Doing Time and Fighting Slime

by Philip S.

Summary: Xander has been arrested for the murder of Amy Madison. Not only do Buffy and the Scoobies have to find the real killer, there is also that particularly nasty demon that just arrived in town.

Spoilers: General spoilers for the beginnings of Buffy Season 3. This is an AU version of the episode 'Homecoming'. You should have read the first 4 stories of Excedo Inferi before reading this.

Rating: R

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns all canon characters. The story is mine.

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Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Buffy and Angel have returned from Hell, but life does not return to normal. After thirty years spent in the Inferno neither Buffy nor Angel are the people they once were and acceptance does not come easy for their circle of friends, now enlarged by the presence of Faith, the new Vampire Slayer.

Xander, insane with hatred and jealousy, convinces the witch Amy to do magic for him. The spell goes horribly wrong, though, unveiling all the monsters hiding in the town and leading to the death of seven innocent people.

The Mayor, not happy with someone casting magic over his town, hires the vampire Mr. Trick to take care of that problem. Amy is murdered and on the same night the police arrest their primary suspect: Xander Harris.

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Part 1:

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"Hey, Harris!"

Xander looked up tiredly, seeing the police officer standing on the other side of the cell bars, a disgusted sneer on the man's face. Small wonder, he mused. There was a murderer sitting inside this cell, was there not? He guessed he deserved all the disgust and then some for what he had done.

"Visitor for you," the policeman continued, gesturing at the man now coming down the corridor. All the corridors in the Sunnydale police station had the same beige color on the walls, Xander had discovered. It was really making him nauseous after staring at it for almost twelve hours straight, though a little better than the wallpaper in his room at home. That normally made him sick after but five hours.

Giles stopped in front of the cell, looking at Xander through the bars. The boy was sitting on the cell cot, dressed in the same clothes he had worn when they had arrested him last night at the library, only a lot more rumpled now. There were bags under his eyes and a look of pure misery on his face.

Giles had a hard time feeling sorry for him.

The policeman unlocked the cell door and allowed Giles to go in, locking it after him. "Just yell when you want out again."

"Thank you, officer!"

Sitting down on the opposite cot, Giles looked at Xander for a long minute, causing the boy to fidget under his stern gaze. Finally Giles sighed and took off his glasses to clean them.

"You should be out of here soon," Giles began. "As far as these gentlemen would tell me they have nothing beyond the fact that someone saw you running out of Amy's house only a short time after her death occurred. No fingerprints on the murder weapon, no blood on you, no discernable cause."

Xander said nothing, just stared at the floor because he did not want to meet Giles' eyes.

"Have they questioned you yet?"

He shook his head.

"Strange," Giles remarked. "What they have is not really enough for an arrest, only for a questioning. If they have not done even that ... something is wrong here."

"Oh, really?" Xander's voice was filled with self-loathing.

"I am not here to soothe your wounded ego, Xander," Giles told him a cold voice. "After what you did you deserve worse than this."

Xander finally looked up. "Then why are you here? Why don't you just leave me to rot? God knows my parents don't give a damn about the whole thing."

To be precise his parents had not deigned to turn up at the police station, even though the police had informed them of their son's arrest. Xander was not sure whether they had been too drunk to remember having a son or whether they really did not care. As far as caring was concerned, though, he had long ago stopped expecting anything of the sort from his family.

"I am here because a girl was killed," Giles informed him, if anything his voice even colder than before. "Even if Amy had not been something of a friend to Willow, that alone would warrant an investigation. And no matter how little I might think of you right now, I know you did not kill her."

Sighing deeply Xander folded in on himself. "I'm sorry, Giles. Look, I know I ..."

"I am not interested, Xander," Giles interrupted him. "Nor is there anything I have to forgive you for. I am not the one you hurt and neither am I your confessor. This is about Amy and finding out who killed her. So tell me everything that happened."

Xander gulped at Giles' words, but said nothing in return. What was there to say? Giles was right, that was all. At this time Giles was probably the only person Xander had not wounded through his short-sighted pettiness.

Unlike a lot of other people he could think of.

