A/N : After recently watching the ep "Robo Buster" I had to wonder how NOBODY got hurt after all that stuff that happened while they were fighting off that whole mess. AND I got the feeling that Janine would probably be feeling pretty guilty about what happened too!
Robo Buster: Aftermath
Takes place immediately after the episode "Robo Buster" once everyone has returned to the firehouse.
"Hey, Janine, you're coming up to watch the movie, right?" Peter asked as he was heading up the stairs. When she didn't answer right away, he stopped and looked over at her desk where she was sitting and writing something out. "Earth to Janine!"
"Huh? Oh, sorry, Dr. V." Janine didn't look up as she added, "I think I'm going to just head home; I'm…kinda tired."
Peter frowned slightly. Something was definitely not right here. "If you're sure then…"
Janine didn't answer; instead she seemed deeply absorbed in whatever she was finishing up. She signed the document and turned off her desk light, not even noticing when Egon came up the basement stairs.
"Janine, are you all right?" Egon's voice was concerned. It wasn't like her to be so distracted, or to stay in her coveralls once an assignment was over.
"I'm fine," she answered, not meeting his gaze. Then she turned and all but ran for the front door. Now Egon knew that something was very wrong and he followed, catching her just before she got there. "Really, it's nothing…"
"Janine, what the hell?!" Peter's shout made them both jump. She turned and saw that he had read the paper she had been working on. "Just what is going on here?"
"Obviously you just proved you can read," Janine snapped back. Damn it, why couldn't he have left it alone? One more minute and I could have been gone… "It's my letter of resignation."
"What?!" Egon grabbed her arm to keep her from leaving. "Janine, why?"
"I…" Janine shook her head, fighting back tears. She didn't want to leave, but after the events that day she felt that she no longer deserved to be there. "It was all my fault, Egon! You could have all been hurt—or worse! And Slimer…"
"How is it your fault?" Peter demanded. "Paul Smart was the jerk who built that damn robot that caused all this mess."
"Peter." Egon shot him a quick look. He knew that Peter was right, but he also knew Janine well enough to know why she blamed herself. "It wasn't your fault, Janine. You didn't give Smart access to our files; he stole them. If anyone is to blame, he is."
"And if I hadn't gone out with that creep to begin with, he'd never have had the chance!" Janine retorted angrily. She tried to pull away, but Egon's grip was too strong. "Please…just let me go…"
Without a word, Egon pulled her to him, hugging her tightly, but he quickly let go when she cried out. "Janine, what is it?"
"Nothing," she tried to lie, but he gently ran his hand down her side and she couldn't stop herself from flinching away from his touch. She added, rather unconvincingly, "I'm okay."
"You're injured." Egon corrected her. "How did it happen?"
"It's no big deal," Janine protested as he gently steered her back toward her desk. "I just…well, I kind of landed on my pack when that window exploded in the building."
"Janine, you've been hurting that long and you didn't say anything?" Peter was beyond upset now and struggling to keep his composure. Yelling at her wouldn't help, but he couldn't believe this was happening as he knelt beside her. "Egon, call Dr. Matheson and see if he's still at the clinic. I know it's late, but he may still be there. If not, leave a message and we'll get Janine to the ER."
"No, really—"Janine tried to protest, but Peter cut her off.
"You're getting checked out, Melnitz," he said quietly. "And you're not quitting either. Did you really think we would let you just walk out of here without even saying goodbye?"
Janine couldn't even look at him now. No matter what they said, she still felt as if this whole mess had been her fault. If she hadn't let herself get charmed by a smooth talker, then none of this would have happened. Wisely, Peter kept his mouth shut and simply held her hand while Egon telephoned their doctor.
"I should have known better," Janine confessed softly. Peter gently squeezed her hand to offer support, but he didn't know what to say. He had hoped that he'd guessed wrong, but her next words confirmed his thoughts. "No way would a guy like that have asked me out otherwise."
Shit. This was going to be a lot worse than he thought. "Janine, that's bull and you know it. I don't care if his name was Smart, he was an idiot."
