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Jasmine Tea and Coffee Kisses, (Part III)

I reordered the sections of this fic to fit together better thematically and be more even in word length, because otherwise I was going to have to split this part in two.  So sorry to anyone actually watching this (should you really exist), but you'll need to go back and read the last two sections of Part II as well, since they're also newly posted.

Title: Jasmine Tea & Coffee Kisses
Part III: Trials Come in Threes
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo, minor Gimli/Legolas
Word Count: 8877 (25,617 so far)
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit, I wouldn't have to write fanfic
Summary: Coffee Shop AU.  Kili starts working in his uncle Thorin's café to earn some cash while he's in college. Bilbo owns the flower shop next door and comes in every day at the same time for tea and a muffin.  Flirting and romance ensue.

Part I: First Impressions
Part II: Two Hearts Collide


Over the next few weeks, Kíli spent so many evenings at Bag End that he had practically moved in and waking up curled in his boyfriend's arms never failed to put a smile on Bilbo's face. Indeed he had not been this happy since before his parents died and even talking to Gandalf couldn't annoy him as it once did.

The florist should have known that such joy could never pass unchallenged.

It was his relatives of course, a thorn in his side like always, for the Sackville-Bagginses had never been willing to let him be. Where the other members of his family simply pretended that they'd never known him, Lobelia always had to interfere and so Bilbo should have expected her meddling. However, she hadn't called in ages and his recent good luck had driven his cousin from his mind.

Which made it even more of a shock when Lobelia strolled into his shop one morning just after it had opened, looking around her as though she owned the place.

“What are you doing here?” Bilbo asked, trying and failing to keep his annoyance from his voice.

“I have news, dear cousin. Difficult news and I thought that you should hear it from me instead of my lawyer.” She replied, her expression a false facade of caring that made the florist cringe. If Lobelia's mentioning her lawyer, then this can't be good. The last time I saw him, she was trying to have my parents' will thrown out.

“News about what exactly? I'm still not giving you my house,” Bilbo said warily, not liking the avaricious gleam within her eyes.

“Oh no of course not, darling.” His cousin said, placing one hand on her heart dramatically. “It's actually about this quaint little shop of yours. You see, we all thought that your parents owned the building outright, but we were searching through some of our old records and that just isn't the case.”

“Bullshit,” Bilbo burst out. “I inherited the deed when my parents died and their names were the only ones on it.”

“The only ones on the deed, yes, but there's the matter of this little contract to be dealt with.” Lobelia told him as she pulled a folder from her purse. “It seems my dear husband Otho helped them make this purchase and the whole matter just slipped his mind. You know how his memory is these days. So your parents may have been on the deed, but there's a standing debt that's owed.”

“Cosigned as equal partners... either owner may sell at any time... must be bought out at full market price by the other or property to be sold...” The florist mumbled, reading over the paperwork. With every line, the knot in his stomach grew tighter and by the time he finished, Bilbo felt like he would be sick. “There must be some mistake. If this were true you should have been listed on the deed, or at least mentioned it when their estate was settled. I don't... I mean... I could maybe do installments, but there's no way that I can pay you that kind of lump sum now.”

“We know, cousin. That's why I'm here.” Lobelia murmured, reaching out to pat his hand. “Obviously we don't want to take your business away from you, but a contract is a contract and debts must be paid. You have until the end of the month to come up with the money or I'm afraid that we'll either have to put this place on the market or start seizing your assets, starting with that lovely house of yours.”

His cousin swept out just as regally as she had entered, leaving the florist with this ultimatum and a sick feeling in his gut. There was no way Bilbo could pay his cousins off that quickly without selling Bag End, not with how real estate had shot up in recent years, and the thought broke his heart.

So when Kíli stopped by before his shift an hour later, he found the florist sitting at the counter with his head in his hands. Bilbo looked up at his entrance to give him a bleak smile and while the barista had been running late, all other concerns disappeared at the pain in his boyfriend's eyes.

“Bilbo, what's wrong?” The younger man asked, rushing to the other's side and beneath his gentle questioning, the whole story came pouring out: Lobelia's visit and her demands and the contract that started it all.

“It just doesn't make any sense,” The florist groaned in frustration. “This damn thing looks real enough to me, but why the hell haven't they ever mentioned it? Those two have been trying to get my house for years and I have trouble believing that they misplaced the paperwork for a decade, so their silence makes no sense. Unless Lobelia was just waiting for the worst possible moment to bring it out. That would be just like the bitch.”

“Are you sure it is real?” Kíli asked, eyeing the documents suspiciously. “I'm no expert but this whole thing does seem really strange. Tell you what, let me make a call and get someone down here to check it out.”

“A call?” His boyfriend asked in confusion, “You know someone who deals with things like this?”

“Love, haven't you noticed?” The young man replied with a smile, “My family deals in everything. But uncle Thorin was a real estate lawyer so this might as well be our specialty.”

“So are you going to ask him?” Bilbo said, feeling his hopes begin to rise for the first time since Lobelia had dropped her bomb.

