"I'm fine, really I am."

The EMT that was working on her ignored her.

Kate was already sitting upright, holding up the oxygen mask that was feeding her fresh air through her nose, rolling her eyes at the EMT that was holding a stethoscope to her back, checking the sound of her lungs.

She honestly felt fine, though that may have been the remnants of the adrenaline still pulsing through her veins. As soon as she had gotten out of the building, half-supporting herself on Ryan as he and Esposito helped get Castle down the stairs (god, she didn't know if she had ever been so happy to hear them calling for her). The EMTs were waiting for them as soon as they got outside, immediately separating Kate and Rick into their own ambulances.

The only thing she had heard about him had come from Lanie who had told her that none of the injuries he sustained were life threatening, and he was responsive, his pupils dilating efficiently at the presence of light, so they were treating him on the scene.

(She may have also gotten the stink eye from Lanie before she left to which Kate swore they would go out for drinks as soon as everything settled down and she would tell her everything she wanted to know about her and Castle, which appeased the M.E. slightly.)

The EMT moved his stethoscope further down her back, to the place where she had fallen into the table and she flinched at the pressure.

That was going to be a nasty bruise.

She heard someone clear her throat at the entrance of the ambulance before she felt the familiar rock of someone stepping inside, moving to sit down on the bench opposite of her.

"Detective Beckett."

She looked up and saw the FDNY Chief sitting in front of her, his posture defensive, his jaw clenched.

Kate nodded, removed the oxygen mask from her face.


They sat in an awkward silence for a moment.

"I could have you arrested," he said finally.

Kate raised her eyebrow, silently scoffing at him.

She ran inside that building to save her partner, a bestselling author and friend of the mayor's life.

He really thinks he's going to find a cop that will arrest her?

"Not only did you run into an unsecured building," he continued, "you could have very well endangered my men who were running in there after you."

Kate actually scoffed.

"Well, that was my man in there," Kate said, trying to keep the edge of her voice, inwardly cringing at how that statement could be construed, "and your men didn't come into help me get him out. Those were my men who risked their lives to help me and my partner. Not yours."

"It was impulsive," he insisted.

"I'm not saying it wasn't," Kate replied, fighting the urge to roll her eyes, "but if it meant getting my partner to safety? I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

The man continued to stare at her blankly, as if that would make her suddenly remorseful for what she had done.

"I'm not going to apologize for that," Kate said, shaking her head.

The man opened his mouth to speak.

"Detective Beckett," a voice interrupted.

Kate looked over and saw Gates, standing by the back of the ambulance, half leaning against the side. Kate closed her eyes, dreading the lashing she was going to get from Gates for this stunt: for making the NYPD look impulsive, for being in a romantic relationship with her partner.

And she had just started to get back into Gates' good graces.

"Chief," Gates said, looking at the man sitting across from her, "I can assure you that I know how to discipline my detectives. I don't need you to do it for me."

The man shifted uncomfortably under Gates' stare before standing up, shooting one last look back at Kate.

"Don't do it again," he warned before walking away.

Kate rolled her eyes.

She couldn't help it.

As if she ever wanted to be in this situation again.

Gates turned back to Kate.

"That was a reckless thing you did back there, Detective."

Kate pursed her lips, looking down at her lap as the EMT removed the stethoscope from her back and took back the oxygen mask in her hands. Apparently she was good to go.

"But I understand why you did it."

Kate looked back at Gates who was holding out a water bottle towards her. Gates put it on the floor of the ambulance and slid it over towards Kate's feet. Kate leaned over, picked it up, and opened it, taking a large swig, the water soothing her dry throat. She put the cap back on top of it, watching as she rolled the bottle between her hands.

"Mr. Castle is awake, Detective."

Kate's eyes snapped back to Gates who was looking at her with a soft smile on her face.

"And he's asking for you."

Kate was out of the ambulance as soon as Gates finished her sentence, brushing past her, her heart beating quickly inside her chest.

He was awake.

He was awake!

She passed Ryan, Jenny, Javier, and Lanie as she moved over to his ambulance which was parked farther down the street (where less people were gathered, she realized somewhere in the back of her mind. In case something went wrong and they needed to get him to a hospital as quickly as possible). She could feel their stares in her back as she approached his ambulance.

She let out a sigh of relief as she saw him.

One of the EMTs working on him, patching up one of the cuts on his face (the other man holding the IV bag and looking at his watch) saw her first.

"Kate Beckett?" He said.

Rick lifted his head quickly, his eyes searching to find her.

"Kate," he breathed in relief, a smile spreading across his face.

She felt the tears spring to her eyes involuntarily at the sound of his voice.

She swallowed them back, unwilling to let them fall as she climbed up into the back of the ambulance, reaching out and grasping his hand, sitting on the bench the EMTs weren't sitting on.

"Hey," she whispered. Kate brought her free hand up and swiped it across his brow tenderly, brushing some of his hair back off his face, "how're you feeling?"

"Alright," he said, closing his eyes at her touch, "a little bit of a headache."

She smiled at him, glad he was feeling something rather than nothing at all.

"Do you remember what happened?"

She saw his eyes squeeze tighter in concentration.

"I remember being on the phone… talking to you. And then… the timer stopped ticking. I started moving into the bathroom… and then I remember waking up right here."

Kate nodded.

"They told me you went up there and dragged me out?"

Kate shrugged, trying to keep the mood light.

He was awake.

He was alive.

"Well, you've done it for me before. Figured I should return the favor."

He smiled at her, squeezing her hand.

"But you were conscious."

"And naked."

"Believe me, I remember."

She rolled her eyes at him but continued to smile at him all the same.

"Thank you," he whispered.

She just squeezed his hand.

"Oh!" he said suddenly, "I remember something else."

She looked at him expectantly. Anything he could remember could put them one step closer to solving this case and putting the person who did it behind bars.

Although she was sure she was going to be kicked off this case now.

No matter.

He smiled at her.

"You told me that when I got out of there, you'd let me kiss you."

She narrowed her eyes at him, but there was no heat behind it.

That would be what he really remembered about their conversation.

She scrunched up her nose at him.

"Did I say that?" she teased.

"Mhm," he affirmed with a smile.

"Well… I seem to remember saying that it would be in front of everyone."

"I think there's a good chance they're watching," Rick said.

Rick lifted his head and Kate looked out of the back of the ambulance. Sure enough, all four sets of eyes were watching them from outside.

Kate rolled her eyes and them and turned her attention back to him.

"So can I?" he asked.

"Can you what?" she said, playing coy.

"Kiss you."

"I don't know… can you?"

"May I kiss you?"

She let out a quiet, unladylike snort, "I wasn't looking to correct your grammar," she said, looking over at the EMTs, wanting to make sure that his breathing was normal enough and he was in good enough shape to go without oxygen for a couple of seconds.

And yes, she was probably just being a little overcautious.

But he had just been in an explosion.

The man smiled at her and nodded, respectfully diverting his attention to a burn on Rick's arm and the man holding the IV bag focused his attention on the incredibly interesting clear liquid inside of it.

Kate stood up, the hand still resting in his hair moving down to cup his cheek. She leaned over him, brushing her nose against his.

"I'm so happy you're okay," she whispered.

"Me, too," he whispered, angling his face towards her, his eyes shining, staring into her own, squeezing her hand again, "Me, too."

She smiled at him, the smile that told him just how much she loved him without saying the words, and pressed her lips softly to his.

Salamandrine: being capable of resisting heat or existing in fire.