Disclaimer: I don't own AMG. Haide and Keruso are based on characters from "That 70's Show."
Belldandy picked up the ringing phone and smiled. She loved talking to people, especially people she had never met. There was always the chance that when you answer a phone, you'll make a new friend, and if there was one thing Belldandy enjoyed, it was making new friends.
"Moshi moshi!" she said.
"Guess who!?" a musically feminine voice asked.
Belldandy's eyes went wide in joy. "Sif! Sif, is that you?!" She covered the receiver with her hand and turned as Urd, hung over after a night of drinking, wandered toward her room. "Urd! It's Sif!"
"No one cares," Urd replied with a pain-filled yawn as she stumbled into her room.
Belldandy went back to the phone. "Sif! It's so wonderful to hear your voice!"
The goddess on the other end of the phone squealed just as excitedly. "I know! We haven't spoken in so long, I just had to call you!"
"Well, it's a most welcome surprise!" Belldandy told her sincerely.
"Belldandy," the voice said with almost a hint of warning. "I have another surprise for you..."
"Indeed!" the voice replied. "Open your front door."
"Why?" Belldandy asked, blinking in confusion.
"Just open it!"
"Hai!" The Norn put the phone down and rushed to the front door. Opening it, she found a blonde goddess in a long green dress standing there with a cell phone at her ear. The two looked at each other and squealed before embracing one another in a long overdue hug.
Belldandy offered Sif a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table across from her.
"I can't believe you came all this way to visit," Belldandy said with a smile.
The other goddess sat back in her chair and took a sip of tea. "I take a vacation to Earth every year," she said with a shrug. "So I thought I'd swing by."
Before she could say more, Skuld entered the kitchen and did a double-take. "Sif!?"
"Skuld!" the goddess cried, hopping out of her chair and embracing the girl.
"Wow, what are you doing here?" Skuld asked.
"Just visiting," Sif told her. "My goodness, Skuld, you've grown so much down here! You're so beautiful!"
Skuld blushed just a bit and tried to remember that her Oneesama's best friend in Creation would say that about anyone just to be nice. Belldandy and Sif were born to be rivals. Both were beautiful, kind and powerful, destined to do great things. By any law in Creation, they should have hated each other. Instead, they had become friends on the very first day of school and stuck together through every obstacle growing up had thrown at them. Sif was as close to a clone of her sister as anyone would ever see.
"Well... Thank you!" Skuld said, embarrassed by the compliment.
The other goddess turned to Belldandy. "So," she said with a sly smile. "When do I get to see this mortal boy?"
Belldandy blinked. "Mortal boy?"
Sif beamed and sat down again, leaning over the table at Belldandy. "There are rumors, Belldandy!" she said with a grin. "Delightfully wicked rumors! Rumors about how you fell in love with a mortal boy and now won't leave..."
"EHHH?!" Skuld cried. "That's not it at all!" She cried, coming to Belldandy's defense. "He made a stupid wish for her to stay here with him, that's all! It's all his stupid fault!"
Sif turned back to Belldandy. "He wished for you to stay with him?! That's so romantic!" Belldandy blushed.
"It's stupid!" Skuld corrected.
The other goddess stood up and clasped her hands together. "Oh, no, Skuld! It's wonderfully, delightfully, deliciously romantic! You've never experienced love until you have with a mortal man!"
Then, as if someone had flipped a switch, the goddess fell back into her seat and turned glum, her eyes cast downward toward the table top. Skuld blinked in shock at the change.
Belldandy appeared sympathetic, reaching across and taking the goddess's hand. "I'm sorry, Sif," she said. "I forgot. We shouldn't have even talked about it."
"Why? What did I miss here?" Skuld asked.
The older Norn turned to her sister. "Sif was in love with a mortal boy once," she explained.
Sif inhaled a deep breath, held it for ten seconds, then let it out in a dramatic sigh. "A tragic love story th..."
They heard rushing footsteps from down the hall and suddenly Urd was sitting at the table next to them. "Go on," she prompted.
"What the..." Skuld began. "What are you..."
"I heard the words, 'tragic love story,'" Urd explained. "And hangover or no hangover, I never miss a tragic love story!"
