Knights and Knaves
A Professor Layton fan fiction by Lady Norbert
A/N: For some reason, I have a tendency to write a lot of ten-chapter fanfics. Thank you all for reading! Here's the conclusion.
Flora hardly knew how to even begin to thank Don Paolo, or the officials for that matter, but she began to try. She'd barely uttered two syllables, however, before they were interrupted.
And he was there, kneeling beside her chair and working feverishly to undo her bonds. He seemed pale, and his brow was creased with recent worry. In the background, Don Paolo rolled his eyes a bit. "I do all the work, Layton gets all the credit. It never fails."
"Nonsense, Paul. Your performance was once again flawless, and we're much indebted to you, aren't we, my dear?" The Professor's words were smooth and calm, but the fingers which tugged at the rope trembled.
"Oh, yes. Thank you so much, Don Paolo." She offered him a smile, then returned her gaze to the Professor's struggle.
"Here, Layton." Inspector Chelmey handed him a pocketknife. "If the young lady's come to no harm, Barton and I will take these two back to Scotland Yard."
"Much obliged, Inspector." The knife blade was sharp, and made quick work of the ropes. "There, my dear, you're quite all right, aren't you?"
The instant her arms were free, they wrapped themselves around his neck. She was sorry, so very sorry that she'd ever told anyone that she felt unwanted. Thin arms folded around her, holding her close, and she felt him continue to shake. "I didn't know if you would come," she admitted quietly.
"I would have been here much sooner," he replied, in her special tone, "but Officer Barton mislaid your message. Once he found it and we discovered what you'd done, it took a little time to arrange for Don Paolo to assist us and to find our way here. Oh, Flora, what were you thinking?" He released her far enough to look her in the eye.
"I...I wanted to solve it for you," she said weakly. "To...to show you that...that I could be just as good..."
"...as Luke?" he finished, when she trailed off uncertainly.
"Yes." She hung her head.
"If you don't mind my ruining the moment," Don Paolo interjected, "I'll just show myself out."
The Professor stood, and pulled Flora to her feet. He didn't smile at Don Paolo; his expression was serious, and pained. "Thank you, Paul. It seems I'm even farther in your debt."
"Just wait until I decide to collect."
"Thank you, Don Paolo," Flora said again. Timidly, for she was convinced that the Professor was very angry with her now, she crept forward and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. He looked surprised, and gratified, and trying very hard not to appear gratified.
"Well. Maybe now you know for sure that I'm as much of a gentleman as Layton," he groused. "Take her home, Layton, the poor thing's been through enough for one year." So saying, the master of disguise swept dramatically out of the room.
"Indeed," the Professor murmured. "Let's go home, dear."
Neither of them said much. Flora made a simple dinner, and they ate in silence. She hardly dared to look at him, and he didn't invite conversation. He seemed lost in thought.
Perhaps I should go home, she mused, pushing food around on her plate with her fork. It might be better. He wouldn't be worrying about me all the time, and I'd be safe and...and alone isn't so bad, when you're surrounded by robot friends. It would be all right. Lady Dahlia would let me come and live in the manor again. Yes. That's what I'll do.
After dinner, the Professor retired to the parlor, and she screwed up her courage and followed him.
"Professor...I've been thinking."
"Yes, my dear?"
"I think it might be...might be best if..." She took a breath. "If I go back to St. Mystere."
He looked startled. "Is that what you wish?"
"I think it would be better for you."
"In what way?" He was speaking in her special tone, gentle and warm, which gave her some courage; perhaps he wasn't very angry after all.
"I wouldn't be sneaking along on your cases. You'd know I was safe. Things...things like today wouldn't happen."
"I see." He watched her for a moment. "I think I've been unfair to you, Flora."
"What do you mean?"
"I keep treating you a certain way, and I've never adequately explained why."
"It's all right. I understand."
"I'm not Luke. I won't ever be Luke. I thought perhaps I could do just as well as he did, but...I guess not."
"Luke." The Professor stood, and walked around the room a bit, then stood at the window with his hands behind his back. "Luke is different, I agree. You and Luke are not the same to me, and no, you never will be."
She'd reached the conclusion on her own, and stated it, but to hear it from him hurt. "I know."
"No, you don't."
"Luke and I are friends. Mentor and student. As I said to you once before, Luke essentially wants to be me when he grows up, and while that's flattering, my goal was to help him become himself. And as I promised him before his ship departed, he and I will always be friends."
"That's very sweet."
