(A/N: I have a multi-chapter fanfic and two oneshot compilations to work on and all my followers follow me for Ninjago but instead here I am writing about Athena's time in Europe and the "friend" of Phoenix's that helped her out. X'D As usual, this ain't a romance fic so please no shipping comments.
Also, quick disclaimer: I haven't played all the PL games [though I know a lot of spoilers], so sorry if anything's inaccurate! It should be okay, though, since this oneshot isn't really plot-related.)
London was not at all what Athena had been expecting.
She'd lived in several places in Europe already, albeit for short amounts of time, and whether it was the norm or merely good luck they'd all been relatively quiet. Peaceful enough to study, to stay concentrated on her work.
But London was loud. Weirdly shaped cars, nothing like the ones back at home, honked angrily as they sputtered down the street. People shouted greetings to each other on opposite ends of the sidewalk— some friendly, some not so much. And everyone seemed in a hurry to be getting somewhere. The doors of shops were swung open by people going in or out so often that they hardly ever closed before another customer came barreling through. Dogs barked as they ran past, chasing cats and mice and smells of meat, and people wearing the strangest of fashions exchanged not-so-subtle whispers about each other. But worst of all, every single person's heart seemed like it had something to say— emotions, good and bad alike, sung, shouted, and screamed into the air, often accompanied by actions like breaking pots or throwing papers or giving kisses. It was almost too much for Athena to bear.
Rubbing her temples with a sigh (although it was really out of habit— it never helped her headaches), the orange-haired girl looked up to the tanned brick building several paces ahead of her. She started walking faster, anxious about getting to her destination but desperate to get out of the noise.
"Well, this is terrifying!"
"Widget!" Athena scowled as she touched the device around her neck. "Don't mess this up or I'll turn you off." She knew the AI wasn't really sentient, but she still talked to it like it was on a regular basis. It made her feel less awkward than talking to herself, at least.
Taking a deep breath, she climbed a small ledge of stairs and knocked on an old, green door firmly. Rat-tat-ta-tat-tat.
All at once, a thousand thoughts flurried through her already overcrowded head. What kind of a knock was that? Why couldn't she knock like a normal person? She should've been more polite. What if she made a bad first impression? What if this meeting didn't even help her at all? No, she couldn't think like that— she had to trust Mr. Wright. For as little time as she'd known him, she could tell that his heart was the purest she'd ever met of an adult, and one of the strongest, too. She had to trust his judgement. But still— this was way out of her comfort zone. She was still getting used to acting like an adult, heck, she wasn't even 18 yet, but she had to overcome thoughts like that; she had to learn to act like an adult if she was going to save—
The door was opened, and all of the sudden, the strangest sensation washed over Athena. A headful of thoughts and a heart full of borrowed emotions vanished, as if resigning themselves from her body and returning to whence they came. All of time slowed down, not in the lovesick-blurry-room way from cheesy romance movies, but in a subtle, gentle way as if the entire rush of London had suddenly been given a sedative. With no small amount of confusion, Athena looked up at the man who stood holding open the door. He was tan and well-dressed, as Mr. Wright had described him, and he seemed to be very tall before Athena realized that was merely the illusion of his top hat. He wore a long, black sort of coat with a soft-looking orange shirt underneath, and a polite smile on his face.
"Why, hello," he said, with the same accent everyone in London had, though it seemed to suit his voice better, somehow. "Ms. Cykes, if I am not mistaken?"
Athena tried to clear her head from— well, her cleared head. "Um, y-yea! Athena Cykes, at your service!" She held out a hand for a handshake, and the man chuckled and obliged.
"It's very nice to finally make your acquaintance. Mr. Wright speaks very highly of you."
"Um, thanks," Athena said, a slight blush adorning her cheeks. She hoped he hadn't talked her up too much.
"I am Hershel Layton, as you've no doubt been informed," the man continued, the same polite smile on his face. Athena had learned to be wary of polite smiles, but something gave her the vibe not to be concerned. She couldn't quite tell what it was, though, and the man said, "Please, come right in."
