Boy (Ray) met Girl (Liz) and some sparks started to fly.
A few weeks later, the Ghostbusters and the Inquisitors met again, along with the Prince of Warlocks Phineus Eventide, his familiar Tarantula, and the Archmage of the Winds, Zandrik Fallagar. Together, they defeated the Zodiac Lords, with the help of Eventide's noble sacrifice; he asked Fallagar to look after his cat.
More sparks also flew between Ray and Liz.
Three years later, when Liz came to Ray for help defending Dragonsfall from a horde of undead, things were different. The Ghostbusters had broken up. Ray was an engineering professor at Stanford. But with the help of Barney, a hobgoblin butler, and a couple of foulmouthed Cockney halflings, Ray and Liz saved Dragonsfall.
In the process, the sparks turned into a fire; in the afterglow of victory, Ray Stantz and Liz Hawthorne consummated the attraction that had grown between them.
But now, absent the danger, and the mystery, and returned once more to the mundane world, will their love prove real?
(Longtime readers have a pretty good idea...but let's just see how it happened...)
Liz Hawthorne stepped forward. "As ordered, Prima."
Anna Hardwyck, Prima of Guernicus, Chief Quaesitor of the Order of Hermes, was a stern woman; she looked as though she were just on the cusp of middle age, but as Liz well knew, she was in truth over a century old. "The Magvillus Council has called you here in regards to the report you delivered to us on the Twentieth Day of Cancer."
"I await your assessment, Prima."
"My assessment--the assessment of all gathered--is that you have completed your duties to the Order and the Quaesitors in an exemplary fashion, as you always have." Hardwyck replied. "Quaesitor Duodecimus Dox, Follower of Mercere?"
Another Quaesitor, one dressed in a red robe, stood up. "We compared your descriptions of Dragonsfall Covenant to those in the House Mercere records. While as your report states, you cannot be certain whether the Dragonsfall regio was transported from the original site, or is a reconstruction of it, it does match the descriptions on file."
Liz nodded. "I thank you for your assessment, Quaesitor."
"I also wish to inform the Prima of Guernicus that among the documents that returned with Quaesitor Enlightenment was a missive to House Mercere." Dox added. "The missive gives House Mercere the means to deliver messages to Dragonsfall and Archmage Fallagar in accordance to Hermetic custom."
Quaesitor Dox was not a member of House Guernicus. Early in the Order's history, it was decided that members of other Houses would be eligible for Quaesitor status--at least one member of each other House at any given time. Duodecimus Dox was the Quaesitor of House Mercere.
"Combined with prior testimony at the Special Tribunal of 2122 of the Magus Dominus, the Father of the Legion of Mithras, and the Primus of Criamon, the Magvillus Council officially declares Zandrik Fallagar, Filius of Delphia, to have once more returned to the Order, and to be subject to the rights, responsibilities, privileges, and protections of the Code of Hermes."
"I am pleased to hear that, Prima." Liz said, bowing.
Another Quaesitor chuckled. Like Dox, he was not a member of House Guernicus. "Does Quaesitor Garamonte, Follower of Tytalus, have something to add to this hearing?"
"Nothing of legal relevance, Prima." Garland Garamonte shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Just contemplating the political mess this is dropping me into. Forgive me for hoping that the Redcaps are somewhat...uncharacteristically lacking in due diligence in giving this news to Primus Marangoudakis. He'll no doubt be testing the system with Wizard's War declarations immediately thereafter."
Dox chuckled. "I cannot promise anything." There was a round of laughter throughout the room.
"I have faith that the Archmage will be able to handle anything that comes of it." Liz said.
"More seriously, I think there will be some interest from House Merinita as well." another Quaesitor said. "This community of fae folk that were sheltered in Dragonsfall after the Shattering...that's just astounding."
"Do you have anything to add, Quaesitor Enlightenment?" Hardwyck asked.
"Then you are dismissed. And once again, good job."
After a quick embrace, "Aunt Tegan" led Liz to a place they could talk: the same fountain in the middle ward in which Tegan had presented to Liz the brooch now pinned to Liz's jacket.
"It's been a while since we've seen each other face to face, isn't it?" Liz realized.
Tegan nodded. "The Fortieth Grand Tribunal in 1987. You were in Nevada during the regionals in '91, and not long after that you got the assignment in Dragonsfall. So it's been over seven years. Have you contacted your family, yet?"
"I phoned my Mother right after I got back in this dimension." Liz replied. "She says Cheryl's doing well, and Jay's grown so much I won't recognize him." Liz chuckled. "I think I'm more worried he won't recognize me."
"I admit, I'm surprised you stayed so long." Tegan said.
