There was an awkward tension looming in the air between Niles and Daphne as they stood just mere feet from each other, unsure of what to say.
"So, Daphne." Niles finally broke the dreadful silence.
"Yes?" She asked almost immediately.
"Would you like a drink?" Damn nerves!
"No, thank you." There was a pause. "Perhaps an Orangina."
"I think I'll have one too," he said, fishing two out of the mini-bar.
Daphne sat on the ottoman in front of the right-hand bed. "I never drink Orangina at home, but whenever I go to a hotel, and there's a mini-bar, it's always the first thing I go for." Niles handed it to her; he sat down on the other ottoman. She looked down at it in her hands, her palms becoming wet with perspiration.
"I was just talking to Frasier about a conversation that you two had," Niles said.
"Now, don't get upset."
Daphne jumped off the ottoman and spun her head, facing him. "I specifically asked him not to say anything! What was he thinking?"
"No, I'm glad he told me." He followed her actions and stood up.
"Oh, yes!" She shouted sarcastically. "So we can have a big talk about it! That's what you psychiatrists always do; drag everything out into the open so we can work through it, no matter how awkward it might be! Well, I don't see the point!"
"No, Daphne, I'm glad he told me," Niles said softly. "Because I love you."
Daphne was stunned and speechless. She stared up at Niles's blue eyes. The door was flung open, and Martin entered, his hair wet. He was chattering about Daphne's brothers and laughing. He stopped when he saw Daphne.
"Oh, well, why don't you two just continue what you were doing? I'm going to sit by the fireplace," Martin said, leaving the room.
Daphne opened her mouth. "Dr. Crane, you shouldn't say such things."
"It's the truth," Niles continued as if Martin had never interrupted. "Lord knows I have tried to deny it, tried to pretend that I'm over you, but not a day goes by when I haven't thought about you. Your smile, your beautiful eyes, what it would be like to hold your hands and ask you the question I never dared ask!"
The door was opened once again, and this time it was Donny. He sat on a chair, his foot propped against his knee, examining it.
"What's the difference between a boil and blister?" He asked. "I took off my shoe, and I swear I was growing another ankle bone. Doc, you went to med school. Am I supposed to lance it or something?"
Niles glanced at Daphne and ran over to Donny. He quickly checked his foot. "As I recall the best thing would be to soak in tepid water for at least half an hour."
"Thanks, Doc," Donny said, smiling. "What luck! Can you imagine a worse thing to happen to me the night before my wedding?" And Donny left to soak his foot.
"I don't understand!" Daphne yelled. "Why didn't you say anything sooner?"
"I wanted to," Niles explained. "The timing never seemed right."
"And the timing's right now?" She shouted, her voice a tad hysterical. "I'm twelve hours from the altar, and you're on your honeymoon!"
"I would never have gotten married if I thought there was the slightest chance you shared my feelings." He peered into her face. "Trust me, Daphne; say the word, and I'll leave Mel in a heartbeat."
"Niles?" Mel asked, opening the door.
Mel showed him a brochure for their trip, asking his opinion. He told her he was sure she could handle it by herself.
"He says that now," she laughed to Daphne. "Wait until the honeymoon's over." She smiled and left.
"Don't the doors in this bloody place lock?" Daphne asked.
"You get that one, I'll get this one!" Niles told her.
They ran around the room, locking all the doors.
"Daphne," Niles said seriously. "It's not too late for us. I meant what said when I said I'd leave her."
"No," he cried out. "No, it's not crazy, if you feel the same way I do. But I need you to tell me, and I can accept it if the answer's no. How do you feel about me?"
Daphne stared sadly at him, and just was she was about to open her mouth and give him an answer, Simon burst through the door.
"Simon!" She exclaimed. "How did you get in here?"
"Frasier loaned me his key, in a manner of speaking," Simon chortled. "I've just come to get some things from the mini-bar. Don't wanna be caught empty-handed when the last call comes." He looked from Daphne to Niles. "You're not having a last call of your own, are you?"
"Of course not!" She glowered.
"Riiight! Hey, this isn't the chap whose baby your having, is it?"
"Excuse me?" Niles screamed.
"I'm not pregnant!" Daphne shouted.
