Hana stared at the people who had appeared in front of Frey’s collapsed body. Shin as a Shinigami, Reaper-Grimm, and Castor and Pollux, who looked draped in darkness, with points of light scattered across their forms. The four faced the bear, as it backed away but didn’t run. There was another form, off to the side, four legged; it turned and walked toward them. Hana saw it was another giant wolf, like Frey, but bigger. Hana reflexively stepped in front of Frey, to block the white wolf. It stopped and watched her.

“Hana,” Shin called turning to look back at her. “Are you injured?”

“No, but Frey is, he needs help.” Her voice shook as she watched the wolf. She couldn’t really do much if it decided to attack, but she could sure as hell try. “You leave him alone,” She said to the white wolf, voice shaking with nerves.

“Do not worry about him, flower.” Grimm waved a bony hand at the not-Frey-wolf. It still unnerved her, his voice coming from behind the unmoving mouth. “We will take care of these shortly.” He and Shin moved forward; Shin wielding his katana, and Grimm his scythe. Shin went to the cat, which had become a man again and looked him over. After a short while, a ball of light floated out of the man’s chest, connected to the body by a shimmering thread. Shin cut the thread and collected the light.

Hana glanced at Grimm and wondered, ‘Does it upset the balance if Soren are killed before their time?’ Grimm seemed to speak to the bear for a few seconds, its mouth worked to respond in a way that looked like it could form words. She looked away when Grimm lifted his scythe to bring it down upon the bear, a faint whoosh then sickly squelch, splatter, and thud sounds followed after. She covered her mouth briefly, nausea making her stomach churn. She heard a whine behind her and she turned to face Frey, still collapsed on the ground. The other wolf remained still, watching.

“Frey,” she called softly, as she knelt next to him. He opened his eyes and huffed out a breath, closing them again. “C’mon Frey, get up, we have to go to the house and patch you up.” She pushed lightly at his shoulder, hand landing in a sticky patch of blood-soaked fur. Her fingers curled into it as worry crept over her. “Please Frey do something. You have to be a person again, so we can take you home.”

Only then did the white wolf move, walking up beside them and startling Hana. It nudged Frey’s neck with its nose, eliciting a high keening sound from him. “Return to your other form pup,” it said in a deep, male voice. “It’s the easiest way to move you. Come along.” He, it (?), he forced his head behind Frey’s forelegs, and partially lifted Frey up onto his shoulders.

Frey yelped sharply at the movement. Then he slowly shifted back, the fur receded, paws became hands and feet, joints and bones shifted, until he looked human again. He groaned loudly in pain when the change was over. It looked like his clothes had been destroyed in the first change, since they were gone. From what Hana could see, he was riddled with a painful number of bad looking wounds. She grabbed his coat from where it had fallen, and hurriedly covered him with it to ward off the cold.

Frey’s eyes popped open and he searched her face. “D-did th-th-they get y-you?” he asked, sounding strained.

“No, I’m alright.” She absentmindedly put her hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for protecting me.” He nodded in response and closed his eyes again. Hana looked into the white wolf’s eyes. “Would you be able to take him back home? I don’t think bringing him back through town would be the best idea.”

The wolf nodded. “Yes, this is a small thing. I’ll take him.” The wolf turned to the woods. “This way is faster and no one will see.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s nothing.” The wolf bounded away.

Hana looked around and found only Grimm, human again, waiting for her. “I’ll drive the truck back to the house. The Twins took Shin already. Come on.” He held out a hand to her and Hana found herself running over. She almost knocked him to the ground as she buried her face in his shirtfront. “Hey, are you ok? What’s wrong?”

“I was so scared. They were going to kill me.” She remember what the cat-man had said, ‘we can’t leave any… witnesses.’ Biting back a small sob, she fisted her hands around his shirt. “They wanted Frey, but they said no witnesses.”

Grimm was quiet, and then asked, “Did they say why they were after Frey?”

“They said there was a price on his head.” Hana looked up into Grimm’s face. “They said Loki wanted him, alive.”

Grimm looked back over his shoulder, the corner of his mouth pulling up in a sneer. “I’ll ask around and do what I can to find out what this is all about. Until then let’s get you home.” He picked up the grocery bags and Frey’s boots, Hana got the other things he’d taken off. Then they went back to the shopping center, found Frey’s truck, and went home.

The wolf was standing out front, “Frey is upstairs.”

“Thanks Geri,” Grimm nodded to the wolf, Geri. “I’ll bring you some clothes. Or do you have to go back?”

