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SCARRED SURVIVORS

An Ah! My Goddess story
A labor of love brought about by a dream.
Authors: HotelKatz, IdiAmeanDada, Nena Camadera
Based on the original concept by IdiAmeanDada

The Authors own nothing except any original content and the shirts on their backs.

This story is rated 'M' for coarse language and adult/objectionable themes.

-1-

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over. - Octavia Butler

The goddess Urd sighed as she leaned back in her chair.

"All these terminals, all this power, and I still can't reach Belldandy," she grumbled, spinning her chair around in a manner more befitting a child than an adult. Her purple robes twirled around her, and as they settled once more the dark woman sighed. Ten years had passed since a mortal had made an impossible wish that bound Urd's younger half-sister to the mortal realm. Since then the middle Norn had forbidden any contact with her or the man that was now Belldandy's husband.

Initially, everyone assumed that the wish would be nullified by the Judgement Gate before they could consummate their relationship. Yet while word had reached them that such an act had occurred, there'd been no indication of the Judgment Gate's activation. When Urd had asked her step-mother Ansuz about it, the goddess stated sadly that there was a missing component that was required to trigger the much hated test: love. The mortal bound to the Norn did not love her, and Belldandy did not appear to love him either. Additionally, there was a flutter in the system force that also seemed to be preventing the Judgment Gate from activating.

Since then, the silver haired goddess had been trying to contact Belldandy to get some additional information on the mortal in order to find some loop-hole that would allow her to null the wish. Yet Belldandy never returned any of her calls. Every attempt at contact was met with static, or worse yet, a pre-recorded message from Belldandy dissuading her family from contacting her further.

Until now? Wondered Urd as she was alerted to a beeping on her terminal. Swiveling the chair to face the screen, the woman hit the answer button, face brightening with the hope that Belldandy had finally seen fit to reply. Looking at a screen she cried, "Belldandy, it—Oh, it's you, Lind." The goddess's voice fell flat. "What do you want?" The Norn deflated, her expression darkening as she glared at the Valkyrie.

The blue haired goddess on the screen scowled at Urd. "I'm here to tell you that if you continue to harass Belldandy, then you will be suspended from your position as Yggdrasil's administrator. If there are further attempts following that, you will have your license suspended as well," Lind warned.

The Norn slammed a fist on the table. "Oh, come off it, Lind! Belldandy is family!" Urd snarled in frustration. "Just because she's bound to some jerk doesn't mean she has to shut us out of her life!"

"Skuld stopped trying two years ago," replied the Valkyrie evenly. "You both should have stopped after you received the cease and desist notification ordering you to halt all attempts at contacting her ten years ago."

"She's family. That's all that matters. I'm not going to stop being a part of her life just because of some stupid mortal's wish. Besides, I honestly think her 'hubby' is bad news," Urd said, her tone darkening with anger.

"If that is the case, then why did he get a wish?" Lind asked.

Urd paused at that, a sudden flash of inspiration striking her, "...Good point. I'll talk to you later. Gotta go check the GRO's client list and stuff."

"Urd, you-" Lind uttered before Urd cut contact.

Ten years and no one ever thought to check this? Urd began hammering away are her console. Her fingers danced up a storm until she managed to open up Belldandy's client list. Her eyes grew large as she stared at the resulting scroll. The elder Norn had forgotten just how many clients Belldandy had attended in the past. Just as she began to scroll down, one of her security programs began to beep, alerting her to another divinity's attempts to block her.

Fortunately, the nameless deity had nowhere near the experience she did. "Piss off, Bitch." Urd whispered. "I don't screw around where my sisters are involved." Yet the intrusion meant her time was limited, and with a renewed sense of urgency she scrolled through the long list until she found what she needed. Pulling up access logs from that same time period, she cross-referenced them with the timing of the wish.

Urd scowled at the screen. "This can't be right," she muttered. But the data she staring at was irrefutable. Quickly, she pulled a crystal data encoder from between her breasts and slipped it into a receptacle in the console, then began downloading the data she needed into it.

Urd's face went three shades lighter when she heard pounding at her office door. "URD! Open this door immediately!" Lind screamed. The soldier was attempting to gain entry via the locked access panel with one hand while slammed her other fist into the metal door keeping her out. Urd glanced down at the screen again only to see that the download was not finished yet. The progress bar was moving at snail's pace, and Urd didn't have the time to spare when there was a war goddess attempting to break into her office with brute strength.

"Come on you piece of shit!" cursed the silver haired goddess as she smacked the side of the terminal. As if the act of violence had scared the system, the progress bar leapt across the other side of the screen, indicating that that the download was complete. Urd smiled to herself before snatching the data crystal and burying it from whence it came. She logged off just as her office door was kicked open, allowing Lind to march in.

"Urd! I warned you. If you-"

"Alright, alright. I stopped, okay?" Her heart was pounding. Lind looked livid. "Look, I'm leaving so I can go drink my ass off." Urd stood up, raising her hands to show they were empty. "It's not like you'll let me do anything else." She muttered under her breath.

"Where?" Lind demanded. She stood between Urd and the door's threshold, blocking the one physical path out of the private office.

"America, geez." The goddess made a show of running her hand through her hair. "I have a mortal drinking buddy down there. Saved my life once, if you can believe that. Since he's in one of the armed forces there, I might introduce you one day," Urd answered as she surreptitiously glanced at the monitor behind her. "Maybe he can dig out that stick that's shoved so far up your ass and replace it with something you'd enjoy more. But you'll have to stop being a cunt first. Toodles!"

