But I was moving away from that. The air was thick and foul, but I felt a lightness. A fog... A fog over me was lifting. It seemed I could see clearer, away from that place, where hissing things crouched and reminded me of my sins.
We had come to a place. Familiar. My place. The crypt, of course. I was remembering things. It was easier to think out here; it was as if I'd been breathing tar but now there was sweet air.
"Buffy," I said, turning to her, feeling for a moment such perfect clarity. "I've gone mad, haven't I?"
But the clouds came rippling back. They always do. And then there was confusion.
I lay on my bed. She was there, the girl, the one who... The one. But I slept, and when I woke she was gone, of course.
Night time now.
I looked down at myself. Unclean. Dark. There was a fistful of dollars in my pocket. I went out into the town. Bought clothes. They were white, like snow. Like the innocence I wished I still had. Even in my evil I was somehow innocent, because I didn't really know what I know now.
Guilt. Regret. Those aren't big enough words for it. Not wide enough, not strong enough. But it's a start. When I was evil, my actions had no consequences, not really. Not like now.
I knew what I had to do. I went into the crypt, filled with all my things. The bed where I had... with her. That would be first to go. I lit the matches.
Outside, in the dark, I watched the flames lick the interior of my crypt. Consume it. After a while, the fire died down. Only the stone left, the cool stone of the tomb.
I stepped inside and looked around. Great piles of ashes. I looked down at myself, my new white shirt. It was grey with ash. No matter how hard I try to be clean, the dirt just shows through. I laughed. My head felt clearer again, surveying the wreckage of my old life.
"I have gone," I said, to nobody in particular, "bloody mental." And I laughed, feeling for a moment almost like a normal man.
((Open for Buffy after she goes home - this is the evening of the day Willow has returned, in case anyone has lost track. The First can piss Spike off a bit too if it wants.))