Note: This is my first "early-years" story for Cheers. I suppose I was a little reluctant to, because I tend to prefer focusing on characters that are more reflective—and therefore, more honest with themselves and each other. Such breeds the conversations that so often seem to dominate my work. Still…there's something about the Season-One "dance" Sam and Diane have with each other—the tension between them, the hidden feelings of romance simmering beneath the surface…just waiting for the right moment to boil and bubble and eventually burst in the explosion of grand passion we finally see in "Showdown, Part II".
In the meantime…there's still the game—the flirtations, and the tension underneath. (And at last—I finally get to write for Coach!) I hope I do it justice, here. I don't know exactly when in Season One it's set—just that it's after "Let Me Count The Ways", and that it's winter. Enjoy!
"All right, Sam, I'm off," Coach called out, as he took his coat.
Sam Malone nodded at his old friend, "Yeah, you be careful there, Coach, you hear? Snow's coming down pretty hard."
"Well, don't worry about it—I had my car outfitted with those chains you see on trucks in this weather—" Coach paused, and frowned, "Or did I take the bus…?"
Sam chuckled, "Hey, uh, Coach—?"
"No, hold on there, Sam, I'm trying to remember—"
"Coach…I saw your car outside. It's there. You're fine."
"Oh, yeah…." Coach straightened up, "Well, then, I've got nothing to worry about! See ya tomorrow, Sam!"
"Yeah, take it easy tonight, Coach—"
"Sure will, Sam—" He froze again, "Or were the chains on the bus?"
"Good night, Coach!"
Coach snapped out of it, and nodded, "G'night, Sam. Good night, Diane!" he called out.
Diane Chambers was cleaning the tables—the only person besides the two men still at the bar. She chuckled to herself, and nodded to him with a smile, "Good night, Coach."
As Coach left, Sam found himself focusing on Diane, as she resumed her cleaning. And he chuckled, as he wiped down the bar.
Diane stopped, and turned to him, "And what do you find so amusing, Mr. Malone?"
Sam shrugged. "Don't you think you've focused on that table long enough? You wipe that down any more, I swear it'll lose some of the finish."
"I highly doubt that. And for your information, this is one of Carla's tables. I've already finished those under my jurisdiction…."
"Oh, is that why you're still here?"
"Apparently," Diane muttered, as she resumed her work, focusing—Sam now saw—on one spot in particular. "From the look of things, she procrastinated on cleaning certain stains until the end of the shift—namely, this one."
"Hey, that doesn't sound like the Carla I know—"
"Well, then? In that case, she did it intentionally, so as to spite me…." She straightened up. "That should do—I've done all I could."
Sam shook his head. Despite herself, there was clearly a part of Diane Chambers that was eager to please…in her own way. She was too proud to admit it, but Sam knew darn well he was included in her not-so-little inner list of people to please. He knew it…and he loved the thought.
"Well, then," he said, "While you're here, think you could help me out with putting these glasses and mugs away?"
Diane sighed, shaking her head, "Sam, I really think I should get going."
"Hey…" Sam grinned, "I'll pay overtime. Besides, I think you're already past you shift."
"Well, of course I am! Carla—"
"Enough about Carla; now get over here and help me out."
Diane sighed again, and headed over. "All right…but I don't suppose there'll be more with which you'll wish me to 'help you out'?"
Sam shrugged. "Well, sure, but you wouldn't."
Diane tossed him a Look, with a smirk.
Sam chuckled, as he continued his cleaning of the bar counter. He loved that little smirk of hers—the amusement, the non-verbal "Sam…." Either she had a thing for him, or a thing for the flirts…which meant she had a thing for him. Either way, he felt a little luckier every time she tossed him that smile of amusement. Of course, she'd deny it—she'd swear up-and-down she was just amused at what she'd call his "childish antics"…but Sam knew the truth. She was a woman—a darn cute one, at that—and he was Sam Malone, every woman's secret dream. It was just a matter of time.
Diane paused, and stared in the direction of the front windows. The snow was now pounding the street above…and it was starting to spill over and fall into the stairs leading to the bar entrance. Sam watched her, standing in silence…finally swallowing hard, and what looked like suppressing her tears.
