Note: Wow, this just might be, not only the longest Cheers fic I've ever written, but perhaps the longest one I'll write in a LONG time. Anyway, here's the last chapter.
BTW, a few answers to some questions some of you'd had about this "universe":
Regarding the "sex addiction" arc: well...I've always wondered if there wasn't some kind of connection between his "addict" status and the Diane-shaped hole in his heart. Recall that, in the series finale, they mention the therapy before Diane appears and after she leaves...but it's never brought up when she's around. It's basically forgotten about when she's around...as if her presence effectively does away with that issue. My theory is that the intense womanizing-to-the-point-of-addiction signified his desire to fill in the void Diane left: remember that "One Last Fling" more-or-less made clear that (as he himself discovers) he didn't have any particular need to "chase" anyone if he already had Diane.
As for the "coldness" the characters seemed to have towards Diane in the finale...I basically attribute it to shock over her sudden arrival after all these years...and then the sudden out-of-the-blue engagement. (Why else would WOODY, who was always such a big shipper for the couple, be among those struck silent?) I fixed that, here.
Finally, another note: As far as I'm concerned, Frasier's dark attitude towards Diane (and the Sam/Diane relationship) in the finale is colored more by his...intense and conflicted emotions regarding Lilith's infidelity-then-return than anything else. Remember...who was it that brought Lilith and Frasier together...? Anyway, at this point in the show, things haven't gotten to that point-there's some hints of tension, but nothing indicating what's to come.
It was Tuesday. Part of Sam was looking forward to meeting up with the guys. The part that linked it with saying goodbye to Diane…was not.
He called up Frasier early on, and they set the place and time. He used Diane's phone…and after hanging up, he let out a sigh…feeling totally drained despite himself.
Diane walked up to him, putting her hand on his arm. "Are you all right?"
Sam smiled at her, "What do you think?"
Diane's gaze fell, and she nodded, swallowing.
"Look, I…look, you know it's gotta be like this—"
"I know…" she met his gaze again. And then they embraced…and kissed. When it ended, she shook her head, and said, "It doesn't seem real, does it?"
Sam shrugged. "Yeah, I know. Well…guess that's it, huh?"
Diane nodded, "Yes…."
"Yeah, I—gotta pack up."
Diane nodded again, "Of course, Sam."
They didn't move—they remain locked in each other's arms, looking at each other.
Sam chuckled, "Okay, uh…"
"Yes, well—perhaps…should I help?"
"You know, that'd be great."
"Of course. Lead the way, my love."
They finally broke their embrace, and headed to the room. It didn't take too long…but Sam was suddenly reminded of something. He found it, and turned to Diane as they finished straightening up everything.
"So, that's going back to the necklace, right?" he asked, pointing to the ring on Diane's hand.
Diane smiled warmly as she brushed the diamonds gently with her other forefinger. "Well, I…wasn't planning on it. After all—for all intents and purposes, Sam, I intend to fully keep what promises I can. After all, I have no reason to conceal my status from anyone, here. It's…the least I can do."
Sam nodded, and smiled. "Well, you know, I…" chuckled, "Geez, I can't believe myself for this, but…"
Diane tilted her head a little, smiling at him expectantly. "Sam?"
Sam grinned, "Catch."
He launched what he had in his hand with his thumb—and being Sam Malone, he was a good enough pitch (sober) that even Diane could've caught it.
She did…and froze at the "plain" golden ring resting in her hands. After a blink, she let out a girlish laugh of astonished delight, "Why, Sam!"
Sam chuckled, "Guess that's something to take its place, huh? Not as fancy, but I figured it'd be appropriate."
"Oh…!" Diane closed both hands, clasped together, holding them to near her chin, her eyes sparkling in delight. "Sam, it's…it's beautiful, it—is it…?"
"Well, it's 'real' meaning it's a real gold ring, anyway. Match the one you got." Sam flicked another one straight up in the air, catching it and putting it in his pocket. "A little reminder to make it 'for real', I guess…when the time's right."
Hands still clasped and where they were, Diane nodded, beaming and glowing. Sam always loved seeing her like this—or even just hearing it, like the first time he'd asked her to marry him. This childlike joy of hers was one of the things he loved the most about her…every time he saw it, his heart couldn't help itself.
