Notes: Written as a request for The Mocking J, who wanted a fic where Layton confronts Bill Hawks in the part he played in what happened to Claire. I don't usually take requests, but the concept intrigued me so much that I couldn't pass it up. Layton confronting someone is such an interesting subject that I feel can be handled in so many different ways, so this is just the one way that I've chosen to portray it in this particular fic. Set post-PL3, with heavy spoilers for that game.
The Professor felt a good deal of discomfort by attending this event. It was a social gathering to celebrate the Prime Minister being returned safely after the events of his kidnapping. If it had been down to him, he wouldn't have been here at all, but one couldn't refuse an invitation from the Prime Minister himself without causing more trouble than it was worth.
Even when that Prime Minister was Bill Hawks.
So far, he'd done a good job of hanging around the edges of the hall that this celebration was taking place in, picking the odd bit of cheese-on-a-stick from one of the many buffet tables provided. He didn't know any of the people there save for Bill and his wife, as the others were all high-up political figures and has-been celebrities. He was sure they were important enough for him to want to avoid offending, so staying out of the way seemed like the best option.
It was unavoidable that the whole evening would go without incident, however.
"There you are!" called a female voice. Layton turned to see Bill's wife, Caroline, rushing towards him; "So you're the man who saved my dear Bill from that awful death trap. I'm glad to have the opportunity to thank you."
"You're more than welcome, madam," Layton mumbled awkwardly.
"Don't be so rude, Bill! Do come over and talk to the man who saved your life," Caroline hissed, looking away from Layton and into the crowd.
Reluctantly, Bill excused himself from the people he was talking to and shuffled over. There was a definite air that neither he nor Layton wanted to talk to each other that Caroline forcibly ignored.
"Prime Minister," Layton greeted tipping his hat, "Thank you so much for your invitation."
"It was Caroline's idea," Bill muttered.
"Yes, it was. And thank you for coming. We weren't sure if you'd have time, what with the busy life that someone like yourself must lead," said Caroline. From the look on Bill's face he'd been more than hoping that Layton wouldn't come.
"I could never refuse an invitation from the Prime Minister or his charming wife. That would not be what a gentleman does," assured Layton.
In truth, his schedule wasn't quite as busy these days as Caroline had made it out to be. Since Luke had left, he'd been reluctant to take on solving any new mysteries, instead opting to keep up with his work at the university and trying to be a more present father-figure in Flora's life.
"We're very glad to hear that," Caroline replied, "Now, I'll let you two talk while I catch up with a few friends."
She disappeared into the crowd. Layton half expected Bill to just leave, but apparently he was nervous enough of his wife to stay put when she told him to.
"She was very bored at that farce Dimitri set up. And I did cause her a lot of worry. I owe this to her," he murmured.
"That's… very noble of you," replied Layton. He never expected the Prime Minister to think of anyone other than himself, from what he'd seen and heard about the incident.
There was a lengthy silence.
"I suppose you don't want to be here," Bill said, after about a minute.
"As I said, I cannot ignore a summons from the Prime Minister," repeated Layton, "But I do feel that I'm probably a bit out of place amongst your other guests."
"You're a hero who saved London," argued Bill, "Whether you think you are or not, you're at least twice as famous as most of the people here."
"Fame is not important to me," insisted Layton.
"Isn't fame what everyone wants? The good kind of fame, I mean," Bill argued. He himself had sold his life away to gain the ultimate seat of power, bargaining and betraying as many as could be slipped under the rug until he'd reached the top.
Layton answered, "What I want is to spend a peaceful life with my loved ones."
Those two final words echoed between them. It was clear that Layton was thinly veiling who he was talking about and, because of Bill, he would now never be able to spend his life with that person.
"You don't need to beat around the bush, Layton. If you want to say something to me then say it," confronted Bill.
But what could he say?
Had he been a lesser man he would have accused Bill of murdering Claire the moment he'd gotten a shred of evidence towards it, but life wasn't that simple. The situation was not so black and white.
"I just want to know the truth," he opted for.
Bill snorted; "Given your nature I doubt that you'll take anything anyone says as the truth unless all the evidence points towards it being so. But I'll give you my side of the story. Whether you choose to believe it or not if your business."
"That's all I ask for," Layton assured him.
"Very well," replied Bill. He looked around. Surely it wouldn't be good for the Prime Minister to be heard discussing the death of a young woman, no matter how long ago it had occurred. That's how rumours get started. So he walked away from the buffet table, Layton following him until they were both stood in the doorway to one of the private corridors that guests weren't allowed to access. They were more inside than out, so any passersby seemed to read into that he didn't want to be disturbed and steered away. Then he continued, "I know that you probably see me as a cruel individual who murdered her."
"Murder is a strong word, Prime Minister," corrected Layton, "I'm sure that you didn't perform that experiment with the intent of anyone being killed."
