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Niles Versus The Volcano

Daphne Moon had been raised in Manchester, England with eight brothers in a very traditional working class family. Her father worked hard during the day and played hard at night, often failing to appear at all till the next morning when he would drag himself home from the pubs with a ferocious hangover. Of Daphne's mother little has been said, save that she was a housewife whose main ambition for her daughter seems to have been a solid marriage and a houseful of children. Daphne was raised to cook, clean, and care for the men of the family, and her emigration to the United States and employment with Frasier did little to change her expectations. She set about her new job as physical therapist with a will and soon became acquainted with her employer's brother.

From the moment Niles set eyes on Daphne he was hooked like a prize trout. Meeting her for the first time, polished Niles fumbled and stuttered and stared like a man in the grip of a religious experience. She was lovely, but that was the least of it. Where Maris was small and rail-thin, Daphne was tall and curvaceous. Where Maris was severely coifed and grimly fashionable, Daphne wore flowing tresses and playful, sexy outfits. Where Maris doled out her affections with an eyedropper, Daphne was brimming with good will and seemed happy to include both Crane brothers in her cheerful ministrations. For Niles she was both the voluptuous centerfold girl of his dreams and the warm, nurturing mother he'd never had.

Niles: "Can I be of any assistance in the kitchen?"
Daphne: "No, I have everything well in hand."
Niles: "Lucky everything."

In the beginning Niles's infatuation with Daphne was largely physical, and so it remained for the first few months he knew her. But slowly it became clear to Frasier and to Niles himself that he had in fact fallen head over heels in love. He suffered tremendous pangs of guilt over his disloyal attraction to another woman compounded by a genuine if one-sided love for Maris. Though more than once he was on the verge of blurting out his feelings to Daphne, somehow he always allowed Frasier or Martin to pull him back from the brink of marital disaster.

Over the next few years the impossibility of the situation became acutely painful to Niles, and not only emotionally. On more than one occasion he found his physical response to Daphne almost impossible to conceal. He tried to channel his energies in Maris's direction but was frustrated by her low sex drive and manipulative behavior. It's impossible to say what might have happened had Maris responded to Niles's romantic overtures with equal passion, but she was unaware she was competing for his affections and ignored him as she had always done. She threw him out of the house repeatedly during the last several years of their marriage and he just as regularly apologized and moved back in. Even so, Niles remained loyal to Maris.

By the fourth year of Niles's acquaintance with Daphne his marriage had gone from bad to worse. Although he and Maris continued to make unsuccessful tries at reconciliation, Niles had moved out of Maris's family home and taken up residence at The Montana, an exclusive apartment building he deemed suitable for his bachelor needs. In spite of his attempts to adjust to his newly separated life, Niles still felt married and was extremely reluctant to enter the dating scene. He much preferred marriage to dating, and as he began to accept that he could no longer remain with Maris he began searching for the courage to declare his love to Daphne and persuade her to marry him.

But Daphne herself proved to be a formidable obstacle. She had never been aware of Niles's feelings for her. During his marriage he had gone to great lengths to hide them, both from a sense of propriety and a great fear of rejection. Daphne made no secret that she "preferred her gents more on the manly side," and Niles was realistic enough to know that he was lacking in the more rugged traits of masculinity. Nonetheless he took great pains to make friends with Daphne. He gradually began to hope that what he could not achieve by a direct approach he might one day accomplish by slow, steady progress.

Niles: "I was about to go finish my workout, but I can always pump iron later."
Frasier: "Pump iron? Niles, you don't even pump your own gas."

In the meantime Niles made up his mind to get out and mingle with women. Spurred on by a news article about Maris and her continued presence on the social scene he impulsively asked a local heiress to an upcoming country club dance. He was thrilled when she accepted and was flying high till he realized that he couldn't dance. He leapt at Daphne's offer of dance lessons, and when his date unexpectedly canceled he took Daphne up on her eager proposal to accompany him to the ball. Once there, Niles's society friends made cutting remarks about his breakup from Maris, so Daphne resolved to help him polish his image and swept him into a steamy tango. In a moment he immediately regretted, Niles was overcome with passion and declared his love to Daphne. He was stunned when she vowed she felt the same way. He spent a few splendid moments thinking his prayers had been answered until Daphne innocently remarked how thoroughly convinced his friends had been by their acting. Though he passed it off lightly, Niles was heartbroken.

Months went by, and when Daphne was dumped by her latest boyfriend, Niles once again summoned his courage and decided that it was time to ask her out. Frasier intervened and asked Niles to consider Daphne's feelings, giving her one more day to settle down before he made his approach. Niles reluctantly agreed and when he came over the next morning to carry out his mission, he learned that Daphne had already met another man -- someone who looked and talked almost exactly like Niles. The fact that Niles was also dating another woman did nothing to ease his torture at seeing Daphne with a man so similar to himself, and when his date ran off with Daphne's new beau, he met Daphne at a local bar to make another attempt to tell her how he felt. He was about to speak when Daphne remarked that she would never consider getting involved with a man in the process of a divorce. Once again Niles was forced to back off and wait for a better opportunity.

Daphne wasn't the only source of heartbreak for Niles during these years. He and Maris made a last attempt at reconciliation that ended in disaster when Maris had an affair with their marriage counselor. The humiliation was too much to bear and when Maris initiated divorce proceedings Niles agreed. She was to drag out the process for at least another year, but from this point on they would never again reconcile.

Despite the pending divorce Niles was slow to relinquish his emotional attachment to Maris. He decided spontaneously one day to ask Daphne out on a date, but when the moment came he choked and couldn't get the words out. As he commiserated with Frasier about his lack of courage Daphne accidentally overheard his confession except for the name of the woman he was in love with. When she confronted him he panicked and blurted out the name of one of his neighbors at The Montana. Daphne eventually ended up making dinner for the fictional date and Niles at last had a golden opportunity to spend a quiet evening alone with Daphne. She still regarded them only as friends, but it was a beginning.

Daphne accurately observed that Niles hadn't been able to ask his neighbor for a date because he still had some feelings for Maris. As usual she was perceptive where Niles was concerned, but her intuition continued to fail when it came to his love for her. Niles's resolve to win Daphne's heart remained as strong -- and as unexpressed -- as ever.

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