The house inside was rather quaint, with a warm glow coming in from the windows as well as a few yellow lamps. Papers— probably official documents— were scattered about, as well as a couple intriguing trinkets, most of which were laid down on towels or other soft paddings. The furniture all had varying degrees of wear showing, but nothing was in poor condition, and muted colors added a speck of life to them. Several paintings, mostly of nature scenes, adorned the beige walls. The faint sound of a record playing floated through the room.
"I apologize for the state of the place," Layton stated as he led Athena through the living room and into a small kitchen. "My assistant has not yet had time to clean up today."
"Oh, it's no problem, really!" Athena stated, somewhat annoyed at her sudden spike of anxiety that she'd implied a state of discontentment. But the professor (or so Mr. Wright said he was) merely picked up a kettle from the stove as it started to whistle, and turned his head halfway.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" he asked. Athena nodded, having expected the offer, and found with intrigue that her burst of nervousness had fled as quickly as it had come on. Something was different about the house besides its antique atmosphere, but she still couldn't place her finger on it.
After pouring two teacups full of the steaming liquid, Layton led Athena over to a small wooden table, which was already cleaned and set for the occasion. She sat and accepted the liquid, trying her best to sit in a polite position.
"So, Ms. Cykes," he said, in the same slow, easy tone of voice, "tell me about yourself. Mr. Wright mentioned that you wished to become a defense attorney and believed I could be of service, but has neglected to tell me the details."
Athena took a sip of her tea and nodded. "Yep. I mean, um, yes, I am. I'm trying to earn my attorney's badge early, which is why I'm here in Europe."
"Mm." The professor took a sip of his own cup and studied the young teenager for a moment, with a similar look in his eye as Mr. Wright had when looking over a case file. His gaze suggested that he was pondering why she was undertaking such a task, but he didn't speak for several moments.
"Pardon my asking," he said, "but your behavior suggests that you are distracted. Your eyes have darted across each room we've walked through, as if you were looking for something. Is there something you require?"
A bit taken aback (she didn't recall the professor ever looking at her directly since greeting her at the front door), Athena shook her head. "Oh, no, not really," she said. "I was just wondering where that record is that you have playing. It's very pretty."
The professor's face shifted slightly, betraying a look of confusion. "Record? I don't recall putting a record on. Neither, I must admit, can I hear anything right now."
Suddenly, Athena stood up in realization, almost knocking the table over as she did so. "That's it!" she cried, then blushed and sat back down, lowering her tone. "I mean— that's why I was so put off by you."
"Oh?" Layton asked simply, raising his eyebrows in intrigue. "And why might that be? I hope my manner has not made you uneasy."
"No, no, not at all," Athena said, shaking her head. "It's just—" Suddenly, she frowned. "This might be difficult to explain."
"Trust me, I've seen my fair share of oddities," Layton stated, a glimmer of curiosity in his eye. "And it would not be polite to question a lady."
"Ok— um, well, I can hear the voices of people's hearts," Athena explained, having difficulty containing her excitement at the sudden abnormal discovery. "That is, I can hear people's emotions. Sort of. It's difficult to explain." Surprisingly, the professor didn't seem fazed, so Athena continued.
"But, when I talked to you… I didn't hear your heart saying anything," she stated. "There was a lot of noise outside in the street, so it didn't really register. But then when I came inside— I heard a melody." Her eyes widened and her fingers, curled around a fragile white teacup, trembled slightly.
Layton paused for a moment. "So, you are saying… my heart does not speak, but rather, sing?" he asked. But he didn't seem like he was mocking the idea: he was simply intrigued by it.
"More like it plays. The music sounds like a piano, with a repeating melody," Athena stated. In her head, she added, "Like a video game track or something."
After another pause, Layton nodded curiously. "That is most intriguing," he said. "I would rather like to hear this melody— if you can hum it, that is."
Athena was silent for a moment, then attempted to hum along with the quiet tune she heard. The song was slow and peaceful, and had an almost hypnotizing effect. It must have been what made her emotional levels go down earlier, Athena realized as she was humming.
