Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the 50 Shades trilogy. That honor lies solely to E.L. James.
The word came out as a strangled moan as he sat up straight in his bed, breathing heavily, his body covered with sweat. He took several moments trying to still his pounding heart and carefully looked around the bedroom for anything amiss. With a deep breath, he finally flopped back onto the mattress and stared at the ceiling. This wasn't the first time he'd had that dream and he knew it wouldn't be the last. It was always the same cast of characters, playing out different scenes which always ended with him on his knees surrounded by broken glass and a pool of blood as the front door of the house clicked shut.
He swallowed heavily and glanced over at the alarm clock beside the bed, not surprised to find it was only one in the morning and he was wide awake. This was the pattern: whenever he had a relatively quiet day, he found himself brooding more and more often, which led to a large glass of whiskey around nine in the evening, then he would do a bit more work, try to convince himself that he would sleep through the night. He would then go to bed and within two or three hours of being asleep, he would wake in a cold sweat, unable to get back to sleep.
Giving up, he threw aside the blankets, swung his legs over the side of the bed, and let his feet touch the cold floor as he crossed the master bedroom to the window. He stared distractedly out at the waterside view, wondering how he was ever going to get past these dreams. None of Flynn's suggestions had worked: meditation made him impatient; clearing his mind only led to his thoughts becoming more confused. There were only one or two distractions that really did the job: one was down the hall, fast asleep, and the other...
His eyes clenched shut involuntarily as a brown-haired, blue-eyed woman's smiling face popped up in his mind. With a deep breath, he forced his eyes open again and the image disappeared. He had to stop doing this to himself. There'd been no word in nearly a year and what were the chances that she'd ever come home again?
Anger welled up suddenly and it took him every ounce of self-control not to grab a nearby lamp and throw it through the glass window. Instead, he spun away from the bay window and strode to the bedroom door without bothering to put on anything other than his thin, cotton pajama pants; it wasn't as though he expected to meet anybody this late at night, nor did he really care what those people might think even if he did meet somebody. His only thought at the moment was to get down the hall and confirm that not everything was a figment of his imagination. At the very thought of the possibility, panic gripped him and he practically sprinted the remaining distance to the closed door. He forced himself not to throw open the door and frighten the person inside. After another very deep breath, he steeled himself and turned the doorknob, his eyes scanning every inch of the room before they landed on the large bed in the very center.
He almost laughed at himself and the amount of relief that filled him when he spotted the small, copper-haired boy sprawled out with the blankets wrapped around one ankle. But natural laughter had come to him less often as of late, so it didn't take too much effort to subdue the urge. Quietly, he crossed the room to the bed and reached out to gently touch the boy's head, finding comfort in the very real feel of him.
In a practiced move, he easily untangled the blanket, moved the boy in a more comfortable position, and covered him again, even though he knew from experience that by morning, his efforts will have been for nothing. With a fond smile that, for once, didn't feel the least bit forced, he leaned over, smoothed back the boy's copper hair, and kissed his forehead. He turned automatically towards the bedside table and his eyes landed on the framed photo taken more than a year ago. It depicted a small family—a man, a woman, and their son—who looked happier than anybody had any real right to be. Their love for one another was more than apparent and displayed freely in their eyes and smiles.
Or perhaps it was just the memory of when the photo had been taken that made him feel that way. He tried to separate himself from the photo, tried to view it as an outsider, and suddenly saw it in a very different light. A man who'd lived his entire life without thought of what true happiness could be, a man who buried himself in his work and his... extracurricular activities. He'd fought to be where he was today, to be the CEO of a major corporation. He had hundreds of employees at his beck and call both day and night, and wanted for nothing. Beside him, he saw a woman who tripped her way into his life and proceeded to show him everything he'd been missing in his life, and for once, he allowed himself true happiness, allowed himself to love, allowed himself the chance at a real future. Between the couple was the product of that future, the perfect little boy they had created together. Tousled copper hair, bright blue eyes, so smart...
Theodore Raymond Grey was the most perfect, most surprising thing to come from the last few years. He was the only thing left that proved without a shadow of a doubt Anastasia Steele had indeed stumbled into the office of CEO Christian Grey and changed both their lives so very drastically. Teddy was the only thing that had kept his father from giving up in the last year. It had been months since Teddy had mentioned his mother in his father's presence, since he'd inquired when she would be coming home. The last time had resulted in several hours of extra work for Gail after Christian had gone on the warpath in his office.
Not that he still wasn't tempted to give up every so often. Doubt tended to creep in on the bad days—what kind of father could he possibly be to this boy? More often than not, he was away on business for days at a time, leaving his son with Gail or his parents, or occasionally Kate and Elliott. He made it a habit to call every night he was away, no matter where he was, before Teddy went to sleep, and he always brought back something from wherever he visited. But Teddy was only three years old; naturally, he missed his father when they were separated, but he never treated his father any differently upon his return. What about when Teddy reached his teenage years, when his father would be more likely to extend his business trips a day or two longer? Resentment would take hold at some point and who knew where Teddy would turn to let off a bit of steam.
