Mortal Fates: An Ah My Goddess!/The Dreaming crossover





                     ---------------

Continuity takes place up to The Dreaming #21

And now.... 

                     ---------------


"I know how Gods begin, Roger.  We start as dreams.  Then we
 walk out of dreams into the land.  We are worshipped and
 loved, and take power to ourselves.  And then one day
 there's no one left to worship us.  And in the end, each
 little god and goddess takes its last journey back into
 dreams... and what comes after, not even we know."

	-Ishtar, Babylonian Goddess of Love
  	 "The Sandman: Brief Lives"


                           -*-


Alone in the library as he usually was, a tall, thin man
went about the task of sorting and cataloguing the vast
collection of books stored here. 

This was no ordinary library.  This was the Library of
Dream.  It held such rare works as Happiness by Edgar Allan
Poe, More Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, and Ranma
1/2 vol. 39 by R. Takahashi.  This was the home of the
stories never told, the books never written, and there were
an endless amount of those.  The passages seemed
never-ending, the ceiling barely visible, and the rows of 
books tall in a manner that disturbed the eye.

The man walked down the endless rows pushing a cart full of
books.  This man, brown-haired with spectacles that made him 
resemble a scarecrow with owlish eyes, was the Library's sole
caretaker, responsible for sorting and maintaining this vast
collection.  His name was Lucien. 

As Lucien lifted one book to the shelf, he hesitated.  He 
looked it over carefully.  This book was one he hadn't
noticed before, somewhat thin volume, but with ornate and
shimmering letters on the cover. 

He opened the book and began to read... 


                           -*-


OOO
O O
OOOnce upon a time there was a boy. 

He was a lonely boy and a misfit, but he was content with
what he had.  It was a humble sort of life. 

Then one day he met a Goddess. 

She offered him a wish. 

He wished a Goddess like her would stay with him forever. 

And she did. 

Together they lived in a temple. 

They fell in love. 

He met her family. 

His life took strange and wonderful turns.  It was a grand
adventure.

And as long as he had his beloved Goddess by his side, he
felt he could take on the world.

And then one day, the dream ended. 


                           -*-


                   David Tai & Rod M. 
                       present... 


                      Mortal Fates
                            A
                      The Dreaming
                    Ah!  My Goddess! 
                        Crossover

                         Part 1

                         "Alone"
                                      

                           -*-

Night.

It was night.

She wasn't sure what she was doing there, but there she was,
and it was night.  She was currenty in someone's bed, being
held by someone...  odd, that.  She couldn't think of anyone
she'd want to be held by.  Not that it wasn't unpleasant,
but at the moment she wasn't attached to anyone in THAT
manner. 

She looked up at his face, and she recognized who was
holding him.  Morisato.  Keiichi Morisato.

Hm.  Odd.

The phone rang, and with it her heart raced with fear.

Fear?  There was no reason for her to fear anything.

This wasn't right at all.

Keiichi frowned.  "[Who's calling at this time of-]"

"[Don't answer it, please?]" asked Belldandy, a tone of
urgency in her voice.

Odd again.  Why did she say that?

The phone rang again.  Despite herself, she found that the
fear in her rose even further.

"[Please don't answer it, Keiichi-san.  Don't leave me.]"

She was trembling with fear.  With _fear_.  This didn't make
sense, not at all.  This wasn't her.

The phone rang again and she twitched as if struck.

"[I won't leave you, Bell-chan, I promise.]"

Keiichi reached for the phone.  Fear came crashing down on
her as he picked up the reciever.

She wanted to scream, to yell, anything to get him away from
the phone and....


                           -*-

                
Sunlight streamed in through an open window and surrounded
a sleeping figure.

Brown tresses sprawled all across the bed.  The figure
stirred, and opened her vividly blue eyes.  She yawned and
stretched and then winced as her body creaked and cracked. 

She rose and opened the shutters.  It was a sunny day, but
those clouds in the horizon... 

"[Belldandy?]" a voice called, speaking in Japanese. 

Belldandy turned around.  Standing in the doorway was a
thin, gawky young Japanese man, with short, unruly black
hair. 

Keiichi Morisato.  Beloved. 

She smiled briefly. 

"[Um, Belldandy?  I got you breakfast.]" 

Her hands flew to her mouth in shock.  "[Oh no, I woke up
late!]"

