Hana closed Frey’s bedroom door, happy that he’d had enough energy to walk to his room, mostly on his own. Now he was in his bed resting, exhausted from the evening. She sighed, looking down at her hands. There was salve sticking to her fingers and a small rust colored patch smeared across one palm. She didn’t think much of it, deciding to wash her hands later.

“How’s the pup?” Someone behind her asked. Hana whirled around in surprise. It was the white haired man from before. “The Shinigami came downstairs a good while ago. I was worried.”

“Who the hell are you?” Hana asked sharply. “What are you doing in our house? The last stranger I met with and aura like yours tried to kill me. So you’d better start talking or I’ll-”

“What?” The man barked. “What will you do? You do realize there isn’t much you can do, don’t you?” He grinned, showing off an impressive set of teeth, which didn’t look right in his face. “And even if you could do something, my nephew wouldn’t appreciate it very much.”

Hana blinked, confused. “Who’s your nephew?” The man’s threatening smile softened into kindness as he nodded to Frey’s door. “Frey’s your nephew.”

“Yes, one of my brother’s many children,” the man sighed.

“So, you are… who? One of the Norse gods or-?”

He chuckled. “No, I’m Odin’s wolf Geri. I must say, you surprised me standing in front of Frey like you did. It was very courageous of you, despite the fact that you’re a fragile human.”

Hana felt her face heat up. “You’re the wolf who helped us?” Geri nodded. “Oh jeeze, I am so sorry. I can’t tell when you guys switch back and forth like you do.”

“That’s alright.” Geri chuckled again. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to check on my nephew.”

Hana nodded and stepped to the side, watched Geri go into the room, and then went downstairs. Mae was in the parlor, fussing over Shin, who was still in pain with his curse acting up. The Twins were watching TV in the living room. “Where’s Grimm?” Hana asked the Twins.

“He had to go back to work,” one said.

“But he said he’d be back home in a few ours,” chimed the other.

Hana nodded and sat with them. After not too long, the doorbell rang. Hana sighed as she stood. “If it’s another vengeful god or something, I might kill someone.”

Geri opened the door before Hana got there. “Yes, can I help you?”

“You, no.” A familiar voice snapped.  “Who are you? What are you doing in my brother’s house? Where is he?”

“Yuki?” Hana asked looking under Geri’s arm, as he held the door open. Yuki, Hiro, and Kei were standing on the front porch. “Hiro, Kei, what are you doing here?”

“Hana,” Yuki pushed past Geri and hugged Hana. “We came to get Shin.”

“Get Shin? Why do you need to get him? Is everything alright?”

“Mom found the Jorogumo,” Hiro said as he walked down the hallway.

“She said Shin needs to come, he has to be there.” Kei told her as he glared at Geri, who grinned back.

“Wait, what for? Is it really a good idea?” Hana followed Hiro and Yuki.

“Mom didn’t say why, just that Shin has to be there.” Hiro looked around. “Where’s big brother anyway?”

“Last I saw him he was in the parlor.” Hana pointed. “He’s had one of his, um, attacks. It’s been really bad today. It won’t go away, we were-”

“What do you mean?” Hiro asked. “Is he ok?”

“Not really, come on.” Hiro and Yuki followed her. In the parlor, Shin was leaning back on one of the sofas. He gritted his teeth as more black lines spread across his face and down his arm. They had gone past his elbow and were spreading to the left half of his face. Mae looked scared as she looked at the slowly creeping lines. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know!” Mae replied, looking desperately shocked. “I hate these things so much, I can’t handle this.”

“Nii-san,” Yuki rushed over to Shin. She pulled the collar of his shirt, showing his shoulder. Two black dots, each about the size of a dime had appeared above his collarbone, the black lines spread from them. “It’s her.” Shin tried to pull away from Yuki, but she pinched his cheek and he stopped. “Stop it, you’re coming with us.”

Yuki, I’m fine.” He complained, brushing off her hand from his face. “I’ll be alright.”

“Shut up, you need to come back to Japan,” Hiro said.

