Note: Hello again, everyone! Here's a new chapter for my anthology. Hope you all like them.

By the way…the first tale in this chapter is actually based loosely on a scene from Quentin Tarantino's script for True Romance (cut from the film). The second tale is, of course, my take on what happened in the "prime" universe to prevent "Once Upon A Time In Los Angeles" from happening.

Enjoy!


Eleventh—I Couldn't Aspire To Anything Higher

It was one of the few notes of trivia Diane Chambers happened to know about baseball that didn't involve the career of Sam Malone. Unsurprisingly…it was Sam she'd learned it from.

They were alone in the bar, when everyone had gone. It was early morning, St. Valentine's Day, during their engagement. Sam had picked a few songs on the jukebox…and they were in each other's arms, dancing together gently to the music of Sinatra, Martin, and the like.

When "I Want to Be Loved by You" began, Diane couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Marilyn Monroe?" she smiled at Sam.

Sam shrugged. "I dunno…thought it'd be a good pick, I guess."

"Oh, it's fine, I just find it a little amusing, I must admit…."

"I swear, I wasn't thinking that."

"Uh-huh."

"I mean it! Marilyn's pretty deep, when it got down to it."

Diane chuckled, and nodded, "Well…yes, I suppose—beneath everything."

Sam chuckled…and then letting out a slight sigh with a sad smile.

Diane smiled up at him. "Something wrong?"

"Oh, I dunno, it's just…you know much about Marilyn?"

"Well, I…" Diane shrugged. "I…know she had something of a tragic life. Amid all the glamor, she was looking for love…and never found it."

"Well, funny you said that. I just found myself thinking—her first husband was Joe DiMaggio, you know that?"

"I…might have. It's not the sort of thing I'd recall too easily, Sam."

"Yeah, I guess not. Well, you know something…they say when Joe and Marilyn met up again, six-seven years later, they hit it off again."

"Really?"

"Uh-huh. You know what else…they say Joe was about to propose to her again."

"Oh…" Diane sighed, shaking her head softly. "But…that didn't happen."

"Yeah, she died before he could. You know something—for about 20 years straight, he's sent flowers to her crypt…three times a week. And he's never married again."

Diane felt her vision blur, and nodded as she blinked away the forming tears. "He must've truly loved her."

"Yeah…must have."

Diane let out a sigh as she rested her head against him. "Sam…do you think she loved him?"

"Well, I guess so…I'd like to think so."

Diane nodded. After a moment's pause, she asked, "Do you think she knew?"

"Knew…?"

"That he was going to ask her."

Sam sighed. "I don't know."

"It would just be…so terrible, either way."

"Well, hey, I'm not one of those thinking she was murdered or anything…."

Diane chuckled a little as she looked up at him. "That's not what I meant."

"Oh, okay."

"I just mean…she was so alone. And to have that chance to find the love she'd been seeking for so long…well, perhaps if she did know, she felt she wouldn't deserve it. But either way…she didn't realize what she had, right in front of her."

"You know…I heard it probably wasn't intentional—the overdose, I mean."

Diane nodded, looking off for a moment. "Perhaps she died in peace, then."

"You think?"

Diane smiled at him. "Knowing she was loved…."

"Yeah…maybe…. Bummer for Joe, though."

"Yes…. For both of them, really—neither realizing their love until…too late."

"You said it…."

They danced in silence for the rest of the song, content to sway in each other's arms.

Some years later, shortly after the unfortunate inflammatory incident on the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman…Diane Chambers found herself in the audience for an auction of rare and valuable memorabilia. One of the items was a card of Joe DiMaggio.

No one in the audience was interested in buying it. Diane wasn't too sure of what made her raise her hand at the last second. Perhaps it was the memory…she wasn't sure.

All she knew was, her beau of two years was a little astonished and amused at her buying something like that—and more than a little inquisitive about it. Diane had tried to shrug it off, but she was admittedly a little defensive about not answering. That had been one of many things leading to the end of the two-year relationship.


Twelfth—Crossroads Of Los Angeles

Sam had tried his hardest not to dwell on the fact that, when he'd been zapped from the "security system" of Cliff's car, he'd seen a flash of Diane standing right before him. He told himself it was just his brain going haywire for a moment—that was it.

Of course, part of his heart just wouldn't let it go. And the fact that they were getting closer and closer to Hollywood…to where she was…

"So, this is L.A., huh?" Sam Malone said to no one in particular.

