Trick or Treat
by Duncan Johnson
See that guy over there - the one admiring the Etruscan urns? He's a demon. Trust me on this one.
How can I tell? It's in the way he moves, the way his fingers dance across the glazed ceramics (which are on special offer, by the way). Oh, it's a fair imitation all right, but to a trained eye he's clearly someone pretending to be human rather than the genuine article. I have some experience in this field, having been a demon once myself.
He finally settled on the urn he wanted - I wouldn't be seen dead with that in my apartment, but I know better than to insult a paying customer - and crossed to me to pay for his purchase.
'So, Daedalon or Hazazel?' I asked as I worked the cash register.
'I'm sorry,' he said as he struggled to free his wallet from the pocket of his jeans. He was quite cute, actually, and I had to remind myself that I was spoken for.
'Oh, come on,' I protested as I took the cash from his hand, 'there are only so many types of demon that can pass for human.'
'I don't know what you're ' he began the gives up. He ran a finger nervously round the collar of his shirt. 'Is it that obvious?'
I paused before answering. I was calculating his change and I wouldn't want to get that bit wrong.
'Only to me,' I assured him when I'd finished. 'I've got a knack with that sort of thing.'
'You mean you're '
'Uh huh.' I put my elbows on the counter and rest my head in my hands. 'Well, ex at any rate.'
I found myself fascinated by the patch of dark hair on his chin, too small to justify calling it a beard.
'You haven't answered my question,' I pointed out.
'I guess I haven't,' he admitted, 'and the answer is neither. I'm a Minoan.'
'Hence the cap,' I commented.
'Hence the cap,' he agreed. He glanced around to check that no one was looking, then tipped the cap back on his head. Two small curved horns sprouted from his forehead.
'Well there's something you don't see every day,' I quipped. 'An honest-to-god horny demon.'
The demon sighed.
'If I had a dollar for every time someone said that well, I'd have about three dollars,' he confessed with a lop-sided grin. I liked that grin.
'So, does the Minoan have a name?' I asked.
'My friends call me Trix,' he replied.
'Well then, Trix, I'm Anya.'
'Anya.' He rolled the name slowly around his mouth. 'I like it.'
'That's handy,' I remarked, ''cos it's the only name I've got.'
'Funny girl,' Trix said. 'Listen, this is going to sound awful, but well, the thing is I don't really know anybody around here and you seem like a nice girl and well, I was wondering if maybe you'd like to I don't know go for a coffee some time.'
I didn't even stop to think.
'I'd like that,' I said. I glanced at my watch. 'The shop closes in an hour. If you don't mind waiting, we could go to the bookshop after that.'
'Well, it used to be a bookshop,' I explained. 'Then it became a bookshop with one of those in-store coffee places. And now it's just a coffee shop.'
'I'm not sure I approve,' Trix said, frowning.
'I know Jane certainly wouldn't,' I remarked. 'I bet she's spinning in her grave.'
'Austen.' I winked at him. 'I'm older than I look, you know. And don't you dare ask how old. There are some secrets a girl should keep to herself.'
* * *
'So, why'd you give it all up?' Trix asked.
He was sitting opposite me, nursing a large mug of cappuccino in his long-fingered hands. They were pianist's hands. I've damaged enough in my time - all in the name of perfectly justifiable vengeance - to know.
'You've got froth on your nose,' I told him.
Trix crossed his eyes.
'So I have,' he said, wiping it off. 'And you're avoiding the question.
'Are-' Trix caught himself and chuckled. His laughter was infectious and I found myself laughing along with him. It wasn't often I got to spend time with on of my own kind. I've learned a lot about humans in the couple of years and I'm willing to admit that I may have judged them a bit harshly on occasion. But the simple fact is that humans are still, well, human. And no human, even one who's read as much on the subject as Giles, can really understand what it means to be a demon.
But Trix could.
'So,' he said, 'are you going to answer the question or not? Why did you give up being a demon?'
'It's not like I had much choice,' I admitted. 'Someone destroyed my power source and there I was. Mortal.'
'Do you ever miss it?' Trix asked.
'Only all the time,' I replied. 'Still, it has its compensations.'
'Really?' Trix raised an eyebrow.
'Well, the sex isn't bad,' I admitted.
Trix grinned that wonderful grin of his again.
'Gotta agree with you there,' he replied. Then he flushed. 'Sorry. That was terribly forward of me. I didn't mean '
I smiled back at him.
