Friday November 27, 1998 (day after Thanksgiving)

Niles lay in his bed staring at the ceiling, trying his best to ignore the clamor happening above him. Try as he might, he couldn't fathom how it was possible for any sane human beings to make so much noise.

If he listened carefully, he could hear every sigh and whisper and he unwillingly knew his upstairs neighbor's lives inside and out.

But he wasn't at all surprised. This was the Shangri-La; the 'devil's own apartment complex', as he'd called it just hours before at his brother's house; much to Frasier's annoyance.

Apparently Frasier's unemployment status did little to change his haughty attitude. It was enough to drive Niles and his father completely insane! However, Daphne remained an angel; despite Frasier's ridiculous outbursts.

After listening to Frasier's woes all through dinner and into the evening, Niles had finally taken more than enough of the snobbishness. Frasier definitely wasn't the only one who had problems, although to the average stranger, it would appear that way.

And so, clutching the bottle of wine in his arms, Niles could feel his blood pressure rising.

Seconds later, he uttered a string of misfortunes in an attempt to make his life seem more miserable than his brother's; his bitter divorce, Maris freezing his assets, living at the Shangri-la and the heat that he no longer had access to.

And instantly Daphne's sweet words had come back to him as they had so many times since he'd driven home that night.

She'd poured him some more wine and looked deeply into his eyes.

"I know things have been tough for you, but they'll turn around. Just watch." And then the gentle touch of her hand on his cheek.

Now his hand touched his face and he wondered if the burning sensation he felt was his imagination. However, deep down he knew it wasn't possible because he felt it in his heart.

With a sigh, he turned in his bed, trying to no avail to make himself comfortable; despite the fact that the temperature outside was most likely warmer than it was indoors.

But at least he had plenty of blankets to keep himself warm.

It was much too early to get up and frankly he'd been looking foreword to sleeping in. It was a luxury he rarely afforded himself (and now could barely afford financially), but Mrs. Woodson managed to convince him to close the office for the day after Thanksgiving, saying that he deserved to take some time off.

But deep down he suspected that his loyal and kind secretary was hoping to spend some extra time with her grandchildren. Of course he couldn't blame her and gladly agreed to let her reschedule his patient load until Monday.

So as much as he wanted to relish this day of freedom by catching up on his reading and relaxation, there was something he desperately needed to do. And he found he couldn't wait much longer.

He dressed quickly, not caring what day it was. Normally the thought of going out on what was typically the start of the holiday shopping frenzy would cause him undue stress, but not today. On this day, ridiculously known as Black Friday, he vowed to brave the traffic and the crowds.

For the outcome, if all went well, would be his greatest reward.

He steered his Mercedes through the streets of Seattle and minutes later he was pulling into a parking space inside the famous Pike Place Market. Amazingly the crowds had yet to appear and he easily made his way to the colorful vendor stands that sat near the obnoxious fish-throwers.

Once he had purchased what he needed, he hurried back to his car, anxious to get to his destination. And minutes later he arrived.

He couldn't believe how nervous he was as he stood in the hallway, facing the door.

Come on, Niles... You can do this."

With a trembling hand he reached for the doorbell, aware of his rapidly beating heart. And when the door was opened, his heart beat even faster.

"Dr Crane!"

Wearing a red print dress, she was absolutely stunning and the mere sight of her took his breath away.

"H-hello, Daphne. You look especially lovely this morning."

Daphne blushed deeply. "Dr. Crane, you always say the sweetest things, even if they aren't true."
"Of course it's true. You look beautiful."

She smiled and touched his arm.

"I'm afraid you just missed your father and brother, but would you like to come in? I'm sure they'll be back soon."

"Actually Daphne, I didn't come to see Dad and Frasier. I came to see you."

Her mouth fell open in surprise. "Forgive me for soundin' ungrateful, but why?"

"Well, because I have something for you."

"F-for me? But it's not me birthday."

Slowly he moved his hand from behind his back, revealing a colorful bouquet of aromatic flowers.

Instantly Daphne's eyes filled with tears.

"Dr Crane, these are beautiful! Thank you!"

He could feel his face reddening and he smiled shyly.

"You're welcome, Daphne."

"You're awfully sweet Dr. Crane, but I don't understand why you'd be givin' me flowers."