"I ... I went to Amy to apologize for dragging her into his," he began. "Her door was ajar. I went inside and ... I found her in the kitchen. Her ... her throat was slashed. There was so much blood, so much ..."

His voice trailed off and he needed a moment to regain his composure. Giles said nothing, did nothing, just continued looking at him.

"There was a knife lying right next to her. I panicked, I ... I guess I should've called the police, but the only thing I could think of was that someone had killed Amy and that I needed help. So I ran to the library. You know the rest."

Giles simply nodded.

"Do they have any clues at all?"

"I don't think so," Giles said. "As I said, this entire business is strange. The police should have questioned you, not simply locked you away. Plus there is the fact that there has been almost no investigation at Amy's house. First Angel and then Willow have been watching Amy's place and the police just went to collect the body, nothing else."

"What about Amy's father?"

"Still out of town, I don't think they managed to reach him yet."

Xander nodded, forcing the tears back. Amy was dead and it would be the greatest coincidence in the world if it was not his fault.

"Angel and Buffy will go to Amy's house after dark today," Giles continued, lowering his voice to make sure the policeman around the corner did not hear him. "Maybe they can pick up some clues the police missed. Willow will try and take a look at the police files with her computer."

Xander simply absorbed the information. "I guess there is nothing I can do right now, is there?"

For a moment he thought Giles would make some comment about him having done enough already, but the Watcher just looked at him for a moment, then shook his head.

"As I said, they will probably release you soon. Come to the library once that happens, then we'll see."

To the library, Xander repeated in his thoughts. The place where all the people he had hurt would be. Just great.

"Maybe they should just keep me here for good," he mumbled. God knew he deserved it. He was not responsible for Amy's death, at least not directly, but seven people had died two nights ago because of the spell he had convinced Amy to cast. He could just as well have killed them himself.

"If that is your take on the matter," Giles said, having heard the comment, "then maybe they should keep you here. If you want to try and make things better, though, you can't do it from inside this cell."

Not waiting for him to answer Giles rose and called for the cell to be opened. Xander stared after him long after he was gone, unsure what to say or think.

Make things better Giles had said. Was that even possible? How could he possibly make things better? He could not bring those seven people back to life, could he? Nor could he take back the things he had said and done to Buffy. To Angel.

Lying down on the cot he stared at the ceiling, which was the same beige as the walls. Whatever happened next he was quite sure that he would have quite a few hours left to think things through. Before the arrest, before he had found Amy's body, he had already arrived at a conclusion and the events of last night did not really change it.

He had done pretty much everything in his power to ruin his own life these last few weeks. He had lost his friends, his girlfriend, and even the man whom he had regarded as some sort of father figure was clearly disgusted with him. This was not what he had wanted, not what he had intended.

What was that saying about the road to hell? With a bitter laugh he thought about asking Angel whether said road was really plastered with good intentions. Not that he had really had any of those. Just selfish ones.

Angel. Things always got back to him. A large part of Xander still hated the vampire. Hated him for what he was, yes, but mostly for what he had taken away from him. No, Xander corrected himself. He refused to go down that way again. It was not Angel's fault that Buffy had not fallen in love with him. In fact the vampire had done everything to stay away from Buffy at first, giving Xander more than his share of clear shots at wooing the girl of his dreams.

Only the shots had all misfired because Buffy was not interested.

It was an ugly truth, yes, but a truth nonetheless. Maybe it was time for Xander Harris to stare the truth in the face, no matter how ugly it was, no matter how ugly it made himself look. Maybe it was too late to make it right, maybe he had destroyed all hope of ever reconciling with his friends.

He would never know, though, unless he tried.

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Part 2

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Buffy and Angel arrived at the library shortly after dark, having spent most of the day asleep after the exertion of the last few days. Buffy was more than a bit on edge, though, both because of the situation with Xander and also because of her mother's nagging about getting her a private tutor if she really did not want to return to high school. Well, nagging was probably the wrong word to use, Buffy admitted. She remembered what her mother could be like if she was really pushing things, so this was rather harmless.

It did not help that Angel seemed to think her mother was right, though he had not said it in so many words.

