Title: Playing With Fire

Author: littleotter73

Pairing: Buffy/Giles

Rating: T

Beta: catchoo

Setting: Season 4 AU, set a few months after the "The Freshman," but not following canon after that episode.

Disclaimer: I own nothing in the Buffyverse.

Summary: The Summer before Buffy started college was a long one for Giles with his young friends enjoying their summer holidays elsewhere. His reunion with Buffy during the events of "The Freshman" caused a rift he couldn't fix. A big fire in the warehouse district brings them back into contact, but what happens when the Slayer discovers her Watcher is a fireman?

Playing With Fire

As he hunkered down in his bunk at the fire house, Giles hoped for some action on his overnight shift. Nighttime was never an easy time in Sunnydale, but the last several nights he'd been on duty had been slow with only a call here or there to help with a few car accidents and to put out a kitchen fire at one of the frat houses near the university campus. Life had been very dull and frightfully boring these last few months, the only entertainment provided by the wild brush fire that threatened the town over the summer.

Ten minutes after he closed his eyes the alarm sounded and the crew jumped from their beds and quickly made their way to their kits to get suited up and onto the trucks. The dispatch relayed that there was a huge fire in the warehouse district with no casualties or missing persons reported. The blood pumped wildly through his veins. He'd not felt this level of excitement since the wildfires.

Giles jumped off the truck. The blaze raged out of control and he felt a rush when the incident commander pointed at him to join some of the veterans to go in and clear the building. Looking up, he noticed that the flames were on the fourth and fifth floors, and he donned his helmet and mask and turned on the air tank before leaving the safety zone with his partner. They entered the building and made their way up the staircase to the fourth floor. Opening the steel door, Giles pushed through into the internal hallway. There was evidence that several someones or somethings had been there recently since there was debris lining the walls. Ahead of them smoke filtered out of a door on the left.

Giles pointed in the direction of the door, his partner nodded, and they made their way down the corridor. The Watcher was in the lead and stepped through the threshold into the burning great room. There were no signs of humans or vampires alike, but the space had definitely been used as a vampire nest. All the tell-tale signs were there; the squalor, the blacked out windows, the empty blood packets on the floor stolen from either the blood bank or hospital, the lack of real food wrappers. Raising his axe to the ready, Giles entered the room. Despite the protective clothing it was hot and the temperature was rising.

Continuing onward with his partner following behind, Giles looked for signs of life. Where there were vampire nests, there generally were victims. He wondered if this was Buffy's handiwork, since on occasion they would firebomb vampire nests. If it was, she would've rescued any survivors before lobbing in her parting gift. He had no way of knowing, not having had contact with his Slayer for many months, and as it was his duty to clear the building, he continued his sweep.

The fire raged around them, but seemed to be burning with more intensity in the next room. As he moved closer to the door, he saw something within and went into alert mode. Squinting and edging his way nearer, he saw the outline of part of a body.

Turning towards his partner, Giles yelled over the roar of the fire, "Davis, there is someone in there!"

His partner acknowledged him and moved to catch up, but a large support beam fell between them and he was cut off.

Giles looked over his shoulder and called, "Davis! Are you alright?"

"Fine, Giles, but there is no way around this thing. Go rescue. I'm gonna radio down and get backup!"

"Good," Giles answered. If there were people stuck, they'd need the extra manpower. "There's another way out on the other side of the building. I'll get out that way."

Running into the other room, he noticed that the flames had engulfed the heavy fabric covering the blacked out windows and they burned with an ever increasing intensity. As he made his way towards the center of the room, he saw a pair of human legs protruding from beneath a broken table. After quickly removing the debris, he found a woman lying face down on the floor. She was unconscious but currently breathing and her arm was in a strange position. Placing down his axe, Giles quickly assessed that she would be able to withstand being moved and carefully rolled her over, immediately recognizing her.

"No, no, no! Buffy, no!" he called out, his heart pounding wildly in his chest.

Not wasting any time, he picked her up in his arms and grabbed the axe before making his way towards the exit at the other end of the building. When he came to a door that entered the main corridor, he checked to see if the coast was clear.

