AN: Yes, yes, another story. I know. There's actually a bit of a tale behind this one, which I will put at the end of the chapter. Also - THIS STORY CONTAINS A SPOILER FOR GAME THREE. Or at least a spoiler in the sense that it's more or less told to you in the trailer, but a spoiler it jolly well can be called. So yes, here we go. I don't own Professor Layton!
Partings and Meetings
Layton looked up from his book at the sound of his title, and smiled at the girl wandering into the office with a tray in her hand. It was only upon catching a whiff of the fragrant scent of tea that he realized he was desperately thirsty. "Flora, I think you might know me better than I know myself," he chuckled. He marked the page and closed the book.
She smiled as she set the cup down beside him. "If you've been in here reading for more than two hours, tea will become a necessity," she said with just a hint of smugness. "Because it means that you've probably lost track of the time and have forgotten that you are thirsty." She sat in the chair on the opposite side of the desk with her own cup.
He had the grace to look sheepish. "Ah, well…perhaps." He took a sip, thankful (not for the first time) that for all of her earlier mishaps in the kitchen, she had at least mastered the proper brewing of tea.
After a moment, Flora shifted in her chair and sighed. "I still feel strange sitting here."
"…this is Luke's chair."
The tea cup paused, poised halfway to Layton's mouth, and after a moment lowered back to the desk. The click was accompanied by a sigh. "Flora, my dear, Luke has been gone for quite some time." He thought a moment. "It's been well over a year."
"Seventeen months," Flora said automatically, sipping her tea. Upon noticing the Professor's startled look, she smiled. "I've kept track from the letters he's sent. That's all." Her smile faded. "Although I really can't believe that it's been that long already."
"Hmm…now that you mention it, we haven't received word from him for a while, have we?" Layton said.
"…Flora, my dear, we must find you a hobby."
"He was so religious about it before, though," Flora said, proving her growing skill at ignoring jibes like that. "It just seems odd that he would stop. It's certainly not like Luke." She sighed. "I do miss him."
"As do I," Layton said with all of his usual practicality. "But as they say, life is a series of meetings and partings. We have parted. That is the way of the world." At her look, he elaborated. "Of course I am sad about it, but it's a part of life."
"That does not mean that I have to like it," she replied. She looked like she was going to say more, but the conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. Flora frowned and got to her feet. "I'll get it."
As she moved out of the room, Layton glanced up at the clock. "Odd," he murmured to himself, seeing that it was well after eleven at night. "We don't usually have visitors this late…perhaps it's a client…" He took another sip of his tea—
—and nearly spit it across the desk when he heard Flora scream.
Before he even had time to think about it, he was practically jumping over the desk. "FLORA!"
At least it had stopped raining.
That was what he told himself, at least, in a vain attempt to keep himself moving. But if he were being completely honest with himself he would have also admitted that it was not a terribly comforting thought. It had been raining for far too long a while earlier, and he was still soaked. And it was dark out to boot. None of this made for any sort of comfort.
Added to the fact that he was still not completely certain where it was that he was going, and there was the perfect recipe for a very frightened young man wandering the darkened streets. But something told him that he should keep moving, so he kept repeating silly platitudes to himself to keep himself going along. And besides, he was sure that he had a destination. A place he should go now. Somewhere safe. He just had to get there.
He just had to find it.
…wait, was that it?
He stopped and stared up at the building next to him for a long moment. It took him a moment to realize that for the first time in what felt like a very long time, he was seeing something that looked genuinely familiar. He knew this place, somehow or another. And there was a light in the front window, so someone had to be home.
Maybe someone in there could give him directions. That would be lovely.
His legs were growing increasingly numb, and he was so tired. But he managed to walk up to the front door, despite the slow stiltedness of his steps. He really needed to get where he was going soon; he needed to get some rest before he fell over.
Once there, he hesitated for a moment, then decided he really had nothing to lose at this point. One shaky hand raised and knocked on the door.
As his hand dropped back to his side, the door in front of him spun. Everything went out of focus, and he felt himself start to sway back and forth. This was bad. This was not good at all. Perhaps he had been more exhausted than he had thought…he just needed to lie down for a moment, then he would be fine. He just needed directions…
It was a lost cause. He felt himself fall forward and slump against the door. A moment later, that door opened. With the support gone, he pitched forward once again, this time falling from the cold and dark into warmth and light, where he hit the ground. He could not move.
As the light once again gave way to darkness, he thought he heard a voice…
It did seem terribly strange for someone to be coming so late, but it was not unheard of. Flora made her way to the front door with the intent of showing the visitor in (it was most likely be someone here to see the Professor about something urgent, she thought), and then going to bed.
Humming to herself, she opened the door.
And instinctively screamed when someone fell past her, ending up in a heap at her feet.
She heard the Professor shout her name as she dropped to her knees for a closer look. Her first glance told her that it was a young man in very wet clothes, but not much else. For a second, she sat there with her hands not quite touching the young man's back, at a loss.
