"Eat this!" Janine's voice echoed in the warehouse. The living walls chattered in response as Cohila was sucked into the trap, so shocked he could only make a wordless wail as he was sucked into the trap once and for all. Around him the tiny bug minions swirled, entering with him.
Egon supposed that was only natural, since they shared one mind and thus were probably so closely related as to be nigh indistinguishable. He would have to look into it later, they were very fortunate that it had worked. But for now, there were more important things for him to worry about. Namely the fact Janine was left nude after the transformation and was trying in vain to both scuttle for something to hide behind and cover herself at the same time. The wings evaporated into her back, leaving tiny lines where they had broken the skin.
He stumbled away from where his feet had been planted and slung the pack off his back, dropping it to the floor as carelessly as he could afford to drop a nuclear accelerator. Behind him, Garrett was struggling to do the same, but Eduardo beat him to the punch, removing his pack and swinging his vest off his shoulders and around Janine's. She glanced up at him with a crooked, grateful smile. Kylie shooed him away and stood in front of her while the boys, without prompting, unanimously went to get the car.
Egon ignored them as they went by, stepping out of his flight suit and handing it over to Kylie, turning his back politely. He'd worn his usual underthings beneath it and really wasn't as concerned about the rest of them seeing him in his boxers as he was about Janine having nothing to clothe herself in. After a moment he realized her clothes might still be somewhere in the warehouse and left them to go find her things, starting with the catwalk she had come down from with Cohila.
A few minutes later all he'd found of her things were the shredded remains of her suit jacket and her glasses, one of the lenses cracked. He left the jacket, but hooked her glasses over his collar to take down with him so she'd at least be able to see. While she wasn't nearly as myopic as he was, he was aware that she had some difficulties without them. He 'hm'd to himself, trying to recall if their insurance would cover the loss of her spectacles in the event she was involved. It had been worked out so that his were replaced, but he was unsure if it counted since Janine wasn't officially on the roster for ghostbusting.
He climbed back down the ladder, brow furrowed thoughtfully. There was a lot to digest from over the course of two days, much of it out of his field of expertise, to put it lightly. He gnawed the inside of his cheek, unable to shake the sensation of dejavu. Which was not entirely inaccurate, because nearly this exact same thing had happened ten damn years ago, and then too it had really been his fault in the end.
He just kept failing her.
He would have asked for her resignation when they returned, but that would have translated to also requiring her to drop his class or be dropped from it forcibly, and he couldn't potentially ruin her academic career like that. No, he would need to wait to ask for it until after the fall semester was over and she had graduated. He absently fingered the frames of her glasses, plucking them from his collar and trying to clean what we left of them. It preoccupied his hands.
Kylie brushed by him with a soft punch to his shoulder, startling him from his thoughts. She gave him a look that reminded him all too much of Peter Venkman as she passed, grabbing his pack on her way.
Which left him alone with Janine, who had picked her way across the floor barefoot over to him. He tried to avoid her eyes, holding out her glasses.
"Here, I found them up there...One of the lenses is cracked I'm afraid, we'll see if we can get them replaced by the insurance for you...If not, I'll buy them for you."
She took the glasses, but ignored what he was saying, smiling up at him with that same sad, crooked smile. "I'll take that kiss now." Her head tilted upwards expectantly.
"Oh! Ha! That..." Egon tried desperately to backpedal, his eyes darting around the warehouse. "Well you see, that was just to break you from Cohila's g-"
Hands seized his undershirt and nearly hauled him off his feet. It successfully dragged him down enough for her lips to press to his hard and urgently. He froze for fear of upsetting a balance he had set in place years ago.
She had no idea how desperately he wanted to respond in kind.
"Think about that next time I ask you out on a date," she smiled, letting him go and patting his chest.
He watched her go for a moment before slowly following her, frowning at the floor of the warehouse.
The ride back to the firehouse was done in complete silence aside from Garrett's initial congratulation on Janine "being the ultimate badass!"
Once they arrived Janine immediately claimed the shower and the kids dispersed, mostly at Kylie's unsubtle insistence. She grinned at her professor before she left, wishing him good luck. Even Slimer had disappeared somewhere.
That girl didn't know a damn thing.
