Jack Dalton had been in his bar a total of five minutes, and already Sam was having trouble finding ways to keep himself from roaming the area behind the counter in a different direction than the one Jack was spinning Diane around in. The call Jack had placed to Cheers earlier that afternoon had sparked his curiosity. It was unusual for Diane to get calls in the bar, let alone calls from men. And her explanation as to who he was, when Sam had given her the message, had been anything but satisfying. "Nobody" she had said. "Nobody" with a private jet and "nobody" she had dated for a bit in Europe. For a nobody, Jack Dalton sure made a lot of noise.
Sam's jaw had clenched when Jack had picked her up, and it had stayed clenched as the man went around the bar cheering every one of his friends, and as he had leaned against his counter, talking about a Diane Sam had not been privy to. A Diane he had no idea existed. A Diane he had only heard about in snippets, most of them from Frasier during his post non-wedding tirade. A Diane he couldn't bear was real only in another man's mind. A Diane he wanted to claim for himself, too.
Because she was his, wasn't she? Even though they never talked about it. Even though he hadn't held her hand in over a year and a half. Even though he hadn't kissed her, properly kissed her, since the day she had left Cheers to wander off to Europe and almost marry another man. Even though they had agreed to keep their hands off each other when she'd come back to the bar. An agreement that had done nothing to quench the want he still felt for her. If anything, it had increased it. The past few months had been, at best, excruciating when it came to being around her. Having to act like he felt nothing, having to pretend their banter didn't still turn him on, as it had since the very first day she'd walked into his damned bar. Having to feign nonchalance, and convince himself that if the bar emptied itself in his mind every single time she would walk in the door, it was merely due to how she annoyingly spoke over everyone else. Having to pretend that each time he would provoke her by claiming she was still nuts about him was only that, provocation, and not a crazy wish that she would give in and tell him it was true, that she was still as hung up on him as he was hung up on her.
At times he could almost swear she was going to admit to it. He would see a subtle change in her expression, a twinkle in her blue eyes that wasn't just a trick of the light fixtures in the room. And there had been moments. Like the one in his office after Frasier's speech, the one where he'd put into words what should have been Diane and Sam's place to say. And how she hadn't denied it. Neither of them had. In his mind that was as good as saying it, wasn't it?
Sam watched as Jack followed Diane around the bar, trying to convince her to follow him on some wild airplane outing. He had tried to pay attention to bartending instead, but kept finding himself lurking in the corners, his eyes steadily on the two people that currently occupied his mind as they darted back and forth across the room: him a frantic Indiana Jones wannabe, she a stain of soft blue that stood apart from every other color his eyes could pick up that night, but somehow would not.
And there was that dress she was wearing. It wasn't by any means a revealing dress but boy, did it hug her lean waist just right. The soft blue he was obsessively following brought out her eyes and matched her complexion perfectly. It had always been one of his favorite colors on her.
Suddenly, his reverie broke and she was talking to him. Something about pleading with him to tell Jack she had to work that night, because she did not want to go flying with him. And everything in him wanted to help, keep her there with him. Which is why it baffled even Sam when he heard himself refuse to come to her aid and encourage her dalliance. Another deflecting technique, another carefully employed method of keeping himself from letting her find out what he truly wanted. He was back to that one time, before they'd even get together, when he had mumbled what he wanted three times and then denied he had ever said it. The risk of losing her then had apparently taught him nothing at all. He was still playing with fire.
He knew Diane though. She would keep saying no until whoever she was saying no to would give up. Her stubbornness was one of her most developed traits, second only to her determination. The only thing he had not anticipated in this equation was Jack. His choice of words, his play at her psyche, his reach for the vulnerable side of her that Sam knew she possessed, where her secret fears lived. And Jack had nailed it with his tender but firm pointing out of her having become boring. It happened within seconds. She was saying "no", and in a split moment Sam watched her features change into a possible yes, and his back became stiff. His eyes were planted on her face, that he wished to God would change back to that soft yet determined expression she wore when disappointing someone. Like it hurt her inside to do it but she had no other choice.
Diane had said yes though, and now she was talking to Sam again, her words barely cutting through the noise inside his head. And his eyes were following her to the hallway and she disappeared into the bathroom, and Sam was left there holding his cup of coffee and and and… before he knew it, before any of his antics and carefully put in place methods of deflection could stop him, he looked around to make sure nobody was paying special attention to him and he trailed after Diane, and stepped into the ladies' room.