Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 4206
Disclaimer: I don't own Professor Layton. Or his top-hat of awesome.
Teaser: Layton finds out about Luke's secret, and issues an awful ultimatum.
He wasn’t sure whether it was a good sign or bad when he walked in and did not see the Professor. Granted, he was sure it was probably a good thing that he could still walk in, at least, but he was sure that Layton didn’t know what he was up to, and that was fine by him. What he needed to do right now was get upstairs to his room and—
…well, so much for getting in unnoticed. Somehow, the simple sound of his name sounded like a death knell, but he screwed up his nerve and walked into the office as casually as he could, mustering up every possible ounce of his teenaged indifference. “You called?”
“Sit.” The word was an order, not a request, and void of Layton’s usual manners.
Somehow, Luke knew that he did not want to disobey that single command. He dropped into the chair on the other side of the Professor’s desk without a word, his schoolbag falling to the ground at his feet.
There were a few seconds of tense silence as Layton straightened some papers on his desk and seemed to collect his thoughts before he spoke. But when he spoke, it was not angrily. “Are you ill, my boy?”
…well, that certainly wasn’t what Luke had been expecting, and he was sure his expression let that on. He had been expecting questions pertaining to what had happened the night before, the argument, and his admittedly real secret. “N-no…not recently.”
“Have you been to a see a doctor lately for any reason?” Layton pressed, his tone congenial and conversational. It was like nothing bad had happened between them at all. “Perhaps you’ve been taking some medication, and you simply forgot to tell me about it? That would be understandable.”
What in the world was the Professor talking about? Luke couldn’t even really focus in on the questions, though. His mind was off, far away on that little box in his room and the feelings that came with it. Even though it seemed like lately it had been taking a bit more of the stuff to get to that place. At a loss, Luke just shook his head. “No, sir.”
“Very well then,” Layton said, his tone hardening into something more like what it had been during their altercation the night before. He withdrew one hand from where it had been hidden beneath the desk and dropped a small box onto the surface between them. A familiar little box, containing the evidence of his crime. Luke’s heart plummeted when the Professor went on, “Then perhaps you would be good enough to explain what this is?”
A dozen different emotions raced through Luke, each one bringing a dozen questions and thoughts for what he could say or ask or do. But his mind, foggy and unfocused for a lack of the drug, decided on what was quite possibly the worst thing he could have said, and in the worst possible tone he could have said it: angry. “You looked through my room?”
The bark that escaped Layton at that could hardly be called a laugh. “I respect your privacy a bit more than that, my boy, although perhaps that has been a bit misguided. Your door was open, and this was sitting on your nightstand, also open. There was no hunting involved, I assure you.”
Luke’s hands clenched in his lap. This time, his mind was void of words or action. He couldn’t think anymore. So he just sat there, staring at the box on the desk, and not looking at his mentor.
“No explanation, then? Very well. Here is the situation as I see it, and you may correct me if I’m wrong,” Layton said. He was wearing the expression that he tended to wear when unmasking Don Paolo, and speaking in that same stern voice.
Luke hated that voice. It made him feel like he was only inches tall.
“At some point in the past couple of months, you somehow came to try this. Perhaps one of your friends offered it to you, I do not know. And if I had to guess, I would wonder if it was that day you didn’t come home until after sunset, and proceeded to ignore me when I asked where you had been. For whatever reason, you decided that you liked it. It has since become an addiction, to the point where you are starting to neglect other things in favor of a fix, as they call it.”
How like the Professor, to lay out such a case based on almost no information at all, and still manage to be right on so many counts. And it seemed that he was not yet finished.
“I believe that you realized that this was something you should not be doing, Luke. Why else would you lie to me about it?” he said. There was a creak as he sat back in his chair. “How much of this have I gotten right so far, my boy?”
Luke did not trust himself to answer. He had never seen the Professor like this before. Layton was calm, even-tempered, relaxed, easy-going. Never before had Luke seen the man so…
“I highly suggest that you speak, Luke,” Layton said. “Confession is good for the soul, as they say.”
Luke felt his jaw tighten. Perhaps it was a side effect, but his temper had been on a hair-trigger as of late, and now it was starting to rise. His whole body was alternating between trembling and just plain hurting, and his left leg was starting to twitch oddly, almost like it was trying to kick. “Confession…” he murmured with a sound that could have passed for a chuckle.
This time, Luke didn’t even wait for him to finish. “What do you want me to say?” he snapped. “What good would it do? You know everything already, everything in the world it seems, so what could I possibly say that would be news to you, Professor?” He all but spat the last word out, as though it tasted poorly in his mouth, and promptly hated himself for it. But at the same time, he was furious. How dare the Professor intrude? How dare he sit there, so high and mighty, preaching to him about confession? And how dare he take the drugs away…
Because somehow, Luke was fairly sure that there was no way he was going to get that box out of the room. Given the conversation, he did not think that Layton would allow it. Some little part of him was already scheming as to how he would get it back later.