He shuddered at the thought of his son following in his footsteps.
His son needed more. He needed a stable family. He needed someone he loved around him, someone who could drop everything without hesitation when he was in need. He needed someone to balance out his father's sometimes volatile temper and mercurial moods.
He needed his mother.
With a shuddering breath, Christian Grey carefully laid down beside his son, gently pulling the boy into his arms, his nose in the boy's hair. "I love you, Ted," he whispered shakily. "I wish I could do more for you."
Two days following the most recent dream, Christian had reason to genuinely smile. It was Saturday morning, and for the first time in far too long, there were no business trips to go away on, no tedious meetings to attend, and no foreign, potential business partners to impress. He'd promised Ted weeks ago that today they would spend time together on the boat, cruise the water, maybe do a bit of fishing. Ted had burst into Christian's bedroom at sunrise, jumped onto the bed, and shook his father into consciousness to remind him of this promise. After the token grumpy protest from Christian, father and son had joined Gail in the kitchen for breakfast, during which Christian had inquired into Taylor's whereabouts. Apparently Taylor, unlike his boss, had decided a little weekend business was in order; he'd received a call before sunrise and had gone off to take care of something.
"Shall I send him to find you when he returns, Mr. Grey?" asked Gail as she helped Ted cut up his pancakes and bacon.
Christian shook his head. "No need," he responded. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it can wait until Monday; this is Teddy's weekend." He reached over to ruffle his son's already messy head of hair and was rewarded with a toothy, slightly syrupy smile in return.
Gail smiled fondly and in approval, Christian thought, at the scene before her. "Well, I've prepared both of you very manly lunches of peanut butter, apple slices, and root beer," she told them. "Any idea whether you'll be back for dinner?"
"Should be," Christian mused. "Unless of course we're attacked and eaten by sharks." He reached over suddenly to tickle Ted's ribs, causing him to shriek and giggle.
"Dad," Ted said in a scolding voice that made his father proud, "there aren't any sharks here!"
"You don't think so?" Christian retorted with a raised eyebrow. "How do you know I didn't have some sent over just for this outing?"
Ted seemed to contemplate this statement for a moment before shaking his head hard and returning to his breakfast.
The dishes had been cleared, Ted and Christian both dressed for their day on the water, and the pair headed out the door towards the pier. Christian hung back a little, watching his son run and jump through the grass, playing some imaginary game. They finally reached the boat, boarded, and before anything else, Christian wrapped his son in a life jacket, tightening the straps to his satisfaction. Just as they were preparing to set sail, Christian spotted Taylor rushing down the lawn towards him.
"Mr. Grey! Can I have a moment, please, sir?"
Christian glanced at Ted, whose shoulders were beginning to sag in disappointment. He knew what was coming: Anytime Taylor or another member of Christian's staff showed up, regardless of the fact that they'd all been told their boss was spending the day with his son, they would tell Christian something that would result in Ted's spending the remainder of the day with Gail while his father took care of business.
Not today... "Sorry, Taylor!" Christian called. "Can't hear you!"
"Sir, I really think—"
"Not now! It can wait!" Christian interrupted. "We'll see you this evening!"
Taylor shouted something in response, but Teddy, upon seeing that his day on the boat wasn't to be thwarted, drowned out the words with the boat's horn. Christian laughed, partly at Taylor's look of utter frustration, partly because for the first time in months, he felt truly relaxed.
The Grey men returned to the house near dinnertime slightly sunburned, windswept, but happy. Ted had fallen asleep in his father's arms on the walk up and the moment they entered the house, Gail entered and gently took the boy from Christian's arms.
"Dinner will be ready shortly," she whispered with a smile before turning and taking ted to his bedroom.
Upon entering his study, Christian discovered Taylor sitting across from his desk and suddenly remembered the desperation from his head of security when he and Ted were on the boat. "Been sitting here all day, have we?" asked Christian playfully as he walked around the desk to sit down.
Taylor, it seemed, couldn't find the humor just yet. "Yes, sir," he said tersely.
Christian raised an eyebrow as he got a good look at the other man's face. Taylor was frustrated, annoyed, and impatient, three things Christian rarely saw from him. "Alright," he said briskly. "Out with it. What's so important?"
Taylor met his boss's eyes silently for a few moments before nodding to himself. "We've found her, sir," he said in a measured tone.
Abruptly, Christian's good mood had evaporated, leaving behind anxiety, fear, and anger. "What?" he breathed. "When?"
"This morning," Taylor went on. "We've been tracking several things this year, keeping an eye out for anything that might giveaway her location. A serial number on a watch was red flagged last evening when she attempted to sell it."
