Note: This story is set during and immediately after Season 4's "The Bar Stoolie". I hadn't intended it to be quite this long, but...somehow, it suddenly became an in-depth look at their relationship and their inner conflicts at this point of the show. They're this close...and yet—
Anyway, the idea that Diane is fond of Raymond Chandler's work—something I'd referred to in "Always Glad You Came"—is basically my explanation for why she was able to quickly launch into "moll-speak" in "Sam Turns The Other Cheek". I picked Chandler, because Diane isn't making up how the creator of Phillip Marlowe, P.I., is regarded in the literary world...especially The Long Goodbye. Also, I'm sure the Marlowe-Loring dynamic would very much appeal to Diane...
One of the many things Sam Malone apparently kept having to learn about the woman walking next to him, as they entered Melville's, was that once she got going, only she could make her give it a rest—safely, anyway.
"After all," Diane Chambers said, "While there certainly is an argument to be made in favor of minimalism, in that 'less' is allegedly 'more'—the simple fact, nonetheless, is that excessive 'leanness', if you will, will almost certainly lead to the reader failing to register the full impact of the emotions the author had intended to invoke. So at times, it's actually better to 'slow down', if you will—savor the moment, dwell upon it; emphasize it, with words…with poetry in the prose. In fact…"
She paused, and chuckled at herself. "Well…your opinion, Sam?"
Sam shrugged. "Well, you're sure never one for minimal, I can tell you that," he muttered.
Diane tilted her head, with a shrug of her own. "Mm—well, I suppose. But then, one wonders how you could say such a thing with authority…."
Diane sighed, and chuckled, "Sam…aside from the occasional poem, which of my works have you read?"
"Other than our book—Miss Bourget?" Sam grinned at her.
The two shared a laugh at the memory, as they approached the waiter. He smiled, and escorted them to the table—the table for two, at last. And there was the cheesecake, as promised.
"Yeah, uh—how about two coffees, huh?" Sam added to the waiter.
"Of course, sir," the man replied. "And how would you like it?"
After the two placed their orders, and the waiter left to see them through, Diane sighed in happy release as she took her seat—the one Sam made sure to pull out for her, gaining her smiling thanks in the process. (What the hey, he mused. If you're gonna go, go all out.)
"Ironic, Sam," she said, "I'd actually all but forgotten about that."
"What, my story? Come on," Sam grinned, taking his seat, "Don't go telling me you forgot all that water we wasted, cooling down just for the next page!"
Diane raised her finger. "Sam…I said I'd 'all but forgotten'. There is a difference, of course."
"Yeah, sure. Speaking of which—did I ever tell you? I actually had it published."
Diane had just taken her fork and severed the point of her cheesecake from the rest—but upon hearing this, she dropped it onto the plate, and looked at him, wide-eyed. "Published?"
"Well…yeah? What, did you think I was gonna let it sit around, collecting dust?"
"Well, no, but…I'd thought, perhaps, it would have needed a last read-through—for editing purposes, understand…."
Sam grinned at her. "You know—somehow, I get the idea if we'd have thought of that, there wouldn't have been a 'last' read-through. Besides, I had to do something to get the memory away—I mean, for all I knew, you were good as gone!"
Diane froze. "Sam…when was this?"
Sam blinked. "What?"
"When did you send it to be published?"
"Well, it was after Italy—after I came back, anyway."
"Oh…of course." She looked a little relieved, and picked up her fork again, beginning to eat.
Sam chuckled. "What, you think I'd have been able to turn it in, when I was drunk?"
Diane shrugged. "Involving you, Sam, far more peculiar things have occurred."
Diane peered at him, with a concerned frown, "Might I ask exactly where my share of the royalties is? Assuming, of course, you did separate my share from yours…."
Sam made sure to look hurt. "Sweetheart—come on! You think I'd rip you off like that?"
"Well, assuming you'd react to your heartbreak as you normally would…"
"Don't flatter yourself, okay?"
"Regardless—perhaps you'd have considered it an act of cold vengeance?"
