Notes: Written for Sasshattery's contest. Set sometime post-PL3, accepting that we don't know what happened to Emmy after the sixth game yet, so substituting a fanon version. Contains heavy spoilers for the third game. Also, for those of you with the US version, "Hannah" is the UK name for the character "Hanna".
"And then, here's the best part, he just lets her head off to travel the world without even an 'I'd like to see you when you get back'. Can you believe that?"
There was the sound of two elderly women descending into laughter. Few things can match that sound in terms of sheer volume. The shriek, although hearty, was quite unnerving.
Especially if you were the subject of said laughter.
Layton sipped his tea. He'd been sat at his desk trying to politely ignore the conversation between his housekeeper Rosa and her guest, Granny Riddleton (he wasn't even certain it was customary for a housekeeper to invite guests over to your house in the first place), but when the conversation had shifted to him he felt it was difficult to keep up the act.
"Are you suggesting that I shouldn't have let Emmy leave to pursue her desire to travel the world?" he asked, turning around to face the two ladies.
All this did was make them burst into a fresh bout of laughter.
"You were right, Rosa, he really is that clueless!"
"Ladies, I do not appreciate this…" mumbled Layton.
"Oh come now, we're just having a laugh," Rosa dismissed, "It's just a bit of a shame that you let that nice young lady get away, that's all."
"Emmy was never mine to keep," argued Layton, "She is a woman free to make her own choices and, as her friend, I want only to respect those choices."
"If you're sure, dear," said Rosa, in the tone of a mother who was being told why it was so important for her child to have a fort in their bedroom.
"I am sure," Layton replied, his tone one of finality.
"Well, I'd best be off anyway," cut in Granny Riddleton, pulling herself off the chair she'd been sat on, "I left Puzzlette in charge again and last time I did that I came back to find that she'd knocked everything over trying to swat a bee."
"If you're sure you can't stay for another cuppa," Rosa said. This was a customary farewell between two elderly ladies and did not actually imply that the person it was being addressed to should then agree to stay for the offered 'another cuppa'.
"It was nice, but I've no doubt you've got lots of cleaning to be getting on with," said Granny Riddleton.
Nodding, Rosa agreed, "The Professor can be a messy pup." Apparently Layton hadn't quite escaped her scorned yet.
"Perhaps I'll see you at the coffee morning down at the hall next Tuesday," Granny Riddleton proposed, as she reached the door.
"I wouldn't miss it. And don't worry, I've talked Flora out of providing scones for us this time, bless her heart. See you later then, Elizabeth."
Layton waited until their guest had been waved off and the door shut behind her before he made to speak again; "You really do need to find another topic of conversation besides my love life."
"Don't you worry about that, there really isn't very much to talk about there anyway," joked Rosa and before Layton could argue, she added, "Really though, I'll never understand why you didn't at least try with that young lady, she was awfully fond of you."
"The relationship Emmy and I shared was strictly professional. And besides, I'm not looking for romance," Layton replied.
"Well, you ought to start looking before you're too old and no one's interested anymore," warned Rosa.
"Is it so hard to accept that I'm content the way I am?" he asked.
Rosa sighed; "It's Claire, isn't it? Look, dear, I know it's hard, but you had a second chance to say goodbye to her that few people ever get. And you decided in yourself that things were going to get better. Don't think I've not noticed you wearing that hat less and less lately. You've made peace with your past and that's a very fine thing to have done. She'd have wanted you to be happy."
"And I am happy," Layton assured her.
"But you'd have been just as happy if you'd given that girl a chance. What do you think Claire would have said if she thought you had some lovely lass following you around and you'd given her the cold shoulder?" Rosa went on.
She'd have laughed.
Layton knew that. Claire would have thought he was being silly to not get on with his life and potentially be happy with someone else. She was never a possessive woman. She'd always put his happiness first. And if the situation was reversed, if it was him who'd died in the explosion, then he'd definitely have wanted Claire to move on and find happiness, instead of wallowing in pity.
But he wasn't wallowing in pity at all. He was alone and content with being alone. It was a mild annoyance that his close friends seemed not to grasp this.
All the same, since Luke had left, Layton found his mind wandering more often back to the days when he had gone on adventures with Emmy and the young boy. He missed the fun that the three of them had solving mysteries. Now it was just him and his memories. A lot like his situation with Claire. Layton apparently wasn't very good at keeping people.
After that thought, he didn't find himself in the mood to continue debating with Rosa.
"Perhaps you're right," he said, with a wave of his hand, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to be getting on with."
"Burying yourself in work again," Rosa replied, "Makes Jack a very dull boy, is all I'm saying. But I suppose I should get back to work myself. Don't stay up too late, Professor."
"I won't," Layton said, though they both knew this was a lie.
He did stay up well into the night, under the guise of marking papers. In truth, his mind was off wandering, thinking of people he once knew and times that had gone by. But more that just times past, he couldn't stop himself from dwelling on times missed, as well.
What if Rosa was right and he'd already missed out on what could have been a loving relationship with Emmy?
No point dwelling on what's lost, old boy. That was what the gentleman's code would have said. All the same, he just couldn't stop himself from dwelling.
Although, perhaps it was presumptuous to even think Emmy liked him in that manner. Just because two old women sat at around a table, looking for some gossip, felt that she did didn't mean it was true. Rosa and Granny Riddleton could start a scandal out of Dr. Schrader waving hello to the milkman if they really wanted to.