Some part of Buffy had to admit that the two of them might actually be right about this. She had learned a lot from Angel during their journey through Hell, but he would be the first to confess that he was not really on the up and up about things you needed to know to make it through the late 20th century alive. Or the early 21st century for that matter.

Still, it was a stupid idea. She was fifty years old, damn it. She spoke more languages than Giles, knew more about art and literature than her mother. She had no idea how many candles should be on her next birthday cake, but it would have to be in the fifties at least. How could they expect her to listen to some teacher or stuffy private tutor who had absolutely no idea what she had gone through or how far her knowledge reached in some areas?

Thoughts for another day, she mused. Right know they really had more important things than school to worry about.

"Ah, Buffy! Angel," Giles greeted them as they entered the library shortly after sundown. "We're all here then."

All meaning Willow, Oz, Faith, and even Cordelia. Buffy remembered Willow telling her that Cordelia was busy campaigning for Homecoming Queen at the moment, adding that Cordy had mentioned something about her chances having increased a whole lot since she had ditched that loser she had once called a boyfriend.

That comment did not go together with the worried look on her face, though.

Cordelia was not the only one looking worried. Willow was fidgeting in her seat, a bundle of nervous energy with no place to go. Oz was stoic as ever, but some part of his girlfriend's nervousness seemed to bleed off on him. His left eyebrow was twitching now and then. The only one who seemed halfway relaxed was Faith, though Buffy's sister Slayer seemed to be pissed about something.

When Buffy sat down in the chair beside Faith she learned why.

"G-man introduced me to my new tutor today," Faith mumbled, making the word 'tutor' sound very dirty. "Stuffed broad nearly fainted when she saw me in my leathers. Then she said that next week we're gonna start with algebra. What the fuck do I need algebra for?"

"Maybe you could calculate the exact angle at which your stake penetrates a vampire's heart," Buffy proposed, glad for anything that distracted her from her own thoughts at the moment. Said thoughts being an ongoing discussion with herself whether she should leave one Xander Harris to rot, even though she knew he was innocent. Of this particular crime at least.

"Very funny, B," Faith told her with mock anger in her voice. "Let's see you come to me with your pain when your mom finds the perfect tutor for you."

Buffy gave Faith a rather panicked look. Seeing as the dark-haired Slayer lived with her mother for the time being there was a distinct possibility that she might know more about Joyce's plans to further her daughter's education than her. The prospect did little to calm her down.

"Now that we are all here," Giles finally said, thankfully distracting Buffy from her bleak educational future, "we should get to the matter at hand. As you all know I visited Xander in prison today."

"Is he all right?" Willow leaned forward, looking a bit chided a moment later. "I just ... I just worry."

Buffy bit back a response, swallowing her anger. The things Xander had done to her and Angel had to take a back seat for the moment, if only for the moment. This was not about Xander. This was about finding the real murderer of a girl who, in another life, had been something of a friend to Buffy. She just needed to remind herself of that regularly, then everything would be okay.

She absently noticed that Cordelia seemed quite interested in Giles' response to Willow's question as well.

"He is well, physically at least," Giles said. "As for his state of mind, well, I can't really judge that from the few minutes I saw him, but it seems he is quite distressed over the things that happened. He ... well, he expressed feelings that prison might be the right place for him."

No one said anything to that, though Buffy could see that Willow wanted to. She knew that the redhead had sheer infinite compassion and was perfectly capable of forgiving everyone, but Buffy really did not want to hear her defend Xander right now. He did deserve far worse than prison. Not because of Amy, no, but because of all the other things he had done. Thankfully Willow kept her quiet, whether it was because of her own anger towards Xander or just out of consideration towards Buffy was not really important right now.

"Be that as it may," Giles continued, "the more important news is that our resident police force does not seem to eager to work on this case. Xander has not been questioned since he was brought in and, as we know, there was no investigation worth the name at Amy's home."

"The police in this town couldn't get a cat out from a tree," Faith remarked. "I thought Boston was bad, but at least there the cops pretended to be interested in solving crimes."

