FOR THE BEST

By Fritz Baugh
Prolog Material by CJ London

Prelude
Morrisville, New York
1970
Ray could hardly believe how exceedingly close to the Christmas holidays it was. Yet, even more so for the fact that Carl was coming home.

The first few weeks after he had been sent off to St. Martin’s Academy (a military academy in Albany), were the toughest for Ray’s family. His father tried not show his sadness by engulfing himself more and more into his practice, coming home late from the city that Ray hardly saw his father except on Sunday. When he did come home at late hours, he would be found asleep in his study, fully clothed and mumbling words like “sartorius transverses the patella” and “the deltoid is medially connected to the upper forearm”. Often, Carolyn would put a cover over her husband as he slept and kiss him on the forehead. For her, the time had also been rough.

Ray noticed how quieter she had become, especially when she prepared dinner. She had always been a bit chatty when cooking but now she barely spoke a word. She didn’t even watch her soap operas anymore, opting instead to immerse herself in the cleaning of the house. She never cleaned Carl’s room, a sad reminder that Carl hated having his room tidied by anyone other than himself.

Jean took the weirdness in the house pretty well. Without an older sibling to compete with, she began to award herself her parent’s attention

“Hey Ray”, David said, interrupting Ray’s thoughts. “You want to help free your sister over here?”

“Sure Dad”, said Ray going over to his father and sister. Jean was standing in a box marked LIGHTS. His father was shaking his head and laughing at the same time.

“Why don’t we just plug Jeannie in instead?” Ray suggested sarcastically. Both his father and Jean laughed. His mother did not.

“What a horrible thought Ray”, Carolyn scolded sternly, just a tinge of her Scottish accent slipping through. “We might as well put her on top of the tree.”

Whatever was going on inside Ray’s head, he did not want to show it in front of his family. What was important now was that he was here with them and they were about to be together again.

It was at that moment that the phone rang. David got up to answer it, leaving Ray to handle his sister.

“Hello?” he said into the receiver. Ray watched his father’s expression change several times, as his face showed an expression of puzzlement.

“How’d this happen? Uh-huh, well I can imagine that. Alright I’ll ask Carolyn if she wants to go. Thanks, bye.”

“Who was that honey?” asked Carolyn as David hung up the phone and walked back to the living room.

“Robinson, my intern at the office. Apparently, he got some tickets to go the Alhambra dinner theater production of A Christmas Carol tonight and something came up suddenly and he can’t go.”

“So what’d he need with you?”

“He didn’t want to waste the tickets, so he asked me if I wanted them.”

“That sounds swell Pop”, Ray said. He knew that his father and mother rarely went out on evenings to themselves and well deserved for this one.

“So what do you say hon?” David asked Carolyn. She thought about it for a few seconds before asking:

“Do you think that Ray and Jean will be all right by themselves for three hours?”

“Absolutely. I mean, Ray’s getting old enough where he doesn’t necessarily need us to hold his hand every step of the way. He and Jean have to learn responsibility and I trust them both.”

Ray swelled with pride at his father’s words, and tried to stifle a tear back.

“Well,” Carolyn said, “I guess. When does it start?”

“In about two hours. That gives us plenty of time to get ready.”

As his parents walked upstairs, Ray knew that things were certainly beginning to be all right with the world. The drama with his older brother Carl that had proceeded in the months before tonight seemed a million years ago to him.

“Now remember Ray, do not open the door for anybody you don’t recognize and if something bad happens call Jack Fuhrman.”

“I will Mom”, Ray said obediently to his mother and nodded his head.

“And no fighting with your sister.”

“Yes Mom.”

“Alright. Be a good boy and we‘ll be back before you go to bed.” Carolyn hugged Ray by the neck and kissed him on the cheek, then did the same to Jean.

“Enjoy the show!” he said to them both as they drove off in his father’s gray Sedan. Ray noticed it was beginning to snow. As Ray began to step back inside the Stantz house, he felt a small shiver run up his spine as the air around him suddenly got colder. He shrugged it off, thinking little of it.

“Hey Jeannie, want to play a game?” he said coming inside.

“Sure, what one?”

“The Amazing Awesome Adventures of Captain Steel”, Ray said grinning as he pulled it out of the top of the closet. It was a faded box with a superhero on the front seemingly beating up several criminals. “You can be Dr. Destructo and I’ll be Cap and...”