Belldandy smiled at Sif. "Go ahead, Sif."
The goddess sighed again. "Three years ago, we met," she said, clasping her hands in front of her again. "On the tropical island of Okinawa as I vacationed. A wonderfully, deliciously... male... mortal." She closed her eyes as she brought the memories forth. "His wild, unkept hair waving in the tropical breeze from the Pacific ocean... His gentle smile disarming the most intractable of young women... His soft brown eyes a hazard to any girl willing to fall into them..." She stopped and took a breath.
Urd and Skuld sighed, smiling at the imagery.
"I remember I could feel the warmth in his hand as he held mine, leading me to our destiny," Sif continued dramatically. "Oh, and his voice, Belldandy! Hearing it made me weak-kneed!"
"Get to the body," Urd prompted. Skuld smacked the back of her head.
"It was like the statues mortals make of Apollo," Sif said, entranced. "Like a bronzed god, shining in the tropical sun!"
So what happened?" Skuld asked, perplexed. "Did he... Did he die in an accident or something?"
"I don't know!" Sif complained. "He asked for my phone number, and I gave it to him. He said he'd call... but he never did..."
"What a jerk!" Urd cried. "Forget him, Sif, you can do better!"
Sif sniffled. Reaching out, she suddenly grabbed Belldandy's hands. "Belldandy! I beg you! Help me find him! He's my destiny! I know he is! Somehow our fates were derailed, and now we are drifting apart in the Sea of the World without rudder or chart! Please!"
Belldandy closed her eyes and squeezed her friends hands comfortingly. "Hai," she whispered. "I promise, Sif, I will do everything in my power to bring you and this young man together."
Sif brightened immediately. "Oh, thank you, Belldandy!"
"Yeah, we'll help too!" Skuld threw in. "It should be easy! We'll just google him. Nowadays, everyone has a MySpace or a LiveJournal or something. What's his name? We'll look him up!"
The goddess smiled. "His name is..."
They stopped as they heard the door open and close. "Tadaima!"
Belldandy brightened visibly and stood up to greet Keiichi. "Welcome home," she called.
Sif blinked in astonishment as Keiichi entered the kitchen. He caught sight of Belldandy's best friend and froze in shock.
"Keiichi san, this is my best friend, Sif!" Belldandy introduced.
They stared at each other for a hard second before pointing at one another and simultaneously crying,
Skuld blinked. "What the..."
Urd slapped her hand over her youngest sister's mouth. "Shhhh!" she hissed. "It just... got... INTERESTING!"
"Sif..." Keiichi breathed.
"Keiichi sama," the goddess whispered.
"You... know each other?" Belldandy asked with just a hint of trepidation.
"Um... yeah, actually we do," Keiichi said in amazement. "I guess... just not as well as I thought," he continued.
Skuld looked back and forth between them and made the connection. "Oh no," she said. "No, no, no, no, no... Keiichi... KEIICHI... is a 'bronzed god?'"
Belldandy sighed sadly. "I should have guessed," she said. "Sif described him to a tee..."
"What?!" Skuld cried. "Are you insane?!"
Keiichi and Sif stared at one another, the suddenness of the moment giving them no chance to figure out what to say or do.
Finally, it was Belldandy who acted. Tears in her eyes, she turned toward Keiichi. "Keiichi san! How could you?!"
"EHH?!" he cried. "What?!"
"How could you not call Sif?!" she asked with a sniffle.
Silence throughout the room.
Finally, Urd raised her hand. "Okay! Show of hands! Who saw that one coming?!"
"I... I mean... Sif... Belldandy..." Finally, Keiichi gave up and sat down. "I need to sit down," he said.
"I'm sorry," Skuld said. "But I'm having a very hard time believing this is possible. Can someone explain this to me?"
"Look!" Keiichi exclaimed. "It's not my fault! Setting aside for the moment that you're a goddess..." He pointed at Sif. "And that you two know each other, I think I should be allowed to tell my side of the story!"
"I think we know your side of the story, Keiichi," Urd said, folding her arms over her chest and nodding knowingly. "You're a heartbreaker."
She nodded again. "'Love 'em and leave 'em,' that's your motto! You pick up some poor, misguided goddess at the local disco, have your way with them and leave 'em at the bus stop before moving on to the next one!"