"Come on—I'm not that slick."
"Sam," Diane leaned forward, with a smirk, "Where is it?"
Sam let out a scoff, and spread out his hands. "It's in the account, Diane!—remember that one? We set it up the day after we started writing?—And splashing?"
Diane shook her head with a chuckle. "Well, I'm astonished it's still in existence!"
"Hey, give me some credit, will ya?—I've been a good enough customer of theirs, they'd do that kind of favor."
Diane nodded…and looked off, deep in thought.
The waiter came back, with the two coffees—prepared just as the two of them had ordered. Sam thanked him as the waiter set down the mugs…before the man sped off, to his next table.
She turned to him, "Hmm?"
Sam smirked, reached into his pocket—and tossed her a penny.
Diane caught it, stared at it for a moment, and grinned at him. "For my thoughts, I suppose?"
"You got it."
Diane shrugged, as she pocketed the coin. "I just…well, I find it quite ironic, that my first published work would be the sort of thing to which I'd never have wanted my actual name attached."
Sam smiled. "Smut and steam?"
"Call it that." Diane paused, and then asked, "So, then…what can I expect, were I to access said account?"
"You know, I made it a point not to look in it—funny thing."
"Well, you must have put two and two together—assuming you've received an identical income from it."
"Maybe, but I didn't care much to notice, either way. I said I'd wanted to forget it, remember?"
"Ah-huh. Well, Sam, there you have it: as of now, I have no published work under my actual name…but I have one, bursting with little more substance than sordid and lurid sensuality, written under a nom de plume."
"There you go."
"And it isn't as though I could use it to enhance my desired career in writing."
Sam shrugged. "You never know. I don't suppose you've ever tried your hand at a book, before?"
Diane smiled. "Funny of you to mention that, Sam. Actually, there were several—well, attempts at writing a novel. I've finished quite a few shorter works—for practice only, none published—but…on occasion, I'd discover the 'germ' of something larger."
"Great!—so, what happened?"
"As a rule, I began to write, and soon fell out of 'love', if you will, with the project.…" Diane looked off, her smile turning nostalgic, "Still, there was one, I think…. I promised myself I'd return to it, some day—when I could view it with fresh eyes."
Sam took a big sip from his coffee. "What was it about?"
Diane took a sip of her own—a quick, light sip, and then she set it down. "Oh, call it an 'odyssey', if you will. It concerns a woman on a quest for knowledge about her own identity—and it's connection to the world she knows, and loves. And in the process…she comes to discover a deep and darkly personal secret—concerning not only her, but those closest to her heart. She becomes quite conflicted over whether the truth must be brought to the light—whether it will set things free, or…simply bring unnecessary pain, and suffering." She shrugged. "Well—I suppose that's the proverbial 'nutshell'."
Sam leaned forward a little, with a smirk. "Sounds exciting."
"Perhaps…but I've always wondered if my worldview is too—idealistic and benevolent to fully do justice to such a theme. I haven't written the 'revelation', yet, and I've…long suspected that, in order to truly give a sense of authenticity to it, I'd have to be coming from a very dark place, myself—suffering some sort of terrible pain, or loss…or what have you. To be blunt, Sam, I can barely imagine such a thing ever occurring, so as to bring me that low, emotionally." Diane sighed, "I suppose I've always been a romantic at heart."
Diane gave him a Look. Sam chuckled, shrugging with an innocent smile.
Diane shook her head, "Oh, Sam…" she said in a near-whisper, "What am I going to do with you?"
"With me? Well, hopefully finish dessert, and then—see where the evening takes us…?"
Diane was clearly fighting a chuckle. "That's not what I meant…."
"I know. So, how far did you get on that book?"
Diane shrugged. "You know, Sam…it's been so long, I can barely remember it—just the concept, and the title—Jocasta's Conundrum, if you were wondering."
"Yeah, it would have a name like that…."
"Sorry," Sam chuckled. "It sounds…different. Not in a bad way, but…"
Diane nodded. "I know what you're trying to say, Sam. The truth is, I thought it would be an appropriate name."
