Chapter 21

Charah vs Le Palais de Crimson

A/N In Chuck vs The CAT Squad it's clear that Chuck knew about the CAT's existence before Morgan did. We begin inside Morgan's imagination, obviously immediately after Chuck informed Morgan about its existence. But when did Chuck learn about it? Show doesn't say.

"So where are we going again?" Chuck asked innocently.

They were back on a Metro bus – a different one than before – once again winding their way thorough the districts of Paris.

"Oh, … you'll see" Sarah said, resting her head on Chuck's shoulder. "Like I said, it's a place I've been to before."

"But not the hospital" Chuck joked.

"No, not the hospital" Sarah stifled a laugh, and affectionately squeezed his arm.

"Do I get a hint?" Chuck asked.

"Hmmm" Sarah said, giving the topic some thought, "That depends. Is there anything in the intersect on … The CAT Squad?"

Sure enough, Chuck flashed. Knowing from long experience that he looked like he was having a mild seizure anytime he had one, he covered it with a faked sneeze. Speaking softly, lest any random commuter on the Paris bus be an undercover agent, he said "Huh … okay. The CAT Squad. An interagency CIA/ FBI/ DEA/ Borders and Customs infiltration field task force…. Wait a minute – the Clandestine Attack Team … Squad?" Chuck asked in bewilderment.

"CAT Squad was an unofficial name, and whoever came up with it didn't think it all the way through." Sarah said with a shrug. "But your hint is: We're going to a place in Paris that I used to go to every now and then when I was with the CATs but always on business. Never for fun."

Chuck had very little idea what to do with this piece of information "A gun range? EuroDisney?" he asked.

Despite how ridiculous his guesswork was, the laugh Sarah gave him made it all worthwhile.

Sarah was smiling to the point that her face was starting to hurt – something she had always thought was a metaphor people used, not a real-life condition. "Okay one more hint – It's the kind of place that Carina has a lot of fun in. I never really looked forward to it – not the way I am now."

"Still sounds like it could be a gun range or Euro Disney. I'll assume my new girlfriend isn't taking me to a bordello, otherwise that's where'd I go with that hint"

Again Sarah had to keep herself from bursting out laughing at her Chuck. "Okay that's it! No more hints! You'll just have to see for yourself. And excuse me – I loved going to the range when I was a CAT. I was the best shot of all of them"

When the bus dropped them off, the first thing Chuck did was turn about and attempt to get his bearings by locating the Eiffel Tower. He could just see its top, but since the Tower was so symmetrical, locating it didn't really help him orient where in Paris he must be.

Sarah on the other hand only needed to turn her head once or twice to see the street signs, her blonde locks bouncing as she did so, and quickly took hold of Chuck's hand. "This way" she said with a smile.

Chuck's first impression was that Sarah was taking him to another hotel – halfway down the block was a large crimson colored awning that suggested that the building was a fine hotel or apartment complex – indeed, Chuck instinctively looked for a large, portly doorman in an appropriate outfit ushering in and out the various patrons.

As they got closer, he noticed that there was indeed a door-person – but this was an attractive, athletically built, black-haired woman – almost as tall as Sarah, and opening the large brass doors with enough ease that her strength was unmistakable. Her costume was … interesting. It reminded Chuck first and foremost of those outfits that competitive horseback riders wore – beige pants that were form fitting, a white blouse, and dark jacket with the outfit topped off with some sort of fancy cap. As peculiar as it seemed, the woman looked like a slightly sexier version of a doorman – which was jarring to see, as Chuck was not used to seeing doorman sexualized at all.

Just then, Chuck realized where they were. While the ever-so-slightly naughty-looking doorperson might have left the purpose of the building a little ambiguous, the mannequins in the window they were now passing were not so subtle. The mannequins were not only the most life like he'd ever seen – several grades of detail beyond regular department store dolls- they were sporting some of the most beautiful women's lingerie that he'd ever seen.

