Panse Lwa

Angel Investigations had their name on the door, written in clean-cut, no-nonsense gold lettering, with an amorphous shape vaguely looking like an angel above it. Willow looked at the lettering for a few seconds longer, straightened, then opened the door.

Cordelia sat at her desk, her head in her hands, cursing under her breath.

Willow slowly stepped in. "Cordelia?" she said in a quiet voice.

"Don't!" Cordelia said loudly, holding up her hand. "Don't say a word!" She breathed a few more curses, then was silent, the only sound in the room her heavy, pained breathing.

Willow bit her lip, confused.

After a minute, Cordelia took a deep breath, grabbed a sheet of paper, scribbled down something, then looked up. "Willow?" she said in a surprised whisper.

"Are you okay?" Willow asked, looking at Cordelia with a mixture of concern and fear, fear often winning out.

Cordelia waved her hand. "Oh yeah, I'm fine, just a migraine again, this whole 'vision' thing that I got dumped with." She looked Willow up and down. "Well, you certainly haven't changed..."

Willow bit her lip again. "Is Angel here?"

"Oh yeah, he's in the back...why? Buffy have another big magical object she picked up and decided she needed her big strong ex-boyfriend to take care of it?"

"Can you get him?" Willow just said.

"Oh, sure..." Cordelia looked towards the doorway. "Angel!" she shouted. "Willow's here to see you!" She looked at Willow again. "And she changed her hair, but she's still wearing those awful clothes, so obviously, there isn't a major crisis in Sunnydale...."

"Cordelia..." Angel said, standing in the office doorway.

"What?" Cordelia said crossly. "You're not the one who just had another blastingly painful migraine!" She held up the notepad. "Oh, by the way, Marisol Delgado, lives in North Long Beach, has a little demon problem, I'm thinking it's probably just another Aztec deity finally realizing that he's been missing out on his daily sacrifices, but I wrote the address down for tonight, and can you possibly see about getting paid this time? My aspirin bill is skyrocketing, and it should be a work expense."

Angel waved his hand weakly at Cordelia, looking at Willow. "Willow..." he said. "What's going on? Is something wrong?"

Willow frowned for a second, then shook her head. "Oh! Oh, no, nothing's wrong back home. I just..." She looked towards his office. "Can I talk to you?"

Angel frowned. "Um...Sure..." He gestured towards his office.

Willow walked into the office, with Angel following. "So what's going on?" he asked as he shut the door.

Willow looked directly at him. "Oz left," she said flatly.

Angel stared at her, still frowning. "Huh?"

"Oz left. He got into his van, and drove off." She paused. "Without me."


Willow sighed. "I don't know...We, uh...there was this other wolf, and she was bad, and he killed her...and then he said he had to leave."

Angel thought about it for a few minutes, then nodded. "Right. And..."

"I want you to find him. You're a detective. Find him for me."

Angel closed his eyes for a second. "Willow, I..."

"What? Isn't this simple enough?" Her voice grew strained. "Oz left. Find him!"

"Willow, I can't drop everything for this." He gestured towards the office doorway. "There are people who actually need help. You heard what Cordelia said, there are people who might be killed." He paused. "I can't just...not help people so that you can find your ex-boyfriend..."

"He's not my ex!" she said loudly. At Angel's raised eyebrow, she marginally calmed down. "He. Just. Left."

Angel sighed. "Look, Willow...I..." Her eyes were wide, pleading, begging. Angel finally gave in. "Okay, I can't devote my full time to it, but I'll contact a few people, trace a few sources, keep my ears open, all right?"

Willow beamed. "Thank you!" she said, reaching up to hug him tightly.

Angel waited for her to release him, then walked to the front room. "Cordy?" he said. "Can you start a folder for Willow? We're going to start looking for Oz."

Cordelia looked at him. "Sure," she said crisply. "And I guess she isn't going to pay either, right?"

"I can pay," Willow said, glaring at Cordelia. "Name your price and I'll give you a monthly check."

Cordelia stared at Willow and gave her a poison- sweet smile. "Sure thing, Willow. Now...we're finding Oz..." She reached for a clean sheet of paper. "I'm guessing he..." She looked up at Willow. "Left? Decided that the Sunnydale life was a little too..." She looked at Willow's clothing. "Tackily dowdy?"

Angel saw Willow take a deep breath, about to burst into tears, then glared at Cordelia. "Cordelia..." he said quietly. He put an arm around Willow and led her to the door. "We'll keep you updated..." he said.

Willow nodded, then walked out the door.

"Well, that was fun," Cordelia said. "We're not really just supporting her stalker habit, are we?"

"I'll keep a few things open, but that's about it..." He looked at the notepad. "So North Long Beach, huh?"


