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As soon as they go through the door, Lindir’s protests are drowned out by the music. It beats so loud he can actually feel it pounding into his skull, and the combination of that and the flashing lights is supremely disorienting. He stumbles behind Meludir, who doesn’t seem at all deterred by the abrupt change in ambiance. Meludir tugs him through the cavernous halls of the mansion like a man on a mission.

It doesn’t take Meludir long to find the kitchen: that’s their first stop. It’s as full as the entrance, hallway, lobby, and lounge were, stuffed with barely-dressed Elven bodies drunkenly swaying to the beat. The proprietor’s behind the counter—Meludir greets him with a too tight hug and a squealed, “Legolas!”

The blond smiles and ruffles Meludir’s honey-coloured hair, bending down to kiss his cheek by way of greeting. Lindir stands awkwardly off to the side while they exchange words, most of which Lindir can’t make out over the noise. He watches Legolas poor several clear liquids into a plastic cup and offer it to Meludir, who downs half the thing in one go.

He tries to offer the rest to Lindir, but Lindir shakes his head and recoils. He’s not cut out for house parties. Or mansion parties. Or whatever. He doesn’t do well with crowds. He’s never been terribly drunk before, but he’s sure he’d do infinitely worse without control of his faculties.

Meludir rolls his eyes but doesn’t push the subject. He knows what Lindir’s like. That’s why he dragged Lindir along. Apparently, Lindir needs to get out more. Lindir would like to get out right now, because the air’s stuffy and hot, but he’s not willing to open his button-up shirt like a few other people have. Meludir bids his goodbyes to Legolas, and then he’s grabbing Lindir and pulling him away.

They weave through several enormous hallways, up a set of stairs and down another, and then they seem to be in the center of the throng—there’s a small stage set up in the ballroom-like space, boasting a DJ and a ton of expensive equipment Lindir doesn’t understand. The whole floor is full of dancers. Lindir squawks in fear, but Meludir pulls him right into it, then swings him around and abandons him—Lindir stumbles to a halt in the middle of the sea.

There are people everywhere. They keep bumping into him. He can see the second landing over their heads but doesn’t know which direction they came from or where the closest way out is. Meludir’s already gone, probably happily grinding on some stranger and assuming Lindir’s doing the same. Lindir can’t believe he actually agreed to this.

After a few hopeless seconds of wandering through the crowd, trying to find its end, he gives up and tries to refocus. It’s so hard to think over the music, hard to see anything with the way the lights are flashing. Everyone seems to be having a fantastic time, and he knows they’re not paying him any mind, but it still feels terribly conspicuous to be the only one not dancing. He hears voices to the left—two people shouting over the music. Bits of conversation float by him: “What are you—don’t!” “Would you—light up—just—fun!” “We have very different—off!”

Lindir moves away to avoid getting hit by a pair of women dancing like they’re being electrocuted, only to bump into someone from behind. Lindir turns to apologize, and the person, facing away, is shoved so hard into him that they both go toppling down.

From his sore place on the floor, Lindir’s distantly aware of a blond man laughing raucously. He pushes up on his elbow, trapped under a stranger’s weight, and twists to look at the person on top of him. It’s an older elf in a crisp black button-up with dark hair clipped back in braids. The man’s in good shape, and the press of his broad chest against Lindir’s side has Lindir’s cheeks heating up. He tries to splutter, “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry—”

The man says something at the exact same time, but Lindir can’t hear it properly. The man abruptly climbs off of him and gets up, offering Lindir a hand. Lindir takes it. He’s pulled right to his feet, then nudged into the man again by another passing dancer. When the lights flash over him, Lindir realizes just how handsome he is.

He leans in close, ducking over Lindir’s shoulder to say right into his ear in a deep, horribly alluring voice, “I’m terribly sorry about that!”

“No!” Lindir shouts back, “I’m sorry!” The man shakes his head. Lindir doesn’t know what that means. Then the man’s arm is suddenly around his waist, and Lindir’s being maneuvered aside—he follows the man in a daze.

Two rowdy elves rush past him, right through the spot he’d just been standing in, and he realizes the man was pulling him over to avoid them being knocked over again. Lindir insists, “Thank you!”

The man mouths something that looks like ‘what?’ So Lindir presses right up against the man’s chiseled body and quips into his ear, “Thank you!”

The man smiles. It’s a gorgeous image, which is saying something, because Lindir rarely finds other people attractive enough to overcome his inherent dislike of personal contact. He feels like he’s in a dream, and the pulsing atmosphere only bolsters that fuzzy impression. But then the man turns to go, and Lindir knows he’s about to wake up.

Except the man seems to have the same problem Lindir did—he doesn’t know where to go. Which is good, because Lindir doesn’t want him to.

The man takes a step sideways, and Lindir, reacting without thinking, follows him and grabs his shoulder. The man glances at him in surprise. Lindir doesn’t know what to do next.

He knows what Meludir would do if he found someone he wanted to dance with. He’d dance. Lindir has no clue how to do that, but out of sheer panic, he tries.

He sways lamely back and forth, desperately hoping he doesn’t look as stupid as he feels. When that doesn’t garner a response, he bites his bottom lip and wills the handsome stranger not to abandon him here.

To his shock, it works. The man dons a soft smile and matches Lindir’s movement, wrapping one arm around Lindir’s waist and shifting the other to find Lindir’s hand. Lindir lets their fingers entwine, and then they’re locked in a faster-pace slow-waltz like they’re stuck out of time. It’s an absurd way to move on a floor full of spastic modern dancers, but it suits Lindir perfectly, because he can let the stranger lead.

A different stranger bashes into Lindir’s shoulder, and he shrinks away, only for his stranger to swiftly draw him away from it. Lindir grins his thanks.

The man pulls Lindir a little closer and asks, “What’s your name?”

“Lindir!” He can tell from the man’s expression the answer didn’t fully come across, so he pulls back to repeat it, drawing out and exaggerating each syllable. The man seems to follow the movement of his lips, then nods. “Yours?”

This time, when the man leans in, Lindir turns his head aside to present his ear. He’s told, “Elrond!”

This is where Lindir would like to say something smooth, like ‘you’re a good dancer, Elrond’ or, ‘you’re just my type, Elrond,’ or even, ‘please rescue me from this nightmare fuel, O-blessed-hopefully-not-a-serial-killer-Elrond.’ But he’s not smooth, so he says nothing.

Someone taps him on the shoulder, and Lindir glances aside to find Meludir and a dark-haired elf there. Meludir screams, “Hey, I found someone for you!”

Lindir says, “That’s nice!” But then he hurriedly turns Elrond away from them so he doesn’t have to switch partners. Elrond looks at them but takes the hint, keeping Lindir in his arms. It’s not that Lindir doesn’t appreciate the thought, but he knows from experience that the type of men Meludir finds are not the type Lindir wants. Apparently Meludir’s fine with Lindir catching his own suitors, because when Lindir looks back, Meludir’s already gone.

Lindir tells Elrond, “Sorry about that!”

“Would—like—e?”

“What?”

With a visible sigh, Elrond once again ducks into Lindir, repeating, “Would you like some tea?”

Lindir gawks at the man. He’s in love.

He answers, “Yes please!” and lets the handsome stranger guide him back to the kitchen.