Sousuke looked about the room at his friends, family, and allies. They all seemed as equally surprised as he was to be out of Hell and back in Keiichi's home. The rustling of movement was the only sound as each of them took turns looking at each other with what amounted to wonder.
It was Urd who spoke first, breaking the silence. "Is it over?" She questioned as she looked about. She had returned to her usual form. She made eye contact with Sousuke and crawled on her hands and knees towards him before rising up and throwing her arms around his neck. "Why are we alive?" She questioned as she burst into tears with her face nuzzled deep into his neck.
Sousuke gripped her tightly in his arms. He began to speak but his words hitched in his throat as he too began to cry joyfully. He finally struggled out the words "We did it." He pressed his face against her hair and gushed as he began to laugh. Tears streamed from his eyes as he continued to laugh.
"Shinji?" Skuld questioned before turning to find him sitting behind Otaki. "Are you all right?" Skuld asked as she stood and ran to him. She dropped to her knees and looked at the shell shocked boy before placing one hand on his shoulder comfortingly.
"I was dead." He whispered as he continued to stare in one direction. "I let you die." He continued to speak as he reached up with one trembling hand to grip her by the wrist. "Are you an Angel?" He asked slowly as he looked up to gaze about the room.
"Nope. I'm a Goddess. This is an Angel." Skuld replied with a grin before allowing Noble Scarlet to appear and perch on her shoulder. The tiny Angel wore a MICH helmet, camouflage cargo pants, and a black shirt. She also wore a very small plate carrier. Skuld lifted a single finger towards the Angel and giggled when Noble Scarlet gave her finger tip a high five.
"I'm so sorry." Shinji gushed before raising to his knees and wrapping his arms around Skuld. He buried his face into her midriff and squeezed her so tightly that she involuntarily exhaled. "I promise I will make it up to you. I'll serve you forever." He continued to speak.
"Shinji." Skuld spoke softly as she began to stroke his hair. She placed her left hand behind his head and held him gently. "You did perfect. You fought till the end and you never ran. You gave your all." She continued to speak sweetly to him as she attempted to comfort him.
"So can a Goddess have a servant?" Tamiya asked Tessa as he felt her lean down onto his back. She draped her arms around his neck and laughed before kissing him on the back of the head.
"No clue." Tessa replied before erupting into uproarious laughter as Tamiya reached back to grip her cat suit, he deftly flipped her over his head and cradled her in his lap before kissing her passionately.
Peorth and Otaki stood and hugged. The tall auto club member dwarfed the Goddess as she smiled up at him. "Thanks." She spoke before looking down nervously. She didn't seem entirely sure of what to do.
"No problem." Otaki replied with a grin. He patted her on the shoulder for a moment before locking his fingers together in front of himself and staring at her awkwardly.
"Kiss him." Kurz spoke up from near by. He nudged Peorth on the back of the leg and pushed her towards Otaki. "Do it." He hissed between his teeth.
"Stop." Mao admonished before grabbing him by the ear and pulling him away.
Kurtz waved his hands in celebration after Peorth leaned forward and planted a tiny kiss on the side of his mouth. She blushed furiously for a moment before leaning in and throwing her arms and legs around him with a small hop. She began to kiss him furiously.
"All right everyone." Sousuke finally spoke as he stood and held Urd by the hand. "Mao, Kurtz, and Tessa. We all know what we have to do now. Right?" He asked.
"Yes!" Kurtz cried out as he stood and rubbed his belly.
Mao laughed before standing as well. "I suppose it was a successful mission. Where are we going?" She asked.
"The air port!" Tessa cried out excitedly. She held up her cell phone and began to dial a number. "I need transportation to the air port." She spoke before hanging up.
"Tessa has the ride. I will get reservations." Mao spoke up before removing her cell phone and dialing. She spoke for several minutes into the phone before hanging up. "We have seats." She finally spoke.
"What is happening?" Urd asked Sousuke as she watched the excitement of each of the group.
"We always have a post mission meal at the air port. Normally, as military contractors, as soon as we are done, we are waiting for a flight to get the heck out. So we always eat at the air port." He replied as he explained their post combat ritual.
"Wouldn't you rather that I cook? Belldandy could cook?" Urd asked softly.
"Negative." Sousuke replied. "No one works for this meal. No cleaning and no cooking. It's just about decompressing." He replied. "Don't worry. It'll be fun." He continued.
Urd shrugged before pulling him close for one more hug. "What happens now?" She asked.
"We eat." Sousuke smiled before cupping her face in his hand. "Don't worry. I spoke to Hild. Every thing is going to be fine." He continued.
"I can't see." Urd spoke up. "That entire time frame is blocked. She won't let me see what you discussed." She replied as her look grew concerned. "Is it really all right?"
