Seattle gleamed in the early morning darkness and a refreshing breeze cooled my face, but the peaceful setting had no effect on the guilt I was still feeling. Just hours before, I'd made the most difficult confession in my entire life; I'd confessed to Niles that I'd jeopardized his career, invaded his patient's privacy, and—worst of all—doubted his devotion to me, all over the silly notion that Niles might leave me for this Heather Murphy. His warm embrace and sweet words of devotion told me he'd forgiven me, but it did little to assuage the guilt I felt, especially when I remembered the disappointment in his eyes.
After all we'd been through, how could I have ever questioned his love?
"Daph'? What are you doing out so late, alone on this balcony?"
I startled at Mr. Crane's voice, but I did not turn around, preferring to hide my tears.
"Just needed some fresh air," I said, trying to sound cheerful.
"At three in the morning? I might not be a psychiatrist, but I know something's going on," Mr. Crane stated. "Does this have something to do with Niles?"
Now I turned around, stunned at his perceptiveness.
"How did you…"
Mr. Crane chuckled in a friendly way.
"I developed a sense for these things after being with Hester for so long," he said. "I was able to figure out pretty accurately when I'd done something to upset her. Now, I won't pressure you into revealing anything you don't want to, but if you need to talk…"
Touched by his empathy, I found myself spilling the entire story. When I finished, releasing my bottled-up emotions, I felt unexpectedly relieved. The remorse was still there, though, plaguing me. Mr. Crane was silent, and for a moment I feared that he would be disappointed, too. After all, he'd been witness to Niles' love for me for seven years before I discovered the truth.
"Daphne, you shouldn't keep dwelling on this," Mr. Crane said at last. "Niles is crazy about you. He'd never let a few rough patches in your relationship make him give up on you. And judging by what he said to you in his office, he's forgiven you."
"I know," I muttered. "I guess I'll be all right."
Mr. Crane gave me a scrutinizing look, and I knew he wasn't convinced that I'd moved past my guilt so quickly.
"One time, I had a huge fight with Hester," he said without preamble. "I won't bore you with the details, but to make it up to her, I gave her a special evening. I made dinner for her, took her dancing, even took her to the symphony."
For the first time since my disastrous confession, I chuckled. I knew it had been a significant gesture on Mr. Crane's part, as he liked the symphony about as much as I liked the opera.
I went back to bed with a clearer conscience and even drifted off to sleep. I'd give Niles the best evening he'd ever have. He deserved nothing less.
A/N: I worked on this story while I was cooped up for three days under doctor's orders (I'm good-he's just super cautious). It started out as a one-shot but I ended up expanding on it. A lot.
Enjoy! More chapters to be uploaded soon!