Keiichi raised his hands, waving them frantically.  "[No,
no, it's okay, I got it.]"

"[You're not going to be late for classes, are you?]" she
asked, worry and concern in her voice. 

Keiichi smiled.  "[No, no.  Don't worry about it.  Are you
feeling okay?]" 

Belldandy yawned.  "[Just a little tired, that's all.]" 

"[Well, okay.  I'll see you when I get back.]" 

Belldandy yawned and settled back into the covers,
sleepiness clinging to her still.  That was odd, she
thought.  She'd never woken up late before.  She felt bad
about it. 

A few minutes later, she finally arose and went to the
washroom for her morning ablutions.  It was there that 
she first realized something was wrong. 

Very wrong. 

Her goddess marks were gone. 

No, that couldn't be right.  Not possible. 

She ran her fingers over her forehead just to be sure. 

They were gone. 

"[Urd-neesan!  Skuld-chan!]"  She fled from the bathroom and
went to their rooms only to find them unattended. 
"[Urd-neesan?  Skuld-chan?  Where are you?!]"  She wandered
the temple looking for them but found herself alone. 

Alone, with no Keiichi, no Urd, no Skuld. 

She blinked and turned her attention within. 

There was absolute silence.  No inner light, no power
within.  Even the link with Holy Bell, her angel, was gone. 
Not even a whisper.  Except for the sound of her beating
heart. 

Desperation began to creep on her and she reached for the
telephone.

She paused. 

And with a dread, cold chill running through her soul, she
realized she had forgotten God's phone number.


                           -*-


"[I'm home!]" 

Keiichi Morisato sighed in relief.  The day was a bit long.
Projects, work, and the auto club took almost every minute 
of his time. 

But that didn't matter anymore.  He was home. 

Nice, quiet, peaceful home. 

Hm. 

Too quiet. 

"[Belldandy?]" 

Strange.  Usually Belldandy would have greeted him by
this point.  Offered some tea.  Asked how his day had 
gone.  All the nice little things.  Skuld would have been
working on a weird gadget of her own invention.  And
Urd... he didn't want to think about what SHE would
have been doing.

"[Belldandy?  Urd?   Skuld?]" 

Still no reply. 

All was silent except for a very faint sound coming from
Belldandy's room.  He found her door open and his heart
ached at the sight that greeted him: 

Belldandy curled up on the floor, sobbing quietly. 

"[Belldandy?]" 

"[Oh Keiichi!]"  She rushed up and held him tightly, sobbing
onto his shoulder. 

"[Bell-chan?  What's wrong?  What happened?]" 

She continued sobbing, leaving the question unanswered. 
Belldandy didn't know the words to explain how it felt, the
horror a goddess feels when she has lost every single link
to Heaven. 


                           -*-


"[Good afternoon!]" 

Keiichi looked up from his mechanic work. "[After- oh, it's
you, Megumi.]" 

"[What, not a kind word for your little sister?]" Megumi
retorted.  The bright-eyed brown-haired teenaged college
student put fists to her hips and leaned forward.  "[What
are you doing, big brother?]" 

"[Working on the motorcycle. I've been trying to get the
engine running.  I need a 80cc plug, but the club's been
behind on finances-]" 

"[I see.  I'm here to see Bell-chan.  Is she home?]" 

"[-and so we... ah... um.  Belldandy's not herself today.]" 

"[Yeah, I thought so.  Sick, huh?  Belldandy usually doesn't 
miss classes.  Well, I've got news that might cheer her up!]" 
Megumi beamed.  She pushed her way past her frantically 
waving brother and headed inside. 

Sighing and frowning, Keiichi turned back to his work.  He
didn't really want to work on his bike, not right now but...
he really didn't know what else he could do. 

He had tried to comfort Belldandy earlier. 

"[It can't be that bad, Bell-chan.  Missing a few classes
isn't that bad.]" he had
said... 

Only to have Belldandy turn on him and get upset with him. 
"[You don't understand!  Of course you wouldn't understand!]" 

Surprised at Belldandy's vehemence, a very confused Keiichi
had left her alone.  He would have turned to Skuld or Urd, 
asking what was wrong with Belldandy, but neither of them
were in their rooms.

And so Keiichi returned to what he was really comfortable
with...  working with his beloved motorcycle. 

He sighed.  Hopefully Megumi would have better luck... 


                           -*-


"[Hello?  Belldandy?  It's me, Megumi.  I just came by
to...]" 

