Patty storms into the kitchen. Without thinking about it, she'd gravitated to where she could find Holtzmann, even though she's not sure she wants a joke and a grin right now. At the noise of Patty's shoes clicking on the tile floor, Holtz looks up inquisitively from the stack of tupperware she is sorting by volume.
"The insurance company is giving my uncle some crap about needing to return the plates to prove the car was totalled." Patty blows out a breath. "He needs these cars. This is a big deal."
Holtzmann looks contrite. Eyes downcast, she drones, "I apologise for placing a superweapon on top of your uncle's car. It was reckless of me not to realise that superweapons are inevitably, might I say, spectacularly, destroyed in the saving of cities." She holds the expression for a bare half second before giving up and grinning. "Nah, just have the mayor's office replace his car. Ask soon, before they forget they're afraid of us."
Patty looks dubious. "I don't believe for a minute the mayor's office is actually offering us all this stuff no-strings-attached. They're our employers, and they hold the cards. That's fine for us, but I don't want my uncle stuck taking some weird favor from the Men In Black."
Holtz shrugs. "I bet if we call it more damages from Rowan's rampage, it'll be fine."
Patty feels annoyed rather than mollified by Holtz's casualness. She knew she wasn't in the mood for a grin. "I've put all this stuff into this project. I gave y'all my uncle's car, I'm telling you everything I ever knew about New York buildings, I've been muscling around these messed up underground haunted places scared out of my mind to save y'all's physics-gibberish-talking asses, and for all I can see y'all're just taking that for granted..."
Holtzmann looks up, her wide eyes actually serious. "You saved my life. You saved Erin and Abby hauling them out of that pit. I did notice that, at the time." She pauses. "And also now."
She closes the distance of the kitchen while Patty is still processing the words, and suddenly she is right in Patty's space, kissing her like it's a reckless last-minute idea that she's been planning for ten years, the way she does everything.
Patty is not expecting that at all, and it's a terrible kiss, and she has no idea at all what it means. By the time she blinks, Holtzmann has moved away, her hand on Patty's arm. "Don't stress about it. I know we need you." Then she's back to sorting her tupperware, while Patty stands there flustered.
"But, what does that...? What about my uncle's car...? What...?"
"Oh." Holtz looks up again, with the grin Patty did not want to see. "You said you just needed the plates, right? I'm pretty sure I've got the originals in my lab closet, from when I made the ECTO-1 plates."
"You made... y'know what, never mind. Yes," Patty admits, "That should help." She pauses. "Not to sound ungrateful, but I've seen what you keep in your lab closet. How many years is touching those things going to take off my uncle's life?"
"Hang on a sec, I'll get you a paper bag," says Holtzmann. She stops and does some mental arithmetic. "I'll get you two paper bags." She uses Patty's arm to lever herself up off the floor, and then she's off.
Patty sighs. It does solve the immediate problem, but she still has to squint to see how she fits together with this team now that the Rowan crisis has passed. And the butterflies in her stomach when Holtzmann kissed her are just one more ambiguous piece of that whole ambiguous puzzle.
Patty is idly browsing an architecture forum after a long day of bureaucracy, when a post catches her attention.
Patty had read a lot of weird allegations about the Ghostbusters in the past week and was mostly in the mood to dismiss this one, but the argument was reasoned and not accusatory, and she paused over the comment long enough to notice the poster's name: Margaret Ehrenberg.
"Obviously, I'm as grateful to the Ghostbusters as everyone else — last weekend's incidents could have led to horrific loss of life and property damage, but thanks to the quick thinking of our newest unlikely band of heroes, the property damage was merely obscene.
But I have to admit, I'm distressed about the hotel. The lobby's floor appears intact after the portal closed, and the columns can probably be reconstructed, but obviously the 1926 chandelier, one of the best examples of its type in New York, is long gone. Given that the city's engineers have closed the Mercato entirely for now while they examine the building for structural problems, there is definitely some risk that they will condemn the building, which as everyone who has ever been part of a restoration-or-teardown battle knows, could get ugly fast.
Lives are more important than buildings, but at the same time New York's iconic homes, hotels, and public buildings are its history. And I am a sad New Yorker this morning thinking about that lost history."
A face came immediately to mind — in college, Maggie Ehrenberg had been a pale slight woman who fiddled with her hands adorably when flustered. Patty had had a little bit of a crush on her until she realised that the other woman had no sense of humor to speak of. But she remembered the string of late night coffee rants about Robert Moses that had sparked Patty's interest in New York history.