One had on a classic black lace bra and panties combo, a second had a pinkish negligee. A third wore a sky blue set of panties, and rest of the mannequin was 'covered' in a robe-like thing that was both way too tiny to be called a 'robe' – and too transparent to even really be called 'clothing'.

Allowing his eyes to check out the awning, he could see lovely, ornate script spelling out Le Palais de Crimson.

So taken aback was Chuck that it came as a bit of a surprise when Sarah softly placed a warm kiss on his neck, and purred into his ear "Surprise. We're going shopping"

Chuck was truly in a position he'd never been in before, and he wasn't quite sure how to react. The last thing he wanted was to appear ungrateful for the fact that Sarah was obviously welcoming his input on lingerie. But a second impulse grabbed him – an odd urge to question his good luck. Did Sarah feel as if she owed this to him? Did she imagine that she had to spend serious money on this pretty stuff to get him- and keep him- interested in lovemaking- as if herself lying next to him tonight wasn't already the culmination of all his dreams? Chuck had little idea what sort of men Sarah was used to and felt a peculiar duty to reassure her that he was pretty low maintenance when it came to what she wore. His Sarah was finally with him, with nothing stopping them from being together tonight, and all the nights of the foreseeable future. Expecting anything more, he felt, was a greedy demand of a benevolent universe.

The odd impulse spurred him to first turn towards her and kiss her softly on the lips. "Sarah we don't have to do this" he said.

Sarah had by now already been confused for a few seconds. There was no lustful passion in Chuck's kiss, more of a compassionate reassurance directed to her, as if he somehow had felt the need to reassure her about her weight or a new hairstyle or something. Sarah had dedicated time to wondering and fantasizing about what Chuck's favorite lingerie choices on her would be and was so very very eager to explore what his likes and dislikes on that topic would be. Why this hesitation?

Whatever the reason for it, he was wrong. Her travel bag was severely underequipped for their spontaneous romantic getaway, and now and here were the time and place to solve that. Allowing her mouth to gape open in surprise, she scoffed "Oh yes we do, Chuck Bartowski. We are going to spend the whole time between now and dinner picking out each and every outfit I'm going to wear to bed for the next couple of nights. I can't wait to see if different patterns and colors and styles get different reactions out of you."

Chuck still seemed slightly unconvinced, as if he was sure that she was giving him a secret test of character. "You'd be okay with me telling you that I like this, but don't like that? Even if you find something that you like and I really don't?"

Sarah could barely believe her ears. "Of course I'm okay with it! Chuck … you don't have to like every single thing that I own in my closet, but when I'm planning on sex with you for the next seven or eight nights, of course I want to lean towards what you like!"

This time there was more fun and playfulness in Chuck's kiss. He threw his arms around her waist and challenged, "Do you seriously think you could possibly go wrong in guessing what I like?"

But Sarah was not to be put off. Bringing her gloved hand to Chuck's face she countered. "Of course I could get it wrong. What happens if I accidently wear the same perfume as an ex-girlfriend? Or worse … Ellie? or your mother?"

"ugh- eeesh!" Chuck groaned.

Sarah was grinning now. "Chuck, I can't believe you're being shy about this. Have you seriously never had a woman take you lingerie shopping before?"

Confused that this confused Sarah, Chuck softly shook his head 'no'. "Sarah, I know for a fact that not every woman wants her guy's input on undies"

Right then it dawned on Sarah as to what the source of Chuck's hesitation likely was – and it began with a J and ended with an ill. She felt a strange sense of empowerment come over her – quite of her own idea, she was about to treat Chuck Bartowski in a way Jill Roberts evidently never had. She couldn't keep yet another smile from her face – this one was one less of amusement and one of victory and conquest. She softly treaded two steps towards him, and gently stroked his stomach beneath his open windbreaker and over his shirt. "Poor Chuck." Then she came up to his ear and purred gently "I've wanted to take you to a place like this ever since Ellie got married".

