Note: Set in my universe, in which Janine and Winston eventually married. For those who wondered why Egon and Janine ever broke up...the answer lies within.
Requiem for an Angel
by Audrey Lynne
The dryers at a laundromat could be quite mesmerizing, Egon Spengler realized with a start, as it occurred to him he'd been watching one for the better part of five minutes. It was ridiculous, really. Three PhDs, and all it took was something as mundane as tumbling clothes to occupy him. Egon understood the basic mechanics of the machines better than he did his newly discovered penchant for watching them, and he found that vaguely disturbing somehow.
Ducks. Baseballs. Sleeping Beauty. Leopard prints. Paisley patterns. Jeans. All of them intermingled as they were tossed around by the dryer's spinning chamber, the water molecules in them being evaporated by the superheated air in the system. It was a very efficient system. Why was he so drawn to the sight? He was a physicist. He could do advanced calculus in his head, while driving, and he was utterly fascinated - well, perhaps fascinated was too strong a word - by spinning ducks. When Egon finally got his opportunity for revenge, Peter Venkman was a dead man.
The ducks were from Ruby Zeddemore's pajamas, the ones she'd been wearing the night before, and they were usually close to the front of the tumbling fray, probably because they'd been one of the last items Egon had tossed into the dryer before starting it. Curiosity getting the better of him, Egon looked back to the top dryer to see if they were still in view. No, they'd been pulled to the back, replaced by a satiny red...bra? Oh, dear. At least that didn't hold his attention for long. He allowed himself a soft, self-deprecating chuckle. Forty-seven years old, and the sight of women's underwear, even now, brought a slight flush to his cheeks. No wonder he was still single.
Then, he'd been raised in a very ordered world, following his father into science, and never really learning about the birds and bees in any other sense than the strict mechanics of it. He knew by the age of nine exactly how babies were made, and was very clear on the entire birthing process. The idea that he might, someday in the distant future, ever consider taking part in such an act, had never entered into it - and rightfully so at nine, but one would have thought that it might have by the time he was nineteen.
He wasn't a virgin, by any means. Oh, no. He might have been painfully shy about sex, but he most certainly had enjoyed it. He'd needed to wait for the right woman to come along, was all, someone who understood him and his idiosyncrasies, someone who had a few of her own, someone who could accept that science was his first love and a mistress he often had a hard time abandoning. Egon had found that woman in Janine Melnitz, at least for a time. He wasn't sure it would have lasted even if they had gone ahead and married, as they'd originally planned to before life had interfered. Ultimately, they'd been on different paths in life and Egon didn't know if those paths would have ever met or would have continued in different directions. She was married now and happy, and he was happy in his life. He might not have gotten married, or even had another serious relationship, but he had his friends - and his cat, too. Beaker didn't care about what Egon wanted out of life and if it matched with his goals. Beaker only wanted to be fed on time, and Egon could certainly arrange for that.
The bra belonged to either Missy Stantz or Janine, and Egon was much happier not knowing which of them it was. He'd only come to do the laundry, not analyze it. Not for the first time, Egon sighed internally at the mess Slimer had left in his wake. The little ghost hadn't thought about the fact that, even if he was looking for something, going through the humans' clothes would mean leaving them coated with ectoplasm. It wouldn't have been a problem if they'd been home, as it would only have been Peter's and Egon's clothes that would have been slimed, and they could just have snatched a few outfits out of the pile to wash while they waited for the slime to dry. It seemed to be easier to wash out when it wasn't fresh. Unfortunately, the whole gang had decided to make the trip to Cleveland to visit Egon's mother, which was nice, but it had meant the suitcases had contained everyone's clothes, and they had all been stored in the same general area. Rats, Egon thought, looking back on it. The others had gone out for the day - Cleveland might not have been the tourist capital of the world, but there were certainly things to do. Egon and Peter had stayed behind, with Egon's mother, and had discovered the mess. His mother, being his mother, had been the least perturbed by the incident, reminding Egon and Peter that they only had to throw everything in the washer.
