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.”