Note: Believe it or not, this story was actually inspired by the old real-life speculation during the "Rebecca Era", surrounding Ted Danson and Shelley Long supposedly giving serious thought to doing a movie together. That consideration, I recall reading, led to a photo of the two kissing—which in turn led to speculation as to whether or not Diane would be brought back for the show. Alas, she wasn't brought back until the finale—which was, of course, a big loss for everyone (just imagine Diane interacting with Rebecca…or getting to know Woody's beloved Kelly…or helping Sam put up with John Allen Hill).
Anyway, I guess the germ of a story went like this: "What if Ted and Shelley did do a movie together, during that time? And what the heck—what if it was a Sam & Diane story, set perhaps during one of the 'summer breaks' of the show?"
I later tweaked that, to set the story immediately following "Get Your Kicks On Rout 666". I know, it's kinda problematic for the "summer movie" conceit, but I'm kinda going with "if they'd done this movie, the show would've been much different around this point"…." For instance, there probably wouldn't have been a "having a baby with Rebecca" storyline in Season 10. (In other words, a different cliffhanger at the end of Season 9.)
The things a writer thinks of. Obviously, it's AU—among other things, it would mean the series finale would probably have been a bit different. Look for some Easter-egg references to their conversations in that episode. Also, a scene involving a certain dress is a nod to sunnymadden's "Comfortably Numb". Here, the dress has a different fate.
Well—here we go, folks. I hope you enjoy!
It was a new day. A new beginning, in more ways than one.
Diane Chambers sat at her typewriter, dressed in her bath robe. It was the last scene, the last page, the last several lines. And at last:
Pull to a slow close-up, as her smile grows, her eyes welling up in tears of joy and contentment.
And with that, Diane let out a sigh of release, and smiled. "And there we are," she quietly said to herself. "Finis, at long last."
She took the page out, setting it in place amongst its predecessors. She then leaned back in her chair, her eyes closed. The truth was, there always was a great thrill to all this—the final stages of creation for each of her works. So help her, there was something deeply sensual about these triumphs—the feelings of victorious elation, after the bursts of energy propelling her through the crafting of climax and conclusion. Growing tension, and then finally an outburst of the pleasure of success—
It was the kind of feeling she lived for, in this career…this stage in her life, as a writer in Hollywood. It was the sort of pleasure she so rarely attained otherwise, nowadays.
She opened her eyes, and rose to her feet, pacing the room for a moment. Now, why would her mind point that out—again? Somehow, it seemed as though every time she felt the upsurge of completion, it was simultaneous with a swelling of…of…
Was it emptiness? Perhaps, but—why? Why did this keep happening?
No—no, enough. I feel alone—nothing more, nothing less. Every time I feel the joy and thrill of triumph, I find myself wishing there was someone with whom to share that moment—
Oh, stop, for goodness sake!
Finally, she leaned back against the wall, and found herself sliding down until she sat on the floor. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, and shook her head. Finally she sighed, and opened her eyes, looking around at her surroundings—at her home.
Her home…on the California beach, Los Angeles. She lived there, alone—aside from her cat Christopher, her puppy Raymond, and of course, her stuffed friends. But she was alone. And this was far, far from the first time she'd been suddenly overwhelmed by this fact…and she doubted it would be the last.
No…this won't last. It never does—I'll be over it, in a moment.
She rose to her feet, and she headed straight for her bathroom, to freshen up and dress.
A few hours later, she walked out the front door, taking in the gentle warmth of the California air. She could afford to walk the distance to the studio, today—she had finished early. Besides, she found it stimulating, invigorating—refreshing.
By the time she reached Hollywood Boulevard, the feelings of emptiness were long since passed. In their place was anticipation—the undeniable sense that some wonderful experience was about to envelope her—an emotional adventure to fill her with the highest emotions and fulfillments.
All things considered, she could hardly wait.
"So, this is L.A., huh?" Sam Malone said to no one in particular.
As usual, when someone around Cliff Clavin said something to no one in particular, the mailman took it as his cue: "Well technically, Sammy, we're, uh, currently driving in the eastern quarter of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. You know, it's a…little known fact that, er, the total square footage of the L-A-M-A—or as we in the Postal Service like to call it, 'The Lama'…is, uh, actually roughly equivalent to the—"
"Cliff," Dr. Frasier Crane sighed, "My advice to you—at this moment…is to quit while you're ahead."
"Yeah, I will, Doc, after I remember—what was it equivalent to; ah, yeah—!"
"So, Sammy!" Norm Peterson called out from the back seat, "What's our plan, then?"
Sam shrugged, "Well, I dunno—what were we thinking?"
"I've been asking myself that question for days," Frasier muttered.
Beside him, Norm shrugged, "Well, all I know is, just driving around and seeing the sights is out. We've already spent day after day either driving or sitting and waiting for the car to get fixed—personally, I don't need more sitting around. I couldn't take it. I couldn't."
Frasier rolled his eyes, "Norm, would you mind explaining to me how all this complaining of sitting in the same place all day—magically vanishes when you sit on your barstool all day?!"