Sam headed over to her, smiling. "Well…that's all, I guess."
Diane nodded, still clearly losing herself in the moment.
Sam leaned to her and whispered, "So—know where the necklace is?"
Diane blinked, and composed herself, shrugging, "Right now?"
"Hey, it's as good a time as any—I'd like to see it on you."
"Oh, I see. And I suppose you want to put it on me, then?"
"Hey, I'd be game for that."
"At any rate, it will be some time before you're to meet with the guys."
"Well, sure—what are you thinking?"
Her eyes sparkled again. "The necklace is in my room, Sam."
"Yeah, I kinda figured, but—"
Diane kissed him softly, on the side of the mouth. And then again, the other side…and then full-on, but still soft. Then she smiled. No words.
"Oh…okay!" Sam chuckled. "Yeah, I'd say we got more than enough time…."
"Assuredly. Now…shall we begin a proper farewell?"
"You know it," Sam said. And then—the lift part. As always, Diane liked it. She liked it a lot.
"You know," Sam said, as he carried her to her room, "I'll say this for that John Allen Hill…that's—the guy running Melville's…"
"Yeah, he's a jerk—but he brought in some great chefs. There's this…dessert of theirs."
"Oh?" Diane chuckled, clearly a little confused at why he was bringing this up.
Sam grinned. He was making it all up, of course…but he remembered the things he knew about the lady in his arms—the things she liked…and things that really turned her on.
"Well, you know…it's something they do with ice cream."
Diane smiled, "I love ice cream."
"Yeah, well, this is the best ice cream. Basic flavors, whichever you want—nothing fancy, but I'm pretty sure if you ask vanilla, it's French."
Diane nodded, still smiling. "Well, that's fortunate."
They were now in her room. Sam saw the thin gold necklace chain on the dresser. He set Diane on her feet, and she stood straight, not moving, waiting for him to continue.
"Anyway, the important thing is…they cover it—with raspberry sauce."
Diane stiffened a little. "Indeed?"
"I mean really cover it. They just can't help themselves…" Sam handed her the necklace, and headed over to behind her as she strung it through the 'wedding' ring.
Diane handed it back to him with an amused smile, "That…sounds so simple."
"Well, there's more," Sam said in a soft tone, as he held the necklace open, holding each end, dangling it in front of her. Diane lifted her hair up with her hands, and Sam put the necklace on, latching it.
Diane turned to her, bracing herself. "Well, what—what more…could they do?"
Sam could see in her eyes that she was starting to realize what he was doing with this story. And boy, was it working.
Sam leaned to her. "Well, they…heat up the raspberry sauce…."
Diane stiffened, and swallowed. Some things never change. "How…hot do they make it?"
Sam lowered his voice, "How…hot…do you want it…?"
Diane reached up and held the edge of the door of her room, as if to steady herself. "W-well…it's certainly a shame I…don't believe I'll be able to visit for a while."
"Good thing I got the recipe."
Diane straightened up. The pretense was over. She gave the door a shove, and it closed. And then she broke, and threw herself into his arms, kissing him hungrily and barely giving him time to respond….
Some hours later, nestled contentedly against each other, Diane smiled at him, and said, "Sam…I was wondering."
"Perhaps…perhaps if I could see you off? I—I know it…it wouldn't do for me to talk to them, or let them see me, but…"
Sam noticed she was blinking back a few tears. "Hey…hey, sweetheart—"
"I-I'm fine, Sam. I just…I just—miss them. All of them…."
"Oh, my word—she isn't with them, is she?"
Sam chuckled, "No, just Norm, Cliff, and Frasier."
"Good—heaven knows she'd 'detect' me."
Sam laughed. "Yeah, well…"
"Well—regardless…yes, I do miss Carla, Sam. In our own way, I suppose—much as she'd be loath to admit it…I think we were friends, of a sort."
"Yeah…. Well, what—so, you're saying you just want to…see them?"
"I don't know…I'm fairly certain part of me will just—cause me to want to call out to them, and…but I know I can't, and—" she sighed. "But I just…I want to do it, Sam. I don't know if I can fully explain it, even to myself, but…I do."
"Hey…I get it, sweetheart. It'd be great to be together as long as we can."
"Well, why not? Let's do it."
Diane smiled at him, blinking again, "Thank you, Sam."
