Patience is something I've always been skilled at. I've had to be; in my line of work, it could take months to finalize a merger. In my private life, I've prided myself on my patience, particularly with my former submissives. I could have easily spent hours in the playroom with any one of those women drawing out my pleasure. I was taught patience at a young age; as a small child, I had to patiently wait inside a dirty, rundown apartment building waiting for the crack whore to return and bring me something to eat. In my teenage years, Elena Lincoln made sure I became patient and obedient.
It wasn't until recently that my patience was truly tested and eventually shattered completely. Now as I kneel on the deck of my boat in front of Anastasia Steele with a diamond ring in my hand, my patient side is nowhere to be found. It's barely been a minute and in that time, my confidence has also dropped. Ana is currently staring down at me with her hands covering her mouth and a noiseless gasp. She's clearly in shock, but I can't wait for that to fade; I'm desperate for her answer.
"Ana, baby, you're killing me here," I admit softly, still kneeling. "Say something. Please." And please let that something be "yes."
She finally lowers her hands and swallows, looking between my face and the ring I'm presenting her. "I'm sorry," she whispers and for a moment, my heart stops beating. "I wasn't expecting this."
"Well, I certainly wasn't expecting to have you in my life, but here you are," I uneasily. "Are you saying no?" The preemptive devastation and rejection is more painful than anything I've ever felt in my life.
Her eyes widen and she seems to shake herself back into the moment. "What? No, Christian," she says quickly. I frown; this isn't clearing up anything. But when she begins to smile at me, my confidence and relief return. "Of course I'll marry you."
It's my turn to be in shock. Despite having planned out this entire thing and imagined all the ways it could have gone, a small part of me believed she would say no, that it's too soon and too much has happened that she hasn't yet processed. "You will?" I breathe.
Carefully, mindful of her injuries, she kneels down in front of me, her eyes watery. "Yes," she says shyly.
And with that one little word, I'm happier than I have ever been in my life. I lean forward, crushing my lips to hers in a kiss full of gratitude and love and everything else I feel for her. She returns my kiss with just as much enthusiasm and a second later, she's in my lap, her legs wrapped around my waist and I'm carefully running my hands all along her body. It's not the first kiss we've shared since she was released from the hospital, but we've both been silently hesitant to escalate to anything more. I'm too worried about hurting her worse than she already is and she just hasn't been in the mood and I haven't wanted to push her into anything.
"I love you," I whisper against her lips, climbing to my feet. It's getting colder out and as much as I would enjoy making love to her beneath the stars, tonight isn't the night for that. Instead I take us below deck to main cabin.
"I love you, too," she replies as I gently lay her down on the bed.
Slowly, I begin removing her clothing, kissing every inch of exposed skin on her body from her toes all the way up to her lips. She's panting when I reach her mouth, and so am I for that matter, but I've been thinking of this moment for weeks and we have all night.
"I never dared to believe I would ever get married or have a family of my own," I whisper to her, holding myself above her with my elbows. "Now I can't imagine not having you in my life. And I cannot wait to meet our little invader." She giggles against my lips and I smile back.
"You're rather overdressed, Mr. Grey," she says quietly, looking up at me as though I'm her reason for being.
"Hmm," I murmur, rubbing my nose alongside hers. "I suppose I am, Miss Steele. What shall we do about that?"
To my complete surprise, Ana pushes on my shoulder until I'm lying on the bed and straddles my lap. "Well, you seemed to enjoy undressing me; perhaps it's my turn to undress you."
My eyebrows shoot up. Nobody has ever undressed me before. I wouldn't have allowed it; I've always been too concerned with somebody touching me. But Ana... well, she's different. That's something I've known for months and relearn every day. The first time I allowed her to touch me was the same night I spoke to my family about my sexual predilections. I'd needed her reassurance that what she felt for me hadn't changed even though the rest of the world was looking at me differently. And I'd needed to reassure her that I wasn't going to let anything stop us from being together. Her hands on me felt alien and terrifying at first, but just as quickly as my body reacted negatively to the touch of another, it relaxed with the knowledge that if there were one person in the world who could never harm me, it's Ana.
As promised, Ana takes as much time removing my clothing as I did hers, kissing her way up my inner thighs. My mouth drops open when she reaches my erection and I barely feel her tongue teasing me. I'm clenching my fists to keep from throwing her onto her back and fucking her until sunrise. I remind myself that though she's feeling much better, her ribs are still bruised; I'll hurt her if I'm not careful.
"Jesus, Ana," I breathe. "When did you get so good at this?" I ask her as she kisses her way up my chest, sliding her body up mine.
She smiles, her teeth teasing my jawline. "I had a very good teacher," she murmurs.
