I really do,” he said.

“I’m not anyone.”

“You’re a normal girl,” he agreed hoarsely. “Extremely normal.” He squeezed her hands, and the intimacy felt wrong. He was looking at her like she knew something she didn’t, something she didn’t want to know. He pulled her close, and she went rigid as he spun her around to hold her back against his chest, grabbing her neck. She pulled at his hand.

Chronofist was wearing what might have once been a leather motorcycle riding suit, which was now covered in too many buckles. Instead of a mask, they wore a reflective chrome band over their eyes.

“This is super weird,” Chronofist said, which felt anticlimactic. They spread their hands in confusion. “I don’t know either of you people.”

“You want to save her?” Ghost asked, his voice booming in Andi’s ear.

“On principle, sure,” Chronofist said.

“How much control do you have?” he asked. “If I need a specific time, can you do that?”

“Give or take a couple months,” Chronofist said with a shrug. “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not gonna work. The timeline’s got an equilibrium, or I’d have punched someone back to kill Hitler by now.”

“I’m counting on it. Left fist to go back, yes?”

Chronofist flicked their left hand with their right, and flickered out of existence for a second. “That’s the idea.”

Ghost splayed his fingers out over Andi’s neck, tilted her head back and brushed his lips against her ear. “Give me the date.”


“You were eleven, that’s a year. I need a month.”

She still didn’t understand what was happening. She only knew that she was upset, that she felt sick and she hated everything about this. “September,” she said, angry with herself for the tears running down her face. “The first day of school.”

“I’ll fix it,” he said, and she was shaking with fury and confusion. How dare he. What gave him the right?

“Fuck off,” she croaked, and her whole body shuddered when he pressed a kiss to her temple.

“You heard her,” he called. “Fifteen years ago, let’s err on the side of early. I let her go, and you send me back.”

“Why should I?” they asked.

“Because you want to see what will happen,” Ghost said, sounding almost amused. “Because I cannot die, and if you miss, I can wait as long as it takes to come back.”

“Fair points,” they shrugged.

“I’ll see you again,” he murmured, and then he all but tossed Andi aside, onto the roof and out of the way.

She watched as Chronofist got a running start, left fist cocked.

Ghost had already known where Andi’s parents lived, in the suburbs outside Midton. He’d looked it up as a precaution. Didn’t want to risk accidentally running into her parents. It seemed like something he might do. He’d written it down, along with other notes he’d taken about her.

Social media changed as much as anything else. His journals didn’t. Writing down details about important people kept him from losing them. It was a rational series of decisions that had led to keeping a journal filled with things like her addresses and birthday and hobbies, the way she got her powers and her grandmother’s maiden name. Sketches of her face and the way her nose crinkled when she was irritated.

This whole situation proved he’d been justified. He was sitting in an old oak tree because most people didn’t notice someone sitting in a tree. That was a mistake. He was proving it by sitting here, chain-smoking cigarettes and staring intently at the Bravo family home.

He’d been waiting weeks for this day, living the way he had in the old days, odd jobs and small robberies. It was fine. As far as anyone here knew, he was still doing time for the Reagan debacle. He felt unpleasantly sober. He’d had a headache for two weeks before time changed, and there’d only been a brief window before a new headache had returned. This one, at least, signified nothing but his body’s rebellion at a loss of self-medication. It felt like years of stifled pain returning all at once, like it had been hiding under the surface this entire time. His only comfort was that it wasn’t too far in the past, and he’d figure out a way to score sooner than later.

It was a suburb. Someone around here had some oxy, at the very least. He was old, not stupid.

It was a relief to see someone he recognized. Someone who didn’t belong.

Ghost dropped out of his tree, and stalked toward his target. He held out his hands in the universal sign for ‘what the fuck’.

“Really, Mr. Paul?” he called.

The man in question froze.

“I felt bad for you, Mr. Paul,” he said, pulling a knife off his belt. “I felt guilty about killing you! Did you know that?” He threw it in time to catch the man’s hand, eliciting a scream as he dropped his gun.

“I liked you!” Ghost added, still moving closer as the other man backed away. He kicked the gun away as he unsheathed his machete. “I thought you were a good neighbor.” He slashed toward his stomach, but the erstwhile assassin managed to dodge it, bolting sideways to start running. Ghost started to run after him, machete still in hand. His focus was singular, leaping after him over fences and through backyards.

Mr. Paul seemed to realize that he wouldn’t win in a test of agility. He started running through a cul-de-sac, an empty stretch of road. He didn’t win a test of speed, either. Ghost might have been a loser, but these weren’t the things he lost. He kept his head; Mr. Paul didn’t. Adrenaline and super-strength and a sharp almost-sword all conspired to slice straight through the man’s neck, barely hesitating at the spine.

Ghost caught the head, and threw it at the ground in a fit of pique. It didn’t make him feel better when he kicked it, either. He kicked the headless body in the ribs and broke a few of them. He yanked the knife out of the corpse’s hand.

He was going to need to clean this up.

He circled back to the Bravo house first. He couldn’t bring himself to put the machete away. He might need it. Walking through a suburb with a bloody machete was going to get attention. Maybe that was better. Cops around on high alert, no faux serial killers lurking to change the timeline again. Ghost would be able to get away. They wouldn’t even be able to prove it was him. He had the airtight alibi of being in prison.

