"Daphne, are you sure this is going to work?"

"Of course I'm sure, Dr. Crane! Why wouldn't it?"

"I don't know… A housewarming party?"

"Yes, what's wrong with it?"

"Nothing. I just-."

"What?"

"Fras, what's the problem? If she wants to give Niles a housewarming party, then let her!"

"It's fine, Dad it's just… Well, a housewarming party-isn't that more of a woman's thing?"

Daphne rolled her eyes. "Well what do you think I am, a bloody cocker spaniel?"

"That is not at all what I meant! I just meant-."

"Hello, all! How are you this evening?"

"Niles, what are you doing here?"

"Thank you for that warm welcome, Frasier. Same to you-and a bit more I might add."

"I'm sorry Niles. You know you're welcome here any time."

"I'm sorry for barging in unannounced like this. I just thought I'd take a break from being at home-alone."

"Yes, I'd heard you found a new place." Daphne said. "Congratulations, Dr. Crane."

"Well, thank you, Daphne. It's not quite what I expected, but I suppose it will do for the time being."

"For the time being? What, are you crazy?"

Daphne was appalled. "Mr. Crane! That's a terrible thing to say!"

"What's so terrible? All I was going to say was that the place is great! If it were mine, I'd want to live there all the time!"

"Do you want to trade? I'll stay here with Frasier and you can-." Niles looked from Frasier to Martin. "On second thought, perhaps not."

"Well, I think it's wonderful, Dr. Crane. I mean, I haven't seen the place yet, but I'm sure it's wonderful. Change is hard. Believe me, I know. When I moved from

Manchester to Seattle, I-"

"Yes, Daphne. We know. We've heard the story a hundred times before."

Daphne resisted the urge to say something to Frasier that she was certain she would regret and instead turned her attention to Niles. "Well, anyway, like I said,

change is hard and if you don't mind my saying so I think you're handling this whole thing beautifully, given the circumstances."

Niles smiled. "Thank you Daphne. You're right. I suppose it will just take some getting used to."

"Exactly! Now I was just about to start dinner. Would you like to stay?"

"Yes, that would be nice, thank you, but I don't know…"

"Come on, stay for a while, Niles. It's the least Frasier can do after he-." Martin fell silent as three pairs of eyes stared at him.

"What, Dad? What did I do?" Frasier insisted.

"Never mind. But you don't mind if Niles stays, do you?"

"No, not at all."

"I'll get dinner started. It won't be long." Daphne promised.

"Sherry, Niles?"

"Thanks, Frasier."

As Niles followed Frasier to the bar, Daphne hurried into the kitchen. But as she worked to make dinner, her mind wasn't really on the task at hand. Fortunately dinner

was relatively uneventful with somewhat pleasant conversation and fortunately no family arguments. Niles seemed more at ease, with his less than pleasing

accommodations forgotten, at least for the moment.


Hours later, when dinner was finished and Niles had long since gone home, she went to work on her project. She stayed up long into the night, addressing envelopes

and finalizing details. She barely remembered Martin coming into the living room the next morning and gently waking her, coaxing her to go sleep in her room. But if she

had, she would have thought it a very sweet gesture.


Two weeks went by and when the day finally came, she was so excited that she could hardly stand it. "Oh, I'm so nervous, Dr. Crane." She lamented to Frasier that

morning.

"Daphne, don't worry about a thing. It's all planned and I must say that I had my reservations about this housewarming party, but you did a wonderful job."

"Thank you, but I'm not quite so sure."

"Are you kidding me?" Martin chimed in. "You've been planning this for weeks and Niles doesn't suspect a thing! Trust me, I have everything set. I'll just tell him that I

need some help-but not so much that he thinks I'm hurt or anything."

"All right, but don't scare him, okay? I'd feel terrible." Daphne admitted.

"You'd feel terrible? Think how I would feel! Niles is a doctor and as soon as I mention anything about being in pain, he'd have me in the emergency room quicker than

the Seahawks can run the ball into the end zone!"

Frasier scoffed. "Actually that's not that fast, Dad."

"Very funny, Fras!"

"So we all know what we're supposed to do?" Daphne asked.

