TIL THE NIGHT CLOSES IN
Courage, Doctor Spengler...you've faced Gozer, Samhaine, Vigo the Carpathian, Cthulhu, the Boogieman, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse...You can do this...
"Egon?" the familiar, Brooklyn-accented voice of Janine Melnitz asked him catching his far-off expression. "It isn't that bad, is it?"
They were sitting in her apartment, eating a candlelight dinner she had prepared. He had to catch his breath--in the soft glow of the candles, her confused expression was so endearing...
"No..." he insisted. "I was just...thinking...."
"Ectoplasmic modulus? Quark spin? Mushrooms?" she teased. She knew his mind worked on a variety of levels and a multitude of subjects, with a depth and complexity like few in the world. Ever. Certainly he had the most phenomenal brain of anyone she knew...
So she was pleasantly surprised by his answer. "Actually...truth to tell...I was thinking about...well..." he paused and swallowed another bite of the steak. "Us."
"Okay..." she answered, trying to sound as noncommittal as she could, even though inside she was saying...Is this a good thing or a bad thing, Egon?! "I...well, I don't have to tell you how bad I am at this...sort of thing. I was raised to follow the path of logic. My father wanted me to be the best possible scientist I could be..."
"And you've succeeded beyond the shadow of a doubt, Egon. I don't know if I could ever understand some of the things you deal with so easily. I did pretty well at math in school, but I take one look at one of those quantum flux moduli and my head hurts..."
"But the cost was in my social development. Janine, I once told you I got a degree in grade school, which I admit was not a literal truth, as you probably guessed. But I was twelve years old when I got my first degree--I was excelling against people twice my age. Understandably, many of them were resentful. Others regarded me as some sort of circus freak. Throw in, in short order, the onset of my puberty and the...attendant overburn of testosterone...thrown against a wall of women much older than I was and distinctly...not interested."
She stirred something on her plate. "I'm a little biased, I know, but I can't believe that's totally true. I've seen how...other women look at you sometimes, too. That lady at the library, for example. You just don't realize how magnetic you can be--it's your confidence. Not the swaggering, cocksure kind Peter has...it's the confidence of the fact, that, well, you really ARE smarter than everyone around you. And you AREN'T a cocksure goon. Confident but not arrogant. Women mature enough to look for a real man and not just a status symbol to brag to their friends about go for that."
He was quiet for a few moments. "Um...be that as it may, my upbringing left me utterly unprepared for that reaction. There was..." he paused, unsure whether this was really appropriate, but decided that while he was being honest. "There was one woman while I was working on my ancient languages degree. Lydia Cranston was her name. We were study partners, and...well...I will admit that I fell for her quite hard, but I never could bring myself to tell her that. She didn't...demonstrate any special interest in me, which did not encourage me to any sort of pursuit, though a couple of her friends kept trying to nudge her a little. As was a certain friend of mine. But I could never find the courage to take the risk." He smirked at her. "And before you begin to get concerned, she's happily married and lives in California--she's a computer science researcher at Stanford. She does send a Christmas card every year."
"Egon..." she replied, her heart melting for him all over again.
With that, he stood up, and wiped his glasses with a handkerchief. "The last few months have been...beyond anything I could ever have imagined. But I kept coming headlong to a realization: we are at a crossroads, you and I, and if our...relationship were to continue, some decisions must be made. There are risks that must be considered and dealt with. We must decide...whether this is right."
Alarm bells were starting to go off in her head. He's afraid of something, all right...but what?
"I have at times taken some very absurd risks, particularly since becoming a Ghostbuster, for the sake of saving the world or gaining some new, hard-won scientific truth. Risk is part of the job. I wake up every morning realizing that. But that's professional risk. Scientific risk. I often run toward those risks, knowing that knowledge is the prize. But there are a different set of risks confronting me now: risks of a far more personal nature. Risks I have little expertise with dealing with. The kind of risks I have spent most of my life avoiding."
Like...the risks of love, Egon? Is that where this is going? You're chickening out at long last?
"But last week, when I called my mother...I talked about the incident at Chateau Ritz, and she seemed far more interested in what I had to say about you than about the Galdori. I asked her about this at one point, and she said point blank: 'Son, even Edison Spengler knew that there was more to life than science, or you wouldn't be here young man.' "
She was really confused now. This was either the strangest, most graceful brush-off she'd ever gotten, or...she didn't know what he was getting at yet.
"I looked long and hard in the mirror. My mother had said things like that before, especially after she met you for the first time, but that time...I can only metaphor that it sunk in in a way it hadn't before. I asked myself 'But what about the risk?' and I had another revelation: I asked myself how the few times I actually had taken a personal, emotional risk had turned out."