"Well, it was quite interesting." Liz explained. "There's a small community of very fascinating individuals; I grew quite fond of a couple of squabbling halflings and the hobgoblin butler and a few others. The Archmage had some very interesting books available too--insights into magic theory and astronomy. And I didn't neglect my magic..." She held two fingers together and a small flicker of flame played around them. "I finally sat down and learned Pilum of Flame, for example."
Tegan laughed. "Well, glad to see the time wasn't wasted."
"You have no idea..." Liz said, with a sly smile.
"I know that look." Tegan raised an eyebrow. "I just haven't seen it for a long time. The Academy days, in fact."
Liz laughed. "Good grief...you'd think after all these years you couldn't see through me quite as well. Well...you're right. Something did happen." She exhaled. "I'm in love, Aunt Tegan."
Tegan chuckled for a second, and then suddenly her posture stiffened. "Oh God, no...Liz, I know the Archmage is charming, and all that knowledge and experience has to be intriguing, but the man's over eight hundred years old! He couldn't possibly see people and their lives the way we do--some of the elders of the Order don't hide it as well, but..."
"Wha--?" Liz interrupted. "The Archmage? You think I'm in love with the Archmage?!"
"Heavens no..." Liz shook her head. "Like you said, he's just too...different. Plus he's a little too scrawny for me."
"Then I hope it wasn't one of the squabbling halflings or the hobgoblin butler. Human/fae...'interactions' can be a bit problematic, as just about anyone in House Merinita shows."
Liz laughed again. "I assure you, Aunt Tegan, he's human." A smile came over her face. "Very, very human."
Tegan crossed her arms. "So how long am I going to be kept in suspense, then?"
Liz breathed deeply again, then cast a wary glance or two around. "You're probably not going to believe this, but...his name is Ray." She looked around again. "Ray Stantz. The former Ghostbuster Ray Stantz."
Aunt Tegan just about fell off the bench. After she took a furtive look around too, she leaned in close. "I read what the Council would let me from your reports on the...events...in Romania and Stonehenge three years ago. I knew you'd met them, but..."
"When I left Dragonsfall to seek help, I materialized in Palo Alto..." A slight blush came to Liz's cheeks for some reason. "Which is where he was. I'd always found him the most interesting of the four, back when we researched them for the Tribunal, and then I actually met him."
Liz sighed. "He's just...adorable in real life, Aunt Tegan. Every bit as brainy as..." Liz paused, not wanting to say the name. Tegan understood. "Very intelligent, but not full of himself. In fact, a little bit shy at first. But earnest, helpful, energetic, imaginative. And he's a genuine bona-fide hero, having faced down a number of horrors that would put most of the Legion of Mithras to shame...and having not lost the ability to smile or laugh that sweet laugh..."
"Oh wow, you do have it bad..." Tegan rolled her eyes.
Liz chuckled. "Yeah, I guess that did sound a little over the top...but it’s how I feel. I haven't felt like this in a long...no." Liz shook her head. "I've never felt like this. It's never felt so right."
Tegan nodded. "Be careful."
"I don't think Ray Stantz has it in him to do anything to hurt me, Aunt Tegan."
"I'm not talking about him, Elizabeth." Tegan shook her head. "He and his friends are not loved by many in the Order, especially not after Stonehenge."
Liz made an angry noise. "The Ghostbusters didn't cause Stonehenge! They stopped the Zodiac Lords! They kept it from being even worse than it is!"
"I know that. You know that more than any living member of the Order." Tegan replied. "But not everyone feels that way. All they know is that something happened that the Ghostbusters were involved in, and their power has been seriously compromised since. If it was discovered that a Quaesitor was involved with one..."
Liz stood up, and there was a resolve to her expression that unnerved Tegan a bit. "Have the Ghostbusters been declared enemies of the Order since I've been gone?"
"Of course not."
"Which means that my relationship with one of them is not the Order's business." Liz stated firmly. "And all of it's moot anyway--the Ghostbusters dissolved and went their separate ways three years ago. I am a Quaesitor, after all--I know where the lines are."
Tegan nodded. "I feel sorry for anybody who tries to make a case otherwise."
Liz's expression softened. "Thank you, Aunt Tegan."
Tegan smiled. "Indeed, I look forward to the day I meet this young man."
"Well, you know, not every day you turn...what is it, twenty-nine with six years experience, right?"
"Thirty-five, Peter." Ray replied, adjusting the phone receiver. "Not all of us are scared of getting older."
"Freak" Venkman quipped. "So...any of the college girls ask to see your birthday suit?"
Even though Venkman couldn't see him, Ray rolled his eyes. "Of course not, Peter. Good grief, I thought you didn't worry about stuff like that anymore. You've been married for over two years now, with a daughter!"
"Married, not dead..." Venkman chuckled. "Heard from any of the others yet?"
"Aunt Lois called first thing in the morning, like she always does." Ray replied. "Winston actually called yesterday--he said he'd be busy with his flight classes today and didn't think he'd be able to make the time. I got a card from Janine."
