"Niles, may I see you in the kitchen please?"
He stiffened at the tone of her voice. It wasn't soft and sweet, the way she usually spoke to him. It was a tone that meant business. His head hung low he did as she asked, following her into the kitchen, feeling like a disobedient child. He was sure that she'd give him a lecture and he certainly deserved one. He'd managed to ruin her birthday and certainly didn't mean to. He just hoped that she'd find a way to forgive him, for he'd spend the rest of his life making it up to her. But now he had to endure the wrath of the woman he loved.
"Niles, I know she's difficult, but we need to be sensitive with Mum right now."
He shifted his feet. "Difficult? I yearn for the days of difficult! Difficult was a picnic! I keep a picture of difficult in a heart shaped frame next to my bed! Difficult was a-."
"I know, Niles, I know!" She yelled, cutting him off. "But it's harder for her now! I think she's finally realizing that Dad's not ever coming back. And I guess I am too. Oh God…"
She turned so that her back was to him, but he could hear her crying softly. And the sound broke his heart. Slowly he touched her hair and she turned around, the tears sparkling in her eyes. "I'm sorry…"
Immediately he took her in his arms and rubbed her back. "No, Sweetheart. I'm the one who's sorry. I know you love her and I know you love your father. I will be more patient with her."
She smiled and kissed him. "Thank you, Niles. I love you."
"I love you too, Daphne. Now, why don't we go back in there? You have some more gifts to unwrap."
She grinned. "I do, don't I? Is one of them from you?"
"You know, I believe there is one in there from me. But there's one I want to give you right now."
"Now? In here?"
He drew her closer and kissed her until they were both breathless. "Happy birthday, sweetheart. I love you."
"And I love you, Niles. I love you so much."
They joined hands and returned to the living room, gazing at one another. He knew in his heart that when they were able to be alone once again, he'd shower her with gifts that she wouldn't soon forget. And neither would he.