Just as she was done yelling at Simon, the doors opened once more, and her whole family was scrambling into the room.
"Peter threw up on the piano," Michael explained. "They asked us to vacate the bar."
"Now, why would we bring the party to the Winnebago when there's a perfectly good room up here?" Gertrude, Daphne's mother asked, walking into the room, a glass of wine in her hand.
"Mum, what are you doing?" Daphne shrieked, staring at all who had come in.
"Daphne, don't get your blood pressure up. You've got your baby to think of."
Niles slipped away as the family crowded around the bride-to-be.
Daphne shot a nasty glare at Simon, who turned his eyes away from hers and downed a glass of wine. "Here, have a drink and relax," Gertrude said.
Daphne managed to get away as well and joined Niles on the balcony.
He was staring up into the starry, velvet black sky.
"I must be in love," he said when she was by his side. "I don't even mind that you come with them."
Daphne was silent.
"Lovely night, isn't it?" Niles went on. "Night blooming jasmine. Of course, there's the beautiful girl."
"Dr. Crane," Daphne finally said. "I haven't answered your question yet."
"I know. That's why I keep talking. Even if I don't get the answer I want, I can at least make this moment last a little longer. Not sure if it's jasmine or orange blossoms. You know, a lot of the times…"
"Oh, for God's sake, Dr. Crane!" Daphne shouted, throwing her arms around his neck and pressing her lips against his.
Niles was taken aback, but he slowly put his arms around her and sank into the kiss he had been waiting a lifetime for.
When they broke apart, staring deeply into each other's eyes, he whispered, "I think you can me Niles now."
They kissed again. Daphne brought her hands to his chest and pushed back, much to his dismay. She shook her head.
"No," she cried. "I don't think I can. I do love you, but I can't do this."
"We… I know it will be difficult, b-but, I will get a divorce, and you can call off the wedding," Niles desperately told her.
"I can't! Donny's a dear and wonderful man, and I made a promise to him. And Mel! You made more than a promise to her. And we're supposed to forget that? And for what? We have no idea how we'd be together. We'd never even been on a date."
"Daphne," he said seriously. "Take it from someone who knows: you don't want to live half your life thinking about a chance you didn't take."
"I'm sorry," she said. "My mind's made up. I think we should say good night now."
Niles kept staring at her; he wanted to say something, he wanted to stop her, but he knew from her eyes that there was nothing further to discuss. He couldn't change her mind. Painfully, he sighed and said, "Good night, Daphne."
"Good night, Dr. Crane," Daphne replied. She turned away and went back inside.
Niles put his hands on the railing and stared miserably down at the flowers beneath. He wondered if live was worth living after this. But, he couldn't do it. He was too much of a coward, and he knew Daphne would be devastated, knowing that her rejection drove him to suicide.
Instead, he straightened his tie and went inside, avoiding everyone. He, inadvertently, locked eyes with Daphne.
She was the first to turn her gaze away and laid it upon the mini-bar.
Niles left into his room, locking the door, and thanking God that Mel was not in there at the moment.
Niles lay against his bed, his hands on his stomach, staring blankly at the ceiling. He was surprisingly dry eyed, but he knew tomorrow would be horrid. There was no way he could watch Daphne get married.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Mel, probably.
"Yes?" He asked; the softness of his voice surprised even him.
"It's me," Frasier replied. "Can I come in?"
"I'd much rather be alone."
"Niles, come on. I really want to talk to you."
"Is Dad with you?" He didn't really want to talk to both of them right now.
"No; he's downstairs with Roz and Mel."
"Alright." Niles got up and opened the door for Frasier.
Frasier walked in and sat on the bed. "I'm so sorry."
"Daphne told you?" Niles asked.
"Yes. She was in tears, calling herself a monster for what she did."
"No, no. She's not a monster; she's an angel."
"Did you want say anything further to her?" Frasier asked.
"Well, of course I did! But, I knew my words would do no difference; she had made up her mind."
"What would you have told her?"
Niles pondered on it for a second. "I would have told her that she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen, and I would treat with the dignity and respect she deserves because she is a princess. She is a goddess, and she deserves to be treated like one. My feelings have never changed for those six years I have been in love with her. She made my life worth living. I had never known I was a good person without Daphne's help." He smiled sadly. "Well, it's no use, though. So, whatever."