“Very well. Since there seems to be no reasoning with you, then I am left with no choice but to issue a rather dire ultimatum,” Layton said evenly. “And realize exactly how strong my feelings on this matter must be, Luke, for me to say this. But you have a decision to make as to what is more important to you.”
His next words stopped Luke’s plan to retrieve his supply, and also stopped his heart cold in his chest.
“Which is more important to you, Luke? Opium...or your apprenticeship here?”
Luke stared at him. He barely felt his fingers trembling at the arm of the chair, his leg kicking ever so slightly at the ground, the fact that his mouth had gone as dry as cotton. The gauntlet had been thrown, and the choice was his to make. And good heavens, what a choice.
Give up the drugs.
Or give up his status as Layton’s apprentice.
Were his mind not so fuddled right now, it would have been an easy choice to make. But given that his body wanted—no, needed more of that stuff, he wasn’t sure he could actually make the choice.
Whatever his face looked like right then must have been ghastly (which, coincidentally, was how he felt), because the Professor’s own expression softened ever so slightly. “You have until morning to decide. I suggest you choose very carefully, Luke.”
That seemed like a fairly clear dismissal to him at that point, and so he stood up from the chair, feeling very shaky as he did so. He belatedly remembered to grab his schoolbag as he rose. “I’ll…be upstairs,” he mumbled before moving as quickly as he could, across the room, out the door, and up the stairs. He didn’t even bother to close the door, but simply fell over onto the bed and buried his face in the pillow.
He stayed there for quite a long time.
…but it wasn’t until some time later that it occurred to him to wonder exactly how the Professor knew, seemingly on sight, that the drug in the box was opium.
If the euphoric feelings he got from taking the drugs were the most pleasant thing he had ever experienced, then having them taken away was definitely the worst.
Luke could barely breathe or move, certainly not moving anything of his own free will. His body seemed to have turned against him. There was a pain that seemed to come from beneath the skin, where muscles spasmed and twitched and demanded those illicit little substances to keep them happy and calm. Both his legs kept kicking sporadically, something he could not control.
He had been lucky enough to make it to the bed before it really started in. The experience had been gradual as the craving (for lack of a better word) flared up. But there was nothing to satiate it, and he had been left to curl up on the bed, on top of the blankets, and cringe and clutch at the bedding as it grew worse and worse.
The hours passed slowly, each tick of the clock an excruciating reminder of how long he had been lying there. And at one point, after what felt like three or four eons had snailed their way by, Luke didn’t really care about anything else. He didn’t care about the prospect of losing his home, his status as Layton’s apprentice, or even Layton himself.
He just wanted the drugs. A fix, as Layton had called it.
That was all. Nothing else mattered.
But as he lay there in the dark and tried valiantly to convince himself completely that he did not care, Layton’s words came back to him, as hard and cold as they had been when the Professor had dropped that bombshell on him.
“Which is more important to you, Luke? Opium...or your apprenticeship here?”
…he couldn’t turn his back on all of this, everything he had here. But god he didn’t just want it, he needed the drugs…he needed them to make everything calm, to make it right and soothe his rebellious body back to a point where it would cooperate with him.
Luke squeezed his eyes shut, and was ashamed to feel tears burning at the corners of his eyes. They were hot against his already feverish skin. He clamped down on his lip to bite back the sobs trying to break free. God forbid the Professor should hear him now and have him admit that the man was right.
At the same time, though, he felt like a child: he wanted the Professor there to tell him it was going to be all right. But again, having to admit to being wrong…not that Layton was the type to gloat, really. But at the moment, Luke hated his pride. It was keeping him from reaching out to the person who was really trying to help him.
Given how he was feeling right now, Luke was sure that Layton was trying to help him. But he just couldn’t make himself say it, and so he curled up tighter and wished to all that was holy that he could just fall asleep and not have to feel this anymore…
In spite of all of this, though, there was some little corner of his mind that was the clearest it had ever been. And that tiny part seemed to notice all of the details around him, things that he was too far gone to consciously be aware of. It noticed the way the blanket smelled, how it felt when he pressed his face against it, how the rest of the house seemed so quiet…
And it noticed when the knob turned, and the door to his room opened very slowly.
Luke himself really didn’t notice that he was no longer alone; he did not hear quiet footsteps moving across the floor, pausing beside the bed. He was unaware of the person standing there, staring down at him. He was too wrapped up in trying to will his rebellious body to behave and stop shaking and stop hurting and stop kicking and god he just wanted to sleep until all of this went away—
Until the mattress shifted.
