I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 38—Moving On…
“I’m sorry that I didn’t get in to see you yesterday. It was a really long day,” I say to Jason and Gail as I enter his hospital room. I hand Gail a small suitcase with a change of clothes for her, pajamas for Jason and toiletries for both of them.
“It’s okay,” Gail says. “We’ve actually been swamped with visitors. Even Elliot came by.”
“Elliot?” I ask, bemused. Why would Elliot come and see Jason? They’re not enemies or anything like that, but they are not particularly friends either.
“He came to talk to his mother, but he stopped in to see about Jason, too. I have a feeling that he was hoping that Christian would be here.” Now, I’m confused.
“Why doesn’t he just call?” I ask.
“Because like the rest of us, he was kind of hard on Christian when you left… only he was worse,” Jason says. “He was pretty brutal. Even when Valerie told him to lighten up, he was relentless. I don’t think he knows how to approach his brother now that you’re back together.” I shake my head.
“I’m beginning to think that it might be time for me and my fiancée to take some time to ourselves,” I say. “At first, I was thinking that we were spending too much time in each other’s face and that it might have caused us problems. Now, I’m feeling more like there are just too many people in our relationship. My father reamed me out, Elliot treated Christian like shit, and my group of friends just went radio silent. What happened was no one’s business but mine and Christian’s, really. The only ones that were invited into the situation were Marilyn and Allen… and maybe you and Chuck,” I say to Jason, “but everyone else took it upon themselves to judge and act and this really had nothing to do with any of them. Daddy knew that I was safe even though he didn’t know where I was. Elliot is in a relationship with Val, so why did he take off on Christian about our issue? And my friends… oh, my friends, that’s a whole kettle of worms I can’t even address at this moment.” I sit in a nearby chair and put my face in my hands. “They are determined to make me choose.”
“I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all, Ana,” Gail protests.
“Oh, but it is,” I say. “I told them the last time that they ganged up on Christian that this kind of behavior would drive a wedge between us.”
“In all fairness, Ana, they didn’t gang up on him.” I have to agree with her. They really didn’t.
“They chose sides. I’m very grateful that they have my back when the going gets rough, but I guess it’s my fault that I pushed everyone to be friends resulting in Christian thinking that he was part of the gang. When the chips were down, he was left alone—completely alone. I know that it was my fault, but I don’t know how I feel about my friends treating him that way or how to handle it. Now I find out that Elliot…” I shake my head again. “He was all alone… all alone. I need to focus on him now… on us. That’s what I plan to do.”
“How are you going to do that?” Jason asks. I shrug.
“I’m going to limit my time with my friends. I’m going to use the time that I have more wisely—with them and with Christian. I’m not going to push him to go to social events with them or to do anything that he doesn’t want to do, and I’m not going to readily invite them to invade his space.”
“So no more Food & Libations?” Gail says. I can tell that she’s a little melancholy about that. I sigh. I really love F&L, but I don’t know what else to do right now.
“I’ll have to talk to Christian about it, but for the near future, no more Food & Libations. Maybe I’ll bring it down to once a month and have it at my condo or something, I don’t know.” I am so ready to change this subject. “So, I hear you’re going to be blowing this popsicle stand tomorrow,” I say to Jason.
“Yep. I’m going home where I can properly die of boredom,” he laments. I laugh.
“Is there anything that you need?” I ask him. He shakes his head.
“No, Your Highness. From what I’ve been told, Christian already has the place laid out like the Taj Mahal for when I get out of here. I won’t be able to start therapy for at least another few weeks and he already has the PT’s set up. I swear…” I laugh at him.
“You saved his life, Jason,” I point out. “Now, you’re stuck with him.”
“Yeah, I know,” he says.
I send an email through my blackberry to Christian telling him to get with me on what songs have to be played and can’t be played during the reception so that I can get the list over to the DJ. I also inform him that we have a meeting with Josh on Sunday and ask if he wants to have it at Escala or somewhere else. It’s been a while since we talked to Grace about adding people to her list so I suggested that he talk to her about 50 more people who she would like to invite. I was concerned about our list getting longer, but if I know Christian, there’s a few people that he would like to uninvite. He responds telling me that he has made a definitive decision on his wedding party and that we will discuss it when he gets home. I already know that means some people are getting dropped, but he has the right to choose his wedding party just like I have the right to choose mine.
Allen has made his appearance today for the bridal gown showings that begin at Escala promptly at 10. I have decided that even though it may be a little “diva” to have the designers come to me that I can’t bear running around town looking at white balls of material and that if I must, then it has to be convenient for me. None of the designers seem to mind of course except for The Wang who says that we simply must come to her as there is no way to transport her designs to Escala and present them properly. So we will be going to see her designs tomorrow at a location here in Seattle that she has set up as an impromptu runway for us. Al is not as excited to see her as he was to see David Tutera.
Yesterday, we saw gowns from Luly Yang, Naeem Khan, and a local designer who are all in the running so far. Today, I am graced by representatives from Carolina Herrera and Ralph & Russo. Unfortunately, their gowns didn’t grab me at all. I think it’s because I have seen so many dresses that they are all beginning to look alike, not to mention that I keep seeing the top of one dress that looks magnificent but the bottom looks like shit or vice versa. When Al agreed with me, I had to break the bad news to Tammy that I wouldn’t be seeing any more designers.
“But Ana… Vera Wang!” she says, like it is self-explanatory. I sigh heavily.
“Fine, I will meet with the Wang, but she’s the last one. After her, we will choose from the designers and the styles that we already have.” I declare. Tammy claps and nods enthusiastically. “Now. I need to do some delegating because I am about to lose my mind. Allen, please arrange for our registry to be donations to the charities that we discussed. Tammy, cakes, tomorrow, after the Wang, right?” She nods and starts punching into her iPad. “Al, I need you to secure a wedding band. They will play during dinner and some parts of the reception. Have your choices ready for me by Wednesday. I want to choose from them by that date and get this out of the way. Reverend Martin is supposed to meet with us on the 15th of next month…” I send off a text to Marilyn to put the meeting with the Reverend on my calendar. She’s not working this week, but always has my schedule at her fingertips.