Crouching in the grass, he looked in the kitchen window. Andi’s father was cooking something; nothing amiss there. He crept around and peered in another window, found Andi’s mother in an office typing on an old computer. A new computer. Whatever.

The next room had posters of musicians and superheroes on the wall. Ghost sheathed his machete. He wiped the blood off the knife against his thigh, then used it to lever the screen out of the window. He jimmied the latch, and it clicked open without incident. Carefully, he pulled himself inside.

He was scouting. Making sure no one was lurking under her bed, was all.

There was nothing under her bed but shoes. Her desk was covered in homework. There was a Chilean rose tarantula in a terrarium on her desk. It made him smile. She’d never mentioned it. Why would she? It was cute. A little girl with a pet spider. Of course she was.

He checked her bookshelf. It was mostly Japanese comics and books with dragons on the cover. He opened a shoebox and found a copy of 100% True Tales of Terror. The version of him on the cover had shorter hair and no earrings. It only barely resembled him, with a dimple in his chin and perfect teeth.

He reached into the saddlebag strapped to his thigh and found a pen. He opened to his story, near the middle of the issue, and held the pen cap in his teeth as he signed it.

Stupid. An absolute, grade-A moron.

He felt lighter as he slipped back out the window, shut it, and put back the screen. He was almost whistling as he retrieved Mr. Paul’s head, and started dragging his body into the decorative woods surrounding a culvert near the houses.

… fifteen years. He had to relive fifteen years. What could he even do, without threatening the future he’d known? People would die, and he would see it coming. What could he do? Who could he save? What were his obligations, being here and wanting someday to go home?

How did a person go about investing when they were supposed to be in prison?

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Five

The butterflies were a problem.

Ghost was sitting on the floor of his apartment. He was surrounded by killing jars. He was pinning butterflies to his wall to study them. He needed to see a lot of them at once. This was temporary. He only wanted to get a good look at them. It was a reasonable decision to make. He wasn’t using his wall for anything else. Might as well be temporary butterfly storage. It was a logical series of steps that led to a floor covered in jars and a wall covered in pinned butterflies. His head was pounding hard enough to hammer his eyes out of their sockets.

He’d filled a sketchbook with diagrams, all different angles and cross-sections, pulling them apart to commit them to paper. All different butterflies. They looked almost the same. Almost identical. All males, the same shape to their wings and size to their bodies. Butterflies traced over each other.

The difference was in the patterns, lines of thin black on red wings. He thought it was interesting. He’d started out trying to record the patterns. They were unusually distinct. Some were plain red, no black at all. Some had duplicates, and those duplicates were identical in every way. But there wasn’t any sense to it. He couldn’t identify camouflage in a stark black line drawn straight across a butterfly’s wings.

This one. He’d found this one. This butterfly. It was a problem. He’d stared, and left it, and stared again. He’d drawn it. He’d tried taking a picture, because sometimes that helped when he saw things that weren’t right. A handy thing about always having a camera in his pocket, now. Helped him figure out what was in his head. His brain couldn’t fool him that way, hadn’t found a way to transpose phantoms onto a flat screen or a photograph. It tried, but he could tell.

This butterfly had a compass rose on its wing.

The problem was that this butterfly put the others into a new context. He looked at stark lines, and he saw borders. He was sorting them now into different jars, drawing out the patterns on them and taping the patterns to the glass to help him sort. He needed to know how many there were. He couldn’t put them together until he knew how many pieces they were.

It was hours later when he finished. He still hadn’t slept. He had pill bottles of homemade capsules filled with powders. He didn’t remember what was in them. He’d written it down, somewhere. They worked, was the important part. He was awake, and there were at least fifty pieces to this puzzle made of insects.

He’d cleared his wall, and was pinning butterflies anew, starting with the compass rose in the bottom left. He didn’t know what the final picture was supposed to look like. How many blank butterflies were duplicates, and how much of this map was only empty?

If it was a map. He didn’t know if it was a map. He felt sure it was a map. He’d drawn so many maps. He was intimately familiar with the iconography of a hand-drawn map. A message in a bottle, a message in a killing jar.

He had a breakthrough when he found a long and continuous line. A coast. He followed the line through butterfly wings, hunting through to find the next that matched the last. He had to move the butterfly with the compass rose. There was more coast than he’d expected, the line kept going. Eventually, he realized it was a ring. He felt a grim satisfaction pinning down the last butterfly, closing the loop.

An irregular circle, a cove to the north. An island. Did he know this island? Did he know this map? Was his certainty born of familiarity? He didn’t know. He forgot too much. He tried to remember so much. All he had was the outlines. There was no clear sign of how anything was supposed to fit inside.

He sat down, opened his journal to an empty page, and started drawing the incomplete map. It might help to see it on paper. Jog things loose. He lit up a cigarette, cross-legged on the floor. He didn’t know what he’d do with the map once he had it. If he had it.

Couldn’t follow it. If this was a message, it said ‘trap’. Couldn’t just leave it. Someone was out there printing maps onto bugs. That had to be a red flag for something.

He thought of Coatimundi, Andi Bravo and the blood under her nails. He pushed the thought away. He knew where the line was drawn. It was well before ‘secret messages from butterflies’. She wouldn’t call him crazy. She never called him crazy. Sometimes he saw pity beneath her eyelashes.

It would be a personal project. A hobby. Like whittling. Hunting down an island that might not exist. Even if it had existed. That never meant anything. Atlantis had existed, for all the good it did him now.