“Nah. If this contract is real then we'll go to him, because retired or not he should be able to represent you or at least find someone else who can. But we might not even have to ask depending on what Nori says. He's good with these sort of things.” Kíli explained before pulling out his phone.

While his boyfriend made the call, Bilbo digested this new revelation, wondering what other surprises the barista's relatives had in store. Admittedly his new driver had always seemed a little shifty, if a perfectly nice guy, but this kind of specialized knowledge had never crossed his mind. However, while that Kíli's reaction was certainly unexpected, it was nice to know that his boyfriend had his back, for the florist hadn't had any allies other than Gandalf in a very long time.

Nori arrived within the hour and he listened carefully as his cousin told him what was going on. Then he held his hand out for the folder, taking it over to the window to examine the documents while Kíli went next door to explain why he was late.

On his return, the young man brought Bilbo his usual order and the tea helped to calm the florist's twitchy nerves. So he nibbled on his muffin, the barista pressed against his side for support, until Nori finally looked up with a grin.

“Definitely a fake. It's a good one, I'll give them that, but there's no way this is as old as it claims.” The other man told them, pointing down at the Lobelia's contract. “The Shire didn't start using this style of seal until about nine years ago, which means that your father was already dead when this signature was notarized and your relatives no case.”

“Oh thank the lord,” Bilbo said, sinking down into his chair as his knees gave out with relief. “I owe you Nori, really. A bonus at least.”

“Don't worry about it.” His deliveryman told him, shaking his head. “You're family now and that's all there is to it. Besides it's not all good news – even though this isn't real you can't do anything against your cousins unless you can prove beyond a doubt that they knew it was a fake.”

“Trust me, this is plenty.” The florist replied, still somewhat flabbergasted by the show of support. Is this what families are supposed to be like? My relatives spend more time stabbing each other in the back for social standing than they do actually trying to help. “It would be nice if I could make Lobelia back off forever, but I've been dealing with her for nearly all my life, so I think I can manage a few more years. If nothing else, threatening to reveal her duplicity to the rest of the family should make her wary of messing with me again.”

So Bilbo thanked Nori once more and allowed him to go back to whatever he was doing, convincing Kíli to go off to work as well. Then he called his cousin, using his store phone because there's no way she was getting his cell number, and told her the great news.

For once in her life, Lobelia backed down without a fight and that more than anything told the florist that she had known the truth all along. Though of course, his cousin pretended to be shocked at the revelation, promising to hunt down that poor notary and make him pay. Bilbo rather hoped that she didn't bother since he wouldn't wish her vengeance on even his worst enemies, although if the notary had known what he was doing, perhaps it served him right.

The florist actually hung up in the middle of Lobelia's tirade because once he was assured of his cousin's compliance, he didn't really want to listen to her anymore. After all, he had much more pleasant things to be thinking about, like that gorgeous boyfriend of his who would be on his break soon.

So Bilbo put this encounter from his mind and turned to help the frantic customer who had just walked in the door.

---

Of course, Lobelia being Lobelia, this was not the end of her machinations, although the florist didn't find out that she was behind the call until much later down the line. Indeed, his first thought when he picked up the phone and heard his uncle Longo's voice was more of a curse than anything so coherent as to wonder why.

“Bilbo, my dear boy,” His uncle bellowed heartily, blatantly ignoring the fact that the two of them hadn't spoken since the funeral and didn't even like each other enough to send out generic Yuletide cards. “You will be coming to the family reunion next Saturday, won't you? The whole clan will be there and I know that they would love to see your face.”

“Um, what?” Was all the florist managed to stutter out. This invitation was literally the last thing he expected and Bilbo would have been less surprised to hear that Otho and Lobelia were becoming humanitarians.

“The family reunion, son. It would be so nice if you could come this time,” Longo said, his attempt at sincerity sounding rather more like condescension.

“This time? You've had one before? I wasn't aware that I was ever invited to an event like that and I don't see why I should intrude where I'm not wanted.” Bilbo replied, putting a hint of bite in his words. This was the first time he had heard about any reunion and the florist knew well what his family thought of him.

“Oh come on now, you can hardly hold the past against us. It's not as though you had made the best life choices and we couldn't have such a bad example around the children when they were young.” His uncle explained, apparently not seeing anything wrong with calling the other's entire life a waste.

This is really not how to make me change my mind, Bilbo thought, rolling his eyes in exasperation, but he couldn't get a word in edgewise while Longo rambled on. “... and you know that my brother was running for sheriff so being seen with one of your kind would have ruined his chances. But I hear that you've begun to turn yourself around so we'd love to see you there.”

“Fine, I'll check my schedule and let you know.” Bilbo promised, fully intending to make up some prior engagement if none arrived.

However, when he mentioned the strange phone call to Kíli that evening, his boyfriend refused to accept his choice without an explanation. Although considering that the florist had actively avoided mentioning most of his relatives during the entire time that they had known each other, the younger man's question was rather justified.

