A/N: This is a continuation/companion story for 'A Brother's Love'. It can stand on its own but I recommend reading 'A Brother's Love' first.
"What in the world was so urgent that you had to bring me up here?" Niles demanded as I all but dragged him into my room.
I was grateful that there had been no interruptions as we'd made our way upstairs. Time was crucial. What I wanted to tell Niles had to be said now, before Mel came back from the bar.
The logical part of me said that I shouldn't interfere, that I had no right to try to change what had transpired. Niles was married and Daphne was engaged and any chances lost were their own fault. But when I remembered the way they'd looked at each other not half an hour earlier, I knew I had to try, whatever collateral damage may occur. Love was a powerful force and it could overcome anything. Sometimes it just needed a little encouragement from an outsider. A simple pluck of Cupid's bow.
"Frasier, would you tell me what's going on?" Niles said irritably.
Jolted back to reality, I cursed myself for drifting when time was precious. This was it, the fateful moment. I gazed unflinchingly at Niles to keep his attention on me.
"I saw you two out there and the look in your eyes was unmistakable," I said directly, keeping my emotions in check.
"Well, can you blame me?" Niles said perkily—a little too perkily. "Mel's quite the little dancer. Of course, with her vertigo she can't do any twirling, but…"
"I was talking about you and Daphne," I broke in quietly. "The way you were looking at her broke my heart."
Niles' detached expression turned irritated.
"Frasier, what's it going to take to convince you I'm over her?" he said harshly. "I'm married now!"
"She knows," I said, and my voice sounded far away.
There was a deadly, terrible moment of silence before Niles spoke.
"Daphne knows how you've felt all along. For quite a while, I might add."
How indeed. I figured this wasn't the right time to tell him I'd accidentally blurted out his secret.
"I think Roz said something," I quickly invented.
For a moment Niles did not speak, but the way he looked at me was what I had feared. His face was a mask of unrestrained anger, anger I rarely saw in my little brother who had always been timid and cautious. When he found his words, his tone was icy and unforgiving.
"I know you think my marriage to Mel was hasty, but to poison it like this…I'm not going to listen to it."
I knew what I said next could be the death knell for my relationship with Niles, but I had to take that risk. Daphne would never turn back after she married Donny.
"Niles, she feels the same way about you!" I said desperately.
Niles pulled away from the door and looked at me in utter shock. I kept going; it was almost as if some supernatural force was guiding my words. One would think that I of all people, after what had happened with Diane and Lilith, would be the last person to encourage the dissolution of a marriage. Yet this was different. Niles had married Mel out of desperation. My prodding hadn't helped, either. I'd chosen the worst time to finally encourage Niles to stop being so cautious. And just when Daphne had been about to pour out her heart to him!
"I think she does," I corrected. "She all but confessed it, but when you showed up married, she said it was just wedding jitters. But if you had seen the way she was looking at you…"
The tension in the air was almost palpable. I looked worriedly at Niles, who seemed to have forgotten how to breathe or move.
"Oh, my God," he said faintly.
The truth was out.
Niles sat down hard on the bed, breathing hard, his face pale. I tensed, worried that he was about to go into one of his fits of hyperventilation, but he collected himself.
"Niles, I'm normally not one to break up marriages," I began, "but you're my brother! How could I not tell you?"
The terrible silence was interrupted by a knock on the door—and a most unwelcome voice.
At Mel's voice, Niles startled. He took a minute to compose himself, and I wondered what he was thinking as he opened the door to greet the woman he'd married in an attempt to forget Daphne Moon.
"You went off with the only key to our room," Mel informed him crisply.
"Sorry," Niles apologized, hastily handing over the key.
Mel smiled patronizingly.
"It's all right, you can make it up to me," she quipped, and finally departed.
There was a contemptuous note under the veneer of sweetness in Mel's tone. She was a subtler manipulator than Maris, slowly bringing Niles under her control; like the proverbial frog in the gradually boiling pot, he did not realize what he'd gotten himself into.
Admittedly, Mel seemed to care for Niles—but it was a very conditional love. She would only love him if he conformed to her standards. I love you, as long as you're what I want you to be. Slip up once, and Mel would not hold back on the contempt or spurning until she thought Niles properly "punished". If I had to put it in psychological terms, I would label it a narcissistic love.
Niles needed the one woman who would love him unconditionally, and he was in danger of losing her forever. He seemed to realize this, too, as I saw conflict rage across his face.
"Niles, say something," I begged. "…Niles?"
My brother was hyperventilating, going into full shutdown mode. In one stride I was beside him, urging him to take a deep breath. After a few anxious moments, he had calmed, his expression of panic replaced by a look of conflict.
"This is awful," he said faintly. "I love Mel, it's just…"
Do you? I wanted to ask, but I dared not. There was no doubt that Niles was fond of Mel, but love? Hardly. He had rushed into their marriage out of fear of being alone—the same reason he'd hung on with Maris for so long.
There was also that nagging voice in my head that told me if I'd kept my "big bazoo" shut, this might have been avoided. Granted, I'd only encouraged Niles to move in with Mel, but still…
The unsettling feeling that I would've been jealous to see Niles with the woman of his dreams, while I was still single and desperate, nagged at me. All those times I'd discouraged him from telling Daphne that he loved her now made me feel like the worst brother ever; I had acted as I did when we were children, resenting the times when Niles was happy and I wasn't.
