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Golden Afternoons

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In his teenage years, Bilbo had quickly realised that clubbing was not for him, almost as quickly as he'd realised that dating women wasn't either. Millie, Falco, and Brinar had teased him for staying in while they headed out for a late one, but they always came hammering on his door when the clubs had closed for the night. Thankfully Bilbo's parents were both accepting of his sexuality and slept like the dead. Bilbo enjoyed hearing his friends' stories amid the clink of mugs in the kitchen and Brinar's compliments about whatever baked goods Bilbo had produced for them. It was a tradition that carried on into the house that Bilbo owned and lived in by himself once he reached his late twenties.

 

“You're missing out,” Falco warned him, very seriously. “On a lot of cock.”

 

Bilbo snorted and chucked a teaspoon at his friend. “I know the sort of cocks you like, Fal. I'm not missing out at all.”

 

Fal threw the spoon back and Millie twisted her lips unhappily, even as she helped herself to another of Bilbo's Especially Chocolatey Brownies. “The sort of cocks I like always turn out to be real dicks.”

 

Bilbo refilled her mug with tea and squeezed her hand comfortingly. Millie wasn't alone there – he'd dated some right dicks too. And he'd met them outside of the clubscene. Bilbo was really more of a pub person, at home beside a warm fire with a pint at his elbow, a pie in front of him, and the footie on the telly. Some of the guys he'd hooked up with had been pleasant enough, but too many of his relationships had soured. And his friends' solution was that he should club more. Bilbo sighed and took a particularly large brownie for himself.

 

“You should go pro, Bilbo,” Brinar mumbled around a mouthful of fudge cake. “Seriously this time of night, after the clubs close, you'd rake it in.”

 

“Invite drunk people into my house late at night, all because you want a piece of cake that I give you for free anyway?” Bilbo shot back, his tone clearly saying how very ridiculous that was.

 

The conversation veered in a different direction after that but the idea lingered with Bilbo. His administrative job at the local leisure centre was always supposed to be temporary, only he'd been there for four years now. He’d done stints at Starbucks and various no-name cafés in his student days, and his mum had always maintained that he couldn't be the only gay man in the city who enjoyed a nice cup of tea, a good book, and a sit-down.

 

Bilbo tried to push the idea away and concentrate instead on Millie's latest disaster of a relationship while fending off Falco's constant attempts to get Bilbo out with them more often:

 

“I know what night it is at Erebor, Fal. It took me forever to get all that glitter out of my carpet last time.”

 

“If you came out with us more, you'd be dealing with entirely different stains, you know.”

 

“...I cannot believe you actually think that'll change my mind.”

 

Brinar's idea wouldn't disappear from Bilbo's thoughts though and Bilbo found himself contemplating properties as he walked to work. There was a small hairdressers that was closing down, near to several clubs, taxi ranks, and the main shopping centre. His mother, Belladonna, noticed him staring at it when he next took her out for lunch.

 

“You should, you know. You're wasted in that job,” she pronounced, pouring the tea. “And all those family recipes are just waiting to be appreciated by a wider audience.”

 

She'd definitely been watching too many episodes of The Great British Bake-Off, Bilbo decided, or she was only now revealing her latent ambition to own a café. Or maybe Brinar had called her again. That happened a little too often for Bilbo's sanity.

 

He smiled gamely though and rebuffed his mother, reminding her how much money he’d need to get a new business like that started. He didn’t have a leg to stand on when his Great Aunt Violet passed away, leaving him a surprisingly sizeable lump sum. And the hairdressers was still up for sale and work was particularly gruesome that week and his mother turned up unannounced one evening, producing a cheque from her handbag that made Bilbo very panicked.

 

“Mum! You can't give me this much...”

 

“It's not for you, my boy. If you don't buy that shopfront, I will!”

 

Horrified at the idea of his mother bankrupting herself in order to prove a point to him, Bilbo put an offer in the next day. His mother smiled contentedly and Brinar called him immediately to gloat.

 

“You'll be knee-deep in profits and cock before you know it!”

 

“You're barred,” Bilbo told him firmly, and went in search of a decent pint to drown in.