The terminal behind Urd began to glow as she spoke. Before Lind could react, or even retort, the silver-haired goddess dove into the screen and disappeared. "Dammit," cursed the blue haired Valkyrie as she reached up and pressed a gold pendant on her collar. "Access Control, Lind. I need a trace on an unauthorized transport, my location."

"Acknowledged," came the reply. The seconds stretched on as Lind waited, the soldier impatiently drumming her fingers on the desk in front of her. At last there was a beep indicating her follow-up. "Lind, Access Control. I'm sorry commander, the hard line was encrypted. There's no way to trace it."

Lind did not reply right away. Instead she took in a long, deep breath. "Get me those two new recruits." She stated. "We're going on a training mission." Urd will NOT interfere with Belldandy or her client. She heard the affirmative from the Valkyrie in Access Control, and with it released the breath she'd been holding. A golden sheen flitted across her eyes for a brief moment. Right after, the Valkyrie smashed her fist into the terminal screen in front of her, where the monitor shattered into iridescent crystal shards.

XXX

After stepping out of the television store she materialized in, Urd inhaled, taking in the salty air from the nearby ocean. It was later into the night here, and as such the store was closed in light of the night crowds that enjoyed barhopping. Satisfied that no one noticed her departure, the Norn paused in front of the shop's reflective glass to straighten out the black dress she was wearing to blend it. Satisfied with the minor adjustments, the woman winked at her reflection before ducking into an ally. Being in a port city, there was no absence of water. Finding a good-sized puddle that would fit her needs, the goddess glanced around to ensure no one was watching before kneeling down and removing the data crystal from between her breasts.

While water was her youngest sister's travel medium and not hers, Urd could still use it to send and receive messages to the brat. Keeping her voice low, she chanted a spell in the programming language of the gods. A silver orb, its surface shimmering like mercury, formed around the crystal. "Skuld," started the silver haired goddess. "I need you to analyze the information on this data crystal off line. I think I have a lead on getting Belldandy back. Send me a text with a summary of what you find when you finish."

The surface of the orb shimmered again, indicating that the message had been recorded. Satisfied, she dropped it into the puddle, watching it disappear from sight. When it vanished, the goddess straightened. Clapping her hands together as if trying to knock off some dust, Urd smiled and exited the ally. Turning to her left, she headed down the street. While it was lined with bars as far as the eye could see, there was one in particular she was looking for. After a short walk, she found it and stepped in, using a quick mind trick that placated the bouncer at the door who was taking the cover for the nightshift.

Military paraphernalia lined the wall of the somewhat nautically themed establishment. It was done in a tasteful way, so as not to look tacky to anyone who stepped in. However, the décor left no doubt in anyone's mind what clientele the owner was targeting. This was definitely a 'squid' bar.

As she waded into the throng of US Navy sailors, she ignored the amorous glances of the men, and the vicious, jealous looks from the women. It wasn't her fault she had caught the eye of the men they were with. She was looking for someone in particular, and she figured she knew where to look.

In the back of the bar, tucked away in a private corner, a group of men sat around a table with a golden emblem that depicted an eagle holding an old fashioned musket in one talon, a trident in another, with an anchor in the middle of it. While most of the sailors in the room were wearing their whites, these men were wearing what only superficially resembled battle dress uniforms. Each one had customized it to some extent to suit their own tastes, regardless of military regulation. After the amount of training and missions these men had gone through, the amount of fucks given for dress code were slim to none and a topic rarely disputed in the open.

Urd looked at each of the men, who have yet to notice her, before spotting her quarry. There were four of them total, each one built like a tank. Her eyes lit up as they came across one man in particular, and with her gaze set on him she strode forward. Unlike the others of the group, he was a Japanese man of average height but muscular build. He gets bigger every time I see him, Urd thought. His biceps have to be bigger than my skull at this point. Her eyes looked to his companions and inwardly, she grimaced. Maybe they should all lay off the protein shakes.

"So, Jank, have you reached the point where you can crush melons with your biceps yet?"

The Japanese man eyed the other man at the table that asked, then flexed his biceps for everyone to marvel at. He kissed one, then the other. "No gai-ko, but I creamed an apple once." Several of the others jeered at the man who asked the question, while another cheered and lifted a pint of beer. The Japanese man smiled at his comrades as he started to sit down, but stopped midway when he saw Urd.

"Hey sailor!" Urd winked at the man, then graced the others with a smile, taking a moment to observe the small group.

Sheila!" One of them, a bearded man with scruffy brown hair, roared a drunken greeting. "We ain't seen your pretty ass in a month a' Sundays! To what do we owe the honors?" That was LCDR McGinness, the commanding officer of the small group. The man spoke with a heavy southern accent, causing his words to slur. "We all thought you'd finally come to yer' senses and stopped affiliating yerself with men of our lowly caliber. Ain't you got some rich boy to swindle?"

Urd batted her eyes at him. "You should know by now I've got a thing for heartbreaking sailors." She purred, and her comment was reciprocated with raucous laughter. She grinned, looking the men over with scrutinizing eyes. Shoot, McGinness looks like his shirt is going to rip open if puts on another inch of muscle. Her eyes flicked to the lean black man that sat beside him, this one a Chief Petty Officer. Jackson looks like he's lost weight in comparison. I wonder if that was before or after his promotion. The man had been a Petty Officer 1st Class when last she'd seen him.… When did Sanchez get that scar on his cheek? It looks pretty new… Urd surveyed her audience, and then frowned inwardly. Morrison's gone? Her stomach dropped uncomfortably.