"Hey, least I could do."
They shared a kiss…and began to prepare.
Frasier, Norm, and Cliff headed out of the car and up to the café. Right inside was Sam, hands out with a, "Hey! Guys!"
Norm and Cliff rushed over to him, calling out "Hey, Samm-y!" and so on. Frasier just smiled as he walked over with actual dignity.
"So, how's life treating ya, Norm?" Sam grinned.
"Like I bought it a six pack," Norm smirked.
"You know, it's a little known fact, that uh…" Cliff said, forefinger raised, "The reason for the traditional combination of six beer cans in a pack, er, involves the anatomical ratio of the average male hand structure!"
Sam smirked, "How are ya, Cliff?"
"Well, er, Sam—while the experience itself was, uh…quite recreational—the crowning achievement of this, er, endeavor is clearly…the record of pics I intend to show in my next projection event—"
"Cliff, I thought we agreed you wouldn't—"
"Eh, so we did, Norm—but…given sufficient time—and nostalgic accumulation…er, I think we can assume you and the doc will reconsider!"
"No," said Norm and Frasier—in unison.
Cliff shrugged, and confidently said, "As I said, given time…"
He headed out, back to the car.
Sam chuckled, shaking his head. "Where's he going?"
Norm shrugged, "There's a post office across the road—he wants to give them some pointers or something…."
Frasier sighed, "Shouldn't you go stop him, Norm?"
"Well, I would, but I'd like a little change of pace—cafés are supposed to be good placed to relax, right? And after the excitement of Disney—"
Sam cut in, "They don't have beer, Norm."
"See you in a bit—Cliff!" Norm darted out of the place and after Cliff."
Frasier chuckled, and turned to Sam, taking notice of how…refreshed he seemed. It was…as if a burden of which he hadn't even been aware had been lifted off his shoulders. "So then, Sam," he said, "How are you faring?"
"Yeah, uh…great, Frais—I'm excellent. You uh…how are you?"
"Fine…thank you," Frasier replied, a little cautious. Sam was clearly happy—so, then, what was he being evasive about?
Similar to the evasion of his before he went off to Hollywood…but not quite.
And then it hit him. "Did you…find what you were looking for?"
Sam straightened up a bit…and smiled, with a nod. "Yeah…I guess I sure did."
Frasier returned the smile. "So, then!—how is the coffee, here?"
"Yeah, it's…pretty good. But, uh—I'm just about ready to go, you know?"
"Well, of course, Sam—but at the very least, surely you could tolerate this place for a while longer…."
Sam actually seemed to bristle a little—but covered it up quickly. "Well, uh…sure, whatever. I, uh…come to think of it, I guess I gotta—" he pointed to the restrooms.
"Skip it, Sam—I know."
Frasier wasn't sure what had tipped him off to it—probably all the hints coming together.
Sam sighed. "How do you do that?"
"It's my job, Sam. Don't worry, I just asked."
Sam shook his head, "Look, I really gotta go. Take it easy, Doc."
Frasier didn't need to be a psychiatrist to understand the double meaning. He smiled and nodded.
Sam headed off. Frasier headed to the counter, and made his order. He took advantage of that to look around….
It didn't take him that long to see her.
She was as lovely as ever—still with that liveliness and bloom. That proper, dignified bearing…and sense of energy, of eagerness.
She was seated at a booth—staring into her coffee. Frasier could see that she was very tense.
Frasier sighed. He didn't blame her. In all likelihood, she'd heard everything. Hearing all those voices from her past…he would imagine the emotions, the flood of nostalgia—it would be quite overwhelming.
But she didn't meet us with Sam…and…and I think I know why.
Frasier had a feeling that, had he allowed himself to, he might still feel some bitterness at what had happened between the two of them. But—right now, somehow…he didn't.
And then he noticed her tension seemed to increase a bit, in the minute or so he'd been there. With that…Frasier suddenly realized she was all too aware of his presence. She was only trying not to look at him.
Frasier sighed, and took his coffee from the woman who'd taken his order. And then, he gathered up his courage, and walked over to her.
It had been hard enough for Diane to "keep it together", hearing their voices…and all the memories they carried with them—so pleasant and wonderful…so filled with her regrets. And the knowledge that she was so close to them—and yet they didn't know it…she couldn't—wouldn't—stand up and call out to them…it was all she could do to keep from shedding tears. But it was supposed to have a therapeutic effect…and she was fairly certain she'd feel better, when it was done.
