A Bit o Blarney by mel

1. Chapter 1 by mel

2. ch2 by mel

3. Ch. 3 by mel

4. Ch 4 by mel

5. 5 by mel

Chapter 1 by mel
A/N: Set sometime later half of Season Six after Buffy breaks it off with Spike but before the Not Wedding. Read, enjoy, tell me what you think. B/S implied at first then later an eventual Spuffyfest.

Disclaimer: No characters portrayed in this short story are mine except Aelwyn (AL win), Gaelargh (Gale are), Brandubh (Brawn doov) McDonogh, Kyle McTavish and Eamonn (AY mun) and whoever else pops up along the way from the past.

~~**~~

Glen of Cloongallon, Ireland, Spring 1602

The graceful white warrior dashed swiftly through the field of clover, wielding a long sword in her delicate but deadly hands. A bow and a quiver full of arrows hung on her back, bouncing up and down with the rhythm of her brisk gait. Her blonde locks looked almost white as the full, frosty moon shimmered across the enchanted glen, making everything come alive and glow.

A mighty stallion carried yet another warrior on its back and followed the young lass on land closely. The fiery red haired witch, long mane flowing behind her in the crisp night air, rode the equine beast harmoniously. The fair maiden's silver robe matched the shade of the horse so that any clearly seeing body would not have been able to decipher where one ended and the other began.

The animals of the forest: deer, rabbit, fowl, skittered and fluttered about, trying their best to stay out of the way of the Slayer's quest. She was not giving up on the chase of the evil demon she was tracking. She never gave up without a fight.

Knowing the thing would lead her to the magical hollow, the hollow where mystical entities floated all around, was just its attempt to distract her from performing her sacred duty. Aelwyn was focused though and her companion, Gaelargh, was a powerful sorceress whose white magicks never failed to aid the Slayer in her call to rid the world of all evilness.

Aelwyn stumbled over a clump of sod and fell, tumbling over elegantly and coming to a complete stop on one knee. She held her hand up quickly, silently expressing to the white witch to still her steed, all the while cocking her head slightly and straining to hear any sound coming from the vampire that gave chase.

To their right, voices carried over the glade on the soft breeze and reached the overly sensitive ears of the Slayer. Someone or something was with the vampire, non-human she was sure and squabbling about something that was clearly insignificant.

"Ye come out and face ye destiny, vampire." The voices stopped and the two warriors waited for any sign of a yield. She slowly stood, sword brandished high, waiting and watching.

A wee man appeared in front of them, a leprechaun or possibly a distant relative of such. It was too hard to really distinguish out in the middle of the night with only the light of the pale full moon dancing over him.

"Blimey, lass. Just being only meself out here, lookin' for me jug of poteen layin' about. Havin' a habit of keepin' meself company, blathering away." The wee man sounded nervous.

The Slayer scowled at the leprechaun, waving her hand in the air. "Away with ye. I have no concern with ye, little man."

Just as she finished, the vampire she had been chasing barreled into her, knocking her over and taking her by surprise. The horse reared and if it were not for the agility of the witch, would have tossed her to the plush ground.

The little man squealed and tried to run off but Gaelargh threw a spell in his direction, keeping him bound and rooted. He began to ramble incessantly as the Slayer and vampire battled.

Aelwyn's life seemed to be hanging precariously in the balance as the vampire pinned her down by the throat, but the witch threw magick at him, causing him to fly through the air and landing hard next to the leprechaun. This seemed to rattle him senseless for a moment while Gaelargh righted herself. She continued to chant, holding her arms up in the air while the Slayer regained her wits about her.

Aelwyn stalked towards the vampire and with one felled swoop of her blade, sliced the head of the creature completely off. A bright flash of white light caused her to fall back onto the ground, and the air sizzled around the three left in the vale of clover.

The wee man was huddled in a ball, eyes covered, rocking and mumbling to himself. The young women glanced at one another, both seemingly stunned at the sudden disappearance of their foe as well as the ghostly light still hovering around the tiny stranger. Usually decapitated or staked vampires turned to ash, but it seemed circumstances were different in this case. However, what to do with the traitorous goblin still shuddering in front of them was a question plaguing both of their thoughts.

Aelwyn stood, dusted off her hands after sheathing her weapon. "So, what be ye excuse?"

He didn't answer her and Aelwyn grew irritated, her voice raising an octave. "Leprechaun is it?"

The funny looking man slowly peered out between his fingers at the two warriors who stood assessing him. "Nay, lass. I be not a leprechaun. They be a distant relation. A cluricaun is what me be."

Gaelargh sighed and Aelwyn waved her hand in the air, impatiece already getting the best of her. "Does not matter. Ye shall be punished for helping the wicked and evil creature. Ye were a diversion, meant to keep us preoccupied so the foul beast could get away."

"Nay, nay. He threatened me, aye he did. Said I'd make a fine morsel to dine on if I didn't distract the ones who pursued him. Please, please. I'm begging ye. Let me be free and I will grant ye both a wish."

Silence punctuated the misty glen air. "Aye, I know of ye and your mischievous pranks, wee man. Better yet, ye shall tell us why that medallion around ye neck is gleaming?"

The man stood abruptly, eyes wide, mouth gaping. He shook his head back and forth.

"Aye, it be a long tale indeed. Ye are the slayer, are ye not? I was cursed to live out me life aidin' the chosen one. I cannot disclose the whole truths until further down the road, aye, but I am now bound to ye and yours, lassie."

Both warriors laughed softly, "Ye have no choice? Ye are now bound to us, and all slayers who shall follow? And what pray tell can a wee man such as yeself have to offer in our crusade of righteousness?"

"Only time will tell, lass. I do have a few tricks up me sleeve." the little man smiled mischievously.

"If ye ever cross me, wee man, remember what happened this eve with the demon. Ye will suffer a greater fate than the vampire." The slayer tried her best at sounding threatening.

He looked down at the ground and mumbled something indistinct before taking the life changing offer.

"Aye, I will follow ye and the witch and the others to come, no strings attached. Swear on me da's grave."

"Come then," she hesitated looking at him imploringly. "What be the name you were graced with?"

"Brandubh."

Gaelargh gently scooped him up to sit behind her on the mount. The two warriors and their companion rode out of the Glen of Cloongallon once again the victors of good over evil.

~~*~~

Sunnydale March 2002

"At least she picked green for us to wear at the wedding. It's quite fitting, don't you think?" Willow stated matter-of-factly.

Buffy looked at her friend sideways, wondering what in her right mind would make her say something like that.

"Uh, I guess." Buffy paused before questioning her friend. "Will, do you mind telling me what in the world you're talking about? Is there some special meaning, some special tradition about wearing green at a wedding?"

"No, silly. They're getting married on the 17th."

"Oookay, knowing that bit of information already." Buffy glibly added.

"March 17th?" Buffy's face still held the same confounded expression.

"Buffy, St. Patrick's day. March 17th, the same day every year." Willow looked at her in astonishment.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Oh, I see now. Color me confused. I thought there was some kind of ritual or whatnot we were going to have to perform. Well, at least no one in their right mind will be able to pinch us, right?"

"That's right. There will be no pinchage going on---well, of course if Mr. Harris has one too many there just may be."

"Ach, the booties will be protected. I vow now I will be the protector of our sacred rumps at said wedding and reception and whatever else we have to attend with parents of the groom." Buffy cringed slightly.

"Good. Protection of the bums is important." Willow agreed. "Hmm, what with Anya's extensive wedding guest list, I wonder if she knows any leprechauns to invite?"

"Will, you do know there are no such thing as leprechauns. This I know. They're a fable, Irish lore. All of it is. Faeries, leprechauns, banshees, all of it." Buffy giggled.

