Spike watched Buffy as she sat on the deck stairs. This is it, mate. Now or never, he thought.

Buffy glanced up as Spike neared her. "What do you want?" she spat, her voice dripped with contempt.

"We need to talk, Slayer. Can I sit?"

Buffy ignored him. "If this is about what happened at the police station, I don't want to hear it. You were right, I get it."

Spike eased down next to her. "It's not about that, but it's nice to hear that I did something right. This is about us."

Buffy laughed humorlessly. "There is no 'us.'"

"There is to me."

"Yeah, well you're a monster."

Spike closed his eyes and worked his jaw. "I know."

Buffy glanced at him, her eyes widened slightly. "What is it?"

"I'm leaving." He didn't look at her. He couldn't bring himself to. Whether she was joyful, indifferent or crying, he wouldn't have been able to take it.

"So, you're just like all the others." Buffy's voice trembled softly.

Spike shook his head and finally looked at her; her eyes were glossed over with tears. "No, I'm not. But I can't be with you anymore. It's killing you."

Buffy stood. She kept her back to him as she talked. "Right. For my own good. Isn't that why everybody around me does everything? It's why Angel left me; why Xander convinced me that it was my fault that Riley left me. It's why Willow brought me back. Hell, it's even why Giles left me." She turned on Spike, pointing accusingly at him. "I thought you were different. I thought you would be the one that-" She shook her head. "I guess I was wrong."

Spike lunged to his feet. "You think this is easy for me? You think I want to leave you? There's nothing I'd love more than to just pretend everything was fine; to stay here with you." He bit back his emotions and fought to keep the flood gates closed. "I love you so god damn much."

"So you leave me," Buffy sneered.

"Yeah, so I leave you."

"That's shit, Spike. If you want to go, then go. But don't pretend that you're doing it for me. Don't even try."

Spike grabbed Buffy's shoulders and pulled her close, their faces inches apart. "I love you, and that's the reason I have to leave you." Spike pressed his lips to hers. Their worlds came together; Vampire, Slayer, nothing mattered as long as they were touching. Spike head swam, Buffy's lips intoxicated him, as his did to her. They pulled apart slowly and he rested his forehead on hers.

"Please, Spike. Please don't leave me." Tears slid freely down her cheeks. "Please," she whispered.

Spike wrapped his arms around her and brought their bodies flush. "I wish I didn't have to. I want to stay here and make love to you, but you can't be with a monster, Buffy."

"I want to be with you, please. You're not a monster, Spike."

He moved his hands up and cupped her face. "You've been in the shadows too long; it's time you shined again." He slid his calloused thumb pads over her cheeks, wiping the tears away. "I'll always love you, Slayer."

"Will you really?"

"Yeah."

"Then swear that you'll come back." Buffy gazed up at Spike pleadingly.

"I swear."

Buffy squeezed her eyes shut and let Spike hold her. "Iā€”could love you too, Spike."

Spike kissed the top of her head and hugged her tightly. "No, you couldn't. Not when I don't have a soul. You're too good for that."

Buffy leaned the side of her face against Spike chest. "If you're so sure I can't love you, than why do you act like this? Why do you still love me?" Her words were soft, spoken too low for a human to hear.

"Because even monsters aspire."

Spike was hesitant to let the moment end. To let Buffy go, to leave Sunnydale. To leave his heart. But he knew it was time. Now or never.

Spike kissed her one last time and whispered his goodbye. He pulled back from her warm embrace, away from her glowing effulgence, and moved back into the shadows he was born into, and that he would someday fight out of.

"I love you, Buffy Anne Summers. I'll be back, I'll give you what you deserve, I swear."