Laughter Needs No Tears
Pairings: B/A, C/Aus mentioned
Feedback: Please. Constructive criticism is always welcomed and appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with BtVS and AtS. (Characters, plots, and dialogue from the shows are borrowed with no infringement intent whatsoever.)
Distribution: Please ask and let me know where it's going.
Summary: Sequel to 'Laughter To Replace The Tears'. All characters are human. After losing what she thought was the ideal man for her, Buffy finds happiness in the most unexpected place, with the most unexpected person. This story is not Angelus or Cordelia friendly. If this offends you, you might not want to read this story.
Buffy was now working full-time at the art gallery left to her by her mother. Before her death Joyce had arranged for Anne, her assistant manager, to become the full-time gallery manager until Buffy finished college. After that, she would stay on and help until Buffy felt she could run the gallery on her own.
What no one counted on was the fact that Anne would become pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for five years and were about ready to give up hope when, what they considered the miracle pregnancy happened.
Now Buffy and Anne were trying to find the right person to help run the gallery until Buffy finished college.
Buffy was at her desk when she heard the door to the gallery open and since Anne was at lunch, she got up to see who had entered. She was almost knocked off her feet.
"What are you doing here?" she asked in a none too friendly voice.
Surprised at the greeting, the visitor said, "Uh, actually I was hoping you could help me. I'm looking for a particular painting and I was told in LA that you might have it and if you didn't have it, you would be the most likely person to help me find it."
Buffy noticed that the man had a slight Irish accent.
She took a deep calming breath before responding. "When did you pick up the accent, while you were on your honeymoon?"
"Ahh, I see the problem. Please don't mistake me for my cousin, Angelus; I'm Angel," the visitor said placing his hand on his chest and bowing his head slightly.
"You've got to do better than that Angelus. I've told you to stay away from me and I meant it."
The man was not offended by her reaction; actually he was used to it. "I know how we can resolve this," he said as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He removed a small photograph and showed it to Buffy. "This is a photograph of my cousin and me that was taken about ten years ago; it's kind of old, but I think you can see the resemblance."
Buffy stared at the photo and then at the visitor with her mouth open. "My gods, forgive me for staring, but you two could be twins."
"It's all right, I get that a lot. Actually our fathers are twins. I'm Liam O'Connor; my friends call me Angel. My cousin and I aren't really that much alike; after you get past the physical resemblance, we're not at all alike. For one thing, I'm a year older than he is."
"If not for the accent, I couldn't tell you two apart."
"Wait a minute, a-are you Buffy?"
"Yes. How do you know my name?"
"Two summers ago my cousin was raving about this girl that he had met, that he was so in love with. Her name was Buffy Summers; I remember the name because it is so unusual. The family wasn't at all surprised when he announced his engagement a year later; what shocked us was that he was marrying someone name Cordelia Chase."
"You and me both," she muttered under her breath.
"I beg your pardon. I didn't catch all of that."
"Please forgive me, I-...uh, why don't you tell me about the painting that you're looking for and I'll see what we can do to find it for you."
"Okay. Um, I was told that Joyce Summers was the person that I should ask for."
"Joyce was my mother, she died nearly two years ago. We have someone else managing the gallery until we can find a buyer. She's at lunch right now, if you'd prefer to speak to her, she should be back in less than an hour."
"No, no, it's fine. I'm sorry to hear about your mother. This is a lovely gallery; it's a shame to have to sell it."
"Thank you. I love this gallery, my mother loved it too; she put her heart and soul into it. I hate to sell it, but I haven't finished college yet and our temporary manager is pregnant and not planning to return to work after her baby is born; so...unless we can find a replacement for her pretty soon, I won't have any choice but to sell."
Angel's mind was working a mile a minute. 'I need to get Father here; this is exactly the opportunity he's been looking for in the states. Maybe he and Buffy could work something out.'
The sound of Buffy's voice brought Angel back to the present.
"Mr. O'Connor? Angel? Is something wrong?"
"What? No, I was just thinking."
He opened the briefcase he was carrying and pulled out a sheet of paper. "Here. I have copy of the painting and I can provide you with as much information as you need regarding it. I would really like to have it back."
Buffy looked at the picture. "Umm, this does look familiar. I'm sure that we had this painting at one time. I can check and see if it was sold and if so, who bought it. My mother kept very good records. When was the last time you had it?"
"It was a little over two years ago; it disappeared from my mother's home in Ireland."
"My goodness. Come with me." Buffy led him thru several exhibits then into a little alcove that included three paintings that she thought would be where her mother would have included the one Angel was looking for.
"If we had the painting, it would have been here in this collection."