“I have a dilemma, Al. I know no children… none! Who’s going to be my ring bearer and flower girl?”
“Let me see what I can do,” he says, put the information into his blackberry.
“I’ll be meeting with the girls on Saturday to look at bridesmaid’s dresses, but I got a message from Christian that the lineup of groomsmen may be changing, so I’ll let you know.” Tammy frowns and Al throws a look at me.
“It’s not a good idea to start changing the wedding party around,” Tammy warns.
“Well, you tell that to Christian Grey,” I say impassively and cock my head at her waiting for a response. Nothing. I thought so. “This is his wedding. He can do whatever he wants. If he says nobody is standing on the side of him, then nobody is standing there. It will be us and a bunch of women… and Al. So let’s just see what he has decided and we will adjust our plans accordingly. I promise to let you know as soon as he tells me. Fair enough?”
“Fair enough,” she relents, tapping on her iPad again.
“C’mon, we can’t have been the worst couple you’ve every had,” I tease.
“No, not the worst, but definitely the most interesting.”
“I want to tell you what I did when I left the hospital,” Christian says to me at dinner. I am swallowing a bite of mouth-watering Dijon-crusted salmon when I suddenly feel like my appetite is about to disappear. I put my fork down on my plate and take a sip of Sancerre.
“Okay,” I reply, waiting.
“I went to see Dr. Baker,” he says. “I didn’t know how to pull together how I was feeling. I was angry, frightened, confused… I was so upset with you for coming into that office…”
Upset with me?? You told me to come! He read my expression and continued.
“I know. I know. You did nothing wrong, but I was still upset. I could have disarmed her had you not come into the office, and Jason wouldn’t have gotten shot. I wouldn’t have felt like she was going to shoot you and have all of the worst feelings of my life flood my brain and screw with my logic. I know that you did absolutely nothing wrong, but I was illogically blaming you anyway just for being there. That’s why I had to see Dr. Baker. I had to talk this through and get past it because it didn’t make any sense and I know that it didn’t.” He takes a deep breath. I don’t quite know how to feel right now. I know that I shouldn’t take it personally, but I’m still having a hard time interpreting what I’m feeling right now.
“Once Dr. Baker helped me get my head screwed on straight, I went for a run—a very long run. That’s the thing that took so long to get back to the hospital. I ran until I could think more clearly and focus the blame where it should be—on that sick blond bitch. God, I regret that I ever met that woman!” He runs his hands through his hair then places them on the table on either side of his plate. He is still really tormented by all this. I sigh quietly, reach over and touch his hand. He examines our hands for a moment, then curls his fingers around mine.
“I came back to Escala, took a shower, made some calls to some specialists about Jason’s shoulder and what he might need for his recovery, and got dressed. I didn’t even know what I was reaching for until I was dressed and out the door. On my way back to the hospital, I called to make sure that Jason had a private room and that Gail would be comfortable since she would no doubt be staying with him until he was released and then I heard on the radio that Lincoln was being released.” He shook his head. “I must have broken every speed limit between the I-5 and Pacific St. I had to be there when she walked.”
He took a sip of his wine with his free hand and continued his story.
“I had already summoned Charlie Tango and knew just about how long it would take to clear a flight plan and get her airborne so that we could avoid the press, but the latest news was Lincoln and that would be their focus. I didn’t even hide the car or park anywhere covertly. I just put on my hood and walked behind the crowd of reporters. She caught my eye almost immediately. I wanted her dead. Had I had the means at that moment, she would have been on a slab by midnight.” I hear the hatred boiling in his voice again and I squeeze his hand to bring him back to me. I feel him relax even though he doesn’t look at me.
“While they were busy taking pictures of her being led to the police car in cuffs, I just slipped inside the hospital and out of sight.” He sits back in his seat and I stroke his hand again. “Talking to Dr. Baker really helped me sort out a lot—the things that I had been holding in and avoiding, or denying is a better word.” Uh oh. I don’t think I like where this is going. Christian reaches into his pocket pulls out a small piece of paper.
“This is who I want in my wedding party,” he says, and pushes the paper over to me. I release his hand and open the paper to see the names written in his impeccable handwriting.
Three things stand out on this piece of paper, but only two surprise me. One, the Scooby Gang is blaringly missing from his choices, but I expected that. Two, there’s a question mark next to Elliot’s name. Three—John Flynn!
Respirer, Ana. Respirer…
“Why is there a question mark next to Elliot’s name?” I ask. This is clearly not the first question he expected. He drops his head.
“I don’t know if I want him to be in my wedding,” he says flatly. Whoa! I knew that it was serious, but I didn’t think it was this serious.
“He’s your brother, Christian. Brothers fight all the time.” He shakes his head.
“This is different. I needed him. I needed him very badly and he deserted me. I don’t know if I can get past it.” His voice cracks only slightly before he says, “Al was there as much as he could be. I know that he was torn, but he was still there. James, too, as much as he could be… and John…” There’s the elephant in the room. “We’ve had our differences and we’ve talked about them. He was there for me, too, and I consider him a friend.” He sighs, having gotten that off his chest.
“You can bury your differences with John but not your brother?” I ask him honestly. He looks up at me.
“This is different,” he says.
“How?” I ask.
“He’s my brother!” he says like that should explain everything. “He turned his back on me, completely turned his back on me…”
“And John lied to you,” I point out. “Then he hindered your treatment by holding your medical records.”
“He’s not my blood,” he growls. “What Elliot did was inexcusable.”
“But John’s actions weren’t?” I ask, bemused. He falls silent for a moment. “Baby, by you logic, someone outside of your family is more worthy of forgiveness than someone in your family,” I say, making sure that my voice is non-confrontational. His shoulders fall. I have hit a soft spot.