That was where things had started to go downhill, at least from Egon's perspective. Egon hadn't been entirely sure the slime wouldn't clog his mother's washer, as it was still fresh. If they waited for it to dry, they'd been all day washing everything. Besides, with the clothing six adults and four children required for a week-long vacation, it was much more efficient to go to a laundromat, where everything could be washed at the same time. That part of it had been Peter's idea, though Egon had definitely agreed. So how had Egon ended up being the one stuck at the laundromat? He'd thought he was immune to the Venkman smooth-talking game after all these years, but Peter obviously still had a few tricks up his sleeve Egon hadn't learned yet. Oh, well. Egon would get him back eventually, in some fashion or another. It was a moral imperative.
In the meantime, Egon was left to mind the dryers, which still had about sixty-five minutes left on them, according to the timer. He had started all three of them at the same time, hoping it would prove more efficient, but now, he wasn't sure. It only meant he would have three dryers' worth of clothes to deal with in about sixty-five minutes. Sixty-four, now. Yes, revenge on Peter was absolutely called for - and it would be sweet.
The ducks were again tossing and turning about, the bra thankfully having receded to the back of the frenzy. "It'll work out great, Spengs," Peter had said. "You'll have time to work on some calculations or whatever it is you like to do." Right, Egon thought, with a trace of annoyance. True, Peter hadn't gotten off the hook entirely; he was going to the grocery store, but Egon still couldn't help but feel that Peter had ended up with the better side of the deal. Oh, well. It was pointless to worry about it now.
Egon was sure he was devoting entirely too much attention to what should have been a much lesser concern - laundry was laundry, and it had to get done one way or another. Coming home always put him in a different frame of mind than usual, however, and he knew that had to be affecting him. Cleveland held a myriad of memories for him - some good and some painful. Trying to deny that would be futile. Things that normally wouldn't affect him much, if at all, took on new significance, and there was nothing he could do about it. Like ducks, on a little girl's pajamas. A little girl that could just as easily have been his.
"Just one year of love is better than a lifetime alone..." The radio was turned up just loudly enough that it could be heard above the din, and Egon ran a hand through his hair, as though the motion could will away the melancholy that threatened to settle over him. He didn't get like this often, but he hated it when he did. He'd had one year of love - two, actually, and it was more like three if one counted the time they'd dated before becoming engaged. Egon had always said he had no true regrets about the way things had turned out. And he didn't, really. He and Janine were different people with different ideas on what they wanted out of life. They'd both ended up with fulfillment they were looking for - so, no, he didn't regret their breaking up, not in the truest sense of the word. They'd remained friends, close friends, and for that, Egon was eternally grateful. What he did regret were the circumstances that had led to the breakup.
Egon shifted uncomfortably; the laundromat's hard plastic chairs were not well-suited to his 6'3" frame. Beside him, a blonde toddler bounced happily on her mother's lap. Egon must have been watching her for longer than the few seconds he'd thought, because she turned suddenly - and, apparently realizing she had his attention, squealed delightedly and flashed him a toothy grin. With the mood he was in, Egon shouldn't have been surprised to find that the girl's greeting tugged at his heartstrings. He offered a furtive wave in return - interacting with children, especially those he didn't know, had never been one of his strong points - and immediately glanced back to the dryer. And the ducks. And the timer. Fifty-nine minutes.
"Amelia!" The name seemed to come from out of nowhere, startling Egon. He looked around, seeing a dark-haired girl run up to a man, presumably her father. She looked Hispanic; could it have been Emilia instead? The names sounded the same. Did it matter? Whether the child's name was Emilia or Amelia, the sound of it, spoken aloud, had made its impact upon Egon.
