Boy (Ray) met Girl (Liz) and some sparks started to fly.
It's four years later. Boy and Girl are now Husband and Wife
The room was dark, and her husband of five months was still asleep, snoring softly. She smiled slightly.
The last few months hadn't been easy on Ray. Just before their wedding he'd lost his position at the University of Idaho; a "small mishap" had led to a massive explosion...and Ray had been thrown out of a major institution of learning for the second time in as many years. "Well, getting fired from colleges is not exactly a new experience for me..." he'd grinned, but she knew it disappointed him greatly.
Still, they had landed on their feet after that setback...more or less. Liz accepted an assignment in the Rocky Mountain Tribunal which set her up in the town of Colorado Springs, some sixty miles south of Denver. Unfortunately, due to his recent firings, none of the local academic institutions wanted to hire Ray--in desperation he'd applied to be a mechanic at a used car dealership, Perpetual Motors, but all they could offer him was a sales manager job.
"Peter Venkman is one of my best friends." Ray had laughed. "I'll just constantly ask myself what he'd do!"
Liz had a plan of her own, though, that she hadn't admitted to him yet. A Quaesitor in the Northern Appalachian Tribunal had recently suffered a very severe Twilight episode, and was contemplating retirement. Liz had already let it be known she wished to be considered if that should happen. A couple years at most, and then Ray would finally be back in New York...I know he misses it...and I'd LOVE to see it.
But after that passed through her memory in a few mere milliseconds, a more immediate sensation reminded her why she woke up: her left temple was tingling.
She gently got out of the bed and walked to the bathroom as quietly as possible. Ray could be a heavy sleeper, but she didn't want to take any chances.
When the door was closed, she turned on the light.
What she saw made her cry out before she could stop herself
The lights in the room flicked on. Ray opened his bleary eyes...he'd awaken to far worse sights in his life. In fact, getting an eyeful of his beautiful wife's naked body, he decided, was pretty much the absolute best way he'd ever waken up.
She sighed. "Up here!!!"
Ray yawned, and did as she asked. "Okay, okay...but it's like those things are looking at me, and..."
His eyes went wide. "Wow..."
A shock of her brown hair, just above her left temple, was now a coppery auburn color.
"I didn't do this!" She said. "I woke up, my head was tingling, and when I went into the bathroom it was like this!"
He was awake now. The full implication of what he was seeing, and she was saying, were starting to dawn on him. "Oh wow...you think this is it, then? What Aunt Tegan told you about?"
She took a second to answer, voice full of excitement she was trying to control. "I don't know...I don't know...but if it is...and I don't know if I can handle the wait to be sure..."
Ray hugged her tightly. "I love you a lot, you know that."
"Interesting..." Tegan said, putting a contemplative finger to her chin.
"It was Lady Melwen--the only student of the Archmage himself. Our direct Hermetic ancestor." Liz continued. "She reached up, and touched my forehead, which began to tingle. 'You will not remember this until later, I expect...' she said. 'But you will, perhaps at the time it becomes most apparent, perhaps before...you are doing a great service to Uncle Zandrik, and I wish to impart to you a blessing. To be more accurate, it's a mark. The mark will appear when you have taken a very grand blessing upon yourself...' "
Liz shrugged. "And then I woke up on the plane. And my left temple was tingling."
"Is it still?" Tegan asked.
Liz shook her head.
"That's probably for the best." Tegan nodded, grinning slightly. "Though from the way you and Raymond were carrying on..."
"You sound like you have some idea of what this means?"
Tegan nodded again. "It's something that has recurred in our lineage--going back to Lady Melwen herself. Did you notice her hair?"
"Her hair?" Liz was a bit confused by this non-sequitur. "Well, okay...well, most of it was kind of brown mess, like the Archmage himself."
"Family resemblance." Tegan noted. "She was the Archmage's vulgar niece."
"Okay..." Liz continued. "But there was one forelock that was different--curly and blonde. Rather conspicuous, really."
"Almost like it was someone else's?"
Liz's eyes narrowed. "Maybe...what's going on, Aunt Tegan?"
Tegan chuckled. "That blonde hair wasn't there when she was born, or when she trained. As the story goes, Lady Melwen had her first Twilight episode a few years out of apprenticeship--and when she awoke from it, she had a slight ache in the front of her head, which faded, but no other aftereffect. Almost like she had no Twilight scar at all, which is unusual."
"She eventually put it out of her mind, and continued her career. As many humans do, including wizards, she met a young man she decided she liked a whole lot--Johann was his name, a scholar of mundane alchemy, with what the chronicles describe as a head of beautiful, blond curls."
