Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 1704
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: Part III of Day by Day. Layton's new role is growing on him as Luke just grows, and Luke makes a very unpleasant discovery.
Agatha had warned him that this would not be easy. Mentally, he had known that, and he had believed himself to be well prepared for it. But experience is a cruel master, and he was finding that difficult was not always quite adequate to describe his day-to-day life. This was a challenge far greater than any puzzle he had ever had laid before him.
…which made it all the more surprising when he would make a comment about this or that to a friend, and would be told that he should consider himself fortunate because the friend’s child did this, that, and the other thing when they were that size. It was a bit baffling, but he took those words to heart: it could be a lot worse than it was, and thus he was lucky.
But it was also interesting and strangely gratifying, he found, to see those little milestones pass. Sometimes he barely realized that they had gotten there before it had already gone. For example, many a sleepless night had passed spent comforting a wailing infant before he realized that Luke had his first tiny tooth coming in. Another visit with Agatha gave him some suggestions for dealing with that; his landlady no longer seemed terribly bothered at the idea of her single male tenant raising the child, but now seemed almost amused at the whole of it.
It almost crept on him, this immersion in his role as…well, as caretaker. There was some unknown mental hurdle that he couldn’t get past just yet, and so he didn’t quite let him call himself a father. He tried not to let himself think too much about it, but focused solely on Luke, who was growing rapidly and starting to babble happily at him in nonsensical baby talk that was quickly becoming music to the professor’s ears.
There had been a lot of alarm, though, when Luke had started moving under his own power. First crawling, then walking. Layton had nearly had a heart attack when he walked in to find the boy toddling around on his own two feet. But he’d had to recover quickly, as Luke took one look at him and immediately made his way over to hug one of the Professor’s legs.
From there…well, Professor Layton could appreciate curiosity, of that there was no doubt. He was an avidly curious man himself. But Luke was curious about everything. And his favored method of putting his curiosity to rest was to get into everything that caught his attention, whether it was his to play with or not. It was fortunate that the one client was himself a father, and thus extremely understanding when an embarrassed Layton had to explain that the puzzle was not solved because a two-year-old had managed to break it into more pieces than it was originally supposed to be in.
But overall? The good far outweighed the bad. As Luke grew, he began to speak, to question, and to learn. The curiosity that had been bordering on an annoyance as a toddler was now becoming a source of pride for his guardian, who was quite happy to nurture those questions. For a person who continued to see the world as the wondrous place it was would never cease to learn.
When Luke was six, he asked a question, one of the ones that Layton had been dreading. But he had decided on the answer long ago, before he had really grown into his role, and in a moment of uncharacteristic panic, he fell back on that old answer.
“You can call me the Professor,” he said. It was what everyone else called him by now.
“Are you my daddy?” Luke asked, his favorite teddy bear snuggled under one arm.
…that question actually hurt. “No, my boy,” Layton said with a smile that didn’t pass skin-depth. “I’m…your mentor. You are my apprentice.” Again, that story he had decided on so long ago that came to him as he struggled to find the right words.
Luke seemed relatively unbothered by the whole thing, though, and spent the rest of the day practicing saying the words ‘professor’ and ‘apprentice.’ He was, Layton decided, still too young to truly understand what he was asking, or the answers he had been given.
With the woman’s name in hand, it had been remarkably simple to look her up. All it had taken was a trip to the records room. Upon learning that the young man seeking her was the woman’s song, the clerk was helpful, and showed them where they could locate the information on their mystery woman.
It was there that they found the answer that Layton had desperately been hoping they wouldn’t find. There she was, in black and white, as clear as day. A birth certificate…
And a death certificate.
The year on the latter said that Luke had been nearing his third birthday when she had died of an illness.
It was for that reason that they were here now, standing outside in the frigid cold of winter. Layton stood by the gate with Flora beside him, both bundled up against the winter’s chill. They had offered their support, but Luke had wanted to go the rest of the way alone. He had been fairly tight-lipped about nearly everything else relating to the matter. It was no real surprise that he would want to go the rest of the way alone now.
