Title: The Dreams Begin
Author: Meredian

        Summary: A government plague escapes, killing off 99.9% of the world's  population. If you've read "The Stand", or seen the movie, this will make sense. If you haven't, it'll still make sense.
        Rating: Right now, R for language.
        Disclaimer: *sigh* This is blatant. Cordy and the gang aren't mine. They are Joss'. "The Stand" is Stephen "The Man" King's. Read his book. It's  wonderful.
        Note: This is for Niccy, laws yes. And for Losh.
        Note 2: I don't know if I am going to continue this. But if I do, then I do.         :)


 From the diary of Cordelia Chase...
 -June 3'rd, 1999-

 Fought another demon last night. Well, *they* fought. I helped with some of the research, on my own. Giles is good about that sort of thing. I guess he can sense that I really, REALLY don't want to help in their presence, in HIS presence. I'm leaving in a few months. That should be good enough. I do want to help, I do. But I don't want to be in the same room with them, with their damn "Scooby Gang", pretending to read and understand while he stares at me, mentally challenging me. While Willow and Oz go about their perfect existance, one I should have for myself.

 Besides, they don't want me there. To them I'm the bitch. I'm the cliché. So I read on my own, and help when I can. Hell, call it my good deed for the week.

 On another note, I turned on the TV last night. Yep, that's how bored I am getting with no real social life. The news said there is some kind of summer flu going around. Just what I need. Summer colds suck big time. It's so not 'in' to be drinking a hot mug of tea in 100+ degree weather.

 -June 10'th, 1999-

 Fuck. Fuck.

 He came by my house last night.

 With flowers.

 Fuck, I let him in.


 Okay, so it's not THAT big of a deal. All we did was talk. It was good talk. I got to see some of the Xander Harris I remembered, the guy who'd let me be myself, the guy who'd let me talk and actually listen. But... damn it, I don't want to get hurt again. I don't want to let him hurt me again. I can't let him back.

 And if that wasn't enough, that flu, 'Captain Trips', Harmony called it, is really spreading around. Looks like Buffy's getting sick, and that NEVER happens. It's kind of creepy...

 -June 13'th, 1999-

 I had an odd dream last night. Okay, so my dreams are always odd, but this wasn't of the "Die Hard meets Gremlins" variety. It's probably just all this anxiety about the flu, especially considering that half of the town is down with it, including Willow and Buffy. But anyways... There was a lot of corn(gee, Cordy the Kink, that's me...) and a little old lady. All very "Howdy Doody". But she made me feel safe... and I haven't felt safe in a long time.

 Mother Abagail.

 She warned me about the Dark Man.

 -June 17'th, 1999-

 Willow's dead. And I actually cried. Maybe it was because Xander looked so... blank... when he told me. Yeah, I know, it's unexpected, but... jeez, you wouldn't think *I* would cry. Little bitch took everything I ever wanted away from me, and now she's dead. You'd think I would dance.

 But I cried.

 Maybe it's because the others are sick, too. Maybe it's because my mom is coughing a lot... because Giles is thin and tired looking... because Buffy's sniffling and Oz has left town...

 Or maybe it's because I feel fine... and that scares me.

 And the Dark Man in my dreams... he scares me, too.

 -June 23'rd, 1999-

 I dreamed about Mother Abagail again last night. She told me to go to Nebraska, of all places. Why would I go to Nebraska? Why would I go anywhere? To hide? As much as I'd love to, I can't.

 Because I have to change my mother's sheets when she sweats until they are transparent, only to change them again ten minutes later. Xander comes over and helps me some, because he's still healthy, and can actually move enough to leave his house. I asked him what happened to his family... but got no answer.

 I guess they are gone... a lot of people are gone now.

 I also go to visit Giles, and help him with Buffy. She's really sick... can't even talk anymore. Her mother died a few days ago... she was sent to the 'burial facility' outside of town... I don't know what goes on there, and I don't want to know. People say that there are too many bodies, so they dump them in the sea. People say that soldiers are running L.A. and Frisco.

 People are saying lots of things, but they all boil down to one thing...

 And everyone is too scared to say what it is.

 -July 1'st, 1999-

 I just can't believe it. She's dead. And I don't feel anything. Just empty.

 I know Slayers are supposed to die... but I always figured Buffy was eternal. And I *definately* didn't expect some virus to get her down. God, this is like the end of the world...

 -July 4'th, 1999-

 Happy Fourth of July, Cordy Chase. I buried Giles today, out where the library used to be.