“It’s too new,” he says softly, dropping his head again. “I just can’t see it yet. It’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either. It’s still too new.” This, I understand. I reach over and touch his hand again.
“I get it,” I say. He looks up at me. I shrug and smile. What else is there to say?
“You don’t mind John being one of my groomsmen?” I sigh.
“I won’t say that I don’t mind, but I won’t protest. I’m still having Maxie and Val as bridesmaids and you can’t tell me not to do that, so I won’t dictate who can be your groomsmen,” I say.
“I won’t alienate them, Ana. I promise, just… not in my wedding.” I nod.
“Okay. I won’t force anything,” I say.
“I don’t want you to feel like you have to choose…” he begins to protest. I put my finger over his lips.
“It’s our time now, Christian. We have to focus on us, and I want you to be happy. I love my friends. I’m not going to leave my friends, but you are my other half. You are my priority. You are my future, and we need to look out for us now.” He looks at me peculiarly.
“Tell me more,” he breathes and leans in.
“Before we get a chance to recoil from one bad thing happening, another bad thing happens. We’re trying to mend from our shady, tragic pasts and I get kidnapped and you nearly killed. I berated you for ‘dead mommie issues’ and yet my ‘mommie issues’ have me literally running out of town. We’ve been doing this all wrong, Christian. We’ve been verbally supportive of each other in our personal growth and healing, but we’ve still been doing it wrong. That’s why it’s taking so long, and it’s causing more damage than it’s helping. We have to do this together. I need you…” I stand from my chair and slide into his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck. “…And you need me.” I kiss him gently on the lips.
“It’s an uphill battle, I know,” I add, “but no one can fight this battle for us. We have to fight it ourselves, and we have to be together, in word and in deed.”
“You said that we need time apart, though, to not be in each other’s face all the time,” he points out. Yeah, I did say that, right when I came back from Montana and didn’t know what the hell was going on in my head.
“I was wrong,” I whisper. “I need you… and you need me. When it comes to us, no one else matters, and I mean no one.”
“How do I know that you mean what you say?” he asks. He has a right to ask that question, and I have no right to be offended. I put my hands on his cheeks, my fingertips caressing his hair.
“I will elope with you… tonight if you want,” I say, brushing my lips against his. “Just us. Just you and me. Nobody has to know. It’s all about us.”
“You will?” he asks, wonder in his voice. I look in his eyes and nod slowly.
“Just you and me,” I whisper. “It’s all about us.”
“Won’t we need witnesses?” he says, his voice still questioning.
“Who do you want?” I ask, softly.
“I want John,” he says definitely.
“I’ll take Al,” I answer without a pause. He crushes me against his body, kissing me deeply and holding me so tight that we feel like one person. I pull him as close to me as I can, willing him to understand that no one else matters anymore when it comes to us. He breaks the kiss and brushes his lips against my ear.
“No,” he begins, “we will have our fairytale wedding, but I love you for being willing to do that for me.”
“I love you too, Baby,” I breathe.
“Now I need to be inside of you,” he groans.
“Please,” I beg. He lifts me in his arms and carries me to our bedroom.
I awake uncurling my back and ready to take on the world. Christian stirs a bit and runs his hands over my naked body.
“Mmmm,” he moans as he pulls me close to him, “you are divine.”
“You’re not so bad yourself, Gorgeous,” I say before submitting to a luscious good-morning kiss. “What’s on the agenda today?”
“Same thing, basically. Looking at some background checks, following up on the companies that Vansteen may have cost us, checking into a few other things—you know, running my business. What about you?”
“I may go into the office today, I’m not sure. It depends on how quickly I can get things done.”
“I thought you weren’t planning on going in until Monday,” he frowns.
“I’m not seeing patients until Monday, but I am certain that I have lost a few after not being in the office for a month, so I want to rework my schedule. I’m… considering lightening my workload.” That got his attention.
“I’m listening,” he says slowly. Here goes, Steele.
“Well, I meant what I said about wanting to focus on us more and recent revelations have shown me that something certainly has to change.” I sit up so that I can face him. “I’m not giving my patients 100% if I’m all screwed up and I certainly can’t give this relationship the attention that it deserves. I’m rethinking my priorities, Christian. I still love my job and I still want to work, but I need to focus more on myself for a while. I also want to do more at Helping Hands and minimizing my workload will allow me to do that.”
“I’ll support you in whatever you want, Butterfly, but you stopped doing group therapy because you hated it so much,” he protests.
“Oh, God, the two aren’t even comparable! Helping Hands is so much more fulfilling than that damn community center! Look at Marlow, Maggie, and Marcia.” I’m silent for a minute.
“There’s more,” he says examining my eyes.
“Well, the biggest thing is that I’m not going to be bringing in the money that I was before, so you will be paying the mortgage on my condo and maybe my expenses…”
“That’s not it,” he interrupts me. “I spend more in jewelry for you than the value of your entire condo. We can pay the condo off tomorrow and you know that. What is it, Ana?” God, I hate that he can read me so well. I sigh.
“I did my Faces of Abuse segment on Wednesday. That’s what triggered the ‘Mommy’ breakdown. I knew that I was holding up the final production and that you wouldn’t allow completion without me, so I went to the studio and did it.” I drop my head. “It opened up so many floodgates, Christian. I was okay when I did it, but then when I was alone and I started thinking about it, it all came rushing at me. I really want to be a better ‘me.’ I want to do everything that I can to make that happen. I want us to be a better ‘us,’ and I want to concentrate more on working on that, too. I know that if I give up my job completely, I’ll be miserable, but it’s time for my priorities to shift to myself.
“I selfishly want more time to work on my issues and our issues and to plan our wedding and our future. My life thus far has been my work and on the weekends, my friends. No offense, but I’m about to marry a billionaire. I want more than just work and weekends.” I feel like I’m stomping my feet and having a mini-temper tantrum.
“That’s fine with me, Butterfly. You can do whatever you want. I just don’t want you to regret it later.”
“As long as you allow me to keep my options open throughout our marriage, I won’t regret it because I can always change my mind.”
