It takes approximately four days for him to say something, but it’s obvious things are wrong long before that. Archaetrix is always the first person to suggest that it’s time to move on, but the thought hasn’t even seemed to cross her mind. They’ve been camped out in a hotel for nearly two weeks, and Arronax and his crew have left. Josiah isn’t used to feeling bored--in fact, he hasn’t since falling in with Archaetrix and Hermoine, but that’s exactly what’s happening now.
It’s not just boredom that pushes Josiah to action, though. He’s worried. Everything about Archaetrix’s behavior has been out of character since that day. They all saw things that they’ll never forget: Da Vinci’s workshop, alien invaders, wind up girls coming to life, creatures not quite human in the future. It’s understandable that it might take some time to process and adjust to that. He knows that they probably won’t be accepting any more invitations to Verne’s mansion anytime soon, and the few days after the event were spent in a daze, constantly trying to reassure himself that everything had actually happened.
“Of course it did,” Arronax said when Josiah questioned him. “I have a time travel extension on my blimp to prove it. I have money I won from Phineas and managed to save the world by beating an alien in her challenge. You’re not losing your memory, are you?” he joked. “One too many blows to your thick skull, perhaps?”
That’s all that it took for Josiah to get over it, and by the time Arronax took his crew to other skies, he had adjusted and was ready for their own adventure.
When Arronax offered a lift anywhere on their route, Archaetrix refused, which meant that Hermoine refused. Josiah thought perhaps their plans involved a different direction, but so far the plans seem to consist of staying closed off and not talking to anyone.
Archaetrix might not be the most talkative person in the world, but she has worse wanderlust than any of them. To see her closing herself off and spending days in the hotel room is disconcerting.
Josiah knocks on the door once to no answer. He knocks again, then lets himself in to the women’s hotel room. Perhaps anyone who saw would consider it improper, but there are very few boundaries when you’ve travelled on adventures together. A wood door is hardly one of them.
Hermoine looks up from the map that she’s studying and brightens. Archaetrix’s eyes are glued to the book in her hand. She doesn’t so much as twitch.
“Josiah,” Hermoine says. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“It’s time for dinner,” he says. “I was wondering if you two were hungry.”
Hermoine checks the clock on the desk, then tilts back the curtains to chance a look at the sunset.
“I didn’t realize it had gotten this late. Archaetrix, are you coming?”
The other woman doesn’t respond, and a frown creases Hermoine’s forehead.
“Archaetrix, did you hear me? You need to eat.”
Josiah flicks on the electric lamp on the bedside table, and that is finally enough for Archaetrix to blink and look up. She hums when she sees Josiah, the sound a clear question.
“It’s dinner time. Are you coming with?” he asks.
“I have too much work to do,” she scoffs, turning back to the book.
“What kind of work? Planning for our next adventure?” he asks, harsher than he intends. Archaetrix hears the edge in his voice and snaps her attention to him, whip fast. For the first time in a while, Josiah is reminded of a time when she wouldn’t have allowed him to fling her over his shoulder and carry her away. He misses when he didn’t feel like he had to.
“My work is none of your business,” she snaps.
“You’re not going to find him this way,” he says. “He’s not here in your history books. He’s not in this hotel room. It’s no use scouring things that have already been written when our closest connection to time travel flew away a week ago. You don’t even know if he can be found again!”
“He can!” she says, furious. “I already found him twice. I can do it again.”
“You didn’t find him at all! We stumbled across him in Italy, and we were running from whatever creatures those were in the future, not looking for your lost love that you met once!”
“Josiah,” Hermoine begs, and it’s that rather than Archaetrix’s glare that makes him back down slightly.
Hermoine doesn’t beg. None of them do, really. When Hermoine wants something, she asks incessantly, and she might plead a bit, but she never sounds broken while doing so. Seeing her looking so small makes him pause.
“I would very much like to go to dinner now,” she finally says after a long pause. “Will you accompany me? Please?”
The please is out of character, too. While Hermoine is generally the most likely to remember manners out of the trio, she wouldn’t ask him like this unless she’s very upset.
He nods. Hermoine stands.
“I’ll bring you back something,” she says to Archaetrix. The other woman nods, then returns to her book. Josiah leaves the room before he can lose his temper again.
“Thank you,” Hermoine says quietly as she closes the door behind her. Josiah pulls her into a hug and holds her until he can feel her relax. Hermoine has always played mediator between the two strongest personalities on the team, and she's consistently the one trying to bring up the mood when it's low. Their fights have been draining her since they started, and he just hadn't realized this until now.
"I'm sorry," he says, letting her go. She steps back and nods, not meeting his eyes, then begins down the hallway. He follows in silence until they leave the hotel.
"I know that you hate when we fight, but you understand that this is an issue, correct? She's chasing after a fantasy. It can't be healthy."
"Josiah, you don't have a romantic bone in your body," Hermoine sighs. "But this has gone too far. I just don't know what to do for her. I've never seen her like this before, and she seems determined to find Romanza or wither away looking."
"Do you think he's out there, looking for her too?" he asks. Hermoine doesn't say anything for a long time. Soon enough, they're outside a cafe that they've frequented before. Josiah orders and pays for all three of them in a small apology for his earlier outburst.
"I don't know," Hermoine says finally. "I don't understand how we could have found him twice in the same day, in two wildly different time periods, yet he hasn't come for her in the two weeks we've been back in our own time."
"Do you think he loves her? Do you think he's capable of that?"
Hermoine considers her thoughts again before answering.
"I didn't speak with him enough to be able to say. He was reaching for her when we left, just as she was..." Josiah nods. "Do you think there's something keeping him from reaching out to her now?"
"I don't know," he says. "We were the ones to find him both times. Perhaps he expects her to find him again."
"But we don't have any time travel technology, and we've found no clues in this time period as to where he could be."
"Perhaps we should have taken Arronax up on his offer for a ride.”
"You just miss him and the trouble you two always get into," Hermoine says, giving him a wry look that's more familiar than any of her expressions have been tonight. "Perhaps Mechanica is still at Verne's mansion. We could ask her for technological help, or to use her time machine."
"Do you really want to go back there?" Hermoine wrinkles her nose. "I didn't think so. There could still be aliens or hybrid animal creatures or mad scientists or whatever new monstrosity he's invited to stay."
"I don't know what else to do," she says.
"I don't, either."
It's dark by the time they return to the hotel, the lamps on the street creating a faint glow with long shadows. Hermoine can defend herself and has proven this time and again, but Josiah has to resist the urge to pull her closer anyway. When they reach the girls' room, she stops and faces him.
"We'll find a way to fix this. I'll start by getting her out of that room tomorrow. If we get desperate enough, I can bring her to Mechanica or Verne."
"We'll all go. If we have to time travel again, we'll all go then, too."
"We're a trio, Hermoine. As much as Archaetrix may be frustrating me now, I'm not leaving you two."
Hermoine nods again, and that seems to put her more at ease. Josiah pulls her into another quick hug, and when he releases her she almost has one of her signature smiles on.
"Goodnight, Josiah," she says.
"Goodnight," he bids. She slips inside, and Josiah returns to his own room. That night, his dreams are filled with aliens and the future and an answer just out of reach. He wakes in a cold sweat and wishes they all never lived a moment out of time.