Note – Written for a kinkmeme response to a prompt that wanted the boat Luke boarded to be the Titanic, with Layton and Flora's reactions to finding out what happened to it and an optional ending to if Luke survived or not. Set in an AU based soon after the end of the third game with probable spoilers for that game but nothing directly spoiler-y.
"Professor, no! You mustn't!" Flora shrieked, clutching onto the newspaper article as if her life depended on it.
Layton raised an eyebrow, his hand still out-stretched from his request to see the paper. Quite frankly he had no idea why Flora was so upset. It was unusual enough for her to be awake and to have read the paper before him, but this was just baffling.
"Please Flora, just let me have a look," he said calmly, "If the press has written anything negative about me then I'm sure that it's nothing I can't handle."
"It isn't that at all…" mumbled Flora, her grip loosening on the paper. It flopped out of her hands and landed on the floor, first page facing upwards.
The headline was as clear as day:
'TITANIC SINKS, 1500 DIE'
Layton's heart might well have stopped right then, but somehow it didn't. His throat felt suddenly dry. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Flora shuddering. She knew what this meant. He knew what this meant. There was a very strong possibility that…
He didn't know enough information about the situation to be making assumptions like that!
Layton fled the room, grabbing onto the phone and dialling the number that Clark had left for them. There was no response for a long while, but he shouldn't have expected one. Contacting America on a normal day was hard enough, but right now everyone who had a connection to the Titanic would be trying to get through… Regardless, he stayed there for hours without giving up and after several false alarms with operators eventually he got through to the house number that Clark had provided.
"Hello, my name is Hershel Layton and I'm ringing to ask if the Triton family have arrived at this address," he said quickly.
The voice that greeted him was that of a house keeper and didn't contain the news he wanted to hear; "I'm sorry sir, but I don't think the Tritons are ever going to arrive here. Such a shame…"
"You mean that they…?" he started.
"Mr. Triton almost certainly," she answered, "It's too soon for them to have confirmed anything yet, but it was women and children first, you know."
So there was a chance that Luke and Brenda had made it at least!
"Please, I know that this will be your last priority, but if anyone of them does turn up then ask them to contact me on this number," Layton finished, providing his contact details before saying goodbye to the lady and hanging up.
He wandered back through to the living room, aware that he'd spent all that time confirming nothing. The sight that greeted him was Flora, sat on the sofa with her head in her hands, sobbing loudly. Upon hearing the news about the Titanic, Layton had pretty much abandoned her to deal with this information by herself and she'd probably been in this room for all of the hours he'd been trying to get through on the phone. Feeling immensely guilty about this, Layton took a seat next to her.
If the young girl had been annoyed at him for rushing out like that she didn't show it, simply collapsing against him and continuing to cry into his shirt.
Stroking her hair, Layton whispered, "I'm sorry, my girl, but they didn't know anything about it…"
Flora nodded quietly; "I-I heard…"
"That doesn't mean they're… gone. But it'll take more time than this for anything to be determined," he went on, trying to provide a bright side.
"Will you k-keep calling th-them…?" she stammered, looking up at him through her tear-filled eyes.
"Until I get a definite answer, I will," Layton promised.
This was a promise he managed to keep. Day in, day out, he would call the intended Triton residence, causing much annoyance in the staff that frequently had to tell him the same thing. But he didn't care, he kept on calling. He didn't even care that his presence at the university was becoming even tardier as he prioritised staying home to do this task, he kept on calling anyway. He certainly cared least of all about how expensive these calls were becoming and that jeopardising his job ran the risk of losing the funds to pay for them - he had to know the truth.
Eventually, one of these calls was answered by the original house keeper who had taken his first call. The others were probably scared off by him, so she had been left to do it. At first she sounded firm but there was an edge of sympathy to her voice.
"Look, Mr. Layton, I know this isn't what you wanted to hear but the survivors have been confirmed now and I feel it's only fair to tell you," she started.
"Any news you have is good enough for me," Layton answered, as Flora walked over to listen closer to what was being said.
"Clark Triton was definitely among those who stayed on the boat, he didn't make it," the lady said.
How very much like Clark, Layton thought. Staying behind to help give his wife and son a chance. He was a noble man and would not be forgotten…
"And the others?" he heard himself saying.
There was a sigh on the other end; "They were among those who got on the lifeboats, but they weren't counted as survivors. I'm very sorry to tell you this. The house is going to be repossessed since they won't be living here, so we're going to have to ask you to stop calling."
"Very well, that was all that I wanted to know anyway," Layton said, his heart sinking, "Thank you so much for your patience, madam."
As the phone went dead Flora reached up to hug her father-figure, neither of them saying a word. He felt a tear roll down his cheek but did nothing to wipe it away. The Triton family, Luke, was gone. Almost certainly dead. If only he'd known when he'd said farewell to Luke prior to boarding the Titanic that it would be for the last time.
If only Layton had been on the American side of the port a few months back when the lifeboats had been brought to dock to see what had happened. There was such a crowd there, so many people screaming the names of relatives or trying to get a photo they could make a quick buck from or just watching because this was history being made.
There was pushing and shoving as people tried to fight their way through the crowd, but one little boy from England did not join in, just allowing himself to be moved along with the crowd.
Within the past day Luke had seen the solemn face of his father, waiting behind on the Titanic as he watched his wife carry their son away. Both Clark and Luke knew that there were not enough lifeboats for everyone aboard and as their eyes met they knew that this was the last time they would see each other.
But that was not the only tragedy that he'd met on that boat. The lifeboat that Luke and his mother had got on had not been fortunate… He could clearly remember the panicked faces of those around him, calling out to the other boats as they splashed in the water. There was an air of everyone for themselves, but not on the face of his mother. Brenda had swam through those ice cold waters, clutching Luke close and not stopping until they sighted one of the rescue boats hours later.
"…Please call out, Luke… I don't have the strength…" she whispered hoarsely.
"Oi…! 'ello, please someone 'elp!" Luke cried out, his voice was also cracked but much more fit to shout than his mother's was. The light from the boat swung in their direction and Luke broke into a smile, paddling over towards it, "We're gonna be all right, mum! They're comin'…"
"Get up boy!" called a man from the boat, "Heaven knows how long you'll last in this ocean."
"Okay…! Come on, mum…" Luke said, reaching out behind him to grab Brenda's arm.
But his hand gripped nothing and merely splashed against the water's surface.
"You don't get it, I 'ave t' find 'er!" Luke shouted.
The men on the boat looked around, before one of them answered, "There's no one left alive here except for you, these are all corpses. Now climb up if you don't want to join them."
With great reluctance, Luke had to accept that the last of his mother's strength had given out and she'd sank to the bottom of the ocean, after spending hours pushing her son to safety. Clark and Brenda Triton now slept together in the sea, how ironic…
Allowing himself to be pulled up, Luke huddled in the corner as some blankets were thrown over him. He hardly felt their warmth; he hardly felt anything at all.
That hollow feeling lasted all the way up to when he was getting off the boat with the other survivors, knowing that there was no one there to greet him.
Luke didn't bother to be registered amongst the survivors, there was little point. And everyone was so distracted by the hubbub that no one had noticed him leaving to stop him. Without money or food or even a family, Luke Triton wandered off into the night.
If only Layton had known that.