If Emmy really had wanted to be with him, then why had she jumped at the chance to travel the world once the Descole fiasco was over and done with?
For some reason, thinking of the answer to that question seemed to cause a knot in his stomach…
It was a few days later when Layton handed his latest request for leave over to Dean Delmona.
"Off on another adventure, old bean?" the Dean had asked, as he stamped the papers, "It has been a while, I was beginning to wonder if you'd lost interest."
Layton was granted leaves of absence a lot more frequently than most members of staff. It wasn't as if he didn't love his job and he certainly didn't want to take advantage of the university's generosity, but he was, at the end of the day, a man famous for solving mysteries. And Gressenheller, being rather fond of having a celebrity as a member of staff, didn't bat an eyelid at the prospect of him going off at the drop of a hat, if it meant he brought back an even better reputation for the establishment with him when he returned.
"Not exactly," Layton replied, "I'm… going to look for someone."
"Anyone in particular?" said Delmona, wanting to be helpful.
"A girl that… I knew once," mumbled Layton.
Delmona laughed, "Well, if you find one, let me know too."
An absent nod, before a thought struck the Professor.
"Actually, Dean Delmona, I believe that you could help me with this," he said.
Raising an eyebrow, Delmona replied, "Always happy to help if I can."
"Do you remember assigning Emmy Altava to be my assistant a few years ago? Well, she's the person that I'm looking for," Layton informed him.
"Altava, eh? Didn't she leave to travel the globe? Sends me postcards every now and then. Such a thoughtful girl she is," hummed Delmona.
"Yes, she did go travelling," confirmed Layton, who had also received the occasional postcard from exotic locations, "Do you have any idea where she might be currently?"
It was a shot in the dark, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
"Now that I think about it, she did say something about being back in Europe in her last postcard. France, I believe. But I don't think she was staying there long. You know who'd be a good person to ask? That inspector from Scotland Yard. The hairy one. Grosky, I think it was. He knew Miss Altava even before I did," Delmona said.
"You do have a point…" agreed Layton. His memory for people was sometimes not the best, but he did have vague recollections of Emmy being already familiar with Grosky when they met him in Misthallery. While he didn't fancy going on a wild goose chase across London, he wasn't a man to leave a potential lead unexplored; "Thank you for your advice, Dean Delmona, as well as your generous grant of leave. I shall try not to be away from my post for too long."
"Take all the time that you need," the Dean assured him, secretly quite pleased to hear that, for once, Layton was taking time off for personal reasons, instead of to solve other people's problems.
Following his advice, Layton went straight to Scotland Yard after leaving Gressenheller. Getting in wasn't hard at all, as he was frequently a guest in their halls. The police would often go to Layton to request his help with particularly difficult crimes.
While Layton never looked forward to talking to the disinterested receptionist who sat behind the front desk, it thankfully didn't take long for him to be directed the office of Inspector Grosky. He half suspected that the woman, Monica, he thought her name was, might know something about Emmy's current location, but he always remembered Emmy speaking rather negatively of the receptionist and didn't want to risk prolonged conversation with her. He'd take his chances with Grosky.
The office he was led to could only have belonged to said Inspector Grosky – it was boldly decorated, proud and well-polished, much like its owner, who smiled widely as Layton entered the room.
"Layton! Always good to see Gressenheller's finest!" called Grosky. The inspector was known for shouting as often as shouting was appropriate in any situation.
"As good as it is to see one of Scotland Yard's best men," said Layton, as was customary, walking in to take the seat that Grosky was gesturing to in front of his desk, "Thank you very much for taking time out of your undoubtedly busy schedule to see me."
"Nonsense, it's all just paperwork today. And there's nothing I tire of faster than paperwork. Chasing the villain! That's what police work is all about! Not pushing papers! But anyway, what can I help you with?" Grosky replied, shooting an angry glance at the mess of papers that littered his desk.
"It's about Emmy," started Layton.
"Oh yes?" Grosky waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Layton wondered why everyone always thought there was something going on between Emmy and himself whenever it was brought up in conversation.
"It's been a while since I've seen her and I was wondering if you might have any idea as to where she is at the moment," he went on, ignoring the eyebrow waggling.
Grosky looked thoughtful for a moment, and then replied, "I think she might have said in her last letter… She's definitely back in England, I know that."
"You get letters from her?" questioned Layton. He suddenly felt a pang of jealousy, having only received postcards himself.
"Yes, of course. Hannah and her always seem to have a lot to say to each other," replied Grosky, as if it was no big deal.
"Have I not introduced you to her? I was sure you'd met her already. Oh well, must be my mistake. Anyway, Hannah's the lovely lady who appreciates a stunning man like yours truly and, since I proposed, she and Emmy have been writing to each other a lot more. There is a lot to write about!" Grosky puffed out his chest, obviously proud of his fiancé's admiration of him.
Now that he thought about it, Layton did seem to remember meeting a woman who seemed somewhat obsessed with Grosky. He felt inwardly ashamed that he'd even considered being jealous of Grosky's correspondence with Emmy without considering if he was a taken man already.
"I'm sure there is," agreed Layton, dismissively, "But if you have any letter that might give me a clue as to where in England Emmy is-"
Before he could finish that sentence, Grosky had jumped up from the desk, startling him.
