So, this is something I have been working on for a while. It is very different from the rest of my stories. I was not sure if I should post it or not as it is very personal to me in theme but I think that it is something you guys will enjoy reading. This is an AU story, it was not originally a FSOG FF, but it fit in quite well with a few small changes.
It is a departure from my usual writing style and I am experimenting. I started this when I had a serious bout of writers block and needed to try something new. I would really love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this one. If you guys like it I will keep posting.
Okay, I am as nervous as I was when I post the first chapter of Darkness and White almost a year ago. Please review.
This story is based on the song Grey Streets by Dave Matthews Band. If you are not already familiar I suggest you YouTube it. It is a fantastic song with lyrics that will hopefully give you a better understanding of this story.
Thank you to all of my readers for your amazing support of my stories. The reviews, PM's and encouragement have really been amazing.
Part 1: The Beginnings End
To: Ana Steele (Asteele91089 )
From: CG ( )
Subject: Dorm Rooms, lost bets and crocodile tears
I just wanted to touch base and let you know I landed. All is well. My dorm room is fucking small. My roommate smells like cheese and you are right, I am pledging a frat. I know. I know. I will give you ten bucks next time I see you.
It's strange being here where no one knows me, but it's nice too. I am just another guy on campus and Leila seems to be more relaxed here too. Maybe that will bode well for us both considering. Anyway I just wanted to let you know that I heard everything you said, and I think you were right. I am sorry that I was such a dick about it.
I remember when we were young; you used to cry all the time. It was so fucking annoying. I couldn't understand it. But as we got older I figured you out. You knew that if you cried I would always let you have your way. You fucking did it to me when I was leaving didn't you? Yeah I knew it. I made you a promise and despite how it was incurred I do intend to keep it…
I am going to miss you kiddo. You have no idea how much. If you need me I am an email or a phone call away.
Chapter 1: Takin' the Long Way Around
He drove on the interstate, his mind as wearily as his heart. He would look back every so often at his son Luke, sleeping quietly in the backseat, a small smile breaking the corners of his mouth. The boy was the image of his father, tall for his age with deep grey eyes and an unruly mop of copper curls. Luke was the one good and decent bright spot in this dark life, the one thing keeping him moving forward and the only good thing to come out of his marriage. Luke had become his port in the raging perfect storm that was his life.
Christian Grey was a man of means and money, a man who took charge and triumphed. Christian Grey was a man who lived a life without the presence of fear or doubt. Nothing, not even power can last forever and life as he knew it changed and fear and doubt were an ever present cloud hovering over the horizon. There was gray storm looming, the swirling winds destroying anything in their path and Christian felt a fear that could only come from losing control. Control is the balance of life, those who master it rise and those who fail to mater it fall. It is the one constant in history, the one true thing.
Christian had always made control his priority and with that came power and money and eventually greed. Every great ruler falls, every man fallible and weak at their core and Christian was no exception. In the wake of it all Luke kept him centered. Luke was his priority now. Luke the only thing that truly mattered and the greatest fear that Christian had on an ever growing list was the possible damage that would come to his son. In a few short months everything Luke knew and depended on simply disappeared and he the lost everything familiar. There was the gaping hole that was now his mother's missing presence in his life, his home, his therapist, his routine. It was the structure of their lives that kept Luke level, kept him present and now everything was unknown. The unknown was a lurking question mark at the end of every sentence.
It had been a long day, Christian shifted in his seat, his limbs sore, his back cracking and for the first time in the life he felt his age. Thirty – one had crept up on him like a thief in the night. A few miles more he would be home. Well - his childhood home anyway in Edmonds, Washington, a middle class suburb outside of Seattle. His real "home" was a large estate in Calabasas, California the place he lived the previous six years with his wife and son. That home was now an empty shell of neglected barren rooms. All of his belongings, a collection of memories were wrapped in bubble, hidden under layers of paper and tucked into brown cardboard boxes on a truck headed for a storage unit, to be locked away until he was ready to deal with them again. It amazed him how quickly the movers were able to pack up nearly the last decade of his life. How quickly the life and home he and his wife built together vanished. The home where Luke grew up quickly it became a hollow, hopeless place. Six of their eight anniversaries, six Christmas celebrations, and most of Luke's birthdays. It all amounted to a hundred boxes, some dusty photographs, a wealth of memories good and bad and now an empty house, where his footsteps echoed as he walked out the door for the last time.