“You can always change your mind,” he confirms without pausing.
“Even after we have kids?” I ask.
“Even after we have kids. As long as our children are well-loved and taken care of, I have no problem whatsoever with you doing whatever you want. I would never try to clip your wings or hold you back. I will say this, though. I know you will need help if you plan on doing anything at all outside of our home, but promise me that our children will not be raised by a 24/7 nanny. My mother adopted three small children—Mia was a baby. She and Carrick both had full-time jobs. I don’t remember being raised by a nanny.”
“Oh, I fully agree! I don’t some young hussy raising my children!” I declare. Christian laughs heartily.
“I doubt that you will allow some young hussy in our home, Butterfly,” he says between laughs.
“Well… I have an appointment with my doctor next month. I’ve been reading up on the IUD and pregnancy success varies after you have it removed. When do you think I should have it removed?” His expression is unreadable. He said he wanted children and I’ve been on birth control forever. If I want to conceive, I should probably get this thing out and get started before I’m barren or something. “Christian?”
“I’m sorry… I just… I didn’t know we would be having the baby talk so soon.” Shit. I gauged that one all wrong.
“Don’t feel any pressure, Baby,” I start to back-peddle. “It’s just that we did say that we wanted kids, and I just wanted to know when you thought I should end my birth control. I’m not trying to back you into a corner or anything, I was just…”
“Baby… Baby, stop.” He puts his finger over my lips. “I’m thrilled that you want to have my babies. Whatever the doctor says is fine. We’re both at a good age and God knows we can afford it. I’m all for it.” My eyes grow large.
“Really?” I say, clearly relieved. He laughs again.
“Yes, really. We’ve had this conversation already. I don’t know much about birth control except that it stops conception. So being on it for a long time can no doubt affect your ability to conceive, correct?” I shrug.
“Probably,” I concede.
“So, by all means, whatever the doctor says, let’s go for it.”
“What if I get pregnant right away?” I ask.
“Are you pregnant, Butterfly?” he asks expectantly.
“No!” I exclaim.
“Then why are you so panic-stricken? Besides, I’m marrying you in June either way, so why does it matter?” he asks with his hands in the air in a suspended shrug. I shake my head.
“This is why I want to make changes. My brain went right into panic mode and I have no idea why.” I lay down on the pillow next to him. “I’m supposed to see Ace today. He thinks that I might be suffering from a bit of depression. I don’t agree with him, but I’m going to listen to what he says anyway.”
“Has he suggested any treatment? Medication or coping techniques?” Christian asks.
“He threw a couple of ideas at me. I don’t want to be medicated unless I absolutely have to. He did suggest regression therapy. I think that one may be a good idea, but if I do it, I want you to be there with me.”
“Absolutely. Do you want me to come tonight?” he asks.
“No, we won’t do it tonight. We’re going to review all of my options and then come up with the best solution. If it turns out to be regression, then we’ll definitely start next session. So please plan your week with that in mind.” He leans down and kisses me.
“I will. Now I have to get up and go run my empire before I find myself buried in you again.” I giggle as he gets out of the bed and admire his lovely ass as he walks naked to the bathroom for his shower. I honestly have a lot to do today myself. I agreed to keep the Wang appointment and Tammy managed to squeeze in another designer, too. Jason is coming home today so I want to make sure that everything is perfect for his arrival. His staff insists on escorting him home from the hospital.
Speaking of staff, I never asked how Chuck came to be back on staff again but c’est la vie. I send out a group text to let the girls know we will be meeting at my condo tomorrow to discuss bridesmaids dresses with Tammy and maybe put them through the torture of having to try some on. I have some choices from some of the boutiques I visited and designers that met with me and I want their input as well. Christian has agreed to meet with Joshua on Sunday and we will take suggestions from him for a videographer. Christian had suggested going with Saul, but Saul wanted to make the whole thing a movie production and I don’t want that. Al and I will meet Tammy to see the last two designers then head off to the bakers. I should be finished with my session in time to welcome Jason home. With my schedule somewhat in my head, I go to the closet to choose my outfit for the day.
I’m walking on a cloud this morning. I mean literally walking on a cloud. Butterfly and I made love so deeply and passionately last night that I fell into a coma-like sleep and didn’t wake until this morning when she was stretching with a nipple in my face. I never expected the conversations we had last night or this morning. I mean, I should have expected them. Any man would be thrilled to hear that after all the struggling and fighting and crying and running that the woman he loves is dedicated to focusing on strengthening their relationship and their love. What’s more, she’s going to see her doctor next month to stop birth control so that she can have my babies. Hot damn, I’m walking on a cloud, I say!
“Good morning, Andrea, Luma,” I say walking into my makeshift office.
“Good morning, Sir. You’re certainly in a good mood,” Andrea says.
“Yes, I am,” I tell her. “It’s a beautiful day and it’s Friday. What could be better?” I give her my brightest smile and walk into my office. I wonder when the police are going to release my original office as the crime scene? I’ll have to call them. They still have Lincoln’s house on lockdown and she was arrested last August. The hell if they think they are going to keep me out of my office that long.
“Good morning, Detective Fischer. This is Christian Grey.” The line is quiet.
“Yes, Mr. Grey, what can I do for you?” Yeah, he doesn’t like me, but I don’t care today.
“I was just trying to find out when the police would be releasing my office as a crime scene.”
“Well…” Oh, boy. I can tell he’s going to be an asshole about this. “A man was shot in your office…”
“Yes, and the bullet was recovered from his shoulder, you have the perpetrator in custody who shot him as well as the gun that she used and a recorded video of the whole incident.” I wait for a response.
“These things take time, Mr. Grey,” he says callously.
“That’s not a problem. I’m just trying to find out how much time it will take. God knows I want that crazy woman behind bars as much as anybody. Just let me know. Thanks. Have a good day.” I end the call. He wants to irritate me and it’s just not happening today. I’ll just put in a call to the police commissioner later and see if he can tell me how long this might take.