"I'll give Hannah a call now, to see if she knows!" said Grosky, a man on a mission.
That mission involved grabbing a nearby phone and calling home. For the next three minutes, Layton was subjected to listening to half of a conversation that involved Grosky making comments about how Hannah should just look under the coffee table for the letters, because he was sure they were there, a brief spat of argument, the relief of the letters being found in a drawer, a sickening amount of time devoted to two people calling each other cutesy nicknames, and then a confirmation about what was for dinner that night, before Grosky eventually hung up the phone.
"Sorry about that, Layton. But Hannah says that Emmy's staying somewhere in a little town called Folsense. It would appear that she's been following the path of your adventures since she got back to the country and that's where they've led her," informed Grosky.
"Folsense? Thank you very much, Inspector!" said Layton, being the one to shocked Grosky by yelling, for a change. He got up to shake the man's hand, "You've been a good help. Now if you'll excuse me, I must be off."
"Always happy to help…" murmured Grosky, watching Layton dart through the door.
That just left him and his paperwork. Drat. Oh well, at least he knew that he had Hannah's steak and onion casserole to look forward to when he got home. That girl cooked the best casseroles.
Layton, meanwhile, was rushing to the train station, to buy a ticket for Folsense.
Having once solved a case for the Herzen family, he was always welcome as a passenger on the Molentary Express. Not for free, of course, because Mr. Beluga would never do anything that cost him money, but he appreciated their willingness to let him board at the last minute on their now more public trip to Folsense.
While he was there, Layton had both time to collect his thoughts and to talk to the friendly conductor, Sammy Thunder. The latter, however, didn't last very long, because although Sammy had not seen Emmy he was a little too interested in the idea of finding a pretty young lady in Folsense. The Professor didn't want him to get the wrong impression and quickly made his excuses to be in another part of the train.
Emmy was travelling to locations that he had apparently been to himself. He wasn't sure why, but he could only suppose that she was perhaps looking into the various crimes he'd solved. Nostalgia for the adventures she had shared with him herself, perhaps? Or maybe it was merely curiosity about what he had done next. Whatever the reason, to be in Folsense implied that she must have already past through St. Mystere. Flora hadn't mentioned anything about it to him, but then maybe none of the residents of her old home had thought to mention the woman in yellow when they'd written to her.
If she truly was following in his footsteps, then she would quite possibly end up at the ruins of Herzen Castle, now quite unoccupied, as its former residents, Anton and his butler Nigel, had moved in with Anton's granddaughter, Katia. It was, all in all, a rather uninteresting site, but Emmy had always enjoyed taking photos of ruins.
He made that his first call of order when he arrived, though it took a lot longer to cross the lakes in the summer, now that they were no longer frozen. Edging his way around them, Layton tried not to pay too much attention to the squelching marsh beneath his feet. A gentleman does not complain about a little mud, but a gentleman should also consider new shoes after this, if his current pair turns out to be unsalvageable.
When he reached the ruins his spirits were dampened slightly by the journey, but he tried to keep in high hopes as he looked around, occasionally calling out her name, in the hope she might her him.
About ten minutes went by with no luck. There wasn't very much ground to cover, so when Layton hadn't found her after this long, he concluded that she must not be here and reluctantly made his way back through the mud to the town.
He supposed that he'd have to ask around. Trying to hunt information out amongst locals was the life of Professor Layton, it would seem. Undoubtedly, he'd have to solve a few puzzles along the way.
Before his mind could get too lost in puzzles, however, he heard the distant call of a voice. It seemed to be drawing closer.
"Professor! Professor, do wait up!"
He turned to see a young lady running towards him, long, brown hair waving out behind her as she did. If he thought that his shoes were in a mess, it was nothing compared to the mud that caked Emmy's boots, trousers and most of the rest of her outfit. Underneath the dirt, was a face brimming with pure joy at having found him, and before he had a chance to react, she'd flung herself at him, embracing the Professor in a tight hug.
"Oh, Professor! I never expected to see you here!"
He patted her back, feeling both awkward at the sudden hug and relieved that he'd found her at the same time. It was an odd feeling.
She pulled back, looking up at him with a warm smile still in tact. The hug had covered his shirt with mud, but he didn't care at all.
"What are you doing all the way out here?" she asked.
"I was… well, looking for you…" admitted Layton.
"I'd have got to you if you'd waited at home, silly goose," Emmy scolded, "You know how I like to do my research. I wanted to be fully up to date with all of your adventures before we met again. No point being left behind."
"If you're here, then you're not far from being caught up," commented Layton.
Emmy took out her notebook and replied, "Yes, according to my notes, after this I'd be heading back to London, to see… um… the ruins of an underground city, I think. How bizarre."
"Y-yes. You… might want to miss that one out," muttered Layton. The memories of that particular adventure were still too painfully fresh in his mind.
"Why's that?" asked Emmy, never one to drop a point.
"I'll tell you when we get back somewhere warm," said Layton, "How did you get so mucky, Emmy?"
"Crossing the lakes. Same as you, I'd expect," she laughed, "The difference being that I wasn't afraid to get a little wet."
"You're not afraid of anything," Layton reminded. It was a trait of hers he'd found that he'd missed.
"There are a few things I'm scared of, but I don't like to dwell on stuff like that," said Emmy, shuddering, as the thought of spiders crossed her mind, "Shall we walk then?"