Belldandy opened her mouth to defend Keiichi, but she was a nanosecond too slow.
"Keiichi sama is NOT like that!" Sif cried, her fist striking the table in front of her. "If he says it wasn't his fault, then it wasn't his fault!"
"Um... yes, I concur," Belldandy added.
Sif turned her doe eyes to Keiichi. "Keiichi sama," she began gently. "Please, continue..."
"Well," Keiichi said, "It all started three years ago..."
High school senior Keiichi Morisato sat in the sushi bar and watched plate after plate of raw fish go by on the conveyor in front of him. For about the thousandth time since he got off the plane, he wondered what he was doing here.
True, the annual class trip to Okinawa was the highlight of the senior year, especially coming from a place as cold as Hokkaido, but the warm beaches didn't mean a whole lot to a guy who couldn't swim.
So while the rest of his class was at the beach, he was sight-seeing. It was okay... just not worth the money he paid for the trip, especially since he was trying to save for his first year away from home at Nekomi Tech come fall.
He checked his watch. It was almost time to go. The sun was going down soon. He stood up and left the sushi bar, turning in the direction of his hotel.
"Um... Excuse me?"
He turned and froze in his tracks. Keiichi had seen western women before, but this one was simply beautiful. She wore tan shorts and a green, short-sleeve shirt. A wide-brimmed straw hat sat atop her head, concealing blonde locks. He swallowed nervously and opened his mouth to say something smooth...
"Aaauuugh," he managed to get out.
The woman smiled. "Is that a local dialect?" She cleared her throat. "Aaauuugh, to you as well!"
"I mean... hello," Keiichi managed.
The woman's smile drooped. "I'm very sorry," she said. "I'm on vacation here, and I'm afraid I've gotten turned around. Can you tell me where Third Street is?"
"Oh!" Keiichi replied. "I'm sorry, I'm just visiting myself. I don't really know." He scratched the back of his head nervously.
"Oh," she said despondently. "Thank you anyway." She started past him, and Keiichi bit his lip. It was getting dark and this part of town wasn't the best...
"Hey!" he called after her. She turned to him and blinked. "Well, I don't know, but I'm sure someone does!"
He ducked back into the sushi bar. "Oi!"
"So that's it?" Urd asked with an arched eyebrow. "You helped her find her hotel?"
"Keiichi is always doing such nice things," Belldandy agreed.
Sif touched Belldandy's arm. "You know, I could sense that about him! He sees helping others as a holy duty!"
"Barf!" Skuld cried in response.
Keiichi put his face in his hands and shook his head.
"Gomen, Keiichi san," Belldandy said. "Please go on."
"Well," Keiichi said. "After I found out where Third was, I walked her to her hotel..."
"Thank you very much for helping me," the girl told him as they walked through the door of the run down hotel.
Keiichi looked around the lobby. The place was clean, but obviously barely worth one star. He wondered why a woman as classy as this was staying here. Maybe she was low on money.
"I'm so sorry!" the girl cried, suddenly turning toward him. "I never introduced myself!" She bowed low to him. "I am Sif."
"Keiichi," he replied with a smile. "Keiichi Morisato." He cleared his throat. "Um... So... How long are you here?" he asked.
"A week," she told him. "It's not much time to see everything. I think tomorrow I'll explore more..."
"Um... Would you... I mean... I'm... I'm sight seeing too and..."
"You are?!" Sif interrupted. She demured a moment later, turning away with a blush. "I know I have no right to impose upon you further, but I'm alone on this trip, and seeing sights with a new friend is much more preferable to seeing them alone... Perhaps... I might accompany you?"
Keiichi blinked in shock. This was easier than TV made it out to be. "Um... Yeah! Sure!"
"Shall we meet here? Tomorrow? Eight o'clock?" she asked.
"Sounds great!" he replied.
Sif put her finger to her lips in thought. "I still owe you a debt for your help," she said. "You should come up to my room!"
Belldandy spit out a mouthful of tea and started coughing. "W...What?!"
"Keiichi! You sly dog!" Urd cried, slapping him on the back.
