Feedback

By Princess Artemis

An RGB fic © S.D.Green, 1999 RGB © DiC, Columbia, Sony...

---

As usual, Janine was bored. There was never anything to do on slow days like this; there weren't even any busts. It was early enough, and tedious enough, to turn a dull morning into an omen of things to come. She idly tapped her fingernails on her desk. There wasn't even anyone to talk to. Winston and Ray were tinkering with something in the basement; Peter was cocooned three-deep in blankets, sleeping like the dead; and Egon was, as usual, doing something tremendously obscure in the lab.

The redhead sighed deeply. What a day.

Just as her boredom was leaving the outskirts of dull and edging into the domain of mind-numbing, Janine heard the door of the Firehouse garage open and shut very softly. She looked up and around Ecto-1, trying to get a look at the visitor, glad for the break in the monotony. She couldn't see the person just yet, but a slight blast of icy air passed and made her shiver. Must be bloody cold out there, she thought. Shortly, a rather tall, blond man walked slowly out from behind the converted ambulance. He was walking very lightly and looking around nervously, as if this, next to the gates of Sheol, was the last place he wanted to be. "Can I help you?" Janine asked; the man just about jumped out of his skin.

"Er, um...maybe, maybe...I hope so...," the man answered in a deep and strangely familiar voice. He took a few more slight steps until he was standing at Janine's desk.

Janine took quick, appraising look at the man before she answered. He had clear blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and a longish face, maybe in his mid twenties. His hair was short, light blond, and curly with a deep widow's peak; he seemed to have a good handle on keeping what might have been very unruly under control. He was dressed rather nicely, in a dark plum turtleneck and a dressy jacket covered by a heavy leather trenchcoat. And he looked extremely nervous...and familiar. She smiled in approval. "If you can tell me what the problem is, we'd be happy to help, Mister...?"

"Oh, Riley. My name is Timothy Riley." He extended his hand politely, if a bit apprehensively.

Janine felt no such qualms. She stood, taking his hand and shaking it lightly, in a somewhat coquettish manner. "Nice to meet ya, Tim. My name's Janine Melnitz."

Timothy smiled a little; it was not at all unattractive, at least in Janine's estimation. In fact, she thought he was quite a looker. "I suppose I ought to tell you why I'm here, Ms. Melnitz-"

"Call me Janine." She wore a very friendly and familiar smile.

Another little smile. "All right, Janine. My trouble began just yesterday. I'm visiting family here; I'm an Alto Mexicano by nature...anyway, only a few hours after I checked into my hotel, and just after I went to sleep-"

"You don't look Mexican...kinda more German to me."

"Oh, sorry. It's an expression for Southern California I use from time to time. Anyway, just after I fell asleep, this most dreadful...thing...came in my room and woke me up. Now mind you, I've never been one to put much stock into the supernatural, not like that, but I swear it was a ghost. It was...drooling on me." Here Timothy paused and made a face, obviously disgusted at the memory.

Janine raised an eyebrow. The expression on his face looked nearly identical to the one Egon affected whenever he took a gulp of coffee he thought was made by Winston but turned out to be Ray's work. The resemblance was uncanny, but not disconcerting...it was, in fact, rather pleasant. "Well, I'm sure we can do something for you, Tim."

Just then, a bedraggled and grumpy looking Doctor Venkman trudged down the stairs munching a muffin. Completely oblivious to Timothy's presence, Peter tromped over to Janine's desk, in a thick bath robe with those god-awful checks, striped flannel pj's, and bunny slippers. After finishing his current bite, Peter asked in a distinctly sleep-slurred tone, "Anything interesting come up?"

Truly amused, Janine smirked and motioned toward Timothy. "Yep. This rather handsome young man has a ghost problem."

Timothy ducked his head at the unexpected compliment while Peter turned around and took stock of his surroundings for the first time. "Wow, déjà vu! For a second there I was back in my old dorm room I shared with Egon." He sounded surprised, but not at all concerned by the fact that he was standing in front of a perfect stranger and potential client in his jammies. Janine was a bit taken aback; Peter was usually very conscious of his appearance and tried to make a good first impression.

"Funny you should say that; the thing kept calling me that," Timothy commented.

"What, the spud called you a dorm room? Thing's crazier than most," Peter replied with a smirk.

"Er...no, it called me Egon," was the blond man's response.

"Speaking of, you're a dead ringer for him," Janine mentioned.

"Oh, sorry, my mistake," Peter offered. Then, as if he had known him all his life, he swung an arm around Timothy's shoulders and started directing him up the stairs. "Why don't we discuss your ghost-trouble over breakfast. I'm starving."

Timothy shot the dark-haired psychologist a startled glance and followed where he was lead, too set off-balance to object. Janine followed them up while Peter commented, "Janine's right, you do look an awful lot like the big guy..."

Timothy looked around the kitchen blankly. He really was beginning to wonder if these so-called Ghostbusters were truly mad. He was standoffish, and usually others sensed that and didn't get too close, but these people obviously had no such sense. All this untoward familiarity was giving him a headache.

He turned to look at the dark-haired one, the one who had dragged him up to the Firehouse kitchen and sat him down while he got some coffee. That man had no sense of shame. It was extremely unprofessional of him to be as he was, making no attempt even to straighten his hair or ditch that hideous bathrobe. "Sir...?"

The Ghostbuster looked up from his coffee mug. "Yeah?"

"May I at least have your name? I don't quite feel comfortable without something to call you."

"Oh! Sorry, I guess I forgot. The name's Doctor Peter Venkman. Come to think of it, I never caught yours...."

Timothy nodded slightly, thinking to himself that this one was certainly peculiar and absent-minded. "I'm Timothy Riley. May I tell you why I came?"

After a big gulp of coffee and a bite of muffin, Peter answered, "Sure, go ahead."

Just as Timothy was about to open his mouth, Janine set a mug of coffee and some food in front of him. He looked up, startled, right into Janine's grinning face. "I thought you might be hungry."

"Um...thank you...," he replied nervously. For some reason, Janine seemed to enjoy that. He watched her sit down next to him; he idly wondered if she was seeing anyone, not that she'd ever be interested in someone as young as he was. Still, she had a pleasant, if obtrusive, way about her that he liked. Then he turned back to Peter and said, "As I was saying to Ms...I mean Janine, I came to New York to visit my family. There was a thing, a ghost, in my hotel room. It was accusing me of imprisoning its friends. I would never have come here if the thing hadn't mentioned you repeatedly. I'm certain it thought I was one of you."

Peter mulled it over as two other men came in the room. One was dark-skinned and tall, while the other was shorter, reddish haired, and plump. They were both well covered with various stains, grease-spots, and a little soot. The darker one went to the refrigerator and drank some milk straight from the carton, garnering him a few dark stares. The lighter one sat down across from Timothy and looked like he was about to tell Peter something when he caught sight of the visitor. For a second he took his presence for granted, then suddenly sat up a bit straighter and exclaimed, "Wow! I didn't know Egon had family coming to visit!"

Timothy sighed a little, then stood and extended his hand. "I am Timothy Riley, a caller and possible client, of no relation to your Egon."

The man stood up and wiped off his hand then took Timothy's. "I'm Ray Stantz. Wow, you even sound like Egon!"

"I guess that explains why the ghost that troubled me called me by that name," Timothy said as he sat back down. He rubbed his head; the ache had settled right behind his eyes. Unexpectedly, at least to him, Janine looked rather concerned.

The darker man closed the refrigerator door and looked over at Timothy. "Hey, m'man. The name's Winston Zeddemore." He extended his hand, apparently having heard the conversation and deciding not to make the same mistake the others had. Timothy took it with a little smile and a nod.

"I hope you can help me...I would hate to have to end my family visit so soon just because an ugly ghost has mistaken me for another man...." His voice trailed off for a moment as his headache suddenly became much worse.

/...hmm...have a headache...maybe hungry.../

Headache yes...I don't think it's from hunger! Timothy thought to himself, in argument with the other thought. This wasn't such an unusual thing; many people mentally argued with themselves...

/no, definitely hungry. ...haven't eaten this morning...I guess I got too wrapped up.../

"Hey man, are you all right?" Winston asked in concern.

Timothy broke out of his sudden reverie with a start and looked up at him. "Yes, I think so. I just have a headache, no big deal."

/well, it's bad enough to warrant some aspirin. ...distracting me.../

"Do you have some aspirin by any chance?" Timothy asked a little weakly. This was a very bad headache, much worse than his 'no big deal' comment suggested.

Winston nodded as he moved to retrieve some. Janine looked at Timothy carefully and said, "You look pale. Are you sure it's nothing?"

He was about to say yes, but he couldn't lie to her. "No, I...never had something this bad." He smiled a little with a touch of morbid humor. "Did you accidentally give me a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster? Or perhaps distilled Vogon poetry?"

/...distilled Vogon poetry...what an absolutely horrid thought.../

Timothy heard someone's footsteps just outside the kitchen door; every footfall seemed to make the terrific ache in his head crank up a notch until he thought he could not bear it any longer. And suddenly he didn't have to, for with a strong convulsion, he fainted dead away.

Egon was rubbing his head as he turned into the kitchen in pursuit of the aspirin. He wondered idly where the thought about the Vogon poetry had come; he hadn't read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in many years. It was an apt reference, however. His headache was startling in its intensity.

He arrived to general chaos. There was some man sprawled out over a fallen chair, unconscious, while the other Ghostbusters hovered over him as if he were a family member. There was a sense of more than just general and warranted concern; his friends looked like something dear to them had fallen. He moved over to get a closer look at the person on the floor, and was shocked at what he saw.

The man's face was one he had seen all his life in the mirror. Just as if he had an identical twin born several years late...which he didn't, not as far as he knew or the natural order of things would allow.

Winston moved away from the man's fallen form and looked at Egon. "Do you know a Timothy Riley?"

Egon shook his head. "Who is he?" He pointed to the young man.

"That's Tim Riley. Sure he isn't family?"

Egon looked a little miffed at the question. "Of course I'm sure."

"Looks fine...except for the obvious," Peter commented as he and Ray struggled a little then lifted the unconscious Timothy up and carried him out into the living room. The rest followed the two and when they arrived at their destination, Egon picked up a PKE meter and pointed it at the prone man.

"No readings," he muttered.

"Of course there's not. He's a client, you know," Janine informed the physicist with a hint of annoyance, slightly tinged with a protective tone.

Egon looked at her for a moment, then at the rest of the group, then back at Janine. "Why are you so protective of a perfect stranger?" There was an edge in his voice; the rest of the Ghostbusters heard it and their ears perked up. If it had been possible, Dr. Venkman might have acquired some popcorn and a box of Red Vines.