Megumi froze as Belldandy turned from what she was doing.  
The weariness and sadness in Belldandy's eyes...

"[Oh.  It's you, Megumi... what do you want?]" Belldandy replied.  
She turned back to look at the vegetables she was chopping.

"[Are you all right, Bell-chan?  You weren't at school today.]"

"[I'm feeling... tired, but that will pass.]"

"[Okay.  Oh!  I just came by to give you some good news! 
You remember how you encouraged me to enter the Nekomi Tech
design competition?  The one where we need to develop a neat
solar-powered car?  I won!  The Motor Club's going to be
over soon, so we can have a party... because we're going to
BUILD it!  And then Keiichi's going to drive it at a
competition and... oh!  Not a word to Keiichi, we're going
to surprise him, okay?]"  Megumi smiled, a conspiratorical
wink on her face. 

Belldandy smiled, if a bit wearily... "[I see.  I'll prepare
a cake as well..]" 

Megumi smiled.  "[Okay... I'm going to pick on Big Brother
some more... remember, not a word!]"  And she ran out of the
kitchen. 

Belldandy sighed as she turned back to looking at the knife. 
The weight of the blade felt a little odd in her hands.  As
she put the knife down for the first slice, she noticed her
slice was slightly off.  Belldandy frowned.  She slowly sped
up her chopping, her frustration growing with every slice
until she felt a sting on her hand.  With a shout, she
dropped everything and held her hand. 

Red blood oozed from the deep cut in her hand. 

And the world turned dark. 


                           -*-


Sitting in a tree outside a dark cave in the Dreaming, 
where all living souls go when they sleep, Matthew brooded.

Once he had been able to love and hate, to take a woman in
his arms and love her, to punch a man because he hated
him...

Once he could run far and away, swim a long way... race a
car one hundred miles per hour down a screaming highway,
drunk out of his mind...

Once he had been Matt Cable. 

Now he had lost all that. 

But he didn't mind that all so much... for he had gained
wisdom in death and the gift of flight in his rebirth...

For Matthew was a Raven. 

Ravens, as a whole, were advisors to gods.  Ravens advised
Odin, the Chief Norse God, granting thought and memory. In
Native American mythology, ravens were cunning and sly. 
But Matthew was more than that.

Matthew was the current Raven of Dream. 

Dream was the Prince of Stories, the Master of dreams.  More
than that, he was Dream of the Endless, one of seven
anthropomorphic personifications of reality.  Unlike the 
others... unlike Desire and Despair, unlike Destiny and 
Destruction, unlike Death and Delirium, Dream was... young.
Even though he was as old as the cosmos, Dream was still very
new at his job.  Dream needed guidance. 

For he was the second being to hold the title of Dream.  The
first had been slain, but he'd made preparations.  The
current Dream was the result of those plans.

Just as he had with the first Dream, just as it was with all
Ravens of Dream before him, it was up to Matthew to be a
voice of counsel.

But for now... 

"Matthew?" a voice interrupted his reverie.

Matthew turned his head to look at a matronly figure 
that had just emerged from the cave.

"Oh, Eve, yeah... what?"

"Don't you have somewhere to be?"

"Oh, right."

No time for brooding.

Right now he had an appointment to keep, to see the
brothers, the keepers of Mysteries and Secrets. 

Eve smiled.  "Give the boys my love, will you?"

"Uh, sure."

And with a loud cry, Matthew was off and flying.

Eve shook her head with a hint of bemusement.  "Men."


                           -*-


Keiichi stood in the corridor of the hospital waiting.  It
seemed so very wrong, to be waiting for Belldandy to come
out of the emergency room. 

Belldandy had cut herself. 

She'd bled like a normal human being. 

Keiichi had panicked when he saw her, passed out in the
kitchen, a pool of blood forming near her arm. 

Belldandy was _bleeding_. 

It hadn't really sunk in until now.  He'd been used to her
being a Goddess for so long.  Whatever happened, she would
always be there.  She was a _Goddess_. 

But not anymore. 

Running into the kitchen when he heard Belldandy's scream
and seeing her lying there, watching her blood flow... that
had been the moment of true realization. 

Belldandy was mortal. 

She'd eat like a mortal, sleep like a mortal, bleed like a
mortal... 

And she could die. 

"[Keiichi?]" 