“I can’t, ya know I can’t. Omi-Kami doesn’t want me-”

“We don’t care what she wants!” Hiro shouted, successfully silencing Shin. “We want you. You have to come back. Mother has the spider woman. We have to see if there’s a way to lift your curse. We’re not watching you suffer anymore. And that’s final!”

Shin blinked up at Hiro, looking shocked at his outburst. Hana found herself nodding. “You should go, Shin. It’s for the best, you need to do this. It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” She smiled. “I think Amaterasu would understand. Don’t worry, I’ll hold down the fort while you’re gone.”

Yuki nodded sharply. “It’s settled, you’re coming home. Hiro, get Kei in here so we can head back.”

“Right,” Hiro closed his eyes briefly. Kei came jogging into the room. “Ok, we’re ready.”

Yuki put a hand on Shin’s shoulder. “Are you ready to go?”

Shin shook his head sharply. His breathing had quickened, and his eyes looked about as wide as dinner plates. Hana didn’t think Shin could look that scared. “What if-”

Yuki moved the hand from his shoulder to cover his eyes. “Its fine, you’ll be fine. We’re with you, always will be. Omi-kami can’t keep us from helping you. You’re our big brother.” She looked up at Hiro and Kei, giving the slightest nod. The twins joined hands, and one touched Yuki’s arm. Then they were gone, leaving a thin cloud of bluish-grey smoke in their wake.

Mae gave a little squeak of surprise and their sudden departure. Hana let out a tense breath and went to the kitchen. The cake from that morning was sitting on the counter, iced and on a cake plate. She left if for when Shin got back, to celebrate with. When she turned, she jumped at the sight of Geri sitting at the table, looking at her expectantly. “You scared the shit outta me.”

“My apologies,” he smiled. He pushed a steaming mug towards her. “You probably need something hot to drink after all that’s happened. Come sit with me.”

She sighed and pulled out the chair in front of him. The mug was filled with chamomile tea. Hana took a deep whiff from the mug and glanced hopefully at Geri. “With honey?” She asked. Geri nodded. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome.” He nodded. “Your Shinigami is sick, isn’t he?”

Hana nodded, “Yeah, he got cursed by a, uh, Joro- um, a spider woman.”

“Jorogumo, yes, they’re nasty creatures.”

“That’s what he told me. Apparently he took her lover or something to the other side, and she went after him. Before he could kill her, she cursed him. So he can’t do his job.”

“Ah, is that why he’s here? I’d assumed he’d needed to find a safe place to stay, like my nephew.”

Hana shook her head. “No, he was considered useless, so they s-” She took a breath, frowning into her mug. “Amaterasu auctioned him off to the highest bidder.”

Geri’s look turned sour. “She sold him like chattel? I-…I think I may have heard of this some decades back.”

“Grimm said it was a pretty big thing. Apparently people really wanted him; I’m not sure what for.”

“I’d assume it was because of a few things.” Geri spread his palms on the tabletop. “His status in Shinto religion would be valuable. Death bringers and death gods are well respected amongst us, for their power. He would have made a good body guard or watch dog for some, with all that power he has. And I’d imagine some of them wanted him for nothing more than his face.”

Hana’s eyebrows snapped together. “What do you mean?”

“Your friend’s value wouldn’t lie only in his power for some.” Geri frowned and paused, searching for words. “There are those who would value him more for his aesthetics than his power. They would… use your friend… physically.”

“Oh, um, well alright then. I never thought about that.” Hana stared down into her tea.

“It’s a good thing you don’t.” Geri put a hand on one of hers. “So, how did your Shinigami end up here?”

“Well,” Hana turned the mug, watching the liquid rock back and forth inside as she thought. “Shin told me that they were at like a market or something. The bidding went on for a while, they started kind of low and eventually the price was pretty high. He talked about how he was afraid of the Soren that where bidding. It’s not hard to imagine why he was afraid. He’d never been outside of Japan before and suddenly he was being sold. Thanatos had been there that day. Hades wanted him to hire a new worker to take care of this halfway house. And so, Thane supposedly went by the auction room and saw Shin.

