Author's Note:I don't own anything here, blah, blah blah. Many thanks to Andrea (iloveromance) for not only encouraging me to write and post this, but also for writing "Bedside Manner," which I know helped inspire this story. And thanks to Leigh Ann (leighann415) and Sydney (Sydney3) for reading drafts of this as I wrote it. Hope you all enjoy, and please do review! :)
Daphne awoke, looking forward to the day. Dr. Crane had left the previous night to visit his son in Boston, and Mr. Crane was also out of town attending a reunion with several of his friends from the police force. That meant that Daphne had the entire weekend to do as she pleased. Though she loved both men and considered them family, she was looking forward to having some time to herself for once. But even before she'd gotten out of bed, she knew something was wrong. Her head suddenly began to throb. And she was sweating profusely, despite the fact that she wasn't warm at all. Being a healthcare worker, she was well acquainted with the signs of illness, and she could tell she was getting sick.
As she started to get out of bed, a sudden wave of dizziness hit. Oh, bloody hell! she thought. So much for a peaceful day of much-needed relaxation. After a few deep breaths, the dizziness seemed to subside a bit. She managed to make her way toward the kitchen, hoping this horrible feeling would pass. When she arrived at the living room and began to move toward the kitchen, the thought of food suddenly made her stomach turn. Breakfast was definitely out of the question. She quickly took a seat at the table and tried to decide what to do next. As a physical therapist, she was more used to taking care of others than being the one in need of help. But there was no use in denying the facts anymore. She was definitely sick. And the only thing worse than being sick was being sick and alone. She immediately ruled out calling Dr. Crane. He was 3,000 miles away visting his family. No way would he come home for something like this. And Mr. Crane was with his friends. He rarely saw most of his police buddies now that he was retired. It didn't seem fair to interrupt something he'd been looking forward to for weeks. Most of her gilfriends were working right now. That didn't leave her very many options. Well, there was one person she could call, but could she really expect him to drop everything and take care of her for the day? It seemed unlikely, but he was literally her only choice. She managed to get to the phone and dialed the number.
"Dr. Crane? It's Daphne. I know you're busy with your patients, but I'm afraid I'm not feeling well at all, and I was wondering if you could possibly -"
"I'll be right there," the younger Dr. Crane said on the other end of the line.
Niles immediately hung up the phone and rushed out of his office. He barely paused to tell his secretary to reschedule his appointments for the day. They didn't matter anymore. All that mattered now was to be by Daphne's side during her time of need.
Niles drove as fast as the law would allow. He arrived at Elliot Bay Towers a few minutes later and rushed into the elevator and went up to the 19th floor. Not bothering to knock, he merely took out the key his brother had given him for emergencies. Daphne was ill, and in Niles' mind, there could be no greater emergency. When he unlocked the door, what he saw nearly made his heart stop. Daphne sat on Frasier's sofa, her head in her hands. She looked so small and vulerable. "Daphne? Are you all right?"
"I'm afraid not, Dr. Crane," Daphne said, looking up at him.
Immediately Niles went over to her, feeling her forehead. "My God, you've got a fever!"
Daphne nodded. "Me head has been spinning since I got up this morning."
Niles sat beside her, desperate to do something to ease her suffering. "Is there anything I can do?"
Daphne smiled weakly. "You were very sweet to come right over."
Niles felt himself blush. "Well...I'm a doctor. This is...what I do," he nervously replied.
"I think I'm quite a bit sicker than what you're used to," Daphne said.
"You might not say that if you knew some of my patients," Niles joked.
Daphne managed a small smile.
Even as ill as Daphne was, her smile warmed Niles' heart. For a split second, he considered telling her how he felt. But only an idiot would pursue a woman under these circumstances! Pushing the thought from his mind, he asked again, "Is there anything I can get you?"
"Well, I was going to make meself some breakfast, but I don't think it's such a good idea," Daphne replied.
"In that case, how about I get you some ginger ale to help settle your stomach?"
"That would be lovely," she replied.
Niles immediately stood. "I'll be right back," he said, gently squeezing her hand. Daphne nodded up at him. Once again, Niles was struck by how vulnerable she seemed. It was something he'd never seen in her before. Usually Daphne was so full of life and energy. It was one of the things he'd always loved about her. But right now, all Niles could think of was that he had to do his best to take care of her, no matter what. He slowly let go of her hand and turned toward the kitchen. A moment later, he returned, a full glass of ginger ale in hand. "Here you go." Daphne took the glass from him and took a small sip.
"You're welcome," Niles replied as he took the glass from her and set it on the coffee table. "Anything else you need?"
Daphne shook her head. "Actually, I think I'd like to lie down for a bit."
"Make yourself comfortable," Niles said, gesturing to the couch. "I'll go get a blanket."
"Thank you, Dr. Crane," Daphne said.
"Don't mention it," Niles replied as he quickly rushed off to her room. He forced himself to ignore the way his heart fluttered when he saw Daphne's bed. Right now, he couldn't afford to be distracted by romantic longings. Not when his angel was lying on the couch in such distress. He quicky grabbed the comforter from the bed and took her pillow as well. He returned to the living room to find her already lying down on the sofa, half asleep. She opened her eyes when she realized he'd come back. "Thank you," she murmered as he carefully covered her with the blanket.