But then Frasier had lingered—and she'd heard. She knew. He knew….
Diane had willed herself not to look in his direction—perhaps he wouldn't see her. No, that was absurd…but perhaps he would go away…just—
Just so much between them…"water under the bridge", as Sam's sort of milieu would have it. Perhaps Frasier was still bitter—he'd seemed to be over it, by the time she'd left…but all the same—
He didn't go. You can't escape this. Oh, why did you want to accompany Sam, anyway? It would've been a wonderful goodbye, as it was—why did you have to…
No, it couldn't be helped…and Diane wouldn't be surprised if she'd subconsciously wished for something like this to happen. It would certainly serve her right.
Diane looked up at him, and gave a smile she hoped wouldn't betray her turmoil. He was smiling, too. "Hello, Frasier," she said, "You're looking well…."
Frasier shrugged, "I'm—feeling well. Oh…may I?"
Diane nodded, "Of course!"
Frasier sat down. "How are you?"
Diane paused for a moment…and sighed, "Frasier, I—"
"Oh, don't worry…obviously, you and Sam wanted to spare us…complications. I can assure you, Diane…you don't have to worry about me. I know a thing or two about confidentiality, after all."
Diane felt her smile turn genuine—out of relief, of course. "Well, um…if I may ask, Frasier—how have you been?"
"Quite well, thank you. Did Sam tell you Lilith and I are married?"
"Well…perhaps—but even if he didn't, I would have assumed it would have happened soon—soon after I'd left, I mean."
"Of course. Well…we have a son."
Diane felt her smile grow. "Really? Oh, Frasier!"
"Yes…his name's Frederick. He's very intelligent—we're so proud of him, Diane."
Diane nodded, blinking a bit. "That's so wonderful, Frasier—I'm absolutely happy for you."
Frasier nodded, looking off for a moment.
"Well," Diane said, "I…hope it doesn't seem—conceited of me to say that I felt the two of you would be wonderful together."
Frasier shrugged. "Well—it's certainly been quite an adventure, at that."
Diane tilted her head, her smile a bit faded. "Quite an 'adventure'?"
"Well, that's something quite unusual to say in response to what I said! Frasier, you're almost sounding as though…"
Frasier frowned, "Diane—no, I-I didn't mean to imply…"
"No, I—I'm sorry, Frasier; forget I said anything…."
Frasier shrugged, "It's…quite all right."
Diane stiffened a little. She had no right to wonder about…Frasier and Lilith. But something about what he'd said…
"Well, if I may ask you again," Frasier said, smiling again, "How are you?"
Diane shrugged, "Well, I…I'm quite well—thank you."
"Clearly. Sam certainly seems so."
Diane nodded, feeling her smile return. "Certainly."
"And…well, if I may be so bold—the fact that you're here, seeing Sam off…I'd say things worked out quite well. For him, certainly."
Diane stared at him, "You…believe so?"
"Certainly. I—did suspect his reasons…" Frasier shrugged, and his voice was gentle as he added, "Right now, I could see he'd found what he was looking for."
"What he was…?"
"Oh, I suppose, in hindsight, he…over the past few years, I couldn't help but notice him—behaving as though he were…well, desperate, if you will. For a while, I'd been certain it was the bar—oh, I'm sorry, did he…?"
"Yes, he told me—something about his selling the bar. For the life of me, I can't imagine why on earth he would—" Diane froze…and her gaze fell. "Oh, my word," she whispered.
It…it was that, wasn't it? Somehow…part of me suspected, didn't it?—and didn't have the courage to press him on it….
Frasier quickly added, "Diane, whatever you're thinking—don't. He told us he only 'needed a change of pace', or words to that effect—it's best to leave it at that."
Diane swallowed, gathered herself, and nodded.
"Well, the point is," Fraser went on, "When I noticed that—desperation, if you will…I was sure it was simply his…desire to get Cheers back—which signified, to me, a desperation to restore the sense of…authority—of control over his life the bar doubtless represented for him, but…even after that—even after the bar was fully his…it didn't purge that from him. It just…buried it."
Diane looked up at him, saying nothing.
