It had never crossed her mind that her son was not her own blood. Despite their different hair and eye color, complete divergence in personality and mannerism, Grace fooled herself into believing that he had emerged from her own womb. His past didn't matter, nor did it define him. He was her child and her's alone - faults and all. That was simply how strong her love for him was.
"Are you sure you're okay, honey?" She asked, licking her finger and swiping it across a stain that formed on his cheek.
He shrunk away in irritation. "I'm fine, Mom," he groaned. Christian looked around the hospital corridors anxiously, searching for a certain brown-haired lady.
"We miss you," Grace said quietly, hesitantly peering at Christian through her eyelashes. "You haven't been around lately, especially after the accident. We're worried about you."
Christian crossed his arms, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves. The last thing he wanted to do was lose his temper with his mother. She was one of the few people he actually cared if they liked him or not.
"I know, but I realize that everyone is busy. I don't want to be a burden," he lied, trying to console his mother. He didn't care about their personal schedules, he simply wanted them away so he could avoid the exact position he was currently placed in - one of sympathy and extreme concern. He didn't want anyone fawning over him, he couldn't bear it.
"Oh, stop it," Grace admonished, waving her hand dismissively. "You could never be a burden - for that you'd actually have to ask for help," she mumbled.
Christian shrugged. He dug his hands into his pockets and shifted his weight from one foot to another, his eyes scanning the room once again.
Grace frowned, "What are you looking for?"
"Huh? Oh, nothing," he frowned.
She raised an eyebrow. "I like to believe that my children love me enough to randomly show up at my place of work on a Saturday, but I'm not delusional." She crossed her arms and gave Christian 'the look,' an expression that she had perfected since he was a young boy. It loosely translated to 'spill the beans or you're in trouble.'
He sighed. "I just… I'm… here to meet with the guy in charge of the research facility. I made a donation."
"Oh, yeah. I almost forgot about your 'donation'." She sucked her teeth. "Christian, sometimes you have to realize that money can't buy you everything."
He had an excruciating urge to roll his eyes, but instead he settled for a nod of his head and a tight-lipped smile. "You're right, Mother," he said, "but unfortunately I have to go. I said I would meet him at 2:45." He bent down to kiss his mother on the cheek, Grace being extra careful not to lean too far into his embrace.
"Okay, dear, be safe… And promise you'll come to our family dinner tomorrow?" She begged.
Christian inwardly grumbled, but decided that the least he could do for his mother was to show up for a measly family dinner. He nodded, promising her that he would be there.
He sauntered down the hallway, turning back the way he came. He stopped to glance at the hospital directory, trying to guess which floor Ana would currently be on. He took the elevator down to the trauma ward, whistling along to the elevator music.
Once the doors departed, he stepped out of the elevator and towards the patient rooms.
"Sir, you can't go back there unless you have a visitor's pass," an attractive blonde woman said to him. She was petite and demure, reminding him of someone he would hire to work in his own office.
He flashed a green visitor's pass in the female's direction, not lessening his stride in the slightest. He continued to glide down the hall, not sure where exactly he would find Ana. As the patient rooms became visible, he slowed down, peeking into each room. Even though he would only glance for a second, he felt like an intruder. Looking at some of the patients and their degenerate conditions made him feel more empty inside than usual. He wondered how Ana could surround herself with so much sorrow all day long.
Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear.
Immediately after thinking of her, he caught sight of her long, mahogany hair as she lifted a patient into their bed.
"There you go, Mrs. Jenkins," she chirped, fluffing the woman's pillows. "Okay, now open wide," she coached, placing two pills in the woman's mouth. She lifted a cup to the patient's lips as she sipped eagerly. "Is there anything else you need?" She asked Mrs. Jenkins. The frail woman shook her head, smiling adoringly at her. She grabbed Ana's hand and gave it a delicate squeeze, which was as firm as a woman in her state could give. Ana smiled back at her and turned on her heels, wheeling her medicine cart in front of her.
It took her merely two seconds to spot Christian in the doorway, to which she reacted by rolling her eyes. Christian sighed sharply - he hated when she did that. She exited the room, briskly walking past him, the sound of her medical cart wheeling across the floor echoing throughout the hallway. Christian followed behind her.
"So what, I was just a booty call?" He joked lightly, meandering beside Ana to look at her face to face.
"No," she answered, "you're more of a nuisance."
"I don't think that's what you thought the last time we were together."
She frowned, turning the corner and emerging in front of a locked room. "I'd rather not think of that," she mumbled. Ana pulled out a set of keys from her pocket, placing a tiny silver key into the doorknob. "Don't come in here," she commanded, stepping inside.
Surprisingly enough, Christian obliged, placing his hands in his pants pockets while he waited for Ana to finish whatever she was doing. A few moments later she returned, her medicine cart now completely barren. She walked past him again and continued down the long hall.
"Why don't you want to think about it?" He questioned, puzzled. "I mean, it was pretty enjoyable-"
"Because I still have reservations we have yet to talk about," she interrupted. "We can't just roll around in the bedsheets and pretend they don't exist."