Amelia. Now there was something he regretted, would always regret. Egon had been asked a time or two if it had been someone, rather than something, that had come between him and Janine, leading to the demise of their romantic relationship. He'd always played it cool, denied it, but the truth was, there had been someone. Amelia had come between them, and things had never been the same after that. She'd left them, suddenly, and neither of them had wanted to face the pain. They hadn't talked about it - around it, maybe, but not about it - and they'd kept circling around each other emotionally until they'd drifted apart. The fact that they'd been able to remain friends afterward was nothing short of a miracle. He wondered at it now and then, but some miracles, it was best not to question.
Fifty-eight minutes. He had to get out of there. Not only was the chair far too uncomfortable to sit in for that much longer, Egon didn't want to provide any more opportunities for his memory to be assaulted. Most times, he could handle it. But with Amelia's grave less than a mile away, "most times" didn't mean today. He stood up, watching as the timers clicked over to fifty-seven minutes, and headed outside. He needed to take a walk.
Egon hadn't known where he was going when he started walking, only that he needed to get out into the fresh air, chilly as it might have been, and clear his mind. He knew Cleveland well enough that he didn't worry about getting lost; he just walked, and stopped in his tracks as he found himself facing the iron-wrought gates of Shady Pines Memorial Park and Cemetery. Peter would have told Egon that his subconscious must have been guiding him...and Egon wouldn't have been able to argue. He started to turn away, but once he was there, it seemed almost a disrespect not to go inside, so he pressed forward.
The path was one he was well-familiar with, having traveled it multiple times, even as a child. A gentle slope lead down, past watchful statues and impressive mausoleums, down to rows of headstones in all conditions, of all designs. Some of them dated back to the late 1800's. Egon's family had invested in land in this particular cemetery not long before the turn of the century, so some of those "historical" plots were relatives of his.
There was a small lake not far from the family plot, with ducks usually flocking to it in record numbers during the warmer months. However, December in Cleveland had two main types of weather: brutal and cold, but not brutal. This was one of the not brutal days, with the temperature in the high 30's, and no snow on the ground, but nonetheless, the ducks had all migrated south some time ago. Good thing, too. The last thing Egon wanted to deal with was more ducks. Egon had always used the lake as a landmark, however, remembering his mother's oft-heard insistence that the lake would flood one day, she just knew it, and with as close as the family plot was, she had better be buried with a snorkel. His father would chuckle softly, in that way only his wife could make him do, and remind her that they were uphill from the lake, and "water doesn't run uphill, Katie." Only Egon's father had ever called her Katie.
Egon hadn't expected to find anyone else when he arrived, much less anyone in front of one particular grave. But there she was, kneeling on the ground, her back to him. The hood she'd raised against the breeze didn't entirely conceal locks of red hair. Egon paused, unsure of himself suddenly. Had she come alone because she wanted privacy? Was it his place to interrupt? He began to turn away, but something inside stopped him. It was things like this that had destroyed their romance, the evasion, the near-paranoid fear of invading each other's privacy. He continued on, pausing briefly at his father's grave, then stepping behind Janine, who knelt at the grave beside it. Carefully, not wanting to startle her, Egon let a hand fall onto her shoulder. "Janine?"
She looked up, sapphire eyes widening. "Oh...Egon. I didn't expect..."
"Neither did I," he admitted. "But I had to come."
Janine nodded, rising to her feet. She rubbed her hands together for warmth. "I can understand that."
The conversation might have been a bit stilted, but at least they were talking. "I must admit, I was surprised to find you here. I expected you'd be with your - " Egon stopped himself before he actually said "family"; Amelia was as much a part of Janine's family as she was Egon's. "Your husband," he finished lamely. It had surprised Egon when Janine had ended up dating Winston Zeddemore, and he had to admit he'd been a little jealous at first, but things had gone beautifully after that. Winston and Janine were of a very like mind when it came to their priorities, to family, and in the end, they'd been far better suited to each other than Egon and Janine had been. "I mean..." He struggled to find the right words to correct his near faux-pas.
Janine seemed to understand, and she didn't call him on it. She only took a step closer to Egon; her side now touched his. He didn't risk an arm around her shoulders just yet, but he rested a hand on her back. "Winston's got Devin and Ruby; they're taking in the town. I figured they could manage without me for a couple hours."
