**It’s time to resurrect Flash Fic Friday! This might turn into a serial if there’s interest. Enjoy!**
No one noticed I wasn’t eating. Most of me was relieved about that. I didn’t want to, couldn’t, and having to explain or make excuses would have been exhausting. I didn’t have the spoons to deal with that today. But a small part of me was also sad. Because if no one noticed, that meant I was as invisible and insignificant as I imagined I was.
Pack dinners were always raucous affairs, filling with tons of conversation, laughter, and joy. I did my best to fit it, to talk and joke with the rest of my pack. But it wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t important enough to hold anyone’s attention for long. We all knew each other—in a pack of thirty wolves, it wasn’t hard—but even though we were always in each other’s pockets, it was surprisingly easy to hide. People saw what they wanted to see, and werewolves were no different.
Our alpha, Sean, was an outstanding leader. Fair but firm, patient and kind. He’d stepped in the role five years ago and turned the pack around. Before that, things hadn’t been horrible, but the alpha had been ineffectual and indifferent. Sean had swooped in and taken over, immediately made changes, and now we were one, big, happy and thriving pack.
I was so lost in thought I didn’t even realize the alpha had approached my corner. Within the walls of the pack house I was safe, and so wasn’t on high alert, keeping my senses tuned into my surroundings. Beside, the place smelled heavily of him, always did, so I might not have noticed anyway.
I tilted my head as soon as he stepped in front of me, showing my submission. He reached out, fingers gentle as he placed them along the side of my neck, leaving his scent on me. I couldn’t help the tension seeping out of my shoulders. It was how it should be when the alpha was there. He offered me a warm smile, his dark eyes shining.
“Hello, Jamie. How are you?”
“Hello, sir.” I returned the greeting but wondered if I’d get away with not answering his question. When Sean slid his fingers around and squeezed the back of my neck, I physically relaxed even further even though my brain told me that meant he wasn’t going to let me refuse to answer.
Sean leaned in, his gaze never leaving mine, but his tone was light and conversational. “Have you eaten?”
“Yes,” I answered quickly, because it wasn’t a lie. I had eaten, just not here and not since breakfast this morning.
“When?” he asked, still with the same tone, though his fingers tightened just a touch. I lowered my gaze, unable to keep his in the face of his scrutiny. I did not answer, only because I knew I wouldn’t be punished for it. But if I told him the truth, he’d be upset with me for another reason, and I didn’t want that either.
After a long moment of silence, he let his hand drop and he took a step back. “Please come with me.”
I didn’t have a choice. It was a command as much a request. But I didn’t want to disobey anyway. Sean was worthy of following, and if he requested something, I had no qualms about doing exactly that. I wasn’t like other werewolves. I didn’t blindly follow whomever was in charge. But Sean was a good man and a good wolf, so it was easy.
Until he led me to the food table.
Unconsciously, I dragged my feet. I didn’t want to go near it. But his gentle touch had me moving forward. Sean’s hand on the small of my back propelled me forward, and when he handed me one of the small plates, I took it automatically, glad it wasn’t one of the large ones. Then he leaned down so he spoke directly in my ear. It wouldn’t stop other’s from hearing, but they’d at least know to ignore whatever he said.
“Pick out something. Just a little. A couple of bites, if that’s all you can manage.” His breath blew softly against the shell of my ear, and I fought a shiver. I opened my mouth to insist I wasn’t hungry, but before I could he added, “Please.”
I took a tiny piece of grilled chicken that seemed bland enough and hoped that would be sufficient. But Sean raised an eyebrow, so I added a tiny scoop of broccoli salad to the plate as well. That, I knew, had been made by Adaira, I’d had it in the past, and it was good enough I’d be able to force down a few bites.
That seemed enough to satisfy Sean, and he handed me a fork and napkin before gently leading me to the large table. I balked again, not even thinking about it, just my body reacting before my brain could get online enough to follow my alpha’s directive. I had to take a breath, to try and make myself move, but Sean was so attuned to me in that moment, he easily changed course.
Without realizing where we were going, I suddenly realized we were on the back door. Which was suddenly and suspiciously absent of pack members. Usually there were always people hanging out here when it was nice. But no one was around, and the door slid shut behind us. I didn’t get a chance to turn and see who had shut it, because Sean didn’t let up the slight pressure on my back and I had to move to the café table in the corner. He pulled out a chair for me, and I sat. He took a seat beside me.
“Please try and eat.” His voice was so soothing, lacking all judgment and with only a little concern. I speared a piece of broccoli and forced myself to eat it. The approving rumble that Sean let out warmed my insides and I went for another bite.
“You know I try to stay out of my pack member’s personal lives. Unless it directly effects the pack or harms them, that is. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how little you eat.”
The few bites I’d taken soured in my stomach. “I eat.”
Sean nodded. “Clearly you do, at least sometimes. But rarely with the pack. I thought I was imagining it, at first. I asked around, and no one seemed to see it, so I was sure I had to just miss you eating. But you don’t, do you, Jamie?”
I couldn’t lie even though I wanted to. “I don’t…I don’t like…it’s weird…” I blew out a frustrated breath. “I have issues with food sometimes.”
Sean nodded, his gaze still judgement free. “You don’t like eating in front of people?”
I blew out a breath, pushing the plate away. “When I was young—” Nope, I couldn’t do it. “Stuff happened and it’s hard. I’ll try to do better.”
“Jamie,” he said seriously, leaning forward so I couldn’t avoid his gaze. “You don’t have to ‘do better.’ We just need to find a way that works for you. We take care of you and your needs, okay, sweetheart?”
It was the kindest thing anyone had ever said to me in relation to my food issues but my brain was stuck on the last word. Sean wasn’t the type to use endearments with his wolves, so it had to mean something more. I opened my mouth to ask, then shut it because I didn’t know what to say. But the look on my face must have telegraphed my inner turmoil because Sean hung his head for a moment.
“Shit,” he muttered. Then he blew out a breath and lifted that dark gaze to mine. “I didn’t mean to say that.”
Disappointment coursed through me. I nodded, trying to not let it show on my face and knowing I was probably failing. “Oh. I understand.”
Sean grabbed my hand, his grip gentle but firm. “No, I don’t think you do. I didn’t mean to say it because I’m very conscious of the fact that there’s a power imbalance between me and my wolves. I would never want anyone feeling like they had to do something because I was alpha. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Kind of. “I think so.”
Sean’s gaze bored into mine. “Just because I’m attracted to you doesn’t mean I’d act on it, okay? I have excellent control. In all things. So you don’t have to worry, all right? I’d never force you or expect something you’re not willing to give.”
“What if…” I cleared my throat, trying to find my bravery to voice the one want I’d had since I first laid eyes on him. “What if I want you to?”
His eyes blazed, a hint of his wolf showing through. “Want me to what? Be very clear here.”
I let the shiver course through me, showing him how much his words affected me. His nostrils flared, no doubt taking in the scent of my spike of arousal.
“I want you to act on it. You’re beautiful, Sean. And kind and good and I—” I was rambling. I sucked in a deep breath. “What if I want you to act on that attraction because I feel the same?”
“Well then,” he said, twisting his hand to twine his fingers with mine. “Then we talk about it.”