Though she had visited The Montana several times (the last visit resulting in an embarrassing misunderstanding about fruit salad), Roz was always amazed by the place. The whole living room alone was almost as big as her cozy apartment by the marina. In fact, she wasn't sure that calling The Montana an apartment was entirely accurate. No wonder Daphne needed her help today. It would certainly be easy to lose something in this place. Unfortunately, this 'something' happened to be Daphne's first anniversary present for Niles.
"I'm so glad you could help, Roz," Daphne said gratefully as soon as Roz had walked into the apartment. "You're a great friend for helping me with something so silly! I feel ridiculous for not remembering where I put it."
"Oh, it's nothing," Roz said breezily, waving away the compliment. "So…what are we looking for?"
"It's a sculpture of a crane—the bird, that is—standing under the moon," Daphne explained.
Roz grinned. Trust Daphne to come up with such an unusual gift. She always had had that quirky sense of humor.
"I'll start with Niles' study if you want to tackle the living room, and we'll eventually work our way up," Roz said, and Daphne agreed readily.
When she went into the study, Roz was certain that the sculpture wouldn't be there. Where could it possibly be hidden? The room was as neat as a pin, with books stacked precisely on shelves, files neatly racked, and a desk that was pristinely arranged. Even the desk lamp and the chair were color coordinated, she noted with amusement. Such a Niles thing to do.
Then again, maybe Daphne had hidden it behind the books. Roz felt carefully behind the many volumes. Nothing. She looked behind a bust of Jung on display in a small nook. Still nothing. She was about to give up when a shadowy object tucked between two textbooks caught her eye.
The object was stuck so fast that Roz had to remove the books to get to it. She resorted to pulling the heavy textbooks down first. Unfortunately, the heavy volumes crashed into the mysterious object, sending it hurtling to the floor. Roz had no time to catch the falling item; she only hoped it wouldn't break…
The object didn't break.
It landed squarely on her foot.
At hearing her friend cry out, Daphne rushed into the study.
"Roz? Are you all right? heard you yell!"
"Nothing's broken or bleeding. I'll just have a very sore foot! What is this thing anyway?"
Roz had picked up the heavy object, but it took a few seconds for her to realize what she was seeing. She recognized this thing. Her blank stare turned into a fit of laughter that alarmed Daphne.
"What is that thing? What's so funny about it?"
"I was always wondering why I never saw this thing in your place," Roz said musingly. "I should've known it wasn't Niles' taste. Good grief, was it that long ago?"
Roz handed the object to Daphne—it was the dragon that Roz had given to Niles so long ago. In retrospect, it wasn't something that one would expect Niles Crane to appreciate, but she had thought that the unusual figurine would fascinate him, at any rate. He often expressed envy over Frasier's hideous African art.
Roz's thoughts were interrupted when Daphne spoke up in a trembling voice. Roz was slightly worried to see the nearly frantic look in her eyes. And that unsteady voice—did Daphne have some bizarre phobia of dragons?
"You gave this to him? When?"
"Goodness, it was years ago," Roz mused. "Even before you two got together. It was a 'thank you' gift to Niles for getting Alice into a really good preschool."
Daphne sank to the floor. Now Roz was outright alarmed. How could a simple sculpture reduce a normally sensible woman to a state of shock? She sat next to Daphne, instinctively knowing not to ply her with questions. Not yet, anyway. Instead, she soothingly rubbed Daphne's shoulders until she calmed down.
"Roz…" Daphne spoke up hesitantly. "I think we should continue the search tomorrow. We've got all day. Not that you haven't been helpful, but…I just want to be alone for a while."
"Was it something I said? I didn't mean to make it sound like Niles is ungrateful," Roz said worriedly. "You know I like him. And he did thank me."
"No…it's not you," Daphne assured her. "It's just…well, I'll explain later."
Roz knew better than to push.
"I'll let myself out," she said quickly.
Silence fell over the apartment after Roz's footsteps and the sound of the front door closing died away. Daphne sat still, absentmindedly turning the dragon statue in her hands as a memory came to her.
It had happened just hours after she had accepted Donny's proposal—a vision of a man (she couldn't see his face) standing next to a dragon. She and Martin had laughed it off. "Imagine spending me whole life looking for some bloke with a dragon!" she remembered herself saying.
Now she knew why Niles had taken back what he said about following her visions.
Dear God…she thought. No wonder he changed his mind so quickly. He wasn't mocking my visions. He was letting me go—even if it meant having his heart broken. He wanted what would make me happy.
