Road Whose Course Does Not Turn Back

Epilogue: And Then It Came To Pass

"Hand me that?" Sonny reached for a purple suitcase.

Nancy kicked it over to him.

They stood close together at Akron-Canton Airport.

"You know the last time I asked you to hand me something?"

"No."

"It was the artifact. The one at Pacific Run."

"You're right," Nancy replied casually. "Now you don't ask at all. You just see something in my hand and grab it."

"Especially if it's a Koko Kringle bar. Speaking of which, did you bring any?"

Nancy handed over a box. "I didn't even open them," she declared.

"You're the best." He grinned and kissed her cheek. "I don't know what I'd do without these."

Nancy sighed and looked up at him with a laugh in her eyes. "Why do I feel like you're getting more out of the relationship?"

"I don't know, because I got you something."

She looked up at him curiously. "Really?"

"Yep."

They stood in silence.

"Well?"

"Oh, no. You have to find it."

"Do I?" she asked, pretending to be disappointed although the sudden sparkle in her eyes gave her away.

"Yeah. Because normally I just give things to you and that's kind of boring and this is kind of special." He shifted from one foot to the other.

"Well, I'm sure it'll be great," she said, smiling and nodding decisively. "Can't wait." She hung around the pile of suitcases around them, kicking at them idly.

"Yeah. It'll be a little better than the challenge you issued me. So you're lucky I'm not a getting even type of guy." One of his eyebrows slid upward.

"Aren't you?" she said, stepping closer and tapping the inner side of his shoe with her foot. "I expect to be challenged."

"Hmmm," he said. "Like you challenged me when you wouldn't give me Koko Kringles until I figured out how to pick the lock to the cabinet in your room all by myself?"

"Hey," she defended. "Lock-picking is a great life skill."

"Yeah, if you like looking through other people's things, sure, it's great."

"Besides," she said, twisting side to side and looking down at her hands, "I think you're great at picking locks."

"Really?" he asked with a little grin. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I have pretty high walls. I'm sort of like a lock. Before you I was impervious to all my case contacts."

He laughed lightly and pulled her to him, resting his chin on her head. "You know, if it weren't for you, I would've given up."

"Even for the prize of Koko Kringles?"

"Even for the prize of Koko Kringles. I could still buy them, you know."

Nancy rolled her eyes. "Somehow I don't see that happening. You're probably not going to have any extra money after you start the program."

"Probably," Sonny agreed thoughtfully. He'd been accepted into Udub's astrobiology PhD program three weeks ago. "But I'm going to Tacoma early specifically so I can have enough money to live before starting school. Seattle's too expensive to live in, and the commute'll save money."

Nancy grinned.

"And I need Koko Kringles to live." He continued, pushing the handle of his suitcase up and down, focusing his attention on the movement. "Any news from John Jay?"

"I haven't heard back from them since they waitlisted me," Nancy began.

"Which was stupid," Sonny put in.

"They did it because they don't really consider my experience lucrative," she said with a shrug. "I haven't worked a lot with traditional crime-solving tools or tactics, like with police equipment."

"Again, stupid. You go to college so you learn that stuff."

"I get the feeling they want to make sure their students really want to go into criminology. It's risky. I guess they got the impression that I can change my mind any time about what I want to do." She paused. "I want to wait for a good school, but at the same time I'm surrounded by good schools, and I don't want to waste my life. And you know I could get the type of experience they want me to get, but then I might not want to go to college anymore by that time."

"Like the last time you tried to go to college," said Sonny. Nancy had told him about how she'd taken the semester off to visit Aunt Eloise and never went back.

"Exactly. Anyway, I feel secure in not waiting any longer on them. They wouldn't have given me a slot in time for the next semester, anyway. Temple and Arizona State both had great programs and they accepted my application. But Tacoma has the highest crime rate. So Udub Tacoma it is."

"And I don't mind commuting to Seattle at all," Sonny said, throwing her a lazy lopsided grin that sent butterflies soaring into her throat. "I mean, for the first time in my life I'm going to be thrilled to wake up early."

Swallowing, Nancy turned her mind to finally being on track for a career in private investigation. She thought about Frank Hardy, who was now a big shot up at NYSP after a successful in-depth undercover investigation of a drug ring while he was interning there. Last week he busted some crooked cops.

"Just remember, you can do whatever you want." Sonny took her hand and squeezed it. "I really don't think it's going to take much convincing for John Jay to accept you into their program. Or whatever the equivalent is for undergraduates. I don't remember my time at Brown at all."