"Yeah, yeah you're probably right. The same goes with vampires, witches, trolls and demons?" She quirked her brow at the slayer.

Buffy stood and stared at Willow, mouth hanging open. "Yeah, you're right…no, no. There just isn't, I know there isn't. I even asked Giles about it a couple years back and he said that leprechauns do not exist."

"Yeah, because Giles is the all knowing and all powerful mighty Watcher. Buffy, he learns about things from books and sometimes he doesn't even know things exist until he gets the chance to see it for himself. So I wouldn't let my guard down. I can just bet somewhere out there, the wee people are living their lives day in and day out, out of human sight. Mark my word."

"Gah, just one more thing I have to worry about in this everyday monotony of slayage. Little, scary troll looking thingies that run around playing pranks on us. If they are real, they better stay out of my town."

TBC
ch2 by mel
Chapter2

Lough Derg, Ireland, near Glen

Spring, 1602, Two weeks later

The Dearg-due. Many a tale of the "red blood-sucker" was spun, and swept like wildfire through the villages that surrounded the Glen. Laddies and lassies feared the shadows peering in at them through windows at night, and hunkered under their blankets when unknown sounds penetrated the walls encompassing them in safety. Most of the inhabitants of the villages knew the stories were just fairy tales, told to enrich and excite their everyday lives. A handful of them knew differently.

Kyle McTavish stood near a blazing fire in a quaint little pub at the heart of one of the villages near the Glen. He had closed up his shop early when his charges took leave; waiting for their return was one of his downfalls. Patience was not a strong attribute in his line of work.

His "daughters", as the townsfolk knew them as, left Kyle's shop and better yet, home, every evening as the sun dipped below the horizon. What the townsfolk did not know of the young women was that they were guardians of their fair village, protectors of the innocent. If the people only knew what the girls were up to, maybe they wouldn't treat them so reproachfully.

Whispered comments and rumors always drifted back to the "McTavishes" about how odd and curious all three of them were. Kyle looked to be in his mid thirties, yet his "daughters" were young women and looked nothing like him or each other.

No one knew anything about them, which was how it was meant to be, though the scant few that knew the truth about the tales probably had an idea what the McTavish business really was. The less the villagers knew, the better off they would be. So the three of them chose to ignore what they heard, knowing what they did every night was gratifying enough.

Kyle held his mug tighter as an anxious feeling arose in his chest. He shook it off; better not to start worrying until he heard something. The door of the pub flew open causing him to turn quickly.

Gaelargh. The white witch stood in the doorway looking at the man now facing her, his face pale from not knowing the purpose of her visit to this place she never acquainted. Her eyes were round, her face drawn and not a word passed between them. Kyle nodded, set his mug on the barkeep's counter along with his payment and followed the girl out.

Halfway down the path, she slipped her tiny hand into his, squeezing it for reassurance.

"She's strong, da. She'll be right as rain by tomorrow. Don't be overly worrisome with 'er. Be prepared, though. It looks bad." she paused. "Alright?"

Kyle took a deep, shuddering breath. "Aye." was all he could say.

He looked up at the familiar home looming in front of them. A flickering light moved throughout the rooms, the ground floor being the herb and medicinal shop, the first floor their home. A thought popped into his head. Ael must not be injured too badly or be incapacitated if she was moving around the house.

Kyle flew through the door and up the narrow flight of steps to the first floor, taking in his Slayer laid out on her bed, candlelight flickering across her wan face. Something dark seeped through the rag sitting on her belly and he knew it was her life's blood flowing from her. He heard scuffling on the other side of the bed and craned his neck to look up and over.

The little man's head popped up when he heard the two enter, frightening Kyle.

"AhhhHH," Kyle clutched his chest as Gael kept him upright. "Oh, bloody…what…who?"

"Thunder and fire!" Brandubh gasped holding his chest as well, shuffling backwards until he hit the wall.

"S'alright, da. It be only Brandubh. We be meaning on telling ye about him. He's ordained to helps us out, he's harmless."

"What are ye? An elf?" Kyle pointedly asked him trying in earnest to catch his breath.

"Ye be not close in your assumption. I be from the solitary fairy group. Elves are smaller than we." he answered matter-of-factly.

"Ah, a leprechaun then?" Kyle knew such things existed but had never crossed paths with any his entire life.

"Bah, nay, nay dear shopkeeper. We don't like bein' classified with those filthy buggers. I be a cluricaun, that's what I be."

Kyle nodded once and made his way over to the girl lying deathly still on the hay-filled tick.

"Ael, Ael, can ye hear me?" The watcher turned to look at the witch. "Tell me what happened, Gael."

"Just on the outskirts of the Glen, we ran upon a group of 'em. Five or six demons, blood-suckers, an excursion. We took 'em by surprise, aye, but they had weapons. Ael was run through with a sword. I couldn't do a thing, da," tears threatened to spill from her eyes. She closed them tightly to ward them off.

"Was busy keepin' two of the demons at bay. Ael staked one at the first. The second attacked 'er with its weapon. Me thought he done 'er in, but I'm believin' one of 'em may have saved 'er. I couldn't rightly tell, too dark. I saw it 'overin' over 'er. The other two, the one with the sword as well fast approachin'. I knew she was 'urt bad, she wasn't movin'. But I 'eard their voices and I 'eard the short scuffle, and I 'eard their cries when they were dusted. I called to 'er but she didn't answer." Gael took a shuddering breath before continuing.

"I finished off the beasts that I be fightin' and ran to 'er, da. She was bleedin' so much. I placed a spell on 'er to staunch the blood flow while Brandubh gathered my steed, but it was only temporary until I could get 'er 'ome." Gael sat on the chair near the head of the bed before finishing.

"'er stake, funny thing, was embedded in the ground a few paces from 'er, I 'ad trouble removing it. We ourselves 'ad a guardian this eve, da. And it wasn't 'uman."

Kyle released a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. "Very interesting, indeed. Keep your guard up, Gael, in case you meet this…unlikely savior again."

"Aye, t'will be me plan."

Ael moaned, her head rolling back and forth on the bed. Her eyes finally opened, blinked to focus on the caring people surrounding her. Gael tenderly stroked her hair, doing her best to soothe the pain she must be in. Kyle sat on the edge of the mattress, took her hand and held it. Lifting the towel on her wound, he realized with a sudden relief that she was going to be fine. The blood had stopped, the wound closing right in front of his eyes. He discarded it and wiped the excess blood off of her.

Their eyes met at the same moment, a silent affirmation passing between the two. Watcher and slayer. Father and daughter. Both knew it had been another close call, but she had prevailed over the Grim Reaper once again as she would in other battles to come. The Banshee would not be wailing for the McTavishes this night.

"Ael, what happened this eve?" Kyle asked her softly, stroking the top of her hand with his fingers. He was grateful she was here at home with him even if she was badly injured. She was alive, and that meant so much more to him.

"I don't know, da," she whispered back. "I lost focus for just a fraction of time. But I saw something tonight that I never thought I'd ever see. I should be dead, aye; three against one and me being injured and all. The man, he…he leaned over me while I was laid out on the ground and looked into my eyes. At first I thought he be a human, they were bright and alive even in the dark. His face changed."

Aelwyn sat up part way, moaning from shifting and decided to not sit up completely but rather leaned back on her elbows.

"He was a vampire, then?" Kyle asked.

"Aye, that he was, da. I thought I was done for, prepared to fight 'im off. He grabbed the spare stake out of my loop and turned swiftly. He turned on his brethern, da. Staked the first one holding the sword easily as he was running towards us. The second fell to the ground, surprised, but he did it quickly and without remorse. They never knew. He turned to me, still squatting on the ground, still in his demon face. But it melted away and he just stared at me. Gael called out for me and we both looked up at her. When I turned back, he was gone. Vanished into the darkness."

