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A Little Strong

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 Rhys ran his hands down his shirt, pulling the fabric back over his swollen belly. He had never bought himself the maternity clothes, after all, he wouldn't need them once the baby was born, why waste the money? 

     But now that his stomach was showing? He started having second thoughts. He leaned back in his chair, rocking it slightly as he looked over the small stack of papers that had been dumped on his desk for approval.  One small mistake had led to him being unbonded and pregnant a few months back, but he wasn't going to let that stop him from digging into his job. He could have gotten rid of it, he supposed, but somehow he liked the idea of his own pup, even if he couldn't remember who the dad even was. 

     He sighed remembering the lovely one night stand after a long night of drinking. All he had was the hint of an expensive cologne buried into his pillow. He had never tried to find the father, after all, he wanted to keep the pup, not lose it to someone he didn't know. 

     The dirty looks he kept getting didn't soothe his nerves. Every dark sneer and falsely sweet smile bit at the paranoia in his head. He knew they thought less of him, like he would be a pushover in the race for a promotion. Before, he would have gotten some appreciative glances, a pat on the ass here or there.  But now with his belly showing, it had all but dried up. 

     He checked his phone, hoping for some reprieve from the mind numbing work Henderson insisted he do instead of his usual duties. He checked his last messages, they were only the confirmation for their agreed upon lunchtime. He sighed. He wanted something hot and greasy, a comfort to ease his mind from all his stresses. He could go to the cheap diner in the hub, or- or he could splurge a little and go to the fancy burger joint in the upper levels. Maybe not for lunch, but nothing could stop him from enjoying a nice dinner on his own. Rhys hummed thoughtfully, as he flicked through his bank account, before closing out of it, making up his mind. 

     His lunch came and went, and Rhys had gotten himself a pretzel from one of the mobile vendors and hunkered down at his desk to try and finish some work early, so he didn't have to worry about it all night. Then, towards the end of his shift he’d all but given up on work, instead rocking himself slowly in his chair with his feet propped up on the desk as he watched the clock tick by.

     It seemed like ages before his alarm went off, but the second it did he was gathering his things and shutting his computer down. He waved Henderson goodbye, practically skipping into the elevator, making sure the doors shut before anyone else could join him. He grinned smugly to himself as he pressed the button for the upper food court, excited for the nicest meal he probably would have for the next 18 years of his life.

     He stepped into the fancy restaurant, smiling softly at the fairy lights that illuminated the rustic decor. A waitress greeted him, seated him quickly in a booth surrounded by decorative hedges, and handed him a menu, before hustling off to the kitchen. 


     Rhys tried to hide behind the bush, peeking over the edge to get a glimpse of Handsome Jack, the ultimate crush, regardless of endotype. The man was walking among a few department heads, looking between them irritably. They were headed towards the relaxed sitting area that was mostly vacated, save for Rhys, who hoped they would not notice him quietly finishing his meal. He would never be able to scoot his way out of the booth with his stomach and dammit, he just got his food. 

     The group were sat not too far from Rhys, the waitress intentionally hiding him behind a hedge, bless her. Jack waited until everyone else was seated before pulling out his own chair. The rest of the dinner went fine, Rhys finished his own food first, but he didn't risk leaving until the men had left and Jack was nowhere to be found. 

     He didn't have to wait long, Jack’s voice raised and powerful just before a gunshot rang out. Rhys jumped, and franticly scooted out of the booth to try and hide himself from Jack’s wrath. He saw the men run to the door before him, and he prayed they would provide enough distraction that he could make his own escape. The moment he stood up, Jack stepped out from the other side of the hedge. Rhys held his breath as Jack kept walking, his heart skipping a beat when Jack stopped just short of the door. He turned, looking right at Rhys in what appeared to be shock, blood streaked across his body. Then a manic grin spread across his face, as he walked right over.

     “Heya, pumpkin. What's a pretty little thing like you doin’ here?” Jack leaned forward, crowding into Rhys’s space, the smell of blood and Jack overwhelming his sensitive nose. 

      “I- I just-” He swallowed hard. “-Was finishing dinner?” 