Keiichi caught the devastated look in Belldandy's eyes and quickly waved the idea away. "It's not like that!" he cried. "It's not! I swear!"
Keiichi turned white. "Um... What?" he whispered.
Sif smiled gently. "Indeed!" she replied. "Tomorrow morning! Meet me in my room, and I'll cook breakfast for you!"
"Oh!" Keiichi cried, half relieved, half disappointed. "Um... Yeah! Okay! Breakfast sounds great!"
"Splendid!" Sif replied. "Tomorrow at eight then! Room three-oh-three!"
"You ate another woman's breakfast?" Skuld seethed.
"Hey! She was offering it up! What would any guy do?!" Keiichi cried.
"Skuld, Sif cooking for Keiichi san was just a way to show her appreciation for his kind act," Belldandy explained.
"Yeah!" Keiichi agreed quickly. "And it was great," he added, turning to Sif. "Best French toast I ever had..."
Belldandy's eyes went wide. She turned to Sif. "French toast?"
Sif nodded happily.
Belldandy's eyes narrowed. "The French toast recipe Aunt Lofn taught us?"
The other goddess nodded again. "It's love-at-first-sight-a-riffic!"
"Um... Did I miss something?" Keiichi asked.
Belldandy smiled and waved the question away. "No! No! Not at all! It's just that... well.. Since it was my aunt who taught her that recipe and since I asked her to teach it to Sif, it means that technically, you ate my French toast..."
"No he didn't," Sif told her. "Because I made it with the secret ingredient!"
"Strawberries?" Skuld asked.
"No, silly!" Sif told her. "I made it with..."
"DON'T SAY 'LOVE!'" Belldandy cried, jumping to her feet.
Everyone stared at her. She cleared her throat and sat down, blushing. "Strawberries... are better for French toast," she added.
"Nice recovery," Urd said with a roll of her eyes.
"Anyway!" Keiichi interrupted, trying to regain control of the conversation. "We went sight-seeing. It was... You know... It was nice. I mean, for the first time ever I was out with a beautiful..." He saw Belldandy blink at him and quickly amended this. "...moderately pretty woman who... well... seemed to like me. It was nice."
"It was the most fulfilling week of my entire life," Sif added with a quiet smile.
Keiichi paused. "Oh," he said.
"We even went to the beach!" Sif declared. "Though this silly goose insisted he wouldn't have a good time, I caught him smiling quite a few times!"
Keiichi blushed and cleared his throat. He had had fun that day... Of course, Sif in a bathing suit was enough for that.
"You brought your 'A' game, didn't you?" Urd remarked to Sif.
"Oh, I brought it all right," Sif replied. "Of course, by then, I was already falling in love with him..."
"EHHHH?!" Keiichi and Skuld cried.
Belldandy looked down at the table-top.
"Indeed!" Sif told them.
Skuld turned to Keiich and smacked him across the back of the head. "What is with you, anyway?! You're like a roach motel for goddesses!"
"It's not my fault! I didn't do anything!"
"Yes, you did, Keiichi sama," Sif told him with certainty. "You captured my heart..."
"I'm going to throw up!" Skuld cried.
Urd rolled her eyes. "Dear Penthouse," she muttered.
Keiichi heard this, and his eyes rolled back into his head. The goddesses gasped as he hit the ground.
Belldandy and Sif rushed to his side. Kneeling on either side of him, the goddesses fanned at his face with their hands.
"Oh! Poor Keiichi!" Belldandy cried.
Urd rolled her eyes again. "Oh, yeah," she said sarcastically. "Two beautiful goddesses hopelessly in love with him! That poor bastard!"
Sif's head suddenly shot up and her eyes locked on Belldandy's.
"Belldandy?" she whispered incredulously. "Is... Keiichi the boy you..."
"He's coming around!" Belldandy suddenly cried as Keiichi opened his eyes. "Keiichi san!? Can you hear me?"
Seeing both goddesses above him, Keiichi promptly lost consciousness again.
"Oh dear," Sif said.
"Help me get him to his room," Belldandy ordered, throwing Keiichi's arm over her shoulder while Sif did the same on his other side.
Urd entered the kitchen and found Belldandy washing dishes at the sink. She took a quick look around and frowned. "Hey, where's Sif?"
