Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 2433
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: As the summer draws to a close, Lucas makes a big decision. And he's not telling the Professor about it.
She follows him down to the station with the police officer, in spite of the man’s concern that such a place is no place for a young lady. But she has a rare display of that stubborn streak of hers, and refuses to be deterred from this. She has to see for herself, she says.
He permits her, and is silently grateful for her presence. Somehow, he thinks he will need it.
They follow the Inspector past the front desk and into a fairly large room. There are forms hidden beneath sheets. That is why they are here now, after all. There are three people that they are here to see, in a manner of speaking. He has met two of them on occasion, and knows one very well.
The first sheet is pulled aside: a woman. He nods, telling the Inspector what the Inspector really already knows. But a positive identification is needed. Procedure is procedure, even in the face of great human tragedy. And the second sheet is much the same, although this time the person laid out on the table is an adult male. Again, he identifies the person with a nod.
Now they come to the third one, this one smaller than the others. The size of a child. The Inspector draws the pristine white sheet back, revealing the boy on the table beneath it.
For a moment, he is certain that he will be ill.
But he is saved from that by the sound of a gasp beside him, hands clutching at his coat, a face pressing into his shirt and weeping with murmurs of disbelief. It is a distraction, and he welcomes it. It gives him an excuse to look away, to not have to see the bright, vivacious lad he knew looking like that. But he has to give the Inspector an affirmative.
No matter how much it kills him to do it.
As the sheet is replaced, he meets the Inspector’s look, which is both quizzical and sympathetic. He already knows, but they needed an outside identification. And while he holds the sobbing girl close, he gives an answer that he despises.
Yes, he says, and it is really all he needs to say. But his eyes move back to the sheet in spite of his best efforts not to, and he hears the boy’s name drop from his own lips and shattering in the air, like the tiniest fragments of broken glass.
The last couple of weeks passed quickly, and the summer was over.
Lucas found it surprisingly difficult to say goodbye to everyone at the site. After all of them living together like they had for as long as they had, they had become a sort of odd Gypsy family. They had grown fond of each other, though their primary mission on the site was business. A few of them were staying behind to finish cataloging and all the other things that needed to be done, but many of them, like the Professor, were teachers, and the school year was going to start soon.
Clara in particular surprised him when she ran up and threw her arms around him in a huge hug. It surprised him a bit, given that he was sure she liked the Professor, but still, he was not going to shove her away. He had decided that he rather liked her. And they exchanged email addresses, with her telling him that he had better write, or else. He grinned and gave his word that he would do exactly that.
Before long, they were back in the Jeep and on their way back through the jungle, back towards civilization and beds and fast food and all the other necessities of life that Lucas was surprised to realize that he had managed to go almost three months without. It was going to strange to be in a place where there weren’t trees on all four sides, where he didn’t stand a chance of seeing some exotic animal (which he had on several occasions, much to his delight), where dirt didn’t somehow wind up becoming a part of his daily diet, and where…
Well, where he wasn’t seeing the Professor every day.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Lucas admitted after they had been driving for a while.
Leighton chuckled. “Time does fly when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?”
“Fun doesn’t even begin to cover that,” Lucas said. “You know, at the beginning of the year, I told Clark that if you got me to like history, then you’re a freakin’ miracle worker. I think those might even be my exact words. So congratulations, you are Annie Sullivan.”
The reference made the Professor laugh out loud. “I am flattered, my boy.”
…how was it possible that things were so calm between them? It had been a little more than two weeks since that beautiful night. Ever since that had happened, it was like the tension had vanished. They were at ease, happy, and enjoying each other’s company. It was wonderful, to be honest, and made the student wonder if perhaps his teacher had…oh, he didn’t know, accepted what had happened and what was happening? He wasn’t entirely sure, but he was happy with it.
But there was still an unfortunate little voice niggling around in the back of his mind, pointing out that while the affair might make them both happy and they might both be willing adults, the Professor had been right. If what had happened between them was discovered, it would ruin Leighton, and quite possibly Lucas as well, if he was dismissed from the university because of it.
Which was why he had been thinking very carefully about something for quite some time now. And he was fairly sure that he had made a decision on the matter. It was not really anything he wanted to do, but at the same time…he felt like he had to. For both their sakes. What happened afterwards was still up in the air. But for once in this situation, he had to do the right thing.
For the Professor, moreso than for himself.
He smiled to himself, feeling both pleased and sad. At last, he was managing to do something unselfish. Too bad it had taken him this long to get his head in the right place.
“Lucas?” The Professor was talking to him now.
“Hmm?” he shook himself. “Sorry. I was daydreaming.”
“This is not abnormal, my boy. I’ve had you in class,” Leighton said. “I was just asking if you had any intention of jumping out of any further moving vehicles on the way back. If so, I was going to stop the Jeep for you and ask you to get it out of your system now before we proceed.”
Lucas laughed and grinned wickedly. “I don’t know, got pretty good results last time.”
He was pleased when Leighton coughed and blushed, though he did not look displeased. “Well, I suppose that’s a matter of perspective.” Leighton’s perspective was obviously not unhappy with the memory, that much was fairly obvious.
“Being back in civilization is going to be weird. I’m going to have the internet again!” Lucas said.
“Ah, your priorities are as sound as ever,” the Professor said with a shake of the head.