"The Sunnydale police, like the rest of the town, has more than its share of happy ignorance," Giles sighed. "Even considering that, though, there are some strange things going on here. As it seems they have absolutely no proof that Xander is the culprit except that someone saw him come out of Amy's house last night, which makes for something considerably less than a watertight case."

"Do we know anything about how Amy was killed?" Buffy did not want to hear any more about how Xander right now.

"Yes. It appears her throat was slashed with a knife. The murder weapon remained in the house."

"So no vampires," Willow said unhappily, trying to chase the images of dead Amy from her mind. "At least with those we would have ..."

"It could very well be the work of a vampire," Angel interrupted her. "In most larger towns the vampires are not as careless as in Sunnydale. The practice of slashing a victim's throat in order to disguise the bite marks left behind is actually quite common."

"Shouldn't they be able to tell?" Faith looked at Giles. "On TV they can always tell whether a wound was inflicted before or after the victim croaked."

"I'm no forensics expert," Giles admitted, "but I believe you're right about that. If they actually perform any kind of autopsy on Amy they should discover whether the knife wound was the actual cause of death or not."

"If they do," Willow repeated. "What if they don't?"

"We can't depend on the cops to solve this," Buffy told everyone. "Odds are Amy was killed in connection with the spell she cast two nights ago and that means it's our business, even if Amy hadn't been a friend."

"Correct," Giles nodded. "Buffy, Angel, look by Amy's house. Maybe your superhuman senses can make out something the cops missed."

"Ah, there could be a slight problem there, Giles," Buffy reminded him. "Neither Angel nor I can enter a home uninvited, remember? And Amy's dad is still alive, so ..."

"Yes, I did not think of that. Maybe ..."

"No prob, I'll go along," Faith said. "I like going places where I'm not invited."

"No, Faith, someone needs to patrol tonight. Maybe whatever killed Amy is looking for more victims tonight."

"I can go with them," Oz offered.

"Right," Willow agreed. "Maybe you can smell something. He's got a really good nose even on not-full-moon nights, did you know?"

Oz just smiled at his girlfriend's babbling, then looked at Buffy and Angel.

"We good to go?"

"We gone! Happy hunting tonight, Faith!"

"Thanks, B. But if I run into your killer and dust him before you can fingerprint him don't complain to me!"

"I won't, promise!"

Giles looked after them, then turned toward Willow and Cordelia.

"Willow, I want you to try and get some insight into the police investigation with the computer. Maybe you can find out why they are taking things so slowly."

"You want me to use the library computer to do something highly illegal?" Willow asked him with a big smile on her face.

Giles rolled his eyes. "Why do you find such pleasure in always asking me to say that in so many words?"

Cordelia ignored the exchange between Giles and Willow, her thoughts instead straying to someone who was currently sitting in a jail cell and wondering how it was that, after everything that had happened, she still found herself worrying about him.

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Part 3

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Faith strolled through the graveyard whistling, twirling a stake in her right hand. It was good to be the Slayer, she mused. One never needed to worry about finding an outlet for frustration or tension. Just find the nearest graveyard and beat up a few vampires or assorted demons. And this being Sunnydale you never had to walk very far to find a graveyard.

Not that she would ever admit it, but the last two days had left her a bit peeved. It was not so much about Giles finding her a tutor to continue her education (and not caring in the least about her repeated statements that she had fully intended to end said education when she dropped out of high school). No, it was more than that.

She had only been in Sunnydale for little over two weeks now, but it already felt much longer than that. She felt closer to these people she had basically only just met than she had to anyone else for a long, long time. Yet these last two days she had become only too acutely aware of her status as the new gal, still an outsider.

Everything was about Xander Harris, a guy she had never even met. She knew the cliff notes version of what had happened, what Xander had done to make Buffy so incredibly pissed at him, but it was hard to get into the mood when she did not even know the guy her sister Slayer obviously regarded as the scum of the Earth.

It was easier with Amy, at least she had met the girl once before she got killed. Though she was not exactly proud of feeling that way it was hard to get all worked up over the death of someone you did not know.

Faith shook her head. Where were the vampires? She needed to vent a little.