"About a year after Melwen and Johann married--since fortunately he decided he liked her a whole lot as well--Lady Melwen awoke one morning, her forehead throbbing as it had after her first Twilight episode. And shortly after, she discovered that the forelock covering the aching part of her forehead had changed--into the same blonde curly hair as her husband's."
"A...delayed Twilight scar of some sort?" Liz asked.
"Basically." Tegan nodded. "But there's more to it: not long after, Melwen discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, and that daughter was later to be her Hermetic student--and thus another of our Hermetic ancestors."
"Wow." Liz whistled. "But what does that mean to me?"
"It's happened several times throughout Lady Melwen's lineage, Elizabeth." Tegan answered. "And every time after Lady Melwen, it's happened when she appeared in a Twilight episode, and conferred her 'blessing' on her descendant."
"We've come to call it 'Melwen's Mark'." Tegan nodded. "And when the Mark physically manifested--when a shock of the wizard's hair became like that of their husband or lover--it was actually a sign that they had conceived a child by that man. A Gifted child."
"Oh wow..." Liz exhaled, not sure what to say.
"So if you wake up one morning and part of your hair has turned red, I'd say you and Ray should start making preparations."
The picture was taken on a Thanksgiving Day a half century earlier; a much younger Lois was there with her two brothers, David and Gaylord. There wouldn't be too many more of these pictures taken before...
She inevitably brightened when the phone rang--she knew exactly who was going to be on the other end without the help of caller ID.
"Hey, Aunt Lois! Happy Thanksgiving!!!"
"Thank you, Ray. And a Happy Thanksgiving to you too!"
"I'd really hoped that Liz and I could have come out there this year, but once again, I'm on a new job and just couldn't take the time off."
"That's quite all right, Ray." Lois smiled. "Everything going all right with you and Liz?"
"Actually, there's something we need to ask you about." Ray said.
"Oh?" Lois said, feeling suddenly nervous.
"So when our baby's born on August 7th, do you want him or her to call you 'Aunt Lois', or 'Grandma'?"
Lois dropped the phone.
"Aunt Lois?" came Ray's voice. "Oh crap, I gave her a heart attack!!!"
"I'm here, Ray, I'm here!" Lois said. "You just shocked me! Are you saying what I thought you said?"
"Yeah, Aunt Lois. Liz is pregnant!"
Her eyes filled with tears. She looked at the picture of her brother David.
"I think...I'll have to think about it." Lois said. "But either way, you both have my congratulations and love."
He shrugged, knowing that if it was anything he needed to know Patricia would tell him.
He had just about finished the article about the Galileo probe's scheduled December 8th arrival in orbit around Jupiter when he looked up to see Patricia, practically jumping up and down.
"The phone!" she said, barely coherent. "Take it!!!"
Oh God what happened...was she in an accident? Was Ray in an accident? What...calm it down, Max. Keep cool. "Hello?"
"Hey Dad. Liz's voice came back. "Is Mom about to explode?"
"Yeah." he answered worriedly. "What did you say to her?"
"She was the same way when Cheryl told her what I just told her." Liz laughed. "Dad, I'm pregnant. Ray and me are going to make you a grandfather again in August!"
He was stunned. About twenty seconds later, he finally said "Well how about that..."
"Honey, you have no idea how happy I am to hear this." She couldn't see it, of course, but a wide smile spread across his face. "I love you, and so does you Mom--but I think I better go and help calm her down."
Liz laughed on the other end of the line, and so did Patricia right there. It wasn't the first time he noted the laughs were very much alike.
Max thought of the night that he had taken Liz one warm evening, and saw the wonder in her eyes as she saw Jupiter through his telescope. He hadn't felt close to her since; not long after that Patricia's weird cousin had recruited Liz to a school in England, and Max hadn't seen her very much after that.
But now, with the mutual experience of parenthood impending on her, he felt closer to his younger daughter than he had in a very long time.
Dana, his wife of three years, gave him a very sour look. "That's why I hate that thing. If it's Rick wanting something again, tell him to call back Monday."
Seven year old Oscar giggled, as two year old Jessica rolled her eyes.
Venkman looked at the phone. "Nah, it's okay--it's Ray." He pushed the answer button. He feigned a nasal Brooklyn accent as he answered "Ghostbusters--whaddya want?"
Ray's voice on the other end laughed. "I'm going to tell her you did that."
"She's literally on the other side of the country. I think I'm safe. So what's up?"
"Well, first, Happy Thanksgiving."
