WHEN IN DOUBT, ANGSTY ROBOTS.
Upon rereading, this feels really rushed, like I could have spent more time dragging out the suffering. But nyeh, I want to focus on werewolves this weekend. That bit with the dashes is supposed to be a strikethrough, but for reasons unknown to man it won't stick through a save.
Disclaimer: Don't own Professor Layton
Hershel, I have a confession to make. I have done something horrifying, and put you in a terrible position, one you may not even be aware of yet. I have no doubt that you would have figured it out sooner or later. If you have, then you know to which I am referring, but if you haven't, then I lay bare my actions before you so I may apologize for what I have done. I daren't ask forgiveness. I was not in my right mind, but that is no excuse.
I have been sitting here staring at this piece of paper, wondering where to start. So much has happened, Hershel. I did not have the courage to do what was necessary before and now I find I barely have the courage to take the coward's way out.
-Brenda-d- -Luke-is- -I'm-sorry- By the time you read this, I will be dead. As hard as I am finding it to write this letter, I refuse to allow myself to leave this world without confessing my sins. I cannot live with what I have done, but I cannot leave knowing that I haven't sent you this letter.
The door opened silently. No light spilled from the dark hallway. The room was lit only by the glow of the moon and the streetlight outside, coming in the window and illuminating the small figure sleeping in the bed. The door closed again, and quiet feet crossed the expanse to the bedside. Hershel looked down at the younger of his charges, his face unreadable. A hand reached out, hesitated, then fell back to his side. The other clenched in frustration, crinkling the letter it held. He turned and sat down on the edge of the bed, careful not to disturb Luke. He placed a hand on Luke's cheek. Warm. As if he were alive.
Luke stirred at the physical contact. Hershel's hand jerked away as if he'd been shocked. Blearily, his eyes opened. "Professor? Wha's going on?"
Hershel found the floor infinitely fascinating. "I... received a letter from Clark today."
Luke nodded. "Yeah I saw, but it was addressed to you so I didn't open it. Why, what does it say?"
"Professor, what does it say?" Luke's voice was urgent now, worried.
"Clark and Brenda... have passed on," he finally gets out.
He doesn't know what to expect. Before he would have, but now he doesn't, and yet he's not surprised when Luke reacts exactly as he would have expected. Shock first, the color draining from Luke's face. Then the tears, Luke throwing himself at Hershel. He reacts automatically, pulling the boy close and comforting him. Luke buries his face in Hershel's shirt, muffling his anguished cries. The letter from Clark falls from his fingers to the floor.
After what feels like an eternity they subside enough for Luke to get a few words out edgewise. "But... the letter... you said... how?"
"He mailed it before... before he took his own life, Luke."
Luke screams into Hershel's chest and sobs harder than ever, and Hershel holds him tighter and finds himself thankful that Flora is staying over at a friend's house that night. "Why... why..." Luke moans, and Hershel doesn't answer, simply comforts. "Why... why would he... what about me..." and Hershel, already stretched to the limit by the letter, finds himself barely holding back his own tears. Luke pulls away and looks at Hershel in earnest. "Why?"
"He... believed that he had done something wrong. Something very, very wrong." Hershel paused, wondering how to continue. "He... continued to make bad decisions regarding this thing he had done, and the guilt ate at him until... until he saw no other way out."
"I don't understand... what did he do... what about Mom?" Luke hiccuped.
Hershel pulled Luke close and stroked his head. "He didn't say... simply that it had been heartbreak."
"But why was she sad? Was it because I left? Was it why they didn't write? It was their idea that I come back to stay with you, I don't understand!"
"Oh Luke." He really didn't have any idea. Like the letter said, he didn't know. Hershel hadn't had an inkling, not a clue, though maybe he had been blinded. "I'm sorry. But they have kept a very big secret from you over the past year. They have kept a very big secret from everyone."
"I don't understand."
"I do. I have been where Clark was, and while I do not agree with what he did, I understand why he did it."
"But why, tell me why," Luke sobbed.
"It would be cruel to tell you that now." Hershel is diverting and delaying, he knows this. If he really didn't want to tell Luke he would have left off at Clark and Brenda passed away. But was it sick curiosity that made him go further, or a genuine belief that it was the right thing to do? All it had done was convince him of Clark's feelings in the form of inflicting them upon himself.
Luke abruptly pulled away from him and dived for the discarded letter on the floor. Teary eyes skimmed the script, and Hershel looked away. He didn't need to see this. What he heard told him all he needed to know. The crinkle of paper as fingers tightened. A sharp inhale. A rustling of fabric as the top two buttons were undone. A click of a hidden panel opening.
Hershel found his eyes drawn to Luke. The boy was staring in horror at the hole under his collarbone, the hidden panel open to reveal the awful truth of wires and circuits. "Professor..."
He didn't say anything.
Luke's next words were very quiet. "What am I?"
I had realized the folly of my actions. But, try as I might, I could not bring myself to deactivate him. I couldn't go through losing him again, but at the same time I went through that horrible day and everything that followed every time I saw him. We couldn't tell him the truth, we tried to put on a brave face in front of him, but Brenda cried herself to sleep every night and her health was clearly deteriorating.