“That’s alright”, Jean said suddenly yawning. “I feel sleepy all of a sudden. I think I’ll go on and go to bed.” As Jean began climbing the stairs to her bedroom, Ray could not help but giggle behind her and turn on the television. At least he wouldn’t have to share the television that night. Just in case she did come back down, he began to set up the board game.

While watching one of his Dr. Crowley movies, Ray suddenly fell out of his chair. He didn’t know what had happened; all of a sudden, his entire body felt as if it were engulfed in a searing pain that he had never known before. As quickly as it had begun, the pain was over. He’d have to tell his father about that when he got home, Ray thought, thinking it was one of those muscle spasms that run all over ones body. Yawning, Ray decided to turn in for the night.
It was about two in the morning when Ray heard the doorbell ring. Sitting up immediately, Ray knew it was weird for anyone to be knocking at this late hour, but then remembered that it often happened whenever the coroner, Mr. Doolan, needed Ray’s father.

Ray laid himself back down on his bed, knowing his father would soon been making his way downstairs to answer it. Strangely enough, he didn’t hear anybody get up to go to the door. Getting out of his bed, Ray quickly went to his parents’ room and peered inside. Their beds were still made. Checking on Jean, Ray went downstairs to see who was at the front door.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Jack Fuhrman”, said the voice on the other side mournfully. “Can I come in?”

Ray unlocked the door; there, standing on the stoop of the Stantz home, was Captain Fuhrman. Despite the darkness, Ray noticed that the Captain was not wearing his customary hat but was instead holding it one hand.

“Is something wrong Mr. Fuhrman?” Ray asked as the Captain walked inside. Ray turned on one of the lamps near where the family Christmas tree was. He quickly saw that the Captain looked suddenly older than the last time he had seen him: his face actually looked etched with sadness and he had not bothered to trim his quickly growing mustache.

“Yes there is Ray”, the Captain said with great sorrow. “It’s about your parents.”

Ray sat down on his father’s footstool and listened. “Are they all right?” he asked. The Captain turned away from Ray for a second, as if he didn’t want to answer right away.

“Are they all right?” Ray asked again.

“Your father drove a gray Sedan, didn’t he?”

“Yes sir, he did.”

“We found it-well what remains of it-about ten miles from your house, down by Washington Woods. Wrapped around the trunk of on oak tree.”

Ray breathed in heavily, hoping against hope that the next words Captain Fuhrman spoke wouldn’t be what he thought.

“Were they okay?” Ray asked, nearly stammering.

“No”, Captain Fuhrman said plainly. “Ray, I’m sorry to be the one to say this. Your parents are dead.”

The Bronx, New York
December 1980
The car was a junker that was older than its driver. It made some unsettling noises as it glided down the streets of the Bronx.

Ray Stantz was now twenty-one, and had Masters Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Occult Sciences to his credit--and was working his way to his Doctorates. Only the fact that one of his best friends had racked up even more academic accomplishments even faster distracted others from the fact that Ray was undoubtedly a certified genius.

The man next to him in the car, few would mistake for one, even though the twenty-six year old man had managed to get ahold of a couple Doctorates himself. He was a taller, skinnier, and (to the eyes of most) a handsomer man than Ray, and had put it to good effect. In fact, he was bragging about his latest sexual conquest as they drove.

"...Telling you, Ray, that chick last night was freaky." Peter Venkman was telling him with great glee. "Probably raised Catholic or something, and only recently found out what she was missing out on...you know what they say, it's always the quiet ones..."

Ray rolled his eyes. "I'm nervous enough as it is, Peter. I haven't seen them in years, and you bragging about your latest romantic conquest is not helping."

"But Ray, I'm talking an exceptional one--Top Ten F*** here, and remember who you're dealing with!" Venkman grinned his Cheshire grin. "I might even be willing to see this girl again, if I can find her!"

"Engh..." Ray groaned. "That's just it, Peter, you can't find her. You probably don't even know her name..."

"Don't have to." Venkman said. "I love the sexual revolution...I just hope those religious nuts who backed the new President don't ruin it. Just because they don't get any they want to ruin it for everyone else..."

Ray shook his head. "We're here." Ray said, as the car drove up to the front of a large house.

Venkman looked at Ray. "Your aunt lives here? Why didn't you tell me she was loaded?"