Of course, Patty had seen the end of that tunnel — best-case scenario, a humanities Ph.D., with its almost certain odds of leaving her beloved New York for a teaching job at some land grant school hundreds of miles from the nearest subway. Or maybe fighting for one of a tiny number of preservation-related jobs that paid money, and then spending all of her free time volunteering for the kind of "save the clock tower" campaigns whose unpleasantness Ehrenberg had rightly derided. So, no. A B.A., a steady job at the MTA, and reading city land-use histories in her free time, that was the key to not going insane. She'd made the right call for her, and hadn't looked back.
But Ehrenberg had obviously made the other choice and gotten involved in those battles, and for a second Patty got caught in nostalgia and pictured her old friend, eyes alight and hands gesturing wildly as she talked, turning her attention to what Patty now did for a living.
Looked at that way, what the Ghostbusters do is pretty grim, right? It's numerically obvious — older building, more ghosts. Holtzmann's brilliant scary gadgets are designed to take care of the ghost problem as spectacularly as possible, and what's more spectacular than shattering iconic columns? Would she even want to engineer something that could hurt ghosts while avoiding damage to buildings, much less delicate artifacts inside buildings? Would it even be possible if she did want to? Patty restrains a wild impulse to run out and ask the mayor to buy every chandelier in the city and stack them all in a reinforced bunker constructed within the last five years on land which had never held a cemetary.
Well, she might as well talk to Holtzmann. For all she knows, there's something the engineer can actually do.
"Yeah, not gonna happen," Holtz says immediately, with a smirk that turns Patty on a little, and brings her shoulders up to her ears a lot. "Listen to yourself, you want me to stop inventing stuff that could save our lives, just so we can put chandeliers in little cages."
Patty always feels a little out of place in Holtz's lab — it's a beautiful space, crammed full of gadgets and loud beeping machines and quiet ominously-not-beeping machines. She focuses her eyes on the edge of a brick arch visible behind some bookcases, and tries to compose her thoughts. "That's not what I said," she finally grits out. "For all I know you could make the proton packs less destructive to physical things. Why not think about it?"
Holtzmann shakes her head, pulling plastic pieces off a circuit board with a pair of pliers for what must be the seventh time in the past five minutes. She puts the board down and looks at Patty, interested now despite herself. (And despite her indignation, Patty is struck by the sight of Holtz in debate mode, eyes shining, carelessly running a hand through the mop of her hair as she tries to figure out her argument.)
"To be honest," Holtz continues, "I don't even like the idea of engineering to protect haunted buildings. Progress isn't about clinging to the past, progress is about throwing out the wrong ideas of the past. If we actually want to know what time it is, why would we build astrolabes and not clocks? Old buildings have more ghosts, so why not prefer new buildings? We're scientists, not sentimentalists." Satisfied with the argument, she picks up her pliers and turns her attention back to the board.
"Well, that's bullshit." Patty is pissed now; did Holtzmann even notice dismissing her career? She paces a little. "Respect for the past, stopping and thinking maybe we don't have all the answers, is what keeps us from bombing ourselves back to the stone ages most days. Ask pretty much any dystopian science fiction author."
Patty is dimly aware that at this moment she's probably ten feet away from the largest collection of unlicensed nuclear material in New York City, and wonders if the fact that Holtzmann could literally blow up New York has made her indifferent to lesser property damage. Holtz is quiet for once, watching Patty curiously as if she is some strange new song on the radio and she wants to find out where it's going.
Patty takes a deep breath. "We can't afford to throw everything out every ten minutes and build new stuff; we have to reuse and improve. The colosseum in Arles was built to host chariot races. Then in the middle ages when they needed housing more than they needed gladiators, they bricked in the arches and people lived in them. Now it's a modern arena with stadium seats bolted in. Every layer builds on top of the one before. That's how humanity tells a story that lasts."
Holtzmann shakes her head, rejecting the argument. "That's nice for humanity, but have you seen the cool stuff I'm building here? We're making history." Her tone is casual, but she looks a little angry, and she's melting a screwdriver over a blue flame either accidentally or on purpose. Patty guesses that all the Ghostbusters feel a little ignored by history, and maybe Holtz is happy to ignore it right back.
