DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
SPOILERS: "Sex, Lies And Larvae" and "Inside the Box"
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Recovery
By Ann


Part 1

Halleluiah! I am actually leaving at the end of regular shift for the first time in ages. Smiling, I can just hear the freshly laundered sheets of my bed calling me. As I reach the exit, I almost jump out of my skin as my cell phone rings. Looking at the display, I see Grissom's name. Crap, why couldn't it have been my sheets? He's probably going to tell me I have maxed out on overtime and have to leave the building.

"Hey, Gris. I am on my way out, I swear. . . . What? . . . When? . . . Where? . . . Is she okay? . . . I'm on my way."

I jump in the Denali and take off like a bat out of hell. I force myself to slow down at the first light. Getting into an accident is the last thing I need right now.

How the hell could this happen? The scene is supposed to be cleared by the responding officers before CSI moves in. Somebody's ass is going to be in a sling when I find out who is responsible. Catherine is my life. She just doesn't know it yet.

I arrive at the scene just as the ambulance is pulling in. I race to the backyard to find Catherine lying on the grass and Warrick in tears kneeling beside her. Catherine is unconscious and her limbs askew looking like a broken doll. I look closely to be sure she is breathing.

The paramedics rush to her side with a stretcher and their kits. They work quickly and efficiently to assess the injuries. Catherine is fitted with a neck brace and splints on her left leg and arm. She is carefully placed on the stretcher and wheeled away. The paramedics yell back their destination, UMC.

It takes every ounce of willpower not to run along with the stretcher and ride in the ambulance with Catherine. Instead, I have to take over this crime scene, Grissom's orders.

Warrick is certainly not in any condition to continue, so I suggest he go straight to the hospital. He nods and takes off running. Grissom is going to disagree with my decision, but Catherine needs one of us to look out for her in the ER.

I immediately turn toward the sound of a raised voice to find Brass dressing down a uniformed officer, quite efficiently if I may say so myself.

As I walk toward the two, I hear "I don't want to hear any excuses. You were the first officer on the scene. It is your responsibility to clear the scene. No one and I mean no one is to enter the house without your official okay."

The officer does not look the least bit remorseful for his actions or rather lack of in this case. In fact, he seems callous and indifferent about the whole situation.

I am positive of my assessment when he says "I did check the upstairs. How was I supposed to know the guy was some sort of circus performer that could balance on the outside balcony wall? He was out of my view when I checked the bedroom. We wouldn't be in this situation if a male CSI had stumbled upon the guy. That redhead has no business being in any branch of law enforcement if she can't defend herself. Matter of fact, I don't know many women who are worthy of our profession."

Before I know it, I am standing toe to toe with Officer Chauvinist Asshole. "You son of a bitch, you're the one who has no business in law enforcement. You didn't clear the crime scene properly, you let the suspect get away, and to top it off, you don't even have the balls to accept responsibility for your screw up. I can bet you ten years salary Catherine fought this guy tooth and nail, but it's a little difficult to defend yourself when you are being pushed off of a second story balcony. If she suffers any permanent damage from this, I am personally going to drag you upstairs and kick your sorry ass off that balcony."

Brass quickly steps in between the two of us before things can escalate further. "Sara, back off. I know you're upset and so am I. Go on and get to work on the crime scene. I'll take care of this situation. When I get through with this officer, he'll be lucky if he can get a job working security at the local arcade."

Trusting Jim, I walk toward the house to begin processing the evidence. My mantra becomes 'the faster I finish, the faster I can get to Catherine.'

As hard as I try to concentrate on the job, I can't seem to get my mind off of Catherine. This could have been any one of us, a simple B&E gone terribly wrong. I only wish it had happened to me instead of her.

Focus, Sara. Do what you do best. Push this to the back of your mind to deal with later.

I open my kit to begin with the first floor when I look up to see Greg and Nick entering the front door with their kits in hand. Nick takes the lead and heads toward me.

"Hey, Sara. Grissom sent us to lend you a hand. Where do you want us?"

Nick is visibly upset, but is maintaining his professionalism. Greg hasn't said a word.

I ask "Any news on Catherine?"

Nick shakes his head and says "Warrick said she regained consciousness in the ambulance. He was able to talk to her for a few seconds at the hospital before the doctors came in and kicked him out. She said she doesn't remember anything about the attack and her condition is still being assessed by the doctors. Grissom has gone to the hospital to interview Warrick and wait for the prognosis. He will make sure we are updated."

I nod my head at the news. At least she is awake.

I leave Nick and Greg to process the first floor while I move to the second level. Officer Dumbass indicated Catherine was in the bedroom alone. I'm willing to bet it was the first room she processed.

