Here I Stand At The Crossroard's Edge
J.R. Giroux 11/17/1998
Author's notes: This was designed to be an alternate ending to the "Many Mansions" mini-series from The Dreaming. All characters belong to their respective owners baring McCaviety, Verandice, and ForeDestine who belong to me. This story roughly takes place after the issue where the House of Mystery has burned. Cain has lost his home, but has learned to ask for the help he needs to rebuild, not only his home but also his heart.
"Poor guy." McCaviety thought as she watched through a time pool. "He's just as screwed up as I was er will be am?" McCaviety cocked her head to one side in thought, as was her habit.
"Humph, you'd think I'd have learned what tense to use by now. Then again, do tenses even apply in Limbo?
Resolving to ask It that question sometime, McCaviety rolled over onto her stomach and kicked her legs in the air lazily. She continued to watch the life unfold before her of a minor character.
"Minor to the rest of the world. But, oh so, important to his creator. And to me. Poor dear."
McCaviety wished she could help. It was not too long ago she had to make a similar choice. She knew what he was going through.
Limbo sensed her thoughts. It knew Its' voice very well. She was not restless enough to need a vacation outside. She wasn't even remotely bored enough to consider leaving to go help this man.
No, nothing was bothering McCaviety. Limbo knew that her thoughts were a mere idle moment's sympathy. Her old affection for Cain was showing up by simple identification with his situation.
McCaviety would have been perfectly content to close that window in the pool and opening another to watch. She does this often. It's a lot like changing channels on a TV. Only instead of changing stations, she changes timelines.
She would have been quite content letting her idle thought about helping the man stay just that-an idle thought. It did not really matter if he was an old friend of hers. She felt Cain was strong enough to pull through this on his own. However, Limbo was feeling playful just then and decided to grant her wish.
Cain disappeared from the scene before her. McCaviety raised an eyebrow in surprise. There was a magenta colored flash behind her followed by a thud.
McCaviety swung around, sitting up and reaching for her crossbow-just in case. She found herself face to face with a very confused man.
Cain looked at her, "Where the heck am I?"
All McCaviety could think to do was laugh.
"If you don't stop laughing at me you stupid old cow, I'll tear your vocal cords out!" Cain threatened his old friend. "Where am I? How did I get here? Damnit McCaviety what's going on?"
The woman paused a moment wiping a tear from her eye. The then continued to laugh hysterically at him.
"I hate being laughed at." He thought.
"My dear Cain, you are in Limbo." She answered him, sounding incredibly amused. "I am McCaviety, Limbo's voice, you cannot harm me in my own realm. So, stop threatening. It won't do you any good. I am afraid that I may be the reason you are here."
"What?!" He exploded. "What are you talking about?"
She had the unmitigated gall to laugh in his face! McCaviety wiped another tear of laughter from her eye.
"My dear man, how quaint you are." She smiled warmly. "You're in Limbo. Count yourself lucky, boy-o. Not many get to venture here."
"I'm really in the Limbo? The dimension where time and space does not exist?" Cain got up and dusted himself off. "How utterly boring. I thought it would look more, I don't know, interesting."
She slapped him. He had no idea she could move that fast. He was really beginning to get pissed. Bad enough he was pulled out of his own dimensional timeline after his home burns down. He really did not need one of his oldest friends slapping him.
"Bite your tongue." McCaviety hissed through clenched teeth. "If you will stop making stupid, impatient statements I can answer what is most pressing on your mind."
She hugged him and then held him at arm's length. She softened her tone. "There now, that's all the better for having been gotten out of the way."
She motioned all the way around herself. "What do you see? Look lover! Look well."
Cain turned in a circle and looked at the pulsating magenta void around him. "There's nothing here. It's empty."
McCaviety chuckled under her breath, "Look again, and look harder. You have lived in Dream's realm for so long. Do you not know how to see things with true eyes?"
He turned 'round once more. His eyes widened and he gasped at what had been an empty void.
"Everything. From this point in the universe you can see everything." He pointed, "There really are other Limbos! There are the Soft Places, the world, and its echoes. You can see the realms of the Endless. But you can't see into them, just to where they are. Why is that?"
"Professional courtesy. Limbo allows them to be separate from It." She answered offhandedly. She placed a hand on his shoulder; "You can see everything, my friend, because Limbo IS the center of the universe. It is the center of all the universes. This is the only one true place that does and does not exist."