In the meantime, I turn on the news on the large screen to see what’s happening in Singapore this morning. I am interested in an electronics company there as well as a fledgling company in clean air technology. I’m keeping my eye on the market trends before I decide to send my money in that direction.
There are several emails from HR concerning lawsuits from Vansteen employees citing unfair labor practices. I forward those emails to legal who will let me know if GEH has anything to worry about, which I am certain that we do not. I have given the go-ahead to shut down three more of my failing miscellaneous acquisitions and instructed Ros to schedule visits to five more and internal audits on 12. She will visit Cassie’s little failing venture on my behalf, just to give her an idea that the ax is coming. No doubt, she will try to get in touch with me very shortly thereafter. Then, I’ll really let her have it.
“Your father is on line three, Mr. Grey,” Andrea says. I push line three and greet Carrick.
“Christian, have you heard the news… about Elena?” he asks.
“No, is she dead?” I ask impassively. My father snickers a bit on the line.
“That’s not really funny.”
“Then why are you laughing?” He pauses for a moment more and gets his snickering out.
“She’s not dead but I’m sure that she wishes she were. Four more victims came out.”
“Four more?? Really?”
“Check the news when you get a chance. It’s all over the place—two adult males plus one more still inside the statute… and another child.” God, I hate this woman. Why didn’t I say anything sooner? “Son, you should know that you could be brothers with each of these boys. It’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out about you.” I sigh.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, Dad,” I tell him. He sighs.
“I just think that you should be in control of how this information gets into the mainstream—use it to your advantage if you can instead of being a victim of revelation…”
“I know, Dad, and I plan to. The Faces of Abuse campaign should be complete any day now and I plan on releasing it very soon. It will most likely be a catalyst for much more. I’m no fool, Dad. That detective knows that there’s a connection between me and Elena and it’s only going to take a moment before he puts two and two together. He may even try to make a quick buck off of trying to reveal who I am since my pictures are in police custody as evidence. Like I said, I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it. I can’t sit and worry about it every day and today, I refuse.”
“Okay, Son. Well, turn on the television and get caught up,” Dad chides.
“The television is already on, but I was watching Singapore markets instead of local news. I change it and get caught up, Father,” I say sarcastically.
“Thank you, Son,” he replies just as sarcastically. “Your mother wants you and Ana to come over for Sunday dinner…”
“Oh, no can do, Dad. We’re meeting with someone who may be our photographer on Sunday evening. I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Most likely, Ana and the wedding planner are going to be caught up in something before and after that because Ana has to choose a dress and a designer by week’s end or she won’t have it in time for the wedding. This whole weekend in fact is full of wedding stuff. Tell Mom that we will have to take a rain check.”
“Okay, I’m sure that she’ll understand. How’s Jason?”
“Coming home today. I’ll be going straight to the hospital after work to pick him up.”
“You’re going to pick him up… personally?” he asks.
“Yes. He’s my best friend and he took a bullet for me. I’m going to pick him up!” I reply, a bit affronted.
“Okay, okay, no need to get defensive, Son. I just thought that you may want to avoid the press and have one of your staff go and retrieve him.” Yeah, there is that. I forgot all about the press. No. No. I’m going to get him.
“Thanks, Dad. I didn’t mean to get all sensitive on you. I’ll be fine. There will be plenty of staff there, some even off-duty. If the vultures want a picture of me taking my best friend home from the hospital, then they can have that one.” I can actually hear my Father’s smile on the other end.
“You’re a good man, Son,” he says.
“I’d like to think so,” I reply.
“Turn on the news. I have to go.”
“Talk to you later, Dad. Love you.” There is a long pause on the other line.
“I… love you, too, Son.” He ends the call. I only just realized that I can’t even remember the last time I told my father that I loved him. I turn to the news channel and watch the stories that they have in loop until I see the one that I am waiting for.
A clip of the Pedophile being led away from the hospital in cuffs, looking over her shoulder a few times at me—no one has figured that out yet. The pictures are of three men and a generic John Doe outline to represent the underage boy who have all come forth. Dad’s right. These men all look like me. One of them even has my exact hair color. Where did she find these people? Seriously, it took some real profiling stalker-type shit to find people that look that much like me. I know that I wasn’t the first. Hell, she tried to recruit Elliot and we couldn’t be more different. It truly makes me ill that I started a fucking trend in her life.
Dad’s right. It’s only going to be a matter of time before someone connects all of these dots and figures out that I one of the boys in those pictures. I still won’t let it sour my day, though. I take great joy in knowing that two more victims beat the statute and added to the Pedophile’s charges. She’s going to die behind bars.
I thought I would be able to hold on to this feel-good feeling all day. Lord knows I tried. However, just after lunch, I got the visit I have been dreading.
“Mr. Grey, your brother is here.” Shit! I was having a great fucking day and now beloved Lelliot decides to show up. What they hell am I supposed to say? “Mr. Grey?”
“Show him in,” I say finally. Why didn’t he just call? That would have been easier for both of us.
Elliot walks into my office looking like a child coming into the principal’s office.
“Hey Bro,” he says, his head down and his hands shoved in his pockets. I sit back in my seat and rest my arms on the armrests.
“Hey,” I reply. He looks like he would kick a rock or a can in front of him at this moment to keep from looking at me. I don’t know what to say to him or even how to feel. Right now, I feel numb.
“Can I sit down?” he asks, finally raising his eyes to me.
“Of course,” I say, gesturing to the chairs in front of my desk. He shuffles over to one of the chairs and sits, folding his hands and resting his elbows on his knees.
“She’s fine. Planning the wedding, making decisions…” I’m trying to decide what I am feeling towards my brother at this moment. The prevailing thing right now is… confusion.
“Val’s good, too,” he says, like I care, and I know that he’s trying to fill in the dead air between us. “I, um… want to tell you that I’m sorry…”
“Why?” I ask, before I know it came out of my mouth.
“For being an asshole while Ana was gone…” he begins.