I step into the master bedroom to find the balcony doors wide open. Scanning the room for fingerprint powder, I see traces on the right door leading out to the balcony. It looks as if Catherine had just begun to dust for prints when she was attacked.

There are no signs of a struggle in the bedroom, but several plants have been knocked over on the balcony. I wonder if Catherine heard a noise and went to investigate.

Deciding to process the balcony area first, I am able to lift several prints off the balcony's ledge. Catherine had her gloves on so I'm hoping these are the suspect's and not the homeowner's prints.

After a couple of hours, I have completed work on the upstairs. Nothing is out of place in any of the other rooms. It seems all activity was confined to the master bedroom and balcony. I hope Nick and Greg were able to find something noteworthy.

I make my way downstairs to find Nick on the phone and Greg still uncharacteristically silent. I am able to catch the last part of Nick's conversation as I reach the bottom step.

"That's great, Warrick. Give her our best and tell her we'll be there as soon as we can. Talk to you later, man."

Nick closes his phone with a huge smile on his face. Patiently, I await his report.

Still grinning, Nick says "Warrick called. Catherine's going to be okay. The doctors put her through the wringer with x-rays and tests. She has a broken left arm and leg and bruised ribs, but everything else checks out. The doctor said she more than likely landed on her leg and arm and then somehow rolled with the momentum. He said there was no head trauma. Apparently, she passed out from the pain."

I guess all the pent up emotions have finally taken its toll on me as I sit on the bottom step and break down.


Part 2

Nick sits down and engulfs me in a hug. Looking over his shoulder, I notice Greg awkwardly shifting his weight from foot to foot.

"Um… Nick …Sara…. I'm going to put our kits in the truck. I'll wait for you outside."

After several minutes, I pull away from Nick and wipe the tears from my face. "I'm sorry about this, Nick. I don't know what's wrong with me. I guess everything hit me at once."

Nick, the perfect gentleman, says "Hey, don't worry about it. You are entitled to a melt down every now and then. Sara, you're just worried about Catherine. I know how much you care for her."

I immediately freeze. What exactly did he mean by that last statement? Was he insinuating I care for Catherine as a friend or more? I decide to shrug off Nick's comment and move to safer ground. "Thanks for the shoulder, Nick. Just don't tell anyone, okay?"

He gives me his patented 'who me?' smile and responds "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."

I'm sure Nick is referring to my break down and not my feelings toward Catherine. At least I think I'm sure. Great, that's all I need, something else to worry about.

Nick and I gather the rest of our things and head outside to meet Greg. Nick insists he and Greg take the evidence back to the lab while I go to the hospital. I agree, but only after engaging in a half-hearted debate.

I am halfway to UMC when I realize the possible impact of allowing Nick and Greg to bring in the evidence. This is my case; I am the lead investigator. How is it going to look if I hand the evidence off and run to Catherine?

Well, it's too late for second guessing now. I'm already in the hospital parking lot so I may as well go in. Entering the front doors, I walk toward the information desk to find Catherine has already been assigned a room. I turn toward the elevator bank when I hear my name. Crap, it's Grissom.

"Sara, why aren't you at the crime scene or back in the lab? What are you doing here?"

Double crap. I quickly explain "Nick and Greg are taking the evidence back to the lab. I thought I would swing by to make sure Catherine is okay before heading back."

Typical Grissom responds "Warrick called, didn't he? Catherine's going to be fine. There is no need for you to be here. You should get back to the lab."

I count to ten then I count backwards to one. "Grissom, if you don't mind, I would like to see for myself. I don't want the last image I have of Catherine to be of her lying on the ground broken and battered. I will go back to the lab as soon as I have seen her with my own eyes."

Clearly not happy, Grissom nods his head as he walks out of the building. And I thought I didn't have any social skills.

Taking a deep breath, I knock on the door before entering. Lindsey is seated on the bed next to Catherine. Warrick is standing on her left and an older woman is standing on her right.

They all turn to look at me as I enter and I get a funny feeling that I've walked into a discussion about me.

Warrick, Lindsey, and older lady smile while Catherine frowns. Maybe she's in pain.

Warrick begins the conversation. "Sara, the lady of the hour, we were just talking about you."

I scan all four faces, three smiling faces and one huge frowning face. This can not be good.

I respond "What makes me so interesting?"

No one responds; however, the older woman makes a beeline over to me. She extends her hand as she introduces herself. "Hello, Sara. I'm Lily, Catherine's mother."

Nice looking woman. Catherine is going to age beautifully. I grasp her hand gently and respond "Nice to meet you. Can you give me a hint as to what is going on?"