Chuck only needed to turn his head softly to kiss her. "Really?" he asked, after a light simple kiss.

"Yes …." Sarah felt her concentration break as Chuck brought up his fingertips to the collar of her scarlet overcoat, and gently pulled it aside so he could gently – but firmly- kiss her neck. At the touch of his lips on her neck she gasped, and then brought up her hand to caress Chuck's cheek. Once more, they kissed, neither one of them caring that they were in the middle of a Parisian sidewalk. Everything -cars-, passersby, the roadway, the buildings seemed to melt away into a hazy, dark oblivion until there were only themselves there.

The kiss lasted for half a minute before Chuck broke it to whisper into Sarah's ear. "Sarah?"

Her breath taken, Sarah whispered back "Yeah?"

Still whispering to her, Chuck asked "Ellie's wedding… we had the reception back at my apartment building … we were dancing … you looked amazing in your purple bridesmaids' dress… tell me … was that night going to be our first time together?"

Sarah's eyes fluttered open at his question. Her answer was immediate. Sighing into his ear, she breathed "Oh, God, yes. It was, Chuck. I wanted you like I never wanted anything in my life. Oh, God." she continued to purr in his ear. "I was even going to get a surprise ready for you – Before I dragged you back to you room, I was going to slip away to the bathroom, and that was going to be the end of my panties. By the time you got that dress off of me … you wouldn't have had anything left to do. I was so ready for you Chuck."

Chuck pulled back with a smile, once more looking into her eyes, and once more making Sarah feel naked despite being fully clothed, as his browns stared into her. "Then, Sarah, I need you to know that it wouldn't have mattered at all – even a little- what you were wearing or not. I wanted to be with you. Period. Nothing would have changed that. You don't have to dress up like …"

"Like what? A slut? Tart? …. Whore?" Sarah softly challenged.

Chuck's look of horror told her that she had challenged a teeny bit too far. "No! God, no! I was going to say 'like a sex kitten'. You don't have to dress up like a sex kitten".

A realization dawned on her. Perhaps there was an element of Jill-poisoning in Chuck's hesitation, - perhaps she had trained him to believe that it was disrespectful for men to suggest lingerie options to a girlfriend. But the cursed circumstances of their snakebitten courtship were also to blame for Chuck's otherwise perplexing sense of awkwardness. All the times Chuck had seen her in lovely dresses and revealing outfits … were almost never for his benefit, always for the mission's. Perhaps Chuck was afraid that she would see a lingerie request as a sort of fashion busman's holiday. Sarah decided that it'd take a small bit of strategy to reassure him that it'd be nothing of the sort.

Glancing across the street, she stepped out of Chuck's embrace, clasped his hand, tugged on his arm towards the street, and softly purred "Chuck, come with me".

"Where are we going?" Chuck asked.

"Just over here" Sarah smiled, as the two of them crossed the street from Le Palais de Crimson. Reaching the opposite sidewalk, she led him to a bus stop bench and sat down, patting the seat next to her as invitation for Chuck to follow suit, which he did.

Sarah gazed intently at the façade of the lingerie boutique fifty feet away, holding Chuck's hand in her lap. At length, Chuck asked "What are we doing?"

"People watching," Sarah said with a grin, nodding her head over to the door of the Le Palais de Crimson. "There's one now" she said, as the shapely door woman yanked the doors for an arriving couple.

The woman was in her early twenties, with long flowing black hair. From a distance she looked like a shorter, more petite version of Ellie. The man escorting her was well dressed, with an overcoat, and greying hair. The woman shared a knowing smile with her suitor before disappearing behind the large brass door with him.

"Looks like we're starting out with an easy one" Sarah said. "That girl there – what do you think? Wife, or mistress?" With glee, she noticed that Chuck was blushing.

"Well, I've seen enough movies to say 'mistress'" Chuck said. "I guess he's going to pick out an outfit for her?"

