Sam waited for a moment, watching her rest. Something about her…just—something about the way she looked right then—

Oh, stop.

But…still, he couldn't begin to help himself—her lying there, dressed as she was…hair in that "girlish" ponytail, so relaxed and peaceful…letting herself be vulnerable to him, like that—he couldn't help but be reminded of how sexy he found her…and despite everything, wouldn't stop finding her. Especially dressed as she was, right now. Good thing it wasn't red—he didn't think he'd have been able to handle it, if she'd been wearing that. Or maybe the blue made it worse—it helped make her look pretty darn innocent, and maybe that disarmed him even more….

Hey, I said knock it off!

Sam shoved the thoughts away, and smiled as he leaned to her. "Hey, you awake?"

Diane shifted position, her eyes still closed, and smiled a little, "Mm-hmm."

"Okay, well, uh…I think I'd better be going, don't you think?"

Diane frowned as she opened her eyes, looking at him, "Oh, must you?"

"Come on, you're doing great, don't you think?"

Diane looked off, "Well, perhaps…I think. But—"

"Oh, come on—what do you need, huh?"

She looked at him. "As of right now?"

Sam shrugged.

Diane's gaze lowered for a moment. Finally, she smiled a little at him. "Some tea would be nice."

Sam chuckled. "You know, I'm pretty sure that isn't something you need me for—"

"Oh, Sam…" Diane pouted, looking at him with doe-like eyes, "Are you really so desperate to leave me all alone, like this?"

"Oh, please—"

"Sam…you can't tell me there's anything wrong with fixing tea for us, can you?"

"Okay—fine!" Sam said as he threw up his hands, standing up, "You want the tea? Fine, I'll make the tea!"

As he headed around the couch to go to the kitchen, he saw Diane turn so she could watch him, her chin resting down against the back of the couch, "Thank you, Sam," she cooed.

"Whatever." Sam entered the kitchen. "How do you like it?"

"Oh, silly Sam—you know how I like it!"

"Okay, okay—geez, you really are a loon, you know that?"

She chuckled, "Perhaps."

As Sam filled the kettle, that kitten—Christopher—jumped from somewhere onto the counter. He sat there, looking at Sam with a questioning look.

Sam sighed, "What?"

"Sam, did you say something?"

"Not you—I'm talking to your cat."

"Oh, I see…!" Diane chuckled, as she got up and walked to the door frame, looking in. "Dare I suggest you're getting along quite well?"

"I don't know—maybe he knows what I'm making, and you've been giving him tea instead of milk."

Diane shook her head. "Sam…I've found him to be highly perceptive, actually."

"You'd think your stuffed animals are 'perceptive'."

"Well, actually, now that you mention it…"

Sam turned to her, "Do I need to worry about you?"

Diane sighed, still smiling, "Now, you're not going to suggest Christopher's intelligence isn't higher than a toy's."

"I don't even know what your point is, right now! I—"

Sam cut himself off by the feel of fur rubbing up against his arm, with a slight rumbling sound. He turned to the kitten and muttered, "Hey, lay off, will you?"

Christopher straightened up, and looked up at him with an innocent expression that Sam found really familiar.

Diane chuckled, "Why, I do believe he likes you, Mr. Malone."

"Well, let's check him out and make sure he's a guy."

"Mew!" Christopher shot back.

Sam scoffed and looked down at him, "I'm just trying to make a point, okay?"

Christopher just looked at Sam's arm, and pawed at it a little.

Diane shook her head, beaming. "Sam Malone, there's hope for you, after all."

"Uh-huh. Look, if you're just keeping me here to have some fun, I'm not gonna help you."

"Oh?"

Sam turned the gage on the stove, and said, "You want your tea, fine—but I've been in a cold sweat since you went off to that theater today, and I need a shower."

"Well, I'm beginning to find even that preferable to your typical cologne."

"Diane, I'm serious. Now will you get out of the way? I'm—"

He walked up to the door frame—and Diane backed up, matching his steps.

Sam shook his head, "What—okay, enough with the—"

He made a mad dash for the door—but Diane beat him to it, grinning with a playful glint in her eyes as she set all the locks, then whirled to face him. "Gotcha!"

Sam let out a scoff. "Okay, I'm pretty sure there's a law against this."

Diane still grinned as she leaned back against the door—and Sam again found himself noticing how bewitchingly form-fitting her "innocent" blue outfit was.

"The shower's in there, Sam," she said, tossing a glance to the bathroom.