"The Endless formed their kingdoms from the stuff of Limbo. All the Gods, Goddess, and places that ever were, are, or will be receive their blessings and inspirations from The Endless, closest of all to Limbo's sacredness. This is the Crossroad's edge. You stand at the very limit of the Past, the Present, and the Future." She went on to explain.
Cain looked deflated. "It kind of makes you feel small, doesn't it?"
She looked sharply at him, searching his face. "No, it doesn't Cain. It makes me feel proud to be a part of what started it all. I'm connected to the power the universe taps its' energy from."
Cain was silent. He looked away from the vistas of Limbo.
"I'm very sorry about what happened." McCaviety said. "Can't Dream do anything?"
Cain could hear the awe in her voice. Funny, the kid seemed to be the only person she respected, maybe even feared. "He's away. It'll be who knows when until he gets back. Merv will not do anything because he says the Houses of Secrets and Mysteries are not in his jurisdiction. Lucien blew up at us all. I think he's cracking more than the rest of us. I do not know what's going on. I don't even think the kid could do anything now to fix what has gone wrong."
"That kid is the only one I would call my lord-if I had one. If you dream, you walk in his kingdom. He is the reason I am Limbo's voice. Show him some more respect. I do. I fear him, and I fear nothing my friend-or so I like to think."
"Wow. So here I stand at the Crossroad's edge." Cain was not impressed, just sarcastic.
McCaviety was afraid for her friend. This kind of apathy was uncommon for the man who had saved her from the Nightmare lands.
"So, now that I've got you here what am I going to do with you?" McCaviety scratched her chin thoughtfully.
"What do you mean?" Cain asked.
"Well, you're stuck here until Limbo decides it's time for you to go." She answered. "It brought you here because I expressed desire to help you. It is humoring me. I know what it is like to think you have no future, nothing left. You think you're immortal and got problems? Try living outside every known time line in the universe."
Cain stared wide-eyed at her, "Oh?" His mind wasn't really listening to his companion. His mind was racing with thoughts of past responsibilities and future ones. He had a responsibility to the mysteries he was supposed to guard. Half of them had run off after the fire and the rest had no home. "What can you help me with? Will you build me a new house? Find my mysteries? Keep the next house from suiciding? How can you possibly know what I'm going through?"
"Have you not been listening? Watching?" McCaviety motioned back to the many portals around Limbo. "I was watching you through a Time Pool. I've seen it all! Every side of it. I've seen the future too. And the past. It's the present that's worrying me."
"You're not the only one it's worrying." Cain snorted.
"I'll help you, Cain. But you have to decide how to help yourself first."
"Can I just stay here for a while?" Cain asked. "Maybe sleep for a while. You don't dream here right?"
"Then maybe I can get some trouble free sleep." Cain yawned. "I think of something after I get up."
"Sure thing, hon." McCaviety kissed him on his forehead. "You rest. I'll stay up and watch over you."
"Some how I'm not reassured." Cain mumbled from under his hand as he yawned.
"Uh-huh." McCaviety knelt on the bare rock island they were on. She rested her hands, ungloved, on Limbo's surface. She closed her eyes and asked of It. The magenta void pulsed faster for a moment as It processed McCaviety's request.
From the middle of the ground, a bed complete with sheets, blankets, and pillows emerged. A nightstand popped up next to the bed with a glass of water, an alarm clock, and a small lamp on it.
McCaviety swept her hand towards it. "After you Cain."
Cain looked down at himself. Limbo had replaced his clothes with his usual nightclothes. Cain took off his glasses and left them on the nightstand. Crawling into bed he turned the lamp off and settled in. Somehow, the great expanse of Limbo seemed to go dark when Cain turned off the lamp.
McCaviety sat on the edge of the bed and tucked the blankets around Cain's shoulders. "Sleep my dear friend. You deserve the rest." He muttered something she couldn't hear. She kissed him lightly on the check and stood up.
"Watch over him Limbo." McCaviety thought to her home. "Please keep him asleep and safe until I get back."
"No, I won't be long. I promise. I just need to call in some favors from a few old friends." McCaviety pulled her hood over her face, put her gloves back on, and opened a Time Pool into another world. With a small adjustment to her belt, she stepped through.
McCaviety stepped onto a world that had purple trees and green skies. Figures Verandice would come from a place like this. The great, old, redwood tree that was the home of Verandice and her son was before her. McCaviety knocked on the door to the home. There was no answer.
Verandice and ForeDestine must not be home. McCaviety opened a small window into the Time Pool.
"Where are they old friend? 'Andy' doesn't often take her son off her home world."
