Author's Note: Thanks once again to Andrea (iloveromance) for allowing me to continue her wonderful story, "Practice Makes Perfect" here. I hope this sequel lives up to the original! Also thanks to Leigh Ann (leighann415) for reading a draft of this.
Niles knew it was silly, pretending to look after a bag of flour as if it were a baby. But Maris had decided to extend her visit to Europe, and so he saw no reason to stop the experiment. He tried not to think of what he would say if a patient ever admitted to doing something as odd as this. Still, somehow, his little imaginary child made him feel just a bit less lonely.
What brightened his outlook even more was the fact that Daphne had gone out of her way to replace the flour sack after it had been destroyed. She even reassured him several times that he would certainly be a good father, if he ever did manage to conceive a child. The odds of Maris ever deciding to have children were remote at best. Still, Daphne's kind words gave him a ray of hope. As he took care of his flour sack, he found his mind wandering, thinking about her. She worked so hard, and Frasier and his father didn't often appreciate her efforts. Didn't they see how her mere presence somehow made everything better? Niles doubted it. Daphne had mentioned in passing that she, too, was feeling a bit lonely. Her dedication to taking care of Martin left her little time to meet available men. Niles began to wonder if there might be a way that he could help her. Though he would willingly give her his heart in an instant, he knew that would not be possible. He could never betray his marriage that way. Still, there had to be something he could do to let her know he cared. He thought about buying her a gift. He could walk into nearly any jewelery store in Seattle and easily purchase an exquisite diamond to present to her. But she would never accept such a thing. He began to think smaller. As he lifted his "child" from his bassinet, an idea struck him. "Flour...a flower. I could buy Daphne a flower." A dozen long-stemmed roses would be too much of a romantic gesture. Hardly an appropriate thing to give, if he could not be with her romantically. But, perhaps, a single flower would be just the thing.
Many of the servants were working part-time these days, since Maris was out of the country. But, fortunately, the gardener was here. Niles summoned the man and instructed him to find the single most beautiful flower on the premises. As long as the garden were kept neat, Maris would never even notice what was missing. The gardener returned with a single, perfect, pink rose. Niles sighed at the sight of it. He could hardly wait to see her reaction when he presented her with it.
Carefully Niles wrapped the stem with tissue paper. Then he climbed into his Mercedes and began to drive over to Elliot Bay Towers. Minutes later, he stood outside his brother's door, rose in hand. His heart pounded as he knocked.
Daphne pulled the door open quickly. "What do you want?!"
Niles was taken aback by her tone. "Um, have I upset you?" he asked nervously.
Daphne blushed. "No. I'm sorry. Your father's been trying me patience all day. When I told him it was time for his exercises, he refused. I told him if he wants to act like a child, he can just go to his room! He's taking a nap now, because he says I work him too hard."
"I'm sorry you're having such a rough day. But maybe this will help." He brought his hand from behind his back, holding the flower out to her.
Daphne gasped in surprise. "What's this? It's not me birthday." She took the rose from his hand, inhaling its scent.
Now it was Niles' turn to blush. "Well, you were so kind to me the other day, giving me that flour sack, just so I could continue my childish game of make-believe. I thought I should do something nice for you."
Daphne's frustration vanished entirely. "Dr. Crane, that's the sweetest thing anyone's ever done for me. And it's exactly what I needed after the day I've been having." She placed the flower on the bookshelf next to the door. Then she pulled him into a tight hug. "You may not be a father yet, but you're already a wonderful friend."
Niles savored the feeling of holding her in his arms. He could not resist smelling her hair. Even the beautiful rose paled in comparison to her intoxicating scent. He sighed blissfully, never wanting this moment to end.
As Daphne rested her head on his shoulder, she looked up into his eyes. "Sometimes I think you're the only friend I've got around here. I don't know what I'd ever do without you!"
Caught up in the moment, Niles placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "You don't have to worry, Daphne. I would never leave you." He said the words so softly, he wasn't even sure she'd heard them. But somehow it didn't matter, because he meant what he'd said, from the bottom of his heart. And someday, he would find a way to show her.