"Yeah. Sure." Janine was far from convinced. "He wasn't the only one."
Egon looked at her with concern as he hung up the phone. He'd never heard Janine talk like that before and he tentatively rested his hand on her shoulder. She tensed, but didn't try to pull away from him.
"I'm fine, Egon." Janine tried to keep him from seeing how much she hurt, but she couldn't stop the tears as they slid down her cheeks. She brushed them away quickly, hoping he hadn't noticed. Right now his concern hurt more than her bruised and aching body. "Really."
Peter shared a glance with Egon and then stood, helping Janine up. "Why don't we leave that up to Dr. Matheson. Right now you need to get upstairs and try to rest."
"It's no big deal!" Janine protested. She tried to pull away from him then froze as pain ripped through her back and left side. "I can put some ice on it when I get home."
"Janine, we both know you're not fine." Peter refused to back down. "Now you're either going upstairs on your own, or we'll carry you up."
"Peter, don't you think that's just a bit extreme?" Egon chided. Janine gave him a grateful look, but quickly dropped her gaze again. Egon gently put his arm around her shoulders and took her hand. "Come on, Janine. It can't hurt to make sure you're okay before you leave, right?"
"All right." Janine knew she had lost this battle. As badly as she wanted to get away before she lost it, she couldn't tell Egon no. Silently she allowed him to lead her up to the bunkroom, still not meeting his concerned gaze. She wished they had just let her leave; as much as she loved the guys, this was the absolute last place she wanted to be right now.
Egon watched Janine closely as he led her upstairs and wished Peter hadn't gone ahead to get Ray and Winston to go into the kitchen. Although he appreciated that Peter was trying to give Janine some privacy, Egon wished his friend was there to help. At the same time, he was about ready to destroy Paul Smart with his bare hands. But for now, Egon decided his best course of action was to at least try to offer Janine some reassurance and comfort—if she would let him.
"Why didn't you tell one of us?" he asked very softly as she sat down on the edge of his bed. She tensed as he joined her, but didn't move away.
"I didn't want to." Janine hadn't meant to say it, but now it was too late to take it back. "I just…"
Egon moved to kneel in front of her so he could look into her eyes, resting his hands on her knees. "Janine, please talk to me. I can't help if you won't let me."
"I…can't." Janine tried to keep her voice steady, but when Egon reached up and gently touched her cheek, her control shattered. Trying to salvage what was left of her pride she turned to bury her face in the pillow and let the tears come. Her injured ribs ached and burned as harsh sobs racked her slender frame, and then she felt a gentle hand on her head. Slowly she looked up to see Egon still at her side, his blue eyes full of sadness and she tried to fight back her tears. "Sorry, Egon. I…don't know what's the matter with me…"
"Come here." Egon sat beside her and helped her sit up before carefully wrapping her in a warm embrace. His heart ached to know that she was in so much pain and at that moment he would have given anything in the world to make it stop. "It wasn't your fault, Janine. None of it."
"I feel so stupid," she whimpered against his shirt. "I really thought he liked me for me; instead all he wanted was to steal your technology...God, I was an idiot."
"No, Janine." Egon cradled her head against his chest. "He was the idiot because he was too blinded by greed to see how much he already had."
"Yeah, right." Janine desperately wanted to believe what he was saying but Smart's betrayal hurt so much. And a part of her still felt like she should have known better. "I still fell for it."
"I want you to listen to me," Egon spoke gently, but he knew she had heard. "There is no way you could have known what that…lowlife was planning."
Janine looked up at the sudden anger in his voice and was startled to realize that he was furious—not at her, but at Paul Smart. "Egon?"
"Yes?" Gently he let his fingertips trace her cheekbone as he looked into her eyes.
"Are you mad at me?" she asked in a small voice. "I wouldn't blame you if you were."
"Of course not!" He was shocked that the thought had even crossed her mind. "Why would I be?"