"Yes, and I'll have him there at 7:23, no earlier, no later." Martin replied.

"Why 7:23?"

"So he doesn't suspect anything." Daphne replied.

"But 7:23? Don't you think that's a little strange?"

"I suppose, but believe me, he won't be expecting it!"

"That's for sure." But Frasier's expression said otherwise.

"Oh come on, Dr. Crane, he'll love it. Or at least I hope so." And then she frowned. "Oh dear…"

"What's wrong?"

"He will love it, won't he? I hope we're not doing the wrong thing."

"How can it be wrong? It's a party! Niles loves parties."

"Yes, but this isn't the kind of hoity toity party that he's used to. Maybe Dr. Crane was right. I should never have planned this silly party."

Frasier sighed as Daphne lowered herself onto the sofa.

"Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it seem like you were doing anything wrong. In fact, now that I think about it, I think Niles will love it."

"Oh sure! You say that now that you've made her feel bad, but what about before? You've been against this from the beginning!"

"That is not true, Dad! It's not true at all!" Frasier shot back. But then he frowned."Actually it is true and I'm sorry about that. But this is a nice thing you're doing for

Niles and it will definitely take his mind off of things."

"I hope so. I just want everything to be perfect."

Frasier smiled. "It will be, Daphne. Trust me, when he finds out that you planned all of this for him, it will be nothing less than perfect."

She couldn't help but hug him. "Thank you, Dr. Crane."


The closer it came to 7pm the more nervous Daphne was. "Is everything ready?"

"Yes, Daphne, you've asked me that a hundred times." Roz said. "Relax, everything is fine! The guests will be here any minute!"

"And are you sure-."

"Yes, Martin will be here with Niles at exactly 7:23."

Daphne fanned herself with her hand. "Oh my heart is racing! I'm so bloody nervous I can't stand it!"

"Just relax, okay?"

"I'll try." But the sound of the doorbell sent her heart into overdrive again. "Oh dear, they've arrived."

"Good, I'll get the door." Roz offered. "Just-make sure that everything's ready! We've only got thirty minutes until Niles and Martin are due to arrive!"

"Okay…"

"Daphne is there anything I can do to help you?" Frasier offered.

"You can slow my beating heart." Daphne quipped, trying to laugh at her lame attempt at humor.

Frasier hugged her. "Don't worry, everything will be fine. Niles will love this."

"I hope so." She looked around the room. All of the presents were stacked neatly on the table and the decorations really brightened the place up. A big banner hung

from the ceiling that read Happy Housewarming, Niles.

She glanced at the clock, surprised to see that it was 7:20, only three minutes until Niles and Martin were due to arrive. Frasier, being Frasier, made sure that

everything was under control, for which Daphne was eternally grateful.

"O-Okay everyone, Niles and Dad will be here any minute!" Frasier announced. "Places, please!"

"Places? This isn't a Broadway musical" Roz said.

"Ha ha! Very funny-."

The sound of a knock on the door and keys turning the lock made Daphne's heart race. "Turn out the lights!" She whispered. "He's here!"

The apartment fell silent and everyone hurried to their places. The only sound was the key turning in the lock.

"Thanks for this, Dad. I really appreciate it." Niles said.

"No problem son. I know that beer's not really your thing, but thanks for joining me anyway."

"It was nice, Dad. And I-."

As soon as the door opened, it happened.

"SURPRISE!"

A stunned Niles looked around his apartment, where a sea of faces greeted him, cheering and holding glasses of champagne.

"Dear God, what's all this?" He asked. "It's not my birthday or anything so I can't imagine-."

"It was all Daphne's idea." Frasier explained.

Niles eyes locked with Daphne's and she felt her cheeks flush.

"Daphne, I-I don't know what to say, except… well, I don't quite understand."

"That makes two of us." Bulldog said. "But as long as there are women here, I don't really care."

"Bulldog shut up!" Daphne hissed-hating that she'd even bothered inviting him. But she knew as well as Roz that he'd never be able to keep a secret around the

studio. This was why Gil, Noel, Kenny and Chopper Dave were in attendance as well.

"HAPPY HOUSEWARMING NILES!" Chopper Dave yelled.