"Damn," Christian grumbled, sucking his teeth and shaking his head. "That was my plan," he teased. "It's been pretty effective these past few days."
Ana stopped walking, turning around to face him. "I'm serious, Christian," she admonished. "And what the hell is wrong with you today? You've never been this… Relaxed."
He shrugged. "I can't be happy to see you?"
"You can; except the Christian Grey I know is usually brooding somewhere in the dark. Are you sick?" She asked, worried.
He sighed, running his hand through his hair. He shoved his hands back into his pockets. "I'm trying to… Be what you want me to," he grunted, completely exasperated.
Ana shook her head. "I like you the way you are… Minus the weird sexual desires."
"Can you keep your voice down?" Christian snapped, quickly glancing around the hospital to make sure that no one was eavesdropping on their conversation. He ran his hand through his hair once again, his mouth set in a hard line. He couldn't believe that Anastasia would carelessly talk about his lifestyle where anyone could hear.
Ana adoringly ran a finger across his mouth, the corners of his lips turned down in a frown. "See? There's the man I love."
Christian grabbed her hand before she pulled away, placing a soft kiss on the back of her hand. She blushed and turned away, continuing her trek down the hall.
"Why do you have to make everything difficult? What we have is simple, Ana." He said.
"Oh, really? Then please, explain."
"We're… Just two people who enjoy the company of one another," he stated with a flourish, feeling proud of himself for explaining the nature of their relationship as simply as possible.
"Hmm," she mused, thinking to herself. "Okay, then no sex," she replied, depositing her cart into a storage room. She turned to face him, her arms crossed over her chest.
Christian frowned, his eyebrows furrowing. He opened his mouth to reply, but then shut it promptly. Ana raised an eyebrow, slightly amused at how flustered he was. He ran a hand through his hair, "Okay, wait a minute now-"
"What?" She asked, pretending to be daft. "You described our relationship as platonic. You don't have sex with your friends, Mr. Grey," she remarked, smirking slightly.
"That's not true," he argued, "ask anyone who's gotten drunk on a Saturday night."
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."
"I do," he acquiesced, "but that doesn't mean our relationship is any more complicated than it has to be."
"Actually, it is. Once you add… Intimacy-" she mumbled quietly, her cheeks flushing bright red, "-into the equation, everything gets complicated. We're not just friends anymore, Christian. And to be honest, I don't think we ever were."
He nodded, placing a finger on his chin thoughtfully. "Fine, you win."
"I don't feel like I have," she said, more to herself than him. "Are we just going to forget about what you told me on Thursday?" She whispered, careful to not divulge any details about their recent conversation. She smiled as one of her coworkers passed them, the woman's eyes trained on Christian a little too hard. He smiled politely before turning back to face Ana.
"Yes, I'd prefer if we did," he said quietly, grabbing Ana's arm and pulling her towards a more secluded spot. "In fact, I wish that conversation never took place. I'm not a fan of dwelling on the past."
"It's not dwelling, Christian," she rebuked, "What happened to you is serious and you can't just ignore-"
"I'm aware it's serious!" He snapped, taking a deep breath and lowering his voice. "Every memory of my fucked up childhood is permanently etched into my brain. Why would I want to relive that more than I have to?" He asked, his voice cold and pained.
Ana looked down, embarrassed. "I just… Thought I could help," she whispered.
He laughed bitterly. "Baby, not even the best doctors in the world could help."
She nervously picked at her nails, struggling with how she should respond. "Okay, so maybe you can forget about it, but I can't. I need closure, Christian. You can't spring that on me and expect me to pretend like it doesn't exist. Everything that happened to you ties into why you are the way you are."
He grimaced. "What way am I?" He asked, sounding offended. "Fucked up? Rude and obnoxious? A terrible person?" He barked. "That's what everyone else thinks; you too now?"
"No!" She exclaimed. "You're not terrible… Just not what I'm used to. Not what anyone is used to, really." Christian shook his head, his jaw tightening. He looked past her, his eyes cold with fury. Her words weren't upsetting him - they were hurting him; and in typical Christian Grey fashion, he masked his pain with anger. "Look, I'm not pressuring you to reveal your whole life story right now," she consoled, "but don't shut me out, okay?"
He pursed his lips. "How is that fair?" He asked, indignant. "How can you expect me to be so forthcoming about this, but then you completely shut my lifestyle down as if it's some unnatural abomination?"
Ana frowned, taken aback. "I never said that. I said I want no part of it."
"That's fine, but you're not even open-minded about it," he argued.
"Oh, so we're back to this? I knew you wanted more," she spat, storming away from him. He ran to catch up with her, matching her stride.
"No, it's not about wanting more, it's about how you can't accept every part of me."
"I do! If I didn't, I wouldn't even be giving you another chance." Christian grabbed Ana's arm and swung her around to face him. She tried to shake him off, but he held on tightly.
"Is everything okay?" Asked an unknown man dressed in scrubs and a lab coat. Christian presumed him to be a doctor.
"It's fine," they both said, not paying much attention to him. He walked off warily, taking quick glances in their direction until he was out of sight.