The cemetery was silent and still, save for the few flurries of snow that fell around them and the soft squeak of Luke’s shoes against the snow already covering the path. He wandered past several stones, slowing to look carefully at each before passing it; finally, he paused, studied the stone beside him intently…and stopped. He stood there, just looking at it.
That had to be her.
What followed was a very long period of quiet. Luke knelt beside the grave, his face a tight mask, void of expression, his cheeks reddened from the cold. Once or twice his lips moved as though to speak, but no words reached the ears of those who watched the scene from the cemetery gate.
After a long moment, he withdrew one gloved hand from his pocket and dragged it over the stone’s surface, brushing aside the snow. His fingers lingered there a moment or two longer than they needed to before finally withdrawing and returning to his pocket. He stood then, rising to his full height; he shook a bit, as he had been crouched long enough for the cold to permeate his body, and his legs and knees were protesting the movement.
But when Luke began to walk back towards them, he was not looking at them, and his pace was far too quick for one simply walking back to rejoin his family. Thus, Layton was not terribly surprised when Luke walked by them without a glance or a word; he had gone only a few steps past them when he suddenly broke into a run and tore off.
“Luke!” Flora called. She took a step forward as though to run after him, but stopped when she felt a hand on her arm. “Professor?”
Layton shook his head. “Let him be. I doubt he’s going home right away. Let’s give him some time.”
Flora didn’t look entirely convinced, but nodded. She turned her head to look towards the spot where Luke had last been visible. “I lost my parents too…” she murmured, the words intended more for her own ears than for her company’s.
“Luke never met his mother,” Layton said quietly. “He has no memories of her to fall back on.” He put one hand under Flora’s arm and gestured towards the graves nearby. “Since we’re here, shall we visit?”
“…yes,” Flora said with a nod. “Let’s introduce ourselves.”
They followed Luke’s footprints, slowly vanishing in the increasingly-falling snow, and stopped before the grave in question. Luke’s mother had been laid to rest here. It was only proper that they introduce themselves and say hello. They were, after all, his family now.
Layton knelt carefully. “Hello,” he said. “I hope you remember me, but you entrusted your child to my hands almost sixteen years ago…and I wanted to thank you for it. I know how difficult it was for you.” He closed his eyes. “Luke is a good lad, a wonderful boy. He’s growing up into a fine young man. I hope you can see him, and I hope you are proud of him.”
Beside him, Flora moved. He glanced back to see her pushing her hood back and tugging at her hair. It took him a moment to realize what she was doing. Flora was fond of wearing flowers in her hair, as they were her namesake, and she was currently undoing the ribbon from her ponytail to pull free the flowers that ribbon had held there.
It took her a few mere seconds, and then she knelt to lay the flowers carefully at the grave. “I’m sorry that this is all I have for you right now,” she said apologetically. “We’ll come see you again…and I’ll bring you some real flowers then. I promise.”
Layton nodded. “We’ll come again.” He wondered briefly if Luke would, but did not voice the thought. Instead, he got to his feet. It was getting colder; they had best be getting home. “Come, Flora.”
She didn’t need to be told twice, and linked her hand through her guardian’s arm as they made their way from the cemetery. “Professor…will Luke be all right?” she asked after a moment.
“He’ll come home eventually,” Layton said. “For now…let’s just leave him be.”
In truth, there was little the Professor wanted more than to go find the boy and make sure he was all right. But Luke was no longer the little boy who had so innocently asked if Layton was his father. He was almost an adult in his own right, and now he was dealing with something in his own way.
Layton did hope that Luke came home soon, though.
…while some small, angry voice in the very back of his mind hoped that Luke came home at all.
PS. The scene in the cemetery took forever, not gonna lie. Trying to get it all as it was in my head, with enough detail (but without going overboard) was really tough. But overall, I’m relatively pleased with how it came out. There will be two more parts. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I hope you’ll tune in for the next installment. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!