"Oh yeah." Sarah agreed, with a tone acknowledging the obvious. "Mistresses pretty much have to let their men have their own way." Noticing a covey of young women coming around the corner, Sarah nudged Chuck to look in their direction.

These women were all pretty, and one of them was giggling like a teenage girl. In fact, she looked like she probably was a teenage girl. All of her friends were smiling, as if support of someone on a dare. The giggling girl paused at the doors, and her comrades playacted dragging her through the doors.

"What do you think that was?" Sarah asked.

"Hmmmm" Chuck mused. "I don't know. It looks like that one girl had never been there before and was kind of along for the ride"

"Maybe." Sarah said "The first theory that comes to my mind that there's a boyfriend somewhere in the mix, and that tonight or tomorrow night or this weekend is going to be someone's first time."

"I guess the other girls are guiding her choices? Having been down that road before?" Chuck queried.

"Well. Sex kind of is the national sport of France" Sarah said, leaning into Chuck's ear with a soft giggle.

The next customers to arrive were a couple in the early to mid-thirties. As they passed the mannequins, the male half of the couple recognized what kind of place there were at and hesitated. The female half daringly grabbing him by the hand and leading him forward, after placing an aggressive kiss on his lips. "What about that couple?" Sarah asked.

More in the spirit of things now, Chuck hypothesized "Okay, married couple, and it's … his birthday, maybe an anniversary."

"My guess too," Sarah said. Once more leaning into Chuck on the bench, she said "Chuck I've been into places like this before, usually with Carina or one of the other CATs. Carina's more at home here than I am."

"That I can believe" Chuck smiled.

"That you pretty much know as fact" Sarah pressed with a nudge. At Chuck's surprised look, she continued, "I know you turned down Carina, Chuck. But you didn't do it before she showed you what she looks like in red lace." Chuck opened his mouth to protest, but Sarah cut him off with her hand. "Anyway, Carina loves mixing business with pleasure. That was never my thing- at least not as much as it was with her." She sighed, rested her head on Chuck's shoulder and waved her hand across the street at Le Palais de Crimson. "Anytime I've went with her to places like this, it was pick outfits for what was sure to be a seduction mission of some kind. And that means clothes that are tactical minded. Can the techs hide a micro-bug and its power source - in the strap of a bra? Can I hide a plastic dirk in the waistline of a pair of panties without drawing too much attention? A dozen other questions about turning lingerie into mission ready tactical gear that I guarantee that none of those women that we were just people watching have to think about while they're shopping for pretty things."

"Huh" Chuck said "I've never thought of it like that. At all"

"Why should you have?" Sarah asked rhetorically. "You're a man. You're supposed to think about what men think about when they see a half-naked woman. Just know that pretty much every time I've gone here or a place like it, it's been to get something that some horrible man was probably about to see me in. I had to think about the CIA. I had to think about the mission. For the first time ever I wanna be like one of those women." She said, gesturing once more across the street. "I want to buy things because I want to wow my boyfriend. I want to imagine your eyes bugging out at the sight of me, me. I want to fantasize while I'm shopping about how you're going to be sliding everything I get off of me tonight or tomorrow night or later on. Not worrying about whether someone finds a weapon or a bug."

"Wow. When you put it like that …" Chuck said, with a somewhat self-conscious grin, marveling at how boneheaded his instinct to be considerate could lead him to be. His gorgeous, devoted, and sexually un-shy new girlfriend was taking him to a lingerie boutique – and here he was thinking up reasons of why she didn't have too. While it was true that he didn't want her to think of him as a controlling or demanding boyfriend, certainly that bar had been cleared, hadn't it? And although it had occurred to him that Sarah might have been getting tired of dressing up like a sex object – why had it not occurred to him that Sarah might want to get sexy lingerie just like plenty of normal women?

"So, you're not going to make me beg to take you lingerie shopping?" Sarah said with a smile.

