Note: This story was written in part to address a little question that had arisen for me when I'd first seen "Dance, Diane, Dance"—particularly the mini-subplot concerning Diane panicking over whether or not her apartment was on fire. Considering the subplot of "The Cape Cad" (and how, when I'd first seen that, I was suddenly reminded of Season One's "Let Me Count The Ways"—and found myself wishing Diane was around for Carla's final "solution" in "Cad"…), I suppose this story was inevitable. Special thanks to BFEOSAD, for reassuring me of the setting of the two key events in Cheers canon that inspired this tale.
In a way, this story's also a sequel of sorts to my "First Impressions Never Fade". I'm a big fan of the Woody/Diane friendship, and thus I knew it had to be this way. Enjoy!
Somehow, Diane Chambers was a little reluctant to wash off the scent of the salty air. Sam Malone was certainly right about one thing…it had brought back many…deeply pleasing memories.
Still, it had to be done. And so, she closed her eyes in the shower at her apartment, taking in the comforting rinse of the water…thinking over what had happened, this past day…the past week. All the things that had happened, so fast: Janet Eldritch, threatening to seize Sam from her, forever…Sam ultimately choosing her—Diane…his calling her, and asking her to marry him…and the oh-so-wonderful proposal, shattered so deeply by her own doubts, her own conflicting emotions….
And now—well, the complications at the inn…. She'd been so certain that she was doing the right thing, leaving, but—
She opened her eyes, blinking. Was that a knock at the apartment door?
Diane turned off the water, opening the curtain. She was basically finished, anyhow. "Hello?" she called out.
She waited…and frowned.
Was I only hearing things? Oh, look at me—I was only wondering if I'd done the right thing, leaving Sam there to…wallow in frustration—once again…and now—I imagine someone knocking at my door…someone—
There it was again!
"Hello—who is it?" She called out.
A voice—she couldn't make it out, too clearly. Only…that it was a man's voice.
"Sam?!" Diane practically leapt out of the shower, taking her towel and wrapping it around her. She opened the bathroom door—"Sam, it that you?"
It wasn't Sam: "Uh…no, Miss Chambers, it's…me. Sorry to bother you, but—"
Diane sighed, shaking her head with a smile. "Oh—that's fine, Woody," she called out. "I'm a little busy, but—is something the matter?"
"Well, I guess it's…kinda important—you left your purse at Cheers, an hour ago. I don't know…"
"Oh—right!" Diane rushed to the door without much of a thought, unlocking it and opening. "I—come right in."
Woody swallowed hard, somehow looking as though he'd suddenly tensed up, but he entered, heading straight to the couch, leaving Diane's white purse on the coffee table. As Diane closed the door, Woody straightened up—and looking past her, said, "Well, Miss Chambers, I guess that'll be it. I…think I'd better get going—"
He started for the door, but Diane called out, "Wait—"
Woody stopped, still unusually stiff for some reason.
Diane sighed. "I-I'm sorry Woody, I…I suppose I just—feel as though I need someone. Someone to talk to, understand. Are—well, if you're needed at the bar, I under—"
"Oh, no, Miss Chambers!" Woody turned to her, relaxing and looking back to normal. "The bar's closed—we're done for tonight."
Diane nodded, "Of course…." She'd stopped by Cheers, just before coming home. Carla had bragged up and down about how she'd unloaded all the kittens of her new cat in a single day—by promising a free beer apiece. Apparently, that had caused Norman had taken the whole litter home…to no one's surprise. Certainly not Diane's, at any rate.
Woody went on, "So if you want me here…well, I—guess that's great," he blinked, and let out a nervous chuckle, as he turned away.
Diane frowned, "Woody, is something—?"
And then it hit her. Her eyes widened, and it was now her turn to stiffen.
Woody blushed, staring at the ground.
"Oh—!" Diane felt a blush of her own, as she looked over herself—still clad in nothing but the towel. Word, she must have been quite a sight to the poor man, opening the door and, without any warning, causing him to behold the sight of a young woman, one tucked corner of cloth away from—!
"Well!" She looked up at him, forcing a chuckle. "I—suppose I'd better…" she gestured helplessly at the bathroom. "Excuse me—"
"Okay, Miss Chambers!" Woody sounded very relieved, as Diane darted to the bathroom—slamming the door shut.
"Oh…" she moaned, banging her closed fist on her forehead. Of all the things to happened—and she'd actually asked him to stay, to talk to her—and all while she was—!
She felt a tugging in her cheek—her hand shot to it, as she squeezed her eyes shut, willing the tic away with all her might.
