A/N: Thanks to Kristin, whose encouragement inspired me to expand this story. It started off as a Frasier/Lilith story but with her encouragement Niles and (briefly) Daphne made their way into it. Thank you!
This was the first Christmas that Niles and Frasier had seen each other since the elder brother's move to Chicago- Frasier had flown in to Seattle for the weekend. He had caught an early morning flight, so the first thing they did was arrange to meet for an early afternoon coffee. Frasier was looking forward to seeing his father and Ronee and Daphne and the baby, but it was Niles he had missed most of all. During the previous eleven years, Niles had been his brother, his sporting partner, his chess mate, his business associate, and most of all, his best friend. He had almost forgotten how much he had missed Niles until he had seen him, prompt as usual, sitting at their usual seat with their drinks waiting for them. Though everything had changed, it was comforting to see that some things still remained the same.
Niles stood up and awkwardly approached Frasier, not knowing what he should do. Finally Frasier took the initiative and pulled his brother in for a quick but hearty embrace, which Niles gladly welcomed. Some things could be best expressed through actions, not words.
After a few minutes of chit chat, with Niles talking mostly about Daphne and David, Frasier managed to speak up.
"Say, Niles, how are you and Dad getting along these days?"
Niles stopped for a minute and then smiled. "We are actually getting to know each other all over again. We started having some disagreements after you left, but once we realized it was misplaced grief, it got easier. I have to tell you, it hasn't been easy, especially at Thanksgiving. And when you said that you didn't think that you could make it for Christmas, well, Dad and I were practically ready to move across the country from each other ourselves. Thank goodness you made it!"
"Well, Niles, you know how much family means to me. I wouldn't trade seeing you and everyone else for all of the money in the world. It just distresses me to know that you and Dad aren't seeing eye to eye anymore," Frasier frowned.
"Oh, but once you said that you were coming back for Christmas all of that changed. When you left, it seemed as if the role you played in Dad's life was now being filled by me, and even though he has Ronee, it was still a major adjustment for everyone. But we've had some quality talks. Do you know what we talked about last night?"
"What was that?"
"We talked about our best Christmas's ever. Do you know what Dad said his was?"
"No, please tell."
"He said this one would be."
Frasier and Niles both looked at each other and smiled knowingly. Their father was never one to speak from the heart, but when he did, it meant the world to them and they knew that he meant it.
"And what did you say, Niles?"
"I know that you once accused me of being an incomplete thought but I had to agree with Dad. I miss having you around, you know that, but seeing you here in Café Nervosa, knowing that Daphne and David wait for me at home, and that Dad is happy and healthy- I feel like the luckiest man in the world. Daphne asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said nothing. I'm almost afraid to jinx myself. This is just all too good to be true. And I owe it all…"
Frasier gave Niles a second and then he lifted his glass to Niles's. "Here's to family and all the good times the new year holds in store for us."
"Oh, Frasier, then you haven't answered the question. What was your best Christmas ever? And you can't say this one, Dad and I already have claimed it," Niles ordered.
Frasier thought about it for a second, and as he took a sip of his cappuccino, he let his mind wander to a very different time and place.
Frasier was screwed, for lack of a better word. It was Christmas Eve, and even though Lilith did not celebrate the holiday, he knew if he did not get her something, she would remember it, or least she would not forget it. It was their first anniversary, and they were still at their getting to know each other phase, but he knew her well enough to know she would be hurt if he did not acknowledge her presence in his life. But what to get her? Diamonds? They would be too simple. That would be telling her that she could be bought with a token gesture that any other woman would love to get, and she, Lilith Sternin-Crane, was not like any other woman he had ever met. Should he buy her a new car? That would only rub in the fact that she did not know how to drive. ( He did not tell her that was somewhat of a relief to him, for he did not have to share his beloved car with her.) A trip to the hairdresser? No, that would be trite and condescending, even though he often fantasized about her wearing her hair down and little else. Frasier knew he had to buy her something, but what?
