The walk back to the treehouse after visiting Tom Layton's grave was a quiet one as each of the members of this ragtag but tight knit family was lost in thought.
Veronica's thoughts were obviously all over the place. In mere minutes she regained so much only to lose it again in mere moments. Not only that but why did her mother leave her at the treehouse to tend to herself? Who would do that to their only child? There must have been a reason, right? What did being the Plateau's protector mean? Something deep inside of her told whatever was coming would be dangerous and brutal; it would completely alter their family forever. The confusion was running rampant and Veronica could not stop her thoughts from racing and for a small second she could not help but wish for Ned to be here and offer his silent support, which triggered a new wave of nostalgia, pain and wistfulness for better times. Wherever the young journalist was, Veronica hoped he was safe and on his way home.
The death of her father and the loss of her mother all over again were almost too much, almost. With a glance around her Veronica might have lost her originally family but this one was very much still here to support her. These people would lay die down their lives for her, the jungle native dearly hoped it did not come to that.
Finn's thoughts, like the newest treehouse inhabitant, were simpler but no less intense. Since traveling back in time she had found something she had been missing for years, a family. Now that she had this family she was fiercely protective of it and this led her to worry about her "sister" Veronica. Finn knew what loss was but it didn't mean it didn't suck. Looking at Veronica walking in front of her she just wanted to make it better and was unsure of how to do that and if she had the ability to even do so, vulnerability crept inside.
In the post apocalyptic New Amazonia, attachment wasn't worth it. You loved something or someone and it died. Love was not worth it. Yet, these four people had warmed their way in, like radiation poisoning, and infected her. She didn't want these people dead but she didn't know how to protect them either and the miserable looks on their faces scared. What scared Finn more was that even the Big Guy and Marguerite weren't quite paying attention the path. She hadn't expected Veronica to be on her game. She just found out that her mom abandoned and dad was dead, pretty major stuff to deal with and Challenger was never the most observant of the dangers around him. Hell, he almost blew up the treehouse once a week by not paying attention to his experiments.
But Roxton and Marguerite were a different story. Marguerite looked nervous and upset all at once and kept glancing back and forth between Veronica and Roxton while her intrepid hunter kept glancing at Marguerite. Roxton knew the dangers of the plateau and he wasn't paying attention at all right now. Finn couldn't make her friends feel better but she could keep look out for them right now and make sure they were safe.
Challenger's thoughts were on his children because he did think of these adults as his, god knows they needed someone to guide them and his adopted daughters were in the forefront of his mind. Veronica's issues were obvious and he longed to take away the pain, but this was something she needed to go through. Mourning could not and should not be rushed. His fellow explorers may have accused him and rightly so of paying more attention to experiments than people but still cared for them deeply. No, Veronica needed to grieve and express anger over what happened to her but the expedition's leader would be there for her every step of the way.
Moving his glance towards Finn he realized she too was troubled. The youngest member of the treehouse family had wormed her way into his heart quicker than any of them. George knew they all speculated on how and why but the answer was simple. She reminded him so much of his dear wife Jess; Finn was the child he had selfishly denied them. This youngster was brash and bold and inquisitive like Jessie. But she was vulnerable and unsure of her place in the family, the same vulnerability his wife had when she often wondered where her place was in George Challenger's life. Seeing Finn's troubled was not out of place. Her newfound "sister" was devastated and she had no way to fix it so she protected how she knew best.
With a sigh George secretly cursed his wayward son, Ned Malone. He sympathized with the journalist's need to find himself but this would be so much easier to deal with if Ned were her. He would know what to do for Veronica and she needed him. Marguerite would also be equipped to deal with this much emotion. If you had asked him three years if the statement Marguerite Krux would be the best one to deal with an emotional situation he would have laughed at the absurdity of the comment. But Challenger would have been as wrong as the Zoological Society when they claimed the Lost World and dinosaurs were a thing of fairy tales and mad men. Now he understood that this woman understood loss and heartache better than them all and he hoped she would be able to help Veronica.
With a deep sigh he turned his attention towards his own Romeo and Juliet, John and Marguerite. It was not a shock when he realized John's attention was solely on his lady love, what did surprise him while the young woman did continually glance at Veronica frowning with worry she also was now studiously ignoring John. Something had obviously happened. Despite being a genius he could not even begin to guess what happened to send his eldest and most skiddish daughter back into hiding; knowing her it could be anything.
Marguerite was special to him. He loved his whole family, all of them, and all three of these women were most dear in his eye, but Marguerite held a special spot in his heart. There were many reasons he could name. She alone shared his love of science, though she would vehemently deny it if questioned; she understood his brain. It was rare for a European woman to have such a depth and breadth of scientific knowledge but here she stood. She overcame adversity. She threw herself into everything she did. She was passionate and fiery. But if he was being honest, more than any of them she needed a father and that was a role he proudly wanted. He had actually even spoken to Roxton to ask him how he thought the brunette would react if he asked the brunette if she let him legally adopt her once they returned to England. When he had mentioned this to the hunter, the younger man actually looked a bit teary-eyed and thought when the time was right she would happily acquiesce.