'It's okay,' I assured him, taking his hand and giving it a friendly squeeze. 'I have a habit of saying the wrong thing around humans too. Over two years as one and I still don't understand them.'
'Way I hear it,' Trix replied, 'they have a hard time understanding each other.'
'That's true enough.'
'So, would you go back?' Trix asked.
'To being a demon,' Trix responded. 'If someone offered you the chance, would you take it?'
'I I don't know?' I confessed.
'Really? A minute ago you were telling me how much you missed it.'
'I do. It's just well, it's difficult to explain,' I replied. 'Being a human, well, it's meant seeing the world in a different way. I don't think I ever realised just how full their lives were before. And now I'm part of that and I guess I'm not sure I want to let go.'
But Trix wasn't listening. He was staring at the ring on my finger.
'I couldn't help noticing,' he said hesitantly, 'this ring, is it for anything special?'
'Do you like it?' I asked, proudly showing it off. 'That's my engagement ring. I'm getting married in a couple of months.'
'You should have said something,' Trix said.
'Really?' I asked. 'Why?'
'Never mind,' Trix replied.
Sometimes demons can be as difficult to understand as humans.
The silence dragged on for a couple of minutes and I felt it was up to me to salvage the conversation.
'So,' I asked, 'what are you doing in Sunnydale?'
'Next stop on my world tour,' Trix explained.
'No kidding? Where've you been?'
'Sunnydale,' Trix admitted. 'Hey, I'm new at this. I thought I'd stay in town for a while, maybe find a bit of work to fund the next stage of my adventure. Dont suppose you know of any vacancies going?'
'Well, I suppose I could use an assistant at The Magic Box. Temporarily, of course.'
I didn't really need an assistant, but we could afford one - more or less - and I felt that I'd offended Trix in some way and I wanted to make it up to him.
'Sounds great,' Trix replied. 'When do I start?'
'Tomorrow morning?' I suggested. 'And wear the cap. We wouldn't want you frightening off the customers now, would we?'
* * *
'You're late home, honey,' Xander said as the door clicked closed behind me. 'Bad day at the office?'
I've never understood why Xander insists on referring to the shop as 'the office'. He did try explaining it to me once, but that only made me even more confused. Still, I've learned that the best approach to this is just to humour him. He seems to like that.
'Nothing I couldn't handle,' I replied.
'Is my poor baby worn out?' Xander asked as he helped me out of my coat.
I looked over my shoulder and winked at him.
'Don't you believe it,' I said.
* * *
'Now that's a very fine choice,' Trix said.
'Do you really think so?' the blue-rinsed woman asked, cradling the statuette in her hands. She looked so fragile that I thought it would drop through her fingers at any moment, so I was more than a little relieved when Trix took it from her to examine it for himself.
'Tell me,' the woman said, 'is it Roman? I thought it might be, bet, well, I'm hardly an expect '
'Then for an amateur, you are extremely observant,' Trix told her. 'It's a replica of a Roman statue of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. But I'm sure you already knew that.'
'Well, I am interested in mythology,' the woman confided in him, 'though my husband doesn't really approve.'
'A bit racy for him, I imagine,' Trix commented, dazzling her with his grin. 'Diana's not the only figure we have here,' he continued, guiding her to another shelf. 'Over here we have representations of Apollo, Neptune and Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, though I'm guessing a lovely young lady such as yourself doesn't need much help on that score.'
The woman blushed and looked away and Trix winked at me over the top of her head. I smiled back.
'Who's your new friend,' Dawn asked, slamming her bag of books down on the counter.
'That's Trix,' I explained. 'He's going to be helping me out around here for awhile. Aren't you going to go through to the back and do your homework.'
'Naw, that can wait,' Dawn replied. 'I thought I might stay out here and give you a hand.'
'Trix and I have got it covered,' I said. 'Thanks anyway.'
'Well, if you're sure,' Dawn said, sullenly dragging the bag of books off of the counter and swinging it on to her back.
I frowned. She was upset. I was betting it was my fault - it often seemed to be - though I had no idea what I might have done wrong. Xander was always telling me to think before I opened my mouth in case I hurt someone else's feelings and I do think, but how am I supposed to know what's going to upset someone? I wasn't a mind reader even when I was a demon. Still, Xander also suggested I try and make amends if I felt that I had done something wrong. It was some kind of strange human custom, apparently.