As usual, when someone around Cliff Clavin said something to no one in particular, the mailman took it as his cue: "Well technically, Sammy, we're, uh, currently driving in the eastern quarter of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. You know, it's a…little known fact that, er, the total square footage of the L-A-M-A—or as we in the Postal Service like to call it, 'The Lama'…is, uh, actually roughly equivalent to the—"

"Cliff," Dr. Frasier Crane sighed, "My advice to you—at this moment…is to quit while you're ahead."

"Yeah, I will, Doc, after I remember—what was it equivalent to; ah, yeah—!"

"So, Sammy!" Norm Peterson called out from the back seat, "What's our plan, then?"

Sam shrugged, "Well, I dunno—what were we thinking?"

"I've been asking myself that question for days," Frasier muttered.

Beside him, Norm shrugged, "Well, all I know is, just driving around and seeing the sights is out. We've already spent day after day either driving or sitting and waiting for the car to get fixed—personally, I don't need more sitting around. I couldn't take it. I couldn't."

Frasier rolled his eyes, "Norm, would you mind explaining to me how all this complaining of sitting in the same place all day—magically vanishes when you sit on your barstool all day?!"

Norm turned to him slowly, with a look of bewilderment on his face, "Doc…where have you been?"

"Oh, come on, Norm—it's a legitimate question!"

"Frasier…do you see a mug in my hand? And if you do, does it contain any beer? I sure could use some right about now."

"Oh, for goodness sake—!"

"Hey, hey, hey—settle down, okay?" Sam called back. "Now, I'm pretty sure some ideas were thrown around, right? So, what were they?"

"Someone suggested Disney," Norm offered. The others immediately responded with "Oh, yeah!" and "Sure! That sounds ideal!" and the like.

"Well, then!" Frasier beamed, "Are we all in agreement? Anaheim or bust?"

"I'm in," said Norm.

"Yeah!" Cliff nodded, "Uh, you know, I actually found myself enjoying Disneyland's counterpart, down in Florida—and I, uh, think it wouldn't be a bad idea to…er, take advantage of the same, yet different!"

"Uh-huh," Sam muttered, looking off through the window.

"So, how about it, Sammy?" Norm patted Sam's shoulder, "You for Disney?"

He didn't want the question—he'd been hoping the other guys would've assumed he was as game as they were. But for some reason, he didn't want to come out and agree. He didn't want the responsibility—

Responsibility for what? Where else would I want to go—?

He knew the answer to that. He knew darn well.

But the question was…would it be worth it? For goodness sake—why would he want to? She had her own life now, and…

And yet…

That zap—that vision of her, right there…. Was that to tell me something, or just my old nostalgia screwing everything up for me?

It was the kind of choice he shouldn't have had to make in the spans of a second—but that was all he had.

He shrugged, "Yeah, sure, why not?"

"All right!" Cliff called out, "The Mouse it is!"

And despite all the craziness and fun of the next week…there were times, lying awake at night in the resort room, when he stared off into nothingness…wondering if he'd made the right choice.


Thirteenth—Return Of The Repressed

There was a reason behind Sam gathering up the guts to up and go to the sex-addict support group. It was something that struck him about what Rebecca had said, when she'd snapped and ranted about how women didn't take him seriously anymore. He didn't know why he suddenly felt he had to take that seriously—Rebecca was not the most insightful person he'd ever met. But somehow, part of him knew she had a point about one thing…that the womanizing was losing its "fun"—that it wasn't satisfying whatever need it had been.

It wasn't until he saw Diane Chambers on that TV screen, accepting that award…that he realized what it was about Rebecca's words that had irked him so much. He'd heard that kind of warning before. He'd read that kind of warning, before.

He'd read it in Diane's "Don Juan" essay. The essay on him. The essay that had concluded that "Trevor" would end up alone and sad…unfulfilled—because his constant skirt-chasing, and unwillingness to strive for anything more with a woman he was drawn to, would keep him from forming a long-term relationship with one…and so, when the day would come when the "chase" would no longer be enough, it would be too late.

It was so ironic. To think, the one relationship to prove that wrong—where a big fling wouldn't be enough—was with her…and when it was over, he just threw himself back into that old womanizing, shoving all he'd gained out of his mind.

And that night, when the bar closed, he finally broke…and looked her up.


Fourteenth—Unlocked

When it became obvious their pounding and calls were not going to be heeded, Diane and Lilith settled down with a huff, leaning on opposite walls.

"Beyond…belief!" Diane threw out her arms.

"On the contrary, Diane—considering the unabashed male ego of both our specimens, I suppose we should have anticipated something like this," Lilith replied, staring at the door.