"Because she's not as rich as this place might make her look, especially not since she footed most of the college bills." Ray replied. "This place was built over a hundred years ago--Grandma Stantz's family owned it. Since Aunt Lois was my grandparents' oldest child, she inherited it when they died."

Venkman whistled in appreciation.

"Hey! There's Aunt Lois out front!" Ray said excitedly. Aunt Lois was a large woman, with fleshy features. Venkman could see some of the family resemblance to Ray in her eyes and nose--though her hair was much darker than his.

"Tell you what--let me park the car, and you go on up and see your Aunt." Venkman offered.

Ray thought about it for a few seconds. "You better not hurt my car."

"Yeah. I wouldn't wanna scratch the paint." Venkman deadpanned.

Ray rolled his eyes, and then got out of the car to allow Venkman into the driver's seat. "Just park it around back." Ray told him. "And remember, no scratches!"

"If it was anyone else, I'd ask how you could frickin' tell." Venkman retorted, and drove off.

Ray shook his head fondly, and went over to Aunt Lois.

Lois Stantz was the oldest of the three children, which included Gaylord and the late Dr. David Stantz. She'd never married, and to this day Ray wasn't sure why not--she was a kind hearted woman, and had done a marvelous job being a mother figure to him. She gave him a warm hug as he arrived.

"It is so good to see you, Ray..." she said fondly.

"You too, Aunt Lois." he said feeling close to tears.

Venkman pulled the clunker around the spot Ray had indicated. He parked the car, and had a moment of whistful thought. I hope it starts up again--it's kind of a long walk from here back to Columbia...

Venkman squinted at the car next to him, the one with the US Air Force license plates, a green Chevy Caprice of recent vintage He realized the car looked familiar. I don't remember seeing the Air Force plates...but it was kinda dark. Nah...there are thousands of cars just like this out there...

"You're actually the last one here." Aunt Lois told Ray. "Carl and his wife and baby arrived yesterday."

"Wife and baby?" Ray whistled. "Wow."

"Oh yes, and he's absolutely precious." Lois gushed.

Ray looked around with a touch of impatience. "What's taking Peter so long to park the car?"

"Oh, be patient, Dear. I'm sure your friend isn't keeping you waiting on purpose."

Ray looked down. Aunt Lois had a phenomenal gift for making him feel guilty.

"Hey, Aunt Lois!' Venkman said brightly as he walked up. He'd never been to the house before, but Lois had visited Columbia University a time or two to check up on her nephew and his eccentric friends. Venkman hugged her and gave her a peck on the cheek.

"Egon couldn't make it?" Lois asked, looked past Venkman expectantly. Dr. Egon Spengler was the third member of Ray and Venkman's circle of friends.

"Nah." Venkman shook his head. "With the holiday break, his Mom ordered him back to Columbus."

"He couldn't get out of it." Ray shrugged. "I think Katharine would have come to New York herself and dragged him back."

"Oh dear..."

"I think Ray's exaggerating. Egon's Mom isn't quite that bad..." Venkman rolled his eyes.

"I dunno, Peter. With his Dad's health problems and all..."

"Anyway, let's get inside." Lois suggested. "I don't want you boys to catch a cold."

Lois led them inside to the spacious living room. Ray gulped nervously as he saw one familiar face...

He was taller than Ray, and much thinner--while Ray had inherited the pudginess that some members of their father's side of the family (including Lois) had to fight with, the throw of the genetic dice had given the man standing before him now more of the lean, hardy physique of their mother's Celtic ancestors. He also had darker hair, cut into a severe buzz, but his brown eyes and the shape of his nose were distinctly similar to Ray's.

"Hello, Carl."

"It's been a long time, hasn't it, Ray?" Carl replied, his voice deeper than Ray remembered--and so much like that of their father that it stunned him for a second.

But then Carl grabbed him in a bear hug. Ray hugged him back. He realized, almost surprisingly, that he had missed his big brother badly.

Carl was the oldest child of the late Dr. David Stantz and his wife, the former Carolyn McMillan. Four years older than Ray, he'd been sent to military school just before their parents had died--and hadn't even been able to attend their funeral.

Ray realized that his brother was wearing a uniform. "Wow...the military school took after all?"

"1st Lt. Carl Stantz, United States Air Force." Carl replied, saluting proudly. "I guess you could say I realized that discipline was exactly what I was missing. I got top rank at St. Martin's and qualified for a posting at one of the officer schools. I chose the Air Force Academy, and here I am."