He looked up, fear in his eyes.  "[Belldandy!]"  Without
hesitation, he rushed up and took her in his arms, embracing
her.  "[Don't scare me like that again,]" he said softly. 

"[... I won't, Keiichi...]" 

But Belldandy didn't sound so confident. 


                           -*-


It appeared to be a traditional tea time between two men in
a room full of antique furniture. 

"More tea?" 

"Suh-suh-shure, th-thanks." 

That wasn't quite what it was, although it was close. 

The furniture was indeed antique, most from the Victorian era
and quite a few even older.  The bit with the tea was
traditional as could be. 

Matthew flew through an open window into this cozy,
traditional scene, and perched on the stutterer's shoulder.

"Ah, welcome my feathered friend", the non-stuttering man
spoke.  "Tea?  Crackers?  Rotting carrion?" 

"How about just some peanuts?" asked Matthew, giving him an
irritated glare. 

"Ruh-ruh-right." 

The short, fat, bearded one with a stutter was named Abel. 
The other, a tall and lean man with oddly pointy hair,
glasses, and an acidic persona, was Cain.  It was a distinct
possibility that they were the Cain and Abel from Biblical
legend.  After all, in the Dreaming... stories and dreams
abounded. 

Cain, at the moment, was staring outside at the lands around
them.  "Something's amiss." 

"Wuh-what was th-that?" 

Cain's expression darkened slightly.  "I said, bubble-butt,
something's amiss.  Out there.  In the Dreaming." 

"That sorta thing seems to be a regular event nowadays," 
said Matthew.

The location of their tea-time gathering was far from usual
as well. The house they were in was the House of Mystery,
which was watched over by Cain.  It sat upon one of two
hills in a place that seemed perpetually cloudy.  The other
hill was topped by the House of Secrets, watched over by
Abel.

"I huh-huh-hope it's nothing too serious," said Abel. 

Cain stroked his beard.  "I don't think it's serious, no. 
Just odd." 

"Suh-sounds like a muh-muh-mystery to me..." muttered Abel
absently.  Cain sighed.  Accidental or not, it was a bad
pun.  He pulled out an old-fashioned pistol... 

There was a flapping of wings... 

*BLAM*

There was one other thing that was highly unusual about the
pair.  Cain had a habit of killing Abel on a regular basis. 

"Jeez!" yelled Matthew, from his new perch atop a bookshelf. 

Cain scowled and waved his pistol dismissively.  "He was due! 
If there's one thing I can't stand it's a bad pun.  Besides,
I hadn't killed him all week."

Abel would eventually recover from the murder, but it was
never a pleasant experience. 

"But a gun!" Matthew exclaimed. 

Cain frowned.  "Hmmm.  You're right, doing it with a gun 
just isn't the same.  Next time I use the mallet.  Haven't 
done that one in a while." 

He looked down at Abel's bloody remains, sighed, then
grabbed his feet and dragged him out of the room.  "Come on,
blubber butt, you're bleeding on my carpet." 

Behind him Matthew shook his head. 


                           -*-


"[PARTYYYYYYYYYYYY!]" 

The sounds emitting from the temple were enough to make
Keiichi groan. 

What, he wondered, in the name of the Gods was going on
there? 

"[Oi!!!!  Where's Morisato???]"

The Nekomi Tech Motor Club.  Wonderful. 

Belldandy grabbed his shirt weakly and moaned.  Keiichi
frowned.  He had to get Belldandy home quietly... 

The doors of the temple flew open and with a shout of
"[MORISATO!!!!]" a big ugly man came running out, tears
streaming down his face as he pulled Keiichi into a bear
hug.  "[Morisato-kun!  I'm so happy!  Once again we showed
everyone that the Nekomi Tech Motor Club is the best!]" 

Keiichi groaned.  So much for quietly getting Belldandy
home.  He pushed ineffectually against Tamiya.  Fortunately
for Keiichi, he was quickly released from the crushing 
embrace as Tamiya turned around and bellowed, "[Hey, guys!
Morisato's here!]" 

People streamed out of the building; in seconds they
were swarmed by the members of the motor club, most of them
already in varying states of intoxication. 

Surrounded on all sides, Keiichi and Belldandy had no choice
but to follow them into the temple where the party was
already in full swing.  Helplessly, he held an arm around a 
shivering, quiet Belldandy, observing the chaos. 

