Flora started to cry.
"Luke, you just killed someone! You killed someone!"
Layton reached over to Luke and took the gun from his shaking grip. He wiped the whole thing thoroughly with his shirt. He then placed his right hand on the handle, as if to shoot someone.
Luke understood what he was doing. Fingerprints.
"No, professor, don't!"
Layton set the gun down on the floor next to Paolo's body, and turned to his children. He embraced the two of them, and replied to Luke:
"I have to."
"No! You don't!" Luke started bawling.
"Luke, it's my entire fault. I put you in this position, and so I have to take the consequences. I killed Don Paolo, not you. Remember that."
"But...does that mean I have to go back to the orphanage? I liked being with you!"
"I don't know. Anything is better than prison for a child."
"I hate that place! I'd rather go to jail!" Luke stomped his foot on the ground.
"I hate that place, too. But it was better than being with Fredrick..." Layton trailed off. He looked down at the ground.
"Who?" Flora asked, mid-sob.
The professor shook his head.
"Tell me everything," he said to Luke, for Flora couldn't really construct a sentence at this point. She looked like she couldn't even breathe properly.
Luke, still slightly hyperventilating himself, tried to explain how he was abducted, and what Paolo did to him. He showed the professor the bruises he got from being abused, and how his left arm was broken in three places. He talked about when Flora was taken as well, and how they ended up in the broken remains of the tower.
"...and if you didn't have the money by then, he'd kill us!"
Layton wasn't sure if he should tell Luke that Paolo didn't really want the money, and he was planning to kill them all anyway.
All of a sudden, he was feeling rather emotional. If he went to jail in Luke's place, then Luke wouldn't be punished. That he knew. But if Luke had no one to live with, (not with Velma being in Canada and probably never coming back) then he'd be forced to move back into the orphanage. And perhaps adopted by someone who was as unloving as Fredrick.
He couldn't let that happen, now could he?
Layton slowly climbed the steps into the main room, followed by Flora. Luke was still in the other room, staring at Paolo.
The professor glanced at himself in a mirror hanging on the wall. He looked awful. Blood everywhere, bags under his eyes, and his hat was gone. He also had quite a few holes in his coat.
"Sir...I'm terribly sorry," murmured Matthew from the corner of the room. He looked like his normal self again. "I didn't mean to do that to you. Something awful just came over me, and I acted against my will."
"It's alright, Matthew," said Layton. "It's over now."
Matthew nodded in agreement.
"I saw what happened, after I could control my movements again. We can just leave him there, I understand what will happen if you report it."
Layton turned back to the door to the room where Paolo's body lay, covered in blood.
What a horrible thing to do, leave a body somewhere. It disregarded the value of life (though not as much as killing in the first place), was extremely disrespectful, and an awful burden to ask of Matthew.
So why, then, did Layton nod his head? He wasn't sure himself, but he had a strong feeling that it was the two children staring up at him, with wide eyes. They couldn't be separated from him, and frankly, he couldn't bear to leave them, either.
He didn't know what to say to Matthew, and he didn't think "thank you" was the right thing to say in this situation. So the professor just gave the butler another nod, and picked his hat up from the floor where it had fallen in his rush to get to the fortune.
Layton led Luke and Flora out the door without a word. If any of them tried to speak, tears would probably follow, so they remained silent, trying not to cry.
The professor turned to the direction of the sound.
An older man was standing beside the Laytonmobile. He was wearing a long coat, which covered most of his body.
Layton turned to stone.
"No..." he breathed.
"Who is that man, professor?" Luke asked insensibly.
Said professor didn't break his gaze. He was staring at the other professor.
His adoptive guardian.
The old man, Fredrick, covered his face with his hands.
"Hershel... I'm such an awful person..."
For some reason, Layton didn't feel angry. He didn't feel nervous.
"Why?" he demanded. "Why did you want to kill your child?!"
Fredrick shook his head.
"I'm such an awful person," he repeated, wiping his face and looking up at the younger professor. His eyes were red and puffy.
"Professor... is this..." he trailed off.
"Your father," Flora finished.
Layton nodded, and slowly approached the other man. Gently placing his hands on Fredrick's shoulders, he repeated his question.
"I didn't ask, Hershel, really, I didn't! He threatened me, that man, that Paolo person. He said he'd kill me unless I went along with his plan. Surely you can understand?"
Remembering what Paolo had said, Layton pieced together the situation.
Don Paolo wanted to kill Layton, first because he was jealous, for having more than he did, then revenge, for ultimately the same reason.
Seeing the opportunity to cause the professor even more pain, Paolo wanted to convince his captive that Fredrick had asked for his death.
Paolo's motive seemed to be quite self-centered. In other words...
"That selfish bastard!" Luke voiced Layton's thoughts, apparently understanding the situation at the same time as his guardian. The professor never figured out how Luke managed to figure it out as fast as he did.
"Luke, mind you manners," said Layton half-heartedly, more out of habit than anything. He agreed with Luke's choice of words. He turned back to Fredrick.
"No, I don't understand. You'd rather your child thinking that their own parent wanted them dead, rather than just the selfishness of an overly dramatic inventor?"
"Please don't put it that way..."
"I'm sorry, Fredrick, but I don't understand at all. I would think the obvious choice would be to sacrifice yourself, and save your child heavy emotional scarring."
The older professor backed away from Layton's hands.
"You always were one to make the right decisions, Hershel." Fredrick said, smiling sadly. "Unfortunately, we're not all blessed with that power. I admit to being negligent of you, and I apologize. You don't have to accept, for I know you don't want to."
Layton's face took on an awful expression, one of extreme sadness.
Fredrick continued, whilst walking backwards.
"I think this is where we forever part ways, good man, not that I had been present much before. Raise your children better than I did."
And with that, he disappeared.
You know, thought Layton, he never did once say he loved me.
"Professor, I'm so sorry," Flora said, as if any of it was her fault. "You're a better person than he was."
The professor crouched down to Flora's height.
"Thank you, Flora. I certainly hope so." He hugged her again.
Luke's stomach made a strange noise.
"Professor, not to ruin the moment or anything, but I haven't eaten in a long time. Can we go soon?"
Layton chuckled for the first time in a long time.
"Yes, Luke, we can."
Hershel led his kids toward the Laytonmobile. After a few miles, Flora fell asleep. Layton felt a strange sense of déjà vu.
Luke was quieter on this ride home, however. He didn't say anything for quite awhile.
Eventually, though, he turned his head from the window and looked up at the professor.
"I think you're a great father, professor, and I love you."
Hershel Layton had never heard such a beautiful thing in his life. He began to tear up.
"I love you too, Luke. You and Flora. I'd give my life for you two, no matter what."
He meant it.
A/N: And that's Abuse. I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I thank those of you who took the time to review, I appreciate it. I started this story in May, and it took me slightly longer than expected...
Anyway, even after all nine chapters, Layton still isn't mine. How I wish he was! ^_^;
Thanks for reading!