Limbo briefly showed her a flash of a garden with a row of great statues in it.
"Ah, they've gone to visit Daddy." McCaviety asked her friend if It could arrange a visit. She waited in silence a few minutes.
A gateway opened from the green skied world into a maze. McCaviety walked into it without hesitation. When she came out of the other side of the maze, she was in Destiny's garden.
Verandice ran up to her old friend. Her two-year old toddler ran behind her. Verandice hugged McCaviety, her son, ForeDestine, hugged one of "Auntie Cavy's" legs.
"What brings you here?" Verandice asked.
Destiny of the Endless had floated up next to his wife and laid a hand on her shoulder. "She has come to seek help for another who will not ask for it. She shall not find help for him until he can stand and try on his own." Destiny flipped a page in his book. "Help will come "
"When he can help himself." McCaviety finished for him. "Yes, I figured that much. But I also didn't think it could hurt to ask for it."
Verandice looked from her old friend to her husband. "What's going on?"
"Cain's house has burned down. His mysteries have scattered themselves far and wide." McCaviety explained. "He's really demoralized. I was going to ask if you could help us rebuild his home. This time not one made of conscious dream thought but one that will last as long as he does. Made of the same magic nature that keeps him immortal."
"I could do that." Verandice rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "There is a spell I know that could give the house his aspects. I can make the house immortal but he has to ask. My hands are tied in these destiny matters."
"I know." McCaviety hugged Verandice. She picked up her godson and tickled his chin. ForeDestine giggled. McCaviety handed the toddler to his mother and thanked the couple. "I appreciate your advice with this matter Destiny. Verandice, you may be hearing from me shortly."
"All paths from my garden will lead you to where you wish to go, so choose wisely." Destiny cautioned as he led his son and wife back into the main area of the garden.
McCaviety nodded absently and picked one of the outward leading paths. When she emerged from the maze, she was inside the BatCave. Bruce Wayne was typing something on his Bat computer.
"Doing research?" She spoke softly behind him.
"What?" He spun around in alarm. "You? What do you want?"
"That'll be a first." Bruce snorted. "You usually just take whatever you want from me."
"This time my friend needs the help." McCaviety answered with a small smile on her face. "I was wondering if you could donate the raw materials to build a house. Surely you could afford a charitable donation."
"Why?" He was suspicious. "What's in this for you?"
"Nothing. You know I live in Limbo. You know that others live in dimensions you could not even begin to imagine. A friend who lives in The Dreaming had his home burn down. He needs help rebuilding it."
"The Dreaming. That place sounds so familiar, yet I can't seem to place it."
"And you never will. No one remembers The Dreaming after they've woken up." McCaviety crossed her arms.
"Will you help?"
"I'm still not sure that there isn't a catch in this somewhere."
"Okay, how's this? I promise not to steal the Batmoblie for one full year."
"You only steal it once a year anyway." Bruce smiled wickedly. "You'll have to do better than that."
"Okay, you got me." McCaviety grinned back. "For the next five years I won't steal your car."
"Done." Bruce offered her his hand to seal the bargain.
"Poor Robin. He just got his car and he's going to be missing it quite often." McCaviety shook on it. "When you go to sleep tonight dream of the places the materials come from, dream of the materials. I'll take care of the rest."
Used to her odd arrangements he nodded. She opened another Time Pool and stepped through.
From dimension to dimension she went. World to world, time-to-time recruiting help. All agreed to lend aid to Cain, but only under the condition, that he asks for it. McCaviety acquiesced to their simple demand. Then when she'd visited everyone she had half the mind to, she went home.
Limbo throbbed in greeting. She asked It to wake up their guest.
Cain yawned, sat up, and stretched. McCaviety sat at the foot of his bed.
"Did you have a nice sleep?" She asked.
"I forgot how wonderfully relaxing it is to be dreamless." He deliberated. "This is a very comfortable bed."
Limbo palpitated. McCaviety covered a small laugh with her hand. "It says you may have the bed and nightstand. It has no use for it."
Cain bowed in no particular direction. "I thank-you for your help "
Cain looked up startled, as if he had just realized something. He took McCaviety's hand in his own. "Thank-you for your help. I needed this break. I think I know what I need to do now."
"Oh? What have you decided?" McCaviety raised an eyebrow.
"I need to start over from scratch." He sighed and slumped over in the bed, resting his elbows on his knees. "I'm going to have to rebuild. The House of Mystery needs to exist. People need mysteries. How else will they wonder things? Discover things? People will forget about suspense without a mystery. All the great wonders of the world will mean nothing without a mystery behind them. People will even forget about you. I will forget you without your mystery."
