Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 1754
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: Part IV of Day by Day. It's never easy to realize that they're growing up. Meanwhile, Luke finally comes home.
Watching Luke grow had become a joy unlike any other, and far from anything Hershel Layton had ever thought he could experience. The baby became a toddler, and the toddler became a boy, always inquisitive and curious and full of questions.
When Luke reached a certain age, Layton formally made Luke his apprentice. It was the explanation he had used when Luke had inquired as to their relationship, and now he saw no reason to leave it unofficial. Given that the boy shared his enthusiasm for learning in general and puzzles in particular, it seemed all too perfect.
Such was the state of affairs when they hopped into the trusty Laytonmobile and headed forth to a small town in the country. The village was called St. Mystere to seek something called the Golden Apple at the behest of a woman who signed her name as Lady Dahlia Reinhold. Once there, they were caught up in quite the adventure in a town of mysteries, oddities, robots, and puzzles, only to find a young woman waiting for them at the goal.
That brought up a whole new slew of issues that Layton really hadn’t even given consideration to. Luke was a growing boy, and Flora certainly was a pretty girl. After much wavering over the issue, he decided to let things happen as they would…and keep an extremely close eye on the two as they grew older.
The whole time travel affair, though, gave Layton a shock when he found himself face to face with Luke’s future self. His older self. This was the adult that his young apprentice would grow to become. It was a jolt, to put it mildly, to think that Luke would go from an admittedly adorable child to this calm, self-assured young man.
After that mess was solved and they returned home, Layton found himself watching for the mystical transformation to happen. But he was so busy watching and waiting for it to happen that he almost missed actually seeing it.
Until one day, when he realized that Luke was nearly as tall as he was, and that he had shed so much of the gangly awkwardness that had plagued those delightful adolescent years. His voice was deeper, his face thinner, his mannerisms becoming that of an adult and less an excitable child.
He wasn’t the only one, either. Flora had blossomed into a beautiful young woman, a fact that had not escaped Luke’s attention. The looks between them had grown a bit more inquisitive, the words quieter and more furtive. It was all perfectly innocent, and Luke was a gentleman.
Layton was watching the two of them one afternoon as they shared a book and conversation in the library when it hit him with all the force of a runaway Ferris Wheel.
Luke was growing up.
Both of the children were, really.
But he had held Luke as a baby. There was no way to describe the difference that made.
As he usually did, though, the professor kept himself in check, and continued to watch and encourage and be the mentor and confidante and advisor that he had always been. Everything else remained tightly under wraps. A gentleman, he told himself, did not burden others with unnecessary problems.
Still, he couldn’t quite hold off that vague feeling of dread at the idea that someday Luke might ask the question that Layton wasn’t sure he was prepared to answer. No, that wasn’t right. He knew he could answer, and do so honestly; Luke was old enough to know the truth if he sought to find it. The truth was that he wasn’t sure he was prepared to handle the consequences of that truth.
…but that was up to Luke to decide.
Still, Layton’s heart clenched when Luke wandered into his study one day and sat down in the chair on the other side of the desk, facing him. And the professor’s insides turned to ice when his apprentice asked if Layton knew anything about his parents.
It was now completely dark beyond the window of Layton’s study, though it was brightened somewhat by the snow, which fell in large, thick flakes. A glance at the clock proved that it had been nearly three hours since their abortive visit to the cemetery to find a certain person’s resting place.
And Luke still had not returned.
Layton kept trying to tell himself that Luke was almost an adult in his own right and that he could take perfectly good care of himself. There were plenty of places he could go to get out of the cold. There was no reason to worry, no reason to be alarmed, and certainly no reason for his attention to continually drift away from the puzzle at hand towards that window in search of a familiar silhouette.
And it wasn’t just him. Flora wandered in and out of the room under various pretenses. Would the Professor like some tea? Was he sure? Was he absolutely sure? Perhaps something to eat? That snow was getting bad, wasn’t it? But even as she asked those questions, her eyes did as his, and kept straying towards the snow-glazed glass.
It was Flora who broke first. She stared out the window for a moment before she stormed over to Layton’s desk and slammed her hands down on it. She was usually a sweet, well-mannered girl, but she could be incredibly forceful when she felt it was called for. “Professor, we have to go find him!”
