I've heard people say life can change in an instant, particularly when you least expect it. I never took any stock in that saying since I used to have complete control over every facet in my life at all times and the only time anything changed was when I allowed it.
And I really believed that was how my life would go until the day that I took my last breath. I was happy enough to continue on with my lonely existence, seeking company when I wanted it, watching my company grow larger and more successful with each year that passed. The fact that I came home every night and ate dinner alone before spending the night in my study working never bothered me. Attending dull benefit dinners and leaving at the first chance I got was how I spent the occasional weekend night unless I had a pretty little brunette submissive in my playroom. Love was never a part of my vocabulary and it didn't bother me.
Over the last three years, that has all changed and now I look back on that time of my life and only see how much I had been missing before I met Anastasia Steele. She brought me to life more times than I can count and despite everything we've been through, I don't regret a single second—how could I? Every moment between us—good and bad—has brought us together and keeps us together. We've both changed and grown since the day we met and we've learned to never take each other for granted. That is a lesson I learned over and over and now every day that I wake up beside my wife, I find a new way to appreciate and love her, because I nearly lost her over and over again and I will not allow that to ever happen in the future.
In the last year, my life has become unrecognizable from what it was before Ana; I'm entirely a different man and it sometimes surprises me how much I love it. I'm not as angry as I once was. I'm more open to change and compromise. I'm still not perfect and I never will be; my controlling nature still rears its head from time to time. Ana and I still have heated arguments on occasion, but rather than one of us stomping off to cool down, those arguments lead us to the bedroom to work out our frustrations with one another. There are times that I intentionally antagonize my wife just to watch her bristle so I can drag her to bed—there is a lot to be said about angry sex. The problem is that she's started to work out my game, but when I'm lucky, she goes along with it.
It's not only the sex that makes my life amazing; it's the fact that I married my absolute best friend in the entire world and even with everything we know about each other, we're still learning new little things every day. She is, as she always was, incredibly patient with me, particularly when I'm being difficult to live with. She hasn't given up on me despite all the things she has been through because of me. It would have been so easy for her to walk away after being drugged and shot and nearly kidnapped, but she stayed because she loves me. I still find it difficult to accept that as the truth, mostly because I don't feel as though I deserve her or the life she's given me.
Between Jack Hyde and Sarah Fuller, we've had our fill of drama to last us the rest of our lives. I didn't want Ana to have to deal with any of it, but she insisted that she be at my side during both trials. Thankfully, they went relatively quickly and both of them are out of our lives for good. We don't dwell on the bad things that have happened to us, having decided long ago that it was those things that brought us back together. It's because of those things that I live in a beautiful house on the water and wake up beside the amazing gorgeous woman that I could not live without. It's because of those things that we have the most perfect little boy in the entire world—our son.
I'm not saying I'm grateful to Hyde and Fuller; I hope they both rot in hell for what they did to us. We learned during the trial that they were working together the entire time. It was then that we learned exactly what Hyde had planned to do to Ana the night he broke into m apartment to kidnap her. The memory still makes me sick to my stomach and it gave Ana nightmares for weeks. Given the chance, I'd happily beat the shit out of Hyde until he was dead then go put a bullet in Fuller's head for good measure. The point is that I could have lost everything to those assholes; instead I have a better life than I could have ever imagined for myself and I've learned to appreciate what I have now and what I could have in the future rather than dwelling on anything from the past.
Tonight, it has been six months since I became a father. I recall with absolute clarity the fear I felt at the very idea—it's still there on some level, but Ana has helped me through that as well. Not to mention my son makes it so easy for me to convince myself that I almost know what I'm doing. I could spend every second of every day with my family and never do anything else and since Teddy was born, I've cut back on the hours I spend at the office. The number of out of town business trips I take has been cut in half because I don't want to miss even a moment of my family's life.
Not even in the dead of night while my wife is fast asleep and I'm not even a little tired which is why I'm padding my way down the hall to my son's nursery and softly opening the door. I smile when I hear his happy little gurgling; clearly I'm not the only one wide awake at this late hour.