He gathered an old t-shirt and shorts - remnants of when he was a younger man and probably the only things he owned that would even fit Janine - dressed himself in slacks and another old t-shirt, and waited. He'd give her a ride home at least, her day had been horrible.
He wasn't sure when he had fallen asleep on the couch, but the next thing he was aware of was a gentle weight pressing into his side.
"Yes, Janine?" He said softly, unsure of where to put his arms now.
"I remember. A lot of things. But I remember the Fairy Godmother, and what she did..." She looked up at him; hurt, sad, and even afraid. "Why would you keep that from me?"
"I'm sorry," he whispered, gathering an arm around her shoulders. "We were afraid that if we told you the effects could return. Or it would cause you severe emotional trauma. None of us wanted you to relive that."
"That's not fair. That isn't good enough." She pushed away from him abruptly, crossing her arms over the no-ghost symbol emblazoned in faded colors across her chest, closing herself off. "None of you ever considered what I would have wanted. You especially. Why would you just...Up and forget about me?"
"I never forgot about you, Janine."
"Yes you did, you stopped seeing me and just...stopped everything. I heard from you on the holidays and on my birthday, and damn it if that wasn't 'emotionally traumatic' then I don't know what is!" She stood up, pacing and moving her hands in gestures of frustration.
"Ten years! Ten of my bestyears! The last five of them I thought it was somethingIdid wrong, orIwas the problem! And I eventually convinced myself that it was you. And I was right." She stopped pacing, looking down at him.
Egon had never felt more terrified in his life. Somehow even death was not nearly as large a threat. He had nothing left in him, no words to offer in consolation or his defense except three.
"I love you."
She slapped him and tears spilled over from her eyes. "You...you have no right..."
He didn't reach up to touch his stinging face, but looked back up at her. "I love you, and I'm so very sorry..."
"You asshole!" She slapped him again with a sob, on the other cheek. Lovely, a matched set. He stood and caught her hands, keeping them far away from his face. He didn't squeeze them or restrain her, just prevented her from striking him again. "I mean it, and I want you to listen to me. Sit back down?"
She sat, glowering at him with watery eyes.
He took her hands in his, ignoring her flinch, and ran his thumbs over her knuckles soothingly. "I would not have kept everything from you if I had not loved you as much as I do. I'd not have stayed here either, I'd have gone back to Ohio." He paused, searching her face for confirmation and finding none. He cleared his throat and continued quickly.
"We were afraid it would be significantly stressful, and due to the nature of your memory loss there was the potential for it to be disastrous to your physical health too. I imagine the exposure to a mind altering supernatural being has reversed the mental effects, though your eyes appear more blue than they did previously."
She said nothing.
"Do you understand?" He furrowed his brow, and his stomach felt as turbulent as a raging sea.
Janine regarded him for a moment, freeing her hands and rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palm. "I don't think I'll ever really understand...But I can forgive. Probably not now, but eventually. Maybe."
The sea broke against the shore. He exhaled a breath he hadn't known he was holding.
She sniffed, straightening, and he recognised her naming her terms. "I want dinner. Not take-out, not fast food, but a real, honest-to-God dinner."
"Alright." He owed her that much, and more.
She chewed her lip for a minute and he cleared his throat, staring down at his hands for the duration of the silence that fell over them. "...Would you like some hot cocoa?"
"Yeah, sure..." She drew her legs up onto the couch, wrapping her arms around them.
"Are you cold? Hungry? I could make you something." Words tumbled like water in a brook. He stood, ready for whatever action she first directed him to.
"I've had your cooking, thanks," she said with more than a touch of sarcasm.
"That was only once..." he murmured, frowning.
"You actually managed to burn a salad. It was pretty bad."
"I left it beside the Bunsen burner, that was entirely unintentional..." He pushed his glasses up his nose and sighed in the general direction of the kitchen. If Ray hadn't been going on about that new occult book store..."I'll go make the cocoa."
"Yeah, you go do that." The trace of humor in her voice faded and she looked away from him.