Christian felt mix of happiness and regret, joy and sorrow, the beginning of the beginnings end. Edmonds was a place that had always been good to him. He became a local hero at the age of sixteen and in one act of reckless, thoughtless instinct he saved a life and cemented himself as a local celebrity. In one moment he became the token golden boy, the chosen, and the focus of the small community's attention. But despite all of that he would have much to answer for in his homecoming. He had practically fallen off the face of the earth as far as his friends and family was concerned. A few scattered emails and two minute phone calls, took the place of yearly fishing trips, super bowl and birthday parties. He just couldn't face the truth of what was happening. That his wife had left him, the same way his birth parents had. One day they were happy and together, and then, before he could blink, she was cheating on him and in love with another man. He couldn't bring himself to admit the truth – that he had failed - so he chose to do something out of character and ran from the truth instead. The truth will always find you; it is the ultimate bounty hunter. When the divorce papers were signed there was nothing more to do but tell his family the truth. That Leila had left him and he was coming home to regroup.
The anger that Christian felt for his ex-wife was at an all-time high. In an act of extreme selfishness she walked out of their life and took half of his fortune with her. He couldn't have cared less about the money or even the loss of his wife. Money and women always came easily to him. His company was safe and solvent, and for that he was grateful but he needed time away to focus on Luke. Stepping down as CEO was one of the hardest decisions he had ever made but deep down he knew it was the right one. Had the company been public, its stock would have plummeted at his departure, but thankfully Christian had decided long ago that he would never answer to a board only to himself. In the back of his minding knowing that he would move the company to Washington. He just needed to get Luke in order first. Luke needed and deserved more then the care of a full time nanny and the watchful eye of a security team. He needed a family and a home. A place that would never change or go away. Edmond was that place.
The air was hot and humid, the summer sun beating down, high in the sky just as he pulled into his father's driveway. It had been nearly two years since he had been home, two years that his life as he knew it imploded. Seeing the Edmonds welcome sign at the edge of town made him smile, as anticipation built in his growling stomach. Edmond was a beautiful untouched place, a haven for the middle class. It had the allure of old trees lush and green shading the houses and roads in the late June sun, pollen and dust floating in the air catching the sunlight and the distant hum of locust's wings in the background singing him a sad song. The water was as much of a part of the town as the streets, the schools and the people that lived there. The blue green water of the Puget Sound wrapped around the town giving it movement and life while the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains gave it strength and stability.
He sat in the drive way for a minute, enjoying what he knew was his last moment of silence before the questions and the inquisition would begin. He had brought it on himself. Christian was never one to share his feelings, he was a popular loaner and his image was more important to him than anything. Being the local hero had a downside as well, the constant scrutiny, the whispered gossip, the pressure to achieve to maintain the image. Somehow, the good parts of his life mixing with the stigma of his birth parents past, the stories and rumors always lingering in the background. He felt like it was a weight that had kept him down for years. The expectation of being Christian Grey. When his life and marriage started to crumble his defense was to insulate and isolate, pretend that it wasn't happening and that worked for long time. It worked until it stopped working and now he had to face the music that grew louder with every passing mile closer to home.
"Dad?" Luke's small voice called out from the back seat.
"Yeah, buddy?" Christian's voice was filled with gravel from the non-stop air conditioning of the nearly twenty hour drive. Luke wouldn't fly because the idea of being in a plane scared him to death. Christian thought back to the time in his life when he owned a private plane and a helicopter, a time when he used them freely, a time in his life before Luke was born. He and his wife never wanted kids, they were never in the plan but when the white stick came up with a little blue line they never looked back. There were problems in their marriage and they both hoped that having a hold would help repair the damage. It did for a while. Christian reached down and grabbed the now warm bottle of water he picked up at a gas station along the way and took a long sip hoping to ease his throat as he tried to force his anger and bitterness aside. This was his life now, and it would have to be okay.
"We're here?" Luke clicked his seatbelt open, craning forward to get a better look. He had been at the house before not that he really remembered but he had seen pictures of himself there. But he was just three and a half, the last time he was there and the memories were fuzzy. He remembered his Grandpa pushing him on a swing set and Grandma making pancakes and Uncle Ellie laughing and playing with a huge furry dog with Aunt Annie. That was the one thing he was looking forward to more than anything, playing with the dog. His mother wouldn't allow him to get one of his own.
