Luke was on his way home from another amazing adventure with the Professor. Luke loved being part of everything, of course, but sometimes he felt scared of the dangerous things that could happen. He knew he couldn't show it to the Professor because he would send him back and he would have to fight alone. He pretended to be fearless because of his steadfast loyalty to Professor Layton and he couldn't bear the thought of leaving him alone.
"We're almost at Misthallery, Luke." The calm voice of the Professor brought Luke out of his thoughts and he began to panic a little.
He didn't really want to go home. He was scared of having nightmares again. Of course, his parents tried to comfort him but they didn't truly understand what it was like to be in the situations the two of them had been in. Only the Professor could calm him down when the nightmares turned horrible.
"Are you alright, my boy? Is something troubling you?" Layton said, glancing at Luke who was in the passenger seat next to him.
"No... I'm fine, Professor."
"Are you sure? Do you want to talk about it?"
"Everything's fine, Professor. Really."
"Alright." It sounded as if Layton didn't believe him but he didn't push Luke to say any more.
Luke felt awful, lying to the Professor like that. He just didn't want him to worry or think that he was too weak to be his apprentice. A part of him knew the Professor would never think that. He could never say that to someone but a part of Luke wondered if he ever thought that about him.
Despite all his efforts to keep a neutral expression, tears began to trickle down his face. He quickly turned his face away from Layton and looked out of the window, hoping he didn't see. He gave a small sniffle and he heard the Professor again.
"Luke. You can tell me if something is bothering you."
Luke was making a huge effort to keep his mouth shut. He mustn't act weak in front of the Professor. What would he think of him? Would he just dismiss him like he did to Flora all those times? What would his parents say when he told them he couldn't go on adventures anymore? What if he never saw the Professor again?
He couldn't hold it in any longer. He burst into tears and Hershel almost gasped. He quickly pulled up to the side of the road and reached across to Luke. He tentatively touched his shoulder while Luke was sobbing into his hands.
"Luke! What's happened? Was this week too much for you? Do you need to take a break?"
Luke heard the exact words he didn't want to hear. He frantically tried to leave the car. He wasn't in his right mind so he couldn't undo his seatbelt which made him angry. He let out a frustrated scream and cried harder.
"Luke... You need to calm down for a moment. You need to tell me what's wrong."
When Luke didn't reply, the Professor decided to stay silent to let Luke calm down. He began to rub Luke's back which seemed to help. Luke took a few deep breaths and finally looked up at the Professor. His eyes were bloodshot and dried tears marked his cheeks. Layton found a clean handkerchief and gave it to Luke.
He gave a quiet chuckle. "Thanks, Professor."
The Professor was anxious to say anything that might upset Luke so he waited for him to speak, which he did. "I'm sorry, Professor. I've just got a lot on my mind."
"It's quite alright, my boy. I think it is easy for thoughts to overwhelm us. Especially when we are out on all these hair-raising adventures, wouldn't you say?" Layton winked and Luke laughed again. He was relieved to see that the boy was returning to his old self.
"That's very true. That's what I was worried about. I- I know I say I don't get scared when we go on adventures together but I do. I'm very scared sometimes but I'm also scared that you won't let me go on adventures with you anymore if you found out. I'd be just like Flora. We always leave her behind and I'm worried that I'll become like another Flora to you."
Layton sighed. That certainly is a lot for a boy as young as Luke to be thinking about. No wonder he was so upset. A feeling of guilt rose up within him. Was he pushing Luke too hard? Sometimes he forgot that Luke was only young. He sees so much of himself in him.
"My boy..." He began, not quite sure where he was going with this. "You are allowed to be scared in these situations. It would be inhuman if you were not. Even I get scared. Quite often, in fact. I would say that everyone we meet on our adventures has felt scared but that doesn't mean I will send you home. Of course, if it is too dangerous for you, I would. I confess, however, there have been times where I have let you go into perilous situations and I shouldn't have."
"That's my fault, Professor," Luke spoke up. "I told you I would be fine and that I wasn't scared because I wanted to impress you and I didn't want you to worry."
"That's very admirable of you, Luke," Hershel smiled. "However, you should always be honest about your feelings even if you are scared of admitting them. I have learnt that the hard way, unfortunately. As for Flora, I leave her behind because I care about her. She had a sheltered life in St Mystere and I believe she wouldn't cope well with danger if she came with us. I know she doesn't see it that way and each time, I feel like I do not explain my reasons well enough for her to understand but I do hope she knows that I care for her."
There was silence when Hershel grew emotional. He felt guilt for Luke and Flora, both for different reasons. He doesn't want Luke to think that he doesn't care for him.
"Professor?" Luke asked timidly.
"I'm alright, Luke." Layton hastily wiped a tear from his face. "Do you know I care about you?"
"Of course!" Luke sat up quickly. "Of course I know that! Why wouldn't I?"
"Well, I'm glad to hear that, my boy. If I asked you if you wanted to take a break from solving mysteries with me, would that be alright?"
Luke took some time to think about this. He would dearly miss his adventures with the Professor but he also knew that he needed some time to himself, to relax and not have to think about spectres or towns full of robots. "That would be okay. But... um, Professor?"
"Could I stay over with you tonight? I'm worried I'll get nightmares."
"Of course, Luke. I'll be doing work tonight so is it okay if we go to the university?"
"Yes," Luke nodded. "Professor, do you ever stay the night at your own house?"
Hershel chuckled, slightly embarrassed. "Not very often but on the off chance I have spare time, I will go back to my apartment."
Luke nodded, feeling slightly sad that the Professor barely got any time to himself. He hoped he wasn't encroaching on his time.
"Am I being a nuisance staying? I don't want to get in the way of time for yourself."
"Oh, nonsense, Luke. It's perfectly alright. It can sometimes get lonely by myself in my office so it would be nice for you to stay over. You can keep me company."
Luke smiled, happy that Layton actually wanted him there. "Okay, Professor."
Hershel turned the car around and the two of them made their way back to London. It was quite a drive but neither of them minded. It had gotten dark since Hershel had stopped the car so Luke managed to fall asleep and Layton was beginning to feel sleepy himself.
They finally arrived at Gressenheller and Layton had to lift Luke out of the car and into the university and up the stairs to his office. He smiled to colleagues he passed in the corridors. Some of them, like the Professor, were night owls and preferred to work after sunset. He explained about the sleeping boy to them in a low voice and they all smiled sympathetically. Hershel imagined Luke's outburst in the car had tired him out.
After some precarious balancing of Luke, who miraculously didn't wake up during any of this, and fumbling for his keys, Hershel let himself into his office and lay Luke down on the sofa. He planned that he would make a cup of tea, make some headway on his teaching duties which he had been neglecting for some time, and try to get some sleep in his chair. Not the most comfortable of places, he could imagine, but he's slept in worse conditions and one night wouldn't do much harm. As long as Luke feels safe.
He looked down at Luke, still fast asleep. He smiled and knelt down beside him. He took off Luke's cap and placed it on the table. Hershel then proceeded to take off his coat and drape it over him, hoping that it would keep him warm. He hoped the Tritons wouldn't worry that Luke hadn't made it home tonight. He would make sure to remember to call them and let them know as soon as possible. He just would worry about waking Luke up with his talking. But seeing how deep asleep he was, Hershel didn't feel like he needed to worry too much.
"Sweet dreams, my boy," Layton mumbled, brushing a piece of hair from Luke's forehead.
He stood up, stretched and prepared himself for another late night of working and went to make himself a lovely cup of tea.