"So where are you assigned? Or is that a secret that you'd have to kill me after answering?"

Carl chuckled. It seemed a strange thing, as Ray remembered his brother as so moody and antisocial. I gotta remind myself it's been ten years. He's changed. I've changed too...I hope he thinks for the better.

"I'm assigned to Patrick Air Force Base, near Cape Canaveral. I get to watch most of the space shots."

"That's gotta be cool, especially with the shuttle launches hopefully starting soon." Ray answered.

"That bird will fly before the end of '81, I guarantee it." Carl answered. "Meet my family--this is my wife, Danielle, and our son Franklin. Danielle, this is my brother, Ray Stantz."

Danielle was a slightly plain looking woman with eyeglasses and her hair pulled back, covered with a head scarf. "Hi there, Ray. Glad to meet you at last--Aunt Lois has just raved about you."

"Pleasure to meet you too, Danielle. And especially to meet you!" Ray said, grinning at the baby in her arms. He had a pudgy face, and Ray wondered if he'd end up with that Stantz pudge too. "Can I?"

Danielle nodded, and Ray took the baby, no more than a year old. "Hey there, Franky...I'm your Uncle Ray! I never thought I'd get to say something like that!"

"His name is Franklin." Carl said firmly. "Danielle and I agreed we weren't going to call him by any sort of diminuative nickname."

"And I'm Ray's friend Peter Venkman." Venkman said, kissing Dainelle's hand and grinning at her. "Doctor Peter Venkman."

"Peter..." Ray grumbled. She's my brother's wife, he's standing right in front of us, and he's in the f***ing Air Force. Turn it off just once.

Danielle moved away from Venkman, blushing just a little bit.

"A Doctor?" Carl asked, shaking Venkman's hand--not without a touch of wariness in his eye.

"PhD in Psychology and Parapsychology."

"Parapsychology?" Carl repeated. He glanced at Aunt Lois, and then said. "How long have you know Ray?"

"Four years." Venkman answered. "Ever since he got to Columbia."

Carl's eyebrow shot up. "1976? You were only seventeen?" he looked at Ray.

"Uh...yeah." Ray answered. "It's no big deal, there's a friend of mine who had his first doctorate by that age..."

"Ray's got a Master's in Mechanical Engineering, and he's working on his Doctorate right now, as well as his Masters in Electrical Engineering and Occult Studies!" Lois added proudly.

Ray coughed. "Have you seen Jean yet?"

"Barely." Carl grumbled. "She said about six words, and then left. Stayed out all night in my car, too--said her's was having problems with it's alternator."

"I can take a look at that later." Ray told Lois.

"She did stay out late, and I wish she hadn't--it's not every day she gets to see her brothers again!" Lois said. "She should be awake now--Ray, why don't you go up to see her? It's the last bedroom on the left...the one your Uncle Gaylord used when he was a boy."

"That sounds great!" Ray said. He leaned in to Venkman. "Will it be okay to leave you here for a minute or two?"

"I'll be fine, Ray." Venkman grinned.

The room was adorned with Bee Gees and Shaun Cassidy posters, and the music coming from the headphones was loud enough to be clearly audible from elsewhere in the room.

The girl wearing he headphones was bobbing her head back and forth with the beat. The messy hair on her head was a shade of auburn very close to Ray's own; she hadn't heard him knocking, and after six attempts he shrugged, opened the door, and went inside.

"Knock knock." he said loudly, pulling off one of the headphones.

"Aaaagh!!!" the girl shouted, startled.

She threw the headphones off and stood up, furious. "Can't you knock first?!"

"I did. Six times." Ray retorted. "How you doing, Jean?"

Jean Stantz looked away, then back again. "You're bigger than you were ten years ago." she noted, poking him in the stomach. "And not just vertically."

"Yeah, yeah. Well, so are you, but I'm not gonna poke where because I don't want to get arrested." Crap. She's skinny too...

"Touché..." she replied, both registering a slight blush and proud grin.

She grabbed him and they shared a quick hug.

"Carl's already here..." Ray started to say.

"I know." Jean replied. "He actually got here yesterday--I borrowed his car last night."

"You're driving?"

"I am seventeen, Ray..."

