Notes – Written for a kinkmeme request that wanted Layton to not be real and only be a figment of Luke's imagination. Set in an AU and ignores parts of what the canon says about how Luke's parents knew Layton. There is a character death in this, so not for the faint hearted.
Brenda should have guessed the truth from 'Emmy's gone now', but she didn't. That was, however, the point when she started to become suspicious about her son's whereabouts when he wasn't at home.
Luke sat opposite her around the kitchen table, twiddling his thumbs awkwardly. She had asked him a few times what had happened to Emmy, but he seemed reluctant to answer her.
"She's… just gone, I don't wanna talk about it," he mumbled, "But it's okay, 'cause there's still me an' the professah."
"As long as that professor is there to look after you," she said firmly.
Professor Layton. The one person she could hardly get her son to shut up about. He seemed like such a brilliant man, solving mysteries, teaching archaeology and even making time to running around after Luke. He'd become quite the young gentleman under Layton's influence and she was very proud of him.
"You should invite the professor around for dinner sometime," she went on.
"Oh, um, no, 'e can't do that, too busy and all…" Luke said, getting to his feet, "Well, I bettah go meet 'im. That office won't clean itself, you know?"
He left the room, also leaving that morning as the last time he talked about Emmy to his mother. But it was far from the last time he talked about his adventures with Layton to her. Soon enough Emmy had been replaced by another girl called Flora, Brenda quite happy to hear that Luke was making a friend closer to his own age for a change. Then Luke went on to tell her another day that the three of them had gone on a train to fight an evil man called Anton, but it had all been a hallucination in the end.
She should have got it at hallucination.
It was by then that she started to consult her husband, who was also frequently part of the audience to Luke's tales of the professor's adventures.
"I don't see why you're worrying so much," Clark assured her, "Layton sounds like a fine man and not someone who'd hurt our son."
"But… doesn't it strike you as odd that we've never actually seen him. We trust this man to look after our son but we don't really know anymore about him than what Luke has told us," she replied.
"Then why not go meet him for yourself?" said Clark, "We know that he's a lecturer at the Gressenheller University. You could easily arrange to meet up with him there."
Brenda had to admit that this was a good point, so she found some time in her schedule to pay visit to the university and attempt to meet the fabled professor for the first time.
It was when she was shown to the office of Dean Delmona that everything started to fall apart.
"I've come to see Professor Layton, if you could tell me when he has the time to speak with visitors," she began.
"Professor… who?" the Dean asked.
Her heart skipped a beat.
"Professor Layton, he teaches archaeology here, I've heard," she insisted, hoping that he had either just heard her wrong or else wasn't all that familiar with his own staff.
"There is no Professor Layton here, I'm afraid. Certainly not teaching archaeology," he confirmed.
"But… but there has to be!" Brenda shot, shaking with fear and rage enough to cause Delmona to back away from her, "My son goes everywhere with that man and he told me that he works here! There must be a Professor Layton somewhere in this building!"
"I'm very sorry madam, but regardless of what your son has told you there is not and never has been a Layton teaching at this university. Now if that is all that you wanted I'll have to ask you to remove yourself from my office," he told her firmly.
On any other day Brenda would have apologised for her behaviour, but right now the only thing her mind was filled with was that there was no professor, that she had no idea where her son was or who he was with and that he'd been going to these unknown places for quite sometime and she hadn't figured it out.
He didn't need to tell her twice, she was already on her feet and out of the office, ready to search all of London if it came to it. And by the end of the day it genuinely felt like she had.
Pulling up the car into their drive, Brenda thought she'd make one last check around the area before giving up and calling the police. She trailed over to a bridge close to their street to be greeted by the faint but familiar sound of her son's voice.
"Luke!" she called out.
"I'm down 'ere, mum!" he shouted back, looking up from the muddy bank at the edge of the river, under the bridge. Around him were abandoned boxes, rubbish and tiny toy figures. She was quivering as she made her way down the steps to him but he kept on talking. "You missed everythin', mum! The professah and I went t' the future and we met a future me, only it wasn't really me 'cause-"
He shut up.
His mother had slapped him hard across the face.
"How could you! How could you lie to your parents and run around on your own all this time!" she demanded, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him.
Luke yelped, "But I 'aven't been on me own, I've been with the professah!"
"He's not real!" Brenda snapped, "I went to that university and they'd never heard of him before!"
Luke looked down, his eyes filling up with tears that he was trying to fight back.
"You're coming home now," concluded Brenda, "We're going to keep an eye on you so you're never out of our sights again. And you are not to mention the professor or Flora or Emmy or anyone else you might have made up!"
He nodded mutely. She got no further arguments or even words from him as she led him back home. He simply went to his room and continued to cry when he thought she was out of ear-shot.
It had been harsh of her but she knew it was the only way to get it into his head that she wouldn't let him get away with this anymore. At the same time perhaps she was angry at herself for not realising from the start that this man didn't exist and that she'd let her son go out to who knew where for such a long time. Even if there had been a Professor Layton she should have checked that he was safe for Luke to be around long before now. But she didn't want to think about that.
That night she went to bed without a word to Clark, who seemed to have grasped the situation without being directly told, only managing to drift off to sleep when she eventually heard the sobbing from Luke's room stop.
Little did she know the lack of tears had not meant that Luke was asleep.
"It ain't fair, professah… I know that you're real, so why don't they?" he whispered to the space next to his bed. "They just can't see you 'cause they don't look 'ard enough, but you are there. You all are…"
He stopped, listening to the soothing sound of Layton's voice. The professor told Luke that it would all be fine, that he understood, that Luke needn't cry anymore because that was not what a gentleman did, and most importantly he told him that they would still be together.
"But mum says I ain't allowed to see you anymore…" Luke said quietly.
Then, the professor said, Luke would have to choose if he wanted to be with his parents or if he wanted to be with Layton and all of the friends they had made.
It took Luke less than a minute to answer. Why would he want to be with the parents who had stopped him from being with his friends when he could be with the people who had looked out for him all this time?
Getting to his feet, Luke asked, "'ow can I be with you, professah?"
Luke just had to follow him. That was the answer. Then he would be with Layton, Flora, Emmy, Don Paolo, Descole, Claire and even Clive forever.
So Luke, loyal as ever, went over to the window, opened it, and followed Hershel Layton outside.
They two of them would be together always and Luke would never see his parents again.