He was in the middle of reading a very detailed physician's report when his intercom buzzed. Slightly annoyed at the fact that his concentration had been interrupted, he considered giving a stern lecture to his Administrative Assistant. But both he and Mrs. Woodson knew that he would never do such a thing. Mrs. Woodson had been his employee for as long as he could remember and he loved her dearly. It was that love that made him take a deep breath and slowly let it out. When he was calm, he pushed the button, prepared to give his reply.
"Yes, Mrs. Woodson?"
"You have a visitor, Dr. Crane."
He clinched his fists in annoyance. He was definitely not in the mood for visitors. But as usual he couldn't bring himself to tell sweet Mrs. Woodson no.
"Who is it?"
There was a pause before she answered. "Well, actually Dr. Crane she asked not to be identified."
His eyebrows rose. This was certainly unusual. But in truth, he understood. Sometimes people felt guilty or apprehensive about seeking psychiatric help and in those cases he did his best to put them at ease. He prepared himself mentally for whoever might be waiting for him. "All right Mrs. Woodson. Send her in, please."
There was a knock on his door, followed by his typical response. "Come in." But nothing could have prepared him for the sight before him when the door opened.
She looked at him, smiling timidly and closed the door behind her. "H-hello Dr. Crane."
His heart melted. She was an absolute vision, in a blue dress; the likes of which he'd never seen before.
"Hello. Well, this is a wonderful surprise. What brings you here?"
"I'm so sorry to bother you at your office, but I need to talk to someone. You see, your brother is at work and your father is too busy to be bothered with the likes of me."
"That's not true and I hope that Dad didn't say as much to you. He loves you, Daphne and so does Frasier." And I love you too… He added silently.
He felt his cheeks flush. "Well, thank you." He could tell that she was trying to delay things; it was common, but the more her reason for appearing in his office was delayed, the more nervous he became.
"I'm always here for you, Daphne. I hope you know that."
She reached for his hand, making him shiver. "I do, a-and I appreciate it. But I know you're busy and I really hate to bother you like this."
"Daphne, please… you've never been a bother to me and you never will. What's on your mind?"
"Where are my manners? Please, have a seat." He gestured to the sofa, smiling as she sat down. When they were seated next to each other, he smiled. "I can't act as your therapist but I hope that advice from a friend will suffice."
"Yes that would be wonderful."
"All right then."
She took a deep breath. "Well, something's happened. Something quite unexpected."
He shifted his position on the sofa. "Really?"
"Yes, I-Well, Donny and I went out to dinner and-."
Suddenly he caught a glimpse of the shiny object on her left hand and his heart sank. "Go on…" He urged, hoping that his voice remained steady. Inside his soul was shattering.
"Donny asked me to marry him."
He tried to smile; he really did but he could not do it. And he hated himself for it. He should have been happy for her. He needed to be happy for her.
"Yes? Oh right. Yes, well that's-." His mind searched for the right words but they simply would not come. What was a man supposed to say when the woman he loved so deeply had just announced that someone else had stolen her heart?
He was about to say something but he was startled by the soft sound of sniffling. Dear God, she was crying.
Alarmed he reached into his pocket and handed her his handkerchief. "Daphne? What's wrong?"
She looked at him with tear-filled eyes and his heart was broken yet again.
"I hope those are tears of happiness." The moment he said the ridiculous thing, he wanted to scream. What was wrong with him?
"Daphne, I'm sorry I-."
She shook her head and blotted her eyes with his handkerchief. "No, it's all right."
Daringly he slipped his hand into hers and squeezed gently. To his dismay she remained silent and the silence lasted for much too long. But he simply sat in silence, her hand in his. He refused to pressure her in any way shape or form. He knew that she would talk when she was ready. And if it took a lifetime, he'd be more than content to hold her hand and wait.
"I do love Donny, but I'm not sure that I'm doing the right thing." She confessed, breaking the silence.
He nodded and smiled sadly. If ever there was a more perfect opportunity to say what he'd always wanted to say; to tell her the words that he'd been too cowardly to tell her, it was in that moment. To finally tell her how much he loved her and that he always would; if only she would let him into her heart the way she was permanently etched into his. But when he finally spoke, the words surprised him.
"Do you trust him?"
Her answer was almost immediate. "Yes."
When he looked into her eyes, he knew that she was telling the truth. In that moment he realized just how much she loved Donny Douglas. And he didn't need to be reminded of Frasier's unwanted advice about how to deal with his feelings for Daphne to know that he needed to be honest and truthful with her, no matter how deeply it hurt.
"You should go to him."
"Tell him that you love him and that you want to spend the rest of your life with him."
Her wide, beautiful chocolate brown eyes met his. "What?"
"Go to him, Daphne. Tell him that you love him and that you'll marry him."
"A-are you sure?"
"Yes, absolutely. I can see how much you love him and I want nothing more than for you to be happy."
She smiled and hugged him tightly. "Thank you, Dr. Crane. Thank you so much."
He held her close and rubbed her back almost afraid to let her go; even though, in fact, he had done just that. "Congratulations, Daphne."
"Thank you, Dr. Crane." She said again. Her words, meant only in friendship, stung more than she would ever know. And he was completely unprepared for the way she kissed his cheek.
When she was gone, he made a mental note to tell Frasier that he'd be over later with a bottle of champagne. And then he slumped into his chair and sighed.
Moments later there was a knock on the door. He expected it to be Daphne, but he tried to hide his disappointment when he opened the door and saw Mrs. Woodson standing in front of him.
"Oh, you can go home whenever you like. I'm sorry I should have told you earlier. I'll just finish up a few things here."
She smiled sympathetically. "I was talking to Daphne. She looks really, really happy."
Dejected he turned around and bit his lip. Damn, why did this have to be so hard? When he turned around he was surprised to find that her arms were outstretched and he moved toward her, suddenly enveloped in a hug.
"I want you to be happy, Dr. Crane. And you will be. I'm sure of it. I wish I had known the reason for Daphne's visit because I could have said something… to prepare you. But from what she said, you handled it beautifully."
"Th-Thank you." He stammered. But then she surprised him again by touching his cheek.
"I'm proud of you."
He nodded, horrified when he heard his own sniffle. Dear God, he couldn't cry in front of Mrs. Woodson. However, the tears that made their way down his cheeks were real.
But Mrs. Woodson didn't seem to mind. She simply hugged him a little tighter.