Terms

Christian was not a man who paced, because he'd learned long ago that stillness was a far safer and more private way to think. But now, as he leaned forward in his chair and impatiently rubbed a hand across the stubble along his jaw, it took restraint not to fidget. It was late in the evening, and he'd had time to visit WSU's agricultural department, sign off on the grant money they'd wanted, make business calls, and have dinner, and now there was little left to occupy himself with.

Just when he doubted that he could sit still any longer, there was a quick knock on the door, and Christian sprang up eagerly to get to it,

"John," he greeted the older, blonde man waiting in the hallway. "Thank you for making the trip down on such short notice."

"It's not a problem, Christian," John assured him. "You certainly compensate me well for my willingness."

Christian stood back to let Dr. Flynn enter and watched him rub his hands against each other briskly, as if he was relishing the entire process, before taking a seat without being asked and gesturing for Christian to do the same. Somehow, John's presence commanded a room, even when it was somebody else's hotel room.

"What can I do for you today, Christian?" John asked, smiling warmly in a way that made Christian question how psychologists could possibly have the patience to look that welcomingly at every strange, messed-up patient who came their way.

"I came here to see Anastasia. To Portland." Christian said shortly, disliking the weakness in the words as he said them.

"I assumed so much," John said, pressing his lips together as if amused. Christian scowled across at him, thinking that, if this was anyone else, they'd not dare to smirk at him in the first place. "Why did you think that was enough to call me out here at night? Wouldn't you say that this is a positive step?"

Christian narrowed his eyes further. "How is this positive?" he asked incredulously.

"You're pursuing someone, Christian, instead of the other way around," Dr. Flynn said. "That shows a lot of openness that we didn't think you had."

"I'm pursuing her because I'd like her to enter into an agreement with me," Christian snapped. "That's not good."

"I would have thought you'd be happy to have a partner. It's been a while since Leila."

"Yes, a partner who has asked for what I do. Anastasia doesn't want this. She won't be happy with it."

"How do you know that? Have you asked her?" John clasped his hands just below his chin, his demeanor frustratingly at ease.

"No," Christian rolled his eyes impatiently. "She's barely more than a girl, when it comes to what I want from her! I'm not something she can handle." He shook his head as he saw John begin to protest, and added, "I know I'm not. I told you about the interview - she's too easily intimidated."

"You've also told me that she's very headstrong."

"I make her nervous."

"You're a famous, good-looking, well-to-do billionaire. You make a lot of people nervous."

Not you, Christian thought with some irritation. Aloud, he said, "She's too innocent."

"You were innocent when you began, and you think that it was good for you."

Christian's eyes flashed dangerously. "That was different. I was already a disaster. I already had… baggage, and Elena could take that away. Anastasia doesn't. She isn't. Do you want her to end up like me?"

"The whole purpose of this, this therapy, is that you haven't ended up anywhere yet. And there is nothing wrong with who you are. We really must work on your self-negativity."

"Really." Christian laughed dryly. "Nothing wrong with me? Then why am I paying for a psychologist to make a two-hour trip to see me after hours?"

John joined in the laughter, but he sobered quickly. "If you thought that Anastasia couldn't do it, would you really be here, just to see her?"

"She's frustrating. I can't stay away from her."

John chuckled again. "You sound like a boy in love."

Christian glared at him again. "I'm not paying you for your poor sense of humor."

"I wasn't joking. You followed a woman here."

"I'm too much for her. She's young, and star-struck, and she doesn't know any better. She doesn't get that she should be running the other way."

"Is she an adult?"

"Yes." Christian's brow furrowed questioningly.

"Is she intelligent?"

"Of course she is."

"Are you going to coerce her to get her to enter into an arrangement with you?"

"Of course not!" Christian rose agitatedly and ran his hands through his hair, looking at Dr. Flynn so furiously that anybody else - except Anastasia, perhaps, Christian thought - would have quailed under his gaze.

"Then I don't see the problem with pursuing her. She - if she agrees - will be a consenting adult, fully aware of what she's doing."

"Isn't it still wrong?"