Janine huffed and planted her fists on her hips. "Why are you so threatened by a perfect stranger? Hmmm?"

"What?!"

Ray exchanged a look with Winston, then said, "Someone woke up on the wrong side of the lab..."

Winston grinned. Peter frowned a little; both Janine and Egon sounded a tad on edge about this Timothy. Come to think of it, Janine had seemed to take a shine to the young doppelgänger...it made him wonder if maybe the two of them were picking up subliminal psychological cues...that might explain the sudden irrational behavior.

"Especially an unconscious one! Aren't you concerned that one of your clients just keeled over?" Janine continued.

"Certainly, anyone would. But within reason, not as if he were my best friend!" Egon sounded particularly irritated now. "Don't you wonder why a stranger would come in looking just like me? Why there would be anyone like that?"

"Oh! So that's it! Afraid he's gonna somehow take your place, huh?"

"Janine...I think you're reading too much into this...," Egon said reasonably, although not terribly kindly.

Peter wondered, though. He did sound a little as if he felt shoved to the side... "Why don't you two take your little spat elsewhere? Let the poor man wake up peacefully, fer goodness sake!"

Both Janine and Egon turned heated glares on Peter; Egon's his normally restrained, and Janine's her normally outraged. "Little spat!! This isn't a 'little spat'! Egon's being a complete jerk!" Janine shouted.

Egon returned his stare to Janine, bristling like an angry cat. "I most certainly am not! How is it so unreasonable for me to wonder about how someone ever came to bear my likeness? And you're all acting like you've known him forever!"

"Well, excuse me, Mr. Spock. So sorry to express a little concern about a perfectly nice young man fainting!" Janine snapped in response.

Before the now thoroughly incensed physicist could say anything else, Peter and Ray took it upon themselves to physically remove their two warring co-workers from the room. After a few minutes of shoving and pulling (and, in the case of Ray, who had commandeered Janine, fearing for his very life), the two were safely removed to another location to continue their battle by themselves.

Peter returned to the living room alone, having left Ray to stake out the hallway. Winston looked over at his dark-haired friend with a grin. "What was that about?" he said with humor.

Peter shrugged. "Not sure, but that was sure one for the record books. Janine bestowed the coveted title of 'Jerk' on the love of her life...? That was an experience to be commemorated."

"Not gonna let her forget it, eh?"

"Nope, not on your life," Peter responded mischievously.

Not even a minute after Peter returned, Timothy stirred and opened his eyes. With a faint grimace, he muttered in his deep and so familiar voice, "Ow. Really, seriously ow." He raised one hand gingerly to his head, apparently under the impression that it had actually exploded. That's what it felt like, anyway.

"Back in the land of the living, eh?" Peter asked. "Does that sort of thing happen often?"

Timothy frowned. "No, never. I have had my share of medical troubles, but fainting was never one of them. And headaches...! Ye gods, never anything like that!"

"Gone yet?" Winston asked with some concern. "Looked like a doozie."

"Looked like an elephant came and sat on your brain is what it looked like," Peter quipped.

Timothy seemed to consider the question for a second. "Not gone...but not quite as bad as before." He sat up and quirked his head in a manner reminiscent of a cat listening intently at some faint noise. "Are your colleagues prone to arguing with themselves?"

"Er, no, not really...but our secretary and Egon are having themselves a little row," Peter offered.

Timothy cast a slightly confused glance at the darker haired man. "I don't hear Janine, I don't think. She has a nice voice; I would recognize it if it were her arguing."

Peter tried valiantly to squelch his bark of laughter. "Nice voice? She's got the most grating Brooklyn accent I've ever heard!" When that comment garnered him a barely perceptible glare from Timothy, he broke into a singularly amused Cheshire-Cat grin.

"What?" Timothy asked, perplexed.

"A little defensive of our secretary, aren't we?"

Timothy instantly ducked his head and tried to smother his shy smile. Peter's grin just widened. Winston shook his head in similar amusement. "You've got some stiff competition, m'man," said the latter.

The young man shrugged a little, resigning himself to the fact that these people, crazy though they may be, could see right through him. He was far from comfortable about it, but he was an honest man and knew when he was beat and needing to join 'em. "Since you seem to be able to read me like an open book, I suppose there's no harm in being honest about it, is there?" he sighed in resignation. "Yes, you have a very attractive secretary. Unless she's spoken for, there's no harm in asking, yes?"

"I guess that depends on how you define 'harm'," Peter replied. "Or 'spoken for'."

"If you've taken a liking to her, Timothy, go for it. Just between us, she's had enough of secret admirers to last her several lifetimes," Winston noted. "It would be nice to see someone act on their feelings for a change."

Peter laughed. "Just don't send her a bouquet of fungi."

Timothy was puzzled. "Why would I do something like that?"

---

Janine stalked out of the room her employers had unceremoniously dumped her in, angry as a hornet. Oo, just thinking about it made her blood boil. Egon was being such an uncaring dolt. How could he act like it was no big deal for his clients to faint in his kitchen? She stomped right by Ray, who made no real effort to stop her; he just followed instead.

And what was the big deal about Tim's appearance? Every other Spengler that ever walked the earth looked just like him. Some families were like that. Tim could be a cousin Egon never knew about. It wasn't as if long lost family never crawled out of the woodwork. And considering how many twists and turns the Spengler tree took, it wasn't at all unlikely.

She paused at the entrance way to the living room and tried to smooth down her hackles. Just because Egon was being a certifiable jackass didn't mean Timothy needed to bear her resulting foul humor. It was the least she could do for an apparently ill client. Ray stayed behind her, perhaps to guard the entrance from encroaching physicists. After she felt suitably calmed, she walked into the room and Ray moved into the doorway.

Janine was greeted by several smiles of varying moods: Winston wore a warm, toothy smile; Peter an almost mischievous grin full of amused and secret portent; Timothy a slight, shy, almost guilty smile, his eyes averted just so. All in all, it was plain as day that they had been talking about her.

"What?" she asked, not even bothering with any formality. "What did I do?"

"Nothing," Peter said in his best innocent voice. He was lying, that was plain, although Janine wasn't entirely certain why.

She turned her question to Winston, who just continued smiling. "Is this some kind of conspiracy to lure Slimer into sleeping in my jacket? Because if it is, yer all gonna really regret it."

"Nah, we'd never do that," Peter replied, spreading his arms expansively, protesting his innocence in the matter.

Janine could fairly smell conspiracy afoot. She narrowed her glance at the dark haired psychologist then scooted warily past him and sat on the couch next to Timothy. After one last look at Peter, she turned her attention to Timothy. He still looked pale, but had suddenly acquired a touch of color about the ears. For some reason, she thought that was quite adorable. "Feeling better, Tim?" she asked gently. She missed Peter's snicker.

Timothy nodded, still smiling, but looking at her this time. Something about his clear blue gaze...it was so familiar, yet not so: she never remembered Egon looking at her like that. She suddenly felt like a nervous schoolgirl. And that, she found, was not entirely an unpleasant thing.

Ray whispered to Peter, "Methinks I detect trouble on the horizon...." Peter nodded, although it was clear he was looking forward to the fireworks. Winston seemed to think it was a great idea.

Timothy cleared his throat and ventured, "I...um, I was wondering...ahem...if you would mind if I took you out to an early lunch or something...?"

Janine didn't even stop to think about it. She tucked a bit of red hair behind her ear and said, "I'd love to, Timothy." There wasn't in the least any hesitation in her voice; for the moment, it seemed there wasn't any Egon to think about. And that wasn't out of any latent anger; it just never entered her head.

Ray made a 'boom' motion with his hands; Peter and Winston just waved him off. Timothy's smile widened and he stole a glance at his 'co-conspirators' who both nodded approvingly. After that, he turned his gaze back to Janine, then stood and offered her his arm. Janine glanced at her employers, a silent question in her look.

"Go ahead, Janine; there hasn't exactly been many calls today. We'll let the answering service hold the fort while we check out Tim's hotel room," Winston answered.

The planets must have been in a rare alignment because Peter, who normally griped about that sort of thing, agreed without hesitation. Thus approved, Janine stood and took the proffered arm and the two went downstairs together. "I'll leave the hotel and room number on Janine's desk," Timothy said on the way out of the living room.

The three remaining Ghostbusters waited in silence for several moments. Peter looked every inch the cat that just caught the canary. Ray waited until he was sure Timothy and Janine were well out of earshot, then sputtered out, "Egon is gonna kill him! What were you two thinking!?"

"Ray, if he gets that mad, I'll bust him one," Winston said reasonably. "He hasn't got a leg to stand on. Besides, Tim and Janine just met; it's not like their gonna run off to the courthouse just yet."

"I'm with Winston on this one," Peter added, "sometimes ya just gotta give things a little push. If this turns out to be the romantic equivalent of a swift kick in the shorts for ol' Egon, then what better way to deliver the blow than to have a perfectly nice young man show Janine a good time?"

Ray still looked dubious. "Isn't that like leading people on? I mean, someone's going to get hurt here."

"Look, Ray," Peter replied, putting an arm around his shorter friend in a big-brotherly manner, "I'm not talking about using Tim to light a fire under Spengler's butt. I mean that will be a nice side-effect. You have to have seen it; Tim and Janine have a bit of an attraction there, and she deserves to have her feelings requited now and again."

"That's right, Ray," Winston added, "Poor Janine's had enough of certain colleagues who shall remain nameless not acting on their feelings. Enough to make a body think they weren't wanted, you know? We're not helpin' her pick out china patterns here, just encouraging some harmless wooing."

Ray still didn't look convinced, but was willing to see their point of view. "Yeah, I guess your right...but I still say Egon's going to be madder than a hatter when he finds out."

"Find out about what, Ray?" Egon asked as he walked into the room. The devil in question appeared none too happy as it was.

"Nothing," Ray stammered much too quickly.

"About Peter planting the Oreos in your sock drawer and informing Slimer that you were hiding them," Winston informed with all due innocence. The startled, open-mouth glare Peter graced him with was certainly worth any revenge he might plot.

Egon shot an unfriendly sort of look at Peter, who stammered many denials. "I did no such thing!" he finally managed, "Go check if you don't believe me!"

The physicist looked like he was about to do just that, then thought better of it. Instead, he asked, "Where did Mr. Riley go?"

Again Ray was a bit too quick to answer. "Nowhere."

At the same time, Peter said, "Let's go check out that ghost he came complaining about." Without giving Egon a chance to protest, the psychologist grabbed his arm and started dragging him down the stairs.

