Fandom: Professor Layton
Word Count: 2,345
Disclaimer: I do not own Layton or his Top Hat of Awesome.
Summary: First chapter can be found here. Progress is slow, but Layton is determined to reach Luke somehow.
“I’m sorry to be so much trouble, sir,” Luke said for the…goodness, how many times had he apologized in the last hour or so since they had gone out? Quite possibly a dozen or more.
In some way, it bothered Layton that he had lost count. But it bothered him more that despite his repeated reassurances that there was nothing to be sorry for, the boy kept offering those apologies. “Luke, my boy, as I told you before, you have no reason to apologize.”
Every other time, Luke had nodded and seemed to concede the point, if without seeming convinced. But this time he actually deviated from the pattern when he said, “But sir, this seems like an awful lot…” He was looking down at the items in his arms as he said that.
It had taken a bit of time to get things calmed down at home. Flora would not be put off any longer; she wanted to know what was going on, and she was not willing to accept ‘no’ or ‘later’ as answers. And Luke had been very quiet, even as Layton handed him a pair of shoes and told him that they were going out to find him some things.
And for the entirety of this trip, Luke had barely spoken, save for those repeated apologies. It was worrying, to say the least. This withdrawn, melancholy young man seemed such worlds away from the cheerful, inquisitive boy who had bounced along beside him, solving puzzles and asking question upon question about anything and everything that piqued his curiosity.
Then again, how would it change him to lose his memories, his sense of self, his name?
He really couldn’t say.
“Luke, it’s no trouble,” Layton said, pushing his own discomfort at the notion of the change. “If it’s a concern of finances, then rest assured that money is no object. And I would rather you at least have some clothes and shoes.” Amongst other things, of course. As the young man had been entrusted to his custody and care, he was going to see to it that Luke was cared for. Just as he had in the past, when he had called the boy his apprentice.
As before, Luke seemed highly dubious. “If you say so, sir…”
“Professor. Please,” Layton said.
“Sorry, si—I mean, Professor,” Luke quickly corrected himself.
Taking the small victory for what it was and letting the rest of the matter go, Layton smiled and gestured towards the front of the store. “Shall we?”
Luke allowed himself to be led to the front of the shop, where the purchase was made: clothes, shoes, and basic neccessities. Layton did notice that in his choices of clothing, Luke had gone for the same things he had favored before, choosing primarily blue and khaki and white. It was a simple observation, but perhaps indicative that the boy he knew was still in there somewhere.
With the bags containing their prizes securely in hand, they left the shop. “Is there anything else we need?” Layton asked. A glance at his watch proved that it was already mid-afternoon.
“No, no,” Luke said quickly, looking down at the bags in his hand. He seemed very agitated. “You’ve done more than enough for me si—I mean Professor.”
Layton smiled. “Are you hungry?”
The nervous look on Luke’s face spoke volumes as to what his answer would be before the words actually crossed his lips. But as he opened to his mouth to offer a fervent denial, his stomach also decided to speak up and growl noisily.
Layton arched a brow, visibly amused.
Luke glanced down, visibly embarrassed.
The Professor glanced around, and spied a café. “Shall we get something to eat, then?”
“I-if you like…”
It wasn’t until after they sat down that Layton became aware of another discrepancy between the Luke he remembered and the Luke sitting across the table from him.
The Luke he remembered was a vacuum on legs, a bottomless pit of a stomach that was never completely sated. Teenaged and pre-teen males, the Professor had quickly learned, tended to be walking, breathing appetites.
The boy across the table had ordered something small, and even then was merely picking at it, barely eating anything. He had to be hungry; his stomach had betrayed that much. But he was reluctant to admit to it or to eat. He was resistant to the idea of admitting that he needed or wanted anything.
Layton had been puzzling over it for quite some time now, since he had suggested this outing that morning after the doctor’s departure. It bothered him, and had been eating at him more and more as he observed what he would classify as odd behavior.
But it wasn’t until he watched Luke poke a piece of lettuce with his fork and glance up at the Professor nervously before actually popping it into his mouth that he realized what the problem was.
Like a wild animal finding itself in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unknown people, Luke had fallen back on the most natural and basic of instincts. And that instinct was suspicion. Everything was foreign. Everything was a potential threat. Everything was a possible trap.
After a moment of consideration, Layton decided to just go the direct route. No sense in beating around the bush. “Luke, my boy, I have a question.”
Luke glanced up from his plate. “Yes?”
“Are you afraid of me?”
Luke dropped his fork to his plate with a clatter as he nearly choked. “N-not at all, sir! Wh-why would I be…” He looked up at the Professor and trailed off when he saw that the man did not seem upset. The boy’s gaze dropped back to the table, his hands folding in his lap. “I…I’m sorry, sir…Professor…”
Layton was careful to smile and appear calm. No sense in betraying his worry now, as it would just alarm the poor boy further. “All things considered, you have no reason to be trustful of anything.”
“But you’ve been so kind to me,” Luke said softly. “And I feel like I should be able to trust you. I mean…I went to your house because it looked familiar. That should account for something, shouldn’t it?”