"Is it?" John asked mildly, appearing supremely unperturbed in an ingratiating way.

"You tell me," Christian snapped. "Isn't that your job?"

"I don't think so," John mused slowly, as if he was giving the idea careful consideration. "I think my job is to help you make those decisions for yourself."

"That's not very useful, you know." Christian was opening his mouth to say more, but his BlackBerry buzzed in his pocket, and he whipped it out, not bothering in his annoyance to look at the number on the screen. "Grey," he said sharply.

"Er… Mr. Grey?" His annoyance dissolved as he heard her voice. "It's Anastasia Steele." Her voice was soft and breathy and almost tangibly nervous. This was why he couldn't ask her to be a sub. She was nothing that a sub needed to be.

"Miss Steele," he said, and his voice was gentler without his trying to make it so. "How nice to hear from you." The words were more than a vacant courtesy, and Christian couldn't help but smile at the thought of her, so close - in the same city - listening to him on the other end of the line.

"Um - we'd like to go ahead with the photo shoot for the article." Anastasia paused, and Christian turned slightly and walked to the window at the other end of the room to hide his growing smile from Dr. Flynn. He'd half expected Anastasia to be too shy to follow up on the offer of the photo shoot when he'd proposed it, and he was surprised by how relieved and glad he was that she had. It felt like a door left open, an opportunity that he hadn't done anything to earn or deserve.

It shouldn't, Christian reminded himself, and he turned back to face John, who was watching with frank curiosity.

On the other end of the line, Anastasia took a deep, audible breath and continued, "Tomorrow, if that's okay." She made it sound like a question, even though he'd been the one to suggest tomorrow, back at Clayton's Hardware. "Where would be convenient for you?"

"I'm staying at the Heathman in Portland. Shall we say nine thirty tomorrow morning?" Christian couldn't keep his smile from seeping into his voice, and, strangely enough, he didn't want to.

"Okay, we'll see you there." Her voice was still uneven, but now in a way that sounded more like eagerness than nerves.

She exhaled loudly across the phone line, and Christian closed his eyes for a moment, imagining the sound there, in the room with him, her breath warm against his skin… "I look forward to it, Miss Steele," he said, opening his eyes and savoring her last name on his lips.

Stop, he reminded himself. She is not yours right now. And, as if to emphasize his subconscious's chastening, Anastasia hung up with a click and left him alone under the penetrating - and now very present - gaze of Dr. Flynn.

"You appear to have a date," he remarked gravely, serious now, no hint of his pervious humor.

See? Now you see how dangerous it is for me to pursue.

"It's a photo shoot," Christian said aloud, defensive.

"You didn't tell me about that."

"I hadn't gotten around to it yet!"

"Why don't you just take her out on a real date?"

Christian stared silently, nonplussed.

"Christian?"

"I don't date. You're aware of that. I thought that this isn't about changing what I need, it's about learning how to accommodate that healthily." Christian recited the words that he'd heard so often from Dr. Flynn as though they were a mantra, discomfited by this new outlook John seemed to have suddenly taken up.

"You say you don't date as if it were a law that you wish you could break, not a preference that you choose."

"I can't. I don't know how."

"And yet you seem to be trying to."

Christian's eyes narrowed, his face closing off as he shrugged on an old façade as if it were a familiar coat.

"Just think about it," Dr. Flynn said, glancing at his watch and rising to go. "We've worked hard on accepting who you are, but that doesn't mean you're trapped in the conclusions we've reached. You're allowed to change, as long as it's on your terms."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

John frowned, his expression a mild rebuke. "There's no need to be defiant, Christian."

Christian gritted his teeth at John's use of his first name, thinking fleetingly that he shouldn't have allowed Dr. Flynn to make a first-name basis a requirement for his services.

"I'm not being-" Christian stopped short and instead crossed the room and held the door open for Flynn to leave, feeling rather glad to see him out.

"Enjoy your date, Christian," John called as he left, not looking back to see Christian's lost expression as the door swung shut behind him.


A/N: I hope you enjoyed! I was a little unsure of how to characterize Christian when he's with Dr. Flynn, so I hope it turned out okay. Review, please?