'Are you any good at gift-wrapping?' I asked Dawn as she turned away.
'Mmm, I'm all fingers and thumbs when it comes to that,' I said, 'and I could really use some help, if you're not too busy.'
It was a lie and not even a terribly good one. Xander had told me that it was wrong to lie. He had also told me that it was okay to lie sometimes. Are all human interactions full of such contradictions? It was so much easier as a demon. Then I just had to be pointed towards a cheating husband and I knew exactly what to do. Now well, there's so much more guesswork involved. But it all seemed so important to Xander and that made it important to me to try and get it right.
'You've never seen my Christmas presents, have you,' Dawn said. 'I'll give it a try, though.'
As she cheerfully attacked her work, I hoped against hope that she could make up in enthusiasm what she lacked in skill. Still, I appeared to have made up for my mistake, whatever it might have been. Xander would be so proud. I would have to remember to tell him about it later.
* * *
'The customers didn't look too upset with their wrapping,' I was saying as I lay in bed next to Xander. 'And I know how important it is to you that I try and get better at this whole human interaction thing, so I think today was a job well done, don't you?'
I waited for him to say how proud he was of me.
It hurt when he didn't. All I wanted was a simple 'well done, Anya'. Three little words. I mean, how difficult can that be? But then again, I realised, Xander was both a human and a man, two things that put him at a disadvantage compared to the rest of us, so maybe I was judging him too harshly.
I snuggled closer to him. Maybe there would be a little congratulatory cuddling instead.
'So who's this Trix guy?' Xander asked finally. 'And why's he got a girly name?'
'It's not a girly name,' I retorted. 'And he's just some guy who's helping me out at the shop for a bit.'
'Just some guy,' Xander repeated.
'I met him yesterday,' I continued. 'He wants to save up a bit of money before going travelling and I offered him a job.'
'This guy must be pretty special,' Xander said, 'for you to offer him a job as soon as he walks in off the street.'
'If you must know,' I said haughtily, 'we went for coffee. Then I offered him a job.'
'You went for coffee.' Xander's voice was rising, becoming louder and more strident. 'Well that makes it all right then, doesn't it? I can't believe you let a guy you'd only just met take you out for coffee.'
'I'm sorry, I didn't realise I had to clear all my movements with you first,' I snapped back.
'I don't like the thought of you with other guys,' Xander admitted.
'Are you jealous?' I asked, trying hard not to laugh.
Jealous was okay. I could deal with that. Actually, jealous was more than okay. It was giving me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
'Well, you've got nothing to worry about,' I explained. 'I only went out with Trix because he's a demon.'
'Yeah,' I said. 'It's just well, it's nice to speak to one of my own kind every now and then and I know how you don't like me seeing Spike.'
'You've got a demon working at The Magic Box,' Xander said.
'Yes,' I said. 'What's your problem?'
'Nothing,' he grunted.
'If there's something bothering you then I want to know,' I persisted.
'I don't like the idea of you spending time with demons,' Xander said.
'He's just one guy,' I said.
'He's still a demon.'
'Oh, so that's what this is about, is it,' I snapped.
'I didn't mean it like that,' Xander protested.
There was no talking to him when he was like this.
'Goodnight, Xander,' I said. Then I rolled over on to my side, taking the duvet with me.
* * *
Trix was entertaining Dawn by juggling four brightly coloured Orbs of Melpomene. They were fake, of course, but I couldn't keep myself from shuddering as I imagined them striking the floor and shattering into a thousand pieces. Not that there was much chance of that. Minoans were particularly dextrous.
'So, I hear Trix is a demon,' Buffy said. She was standing next to me, enjoying the show.
'You've been talking to Xander,' I deduced, not turning to look at her.
'He's worried about you,' she continued.
'Well you can tell him that he's got nothing to worry about,' I replied.
'Why don't you tell him yourself?'
'Believe me, I've tried.'
'We just don't want to see you get hurt,' Buffy persisted.
Trix had added a fifth ball to his act.
'So there's a 'we' now, is there?'
A blue-green ball arced high into the air, sparkling in the lamp light like the surface of the ocean.
'Just ask yourself, how much do you really know about this guy?'
'I don't believe this!' I was getting really irritated now. 'We haven't done anything.'
A yellow orb, shot through with fiery strands of red hung in the air before falling into Trix's outstretched palm.