"[Keiichi, I will go into the garden to get some fresh
air.]"  With these words Belldandy disentangled herself
from him and walked away, ignoring the partying people
around her.  As the door closed after her, everyone fell
silent and turned around to look at Keiichi. 

Tamiya walked up to him slowly, his dark expression
promising doom, or at the very least tremendous amounts of
pain.  He grabbed Keiichi and shook him like a rag doll.

"[Morisato-kun, what have you done to Belldandy-sama!]" 

"[N .. n... nothing, sempai!]", Keiichi managed to reply
weakly, still staring at the door. 

Tamiya dumped him unceremoniously and then bellowed,
"[Let's party!]" but not before giving Keiichi one last
look. 

Keiichi sighed as someone pushed a can of beer into his
palm. 


                           -*-


Outside, Belldandy noticed nothing of the commotion inside. 
Alone with her thoughts, she sat there leaning against the
ancient oak tree, drawing a small measure of comfort from
its silent presence.  Her thoughts were interrupted by the
sound of a car coming to a halt outside the gate.  Seconds
later, an elegant young woman entered the temple grounds.

Spying Belldandy sitting alone under the tree, Sayoko
Mishima smiled.  If Belldandy was out here, alone, during
the party, she might have a chance to take her Keiichi away
from that woman. 

With a false smile, she nodded to Belldandy. 

"[Good evening, Belldandy-san. It is so nice to see you
again.]" 

Her expression turned nastier as she continued. 

"[I see you are not with Keiichi-san tonight ... how sad.
Did you two break up?]" 

Belldandy didn't answer, not even indicating that she had
noticed Sayoko.  She only stared off into space, a sad
expression on her face. 

Sayoko smiled, and walked away towards the temple, calling
back over her shoulder, "[I am sure you won't mind if I help
Keiichi-san over his loss then,]" before vanishing in the
house. 

Belldandy looked after her. 

Why hadn't she said anything? 

With a sigh she looked at the ground, a lonely tear running
down her cheek. 

"[Keiichi, my Keiichi... I should be with you now ... but I
am too weak ...  I can hardly face myself in the mirror, how
could I face you and our friends?  And now Sayoko is there,
too.  She will try to take you away from me, I am certain.]" 

Dark thoughts running through her head, Belldandy sat in the
darkness, cold, vulnerable, and above all alone. 


                           -*-


Inside the temple, Keiichi blinked as Sayoko walked towards
him, demurely smiling.  Though he had regarded her as a
friend, something about her seemed different today. 

"[Sis?  What's with Sayoko?]" Keiichi murmured to Megumi. 

"[I don't know, bro, but... hi, Sayoko!]"  Megumi smiled a
friendly smile at Sayoko. 

"[I wished to offer my congratulations, Megumi-san... it was
quite an display of creativity you put on...]"  Sayoko
smiled quickly and fleetingly at Keiichi as she spoke.

"[Why, thank you!]" 

Keiichi's eyes darted towards the outdoors.  "[Excuse me,
Sayoko, Megumi.]"  He started towards the door. 

Sayoko excused herself and followed him, frowning a bit. 
Silly boy, what was wrong with her that he'd constantly
evade her?  For a foreigner, even! 

Outside the door, Keiichi spied Belldandy.  As he called out
towards her, Sayoko tapped him on the shoulder. 

"[Thank you for a lovely time, Keiichi.]"  And she kissed
him on the cheek. 

Belldandy looked up at that moment.  Her eyes welled with
tears and she spun around, and ran away.

"[B-b-belldandy...!]" Keiichi stammered after her. 

But she kept running. 

Sayoko bowed, and readied to leave, with a small smile on
her face.  So much for Belldandy. 

And then Sayoko turned her head to watch Belldandy's
retreating form... and frowned.  Why then, did she feel so
guilty...?  It felt almost like she had taken advantage of a
weakened opponent. 

No.  That couldn't be it... could it? 


                           -*-


Keiichi sighed. 

He was alone, finally... in this big empty house. 

Things just didn't seem right.  It was too quiet, too
lonely.  Suddenly he wished he hadn't sent everyone home so
soon. 

There was a fumbling sound  and then the doors began to open. 

Belldandy walked in, shivering. 

Keiichi rose.  Quietly he walked up to her.  "[Belldandy?]" 

Belldandy walked right past him. 

Keiichi turned in shock.  "[Belldandy?!]" 

