Not Always A Winner
by Whistler's Girl
Rating: R

Disclaimer: I disclaim to own the creations of Joss. Or anything else for that matter.
Spoilers: Some references.
Author's Notes: Sequel to `Love You Enough (To Leave You)', `Gone But Not Forgotten', `The Right Place To Stay', `If Only You Knew', `For The Moment' , `You'll Understand' and `Flying On Melted Wings'. I suggest reading them or this might not make too much sense. I might be going back and forth with this series...but it's a relationship that's worth exploring.
More Notes: This is it... the final, final chapter in this oh-so complicated series. Thanks to Anne, Sam, Piper and everybody else for the encouraging feedback!!!

	"The whirligig of time brings in
	his revenges."

		- Twelfth Night, Shakespeare

I don't think anyone who loved anybody as much as I love Faith would just let up and give up without even trying. This is one of those relationships that drains all the energy out of you because you don't want anything more from the world than to get it right.

Last night I was working the night shift at the restaurant and was surprised when Angel strolled in just before closing time. The place was generally empty with the exception of me and Old Ben who was slumped over the bar. Between the two of us, Angel and me managed to get him out and on his way home and then we had the place to ourselves.

I was still pissed off at Faith at this point, but missed her beyond pain. Angel was the last person I wanted to see because he reminded me of her; she'd picked up so many of his traits and vice versa, so it was difficult for me to look at him without wanting to breakdown.

He sat at the bar and I served him a water with a lime twist. Not that he'd be able to taste it too well anyway, having vampy taste buds and all. Anyway, I was cleaning the restaurant up and he just sat there silently, which was excruciating when I looked up and saw the pensive expression on his face. I sauntered over to him and asked him what the sitch was, why he had decided to visit me out of the blue.

"You need Faith."

A good-solid statement if I had ever heard one, and he was so damn sure of himself it was like a smack to the face. I couldn't even answer him. He ran a finger around the rim of his glass and picked up the lime, breaking it apart slowly as he began to speak. He told me how he found Faith sat in shock in the hotel on the reception desk the evening after I threw her out.

"You destroyed her, Buffy. You're lucky she didn't disappear back into the dark place."

Apparently Cordelia had scared decades off of her own life trying to bring Faith back to the real world. She slapped her, shook her, threw water at her, almost called a doctor; and then Angel arrived and Faith snapped out of her daze straight away, spilling the details on our own night of pure happiness that turned into pure horror.

"She left me first." I reminded him but he just laughed it off. I wanted to snap a leg off of the wooden stool he was sitting on and ram it through his chest.

Angel explained how Faith was trying to do a selfless act to save me from her, from myself... and that I just threw it back in her face. The conversation started to escalate to a full blown argument when Angel suddenly stood up and slammed his fists on the bar, glowering at me from under hooded brow.

"You aren't always a winner, Buffy!"

He was right. He knew my number one fear and he had the nerve to yell it at my face, to look me in the eye and say it to me straight up. That's when my shoulders slumped, my barriers fell and Angel stood down, giving me... no, *telling* me something that I couldn't say no to. It was too late even if I had wanted to.

He'd uncovered some connections with `some old friends' and offered his own life in exchange for Faith and myself to share ours together. At midnight the next day, time would turn back to that night Faith was leaving me.

"Angel...this can't...it's not possible..."

"It's up to you to fight for her, Buffy. Don't let her go. Use everything you have, everything in your power... forget your pride, forget your dignity. You aren't always a winner Buffy, but in this case you can be. You just need to give up everything to gain everything in return."

Angel gave me the address of Faith's home and offices across LA and told me to be there in good time for the event. I pushed the piece of paper back into his hands and shook my head, sobbing. He couldn't give up his own existence just so Faith and I could be happy, just so we would be together, just so...so he could find peace.

"I understand it now, Buffy. It's what I need to do, to be free and I couldn't have asked for anything better to do. You and Faith belong together... I have said that from the beginning of your relationship, and you know it."

