Sometimes you wanna go.

by Sabine

Autumn's been cold and so, in recent weeks, before he locks up, Sam has been taking a little time in the empty bar to exercise Duke, the toughest, lovingest rottweiler in New England. Lately Duke's been feeling his age and Sam's vet, a nubile little number named Sheila, prescribed glucosamine but at $24 a bottle it doesn't seem to be doing a thing except making Sam's wallet easier to bend. He tosses a knotty rope and Duke, who had until that moment been napping quite peacefully under the player piano, peels both eyes open and trots diligently over to the chew toy. With equal diligence and the lumbering gait of a geriatric, he crosses the room to Sam and drops the rope, eyes bright and nocked tail wagging like a thumb. Sam grabs both sides of Duke's great massive head, and lays a kiss on the old boy's skull.

Duke's onset of arthritis coincided with a tightening in Sam's own knees, a seizing in his back and his hips that brings with it an old man's guttural and phlegmatic "yee-ahh" every time he stands up. "Whattaya think?" Sam asks, hoisting himself to his feet and tossing the rope again for Duke. "Think there's life left in us?"

Duke makes his way down the bar and into the corridor by the restrooms to retrieve his toy. Sam's pitching arm isn't what it used to be but he can still lob one over the plate now and again, and truthfully the night's exercise is as much for Sam as it is for the ten-year-old rott. Duke comes back with the rope, laboring a little over the riser, and Sam picks it up. "Mattingly at the plate," Sam says, winding up as far as the bursitis in his shoulder will allow. "Malone pulls back for the pitch. And --" He lets the toy loose and it hits the placard on his office door squarely with a hollow thump before dropping to the floor. "Steee-rike one!" This time when Duke brings the rope back he stops before the riser and sinks to the floor, resting his chin on the knots like a pillow.

"Don't get too comfortable," Sam says, heading to the coat rack to get his jacket and Duke's leash. He punches the code into the bar's alarm, hitches Duke to his leash, and they make their way out into the blustery Boston November night.

Sam loops Duke's leash loosely over his wrist and lets the big dog lead him out into Beacon Street. Just down the block, in the Back Bay sprawl, Sarah's in her mother's townhouse, having her hair styled or her makeup attempted. Or maybe they're done all that and are now drinking. Beer, maybe? Do girls drink the nights before their weddings? Sam can't remember. White wine, maybe, that sounded right. His little girl and his ex-wife drinking white wine five blocks away.

Sam has tomorrow off; Henry's got the bar and Carla's looking after her grandkids, so only Sofi's working, but Sofi once jackknifed a guy for leaving a lousy tip. Sam figures the bar's in good hands.

Duke is sniffing along some hedges, but any moles or badgers that might have been crawling about in there fled at the old boy's unsubtle approach. Duke sits down next to Sam's feet and lets out a low, asthmatic wheeze.

"Me too, buddy," Sam says, patting him on the head. They make it home, though home is now a condo south of Comm Ave and his vintage Corvette spends her long nights alone in a covered garage.

They take the elevator up, get some mail, bills and circulars, nothing. Sam drops his keys, bends down to unclip Duke from his leash, and the grateful dog scampers off to find an area of carpet to circle several times before settling upon it for a nap.

Sam opens the refrigerator and gets himself a club soda. It's only eleven, early enough to get in a date tonight, but Sam's more concerned about tomorrow. He wasn't going to bring one of his bimbos to his own daughter's wedding, but the idea of showing up stag gives him the willies. Carla had agreed to accompany Sam to the wedding, except one of her kids got sick and now there's nobody to babysit the grandchildren. Duke stands up, comes over and lays his head on Sam's knee. Sam scratches at his ear.

The telephone sends a jolt through everybody, and for a second Sam forgets what that noise is supposed to indicate, but presently he puts it together and picks up the receiver. "Y'ello, Sam Malone here."

"Sam."

His intestines pool, and his skin is clammy. "Diane?"

