The elevator lets out a ping of announcement.

Ana throws me a beseeching look, the kind that only she can pull off. For the first time in a long, long time, I am unmoved by the puppy dog eyes and shoot her a reciprocal glare. This is going to be a disaster, this is going to be a motherfucking shit storm. I'm trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey in a white shirt so starched my pecs are wrinkle free and a pants so sharp I'm concerned my dick is gonna take a paper cut to the shaft. I'm not dressed this way because I want to feel good about myself, I'm dressed this way to intimidate. To remind these fuckers, these fucking fuckers, that this is my kingdom they're entering.

It's Taylor's smug face that I see first and my fists twitch.

Ana intercedes.

She's a clever girl.

"Jason, welcome," she greets warmly, dashing forwards to gracefully accept whatever grape piss he considers to be wine from his meaty hand, "Come on in. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."

Elliot's ugly head rears rapidly from Taylor's rear end.

"Hey, Ana!" he greets brightly, the fucking Judas, "How're you?"

She opens her mouth, also with an outrageously inappropriate grin to answer, but the oven suddenly has a shit fit and her face falls. Ana is very talented at many things, full blown Domestic Divadom… is not one of them. There's a tinge of charcoal on the air and she squeaks an excuse me before sprinting off to the kitchen. My teeth smash against each other as she goes, the one fucking rule for the night being broken before we even sit down.

I was not to be left alone with these pricks.

They step out of the lift together, a brotherhood of solidarity.

Fuck me.

"Christian," says Taylor, clear and commanding, "Good evening."

My ears are doing this thing where they tell my brain that this man is calling me Christian. I ogle him, I can't help it. He's been out of my employ for all of three days, and this son-of-a-bitch thinks he can come waltzing into my home and start throwing first-name terms around the place?

I think fucking not.

Before I can relay some pretty basic ground rules, Ana shouts for her beloved Jason. She needs his assistance, apparently. He trots off like a Shetland pony on steroids and it's just me and brother dearest. He eyes me warily, he knows me better than Taylor, knows just how far on the fuck-o-meter they've both rung.

"Brother. How're you?"

I raise a cold, condescending brow.

"Adoptive sibling, not of my own choosing or approval… I'm fine."

He rolls his eyes. Stuffing his hands in his denim jacket pocket, his head jerks in the direction of the laden down dining table.

"Shall we sit?"

"Oh no, I thought we'd stand and sing kumbaya for a while first. The usual."

Snorting, he storms past me and slams none-too-gently into my shoulder in the process. I follow him with narrowing eyes, realizing that there's no Mom here to shriek if I were to stab him in the eye with his own fork. The thought cheers me as I throw myself down in my pre-allocated seat across from him. Ana will be beside me, thank fuck, and Taylor will be beside the love of his little life. I should probably tell the man he needs to get tested.

Elliot has been in some nasty fucking places.

He clears his throat, clearly wishing that Jason would hurry the hell up, just as I'm wishing that Ana would do the same. He unscrews a beer from the medley in front of him and throws down a glug as I hope vindictively that it'll choke him.

"So, how's business?"

Really?

How's business?

It was going fine until you stuck your dick in it, prick.

"So, how long have you been bi-sexual? Or is it bi-curious? I'm not sure of the correct term… then again it's you… so shall we just go with the time-honored label of malcontent whore?"

His grin is the same that I've envied for all these years.

Quick, easy and always meets his eyes.

"I don't really believe in labels, I believe in having a good time. I guess that's where our paths diverge, isn't it? Of course, credit where credit is due… I'm pretty sure you had fun at your sixth birthday party, until that clown put his-"

"Did you tell Taylor you're a cesspool of STD's and poor decisions?"

"Did you tell Ana that you're a fun-sucking geriatric with a stick up his ass?"