“Wait, you actually have enough relatives to have a reunion?” He asked, turning to look at Bilbo in confusion. “I thought that you just had that one awful cousin. Why haven't you talked about any of them before?”

While his voice was even, there was a hint of uncertainty in his eyes and the older man felt guilt well up within his heart. Any doubt that Kíli was now feeling was the fault of the florist, for with everything that they had shared already, Bilbo should have mentioned this. It was only his cowardice which had kept him from speaking before and he owed his boyfriend more than that. So the older man opened his mouth to let the truth pour out.

“I haven't mentioned them because they're bastards and they hate me and I never wanted you to have to deal with that.” Bilbo said, the words stumbling over one another in a rushing tide. “They're the worst kind of high society vultures: completely obsessed with their image and they would sell each other in a heartbeat for a bit more power in their hands. My father was practically disowned by his siblings when he 'married beneath his station' and my preferences certainly didn't help to change their minds. I haven't seen anyone but Otho and Lobelia since the funeral because no one else would talk to me and those two just want to get my house.”

“So it wasn't that you didn't want them to meet me?” Kíli whispered, the hurt finally beginning to disappear.

“No, never. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me and I'd be proud to show you off.” The florist promised as he wrapped the younger man in a tight hug. “If anything I didn't want you to meet them. They'd tear you apart for dating me and I guess I was worried that you might start to see their side.”

“Sometimes you're an idiot, Bilbo.” His boyfriend responded, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “So it's a good thing that I like you as much as I do. You can't pick your relatives and I'm hardly going to let some bigoted assholes scare me off. Will you trust me on that?”

“I do,” The florist protested, before admitting with a frustrated sigh. “I just have trouble believing this is real sometimes. I mean you're just so... why would you stick with me?”

“You know what? We should go to this reunion of yours.” Kíli declared in what seemed to be a complete non sequitur. But he was entirely serious and as the older man stared at him in bafflement, he went on to explain. “That way you could see if all of your relatives are as bad as you remember and maybe you'd finally believe me when I say that I'd walk through hell for you.”

While part of Bilbo was pleased at the younger man's offer, none of his past asshole boyfriends would have ever considered that, the rest of his mind knew: this is a terrible idea. So when he finally managed to stop gaping long enough to find his voice, that is what came out.

“Seriously, this is a terrible idea. I can't even... “ The florist trailed off, shaking his head. “They'd probably throw us out the instant we walked through the door and you shouldn't... You don't have anything to prove to me. I know I'm just being stupid and I don't need you to suffer through my relatives just to reopen old wounds. Because you can't fix everything, you know, and sometimes you shouldn't try.”

“Why don't you let me be the judge of what I'm willing to do,” Kíli replied obstinately and Bilbo was forcibly reminded why stubbornness was not always an attractive trait. “Besides, you went to meet my family even though the thought terrified you, why shouldn't I meet yours?”

“Because your family is actually made up of decent human beings!” His boyfriend shouted in exasperation as he finally lost his temper. “But you know what, fine! If you want to have a miserable evening that badly, I'll call Longo back and tell him we'll be there at five with the rest. So when the bastards spend the entire night making snide comments behind our backs, at least I'll get to say I told you so.”

“Fine! I'll see you then.” The younger man growled in agreement before gathering his stuff and stalking out the door. He paused only to shout, “I just want to fucking make you happy, asshole,” before the florist heard his bike roar off.

Bilbo sank back onto the couch with a growl of his own, kicking at a cushion in frustration. Stupid bloody-minded bastard. Why can't he just accept that some things suck and leave it at that? But no, he always has to be the fucking hero so now we're going to walk blindly into the viper's den and they're going to try to rip him to pieces. And he's either going to kill someone and end up in prison for the rest of his life or he's finally going to realize what a mess I am and dump my sorry ass.

That had been their first real fight and the florist's anger was quickly turning to misery as he replayed it in his mind. Even if Kíli was being stupid, and he was, Bilbo knew that he had severely overreacted as well.

So now he was committed to attending the damn thing, terrible idea or not, and he picked up the phone to call Longo before he lost his nerve. There was no way the older man was going to back down, not after the speech he had given, and he certainly wouldn't be the first to apologize. Though it was rather lonely to go to bed alone, trying to ignore the way that Kíli's toothbrush stared at him accusingly. Even Bilbo's mattress seemed too large now for all that he had slept in it for years and it was a long time before he managed to fall asleep.

Things didn't seem much better in the morning, if anything the florist just felt worse, and dragging himself into work that day was nearly impossible. Truthfully, he might as well have stayed in bed since no one wanted to buy flowers from someone who looked like his heart was breaking and and every time Bilbo checked his phone to see no messages, his heart sank a little more.

At least Kíli wasn't at the cafe that morning because seeing him would have sorely tested the older man's resolve. But for all that he didn't want to imagine losing his boyfriend, if I can even call him that anymore, the florist refused to beg and they would resolve this as equals or not at all.