Ray chuckled as she put a pair of shoes on and left the room with him. "This is a bad thing for an engineer to say, but you know math has always been a strange soft spot of mine. Good thing there's a friend of mine to recheck my calculations before I blow myself up again..."

Jean laughed at that. "I'm not sure I want to ask what you mean by 'again'..."

When Ray and Jean got downstairs, Carl and Venkman were giving each other some distinctly icy looks.

"Carl? Peter? Everything all right?" Ray was afraid of such a reaction--Venkman was about as Let It All Hang Out as they came, Carl was somewhere near the other extreme. Just as long as they didn't start anything in front of Aunt Lois.

"No problem, Ray." Venkman said through clenched teeth.

"Everything is copacetic." Carl agreed, his teeth just as clenched.

Ray realized Jean gasped.

"Er, Peter, this is my little sister, Jean Stantz."

Venkman's eyes shot up when he turned to look at Ray's sister. Good grief, Peter, she's my sister and she's nine years younger than you. Don't start

Ray never hoped so hard that he was really a latent telepath so that he could be certain Peter got the message.

"Jean...pleasure to meet you..." Venkman said, shaking Jean's hand. His eyes darted back and forth between her and Ray.

"Peter. So how long have you known my brother?" Jean replied, cheeks blushed, not looking him in the eye.

Aw, crap... Ray seethed inside. Could you please just turn it off for one day, Peter?

"Four years." Venkman replied. "I knew him for two before I even found out he had family alive..."

"We didn't exactly get along real well as kids." she explained simply.

"So I see..." Venkman nodded.

"Er, anyway, Aunt Lois? Could we maybe go sit down and have our dinner or something?"

"What a good idea!" Lois responded brightly. Ray could never tell if she was that good at keeping her cool, or really had no idea what was going on around her.

"It was ten years ago this month that that horrible traffic accident took my dear little brother David and his wife Carolyn from us..." Lois said, regarding the pictures set up in the dining room. "We know they're in a better place, but still miss them so much. I know they would be very proud of all three of you, and the fine people you've grown up to be."

There were more pictures of David Stantz, inevitably, as he'd grown up in this house. He was a slightly more heavyset man than Carl, looking much like a darker-haired, slightly thinner version of Ray.

Lois shook her head, looking at one picture of David, herself, and one other man, somewhere in between their ages, with loud clothes and a bushy mustache. "I invited your Uncle Gaylord, but he said he couldn't get away from his joke shop--'the holidays are his best season' and such." Aunt Lois sounded as close to angry as Ray'd ever heard her. "I think he just didn't want to deal with it."

"I did get a nice letter from Uncle Andrew." Ray spoke up. "He sent me some nice pictures of Mom as a kid he'd found, and even some we hadn't seen before from their honeymoon back in Scotland..."

Ray passed the little envelope around. The woman in the pictures was taller than Jean--indeed, truth to tell, she had been taller than David--and had less fleshy features, but the resemblance was notable as well. Her hair was perhaps a small bit redder than that of her daughter and younger son, but still familiar in the literal sense of the word.

"I never forget the day that letter came when David told us he'd fallen in love while on that international internship in Scotland. Your grandfather just about fell out of his chair." Lois chuckled at the memory. "And it was adorable how she tried so hard to hide her accent so she would fit in better. I kept telling her she didn't have to do that..."

"She never quite got the trick of it." Carl said. "It always came back out when she got mad." The crack led to some knowing laughter from his two siblings.

"I really wish I'd gotten to meet them." Danielle finally spoke up. "We almost named Franklin 'David'..."

"I know they would have enjoyed meeting you too." Lois replied. "And their grandson."

Ray had tears in his eyes. It was so unfair. So f***ing unfair. His parents were still young, they still should have had so much living to do. Instead, in an instant, their lives were over. They were gone and those they left behind had to carry on without them.

But at least we're here together. Ray realized. After all our bitterness, all our fighting, ten years of ignoring each other, the three of us are here now. If we can be a family again, I don't think there could be any greater tribute to Mom and Dad than that...

Ray was playing with Franklin. He made baby faces and lots of "Ootchie-kootchie" noises at the baby, and Ray's nephew (His nephew. That still seemed so incredible) giggled happily.

"I always said you had the right mentality to deal with kids." Carl said.

Ray thought there was a tinge of implied insult there, but decided to let it go.

"You see Jean?" Danielle asked Carl. "She still has my set of car keys..."