“No… why?” He looks at me, bemused. “Why you, Elliot? You’re my brother. We’ve been through all kinds of shit together. Why you?”
“I…” he’s stumbling over his words, but I need an answer.
“Do you have feelings for Ana?” I ask him. He scowls at me, horrified.
“No!” he nearly screams. “Why do you think everything with a dick wants to fuck your girl?” he accuses.
“Normally, you’re right. I am very irrational when it comes to other men around my woman. I am always expecting some horny bastard to try to get into her panties, but this? This is different. Although I wasn’t expecting it this time, it’s no surprise to me that those lemmings that she calls the Scooby Gang fell in behind each other ready to crucify me, but you? You are my ace in the hole! You are my Scooby Gang! Why? Why, Elliot!? I want to know!” I have raised my voice and I didn’t intend to, but the pain I felt was so real and I want to know why he was a part of it.
“Because I was pissed off, okay?” he barks. “You have the perfect girl for you—true love at first sight and all that shit. People kill for that! For less! I wasted more than two years of my life trying to turn a stuck-up, snobby, self-absorbed bitch into Ms. Perfect. You had it handed to you—someone that knew and accepted all of your shit and your baggage and loved you anyway… and not for your fucking money! She loved you for you and all your fucked-upedness and you almost threw it all away over a few stupid fights! It burned me up that I worked and fought and waited for the selfish, cheating trick to be the one only to happily escort her ass out of my life years later, and you… Ms. Perfect-for-Christian-Grey walks in and says ‘take me’ and your dumb ass almost pushes her away!”
What the ever-loving fuck? He’s standing here telling me that he treated me like shit because he had flashbacks of Kate??
“That’s just it, though, Elliot! This wasn’t about you and Kate. If this was at all compared to that relationship, it’s because you made it about you and Kate, and then you took it out on me. Do you have any idea how badly I was hurting inside? The crazy thoughts that went through my head? Have you ever hurt so bad that you just wanted it to end? And nobody cared about me… no-fucking-body in the world—or at least that’s how it felt. Then to treat me the way that you treated me and to say the shit that you did to me—on top of everything else? Way to stab me in the fucking eye, Elliot!”
“Man, don’t you have any clue when you are about to fuck up a good thing? That girl could have walked out of your life forever!”
“And it still would have been between Ana and me! I had done nothing whatsoever to offend you, and I didn’t deserve the way that you, or anybody else, treated me. This was for me and Ana to sort, and everyone who walked around all bruised and beaten up about it had no right—no right whatsoever. This was not your life, not your wedding, not your happiness on the line and you were out-of-order.”
Unable to say anything else that made sense to him or me, he took a cop-out.
“Look, you asked me and I told you…” I pause momentarily. My world was rocked to its very foundation and the one person in the world that I expected to have my back left me out in the cold, and this is all he can say to me as an explanation as to why he took my relationship so personally? I feel fire rising in my soul, but I push it back down and douse it with ice.
“You’re right. You told me, and now, you can leave,” I say coldly. The color leaves his face and his blue eyes widen.
“Christian…!” he says in disbelief.
“I’m not ready to discuss this with you, Elliot. You left me. You left me high and dry when you knew that I needed you the most because just like the rest of them, you are convinced that I don’t have any feelings. I was experiencing horrendous, searing, blinding pain and darkness and you thought that I deserved it. That’s fine, Elliot. You formulated your opinion and you acted on it. I could’ve dealt with anybody turning their back on me… except you. Anybody except you. Mia is flighty—she goes where the wind blows. I have learned to accept that. Mom and Dad try to stay impartial and I appreciate that. Ana’s flock of friends… yeah, whatever, but you—you were always my wingman and I was always yours. When I fell, I always knew that you would be there to catch me. If nobody else was there, I knew that I could count on Elliot. When I turned around to find you, you were on the other side—watching me fall and kicking me while I was down. That hurt me more than anything—even more than losing Ana, if you can believe that. Bros before hoes, Elliot, and before this, if I ever had to choose between the two of you, I would have chosen you.”
Tears spring to his eyes and begin to stream down his face. I can probably count on one hand the times that I have seen my brother cry, and I sure as hell never wanted to be the one to make it happen, but he had to hear this. He had to know how he made me feel, and why I can’t forgive him just yet.
“So now… that’s all changed… because I made a bad judgment call? Isn’t that the point that you had been trying to make to everyone about calling off the wedding?” His voice is cracking and desperate.
“That’s exactly why I’m not ready to discuss this right now, because I know what it’s like to do something stupid and have to pay the consequences. God knows I know. The difference here is that I thought what I was doing was the right thing. I made my decision thinking that I was finding a solution to a problem. I was mistaken. You, however, were being malicious! You formulated an opinion based on your bad experience with your nightmare ex-girlfriend and you took it out on me—right when I needed you the most. So, yes, I understand a bad judgment call, but no. I am not. Ready. To discuss this. With you. Right now!” I drop my head and thrust my hands into my hair.
“Please, Elliot. I don’t want to hurt you. Please leave before I say something we both regret. Please, just leave.” I can’t stand to look at him. I know if I look at him, I’m going to see anguish and disbelief. I’m not particularly a praying man particularly, but at this moment, I pray for my brother to leave my office and spare us both any further agony. I don’t know how long I remain in that position before I hear him rise from his seat, walk across the floor and leave my office, closing my door behind him. I take a deep breath and let it out, calming my nerves before I raise my head and get back to work.
Butterfly called and said that she would meet us back at Escala so I just leave GEH and go straight to the hospital. At least 12 members of my security staff—personal and corporate—are waiting outside when I get there, including Welch, Davenport, and Williams. Lawrence came along with me. I’m moved by the show of loyalty when I step out of the SUV, so Jason is likely to be fucking weeping when he sees this. I nod and smile, then proceed to lead the group of men into the hospital. I’m probably the shortest of them and I’m 6’2”…
The crowd split like the Red Sea.