"You too. I mean, no way this will be as memorable as '84 when we fought Murray the Mantis in Central Park, but that's to be expected. At least the turkey won't get cold and eaten by Slimer this time."
Ray laughed. "Yeah, well, it's memorable for me for another reason. Peter, Liz is pregnant."
Venkman whistled. "Seems to be right about on schedule there, Ray. Wow. That's awesome." Venkman adopted his Cheshire grin, even though Ray couldn't see it. "So you figure it was your Halloween party or something?"
Dana rolled her eyes and sighed. Oscar looked confused. Jessica was smearing cranberry sauce on her face.
"Well, I did make a very dashing Sylvester McCoy, the last Doctor..." Ray answered.
Ray laughed. "Anyway, you're the first one to know outside my Aunt Lois and her parents. I know you're probably doing something with the family, and I still need to call Winston and see if I can reach Janine, so I'll let you go!"
"Congratulations to you and Liz both, Ray. I'll call and talk to you more soon."
"Thanks, Peter. Best to Dana and the kids."
After he hung up, he looked thoughtful for a moment.
"You okay, Peter?" Dana asked.
"Just something in my eye...the air in here must be dry or something."
His wife of over four decades, the former Denise Brandenburg, rolled her eyes and got up. "Quit gripin' y'old grouch...I got it..."
"Thanks, Denni." he said, more cheerfully.
Fritz's two daughters, grandson, and son-in-law looked nervous. "Go ahead and eat. Yer Mom can yell at me about it later."
Fritz's younger daughter, thirty-seven year old Janine, shrugged and downed a bite of noodles. Her nephew Victor stuffed an entire dinner roll in his mouth, drawing a scornful look from his mother, Janine's sister Doris Irwin.
A few seconds later, the sound of "Melnitz, Whaddya want?" came wafting back to them. "Oh? Yeah...sure...no problem. Let me get her!"
Denise appeared in the dining area a second later. "Jay, it's for you. Onea' yer Ghostbuster friends."
Janine looked at her mother with the look of a deer in the headlights.
"Of course it's not him." Denise reassured her.
"All right, all right." Janine shook her head. "I'll take it in the living room."
"Hey!" came the voice of Ray Stantz. "How you doing?"
"Been better." she admitted. "Happy Thanksgiving to you."
"You too. I won't keep you long, but I had some news I had to share."
"Liz is pregnant, Janine. Sometime around August 7, 1996 there's gonna be a new little Stantz in the world!"
Janine exhaled again, and slouched into the couch. "Wow. That's awesome, Ray. I know you're gonna be a great Dad."
"Are you sure everything's all right?" Ray asked. "You don't sound so happy..."
She bristled a bit. "Hey! Don't you ever think I'm not happy for you--you're one of my best friends in the world, Stantz. I don't know Liz all that well, and that's my own fault, but I know you well enough that you made a good choice." She sighed. "You have all these examples of what not to do to guide you."
She felt tears starting to sting her eyes. "I left Louis."
Ray coughed uncomfortably.
"I know you're too big a man to say 'I told you so' but you don't have to--you and Winston and Kaila and my parents and nephew and everyone else who knew were right. It was dumb. But you know how stubborn I am; I just had to keep trying and then..."
"You don't have to say anymore of you don't..."
"Then a couple months ago I woke up in the middle of the night on my couch...and I remembered."
Janine sat up, not caring about the tears anymore. "I remembered everything I lost in the accident. I remembered the airfield at Lakehurst ; I remembered the Lotsabucks ; I remembered Ginevra, and the Galdori, and the Zodiac Lords, and the hottest damn summer of my life . And I knew I just couldn't pretend anymore."
"I moved out right after that. I stayed with Rose for a while--my friend from the DMV? We got laid off together. She's been a great help."
"Glad to hear that part." Ray said. He coughed again. "Are you going to...well...go see..."
"I want to." she admitted. "Adonai, do I want to." She shook her head. "But I can't yet. I have to process all of this better first. And I have to get out of this fucking mess I made with Louis. He signed on the separation, but he's gonna fight me on the divorce. He thinks as soon as I 'cool off' we'll make up or something."
She signed again. "I'm so sorry, Ray...this is your big news and I'm crapping all over it with my problems."
"Hey, no, don't think of it that way. You're one of my best friends in the world, and you were dealt a really bad hand few years back. And you really do sound more like 'you' than you have in a long time."
"Thanks." Janine managed a wan smile. "Again, best to you and Liz. You better send me pictures--just send them to Mom and Pop's place. I can't promise Mom won't look at them first though."