Egon let the matter drop, but he wasn't fooled for a second. His friends were up to something, that something concerned Timothy, and whatever it was, he knew he wouldn't like it.

---

Janine was thoroughly enjoying herself. Timothy was turning out to be quite a gentleman; he had insisted on opening doors and paying for her, but it was obviously not from some misplaced male pride. He wanted to treat her with all due respect; when she had balked at the first door, he had explained he was insisting because she was worthy of such special treatment. And she was not one to refuse out of misplaced female pride; she was perfectly willing to give him the chance to be a gentleman. There was little enough gallantry left in the world...and besides, it did make her feel special.

They had taken their early lunch at one of Janine's favorite eateries; Timothy, unqualified Southern Californian that he was, had no clue where to go to eat in New York City. After they finished lunch, they decided to take a little more time and stroll around Central Park. Janine, with perhaps an unwarranted amount of familiarity, had taken his hand in hers; for his part, he did not refuse.

As it turned out, Timothy was every bit as intelligent as Egon, although he applied his mind to very different things. He was an artist and an art historian; he was apparently responsible for a few textbooks and essays on the subject. He had graduated with a bachelor's in art history at seventeen, a Ph.D. at twenty, but hadn't been able to get his M.F.A. in painting until just last year. One somewhat absent-minded foray into the subject of art criticism was enough to convince Janine that Timothy shared more than appearance with his doppelgänger. A few moments of blank staring reminded Tim that Janine didn't speak the obscure language of art-ese. To Janine's mind, that was as good as sworn testimony: Timothy had to be some relation to Egon-it was true-blue Spengler to speak foreign languages masquerading as English jargon. She didn't mention that, however; she was spending time with Timothy because she liked his company, not because she wanted to compare him to her employer.

"An artist, eh? I'd like to see some of your work sometime," Janine said as they started back to the Firehouse.

"I brought some paintings with me for my family, but they're all in my hotel room," Timothy explained, "Maybe I could bring some photos by tomorrow." He had rather enjoyed Janine's company as well, and didn't seem to mind finding another excuse to see her.

"When are you going to visit your family? Tonight?"

Timothy nodded. "I'm going to see my grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Riley. Grandma is so active; she's seventy-five going on twenty...! Grandpa isn't so active, but he's doing OK."

Janine was thoughtful for a moment. "May I ask something personal?"

"You may."

"They aren't your biological grandparents, are they?" Timothy started and slowed his walk at the question. Janine chewed on one corner of her lip, hoping she hadn't said anything offensive.

The blond man looked up at the sky, a faint, shadowy expression darkening his thin features. Finally, he looked back down at Janine and smiled a little, reassuring her that she had not offended him. "No, they aren't. It's not something I ever talked about with my parents. When she's irritated with me, my mother swears she was in thirty miserable hours of labor because I was stubbornly refusing to be born, but I know I'm not her blood son. Not my father's either... I don't resemble either one of them in the slightest. They both have light hair, but not like mine; their eyes are green, not blue, and while they aren't overweight, they are both rather a good bit stockier than I am." He shrugged a little. "It doesn't bother me that much, most of the time...maybe I was switched at birth or something. I do wonder sometimes, just for medical reasons...but I suppose I don't ask because I want to remain blissfully ignorant. How did you know my grandparents weren't biological?"

Janine shrugged slightly and looked at the sidewalk. "You really do look just like a younger Egon. And talking to you...there's some resemblance there, too. I thought you might be a long lost cousin of his...and I know a bit about his family."

"I shall have to meet this man, then, if he looks so much like me. I really don't think I'm his cousin though."

Janine looked back up at Timothy and asked, "Blissfully ignorant?"

"Eh...I have enough medical problems...what with my insides all in the wrong places and a few heart surgeries when I was young; I don't want to know about any more."

Janine nodded. She didn't quite understand that, but didn't want to press further. They walked along in silence for a few minutes. Shortly they reached the Firehouse.

Timothy turned to face Janine and, after a moment's hesitation, took both of her hands in his. "Ah...I enjoyed this little time with you... I would like to spend more time in your company. Would you, ah...would you be willing to let me take you out for...um...dinner tomorrow night?" He stopped talking and lowered his head even further than was necessary for him to look at Janine. His high cheeks sported a touch of pink, and not because it was nippy out.

Finding sudden interest in the cracks in the sidewalk, Janine swung her arms a little and scooted her feet. What was it about Timothy that made her feel so...giddy? It was a rare experience for her and she relished it. She was by no means jaded, just, well...it just didn't happen often with her pining after certain scientists who wouldn't know what romance was if it jumped up and bit them on the behind. After a moment, she looked back up at Timothy; she smiled brightly when she caught him gazing at her. The pink in his cheeks grew to a healthy red glow that just touched his ears. He giggled nervously; he too seemed a bit giddy. Apparently, she wasn't the only one so afflicted.

Finally, she answered. "Yes, I would like that, Timothy."

Timothy tried to smother the excited kid-in-a-toy-store smile her acceptance brought to his face. Egon's face he might have, but right now, his expression was pure Raymond Stantz. It was infectious and Janine shortly found herself giggling. "I have to get back to work now, Tim. I'll see you tomorrow."

Timothy nodded and said, "Six thirty sound OK?"

Janine nodded and backed toward the doors of the Firehouse. Timothy backed away as well, but they held their hands together until the last possible moment. Then Tim waved and turned to walk back to his hotel.

For a moment, Janine just watch him go. He walked swiftly on his long legs, with purpose, but not single-mindedly so. She saw his gaze taking in everything he saw; even from a distance, it was clear that he was a consummate observer. She snickered; somehow, she knew that observer he may be, but not unlike others she knew, he would probably miss the forest for the trees.

After Timothy turned the corner and vanished from sight, Janine opened the Firehouse door and went back to work.

* * *

It took the Ghostbusters longer than expected to get to Timothy's hotel room. A run through the nearest Mickey-D's and an emergency call involving a ghost eating the mayor's wife's prize-winning gardenias sidetracked them for a long while. So it was that they arrived at Timothy's hotel room approximately twenty minutes before he did. The hotel was one that the Ghostbusters had worked at before.

After securing permission from the hotel management, the four paranormal eliminators made their way up to the room and went in. While Egon circled the small room with his PKE meter, the other three looked around. There were a few suitcases sitting in one corner and a rather large paint stained toolbox occupied another.

"Oh wow!" Ray exclaimed, pointing at a neat stack of several framed paintings leaning against the far wall. He quickly sat on the edge of the bed and started looking through the art works.

Peter tsked and sat next to Dr. Stantz. "Now Ray, aren't we being just a touch nosy?"

The portly occultist ignored his friend completely. Instead, he continued looking through the stack of paintings. After passing over a very colorful and dream-like landscape and a surreal, dark scene, he picked up one of the paintings and showed it to Peter. "Isn't this great? I wish I could paint like this!" The painting in question was a self-portrait executed in a delicate glazing style. "It's reminiscent of Van Eyck. Very different style, obviously, but the technique is similar."

"Van who? No, never mind, I don't want to know," Peter muttered, heading off an impromptu art history lesson. After a moment, he located something interesting on the oil painting. In the corner, it bore the inscription, "For Madeline and William Riley. Timothy S. Riley." The handwriting was both precise and elegant. Peter squinted his eyes at the writing, then rubbed them, then squinted again. After a moment's inspection, he ventured, "Call me a monkey's uncle and put a bow in my hair, but that looks a lot like Egon's handwriting. If I hadn't taken classes in handwriting analysis, I probably would have mistaken it for the real thing."

Ray took a closer look at the signature. "Wow, you're right. Hey, guys, come take a look at this!"

Winston wandered over and peered down at the painting. "I guess Tim's a bit of an artist."

Egon joined them a moment later and announced, "There's certainly a spirit here, but it's in a state of general dispersion. We'll have to force it to manifest before we trap it."

"Look at this, Spengs," Peter instructed, pointing at the signature in the corner.

After taking a moment to examine the portrait and frown at it, Egon did as he was told. His frown, and apparently his humor, darkened considerably. Muttering something under his breath, he wandered over to the bathroom and rummaged around for a few seconds, then came back out, zipping up a little plastic bag.

"What are you doing?" Winston asked as Egon pocketed the baggie.

"Collecting samples," Egon muttered cryptically.

Peter sighed in exasperation. "Samples of what? Did you smell a new variety of toilet mold that you just had to have?"

"No," Egon responded, with a little wrinkle of his nose and a cool tone, his low opinion of the psychologist's question clear. "DNA samples. Hair from his comb." He blinked a couple of times and held a hand to his head.

"But why?!" Venkman nearly shouted. "What on earth would you want Timothy's hair for? Do you think he's an alien from Planet X? Holy jealous physicists, Batman! Leave the poor guy alone!"

Egon glared death at Peter, but said nothing. Instead he sat down on the edge of the hotel bed and rubbed his temples. Two sounds followed in rapid succession: a dull thud as something heavy falling on carpet and an inhuman squeal of fury. Zeddemore, Stantz, and Venkman rushed out the door, throwers drawn, while Spengler stayed holding his head, oblivious to everything but the sudden headache storming behind his eyes.

---

An angry spud and a fallen Timothy greeted the three when they charged out the door. All three recognized the spirit as one they lost on a bust at this very hotel not three weeks ago. After a few seconds recovery from the shock of finding Mr. Riley passed out on the carpet, the Ghostbusters took aim at the spirit. But it had taken advantage of that moment of surprise and fled into the hotel room. Three seconds later it rushed out again, then in, then out. It was clearly confused. "How many of you are there?" it asked in a slimy voice.

"Just enough, slime ball," Peter quipped as he fired his rifle, blasting the ghost with a faceful of protons. It looked quite shocked indeed, and that flustered expression never left its ugly visage as it was sucked down into the ghost trap.

"That was easy enough," Ray commented happily as he picked up the trap he had laid. "No property damage!"

"Maybe we should charge the hotel for this bust...," Winston mumbled to the air as he bent down over the unconscious Timothy. He made a cursory examination just to be sure he hadn't hurt himself when he fell. "Hey guys, let's get him into the room."

The other two nodded and helped lift Timothy up and carried him into the hotel room. "Anybody ever tell you you're heavy, Tim?" Peter griped as he helped lug the tall and unwieldy man out of the hallway.

"Coming through," Winston announced when he accidentally bumped into Egon and shoved him off the bed. The physicist made an unpleasant noise when he landed on his backside. He made another, even less pleasant noise when Ray stepped on his leg.

"Sorry Egon." Ray's tone was suitably contrite. After some more muttering and bumping into Egon, the three finally maneuvered Timothy onto the bed. They moved back to a more open location in the room. Unfortunately, Winston stumbled over Egon one last time before the embattled physicist had the room to stand.