"Yes, Sam, it's Diane Chambers."

"I'm calling the police," Sam says, and hangs up the phone.

Expectedly it rings again. "Jose Canseco," says Sam.

"Sam --"

"Diane, unless you are currently i on fire /i , I can't think of a single reason you'd expect me to talk to you after fourteen years."

"I'm -- Sam, wait --"

Sam stands up and starts to pace, the old vitriol rising and with it a whole host of other complicated feelings that tend to make a man insane. "On second thought," he said, "why don't we see if we can get someone to i set /i you on fire? That'd make the call worthwhile. Who's nearby where you are? I imagine anyone around's gotta hate you as much as I do."

She huffs. "That's not fair," she says. "I have friends now, friends and a life, so don't you go assuming --"

Sam hangs up again.

"Charlie's Pool Hall, we're always hiring!" he answers, when the phone rings again. "Let's hear your sales pitch, little lady."

There's silence at the other end of the line and for a moment he's afraid it's not Diane at all this time, but then she coughs and even her cough makes the hair on his arms stand on end. "Sam Malone," she says. "Please do not hang up the phone on me."

"You got five seconds to tell me why not," he says. He hears her breathing. "Three, two --"

"I'm on fire!" she blurts, and he laughs. "Just listen," she says. "Will you listen?"

Sam growls.

"Now, Sam. Have you turned into a gruff old codger in your advanced years, or is it simply me who provokes the i animal /i in you?"

"You make me wanna kill something, if that's what you mean."

Diane scoffs, a light, melodious sound that comes tinnily through the phone. "My Sam," she says, sort of trailing off, and it lingers in both their heads.

"Ah, damn, it's good to hear your voice," Sam says, before he can stop himself.

"Yours too," she says.

He takes a breath. "Not that I don't still hate you and your stupid face," he clarifies.

"Of course not," she says.

"Now will you tell me i why /i you called? I mean, why, tonight, the night before my daughter's wedding, do you call, after me not hearing from you for i fourteen years/i "

"Sam, I -- your daughter's wedd -- you have a daughter?"

Sam surrenders. He sits down again and looks over at her picture on the coffee table. "Yep," he says. "Sarah Alice Muir."

"Handy initials," Diane points out.

"Ah, she's beautiful, Diane," Sam says, kicking up his feet, looking at the photo that the wedding photographers had given him, Sarah and her fiancé, Jason. Sarah with her long dark auburn hair twisted up in those corkscrew curls. "She's nineteen. I think she's too young, but her mother --"

"Nineteen is too young!" says Diane. "Is she in school?"

"She's at Harvard, studying computers. So's her fiance. They seem to have good heads on their shoulders -- better'n mine, anyhow."

"Oh, Sam, that's not -- well, Harvard, yes, okay, that's fair. Harvard, huh? Apple didn't land too close to the tree, eh?"

Sam rubs his face again. "Got it from her mom. Rita has it all, looks, brains, the whole package. I met her right after you and I -- right after you left me."

"Left, Sam," Diane says. "Left the bar, left the United States, left my old life. But not you. You were with me throughout my travels, of which there have been many, and stories shall be told, but that is for another time. Suffice it to say, you have never been far from my thoughts."

Sam takes a breath. "Well, you were sure as hell far from mine. I might have been with you on your travels, but back here at Cheers, I was all alone. Six months, you said, and I -- Fourteen years, man."

"Sam," Diane says. Her voice sends a thrill through him he tries to fight, but the familiar heat spreads through his gut and his groin, and he licks his lips.

"Yes, Diane, yes, the past is behind us and now I just have one question, which is, i why did you call/i " Sam stops to wipe some sweat from the receiver. "What, now, tonight, can I, Sam, do for you, Diane Chambers?"

There's some silence on the other end of the line, but then it's Diane again. "I'm in Boston," she says and reflexively he looks out the window. "Only four days, then it's back to Germany for the a quick lecture and then a book signing in France. I'm quite a celebrity in France."