The news trickled in slowly, every few months or so. A journalist down in New Mexico saw him chained to a fence with half a dozen geriatric Navajo in front of an old archaeological site about to be paved over. A sacred cow deity, living the retired life on a large ranch in Montana, sent word of a pale, redheaded ranchhand who ran into the forest every full moon. A siren-turned-DJ sent a picture of a New York club kid, synthastatic electric eyeliner glowing around his shaded green eyes, a fiber optic boa around his neck, and a painting of a wolf across his chest. The lone ghost of Monticello sent a thin piece of parchment, words skittering across it in a pale ink, telling of a young man whose howls rivaled his own during the full moon.

Every two or three months, the letters, messages, phone calls, and emails would appear, coming in from all over the U.S., Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Vermont, Kentucky, Utah, and more, with tales of a pale young man who disappeared every full moon and returned smelling of the woods and of something else - - something more primal and underlying.

Angel relayed the info to Willow whenever he got it, always making sure that by the time she got the messages Oz was gone, hoping that the pain of their break-up would heal and she'd move on, but with every bit of information he sent, Willow returned a check and a note telling him to continue. The cycle continued for five years, Angel hoping that, each time he mailed something, it would be the last. It never was.

Until, after one last report saying that he was touring as a roadie for a small swamp-folk-goth band in the deep South, there was nothing.

No messages, no phone calls, no sightings. Nothing.

He was alive -- the spirit world knew that much. Angel contacted them after the first three months passed without a word. Then the next. Then the next. Willow's checks continued to come in, the address occasionally changing, but the same. Angel would contact the spirit world, know that Oz was alive, and a check would come from Willow.

Before Angel knew it, five years had passed. Five years of waiting, five years of listening, five years of reaching out and trying to grab a hold of something, but failing.

And it was the tenth anniversary of Oz's departure when they finally heard something.


Cordelia had her workday down to an exact schedule. The standard secretarial skills of answering phones and making coffee were only a small part. There were ancient languages to learn. Ingredients for spells to acquire, demons to fight. And, of course, the mail.

She walked slowly down to the mailbox, swaying her hips just a little in front of the mailman, and pulled out the usual pile of bills and "return to sender" letters. She looked in the box, frowned, then pulled out an envelope, the sharp, crisp edges pressing into the pads of her fingers. She studied the envelope with a concerned look on her face, studying the stiff, design-school lettering, the postal bar code with "New Orleans" etched into it, the texture of finely pressed linen and wood pulp.

She walked back into the office, forgetting the mailman. "Angel?" she called out as soon as she shut the door. "There's..."

"What?" Angel said, looking up from a large ancient tome on his desk.

She held up the envelope. "From somebody in New Orleans," she said, tossing it on his desk. "Do we know anyone there?"

Angel frowned. "No one that would send me anything..." he said, reaching into his desk for a letter opener. He slid the dagger into the envelope, slicing the paper, then pulled out the card inside.

It was plain, white, a thick sheet of paper about the size of a postcard. On the front, painted in blue ink with a fine, elegant brush, was a wolf -- sharp, detailed, deadly even through the flatness of the ink. Angel stared at it for a few seconds, then slowly turned the card over.

Rough, scratchy lettering, three short lines. A town, a parish, a state.

"What's in Louisiana?" Cordelia said, looking over his shoulder.

Angel turned the card back over, staring at the wolf. "Oz."

Cordelia frowned. "Oz? After all these years, Oz decides 'Oh, I think I'll send Angel a postcard'?"

Angel set the card down on the desk, slowly pushing his chair away. "I need to go there."

Cordelia stared at him in shock. "What? Why? You didn't go all the other times we heard about him. It could not be could be an impostor, trying to trap you. Or it could be something totally unrelated." As he walked away, she followed him. "It could be a...a...a spirit demon disguised as a wolf! It could of those male encounter groups that got you on their mailing list!" As she saw Angel pull out a suitcase, she grabbed his arm, hinting of desperation. "Angel, please, think about this..."

"It's him, Cordy," Angel said as he quickly packed some clothes. "I'm sure of it."

"But what if it's a trap?" she asked. "What if you go away and I never see you again?"

Angel paused, then looked at the woman who had stood by him for 10 years. She still had the same elegant beauty she had all those years ago, but so much had hit her, seeping through the skin. She had lost so much these past years -- her friends, her family, Doyle, Wesley -- burning away the dross and leaving the basic, dignified beauty behind, the true Cordelia Chase.

He reached over and grasped her shoulder tenderly. "Cordelia, I..." He paused, trying to find the words. "I'll come back. I have to."

Cordelia looked up at him, her eyes shining. "Thank you," she said in a quiet voice. She closed her eyes as he pulled her close in a long hug, then, after a few seconds, stepped back, coolly professional again. "So you'll call?"

Angel nodded. "I'll call."

"And you'll let me know if you find anything?" She paused for a second. "Before Willow, of course. I need to know how much to bill her."

Angel chuckled. "Of course."