"Good night! Am I invisible?!" Egon's deep voice thundered in extreme irritation. "Did you forget I was here?"

For some unfathomable reason, no one had an answer for that. Ray looked down at his feet, shuffling them slightly. Winston was also slightly uncomfortable. Peter was deep in thought. To him, Egon sounded unreasonably threatened...but then again, he had just been thoughtlessly trod underfoot by three of his best friends. Maybe there was something else going on...

They were rescued from that uncomfortable moment by a faint, deep moan, issuing from Timothy.

---

Timothy stirred, blinking back a sting of tears brought forth by his monstrous near-blinding headache. Oh ye gods this is bad... He looked up into four faces, three very worried and one...

One as a mirror of his future self. He gasped at that...They were right... Must be Egon...

Egon frowned down at Timothy, somewhat unhappily he realized...

/Who is he really?/

He's Egon, the other Ghostbuster, Timothy thought to himself in confusion. Of course he was Egon. Peter and Janine had already told him their colleague looked just like him.

/That's ridiculous, of course he's not./

"Hey, you OK man?" Winston asked in concern. The other two, Peter and Ray, looked a trifle pale...every bit as bad as they might look if their best friend was down. It was strange for Timothy to be the subject of such worry when he hardly knew them.

Timothy thought about Winston's question for only a second. He didn't try to shake his head no. The ache was no longer something to be called merely a headache; it was far too painful and it made him queasy. "No, not really," he answered weakly.

Peter put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Egon looked a little perturbed at the action. "Who are you?" he asked somewhat harshly and a bit loudly. The other three cast unpleasant stares at their blond colleague.

Don't yell at me, he thought. Egon was hardly yelling, but for the pain in his head, Timothy found the pitch of his voice rather uncomfortable. Gonna make me throw up...ugh.

/...huh? No one is even speaking to me./ There was a strange, confused quality to the thought.

Great. My headache's making me delirious. "I don't know what you mean...I'm Timothy Riley..."

/That's your name...who are you really?/ The inner voice startled him. There was something wrong with it, but he couldn't place just what. Timothy looked up at Egon and saw a very similar look of pain and confusion, as well as thinly veiled hostility.

"C'mon, Egon, don't give him a hard time," Ray chided. "Poor guy just woke up from a swoon and he's obviously hurting. He doesn't need you giving him the look of death."

"Yeah, big guy. Good thing Janine's not here; we might have a replay of this morning's festivities," were Peter's two cents. The green-eyed doctor looked partially lost in thought, as though he was considering the situation.

When a barely perceptible smile tugged at Timothy's lips at the mention of Janine, Egon's glare turned up a few notches and he made no effort to hide his displeasure. Timothy started a bit at that.

/She's mine!!/

Yow...! I've known her for such a short time and already I'm so possessive?! Better watch myself... Still, something felt wrong. Timothy looked up at Egon, suddenly becoming transfixed by his stare.

/...true...momentary irrationality...of course she's not...mine... I can't think of her like that.../

Egon's expression took on a searching look, fully returning Timothy's gaze. So many emotions were warring for the mastery that it clouded his features...and it seemed the same for Timothy.

Peter watched the exchange with a hint of amusement and a good deal of thought. Those two would kill each other if left alone, he thought. There seemed to be some subliminal communication going on; a little twitch here, a shadow of expression there...it looked like they could read each other as easily as if they were elementary school primers. That was clear to his trained eye. And he knew if Egon and Timothy could each see through the other, that any amount of tension would just blossom. As it was, their faces had become almost identical mirrors... They probably weren't even aware of it.

But then again, maybe they were.

"Guys, wait a minute...I have an idea! I wanna try something," Peter said as he waved his hand in the air in an excited arc.

"What?" Ray asked, unsure he wanted to encourage a Venkman-style experiment.

"Oh, don't look at me like that, Ray! Just humor me. First, I want Egon to leave the room and go down the hall..."

"What?! You're kicking me out?" Egon sounded quite put off. Timothy winced at the loudness of his protest. But they still had their eyes locked on one another, as though they couldn't look away.

"Really! I need to do a little scientific research! C'mon, git, git, git," Peter said as he started herding the protesting Dr. Spengler out the door. Ray and Winston smiled in spite of themselves at the sight. After Dr. Venkman finally managed to shove Egon out the door, he leaned out and pointed down the hall. "That way. Go on, git!" He watched for a while until the distance Egon put between himself and the room satisfied him. He was glad to close the door on the thunderous and stormy glare Egon cast at him.

"He's not happy," Timothy ventured, sitting up. His color had improved and he looked to be in much less pain. "I can hear him fuming..."

"I guess I don't have to ask. You're obviously feeling better there Tim," Peter observed. "Now let me conduct the second part of my little experiment..." Peter opened the door again and looked down the hall. To him, Egon looked better as well, except for the daggers he was glaring in Peter's direction. He thought better of asking him how he felt. Instead, he motioned for him to come back.

A few moments later, he arrived, his expression as dark as a storm cloud. "I do not appreciate being ordered around like that." Suddenly, Egon held his hands to his head, his headache obviously returning.

Peter smiled brightly, and it was only by the barest margins, he knew, that Egon didn't just belt him one right there. Then Peter looked back at Timothy, who he found was out cold again. He didn't care for that side effect of his experiment, but otherwise he was quite satisfied. And he looked it, too. "It was a success!" he proclaimed, "C'mon, I'll tell ya all about it on the way back home."

Ray and Winston followed the bouncing Peter out the door, their expressions quizzical. "Tell us about what?" Ray asked.

Egon cast one last brooding look at Timothy before he also followed Peter out the door.

* * *

"Feedback?" Egon asked, certain he didn't like the direction Peter was going with his theory.

"Yeah! I betcha if you could rig up some doohickie that would make some psychic white noise, you and Tim there wouldn't get such awful headaches." Peter was clearly pleased with himself.

"So you think that Egon and Tim's brainwaves are so close in frequency that it's just like sticking two microphones too close?" Winston asked, trying to work it out for himself.

"Exactly."

Ray looked thoughtful. "That makes some sense...but taken to it's logical conclusion...."

"It's ludicrous. It would mean that Mr. Riley would be so close in physiology and biorythmically that he might as well be me. I can't accept that. He might be a real doppelgänger, maybe even a corporeal shape-shifter, but he can't be me. That's impossible." The physicist waved his hand as if to dismiss the idea.

"Where did you get that idea anyway, Pete?" Winston asked.

"Well, I am a doctor of parapsychology, after all," Peter said in a rather smug tone, but without malice. He buffed his fingernails on the front of his jumpsuit then examined them. "Just doing my job."

Ray tried to stifle a laugh while Winston groaned good-naturedly. "I'll try building a psychic white-noise generator, see what happens. You never know." He turned to face Egon. "It might work; after all, both of your headaches did come and go pretty quick...."

Egon huffed a little and turned to look out the window. It was completely impossible. Timothy could not be causing his headaches by some bizarre psychic feedback. Even within the realm of parapsychology and ectoplasmology that was impossible. He fidgeted with the plastic baggie in his pocket, wondering where this all might lead...

* * *

It didn't take long for Ray to cobble together a device to exactly duplicate and reverse any of Egon's stray brain waves that might be floating about, thereby neutralizing them. Of course, he tested it to be sure it wouldn't neutralize all of Egon's brain waves when they used it for real... The first time it did something like that, and although Egon will never remember the rather blank look this produced, Peter was thoughtful enough to snap a Polaroid for both the sake of posterity and future blackmail. There weren't any further mishaps worthy of attention, and the psychic white-noise generator was ready that evening.

"Must you be so insufferable, Peter?" Egon asked in a snit when Peter started bragging in a somewhat subtle yet terrible obnoxious way. He wasn't happy that Peter was right; not because Peter was pretty insufferable when he was trying very hard to be good and not say 'I told you so' accompanied by a 'neener-neener', but because he didn't care for the consequences of his rightness.

Egon took the bit of Timothy's hair he had acquired and delivered it to a lab he often worked with. They drew a little bit of his blood to be used as comparison. The physicist wasn't sure why he was bothering to have his and Timothy's DNA compared, but something tickling in the back of his mind said he should. He never liked acting on his hunches, but this, for reasons he couldn't quite pin down, demanded to be followed up upon. The instinctive animosity he felt toward Mr. Riley was almost impossible to justify and just as hard to ignore. There had to be some reason for it...maybe when the DNA test came back the next night that would clear it up.

Very soon, the next evening in fact, one reason for the bad blood, which Egon was loath to acknowledge, presented itself in a manner most difficult to ignore. Timothy Riley came by the Firehouse to pick up Janine for dinner.

One hour to the minute before the DNA results arrived.

* * *

"Oh, hello, Timothy!" Janine said happily when she saw the younger man come in to the Firehouse. She began gathering her things, preparing to leave for the evening.

"Hello," Timothy smiled when he arrived at her desk. "You ready to go?"

"Yeah, I just have to get my coat. It'll only be a minute." She walked over to the coat closet, leaving Timothy at her desk. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught site of three pairs of eyes watching from the top of the stairs. They belonged to the Doctors Stantz and Venkman, as well as Mr. Zeddemore. He looked up at them and waved. It sounded like Ray snickered, then he heard a faint beep as the engineer fiddled with some device he must have had.

Timothy felt a strange fuzzy feeling for a second, then suddenly realized the headache he hadn't realized he had was gone. It was quite a relief.

/Will you please move!/ A quiet shuffling sound came from the stairs. Then a muffled, "Ow! Hey, watchit!" Some more, louder shuffling noises drifted down followed by the sound of shoes on metal stairs.

/If you had noticed I was here in the first place, I wouldn't have stepped on you!!/

Timothy knitted his brow, trying to figure out where that was coming from. It sounded something like Egon's voice...but different...was it even sound? It felt like his own thoughts, and he only knew it wasn't by a very faint but noticeable difference in quality. If nothing else, the 'sound' was quite irritated, while he was not.

But somehow he was becoming irritated, for no reason at all.

Being in a foul humor is no way to start out a date with Janine.

The shoes stopped.

Tension crackled in the air with all the suddenness of a flash flood.

After a second that stretched to infinity, the footsteps started again. There was a very slight difference in the sound, as if the owner of the shoes was trying very hard to be nonchalant.

Janine stepped back to Timothy's side. "I'm ready to go now." She took his hand then paused for a moment, as if she sensed the same tension Timothy felt. She looked up at him with concern in her turquoise eyes and asked, "Is something wrong?"