"How long have you been here?"
"Not long." Janine's gaze trailed down to the polished marble at her feet. There was a rose sketched into the rock, with an inscription and a date beneath it, but no name. There had never been a name. "I...uh, I like the rose. It's...a nice touch."
"It was my mother's idea." The inscription, they had agreed upon together, the only thing about the gravesite they'd even discussed. "A moment in our arms, forever in our hearts." That summed things up better than anything else either of them had heard in those difficult days, and they'd clung to those words. Enough to have them put on Amelia's grave. "I'm glad you like it." He should have consulted her, probably, but that would have required talking about it. After Amelia's death, both of them had retreated into their own pain and the heartbreaking sense of loss she left them with. They'd put on a show for the rest of the world, and they'd played their parts well - but keeping up the act meant ignoring the reason why they had to attempt it in the first place. It wasn't fair to either of them, and it especially wasn't fair to Amelia, but they had done it. "She thought it looked sort of empty without..."
"A name?" Janine suggested. She closed her eyes briefly; when she reopened them, Egon could see the tears that threatened to spill. "We should've named her, Egon. I know we didn't want to think about it at all, but...God, she at least deserved a name." Her voice was breaking, and Egon did put an arm over her shoulders, pulling her closer.
Egon felt his own eyes burning, but he vowed not to cry, not now. Janine didn't need that. "I know this might sound presumptuous, but..." It was time for his big confession, the secret he'd never told anyone else, not even his mother. "I always thought of her as Amelia."
Janine angled her face up to meet his, turning amazed eyes on him. "Amelia?"
Perhaps the confession hadn't been as good an idea as he thought. "I can't explain it, really. It just...occurred to me one day. It seemed to fit. I'm sorry if..."
"No, no," she assured him, then fell silent for a few seconds, until she mulled over the name again. "Amelia. I like it."
"Yeah." The corners of her lips quirked upward. "It's cute. And...it's nice to finally have something to call her." The tears did spill over now, and Egon reached out to wipe them away. She caught his hand, holding it against her cheek, and Egon pulled her to him, her body facing his. She let her face fall against his chest, continuing to cry, and he lowered his head, his chin resting against her hair. They stood there like that for several minutes, time having lost all meaning. For that one moment in time, it didn't matter anymore that they had once been lovers. It didn't matter that they had once been engaged; it didn't matter that they were now friends. For that moment, they were Amelia's parents, nothing more, and they were grieving their loss, each in their own way. It was the first time in ten years they'd done it together.
The day he'd heard those fateful words: "Egon, I think I'm pregnant," his life had turned upside down. All he could think was that he wasn't ready to be a father yet. Time, however, had eased the shock, and helped him adjust to the idea. Given all the changes that had been forced upon Janine's body by the Makeoveris Lotsabucks, they had made the decision to keep the pregnancy a secret until they were confident it was a sure thing - and, when Janine had started her fifth month, it had seemed like it just might be. Egon's Uncle Cyrus was a biochemist, and they'd made a trip to Cleveland to have him test Janine for things the doctors wouldn't test for, mainly because they wouldn't have known where to start. Both of them had adjusted to the idea of their impending parenthood, and were even beginning to welcome it. Egon had spent several hours one night of that trip just lying beside Janine in bed, talking, with one hand on her stomach. She was just beginning to get to the point where she could no longer hide her expanding waistline beneath loose clothing, and Egon had thoroughly enjoyed exploring her body's new curves, as well as feeling their child squirm beneath his fingertips.
