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The Strength of Steele

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Suddenly he drops to his knees in front of me, head bowed, long-fingered hands spread out on his thighs. He takes a deep breath and doesn’t move.
What? “Christian, what are you doing?”
He continues to stare down, not looking at me.
“Christian! What are you doing?” My voice is high-pitched. He doesn’t move. “Christian, look at me!” I command in panic.
His head sweeps up without hesitation, and he regards me passively with his cool gray gaze—he’s almost serene . . . expectant.
Holy Fuck . . . Christian. The submissive.
Somewhere inside my inner goddess is having a panic attack. Of all the curve balls Fifty has thrown, and there have been some doozies, this is the curvy-est to date.
'Christian, stop this,’ I plead. He doesn't react. 'I can't cope with this. Please Christian, come back to me.’ I'm not even sure he's heard me. He's perfectly still, his hands up turned on his knees, his blue shirt reflecting pale in the moonlight.
I kneel in front of him, trying to recreate equilibrium between us. He won't even raise his head. 'Look at me,’ I whisper. 'Will you at least look at me?’
He shakes his head ever so slightly still refusing to meet my eyes.
'Fuck, what am I meant to do now?’ I wonder. My head is spinning. He looks younger like this and more vulnerable. My heart breaks for him. ‘Is this how she made him stay?’ I think. Elena. The woman who helped create my damaged and lost Fifty. Did she teach him to kneel like this? So poised, so perfectly still. Every part of his body is arranged in an attitude of complete submission. His buttocks rest on his heels, knees slightly parted with the back of his hands placed lightly on his thighs. His shoulders are gently rounded as he leans forward, his head tilts towards the floor.
I realise with a shock that Christian as a submissive captures a grace that I never achieved. For six years of his life, those formative teenage years, Christian was shaped by the desires of his Domme, Mrs. Robinson, Elena. And now he is offering that to me. Is he expecting me to be like her? Is that what he wants?
'No!’ I think, almost reeling. 'No, no no! I'm nothing like her. I can't be. She abused him. I love him. I would never hurt him. Never.’
I have to find a way to get him off the floor. I reach out my hand and gently stroke the side of his face. Briefly he nestles into it.
'Christian,’ I say softly one last time. 'I don't need you to do this. Please get up.’
Nothing. He remains still, cheek still held in my hand. Gently, I pull my hand away.
'Christian,’ I say again more firmly this time. I nearly giggle. I sound like a cross between my mother and my fourth grade teacher Miss Stacey. I swallow it in time and focus on my poor Fifty in front of me. 'Christian, that's enough. Get up off the floor.’ I sound serious and confident and Christian's reaction is instantaneous. He tucks his toes under his feet, rocks backwards and in one, graceful movement rises from the floor. I'm left on my knees, gazing up at him. The wine I had for dinner has not quite faded from my system and I get up much less gracefully. Finally we are both standing together. Christian still won't look up to meet my eyes however.
'Look at me,’ I order. He does. He's a mess I can see. His gray eyes are anguished. What is it that he expects me to do? I think I know but I'm not sure I can. I might be able to play at being a submissive for him but there's no fucking way I can be a sadist.
'Have you eaten?’ I ask. He shakes his head. Maybe he just needs a meal, I think. For the first time I consider how the events of the day must have taken a toll on him. “Go into the kitchen. Sit down and I'll get you something to eat.” For the first time he speaks.
'No, I can…” he begins but I cut him off.
“For fuck’s sake Christian, can you do one thing without arguing?” I exclaim. I realise I'm accusing him of exactly what he said to me today but I'm in no mood to appreciate the irony. “If you want me to… to… If you expect me to…” I flounder. I can't bring myself to actually say the words 'dominate you’. “If this is what you want,” I continue “then… just do what you're told!”
And there it is. I've said it and I can't quite believe it. I almost cover my mouth as if that would summon the words back. For a moment I fully expect this demand to snap him out of it. I'm sure I see, for just a split second, a hint of his domineering nature flash like lightning in his cloud grey eyes. His fingers clench slightly and I can imagine them grabbing me roughly by my hair and forcing me to my knees in front of him. And then it's gone. He drops his head once more, eyes averted.
“Yes An… Ma’am,” he says quietly and obediently walks passed me and into the kitchen.
I watch him go and feel utterly bereft. In some way I feel as though I've lost him. Who is Christian Grey if he's handed over his control? Who is this person he's become? Tears prickle at my eyes and start to trail down my cheeks. I brush them away with the back of my hand. No! I can't believe my Christian is gone forever. He'll move past this. I just have to wait this, whatever this is, out.