Niles of course looked utterly confused and turned to Daphne. "Happy housewarming? I don't understand."

"Of course you don't and I'm sorry, Dr. Crane. I know it's a bit unconventional, but… welcome to your housewarming party."

"My house-."

She took his hand and led him to the sofa. "Just a moment, I'll be right back."

"Thank you Daphne, but I really don't…"

"Don't worry, just wait right there."

While Niles greeted his guests and accepted words of well wishes and congratulations, Daphne hurried to his small kitchen. She slid the store-bought cake out of the

refrigerator, smiling at the unique way it was decorated. In blue and yellow icing with the words "Happy Housewarming Niles" written across it, along with glasses of

wine and books. Daphne smiled remembering the look on the bakery associate's face when she ordered it, but she simply smiled and said "It's for a very special

person." And nothing could have been further from the truth.

The smile still on her face, she carried the cake into the living room to a round of applause.

"Oh my, is this for me?" Niles asked.

"Yes, of course."

"I-I don't know what to say."

"Yes, you've already said that." Daphne pointed out, bringing laughs from the guests.

"Thank you, Daphne."

"You can thank me later. I have more to bring out. Frasier do you want to help me? Martin?"

The two men hurried to her side.

"Of course, Daphne."

"Come on, let's get this party started."

"I'll help you, Daphne."

"Absolutely not!"

At his shocked look, Daphne put her hand on Niles' arm. "I mean-this is your party and we want you to enjoy it."

"Thank you, Daphne."

She returned to the kitchen and returned minutes later with plates of food, smiling when the guests began to help themselves."

"I propose a toast." Frasier said holding his glass of champagne.

The guests extended their glasses high in the air.

"Dr. Crane? May I do it?" Daphne asked.

"Of course, Daphne. By all means. We'd be honored."

She smiled at Frasier, suddenly realizing how nervous she was. But she was determined to do it, for Niles.

"A-all right. To Dr. Crane, who has, unfortunately been through some very painful moments in his life. And I know that his new home isn't what he's used to or even

what he was expecting but I hope-we hope-that these gifts will make it seem a little more like home."

When the applause died down, Niles looked around in confusion. "Gifts? For me?"

"Well who did you think they were for?" Martin asked. "They sure aren't for Frasier!"

Everyone laughed except for Daphne, who was growing a little tired of Martin's sarcasm. But Niles didn't seem to be fazed at all by his father's rude behavior.

"Oh, you didn't have to bring me gifts."

"I insisted." Daphne said. "And I think it's time you opened them."

More applause as the guests sat down (or stood if they wished) and watched Niles open his presents. One by one, the ribbons, paper and bows were tossed aside

and gasps could be heard when he revealed the gifts. There were dishes, cloth napkins, wine glasses, towels, sheets a comforter, rugs, and everything else a home

could need. Frasier of course had gone all out with a wine cabinet that was even nicer than the one at his home at the Elliott Bay Towers. And Martin had given Niles a

set of Seahawks mugs and coasters. She repressed a smile at Niles not so enthusiastic look.

"Gee, thanks Dad." Niles said.

"No problem, son! I have to have something to put my beer in when I come over to watch the Seahawks games!" He laughed out loud and slapped Niles on the back.

"It's great, Dad. Thanks"

"Here's mine." Daphne said, handing the box to Niles. Her heart raced nervously, for she hoped that he would like her gift.

"I can hardly wait to see what this is." Niles said. He untied the ribbon and tore the paper away from the box. When he lifted the lid he gasped.

"Daphne-."

The look he gave her spoke volumes and even Martin and Frasier wore looks of surprise.

"Do you like it? I-I wasn't sure-."

To her astonishment, he engulfed her into his arms for the warmest hug imaginable. And it brought tears to her eyes. "I take it that means yes."

He drew back and lifted a blue towel from the box that was folded neatly on top of the others. Each one was handsomely embroidered with his name "Dr. Niles Crane".

She knew it was strange, for most towel sets only had the initials on them, but Dr. Crane was special and he deserved something suited just for him.

"These… these are wonderful. Thank you so much."

"You're welcome."

"That's a heck of a gift, Daphne." Martin said.