Then one day, the day that was staring up at them from the stone, disaster had struck. Egon had headed to Cyrus's lab, hoping to obtain the results of the tests they'd run. While there, he'd gotten a frantic phone call from his mother, telling him she'd taken Janine to the hospital. Egon didn't even remember the drive to the hospital; the whole way, he'd simply been hoping Janine and the baby would come out of whatever was happening all right. Even Egon's mother didn't know what was happening, exactly, only that Janine had been in a lot of pain, right before she started bleeding. When he got to the hospital, his mother's face told him everything he needed to know, even before her gentle, "Oh, honey...I'm so sorry..." registered in his brain. For some unknown reason, his daughter had died before she had even gotten the chance to be born. "Born asleep," some well-intentioned nurse had called it, at twenty-one weeks, three days. They'd been able to hold her impossibly tiny body, if only for a few minutes, and Egon knew there were people who didn't get that much. Stillbirth was like a silent thief, striking quickly but leaving devastation in its wake.
Janine had fallen apart - and it was only Egon's deeply-rooted internal programming that had kept him from doing the same. Basic decisions had been made - where to bury her, what to put on the stone, how to explain the additional days they'd tacked onto their trip. Beyond that, however, they'd both withdrawn, trying to shield what few pieces of their broken hearts they'd been able to save. They should have turned to each other, but they hadn't, and their relationship had been damaged for it. Worse, as they hadn't yet shared the news of the pregnancy with their friends, there was no easy way to bring up the loss. So they hadn't. They wouldn't talk about it with each other, and they couldn't talk about it to anyone else. They claimed "family problems" had kept them in Ohio, and everyone either bought it or didn't want to challenge them. Egon's mother had been sympathetic, and ready to help where she could, but she was up against more than one woman could handle on her own. Their self-imposed code of silence was only hurting them, but she couldn't get them to see that until it was too late, until Egon had found himself staring at the engagement ring Janine had returned, her "I can't do this anymore" echoing in his memory. That moment might have come anyway; it was impossible to tell without the omniscience of the gods. Egon only wished it hadn't been their reaction to their child's death that had brought them there sooner.
They'd both recovered, as much as one could ever recover from such a thing. Janine had found love again, unexpectedly, and had two beautiful children, her eight-year-old twins. Amelia's story had come out eventually, after Janine had suffered a second miscarriage, this one at only nine weeks, while pregnant with Winston's and her third child. No one could understand Janine's complete withdrawal, her insistence that she should have known it could happen "again." Egon had been forced to share the details of what had happened before. It had been a release, however, in the end, that he could finally talk about Amelia to someone - even if he didn't dare use the name he had privately given her yet. The death certificate said "Baby Girl Spengler," and that was who she had been, their nameless baby girl. Until now.
Janine had composed herself again, and pulled away from him, kneeling once more to trace her fingers across the carved rose on the stone. "Your mom's always loved roses...I do, too, 'cept it's kind of hard to grow 'em in the city." Egon wondered where she was headed with this, but didn't interrupt, letting her take her time in getting there. "What do you think about...Amelia Rose?"
That, he hadn't expected. He gave Janine a look that must have paralleled the one she had given him when he'd brought up the name in the first place. "It's perfect."
"Amelia Rose Spengler..." True happiness, though tinged with sorrow, filled her eyes for the first time since Egon had encountered her in the cemetery. "I can't tell you what a relief it is to finally be able to say her name."
"You don't have to," he told her softly. He already knew; it was a feeling they shared. "Do you ever think about her?" It seemed like a stupid question on the surface, but he meant more than just that - he meant seeing the girl she might have grown into in the occasional child, the few minutes of a sleepless night in which a thought of her would skip through his mind. He wanted to know if she thought of Amelia the same ways he did, and he hoped she would understand.
She did. "Only on days ending in 'y.'" Janine pondered that momentarily. "Well...not every day - at first, yeah, but now...there's times I'll go a few days at a stretch without consciously thinking about her. She's always with me, and she always will be - I know that - but there's times, you know, life will get busy, and...then when I do think about her, I feel guilty that I didn't do it sooner, like I've forgotten her. I know it's crazy, but..." She stood again, brushing dirt from her knees.
Egon hugged her. "It's not crazy. I do the same thing, myself. It's natural - but you will never forget her, and you know that. Don't feel guilty for moving on. She wouldn't want you to."