"Yes, Sara. I will enlighten you, but first, would you mind escorting an old lady down to the cafeteria for a bite to eat. Warrick and Lindsey can keep Catherine company."

This is definitely a bad omen. Evidently, she can't tell me in front of the others. I can not begin to imagine what this all has to do with me.

We make small chit chat on the elevator ride. It is apparent Lily is not going to give me any details until she is good and ready.

She picks out a sandwich and tea while I get a cup of coffee. I insist on paying as she thanks me and moves to a corner table, a far corner table.

The minute we take our seats, Lily begins. "Sara, you've known my daughter for quite a few years now so you know how bull headed she can be on certain subjects."

Talk about an understatement, but I nod my agreement.

Not missing a beat, Lily continues. "Well, she only has to stay in the hospital until tomorrow. Her father wants to hire round the clock nurses to look after her, but Catherine will never agree to it. She uses the excuse of not wanting strangers in her home, but I think she just doesn't want to have anything to do with her father."

Why would she want to shun her father? Now that I think about it, I've only heard Catherine speak of her mother. I guess there must be bad blood between the two of them. I can certainly respect her wishes. If my father were alive today, I wouldn't want to have anything to do with him either.

I nod my head for Lily to continue.

"Anyway, she is going to require quite a bit of assistance and I'm afraid I'm not physically able to provide for her needs. Besides, we would kill each other if we have to spend more than 12 hours a day together. So, I was wondering if you would consider moving in and helping."

I have to keep my jaw from hitting the table. Catherine and I wouldn't even last 6 hours together before one of us commits murder or suicide. What are these people thinking?

Before I can voice my objections, Lily says "You would be perfect. She will be sleeping when you are at work, so I should be able to handle any problems during that time. You would be home by the time she needs to get up. Warrick said your Mr. Grissom would make sure that you are able to clock out at the end of each shift. What do you say?"

I tell you what I say. You're nuts and I'm going to kill Warrick for going along with this. I can excuse Lindsey since she's not old enough to know better. And what about me? When I am supposed to sleep if I'm taking care of Catherine during the day?

I open my mouth to say no but am stopped by the hopeful look in Lily's eyes. How am I going to keep this from happening without hurting her feelings?

Oh, I know. With a gleam in my eye, I ask "What does Catherine have to say about all of this?"


Part 3

Lily shakes her head and says "She's not very happy with the idea, but she doesn't want to stay in the hospital and she doesn't want Sam's nurses."

Sam? Is that the name of Catherine's father? I'll have to file that tidbit away for later.

Confused as to why I am the perfect solution to this problem, I ask "Why me? I would think Catherine would want one of her friends to stay with her or perhaps hire a nurse."

Lily responds "Sara, Catherine doesn't really have any close friends anymore and she can't afford to hire a nurse on her salary. Her sister works full time and can only help out occasionally with Lindsey. Besides, since you and Catherine work so closely with each other, I would think you two would be friends."

Thinking doesn't make it so. I would love to be friends with Catherine. Of course, I would love to be more than friends with Catherine too.

Instead I offer a safe answer. "If Catherine agrees for me to stay with her, I will be more than happy to do so."

Hell will freeze over before Catherine would ever agree to have me play nursemaid to her.

We return to the room after Lily finishes her lunch. Warrick has left and Lindsey is asleep in the chair. Catherine is pensively looking out the window.

Lily walks to the bed and brushes Catherine's hair from her face as I stand by the door. "Catherine, Sara has agreed to stay with you as long as you are willing."

Catherine evidently is unaware of my presence as she answers "Yeah right, Mom. Sara barely tolerates me. There is no way she would willingly agree to take care of me."

I push away from the door and move into the room. "She's right, Catherine. You need someone to help you until you get the casts off. I can move in whenever you say."

Sara Sidle, have you lost your mind? You are opening yourself up to a ton of heartache.

Catherine turns her head towards me stunned. I'm not sure if she's surprised to find me in the room or she can't believe I have volunteered my services.

"Sara, are you sure? You really need to talk to the doctors and nurses about what will be involved before you agree. I imagine I will be quite the handful."

No shit. Catherine's quite the handful on a regular basis. I'm afraid to think of how much worse she will be.

Thankfully, my pager goes off saving me from my answer. Checking the display, I find the lab's numbers. It's got to be either Nick or Grissom. I sure hope its Nick.

"Catherine, I need to get back to the lab. Have the nurse call me to let me know when I can meet with the doctor. I'll talk to him and then give you my final decision."

I quickly say my goodbyes and escape.

Returning to the lab, I am met by a smiling, joking Greg. It's nice to see him back to normal or at least normal for Greg.

