Note: This story arose out of the need, I felt, to explore the fast friendship that presumably developed early on between Diane Chambers and Woody Boyd. The first episode following Diane's (off-screen) return to Cheers, "Woody Goes Belly Up", has Diane already having developed a sweet fondness for Woody, which I often like to describe as akin to a "big-sister/little-brother" dynamic. And Woody already considers her (along with Sam) one of his two closest friends.

What sparked that closeness between the two of them—the closeness that eventually leads "Miss Chambers" (as Woody persists on calling her, even though he's clearly comfortable with calling Sam "Sam") to confide to Woody the pain in her heart at the end of the Fourth Season—and her worry that she may have truly lost Sam to Janet? How did they kick off for the first time the deep friendship that would eventually lead to Woody calling Diane one of his "favorite people in the whole world"?

Well…here is my attempt to answer those questions. Enjoy!

The handle of the door felt strangely warm to the touch. Warm…inviting: it seemed to say, "Welcome home, Diane Chambers."

Diane paused, and gathered herself, swallowing hard as she closed her eyes. So long—it feels almost like an eternity. And it was only several months.

She took a deep breath, held it for a moment—and opened her eyes as she walked back into Cheers.

What was she expecting? A cheer from the patrons and denizens, as the bar rang out with applause? An en masse call of her name—as the custom was whenever Norman walked in?

No…not this time, at least. As far as most of them were presumably concerned, it was only business as usual.

Well…not everyone. There—there was Sam Malone behind the bar, and when he turned at the sound of her opening the door, he called out, "Hey—Diane, over here!"

Diane felt a smile, of relief as much as anything else. And there were Clifford and Norman, sitting across the bar from where she took a seat. They smiled at her, and Clifford gave a nod of recognition and respect—and Norman gave a light salute with his mug, with a mouthed, "Hey, Diane."

There was a new bartender—a young man she didn't recognize. Well—she had the feeling that problem wouldn't last too long.

Sam rested against the counter, with a sly smirk on his face. "Sister Chambers!—care to bless a drink—maybe…say a prayer for the business, today?"

Diane scoffed, rolling her eyes as she shook her head. "Sam…"

"Hey—you worked in a convent, expect people to ask for a prayer."

"Sam, would you mind? I intend to surpass the past stages of my life—and in the…admittedly unlikely event you hadn't noticed, I am not dressed as I was yesterday."

Sam made a show of looking down—and up…taking note of her choice of clothing for today (a red button-up shirt with a white knee-length skirt), and the fact that she was now wearing her hair loosely about her shoulders. Now that Diane thought of it—actually, now that she felt his gaze…she supposed it did flatter her figure—a bit. Only a bit—nothing particularly "accentuated", of course…but to a man like Sam Malone, she suspected, precious little she would wear would assuage his mind of what was one of the few subjects in which he would allow his imagination to take root—

No…none of that—at least, not now. He told you everything, didn't he?—his flying overnight, across the ocean, to ask you to—

Stop it! The two of you have just agreed, yesterday—!

Sam shrugged, "Point taken—I stand corrected. So—I don't suppose you're looking for a job?"

"I don't suppose you're looking for a waitress?"

"Hey, I got an apron, right here and ready…but it's been kind of a slow day. If you'd rather start tomorrow, that's fine."

Diane shrugged. "Regardless—I think you'd better hand it to me, in case you need me."

Oh, right— "Need me." What a wonderful double meaning to drop, without intending it! Of course, it'll be too much to ask that he doesn't notice—

He chuckled—but to his credit, he didn't bait her with it. "Well, here you are," he said, handing her the apron, "But not until I say."

Diane nodded, as she took it. "Fair enough, I suppose."

"Okay…so, care for champagne—celebrate your coming back?"

Diane shrugged. "If you insist."

"Say no more," he began to turn—but paused, and added, "And to you, that literally means—"

"Oh, Sam—"

"All right, all right, coming right up—uh…" he frowned, as he looked around for something. Finally, he turned to the new bartender, "Hey, Woody?"

"Yeah, Sam?"

"You know where I put the champagne?"

"Gee, well—yeah, sure, Sam! It's over here, by the—"

"Well, come over here with it—I have to mix a few drinks, so pour a glass for Diane, will you?"

The man nodded with a smile as he grabbed the bottle from under the counter, bringing it over. "Sure, Sam—will do!"

"Thanks…" Sam turned to Diane as he stepped aside, and added in introduction, "Okay—Diane Chambers, Woody Boyd."

Diane smiled as she rose to her feet, extending a hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Woody."

Woody Boyd took her hand with a firm shake. "Oh, pleasure's all mine, Miss Chambers! So, you wanted champagne, right?"

