26.2 Shades of Anastasia

I love Christian and Ana hearts and flowers stories. I believe the characters will and should be together forever. But this idea/premise came to me after all the "Cheating Christian" stories that have cropped up and the various reviewer responses about what Ana's actions should be and how she should respond. I'm going to try to avoid soap-opera style melodrama, and want to explore the fall-out and aftermath of Christian cheating and separating from Ana from a more realistic point of view. The premise is: Ana goes through the typical reactions of a woman discovering her husband's infidelity and subsequent relationship break-down. She takes up running as an outlet for her emotions and has trained to run the Seattle Marathon. Follow Ana's flashbacks over the past few years to where she is at present – running to finish the 26.2 mile race and discovering a stronger self in the process. Rated M for language and to be safe…I appreciate your reviews. This is my first ever fanfic, so please be gentle! Oh, and I'm currently 8.5 months pregnant, so depending on when baby comes, my writing may become more sporadic. I'll post when I can!

1

**Present**

It's early. Very early. The air is crisp. The sun is shining, but the November chill permeates the air. Ana's breath puffs out, vapors visible. She shivers slightly, grateful for the arm and leg warmers while waiting, knowing they'll be shed by the end of the first mile once she's warmed up sufficiently. There is a crackle of excitement and nervous energy emanating from the crowd. Music is blaring. People are stretching, jogging in place, securing their race bibs, double-tying their shoe-laces. Ana's stomach is in knots, equally nervous and excited.

A tall figure in running shorts and a running jacket moved to Ana's side. " Got your electrolyte drink?"

"Yes."

" Enough gel packs to last you to the mid-way point?"

" Yes, and then some. I've got an energy bar too, just in case."

" Did you eat?"

Ana smiles to herself at the all-too familiar question. "Yes. I felt a little too nervous to choke down breakfast, but managed some oatmeal and half a bagel with peanut butter. That bit of protein should last me."

"Remember – pace yourself – don't go too fast out of the starting gate or you'll burn out too soon. Keep it nice and steady and remember to drink every 10 minutes or you'll start cramping up."

Ana rolls her yes and says sarcastically. "Yes mother."

Adam gives her a playful swat to the rear. "Kick some asphalt out there kiddo!"

"Will do, coach!"

"See you at the half-way point! Call or text me if you need me to come meet you any earlier than that!"

Ana gives Adam a grateful smile and a wave as he disappears into the crowd, her nerves slightly eased by his playful banter and calm instructions. Ana's heart is pounding. This is it. This is what I've been working towards. Let's make this happen!

She jogs on the spot to get the blood flowing to her legs. The first ten minutes are gonna suck. The first ten minutes always suck. But it'll get better, and you can just go with the flow. Just breathe, Ana. Just keep breathing.

It was a mantra she knew all to well and repeated on many different occasions over the last several years.

How the hell did she get here anyway? Ana shakes her head, remembering the blur of events, the roller-coaster of emotions that have led up to this one day. Today she proves to herself what she's made of, and that she is stronger than the curves and pits life has thrown her way.

"All racers to the start line" The disembodied voice of the race announcer floats above the crowd.

Ana stays near the middle to back of the pack. A pacer with a big 3:45 sign on his hat jogs in place and she finds a break in the crowd behind him. She settles in a spot between a man with day-glow green shorts, and a young-ish girl with a pink bandana.

"On your marks….. get set…"

The starter horn blasts.

The crowd eventually surges forwards and Ana's legs start moving, picking up the cadence and rhythm she's trained her body to follow. She crosses the start gates and the timing chip on her shoe makes a faint 'beep' as she steps over the red mat, echoed by dozens of others crossing the start at the same time as her. It's begun. No turning back now.

** 3 years ago**

It had begun. Without even realizing it, at this moment actions were set in motion that would dramatically affect Ana's life. To Ana, life was beautiful. She was married to the love of her life, mother to two marvellous children, running the show at Grey Publishing, and enjoying all life had to offer.

It was Friday. Christian arrived home from work – eyes dark, tie askew, hair dissheveled. It had been a tough quarter, and the world of mergers and acquisitions had not been kind to him recently. He had explained to Ana that he needed to spend more and more time at the office and satellite locations stabilizing deals and putting out fires. As much as he tried to compartmentalize his life, and keep his work frustrations from bleeding into his family time, he was beginning to fray around the edges just slightly, snapping impatiently at the kids and Ana when he was home, away for days at a time. Ana helped him shrug out of his jacket, rubbing at the knots in his shoulders and planting a gentle kiss on the middle of his back.

"Welcome home, Mister Grey. Another tough day at the office?"

Christian sighed. "Yes. Sorry, baby. Today was… interesting." He shook his head slightly, as if trying to clear a thought.

"Care to share?"

"Nothing you need to worry yourself over." He said lightly and gave a weary smile and waved his hand to dispel her concern. "Where are the kids?"

"I've arranged for Grace and Carrick to take them for the weekend. It's just you and me for the next few days. I'm completely at your disposal for any and all wifely duties, sir." Ana said, bowing her head slightly and peering up at him coquettishly through batted eyelashes.

"hmmmm…. Very nice!" then his face fell slightly. "Shit. I've… I've got some business to tend to in Vancouver tomorrow evening though. I'm sorry. I can't skip it or postpone it. Had I known you'd arranged for this…"

"You never work the weekends, Christian! I'm sorry, I should have told you, or discussed with you, but I wanted to surprise you."

"This is something new that's come up. I'll make it up to you tonight, though, and give you a thorough fucking to last the whole weekend."

"I'd rather you dole it over several days out rather than getting it all at once Mister Grey. We don't often have the house to ourselves for this long."

"I know, I'm sorry. But after I'm through with you tonight you'll need the rest of the weekend to recuperate! I'll make it up to you another weekend, my love."

"This better be good."

"Dinner and then the playroom?"

"Perfect!"

True to his word, Christian exhausted Ana that evening, bringing her body to multiple climaxes at a measured pace – drawing out her pleasure in an exacting way. He knew her body intimately and played her like a fine instrument – pitch perfect, alternating between slow, sweet steady love-making, and furious, animalistic fucking - building to a pounding, clutching, shaking crescendo leaving both of them breathless, heaving, sweaty, and sated. Christian turned to Ana who was exhausted and near unconsciousness and gently ran his finger along the edge of her jaw. "I love you so much" he murmured. Ana smiled weakly and traced her fingers along his lips. "And I, you, Christian. Always."

The next morning he was gone. He returned Sunday evening, distant and distracted once again. Ana shook her head at his polarity and mercurial mood swings, hoping whatever was troubling him would right itself soon, or that he would at least open up to her so she could help him cope. Things slowly disintegrated from there, Christian becoming more withdrawn and absent, the loving and intimate moments more sparse and sporadic, like rays of sunshine that would surprise her randomly, and then disappear behind another heavy cloud. Whenever he was home he tried his best to spend time with the kids. The sex was passionate and fulfilling when he and Ana were together, but they made love infrequently, or not at all on some nights.