A gang of tall men in expensive dark suits floating through the hospital like the Secret Service, leather soles clicking in sync with one another as we inadvertently fell in step together—silence ensues when we approach and follow us as we pass. I discover that there are more than 12 men when six of them get into the elevator with me and several more of them stay on the first floor. Lawrence and I are the only two men that enter Jason’s room when we get to the sixth floor.
“Are you ready to go?” I ask. Jason is out of bed and dressed, his arm in a sling.
“More than ready. I need some real food or I’m going to kill someone,” he says. I laugh.
“We’ll arrange something for you when we get back. What are you feeling?”
“Burgers!” he barks. “Real burgers, not that fast-food shit!”
“We’ll make it happen,” I nod. Gail comes out of the restroom.
“You’re just in time. The doctor has discharged him and he’s turning into a bear,” she says.
“Tired?” I ask.
“Restless!” he answers. “I know I can’t go back to work anytime soon but I have to do something or I’m going to go stir crazy!” I shrug.
“I don’t know if I can help you there, Jason. We may have to clear that with high command over here,” I say gesturing to Gail. She shakes her head and sighs.
“Let’s just get out of here first. Jesus, we haven’t even left the hospital yet and you’re already giving me problems,” she says. I see another problem walking in the door.
“Your ride is here, Mr. Taylor,” a tall, blond nurse says from behind a wheelchair. Jason looks at the wheelchair, then at me, then back at the nurse.
“Oh, hell no!” he exclaims. “You’ve kept me in this joint in bed for days. I’m leaving on my own two feet!”
“Mr. Taylor, it’s hospital policy. You have to leave the hospital in the wheelchair,” the nurse protests.
“I beg to differ,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs and I’m walking out those doors. I was wheeled in here, I’m walking out!”
“Sir, the hospital can get into a lot of trouble if you don’t follow procedure. Please, I’m just trying to do my job,” she pleads.
“Well, no offense to you and your job, but I’m not leaving here in a damn wheelchair.”
“Well, you can either sit in the wheelchair or get back in the bed.” Jason’s doctor comes in behind the nurse and lays down the law. “Come on, Mr. Taylor. Don’t make it hard for the staff. Get in the chair.”
“I am not getting in the chair and I’m not going to let you blackmail me! I’ll sign whatever you want, but I’m not being wheeled out of here…”
“Jason, sit in the goddamn chair!” We are all stunned to silence when we hear the normally soft-spoken Gail Taylor order her Bear to be wheeled out of the hospital. He huffs and puffs for a moment, but begrudgingly sits in the wheelchair.
High command has spoken.
I move behind him and take the handles as the blond nurse begins to protest. I put my hand up to silence her.
“This one you’re not going to win,” I say to her without flinching. She surrenders the handles to me and steps to the side. Jason turns around to see that I am pushing his chair.
“Oh, shit!” he exclaims and grumbles a bit before settling into the chair. Lawrence gathers their bags as I proceed to wheel Jason down the hall to the elevator with Gail holding his hand. As we turn to the small hallway that ends at the elevator, two of my security staff are in stance on either side of the hallway—hands clasped in front of them, feet apart, eyes forward—and a fifth is waiting at the elevator.
Jason’s back straightens in the chair and he is clearly at a loss for words. Gail is becoming emotional and I’m a bit taken aback as well and I knew they were here.
The elevator arrives as soon as we get to it. Lawrence and Davenport get inside with us and the four guards in the hallway never move before the elevator doors close.
“Chuck,” Jason says once the doors close.
“Jason,” Davenport responds.
“Welcome back,” Jason says with a smile that Davenport reciprocates.
“It’s good to be back,” he says.
The elevator opens at the first floor and we are greeted by more of my security staff lining the hallway. I honestly don’t know how many man are here and I don’t bother trying to count. I swear more must have arrived since we were upstairs. Jason is now having a hard time fighting his emotions and Gail is all waterworks. I wheel Jason past the line-up of men. None of them move a muscle. They don’t even breath! Jason see the press and the cameras as we get closer to the automatic doors and begins to get uncomfortable.
“Boss,” he says with uncertainty. Before I get a chance to say anything, Welch, Davenport, and Lawrence all walk outside and stand at the door for moment. I’m not certain if any words are spoken, but the crowd silences and again splits like the Red Sea. I guess the great photo-op is still not worth a broken nose. Welch turns around and gestures inside, and several of my security staff that were once lining the hallway have marched outside and are now forming two well-dressed walls lining the pathway leading to the waiting Audi SUV.
This bear of a man is quickly losing his battle with his emotions, but still no tears.
I wheel him down the pathway and there is only one flash, which is immediately followed by bits and pieces of a broken camera falling to the ground somewhere to my left. I’ll write him a check. We get Jason safely into the car with Gail and I shake his hand.
“See you at home, Jason,” I say.
“Yes, Sir,” he responds, his voice cracking heavily. I close the door to save his dignity and knock on the front window.
“Privacy screen,” I tell Williams, who is at the wheel. He nods and presses a button causing a window to rise separating the front seat from the back. When I turn around and see the waiting press, I decide to climb in the front seat and make a quick getaway with Jason. “Let’s go,” I tell him, and a line of black SUV’s leave the hospital like the Presidential motorcade.
“Someone told me that you needed a real burger,” Butterfly says as we enter the penthouse. There are massive He-Man stacked burgers all over the place! What the hell is this?
“Um… Your Highness?” Jason questions.
“First things first,” she says walking over to him in her chef’s apron. She stands on her toes and wraps her arms around him, holding him in a long and warm embrace. Strangely, this gesture doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I wonder why? When she pulls away from him, she kisses him gently on his cheek. Nope, still no discomfort.
“Thank you,” she says softly. “I wouldn’t survive without him… or you. Thank you.” She quickly wipes away a tear and the Bear almost breaks down again. Slowly but surely, my apartment begins to fill with my security staff. I already know…
The Butterfly effect.
I move towards the dining room to see burgers everywhere—and these are not regular burgers. These are superhuman burgers! I also see Ana’s girlfriends all wearing aprons ready to serve the masses.