"It looks like the pictures you gave me." he cocked his head to the side taking everything in. "But the bushes… they bushes they are taller and the door is red not blue." Luke was disappointed blue was his favorite of all the colors but red reminded him of his favorite football team. Christian nodded, not noticing the details but Luke always did. The little things mattered most to him; but they were all part of the bigger picture a fact that Luke often forgot. Sometimes he would get lost in the little things, trapped in them so deeply that he couldn't find his way out. Christian always worried that one day he would leave and wouldn't ever come back.
"Grandpa must have painted the door but I bet if you ask we can paint it back to blue." Christian exhaled deeply, before taking another long sip of water. "You ready to go Lukie?" Luke closed his eyes, and took a deep breath mimicking his father's actions.
"Um, no." He answered as he exhaled, sitting back in his seat. "Can we just sit her for a bit more?" Christian knew this was coming, he remembered everything the occupation therapist said, and how it was important to give Luke control but limits.
"Ok, buddy, five minutes?" Christian asked, holding up five fingers testing Luke's limits. Luke looked at the house again and then back at his father.
"Ten?" He replied with a mix of hope and fear in his soft voice. Christian chucked, and nodded his head in agreement. God he was grateful that Luke was dealing with all of the rapid change as well as he was.
"Okay, buddy ten." He tipped his head back against the head rest and closed his eyes as Luke programmed the timer on his watch for ten minutes and not a second more.
Christian watched her back the boat into the driveway, as he unloaded his bags from the trunk. He was always in awe watching her do this, it was something she had mastered as a teenager. Anastasia Steele, her name lingering in his head the moment he saw her. Ana was his best friend, the one person he looked most forward to seeing and dreaded seeing equally. They had known on another since early childhood, even though Christian was a year older they always grew together but the last two years they had grown apart. It was his fault and he knew it.
He had cut her out, avoided her, and ignored her for months and months. The months turned into nearly two years and he knew that there would be hell to pay for his abandonment. His younger brother Elliott gave him the heads up that she was angry, very angry. Christian was worried but he knew Ana better then he knew anyone and he rested his hope on the fact that her anger never lasted long. It was like a firecracker on the Fourth of July; it burned hot and loud and then as quickly as it exploded it was over.
Ana froze when she saw him in the distance, deep inside her belly she went cold and burned hot at the same time. She knew this moment was coming; four days had passed since Carrick told her of his son's divorce and impending arrival. She couldn't believe it, that Leila Williams had left him. After all the drama, the fights and the wasted energy of their relationship that she would just pick up and leave. For her just to just give up after all of that. It was such a Leila thing to do.
It also gave Ana pause that he was walking away from his company and life in California and coming home to Edmond of all places. It was unbelievable to her that all this was going on in Christian's life and she was completely clueless. Everyone was clueless, his scattered contact extended to his circle of friends and his family. Only she was completely shut out. Ana scoured the catacombs of her memory trying to figure out what she had said or done to deserve such a harsh and sudden abandonment. Hours of her life spent trying to put the pieces together and she came up with nothing. She missed him more then she even wanted to admit. The first months were the hardest; the pain was sharp and overwhelming. It was as though she had lost a limb that is how much she relied on him. Over time the pain mellowed to a dull ache and then one morning she woke up and it was gone. Every so often she would see something that would remind her of him but she was numb to it.
She would have to see him now, every day. Ana had dealt with his complete and utter desertion. It was the cherry on top of the worst time of her life but she had made her peace with it, made sense of her life without him in it. She could see him in the rear view mirror was walking towards her with a grin on his face. His perfectly structured face, that always seemed to have just the right amount of stubble. He walked with such ease, always being so present in his body. Not a single ounce of self-doubt, something she had always envied, coveted. Something she wished she could borrow from him via osmosis.
"I can do this." She muttered to herself, as she pulled her keys out of the ignition and pushed the door of her pickup open. She had four days to prepare herself for this, she had a speech prepared and all she wanted was to stay calm, stay strong. She decided to pretended like he was not even there going about her business, letting him make the first move.
