Warnings: Slash (EgonxRay), angst, language, hurt/comfort and sexual situations ahead.
~ * ~ The Moment ~ * ~
By Arcadia Eclipse
Sadly, running into a semi-aquatic, neurotoxin-spewing demon spawn was actually becoming more and more common in their line of work these days. This particular spirit was mostly turtle-shaped and seemed quite fond of reaching inside its shell at random intervals and pelting its victims with the sticky plasma beneath that bubbled and burned slightly on contact with human skin. Worse still was the painfully shrill note to its laughter as the ghost whirled over their heads before taking cover in the nearest water fountain, sink or other plumbing system. Although still dripping some of the viscous sludge from his left arm and shoulder Peter seemed able to cope with the current situation at least until their latest tangle with the ghost had it taking refuge in an abandoned toilet.
"I swear to God, Spengs, this thing had better not come at me again. That toilet looks like it was condemned in 1960!"
"I think Ray got the worst of it, Venkman."
Although the youngest was keeping any complaints to himself, Ray did seem to be hunched over a little more than usual, hugging both arms about his sopping wet body and appeared to be sweating and shivering at the same time although it was difficult to see with the translucent ooze running down his body in slow rivulets.
"It…I t-think…my clothes 're...melting."
"Alright, that's it." Winston readied his proton pack and furtively looked around trying to mask his nervousness with anger. "I am NOT getting my ass handed to me by a toilet ghost!"
"I believe it's a type of 'kappa'- a Shinto water spirit common in Saga prefecture, although I'm not certain how it got into the New York water supply. It has a concave head filled with water, and legend says this enables it to- "
"-Save the cultural lessons, Spengs. I'm with Winston on this one. How's it goin', Tex? You holding up okay?" Peter clapped one hand on Ray's back sending the slime-covered doctor to his hands and knees purging the contents of his stomach upon the floor right beside Peter's boots. "Great! Glad you're feeling better. Looks like this stuff has some nasty side-effects, Egon."
There were very few things in Spengler's life that took precedence over studying the paranormal. Unbeknownst to his team members, Ray's health fell into that top-concern category whereas his own and that of both Peter and Winston was a far and distant seven or eight on his list of priorities. Crouching beside his fallen friend Egon's brow creased with concern, but he was gentle in unhooking the containment trap from Ray's back, ignoring the noxious ooze that now clung to his fingertips and left the flesh reddened and burning slightly. The expression on Ray's face combined with the sweating, trembling and now delirium-inducing pain washing off of his best friend in tangible waves was enough to set Egon's blood to an angry boil like he had never before experienced in all their days of tracking and trapping ghosts.
The sudden high-pitched laughter behind them just added fuel to the fire, but as Egon stood slowly to face the scaly water spirit now charging at them the parapsychologist released the nozzle of his proton pack in favor of standing tall with his hands down and palms flat on his thighs. Winston stared, Peter gaped, but the spirit stopped and instead mimicked Egon's every motion- standing tall with its webbed hands pressed flush to its thighs. Slowly, Egon bent at the waist to grant the demon a deep, respectful bow and the kappa soon followed suit although afterwards it appeared to be frozen in place leaving Egon to straighten again without the slightest hint of fear or nervousness then approach the demon to set the trap at its feet.
"You can capture him now."
"…What just happened here, Spengs?"
Egon had already moved to ease one of Ray's arms over his own shoulders and help his half-conscious friend stand, but seeing as how Winston and Peter were standing there uselessly and the demon remained frozen among them perhaps an explanation was due to help move things along.
"I tried to tell you before. Kappas have concave heads that store water to keep them strong and powerful when they are away from a viable source. Even for your typical Japanese demon, they are strict observers of etiquette and if you bow to one it must bow in return. If it bows then the water spills and its strength is gone."
That seemed to be enough for Winston to proceed with discharging his pack and trapping the noxious creature, but Peter trailed along behind Egon's retreating figure not seeming to notice or at least to care that Egon was bearing nearly all of Ray's weight in the process of getting their partner to Ecto-1. Far worse for the bespeckled doctor, however, was Peter's words and the condescending drawl that seemed to permeate every vowel.
"Egon, did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe this information would be nice to share with the rest of the class before we put our asses on the line?"
"It was just a hunch, Venkman."
"Ahh, 'just a hunch'. And your hunches have never saved us before, right?"