But the younger man didn't call him and so he spent several hours wallowing in his loneliness before he finally gave up and went home. At least there he could indulge his misery with ice cream and maybe tomorrow would be a brighter day. However, waking up alone sucked just as much the second time so when his phone finally buzzed, Bilbo shoved the bouquet he was holding into the window and rushed over to see what it said.

'I still think I'm right. But I'm sorry I hurt you and I want to understand. Can we talk?' The message read and for all its grudging nature, this apology made the older man laugh even as the knot in his chest began to ease. It was just so Kíli, brash and honest to a fault, and if the barista had been someone different, Bilbo wouldn't love him like he did.

Which was a revelation that the florist would revisit later on. For now, he simply typed: 'I'd like that. I still think I'm right too, but I may have overreacted a bit. My family has always been a touchy subject.'

'Will you tell me why?' was the near instantaneous response and Bilbo flushed with pleasure at the knowledge that Kíli must have been waiting anxiously as well.

'I'll try. There's so much history that it's hard to know where to start. They're just horrible, they've always been horrible and I can't see that changing anytime soon. You know Lobelia tried to get me to sign over my parents' house at their funeral? She couldn't even wait a fucking day and Otho was plastered as usual, not that I can blame him too much considering his wife.

But they're all like that. Too caught up in social status and appearances to be decent human beings. When I was a kid my aunts and uncles would drop by our house just to berate my father for his choices and they were always trying to convince him to leave my mother for some high class trophy wife.

They don't even care that I prefer men, not really. I could sleep with as many men as I wanted and my relatives wouldn't bat an eye as long as I had an official wife to bring to social functions. Lord knows uncle Polo has never been particularly faithful but he's discreet and no one cares as long as there's no scandal. So really they're shallow greedy bigots who bend over backwards to accommodate public opinion and I don't understand why you would want to meet them at all.'


It was strangely cathartic to write out this explanation, almost as though the resentment had festered and speaking of it lanced the wound. The distance of texting helped as well, giving Bilbo time to gather his words without pressure, and he felt lighter once this message was sent.

'All right, so they do sound pretty bad.' Kíli admitted after a long delay. Yet the florist should have known that the barista wouldn't give up so fast. 'And I know you won't want to hear this, but can you be sure that they're all like that? You said yourself that you haven't seen your relatives in years, so some of them might have changed.'

These words made Bilbo want to lash out again, scream at the younger man to let the damn thing go. But that was what had gotten them into this mess in the first place, so this time he forced himself to stop and think about the other's words instead.

'Honestly, I don't know. Some of my second cousins were all right when we were children and Aunt Rosa married a Took so her kids were always a little different than the rest. But most of them are around your age now or a bit younger and I seriously doubt that they're any better than their parents were back in the day.'

'Don't you want to be sure before you give up on them completely?' Kíli wrote back and it seemed entirely unfair that he could sound so earnest in a text. 'I mean, my family drives me crazy sometimes but I know they'll always be there for me and if even one of your relatives might give you the same support, wouldn't it be worth finding out?'

'I'm not the one giving up on them! They abandoned me after my parents died and I know when I'm not wanted. Why should I risk being rejected again?' The florist typed back hotly, an echo of old grief flaring in his chest.

'Longo did call you, maybe he finally wants to try. And if your cousins were just children when everything happened, they probably thought that you didn't like them anymore. Who knows what their parents told them after all? Just go this once and see what happens, please? I'll be there with you and if everything goes horribly wrong at least you'll still have tried.'

'You're too damn convincing, you know that? You should have gone into politics instead of coffee because you'd have won everything. But fine, we'll give it a shot and I suppose it might be good to have some closure if nothing else.' Bilbo relented, knowing in his heart that his boyfriend was probably right. It would be nice to see Drogo, Adalgrim and a few of the others again, and if they truly thought that he had abandoned them, the older man needed to set the record straight. Besides if everyone was just as horrible as he remembered, Bilbo could leave without feeling guilty and Kíli wouldn't be able to bother him about it anymore.

'So does this mean that I'm forgiven? Can I come in?' This text was accompanied by a quiet knock and the florist looked up to see his boyfriend waving hesitantly through the window of his shop.

At the sight, Bilbo couldn't help but smile and he gestured the other man inside. “Come here you silly bastard,” He said, wrapping the younger man in a hug and after a moment, Kíli relaxed within his arms.

“I really am sorry you know,” The barista murmured against his neck as he held on tight. “I don't like fighting with you at all.”

“Me neither,” The older man replied, determined to make things right again. “And I'm sorry I got so angry. I know you were trying to help and I probably did need to hear it – I just didn't want to. Maybe next time we have a disagreement we can try it without the yelling and storming off because I'm rather used to having you around.”

“Deal,” His boyfriend agreed, leaning in to seal it with a kiss. Somehow that turned into making out against the counter and while the florist was enjoying himself too much to stop, he did spare a thought to hope that no one was getting a show as they walked by.

However, eventually Bilbo's conscience got the better of him and the older man drew back with a reluctant sigh, knowing that he shouldn't let Kíli distract him like this. “As much as I would love to continue what we're doing, it should probably wait for later. I am supposed to be working and I really can't leave the shop unattended right now.”

