Title: Past the Last Signpost
Rating: T – Alcohol use and brief dirty references
Series: Professor Layton
Pairing(s): (One-sided?) Henry/Randall, references to Randall/Angela and one-sided Henry/Angela
Character(s): Henry Ledore, Randall Ascot
Summary: What better way to ruin years of planning for a perfect life than by accidentally spilling your feelings out to the person you're not supposed to be in love with?
Notes: Another kinkmeme fill done for Henry Week 2013. This time for a prompt that wanted Henry and Randall going out for a drink after the events of Miracle Mask that results in Henry confessing his feelings to Randall. This one is outside of my comfort-zone, as I admit that I haven't drunk alcohol before, so I can't write this scenario with any first-hand experience. But I hope that it reads okay all the same.
It had been probably a few weeks later than most ordinary celebratory outings would occur before the two of them finally went out for a drink, but that was mostly because there had been so many other things to see to. If it had been down to Randall, today would have happened much sooner, but he knew that there was much paperwork that needed to be done in order for both the Masked Gentleman business to be closed entirely and for Henry's estate to be transferred to him.
Randall half believed that Henry would have kept on working, even tonight, if he hadn't grabbed his arm and insisted they were going out right now.
In turn, Henry looked a bit unsettled. He was at peace when working and in all honesty didn't really go out to drink socially very often. A glass of wine on a special occasion was about as far as he usually went and, if he was honest, he couldn't even think if he'd ever been to any of the pubs in Monte d'Or for more than just business.
If it had been anyone other than Randall who had asked, he probably would have refused. But one thing that weighed heavy on his mind was that he needed to get to know Randall again. Which was something that he couldn't do by shutting himself away in an office.
The past few weeks had demonstrated that Randall was not the same person he had been all those years ago and this was something Henry should have expected. For all his friend had found the memories he'd lost when he fell into the ravine, there was also another person born of eighteen years spent living without those memories in Craggy Dale. That person was far from unpleasant and Henry was glad to get a chance to better acquaint himself with him.
This new Randall didn't seem too much of a stranger to social drinking, for example, which was something the Randall he once knew didn't really bother with. But that may well have been because the Randall he knew had been too young to drink at the time he'd disappeared.
“Sometimes Tannenbaum would take me out for a pint after work,” Randall confirmed, when conversation turned to this, “It's not really something we'd do all the time, but if things were going particularly well on the farm, it was nice to celebrate.”
“I certainly agree that a job well done is something worth being rewarded for,” Henry replied.
Randall smirked; “I bet you never do.”
“Oh. Well... um, there's always so much work to do that I don't have much time for anything else,” mumbled Henry.
“You can't just keep working without a break, Henry. You're not a machine,” argued Randall, “If you keep that attitude up I'll just have to drag you away from that office more often.”
“But Master Randall-”
“No buts! I think another couple of drinks are in order.”
“I-if you insist.”
Henry watched as Randall called over to the bar for two more drinks. He'd already felt like he'd had two too many, but he didn't want to look silly in front of Randall and he felt he was handling them well.
Once the new order arrived, Randall downed his almost straight away. The way he kept his composure even after that certainly impressed Henry.
“You must have almost everything sorted out by now,” said Randall, as Henry sipped at his own drink.
Pausing for thought, Henry replied, “It's almost all been transferred to you as best I can manage. You are legally the owner of everything. But there are still so many jobs to do that I don't want to trouble you with while you're getting used to life here. It's just easier if I carry on doing the work for the moment.”
“And then when I'm settled we can do it together?” Randall checked.
There was a pause as Henry tried to process what he'd said. Perhaps the alcohol was having more of an effect on him than he'd realised.
“Yes, then we can work together,” he answered.
“Good, because I hate to think of you stuffed away having to do things by yourself when there's someone there to help you,” Randall replied.
A private thought went through Henry's mind and, mostly without meaning to, he murmured, “Why not? I'm used to doing it by myself.”