Greg ran the prints through AFIS and got a hit, Jason Ziegler. Years ago, Catherine and Warrick worked a crime scene involving a stolen painting. Turns out the son was stealing his dad's priceless paintings and replacing them with forgeries. It seems the dad was paying more attention to the paintings than to his own son, so Jason decided to switch out the paintings. He had no intention of selling them; he just wanted the satisfaction of knowing his dad was being made a fool of. When his dad found out, he immediately pressed charges against Jason.

I guess this time tough love didn't pay off since it appears Jason has turned to a life of crime. Nick has gone back to the crime scene to collect any paintings to test for authenticity and Brass sent some uniforms to collect Jason at his last known address.

It looks like Grissom was wrong about me needing to get back to the lab immediately.

This case seems to have solved itself without me.

The ringing of my cell pulls me from my ruminations. I check the display. UMC. Who'd be….oh yeah, Catherine.

"Hello? . . . Yes, I can be there in an hour. . . . Fine, I'll see you then."

Yippee, I have an appointment with Catherine's doctor. She must be desperate to go home if she's willing to allow me to take care of her.

Looking at my watch, I note that shift has officially been over for 8 hours. I better get going if I'm going to meet with Catherine's doctor and still have time for some shuteye before reporting back to work for the next shift.

I enter UMC and go to the information desk for the second time today. Doctor Waters is Catherine's primary physician and his office is located on the seventh floor.

A secretary greets me as I arrive at the office and asks me to have a seat. I pick up a few outdated magazines to thumb through to pass the time. With the money these guys make, you would think they could afford current magazines. Three of these still have Nixon as president.

After ten minutes, the secretary shows me in. Doctor Waters is writing something in a folder so I have a seat and wait.

He makes one last notation before saying "Ms. Sidle, it's nice to meet you. Mrs. Willows told me you are considering taking on the task of her caregiver for the next few weeks. I think I should fill you in on some of the details."

He talks for the next fifteen minutes. Catherine has hairline fractures of both her tibia and fibula. Her radius suffered a more serious break. The doctor does not want Catherine to bear any weight on her leg for three weeks. At that time, he will re-evaluate and more than likely put her in a walking cast. Since her arm is also in a cast, crutches are out of the question. She will have to use a wheelchair and will need assistance both in and out of the chair.

The doctor tells me to call his nurse if I have any more questions before sending me down the hall to visit the physical therapy area. One of the therapists is waiting to show me the proper method of getting Catherine in and out of the chair.

Forty five minutes later, I am standing outside Catherine's room. I gently knock on the door and enter. Catherine is alone and appears to be sleeping. I quietly call her name and do not get a response. I sit in the chair next to the bed and watch her sleep. God, she is so beautiful.

Can I do this? Be this close to the object of my affection and keep my desire in check. I know how difficult it was for her to ask me for help. How can I turn her down?

I am so caught up in my thoughts I don't realize Catherine is awake until she calls my name. I immediately turn my attention to the bed.

"Sara, you were a million miles away. I hope you aren't this distracted if I need to go to the bathroom."

I blush and apologize for my inattentiveness. I describe my meeting with both the doctor and physical therapist. I don't divulge the hints the therapist gave me on how to deal with an uncooperative patient.

There is an awkward silence after my report. We both look at each other and then glance away.

Several more minutes elapse before Catherine finally asks "Well, are you willing to help me?"


Part 4

As I start to respond, the door opens and in walks Lily.

"Sara, I'm so glad you're here. I talked with Mr. Grissom and he has agreed to give you the next couple of days off so that you can acclimate yourself to Catherine's house. I thought you might want to bring your things over tonight. We'll need to take Lindsey to school and then bring Catherine home in the morning."

Shocked, I sit in the chair with my mouth agape.

Catherine doesn't hesitate to come to my rescue. "Mother, what gives you the right to take over Sara's life? She hasn't even given me her decision yet and you have her moving in tonight. And what made you call Gil? Work is very important to Sara. If or when she takes off is her decision. You are not going to try to run her life like you do mine. I won't stand for it."

Oh my. I never thought I would see the day Catherine Willows would come to my defense. It's a good thing too, because I don't think I would stand a chance against Lily on my own.

"Of course Sara's going to help, Catherine. She's a friend isn't she? There is no way she would make you stay in this hospital knowing how much you hate it."

I feel like I'm watching a tennis match as my head turns with each response.

"Mother, butt out. This is between me and Sara. Why don't you go down to the cafeteria and get something to drink while I finish my conversation with Sara."

Advantage, Catherine. Let's see what her mother serves up next.