Diane nodded, as she sat back down on the stool.

"Well, then…" he took a wine goblet from its place on the rack above his head, setting it down before her—and right beside it, he set down the bottle, cupping his hand over the cork as he wrenched it out. "And—there you go!" he said, as he picked up the bottle and filled her glass.

Diane chuckled, shaking her head. "Wouldn't it have been simpler to 'pop' it out, as most people do?"

"Well—sure, Miss Chambers, but I wouldn't want to go around looking for it after the pop—if you know what I mean," he added, the easy smile never leaving his face.

It was contagious, that smile. Diane found herself liking the man already. "Well, I admit, that can become irritating, when it happens," she replied as she picked up the glass, taking a sip.

"Well, sure—and you know it's even worse?—let me tell ya, when it's first opened, and the foam just…"

Diane nodded. "I know—it's happened far too often to me for comfort. Of course, I admit there are certain occasions wherein it's actually appropriate—certain parties and events where a festive mood is appropriate for the celebration. Still…" she shrugged, "It's as a rule too messy for comfort."

"Oh, uh…so, Miss Chambers, have you done this a lot? Pour champagne, I mean."

Diane chuckled. "Didn't Sam tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Oh, well—I've been a waitress, here, actually—for three years, give or take several months. I'm hoping to work here again—hence the apron," she held it up a little for him.

"Oh—right," Woody grinned as he snapped his fingers once in remembrance. "That's right. You were the waitress I've been hearing so much about. Wow!" his excitement rose, with his voice—"That's sure a coincidence, huh?" He laughed.

Diane sighed, smiling. "What have you heard?"

"Oh—well," Woody leaned against the counter, to her, as he pointed to her in explanation, "I've heard that you were very smart—very educated, and very sophisticated…"

Diane chuckled. "Thank you, Woody, I try."

"Yeah, but—they also said you were pretty…'snooty', or something? Funny, I haven't seen you sniff around that much, so far—"

Diane snorted, shaking her head.

Woody shrugged. "Well, there you go. Probably I should just be patient, next time—"

"Oh, Woody…" Diane sighed, "Not that it matters, but that isn't quite what it means."

"Oh…" Woody frowned a little. "What does it mean?"

"It means—that is, it would mean…that I look down my nose at other people…not that I 'sniff around', per se."

"Oh…. Well, in that case, I'd say it doesn't look true to me—you're not tall enough, to be 'looking down your nose' at everyone—"

Diane laughed, and shook her head again. "Never mind. It's not important…."

"Oh, okay. But, Miss Chambers—everyone says you usually have a book, or something. Do you?"

Diane shrugged. "When I'm reading one."

"So, you read a lot?"

"I suppose so." She smiled at him, "Do you read, Woody?"

"Whenever I can…though I usually can't. So much to do—so little time, like they say, you know?"

Diane shrugged. "Perhaps. So…Woody—if I may ask, how did you come to work here?"

"Well, today I actually took a taxi, but—"

"No, no," Diane chuckled, "I mean, what made you decide to work here?"

"Oh! Well, uh…Sam actually hired me. I've got some experience with bartending, you know, and I kinda knew Mr. Pantuso—you know, most people called him Coach—"

Diane nodded, still smiling…but found herself having to fight to keep from looking away—or to…

Oh, Coach…why? Why couldn't I have been here, for you…for me? You were—oh, Coach…you were, for all your shortcomings—you were something of a second father, weren't you? Why couldn't—

Woody frowned, looking at her intently. "Miss Chambers, you okay?"

She blinked. Her vision had blurred for a moment…and was threatening to, again.

"I—I'm sorry," she muttered, lowering her gaze for a moment, her eyes closed. When she was satisfied she was fine, she looked back up at him. "It's just…I knew Coach too, Woody. I…well, he was very close to me, and…I believe—I hope I was, truly…very close to him."

Woody nodded, "Well, um…I never actually met him, see. He and I were pen pals."

Diane nodded, smiling warmly at him. "I understand."

"Well, good—because it took a bit for Sam to get the whole thing. Coach and me, we actually exchanged pens, not just letters."

Diane chuckled, but found she couldn't resist adding, "Coach and I."

"Oh, you did it, too?"

"N-no, Woody, it's…you don't say 'Coach and me exchanged pens', you say 'Coach and I exchanged'—"

She stopped, and sighed, her gaze lowered. "I'm sorry, Woody," she said, "That—well, I suppose you can call that a little 'snooty' of me…."

"Oh, no, Miss Chambers—you'd have to be looking down your nose at me, remember? And you're sitting down and I'm—"

This made Diane laugh again, despite her self-reproach, as she said, "It's an expression, Woody—for goodness sake!"