“There's always the storage room,” His boyfriend told him with a cheeky grin, a wicked light shining in his eyes.

“You know, I do believe you're right,” The florist responded, unable to resist the temptation of that heated gaze. So he flipped his sign to closed and locked the door behind him before pulling Kíli toward the back. He had a boyfriend to ravish and if anyone needed flowers, they could wait 'til he was done.

---

Now that they were speaking again, Saturday came far too quickly and it wasn't long before Bilbo was standing before another terrifying door. While Thorin's house had been larger than the florist expected, this one was frankly ridiculous and he couldn't understand why Lobelia would want Bag End if she was going to inherit a mansion like this.

Maybe she just doesn't want to wait until the old bastard dies, Bilbo mused, clutching onto Kíli's hand for courage as the handle began to turn.

However, to his great surprise, the person standing before them wasn't Lobelia or Longo but a young woman whom he didn't recognize, at least not until she shrieked his name and threw herself into his arms.

“Dora?” He asked incredulously, staggering back beneath her weight. “Look at you, you're all grown up.”

“Yeah well, that's what happens when you disappear for a decade,” His second cousin replied, standing back to glare at him. “I mean I know the old crowd can be a bitch sometimes, but some of us would have liked to know that you were still alive.”

Kíli was grinning smugly at him but the florist couldn't be too annoyed with his boyfriend when Dora was making him feel so guilty about cutting all his ties. The older man stuttered out an explanation as best he could and while his cousin forced him to sweat for awhile, her face eventually softened again.

“Well you're here now so I suppose I can forgive you. Though if you vanish again we're going to have words. Actually give me your phone number; give me all your phone numbers because I'm not letting you get away this time.” She demanded and Bilbo gave in without complaint. It meant a lot that Dora wanted to stay in touch this badly so when Kíli bumped his shoulder to catch his attention, the florist just grinned and rolled his eyes. His boyfriend would probably be insufferable for a few days but he had earned it and maybe would help to soften the reactions still to come.

“So anyway, who is this?” Dora asked when she was finished taking down her cousin's information and on the news that he was Bilbo's boyfriend, her eyes widened with glee. “Oh the old crowd is going to hate that. Good thing I'm the one who opened the door then or you might never have made it inside. But while most of your cousins are as bad as their parents, the Tooks won't care and neither will my brothers, though I'm not sure about the rest.”

“Well that's something,” The florist replied, steeling himself to follow her inside and trying not to wince when all eyes turned their way. Bilbo hadn't expected quite so many people to be at this reunion, but it seemed that his clan had only grown in the time that he'd been gone.

After what felt like an eternity, Longo and his wife Camellia stepped forward to greet their nephew, staring down their noses at Kíli the whole time. However once that painfully awkward introduction was finally over, the situation began to look up. Because while the other aunts and uncles refused to speak to Bilbo for bringing his boyfriend, his cousin had been right about the younger generation.

The Tooks started it of course, Adalgrim hugging the florist tightly before introducing his young children, two adorable balls of energy just into the toddling age. Then Dora dragged the pair over to her siblings, Drogo and Dudo greeting him with some of their sister's glee for here were two more people who were glad he was alive. Drogo's girlfriend Primula Brandybuck also turned out to be a sweetheart, which helped to take some of the sting out of the fact that neither Prisca nor Posco could do more than wave under their father's watchful eye.

Though Posco's girlfriend Gilly snuck over for introductions and she nearly had a heart attack when the florist drew his boyfriend to the fore. The young woman was apparently something of an archery nut and declared herself Kíli's biggest fan, going into a rant about nationals that Bilbo didn't even pretend to understand.

“Don't feel too sorry for him. He knows that Mirkwood won their last tournament fair and square,” A soft voice declared from near the buffet table and although Gilly bristled, Kíli just laughed when he saw who it was.

“Legolas!” The archer greeted, grinning widely as he patted the blond on the back. “What the devil are you doing here?”

“Dad was hired by the host to do the catering and so of course he dragged me along. But I'm glad that you're here too; it's nice to see a familiar face amidst all this high society and we haven't really caught up in ages. Though I suppose I can't blame you for being somewhat AWOL since you started dating him,” Legolas replied, sending Bilbo a friendly grin. The two had yet to have a proper conversation but Gimli seemed to have chosen well and if nothing else, it took a certain kind of stubborn crazy to date a Durin and survive.

“You're right, but this probably isn't the best place for that unless you want to get in trouble again,” Kíli told him, ignoring the interplay between the blonds. For all that the old crowd wasn't talking to them, they certainly liked to stare and one of them would probably tell Thranduil if his son started slacking off. “Do you mind if we wander away for a bit?”

This last was directed to his boyfriend and Bilbo was about to say that it was fine when Legolas spoke up again. “We can't abandon him to these people and you know it, Kíli. Why don't the lot of you come into the kitchen and I'll get you some decent food to eat?”