He watched as Belldandy's back stiffened and she halted. 
Slowly, Belldandy turned around. 

Tears were in her eyes.  "[Keiichi...?  You're still here?]" 

Keiichi blinked.  "[Of course I am!  What...]" 

Suddenly Belldandy was hugging him, her head lying on his
chest.  "[Oh, Keiichi!  You didn't leave, after all!]" 

"[... of course, I didn't.  Why would I?]" 

Belldandy let go of him, drawing back, withdrawing into
herself.  "[Sayoko... I thought....]" 

"[She was just saying good night, that's all, Bell-chan...]" 

"[I... I'm sorry, Keiichi!  I... I've been so afraid
lately... and... oh, Keiichi!]"  Belldandy threw her arms
around him and held him close to her. 

Keiichi held her back, tightly. 

They stood there for a long time afterwards, clinging to
each other. 


                           -*-


Meanwhile, somewhere else in the Dreaming, a dream was being
built.  The foreman of the construction crew was, at the
moment, having some problems with the plans. 

His name was Merv.  He was a pumpkinhead. 

He would have scratched his beard in irritation, but he had
a pumpkin for a head.  So instead he just rubbed his chin. 

Scratching his chin would have resulted in some nasty
peeling. 

"Dey want what?" he asked incredulously, the tip of his
cigar flaring up.  "I dunno.  Cripes, we gotta use THOSE
candles?  And we gotta use HIM?  Oh my.  HE'S not gonna be
happy, that's fer sure." 

The faceless worker next to him shrugged.  "That's the
orders, boss." 

Merv scowled and puffed out a few clouds of smoke.  "Great. 
Okay.  Fine.  But I ain't happy 'bout dis, and I know HE
ain't gonna be cooperative."


                           -*-


A few days later... 

Some would say it was bound to happen.

Belldandy had missed more and more classes.  Keiichi was
looking more and more stressed.  Those few that had managed
to catch a glimpse of Belldandy had noticed she seemed
tired, worn, a little ill.

The rumor mill began.

Keiichi, quietly eating his lunch in the campus courtyard,
was blisfully unaware of the hushed whispers flowing around
him.

"[Look at him.  He looks so tired.]"

"[Where's his girlfriend?  She never missed a day of class
before.]"

"[I heard she was sick.]"

Keiichi sighed and read over his notes, drink in hand.

"[I heard they were fighting.]"

"[You think they'll break up?]"

He idly picked up his burger and ate it with little
interest.

"[She used to ALWAYS cook for him.  Now he's reduced to cheap
takeout.]"

"[Ouch, that's not a good sign.]"

Keiichi yawned, then stretched.

"[Guy looks exhausted.  Wonder why.]"

"[Could be Bell keeping him up, if you know what I mean.]"

"[Nah.  He'd look tired but HAPPY if that was the case.  Does
he look happy to you?]"

Keiichi stood up quietly, and gathered up his trash, preparing
to depart.

The angry eyes of Tamiya watched him go.


                           -*-


At the front porch of the shrine, Belldandy sat and watched
the world go by.  Soon her Keiichi would return, and she
wished to see him.  She didn't know what she would do
without him now that she was truly mortal. 

The past few days and nights had passed like a blur, unreal
and hazy. Nothing seemed clear.  It was as if the world was
was cast under a haze of grey.

Attending classes was no longer the joy it had been.  For
the first time, she could not find pleasure in school, as
facts and data no longer came easily to her.  She had to
labor to remember things, which was apt to give her 
headaches.  The Motor Club's usual chaos confused and 
stressed her to the point that she had pleaded illness
and left.

Even simple housekeeping was hard for her.  Belldandy found
herself becoming tired frequently from mere daily chores.
The wind seemed a bit more harsh, the sun a little more 
stinging to the skin. 

Once when she was watching television trying to calm her
nerves, she thought she saw Urd.  Her sister seemed to be a
dim apparition, staring sadly at her.  When Belldandy had
called out to her, Urd disappeared. 

Every now and then, when she gazed at her tea, she saw the 
face of her sister Skuld.  Again, it was a sad look her 
younger sister seemed to have, and it never lasted for long.

Were they lamenting her fall?  They seemed to be.  She wished
she could talk to them once more, to say her final goodbyes,
but she was allowed nothing more than a ghostly image of her
family. 

She sighed as she headed into the house, walking slowly
into the living room.

