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Better Late Than Never

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It was tempting to say, after the fact, that the first thing she noticed about him was that he never smiled. Unfortunately, being a secretary, she was meticulous about recording things correctly, and that simply wasn't true. The first thing she noticed about Egon was that the thing he was wiring into the wall was spitting showers of blue sparks, and he either didn't notice or expected it to do that. He had absolutely no reaction to the sparks whatsoever. In fact, he hadn't reacted to much of anything other than the power supply he was working on.

The second thing she'd noticed was how tall he was, when Venkman had looked at her resume and agreed to hire her, not as a temp, but as a full-time secretary with benefits - and an non-disclosure agreement, which she suspected was why he changed his mind about her temping. That, and it meant that paying her overtime wouldn't be a paperwork nightmare. So he'd taken her around what was no longer a working firehouse but wasn't yet what they wanted it to be, and introduced her to the other two partners in the business. Egon had finally come out from the stairwell to the basement, and shook her hand. She wasn't really self-conscious about her height - sure, she was shorter than average, but not by that much, and wearing heels it wasn't that noticeable - but he towered over her. The hair didn't help; it added another inch, at least.

The third thing she'd noticed was how long his hands were. She supposed that went with being that tall and everything, but when she was shaking hands with him, his fingers just seemed to go on and on. Her hand looked so tiny in his, despite him not really looking that big. That is, he wasn't a hulking kind of guy; he was so thin, he just wasn't imposing until you were right up on him and noticed him towering over you. She guessed that was why his height wasn't the first thing she noticed.

The fourth thing she'd noticed was how nice his eyes were. They were dark, deep, smoldering brown eyes, the type a nice Jewish girl could get lost in, and his glasses framed them nicely. They were intelligent, and that sounds stupid when you think about it, because really, someone's eyes can't be intelligent, just perceptive, right? Which Egon clearly was, at least as far as details went. After her first week, his ability to see every tree in the woods and have no clue what the forest looked like started to drive her crazy. But somehow, just that first look in his eyes not only told her that he saw details no one else noticed, but also gave her a glimpse into the contours of his mind. He thought about things no one else ever thought about, that no one else could think about until he explained them, and thank G-d Ray was around, because only Ray ever seemed to understand the explanations. And once Ray understood, the gadgets worked. Not on the first try, always, but eventually they worked.

The fifth thing she'd noticed was that he wasn't smiling at her. She'd decided that he was just a very serious person, rather than than he didn't like her, mostly on the basis of his not smiling at Venkman, either. For what it's worth, Venkman hadn't smiled a whole lot either, that first day, although he had given her a sort of wolfish grin when she introduced herself, and again when she agreed to be hired directly instead of through the temp agency. Ray had smiled, a lot, but Ray always seemed to be having fun, even before they got their first client. Ray had faith in things, a luxury that she couldn't afford. She suspected Venkman was the same as she was, that he'd learned not to have faith, too. Spengler didn't have the sort of mind that allowed for faith; she'd figured out that much already. At some point, she was going to have to ask him how he came to believe in ghosts.

That he never really smiled at all, she didn't realize until after they'd finished remodeling the ground floor and she'd been at her desk for a week. The closest expressions to a smile she ever saw on him were a gentle, contented look (usually directed at Ray), a smug face (usually directed at Venkman), and a twisted half-leer that would have terrified her if it hadn't also been a bit of a turn-on. That was a mad scientist's look, and it looked frighteningly good on him.

She wasn't sure what she wanted from him at first. After all, he was cute, and with a name like Spengler, her mother wasn't going to give her a hard time about him even if he'd never set foot in a synagogue, but he was a mad scientist, and these guys were setting up a business with the idea of catching ghosts, for crying out loud. But somehow, talking with him and Ray, she'd gotten caught up in their dream, at least a little bit.

When she hit the alarm for their first bust, she was every inch as delighted as they were, and despite having been on her way out when the call came in, she waited around to let them back into the garage. They'd carried the smoking box with the stripes through the garage and into the basement like a trophy, and she'd watched them slide the cartridge into the slot in the big red machine. Then they'd all watched the monitor screen for a few minutes, watching the ugly green blob fling itself at all sides of the containment grid. That was what had convinced her that this was for real; they could have faked any single part of it, but it all fit, and something about the basement felt different once that thing was in there.