"You're welcome," Niles replied as he put the pillow behind her head. Suddenly, standing over her, he felt an urge to kiss her. It took all the willpower he had to resist it. But instead, he gently laid his hand on her cheek. Again, he was alarmed at how warm she was. "Get some rest," he said.
Daphne was out like a light before he'd even finished the sentence. For a moment, Niles stood watching her sleep, mesmerized. But he knew there had to be more he could do to help her. Suddenly he thought of something, and took off toward his father's room.
He opened the door, and sure enough, there was Eddie, lying on the end of Martin's bed. The dog jumped off the bed the moment he saw Niles. He ran over to him, barking excitedly. Niles put a finger to his lips, signaling for quiet. Eddie obeyed and calmly followed Niles out to the living room. Niles got Eddie's leash and put it on him. Niles did not want to leave Daphne, but it was obvious that Eddie hadn't been walked. He locked Frasier's door, just in case, and took Eddie out. Though the dog was clearly in need of excercise, Niles confined their walk to Frasier's block. He was eager to get back to Daphne in case she needed anything else.
When Niles returned to the apartment, he found Daphne still lying on the couch. She woke when she heard him come in. "Do you feel better?"
"A bit," Daphne replied. When she saw the leash in his hand, she said, "Oh, you took him for a walk! Thank goodness. Your father would be furious. He told me to look after Eddie while he was away!"
"I'm sure Dad would understand," Niles said.
"Well, in any case, it was very thoughtful of you to do it."
"It was nothing," Niles replied with a smile as he took Eddie off his leash. Immediately, the dog ran off in the direction of Martin's room. "How are you feeling?" Niles asked as he sat down next to Daphne on the couch.
"Well, me head isn't spinning quite so much. Me stomach's a bit better, too."
"I'm glad you're feeling better," Niles said.
"Me, too," Daphne grinned. "I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't been here to take care of me."
"Like I said before, I'm a doctor. That's what we're supposed to do," Niles replied. Being this close to Daphne was causing his heart to race. He hoped Daphne wouldn't notice.
"I know, but I'm sure you had more important things to do than this," Daphne said.
Niles felt himself blush. "There was nothing that couldn't be rearranged."
"You dropped everything just so you could come down here?" Daphne asked in disbelief. Until this moment, she hadn't really considered what he'd had to give up in order to take care of her.
"Well, you-you needed me," Niles stammered.
"I'm very lucky to have a friend like you," Daphne said. She reached over and squeezed his hand.
Niles was speechless. The feeling of Daphne's hand on his made it difficult to think clearly.
The silence was broken by the sound of a key unlocking the front door. Martin entered the room.
"What are you doing here?" Niles asked.
"I came back from my reunion early. It was just a bunch of guys telling the same old stories from their police days. What are you doing here?" Martin replied.
"I wasn't feeling well this morning, so I called Dr. Crane," Daphne explained.
Martin smiled. He knew he would have done his best to make Daphne comfortable. But no one could take better care of her than Niles. "Well..." he said, trying to appear nonchalant. "I'm glad you did that."
"Um, Dad? Could Daphne and I have a moment alone?" Niles asked.
"Oh!" Martin said, suddenly realizing he'd interrupted something. "I'll just go check on Eddie." He took off toward his room as fast as his bad hip would allow.
As soon as Martin was gone, Daphne turned to Niles. "What is it, Dr. Crane?"
Niles looked at her. Was this really the moment to reveal a secret like this? As he looked into her eyes, he began to see more and more of the Daphne he loved coming back. Relief washed over him, knowing she was safe now. Still, he couldn't seem to find the words to say what he wanted to tell her.
"Dr. Crane, what's wrong?" Daphne asked, alarmed at the way he seemed to be staring at her.
"You're beautiful," Niles blurted out.
Daphne looked at the floor. "I'm sitting here in me nightgown. I look a fright."
"No," Niles replied emphatically. "I mean it."
"What are you saying?" Daphne asked. Suddenly she was feeling lightheaded again, but she knew it wasn't from being sick.
"When you called and told me you were sick, well...I couldn't bear the thought of you being so helpless. I got here as fast as I could to take care of you. I love you, Daphne."
Daphne looked at him. It was almost as if she were seeing him for the very first time. And for once, she didn't think about the differences in their backgrounds or how little they really had in common. All she could see was that he loved her. Though it seemed impossible, she knew it was true.
"Daphne, please say something," Niles said with a nervous laugh. Suddenly time seemed to have slowed down. Every second Daphne looked at him in silence felt like a lifetime.
"I'm sorry. I'm just a bit surprised." Daphne smiled at him. She really wasn't sure what to say right now.
Niles nervously smiled back. If his heart pounded any harder, he thought it might just burst.
Before Daphne could think, she suddenly leaned forward and kissed him. It wasn't a long kiss, but it was enough to take their breath away.
"I've never had anyone care about me the way you do," Daphne finally said.
"Seeing you lying here on the couch, looking so fragile...I just knew I had to do everything I could to make you feel better," Niles replied.
"You did make me feel better," Daphne said, squeezing his hand. "And I'll never be able to thank you enough." She kissed him again, longer than before.
When the kiss ended, Niles smiled. "Well, that was certainly a good start..."