"No, I'm not" Chuck said, kissing her.

Sarah got up and began to lead him by the hand back across the street. Chuck only needed to increase his pace for one or two steps to keep up with her.

When they approached the ornate brass doors to Le Palais de Crimson, the costume-clad Amazon held open the doors open for them, and they both entered hand in hand.

XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX

Once the doors swung shut behind him, Chuck entered a world where he had very little idea what to expect. One thing was sure, Le Palais Crimson lived up to its name. Walls and curtains were a shade of crimson – which was sort of a neat aesthetic choice, as it made the ivory white mannequins stand out, no matter what they were wearing.

A gorgeous brunette woman, almost as tall as Sarah, greeted them from a standing desk not very different from a restaurant's Maître d's. She wore an elegant business suit that managed to look professional – while not doing anything to discourage the idea that that a no-doubt magnificent body was under it. A name tag that said "Marie" was over its left breast pocket. She smiled at them both. Before she could speak, Sarah greeted her with "Hello".

Taking her cue from Sarah's language choice, the woman smiled and said in sweetly French accented English "Good afternoon, and welcome to The Crimson Palace"

Chuck blinked involuntarily. Although the woman was dressed in a fine business suit, and was more-than-decent, he immediately decided that her accented English voice played into pretty much every standard fetish and fantasy that involved French women –French maids, French courtesans, French princesses, French athletes, French waitresses, French supermodels, French fashion designers … her voice made her sound like all things French and sexual. His resolve to get through this excursion without blushing started crumbling right there.

The reception area had a cloak room, and Chuck and Sarah's coats quickly found their way there.

Marie passed them two brochures. "Will you require a personal assistant?" she asked.

Sarah shook her head, "Thank you, but no." Then she threaded her arm through Chuck's and gently pulled him towards a corner. "First we'll take care of the easy part. You."

"Me?" Chuck asked, confused.

"Oh yeah." She closed into him and cupped his head with her hands. "I already know the answer to one of the questions I've been curious about – boxers or briefs?" Sarah then drew in for a quick peck on his lips. "Now all I need to know is what size you are."

"Oh. Large" Chuck supplied.

"Mmmmmmmmmm." Sarah said with a soft, exaggerated moan. "Yes you are. In fact" – Sarah now daringly brought her hand down for a scandalous grope of his crotch "I might be a little bit sore sometime tomorrow. We'll see".

Chuck stood as still as a statue, blushing profusely as his audacious girlfriend skipped a step or two away from him. This particular corner of the boutique was dedicated to men's apparel, and took up no more than a small percentage of the entire floorspace. Armed with Chuck's specifics, Sarah sought out and found her various quarries – silk boxer shorts for Chuck to wear. Sarah evidently had a one-track mind on this, and before a few minutes were out, four pairs were draped over her forearm – one set scarlet, another crimson, a third royal blue, and a fourth black, all of them glossy and shiny. "I can not wait to see you in these" she purred.

"Wow" Chuck said, eyeballing the black pair, feeling the smooth fabric between his fingertips, and suddenly self-conscious at the idea of him in all his Nerd-Herder-ness being an object of Sarah Walker's ravenous, lustful gaze. "I'm suddenly thinking I'm going to need to hit the gym- like a lot."

"Oh, no you're not." Sarah corrected. "At least not anytime this week" For emphasis, she approached Chuck, and softly pushed his chest, gently backing him up into the nearest wall. "Let me be absolutely clear, Chuck Bartowski. I am the only thing that makes you sweat, gasp, pant, grunt repeatedly, wears you out or puts you otherwise out of breath this week. It's bad enough that I get jealous of every woman who smiles at you, I am not going to be jealous of a treadmill."

Once more, Sarah guided him to another area of the shop. The area they were in had lovely looking sets of brassieres and panties. The sets came in all types, lacy, solid, sheer. Some had a shiny, glittery sheen to them, but Chuck couldn't decide if he was looking at silk or sateen.