As if on cue she heard someone scream, causing a big smile to bloom on her face. Okay, she admitted to herself as she started running, she probably should not be so happy about someone's life being in danger, but she could not help it. Some nasty demon would have a really bad night and she would get rid of all that tension in a productive manner.

The scream suddenly cut off and instead she heard a very strange and disgusting sound just around the corner of the crypt in front of her. It sounded like someone dropping a big pile of jelly on a hard floor.

"Vampires eating jelly?" Faith mumbled, but did not slow down, skidding around the corner with her stake at the ready.

The thing she was facing was definitely not a vampire.

"What the fuck are you?"

The thing did not answer her. It was the shape of a man, at least roughly, but no one could not possibly mistake it for human. It was at least eight feet tall, maybe more, and seemed made completely from a grayish, slightly transparent substance that wobbled and quivered with every small movement. Faith was not sure what it was, but boy was it ugly.

A muffled sound made her look to the side, where she saw a woman lying on the ground. The source of the scream, most likely. The woman was covered in the same grayish substance that seemed to comprise the creature in front of her and part of it had clamped right across her mouth and nose. Her face was turning blue and she stared at Faith with panic in her eyes, struggling for breath.

"Be with you in a sec," Faith told the woman, then jumped at the gray monster standing in front of her. It did not appear to have any eyes, but Faith was sure it had been staring at her the whole time. She aimed a kick directly at his head, or what she thought to be his head.

Her foot went into the grayish goo and stuck there.

"What the ...," was all she had time to say before the demon swirled her around. Her last word turned into a long yell and suddenly her foot slipped free, just in time to send her flying into the crypt wall.

The only good thing about hitting the stone hard enough to crack it was the fact that she came to lie right next to the suffocating woman.

"Okay, change of priorities," Faith mumbled, tearing at the stuff on the woman's face. It was harder than what she had just felt close up around her foot (she did her best to ignore the icky wet slime clinging there), stretching like hard rubber. Faith needed her full strength to tear it off, along with a few layers of skin. The woman drew in a shuddering breath, no air to scream. Yet.

"You better get out of ...," Faith began.

"Look out," the woman yelled with her first returning breath.

Faith moved by pure instinct, jumping out of the way of something that hit the stone wall of the crypt with a wet splat. More of the gray slime, she saw. The demon, its head still with a hole in it, turned to follow her.

The woman was trying to get free, Faith saw, but had little luck doing so. More of the slime was pinning her to the ground, sticking like glue. Faith quickly took a knife from her boot (a lot easier to carry around than that sword Buffy always used, she thought) and threw it to her.

"Cut yourself free," Faith yelled, ducking yet another dose of slime. "I'll distract this thing."

The woman quickly began sawing herself free with the knife, the hardened slime parting around the blade. Cutting it appeared to work just fine, thankfully. Faith had only half an eye to spare for her, though. The thing was still following her movements and she did not think that hitting it would really accomplish more than getting her hands and feet stuck.

Finally the woman was free and quickly ran away, leaving Faith with one less thing to worry about. Unfortunately it also left her without a knife, seeing as the woman had just dropped it to the ground a good twenty feet away.

"Don't mention it, all part of the service," Faith mumbled, working on keeping some distance between her and the slime thing. It suddenly appeared tired to throw yet more slime at her, though, and froze where it stood.

Faith was suspicious, but did not intend to waste the opportunity. Jumping past the thing she rolled across the ground and grabbed her knife. The slime monster might laugh at kicks, but maybe getting its head cut off would not be so much fun.

Before she could put that plan into action, though, the slime monster just collapsed into a big puddle of slime and started to get soaked up by the grass.

"Hey, no fair!" Faith sprinted to the spot where it was disappearing. "I didn't even get to ..."

Without warning the slime exploded from the ground, Faith running right into it. It hit her like a runaway train and knocked her for a loop, sending her tumbling into a nearby tombstone which broke under the impact.

Faith was left lying stunned in a puddle of grayish slime even as the largest part of the puddle that had been a man-shaped heap of slime just seconds ago trickled into the ground and vanished.

TO BE CONTINUED