HM1 Sanchez, a lean, brown man with a well-groomed mustache, nodded at her, reading her face. "Morrison retired last month. Said he'd had enough a' us cocksuckers an' wanted to raise his babbies before he got blown up anymore." The Hospital Corpsman spoke with just a trace of a Spanish accent. "An IED went off near him when he was riding in a caravan last deployment. Lost some toes and almost lost his leg. He's recovering well though-thinking about going contractor and making some real money as an instructor for them dumbass cadets." He laughed. "We call 'im 'No-toe Joe' now!" The entire group exploded with inebriated laughter, and relieved that the missing man was still alive, Urd joined them, ignoring the small, painful tug at her heart.

He's alive. That's all that matters.

"So Sheila, you finally decide you want a taste at what a real man is packen'?" Jackson leaned forward, wagging his eyebrows suggestively and earning a hearty smack from the Asian man next to him.

"Sure." Urd quipped. "Just a shame it ain't coming from you." The goddess retorted. "You're a couple years too young to handle all this woman!" She gestured to herself, and Jackson groaned as the others erupted in a fresh burst of laughter. "And right now, I only see one real man at this table." The Norn sent a sly glance to the lone Japanese man at the table, and her smile grew larger as a fresh, collective groan arose from the table.

"Well, that's my cue, boys." The Japanese man winked at Urd, and then looked to his companions. "I'd love to stay and chat, asshats, but I can't say no to a sexy pair of tits like that!"

"Yeah, fuck you, Morisato!" McGuinness cried, raising his pint in toast.

"Anytime, anywhere bitch!" replied a thirty year old Keiichi Morisato as he stepped around the table and offered his arm to Urd, who happily accepted the gesture before walking away with him.

McGuinness raised a middle finger to Keiichi to let him know how much he was loved. "Come back when you're done with him Sheila! We still need our shot at you!"

"Maybe in your dreams. And tell Morrison he's a fuck-all for leaving me hanging!" Urd cried over her shoulder. "And that he better stay home and be a proper daddy for those twin girls of his!"

Four glasses of beer rose in a cheer of agreement, and laughing, her heart a bit more at ease, Urd allowed GM1 Keiichi Morisato to guide her away.

Everyone at the table knew Urd. Over the past several years the group had grown familiar with her random visits to chat and drink. Why the goddess had a thing for the lone Japanese man in their group, no one knew. No amount of flirting or flexing had changed that, and while the team had come to accept that as a fact of life, knowing that particular tail was out of the game didn't stop them from jeering Morisato or flexing their stuff anytime the Norn made an appearance. She'd gotten to know SEAL Team 12 rather well throughout the years, though no amount of heckling Morisato or investigation had revealed anything about 'Sheila's' origins. What they did know was that the woman had a strange sixth sense when it came to something wrong within the Team, and that on the rare times she didn't whisk her 'boy toy' out from under their noses, the Team was blessed with a strange good fortune that had left the more superstitious ones calling her their 'Lucky Charm'.

The fact that she actually bothered to get to know the gang throughout the years had also scored her some brownie points, especially after they realized they wouldn't scare the woman away with taunts and barbs and the like. She didn't act like the Frog Hog groupies looking to rub off on their fame and fortune. In fact, Urd had her own verbal arsenal for counterattacks, which endeared her to them even more.

None of them, the retired Morrison included, remembered stumbling upon the goddess in Afghanistan several years prior. The team had breached the front of a building believed to hold Taliban insurgents. There'd been a series of explosions from within the deteriorating building over the past several hours, some of which had been picked up via Pred Feed and disseminated down to their section. While McGuinness's team weren't often used for such missions, they'd been nearby, and the intel provided suggested it was a possible IED manufacturing plant or, more probable, a weapons cache filled with explosives. The Team had been the closest respondents nearby, the Predator watching their back Winchester; empty of any kind of support fire and with no other arial players nearby. It was supposed to be a simple collection request for later processing. Yet what they found instead was a blonde demon in a magical duel with the silver haired goddess, and she was losing badly.

Keiichi, who was on point at the time, had fired a short burst of gunfire at the demon in that first engagement, knowing little of what was happening and at that time hoping to force the demon to break contact. His experience in the Middle East had hardened him, and the man had long since learned not to side with a person based off gender or age alone. Not until he could be certain which side was on 'his side'.

That had been his first taste of an engagement where the forces he was up against were of a supernatural nature. The bullets did nothing to the 'man', and Keiichi had looked on in shock when the blonde simply looked back at the one who had shot him and laughed. Urd however, ever the opportunist, used the distraction to her advantage before the demon could attack her saviors, using a spell to seal the demon in Keiichi's wrist watch, a Luminox 3082 that he still wore today.

The group had done their best to care for her after that, as the goddess was showing all the signs of overexertion and dehydration, and that was not counting the injuries she'd sustained in her battle against the demon. They'd treated her to a good ol' fashioned meal of MREs and desert-hot canteen water, with Sanchez patching up her injuries and McGuinness listening to her explanation of what happened.

To say how much any of them believed what even their eyes had seen was anyone's guess; Sanchez was a devote Catholic, Jackson holding a similar Christian Baptist mindset that had left both of them arguing that what they'd witnessed were tricks of the eyes. Morrison, a Senior Chief Petty Officer at that time, had believed her, as had Keiichi, while McGuinnes, back then still a Lieutenant, had sided with neither groups on the issue but instead reasoned that they needed to take Urd back with them for a debrief.