Belldandy placed a dish on the drying rack and turned to the next one. "She's sitting at Keiichi's bedside," she said. "Waiting for him to wake up."
The older sister blinked. "And you're okay with that?"
"Of course," Belldandy said, not facing her. "Sif cares for Keiichi san a great deal. If sitting by his side makes her feel better, she should be allowed to do so. Besides, her gentle feelings will reach him and aid him in his healing."
Urd shook her head and smiled. "I have to say, Belldandy, you're taking this very well. I was sure you'd take this the wrong way or..."
Belldandy held a plate up and inspected it critically. "Oh dear," she said. "This one is chipped." With one quick movement, she slammed the plate against the counter, shattering it into a thousand pieces before moving to the next one.
"... overreact," Urd finished, her eyebrow arched. She regarded her sister carefully. "Belldandy, are you okay?"
She looked down at the sink and took a breath. "I love them both, Neesan," she said. "Sif is as close to me as you and Skuld, and Keiichi..." She sighed. "Keiichi is..."
"Yeah, I know," Urd told her sympathetically.
"What I don't understand is why he lied to me."
"Huh?" Urd asked, blinking.
"He told me he had never had a girlfriend," Belldandy went on. "But it seems that Sif..."
"Don't jump to conclusions, Sis," Urd cautioned her. "After all, we haven't heard the rest of Keiichi's story. As for Sif, well... It won't be the first time a boy has gotten between two girlfriends."
"But I don't want it to be that way," Belldandy said softly. "I love Sif. I want her to be happy... I just... don't want her to be happy with Keiichi..."
"Yeah, but you're forgetting something very important," Urd told her. Belldandy looked up at her as she continued. "It's Keiichi's choice. Not yours and not Sif's. And really, I don't think you have anything to worry about. A week in Okinawa isn't going to hold up against two years of what the two of you have been through together. I know you don't realize this, Belldandy, but that young man has been off the market since the two of you met. He's in love with you."
Belldandy seemed to consider this for several moments. "Then what about Sif? She'll be heartbroken."
Urd shrugged. "We love goddesses have a saying for situations like this," she said. She took Belldandy by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "'Shit happens.'"
The younger sister thought on this. "What should I do, Neesan?"
"You're going to have to assert your claim on Keiichi," Urd told her.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you're awful at that, Sis," Urd went on. "Any time some cute girl gets it in her head that Keiichi's a good catch, you sit on the sidelines and hope that in the end he'll like you more than them. Even when Peorth was here actively trying to steal him from you, you just kind of... went passive... and let him fight her off by himself. You can't do that this time. This time the two of them have history and a pre-existing attraction. You're going to have to take Sif on."
"You mean fight Sif?" Belldandy asked in shock.
"No," Urd drawled out. "I mean let her and everyone else know in no uncertain terms that Keiichi is your man. Yeah, it's going to hurt Sif's feelings, but if you don't, she's going to continue on with the idea in her head that she can take Keiichi for herself. And you know how Sif is when she gets an idea in her head."
"Hai," Belldandy agreed, nodding sadly. "What do you suggest?"
Urd grinned evilly. "I thought you'd never ask..."
He could hear a soft melody playing just beyond his hearing, moving him like a current at sea. It lifted him up, pulling him away from darkness, a gentle song...
His eyes opened, and it was as if the song came into focus. He could see the ceiling above him and turned his head to the left.
Sif sat there, her eyes closed as she ran a bow over a viola, the source of the melody.
"Sif?" he muttered.
Her eyes opened, and her fingers stopped moving. She smiled down at him. "Keiichi sama. You're awake."
He sat up in bed and blinked. "How long have I been out?"
"Only an hour or so," she replied, putting the viola down.
The boy regarded her for several moments. "Have you been sitting here this whole time?"
She smiled and nodded. "I thought Ameri and I might help soothe your sleep," she said.
She gestured to the viola. "Her melody can be very soothing. Do you need anything?"
"No," he said, preparing to get up. "I just..." He stopped suddenly and laid back down, his eyes wide in fear as he realized something.
"Sif," he began. "Where are my pants?"
She turned away and blushed. "We felt that any tight clothing might interfere with your breathing and circulation so we..."