“I can stay a while, thank you.” Geri sat by the porch stairs to wait.

Hana went straight upstairs when inside. Mae was sitting in the 4th floor hallway, close to the stairs, using a mortar and pestle to grind up unusual smelling herbs. Hana slid down the wall to sit next to her, and shed her outer wear. Then Mae stopped and set the mortar down.

“I haven’t had to make medicine like this since before I came to this house,” Mae murmured. She glanced at Hana. “I hate having to do these things, I hate why I have to do them. It’s why I left my old life in the first place. It’s so stressful.”

“Well, you’ve got to do it again. We need you to; Frey needs you to.” Mae sighed and Hana bit her lip, thinking. “If you want, I’ll do the dirty work so you don’t have to.”

Mae’s eyes widened as she stared at Hana. “You’d do that?”

“For you, yes. We’re the only hens in a house full of roosters now. We gotta stick together.”

“Thank you Hana. Are you ok with… y’know? It can get pretty bad, and kinda messy; and sometimes-”

“I’ll be alright.” Hana put a hand on Mae’s shoulder and smiled. “What can I do right now?”

Mae picked up a few jars beside her and put them on a tray. “Take these to Shin. He’s going to need help after he finishes cleaning Frey up.” Grimm dashed up the stairs, startling Mae slightly. “Um, I’ll finish the rest of this stuff in a few minutes and leave it outside the door.”

“Ok, got it.” Hana took the tray and stood. Then she went to Frey’s room and looked in, but it was empty. “What room are they in?”

“Oh, sorry,” Mae pointed, “second on the left.”

“Thanks,” Hana took a deep breath as she walked to the door. Inside the room, Shin had Frey lain out on a port-a-bed. He’d put a pair of shorts on Frey, and was dabbing at Frey’s wounds with a damp cloth. Frey had an arm thrown over his eyes as he gritted his teeth. It took a second to realize Shin was talking quietly to Frey as he worked.

“…and my sister, Yuki, she likes flowers, irises, lilies, camellias, all kinds, even though she can’t actually handle them. She’s a Snow Woman, and in the summer months she stays at a traditional hotel we’d bought, near Nagano. Hiro and Kei live at a shrine nearby; they’re the shrine’s guardians.” Shin laughed ruefully. “Y’know, s’ kinda sad I’ll never get to visit. Some days I really miss it.”

“It m-must be hard,” Frey murmured, as Shin dipped the rag in a bowl, “n-not being able t-t-to go huh-home.”

“Yeah, ya’d think that. ‘Mm not sayin’ bein’ here’s easy, but s’ not so bad. Hades takes good care of me and s’nice havin’ people around all the time. I didn’t have that back in Japan. I don’t really work the way I used to, no more carryin’ souls, but that’s fine.” Shin paused, and Hana watched him flinch slightly, then he let out a breath. “It’s safe here. We look after each other, n’ there’s no shortage of outside help, jus’ in case of dire situations.”

“I c-can see that. If y-you had-” Frey groaned in pain, fists and jaw clenching, as Shin swiped at a particularly bad looking set of slashes going down his ribs.

Shin hushed him, pausing from cleaning the wounds and put a hand on his shoulder. “Breathe, breathe, s’alright, jus’ relax, it’ll pass.” Frey let out a shuttering breath and grimaced. “There ya go, that was very good.”

“Shin,” Hana said softly, walking farther into the room. He turned to look at her. “I brought these for you.”

“Thanks,” Shin took the tray from her and set it on the little folding table the dipping bowl was on. “Is Mae alright?”

“I think so. I volunteered to do this instead of her.”

“Oh, that’s nice of ya. I need yer help right now anyway.” He waved her over. “We hafta get Frey’s back, so either we flip him or we lift him. What do you think we should do?”

“Lift,” she said without much thought. “It’s easier and won’t be as painful.”

Shin nodded, “good. I’ll do the liftin’. Use that cloth, dip it in the bowl, and wring it out a bit. It’s watered down alcohol and a clottin’ agent, so it’s gonna hurt him a bit.” Hana nodded and grabbed the cloth. Shin rested a knee on the port-a-bed and gently took one of Frey’s wrists. “I gotta invade yer personal space. Put yer arms around me.” He leaned down over Frey.

Frey opened his eyes just long enough to lift his arms and find Shin’s ribcage, then closed them again. Then he pulled himself flush against Shin, who then lifted him into a sitting position. His hands tightened around handfuls of Shin’s shirt as he tried, and failed, to stifle a pain-filled groan. Shin hushed him again, one hand going to the back of Frey’s head. Frey leaned his forehead against Shin’s shoulder, baring his teeth as he hissed in a breath.

