Author's Notes

I guess I started with the idea that when a relationship is changing, one of the first things that is impacted, in my experience, is the sex. That's where this chapter starts.

This is set approximately one month after chapter two.

Pairings: Same as before, SarahxMarkxHank, AmberxOC

I still own nobody.

Oh, and under a month to go!

The rain made a pit-patter sound against the wavering window. The tree outside knocked against it, causing a rap-pat that was alternate to the rain. All in all, a noisy morning to wake to. Sarah lay on her side, feeling the small breaths of Mark behind her, their hands clasped together on her stomach. It had been an...interesting few days, to say the least. Amber started working at the Luncheonette, and almost immediately jumped into bed with a band member. Sarah shuddered, thinking how alike she and her daughter were, and recoiled as she remembered that no, that's not a good thing. She felt a twinge of regret as she thought that surely, most mothers would be proud to say that their daughter grew up to be like them. Instead, Sarah was sympathetic toward Amber for it – she pitied her for having the audacity to witness her mother's mistakes and follow along anyway.

She recalled the family dinner the preceeding evening. Adam and Kristina were quiet, no doubt dealing with some worrisome issue of their own. Julia and Joel barely looked at each other; after Julia had been fired, Joel was finally able to deal with his resentment toward her 'working mother, have it all' attitude. Of course, dealing with it meant confrontation, which ended in Julia staying a week at her parents' house. Drew was still crying over his breakup with Amy, convinced that no greater wrong had been done in the world. He'd begun to blame Sarah for how screwed up he was in the relationship, and looked to her with a face bitter with resentment. Naturally, Sarah thought, he blames his mother. It didn't help that Seth had pulled another disappearing act.

The worst part of the dinner occurred when Mark stopped by to 'surprise' Sarah, unaware that the entire family had gathered. His embarrassment over not being invited was only compounded when Sarah overcompensated for this fallacy, repeating to everyone every two minutes that she was in love with him. The resultant fight and conclusive bonding session afterward had led to an...attempt...to rectify their relationship physically.

They'd never had a problem in the bedroom before. Mark was enthusiastic in his perusal of her before; he was obviously quite attracted to her. Likewise, she grew to be attracted to him. Physical attraction wasn't the issue then, for why, even though Mark's 'time' had come and passed twice, Sarah couldn't reach orgasm. At all. Mark's surprise and sadness meant that he tried and tried, over a space of an hour and a half, to get her off, but in the end, she just got too sore to continue. Due to her own distress and surprise, she hadn't been able to fake it, and she felt she'd failed him in some way.

Sliding out of bed and into her pajamas, Sarah looked back over her shoulder at Mark. He was burrowed into the covers like a scared little boy, his lips twitched downward in a frown. Maybe, she thought, their growing apart was beginning to manifest in the one place they had previously been strongest, and it was becoming harder and harder to subdue her feelings for Hank.

...

Amber stood at the door of the guesthouse later that morning, trying not to cry. He had a fucking girlfriend! She felt that she'd had a real...connection...with a guy in a band at the Luncheonette – they liked the same music, joked about Adam and Crosby, and shared the same dark and sarcastic wit. Naturally, she let herself fall into bed with him. And then watched his girlfriend staunter in a day later. The worst part of the entire thing was that he'd told Adam, and the resultant look of disappointment was enough to make Amber quit and run back home, hoping to get a hug and a cup of coffee out of her mother.

She stopped though, as she heard soft sobs coming from the small shack. Peeking through the gap between blind and window, she could see that Mark was somehow still sleeping soundly, his bare chest making her remember her crush on him from two years before. Looking for the source of the quiet crying, she saw her mother standing in her pajamas at the desk, gaping at nothing in particular, lost in space. The sobs weren't of the heart-wrenching, loud, body-shaking variety; they were peculiar in their quietness, serene, as if they were due to acceptance and not sadness.

It's over.

Not knowing if she was doing the right thing, Amber knocked lightly on the window. She saw Sarah quickly wipe her eyes and walk toward her. Seeing the watery nature of her daughter, she silently pulled the door shut and her daughter down onto the top step.

"I screwed up."

"I know, honey."

Three words was all it took for both mother and daughter to break down into a hugging mass of wet eyes and deep reflections, the elder unaware that her lover had been pretending to sleep, listening to her tears.

...

