I had plenty of time over the next few days to connect all the dots in my head. It all made sense, as much as this sort of megalomaniacal nonsense ever does.

Elliot Lothair’s murder opened up a lot of Lothair Corporation closets, and more than a couple of skeletons fell out. Corporate records showed that the CIA had indeed approached Lothair about enabling their undead operatives to pass Fushima-Broeder tests. But the Agency’s supernatural black bag guys were valuable assets, too valuable to put at risk with unproven genetic and magical engineering. The Agency wanted tests, and not just clinical, pristine lab tests on captive vampires, either. They wanted field tests. They wanted to see if it would work in the messy, unpredictable real world. Hence Maas, Gianni Nose, Spike, Dru, and the others. And guess what? It all worked except for the little matter of control. You gave a vampire a soul, you lost a lot of your magical controls over him. And that particular crowd of newly-ensouled misfits was a dangerous crew to have running around without adult supervision. That’s when the CIA started taking them out.

But things didn’t stop there. Elliot may or may not have been a part of the Shadow Cartel — it’s not like they publish a membership directory — but he did have delusions of godhood. The rest you know: the metaphysical virus, the mystery vamps and their deaths, Spike’s vendetta, the whole sorry mess.

It all tied together about as neatly as it was ever going to tie. The only loose end was my mystery Power, Flynn. I knew I hadn’t seen the last of him.

I was right.

It was a week to the day after my fight with Spike. Cordy was staying with me because she’d lived in the Inferno and had no place else to go. She’d gone out to negotiate terms on a lease for a new club, and I was occupying myself with trying to play some slow blues on my ancient upright piano with one hand. One of my old Dark Hunter host engrams was a pretty good pianist, I’d discovered.

When I hit a D minor chord and the chord went subsonic because of a time dilation that dropped its frequency by a few orders of magnitude, I knew the other shoe was finally dropping.

“I figured you’d be by eventually,” I said.

“Just thought I’d stop by and see how you were getting along,” said Flynn.

“Do I look like I was born yesterday? You can stow the pleasantries. I know why you’re here.”

He strolled over and leaned against the side of the piano. I met his gaze evenly. “I’ve thought about your offer.”


“And I’ve got a deal for you.”

“Aren’t you just full of yourself,” he said.

“This is a one day sale, Flynn. You want to hear the sales pitch, or do you just want to stand around and posture? Because if it’s just going to be you huffing and puffing and trying to blow my house down, I’ve got better things to do. I hear C-SPAN’s running gavel-to-gavel coverage of the budget debate today. If I hurry, I can still catch most of it.”

Flynn smiled. “Did you rehearse that, or was it off the cuff?”

I arched an eyebrow at him, but didn’t answer.

He shrugged. “Oh, all right. Go on, give me your terms and conditions.”

“I want to go back home, but not to the time I left. I want to go back to maybe a couple of decades later, just as an observer. I want to see how things turned out without me. If everything’s roses, great. You and I can pack our bags and head out for the interdimensional road trip of a lifetime. But if things went bad, you put me back just after I stepped through the Einstein-Rosen wormhole so that I set things right. You let me live my life with my husband and daughter. We’ve got all the time in the world to save the universes after that. After all, I’m not getting any older, at least not noticeably. That’s my offer. Take it or leave it.”

“That’s it?” he asked.

“That’s it.”

“Done,” he said.

I’d expected an argument. “No arguments, no self-righteous nonsense about destiny and responsibility?”

“Would it work on you?”

“Not a chance,” I said.

“Then why waste the time? You have a deal. I’ll be back when you’re feeling better.”

He left, and the universe returned to normal. My D minor chord trailed off into the vastness of time and space, and for the first time in seventy-five years, I began to look forward to the future again.

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