But you can't just mentally throw away every cool thing people have ever accomplished. That strikes Patty as pretty arrogant, and it upsets her to think her friend might feel that way. Regardless, she realises she's staring, and that Holtz is no longer paying any attention. She lets herself out of the lab with a sigh.
Their next bust is the actual worst. They are called into the Lyceum Theatre at 3am to placate the angry non-survivors of an unusually-disastrous 1934 run of what Patty is going to firmly think of as the Scottish Play as long as they are in the building, thank you very much.
She's initially excited just to be in the Lyceum. When she worked for the MTA, Patty would go to plays when she could afford the time to wait in line for day-of tickets, and she always had a weakness for ornate classic theatres, but she'd never been in this one. She'd looked at pictures of the reddish marble staircase with its matching walls and intricate iron stair rail, but in person it is unexpectedly beautiful, rising from the lobby. She's momentarily grateful to the Ghostbusters again for giving her an excuse to see these beautiful pieces of New York's living history, and has a mental image of the four of them descending the staircase, arms linked. She blinks. This isn't tourism; they are here to fight ghosts.
It doesn't go well. Abby's proton pack malfunctions, just zaps off entirely and refuses to zap back on, and they find themselves all coated in ectoplasm, firing up that gorgeous marble staircase at Banquo, Banquo's understudy, and a very convincing looking Second Apparition.
"Eat protons, Hamlet!" Holtzmann yells, turning up the juice, and Patty is about to snark, "No, no, your other left side of the North Sea," but stops herself when she sees how tense and miserable Holtz is over the failure of her tech and their lousy tactical position.
"Fucking help, Patty," Holtzmann snaps, and Patty does help, was already helping, locking her beam into place, but it's a fifteen minute upwards slog before they have the ghosts neutralized, punctuated every few seconds by flying chips of marble and the bursting of every single metal column of the banister. Truthfully, they are lucky that no one living is impaled by the handrail when it falls.
When it's finally quiet, Patty can't stop staring, horrified, at what they're leaving behind them. There's plaster and metal and wood and marble dust everywhere. The staircase is still there, but it rises out of the lobby like the remnants of a ruined city, not the thing of beauty she was just admiring. And they did this. Why? Even on her worst day at the MTA, Patty never felt like she was destroying her hometown. Holtz is looking at her, but Patty can't bring herself to make eye contact back. They are all subdued as they walk out.
Holtzmann recovers her equilibrium once they're in the car, and starts tapping the steering wheel and singing a song about Claudius to some They Might Be Giants tune, which she is clearly making up as she goes. "You do actually know those ghosts weren't from Hamlet, right?" Patty manages.
"Whatever you say, hot stuff," Holtzmann grins at her, and suddenly it's just too much, the wreckage of that gorgeous staircase burned into her mind alongside this smug engineer, grinning about what she doesn't know and doesn't care about.
"Dammit, Holtzmann, you just have no idea how to give a shit what anyone else thinks, do you?"
And that is pretty much it for further conversation. Holtz grips the steering wheel and drives, leaning forward tense and closed. Abby's face wrinkles in concern as she watches Holtz. Erin hazards a worried glance at Patty, but Patty ignores her.
Patty struggles to keep her breathing calm and to relax her fingers, which clench involuntarily on the door armrest. Holtz's blank withdrawn face is just another ruin, one more thing Patty destroyed tonight. She's still angry, still thinks they have to be able to do better than this for the city, but she hates that she can upset Holtz so much with a word.
Patty feels the others' eyes on her as she heads home from the firehouse, but she doesn't look back. What could she say?
Patty decides she had better work from home for a little while, just to give everything a chance to defuse a bit. She e-mails the team with her plans, then settles into reading about ghost activity in the NYC water system, and possible impacts of the Croton Water Filtration Plant Project on said. The jury is still out on whether they'll find anything they can use, but it's been on her todo list for awhile, so she's happy to focus on reading for a few days and send the others notes about weird artifacts that have been discovered during excavation.
"You can renovate my tunnel anytime, babe. ;)" Holtzmann writes, which doesn't really even make any sense, but at least it sounds friendly. She feels a little heartsick at the thought that she and Holtz might not be friends again, that this argument might stop the hourly barrage of flirtatious comments or the casual arm touches, that Holtzmann might somehow become warier about letting Patty see the manic spark in her eye when she's almost done building some new gadget.
But she doesn't apologise. Holtz is lovely, but Patty's brains and interests need respect too, and that's too complicated to try to say via e-mail. So she just writes back, "It's a date, baby. I'll send you ahead to scout for alligators" so Holtz will know they're still speaking.
