His head still throbbing from where Frasier had yanked off his silvery wig, Niles stood in the hallway of condo 1901 and sighed.
For the pain on his head was nowhere near as bad as the pain in his heart.
Once again he'd had entirely too much to drink (and beer at that!) and had disgraced his father's character and quite possibly ruined their relationship forever.
He was only trying to emulate his father; a man he admired over all others.
And what better way to pay tribute to someone he loved so much than by arriving at Frasier's Halloween "Come as Your Hero" Halloween party dressed as Martin Crane?
He shuddered, trying not to think about the horrible things he'd said. What was he thinking, consuming an entire six-pack of Ballantine beer? Why, he doubted even his father would drink that much in one sitting.
But none of that mattered now. What mattered most was that he made things right with his father.
Now he stood in front of his father's bedroom door, feeling much like the scared little boy he used to be.
His hand trembled as he knocked on the door and waited impatiently for an answer. However, the only response he received was from Eddie, barking wildly at the sudden distraction.
"Shut up, Eddie!" came his father's muffled voice.
"Dad?" he called through the door.
He winced; his heart sinking at the harsh reply. But he was determined to make things right. Taking the advice that he'd handed out day after day, Niles took a deep breath and tired again.
"Dad, it's me... um...Niles. Can I talk to you? Please?"
"Dad, please! I just-."
The door opened unexpectedly.
His father's eyes were red, a sure sign that he'd been crying. And the expression on his face told him that they weren't tears of joy.
"We've got nothin' to say to each other so you'd better just leave! Now you can apologize until you're blue in the face but it won't change the fact that you insulted my character and the way I raised you kids! I don't know what in the hell came over you, but I had no idea you were capable of being so hateful... Especially to your own father!"
The words stung, wounding what little sense of worth he possessed.
"Dad, I'm your son. Can't we just-."
"You're not my son!"
The impact of those words felt like a knife through his heart.
Seconds later the door slammed shut, pushing the knife even deeper.
His breathing staggered, he turned away as the lump in his throat gave way to hot tears stinging his eyes.
In a daze, he turned away as he staggered into the living room.
Frasier and Daphne, the two people he needed most right now, were nowhere to be seen; a fact that was strangely comforting.
He just couldn't face them right now; not after what he'd done. Finally he sank down into his father's beloved worn chair, rising seconds later.
He didn't deserve to sit in such an extraordinary chair; just like he didn't deserve to have such a wonderful man as his father.
Instead, he walked over to the huge picture window and started out at the city lights that shown beneath a huge harvest moon.
The faint sound of voices broke into the silence, startling him. Curious, he walked down the hallway.
"Frasier?" He whispered, creeping toward his brother's bedroom. But to his dismay, he found the room empty.
When the muffled sound came again, he stopped short, slightly taken aback when he realized that it was coming from his father's room.
He could hear his father's muffled voice, and out of curiosity, he pressed his ear against the door.
"I'm glad you love me Eddie, because Niles sure as hell doesn't."
As the color drained from his face, Niles turned and retreated back into the living room. Taking another glance at the Seattle skyline, he opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony, closing the door behind him so that he could be alone with his thoughts.
The effects of the beer hit him hard and fast, bringing forth a dizzy spell that caused him to grab the railing for support.
Thankfully as quickly as the dizziness came, it subsided, leaving a dull ache in his heart.
Damn it, why did he have to make such horrible comments about himself and Frasier to his father?
He could argue that it was the alcohol speaking, but he was fully aware of what he was saying. He could recall his words loud and clear;
"Guess it's not that important. My kids wouldn't know a baseball if it hit them in the face. In fact, that pretty much describes their one day in Little League. My kids did not care about baseball. Hell, they didn't care about anything that was important to me...
No, no, no, no, no, I'm just saying that you and me, we're regular guys. You know, we know how to hang out with regular guys and shoot the breeze and, and, and knock a few back. But ,uh, not my kids. No, they're too good for that stuff. They got all their fancy degrees, but they never learned how to be regular guys. So I guess if I had to pick my two biggest disappointments..."
And the tortured look on his father's face... And then the painful reply that Niles wholeheartedly deserved;
"You stop right there! You will not put these words in my mouth. I was always proud of you boys, and I will not be portrayed as some drunken, judgmental jackass!"
Unable to bear his shame any longer, lowered his head and began to cry.
Consumed in misery, he was completely unaware of the patio door opening and closing.
"Niles, what are you doing out here? I was startin' to worry about you."
He turned to find the love of his life looking at him with concern. When he noticed she was still wearing her Elton John costume (sans hat and glasses) he tried to smile but he just couldn't.
"I'm sorry I worried you, Daphne. I'm... sorry about a lot of things."
Immediately she went to him and took him in her arms, brushing a tear from his cheek.
"Is it your father?" She asked quietly.
With little success he attempted to hold back a sob.
"He won't talk to me, Daphne! He's ashamed of me! He told me that I'm not his son! Do you have any idea how much that hurts?"
"Oh Niles..." She whispered as he cried in her arms. Her soothing hand, rubbing his back only served to make him feel worse, but he wouldn't dare admit it.
He didn't deserve such kindness.
"Niles, your father loves you dearly and he knows you didn't mean the things you were sayin. It was the beer talkin'. Everything will be all right. I promise."
"I don't think so, Daphne. I've... insulted the one person who always believed in me."