Ray laughed. "Will do, Janine. You...keep on getting better. And wish us luck."
"Not that I have the best track record on luck, but you got it."
After they exchanged parting and hung up, she sat on the couch looking at her feet. First Winston, then Peter, now Ray. Everyone but us...
"Man, Ray, this job really is bringing out your inner Peter Venkman side." Winston's voice chuckled on the other end of the line. "I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing."
Ray started to laugh, when a loud voice called his name.
"Oh shit." Ray went pale.
"Just go, Man. We'll catch up later." Winston didn't even wait for Ray to say anything and hung up. He's been there... Ray reminded himself, as he sprinted to the kitchen.
As he basically expected, from the tone of her voice when she called out to him, Liz was standing in a puddle of freshly-released amniotic fluid. "It's almost two weeks early...I don't..."
Ray shrugged, and hugged her. "My Dad always said that babies are terrible at reading the calendar. We gotta go."
He sighed deeply. It's been a good life...
There was a slight rustle, and a chirp as his familiar, the skunk he'd named Fume, came into the room.
"It's time, old friend." Zephyranthes stroked Fume's fur. "It's not too late for you, you know. I can dispel the chords; the Magic in your blood is strong enough you could very likely live for centuries after..."
The skunk growled, and chirped again.
"Yeah, yeah, I know a 'Fuck off, Old Man, we're in this together' when I hear it." He picked up the skunk and hugged him; Fume trilled contentedly. "Thank you." the old man said.
Zephyranthes placed a small bag on the table in front of his easy chair. He nodded in satisfaction.
Zephyranthes, born in 1762 under the name Eric Collins, settled into the comfortable chair. Fume climbed into this lap; the old man stroked the skunk's fur as he began to softly chant.
At this exact moment, she'd managed to pass out into a fitful sleep; after hours of exhausting labor, Ray thought she had very much earned it. And we won't get much at all once the kid's here...
The pregnancy hadn't been especially difficult, they supposed, though like many female wizards Liz had experienced some difficulties using her powers during the term. Even after centuries of study, Hermetic theorists didn't know why that often happened; "Preventing magical energies from affecting the fetus" was the most common hypothesis; the fact that the protective parma magica was one magical technique not affected lent some credence to the idea.
She awoke with a start.
"Contraction?" the nurse nearby asked.
Liz nodded. "Worst yet!"
"About time." the nurse nodded. He turned and hit the button that would summon the OB-GYN. "Just hang tight, Mrs. Stantz."
"Don't have much choice, do I?" she said as brightly as an exhausted woman in some pain could.
"You think this is it?" Ray asked her.
"Dear God I hope so." she answered. He kissed her forehead.
SHUT UP BEFORE I STUFF A BALL OF ABYSMAL FLAME UP YOUR ASS!!! Liz screamed internally. Externally, she nodded, and grimaced once more.
The painful squeeze ended abruptly only seconds later. It wasn't like the other times, the pain dulling...it suddenly just snapped into nothingness.
"...oh wow..." she heard Ray say.
"7:53" One of the nurses called out.
"Congratulations, Mrs. and Mr. Stantz. It's a boy!"
Liz felt her head swooning, she struggled to look up, and saw the wriggling form that had spent the previous nine months in her innards...she was hit by a wave of warmth, but also something else.
It was like an alarm in her head.
"Neonatal! Code one--stat!!!" the doctor barked out.
"What's..." the shellshocked new father asked weakly.
"We have him." one of the other doctors said. The newborn was placed in an incubator as one of the nurses severed the umbilical chord.
"SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT'S GOING ON!!!" Liz shouted.
The attending doctor wiped her brow. "He...seems to be having trouble breathing."
"Oh my God." Liz inhaled. Ray's face went white, and he grabbed her hand.
"We're doing everything we can."
The little bag on the table lifted into the air, and began to glow a pure white light.
The incense stick was all but completely consumed.
Liz was in tears. He'd never seen her like this, looking so scared, so lost--but how could she feel any other way? All the power in her hands, all that she'd learned since the day her aunt had introduced her into a world very few could enter...the feeling of helplessness had become almost completely alien to her.
"What are we going to do?!" she asked weakly.
Ray looked through teary eyes, trying to come up with an answer.
He realized his pocket was vibrating.
Her mystic senses pricked up. "Eric?! She realized she was feeling a familiar mystic signature.
Ray pulled out the little bag that Zephyranthes had given him a year and a half earlier. He hadn't even realized he'd grabbed it when they left for the hospital.
