Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Oookay, we have chapter two. This is another introductory sort of chapter until we get to the action and suspense. I'm glad everyone's liked it so far. Like I mentioned before, many of the Chuck characters will be utilized, however, their function in this fic may not exactly parallel the Chuck-verse. So if someone like Jeff, say, ends up as a partner of Chuck's (that won't happen really), do not be surprised…

Anyway, in this chapter, we have the Carmichaels' take of their marriage and the beginning of the action. Enjoy!


CAST (In order of appearance):

YVONNE STRAHOVSKI as Sarah Carmichael

ZACHARY LEVI as Charles Carmichael

ADAM BALDWIN as John Casey

MINI ANDEN as Carina Hansen

JORDANA BREWSTER as Dr. Jill Roberts

with…

IVANA MILICEVIC as Ilsa Trinchina


Chapter 1

"Beginner's luck, I guess…"

If you were to ask Sarah Carmichael how she got to this point, she honestly wouldn't be able to tell you. It seemed as though the early stages of their relationship had been so alluring, so all-consuming in its passion and heat. There was something so captivating about learning every single thing about Chuck. His likes, his dislikes, his quirks, the fact that he could be so suave and charismatic, but innately at his core, he really was a gigantic, unabashed nerd.

They had been so unpredictable at first, taking spontaneous trips to random places, sneaking away from their jobs for a quick rendezvous. But now…now, everything seemed to be so fixated in a routine, so set in a schedule that the spontaneity of the early years, the invigorating rush of newness, had dwindled down to…this. It as though marriage had been the bucket of water that doused the flames that was once their relationship.

Sarah yawned, shaking the last vestiges of her sleep away and striding past the large stuffed bear in its place of honor by their television. The sight brought an unconscious smile to her face. She remembered the day she won herself that bear. It was a day when she learned there was much more to Charles Carmichael than what met the eye. Yes, at sight, he might have been a nerd, but there was something about him. Something extraordinary. Something…that went beyond his prescribed stereotype.

Sarah sighed as she burrowed into Chuck's warm embrace. This date to the pier was perfect. The right setting, the right companion, the right everything. He had been utterly adorable from the beginning, such a wonderful contrast from the suave, sexy man she had met in Columbia. There were just so many facets to his personality that it was thrilling to be around him. She never knew what new element she was going to uncover next. She craned her head upward to ask him a question when a shout to her right caught her attention.

"Step right up! Try your luck! How about you, miss? You want a go?"

Chuck caught her eyeing the sign and hitched his head towards booth. "You wanna?"

Sarah smiled, nodding. Chuck returned the smile, fishing his wallet out of his pocket. "Well then, as you wish."

Sarah stepped up to the marked line, tentatively gripping the rifle. Chuck watched from beside her, propping an elbow on the booth.

"You got it?"

She smirked at his teasing tone, retorting right back. "Yeah."

"Yeah? You know how to hold it?"

She raised it slightly, maintaining her innocent façade. Chuck tilted his head in appraisal. "Eh, not bad…"

She giggled, lifting it higher, enjoying this moment of playful banter. He didn't have to know the truth. Chuck surveyed her from his spot, a gentle, tender smile gracing his face as she unloaded a few clumsy shots.

"You know, aiming kinda helps," he cajoled lightly.

Sarah laughed as a few more tries flew wide of their intended targets. "I am!"

Chuck only grinned as Sarah pouted at him, brandishing the rifle menacingly.

"Don't make fun of me. I'm the one with the weapon."

Chuck's grin widened as he took the rifle from her. "Well, I'm not sure they give points for not blinking, but I'm impressed."

With a smirk, Chuck lofted the gun, tilting his head slightly to eye the targets. With an ease that seemed to contrast his nerdy demeanor, he snapped off a quick five shots, four that crashed into their respective targets before he adjusted his hold just slightly, the following shot just missing to the right. Setting the rifle down, he rotated to the carnie.

"Can we get something from that?"