"I was starting work on my Occult Sciences degree at Columbia when a mix-up at the registration office led to me being assigned a freshman roommate. He was a loud, obnoxious young man, who had gotten in on a football scholarship that I long suspected was engineered by the fellow's father. He would keep odd hours, associated with a revolving cavalcade of cheerleaders and even less reputable coeds, and clearly had no use for me, either--"Spazz, Dork, Dweeb", every cliche nerd name in the book. I didn't talk to him, he didn't talk to me--that was the unspoken covenant. Until one day, I came back to find him actually studying, with an incredibly frustrated look on his face. He tried to hide the book, clearly embarrassed, but it was too late. The easy thing would've been to ignore it, let everything continue as it had. By the end of the year, he would be gone and I'd never have to endure his arrogant Cheshire smirk ever again. But instead...'If you are having an academic problem, Peter, perhaps I can be of some assistance?' "
"Peter...Venkman?" she asked, slightly incredulously. She'd never heard this story from either of them before.
He nodded. "Peter Venkman. If I hadn't made that first move, he never would've become the first real friend I ever had. It was a few years later that he took an engineering class with a younger boy named Raymond Stantz. And it was Ray who made the impulsive decision to hire Winston Zeddemore. A whole chain reaction of friendships I would've lost if I'd kept my mouth shut."
She nodded. It was starting to sound better than she thought...but still couldn't figure out where it was going. The fact that she couldn't always understand him was part of what drew her to him, she realized long ago, but right now it was making her uneasy and frustrated.
"And it was Peter Venkman who unwittingly came through for me once more when we formed Ghostbusters. Being the one with the people skills, Ray and I pushed the task of hiring a receptionist on him, and he did in short order--I understand he was dating a friend of hers at the time..."
"Marie Cavendish..." Janine smiled. "The one who went on to marry that orthodontist..."
Egon stepped out of the circle of light created by the candles. "And before I realized it, that receptionist, a healthy young woman of child-bearing age, was giving me the kind of look I was wholly unused to receiving from healthy young women of childbearing age. As I recall, I babbled inanely about my collection of spores, molds, and fungus..."
She smiled again. The warmth of the memory was flooding her...even though this whole conversation still had her extremely nervous.
"I found the whole thing utterly, completely annoying." he said sternly. "At least at first...but somehow, I found myself unable to say, simply, 'Stop it'. It was about a year later that I...knew. We were attempting to stop Jeremy Whittington and Ragnarok. We had set our proton packs on explosive overload, and I was starting to tell myself that dying to save the world was a noble end, and that I had no regrets...but suddenly realized that I did, indeed, have one intense regret. I don't think Ray or the others even heard it, but I even spoke it...a simple name. Yours."
"Egon..." her eyes were beginning to mist. She'd definitely never heard this before...but found it didn't surprise her, either...she remembered thinking there was something different in his look after that incident. Something that encouraged her. It was strange but reassuring to have it confirmed.
"That was the instant I realized I had fallen in love with you, Janine. But I couldn't say anything. I had to be logical. Scientific. The toxic soup of emotion was one I could not afford, I told myself. I didn't want to deal with Peter, Ray, and Winston giving me a hard time--though I got plenty of that anyway. Worst of all...what about the risk of something going wrong?"
She was quiet. Processing all of this, feeling his guilt,and feeling a lot of guilt of her own. He had already fallen before Paul Smart...before Louis...before even the Fairy Godmother...how much did this all hurt him? How much did my own stupidity have to do with him keeping in his shell? How much does it have to do with what he's getting at now?
"I came close during the whole mess with Paul Smart. The feeling was so raw...if we hadn't been called away, I fear I would've smacked the man, which might have gotten me arrested...but also might have...forced the issue. But it wasn't until we uncovered the lotsabucks...and I had to admit to myself that there was a worse set of risks than the ones created by reaching out to you: the set of risks created if I didn't. That...heartache was possible if I was with you, but inevitable if I wasn't."
She realized she heard him moving, fidgeting. He reappeared in the light, kneeling close to her. "I've wasted far too much time, Janine. And if you're still there for me after all that, maybe that means something. Maybe that means that this is a risk worth taking."
"This...this isn't a brush off?"
"Anything but. I said it that night, I will say it again right now: I love you, Janine Melnitz. I have for a very long time, and will until the universe folds back in upon itself--or even longer." Then she realized he'd placed something in her left hand, a small, velvet box. His blue eyes looked into hers with such longing. "Marry me." he continued simply.
She opened the box, to find quite simply the most gorgeous diamond ring she'd ever laid eyes upon. She couldn't help but think to herself that this would've set him back quite a bit of money..."Egon, I..."
"If...if you say no I'd understand. I...would be devastated, I won't deny that. But I would understand."
She was in tears as she regarded the bauble. "I just have to ask for one thing."
"Pinch me...I have to make sure this isn't a dream..."
"Where do you want pinched?"
She laughed hard and joyously. "Like there was a snowball's chance in all nine planes of Hell I'd say no..." she took the ring out of the box. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, a bazillion times yes, Egon."