'No. No more buts,' I snapped. 'You asked yourself something. Would you be showing this much concern if Trix wasn't a demon? That's what really gets you, isn't it?'
'That's not true.'
'Isn't it?' I demanded. 'You've got this narrow-minded view of what a demon can see and you're not prepared to look outside your tiny box.'
'It's called experience, Anya,' Buffy retorted. 'Demons are evil. That's just how they're made or whatever you do with demons. Ewww, now that's a really gross thought. But my point is that Giles said '
'Well maybe Giles isn't the font of all knowledge you seem to think he is. What does he know about demons? Me, I used to be one.'
'And you used to go around inflicting boils and turning men into trolls.'
Okay, so not exactly a winning argument on my behalf.
'My point is,' I continued, 'that not all demons are evil. Trix isn't evil. Look at him. He's a genuinely nice guy.'
Buffy scowled, but before she could respond, Xander slammed the door open.
The sudden interruption caused Trix to lose control of the orbs and the plummeted towards the floor.
My heart leapt into my mouth.
Buffy leapt to the rescue.
Acting with Slayer reflexes, she snatched up two of the orbs just before they struck the tiled floor. Trix was able to react quickly enough to gather up the remaining three.
'Xander!' I snapped.
'What?' he asked, completely oblivious to the disaster he had almost been responsible for.
'I see he's still here,' Xander said, indicating Trix with a movement of his head.
'Hi,' Trix said. Xander deliberately ignored him. I didn't think I had ever seen him act so rude and I didn't like it.
'Yes, Trix is still here,' I said, 'and he's welcome to stay as long as he likes, whatever the rest of you may think.'
'I kinda like him,' Dawn admitted, before being silenced by her sister's glare.
'Whatever.' Xander shrugged. 'Look, I thought you might like me to walk you home.'
'That's sweet,' I said, 'but I've still got to tidy up before I can go home.'
'Hey, maybe I can help,' Xander suggested.
'No, you go on home,' I told him. 'Trix and I have got it covered.'
'You and Trix. Sure. Just try not to wake me when you decide to come home.'
Xander turned and stalked from the shop.
I turned to Buffy. She seemed about to say something, then thought better of it.
'Come on, Dawn,' she called to her sister. 'Let's go.'
'But ' Dawn began.
'Now,' Buffy insisted.
Grudgingly, Dawn hooked her bag over her shoulder and followed her sister outside. I locked the door behind them.
'I don't think your friends like me very much,' Trix said.
'Dawn seemed quite smitten,' I replied.
'Well, she's a good kid,' Trix returned with an embarrassed shrug. 'Listen, I don't want to cause any trouble. It might be best all round if I just left. Thanks for everything, Ann. It's been fun.'
He had crossed the shop to join me at the door. He had to lean across me to reach the door handle and I could feel the heat of him even through his leather jacket. He had an odd scent to him, like gunpowder and machine oil and...something I couldn't identify. But I liked it.
'Hang on,' I said, putting a hand on his chest to hold him back. 'Who said anything about you leaving? Maybe I want you to stay.'
'Well in that case,' Trix whispered, 'how could I possible go?'
And he leaned forward and kissed me on my cheek.
'Wh-what was that for?' I asked as he stepped backwards.
'Just to say thank you,' he replied.
* * *
I had just been downstairs to the storeroom to fetch some Nagas Root (good for the complexion, if you're interested). When I got back upstairs I found the Scooby Gang assembled and waiting for me.
'Where's Trix?' Xander asked.
'He's gone out,' I replied. 'I needed someone to pick up some bits and pieces for me before we open up.'
'Good, then we can talk in private,' Buffy said.
'What's this about?' I asked warily. 'You guys are looking awfully like the Spanish Inquisition and they were not nice people to be around. I should know.'
Nobody smiled. This did not bode well.
'Two women were killed last night,' Buffy continued.
'And?' I prompted. 'I mean, it's tragic, but what's that have to do with Trix?'
'They had their throats torn out,' Willow explained. 'That's the traditional method Minoans use to kill their victims, isn't it?'
She turned an open book in my direction. I didn't bother to look at it.
'And if you've bothered to actually read that book,' I snapped back, 'you'll know that Minoans almost exclusively prey upon each other. That's probably why Trix struck out on his own in the first place.'
Willow shrugged and turned to Buffy.