Sam walked up to her again, "Hey…you all right?"
She shook her head, turning to Sam with a worries look in her eyes, "Oh, Sam, I—I hope Coach makes it home, before…"
"Hey, don't worry about it—it's not the first time he's driven through the snow—"
"I-I'm sure it isn't, Sam. It's only…" she sighed, "It's just—this storm. Who knows what could happen? I—"
"Hey…" Sam put an arm around her, hand on her shoulder. "He'll be okay. Coach is one of the toughest guys I've ever known. It doesn't seem like it, but he is. If anything, that storm had better be scared of him."
Diane smiled at him, and nodded, "I…suppose you're right, Sam."
"Sure I am."
"Of course…." After a moment, she added, "Sam?"
Still smiling, she said, "Remove your hand from my shoulder? Immediately, if you please?"
Sam snickered, and did. "Don't tell me you didn't like it."
Diane shrugged, as she resumed her work, noting in that trying-too-hard-to-sound-haughty tone of hers, "It's served its purpose, I suppose…but that's over now, thank you."
"Yeah…I'll bet it did," Sam muttered. "Thing for him" or not, she sure did the "cold-shouldered ice princess" act pretty darn good.
The ice shattered, and she suddenly slumped, the bottom of the mug she was holding hitting the bar.
Sam frowned, "Hey, what's—"
Diane whirled to him, the worried look in her eyes even worse, her words coming out a mile a minute: "Sam, I was suddenly reminded of the simple fact that—in all probability—the storm will soon reach a level where—"
"Hey, Diane, I said Coach is fine—"
"Sam!" Diane stamped her foot, "I was referring to us!"
Sam pursed his lips, and glanced at the windows. After a moment, he sighed. "Yeah…that would be a problem, wouldn't it?"
Diane was seizing her purse and then rushing out of the bar counter, around it, and to the coat rack, "It most certainly would! Sam—work to do or not, I really think we'd better—" as she seized her coat, throwing it on, "—leave for our homes immediately! It…it wouldn't do to—"
Her words were cut off with a yelp, as she opened the door to let in a drift of snow! It wasn't too big, but the impact was enough to knock off her feet, landing on her behind.
Sam rushed over to her, taking her from behind to help her up, "You okay?"
Diane nodded as she stood up again, brushing off her coat and her skirt, "I—I think so. T-thank you, Sam."
"No problem," Sam shoved the door shut, hearing it crunch against the snow. He chuckled, shaking his head as he turned back to her. "Too late, huh?"
Diane huffed, "It's not funny."
"Aw, come on, honey—admit it: if I fell on my behind like that, you'd bust a gut laughing—before you came over to help me!"
Diane paused at this…and shrugged. "Perhaps. But then, your fall would be akin to an egomaniacal lounge lizard suddenly undercut by the proverbial banana peel."
"Oh, who's talking about ego?"
Diane scoffed, as she took off her coat, "Now, you listen, Sam Ma-LONE—!"
The outcry was because, whirling to slap the coat back on the rack, she'd slipped again on the snow, which in their struggle to get her back up had been pounded into near-ice—falling back down on her behind.
Sam laughed again, shaking his head. "Now, come on, sweetheart, you gotta admit—"
Diane rushed to her feet, "Now look HERE—!"
That was from another slip. With this, Diane crossed her arms and sat cross-legged, pouting.
"Aw, come on…" Sam made it a point to walk around the white now on the floor, and took her in his arms again—this time picking her up, and setting her on a dry part of the floor where she stood up, smiled, and gave him a slight bow.
"Thank you," she said, and handed him her coat.
Sam took it, and put it on the rack, shaking his head with a smirk.
"I saw that!"
Sam turned to her. "What?"
Diane threw her hands out, "You still find it amusing! I suggest you admit, Mr. Malone, that if you had been the one to fall on your…posterior…you—"
Sam grinned. "Just think about it."
"What are you—" Diane blinked…and looked as though she were fighting something.
Sam nodded slowly, as he walked over to her, "Huh…?"
