One Fair World

"Damnit," Peter muttered under his breath, indulging in a moment of self-torture. Watching Janine fawn over Egon, praising some egghead thing he'd done that'd she'd only figured out so she could compliment him. Try to get his attention, and unsuccessful as it ever was -- Peter envied her and hated seeing it.

It wasn't like he could ever go down there and tell Egon what a brilliant mind he had. Even if Egon wouldn't see right through Peter's attempts at charm. Even if Peter really did think Egon had a brilliant mind. But Peter also knew Egon had a penchant for stunningly absurd airheadedness that only someone really patient, and really good at getting people out of trouble, could hope to cope with on a regular basis.

Peter was pretty sure Janine wasn't the coping sort of woman to be the kind of wife Egon needed. Peter knew she loved him -- that was obvious to anyone in the firehouse who had eyes. Except Egon, of course, but that was all part of being an airhead.

Really, really focused, was what Peter said when it was just him, Ray, and Winston. Too smart to tie his own shoes was what Winston said.

Ray didn't say much of anything; he just smiled and nodded and gave Peter disconcertingly piercing looks.

Peter waited on the stairs until Janine had followed Egon out of sight, her voice still carrying up to him. She was asking him somewhere, some conference that Peter knew Egon would love. After all, Peter had been the one to tell Janine about it, and wheedle her a pair of free passes.

Because it was exactly the sort of conference Egon would love, and it wasn't like Peter could go.

He turned and hurried up the stairs before he could heard Egon's reply. He figured they'd go. Egon would have a ball, Janine would spend her time watching Egon have a ball and enjoy herself for that.

Peter would spend the day watching tv and eating pizza, and pretending he liked being a caveman and didn't understand why anyone cared to zap plants with magnets and radiation then present papers about it.

There was a whistle of warning, then Slimer came crashing through the wall. Peter jumped out of the way and ignored the spud, determined that his day was not going to be further ruined by dealing with the ghost. He heard Slimer call after him, but for some reason he didn't follow. Peter didn't care, was silently grateful, and continued up the stairs.

He by-passed the labs, and the tv room, and continued on up. Past the bunkroom and on to the roof, where he found the sun was shining a lot more brightly than it had any right to in the middle of February. Good enough, he figured, and he went out to his favorite spot near the parapet.

The city was its usual self. Noisy, dirty, and from this vantage point, full of run-down buildings and uncared-for basketball courts. He'd once thought that their presence would bolster the value of the neighborhood. But even as the Ghostbusters grew successful, the surrounding neighborhood never quite caught on to their fame and occasional fortune.

Or maybe it was the containment unit in the basement that scared everyone away. Peter sighed. It seemed his brain was determined to pull everything out for him to be despondent over. None of his plans for the future had taken hold. He'd wanted wealth, and fame, and a pretty face next to his in all the photos in the newspapers. He did get those things, every so often, but even Peter could admit they weren't enough to make a man happy.

Having good friends helped, but the things he really wanted -- things he'd only learned to want in the last few years -- seemed beyond his reach. Someplace to call home that wasn't a constant reminder of the fear and danger they worked with. Someone to wake up with that wasn't a new face every month.

Someone who said 'I love you' and didn't make Peter want to run for the hills.

There didn't seem to be anyway to get those things. He'd considered, a year ago, ways they could afford to move into their own apartments and live like normal people and still run the business. But somebody had to be in the firehouse at all times, and with their income as sporadic as it was there was no way to guarantee they'd be able to pay four rents every month. It was cheaper to just live where they were, and take the work as it came.

Besides which, the guys were the best family he had. He didn't want to move away from them, and couldn't reasonably suggest they all get a single apartment together -- no reason to leave the firehouse at all, if they were going to just pile into one apartment and live together anyway.

Peter let himself indulge, for a moment, in the thought of moving into an apartment with Egon. Setting up a home for just the two of them; he didn't go so far as to decorate the bathroom with matching towels and soap dish. But he could see himself walking into a small kitchen to find Egon there, in pajama bottoms and hair askew, making a pot of coffee. Peter would walk up behind him and say good morning by kissing his shoulder; Egon would hand him a cup of coffee that was mostly undrinkable no matter how often Peter tried to teach him how to do it right.

Peter would drink barely one swallow before abandoning it to kiss Egon on the mouth. They'd press together, warm and happy and Egon would hold Peter close. They'd laugh, after a moment, and either make their way back to the bedroom or just go on about their morning. Peter would read the paper, Egon would start doodling in a notebook, making plans for some new experiment.

He could imagine they'd be happy.

Below him, he heard Janine's car engine starting. He glanced down, and saw the passenger door closing. Peter swallowed, and headed back inside. They'd enjoy the conference, then, and Peter...would be waiting for them when they got back, and listen to all the gory details, and pretend he didn't care about a single word.


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