She sat up fully now, looked her watcher in the eye. "'ave you ever 'eard of such a thing, da?"

Neither the watcher or the slayer witnessed the cluricaun eyeing them discreetly and listening intently during their conversation.

"Nay, dearest child. But it doesn't mean there wasn't a reason for this demon's odd behaviour. I shall do some research, tonight, while you rest and heal. Gael and---I'm sorry, what is your name, wee man?"

"It's Brandubh, sir."

"Yes, quite so. Brandubh. Ye shall help with the research and I shall be want to know your story as well."

Brandubh smiled slightly and nodded his head up and down slowly, not quite sure how much of his supposed curse or his life story he wanted to divulge to this stranger. But the two young lasses had been kind to him over the span of a few weeks, and he didn't mind helping them out for the greater good even though it was the bane of the rest of his existence. Funny, he never pictured himself ever on this side of the fence. Felt good for the soul.

The three left the slayer to her rest and recuperation.

~~*~~

Sunnydale, March 2002

Buffy wandered through the tombstones marking various graves of people she had never had the pleasure of knowing and a few that she knew she did have. Most she was sure she had never had the chance to save.

Her mind was elsewhere as she walked almost blindly through the cemetery staring at the ground in front of each step she took. Her thoughts meandered to and fro, from her friend getting married, her friend struggling from ill usage of magicks, keeping her sister from being taken, the absence of her former watcher and the vampire she could no longer go to for help with bringing her back from the depths of hell on earth. Life could be so unfair sometimes.

Every once in a while, she wished she was able to start all over from the beginning with everyone including said vampire. Their affair had turned upside down and spun out of control and there was no other answer but to break it off with him. It was unfair to him and killing her. But it hurt; it hurt to have that space, that distance between them now. Hurt too much sometimes.

She was so out of it, she didn't see the attack coming at her full force. Three blood-suckers plowed her over, knocking her down to the ground and pinning her there. Two held her arms while the other straddled her twisting and thrusting hips. That same vamp lowered his bared fangs to her neck, ready to strike and drink.

Buffy felt powerless and closed her eyes tight. She always imagined her life would be taken by either one of the vampires she knew so intimately, not by some stupid fledgling.

She felt the fangs pierce her skin and then…nothing. Opening her eyes, he stood there in all his black clad glory, that infamous smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.

The two vamps left never saw what hit them as she lifted her feet up and clocked both in the head, flipping herself over to a standing position in front of Spike.

"May I borrow this?" she asked, placing her hand on the pointy end of the stake he was holding towards her.

"Be my guest." The smirk grew emphatically.

She grabbed the stake, twirled it in her hand as she spun around and quickly dusted the evil marauders from her sight. Buffy, her head hung down, mumbled thanks to the bleached blonde vamp still standing behind her.

"Ahh, you're so very welcome, dear slayer, for saving your hide. Once again. Spike to the rescue."

"Just…shut up."

"Slayer, you're off your game this evening. In every aspect."

"Spike, I'm really not in the mood tonight."

"Oh, damn, and I thought I was doing a bloody swell job of "getting you in the mood", sweetheart. So the physical and verbal abuse are both a no go tonight, then, huh?"

She thrust the stake out to him causing him to leap a step back.

"Here, I said thanks. Now I'm going home."

He reached out and grabbed her arm as she turned away. She jerked it out of his hand and glared at him.

"You're hurt, slayer. Plus you don't seem yourself. You look exhausted and you shouldn't be walking home by your lonesome. The crypt is right over there, come sit for a while and gather your senses."

"Yeah, right. Fine place for me to go to "gather my senses”.”

"Buffy, what's wrong? Seriously. You know I'm just doing my part to aggravate you. I promise, I won't do or say anything. You can…oh, bloody hell, just trust me. I won't. Just come in, sit a bit, let me get you a bandage for that puncture on your neck."

The silence sat heavy between them. She rolled her neck to loosen the tension that had gathered there, her body relaxing as she released the air in her lungs with a dramatic sigh.

"Alright, but just for a bit. Then I need to go home."

"Good, I will feel better if you're at your full attention when you head home." he smiled at her sincerely. He was surprised when she returned it.

As they headed into his crypt, neither the slayer nor the vampire knew they were being watched with scrutiny.

TBC
Ch. 3 by mel
Chapter 3

Glen of Cloongallon, Ireland

Spring, 1602, a few days later

The slayer, the witch, and the watcher had all decided to put a plan in motion. They were out on a hunt this chilly and damp evening; a vampire hunt. One lone vampire; however this vampire was not your everyday, or every night, run of the mill vampire they were pursuing. Along with their leprechaun companion, the four of them had set out to capture this vampire only the evening after the lasses had the pleasure of running into the same demon that had saved Aelwyn the previous eve. Two run-ins in a close time frame were highly unusual.

For some oddity none could figure out, this particular vampire seemed to be helping them. Their intent was to speak to him, find out more about him, even if it meant they would have to trap him. They knew they would release him right away if he posed no threat to them or their community. And God forbid the council get a hold of him so no, they decided they were not going to hold him captive. Now to make him believe that, if and only if they found him.

The evening did not fair them that fortune. In fact, it was very quiet indeed; almost too quiet. Kyle was the first to mention it and then called it a night. They might have better luck the following evening.

They walked Brandubh home near the pass and headed back to the village near the Glen. Funny that the Glen was strangely quiet, but as they turned the bend, a commotion caught their attention just on the edge of the town.

The O'Reilly's barn was blazing, the townsfolk surrounding it and watching with bated breath, holding farm implements and other things not really related to farming in their tense hands. Pigs, sheep and cattle were running around wildly causing a raucous on their own. Kyle ran up to Seamus O'Reilly to find out what had happened.

"A creature, none like I've ever seen, in me barn, eating me fatted sow. A demon, I tell you, God protect us." and he crossed himself, grabbing his pitchfork tighter.

The watcher looked over at his charge, a silent order passing between them. Aelwyn stealthily maneuvered behind the mob of people, Gael trailing not too far behind.

At the back of the barn, she picked out a few loose boards and kicking them, found they easily gave way. A billow of grey smoke boiled out of the new opening she made and that's when she heard it. She thought she was imagining it until she looked up at her companion.

"Someone is in there. But it sounds human." Gael announced before grabbing a pitchfork for herself. Both girls plunged as much of their bodies in the trough of water next to the barn. Ael nodded, took a few gulps of clean air before ducking in through the opening.

The straw was burning intensely in an arc and it made it hard to see a thing. She heard the crying and wailing of someone very frightened but could not see them. Her eyes began to sting as well as her lungs from lack of oxygen. Just as she turned to head back out to fill up on fresh air, she tripped over something and landed face first on top of a very fat pig. A very dead, fat pig. Ael scrambled to her feet and ran to the clearing where Gael still stood with the pitchfork.

"Come, follow me. I think I may know where to find this person." Ael took the pitchfork, filled her lungs again before submerging herself into the blanket of smoke.

She found the pig easily, noticed the area to her left was on fire before feeling the tingling sensation in the pit of her belly. As she drew closer to the corner, a huddled form was cowering, hiding his face under his arms which were now beginning to burn from the close flames.

Ael quickly tossed the burning hay away from them and Gael ran over to the boy, patting the flames down with the bottom of her wet dress. He quickly looked up at the two of them hovering over him, knowing for sure that this was the end for him. His eyes wide, he began to scurry away. The girls grabbed both arms and hauled him up. They were helping him, saving him from the wretched inferno that would have surely consumed him and turned him to ashes. But what waited for him on the outside had him worried.