'She's right,' she said.
'I still say it's a bit suspicious that he turns up here just before two people get murdered,' Xander said.
'You don't even know him,' I protested. 'He wouldn't harm anyone.'
'M-maybe Anya's right,' Tara said. 'M-maybe we are jumping to conclusions.'
At last, some sanity.
'Jumping to conclusions about what?' Trix asked.
He was standing behind me, a large paper bag cradled in his arms.
'These people think that you're a murderer,' I explained.
'Two women died last night,' Willow added softly. 'They had their throats torn out.'
'And you think it was me?' Trix mused. 'I can understand that.'
'See, I told you so,' Xander said.
'Now wait a minute,' I retorted.
'Please,' Trix insisted, holding out his hands, 'just let me finish. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no angel. But while I may be a bit of a layabout and a rogue, I'm no killer.'
'We've only got your word for that,' Xander commented.
'Trix,' Buffy began slowly, 'I'm really sorry, but I think it might be better for everyone if you were to move on now.'
'No,' I said quickly, 'Trix isn't going anywhere. He hasn't done anything wrong. Why should he be forced to leave? I'll vouch for him. That should be enough, shouldn't it?'
'Yes,' Buffy said coldly, 'it should.'
* * *
'You didn't have to do that, you know,' Trix said when we were alone.
'Stick up for me.'
'I wanted to,' I explained. 'You didn't deserve that.'
'Your friends are worried about you. I can understand that,' he replied. 'I'd be more concerned if they weren't.'
'I suppose so,' I conceded. 'They're good people. For humans. I just wish they weren't so emotionally stunted.'
Trix tried to hide a smirk behind his hand.
'Emotionally stunted?' he repeated.
'Oh, you know what I mean,' I said, waving my arms about in frustration.
Trix pulled out a chair, turned it around and straddled it, arms folded across the back.
'Well, if you feel that way,' Trix began, 'why are you still here?'
'They've been good to me,' I replied. 'They aren't that many people that would welcome a demon with open arms, but then I guess you know that already.'
'So, this is like a gratitude thing?' Trix asked.
'No,' I insisted. 'That's not it at all. They're my friends, Trix. I don't think I've ever had friends before.'
'They're stifling you, Ann,' Trix protested, 'whether you realise it or not. You're made for better things than than being a shopkeeper.'
'But I like it here,' I responded. 'I get to meet interesting people and I'm making money and then I get to spend the money and '
'And you get to be a pretty little member of capitalist consumer culture,' Trix scoffed. 'This isn't you, Ann. This is just what they've turned you into, so that you can fit into their narrow-minded world-view. You're made for better things.'
'Come with me, Ann,' Trix offered. 'Let's blow this two-bit little town and go see the world. Just the two of us. Let's live a little.'
'I can't,' I said. 'I'm sorry.'
'Why Ah.' Trix shook his head. 'It's Xander, isn't it.'
'And I bet he doesn't even realise how lucky he is.'
'He's not the lucky one,' I replied.
'So you say.' Trix stood up. 'Listen, I'm going to be heading off in a few days. I feel I've outstayed my welcome. No, don't say anything. This is my choice, no one else's. But before I go, can I take you out to dinner?'
'Well ' I began sceptically.
'There'd be no pressure,' he assured me. 'Just a nice meal for two friends. There's a little Italian place just off the high street that looks like it might be worth a try. So, what do you say?'
I thought for a moment.
'I'd like that,' I said at last.
'Great. I'll book us a table for - what shall we say - tomorrow at eight?'
* * *
Xander wasn't home when I got in from work that evening. There was a note stuck to the fridge by an elephant shaped magnet saying that he had gone out with some of the guys from the construction site. I sat up late for him, not watching the documentary on the television. Eventually I climbed into bed and curled up with the cold space where he should be.
* * *
The next day rushed past in a whirlwind of chaos. It was a Saturday, which is always the busiest day at the shop, but it seemed even more crowded than usual. I was glad Trix was there to help out, but we barely managed to say five words to each other all day. Finally, the last customer gathered up her purchases and I was able to lock the door behind her.
'Well,' Trix said.
'Well,' I agreed.
'So, are we still on for tonight?' he asked hopefully.
'Absolutely,' I confirmed. 'I just need to go home and change first. I want to look my best if we're going out.'
'You already do,' Trix insisted. 'But whatever makes you happy. I'll see you there then.'