Drogo and Dudo seemed rather nonplussed by this invitation, while Gilly was still staring starry-eyed, but Dora accepted for the group and his second cousin had them all moving soon enough. She waved off her father's frown with an airy, “going to give Bilbo the tour,” in order to deflect suspicion and the older man felt much better once they had passed out from under the old crowd's judgmental eyes.

His younger relatives seemed to feel the same, for as soon as the door to the main room swung shut behind them, his cousins transformed into completely different people. Lighter, happier and far more open than they had been before and the florist finally understood that he wasn't the only one who found this family a heavy weight to bear.

Even Dora, as irrepressible as she was, relaxed visibly and started grilling Bilbo on the years he'd been away. Though when they got to his boyfriend, she just let her cousin ramble, watching him with a hint of amusement on her face.

“I like him, cousin,” She whispered once the florist finally trailed off, nodding toward Kíli who was chatting with Primula about her job. “He has more life in him than most of our in-laws and he seems to make you happy.”

“That he does,” Bilbo told her, looking at Kíli with a fond smile. “I haven't been this happy in a long time.”

“Good. I think we could all use a bit more love in our lives,” She said solemnly before breaking out in a wicked grin. “He doesn't have any hot single relatives does he? Someone looking for a little fun?”

“Well I should warn you that his family is absolutely crazy in their own way, but most of them are also ridiculously attractive. So I could ask,” The florist offered with a shrug, before reaching out to tap his boyfriend's arm. “Hey, is your brother single? Inquiring minds would like to know.”

“Fíli? Last time I checked he was too busy becoming a lawyer to have time for dating, so I guess so.” Kíli replied, slowing down to walk by Bilbo's side before quirking an eyebrow and asking, “Why?”

“Just curious,” Dora told him with a grin and before the barista could interrogate her further, Legolas announced that they had arrived. This house is seriously ridiculous if it took us that long to walk to the kitchen, the florist mused, but he had to admit that it was impressive nonetheless. Because the room was truly enormous, full of fancy professional equipment which he didn't even have a name for and caterers running to and fro.

The blond led his group to an unoccupied corner, settling them around a table before running off to grab some trays. When he returned, Legolas swept off their covers with a flourish and presented his prize.

“Here we are. Homemade chicken rolls with feta and bacon, from my personal stash. I always bring some food along with me when father makes me work these things, so that I don't have to eat this other crap.” He explained, flopping down gracefully onto another kitchen stool.

“Bacon? You are awesome,” Kíli exclaimed, reaching for the tray and the rest of the group quickly followed suit.

“Of course bacon. It tastes fantastic and there's no food guaranteed to piss my dad off more.” Legolas said, unbuttoning his waiter's jacket to reveal the t-shirt underneath. Bright pink with dark red letters, it read: Join the dark side, we have bacon, and the teen smirked at Bilbo's startled laugh.

Now that everyone was well fed and comfortable, the reunion was far more pleasant and the florist was soon caught up in the discussion going round. He had a decade of gossip to catch up on with his relatives and the more he learned, the more the older man decided that he liked this bunch.

Even if most of his family was still horrible, finding this small group of friends was worth dealing with the others and when there was a break in the conversation, he leaned toward Kíli to whisper his thanks. His boyfriend just tugged him closer to his side and kissed him gently on the cheek before going back to discussing archery with Legolas, and Bilbo blushed beneath Dora's knowing grin.

Somehow they spent hours there, his cousins leaving periodically to check on the main party and ensure that they weren't missed. Adalgrim joined them briefly to grab some snacks for his children before taking the youngsters home and the florist was impressed by how his once feckless relative took to fatherhood. Awhile later, Drogo managed to sneak Posco back into the kitchen, the young man rather annoyed with his girlfriend but pleased to see the florist nonetheless. Or at least he was once he realized that Gilly's infatuation with Kíli was entirely one-sided and Posco agreed to pass his cousin's greetings to his sister as well.

But eventually the party started winding down and their assorted parents began to wonder where their brood had gone. So the cousins exchanged their information and promised to stop by Bilbo's shop sometime, before heading back into the lion's den.

As much as the florist would have liked to leave immediately, he knew that he should at least attempt to greet the old crowd before never talking to them again. This went about as well as he expected, but at least Bilbo could say that he had tried and keep his conscience clear. Then once his duty was completed, he was finally free to go.

So he gathered Kíli, taking his boyfriend by the arm and waving farewell to the gathered Bagginses. The party would probably go on for at least a few more hours, if only so Longo could prove that he was able to entertain in style, but the florist had had enough.

While this reunion had been surprisingly pleasant, dealing with his relatives still made him rather tired and Bilbo needed time to process what had happened here. He needed time to get used to the idea of having family back in his life and the older man was quiet as they prepared to go. Kíli seemed to understand his silence, filling the space with a comfortable chatter until his words suddenly cut off with a choked cry.