He watched her unhitch the boat from the truck, the sun setting behind her. Ana looked different; the first thing he had noticed was that she lost weight. She was always thin and athletic but now, she was what he would consider to be slight and for a moment he worried if she was eating properly. She never did take care of herself the way she should have. Her hair was longer then he had ever seen it, hanging down her back in wild perfect mess, a mix of the salt air and sea from being on the boat. Her linen pants, damp at the bottom, tied loosely around her hips, her white tank top exposing the strings of a bright red bikini and her pale skin that had grabbed the early summer sun. He stared at her for a few moments, willing her to turn around and look at him. She felt his gaze and couldn't help herself, she turned to him and they locked eyes, Ana had to fight the urge to mirror his smile.
She looked beautiful and bright as the last time he had seen her. Her shoulders, nose and cheeks a bright shade of pink he fought the urge to brush his fingertip across her cheek and feel the warmth of the sun radiate from them.
"Hey Ana?" His words were a question, not knowing how she would respond, if she would respond if she could respond. She was frozen with anger and fear but thankfully she was prepared and her face gave nothing away. His voice startled her; she had not heard it for so long. It was so familiar, yet so strange. Christian's voice was as ingrained in her memories as her own, always there. Usually reassuring her, sometimes aggravating her, playfully teasing her, in dark times comforting her, in happy times laughing with her. And in two small words Hey Ana she realized how much she had missed hearing it, as it came crashing down around her.
"Hi Chris." It was all she could mutter out, not knowing what to say or do; she was not prepared for his voice having such and effect on her. It was something she had not planned on and all of her carefully plotted words flew out of her head in an instant. She nervously began to twirl the ends of her hair.
It was not a good sign that she called him Chris. She had always called him Christian, and sometimes CG when they were really gelling, hitting the sweet spot of their friendship and banter. They stood there for a few moments and then as a reflex Christian finally took a step closer, wrapping his arms around her. She stilled and tightened for a moment, stifled by the awkwardness that surrounded them. Ana finally lifted her arms loosely around his waist not being able to resist the feel of him even if it was just for a moment.
Christian inhaled deeply, he had missed her more then he even realized. She smelled like childhood, day at the beach, sun lotion, the sea, the salty air and hint of a citrus tang from the perfume she had worn since high school. She smelled familiar, she smelled of home, of everything good, of every memory locked in amber. A dusty, grainy movie reel, playing on a projector. Moving pictures of happy times but no words or sound. She pulled away from him, feeling that embrace was lasting too long, betrayed by her own feelings. She was angry, hurt and not even Christian couldn't change that with a hug and a hello. He released her and frowned as she stepped away.
"So how have you been?" It was an obtuse question, knowing the truth would require more then a few word answer. She couldn't believe the stupidity of the question, the casual air in which he asked.
"Fine." She answered sardonically not asking him a question in return. Wanting desperately to ask him why he had shut her out but holding her tongue. The lingering silence falling heavy between them.
"So you took out the boat?" He banged his fist against it a few times, remembering the time they spent painting and re-painting it over the years, remembering all the times they had spent on the boat together. He smiled at the memories and it instantly put Ana on edge. She knew what he was thinking.
"Yup." Ana's mind was racing and she couldn't manage more than one word answers.
"Who'd you go with?" He knew that she and Jose were dating; it pissed him off when he saw the photo of them together on Elliott's Facebook page last year. Jose had loved Ana for years and years. He was never really a part of their circle, being two years younger didn't really help matters. He wasn't a bad guy, but he believed that Ana could do better. She was always with the wrong men at the wrong times.
"I went alone." She managed to string together three words and exhaled in relief proud of herself until she saw the look of anger flash across Christian's face. Of all the stupid things he had ever heard Ana taking the boat out all alone was hands down one of the stupidest.
"Jesus Christ Ana, it's not safe for you to be out on the open water alone. Take Clare or Shane with you… or hell even Jessica." His tone fueled her anger. For him to think that after all this time he could tell her what to do was appalling. Totally outrageous even. Ana relished the idea that Clare and Shane were away for most of the summer. She loved her younger siblings but taking care of them in the absence of her parents was life changing and she sometimes resented it.