He left quietly, padding into the kitchen and setting a pan of milk to heat on the stove. He stirred it, completely absorbed in the mindless task. Clockwise. Counterclockwise. Clockwise. It was a good way to just...decompress. Unfortunately his knee reminded him that he needed to take an aspirin or four. He shifted his weight to the side, letting the mild arthritis from a previous fracture rest while he added the cocoa mix.
He then became intensely aware of a presence in the doorway and glanced over to see Janine standing there, her arms hugged around her protectively. She wasn't looking at him, she was looking towards the window with a look of extreme apprehension.
"Janine? Make yourself comfortable, I'll bring it to you," he said, a little thrown by her expression.
"I'd rather just...stay right here." Evasive, not like her.
"Alright..." He looked back at the steaming pan and pulled it off the burner, fetching a couple -thankfully clean- mugs from the cupboard. "Are you...okay? I'll drive you home now if you need me to..."
"No!" She blurted, looking startled. "No," she repeated, calmer. She looked back at the window, not elaborating.
He watched her for a moment, allowing the cocoa to cool from boiling hot. "You are cold. At least let me get you a blanket or a robe."
She caught his elbow before he could leave her in the kitchen. "I'm not okay. There's a lot of things I'm not okay with right now, and going home is one of them. I'm scared, alright?" She sounded so defensive, as though he'd have thought less of her for being afraid.
"Scared that I'm not who I'm supposed to be, or that this is some kind of dream I can't wake up from, or I'm missing parts of myself, or that I'm crazy..." Her hands withdrew to her arms again.
"You're not crazy."
"One out of four, huh?" She shivered, still watching the window like she was expecting something to happen. She reached back and scratched at her shoulder, then returned her arms back to where they had been.
"All out of four. You're a good woman, Janine, and every bit who you should be." He cautiously placed his hands on her arms, rubbing them to put some warmth back into them. "Because who you should be can only be defined by you, no one else."
She leaned forward and pressed her cheek to his chest, shaking miserably. "I don't want to be alone." It was said so softly he almost missed it. He swallowed. For Janine to admit such a thing was no doubt difficult. His shirt was suspiciously damp anyway.
He slid his arms carefully around her back, resting his cheek on top of her head. "Then you don't have to be. You can stay here tonight. I'll take the couch and make sure Slimer is with you."
"Thanks," she hiccuped. For the second time that night the heels of her palms came up to swipe at her eyes.
"Of course." He resisted the urge to kiss the top of her head. It wasn't appropriate given the current circumstances, and he'd rather her not have just experienced a life changing realization if and when she chose to pursue a relationship with him. A comforting hug was one thing, dinner was another, but he didn't want to violate her trust or move too quickly. Had to play these things cool, as Venkman would have said.
"Cocoa is probably done cooling now," she murmured, making no motion to move away.
"Probably," he agreed, and painfully pried himself apart from her to fetch the cups.
They sat in silence for the better part of an hour, sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, enjoying a hot beverage on a cool night. Afterwards she helped him wash up by drying for him and putting the things away, again in silence. It was all so very familiar and dreamlike, as though nothing more needed said, and yet there was much left to discuss.
Once the things were put away and it was well-and-truly nightfall he walked her up to his room, mostly just to reassure her with another presence until Slimer could be located to keep guard
over her for the night. Slimer did pop up, he had been hanging around in the lab inexplicably, playing with his yo-yo. Egon gave him instructions to guard Janine until dawn, gathered a blanket, and turned to leave to the solitude of the couch.
Janine cleared her throat behind him. She fiddled with the edge of her shirt. "Egon...You could...Oh, nevermind."
He paused, calculating his response carefully. "Do you want me to stay?"
She nodded, wordlessly.
"Are you sure?"
"Damn it, Egon," she hissed, looking away.
He took that as a yes and went back to her, absently putting the blanket around her shoulders and focusing anywhere but her face. "Alright." He caught a glimpse of Slimer, in a moment of clarity, slipping through the floorboards discretely.
He put an arm around her shoulders and escorted her to his bed, then got a chair from the corner and set it alongside. She smiled at him, watery and a little embarrassed.
He held her hand until she fell asleep.
Long after he had fallen asleep he woke to a weight taking roost in his lap. He remained still until she was comfortable, then wrapped an arm loosely around her. Both of them slept in various states of comfort until dawn.