"Yes, rub it in, you've had more education," Nancy teased, squeezing back. "And I think Udub Tacoma's program is every bit as good. Not to mention the crime rate in Tacoma. Manhattan's pretty tame nowadays."

"But Philadelphia and Tempe aren't."

"Well, I was never really too interested in the Temple and Arizona programs anyway. They would've been too inflexible. I want some time to pursue projects on the side. Besides, I'm a little biased on Udub." She sat on one of his suitcases that had fallen horizontal and propped her head up on her elbows.

He sat down next to her. "I'm not gonna complain that we're living together, especially after the last few months of meeting up just every so often. But if you decide you want to go somewhere else, that's totally your call."

"Yeah. Long distance." Nancy kicked into a suitcase and watched it topple over and skitter away a few feet. That hadn't worked for her and Ned.

"Nothing's impossible."

Then again, nothing would have worked for her and Ned, not in the long run. "Well," she amended, "not a lot is impossible. And that's not one of the things that's impossible."

"That's the spirit."

Her mind fed on the silence that followed. She thought back to the events of a few months ago. "What do you think we found?" she asked.

"I have no idea," he said, and she could tell the idea excited him. Nancy loved that. She got enough of a taste of not being credible to others to know that a life of it would drive her insane. Sonny handled it with ease, like he didn't care, and she knew he really didn't. Wisdom did not always need to be shared, and most who shared it shared it for ego and not because people needed to hear it. There were the few who didn't, like the world's great leaders.

And there was Sonny Joon.

Something poked Nancy's arm, jarring her out of her rumination.

She turned her head to look quizzically at Sonny.

"Are you trying to pick me apart again?" he asked, eyes lit up and index finger held out at the ready.

"Uh," she shrugged, trying not to give herself away by denying it too quickly. "No."

"Uh, yes," he rephrased.

"You said it yourself." She said quickly, returning to the topic of their find. "Mayans don't do sacrifices. Could it have been just a small group of Mayans that believed the Sumerian myths? Like, a cult?"

"Maybe," Sonny mused, taking the bait to Nancy's relief. "Or maybe she—whoever it was—was already dead and that was some glorified burying ritual. Members of the cult burying one of their own."

"If only we knew the cause of death," Nancy lamented.

"Wouldn't have found that out before learning about your own cause of death," he reminded her.

Nancy still didn't like hearing this even now when she knew it was true, so she changed the subject. "Are you sure none of the Mayan gods correspond to Inanna? Because I've noticed a lot of parallels between the pantheons of the old pantheistic religions I've come across. Zeus, Ra…"

"I'm almost positive. Sumerian and Greek gods? Sure. Sumerian and Egyptian gods? Probably. But remember that those all developed on the Eurasian continent. Mayan culture and religion developed a long way from there."

"It's just so strange."

"Completely strange." Sonny shook his head. He smiled, but his eyes glazed over. "Grandpa Jin called it 'curious.' He was still mulling it over when he died forty-five minutes later."

Nancy watched a plane taking off through the large glass window. She carefully considered her response.

It had been five months since they left Mexico.

Sonny hadn't talked about it at all.

"What was it like?" Nancy finally asked.

"Not as hard as I thought," Sonny replied, although his face held a stricken residue. "Mom got there, too. I think they made their peace, but I'm not either one of them so I don't know. But Grandpa Jin told me he never had to worry about Mom. She was so sensible, he knew she wouldn't get into danger."

Nancy looked at him, sharing his anguish. His eyes went to hers, sharpening again into focus.

"He wasn't afraid," Sonny continued. "In fact, the last thing he said in private to me was that he was so happy I'd be outliving him. He told me that that was the only thing he had been afraid of in his life, and now he didn't have to be afraid anymore."

He pulled her fingers tighter to his. "It wasn't as bad, then, because I realized I know exactly how he feels. And not having to worry about it anymore... well, death didn't seem so awful, especially not to someone who's old."

Nancy's heartbeat slowed. "How do you know how he feels?" she asked quietly, not daring to think she already had the answer.

"I'm trusting you to stick around." He kissed her cheek. "I'm sorry you didn't get to meet him."

"There just wasn't enough time," Nancy remembered. Immediately after arriving at Rhode Island Hospital, Nancy and Sonny had gone by an agreement they'd made on the plane: Sonny and his family would have time with Grandpa Jin first. Then Sonny would come and get her and introduce them.