"Hey, I didn't say it wasn't."
"Of course, to be fair," Diane hastily added, as if not hearing Sam's last interjection, "I'd hardly think my heroine's conflict could reasonably parallel with that of the actual Jocasta, of the Oedipus myth."
"Diane, you kinda lost me, there."
Diane paused, braced herself, and said, "To be honest, Sam, I'd rather not spell out the myth. It's one of the more…disturbing ones."
"Oh, okay. Fair enough."
Sam leaned to her again. "In all seriousness, hon—when you get the chance, see if you can't take a crack at finishing that book. I'm sure there's some…moody stuff in your life you can mine, to help out on that. And, hey—title or not, it sounds great."
Diane leaned back in her seat, looking off thoughtfully. After a moment, she met Sam's gaze. "I might," she said. "But to be honest, Sam, I have far too many things occupying my time as of now. I know—a writer devoted to her craft must make the time, but…I'm currently focusing on my poetry, at the moment."
Sam nodded quickly, "Sure!—it's shorter, and you feel good about finishing it a lot sooner—and a lot more times than one, huh?"
"I suppose…." Diane picked at her cheesecake, and took another bite.
"You know," Sam said, after taking a big bite of his own, "Sounds a little weird coming from me, but…I've been scouring that library for something to get on track—"
Diane blinked. "You…library?"
"Yeah…? I said I'd get a card, didn't I?"
"Well—of course! But…Sam I-I thought…"
Sam chuckled. "What, you thought I was just saying it to turn you on?"
"Don't flatter yourself."
"Now, come on—you were all over me. Don't tell me it didn't."
Diane straightened up. "Well! I admit that…I found the possibility of your at last integrating a sense of culture into your being somewhat—attractive."
"And as I recall, you tried to squeeze me to death. I was…quite disappointed."
"Yeah, that'd be a turn-off, huh?"
"Yeah!" Diane took her mug, and had another sip. "You know, Sam, I don't think I'll ever be capable of comprehending your…swings of mood."
"Oh…" Sam nodded with a grin, "Look who's talking!"
Diane stiffened. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
Sam leaned forward. "You know exactly what it means. Diane, you're a real drama queen—and you know it."
Diane scoffed, head back. "Well! At least I have the common decency to not try and kill you, just to avoid an honest payment!"
"I wasn't trying to kill you, sweetheart…!"
"Come on—how'd you think I'd feel? I went through all that trouble…"
"Sam—if you hadn't taken the book out of the safe…something I'd asked you specifically not to have done—I doubt you'd have had to pay for it!"
"I know—but to be honest, I really was getting into the darn thing." Sam looked off, rubbing his brow, "I sure wouldn't have brought it to the darned tub, if I wasn't. I'm an idiot, you know. You say it all the time, huh?—and there, you're right."
Diane shrugged. "Well…I suppose I must give you credit, after all. You did read—and comprehend. And now I hear you are going to the library, after all!"
"Yeah…but you know, it's not like I haven't read, before—War and Peace, right?"
Diane nodded, smiling warmly at the memory.
"Still, even without that—yeah, I've had my share of Westerns…though I sure tend to lean more to the movie side of things."
"But still, hey, Zane Gray and that Louis guy…"
"Louis L'Amour," Diane's smile grew.
"Right! So, you read him?"
"Not at all—but I know the name, Sam."
"Okay…well, I've read that kind of stuff. I know, you probably think that's…"
"Oh, no, Sam—not at all! They're still considered the greats of the genre. I suppose I'd applaud your tastes, on that."
"Well, that's a relief."
"It's hardly Dostoyevsky, but it is a start."
"Thanks a lot."
"You're welcome, Sam," Diane purred, with an innocent smile.
Sam looked off, to steady himself on the inside. The way she'd look at him in these moments…the sparkle in her eyes, and the voice…
"Anyway," he muttered, as he turned back to her, "I…guess what I'm trying to say is—and I can't believe I'm saying it…in fact I'll probably regret this in the morning, but…" he sighed, "What would you recommend?"