That idea had been a big red flag in Urd's book, as she'd begun arguing against returning with them before going so far as to put up a fight against them At one point, she'd even threatened to blow up Team 12 with her magic, which had in turn caused Keiichi's team to level their weapons on her. One does not threaten a SEAL team in Afghanistan with explosions expecting them to get their demands, the Norn learned that day. Urd was quick to realize that they had called on her bluff, as she was unwilling to injure the men who'd saved her life.

And so instead she chose the next best thing. She wiped their minds.

Using a generic spell taught to all divinities who ever went Earth-Side, Urd used her powers to seal away the memories of the men in the squad. What had once been a room holding a dual between the Heavens and Hells was instead an empty room with a few outdated UXOs that had reacted to the heat of Afghanistan's devastating summer.

Keiichi, however, proved himself to be a problematic character, as he somehow resisted the spell. How was still a mystery to the goddess, and after she'd calmed him down enough to the point where he was no longer leveling his weapon at her, she found herself grateful all the same. Truth was, she hadn't wanted to seal away anyone's memories because of the great service the Team had done for her, and the knowledge that Keiichi seemed smart enough to keep his mouth shut about the incident had boosted her own morale exponentially. After all, it'd been Keiichi who'd been there to distract the demon, a man who had double-crossed her when they were negotiating a contract for his assistance in freeing Belldandy.

In the time since, he'd become an excellent drinking companion, and Urd had made it a point to stop by whenever she was able to check on the Team that she had come to think of as 'Her Boys', doing what she could to help them out when she was certain no men-and no gods-were watching.

"I'm expecting a call, so can we get a corner table?" asked the goddess as Keiichi led her away from the other men.

"Do I look like a fucking busboy?" Keiichi asked as he looked at her sideways in annoyance.

"No, but you can still scare the rats away," Urd replied with a smile.

After a quick search, Keiichi spied an ample sized table in a back corner. A pair of Seamen fresh out of Great Lakes sat at it, however a quick glower sent the two boys packing in a rush. Not bothering to wait for someone to clear the table, Keiichi pulled out one of the seats previously occupied. "So… what brings you here?" Keiichi asked as they both sat down. "I haven't seen you since the 'Deid, and that was over a year ago."

He paused and looked up past Urd's shoulder, then jutted his chin up in greeting. Curious, Urd looked behind her, meeting the inquiring green eyes of a man in his early twenties dressed in a uniform similar to Keiichi's. The patch on his blouse meant he was a SEAL, but his face was soft; there was no edge of experience as there was with Keiichi and the rest of his team. The blonde's eyes widened as they met hers, then moved to Keiichi, "Yo Chief-to-Be, who's the Frog Hog?"

"Your mom." Keiichi retorted before Urd could get a word in. "Now mind your pees and cues and fuck off, Baby Bravo. This one's mine."

A flash of disappointment crossed the man's face, and the blonde opened his mouth as though readying a retort. Then his eyes darted back to Urd, staying there for a long moment before he frowned and turned away, heading back to the table the rest of Team 12 were at.

"Who's the baby?" Urd asked.

"Morrison's replacement, John Braxton." Keiichi grumbled. "Total greenhorn. He arrived a few weeks ago straight off the boat."

"And he's already got a callsign?"

"Yep." Keiichi grinned. "Johnny Bravo. Hair's only just in regs and he can't keep his hands off the ladies."

Urd stared at him blankly. "I don't get it."

Keiichi returned the stare, then pouted. "You suck." He grumbled. "I am so disappointed in you. Anyone else would be laughing their ass off right now. He's named after a cartoon character who always hit on girls and got his ass kicked for it."

"Right…I forgot how time moves down here." Urd chuckled. "Anyways, I needed some time off from work and I know you'll mostly keep your hands to yourself. How's the married life treating you, nowadays?"

The smile Keiichi sent her was bitter-sweet. "Dead and done." He replied. "I..." His jaw clenched, and the man fell silent, glaring a hole into the table. Urd held her silence, having learned early on that rushing the man would cause him to clam up. "There were some...issues I was going through." Keiichi started. "I...my last trip to Iraq, right before things were winding down..." He sighed, looking uncomfortable.

"You don't have to continue if you don't want to." Urd offered. "You could just say things didn't work out between you and Deb and leave it at that."

"But I want to." Keiichi replied. "Urd, you're...different. Different from the guys. I want you to know about this. I trust you."

The words caught the Norn off guard, and with wide eyes Urd could only think of one thing to say. "Continue."

His smile was relieved. "You know how shit keeps piling and piling and piling on you sometimes? Until you can't take it anymore?" At Urd's nod he continued. "Iraq was that for me—well, no, everything that came after Iraq was that point. I guess it finally hit the point where I'd seen too much; that point where you see a man get blown up, watch one too many civs die from some jackass with a vest of IEDs. And then you return and are told to just fit in to what's considered normal around here." He propped his head in his hands, his face dark. "It started with nightmares. Real bad ones, from what Deb said. There'd be nights I'd wake up screaming, and I'd have an episode that left me-" He stopped and sucked in a deep breath. "Deb couldn't take it. Things got real bad in the last couple months for us...I was sleeping on the couch 'cause she'd lock me outta the bedroom. She was scared of me, scared of my anger, scared of me punching walls and getting piss drunk and-" He shook his head. "It took her leaving me to finally bring me to my senses."

"You got yourself some help?" Urd straightened at that, brightening as Keiichi nodded.

