Title: Trauma
Author: Erin
Characters: Stephen, Natalie, Frank (mention of Eva, Miles, Jack and Kate)
Rating: PG
Summary: Stephen searches for Natalie in the rubble.
Warning: set during Mission La Roca, Part One.
Disclaimer: The original characters belongs to NBC and their respective actors. All dialouge - except the last two lines - is from the episode.

Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me. -Emily Dickinson

Stephen Connor was usually one for remaining calm. Maybe it was because of his time served in the military; perhaps it had something to do with his career. It was entirely possible he'd learned patience from his mother. No matter what the situation, even Stephen was surprised at his ability to remain level-headed.

But, at this precise moment, Stephen found he could barely focus, let alone keep a clear head.

He'd been blistering drunk when Frank found him at the motel that morning. It took an awful lot of champagne to get Stephen to a point where he could barely function, which is why he preferred real alcohol. Unfortunately, there was no real alcohol at the fundraiser, so the champagne would have to do.

It was bad enough that he had to stay in D.C. for the damn dinner, especially while his team had been sent down to Central America without him. Not that he wanted to be on another case after the last three, but he'd rather be working than schmoozing to keep Kate off his back.

He'd grabbed the mail on his way out of the apartment and sitting in the parking garage, trying to remember the two senators he was supposed to impress for the sake of the NIH when he realized the envelope was from Jack. He was halfway through the spiral-paged note when he decided that he needed a drink.

He entered the hotel, found the closest open bar and swiped the bottle as the server was talking to a blonde in a very red dress. Stephen walked back to his car, opened the bottle and took a swig before starting his car and driving off into the night.

Now, here he was in the jungles of Central America and digging through the rubble of the village. They'd argued with the recovery crews upon arrival because Stephen was going into the hospital. He wasn't going to wait for help and he sure as Hell wasn't going to wait for sunrise.

His head had been spinning when Frank busted in the door, and he'd felt every drop of the champagne as he rolled off the bed and passed the letter from Jack over for Frank to see. And while he was embarrassed now, Stephen was glad that it was Frank to find him. Frank had been through enough of the 'Drama of Conner' to understand, but not sugar-coat it.

And he didn't.

Any alcohol still in Stephen's system was completely neutralized the moment Frank stated that they'd lost contact with Natalie after the earthquake. Stephen forgot the letter from Jack; the fact that he was in a tuxedo; and that Kate was trying to call him, as his phone rang again. Frank drove Stephen's car back to NIH while Stephen poured over the reports from the earthquake.

Stephen was upset that no one had news on Natalie, Miles and Eva. Kate was rather fried that Stephen hadn't shown up to the banquet. Stephen didn't feel like arguing with her and had no problem telling her that his concern was not her image, but his team.

Which pissed her off even more.

Just another day at the office, as far as Stephen was concerned. This, however... wasn't part of his day job.

Stephen tested the ground with his foot before stepping down fully. As he had climbed down from the roof, he wasn't sure if he'd made it the height of the building – well, the original height – and he didn't want to drop his full weight down only to find he still had a good two or three feet to solid ground.

As Stephen moved between the fallen timbers and piles of rubble, Frank gave him updates from the surface by way of the camera line they'd dropped. "The movement we spotted was six feet south of you; the legs under the gurney," Frank directed him through the headset. "Right up ahead."

"It's a woman" Stephen breathed as he spotted the pair of legs and pulled the gurney off the body. While his brain told him that it couldn't be Natalie because Natalie hadn't worn tennis shoes for as long as he'd known her, his stomach lurched.

"Stephen, is it her? Is she alive?" Frank asked, not wanting to think about the possibility that it was Natalie.

Praying to every saint he could think of, no matter how relevant to the situation, Stephen reached out for the woman and held his breath as he managed to turn her head.

He wanted to throw up upon the realization the woman wasn't Natalie Durant; not because of the woman's state, but for the state of his nerves. He was so very happy that it wasn't Natalie that it took him a moment to remember to say a prayer for the woman.

Frank knew Stephen was in view of the woman, and if Stephen wasn't saying anything, it could only mean- "No," Stephen breathed. Frank had to physically restrain himself from jumping up and pumping his fists in the air.

"Stephen?"

Everything stopped for Stephen Conner. He heard her voice. Dead people didn't talk. Natalie was alive.

As he spun around, some part of Stephen remembered that he was here to find Miles and Eva, also, but at that moment, he only cared about Natalie Durant. "Natalie?"

"Over here," he heard as he moved the flashlight around the space. Stephen saw her hair before he saw her. Even then, he wouldn't allow himself to believe it until he felt her pulse, saw her breathing and looked into her eyes. He could see her moving and hurried over as fast as he could as she tried to pull herself out from under the pile of rubble covering her.

He managed to get an arm around her and pull her toward him as he pushed up on the closest timber. As soon as Stephen was close enough for her to touch, Natalie latched on as if her life depended on the physical contact. She didn't know what day it was or how long she'd been there.

All she knew was that Stephen was there.

"I found Natalie. She's okay," she heard him say. "Miles? Eva? Are they in here?"

"No... no. Miles went up north and Eva... she drove to the hospital south," she stammered, feeling a sharp pain shoot up her forearm and her hand let go of Stephen's arm. "Ow... South of town." She glanced from the mixture of fresh and dried blood on her arm back over her shoulder to the Infirmary.

"We haven't heard from 'em. Now, look, Nat: it's been a big shaker. Seven point four. Buildings are down everywhere; entire villages are flattened. Come on," he said, finally letting go of her and pushing up as he grabbed her hand. "We're gonna go find 'em."

"I can't leave my patients, they're in there," she breathed out, pointing toward the Infirmary.

"Come on, let's go," she heard Stephen as he hauled her up and pushed a loose timber away. Natalie pulled away from him and was headed for the door when Stephen stopped her.

"Please, Stephen," she said with a half-turn toward the door. Stephen turned her back and put his hands on her neck, holding her head still and looking into her eyes.

"Just a second, Nat," he snapped, wanting to make sure she was okay. Her vision went blurry again and she leaned into him, ignoring the pain in her arm as she hugged him tightly. Stephen buried his face into her hair and said another round of prayers before pulling back and remembering they had a job to do.