The Thirteenth Step
It was a beautiful day in June when Boston's wedding of the year took place. Sam cleaned up well in his suit, and Diane looked as beautiful as anyone had ever seen her in her ankle length cream colored gown. Her hair was swept away from her face, and her makeup had been expertly applied. So when the Cheers Bar opened for business as usual that day, every patron and guest was duly impressed with the occasion.
Sam hadn't wanted to choose Cheers as the location of their second wedding, due to the ill-fated turn of events that had cursed their first one. But Diane insisted that this time was different, there was no curse, and where better to end one chapter of their life than the location that had started it all? She was a romantic, and even though she'd never dreamed of marrying in a bar, she couldn't think of a place that she would rather be right at that moment in time.
Carla, wearing all black, simply gave Sam a nod as he looked over at her, anxious to see if she would intervene with this wedding. But she said nothing, so he turned around and looked elsewhere. There were all of his friends. His best man of course was Woody. True, the thought that it should have been Coach standing there instead of the young man made him feel a bit sad and nostalgic at the same time, but Sam knew that if Coach were there he would have been so proud. He would have insisted on straightening Sam's tie, even though he himself preferred clip-ons, and he would have given him the talk that every groom needed to hear. Fortunately, Coach and Woody were casual acquaintances of sorts, being pen pals, which was what led Woody to Cheers to begin with. There was no one else, other than Coach, that Sam would have wanted to be best man. He and Woody had been through a lot together, and although he had initially resisted the father and son tone their relationship had taken (Sam preferred to think of Woody as a younger brother instead) he knew that everything had fallen into place just as they should have.
Frasier, Sam knew, was a bit disappointed that he hadn't been chosen as best man, but a man as smart as he surely could understand how complex that would have been. No, there was no time to dwell on the past; today was about new beginnings, one day at a time. Rebecca and her husband Don were there, cheering them on just as they should have. At one point, Sam had wondered about he and Rebecca and what their destiny was, but in his heart there was only room for one woman. And as Norm had pointed out so many months ago, a man could never be unfaithful to his one true love.
And there she was. Diane looked so beautiful that Sam wondered how he would manage to say their vows. Seeing her look so happy, so at peace, made him question momentarily if he would be able to sustain this way of life that he'd come to know. But the most important thing was, that maybe they had never had before, was that she believed in him, and he, her, and knowing that was sure to make a difference.
The beginning of the ceremony breezed right by Sam. He never was one for big words, so he just nodded and smiled whenever the minister would look at him. But Diane brought him back to reality with a gentle nudge.
"Is it my turn?" Sam asked, causing the guests to laugh among themselves.
"Yes, Sam, it is your turn. This is where we wrote our own vows. You did write yours, didn't you?" Diane frowned.
"Of course I did. It's just that I left them at home. Can I go back to get them?"
"No, Sam. It's okay. Just make something up," Diane encouraged. This also revealed that even though Sam was the one doing all the changes, obviously something in him had inspired her Diane as well. For once upon a time she would have fretted if things weren't absolutely perfect, especially on this day, but for now she seemed to accept Sam for who he was, the procrastinator that he was, all in all.
"Gee Diane, I'm not good with words, not like you are. I don't really know what to say," Sam started, looking around nervously.
"Go on. I know you can do this," she took his hand and gently sqeezed it.
"Yeah, Sam. We all know you can do it too. You're with friends, remember?" Woody added, causing Sam to smile nervously.
"Okay, okay, here goes nothing. Diane, when I first met you, I was a shallow, self-seeking, selfish kind of guy. And after everything that we've been through, I didn't think I would ever change. But I have. I know I have. I'd like to say that it was because of you, but that wouldn't be exactly true."
Diane raised her eyebrow.
"Yes, it did take losing you to make me take stock of my life, to appreciate life a little bit differently. I distracted myself by booze, women, trying to get the bar back, my car…but in the end I had to change because I wanted to. There was nothing in it for me to gain. In fact, I was afraid of losing face with some of my friends. But I went ahead and made those changes, because I knew that if I didn't, I would continue to lose everything that had ever meant anything to me. I know you, you're probably wondering where you fit in," Sam smiled at Diane. "I don't know when I realized that I was still in love with you. Probably about the same time I started to love myself. Man, I hear myself talking and I can hardly believe it's me saying these things. But it's true. I look in the mirror and I like the man I see. That is how I know that I can marry you. I used to think that you thought you were better than me. Maybe, maybe not. I know I cannot change you, or what you think of me. But today as we stand here in front of our friends, I can promise you that I will love you the best I can. You can take that to the bank."
Diane wiped the tears from her eyes. "Oh, Sam, that was beautiful."
"See, all those years I spent pretending to listen to you really paid off!" Sam laughed. He even laughed when she slapped his arm.
"Sam, I know that I haven 't made things easy on you. Life with you was always rocky, and in some ways I suppose that was part of the appeal of our relationship, at least it was for me. But believe it or not, I always saw something in you that I don't think that anyone else had, not even you. I appreciate that the road leading us here has been a long and winded one, rocky at most and ardent at best. But here we are, pledging our undying love to one another, with our loved ones here to witness this momentous occasion. But I always saw something in you Sam, no matter how many times we fought or broke up or hated each other. Losing you the first time…wow, I had not planned on going there, but your honesty has inspired me…losing you the first time I did not think that I could ever become whole again. You see, without you there was part of me that was missing, part of me I could not escape even as I looked in the mirror. Even during the most difficult days of my life you were there with me, and even though I hated you at the time for it, today, I must thank you. For I would not be the woman you see today, the woman who is ready to become Mrs. Sam Malone. And I…"
"Okay, okay, I get it!" Sam smiled ready to kiss his bride. "Is this the part where we, where I…"
"No, Sam, the rings!"
As the two exchanged rings, neither of them really heard what the minister said, for they were both lost in each other's own private world. It was the world Carla had resented, the one that time tried to break, but after today, they knew that nothing would keep them apart. Especially not they themselves.
"And, by the powers vested in me by the great state of Massachusetts, I hereby declare you Mr. and Mrs. Sam Malone. Mr. Malone, you may, finally, kiss your bride!"
No one had to tell Sam that twice. He did what he should have done a long time ago- he took Diane into his arms and kissed her, sealing their fate from that day forward. Sam would always have to work on his Program, he would always struggle with sobriety, and some days it was Diane who drove him out of his mind. But life was good, and he knew that he had so much to be thankful for. And for that, he thanked his higher power every day.