All three stumbled through the small opening, all falling on their hands and knees on the ground. The girls began to sputter and cough, gasping for new air to fill their burning lungs. While they were preoccupied, the young man began to quietly and cautiously shuffle up and away. This of course was halted as he found the leg of his breeches run through and pinned to the ground with a pitchfork.

"Blimey…ye almost got me leg!" The look on his face was pure exasperation.

"Serves ye right, tryin' to run off and ye not even giving us the proper thank ye's. Where did ye learn ye manners from? The dead pig in the barn?" Ael condescendingly asked.

He glared up at her, still struggling to free himself. "Ye're a right corker, lass. A spitfire, that's what ye be. Thank ye both ever so. Now kindly let me go on me way. Won't bother no one."

Aelwyn smirked as she shook her head back and forth slowly. Quickly, she leaned over and grasped the lad by the front of his shirt, hauling him to his feet at the same time she dislodged the pitchfork from the ground. Before he knew it, she had him dangling above the ground.

"I know what ye are, so no, not letting ye go right at the moment. Come home with us, answer a few questions and then ye may go on yer way."

It was his turn to smirk at the lass. "Aye, and I should just trust ye to not run me through with that wooden stick you have concealed in yer vest? I know who ye are as well."

Ael lowered him back to the ground. "On my honor, I will not harm ye in any way. Ye will have to trust me. And I will have to trust ye."

"Aye, then so be it. Show me the way." He bowed to her as he extended an arm out to allow her to take the lead.

"Gael, please inform the O'Reillys we found nothing and tell da to hurry home." Ael asked the witch kindly.

The slayer reached out to grab the vampire's upper arm. "I'd rather ye walk next to me than behind."

"Hmmm, the trust issue is slowly dwindling away, lass." He jested with the slayer.

"This may be the biggest mistake of me life," Ael mumbled mostly to herself.

"Aye, that it may be, for either of us." He added.

~~*~~

Sunnydale, March 2002

The following evening

Buffy stopped by a familiar crypt door while making a run through the cemetery. She hesitated there, wondering if she should go in, just to say hi, she told herself, ask if he wanted to tag along.

"Here for a visit, luv?" His voice boomed behind her, causing the anxious slayer to jump and grab her chest as she slowly twisted around to glare at the obnoxious creature.

"You must really stop doing that. Sneaking up on people. You never know who will turn on you, attack you and slam pointy things into you."

He smirked loudly, clucked his tongue and winked at her. "Sounds like fun. Is that an invitation, luv?"

Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. "You are such a…ahhhh, never mind. It's starting to sound like a broken record. And frankly, I'm getting annoyed at telling you all the time."

"Just trying to spice up your slayer doldrums. If you don't get annoyed by my sly antics or off the cuff comments, then I must be doing something wrong. And I don't think I should be trying to be someone I'm really not just for everyone else’s sake."

They smiled at each other, very rare that they could share a light hearted encounter nowadays, ever since their so called "relationship" was broken off only a week or so ago.

Buffy shook her head and cleared her throat. "I did just come by for a visit, but also to see if you wanted to patrol with me."

"Oh, everyone else have plans tonight? S'ok, I've prepared myself to always come in second."

"Spike, it's not…."

"Sure," he interrupted her before she could form a rebuttal as he walked towards her. "I'll go patrolling with you. Just let me put this stuff up; you can come in and wait…if you want."

He stood next to her in front of his crypt door waiting for her confirmation. She nodded as he opened the door, and together they stepped over the "threshold" only to stop dead in their tracks side by side. Neither had noticed the trip wire they broke as they walked through the doorway. Both were now standing there dripping wet, doused heavily with icy water from somewhere above them.

Buffy gasped and clenched her hands tight. "Cold, cold, very cold."

Spike huffed. "And wet. Very, very soddin' wet. Bloody hell," he growled. "Who's sick, little perverse joke is this? That wanker Harris out for blood for some reason?"

Her teeth began to chatter as the outside air blew in and hit her wet skin. Buffy wrapped her arms around her when she noticed her white blouse was not only very much see-thru but that anyone with a roving eye could tell she was definitely cold. She stepped out of the puddle she had been standing in just as the paper bag Spike was holding ripped away from the section he had a grasp on and plopped to the floor with a sickly wet thud. With another growl, he lifted his leg and delivered a back kick to the open door. It hit so hard when it slammed shut that the floor trembled slightly.

Spike, still grumbling as water dripped off of him, picked up the brown blob of a grocery bag and headed to the fridge to toss the six pack and extra bags of blood into it. Buffy grabbed a blanket that was casually thrown over Spike's chair and wrapped it around her shoulders as she sat down in it. She jumped out of it though when a roar reverberated through the crypt followed by many choice expletives. A loud crash had her turning around and staring at the vampire on a rampage. He was seething, body rigid, breathing hard, palms flat on the makeshift bar as he stared at the slayer, who stared back, eyes wide and mouth open even wider.

"Why'd you kill the refrigerator?" she asked without blinking an eye, no teasing at all in her voice.

Spike dropped his chin down to his chest, as she noticed his body began to shake. Buffy was hit with a feeling of dread, thinking something must be seriously wrong to upset him this much. She took a few steps toward him.

"Spike?" she called to him softly. Then she heard the soft chuckle as he lifted his head to look at her, merriment shining behind his eyes and lips curled up in a humor filled smile.

"Forgive me for killing the fridge. Didn't mean to. Just that some right bastard has gone and played a little joke on ol' Spike. All the blood I did have? Now pooling at the bottom of the…well actually now underneath the fridge."

"That's some kind of sick joke, isn't it? Who'd you piss off? Some demon?"

"Who knows, in this town it could be just about anybody. I just don't 'member pissing off anyone recently. Doesn't mean anything though. It could be somebody from a century ago, someone that's finally caught up with me. Could be someone from the other night even."

"Hmmm, is it safe for you to stay here? I mean, with the not knowing and…and…everything?"

"Nah, I should be fine. I…hey, you're freezing cold,luv. I've got some clothes you can change into, even some that aren't singed or smell like they've been blown up by a grenade." He smiled at her laughingly. She smiled back before turning away, feeling a slight bit of shame.

Spike made his way down into what remained of his downstairs and quickly returned with a dark blue t-shirt and a pair of black sweats. He even had changed his wet garments into dry replacements within the short amount of time he was down there. Must be a record, Buffy mused. Probably had lots of practice whenever he had to get out really quick.

She noticed his hair, messy and still soaking wet. She never thought he could ever look so cute and adorable with the mass of curls he now sported instead of the slicked back do he usually kept. His voice broke her concentration on the curly, blonde locks.

"Here you go. No shoes, no socks, though. Sorry but you'll have to walk home making squishy noises. Hey, better than catching pneumonia or having to go starkers."

"Thanks, I really appreciate it." Buffy looked around the room for a safe place to change, somewhere out of eye range of a certain blonde vampire.

Spike noticed what she was doing. "Oh, I'll…here, I'll turn so you can…um, change."

He smiled shyly at her while turning to face the opposite direction. Buffy gaped at the back of his head before turning around. What was up with him lately, being all gentlemanly and considerate? She kept telling herself it was all just a ploy, an act to get her back. He was evil enough to stoop that low.

He always found a way to get to her, whether they were fighting like the enemies they should be or whether they were sharing their lives with one another. It was becoming an everyday habit now, running into one another, stopping by to say hi, patrolling with each other. He still annoyed the hell out of her, but it was more of a comfort to her now. She needed it; she needed him in her droll, monotonous slayer life.

He and only he made her out to be much more than a slayer and she felt it whenever she was around him. He saw behind the mask she wore, the walls she continuously built up and she didn't mind it. It felt nice to have a friend like him, a confidante. She secretly wished, hoped it could be more someday. Something more meaningful than what they had, where she wasn't using him and he wasn't letting her take advantage just to have a part of her with him. They both had too many issues to work through before that could ever become a reality.