"Locking us inside? This is…this is simply—"

"After all, considering the pattern of their having to make the effort to reconcile, throughout the night, perhaps they've at last considered it too humiliating to appear as though they were pleading through the door, once again. To them, I suppose, it might indicated being…'henpecked'."

Diane sighed, calming down. "Well…to be perfectly fair, this would become irritating, were we on the receiving end."

"Surely you're not attempting to justify—?"

"Not in the slightest! I simply mean that, were Sam and Frasier to be in here, and we out there…we would doubtless be discussing the depths of their abject petulance of behavior."

"Diane, our behavior is in reaction—"

"But I hardly think that justifies it…." Diane sighed again, and looked off at the door, shaking her head. "I knew full well of Sam's past, and yet I still blanched at evidence of it tonight."

"Frankly, Diane, I myself felt he seemed to lose himself with that girl in a slightly excessive manner."

"Yes, well…nonetheless, it was quite childish of me to storm in here. So help me, he does have a point."

Lilith looked off at the door, and sighed. "Perhaps you're correct, Diane. Perhaps we both erred in running away from the problems at hand, rather than confronting them."

"Perhaps…."

They continued to stare off for a moment longer, until finally Diane asked, "Lilith, might I ask you something?"

"Yes?"

"Why on earth can't we unlock this door?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"When Sam and I arrived, you had locked yourself in here, and Frasier had to break in here with a blade."

"Clearly, he hadn't recalled the key until this current situation."

"And yet—if one can also lock this door from the inside, why can't we unlock it?"

Lilith frowned, stared at the knob for a moment, and said, "Apparently, the external lock is separate."

"What on Earth?"

"Absurd as it sounds, it would seem to be the case."

Diane shook her head, suddenly feeling giddy. "You were not aware of this?"

"Unusually enough, Diane, the thought had never occurred to me."

"Well apparently it occurred to Frasier, if he was able to do this so soon!"

"Indeed."

"Really, Lilith, this is nonsensical!—why in heaven's name would a door be designed like this? What purpose could it possibly serve?"

Lilith paused a moment longer…and turned back to her. "I do not know."

"Unbelievable!"

"Perhaps this sort of contraption was intended as a means of punishing petulant children who'd wish to lock themselves in their rooms."

"They design locks for that?"

"I don't know. I am simply reaching for a potential explanation."

Diane crossed her arms and stared at the door. "Ironically apropos, isn't it?"

"It would seem all four of us possess the need to grow up."

"It would seem…."


Fifteenth—Never Forget

"Okay, Frasier, I'm off," Sam announced as he headed out of the office, "You can handle this without me?"

Frasier straightened up and nodded with a smirk, "I can assure you, Sam, I can clean a bar sans supervision."

Sam nodded slowly. "Okay…well, if you need anything—"

"Understood, Sam."

"Okay. Diane—!" Sam called out.

Frasier stiffened. "She's still here?"

"Yeah, you didn't notice she didn't head off? I'd have thought—"

"Just a moment, Sam!" came Diane's voice from the pool room.

"No, I'm just letting you know I'm heading out—you can handle finishing up without me, right?"

"Naturally!"

"Ah…" Frasher nodded, bristling, "You believe we must confront one another—"

"Hey, doc, listen—"

"Sam, lest you forget, I am no long—"

"Frasier…the last thing I want is things to get out of hand, okay? Now, while I'm still you're boss, I'm telling you to keep it civil."

"Surely, Sam, if you need reassurances—"

"Hey, I'd think my being here would make it worse. Anyway, you're gonna start annoying customers, you keep it up—so you'd better deal with it."

Frasier nodded. "Of course. Assuming Diane wishes to speak about this?"

Sam opened the main door as he said, "Hey, don't worry, I think I know her well enough."

And then he left.

Diane walked in from the pool room. "Well, that's everything, I believe—Frasier, do you need anything?"

Oh, Diane? Shall I tell you what I need from you? Frasier straightened up, clutching the mop, "I can assure you, your assistance will hardly be required, Diane."

"Right…" Diane headed to the door.

Frasier tried his best to keep his huff internal. So you think you know her well enough, eh, Sam?

Diane paused, her body tensing. And then she turned to him, "Frasier—don't you think it's time we talked?"

Frasier sighed, checked the floor one last time, and carried the supplies to the closet. "About what?"

Diane followed him, "Frasier, you know very well—can't you simply be honest with me about this—"

"Honest!" Frasier swung the closet door open and whirled to her. "How amusing—you wish to lecture me about honest!" He briskly and deliberately set the mop in the closet.