Ray looked around. "I don't see Peter either..."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Carl asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"You don't know Peter." Ray rolled his eyes. "We better track them down for my own peace of mind."

And if he's trying his cheap moves on my sister, I'll ring his neck...

"I thought I recognized the car." he said. "I don't remember the Air Force plates, but it was kinda dark and I had...other things on my mind."

"Small world sometimes, isn't it?" she looked back at him, eyelids heavy with seduction. "I never thought I'd see you again..."

"I never thought I'd see you again..."

"And then, you turn up with my brother..."

"You could knock me over with sheet of note book paper when my friend brought his sister downstairs and..."

Words no longer sufficed. Their mouths met hungrily, their hands starting to move eagarly across each other.

She fell backward onto the couch, pulling him on top of her in an unmistakeable position. She began to pull his shirt off. His found the zipper of her pants...

"PETER!!!"

"JEAN!!!"

Carl grabbed Venkman roughly, pulling him off the couch.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Ray shouted at him.

"You took the biology classes, Ray!" Venkman snarled back, the frustrated hormonal urge leaving him in an agitated state. "What do you think?"

Carl looked about ready to slug Venkman, but Jean grabbed him. "You take your damn hands off him! In case you hadn't noticed yet, I wasn't resisting!!!"

"I can't believe you, Peter!" Ray shouted. "She's my sister! You just met her!!! This is the absolute worst thing..."

"Actually, Peter and I already knew each other." Jean interjected.

She had to admit, the look of utter, complete, jaw-dropping shock on Carl and Ray's faces was almost worth missing what they interrupted.

Venkman chuckled, slightly sheepishly, and scratched the back of his neck. "You know, Ray, it can be an awfully small world sometimes. You know that chick I picked up last night?"

Ray looked like he was about to faint.

"Wait a minute." Carl snarled. "You borrowed my car to go out and..."

"I'm seventeen, Carl. I got a life to live."

"You're turning into a slut!!!" Carl shouted.

"Back off, asshole!!! What right do you have to criticize who I am?" Jean shouted back. "Where have you been the last ten years? You're not my father! You're not even much of a brother, either!!!"

Ray had a moment of horrified recognition, remembering all too well Carolyn Stantz having that same angry look on her face.

"And YOU!!!" Carl glared at Venkman. "I can have you up on Statutory Rape charges!!! No wonder my brother is off the rails--you're like some kind of Goddamn game show host who wants to be Hugh Hefner! You clearly aren't gay, but I'm beginning to wonder about him!"

"It's his own business if he is, Carl!" Jean interjected. "You're not his father, either!!!"

"Now just a damn minute!!!" Ray glared back at Carl. "That's my friend you're talking about! He was there for me when you sure as hell weren't!!!"

"What? Gonna take a poke at me?" Carl got in Ray's face. "A trained Air Force officer versus a fat guy who's got degrees in some fake, easy-A courses?"

" 'Fake, easy-A courses'?!" Ray shouted at Carl, his face turning almost as red as his hair. "I'm a trained occult scholar with years of..."

"Years of reading too many of those dumbass comic books our parents let you read too much of!!! It gave you a warped sense of reality!!!"

"As opposed to robbing the neighbors houses, that's a much better way to spend your childhood, right?! At least I'm involved with something that might help people! In my job I try to find ways to improve people's lives, instead of coming up with new ways to kill them!!!"

"Oh yeah...I heard how you 'improved' the life of that Draverhaven friend of yours!!! I'm sure he considers the Asylum a marked improvement!!!"

Nobody was sure which one threw the first punch, but in seconds Ray and Carl Stantz were on the floor punching at each other like wild animals.

"Ray!!!" Venkman shouted

"STOP THIS NOW!!!"

The shout came from probably the only living person who could have gotten through to Ray and Carl at that point: their furious Aunt Lois.

"What are you two doing?!"

"HE STARTED IT!!!" Carl and Ray said in unison.

"They both started it!!!" Jean cried. "They're both the same assholes they were when we were kids!!! I hate you both!!! I hate hearing about your perfect life" she jabbed a finger at Carl. "And how smart and successful you are" she jabbed at Ray. "And how I should 'look up to you as role models' and all that crap!! I wish you both would just go away and leave me alone!!!" she screamed, and started to storm off.

"Jean.." Venkman said, trying to stop her.

