This was not happening.
Buffy stood, frozen on the spot, in the middle of the cafeteria, her eyes locked with those of the mischievously smiling brown-haired girl who was sitting at a nearby table.
"Buffy, what –"
Xander exclaimed after having narrowly stopped himself from tripping, even managing to keep most of the food inside his tray.
Next to them, Willow cast her ever-earnest eyes on Buffy, before following her friend's stare to the girl –
The girl who sat among other students, but not with them.
The girl whose red smile was like a burning iron to Buffy's brain.
"That's, uh –"
Xander tried to follow the silent conversation that was going on around him, while failing to completely look indifferent to the fact that they were drawing several inquisitive glances. This was without mentioning that they were creating a bit of a jam, standing in the way of other students and their meals, which was never a truly safe place to be standing.
"That's the new student," Xander said finally.
There was no need to introduce her more properly.
Sunnydale was no thrilling place, and the fact that a new girl had been signed into the local high school in the middle of October had been enough to make the news.
Buffy had heard about her, yes.
But she had not known, had not thought –
"Buffy, what is it?" Concern broke loose into Willow's tone. "Is she – I mean – do you –"
Though she was too far to catch any of Willow's stammering, Faith shot a cat-like look at Buffy and her group, before holding out her palm and pressing it to her lips, before blowing them a kiss.
If the three of them standing in the middle of the cafeteria hadn't completely captured the other students' attention, Faith's kiss was impossible to ignore.
Cheeks burning with anger, Buffy looked straight ahead of her and made for the first table available. She did not even look back to see if Willow and Xander were following.
"What was that?"
"Later," Buffy said.
She didn't mean to snap. This was in no way her friends' fault, and yet she found it safer not to look higher than her plate of congealed stew, so they wouldn't be on the receiving end of the blaze of her fuming stare.
She could have told me she was coming.
Could have let me know instead of just showing up here.
True, Buffy hadn't spoken to Faith in months – three months, to be exact, and that had only amounted to a few lines on WhatsApp to wish her a happy birthday.
Then there was a nagging voice in Buffy's head, saying it was all very well to blame Faith for coming here unannounced, but she, Buffy, wasn't winning any sister-of-the-year awards.
You don't call. You hardly write.
Yes, but –
But did that give Faith the right to commit what felt like a huge breach of Buffy's privacy?
Sunnydale was her town. Faith could have all the rest of California, and she'd been happy enough staying with their dad while Buffy remained here with their mother, a peaceful equilibrium that just couldn't come undone without some sort of warning.
"That's Faith, isn't it?"
Buffy looked up from her untouched plate and met Willow's eyes in startle.
Xander unceremoniously dropped the banana he'd been peeling, as if the moment demanded ceremony.
"Your mom keeps a photo of her in the wall above the staircase. I didn't recognize her at first."
Buffy couldn't blame her for that. Faith was no older than ten years old on the picture Willow was speaking of, and the witchy, dark-clad teenager that had blown them a kiss from her table had come a long way off from that little girl.
"Yes," Buffy saw no point in denying.
Xander looked behind his shoulder and hastily retreated when the two girls hissed.
But his attempts at stealth were a complete failure as he stole glances toward Faith's table.
"Wow. She doesn't – I mean, you don't look alike at all."
"And she didn't tell you she was coming here?"
Xander licked his lips self-consciously at Buffy's silence.
"Naturally, she didn't," he said, "or this lunch would have been scene-free. Well. Silence is a virtue I must get the hang of."
"Do you want to go and talk to her?"
"Not right now," Buffy said.
Although she supposed, sooner or later, she would have to.
And Faith's eyes, burning holes in the back of her skull, told her it would most likely be sooner.
Buffy was silent, facing her reflection in the dirty mirror hanging above the sink in the girls' bathroom. The excuse she'd given Willow and Xander was that she needed to freshen up, and so she splashed water over her face and neck, and applied a fresh layer of lipstick. But the touch of the tube on her lips was distant. Her whole body felt like a random accumulation of body parts, unconnected to a coherent core.
Buffy thought of Faith's grin at the table again and anger stiffened her hand into a fist, causing the tube to draw a pinkish line across her cheek.
She pressed both hands against the edge of the sink and looked down, the tube still in one fist, trying to quiet the wild throb of her heartbeat inside her chest.
She hated that Faith had had the liberty to burst in, unannounced, rocking the peaceful flow that was Buffy's high school life in Sunnydale.
Most of all, she hated how her anger mingled with guilt, and the nagging voice in her head that wondered, Why didn't she warn you? What did you do wrong along the way that your own sister would move and not bother to let you know?
To hell with this.
Just because Buffy was a year and a half older than Faith, her whole life had revolved around her sister. When Faith was hungry, sleepy, hurt, bored, she cooked, nursed her, entertained her. When their mother was at work, struggling with the task of raising two daughters with a three-quarters absentee father, it was Buffy who was to 'watch Faith', to make her macaroni for dinner, to get her to bed even when Faith protested.
True, Faith had seemed to hate the imbalance in their relationship as much as she did.
And yet Buffy could not help from viewing her sister as an ungrateful child, which was maybe revealing as to how much the habit of taking care of Faith had left its mark on her.
It hadn't really struck her, as they were growing up, that there was deep, genuine resent in Faith's constant defiance. That her persistent rebelliousness and refusal to make it easier on Buffy was a way of saying she took the whole 'being taken care of' thing as a betrayal.
After all, why did Buffy have to do what their mother asked?
Why couldn't the both of them make the law in the house, sleep when they were tired, eat whatever was close at hand? Why couldn't they have spent those childhood years as equals – as sisters, each supporting the other, without need for rules and obedience?
"What is it, B?"
Buffy looked up immediately and saw her sister's snow-white face reflected in the glass, behind her.
"Not happy to see me, are you?"
"No." Buffy turned around. "I mean, of course, that's not –"
"Oh, spare yourself the effort of putting up a show of sisterliness."
Just with her smile, Faith made a mockery of the polished façade Buffy was trying to keep in place.
Whatever resent Faith may have felt in the past, there was none left in her voice now. "We never got along, I know. I was a spoiled brat, you were a tight-ass. Let's get that out of the way."
"Look, I have friends waiting –"
"Oh no, you don't have to worry. I told the pair that was waiting for you outside we needed a little quality time, just between sis."
Buffy felt her jaw wanting to drop and clenched it tight instead.
"You had no right to –"
"I've got every right, B."
A surprising seriousness had crept into Faith's tone.
"We need to talk, you and me."
A new surge of boiling rage swam to Buffy's mouth.
"You're right," she said. "Why don't we start with how you could be so selfish to come here without even telling mom? Do you know what this is going to do to her?"
Faith burst into sprinkling peals of laughter. "So typical Buffy. I say we need to talk, you immediately assume you're going to do the talking. Well, I've got news for you, B. Important news."
Her red grin grew wider on her lips.
"This is all a game to you?"
"Like I'm still a little kid," Faith sighed. "No, it's not a game. It's very, very important business. Not that you and I aren't going to have insane amounts of fun with it."
"You know what?" Buffy snapped. "I've got better things planned for the afternoon than listening to you and your mind tricks. So if there's really anything important you need to tell me, do it. Now. Or I'm leaving."
Faith chuckled, smiling still with that smile Buffy wanted to snatch from her lips.
"Okay, well. If this feels brutal, you've had it coming."
"Just spit it out –"
"You and I are slayers, Buffy. We're the last remaining hope to defeat the forces of evil in this world and save humanity."
End Notes: I'm co-writing this fanfiction with my twin sister, who's going to handle Faith's POV. So excited about this. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Take care!