Timothy didn't answer. He just watched the person walking slowly down the stairs, unsure what he was feeling so anxious about.

Egon finished his descent and took a very careful look around the garage, his expression just shy of angry. His gaze finally landed on Timothy and Janine.

Holding hands.

Angry wasn't sufficient to describe how he looked now. Pissed the hell off might have been closer. But he was shocked as well. Timothy thought he heard Egon growl.

He would never be certain later, but he thought he returned the deep, faint snarl with one of his own.

Without quite knowing why, Timothy scooted over a few inches, so he was just barely standing in front of Janine. He felt suddenly very angry and threatened, as well as instinctively protective...but of what? Why?

Janine frowned over at Egon, clearly thinking that he was way out of line for glaring at Timothy like that.

Egon narrowed his eyes at Timothy and took a step forward, shoulders squared and stooping slightly. He lowered his blond head a bit and glared bloody murder at Timothy. All in all, he looked like a bull ready to charge.

/Remove your hand at once./

Timothy jerked back a little, shocked at the thought, which he knew now was not his. If it had felt like a suggestion from more rational parts, he might have mistaken it as his own. But this thought held a distinct threat and a command, a mental order from a very possessive source. Timothy's eyes went wide. It's him!? He said that and I heard him!

/...?!/

Before Egon could react, Timothy cast one last glare at him and whispered to Janine, "C'mon, let's go. I think the natives are restless."

Janine shot a poisonous glance at Egon as well. Her voice was a good bit louder when she said, "You're right, Tim. He does look a bit hostile, doesn't he." She fairly spat the last bit, causing Egon to take a step back. Then they hurried out the door.

The other three Ghostbusters tromped down the stairs as soon as they heard the door latch. Egon stood up straighter and blinked a few times. Winston was the first to reach the physicist's side, and when he did, he took a swipe at his head, dislodging a good many blond hairs.

"What are you thinking, man?" the darker man demanded. "You're acting like you own her or something!"

Egon blinked a few more times and opened his mouth to say something, but nothing would come out. He looked a bit shocked at his own behavior, and bewildered as well. "I...um...I'm sorry...I hadn't realized...."

"Well I'm not the one you should apologize to! I think some serious begging for forgiveness is in order when Janine comes back," Winston continued, obviously displeased.

Peter spoke up next. "Hadn't realized indeed! Hadn't realized what? That you have it bad fer Ms. Melnitz? That you can't stand the idea of her seeing someone else, even for just one night?"

Egon narrowed his eyes at that. "I am not jealous."

Peter was aghast. "What are you then?! You looked like you were gonna take Tim's head off! I've never seen you so possessive."

He looked like he was going to respond hotly to that, but instead he just clenched his fists and said with barely controlled emotion, "Please leave me be." He looked very close to tears all of a sudden.

Winston nodded at that, his own anger cooling. "All right, fair enough. You look like you need to let off some steam."

Peter also did as he requested, leaving him alone for now. "Just don't think we aren't gonna talk about this later, though. I need to do some thinking myself...I thought that white-noise doodad would...well, I just need to think about it."

Egon dipped his head very stiffly and turned to walk up the stairs. When he was gone, Ray turned to the others and crossed his arms indignantly. "I told you someone was going to get hurt."

Winston frowned. "To be honest, I didn't think he felt that strongly about her. I still stand by my decision to encourage Tim, though. I'm not happy Egon's so upset about it, but you gotta consider Janine's feelings, too. I can't stand by and watch her pine away when I know someone's willing to treat her the way she deserves, just so a stubborn goat of a man who needs to grow a spine doesn't get his feathers ruffled."

Ray looked unhappy about that observation. It was true, and much as he would like to deny it for his friend's sake, he couldn't. Egon was asking for it, pure and simple. If he really did feel that much for Janine, then he should get off his rusty-dusty and do something about it. "It's got to be hard, though. I mean, Timothy really does look like a young Egon...talk about mid-life crisis!"

"I think there's more than just jealousy and a touch of mid-life crisis going on here," Peter declared after a moment of thought. "Something on a psychic level is affecting them...it might be affecting us, too. We already know some sort of feedback was giving them two headaches...maybe some other, very subtle, subliminal psychic communication is occurring too, something that the white-noise generator couldn't block."

"Why do you think that?" Ray asked, puzzled.

"I was just thinking about how we reacted the first time we met Timothy... I know you're friendly with everyone, Ray, but most of the time I notice when I'm presenting myself as a grumpy, sleepy, hungry bear in a bathrobe for the clients."

Winston laughed softly. "That's right, m'man. You did look awfully...casual when you dragged Tim up stairs."

"That's why I think there's subliminal psychological cues or something affecting us. We have been unusually chummy with him. I don't know why that would be, but that's what I've seen."

"Well," Ray commented, "we'll just have to watch ourselves a bit then, won't we?"

"Yeah," Winston replied, "but that doesn't mean we ought to start getting distant with Timothy. I genuinely like him."

"So does Janine, I think," Peter added.

---

Egon sat down heavily on the edge of his bed, then flopped back so that his long legs were dangling off the side. This was a very bad day, in his estimation. Every time Timothy was around, it felt to him as though he faded into the background so that his best friends didn't even notice he was there. He wondered if he really was jealous of the younger man; he was, after all, in many ways a younger version of himself. In appearance, in voice, in the way he carried himself...and Timothy was things he could never be. Chivalry, artistry, a certain boldness, an impulsiveness and confidence...these were things he could never bring himself to have, for whatever reason.

He supposed it would be a fairly normal reaction, to be jealous. And it didn't help one damn bit that he was taking Janine out on a date. He was so often a coward when it came to her...in the deepest reaches he wanted to share his heart with her, but he was always so afraid. Let's just face facts Egon; you're jealous.

But how could it be so much as to evoke the fury he had just felt? No one got under his skin so fast, not even Janine. He had actually growled at the man. Even now, just thinking about it pricked his ire and he felt his hostility grow hot. Why had he done that?

And why could he hear Timothy's thoughts as if they were his own?

He was afraid to find the answer. If Mister Riley were a real doppelgänger, it could be the death of him.

When the answer finally came, however, it was far harder to face.

---

Janine tried not to dwell on Egon's behavior, although she was finding it very difficult. Of all the most inexcusable, irrational, completely baseless things he could possibly do! What on earth had possessed him? If he didn't have enough sense in that solid rock he called his head to take her out, then he sure shouldn't be hissing like cat with a kink in its tail when someone else did. She shook her head and frowned, just as Timothy opened the door for her to get into the cab.

She slid into her seat while Timothy circled around to the other side of the taxi. On the seat next to her was a small bouquet of colorful flowers, white carnations, a few small, dry, purple flowers with white centers, and three yellow, purple, and white irises. In between were the usual baby's-breath and fern fronds. They must have been somewhat expensive, for at this time of the year, the irises would have been forced. She picked them up and smelled the carnations; she knew carnations didn't have any perfume, but she loved how green they smelled, just like a garden.

"I'm sorry for the way I behaved just now," Timothy said quietly after he sat down and closed his door. He clearly saw her upset.

She set the flowers in her lap. "Oh, it's not that. It's Egon. He's the one that should apologize." Janine frowned deeply.

"Is he...were you ever...seeing him?" Timothy ventured.

"No," Janine snapped with a little more force than was necessary. "He has the romantic sense of a flatworm."

"Oh." Timothy understood something about what must be going on. He dipped his head and looked at his hands for a moment, hoping he wasn't encroaching on anything, since it was obvious to him something was going on between Janine and Egon. That must have been what Peter was getting at when he said it depends on what you mean by 'spoken for,' Timothy thought with a small, wry grin.

Janine watched him for a moment, deciphering the expression on his face with the ease of long practice. She blinked when she thought of that; Timothy must be more like Egon than she had previously thought. She pushed that thought aside and said, her tone reassuring, "It's been going on for years. Don't think you've stepped into some 'blossoming romance' or anything."

"I'm glad...I very much enjoy your company and would hate to think I was disrupting something promising for you."

"Don't worry about it. Let's just go enjoy dinner and not think about pudding-for-brains Egon. Oh! Did you bring pictures of your stuff?"

Timothy reached into one of the large pockets of his overcoat and withdrew a paper photo wallet. "I did," he said, relief in his voice; the last thing he wanted to do for a date was talk about Janine's Egon-troubles. He passed the photographs to Janine, who pulled them out and started thumbing through them, clearly liking what she saw.

---

A loud clunk followed by a few short raps alerted Winston to the fact that someone was at the Ghostbuster's front door. He wandered over from Janine's desk, where he was manning the phone, to the garage door and opened it.

"Can I help you?" Winston asked politely.

"I just brought by this for Dr. Spengler," the young man at the door answered. He held out a white envelope to Winston.

The dark-skinned Ghostbuster took the proffered envelope and looked at the front. It was labeled as a rush job, and private, from a local lab Egon often worked with. "Thanks, I'll give this to him right away," Winston remarked.

"Thanks, man," the messenger said with a sort of mock salute, not meant unkindly. He got on his bike and pedaled away.

Winston closed the door and started walking toward the stairs to give the letter to Egon. He was intercepted half way up the stairs by Peter, who snapped up the letter and held it up to the light, trying to peek through it. "Peter, what are you doing? That's Egon's."

"I know, I know, I'm just curious. I want to know what's got him so up in arms about Timothy," Peter explained reasonably. "You must admit, it isn't standard operating procedure to test the DNA of our clients."

"True, true. Maybe it should be, though, considering how many clients of ours turn out to be goonies," Winston said with a sardonic smile. "Keep us out of some trouble, at least."

Peter laughed a little at that, then turned up the stairs to finish the delivery of the letter.

---

Ray sat on the edge of Egon's bed, next to where the blond physicist lay with his legs still dangling over the side. He held his hands together over his forehead and appeared deep in thought.

"Sorry about, er, ignoring you the way I have been the last couple of days," Ray said with remorse. "I didn't mean to."

"I know you didn't, Raymond," Egon responded, glancing over at him for a moment before returning his gaze to the ceiling. "I think it's something to do with Timothy...and this isn't jealousy speaking."

"Well," Ray hemmed, "er...," he hawed.

Egon smiled up at Ray, a little rueful twist to his lips. "Yes, I admit it, Ray. But breathe one word of it to Peter...."

"No, I wouldn't do that," Ray said with a laugh, thinking about all the dire consequences such an admission would bring about should Dr. Venkman catch wind of it. "It's understandable, though. But if you are that worked up about it, maybe you should...ah...say something to Janine?" Ray paused a moment, then added somewhat hastily, "That's just my opinion, you know."