That was proof that he really was brilliant, that he was the Tesla of their time, or at least the Faraday. (Yes, she knew who Tesla and Faraday were. She'd taken physics in high school, thank you very much.) Over the next few weeks, she saw ample proof of other good qualities of his - bravery in facing down spook after spook, loyalty to his friends, levelheadedness in the face of danger (although it was possible that was just him not getting the big picture again). And he was handy to have around the place, although honestly, if it wasn't esoteric, Ray would be more likely to return something to its original condition when it broke. Egon often wanted to replace it, redesign it so it wouldn't break the same way again. That took longer, and stood a non-zero chance of blowing up due to some unforeseen consequence of his modifications.

When Peck showed up the second time, she found out Egon could stand up for himself, although it came too late to stop Louis - no, that wasn't Louis, she had to remind herself of that, that was Vinz - from seeing the "sign" and slipping away.

That afternoon, she learned Egon was willing to sacrifice his own life to save the world. Not that he was exactly looking forward to it, but if it had come down to that, he was ready. The crossed streams could have neutronized him, could have blown all four of them to individual particles. And yeah, she had to admit, she learned that about all of them, not just Spengler. She'd already known that about Ray, really. And in some sense Winston was a soldier following orders up there, protecting his country like any good veteran. It was honestly only surprising about Venkman. But it was noble on any of them, and it looked good on Egon.

That was the night that she admitted to herself she was in love with him. It had been a long time coming, honestly, but that was when she realized it wasn't just a crush, or lust, or hero-worship; she was seriously in love with this man who barely saw her.

She decided she needed to do something about that.

They'd all climbed into Ecto-1 after the four boys descended from the rooftop of 55 Central Park West with Dana and Louis (well, all except for Louis, and the paramedics took good care of him), set off, and only then realized they really didn't have anywhere to go. The firehouse wasn't habitable, between the massive dose of psychokinetic energy it had taken and having its roof blown off. Dana's apartment no longer existed in any significant sense. Ray had paid off the mortgages on his parents' house with his share of the profits from their busy period, but it was out on Long Island and it currently had renters. Ray and Egon had been sharing an apartment before they all moved into the firehouse, and Peter had had his own, but they'd long since let those leases lapse. Winston still had a room at his parents' house, but he didn't have his own place, either.

That was how, after a brief debriefing with the mayor and a three-ring circus of a press conference, they all ended up at Janine's apartment.

The first order of business was to get the marshmallow and soot off, so they all cycled through the shower. The guys got back into the clothes they'd been wearing under the flight suits; the suits themselves got tossed into a trash bag to be washed later. Janine found an oversized sweatshirt and a skirt (calf-length on her, knee-length on Dana, lucky wench) that more or less fit Dana, to replace the tattered remains of the red dress and the housecoat that Peter had scrounged from one of the abandoned apartments to go over it. Winston decided to go ahead and take a cab to his folks' place for the night; the three partners agreed that was wise, and told him they'd all meet up back at the firehouse to survey the damage. Egon and Ray did some quick calculations on the decay rate of the PKE surge, and decided that by 32 hours after the incident, the building should be safe to enter. That would be at about two o'clock the following afternoon.

Janine hauled all of her extra blankets, her heavy winter comforter, and some pillows out of her closet while the guys ordered pizza. She was glad she'd done that first; once they'd all eaten, it was late, and the guys were all understandably exhausted. Winston's cab arrived, and the rest of them briefly sparred about who would sleep where. Janine tried to give up her bed, but Ray and Dana wouldn't hear of it - and managed to stop Peter from accepting the offer by collectively staring him down. She ended up in her own bedroom, alone, while Dana took her couch, Peter dozed off mostly upright in her only stuffed chair, and Ray and Egon nested with the blankets on the floor.

Dana very kindly offered to make breakfast the next morning, which ended up being scrambled eggs and toast. There were still several hours to go before Egon and Ray would let anyone go near the firehouse, and they calculated that Dana's old apartment wouldn't be etherically stable for another several days, so Peter left with her to try and find her someplace to stay in the meantime. Ray decided to take Ecto to start locating sources for parts for the equipment that they knew they'd have to replace, starting with the containment unit itself, agreeing to meet with Peter and Egon back at the firehouse at two.