"Fine, I know when I'm not wanted. One of these days when I'm gone, you're going to wish I was here to give you advice."

Ouch. Looks like an ace. I don't think Catherine can return that one.

"Oh mother, please. You know I love you, but you are going to have to leave so I can talk to Sara uninterrupted."

Oh, nice return Catherine. And the game is over as Lily leaves the room.

"Sara, I am so sorry about my mother. Please don't pay any attention to her. This decision only concerns you and me. If you do this, she will only be around during the night. She has found a part time job she loves, so she will not be around very much during the day."

I nod my head and reply "Okay."

With a confused look Catherine asks "Okay, you understand it's our decision, or okay, you are going to move in and help me?"

I smile and say "Okay, I am willing to help you through your recovery. Tell your mom I will bring my things over later, but I will sleep in my apartment tonight. I will pick Lindsey up for school in the morning and then swing by and get you. Lily can stay and get the house ready. How does that sound?"

Catherine returns my smile and answers "Perfect."

"Then I'll be on my way. Since I seem to be off work for a couple of nights, I think I'll take advantage of the time and run some errands. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

Leaving the hospital, I drive to the American Home Medical Equipment Supply recommended by the physical therapist. I find a space in front of the store and park. Reaching into my pocket for the list of suggested items, I make my way into the store.

Hundreds of dollars later, I am on my way. I make one more stop at The Sport Authority to get Catherine some sweat pants that will fit over her cast. I also pick up a few t-shirts and thick socks to match. As I pull into my apartment parking space, my cell phone rings.

The display shows C. Willows. "Hello. Oh, hi Lily. . . . Yes, I will be coming by there in a couple of hours. . . . No, I think I'll sleep here tonight. . . . Yes, that is important. . . . Okay, I'll see you in a bit."

Lord, this woman is going to drive me nuts before I get the chance to move in.

Exactly two hours later, I am sitting in Catherine's driveway. It's probably going to take at least an hour to unload all these medical supplies along with my own stuff. Oh well, I may as well get started.

Lily greets me at the door with a huge smile. She offers to help, but I decline. That doesn't stop her from following me in and out the door with each and every load asking questions, making comments, and offering suggestions.

I put my things in Catherine's closet and begin the process of unloading the medical supplies. I'm not sure if Catherine will need all this stuff, but John, the manager, said I could return any unused items for a full refund.

Now all I have to do is put this stuff together. I ask Lily if she knows where Catherine's tools are. She offers to retrieve the toolbox and I graciously accept. At least I will have a few minutes of silence.

I purchased an acrorail system that attaches to the bed frame. This should help Catherine sit up and possibly get in position for me to lift her. I also unpack the overbed/chair mobile tilt table top. I figure Catherine may want to read or perhaps work on some of her case files.

Lily returns as I organize the parts. I hope none of the nuts or bolts are missing. I hate it when you start to put something together and find pieces missing.

After checking and double checking, all the parts seem to be present. I think I'll begin with the installation of the rail. I love working with tools especially power tools. I sure hope Catherine has an electric screwdriver.

I get the rail installed and the table top put together without any problem despite the non-stop chatter coming from Lily. I have managed to avoid discussing my youth by diverting her attention to Catherine's youth instead. Man, do I have some blackmail material on Catherine.

As I begin to unload the rest of the boxes, Lindsey walks in followed by another woman. Introductions are made by Lily. Catherine's sister, Nancy, does not look a bit like her. Different hair color, eye color, and height are apparent at first glance.

Nancy invites me to join them for Chinese take-out, but I decline with the excuse of needing to finish my unpacking. I tell her I will get something on my way home.

The three leave and I finally have some peace and quiet to finish my tasks. I unbox the suction cup grab bars and threshold ramps. These items can be used anywhere so I will wait until tomorrow to determine their placement. I find the personal pager and place it on the night stand. I hope I can get Catherine to wear it.

The last items are for the bathroom. I walk into the master bath to get an idea of the setup. The shampoo aide is going to be perfect to use with the oversized sink and the bath transfer bench should work nicely as well. I'm not sure how we're going to work out getting on and off the toilet, but I'm sure I'll think of something.

I move back into the bedroom, put together the bathroom items, and place them in the master bath. As I collapse the boxes for storage, I begin to work out a daily routine in my head.

Right in the middle of my musings, I stop and sit on the floor dumbstruck. Holy shit! I am going to see Catherine naked on a daily basis.


Part 5

After several minutes, I am able to get up off the floor and complete my tidying task. I install one of the threshold ramps at the front door and then find the others to say my goodbyes. I tell Lily I will return at 7:30 a.m. to take Lindsey to school.