Angel pulled into the parking lot of the old, abused hotel, a vestigial "old boys" building next to the garish newness of a Popeye's. He had timed his drive, stopping only one night, giving himself enough time to rest before heading out in his heavily-tinted car, driving during the day so that when he arrived, night had just fallen on the city of original sin, original greed, original lust.

He could hear the loud bass of the bar on the first floor, the tinkling of glasses and loud conversation. He quickly got a room, the office clerk barely giving him a glance, then walked up the three flights of stairs, walking down the smudged, dirty hallway, putting the key in the greasy, fingerprint- covered lock, opening the door to the small, dingy, drab room.

Angel locked the door behind him, and collapsed on the bed, exhausted.


The next day was spent on the phone, reaching old contacts, acquaintances, informants. The sun began to slide down, and Angel went out, driving through the streets of New Orleans, stopping occasionally, only to hear the same thing he had been hearing all day --


There were no stories of wolves, of thin pale young men, aside from the occasional vampire, and above all else, no one knew of the town on the postcard.

Angel stopped at the front desk of the hotel. The tired-looking goth girl stared at him blankly. "Can I help you?" she asked snidely.

"Yeah," Angel said, trying to turn on the charm. "Do you know where..." he looked at the postcard again. "Plen Lelin is?"

The girl stared up at him with vacant eyes, inhaling deeply on her clove cigarette. "You got me," she said, blowing a large puff of smoke directly at him. "I came from Ohio."

An old black man weaved through the hallway, mumbling to himself. He came up to Angel, reeking of urine and cheap gin. "Plen Lelin...dangerous place..." he mumbled as he looked up at Angel.

"You know where it is?" Angel asked.

"S'past the swamps..." The man's eyes were wide, bloodshot, cloudy with cataracts, but deadly serious. "Full Moon. They...they say the forest became a man..."

Angel stared in awe as the old man shuffled away, then walked out to his car.


It took Angel most of the night to reach Plen Lelin, driving through dark swamps and deserted towns, past old woods still filled with tree spirits chuckling at the vampire in the car, and the butchered screams of the ones who had been torn down so a family could have a large lawn to match their ultra-wide trailer.

He kept the radio on, the low mumble of drunken preachers interrupted briefly by flashes of static and the occasional slow jazz tune, a second line for the road.

He pulled into the small town, barely noticing it in time, the weather-beaten sign looking like it had barely survived Hurricane Betsy back in the '60s, faded paint and cracked wood spelling out the town name, with a fat full moon rising behind it.

The town was dark, the lone streetlight casting long shadows against a boarded-up church and a crumbling town hall. On the edge of town was a dirt- covered neon sign, the words "Motel" barely visible. He parked the car, and walked to main office, well lit despite the hour.

The middle-aged man behind the counter looked up as Angel entered the room, his eyes narrowing as he took in Angel's pale skin, dark jacket, and foreboding demeanor. "What do you want?" he asked as he glared at Angel.

"A room, if at all possible..." Angel said, trying to be as non-threatening as possible.

"It's four in the morning, what makes you think I have a room available?"

Angel pointed to the "Vacancy" sign glowing in the window.

The man swore under his breath, and grabbed a key from the rack. "That'll be thirty dollars, cash up front," he said. "And only cash. No checks, no credit cards, nothing but cash."

Angel dropped a fifty on the counter. "Keep the change," he said, as he took the key off the counter and walked towards the room.

It was dingy, cheap, a standard room for a small town away from the highways. Angel sat down on the bed, closed his eyes, and stretched out his senses, trying to get a supernatural feel for the place.

The hotel had a trace, possibly a ghost or two, but nothing more. The town was also empty, just the usual residues in all small Southern towns...evidence of lynchings long after the blood had washed away. But there was something...something faint, in the distance, a large, silent creature, moving through the woods, something dangerous, barely lurking underneath the surface. Then, suddenly, it was gone, the town quiet, peaceful, without any possible supernatural activity.

Angel frowned, shaking his head. Chalking it up to exhaustion finally creeping in, he drew the drapes closed, turned out the lights and fell asleep.


Angel awoke to the sound of a key in the lock. He leapt from the bed, moving away from any direct sunlight that might come through the open door.

A young woman, her skin the color of rich black coffee, stood in the doorway, her eyes wide. "Forgive me, sir," she said in a soft lilting voice. "I did not--"

"It's okay," Angel said quickly. "Just..please...shut the door?"

She quickly closed the door, keeping it open by a crack. Angel relaxed, then looked at the girl again. "Who're you?"

"Rosalie," she said quietly. She held up a bundle of white. "I brought the towels..."

Angel frowned. "Oh. Yes. Um...put them on the bed..." he said, gesturing.

The girl set the towels on the bed, then looked at Angel. "Would you be needin' anyt'ing more?"

Angel frowned, thinking, then looked up. "Yes." He reached into his coat pocket. "Have you seen this person?" He showed the girl the picture.