Suddenly, Egon and Janine were alone in her apartment.

He seemed absorbed in the sketches he was making on a notepad. She gathered up the marshmallow-sticky uniforms and ran down to the coin-op laundry in the basement, checking the care labels in the uniforms and hoping that the modifications the guys had made didn't require special treatment. By the time she got back, he was leaning forward onto the table, hands at his temples.

"Anything wrong?" she asked.

He looked at her as if he hadn't realized she was there. "Not immediately. In the long term, we have to re-capture every single spirit that escaped from containment, and now they all know our tactics. If they talked in the first containment unit, and I have no reason to think they didn't, even the ones we caught early on will have a good grasp of our current capture-and-contain strategy. This could be very difficult." He paused. "Where are our uniforms?"

"I took them down to wash them. Was that not the right thing to do?"

He considered. "No, that should be fine. If the residual marshmallow contains a significant PKE charge, it needs to be removed before it transfers the energy to the cloth itself, and if not, they should be washed before they stain further. I can get samples of the residuum from Ecto; the back hatch is full of the stuff." He pushed back from the table. "I think I've gotten about as far as I can go with the redesign of the containment unit without Ray."

She perched on the arm of the sofa. "That was really brave, what you did yesterday." That went without saying, but it felt right to say it.

He shrugged. "Not really. We were the only ones who could do anything about it, so we did." A wave of weariness flooded over his face, with the shadows of other emotions - fear, worry, anger, awe - speeding over it like clouds across a stormy sky. "It was - we did what we needed to do; that was all."

"It wasn't all," she challenged him. "It was a pretty big deal that you guys were smart enough and brave enough to be there to do that to begin with."

For several silent minutes, he sat there staring right past her into his memories of the previous day. When he spoke up, there was a tremor in his voice she'd never heard before. "Facing my own death was easy. I've never been all that attached to this body. It was the thought of losing Stantz and Venkman that really scared me. We've worked together for so long - I don't think I'd be functional without them."

"Oh, Egon," she murmured, leaning forward and putting one hand on his shoulder. He looked at it and mechanically covered it with one of his own, as Peter had coached him to do, and continued, "When I woke up, I thought briefly that I was the only survivor, and my first thought was that I'd rather Gozer had killed me, too. Then I heard Ray shouting, and I was - incredibly relieved."

"Oh, Egon," she repeated with more emphasis, and put her arms around him in a bear hug. His arms slid around her, again in the artificial motion that Peter had taught him - and then his head dropped onto her shoulder and he was squeezing, really hugging her back, hard. "I couldn't face that. You say I'm brave, but I'm more terrified of the idea of being alone again than of dying. I feel like a coward."

Suddenly he sat upright again, his features arranged in the visionary look, some new insight blazing in his eyes. She drew back her hands, but he reached out and caught them. His eyes prowled her face, finally meeting her gaze. "I'm sorry."

"What?" She was puzzled. "I don't think you have anything to be sorry for."

"No, I inadvertently insulted you." He frowned; it wasn't exactly a contrite look, but it was as close as she'd ever seen on him. "I wouldn't have been alone, at that point. I would still have lost Ray and Peter, and I still don't know if I would survive that loss. But - you would still be here." It wasn't a question; it was a conclusion.

"Of course I would." She tried to sound reassuring.

He studied her face like he might a particularly interesting fungal specimen. Slowly his expression softened. She had enough time to wonder what he was thinking and contemplate three or four theories when he reached out with one of those delicate, long-fingered hands and stroked one cheek, gently, from ear to chin.

She couldn't take it anymore. She leaned forward, closed her eyes, and lightly brushed her lips against his, cool and dry.

He froze. She waited a few seconds for him to pull away, but he didn't. She leaned in a bit more and kissed him solidly, her lips pressed firmly to his mouth.

He was still frozen as she pulled away. Disappointed, she started to lean back, when one of his hands found the back of her head, and he leaned forwards and kissed her, rather tentatively. She slid back into the kiss, parting her lips slightly and stroking his lightly with the tip of her tongue; he mirrored her movements, hesitant but clearly interested.

She pulled away again to look at him. His eyes were dark and dilated, his face flushed. "You ever done this before?" she asked, a little embarrassed at the question.