"Slimer." Janine couldn't hold back the tears any longer. Egon held her closer, mindful of her injuries and let her cry.
"It's okay now, Janine. Slimer's fine." He tried to keep his voice as soothing as possible, but she just shook her head.
"You don't get it," she sobbed against his chest, finally wrapping her arms around his waist and clinging tightly. "I saw that…that thing vaporize Slimer. I tried to protect him…"
"Shh." Egon rocked her gently, trying to calm her now. He wished now that he'd taken the time to comfort her when she had told them about her confrontation with Smart. She had been upset but had controlled it well at the time; now he knew she had just kept it bottled up until the crisis was over. "I know you did. Slimer told us."
"I…tried to keep him back…" Janine hiccupped as she felt his hand start smoothing her hair. "I didn't want him to…"
"It's all over now, Janine. Slimer is back with us and he's just fine." Egon tilted her chin up and tenderly wiped the tears from her cheeks. He had never seen her so hurt before and he couldn't help but wonder how many times she had cried like this in the past, alone, with no one to comfort her. "It's okay. Really, it is."
"Don't cry, Janine." Slimer had drifted into the room and got worried when he saw how upset she was. He floated to her side and just hovered for a second before adding, "Everything okay."
"Thanks, Slimer." Janine reached out to hug the spud, and then winced in pain as her ribs protested the movement. "Ouch."
"Janine hurt!" Slimer looked at Egon and asked, "Egon help?"
"He's trying, Spud," Peter said quietly from the doorway. He sat down on his own bed and faced the trio. "Dr. Matheson's answering service just called. He's going to meet us at the ER and check you over, Janine. And no arguments that you're fine, okay?"
Janine nodded, too tired to protest. She allowed Egon to help her stand and followed him and Peter downstairs to Ecto. Ray and Winston gave her concerned looks, but didn't ask questions as they got into the car. Egon sat with her and kept his arm around her shoulders, letting her lean against him as Ray sped through the streets. Dr Matheson was waiting at the emergency room, having filed the necessary paperwork for Janine to go straight to an exam cubicle. While the others headed to the waiting room, Egon hesitated.
"Do you want me to stay?" he asked softly. Janine tried to answer, but couldn't find the words to tell him just how much she wanted him there. Instead she just nodded and he returned to her side. Taking her hand in his, Egon said, "It's going to be all right. You'll see."
Janine turned to bury her face against his chest, trying to not cry again. She hated letting anyone see her cry at all but she had been hurt so deeply this time that she just couldn't hold back the tears. Egon just held her close, carefully rubbing her back as he murmured gentle reassurances. It broke his heart to see her in so much pain and he felt helpless to comfort her.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered against her hair, holding her as close as he could without hurting her. Janine looked up in surprise.
"For what?" she asked, genuinely puzzled. Egon began to wipe her tears away before he spoke again.
"Because you got hurt in all this," he answered softly. "I should have done more to protect you…"
"Egon, it wasn't your fault," Janine assured him. "When I go on a job with you guys, I know the risks, and it's my choice to take those risks. We had a job to do out there."
"I still feel that I should protect you," Egon told her. "And not from just physical injury."
"I'm a big girl, Egon," Janine answered gently. She rested her head against his chest and listened to his heart beat. "I'll be okay, really."
"I should hope so," Dr Matheson smiled as he entered the cubicle. "I hear that you had a little accident this evening."
"Yeah, I guess I kind of landed wrong," Janine admitted as Egon reluctantly let her go. "A proton pack doesn't exactly make the best cushion in a fall."
"I imagine not," Matheson smiled. Janine flinched at even the gentlest touch to her ribs now, and the doctor's expression became serious. "I'm going to send you for some X-rays because I think you have a couple of cracked, most likely broken, ribs. I'm going to send a nurse with a hospital gown and some pain medication for you."
"Is it really bad?" Janine asked in a small voice. She really hadn't thought that she was badly injured, but both Egon and Dr. Matheson looked extremely serious.
"It could be," Matheson answered. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay? An X-ray will be able to tell us more and we can proceed from there."