So I sent him to you. I thought maybe if I could pretend that my little boy was still out there somewhere, like all the other times he had gone off with you, it would be okay. But it was a foolish hope. Brenda withered away. I had thought that I would never experience anything as painful as losing Luke in one instant, but watching her fade away, forgetting herself and asking when her little boy would be back from his latest adventure, that was torture of a different kind.
He's yours now. It doesn't matter what you do with him. If you decide to keep him, so be it. If you decide to do what I could not, I wish you the best. Words cannot express how sorry I am for doing this to you.
Luke did not emerge from his room for a week. When Flora arrived the next morning, Hershel took her aside and told that the Tritons had passed on. He didn't tell her the rest, though he did persuade her to give Luke some space. Under any other circumstances he would be requesting time away from his teaching duties, but the silence in the house was stifling. When he closed his eyes he heard the whirring of machines, and it didn't help that he knew it was all in his head.
A week from the arrival of the letter Flora disappeared after dinner, and upon going upstairs to retire for the night he heard muffled voices coming from Luke's room. He let them be, deciding to deal with the fallout in the morning. When morning came Flora said nothing about her conversation with Luke, leaving Hershel to wonder how much he had told her. She had, after all, been in this sort of situation before with her mother, though the results of that did not bode well.
That evening Hershel was in his study, entirely focused on grading papers. So focused was he that he did not notice Luke approaching until he spoke. "Professor?"
Hershel jumped at the unexpected noise, twisting around to see Luke peering timidly around the door. "Luke! What is it?"
Luke worried at his lip nervously, such a human gesture. "I just... I was wondering... what are you going to do with me?"
Because Luke had read the whole letter. He knew that his fate was in Hershel's hands now. If Hershel so desired, if the sight of Luke became too painful, he merely had to reach into the hidden panel and flick a switch. No puzzle, no brainteaser, just a simple switch to shut the robot down. To shut Luke down.
Hershel chose his words very carefully. "I would think that that would be up to you."
"But what Luke?"
Luke entered the study fully, the door gently swinging to remain open only a crack. "Because, well, Lady Dahlia, and my parents, and... I don't want to hurt you and Flora."
Hershel's expression softened. "Oh Luke."
"And, well, it seems... wrong. People bringing back their loved ones. If everyone did it, then nothing would ever change. No one would ever move on. I feel like I'm wrong. I don't like feeling this way."
"I think the question you should ask yourself it, what do you want to do?"
"I want to be a true gentleman," Luke said quietly. "And I don't think this is something a true gentleman would do."
Hershel is about to open his mouth to give Luke his blessing to do whatever he feels is right when he's suddenly assaulted by a barrage of images. Clark's letter had been vague as to what had happened, but Hershel's seen enough to not need details to come up with horrific scenes. Visions of Luke bloody, broken, dying, dead swim in his mind and his heart drops through his stomach and into his gut and from that low vantage tells him This is not a nightmare, this is real, this happened, Luke is gone, you have lost Luke, you are about to lose him again, and something in him that was born when Randall fell and grew to adulthood with Claire snaps and decrees not this time and all of a sudden he's out of his chair and kneeling on the floor hugging Luke who is too small he should have noticed he wasn't growing as he should have been and he says, "Please don't rush into anything."
Luke smiles for the first time in a week. "Okay Professor."
Flora's actions towards Luke do not change. He is still her adoptive little-big brother. If anything, Flora and Luke grow even closer, and Luke's growing acceptance of everything is undoubtedly fueled at least in part by her. It pleases Hershel to see that the... sudden unexpected turn of events has not chilled things between them. He does not think he would be able to stand it if it had.
Because the danger has passed, but Hershel is still tormented by the horrific visions concocted by his mind. He looks at the boy and wonders if this is how Clark felt. Before his understanding and sympathy with Clark's actions had only gone so far, but now they go all the way. He cannot judge Clark, because to judge Clark would be to judge himself.
One very early morning he wakes up from a nightmare covered in sweat, shivering with the realization that he cannot stand the sight of the robot boy. He vows not to do anything about it, not to let it show. Luke is happy, and Flora is happy, and that is all that matters.
Except a few evenings later he is reading, and resolutely ignoring the robot in the room, until the robot looks up from his own book and speaks. "Thank you Professor."
Hershel looks up from his book and plasters on a kind smile. "Whatever for, my boy?"
"You were right. About rushing decisions, I mean. I'm glad I trusted you."
"So am I," he maybe lies; he isn't sure.
And that is when Hershel makes his decision.
Late that night, after Flora is sound asleep and the robot is deep in its facsimile of sleep, Hershel sneaks into Luke's room. Carefully so as not to disturb the robot, he pulls back the bed covers and undoes the buttons on the pajama top. The hidden panel pops open under his fingers, and his goal is laid bare before him. He doesn't hesitate.