"Are you coming to the wedding?" Frasier inquired.
"No. I know it sounds bad, Frasier, but I can't go through with it. I love her, and I wish her the best, but I cannot, I CANNOT bear to see her be taken away from me. It's too much."
"I understand," Frasier said, patting his brother's shoulder. "Why don't you get some sleep? You look exhausted."
"A broken heart can do that to a person," Niles said darkly.
Frasier patted Niles's shoulder and left the room, wishing he could do something to help this shattered man.
The next day was hectic, to say the least. Niles was roused awaked by Mel who was pushing his arm slightly. His eyes fluttered for a moment before completely opening. He saw her smiling down at him. Yes, she was attractive, but she wasn't Daphne.
"Good morning," Mel said.
"Morning," he replied.
"Wedding's soon!" She shouted. His chest stung; he really didn't need reminding. "Let's get ready."
Niles got out of bed and opened his luggage, where his suit was inside a plastic covering. Mel jumped up and ran into the bathroom, but not before kissing Niles on the nose.
Niles sighed, leaving the suit against his luggage, and walked to the window. He peered outside; Daphne's family, Frasier, Martin, and Roz were all outside.
"Just stop thinking about it," Niles firmly told himself. "Daphne's going to be married, and you're going to have a happy life with Mel. Daphne and you were not meant to be. Get over it." He smiled grimly. That was easier said than done. Even when he was with Mel, telling everyone how happy he was, Daphne still occupied his thoughts. He fell asleep with her on his mind every single night and woke up with her on his mind every single morning. It was never going to change, and his thoughts only made it worse.
"Darling, are you nearly finished in there?" Niles asked.
"Almost," Mel sang.
A few moments later, Mel emerged out of the bathroom, wearing a long blue dress. "Well?" She asked, smiling broadly.
"You look nice," Niles said. He was sure she would have questioned his adjectives to describe her. He had no will to call her "stunning" or "beautiful."
Luckily for him, Mel's smile widened, and she kissed his cheek happily. "Oh, wait a minute." She scowled. "You're asking me if I'm ready, and you're not." She shook her head, letting out a small laugh, and retrieved his suit for him. "Come on; put it on. We don't want to be late. It would be rude."
"Of course," Niles said, taking his suit from her hands.
He went into the bathroom and changed. He made sure he looked nice, even though he was planning on sneaking away before the wedding actually started.
"Honey," Mel said. "You look really handsome."
"But, your eyes." She stared into his blue eyes. "They're so blank."
"Oh, I'm just a little tired. So much on my mind."
"That's alright; you'll get your luster back any second! Let's go." Mel grabbed his hand and together, they went down to the gardens.
"Niles," Frasier said, taking his brother by the shoulder while Mel chatted with a hesitant Roz and Martin. "I thought you weren't coming?"
"I'm planning on slipping away before the ceremony starts," Niles explained.
Niles waited around, glancing around at the gorgeous gardens were Daphne was to be married. He was happy she was getting married here. It was absolutely beautiful, and it was everything she deserved. She had the perfect location, the perfect cake, the perfect decorations, and the perfect groom. Niles grimaced; he wished he could see her in her dress, but it's not that big of a loss. There were always wedding photos.
"Mel, darling?" Niles asked after a reasonable about of time. "I'm going to get some bug spray on, okay?"
"Okay," Mel said. "See you in a bit, then."
Niles ran his fingers through his hair and headed to the Winnebago; it was a nice place for him to be alone.
Niles stared out at the nature around him, his heart beating madly as he thought about Daphne.
Frasier and Martin came in a little bit later, holding a wine bottle.
"Don't tell me the ceremony's over already," Niles said.
"They haven't even started," Martin said, sitting in the passenger's seat. "Three of Daphne's brothers ran off into the woods." He laughed.
"I wish I could be there," Niles said. "But, this is one wedding I couldn't see myself handling too well."
"A lot of people cry at weddings."
"Yeah, but most don't end up wailing and rending their garments." He chuckled.
