Niles, Mel, Roz, Frasier, and Martin were all sitting down, their eyes on the television screen while Daphne set the table. Well, Martin was the only one watching. Roz and Frasier were talking, and so were Niles and Mel.
"Such nice sherry," she commented. "Thank you, Frasier."
"Oh, you're welcome," Frasier replied. "So, Roz, who'd you get to babysit tonight?"
"A tired old woman named Mrs. Walker," Roz said, rolling her eyes. "She was the only sitter I can get at the last minute. She's so cranky, and Alice really hates her, but you know…" She took a drink of wine.
"Dinner's ready!" Daphne chirped, holding a tray with food and drinks. She nearly tripped. "Oh!"
"Daphne, here," Niles said. "Let me help you with that." Niles took the tray from her hands and set in the middle of the table.
"Thank you, Dr. Crane," Daphne said, rubbing her eyes with her knuckles.
"Is something wrong?"
"I'm just a bit under the weather. I have a slight headache, sore throat, and stuffy nose."
"You should get some rest," he told her softly.
"Oh, no, no. I have too much to do tomorrow to take a day off!" She shook her head, which only intensified the aching in her head.
"Don't worry. Tomorrow's my day off; I'll come and do the chores. And once I'm done, I'll make you some chicken soup. I'll wait on you hand and foot." He smiled.
"You'd really do that?"
"That sounds… nice. Thank you." Daphne wasn't sure what to make of it since she had heard Frasier blow Niles's secret pertaining to his feelings for her. However, he and Mel did seem happy together, so perhaps he was over her. He did take back the Christmas present to give to Mel. He had to be over her! No harm in letting him help. "I'd love it."
Mel strode gracefully to the table, gaining Niles's attention.
"Here you are, darling," he said, pulling out her chair.
"Thank you," she replied; her voice was a little angry. "So, Daphne."
"Hmm?" Daphne asked, sitting down herself as everyone else did.
"How long have you worked for the Cranes exactly?"
"We're coming up on almost seven years," she told her. "It's very frightening, how time flies!" She laughed, making a hand gesture of something flying.
"Hmm, yes. So, you have known the Cranes for about seven years?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Alright, enough chitchat," Martin said loudly. "I'm starving!"
Mel grabbed Niles's hand from underneath the table and smiled at him. She was hardly aware when Daphne put her plate of food in front of her.
"Dinner," Daphne said. "Mel?"
"Huh? Oh, thank you, Daphne," Mel said, grabbing her fork and sticking into her dinner. She had barely put it in her mouth when she began to cough. She grabbed her napkin and coughed into it. "Daphne, what did you put it in this?"
"It's meatloaf. Just regular stuff," Daphne said, confused.
"I'm sorry, but I don't eat meat."
"Oh, I apologize! I had no idea you were a vegetarian."
"You're not a vegetarian, dear," Niles pointed out. "I've seen you meat loads of times."
"That's different. I don't eat 'cheap' meat," Mel said as though it were obvious that was what she was talking about in the first place. "I only eat meat from the rich grocery stores. 'Cheap' meat is packed with fat. Niles, I'm sorry, but could you take me home?" She rose from her seat. She twisted her head to the right and glared at Daphne, who was still utterly confused at why Mel was so angry. "I'm surprised at you, Daphne. You're supposed to be a hostess. A good hostess asks if someone eats meat, or whatever it is you call this stuff."
"Wait, you haven't even had dessert yet!" Martin called out to Mel as she was heading to the door.
"And what's for dessert?" She asked coldly. "Heart-attacking inducing cake and ice cream?" She gave no one time to form a response and snatched her coat from the coat rack. "Come on, Niles."
"Yes," Niles said, setting down his napkin and following her. "I'm sorry, you guys."
"Don't apologize," Mel snapped. "If anyone is to apologize, it's Daphne. And your father, for letting her make such garbage." She pulled the door opened and stepped out. Niles followed her.
Seconds after they had gone, Daphne began to sob. She pushed her plate away and buried her face in her hands.
"Daphne, don't cry," Frasier said. "Pay no attention to what Mel said."
"I… I'm sorry," Daphne choked.
"Don't be sorry," Roz said, wrapping her arms around Daphne. "If it makes you feel any better, I'll eat your 'cheap' loaf."
Daphne laughed. "Oh, I love you, Roz."
"I love you, too, Daphne."
"You're not disgusted by the food, are you, Dr. Crane?" Daphne asked, hope glinting in her teary eyes.
"I must admit, Daphne, I'm not too fond of meatloaf, but…" He took a bite. "I think it's enchanting."
"Thank you. It's my specialty."
"I'll say," Martin laughed, shoving some in his mouth.
They spent the rest of the evening comforting Daphne and watching funny TV shows, though Frasier didn't think they were that funny, while Eddie stared at him.
Niles opened the door for Mel, and she bustled in, looking extremely disgruntled.
"That was a disaster," she said, throwing her coat and purse on his coffee table.
"It's not my place to say anything," Niles started. "But, I think you were out of line tonight."
"Oh, please. I was just telling it like it is," she replied, grabbing a glass and a bottle of sherry.