The two of them returned to the town, where it turned out Emmy was staying in the same hotel that Layton and Luke had stayed during their investigation. If the owner had any doubts about why the young lady was taking Hershel Layton to her room, he thankfully didn't voice them.
"Give me a moment to get changed into something cleaner," Emmy told Layton, as she headed through to the bathroom.
Layton rather wished that he could do the same, but in his haste had left London without a change of clothes. He made do with sitting on the sofa and trying his best not to get dirt on anything.
"So what were you looking for me for?" Emmy called from the bathroom.
"Because… Just because we hadn't seen each other for so long. I was wondering what had come of you," he replied, glancing over at the door, which was open ajar.
"It's nice to hear the great Professor Layton was worried about me," Emmy teased.
"I always worry about those I care about," Layton said, honestly.
There was a long pause in which nothing was said, and then Emmy leaned around the door. He caught a slight glimpse of her bra, before reddening and looking away.
"You're often pretty distracted," Emmy commented, her face serious.
"That doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you," debated Layton, staring at the floor.
Noting his discomforting, Emmy pulled on a jumper and walked over to him. Thankfully, her top half had been the only part that was uncovered, as she'd changed into some shorts; they clash with the baggy jumper in an oddly quite cute way. She sat on the sofa next to him, smiling as Layton looked up at her once more.
"It's very sweet of you to think of me," she said, "But before we get too sentimental, you promised me you'd tell me about your most recent adventure."
"You must understand that it isn't that there's not a lot to say about… that event. On the contrary, there is much that happened. But a lot of it is… rather personal…" mumbled Layton.
"Too personal to share with your assistant?" prompted Emmy.
"No, I suppose not. I just want you to understand that if I struggle at certain parts of the story it's because of its personal nature," confirmed Layton.
So he told her everything. All the little details that he'd kept from the media, because they had no right to know. He told her about the kidnapping of the Prime Minister, the underground London, the mad boy obsessed with revenge, how they'd stopped him and finally… about Claire. There was no way to have missed her out and it would have been insulting to have tried. That brave lady had sacrificed so much to save them.
"I had no idea…" Emmy whispered, as he finished.
"It wasn't that I ever meant to keep you in the dark," Layton assured her, "It's just… I couldn't tell anyone about Claire. Not even Luke or Flora knew before the incident. Though that was partly because I felt they were too young to be troubled with such a tale. The memories of my time with her were something I wanted to have to myself…"
"Professor, I'm so sorry…"
Emmy reached across to hug him for the second time that day. This hug was much gentler and filled with some much needed comfort. He realised that he must have looked rather close to crying and took a deep breath to settle himself. A gentleman should not make a scene in front of a lady.
"There's no need to be sorry," Layton said soothingly, remembering what Rosa had said to him a few days ago, "I had a second chance to say farewell to a wonderful person that not many ever do. Claire was a wonderful person who I'm glad to have known. Having her as part of my life and suffering this loss is a much better feeling than to have never witnessed her inner beauty at all."
"Who'd have thought that Professor Layton could have a romantic side?" Emmy tried to laugh, but Layton realised that she was actually crying. He instantly felt terrible for having brought tears to her eyes.
"Please, don't cry," he asked, pulling away from the hug to wipe her eyes.
"S-sorry," she choked, "It's just… you're full of surprises, that's all."
"I do try," he chuckled, "Though a sad story wasn't quite the surprise I'd wanted for the two of us meeting again for the first time in almost four years."
"Has it been that long? You do lose track of time when you're travelling!" Emmy gasped.
"Indeed it has, my dear. And in the tales of my own exploits I've completely neglected to ask you about your travels," he replied.
"There's not much to tell," Emmy said, wiping her own eyes now, "Actually, that's a lie. A lot did happen while I was away. Sometimes I seem to attract trouble almost as much as you do, Professor."
"We do make quite a pair in that regard," agreed Layton.
"Yes, we do. But… for all the adventures I had while I was away, none of them felt quite right. It just wasn't the same, fighting bad guys without genius Professor Layton and his eager young apprentice, Luke, by my side," Emmy told him, "So after all that time… soul searching, for lack of a better term, I realised that my soul was back at London with the two of you all along."
"As glad as I am to hear that you're coming back," Layton said, and he was, "I regret to inform you that Luke no longer lives in this country."
Emmy nodded; "I know that he moved to America. But that won't be forever. Luke is a London boy in and out. As soon as he's old enough to travel on his own I just know that he'll be back."
Layton found himself agreeing with her, though he wasn't here to talk about Luke just now.
"Um, assuming you are coming back permanently, where is it that you're planning to stay?" he questioned, to change the subject.
"My old place was sold, wasn't it? Oh well, I'm sure that I'll find somewhere," Emmy dismissed.
"You could stay with me, if you like," Layton blurted out.
She looked at him quizzically; "You can't have the space, Professor. I've heard that you've adopted a daughter now and I wouldn't want to put more stress upon you."
"It'd be no stress at all," he promised, "And besides, I did have an extra room that Luke used to use when he stayed with me. It's now quite empty and would welcome an occupant."
"You do have a funny way of putting things," Emmy giggled, "Very well then! I'll stay with you. But, for your sake, I hope it doesn't make people talk."