He went on to say how much it hurt him to see us together and how much joy it brought him to see us both content. I didn't have the strength or the will to argue with him, because I knew this was a deal that Angel couldn't break. It was signed, sealed and ready to be delivered and there was nothing in the world that could take it back and stop it from happening.

"So get everything out in the open before midnight. Nobody will remember a thing but you. You can't tell anybody...not even Faith or history will just repeat itself and she'll go, but won't come back. Not ever. The gang will believe I was killed in battle and will cope on their own. I won't feel a thing, I won't even *know*. You must do this Buffy. For me...for Faith."

That did it. Every doubt fled my mind and I was already planning the easiest route to take to Faith's place. I grabbed Angel into a long, thankful hug. A piece of my heart was still with him and always would be. There aren't enough words in any dictionary or language to explain my gratitude... Angel was really living up to his name.

"Look after her, Buffy. That's all I ask."

And that was it. We said our goodbyes and I was on my way to what you might call destiny.

Only I found my destiny wrapped up in the arms of another woman... namely Fred - , and all those tiny little doubts crept back into my mind once again forming one great big one. Maybe Angel has just wasted a lifetime of saving lives that are worth saving.

I'm blocking and throwing punches at Faith and we're right at the nucleus of a nasty shouting match. Everything out in the open, Angel? You're getting that wish. Even if I don't mean half of the things I'm saying to her right now, I know she does... but I forgive each and every word the second it escapes her lips.

We have ten minutes to go...I don't have time to be angry with her.

I wasn't so keen to forgive when I first walked in. When I demanded what was going on, Faith quickly scrambled to her feet and made sure there was a decent distance between herself and Fred before stammering that age old excuse `it's not what you think'. I laughed at her.

"Oh that's original."

"But it isn't." Added Fred, bumbling as usual. "What you think. If you think its something bad, it isn't. Well I mean, we're not like doing anything. Faith was upset so I was trying to comfort her. But I wasn't trying to *comfort* her."

"Of course not." I smirked at the dizzy brunette. "But I'm sure she enjoyed it nonetheless."

Faith turned to Fred and apologised to her and I stormed up to them, telling them it was rude to whisper and if there was something going on I had a right to know. Well I did! Me and Faith might as well have been born into a relationship because we had the whole soul mate thing going on. We both knew that the other would never find someone else that would ever be as close.

"What is it to you anyway, B? We're over... I can do what I like...or *who* I like."

I gave Fred the once over with my eyes and felt a pang of jealousy soar through me like a tidal wave. I knew Faith was lying but still, it hurt.

"So you're together?" I asked Fred.

"Don't answer that, Fred, it's none of her business."

Faith steps in front of Fred in a protective gesture, the same way she used to with me. Again with the jealousy...not good. Not liking this at all.

"You always were the slut in this relationship, huh Faith?"

"Ooh," Fred cringed and walked away from behind Faith, cowering behind the desk. "You really shouldn't have said the `S' word... that's really gonna piss her off."

"Fred, get outta here!"

Faith sounded exasperated, tired. She was emotionally exhausted and I could see in her eyes that I was the cause of it. I hated myself. Fred scampered off up the stairs calling a quick `good luck' that was seriously misplaced.

Faith took a threatening step towards me. She reminded me that it was what I wanted, that the ball had been in my court and I decided to throw it at her face, full assault. She grabbed my head hard and crushed her mouth against mine before pushing me away and delivering a roundhouse kick at my chest.

And that's where we are now.

Five minutes to go.

Nearly all the furniture in the apartment is in pieces, the curtains are on fire and the flames aren't hesitating to spread elsewhere. If there was going to be a tomorrow, I know that both of us would be in a sore state if we survived this. We're killing each other... verbally, physically...emotionally.

"I loved you!"

Faith grabs a lamp-stand and swings it at my head... I duck it easily. She swings it back in the opposite direction, and I'm lucky I stayed down or my head could be rolling off to the other side of the room right about now. I take advantage of a moment of weakness as she looks for something else to throw at me and I lunge at her. We tumble to the floor and I straddle her hips, pinning her wrists to her sides.

