Domino Effect

By Audrey Lynne

Note: Some scenes in here may not unfold exactly as the episodes described them; I take my RGB a step further. I say the show we saw was about the gang, the way the movie was. Ray does even comment in one episode that they have their own cartoon show. As such, in my fic universe, events might have happened slightly differently than we were shown, so I take some liberties in describing certain events.

Lyrics are courtesy Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Springs."

Part I: I Could Be Your Only Dream

You could be my silver springs

Blue, green colors flashing

"Love stinks," Janine Melnitz announced to no one in particular as she let herself into her Brooklyn apartment, slamming and then locking the door behind her. She threw her purse onto the couch, storming past the living room and into her bedroom. After pacing the room in several circles, Janine sat down on the bed, kicking her high heels off and crossing her arms over her chest. She was in the mood to sulk, and she wasn't going to let anyone or anything rob her of the pleasure. "Men aren't from another planet; they're from another galaxy!"

If any man needed to be hit by the clue bus, it was Egon Spengler. Janine had been dropping subtle-and not-so-subtle-hints for the past couple of years, hoping he'd wise up. She was crazy about him, and he didn't seem to get it. If he did, he was doing a very good job of looking clueless. Janine liked to think she was far above the high school-era tricks of stuffing one's bra and dressing like a tramp, but she was about ready to consider that if it would get Egon's attention-on a day she wasn't working, of course. She had her pride.

Then, was he worth it? Janine wasn't getting any younger; how long could she afford to spend chasing a man who might not ever be caught? She hoped one day, when she could lure Egon out of the lab long enough, he might realize what an attractive option romance presented. Was she only fooling herself? Did he only want to be friends? If friendship was all Egon wanted, Janine could handle that; she'd move on. But if that was all Egon wanted, Janine wondered why he couldn't simply tell her. He wouldn't have been the first.

Janine hadn't been through a lot of romantic relationships in her life, but they all seemed to end the same. The guy would tell her she was great and a lot of fun and all those wonderful things, but he only wanted to be friends. Heck, she'd even been the "last stop" for one man before he'd decided he really was gay. Janine didn't have any problem with that, but it didn't do wonders for her already shaky self-esteem. Years of teasing about her looks as she'd grown up had made Janine very sensitive to anything having to do with her attractiveness to men. She tried to hide her insecurities beneath a façade of annoyance, a "how could this happen to me again?" attitude. Deep down, though, she wondered if she should just give up.

Egon wasn't a snob, the kind of man who could only go out with the prettiest girl on the block. A woman's mind meant something to him, and Janine was reasonably confident about her intelligence, even though she knew it could never match his. Was that the problem? Could he only find interest in women who were on equal footing with him intellectually? Janine didn't know and she was beginning to wonder if it mattered.

Janine sighed, standing up and grabbing her purse. She was hungry and she knew there wasn't anything to eat in the apartment; she was behind on her grocery shopping. There was a café down the street, and their creamy chicken noodle soup sounded like just the sort of comfort food Janine needed about then.

The front door to her apartment building had just snicked shut behind Janine when she heard a voice call her name. "Janine."

Janine turned; she didn't know the voice, and it didn't hold any of the excitement she was used to from someone who had recognized her as the Ghostbusters' secretary-and usually wanted her to introduce them to the guys. "Yes?"

A figure stepped out from the shadows, dropping a note on the ground before slipping off down the street, in the direction of the pier a few blocks down. Janine frowned, picking up the note carefully. She'd only caught a glimpse of the woman, but she'd been beautiful. What would she have wanted with Janine? And why had she called Janine by her first name?

Janine unfolded the piece of paper in her hands, reading the note scribbled on it.

Isn't it hard when you're not the prettiest girl on the block? Don't you want to be the beauty that can command a man's attention, the Helen of Troy that would drive men to go to war over you? Even Egon would fall at your feet. I can make it happen, painlessly, and I ask nothing in return from you. Meet me at the pier if you're interested.

The letter wasn't signed, only marked with a symbol Janine didn't recognize. Her first instinct was to throw the letter away, chalking it up to the woman being some crackpot-a beautiful crackpot, but a crackpot nonetheless. But the words called to Janine; she'd always wished she were prettier, and it sounded like a good deal. It definitely warranted investigation. Forgetting dinner for the moment, Janine turned and hurried for the pier.