"We?!" he cried. "Who's 'we?!'"
"Belldandy and I, of course!" Sif replied happily.
He turned bright red.
"Oh, please don't be angry, Keiichi sama," Sif begged. "It was only in your best interest that we acted as we did... And... If I may say... you have no reason to be self conscious..." She whispered this last part, her face reddening even more.
"Oh my goddess," he breathed, staring up at the ceiling in total shock.
"Keiichi sama," Sif began quietly as she shuffled up closer to him. "I... I must know... Why didn't you call me?"
He sighed. "I'm sorry, Sif san," he whispered. "It's... I mean... Here's what happened..."
"Of course!" Sif told him happily, practically running to the small desk in her hotel room. "I would like it very much if you were to call me!"
Keiichi felt his heart lift and his chest constrict, but in a good way. The week was over, and he was going back to Hokkaido tomorrow, and it had been the best week of his life. Spending time with Sif had turned what should have been a boring sight-seeing tour into ... well... he didn't know what, but he loved it.
He watched as she scribbled her number on a piece of note paper, biting his lip as the seconds dragged into minutes.
Well, it is long distance, he thought. Or maybe she's writing a love note!
This possibility brightened his day even more. He really liked Sif. Somehow she found the good in everything around her. She had even managed to get him to go to the beach and have fun there. This girl was special. He could see it in the way she moved.
And for some inexplicable reason, she seemed to like him.
He had never had any luck with girls before. He was short, didn't play sports, didn't have enough money to do much more than drive around the Beemer Keima had bought for him. It wasn't as if there were women lining up to date him.
But none of that seemed to matter to Sif.
She folded the piece of paper and turned to him. "Here," she said, offering it to him. "Keiichi sama, I had a wonderful time."
"Yeah, me too," he said. "So... you're sure it's okay if I call?"
She nodded. "Please do." Then, leaning over, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Until next we meet," she whispered.
After that, things got a little fuzzy. Overpowered by the girl's kiss, he still managed to stumble back to the hotel where he and his class were staying. After several attempts to slide his card into the door, he finally managed and collapsed inside.
One of his friends and roommates, Haide, turned away from the TV and adjusted his sunglasses. "Yo," he said. "Where have you been?"
His other roommate, Keruso, grinned from the bed. "Out with your girlfriend?" he asked.
Finally coming out of his spell, Keiichi shook his head, clearing it of the tiny hearts and cherubs that had been dancing around in there. "Look, I know you guys don't believe me, but it's true," he said. He held up the note. "And now I can prove it."
"What'd she get you? A restraining order?" Haide asked.
"It's her number," Keiichi announced.
"Seeing is believing, my friend," Haide said, getting up and joining Keiichi and Keruso. "So let's see it."
Grinning, Keiichi opened the note... and blinked.
"Dude, what is that?" Keruso asked. "It looks like my dad's tax return."
Haide adjusted his sunglasses. "There must a hundred digits in this number!"
"Well... It's... It's long distance!" Keiichi defended, starting to feel his chest tighten again, but this time not in the good way. It was more the suspicion-of-just-having-been-had way.
"Is that a hieroglyphic?!" Haide asked, pointing at one numeral. "Dude, this is like ancient Sumerian or some shit!"
Keruso took a step back and pointed at Keiichi. "BURN!" he shouted.
"What?!" Keiichi asked.
"SHE TOTALLY BURNED YOU!" Keruso shouted. "OH, MAN!"
Keiichi's heart fell into his stomach and started splashing about in panic.
"I'm afraid he's right, my friend," Haide told him. He grinned. "Still, you gotta admit. It's a pretty good burn."
"No, I mean..." Keiichi looked down at the numbers again. "She..."
"Come on, man," Haide said, patting Keiichi on the back. "You said it yourself, she's hot, right?"
"Yeah," he agreed quietly.
"So what makes you think a girl like that doesn't already have a boyfriend back home?" Haide asked him. "She probably came here on vacation, decided she wanted a little fun and hooked up with you. But now it's time to go home to Biff or Gerald or whatever kind of gay name he has, which means it's time to let you go." He patted his friend on the back. "There's absolutely no shame in it."