Christian nodded distractedly, not bothering to wonder why she would choose Omaha. "And how is it we've only just found her?"
"She's been using an alias, sir," Taylor answered. "Kelly Reed. She's drawn up false documentation—birth certificate, social security number, all of it—and she's stayed of the radar. Until now, that is."
Anger welled. Christian knew his next comment was irrational, but at the moment he couldn't be bothered to care. "Why the fuck didn't you tell me this sooner?" he shouted at Taylor, his balled fist coming down on the desk.
To Taylor's credit, he didn't even flinch at the outburst. "Forgive me, sir," he began dryly, "but I did attempt to tell you this morning when you and Ted boarded the boat."
There weren't many people from whom Christian would tolerate that tone, and he was tempted to remind Taylor of this. The fact remained, however, that there were more important things to deal with right now. Christian took a deep breath. "Get the plane ready," he said through gritted teeth. "We're going to Omaha. Tonight."
"Sir." Taylor jumped up and left the study immediately, already dialing phone numbers on his BlackBerry.
Left to his own devices, Christian did his level best to work out the next move. His heart was racing, adrenaline flooded his veins, but despite it all, he felt calm. Within hours, he'd have the chance to lay eyes on his wife for the first time in nearly a year, and would finally—finally—discover the reason for her disappearance. He'd spent all this time thinking of things to say to her, imagining the things he would do to and with her, and now he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
His emotions mostly under control, Christian pulled his own BlackBerry from the drawer in his desk where he'd left it before his and Ted's outing, and dialed his parents' phone number.
"Dad, it's me," he said quietly when his father picked up on the third ring. "I need to leave town tonight, within the hour actually, and I can't take Theodore with me. I wondered if it was possible for you and Mom to keep an eye on him while I'm away."
His father remained quiet for a moment, as though surprised by the tone of his son's voice. "Of course, Christian," he agreed quickly. "I hope everything is alright..." He trailed off the end of the sentence, obviously wanting to ask what the problem was, but reluctant.
Christian hesitated as well before deciding to let his father in on the truth for once. "Dad, we've found her," he whispered, gripping the phone at his ear tightly. "We've found Ana. We're going to bring her back home."
He heard his father's surprised sharp intake of breath. "Oh, Christian..." he breathed, his voice full of sympathy. A moment later, he returned to his normal tone. "Your mother and I will leave now and bring Teddy home with us. Do you know how long you'll be?"
"No," Christian said briskly. "Not too long, I hope. I'm sorry to spring this on you so suddenly, but..." He trailed off, unable to think of anything else to say.
"Think nothing of it, son," Carrick said gently. "Have a safe trip."
Christian hung up the phone and stood to leave his study. There was a suitcase sitting outside his bedroom door and he silently promised Gail a raise for thinking ahead of him yet again. Teddy was asleep in his bed, exhausted from the day. Christian stood beside his son, loath to wake him. His son didn't the added stress of knowing where his father was going tonight; his parents would find some way to explain Christian's absence at the breakfast table in the morning.
"This will all be over soon, son," he whispered, leaning over to kiss Teddy's forehead. "We're going to fix all of this. I love you."
Managing not to wake his son, Christian quickly left the room and headed downstairs where Gail and Taylor were speaking quietly. Their conversation broke abruptly as they spotted their boss coming to meet them. Christian could only imagine the topic of discussion.
"Are all the arrangements made?" Christian asked Taylor.
"Yes, sir," Taylor responded. "The jet is fuelling as we speak and Stephan is running pre-flight checks and clearing the flight plan."
"Excellent," Christian said briskly, turning to Gail. "My parents will be arriving within the hour to take Teddy home with them while I'm away. If you could pack him a bag and wake him and get him ready to go, I would appreciate it."
"Of course, Mr. Grey," Gail said in the same gentle tone Carrick had used during their phone call. As she passed him to head to Teddy's bedroom, she placed a hand on his forearm, squeezing comfortingly.
"Our bags are in the car, sir," Taylor informed him. "Sawyer will take us to the airport, then drive the car home. We're ready when you are."
Christian took a deep breath and let it out slowly, looking around the house he and his wife had made their home. He thought of the first time they'd come here, how adamant she had been that he not demolish the house, just add to it, update it a bit. He recalled the day they'd moved in, when Ana had been nearly six months pregnant with Teddy, and how happy she had been with the renovations. They'd spent that first night making love in their new bedroom and Christian had never felt more at home. He remembered the day they had brought Teddy home from the hospital and how he, his wife, and new son, had spent nearly two days curled up in the large bed, alternately napping or staring at each other blissfully.
Soon his wife would be returning here and they would be able to go on with their lives.
He turned back to Taylor who waited patiently for his next instructions. Christian nodded. "Let's go."
If you've read, please review. Thank you!