Despite Sarah's earlier reassurances, Chuck found it a bit of a challenge to get into the spirit of things. He had, after all, a lifetime's worth of experience teaching himself not to gawk too much at department store mannequins wearing sexy lingerie. Having a girlfriend that was encouraging him to do just that was new to him. Chuck let his eyes fall on several of the outfits, but was still a little self-conscious about admitting to Sarah which ones were most likely to inflame his lust – and he didn't know how he could communicate having a favorite outfit without running the risk of telling Sarah that she'd look less beautiful in anything else.

Sarah by now was anticipating his hesitation and squeezed his hand. "You're not going to help me out at all?" she whispered into his ear.

Chuck returned her affectionate squeeze and said. "Give me a minute – I'm just a little overwhelmed by it all"

"Oh, okay." Sarah said. Leaning closer to Chuck's ear she prodded seductively "If you've had a favorite dream about me, try to remember what I was wearing. At the beginning of it, that is. I'll assume I was naked by the end of it."

That helped Chuck's imagination somewhat. "Sarah most of the the time I daydreamed about you, you were wearing your Weinerlicious outfit or your Orange Orange clothes. Like, every day for three years."

"Okay. Good to know." Sarah nodded. "I guess I should have seen that coming. But that doesn't help me much here. I'm not going to find either a Wienerlicious or Orange Orange outfit today."

"Okay." Chuck said. "Sooo if we're in a lingerie boutique … I guess the question is 'What would you wear on any given day under your work clothes?"

Sarah huffed a little through her nose and shook her head with a condescending smile. "Nothing this nice" she said gesturing with her hand to the surrounding lingerie specimens. "Just regular bra-and panties stuff, mostly. If you had ever managed to get me out of my work clothes, you wouldn't have been getting much more of a show than the average high school kid getting laid in the back of his dad's car."

"Oh" Chuck frowned. It was amazing how bad he was at this. Sarah Walker The Reality of course was a different creature that Sarah Walker The Chuck Bartowski Fantasy. Fantasy Sarah was not only always ready for sex, but always wore the fanciest underthings, as she was always scheduled to show up in Chuck's amazing dreams. Obviously Real Sarah over the past three years had not dressed each day for the purpose of actually seducing Chuck. Although it was exciting to accept that Reality Sarah actually did want to do so now.

"Alllllthough" Sarah said, pursing her lips in though …. "There's something about my Orange Orange outfits that I don't think you've noticed."

"What's that?" Chuck asked, doubtful. He was convinced he'd noticed everything about Sarah in that outfit.

"When I was wearing my OO tank top, you never caught sight of my bra strap, did you?" Sarah asked with a smile.

Chuck thought back. "No, I don't think that I ever did."

"You didn't" Sarah said.

"Oh." Chuck said. "Oh!" he suddenly realized. Or at least he thought he realized.

"Calm down." Sarah said. "It's called a strapless bra, and they're made for tank tops that have those itty bitty straps, and for strapless dresses." Sarah looked around the isle they were in, and reached out for Chuck's hand. "I guess it's as good a start as any to find some." Suddenly she turned to face him. "Although I was ever going to have any control as to when our first time was going to be, it was NOT going to involve you taking me out of my Orange Orange outfit."

"Guess that fantasy was mine and mine alone?" Chuck asked with a grin and a twinkle in his eye.

"No." Sarah said, meeting his gaze. "It was just never going to be for our first time."

Sarah grinned again as Chuck visibly reacted to having a thought occur to him. He looked as if a light bulb was ready to glow above his head. "Wait a minute. Any chance you can remember what you wore underneath that dress you wore for our first date?"

Sarah wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Ugh. Good try by try again. I had on a black on black bra-panties set, but I was also wearing a Kevlar vest." Of off Chuck's surprised look, she said "thought you were a criminal, remember?"

"Right" Chuck nodded.