"It's perfect." Sousuke replied before kissing her lips softly.
The group made their way to the air port using the vehicles that Tessa had called for. The monotony of the uneventful drive was broken by the swapping of stories as each vehicle filled with the stories of who did what, when, and why they were so integral to the success of their mission.
Tessa, Sousuke, Skuld, Shinji, and Urd rode in one SUV together. Urd cuddled up against Sousuke and held him tight, rarely speaking during the ride, but still looking apprehensive. While Shinji sat upfront in the passenger seat. Tessa drove and Skuld sat to Urd's side in the back seat.
"You didn't want to ride with Tamiya?" Shinji questioned Tessa as they waited at a stop light.
"That's the nice thing about Tamiya. He wanted to drive and he doesn't have to hang off my arm all the time. No offense." She replied as she tossed a nod in the rear view mirror at Urd. "He will get the others there safely and then we can spend time together. I like that about him." She continued.
"I think I get it." Shinji replied. He flashed a smile at Skuld who lifted her left hand up to cover her own eye while mocking the act of punching herself with the other hand. Shinji blushed as Skuld burst into a giggle.
Urd nestled her nose into Sousukes' neck and closed her eyes. She refused to take her arms from around his neck as they rode in companionable silence. Sousuke kept his left arm around her waist and pulled her in close, his eyes breaking away to watch their surroundings as they made their way to the restaurant.
"So do we have to fight the Valkyries?" Skuld finally questioned. Noble Scarlet had appeared again and was sitting on her shoulder. The tiny Angel had an equally small rifle slung across her chest with her legs crossed. She kept her head on a swivel as she gazed back and forth out of each of the windows with an intense gaze on her face.
"Is that your Angel?" Sousuke questioned as he turned his head to look at the small being.
"Yep!" Skuld exclaimed. "Her name is Noble Scarlet." Skuld motioned towards Sousuke with her hand as she spoke.
Noble Scarlet hopped to attention and snapped a salute at Sousuke. She held it until he saluted back and then she placed both hands behind her back and stood at ease. The tiny Angel watched Sousuke intently from the Shoulder of Skuld.
"Why is she wearing those clothes?" Urd spoke up.
Skuld only shrugged in reply before reaching up to stroke Noble Scarlets hair with a single finger. "I like her clothes." She spoke before flashing a bright smile at the Angel.
"I do too." Sousuke spoke up.
"I do too! She is so beautiful!" Tessa squealed from her seat. She had adjusted the rear view mirror to allow her to see the little Angel.
"Very cool." Shinji smiled as he threw a thumbs up at Skuld.
Urd shook her head and chuckled. "You all would."
Sousuke laughed. He felt energized and leaned down to whisper into Urd's ear. "I have something special to tell you." He spoke causing the Goddess to cock her chin to look at him suspiciously.
"What?" Urd asked.
"It's a secret." Sousuke replied with a stern look on his face.
"Don't test me." Urd growled back under her breathe as her lip curled into a smirk.
"Hild allotted me a wish." He spoke flippantly.
"She did what?" Urd questioned with a hint of awe in her voice.
"Who is Hild again?" Shinji questioned from his seat up front.
"Urd's mom." Skuld replied as she turned her attention on the two beside her.
"You are free from the covenant. The covenant doesn't apply to Skuld or Belldandy now either." Sousuke explained. "I made sure you are allowed to do what ever you want."
"I can't believe it." Urd breathed hard as her eyes grew as wide as saucers. "Is that how we got released?" She was nearly shaking as her lips stretched back into the largest smile Sousuke had ever seen.
"I'm free too?" Skuld questioned. She spoke calmly but her eyes betrayed her as they sparkled and darted from Sousuke to Shinji and back again rapidly.
"No." Sousuke growled as he pointed at Skuld. "You need to grow up and get old first." He leaned forward and glared at Shinji in the passenger seat. "Skuld needs to finish school and get a job first."
"I have a job." Skuld barked indignantly. "I am a debugger. I also write software for Heaven." She replied quickly.
Sousuke glared exasperatedly at the pair as Tessa and Urd began to laugh.
"She is an adult you know." Urd spoke up as she stared affectionately at Sousuke.
Sousuke was about to articulate a reply when the vehicle came to a halt and Tessa interrupted. "We are here." She choked back a snicker as she turned in her seat to look at Sousuke. She thought it was funny and cute that he was so flustered by the littlest Goddess.
"This conversation isn't over." Sousuke spoke again as they began to egress from the SUV. The over vehicles entered the parking lot in turn and parked. A line of black SUV trucks with tinted windows filled the back of the parking lot. The group slowly coalesced in the parking lot before making their way as a group towards a nondescript building that stated "Restaurant" above it in a small metallic sign.
