Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 2064
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: Luke's picked up a very bad habit.
It began as little more than a schoolyard dare, as so many things do during those delightful years known as adolescence. In this case, both the challengers and recipient of this particular dare were both male, and in their early teens. And the gauntlet was thrown with a very simple question.
Have you ever tried this stuff?
The stuff in question turned out to some sort of drug, if his eyes were to be trusted. He had never been one for drugs of any kind, including medications given to him by his doctor throughout his life. But as anyone who has grown up with their peers knows, there is a big difference between being handed cough syrup by your family practioner, and being handed a small box of some substance by a friend.
At first, he balked. Somehow, this didn’t seem like a terribly good idea. But his resistance quickly broke before the oldest method of teenaged persuasion: taunting.
What, are you scared?
Don’t be a cowards, it’s fun!
It feels really keen. Just give it a try.
Ultimately, the inquiries as to his courage (or alleged lack thereof) decided him, as such questions have decided hundreds upon hundreds of young men before him.
And upon hearing what this particular drug was, he actually felt a bit more inclined to try it. He had heard of it before, in the mystery novels he read. Sherlock Holmes was a regular user of the stuff, or at the very least something like it, if memory served correctly. Said it increased his mental processes, or something to that effect. And as the famed detective was one of his literary idols (his real-life idol, of course, being his own mentor)…
He let himself be led into an alleyway near the school, out of the immediate sight of teachers and passersby. And he watched while his friends showed him how to do it. A little prick with a needle. That was all. And they all certainly looked happy about it.
He swallowed hard, both to gather his nerve and to squash down that irritating little voice in his head that said he was making a mistake, and he did it.
It was quite some time before he made his way home. The rest of the afternoon was spent with his friends in the park in a perpetual state of floating. He felt euphoric, happy, like he was walking on air and nothing could bring him down to earth. It was one of the most beautiful feelings he had ever experienced, even better than solving a puzzle (though he would lose his head if his mentor heard him say that, he told his friends with a high pitched giggle that should never have come from his lips).
But before he knew it, the sun was setting and it was growing dark. By the time he half-stumbled through the front door of the home he shared with his mentor, the euphoria had worn off somewhat, leaving him with a strange, all encompassing feeling of happiness, of well-being.
And he was rather pleased to discover that nothing could penetrate that fluffy envelope around him, not even his teacher’s voice, harsh with worry, demanding to know where he had been all day. He waltzed right past the question, and headed for the stairs, leaving the man standing at the bottom of the stairwell, staring up after him in shock.
Thus began an unorthodox after school activity, one that took him back to that alley on a nearly daily basis. Oh, not every day. He had to make an effort to keep up appearances with his teacher; he had made amends after that first day by apologizing and coming up with a reasonable excuse.
The Professor had always been the forgiving sort.
Still, it was getting harder and harder to juggle things, what with school, his lessons, and this new hobby shared by himself and his friends. More often than not, he would find himself not paying attention to whatever was at hand, instead drifting away to think about what would come after the schoolbell rang and he was free of this place and they could go…
That had some slightly nasty side effects, though. His teachers were alternating between worried (“You’ve never behaved like this before. Is something wrong?”) to annoyed (“The lessons are down here on Earth, please come out of the clouds.”), and the Professor’s reaction was…well, he was actually a bit more on the baffled side at first. But as the days passed and it all became more and more commonplace, the Professor’s look became a little more knowing, his eyes a bit more penetrating.
But there was no possible way he could know, could he? After all, the only true physicals signs of what he was doing were all too easily hidden by his favored long-sleeved sweater. Although he did have to stop and ask himself exactly why he was hiding it. Eventually, he concluded that it was one of those things that the Professor would probably tell him to stop doing for his own good, regardless of reality.
He was always being told not to do things for his own good.
Quite frankly, he was getting tired of it.
Still, he started being a bit more careful. No sense in losing his fun.
Professor Layton looked unusually serious, peering at his apprentice across the dinner table. The remnants of meat and potatoes sat on the plates in front of them both, already forgotten. “I try not to pry, my boy, but lately I’ve had the sense that you’re hiding something.”
“What do you mean, Professor?” Luke’s reply was as delicate as possible. Feign ignorance, feign innocence, and maybe the entire thing would eventually be written off as being just a phase. He had heard that phrase used dozens of times, ‘just a phase.’ It was an adult’s way of saying that they did not like a certain behavior, nor did they approve of it, and if the child had any sense or brains whatsoever, they would grow out of it as of ten minutes ago.