My answering hiss is cut short. Ana and Taylor are back, each supporting one side of the most cremated fucking side of beef I've ever seen. My eyes water as the approaching smell of burnt on burnt catapults to an intolerable level. Ana is looking sheepishly chagrined, Taylor is deadpanning a look of oblivious admiration. The brutalized beef lands with a singed thunk in the middle of the table, it's blackened hue even more obvious as Taylor ducks back into the kitchen and returns with a platter of perfect sides.

They sit.

We stare.

"Christian, would you carve please?"

She's giving me the help me, I'm screwed look that I just can't resist, and I nod despite myself. Grabbing the carving knife, I spot the sly grin on Elliot's face at my indecision and resist the urge to shove it right up his ass. He clearly doesn't mind what goes up there, so what the hell. Somehow, I manage to keep it together and slice up enough cremated cow for the four of us. An awkward silence is developing, it's prickling the back of my neck. Everyone has a full plate and there are no more preliminaries to attend to… this is the part where, generally, people talk.

Well, I'm not going to break the tense silence.

This hellacious bullshit is not my doing.

Jason fucked my brother, my brother fucked Jason… in my apartment.

Without ever consulting me on the matter.

It's just rude, it's ill mannered in the extreme.

"So, Elliot… how's work going?"

Ana's voice is way too forced, but Prince fucking Perfect over there has her back. Leaning back and pretending to enjoy the lump of coal in his mouth, he shrugs good-naturedly.

"We're swamped, but that's a good thing. I have a really exciting project on at the moment where we're being really picky about where we place our wood in-"

"Really picky about where you place your wood?" I interrupt with polite sarcasm, "Is that a new market you're branching into? I've never known you to be discerning in determining where your wood is best placed. In fact, I've known you to stick your wood in places where the sun don't shine, and more to the point, where you have no travel permit."

He glares.

Taylor chokes.

Ana kicks me under the table.

I grin internally.

Worth it.

"How is your work going, Christian?" Taylor snaps. "Fulfilling?"

I shrug casually.

"It's going well Jack, I'm in the middle of a recruitment drive at the minute. I need to be far choosier when it comes to picking my key members of staff. Reliable personnel are so hard to come across. What is it you do for a living by the way? Nothing?"

This time my ankle bears the brunt of Ana's rage.

Still worth it.

"Currently, I'm looking for a position that matches my skill set. You see, I've recently discovered that money isn't the be all and end all when it comes to being happy in your work. You wouldn't believe the kind of asshole I had to suffer in my previous employment, so uptight. I'm pretty sure his lower secretarial pool had an ongoing bet about the length of the stick up his ass. I bet the house that it wasn't even a stick, it was a straight up tree trunk."

My mashed potato sours in my mouth.

This cheeky little bastard.

Ana's groan of despair is barely audible to my right.

"Elliot," she intervenes brightly, "Did you get the invite to the annual philanthropic ball? Will you be escorting him, Taylor? It's going to be such a great night, isn't it Christian?"

"Ana," I murmur greasily, "Don't embarrass our guests. The philanthropic ball is for people who are clever enough to be wealthy enough to be philanthropic… not those who can just about afford a package holiday to Napa every other year."

Elliot swallows a lump of crispy beef with difficulty.

"I sure did Ana," his hand moves to run up and down Taylor's arm and I seethe inside, "And yes, Taylor will be escorting me. We may not be as rich as others, but we try to do our part. I've always found that it's far better to be happier than wealthier. You wouldn't believe the amount of Fortune Five Hundred pricks I have to deal with. They're so arrogant, some of them even think they have the right to dictate how others live their lives. It's sad really, to be that up one's one ass. Some say that's how haemorrhoids are formed."

Taylor laughs softly.

My eyes narrow to slits.

Ana's widen with horror.

"You'd know all about abnormalities of the anal walls, I suppose," I offer cheerfully, "What with all those STD kits you've had to have performed. Oh, that reminds me, Mom said something about her special talcum powder going missing again, you know the one you use to powder your ass crack? You haven't seen it, have you?"

