A/N: Well, EspoirDio and I are at it again, this time with a new chapter story! We really hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you think. Reviews make us happy. ;D
"Is there anything I can do for you before you leave, sir?" Niles asked his boss.
"No, thank you, Old Man," Maxwell replied. "Unless, of course, you'd like to take my place at this Fine family reunion," he added hopefully.
"Oh, no, sir. I wouldn't want to take this wonderful experience away from you," he replied with a chuckle.
"That's what I was afraid of," he said, rubbing his already throbbing temples. "Did you happen to pack my-"
"Aspirin?" he completed for him, then gave a nod. "Yes, two bottles, just in case."
Maxwell thanked him just as Fran and the children came bounding noisily down the stairs with the luggage.
"We're ready, sweetheart," Fran told Maxwell.
"Okay, everyone to the car, then," he said with a hint of dread in his voice.
"Are you sure I can't help you take the luggage to the car?" Niles asked.
"No, we've got it taken care of," Maxwell replied. "You just take it easy on your days off."
Niles thanked him and said goodbye to the family as they headed to the car.
"Miss Babcock won't stay much longer," Maxwell told Niles. "She just has a bit more work to do. You did warn her that you waxed the kitchen floor, didn't you?"
"Of course!" he answered in a melodic tone.
Maxwell did not notice the mischief shining in Niles' eyes.
"Good," Maxwell said. "We don't want a repeat of what happened last time…"
"No, sir. Have a good trip."
"Thank you, Niles. We'll see you in a few days."
Niles stood at the door and waved as the family drove away. He loved them dearly, but he honestly could not be happier that he would be home alone for a few days.
Suddenly, Niles heard a loud thud from within the kitchen, followed by a piercing scream that shook him to the core. He knew the typical shout of C.C. Babcock, but this one was clearly a cry of serious pain. His heart pounded hard in his chest. Surely she hadn't seriously hurt herself? He practically ran to the kitchen after her.
When he got there, C.C. was stretched out upon the floor, clutching her right arm and fighting hard to keep from crying.
"Niles…" she called breathlessly.
"Here, let me help you up," he said softly, trying to hide the depth of his concern.
"No!" she cried. "I twisted my ankle."
"What about your wrist?" he asked, seeing how tightly she was gripping it as he kneeled down beside her. "Can you move it?"
C.C.'s entire body trembled as she desperately tried to move her wrist, to no avail. She shook her head, gritting her teeth from the pain.
"We have to get you to a hospital."
"I can't walk!" she shouted, as if he hadn't got the message the first time.
"I know. I'll carry you to the car. Put your good arm around my neck and hold on the best you can."
She reluctantly let go of her wrist and lifted her left arm in his direction.
"You have to come closer." she hissed through gritted teeth "I can't reach that far, this is all your fault!"
He bit his tongue, knowing very well that she was right and instead bent down further to pick her up. He thought that she felt surprisingly light in his arms, while he carried her towards the car. She had put her left arm around his neck, just like he had instructed, while her right arm was clutched against her body.
"Be careful, you're hurting me." she whimpered, as her wrist got pushed painfully against his body.
"I'm so sorry, C.C." he muttered under his breath, without realising that he had just used her first name. "Can you stand on your right foot for a moment?" he asked when they finally reached the car.
She bit her bottom lip and nodded eventually.
"Alright then." he said with a smile and set her down gently, his left arm still wrapped around her waist. He opened the door as quickly as possible and helped her inside, but every time she cried out in pain, it hurt him a little too.
When they returned from the hospital the mood was somewhat subdued. The doctor had found out what Niles had dreaded: C.C. had broken both, her right wrist and her left ankle. Why hadn't he warned her about the floor? He had been lucky to have gotten away with it in the first place… but now she was hurt and it was all his fault.
"Niles, what are we doing here? This isn't my penthouse." C.C. asked when they pulled back up in front of the Sheffields' home.
"Well, you're somewhat handicapped, Miss Babcock." he explained quietly "The least I can do is look after you, you can't really live on your own with a broken ankle and wrist."
She rolled her eyes, knowing that she had to accept that he was right but hating it nonetheless. Sure, it was Niles who was looking after her, so it certainly could have been worse, but just the thought of losing her independence was enough to make her want to protest.
Sensing her discomfort Niles added: "Look on the bright side: I am going to cook for you, wait on you hand and foot and you get to boss me around all day long."
To be continued…