Rosalie stared at the photo, her eyes wide with horror, then quickly shook her head. "I...I...I don'...N-no." she stammered.

Angel frowned. "Are you sure?"

"Rosalie!" a sharp voice came from the doorway. "Pas parler!"

Rosalie's head lowered in shame as Angel glared at the motel owner standing there. "I'm looking for this man," Angel said, holding out the photo.

The man walked into the room, ignoring Angel and looking at the young girl. "Qui ça to dit?"

"Anyen, Popa!" Rosalie said, her voice frightened. "Anyen!"

"Li vini Nuovo Olean! Li pas connain nous!" He raised his hand to the girl.

Angel grabbed his forearm, stopping him from hitting her. "Don't," Angel said, his voice firm.

The man glared at him. "You should not be here," he said angrily, pushing Angel away. "There is nothing for you here."

"I just want to know one thing," Angel said, holding up the photo again. "Have you seen him?"

"Popa," Rosalie whispered. "Popa, silvouple...."

"Trankil, Rosalie," the man said, his voice still firm. "Anyen dit Blan Bwa." He turned back to Angel. "We have not seen this man," he said, straightening. "There is nothing for you here. Go back where you came from." He walked out of the room.

Angel looked at Rosalie. "What is 'Blan Bwa'?" he asked.

Rosalie looked up at him, her eyes wide with fear. "'White Woods'," she said shakingly. "Outside of town..." She reached out and grasped his sleeve. "Please, sir, go home. Go far away from this place." Her voice grew pleading. "Don't face him."

Angel frowned. "Who?"

"Gran Bwa," she said in a whisper. "The great forest."


Angel drove to the edge of town, towards a faint light he saw in the woods. The light grew sharper, more defined as he got closer, the faint scent of woodsmoke sliding creeping its way through the thick heady scent of the swamp.

He parked the car off the side of the road, and walked towards the fire, walking through the woods, animals moving away from him, avoiding the cool chill of his dead flesh. The sound of drumming grew louder as he walked, a deep rhythm reminding him of the pulse, of the blood, of life.

He reached the edge of a clearing, hiding in the shadows and watching. A large bonfire burned in the middle of the clearing, the shadows from the fire playing upon a faded mansion in the corner.

Surrounding the bonfire were people. Dozens of people, silently dancing to the drums grouped around a small side house, feet stomping into the hard, thick, trampled earth. The drummers grinned as their hands slapped against the shiny leather of the drums, glinting in the firelight.

Angel moved closer, out of the darkness of the woods and into the clearing. The dancers continued on, not noticing him, lost in the beat, lost in the movement, lost in the frenzy.

The crowd moved together, mumbling, shrieking, shouting in Creole. "Maite-la, loup-a, popa-a, nous servi..." they chanted, swaying with the sounds, swaying with their voices raised up in perfect unison, raised up as they looked towards the small house. The Master. The Wolf. The Father. We serve.

Angel took a step back, frowning.

"Sove-la, loup-a, popa-a, nous laime." The Savior. The Wolf. The Father. We love.

The small door opened on the house. The crowd swarmed to the door, their chanting growing louder and louder. "Seigneur nous quenne, wa nous quenne, maite nous quenne..." Our Lord. Our King. Our Master. The crowd reached a feverish pitch, screeching out "Messiah nous quenne!" before being silenced by the wave of a pale hand.

Angel stared, shaking his head slightly in disbelief. The man, pale, from his faded reddish blond hair, to the thin blue veins barely visible under cream ivory skin, to the white suit, jacket, vest, shirt, pants, shoes; the pale man moving through swarm of darkness, a single white light in the religiously primal night. The crowd parted, whispering "Sove nous quenne," bowing before him, unable to look at him. Our Savior.

The man walked to Angel, his pale green eyes shining. "Angel," he said in a soft quiet voice.

"Ange-a," the crowd muttered. Angel. "Ange so quenne." His angel.

Angel nodded grimly. "Oz."


Oz led Angel to the large house tucked in the back of the woods, moving through the throngs of pilgrims, supplicants, worshippers. He walked to the porch, draped in mosquito net, and gestured towards a simple wicker chair. "Please," he said, his voice still soft, calm, eerie. "Sit."

Angel sat down, staring at the other man.

Oz matched his gaze, staring at the vampire evenly. "I suppose you have many questions."

Angel broke the gaze, cursing under his breath as he looked down at his feet. "Oz..." He looked up. "What is this?"

Oz smiled faintly. "Blan Bwa."

"'White Woods', yes. I was told that. But what are you doing? What is this place?" Angel stared at Oz in amazement. "Why are you doing this?"

Oz continued to hold that enigmatic smile, his green eyes barely masking amusement. "Plen Lenin was a small town run by a powerful vampire lord...put Baby Doc to shame when it came to controlling a crowd by vodou." His voice was calm, educational, soothing. "He kept alligators, and quite enjoyed feeding the townspeople to them, until, as I've been told, 'a brown-haired loud girl stuck a piece of wood into him and he turned to dust.'" Oz paused, his smile widening. "I'm suspecting that was Faith," he said dryly.

