Charon breathed a sigh of despair; his heart broke every time his little nephew flinched. Charon's sister, the boy's mother, died in an accident with the boy's father, but instead of the child being legally rendered into his care, he was taken away and put into foster care.
The man and his wife, who had abused Fakir, spoke untrue and damaging words to break and punish him. Charon fought to right the wrong that had been done, to bring his nephew, who he had considered a son, back home where he belonged. It took too much time and a lot of effort, but he finally got Rue and Mytho from Child Services interested in the case.
Once they got involved, Fakir was quickly rescued and Drosselmeyer and Kraehe were on the run. But there were still several problems. The boy was malnourished and fragile, several bones brittle from being broken and not properly healing. And that wasn't even considering his fear of people.
Fakir no longer trusted anyone, the lie Drosselmeyer and Kraehe spoke to him damaging that part of his psyche, and they all feared that he would never trust again.
Charon worked with him on the problem as much as he could, spent the time and money he no longer had on therapy. Eventually Charon was told there was nothing else he could do, that he should let Fakir go wherever it was he would go. He despaired; losing all hope his adopted son would ever feel safe or happy.
Then things changed.
A long-time friend of Charon's stopped in for a quick visit. She and her husband were going to take a romantic trip, and Raetsel wanted Charon to look in after hers and Hans' daughter, Ahiru. He knew the little red-headed girl and she was a ball of sunshine. The house had grown gray with his depression and Fakir's fear so he figured her influence would be good for them.
Little did he know how good her influence would be, not just for him, but for Fakir as well. The boy had been hiding out behind the kitchen table leg, (where he often was when he went to "steal" food,) when Raetsel and Hans arrived with Ahiru. As usual, the girl was brimming with energy and smiling as if she'd been given the duck she'd wanted as a pet since she was three.
She greeted Charon happily, Fakir escaping her immediate notice. For a moment she chattered at him, telling him about the trip to his house. When she giggled rather loudly and happily about staying with him, Fakir gave himself away with a startled and horrified gasp.
Hearing the noise, her eyes immediately locked onto the source. Of course, the moment she spotted the green-haired boy it didn't matter if he uttered the noise. All that mattered was that there was another kid her age. Naturally she thought he was no different, thus greeted him as she did everyone else.
Running up to him, she threw her hand up in the air in greeting, her words flowing from her lips like chimes, "hi, my name is Ahiru—"
The moment her hand went up, Fakir covered his face with his arms, a fearful cry escaping his agape mouth. "Don't come near me!" he yelled, pushing the little red-head the moment she was within arms reach.
Uttering a surprised cry, Ahiru fell back on her bottom, rolling back slightly before straightening. It took her a moment to understand what had happened, but when it got through, tears filled her eyes.
"Y-you didn't have to be so mean!" she cried, wiping at her eyes to stop the tears.
Fakir retreated, shivering as he held onto the table leg, "you were gonna hurt me!" he yelled insistently at her.
Still in the doorway, Charon, Raetsel, and Hans exchanged worried looks.
Sniffling, Ahiru finally succeeded in drying her tears, "don't be silly," she began, "I was just s-saying 'hi.'"
"But you had your hand up, you were gonna hit me." He countered; three and a half years of abuse had schooled him in what a raised hand meant.
"No I wasn't!"
"Liar!" Fakir cried.
"Am not!" Ahiru yelled back, "Haven't you ever said 'hi' to someone? You wave your hand in the air then say 'hi.'"
The boy was weary at that point; ready to run at the first sign she would act on her true intent. Yet he couldn't make himself react immediately; he was curious.
"That's not how you greet people…" he muttered this, but in truth, he didn't know exactly how to greet someone, he never learned. Was he supposed to?
Sighing dramatically, Ahiru shifted so she was kneeling then fanned out her legs so her bottom was on the floor. "I'm not gonna hit you, you know. So stop looking at me like that."
The look (a childish glare) intensified, "how can I trust what you say?"
Ahiru was only four years old, so she didn't know a lot, but she did know things. Trust was not a word or concept she was familiar with.
"What's a trust?" she inquired.
"Idiot!" he admonished, "it's not a thing, it's… it's… it tells you who are good people and who are bad!"
"Good and bad?" she mimed, "so like mommy and daddy, they are trust?"
"No, no, no, they aren't trust, you can trust them. You know they won't hurt you" He also could have said she could trust in the consequences to certain actions (such as the hand raising) but he was fairly sure she wouldn't understand.
Regardless, she thought on his words, then after a while, smiled brightly, as if she'd been given the news that her parents were coming home with a duck, "okay, you can trust me."
"You can't just tell someone to trust you!" he yelled, his little face turning red in irritation and embarrassment by his inability to make her understand.
"Why not," she pouted.
"'Cause… 'cause I don't know you!" and somehow, that was the most terrifying part.
Blinking a few times, she cocked her head in confusion, "so? I trust you." She said in her defense.
Fakir was taken aback, "idiot, you shouldn't trust so easily!"
"That's how—" his voice started to rise but he stopped and spoke normally, "that's when everyone turns on you and hurts you."
Her brows furrowed in confusion, "huh? That's not true!"
"Yes it is!"
"Uncle hasn't hurt you." If he could yell like he did, he had to be healthy, so Uncle was definitely taking care of him.
"Uncle Charon. He doesn't hurt you, right? Or else he'd make this face," the face she made was rather comical, a mixture of pain, confusion, and something else. "He doesn't look like he's mad at you," she had turned at that point and looked at Charon to confirm her words. The older man had a sad smile on his face, and at that moment Fakir realized that he had never raised a hand against him.
"I don't know why you think Uncle is mad at you. He looks sad." When she returned her gaze to the young raven-haired lad, she frowned, "you look really sad too." But the smile was back quickly, "I know! I'll give you a hug! Hugs always make me happy!"
Figuring she should take it slow, she raised both her arms, a giant smile on her petite face. When he didn't flinch, she leaned forward. In reaction, he shifted back, but she was determined. Shifting up onto her knees, she inched forward, her arms reaching to surround him but not crowd. Whether it was curiosity or fear, the boy was rooted to his spot. The redhead came closer and closer; he could feel the heat of her arms near his shoulders. She was warm but it was not an uncomfortable warmth, he realized when she finally wrapped her arms around his shoulders and leaned into his little body.
He was stiff and unresponsive, but he at least wasn't pushing her away. That in itself Fakir thought was a miracle, but what was more—what her hug reminded him of; Charon. Fakir remembered that Charon had often hugged him; when he was scared, when he had bad dreams, and when someone or something upset him. Of course after a minute he'd struggled and scream and Charon would immediately let go. And every time he looked up, he always had the same sad look.
How had he seen it as angry?
He felt a gentle shake near his throat, "it's okay to hug back, you know."
Fakir was speechless, his eyes wide.
Looking up at Charon, he saw that same smile, but it was different. It didn't seem as sad, especially when he nodded his head in gesture to hug the girl back.
He did so hesitantly, his mind working around everything he had taken in. When it had finally sunk in, he realized that he could have put his trust in Charon. When that realization struck him a dam broke in Fakir that he hadn't even known he had built. Not only had he isolated himself, but Charon as well. When Ahiru finally let go, Fakir did as well; not just his grip, but his emotions as well.
The tears flowing down the raven-haired boys cheeks surprised Ahiru, though she was less surprised when the boy ran to Charon, hugging his leg and sobbing that he was sorry. Smiling tearfully, Charon picked up his nephew, his adopted son, and told him everything would be alright.
Ahiru didn't understand everything that was going on, but she figured the boy must have figured out that he could trust Charon.
Whatever trust meant.