“Do you think there’s a new bug guy?” Andi wondered.

“Bug?” David asked.

“Not Bug, bugs.” She was using the TV to play video games, and David was watching her. “We’ve had two weird bug incidents in the last month. It seems like there might be a new villain trying to foreshadow their arrival. With bugs.”

“Aren’t bugs fake?” he asked. “There’s insects and arachnids, and bugs are a fake idea.”

“That’s what they want you to think,” Andi said. “It’s all fake, anyway. Bugs don’t care what science says they are. Someone with bug powers isn’t going to be limited by a scientist with a well, actually.”

“Maybe,” he said, dubious.

“Two harmless bugs, swarming the city and trying to eat people. That’s suspicious.”

“I’m not saying it’s normal,” David said. “It’s definitely weird. Do you think Ghost’s had the hots for you this whole time?”

Her character fell off a cliff and died. “Dude! Seriously?” She nudged him irritably.

“I’m just wondering,” he said, holding up his hands. “If he could tell the whole time, and the first thing he did was hit on you, I feel like that means something.”

“That doesn’t mean the whole time,” she said, retracing her steps in the game. “Our first fight was pretty intense.”

“Not that intense,” he said. “You barely hurt each other.”

“It felt intense,” she insisted.

“Maybe it was the sex vibes.”

“Oh my god.”

“We’re superheroes,” he added. “We’re kind of fucked up.”

“I don’t need to know that about you.”

“Everyone knows that about me. All I’m saying is, you wouldn’t be the first hero to miss the obvious sexual tension in a fight.”

Andi frowned as she navigated her character over a complex series of platforms. Their first meeting had been nerve-wracking. He was Ghost Devlin. He was the guy who—

He’d done a lot of things.

She was proud of herself for holding her own without hurting him. She was proud of herself for talking him down and convincing him to trust her. He’d flung her a couple of times, which she supposed might have been his idea of taking it easy on her. It hadn’t felt like it at the time. It had felt like getting grabbed and flung, which was always terrifying.

Getting grabbed at by men was always more terrifying than getting punched, now that she was thinking of it.

“I don’t think it was that kind of fight,” she decided. “He chilled out at the end, once we’d got to talking and stuff. He wasn’t weird about it.”

“It’s kind of romantic.”

“Is it?”

“If he’s been quietly pining for you for like, years now.”

She nudged him again. “We didn’t even see each other that often.”

“He’d been showing up more lately,” he reminded her. “And he replies to basically half your posts.”

“I thought he was coming out of his shell.”

David laughed.

It had been two hours, and they’d barely covered a mile.

Andi wasn’t mad about it. She was determinedly not mad. It was good that Ghost was engaged, and she wanted to encourage his interests.

Every few feet, it seemed like, he saw something he wanted to take a picture of. She’d teased him about his drawings, laughed when he said that would take too long.

Considering how long it had taken him to photograph things, she felt retroactive gratitude at his self-awareness. They’d be stuck in the first twenty feet still, surely.

He’d dressed the way he always dressed instead of for a hike, which made a certain amount of sense. He hadn’t exactly wandered the Amazon in comfortable sneakers. His DSLR with the long lens was incongruous with the rest of his outfit. Every time a bird called, he would freeze and listen, waiting to decide if he wanted to look for it.

Andi was getting very little exercise, and learning a lot about patience. She was learning even more about exploring unrecorded wilderness. If it took him this long to record the sights and sounds of a well-trod path, how did he get anywhere in the rainforest? Every three steps he must have been stopping to sketch a frog. This suggested much less adventure than the word ‘explorer’ had always implied to her.

What she wanted was to use this as an opportunity to experience the wonder of nature through his eyes. For the first half hour, it had even worked. Now he was standing stock-still, and had been standing still for five minutes, waiting for a particularly small bird to emerge enough from the leaves for his camera to catch. It was just too… boring.

She wiggled her phone out of her pocket while he was distracted, and started scrolling memes at the level of her waist.

The shutter of his camera closed several times in quick succession. “I got it!” he said, triumphant.

“That’s great!” she said immediately, shoving her phone back into her pants before he could see.

“Thank you for this,” he said. “I would not have done this alone. I’m having a good time.”

She felt pleased and guilty all at once. “Good,” she said.

He looked her over, not for the first time. She’d worn shorts and an athletic tee, a baseball cap and sneakers. It felt like a good hiking uniform, but something about it also felt skimpy when he looked at her legs like that.

“No tail today,” he said finally.

“We’re in public,” she said.

“You are hiding them.”

“Yeah,” she shrugged.

“Does it feel strange?”

She dragged her shoe in the dirt. “A little. I trip more. I don’t know if you—”

“I noticed.” He let his camera hang from his neck. “I would like for you to be yourself,” he said.

“I am,” she assured him. “I’m used to this.”

“Still,” he said.

She hummed thoughtfully, looking around them. It wasn’t a popular trail. She pressed her palms together, and shut her eyes, pulling her tail and her ears back from wherever it was they went. When she opened her eyes, he was grinning. Her tail was sticking out of the leg of her shorts, no convenient hole for it to thread through.

“That’s my girl,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her closer.

“Am I?” she asked.

I think that you are,” he admitted. He pulled her hat from her head, which had been hiding her ears. He put it on, and she giggled at how he looked in the floral snapback. He touched one of her ears, and she recoiled with a squeak.