Janine bit her lip and looked up at Egon, leaning against him as he put his arm around her. "Will you stay with me?"
Matheson nodded his approval before exiting and Egon held Janine a little closer as he bent to whisper, "For as long as you want."
A few minutes later the nurse arrived. After she left, Janine looked up at Egon, a blush coloring her cheeks. "Um…"
"I'll step out," he assured her, blushing slightly himself. But Janine reached out and caught his hand.
"I'm…gonna need some help," she said quietly, her blush deepening. "I'm not sure if I can…uh…"
"I can call the nurse." Egon felt his face growing red as he realized what she meant. "Or, I can…you know…I won't look…"
"I trust you," Janine answered softly, looking up into his eyes. She was touched by his sincere offer and knew how difficult it had been for him to make. He moved to stand behind her as she unzipped her coveralls and then helped her push the sleeves down her arms. His hands remained on her shoulders without moving and she turned slightly to look at him. His face pale, Egon was staring directly at her injured ribs and Janine looked down to see a mess of dark bruises marring her fair skin. "Hey. Don't space out on me, okay?"
"Janine…" Egon felt like an icy hand had grabbed his heart as he realized just how much pain she must have been in all this time. "If I'd known…"
"It's okay, Egon," she assured him. "It looks worse than it feels."
"I highly doubt that," Egon answered gently. "I can see that you're seriously injured."
"I should have known I couldn't fool you," Janine whispered. Ever so softly he trailed his fingertips over her back and she flinched even from that gentle touch. "Do you think it's really that bad?"
"Yes, I'm afraid that it is." Egon rubbed her shoulders lightly to reassure her, barely noticing her half-undressed state. As he released her, he reached for the hospital gown and handed it to her. "You're going to need this."
Janine blushed and covered herself with the thin material as he carefully unhooked her bra and helped her remove it. She managed to get the gown on and made a face as he loosely tied the back. "I've always hated these things."
"It won't be for long." Egon helped her up and walked her down to the X-ray area. A smiling nurse met them there and showed him where to wait for Janine, but he found that he couldn't sit down; instead he chose to pace around the small area, trying to ease the worry that gnawed at him.
"Your girlfriend will be out in just a minute." The nurse's voice broke into Egon's reverie. "Poor thing—she's banged up pretty badly."
"Yes." Egon didn't correct the woman; he found the thought of Janine as his girlfriend oddly comforting. "I should never have permitted her to come along on the job this evening."
"From what I heard, it was a good thing you did," the nurse said seriously. "I recognized you right away, Dr. Spengler, and I admire the work you and your colleagues have done. And I don't think you would have been able to keep her from going with you; she seems a very determined woman."
"Yes, she is." Egon agreed as Janine emerged from the X-ray room, pale and in obvious pain now. He went to her side and carefully wrapped his arm around her hips to support her. "Janine, are you all right?"
"Not really." She leaned heavily on him, thankful for the comfort of his presence. "Hurts a lot more now. But I'm pretty sure I can get back…"
"I would carry you, but I fear that might cause you further injury." Egon watched her carefully as they returned to the exam area."The pain medication should begin to help soon."
"I'm starting to feel a little fuzzy," Janine admitted as she sat back down. Egon carefully untied the back of her hospital gown and averted his gaze as she slipped it off and pulled the top of her coveralls up. It hurt to pull the sleeves on, but she finally managed. As she zipped back up, she couldn't hold back a soft moan of pain. "Why do I get the feeling this will be worse in the morning?"
"Injuries like that usually are," Egon commented dryly, remembering a few times he'd awakened feeling much the worse for wear. He gently helped her to lie down on the gurney and then sat beside her. "I'll do what I can to make it a little easier on you."
"For starters, she needs someone to stay with her tonight," Dr. Matheson informed them as he pushed aside the curtain and then he addressed Janine directly. "You have two badly broken ribs and three more are cracked. Fortunately there seems to be no damage to your lungs or internal organs, but you're going to be rather uncomfortable for quite a while."
