Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 3830
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: They're at the site. And things seem to be getting worse instead of better, building up to an explosion...
It was all a lot like what Lucas had expected, really. He spent a fair amount of his time getting very, very dirty and sweaty out on the site. The Yucatan peninsula was well known for being very warm and very humid. Being out in the middle of the jungle, where they were, did not help matters very much. Still, he more or less did what he was told, drank plenty of water, and kept busy.
And in spite of their worries, both voiced and unvoiced, regarding the situation between him and the Professor, Lucas had found that it was a moot point. Most days he staggered back into the camper they shared, had enough energy to inhale a meal and bathe, and then promptly collapsed into bed and slept soundly until the next daybreak.
It wasn’t always the most exciting or glamorous effort. Some days could be spent simply brushing dirt from walls. And on more than one occasion he had been fairly certain that he had managed to throw his back out. But despite all of that, he was only slightly surprised to find that he absolutely loved it, every single minute of it.
And even though everything that had happened between them should have made things awkward, he and the Professor were getting along well. It almost felt like it used to, those evenings spent huddled over the desk in Leighton’s office working on this or that. They talked, they worked together, and at night they slept each at their respective end of the camper. Not that there was a great deal of energy for doing much else, to be sure.
Still, it bothered Lucas a bit. They were going about it as though nothing had ever happened, which was good for the situation. But in terms of the reality of things…it had happened. And that was not going to chance. And what was worse was the fact that whenever he thought about it…
Gah. He was turning into one of those empty-headed idiots in those stupid romance stories.
But duty called, and so he went about work as usual, enjoying learning from the expertise of Leighton and Nazolene, and meeting all sorts of people in the field. Until one morning, after they had been on the site for nearly two months without any incident and July was just about to turn into August…
The knock on the door was far too loud, and Lucas squeezed his eyes shut and made a little sound. It was awfully bright in here, even through his eyelids, which meant that the sun was up. What time was it? He was usually wide awake before it was anywhere near this bright.
…and why did his head hurt so much?
“Lucaaaas?” a female voice sang.
Normally it wouldn’t have bothered him, but right now it hearing it made him feel like the entire company of Riverdance had just set up shop inside his head and were busily rehearsing their most complicated routine. He made a noise of protest and tried to pull the blankets up over his head.
“Lucas? Come on, you’re late,” the same voice said, and he heard a rustle to indicate that the curtain separating his bunk from the rest of the camper had been pushed aside. “Come on, you’re always on time, so you’re not in trouble, but Leighton sent me to find you anyway. Hustle.”
He managed to roll over onto his back, something that took far more effort than it should have, and cracked his eyes open to look up at her. Clara was another student who had accompanied Nazolene to the site, in a situation not unlike Lucas and Leighton. And, he had noticed, Clara seemed to have taken a bit of a shine to the Professor. But Lucas couldn’t really hold that against her because one, he totally understood that feeling, and two, she was one of the sweetest people he had ever met, and he did like her and enjoy her company.
But right now he wished she would go away. And take the sun with her.
As his eyes closed again, he heard her make a sound, and then a rustle that indicated the curtain had slid back into place. Lucas was, to say the least, extremely relieved, and began to doze off again. He felt awful, his stomach hurt, his head ached, and everything just felt very warm…even though he was shivering beneath his bedding.
Unfortunately, his respite did not last long.
“Lucas?” This time it was the Professor’s voice that invaded the quiet as the curtain rustled aside, and was accompanied by the touch of a cool hand on his forehead. “Are you all right, my boy?”
Lucas didn’t answer, not really. He just let out a soft mumble of relief at the cool touch, and a moan of protest when it was taken away. But he did not open his eyes again, not even when the curtain closed and he heard voices talking beyond it. They were just far enough away and just quiet enough that he couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but he was still coherent enough to know that they were talking about him.
…and he didn’t have much longer to think about it before he once again dozed off. And this time, he was undisturbed for quite some time. Or at least, he was pretty sure that it was quite some time. When he next opened his eyes, the sun had shifted a bit and was no longer directly in his face.
He sat up and looked around, still feeling awful. He certainly wasn’t going to go out and help with the dig right now as things were. But he was sort of hungry, and he wanted to know what was going on…
The camper door opened, and he heard his name. The Professor again. And the curtain again swished aside. “Ah, you’re awake,” he said, smiling. Again that hand reached out and brushed Lucas’ bangs aside to rest against his forehead. The smile faded slightly. “Still warm. You have quite a fever, my boy.”