"You're right. It's not like I haven't told myself the same thing a million times, either. Guess I just needed to hear it from someone else." Janine wrapped her arms around herself, and Egon suspected it wasn't entirely due to the cold. "Egon?"
"I'm sorry." She held up a hand to forestall any protests. "I don't mean for what happened, though God knows I am, but we both are. What I mean is, I know I accused you back then of wanting to pretend none of it had ever happened, to forget she ever existed, but...it was my problem. I see it now, and you're the one who made sure all of this here was taken care of, and you kept the trinkets, and you named her... I think I was the one who wanted to pretend it had never happened. I would never have wanted to forget her completely; I couldn't do that - but I thought maybe if I could erase some of the memories, it wouldn't hurt so damned bad. I know now you were just dealing with things your way, but it looked to me like you'd managed to get past it easier than I did. I don't remember all of what went down, but I know I said some pretty nasty things to you, and you didn't deserve it. I'm sorry."
She looked so lost and forlorn, if only for a brief moment, that Egon could deny her nothing. Even if he had been holding on to the bad feelings that had passed between them during that time, he couldn't have continued to do it any longer. "There's nothing to forgive, Janine." They had both been hurting, and she certainly wasn't the only one who had said things that had later been regretted. They had allowed their pain to tear them apart, rather than bring them closer together, something Egon had warned Winston about after Janine had miscarried again. He didn't want to see the mistakes of the past repeated, especially not with Devin and Ruby added to the picture. "We both made our fair share of mistakes. I must say, I'm sorry for much of what went on as well. In retrospect, it seems far easier to point out exactly where we went wrong..."
"Yeah, well, hindsight and all that." Janine nudged her glasses back up on the bridge of her nose from where they'd slipped down. "Changing the past just isn't gonna happen, but maybe we can...I don't know, talk about it now?" Egon realized with a start that this was the first time they'd discussed their daughter, not just using her name, but at all, since everything had happened. They'd talked about her with their friends, when it had come up, but not each other. "Not all the time, but, well, maybe some?"
"Of course." It would do no good to wonder where they'd messed up so badly; what they needed to do was take the steps that would put them in the right direction. "I think that would be...nice." It was the only word that truly fit.
"Me too," Janine agreed. She wandered back across the few steps that separated them, closing the gap, and linked her arm around his. "So...where do we go from here?"
Where, indeed? They'd do what they always had, take stock and move on, and hopefully do a little better in the future. Egon suspected that wasn't the answer Janine was looking for, however. He shook his head to toss his hair back over his shoulder after a frigid gust of wind had blown it in his face. "That's a good question. I don't know about you, but I should probably get back to the laundry, if any of us expect to have anything to wear for the next several days."
"The laundry? Why?" Janine's eyes were suspicious as they met his. "What did you do to it?"
"I washed it." Egon's told held just the right amount of feigned indignance. "Slimer was looking for something - don't ask me what it was - in the suitcases, and nearly everything ended up coated in slime."
"Oh, gross." Janine made a face. Seconds later, her expression turned wary. "Egon, you did separate everything before you washed it, right?"
"Of course I did." Surely she couldn't think he'd forget something like that. Egon had learned that lesson years ago, when one of Ray's dark green sweaters had turned every pair of socks and underwear the guys had owned a hideous olive shade - and, unevenly, too, so no one could claim they were intended to be that color. Still, he couldn't resist. "I made sure the children's clothes were separate from everyone else's..."
It took Janine nearly five seconds to realize he was joking; the look on her face until then was priceless. "You scare me sometimes, you know that?" She squeezed his arm. "Don't ever change. Now, come on, let's go see what ya didn't manage to shrink or otherwise alter somehow." She bent down just far enough to touch Amelia's grave, as in farewell, then hooked her arm around Egon's again.
Egon offered a silent goodbye of his own, then allowed Janine to lead him down the stone path toward the lake; he'd show her which way to go once they were outside the gates. Yes, they were definitely going to be all right.