 The town is so quiet...

 I spend most of my time taking care of Xander. What else is there to do? My mother's dead; the entire fucking TOWN is dead. And I'm still fit as a fiddle... and still dreaming of the old lady.

 I won't leave Xander, though. Last night, in his delirium, he cried out for  me. Not for Willow, for me. And he clenched the sheet so hard his knuckles turned white. There's so much snot... so much he coughs up. And if he chokes, I hope to God I remember my emergency training from junior high.

 -July 5'th, 1999-

 I'm so sorry.

 I love you... Oh god, I didn't know it could hurt so much...

 I'm sorry, Xander.

 -July 7'th, 1999-

 I'm going to Nebraska. I'm taking a bike, because the roads are so clogged  up with dead cars that I couldn't drive, even if I wanted to. So I'm leavingthis book behind. Only so much room in a backpack.

 I wonder if those Watchers ever thought that the end of the world would happen like this... no demons, no monsters, just a plain old cold.

 Mother Abagail, please be real...

        ... Because I *know* the Dark Man is.


The desert.

 Chaos. Light and dark, day and night boiling as one, all in the hunger that probes and needs.

 Burning hot, feeling a sun that didn't shine in this darkness, darkness tinged by fire. And the burning feeling of shining rays piercing skin and oh god i'm going to die in a poof of ash it wasn't supposed to be like this oh god the sun it's so bright!


 His eyes, oh so cold.

 Cold red.

 A cold heat, a good heat, pushing away that bright darkness, sliding like cool satin over clean skin. He knows everything. He sees everything. How could anything be different? He is eternal.

The voice is sly, wheedling. It's never been this close before, not since the curse. Climbing from the pit to which it was banished. Whispering horrid secrets in the ears of my concience, forcing me out of the driver's seat. All because of the Dark Man, the man standing at a distance. Calling me with his cold eyes. I run to him, to the sweet darkness, to the understanding,  not wanting to, only knowing that I *must*, but he doesn't get any closer. And I feel the sun on my back like a savage spear, pressing and  cutting and oh it burns so hot and sharp. And the Dark Man doesn't get any closer.

 I only see his eyes. Looking at me, seeing what lies beneath. And though the wind is blowing and my breath *but i don't breathe!* is raspy and the demon is shouting at me to feed kill hurt and i fight it but it doesn't happen - he speaks.

 "Las Vegas. Come to me, and you shall feed. You shall be free."

 The demon says yes! but i can't go with it no not again i will not let it but the hunger is hurting me and i can smell the blood from here... warm and alive... metallic glory in a thick steaming flow... and he beckons me... offers all that i have lost and more...

 And I can't help but listen... it's so hot here...


 He parted the curtains with one hand, glancing out over the darkened city. No lights. It disconcerted him, though he had been peering down on the dead city for two nights now. The dead city. Closing his eyes, he leaned his forehead on the cool window pane.

 "All... gone."

 His voice barely above a whisper, Angel hit the glass softly, defeated. The echo rang back ghostly, clear, floating through the air which smelled only of decay. Frightening in a town full of ghosts. As he turned away from the window, his eyes stared at the ground. The sharp pain of his nails digging into his palms made real the sounds and creaks of the fallen world below.

 Sounds of the dead, the undead, the vampires, yowling in pain and anger, each individual snarl heard, even through the walls of his apartment. For the vampires were the only true living creatures in this once over crowded Los Angeles. Only them and the cats.

 Living... The word had a new meaning for him now. He, like the other vampires, was not technically alive. But now they were. Certainly more alive than the miles deep burial pit out there. But as the hunger built inside of him, as the deepening claustrophobia of being buried beneath a thick ocean of bodies set down apon his psyche, his sense of 'life' grew withered. He
did not 'live'; he merely existed.

 Especially now that *she* was gone.


 A tear, stained crimson, trickled down his cheek. He *knew* when she died. It was only a second sense, a deja-vu, but still, he knew. His soul, long past grief, merely ached with it's emptiness. He almost wanted to succumb to the voices that had been gnawing at his insides. Almost.


 The familiar nag of the demon, of the hunger, bit at him. Angel moved towards the small, sparse kitchen, in search of his evening meal. The contents of his refrigerator left him perplexed, resigned.

 "The last bag."

 As he tore into what was his last meal, drinking the blood quickly, he felt his heart go cold.

 Sooner or later, he would have to leave his room. Have to satisfy his hunger. Have to silence the voice that seemed to be gathering strength inside of him.