No…none of that. It's not as though he'll turn this against you—let alone brag about this to the others. He's far too sweet and decent for that. But—still…oh, poor Woody. I've sent him into heaven-knows-how-many conflicting emotions, right now! On the one hand, I'm a close friend—and a lady whom he's made it a point to respect, deeply. But on the other…well…I am a woman—and admittedly, one possessing of a certain physical appeal, and—
None of that! What's done is done. He is still your friend…he still respects you, deeply, as you do, him…and you do need the ear of a friend, now.
And so, she sighed, gathered her dignity, and went to work freshening herself, and so on. After a moment, she called out, "Oh—Woody? It's perfectly fine of you to sit down, and make yourself—" she flinched, but went on, "Um—comfortable. In fact, I was about to make myself some tea. When I'm done, if you'd like some…"
"Oh, that'd be great, Miss Chambers—thank you!"
Diane nodded, "All right!" she called back.
Once she'd finished re-dressing, she came back out, feeling quite relieved. And it certainly looked as though Woody felt relieved, as well.
Diane squirmed a little as she walked up to him, her hand raised a little. "Woody…first of all, I do apologize, most sincerely and fully. I can assure you, I do not have a…tendency to—approach the door in quite that manner—"
"Oh, that's okay, Miss Chambers. I'm fine."
Diane nodded, smiling. "Well…would you still care for tea?"
Woody nodded. "That'd be great, thanks."
"Right…" Diane headed over to the kitchen. "Would you care for some biscuits?"
"Sure, that's fine. I'm not too hungry though…."
Diane laughed, feeling relief at the new emotion. "Well, that's all right—neither am I. Now, how do you like your tea?"
"Oh, I don't care, Miss Chambers—however you'll make it, that's fine."
"Of course," she nodded, as she set to work. As the water boiled, she returned to the living room.
"Anyway," Diane said, as she sat down, "I must also thank you for bringing this back," she indicated the purse, "I can't understand—it's not typically like me to leave such things in a public place."
Woody shrugged. "Aw, that's okay—I do it all the time."
Diane pouted, "Well I don't!" She huffed, shaking her head as Woody sat down. "I can't believe I could be so careless…. Although," she sighed, looking at him, "I suppose I've been a little lost in thought, tonight."
"Oh…okay. What were you thinking about?"
Diane felt her smile return. "In this case, Woody…it was a 'who'."
"Oh!—you mean, like the Dr. Seuss books?"
Diane blinked in confusion—and laughed, as the explanation hit her. "No, Woody," she shook her head. "I mean the question is about whom I was thinking."
"Oh…" Woody mulled over this, and nodded, "Okay."
Diane nodded, smiling. "Well at any rate…I suppose it's best I tell you. It was Sam. It was everything that's happened—everything that's…come between us—everything that's keeping us from…at last tying ourselves to one another in the bonds of matrimony we both so clearly desire."
Woody frowned in thought for a moment—and grinned, "Oh, I get it—this has to do with your wanting to marry him, doesn't it?"
Diane sighed. I believe I just said that, Woody—but then, perhaps I once again over-spoke…didn't I? Funny—for the longest time, those around her had praised her natural talent for eloquence as one of her most endearing qualities. And then…she'd entered Cheers, for the first time, a little over four years ago. And somehow, she suddenly was surrounded by people who'd only reward her poetry of tongue with glazed eyes and a blank stare.
Bless his heart, Woody did try, though—to understand. He was so often willing to listen to what she'd have to say. She always gave him credit for that, at least.
"Well," Diane replied, "That, too—and of course, his wanting the same. Oh, I know, he…is now throwing himself into a complete denial of that simple fact, but—the undeniable truth is…so recently, and so passionately, he asked for my hand. And the things he told me, on the boat, that night…" she looked off, beaming, shaking her head in wonder…and she let out a sigh, "Oh, Woody, he opened his heart to me…it was the moment for which I'd been waiting, for so long, and…" her smile faded away, and she shook her head again, "And I so foolishly—I took something he'd said about Janet, and latched onto it, and I…oh, Woody, I…"
"Yeah, you said 'no', right?"
Diane stared at the floor. "I—suppose I was worried that he wasn't proposing to me, for me…but against Janet. I thought he was on an emotional rebound—but he wasn't. And…and he was so crushed, I…" she turned to Woody, blinking away her tears. "And now, he's—bottled those emotions within, and refuses to—to open his heart to me, again."
Woody frowned, and nodded slowly. "So, did he tell you to go away, tonight?"
Diane paused, and shook her head, "No, I—well, come to think of it, I, um…thinking over it now, I wonder if I haven't, tonight…forced his heart closed, once more. He was—willing and eager to re-consummate our passions, but…well, I suppose I saw a lingering bitterness—either that, or…a frustration over my—insistence to see it as more than simply that. Woody—understand, I love him…and I know that he loves me—as deeply as I, him. But…I feel as though he cannot admit it to himself. And perhaps I'm to blame for it—perhaps he's afraid of baring his soul to me, now, but…"
Her voice trailed off, as she shook her head. Woody just looked at her, and asked, "So, what happened, Miss Chambers?"