Angel stopped, stunned.
"Is something wrong? What is it?"
"I-I'm just so honored; these are my paintings."
"You owned these originals?"
"N-No. I mean, I painted them."
"At your service." His smile was breathtaking.
"I am so sorry that my mother isn't here to meet you. She loved your work. You say that this painting was taken from your mother's home in Ireland?"
"My mother wouldn't have purchased work that hadn't been absolutely authenticated as original and proven to be owned by the seller.
"Your painting had to have been taken by someone that knew it was a Liamo original, where it was located and was familiar with your mother's home."
"We arrived at the same conclusion; that is why we didn't report it stolen."
"Oh my gods, you know who took it." It was a statement, not a question.
His voice was very subdued and she caught what she thought was pain, or regret, in the way he sounded.
Buffy looked into his eyes for the first time. The rest of his face was so very familiar, but the eyes were different, softer. Then it clicked.
"He would and he did. The only reason I haven't reported him to the authorities is because he's family."
"I just can't believe this is true. Angelus is the kindest, sweetest, most decent guy I've ever met."
"I assure you, Miss Summers, he is not. He is a conniver and a manipulator. He is a thief. And I am sure that Miss Chase didn't really know the person that she married."
Buffy thought about what Angel had just said and burst out laughing.
Angel looked at her, at a loss for words.
"Miss Summers? Buffy?"
Buffy raised her hand and clinched it into a fist before bringing it to her lips in an effort to force herself to stop laughing. It didn't work.
One of the gallery's security guards heard the noise and came running. He thought she was crying. "Miss Summers, is everything all right here?"
Buffy could only nod her head. Seeing that she was actually laughing, the guard left. When Buffy got herself under control, she apologized to Angel and led him into her mother's, now her, office.
"I'm sorry, Angel."
She then proceeded to tell him what had happened between herself and Angelus, between herself and Cordelia, and Cordelia's efforts to snare Angelus.
When she finished her story, Angel said simply, "I'd say they deserve each other. His father's business is bankrupt and Angelus is wanted in Ireland for thefts not associated with my painting. Stealing my painting and selling it here while, no doubt, impersonating me, was his last hope of raising enough money to keep himself out of prison back home."
"But how could he have done all of this? He's barely twenty-one years old. He had just finished high school when I met him."
"Buffy, Angelus graduated from college before he left Ireland. He is twenty-five years old; I'm twenty-six. I guess we look younger than we really are."
"This is just so hard to believe," Buffy said as she put her right elbow on her desk and massaged her right temple. "He really had me fooled. And I thought he was such a nice guy. I see now why he changed his mind about me so quickly after he met Cordelia. Her family really does have money."
"Oh. I guess you haven't heard."
"Soon after they got married, we found out that her father had been arrested for income tax evasion. Everything they owned has been confiscated by the United States government leaving his wife and daughter penniless."
"WHAT? You know, you are right; they do deserve each other. Both of them went looking at the other for the wrong reasons; neither one of them got the resources they were looking for."
As Buffy and Angel continued talking they realized they had strayed into issues far beyond his original intent when he entered the gallery. When Anne returned from lunch, Buffy turned the task of locating Angel's painting over to her.
After taking so much of her time, Angel felt it was only right that he ask Buffy to have lunch with him. She agreed and the two of them ended up spending the afternoon talking and getting to know each other.
It turned out that the reason this particular painting was so important was because it was the first Angel had done and he had painted it as a gift for his mother who convinced him to try to make a career at doing the thing he loved most.
Two weeks later Anne had located the person who bought Angel's painting and between Angel, the gallery and the buyer, they had arrived at a reasonable solution that was acceptable to all parties.
The day after Angel recovered his painting, he came into the gallery with his father, Aaron O'Connor. To Buffy he looked like an older version of Angel with a few gray hairs at the temples. 'Angel's going to be even more gorgeous as he ages,' she thought as the two approached her; 'Oh bad, bad Buffy. Get your mind back on business.'
When Angel first told his father about Buffy's gallery, he did so because he thought it would be the ideal opportunity his father was looking for. For years his father had managed the family gallery at home and was looking for a similar position in the US.
After getting to know Buffy better, he decided that she loved the gallery too much to have to sell it and he proposed a business arrangement between her and his father. His father would manage the gallery, as Anne was currently doing, until Buffy finished college, then if his father still wanted to do so, he could start looking for a gallery of his own.
Buffy and Aaron, as the elder O'Connor insisted on being called, each considered the idea and agreed upon a two-month trial period during which time Aaron would work with Anne so he could get to know the gallery.