He leaned against the booth, misconstruing the gleam in her eyes as incredulity as the worker handed him a small stuffed tiger. "I don't really like shooting guns unless they're being controlled in a video game," he admitted, shyly, rotating the animal in his grasp. "The real things kinda freak me out." He shrugged it off. "Beginner's luck."

As he turned to go, Sarah tugged at his sleeve. "I wanna go again."

She tilted her head, appraising him with wide eyes, knowing Chuck couldn't deny her when she looked at him like that, and sure enough, he grinned. "Ookay, again, we go."

As he turned to pay, Sarah dispelled all pretenses, raising the rifle to her shoulder. Five pulls of her finger knocked down five targets in rapid succession. She smirked, unaware of Chuck's slightly open-mouth gape.

"Well, I guess I stand painfully corrected." He chuckled, shaking his head and leading her away from the booth. "Where'd you learn to shoot like that?"

Sarah shrugged, clutching the humongous stuffed bear to her protectively, coyly turning his words back on him. "Beginner's luck, I guess."

Chuck only laughed outright, slinging an arm around her neck. Sarah leaned into his embrace, turning adoring eyes up at that adorable face. Other guys would be defensive and affronted that she had bested them. Chuck merely took it in stride.

"Hmm…remind me not to face off against you in Halo," he quipped, handing the obsolete tiger to a small girl passing by. "I think my reputation would be shot – strictly speaking, of course – if you hand me my ass."

It had been such a good beginning with so much potential, so much promise. When Chuck had proposed – a simple 'Marry me?' – all she could think about was how right it was. Forget they had known each other a little more than two months, forget they had met during an assassination in Columbia when neither knew the other's reason for being in the country. Never mind that absolutely nothing about their courtship or relationship was even remotely orthodox or conventional.

Sarah was always the rational one, always the sensible one. She never minding plunging head-first into the action, but when it came to decisions, she always thought things through. And all she could think was how perfect the ring was, how perfect the moment was. How perfect he was. That was 'through' enough for her.

She remembered the skepticism they faced between their respective friends. No one had understood. No one had fully gotten it. They definitely held a potent disbelief when they heard about the relationship. Sarah Walker, marrying a guy she had only known for two months? Granted, they could see the appeal, but this was completely uncharacteristic when it came to her.

Chuck had a similar reaction from the one friend whose opinion truly mattered. He had told her John Casey's choice words about their upcoming nuptials and from what she new about the guy, it was hardly unexpected. For the life of her, she had never quite understood how Chuck could possibly be friends with the gruff, prickly, retired Lieutenant Colonel. Chuck and Casey were polar opposites in terms of demeanor and disposition, and she had voiced her confusion many a time. But each time, Chuck had only shrugged, saying Casey looked out for him and had for a long time. They were best friends – well, as much so as a man like Casey would admit to – and at the core, she knew the gruff Colonel only wanted the best for Chuck and to see him happy. Even Casey reluctantly agreed that she made Chuck happy. That didn't stop the elder man from vocalizing his opinion on the matter, however.

"I don't understand why we don't just hook up the Wii and go for about an hour or two," Chuck grumbled as he strapped his gloves to his hands and eyed his opponent. "I work just as much of a sweat."

From just outside the ring, John Casey leaned against the ropes and rolled his eyes. "Because Wii Boxing doesn't hit back, Einstein," Casey countered, reaching a meaty paw out and cuffing the younger man upside the head to emphasize his point. "Now get in there and don't forget to watch your right side. I don't wanna see it open."

"Like you'd pass up an opportunity to see my ass kicked," Chuck mumbled around his mouth guard. He touched gloves with his opponent, a tall, bald-headed man before attacking, first with a cross then with a jab. Immediately, Casey could see something off with his younger counterpart. Chuck seemed elsewhere, away from the world. His strikes packed the same strength as was per usual but they lacked the finesse and accuracy that made up for his slight lack of power. His footwork was sluggish and erroneous, and his defense was sloppy, evident in the number of early hits Bald Man was connecting with. Casey didn't have to be a genius to glean exactly what was on Chuck's mind.

