"I must admit, this is a beautiful view!" Hyacinth said, her voice for once sounding natural. "I'm more of a countryside type myself, but travel is really broadening, isn't it?"

"I've never travelled much, myself," Daphne said amiably, surprised by Hyacinth's friendly tone. "In Manchester, I couldn't afford to travel, and I've been so happy and busy here that I really haven't thought of a long vacation, although Niles has been talking about taking me to Italy."

She immediately regretted her last words, sure that she'd get another lecture from Mrs. Bucket about the supposed impropriety of being with Niles "unchaperoned". There was not a word, however. Hyacinth was gazing over the glittering, clear waters and the activity at its shores, and then her eyes swept over the city. Her pretentions were gone, at least for a moment. Daphne looked out on the scene as well. For as long as she'd lived in Seattle, its modern splendor never ceased to amaze her. So different from back home…

"Doesn't your young man want to have a look?" Hyacinth asked.

"Oh, no, he's terrified of heights," Daphne laughed.

"So is Richard. Once we were touring the countryside and I sent him up a tree to see if he could spot anything interesting. He was a wreck after. Poor dear, I suppose he's inherited vertigo from his grandfather."

At that moment, Niles called to the women that their lunches had arrived. They all sat at a meticulously arranged table, which passed Hyacinth's inspection—she even held up her water glass to the light and inspected the tableware. Her behavior, which some might call borderline paranoid, made Daphne laugh a little to herself. She'd seen Niles do the same thing.

It was a surprisingly pleasant time as they ate their lunches in the Needle's Sky City restaurant, the warm afternoon light giving the place a fresh feel. Richard managed to take charge of the conversation, and Daphne and Niles found that he was a brilliant conversationalist.

Under Hyacinth's disapproving eye, he even discussed the upcoming football match between Manchester United and Liverpool. The "sports talk" left Niles bewildered, but having grown up with sports-crazy brothers, Daphne was well-versed on the subject.

And then IT happened. Niles initiated his plan.

"Well, Richard," he said casually, "what else do you have planned?"

"We only have one day left, so we were planning on going to some of the museums, toddle down to Pike's Place Market…"

Niles waved his hand as if in dismissal.

"Oh, that's tourist stuff," he said, though those were the very places he normally would have recommended. "You should do a biking tour of the city. I know a place where you can rent bikes and they'll give you a map of recommended routes."

"That actually sounds interesting!" Richard exclaimed. "I've always been keen on cycling, but it's been a while."

"Oh, we won't be doing that," Hyacinth interrupted sweetly. "My plan is much better suited for someone our age."

"It'll be just fine!" Richard insisted. "You brought your slacks with you, they'd be perfect for biking…"

"I bought them because we'll be on a boat tour of the Sound tonight, and with the wind off the water, it's a very inappropriate place to wear skirts," Hyacinth decreed. "Otherwise, a lady never wears trousers in public. And I repeat that a retired gentleman such as yourself should be taking life slowly. We don't want to cultivate an air of frivolity to the young people on the city streets. They need an example of how to age gracefully."

Richard wilted visibly, and Niles stepped in. This would be tricky, playing psychiatrist to Richard without Hyacinth catching on, but he was prepared.

"I think everyone should do something daring once in a while, don't you, Richard?" he interjected casually.

Silently he was saying what he wished he could say: tell your wife that you have just as much right as she does to do what you want. What do you want, Richard?

"Well…it does sound fun…" Richard ventured.

"No!" Hyacinth said, not quite shouting, but severe none the less. "I will not have you going about the city in such a manner. I forbid it!"

Niles glanced subtly at Richard. And then a miracle happened.

"No, Hyacinth, I agree with Niles. It's good to do something out of the ordinary sometimes. And if you don't want to go, that's fine. You can relax at the hotel or go for a walk."

"I said I—,"

"I know what you said, but my mind's made up."

"I forb—"

Richard's eyes were suddenly steely.

"No, Hyacinth. You won't push me around this time. I'm doing the biking tour first thing tomorrow morning. And don't look at me like that. You won't change my mind."

There was a deathly silence before Hyacinth, who looked as if she were going into shock, spoke coldly to Niles.

"We're going to our hotel. Drive us back."

Hyacinth was sulky and silent as Niles navigated the streets of Seattle, but the rest were engaged in lively conversation. Richard had a confident air about him now; the quick transition was a delightful surprise. As they got closer to the Buckets' destination, the conversation turned to that subject.