"Now, come on—Diane, this is stupid, okay?"

She shrugged, "Oh, I quite agree, this is a ludicrous situation—I can think of at least a dozen men who are just longing to use my shower…."

"So ask one of them."

"Oh, don't tell me you'd approve of that."

"Look—"

Diane's eyes sparkled. "I dare you."

Sam paused for a moment, and pointed to her, "You know, there's still the fire escape—and I'm pretty sure I'll beat you there."

Diane shrugged. "Go ahead, if you must. But understand you'll be breaking my heart, and that of Christopher."

"I don't think he even cares."

Diane took a few steps to him, and sighed, "Sam…perhaps you're right—it's all absurd. But surely you won't tell me you—"

Sam held up his hand, "Do we have to go through this again? Diane, you're just dealing with a big disappointment—don't you think maybe you're just a little too stuck on this?"

Diane paused, her smile fading. Finally, she asked, "Is that what you think?"

"Well, I don't—"

"Sam…I have my dreams—and I'll always have them. I may lose some, but…I still have my hopes: my writing, my poetry…"

"Well, I will say you sing pretty good, you know."

"Pretty well," Diane smiled, "But I thank you, regardless."

"Sure—but what does that have to do with…?"

Diane shrugged, "Perhaps it's another dream of mine: one that refuses to die."

Sam chuckled, "Yeah, you and every other woman I've ever dated."

Diane shook her head, her smile growing again, "Oh, no—it's not the same, and we both know it."

"Sure, most of them accept it ain't gonna happen, and move on—"

"Sam, you're not going to trivialize this for me, so don't try."

"Hey, you're the one who keeps saying not to ruin the moment. Well, I've been here for you, helping you out of what happened; now let's not make it more than it is, okay?"

Diane's smile faded, and she lowered her gaze for a moment. After a moment, she nodded, "Okay…."

"Okay. Uh—maybe I'd better…" Sam went past her, to the door—

Diane turned to him, "Sam?"

Sam turned to her, "Yeah?"

Diane swallowed a little, and asked, "I…don't suppose I could—convince you to stay just for—one more thing? If not the tea, well, at least…"

Sam shook his head with a smirk, and finally shrugged, defeated, "What's up?"

Diane extended a hand to him, "Care to share a dance?"

Sam blinked, "Come again?"

Diane smiled, "Just for one song…call it closure, I don't know. I…think I'll be able to handle things, after that."

Sam sighed, and spread out his hands. "Fine, whatever—but that's it."

"For tonight."

"Whatever you say."

Diane nodded, and held up a forefinger. Then she headed off, Sam wagered to get the record.

Oh, she's not telling me what—I got a feeling I'm gonna love this….

Sam found himself looking in the direction of the kitchen. The kitten was still on the counter, looking at him, head tilted.

Sam scoffed at him, "Oh, shut up. Why don't you go catch a moth or something?"

Christopher looked off for a moment, and leapt off the counter.

Diane came back with a record, and put it on the player, setting it where she wanted. Then she walked to Sam in the middle of the room, and they got into position as the song began. It was Sinatra:

It is only a paper moon,

Sailing over a cardboard sea—

But it wouldn't be make-believe

If you believed in me…!

Sam chuckled, "You trying to tell me something?"

Diane met his gaze with an innocent smile, "I don't know…is there something to be told?"

Sam sighed, shaking his head. Diane chuckled silently, and rested her head on his shoulder….

Without—your—love…

It's a honky-tonk parade…

Without—your—love…

It's a melody played in a penny arcade!

"You know," Sam added softly as the song went on, "You seem pretty relaxed right now—you're actually doing pretty g—well."

Diane chuckled, "Why not? I have a wonderful partner who believes in me…who's there for me, and always will be—why wouldn't I be at peace with the world?"

Sam shook his head, "You don't give up, do you?"

Diane's eyes sparkled as she grinned up at him. "Never," she whispered.

Sam held her as they swayed to the music, looking off at nothing in particular. They remained this way until the song's final notes….

It's a Barnum and Bailey world—

Just as phony as it can be…

But it wouldn't be make-believe

If you—believed…in me!

"Oh, Sam, I love you," Diane whispered, still resting against Sam's shoulder.

Sam said nothing…just held her until the song was long over. And I believe it.


Note: The "shower" exchange is a nod to Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn, who have such a cute/sexy exchange in the film "Charade". I felt it so smacked of Diane Chambers of early Season 5 that I couldn't really resist.