The woman was waiting for her there. "Hello, Janine. I'm glad you came." She was wearing a different outfit, a loose-fitting white gown that accentuated her ivory skin, auburn hair gently teased by the breeze coming off the water.

Janine held the note toward her, dropping it between them. "Your offer sounds good; what's the catch?"

The woman shrugged. "No catch. Makeovers are my specialty; I seek out women who seem to need my help."

"Who are you?" Janine asked.

Ruby lips turned upward, forming a dazzling smile. "Think of me as your fairy godmother."

Part II: And I Tell Myself...

I know I could have loved you

But you would not let me

Egon Spengler sighed as he passed through the kitchen, hearing Peter Venkman on the phone, ordering flowers to be delivered the next day. Egon wouldn't have worried about it, except that Peter was sending the flowers to Janine and claiming they were from Egon. It wasn't the first time, but Egon always hated it when Peter did that. It made Janine happy, sure, but it gave her false hope.

Egon found Janine attractive enough, and she was certainly smart; there was nothing wrong with her, as far as his tastes in women went. However, the whole concept of romance made him uneasy; it wasn't scientific and he didn't understand it. He'd just as soon have not dealt with it at all-and dodging Janine's advances, sometimes ignoring them entirely, seemed the best way to handle things. He knew it frustrated her and he was sorry for that, but it was better than dealing with the confusing feelings associated with the entire concept. Was it selfish? Probably. Egon could live with that, however, if his boat remained unrocked.

His relationship with Janine had always been a mystifying one. Egon liked her, and she would have been a fine girlfriend, he supposed, had he felt up to dealing with that. He liked being her friend, but he couldn't tell her he only wanted to be friends, because that wouldn't have necessarily been true-and, while he might dissuade her advances, Egon didn't want to lie to her. Egon loved Janine the way he did his other close friends; he didn't want her hurt, and he worried that might happen if they got together; emotional openness was not something he specialized in. It was undoubtedly best to avoid the situation altogether.

Janine didn't understand now, but Egon hoped she would one day. After all, he was acting with both of their best interests in mind.

Part III: You'll Never Get Away

Two years later...

I begin not to love you

Turn around, see me running

She had to keep running. The pier, she'd be safest down by the pier. That was where it had all begun, where her fairy godmother had changed her for the first time. The changes had been minor at first, then more dramatic, but nothing Janine did seemed to matter anyway. The guys didn't notice. Egon didn't notice. Her fairy godmother said it would take time. It had been two years. How much longer would it take?

"Hurry, Janine. Keep moving. They'll find you! They're jealous of us; they want to take you from me!"

Janine didn't understand how or why her friends would have turned on her, but she kept running anyway. Her fairy godmother knew best, right? She'd been the one who'd told Janine taller was better, the Brooklyn accent needed to go, lose a little weight, change her jawline a little. Janine knew she was prettier than she had been, and her fairy godmother assured her of that.

Why couldn't the guys see it? Did they not care? Was she really worth so little to them? Had their friendship been a lie, just like in junior high when the other kids would be nice to her and then turn on her several months later, laughing in her face because she'd been stupid enough to think they were actually her friends? Janine had thought Peter, Ray, and Winston were different. She'd thought Egon was different.

Egon. Who needed him, anyway? She was prettier now than she'd ever been before, and he couldn't have cared less. Maybe he was a snob, the intellectual type. She wasn't brilliant enough for Egon Spengler to deign to date. Why had she ever liked him? Because he was different than all the other men in your life before.

No! Another voice, her fairy godmother's, resounded in Janine's mind. He's the same as all of them. He doesn't care. You're still not pretty enough for him. It's sad, but it's true; that's the way men's minds work. Stick with me. I'll help you defend yourself when they come.

"My friends wouldn't do that to me." With every last fiber of her being, Janine tried to cling to that hope. She didn't want to give up complete faith in humanity.