"Pull yourself together, Chuckles," he bellowed from the side as Chuck took a vicious kick to the head. "You've only known the broad for six weeks. Don't get ahead of yourself." He growled as Chuck's head whipped back, an uppercut just missing the point of his chin.

"Keep your head in the game, moron, and maybe you'll actually have one by the end of this session!"

"I'm in love," Chuck protested, the sentiment masked by the pained grunt as a knee drove into his stomach. "She's smart, beautiful, sexy…" He ducked as a fist whistled where his head once was. "She's uninhibited, spontaneous, complicated." Chuck bit out a sentence, punctuating each word with a swipe of his fists. "She's the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

"Spare me the girly feelings," Casey snapped. "I knew Ilsa for three years before I married her."

"And it only took her two and a half to leave you," Chuck retorted, taking a kick to the side. "You're not really making a point, John."

"You need to think with something more than your pants when you're with her, Chucklebutt," Casey warned, "because all that other stuff disappears mighty quick and you find yourself ass first on the curb while she takes the house."

Chuck huffed out a laugh that Casey wasn't quite sure was just from the fist digging into his ribs. "Yeah, John, you're not bitter at all."

- - -

Sarah drew in a deep breath, craning her head back to take in her surroundings. All things considered, there could have been other places better than dangling off the face of a large mountain to press this issue, but she kinda liked the poetic irony of it. Plus, the view was absolutely spectacular. Beside her, her best friend and coworker, Carina, hauled herself up to a ledge just below her.

"Not that I'm one to talk," Carina began, "but don't you think this is happening a bit fast?" Her voice echoing through the canyon they currently were suspended over, she shifted over to better see Sarah's progression to the top. "You know I'm hardly a proponent of monogamous relationships, but even I know that this is a bit of a whirlwind."

"You know me," Sarah answered, shifting upward to a different handhold. "I don't do anything without thinking it through."

"Don't I know it," Carina retorted. "It took you longer to figure out if you wanted to actually take the trip to Colombia."

Sarah only laughed. "Well then thinking it through has its advantages then, doesn't it?"

"Wouldn't call it an advantage when the thought process took longer than the actual trip," Carina snarked back, craning her neck to regard her friend teasingly.

Sarah smirked, inching up higher on the rock. "I'd say I came out of it with more than I bargained for, don't you think?"

"I still can't believe you're getting married to this guy," Carina mused. "I can't imagine having sex with a singular person for the rest of my life…"

"Of course you can't," Sarah deadpanned. "You and monogamy don't belong in the same sentence."

"I'm a consummate dater," Carina responded blithely. "I hardly hold any subterfuge in that."

"No," Sarah answered with a shake of her head. "You surely don't."

"So what does he do anyway?" Carina shouted over the distance between them. "He's not some loser working at a Buy More is he?" Even from her slightly elevated standpoint, Sarah could see the leer adorning the redhead's face. "Although if he's cute and good in bed, I'd make an exception, too."

"He's adorable," Sarah answered, "and he works with computers. He programs all the computer software that big companies use to do their business. He's gone as much as I am, so it's perfect."

"Hmm, there's a fair bit of money in that," Carina remarked. "I guess the fact that he sounds like a geek will more than compensate for that."

"He prefers nerd," Sarah corrected, the fond tenderness obvious in her tone. She waited a moment, knowing that Carina would pick up on what she had said or, more importantly to her friend, what she hadn't said.

"You didn't answer the second part…"

Sarah only laughed.

- - -

"So what does this chick do?" Casey asked leaning against the ropes to the ring. "She's not some money-grubbing gold digger, right?"

"Big politician gets caught up in a scandal, almost ruins his career, all over the headlines, it's all that everyone hears," Chuck wheezed out as best he could from the two legs wrapped around his neck. "She's the one that tweaks it to work for the guy. She's like the Mxyzptlk of the PR world."