"The French have always had weird taste. What's it have to do with me?"

Diane hems and haws. "I know it's terribly sudden, but somehow I thought we might be past all the drama and nonsense of our early courtship and might have moved on to a place where, were we to find our paths crossing in some spot on the globe, we might indulge ourselves in friendly reacquaintance."

Sam laughs. "You want a quickie?" He imagines he can see her scowl and something about it makes him want to chop lemons.

"No, Sam, I do not want a i quickie /i , as you so decorously put it. Not that I don't retain some very fond memories of the time we had together, but --"

Sam exhales. "Still talk as fast as ever."

"In six languages, now. Well, my German's only passable and my Italian is truly a little rusty, and though my written Cyrillic is positively fluent, my spoken Russian leaves much to be desired. So let's call that three and...three quarters languages."

"Do I make you nervous?" That's something Sam could never have said, back then, back when he was in awe of her every word, when he was dumb like a bump on a frog -- an ex-drunk bump on a frog -- back at Cheers together. Now he's had a little more time in therapy, and he's mellowed, and he's read a book or two. Either way, Diane's been quiet for an uncharacteristic moment and Sam chuckles. "Appears I do."

"You do not make me nervous, Sam, I was merely trying to recollect my train of thought before I'd digressed into that discussion of my linguistic prowess --"

"Linguistic prowess! That sounds hot, tell me more about that," Sam leans back in his chair again, still impatient as ever when he talks to her, and his arthritis doesn't like that one bit.

"I'm married," Diane says. Sam pretends his heart doesn't go cold.

"Sumner?"

"Not Sumner," says Diane. "His name is Luc Brel. We met at the most charming little hotel in the Left Bank, you'd have loved the place, Sam -- expansive views, fabulous cuisine --"

"600 percale sheets and 24 hour room service?"

He hears Diane huff, and he grins. Then she surprises him.

"Can I come over?"

Sam sets the phone down for a moment and furrows his brow at Duke. "She wants to come over," he says to the dog. "That seem as dumb to you as it does to me?"

He hears a tiny "Sam!" from the phone, and picks it up again. "Sorry," he says. "You were saying?"

He opens the door and she hasn't changed a bit. Slim as a whip, like she always was, her chin held proudly and her blonde hair, straight now and darkly streaked, hanging choppy around her jaw. She's in a smart wool suit, skirt shorter than her overcoat and her legs still go i allll /i the way down.

"Sam."

He reaches out, takes her shoulders and he kisses her hello. "Come on in," he says. She does.

He's not gonna let himself fall for her, he tells himself, though his body is already buzzing with electricity. Old habits die hard. She tosses her hair, freeing it from her coat. He takes the coat and hangs it up. It takes two tries to hit the hook. She notices, and smiles.

"Do I make you nervous?" she asks, and he laughs.

"Touche."

Diane was always a good drinker -- at a buck and a quarter soaking wet she's gotta have a hollow leg -- but she's never needed to drink when she's with Sam, and so when he offers to open a bottle of wine for her she just shakes her head.

"Why do you even have wine around?" she asks.

"I'm a bartender," he says, and, without drinks or any other crutch, they go to the couch.

Duke looks up from his pad when they sit down, and he even goes to the trouble of walking unsteadily over to Diane's knees and giving them a sniff.

"That's Duke," says Sam. Diane ruffs him on the head.

"Doesn't smell too doggy, that's good," she comments.

"I washed him yesterday," says Sam, defensively.

"And I'm saying you did a fine job of it."

Sam leans back on the couch. "Why, do you expect me to have a smelly dog?"

Diane leans over and kisses Duke on the head, and Duke, quite unexpectedly, lays a wet lick across her face, smearing her glasses.