"They're after you as we speak. Hurry!" Janine's fairy godmother flew overhead, guiding Janine along as she raced through the alleys of New York City in her nightgown. She'd discarded her Ghostbusters jacket earlier; it was warm out and the jacket was slowing her down. Besides, if the guys really were after her, it would have been an obvious target.

The pier was up ahead, and Janine fell to her knees on the wooden planks, catching her breath. Her life had gotten so out of control; how could she ever hope to straighten things out again? If only she hadn't followed her fairy godmother so willingly, on blind trust. Janine winced, receiving something akin to a mental zap for the thought.

Janine, don't think that way; you know you belong with me. Now, prepare yourself. They'll be here soon. I'll show you what to do.

Part IV: Was I Just a Fool?

And can you tell me, was it worth it?

Really, I don't wanna know.

Egon's fingers tightened around the PKE meter in his hand. The Makeoveris Lotsabucks drew her strength from the water. She had to be down by the pier. And if she was there, she'd likely lured Janine there as well.

"Demon bitch," Egon muttered under his breath. Why had Janine fallen in with such a creature? How? The demonesses of her ilk usually preyed on women with low self-esteem; Janine had never impressed Egon as having such a problem. Could she have hidden it?

In any case, Egon had a serious problem on his hands. A Makeoveris Lotsabucks didn't simply change her victims; she turned them into a copy of her, taking over their minds in the end. Egon didn't think they had much time until this one took over Janine. She'd molded Janine in her image; the pictures they had of each were already starting to reveal a physical resemblance.

Despite how frantic they'd been, the last few hours had given Egon some time to think, some time to wonder if he'd made the wrong call somewhere along the line in regards to his reactions to Janine. It was true; it was too easy to fail to realize how much someone meant to you until you might lose them. If they lost Janine, Egon would never have the chance to at least see if romance was worth pursuing. Even if it wasn't in the end, if things didn't work out, he wanted that chance, to be able to find out. He didn't want to lose Janine. None of them did.

Upon reaching the pier, Egon at first worried he was too late. Janine was looking up at the hovering demoness, her eyes glazed, nightgown whipping about in the wind. "Janine!" She ignored him. He called her name again, louder, more frantic. "Janine!"

Egon watched in amazement as the makeover demon hit Janine with some type of power, and Janine began to levitate into the air, beginning to yell at Egon about the sins of the world, how she'd been wronged, how she'd finally found the only one who cared. The Makeoveris Lotsabucks simply watched, mocking Egon with a smug smile. "You're too late; she's already mine."

"I did this for you!" Janine shouted at one point, not long before she blasted him with a burst of energy strong enough to knock him off his feet and send him tumbling. Egon's insistence that he loved her, that they all did, didn't seem to do a lot of good. He was treated to a rant about how she'd always been made fun of for her looks, how she was never pretty enough or good enough. Egon could sympathize; he'd been ostracized by his peers in his youth, too. He doubted Janine would listen to that, however, so he had to come up with another plan, and quickly. Janine's transformation wasn't yet complete, but there was no time to lose. If there had ever been a time that Egon couldn't fail, this was it. Janine's life depended on it.

And, though Egon and his friends did win, technically, as they trapped the Makeoveris Lotsabucks and freed Janine from her clutches, the physicist couldn't help but wonder how much had been lost. Now that the blinders had been lifted, it was obvious this wasn't the Janine they knew; how much of her was left? And, as they stood on the pier, helplessly watching Janine's back arch as the last of the power left her, hearing the tortured scream that ripped from her throat, Egon had a sinking feeling it wouldn't be the last of the demon's effect on their lives.

Part V: Haunted

Six months later...

Time cast a spell on you

But you won't forget me

Janine shook her head as she turned to leave Egon's lab, catching sight of the dominoes lined up on one counter. Unable to resist, she knocked the first one down, watching as the others fell in succession. Her life felt a lot like a domino effect lately. After two years of being tricked by the Makeoveris Lotsabucks, Janine found the freedom was wonderful, but she wasn't truly free. The demoness's handiwork could still be seen whenever she looked in a mirror, and Janine's "fairy godmother" still haunted her dreams. Janine felt violated; she'd been changed on a cellular level, even, and she'd been led along blindly, believing it would help her feel better about herself. It hadn't then-and now, she felt worse. How could she have ever been so stupid? Her friends didn't care what she looked like, something she'd failed to see for far too long.

