Daphne shivered in the cold December air that floated across the balcony, but she knew it had nothing to do with the temperature. She could hardly believe that she was spending New Year's Eve with Niles.
It was so sweet of him to accept her offer to come over and watch the fireworks with her. She knew how much he was hurting over his broken marriage and wanted nothing more than to ease his pain. When she shivered again, she sensed him standing behind her.
"Here you are." He said, draping the blanket around her shoulders. The thoughtful gesture warmed her heart.
"Thank you, Dr. Crane."
She looked back at the sky just in time to see the first burst of color.
"Oh... isn't that beautiful?" She sighed.
As the fireworks commenced in full force, she was so mesmerized by the sight that she barely noticed the quiet way Niles slipped his arm around her shoulders.
Comforted by the warmth his touch provided, she leaned against him with a contented sigh.
"This is just amazin'."
She blinked, realizing that she had spoken out loud.
"Oh... I meant the sky. I don't think I've ever seen it this clear on New Year's Eve before."
"You're right." Niles observed. "Usually on New Year's Eve the sky is dismal and dreary; dark clouds covering the city."
His next words were so soft, she wondered if she had imagined them.
"Why, it's almost as though the dreary weather is a metaphor for my broken marriage. Or what was my marriage anyway."
Daphne's heart sank. She wanted so much to take his mind off of his troubles. He didn't deserve to be hurting so much.
No wonder he'd surprised her with the bold gesture of draping his arm and the blanket around her shoulders. He wanted to show someone that he cared. Someone whom he knew wouldn't chastise him for his actions.
Silently she cursed his wife for putting him in such a depressing state, and she turned to face him; the sadness in his eyes apparent even in the glow of the fireworks.
"I'm sorry Daphne." He said, lowering his head in shame. "I shouldn't have said those things. I didn't mean to ruin your evening."
She stared into his eyes, hating to see him like this. It was only natural that he was thinking about his wife and the way she'd left him alone on the day before Christmas Eve to fly off to Europe. Niles had been so heartbroken that Frasier insisted that he come and spend Christmas with them.
Niles was grateful of course, but Daphne could tell that his heart wasn't in a festive mood; despite his attempts to appear happy. She watched as he repeatedly picked up a small box wrapped in metallic green paper; staring at it as though it contained a precious jewel.
Her curiosity was peaked, and in an almost selfish gesture, she waited until he was out of sight before stealing a glance at the gift tag that was attached to the box;
Her breath caught in her throat when she realized that this was the gift he'd been talking about for months.
Without even asking she knew what lay inside; a gift that he'd gone to extraordinary lengths to buy for his wife.