He didn’t even have time to register what that meant before he was being rolled back by warm hands on his shoulders. And then there were arms around him, pulling him back against something solid and strong and equally warm. His first instinct was to pull away, but he wasn’t sure he had the self control to put up any sort of a struggle.
If he had been thinking clearly, he would have known right away who it was. There was, after all, only one other person in the house. And truth be told, it was the last person Luke really wanted to see.
But the few scraps of fight he had left in him flooded away when he heard the Professor’s low, even baritone in his ear. “Luke…you need to endure this,” he said. Strange how calming just the sound of his voice was. “As bad as it is, you have to wait it out.”
He wanted to protest. No, he didn’t need to endure. There was a perfect cure for this sitting on Layton’s desk, and the needle was within arm’s reach. But if he asked for it, or made it seem like that was his choice in this matter, which it wasn’t…at least, he desperately didn’t want it to be… “C-can’t…” he stammered. His hands instinctively moved to clutch at the man’s arms. “Professor—“
“Wait it out,” Layton repeatedly firmly. “You can beat this, Luke. I know you can.”
Somehow, that simple statement of faith cracked what was left of Luke’s shell. The last pieces broke and fell away, and he leaned back against Layton, letting his head slump forward as the sobs finally escaped. “Hurts…hurts too damn much,” he rasped, no longer caring a whit for language or whether or not Layton saw him falling apart.
This was the part where Layton could gloat, if he so chose.
But he chose not to.
Instead, he shifted their position, cradling the trembling teenager in careful arms, and resting his chin against Luke’s hair. “It’s going to take a while,” Layton said. “At the very least, I’d imagine you’ll have a few days like this. And it will be some time before you’re completely free of it.”
“Why…?” Luke swallowed hard and tried again. “Why are you making me do this?” He did not even attempt to elaborate; he did not think it was necessary for him to do so.
There was a pause.
Then Layton said, in a very soft voice, “…because I have seen the worst of what opium can do, my boy. And I would sooner stop you now than have it get to the point where I truly do lose you to it.”
The implications of that statement were like a brick to the head.
“Which is more important to you, Luke? Opium...or your apprenticeship here?”
Luke felt another sob rising in his throat, and then his fingers were clenching even more tightly around Layton’s arm, digging into the man’s sleeve. He felt pathetic. “S-stay…just stay here, please…”
He felt Layton sigh, felt his breath against his hair. And then, as if reading his thoughts from earlier, Layton simply said, “It’s going to be all right, my boy. It will be all right.”
Layton seemed to be spending a great deal of time in Luke’s room, waiting with him as the worst of the pains ran their course. The rest of the time he sat in his office, not even attempting to work. He more or less just stared out into space and tried to figure out what to do. The hours seemed to be taking their sweet time in passing, and all he could do was join Luke in waiting it out.
It was difficult, to say the least, to watch him like this. Oh, not as hard as it had been to issue that ultimatum across the desk. It had nearly killed him to say those words, to ask if Luke valued drugs over his status as Layton’s own apprentice, both because he knew that the words were partially borne of anger and thus were overly harsh, and because deep down, he was afraid of the answer.
But for the moment, the box of opium still sat on his desk, like a final test for his apprentice, and Luke remained all but locked in his room. He hadn’t gotten out of bed, not even once, since that horrible conversation upon Luke’s return from school. It was now well into the earliest hours of the morning.
Layton was exhausted, and he had decided that now was a good time to go to bed and try to sleep some of this way. It would still be there in the morning, but at least he would be well rested, and thus better equipped to deal with it properly. But before he went, he should probably look in on Luke one last time.
He was a bit surprised as he entered the room, though, to find his apprentice seemingly asleep. He moved closer, taking care not to make too much noise. But it didn’t seem to be necessary. Luke appeared to be out cold, splayed on top of the bedding.
The poor boy. He must have been exhausted. Layton sighed, his emotions an odd mixture of regret, pity, anger…and he carefully pulled the blankets up over the sleeping form. Hopefully this temporary peace would give the boy respite until morning. If he remembered things he had read about this sort of thing, the worst of it should burn itself out in a few days.
Somehow, that knowledge didn’t make it any easier, knowing he was going to have to watch.
With that bit of thought tucked away, he turned to leave, but was stopped when he felt something hit the side of his leg. Startled, Layton jumped and turned around to see that Luke was moving a hand around, apparently grappling for something, and ending up just grabbing weakly at the back of the Professor’s shirt. “Professor…” Luke slurred, his eyes fluttering. He was not awake, not completely.