"No." He adjusted his glasses, which had been knocked askew. "My attempts at experimentation in high school were rebuffed, and I decided there were more interesting avenues of research to pursue. I am . . . reassessing that last judgement."

"I should hope so." She stood up. "You wanna take this fast or slow?"

"I don't have enough data to answer that question." He blinked at her, then reached one hand out, running it across the fabric of her blouse from her shoulder down her arm to her wrist. "I . . . will either of those courses of action end up with us removing our clothing? Because I find myself intensely curious as to what you look like without it."

She chanced a glance at his groin. Hoo, it looked like it was true what they said about taller men. And that he was interested. "Only if I get to see you naked, too."

"I think I would enjoy that." He stood up. "Should we adjourn to the bedroom? I suspect it might be more comfortable."

"Sure." She half-dragged him through the door, closed it, and locked it just in case one of the other guys came back early. As she turned back to him, she asked "Do you want me to take my clothes off, or do you want to take them off of me?"

His voice was very small. "May I?"

"Of course." She sat on the bed as his hands undid the buttons on her blouse, one at a time, trembling a bit, and then brushed the fabric from her with small, spidery motions, touching her skin in dozens of places. He looked at the bra as if he'd never seen one before, but he inspected the clasp clinically and undid the hooks like a guy with much more practice. He slid the straps from her shoulders and gently un-cupped her, his eyes drinking in every detail of her. The zipper on her skirt he had to hunt for, but he found it, and peeled it off of her hips carefully. She hadn't put on hose yet, so all that remained was her underwear, a low slung black pair. His hands were shaking like a teenager's as he slid his fingers under the waistband and slid it off of her. His eyes ranged all over her, from feet to hairline, cataloguing every detail, no doubt.

"My turn," she whispered, and he met her eyes with a start. Nodding, he sat on the edge of the bed, and she worked down his placket, pushing the shirt from his shoulders and down his arms with a smooth motion. He was wearing an undershirt, which she tried to pull over his head gently, but really, there was no graceful way to do that. As he resettled his glasses, she contemplated taking those off, too, but she knew he was awfully nearsighted, and she wanted him to be able to see her. He was wearing dark charcoal slacks; she remembered to take his shoes off first, then unbuttoned his waistband and unzipped the fly, taking the opportunity to cop a feel of his backside while she was doing so. G-d, this really did feel like being a teenager again, fumbling through your first time. In a way, she guessed it was. Just because someone was in his thirties didn't automatically make losing one's virginity any easier. She slid his boxers off with his trousers, freeing his remarkably prominent erection - longer than average, thinner than average, and slightly curved - from the fabric; she managed to get his socks, too, and left him quite naked.

He looked up at her, clearly unsure of what to do next, so she sat next to him on the bed and started kissing him again. His hands hesitantly found her hip and her shoulder, and began rubbing in small circles, his fingers tracing her skin, probing for reactions. She moaned encouragingly as he found sensitive spots - in the dip just above her hip joint, on the inside of her arm, at the small of her back. Her fingers played down the long expanse of his legs, stroking gently at the insides of his thighs with her nails. He didn't moan, but occasionally he would suck in his breath through his teeth and shiver.

She pushed him back on the bed and climbed on top of him, sitting on his thighs. His hands slid up her belly to her breasts, cupping them. She chuckled, leaned forward so her abdomen just barely brushed his erection, and ran her fingertips quickly over his nipples. He squeaked, and jerked so hard he almost knocked her over. As she recovered her balance, his thumbs found her nipples - mirroring her, again - and began stroking, tiny, repeated circles on the sensitive skin. She moaned again, involuntarily this time, and lost track of what her hands were doing; that was delicious, and it was making her vulva throb in anticipation.

"Janine, would you mind if I, um, touched your genitals?" He flushed a bit at the question. She grinned down at him. "No, not at all. That's sort of what we're going for, here."