Layton's mind turned to Rosa and Granny Riddleton; "Oh, I'm sure people will talk. But talk is just that and not something that either a gentleman or a fine young lady such as yourself should concern ourselves with."
"If Rosa tries to spread any gossip I'll give her a few choice words," snapped Emmy, guessing his train of thought.
He really had missed Emmy.
"Try not to start any cat fights," he joked.
"When have you known me to ever start any fights, Professor?" demanded Emmy, with a wink.
Layton knew that it was best not to answer that question.
And so, the Professor popping out to ask for leave from work had resulted in him coming home with a woman following along behind him.
Rosa had prepared a whole speech about how late he was and was quite looking forward to telling him off, but when she saw who was following him all thoughts of that speech left her head. Her eyes widened in surprise. She looked quite comical to the two of them, as they walked towards the house.
"My word, no one can say that Professor Layton doesn't get the job done!" Rosa exclaimed, "I had a feeling you were heading out to find her, but I didn't expect to see you back the exact same day."
"Yes, thank you, Rosa. Now, Emmy and I are both quite tired-"
"Why are you tired? And covered in mud, for that matter? What have you been up to?"
"Well, I've been out exploring the ruins of a castle and the Professor had quite the trek to find me," Emmy answered, "Then it was a long train ride back to London and I wanted to stop in to see Grosky and Hannah on the way home."
"Who'd have thought that anyone could make a casserole quite that nice," Layton added.
"So you've already eaten?" snapped Rosa, "And just as I was about to turn on the oven! And what do you mean 'a casserole quite that nice'? I hope you aren't implying that this Hannah girl cooks better than I do!"
"We'd never say that, Rosa," Emmy soothed, "In fact, if you're putting on the oven anyway, I'm sure we can make room for some more."
"We can?" asked Layton, who wasn't sure he could.
"Of course we can!" confirmed Emmy, "I really missed Rosa's home cooking while I was away. Nothing quite matches it."
"I'm glad that someone appreciates it," said Rosa, shooting Layton a glare before disappearing into the kitchen.
Layton had forgotten about Emmy's appetite, one that was matched only by her partner in crime, Luke. And while he personally struggled to eat a second dinner, it made him happy to see Emmy cheerfully scoff down helpings of chicken pie with chips and gravy. Although it was something a gentleman would never say, he secretly wondered how Emmy kept her figure as perfect as it was, given the amount she usually ate.
At the end of the evening, he showed her up to her room and then left her to get settled.
He'd almost made it back to his study before being cornered by Rosa.
"So, she's staying here?" Rosa started.
"Can we talk about this in the morning? I'm a little drained after the long day we've had," Layton tried.
Shaking her head, Rosa hummed, "All right then. Though I don't think there's much to talk about. You've got a girl living with you and that's that."
"Emmy will not be happy with you if you start spreading rumours," he warned.
"'Spreading rumours', he says. When have I ever spread any rumours?" she challenged. Layton just assumed that was one of those questions it was best not to answer. "Well, whatever your reasons, I think this is a step in the right direction for you."
"Must you always insist that everything's about romance?" demanded Layton.
"Why else would you go looking for her?"
"Because I missed her."
"My point exactly."
"You can miss someone without being in love with them!"
"Maybe so, but if you miss someone then it means you love them. Whether or not you're in love with them is a different matter entirely, but you definitely love them."
Sometimes, for all her babble, Rosa could say things that were quite profound and left him stumped for a comeback. This was one of those times.
He allowed her to win this argument, simply bidding her goodnight, before heading off to his own bed.
As the morning drew around, he found himself awakened by the smell of bacon from the kitchen. As she trudged down, Layton turned out to be the last one awake that morning, which was rather unusual for him. Emmy and Flora were already sat around the table, while Rosa was occupied with frying.
"Professor, come look at this!" Flora called, "She's already gone through four slices of bacon, three eggs, some fried bread and even that black pudding stuff. It's just like having Luke back!"
"A young lady does not comment on the eating habits of others, Flora," Layton chuckled taking a seat.
"All the same, it's nice to see you've met Emmy."
"Oh yes! She's really amazing, Professor. Why didn't you tell me more about how brilliant she is in your stories? She fights crime and solves mysteries and I want to be just like her when I grow up," Flora reeled off, face misting over with admiration.
"It's… always nice to have aspirations," agreed Layton, hoping that Flora wasn't planning on throwing herself too quickly into her newest ambition, "And how are you, Emmy?"
"Right as rain," chimed Emmy, "I may not be the best at mornings, but there's nothing like a good cup of tea to wake you up, wouldn't you say?"
"I couldn't agree more," replied Layton, reaching over to grab the tea pot himself.
"You're all going to need the energy today," Rosa added, bringing a plate of toast across to the table.
"Why's that?" asked Layton.
"Well…" started Rosa, and it was a loaded 'well', "I might have saw Dean Delmona on my way home last night and mentioned to him that Emmy was back. Which would have been fine, but Dr. Schrader was with him and you know how much of a gossip Schrader can be. From what I've gathered, he told Elizabeth and her granddaughter, Puzzlette, who then told that little chap Barton, who was passing by looking for help with a puzzle. Barton told Inspector Chelmey, who told Grosky, seeing as they all work together. And, of course, Grosky went home and told his girl. Apparently Hannah and that Rosetta from your class know each other from somewhere, because Hannah past on the news to Rosetta, who I can tell you is not happy about it, but that's life for you."