She shook her head to rid her of all thoughts of Spike. It would never work and she would never be able to give him wholly what he wanted. And that would make her feel worse. So they would remain friends, slaying partners, workout buddies. When it got too hard, she would once again push it and him away, fall back and start again from the beginning.

She cleared her throat and told him she was dressed. He turned back to her and looked her up and down as if he thought she would be standing in front of him in all her naked glory. She caught the slight look of disappointment in his eyes.

"So, you are sure you will be fine here?" She asked him once again.

"Yes, I will be fine. I mean, where else am I gonna go?"

"Do me a favor, then." Buffy reached over and picked up her wet jeans, delving into the front pocket and producing a ring of keys. She worked at one and then held it out to him in her flat palm.

"What's this, luv?" he seemed surprised even though he had caught onto what she was doing. He just wanted to hear her tell him.

"A key to the house. Any sign of trouble, come and get me. Don't try and be a hero."

"I can take care of myself, you know?" Yet he gently took the offered key from her.

"We don't know if our trickster is human or not. Better be safe." Buffy grabbed up her wet clothes and headed for the door. Spike followed a bit behind as she opened it to step out.

"Buffy?" she turned to look at him. "Thanks for trusting me with this. It…means a lot." His voice drifted off into almost a whisper. She smiled at him and winked.

"Better show me that I can trust you with it, or else."

"Gotcha. G'night, luv."

"Goodnight, Spike." She spun around and walked towards home with a little more bounce in her slayer step.

TBC
Ch 4 by mel
By the way, thank you to all the readers and especially to those who reviewed. It makes me happy to see someone is actually reading this!!

Glen of Cloongallon, Ireland

Spring, 1602, Same evening

Not much more was said between the slayer and the vampire on the trek back to the shop. Every once in a while, they would glance at one another sideways, but neither spoke a word.

Aelwyn pointed to her home as she led him up to the door, lifted the latch and stepped inside. She turned when she realized he had not followed her and he stared at her shyly while she stared back in anticipation.

"Uh, can't come in, slayer. I'd have to be invited firstly," he timidly explained.

"Oh," she mentally chided herself. "O' course. Ye're welcome to come in…what be yer name?"

"Eamonn. It be Eamonn." He smiled sincerely and if she wasn't aware of what he really was, she would have thought him just a normal boy, or young man rather, visiting her home.

"Welcome, Eamonn," and she stepped aside, bowing and holding out her arm to let him come inside.

He returned the bow as he slowly stepped over the threshold, half expecting to be thrown back by the invisible barrier. He planted his feet side by side once all the way in, turned his head and smiled at her once again.

"Thank ye."

Ael nodded and began to light the candles and lamps sitting about the shop.

"Can I get ye anything. Soda bread, crackers, we have some dried…oh, forgive me. Ye probably don't eat normal foods."

"Aye, but I do. It's not for nourishment, just for simple pleasure. The tastes are heightened, ye know, with the vampire special…s'alright. I don't need a thing. I'm fine."

He began to wander around, taking in the various jars of herbs, balms and potions lining the shelves on one wall. While Ael finished lighting the last lamp, he had found a chair next to the wall and sat, fidgeting while waiting apprehensively for what the slayer had in mind. He was nervous beyond a doubt as he suddenly stood and flitted over to the counter before Ael could utter a single word.

Eamonn was trying his best not to show any signs of uneasiness or fear from being in the company of a slayer. He was a creature of the night, by all rights he should act somewhat like one. So he casually hopped onto the counter and feigned indifference as he gazed about the room, making a point not to look in her general direction.

Ael, on the other hand, was very curious of her guest indeed. She tried to wait for her watcher to come home, but her inquisitiveness was getting the better of her as she stood across from the peculiar vampire and stared directly at him.

He must have felt her gaze upon him as he slowly turned his eyes to meet hers, and she leisurely made her way up to him, not breaking eye contact. He looked uncomfortable briefly.

"May I…can I see yer face?" her voice came out barely above a whisper. His eyes widened, body stiffened.

"Pardon me?" he whispered back.

"I…I would like to know if I can see yer…vampire face?" she stuttered but with more confidence.

By the time he could vocalize a response to her question, she was standing directly in front of him, not more than an arms length away. Silence drifted between them. He slowly shifted into his demon fašade, her eyes widened and mouth fell open. She unconsciously lifted her hand up to his face and he flinched a bit causing her to stop it in midair and hold her breath.

"May I?" her voice was soft, nearly inaudible. Eamonn leaned forward, granting her request.

Her fingers traced the ridge above his brow, dipping up and down over the bumps that formed his forehead. Ael was mesmerized by his eyes as they seem to glow a deep, golden topaz while the candlelight flickered and played over his demon features. One finger trailed down his nose and around his mouth, which opened just a bit when her digit stopped right below his bottom lip. She pushed on his chin, hoping he would open his mouth wider. He complied, shamelessly displaying his canines.

"They look very sharp indeed," her words were breathy. All he could do was nod meagerly. The pad of her thumb grazed the pointed tip of his fang, leaning forward inadvertently to get a closer look. She didn't notice him squeeze his eyes shut or the sharp intake of air he unintentionally took. His senses were on overload, the skin tingling where she touched, nostrils filled with the smell of the girl, like sweet heather and lavender.

"Get away from her!" A man screamed causing Ael to draw back and Eamonn to tumble off the counter backwards, landing with a thud on the floor. She ran towards Kyle standing in the doorway waving her hands in front of her.

"S'alright, da. We were talking and I asked to see his vampire face. Nothing more. Everything be fine."

Kyle had been shaking in his shoes while Ael explained matters. Once she was finished, he had calmed himself down considerably.

"I thought…thought he was going to…to attack ye," Kyle stuttered. Ael shook her head no.

Meanwhile, Eamonn's eyes peered over the counter after slipping back to his human guise. Ael turned and saw the display, bursting out in a fit of giggles at the sight.

"Everything be fine, Eamonn. This be my watcher, Kyle McTavish. He was just a trifle concerned. Ye can come on out, I promise he'll be nice."

Eamonn stood up straight, made his way back around the counter warily and looked over at the watcher reluctantly.

"Very nice to meet you, sir. Apologies for setting a bad impression. I mean no harm. Honest, sir. I fight on yer side, tis the truth." Eamonn tried earnestly to explain. Silence eddied between them as they surveyed one another.

The watcher nodded once. Something about this vampire seemed to impress the watcher, whether it was the almost soulful like quality in his eyes, the honesty with a hint of trepidation in his voice, or his overall appearance, which Kyle knew all could be deceiving.

Truth be told, he realized he allowed himself to discriminate, that all demons must be evil and bad. But the darkness that a demon usually possessed didn't seem to flow from or surround this particular vampire. He could sense it and he knew both Gaelargh and Aelwyn could see and feel it as well from their relaxed statures around the vampire.

"Do ye mind answering some questions…Eamonn is it?"

"Aye, and not a t'all, sir."

All four sat down around the small table in the middle of the room. Aelwyn was all too curious to know more about Eamonn on a more personal level: his birthplace, parents' names, age, but understood that Kyle would be the main interrogator if not only for research sake.

It wasn't that he was uncaring, but usually his interest was on a scholarly level in dealing with the demon multitude. The more he could find out about demons, the better he could prepare his charges for the dangers that lurked out in the cold, cruel world at night. But alas, if he ever came across a highly unusual species of demon or discovered unusual traits of familiar demons, his ego could get the better of him. Just knowing that the possibility he was more privy to actual demons or artifacts than the council of watchers would make him positively giddy.

Kyle cleared his throat. "When did ye happen to be turned?"

