Fandom: Professor Layton
Rating: PG (R in later chapters)
Word Count: 2522
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: Lucas finally admits to the dreams and offers a thought for the reasons behind them. And something changes forever.
Lucas sat upright so fast that he nearly tipped his cot over sideways. He thought he might have cried out, but he wasn’t sure until a light came on and he heard the Professor’s voice. He couldn’t even make out what the man was saying, though; the pounding of his heart in his chest and his pulse in his temples was too loud, and there was a roaring in his ears that drowned out everything else.
A hand touched his shoulder, and suddenly it was like someone set a firecracker off beneath him. He jumped to his feet, nearly falling as the blankets twisted around his legs but managing to stumble a few flailing feet and kick free before turning back to stare at the source of the touch. His own hands were instinctively clutching up at his heart; he was panting, gasping desperately for air, and he was shaking from head to toe. He was still so cold, even though the T-shirt he’d been wearing for the top half of his pajamas was drenched with perspiration, or was it just water…
And Professor Leighton was standing there, gaping at him; one hand was still raised as though to touch his arm. “…Lucas?” he said finally, lamely, like he just didn’t know what else to say. “Are you all right?”
Luke, my boy.
Something inside Lucas broke, something he hadn’t even known was there. The dream—no, the nightmare, that horrible vision could only be called a nightmare—had left him exhausted, and the realization that the boy had just…
He barely realized that he was crying until he felt something damp on his face and caught a glimpse of the Professor’s startled expression before his vision blurred. He dropped his face into his hands in a vain attempt to hide it, to brush those awful tears away before the Professor saw it because he would not approve, would never approve, this was not how a gentleman behaved and why in the world was he thinking about that right now…
Hands gripped his shoulders; he pushed against them, driven by some nameless instinct to do so, and suddenly found himself being pulled against a warm body. The arms were around him, holding him until he stopped struggling. “Lucas.” A pause. “…tell me?”
After a moment, Lucas nodded.
It was several moments later that the two took seats inside the tent. Desperate for something to stave off a cold that came more from within than without as well as an excuse to not have to look at his teacher for a few moments, Lucas had looked through his bags. His mother had insisted he bring a sweater, and now he was grateful for it. It was an oversized fleece sweater, light blue in color; it smelled and felt like home, something he needed now.
He took a seat on his cot for a lack of anywhere else to sit, and wrapped his sweater-clad arms around himself. He was still chilled straight through. His eyes went straight to the ground and stayed there; he dared not make eye contact. Leighton sat on his own cot, facing his student. He had put on an electric lantern, which filled the tent with a soft yellow glow.
For a long moment, it was silent, save for the soft pattering as outside the tent, it began to rain. But the tent was well-made, and the rain stayed out. It was a fitting sound, though, perfect to punctuate what was happening with the thin canvas walls.
“Lucas,” Leighton said finally, “what happened?”
At this point, there was no sense in hiding anything. He took a deep breath. “I’ve been having these really weird dreams. Well, some of them are nightmares, I guess. And I don’t know what to make of them. I just wish they’d stop…” He paused and looked entreatingly at his teacher. “Professor, please. Please don’t think I’m crazy…” He was practically begging, and hated it, but…
To his great relief, Leighton shook his head. “I won’t think you’re crazy, my boy. I promise”
Luke, my boy.
He swallowed hard and for a moment grappled with where to begin before finally just diving in. “There’s this boy in my dreams. He looks a lot like I did when I was a kid. I mean, maybe ten years old or so. Looks just like me. And then there’s a man. He’s tall, a lot taller than the kid, and wears a hat. And it’s just within the last couple of dreams that I’ve actually been able to see his face. I couldn’t before,” Lucas paused and wiped at his eyes with his sweater sleeve. He was still shaking something dreadful, and his eyes wouldn’t stop watering.
“What do they do?” the Professor asked.