"Wow, balls… you've got yourself some balls Christian. Clare is at camp and Shane is staying at Berkeley for the summer and Jessica she hates the open water you know that. Kate and Elliott were busy and… You know what I don't have to explain anything to you."
"No, what I do is none of your business. Two years I have been taking the boat out by myself and I have been fine, so keep your opinions to yourself okay." He clenched his fists to his side and took a deep breath; he didn't come here to fight at least not about this. They could fight about her solo boat excursions another day. Today was about fixing his massive fuck up. He came back to make it right, to make Ana forgive him and start again.
"You're right. You know what you're doing. I mean you did learn from the best after all." Under Christian's tutelage Ana had spent hours out on the boat, literally learning the ropes. There were few places where he felt more at home then on a boat on the water. He was hoping the joke and the attempt to remind her of their shared history would break the ice but it had the opposite effect. Instead Ana was reminded of all the happy times they shared and how much she missed them.
It hurt her physically to look at him; just being in his presence was too much. The ache started in her heart and radiated out until her fingers felt numb and shaky. She had always loved him even though she has spent years denying the simple truth. Denying the flutter in her belly when he walked in a room. Denying the heat that radiated through her at his touch. Denying every kiss as nothing more then a passing moment of insanity. Even the night he took her virginity she chalked up to the fear they both had about how their live were changing at a break neck pace. In a split second everything good about them flashed in her mind and pain quickly followed.
"Well, I gotta go." She turned before he had the chance to reply, opening the back door to the truck, a large fluffy dog bounding out the back seat. "Come on Gypsy girl. Let's get you fed." They walked a few steps up the path to her house.
"Ana wait up a minute?" He called out to her, trying to figure out how to get her to stay. "Where is Steve McQueen?" She stilled as the anger she tried to contain started to bubble up to the surface. Her cheeks burned with fire and it had nothing to do with the sunburn. She turned on her heel, walking back to him. Gypsy firmly at her side, leery of this stranger before her, somehow sensing her owner's tension and anger.
"McQueen died last year." The sadness in her voice almost choking her. Christian was stunned, no one had told him. "I called you, I left you a message."
"You never said anything about McQueen." He said as a halfhearted defense, trying to recall her messages that he had listened to over and over. Messages he couldn't bring himself to return.
"No, I didn't. It didn't seem appropriate to leave that kind of a message so I said it was important that you call me back, but you didn't. He had cancer; I had to put him down. After fifteen years…I thought you would have wanted to be here, he was as much as your dog as he was mine. So I called." There was so much more that she wanted to say, but she promised herself she would not let him see how much he had hurt her. "Anyway he is gone, I scattered his ashes at the beach, you know his place…" Christian closed his eyes and nodded; knowing exactly what she was talking about, McQueen loved the water but hated the waves. He loved to run along the still waters of the bay, in and out chasing fish and seaweed. Ana's eyes burned from the tears that wanted to come, the loss of her beloved dog still so fresh and raw. Her throat constricted remembering his last moment, lying on the cold steel table in the vet's office, his amber eyes staring at her. Confused about what was happening, as they slowly closed for the last time.
"Ana, I am so sorry. Really. If I would have known…" His voice broke through the awful memory playing in her head.
"You still wouldn't have called Christian. So stop trying to make yourself feel better." She turned again to walk away, wanting so badly to get to the safety of her house.
"Ana come on, talk to me." She could hear the desperation and regret in his voice and it pulled at her in a way she was not expecting.
"Talk to you?" The sarcasm dripping from her voice, the anger seeping in. "I have tried to talk to you for months and months. And you didn't want to talk. And now you know what…I don't want to talk." She said dismissively.
"It's not that I didn't want to talk, I just couldn't…" He managed to stutter out before she interrupted him.
"Ok, couldn't talk to me but you could talk to Elliott, and Mia, oh and you could talk to Ethan."
"I spoke to them Ana but I didn't talk to them." With Elliott and Ethan and even Mia he could hide the sadness in his voice. He could pretend that all was right with the world but with Ana he couldn't hide a damn thing. She would have known from his hello that something was wrong and would have made him talk about his feelings and all that crap. If he talked about the failure that his life was becoming it made it real. It was hard enough keeping it out of the papers and local news. They waited until the very last second to file for divorce and by that time all the details has been hashed out and finalized.