"For how long?" Janine wanted to know. She slipped her hand into Egon's, needing the reassurance of his touch. This was a lot worse than she had figured.
"I'd say nothing but light duty for at least two weeks and don't even think about wearing one of those packs for six weeks," Matheson said firmly. "You're extremely lucky that it wasn't worse."
Egon felt his heart sink at the doctor's words. Even though he wasn't a medical doctor, he knew enough to realize that Janine's injuries were much more serious than she had let on. He squeezed her hand gently as he asked, "Is there anything that can be done to prevent further injury?"
"I'm afraid not—aside from being careful, that is." Matheson wrote out a prescription and handed it to Janine. "You can use an elastic bandage for extra support, but you can't keep it on all the time. And even with the medication I'm prescribing you're going to be in some pain for the next few days."
"Thanks, Dr. Matheson." Janine tried to smile up at him. "I'll be careful, for sure."
"In that case, I think you'll be able to go home now," Matheson answered. "As long as someone stays with you tonight. Just in case."
"That won't be a problem," Egon said quietly. "Janine will be staying with us."
Janine looked up at him in surprise, then decided not to protest. After Matheson left, she asked, "Egon, are you sure about that? I don't want to put you to any trouble…"
"Do you really think I'm going to let you out of my sight?" he countered gently, helping her stand. "After all, you were trying to leave without even saying goodbye."
"I'm really sorry about that," Janine apologized softly, snuggling against Egon as his arms closed around her. "I didn't want to hurt anyone…"
"Except you," Egon interrupted. He let his hand slide into her silky red hair and continued, "We don't want you to leave."
"I don't want to either," Janine admitted, resting her head against his chest. "But…"
"Shh. Why don't we forget that you ever wrote that letter?" Egon placed a gentle kiss on top of her head. "If I know Peter, it's already gone."
"I hope so." Janine sighed and reluctantly pulled away from him. "Unless he's just saving it to blackmail me with later."
Egon smiled at the wry humor in Janine's voice and he kept his arm around her until the nurse arrived with the discharge papers. Once Janine had signed them and been given a copy of the discharge instructions, she leaned into Egon's side as he helped her walk out.
Peter was the first to give Janine a warm hug when she reached the waiting area. "Don't ever do that to us again, okay?"
"Gosh, Dr. V., I didn't know you cared," Janine teased him affectionately. She leaned on him for a second, feeling a little dizzy. "And I think the meds are working."
"Come on, kiddo," Peter grinned, knowing he was going to be able to tease her about this one for months. "Let's get you home before you fall down."
Janine fell into a partial doze on the ride home. The pain meds were definitely doing their job; instead of the stabbing and burning sensation, the pain had faded to a dull ache. Egon kept his arm around her protectively and she unconsciously snuggled further into his embrace, feeling perfectly safe and content.
"She's gonna be fine, Egon," Ray said softly, seeing the worry in his friend's eyes.
"Physically, yes." Egon didn't continue, but Ray knew what he meant. Peter had told him and Winston about Janine's letter of resignation. He hoped that Egon had talked some sense into her.
"Uh, I hate to bring this up now, but we're going to have to stop at a pharmacy before we get back," Winston said quietly as he turned to face Egon and Ray. "I'm pretty sure those painkillers that Dr. Matheson prescribed are some fairly heavy duty stuff and Janine's going to have to sign for it."
"Couldn't that wait until morning?" Ray asked before Egon could speak. "She's really out of it right now…"
"In the morning she's gonna be in a world of hurt," Winston answered. "I've had broken ribs before—it's even worse the next day. I don't think any of us wants her to go through that."
"No," Egon said softly. He glanced down at Janine and saw that she was starting to wake. "Is there anything close by? I think the sooner we can get home, the better."
"There's one about a block away," Winston grinned. "Figured you might need to wake her up before we get there."