"'Bout the best fucking thing I ever did for myself." He grumbled. "They took me off the deployment roster for a good six months. I was visiting mental help three times a week." He grimaced at the memory. "But I can't lie. They stayed true to their word. I was freaked initially 'cause I was afraid they'd bar me from going back in the field. I ain't ready to be some desk jockey working with the 'Chair Force'. I don't think I ever will be. Sitting at a desk staring at papers is boring. I need to stay active, need to keep my hands busy. The Supes knew that though, so they made a deal with some Air Force biggies that had me going out in the field still. Some group a' guys called SERE. Bunch of campers whose only job is to take pilots out into the woods and chase 'em around playing Baddie." This time his smile was fond. "Never thought a bunch a boys like them existed in the Air Force. Had some good times with 'em. Learned a shit ton too."

Urd raised an eyebrow. "No shit?" She asked. "The Air Force does more than sit on their ass and look pretty? News to me. What the hell they end up teaching an old salt like you?"

Keiichi's grin grew sly. "Hang around long enough and maybe you'll find out." He shrugged. "Either way, between them and the therapy, I managed to get past the trauma. The..." He sighed, fingers drumming on the old, scarred hardwood of the table. "Fuck, I hate saying it, but...The PTSD. I've gotten through it thanks to leadership. I just wish I hadn't been such a scared asshole and had the balls to do it sooner. Maybe then I'd still be married."

"I see." Urd leaned back in her chair. It groaned in protest, its cry lost amongst the clamor of the bar's inhabitants. At length she smiled. "Fucking good on you Keiichi. It's not easy buckling down and admitting you need help, especially when you're a motherfucking SEAL that the general public think is some untouchable war god. I'm sorry to hear about Deb, but I'm happier hearing that you didn't let that shit sit and rot inside you like some kind of cancer."

Keiichi fidgeted. "Oy, don't go telling none a' those assholes I opened up to you, hear me?" He threatened. "You rat on me and I'll find a way to make them remember you, I swear to whatever god ain't you."

Urd laughed, recognizing the unspoken request to change topics. "You and what army?" She taunted. "That little shit who replaced Morrison? Does he even know how to hold a weapon?"

"Doubt it." Keiichi reasoned. "Maybe I should just send him your way with a Claymore in hand. Ain't like he'd know which way to point it anyway, and knowing the ol' Rookie-luck, the motherfucker would explode in his hand, decimate half a block, knock you into the next kingdom come, and he'd still manage to walk away with only a minor graze on his hand." He smirked as Urd laughed. "So, sister still won't call you?" Keiichi asked.

"Nope. But nothing I can do," replied the goddess with a sigh, unsurprised that he had asked. In fact, she was counting on it. The man was well aware of the issues between Urd and contacting Belldandy. It was one of her favorite topics to vent about. "Bosses still won't approve any of my messages reaching out to Belldandy, and trying to go through the Japanese government to help her is a bitch and a half," Urd muttered. "Oh! She's foreign!?" The goddess cried, her voice mocking. "Well then how come we don't have any record of her passport? Does she have a working Visa with us? No? So you're saying she's an undocumented alien? How about you give us a description of her and then kindly fuck off." She snorted, slumping down in her chair with a dejected sigh. "I just need to unwind."

"Whiskey? My treat," Keiichi asked.

"My hero," Urd answered as she reached across the table and took his hand into hers and squeezed it. She smirked as she added, "Since you're a free man, maybe later we can-"

She was interrupted by the annoying beeping of her phone, causing her to sit up and start rifling through her pockets. "You just had to finish now of all times," she grumbled to herself.

"I'll go get the whiskey," Keiichi whispered, taking the opportunity to leave the table.

Finding the annoying item, the Norn pulled it from her pocket and unlocked it, pulling up the information Skuld had relayed to her. Scrolling through the messages, her eyes bugged out when she read a particular section. "So that's why he was immune to the memory seal," she whispered to herself.

When Keiichi came back, the look she was giving him caused him to pause. The look on her face was predatory, almost as if he was a mouse, and she the cat. It made the hair on the back of his neck rise in alarm, instincts he'd long ago learned to trust putting him on guard. Instead of sitting, he set the drink on the table and slid it across to the goddess. The action was slow and deliberate; calculated, as though the man were waiting to see how the Norn would respond. His eyes never left hers.

"Your parents came from Japan, right?" Urd asked.

"Yes." Keiichi rumbled. He stood at the back of his chair, observing Urd's body language, a small piece of him recalling the various exits from the bar. Warning bells went off in his head. If she tried anything, he wasn't above throwing a chair at her and bolting. Afghanistan may have happened a long time ago, but that didn't change the fact that she'd once threatened to blow him and Team 12 to smithereens with a lightning bolt. "What's that got to do with anything?"

Urd ignored the question, continuing her own interrogation. "Why'd they leave? Wasn't the economy great in Japan back then?" When she saw that Keiichi was still standing, she said, "C'mon, sit down! I'm not going to bite ya!"

"I'll stand, thanks." Keiichi replied, any signs of the jovial sailor from earlier lost behind a stoic mask. "As for why, some bitch with the last name of Aoshima tried to flirt her way into getting a discount from my dad at his glass shop. He had a panic attack because he has this thing about women touching him and… well… To make a long story short, she screwed over my family in the eyes of the public so bad that my parents had to leave Japan. Now will you tell me why you wanted to know?"

"Will you PLEASE sit down?" Urd demanded. Keiichi didn't budge. When he continued to do nothing but observe her, the Norn sighed and put her phone on the table. "Fine, wanna save my sister and get revenge on the family that screwed yours over?"

