AN: Another Professor Layton story, yay! I really like this game…can't wait for the second one! Anyway, here we go! I don't own Professor Layton or any of the characters therein. Just borrowing.

The Apprentice

Under any other circumstances, the sight of the English countryside rolling by would have enchanted Luke, and he would have been staring eagerly out the window. But the boy was unusually somber today, and so the scenery went past more or less unnoticed, though it was impossible to completely ignore the jostling of the train.

He was alone in the compartment, thankfully; he knew full well that he would have been horrendous company right now. His blue hat and brown bag sat on the seat beside him. There was nothing else. He really didn't have much else to speak of. It was nothing he complained about—he was smart enough to know that he could have been a lot worse off than he was.

According to some, it was that intelligence that had landed him this rather choice placement.

An apprenticeship…

When someone had suggested the idea in his presence, he had been quite agreeable to it, though internally he was all too realistic about his prospects. He prided himself on being a realist most of the time. Still, he was young, and he hadn't been entirely able to keep himself from quietly entertaining a few daydreams about the idea. Intelligence and reason could not always trump youth.

It would be a good fit, the adults said, for someone of Luke's intelligence to learn from someone so brilliant. And archaeology was certainly a respectable field, to say nothing of the man's reputed prowess in the world of puzzle-solving and code-cracking. He was supposedly without peer.

Luke could remember exactly how stunned he had been when they had called for him and shown him a letter from the professor himself…in which he agreed to accept Luke as his apprentice and assistant. Preparations were to be made at once, he was told; he would leave on the first of the coming month.

At the time, he had been shocked speechless, unable to question. And so the days had passed in a blur, a whirlwind of preparations and plans and paperwork and reminders and instructions. Behave. Mind your manners. Don't speak unless spoken to. Pay attention. Work hard.

By the time he had fully processed everything and realized how big of a change he was truly in for, he was alone on a train bound for London, where his new mentor lived and worked.

Luke had heard much of Herschel Layton—anyone who read the papers had, and Luke had always been a voracious reader of almost anything he could get his hands on. In those articles and interviews, he always seemed pleasant enough, smart and well-spoken.

But the longer he sat in the compartment, hurtling towards an unknown, the more time his imagination had to act up and plant those little seeds of doubt that are so commonplace when one is left waiting in such a fashion. He began to imagine things, as children will do regardless of intelligence. Even smart, reasonable adults could all too easily fall prey to the strange images conjured by their subconscious in such situations.

And Luke's well-trained mind was going faster than the train on which he rode.

What if he wasn't good enough to keep up? Layton was reported to be a genius. Luke knew he was very smart for his age, but could he possibly keep up with someone as renowned as the professor, with all his years of experience? There was no way!

And if he failed…

It went a step further from there. Was it possible that the impression gleaned from the papers was incorrect? Could someone so brilliant really be as friendly as he seemed in those interviews? Weren't geniuses usually tortured or something? Didn't they sometimes look down on those who weren't as intelligent—which frequently constituted the rest of the population?

Not all of his reasoning made sense, but by the time the train pulled into the station, he was a nervous wreck, terrified of what lay before him. He had gone from wondering if he could keep up…to trying to imagine how big Layton's fangs really were and wondering what the secret laboratory in his basement would be like.

Again, not all of it made sense. But he was starting to panic.

He quickly gathered his few things and left the train. There were a good many people out on the platform, far more than he had seen in the small town where he had lived his whole life up until this point. None of them seemed to pay any mind to the young boy in the blue hat.

The instructions he had been given said to take a taxi to the proper address. Luke made his way to the street; it took him a few tries, but he finally managed to hail a cab. The street name and number were quickly given to the driver, and Luke settled back for the ride. He had never ridden in a taxi before. The buildings flickered by, and he watched them with as much interest as he could muster up while trying to fight off his imagination.

It took a while, but finally the taxi slowed to a stop. Luke automatically got out and paid the driver. As the cab drove off, he looked up at the appointed building: a neat little brownstone, surrounded by a pleasant-looking neighborhood. It was, to all appearances, a very nice place.

Luke stood there for a good many minutes, just looking at it. He compared the address on the building to the one on the card in his hand repeatedly, like he thought it might have changed somehow while he wasn't looking. But it remained the same, and so he invariably concluded that this was the right spot.

After a few moments, he finally walked up to the front door, trying to ignore that little voice in the back of his mind telling him to run and not look back. He was nervous, and not wrongfully so. Anyone in this situation would be nervous. It was simply a matter of whether or not he could sidestep that fear and meet his fate, good or bad as it may be.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he raised a hand to the rope hanging beside the door and gave it a tug to ring the doorbell. And he waited, glancing around anxiously.