"No you won't, and you know it." She patted his knee. "How are you going to rebuild? The house of Mystery was a big place for all its apparent smallness. That's a lot of work."
"I'm going to have to ask for help."
"What was that? I didn't quite hear you?"
"I said I'm going to have to ask for help."
"Hmm?" She said innocently. "I still didn't catch that."
"I need help." Cain ran his hands through his hair. "I'm going to need a lot of help. However, I don't know whom to ask. I alienated many people. Who'll help me?"
"Well, you never know until you ask." She told him. "Go ahead, practice. Ask me to help you."
He looked at her quiet and retrospective for a moment. A wicked grin spread across his face. "Will you help me rebuild my life?"
"Certainly, I'll help you rebuild your home." She answered back, the teasing tone back in her voice. Cain was feeling more himself. She could tell. "Now, let's get you out of bed, into your clothes, and back to The Dreaming."
Cain pushed the blankets aside and stepped out of bed. Limbo instantly gave him back his old suit of clothes, freshly cleaned. Cain looked at his outfit appreciatively. "Thank-you again."
"Limbo says you're welcome."
A Time Pool opened in front of them, leading to The Dreaming. They stepped through, arm in arm.
The stepped right into Lucien's library where he and Merv were cleaning things up from the last little incident.
"Lucien!" McCaviety cried out, throwing her arms around the tall man, hugging him tight, and scaring the crap out of him. "How are you doing? You never call, you never write! What am I going to do with you?"
"Ahhh!" Lucien pulled back from her, scared. He got a good look at his hugger. Placing a hand on his heart, he spoke. "Good lord, it's just you. What are you doing here Charmen?"
Lucien was the only one who ever called her by her first name. He was the only one she allowed to call her byher first name. "Cain asked for my help. He's rebuilding the House of Mystery."
Lucien and Merv looked sharply at her and then at Cain. "Is this true? That's an awful lot of work for two people."
"I know." Cain said with a resolved look on his face. "That's why I wanted to apologize to you and ask if you would help us."
That was the last thing Lucien had been expecting. When he recovered he cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses. "Well, I'm terribly busy seeing as how I still have to clean up this mess "
McCaviety raised an eyebrow at Lucien. He quickly finished, "But I see no reason not to lend a hand. I don'tknow how much use I can be to you but I'm sure I can do something."
"Well, technically, it's none of my business but you know, I do have the old blue prints for your house, Cain."Merv mentioned. "I supposed it's not out of my jurisdiction to lend them to you."
"Thank-you Merv." Cain uttered with hope creeping slowly into his voice.
"Ya well, it's nothing really. Don't know why I didn't think of it before." Merv left the library muttering about finding the prints.
Cain and McCaviety took their leave of Lucien after extracting the promise from him to be at the old grounds of the house tonight. One by one, Cain asked for help of the denizens of The Dreaming. Even of Eve and Able, who he apologized to under McCaviety's watchful eye.
When the sunset was just starting Cain and McCaviety met the group of people who had agreed to help around a campfire on the ruins of the old house.
"There are not many of you who wanted to help me." Cain rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "And I bet that some of you are only here for other reasons." He looked over at McCaviety before continuing. "But I want to thank you for whatever help you want to give. Anyone know where we should start?"
"Well, we should probably clear away the old rubble." A voice came out of nowhere. Bruce Wayne was asleep and dreaming. This meant he was awake and walking in The Dreaming. "Than I think that I could help with getting you the materials to build."
Cain almost jumped out of his skin at the sudden appearance of someone he didn't know. "You would do this for me?"
"Sure." Bruce crossed his hands in front of him. "You only had to ask."
People by the hundreds, dreamers most of them, some traveling between realms walked into the firelight.
Cain was amazed. "You would help me? All of you."
Verandice Bi-Color stepped forth from the crowd. "You never know what people will do until you ask them, Cain."
Cain nodded a bow at Destiny's wife. He raised his voice to the entire crowd; "Will you help me rebuild the House of Mystery? Please, I don't think I could do it without the rest of you."
Murmurs of consent echoed around the ruins.
Verandice placed a hand on Cain's arm. "I will help see to it that you shall never lose the House of Mystery again. It has been destined."
Cain broke down crying. McCaviety placed a loving arm around his shoulders. "You know what?"
"What?" He asked accepting her handkerchief.
"I'm not worried about the present anymore. You're no longer standing on the Crossroad's edge."