The bag was now glowing. It levitated a few inches out of Ray's hand.
The glow flared, and the bag dissolved, not even leaving dust behind.
The last ember of the incense stick faded out.
The old man and the skunk were still.
There was a flash of bright white light.
"What the fuck was that?!" one of the nurses asked.
"I don't know, but...huh?!"
The squirming newborn was now a much healthier ruddy color, and started to squeal loudly.
Ray and Liz heard the squalk. Their hearts each skipped a beat in perfect unison.
The doctor listened with her stethoscope, and looked at the vital signs she was now seeing.
"What's happening?" Ray asked.
"I...I don't know how to explain it, Dr. Stantz." the doctor shook her head. "We had almost lost him, but...then, he started breathing normally. All his vitals are good now. I could almost swear...." she shook her head. "...it was like magic."
The doctors were still mystified about how the newborn had so suddenly turned around, but after a thorough check, they said he was as healthy as any newborn and had moved to normal protocols. There was a nurse right outside the room, but mother, father, and child were alone.
"I guess we need to finally pick a name." Ray said, stroking the boy's head. "It's weird, when you called out 'Eric' during that whole thing it was almost like..."
"I hope you will pardon the intrusion, Lizzy. I promise it won't take long--it kind of can't."
The looked up to see a glowing, semitransparent form appear--a robed man with a skunk perched on his shoulder.
"Eric!" Liz said.
"The 'good luck charm'?" Ray asked. "Was this what it was for?"
Zephyranthes nodded. "Years ago, Lizzy, back when you were training with Persuasion, I had a Twilight episode. In the vision I saw you, older...you were crying in front of a tiny casket." The spectral form shuddered. "I couldn't allow that to happen. So when Persuasion told me you were getting married, it was time to prevent that vision."
Zephyranthes leaned to look at the child. "As I foresaw, his life force is strong. But it would have trouble sparking--it would need a little push. That's what the 'charm' was for: it was a mystic conduit allowed me to supply that push."
Liz suddenly had a queasy feeling. "What was the 'spark', Eric?"
"I fanned the flames of your son's life force..." Zephryanthes answered "With the final remnants of my own."
"Oh no..." Liz's eyes started to water.
"No, no need to be sad. As you've heard me say time and again, I was born in the same year as George IV and have outlived the bloody bastard by one hundred and sixty-six years." He looked a bit embarrassed. "You've been important to me from the day you walked into my life seventeen years ago; I may have many faults, but I will do anything for those I love."
"Oh wow..." Ray said. "Thanks, Eric. I don't know how we could ever repay you for this."
"Well, good luck, Raymond--you don't have to!" the old man smiled. "I'm glad Lizzy found you. Keep being good to her--and your son."
"Wait, Eric." Liz said. "Something Ray said earlier...there is a way we can repay you, by making sure that your sacrifice is remembered every day of our son's life." She glanced at Ray, who realized what she was about to say. Ray nodded his agreement.
"Oh?" Zephyranthes' ghost asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Before you go, let me tell you our son's name..."
Egon was now a Professor of Paranormology at New York City Community College, but during the summer break he'd volunteered to teach some "make up" algebra classes. In some ways, it was easy for him--he was teaching material he'd mastered when he could count his age on the fingers of one hand--but unlike his regular classes, the students were usually completely unmotivated other than the fear of failure. At least all the paranormology students wanted to be there...even if, as he'd heard more than one admission, it was just for an "easy A".
Slimer floated downstairs. The little ghost had been lethargic ever since the ectosphere had drained five years earlier...though, Egon noted, it seemed like over the last month or so Slimer had been just more chipper, a step or two closer to his hyperactive former self.
Along with the last set of readings...it seems the ectosphere is recovering...at least locally. If only I could get some readings from...
Slimer babbled something. "The computer?" Egon asked. Slimer nodded.
Egon went upstairs and brought up the computer; a message appeared.
Egon froze. I knew this would come...it's been three years...I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner...
Egon was embarrassed at realizing his first reaction was relief at which name was not on the certificate...then a wave of joy for his estranged friend finally came over him.
First Winston, then Peter, now Raymond... he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. They seemed to be getting strangely moist. Everyone but you, Egon...and it's no one's fault but your own.
You'll have the best
I promise you that
Eric Stantz created by OgreBBQ.
Tegan Fielding/Lady Persuasion, Eric Collins/Zephyranthes, and Fume created by Fritz Baugh.
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.
Jessica Venkman created by EGB Fan, who did most of the development on the Ectozone/GBOT version of the Venkman family.