I swing by the Thai restaurant near my apartment for take out. After eating, I take a shower and go to bed. I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. and turn out the light.

My dreams are filled with images of a naked Catherine. Thank God I didn't dream in color or 3-D. I awake the next morning in an extremely horny state and take matters into my own hand.

At 7:10 a.m., I am on my way to pick up Lindsey. As I pull up to the house, she is waiting for me in the drive. She runs to the truck and jumps in.

"Hey, Lindsey. How are you doing today?"

She looks at me like I'm insane. "Sara, I've spend the entire night and morning with Grandma. How do you think I'm doing?"

I laugh as I pull away from the curb. Lindsey is very bright for her age and is enjoyable to be around. We have a nice conversation on the way to school. She tells me her Aunt Nancy will be picking her up every day until Catherine can drive.

I drop her off and watch her until she is inside the building. Next stop, UMC.

I move to knock on Catherine's door when I hear raised voices.

"Ms. Willows, you only have to use the bed pan one more time. When you get home, you can use the toilet. For right now, you will use this bed pan or hold it until you get home."

"Listen to me you Nazi nurse. I am not going to use this bed pan one more time. I am going home today, so I don't see any reason why I can't use the bathroom properly."

Gathering my courage, I knock on the door and enter. "Good morning, Catherine. I've come to take you home. Why don't you follow the nurse's order one more time and then we can get out of here."

Catherine shoots me a death glare while the nurse looks on with relief. I stand near the doorway with my arms folded returning Catherine's glare.

After a few tense moments, she finally gives in and nods her head. I step out into the hallway until the nurse leaves. I return with a smile on my face. Score one for me.

"Okay, Catherine. I brought you a t-shirt and a pair of sweats that should fit over your cast. What do you say we get you dressed and blow this joint?"

Catherine doesn't say anything but nods her head in assent. I can't help but smile. I seem to be on a roll. That's two for me.

I reach into the bag for the t-shirt. As I turn around, I find Catherine has already slipped her hospital gown off and is sitting there naked with the sheets pooled around her waist.

Oh…My…God. I stand there with my mouth wide open, staring. I just hope I don't have any drool escaping. The t-shirt slides from my grasp and drops on the floor.

Catherine continues to sit there topless with an added smirk on her face. Score two for Catherine and I do mean two. Two perfect breasts.

I snap out of my stupor and reach down for the t-shirt. I move toward the bed and try very hard to keep my gaze at eye level. I stand to the side of Catherine and prepare the t-shirt to slip over her arms first.

We manage to slide the shirt over her arms and then over her head. I pull it the rest of the way down covering Catherine's assets.

Catherine evidently has decided to stay mute. I have a feeling she may be storing this embarrassing moment for later.

I retrieve the sweat pants and pull them over her feet. I manage to work them over the cast and up the uninjured leg. Now what? How am I going to get them over her waist without putting pressure on her leg?

Catherine solves the problem by lying back and working the pants up a little at a time with her good arm. I put her matching socks on and Catherine seems very pleased.

I relate the arrangements Nancy and Lily have made in getting Lindsey to and from school. Catherine is clearly unhappy about not being consulted, but after a few minutes of discussion, she is okay with the idea. I'm going to have to send the therapist, Jill, flowers for filling me in on the proper way to handle problem patients.

As I gather Catherine's things, Nurse Nazi comes in pushing a wheelchair. She has numerous papers for Catherine to sign before she can be released. I acquaint myself with the wheelchair while Catherine reads through the papers.

The hospital has a rental agreement with a local supply company. The patient is responsible for the proper care and return of the wheelchair. This particular chair is set up perfectly for Catherine's needs with a leg and arm rest on the left side.

The nurse leaves and Catherine calls me to her side. "Sara, please get me out of here. I don't think I can stand another minute of this place."

I push the wheelchair over to the left side and carefully put one arm under Catherine's legs while placing the other arm around her waist. I instruct Catherine to hook her casted arm around my neck. I concentrate on the mechanics and try not to think about how good she feels in my arms as I very slowly lift her from the bed.

Gingerly, I place her in the chair making certain her left leg and arm are supported. She releases my neck and I stand. Whew, made it. I only have hundreds of lifts left.

I push Catherine out the door of UMC into the sunlight. I don't believe I have ever seen her smile so big. We make it to the truck without any problems. I open the door and push the seat back as far as it will go. Carefully, I extract Catherine from the chair and very gently place her on the seat.

I had been very nervous about being able to maneuver Catherine in and out of the chair. Jill said it probably would take some time to get the kinks worked out, but it's as if we are in perfect sync with each other. I hope every aspect will be this easy.