Christian sighed. "Maybe we should continue this conversation elsewhere," he suggested.
"I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Ana, please," he protested, "you're asking me to be open with you. Can't you do the same?"
She stared at him, her heart and mind conflicted. She couldn't argue that Christian had changed since their time apart. He was making an effort… So shouldn't she make one as well? At the same time, even acknowledging Christian's lifestyle made her uncomfortable. It's not like she thought it was an "abomination," it was simply foreign to her. She couldn't grasp it - and isn't it true that people fear what they don't understand?
"Okay," she said, "I'll try."
Christian nodded. "Now was that so hard?"
She had been reading for so long that the words on the screen had started to mush together. She blinked, closing her eyes hard. After the first straightforward conversation Ana ever had with Christian, she decided to take his advice. It was refreshing to broach her concerns with him and not have it end in a screaming match… Or sex. Although the latter wasn't so bad.
It was daunting to plunge into the world of BDSM, but she decided that if Christian could give an inch, then so could she. When she typed the acronym into her computer search engine, she wasn't sure what would pop up. Explicit pictures of whips and chains? Or women bound and tortured? Blood and gore? Her imagination had conjured up the worst images possible, all for her to realize that she was grossly overreacting. She was partially proven correct, as there were images of whips and chains and women tied up… But they looked content, almost pleased with their current state.
It confused Ana, who had thought of pain and suffering as synonymous with BDSM. She expected to see horrifying and objectifying images, but instead she was met with pictures of - to put it simply - very kinky sex.
Things started to make even more sense when she read about what BDSM actually entailed. She was extremely wary of clicking on unknown sites in fear of her stumbling into some BDSM porn site, so she stuck with wikipedia. She vividly remembered an excerpt on the page, which made her have an intense moment of clarity:
"Unlike the usual 'power neutral' relationships and play styles commonly followed by couples, activities and relationships within a BDSM context are often characterized by the participants' taking on complementary, but unequal roles; thus, the idea of informed consent of both the partners becomes essential."
Those two words rang loudly in her head, like a bell. They screamed at her, "See! He's not as sexually crazed as you think he is!"
Ana's main fear revolved around the fact that Christian liked to hurt people - but she completely ignored the fact that the people he hurt liked to feel pain. Within her subconscious, Ana had demonized Christian. And she felt guilty.
Her cellphone keypad chimed as she entered his number, anxiety creeping into her body. This is the first time she had called Christian instead of the other way around; and most of the time she didn't answer his calls, anyway. She wondered how he would react to her sudden outreach to him.
She inhaled quickly as she heard the other end of the phone click. "Anastasia Steele is calling me?" Christian teased, "Hell must've frozen over."
"I did what you asked me to," she replied, ignoring his previous comment.
Christian was silent for a moment, causing Ana's stomach to drop. She clutched on to her cellphone tightly, anticipating his reaction. Would he be happy? Aloof? Expectant? She didn't know - and it made her nervous.
"What did you think?" Christian asked, his voice changing tone. He sounded gruffer, his voice more serious than it had been just moments before. Ana desperately wished she could read his mind, to know what he thought of all this.
"I guess maybe I was a little too… Judgmental," she admitted, embarrassed. "I guess what you like to do is a little… Unconventional, but it's not necessarily wrong."
"Do you think it's weird?"
"Yes," Ana admitted, "but what do I know? I've never tried it," she said quietly, staring down at the pattern on her bed quilt. The etches and designs seemed to run on endlessly.
"Do you think you ever would?" He asked, his tone one of curiosity and… Hope? "Not to make you feel obligated or anything," he added quickly, "you know I wouldn't push you to do something you don't want to."
Ana pondered his question long and hard. Could she really do what people like Christian enjoyed? She remembered the images she had seen earlier. Everything looked so… Unfamiliar. And complex. The amount of bondage and toys used seemed almost excessive to her, but it wasn't necessarily scary. Just unconventional. The whole aspect of BDSM reminded her of people who liked to bite directly into ice cream instead of licking it - they enjoyed the same thing, just differently.
"I don't know," she answered honestly.
"I wasn't sure about vanilla sex, but yet here I am," Christian remarked.
Vanilla sex. It was a term that she was actually familiar with, thanks to the extensive research she had just finished. Ana sighed. "Are you trying to guilt me?"
"No, of course not," he replied. "I'm merely observing how far we've come. Did you think we would end up here that day we met after my accident?"
Ana chuckled. "Oh, gosh. I used to hate you."
"Everyone has at least once, baby," he muttered, his voice light and airy.
Ana bit her lip, reminiscing about how the dynamic of their relationship had changed so quickly. It was so sudden she almost got whiplash. She also remembered how vastly Christian had changed, how he had learned to trust her, to show her more emotion than simple callousness and aloofness. It made her feel like she wanted to change too.
"I change my mind," she blurted out.
"About what?" Christian asked, confused.
"I think I'd like to try doing things your way."
I hope you all enjoyed and I thank you so much for your constant feedback. It really helps me to keep the story in the direction I want it to go.
Thanks for reading!