“Careful!” she warned.

“I am always careful,” he said, in spite of all evidence. “You were born with these?”

“Nothing like that,” she said with a shake of her head. “It was a whole rite of passage when I turned thirteen, my parents had to explain it to me. I guess it’s from my mom’s side of the family? It didn’t work for her, but Nana was a jaguar or something. Which I think is pretty cool, personally. Not that coatimundis aren’t cool.”

He had a thoughtful, somewhat faraway look.

“… do you want to get your notebook out to take notes.”

“Little bit,” he admitted. “But I can remember.”

“To write it down later?” she teased.

“Perhaps,” he said. He pressed a sudden kiss to her forehead. “Thank you.”

“I told you,” she said. “I like hiking.”

“No.” He took the hat off and touched his forehead to hers. “For pretending to believe me.”

“I believe you,” she said, not sure if it was true.

“You don’t have to,” he said, putting her hat back on her. “I know how it sounds. I am not so far gone that I do not know.”

“You’ve been through a lot,” she said. “Like, confirmably a lot. It’s on the wiki and everything.” He laughed.

“I have read your wiki,” he said, “It was locked, I noticed.”

She huffed. “It’s whatever,” she said. “Nerds suck sometimes, who cares.”

“Do you think you have ever lost a fight?” he asked.

“Winning and losing is a problematic binary,” she said. “Not everything is a straightforward fight. Sometimes it’s a conversation. Conversations shouldn’t have winners and losers.” She paused. He raised an eyebrow. “But I don’t lose,” she added.

“No,” he agreed. He ran his thumb along her lower lip. “Do you have luck powers?”

She scowled. “Why do people keep saying that?” she said. “I’m not lucky. I’ve—I have solid stats! I can throw a car! I wouldn’t, because that would be inefficient and destructive, but I could.”

“I believe you,” he said. He started to say something, then stopped. “I’m sorry,” he said, and he reached into the bag on his thigh.

“It’s fine,” she said, letting him go.

“I want to write it down,” he said, pulling out his notebook and pencil.

“I understand,” she assured him.

“I’ve…” He trailed off, writing things sideways in the margins next to previous notes. “I’ve been getting headaches.”


“They’re getting worse.”

“That’s not good,” she said, even though she felt like he was signifying more than pain.

“I’ve been taking—a lot of things. It helps, a little. The headaches come back. They get worse.”

She squeezed his elbow in an attempt to be supportive as he wrote.

“This is how it starts,” he said. “The headaches.”

That made her stomach churn. “I’m sure it will be fine,” she said.

He shut his journal and jammed it into his pocket, grabbing her all at once and kissing her with a terrible desperation. She was startled, but she tried to reassure him with arms around his neck. He put his hands on her hips and buried his face in the crook of her shoulder.

“I’ve been happy,” he said.

“I’m glad,” she said, stroking his hair.

“I don’t think I’m allowed to be happy,” he said, muffled.

“That seems like a bit much,” she said, hoping to talk him down. “I don’t think the abstract concept of time has it out for you, specifically.”

He took a deep and shaky breath against her skin. “I loved my wife,” he said, like a knife right through her ribs that made tears prick at her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Ghost,” she said, holding him tighter.

“I won’t let this happen again,” he said.

“I’ll be okay,” she assured him, not sure at all. “Coatimundi can’t lose. Remember?”

He wrapped his arms all around her, made her feel small. His camera pressed uncomfortably into her stomach between them. “Yeah,” he said.

Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Four

Ghost showed up for their date wearing combat boots and a bomber jacket. Andi wore a circle swing dress with knee socks. They were accidentally a very 50s couple, or a TV’s idea of the 50s.

“Am I overdressed?” she asked, looking down at herself.

“I would usually prefer you to wear less,” he said. She bopped him with her purse. David, who could hear them from his spot on the futon, wolf-whistled.

“Stop being a sitcom,” she demanded through the door before shutting it behind her. “You’ve been a very bad influence on Jesús,” she said as they took the elevator down.

“I’m a bad man,” he agreed. He wrapped his arm around her waist and nuzzled at her hair. “I’ve been enjoying the pictures you sent me,” he murmured.

“Hopefully not in front of Jesús,” she mumbled.

“… I put him in the other room,” he admitted, and she laughed.

“That’s the best,” she said.

“Miss Bravo,” he said, “you should know that I plan on kissing you before the night is over.”

“Oh.” It was the hand-holding all over again, chaste and yet somehow not. “Is that all?” she asked, anxiety pitching her voice higher.

“That’s up to you,” he breathed into her ear, making her knees go all to jelly.

“Cool,” she said, uncoolly. She worried that she was crossing some kind of line by not telling him who she was. A single date on a whim was one thing, but this felt like more. Too much.

He ran his fingers through the seams between hers again, splitting them apart in that unnecessarily evocative way. She pointedly spread her fingers wide and squeezed his hand. He grinned. Her heart was thumping when they left the privacy of the elevator, leading her through streets she already knew.

“Did you ever find the guy you were looking for?” she wondered. “Was it who you thought?”

“Must’ve been mistaken,” he lied, and she pursed her lips but didn’t press the issue. “Sorry you had to walk home without me.”

“I’m over it,” she lied. “Do I get to know where you’re taking me?”

“A Greek place I like,” he said. “You like Greek food?”