When her hips align with mine and she rubs herself all over me, I have to acknowledge that I really am one hell of a teacher. "I want you, Ana," I groan, watching her bite her lip at the sensations running through our bodies.
She nods frantically and very carefully, my hands bracket her hips and I lift her just enough to lower her back onto me until we're both gasping at how perfectly we feel together.
"Slowly, Ana," I whisper, pulling her down so I can capture her lips again. "I want to enjoy this."
She nods again, unable to speak as her forehead rests against mine and closes her eyes tightly. "Yes," she breathes.
We move together slowly so we can feel every inch of each other and nothing in the world could ever be more perfect than this moment right now. The build-up is gradual until I feel Ana clenching around me for more friction and I struggle to keep our tempo steady. She cries out my name as she comes and only a moment later I'm gasping hers, holding her to me because any distance between us feels wrong. My nose is buried in her hair for long minutes afterwards while we simply enjoy the gentle rocking of the boat.
I huff a laugh and Ana draws away from me slightly, looking at me as though I have two heads. "I'd planned on making love to you while you wore nothing but my ring. It seems we've skipped a step here."
She giggles, her body contracting around mine and causing me to hiss through my teeth. "Christian, our whole relationship has been out of order."
I grin at her. "Yes, it has, hasn't it? I'm not complaining; are you?" I challenge.
"No. Everything we've done has brought us here," she says quietly. "I wouldn't trade any of it away."
It's my turn to look at her as though she's grown a second head, but the sincerity in her eyes stops me. "Neither would I," I whisper back, kissing her slowly again. And it's true. All the bad that we've been through, the fear, the uncertainty, the frustration, it has all played a part in bringing us here. We're stronger for it, both individually and as a couple. There are, undoubtedly, things we still need to work out, but we've got time for that. We've got the rest of our lives, because she agreed to marry me and she's carrying my child. Nothing could be more important.
Breakfast hasn't ever been my favorite meal of the day. Most days I have a cup of coffee and a croissant while I read the morning news before work. When I was younger the only times I got excited about breakfast was when my mother was away at a medical conference and my dad would load us up in the car and take us to IHOP. It was also the only times I saw Carrick eat food without any nutritive value whatsoever. As I roll over in bed on The Grace and realize my fiancée is missing, I begin to think about what sort of traditions Ana and I will start with our own family.
I slip out of bed, grabbing the pair of pajama bottoms from the bag Taylor dropped off here last night while Ana and I were with our families, and follow the delicious scent of pancakes and bacon. It's certainly not the first time Ana has cooked me breakfast, but every time, it still fills me with wonder. I'm not accustomed to people taking care of me without them being obligated to do so. My mother cooked breakfast because she's my mother; Gail does it because I pay her; my submissives did it because if they didn't, they were punished. Ana does it because she loves me. And she does it well. The view in the kitchen of my boat is almost as good as I know the food will be. She's only wearing my shirt from last night with her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail as she swings her hips slightly while humming some song.
For a minute, I just watch her, amazed that this is my life now. Soon I'll be a husband and a father, and it makes me feel content in a way I've never felt before.
"Are you just going to stand there gawking all day, Mr. Grey, or are you going to pour the orange juice?" she asks, not stopping her swaying or turning to look at me.
I grin and walk up behind her, wrapping my arms around her waist. "I thought I'd gawk for a while, actually, Miss Steele," I murmur against her neck. "You're very... gawk-able."
She giggles. "I don't think that's a word," she chides me.
"It should be," I say defensively. "I'll look into getting the dictionary updated and your picture placed right next to it."
She murmurs as my lips lazily move across her neck.
"What do you want to do today?" I ask her when she goes back to cooking and I pour the orange juice as instructed.
"You haven't made plans for us?" she asks with an arched eyebrow.
I smirk. "Well, I do have several things in mind that we can do," I say slowly. "But I'm asking for your input."
She shrugs, plating our breakfast and placing the plates on the kitchen table. "I want to be with you," she says shyly. "The details aren't important."
I stare at her in surprise, wondering if I'll ever get used to the idea that she feels as strongly for me as I do for her, that a man like me can be attractive to a woman like her. "I wholeheartedly agree, Anastasia," I whisper, leaning over and kissing her slowly. "And I love hearing you say things like that to me."
We sit down to start eating and I run through all the potential things we could do today. The most obvious is remaining on the boat, maybe take it out on the water for a few hours, park somewhere, and make love over and over again. Ana seems interested in the overall concept, but admits she woke up feeling a little queasy this morning.
"And so begins the morning sickness," I mutter sympathetically, mostly to myself. "Well, we can head back to the hotel and get some rest. Or, if you're up to another field trip, I could use your opinion on a few things."
She frowns slightly. "What things?" she asks warily. Her suspicion only deepens when I shift awkwardly in my seat.