Keiichi eyed her skeptically. "They're in Japan and we're in Norfolk. Not only that, but-"

"Please, will you just hear me out?" Urd hissed. "Listen, I wouldn't ask you if I thought it wouldn't work." She slammed her hand on the table, causing the brown liquid in the glass to tremble. "You trusted me with what you went through in the years I was gone, and damn it all I can't tell you how much I regret not being there for you, but now I'm trusting you with something that might help save the sister I lost ten fucking years ago! Now will you please, for the love of your team, sit down and listen?"

The woman stared at him with large, desperate eyes. "What if it was one of your sisters," she whispered. "What if one of them had been taken from you for ten years, and you suddenly found out what happened to her. Wouldn't you take every opportunity to save her?"

Keiichi said nothing. His eyes narrowed as he slid back into his chair. "Go on." His hands resting on his forelegs, Urd never saw them clench into a pair of tight fists. "I'm listening."

The goddess leaned forward, placing her elbows on the table as she looked at Keiichi. "Look, you know we aren't allowed to directly interfere with Mortals or my sister's job with granting wishes," Urd said. "But you can. We can get you to Japan and back without anyone being the wiser." The silver haired goddess looked down at her phone and then back at him, indicating that he should have a look.

Keiichi picked it up and stared at the screen. There was a picture of Urd with another woman and a pre-teen girl. Urd looked a bit younger in the picture, wearing a provocative outfit that would have had his parents howling if he'd grown up to be a 'decent man'. The pre-teen, a youth with black hair and pale skin that were at odds with Urd's own complexion smiled at whoever was taking the photo, standing hand-in-hand with another woman-this one a brunette-who looked similar to the pre-teen. I don't see the resemblance myself, but who am I to judge? He thought. The Urd in the picture had an arm around the middle woman, and the siblings all beamed with a light that reminded himself of his own family.

The man's brows furrowed together, his eyes drawn more to the brunette in the picture than the pre-teen. Urd said her missing sister was around her age. The woman was nearly as tall as Urd, though her face was kinder, gentle in a manner that was absent from Urd and even the child's youthful face. "She's beautiful," he breathed.

"The brat with the black hair is Skuld and she's the youngest, the big baby. The brunette is Belldandy, the middle sister." Urd leaned ever closer to Keiichi, who was sat staring at the picture, entranced. "Wanna be her knight in shining armor, like in the movies?"

"Yes," replied the mortal without taking his eyes from the screen. Hell, at this point, he'd walk through lava if it meant seeing her face-to-face. The man zoomed in on the photo, grateful it was digital, and his thumb moved to gently touch the photographed woman's face, tracing the angle of her jaw down to her chin. Suddenly it felt hard to breathe. "You're a goddess. My tracks will be covered?"

"Yes, although from the looks of it, you would go even if they weren't," smirked the goddess. Hook, line, and sinker. The Norn's expression grew somber. "I'll give you a code to tell her that will make it easy. Seriously, don't even try to reason with her without it. She's a sweetheart, but also a bit of a perfectionist; Belldandy becomes intimately involved with whatever her contract entails, so without any proof or permissions that could null the contract, she will be a little hard to reason with," Urd tipped her head back and downed her shot. She placed it back on the table upside down and then smiled again when she saw Keiichi still staring at the picture of Belldandy. "When you're done eye-fucking my sister, give me back my phone so I can call Skuld for your gear."

"So what's Skuld like?" Keiichi asked, taking one final look at the woman on the screen and committing her face to memory. Even if she wanted nothing else to do with Keiichi after this 'rescue', the SEAL didn't want to forget Belldandy's face. Ever. I think I finally saw my own piece of heaven. Maybe Jackson was right. Maybe love at first sight really does exist.

Urd leaned back in her chair, tipping it onto its back legs as she braced one leg against the table. "That's a good question." She said evenly. "Don't you guys have a word for a girl who acts like a brat twenty-four seven because she's too insecure to tell you how she really feels?"

"You mean aside from a bitch?" Keiichi sent her a measured look.

"Close, but I mean an actual Japanese word." Urd replied, then muttered, "but a bitch wouldn't be too far off…"

Keiichi shrugged. "The only time I speak Japanese anymore is when I'm back home. My parents still haven't mastered English yet, and they're afraid I'll lose my own mastery at the language if I don't speak it around them." He paused, playing with Urd's finished shot glass. "Like a Tsundere, maybe?"

Urd snapped her fingers. "That's it. Nailed it. That is exactly what she is. A godforsaken Tsundere when it comes to anyone who isn't Belldandy. Add to that the fact that she's still butt-hurt that she can't summon her own angel and her dislike for sister-thieving mortals, and..." Urd shrugged, staring at her phone before bringing up the number roster that held her sibling's number. "I hope you're ready for this. Try not to let her first impression get to you too much." She placed the phone to her ear. Skuld picked up after the first ring. "Hey, techno-wizard. I've got a guy here who is going to help us get around the blockade on Belldandy. What did- …Yes, he's a mortal."

"...$#% ^"

Keiichi, a mortal with no true comprehension of the language of the gods, didn't understand what was said, but the voice over the phone had screamed it so loud that even he could hear the venom in the word. He flinched as Urd pulled the phone away from her ear, the words that followed a mixture of the strange language from before and English with the heavy accent of one who did not care for it. Some of it he even understood, to include several insults directed at humanity in general. A part of him even bristled at the unbridled rage, and he stared at Urd in stunned shock, hoping, praying that this was some sort of fucked-up joke on Urd's account. Yet Urd only shrugged an apology before putting the phone back to her ear. "Skuld…Skuld…Skuld. SKULD! Shut up for a minute, will you? I need to know what you found in the data I sent you."