"Are you even speaking English, Geek Boy?" Casey deadpanned.

"NERD!" Chuck insisted, throwing his partner to the mat and rolling away to avoid getting pinned again. He straightened, fists raised in anticipation. "Mr. Mxyzptlk," he repeated, "not really a villain, per se in the Superman series, more of an annoyance. He's an imp from an alternate dimension able bend reality and does it most of the time to test and irritate Superman."

"Chuckles, that was normal-speak for 'I don't give a rat's ass' not geek-speak for 'explain it to me, pretty please.'"

"You know, it would make you a little less prickly if you found your calm center like Sensei Bennett told you," Chuck quipped, two jabs and a cross digging into his opponent's body.

"In what alternate universe would I have a calm center, moron?" Casey replied. "And besides, don't you think it's a bit off that this girl is able to lie so easily?"

"It's not lying, Casey," Chuck defended, wrapping the other man in a grapple-hold. "It's skewing the truth in a professional context."

"A half-truth is still technically a lie, dumbass," Casey retorted. He dismissed Chuck's words with a toss of his head. "I give the whole thing six months."

"John, I asked her to marry me." Chuck had enough time to shoot Casey an impish grin before he was flipped to the mat and pounced on, the punches raining down on him.

"What?"

"I'm getting married," Chuck's yell was muffled through his arms held protectively up over his face.

"What?"

"I'm getting married," Chuck tried again, his breath whooshing from his lungs at a jab connecting with his stomach.

"Will you stop hitting him, numbnuts?" Casey hollered at the bald man mercilessly pounding Chuck, gesturing with a hand. "I think the hole in his face let out something stupid. Hit 'im again when he's done talking."

Chuck grunted as the relentless attack ceased, gasping for air. Once he regained his bearings, he turned fully to Casey. "I'm getting married!"

Casey only allowed his upper lip to curl, motioning absently. Chuck's opponent obliged and hauled back, smacking the nerd across the head with an open hand that let out an agonized groan from the supine man.

Casey stepped back, watching Chuck flop to the mat, his arms crossed over his chest. His opinion of the situation was summed up in three words. "You're a moron…"

Sarah sighed. Perhaps Carina was right. Perhaps Casey was right. Maybe they did move a bit fast. Maybe if they had truly taken the time to test the waters of their relationship, they wouldn't have these problems. Even if both were a bit ambiguous to exactly what that problem was. She glanced up as Chuck took his spot at his sink beside her, removing his robe from his shoulders and placing it negligently over the hook at the wall. He expelled a grunt of dissatisfaction as it slumped to the floor, the rumble heightening as something in the sink displeased him.

"We need to get these filters changed."

She merely acknowledged his words with a hum, moving to the bedroom to get changed for the day. These days, that sort of thing was normal, filling the silence with inane comments as though household problems were the only things connecting them.

Sarah adjusted the straps to her bra, fastening her skirt around her waist. She opened her closet, searching for a top when Chuck sidled in beside her, a pair of charcoal pants over his long legs and a belt looped through the holes. He absently rifled through his closet, not meeting her gaze.

"So what did you think of Dr. Roberts?" she asked. "Her questions were a bit…irrelevant."

"Yeah," Chuck mumbled, sliding his arms through a black dress shirt and looping a black, gray, and red tie around his neck. "Not the most insightful look into our marriage."

"No," Sarah agreed. She lifted a foot, sliding on a heel. "Plus her office is clear across town."

"A four o'clock appointment means we're hitting rush hour," Chuck remarked, pulling a black v-neck sweater from his closet. "Let me try and contain my excitement about that."

"So that's settled then?"

"Yeah-huh," Chuck answered absently, his attention already focused on the morning news. "Okay."

Sarah drummed her fingers against the doorway, murmuring her own assent. "Okay."