Angel frowned. "What does this--"

Oz held up his hand for silence. "After the death of the vampire, Plen Lenin was a lost town. They had gotten so used to having a leader, civilly, spiritually, right down to their very essence." He paused, looking out at the small groups of people congregating the yard, laughing, talking, dancing to the drums lightly booming in the background. "I was in a nearby town, with Ancient Spirits, a group I was traveling with. I came into the town when I was...transformed." Oz looked back at Angel. "Gran Bwa filled me, changed me, took me as his own." He smiled. "Maite mo quenne..." he said in a soft whisper, opening his palms in beatitude, looking heavenwards with worship, with grace, with rapture.

Angel stared at him in shock. "Oz...I...I don't..." He tried to find the words. "I don't understand..."

Oz continued to smile, that soft, amused, rapturous smile. "Of course not," he said softly. "You haven't seen him..." He looked away, waving his hand at a lone man standing by the doorway, who came to stand beside Oz. "Will you stay until tomorrow night?" he asked Angel. "It's a particularly special night...the feast of Gran Bwa." His green eyes caught Angel's. "You will want to stay for that..."

Angel tried to look away, trapped by the power within the pale eyes. He willed his legs to run, to escape, but lassitude and surrender took him, relaxing him back into the chair. He heard himself say "Of course," before he could protest, before he could escape.

Oz smiled matter-of-factly. "Excellent." He turned towards the man standing next to him. "Theophile, take Angel to one of the northern guest rooms, away from the sun. Make sure the drapes are drawn tightly, just in case." He turned back to Angel. "Have you eaten recently?"

Angel shook his head without thinking, reacting purely to the sound of Oz's voice.

Oz turned back to Theophile. "And have Jean- Baptiste slaughter one of the pigs for tomorrow night. Make certain he collects all the blood, and carry it up to Angel for dinner." He stood up, and looked at Angel. "I'm afraid I have many things to do tonight to prepare for tomorrow's festivities. Theophile here will take care of you, and I will see you tomorrow at the feast." He straightened. "Until then..." He began to walk away.

Angel sat there for a second, staring off into oblivion, then suddenly bolted out of his chair. "Oz!" he shouted.

Oz stopped and turned to face Angel. "Yes?"

Angel's mouth opened. "I...." He tried to speak, tried to shout out his pleas for help, for rescue, for action.

Oz raised a single white-blonde eyebrow up, staring at him. "Yes, Angel?"

Angel closed his mouth and straightened. "Nothing," he said quietly. "Nothing at all..."


Angel paced the carpet of the room, winding around the various objects in his way -- the large bed, the chair, the dresser, the chaise, the dressing table, all Louis XIV, stifling in their opulence. Angel paused for a moment, staring at the thick wooden door, locked from the outside, then resumed pacing.

He should have known better, should have never agreed to stay, should have never gulped down the blood, so glad to have nourishment that he didn't even notice the sedative -- Angel! who had prided himself on his palate back during the epic highs of Angelus, not noticing the oily taste of opium nestled within the rank sweetness of porcine. He had fallen asleep quickly, collapsing against the softness of the feather bed, wrapped unconscious within the gentle petals of a poppy.

He awoke hours later, the room gray-lit with hidden sunlight, the door securely locked from the outside. He could break it down, smashing his body through the oak with the strength of the demonic, but refrained, biding his time, waiting to see what happened next, preparing for any possible danger, pacing back and forth like a wild cat in a cage, anything to keep him from going mad, pacing for hours, the room darkening slowly to complete blackness.

A key rattled in the lock. Angel tensed, ready to attack whoever came through the door. The door slowly opened, revealing a thin coffee-colored girl, her eyes wide with fear. "I told you to go away," she said in a small sad voice. "I begged you..."

Angel relaxed. "Rosalie..." he said relievedly. He frowned. "What are you doing here?"

"He asked me to get you," she said softly, not needing to state who "he" was.

Angel pulled aside the drapes, looking out into the pitch black night, illuminated only by a large bonfire in the center of the clearing and the fat nearly-full moon, rising up golden yellow in the Louisiana sky.

"I --" Rosalie was cut off when Angel held up his hand. "W-What is it?" she stammered.

"Do you hear that?" Angel whispered, looking out into the night. "Someone's screaming....Listen, there it is again..."

Rosalie listened as a low shriek pierced the night air. "Kochon..." she said faintly, staring out at the moon. At Angel's confused glance, she looked back up at him. "Pigs. They're butcherin' the pigs for t'night."

Another shriek echoed before Angel could speak. "Why?"

"Gran Bwa...needs it." She closed her eyes tightly for a second, then turned towards him. "You could run. Now. They are busy with preparations and no one would notice." She ran to the door. "Please. Go. Now!"