"It doesn't have to be like this!"

"That a fact?"

She bucks once, twice and then lifts her torso, giving me a nasty head shot.

Check out the pretty stars.

I'm on my back and when I open my eyes there are three Faith's standing above me, holding a knife. Oh my god...what the hell?

"I tried and I tried and I *tried*, B! But you just don't get it, do you? You never get it!"

"Faith no, please... you can't..." I struggle to get up, blinded by panic, dizzy from the head-shot, overflowing with fear, wanting to claw the love I feel for Faith from my heart so I can tackle her.

"I can B, and you know it. Angel always told me I had control over the darker side of me...and guess what? I've decided to unleash it."

She falls to the ground, her knees straddling my waist and one hand around my throat whilst the other holds the knife high. Tears from her eyes fall onto my face and merge with mine, burning my skin.

"I *tried* B...I tried *so* hard and you spat on me."

Sounds familiar...gotta stay awake...gotta fight her...gotta tell her I love her...

"If we can't be together then ... what's the point in either of us living?" She bows down and kisses me tenderly, her lips unbelievably soft considering her anger right now. "See you on the other side, B."

She thrusts the knife down.

//FLASH//

"Please B, you gotta let me go. Let me go."

I try to swallow down the mounting lump that's lodged firmly within my throat, but to no avail.

Why does it have to hurt?

Gently, slowly I pry her away from me. I cup her face and carefully place a shaky kiss on her cheek and then on her forehead as I fight the urge to break down in tears. I can't look at her as I turn around and approach the bed. I grab my bag and pull it over my shoulder as I walk briskly towards the door. I open the door, too afraid to look back, too afraid to do anything than walk on ahead. I'm holding my breath as I exit the room.

Walking down the corridor, I can still hear her sobs in the back of my mind, her beseeching words. I can still taste the salt from her tears on my lips and smell the coconut shampoo from her hair. I can still feel her touch.

Footsteps thunder through the floor behind me, followed by a desperate plea.

"Faith...please...I need you."

I keep walking. I'm not gonna let B fight with me on this. I wanna go. I have to go and she ain't gonna stop me. I have the power here ... and she isn't always going to be a winner.

A hand grabs my shoulder and spins me around. Hands cup my face and B's warm mouth melts into mine, her tongue forcing entry. Her hands are searching, frantic as they roam all over my body as though she's checking I'm still here. Not for much...not for much longer. No, Faith, don't let her beat you. It's for her own fucking good!

I push her away forcefully.

"B...no."

"Don't you dare even think about taking another step Faith, coz if you do I'm gonna tear your legs off. Don't you get it ... I *need* you here with me. If you leave you'll kill me, you won't make things better. You'll make things worse. I don't care what it takes, Faith, because I'm going to keep you here. It has to work. I *need* it to. We both do."

Holy fuck. She's really going all out with the begging, and B isn't a beggar. Never has been and as far as I'm concerned, she shouldn't be unless...unless she needs something enough.

She needs *me*.

"I'm not always a winner Faith, I know that now. But if you leave me now, like this...you're not winning either."

B approaches me, all caution and care, reaching out for me with quivering hands. Damn, who am I kidding? I can't leave her...she's B ... the girl I've wanted, needed, desired and loved since day one and now I have her, I want to let her go? Na-ah, I ain't doing that. I ain't ever doing that!

She embraces me warmly, stroking my hair, kissing my temple. Over and over she's whispering `please don't go' against my ear and it's pushing down all my pride, all the dignity. Tit for tat, right? She's just given up everything she's believed in to keep me here. She just admitted she isn't always a winner.

I brush my lips against hers gently before pressing a kiss over a tear that's fallen from her right eye. Her eyes shine with a renewed light, and she knows I'm gonna stick around. I take her hand, holding it softly against my cheek. The glow in her eyes slices through me like a knife and I'm melting for her all over again. I sigh and three little words I thought I'd never say again split through the comfortable silence between us.

"You just won."

The End

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