Egon was struggling to get Ray into the back seat and buckled in, though it seemed to be a moot point with the seatbelt slowly sizzling and dissolving away much like the uniform still clinging somehow to the younger man's body stubbornly. There were more and more holes permeating the fabric by the second though, and now Egon's worry for Ray's safety shifted to concern that perhaps more flesh than his friend might want to reveal could be on display very soon. It was hard to sustain a sense of privacy when living in such close quarters together, but each of them had his own limits and only Peter was open and carefree about walking around their shared bedroom in the nude on a regular basis.
Now that Ray was secured in the back seat, Egon hastened to the front only to find Venkman already in the driver's seat with a self-satisfied smirk and his hands pressed gleefully to the wheel. Usually Ray was their designated driver but tonight the youngest seemed a little impaired and even Egon was not in the mood to waste time arguing Peter out of his self-proclaimed role as their chauffer for the evening. Not when Winston was jumping into the back beside Ray and that left Spengler as the only one holding up the process of getting the hell out of there. Surprisingly the four of them made it back to the lab alive, although Ray was worse for wear and barely able to speak let alone walk up the stairs to their shared bedroom and the bathroom within.
"I call dibs on first shower!"
"Ray needs the shower now, Venkman."
For a moment it looked like Peter wanted to argue his claim over the bathroom, but Ray's knees suddenly gave out and it took all of Egon's strength to catch his friend before the other man cracked his head open on the cement floor. Exhaustion permeated every ounce of the parapsychologist's flesh now and it was a struggle just to support Ray's fallen body, but Egon determinedly pulled Stantz to feet again and somehow managed to drag the slime-covered doctor into the bathroom with him, kicking the door shut in Peter's face after reminding him curtly that there was yet another shower in the basement lab to be used for chemical burns and other scientific emergencies.
It occurred to Egon that he didn't exactly know whether this substance would react negatively when introduced to water, but there weren't a lot of other options and given Ray's current state he didn't think that the younger Ghostbuster would enjoy being covered in ooze for the hours that it would take Egon to perform a barrage of tests. For his partner's sake, the scientist heaved Stantz onto the shower floor and turned the water on him before collapsing outside the shower utterly exhausted. Ray was still barely conscious but at least his breathing had steadied a bit. It was an improvement, though at this rate Stantz would be lying there long after the hot water had given out still trying to recover his sensibilities. Egon sighed. If the fatigue didn't kill him at least he would sleep well that night.
Kicking off his boots and carefully removing his uniform to preserve some of the slime that had transferred from Ray's ooze-covered body, Egon left it in the sink for later analysis and proceeded into the shower with his best friend. There was no point in asking Ray to undress seeing as how the younger man could barely sit up himself, but Spengler was efficient and made quick work of removing his partner's shoes, uniform, briefs- everything that stood between Ray and the sanity-restoring water pouring down on them both in a warm rush.
At last! It looked like Stantz was finally coming around.
"You were slimed, Ray. Hold onto my shoulders, we're going up."
The younger scientist's hands shook a little and Ray's grip was tentative at best but he followed Spengler's command and that in itself was a good sign that he was recovering from the ordeal. Most victims of a Class-C neuro-sliming couldn't respond correctly to instructions for at least twenty-four hours. Perhaps repeated slimings had caused Ray to build up a bit of a resistance to ectoplasmic radiation or at least ensured him a quicker recovery time? It was a fascinating prospect. Egon was certain that the idea of an acquired slime immunity would excite Ray to no end once his friend was back to his usual sprightly self.
For now, Egon just mused over the possibilities and the tests needed to confirm such a theory while his arms remained locked around the other scientist's waist in an effort to hold Ray upright in the shower spray until his friend's body was no longer threatened by the noxious ooze. As the minutes ticked by Stantz appeared to be more and more aware of his surroundings and was even able to recall bits and pieces of what happened leading up the point that he was doused in the neurotoxic slime. By the time that the water started to run cold he was even standing mostly on his own although Egon's arms continued to steady him in the event that the younger man's balance was still a bit off.
"It's getting..c..cold, Egon."
"Yes. Do you think you can stand on your own?"
Slowly Ray's eyes drifted downwards to where Egon's arms wound about his naked waist helping to hold the younger Ghostbuster upright although he was mostly capable of supporting his own weight now that much of the slime had been washed away. Ray blinked then suddenly jolted, his eyes locking onto those of his friend with an expression bordering on panic. Egon felt his stomach sink picturing just how suggestive they must look at the moment with Ray in the nude and Egon clutching him wearing nothing but his water-soaked briefs and knee socks.
"Egon…did you…?" Ray paused, chewing his lip worriedly. "You saved some of the slime for us to analyze, right?"
That was the moment Egon Spengler realized that he was in love.
~ * ~ To Be Continued ~ * ~