When Frey had relaxed again, Shin nodded to Hana. “Go ahead. Don’t forget t’be gentle about it.”

“I know Shin; I want to cause as little pain as possible. These things take a soft hand.” Hana swiped at the slash marks on Frey’s shoulder, and moved quickly to the various other cuts and puncture wounds on his back.

Shin laughed softly. “I forgot you aren’t gonna be rough. I’m used ta only having other guys helpin’ out. Mae doesn’t help with this part, just makes the poultices and salves. It’s good to have a lady around for things like this.” He tilted his head closer to Frey’s. “What d’you think Frey? Does Hana make a good nurse?”

“Sh-sh-she’s a lot gentler than Th-Thor,” Frey murmured, “and p-p-probably Lady Sif t-too.”

Shin hummed tunelessly. “I might hafta ask you to play nurse for me from now on. You’re purty good at it.”

“It’s not that hard.” She re-dipped the cloth and wrung it out. “I’m almost finished, ok Frey.”

“Alright,” Frey shuttered.

“We’ll do the salve and bandages right after this.” Shin explained. “It’d be best to do his back first, since we already have him up.”

“Right,” Hana nodded. She worked quickly. When she finished she put the bowl and cloth to the side and went to get bandages from the bathroom.

Mae was gone; more small jars of salve sat next to the door, just were Mae had said she’d put them. In the bathroom, Hana found a large box of bandages in the linen closet, top shelf. Once again, like that morning, she found herself too short. Even on her tip-toes she couldn’t reach the box. She just barely touched the side, yet only succeeded in pushing it farther away.

“Dammit, I don’t have time for this! Get over here you stupid box!”

“Allow me.” An arm reached up, grabbed the box, and handed it to her over her shoulder.

"Thanks.” Hana turned and almost bumped into the person behind her, a white haired man she didn’t recognize. “Who the hell are you?!”

“Worry about that later, you have more pressing matters to attend to.” The man raised an eyebrow at her. “Do you not?”

“Frey,” Hana pushed past the man and ran back into the room, picking up the extra salve on the way. “I got the bandages. Salve first right?”

Shin nodded, still holding Frey. “Yes. You see that little wooden spoon?” He nodded to the tray. “Use the back end of it to apply the salve. It’s gonna hurt, a lot, so be prepared, both of ya.”

“Alright,” Hana murmured. She watched Frey nod, as his shoulders stiffened and rose another inch. “Are you ready Frey?” She asked. Frey nodded again. Applying the salve was the easy part, being aware of the pain it was causing was a whole other matter, and very difficult. After a while, Hana noticed Shin wince, hissing in a breath. “Are you ok?”

“Uh, yeah, ‘m alright.” Shin grimaced as black lines made their way up his neck. Hana gasped and almost dropped the jar she was holding. “Don’t worry about me, jus’ finish yer job. I’ll be fine.”

“Ok,” She quickly pressed a bandage to Frey’s back. Again she focused on the task at hand, only straying to keep a watchful eye on Shin. The lines continued to creep across his face, clouding his eye, and didn’t go away like they usually did. Hana started to worry. Soon she covered the last set of punctures, next to Frey’s hip, with a bandage. “Alright, that’s the last one.”

Shin nodded. “Alright, Frey, down we go.” He lowered Frey back onto the port-a-bed. Frey covered his face with his arm and took a deep breath. “I’ll get the rest.” Shin reached for the jar Hana was holding.

“No, you won’t.” Hana snapped sharply, snatching the jar away. “You need to go take care of yourself. I can handle this.”

“Hana, I can-”

“No, you need to care for yourself for once. I can take care of Frey just fine. Don’t make me get Grimm to pull rank on you.” She pretended to reach for her pendant.

“I’d l-listen to h-her if I w-were you.” Frey mumbled. He lifted his arm and his eyes opened slowly. “Y-you look t-terrible.”

“You’re takin’ Hana’s side now?” Shin sighed, and stood from where he’d been partly kneeling on the port-a-bed.

“Only b-b-because she’s r-right.”

Shin winced again, stifling a small groan. “Alright, alright, I’ll go. Jus’ make sure-”

“I know Shin,” Hana gave him a small smile and a nudge to the door. “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Shin nodded to her and left. She grabbed another jar and sighed. “Ok, now back to work.”

Bit 14 Bit 16

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