She kissed him so tenderly he thought he might cry again.
"I believe in you Niles... and always will. And your father and brother believe in you, too. Don't ever forget that."
"I love you..." he whispered into her hair.
"I love you too, Darling." she said as he kissed her again. "And don't worry. Everything will be-."
"Kind of cold out here, isn't it Niles?"
They looked up to find Martin standing in the open doorway, wearing his pajamas and flannel robe.
"Hey Daph." Martin said stepping onto the patio. "You two must be freezing."
Daphne gasped. "Oh you're absolutely right! Where was me head, coming out in the cold like this? I'll just get you a blanket."
Niles took her hand and kissed it, letting her fingers linger in his until she reached the doorway.
"I love you." She said smiling at him from just inside the door.
Seconds later she returned with a green blanket which she wrapped around Niles' shoulders.
"Thank you." He said as he kissed her tenderly.
Alone on the balcony, Niles and Martin sat in awkward silence before speaking at once.
"I'm sorry, Dad."
"I'm sorry, Son."
Niles smiled. "Go ahead Dad."
Martin sighed and paced the balcony. Niles, I'm not going to lie to you. What you said earlier hurt like hell."
Ashamed, Niles looked away. "I know, Dad."
He said the words so quietly he doubted his father heard him.
Martin stopped and stared at his son. "Just tell me why you felt you had to hurt me like that."
Niles cringed. "I-I don't know what came over me. I mean, I was talking about Mom and I just..." unable to think of the right words, his voice trailed away.
Amazingly his father smiled. "Well, at least you got that part right. She was the best thing that ever happened to me."
"She sure was, Dad." Niles said, grateful for the compliment.
"But I meant what I said before." Martin said; his fatherly tone returning. "I was always proud of you boys."
Then to Niles' surprise, he smiled as though deep in thought.
"What is it Dad?"
"Well, I can't deny that I used to dream that one day I'd have a son who would hit the winning run in the World Series."
Niles laughed. "Come on, Dad! Even I know that the Seahawks will never make it to the World Series! They can't score baskets to save their lives!"
Martin chuckled "Oh Niles! The Seahawks don't score baskets! They're-."
When Niles looked at him blankly, Martin stopped.
"Never mind." Martin said. "Look, I just wanted to say I'm sorry for what I said. I'm proud to call you my son."
"I'm the one who's sorry." Niles said, gazing out at the Seattle skyline. "I'm... so ashamed."
"Oh come on, Niles. It's all right. Besides, you picked a hell of a guy as a hero!"
Niles chuckled. "Well, he's definitely amazing."
They laughed and hugged each other.
"I love you, Niles."
"I love you too, Dad."
Niles held onto his father, not wanting to let go.
"I'm... so sorry, Dad."
Martin hugged his son again and then stepped back.
"All right. Enough sentiment. I'm going to bed. Goodnight, Son."
"I guess I should be going home." Niles said, heading for the patio door.
"To hell with that! Just stay here for the night. I'm sure Daphne-."
"You're sure Daphne what?"
They looked up to see Daphne smiling at them from the doorway.
Martin smiled. "I'll leave you two alone. Goodnight, kids."
"Goodnight, Mr. Crane."
Daphne stepped outside and smiled at Niles. "Is everything all right, Sweetheart?"
Overcome with love for her, he caressed her cheek with his hand. "Thanks to you."
She looked him up and down, smiling slyly when he gasped in surprise as she ran her hand down his flannel shirt.
"Wh-what are you doing?"
"You look pretty sexy in plaid flannel." She said, kissing him before he had a chance to reply.
"That's an incredible compliment, coming from Sir Elton John." Niles said.
They kissed deeply in the moonlight, savoring the moment.
They looked up, breaking off the kiss in embarrassment when they saw Martin watching them from the doorway.
"Oh... Mr. Crane. We're sorry. We didn't realize you were standing there." Daphne said.
"Yeah, we know how much you hate watching yourself make out with Elton John." Niles said, grinning at Daphne.
"No, actually I was thinking about something else." Martin said.
"What's that, Mr. Crane?" Daphne asked.
"How much you two remind me of your mother and I."
Daphne put her hand over her heart as her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh Geez, what did I say? Damn, I'm doing the same thing Niles did. That was stupid of me to say. I'm sorry."
"No, Mr. Crane." Daphne said.
"What's this for?" Martin asked when she hugged him.
"Comparing me to Hester; that's... the most wonderful thing you could have ever done."
"Well you're welcome, and I meant it. Thought I was watching a home movie when I came out here. I should really show you those sometime."
Daphne smiled and kissed Martin's cheek. "I'd like that."
"I just hope that you and Niles are as happy together as Hester and I were."
"We will be, Dad." Niles said.
"Well... goodnight." Martin said, turning to go back into the house.
Alone once more, Daphne and Niles kissed.
"Shall I make up the sofa for you, Mr. Martin Crane?" Daphne asked, touching her forehead to Niles'.
"Miss Hester Palmer, I'd be honored... but I hate to think of leaving you alone all night. It is Halloween you know."
Daphne grinned and kissed him deeply, almost causing his knees to collapse from underneath him.
"We certainly wouldn't want that, would we?."
He entwined his fingers through hers and they walked into the living room, grabbing the pillows and blankets that Martin had placed on the sofa.
In the darkness, "Martin" and "Hester" walked through Frasier's condo and into Daphne's room...
Closing the door behind them.