The florist turned sharply at the sound, his boyfriend's name rising in his throat. However, before the words could escape into the air, the world went dark as a bag swept over his face. He struggled, trying to reach Kíli but whoever held him had a grip of iron and when something slammed into Bilbo's head, the older man dropped like a stone.

---

He woke slowly, wondering hazily why his brain was hurting before he felt the ropes around his wrists and it all came rushing back. The florist jerked up and looked around frantically for Kíli, only relaxing once he saw his boyfriend slumped against the wall. It took a moment to figure out how to move with his limbs bound together, but Bilbo eventually managed to shuffle over to the younger man and nudge him in the side.

“Fuck, what happened?” Kíli groaned, prying his eyes open to stare at the florist blearily. “Did I crash my baby?”

“I'm not sure exactly; someone grabbed us outside of the reunion, though I can't imagine why,” Bilbo explained, helping the other man sit up. His boyfriend seemed to be regaining his senses quickly and once the barista was clearly not going to pass out again, the florist relaxed enough to look around. The pair seemed to be in some kind of warehouse, likely abandoned given the amount of detritus, and whoever had grabbed them was nowhere in sight.

“We've been kidnapped? Fuck, uncle's going to kill me.” The younger man groaned before stiffening with an angry growl, “And they better not have damaged my fucking bike.”

“Priorities, Kíli, I rather think we have more important things to worry about right now.” Bilbo told him, shaking his head in fond exasperation. “You know, like the whole part where we might be about to die.”

He couldn't keep his voice from quavering slightly on the last word and his boyfriend turned to look at him with concern. “Hey, we'll be all right,” The younger man said, leaning against him reassuringly. “They're probably planning on getting a ransom for us so we should be safe for awhile at least and mother will tear this town apart in order to get us back.”

“Maybe.” The florist conceded grudgingly, though he wasn't really prepared to be comforted right now. “But what's going to happen when they discover that I don't have that kind of money and I certainly don't know anyone who would pay it in my place?”

“Well then it's a good thing that your boyfriend's family is filthy rich, isn't it?” Someone replied as a door swung open and Bilbo jerked when he recognized the voice.

Lobelia!?” He asked incredulously, craning his neck to look over his shoulder. It was definitely his cousin, all smug five feet of her, for she hadn't even bothered to wear a mask. “What the hell is going on?”

“You know, I wasn't originally planning on asking for a ransom. I was simply going to stage a kidnapping gone wrong and claim Bag End upon your tragic death.” She explained calmly, no more emotion in her voice than if she were discussing the weather. “But when you brought your boyfriend to our party, I simply couldn't resist the opportunity. How could I when Killigan Prince, younger heir to the Durin legal empire, had fallen into my grasp?”

“Um, what?” Bilbo gaped, turning to look at Kíli who just shrugged uncomfortably.

“Uncle was a really good lawyer, okay? So there might have been a lot of money floating around for investment back in the day, plus mum and Fíli are still practicing now. But they've never let me slack around all day like some spoiled trust fund baby and it's not as though you asked,” The younger man told him, shoulders hunched defensively.

“Fair enough.” The florist agreed amiably after taking a moment to process this revelation and he could almost forgive Lobelia's actions for the chance to see that gobsmacked look on Kíli's face.

None of the things he liked about his boyfriend had anything to with money, though it might be nice to eat out a little more often, and Bilbo could hardly blame the younger man for keeping this truth to himself. He was probably used to gold-diggers trying to get their hands on him, which meant that there was something the florist had to say.

“You do know that I would love you anyway, right? Even if you were poor as dirt with nothing to your name,” Bilbo told the other earnestly. While this wasn't exactly how he had wanted to make his declaration, he might not get another chance, and he needed Kíli to know the truth before the end.

The soft smile spreading across his boyfriend's face told the older man that he'd made the right decision, their cantankerous audience notwithstanding, and he leaned in for a gentle kiss. “I love you too, you know,” Kíli whispered when they parted and the florist wanted desperately to take his boyfriend home and show him how much this meant. Though of course the whole kidnapping thing rather ruined that.

“Great, well you're sickeningly sweet and all, but I do have a deadline here.” Lobelia cut in impatiently. “If I don't get Lotho's debt to Saruman paid by the end of the month, I am going to have major problems and my time is running out.”

“Wait, that's what this is about?” Bilbo asked, looking up at their captor. “If your son owes this guy some massive amount of money, why didn't you just ask Longo for help instead of trying to steal Bag End? He certainly seems to have the cash to spare.”

“Don't be an idiot, cousin.” The woman sneered as she waved to someone outside. “My father-in-law is mortgaged to the hilt just like all his siblings - which of course I only found out after I married that useless drunkard Otho. I wanted your house because I deserved to get something for my trouble but with Lotho's current idiocy I can't afford to sit around waiting anymore. So while it's unfortunate, you're going to have to die.”

It was strangely comforting to know that Lobelia was a bitch through and through, because at least the florist didn't have to feel sorry for what had gone wrong in her life. However, since dying was not on his agenda, Bilbo was also rather terrified and the man who entered the warehouse did not help.

