Come The Day
by Kyra Cullinan

"I know that come the day I'll want to run and hide."
Anya, "Once More, With Feeling"

She has made her hair brown again. Glossy and dark, like it was when she was last a demon. The blonde came with humanity, bottles of hair dye like television commercials advertised, as she tried to figure out all the nuances of being a real girl. It's brown and short again now, and she tries very hard to forget when it was blonde and long. That is part of the past, the wretched period of frivolity and senselessness she's working so hard to overcome.

There are rules to this project. Things she doesn't think about. The way Xander's back looked while he worked. His hands, large and gentle, cupping her face. Weekend mornings when they woke to rain and snuggled under the covers for slow hours, his familiar, comforting smell surrounding her.

She tells herself that it's reasonable to need some adjusting back to this lifestyle, after all the difficulty of learning to be human. She tells herself those long, miserable, clumsy years (since when is three years anything more than the blink of an eye to her?) have made this return to her true self all the more joyous. She tells herself she is happy.

She thinks it's a shame all her work was for naught, though. All the things she learned when she thought she'd be human forever -- allowing for the stunted, mortal definition of "forever". Bookkeeping and social finesse and roller-skating. All things she'll never need again, now that she's remembering the arts of evisceration, wish embellishment, plying brokenhearted women with the perfect combination of sympathy and outrage. She's frustrated at a universe that will let her live so blindly; if she'd known her humanity wouldn't last, she wouldn't have worked so hard to embrace it. Wouldn't have bothered with school and the Magic Box and Cosmo and would never have let herself fall in love with stupid Xander Harris.

When they walk into the Bronze -- all of them, like a ridiculous parade -- she is angry. She's never going to be able to leave the vestiges of her past behind if they keep following her around. She thinks it's her anger that's making her feel so off-kilter, or the loud music, or the fact that she's a little drunk. It's not until after Spike tries to touch her, with rough hands that belie the memory of his weight pressing her into the hard wooden table, that she notices. Sparkling in his eyes, almost too obvious now, and her stomach thrills in recognition, everything inside her suddenly calling out to that spark. Remembering what her own soul felt like, pressed gleaming into the fabric of her being, in the spaces where now she only feels dark, raw emptiness.

And she's suddenly desperate, because she has to know how. The magic formula, the key to simplifying everything about her life. An excuse for being so weak.

She's ashamed as soon as she thinks it.

Halfrek tells her she should leave Sunnydale, calls her foolish for staying at the site of all her greatest disgraces. She answers that the chaos wreaked by the Hellmouth is too rich a resource to leave. Doesn't admit that if this had happened two years ago she'd already be in Istanbul or the sixteenth level of Hell, as far away from this town as she could possibly get.

She remembers how fragile she felt as a human, and how alive. When she first lost her necklace she felt trapped all the time, claustrophobic and panicky, not used to the rigidity of only one form, particularly not this one, chosen to appeal to a foolish high school girl. Was frightened of crossing the street, catching a disease. She missed the feeling of power coursing through her limbs, the freedom of an existence where space and dimensions were no impediment. But she has all that back now and somehow she still finds herself longing for the way her limbs cracked satisfyingly when she stretched, or the clean rush of cool air into her lungs. The satisfaction of a good sneeze. All the tremulous symbols of her mortality. Ice cubes on her inner thigh, Xander's goofy grin, her giggles between moans.

She feels sick as soon as she reverses the spell, the power rushing backward through her, all wrong. Can't even think of what D'Hoffryn will do and she tells herself it's the need to avoid that thought -- and definitely not the soft glint in Xander's eyes when she sighed "Oh, fine" -- which has her trailing after her ex-fiance through the back alleys of Sunnydale. The boy, Ronnie, is lying naked on the ground shivering and she can't make herself feel anything for him either way. Her lack of either pity or disgust frightens her more than either emotion alone would. She shivers, for no reason, and wishes she could cry, or turn Xander and all his stupid friends into particularly ugly beetles.

She still hasn't moved when the girl, Nancy, looks at her, eyes full of blame and says "What are you?" And Anya stands in the dark street and thinks of what's coming and thinks of what's been and she doesn't know what to say.


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