The silver-haired goddess nodded several times. Now that Skuld had calmed down, it was impossible for Keiichi to gain an inkling of what was being said, and the man leaned forward in interest, gesturing to first the phone, then to himself. Urd held up one finger. Wait a minute. Most of the conclusions Skuld made were similar to Urd's own, but she needed to have a second opinion to help validate the information for fact. "Wait a sec, let me put you on speaker, my friend needs to hear this."

Urd placed the phone on the table in front of them. They heard a heavy sigh before the person on the other line began to talk. This time it was all in English, with whatever accent Keiichi had heard initially vanishing. "Ten years ago, a wish was supposed to be granted to one Keiichi Morisato."

The SEAL's ears perked up at his own name. He looked at Urd in surprise before mouthing 'What the fuck?' to the goddess. Urd placed a finger to her lips and pointed towards the phone. Baffled at the sudden turn of events, Keiichi ran a hand through his hair before propping his chin on his other hand. He stared at the phone with large, brown eyes.

"From what I can tell, there appears to have been a clerical error when his parents moved from Japan to America and no one corrected it," reported Skuld. "Instead, some douche-nozzle by the name of Toshiyuki Aoshima got it instead. But the crazy part is that it looks like the system force is still working to get this Keiichi guy his wish!"

There was a pause, then Skuld asked, "So, how are we going to spring big sis?"

Urd smiled and leaned towards the phone. "Well, that's where I have an ace up my sleeve. Skuld, I would like you to meet Gunner's Mate First Class Keiichi Morisato, Navy SEAL, and creamer of apples."

The mortal groaned. "You fucking heard that?" He whispered, glaring daggers at Urd. The Norn's grin was evil. Sighing to himself, he leaned towards the phone. "How you doing Tsundere?"

The silence that followed dragged on for a full, tense minute before it shattered with Skuld's own greeting. Keiichi was unimpressed. "WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN YOU IGNORANT SACK OF-"

Urd snatched the phone up and turned off the speaker, bringing it to her ear in a single, fluid motion that spoke of years of practice. "Skuld! Listen! He's agreed to help us!" Another rant emerged from the other end, again forcing Urd to remove the phone from her ear. This time she turned down the volume, denying Keiichi another opportunity to eavesdrop. After a moment, Skuld's vocal protest died down. "Are you finished?"

The goddess listened for another long moment, this time nodding on occasion. Keiichi watched in silence, examining the expressions that danced across the woman's face. If her reaction was anything to judge, this was a common occurrence coming from Skuld. Five more minutes passed before Urd covered the phone, "When we do get to Bell, Skuld wants to know what wish you'll ask from her."

A pair of bushy brows shot up in surprise. "You mean I still get a wish?" asked the stunned mortal. When Urd nodded in the affirmative, he leaned back, propping one arm up along the spine of his chair. His face was thoughtful. A wish from a goddess… "And it can be anything?" Keiichi asked. "Anything at all?" At Urd's nod, again the SEAL fell silent. A wish from…Belldandy? Is that it? And it could be anything he wanted…

A variety of thoughts danced through his head. I could ask for her to stay with me forever. He thought, and then laughed at his own ignorant thought. By the sound of it, this poor woman had already been forced into a wish with a 'douche-nozzel', as so claimed by Skuld. And while, admittedly, the younger goddess appeared to hold a heavy bias towards mortals in general, Keiichi didn't think being insulted by a divine entity equated to a good person. I could ask her to spend the night with me. He thought wistfully. Hell, he'd be happy with a single thread of hair from Belldandy if he knew it was hers. Or maybe just a kiss. Damn…he had it bad for her. Bad boy. You should be wishing for another chance with Deb, not hooking up with some poor chick who doesn't even know you.

Or, another part of him whispered, some dark little piece of him that whispered from where he'd locked it up years ago, you could leave her the hell alone and stop acting like a fucking creeper. Stop acting like That Motherfucker and instead wish for—

He sucked in a deep breath, closing his eyes meditatively. The image that danced behind his eyelids was not something he figured a man with a wish from a goddess should fantasize himself with. I don't care what they say. I shouldn't have a wish. But if I have to, then…

His mind was drawn to the past. To the time he'd graduated from Great Lakes Recruit Training Command as a lowly Seaman and the first time he had greeted his family in his dress blues after his pass in review. He'd been allowed the weekend with them before he was to report back for A School, and so he'd taken that opportunity to enjoy every moment of it with his family, in particular Aiko, who had gone through a rather traumatic event while he was away. He'd taken the family on a small tour around the base, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his father who was a closet military fanatic, followed by shopping at the Navy Exchange for his sisters and mother—at Keiichi's expense, of course.

He hadn't really minded at the time; hell, he felt like a fucking millionaire after seeing the numbers in his bank account after the first couple of paychecks that had been gathering untouched while he trained. Admittedly, times were a little hard for the Morisato family. Glassblowing didn't make the same amount of cash as it did in Japan-not without a good reputation and better standing among the richer crowds, and his father Keima had neither. Takano, his mother, was pregnant with another Morisato on the way, and Megumi was looking into possible college tuitions that would help cover the expense of schooling. Adding to that the greencards that had their own renewal fee, and the citizenship status Keima was fighting for and, well…money didn't go into entertainment. Anything not going to a bill went straight into savings, where only Keima had access to funds.

Keiichi ended up spending a couple hundred bucks that day-mostly towards future baby supplies for the little one to come since it was rather unexpected (the idea that his parents still did THAT causes him to shudder to this day). But probably the favorite things he bought were the stuffed bears dressed as sailors as presents for Megumi, who got the one wearing dress whites, and Aiko, who got the one wearing cracker-jack blues. They were meant as tokens for them to remember him by while he was gone.