“I like most food,” she said.

“You may have been here before,” he warned her.

“I haven’t been with you.”

He stopped and pulled her close to him, the flow of pedestrian traffic passing around them. “I want to take you to all my favorite places,” he said with surprising intensity. “New York and Brazil and Metro City.”

“I don’t think I can go to Metro City,” she reminded him.

“I’ll take you to New York before it’s gone, and Metro City when it comes back.” He squeezed her hands against his chest. “I’ll remember for you, if you forget. We’ll take the bullet train to Panama and catch a zeppelin to Punta Arenas, and I’ll show you the mountains at the end of the world.”

She didn’t have the heart to tell him there wasn’t a bullet train to Panama, let alone any zeppelins. She hated it a little bit when he spoke Spanish, even place names. His accent was better than hers, and it embarrassed her.

“That’s a lot of travel,” she said.

“Say the word, and I’ll take you anywhere.”

Wasn’t that a bit much for a second date?

“Greek food works for now,” she assured him.

He remembered himself and started weaving her through the crowd again, hand-in-hand.

The Greek place was a dive. It might have looked trendy in the 40s, but she had a hunch it had always looked sketchy. The vinyl covering the seat of every booth was cracked and peeling. The tables were covered in stained tablecloths. Most of the decor looked like it didn’t used to be brown, but was now; she could almost guarantee they used to allow smoking and hadn’t done a deep clean since.

“How often do you come here?” she asked, allowing for the possibility that it wasn’t what he remembered.

“When I can,” he said, clarifying nothing. He sat down at a booth without waiting to be seated. “I was in the other week.”

“Okay,” she said, taking that for an answer. She was assuming this meant the food would be spectacular, because that’s what a restaurant that looked like this staying open usually meant. A hunched and grey-haired woman appeared from the back, waddling with stiff hips.

“Ghost!” She shook a scolding finger at him. “Did you bring another woman here?”

Andi was hit like a freight train with the realization that this woman, who could be her great-grandmother, could also be Ghost’s ex.

“I did,” Ghost said, chewing on a toothpick he’d grabbed out of the holder. “This is Andi—Andi, this is Betty. She’s my best girl.” He waggled his eyebrows.

“He’s been saying that for forty years now,” Betty said, “trying to scam free baklava out of me.”

“And it works,” he said, looking pleased with himself. She smacked Ghost on the shoulder.

“You want the usual?” Betty asked. She had not bothered bringing out menus. Andi felt adrift.

“Iced tea and a gyro for her,” Ghost said without asking. She thought about kicking him under the table. “Does that sound good?”

“Sure!” she said cheerfully because that felt polite. It was even true. She still would have preferred to choose something herself.

“I’ll get that right out,” Betty said, heading back into the kitchen.

“She won’t,” Ghost mouthed. “I usually get dolmades and moussaka,” he explained. “But the gyro is good. Greek coffee is terrible, but I like it.”

“Forty years, huh?” she teased. “I thought you would have been coming here since the 50s.”

“I didn’t last long in the 50s,” Ghost shrugged. “Not after I decked McCarthy.”

“You did not.”

“I remember doing it,” he said. “It’s why I finally went running off to Atlantis. It was a good plan, until time broke. Why’d you think I ran off?”

She frowned. “I guess I don’t know. Because you were in love?”

“I loved a lot of people I didn’t marry.”

Andi smiled as Betty brought out their tea. Ghost immediately started pouring sugar packets into his.

“I don’t really have any cool stories,” Andi said. She did, but they were all Coatimundi stories. Ghost didn’t have a secret identity. All his stories were his. Andi Bravo was who she was while staying home playing video games. She liked herself fine, but she didn’t have a lot to contribute to stories about punching anti-Communist crusaders and marrying into underwater royalty. “I can burp the alphabet,” she suggested. “I’m not gonna, so you have to take my word for it, but I can.”

“I believe you,” he said, propping his chin up on his hands to watch her. “What does a normal girl do for fun?” he wondered.

Not fight crime. “Um.” Definitely not fight crime. “I listen to a lot of podcasts,” she said.

“No going out on the town for drinking and dancing?”

“Sometimes,” she said, stirring less sugar into her tea than he had. “I like bonfires,” she said. “And camping. The kind of camping with a river and a cooler that has its own float. I like rollercoasters. Parties are okay but I mostly like watching other people have fun. That sounds like a terrible introvert meme, sorry.”

Ghost pulled a battered leather notebook out of the pocket of his jacket, a pencil tucked into the spine. It was the one he’d been drawing slugs in, before. He was still chewing his toothpick. She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Are you taking notes?”

“Something like that,” he said, flipping his notebook open.

“Now I feel like I’m being interviewed,” she said.

“I might have to remind you later,” he said, pencil scratching against paper. “Don’t you like to have your own fun?” he wondered.

“I do,” she said defensively. “I’m lots of fun. I do all sorts of fun stuff.” She swirled her straw through her tea and watched the ice cubes. “I don’t like being the center of attention,” she said finally. “I like to observe and… pick my moments.” She looked at him, his attention split between her and his busy pencil. “I guess you can relate?”

“A bit,” he agreed. “Is it because you know you’re better?”

She blinked. “Better at what?”

“Everything,” he said. “Pretty, funny, smart. If they paid you too much attention, they’d notice. They might start to resent you for being better than they are.”