Parts of the building were falling around him and he ran for the emergency exit, shifting his Slayer in his arms so that he could open the door. Carefully navigating his way down the stairs, the firefighter made his way towards freedom. Stopping to take a moments rest, he noticed that Buffy had stopped breathing and he felt fear rise within him. He was in a quandary. Stop on a landing in a burning building and try to start her breathing or continue a few more flights to the bottom and get to safety?

Looking up he saw flames coming through the fire doors at the top of the stairwell, the extreme heat melting and twisting the reinforced steel, and he knew the decision was made for him. Continuing his descent, he finally reached the bottom and pushed the lever on the door to make his escape. Once out into the open air, he ran as far as he could, carrying Buffy to safety.

When he felt that they were safe from any debris that might fall from the burning warehouse, Giles carefully laid her down on the ground, pulled off his gloves, and in one motion took off his helmet, mask, and hoodie. He then quickly removed the air tank and his jacket to allow for better movement.

Dropping to his knees, he checked for a pulse and found a faint one, but she still wasn't breathing. He covered her mouth with his and blew air into her lungs. Turning his head, he watched her chest rise and fall, but she didn't start breathing on her own.

"Come on, Buffy!" he pleaded as he continued his efforts.

After the fourth breath, she started coughing and he reached for his mask and placed it over her face to provide her with flowing air to help her breathe. Lifting her up onto his knees to take extra pressure off her lungs, he cradled her in his arms, relief flooding his veins as the adrenaline started to wear off. Unwilling to let her go, he grabbed for his coat and pulled the radio from one of the pockets, notifying the incident commander of their location and need for an ambulance.

Buffy looked up at him in confusion, "Giles?"

"I'm here, Buffy," he answered, hugging her to him and mentally processing the fact that he could have lost her in the fire.

"Sorry, Giles," she whispered, clenching her teeth in pain. Reaching up to support her shoulder, she winced, "God this hurts."

"Shhhh, sweetheart, shhhh, the ambulance is coming," he reassured her, kissing the top of her head as he held her close.

The lights from the ambulance were a welcome sight and the next few minutes passed in slow motion for Giles as the EMT moved him out of the way, working to get a line into Buffy to rehydrate her and providing her with pure oxygen through a nose tube.

"Immobilize the shoulder," one of the EMTs told the other.

He kept his attention focused on his Slayer until someone grabbed his shoulder and turned him around. The chief and incident commander asked for a quick debrief, and Giles relayed the information while focusing his attention back onto Buffy.

As the EMTs were loading her into the ambulance, Giles asked permission to ride with her, explaining he was an old family friend. Seeing the concern on his firefighter's face, the chief let him go. Giles quickly shed the Kevlar trousers, leaving him in his standard issue navy cargo pants, t-shirt, and black boots. He passed his gear to a colleague before jumping in the truck with his Slayer and the medics.

Buffy kept her eyes trained on him and Giles started to feel a little uncomfortable. Periodically, he would look her way and give her a supportive smile in between fidgeting in his seat and running his hands through his already disheveled hair. They hadn't actually talked to or seen each other since the night he'd been too late to aid her in the fight against the vampire Sunday and ended up contritely helping her move back into her dorm instead. He'd called her on several occasions after that incident both socially and to provide her with information on abnormal activity, leaving several messages on her answering machine, but she'd never returned his calls, nor had she shown up at his home again.

"How are you feeling?" Giles finally asked after the EMT stopped examining her.

Buffy took a deep breath and coughed, "Not one of my better days, but I'll heal."

When they arrived at the hospital, Buffy was wheeled into her own exam room, complete with a door. Giles followed her in, filling out the required paperwork. He had committed her health insurance information to memory years ago for occasions such as these. Luckily he'd been able to triage most of her injuries in the library or at her home.

"Can you sign the documents yourself?" he asked, looking at her immobilized right arm.

"Not really," she muttered, her eyes focused on the blood pressure monitor next to her.

"We'll wait for the nurse and ask her how to handle the paperwork then. Your pulse-ox looks good," Giles said, making conversation.