Egon seemed to be turning the idea over in his head. "I have to do something anyway. I can't go around growling at her dates... Something's funny about him, though, really. I can hear him thinking."

"Really?! Wow!" Ray bounced, instantly interested. "How can you tell?"

Egon sighed a little. "It's hard to describe. I just know the thoughts aren't mine. Obviously your psychic white-noise generator worked, but it didn't block everything."

Ray nodded sagely. "Peter's been thinking about that, too. He thinks that might have something to do with how we've been acting. You know, really friendly and chummy?"

Before Egon could respond to that, Peter and Winston tromped into the room. Peter held aloft the letter and shook it a bit. "Openit, c'mon, openit!"

Egon sat up slowly and languidly extended a long arm over to take the envelope. "Patience, Peter. I can't open a letter I don't have in my hands."

Peter stuck his tongue out childishly. "I'm just curious! Glad ya feel better, though, big guy."

"Thanks. Ray says you've been thinking?" Egon asked carefully.

"Yes, and I didn't hurt myself either, smarty-pants," Peter replied with a forbidding look. Then he went on to explain, "It was about the whole feedback thing...trying to figure that out, as well as why you two can't be in the same room without glaring death and growling. Can't see what would cause it, though."

"Well...the only thing that makes sense is that he is a doppelgänger. I had the DNA test run just to empirically rule out kin. I know he isn't, but I had to be sure," Egon explained while he began opening the letter with a pocketknife he always had on him. All four Ghostbusters gathered closer to see what was in the envelope.

Egon folded up the knife and extracted the enclosed findings. He looked them over with growing concern. Ray bent his head so he could read the letter over Egon's arm. The blond man's hands began to shake, and he was barely able to suppress his urge to tear the paper into tiny shreds. "That bastard."

Winston and Peter both looked questions at Ray. Neither of them could read the paper from their angle, and they were naturally concerned when the contents seemed to upset Egon so badly. Ray looked at Egon, then said carefully, "It's impossible. It can't be right!"

"What?" Peter asked loudly, unable to contain his growing concern.

Egon turned his blue eyes to look up at Peter, his teeth clenched and his face red with fury. His voice was intense as he ground out the answer. "He is a clone."

"What? How?" Winston asked incredulously. He stepped over to look at the paper, and was surprised at what he saw. "Says here that they ran the test twice!"

Ray pointed to another part of the paper. "Wow! Here it says that Tim's got two different sets of mitochondrial DNA! This is incredible!"

"What the heck does that mean, Ray," Peter asked with a hint of irritation.

"It means," Egon growled, "he has two blasted MOTHERS!" He suddenly stood and stormed into his lab, shoving Peter out of the way in the process. The door to the lab slammed with a house-shaking crash.

All three remaining Ghostbusters blinked in shock. It was a rare day that Egon got that angry. But in this case, it wasn't difficult to understand. "Wow," Winston finally breathed. "That just takes the cake."

---

Egon stood in the middle of the lab, breathing hard. He could barely get his mind around it. How in all creation could it have happened? His DNA and Timothy's DNA were identical. Timothy was a bloody clone, a copy, of him. Someone had cloned him. Someone had violated the sanctity that was his life and his uniqueness and made a damned copy.

Timothy was a bastard in the truest sense of the word.

He was a freak, an abomination.

He had walked into Egon's home and by some bizarre manner snatched his friends away, took their care and affection with such ease that they never even noticed. It hurt deeply to know that he could so easily be replaced in the hearts of his best friends by a derivative work of the worst sort.

But the part that hurt the most, the part that he hated with a deep hate, was that Timothy was what Egon could never be. That copy who went around with his hands and his face and his voice had somehow managed to do things he could not bring himself to do.

And even as he stood there fuming, Timothy was on a date with Janine.

With a sudden flash of ire and a strangled cry, Egon swept his arm across a table strewn with books and small glass containers. The glasses shattered, spilling their contents all over the floor.

Startled by his own action, Egon stared at the broken containers for a long minute. He didn't even realize the other Ghostbusters had entered until he felt one hand on his shoulder. He looked over and saw Peter with a clouded expression on his face. "This is some tough cookies to deal with, big guy. You know we're here for you."

"No, Peter," Egon said with a shuddering sigh, "I don't know that."

Peter frowned and looked away for a moment, while Ray came up on the other side and said a second time, "Peter thinks he knows what's been going on about that, Egon."

"Yeah, like Timothy's been givin' off vibes or something," Winston offered. "Something that we can't measure or block. But we know about it now and we can act on that knowledge. No one's gonna replace you, m'man."

For a moment, Egon looked off at nothing; then he sighed deeply. "No, I suppose not." He was still very angry and upset, but his friends' assurances helped. It would just take him a long while to get used to it, so long as Timothy gave him a wide berth for a while.

A very wide berth.

* * *

Timothy escorted Janine back to the Firehouse after what he thought was a wonderful evening. It was too bad they lived so far apart. He really would like to get to know Janine much better. He could always arrange to stay in the area a bit longer; New York was, after all, a cultural center of the United States. An artist would find himself not at all out of place.

Janine carried her flowers in the crook of one arm as she walked, a slight bounce to her gait. She had almost entirely forgot that Tim was anything like Egon; she enjoyed his uniqueness more than she enjoyed his similarity. Which, now that she thought about it, was rather strange. It was something she should have been watching for, considering how long she had pursued the Spengler in question. However, it didn't seem to matter. Before she hadn't given too much consideration about how much like Egon he was, and now she didn't care. She smiled to herself. It certainly was a nice change of pace.

Once they reached the door, Janine turned to face Tim. An idea struck her suddenly, and after very little thought, she decided to go with it. She had a broad grin on her face, and it was obvious to Tim that she had some mischief planned. She took one hand and wrapped it around the back of Timothy's neck, pulled his head down as far as she could, and quite soundly kissed him.

Timothy was surprised, but he didn't seem to mind all that much. In fact, he rather liked it, and returned the gesture.

Impetuous nature indulged, Janine laughed softly to herself. Timothy flashed his shy smile and giggled faintly. Then he shrugged and said, "I better go back to my hotel now. I don't want to keep you."

"Aw...," Janine sighed with humor. "What if I want to be kept for a bit?"

Timothy just laughed.

Before he could say anything else, Timothy heard...felt...in his head the presence of another. He knew Egon was nearby, and a sudden flash of intense anger told him that Egon knew he was there as well. At least, Egon was thinking about him.

And what he thought wasn't pretty.

---

Egon was pacing around the Firehouse, still worked-up about the unpleasant discovery of Timothy's origin. He worried the thoughts like a dog with a bone, turning them over in his head. One thing he desperately wanted to know is how Timothy had been cloned from him in the first place. Had cloning been in practice more than twenty-five years ago? Plainly it had...but who did it? How did they come to have his DNA? It was all very alarming.

While he was pacing, he felt in the back of his mind the strange sense of presence. He heard Timothy's thoughts...he was considering a response...what words to say to Janine's flirting...

Without warning, fiery anger and darkest jealousy exploded in Egon's heart. That bastard. That CLONE...! He spun to face the Firehouse doors, glowering through them to the copy who stood behind them.

/WHAT?! How dare you!/ He felt Timothy's ire flare bright, instantly on the offense for the insult Egon had thought. Suddenly, the doors flew open, revealing the clone, his stance full of fury.

Timothy's anger fed into Egon's own, and before he realized what was happening, he stalked over to face him and growled like an angry wolf.

Timothy returned the challenge with a low snarl of his own. With furious intent, the younger man advanced into the garage then stood as if to protect the doorway. He was working entirely on instinct now; anger feeding into anger, fanning the flames until they consumed rational thought. And in instinct, Timothy was prepared to defend himself and even Janine from the threat he perceived in Egon.

Egon was no different. His own dark emotions grew in proportion with Timothy's, soon swallowing up his own calculated outlook. He began circling the intruder, fully intending to protect his domain with force if necessary.

Timothy joined the dance, prepared to answer Egon in kind.

And dance it was, as both men heard the other's thoughts, sensing intentions before they became action. Both were entirely heedless of Janine's furious shouting as they began to fight in earnest. Egon was the first to attack, but Timothy dodged the punch easily.

Each man dodged the other with a preternatural ease for a few minutes; that was all the longer the fight lasted. Very quickly, Timothy landed a blow to Egon's face, right on his mouth. But Egon knew it was coming, knew he couldn't avoid it, so he did the best he could and clapped one hand over Timothy's ear as he was going down. Timothy reeled, blood trickling out of his ear as Egon fell with a split lip.

The instinctive fire fled away as fast as it came, as both men were dazed. Janine rushed over to Timothy and grabbed his arm in both hands, trying to help him stay upright. His sense of balance was set off by the blow to his ear.

While Janine helped Timothy keep his equilibrium, Egon shook off the last of the bright specks floating in his vision and sat up. He gingerly touched his lip, finding blood on his fingertips when he pulled them away. He looked up at Timothy, his expression dark. You clone...

Timothy's head snapped around to stare at Egon. This didn't help at all with his balance, and Janine had to put an arm around his waist to keep him upright. Timothy held on to the red-head for dear life, one hand clamped to her shoulder, his face pale from vertigo.

Egon glowered up at him. You are holding Janine with my hands. MY hands. My voice. My face.

/My hands? ...Your hands?/ Timothy was obviously confused, and Egon could hear the confusion in his head.

You are nothing but a copy. Everything you have is MINE. The smoldering fury he felt at the violation that defined Timothy's existence was not lost on the clone. Egon's expression was one of disgust and anger, very close to hate.

After she was sure Timothy wouldn't fall right this instant, Janine looked over at Egon and gasped. Then she quickly shot daggers at him.

Timothy carefully looked down at the hand on Janine's shoulder. /Is that why...? Am I...?/

"Yes, you are," Egon growled, wiping blood off his lip with his sleeve.

A bone-deep shock settled on Timothy and chilled him as Egon's words seemed more and more possible. He continued to look at Egon, his face expressing the growing dismay he felt. But before anyone could react to this, the other three Ghostbusters came from every corner, various levels of concern and surprise registering on their faces. They had come as soon as they heard the scuffle.

"What's goin' on?" Winston asked as he helped Egon to his feet. "Are you all right?"

Egon shook his head and stomped out of the room and up the stairs to his lab. Timothy just stood in shock, staring at his hands, no words exiting his mouth. Peter looked to Janine with the same question in his eyes.

"I don't know Dr. V. Timothy opened the door and Egon took a swipe at him." She fumed for a moment, then continued, voice tight, "Timothy landed one and Egon slapped his ear. I don't know what is with him...Egon was madder than a tiger that just had his tail yanked."