Norm turned to him slowly, with a look of bewilderment on his face, "Doc…where have you been?"
"Oh, come on, Norm—it's a legitimate question!"
"Frasier…do you see a mug in my hand? And if you do, does it contain any beer? I sure could use some right about now."
"Oh, for goodness sake—!"
"Hey, hey, hey—settle down, okay?" Sam called back. "Now, I'm pretty sure some ideas were thrown around, right? So, what were they?"
"Someone suggested Disney," Norm offered. The others immediately responded with "Oh, yeah!" and "Sure! That sounds ideal!" and the like.
"Well, then!" Frasier beamed, "Are we all in agreement? Anaheim or bust?"
"I'm in," said Norm.
"Yeah!" Cliff nodded, "Uh, you know, I actually found myself enjoying Disneyland's counterpart, down in Florida—and I, uh, think it wouldn't be a bad idea to…er, take advantage of the same, yet different!"
"Uh-huh," Sam muttered, looking off through the window.
"So, how about it, Sammy?" Norm patted Sam's shoulder, "You for Disney?"
Sam shrugged, "Well, I dunno—I was…you know, kinda thinking of checking out Hollywood."
Cliff frowned, turning to Sam, "Hollywood?"
"Yeah, you know—movies, red carpets…" Sam smiled at them all, "Actresses…"
"Oooo!" Cliff and Norm replied in unison, with Norm adding, "There's our Sammy!"
Amid the laughter and hoots, Frasier said nothing. Finally, he turned to Cliff, "Cliff, could you stop at that gas station—I'm suddenly possessed of a need to…"
"Say no more, Doc!"
When they pulled into the station, Norm said, "Yeah, I think I'd better go stretch my legs a bit."
"And replenish your supply of beer, no doubt?" Frasier smiled.
"No, I don't care for bottles."
"There are cans."
Norm shrugged, "I can substitute."
"Well, I think I'd better take a leak, myself," Sam said as he opened his door.
He and Frasier were in the men's room when the doc whirled to him, "Sam, what on Earth are you thinking?"
Sam frowned. "What—?"
"Oh, for goodness sake—Hollywood, Sam! You weren't being serious…were you?"
Sam shrugged, "Well, why not? I hear the drug stores are a good spot for picking up hot wannabe—"
"Sam," Frasier stared at him, "Right now—you are going to have to be honest with yourself. And therefore, you are going to have to be honest with me."
"What are you talking about—?"
"Who, Sam. Hollywood! And you are not going to tell me you don't remember."
"Oh, come on, Frasier, it's got nothing to do with Diane—"
"There you go! Sam, what could you possibly be thinking?"
"Hey—Frasier, what's the matter with you?"
"I could ask you the same question! Sam…you spent the past several years seeking to prove to yourself that you are over her—"
"Oh, come off it—you called out her name!"
"When the car broke down—don't you remember?!"
"Yeah, of course I remember—look, that was just—"
"Unless there's something wrong with your eyes or your memory, Cliff Clavin looks nothing like Diane Chambers—!"
"Hey, lay off about her, will you?!" Sam threw out his hands. "Geez…I just wanted to check out Hollywood—I wanted to see what it's like."
Frasier nodded solemnly, "You want to see the victor over you."
"The competitor who spirited away your dear beloved—"
"Aw, come on…" Sam shook his head, "Frasier! It's not about that—nothing 'took' her away from me. We agreed that she wouldn't come back until she had a shot at her dreams—"
"And you're not going to tell me…" Frasier stared hard at him, "…that part of you—part of your heart—wasn't silently wishing that she would return in those six months?"
Sam shook his head, "Come on, Doc—"
"Oh, is it really that hard to believe? Then why did you sell the bar in the first place…?"
"Look—that was then. Frasier, this is now—and I'm fine."
Frasier looked off for a moment, and sighed. He turned back to Sam, and said, "Sam, I only need to know you're not…conflicted. It's been over four years. If after all this time, you aren't sure how you feel…"
Sam smiled, "Hey, you got a cell phone—I'll know where to find you."
Frasier paused for a moment longer, and finally returned the smile, as he patted Sam on the shoulder. "Well," he said, "To Hollywood, then?"
"Yeah—hey, I'll have you guys drop me off at a diner or something. I'll call a cab."
Frasier frowned, "I'm sure they won't think it's much trouble—"
"No, you guys head over to Disney. I'll be fine."
Frasier shrugged, and nodded, "All right. Well…I don't suppose we should tell the other guys?"
"Tell 'em what? I just told them—"
"And you didn't tell them why."
Sam chuckled, "Come on, Frasier—what's to tell them? I'm just checking out the stars!"
Frasier sighed, "Well…either way, Sam—good luck."
"But you will call me?"
"Yeah, I'll let you know when I get a hotel."
"What's your number again?"
Frasier shook his head with a smirk, and pulled out one of his cards and a pen. "I'll write it down."
More to come, folks! Stay tuned...