"Yay me," she replied flatly.

Giles sighed and stood up. He'd almost lost her and she was still so far beyond his reach. "I'll just go phone your mother."

Buffy shifted in the gurney and let out a frustrated breath, "She's in New York at some art gala and won't be back until next week."

Placing the clipboard with the paperwork down on the tray next to the bed, the firefighter shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned against the wall. When the doctor came in to examine her, Giles excused himself into the hallway to allow them some privacy.

Taking a seat in the chair outside the exam room, he placed his head in his hands and took a deep breath. As he rubbed his face, he felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder and he looked up into the face of his partner. Giles stood up and Davis pulled him into a hug.

"Glad you made it out, man. I heard it was Buffy in there. How's your girl?"

"Smoke inhalation, shoulder injury. We'll know more soon. And you know she's not my girl."

Davis laughed. "Wouldn't know it from the way you talk about her. Anyway, I thought you might need your things," he said, dropping a bag with Giles clothes, wallet, and keys in it. I've got the rest of your shift. When's your next one?"

"Friday."

"Let me know if you need to change that. My brother can fill in, he's been looking for some extra shifts. He just broke up with his girlfriend and is looking to be elsewhere for a while."

"I might need to take you up on the offer. Buffy's mother is out of town."

"Take your time. Well, I gotta get back to the house. I just rode down with the EMTs to pick up more supplies. Thought I'd check on you."

"Thank you."

"Anytime."

After a few minutes the doctor called him back in and informed him that Buffy's breathing sounded good despite the smoke inhalation, but she was going to write up an order to x-ray Buffy's lungs along with her arm and shoulder. Giles agreed that that would be prudent and the doctor left, saying that an orderly would come down and wheel her down to radiology

The two sat there quietly for a few moments until Giles finally asked, "What went wrong in taking out the nest?"

"What?"

"You should've been well clear of the building before starting the fire."

"Oh. The fire wasn't me. The nest had been abandoned for a while. Maybe they were part of the Mayor's army, I don't know. I followed a bunch of guys down to the warehouse. They looked sketchy, but it turns out they were just drunk kids hanging out and making a bunch of noise. One of them started a fire in a barrel and one of the others disturbed some kind of demon up there. The barrel got knocked over in the fight. I think all the guys got out."

"And you?"

Buffy squirmed in the hospital bed before answering, "Demon threw me. I guess it got away too."

Giles sat in silence, focusing on flexing his hands and balling them into fists. There was more to be said, but it wasn't the time.

"Since when the fuck did you become a firefighter?" Buffy questioned, her voice holding a challenge.

He raised his head but before he could answer, the orderly walked in.

"Good evening, Miss Summers, let's go visit radiology, what do you say?"

Sending a glare towards her Watcher, Buffy told the orderly, "I'm all yours."

XxXxXxXx

Just before dawn, Buffy was released into Giles' care with a very mild case of smoke inhalation, and a broken clavicle. Thankfully, her lungs were clear despite the intake of the toxic smoke, and her arm was encased in an immobilizing sling. The doctor also sent her home with pain killers to help with the pain.

"I am sure Olivia isn't going to love this arrangement," Buffy snarked as they got into the cab.

Taking a deep breath, Giles looked at his Slayer, asking, "What, pray tell, does Olivia have to do with any of this?"

"Well, you two are together, I'm a wounded house guest. You do the math."

"First, I am your Watcher and second, Olivia was just visiting and is either in Milan or Hong Kong, I don't know which. And we are very much not together."

After paying the driver, he helped his Slayer out of the cab. Giles threw his keys down on the table upon entering his home and headed to the kitchen, putting the kettle on.

"Tea?"

"No."

He turned off the kettle. He didn't want any either. Between the exhaustion, the acidic hospital coffee, and the scare he had faced earlier, he couldn't face putting anything else into his stomach. What he really wanted was a hot shower to wash away the soot and the smell of sweat and fire. After that, all he wanted was to fall into bed. Well, technically, fall into the sofa since he was putting Buffy up in the loft to recuperate.

"Running into burning buildings seems to be a thing with you," she observed, finally confronting him. "What's this fascination you have with fire?"