“Oh…” It was all Lucas could muster up to say.
He sat down on the edge of the bed. “We have a doctor on staff here. He said that you’re quite lucky, as it appears to be nothing more than a bug. There are some nasty illnesses out here. You dodged quite a bullet, Lucas. But you’re to stay in bed and rest until your temperature goes back down.”
Lucas nodded. “Okay…” He certainly wasn’t going to argue on the issue, even if he’d had the presence of mind to do so. Staying in bed sounded quite delightful to him.
“Is there anything you want? Or need?” Leighton asked.
I want you to stay here with me, Lucas thought glumly, but it would sound incredibly childish of him to admit that he really didn’t want to be left alone right now. Instead he just mumbled something about his throat burning and being hungry, hoping the message would be received. But judging by the fact that Leighton left and returned moments later with a couple bottles of water and something to eat, it came across loud and clear.
…and to his amazement, Leighton again sat down on the edge of the bed. “Would you like me to keep you company?” he asked calmly. “They can do without me for a while. And I’m worried about you.”
Somehow, that made Lucas feel a tiny bit better. “Thank you,” he rasped.
Later that night , Lucas had another nightmare. This was not like his usual dreams; there was nothing of the boy named Luke in them. Instead, it was the Professor. He was hurt and bleeding and not moving, sprawled out on the ground. And there was a man standing nearby, lost in the shadows, cackling something about his revenge.
He heard Leighton’s voice then, calling his name, and Lucas couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep anymore. Frightened and confused, he grabbed the Professor’s arm and held on for dear life, refusing to let go for anything. Even if he was badly hurt, the Professor was safe. That was all that mattered.
When he woke up early the next morning, feeling a fair amount better but by no means completely back to his normal self, he found the Professor lying beside him on the bed. The real Professor, his arm clutched tightly against Lucas, half-pinned beneath the student’s body. Leighton’s eyes were closed; he was relaxed and lost to slumber.
Lucas knew he should wake the man up, let go of his arm, and let him go get some real rest in his own bed. But despite knowing that, he didn’t do it. He just…stared.
He had never actually seen the Professor like this. For all the time they had been sharing quarters, he had never seen the Professor asleep like this. The time on the plane didn’t count. That was in uncomfortable seats, a quick nap. For that night in the tent, he had been the first one to nod off. And now to not only see it, but to see it this close…
Leighton somehow still managed to look refined, even while unconscious. His breathing was steady, calm, even. Lucas let himself just study the man’s face for a moment, enjoying the sight of him so relaxed and at peace. And it made something deep inside of Lucas do a backflip. This was wrong, he shouldn’t do this, he should just let it all go and—
He hesitated, then moved ever so slightly to press a very careful kiss to Leighton’s forehead.
The Professor murmured something in his sleep…and actually inched closer to Lucas, moving his free arm to loop around Lucas’ waist. His face wound up perhaps an inch away from the young man’s.
Lucas swallowed hard. He could only imagine how well this was going to go over when Leighton woke up in the morning and found them situated like this. Especially after everything had been going so well. They were only here for another few weeks, and everything that had happened before was almost completely behind them…
But try as he might, Lucas couldn’t bring himself to do anything but lean against the warm body stretched out beside his own and close his eyes, enjoying the scent and the feel and wishing that somehow, somewhere, something could have been different.
He fell asleep again, and woke up in the proper morning to an empty space beside him. How Leighton had gotten his arm free, he wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter too much. When the man came back to see how he was doing, there was an odd look in his eyes, an odd note in his voice. He was not terribly pleased, but again, there was no actual regret there.
Lucas nearly shivered at that look as he realized what it meant.
What had happened before wasn’t behind them. The Professor thought about it as much as he did. And last night’s accidental adventure had put a crack in that careful wall, separating them now from what had happened back then. This was not yet over.
And things were going to come to a head very, very soon.
Since the night they had inadvertently spent in the same bed, things had been tense between teacher and student. It wasn’t quite so palatable to those around them as it might have been in the beginning, as Lucas was now confident enough to function on his own on the site and so did not always have to spend as much time around the Professor as he once had.
But still, the tension was actually to the point where both Clara and Nazolene had commented on the fact that the two barely seemed to be on speaking terms and was everything okay? Lucas had chuckled, admitted that he and the Professor had ‘butted heads’ on an issue, but it wasn’t important, and things were absolutely fine.