Angel stared at her for a second, then grabbed his coat as he walked to the door, stopping when Oz suddenly appeared in the doorway, backed by two large coal-colored men.

Oz smiled lightly as he looked up at Angel, then grew menacingly wider as his eyes slid over to Rosalie. "Ah, Rosalie," he said smoothly. "I had been wondering if you hadn't gotten lost along the way..." He beckoned her to him with his hand. "Come on, it's time for you to get ready."

Rosalie grasped the drapery in her hands, cringing against the faded wallpaper.

"Rosalie..." Oz said, his voice becoming parental. "You don't want to repeat what happened before, do you?"

Rosalie shut her eyes tightly, biting down on her lips as if to hold back a scream, then relaxed, her face smoothing blankly, as her eyes opened, never looking directly at Oz. "No," she said softly. "I must get ready..." She straightened, walking out of the room, her back stiff, always looking directly ahead.

Angel watched Rosalie leave, then turned directly to Oz. "What the hell is going on here?"

Oz smiled that faint smug smile. "She has a very important role tonight." He looked up at Angel, his pale green eyes crinkled at the edges with amusement. "As will you, I'm certain."

Angel turned away, unable to match Oz's stare. "Oz, I don't know what you have going here, but I--"

"All the more reason you should come with me now." Oz held out his hand. "The feast is about to begin."

Angel looked towards the window, then towards Oz, then towards the window again. He paused, then resigned, he walked over to Oz.

Oz's smile grew marginally wider. "I thought you would see the way." He gestured towards the hallway.

Angel followed Oz down the spacious hallway to the wide, elegant main stairwell. "Shouldn't you be locked up around now?" Angel asked as they walked down the stairs, Oz leading and the two large men following behind Angel.

Oz gave a soft laugh. "Not anymore," he said quietly.

Angel paused on the stairs. "What, does hopping on the religion bus make the werewolf magically go away?" he asked, his voice mocking Oz's every step.

Oz stopped and turned towards Angel. He held out his forearm between Angel and himself. "Flesh is weak," Oz said, his voice slightly strained as coarse black hair sprouted from his milk-white skin, nails curling into arched black claws, bones snapping as they shifted into new forms. "Flesh does what the soul tells it to do," he growled, canines long and sleek shining in his mouth. "And, in the end..." The hair fell off, shedding onto the carpet as his arm straightened, smoothed, resumed its normal form. "The soul prevails." He looked up at Angel, a slightly bored smile upon his face. "Shall we continue?"


The drums had already begun as Oz and Angel walked into the main courtyard. It was a slow, pulsating beat, thrumming through Angel's body like the pulse that had so long ago abandoned him. A small group had surrounded the drummers, their conversations loud, raucous, animated with the occasional bark of laughter, the stomp of a foot in emphasis, shouts, curses, and prayers blending together into a melody, weaving through the spaces between drumbeats.

It was hypnotic, alluring, slithering against Angel's skin like humidity, like butter-soft leather, like silky flesh, like sex, lust, desire, passion, beating through their bodies with the pulse of the Gods keeping time. "Ange-la," the people whispered.

"Ein Ange..."

"Ange nous quenne..."

"Mouri nous quenne..."

"Mouri so quenne..."

"Mouri Gede...Mouri Samdi..."

"Mouri..." Angel said under his breath, licking dry lips.

"Dead..." a soft voice whispered in his ear. "Dead dead dead dead dead...Ange mouri nous quenne..."

Angel closed his eyes, falling into the rhythm, his head falling back on his shoulders, body growing languid, liquid, melting against the crowd surrounding him. "M'ange mouri..."

The drumming grew louder, faster, echoing through Angel's empty body, becoming his pulse, filling his soul, seeping through his dry, dust-ridden bones. It was like tides, waves, rushes of feeling, of deep primal animal instinct brought forth by fire, by darkness, by the full moon shining above.

"M'ange mouri," he mumbled, speaking Creole without realizing, far beyond the point of caring, far beyond knowledge, reason, sentience, humanity. He was Angel. The Angel. Ange Mouri, the angel of death, the angel of life. Corruption and fecundity, rot and growth, killing and fucking entwined together -- glorious, elegant, poisonous.

The crowd was carrying him, a wave of dark skin underneath his pale body, clothing ripping, tearing, sliding off of his flesh as the crowd -- his crowd, his people -- collected relics. The wave surged, cresting, depositing him on his naked feet in front of a pale man in a pale suit, large pale green eyes staring at him. The drums suddenly silenced, detaching Angel from everything as he focused directly on Oz. "Ange," Oz said in a whisper. "Ange mo quenne?"

Angel stood before Oz, firelight casting shadows against the muscled flesh. "Non," he said in a voice low, harsh, not his own.