"It's different here, Flora. You and I are not friends."
It was almost as if he had turned around and slapped her, and she physically recoiled from the blow which had not actually happened. "Oh."
"How to put this." He half turned, bringing one hand to his chin in contemplation. "You met Claire, of course."
"You know how I lost her. Seeing her again after all these years, losing her all over again, just made it all worse." His eyes closed against the pain. "When she died, I made a vow."
He nodded. "I swore I would never let another woman into my heart. And my mother - I told you how soon after Claire I lost her. It only reinforced the feeling. I have been true to that promise ever since. There have been opportunities for love, but I refused to see them. I told myself they weren't there."
Now she felt mostly lost. "I don't understand, Professor."
"You see, Flora, fate conspired against me."
"Despite my promises to myself, I was destined to open my heart again after all. Because in spite of my own plans and inclinations, and quite to my genuine surprise, I was destined to become a father."
He has a child? She gave a tiny gasp, but said nothing, and he turned at last to look at her.
"It wasn't my intention or even my choice, but there it was. And fatherhood was not something I had ever prepared myself to enter, so I'm worried that I've done a poor job. Today, I was assured of it. I have been a poor father indeed, to give you the idea that you needed to take Luke's place."
"He was such a good apprentice to you," she said, "that he and I both feared you'd be lost without him. So he asked me to take care of you. And I've tried, Professor, but I'm just not..."
"Not Luke," he finished. "Flora, there will never be another Luke for me. Nor should there be. As I said...Luke is my friend, and you are not." He gave her a sad smile. "You are my daughter. It's completely different."
A smile crept across her features. "Is it?"
"I never presumed I would have a child, given my refusal to marry. But here you are, an unexpected gift from a man I never knew. At first I thought only to do my duty by you as a gentleman, you know, to see to your care and education and steer you safely to womanhood." His smile was warmer. "Instead, you made me break my promise. I did open my heart to another lady, and there you are."
"So you do want me here? Because I...I sometimes thought...perhaps not."
"Why would you think that?"
"You have Luke's picture in your office and not mine. You always leave me behind," she said. "And the other night..."
"The other night was unconscionable," he agreed. "You mustn't imagine that I would ever forget you, though, dear. Our plans slipped my mind, but never you. You're right about the pictures, however, I should rectify that."
Flora brightened, then hesitated. "But...what about leaving me behind? I hate when you leave me behind, Professor, I'm all alone without you."
"I don't like to leave you. But Flora, the idea of something happening to you destroys me. Today - today I thought you might be lost to me forever." A shadow passed over the Professor's face. "The final clue came while we were preparing to rescue you. It seemed as though I were going to be forced to choose between allowing the deaths of innocent people or giving up the light of my life. I'm all alone without you too, Flora."
She hadn't thought of it that way. "I thought about agreeing to their terms," she admitted. "To save you from having to make the choice."
"I'm glad I didn't have to make it."
"If you would really rather leave me behind, I...I suppose I should start staying behind."
"I like having you along. I just worry. We'll both have to be more careful in the future."
"That seems fair."
He held out a hand to her. "And will you forgive me, my dear?"
"For letting you doubt. For not making it clear that I love you more than the world."
She ignored his hand and, instead, threw herself into his arms.
"Flora, I've got something to show you."
She abandoned the piano and met him in the foyer. "What is it, Professor?"
"The portrait studio sent a messenger to the school today. The pictures are finished." He handed her a brown paper parcel.
She unwrapped it curiously, and smiled. She looked much the same in this picture as she did in the large painted portrait which hung in Reinhold Manor - except that this time, the golden apple birthmark was very visible. The Professor stood behind her chair, one hand on her shoulder, beaming with fatherly pride.
"It's lovely," she said. "We'll need a frame for it. But you said pictures - are there more?"
"One more. A smaller version of this one." The Professor was unwrapping a second parcel, which contained an empty frame. "It's on the desk in my office."
He gave her a smile, much like the one he wore in the portrait. "Yes, really. And one of my students came in to take a make-up test, and asked me who the beautiful girl in the picture was."
Flora blushed. "Oh, Professor. What did you say?"
"I said that she was my daughter." He hesitated. "Do you mind my telling people that? I know how much you loved your father, I would never want to intrude upon your memories."
"I don't mind. And I don't think Papa would mind, either," she mused. "As long as I'm happy, he would be too."
"To be your daughter?" The golden apple on her collarbone was vivid. "Yes, I am."