"1547 in Dublin. Three days after my 18th year. My da was from London, ma from Galway. Had two sisters and one brother. I've been here ever since I was sired by Fredrique du Rouge after he had lost not only his sire but his childe as well and I think…" Eamonn paused.

One question and he had rattled off a slew of answers. No one spoke and Eamonn looked embarrassed that he had opened up so freely. He peered up at Aelwyn and she gave him a genuine smile, hoping to comfort his discomposure.

He looked over at the watcher. "Pardon, I tend to go on. It's been a while since I've really had anyone take an interest."

Kyle held a hand up and smiled. "No worries. It does save on asking the questions. So ye said Fredrique du Rouge was yer sire? A very interesting species er…vampire. I've read up on him before."

"Aye, we had become friends, I never figured that he was a creature of the night til the eve I took a knife to the gullet for him. Bleedin' terribly bad and couldn't speak. He saved me by turning me."

"And ye held no remorse for his illiberal and barbaric actions? The selfishness of his bloodthirst?"

"A bit at first but didn't last. We ran together til…til he was killed by a band of demons. ‘Bout twenty years or so ago."

"Have you ever sired anyone, Eamonn?"

"Nay, I have not. I have not touched a human since then and I have never killed a human, sir."

"Then tell me how do ye get yer nourishment?"

"Before, it was from humans who we would find passed out in the alleys, drunkards from the pubs, or desolate and willing humans who we could pay. Most of the time, farm animals or wild animals. I have never killed a human, though."

"I believe ye. But why is that?"

Eamonn shrugged and shook his head back and forth. "I don't know, sir. Never had an inclination to kill. I'd rather hunt for animals, I feel more primal that way. S'funny, I feel compassion, remorse, love, hatred. I feel all of it and it doesn't shame me. The demon is there, can feel it, but I don't know. I can feel all the rest overpowering it."

"Ye seem like a smart lad. Sounds like ye've been educated."

"Aye, I have been. I've learned so much more being a vampire, about demons and such. And I would like to help ye. All of ye for the greater good if ye will let me. I understand I will have to earn yer trust. I'd be willing to do anything, research, help with slaying. Anything."

"Well, Eamonn, ye seem to be quite an interesting young…man, one I truly and honestly believe we could benefit from the all around expertise ye have. But don't go assumin' I'm lettin' me guard down around ye just yet, lad. Trust is a lifetime asset that we take stock in. I suggest ye don't misuse it with anyone of us for we don't take mistrust lightly."

Eamonn looked deep into the watcher's eyes and knew he was telling the truth, knew right then and there as they exchanged glances that he could trust this man, this human, a mortal enemy of demons such as the likes of him. He vowed he would do right by the watcher, the slayer and the sorceress from that day forward.

"Aye, sir. I will not let ye down. I swear to it." A cool hand grasped the warm one extended over the table and an unusual alliance had begun.

~~*~~

Sunnydale, March 2002

the following day

"Buffy, do you trust him?" Willow looked at her best friend skeptically.

"Will, out of all these years that we've known Spike, don't you think it's about time we at least could give him the benefit of a doubt? I mean, between you and Dawnie telling me stories of how he helped out last summer when I wasn't even here and living. I think at least that's enough to allow at least a smidgen of trust. Besides, I can't sit idly by and watch one of my friends get hurt even if it is something we haven't even seen yet. It could be Warren and his band of semi-evil cronies doing their ignorant business, whatever that may be."

"Oh," Willow's eyes widened with the one syllable word.

"What, oh?" Buffy asked.

"I just…I didn't know you considered Spike your friend." she explained.

Buffy remained silent while she contemplated what she had previously said.

"Well, yeah, I guess I did and I guess he is. He's more of a friend than I have been since I got back…to anyone." Her voice trailed off with a tinge of sadness to it.

"Buffy, that's so not true. You're a wonderful friend. I wouldn't trade you for anything."

"Thanks, Will. That's means a lot. It's just that…my relationship with Spike is complicated. We've been bitter enemies, been reluctant allies, acquaintances, annoyances, friends, love…um, love er hate…it's a love hate relationship, that's what it is." Buffy had to turn away from her friend, trying her hardest to cover her slip up and hoping Willow didn't catch it.

Willow remained quiet and Buffy turned to look at her. "Okay. I understand. Even though you mentioned love and Spike in the same breath. Just…be careful."

"Always am."

Near sundown, Buffy headed out to Spike's crypt, telling herself she was just checking on him. Make sure no nasties had surprised him during the night. Deep down she feared for his safety, and knew if something ever happened to him, her life would crumble to pieces. At this stage in her life, her resurrected life, he was her lifeline, her rock. And even though she could never mention it to him or anybody else, she knew it.

So, she did what she did best, protect the innocent. She giggled silently to herself. Spike and innocent didn't go together. Innocence was not one of his traits but that was a whole other issue in itself, something she didn't really worry about anymore. He was trying and he was changing, right in front of her eyes. He had become less harsh, less abrasive. Hmm, sounded like an ad for a tub cleaner. She shook her head and sighed.

Surely she wasn't the only one who could see it. Her friends always seemed oblivious to certain things and with Spike, well, they would always see him as an evil thing. She sang that tune countless times over and over again, why shouldn't they? But the walls she had built to keep him out were toppling over slowly day by day. She just hoped for his sake he wasn't acting just to get her in his comfy bed, in his wily ways, to cross over to the dark side.

Nah, something new bloomed within her when it concerned him. Trust. A good foundation to start with. Belief was just a block away, ready to be added onto the next layer. Something good was going to come out of this relationship one of these days. Maybe when her walls were completely demolished and the new groundwork was finished between the two of them, then she could let her friends in for the party. Hopefully tolerance was one of his strong characteristics, though and he had the patience to wait for her to let everyone else in.

His crypt came into view just as the sun slowly slid past the horizon and the last remaining rays trickled through the branches of the trees that loomed up and around the cemetery. She stopped a foot from the steps that led up to the door. She had always just plowed her way through it countless times before but she must be going soft for she couldn't decide if she should start knocking before entering. Would be more considerate. He may start thinking something was wrong with her if she did, or take it the wrong way knowing Spike. Maybe she would knock and then let herself in, she thought as she walked up the steps.

Just as the decision was made and her hand was up in the air to commence with the knocking, the door flew open causing her to jump and in that split second a sharp twang was heard followed by a shower of eggs dropping on both their heads from up above. She gasped, he growled.

Sticky, gooey egg slid down her face and plopped onto the ground around her. Her hair was plastered down and the sickly smell of raw eggs made her want to throw up. Spike swiped his arm across his face, spitting and sputtering the yolk and whites out of his mouth.

"Something of your doing?" he snapped.

"Uh, yeah, cause I didn't think my hair was shiny enough so I thought we both could use a little egg treatment. Why would you think such an absurd thing, of course I didn't do this."

"I know that but…who in bloody hell is doing this? I'm gonna kill 'em. I'm not gonna put up with these piddly, infantile pranks. Adolescent, immature, juvenile delinquents."

"Are you finished?"

"Quite….I've got some towels. Um---sorry you seem to be getting caught in the middle of all this rubbish, pet. I'm sure this was just meant for me but you seem to be getting the brunt of these antics just as well."

He handed her a clean towel to wipe off any remaining residue before it dried on as he cleaned himself off as best he could.

"Yeah, what's up with that? I'm just out doing my job, checking in on you to make sure no one has dusted you overnight, protecting citizens as well as our fair city and I get egged. How unfair is that?"

"You were worried 'bout me?" he smirked.

"Worry is a highly over-rated word. Concerned, maybe. I mean, I do need you for back-up on patrols you know. Can't be doing such things if your lying around here all dusty, now can you?"