Lucas smiled in return, again thinking of his plan.
It was the right thing to do, both for himself and for this wonderful man.
He slept on the plane, albeit fitfully, and had another dream. He was startled to hear the Professor admit to having a few dreams as well, of Layton and the girl who looked so much like Daisy Rainholt. He had dreamed of a moment when Layton had been forced to go and identify the body of a boy he knew who had drowned. And he had called the boy Luke.
It rang powerfully, painfully close to home, and Lucas shivered at the memory.
It didn’t take a college professor and his brightest student to put all of the pieces together. Because of Lucas’ own horrific nightmares, they knew that Luke had drowned, and they knew that Luke had been close to Layton. Professor Hershel Layton, it seemed, had been forced to actually provide an official identification of his young apprentice after the ship the boy was on had gone underwater.
Hearing how badly the experience had rattled Layton was both sombering and gratifying, in an odd way. Luke had meant a great deal to Layton, and the boy’s death had broken his heart. And, he admitted, the more he thought about it all, the more he was sure that although he went on as normal, some part of the man had never quite gotten over the tragedy.
Lucas pointed out, in a quiet voice, that Professor Layton had meant everything to Luke. Even as he was dying, the child had not been calling for his parents or for help. He had wanted the Professor. That was evidence enough for them.
Neither of them were still entirely sure what to make of their memories, of who they had once been. But being able to talk about it and about the dreams that plagued them as they remembered the people they had once been helped a great deal.
Finally, after a long drive, an equally long plane ride, and another drive to deliver him back to his parents, Lucas was safely at home, and completely exhausted. After his parents greeted them and spoke with the Professor and thanked him for giving their son such a wonderful opportunity, Lucas waved goodbye to Professor Leighton and smiled as he watched the man drive away, knowing that it would be the last time he saw him, probably for a great while.
He was going inside to take a shower (although he had to admit that it would be quite some time before he was ever able to look at a shower stall the same way again). And then he was going to have something to eat and talk with his parents. He was going to unpack.
And then he had some paperwork to fill out.
It has been weeks, and he is still thinking about it.
She is trying to be brave, and having as little luck with it as he was. But it is all right for her. Society holds different rules and laws and thou shalt and thou shalt nots for women then for men, and gentlemen in particular. He was allowed a certain period of grieving, and that is all. She has far more leeway than he did to mourn and weep.
But there are other ways to forget about things, and he is exploring as many of them as possible.
He knows that she is worried about him now as well, and that she is fretting over how much he is burying himself in his work. Hiding his head in the sand was the phrase she used once to describe it. But by hiding himself in puzzles and mysteries and riddles and artifacts, he does not allow himself too much free time to think about other things.
Things like the fact that his thirteen-year-old apprentice is dead.
That he regrets letting the boy get on the boat in the first place.
That he can’t honestly remember if he ever actually told the boy that he was genuinely proud of him.
That he is grieving less like a teacher for a student, and more like a father for a lost son…
The moments when those thoughts come are the worst because he cannot fight them off, and they come on strong and without warning. And those are the moments when he give into weakness and permits himself a less gentlemanly means of escape.
They say that truth and enlightenment can be found at the bottom of a bottle, but all he finds there are headaches, slowed mental processes, and a very sad young woman standing over him in the morning.
Time does dull the pain, but it never goes away like he feels it should. But there are far too many questions that will never have answered. If there’s one thing that someone of his profession hates, it’s a lack of answers. His apprentice would have teased him about being a detective, and he would have deferred on that, saying that he was no such thing.
Every puzzle has an answer.
Except the question of what Luke would have grown up to become. Would he have gone into archaeology? Perhaps veterinary medicine, even; the boy always did have quite a way with animals. How many more puzzles would there have been? What else would there have been?
There are no answers to be found, not in puzzles or alcohol, or anywhere else. There is only a set of three graves, and a man who must now go to great lengths to hide the fact that something in him has broken for reasons he himself, in all his brilliance, cannot quite grasp.
Lucas heard about it all from Clark a few days after the semester had started.
It seemed that the Professor was, to say the least, shocked to learn of what he had done. Clark admittedly, with no little amount of surprise at the fact, that Leighton almost seemed to be angry down beneath his own surprise. That was what Lucas had really expected, both the emotion as described and the way it was expressed, or not expressed, as the case may be.
Still, it was for the best, Lucas decided, and thanked his friend again for helping.
“Hey, Luke?” Clark asked hesitantly after their phone conversation had moved on a bit and they had been talking for a while about other things.
“…what exactly happened between you and the Professor?” Clark asked.
Lucas was silent for a moment, trying to formulate an answer that wouldn’t give anything away. Oh, he was fairly sure he could have told his friend what had happened and have it stay a secret. But that would be a betrayal, and he might not be a student in that school anymore, but he was not going to betray their secret to anyone.
That was one of the reasons why he had transferred to another school.
Finally, he replied, and he was surprised to hear himself chuckle. “Let’s just say that it was a very interesting summer.” He smiled at Clark’s confused noise, and changed the subject. He would keep the secret, and wait until the time was right for anything else. “So how’s Daisy?”
PS. There will be one more part after this - the epilogue. I'm currently adding a rather large chunk to that, so there'll be a fair amount more to it than there was on the anon meme. I added a bit to this chapter as well. Thanks, guys! Much love!