Settling his eyes on hers, he shrugged his shoulders and stated matter-of-factly, "I was bored."

"So now you're a fireman? What in God's name were you thinking?"

"You're not my wife, Buffy, I can do as I please."

She looked as though she had been slapped. "I'm your Slayer, Giles! I think that rates up there a little higher than wife. Welcome to destiny, or have you forgotten yours? Oh, wait, I forgot, how stupid of me! The Council fired you. Now you're a Watcher. Now you're not. How fucking convenient for you!"

"You think it's that easy? Where the hell have you been these last months since coming home from your summer holiday in Mexico, Buffy? I've been here. The one time you come by, you can't even afford me the decency of having a civil conversation. You insult me in my own home in front of an old friend-"

"You ignored me when I needed help. Threw me out so you could bang your old friend! And telling me that I technically don't have a Watcher... low blow, Giles, but if that's what you want, pack up, go back to England! Then it can be literally too."

Walking over to the table, he picked up her bag of medicines, pulled out the pills she needed, grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge and opened it. He set them down on the table before her, gave her a glare, and walked down the hall to the bathroom.

"The loft is yours, take it," he growled before he slammed the door. Yanking off his t-shirt and turning on the taps, the Watcher sat down on the closed toilet lid and pulled off his boots. Dear lord she was infuriating. Not six hours ago, she was unable to breathe on her own and now she was yelling at him for essentially being there to save her life.

The shower did a lot to turn around Giles' attitude and he pulled on his robe and walked back into his living room. Buffy was asleep on the couch, leaning against the cushions on her uninjured side. Worry took over and he quickly crossed over to the couch to check her breathing. She didn't appear to have any difficulty, but she too was sooty and her clothes and hair smelled of smoke, which would only irritate her lungs more. He needed to get her cleaned up before sending her up to the loft.

After returning with a warm bowl of soapy water and a washcloth, the Watcher sat on the coffee table before her and took a moment to reflect on what might've been. He trusted his fellow firefighters, they were like brothers to him now. It was a camaraderie born out of danger and shared experiences. But his relationship with his Slayer, despite their many hardships over the years, was born out of the same things and more, and she meant more to him than any of his fellow firefighters ever would. A life without her in it was too horrific for him to even contemplate and they'd come too close on any number of occasions.

Reaching out, he gently caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers and was surprised when she responded to his touch, nuzzling against his hand. He closed his eyes, relishing in the feel, knowing that if she'd been conscious they would more than likely be participating in more verbal sparring.

Giles removed his hand, took a deep breath and attempted to wake her, "Buffy, please wake up." When she didn't respond, he put his hand on hers and lightly squeezed it as he called her name. At a loss for ideas on how to wake her without jostling her broken clavicle, he gave up. The bone would heal up in three days time, but for now she needed the rest and relaxation to take full advantage of her accelerated healing process.

Dipping the cloth in the water, Giles wrung it out and started to gently wipe the soot and grime away from her forehead, repeating the process as he moved down to her cheek until her eyes fluttered open. He paused for a moment, staring into her green eyes before looking away. He dipped the cloth back into the water and moved his attentions to her other cheek, wiping away the traces of her ordeal. She watched him as he tended to her, and while he felt self-conscious, he continued to clean her face and neck while she allowed it.

When their eyes met again, she reached out to still his hand. "Why?" she whispered.

Putting the bowl and the cloth down on the coffee table, Giles asked, "Why what, Buffy?"

"Why firefighting?"

"Something to do, I suppose," he answered. "We need to get you cleaned up and out of these things, so you aren't breathing in more toxins."

Buffy sat up, her eyes widening at a sudden realization. "I need... help."

"I can call Willow," he offered.

"She's in class all day."

Giles took in a deep breath and exhaled. He knew it would lead to this, but he needed Buffy to trust him. "I have an idea. Follow me to the bathroom?"

A few minutes later, she was sitting on the edge of the tub, still clothed, but instead of the sling with the immobilizer, he had fashioned a towel into a sling, making sure to keep her arm at the proper height. After adjusting the water temperature, he started to wash her hair, massaging in the shampoo and rinsing it out, and repeating the process with the conditioner.