 Sooner or later, he would have to venture out into this jungle of the dead, and find the one thing that would save him.

 "Save me... or damn me."

 But as the voice continued to speak in it's toneless, quiet scratch, nagging for food, the kill, the Dark Man, the end of the beginning, he wondered if there was a difference.


It had been three days. Three days of bike riding, three days of eating out of her backpack, cold dinners from cans that were warmed pathetically over a small fire. Three days of watching for obstacles, for open pathways and cluttered road space, watching for everything and anything, *really* watching for movement. To prove that she wasn't alone.

 What Cordelia wouldn't give for a human face, someone to share her journey, someone to talk to, someone to eat with. Someone to break up the grating silence.

 At night she would hide, find a place of shelter. Because night was when they came. Their haunting faces, peering out of the dark. Eyes full of pain and horror, sadness threatening to overwhelm her. She saw Buffy, Willow, Giles, her mother, a neighbor, but always they held the same expression. The look of finality, the look of ending meeting beginning. The look she saw on
Xander's face as he coughed up his last bit of phlegm.

 Better to face the night in a strange house then in an all too familiar open.

 Such were the idle thoughts that passed through her mind as she biked along the silent freeway. Choosing to go north first was hardly a choice at all.

 "Better this... then Vegas." Her voice was barely a mutter, whipped quiet by the wind. In her heart she knew Vegas was becoming a place she never wished to see. A hunch, never confirmed, but always suggested in her deepest soul.

 That Vegas was a dark place.

 And her experiences with Buffy and the rest taught her that the dark was not a healthy place to be.


 The dream came to her that night, sweet smelling as a freshly washed baby, wholesome and earthy, comfortable like a many times washed T-shirt. The corn surrounded her, but she felt safe. She felt wanted. Following the strains of the country guitar, which was somehow rough, yet smooth, both at the same time, she made her way through the stalks. Her bare feet stepped softly in the freshly turned earth, finding their way to the clearing where the woman lived.

 "Well, hello there, child. C'mon over here."

 Cordelia walked forward slowly, approaching the old black woman on the porch. "What was that song you were playing, ma'am? It was pretty..."

 "Just a little of this 'n that," she said, her kind eyes crinkling at the corners. "And it might have been pretty, back when I was a girl. But now it's a passing fancy, it is."

 "I never played an instrument. Only drew when I got the chance... just too many things to do, I guess."

 "Just like us, child. You come and see me. And you've got to hurry..." The  black woman stood, her kind expression shifting to something darker, pained."Time's runnin' short!"

 Thunder boomed as harsh droplets began to fall. Cordelia's arm flew up, instinctively shielding herself from the pelting downpour. She tried to run to the porch for shelter, but her feet slipped in the mud. She fell to the ground, knees suddenly cold and scraped, legs tangled in each other, in their frenzy. Defenseless under the onslaught, she closed her eyes tight.

 "He's gathering his forces, and they're strong! Creatures of the dark, sure as I stand here!"

 And the rain turned to fire, burning into blackness.


 Her eyes flew open, her heart racing. Cordelia shot up, the sleeping bag falling around her hips. She blinked, trying to adjust to the new light, trying to make her body start working again.


 But there was no answer. Only the dusky emptiness of the old diner she spread her blankets in. "Just another dream, Cor. Just a dream."

 But even as she reassured herself that she was safe, even as she began to wake fully, an echo from the dream seemed to surround her with precarious comfort.

 "You come and see me... Hemingford Home, Nebraska. You and all your friends."

 And Cordelia's dark skin broke out in gooseflesh.


 Rats. Dirty blood, vile, insipid stench covered in scraggly fur.

 And it was even worse recycled.

 But to find shelter, to venture out into the slime coated air of the outer city, would be much worse.

 He could hear them yowel. Who knows if he would be able to fight his way through a mess of starving vampires in time to escape and find shelter?

 But the feed... Rats were pathetic substitutes.

 To have human blood.

 Cold, of course. From a blood bank. There must be one.

 In Vegas, perhaps. HE will have all the essentials. That which we need to live.

 "But it's evil there."

 It's survival. And you know you can make it. He has an eye on you, red as the blood you know you crave.

 "I'd never make it. There's too many of them, and my concience would make me hesitate in my defense. My hunger would tear me apart."

 Vampires taste pretty good. You know this. And when you get to Vegas, you'll get what you want.

 What I want.

 Find your way. Just close your eyes and send out your feelers. He will guide you.

 I will just leave the city. When I get out, I'll decide.

