Title: By the Book
Pairing/s: (Pre) Gwaine/Leon
Character/s: Gwaine, Leon, Mordred
Summary: Gwaine's favorite part of his after work pint isn't really the beer.
Warnings: Modern AU, alcohol mention (pubs, beer)
Word Count: 1,052
Prompt: #267: Competition
Author's Notes: n/a
Gwaine sauntered into the pub, looking around as his bag slipped off his shoulder. The pub sported an eclectic mix of traditional and modern features: dark woods with metal light fixtures, time-worn tables scattered around a sleek new bar. It was a strange mix that could lure in both the business type and those like Gwaine who usually preferred his pubs more on the dingy side. He enjoyed stopping in after work for an end of the day pint.
Unfortunately, so did everyone else.
Although still early enough that not all suits had come out of their offices, most of the tables were filled and the perimeter around the bar was two bodies deep. Gwaine studied the crowd for a few minutes before zeroing in on a pair of women who were collecting cocktails with both hands. He slipped into the space left by their departure, dropping his bag at his feet and making himself enough space before the crowd moved in again around him.
The bar staff operated like a well-oiled machine. No matter how many people were behind the bar – five today, not including the runners – the staff managed to work together without being in each other’s way. It was impressive, to say the least, and Gwaine had seen more than his fair share of pubs.
Competition was at a high in the crowd surrounding the bar. Every person was looking to get their drink first, to start their night and forget about their day, and there was an array of talents on display in an attempt to do just that. Some leaned on their charm, trying to trade on winks and good favor in exchange for preferential treatment. Others, particularly the city boys, were more literal: they flashed their cash around like a peacock made of pounds trying to get the staff to take their orders. The group next to Gwaine had more money on the bar than he would make in a month.
Knowing he lacked the resources (in cash, not charm), Gwaine pursued a different route. He reached down into his bag and pulled out a book, placing it cover up on the bar.
Leon was in front of him in seconds, setting down a pint of beer, the head still foaming from the pour.
“Did you like it?”
Gwaine nodded, choosing the conversation over his drink. “It was brilliant,” he said with a grin. Leon had come to a full and complete stop and Gwaine knew how rare that was. “From start to finish, I could barely put it down long enough to go to sleep. You were right, as always.”
A smile cracked Leon’s work-focused face. “It’s not a competition.”
“So you say but I know you’re keeping count.”
Leon shook his head and was on the cusp of replying when the muster squawked beside Gwaine.
“Eh, mate,” said the red-tie one, “are we ever going to get to order?”
“We’ve been standing here for ages,” Cut-himself-shaving felt the need to add.
Any hint of a smile fell off of Leon’s face, replaced instead with cool professionalism.
“I’m sorry about the wait. I’ll send Mordred right over to take care of you.”
Gwaine made a poor attempt at holding in his laughter. Mordred, while a nice guy, lacked a natural aptitude for the skills of a bartender. He was progressing, as Leon had confided in Gwaine a few times, but it was still likely he’d get the group’s order wrong at least once. Gwaine picked up his drink to hide his grin as Leon moved to check on his staff.
A scotch egg dropped in front of him a few minutes later but Leon never returned. The pub was simply too busy; it was a good night for business but a bad night for Gwaine. He hung out for a while, catching up with Lance, and Percy in the kitchen, until his drink and food were gone. His bed was calling to him. He wasn’t as young as he used to be.
Mordred checked on him when the city boys were finally gone.
“Did you want another?”
“Nah, I’m good.” Gwaine pulled his bag up onto the bar and fished out an estimate as to what his tab was.
“Leon said you’re not supposed to pay.”
“Since when do I listen to Leon?” Mordred looked just anxious enough that Gwaine took pity on him, especially considering the night he’d been having. “Let’s do this,” he offered, tucking the money into another book and pushing both across the bar. “Just take this in the back for him. I doubt he’ll see it until after closing and it’s in the book so he’ll know it’s my fault.”
Mordred nodded, laughing at Gwaine’s wink. “I think he’ll know no matter what.”
Gwaine grinned as he slipped his bag onto his shoulder.
“Let’s hope so.”
The word ‘exhaustion’ had lost meaning for Leon long ago but he still felt it.
He was exhausted.
Busy was good. He knew that. Busy was sales, busy was money, busy was keeping his staff employed and his business open. But that didn’t alter the fact that busy was exhausting.
He dropped gracelessly into the desk chair, keeping the invoices and other paperwork out of his line of sight like they were unfiltered sunlight. This choice left only one place to look: the corner of the desk where two books sat on top of old football promotion posters. The hardcover was familiar; the paperback was new and different, something Gwaine was giving him to read. Despite his exhaustion, Leon reached over to grab the paperback book.
He opened it, immediately frowning before feeling a definite uptick in his mood.
There were pounds stuck into the first few pages, payment for a tab Leon hadn’t even entered into the ticket system. There were also a few lines of handwriting that he assumed to be Gwaine’s.
Book clubs don’t typically meet in pubs
Maybe we could discuss all these books over dinner?
Leon found his mobile his pocket. He ran his fingers over the handwritten numbers, smiling despite himself. He decided to send a text since it was almost three thirty in the morning.
He never expected such a quick response.
I can also do breakfast ;)