"You… found out about all this before breakfast?" Layton gaped.
"Do you want to know how?" asked Rosa, smirking.
"No, it's quite all right!" shot Layton, knowing that would probably end with another long chain of who had been talking to whom about what.
"If you're sure. Just don't be surprised if you get a lot of visitors, that's all. Everyone wants to see your guest, whether they know her or not," warned Rosa.
It took a lot of effort for Layton not to sigh towards finding this out.
"Thank you for preparing me, Rosa," concluded Layton. Not thanking her for having caused the problem in the first place.
"You're welcome. Now eat your breakfast before it gets cold," Rosa instructed.
Sure enough, when breakfast was over, Layton found himself bombarded with guests. He was happy enough to see the people who had known Emmy dropping by to greet her back into the community, as he wanted her to feel welcomed here, but he couldn't stop himself from being vaguely annoyed by the gossip-mongers, who just wanted to get a glance at the pretty young lady who had moved in with him. Rosetta in particular must have asked Emmy about fifty questions, still concluded she was a threat to her chances with Layton after the interrogation, and was only talked into leaving by Layton threatening to cancel their private lessons – since she was clearly far enough ahead in her studies to take time off to come visit.
Secretly, he was a little disappointed not to have an excuse to drop those private study lessons when she did come to leave.
By the end of the afternoon he was thoroughly exhausted from having to entertain so many guests. While Emmy, on the other hand, seemed rather chipper.
"It must be nice for you to see so many old friends," Layton commented, as he slouched into his armchair.
"Just as nice as it is to meet all these new ones you've made in the past few years. You do attract some rather interesting people, Professor. And that Rosetta girl seems awfully fond of you," Emmy laughed.
"I'd rather not talk about Rosetta…" groaned Layton.
"Come now, that's hardly how a gentleman talks about a lady," she replied.
Defending himself, Layton retorted, "That lady has spent the past year trying to seduce me into doing a lot of not very gentlemanly things under the guise of needing private study, I'll have you know. If I were a lesser man then I'd end up scared of walking around the university on my own."
"You never did like the direct approach, did you?" hummed Emmy. She had to admit that when she first met Layton she may have been a bit less than subtle with her flirty remarks. But she had sharply learned that he was oblivious to such things and had ceased this behaviour.
"It's not direct that bothers me, Emmy. If Claire hadn't been direct than I doubt we'd have ended up in a relationship at all. I just… don't feel comfortable around women who make it obvious that they want to have their way with you," Layton tried to explain.
"That's one way to put it," said Emmy, "Out of curiosity, what would a lady have to do to get your attention?"
For a moment, Layton hesitated, wondering why Emmy would ask such a question, but then he decided to go for the honest answer, "I really don't know. I've never seriously considered another relationship after Claire. It's… it's only quite recently that I've even decided to finally let go…"
"And it would be wrong of you to rush into something else so soon," Emmy added, quickly.
"Rosa doesn't seem to think so," Layton chuckled, "She thinks that I've left it too long already and that if I leave it much longer than I'll be too old."
"Professor, you're not that old!" Emmy scolded, "And any woman who matters would love you however old you got."
"That is a comforting thought," Layton mumbled, awkwardly.
"If you don't want to talk about this, than we can stop…" said Emmy. She'd only just recently learned of Claire at all, but she knew that this was definitely a subject Layton wouldn't want to dwell on.
"Don't worry about it. If I ever was going to talk about things like this, you're the one person who I could feel comfortable discussing it with," he admitted.
"I'm… flattered to hear that," replied Emmy, "It really is a great honour to know you trust me that much."
"And why wouldn't I? You've been one of my closest friends for a number of years now," Layton concluded.
Friend. Yes, that's me, Emmy thought. Always happy to be there for you, because of course I care for you, but all the same I just wish you'd… see things different. Always the bridesmaid. That's Emmy Altava…
"Is something the matter, my dear?"
Layton was looking quite concerned.
"It's nothing. I better go finish unpacking. It's been a long day and I haven't really had a chance to get settled yet," she said, excusing herself and heading off upstairs.
Layton stared after her. He could have sworn that Rosa said she'd already unpacked Emmy's suitcase for her… Curious.
"I don't think you understand women."
"That's… very nice of you to say, Inspector."
It was a few days later, and Layton had found himself once again in the company of Grosky. Despite the fact that, prior to her leaving, Emmy had seemed to find Hannah to be slightly annoying, the two girls were now spending more time together, talking about wedding-related topics, and because of that, Layton was finding himself left talking to Grosky more often.
Not that he'd particularly avoided spending time with Grosky in the past, but he had mostly known the man through them mutually solving cases together and not really through just socialising. He was a nice chap, albeit overbearing, but sometimes you can see enough of someone.
Especially since Grosky had the mentality of 'let's let the women talk while we go off somewhere and talk about manly things'. Not only did Layton quietly think this was somewhat sexist, but there was a limit to his ability to talk about 'manly things' that Grosky was stretching.
This had, in a roundabout way, led them to their current conversation.
"A woman is not going to make the first move, Layton," Grosky continued, as if it was his job to instruct him on such matters.
"I rather think that in your case Hannah was making a lot of first moves," commented Layton. He'd usually let remarks like that slide, but he couldn't stop himself from pointing that out.
