Notes: And thus concludes my longest fic yet, for any fandom. It's been a long time since I've done a multi-chapter crime thriller. It felt good! Thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, and both!

Epilogue

It was going to take a while to fully clean up from Anton's gang's crime spree. There were still stray members to catch. Other places, such as Peter's Photography, had to be investigated. The remaining storehouses for the stolen goods had to be uncovered. Once Fakir gave his statement to the police, they would need to try to find out what had happened to the bodies of Albert Heimbrecht and Fakir's first guard.

And there would be the upcoming hearings and trials for those arrested. Fakir would testify against the gang, naturally. The others would add their voices as well. There would be a lot of pain and heartache and reopened wounds when it was time to relive the horrors of the past days in court.

But for tonight, in this moment, there were only thoughts of reunion.

Ahiru had planned so many things to say to Fakir when they found him. She had imagined that she would ramble on and on about everything that had happened. Instead, for a long time she just hugged him, sobbing for sheer joy.

He was here! He was safe! After everything they had gone through, all the sorrow and anguish and worry and fear and traveling, it had come to a glorious end—the end Ahiru had longed for and prayed for and had been afraid they would never have.

And of all places, it was at the Port of Hamburg. When this had first started, which seemed so long ago now, Ahiru never could have imagined that it would all conclude this way. She had thought, she had hoped, that Fakir would be back with them within little more than a day or two. But then cold, hard reality had sunk in as the search had intensified and she had started to fear that it would never happen at all. Tonight they were so far from Kinkan, the only place she had ever known as home. But it did not matter. Fakir was back with them and she would be happy wherever they went from here.

"We've missed you so much!" she cried when she at last found her voice. "We've been so worried and looking everywhere and we kept thinking we were just about to find you and then it didn't happen after all and it was so awful!" She looked up at him, cautiously, hopefully. "You're really here now, aren't you?" she whispered.

"Unless this is just a stupid dream I'm having," Fakir said.

"I had dreams too," Ahiru said. "Some of them were bad, but some of them were so nice. . . . We found you again and everything was okay. But I always had to wake up! I started hating those dreams because they always ended and you were still gone and we didn't know how to get you back!" She trembled. "I don't want this to just be another dream."

"Idiot." Fakir gave her a fond look. "It's not a dream. It still feels like it, to me too. But this time it's not."

At the sound of a footfall they both looked up. Charon stood there, so many emotions laid bare in his tired, worn, but joyous face. Ahiru let Fakir go, allowing Charon to come and embrace him.

"My son," Charon choked out.

Fakir clutched at his father. He had tried not to believe Anton's tales, and later on had not at all, but seeing Charon alive and well and knowing that he had not been shot was making him more emotional than he had thought possible.

"Are you well?" Charon asked, concern tingeing his voice. He did not see any injuries on Fakir, but that did not mean the boy had not been beaten. He had feared so much that they would find Fakir seriously wounded or even dead. Heaven forbid! But he was alive and looked to be physically sound. The emotional damage, Charon could imagine, would linger a while even if Fakir did not consciously realize it.

"I'm okay," Fakir said. "They tried to break me. They tried to kill me. They tried to make me into one of them. But it didn't work."

"I'm proud of you," Charon told him. "I'm so proud."

". . . I didn't know if I'd ever see you again," Fakir confessed, unable to keep his voice from cracking. "You or Ahiru. And now you're both here." He glanced to Ahiru, then back to Charon.

"We never stopped looking," Charon said.

Ahiru nodded. "We wouldn't ever give up!" she said. "We couldn't. We wanted to have you back with us, where you belong!"

Fakir managed a smile but then drew a shuddering breath. "Anton tried to make me think you were being tortured and Charon had been shot," he said. "I didn't know what to believe."

Ahiru stared at him in horror at the cruelty. "It wasn't true!" she exclaimed.

"I know. I figured that out." Fakir studied them again. "But . . . even though I tried to keep myself from just blindly accepting what he'd said, it still seems unreal to see both of you here, just fine." He shook his head. "Or maybe it's just because I figured I'd never be free of the gang."

"You would've got free," Ahiru said. "I know it! You're smarter than they are! It's because of you that they're getting arrested!"

"At least I helped," Fakir said. "But you guys and the police were doing the investigating."

"And now we're all back together again!" Ahiru declared.