It was all routine now, this life that they led. Part of the intricate set of movements that had the steps but none of the passion. Everything was together, synchronized but with a huge disconnect.

Dressed and ready to go for the day, they moved towards the foyer, moving around each other in the familiar dance, fitting themselves with their last articles of clothing and accoutrements, not touching, not speaking. Barely any eye contact. There used to be a time where the slightest proximity would have one reaching for the other. They would often find themselves late for work because a simple kiss had evolved into a full-on make out session. Not any more. She could barely remember the last time they had kissed on the lips, never mind made out.

Sarah threw on a coat as Chuck slipped a pair of sunglasses over his eyes before he grasped the doorknob, releasing them both out into the world. She sighed as she made her way out the door towards the garage. Yes. This was what her marriage came to. This distance that seemed to widen even more with each passing day. The entered the garage, standing on opposite sides of their vehicles, his Mercedes-Benz G500 SUV beside her BMW Z4 Roadster. He seemed preoccupied about something, his head down and eyes fixated on his BlackBerry.

"Dinner's at seven," she reminded him.

An absent nod was his only response as he slid into the driver's seat. "Yep. I'll be there…here."

Without another word, they started into their cars and sped away – barring a minor speed bump when the driveway tapered off, unable to accommodate both cars vying for the street – splitting off at the driveway to their respective destinations in separate directions. It had to be an allegory for their marriage, Sarah mused. It really did.

- - -

Time ticked by, wasting the day until it bled into the evening. Sarah Carmichael ducked down, peering into the oven where the night's dinner was cooking, almost done as by her naked eye. All she needed was the butter that Chuck would be so nice to supply her, and dinner would be ready. She glanced at the ticking clock, the time about two minutes to seven, and she resisted the urge to sigh. Just another part of their routine.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Chuck's SUV wheel around the driveway before backing into the garage. She glanced at her watch. Seven on the dot. There were the days when he used to get home as soon as he could, just to spend more time with her. Those days were gone. Now, it was seven on the dot. Just going through the motions. A lingering thought held as she twirled the knife expertly in her grasp. It had been a thought that had been idling for a while now. But she never had proof. Banishing the thought, she returned to the cooking, sprinkling some spices on the dish.

- - -

Chuck leaned his head back against his seat, exhaling deeply. His heart still pounded with the rush that normally came with that sort of thing, and he smirked with satisfaction of a job well done. Reaching over to the center console, he plucked his ring from its resting spot, returning it to its rightful place on his left hand. Adjusting the rearview mirror, he gave his appearance a once-over, gritting his teeth at the blood red spot marring his collar. Licking his thumb, he tried to get the stain out, but it had set in already. Grumbling a curse, he tucked his collar into his sweater before grabbing the bag in the passenger seat and exiting his vehicle.

He plastered a smile on his face as he entered the house, spotting Sarah in the kitchen as usual putting the final preparations on their meal. "Hey, sweetie,"

"Hey, right on time."

"It's really coming down out there," he mused. Sidling up beside her, he presented his package, uncovering it with a flourish. "I bring you, butter."

Sarah smiled her thanks as he pressed a kiss to her cheek, ignoring the fact his lips barely brushed her skin. "How was work?"

Chuck made a noncommittal noise, shrugging slightly. "The usual."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah…no better than yesterday, no worse than tomorrow."

"Oh, I stopped by Casey's for a drink," he remarked, making his way over to the bar area in their living room for his evening martini.

Sarah nodded her acknowledgement, looking down at the butter he brought, noting with slight frustration an error in the packaging. "This is salted."

Chuck stuck his head back into the kitchen. "Huh?"

"The butter," she clarified. "It's salted."

Chuck looked bewildered for a second, venturing out a bit tentatively. "Ooookay. There's another kind?"

"Unsalted," Sarah answered impassively. Sighing slightly, she let it go, shaking her head. "Don't worry, I'll make it work." Her head perked back up. "Oh, I got new curtains. What do you think?"