Now, the memory that came forward was of one purchase in particular. A DVD of the Disney movie Aladdin, which had been and still was Aiko's favorite movie. He'd asked his family for some alone time with his baby sister, and they had watched it together on Keiichi's new computer back at the hotel. The one character that had stuck out to him the most had been the Genie.

"Mister Aladdin sir

What will your pleasure be?

Let me take your order, jot it down

You ain't never had a friend like me

No no no!"

What would you wish for, Belldandy? In his mind's eye Genie was replaced with Belldandy, Aladdin with himself, and he was replaying one of the scenes in his head. He watched Belldandy hang from a hammock suspended from two trees, the two of them sitting in a small desert oasis with a magic carpet and a monkey named Urd.

"Me?" Belldandy asked. "No one's ever asked me that before. Well, in my case, ah, forget it."

Keiichi straightened. "What? No, tell me."

The goddess was silent for a moment before uttering one word: "Freedom."

Keiichi looked at the goddess in horror. "You're a prisoner?"

Belldandy shrugged. "It's all part-and-parcel, the whole goddess gig. Phee-nomenal cosmic powers! Douche-nozzel master I can't do anything about."

Keiichi continued to stare at the woman, his brows furrowed with worry. "Belldandy, that's terrible."

The goddess's expression grew wistful as she sat up. "But, oh-to be free. Not have to go 'Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need?' To be my own master, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world!" Dejectedly, she fell back onto the hammock. "But what am I talking about, here? Let's get real here. It's not gonna happen. Belldandy, wake up and smell the hot tea."

Keiichi's gaze grew perturbed. "Why not?"

The Norn sighed. "The only way I get outta this is if my master wishes me out. So you can guess the changes of that happening."

The image in his head darkened, the skies above twisting from the peace of that night to red haze that had accompanied Jafar's wishes. His mind replaced the animated sorcerer with a faceless man, one who he knew only by name, and that one Toshiyuki Aoshima. What kind of horrors could an undeserving man force upon a goddess like her? The truth was, he didn't want to know. What he did know was—

"I guess I'd wish for Belldandy's heart's desire to be granted." He opened his eyes and met Urd's inquiring gaze. The look on his face was one of calm resolve. "No fooling. It sounds like she's going through her own shit because of a stupid clerical error. I'm a goddamned SEAL. We earn our lot in life. If there's something we want we work for it. Fuck your wish." I may not be an astronaut, but that doesn't mean I can't save Jeannie.

Urd smiled before she uncovered her phone. "You hear that, Skuld? He'll be leaving the wish up to Bell's heart."

"...!"

"Right. I'll call you when we're ready to gear up," Urd replied. After a moment, she hung up and looked at Keiichi with a smirk. "You won some brownie points with Skuld for that one. That's a first in my book. So…" The Norn scrolled through her phone. "If all goes well, I will formally introduce you to my sister."

Keiichi grinned as she flashed him an image of Belldandy dressed in a white bikini. I dream of 'Dandy, he thought, and couldn't help but imagine the woman in the image swaying within his arms, dancing to some beat only they were privy to. The smile melted away as reality hit once more. "Why me," he asked plainly. "I mean, any of the other men in Team 12 would do the same thing, I know it."

"Obviously you remember that I couldn't seal your memories," said Urd as she stowed her phone, once more leaning in towards the mortal. "Do you recall just a moment ago Skuld mentioning that the system force was still trying to get you your wish?"

When Keiichi nodded, she continued. "Well, that explains everything," she said. "The system force is a control mechanism for ensuring that wishes work out properly. If there is anything that threatens the wish, it will act to remove that threat. It's been bugging me for a long time as to why I couldn't seal your memories, but now I think that it was the system force that prevented it since you needed to remember me in order for us to reach the point we're at now." She sighed and slumped in her seat. "Hell, it probably brought us together in the first place!"

Keiichi leaned back and whistled. "So you mean I was destined for this?"

The silver haired goddess nodded. "In effect, yes."


A/N: Thank you for reading the first chapter of Scarred Survivors. As you can probably tell, this is not your run of the mill Ah! My Goddess story. The basic concept of this came to me in a dream a couple of years ago. Basically, in it, I was speaking to Keiichi as he was getting ready to go on a Commando style attack to save Belldandy. Being a Navy vet, I immediately equated that to him being a SEAL. I posted in the "Story Ideas" forum on the Goddess Relief Office web site, and it garnered a bunch of discussion. But after a while, it was dropped.

That is until HotelKatz came to me and asked me to use it in his "What If" collection of short stories. The draft he gave me was good, way better than what I had been thinking. I showed it the Nena Camadera, who had also showed interest in, and after about a week of going back and forth with her about this and that, this first chapter took form. It is heavily based on Katz's original, but we wanted to expand on it outside of the "What-If' premise, so we are publishing our version outside. If you have already read Chapter 55 - Something Completely Different, then you might know SOME of what is going to happen, but there is much you do not, as you may have already seen in this chapter.

If you have not read any of HotelKatz's 'Ah! my goddess: What if' stories, then I highly recommend you do so. Many of the stories are very thought provoking. My favorite up until now is the "What if Hild won the Angel Biter Incident" series. You can probably guess which one is my favorite now. HAHA.

I am trying to create a forum for discussion on this site. As if this instant, I have not seen it show up yet in the Forum lists, but that may just be lag. When is does show, it should be until the Anime- Oh! My Goddess section, and is named Scarred Survivors. Drop by and say hi! (After you leave a review!)