Erin comes by Patty's apartment in the afternoon to check in on her, and Patty briefly bustles around the kitchen, putting on water for tea on the sterile electric stove she hates. (New York rent is New York rent and kitchen (character of) didn't make the list of priorities.)
"Are you okay?" Erin asks, nervous as always and fiddling with her teacup. "You looked kind of surprisingly devastated last night."
Patty sits at the kitchen table, her long arms folded. "I could have taught American history," she elides a thousand irrelevant self-deprecations about whether this is actually true. "But I cared about something else more. I think you know a little about that." Erin nods uncertainly. "I wanted to stay in New York. And now thanks to all this," Patty mimes firing a proton weapon at the awful stove, "I'm part of New York history. Sometimes I'm a destructive part of New York history. That's kinda heavy, for me."
Patty is trying to find words for what she wants to say next. Erin makes an encouraging noise, and waits for her to continue. "I can't imagine not working with Holtzmann. She's incredible, and I'm always happy to have her back." Patty feels briefly unmoored at the thought that they might be in a fight (occasional mortal danger: it's what they do) and she might somehow not be there for Holtz, that it would even be a question, but Erin just nods again like it's obvious that Patty looks out for Holtz. "But she doesn't get why I hate destroying buildings. That doesn't matter to her at all."
Erin puts down her teacup and twiddles her thumbs. "You're right. I know a little bit about academia. I also know a little bit about never having had enough friends, and being too stubborn to see when the friends I do have are right. Holtzmann can be completely maddening — I have met the woman and I know this — but she really likes you. I think it will be okay if you let it."
Patty makes a face. Holtzmann respects brains, which to her means engineering or sufficiently applied physics that she can squint and claim it's kind of like engineering. She cracks jokes and flirts with Patty, but "really likes" is for scientists, not historians.
But she knows that's sour grapes, and won't do any good for Erin to hear, so instead she asks, "How is Holtz doing? Is she okay? Not juggling flaming nuclear waste any more than usual?"
Erin shrugs. "Yeah, she's okay. She fixed the clogged line on Abby's proton pack, and fixed the regression tests for the proton packs, and added some regression tests for the regression tests, and now she's off muttering about some new incomprehensible project. She's... Holtzmann."
Patty grins at the mental image of Holtz flying around the lab testing things. "Good. I'm glad. I'll be back at the firehouse in a couple of days; it really is nice to have some space for this reading. Want to hear about this massive pile of abandoned stuffed rabbits they found under Roosevelt Island during the sewer renovation?"
"...and you call what we do the stuff of nightmares. No thank you. I'll see you back at the firehouse."
Patty feels much more cheerful after Erin leaves. It was nice of her to stop by; it reminds Patty that she's one of the team and they know it. She scans the creepiest picture of the toy rabbit pile and sends it to Holtz, who she's sure will be amused.
At 3:48am after the second night Patty has stayed home from work, her doorbells rings. She groans, and flails around looking for a bathrobe. Could be Holtzmann, could be serial killers, and the smart money is not on serial killers.
Holtzmann looks manic, like she hasn't slept since Patty saw her last and is staving off collapse by sheer force of adrenaline. This is basically normal, but Patty's expectations have been reset by the time away from the lab and the worry. She can't take her eyes off Holtz, and tries to cover it by pretending to be more middle-of-the-night bleary than she actually is (also not difficult).
"Great, let's go," says Holtz.
"Wait, what?" Patty mumbles, "It's 4am, and we... well, actually, it's good to see your face, but... going? What?"
"Let's go," Holtz repeats calmly, "I came here to get you, and you were mean to me so you owe me one. And I want you to come with me. So we are going."
"Fine. Let me get some clothes first, though." When Patty comes back, slinging her feet into a pair of sandals as she walks, Holtz is standing behind the couch looking curiously at Patty's ward map of Washington Heights, and absolutely not in any way falling asleep on her feet.
"Maybe I should drive," Patty suggests when they get outside to where the hearse has amazingly managed to sit for nearly 12 minutes without getting a ticket. "Nope," Holtzmann grins, "that would be telling. Don't worry, we won't die."