Though he was momentarily thrown, Grosky soon recovered; "Hannah and I had a different situation. You see, I am an upstanding specimen of a man and she rightfully recognised that straight away. It just took me a while to notice it… But what I'm saying is that not all ladies are as insistent as Hannah. Though she may want you now, there are probably twenty men who are manlier than you around the corner and if you don't snatch her up now than one of them will."
"I really don't like the implication that I should force someone to belong to me," muttered Layton, "And I must admit that you're getting at a point that doesn't exist. There isn't anyone who's after me in that manner."
"You… you really are a lost cause…" gaped Grosky, his eyes widening, "Thank goodness you came to me! If you can't even see when a woman likes you, my friend, then you need all the help you can get!"
"Inspector, if you are referring to those rumours about Emmy and myself, then I'm quite disappointed a fine mind like yours would believe a word of it," Layton replied.
"Rumours? You think I'm the sort to sit around listening to idle gossip? No! This has nothing to do with what they're saying around the water cooler, Layton! This is about you barging into my office a few days ago, trying to track down someone you obviously care very much about," confirmed Grosky.
"And I do care about her. Just not in the way you all seem to want to think that I do," Layton argued.
"Then that'd be a crying shame for her," muttered Grosky. The man could mutter very loudly.
"What do you mean?" pressed Layton.
"Do I really have to spell it out for the man who's seen as one of the brightest people in Britain? She likes you, a lot. Hannah tells me that you're all she ever talks about. My word, she couldn't make it any more obvious if she tried! And yet still you overlook her," proclaimed Grosky.
There was silence for almost a full minute, as Layton took this in.
"She… no, she doesn't…"
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because if she did then she wouldn't have left for four years."
"Are you still dwelling on that?" Grosky threw his arms in the arm dramatically, "It was four years that followed three years of her tailing you and getting no where. She needed time to get away and sort out what she wanted in her life. And what she wants is you! You'd think that would be clear enough from her trying to find out everything about your recent adventures so that she wouldn't trip up when talking to you after she got back."
"Emmy could never trip up in conversation with me," Layton firmly replied.
"Well, you've tripped up with her many times, I'm sorry to say. There's only so much rejection one person can take before they move on, Layton," advised Grosky.
"Yes, well, thank you for letting me know," murmured Layton.
As much as he didn't like to admit it, his conversation with Grosky had made him think about the situation. He'd always assumed that it would have been too forward to presume that Emmy liked him in that way unless she said so first. It was within the code of a gentleman to respect a lady and rushing to conclusions was not part of who Layton felt he was at all.
But at the same time, perhaps Emmy also felt it would be too forward to assume he liked her. For all he knew, they were two otherwise confident people who were both dancing around a flame of not knowing how they felt about each other and how they should approach feeling about each other.
The most sensible course of action would be to talk about it with her, but if Grosky was wrong (and the rest of the world along with him) then it would make him look like a fool and potentially put a strain on their friendship.
Losing Emmy was the last thing Layton wanted.
Which was what had made him go searching for her in the first place – because he couldn't stand being without one more person who he loved.
Claire was gone forever and Luke's situation was outside of his control, but Emmy was one person who he could track down and ask to be part of his life again. Only he hadn't had to ask, because apparently that was what Emmy wanted anyway.
He didn't doubt that he loved Emmy, but the question now was in what way?
Frustratingly, he didn't have anyone he could talk to about this. Rosa probably came the closest, but then he'd have to put up with her air of 'I told you so' and he wasn't prepared for that just yet.
So he made do with thinking it through in his head over and over again without drawing any real conclusion.
Until, a few weeks later, someone else decided to make the first move.
"Professor, we really need to talk."
Emmy had cornered him on the way back from his annual Tuesday visit to the prison, since he always felt obliged to go to see Clive, as well as occasionally Dimitri and Oswald Whistler. He knew a lot of people who'd been arrested.
It was a private time that he was usually left alone to get on with, and for just that reason it was the perfect time to catch him on his own.
"Um, of course, my dear. You're free to talk to me whenever you like," he said, taken aback by her sudden appearance outside the prison, "But if it's all the same, could we find somewhere more appropriate for a chat? It would be rude to block the entrance for the other visitors."
"Very well, there's a bench over here," replied Emmy, leading them both to a small seat at the edge of the car park. Some pigeons cooed hopefully as they got there, but soon lost interest when they realised that neither person had any bread for them.
Waiting for her to take a seat before sitting himself down, Layton asked, "So, what is this about that's so urgent."
"I wouldn't call it urgent," admitted Emmy, "It's just… I couldn't sit by and wait anymore. Professor, you can't not have heard the talk. And I'm not one to listen to gossip, but you've been acting strangely since I got back and with everyone constantly asking me about us, I-"
He held up a hand.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, really I am, but I must be honest with you. The reason I've been acting strangely is because I'm just not sure how to act around you anymore," he confessed.
"That's silly. We've known each other long enough that you should be comfortable enough to act how you want around me," Emmy insisted.
"Perhaps, although we have known each other for a long while, in all that time I haven't really gotten to know you as well as I should have done," sighed Layton.
"There are no secrets between us," Emmy told him, sternly, "You know all there is to know about me."
"But do I? Because Inspector Grosky's partner seems to think that I don't," Layton said.
"What's Hannah been say?" demanded Emmy.
"Nothing to me. But Grosky certainly seemed to think that… well… there might be some truth to the rumours," said Layton, backing up a little from her sudden anger.
