It was a hot summer July day in Boston, where things were coming to life. It was tourist season, so that meant that Cheers was busier than ever. You had your seasonal tourists, who came for the historical attractions. The Red Sox were doing extremely well that year, so there were some visitors to the bar who recognized Sam Malone from his heyday. It was flattering to him to know that some remembered and cared- it meant that his life hadn't been a total waste.

For Diane Chambers however, life hadn't been as great as it was seemingly for Sam. It had been six months since she had left Sam and their aborted wedding, and her book was nowhere even close to being finished. She had tried her best, but for some reason her heart just wasn't in writing- she'd found that she'd left it behind in Boston. As much as she tried to forget everything and everyone in that great city, she always found herself thinking about him, especially during one of her afternoon walks. Sumner said that he wasn't pressuring her to finish her writing, but she could tell that he was growing impatient with her lack of progress. It was funny- in Boston, her words flew freely, but that was another state, another time, another memory.

She'd found herself thinking of Sam ever so often. Sometimes she would get a trace of a man's cheap cologne and she would smile to herself. She'd find herself glancing in the mirror only to expect someone to grab it for himself. Sometimes she would hear about the Sox and how they had a shot at the playoffs, whatever that meant. But all of these roads led down one path- a path that even time couldn't destroy.

One day Sam was working at the bar, when the phone rang. He finished signing his autograph (Rebecca had never come to fully appreciate his celebrity until the fans started pouring in. And even then, she would never admit that hiring Sam back was a smart move) and then he answered it.

"Cheers. Sam Malone speaking."

On the other end was complete silence. "Hello?" Sam repeated only to start to hang up the phone.

"Sam?"

"Speaking. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to? Maybe if the stars line up we could even have the pleasure of meeting."

"Sam, it's me."

Suddenly the room seemed very quiet, even though it was anything but. " Diane? What do ..what do you want?"

"I don't know. I don't know what I want anymore. All I know is that my life is a mess and I don't know what to do about it."

He thought about what she was saying. "So why are you calling me?"

"I'm sorry. It's just that I thought we really ought to talk. After all it's been.."

"Six months, yes, I realize that. I just thought that after all of this time we really wouldn't have anything left to say to each other."

"Nothing?"

"Well you didn't hear me calling did you?"

"Are you saying that all of this is my fault? Because I'll have you know that a day with you isn't exactly a day at the beach, Malone."

"Did you call to insult me or was there something I could help you with?"

"I just..forget it. Forget I called. I'm sorry I bothered you." With that, Diane hung up the phone.

As soon as Sam turned around, he instantly regretted his words. He knew that Diane was in trouble, and here he was turning his back on her. Didn't make him feel too good about himself, truth be told. She needed him, and he wasn't there for her. Wasn't she usually there for him? Usually, except for when he pushed her away. Part of him hoped that she would call back, but he knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't.

Maybe he should try to find her. He had her number, somewhere. But in his heart he knew that things were too late. They were both adults, they had tried this over and over again but each time they failed to form the kind of relationship that they each needed. So he would let her go- it was better for her this way. They had their memories and that would be good enough. It would have to be. He wanted to go to her and hold her and tell her that everything would be all right, but even Sam recognized that he didn't have the words to make things right. Could things ever be right between them? Yes, he was mad that she didn't call when she said she would, but he could get over that. What he couldn't get over was the distance that had formed between them. Two miles or two hundred, there was enough space between them to last ten lifetimes. He couldn't get back what they had, no matter how hard he tried.

So for now, he would let her go. Sam took her picture out of his wallet and looked at it intensely. She was everything that he had ever wanted, so why couldn't he go to her? Why did she always have to make things difficult? That was their problem. Nothing had ever come easy for the two of them, so why should they start now? As he looked at her picture one last time, the three little words that had evaded their relationship came from his mouth, almost as if he hadn't realized he had said them.

"I love you." With that, Sam closed the door to a chapter in his life, one which he would never forget. It was funny- he was closing a chapter, Diane couldn't write a chapter, their lives were still intertwined. But in his heart, if he were honest with himself, he knew that it would never be over. As long as he lived, he would never forget her, even if he tried. But their love had ended, just as his baseball career had. So it was time to move on, time to let go, and try to pretend that he didn't still love her. He could do it- he was Sam Malone, professional denier. He could do what he wanted when he wanted, and he liked it that way. Maybe he was destined to be alone forever, but even he knew that she would be with him. Always.

The end