It was a half-hatched plan, and a part of Nancy already knew by the time he was sprinting to the hospital entrance that Sonny wouldn't have time to come back to get her. Every moment with Jin now was precious. Sonny wouldn't leave until he was sure he wasn't missing anything.

Sure enough, Sonny had come out not an hour later, eyes coral and nearly closed from exhaustion, hugging her with all his might.

"He knew you, though. I talked about you a lot. And I'll spend however long we're together making sure you know about him."

"Good," said Nancy, shocking herself. Once upon a time, she didn't want to hear about anybody's alien theories.

But that was before she'd realized Jin was someone special to someone special.

"Something like what we found can change the world," Sonny said, changing the subject. "Someday it will. But until then, it might just cause a panic until people learn to embrace the truth." He turned to her. "Someday you're going to change the world."

Maybe other people would have preferred "You're perfect," or "I love you."

To Nancy, that was the greatest thing he could have said to her.

To be fair, neither one of them had tossed around "love" yet. But she was in no hurry to hear or say it. She knew exactly how he felt about her and she knew exactly how she felt about him. That was enough.

She wondered a little bit about whether she could take all the time with Sonny she was signing up for by moving in together.

After all, their minds went in different directions.

Fortunately, though, they often ended up at the same place.

"Sooooooo, about that thing I told you about a few minutes ago," Sonny began. "That thing I left for you. The thing you're finding. You know what I'm talking about, right?"

Nancy nodded.

"Well, here's your clue: gives life without living."

Nancy frowned. "We don't have plants in the apartment yet."

Sonny rubbed the back of his neck. "Can't be plants. Plants are living."

"No, I'm talking about the soil you put it in."

"Um..." he avoided her eyes.

"It's in a flower pot, isn't it?"

Sonny nodded reluctantly. "It took me forever to think of that!" He protested.

"Try more than one clue."

"You mean I have to have more than one clue?"

"Well, yeah, probably." Nancy looked around. "It's here, isn't it?"

"Psssh, no."

Nancy threw him a skeptical stare.

"No," Sonny continued. "Uh-uh. As if. Not in a million years. In your dreams."

While he rattled off denials, Nancy's eyes stopped on a potted tree on the wall between the men's and women's restrooms. She walked five feet over to it, knelt, plucked out a blue little bag now covered in dirt, and returned to Sonny before he ever stopped talking. She had to clear her throat to get his attention.

Sonny blinked. "I got the thing for you a while ago. The idea to hide it in an airport came at five in the morning."

Smiling and shaking her head, Nancy hugged him.

Turning his head into hers, he whispered, "Open it."

Nancy stepped back and pulled the ends of the bag apart, pulling out the beginning of a chain. Impatiently she cupped her palm and tipped the bag upside-down.

A tiny gold magnifying glass fell into her hand.

"It's sort of a thank you for helping me at Usrique," he said, a tiny grin flickering onto his face as his eyes went everywhere else. "I don't know how you feel about jewelry, but—"

"I love it," Nancy assured, cutting him off.

"And you're my favorite sleuth," he continued, nudging her shoulder with his.

Even just sitting, their upper bodies had gradually turned so now they were almost facing each other. She smiled. "Help me put it on."

Right after the clasp snapped into place at the back of her neck, Nancy's phone buzzed. She took it out of her pocket and thumbed to text messages.

"I heard you're going to start college on the west coast," her most recent text read. "This is me tossing you the luck bug."

Nancy smiled.

Sonny peered over. "Who's it from?"

"Ned." She looked at the caller ID photo of him and Henry Bolet. Fortunately for Ned, Henry was done with women after Summer dumped him. That experience made his realization much easier, especially since there was nobody for him to come out to except his friends. Now, from what Nancy heard, he and Ned were very happy together. Deirdre, too, was very happy. She was the first to acknowledge and support Ned by offering to be his beard. He didn't take her up on that, but they did finally become friends.

"He's doing okay?"

"Yeah," said Nancy. Ned and Sonny had actually met when they dropped by River Heights after returning from Mexico. Well, Sonny dropped by. She was there to stay for a bit. Sonny was reasonable about it, Ned seemed to approve, and the whole situation was considerably less awkward than it could've been.

The announcer jumped into her thoughts. "Flight 3677 to Seattle-Tacoma now boarding."

Sonny stood and looked squarely at her. "You ready?"

"Ready." She pushed herself up from the suitcase.

"Awesome." He leaned in with a smile.

Nancy found that when he kissed her, it didn't ever matter where they were. Right now they were in Akron-Canton Airport, terminal B, gate 47, but above their heads she swore she could hear the faint tinkling of stars.


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