"Well, hello, Theodore," I murmur, leaning over the bars of his crib.
His eyes find me and a huge smile blossoms on his face. Rather than playing with his feet as he had been when I entered the room, his arms reach out for me. Ana keeps trying to tell me I don't need to pick him up whenever he wants, but who am I to deny my son anything I can provide him?
We settle in a rocking chair beside the window and Teddy nestles himself against my bare chest. Yet another thing that never ceases to amaze me—two years ago, I never would have allowed anybody to touch me on my chest or back, but Ana somehow found her way past that barrier and whatever magic she holds has been passed down to Teddy, because I welcome moments like these.
More than once, I've sat with him in this exact chair and promised that I would never allow him to go through a fraction of the pain I suffered as a child. He is deeply loved and he will know it every day. He is my chance to make up for my childhood; he will not know hunger or fear or neglect. I will not allow anyone to harm him and that goes for when he gets older and begins exploring the world on his own. Ana once asked me how I would feel if my son went through what I did with Elena Lincoln; at the time I didn't have an answer for her because I couldn't imagine myself with a son of my own, but now I would break every bone of the person who even suggested that sort of life would be good for him.
Elena showed her true colors shortly after Teddy's birth. For a while, Ana and I both suspected she might have been part of Hyde and Fuller's scheme to destroy us, but we never had any concrete evidence to support our theories. I'd already cut all my ties to Elena before Ana and I even married and I hadn't even so much as received a text message from her until my parents decided to throw a party in their grandson's honor a week or so after we brought him home from the hospital. According to my mother Elena wasn't even on the guest list, but she party-crashed anyway. I'm still not entirely sure what happened that night; Elena was drunk before she even arrived and cornered me in the kitchen, telling me I was making a huge mistake cutting her out of my life, that one day I would realize my true nature and would only end up hurting my family, because love is for fools and it's a world I could never belong to. Just as she was taking a few stumbling steps forward to touch me, my mother and Ana appeared out of nowhere and the next thing I knew, Ana had slapped Elena. If she'd been just half a second slower, my mom would have been the one with the sore hand. As it was, she did get the satisfaction of kicking Elena out of her home and our lives for good. Last I heard, Elena had moved to Las Vegas and co-owns a nightclub of some sort. I can only imagine the patrons of this nightclub and it certainly isn't a family-friendly atmosphere. Good riddance.
Despite everything, I still feel the occasional pull towards my former sexual lifestyle and that is where Escala has come in handy. It took months before Ana and I were comfortable enough to set foot in the playroom again considering the last time we were there, she left me. I came to the realization that she missed that side of our relationship almost as much as I did and we gradually escalated our playroom scenes. I got rid of all the heavy shit that I know Ana would never want to experience and I'm completely okay with that. I never want to hurt her; I only want to make her feel as amazing as she makes me feel. Vanilla kinky fuckery is still a part of our vocabulary and we get mutual gratification whenever we visit the playroom together; and that's exactly how it should be. Even here at home we've improvised and explored all the different ways to spice up our sex life—not that it needs spicing up. It only gets better whether we're making love slowly and sweetly or fucking hard, depending on our moods. I want her more today than I did when she fell into my office.
I look down at my chest and find my son fast asleep against me, his head resting on my shoulder. I smile, rubbing his back and feel every frustration or ounce of stress I've felt lately fade away. It amazes me how completely this little boy trusts me. At first I was nervous about holding him. Aside from the typical fear that I would drop him, I feared that the second I held him in my arms he would sense the darkness in me even though I've worked extremely hard to bury it and he wouldn't want a thing to do with me. To my shock and relief, he is always so happy to be in my arms. Whenever I walk into a room and his big blue eyes—so much like his mother's—find me, he's eager for my attention. We've also learned that I can calm certain tantrums that even Ana cannot. She pretends to be annoyed when I pick him up while he's screaming his little head off and within a minute, he's quiet and content again, but I see the amazement and love in her eyes as she watches us.