"I take it back," she says, flailing. She takes her glasses off and looks around for something to wipe them on, and Sam takes them from her. Diane wipes her hand across her face and she has dog drool in her hair and she looks more beautiful than anything Sam can remember in twenty years. He wipes her glasses carefully on his shirttail, breathes on them and gives them a final polish before returning them to her.

"Thank you," she says, putting them on.

Sam leans forward again, rocks a little, and sits back. "Why'd you leave, Diane?"

She takes a deep breath. "I had to leave, Sam, if for no other reason than it turns out being verbally brutalized i every day /i , by those one considers friends, takes its toll on a woman's ego. And it certainly doesn't do much to provide a supportive working environment." She stops for a minute and then gives her hair a proud toss. "You have no idea how strong I am now."

Sam thinks back on five years filled with good-natured jibes about killing Diane in various and bloody ways, practical jokes built to embarrass Diane, and a relentless string of cruel nicknames, mostly courtesy of Carla. "Actually," Sam says, rocking forward and laying his hands on his thighs. "I think you were pretty strong then. Don't know if I could have handled the abuse you put up with at Cheers."

"Carla wasn't so bad," Diane says, but Sam knows she was. Not the jibes themselves, but more the unyielding battery of them, over five hard, emotional years. Sam was as guilty of it as Carla. More.

"Not just Carla," says Sam. "I gave you hell myself. And the guys were always ribbing you -- "

"I'm tough," says Diane, tipping up her chin. She reaches down to stroke Duke, who has settled happily at her feet and is now sleeping peaceably.

Sam puts his hand on her arm, and her skin is cool through the fabric, and he rubs her to warm her up. "Yeah, you are," he says. "You gave as good as you got."

"Better," Diane grins, reaching up so she can lay her hand on top of Sam's.

Sam nods. "Prob'ly true. Still, I'm sorry. You deserved to feel like your friends cared about you, and I guess we didn't really behave that way a lot of the time."

"I never had a moment's doubt i you /i cared about me, Sam," Diane says. "Not one moment."

"I always have," Sam says, and finds he doesn't even want to take it back. Then he takes a breath. "So. Tell me about this husband of yours. Jean-Luc, is it?"

Diane chuckles, the knowing chuckle when she's won. "Just Luc," she says. "Fine French gentleman, a novelist! Like myself, of course. His seminal work has been translated into over fifty languages and is even taught in graduate level courses at the Sorbonne."

"Sounds sexy."

Diane's eyes glint. "Six foot two, bronze Mediterranean complexion, taut muscle from head to toe. He can crack a walnut between his thighs."

Now Sam wishes he had his club soda, or a bucket of ice water to pour down his back. "Gotta be careful around those things," he croaks.

"So," she says, bailing him out. "Tell me about your daughter's wedding."

Sam stands up. "Coffee?"

"I'd love some."

He goes into the kitchen. "Sarah's marrying a Jewish guy, so the wedding's at the synagogue tomorrow at five." He comes back out of the kitchen. "Why, you offering to go with me?"

Now Diane stands up and comes to follow him into the kitchen. She slips an arm around his waist. "I would be honored, my silver-haired fox," she says. Sam's heart's beating so loudly he's sure she can hear it, so he slips out of her embrace and goes back to making the coffee.

"You remember Rebecca?"

"Took over the bar, right?" Diane asks, leaning against the counter.

"Yeah. Owns it, now, though she's part of some management company."

"Your boss!"

Sam chuckles. "Sometimes. Sometimes I'm her boss. I'm the bar's major shareholder but the rest is owned by Rebecca's firm, so it works out to a convivial sort of a jousting."

"You wouldn't have it any other way," Diane observes, and she's right.

The coffee is ready, and Sam pours two cups, and they take them back to the couch.

"You and Rebecca ever --" Diane starts, and trails off.

"Yeah," says Sam. "On and off, mostly off. We talked about having a baby together once. We were gonna do that. Raise a kid together."

"That's a big deal!" Diane says. "You were actually going to help raise this child?"