"Hmm, suppose not. I had no intruders last night after you left but apparently one or more outside the crypt today while I slept. Whoever this is they’re pretty cunning and sly. I’ve decided they will be stopped and I will make them pay…uh, just not pay with their lives, I mean." He quickly inverted.

He looked up and pondered. "Maybe a limb or two would be good payment." He chuckled to himself and noticed Buffy smile as well as she shook her head back and forth.

"Well, I'm going to head home and take a long, hot shower to get this ooze off." She handed the towel back to him.

"Uh, Buffy? Can I borrow it after you're done? Please?" he cringed internally at sounding like a complete ponce.

The first thing that popped into her head was 'when does Spike ever say please?' The second was 'when did he become so considerate and polite?' The third was 'naked, wet Spike in my shower'. She shook them all out of her head and smiled sincerely at him.

"Sure, but I'm warning you, I may use up all the hot water." Both walked out the door heading towards the Summers' home, the remaining egg shells crunching underneath their departing feet.

"Well, you know we can conserve a lot of the hot water if we take it together." His usual smirk graced his face, one brow lifted up. A stern over-my-dead-body Buffy look was thrown back in his direction. He cleared his throat and looked amiably forward.

"Of course that is totally out of the question and I’m…shutting up now." Spike mumbled.

Buffy smiled and mused at the newfound camaraderie that now graced their lives.

TBC
5 by mel
By the way, thank you to all the readers and especially to those who reviewed. It makes me happy to see someone is actually reading this!!

Previously on Blarney: A slayer from the past along with her sorceress sidekick, happen upon a cluricaun caught in the middle of a fight out in an enchanted glen. His story is yet a mystery but he claims he is to aid the chosen one, it's his destiny. Later, the slayer joins forces with another mysterious character, a vampire who seems to be on the side of good as well. Meanwhile, back in the present in SunnyD, a certain slayer and vampire struggle with their intermingling lives and the fact someone or something is plaguing them with irritating practical jokes.

Glen of Cloongallon, Ireland

Spring, 1602, following evening

Aelwyn had never fought better in the entire three years of her slayer existence than she did this eventide. One would think, just by watching her, that she was trying her best to impress someone or something. Who or what, well, that seemed to be for one person only, or shall we say one redeemed vampire only.

Their first night of their collaboration brought out a bounty of enemies for them to combat. The slayer was a lethal weapon against all that they crossed paths with, in and out of the glen. She played an impressive show of her fighting skills and abilities, hoping to target a reaction from her newest slaying companion. But, as she later noticed, he was kept busy with his own scuffle and dare not let his attentions fall on anything else.

A commotion broke out as she dusted the final demon, a yelling match between Gael and Brandubh. The white witch was telling the wee man about what magicks he was and was not allowed to use, about consequences and harmful spells.

"Don't be poppin' up out of nowhere, using yer magicks when I'm least expectin' it. Ye could 'ave 'armed anyone of us. And why were ye not at home when we came by? We patrol every night, same time."

Brandubh, hands on his hips, stomped his foot very much in a childish tantrum. "Don't ye be yellin' at me, lassie. I come and go as I please. Just be happy I can help ye out. That vampire would've been on you like spume on milk."

Gael crossed her arms vehemently. "I was in the line of fire, Bran. Ye are careless and one day, someone will pay for yer carelessness. I don't want to be the first one."

"Piffle, ye be alright, lassie. No worries. And I'm willin'…VAMPIRE!" Brandubh screamed as he raised his arms up over his head, shocking Eamonn to freeze where he stood. Both girls yelled no, Gael running towards the tiny man in an attempt to halt his sorcery as Aelwyn stepped in front of the vampire.

"But, but, but he is a vampire, I feel it in me bones."

"Tis true, Bran, but he be on our side, fightin' the good fight along with the rest of us. This is Eamonn and he's a…well he's a…good vampire," Ael finished with a shrug of her shoulders, not able to come up with a better title.

No one spoke for a few seconds until Brandubh sighed. "Aye, the vampire with a soul."

Eamonn looked at the slayer standing next to him in utter confusion before glancing back at the cluricaun. "Nay, lit'le man, I don't have a soul. At least, I'm not aware of one."

Aelwyn cocked her head to the side as she crossed her arms over her chest. "What ye be spoutin' on about, Bran? Ye said that like ye know of vampires with souls existin'. Aye, right."

Bran chuckled only slightly nervously. "Aye, lass, just twistin' hay, keepin' ye on yer toes, tis the truth."

Gael whistled for her horse. "Come along, Bran, I'll ride ye home." as the steed trotted up to her reliantly, waiting patiently for his next command.

She lifted the little man up, climbing onto the back of the horse herself and they galloped off out of the glen towards Bran's dwelling in a thicket near the edge of the forest.

Ael and Eamonn began strolling in another direction, back towards town. Both were silent for a long while until Ael could hardly stand it any longer.

"Do ye like it?"

He turned his head slowly and looked at her, brow furrowed in a look of puzzlement.

"Now what are ye going on about, slayer lass?" He smiled at her kindly.

She blushed and looked at the ground in front of her. "Being a vampire. Do you like it?" She looked back up at him quickly, gauging his reaction to her inquiry.

Eamonn's smile disappeared. He sighed and looked straight ahead as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his cacks.

"Sometimes," he shrugged. "At times I hate it, the hunger, the rage, 'aving to work so hard to pacify it cause I know it will always be there, forever and evermore."

Ael nodded, "Aye, I understand."

The vampire chuckled. "Don't sound so sad about it. Believe me, m'not crawvshawling. The power I have, all the strengths and abilities, I can use them to right all the wrongs. Use them to help instead of hurt. That's good, isn't it?"

"Aye, it tis." Another moment of silence trailed between them.

"Does it scare ye, knowing ye will live forever?" Ael asked him in a quiet voice.

He didn't answer right away leaving the slayer to wonder if she went overboard with the second question.

"Aye, the loneliness can be quite unbearable at times. M'not really good at making friends. Human ones, especially."

Ael wrapped her arms around her to ward off the frosty bite of the night air. "Well, vampire, ye've made a friend in me."

Eamonn stopped in the middle of the narrow path and watched the back of the retreating slayer. She realized suddenly that he had paused and turned to look back at him.

"Thank ye, slayer. That means…well, thank ye." And he began to walk to catch up to her.

She scoffed as she pointed a finger at him. "Doesn't mean I won't be keeping me eye on ye. I can still stake ye good and proper if ye get out of line."

Eamonn held his hands up in the air in mock surrender, a smirk growing at his mouth. "I understand, slayer. Hear ye loud and clear."

She huffed and turned quickly. He followed suit. "And quit calling me slayer all the time. It's Aelwynn. Me family and friends, what I have, call me Ael."

"All right…Ael," he said with a slight merriment in his voice which made her chuckle softly.

In a swift moment, he reached out and grasped her forearm, pulling her to a halt as he took a final step to her. A gasp caught in her throat as she had to grab his sides to steady herself, their bodies only millimeters apart. Her head ducked down, her forehead almost leaning again his chest as her heart raced and her body quivered. He was holding her still, his hands wrapped around her arms just below the shoulder, his head slightly turned away.

"Hush," his cool breath fluttered near her ear. "There's something out there. Be still."

She heard the bones shift and knew he had changed. Sweat beaded up on her forehead, her neck and she shivered when the night air cooled it. She looked up at him timidly.

"I see them, two vampires. I know them." Slowly his features melted back to the familiar face as he turned to look down at hers. He released his hold on her instantly and stepped back.

"M'sorry, sla…Ael." He could hear her heart racing, blood pumping briskly through her veins and his mouth watered briefly. He stomped the urge down and back into its black hole.