"You don't have anything more girly smelling than this around?" Buffy asked.

"There is a distinct lack of girly in my apartment at the moment, Buffy, I am sorry if the sandalwood bothers you."

"No, no. It's good. The smell I mean. I just thought maybe Olivia left something behind..."

He understood now. "Olivia is long gone, Buffy. She stayed a few nights and she left. She wasn't exactly thrilled as I brooded over the fact that I had felt I had let one of my former pupils down. I'd say that was rather a turn off for her. Never mind the fact that the former pupil in question is now a coed at the local university."

"I'm sorry," Buffy apologized as Giles pulled the faucet out of the holder and started to rinse the conditioner out of her hair.

"No you're not, but thank you for the sentiment all the same."

She let out a little huff, "It was really awkward and I didn't handle it as well as I could have. I just... didn't expect you to have company and I was having a really hard time with the whole college thing."

"I know, and I didn't handle it well either, sending you a mixed message of go away, but I am here for you," he admitted, gently towel drying her hair. "Your hair is all done, would you like to get in the shower?"

"How am I going to manage this?"

"I have body wash, I can put it on a washcloth and hand it to you once you are in the shower."

"One way or the other these clothes have to go, Giles," she said miserably.

Looking away in embarrassment, he groused, "Your mother has bloody awful timing."

"Do you think we can get through this?" Buffy asked.

Giles sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "We'll manage as we've always done. I'll be back in a moment."

He returned dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and with him, he brought a pair of scissors, a t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. Setting the clothes and the scissors down on the vanity, he turned on the shower and adjusted the temperature.

"Alright, then. In order to prevent further pain and damage to your shoulder, we'll cut off your clothes. I shan't look and then you can step into the tub. Once you're settled, I'll hand you the washcloth with the body wash and you can get yourself cleaned up. When you've finished, I'll hand you the towel and leave you to get dressed."

"It's a plan," she agreed.

"We'll start with your trousers. I'll cut them up the side and you hold them at the top. Then I will cut your shirt and sports bra from the back and let you have a moment to discard them and get into the shower."

"Okay," Buffy replied as he knelt on the floor and started cutting her pants. "So, when you're bored, you turn into danger-man?"

"Buffy, we've spent the last three years battling all sorts of evil. Our lives are filled with danger. Did you patrol whilst you were in Mexico?"

"Well, yeah, I get sorta itchy when I'm not hunting."

"It's like that for me too. I don't like being idle. I've never handled it well. Hold on to the waistband, I'm going to cut it."

"I've got it," she said, grabbing the waistband. "Is that why you joined Ethan and his gang when you ran away?"

"There was a large element of danger in their activities. Stealing, joy riding in the fast cars we hotwired, vandalizing, raising demons... taking drugs."

"So you are danger-man."

"Firefighting is a far less scandalous affair," he pointed out as he moved around behind her. "I'm sorry about your clothes."

"They're ruined anyway. No amount of washing is going to get the smell out."

"True."

"I find it ironic that the man who blew up the high school is now a fireman."

"There is a bit of irony to it, I set many things on fire back in the day," he agreed as he cut through her shirt and bra strap. "Alright, you are set to go. Call me when you are in the shower."

Giles closed the door behind him and leaned against the wall. This was going to be a trial. The summer had been extremely lonely and boring and he'd missed his young friends dreadfully. Willow had gone to Harvard to study, courtesy of her parents looking for more of the right ticket punches for later in life. Xander had made good on his promise to see as much of America as he could before either the summer or his money ran out. And Joyce had taken Buffy to Mexico with her on one of her art buying trips, and as a graduation present had extended their stay to include a beach holiday in one of the cities on the Mexican Riviera.

Of course he'd missed Buffy more than the others, she was his Slayer regardless of his dismissal by The Council. At least that's what he'd told himself to prevent him from analyzing the situation any closer. But he knew otherwise. After handing Buffy her diploma in the wake of preventing the Mayor's ascension, Giles had felt something shift in his feelings for her, and quickly buried it. After all, it would complicate things between them that their ever changing relationship didn't need. No doubt it would make her declaration of "Fire bad, tree pretty" look like a work of Shakespeare.