Aaron loved it. At the end of the two months Anne and Buffy agreed that Aaron was perfect for the position. They were both pleasantly surprised when he made a proposal. He wanted to bring a small collection of six paintings from his family's gallery in Ireland to display in the currently unused alcove that previously held Angel's paintings. In exchange for this he would accept no salary from Buffy as long as he could continue to populate the alcove with no more than six of his family's paintings.
At first Buffy protested that this would be unfair to him, but he insisted that the trade was mutually beneficial. It would bring his family's products into California, allow him to get familiar with the current market, provide a manager for Buffy's gallery and her income from the sales of his family's products for the first two years would be strictly profit for her gallery.
Anne excused them as she pulled Buffy aside. "Buffy, how can you turn this down? Aaron is right, this benefits both of you. We just have to make sure that we involve both attorneys in the negotiation. He is giving you free paintings for two years. If they are anything like Angel's work, you will make a mint in that time."
"I know; it just doesn't seem right to take advantage of him like that."
While Anne and Buffy talked, Aaron whispered to Angel, "You were right about her, son; don't let her get away."
"I don't intend to, Father; Angelus was such a fool."
Buffy and Angel continued to date after she returned to college in the Fall. During Thanksgiving vacation Willow was home from college and she and Xander decided to visit Buffy at the gallery.
Buffy had forgotten that she had only told Willow about Angel. Xander still did not know about the two of them.
When Angel walked into the gallery and greeted Buffy with a kiss, Xander lost it.
"Angelus, what the hell are you doing here? Cheating on your wife with the girl you dumped in the first place?" He then turned his wrath on Buffy. "We thought you gave up on him after he married Cordelia. What is the matter with you?"
Willow started to speak, but Buffy shook her head, 'No.' The three of them let Xander rant until he either ran out of steam or noticed that the other three people in the room were trying hard not to laugh.
"Okay, what is so damn funny?"
Willow and Buffy walked over to Xander and each put a hand on his shoulder as Buffy spoke. "Xander, my friend, this is not Angelus, this is..."
Before she could finish speaking, Aaron came over to the group to find out what was going on. Xander looked at Aaron and said, "Okay, now I'm really losing it. Will someone please tell me what is going on."
By now everyone was chuckling except Xander.
"Xander, this gentleman is Mr. O'Connor, the new gallery manager, and this is his son, Angel, Angelus' cousin."
Xander was not buying it. "No way."
Buffy laughed out loud this time and said, "Here we go again. Angel, show him the picture."
Xander stared at the picture for more than a few seconds before Angel took pity on him and said, "That's me on the right."
Xander laughed then, "I'm sorry guys, but you have to understand, there is no way anyone outside your family would be able to tell you two apart."
Aaron agreed with him because he said, "You're right; my wife still has trouble distinguishing her son from her nephew when they've been away for a while."
Angelus walked into Buffy's office the day after Thanksgiving and greeted her with, "Hello, lover."
"What are you doing here? How many times do I have to tell you to stay away from me?"
"You know you don't mean that; I know that you still love me."
Buffy gave a derisive laugh. "Let me think about that. Umm, nope; no love for you here. Now get out of my gallery."
"I don't believe you. And this is a public place; you can't make me leave."
From behind him he heard a familiar voice. "But I can."
The look on his face was priceless as he spun around to face his cousin. "W-What are you doing here?"
"Did you really think I wouldn't find you...and my painting that you stole from Mother?"
"I-I..." he stammered until he heard another familiar voice.
"Nothing to say, Angelus?"
"Leave. If you come near this gallery or Buffy again, I will make you very sorry," Angel told him.
Angelus turned to Buffy. His face was haggard, his voice pleading, "Buffy...?"
Buffy almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
"I'm sorry I hurt you, Buffy; I really am. In all my life, you're the one person that I never meant to hurt."
He turned then and left without another word.
Buffy rose from her desk and rushed into Angel's open arms.
"I'm sorry you had to face him, love," Angel told her.
"No, don't be. It was over for me the day he married Cordelia. I have told him so, many times, but he just wouldn't accept it; I think today he finally got the message and accepted it."
Cordelia and Angelus divorced after a year of a difficult marriage. She left Sunnydale and moved to Los Angeles hoping to find success as an actress. Angelus was eventually captured by California police and deported to Ireland where he spent several additional years in prison.
Buffy graduated from UC Sunnydale after four successful years of college. Following the ceremony she gave a party to celebrate her commencement and the official re-opening of the newly renovated Sunnydale Art Gallery. It was attended by her friends from high school, the employees of the gallery, her future in-laws and Angel, her fiance.
Together she and Angel saw no tears in their future, only a full, happy life filled with family and laughter.