Sarah pressed him "You mean you never knew?" She asked. "Chuck, seriously – when have you ever seen me wear a dress that covered as much as that one did? You never figured out that that was the reason why?" Sarah pressed up against him. "You know by now that I like being a little more daring when I dress up."

"Oh I know. I know." Chuck said trying to get his head back in the game. "Ooh. Wait a minute. I thought of one – What were you wearing that night when we went on what supposed to be our good-bye date? You had that really pretty purple dress on, it was kind of tight. It actually took Mr. Colt interrupting us to get me to think about anything else other than what you were wearing that night."

Sarah blushed and smiled. "Ahhhhhh…. I remember that. Now that's more like it." She wound an arm around Chuck's waist and squeezed affectionately.

Chuck also had a blush and a smile, and kept his voice as low as a whisper. "I'm pretty sure that dinner was the first time I was ever with you, and I could talk myself into believing that I had at least a 50/50 chance of finding out for myself what you had on under your dress."

"Only 50/50 Chuck?" Sarah challenged. "You had an almost 100% chance of going home with me that night." Sarah brought her hand up and played a little with Chuck's hair curls. "And lucky for you I remember exactly what I was wearing under my dress."

"Really?" Chuck said hopefully.

"Of course, silly" Sarah grinned. "It was the first time since I met you that I got dressed while daydreaming that you were going to help me get undressed." Sarah craned her head around and looked. "Let's see what they have." She strolled up one isle that had several particularly fancy getups. "It was a black bra and panties combo. Even though they were black they had a leopard print to them. Oh, and the panties were high riding cheekys." She cast a sly glance at Chuck, who was following close behind. "You would have just loved they way my butt looked in them."

"Well I already know that I love the way your butt looks out of them, so I already believe you." Chuck responded.

"Oh my God-"Sarah had to cut short her burst of involuntary laughter. She had hoped to make Chuck blush, but it was becoming plain that he was quickly getting over his discomfort and unfamiliarity about the lingerie boutique and was getting into the spirit of things. That fact sent a surge of warmth through her. The better Chuck was at treating her like a real girlfriend, the more and more she felt like one.

Fancy iron wire hand-held shopping baskets were deployed throughout the Palais, and Sarah asked Chuck to nab one for her, which he did. Upon finding a black bra and panties combo that more-or-less matched up to what she remembered wearing for their ill-fated second-first date, Sarah deposited them in the basket.

Sarah then caught Chuck noticing one of the mannequins. This one wore a bra/panties combo that was black and lacy, but richly decorated with pink panels. The mannequin also wore one of the robes that Chuck had noticed outside earlier. It was black, just long enough to come down to a woman's upper thigh, and sheer; sheer to the point that it only slightly obscured the underthings beneath.

Sarah sidled up behind him and purred into his ear "You like?"

"Ummm … " Chuck hesitated "I'm actually a little more curious than anything. What's the robe-thing there for?"

Sarah responded with an affectionate, and seductive stroke up and down his back. "Maybe later on you can tell me what it does for you. Or better yet – show me." She then drifted away from Chuck's side and went to the mannequin, inspecting the tags on its garments. Sarah quickly returned with an armload for the basket – the entire ensemble that was on the mannequin, black and pink brassier, panties, and a sheer robe.

Chuck by now was wearing a soft smile, as if he were holding onto a pleasant memory. Sarah stroked his eyebrow and temple. "What are you thinking" She softly demanded.

"I just thought of a time when you looked more beautiful to me than ever." Chuck said.

"And?"

"That time when we were pretending to be a married couple. You woke up before I did. You went downstairs and you made breakfast." Chuck wrapped his arms around Sarah's affectionately and nuzzled her neck. "I can't remember any other time when I so badly wanted you in my life for real"

Sarah huffed a little. "You're not playing by the rules Chuck" she said as she turned around in his arms. "I wasn't trying to turn you on then. This place is for girlfriends who are really trying." While it was true that the white, silky nightgown slip she had worn that morning had been pretty, it was also true that Sarah had thought it was ultimately modest and plain – far too modest and plain for the purposes of aggressively seducing Chuck – which she planned on doing every night and day for the immediate future. No, the pretty-yet-plain nightgown/slip could come into play later on, but not as a purchase from this place.