* * *
I've never understood the concept of being fashionably late, so I arrived at the restaurant at eight precisely. I had been afraid that I wouldn't make it. The dress I had picked out didn't look right when I put it on, so I had been panicking and trying to find something else that was suitable. I knew I should have bought a new outfit. In the end, and several changes of clothes later, I had ended up in the same dress I had started with. But it looked so much better this time round.
Trix wasn't waiting for me.
That was okay. Maybe he understood how this fashionably late business worked.
I allowed a waiter to lead me to our table and I ordered myself a glass of red wine.
Fifteen minutes later, I was checking my watch and wondering if perhaps I had misheard. We had definitely agreed eight, hadn't we? Or was it half-eight? Or nine? Or even seven and Trix had already given up on me.
By half-past eight I had switched from wine to mineral water and was insisting to the waiter that no, I wasn't going to order until my friend arrived.
By nine, I had given up. He wasn't coming and it hurt to realise that. I waved a hand to attract a waiter so that I could settle the bill and leave.
'I hope I'm not going to have to eat alone,' said a voice behind me.
'Trix,' I said with relief, then added, 'where have you been?'
'Sorry,' he apologised looking contrite, 'I didn't mean to keep you waiting. Honestly. But I passed this woman on the way here and, well, her cat got stuck in a tree and I offered to get it down for her. So I climbed all of the way up this tree and the wretched thing jumps down of its own accord. To make matters worse, by the time I get down, I find I've torn this great hole in my jacket so I have to go home and change and then, well, time just flies when you're having fun, doesn't it?
'Anyway,' he continued, gesturing to his outfit, 'what do you think?'
'You look,' I said, 'very nice.'
He looked, in all honesty, extremely sexy, but I wasn't going to tell him that.
He dragged his chair round to join me so that we could both look over the same menu.
'I think choosing your food,' he said as we discussed our options, 'should be as much fun as eating it.'
We talked as we ate, with topics ranging from cats through to the life of a demon in California (not as dissimilar as you might think). By unspoken agreement he never brought up the subject of my leaving with him, nor did I mention Xander.
The time flew by and before I knew it we had drained the last of the coffee and Trix was helping me on with my coat.
'Can I walk you home?' he asked.
I shook my head.
'It's out of your way,' I replied. 'You want to be on the other side of town.'
'I don't want you walking home alone in the dark,' he protested.
'You let me worry about that,' I said, poking him in the ribs. 'And anyway, it's not far. I'll be fine.'
'Well, if you're sure.'
'Go on, go home,' I insisted. 'I'll see you on Monday.'
'Yes ma'am,' Trix said, giving me a half-hearted salute before spinning on his heel. I watch him swagger down the street until the darkness swallowed him whole.
Pulling my coat tighter, I began walking home. It was cold and I was starting to wonder if maybe I should have called Xander to come and pick me up. A man stood under a streetlight, watching me. I met his stare defiantly, and he hurriedly looked away.
But I could still feel someone watching me, feel the burn of their eyes on the back of my neck.
I quickened my pace.
Blue light slashed through the darkness. Two police cars were parked outside a house already cordoned off by yellow type. A small crowd of spectators had gathered nearby to gawp, though at what I couldn't tell. I stopped to ask one of them what was going on.
'It's terrible,' she said. 'Poor Mrs Crabtree. She was such a harmless soul. She was all alone, since her husband passed away, you know. Except for her cats, of course.'
'What happened to her?' I pressed. I was desperate to know, though I had no idea why I felt that it was so important.
'She died, dear,' the woman said. 'Someone broke into her house and well, they say he ripped her throat out. Oh, it makes my head spin just thinking about it.'
'When was this?' I asked. My voice seemed very small, as if I were hearing it from far away.
'About eight o'clock, I think,' she told me. 'Why, is it important?'
But I was no longer listening. Instead I was running, my best shoes pounding the sidewalk as I ran for the warmth and safety of my apartment. I fumbled with my keys as I took them from my purse and they slipped through my fingers and to the floor. I crouched down, glancing both ways down the corridor as I scooped up the keys and inserted them in the lock.
And then I was through the door and in the apartment, safe with Xander.
'Xander?' I called. 'Xander?'
There was no reply.
I started to hunt around.
We have a very nice apartment, but it only takes up so much space and it did not take very long at all for me to realise that Xander wasn't home. Nor was there a note on the fridge.
