Later she collapses on his chest so he can feel her heartbeat against his skin, her breath as she pants into the crook of his neck. He runs his hands along her sides and thinks wildly that bolts of lightning are emitting from his fingertips.
"God," he murmurs after a long moment. She seems to stir against him, just slightly. "Honey," he says, "maybe we really are wrong for each other, but I'll be damned if anything has ever seemed more right to me."
She gives a little snort of amusement and he winces, thinking she is making fun of him. "Eloquently put," she answers softly. With a searching wariness he meets her eyes and is at first relieved to see how sad they are, but a familiar pang ensues and he tightens his grip around her waist. They stay like this for a time, folded into each other, until she speaks – as he knows she must, because she could never tolerate silence for very long.
"Sam," she says, and her voice is mostly tired but possesses a probing sharpness that he remembers with a jolt, and instinctively he tenses with irritation, resigned to the knowledge that she is about to ask him a difficult question. Then he finds himself smiling against her shoulder when he realizes how much he has missed being driven crazy.
She slides from his chest to the bed beside him and as her weight shifts he feels a surge of panic, but she remains pressed into his side as she looks up to meet his eyes crookedly. "Who was that woman?" she asks. "Who you pretended to be married to?"
"Rebecca?" he grins, and for a moment she looks affronted, until her eyes trail to his hands still running up and down her side and seems to lose her train of thought.
"She's not really as much of a mess as she seemed today," he explains. "Well," he adds. "Actually, I guess she is. But she's great. She's the manager of Cheers. Or, uh, well, she does something. I'm almost sure of it."
"The manager?" Diane asks, and before he can respond she repeats his name in the same incisive tone, continuing. "Sam, you weren't… Were you ever in a relationship with her?" He opens his mouth to speak but she ignores him and carries on, her brow furrowing in thought. "Not that I could blame you if you were," she says. "Of course I couldn't, of course you've seen other women and I've seen other men… As far as I could tell our affair d'amour was, as they say, fini, and it must have seemed even more so for you when I didn't… Well, I'm only curious, you still haven't told me much about what you've been doing. I understand, of course, if you don't want to, after what I did, but I thought I would ask. It's only natural for one to want to know these things, I think, with a history like ours – I'm sure you have similar questions for me, or at least you would have when I knew you, but maybe you've changed – if that's possible. Of course it must be possible, even probable – not that there's anything wrong if you haven't, I suppose. I don't mean to be judgmental, it's hardly my place at this point. I suppose that's why I'm asking this. Suddenly I'm reminded of a line from Keats, it goes -"
"Diane," he interrupts. "Shut up." Her eyes are blazing as she meets his gaze and beneath his hands her body stiffens with the haughty self-possession of a fighter, but when she sees his smile she softens again and grins back sheepishly. "Okay," she agrees.
"What I want to know," he smirks, "is how about you and that dog groomer of yours?"
Now she laughs and it sounds to him like a bell, the tinkle of champagne glasses in the bar. "I've had a few boyfriends," she murmurs after a pause, almost guiltily. "But nothing serious."
"I've had a few girlfriends," he shrugs.
"She's never had any girlfriends, as far as I know."
"Sam," she reprimands, rolling her eyes. "You know what I mean. Was she one of your… how did you like to put it?... Love bunnies?"
Her words carry a trace of accusation and he fidgets with discomfort. His first thought is that no, she wasn't, but something crosses his mind and he hesitates. "Well," he says. "Uh, for awhile there we wanted to have a kid together." Again Diane stiffens and again he is struck with an instinctive panic, which he quells by pulling her closer. "But we didn't," he adds, as if this were not obvious.
"You tried to have a child with her?" Diane asks incredulously.
"Well, yeah," he says, attempting to meet her eyes but finding it impossible. "I just… I guess I just realized lately that I really want a kid. I guess I've started to feel kind of lonely." He steals a fleeting glance at her face, which is twisted in contemplation.
"Oh," she says finally, her tone indecipherable - a strange marriage of skeptical guardedness and compassion, all infused with a sadness that he recognizes as distinctly her own.
"But, uh," he continues – rather in spite of himself, his limbs suddenly heavy. "I don't know that I can. Have a kid, I mean."
When she takes his hand his fingers seem to come back to life and coil around hers in a gesture of gratitude. "What do you mean?" she asks.
"Well," he says slowly, struggling to give form to thoughts he seldom allows himself to think. "We tried for a long time, and she never got pregnant. And she went to a doctor so we know it wasn't her, but Carla set my test results on fire." Under different circumstances this image might have made Diane laugh, but here she takes in his words quietly, biting her lip and looking just a little stricken.
"Is that why you stopped?"
"Well, no," he answers, forcing himself to look at her as he continues. "We, uh, we stopped because we realized we weren't in love with each other." It is almost a physical strain to meet her eyes but he is glad he does it because his words seem to vanish into them, along with all the countless other moments that have come before this and between this. They suddenly strike him as tremendously unimportant, impossible to consider, and he almost forgets what they are talking about.
"I see," she replies weakly. She seems momentarily overwhelmed by the forcefulness of his stare, hesitatingly breaking eye contact before speaking again. "You've surprised me a little today, Sam Malone," she murmurs, and surprises him in turn with her silence, almost enveloping. He feels as if he has arrived at the eye of a storm and is stunned by the calmness of it, while the rest of the world rages around them.
"Diane," he asks suddenly, unnerved by the desperation he hears in his voice. "Is our, uh, affair d'amour –"
"Affair d'amour," she corrects his pronunciation.
"Yeah, that," he smirks. "Is it, uh, do you think it's really…"
"Sam," she interrupts, but her voice almost breaks and she stops to take a deep breath. Her sadness now is undisguised and infuses him with a sinking sense of helplessness, but even this cannot fully eclipse the thrill of hearing her speak his name. Part of him wants her to say it again and again, forever, but she continues her thoughts waveringly. "I can't leave L.A."
"Oh," he answers slowly.
"It's not that… I mean, it's not because…" The forced steadiness dissipates from her voice and she starts to cry, paralyzing him. He squeezes her hand clumsily, but can think of nothing to say.
"I couldn't… I couldn't ask you to come." She pauses, sniffing loudly. "Could I?" she adds in a whisper.
As he pulls her closer he thinks of Boston, his friends, but mostly the bar - seeing in his mind its shadowy contours encircled by swirling, empty air, as resounding and rapturous as a cathedral. He almost laughs when he remembers Carla's spiritualist, who told them the spirits of the dead lingered there; it is not the dead, he now knows, but their own ghosts waiting quietly for resolution. Or were the ghosts his alone? When no one else had been there to do it, they watched over him, a kind of hospice for his withering youth. Cheers is part of him, part of her, part of them, and his grip around her tightens as he is consumed suddenly with anger, wondering to himself why things always have to be so hard. But it fades quickly to resignation and his musings become dull and lifeless. "No," he thinks. "No, I won't leave."
Then he buries his face in the crook of her neck and the world outside seems to lurch around him, blurring and dwindling into nonexistence; and all that remains is the scent of her hair in his nostrils, her skin burning beneath his hands.
"Of course I'll go with you," he murmurs. He barely hears himself.