Part 6

We arrive at Catherine's to find Lily waiting in the driveway. I had called her from the hospital to let her know we were leaving.

She rushes to the truck to greet us, and I notice Catherine's cheery mood is fading fast. Maybe calling Lily ahead of time was not such a good idea.

"You're finally here. I was getting worried. Sara called almost an hour ago. Where have you two been? You should have called to let me know you were running late. I was getting ready to call the hospital to see if something had happened."

Catherine is about ready to blow. Her face is flushed and her brow has that little wrinkle indicating someone is about to catch hell.

Perhaps I can provide a diversionary tactic. "Lily, do you think you could go to Anthony's Deli over on South Valley View Boulevard to pick up some lunch?"

She quickly answers "That won't be necessary, Sara. I made some soup. Catherine needs to eat soft foods."

Catherine jumps in before I can make a counter offer. "Mother, there is nothing wrong with my stomach. The doctor wants me to keep up my strength and soup isn't going to do it. I need something solid."

I look to Lily expecting to see a hurt expression on her face only to find her preparing for a retaliatory remark. I quickly blurt out "You know what? Soup and sandwiches sound great. I am a vegetarian and can only eat certain sandwiches. Anthony's makes the best Veggie wrap in the city. I would really appreciate it if you could go and pick up some sandwiches while I get Catherine settled in. What kind of sandwich would you like Catherine?"

Catherine looks at me in awe before replying "Turkey on wheat."

I reach in my pocket and pull out a twenty and hand it over to Lily. She smiles and says "That's a great idea, Sara. I'll go get my purse and be back in a little while."

I begin to push Catherine toward the front door when I hear "You're good, Sara Sidle. You're very good. You even managed to send her across town keeping her out of my hair for awhile. Can I keep you?"

I almost push Catherine into the grass before straightening out on the sidewalk. Oh Catherine, if you only knew.

Catherine is clearly impressed with the threshold ramp as we enter the house. I wonder how she is going to feel about the other items.

Lily comes down the hallway with her purse in hand. She asks if we need anything else while she's out. Neither one of us can think of anything so Lily heads toward the door and tells us to call her cell if we think of anything.

Catherine mutters under her breath "No way in hell."

Laughing, I ask Catherine if she would like something to drink. She smiles replying "I would kill for a good cup of coffee." I skillfully steer her into the kitchen and push her next to the table.

Catherine directs me to the coffee and filters. I prepare the coffeemaker and sit down at the table with Catherine to wait for it to brew.

After a few moments of comfortable silence, Catherine says "Sara, I don't know how I can possibly repay you for making such a magnanimous gesture. You not only have to deal with me but Mom and Lindsey as well. I'm not so sure I would be able to make such an offer if our roles were reversed."

I'm fairly certain Catherine would offer some help to me, but I don't believe she would choose to move in and take care of me.

Instead I answer, "Of course you would, Catherine. But let's not discuss improbable situations. We need to figure out some sort of daily routine. I'll be returning to work tomorrow night so some parts of your day will need to be scheduled."

Rising, I move to pour our coffee. I return to the table after adding sweetener to Catherine's.

I place the mug in front of her and she takes her first sip. "Yum. This is wonderful. It's exactly like I like it. How did you know how I take my coffee?"

Mentally I answer because I watch your every move. Aloud I say, "I think you once told me you prefer one and a half packets in your cup."

Catherine answers "I don't remember ever discussing coffee with you, but I'll take your word for it. Now, what things do we need to schedule?"

"Your mom is staying with you at night so I will put you in bed before I leave for work. I'll need to get some sleep in the morning and there will be some things we should do before I go to bed. I want you to be comfortable during the time I am sleeping."

Catherine nods her head and asks "What kind of things?"

Pausing, I reply "Let's see. First, we have to get you up in the morning. Um…then you will probably need to use the toilet. And…" Dear Lord "… we'll follow up with a bath."

Catherine is oblivious to my current flustered state. "Take a bath? How am I going to manage that with these damn casts? I can't get them wet."

I answer "Erm ... I got this bench thingee. It will keep your left leg elevated and out of the way, but you won't actually be able to submerge yourself in the tub. I also found this shower type nozzle that connects to the faucet. We can cover your arm cast with plastic, and you can soap yourself and then rinse using the nozzle."

Smiling, Catherine says "Very clever, Sara. I do see a problem though. How will I keep my balance to soap myself or reach for the nozzle to rinse without falling on my head?"

I feel my face turning red as I reply "You're going to need some help either with the balancing or the bathing."

Realization has finally made its way to Catherine's brain. With a matching red face, she responds "Oh."


