Title: Fragile Strength
Author: Erin (erinm_)
Characters, Pairing: Stephen and Natalie (mention of Eva, Miles, Frank, Kim and the girls, Sabrina Martin, Brooke Beck, Meredith Beck and Raymond)
Rating: G
Summary: Stephen heads for Bellevue.
Warning: post-Survivor. Semi-related to Her Keeper, but can also be read seperately. *Written for Round 7 of prompt_in_a_box on LiveJournal. Prompt #32: You loved me 'cause I'm fragile when I thought that I was strong. (Gravity, Sara Bareilles)
Disclaimer: The original characters belongs to NBC and their respective actors.

Natalie Durant lived in a bubble. She had an ability to remain neutral and go for the science. Some people would see that as a hindrance to their work; others might see her as an uncaring or unfeeling human.

There were times lately, however, that Natalie's emotions were beginning to show. It was an odd sight to see her reacting to cases when she usually was calm. It was always Stephen who reacted, never Natalie.

She connected with Sabrina Martin over the music; Brooke Beck over the girl having no one else; and Meredith Beck because of her personal demons.

She was so determined to make up for her mistakes that she made Meredith angry. Natalie wasn't a people-person - she worked with the team and they understood her. But even Stephen was surprised that Meredith had reacted so strongly to Natalie.

Natalie, who still tried to help Raymond, even after he threw her into the cabinets. Natalie, who could be pushed and pushed, yet still manage to stay calm.

Natalie, who kept Stephen in check.

So, when it was Stephen's job to bring her back, he had no idea what to do. He was always the one saying 'don't get attached' and 'separate yourself from them' and 'stick to the science.' Even when he was threatening people to solve a case, he knew that his mantra was useless if it didn't work for him.

And he knew that whatever had Meredith Beck on edge, Natalie was getting it twice. He wasn't as concerned when Natalie wasn't in the lab with Frank, but when his best friend mentioned "Bellevue," Stephen began to worry.

Why was she at Bellevue? Had it gotten that bad? How terrible of a boss was he to not see her trouble? What kind of friend was he?

When he reached the receptionist and she directed him to the psych ward, he actually laughed. Not because the psychiatric hospital had an actual psych ward, but because that was the last place he would have hoped for her to be.

Whatever had been bothering her the last few days was worse than he'd guessed and that worried him. His job was to help sick people, yes; but his first priority should be his team. If they weren't at full-strength, they couldn't help others.

Clearing the corner - he was in the hard case-wing - Stephen breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Natalie standing at the door. He should feel guilty, as there were many sick people there, but at the moment, he was only concerned for one.

He watched her for a few moments, realizing he really didn't know anything about his team; his friends. Sure, he knew small things, usually learned from a conversation during a case, or listening to the team talk on long flights.

He knew Frank, of course, and Kim and the girls. But he didn't know their birthdays. He knew Eva was a child of the system, but he didn't know if she was seeing anyone. Miles was eager to please his father - and Stephen - but he didn't even know if Miles had a favorite sport. And, Natalie...

She was always there; telling him to go home, to stop working, to eat, to sleep. She was his keeper.

Who was hers?