“Perhaps. But Luke, you couldn’t even remember your own name when we brought you in. The fact is that you don’t know who we are. Anyone in such a strange situation would be disinclined to be trustful of those around them,” Layton pointed out, calmly and rationally. He took a sip of his tea, and managed not to wince. It was not bad, but it was not quite up to his usual tastes. “And even between old friends, trust has to be earned, my boy. It doesn’t happen in a day.”
“Think nothing of it, my boy,” Layton said, finishing off his tea. “I can only offer my assurances that you are safe, and that you have nothing to fear from Flora or myself.”
Luke didn’t look completely convinced, but he nodded. “Yes, Professor.”
“Very good. Shall we go home, then? I suspect that Flora is wondering where we are.”
“Professor,” Layton responded automatically, and immediately wanted to smack himself in the forehead for it. He glanced up from the book he had been so engaged in to address the speaker directly. “I apologize, my boy. What can I do for you?”
Luke looked faintly uncomfortable, though he had to feel a bit better being able to sleep in pajamas that fit him, rather than some quickly modified clothing scrounged from the Professor’s own closet. He padded across the floor in bare feet, and stopped beside the chair that had once been his. “Would you like some company?”
That was good enough for Luke, it seemed, and he sank down into the chair with an almost exaggerated care. His hands were folded neatly in his lap; the Professor could still see the harsh bruises on his wrists peeking out from beneath his sleeves. Doctor Kelly had said that those were a result of him being tied or bound somehow. Who had done such a thing? And why?
But there was no further time for Layton to ponder the matter, as Luke tilted his head to the side and regarded the man curiously as he spoke up again. “What are you a professor of?”
“History and archaeology,” Layton said with a smile. “With perhaps a dash of puzzle solving on the side.”
“And…I was your student? Your apprentice?” Luke pressed.
“Yes, you were, until your family moved overseas.”
“Hmm…” Luke looked down for a moment, then glanced back up. “Puzzle solving?”
“Ah, yes. I love a good riddle,” Layton said. A thought struck him then, and he folded his hands on the desk. “Would you like to try one, my boy? You used to be quite good at these.” Perhaps doing something that had been so commonplace to him before would help trigger something.
He was pleased when Luke nodded. “Yes, si—I mean, Professor.”
After searching for a moment, Layton found a suitable puzzle. The one that he slid across the table to the young man was a number puzzle, involving a square grid and numbers. The goal was to put the numbers in the grid so that each row and column added up to the same number.
And as Luke picked up the pencil, Layton observed.
Luke murmured to himself, tapped the pencil against the paper, nearly wrote something, then shook his head to himself and reconsidered. But for a moment, just a few brief seconds as he finally wrote his answers in the small squares, he looked like the Luke Layton remembered. He was smiling, albeit a small smile. His eyes no longer had such a hollow, empty look to them, and there was a sparkle there that had been notoriously absent up until that moment.
Layton’s stomach clenched when Luke put the pencil down and handed him the paper with a soft declaration of, “Professor, I think I’ve solved it.” The voice was a few tones deeper with the onset of adolescence and approaching adulthood, but it was really exactly the same.
A quick glance at the paper proved that the boy had, indeed, solved it. “Excellent, my boy!” Layton said with an approving nod. “I am pleased to see that you have not lost your touch.”
For a fleeting second, Luke almost seemed to glow at the praise. And then it was gone, and the shy, withdrawn boy was there again. He hesitated, and then asked, “Do you have another?”
The next hour or so went along in that same pattern. Layton kept Luke well supplied with a series of puzzles and riddles. Luke would solve them; some took a mere glance, while others took several minutes. And when Layton approved, there would be a flicker of that same happy glow at the praise.
It wasn’t until a while later that Layton realized it had been several minutes since the last request for a puzzle. He looked up from his book, already fairly sure what he would see. And he was correct: Luke’s head was down, his cheek resting on the desk. The pencil rested loosely in limp fingers while his even breathing rustled the paper beside his face.
He had fallen asleep.
Layton sat there for a moment, just watching the steady rise and fall of the boy’s back and thinking of everything in the world and nothing at all. But finally, he sighed and closed his book. A moment later, after the lights were out, he gave the young man a gentle shake. “Luke? Come now.”
In past years, he could have picked his apprentice up and carried him to his room, and in fact on a few occasions he had done just that when Luke had fallen asleep in some odd place. But now he was more supporting Luke while the young man stumbled to the guest room (his former bedroom) more or less under his own power.
Another oddity became evident: as a child, Luke had tended to curl up into a tiny ball beneath the blankets. Now as a teenager, he seemed to emulate a cat, and sprawled out in a tangle of bedding in an apparent effort to take up more space than was probably possible by the laws of physics. It was actually rather amusing.
Layton sighed and took his leave, closing the door behind him.
There was nothing more to be done tonight. A good night’s rest would do them all some good, and perhaps there would be something new waiting for them in the morning.
PS. So yeah, I really do have this story done through chapter five. I just haven't been, ya know, posting them. Epic fail, self. Epic fail. BUT ANYWAY, here we go. Thanks for reading!