Instinctively, Layton reached to take the hand seeking his and give it a gentle squeeze. He tried not to wince when he felt how violently those fingers were trembling. Even in an unconscious state brought on by flat-out exhaustion, could the poor boy have no peace? “Yes, Luke?”
“…m’sorry,” he murmured, his head turning on the pillow. “M’sorry…lied to you…”
An apology. Layton had wondered if one would come, possibly after the worst had passed and they had been able to start putting this mess behind them. Hearing it now, like this…it made him feel more guilty than validated, truth be told. He put one hand on Luke’s forehead and brushed his sweat-dampened bangs back. “It will be all right, Luke. We’ll talk more in the morning.”
“…d’you hate me?”
The question was almost a sob, and it nearly broke Layton’s heart to hear it. He was tired. “No, Luke. Of course I don’t hate you." He sighed. “I just lost my temper earlier.”
That seemed to settle things, and the conversation ended there as Luke slipped back into the world of slumber. But Layton sat there for a time afterwards, watching his apprentice’s fitful sleep, and feeling the shaky fingers held so carefully in his own.
With a gasp, Luke woke up, sitting straight up in bed. He vaguely noticed that his room and the world beyond his window were both dark, but he didn’t care too much. He was too busy kicking the blankets and bedding aside, stumbling to feet that seemed determined not to support him, and nearly crashing into the wall as he tripped his way into the hallway, pausing only to grab something off his nightstand. Something the Professor had not taken.
His nightmares had been terrible, he hurt everywhere, and he didn’t care what happened, he just needed the bloody drugs to make everything feel better, to make everything as it was before, and make the bad feelings go away. The drugs made things happy and nice and…and…
…he had grabbed the needle. Good. The Professor had left that, he thought again.
Luke nearly fell down the stairs, but somehow managed to keep himself upright. Still, he ran into the wall again as he passed through the doorway to the office. He didn’t bother with a light; instead he just went straight for the desk, nearly knocking over a chair in the process.
There it was. The little treasure box. He slumped to the floor with it clutched in his hands.
A laugh bubbled up in his throat, and he bit down on it so it only came out as a squeak. He had it, it was his, and he could be happy again. He quickly set about it, his practiced hands easily remembering how it went. All he had to do was use the needle and—
He glanced up, and saw the Professor’s hat sitting on the desk.
And for the first time, reality clocked back in, and he had to think about what in the world he was doing right now. The Professor had been very clear about things. If he did this now, and Layton found out (and he would, undoubtedly, he somehow always did), then that was it. The end. Game over.
With that horrific thought keeping him frozen from indecisiveness, Luke’s gaze kept moving back and forth, between the box and needle in his hands and the hat on the desk. His head was pounding, like someone was smashing a hammer against the inside of his skull.
With a scream that should never have come from a masculine throat, Luke threw the box and the needle to the ground. He saw the opium spray across the floor and heard the sound of shattering as the syringe broke to pieces, and he didn’t care. Both hands clenched into fists and slammed into the rug that covered the hardwood floor; he dropped his head until his forehead was pressed against the floor, feeling his eyes burn with tears and he just wanted it to stop—
Footsteps pounded across the floor above him, moving to the end of the hallway (where his room was) before thundering quickly down the full length of the corridor and down the stairs, and then he heard the Professor’s voice. “LUKE!”
He tried to call back, but his voice wouldn’t cooperate anymore; all he could do was choke and gasp and cry, humiliating as it was. So he stayed where he was, waiting for the Professor to come down and find the mess, find him like this…
“…Luke?” Layton said from the vicinity of the doorway. There was a flicker of light, and then feet padding softly across the rug and into the room. A pause.
Luke finally lifted his head, knowing full well that he looked awful, and saw the Professor’s face. The man had seen the opium scattered across the floor, and had jumped to the worst possible conclusion. Not that Luke really blamed him, all things considered, but the Professor’s threat came back to him, and he panicked when he heard the faint hint of accusation in Layton’s next word. “Luke…”
“I didn’t—“ he rasped. He was shaking all over.
Layton came towards him and knelt down beside him. “You didn’t?”
Before he really realized what he was doing, Luke lunged and just grabbed on. “I didn’t do it. I didn’t. I swear to God, Professor, I didn’t,” he said in a rush. He was crying and trembling and as pathetic as could be, but he was telling the truth. For once in this god forsaken mess, he was telling the truth. “I just want it to stop hurting, so I was going to, but I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t.” Everything he said after that was a repition while he clung to Layton’s nightshirt and silently willed the man to understand—
A hand touched the back of his head. An arm slid around his shoulders. And a warm, calming baritone said the three words he really needed most to hear at that moment. ”I believe you.”