Fandom: Professor Layton
Rating: PG (R in later chapters)
Word Count: 2632
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: Lucas and Leighton set out on their trip, and Lucas' dreams cross the line from bizarre into frightening.
Lucas leaned his elbow against the car door and regarded the Professor with a grin. “It’s sort of weird seeing you looking…not like a teacher, Professor,” Lucas admitted. “You actually look human now.”
The look Leighton gave him seemed to be mostly amused, rather similar to the look that he had offered up when Lucas had climbed into the car and promptly declared ‘Onwards, Leightonmobile!’ Ah, messing with people was fun. “Given the nature of this trip, I thought perhaps this would be a bit more appropriate attire,” he said simply, returning his full attention to the road in front of them.
It was odd, though, to see Leighton looking anything other than one hundred percent polished and dressed neatly. He was actually wearing jeans—the Professor owned a pair of jeans!—and an orange polo shirt. And his hat was nowhere to be seen. Comfortable for travel, for sure. But it made the man look very different from how he did in the classroom. He looked a great deal younger.
He actually looked like the twenty-eight year old man he was, instead of someone more mature.
Fortunately, the trip to the airport was not a terribly long one, so the need for small talk was relatively minimal. And once inside the place, they were caught up in checking their bags, getting their tickets checked, and finding first their gate and then their seats without getting lost or having any other problems. They were seated together on the plane, on the right side.
“Professor?” Lucas asked as they found their seats.
“Yes, my boy?”
He was a bit embarrassed to ask, but he did so anyway. “C-can I have the window seat?” He looked down, feeling his face heat up at the ridiculous request. “I’ve never been on a plane before.”
Leighton’s trademark chuckle was music to his ears. “Absolutely, my boy.” And he moved aside to let Lucas slip past and sit next to the window, seemingly pleased at how happy this made him. The Professor sat down in the aisle seat. “You’ve never been on a plane?”
“Never been on a plane, never been out of the country, nothing,” Lucas said with a shrug. He was busily shoving his bag under the seat in front of him. “My parents…well, we weren’t poor or anything, but we never really had the money to go travel or go on vacation or anything like that.”
The Professor looked surprised. “Is everything all right?”
“Eh, don’t worry,” Lucas waved a hand. “I never brought it up when you would poke me about my grades, but the fact is that I’m not going to let my grades slide. I made it here mostly on scholarships, and keeping those depends on my grades staying up. So you really don’t have to worry about that.”
“I apologize,” Leighton said. He looked…was guilty the right word? “It didn’t even occur to me to ask.”
“Don’t apologize,” Lucas said. “I’m actually the first one in my family to go to college. I go, I get my degree, and I can have things a little better than my parents did.” He shrugged. “I think that’s one of the reasons they were really happy to hear about this trip. It means I’ve actually got a shot.” Now he looked straight at his teacher. “So…I don’t know if I really said it, but thank you. Thank you for all this.”
It was the first time Lucas had ever seen Professor Leighton at a loss for words. But finally, the man sighed, smiled, and simply said, “You’re welcome, my boy. You’re most welcome.”
That was as far as they got before the flight attendant began running down the safety lecture. Somehow, they had managed to get on the one plane with a comedian at the microphone, and were told, “We don’t plan on crashing into the ocean, folks, but if we do, take your seat. You paid for it.” And he also told them, “If you don’t know how to buckle a seatbelt, folks, you probably shouldn’t be on this plane by yourself anyway.”
Considering that it was Lucas’ first safety lecture, he was a bit baffled. “I thought this was boring?”
“It usually is.”
Not long after, they were on their way down the runway, preparing to take off.
Take-off was nothing like anything Lucas had ever experienced before. Embarrassing as it was, he found himself gripping the armrest of his chair, and managed to ignore yet another amused look from the Professor. But he kept his eyes out the window the entire time, watching with a mixture of awe and trepidation as the plane pulled away from the ground and into the sky.
