Rated G. Disclaimers at the bottom of the page.
I actually wrote this one a while back, but I wasn't sure that I liked it enough to post it. Actually, I'm *still* not sure that I like it enough to post it, but my cat came home with a dislocated jaw on Friday night, so the story I was *going* to write this weekend is still a collection of half-done notes. Oh well. Here goes nothing . . .
Feedback to Andraste@white-star.com.
The landscape was grey out here, which seemed appropriate. Grey and sandy and impossibly dull, with nothing to break its monotony from one horizon to another. Except the door, which hung rather abruptly in the middle of the desert, and the man who sat beside it.
Charles Xavier was twisting his hands in his lap, unable to shake the feeling that something had gone badly wrong. Or, rather, several things. Firstly, his legs usually worked perfectly when he wasn't in his body - and he definitely wasn't in his body. Today, however, the very idea of his spine seemed to be broken, and he was stuck sitting in an old-fashioned, uncomfortable wheelchair. Perhaps this was a reflection of his state of mind.
Secondly, he was dead. The event itself had gone rather better than he'd had cause to expect, mostly because it had featured a rather attractive young woman who'd called him Charlie and offered him a cup of tea (which he was now sorry he'd refused) before she'd left him. It was what was going to happen next that was the problem. He'd been parked in this enormous, sandy, waiting room beside this quietly imposing oak-paneled door, whereupon an angel had arrived and explained that there was some kind of disagreement about his future.
This hadn't come as a complete surprise. Charles had always wondered (and sometimes tried hard not to wonder) which way the balance would swing. Would they take his good intentions and hard work into account, or would his failures and mistakes prove too heavy? He supposed he should have expected the debate which was going on somewhere outside of his hearing. He had expected demons to be involved, but it seemed that they'd been demoted, or something to that effect. The representative of Hell, in any case, was as angelic a creature as anyone could hope to meet, and called Remiel. His kind eyes and the reassurances he'd given the recently dead mutant as he'd gone past had snap-frozen Charles' heart in his chest. Or would have, if he'd still had a heart. Or, for that matter, a chest.
It occurred to Charles that they might have already decided, that this might be all the afterlife he was going to get - sitting, discomforted and anxious, in an endless desert beside a closed door. He could imagine worse fates. But not many.
"Greetings, Charles Francis Xavier. You seem in pensive mood for one so recently relieved of an often heavy burden."
Charles looked up to find a tall man, paler than milk, with a shock of wild dark hair, looking down at him. He was wrapped in a night-dark cloak, and his eyes . . . he didn't really have any eyes. Charles suppressed the urge to sigh or cower. This, then, would be a devil.
"Have you come to take me away?", he said, voice surprisingly calm and level.
"That all depends." said the demon.
"On what the angels say?"
"Perhaps. But I am more interested in what you have to say."
Charles looked him over again. On second glance, he wasn't *quite* what you'd expect of Satan incarnate. Better to ask and get it over with.
"You aren't a . . . demon, are you?"
The pale man shook his head. "No, I am not a demon, although some have had cause to wish that I was."
Since there didn't seem to be an appropriate reply at hand, Charles stayed silent and waited for the man (if he was a man) to speak again. He turned his eyes away, and they both considered the grey emptiness.
"You are not reassured by the celestials' deliberations?"
"I think they want to send me to Hell," Charles said quietly, staring once more at his twisting fingers.
"And you, of course, do not wish to go."
Xavier looked intensely uncomfortable, but met the pale man's star-filled sockets with his own earnest gaze even so.
"They are angels. They know best. I will not speak against them."
"Even so, you think that they are wrong. You believe that you are pure in spirit, worthy to enter the kingdom of Heaven?"
Charles smiled sadly, and shook his head.
"No. I am a mortal sinner. I don't deserve Heaven. There is a very good chance that I deserve to boil in tar for some of the things I've done, and failed to do."
"Then what is the problem?"
Charles looked even more comprehensively unhappy.
"The angel said that he wanted to *redeem* me. To burn the evil out of me with holy fire."
"You disapprove of Remiel's methods?"
Charles looked off into the middle distance again. The uneasy expression suddenly left his face, replaced by quiet anger.