Diane looked up, "Well, he…lashed out. Not—lashed out, but…he made a sort of jest concerning my own prior reluctance. I…suppose I took it to mean he was still bitter."
"And that's when you left?"
"Well…yes." Diane shrugged. "Of course, he was so desperate to have me change my mind. I…told him it was best we wait. And—now I'm here…and he's at the inn. And for all I know, he's still right where I left him…telling himself he'll still enjoy his time, there…alone…with no one with him…no one—by his side, enjoying the salt in the air…"
Diane shook her head once again, "Oh, Woody—did I make a mistake? Do you think I should've stayed?"
She turned back to Woody, who looked off, and shrugged. "Well, gee, Miss Chambers," he said, "I'm…not nearly as smart as you are. I mean—why ask me? I don't know too much about this kind of thing."
"Oh, Woody…" Diane put a hand on his shoulder, "You're telling me you have so little knowledge of…the wonderful times when a man and a woman…enter one another's lives? When they discover a bond between them—and…fall for one another?"
Woody shrugged, "Well, there's Beth, I guess…but, you know—" He actually stiffened a little.
Diane frowned. "Woody, what's wrong? Did—did you and Beth have a…quarrel?"
Woody shrugged again, and smiled a little, "I dunno, Miss Chambers. She hasn't written in a while. I'm a little concerned."
Diane swallowed, and shook her head, "Oh, Woody…."
"It's probably nothing. Anyway, other than her, I haven't really had…well, much luck with women, you know?"
"Why, Woody—I can't believe that's true…!" Diane tightened her hold a little on his shoulder, "Why, you're…handsome, and vibrant, and sweet—and very charming. Why, I'm sure there would be…countless women who'd be more than willing to…take part in such a romantic endeavor with you."
"You really think so, Miss Chambers?"
"Oh, I know so, Mr. Boyd! Why, shortly before Beth arrived, I happened to notice an admittedly attractive young lady who'd been—and let's be perfectly honest, now, Woody…she was flirting with you. She referred to you—to your face, mind you—as, and I quote, 'really cute'. She asked you if you would—"
"But I'm still with Beth, Miss Chambers."
Diane sighed. "Woody…that isn't the point. Well, in a sense I suppose it is—you certainly don't want to be untrue to her! But the point is, you seem to not give yourself the sort of credit you truly deserve."
"Well, I don't know about that—but I'm pretty sure I'm no Sam, I can tell you that."
Diane snorted. "And thank heaven for it."
Woody paused for a moment, and said, "Well…how do you mean, Miss Chambers?"
Diane sighed. "Well…I suppose I'll say one is enough, as far as I am concerned."
Woody seemed to blush a little. "Oh…oh, right."
Diane chuckled, and moved her hand from his shoulder to his chin. And she gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
Woody shrugged, with a nervous smile. "What was that, Miss Chambers?"
Diane shrugged. "For being you, Woody. And—if something…does happen, and Beth—well, God forbid if something happens…you won't need to worry."
"How do you mean, Miss Chambers?"
"Well, just that—you'll find someone. I know you will."
"Yeah…" Woody smiled, "Hey, didn't you tell me once, something about 'marrying into—'"
Diane chuckled, "Well, I wouldn't advise you to make that your top priority, Woody. But if she does come from a prosperous family—and if you truly love her…well, so much the better. But the love comes first, of course."
"Well, yeah, I figured. That wouldn't make much sense, would it—if we don't love each other…"
Diane nodded. "Precisely, Woody. And even then…well, I'm reasonably sure my mother and father loved one another, at some point. But…well, for one thing, I rarely recall them—being in love, as I grew. And…well I'm not sure if this amounts to any sort of 'proof', but—I was an only child."
Woody said nothing.
Diane shrugged, "Well, for a time, my—"
The tea kettle started to whistle.
Diane chuckled, and rose to her feet, heading to the kitchen. She turned off the stove, took the kettle, and poured it into the teapot on the tray on the table, the right amount of bags already in place. She put the kettle back, and then carried the tray to the couch, setting it down on the table.
"As I was saying," she said, as she poured out two cups, "My…only true companion at home was—our cat, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Barrett Browning—but…that's another—story entirely."
"Miss Chambers, you okay?"
Diane realized right then that the pot had been trembling a little, in her hands. She sighed, finished pouring, and set it down. "I'm fine, Woody," she said, "Thank you."