"The Edgewater Hotel, eh?" Daphne said. "We've never been, but I've heard its lovely."

"It is beautiful," Richard said. "I like the views best, though. We don't live close enough to the English coast to visit it often. I loved watching the sunset last night. It almost makes me want to go sailing."

This made Hyacinth come out of her sulk.

"Of course, we could have stayed at the Olympic Hotel, but we don't believe in excess," she said airily, as if she were trying to reclaim her dignity.

"I gave you a choice, Hyacinth," Richard said mildly. "We're on a budget. I said we could stay there, but would have to be more sensible on our next vacation."

A sly grin briefly flitted across Richard's face. His newfound confidence was giving the courage to call Hyacinth on her bluff; now the tables were turned, and she was the one being put in her place. As justified as it might be, however, the tension that followed was making the ride very uncomfortable. Niles quickly turned the conversation back to the original subject.

"Well, now you make me want to go to that hotel," he remarked cheerfully. "Perhaps a romantic stay with my Daphne is in order."

Hyacinth's face was one of unbridled disapproval and she spoke condescendingly to Daphne.

"Tell Niles to be a gentleman and save that for when you two are married."

Daphne decided to have a bit of fun with Hyacinth. She remembered a cursory telephone conversation with her mother that had taken place just the week before. Somehow Daphne had let it slip that she and Niles were sleeping together. Gert's reaction had been one of shock as she shrieked into the telephone, claiming that her own daughter was being 'improper' and 'fast'. Daphne almost laughed at how her mother chose to think that she had been 'innocent' after all these years. It was the shaming words that made Daphne snap, however.

Ignoring her mother's constant exclamations of horror, she recited all the 'partners' she'd had in Manchester, and defiantly declared that she'd be at Niles' place every night if she pleased. It was surprisingly freeing, even if she'd revealed more than she should have.

Oh, this would be good. Now it was Daphne's turn to put Hyacinth in her place. She grinned, remembering her mother's reaction. How would Hyacinth respond?

"We haven't even discussed marriage yet," Daphne laughed. "Far too soon! But it's just too unnatural for us to repress ourselves. We like to express our love to each other. Quite often, I might add."

Niles turned bright pink and Richard coughed awkwardly, but Daphne was enjoying Hyacinth's reaction hugely. The woman's jaw was practically on her chest and it seemed she had forgotten how to blink.

"You young people! All you think of is improper romantic behavior!" she told Daphne, who merely grinned. "I think Richard and I will explore Seattle on your own. You and Niles needn't bother coming by for us tomorrow."

They hadn't made such an offer, but Daphne let it slide.

When they were at the doors of the Edgewater Hotel, Hyacinth stormed out of the car in a cold fury. She didn't even say a word to Richard as she disappeared into the lobby. Richard, however, thanked Niles heartily for his help. In just a short time, Richard Bucket had become a new man. After graciously saying goodbye to Daphne, he went into the hotel with a spring in his step.

"This has been a very interesting day!" Daphne exclaimed they left the Buckets behind them.

"Yes, I'm sure Hyacinth was entertained by what you said about—us," Niles said; he tried to sound angry, but quickly broke down in laughter. "Reminded you of your mother, didn't she?"

"Yes. Thank goodness we're rid of them—well, her. I do like that Richard."

"He's very kind. I knew I had to do something for him."

"How did you come up with all that?" Daphne enquired.

"I just had to set up an opportunity for him to stand up for himself, so I got into Hyacinth's mind. What sort of thing might Richard want to do, but Hyacinth try to forbid him from doing?"

"There's my devious man," Daphne said proudly, touched by what the man she loved so much had done for the beleaguered Mr. Bucket.

There was a brief silence, which was broken when Niles happened to glance at the time on the dashboard display.

"Do you have anything that needs doing at Frasier's place?" he asked casually.

"No. I had your father do his exercises before we went to the gardens, and he's having dinner at the Timber Mill with his ex-cop buddies. Frasier's having dinner with his latest date. Out with it, Niles Crane. What are you thinking?"

"Well…I was thinking I could take you back to the Montana. 'Improper romantic behavior' sounds very appealing right now."

Daphne leaned toward the driver's seat and suggestively slid her hand up Niles' leg (and a little higher)—which was the only answer he needed.

Fin~