Sam stops and looks at her. "You don't think I could raise a kid? I could raise a kid, I tell you, better'n you could raise a kid. Come to think of it, you don't have any kids either, Diane."

"I travel so much it really wouldn't have been fair to bring a child along in my life. I gave it careful consideration and came to the conclusion that, as long as I wished to have the freedom to travel, it wouldn't be right. Later, perhaps, I may foster a child. Or adopt, if I've settled someplace near reputable schools and a good learning environment."

Sam thinks about this, and it almost sounds like a good idea. Instead he says, "Yeah. Rebecca and I were ready to raise a kid together, right here in Boston."

"And what about young Sarah? What role did you play in her upbringing?" Diane trills.

This hits Sam harder than Diane intended. She's still got it. "Not as much as I'd liked," Sam says, diplomatically. "Her mother left town right after the baby was born, went to New York with her family. So I didn't even meet Sarah till Rita brought her to Cheers several years ago when Sarah was already thirteen years old."

"Oh, that's terrible," Diane says, patting Sam's knee.

"Since then I've tried to get to know the kid, and we get along pretty well, but I only see her when she feels like hanging out. We've gone to some ballgames -- kid loves baseball, that's a big plus in the Sammy column -- gone to movies, you know." Sam leans over so he can pet Duke, still lying on the rug beside the sofa. "It was a big day when she started inviting me out to things, you know?"

Diane nods.

"I remember the first time, a couple years ago, she called me up. Sam, you wanna go see a movie. Just like that."

"What'd you see?"

Sam lights up. "Oh, great movie! It was called i The Aristocrats /i and it had a bunch of comics all telling this joke, it was hilarious."

Diane smiles. "Not having seen that movie, I can hardly judge, but I believed, based on reviews I'd read, that the repetition of the joke was meant to signify the hollowness of humor? Not meant to be funny at all, but to be raw, and almost vulgar."

Sam blinks. "I thought it was real funny."

"I'm sure it was," Diane says.

They sit for a while, just taking in the room and each other, drinking their coffee and occasionally laughing.

"You really wanna be my date to Sarah's wedding?" Sam asks, hoping for an honest moment.

Diane sets her jaw, but her eyes are gleaming. "I do."

Maybe more honesty than Sam was looking for, but she's never said those words to him, not even when they were standing on the altar together.

"All right, then," he says. "Pick you up at four thirty."

She leans in then, and she kisses him, and before he knows it he's kissing her back. i Diane /i . He pushes her away.

"Aren't you supposed to be married?"

She thinks a minute. "It's complicated," she says. "My relationship with Luc cannot be easily defined, at the moment."

"I get that about you," Sam says. But all of a sudden he doesn't care, because it's Diane, and it's enough that she's here, and it always would be. He kisses her again, but this time, and right on cue, she pushes him away.

"No, Sam," she says. "You're right. I'm a married woman, or, though, probably not anymore --" She looks at her watch. "So really what does it matter, it's i you /i I want --" She leans in.

This time Sam pushes her away. Somehow that always seemed to happen, his libido and his sanity in raging opposition whenever Diane was concerned. The sheer amount of i crazy /i she drove him was equaled only by how unbelievably hot she was in the sack; a different kind of crazy, but a crazy just the same, whenever she touches him. "No, no, I'm not gonna do this," he says. "You can't just hop over for some Sammy action when you're on your East Coast port of tour."

"East Coast -- Sam, I'm in Boston for for four days, and I'm here to see i you. /i I left my husband to come see i you/i because it was i always /i you, and what's more you know it as well as I do --"

"No, no more sweet talk, Diane --" He waves a hand at her.

"Sweet talk!" she literally gasps. "Sam, if you think in any way that I was trying to manipulate you or mislead you, I can assure you --"

Sam exhales. "I think it's pretty damned clear you misled me, and I'd even go so far as to say it's obvious to anyone who was paying attention that you came all this way to manipulate me into having sex with you, Diane!"