Finally, Diane swallowed, and shook her head with a chuckle, "Well, regardless—"
"See? Huh…? Come on, sweetheart—"
Diane had been walking back to the bar counter—and at this, she whirled to him, pointing sharply, "Sam…I would appreciate if you kindly cease in these…familial overtures."
Sam frowned. "What are you talking about? I—"
"Well, then," Diane straightened up, "I suppose I'll word it in a way that even you should be able to understand: do not call me 'honey', or 'sweetheart'—I am not your 'honey' or your 'sweetheart'—"
"Come on, you're not gonna tell me you're bothered by that."
Diane pursed her lip for a moment…and then smiled, "Perhaps you're right, Sam. I shouldn't be bothered at all."
"There ya go."
"I should be amused."
Sam shrugged, as he continued to walk up to her, "Why? Don't think you'd be worth it, or something?"
It worked—Diane stiffened at this new shot at her feminine pride. But only for a minute, and her smile didn't fade, "Well, it'd be very sad for you, wasting your time much longer."
Sam grinned, "Wanna bet?"
For a moment, Diane said nothing…and her smile seemed to fade, her eyes a little wider. Finally, she said, "Just to inform you, Sam…I'm prepared to flip you onto the floor, again—so, if you try, we'll see who will be laughing, in a moment."
Sam failed to fight the flinch at the memory of the first time he'd tried to kiss her. He shrugged, "Well, you know…can't blame me for trying."
And he walked back to behind the bar counter, to start checking the receipts.
Diane stayed where she was for a moment longer, and then turned to look at him with a smile. "Why, Sam…! Did you say what I thought you said?"
"Diane, not now—I gotta check this, and see if Coach got it right."
"Well—" Diane froze, suddenly reminded. "Coach…"
She rushed back to the bar counter—picking up the phone. She dialed Coach's number, and waited, her eyes closed. Please, Coach—please, be home. Please…pick up the phone!
Diane's heart leaped, as she smiled, "Oh, Coach, it's Diane! I—oh, thank God. I…I was so worried—"
"Oh, yeah…well, don't worry about me, Diane—like I told Sam, I got those chains on my tires. I got them after all—what do you know! What was I so worried about—?"
After a pause, his voice turned grave. "Oh…oh, no, the bus! If they don't have—"
"Coach," Diane chuckled, "I'm…sure the busses are fine."
"Oh, yeah…well, I'm okay, Diane—how are you?"
"I—I'm fine, Coach. I'm…still at the bar, with Sam—" She froze, and swallowed as the implications hit her. She chuckled again, nervously. "I…believe we're stuck here, for the night."
"Oh…well, talk to Sam about it—I kinda remember there being a bunch of blankets and things he keeps in the office for this kind of thing…." His voice turned grave again, "Or was that Melville's? Oh, geez, and they're closed—no, I'm sure Sam has all that, too. Ask him."
Diane nodded. "Okay, Coach."
"Yeah…you'll be fine, sweetheart. Good night."
Diane nodded. "Good night…."
As she hung up, and put the phone away, she let out a light sigh, and a self-amused smile. She'd just made such an issue over Sam calling her that…but with Coach, it was—different. It was affectionate. With Sam, it was…
Or was it? Not too long ago, he'd shared tears with her, when Diane had told him of dear Elizabeth, her beloved cat. And then, so touched, she walked up to him…and he held her in his arms…and then…
Well, nothing had happened…but it almost had. And if Diane hadn't had that sudden surge of doubt in that moment…they would have kissed. And who knew where that would've led?
"Told you he'd be okay," Sam said—and suddenly Diane realized he was standing by her, smiling warmly.
Diane nodded. "Yes…he's fine."
"Yeah, well…in the meantime, I guess we're kinda stuck here, for tonight."
"Don't remind me," Diane muttered.
Sam nodded, looking off for a moment. Finally, he said, "Well, I'm done with the receipts. The rest of the glasses and mugs are away…I'm pretty sure that's it."
Diane nodded. "Well—Coach said something about your keeping blankets in the office?"