As she took her cup, and began to sip, Woody asked, "So, you have a cat, Miss Chambers?"
"I…had one, yes," Diane said—setting down the cup, just in case. She said, "Oddly enough…Woody, I remember—almost four years ago. When—when Mummy called, and…told me that—that Elizabeth had…had died—I was…" she swallowed, and went on, "I found myself—struggling, barely able to…proceed with my duties, at the bar. Finally, Sam, he—he took me into his office, and he offered to sit down, with me…and to be there for me, as I told him…told him how much she'd meant to me."
Diane turned to Woody, and said, "Oh, Woody, I couldn't believe it—Sam Malone, of all people…sharing my grief…and my tears! He was there for me, when no one else seemed able to truly understand—but he did, Woody. He was there…and—" she blinked, and her smile returned, "And, well, I didn't understand it at the time—I didn't know what I was feeling, then, but…oh, Woody, it was then that, in my heart, I knew."
"Knew what, Miss Chambers?"
Diane felt her smile grow, as her eyes moistened. "I've known I love him ever since, Woody. There were—times when I denied it to myself, and to others, but…well, that was the moment those feelings truly…clarified into an undeniable form…though, as I said, I didn't truly understand them."
Woody nodded. "I think I know what you mean, Miss Chambers."
Diane nodded. "Well…thank you, Woody."
"Thank you, Miss Chambers. You…kinda did help me, a lot. I-I still hope nothing's going on, with Beth, though."
"Me too, Woody," Diane said, softly. She sipped her tea, musing, I'd hate to see you finding your own heart broken, my friend. You, of all people, don't deserve it.
Woody took his own cup, staring at it.
"Oh—" Diane set hers down, and reached over to the accessories, "Milk, lemon, and sugar—right here, Woody."
"Oh, okay—thanks, Miss Chambers…."
After their tea was mixed to their respective likings, Woody thought for a moment, and asked, "When did Sam realize he loved you, Miss Chambers?"
Diane blinked, and chuckled, "Well—I would say to ask him, if he weren't in such vehement denial of his feelings!"
"Oh, okay. So…when he's not in 'denial', I'd better ask him—"
Diane held up a hand. "Woody…I think it'd be best you…forget about that question. If it's ever appropriate to ask, you'll remember it then, I'm sure."
"Okay, Miss Chambers." Woody drank his tea.
When he was finished, he said, "Hey, um…Miss Chambers?"
"Thanks for asking me to stay and talk."
Diane chuckled. "Well—thank you for accepting my request."
"Sure thing, Miss Chambers." He rose to his feet, with his cup. "I, uh…guess I'd better put this in the sink, huh?"
Diane smiled up at him. "Oh, it's fine, Woody. You can set it down, here. I'll put it away."
"Okay…" he did so, and nodded. "Good night, Miss Chambers."
Diane nodded, "Good night, Woody."
Woody turned, and left.
Diane looked off, staring at nothing in particular, as she refilled her cup. She couldn't help remember, despite herself, when she'd first met Woody—and how quickly their friendship had started. Perhaps it was Coach—dear Coach, may he rest in peace (and Diane truly meant that wish for him…with all her heart)…such a dear friend to her—something of a second father. For all his…limitations—he was always there: the kind, dear, gentle man…who still possessed such an air of authority. It was always obvious how deeply Sam respected him…and why.
And—and then he'd been taken from them all…and one of the deepest regrets of Diane's life was that she hadn't been there…hadn't been able to—to truly say goodbye. Not properly—the funeral had been held when she was away…in Europe.
When she'd returned to Boston, to work at the convent…she'd visited his grave, with the abbess. She remembered…remembered asking the older woman, "Do you think he can see us? Do…do you think he knows I'm here?"
"Diane," the abbess had said, with a sad, wise smile, "It's…not for me to answer such questions. I cannot say whether…your friend can truly witness the goings-on of the living. All I can tell you is…God sees, child—and hears. And as He is a loving God…I feel He will convey it to your friend—somehow."
Diane sighed. Coach was gone, and nothing could change that. But, at any rate—Woody was there, now…at the bar, where Coach had been. And her friendship with him hadn't been the same as it was with Coach, but…they both shared a friendship with the older man, at least. Woody had been "pen pals"—as it were—with Coach…but that was presumably all; it wasn't the same sort of thing. Nonetheless, Diane had often wondered if Woody had, though his own father was still alive…she'd wondered whether Woody had ever viewed the late, so very lamented Coach the same way she did: as a second father….
Well, whether he did or not—it was somehow appropriate, wasn't it? The way she viewed Woody…
"So, he's…what? The little brother you always wanted, but never had?"
Diane sighed, staring into her tea. "Yes, Sam," she whispered, "In many ways…I suppose he is."