I hadn't intended outright for that to happen. There was always a surface excuse. It's just a crush. It's just infatuation. I don't want him to get hurt. But I'd only been lying to myself.
What I had done hit me like a ton of bricks.
And now was my last chance to finally give Niles what he wanted. I knew that Niles had never truly lost his deep and passionate love for Daphne Moon.
"I have to talk to Daphne," Niles said faintly, and looked intently at me "Please come with me. You can make a diversion."
Speaking of diversions…
The door opened. Donny and Daphne stepped into the room. Daphne glanced at Niles for a moment, but her expression was unreadable.
"Things are too wild down there," Donny said ruefully, and I could imagine the chaos Daphne's brothers were making.
"Could I have a word with Daphne?" Niles asked, trying to sound casual and not quite succeeding. Fortunately, Donny was not a perceptive person.
"Sure. I'll just go back to our room. See you soon, Daph'," Donny said cheerfully.
I felt a bit guilty, knowing Donny—who, unlike Mel, was actually a good person—could be caught in a collision course between Daphne and Niles, but I had already put my plan in motion.
I couldn't let my brother's last chance at true happiness go by. Family first, Dad had always said. And then there was Daphne to consider. I knew her heart wasn't truly in her relationship with Donny. Perhaps…perhaps this was the only way.
"I'm going to go downstairs," I excused myself. "I think I'll get a nightcap."
Then I exited my room, leaving the rest up to fate.
The scene at the bar looked like one from the slapstick comedies that Dad was so fond of. Daphne's rowdy brothers were loitering around the bar, drinking heavily and behaving even more boorishly than ever. Their drunken antics made Sam Malone look like a borderline teetotaler.
By the time Simon started spraying Nigel with the seltzer hose, the barkeep looked murderous. He stepped aside to a telephone in the corner, and spoke a few tense words into the receiver. Moments later, a security detail arrived. Through physical threats, they ushered the Moon brothers back to their rooms.
"One sherry, please," I said to the flustered barkeeper.
"Gladly. I'm just glad that mob is gone," he said, and handed me a glass of what turned out to be a very nice sherry.
"You're drinking light," a familiar voice said, and I turned to see Roz. "Mind if I join you?"
"You're more than welcome," I said, hoping that a conversation with Roz would distract me from obsessing over how Niles' conversation with Daphne could be going.
"Why do you have dirt on your dress?" I suddenly noticed.
"One bloody Mary," Roz said to the barkeep before answering my question. "Simon was being a total boor. He followed me around and I had to escape into the garden. If he'd come on any stronger, he'd have a broken nose. God, but I'm glad his whole lot's gone!"
"It is nice to have some quiet," I said.
"It's nice to have some pleasant company," Roz declared. "I had to listen to Mel for half an hour straight! She is the most irritating woman I've ever met! Oh, she's sweet as long as you play along with her, but irk her just a little and the claws come out!"
There was a pause and Roz sighed heavily.
"What does your brother see in her?" she wondered aloud.
This was the last thing I needed to think about, so I hastily changed the subject.
"Would you like to play pool? I'm too keyed up after all this craziness to go to bed."
"You? Since when do you play pool?" Roz asked, laughing.
"I don't, normally. But I played pool with Daphne a few times at that English pub she likes."
"Sounds like it'll be easy to beat you," Roz answered with a grin. "Sure, why not?"
Though my suggestion had only been a distraction from the situation with Niles and Daphne, I found myself enjoying this time with Roz. We had a good time, exchanging barbs in our usual way, and when Roz soundly 'trounced' me, as she said, she was merciless. After losing two more games, I admitted defeat and retired to my room, following her sound advice that I get some sleep before the big day.
But sleep did not come, no matter how hard I tried to relax and block out my conversation with Niles. After much tossing and turning, I got dressed again and went into the hotel gardens, hoping the darkness and quiet would soothe me. I did feel more at ease as I wandered the softly lit, meandering paths. It was a mild night, unusual for early spring in Washington, and my thoughts drifted away from my worries.
As I approached the very back of the garden, however, my heart stopped. Sitting on a bench in the dim moonlight, his back to me, was an unmistakable figure.
He was hunched over, his shoulders shaking, and I knew he was crying—my brother, who hardly ever cried.
It was all too clear what hand Fate had dealt, and I was powerless as I watched a man whose every dream had been stripped away. As I debated on whether or not to go to him, I heard him choke out Daphne's name, and then he put his hands in his face and completely surrendered to quiet sobs.
I dared not intrude on this moment, as desperately as I wanted to comfort Niles. I knew he would not want me to see him like this, though he was more than entitled to this display of feeling. Taking stealthy steps so he would not discover my presence, I turned away and trudged back to the hotel, leaving him alone to process his grief.
A/N 2: I was re-reading 'A Brother's Love' and felt like the end of the story was left hanging, so I decided to writer this. This was a little more challenging to write, because the conversation between Frasier and Niles in the hotel room is brief.