My eyes close of their own accord when I rest my cheek on Teddy's head of copper curls and I know I'll need to put him back to bed soon or I'll end up falling asleep right here in this chair. And it wouldn't be the first time.
A flash of light startles me and I look up to the nursery door, finding my wife leaning against the doorjamb with a camera in her hand. I huff a laugh and shake my head at her smirk and she crosses the room. I scoot over in the chair enough to give her room to sit beside me—part of what drove her to choosing this chair is the fact that it's big enough for us to sit together comfortably. I had been absolutely insistent that everything in this room had to be brand-new and top of the line for our son, but Ana and I had been walking past this antique shop and she saw the chair in a window and immediately fell in love with it. I told her we would get a similar one, that the one we had seen looked like it would collapse under her weight let alone our weight combined, but she became obsessed and eventually, just to make her happy, I had it delivered while she was at work. She'd been thrilled and I just enjoyed the smile on her face as she sat in it.
"Did we wake you?" I ask her, reaching around her shoulders with the arm not holding our son to pull her closer.
She rests her head against me, bringing up a hand to gently cup Teddy's head. "Only because of your absence," she says softly. "I always know when you get out of bed..."
I smile at that. "I'm sorry. I was feeling restless and since I haven't really allowed you to sleep much in the last few nights, I thought I should find something else to occupy my time."
"Hmm," she murmurs, though I can feel her grinning into my skin. "Very thoughtful of you, Mr. Grey."
"Not at all, Mrs. Grey," I reply, holding back my own smirk. "I had every intention of ensuring you had a very pleasant wake-up call in the morning."
She shakes briefly in laughter. "Still very thoughtful," she says, lifting her head to look at me. "And speaking of thoughtful, you seemed rather lost in your thoughts in here. Anything interesting?"
"Only musing on how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family who loves me," I inform her, pressing my lips to her forehead.
"We're lucky, too," she replies. "I couldn't imagine my life without you or Teddy. I don't ever want to."
"Neither do I," I say. "And we'll never have to; you're stuck with me, Anastasia Grey."
Amusement crosses her expression briefly. "I figured that out after Portland. Or rather the day you showed up at SIP—" I look down and raise an eyebrow at her; she rolls her eyes, though it doesn't have nearly the same effect on me that it once did. Now I see it as another of my wife's endearing qualities, not that I'll ever tell her that. "Sorry, Grey Publishing—and practically kidnapped me to dinner just to tell me you wanted us to be friends."
I pretend to be offended by her words, but the truth is that I would have very willingly kidnapped her that evening to get her to talk to me. "My memory states that you were a willing participant in our activities that evening. And anyway, the only thing that matters is that I got you back even when you should have run as fast as you could in the opposite direction."
The guilt caused by everything we've been through, everything we've put each other through, still shows up on occasion. Although I've tried to force the memories from my mind, I'll never be able to forget finding her shot and dying on her bedroom floor, all because of a psychotic woman whose obsession with me knew no bounds. Ana still feels guilty for the time we spent apart and miserable after turning down my proposition in Portland to start over with her, and then the year we spent secretly longing for each other but both too afraid to make any admissions that might ruin what we had together. I try to tell her it doesn't matter; yes, it was a long, frustrating year, but the way I see it, we learned more about each other and ourselves during that year than we would have if we'd just jumped right back into anything more serious. I like to think we always would have ended up here regardless of whether we took that shortcut or not, but it's not something I would ever be willing to chance.
"The problem with that being," she begins, snapping me out of my thoughts, "I'm not a good runner."
I stifle a laugh to avoid waking our son and Ana's proud grin tells me she knows where my thoughts had taken me, and this is her trying to lighten the situation. "Touché, Mrs. Grey," I mutter, nudging her gently so I can get to my feet and take Teddy back to his crib. I place him inside carefully, relieved when he stirs briefly to a more comfortable sleeping position but doesn't wake. I lean in and kiss his forehead, then step back so Ana can do the same and we leave the room with our arms wrapped around each other's waists, heading back to our bedroom.
