A few weeks later Sam was feeling much better and was looking forward to his first outing since the stroke. He's been tired of being cooped up in the hospital room, and Diane knew that this was the best thing she could do for him. Yes, he'd tried pushing her away but even found that his strength was no match for her will. She'd stubbornly and lovingly stayed at his side the entire time, and for once he was too tired to protest. They'd had their differences over the years, but even he was starting to realize what their relationship had meant to her.
"Cheers? You're taking me to Cheers?"
"Why not, Sam? This was your home away from home for the better part of your life. I think that this would do you very well if you were to make your grand entrance, if only to see your friends again."
"I don't want to see my friends. I don't want them to see me like this."
"Come on, Sam. You're in for quite the surprise," Diane grinned proudly as she pulled up the wheelchair.
Sam was moved to near tears as he entered the bar, which was apparently a standing room only place on that cool February day. He'd never seen the place so packed in his entire life. It had been years since he'd been there, but he could see that in Woody's hands, the place had done quite well.
"What's all this? Diane, are you behind all of this?" He laughed as he faced her.
"With a little help." She nodded towards Woody, who was grinning wildly as he waved towards Sam.
"Is this all for me? Is there a Sox reunion I didn't know about?" He looked around and saw many familiar faces, even if he didn't know all their names.
"Yes, Sam, it's for you. Enjoy it. It's your day again," Diane leaned over to kiss him on the cheek before making their way to a table.
"Woody…what can I say? When I sold you the bar, I never had any idea you'd actually make a living out of it. You've done good…sport."
Woody and Sam both remembered that was Sam's first nickname for the younger bartender, who'd beamed in delight at the thought of another nickname. "Welcome home, Sam."
"Hey little brother, what's a guy got to do to get service in this joint?"
"Derek? You're here?"
Derek grinned. "I wouldn't miss this for the world. Welcome back, Sam."
Even though they'd shared their acrimony over the years, even Sam had to admit that it was good seeing his brother again. This was…an experience. There was no other way to put it. It was hard to hear over the applause of the crowd, but he was feeling overwhelmed at all the attention that he was receiving.
"You see, Sam, you have many people rooting for you. You have lots of people that care for you. Look what you've meant to these people over the years," Diane pointed out.
"Kind of feels like an Irish wake," Sam was joking, but it hurt Diane to hear him talk like that.
"Don't say that. We're your friends and we all care about you. Don't you ever forget that. No more negativity."
"Hey look, is that Frasier? Frasier W. Crane?"
"Yes, Frasier and his wife Charlotte are here, look over there beside her, that's Frederick! You remember him, don't you?"
"My he's grown a little bit since the last time that I saw him, how are you buddy?"
"Nice to see you again, Mr. Malone. My dad only now told me that I spoke my first word here at this very bar," Frederick laughed. "What was it again?"
"Norm!" yelled the crowd as the subject of Frederick's first word entered the bar.
"Would you like a cold one, Mr. Peterson?" Woody asked.
"No thanks. I think it's about time I give up the stuff." Everyone looked at him. "Okay, time's up!"
Carla walked over to Sam, having been difficult to spot in the crowd. "Hey Mayday, what do you know?"
"My goodness Carla. Look at you. How are the kids?"
"Busy. I have 17 grandchildren now."
Sam laughed. "It's good to see you, Carla."
"I guess it's not true what they say," Sam turned to Diane.
"They say you can't go home again, but apparently you can. Diane…I never stopped to thank you."
"For all of this. For everything. I owe you so much…"
"Consider us even. You let me have my time for writing, I just…well, I'm here now, and that's all that matters."
He reached over and took her hand, resolving more than ever to turn his life around. Yes, for the first time in a long time, Sam finally realized he had something worth living for. And that something-someone- was holding his hand.