I probably could have mentioned this before now, but all my focus has been on proposing marriage. "Well, obviously we can't live in a hotel long term and to be honest, I have no interest in ever returning to Escala, so I've been looking into other options."
"Oh?" she says curiously, taking a bite of pancake. I'm momentarily distracted by the little drop of syrup at the corner of her mouth that her tongue darts out to catch.
"Yes," I say, my voice hoarse as I force myself back on the subject of our day's plans. "All things considered, I think it's time we spread out a bit, find a place where we can grow, you know, as a family..." It's the first time I've considered the possibility that we might have more than one child.
The smile she gives me wipes away every bad feeling I have ever had and gives me hope for a stable, happy future. "I'd love that," she whispers.
I can't imagine having a more perfect day than the one Ana and I are currently experiencing. From the moment we met we've both been pulled in different directions by a multitude of people, and forced to deal with situations that could have so easily been the end of us whether it be my past or hers. But today is only about us. I shut off my phone before we reached The Grace last night and only turned it back on to check that the arrangements I had waiting in the wings were complete. I ignored all messages from Ros and my family; for once I want to focus only on my and Ana's needs and happiness. It's much easier to switch off than I thought it might be and surprising how free I feel not worrying about work for a change.
But that is one of the things Ana does best: She makes me forget my troubles and I only hope I'm able to do the same for her on some level.
Following breakfast and a long shower during which we christened The Grace's bathroom multiple times, we head towards the outskirts of Seattle so I can get Ana's opinion on our possible future home. Part of the reason I chose this spot is because it's not in the city. We wouldn't be surrounded by people constantly out here. The several acres of land will assure our privacy and peace, and Taylor has already weighed in on the safety. Here the security team can stretch out and do their jobs in the background like they're meant to.
The house itself is a fixer-upper. I would have happily knocked it down and rebuilt something brand-new for my family, but Ana is insistent that we only make the necessary upgrades. She used phrases like "it only needs a little TLC." The more she commented the more I got the impression she was talking about much more than just the house. Is that how she saw me when we first met? That all I needed was a little TLC? She wasn't wrong, though I never would have worked that out on my own.
By the end of our tour, we'd already decided which bedroom would become the nursery—the one with the second best view in the house. The first, of course, being the master bedroom. I spent several minutes watching Ana wander our baby's room while she silently made plans on how to decorate. I was lost in thought as I imagined her sitting by the huge bay window in a rocking chair nursing our child. I even briefly saw myself holding a baby in my own arms in the middle of the night, softly singing him or her back to sleep. It was in that moment that I realized how drastically my life has changed in such a short time. I felt like I was having some weird out of body experience as I recalled that only a few months ago I never even considered any of this would be a possibility or that I would want it. Now I hardly recognize my old life and that is how I want it.
"Deep thoughts, Mr. Grey?"
I'm startled back to the moment at the sound of Ana's voice and the feeling of her arms wrapping around my waist. Smiling, I hold her against me and lean down to rest my forehead on hers. "Just thinking about how much things have changed."
Her lips twitch. "You don't seem to be all that bothered by it," she observes.
"Not in the slightest," I say honestly. "I've never been happier about change in my life."
Her eyes widen slightly and she bites her lip. "Me neither," she whispers.
And because I simply can't resist her, I capture her lips with mine, kissing her slowly and thoroughly while I wonder if anything has ever been this perfect.
I pull away first, reluctantly, and glance at my watch with a sigh. "We have one more thing to do before I can get you somewhere private and naked," I murmur against her mouth.
She pouts adorably but proceeds to pull out of our embrace. Her expression would be enough for me to say fuck it and drag her back to the Fairmont for the rest of the night, but our next appointment is something I'm eagerly anticipating even though I can't deny how nervous I am about it. I see my feelings reflected in her eyes and just like that our minds have pushed back our constant need for each other, temporarily, of course, and I take her by the hand and lead her out of the house again.
Though it's possibly too early to see anything of significance, we have an appointment for an ultrasound with Ana's OB/GYN. The doctors at the hospital assured us the baby was completely unharmed while Ana went through her ordeal at Escala, but I'm paranoid and overprotective, and I need a second opinion. Ana didn't put up any sort of argument when I told her about the appointment which tells me she is just as concerned as I am.
Neither of us speaks on the drive to the doctor's office; we simply hold hands, occasionally rubbing our thumbs over each other's fingers in comfort. Despite all the reassurances I've received from my mother and John Flynn, I'm still nervous about fatherhood and I don't think it's something that will go away, even after our child is here in our arms. My nerves only grow when we're led into an exam room with posters on the walls depicting the changes Ana can expect to her body and the stages of growth of a baby. It's a wonder the human race hasn't died out after going through something this traumatic, but I suppose the end result is worth it. I'll just have to wait and see.