Lilith wasn't much for show; that was what he loved about her. She was a simple woman with simple tastes. That's why their wedding was just a small affair with not much show. That was the way they wanted it. Sure, it would have been nice to have a society event, but that's not who Lilith was. Yes, her name carried prestige, and Frasier was definitely aware that there were benefits that came with being married to her, but deep down theirs was a simple love affair. Just a man who loved a woman who loved, well, they loved the finer things, but they challenged each other and brought out the best in one another, and at the end of the day, found that they quite simply couldn't live without one another.
Frasier found himself with one heck of a dilemma; how could he sum up monetarily what his wife meant to him? Could he actually put a price on love? How could love be measured? Dare he try? No matter what he did, deep down he was afraid that he would come up short, so maybe it was best that he blow off the holiday and pretend that it didn't matter, because it would be better to not try than to fail and be a disappointment to the person he loved most in the world.
He looked everywhere for the perfect gift. He went to every fine store in Boston, and came up empty handed. Nothing seemed to suit his queen, for he could not picture bringing her home a lacy teddy and whispering "Merry Christmas Darling!" over a glass of champagne. It would be easier if he were to have Sam page him and have him call him away from home from the night, but then again, once he realized he had that very thought he laughed. Maybe Lilith was right-he was spending too much time with the guys at Cheers. As crazy as he was about them, none of them could bail him out of the mess he was in now.
Finally the big day came, and unfortunately he did resort to his trick. At precisely twelve noon Frasier's pager went off, and he excused himself to make a call. Lilith raised her eyebrow, but did not say a word. She watched him embarrass himself as he rushed to gather his hat and his gloves before kissing her goodbye, and then she sadly shut the door behind him.
After about an hour the only thought that ran through his mind was Lilith and how badly he wanted to be with her. It wasn't worth the deception and the weather and the humiliation if he couldn't be with the one person he loved more than anything on earth. He would just have to risk her wrath- he needed his wife today, whether she celebrated the holiday or not.
"Frasier. I thought you had an emergency," Lilith firmly stated as she went about her housework.
"Oh, darling, I did. I didn't, actually. It was you. It was your fault I left."
She shot him a dirty look before he swept her into his arms and kissed her like he hadn't done in a very long time.
"Frasier Crane, what's come unto you? This isn't a Saturday," she scolded as she tried to contain a small smile.
"I know, Lilith, but can't a man be overcome with emotion at the very sight of his beautiful wife? I started to leave, but its Christmas. A man needs his wife during the holidays, even though I know you don't believe in it. But what's even more important is that it's about family, and I believe in you. I wanted to get you something, but I didn't know what to get you. I drove around Boston for what must have been more than ten hours searching for the perfect gift but how do you put a price on someone that's brought so much joy into your life? I was broken before I met you. And now…well let's just say that there's a reason there's no place I'd rather be than right here with the woman I love."
Lilith, despite her best efforts, allowed herself to smile at her husband's sentiments. "I know that this goes against everything that I believe in, but I do have something for you after all."
"Really Lilith?" Frasier's face lit up. "You know how I love Christmas!"
"This gift you will have to unwrap upstairs," she grinned.
"But it's not Saturday! Do I need to get my planner?" Frasier was honestly confused.
"No, my dear, this one's on the house. Merry Christmas, Frasier."
And that was all that Niles needed to hear, and he said as much as he coughed, attempting to distract his brother.
"That-that was your best Christmas ever?"
"Yes, Niles, I think it was. It wasn't too long before the difficult times came along but there was one, brief, shining moment where everything was right in the world and I was the light of someone's eyes."
Niles looked at his brother, knowing exactly what his brother meant. Thankfully he was living in his moment, and he knew he would have his happy ending, unlike Frasier and Lilith. He had so much to be thankful for. Yes, this was a very Merry Christmas, after all.