He lifted her off of him and gestured for her to lie down next to him, which was a little crowded on this bed, but okay, she did it. She curled her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder, nipping and licking at the skin at the base of his throat, as he brushed a hand across her labia, then did it again, pressing a little harder. She ground into it, encouraging him; when she looked up, his face was tense with concentration. He slid a finger between the lips, and made a small sound, not long enough to be a whimper. Then his thumb found her clit, just as it had found her nipples, and began doing the same small circles, skating around the edge of it. Normally, she would have found that slightly uncomfortable, but she was wetter than normal, too, and it felt wonderful, warm and pulsing and oh, G-d, he was sliding one of those long, thin fingers into her. She squeezed, and he made the not-a whimper again. She expected him to start thrusting - that was what all her previous boyfriends had done for finger-fucking - but instead, he curled it back, stroking along the inside of her pussy like he was searching for something. The second time he did it, she felt a weird pressure, not something she'd felt before but not unpleasant. By the fifth stroke, she was sure she was about to explode, it felt so . . . deep was the only word she could think of for it.

"What are you doing?" she gasped between moans. Immediately, he froze. "No, no, please don't stop, I just - no one's ever done that before."

His mouth quirked up into that twisted mad-scientist leer. Oh, that was hot. "Just something Peter suggested I research."

"Well, I'm glad you did the reading, professor, because the experiment is a success," she panted, as he slid in a second finger and continued. She grabbed for his shoulders and pulled him down to kiss her again, rolling her tongue against his in the same rhythm.

Soft warmth started to throb, and she caught his hand. "Hold on. I'm about ready to pop, and I'd really like to come with you inside me. Are you, um, ready?"

He slid his fingers out of her and stroked her clit with them twice. "Ah, I think so. Do I look ready to you?" A trace of worry dashed across his eyes.

She looked down. "Oh, yeah. Real ready. Hold on just a sec." She opened the drawer on her bedside table with one hand and fished out a little foil packet. Opening it, she grabbed his penis with the other hand and stroked it a couple of times. Usually, this was where a guy started to lose it, but he didn't seem to have any reaction. Score one for a lack of experience, there. She worked up a gob of saliva, bent down, and licked the head of his erection, then quickly rolled the condom down over the shaft and licked it again.

He cocked his head at her. "Lubrication?"

She nodded. "Yeah. I mean, they come with some, but it's never enough." She didn't add that the second lick was often necessary to maintain the erection; it certainly hadn't been an issue in this case.

He contemplated that as if he'd never thought about it before. Which, in point of fact, he probably hadn't. She ran her nails gently across his flat stomach, and felt the muscles tighten. "Um, do you want me on top, or you?"

Again, he obviously hadn't thought about it before, and turned his whole attention to the question. "I believe the usual position is with the male on top? Let's try that first, and if we have . . . issues, then we can change."

"Sounds good to me." She lay down on her back and spread her legs. He scooted over, trying to arrange himself exactly in between them. Suddenly he dipped his head down, and she felt him kiss her clit gently; she squirmed and hissed in pleasure. Then she felt him bump his nose against her before straightening up again. She laughed. "What was that?"

"I'm not sure." He leered at her again, but it seemed much less crooked than before. "I think I was feeling . . . playful."

She grinned. "Well, your toy's getting impatient." She rolled her hips at him.

"Of course. Where were we?" He scooted forward, rubbing the head of his erection over her labia; she rolled her head back and moaned, "Please, please, I'm ready, get in here."

With a look of intense concentration, he pressed into her - an inch, two inches - then stopped. His face was flushed and covered with a new sheen of sweat.

"Egon, you okay?" She wanted to thrust up into him, but if he wanted to take it slow, she'd let him.

"I -" he cleared his throat. "I almost lost control. Give me a moment." She tried to suppress a grin; this was like high school, all right.

He breathed deeply, twice, then resumed easing his way into her. G-d, he was long - not as thick as her last lover, but he went so deep. He paused again, his arms shaking a bit, then drew back as slowly as he'd pushed.

Another stroke, two, three. She began curving her hips up into him, her hands making fists in the covers, and panting. He made a noise that was halfway between a groan and a gasp. His arms were still shaking.

"Here, let me try something." She pulled back her knees and planted her feet on his shoulders. "That should take a little of the weight off your arms." It also arched her back in a way that made it a bit easier to rock, which she liked.