Ray looked over at Peter with a strange look. "Do you think...?"

Peter nodded slowly. "I bet that feedback's got something to do with this." For a moment he was torn, wanting to help Timothy, but he recognized what was happening and fought the desire for all he was worth. Egon was his best friend, not Timothy, and as decent a man as Timothy was, Peter's place was with Egon. He sighed, feeling every inch a louse for wanting to turn his back on the obviously dismayed man before him...still, the corner of his mind that was solely rational and unaffected by 'vibes' told him who he needed to help. "I'm going upstairs to talk to Egon...see what I can do...." With that, he turned to go up the stairs.

Ray shifted his weight from one foot to the other, obviously fighting the same internal battle that Peter had. "Well, I...I...don't know what to do."

"Maybe the best thing we can do, under the circumstances, is stay out of both their hair," Winston supplied, a clouded expression on his face. "I don't like it...I feel like I'm betraying my good friends no matter what I do. So maybe we should just take a drive for a while. Pete's got Egon...I think Janine's got Timothy...." He sounded very uncertain, and his voice trailed off.

After a moment, Timothy asked hoarsely, "May I use a phone? In private?"

"Of course," Janine answered softly. "The best we have is in Dr. V's office, but we'll leave you alone if that's what you want."

Timothy nodded shakily. "Yes, please...I have...some questions I need answered."

Janine helped Timothy into the office, as his balance was still unsteady. Winston added in sympathy, "I bet you have, Tim."

---

Peter closed the door behind him. Egon was sitting in his favorite wooden chair, his head in his hands. He didn't turn when he heard Peter's footsteps, but he did speak. "What is happening to me, Peter? I don't understand it."

Peter shrugged silently then walked over to kneel by Egon. Now that he was away from Timothy, he no longer felt any qualms about coming to Egon. "Some strange feedback, Spengs. I don't know why it's happening, or what to do about it, but I know it is having an effect on us."

Egon turned his head to look Peter in the face. After a long moment of consideration, he said, "Why did you come here?" His question bore no malice or bitterness, just an honest wondering.

Peter looked at the floor for a moment. "I felt the feedback, Timothy's vibes, and I knew what it was. So I ignored it as best I could." He looked up with an ironic smile. "It was pretty hard, Spengs. Felt like a complete heel. You should take that as a compliment."

"Why, exactly, should I?"

"Because in all but one corner of my mind, I was turning away from you to go to someone else. I know it's backhanded, but it does mean something."

Egon frowned. "You are impossible, Peter."

"I try," he said with a smile. "Now that you know how hard Tim's vibes are hitting me, don't you suppose they would be hitting you even harder?"

The blond physicist shrugged and exhaled through his teeth. "But what do I do? I...I was so furious I couldn't even think!"

For a moment, the darker haired man was thoughtful. Then a smile spread across his face, one of those patented Venkman specials. "You could ask Janine out. Right after you beg her forgiveness."

Egon sat up with alarm. Before he could answer, Peter held up a hand. "You've been playing the alpha wolf ever since Timothy walked in the door. Don't think we hadn't noticed; we aren't blind, ya know."

A supremely confused expression clouded Egon's features. Then he settled his head back in his hands. "What can I do?"

Peter squeezed his shoulder once. "Egon, I'll bet once those vibes are gone, you won't have so much trouble. Timothy isn't a threat to you, any more than he's my best bud. But he feels like it. Try to remember he's a real person despite the strong feelings he evokes. You'll be all right then, you'll see."

Egon nodded slightly, considering the thought. He raised his head and set his chin on his fists, now clearly deep in thought. Peter took this as his cue, stood and walked out, silently closing the lab door behind him.

* * *

Timothy dialed the phone number with shaking hands. He sat hunched over the large desk, running one hand through his hair. The phone on the other end rang three times, then picked up. "Hello?"

"Hello, mom...," Timothy said quietly.

On the other end of the line, Timothy's mother asked in concern, "What's wrong, Tim? What happened?"

"Mom...," he started hesitantly. "Mom...can I ask you something?"

"Why yes, of course. What is it?"

Timothy exhaled a shuddering sigh. "Am...am I...am I a clone?"

For several long moments, the line was silent. Then, a very quiet, "Yes." Timothy closed his eyes as a tear traced its way down his cheek.

The silence extended for a long moment before his mother explained slowly. "Timothy, your father and I couldn't have children of our own. We went to a fertility clinic...I had a few eggs harvested, and your father donated his seed as well. Supposedly, Doctor Uzuki injected your father's genes into my egg, and it was implanted. That's what we thought happened when I got pregnant. Later, the same doctor that did the harvesting discovered you had dextrocardia, where all your organs were flip-flopped. We didn't know what to do...but the doctor offered to do all that was within his power to help you, free of charge. Of course we accepted...but it wasn't long before it all came out. Before you were born, an amniocentesis was performed, and we found out the results...we confronted the doctor about it, and he told us the truth; you were not our natural son. He must have been feeling cocky about the seeming success of his experiment-you were there, a living, albeit not perfectly health clone-and he told us what he had done. We never did find out who was your...who you were cloned from. Some time after you were born, and after your heart surgery to correct a defect, the doctor disappeared. The best your father could determine was that he was arrested and put in jail for illegal human experimentation. But you were still our son, Timothy. Don't ever doubt that-you are my baby."

Timothy wept freely throughout the explanation. It was difficult for him to hear, and harder to accept, but he could not deny its truth...especially not after what had transpired today. After several minutes of collecting himself, Timothy asked, voice choked by tears, "Why...why didn't you...why didn't you tell me? Why keep a secret like that?"

He could almost see his mother's sighing expression. "We never told you because it wasn't important. You were always our son. We knew it would be almost impossible to find the person you were cloned from, and we didn't want you to grow up thinking you were somehow less because of it."

"It doesn't spare me now, mother," Timothy snapped.

"I know, Timothy...but now you can handle it. You know who you are...and even if the mold you were poured in was a used one, it doesn't change your worth."

The artist sat for a long time considering this. He knew his mother was right, even if his heart hurt now. If he had known while he was young...who knows how he would have turned out. And yet...he was still a copy of another man...

The silence was broken by his mother's question. "How did you find out?"

"I met the man I was cloned from, Mom..."

"He's a handsome one, isn't he."

Timothy shook his head, a sudden laugh escaping through his tears. "I love you, Mom."

"I love you too, son."

* * *

When Janine walked back out of Dr. Venkman's office, she was shaking her head. She could not for the life of her figure out what was going on. She was going to have to have words with Egon later, when he calmed down from whatever fit had taken him...and she was a bit mad at Timothy, too, though not as much. What had gotten into those two?

Winston apparently saw her confusion, since he walked up to her with an understanding expression. "Janine, we gotta tell you something about Tim."

"What, is something wrong?" Janine asked in concern.

"Well, no, not exactly," Ray ventured. "See, Egon did a DNA test on him, and the results were really strange."

Winston continued. "Yeah, the results come out saying Tim's got the exact same DNA as Egon, except for some extra mito-somethingorothers."

The redhead was genuinely confused. "How is that possible? People can't have the same genes as other people...."

"Well, they can if they are clones," Ray concluded.

Janine blinked several times. After a long silence, she finally sputtered, "You mean...Timothy...is a clone?!"

Both men nodded solemnly. "Hard to believe, isn't it," Winston said.

"On top of it," Ray added, "it seems that they are so close parapsychologically that they can hear each other's thoughts. Plus, Timothy's got a presence about him that is identical to Egon's, which in effect makes us think he is Egon."

"Now wait a minute," Janine huffed, tapping one foot and wagging her index finger, "I don't think Timothy is anything like Egon. Yeah, granted, he looks just like him, but they are really different!"

"Well, I mean, they aren't exactly the same...apparently they were raised pretty different, and Timothy is a good bit younger, but we have all been treating him like he was Egon. You know, like he was already part of the family." Ray shrugged a little after he said it, as if he were uncomfortable with the idea.

"We know, Janine," Winston explained. "But what we're sayin' is that something is messing with our, well, or natural reactions. We're all very comfortable around Egon, so Tim shows up givin' off vibes or something, and now we're all very comfortable around him, even though at first we didn't know him from Adam."

Janine looked down at the floor, deep in thought. She didn't like the implications of Ray and Winston's words, but she supposed it must be true. If nothing else, it explained why Dr. V was willing to talk to a prospective client in that abomination of a robe. And yet, she still couldn't see how all of this would affect her opinion of Timothy.

Before anyone could say anything else, Timothy walked out of the office slowly, wiping tears from his still pale face. Janine went over to stand next to him, a considering expression on her face. Timothy didn't look at her, just at the floor. He whispered, "I heard what you said...is it true?"

Janine sighed, not knowing how to answer him. Now she was filled with self-doubt, a feeling she hated with a passion. She knew, absolutely knew that she liked Timothy for who he was and not what...still...how could she be sure?

"Sorry, m'man," Winston answered softly. After a few moments, he walked over to Timothy and set a hand on his shoulder. "You know what though? I don't care how many vibes I've been getting. It don't change the fact that you are one cool dude, and that you have my respect."

"Yeah, that's right," Ray said, perking up instantly. "If you weren't a good guy, we woulda picked up on it."

"Thank you," Timothy mumbled with almost no voice. "I have a lot of thinking to do...I think I will come back tomorrow...."

"Stay here," Janine insisted, "you're in no condition to go anywhere tonight. C'mon, let me clean you up a bit, then you can sleep on the couch." Ray and Winston exchanged a look, somewhat amused that Janine was inviting people to stay at the Firehouse, which, last time they checked, was not hers. But they made no objection, because they really had none.

Timothy was far to drained emotionally to refuse, so he let Janine lead him by the hand to the stairs. She helped him up to the kitchen, one arm around his waist and the other holding his hand, which he leaned on her for support.

Winston and Ray watched them go up the stairs shaking their heads a little. Winston summed it all up quite succinctly: "This has been one hell of a day."

* * *

Some time around three AM, Egon trudged down the stairs, quite unable to sleep. He rubbed his eyes as he made his way into the kitchen to make some chocolate. He didn't really want to turn on the lights, knowing it would just sting his eyes, but he did anyway. As soon as his eyes stopped hurting, he went over to the cabinet to get a pan. A moment later, he realized he wasn't alone; Timothy was sitting in one of the kitchen chairs with his own cup of hot chocolate. Far to tired to really think coherently, Timothy and Egon both just blinked at each other for a long moment.