Chuck craned his head back to peer over at said new decor. "Uh…they look like the other ones?"

"They're a bit green," Sarah remarked plaintively.

"Oh. Right." He bit off an olive, looking again. "Yeah."

"We might have to reupholster the sofas and get a new rug to match," Sarah commented lightly. "A Persian might work well, don't you think?"

"Or we could just keep it the way it is," Chuck offered. "Save some money and all that. I'm sure no one would notice."

"Chuck, we talked about this. Don't you remember?"

Chuck took a sip of his martini, meandering back to the living room. "What I remember is the discussion ending in the decision that we'd wait."

Sarah bit the inside of her cheek, trying to keep her temper down. "If you don't like them we can take them back."

Chuck stirred his drink, taking another sip. "Uh, okay. I don't like them."

Sarah's eyes narrowed, and she cocked her head regarding her husband in a blatant challenge. "Don't worry, honey, you'll get used to them."

Chuck sighed, letting the impending argument slide. It seemed all they did lately was make concessions. "Yes, dear."

"I like them," Sarah declared, her hands placed defiantly on her hips.

Chuck only tipped his head back, downing the rest of his martini in one gulp. "Yeah…"

- - -

"So, part two." Jill Roberts looked at her client, sans wife. "Only this time, it's only you. Why'd you come alone?"

Charles bobbed his head for a bit, weighing his response in his mind. "I don't know really," he admitted. He seemed to realize how that sounded and raised a finger. "Let me, uh, let me edify that. You see I love my wife." He licked his lips in thought. "Um, I want her to be happy. I want good things for her." He quirked a dry smile. "But there are times…"

Jill nodded as he made a growling, animalistic noise. That said enough.

Chuck eased himself down onto the bed with an exhausted groan. Rolling over, he unstrapped his watch, dropping it onto the bedside table, and flicked off his light. Sarah sat upright, reading some book or another, oblivious to his presence. He grunted slightly, rolling over to hug his cold pillow. There used to be a time when they would cuddle up together, their bodies curled naturally against one another, talking about anything and everything that came to mind. Now, this was it. A cold, fluffy rectangle for a partner and the shouts of relentless tension filling up the silence between them. He turned to Sarah, still reading, the light from her side of the bed a bit glaring in its intensity.

"Honey, would you just–?"

Sarah didn't look up from her book. "Five more minutes."

Chuck bowed his head with a sigh, dropping his forehead onto the cool cusion in his embrace. Five more minutes…it had to be an allegory for this relationship or something…

- - -

Jill supposed that eventually she would see the other half of the Carmichaels for a similar session. They seemed to understand that they had a problem. It was the specification of the problem that seemed to elude them. That's where she came in, and the Carmichaels recognized that. She just didn't expect to see the female half to be within the hour of her male counterpart's departure. Still, Jill fixed an impassive stare to Sarah Carmichael as she sat demurely in her chair.

"So what's the problem?"

The blonde woman thought for a second before answering. "There's this huge distance between us," she began, emphasizing her point with a wave of her hand. "And it keeps on widening with everything we're not saying to each other." Blue eyes showed potent confusion. "What's that called?"

"Marriage," Jill answered frankly. She regarded Mrs. Carmichael closely as the other woman absorbed that, playing with the diamond ring and wedding band encircling her finger. "What don't you say to each other?" Jill prompted.

Sarah only inhaled deeply, the corresponding exhale a heavy hum. The answer was evident in her tone.

Everything.

Chuck set down the evening paper, grabbing his napkin and placing it over his lap. He cast a precursory glance over at their dinner. "Hey, this looks nice. Did you do something new?"

Sarah hummed an affirmative as she took a sip of her wine. "Mmm-hmmm."

"Yeah?"

"I added peas."

Chuck took a glance down at the dish before him. "Oh…yeah…the little green things." Chuck brandished his knife and fork, absently cutting his chicken, his gaze straying back to the newspaper, engrossed in whatever section had caught his attention.