"Sex! Is that what you think this is about?"

Sam stands up so he can get some distance on her, and then he points right back in her face. "Yes! Sex!

That's what it was always about with you, hot monkey love. You never cared about who I was, and you sure as hell don't now. I bet you just happened to be in Boston and figured, why not call Sam Malone up and see if he'll toss you one?"

" i Toss me one/i "

"Yeah!"

She licks her lower lip. "Will ya?"

Sam's knees nearly buckle under him, but it's more frustration than desire that sends him sinking back onto the couch again, where he buries his head in his hands. Then he clenches his fist. "God, you drive me i crazy /i ," he hisses. "Even now, twenty years later, just the sound of your voice is enough to make me want to punch something hard enough to break my hand just so you'll shut up for a minute."

"Oh, I doubt I would," she says. "If you hurt yourself I'd be compelled to call an ambulance, and to stay by you to make sure you were all right, and conscious --"

Sam stops her. "Remind me not to hurt myself when you're around," he says.

She's silent for a beat. Then she says, "You make me crazy too, Sam. Why do you think I came back here? Boston's hardly on the way from Paris to Berlin."

Sam draws a little map in his head. "I'll have to take your word on that," he says finally.

This time when she touches him on the knee he doesn't shake her away, and when she leans in to kiss him he kisses her back. He's fifty-nine years old and this gorgeous broad wants to be his date to his only daughter's wedding, and there's not a reason to fight it. He relaxes and a shudder of pleasure floods through his body as she slides her hand up his thigh.

She leaves in the morning with long, languorous kisses that make Sam squirm and a promise to meet him at the temple at four thirty. He takes Duke for a walk and somehow the biting cold doesn't bother his joints so much, and though his muscles ache like hell from last night's workout he'd swear he hasn't felt this good in thirty years.

He spends an hour dressing and setting his hair, and Duke watches with his head cocked, but in the end, both Duke and Sam are pleased with the reflection in the mirror. "Got some years on me, but I'm still arm candy," Sam says. He takes a cab to the temple, gets there a half hour early and sits at the stone picnic tables with Rita while the caterers file a steady procession through the back doors into the reception hall.

At four thirty the doors open, and Sam hasn't seen Sarah yet.

"She's with her sister," Rita says, by which she means her daughter from her second marriage, Lauren, whom Sam hasn't met. He frowns. "She's getting ready for the most important day of her life, Sam!" Rita says.

"I know," says Sam, and the truth is he wants to see Sarah before the wedding because he knows it'll soften the blow, like he knows that seeing her in that white dress walking down the aisle will give him a heart attack. He sighs.

At five o'clock the wedding starts, and Diane hasn't come. Sam waits outside until the usher tells him they're shutting the doors, and then, hands frozen from the dusk chill, he shuffles to his seat just as the rabbi begins.

Sarah is a vision, and though she doesn't kill him his heart swells in his chest so big he imagines he can feel it stretching out his ribs to the breaking point.

After the wedding, she runs to him and hugs him before he can run to her and do the same, and when she pulls away he's got tears in his eyes.

He scans the crowd for Diane, as if somehow she might have come in unannounced, but of course she's nowhere, and eventually dinner's served, and everyone drinks champagne but Sam. Sarah's father-in-law takes her out on the dance floor, and Sammy fades into obscurity and goes home before midnight, with a peck on the cheek to Rita and an entreaty for Sarah to call him after her honeymoon.

No messages from Diane on his home machine or his cell. He undresses carelessly, tossing his suit on the chair beside his bed and then slumping down, dejected, in his boxers.

The doorbell rings, and he pulls on a pair of pajama pants and stumbles to the answer it.

"I don't do weddings," she says, at his kitchen table. He pours her some coffee. Sam hasn't said a word since Diane came in, and she hasn't stopped talking.

"-- of course, I'm humiliated, I've humiliated myself, I've humiliated i you /i in front of your family --"

"No one expected you to come," Sam says, taking a sip of coffee.