“There’s a lot of stuff. It depends on the dream, really…a-and I know their names. I don’t know how, but I do. And I found the man,” Lucas reached over and dug through his bag. “The boy’s name is Luke. He’s Luke! And for some reason, it’s really weird, but it’s like I can see into his head. Whatever he feels or sees or hears or thinks or whatever, I can pick up. I’m in tune with him somehow, and I don’t know why. And the man is…”
He finally grabbed the photocopy he had made of the picture in that book and held it out to Leighton, pointing at the man on the left, “Him. That man.” He swallowed again. “Professor…Layton.”
Leighton’s eyes widened slightly. “My word…”
Lucas shook his head and used his sleeve to wipe at his face again. “I don’t get it. He looks just like you. Even has the hat and everything! But I don’t know what the hell he’s doing in my dreams! Either of them! Or why I can get inside Luke’s head and all that…”
The Professor studied the sheet of paper for a moment longer before lowering it. He looked unnerved, despite his best efforts to remain calm. “What happened in your dream tonight, Lucas?”
“I—I mean, Luke was on a boat. A ship, I guess. He didn’t want to be there. He was really unhappy about it. Wanted to go back to wherever he was before. But then I think something went wrong. Something happened and the ship sank,” Lucas took a deep, shaky breath, and ran a nervous hand through his honey-brown hair. “The ship went down fast. There was barely any time to get lifeboats out or anything. And then he was in the water and it was cold…” He shivered, again feeling the tingle of the icy water on his skin. “It was so cold…and I couldn’t breathe…”
He hadn’t known whether it was Luke or Lucas at that point, to be honest.
“And he wanted to see someone,” Lucas said, choking a bit. “The Professor. He missed the Professor.”
“I think he died. Thirteen years old and he died like that…don’t ask how I know how old he was, I just do, all of a sudden…” Lucas finished. He felt foolish and relieved and a whole mess of other emotions that defied rational naming as they were so tangled together as to be indistinguishable.
“Lucas…” the Professor said after a moment, his tone odd, “…these other dreams of yours. What kinds of things have happened in them?” He stood and walked towards the back of the tent, still holding the photocopy in his hand.
“Umm…” Lucas thought back on his dreams, extremely grateful for the change of subject. “There was one on a staircase. The building was collapsing, and we—I mean, they were running down the stairs and trying to get out, and—“
“Part of the stairwell collapsed after being hit by a falling boulder,” Leighton interrupted. “The boy keeps going down the stairs, while the man, who you think is this Professor Layton, and the girl—“
“Who looks a hell of a lot like Daisy Rainholt—“
“Go back upstairs to find another way out,” Leighton finished.
By now the two were gaping at each other.
Comprehension dawned. “Professor, you’ve…”
“Only a few of them, and just recently,” the Professor admitted.
Lucas stood up. “But…wait, what the hell does this mean?”
“Damned if I know,” Leighton said bluntly. He looked back down at the paper before dropping it on his cot, like it had burned him. “This does not make sense, my boy.”
“…that’s what Hershel Layton always called him,” Lucas said with a mirthless laugh. His eyes were burning again, and he hated it. “My boy. Luke, my boy. Come along, my boy. Always called Luke that.”
Despite the fact that he had just stood up, Lucas suddenly found that his legs would not support him any longer. He was just too tired. He sagged down to the ground and leaned back against his bags at the foot of his cot. “I don’t know, Professor. I just want the dreams to stop…” He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around himself. “I don’t want to have to feel that kid’s death again…”
There was the padding of footsteps coming towards him, and then the Professor was dropping down to kneel on the ground beside him. For a moment they sat in silence, with only the rain pattering beyond the tent walls to temper the quiet.
Finally, the Professor spoke. “There has to be an explanation for this…what could Layton and this Luke boy possibly have to do with us?”
“…I can think of one, but it’s not really realistic,” Lucas said, feeling vaguely ashamed for even thinking something so ridiculous as this. “I don’t really believe in magic or any of that crap. But it’s the only thing I can think of that fits.”
“I’ll take anything at this point,” Leighton said.
“It’s really out there, and I know you like science and things with proof.”