"No, you weren't. You were being extremely rude to Daphne, who has been nothing but hospitable to you since we went over."
Mel scoffed. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you had feelings for this girl." Niles was silent, flushing ever so slightly. Mel's eyes widened in disbelief. "You have feelings for her?"
"I did," he corrected her. "I did have feelings for her. But, that's over now. I'm with you. I'm sorry if I'm making you feel bad." He took her in his arms. "I care about Daphne, but she's my past, and you're my future."
"Oh." Mel smiled, kissing him. "Do me a favor?"
"When you go over there tomorrow, tell Daphne to stop seeing you."
Niles froze. "What?"
"I've seen the way she was looking at you when you 'came to her rescue.' The dazzle in her eyes. She's engaged, isn't she?"
"Yes, she is, so you have no need to worry about anything, Mel."
Mel thought about it for a second before smiling again. "You're right. Don't go tomorrow, okay?" Before he could say anything, she added, "Let me go. Let me go apologize for my dastardly behavior. I'll give her everything she needs. Think of it as a return for her generous hospitality."
They kissed again and went off to bed.
Daphne was feeling more ill than the day before and had taken to her bedroom for almost the entire morning.
When the doorbell rang, Martin got up from his chair and answered it, surprised to see Mel, with a big smile on her face, standing before him.
"Hello, Martin," Mel said, kissing his cheek.
"Hey. Uh… Where's Niles; isn't he coming over to help Daphne?"
"Oh, he caught something from her. Poor thing; he's got such a weak immune system. I can go see Daphne."
"I don't think you should," Martin said firmly. "After what happened last night."
"Haha, you're misunderstanding me, Martin," Mel said, hitting him gently on the shoulder. "I simply come not only to help, but to give amends for my rude words. Which room is hers?"
Martin was speechless for a second or two, but then he pointed out Daphne's room. He hastily wiped his cheek with his sleeve when Mel was out of eyeshot.
Daphne was awake in her bed, a book propped against her knees. A cup of tea was on the nightstand next to her. When she turned the page, there was a knock on the door. "Come in," she said. "Mel."
Mel stepped forward, her hands folded at her stomach. "How are you feeling, Daphne?" She asked, striding over to her and feeling her forehead. "You're a little warm."
"What are you doing here?" Daphne peeked over Mel's shoulder. "Where's Dr. Crane?"
"He caught something last night. You know his immune system."
"Oh, I feel so awful!" Daphne cried.
"It's alright. I really wanted to come and apologize for my behavior last night. I was just a little tired, and I let that get the best of me."
"That's fine." Daphne smiled slightly.
"The thing is though, it wasn't even the 'cheap' meat or heart-attack inducing desserts that made me so angry!" Mel laughed loudly.
"What was it?"
Martin answered the door again. This time it was Niles.
"Mel said you were sick."
"Did she? Is she in Daphne's room?"
Martin nodded and went back to his basketball game with Eddie.
Niles was about to go into the room when Mel's voice filled his ears.
"My problem is you, Daphne," Mel said darkly. "I saw the way you were gawking at Niles after he 'saved you.' I would advise you not to make me angry. I am a plastic surgeon, and I do have sharp things. And I'll be damned if I lose my boyfriend to some slut."
"Mel!" Niles yelled, making his presence known.
"Niles!" Mel yelled back, spinning around with a fake smile on her face. "Did you like it? Daphne and I were just practicing a play I wrote… just now."
Niles grabbed her arm. "Get into the living room, now."
Daphne didn't say anything as Niles dragged Mel away. She stared blankly at the open book.
"What was that?" He demanded to know.
"Nothing! I was just apologizing to her," Mel said innocently.
"I heard you, Mel!"
Martin and Eddie stared at them.
"You know what?" Mel glowered, putting her hands on her hip. "I'm not going to let some whore take away my boyfriend!"
At this moment, Roz and Frasier had entered the apartment.
"Oh, hell no," Roz said. "She better not be talking about me!"
"She's not," Niles said, not taking his eyes off of Mel. "She's talking about Daphne."
Roz gaped. "HELL NO!" She yelled, running towards Mel. She would have gotten to her if Frasier hadn't held her back. "Let me go, Frasier!"
"Stay still," he ordered. "Niles, what the hell is going on?"
"Mel," Niles said, ignoring Frasier's question. "You are pushing me to the limit here."
She stared at up at him, her eyes glittering with bitter anger. "You're angry with me?" She asked in a completely false sweet voice. "Yeah, right. This whole freaking apartment has problems. Your father and his little mangy mutt." Eddie growled at her. "Your brother and his cocky attitude. News flash, Frasier, no one cares that much about you or your stupid advice."
Frasier glared at her. "Here you go, Roz," he said, loosening his grip on Roz's arms. Roz sped off toward Mel until Frasier caught her again.
"You traitor!" Roz yelled, struggling to get free, but his grasp was too tight.
"Just trying to scare her a bit," he whispered in her ear.
"Niles, you're not going to do anything; you're a coward," Mel snapped.
"Try me," he hissed.