"She couldn't call? It's not like she doesn't know how the phone works. I dunno, maybe that means she and Ziggy worked it out and she's, you know, waaay toooo tiiired."
Ray bit his lip. "I really doubt it, Peter. And no, I didn't hear from him."
"I wasn't even gonna ask." Venkman snapped, the bitterness unmistakable.
"Anyway..." Ray coughed. "I got the latest pictures Dana sent of Jessica. She's definitely got your grin, Peter."
"I know, right? She thinks just because she's the most adorable creature that has ever walked the Earth, she can get away with anything. She stole Oscar's Power Ranger shirt the other day and wouldn't give it back--says she likes it better than the 'pink stuff' Dana buys her."
"Yeah, no way she could end up being a complete slob or anything. Well, except if maybe her father was a complete slob."
"I resemble that remark" Venkman replied.
Ray sighed. "There is someone I kinda hoped I'd hear from today that I didn't, though."
"There's something I haven't told you yet, Peter." Ray fidgeted with his tie. "I'm in love."
"Yeah, I've heard this before." Venkman laughed. "So which one of those cartoon babes is it this time? That Japanese show with the sailor girls DiC's working on?"
"No!" Ray rolled his eyes. "It's a real flesh and blood one this time!"
"It's the Pink Power Ranger, isn't it? We went through this back when you got that crush on Donna Dixon...being in movies and TV is practically the same thing as being imaginary. And I work in movies--I know."
"I'm serious here, Peter."
The line was silent for a few seconds.
"It's Liz the Wiz, isn't it?"
"For the last time, I..." Ray stopped. "Yeah...How'd you figure it out so quick?"
"Well, there's not a long list, when we get serious about it. And c'mon, this was a woman that literally walked right past me to go talk to you." Venkman answered. "I mean, she was nuts about you, you were nuts about her, and why is it that we ex-Ghostbuster guys always gotta make it more complicated than that?"
"Well, in my case she went away on business for three years." Ray answered.
"But then, back in June, she needed my help with something." Ray told him, stopping for a second to guiltily savor the memory of her arrival that day. "And when it was finished, she had to go turn in a report, but then she came back and helped me get moved in here in Idaho."
"I can imagine those dancing brooms can be kinda helpful, yeah."
"And then after a few more weeks, she had go back to the Order but said she hoped to make it back as soon as she could." Ray sighed. "That was over a month ago."
"Well, maybe she'll make it back for Christmas" Venkman quipped. "I gotta go, Ray--sounds like Dana and the kids are back.
"Give them my regards, Peter."
"I will, Buddy. Happy birthday again."
Ray sighed as he hung up the phone. I'm still not used to spending my birthday alone. After Mom and Dad died Aunt Lois was always there...then Peter and Egon and Janine and Winston...but now, not even... He shook his head. I can't think of it that way.
Ray sighed as he looked through his mail. Captain Steel #349...next issue's gonna be the big thirtieth anniversary issue...I hope Len remembers he promised me all the cover variants...Oh, hey, Time finally made it. 'Sex In America: Surprising news from the most important survey since the Kinsey Report'. He blushed unconsciously, but couldn't help thinking. But what if you're having sex with a Canadian?
There was a knock at his door.
When he opened it, Liz Hawthorne was standing there.
"Happy Birthday!" she said cheerfully, with just a hint of mischief.
"It is now!" Ray admitted.
She was laying on her stomach, giving Ray a quite splendid look at her quite splendid posterior.
"I'm not on wizard time, Liz." Ray chuckled. "I'm on mundane time, which means it's Friday, which means I have a lab to supervise this morning."
"Oh...yeah...sorry..." she said, looking a little embarrassed.
"I shouldn't be all that long---probably back for lunch." he said, kissing her on the forehead. "Sorry."
"Oh, don't be." She grinned. "I guess I better get up and do something with my time--I am a lot better prepared than last time I surprised you in a university."
Ray nodded. "True." He looked away as she got up and put on robe--because he was afraid that if he watched his resolve to go to work would crumble. There's all weekend, after all. "I got a radio, and a TV here, so hopefully you can find something to watch."
"I doubt you get CBC here, but I'll be okay." She kissed him. "Do what you need to do--don't hurry back on my account."
"Well...I can't promise I won't be back a lot earlier than I would be if you weren't here!" Oh God, did that sound as dumb as I think it does?
She laughed, and playfully rushed him out the apartment door.
Liz laughed. "Go with what you know, I guess." She smiled. "It sounds just fine, Ray."
"Great!" Ray said.
"Though I saw commercials for a new movie with Dan Aykroyd in it."
"I hear that one's not very good." Ray shook his head. "Peter says they took an, er, in his words 'super kinky romance novel' and grafted on some kinda comedy detective plot." Ray looked confused for a second. "But if you'd rather..."