Daphne smiled at the rare compliment from Martin. "Thank you Mr. Crane. I know Niles loves your gift as well. Yours too, Dr. Crane."

"I do, thank you-both of you. Everyone, in fact." Thank you so much." Niles said.

"Niles, if the sheets aren't what you wanted, I can exchange them."

"You'll do no such thing, Roz. They're perfect. Everything-this party, everything, is just perfect. I don't know what to say."

"Boy for someone who doesn't know what to say, you sure say it an awful lot." Martin said. Again everyone laughed except for Daphne.

The party continued for several hours, but all too soon the guests began to leave.

"I'll help you clean up, Niles." Frasier offered, after everyone had gone.

"That's okay, Frasier. I can manage."

"You sure you don't need my help, Niles?" Frasier asked.

"Or mine?"

"It's okay, Dad. I'm all right."

"Okay, well, it was fun, Niles. Thanks."

"Thank you Dad. I mean it. I love the Seahawks glasses. And come over anytime and we'll watch them play basketball."

"Um-okay, sure. Niles. No problem." Martin said, while Daphne suppressed a smile.

"I'll see you Monday then, Niles? Ten thirty for coffee?"

"Maybe before, if that's all right, Frasier." Niles replied.

Frasier hugged Niles tightly. "Of course it's all right. You're always welcome."

"Thank you."

Suddenly Daphne found herself alone with Niles and she began to clean up the apartment.

"Daphne, you really don't have to do that. I can manage."

"It's the least I can do, Dr. Crane."

"You've done so much already. I can't thank you enough."

"Seeing you so happy is all the thanks I need."

As they worked together, the apartment returned to a state of cleanliness and the gifts were carefully placed in a corner. Exhausted, Daphne sat down on the couch

and sighed.

"I can't thank you enough for this, Daphne. Really. It was truly wonderful."

"You're welcome, Dr. Crane."

They sat in silence for several moments, sipping wine and enjoying each other's company.

"You know, Daphne…" Niles began.

"Yes, Dr. Crane?"

"It's going to take quite a while to get all of these wonderful gifts put away."

"I imagine so."

"I could really use some help."

"Oh?"

"That is, if you feel like it."

"That sounds wonderful. But it's so late."

Niles nodded. "You're right, and I wouldn't dream-."

"But I can come over tomorrow. Your brother said he wants to sleep in and just enjoy a day of rest and your father will be watching sports all day. I don't have plans."

Niles grinned. "Oh, great."

"I'll be over at nine and I'll bring breakfast."

"You don't have to do that."

"I want to. I'll see you tomorrow, Dr. Crane."

Before he could protest she hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Daphne."

She grabbed her purse and headed for home, anxious for the morning to come.


She was dressed and ready to go the next morning well before Martin and Frasier were due to be up. She wanted everything to be perfect and she hoped that the

heavenly scent of freshly baked scones didn't wake either man. She left their breakfast in the refrigerator along with a note explaining that she was going to help Niles

organize his apartment. Surely the Crane men would understand and if they didn't, she found that it didn't bother her much at all.

Her heart raced on the way to Niles' apartment and she was filled with happy thoughts. The party had gone perfectly and he was genuinely surprised by it all. The

guests enjoyed themselves-even Bulldog-and the gifts they had given Niles were lovely.

He opened the door promptly when she knocked, greeting her with an unexpected hug.

"I brought some scones-they're still warm from the oven."

"Wonderful." He said, opening the door wider to allow her to come in.

"So why don't we have our breakfast and then we can get started?" She suggested.

"No rush." He said, surprising her. He picked up the basket of scones and carried them over to the table, which was situated by the window.

"It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day." She remarked, smiling at the sun that was streaming through the window and the crystal clear blue sky.

"Yes, this is more like summer weather, quite odd for this time of year."

"But very beautiful."

"That it is."

Niles set the table and they enjoyed a quiet breakfast, chatting and laughing like the friends that they were. Not once did Daphne mention his apartment or his ex-

wife, for she knew that those two subjects were painful and were best avoided.

When they finished their breakfast they set to work. Daphne helped Niles put his new dishes in the kitchen. Covering each shelf with lightly scented shelf paper and

together they put the new sheets and comforter onto his bed.