Diane shook her head, blinking. "Frasier, I—"

"Diane, if you wish me to speak, I will: You swore to me—constantly, whenever and however the subject arose—that your feelings for him were over! In fact, you scoffed at the idea, and mocked the notion that I would believe you even carried the slightest torch for him—"

"Frasier, I didn't—"

"Really! Are you going to tell me you didn't know what you felt, at the time?"

Diane swallowed, saying nothing.

Frasier finished putting in the supplies, as he muttered, "Oh, I suppose I should've known it—no!" He straightened out, "Never mind 'should have'—I did know! As far late as when I invited you with me to Europe—"

"Frasier, believe me—"

"You…mocked the idea! You announced it was absurd that you felt anything for Sam—"

"Frasier, will you kindly allow me to speak?!"

Frasier spread out his hands, "Fine. If you have something to say…I'm listening."

He closed the closet door and waited.

Diane braced herself, but it took a moment before she finally said, "Frasier…I was certain it was you I loved—I…at the time…"

"So, you…didn't know how you felt—about me?"

"I believed I did, but…but I—"

"Of course—you believed it so vehemently you insisted it constantly. And what's more, you didn't trust me."

"What—?"

Frasier felt himself calm down a bit…just a bit, enough to allow him to relax a little, "How many times, Diane…did I confront you with the possibility? I was a psychiatrist, Diane—I know this sort of thing, better than most. And every time I confronted you with my doubts, you gave me your word that you were absolutely certain it was over. You would not—even—consider the possibility that I might be right."

Diane's gaze lowered. "Frasier…I'm sorry for what happened. For leaving you—"

"This is not about leaving me at the altar!" Frasier paused for a moment, and shrugged, "All right, perhaps it is—but more than that! It's…that you waited until that moment—that moment…to be honest with yourself."

Diane closed her eyes, saying nothing.

"You lied to yourself, Diane…and you lied to me. And you waited to end the lies until the altar. Could you even begin to understand the pain and humiliation—?"

"Frasier…" Diane looked at him, her eyes filled with tears, "It was never…my intent to hurt you."

Fraiser sighed, "I know. And that's the worst of it."

He walked past her to the main door, and opened it—

"Frasier, I'm sorry!"

Frasier turned to her. Diane had turned to face him, but otherwise had remained where she was.

She blinked and swallowed, her voice barely above a whisper. "I truly am. For hurting you, for…for not—"

"Diane…" Frasier said quietly, "Sooner or later, you will have no choice but to be honest with yourself—what you truly want. I can only hope it happens before someone else is hurt."

Diane stiffened, her lovely face showing the pain in her heart.

It made Frasier's own heart soften, and he added, "Before you're the one who's hurt."

Apparently it wasn't any less cruel. And Frasier remembered too late what Diane had told him about Dr. Sumner Sloane.

Diane closed her eyes for a moment, and then met his gaze. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Frasier looked off for a moment. Then he straightened up and announced, "I'll give Sam my notice in the morning. When I asked for this job, he told me he doesn't particularly need a janitor, anyway. I trust he won't consider this an inconvenience."

Diane gathered herself and shrugged. "Do as you will." She walked to behind the bar, and took her purse. After a moment, she asked, "What will you do now? Where will you go?"

Frasier shrugged, "I have enough money to allow myself to ask that question."

Diane looked at him. "Are you…going to remain here? In Boston?"

Frasier sighed. "Oddly enough, I still consider the people here my friends. For now, this is the only place I have to go. No, it's not for the sake of inflicting 'more punishment'—it's simply how it is."

Diane said nothing. Frasier turned to go—but then, Diane called out, "Frasier?"

He turned to her.

Diane looked off for a moment, and then met his gaze and asked, "I never wanted to hurt you, Frasier—never. I cannot begin to express how sorry I am that I did. And if I could change what happened…believe me, I would."

Frasier shook his head. "Well…you can't. And I wish I could forget what happened—but I can't. And as for whether I can forgive…"

Diane braced herself.

Frasier sighed. "I…can't answer that—not now. Not…just yet."

Diane closed her eyes, and nodded.

Frasier walked out, closing the door behind him.

As he walked up the steps to the street, he was sure he could hear something. It sounded like someone crying. Like her crying.

He paused, and turned to peek through the window. Fortunately, she wasn't turned so she could see him. She was sitting on a barstool, collapsed, eyes pressed against her palms…letting out the tears of pain…and guilt.

Frasier felt his heart tug…a guilt of his own.

She didn't want to hurt me. I know that. But…she wasn't honest with herself, when we were together.

And I wasn't honest…with myself.

None of that made it easier. None of it cured the bitterness…the hurt.

Frasier straightened up, and walked up to the street, into the night.