He was enormous: tall, muscled and white as a ghost with piercing blood-red eyes and there was no kindness in his gaze. There wasn't really anything at all, just a blank indifference to their fate that was somehow more chilling than anger could have been. Lobelia called him Azog, ordering him to stand guard while she made the ransom call and Bilbo shifted uncomfortably beneath that scarlet stare.

The florist wanted to fight, to do something other than sit here and wait for death, but there was no way that he could take on the albino even with his hands unbound. He could see the same frustration in his boyfriend's eyes when he turned to look and his heart sank at the knowledge that neither of them had a plan. So for the lack of anything better to do, Bilbo started rummaging through his pockets as best he could, looking for a piece of gum.

I don't know why they didn't search us better but if I'm going to die, I'm going to die with minty breath, the older man thought in a burst of irrational defiance before his fingers closed upon his prize.

He popped the gum into his mouth and offered a piece to Kíli, wondering if it would be uncouth to play I Spy. But there wasn't exactly a whole lot else for them to do and Bilbo really didn't want to be stuck with his thoughts. Finally he just figured, fuck it, and leaned over to kiss his boyfriend again, because there was nothing like making out to distract his mind.

It took the younger man a moment to get with the program but when the florist pressed forward insistently, he opened his lips with a sigh. As always Kíli was hot and welcoming beneath him, his mouth tasting of coffee and cinnamon, and he whimpered as Bilbo's fingers dug into his hips. The older man dragged his boyfriend closer, one hand tangling in his hair to slant their mouths together filthily. Soon there was only the wet press of their skin, Kíli's moans filling his ears and if they were anywhere but here, Bilbo would have had him half-naked by now.

Sadly, they were not and while he managed to ignore the yelling for awhile, it was a little more difficult when Azog dragged the two apart.

“Okay, seriously, enough of that!” Lobelia shouted, pulling out a gun from somewhere and waving it around. “I can see that keeping the both of you alive is going to be far more trouble than it's worth and I really only need the boyfriend to make this plan succeed. Which means your time is up.”

She raised the weapon to aim at Bilbo's head and he would have bolted if there had been anywhere to go. But the florist was pressed between the wall and her pistol, and he refused to let this bitch see him cry. So the older man raised his chin defiantly, holding tight to the fear within his chest as he met Kíli's panicked gaze. Though his boyfriend was struggling violently in Azog's grip, the man could not be budged and all Bilbo could think was that he did not want to die like this.

Yet there was nothing to be done so he tried to smile bravely, hoping to show the younger man everything that he would never get the chance to whisper anymore.

“Bilbo!” His boyfriend screamed as the gun went off with a sound like thunder and the florist's knees gave out. To his surprise there was no pain, only the ringing in his ears, and he wondered hazily if that meant he had already died. But then there were hands upon his shoulders and he had to open his eyes if only to discover who was shaking him.

He could not have been more startled by what he saw. Because it was Kíli kneeling in front of him, eyes filled with worry and mouthing Bilbo's name. Behind his boyfriend, Lobelia was surrounded by uniformed officers and Azog was laying stunned upon the ground. Dwalin, of all people, stood over the albino, a wicked looking blade resting against his neck and when he saw the florist looking, the security guard gave him a feral grin.

“My boys!” Bilbo's attention was drawn away from Dwalin by the frantic shout and he looked up to see Dís running toward them, the rest of Kíli's family not far behind. And not only them, but several of the florist's cousins were there with them, Dora and her brothers nearly crying with relief.

“How did you find us?” His boyfriend asked, looking up at his mother as she enveloped both of them in a hug.

“Legolas saw Azog grab you while he was taking out of the trash and the dear boy called your uncle immediately. So once we realized that these idiots never bothered to turn off your phones, Dwalin had Nori triangulate the signals for us to track you down. We would have been here sooner if we hadn't had to get the police involved because the bureaucratic bastards refused to accept that we wouldn't stay behind.” Dís explained, glaring over at the officers who were reading Lobelia her rights. “I'll deal with them later, but that bitch is going away for a long, long time. I promise you that.”

“While I'm glad to know she won't be able to bother us again, at the moment I just want to go home,” Her son replied, leaning against Bilbo with a sigh. “Do you think someone could drive us over or do they need our statements now?”

“I'll take you myself and the police will wait until tomorrow if they know what's good for them,” His mother promised fiercely. “Though you should reassure everyone that you're okay before you go because all of them were worried sick. And while you do that, I'll ask Fíli to drive your bike back to your apartment so you'll have it there.”

“I said home, mum, not my apartment. Bilbo will tell you where to go.”

It took the florist's shell-shocked mind nearly a minute to realize what Kíli was saying but when he did, he could not stop the lovestruck grin from spreading across his face. His boyfriend matched his smile, leaning in to press their foreheads together and Bilbo knew that the two of them would be all right.

Dís watched this exchange with an indulgent smile, overjoyed to see her boys so happy together, even as she pulled out a camera to record the moment in their family history. “All right, then, home it is.”


Epilogue: Fourteen Months Later