“Hmm? I'm just saying that it's not fair that you should have to,” Randall debated.
“No one else would help me with that,” Henry chuckled, running a finger around the rim of his glass.
“Are we still talking about the same thing?” check Randall.
“I don't think we are, Master Randall,” Henry answered, “But it's okay, you can keep... keep doing whatever you want and I'll just get on with it my myself.”
Making to get up, Randall sighed; “I think three drinks might be your limit.”
“Nonsense. That's not a limit at all, Master Randall,” argued Henry, smiling weakly.
“It's not a competition. I wouldn't want to make you feel ill or anything, so let's just go home,” Randall insisted, walking over to help him off his seat.
“You already make me feel ill,” Henry confessed, looking up at him with a glazed expression that was almost unsettling, “Every day you make me feel ill. You have since I was able to realise that I can't even think about you without it hurting.
“Do you know how hard it was to live every day trying to convince the world that you were alive? Hershel and Dalston never believed me. I was so, so glad when Angela decided to wait for you with me... But it never stopped the ache I had inside, knowing that the two of us would go on living without you. Th-that maybe it would have been fairer to have not talked her into waiting with me, because at least then she might have had a chance to move on and make a better life for herself, instead of suffering the same fate I did. She loved you just the way I did though. We could recognise it in each other. And I knew that she wanted to be with you, if only she believed that you were alive.”
He stopped for a moment, his expression turning almost harsh. Then, without giving Randall a chance to respond to his unexpected outburst, he sharply pressed on.
“Then you came back. You're here now and I don't know what to do with myself, because I spent all this time preparing for your return, without taking a moment to think how I'd handle it when you were finally with us again. And it's almost fitting that it still hurts. You're home now, so you and Angela can finally be together and I'm so very happy for the both of you, really I am, but it doesn't stop me from feeling the pain of knowing that I can never be honest with you about my own feelings. Because that would be selfish. So yes, Master Randall, you're about eighteen years too late to avoid making me feel ill.”
“Henry... Let's, well, let's get you out of here, first of all,” Randall mumbled, slipping an arm around him and pulling him up off the chair. That speech had attracted a lot of attention and Randall was sure that the judging faces of those looking at them were the last thing that such a respected figure in Monte d'Or needed right now.
Gripping onto his back for support, Henry nodded, but said nothing. Randall hastily left some money on the table and didn't even bother telling them to keep the change, before speedily helping Henry to the door. They went a little way down the street before Randall deemed they were in a quiet enough place to stop. No one seemed to be hanging around outside at the moment, which was definitely for the best.
Henry still hadn't said a word since his outburst, so Randall offered, “We can get a taxi if you don't think you can walk the rest of the way.”
Staring off into the distance, Henry whimpered, “I told you everything... didn't I?”
“Um, unless there's anything else, I kind of think you did,” Randall confirmed.
“That's wonderful, isn't it? After years of keeping it all to myself I have to go ruin it over... a d-drunken night out,” Henry muttered, looking as if he was close to tears. This evening had played no part in his plan of how life was supposed to unfold. It was meant to have been Randall and Angela, living happily together, while he cared for them and never said a word about how he felt.
“It's not healthy to keep feelings like that bottled up for so long,” scolded Randall, “I'm glad that you told me.”
“Maybe you are now, but you won't be tomorrow,” Henry retorted, “Now you have to live the rest of your life knowing that I'll be in the background having this weird feeling of longing for you...”
There were definitely tears now.
“And I'd rather know about that so that I can deal with it in my own way,” Randall insisted, “Look Henry, I know that you mean well and that all you want is for mine and Angela's happiness, but don't you think planning our lives for us is unfair? By all means, have your visions of how you want it to go, but don't pursue a route that'll make you miserable.”
“There are no other routes.” A crack came in Henry's voice, as he laughed through the tears. “And I told you – I'm happy just to see the two of you happy.”