Fortunately the stop didn't take long and within an hour Janine was settled on the sleeper couch. Egon sat beside her, half afraid to let her out of his sight. It disturbed him greatly to think how close she had come to walking out of his life forever and he realized that the affection he had for her was much deeper than he could have imagined.
"She called you my boyfriend," Janine said sleepily as she tried to get comfortable. "The nurse did."
"Yes, she did seem to think that we're a couple, didn't she?" Egon smiled back. He carefully supported her while he arranged the pillows behind her. As she leaned back with a sigh, he asked, "Is there anything you need?"
"Just you." Janine felt her face grow hot. Oh, hell, now why did I go and say that? "Sorry, I uh…"
"It's all right." Egon reached out to gently touch her cheek. "I'll stay right here until you fall asleep and I'll check on you throughout the night, okay?"
Janine nodded, wishing she had the nerve to ask him to stay all night but not wanting to scare him off. And there was something that she wanted to ask. "Did you tell her that you weren't?"
"Weren't what?" Egon asked softly. He could see that Janine was trying hard to stay awake because something was on her mind.
"That you weren't my boyfriend." Janine blushed and looked away, not wanting him to see how much she wished the nurse had been right. But then she felt Egon's fingers slip gently under her chin, silently asking her to look at him. Slowly, she met his gaze, not sure she wanted to know what he was thinking.
"Actually I didn't," he smiled. "I found that I…rather liked the idea."
"That's really sweet, but you don't have to say that," Janine whispered.
"I'd never lie to you, Janine." Egon spoke gently but firmly as he helped her sit up and held her to him. "What I feel for you…I don't know how to describe it because I've never experienced it before. But I know that I'm very fortunate to have you in my life."
"I don't know what I'd do without you," Janine admitted, hating how pathetic it sounded. "You guys are probably the best friends I have."
"Surely you have friends outside of work?" Egon was a little taken aback by her admission.
"A few, but they've married and a couple of them have kids now, so that takes up their time," Janine answered. "Besides, it's not as much fun to hang out with your married friends when you're still single. It's just…weird."
"How?" Egon was genuinely curious. "They're still your friends, aren't they?"
"Yeah, but it feels almost like you're intruding on a private date," Janine tried to explain. "It's different if you go on a double date…I know that doesn't make much sense, but it's true."
"I wish I had known," Egon spoke almost to himself. "Perhaps…I could escort you the next time."
"I think I'd like that," Janine smiled sleepily against his chest. As Egon gently laid her back down, she mumbled, "You can stay, if you want."
"I fear that I could injure you further," Egon answered, stroking her cheek lovingly. Janine reached up and caught his hand.
"I think it will be okay," she answered softly. Gingerly she shifted until she was lying on her right side and tugged his hand until he was lying on his back beside her. Egon carefully slipped his arm around her as she snuggled into his side.
"If you need anything, don't hesitate to wake me," he instructed as Janine rested her head on his shoulder. "Anything at all."
"I'll be fine, Egon," she assured him. "I really will."
Egon smiled, knowing that this time she was right. "Then try to get some rest. I'll be right here."
"Thank you, Egon." Janine felt herself drifting off, and tried to hold off sleep just a little longer. "And…I'm sorry. I shouldn't have tried to run away like that."
"Shh." Egon began stroking her hair gently, wishing he knew what to say to make everything all right again. "You just weren't thinking clearly at the time, that's all. I don't think anyone will hold that against you. We've all been guilty of that at one time or another."
"Even you?" Janine asked softly.
"Yes, even me." Egon gently kissed her forehead. Then he smiled wryly. "And if you don't believe that, ask Peter sometime about some of the things that happened while we were in college."
"S'okay, I'll take…your word for it," Janine answered, trying to snuggle closer to his side as she lost her battle with sleep. "Love you, Egon."
Egon smiled at her words, seeing that she had fallen into sleep at last. She would still have to deal with a great deal of both physical and emotional pain in the morning, but he knew now what he could do to help her. As he carefully tightened his arm around her, he let his free hand caress her cheek tenderly and he rested his head against hers.
"I love you too, Janine."