The rest of the flight was relatively uneventful. The attendants brought drinks, and later food around, and there was an in-flight movie (some ridiculous romantic comedy). Lucas buried his nose in some books he had brought along, including two books of puzzles that his parents had given him. Ever since he had started spending time with the Professor, he had found himself becoming more and more adept at the fine art of critical thinking.
It was quite some time later, as the daylight beyond the plane was all but gone and after the second movie was rolling through the credits, that Lucas glanced up. He had been working on a particularly tricky puzzle, and wanted to ask the Professor a question. But to his surprise, Leighton’s head had lulled back against the seat at an odd angle. His eyes were closed, and the book he had been reading lay open against his chest.
…he was asleep.
Lucas belatedly realized that he was staring, but he couldn’t help it. He was accustomed to seeing the Professor awake, alert, and ready to tackle just about anything that was thrown his way. Lucas himself was the one who had a tendency to doze off in odd places (like on the couch in the office). He had never before seen the man look so…
Lucas didn’t even know what else, but he couldn’t look away.
After a few moments of just studying the Professor’s sleeping face, he waved down a passing attendant and asked for a blanket, which was promptly brought to him. He thanked the uniformed man, and as the attendant left, Lucas carefully took the book from beneath the Professor’s hands and marked the page before closing it and setting it aside. Then he unfolded the blanket and lay it over the sleeping man, trying to cover him as best he could.
That done, Lucas went back to his own book. Although his eyes kept straying to the side and to the Professor’s slumbering face, and Lucas couldn’t quite say why that was so.
The Professor stirred as the dinner cart was making its rounds, and looked a bit confused at where he was and what he was doing and why he was tucked under a blanket. Lucas bit back a laugh and wished the Professor a good morning, making no comment about the blanket.
After they had eaten (and contrary to what he had been told, Lucas found that airplane food really was not that bad), Lucas tried to go back to his book, only to find that now his eyes were refusing to stay open. Try as he might, he couldn’t focus on the words on the page. And finally, he felt his hold on the volume loosen and his head roll to one side and run into something that he assumed was the wall…
The voice that woke him up was pleasant, cheerful, and very close to his ear.
Lucas stirred a little bit and blinked a few times before he became aware of his surroundings. Now he was the one who was tucked under the blanket (only one possible culprit there), and his book was sitting on the Professor’s tray-table, and his head was…
…oh good god, he had fallen asleep with his head on the Professor's shoulder.
That woke him faster than anything else ever could have, and Lucas jerked upright. All right, he was still a bit woozy, but he was definitely more conscious now than he had been a moment or two ago. “I’m so sorry, Professor!” he slurred, rubbing at his eyes. How long had he been asleep, anyway?
The fact that Leighton was chuckling didn’t help him feel any less embarrassed about the whole thing. “It’s all right, my boy. These are fairly close quarters, after all. I trust you slept well? I hope so. We’ll be landing soon, so you’d best gather your things.”
“You’ve never done this before either, have you, my boy?” Leighton asked, stepping back to look at the results of their handiwork. He did not seem displeased by his student’s lack of prowess in this particular field, but more curious than anything else.
“Err…no,” Lucas admitted sheepishly. “I haven’t.”
“Well, for your first time setting up a tent, this was not bad at all,” the Professor said amiably. “And now we can get a good night’s rest. I, for one, need it.” He was reaching into the Jeep now, grabbing a large bag and pulling it free. He tossed it to Lucas. “We’ll need these. Believe me, you will want it.”
Lucas already knew better than to ask questions. The Professor knew what he was doing, and Lucas most decidedly did not. So he accepted the statement as fact and darted over to help with the retrieval of the bags. They would take what they needed into the tent tonight, so hopefully there would not be much to do come the morning.
Once that was done, they made their way inside. It was a fairly large tent, tall enough for both of them to stand up in (and the Professor was a good half a head taller than Lucas was). The large bag that the Professor had pulled out proved to hold two cots made of wood and canvas. Lucas was learning plenty right now about camping, particularly in the long-term.