He jumped at the sound. “Flora—“
“If you won’t go with me, then I’m going alone!” she went on in a rush. “I don’t know where he is, but he’s alone and upset, and it’s dark and cold!” As she spoke, she was crossing the room and reaching for the coat rack, where her winterwear was hanging.
“We just need to make sure that he’s safe. I mean, Luke is smart, but he’s so upset right now…who knows what he’ll—“ she had her scarf around her neck when Layton finally got his hands on her shoulders to stave off the torrent of frightened words.
“Flora!” he said her name loudly, then sighed. Finally, he had her attention. “You are not going out there by yourself. It isn’t safe for a young lady.” He held up a hand when she opened her mouth to protest. “It’s not safe. Which is why I’m going with you.” He reached past her and claimed his own coat from the rack, quickly shrugging into it. “You aren’t the only one worried.”
The two were bundled up in record time and out the door, heading towards the place where they had last seen Luke. They left a note behind in case he returned while they were looking for him, and took to the hunt. Layton knew from experience that there were a few places that Luke tended to frequent, and headed for those first.
The snow was falling heavily, enough to obscure their vision. Unable to clearly see their missing loved one, they resorted to a slightly less discreet method of searching: they began to call Luke’s name as they wandered the area in search of him. They weren’t getting any reply, though, and there weren’t many people out and about in this cold to ask.
Layton’s feelings were starting to go beyond worry and into dread and fear. As Flora had said, Luke was a smart boy under normal circumstances, calm and reasoned. But these were not normal circumstances. He was upset, confused, and rightfully so. And those were emotions that could cloud the judgement of most adults, to say nothing of a young man in his late teens.
He rounded yet another corner onto yet another street, this one as void of people as the last. If it weren’t for Flora’s hand on his arm, he could have easily given into a flight of fancy and thought himself the only person left in the city. He squinted through the snow, cupped one gloved hand to his mouth, and called again, not expecting a reply. “LUKE!”
The voice came out of nowhere, making both Flora and Layton jump as they spun in search of the source of it. Peering through the snow and the darkness, they saw Luke standing perhaps half a block away.
“Luke!” Flora was already sprinting towards him. She reached out with gloved hands and touched his face. “Goodness, you’re freezing!” She hurriedly tugged her scarf from around her own neck and wrapped it carefully around his, knotting it under his chin. “Where have you been, Luke? We’ve been worried sick about you!”
“I’m sorry, Flora,” he murmured, visibly shivering. “Professor.”
Now that they were closer, Layton could see that Luke was, to put it mildly, cold. His hands were stuffed into the deep recesses of his coat pockets, his shoulders drawn up almost all the way to his ears. He was moving stiffly, and his words were hoarse, like it was a struggle to merely voice them.
“Went down to the river,” he said in that same mumble. “Lost track of time.”
Layton got one of Luke’s arms in a firm hold. “We need to get you someplace warm. Let’s go home.”
There were no protests to this suggestion. Layton stayed on one side of his apprentice, while Flora took the other. Luke was freezing, and probably exhausted, and the two had to more or less guide him back to the brownstone building they all called home.
Once he was safely inside and out of the cold, Flora took charge. She ordered him out of his wet clothes and into a hot bath, pajamas, and bed, in that order. As he shuffled off to obey, she ordered Layton to his study to get a fire going and warm up there. With this accomplished, she shrugged out of her heavy clothes and went to the kitchen to make tea for the three of them.
Layton downed his tea with a bit more gusto than he usually did, but it tasted wonderful, and warmed him from the inside out. Flora nodded approvingly and headed up the stairs to take a cup to Luke.
She returned a moment later. “He’s all but asleep,” she reported. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he caught a nasty fever after all of this.” She sighed. “I hope he’ll be okay…”
“I hope so too,” Professor Layton agreed, looking down into the bottom of his tea cup. “I hope so.”
PS. One chapter left after this, sort of an epilogue (and I hope it’s not too campy or anything but it was so clear in my head and gaaaaaaah…), and then it’s done. Hope you’ll check back in. Thanks! Much love!