"Honey, could you pass the salt?"

Sarah eyed him, the mild irritation showing on her face at Chuck's latent negligence. "It's in the middle of the table," she pointed out.

Chuck's wine glass halted in its descent back down to its previous location, and his eyes flicked slightly, gauged the distance between the elusive condiment and his current location. "That's the middle of the table?"

Sarah continued to eat, eyes still locked on her husband, challenging him from their opposite ends. "Halfway between you and me? Yes, that is the definition of 'middle.'"

Chuck was silent for a long moment. "Alright…" His lips tightened as he pushed his chair back, standing and reaching for the salt. Sitting back down, he began liberally sprinkling it over his food, eyes returning back to the evening paper. He cut a piece off, popping it into his mouth. One chew and the salt was back out again, coating the meat. Sarah only exhaled. Just part of their routine. Still she took a generous gulp of wine, sighing heavily before returning to her own reading material, letting the deafening silence linger between them.

- - -

"How honest are you with him?"

"Pretty honest," Sarah replied. "I mean, it's not like I lie to him or anything. I just…" She trailed off, the first time she had broken composure in their entire session. She shrugged. "I have my secrets just like anyone else."

Sarah leaned against the kitchen counter, sweeping up the last remnants of her cooking venture as Chuck washed the dishes behind her. There was complete silence between them, the only sound the sporadic spurts of water from the sink. It was driving her nuts. She vaguely contemplating breaking a dish to end this, but before her brain could send that thought process to action, a shrill ring sounded through the house. Sarah perked up, recognizing it as her office phone.

"Oh! That's me." She untied her apron, throwing it down on the kitchen counter. "I'll get it in the other room."

Sarah rotated sharply, practically bolting to her office. Chuck watched her retreat, grabbing the paper and plunking himself into his favorite chair in the den. With casual nonchalance, he reclined the seat back, the subsequent lean allotting him a perfect view into her office. She snatched her phone from its cradle, bringing it to her ear. Immediately, a smile bloomed on her beautiful features, a sight that sent an ache in his heart. He used to prompt that same smile with little to no effort. Now, only news from her job would do such a thing. With a resigned grunt, he returned to the evening's crossword.

An eight letter word for ennui beginning with an m and ending with a y that contained the Greek word meaning 'single.' That was too easy. It was his married life in a nutshell. In bold, capital letters, Chuck scratched out the answer.

MONOTONY.

Sarah ended her call, hanging up her phone and striding briskly into their bedroom. Chuck crossed his legs, casually extending an arm to show the face of his watch. One minute…two…three…wait for it…four…five. Go. Swinging his legs off the recliner, he maintained a slow and steady pace to their room. Sidling through the open door, he stationed himself at the dresser, ignoring the view from the mirror in front of his face.

He rummaged through the contents, shuffling through the various knick-knacks. Now where was that…? Ha! Got it! Too engrossed in his triumph, Chuck "failed" to notice he had slammed the drawer a bit too hard, the resulting bang causing Sarah to jump in surprise, her head whipping to him.

"Goodness! Chuck, sweetie, you scared me!"

Chuck kept his voice neutral as he apologized. "I'm sorry, babe. I was looking for my…" He tapered off, vaguely gesturing to his ambiguous item. Without a backwards glance, he threw a question over his shoulder. "You going out?"

Sarah finished her preparations with a single squirt of her perfume to her neck. "Yeah, some yahoo thought he saw the mayor entering the Lucky Lads and Lassies Motel with a woman who certainly wasn't Mrs. Mayor. I have to make sure Mr. Mayor is keeping it in his pants and to do some damage control in the likely event that he isn't." She stopped by her closet, plucking a silk scarf from the depths and shot him a winning smile. "So, yes."

Chuck's head stayed down, immersed in whatever he was fiddling with. "We promised the Ratners," he reminded her.

