The bar was hopping that Friday night. Diane and Carla were both logging many miles to and from and around the brass rail, and Sam and Coach's hands flew to decant bottles and taps into glasses and mugs. As fast as an order was filled, another would arrive, and the two large parties set up at opposite ends of the bar made it difficult to hear one's own thoughts. The incessant blaring of the jukebox only added to the din. Coach was paired with Carla at one end of the bar and Diane was paired with Sam at the other. They seemed to work best that way, and there was less tripping over each other.

They each had their own coping mechanisms. Carla worked faster and her barbs became quicker and more cutting. Coach became boisterous and jolly, bellowing at Sam and the women as though they were in training camp, and occasionally bursting into song. Diane stopped her chatting and focused on getting her orders exactly right—she was on lockdown and nothing was going to break her concentration. Sam watched Diane. None of this was particularly daunting to him, so as he steadily filled orders, he studied her as she moved to and fro, bemused by how serious she was, and at the same time admiring her focus. She'd come a long way since that day she first set foot in Cheers, and was getting to be a damn good waitress.

She moved like a swan, seemingly without effort, but he knew beneath the surface she was treading water as fast as she could. He loved how she'd set her jaw as she moved through the crowd, and how her chin would dimple when she was lost in thought. Her skirt swung and billowed around her as she dodged obstacles, and the motion of her slim hips was positively hypnotic to him. She was glowing with a sheen of uncharacteristic perspiration as she hoisted heavy trays to their destinations.

The heat of the room was beginning to affect her. Her silk sleeves were pushed up and the collar of her dress was unbuttoned low enough to reveal the slightest curve of cleavage. When she leaned over the bar just so, her could catch a fleeting glimpse of white lace stretched over her delicate curves, and it thrilled him to the core. He'd have given anything for more than a glimpse.

Everything about her was utterly provocative to him. Even her crisp consonants and round vowels filled him with desire. Just the idea of her mouth forming those syllables with her full pink lips and quick, clever tongue set him aflame. How he burned to taste her just once. He'd tried not long ago, but she'd tossed him onto the pool table before he knew what was happening. No, he wanted a long, slow kiss, languid and sensual. He wanted to explore her… to know her inside and out, and her mouth was where he wanted to start.

He longed to tell her what he thought of her. How fascinating she was, and exciting and brilliant, and God, was she beautiful. Not supermodel beautiful, but real, flesh and blood human beautiful, and that made her all the more sexy to him. He longed to tell her all the things he wanted to do with her, and for her, and to her.

Despite her best efforts, Diane's thoughts were growing scattered. She was doing her damnedest to keep orders straight, not spill anything, and give the correct change to the correct parties, but her eyes kept moving back to the bar. What was it about him that made it impossible to look away? Sure he was handsome, but she also liked watching him work.

He was so cool under pressure, with an easy smile and a warm laugh. He didn't panic when confronted by a swarm of patrons. Instead, he talked with them, put them at ease and made them feel at home while they waited. No one could get angry with him. He was just too likeable. Diane wished people responded to her in that way. What she usually got was impatience or a roll of the eyes. Not Sam though. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was gorgeous.

She found herself studying his face often. That heavy brow line gave him a certain amount of gravitas while his eyes twinkled with mischief below. His face was rough hewn, but well-crafted and very distinctive. She wondered if he looked like one of his parents. She wondered many things about him, not the least of which was how his lips would feel against her own. She found herself fantasizing about running her tongue over his full lower lip and marveled at the odd thoughts he could conjure in her.

Across the room she watched him, sleeves rolled up, with his hairy, strong forearms at the ready. He was all man, and there was something about that that thrilled her beyond belief. She'd dated so many effete intellectuals, she'd forgotten what it was like to be with that kind of a guy. Now she wanted desperately to remember. She wanted his big, powerful hands on her body, though she was unsure if she wanted to take or be taken. Either option held its considerable charms.

She often gave herself over to envy of the women he paraded through the bar. Every weekend he spent in Cape Cod, she wished she were the one packing her things and driving off with him. Though each woman inspired a certain jealousy in her, she was always relieved that they were different every time. "Women" was better than "woman". She didn't think she could handle "woman".

Now she watched him flirting with a too young blonde, and smiled in spite of herself. My God he was charming, even when it wasn't directed at her. She yearned to tell him so. To tell him how she'd been watching him and how much she liked what she saw. She wanted to whisper in his ear exactly what she wanted from him and see his reaction. Positively scandalous, she thought, but incredibly tempting.

She approached the bar with another order, just as a commotion broke out behind her. She tried shouting over the laughter to no avail. Sam couldn't understand a word she was saying. Stepping up on the lower rail, she leaned slightly over the bar, beckoning him to lean in closer so she could tell him what she needed. As he leaned in she could smell the cologne she'd derided so often, only now, it was so familiar, she associated it with him, and it left her breathless for completely different reasons.

He leaned closer to hear her, but not before another glance at her neckline, which filled him with an adrenaline rush that took him by surprise. The bar seemed to be near full on riot mode, and she put her lips close to his ear to be heard. Man, did she smell good. Her warm breath tickled his earlobe and he felt his temperature rise. The blood was leaving his brain. The sound of her voice was all he could hear and the thought of her mouth being that close to him made him stiffen just a little.

Just then, Diane was bumped by a careless young man who staggered over to the bar, and her lips brushed against his skin. An electric current seemed to pass through the point of contact and it was all Sam could do not to leap over the bar and take her right then and there.

"Oops, I'm sorry," she offered, backing off.

He beckoned her closer, pushing her hair behind her ear so he could be heard. She felt she might faint at his proximity.

"Don't be…" he murmured, and the warm baritone of his voice sent a pulse of excitement down through her entire body. "What do you need, Diane?" he asked, his words laden with invitation.

Diane was game. Taking a long breath, she put her lips very close to his ear. "Let me think… what do I need..?" she began, her voice low and husky, "I need…" She took another breath, lips parted, teeth together, feeling warmer as she let her thoughts wander to what she really wanted from him. She let her fingers wander provocatively over her low neckline.

Between her voice, her words and the path of her fingertips, Sam thought he'd explode if he didn't have her. He let his thumb trace a path down the side of her neck and over her shoulder.

She turned her head to look at him and realized how close their faces were. If she leaned in just a little bit further, their lips would be touching. She was convinced he could hear her heart beating in her chest. His eyes searched hers for a signal. Her eyes widened, and she lowered her lids seductively.

"'Ay! You two!" Carla hollered across the bar, "Ya mind not going into full rut in front of the customers? No one wants to see that!"

"Speak for yourself!" slurred Al salaciously. The whole bar erupted in laughter and catcalls.

Sam could have killed Carla right then and there. Of course she'd be the one to notice. No one could destroy his momentum with Diane like Carla could. They both cringed and quickly moved away from their positions. They went back to work, all the while wondering when the next opportunity might present itself. They could hardly wait.