I was alone.
Only I wasn't because there was someone else here with me.
Someone who was easing open the front door.
A scream caught in my throat.
'Honey, what is it? What's wrong?'
Xander crossed the space between us in a single bound and engulfed me in those strong arms. I buried my head in his shoulder.
'It's okay, I'm here now,' he said. 'Everything's going to be all right.'
'No, no it isn't,' I sobbed. 'I'm sorry, Xander, I'm so sorry. I've been so stupid. You were right all along.'
'I was? But '
'It's Trix,' I continued, cutting him off. You were right, he is the killer. I didn't believe it at first, but then he was late at the restaurant and he said it was because of this cat, but then when I was walking home I found out that the killer had killed again and at the time when he should have been at the restaurant and shouldn't and oh, Xander, how could I have been so blind?'
'Shh,' Xander whispered, stroking my hair. 'You've got nothing to be sorry for. It's me that should apologise. I should know by to trust you by now.'
'What do you mean?' I asked, looking up at him through tear-filled eyes.
'Whoever the killer is,' he answered, 'it isn't Trix.'
'But but how can you be sure?' I asked, stepping away from him.
'Well, I ' Xander began, rubbing the back of his neck. 'Well, because I've been following him.'
'You've been following him,' I repeated.
'I know, it was stupid, right,' Xander started to apologise. 'I should have trusted you. But I love you, Anya, and I needed to be sure you were going to be okay.'
'You followed him,' I said again, 'even though you thought he might be the killer. And you did it just because you wanted to protect me.'
'Well, yeah,' Xander admitted.
'Have I ever told you how brave you are?' I asked. 'Or how lucky I am?'
And I grabbed him with both hands and kissed him passionately.
'I could get used to this,' Xander murmured when I finally let him up for air.
Then the window caved inwards, shattered by the weight of the creature the leapt through it.
It was eight feet tall, easily, and it was dripping greenish goo all over my precious carpet. It's knuckles dragged along the ground and it had a mouth full of teeth like razors.
This time my scream made it through my throat, out of my mouth and reverberated around the room.
'I second that,' Xander said as he took me by the arm and dragged me across the room and away from the monster. We stumbled over the couch and cowered behind it as the thing started to lay into my soft furnishings.
'Well, any bright ideas?' Xander asked me.
I risked a quick peak over the back of the couch and was just in time to see a small shape rush through the open front door and leap upon the monster's back.
It was Trix.
His jaw was distended and he was tearing at the creature with his teeth. The creature snarled and bucked, sending Trix flying through the air and into the kitchen. I heard a crash as he landed.
'Trix!' Xander shouted.
He dived over the couch and tried running to the rescue, but one of the creature's long arms snaked out and snagged him by the ankle, pulling him up short before he could reach the kitchen door. Xander clawed ineffectually at the carpet as the creature slowly dragged him back towards its waiting jaws.
Trix hurled the meat cleaver out of the kitchen. (We never used it, but it looked good hanging in the knife rack so it stayed.)
Xander caught it in his right hand and buried the blade deep in the creature's skull. Green goop splattered everywhere and the creature collapsed in a heap, dead.
'What are you doing here?' I asked Trix as I crept out from behind the couch.
'Hey, what kind of hero would I be if I wasn't there for my damsel in distress?' he joked.
But I wasn't listening.
I was watching Xander as he crawled out from beneath the creature's carcass.
I wasn't even thinking about the inevitable dry-cleaning bills.
I was thinking how sexy he looked even covered in green slime.
I crawled across the floor towards him, not caring that I was getting goop all over my (maybe) favourite dress.
I only cared about that brave, sexy, wonderful man and how he was all mine.
So I took him in my arms and I kissed him. And then I kissed him again.
* * *
Trix wasn't there when I arrived at the shop Monday morning. He had already been and gone.
He had emptied the cash register. Well, not quite emptied. He had left me a note.
Still not a killer, but always a rogue, it read. Be seeing you.
I'd known from the first that he was going to leave eventually, but somehow it didn't hurt as much as I'd thought it might. And as for the money (which wasn't as it might have been since we had put most of the weekend's takings in the safe), well, I'd try not to think about that. I said 'try'.
I screwed up the note and dropped it in the bin.
Five minutes later I fished the note back out, smoothed it down and put it in my purse.
Well, you never knew, did you?