"Fine. Do it then. Break up with me. I dare you!" She shouted. "But guess what, Niles? You're going to be forever alone because no woman wants to be with a man who is in love with a slut."
"You know what…?" Frasier, Martin, and Roz all started to yell. Even Eddie looked ready to maul her.
"Mel, get out!" Niles shouted, pointing toward the door. "Right now!"
"W-what? You're kicking me out?"
"I will not stand by and let you badmouth Daphne. She's more of a woman… no, she's more of a human being than you'll ever be." Mel glared up at him, her face turning red with anger.
"Why are you defending her? She doesn't even love you back! She's engaged! There is an attraction, but you're a fool if you let me go for her!"
"Let me tell you something, Mel. I would be furious even if I didn't feel that way about Daphne. She's not only the most beautiful and kindest woman I've ever met, but she's also my best friend. So, I can't allow you to be so cruel to her. But, yes, I'm in love with her!" He screamed. "Now, get out, or the police will be here to force you out. And I can arrange that they be here faster than you would think." He quickly glanced at Martin, before turning his eyes back to Mel.
Mel rolled her eyes. "Fine," she said darkly. "Fine! Throw away the best thing that ever happened to you. Good luck living in your own self misery." She flipped her hair with her right hand and stalked towards the door.
Roz whistled nonchalantly and stuck out her foot as Mel was heading to the door, causing her to trip.
"Oops, sorry," Roz said, batting her eyelashes. "By the way, Mel, insult my friend again, and you'll have me to answer to as well as Niles."
"Oh, shut up," Mel mumbled, getting to her feet and leaving the apartment.
"Niles, you did it," Frasier said, clapping. "You stood up to her."
"You guys were right; she was all wrong for me," Niles said. He turned around to find Daphne, standing near the piano, tears in her eyes. "Daphne."
"Dr. Crane," she cried, throwing her arms around his neck and pushing her lips against his.
"Daphne?" He asked when she started sobbing into his shoulder.
"Thank you! I love you, too."
"I love you, too," she repeated slowly.
"Oh, Daphne!" He cried, hugging her tightly to his chest. "But, what about Donny?"
"I can explain it to him. I love you, Niles."
"You called me Niles…"
"Is that wrong?"
"Of course it isn't!" He held her tightly. "I am so sorry she treated you like that. Daphne, I must tell you that I felt this way since…"
"Shh. I know," Daphne told him. "I know you have been harboring feelings for me for six or so years."
"Dr. Crane told me."
Niles spun around, Daphne still in his arms, and glared at Frasier.
"What?" Frasier exclaimed. "When did I do that?"
"When I was giving you a massage," Daphne explained. "You were loopy on some painkillers, and you sort of spilled the beans."
"Oh… well," Frasier blushed. "I'm sorry, Niles, but look! It worked out for the best, didn't it? Daphne realized her feelings for you because of my telling her."
"I suppose," Niles said, softening his gaze. "Thank you, Frasier."
"I always knew you weren't truly happy with Mel."
"No. I have never put my heart into any of the relationships after Maris's and my separation. Daphne, will you forgive me?"
"What do I have to forgive you for?" She asked.
"I didn't tell you sooner. I should've, but…"
"No need to explain. Nerves do get the best of us sometimes."
"I'm also sorry for the way I let her treat you last night. I wanted to tell her off, but I thought it was just Mel being Mel. After hearing her cruel words to you today, I couldn't hold my feelings in."
"I wouldn't be surprised if you had an ulcer, Niles," Frasier commented.
"Well, I'm bored!" Roz shouted. "Come on! Let's go out and do something fun!"
"You guys can," Niles said. "How about we go for a walk, darling?" His heart swelled with happiness when he called her that.
"Some boyfriend you are!" Martin shouted.
"She's sick, remember?"
"Oh, right. Well, my love, you get straight to bed," Niles said. "I will wait on you hand and foot as I had intended. I will cuddle with you, and make you feel safe."
"Oh, but your immune system," Daphne spoke up, turning red.
"Don't worry about me. I don't care if I get sick, as long as we're together."
Roz, Frasier, and Martin all smiled tenderly as Niles escorted Daphne into her bedroom.
"Let's go out for some coffee," Frasier suggested.
"Good idea," Roz said. "Coming, Martin?" She asked as they were nearing the door.
"Yeah," Martin replied, still staring at the space where Niles and Daphne stood. He tore his eyes away, put Eddie's leash on his collar, and followed Frasier and Roz out of the apartment.
Niles smiled softly, putting his arms around Daphne's shoulders, head swimming when she pressed her head against his chest.
Her book lay on the bed on the page where she left it.
Niles picked it up, set it on the nightstand, and stared into Daphne's eyes.
"Thank you for your kindness," Daphne whispered.
"Thank you for yourkindness," Niles replied, pressing his lips to her nose.
Daphne's eyes soon grew heavy, and she fell asleep.
Niles stroked her hair until he fell asleep himself.
He wondered how things would work out with Donny, but right now, he didn't want to worry about it. Everything was perfect.
"I love you," Daphne whispered in her sleep.
"I love you, too," Niles whispered back.