She takes a drink of her own. "It's weddings," she says. "Something about them, the impermeability, the...bondage!"

"Bondage could be hot," Sam puts in.

"Not when the bonds are those of holy matrimony, Sam," Diane sneers. "As I recall you prefer a leather belt, is that correct?"

He resists the urge to slap her.

She goes on. "Anyway, they frighten me. Weddings frighten me. They frightened me back when I was engaged to marry Sumner, and they have frightened me every day since, including ours, Sam."

"Yes, our wedding was terrifying," Sam agrees.

"I don't do weddings," she shrugs.

He sits down and sips his coffee. It's midnight the night of his daughter's wedding and here he is, taking care of a spooked chick. Spooked Diane Chambers chick, of course, and that almost makes it weirder. The ghosts of his past, very literally, coordinating to torment him.

"So what about your wedding with Luc? You went through with that one, didn't you?"

Diane stirs her coffee, smoothly with a practiced spoon. Then she stops and checks her watch. "Yeah. Yesterday afternoon, France time. I, erh, wasn't there. Out of town, you see."

"Out of town," Sam raises an eyebrow.

"Quite a ways out of town."

"You walked out on your own --" Sam's getting it now. "You walked out on i another /i of your own -- on the i third /i of your own weddings? Diane, you need professional help, and I mean seriously, and I mean fast."

Diane is smiling, and she puts up a hand. "I don't do weddings," she says, "and the truth is, neither do you. Domestic bliss was never our destiny."

Sam can't disagree.

"I don't do weddings," she repeats, leaning up toward him. "But I do do Sam Malone. In fact, Sam Malone seems to be the only thing I do well, and the only thing I'd like to spend the rest of my life doing. What say you, Sam Malone?"

Sam is quite literally floored, and he sinks fast into a chair at the kitchen table to catch up on all those words and all those times she said his name in that serious voice. It ends, he thinks, with a proposition, and he decides he needs more information. "Um," he says. "Whattaya mean, 'do'? I mean, I know what i I /i mean when I say, 'do Sam Malone,' and usually it starts with 'that hottie over there really wants to -' But damned if I'm gonna presume to know what you meant. Yours probably has meditation."

Instead of launching into a speech on "oneness," Diane opens her purse and pulls out two airline envelopes, which she hands to him. First class seats to Italy, Rome then Venice. "I'm doing a unit there in the winter, next month, actually." Diane says. "I thought you might want to come join me. You'd love Venice. And after that it's back to Germany for the four-year fellowship, and after that -- wherever we want to go!"

Sam leaves the kitchen and goes and finds Duke in his bed in the corner of the livingroom. He lays himself down heavily beside the old dog and pats him on the shoulder. "Crazy broad wants me to go to Italy," he says. Duke whimpers. Sam stands up again.

"That's a heavy proposal," he says, going back into the kitchen. "I need time to think about it, how's that?"

Now Diane pulls herself up from her chair, with all the grace of a dancer, and cranes her neck up so he can kiss her. "Can we have sex while you think?" she asks, playfully, and Sam swoops her into his arms, damn the ache in his back, and carries her off to the bedroom.

Sarah and her husband take Duke when Rita calls. He's happy in the suburbs. Rebecca's firm buys out the bar, with Norm and Carla as major shareholders now. If he lives to be a hundred, Norm will own Cheers. Until then, Sam and Diane will be in Venice, where Diane will teach Sam the language, and where Sam will learn to love people who love food, and will even learn to cook. Later, in Germany, Sam will restore a vintage motorcycle, which will take him touring all through the mountains that surround the university town. He'll take a header which breaks his hip and his clavicle, and his motoring days will be over. Diane's heart murmur will worsen, but the doctors will say that it doesn't necessarily indicate problems. They will spend 2010 in Fiji, among the first to greet the new year. Their fighting will be heard even over the fireworks.