Diane blinked, and chuckled in bewilderment, shaking her head, "You…are asking me for—"
"I know—imagine that, huh? But hey, you put me up to this, so it might as well be you."
"Well—of course, Sam! And naturally, I would be an ideal choice as your counselor in matters of literary pursuits, however…I'm astonished you'd be one to admit it."
"Yeah. Goes to show how desperate I am."
"Sam…" Diane shook her head, "This kind of progress can't be achieved without the fullest sincerity."
"All right, all right. So, what do you think?—and keep in mind I don't want to fall asleep before I get into it."
"Well, in that case, I suppose bedtime stories are out."
"Come on, Diane—I'm serious!"
Diane gave another innocent smile, and added, "In all seriousness, Sam—in your case, and with your personality in mind, I can strongly recommend Raymond Chandler."
Sam smiled. "Been there."
Diane blinked, her eyes wide, and her own smile grew. "You…have?"
"Sure—Phillip Marlowe, Private Eye. Funny you should bring it up."
Diane chuckled silently. "Well, in my case, I was entreated to Chandler via my class in Modern American Literature."
"And that's what they came up with?"
"Along with Wolfe, Faulkner, and Hemmingway—among others."
"Still, a private detective series?"
"Why, Sam!—no one isn't about to suggest that the works of Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shouldn't be regarded as literature."
"Yeah, but that?"
Diane smiled again, and nodded. "Strangely enough, Chandler is credited with elevating 'pulp fiction' into literary status."
Sam grinned. "Well—guess I'm feeling better about myself!"
"Of course you are. But which of his novels have you read?"
"I'm…pretty sure all of them. Took a while, though."
Diane's smile grew. "The Long Goodbye?"
"Maybe; run it by me?"
"All right…there, Marlowe befriends a man who drinks heavily—he tries to help him, but the man flees to Mexico, and after Marlowe learns of his death—"
"Wait—I'm pretty sure I know that one. The dead guy's accused of killing his wife, right?"
Diane nodded. "Mm-hmm! Well…having killed his wife, anyway."
"Yeah…hey, didn't Marlowe actually fall for a girl in that one? Rich one…L-L, something, uh—"
"Yeah. You know, it's funny? The 'L-L'…"
"Well, I don't know if you've ever read any Superman comics…?"
Diane sighed, and shrugged. "If I did, I don't recall much."
"Well, Superman's big love is Lois Lane—reporter, uh…?"
"I've heard of her, Sam. I'm reasonably sure I've seen at least one of the films. But—"
"Okay, well, there's her…and there's Lana Lang, his crush in high school—'L-L'. Throw Lux Luther in there—guess it's an inside joke, or something."
Diane leaned back in her seat, looking off…and to Sam, she looked a little deflated.
Sure she is—we were talking about what to get in the library, and I start bringing up comic books.
"Well, I just thought that was interesting," Sam muttered.
Diane looked at him, with a little apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, Sam—that isn't my kind of…"
"No, fine—I do it to you all the time; figures you'd do it."
"Well, at any rate, looking back at the story—"
"Superman, or Phillip Marlowe?"
"Marlowe, Sam," Diane replied, with a hint of irritation in her voice.
"Thank you. At any rate, I recall wishing that the relationship would have been explored a bit more—just a tad, Sam, I understand the need for the story as the central focus of the novel, but…I found the dynamic most fascinating. After all, Marlowe is, as Chandler described him, 'a poor man and a common man and yet an unusual man'…"
"I wouldn't call him 'common'," Sam gave a smirk.
Diane chuckled, "Well, not in that sense, no, but…Chandler described him as the sort of man who could 'go about common people'. A man of 'blue-collar' culture, if you will."
"Okay, fair enough. How about Linda?"
Diane looked off with a warm smile, "A cultured, refined, yet spirited young woman with a background in wealthy 'high society', who easily matches wits with Marlowe…" She turned to Sam, still with the smile. "I recall several verbal sparring matches between the two of them."