“But you're hurting!” Randall insisted, “You said so yourself. It's not right for you to spend every day watching what you want but can't have.”
“The world isn't that fair, Master Randall,” Henry reasoned, “It's not fair to the boy who lost all of his memories and had to make a new life for himself, it's not fair to the girl who had to fight off the feelings of so many others, just so that she could wait for the one she truly loved, and it's certainly not fair to the boy who loved them both and devoted his life to building a kingdom for their happiness. If just two of those people can come to have good lives, then that's probably fairer than what most people have a chance at having.”
“Stop talking like that!” snapped Randall.
The tone of his voice was enough to make Henry, a man who'd spent the early half of his life taking orders from the Ascot family, fall into a silence. Save for the quiet sobs that he couldn't stop if he wanted to. Randall had never spoken to him like that in all the time they'd known each other.
Reaching forward, Randall wiped the tears from Henry's face with his thumb. The touch stung a little, as his face was now red from crying, and the thought of having Randall touch him after all of the shameful things he'd said were enough to make him shudder. But he did not move and the two of them stayed like that for several minutes, until all the tears were gone and the sobs produced no more.
They had been staring at each other the whole time and Henry had to admit that he didn't know what was running through Randall's mind. He never knew that. It was part of the reason why he'd come to be as obsessed with him as he was – Randall was the one wild-card in Henry's otherwise perfectly planned life. Ironic, that all of his planning was focused around that one wild-card. Nevertheless, he knew when he was being judged and he had held the gaze, so that Randall could see that none of this was a joke or a passing fancy. This was his life and perhaps Randall did need to know that after all.
The stare was broken after after the crying stopped, as Randall reached forward to pull Henry into a tight hug.
His head pressed into Henry's ear and he mumbled, “We'll sort this out. All three of us. No more secrets and lies, because I think we've all had enough of those. Tomorrow morning, you tell Angela what you've told me and we'll deal with it, I promise. We don't want you to be sidelined. And I can't really speak for Angela, but I'm certain that she cares about you as much as I do. You've done so much for us that it would be wrong for us to let you go on that way.”
“I don't want to make things awkward for either of you,” Henry pressed.
“You said so yourself that life isn't fair. Sometimes someone might fall in love with someone who's already with someone else. That's just the way things happen. However, that doesn't mean we can't deal with it,” Randall assured, “So will you talk with Angela and me tomorrow?”
A nod; “I will, but I'm... scared.”
“Good, that means you've not planned for this. Because if planning results in hiding your feelings, then I don't want you to be doing that,” Randall reasoned, “And don't think that I won't remember everything you've said, so I'll know if you're holding back.”
“I'm... not sure that I'll remember all of what I've said tomorrow,” admitted Henry, “My head's already starting to sting.”
“Don't worry, I'll keep you on the right track,” Randall promised, pulling away from the hug, “Now let's get back before the sun beats us to it.”
“We were... out that late?” Henry checked.
Randall laughed, offering a hand out to him, but not answering his question.
It was rare that Randall would give someone the chance to decline. Hugging, hand-shakes, any kind of physical contact really, were often just something that he'd dive into, because he was so impulsive. For him to not just take Henry's hand, showed that he was starting to consider the other's feelings enough to give him the chance to back off.
However, there was no scenario where Henry didn't see himself taking that hand. He grasped onto it and the two began the walk back home in silence.
The air might not have been entirely content between them, but Henry felt that a weight had been lifted from his shoulders for having been honest with Randall. He did not know how tomorrow would go, what Angela would say, or how they'd all carry on from then on. He wasn't even sure what he would say to her. This was not something that he could plan for. And, without argument, that was probably the best way to approach it.
And thus began the first day since Randall's disappearance eighteen years ago, where Henry truly wanted not to plan how their three lives would go.
About this journal
For easy navigation, a good place to start is the community tags. Feel free to introduce yourself as you visit.
Title: Past the Last Signpost