      Jack blatantly looked him up and down, eyes catching on the obvious swell of his stomach. “God, you're gorgeous.” The warm, soft tone caught Rhys off guard. It was so… loving. The first person to act like Rhys was even worth a second glance. Rhys hiccupped, before tears suddenly spilled from his eyes. If asked later, he would adamantly blame his hormones. Jack seemed taken aback. 

     “Uhh… Sorry?” Jack smiled, nervously this time, shrugging gently as he moved away from Rhys just slightly. He motioned for the waitress to come by, and whispered something into her ear before he put a hand onto Rhys’s shoulder. He gently pushed Rhys down into the booth. “Hey, take a seat, pumpkin, relax. Jack’s not gonna hurt you or nothin’.”

     Rhys buried his face into his hands, trying to force the tears to stop. He got handsome Jack’s attention, and didn’t even get the chance to speak before thoroughly embarrassing himself. He peeked through the gaps in his fingers to see that Jack had taken a seat across from him, and was simply watching him. 

     “W- What?” Rhys self consciously dropped his arms, face flushed. He steadied his breath, sniffling softly, trying to stop himself from crying more, under the man’s studious gaze.

     Jack rested an elbow on the table, propping his chin up on the  heel of his palm. He grinned, eyes half lidded as he stared. “You’re really pretty. I’m serious. What’s your name, honeybunch?” He tilted his head, only giving a moment before he continued. “I’m Jack, I mean, I’m sure you know of me, but jus’ letting you know you don’t gotta act all formal on me.”

“I- I’m Rhys? Why are you-” The waitress set a large milkshake in front of him, cutting him off. She smiled and slunk off to the kitchen quickly, clearly not wanting to incur Jack’s seemingly placated wrath. Rhys looked at the shake, nervously wringing his wrist. Suddenly, Jack was close, crowding into Rhys’s space. Rhys squeaked. “Handsome-”

     “I am, but you don’t gotta say it.” Jack leaned in, his eyes dropping to Rhys’s collarbone. Rhys backed up, hair on the back of his neck prickling. Handsome Jack was hitting on him, he should enjoy it, Jack’s seemed to be leaning in for a kiss, and Rhys’s own instincts were begging him to let the strong alpha take care of him in all the ways he wanted.

     He felt Jack’s lips brush against his cheek, and Rhys felt a surge of energy flit through him, and the next thing he knew, he jerked his hand, slapping Jack hard across the face. Rhys froze, hand still firmly on Jack’s face, the CEO’s eyes wide and expression stunned. 

     “I- I- Oh my god, I’m so- I’m so sorry! I don’t know what I'm doing!” Rhys retracted his hand glaring at it as though it betrayed him. “I- I-”

     Jack waved a dismissive hand. “No- No I should have- I got a little hasty.” He looked away, bitterly. Jack stood up, turning away from him, hands in his pockets. “Enjoy the milkshake, Rhys.”

     Rhys watched stunned, as Jack started to walk away. “W- Wait!” he tried to scoot out of the booth quickly. “Wait! I didn’t- You don't have to leave! I’m sorry!”

     Jack stopped, but didn’t turn to look at Rhys, not even when he gently touched Jack’s shoulder. Jack tensed, but Rhys stayed close. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I, uhh, it’s been a while. Must be, ha, losin’ my edge, huh?” 

     “You- You definitely come off a little strong. Especially since- Well, since I got- Since I got pregnant it’s been nothing but alpha’s trying to- Well…” Rhys trailed off, not sure if he could even say it. “It doesn’t matter. I just- I’m not used to the attention. I used to be before- Uhh, before the-” 

     Jack placed a finger to Rhys’s lips. “Babe- Rhys. You don’t have to force yourself for me.” he shrugged, before leading Rhys back to the booth. “Drink your milkshake.”

     Rhys pouted, grabbing Jack’s arm. “I swear- I just got overwhelmed. Please don’t go.” Jack rested a hand on Rhys’s head, and used his other hand to bring the glass foreword. Rhys looked between him and the glass, before obediently bringing it to his lips. 

     “You sure you want me to stay? I don’t wanna scare you off.” Jack smiled, running his fingers through Rhys’s hair. Rhys pulled away, and smiled back, before leaning in to kiss Jack’s chin. 

     “Sorry I slapped you.”

     “I probably deserved it.”