AN: Written for a prompt on the FW meme. I don't own Professor Layton. Thanks, all! Much love!

Now or Never

This was the stupidest thing Luke had ever done.

Since coming back and see things as they had been and seeing her again…he had known it would be difficult. And he had been determined to keep himself under control and be a gentleman and not do anything to upset things. Her happiness mattered to him, and the fact was that she was happy with someone else. It wasn't as though she had told him she didn't need him or anything. They were still close friends, and visited frequently.

His mentor had taught him better than this.

But…her younger self had sought him out for conversation, to see what he knew of the future. She was just as he remembered her. Sweet, quiet, polite, and so lovely…

He wasn't entirely sure what had prompted his self control to snap like this. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He did know. She had asked him what became of her future self. It was the one question he didn't want to answer for various reasons. And he was supposed to leave the next day, to return to his own time and his own world.

It happened very quickly, so fast that he barely even knew he was doing it. One moment, he was standing there facing her, seeing her eager eyes and hopeful smile as she waited for his answer.

The next, he had pulled Flora to him and was kissing her as though his entire existence depended on it.

He felt her tense in his arms, and heard her make a small sound of surprise, but he was somewhat encouraged when she did not immediately pull away or push at him or slap him or yell at him or any number of other things. But god…

It was what he had dreamt of. Just one chance, one opportunity, one brief moment where he could just pretend that she was his and that she wanted him and wanted this as much as he did.

Her future self didn't. The woman she would grow to become would fall in love with another.

It was now or never.

Luke belatedly realized that he was being none too gentle. The initial motion had been borne of passion, desperation, and a momentary lack of judgment and manners. And also perhaps a splash of hormones. As a result, the kiss had been fierce and desperate and possessive.

Feeling sheepish and almost apologetic, he eased off a bit, softening the kiss without letting her go completely. He didn't dare to let her go just yet, not wanting the moment to end.

…and then suddenly he felt her move.

No, not move.

Respond.

She had always been such a shy girl.

And it was carrying through to this as she tentatively, shyly kissing him back.

Her hands nervously moved to clutch at the front of his blazer. Her lips began to move against his, to explore and test boundaries and see what worked and what did not. This was silent permission, consent given without words. And while the physical aspect was already making his heart race and his proverbial feet dance on air, the mental and emotional ramifications of that consent was far headier than anything else he had ever experienced.

And dear lord, this was not the place for this they were standing by the window in the Professor's firelit study where anyone could walk in on them they were going to get caught and this wasn't proper but…

Oh, who bloody cared?

His arms found their ways around her waist while she gripped at the back of his head, erasing the last bit of space between them. This was crossing the line between questionable and outright wrong, but it felt so good and so right to press against her and hold her close and…and…

…he was horrible.

He was potentially destroying her future happiness, and he didn't care a whit for it.

Luke realized with a sad, bitter ruefulness exactly how selfish he was.

And it was that realization that led him to sadly back away and let her go. It hurt, almost physically, to slowly break that kiss, ease away from her lips and taste, and very carefully disentangle himself from her arms and take that step back to end it. And he holds to that, resisting every urge and every instinct in him as they tell him to keep going.

Flora looked at him with wide eyes. Her face was flushed prettily, and one hand had already moved to touch her lips; her rushed breathing was a match with his. She looked for all the world like she couldn't believe what had just happened.

For a moment, time stood still, and they simply stared at each other.

It was Flora who moved first. She took a step back, then another, then turned and fled through the door. He heard her footsteps hurrying up the stairs, and the sound of a door closing on the floor above him. Luke did not move, though, nor did his eyes follow her as she fled. He just kept staring at the spot where she had stood, looking at him with those eyes…

"Luke."

He nearly jumped, less at the sound of his name than at the voice speaking it. But he did not turn to look at his mentor. He was fairly sure that he knew what he would see, if the tone of voice was any indication. The Professor had never addressed him that sharply before, and he didn't want to see the anger there…or the disappointment.

Slow, measured footsteps crossed the room, and he saw Layton's silhouette cast on the wall by the light from the fireplace, tall and imposing. "Luke. What in the world were you doing?" the Professor asked in that same harsh, clipped voice.

To his amazement, Luke felt a laugh bubble out of his throat. He pressed one hand to his eyes to keep himself from having to see Layton's face, and to keep Layton from seeing that he was a hair away from weeping. "I am…selfish." Another high laugh. "I am the most selfish being…"

Luke couldn't even finish the thought.

-o-

The future.

His own time.

It felt so distant, so foreign now.

In a way, Luke felt a bit guilty for leaving without saying goodbye, but he had been fairly certain that he couldn't bear to face his mentor's past self. And he certainly wouldn't be able to look Flora in the eye.

He wondered if she hated him. Probably. In that respect, he probably hadn't disturbed her future too much. Hopefully his hopeless indiscretion wouldn't affect things for his younger self. He was already very fond of her at that age.

…strange, though. He felt as though something had changed. His mind was reaching for memories that seemed to be floating just out of reach. Memories that were his, and yet didn't entirely belong to him…

Had he changed something?

Shaking the feeling off, he made his way towards home. After Layton had disappeared, Luke had remained in residence at the brownstone where the two had lived for so long. Flora had left for school a couple of years before, and after her marriage she'd had a new home. But Luke remained.

There were two reasons for that. First, if the Professor ever reappeared, he would be able to come back to a familiar place. No searching would be required. And secondly, it was the only home Luke had ever known, and he was reluctant to give it up.

As he reached for the doorknob, he heard a sound inside. It sounded like…what was it? An intruder?

Again, that odd press of foggy, foreign memories in his mind. What was going on?

Luke opened the door, certain he would find a burglar or some other such lowlife.

At first, he saw no one. But he heard water running from the kitchen. And Riddle, the stray cat he had taken in years before, appeared to mewl at him and make a figure eight around his legs. He stooped absently to pick up the cat and took a step towards the kitchen to see who was there…

And then she appeared in the doorway, wearing an apron and a smile. "You're home!" she said.

"Y-yes…" he said, startled. What was Flora doing here?

She crossed the room, put one hand to his cheek…and pressed a kiss to the other side of his face. "Welcome back," she said. "You must be exhausted. Go sit, I'll make some tea, and you can tell me everything that happened!" She gathered the cat from his arms and hurried back to the kitchen, leaving a bewildered Luke to stare at her back.

But as she turned, he caught a glimpse of something sparkling on her left hand.

After a moment, it hit Luke, and he made his way to the study on unsteady legs and dropped into the nearest chair. His head was spinning. Flora was still here? Had he really…

A moment later, she appeared with the promised tea and the cat making a determined attempt to trip her. She handed him a cup before taking one for herself and taking a seat. "So tell me what happened. Please, tell me everything!"

Luke stared at her for a moment, then chuckled dryly. "Flora…do you remember that kiss?" Her blush was answer enough, and he said, "Well...you probably won't believe this, but…"