 You don't have to starve anymore. Just take what you need when you can. It's a new world out there... a dead world... a wonderful world if you would only let it... if you would only let me...



It's amazing how easy it is to become one with a desert night. The whole world is noisily silent, wolves, scorpions, the low creatures of the sand and sky make their music unfettered, undisturbed. The dark is inviting, and someone who can move fast and silent is embraced with the gentleness of a lover. To dance with the night: not so much a skill as an ingrained talent.
One found in artists, lovers, madmen.

And vampires. For the night is their mother, she that feeds their lunacy and encourages their bloodthirst. To spill blood, see it's oily dribs and drabs splash on cold ground, is to feel power. Power over your victims, power over the very stars.

But in taking so much power you lose power over yourself.

Such were the thoughts in Angel's mind as he drained dry the sleeping teenage boy, not hearing his weak cries of protest, not seeing his struggle.

For Angel, the moon was blood, and it was time to feed.

To be in the home of the snake and the wolf, to take life, to make it his own, to feel a heart slow

*to take life in a world filled with so much death-it's unspeakable*

to a series of stuttering beats.

And yes, it might be unspeakable. But you can't speak out in protest, now can you?

*Fuck you.*


The dreams came again that night, vivid, clear, terrifying. Mother Abagail seemed so far away, starting the work that Cordelia would give anything to be a part of. But she still had so far to go... so far...

The park stared back at her, yellowing green in it's sprinklerless summer fashion. She sat on the bench, cool under the shade, drinking warm water from a bottle marked "Crystal Geyser". Cheap-o water in high school, nothing much in this age of Evian, but in these new times, anything that's wet'll do. The water's faintly metallic softness slipped down her throat, and in that moment, tears filled her eyes. Her skin was burned and her lips chapped and her ears red and what she wouldn't give for a glass of cold water. With beadlets dripping down the sides and a ring forming on the table because she couldn't find a coaster. Slivers of ice clinking and the glistening crystal clearness flashing in the sunlight.

To think that, for Cordelia "Rich Bitch" Chase, a glass of ice water would be more precious than diamonds.


>From the diary of Cordelia Chase--
-July 12'th, 1999-

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water. I told myself I was through with this whole introspection thing, tired of the stereotypical girl-writing-journal-thing.

Or maybe I was just too scared to try actually making *sense* of my thoughts.

Whatever. But this writing thing is so soothing. Makes me more than glad I picked up that notebook at the store. Gee, that's normal sounding, huh?

God, I miss them. I always felt so lonely in high school; shit, I WAS lonely in high school. But what I wouldn't give for voices. Any voices.

I can't be the only one.

Can I?

Is this hell?

-June 19'th, 1999-

Oh. My. God.

I asked for voices. I didn't ask for *those* voices.

I should have known. Should have known the fucking plague wouldn't kill them.

Are there any Slayers left? Am I the only one left who REMEMBERS, knows about vampires?

Oh god. Mother Abagail. I need to find her. She's with God, or some shit like that. I need protection. I need help. They sound so hungry, and I am only just now seeing the Rockies, far off. They look so small.

Are they going to Vegas?

Is that why this place is so quiet? Are all the survivors--

Fuck this gun. I'm making a stake.

-June 24'th, 1999-

Last night I dreamed about Xander. He was so far away from me, but I could see he looked scared. He didn't say anything, just kept drifting farther and farther away. And there was corn, and there was dirt, but I didn't hear a guitar. I didn't hear anything. It was all Xander, and he was becoming so small I could barely see him.

Does he want me to hurry? Or turn back?

Crying now. For Xander, and for myself. She hasn't come to me in a few days. Okay, so maybe that's not that big of a deal. But am I really that important to them? Or is everything I could have helped with over and done? Or-- maybe I didn't get there in time, and they were caught unprepared.

If only there was some way to communicate back with them.

-June 29'th, 1999-

I'm getting into the Rockies, now. It's gorgeous here. All green and lovely and not quite touched by the summer heat. If my hands weren't so *ugh* chapped-- I might draw it.

Something occurred to me last night as I blocked up the wall of what must have been my thousandth door. Is Angel alive?


Gleaming like a gem lost at the bottom of the sea, the leviathan city burst out of the darkness. His eyes, yellow as they might be, turned into a rainbow of reds and greens and flashing orange. He drowned in the flashing lights bearing phrases like "Tropicana!" and "Tom Jones: Live". Sparkling and high, the ghostly city beckoned to the core of his not-soul, the depth of his borrowed blood. He sped up, blurring into the night, rushing towards the Cibola of his dreams.