Part 7

We finish our coffee while managing to avoid the proverbial elephant sitting in the corner. I guess we'll solve the bath balancing problem when we get to it.

My cell rings as I am placing our mugs in the dishwasher. It's Brass letting me know he's arrested Jason. The home belonged to a friend of the father, Joe Barton. Jason's dad had been planning to continue paying for Jason's education until Joe Barton talked him out of it. Jason was going to steal the paintings to help pay for the remainder of his education. I ask Brass if I can put him on speaker so Catherine can hear. He agrees and continues with his report.

"Jason had gained access into the master bedroom by climbing up to the balcony, and apparently he was unaware a silent alarm had been triggered. He was making his way downstairs when he saw the flashing lights through the front door. Jason made his way back to the balcony only to discover a policeman in the backyard. He hid on the edge of the balcony and waited."

Jim pauses as if looking at his notes before continuing. "Catherine made her way into the bedroom and evidently noticed the balcony doors were ajar. She pulled them open and began to fingerprint the edge. Jason lost his footing and knocked over a plant and Catherine came out to investigate. Jason said he started over the balcony and Catherine made a grab for him. He said Catherine slipped and went over the edge. He made a grab for her but only managed to slow her fall. Jason jumped to the ground, called for help, and ran. He knocked over Officer Pratt as he escaped. He remembered Catherine from her work on his dad's case and seemed very upset that she was injured."

I thank Brass for the report and close my cell. Catherine has a lost expression on her face. It's as if she's grasping for something. Maybe I shouldn't have let her listen to Brass.

"Hey Catherine, are you okay?"

Shaking her head as if to clear cobwebs, she answers "Why can't I remember? I didn't hit my head. I remember going into the bedroom and seeing the doors, but nothing after that."

I kneel next to her chair and take her right hand. "It will come to you. Don't try to force it. You have suffered a trauma. Your brain needs time to deal with it."

Lily walks in as I am comforting Catherine and asks "What's wrong? Do we need to take Catherine back to the hospital?"

Good Lord, this woman could drive a person to drink. "No, Lily. Catherine was discussing the case with me. Hey, did you find Anthony's okay?"

Catherine squeezes my hand before letting go. I smile and listen to Lily tell about her trip to the deli.

We make small talk while we eat, and Catherine is relieved to find out Lily will only be staying through lunch. It seems she has a dinner date tonight and she will be going back to her part time job tomorrow. She will return tomorrow night to stay with Catherine.

After what seems like forever, Lily has finally taken her leave and Catherine and I are getting ready to embark on our next embarrassing moment. Catherine has expressed a desire to use the bathroom facilities and we have to figure out the best way to get her on the toilet.

I wheel Catherine into the master bath and survey the situation. I notice there is a wall to the right of the commode. I retrieve one of the suction grab bars and affix it to the wall for Catherine to use to balance herself, now to solve the problem of her leg. I look around and spy the bath bench. It seems to be the perfect height.

I place the bench to the left side of the toilet. The doctor told Catherine she could put her leg down for only a minute at a time and to try to limit the motion so I think my plan will work. I guess it's time to find out so I wheel Catherine close to the toilet.

Placing my hands on my hips, I say "Okay, Catherine. Here's the plan. I'm going to lift you and put you down next to the toilet. I know this next part is going to be difficult for you, but you will need to pull down your pants and underwear and then pivot on your good leg without putting any weight on your left leg. I will lift your left leg up and place it on the bath bench as you sit down. You should be able to maintain your balance using the grip bar. I will step into the bedroom until you call me to help you back in the chair. Is that all right with you or do you want to try something else?"

Catherine is clearly not happy with my plan, but for the life of me, I can't figure out any other way.

After a few moments, she nods her head and says "I don't know how else we're going to do this. It's just so damn embarrassing to not be able to sit on the toilet without help, but I have to go so let's get it over with."

I gently pick her up and put her down in front of the toilet making sure she doesn't fall. She reaches for her pants and I move my eyes to her shoulders. Catherine pivots so I assume her pants are in the down position. As she begins to sit, I try to move my eyes from her shoulders to her leg without any in between peeking. She begins to stumble and I reach out and pull her to me steadying her.

Catherine immediately says "I'm okay."

Well, I'm certainly not. I have Catherine Willows in my arms wearing nothing but a t-shirt and two casts with her pants at her knees. God, give me strength.

I take a deep breath and pull back looking in Catherine's eyes. I smile and say "Ready to try again." She nods her head.

This time she successfully hits her mark and I gently place her leg on the bench. I tell her I will wait in the bedroom for her call and to be careful.

I move to the bedroom and sink to my knees.

Part 8

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