Frasier smiled, "Well—at any rate, I didn't see any evidence of it, just now. Whatever he was looking for…he certainly seems to have found it."
Diane felt a smile, and she blinked a little, nodding as her gaze fell again, "I know," she whispered.
And then…she felt his hand on hers. She looked at him, astonished despite herself. Frasier was still smiling.
"You know," he said, "It certainly seems as though I could say the same for you, Diane."
Diane's smile returned. "Thank you," she said, still near a whisper.
Frasier nodded, and straightened, taking hold of his coffee. "Well…I'm glad to see you're doing well. If you'll excuse me—"
Frasier relaxed. "Yes?"
Diane paused for a moment, looking off, gathering her thoughts. And then she met his gaze, staring into his eyes. Everything in her wanted to ask, Frasier…did you find what you were looking for?
But she couldn't. By all accounts, all of this was his effort to…to let her know he no longer held…any remnants of bitterness or grudge—at least, as far as he was concerned. But somehow—
Oh, behold the depths of your ego, Diane Chambers—to think that, after all these years, a gifted, brilliant psychiatrist would not have overcome such things! Besides, he's happily married…isn't he? So then, why can't you simply accept that he's at last over you, as he should be?
And so, she smiled and said, "Frasier, when you return to Boston, could you do something for me?"
Frasier shrugged, "What is it?"
Diane leaned to him, still smiling, and said, "Go sweep Lilith in her arms, and show her all the love in the world."
Frasier said nothing for a while…then he finally chuckled, and nodded, "Well—I wouldn't think I needed more incentive for that than I already have…."
Diane nodded. I hope not, Frasier. I hope things are wonderful for you. I…I would hate to see your heart broken so…especially in such a way that'd be—so much worse than what I'd done. You deserve better, Frasier…and I hope you understand how much I mean that.
"Well," she said warmly, "Do it, nonetheless."
Frasier nodded, "I certainly will. She deserves it."
Diane nodded. "You both do."
Frasier nodded…and rose to his feet, taking the cup. "Well," he said, "I…trust you'll—come to Boston, soon…visit?"
Diane frowned. "Well…"
"Oh, I know—give it time; have Sam…prepare everyone, as it were—I'd hate to have everyone shocked at a sudden appearance, after all these years…."
"Of course, Frasier. Well—to your question, I…well, I imagine I will, eventually. Just…not now."
Frasier nodded. "Of course."
Diane rose to her feet. "Well…goodbye, Frasier."
Frasier smiled, and extended his hand, "Goodbye, Diane."
They shook hands, and then he turned, and left.
And then Diane noticed Sam waiting by the counter. His look of innocence was clearly an act.
Diane sighed, gathered her things, and walked over to him with a coy smile. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Oh, most of it, I think—I made it a point to speed things up in there—"
"All right—all right, Sam, I don't need the details."
Sam nodded, and looked at her in concern. "You okay?"
Diane turned to see through the windows…where Frasier was reuniting with Norman and Clifford. She sighed, and turned to Sam, "I'm all right, thank you, Sam."
"Okay. You sure…"
"Sam…" Diane beamed, "As of this moment…everything is as right as can be."
There must have been a jukebox in the café…a song played—it was a piece by Sinatra: "It Had To Be You".
Sam smiled, and shrugged, "Well, I'd better go with them, huh?"
Diane nodded, her gaze falling, "Yes…."
"Hey…" Sam took her chin, so she met his eyes, "Won't be too long, okay? I'm the owner of that bar—I can take a vacation whenever the heck I want. It'll be soon."
Diane smiled, and embraced him, resting the side of her head on his chest. She felt him stroking her hair.
They lingered there for a moment longer…and then she looked up at him, and shared a smile…and a kiss.
At last, she stared into his eyes, and said, "Now—you'd best be off."
Sam nodded, "Take care, sweetheart."
They shared a chuckle, and then Sam softly said, "Goodbye."
Diane nodded, "Goodbye."
And she stood there, watching him go to the door. He paused as he opened, turning to her. She blew him a kiss. He chuckled, and nodded. And then he was gone.
Diane remained there, standing…until the song ended.
For nobody else…gave me a thrill!
With all your faults…I love you still:
It had to be you…wonderful you…
It had to be you…!
Sam & Diane will return...
Thanks for reading, everyone!