“We’re on our own for tonight, my boy,” Leighton said, expertly popping the cot into place and setting it along one wall of the tent. “By tomorrow, we should be to the site with the others. The work will start within a few days. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind the rudimentary accommodations.”
“I don’t. It’s actually…kind of nice,” Lucas said. And he was surprised to realize that he meant it. There was something very pleasant about being outside in an area filled with trees, sitting inside a tent. And he had even managed to assemble his own cot, something he was far more proud of than he probably should have been, and which earned a pleased nod from his mentor.
But something was still bothering him. He was wondering if he’d had another one of those dreams while he slept on the plane. The way he felt was rather like he had, but he could not remember it, and that alarmed him a bit. He was accustomed to remembering those dreams. Perhaps he had actually forgotten one…or perhaps the strange feeling twisting in his stomach was something else? But what?
Ah, wait. The Professor was talking to him.
“I’m sure that we will both sleep like the dead tonight,” Leighton said. He was busily arranging his bed and looking through his bag. “And we’ll need it. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
Lucas nodded, then grabbed his own bag and slipped outside with the intention of very quickly changing clothes. He felt a little grimy, having been without a shower, but he decided that it was all probably part of the experience. And besides, changing into clean pajamas did make a difference. He waited a moment longer, than asked if it was all right for him to come back in. Upon receiving an affirmative answer, he entered, and received another surprise.
Apparently, the Professor he had once teased about being old-fashioned slept in sweatpants and a T-shirt, much as Lucas himself did. Now he actually looked a bit younger than his professed twenty-eight years. And he was sitting on his cot, paging through a book. It was dark out now, and the only illumination in the tent was a small electric lantern on the floor.
“I’m ready to pass out if you are,” Lucas said lightly as he checked the tent flap to make certain that it was securely shut, not entirely sure why his stomach was doing flip-flops at the moment. But he was tired, and the yawn that tried to split his face in two proved it.
“Then to bed,” the Professor said. Goodnights were said, and the light was extinguished. And despite the nervous feeling twisting in his gut and the strange thoughts in his head, as well as the Professor’s close proximity, Lucas fell asleep the moment his head touched the pillow.
He was on a ship, and a relatively large one at that. It seemed to be the darkest part of the night, and the air over the water was frigid. And there were people everywhere, screaming, running around in a panic, frantic to get away from something…
No, not just something.
The water. There was water coming up onto the boat.
It was sinking, and tilting dangerously as it did so. In fact, he was having trouble hanging onto the railing to keep from sliding down into the water, which was creeping up over the deck. There were plenty of other people doing exactly what he was doing.
He had overheard a panicked conversation earlier between two of the crew members. While he hadn’t been able to get what exactly had gone wrong, what he did understand was that the ship had started taking on water quickly, too quickly for them to do much to save the passengers. No lifeboats were able to be deployed; everyone on the ship was going to have to take their chances with fate in the water.
And it was so cold…
And far too soon, the water was there. The ship was almost completely submerged, and there was no place left to climb to. It was coming up far too fast, he was going in, where were his parents he had lost them in the panicked crowds on the deck and now he was all alone oh no there it was—
Hitting the water was like having a million pins jabbed into him, all over his body. He went numb almost instantly as the water churned around and below him. Instinct kicked in, and he began to kick, to swim, to claw his way back to the surface. His life preserver helped, but trying to swim made him feel like for the moment, at least, he had a bit more control over his situation.
That control was a pathetic illusion, but it was something.
There are so many others around him, flailing and screaming in the water. He does not scream or cry, though. He is too far past that, and already his throat is raw and useless from the cold air. It’s already a struggle to move his arms and legs, and he swears it hasn’t been more than a moment or so…
I want the Professor.
It was the last thought, the final mantra echoing through his head as his arms and legs finally stopped working. He was bobbing along, supported by his life jacket, but that was all. He could no longer move, no longer struggle. He took a final gasping breath, and the already darkened world around him faded to black. He was so cold, so very cold…
I want the Professor…