Hours passed as Daphne's mind went back all those years, all the way to their first meeting. As the memories progressed, she wondered why she hadn't noticed all the signs. The way he looked at her, complimented her on everything from her clothes to the perfume, acted so shy in her presence. That time that he'd fallen off the counter in Frasier's kitchen and refused to get up when she cradled his head in her lap as they sat on the floor. That night when she'd come to help him make dinner for Maris and ended up taking shelter from the storm, just the two of them. His mysterious date with 'Daphyliss' and how much he'd enjoyed their impromptu dinner…
Yet if she'd been that naïve, Daphne suddenly thought, she wouldn't have remembered those moments so vividly. Had she been in denial all along? Convinced herself (if subconsciously) that someone as sophisticated and educated as Niles Crane would never want a working-class woman from somewhere as ordinary as Manchester and that she shouldn't hope for more?
Her husband's gentle voice broke her out of her reverie and she stood up, turning around to see him looking at her in concern.
"Thank goodness," he said. "I kept calling for you and you didn't answer. I was getting worried and…"
Niles suddenly stopped.
"Daphne, is something wrong?" he asked worriedly.
She held up the dragon statue.
"When did you get this?" she asked.
"The night that…Donny proposed to you," Niles said with some hesitation. He had never admitted it to Daphne, since they were together at last and very happy, but it was still a painful memory—as ridiculous as it might sound to others. The night he thought he'd ruined his chances of being hers.
Before Daphne could notice the pause, he resumed his answer.
"Roz had the doorman bring it up here that night. Poor Roz, she tried so hard—Daphne, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost!"
He got it that very night, Daphne realized, stunned. The night I had the vision of a man and a dragon.
"I have something to tell you. I know it will sound silly, but please hear me out," she said almost desperately.
Niles nuzzled her sweet-smelling hair reassuringly.
"You know you can tell me anything," he told her gently.
The whole story issued forth, about the vision she'd had of a man with a dragon and how she had laughed it off but found that she couldn't stop there. Soon she found herself spilling what she'd reflected on about the signs just minutes ago, the signs she hadn't noticed. No…the signs she had denied.
"If only I'd been honest with myself, this could all have been avoided. We could have had so much more time together," Daphne almost whispered. "I would have returned your feelings and not accepted Donny's proposal. And I could have spared you so much pain!"
To Niles' distress, tears came to his wife's eyes. Immediately he wrapped his arms around her, holding her as close as possible.
"Shh…it's all right. We're together and we're happy. What's in the past doesn't matter anymore, my love."
Daphne's heart warmed at the affectionate pet name he'd coined for her that night when they were trapped on the roof of Elliot Bay Towers (or, rather, she was on the roof and he'd ended up locked in the stairwell with a spider). Oh, how she loved him and now she wanted to do something to reciprocate the way he was comforting her.
"Wait right here," Daphne said suddenly, pulling out of Niles' arms.
"Where are you going?"
"Never you mind, you just wait here," she repeated mysteriously, exiting the study and hurrying up the stairs to their bedroom.
Just moments later, she hurried back into the study. At sound of her footsteps, Niles rose from the desk, where he'd been sitting and contemplating the dragon sculpture, wondering if there was more to Daphne's visions than he thought. All of this left his mind, however, when he took in the sight of her, and was rendered speechless.
She was clad only in a filmy negligee, with lace cutouts in the right places. The satiny garment just barely went past her hips, accentuating her graceful legs. The color of the material (a soft shade of yellow) complimented her silky chestnut hair and warm brown eyes. She looked so tempting that it took all of Niles' self-control not to take her right where she was standing.
"I was going show this to you on our anniversary, but I don't think I can wait," Daphne said seductively. "Why don't we go upstairs and put it to good use?"
"Of course," Niles said eagerly, "but first...I need to put this silly dragon where it belongs."
And he placed the dragon on the desk, next to a framed photograph of him and his angel, taken at the wedding chapel in Reno, right after they'd exchanged their vows. He knew now that it would always be in a place of honor-always.
A/N: I've been going a little crazy with my 'Frasier' fanfics lately, but I wrote this on a whim, inspired by a discussion on the FB group, 'The Frasier Fan Club', about a theory Jane Leeves ('Daphne') had. Her opinion was that Daphne knew Niles was attracted to her, but denied it to herself because she felt she wasn't good enough. Even though this isn't canon I can actually see that happening. Frasier's revelation in "Back Talk" confirmed what she suspected all along.