"Last night I'm afraid that I got caught up in my own misery and I should have known that Frasier wouldn't be sympathetic to my plight at all."

"I'm sorry your brother treated you so unkindly, Dr. Crane. I could see how much you were hurtin' and I wanted to do something to help you."

"You did help me, Daphne. More than you know."

"Oh that's nonsense! I didn't do anything except give you a few words of encouragement."

"And those beautiful words meant so much to me." Niles replied. "If you hadn't said them, I might have gone home and cried myself to sleep. But instead I spent last night dreaming of you."

As though unable to believe what she was hearing, Daphne moved to the sofa and sat down.

Seconds later Niles was next to her, his heart warming as he looked into her beautiful brown eyes.

"Y-you were dreaming about me? On Thanksgiving night? But why?"

She knew he couldn't possibly answer... not realistically anyway, but she found that she had to know.

Niles swallowed hard, determined to say what was in his heart.

"Actually Daphne, I find that I dream about you every night."

She gasped in surprise.

"What? B-but why?"

He smiled, reaching for her hand and kissed it tenderly.

"Because I love you."

For a moment she sat transfixed, her mouth trembling.

"Y-you love me? As in..."

Her question made him grin.

"Yes, Daphne. I love you. I'm in love with you."

"But why?"

His heart wrenched at her words.

"Oh Daphne do you really have to ask? I love you for so many reasons; your beautiful smile, your eyes, your beautiful English accent; the way you light up a room just by entering it. Your kind, caring nature..."

The tears were spilling onto her cheeks as Daphne reached out to run her fingers through his hair.

"I can't quite believe this... It's like a dream."

He moved closer and brushed a tear from her cheek.

"I know this is sudden and I understand if you don't feel the same way, so-."

"I-I think I do."

He felt a rush of heat go through his body; hearing the words that he'd never expected to hear.

"Wh-what are you saying?"

"I guess I'm saying that I think I'm in love with you."

"Daphne..."

"I-I'm not quite sure how it happened. I couldn't stop thinkin' about you last night and you were hurtin' so much. All I wanted was to take you in me arms and tell you how much I care about you. B-but Roz was there, and your father and brother, so..."

This wonderful revelation was almost too much to take, and he hated himself for questioning her sincerity.

"My God... I just can't believe this! I mean what about Frasier and Dad?"

Daphne sighed. "Well I'm afraid your brother isn't too happy with me anyway. He's bound to fire me any day. Although I can't say that I blame him."

"What are you saying?"

Without warning she began to cry and the sight tore his heart in two.

"I was horrible, Dr. Crane; talking to your brother that way! I was just so worried that I was going to lose me job and have to go back to Manchester and I-."

"Come here."

He took her in his arms and rubbed her back in an attempt to comfort her.

"Shhh... It's all right. I'm sorry for upsetting you."

"But-."

When she drew back and looked at him, he brushed a tear from her cheek.

"Daphne Frasier isn't going to fire you. I-I won't allow it! You're an angel and the

most wonderful person I've ever known. And if there was any doubt that I loved you before now, it's been destroyed."

"I love you, Niles..." Daphne said tearfully.

He gasped at the sound of his name but before he could respond, she was kissing him.

The feelings he had held in for so long came rushing out in the form of passionate, fiery kisses and when they were both breathless, she leaned against his chest.

A completely irrational thought filled his head and he attempted to push it away. But the words were out before he could stop them.

"Daphne... would you like to come over and spend the day with me? I-I mean, I know my apartment isn't nearly as pleasant as Frasier's but-."

"I'd love to."

"Y-you would?"

She kissed him again, leaving him a bit dizzy.

"Yes..."

"But don't you have things you need to do? I don't want to be a bother and intrude on your plans."

"My plan is to spend the rest of the day in your arms. I'd love to go to your apartment with you! Besides, there's more privacy!"

He blushed once more; his cheeks burning as he kissed her passionately.

"Oh... That sounds wonderful but there's one problem."

"What problem?"

He sighed, trying not to remember the hell that awaited him at the Shangri-La.

"Well, it's freezing and I hardly think you'd be comfortable."

"You have blankets and a warm bed don't you?"

"Um... Yeah..."

Her smile grew mischievous and she kissed him deeply.

"Then I think we'll be just fine."

THE END