"I know. I'll be there," she assured him. "Most of this is Carina's area of expertise, so I'll be in and out." She knotted the scarf around her neck with a deft yank. "Just a quickie."

Chuck's eyes narrowed the slightest bit as she sashayed across the room and out the door. If he didn't know any better, he swore she just uttered a euphemism for something other than her line of work. He really didn't want to put it past her though.

- - -

"I know it feels like you're the only one going through this, Mr. Carmichael, but let me assure you millions of couples come to me with the exact same situation."

Charles didn't respond immediately, just looked at her with those unrelenting ebony eyes. "Uh huh."

- - -

Chuck leaned into the faux-leather of the backseat of the taxi cab. What better time than now when Sarah was out to run some errands. Grasping the stylized flask, he tipped his head back, taking a deep swig. The whiskey glided smooth down his throat, giving him a nice burn and assisted his quest to forget it all. Forget how fucked up it all became. Forget how the passion had long since faded when it had began so strong. Forget how every day seemed like a repeat of the last. Just another day in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael. The never ending record set on repeat. He ran his thumb over the engraving of the flask, a birthday present from Sarah, remembering a time when they lived for the thrill and chased the high. There was nothing thrilling about them now. Chuck took another slug of the contents before removing his ring, placing it in his coat pocket. He cast another glance at the engraving before sliding that into his breast pocket.

To dodging bullets. Love, Sarah.

To dodging bullets. Well, he may have dodged the bullet, but he forgot about the grenade. Chuck downed the rest of his whiskey as he wobbled down the stairs to the seedy pub. Nothing like more alcohol to help him forget.

- - -

Sarah inhaled and drew out a deep breath, checking her appearance on last time as her cab pulled up to the expensive hotel, the glittering lights denoting a location surely not the Lucky Lads and Lassies Motel. With a nod to the concierge, she stepped into the elevator, ascending the lift to the penthouse suite.

Making her way to the door with efficient strides, she was escorted to the bedroom where she was halted by a hulking bowling ball of a man. Checking her purse before allowing her entry, he opened the bag to find a pair of handcuffs and a folded whip. Sarah only smiled demurely. They could make their own assumptions what would happen, she wasn't revealing anything. The man closed her purse with a snap and handed it back to her with a warning that they were leaving on a plane in an hour. She acknowledged him with a nod, slipping into the hotel room where she waited, the sound of mouthwash being gargled and spit out filtering from the bathroom.

Sarah readied herself once more, smoothing down her trench coat and patting her hair. Her wedding ring was absent, hidden where no one would be able to find it, waiting for her to replace it later. She straightened as her client appeared from the bathroom, his body swathed in a cotton bathrobe, and he gave her a once over, licking his lips in appreciation.

Sarah only cocked an eyebrow, undoing the belt to her coat and letting it fall to the floor to reveal a black, leather dominatrix outfit that looked like it was poured over her frame complete with thigh-high boots. She pulled the clip out of her tight bun, shaking her hair out and allowing the blond locks to cascade down her shoulders. She smirked at the man, coy eyes betraying everything yet veiling all at the same time.

Yep…she had her secrets alright. There were some things Chuck just would never know. This was one of them. And what she was about to do…well, that was a whole different story.

And cut! Okay, so I know I went with a lot of back and forth in this chapter between Chuck and Sarah. There was a lot of repetition, a lot of recurring themes, and even a few recycled lines, but there is a reason. I wanted to parallel Chuck and Sarah's frustrations, problems, and introspections on their marriage to show there really isn't a difference in their perspectives, highlighted by what's addressed in the therapy sessions with Jill. What I was getting at is they feel the same way as the other, but their problems lie with their mutual lack of communication and a refusal to address it all. In essence, both are equally at fault with no blame falling heavily on one or the other. I hope that this chapter mirrors that idea. Next, we get to the good part, the action, and the as Carmichael and Carmichael face off in pursuit of the same target…I think you'll all like who that target is. It may not be who you think…

Until next time,

Roxy