"You know, Niles," Frasier said, holding up the bottle of wine. "I was thinking of Morrie, the doorman. He saved this wine for a special occasion, and I couldn't think of an occasion to drink it. But, you showed a great deal of courage last night, taking that chance. That calls for a drink." He poured the wine into three glasses and handed one to Niles and Martin.
"Thank you," Niles said.
They all took a sip before their eager faces turned into faces of disgust. After finding out that Morrie kept his wine in the cellar next to the heater, Frasier put the cork back on the wine bottle and shrugged.
"You two should get back," Niles told them. "I'd hate for you to miss on my account."
"Alright. Take care, son," Martin said.
Frasier smiled at Niles before following their father out of the Winnebago.
Niles hands gripped the wheel, his knuckles turning white. He wished that Daphne would come into the Winnebago and confess her undying love for him, and tell him that she couldn't live without him. He wished he could embrace her with the all the love that was coursing through his veins.
An hour went by, and nothing happened. His wishes were shot down with each passing second.
The only time the door opened again was when Frasier came to inform Niles that the ceremony was over, and Daphne and Donny were now married.
"She's married?" Niles asked softly. Frasier nodded. Niles bit down on his knuckles and cleared his throat. "I… just can't believe it."
"I'm so sorry, Niles," Frasier said.
"No, don't be. It's not your fault. It's mine. Should have told her sooner, right?" Niles laughed. "Is she out there?"
"Yes. I think you should congratulate her."
Niles agreed. He followed Frasier's lead and saw a crowd people just a few feet from the Winnebago.
When the crowd parted, Niles saw Daphne and Donny. They were smiling hugely and thanking everyone for coming.
"Niles, darling, why didn't you come back?" Mel asked, holding his hands.
"I wasn't feeling too well." It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the truth either. "Would you excuse me?" Mel looked a bit stunned when she let go of Niles's hands.
He went over to Daphne, his entire body trembling. She looked so beautiful in her wedding dress. "D-Daphne?" He asked.
"Oh, Dr. Crane," she said, turning a slight pink.
"Congratulations," he managed to say.
They stared at each other.
"I'm going to go see some more people," Donny said, joining his friends and family.
It was silent until Daphne's lip started trembling. "I'm so sorry," she said.
"No, don't be," Niles said. "I'm sorry I didn't stay to watch you get married."
"No; don't apologize. I understood why you didn't show up."
"Do not worry about anything, Daphne. You will have a wonderful life with Donny. He will treat you with love and respect and give you the happiness you deserve because you are precious."
"It's not me I'm worried about," she said. "It's you. Will you be okay?"
"I'll try. I can make things work with Mel. Daphne, I am so happy for you. But, never forget one thing: no matter what happens, I will always love you." He gently pressed his lips against her forehead. She closed her eyes. "Congratulations, again."
Niles smiled at her and returned to Mel.
"Have you planned anything?" Niles asked. "For the honeymoon?"
"Oh, yes," Mel said excitedly. "I was thinking of going to Paris; what do you think?"
"It sounds lovely."
"Niles?" Mel asked, peering into his face. "You don't look well."
"I don't feel very well," Niles admitted. "I'm sorry, darling; I think I should stay at Frasier's tonight."
"I just feel it will be better for me, and you," he added hastily.
She chuckled. "Sure thing. I don't want to catch anything."
Niles didn't say anything. She couldn't catch anything, but he didn't want her to know that his 'illness' was really heartbreak.
"If you want to head home, go ahead," Niles said. "We may be here for a while." He looked over at Frasier and Martin, who were congratulating Daphne once again. Roz was visible, trying to push Simon away from her, who had way too much to drink and was attempting to kiss her.
"Get away from me," she ordered.
"Oh, come on, Roz," Simon purred. "Stop playing hard to get it."
Once Roz caught sight of her ex-boyfriend, Ted, walking with Annie, one of Daphne's bridesmaids, she kissed Simon.
"Ugh!" She groaned, pushing him away when Ted was out of eyeshot. "Now, get away from me."
Simon winked at Martin and put his arm around Roz.
"HEY!" She shrieked.
"I'll see you at home, Niles," Mel said. "No kisses; don't want to get sick. Hehe. I'm heading home, guys!" She called out at everyone as though it was a big announcement. She waved madly. "Congrats again, Daphne and Donny!"
"Bye!" Daphne said.