She sipped at her tea. “I think you’re overestimating me,” she managed finally. “I’m not even the smartest person in my apartment.”

“You’re creative,” he said. “You’re good at creative solutions.”

“Says who?”

He paused. “I can tell,” he said. He flipped the page, pencil moving again. “My intuition is good.”

“Is that why you asked me out?” she asked. He grinned.

“You’re pretty,” he said plainly. “You smell nice.”

“That’s a weird thing to notice about someone you just met,” she protested, ignoring that she’d done the same thing.

“You’re extremely normal,” he continued, “but not too normal to go on a date with me.”

“Yeah,” she agreed weakly.

“There is something about you,” he said, “that called to me. Something familiar.”

“Oh.” She felt awkward about lying to him all over again.

Betty finally brought out their dolmades before disappearing into the back again.

“She was never quick,” Ghost confided, setting his journal aside. Andi wanted to snatch it away to look at it but thought that might be too personal. She didn’t want to be nosy. Except that she did.

“What do you do for fun?” she asked.

“Drugs,” he said, and she choked. “Lots of drugs.”

“Neat,” she squeaked. “You seem… lucid.” She clamped her mouth shut.

“That’s the drugs,” he agreed with a slow nod.

“Like… prescription?” she asked hopefully.

“I have been self-medicating since before most of these doctors were alive,” Ghost scoffed, picking up a grape leaf. “I’ve discovered more drugs than they’ve taken,” he said, popping it into his mouth.

“Cool,” she said, feeling like the nerd in an after-school special about peer pressure. “That sounds like something that’s definitely under control.”

He licked his fingers. “I have a system,” he shrugged. “And I can’t die,” he reminded her.

“That’s true,” she said warily.

“There is a specific fungus,” he said, “that grows only on a particular carnivorous plant, the Dragon’s Mouth. If you’re attentive, Dragon’s Mouth gets big enough that you can feed it a poisonous tree frog. The leaves of the Dragon’s Mouth become toxic, but the fungus, small amounts in strong coffee will make you believe that you can see the underlying framework of the cosmos. You feel enlightened. You aren’t. You’re very stupid. Everything you write in this state is childishly wrong. But you become very sure that you’re correct. There are scientists now using some of my samples to try and create a new medicine for anxiety, they tell me. Mostly they are killing mice. They’re working on it.”

“That’s really cool,” she said softly, and she meant it this time. He’d grown animated while he spoke, gesturing and making little puppet motions with his hands. It was rare to see this kind of enthusiasm from him. Intensity or aggression, but not the way he lit up trying to explain a fungus. “How’d you learn about it?”

“In Guyana—there’s still Guyana?” She nodded confirmation that they hadn’t misplaced a country. “There was a tribe, they would feed it spiders. Small spiders. I wanted to see what would happen. I had already been licking frogs, recreationally.”


“I was immortal by then, so the poison ones only made me seize, usually.”

“… right.”

“I thought there might be some useful information in how it felt, but it turns out that when you’re immortal and something shuts your body down, it all just turns into seizures. Interesting, but not useful. It shuts down the nerves, though! That happens to everyone. I had thought, filtered through the plant and then the fungus, it might make a painkiller. I’m always looking for painkillers.”


“Instead it only—it did something to inhibitors. I don’t know, the details are a little…” He wiggled his hand in the air to indicate a general fuzziness. “I don’t do it often, it’s fun at the time but when you see your notes afterward it makes you feel bad. Emotionally. Once I’d gone through all my newspapers circling all the bits about dogs. Dogs are the key! I’d written it all over. I thought dogs were interdimensional beings, that was why we could talk to them. We can’t, I know that now, but at the time I was—you call it ‘tripping balls’ now, I was absolutely tripping balls.”

She giggled despite herself. Ghost grabbed his notebook and pencil again. She didn’t want to giggle, even though he thought this was a funny story. She also didn’t want to be a prude about it by pointing out that this all sounded harmful. It couldn’t have been pure curiosity driving him to lick toxic frogs and feel his body struggling not to shut down. He’d called it recreational.

Whatever people thought about her—wholesome, they were always using the word wholesome—she wasn’t any kind of just-say-no crusader. She’d smoked weed before and hadn’t cared for it. She knew addicts of all kinds, only one or two of them supervillains.

It was the dying. The almost dying. The cavalier way he treated his own body, his own pain. Drugs as the first thing he’d gone to when asked about fun, not art or books or his botanical experiments. He hadn’t said ‘gardening’. Just drugs, some of them not even drugs. Some of them poison. His body as a receptacle for new and interesting kinds of pain, hurting himself as a hobby.

Betty dropped off Ghost’s moussaka and Andi’s gyro. Most of the plate was full of rice.

“Would you want to go hiking with me?” she asked. “There’s a national park not far out of the city, and… maybe we could go. If you want.”

He grinned at her as he dug into his food. “Worried about me?” he teased.

“It’s—you make it sound like you sit at home getting high all day. Wow, that sounded judgey. I didn’t mean it like that. I meant, if you’re getting high all day and playing video games, that’s cool, actually. I know a lot of people who do that. But if you’re staring at the wall, that seems like a problem.” She tried a bite of gyro and rice.

It was good. Not transcendent or anything. About what you would expect from gyro. It was a difficult food to make taste bad. This left her trying to parse whether Ghost thought this food was transcendent, or if he was only loyal. There was something cute about that, if so. If he’d once been a supervillain trying to wheedle free baklava out of the local Greek place and then kept it up for another forty years.