I nod politely and turn back to the great room.
“I promise I won’t keep them here all night,” Butterfly whispers. “I really needed some help with this…”
“Butterfly,” I say, putting my finger over her lips to silence her. “It’s okay, really.” I kiss her softly on her lips. “I know Jason loves having everyone around and knowing that you are there for me, this is really no big deal.” She wraps her arms around my waist.
“I love you, Christian,” she says holding me close. I close her in my arms.
“I love you, too, Butterfly.”
“Ana! Is this Lunchbox Laboratory?” Davenport asks.
“One and the same,” she answers. I hear someone in the crowd say, “Oh my God, she’s perfect. Where did he find her and how do I get one?” I’m not going to turn around to see who said that because I don’t feel like firing anybody tonight.
“I’m going to find a beer to go with my artery-clogging burger,” I say.
“In the bucket on the balcony, Baby,” she says, pointing to the balcony. I smile at her and go in search of ale. The sun is going down and it’s a bit nippy out here. I look in the bucket and there’s my Budvar. She knows what I want. I break one open and immediately take a long drink. It feels so good going down.
“You look a whole lot better than the last time that I saw you,” I hear a voice say to my left. I look over and James is standing against the wall in a leather jacket, jeans, boots, and leather gloves.
“Thanks,” I say. “I never said ‘thank you…’”
“No need,” he says, walking over to me. “We’ve all come on bad times, Man. It is what it is. You guys get that all straightened out?”
“We’re working on it,” I say, taking another drink of my beer. “We’re coming up on a really good place. I mean it’s good now, but I only see it getting better.” James nods.
“That’s really good news. I’m really glad to hear it.” He takes a beer out of the bucket and opens it. “What about them?” he says gesturing inside. “I was there for the last time this crew ganged up on you, even though my biggest concern at the time was Allie.” I sit in one of the patio seats.
“I’ve been a loner most of my life. I was only trying to be sociable for Butterfly. I didn’t want her to feel like she had to choose between spending time with her friends or spending time with me. They chose for me.”
“Let me give you a bit of advice, Christian.” He sits down across from me and takes another drink of his beer. “I don’t have many friends. Just a few close people. The rest are acquaintances and I have a lot of acquaintances. Those…” he gestures inside the apartment, “…are Allie’s friends. When he wants to hang with them, I go along. It never hurt. I get to be with my man and he gets to be with his friends, but I never made the mistake of thinking that those were my friends. That’s where you messed up.” He drinks more of his beer.
“I’m a gay man. When I first came out, I was ostracized in a lot of circles. Men all over the place didn’t want me to be in the same room with them for fear that I would hit on them. It’s a ridiculous concept, but homophobic males seem to think that every gay man wants to fuck them. Homophobic females are even worse. They make things up about you and ridicule you like they are afraid that you are going to take what they have. Half of them don’t even know that their men are getting their jollies with someone like me but taking them home to meet Mommy and Daddy just for show.” He sighs. “I’m saying that to say that I know how it feels to live in the shadows, for whatever reason. I moved out here and didn’t tell anyone that I was gay for a long time. I couldn’t stand trying to be someone that I’m not, so I just stayed away from people. I didn’t let them get close to me. Things changed a bit of course and my ‘lifestyle’ became a little more ‘acceptable,’ but for the most part, I still kept to myself, so I know how it feels to be a loner and not let people in.
“Allie and Ana are a lot alike,” he continues. “They draw people to them, although for different reasons. That’s why they are so close and that’s why these people flock around them. If Allie and I had a public fight, don’t think for a second that I would not be ostracized. The difference is that I don’t care. These people don’t affect me the way that they affect you. They follow the sunshine, Christian. I’ve seen it for myself even though I haven’t said anything. So if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about them anymore. Just focus on Ana.”
“Yeah,” I lament, “I discovered that a little too late, but I’ve learned my lesson.”
“I heard that you almost turned into Ebenezer Scrooge,” he laughs. I chuckle nervously. He has no idea that was exactly my plan.
“Yes, I did,” I confess. “My main reason for trying to get along with Ana’s friends was to prove that I could come out of my shell. Well, now I know that I can. I just chose the wrong group of people.”
“Shit, man, hang out with me sometimes. I’ll introduce you to some of the guys I know… and before you ask, no they’re not all gay. They’re just guys that get together for poker and beer, shoot the shit without the women—or in my case, the men—around. You might like it, you might not, but it’s worth a shot.” This might be a plan.
“I’ve never been one to just hang out. I tend to find trouble that way.”
“Don’t worry about it, Man. We’ve got everybody from garbage men to millionaires in the club. When you pass the door, we’re all the same. Jason would like it, too.”
“So when do you guys meet?”
“Every other Wednesday, one Saturday out of the month, and whenever the mood hits us. Whoever is available just comes together at the lodge. There are even places to sleep down there for someone who finds themselves in the dog house. You’ll come with me next Wednesday. If you don’t like it, no sweat. It’s just an experiment, right?”
“Right.” We clink beer bottles. “Listen, I wanted to ask you this before we had this chat, but I would appreciate it if you would be one of the groomsmen at my wedding. Don’t feel pressured or anything.” James looks at me skeptically.
“Why, Christian, are we having a moment?” he says, doing his best feminine voice—which doesn’t sound feminine at all. I pause for a moment and burst into laughter.
“I hope not,” I tell him. “I have a reputation for being an asshole. I don’t really want to lose it.” He shakes his head.
“I’d be honored, Man. Thanks for asking me.” He proffers his hand to me and I shake it.
“Thanks for accepting.” I can’t help but wish that he had had this talk with me before I tried to make Butterfly’s friends my friends.
A/N: A new friendship is blossoming, Where do we think this will go? What will the Scooby Gang say about the change in the wedding line-up… even though they were not yet asked to be in the wedding? What about Elliot–how do you feel about his revelation about why he treated Christian the way that he did?
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Love and Handcuffs!