"You're fidgeting," Ana says quietly as she settles on the exam table in a hospital gown while we await the doctor's arrival.
I look down at my lap with a frown and discover she's correct. My fingers are knotted together the way Ana's do when she's nervous or anxious about something and my knee is bouncing rapidly. Forcing myself to relax, I meet Ana's gaze with a genuine smile. "Sorry," I reply, reaching for her hand. "I can't say I've ever done that before."
Her lips twitch again and she squeezes my fingers. "It's going to be fine," she promises me, but I can see the uncertainty in her own expression and I wonder if she believes her own words.
Realizing she's just as nervous as I am actually calms me. I'm not the only one new to parenthood here and I've got months to prepare; Ana is already going through so many changes and it's only just begun. "I know it will," I say softly, bringing her hand to my lips. "I've got you."
Her mouth drops open at my words, but before she can speak, there is a knock on the door. The doctor breezes in with a brief smile in my direction before shaking Ana's hand.
"How are you feeling, Ana?" Dr. Greene asks once the obligatory doctor/patient small talk has concluded.
"Okay," Ana answers with a nod. "The pain in my ribs is subsiding more every day. My arm feels much better."
The doctor nods in satisfaction. "Good, and are you still on the pain medication?"
"Only when I need it, but I haven't taken any in a few days."
"Even better," the doctor replies. "So I assume the reason you're here is because you're hoping to check on your baby's status. Have you had a scan yet, Ana?"
"At the hospital," Ana confirms, "but we weren't really able to see anything. It was more a confirmation that everything was all right."
Dr. Greene nods, checking Ana's chart. "Well, let's see what we can see," she says, standing.
My eyes widen as the doctor pulls a monitor closer to Ana's bed and retrieves what resembles one of the toys in my playroom, covering it with a condom. I wince in sympathy for Ana as it's inserted and the doctor has to move it around a bit to find what she's looking for. I'm also biting my lip to not laugh at the uncomfortable expression on Ana's face. She notices and glares at me which relaxes us both significantly.
"Okay, here we go..." Dr. Greene says suddenly.
Our eyes fly to the screen to find what the doctor is pointing at. At first all I see is what we saw while Ana was in the hospital: a tiny black speck in the middle of a gray blob. But the closer I look the more I see just how much has changed in a couple of weeks. I can clearly make out a baby's head and what looks to be the beginnings of arms and legs. What really catches me off guard though, is the tiny rapid flutter in what I assume would be the baby's chest.
Dr. Greene hits a button on the monitor and Ana gasps at the first sound of our baby's heartbeat. All I can do is stare at the image on the screen unable to believe she and I created something so amazing. All my fear washes away the longer I look and I barely hear anything the doctor and Ana are saying.
"Everything looks great," I hear faintly. "As you can see and hear, the heartbeat is strong and healthy. I don't currently see anything that worries me, but of course given everything you've been through, Ana, I'll want to monitor you a little more closely than I would with my other patients. If you experience anything you find worrisome, don't be afraid to call the office for advice. I'll give you a prescription for vitamins I want you to begin taking immediately and apart from that, I'll print out a list of instructions and pregnancy do's and don'ts and some copies of today's scan. But other than that, you two are good to go."
Ana thanks her and she leaves us alone in the room so Ana can get dressed again. It doesn't escape my notice that the monitor is still on and frozen on the image of our baby; I can't take my eyes off of it.
"You've been very quiet," Ana says, sliding off the exam table to change.
I'm snapped out of my daze. "A lot to take in," I say hoarsely. "It feels real now."
She nods slowly, standing beside me and looking at the monitor. I wrap my arms around her, resting my head against her belly. "It does," she agrees. "I'm happy."
My smile could probably light up the whole of Seattle at her words. "Well, I'm very glad to hear that, baby," I tell her, pressing my lips against the skin that was exposed when her t-shirt rode up. "So am I."
We remain like that for a while until the nurse comes in to give us the packet of information Dr. Greene told us about. With my arm wrapped securely around Ana, I lead her out of the doctor's office while we discuss mundane things like what we want for dinner. While I would love nothing more than to take her out on the town and announce to the world that she's mine and carrying my child, the thought of having her to myself for a little while longer I much more appealing. This is still our day; the rest of the world can wait until tomorrow.
A/N: Massive, massive apologies for the delay. Between the holidays, a broken arm, and many other unfortunate things, I haven't been able to sit down and right. Thank you for being so patient. This chapter was actually meant to be the epilogue, but I felt guilty about not updating in so long that I decided a regular chapter was in order. There may be one more chapter after this before the epilogue, but I'm not sure yet. We'll see how things work out. I hope everyone is having a good New Year so far and I'll try to get more story out soon!