Thoughts of bringing home a daughter for Jessie cheered his heart but only momentarily. No their little family was in crisis mode and they needed something more than science could offer them.
Marguerite was steadfastly trying to ignore John's declaration of love. It was everything she had ever wanted but everything she could not accept. No, an orphan and gutter wench was no match for the honorable and esteemed Lord John Richard Roxton. He deserved so much more than she was and could ever hope to be. But she was still a girl in love with a boy and the smallest part of her could not help but want him and everything he would promise if she let him. But she loved him and that meant she had to protect him from her past and the pain she would inevitably bring.
No, Marguerite needed to focus her attention towards Veronica. Their jungle hostess had just had the upset of a lifetime and this was something the heiress could deal with. If anyone knew heartache it was her and she would be there for her adopted sister. That was not even a question. No, what was nagging somewhere at the back of her mind was the story of Avalon. Something deep inside told her that she knew this place or heard of it at one point. Her Parcival senses were tingling and telling her something more was going on here and they were all missing something important. Why would Abigail Layton not take her daughter to Avalon? Who abandons their daughter in a treehouse in the middle of the jungle? And Veronica was not a small child when her mother left for Avalon, how did she forget all of this? This was more than some Freudian pain going on, there was something deeper and almost malevolent at the bottom of this, she was sure of it. Despite this, despite the fact that something was coming and she needed to be on top of her game to get them through this, she just wanted to let herself be loved. Her whole life she had thanklessly taken up arms on behalf of someone else and at this moment when her family needed her most she wanted to lay down those arms and fall into someone's. For once she wanted to be protected for once, but this was not the time. Without realizing it a lone tear ran down her face.
Marguerite may not have noticed but her devoted beau did. There were few things about the beautiful heiress that did escape his attention. He knew since the revelation that she was Parcival her insomnia had returned with a vengeance. He thought that the woman who had turned the tide of the Great War, an no this was not an exaggeration, would sleep easier knowing she could gain even the tiniest bit of recognition could relax the slightest, but it had been the opposite. After discussing it with George they came to the conclusion that she probably worried what the revelation would mean to her family's safety should they return to London and her own. Four people, five when Ned returned, would literally hold her life in their hands because no doubt her handsome head was worth a handsome price. But more importantly they knew she regretted them knowing not because she had to give up another secret but because that secret could endanger them.
Inwardly he chuckled. Leave it to him, such a grounded and down-to-earth man, to fall in love with the most complicated woman he had ever met and probably ever existed. And Lord John Roxton did love Marguerite Krux. He was hopelessly gone. It was a joke that British men when they fell in love did so deeply and forever and he was no exception to the rule. This woman would be his greatest adventure and she had just told him no. A lesser man would have been devastated and walked away but Roxton was up to the challenge. Maybe he was stupid, men in love usually are, but this was a fight worth taking up. When she turned and saw the tears in her eyes he saw her fear and knew in that moment she was afraid he would find out that she loved him too. She was afraid what that would mean. No, she loved him, he was certain of this but he was not certain of how to make her see that.
He supposed he should be worried about Veronica, and he was, but Marguerite was his priority and she needed some support right now too. He would make sure to mention something to George. Their feisty international jewel thief would bite back hard now that he had professed his love and push him away, and he would let her for a time but George would be the man to step in. The scientist had even recently confessed his idea of adopting the young woman, which he whole-heartedly approved when the time was right but maybe Challenger could keep her occupied with some scientific experiments. That and she would of course see to Veronica. He knew a secret late night girl session would be imminent. The brunette would not ignore her sister in her time of need.
His job was to protect and Marguerite, this had been ingrained to him since they met. Even when she was the biggest pain in the ass he had ever met, something inside of him drew the hunter to this lovely prey. He would keep her safe so she could help Veronica and figure this mess out. He would do his job so she could do hers and he had no doubts when the time was right she would be the one to figure out what was really going on here.
Many miles away Ned Malone sat next to a fire his thoughts straying to his family. It was funny when he thought of his family now it wasn't his parents and sister that came to his mind but Veronica Layton, George Challenger, Lord John Roxton and even Marguerite Krux. He missed them. This walkabout journey had been rough but he expected no less than when he began it. His travels were grueling but the thought of his family made him realize he knew he was and it was time to go home. What stories he would have to share with them, no not stories, but memories. He smiled as he got ready to bed down for the night as his thoughts strayed to a certain blonde. She would be excited that during his exploration he had found out about her mother and a place called Avalon and something about a druid priestess and a balance for power. Tomorrow he would start the long journey home.