“I get out,” he assured her. “I eat. I read.”

“I know,” she said, feeling defensive about her own assumptions.

“I’d like to go hiking with you,” he said, “if that’s an invitation.”

She crossed her ankles under the table. “It is.”


“Do you bring a lot of dates here?” she asked. She immediately felt like she was being too obvious.

“I don’t go on many dates,” he said with a rakish smile.


“We usually skip this part.”

“Oh.” She turned her attention to her food, turning pink. “You’re more into hookups, then,” she said. For some reason she felt like saying it would make her seem more worldly, as if he might otherwise assume she didn’t know that hookups existed.

“I don’t have a lot to talk about with most people,” he said, which wasn’t at all what she’d expected.

She toyed with her fork. “Is it that you thought we’d have something to talk about, or is it that you thought you could bluff your way through to get to the good part?” She braved a glance upward, but he didn’t look offended. He was watching her, the way he so often seemed to be watching her. A man used to watching things and committing them to memory.

“There is something about you,” he said again, “that called to me.”

“I wish I knew what it was,” she murmured.

“Maybe it was your heart.”

She snorted, then covered her mouth. “Sorry,” she said. “That was. It seemed like a cheesy line. Sorry.”

“It was,” he agreed. “I meant it. You’re clever, but you’re kind. You see something in me. I don’t know what it is, but I like that you see it. It feels important.”

“I think you’re better than you think you are,” she said. She thought that about most people, but especially about him. She couldn’t believe that Ghost Devlin was ever supposed to be the bad guy. That wasn’t who he was.

“I think you’re smart enough to know better,” he said.

“You might have a blind spot,” she said.

There was a growing sound of panic and screaming from down the street. Andi dropped her fork and looked up, ready to leap out of the booth. Ghost noticed at the same time that she did, but he reached across the table to grab her hand.

“Wait here,” he said.

Oh, no, she thought as she watched him stand and run out of the door. She was supposed to be normal.

No. This had gone too far. She slid out of the booth to run after him, before realizing he hadn’t paid for lunch yet. She hesitated, then dug into her purse to find a credit card. She left it behind on the table and hoped for the best as she ran into the street.

Pedestrians were running down the sidewalks, drivers leaving their cars to flee on foot. There was a great red cloud descending.

Andi squinted.

Were those… butterflies?

“Andi!” Ghost grabbed her by the wrist, and pulled her into the little space between the Greek place and the shop next to it. “I told you to wait where it was safe,” he said, taking her face in his hands. “You are very normal. Remember?”

She held his arms. “I’m not, though,” she admitted, gently pushing his hands away. “You should close your eyes, don’t touch me, it’s dangerous.” She clapped her hands in front of her chest, and he let her go as warmth and light all wrapped around her. She bit her lip as she waited for his reaction when his eyes opened, her ears pinned back against her hair.

His smile was rueful. “So soon, Pizote?”

Her brow furrowed. “You’re not—” She froze. “Did you know?” she accused, voice small.

He shrugged.

“Wh… when? When did you know?”

“You think that I would ever not know you?”

That felt like getting stabbed in the heart. Her face burned with mortification.

He must have thought she was a moron.

She blinked away any upset she might have felt because there was a situation to be dealt with and that meant feelings could wait.

“We’ll talk about this later,” she said, pushing away from him.


“Don’t call me that,” she snapped, running into the street. She still wasn’t clear why everyone was running.

“My eyes!” someone screamed, falling to his knees with a cloud of butterflies around his head. She managed to chase them away, swatting at butterflies with her hands.

“Why are you getting out of your cars?” she yelled at someone running by.

“Because everyone was running and I didn’t understand what was happening!” they yelled back, not slowing down.

“That’s fair,” Coatimundi said.

“They’re drinking tears,” Ghost said, observing the mass of fluttering red wings.

“That’s a really weird assumption to go to first!” she called, trying not to bristle at his very presence.

“I’ve only ever seen it with turtles,” he continued. His mess of an accent, which she had realized now was actually three accents stacked on top of each other under a trenchcoat, managed to go all over the place in the word ‘turtle’. She wanted him to say it again, except that she wanted him to shut up because she was angry with him. “Not usually so aggressive, butterflies.”

“Yeah! I know!” She batted more of them away from her face before realizing she looked too much like a housecat. “I don’t suppose you know any cool gardening tricks to get rid of these?”

“Butterflies aren’t pests,” he shrugged apologetically.

“Shoot.” She wanted to be angry at him for being unhelpful, but her heart wasn’t in it. “Maybe we can wait for them to disperse.” There was a sharp pain in her hand, and she squeaked in alarm, waving the butterfly off of it. “It bit me!”

Ghost stood straighter. “Really? I’ve never heard of that.”

“Okay, I can’t wait for the tear-drinking vampire butterflies to disperse,” she decided. “But I can’t take them out one at a time, either.”

Ghost made a small gesture with both hands that she briefly thought was meant to indicate waving a flag. He corrected her by saying, “Net?”

“Oh my gosh.” She looked down at her hands. “Video games have been training me my whole life for this moment.” She clenched her fists. “Where do you even buy a butterfly net?”