"Oh…."

Bless his heart, he still didn't get it. "All right—in this case, I corrected you when I didn't have to—again, I'm sorry for that…."

"Oh, that's okay, Miss Chambers—I wouldn't want to embarrass myself by saying the wrong thing, you know?"

Diane nodded, smiling in relief. Then she tilted her head. "Woody…"

"Yeah, Miss Chambers?"

"You know my first name's 'Diane', don't you?"

"Well…sure, Miss Chambers."

"Well, then—you can call me 'Diane', if you like. I've called you 'Woody', after all…."

Woody grinned. "Well, thank you, Miss Chambers—but my dad always taught me, he said, 'Woody…always make sure you treat every lady you meet with a lot of respect. Now, you respect other men, too, sure—and if they tell you to address 'em like buddies, great. But a lady's a lady, Woody…and you treat her that way.'"

Diane's smile grew as she heard this—her fondness for this young man growing in kind. He's so—sweet, and endearing, and…dare I say it, he's very charming—in his own way.

Still: "Woody," she said, "I hope you didn't refer to, for example, your classmates in this way—'Miss' et cetera…."

"Oh, no, Miss Chambers—the girls in my class, they were girls. See, they weren't old enough to be—"

"Woody," Diane shook her head. "I hardly think you're that much younger than I."

"Well, that depends, Miss Chambers. But—" He smirked, "I'm not gonna ask. Now, that's something my mom told me: 'Woody, don't ever ask a lady her age…especially a young lady.'"

Diane gave a nod, still smiling in encouragement. "Good for you, Woody."

"Well, you, Miss Chambers, for what it's worth—now, I don't think you're that much older than me, either. You sure don't look any older—" He cut himself off, and added "Wait, is that okay for me to…?"

Diane chuckled, leaning forward a bit. "Oh, it's perfectly fine, Woody. And thank you."

"You're welcome, Miss Chambers. But I didn't meet you as a kid—which kinda means we certainly didn't grow up together."

"Essentially."

"And I'd tell you something, Miss Chambers—you kinda strike me as a whole lot classier than most of the girls I knew as a kid—and still a bit classier than the rest, if you know what I mean…."

Diane chuckled again, shaking her head, "Oh, Woody—you have no idea how charming you can be, have you?"

"Uh, well…no, I guess not. How charming can I be, Miss Chambers?"

Diane smiled, patting him on the cheek. "Very charming, Mr. Boyd."

Woody shrugged. "Oh, you don't need to call me that, Miss Chambers—I'm a working guy, not nearly as classy as, I don't know, Dr. Crane—"

Diane stiffened, looking away a little…but drove the pain away as she shrugged, keeping her smile. "Well," she said, meeting his gaze "I'm sure, at the very least, you'd be able to marry into something."

"Into what, Miss Chambers?"

Diane shrugged, straightening up on her stool. "Well—for instance, in high school, I personally was voted 'the girl most likely to marry into old money'."

Now it was Woody's turn to chuckle. "Aw, no, Miss Chambers—you don't marry money, you marry—"

Diane laughed. "That's not what I meant…."

"Oh. See, that's one of the things I like about you already, Miss Chambers—you're pretty smart. You know what a lot of things mean, that I don't."

Diane nodded. "Well, essentially, it was an amusing 'game' of sorts—many of the girls in the school came together to determine the different kinds of—shall we say, 'popularity' each of us would probably be able to enjoy in the future. It was decided—by vote, of course—that I would be the girl…or lady, if you like," she added with a smile, "who would most probably marry a member of a wealthy family. I—suppose it's because of my…breeding, if you will."

Woody said nothing, listening intently…clearly captivated by her account.

Despite herself, Diane felt a surge of excitement inside, as she noticed this. He's actually listening to me—so help me, there's someone in this bar at last who'll hear what I have to say…!

She went on, "My father was a…very wealthy man, himself—the owner of a Wall Street firm—quite powerful, in his own way. And I was always…quite learned in high culture—literature, among other things. I suppose all of that would make me 'ready' to fit into the role of a socialite."

"Well, that's all right, Miss Chambers," Woody said without missing a beat, "I'd say you're pretty socialite already."

Diane blinked—and laughed, nodding. "Well, I suppose so! And if you've heard what others have said about me, here, I can actually be too—"

"He should've been so lucky!" came the voice of Carla, as the shorter waitress cleaned up a nearby table. "Would've saved him his sanity."

Diane turned to her, her smile growing. "Hello, Carla! It's—"

"Save it," Carla said, as she finished putting the cups and the trash on her tray, "I want to keep my ears, unlike that doofus…." And with that, she headed off—to the opposite end of the bar, passing the tray to Sam.