Emmy composed herself, before replying, "I'm sorry, Professor. It was… wrong of him to have mentioned anything that Hannah and I might have been talking about, but then she shouldn't have told him anything either. They're as bad as each other, those two. But regardless, that… that doesn't change that they did tell you…"
"I wouldn't believe it unless it came from your lips," he promised.
"And if it did? What would you do if I told you that I actually found you attractive, Professor?" Emmy asked, looking forlorn.
He mumbled, "I would be glad that it wasn't just me feeling the same way about you…"
"Wh-what do you mean by that?"
Her mouth was hanging open in the way it often did when she was surprised. Some people thought it looked funny, but Layton had always found that her sincere expressions were quite cute.
"I mean that, well… I'm not sure exactly how I feel about you, if I'm honest. But you're the only woman who I could even see myself in a relationship with and perhaps part of the reason I'd always blocked out that option was because I assumed you wouldn't be interested," Layton confessed.
"And here I thought you didn't make baseless assumptions," teased Emmy, she was smiling now.
"W-well… what did I have to base an assumption on?" He regretted that question the moment it came out of his mouth.
"Hannah was right!" Emmy laughed, making Layton feel a pang of annoyance that the two of them had been talking about him, "You might notice everything that goes on in your surroundings when it comes to solving a mystery, but when it comes to other people you're just hopeless."
"That's… not a very nice thing to say…" he muttered.
This only caused Emmy to fall into a fresh fit of laughter, "You're pouting! That… looks really cute on you!"
"I most certainly am not!"
He sharply tried to remove every trace of pout from his face, while Emmy settled herself down from her fit of giggles.
"I'm sorry…" she gasped, still catching her breath.
"It's quite all right. Though I must admit that I hadn't pictured this conversation would involve you dying of laughter," replied Layton.
"You've picture this conversation?" Emmy questioned.
Great, he'd really dropped himself in it now…
"Um, I-I must admit that ever since my conversation with Grosky I've been on edge about talking to you. He implied that if I didn't act soon that I might lose you for good. And yet, if he was wrong I would look like quite the fool to you. It was hard to know what to do. So I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to approach this all," answered Layton.
Shaking her head, Emmy commented, "And still I ended up being the one to bring it up. Perhaps it was wrong of me to assume you'd make the first move."
Claire hadn't waited for that either.
"I'm not good at this, I know that, but… if you want to try…" he mumbled.
"What are you saying?"
Be confident in your speech, that's what a gentleman does, not skulk and mutter, he told himself.
Drawing himself up where he sat, Layton said with as much confidence as he could manage, "Emmy, if you don't mind putting up with how hopeless I can be, I'd like very much for us to consider a… a relationship."
She was on the verge of giggling again. Was that a good sign?
"You're so formal, Professor. Very well then, if you'd like it, then I definitely would as well," she replied.
"You would? G-good. Um, good. Well… what happens next?" he said, confidence deflating a little, though that was partly due to relief.
Resisting the urge to comment on how hopeless he was once again, Emmy told him, "Mostly, we just go back to the way we were, but with more… of the sorts of things couples do. And I hope you can go back to feeling more comfortable around me, now that this is out in the open."
"It might take a while for me to get settled," he admitted, "But… well, Claire and I always got along well enough."
"I'd never try to compare to her," Emmy said quickly, she wanted to get that out in the open as soon as she could, "But hopefully, I can maybe give you something different in our relationship. N-not bad different! And I'm certainly not implying that I could be better than her either-"
"Shh, my dear. I know what you meant. The two of you are both very different people, while at the same time being two of the most unique and amazing individuals that I've ever met. I'd never expect our relationship to be similar to the one that I had with Claire, but that doesn't mean we can't also have something special between us," he said. Honesty was the best approach, he found.
"Thank you," Emmy replied. He could see the weight being lifted off her shoulders in the same way it had from his; "And I'll try to take things slow, for you." She winked.
He felt himself turn red.
"Y-you don't have to do that…" mumbled Layton.
"Oh, I feel that I certainly do. It took you this long just to notice that I like you, so I can only imagine that it'll take you a while to adjust to a relationship," she said.
"Emmy, I'm not a child," huffed Layton, "I can handle… kissing and cuddling a-and… anything else you might have planned just as well as the next man."
"I expect better than the next man from Hershel Layton."
She reached over and kissed his cheek, leaving him blinking in confusion.
"Come on, let's hurry back home before Rosa starts a new rumour," Emmy cut-in, tugging him up from the bench.
"What rumour could she start now that isn't true?" he queried.
"Nothing that we can't set her on the right track about," confirmed Emmy.
"But if Rosa knows then so does everyone else."
"And… w-we better just make sure she gets everything right."
"Even if she does, I'm sure people will make up their own stories. That's how gossip works," Emmy cheerfully concluded.
"Quite," agreed Layton, who felt that he would never come to understand gossip.
As they walked home, Emmy slumped against his side. For a moment he hesitated, but then he put his arm around her. This felt… comfortable. It was right. He knew it was right. And he was glad that he'd realised that before it was too late.
He and Emmy could make it work, he knew that.
Unbeknownst to the two of them, Granny Riddleton saw them walking home together on her way back from picking up the groceries.
Suddenly, she had some interesting news to tell Amelie at the next coffee morning…