He could taste the heavy redcopper on the air. His tongue slipped out even as he ran, and slicked down his lengthening fangs.

To feed.

Las Vegas.

The power. The Dark Man. Promises soon to be realized.

"My life for you."

And all other voices remained unspoken in their terror.


As she worked her way into the mountains, both the feelings of fear and the sounds of the vampires began to die out. It was as if she was crossing some mythic barrier between good and evil, something you'd see on "Faerie Tale Theatre". Comfort at a distance wasn't much comfort at all, but it was better than nothing.

Cordelia biked up the freeway, stopping every half mile or so to lean down and massage her feet. Change her socks. Air out her toes. Days of pushing bike pedals had put more damage on them then years of wearing ridiculously tall heels ever had. She'd schlupp water out of her bottle, rub on sun screen, tug at her shirt, eat a Power Bar while biking. She didn't want to camp until she had to. Something in her pushed her towards Boulder, something that would not be denied.

She felt the darkness pressing at her, and it was something scarier than any superflu could ever be. The darkness behind her.

But she pushed it out of her mind with every turn of the pedals. Her mind moved with the bike, filling the huge, quiet world of the mountains with thoughts of Xander. Thoughts of her family. Thoughts of faces that were growing fainter by the day.

And it all was dwarfed by the peaks surrounding her.

But the mountains did not scare her.

For the dark ones gathered in flat places, and it was there that they began
to grow.


The Eye enveloped him.

--You want her--

My life for you.

--Will you feed for me?--


--You are torn, light on dark. But the light will destroy you--


--And I kinda like you--


--You will feed, and it will be good, and the one who brought the light will go where all other light things have gone--

My life-- for you.

--That's right. It's time to put childish things away. Awaken--


My life for you.

The Eye shut, and there was only darkness.


She crested down the rugged foothill, seeing where the trees thinned and the houses began.

The sounds floated up, faint, but *real*. Voices. Laughter. Children.

"Screw coasting," she muttered, putting her feet on the pedals and pushing with all of her might. "Mother.. I'm coming home."

She pedaled faster, under trees that provided sparse shade through their browning leaves.  Pedaled towards the voices that only whispered, but whispered louder. Building like an orchestra, they whispered. And the whispers grew stronger. And the trees passed above in a blur. And she followed them, her mouth opening to pant, drops of sweat trickling down the back of her neck. She pedaled, and the sunburn ceased to matter, the ache in the arches of her feet died away, everything disappeared but the road and the whispering, that wasn't so much a whisper, but a roar.

And she broke out of the trees.

Two men stood there, as if they had been waiting for something they weren't sure would show up. One sat, staring into the horizon, while the other played with a dinky sort of toy filling station. They sat, not noticing her as she burst out.

At least, not until she fell off the bike. She hit hard, the air rushing out of her overly excited lungs in a burst.

"Oof!" The ground was hard, hot, and dusty. Hard enough to bruise, hot enough to burn, dusty enough to make her wheeze. She screwed her eyes shut to absorb the shock of impact.

"She fell! Laws yes! A nasty spill! M-O-O-N, that spells spill!" Voices, getting louder. And, though they were tight as a casket, Cordelia's eyes began leaking tears. But not of pain.

"Hey, lady, you okay?" Strong hands grasped her shoulders, hauling her up. Brushing her off. "Nicky! Is she the one we're waiting for?"

Finally, Cordelia opened her eyes. The face was large, smiling, beautiful in it's childlike way. "I'm Tom Cullen, I am! M-O-O-N, that spells Tom Cullen! And this here is my friend Nick Andros."

"I'm-- Cordelia Chase. God-- People." She turned to the smaller man, studying him.

"Nicky here is deaf-n-dumb. But I love him anyways."

She smiled, watching as Nick scrawled something on a sheet of paper. "I-- I am just glad to see people. I came from California--" Her lips moved in exaggeration, her voice loud. Soon enough, he finished. She took the paper he offered, reading out loud.

"Welcome to Boulder. Mother Abagail was waiting for you. Said you were the last piece. Would you like to see her? And by the way, yes, I do read lips." Looking up in shock, she saw a wry, well used grin on Nick's face.

 "Yes-- I'd like to meet her. Because I don't know if she knows what -- he -- has over there yet."

He clapped her on the back in approval, and motioned at Tom to gather his toys. Cordy only had a moment to note his scarred lips and broken teeth before she was whisked along the street by her two new friends.