He runs a hand nonchalantly through his hair.

"I think Mia might have had it, something her and Pierre were up to. Oh, that reminds me, did you manage to get that message to her before she left for Paris? You know, the one about her helping you with Ana's birthday gift? Because you had no idea what the love of your life would have liked for her special day?"

Oh.

Oh my Jesus.

This prick.

Ana stiffens at my side and the look of death blooms in her eyes. She's wearing said sisterly advice in the form of a ring with both our fingerprints moulded into the inset. She had brimmed with tearful joy when I gave it to her, it was a masterpiece of a stroke on the part of Mia. I would never have been able to think of something so thoughtful, I'm still learning to think in terms of sentiment, not sale value.

She's glaring.

I can feel her glaring.

I am going to hear about this later.

It's time to change the subject.

"Jeff, did you-"

"His name is Jason, as you well know, Christian."

Ana's voice is glacial, she's on the edge.

"Yes, of course, Jason… how could I forget. Jason, would you like me to put out some feelers for you, see if I can suss out any employment opportunities somewhere? I know a lot of people and you just wouldn't believe the lack of good support staff in this city. You're a janitor by trade, right?"

He grins over the rim of his water glass.

"You could say I've spent my fair share of time wiping the asses of others who never learned to do it for themselves, sure."

I bite my lip.

"I'm sure you were well compensated. Some might even say… unduly so."

He shrugs.

"The bigger the compensation, the bigger the asshole. It's a very simple equation."

"Proficient in math, are you?"

"As a-"

Ana's had enough. She's on her feet, she's looking oddly feral. Our heads snap up to compensate for the abrupt change in altitude. She glares down at us all and I die inside when I see her hands snapping to her hips. It's going down. It's going all the way down. Taylor and Elliot seem to sense this, and they lean back slightly, but I fucking can't. I'm right in the line of fire… it's insane that someone so tiny can be so terrifying when enraged.

"Taylor, Elliot… would you mind if I were to speak frankly?"

Say yes.

Say yes, we mind, we mind very much.

Say you have to rush off, say someone's cat is stuck in a tree.

Say something other than fucking no, I beg of you.

But, of course, they're too stupid for that.

They nod.

Idiots.

"Thank you," she snaps, and I just know this is about to turn right around on me. Me, the innocent in all of this! The aggrieved party.

"Christian is many varied and wonderful things-"

Oh.

Not a bad start, accurate if nothing else…

"But he is also a fucking idiot of epic proportions."

Ah.

There we are.

"You two being together is not an issue. Christian is not homophobic or anything of the kind. What he is, is unduly possessive and rigid. His problem is solely and firmly rooted in the fact that he didn't know that you two were together and that his… education on the matter, was a little… abrupt. It is also rooted in the fact that Taylor, you represent the professional, and Elliot, you represent the personal."

She sighs in exasperation.

"And the coming together of the personal and the professional in Christian's book, is unacceptable. Isn't that right, Christian?"

I nod curtly, glaring at said professional and personal.

I don't like the lines to be blurred.

If I'm paying you, you're not fucking my family.

Period.

"Which is why, it causes me such pain to come to the conclusion that I have come to. The conclusion that; if the professional and the personal are never to converge, in any way, for any reason… then mine and Christian's relationship was formed in impropriety. And, following Christian's extreme example that he has set here tonight, I cannot see how it can continue to flourish on the foundation of such unacceptable roots."

My mouth drops open.

Elliot's mouth drops open.

Taylor, on the other hand seems to know something we don't, and smiles.

Smugly.

"When I first met you, Christian," she continues, looking down at me with this weirdly fucking apologetic look, "I was meeting you in your professional capacity. I was a young and impressionable student interviewing a high-powered CEO for my school's newspaper. Furthermore, I was a young and impressionable student that you invited to apply for a formal internship within your company. A couple of days after, you came to Clayton's in pursuit of a… relationship, with me, and the rest is history. If the professional and the personal are never to come into contact, even in the most beautiful of circumstances or for the most potent of reasons, then how can you condone our relationship?"