I follow him into the kitchen. He's waiting for me, sitting at the breakfast bar, hands folded in front of him. I open the fridge and scan it for something to eat. Nothing. I open the freezer and spy two packets of frozen Mac and cheese. Fine, it'll do. I throw both of them into the microwave.
As the microwave heats up our dinner I turn back to the man who seems more like a stranger to me now. Tentatively I reach across the table and take his hand. He doesn't respond but he doesn't pull away either.
“I love you,” I tell him. “I'm not going to leave you. I just wanted some to think. Can't you understand that? Today was a lot to process. I feel like I saw a side of you… It just looked so… inevitable between the two of you.” I stop to think of the ease with which he had subdued an armed woman with simply a gesture and a word. “You looked like you were in your natural habitat when you were with her. And I don't think you've ever been like that with me.” Finally his fingers grasp around mine and he looks as though he's about to interrupt me. I speak quickly, trying to make him understand my thoughts. “I know you love me,” I say, “ but our relationship, it isn't natural to you. It's not where you live. It can't.. I can't give you what you need.” Christian shakes his head vehemently.
'You’re wrong,” he says hoarsely. “I’ll prove it to you if you just give me a chance.”
“By doing what?” I ask demand. “By letting me beat you? Degrade you? Do you want me to be Elena? I don't want that Christian. I don't!”
“Please,” he whispers. “Let me explain.”
I sit back slightly. This new, demure Christian is so totally unexpected and part of me is fascinated. I nod to indicate I’m listening.
“When you left me I knew that I couldn't continue with what I was doing.”
“Being a dom?” I asked.
“No,” he shakes his head. “I'm not a dom. Not truly. I'm a… a sadist. I punish women who look like my mother.” I feel sick and I have to fight the impulse to pull my hand away. He continues, “I tried to hide it, even from myself. But when you left me I couldn't lie to myself any more. And once I confronted what I really was I couldn't stand it. I couldn't even imagine continuing. I promise you I will never go back to that.”
I release a shaky breath. What Christian is saying is huge and massively fucked up but also not entirely surprising. I want to cry. A large part of me wants to run. Instead I do neither and sit in the kitchen holding my crazy boyfriend's hand.
“And then today,” he continues, “with Leila.” He shakes his head and wipes his eyes with his hand like a five year old trying to force the tears away. “I thought if I didn't try to dominate you I would stop hurting you. But she could have killed you. And look at what I did to her. I destroyed her and if it hadn't been for the risk she could have posed to you I probably would never have found out. Never would have cared.”
“Christian,” I say, “You feel guilty and I understand, but you are not responsible for her choices. And she was sick. It's not your fault.”
He shrugs. “I wish I could believe that but I don't,” he says simply. “If you had been hurt I would have been to blame. When you came in tonight I could see how angry you were with me. I thought I was going to lose you again and this time it would be forever.” He pauses and I wonder if he's going to continue.
“And then?” I prompt.
“I panicked” he whispers “I couldn't think. I just wanted to prove to you that I've changed.” He reaches out with his other hand to grasp my free hand. “I told you once that Elena taught me to channel my anger and energy into something positive. The only time in my life that I haven't been hurting everyone around me was when I was her submissive. I don't want to hurt anyone anymore.”
“She abused you!” I spat at him. Christian shrugged, his face impassive. “She encouraged me to be a Dom. She knew she couldn't control me as a submissive.”
“But, what?” I asked, feeling confused. “You think I can?”
“I know you can,” he replies, “because I love you.”
And there it is. That simple declaration that ties us together more firmly than a thousand ropes. Because I love him too. And that means I'll do whatever it takes to help him.
From behind us the microwave beeps telling us our dinner has finished heating. I pull the boxes out and slid one over to Christian. I pull the plastic liner off mine and dig in. I’m surprised to find how ravenous I am. I watch Christian. He’s pulled the plastic of his food as well but it's only after I start eating that he lifts his fork to start eating himself. Another one of Elena's rules I imagine.
“And you want me to do… what? Tie you down? Cane you? Tell you to sleep in the sub room?” I feel outraged and also scared. After everything we've been through, how can he be asking this of me? He shrugs again.
“Any of them. All of them.”
I suddenly remember the first time we talked about dominance and submission.
“And what do I get out of it?” I demand. Christian looks at me and finally I see my Fifty looking back out of his gray eyes. He smiles.
“Anything you want,” he promises.