Leighton had been easily within ear shot, and had made no comment.
And Lucas was trying to deal with the simplest of facts: he had enjoyed the kiss, that animalistic moment in the woods, and the night he had woken up to the Professor’s face being so close to his. He had liked all of it, and he wanted to experience all of it again.
But trying to analyze all of that was leading him to a conclusion that he knew he could never actually make a reality. Hell, it was a conclusion that he wasn’t even sure he wanted to draw in the first place. But there didn’t seem to be any way around it. And the silence was killing him.
Which was why he approached the Professor a couple of nights later. Lucas still wasn’t completely back to his old self; whatever that bug he had gotten was, he could not seem to shake it, and even after three days in bed, his temperature was still high. But it was down enough that he could get up and move around, though they had opted to keep him away from work for a while longer. This was both for the sake of his own health, and for the health of those around him.
So he was shivering ever so slightly as he stood there, watching the Professor. The man was sitting at the small table in the camper, reading over something. Lucas swallowed hard and tried to steel his shaky nerves. He was scared to do this, but at the same time, they couldn’t go on like this.
Or rather, Lucas couldn’t. “Professor?”
Something about the way the man’s shoulders tensed made Lucas think that this had been expected, and he wasn’t entirely sure what to think of that. But the calm façade came right back up as Leighton turned to look at him. “Yes, my boy?”
“We…” Another swallow to try and dislodge the lump from his throat. “…we need to talk.”
A flicker of emotion that vanished immediately, but was enough to confirm what Lucas suspected: Leighton had been expecting this, probably even waiting for it. And his sigh and next words gave absolute confirmation: “I knew this would happen.” He gave Lucas a measuring look. “What exactly is it that you want from me?”
“I don’t know,” Lucas said, flat-out lying through his teeth. “What do you want?”
“What I want is irrelevant,” Leighton said, standing. The papers were forgotten on the table. “As I said before, it is a question of ethics, Lucas, and everything we have done so far has been extremely unethical on my part. The consequences could mean ruin.”
“Of course. Ethics,” Lucas practically spat the words out. “Appearances before happiness, of course.” Thus far, this conversation (as heated as it was starting to get) had barely risen above a whisper. There were other people around, in close enough proximity that someone could all too easily overhear something, and if someone did…
“It’s not only a question of appearances,” Leighton said.
“That’s all you seem concerned about.”
“Lucas, I could lose everything. At some point, I do have to worry for myself.”
“And to hell with everyone else.”
“You’re not listening.”
“I will when you say something that’s not a repeat of everything you’ve said before,” Lucas said. “But whatever the case may be, this can’t go on like this. I need to know where we stand, once and for all. Because it’s driving me crazy.” Something deep inside his stomach was starting to shake, to clench and coil, and he felt sick again. “I just need to know…”
“What exactly is it that you want?” Leighton asked, a repeat of his earlier question.
“Do I really need to tell you?” Lucas was startled to actually hear himself laugh, even though he felt like he wanted to cry. He had never cried this much before in his life, but his heart felt like it was breaking into pieces, and the resulting ache echoed, hollow and painful inside him. “For god’s sake, you’re too intelligent to be that stupid.”
“You truly don’t know what you’re asking of me, do you, my boy?” Leighton said. He was so flat right now, emotionless in his words and voice, yet Lucas could see every muscle in his body shaking from the effort of restraint. That was the Professor’s way, though, no matter what he wanted, though Lucas was certain that the Professor wanted this as much as he did. He had felt the man against him, seen those little looks, read his expressions…but it was always propriety, appearances, reserved emotions.
And somehow, that thought did what nothing else had been able to do thus far.
…it broke him.
The words were barely audible, but rang out through the small, confined space with all the force and thunder of a church bell. The tension vanished as Leighton now gawked at him without reservation, opened his mouth to speak—
“You’re right,” Lucas said before the Professor could say anything. He was mortified to feel his eyes dampen, and he blinked rapidly in a desperate, vain attempt to keep those tears at bay. Goddammit, why couldn’t he handle this like a normal person? “I don’t know. You were right about everything. And if anything gets out, you’re the one who’s going to suffer, not me. And I’m being selfish.”