They get in the car. They don't die. The stereo plays New Order and Metric and Aqua, and Holtzmann sings along indiscriminately. They don't talk much. Patty has a hundred things she'd like to say, but they all contradict each other, and she's still not sure which way to jump. So instead she just watches Holtz. She looks a little nervous (about Patty?), but mostly she's back to her usual mode of driving with her head back and arms relaxed, taking up an improbable amount of space in the cab. She notices Patty watching her, and briefly spiderwalks two fingers down Patty's arm, grinning. It's nice.
"You know, I live here and I have a sense of direction. I can tell we're going back to the theatre," Patty finally mentions.
"Great!" Holtzmann says, "In that case, tell me if I should take this left or go around the block."
Holtzmann pulls into the loading zone in front of the theatre. She does something to the door and it opens (Patty doesn't want to know) and they walk inside.
As Patty's eyes adjust to the lighting, she has to suck in a breath. What has the madwoman done this time? How could she possibly have done this? The Lyceum's grand staircase is transformed from the way it looked before (not to mention after) the weekend's battle, and yet somehow not unrecognizeable. She can see the remnants of the pockmarks their proton beams made on the marble, because the holes have been filled in with some kind of faintly-colored composite Patty isn't familiar with, so now the stairs and walls are swirled with a pale purple that somehow complements the original reddish color perfectly. The iron stair rails are totally rebuilt from some metal hybrid that is probably rated for use on spacecraft yet somehow manages to look entirely in-place here, and the pattern has a subtle helix motif. There's no sign of any damage from the fight. It's, frankly, beautiful.
Patty blinks, and swallows several questions in a row ("How did you find a concrete that would take that color?", "When did you have time to do this?", "Are you going to be arrested?", "How did you afford this?", "Okay, but, seriously, who helped you?"), finally setting on "Why did you do this?"
"You don't like it?" Holtzmann asks, and for just a moment she looks like someone who hasn't slept in 48 hours and is running off an adrenaline bill which is about to come due. "No! It's amazing as fuck. But answer the question, girl."
"I thought about what you said, about cities and renewal and reuse. You said spaces adapt to their eras — well, if this is the era of fighting ghosts all over New York, maybe we need to rethink New York architecture to keep up." Holtz pulls a proton pistol out of her pocket, aims it at the rebuilt staircase, and fires. The steps glow brilliant purple, and the light is reflected off the wall by the new banister, then it fades again; no damage. (Holtz ruins the moment slightly by muttering, "Whew, glad that actually worked.")
"I didn't want you to think that engineering was only about destroying things. Or that I was." She looks up, hopeful and scared, and Patty realises she wants nothing more than to kiss this woman, ideally before the Landmarks Preservation Commission shows up to cart her away for altering a historic building without a waiver.
So she does, closing the distance, Holtz leaning against the reconstructed red-purple wall with that same mixture of hope and fear in her eyes. Holtz looks startled, but grabs Patty immediately and kisses back, and Patty can feel the other woman's rapid pulse through the arm around Patty's shoulder. "Hey. I need you too. This is... you are... incredible." Patty pauses. "Unless your permits are in significantly better shape than I'm guessing they are, though, maybe we should get out of here?"
When they leave the theatre, the sky is just beginning to lighten, and Patty insists on driving. Holtzmann slumps against her shoulder in the car, fading so quickly that she starts awake at Patty's whispered "seat. belt. Holtzmann." fifteen seconds later. As they drive through the quiet streets, Patty stares at building after building, wondering what each of her familiar landmarks would look like reenvisioned by some wild engineer's vision of ghostbuster-proof beauty. It's... actually not as upsetting an idea as she would have expected.
They fetch up back at Patty's apartment, because she actually knows where it is. Patty wonders if the engineer is really awake enough to consent to share her bed, but her eyes slit open and she says, "any time" with a sly grin. In bed, she curls in and closes her eyes again immediately, her yellow hair a bright blur on Patty's shoulder, her breathing finally slowing from the adrenaline burst of who-knows-what she'd done in the past two days.
Patty stares at Holtzmann's sleeping form for awhile, mulling the idea of this strange creature who is arrogant and obsessed with destructive technology, but willing to rearrange the city to make Patty smile, and who is maybe (maybe) actually listening to what Patty thinks is important. Could this actually turn out okay? Could she actually work with this woman to play a part in the history of New York that she can be proud of? Maybe...
For now, she has seen an almost-unbelievable thing, and is sleeping with an almost-unbelievable woman, and that makes this a pretty great night. Patty laces her fingers through Holtzmann's, feels Holtz grip back, and falls asleep smiling.