"Don't." she bit. "It was wonderful, but knowing you're the friend of my retard brother would ruin it now." She elbowed her way past him forcefully, and left the room.

The room was stone silent for a good thirty seconds. They heard Franklin wailing, probably upset from the shouting and crashing. Tears started to form in Lois's eyes. "It's been ten years...ten years...I hope David and Carolyn aren't looking down here right now, because it would break their hearts to pieces." Lois sobbed. "Just like it's breaking mine."

Carl's stern face fell for a second. "If it's worth anything, Aunt Lois, I'm sorry. But I think it's for the best if Danielle, Franklin, and I get out of this house as quickly as possible."

Ray didn't look at him as he left the room. He couldn't meet Aunt Lois's gaze, either. Tears were forming in his eyes, too.

"Peter and I better get going, too." he finally said, voice cracking just a little as he did.

Aunt Lois only nodded in reply.

One Hour Later
Ray exhaled as Carl's car drove off. He and Venkman went outside...

Ray grabbed Venkman and slammed him up against the clunker. "You f***ed my sister! I can't believe you!!!"

"Er...you do remember the part about it being consensual, right?"

"That is not the point! You f***ed my sister! You have any idea how awkward this is for me?"

"I didn't know she was you sister!!!" A definite note of contrition had entered Venkman's voice.

Ray sighed, and relaxed. "I know...I know..." he shook his head, and wiped more tears out of his eyes. "I'd hoped things would be different, now they're worse than ever. Aunt Lois is right...this was not the way things my Mom and Dad would have wanted them to be."

Venkman grabbed Ray and hugged him, hard. "Give it some time to cool off, Ray. You're family--a real family, and that's something you have that I don't. Which shocks me sometimes, my Dad being my Dad, but that's not the point."

The little crack worked. Ray managed a dry chuckle.

"Maybe I'd better drive back to Columbia..." Venkman offered. Ray nodded glumly, and got into the car.

He gave one last look at Aunt Lois's house as it retreated behind them. Maybe it's for the best if Carl, Jean, and I don't have anything to do with each other anymore. he thought to himself bitterly. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt...

Epilog
December 1990
Morrisville, New York
"I know it's been a long time since I came out here..." Dr. Raymond Francis Stantz, PhD, shook his head. "I've been...well, I could say it's because I've been busy most of the last few years, because my jobs have either been too busy or I didn't have the money to spend on gas getting up here. Though the real reason is...I'm ashamed."

Ray gulped hard. "I haven't seen Carl or Jean for ten years. It breaks my heart, and I know it breaks yours. I hear about them from Aunt Lois some, but they don't even talk to her much anymore, like they both decided she's on 'Ray's side' too."

"Carl's still in the Air Force. He's in Saudi Arabia right now, getting ready for the big blow-up in Kuwait. He has two kids, another little boy they named Daniel. Carl and his family are doing okay, I guess--their home's still in Florida, and he comes by to see them whenever the let him away, though if this thing in Kuwait drags on it may be a while."

Ray shook his head. "Jean...I'm not sure what to make of Jean. As liberal as I am, it still shocked the heck out of me when she got pregnant at age 18 and married the father, then a year after their daughter was born she divorced him and moved to California; last Aunt Lois heard she was living in a commune and had a boyfriend and a girlfriend." He chuckled ruefully. "I guess my friend Peter really did ruin her for other men."

Ray looked at his feet "I haven't...no grandkids from me yet. I haven't really found the right girl yet...I thought I had once, but turns out she was more interested in the Ghostbuster flight suit than the man filling it. Well, and then there was...er, never mind, you may have met her already, actually."

Ray kneeled at the grave site.

"I still feel awful that I couldn't make it work with Carl and Jean." Ray admitted. "We're blood...we're supposed to be there for each other. And I know you have to be disappointed in me. Disappointed in all of us. It's heartbreaking to realize I probably couldn't pick my niece and nephews out of a police line-up. We all came from you...but we're all strangers."

Dammit... Ray chided himself. I'm thirty-one years old...and here I am blubbering like a baby...

"I do have a job I love and the best friends I could ask for. They're not the family you made for me, but that's the way it worked out. I wish you'd got to meet them...I wish...I wish a lot of things..."

"I miss you, like I've missed you every day for the last twenty years. I love you both."

He stood up and turned, walking sadly back to the 1959 Cadillac Miller Meteor that was waiting for him.

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