When we're curled up together in bed again, Ana resting on my bare chest while I run my fingers gently up and down her arm, I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is exactly where I belong, exactly where I was always meant to end up, and everything I have done in m past has led me to this exact moment. As always when these sorts of thoughts cross my mind, I'm compelled to make sure she knows with absolute certainty how I feel about her.
"I love you, you know," I whisper, my lips in her hair.
She senses the change in my mood and looks up, an expression of complete understanding in her eyes. She knows how important it is that I know that she knows how important she is to me. "I know," she whispers back. "I love you, too."
With that she stretches up to meet my lips, kissing me slowly and sweetly. It isn't long before one of us escalates the kiss and our lips and tongues are performing a well coordinated dance. "Since we're awake," she breathes, pulling away just enough so she can speak, "how about that pleasurable wakeup call you were talking about."
I stifle my grin. "I don't know, I'm rather tired, Mrs. Grey; you know how to exhaust a man."
Raising an eyebrow, she shakes her head in disbelief and pushes on my shoulder until I'm flat on my back. "Well, then, Mr. Grey, you'll just have to lie back and let me do the work."
I watch in speechless amazement as my wife expertly removes my pajama pants, then throws her leg over both of mine, straddling me, before slowly pushing her nightgown up her body and carelessly tossing it somewhere. It isn't often that she takes control like this—I can count the number of times on one hand—but every time proves an amazing experience. "I could be okay with that," I say hoarsely, my eyes roving over the gorgeous woman on top of me.
When she moves to position herself over me, I stop her for a moment so I can soak up the moment. She has always been beautiful to me since the moment I set eyes on her and she's only become more so as time has gone on, though I can't seem to convince her of that fact. It doesn't help matters that she is so self-conscious about the shoulder where Sarah Fuller shot her. Ana has completely healed from that injury even though there were doctors saying she might never have full use of her arm due to nerve damage or some other bullshit reason. She proved them all wrong. Only a thin scar remains now; it could have been so much worse for her. I make it a habit to kiss the length of the scar every time we make love to show her it doesn't change how I feel about her.
My own shoulder hasn't healed quite so neatly. Sarah's bullet merely grazed me, but it took a chunk along with it. I'll never forget that moment and how I believed I wouldn't ever go home to Ana; that I would die in my fucking office. That scar serves as a reminder of how lucky I am to have this life and these moments. It reminds me that I shouldn't dwell on the negative and on the things I can't control, because the moments when I had the least amount of control were the ones that brought us here and despite the horrors we've faced, I would not trade a second of my life away for anything.
"What's wrong?" she whispers the longer I only stare at her.
Shaking my head, I sit up, gasping as I slide into her. Her eyes widen briefly before they flutter shut. "Nothing is wrong," I breathe, leaning forward to capture her lips. "As long as I have you, everything is right."
Her eyes open again and I see the wonder in her expression just as I do whenever I say things like this to her. It's as though she's hearing the words for the first time and can't quite believe that she is deserving of them. I only know that because that is how I feel whenever she says them to me and I'm only now beginning to believe that I might actually deserve them someday soon. I know we will get there—every day is easier than the last—and once we do, there will be no end to what we can do together, what we can be together.
I always told Ana that no matter what decisions either of us made in the past, we would always end up right here, together. Before her, my life was very much black and white, clear cut, no surprises around the corner. I didn't believe in fate or luck—those things had no place in my life. Now I know better—meeting Anastasia Steele was inevitable. Perhaps we could have gotten here sooner if one or both of us had been just a little more willing to push, but that isn't something I ever would have left to chance. I now believe, even through the frustrations and hurts and anger, that this is exactly what the world had in store for us during that first meeting in my office. It's more than I ever could have imagined and I will spend the rest of my life cherishing every single moment.
A/N: So that's it for this story. Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, and sent messages. To answer some questions, no there won't be a sequel to this story. And I don't know if I'll be posting another anytime soon. But since I vowed about a year ago that I was done with fanfic, I'm not ruling anything out at this point. And for one last time, checkout my original novels on Amazon if you're interested. The link is on my bio page.
Thanks again for the support!