STOP DRAGON MY HEART AROUND
By Nora Salisbury
Daphne could scarcely believe that the joyous whirlwind her life had become wasnít a dream. Since moving to Seattle and landing in the employ of the Crane family, she had been comfortable ... it had felt right somehow. She knew why her instincts had bid her stay in this safe harbor the moment Niles had opened his heart, despite his fear of rejection, and poured his feelings of love that had blossomed over seven years out to her. She saw clearly then that her heart had grown to love him as well. Now, her fondest dream was coming true. Niles had asked her to be his wife. She had never been happier.
Niles slipped quietly into his spacious walk-in closet, walking up behind Daphne and wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Making progress, my love?" he murmured in her ear, "Think we can make enough room for your things, or will we have to knock out a wall and convert one of the storage closets into an annex?"
He is so sweet, she mused.
Ever since the standoff that had resulted in the consummation of their love, he had remembered her complaint that his closet was bigger than hers, and vowed to do something about it.
"That depends," she said playfully, "I donít want to crowd you." He laughed and hugged her tightly.
"You could never do that," he said, grinning.
"Oh, Niles," she cooed, nuzzling his cheek, "youíre such a darling." He kissed her cheek.
"I love you," he sighed.
"Of course you do," she teased, "I love you, too." Daphne returned to the task at hand. "I think weíll have plenty of room, if you donít mind me clearing out a few drawers here."
"Of course not. Want some help?" he offered.
"Sure, you can find new homes for the contents," she said. Reaching into the first drawer, she pulled out a handful of handkerchiefs and an item which caught her eye, a red bow tie. "Oh, you donít wear this often, do you?" she asked, holding it up to his neck, "Itís quite dashing."
"Uh, no, just the once ... " his voice trailed off as he debated what to say next. Daphne noticed his discomfort.
"Whatís wrong, Niles?" she asked. He decided that honest was the only correct option, it had gotten him this far.
"Well," he began, "Iím loathe to admit this, but ... I had never owned a red bow tie Ďtil you told me about your vision. I bought this and wore it when I came to Frasierís the night Donny ended up proposing to you. I had hoped to convince you that I was the man in your vision, but brother Buttinski made me take it off and abandon the selfish pretense that I believed in your psychic power." He looked ashamed. "I hated seeing the hurt in your eyes, but it wasnít right lying to you, either." She smiled, her heart swelling with love and respect at his brave admission. He gazed into her eyes, grasping a new realization and struggling to put it into words. "I guess thatís why Iíve always been so resistant to believe that your visions were true, because if they were," his eyes shone with tears, "then that meant I wasnít the man of your dreams." He hung his head as fear gripped his heart.
"You dear man," she said soothingly, "you are the man of me dreams." She held his face in her hands as he smiled uncertainly at her. "Besides," she said, "I thought about that vision after we got together, and I saw it more clearly. Do you remember when I threw me leg up on your shoulder the night we danced the tango?" she asked.
"How could I forget?" he giggled, blushing at the thoughts that memory still stirred within him.
"It wasnít a red bow tie I saw," she revealed, "it was a bit of the skirt of me red dress, draped over your tie." Nilesí eyes brightened at this, and he hugged her gratefully.
"Oh, Daphne," he gasped, "you have no idea how relieved I am to hear that!" As they parted to look at each other, it was his turn to notice a pensive look on her face. "Daphne?" he ventured timidly.
"Itís nothing, really," she said, "I was just thinking of that one vision I never told you about." Niles felt the grip of fear on his heart return. "Itís silly, really," she said, waving it off, "itís never made any sense."
"What was it?" he said apprehensively.
"I saw ... the man of me dreams, standing with ... a dragon." Nilesí eyes dilated as he absorbed what she had said. "I told you it was silly," she said sheepishly.
"No, Daphne ... my God," his eyes softened and a smile both sad and sweet crossed his face, "you are psychic!" He stroked her hair and stared at her in wonder. "Oh, my love, I owe you an apology, I should have taken your word on faith, not looked for proof." Daphne knew he was sincere.
"What changed your mind?" she asked. Niles blinked and tried to think where he had put the bag Rozís gift was in.
"Um, itís this ... thank-you gift from Roz, remember when I helped her get Alice into that preschool?" Daphne nodded to show that she did. "I didnít look at it Ďtil I got home that evening," he said, finding the bag in a hall closet and pulling the small black dragon from it. "You must have flashed on the precise moment I saw it," he chuckled, "and to think, I didnít care much for it at the time ... " he appraised it more closely, " ... now I think itís beautiful," he whispered. Daphne stood agape, finally bursting into a shocked smile and running her fingers over the sculpture.