"My dearest friend spent his youth in the nearest thing to Hell humans have yet created. His people weren't redeemed - they were broken. Inside and out, turned into shadows and shells. It drove him mad, eventually. I can read minds - or I could - and nothing I have ever seen suggests that suffering ennobles. I've never liked the idea of Purgatory - surely judgement should be . . . cleaner, than that."
"And what would *you* do, Charles Francis Xavier, if you wanted to redeem a man?"
He smiled again. "What I have always tried to do - give him a home, a family, and a purpose in life."
"You always *had* a purpose in life, did you not?"
"I had my dream, yes."
The pale man started pacing, kicking up the grey sand with long-toed shoes.
"Your dream has been of great value to you. You kept it all your life, although it gained you little and lost you much. Desire, despair and delirium have pulled you to pieces, but you have clung to your dream even so. Tell me, did you ever think of abandoning it?"
Charles paused before answering, sensing that the answer was important.
"Not really, no. Often, it was all I had. Besides, it was a good dream."
"A dream others have had before you, and failed to achieve. Did you ever believe it possible?"
"Equality for all? The realist in me says no, it's not possible. Humans and mutants, black and white, men and women, will probably never be truly free and equal. The idealist says that that's no reason not to try to make them so."
"Why is that, Charles Xavier?"
He paused again, framing his answer with care.
"If we were without dreams, without goals and aspirations, we would cease to be human beings. The chance to dream of a better place, a better life, is the most important thing a person can have. The first step to redemption, if it comes to that."
The pale man stood up, folded his hands behind his back.
"You believe in dreams. You think that purpose is redemption. You do not want to go to Hell."
Charles began to feel slightly irritated. He was missing the point of this conversation.
"I've explained that already. If the angels think that I should go, who am I to argue? I have no choice."
"What if I gave you a choice?"
Charles crushed the thrill of hope that ran through him. There would be a catch. There was always a catch. Better to have your soul burned and tortured than to give it away.
"What choice would that be?"
The man looked down at him with the star-filled eyes that were not eyes at all.
"I have many names, but the oldest of them is Dream, or the Lord of Dreams. There are many who serve me, many other dreams. Some of them were once mortals."
"You're offering me a *job*?"
A great many surprising things has happened to Charles Xavier in the last twelve hours, but this was the limit. He realised that his mouth was hanging open, and closed it.
"You said yourself that your dream was a good one - one that others have had before, that others will have in the future. Does it . . . appeal to you, to be that dream?"
"Will I remember being Charles Xavier? My life, my loved ones?"
"Perhaps. The minds of dreams are different to the minds of mortals. You will remember that you were once a man, but you will no longer be one. Some find it difficult to know what being mortal is like, after they make the change. If your family shares the aspirations you had in life, you may go to them."
Xavier leaned back in the uncomfortable chair, considering.
"Do dreams commit sins? Or have them on their consciences?"
"You have already said that you would prefer to work off your debt than to burn it away. I am offering you an escape, and I suggest that you consider it."
Xavier decided. It was a second chance, and better than boiling in tar almost any way you looked at it.
"Then, Dream Lord, I swear my allegiance to you, and I will serve you faithfully."
Morpheus stretched out a pale hand. All of a sudden Charles - except that he was no longer Charles Xavier, good though that had been at the time - was freed from the dead form of his body for the second time that day. He floated in his bright, perfect, gleaming astral shape, more beautiful than ever, with a new world flowing into his head.
"Master? Does this dream have a name?"
"If you feel that it is appropriate, you may choose a name of your own."
The new dream spun in a bright circle, delighted to realise that he could fly. He'd always liked that. He smiled.
"Then people may call me Tomorrow."
"Always coming, yet never arriving. That seems correct. Now, let me take you home, young dream."
Tomorrow was happy to find that things got even better from there.
Credits and Notes
Firstly, imagine this happened in 1994, or thereabouts. What with Marvel Time being the way it is, who knows or cares? It's obviously some sort of alternate reality in any case.
Secondly, I have to acknowledge Dandelion's "Tug O' War" for making me ask the question "what *will* happen to Charles Xavier in the afterlife?"
Fourthly, Charles belongs to Marvel. Everything else belongs to Neil Gaiman and DC/Vertigo, except the landscape (such as it is), which is mine.