“Thane has a gift for knowing what people fear. I guess he could see it in Shin, and apparently he made a bid for some ridiculously high amount. Hermes had been with Thane, and he said that Thane just shouted this number and the whole room went silent with shock. Everyone just stopped and stared at Thane. No one outbid him, so he paid for Shin and now he takes care of the house and the people living here.”

“So, he’s not here for protection, he works here.” Geri scratched lightly at his face. “That’s very interesting. Would you say he’s good at running the house? He takes care of it and the residents.”

Hana shrugged. “I guess. I mean, he cooks almost all of the meal, keeps the house clean, and he does a good job of it. He’s really nice and calm, unless you piss him off or break the rules. But even then he doesn’t-”

“Rules, he has rules?”

“Yeah, no yelling inside, no power displays inside, warn people if you’re expecting company; it’s all little stuff. And we have to respect each other and each other’s spaces. And even if you break a rule he’s not really mean about it. At least I don’t think so, not compared to-” She stopped. Hana felt a little piece of Juniper float to the surface.

“Compared to what dear,” Geri asked, looking concerned. “Are you alright?” He reached out and held her fingers in a comforting way.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Don’t worry about it, everything’s ok.” She forced a tight smile. He nodded and pulled his hands back. “So, Shin’s a really good guy, he’s kind and gentle, and he takes really good care of us. He’s a great cook and he never yells. Yuki Hiro and Kei visit pretty often and I think it makes him happy. He met his mom the first time in his life about a week-and-a-half ago. It was actually just a few days before Frey got here.”

“He didn’t know his mother?” Geri’s eyebrows came together in an angry frown. “Why would he not know his mother?”

Hana shrugged. “All he told me is that it wasn’t allowed.”

Geri scoffed. “The Shinto Pantheon has very strange practices.” He sighed, resting his chin on his hand. “Though, your Shinigami is-”

“Shin,” Hana interrupted. Geri gave her a confused look. “His name’s Shin.”

He nodded, “alright. Well, Shin isn’t too much like the members of Shinto Pantheon that I’ve met. From what you’ve told me he seems to be very interesting and I’d say he’s a good person.” He hummed tunelessly. “I guess that means I didn’t have to worry so much.”

“What? Were you worried about Frey?” Hana asked. Geri nodded, briefly closing his eyes. “Why were you worried?”

“He’s never been so far away before, and with Soren from another Pantheon. Ever since he was a pup he’s been with Thor and Sif, always so close. The Pantheon has been in Norway and Sweden since we first came to be.” Geri looked out the window. “Now, because of Loki and his son, my nephew is where I can no longer watch him. We’ve all been worried about him, especially Thor. He worries that Frey didn’t have enough training.” He laughed. “It’s a good thing he didn’t come with me today. He’s not the most forgiving, and can be a little… protective.”

“I see.” Hana finally drained her mug. “Maybe Thor just needs to trust that he taught Frey well enough to get along by himself. Trust his own training. And Frey’s actually got this figured out pretty well I think. He’s independent and considerate and polite and kind. You can tell he’s shy, and he’s a little on the quiet side, but that’s ok. You just need to believe that you raised him well, even if now he’s not close by.”

“Hm,” he smiled at her. “Frey said you were interesting. I must say he was right. How old are you by the way?”

“I’m 15.”

“That’s it? Hah, well, you are very wise for such a young age.” Geri sighed and sat back slightly. “I think it may be about time that I go home.” He slid out of the bench seat. “When he gets back, tell Shin I said thank you for taking care of Frey. Thank you as well, Hana Sharpe.” He lightly passed a hand over her hair. “I’ll go say goodbye to him.”

Hana nodded. “Alright, let us know if you’re stopping by again. We’d be happy to have you. I’ve enjoyed your company very much. And I’m sure it’ll make Frey happy.”

“Of course,” with that Geri went upstairs. Not long after, Hana heard him leave the house.

Bit 15 Bit 17

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