The room quiets even further. The only sounds now are Hershel's own breathing, Hershel's own heartbeat. He pulls a set of Luke's clothes from the chest of drawers and dresses the robot quickly. He lifts the robot from the bed, but a shoe catches on the blankets and pull them astray. There is a light whump as, freed from its cocoon, Luke's beloved teddy bear falls from the bed to the floor.
It is the first time Hershel hesitates throughout the entire thing. The scratched, loose button eyes of the old bear stare up at him blankly, accusingly. Hershel finally kicks it under the bed just so it would stop looking at him like that, but he nearly immediately changes his mind and regrets the action. He sets the robot down on the bed and gets down on his knees to fish the bear back out. When he picks the robot up again, it is with the bear tucked close as well so he will not drop it.
Somehow he manages to get the back door of the Laytonmobile open despite his burden, and he positions the robot and buckles it in for appearance's sake. The bear lies discarded on the seat next to it. He shuts the door, climbs into the front seat, and sets off for the one place he can think of to go.
The road to St. Mystere is not a short one. Flora will be worried, and possibly a little scared, when she wakes up to find herself alone, but Hershel feared that if he stopped long enough to write a note, to get down in words what he is doing, he would lose his resolve. And so into the night he drives, in the dark and the silence with only his thoughts for company.
Three and a half hours in he makes the mistake of looking in the rear-view mirror and catching sight of the robot. He looks so peaceful. Like any boy fallen asleep during a long automobile ride. Everything Hershel wanted right now. Everything he couldn't have.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, and that does it, that's it, he can't go any further. He pulls over to the side of the abandoned road and puts the vehicle in neutral. He twists around between the front seats and scrabbles at the blue sweater, pushing it up and undoing only the buttons on the shirt necessary to access the panel.
Luke breathes once, twice, his fake heart beating again. He opens his eyes groggily, as if awaking from a deep sleep. "Prof'sser? Where are we?"
Hershel pulls him close and hugs him tighter than he ever had before. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry," is all he says, repeating it over and over again.
Luke is confused at first, but he is a bright boy, and he puts the pieces together fast enough. "It's okay Professor," he says, and hugs him back.
"I understand. I'm sorry I couldn't be a better Luke for you, Professor."
Hershel feels the tears welling in his eyes because that's not it, not it at all, and he responds with, "You deserved better."
"No. Luke deserved better." Silent tears start running down Luke's face. "Do you... do you think robots have souls? Will I get to be with them again? What if there's two of me? What if they don't want me around?"
Hershel can't answer that with what he is thinking, not because he thinks it would break Luke's heart, but because it would make what he's doing tantamount to murder. "I will always remember you, Luke Triton. Always."
"You'll tell Flora I said goodbye, won't you?"
"I still trust you, Professor. Goodbye" And with a sad smile, Luke pulls away and reaches into the hole in his chest to flick the switch.
The robot goes dead. The body, warmed briefly by their farewells, grows cold once again. Hershel clenches his eyes tightly closed, refusing to allow himself to react. He knows that if he does, he will never carry out what needs to be done. What Clark couldn't do. What he can barely do. He somehow manages to ease himself back into the driver's seat, put the automobile in gear, and continue on.
It is another forty-five minutes to St. Mystere. Upon arriving he finds Bruno's new workshop easily; it is the only change at all in the small village. He pounds on the door, trying to arouse the inventor from his slumber. A small glow appears from behind a curtain on one of the upper windows, and he knows he has succeeded. A minute later Bruno opens the door and the light from his candle illuminates Hershel and his load. "Professor Layton! What brings you and Luke out here so late?"
Hershel opens his mouth to explain, but the words don't come to him. He settles for holding Luke out to the inventor. "Take him," he says, throat dry. "Wipe his memory. Keep him safe. Keep him here, where he belongs."
He expects Bruno to be confused, but the man seems to understand what Hershel isn't saying. "It is only fair," he says, and sets the candle down just out of sight and takes Luke from him.
The teddy bear drops, but Hershel catches it before it can hit the ground. He tucks it into Luke's arms. "His favorite," he chokes out. Bruno nods with understanding. Hershel forces himself to turn around and leave before he does anything ill-advised. He hears Bruno close the door to his workshop behind him.
The little village is barely out of sight before Hershel stops the Laytonmobile again. It is then, and only then, that he finally allows it to all come out.
Dawn is just peeking over the horizon when he starts the automobile again. The countryside drifts by without acknowledgment. The trip back to London passes in a numb haze, part grief, part exhaustion.
Flora hears the sound of him coming in the front door and runs from the kitchen. "Professor! Where have you and Luke been? I've been so worried-" but she cuts off when she sees him, alone. "Where's Luke?" There is silence; Hershel pulls his hat down over his eyes and looks away. Flora leaps forward, grabbing his coat. "Where's Luke? What have you done with him?"
"I took him to where he belongs," Hershel responds quietly, and Flora backs away, hands over her mouth. "Flora-" he reaches out but it's too late; she turns and flees up the stairs, dripping teardrops as she goes.
Hershel checks the kitchen to make sure that nothing has been left on, and then goes upstairs and falls asleep on Luke's bed.