The sound of airplanes taking off and landing filled the air as the group quickly crossed the length of the parking lot and made their way inside. The restaurant smelled pleasant and the decorum was quaint. Numerous tiny models of air craft hung suspended from the ceiling by fishing wire, the small objects swayed softly in the current from the air conditioner.
A small sign held the words "Please wait to be seated." and kept the group at bay as they mulled about in anticipation of their meal.
Belldandy and Keiichi slid up next to Urd and Sousuke and for a moment the two Goddesses exchanged a glance. Urd reached out and gently pressed a single digit to the forearm of Belldandy. She passed her memories of the car ride to Belldandy and smiled as Belldandy snapped her gaze to Sousuke with an awe struck look on her face.
"Every bit is true. It has to be." Urd spoke as she returned to hanging off of Sousukes' arm. She snuggled up close to him.
Belldandy began to leak tears of joy before spinning around to hug Keiichi. "Mr. Keiichi! We have good news!" She blurted out. Her face turned crimson and she shook as she gripped her charge in a crushing hug.
"I'm glad!" Keiichi cried out before asking "What is the good news?"
"We can be together forever!" Belldandy replied before breaking her hold and laughing joyfully. "Forever!" She spoke again before grabbing his arm and dangling from it in a very similar manner to how Urd does with Sousuke.
She stopped to turn and look at Sousuke. Belldandy stared at him for a moment as she chewed her lip. "Thank you. You did something very good for my family." She seemed to be mustering the courage to continue but she simply smiled when Sousuke waved off her thanks with a flip of his hand.
"Any thing for Urd and her family." Sousuke replied.
Any chance of continued discussion was interrupted when the waitress arrived. She asked for Mao and pointed towards a large meeting room that was fenced off from the general population by two large sliding glass doors. "If you all will follow me, I will get you all seated." The woman spoke up as she smiled and perused the group.
Sousuke felt the other patrons eyes running over their group as they walked through the restaurant towards the meeting room. The entire group, while clean, looked decidedly military. They had abandoned their body armor but still wore their fatigues. The only ones who looked remotely normal were Belldandy and Urd, but even they looked absolutely jaw dropping, in stark contrast to the men who they doted on.
The group filed into the side room they had been provided for their meal, each of them taking seats around a particularly large table that made a horse shoe shape in the middle of the room. They easily filled the length of the table. Chairs scraped on the floor and the silverware on the table itself jingled as they nestled in for their meal.
The only one who remained standing was Tessa. She stood at the head of the table and waited patiently for them to get settled. She waited for the waitress to take their drink orders, and as the woman began to leave, Tessa spoke up. "Could we have a bit of privacy please?" She asked. The waitress slid the doors shut on her way out.
"Can I have every ones attention for a moment please?" Tessa asked as she turned back to the group. I just want to make a few announcements before we go back to acting like animals." She smiled as many in the group did in kind.
The beautiful military commander paused as a small wooden crate shimmered into existence on the table in front of her. The box looked hand made with two large iron bands that wrapped the case from front to back. A heavy latch faced her. She turned her head to look at Urd, Belldandy, and Skuld with an inquisitive look as the group fell silent.
"Open it." Skuld piped up. She seemed genuinely interested in the contents of the mysterious case.
Tessa stepped forward and reached down to grip the latch with her index finger and thumb. She yanked firmly and the case opened with a soft groan. The moment the case opened she began to laugh. She reached into the case and held up a medal and a challenge coin. "The box is full of them." She grinned wide.
"Hild." Urd spoke the name softly as she rolled her eyes. Her lips creased into an involuntary smile as she gazed at Sousuke. He smiled at her in return and reached down to pat her leg.
"I'm going to pass these things out." Tessa stated as she reached into the case and began to hand the tiny implements to each person present in turn. The ribbon on the medal was the color of opal and the golden circular medallion on the end looked to contain an artistic rendering of Hilds' castle. The words "BATTLE FOR HELL" circled the inner image. The back of each medal contained the names of all of the participating soldiers.
Sousuke thumbed the challenge coin in his hand. The coin was heavy and appeared to be made from silver and onyx, expertly crafted, and forged in some way that he couldn't identify. The black and silver implement contained an image of a bayonet with what appeared to be a hooded female figure with wings holding it by the handle with the tip pointed downward. The other side held a beautifully carved etch of the World Tree with a single Arm Slave lounging under the branches. The intricate detail was amazing.
"What do you do with it?" Urd questioned as she pointed at the coin in his hand. "Can you spend it?" She asked.
