Her brain shut down. There wasn't even a warning light. No emergency generator blinked on. She could only stare at him.
She had thought, before this minute, that she had planned for every possibility. She had bags packed, money and passports on hand so they'd be ready to run. She had imagined Willow showing up, with Kennedy or without her; Giles coming, understanding, angry. Rarely would Dawn appear, but Buffy usually saw her crying when she did imagine her there. She had conducted rigorous exercises in planning for any circumstance, but this had never occurred to her, that he would be the one to come. She did not know why. Perhaps she thought he would be too busy or that he would not care. Perhaps she had hoped that there would be enough compassion remaining for her so as not to make her face him.
"Hi, I'm Ren," piped a little voice from Buffy's elbow, oblivious to her mother's shocked struggle.
"Hi, Ren. I'm Angel." He crouched so they were level and extended a hand. She shook it solemnly.
"How do you know my mom?" Ren demanded with a child's forthrightness.
Buffy could see Angel looking up at her.
It's strange to look down at Angel instead of him looking down at me, she thought bemusedly.
"We used to live in the same town when your mom was younger," Angel told Ren quietly. A laugh like choking came from Buffy's throat at this understatement. Ren looked at her suspiciously.
"Mommy, are you going to throw up?"
"No, sweetheart, I'm fine. But I need to talk to Angel for a minute. Why don't we see if he has any toys and you can have a slice of cake." She did not ask Angel if this was okay. If he was betraying her, she could let her daughter mess up his apartment. She knew that Angel would not hurt Ren, not physically, not now. They might not have spoken for more than ten minutes in nearly a decade, but she still trusted him and his character.
Ren looked at her, surprised. She was rarely allowed to go to other people's houses, especially not strangers'. "Okay." She reached for Angel's hand and pulled him into the apartment. "Do you have toys, Angel?"
To Angel's credit, he did not look too shocked. "Let's go see what we can do in that department."
By the time Ren was on the floor of the living room playing with some blocks Angel had scrounged for her, Buffy had made herself comfortable in his kitchen (which was almost an exact replica of hers, except with dark blue curtains framing the window over his sink instead of the plain white ones she had) and cut herself a generous slice of Evelyn's cake. If her world was going to hell in a hand basket, her diet could go with it.
Angel entered the kitchen and leaned against the sink. He opened his mouth to speak but Buffy beat him to it.
"So you just happened to have some children's blocks lying around your bachelor pad?"
His answer was seemed excessively quiet and calm in the face of her vitriol. "They told me that you had a daughter."
"Oh, is that why you showed up? To glare jealously and growl in her father's face?"
"She's adopted, Angel. I'm not married and I don't have a boyfriend. You can leave now."
"They told me that she's adopted, Buffy. I'm not here about that."
She was smiling at him in a way he had never wanted to see her smile. It was the expression of someone who had experienced so much misery that they had forgotten that there was happiness somewhere in the world. "So what are you here for? Selling Girl Scout cookies? Cut to the chase, Angel. Just get on with it. But if you try to get me back there, I'll knock you out and run and we'll never see each other again."
"Damn it, Buffy! Give me thirty seconds to explain."
She looked at the second hand of the clock over his sink; she was unsurprised that he owned an analog clock when digital was so much easier to read. "You've got twenty seconds. And I'm timing them. Go."
"I've been looking for you for two years now. I was having no luck. About six months ago, Dawn contacted me and told me about Ren. I changed my search parameters, called in some favors- it was tough, the way you hid your spectral auras like that- and found you here. They told me everything about why you ran away, but I'm not here to force you to go back to them."
"So what are you here for?"
"I just wanted to make sure you were happy."
"You rented and furnished an apartment just to see if I was happy? I'm trying to decide if that's stalking of the illegal variety, or just creepy."
For a moment, she thought he was going to step toward her and she moved back a little. Maybe he had never intended to move or maybe he had decided against it once he saw her skittishness, but either way he remained leaning against his sink, his arms crossed.
"I'm not stalking you. I love you and I just wanted to make sure you're alright."
"I think that you're dictionary needs checking, but regardless, I'm fine. Will you be informing the super that you're leaving, or should I do it?"
"You're not fine, Buffy."
"Really? I'm not sure you're qualified to make that statement. It's been years since we've actually talked. You don't know me, Angel. Maybe you did once, but not anymore."
"I'd like to know you again."
"Tough luck. Now I'm thinking I go back to my apartment, you stay in yours until you're all packed and we don't see each other ever."
"I'm staying here. I am going to live my life and if it happens to coincide with yours, I guess we'll know what's meant to be."
"Guess we will," she said dangerously. She rose and strode into the front room. "Ren, we're leaving."
"Alright," the little girl said peaceably. "Bye, Angel."
"Yes, bye Angel," Buffy said, lifting her daughter up and settling her on her hip. Ren was tiny for a six year old, bony and slim.
"I guess we'll see each other soon," Angel said quietly, seriously.
"Actually, I don't expect we'll be seeing you again." Buffy's voice was equally quiet, filled with meaning and threat. Angel could see in her eyes that if he tried to touch the girl in her arms, she would kill him without a thought.