…was it really such a crime, though, to be selfish? Everyone was like that sometimes when it was important. Wanting food, wanting attention, wanting comfort, wanting someone. There was no shame in being selfish like that, in just wanting, and no shame in desiring someone for one’s very own, Lucas decided. It became unforgivable, though, when wanting became motion, when desire became action, and that action imperiled the other person. And he had become that peril. At the very least, he was a threat to Leighton’s very career.
Ergo, he was selfish, and unforgivably so.
Lucas took a step back, absently rubbing at his eyes with the back of one hand and hoping that the Professor wouldn’t realize what he was doing, though he was quite sure that it was a vain hope. His other arm had moved to wrap around his stomach. He was suddenly very cold, on top of still feeling a bit under the weather from being sick, and now he felt ashamed of all of this, of what he had caused. “I’m sorry, Professor,” he murmured, looking down. “I’m sorry that I feel what I do for you, and I’m sorry it’s causing you so much trouble.”
The bathroom door was next to him, and he thought he saw an escape there. “It’s all right. I mean, it’s fine,” he said, only partially lying right through his teeth. “I won’t bring it up again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a sh-shower.”
His voice broke on the last word, and he dove into the bathroom, hoping desperately that Leighton had not seen how badly he was falling apart. He tried to shove the door closed, but only succeeded in knocking it back against the frame; it bounced back and inched open a bit. Lucas slid to the floor and sat there, biting the back of his hand to keep himself from letting anything out.
If he let it loose now, he was going to howl, and that would take some explaining.
Somehow, he felt like he shouldn’t have been too surprised when the door slowly opened the rest of the way a couple of moments later. There wasn’t much room in the tiny bathroom, barely enough for Lucas to curl up on the floor with his back against the wall.
He pushed himself back to his feet, determined to just get away for a moment. But that proved to be an impossibility when hands gripped his shoulders and tugged, spinning him around, and then those same hands pulled him forward and then his face was pressed against a T-shirt that swallowed all the tiny hiccups of his withheld sobs.
Lucas felt like a horrible fool. “Let go…” he mumbled, mustering up the barest struggle. He didn’t have the energy for much else. “Just let go…” Strange. Was he talking to the Professor, or himself?
He couldn’t decide if he was thrilled or not when the arms around his shoulders tightened. “Lucas, you need to calm down.” Odd, the Professor’s voice was not usually that rough. The last time he had sounded like that, he was angry and then they had—
There was the brush of lips against his forehead; it was like an electrical shock. “Calm down.”
“You were right the whole time, right about everything,” he mumbled sadly, angrily. “I’m too young, I don’t understand enough. All I seem to do is make trouble for you because I can’t see past what I want. I’m just a stupid brat who went and did something awful.”
“What did you do that was truly so awful?”
There was a momentary jumble in his head as flashes of his own realizations intermingled with flashes of memories that were his and yet not truly his as he remembered dreams and thoughts and emotions, and before he could stop himself he blurted out the single wonderful, horrible truth.
“I love you.”
…he was truly unforgiveable.
Lucas expected to be shoved away immediately and left alone to stew in everything. He had gone too far. A kiss was one thing, hell even sex was one thing, but love? This was beyond the pale, too much, would never accept any of it…
It took him a very long moment to realize that he was not being shoved aside. In fact, the Professor’s arms seemed to be tightening around him, pulling him closer. And he was shaking again.
It was then that all the fight seemed to flood out of the Professor, and he sort of slumped forward against Lucas, his chin on the boy’s shoulder. “You’re a child…” he murmured. It almost sounded like he was more trying to convince himself of this fact than to actually make a valid argument. “A child…”
“I’m not a child. I’m nineteen,” Lucas said, finally gaining the presence of mind to wrap his arms back around the Professor. “And I know what I want.” The rest of that thought would remain unvoiced. He really didn’t have the strength anymore.
“Foolish boy…” Leighton was muttering now, more to himself than to Lucas. That didn’t stop him from very gently pushing Lucas back against the door, still keeping the two of them pressed together. “Foolish child…both of us, such fools…” He was still mumbling as he drew back enough to look at Lucas properly. “Not proper, not right…”
“Professor?” Lucas asked softly, suddenly unsure.
And that was the end of the conversation as Leighton’s lips pressed against Lucas’.
ETA: I thought I'd mentioned this here, but I guess I hadn't. The "too intelligent to be this stupid" line was inspired by/is a homage to maskalade's Pocketwatches and Duct-Tape. And she approved of it. Thank you.