"HEY!" Keruso was shouting down the hotel's hallway. "MORISATO JUST GOT MAJORLY BURNED!" He laughed.
Keiichi felt his cheeks redden in humiliation. Haide was right, of course. The idea that Sif didn't have a boyfriend, probably a rich guy who was into sports and could afford flowers for her every day, was simply ludicrous on its face.
He closed his eyes and balled the note up in his hand, tossing it into the trash without another thought.
Sif covered her mouth in horror. "Oh no," she breathed. "I should have explained! To dial into Heaven from an Earth phone requires a hundred and thirty-two digits... And the hieroglyph was a four, I just have sloppy handwriting!"
Keiichi looked down at his blanket.
"So... You thought... That I had tricked you?" Sif asked sadly.
He shrugged. "I figured Haide was right. I mean... look at me... and look at you. Why in the world would a girl like you want to spend time with me? You could have any guy that you wanted." He shrugged. "I was different back then. I honestly believed that. It wasn't until Belldandy came that I learned that that's not the way things are..."
"Belldandy," Sif whispered.
"So that's what happened," he said guiltily. "It wasn't that I didn't want to call you, it's just that I thought... a call wouldn't be as welcome as you said..."
"I'm so sorry, Keiichi sama," she told him. "I should have explained. Been more up front with what I was."
"It's not your fault," he said. "I... had a self esteem problem for awhile. I let it get in the way..."
"And now?" she asked.
He blinked. "Um..."
She reached out and touched his hand. "Now that that unpleasant thing between us is gone, perhaps..."
Just outside Keiichi's door, Belldandy followed Urd as her sister confidently led her to where she knew she had to be, by Keiichi's side.
Her sister turned and placed her hands on her shoulders. "Remember," Urd told her, "You're not 'trying to win' Keiichi. You're not keeping him from Sif. You've already won. He's yours. He belongs to you. Be confident."
"Just like playing a part in a play," Belldandy said with a nod.
Urd shook her head. "No, it's not." She bit her lip. Belldandy simply wasn't getting it. "It's not fake. None of it! It's all real, you just won't admit it yet. Now go in there and show the world that Keiichi Morisato is your mortal!"
"Hai!" Belldandy darted for the door.
"Belldandy!" Urd called. As her sister stopped and turned back, Urd stepped up to her, regarded her critically for a moment, and then reached out, popping the top button of Belldandy's blouse, revealing just a little cleavage.
"Perfect!" Urd said. "Go get 'em!"
Belldandy turned and raised her hand to knock on the door...
"Stop! Stop!" Urd hissed quietly. Belldandy turned to her, questioningly. "He's your boyfriend! You see him naked all the time! That's not his room! It belongs to you both! Don't knock!"
"But I don't..."
"You do!" Urd reminded her forcefully. "Understand?"
Belldandy nodded. "Hai." Turning, she took a breath and slid the door open.
Sif and Keiichi turned to her as she entered.
"Belldandy!" Keiichi cried. "Um..."
"Oh, Keiichi!" she cried, deliberately dropping the 'san' as her sister suggested. She knelt next to him and wrapped her arms around him. "I was so worried!" she whispered. Remembering Urd's next suggestion, she started to stroke the hair on the back of his head.
Keiichi blinked. "Oh... I'm ... Sorry..." he said. "I didn't mean to worry you..."
Belldandy released him from the embrace and took his face in her hands. "You're always worrying me like that," she said with a smile. Leaning back a little, she reached up and absently played with her hair.
Sif watched the exchange with interest.
"Are you all right?" Belldandy asked him. "Do you need a doctor?"
"No, I think... I'm okay," Keiichi said quickly.
She embraced him again. "I'm making your favorite for dinner," she said. "If you're not up to eating with us, I can bring some for you." She punctuated this by placing her hand on his leg.
Keiichi blinked, unsure of why Belldandy was suddenly so affectionate. Not that she wasn't usually, it was merely that she wasn't usually so blatant.
"No, I think I'll be okay." He leaned in to whisper. "But... Belldandy, could you get my pants?"