How he got the ring onto her finger they'd never figure out, as both their hands were shaking; but he did. She stood up to look at the gem in the candlelight. Janine Melnitz was crying like a baby. "I still can't believe this...I..."
"Then this might help..." with that he took her in his arms, and kissed her hungrily.
They stood like that for at least ten minutes, simply drinking in each others presence. Tentatively, her tongue entered his mouth. Even more tentatively, his returned the favor. Ten more minutes passed. His hands moved over her back, tracing the curves of her neck, though not moving lower that the small of her back...no matter how much they wanted to. As was her nature, her touches were slightly more adventurous...not the first time she'd ever grabbed his ass, but the first time she didn't have to pretend it was an accident. The first time he didn't flinch...
She arced her left leg, and one shoe fell off. She drew back to look at him with heavy lidded eyes...gleaming with longing...she practically moaned the words that came out of her mouth, a throaty,.breathless tone to them..."...Make love to me, Egon...right now..."
"I..." he stuttered. For a half-second, all of the variables rolled through his head.
She smirked. "Don't tell me you don't want to..." As close as they were, there was no hiding the physical reaction he was having to her efforts.
This would be the final surrender of all base logic to animalistic urge!!! the logical part of his brain was yelling desperately. Far more rash and impulsive than anything you've ever done!!! I must protest!!! In his mind, he could almost see this voice as belonging to Edison Spengler, a manifestation of the strict logic and denial he'df impressed upon Egon. But then there was his mother's words of not too long ago. Son, even Edison Spengler knew that there was more to life than science. Then, in his mind's eye, Peter Venkman appeared and slapped old Edison into a ghost trap. Don't worry, I'll let him back out in a few hours...now you go and enjoy yourself, Pal...
With that, he said simply "Yes...", and literally swept her off the floor. Egon Spengler was never going to be confused for a muscle man, but whether it was throbbing testosterone or just the universe deciding that it would look cool, he carried her to the bedroom with ease...
"Gee...I thought she was taking today off..." Ray commented brightly. Then Ray looked at Egon's rumpled clothing, and gave his biggest smile. "I'm glad you had a good time, Egon. Or should I say, glad you finally let yourself have a good time..."
Egon laughed uncomfortably and adjusted his collar.
"Ray...get Venkman and Winston. I...have news."
Venkman somehow materialized behind Egon, all the more suprising for being two hours before his usual wake-up time. "Well, I see that you followed your curfew, and passed it with seven hours to spare, too. I'm very proud of you, Doctor Spengler. Here." He handed Egon a Milky Way bar. "You probably need the energy, too..."
"Actually, I feel quite invigorated. And I've had breakfast already." Which didn't stop him from starting to eat the candy.
Venkman smirked and pretended to cuff him. "Redzilla's over at her desk on her day off humming and sashaying like a cat that had eaten an entire aviary. If that doesn't say 'afterglow' I don't know what does..."
"You're up early." Egon deflected.
"Slimer monkeyed with my alarm clock again." Venkman responded. "Don't change the subject, Professor Love..."
Winston came down the stairs, having heard the commotion. "Egon, you gotta stop worrying us like that."
"Worrying who? We knew where he was going..." Venkman needled.
"Um...yes...well, there are some things a gentleman does not discuss, even with his best friends.."
"I do!" Venkman retorted.
"Like the man said..." Winston returned.
Egon cleared his throat. Janine came over to him and took his arm. The other three thought they were shocked now...they both thought, in virtual unison "Now that all three of you are present."
"Anybody notice anything different?" she said, conspicuously playing with his collar with her left hand.
"You're in a good mood on a Saturday? Egon's posture has slouched without the broom up his...whoa..." Venkman's eyes went wide.
"I think he just noticed." Egon deadpanned.
"Nice rock..." Winston whistled.
"Egon...does this mean..."
Egon Spengler's face contorted into the uncharacteristic wide grin. "If you are assuming that I have asked Janine to marry me and that she accepted, then your are correct."
There were a lot of hugs, voluminous congratulations, more than one variant of "It's about damned time", and a tear or two.
"Actually...we haven't told anyone else yet. Not even our parents. We both agreed that it would be only...proper..."
"If we told you guys first. Seeing as how you only pulled for us when even we weren't"
"I told you before, that finishing each others sentence thing is creepy." Venkman said with cheerful sarcasm.
"Quite a list to call..." Winston remarked, going over to the phone. "Fritz and Denise, and Kathryn at the top of the list. Uncle Cyrus and Aunt Bella and Deann and...man, just how many relatives does Janine have, anyway?"
"Be careful, Winston. They'll be my relatives very soon." Egon noted.
"And I gotta call Aunt Lois!!! I mean, good grief, Egon, you're practically my brother which mean she's your aunt too, and..."
"And I gotta start planning the bachelor party!" Venkman said with too much excitement. "So many really good strippers I know..."
"Why do you think we haven't told him the date?" Janine rolled her eyes.