"Thanks for coming!" Donny yelled.
Mel winked at Niles before leaving to hail a cab.
Niles sat on a bench underneath the trees.
"Hello," a young girl said, approaching him.
"Hello," Niles replied, surprised by the girl's eye patch when she couldn't have been more than four years old. "What's your name?"
"Audrey! That's my Aunt Daphne!" She grinned, pointing at Daphne. "Doesn't she look pretty?"
"Pretty? She looks beautiful," he corrected her. "You're the flower girl, huh?"
"Uh-huh!" Audrey giggled, showing Niles her basket; only a few petals lingered. "Aunt Daphne looked sad today."
"She was the saddest bride I'd ever seen!"
"Oh, she probably wasn't sad, Audrey," Niles said. "She was probably just nervous. Wedding jitters are perfectly normal."
"What's your name?" Audrey asked.
"My name is Niles."
"Do you like my Aunt Daphne?"
Niles flushed; he couldn't even fool a four year old with an eye patch!
"Yes, I do. She's very kind."
"Oh. I think Aunt Daphne likes you, too!"
Niles smiled. Daphne did like him, but not enough to want her to spend her life with him. She didn't love him like he loved her. "Frasier?" Niles called, remorse weighing down against his heart.
"Yeah?" Frasier asked, jogging over to the bench. "Hello, Audrey."
"Hello, Dr. Crane!"
"Dr. Crane?" Niles asked. "You're really having a child call you that?"
"Haha. No. I told her she could call me 'Frasier,' but Daphne insisted on her calling me 'Dr. Crane.' So, what do you need from me, Niles?"
"I'm ready to leave." Frasier glanced over his shoulder at Martin, who was having the time of his life, chattering away and drinking with Daphne's family.
"Frasier, please. I can't stay here," Niles whispered urgently.
"Uh, Dad?" Frasier asked.
"I'm busy," Martin shot back, taking another drink.
"Dad! It's time to go!"
"What?" Martin shouted, limping towards them. "What's wrong with you, Fras? I was having a great time over there."
"You are, but Niles isn't."
Martin looked over at Niles, who waved sadly.
"Alright, let's get going," Martin said. "Hey, Daphne, we're going to head home."
"Leaving already?" Donny exclaimed, approaching and slapping Niles on the back.
"Niles isn't feeling very well," Frasier explained. "That's why he wasn't present at the ceremony."
"Ah; I did notice you seemed a bit peaky. Well, thanks a lot for coming, guys. And don't worry, I'll take great care of Daphne!" Donny grinned, wrapping his arm around Daphne's waist; she giggled.
"I'm sure you will," Niles said. "Frasier, let's go."
"Sure. Goodbye." Frasier and Martin kissed Daphne's cheek.
"Bye, Niles!" Audrey said, waving at him.
Niles smiled at Daphne and Donny and walked to Frasier's BMW.
Niles slumped his head against the seat, eyes blank with misery. Frasier glanced at him through the rearview mirror, wishing he could do something to lift his spirits.
"I'm sure you and Mel will have a good life together," he said.
Niles turned his eyes to Frasier. "I suppose. But, you were right; she is like Maris. However, I can't be alone; not when I'm like this. Mel might be able to heal me."
"I hope so," Martin said. "I hate seeing you so down, Niles."
"I hate feeling this way. I hate to admit, but it's much better with her not feeling the same way."
"What do you mean?"
"It hurts more that she does return my feelings, but she can't be with me. She's putting Donny before herself. But, I can't blame her. I have only myself to blame!"
"Niles, calm down," Frasier said.
"I can't calm down! I had chance after chance to tell her everything, but no, I had to wait until the day before her damn wedding!" He buried his face into the back of Frasier's chair and mumbled, "I hate my life."
"Don't say that!" Frasier yelled.
"It's true," he said, lifting his head off the chair so they can hear him clearer. "I wish Daphne wasn't your physical therapist. I just wish she was some girl we met on the streets and became friends with. Knowing that she is going to be at every family reunion… It's going to be the most awkward thing ever!"
"That's true," Frasier said. "But, you care about her, and she cares about you. I don't want this to ruin your relationship."
Niles sighed deeply. "I can try."