"Didn't mean to frighten ye, Ael. I just didn't want us to walk into a nest of demons or vamps."

"I wasn't frightened, just…surprised. Now I really feel the need to hurt something." And she trotted off in the direction he had been looking to earlier.

He caught up with her quickly. "Wait, I know these two. They're both thick---."

"Makes it easier. Now let's sneak up on the dimwits and let me have me fun." Ael smiled mischievously.

At that moment, Eamonn stepped on a twig, the snap of it reverberating off the trees. The vamps showed their ugly faces promptly, ready to pounce and tear the intruders apart. Eamonn hopped in front of the slayer.

"Eamonn, it be only ye. Seems ye brought along a midnight snack as well," the short, pudgy vampire sneered.

"Mac, Wally, fancy running into ye. Thought ye both be out of town after the last time."

"Sorry, lad, had no intentions of running away. Now, let's have a look at this scrumptious meal ye so graciously delivered to us."

Ael roughly pushed Eamonn to the side. "Let me handle this. I feel a need to inflict some pain."

Eamonn cocked his head to the side, crossed his arms over his chest and grinned shamelessly at the two unsuspecting nitwits.

A high roundhouse had both fools on their backsides as the slayer made her way to the opposite side of the prone vamps. The skinny one growled and like the animal he was, jumped up and attacked. He was nothing for the slayer, and after a few painful punches, she dusted him just as the short one came at her. He was a bit stronger and quicker than the last but still no match for the slayer. She swept her leg around and knocked his out from under him before staking him.

Ael placed her stake back into her belt, and brushed the dust from her dress, her eyes turning to rest in his, the lone vampire she had no intentions of staking. The look he gave her caught her off guard, and warmth flowed through her. A look of pure admiration and awe painted on his face, his eyes dark with something she was not familiar with. She felt the heat rise up to her cheeks and had to look away briefly to gather her wits.

"Well, that was fun even though it seemed too easy. Next time, ye should join the fracas and have a bit o'fun yeself."

"Oh, I'll be around for many more encounters, I'm most sure of it. Come alone, Ael. Let's get ye home before Watcher sends a search party out for ye."

~~*~~

Sunnydale, 17 March, 2002

The day of the wedding began sunny and glorious, as Anya tromped around the Summers' living room, head hung down and shoulders sagging. Dawn was the first to notice her discomfiture and readily asked the ex-demon what was ailing her on a day when she should be exhilarated.

"What's with the sad face, Anya? Did something happen?"

Anya groaned, placed one hand over her tummy, one in her hair. "I've gained three pounds, my hair is under conditioned, my shoes rub blisters on my feet,---and to top it all off, it's sunny and mild out. It's doomed. The wedding is doomed, my life is doomed. I'm going to die a lonely old-maid with 27 cats and a smelly apartment."

She plopped down on the couch and slumped forward. Dawn stood in front of her, mouth hanging open in amazement. Then loud guffaws burst forth from the teen as she leaned over, hands on her knees. Anya glared and huffed with vehemence.

"I don't think this is a laughing matter. I have 200 guests arriving within four hours, and it's ruined. The whole thing is ruined."

Dawn wiped the tears away and stifled another bout of giggles. "Anya, it's fixable. Everything is do-able. You'll get through this, get married, have a wonderful wedding and reception, and then off to the honeymoon without a care in the world. And it's beautiful out to boot. All sunny and…."

"Hush, it's bad luck. It's an old Kremackt wive's tale that to "Marry in the rain and gloom, and suffer not a lifelong doom." The weatherman said chance of thunderstorms today. Asinine man. I have every sense to call that station and tell them they need to fire that person."

"Ok, well, let's worry about the weather later and get you ready. I'll help you with the other stuff. I'll get the girls to help. Willow is upstairs already and Buffy is…wait, Buffy said she had an errand to run so it's just the three of us. It will all work out. Come on."

~~*~~

"I am not bloody well going, slayer." Buffy had never heard the vampire whine so loud in the few years she'd known him.

"Wimp. Coward. Chicken," she taunted him. He growled as he swiftly spun around to glower at her. She was bound and determined to drag him to Xander and Anya's wedding whether he liked it or not.

"I am not a coward. Besides, I have nothing to wear."

Buffy sputtered and covered her mouth. She didn't want to vex him so much that he would flat out refuse to go with her. She could usually get him to succumb to anything but there was always that slight chance he would withdraw back into his cold, dark lonely place as he ushered her back out into the sunshine.

"Sorry, you sounded just like a woman. Wear what you have on; I'm sure you have a black dress shirt in that dark and dismal wardrobe of yours." That got another growl as he turned away and walked toward his fridge.

"And another thing, are you daft? It's daytime. You know, that part of the day where the huge burning and glowing ball of gas is in the sky? That part of the 24-hour cycle I can toast like a marshmallow over an open flame? And last time I checked, I'm not flame retardant."

"I think you're being retarded for throwing such a hissy about going to a simple wedding."

Spike froze and stared at Buffy with a look of bewilderment on his face and head cocked slightly to the side. "Retard-ANT, slayer, NOT retard-ED. And do you even know the definition of either word?"

"Whatever. It's never stopped you before when you felt the need to come by and pester me during the day. Besides, I'll let you be my escort," she sing-songed the last bit, hitting below the belt with a bribe she knew he couldn't refuse.

He rolled his eyes with a sigh. "What time?" He sounded less than thrilled.

Buffy smiled. "One o'clock. And don't be late…and don't wear anything with holes, or blood or grunge on it…and look somewhat presentable."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Well, gee, slayer, you want to stay and dress me?"

"Not on your life. I gotta go and get ready. We leave the house at one." She moved towards the crypt door but hesitated before opening it.

"And be on your best behavior…please?"

"Well, since you asked me so nicely…I can give it my best. Just as long as I get to make one jab at the boy. Is there anything else you want to add to my list of conditions?"

Buffy pondered as she opened the door. "I'll think about it…and leave Xander alone."

~~*~~

Around noon, the sky began to darken in the Southwest and the air grew heavy with moisture. In the distance, rumbles of thunder rolled in, foretelling of the threatening spring storm. By twelve-thirty, large thunderheads erased the sun from the sky.

Three til one in the afternoon, the back door leading into the kitchen flew open, not by the hand of the person opening it, but by the strong arm of the storm's wind. The gust of air followed the vampire in, sending lightweight objects fluttering around the room then slowly cascading to the floor as the door was slammed shut behind him. Dawn yelped in surprise.

"Well, look what the storm blew in."

"Yeah, I really do know how to make a grand entrance." He chuckled as he slicked back his ruffled locks.

The first patters of rain hit the window as Buffy strolled in with Anya in tow. "I'm impressed, on time without a hair out of place. Didn't need your trusty blankie after all I see?"

"No, count yourself lucky. I hate feeling parched and sun baked. Not good for the complexion, that is. And what is her problem? She gone off her nut or what?" Spike asked, pointing at the overly ecstatic bride standing in the middle of the kitchen, giggling and squealing.

Anya clapped her hands as she jumped up and down. "It's raining, you dimwit. Come on, let's get the show on the road."

The three held back before following the overjoyed woman to the front door. "Gee, never seen anyone so excited about rain before." Buffy mumbled over her shoulder.

"Oh, something about a something or other's wives tale about rain and weddings and being doomed." Dawn waved her hand in the air.

"Ah, the Kremackt demons think it's ill luck to be married on a sunny day." Spike added with amiable casualness.

Buffy laughed softly. "Well, then I suppose this wedding will go off without a single hitch now that it's raining cats and dogs."

Spike clucked his tongue as he shook his head and Dawn patted her on the back as she replied, "Just remember, you said it, I didn't."

And the four of them ran between the drops of rain to the car waiting to pick them up.

TBC


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