“You’ve been behaving very strangely, not at all like yourself,” Layton said. “I’ve noticed a change in your attitude, to say nothing of your appetite. And I am aware that you have not been sleeping at night. I’ve heard you moving around.” He was far too calm, his words far too precise.
Luke knew exactly what that meant; a few years of experience had given him that much insight, at least. It meant that Layton was worried, even alarmed, and had more or less planned out what he wanted to say. But he was keeping himself under that usual strict control for the sake of the discussion, and for the sake of no one getting defensive.
But the very mention of Luke hiding anything already had the young man on alert. He was tired of being told to do things or not do things for his own good, that despicable phrase. “So? I’ve just got things on my mind. That’s all.”
“What kinds of things?”
For a moment, there was almost humor in the discussion, and a flicker of a smile crossed the Professor’s mouth. “I see. What kinds of teenager things? I will have you know that I was a teenager once myself, Luke. It was years ago, but I was there.”
Luke could not help himself. “That was back when you were helping to build the pyramids, right?”
“…I must remember to make you eat your own cooking for a few days, my boy,” Layton said, then seemed to recall why they were talking in the first place, and grew serious again. “But I do mean it, Luke. If something is bothering you, you can tell me about it.”
“I will help you in any way that I can.”
“…Luke, are you sure you’re feeling well—“
It was a simple question. One in a line of honest concerns for his health and well-being. But for whatever reason, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and Luke surged to his feet hard enough that his chair rammed back into the floor with a loud thudding sound that made the Professor jump.
Why he was so angry all of a sudden, Luke did not know. It seemed like he’d been having a lot of mood swings lately, and he was unsure as to why it was happening. But he was beyond control of himself right now. He could not force back the glare, nor could he feel any sort of remorse for the shocked look on Professor Layton’s face.
“For god’s sake, why won’t you just stop asking?” he snarled. “I said I’m fine, so drop it!”
Suddenly, he just had to get out of there. He had to get away from this house with all its stupid rules and thou shalt nots, and from the look on Layton’s face, which was slowly shifting from surprise to actual hurt. And most of all, he needed to get away from that dull ache in his chest, but somehow he didn’t think leaving the house would help with that at all. Still, it was something.
“I’m going out,” he said. And he walked quickly to the door, pausing only to grab his coat before he left. The last sight he saw inside the house was Layton, standing in the office doorway, that same bewildered, hurt look on his face. And then Luke closed the door and hit the streets.
He had a destination in mind, and a purpose. If Layton was so worried because he was staying out after school and all that, then he would just have to make sure he was home after school. And the easiest way to do that, he had decided, was to just bring it home. What he did behind his closed bedroom door was his own business, and no one else’s.
It didn’t take long. The friend who had given him his first taste of the stuff seemed to have plenty, and in a few minutes’ time, Luke had procured a small supply for himself. With it tucked away, safely stashed in his pocket, he began to walk around, trying to cool his head and calm down. Already, he was fairly sure that he had done something incredibly stupid when he had stormed out, but there was no changing it now. All he could do was hope that it was possible to mend things when he went home.
And after a while, he did go home, back to the brownstone. He had a moment of panic when he realized that he hadn’t taken his key, and visions of spending the night outside flashed through his mind, but they proved to be needless worry when the knob turned in his hand. He had been gone over an hour.
Layton was still awake, and came to the office doorway once again when he entered, but Luke didn’t even look at him, even when the Professor said his name. He went straight upstairs, not bothering to take his coat off at the door. And he felt the man’s eyes on his back all the way up.
He closed the door behind him. Safe at last. Free from prying eyes and nosy mentors. He took out his new acquisition, packed neatly into a small blue box, and set to work.
Luke was getting to be a pretty good hand with a needle by this point, although he had noticed that he had been using slightly more of the drug to get to that same happy place as of late, certainly more than when he had started. But the prick didn’t even hurt anymore, and certainly was a small price to pay for what came afterwards.
But still, as he lay there on his bed, feeling like he was floating on clouds and wrapped up in that same warm, fuzzy feeling, he couldn’t shake that awful emotion curling in the pit of his stomach. It was not quite enough to drag him down, as his mind seemed to be wrapped up in a drug-induced shell that bad emotions could not penetrate.
…but he still couldn’t help but wish that the feeling of guilt would just go away.
PS. Written for a prompt on the anon meme. This is part one of three. I think I actually might have managed to remain anonymous on this one, yay! Thanks for reading, all! Much love!