To be with my sisters once more, thought Belldandy.  My
Lord, is that too much to ask? 

She received no reply. 

Keiichi wanted her to see a doctor, but she knew whatever
was ailing her was far beyond the ability of mortal healers.

She had been cast from Heaven.  She was one of the Fallen. 

That almost made her laugh.  She would not fit in with the
other Lords of Hell, not at all. 

Belldandy sat down and stretched out on the floor, looking
up at the ceiling. 

Was this her punishment for loving a mortal more than her
duty to Heaven?

But she also had a duty to Keiichi.  She had made an 
agreement.  "I want a goddess like you to be with me
always!" Keiichi had said.

So be it. 

She loved Keiichi, and that was all that mattered. 

Keiichi... 

Yes, he'd be coming home... 

Any... 

Minute... 

Now... 

And Belldandy slept. 


                           -*-


o/~ Happy birthday to you o/~

Birthday? 

o/~ Happy birthday to you o/~

Oh!  Skuld's birthday!  The anniversary of her reconfiguration,
actually.  But for gods and goddesses it was the same thing.

But wasn't that next month? 

Belldandy opened her eyes to the sight of a room full of
people.  Surprised, she stood up and looked around,
realizing that all these people were their friends and
family. At the center of everyone's attention was Skuld, her
back to Belldandy, standing before a gigantic birthday cake. 

The cake and the candles, however, were all black.  And the
flames burned with an eerie blue light. 

 o/~ Happy birthday dear Skuld o/~
 o/~ Happy birthday to you... o/~

The crowd cheered as the song came to an end.  Skuld, her
back still to Belldandy, leaned forward and blew out all the
candles.

With a gust of wind, the room went dark.  Why was it so cold
suddenly?

"Skuld-chan?" 

She was surprised and frightened when her voice echoed
through the darkness. 

"H-hello?  Anybody?" 

"There's no need to be afraid," said her little sister,
somewhere in the darkness. 

"Skuld?  What's happening?" 

"I've been reborn again, just like you." 

Reborn?  That can't be right!  Skuld had only been in her
current incarnation for 15 years...  it was too soon! 

"Skuld?  Where are you?" 

"Over here, sister." 

Blue flames came to life once more a few meters away. 
Belldandy saw Skuld standing before the fire, her back still
turned away, idly tossing a marble around.  There was the
sound of something... clacking? 

"Skuld?"  She slowly walked up to her sister and with a
trembling hand, touched her on the shoulder.

Skuld turned around, eyes closed, and faced her sister. 
There was a smile on Skuld's face, an artificial and vacant
smile.

She opened her eyes.  They were smiling too.  Literally. 

Shock, fear, and repulsion washed over Belldandy.  She
looked down, away, anywhere but into Skuld's... eyes... no,
those weren't eyes...

"What do you think, dear sweet sister?" said the chattering
rows of teeth that had become Skuld's eyes.  "It's a new
look.  Isn't it nice?" 

And then the laughter began, low and malingering sounds of
bemusement and mockery, intermingled with Belldandy's
screaming...

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-----------" 


                           -*-


"---OOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!" 

She woke up screaming, eyes open wide, shuddering, to find
herself being held by Keiichi.  Panting in a cold sweat,
Belldandy found little relief being in the arms of her
beloved. 

"[It's only a dream, Belldandy.  It's okay.  Everything's
okay,]" Keiichi whispered to her... 

She clung to him for a few minutes as Keiichi reassured
her.  "[It was only a dream, Bell-chan...]" 

Sighing, Belldandy laid her head down on Keiichi's lap, 
trying to regain her calmness.  It was only a dream after 
all.  Skuld was up in the heavens.  Belldandy was down here,
and she was alive. 

And she had Keiichi.  Things would be fine... she would
eventually learn to be mortal. 

If only there wasn't this little voice in her head, a little
fear that whispered... 

"But what if it wasn't a dream...?" 


                           -*-


Down in the dark woods of the Dreaming... 

A man, clad in a white tank top and white pants, slowly
looked up, running a hand through his short crew-cut hair,
frowning as he lifted his dark shades covering his eyes... 

And revealing two rows of teeth in his eye sockets... 


-= end part 1=-


"I keep saying I feel
      but there is nothing to feel
             just a strange kind of nothing
                      where it used to be me..."

        -The Cure, "It Used To Be Me"