She leaned forward and kissed his forehead, causing Keiichi's nose to bleed. "Hai," she whispered. Standing up, she went to his dresser and paused for just a moment as she tried to remember which drawer he kept his pants in, playing with her hair as she thought. Guessing the bottom, she found a pair of jeans and brought them to him.
Keiichi shoved them under the covers and put them on while trying to maintain some dignity.
"Do you need anything?" Belldandy asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"No, um... I think I'm good," he said.
"Then I'll see you later," she told him, rising again. She gave Sif a nod and left the room.
Sif turned back to Keiichi. "I'll let you rest," she said. Standing up, she opened the door Belldandy had just walked through and followed her.
Belldandy was gone, but Urd was leaning against her door nearby.
"Hey, Sif," the Norn greeted. "Everything okay?"
"Urd," Sif began, leaning against the wall next to her. "What is the nature of Keiichi sama and Belldandy's relationship?"
Urd smiled. "Very close," she said, adding a lie a moment later. "They're lovers, after all."
"Are they?" Sif asked with a nod. Urd blinked. While Belldandy hadn't wanted to hurt Sif's feelings, Urd knew the only end to this stalemate with Belldandy coming out on top lay at the end of a trail of Sif's tears. And Urd was prepared to hack that trail out of the wilderness herself if Belldandy couldn't.
However, Sif didn't seem the least bit fazed.
"I just saw them," Sif said. "Belldandy seemed quite... affectionate... toward him."
"Well, you know how lovers are," Urd told her. "There's that level of comfort with one another that simply comes from night after night of intimacy."
"Yes, that is so," Sif said, still unmoved by Urd's words. "She did seem very comfortable with him." She paused. "Which makes me wonder why she was acting."
"Acting?" Urd asked.
Sif turned to her. "Indeed," she said quietly. "Belldandy and I were in the same drama class in school, remember? Every goddess needed a muse credit to graduate, and Belldandy was always quite good... but she had tells. You know how she is, she can't bring herself to lie, even on stage. So when she acted, she always had a sign to let people know she was just pretending." She smiled at Urd, something happily predatory, like a lynx catching the scent of a rabbit on the wind. "She plays with her hair."
Urd listened in almost horrified fascination.
"She's... not as close to Keiichi sama as she tried to lead me to believe... is she?" Sif asked. "Not as close as you make her out to be now..."
"Look, all I'm saying is that the noise keeps me up at night..." Urd began, laughing nervously.
"Not even close," Sif told her. She faced Urd head on. "Which tells me one very important thing. Keiichi sama... is still in play."
Urd folded her arms over her chest. "Look, Belldandy doesn't want to see you hurt, okay?" she said. "But I'm going to be honest with you. You don't stand a chance."
"Don't I?" Sif asked her, not becoming visibly upset for the first time. "He is my destiny! I know it! Our meeting was not chance! It was written in the stars!"
Urd smiled. "Those same stars sent Belldandy here," she said quietly. "Made Keiichi wish for her to stay..."
"Yes, I'm sure they did," Sif replied. "Just as those same stars took a recommendation from a certain goddess first class to put Keiichi sama on the wish list to begin with."
Urd froze. "You didn't..." she whispered.
Sif glared at her angrily. "I did. To properly thank him for his gentlemanly assistance."
"He doesn't love you," Urd told her, trying to be sympathetic in spite of the young goddess's obvious intentions. "He loves Belldandy... He wished for her to stay with him."
"Yes, he did," Sif replied. "But I saw him first. I won his heart first! It was me in his thoughts! When he thought of the woman of his dreams, it was I whom that woman was based on!" She took a step back and looked Urd in the eye. "Or do you think he would have made that particular wish... if Belldandy didn't remind him so much of me?"
She turned and stalked down the hall. Urd had one last card to play. She turned to the woman.
"You'd do that to Belldandy?" she asked accusingly. "You'd hurt her that way? She's your friend, Sif!"
Sif stopped and turned back to her.
"I love Belldandy," Sif told her. "Like my own sister. But Keiichi sama is my destiny. That makes Belldandy and I rivals. I have no wish to see her hurt. But as you can see by her own little performance, she already sees us that way, and is already prepared to hurt me. There is nothing more I can do... except fight."
Urd watched her walk away and sighed.
Belldandy was in for one hell of a fight.