You could fit a freight truck in my mouth right about now.

That's how wide its hanging open.

I can't speak, I cannot form a coherent thought.

Elliot and Taylor are now wearing matching looks of self-satisfaction.

I work through Ana's argument and the blackened beef that I managed to stomach is churning within me. I pick it apart, looking for a lacuna, looking for a way out. There are a few, but they're weak and they're churlish and they're gonna make me look like an even bigger dick if I press them. I scratch my head and realize that in all things, I have truly met my match with Anastasia Steele.

I don't know whether to love that fact or hate it.

I settle on the former.

I could never hate anything to do with Ana.

Even though at this very moment, I could happily spank her six ways from Sunday.

Fucking lawyer in hiding is what she is.

Literature lover my ass.

I know what I have to do, and it sticks in my throat drier than Ghandi's flipflop. I take a large glug of water, but it doesn't do shit. My fingers drum the table and I'm very aware that all eyes are on me, but that doesn't cause me any further distress. I'm used to all eyes being on me, I'm just not used to having to answer to the owners of those eyes. What's the fucking point in being me if I have to do commoner shit like this? If we were living in a different era, I'd be a king and simply behead the fuckers that dared to aggravate me.

Elliot Grey and Jason Taylor would be the Nearly Headless Nicks of the Tudor era.

The words form in my brain.

They hold on to my neurons and trickle down the path to my mouth.

They incur some heavy traffic.

They nearly veer off course into dense undergrowth.

But, with greater difficulty than I will ever admit to, I corral them back on track.

"Elliot, Jason," I mutter, "I… apologize for my reaction to your… relationship. Like Ana has said, it's nothing to do with homophobia or anything of the like. It was a matter of proper conduct but as my dear girlfriend has so helpfully pointed out… I can't throw stones into those particular glasshouses…"

I take a huge fucking breath.

"I hope you'll both forgive me my… less than stellar performance."

That's it.

That's all I've got.

But apparently, Ana doesn't think so.

I'm going to marry her just so I can divorce her.

That'll make a statement.

She's giving me the eye, the isn't there something else eye.

I'm not with the program… what the fuck else does she want me to say… does she want me to bend over too? Like, what else is there to…

Oh.

Fuck.

Double fuck.

But she has a point, a valid point and I manage to speak truthfully.

"Taylor, I was a prick to fire you. You didn't deserve it and I don't want a new PBG. Will you come back to work?"

Ana clears her throat.

The last piece of my flayed soul seeps into the floor and flutters straight to hell.

I mirror her and clear my own throat.

"Please."

He takes his sweet time. Elliot glances at him with a grin and shoots me a look that only a brother would understand. The you're forgiven look. That's one down anyway, one to go. Ana glances between us anxiously, and I would rather die than admit to feeling my own share of nervousness. She was right, damn her, she was right. I do miss Taylor, I like the bastard. I like him a lot. Sawyer is fine… but that's it, fine. He's not Taylor and he's not the guy I want flanking me during the tough times.

Just when I think he's not going to answer, he opens his mouth.

"I don't think you can afford me, Christian. My price has changed since we last spoke. By a solid ten percent and an additional week of paid vacation."

I snort.

I respect that.

"Done."

He grins and visibly relaxes.

"Then, Christian, I'll see you tomorrow morning as per the norm."

Ana visibly deflates with relief and mutters a soft thank god under her breath.

"Good, very good. Oh, and Taylor?"

He raises a brow and with my next words, everything slips back into normality.

"It's Mr Grey."

A/N: FIN! Hope you enjoyed, this was a super fun break from writing the heavier stuff so I hope it was a fun break for you guys, too! I will be updating the rest of my stories over the coming days.

Thanks for reading and all your feedback, I really appreciate it!

Until next time,

Inks x