“This is true. But sometimes an illogical answer is the correct one, against all odds. And sometimes it takes a crazy idea to reach a solution. At the very least, it’s an idea to start us off.”
“…well…” Lucas hesitated, then asked, “What are your thoughts on reincarnation?” It was ludicrous, but it was the only thing that he could think of that fit all the pieces of the puzzle. “I mean…it would explain why this Hershel Layton and this Luke kid keep popping up in our dreams, right?” Given what Lucas knew of Luke’s emotions, it would explain a lot more than that…
Professor Leighton raised an eyebrow. “Lucas, that is a bit far-fetched.”
“…but I do agree with you that it fits everything…” Leighton said. He sounded…defeated, almost?
“…if that’s the case, then I’m Luke,” Lucas said, finally just acknowledging what he had already suspected without even knowing that he was suspecting it. “And you’re…”
“…Professor Hershel Layton,” the Professor said quietly, then chuckled; it was a sad noise, completely void of humor. “This is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. I can’t belive either of us is even considering this kind of an answer. Completely illogical—”
“Please don’t mock me. After all, every puzzle has an answer,” Lucas said softly, quoting. He glanced off to the side, away from his teacher. “Isn’t that what you always used to say, Professor?”
Another bout of silence. The rain seemed to be falling a bit heavier now. How fitting.
As they sat there, it occurred to Lucas that this was the closest he and the Professor had ever been to each other, save for that night in the office when he had fallen and the Professor had been leaning over him to make certain that he was not injured. Lucas himself was leaning back against his bags beside his cot; Leighton was kneeling, his knees just brushing Lucas’ side. It was oddly comforting to know that the man was that close…
Close enough to reach out and touch, if need be…
“How much of Layton’s head could you get into?” Lucas asked after a moment.
“I guess I could see a fair amount of what was inside his head.”
“…what were his feelings towards Luke?”
Another pregnant pause before the reply. “There was great pride in the boy. Concern…” Leighton trailed off, as though another thought had occurred to him. “…what did Luke feel towards his Professor?”
“…respect. Admiration,” he said, then chuckled. “Honestly? I think the kid might have had a crush on the guy. That’s just what it feels like.” He covered his eyes with his sleeve, feeling them grow watery again as his breathing started to shake. Why was he crying over a schoolboy’s crush on a beloved teacher? “Just a crush, stupid puppy love…”
That hand on his shoulder again, such a warm, comforting weight. “Luke?”
He called him Luke.
It seemed to take him a moment to realize what he had said, and he quickly amended, “Lucas?”
Now the boy looked up towards his teacher. His mentor. He was sure he looked an absolute mess, with his hair all mussed and his eyes red and watery for reasons that he dared not admit to himself, let alone to the person who was the subject of them. “…Professor?”
Another of those pauses that seemed to stretch into eternity. And goodness, they were close…
The move was mutual, simultaneous, as if by some unspoken agreement.
They both moved their heads forward, tilting—
And their lips found each other.
When the post comes, he goes and retrieves the mail, along with the morning newspaper. There are the normal things, including a couple of requests for his services in places out of town. He skims through all of them before getting to the paper. He flips it open and begins to read.
And the letters drop from his hand to a pile on the floor as he reads the headline.
SHIP SINKS – HUNDREDS LOST
He quickly reads over the article, and discovers which ship it was that sank. His heart sinks as well.
She is behind him now, asking what is wrong, what has happened. She reads over his shoulder, and he hears her gasp, a murmur of disbelief, that it can’t possibly be true or right. There is no way that he could possibly be…
As if on cue, there is a knock at the door.
She gathers the fallen mail from the floor while he goes to answer the door, the fateful paper still clutched tightly in his hand. At the door is a grizzled police inspector, one he knows from previous cases worked on together. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a friendly visit, nor are there any pleasantries to be exchanged. This is business, and a tragic business at that.
When the Inspector reluctantly asks if he could possibly come downtown and identify a body, the paper follows the example of the letters and flutters from his nerveless fingers to the floor. Behind him, he hears her gasp again, and then she starts to cry.
He rather wishes he could do the same.