Childhood's End
by Charlotte

The picture on the cover of her new book looks exactly the way Harmony wants to remember herself. Blonde, and skinny-skinny -- real skinny, with toothpick-boned legs and twiggy little wrists -- and wearing perfect pink clothes, and her lip gloss isn't even crooked. So what if she's a drawing? She looks amazing, and Harmony can so remember herself looking that way if she wants to.

Well, yeah, it's not like she hasn't seen her face at all in the last five years -- thank you, digital cameras, and at least her pictures don't look pink and blotchy anymore -- but it's just different. It's like when you're human you go around with a picture of yourself in your head, and when you can't see your reflection any more, then the picture starts to get blurry.

And forget getting your makeup right on the first try. Spike used to do hers, which was kind of wrong -- no one that male ought to be able to tell the difference between sable and navy blue liquid eyeliner -- and she always made him take a picture afterward just to make sure he hadn't messed her up on purpose, but at least it didn't take hours. She needs a Dennis-ghost like Cordy's, who'd just stick a chair under the doorknob or something before she tried to leave the house with Dynasty eyes the way she did on Friday. Those looks she kept getting were mean.

And God, everything just comes back to Cordy these days, doesn't it? Her being gone is part of everything that isn't going to happen anymore -- no more beach days, no more tanning, no more Prom, no more summer vacation, ever, and there isn't even a Sunnydale if she gets homesick -- and it's the worst part, and it's all of it put together. All at once.

So maybe they weren't best friends after Cordy started hanging out with the Loser Gang, but still. Maybe things weren't better before that -- yeah, ask her cousin Sam who got neck rupture on the way home from soccer practice -- but until Buffy showed up at least they could ignore it, right? It was just another secret, like Aura's dad never being home or Cordy's mom sleeping all the time, and as long as you turned the music up really loud and sang when you went past the graveyard and didn't step on any cracks or go out alone after dark, and your shoes weren't out of style, nothing could happen to you.

And then there's the part where thinking of Cordy all curvy and tan in her bikini makes Harmony's mouth water, but she is so not going there. It's probably some weird demon thing, like she can't even have one good memory without all the evil soullessness getting all tangled up in it. And even though it's stupid of her to feel that way, she wants some things to stay the way they were. Like that summer at her dad's beach place, when they were thirteen and Best Friends forever, for real, and those surfer boys followed them everywhere, and it was going to go on forever, and there was this one tiny little kiss on the walk home from the beach that might have turned into something if they'd let it.

Hey. Teenage experimentation? Normal. Oprah said so. And it was them, not Dyke Rosenberg, so that made it okay. And Harmony is so into guys, but it's just that Cordy had this thing that made her different. Like there was this spotlight on her all the time, and it didn't make you gay to notice it. It just made you human.

Which she isn't, and she keeps forgetting that. Fred told her this story once about this guy who stole Angel's body and didn't find out he was a vampire for ages, and she feels like that herself. Like she's just her, and it doesn't matter that everyone smells like food, and Cordy's going to come through the door any minute and say "God, Harm, Working Girl much? Let's get out of here before the Boring Virus gets us," and the Espresso Pump's still serving those awesome caramel mochas, and everything's going to be okay.

And it's a really dumb way to feel, like she didn't already know she's the world's lamest vampire. She's all evil and strong, and she eats people like Xander Harris for breakfast -- well, she could if she wanted -- and Creatures of the Night aren't supposed to wish they were human. It doesn't work that way.

She asked Spike about it once. He laughed so hard he fell out of bed, and then she had to kick him.

So she's never gonna get old, never gonna change -- not really -- and just the other day she realized that she knows what forever means. It means Cordy's gone, and neither of them is ever going to be famous, and she's stuck with the goopy fake-tan stuff that dries all streaky and turns her hands orange, and there's no more "when I grow up, when I get out of here," and Sunnydale's not there anymore, and it'll never not be that way.

But hey, immortal. Right? This must just be the awkward stage, like that one year when she grew five inches and kept tripping over stuff. She'll grow out of it. And this job isn't, like, a permanent thing. Someday soon, she's going to find a boyfriend who isn't a total loser, and the other Personal Assistants won't laugh behind her back, and the world will be saved, and it'll all be normal, except longer. If she keeps her desk straight and doesn't give up and gets her roots done and sticks to otter blood, she'll get what she's been waiting for. Just like in the books.

She can so believe that, if she wants.


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