"I'm ready now, Giles," Buffy called from the other side of the door.

He groaned internally and entered the bathroom. Picking the washcloth up off the towel bar, he ran it under the faucet and added a little of the body wash to it, working it in to create suds for her. He then closed his eyes and handed it to her in the small space between the curtain and the wall.

"Thanks. So, when did you join the fire department?"

Leaning against the counter, Giles crossed his arms and answered, "About two weeks after you'd left. I'd finished cross referencing and inventorying the books we'd saved from the library. It was frightfully dull. Sunnydale has an accelerated training program and I tested out of the EMT portion of the curriculum due to my Watchers training."

"Any interesting stories?"

"Prior to tonight, the only thing interesting of note was stopping the wildfires that threatened Sunnydale."

"Uh, Giles?"

"Yes?"

"I... I... can't wash my legs or back."

"A-are you... are you out of soap?" he asked hopefully.

"Uh... yeah, but that's not the problem."

"What is the problem?" Giles questioned, throwing his head back and begging every deity he could think of for mercy.

"It hurts to bend over or twist my body around."

The only sound to be heard at that moment was the water running in the shower. Giles had no idea what to say.

"Giles?"

He cleared his throat. "Yes?"

"I think you're gonna have to get in here and help," Buffy said, her voice small and tentative.

"P-perhaps if you... if you just placed your leg on the edge and I could-"

"I can't balance so well right now. I'm fighting the drowsiness of the painkiller and dealing without my right arm."

"Buffy, this isn't... I can't..."

"Please, Giles. Just... I can't smell like that and I can feel the greasy soot all over."

He should've drawn her a bath and he kicked himself for not thinking of it before. He'd suggest it now, but the water heater was small, and if he didn't help her soon, she'd be out of hot water. Tossing his glasses onto the vanity, he started to undress, seeing no other recourse to their dilemma.

"Giles?"

"I'll be right in," he answered, raising his eyes to the ceiling and shaking his head in disbelief.

"I'm really sorry," she apologized.

"No, it's my fault, Buffy. I clearly wasn't thinking when I suggested the shower." Grabbing the washcloth and the body wash, Giles moved the curtain out of the way to step into the tub. Buffy turned her head around to look at him. "Eyes up front!" the Watcher commanded, covering himself up as quickly as he could with the cloth.

"Sorry," she giggled.

He knew Buffy had an amazing body, he trained her and trained with her... well, he used to. She had always been fit, strong, and lithe. And here he was, a mere man, trying desperately to ignore the fact that the woman he had fallen in love with was standing before him totally naked. Dear God, he was in trouble. Attempting to keep things professional, he tried not to notice the gentle curves of her body, how the low lighting in the bathroom accentuated her natural beauty, the way the water glistened on her golden skin, or how it flowed down the slope of her back and over the rise of her buttocks. Life was cruel, his body even crueler.

Lathering up the washcloth with the body wash, Giles took a deep breath and asked, "Shall we start with your back, then?"

"Ready when you are."

The motion was awkward when he applied the cloth to her back and he pushed her off balance. Buffy was able to right herself, but his instincts kicked in and he quickly reached out and circled her waist with his right arm, causing her to fall back into him.

"Jesus, Buffy, I-I'm sorry. Are you alright?" Giles asked, concerned for her injury and more than a little surprised to find himself with an armful of Slayer pressed up against him.

"Uh... yeah. Just... this is... cozy."

The Watcher didn't let go of her, he just held her as his heart pounded like a jackhammer in his chest, resting his forehead against the back of her head before regrouping. When he got his emotions under control, he pulled away from her. Keeping a hand on her waist, he gently ran the soapy cloth over her injured shoulder before washing the back of her neck and continuing downwards, applying a little pressure to help remove any lingering tension she might have from her harrowing experience in the warehouse.

"Mmmm, showering with someone else is definitely of the good," Buffy purred as he washed her lower back.