Finally, the door opened. "Ah, you must be Luke."

He looked up at the sound of the friendly tenor, and immediately recognized the man before him as the illustrious Professor Layton. "Y-yes, sir!" he yelped, belatedly remembering that he'd been told to stand up straight and not slouch.

"Come in," the professor smiled and stepped a side, waving a hand to gesture the boy inside. Luke obeyed without a word. At the professor's words, he hung his blue cap up on the coat-rack—right next to the top-hat that he had heard called Layton's trademark—and left his bag at the foot of the stairs before following his new mentor into a neatly-decorated sitting room.

While Layton absented himself to make tea, Luke was momentarily left to his own devices. He glanced around the room, noting varying artifacts and mentally trying to assign a culture or time period to each one. He rather liked history. One in particular drew his attention—a small clay sculpture on a lower shelf—and he rose and moved to give it a closer look.

So engaged was he in studying the artifact that he didn't hear the professor come back in and set a tray down on the table. And he didn't notice that Layton watched him for a good several seconds, smiling, before speaking up. "Fascinating, isn't it?"

Luke nearly became the youngest coronary on record, but quickly righted himself, apologies already forming on his lips. But he fell silent when he noticed that the professor did not seem angry, and instead he ducked his head and quickly took a seat, accepting the tea when offered.

The conversation was nothing spectacular—Layton asked Luke questions about himself, his interests, his schooling, and the like. Luke answered as best he could, noticing that several of his answers seemed to impress the professor, judging by the smiles and nods.

After a while, Layton paused, then asked another question. "Luke, my boy…how nervous are you?"

He nearly yelped out, "N-not nervous at all, sir."

"I noticed this when you first came in, but I haven't seen posture that rigid since the last time I saw the changing of the Guard at the palace," Layton said with a smile. "Relax, my boy."

Luke took a deep breath…and realized that his back hurt from sitting up so straight. He slumped forward a little, feeling several muscles protest. "I'm sorry, sir…" He focused on the china teacup on the table in front of him.

"Is there anything you'd like to ask me?" Layton offered.

Before Luke could stop himself, he blurted out, "You don't have fangs or anything, do you?"

After a moment, he was stunned to hear Layton chuckle. "If I do, my dentist has not deemed fit to inform me." The professor took a sip of his tea. "I'm not going to hurt you, my boy." He seemed to think a moment, then slid a piece of paper across the table towards Luke. "Give this a look, Luke. See what you can make of it."

Luke obediently picked up the paper and glanced over it, and was surprised to find it was a puzzle. "You want me to solve this, sir?"

"Professor," Layton said. "Most just called me the professor. And if you'd like."

"Y-yes, si—err, Professor," Luke quickly amended, dropping his eyes back to the paper. It was a number puzzle, not unlike some puzzles he had done in the past. He'd always taken a liking to things that made him think. Quickly, he read over the instructions and set to solving it.

He was completely unaware of just how much his expression changed while his mind was wrapped around the numbers and squares on the paper in his hand. He went from being very guarded and careful to keep his expression as neutral as possible…to smiling. Luke completely failed to realize just how much he came alive as he turned over all the facts in his mind.

And Layton simply sat and observed.

When offered a pencil, he quickly wrote his answer down and passed it back to Layton, still grinning. "I think I've got it!" he said happily, realizing that he was probably not acting appropriately, but unable to pry the smile from his face.

The professor glanced the paper over and nodded approvingly. "Excellent, my boy!" He seemed very pleased. "I must say, though—you seem far more relaxed now. I imagine you were told to mind your manners and behave and such?"

"Y-yes, sir…"

"Well, I do encourage manners and good behavior. I believe in being a gentleman," Layton admitted, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "But it is possible to do both…and still smile."

Comprehension dawned. "You're telling me to relax?"

"Precisely," he rose. "I'll show you the office, and there's a room upstairs that's yours." He gestured for Luke to follow him. "But I think this is going to be an excellent arrangement, Luke."

As he obediently trailed after the professor—his new mentor—Luke couldn't help but feel a little of the bounce return to his step. Things were certainly looking up.


PS. Nineteen hundred words of pure fan-ish speculation. I'm developing a mental "canon" for Luke, and I might do more with it. And then watch, the other two games will come out, and we'll learn something about Luke's background. Because that tends to happen with me. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story. Thanks for reading, all! Much love!