There was silence as Frasier drove back to Elliot Bay Towers.
He turned into the parking space, shut the engine off, and sighed.
"Niles," he said, turning his head to face his brother.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said firmly. "Maybe later."
Frasier, Martin, and Niles got out of the BMW and headed to Frasier's apartment. Eddie barked and sped to Martin, who picked him up and let him lick his face.
"Hey, Eddie!" He laughed.
Eddie stopped licking Martin's face when he saw Niles's face.
"Something wrong?" Frasier asked.
"Oh, Eddie knows when one of us is sad," Martin explained.
"You mean devastated?" Niles corrected him, falling against the sofa and rubbing his temples with his fingers.
"Come on, Niles," Frasier said.
"You really don't expect me to be jumping for joy, now do you?" Niles screamed. "I… I feel like dirt. Lower than dirt."
"I just don't want to imagine the pain you're going through." Frasier sat next to him. He put his arm around him and embraced him. "I love you, Niles, you know."
"Yes, I know."
No one talked for about an hour; the only sound was coming from the television set.
The doorknob started to jiggle all of a sudden.
Niles looked over at the door, and when it opened, Daphne and Donny came in. He gasped and started breathing really heavily.
"What are you two doing here?" Martin asked.
"Just come to get me stuff for the honeymoon. We're going to Hawaii," Daphne said. She wasn't wearing her wedding dress anymore; she was in a floral patterned casual dress.
"Daphne, I'll get it for you," Donny offered. He was wearing baggy jeans and a black t-shirt.
"We'll come with you," Frasier said quickly seeing Daphne and Niles lock eyes. "Dad?"
"Huh? Oh, coming," Martin said, getting the hint. Eddie jostled behind him.
"Hi, Daphne," Niles said softly.
"Hi," she replied.
"I'm sorry… if I seem a little surprised; I didn't think you would come back today. I was kind of hoping I wouldn't see you until after the honeymoon. It sounds bad, I know, but I need some time. It's really, really painful seeing you right now."
"I'm such a monster," Daphne cried.
"No, you're not," Niles said, getting up and taking her in his arms. He could be a friend. It was better than nothing, right? He would just have to keep telling himself that. "You are the best thing in my life, Daphne. Imagine: if I hadn't met you, I would still be taking orders from Maris. The only reason I divorced Maris was because I really wanted your kindness."
Daphne sobbed into his shoulder, holding him tight. Part of her didn't want to let go; she wanted to stay in his arms forever. She felt so safe, so whole. But… she knew she could never do that to Donny. He was a wonderful person, and she loved him too.
Niles held onto her longer than expected. He was drifting off into his fantasy world in which he and Daphne were happily together, sitting next to each other at the shore, watching the waves gently lap against the rocks. He was brought back to reality when his little world crumbled to bits at the sound of Frasier's booming voice.
"Niles, Daphne!" He said.
Niles's arms released her.
"Sorry," Niles said to Donny who was standing next to Frasier, Daphne's bag in his hand.
"No problem," Donny said, casually waving his free hand. "It's normal to be sad. After all, she won't be living here anymore."
Niles's heart wrenched at those words. He visited here everyday, always eager to see her smiling face, but now… she was leaving. True, at the moment, he didn't want to see her; her face hurt too much right now. But… she was really leaving.
"You can come visit," Daphne said quickly. "As often as you like."
"I'd like that, but I'd rather not impose," Niles said.
"It won't be an imposition," Donny told him. "After all, if weren't for you, Daphne and I wouldn't have gotten together!"
"That's true," Niles said darkly, but it went unnoticed only by Donny.
"Well, we better get going, honey," Donny said. Niles felt himself cringe.
"Alright, then. Goodbye, Dr. Crane, Dr. Crane, and Mr. Crane." Eddie barked. Daphne laughed. "Goodbye to you, too, Eddie. We'll see you in a week!"
Donny and Daphne locked arms and left the apartment.
Niles stood, frozen to the spot, until the sound of the door shutting reached his ears. He collapsed against the sofa.
"So, now what?" He asked Frasier.
"I don't know," Frasier said, shrugging his shoulders. "Why don't we just order in tonight? And spend some time together with some wine and some good television."
Niles smiled. "That sounds nice. Thank you."