"That's exactly it. You see, we knew the risks when we did it. Dimitri was concerned about every little detail, he wanted the machine to be perfect before we threw so much as a feather into the future, but we had to get on. I grew impatient. And so did Claire," said Bill, watching Layton's face break into a look of mild surprise, "What? You didn't think that I dragged her into the time machine kicking and screaming, did you?"
"Of course not," mumbled Layton.
That would have been too easy. It was tempting to fall into the trap of assuming that everything that had happened had been down to this man, but realistically this couldn't have been the case.
"So yeah, Claire was eager to get on and we were both sick of waiting for Dimitri. We went ahead with the experiment regardless, she volunteered to be the one to go inside the machine and you know the rest," Bill went on. He didn't add that he hadn't argued too much when she'd brought it up. Or that he'd pretended to be unconscious when Dimitri had rushed in to find them after the explosion. That was something only he needed to know.
"Indeed I do," confirmed Layton, "Although you did try to stop me from finding out any further information quite forcibly."
Which was a mild way to put the months he'd had to spend in hospital as a young man, after being beaten up by men he couldn't even remember for looking into deeply into the case surrounding Claire's murder.
"Do you have a scrap of evidence that I sent them after you?" Bill enquired.
"You know that I don't," answered Layton.
"Well, there you go then. You of all people should know that you shouldn't point your finger if you can't back up your claimed. There was… a lot happening at that time. It was very messy. I was just trying to sort things out to go as smoothly as possible," argued Bill.
And brush as much evidence connected to you under the rug as you possibly could, Layton thought. Not that he would ever say such things out loud.
"I'm sure that the whole incident has wrapped up in the best way it could now that it's received proper closure. Thank you for your words, Prime Minister. I'll allow you to get back to your other guests now," concluded Layton.
But Bill wasn't ready to finish just yet; "You can't seriously side with a criminal, Layton."
"It would be impossible to think that what Clive had done was correct," agreed Layton, "He was clearly not of sound mind and to protect the lives of many he needed to be stopped. But at the same time, if you had been upfront about what had happened-"
"It wouldn't have changed anything," snarled Bill, "He would have still come after me even if I'd spent every day of my life apologising for what happened. What can you say about a boy who believes that the solution to the death of his parents is to wipe out all of London? I never suspected that an orphaned child would have gone so far."
"And what if you had suspected?" Layton checked. Would he have sent people after Clive in the same way he had done Layton?
"I would have kept a closer eye on him," Bill replied, carefully; "But it's all over now. We can't change what is done."
"We cannot," agreed Layton.
He felt that he would have spent the rest of his life with Claire if he'd been given the chance to, but he was not the sort of person who believed that history should be changed. What had happened was tragic and would haunt the back of his mind for as long as he lived, but he'd had a chance to see Claire one final time that no one else in the world that had lost a loved one had ever been given. In a cruel way, if she hadn't stepped into that time machine he both never would have lost her and never would have been given the chance to say goodbye to her ten years later.
"Is that all?" Bill said, cutting into his thoughts.
It probably wasn't, but it was all that Layton could think to ask for at this moment in time.
"Yes, thank you for answering my questions," he replied.
"Yeah, well, thanks for listening to my answers," mumbled Bill.
Thanks for not going off on a rampage and trying to destroy London because your loved one dying was technically my fault, he added in his mind.
"I like to hear what everyone has to say before coming to a conclusion," Layton said.
"You go to the prison a lot," Bill put forward.
"That is because I feel… that it is my duty to be the person he can lean on," he reasoned, "The man has no one," a feeling that Layton himself could relate to for a long time after Claire's death, "My time spent there does not mean I think he was in the right. He himself no longer believes that he was. But no one deserves to be abandoned by everyone and if being the one person there for him is the only way I can fix the damage, then that is what I will do."
"You're very noble," dismissed Bill.
"I am human, Prime Minister," Layton answered.
"And so am I," Bill confirmed.
The world would do well to remember that.
There was nothing more that needed to be said after this. Thankfully for them both, Caroline chose that moment to wave Bill away, so that he could talk to a French ambassador who Layton was unfamiliar with. Blissfully unaware of the conversation that had gone on between them; Caroline gave Layton a warm smile before returning to the conversation she'd been having. She didn't seem so bad, really. She was… human. Just like they were. And humans were not creatures who could be categorised as good or evil so easily. Everyone had a bit of both.
Even Bill Hawks.
For the moment, Layton decided that this was the best place to end his deductions on. He'd go throughout the rest of the night as if nothing had happened, before returning home to Flora. Because even with all that he had lost, Flora was a part of his family who was still here and it was his duty to care for her. When he could help it, Layton would never let another person down. While he didn't think that made him a person who was wholly good, it at least assured him that he could try as hard as he could to do the right thing with the time that he had on this world. He'd live his life to the best he could be, like he felt that Claire would have wanted him to do.
This was all he could strive for.