"Hey, that looks amazing." He said when they'd finished.

"It does look quite nice, doesn't it?" Daphne had to admit that the dark blue bedding did wonders for the bedroom, and really brought out the cream color of the walls.

They hung pictures and placed his new towels in the bathroom, laid the rugs on the living room floor underneath the coffee table. Soon the place seemed to brighten.

No longer was it a dull, lifeless apartment that didn't fit Niles' style.

By the time the last gift was put into its place, the sky had turned purple, signaling the beginning of the end of the day. Daphne felt her heart sinking a little as the sun

began to dip below the horizon.

Niles looked around his apartment, walking through it as though seeing it for the first time. And in a way, perhaps he was. He turned to her and smiled.

"Daphne, this is amazing, really. I cannot thank you enough for your help."

"It was nothing, Dr. Crane, really."

He surprised her yet again by taking her hands. "Are you kidding? It was everything. And I don't just mean today. The party, all of it. I'm so grateful to have you in my

life. I hope you know that."

Daphne blinked back tears and smiled. But Niles' smile faded.

"I'm sorry Daphne. I didn't mean to make you cry."

"You didn't. I'm just… I'm so happy. I enjoyed planning this party for you, even if your brother didn't approve."

"Wait, what are you saying? Frasier-."

"It's all right. He came around eventually, but at first he didn't think it was a good idea."

"How wrong he was."

"Yes."

"Well, are you hungry? You must be."

"I-."

"You know, we were working so hard that I didn't even think about lunch. Why don't you relax and I'll make us dinner?"

"You don't have to do that, Dr. Crane. I'm fine. In fact, I should probably be getting home."

"Stay, please."

"But Dr. Crane-."

"Please… I enjoy your company so much."

She smiled, realizing that she wanted to stay-not because she felt sorry for him, but because she truly wanted to stay. She enjoyed his company as well-more than he

could possibly know.

"I'd love to stay."

"Wonderful. Just make yourself at home and I'll have dinner ready soon."

"Thank you so much, Dr. Crane."

True to his word, shortly after, they were sitting at his dining room table enjoying a wonderful diner.

"This is lovely, Dr. Crane." Daphne said, taking a bite.

"Thank you, Daphne. I know I'm not the best chef, but I try."

"Well, I wasn't just referring to the dinner, although it is very nice. I meant, this-spending time with you in your apartment. The place looks wonderful."

"I still can't believe it. It was so-plain before and now it's absolutely transformed."

"Well a lot of it was your doing."

"Yes, but you deserve all of the credit."

They continued their conversation and the wonderful dinner. When their plates were clean, Niles cleared the table and brought out desert-pieces of cake from the

party.

"Sorry it's not more, but I have to admit that the cake was quite good."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope you like the way it was decorated."

Niles chuckled. "Yes, I did, actually. Frasier and Dad got a kick out of it too."

"Well, I'm glad. I was a little worried."

"Oh?"

"I was afraid that you wouldn't enjoy the party or that something would go wrong or-."

Niles covered her hand with his. "It was absolutely perfect, Daphne."

Her cheeks flushed and she ate her cake in silence. Against his protests she helped him clean the kitchen and put the dishes away. Outside it was dark and she knew

that she should be heading for home, but she found that she wanted to stay.

He poured them some wine and they went out onto the balcony.

"The view isn't much, but-."

"It's beautiful." Daphne remarked, looking up at the stars. I had no idea…"

"I suppose it is rather nice, isn't it?"

"It's beautiful." She said again. "Daphne, I can't thank you enough for today-for everything."

"I just want you to be happy, Dr. Crane."

"Please-call me Niles. And I am happy, Daphne. Truly happy."

"I'm glad-Niles."

She hugged him, suddenly wishing that there could be more-a kiss, perhaps? But it was too soon and he was still getting used to being single again. The thought was

disappointing, but she truly felt that they'd reached a new level in their friendship. Love-if it was meant to be, would come later. For he was already her best friend.

And as she rested her head against his shoulder, she sighed contentedly. She was willing to wait, as long as necessary. But she needn't have worried about the

future. The shooting star across the sky told her all that she needed to know.

THE END