"No. You don't spend them. Sousuke replied before proffering the coin to Urd. She reached out and took it to inspect it more closely as he continued to speak. "You carry them or display them. You can hold them to remember friends or events. It's a trinket that might have some special meaning." He explained as he watched her turn the coin over in her hands.
"You can also tap it on a table and hope the next guy doesn't have one. Then he has to buy you a beer." Kurtz spoke up as he leaned forward to speak to Urd. He smiled wide before winking at her.
"That too." Sousuke laughed as he turned his attention to Kurtz for a moment.
The waitress returned with the drinks and accepted orders as the group continued to gossip amongst themselves. Skuld in particular found it difficult not to brag about her exploits as she described the numerous creatures she dispatched. She pantomimed firing her rifle as she regaled Kurtz with a daring tale of do.
Kurtz smiled as she spoke and waited until she came to a stopping point in one of her descriptions before holding both hands out. He gripped a fork in one hand and salt shaker in the other as he hunched his shoulders and took a serious look upon his face. "No shit, there I was. Nothing but a bayonet in one hand and a box of saran wrap in the other, butt naked but a pair of combat boots on. I was surrounded by fifty horny amazonian women." He raised his eye brows and waggled them at Skuld before putting the fork and salt shaker back down on the table after Mao struck him in the back of the shoulder.
Skuld broke into uproarious laughter as she digested what Kurtz had just said. She shook and bit her lip as he simply smiled back at her. "What the heck was that?" She finally choked out.
"Those stories you are telling. We call them 'No Shitters'." He explained. "They always start with the words 'No shit, there I was.'. Just like your stories should be prefaced with." He smirked at her before leaning over to point at Sousuke. "Tell us a 'No shitter.'" He demanded.
"No shit, there I was, sitting at a dinner table with my Goddess girlfriend when some jack ass started asking me to tell stories from wilder days." Sousuke glared back before smirking at Kurtz.
"I have a Sousuke story." Mao exclaimed as she pointed at Urd excitedly. "Do you want to hear about Sousuke and his younger years?" She mocked the indignant soldier as she smiled at Urd.
"I would love to hear a Sousuke story." Urd replied as she grinned at her boyfriend. "Tell me a good one."
"So one day we went on a thirty mile march." Mao began to speak before pausing for a second as Tessa clapped her hands excitedly. The pair exchanged a look before Mao continued the story.
Urd didn't reveal the fact that she knew every thing about Sousuke but decided to enjoy their tale any ways.
"So, Sousuke starts getting leg chaffing and he steals a pair of my panties from my bag in order to stuff between his thighs in order to protect his skin." Mao continued to speak.
Kurtz leaned back in his seat laughing.
"Sousuke gets a couple more miles before some young private runs up behind him and taps him on his shoulder. The panties had fallen out of his pants leg. This young kid runs up and hands him the underwear and says 'Sir, you dropped your panties...'. The entire platoon heard it and he didn't hear the end of it for years." She began to laugh as she wiped at her eyes.
"You can always borrow my panties." Urd consoled Sousuke as he rolled his eyes at his compatriots antics.
"So what happened in Heaven?" Sousuke moved to changed the subject as he leaned back in his chair and placed his hands behind his head. He interlinked his fingers and hoped that Belldandy would begin to speak.
"I became a Paladin." Keiichi spoke up from his spot next to Belldandy. He appeared nervous as he made eye contact with Sousuke.
"Really?" Urd asked incredulously. "I didn't know you had it in you." She continued to speak as she smiled at him. "Good job. Dweeb." She laughed.
"Mr. Keiicchi was very brave. He killed several of those monsters and was instrumental in turning the tide of battle. He rescued Lind." Belldandy confirmed as she gazed affectionately at him.
"I just pointed and pulled the trigger. Just like Sousuke said." Keiichi shrugged as he blushed.
"I'm proud of you." Sousuke replied. He smiled as he reached down to hook one of his arms around Urd and pull her into his lap. He kissed her on the lips softly before cupping her face in the palm of his hand. "I have a lot to do. I need to finish school, get a job, and we need to figure out what we are going to do with our selves. A lot has changed." He whispered to her.
"You just finished saving the planet. Don't you think it's a little early to start worrying about all of that?" Urd questioned as she looked down at him.
"It isn't the first time I saved the planet. The planet always needs saving Sousuke shrugged. "The best part is that you saved me."
Skuld coughed uncomfortably before throwing her hands in the air. "Ew! Nasty!" She exclaimed before turning to slap Shinji across the face, grab his shirt, and pull him in for a deep kiss.
AN: This ends my story. I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for taking the time to read it. I appreciate all of you who took the time to read, comment, favorite, and otherwise show love. I am thinking about starting a sequel and hopefully that will come.