Three hours after Sarah had sent Amber to a hot bath and her bed, she walked into the office. Hank looked up from his phone call, offering a smile. She took it gratefully, returning it with her own, and sat down at her desk. He'd left her a cup of coffee, and Sarah almost felt happiness as she realized it was still warm. She downed the entire cup as he left his office, grabbing a chair to sit across from her.

He looked at her for a beat, before launching into the morning 'meeting'. If he noticed Sarah's desperate mood, he didn't mention it. They ordered lunch, and somehow, Hank managed to keep Sarah laughing for the twenty or so minutes they spent eating salads and sandwiches. They split after lunch with the suggestion of dinner that evening, and though Sarah knew she shouldn't; that she should go talk to Mark, she found herself saying yes.

She opened her phone to find one text from Mark.

I'm going out with friends tonight – will you be ok

Sighing with relief, she typed back quickly in the affirmative, and went to continue her work.

That evening, Hank and Sarah ate in a moderately priced Italian restaurant. She'd dressed up a little; she wore makeup, a nice dress. His eyes had drifted a little when they first met, but as hers had done the same, Sarah could hardly get put off by it. He was handsome, in a rugged kind of way. Her type, certainly. She'd always been attracted to more unkempt men, with scraggly hair and sensitive demeanours. Mark was...a younger version of everything she wanted. She had thought that he was all she wanted – that he was perfect. Now, however, she was realizing that as much as Mark had placed her on a pedestal, she had done the same to him. The nature of life isn't to be perfect, she realised, and that which is perfect is most likely more false than that which is imperfect. Which would mean that Hank...

Yes. In her somewhat twisted mind state, Hank made sense. Or, she and Hank made sense.

So as they walked back to their cars after dinner, she said yes to drinks at his apartment.

...

Mark was sitting in between two women his age, his friends convinced that his relationship with Sarah was going nowhere and that he should get out and 'sew his oats'. He wasn't convinced. He was still with Sarah – until they clarified things one way or the other he wasn't going to do anything. He let himself enjoy the feeling of being wanted, though; the two women had been all over him all night. He had to admit, he couldn't help but feel that the previous night had been his fault. He was split in two about it. One option was that he was just bad in bed, that as Sarah had more sexual experience than he did, he'd let her down. The other option, and he just didn't like the thought of it, was that some emotional thing was standing in the way of her fully being with him. He'd prefer the first option, honestly, though he'd always thought he was...well...good.

He left the bar at eleven, going back to his own apartment for once, convinced that all his relationship needed was a little space. The sudden clarity that stunned him said that they were too close too fast; that they just needed a little time to adjust to the reality of the relationship, now that the 'honeymoon' period was over.

...

Sarah was kissing Hank, and it was good. Oh, so good. His lips were warm and soft, and his slight stubble was prickling her chin in an exciting way. His hands hadn't left her waist during the session, and she was thankful he wasn't like Gordon, who pretty immediately would let his hands run all over her. Mark would...no. She couldn't think about him now. She hated herself enough already.

He murmered an 'are you okay' through kisses, and his softness surprised her. He pulled away, stroking her cheek with his hand.

"Yeah, I'd better...it's late. I should, er..."

"Sarah, it's ok. I know you've been seeing someone...I just, it was getting unbelievable, this connection..." she nodded her agreement with a solemn little smile. "I just want you to know that despite the fact that I want you, I won't push. You deal with what you have to."

"Er, thanks. I think." The finality of his last sentence overwhelmed her with grief, for she was now certain that she had to end things with Mark before it all got even more painful."I'll go, and see you tomorrow".

"Okay."

"I just...If I do this, become this person, I don't want to do it without thinking it through first, if that makes sense – it probably doesn't, but I tend to jump in without thinking, and I don't want to mess up, and..." He cut her off with a smile. "And now, you're smiling".

"I hate to say this, but when you ramble...it's almost...cute." He chuckled.

"Cute. Great. I'm cute," she giggled.

"Yes. Yes, you are".

"Well my life is now complete then," she said seriously, putting an end to the light hearted conversation. She felt guilty laughing and giggling.

He called her a taxi and walked her to the door, where the pause made him think back to his first date. Unsure as to whether or not he should kiss her again, she made the decision for him. They kissed deeply this time, and he let his hands rest slightly lower on her hips.

She pulled away as suddenly as she'd leaned in, and the door dinged a second later. As she left and he promised himself a cold shower, the air tingled with something new.

...

Before you kill me, don't worry. Sarah and Mark are NOT OVER, not by a long shot.

It's called drama, people!

Reviews please! I'll start begging!