Her shift had ended, and she was going to head home, but she paused to rest first, sitting on the couch in the firehouse's living room. She felt weakened and her joints ached, despite the ibuprofen she'd taken earlier. It was a neuromuscular condition, one that might pass in time, due to the cellular changes the demon had made to her body. It baffled doctors; they'd never seen anything like it. Janine could only take comfort in the fact that it was neither fatal nor disabling, only a real pain in the ass. On the other hand, however, a part of her felt she deserved it for being foolish enough to go along with the makeover bitch in the first place.

Peter had given Janine the name of a therapist he knew; Janine didn't want to go but she supposed she should. She'd run out of options. Physically, nothing much could be done for her. Mentally, at least, there were options; despite her changed appearance, that was where she was probably most screwed up. There would be no easy fix, Janine knew, but, at that point, she was about willing to take any fix at all.

Part VI: The Sound of the Woman that Loves You

I'll follow you down 'til the sound of my voice will haunt you

You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you

The dominoes he'd been playing with earlier were all toppled over when Egon walked into his lab, and he wondered who had been in there. He wasn't upset, merely curious, but prompt investigation was best, before people had time to forget things.

As Egon walked through the living room, he saw Janine on the couch, half-awake and obviously in some pain. Not unbearable; her face didn't show that, but she wasn't comfortable. He sighed. Her condition had no official diagnosis; none of her doctors knew what to make of it. Of course, they had never seen the victim of a Makeoveris Lotsabucks before. Janine was the first to go so far and survive, and so no one knew what to expect. One specialist had described it as being something of a cross between fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, having qualities of both but also lacking key features of each disease. It fortunately didn't appear to be degenerative, either, but Egon wished Janine didn't have to deal with it at all. He crossed to the couch, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Janine?"

She raised her eyes-her green eyes; they'd once been sapphire blue-to look at him. "Yeah?"

"You look exhausted; why don't you stay here tonight? You can sleep in the guest bedroom if you like." Egon didn't want her trying to drive home; he could have driven her, but he thought she'd be more comfortable if she could get some sleep right away. She looked like she needed it.

"Well...okay. If you're sure." Janine looked hesitant, wanting to accept, but afraid of something. What, Egon didn't know, but he'd have given anything to have been able to take that haunted look out of her eyes. She had been functional since the final battle with the Makeoveris Lotsabucks-and what kind of twisted joke was the creature's name?-but Janine had not been the same. Egon wondered if she ever could be again.

"I'm sure." Before she could argue, Egon picked Janine up, settling her into his arms, and carrying her across the second floor to their guest bedroom. Janine didn't fight him, a sure sign of how badly she must have been feeling. He set her down on the bed, gently pulling the comforter down and then back up around her. "Get some sleep; it could only help. Did you want some Tylenol?"

"No, just took something a couple hours ago," Janine murmured. "Thanks." She drifted to sleep quickly, and Egon sat down on the chair in the room, thinking.

Dominoes didn't matter now, though they seemed to have much to do with the situation, one thing leading to another, until everyone was caught in an inescapable pattern. Feeling rejected, Janine had agreed to let the demoness into her life; Egon and the others had been blinded to the changes, which only made Janine go back more; the longer she stayed, the more dependent Janine had been a vicious cycle and it hadn't completely ended yet. The evil fairy godmother was out of the picture, but only physically. Her mind games still plagued everyone, but most especially Janine.

It wasn't fair; Janine had done nothing to deserve any of it. If only Egon hadn't been so selfish, wanting to avoid dealing with the romantic issue entirely. The least he could have done was to have told Janine why he was putting aside her advances, instead of leaving her to wonder what was wrong with her. His problem had become hers, and in a worse way than anyone could have imagined. No matter what his friends said to try to convince him otherwise, Egon knew deep down that this was his fault. As he watched the sleeping woman before him, her posture still tense with pain and the fear of nightmares that would come, Egon lowered his head, one thought running through his mind. Dear God, what have I done?