Oz raised his face to the moon and howled, a purely wolf howl, his flesh changing as that lone mournful note echoed throughout the woods. He looked back at Angel, not wolf, nor man, but an intricate combination of the two, earth and humanity joined together in the body of a skinny 29 year old werewolf, scarcely old enough to be called a man, but with the hunt, the need, the chase ingrained deep into his shifting bones. Gran Bwa. The great forest. Born again in Oz. "Ange mo quenne?" he asked again, his throat shredded by human syllables.

"Non," Angel replied. He stood before Oz, before the crowd, before all, naked, barren, his hands down at his side, an anatomical model for God, man, and demon. He closed his eyes, his head falling back as he felt the change come over him. Not mortal. Not vampire. Not ensouled. Not demonic. He was other -- a higher, greater power.

His eyes, no longer Angel's, opened. "Mo Gede," he said, his voice low, roughened by cigarettes, sin, rum, sex, apotheosis. Popa Gede laughed. "Mo non c'est Gede!"

"Gede nous quenne!" the crowd shouted. The drums began again, a slow sultry beat. Angel laughed, and began to dance, slipping through the crowd with a slide of his hips, a stamp of his foot, a laugh, a joke, flirting with the women, with the men, with everyone, his erection parading before him. He was sex, sin, decadence, dancing through the crowd with a hard cock and a sly smile.

He stopped, suddenly, the crowd freezing behind him. Angel stood there, staring directly at a single person in the crowd, a woman dressed in red, her face heavily made up. "Ezili?" he asked, looking directly at her. "Ezili, m'amour?"

The woman's voice was timid, shaking. "P-popa Gede..."

"Ezili..." Angel said, his voice paternal. "Ezili, m'pitit..." He switched to English suddenly. "Do you remember when you and I were together in New Orleans? You had the most adorable cheval, and I fucked him until he was bleeding..." He thrust up behind her, his erection poking into the small of her back. "I can still feel his ass around my zouzo, Ezili, after all these years..."

At her gasp, he continued. "Or do you remember Port-au-Prince? It was my feast day...and a baby crawled over my veve, smearing the sand all over until you could no longer make out my face..." He leaned in, his lips near her ear. "Remember what I did to that baby? How I waited -- waited patiently until it had grown to be a man? How I made him my cheval and rode him through the fire?" He bent slightly, kissing her neck. "Or do you remember your cheval in Blan Bwa? The one who pretended to be yours?"

The woman began sobbing. "P-please, m'sieur...please..."

Angel chuckled against her throat. "Shame on you, Rosalie..." he said in a light voice. "You know I am no man..." He kissed her neck again. "It could have been beautiful, m'pitit..." His fangs grew, scraping across her throat. "Beautiful..." he whispered before biting, his fangs slowly pushing into her velvet skin.

He drank from her, rich full blood filling his mouth, thick heavy liquid against his tongue. He groaned, thrusting against her as he drank, reveling in the pleasure of the kill, the pleasure of the girl, the pleasure of immortality. He drank until she was dry, empty, cold, and dropped her on the ground.

Angel slowly straightened, vertebrae positioning one by one. He shouted, a wordless cry of lust, of passion, of eternity, slicing through the night air.

And matching his cry was a low howl, the two sounds weaving together in point and counterpoint, the human and the primal, the civil and the untamed. Gede and Gran Bwa, coming together in one raw sound.

Angel looked directly at Oz, his eyes matching Oz's eyes -- yellow sharp eyes framed in deep sockets. Oz held out a hand, nails long and black, curving inwards, and beckoned towards Angel. "Vini," Oz growled, his voice low and roughened.

Angel tipped his head back and laughed, a deep resonating laugh. The drums softly thrumming in the background grew louder, faster, each beat slapping against their bodies in a subtle sonic urge. Angel took a step back, then moved towards Oz, dancing the entire way, his body thrusting towards the pale creature standing in the middle of the crowd.

Angel thrust his arms out as he approached Oz, arms like Jesus, being crucified towards ecstasy, his followers behind him, pressing him, pushing him to the inevitable conclusion. Angel's arms were outstretched, and Oz stepped into them, his yellow eyes looking up at the man -- not a man, not a vampire, nothing that he was before -- in front of him.

Angel's lips curled into a smile as he cupped Oz's face, bending down to press his lips against Oz's mouth. His tongue pushed into the smaller man's mouth, as his arms snaked around his back, pulling Oz against his nude body. Oz's clothing slid from his body, pulled off by the crowd, darkness surrounding the two pale creatures as they slowly moved to the ground.

Angel chuckled as he slowly turned Oz onto his stomach. "After all this time, Gran Bwa, apres tout l'onnain...I have you..." His hand slid between Oz's lightly furred legs, grasping onto his cock, all too human and all too sensitive. Oz growled through his teeth, shining and sharp in the moonlight, as Angel stroked him. "Mo gain to."

Angel's hand slipped lower, sliding against hair too thick to be human, too thin to be animal, fingers delicately tracing over Oz, rimming the circle of flesh devoid of hair. Oil, thick and sweet-smelling, dripped from above, the slick hands of the crowd rubbing Angel and Oz, covering them, slicking them in holy oil for a sacred fucking.