"Yeah." Fakir sounded far away and sad. "I just wish . . . I wish I could've seen Autor again too," he said. "Not that he'd even want to see me, after the way I treated him. But . . . without him . . . something important's missing."

Charon and Ahiru exchanged a look. Then, smiling quietly, they both stepped aside.

Fakir frowned in confusion. "Hey, what's . . ." But his voice caught in his throat. He could only stop and stare at the figure who had been standing back, silently watching the other reunions without trying to join in.

Now this had to be a dream, or a hallucination, or something that was not real. It was a product of his longing and his imagination.

Yet then . . . why were Ahiru and Charon smiling?

He took a shaking step forward. "Autor?" Suddenly his mouth was made of sandpaper. "What are you—a ghost?"

Autor raised an unsteady hand to push up his glasses. "Really, Fakir," he said with a weak smirk. "Ghosts don't need these."

"But . . . but . . ." Fakir shook his head. "The balcony. You fell. I . . . I pushed you."

"It was an accident. You never meant to do it. You had no idea the railing was going to give way." Autor's words were firm, leaving no room for argument. "And I'm alright."

Fakir swallowed hard. "You're alright?" he repeated.

Could this be real? Could Anton have lied to him all along about Autor's death and the pictures he had of the body? Had Fakir just believed it without question, as he had said himself, because of seeing Autor lying so still on the ground and already fearing he was dead?

And Autor had said it was an accident. He did not even blame Fakir.

"Look for yourself." Autor spread his arms out a bit. "I'm alive. I'm walking. I have no ill effects."

Fakir shook his head. "I'm such an idiot," he said. "About so many things." Part of him was still not sure he was fully grasping this miracle. He stepped closer. Could he dare to believe?

"I thought you were dead," he rasped. "I thought I'd killed you. All this time I've thought it."

"It's not that easy to get rid of me," Autor said. He was trying to keep his voice level, but it quavered anyway.

"And I never should have blown up at you that night," Fakir managed to say. "I thought Ahiru was sharing something with you that she didn't want me to know. I tried not to get jealous and upset, but . . . I finally just lost it."

"I'm sorry I grew angry too," Autor said, his voice quiet. "I never should have said what I did. I wish I had told you instead that we had come too far to throw everything away over a misunderstanding like that."

"I never would have listened," Fakir said. "And you don't have anything to apologize for. You didn't lose your temper until after I'd treated you like dirt. I trust you, Autor. I trust you and Ahiru both. But I wasn't acting like it."

A certain peace and joy shone in Autor's eyes at Fakir's words. He had tried repeatedly to make himself believe that Fakir did trust him and had only spoken in anger. Now, at last Fakir himself had given him the confirmation of that.

And Autor's words were fully sinking into Fakir's mind. ". . . A 'misunderstanding'?" he suddenly repeated in disbelief. "You . . . you mean that . . ."

"I forgive you, Fakir," Autor said. "I forgive you for the confrontation and I don't hold any blame over you for the accident."

A trace of a smile played on his lips. "I came all this way to bring you home. I know you could argue that it was just for Ahiru's sake, because I love her as my sister and I don't want her to be weighed down with sorrow over losing you. Of course, that is part of it. But in my anger and hurt at the very first, I convinced myself that it was all there was.

"But it isn't true. Mainly, I came because you are my friend and I don't want to lose you either."

Fakir stared at him. His words were completely sincere. Autor would never say such a thing if he did not mean it with all of his heart.

Fakir was not really a hugging sort of person. And Autor was not someone he had ever even wanted to hug, despite their odd friendship. They had generally always kept each other at arm's length, both literally and figuratively. But now all the rest of the emotions Fakir had kept bottled up throughout this nightmare were coming out.

He reached and drew the stunned Autor into a tight embrace. Yes, Autor was alive. He was alive and he did not hate Fakir for the fall. He still wanted to associate with Fakir even after their ugly argument. Not only that, he continued to consider Fakir his friend. It was far more than Fakir felt he deserved. His cup was overflowing.

Finally Autor recovered and smiled, returning the hug. Everything was going to be alright now. And the burdens on his own heart had lifted at long last. He and Fakir would get past the obstacle of their argument. They were still friends.

Ahiru looked up at Charon, who was watching the scene with a quiet joy. Then she drew her gaze higher, into the star-studded night.

"Thank You!" she whispered, rejoicing. "Thank You so much."