It was not until after a great deal of tedious butterfly netting that Coatimundi was finally able to sit down and fume. She needed to go back to the restaurant and get her credit card, but the thought of returning to the site of their date was too much to bear. She sat on a big blue mailbox and thought about texting David. David would understand. She’d never hear the end of it from Carrie.

Ghost Devlin did her the second indignity of approaching on foot, at street level, so that she could see him coming. The decent thing to do would have been to surprise her. This way she had to think about what she was going to say, none of it adequate. He had the gall to lean against the mailbox, and she turned her knees away from him.

“You must think I’m really stupid,” she said finally.

You are the one who lied about yourself, remember.”

“You started it!” she argued. “You acted like you didn’t recognize me. You flirted with me.”

“I wanted to see what you’d do,” he said. “You lied.”

“It isn’t like that,” she insisted, feeling ready to burst into tears. She was the wronged party, here, and he was turning it all around and making it her fault with facts. “I thought you liked me.” She grabbed her tail, trying to stroke the fur flat. “You swept me off my feet and I thought—were you making fun of me?”

“Little bit,” he said, like a fist in her chest. He left one hand on the mailbox and moved to put the other on the other side of her hips so that she couldn’t turn away from him entirely. She kept her head aggressively leftward to compensate. “My life is yours, Pizote,” he said, which he’d said before but which she resented now.

“That was mean,” she said feebly.

“I’m not nice,” he agreed. He leaned closer, looking up at her, and it was hard not to look back. The sun was getting low, not low enough for the street lights yet. “A pretty girl fell into my arms, and I saw a chance to have a little fun.”

“Mean,” she repeated.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Andi Bravo, Coatimundi. Would Coatimundi join me at the waterfront? Win me prizes, hold my hand, steal my shirt? No. I would not insult her with the offer. If Andi Bravo wishes to pretend she doesn’t know me, who am I to contradict her? If it means I can be close to you, I’ll swallow whatever lie you see fit to serve me.”

She was still avoiding eye contact, turning pink. “I wanted you to like me.”

“I do like you.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You think you owe me. You know me, at least a little. I thought you didn’t know me. I thought you just saw me and… you liked me.”

He tilted his head with a sideways lean closer to the center of her vision, getting a good look at her face. “You want me to tell you you’re pretty?”

“Don’t make fun of me,” she said, gripping her tail with her shoulders hunched.

“You think I don’t like your little skirts? Didn’t save those pictures you sent me?” His left hand touched the top of one of her stockings, fingers lightly stroking behind the bend in her knee. She shivered, trying to take a deep and calming breath.

“It’s a thing villains do, you know,” she said, finally meeting his eyes. “Not all of them. They—it isn’t really flirting. We fight, and they try to make these implications. They think it’ll scare me. Or it’s a joke, that they’re these worldly villains and I’m me. Which sucks, but it’s also… they flirt with Helen. You know? It’s still menacing, but they mean it, because she’s hot. Everyone knows she’s hot. I don’t get to do that. If anyone thought I did, that would be funny.” She let her tail go to pat at her cutesy skirt, kick her cutesy shoes.

His hand curled under her knee and made her breath stop. She pressed her fists down on her skirt as he ran his hand down her calf, lifted it so it stuck straight out with her toes pointed and his grip on her ankle.

He pressed a kiss to the thin stocking over her ankle bone.

“I plan on kissing you before the night is over,” he reminded her.

“I’m still angry with you,” she said shakily.

“Wanna fight about it?”

“I’d win.” That wasn’t bragging. She always won. People liked to pretend it only counted when it was punching, but she always won when it came to punching, too. Everyone liked to forget that part, it seemed like.

“If you wanted,” he agreed. He’d dropped her ankle, and somehow his hips had made their way between her knees, his hands on her thighs. “Unless I make you want to be a loser like me.”

“You’re not,” she protested.

“Honey, I’ve lost more lifetimes than you’ve got years,” he said. “I drag everybody down who’s dumb enough to keep me. You doing the smart thing, or are you letting me make you worse?” His nose was nearly touching hers, his crooked hook next to her dainty button. She didn’t know how she was supposed to respond.

“It’s really funny when you say turtle.”

That wasn’t how she was supposed to respond.

He grinned. “Turtle.”

She giggled, and he caught the sound of it with his mouth. His hands framed her face, callouses against her cheeks, holding her hair back against her temples. She gripped the lapels of his jacket. Her legs wrapped around his waist, and he made a muffled sound of alarm as she squeezed a little too tight. When they broke apart, he pressed his forehead to hers.

“Is this you?” he wondered, pulling back enough to run a finger down her nose, over her eyebrows.

“Yeah,” she said. “The costume’s extra—I don’t always have the costume. The tail and everything are normal, though. I have to hide those, except when I’m home. We shouldn’t be doing this in the street.”

“And what is it that we’re doing in the street?”

She unwrapped her legs, though there were no demure options when he was pressed up between her thighs and pinning her to a mailbox. “Kissing? Necking. Making out. We’re not—it felt like this was going somewhere.”

“Would you like it to?”

“Now you’re giving me time to think about it, which complicates things.”

He gave her a quick kiss. “I can wait,” he assured her.

“I don’t know if I want to wait.”

“Then I do,” he shrugged, making her pout. “Your wish is my command, Pizote. You need only say the word.”

Saying words was hard.

“I meant it,” she said. “About hiking.”

“I know.” He laced his fingers with hers, less an insinuation in his touch this time. “Lead, and I will follow.”

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.”