"Sure," Sam replied. "Didn't they hit the sack at one point?"
The truth was, Sam had felt the need to throw in something like that. He didn't really care for where the conversation was going. The way she was describing the two characters was getting pretty eerie, to be honest.
Diane blinked—and chuckled nervously, gaze lowered. "Well…yes. Late in the book—the night before they say their goodbyes…."
Sam nodded. "Yeah, that's coming back to me—Marlowe thought it wouldn't last, right?"
Diane pursed her lips, swallowed, and nodded. "I—that's right." She quickly added, "But it was partly due to the fact that she was used to a world of wealth and privilege, and he was currently more-or-less married to his line of work, and—"
Sam chuckled, "You're pretty invested, don't you think?"
Diane froze, and nodded with another swallow. "Yes, I…suppose you're right."
"Right? What about?"
Diane blinked again, and sighed, "Never mind."
"No—come on! What's up?"
Diane tensed once again, and managed to say, "I'll admit, Sam, that I can, at times, become too…emotionally connected to such things."
Sam nodded with a smirk. "Like I told you, you're a real—"
Sam shrugged. "Still…I wouldn't say that's all a bad thing. Not really."
Oh, sure—what are you saying, Sammy? Her overreacting to everything, that's what's caused a heck of a lot of problems between you two—right? So…what, are you just trying to make her feel better, or what?
Diane stared at him…and as her smile returned, her eyes looked ready to hold a few tears.
"Really, Sam?" she asked in a near whisper.
Sam tensed a little, looking off to gather herself.
Easy, Sammy. She looks at you like that, and it's easy as heck to break and find yourself falling for her.
He managed to smile at her. "I guess. I mean—taking things too seriously, well, that's…"
She nodded, taking her cloth napkin to dab at her eyes. "I've…noticed."
"But—you know, I wouldn't exactly care for a cold Diane…or should I say colder?"
Diane threw her napkin at him.
Sam laughed. "Oh, come on!"
Diane slumped, shaking her head. "I am not cold," she pouted.
"I know—that's what I was saying!" Sam spread out his hands. "Geez, Diane, one little joke, and you forget everything I just—?"
"I didn't 'forget', Sam. You're just…so impossible, at times."
Sam grinned. "You know, while we're on the subject of impossible…"
"Sam, please—let's not. We get into so much trouble over things like that."
Sam nodded. "All right…what do you want to talk about?"
Diane tilted her head. "I would prefer we focus on the current subject at hand—in this case, Sam, your reading."
"Right. Okay, well—something that you'd find 'good', that I'd be able to read easy."
"Well in that case, I could give so many examples—Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain…"
"Hey, I've read some of that, too."
Diane nodded, "Right. But—" she blinked, looking at him in astonishment, "Sam…suddenly, you're revealing the extent of a side of you I've almost never seen!"
"Yeah, you and me both. I have some of those books, but it's been a while. A lot of it, I had to read in high school—and a lot of the rest, to settle my parents. Lot of good that did…"
Diane nodded, lowering her gaze. "Well, I suppose the point is…so many of the classics are so very compelling, and timeless—which is frankly why they're considered classics."
"Maybe. I tried to read Moby Dick once—didn't go so well."
Diane smiled. "Well, if it makes you feel better, Sam, I actually find that understandable. In my opinion, the book is frankly a structural mess—although, to be fair to Melville, it did pave the way for many experimental works to come, a sort of herald to postmodern literature, a la James Joyce. And of course, Captain Ahab has long become a well-known element in Western culture, as an archetype for enraged pursuers of vengeance, where no—"
"Diane…" Sam straightened up.
Diane nodded. "Right…." She took her fork again, and had another bite of the cheesecake.
She's such a chatterbox—but you know, there's always been something cute about it—something that's so…her. I guess it's part of what I lo—like about her. LIKE about her!—not—
Oh, what was his problem? Every time this happened—every time—it ended up with him starting to think that maybe—
Stop it! Don't think about it…don't even go near it, or you're dead!
Sam tackled his cheesecake, finishing within a second.