"It has its advantages," Giles remarked, trying not to think about where his hand was and the fact that he had elicited noises of pleasure from his Slayer. Moving his hands to rest on her good shoulder and her hip, he said somewhat huskily, "Your back is all done."

He stood over her and their eyes caught as she turned her head up to look at him. She lowered her eyes to look at his lips before bringing them up again and then turned to face him, raising her left hand to caress his cheek. He tentatively moved his face down to meet hers, questioning her with his eyes, unable to believe what was happening.

Buffy pulled him down the rest of the way and their lips met in a hesitant yet tender kiss. It was short and sweet and filled him with hope. She gave him several more kisses, taking a little more each time and lingering a little longer with each kiss. When she finally pulled away, he gazed at her in astonishment.

"Buffy?" he asked, a million questions hinging on her name.

"I was jealous. It was just easier to not be around you if Olivia was here. I'm sorry. And I am sorry for being so angry earlier... I just kept thinking about you going after Angel in the burning warehouse after Ms. Calendar..."

"I know what I am doing, I've been properly trained," he explained, trying to reassure her as he lovingly stroked her cheek.

"I can't lose you, Giles. I just can't," she entreated, looking away as her green eyes filled with tears. "Please, our lives are dangerous enough without adding the element of recreational fire to it."

"As I recall, it was I who nearly lost you last night," the Watcher said, his voice gentle and low. Raising her chin with his index finger so he could see her, he continued, "I don't want to imagine the horror if I hadn't found you when I did. You see, I can't lose you either, Buffy."

Cupping her face between his hands, he leaned in and lightly nuzzled his nose against hers, teasing her with his lips and tongue until she lost patience and reached up with her good hand, drawing him towards her and crashing her mouth to his in an impassioned kiss.

"Not so old and gross now?" he teased when they finally broke apart.

"I say the stupidest things when I'm jealous," Buffy said apologetically, cuddling up against his chest, only to jump when the water temperature changed drastically. "Oh my God that's cold!"

Quickly and carefully switching places with her so that he stood beneath the faucet, Giles let out an audible gasp as the nearly freezing water hit his body. After turning off the taps, he shook his head to clear the water from his eyes.

"I really need that," he stated with a shy grin.

Buffy glanced down in surprise, but he had turned and opened the curtain, quickly grabbing his towel and placing it around his waist. "Tease," she replied.

"Only until you are all better," Giles said, giving her a cheeky smile. Stepping out of the tub, he grabbed the dry towel from the vanity and turned to help her with it, carefully drying her off and helping her put on the clothes he had brought down for her. Pulling the sling over her head, the injured Slayer eased her arm into it and he helped her adjust it properly.

After pulling on his sweats and t-shirt, Giles yawned. He felt happy and relaxed, and he was exhausted, going on at least thirty hours with no sleep.

"You look like you are going to fall asleep on your feet. Let's go to bed," Buffy suggested, taking his hand in hers and leading him up the stairs.

The Watcher made sure his injured Slayer was comfortable before lying down next to her. His eyes immediately closed when his head hit the pillow.

"Giles?"

"Yes, darling?" he mumbled, reaching out and placing a possessive arm over her stomach.

"If we patrol more together, do you think you can hang up the fireman's helmet?"

Opening his eyes, Giles sat up to face her, his concern for her overriding his exhaustion. "This really has you scared, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, it does," Buffy admitted, looking down at the comforter and picking at a loose thread. "We don't need to be playing with fire, Giles, we face enough threats, don't you think?"

He stilled her hand with his and she looked up at him, her eyes brimming with tears.

"I'll submit my resignation after we get some much needed sleep," he agreed, gently pulling her into his arms.

"Thank you," she replied in relief as she relaxed into his embrace and wiped her eyes. After a few minutes, she yawned and settled back into the pillows, "Be here when I wake up?"

"Where else would I be? Goodnight, my love." He gave her a chaste kiss and cuddled up next to her.

"Giles?" she whispered after a few minutes had passed. Not receiving an answer, she smiled as she tenderly traced her finger along his scratchy jawline and closed her eyes.