"No!" Liz shook her head. "It sounds dreadful."
Ray laughed. "Well, I mean, I never claimed to be a movie expert..."
"Oh yeah." Ray nodded. "It's not New York, or even Stanford, but it's great. I mean, I try not to get too far away from the University--outside of town everyone is basically my brother Carl."
Liz laughed. "Bad, I take it?"
Ray shrugged. "Well, I mean, Carl's almost every militaristic conservative stereotype you can imagine. Unless he's changed in the last fifteen years, which I doubt. I can only imagine how mad he was when our sister Jean came out as a bisexual--it would have almost been worth seeing except he probably would have just punched me."
Liz's face scrunched.
"I told you back during the Zodiac crisis my family doesn't get along." Ray shook his head. "I mean, I'm close to my Aunt Lois. She got along with my Dad. But even they...well, they had a brother, my Uncle Gaylord, that I never met even though he lived in New York. I wonder if there's some sort of family curse. It is possible, I guess--maybe one of my ancestors pissed off a Likho or something."
"I know some good exorcists." Liz said.
"Well, so do I." Ray replied.
They both laughed.
Things were quiet as they got into Ray's car, the same beat-up Mustang he'd been driving for the previous two years.
"Sorry the car's so ratty." Ray shrugged.
Liz shook her head amiably. "You never rode in Barney's truck--compared to that, this is a limousine."
"We're talking about exorcists, but here we are doing something so...normal." Liz mused after another minute or so. "We're not hunting vampires, or stopping the world from being destroyed, or saving extradimensional creatures from being slaughtered. We're just...a man and a woman on a date."
Ray felt a bit nervous all of a sudden. "Are you okay?"
"I'm just fine." she nodded. "Better than I ever thought I could be..."
A few minutes later, they were back at his apartment. She sat on the couch and he brought her a Coke.
"I admit, I feel bad for you, Ray." She said. "I mean, I spend a lot of time away from my family, too...but it's because of my job. When I do see them, it's always a happy occasion--and I guess I never stay anywhere long enough for them to get annoyed with me."
"I don't see how that's possible." Ray shrugged.
"Everybody has their breaking point." Liz said. "I love my Aunt Tegan--she's the one who taught me the magic arts--but there were times I was glad to get away from her."
"Well, it's like you said back in London--you think if you stayed in one place, you might go insane."
Liz nodded. "And then I did stay in one place for three years. But I started to...well...I loved the feeling of almost belonging someplace. But it just wasn't quite right. I was missing something. I was missing someone."
Ray felt his throat go dry. "Liz, I..."
"Let me finish..." she held up a hand. "I've been trying to come up with the right words for months, and I think I may almost have it if you don't interrupt me."
"When I first became an official wizard, I told Aunt Tegan I wanted to roam the world for a while--I'd been in Orford and Cambridge for most of the previous nine years, and I felt boxed in. I wanted to see the world. And I did."
"I spent time in Italy...in Hong Kong...in England...in Nevada...in Romania..I've seen things that..." she smiled knowingly. "...That anybody but you couldn't even imagine."
Ray nodded. "Scotland, Paris, Tokyo...I could name more. And a lot of places people don't even know exist."
"See? That's it right there--you understand." Liz said. "You believe that what I do is real--not a lot of people do. Or even could."
"I know exactly what that's like." Ray nodded again.
"And out of those who do, or could, none of them are like you." she said, putting her arms around his waist. "Which is why the one place I always want to come back to is right here. Not Idaho; I mean, the one place I always want to come back to is where ever you are."
She kissed him.
"I love you, Ray." Liz said.
"I love you too, Liz." Ray replied.
Ray felt a jolt go through his body. "Marry you?"
Liz's eyes were misting. "I want to make sure you know that I will always make it back to you."
"I..." Ray stuttered.
But he only took a second to answer.
A lot of thought coursed through his mind in that one second. He thought of Peter, who's fear of committment led to five years of heartache, and a son who had another man's blood running in his veins; he thought of Egon and Janine, and the infuriating dance of opportunities they both missed and squandered out of fear; even Winston and Kaila took a surprising eight years to make it to the altar.
I love her. She loves me. And sometimes it really is just that simple.
"Hell yes." Ray replied, bringing the two of them together in a long, deep kiss.
Captain Steel and Len Wolfman from the episode "Captain Steel Saves The Day" (RGB-76061)
Reference made to material from Ars Magica, created by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein•Hagen; now owned by Atlas Games save a few concepts owned by White Wolf Games. Anna Hardwyck loosely based on a character from Mage: The Ascension by White Wolf Games. Descriptions of Magvillus based on material from Tribunals of Hermes: Rome by Shannon Appel and Chris Frerking and the Guernicus chapter of Houses of Hermes: True Lineages by David Woods.
Jessica Venkman created by EGBFan.