"Thanks." He started thrusting again, slow, smooth movements interrupted only slightly by the fact that he was trembling, and -

She arched her back, pushing her head back into the pillow. Each stroke was hitting that spot he'd been curling his fingers against before. She couldn't remember that ever happening before. And each stroke ended at that spot just behind her cervix that was sensitive, too. He was a piston in a two-stroke engine, and the steam was building. She slid one hand between them and rubbed the smooth spot just above her clitoris, working it in time with his thrusts, not putting pressure directly on it because that would be painful right now, but right next to it. Warmth and heat throbbed through her, coiling at the base of her spine, ticking through her legs to her toes.

Egon panted, shifting his legs slightly, and looked directly at her, her hair askew, her mouth open and moaning. Those probing eyes took in every detail; she knew she was being watched, being observed, every reaction catalogued - and she found it incredibly erotic. The warmth spread, pricking her nipples and flushing her face.

She traced his ears, his earlobe, and the side of his neck with her other hand, inspecting him, too. He groaned and leaned into her touch, as he looked directly into her eyes.

And he smiled.

Not the leer. Not the little satisfied look. A full, toothy, utterly delighted smile.

The smile of a scientist who has just made the discovery of a lifetime.

Her heart overflowed, the warmth crashed over her like a wave, and she came with her heels in the air, screaming his name.

"Ahhh," he gasped, and sped up. As she slowly rolled back to normal consciousness, she shifted her grip to his shoulders and began bearing down on each thrust. His eyes flickered in surprise, then fluttered and rolled back, and he lowered his head onto her shoulder and roared as he throbbed within her.

She felt him smile against her shoulder again as he collapsed and rolled off of her, sated. Normally, she'd collect the condom and dispose of it at this point, but she felt like her bones were made of jam at the moment. She settled for checking to see that it was still in place, and spooned against Egon's side.

He shifted and turned his head towards her. "Janine, thank you. I . . . needed that."

"I needed you." She put her arms around him as he shifted his head. He leaned in and kissed her again, warm and sweet and gentle.

There was near-silence as their breathing returned to normal. For a moment, she thought he was going to fall asleep again, and after the day he'd had yesterday, she wasn't going to gripe about it this time, but after several minutes he opened his eyes, cleared his throat, and asked, "Um, perhaps we could - do this again, sometime?"

"Oh, Egon, I'd love to." She tightened her embrace, and he hugged her back. They nuzzled at each other softly until Egon happened to look at the clock behind her on the bedside table. Reluctantly, he untangled himself from her, removing the condom and disposing of it himself. "If we're going to meet Ray at two, we should probably clean up."

"You go ahead. I'll stay here a moment longer." As he disappeared into her bathroom, she inhaled the scent of him, of their mingled musk. She waited until the water started running, then pumped her fist in the air and exclaimed, "Yes!"


Ray and Winston were leaning against Ecto-1 in front of the firehouse (both smoking again, Janine noticed with some distaste) when Egon's and Janine's cab arrived. Ray grinned and waved them over. "Well, the bad news is, we have no power, the back half of the building's hosed, and Venkman's office is a smoking crater. The good news is, we think the front half of the building is relatively intact, the main supports are all still structurally sound, and it looks like no gas lines were ruptured."

Janine opened the duffel bag she'd brought with them. "I washed your uniforms, so at least you have some protection from glass and stuff when you go in there."

"Thanks, Janine; you really didn't have to do that," Winston protested as she handed his over. Egon was already wearing his.

Ray was holding his uniform and staring at Egon. Egon raised one eyebrow at him. Janine and Winston exchanged a confused look.

"Egon, you sly dog!" Ray crowed, elbowing his friend in the side. Egon looked down, then at Janine, and she realized what Ray had seen; Egon was still grinning. Not the full smile from earlier, but definitely a grin. Ray gave Janine a thumbs-up, behind Spengler's back; she giggled, and hid her laugher behind her hand. She should have known they had no secrets from each other.

Another cab pulled up across the street and disgorged Peter, without Dana. He waved at them; they all waved back. Janine pulled his uniform out of the bottom of the bag, handing it to him as he stepped up onto the curb.

"Egon?" Peter had noticed it faster than Ray had. Venkman glanced at Janine; she blushed. He plastered on an imitation of Egon's leer, and then laughed out loud and high-fived her. She joined his laughter, and then there was a flurry of back-slapping and shoulder-pounding as she and the guys celebrated being there and alive and together again.

The team was back together. Gozer was gone. Everything was going to be all right.