Stepping out of Chuck's embrace, she led him by the hand down a few more isles. Sarah paused when she noticed Chuck's glance fall on another display. This one was also black and pink, and slightly more modest that the earlier bra-and-panties combo. The bottom parts were panties- pink ones, but the top was a gorgeous silk camisole, mostly black with a pink ribbon tied in a bow to the front. By now Sarah had decided that Chuck had gotten over most of his shyness, and would be receptive to a little bit of teasing. "Looks like someone's getting used to the idea of me in pretty things- and dressing up all for you" she said.

"I was noticing the bow on the front. She looks like a Christmas present." Chuck said with a boyish grin.

Yet another assembly went into the shopping basket.

Sarah came up to kiss him and said "I have a few more things to get. And I want them to be surprises. So how about you wait for me by the front? And try hard not to flirt with Marie. The poor girl has to work"

Chuck obediently left Sarah to her self-imposed mission.

XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX

Sarah bought a few more outfits, anticipating Chuck's reaction to each and every one with some eagerness. She paid for them, then made her way to the front vestibule, with her arm laden with a medium-sized load of shopping bags.

Chuck was sitting on one of the benches intently reading the brochure to the place. Sarah grinned. Chuck's naturally curious mind was at it again, finding something interesting to pass the time waiting for her.

Sarah's mood would have soured if Marie The Greeter/ The Concierge/ The Whatever This Place Called That Job had been flirting with Chuck. She wasn't, but with no other guests to welcome at the moment, Marie rested her arm on her desk and watched Chuck perusing the Palais de Crimson brochure. Rather than be annoyed at the sight of another woman watching Chuck, Sarah simply smiled and shook her head. There was something undeniably charming about the sight of a man in the vestibule of a lingerie boutique, waiting for his new girlfriend, in the company of a sexy hostess … …. And rather than leering at anything, busying himself learning about the whatever was in the brochure, be it the history of the location, or the types of lingerie that are made, or the general history of undies in general.

Sarah acknowledged Marie with a quick "Merci" and smiled at Chuck as he looked up and smiled back.

Rising from his bench Chuck gestured with his brochure and said "There is a lot I didn't know about women's underwear."

Scarcely able to conceal her amusement Sarah asked "Oh?"

Holding up his brochure he said with a fascinated look on his face "There were no such things as women's panties as recently as the 1870s or 80s! At all! And even after they were invented, they weren't really popular with women until like the early 1900s!"

"Mmmhmm" Sarah said with a smile. "Back in the day, if a man was sleazy or lucky enough to get a look up a woman's dress, he'd get a much better show than he does now."

"Wow" Chuck said, engrossed. "And this place has been around since" he checked a date on the brochure. "1793? Was there any such thing as fancy lingerie then?"

Sarah nodded "Sort of. Very rich women who wanted to impress their husbands would buy frilly, fancy silk shifts. That's pretty much what all underwear was back then for women. Shifts. Big long night shirts. But this place found a way to make it fancy – and sexier than it'd otherwise be."

Slinging her bags on her right arm, she offered Chuck her left- which Chuck responded by threading his right arm through hers and using his free left hand to get the door. Arm in arm they exited Le Palais Crimson and were once more on the Parisian streets. As they left under the crimson awning and approached the first corner of their block Sarah paused to stand on her tiptoes to kiss Chuck on the cheek.

"It's about time for us to catch a train" She said. "We need to head back to the Montparnasse."

Chuck was already prepared with his trusty Paris Metro map.

After a few orienteering looks around the block, the two lovers were heading towards the nearest metro station – the next stop on their new life together.