The professor closed his eyes, nodding along slowly. After Athena had gone through a verse of the melody, he looked up at her with a smile. "Well, that was rather beautiful," he stated. "You have a nice voice, I must say."
Athena smiled. "Maybe, but it's your heart, Professor." Then, quickly, she added, "Sorry, may I call you that? Mr. Wright always referred to you as such, so…"
"Of course," he said with a polite nod. Just then, the door in the front room opened and shut in quick succession, and a young-sounding voice rang through the air as tiny footsteps hurried their way into the room.
"Sorry I'm late, Professah!" A small boy dressed in blue who looked maybe about ten years of age ran in, a brown satchel slung around his shoulder. Upon seeing Athena, he yelped, then tried to compose himself.
"Oh! Ms. Cykes, you're here already!" Quickly, he bowed, in an overly-formal manner that made Athena have to hold back a giggle. "Forgive me for being late. I'm Luke Triton, the Professor's apprentice!" He pronounced "professor" with a slight accent, which affected his voice differently than it did the older gentleman's. Athena liked how accents worked on different people.
"It's nice to meet you, Luke," Athena stated cheerfully, turning her chair around and holding out her hand. The boy shook it eagerly as his heart (which sounded much younger than his actual voice) chattered in a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
"Luke, Ms. Cykes and I were just discussing something I think might interest you," Layton stated in a kind tone. He nodded to Athena. "This young lady has a special talent, like you do."
"Oh!" Luke exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. "Is it anything like the special talent Miss Maya told us about?"
Maya was Mr. Wright's work partner and close friend, Athena remembered, but she didn't recall him ever stating anything about her having special talents.
"I don't believe so," the professor said, shaking his head. "Ms. Cykes, would you care to explain to Luke what you've just explained to me?"
"Um, sure!" she said, smiling. Luke's enthusiasm and the professor's overwhelming calmness were sending mixed emotions to Athena's brain, but they didn't fight like most conflicting emotions did. "I can hear the voices of people's hearts. I can tell what they're feeling."
"Wow, really?!" Luke exclaimed. "Cool! I can talk to animals! Well, sort of."
Athena raised her eyebrows. "Now that's a new one." She gave a sideways glance to the professor, half-expecting him to give her a look telling her to play along, but he was merely looking at Luke and smiling. Ok, apparently this kid could talk to animals. Well, Mr. Wright cross-examined a parrot once before, maybe it wasn't too far of a stretch. While looking at the professor, Athena abruptly noticed that the melody of his heart had changed. It was happier, more energetic; a bit more fast-paced.
"Oh!" Luke suddenly realized. "I should go get the scones to go with this tea! It'd only be proper to offer something to eat to a lady, wouldn't it, Professah?"
"That's a lovely idea, my boy," Layton stated with a smile. Turning to Athena, he asked, "Would you care for a scone? A friend of ours made them fresh for us only hours ago."
"Yea, that'd be génial!" Athena said, nodding at Luke, who ran off to grab the delicacies. She hadn't thought much about it until now since her headache had been occupying her thoughts, but she hadn't eaten since breakfast.
"So, Ms. Cykes," the professor stated, drawing the teenager's attention back, "Will you be working with us for very long? I must admit, I'd like to learn a bit more about your ability as well as helping you on your quest."
Athena smiled, recognizing the curiosity in his eyes from several a conversation with Mr. Wright. She paused a minute, listening to the peculiar melody that only she could hear, coupled with the too-young voice that talked alongside it as Luke brought over a platter of scones and placed them on the table. Then she grinned and nodded.
"Yea. I think I will be."
(A/N: Luke is actually older than 10 in this fic since it takes place at least after the original trilogy but he looks rly young so XD Anyway, I've wanted to write a oneshot about this ever since my friend Red made me realize that Phoenix's "European friend" was TOTALLY Professor Layton! [I highkey hope you see this, Red :P] Plus this was really fun for me to write since I ID with Athena. ^^)