Angel slowly pushed his way into Oz, and the crowd moaned with him in ecstasy, dancing to the groans wrangled from Oz's throat, counterpoint to the steady rhythm of the drums. He pressed against Oz, his cool smooth skin caressed by fur, as he bent over to whisper in a slightly pointed ear. "Do you feel that, Gran Bwa?" he said. "Ça santi, m'cheri?" His lips pressed against Oz's cheek. "You're mine...Popa Gede has conquered you...conquered the great forest with his zouzo, mo konkeri Gran Bwa..."

"Mo...konkeri...Gede..." Oz growled low in his throat, thrusting back against Angel. "You...are...mine, Gede. I have you within me and you..." He groaned again, his hips moving faster. "Gede mo quenne!" he shouted. "Gede mo!"

"Mine!" Angel shouted, slamming his hips in response. "Mo quenne!" The pressure grew in his body, the beat faster and faster not only in his thrusts, but also his ears as the drummers slapped their hands against the leather, bleeding palms smacking against rough wood. The rhythm built and built, spiraling uncontrollably, the crowd slamming against each other in holy rapture, fainting and falling. There was no end in sight, only death and destruction could follow, but then --


The two glorious creatures, holy in their sex, groaned together, the only sound in the woods, a trail of sparkling liquid dripping onto the ground, Angel giving one final long push before falling against the softness of Oz's back.

Angel slowly pulled out of Oz, cradling the smaller man in his arms as he turned him. A gentle nip along the line of his jaw, a feather-light kiss upon the lips, and a whisper echoed through the crowd. "Mo quenne..."


Angel sat straight up in bed, terrified. He looked around the room frantically, trying to place himself.

Oz sat in the corner, his relaxed body seemingly painted onto an overstuffed chair. He looked at Angel quizzically, cocking his head to the side slightly. "Yes?" he asked.

Angel put his hand to his chest. "I..." He looked at Oz. "I was...I did..." He paused, looking directly at Oz. "What did you do to me?"

Oz chuckled softly. "I? I did nothing." He smiled slightly. "Gede took you. As Gran Bwa took me, Gede has taken you. So quenne."

Angel looked down at his body, raked with scratches and still glistening with oil. "I...I don't...I..."

Oz nodded. "You don't remember. Not yet." He stood up and moved to the bed in a fluid movement, sitting next to Angel. "You..." He opened a small flat tin. "You are something very important, Angel. I am the forest, the life, the animal instinct....Zannimo Gran Bwa." He took a small brush from the tin. "You, on the other hand...." He mixed something in the tin with the brush. "You are Gede. Male, strength, laughter, emotion..." His smile grew slightly wider. "Lust." He held up the brush to Angel's face. "Konvwate Gede..."

The brush slowly slid over Angel's face, leaving behind wetness, drying quickly on his skin. "Oz..."

"Shhh..." Oz whispered. "But there is more than the lustful Gede, Angel. There is Popa Gede, and then, there is Baron Samdi..." He continued to paint Angel's face. "Samdi, lord of death, roi mouri..." He mixed something else in the tin and resumed painting. "Baron Samdi te rive men," he said softly. "Baron Samdi came here." He set down the tin and the brush. "Li te balanse kay li." He smiled tenderly. "He balanced our house."

Oz stopped and stared at Angel, admiring his handiwork. Angel's face was completely covered, the makeup outlining a skull. "Roi mouri..." he whispered, then leaned in to delicately kiss Angel, lips pressing against lips.

Angel closed his eyes as Oz kissed him, closed his eyes and accepted the destiny offered to him. He was no longer Angel. He was no longer Angelus.

He was Gede. He was Samdi. He was Angel. He was all three and he was none. He gave up his past in an elegant gentle kiss.

Oz leaned back, that tender smile still on his face, despite the black and white paint lightly streaking his lips. He looked at his new creation, looked at his Angel, and smiled widely. "Come," he said, his voice low and treading towards conspiratorial. "Come see..." He grasped Angel's hand and pulled him off of the bed.

Angel and Oz walked through the house, down several hallways and staircases. "I am Nature," Oz said, his voice trembling with enthusiasm. He pulled out a set of keys and picked a single key. "You are Man..." He unlocked a plain door and slowly opened it. "And she....she will be Ezili."

Angel looked in the small room, dimly lit by candles. "Ezili?"

Oz's face became rapturous. "Ezili. Woman, love, sensuality, and wonder..." He gestured towards the small shrine sitting on one edge of the wall. "She will be ours, m'Ange...Nous bel Ezili..."

Angel stared at the shrine, looking at the photo in the center, the same expression of rapture slowly seeping onto his face. "Cordelia..." he whispered, touching the polaroid of the gorgeous woman. "Nous Cordelia..."