"Well, I think so, and a few pillows—but I don't remember having to use them in a while."
Diane frowned, "Well, if you don't, I don't know how we're supposed to keep—"
At Sam's smile, Diane threw up her hands, "Don't say it!"
Sam shrugged. "Well, in that case, we'll have to use our coats, I guess."
"Fine. But in the meantime…"
"Right, let's go check."
As they headed to the office, Diane shook her head, amused despite herself.
He's incorrigible—absolutely shameless! To think of joking of…of taking advantage of our situation—!
But he hadn't actually done that…not fully. And that was something worth noting: whenever Diane set her limits…Sam would always respect them. In his own, juvenile way, perhaps, but…he did, nonetheless.
Sure enough, there were blankets and pillows, just as Diane had said Coach had said. There was even an alarm clock—can't be too careful, anyway.
Diane shook her head with a smile, as Sam brought them out. "What else is in there, I wonder, which you've long forgotten?"
Sam chuckled, "Sorry, honey, but no books, if you're wondering."
"I wasn't. It would certainly surprise me if there were any."
"Come on, give me some credit. If I couldn't read, I'd have been pretty helpless with those receipts back there."
"Sam…" Diane grinned, her eyes sparkling, "Not being illiterate does not make you literate."
"Yeah, whatever. I'm not gonna impress you anyway, so why should I bother?"
Sam set the box down on the desk, and headed to the couch.
"Sam…?" Diane was still grinning, as she walked—almost swayed—over to him, "Is there a reason you'd want to impress me, on anything beyond the usual subject…?"
"Oh, shut up," Sam muttered, as he took off the cushions, and folded out the bed.
Diane sighed, shaking her head. "Of course you would."
"You have a bed in your office…."
"Hey, sometimes I work late."
"And I'm certain that is the primary justification for its existence. So, I wonder how many floozies you've swayed to 'stick around' while the bar would otherwise close for the night?"
"Okay, that does it—" Sam walked up to her, "Look, I don't pretend to be some kind of boy scout, Miss Chambers, but assuming it is your business, I'm not the mindless sex ape you seem to think I am. I've got my dignity too, you know—and so do all those girls I've had. Yeah…that's right—all of them. It might be hard for Diane Chambers, super-genius, to believe—but for your information…all those women, they don't go for me because I tell them to—they do it because they want to. You know—I just feel sorry for you that you don't! I'd tell you what you're missing, but you'd just laugh it off."
Diane held up her hand, "Look, Sam, I don't mean to—"
"You know, I don't even know why I'm trying to defend—no!" Sam's pointer shot up, "Scratch that—I do know. It's because you've been so obsessed with telling me how stupid all those girls are that I go out with, and I'm sick and tired of it—and whether I like it or not, I'm stuck with a prissy, spoiled little—ice princess, for the whole night! You don't like it either? Fine—but like it or not, there's one bed, here. You want it?"
Diane said nothing, her gaze lowered as she wrung her hands a little. If Sam didn't know better, he'd say his words had really hit home. She looked almost…hurt.
Finally, she nodded, and met his gaze. "That…that won't be necessary, Sam," she said.
All his feelings of triumph left Sam, as it was all too clear that Diane had just been fighting tears.
She swallowed, and shrugged. "I'll—use the couch in the pool room." She turned to the box, and pulled out a couple pillows and a blanket.
Sam frowned, "Uh—look, I'm pretty sure it'll be warmer in here—"
"I'll use my coat, if I have to!" Diane carried the stuff to the doorway. She paused, and turned to him. "Further," she added, again trying to put on the "haughty" air, "As far as you're apparently concerned, Sam…it's my normal environment, isn't it? 'Ice princess' that I am…."
"Good night, Mr. Malone," Diane turned, and stormed out of the office.
"Good night," Sam said, watching her—not realizing until after it came out how warm his tone was.
Diane paused for a moment, and turned to him. They held one another's gaze in silence…until finally, Diane whirled away, heading into the pool room.
Sam let out a sigh. Way to go, Sammy…real smooth, huh?
He made it a point not to close the door, as he took out his own pillows and blanket.