"It is lovely," she agreed. They smiled at each other, a new bond of understanding being forged between them. "You know," Daphne said thoughtfully, "when I saw a dragon, I thought maybe I was supposed to be looking for a knight," she smiled warmly and took his hand, "and I found you ... my knight in shining Armani." Niles grinned, pleased with the clever moniker, and dropped to one knee.
"I am eternally at your service, milady!" he proclaimed boldly. Daphne giggled.
"Arise, Sir Niles," she replied. As he stood, she pulled him close. "Your lady requires the service of your lips," she said seductively. Niles gladly fulfilled her request.
The next night, Frasier and Roz accepted Nilesí and Daphneís invitation to dinner. Daphne opened the door and greeted them, noticing Rozís reaction to the dragon, now prominently displayed as a precious family heirloom.
"Something to tell our kids about," Daphne muttered to Roz, indicating the black beast. The two women wandered away to discuss in private as Niles exited the kitchen and met his brotherís curious gaze. Frasier raised an eyebrow.
"Whatís this, Niles? Are you and Daphne going ĎGothí?" Niles regarded him indignantly.
"Say what you will about me, sir, but you may never disparage the dragon." Frasier stared at him blankly.
"Uh-huh," Frasier said flatly, "Well, I see youíve been nipping at the sherry, how about letting me catch up?" Niles smirked and poured his elder sibling a drink. Then he noticed Daphne and Roz join them.
"Roz, I donít believe I ever said a proper thank-you for your wonderful gift." Roz smiled.
"Oh, youíre welcome," she assured him, really proud of her part in Nilesí newfound respect for Daphne, "just glad I could help." She took the glass Niles proffered and clinked it to his in toast. Frasier, though surprised, was glad to see Roz getting along with his brother, and also happy to see how good Niles and Daphne were for each other, how they seemed more bonded than ever, how they adored one another. He wasnít even jealous of his little brotherís good fortune anymore, he loved them both and truly wished the best for them ... and it seemed they had it, so for once, Frasier only joined the toast ring, and decided to let well enough alone.
Niles sat in the Cafe Nervosa, sipping his latte, daydreaming of his love and the moment he could be home in her arms, as usual. Now more than ever before, he was so impressed by her and her wonderful, mystical soul ... he truly felt like a virgin who had a unicorn lay its mythical head in his lap, constantly amazed that this impossibly beautiful human being deemed him worthy of her companionship for life ... and even more stunning, regarded him as her pinnacle of perfection (oops, we agreed not to use that word ... ) or close to it, as well. He knew he couldn't be happier if he won a lottery granting him kingship of a small island nation ... he had his Camelot already. Lost so in his wandering thoughts, he didn't notice the young woman at his side until she spoke.
"Excuse me, but may I sit at your table?" she said sweetly.
"Oh, certainly, have a seat," he intoned absently, "I was just getting ready to leave." The woman looked unhappy at this.
"Please, can't you stay just for a minute?" she pleaded, in a firm but soft voice, "I was watching you for several minutes before I got up the courage to talk to you, but I just had to ... " her eyes glazed over a bit and her voice turned smokey, " ... you're just so cute, I was hoping we could get to know each other better, much better," she punctuated the last with a furtive wink and reached out to touch his silky hair. Niles tensed and frantically pushed her hand away.
"Oh, NO! Please, don't do that! My wife will see ... " he leaned forward a bit and spoke in a confidential tone, " ... she's psychic, you know." The woman blinked, thinking at first that he was joking, then seeing the seriousness in his eyes, leaned back in her chair and appraised him the way most people do the ragged homeless folks who beg for change.
"Uh, eyeah ... " she stammered, glancing at her wrist even though it did not sport a watch, "Oh, look at the time, I gotta see a man about a horse ... " and left the table as quickly as she had materialized before him.
The irony of others looking at him as though he were nuts concerning Daphne's mental prowess escaped him, he was satisfied he had behaved in a perfectly proper manner should his enchantress be looking in on him. Neither did he think it odd to refer to Daphne as his wife ... as far as he was concerned, she was his mate the moment she accepted his proposal, the wedding was just an excuse to show off and the honeymoon, well, that was an excuse for something more private. He relaxed, draining his cup and deciding to call Daphne before his next patient to ask if she was proud of his staunch commitment to fidelity. If she hadn't seen, he would tell her anyway ... for some reason, he loved the idea of there being no secrets between them. Their relationship had achieved a new dynamic of trust and deeper bonding than he thought two people could share. On the way back to his office, he noticed the art theater was playing the film "Oh, Lucky Man," and sighed happily.
"You took the words right out of my mouth!" he shouted to the manager putting the final touches on the marquee.
"What's his trip?" asked the usher handing the letters up to his boss.
"That's Frasier Crane's brother," the manager told him matter-of-factly.
"Ohhh," came the understanding reply from below.
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