And that was probably for the best; too much thinking at that moment might have got them into another fist fight. After a few more seconds, Egon returned to his chocolate making, thoughts very wary, and yet, knowing why he was tempted to fury, was able to resist it with some effort. He remembered the stunned and distraught look on Timothy's face when he realized what he was for the first time, and he was sorry to have caused it with his unthinking anger. As he heated up the ingredients for his hot chocolate, he thought, Did you make that yourself?

Timothy looked up at Egon, startled for a moment. Then he shrugged under the stack of blankets he was wrapped in and took a sip. /My mother taught me how./

Egon could hear the hurt in those words as easily if they had been spoken aloud. He could also feel the other's own efforts to stay calm. He sighed heavily and continued his cooking.

After a few minutes, the physicist had his own cup of hot chocolate and he moved into the living room, motioning for Timothy to follow him. He did, and soon they were in the room. Egon pulled a large book from the shelf and sat down on the couch, setting his mug aside as he did. I want to show you something.

Timothy sat down next to the older man. Egon opened the book, a photo album, and turned to the first page of pictures. There was one large photo, and three smaller ones on the facing page. Egon pointed to the large picture, one of a tall, lithe woman holding a baby in her arms, while a taller, and if at all possible, thinner man stood behind her with his arms around her waist. The picture was faded, but it was easy to see that all three had light blond hair and blue eyes. Timothy bent over to look at it closer. Before Egon could say anything, he heard Timothy's sharp intake of breath, and felt the emotion that accompanied it. It was hard to bear; it was a strange lostness Egon had rarely felt, and he figured Timothy must have been surprised at how strongly he felt upon finally seeing people who looked like him...looked like family.

Although he knew it wasn't necessary, Egon said, "These are my parents."

After a moment, he pulled back the clear cellophane cover on the facing page and carefully dislodged a picture of his mother. It was a much more recent one, perhaps only ten years old. He handed the picture to Timothy, who took it very carefully. He held it up very close to his face, apparently having removed his contacts for the night. /What is she like?/

"A mother to the bone," Egon said with some humor. If you should ever meet her, do not do so with a cold...you will live to regret it.

Timothy smiled slightly at that. /Does she still tuck you in at night?/

Egon groaned. ...On occasion...when I have had the misfortune of being sick when she visits. He shuddered at the memory, which had involved a particularly noxious Spengler home cure. All was thought with warmth, however, for as over-protective as she was, Egon loved his mother a great deal.

"You may keep that," Egon said as he began removing a second photograph, this time of his father. This picture was a good bit older than the one of his mother. The thin-faced man in it had an expression on his face that could not quite, but almost, pass for a smile. Egon looked at the picture for a second, then quickly handed it to the man next to him.

Timothy set the photo of Egon's mother aside and took this next picture in his hand. He examined it as carefully as he had the first picture. /And him? What is he like?/

Egon didn't answer. He didn't want to answer. The reason the photo was so old was because he had not spoken with his father since then. He remembered with great bitterness how he had left home not a few days later; the picture had been taken on his eighteenth birthday. He only had it now because his mother had insisted. He felt nothing but deep alienation and unpleasantness when he thought of his father or anything connected with him. It upset him to no end that he couldn't visit his mother because she was still married to that man.

Timothy looked up hesitantly from the picture. /I'm sorry...it seems you can't keep any secrets from me..../

The physicist shot a hot glance at Timothy, then fought it down. No secrets indeed...he could feel in Timothy's thoughts that he had no such trouble with his father, none at all. It made him angry, no, jealous maybe, that this person, this clone, had grown up with the advantages he had.... He was certain no one had told him his fears were invented just for attention, or burned his pictures just because they were 'frivolous'....

"No, no one did," Timothy said softly. "I am very lucky to have the family I do. I suppose because they...ah, knew what I was...that they didn't know what to expect. They always encouraged me in everything I did, and although I can't say either one has the artistic taste God gave a pig, they still let me follow that dream...because I valued it.... But in all that...now I see it was never my dream to begin with...."

What do you mean?

/You feel raped of your uniqueness? I never had any to begin with..../

Egon blinked, somewhat taken aback by Timothy's 'words'. But he was right, that's exactly how he felt. And he suddenly realized he had taken it all out on an innocent man; Timothy could no more help what he was than any child could just because the genesis of their existence was similarly violent. And had he told him that he was nothing? That everything he had was not his own? "I'm sorry, very sorry...I should never have said...thought that about you."

/You were right though...these aren't my hands..../ Timothy looked down at his hands again, deeply troubled. He glanced over at Egon with a wan smile. "I still must think on this, find something...I can claim. May I?"

Egon understood what the question meant. To think in private, something Timothy could not do with Egon sitting next to him. Yes, you may. He set the photo album on the table and gathered up his cooling chocolate, then started to leave the room.

Just before he did, Timothy thought, /Thank you for showing these to me..../

Egon nodded silently. You're welcome.

* * *

When Janine arrived at work the next morning, the first thing she did was go upstairs looking for Timothy. When she didn't find him there, she went back down stairs, wondering if he had left so early. She set her purse down on her desk and put her coat on the rack. Just as she was about to sit down, she found a neatly wrapped package on her desk. It was not addressed except for her name, written in a hand she recognized. Wondering why Egon would leave her such a large package, she carefully undid the wrapping. Inside was a letter and another package, looking like nothing so much as a wrapped picture frame. She sat down with the letter in hand and began to read. The handwriting was the same as on the package, and now that she saw a larger amount of it, she knew it was not Egon's.

---

Janine-

I am sorry for leaving without saying goodbye to you. I wish that it had not been necessary. But for now, I cannot be sure that it is I and not your blond friend who you see when you see me. So instead I will write to you...I know my hands are not my own, but my words are; therefore you can see me more clearly, without hindrance from my physical form. Please accept the enclosed with my gratitude and affection. And please write me; I very much enjoyed the time we spent together and would not like for it to end just because I seem to all to be someone I am not. I look forward to hearing from you.

-Timothy S. Riley

P.S. I hope you do not mind the liberty I have taken-my images are my own as well, and I wanted to leave you with something that was mine and mine alone. Careful not to touch the surface for a few weeks.

---

Janine set the letter down thoughtfully, then picked up the wrapped frame. It was about two feet tall and a foot and a half wide. She carefully dug a nail through the soft tissue it was wrapped in and ripped it away. Soon the item was revealed to be an oil painting, and a stunning one at that. It was a portrait of her, wearing a light, flowing dress of delicate gossamer, holding a long stemmed red rose in one hand. Around her was a deep purple and blue smoke, looking something like a nebula in space, with a few bright stars peeking through here and there. Janine let out a slow breath. This picture of her was beautiful.

She was still examining it when Ray came down stairs, drying his hair with a towel. He walked over to her desk and took a peek at what Janine was holding. "Goll-y! That's nice!" he said with a low whistle.

"Yeah, it is," Janine said quietly. "Why is it all the good ones have to get away?"

Ray frowned a little. "What do you mean?"

"I mean Timothy left. He gave this to me, I guess as a remembrance...he didn't want me to doubt who it was I was thinking about when I saw him."

The round engineer sighed. "I guess that's understandable. Sorry it had to turn out this way."

Janine sighed herself. "Maybe it's just as well. I can still write him." A pause. "I really liked him, Ray." This last was accompanied by a sniffle and a few tears, which she quickly wiped a way.

Ray patted her shoulder affectionately. "I know you did. I did too." Then he walked away, toward the back room.

For several minutes Janine just sat there, pondering the events of the last few days. She frowned a bit, realizing at least one thing had come of it...and she was going to tell a certain blond physicist just what that was.

* * *

Not long after, Egon found himself being dragged into his lab by the shirt collar. Some how he had a feeling this was not going to be an easy day, judging from the look on his redheaded captor's face. Janine closed the door soundly behind her after she had Egon fully in the room. She let go of his collar and walked over to the lab desk, leaving the confused man to stand by the door and wonder about his fate.

After several moments of silence, Janine turned a dark look on Egon. It was not an expression she had often worn, a volatile mix of hurt and anger. After another long moment, she demanded, "Do you feel anything for me or not?!"

Egon was taken aback by her forthrightness. He shrunk back a little and lowered his head, wanting nothing more than to disappear completely. He looked down at his hands which had suddenly caught a bad case of the fidgets. He tried to say something, but when he realized he was at a total loss for words, he closed his mouth. He did feel something for her, oh how he did, but he couldn't make himself say it.

Janine continued to glare at him. "Do you have any idea why I'm asking this?"

Egon shook his head, still not daring to look her in the eyes.

"Well then I'll tell you. And I am so not gonna pull my punches." She paused for a bit, then took a deep breath. "It's because Timothy, whom I just barely met, has treated me better than you ever have. If I knew you didn't care about me, that would be one thing. But after what you've done the last few days, I know it's not true. You have been the lord king of jealousy for days!" She angrily advanced on Egon and poked a long finger nail square in the center of his chest. "And if you feel that strongly, then how can you justify the way you've treated me?!"

Egon was shivering by now. To say he was scared witless would be an understatement. He suddenly realized with startling, frightening clarity that he had damn well better do something quick or he was going to lose any chance he still had with Janine forever. She was absolutely right; he had been extremely jealous of Timothy and had been particularly virulent about expressing it. And her conclusions were sound as well. He dared a quick glance at her face, and the righteous anger he saw in her turquoise eyes scared him. Head still down, he whispered, "I'm sorry...I'm sorry...."

"You had better be!" she nearly shouted. After a moment of breathing hard in her anger, she continued, punctuating each word with a jab of her finger, "I'm telling you right now, Egon. I'm not going to put up with the status quo any longer. If Timothy, if your exact clone can treat me as though I were worth something to him, then you should be able to, too. The bar has been raised, Egon."

With that, she pushed him out of the way and stomped through the door, slamming it on her way out. Egon leaned his head back against the wall, rock on one side, hard place on the other. He shook his head, allowing a tear to escape and trace its way down his cheek. Janine had upped the ante, and she was right to do so. And he was terrified.

She shouldn't have to wait for him to act on his feelings, in the mean time putting up with his distance, especially if he hated it himself. And yet still he was terrified.

Something had to give...as much as he would like to avoid it, something was about to give. The time had come for the rock or the hard place to move. And if his own fear were the hard place...

...It was time to move.

~The End~


Author's Note: This fanfic was partly inspired late one night on the DALnet...Elctrowolf had rigged a trap to catch RGBs...Labidolemur had a cloning machine close at hand...and someone gave me an Egon-clone. EC3 turned out pretty nice, didn't he? ; )

I also must point out that most of Timothy's characteristic genteelness is directly inspired by the way my brothers in the church conduct themselves on dates. There is never any expectations, and the sisters are always treated with utmost respect. I like it, so I thought others might too.