Diane sighed, turning to Woody, "I'm sorry, Woody…."

"No, it's okay, Miss Chambers. Ms. Tortelli does that to everyone."

"Yes, I'm aware," Diane nodded. "Heaven knows I've been the object of her barbs for more times than I can count."

"Well, I don't think it's really because she doesn't like you."

Diane smiled. "Neither do I, Woody. Have you also witnessed her…admittedly brief moments of affection, then?"

"Well, not yet, I guess. I just can't believe anyone wouldn't like you, Miss Chambers. I really like you—a lot."

Diane's smile grew. "Oh, Woody…."

And she reached across the counter with both hands, hugging him tight.

When she sat back down, Woody shrugged. "Gee, you know, I don't know if I'll ever 'marry money', but gotta say I kinda like being socialite!"

Diane laughed. "Sociable, Woody."

"Oh—right…."

Diane nodded, still smiling. "Well, Woody—I think we'll get along quite wonderfully, you and I."

"Sure hope so, Miss Chambers."

Diane noticed her glass of champagne—and remembered she'd barely touched it after her first sip. She took it, as Carla called over to Woody, "Hey, hickster! I need two vodka gimlets, a cherry soda, five beers from the keg, and two Bloody Marys. Ya got it?"

"Right on, Ms. Tort—"

"Carla, hayseed—or ya lose that baby-face mug in seventeen seconds!"

"Sure, Carla." Woody turned back to Diane, "Sorry, Miss Chambers, but I gotta get back to work…."

Diane chuckled, waving him off, "All right, off you go!"

After Woody walked off, Sam came back, smirking. "So, you two hit it off?"

Diane smiled. "Not in the way you tend to interpret the phrase, Sam."

"Well, I didn't mean that. I know he's not your type."

Diane shrugged. "Well, I admit, he's…not as learned as an ideal associate of mine would probably be. Nonetheless, he's quite charming, and friendly, and might I add 'innocent', in his own way—"

"Yeah, and he's so slow, he makes me look like The Flash."

"Sam," Diane shot him a pointed Look, "No need to be cruel to him, just because our conversation was extended…."

"Come on—don't tell me you didn't notice. I mean, is it any wonder he and Coach were tight? I…"

He stopped, freezing at the name…and deflated, shaking his head with a sigh. "Never mind," he muttered, blinking as he looked off.

Diane pursed her lips at this, and felt her eyes welling up. She turned her attention to her glass, and finished it.

Sam finally shrugged, and pointed to the glass. "Want another?"

Diane set it down, and sighed. "Sam, I…I just wish that, well, that he didn't have to…"

"Me too," Sam nodded. And he shrugged again, and smiled. "But, hey—we have this charming kid, now—who's kinda like him, but he's not. And you and him hit it off pretty good…"

"I and he. And we 'hit it off' pretty well."

Sam leaned to her with a glint in his eye, and said, "Whatever."

Diane chuckled, shaking her head. She shrugged, and replied, "You're right, of course…Woody's a good man. And, I must admit, in many ways…"

She looked off, and sighed. With the thought in her mind, came feelings…feelings of an old yet familiar nostalgia.

Sam frowned. "You okay? Or was that a…'what-might-have-been' kind of sigh…?"

Diane turned to him. "Not in the way you tend to think."

"Well, what 'way' would it be, then?"

Diane swallowed a bit, and quietly replied, "Sam…I-I don't believe I've ever told anyone this. I don't recall telling it to my father…and certainly not to my mother."

Sam smirked.

"But…Sam, I'm sure you recall my telling you I was an only child."

Sam frowned a little—and then turned to look at Woody mixing the orders, then back to Diane. "So, he's…what? The little brother you always wanted, but never had?"

Diane paused for a moment…somehow, all the emotions of the concept didn't completely register until she's at last heard it put into words. Finally, she shrugged. "I don't know, Sam. I just…well, I suppose I've always wondered what it would've been like."

Sam nodded. After a beat, he added, "Hey, listen—I think we're getting a little busier. I don't suppose you could…"

Diane nodded, rising to her feet, tying on the apron as she'd done so many times before. Sam handed her a tray, and she was off.

She stopped by Woody, who'd just handed Carla the last drink on her current list. After Carla headed off (shooting Diane a dirty look), Diane spoke up, "Woody…perhaps we can talk, later? As I said, Coach was a…a very dear friend of mine. Perhaps we can compare memories, that sort of thing…."

Woody nodded. "That'd be great, Miss Chambers."

Diane nodded, and went to work, a beaming smile on her face.