Then once again, instinct took over, and she started shaking him, trying to get a response. "Are you all right?" she said, hearing the Professor's footsteps thudding to a stop beside her. But as she tried to rouse the unconscious person, his head rocked to one side, and she got a good look at his face.
She knew that face.
And before she could stop herself, she let out a loud squawk that froze Professor Layton in his tracks.
There was a brief moment of time where everything seemed to just sort of stop.
Flora was alternating between wringing her hands and trying to shake some life into the unconscious boy on the floor before her. Luke was not moving at all—and by simply moving a few steps to one side, Layton could see the boy's face and confirm, for himself, that it was Luke. He was wearing a light blue sweater, not unlike the one Layton remembered being his favorite, and khaki pants. And, oddly enough, he was barefoot, to say nothing of being soaked.
In short, the young man looked a mess.
And then the Professor realized that he was just standing there. He quickly shook himself and took action. "Flora," he said, stooping to roll Luke over and gather the young man up, pulling him away from the door. "Close the door and lock it. Quickly."
The instruction seemed to startle her out of her daze as well (not that the Professor could blame her for feeling dazed, he wasn't feeling too steady on his feet himself at the moment), and she hurried to do as he said. While she was locking the door, he managed to stand up with Luke cradled carefully in his arms.
Somehow, he remembered his former apprentice not being quite so heavy.
Granted, as he took another look at Luke, he realized that he remembered Luke not being so tall.
Still, he pushed those thoughts aside for the moment. Reminiscing could wait until other, more pressing matters were taken care of. With Flora right behind him, he hurried Luke back into the study, mentally thanking whoever was up there that he had always enjoyed the classic comfort of a good book by a warm fire. It was certainly a warm enough place, and Luke was freezing.
"Flora, I'm sorry to be so demanding," he said. "But can you go and find a blanket?"
She didn't need to be asked twice, and darted up the stairs, probably heading for the linen closet where the spare blankets were kept. Now alone, Layton carefully lowered the boy to the floor, stretching him out on the warmed rug in front of the fire. Finally, he could actually take a look at his former apprentice, though the flickering shadows kept the finer details hidden from his eye. His initial impression was proven to be correct: Luke certainly had gotten taller, and his face was a bit thinner.
But more importantly, what in the world was going on? Luke was supposed to be overseas with his parents. Why was he here? What untold circumstances had led to him literally falling down on their doorstep? And…okay, he had to wonder why Luke wasn't wearing shoes, but that seemed the absolute least of the worries and mysteries surrounding this moment.
And through all of this, Luke had not moved. He had shivered a bit as Layton held him, and made a couple of soft noises, but he had shown no signs of returning to consciousness. He had most likely been awake long enough to knock on the door, and if his impromptu entrance was any indication, he had passed out just after that. It was fortunate that he had seen the office and made it here before he had fallen. Who knew what could have happened had circumstances turned out differently.
Hopefully he would awaken soon, and then he could tell them what had happened. Somehow, Layton suspected that it would be quite a fascinating story.
Footsteps padded into the room behind him. "Here," Flora said. She thrust the quilt towards him and helped him wrap Luke up as best they could. That done, she moved behind the Professor and put her hands on his shoulders. "Is he all right?"
"I'm not sure," Layton sighed. "We should call for the doc—"
He was shifting beneath the blanket, his face scrunching and contorting as though in pain. And after a moment, he opened his eyes. They fluttered at first, opening halfway before closing again. His second attempt proved more successful, and he actually managed to get his eyes all the way open. He blinked several times before his eyes finally seemed to focus in on the two beside him.
"Luke…" Flora said, letting out a relieved sigh.
It took a few seconds for him to wiggle his way into a sitting position, and even then he swayed. Layton reached out an arm to steady him, and Luke wound up leaning against the Professor for support. He was murmuring, his eyes still trying to shut. He was exhausted.
After what seemed a very long time (as is common when one is waiting for a particularly delicious explanation), Luke finally spoke, his voice soft and tired and unusually timid. "Where am I?"
Not an unfounded question. Layton managed a smile. "The office."
"Luke, are you all right?" Flora spoke up from behind the Professor. Her hands were wringing together.
He tilted his head to look in her general direction for a moment, and then slowly said, "…Luke…"
The Professor suddenly had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. The way Luke said his own name was suspect, slow and deliberate, as though it was the first time the word was rolling off his tongue. This gave him a very, very ominous feeling…
And he was again proven horrifically right when Luke looked up at him with hollow, lightless eyes and, in that same quiet, timid voice, asked, "…is that my name?"
PS. YES I WENT THERE! Okay, here's the story: a while back, on the PLFM on LJ, someone prompted for "epic reunion fic." I took it as an excuse to write this story idea, which I'd had for quite some time. I had the whole thing planned out, wrote quite a bit on the meme, and then...I stopped. Got sidetracked by other things, and just never got around to finishing it. A few weeks ago I remembered it and pulled it out, and thought I might as well finish it because I have a pretty sweet ending in mind :D Hope you'll stick around!
Thanks for reading! Much love!