The businessman fell. Another mark to add to the list. Another death the doctors would be unable to diagnose the cause of. The light at the crosswalk changed to "WALK," and a small group of people crossed. Among them was a young man who looked to be in his late teens or early twenties. The young man chuckled to himself. He appeared to be nothing special: one of many young men in the city. Caramel-skinned, with messy black hair and ink-black eyes whose crimson-tinged liquid depths gleamed with danger, ears pierced with diamonds, and an onyx stud in his lower lip; clothed completely in black, from his jeans and tee to the sleek leather jacket draped loosely over his shoulders and torso. To look at him, you would believe him able to kill, but from his distance from the dead man—all the way on the opposite side of the block and the street—no one would suspect him to have a part in the death of a random businessman. And there would be no signs of an attack, either. All it took was a thought.
The speaker was a young woman of the same coloring and age-appearance as the young man. Her black hair fell in waves down to her hips, pinned back with a deeply pink rose that matched the color of her irises and the dress whose long skirt was cinched in at her slim waist, and the top of which clung to her chest, stopping just beneath her collar on one side and flowing over her shoulder and arm on the other. The young man pulled her into a nearby alley and, with inhuman speed, pressed a long curved dagger to her throat. The woman showed no fear, smiling calmly and meeting his gaze.
"The centuries have treated you well, Erzulie," the man smirked, placing his free hand on the wall beside her head and leaning over her.
"You as well, Papa Ge. You haven't lost your touch."
The young man lifted the dagger from her throat and ran its keen edge down the side of her face.
"You would likely be just as alluring if I scarred that lovely face," he murmured, his low tenor voice smooth and seductive as iris petals.
"Always the sadist."
"I would be a very poor demon of death if I weren't."
"You wouldn't harm me, though, even if you wanted to."
"Oh? And why is that, Erzulie?"
"I'm stronger than you."
"You were with that one girl, but can you be so sure that you are now?"
Erzulie only smiled. Then she grasped the wrist holding the dagger and whirled so Papa Ge was now the one against the alley wall with a blade's edge to his throat. The god's smirk widened to a grin.
"I thought you didn't use weapons Erzulie."
"Normally, no, but love can be sharp as a knife's edge when it is for the wrong person."
"Do you mean me?" Papa Ge plucked his dagger from Erzulie's grasp, sheathing it under his jacket, and kissed the goddess full on the mouth.
"Well now, that is fitting."
Two figures stood at the alley's mouth: another young man and woman, older than the two in the shadows. The man had long hair pulled back in a ponytail with one section flowing loose over one eye and colored with all the different shades of blue and various greens. His strong, tall form was clad in a loose linen outfit that would look perfectly normal on a martial artist or a male yoga instructor. The woman had short hair in a pixie cut with sideswept bangs falling over one eye like the man beside her, but colored in earthier tones of green and some light browns. Her lithe form was compact, shorter by a little than Erzulie, and where the love goddess was in a dress the older woman wore forest green denim jeans and a fitted light green t-shirt, with vines and flowers embroidered in a large clump at one shoulder that twined down to a single tendril at the opposite hip. Both were smirking at Papa Ge and Erzulie. Erzulie stepped away from Papa Ge, and the death god leaned nonchalantly against the brick wall.
"Asaka, Agwe, I'm surprised," he sneered, "I thought you would have stayed on that island. Your 'Jewel of the Antilles.'"
"Once we turned that Timoune girl into a tree, messing with the islanders hasn't been as fun. Especially not since you left."
Papa Ge laughed. "So you need us after all. Water and earth need love and death."
"More than we were willing to admit when you left."
"Do not mock us," Asaka added, "Even death can die. There are other gods in other cultures who can easily take over for you, Papa Ge."
Papa Ge pulled out his dagger. "Try it, Asaka. There are just as many earth goddesses and gods."
Erzulie put a hand on Papa Ge's arm, and Agwe took Asaka's shoulder.
"He is baiting you, Asaka. Do not rise to it. It's not worth it."
Papa Ge sniggered, and Asaka growled, lunging for his throat. Agwe held her back again, and Erzulie gave the death god a smack upside the head.
"It's not worth it," Agwe reiterated.
The earth mother heaved a sigh. "You're right, Agwe, as always," she said, "Why is it the stormiest of us is always the calmest when we quarrel?"
Agwe shrugged. "That is just the way it turned out."
"It sure is."
"I wish the world would go back to the way it was all those centuries ago," Erzulie said abruptly, "there's too much lust now; not enough love."
Asaka stepped forward and laid a hand on the younger goddess' shoulder.
"I understand, Erzulie. I share that longing. There isn't enough untamed land left for people to beg for my aid."
"And the oceans have become polluted beyond belief."
Papa Ge grinned silently, leaning back against the brick wall again. The other three gods turned simultaneously to fix their gaze on the dark god. They spoke in quiet, almost defeated unison.
"Papa Ge is the only one of us who is happy."
His wolfish grin grew wider.
"There's a surplus of death and violence nowadays," he chuckled, "True, there are more ways to protect against it, but that just means more fun for me to have thwarting their attempts."
His gloating expression seemed to melt after a few moments and become something slightly disappointed.
"However," he said softly and almost gently, "The fun is less without someone to share it with. Erzulie…" Papa Ge's voice took on a sexy tone and he took her wrist, pulling her to his chest, "Lust is a form of love. Sexual love, carnal love, sure, but it is still…" He drew her face closer to his as he spoke; then he let his voice trail off meaningfully and kissed her full on the mouth. Tongue and all. Agwe and Asaka shifted awkwardly and shot each other significant glances. Asaka cleared her throat. The two younger gods broke away slightly, still embracing. Erzulie rested her head against Papa Ge's chest, and the death god looked at the nature gods over her head.
"Every mortal I destroy is one less till they are all gone. Then we can start anew. Soon. I will give you back your world. Our world as it was when we created it." The dark god's eyes gleamed, serious and determined, still filled with the same danger and slyness as always, and the older gods met his gaze steadily.
"Thank you," Agwe said softly, his deep voice clear and just as steady as his gaze, showing the depths of the emotion he felt to the nth degree.