"So it was just me you couldn't SPEAK to then? You know, for years you were my best friend, so when you stopped returning my calls, I didn't really think too much of it, cause it was you and me. You know… Ana and Christian, remember - you and me. We used to talk almost every day. There was nothing I couldn't tell you, nothing. And I thought that you felt the same way about me. So the first few months were strange but I didn't take it personal you know, I figured you were busy making your millions and taking care of Luke. But then I had the second worst year of my life, and I called you because I needed my best friend and nothing Christian. I haven't seen or spoken to my godson for almost two years. And then you sent me a text for my birthday. Acquaintances sent me texts, people I have known for minutes, moments. And you my best friend just send a text like I was an afterthought or something." Her words hit the target over and over, this was worse then Christians was expecting he knew she would be angry and hurt but this was something dismissive about her tone. She had resigned herself to the fact they their friendship was over and appeared to be okay with it. That is when the panic took hold; because he knew when Ana was done with something or someone she was done.
"I couldn't figure out how we got to that place, the place where you would think that sending me a text on my thirtieth birthday was okay. But it all became clear; you and I weren't friends anymore. I admit I came a little late to the party, but once I did I caught on quick. I felt like shit, trying to figure out what I did wrong, but couldn't think of anything. You were talking to everyone else but me so I knew it had to be something but eventually I just stopped caring. And then, four days ago I have to find out from your dad that not only are you DIVORCED from that evil bitch but you are moving home! FROM YOUR DAD! And it hit me, that you and I are nothing. We are not friends, or acquaintances, you are just some one that I used to know. And I am fine with that because I figured out that my life is easier without you in it!" Those last words cut him deeply; a slap in the face would have been easier to take and certainly less painful.
"You don't mean that, come on. I fucked up. I had a lot on my plate and I just couldn't talk about it." He reached out and grabbed her hand, his touch stilling her anger. Gypsy growled at their unexpected contact. "Look, you have to forgive me, you have to. I mean I am going to be around, you are going to see me every day. And I can't have you be mad at me, I just can't."
"Well things just never change Christian." She yanked her hand free of his, taking a step further away from him. "Everything you just said was all about you, what you wanted, what you needed. Are you sorry that you hurt me or just sorry that you aren't going to have me to lean on anymore? I guess we are going to see each other, because you live here again. Why I have no fucking clue. Your millions and your mansion and somehow you find yourself back on Nottingham Drive! But that does not change a thing. I haven't spoken to Mr. Gibbons for years and he lives across the street."
"Ana come on. I am sorry okay, I miss you. Luke misses you."
"Don't you dare use Luke against me Christian! Don't you dare." He saw the change in her eye and knew he had crossed a line. Ana was in full on don't fuck with me mode, a trait in her personality that she rarely used but watch out when she did. He stood still and braced himself for impact. "You are back and that's great – for you but it sucks for me. If you think for one second you are going to waltz back into town and we would just pick up where we left off then you are sadly mistaken. I am not the girl you remember! The girl you run to when all else fails. Luke is my godson and I love him to death but you won't use him to get to me are we clear?"
"Are we clear Chris… yes or no?"
"Well it's about fucking time."
He watched her storm into her house, slamming the door behind her. He was stunned and the possibility that she wouldn't forgive him set in, mixed with a wave of sadness about Steve McQueen, the most loyal dog he had ever known. No he couldn't let it end like that as he started to make his way to her front door.
"I would leave her alone." Carrick Grey called out from his front porch. The deep resonating sound of his father's voice stopped him dead in his tracks and he could have been sixteen years old all over again. "She is not going to change her mind just because you want her too."
"I know dad, trust me I know. I just need to explain to her." His father looked him over, his deep brown eyes giving away his disappointment with his adopted son. Christian had seen that look a handful of times over the years. It was something he painstaking tried to avoid, always feeling like he owed his parents for stepping in and taking care of him and Elliott.
"Explain what, that you couldn't pick up a phone for two years. She just chewed you up and spit you out. Leave her be, she has had a rough enough week without you adding to it?" Christian turned around and made his way back to the porch knowing his father was right. What did he expect, Ana to welcome him back with open arms.
"What does that mean? What's going on with her?"
"Oh now you care? You are a day late and a dollar short son. Come on, grab your bags and let's have a beer. I will fill you in, at least what I know anyway."