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Chary Champagne

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The worst part of Lindir’s day is arguably his time spent on the bus. His home life is easy, boring and limited as it is, and his work life is difficult but something he still perseveres at. The bus ride there is a strange nexus caught in between, wherein he’s still civilian Lindir, but he irrationally feels like everyone who looks at him can see the other, wholly indecent side. Until this job, no one outside of his parents had ever seen him naked, and now he can’t help but worry that his fellow passengers are looking right through his clothes. It’s probably best that those parents haven’t talked to him once since moving back to Andrast.

Unfortunately, as good as Lindir’s job pays, he doesn’t earn nearly enough tips to manage a car, and he’s always considered himself too frantic to be behind a wheel anyway. So he sits in the back corner of the bus and hunches in on himself, alternatively crackling with unease and clawing at lucidity. He has a meeting with the manager before his shift today, and if he falls asleep and misses his stop, there’ll be no saving his already tenuous job.

He’s the only person that signals for his stop, and he doesn’t know what to think about the driver not sparing him a single look as he disembarks the front doors. On the one hand, invisibility is what’s garnered him the meeting, on the other hand, he half wishes he were more invisible.

The alley behind Eriador’s not a particularly grungy one; it’s regularly looked after and monitored. His keycard slides easily through the lock on the back door, and then he’s slipping inside, pausing in the threshold to stifle another yawn—this is ridiculous. It’s almost six o’clock in the evening and he can barely stay awake. Knowing he had this meeting coming up robbed him of all chance at sleep last night, and when it become apparent he wouldn’t even make it through a nap, he spent the rest of the morning obsessively cleaning his tiny apartment. When the yawn’s finished, he slips into the throng of half-naked bodies, wondering if he should bother to go to his station and change before he’s inevitably fired.

Instead, he spots his manager at the end of the room, standing outside his office door and surveying the crowd. As soon as he spots Lindir, Lindir knows it’s over. He makes his way sullenly across without bothering to shed his bag.

Erestor’s office is relatively spacious. It’s as dark as the rest of the club, but the shiny metal filing cabinets that line the back wall somehow make it feel less so. As Lindir slips into the chair facing the desk, Erestor shuts the glass door behind them and comes around to take the other seat. He isn’t a cruel boss, but the weight of the desk makes him feel imposing, and the way he leans over it to cross his arms strikes Lindir as a bad sign. Lindir shrinks into his chair even further and fights with himself to stay completely awake. Adrenaline mostly does the job.

“Lindir,” Erestor starts, in that slow, deliberate way of his that instantly announces something’s wrong, “Are you happy here?”

Lindir blinks. ‘Happy’ doesn’t seem the right adjective to give a job. Torn between what he knows he should say and not wanting to lie, he tries, “I’m not unhappy?”

Erestor waits a moment, during which Lindir wonders if he should just blurt out a plea to stay. Instead, he stays quiet. Erestor sweeps an appraising look over him, pausing lastly at his face, and asks with a touch of concern, “You’ve got dark circles under your eyes.”

“I’m fine,” Lindir insists. “I just had a late night; I’ll cover them with makeup.” Erestor frowns, making Lindir wonder if that was the problem. He doesn’t know what else to say.

“Lindir... I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to ask this—do you want to work here?”

Lindir’s stomach clenches, but he immediately answers, “Yes. Yes, of course.” It took him months to psyche himself up to apply to Eriador, and though he knows he’s terrible at it, he doesn’t want to, isn’t sure he can, just go back to his shut-in, absolutely empty life. He needs the push, and the anonymity of it suits him, and the late hours are usually good for him. It’s all the safest, most exclusive of the private night clubs within transit distance. But he can’t say to his boss that he took this job specifically because he’s hopeless everywhere else with the subject matter and needs the professional guise, so he just hopes his ‘yes’ is enough.

Erestor doesn’t look so sure. He uncrosses his hands and lets his fingers drum across the tabletop, around an open pen and a few papers. His dark hair, typically long for elves, is bundled up behind his ears, while Lindir, having forgotten in his sleepless stupor, has his messy locks tumbling plainly down his shoulders. Erestor’s crisp suit and glistening earrings make him look every bit the part of an expensive and desirable option, and the contrast makes Lindir all the more aware of how poorly he fits into the environment. He fidgets under Erestor’s firm gaze, until Erestor says, “I am sure you know why you’re here.”

Lindir nods dully but doesn’t elaborate. Erestor does for him, “I’ll be honest—we’ve received complaints about you. Too many. It isn’t that you’ve done anything wrong, but you look uncomfortable, and that makes customers uncomfortable. This isn’t a light club, Lindir. It’s an all-encompassing sex club, and to my knowledge, you haven’t so much as given a single blow job since you got here. Now, I am willing to give you another chance, but I want to make sure that this is the right place for you.”

Lindir can feel his face blushing hotly. He hasn’t even given a hand job yet. Not just in the club, in life. He can’t even remember the last time he let a customer touch him. This job was supposed to change that.

He mumbles in a far too fumbling manner, “I-I’m sorry. I am. I’m just... I’m just shy, but I do want to be here; I’ll do better, I promise...” He trails off when he realizes he’s likely just told a lie despite his best efforts to remain honest with his employer. Erestor looks as skeptical as he feels. He tries, “I just... need my first break.”

To Lindir’s surprise, Erestor sighs, “Alright. I don’t want to fire you, Lindir. You’re one of the few that actually cleans their booths, and the staff like you. But I’m sure you understand that if you can’t actually do the full job, I won’t have much choice in the matter.” Lindir nods emphatically; he completely understand and is frankly shocked he’s not being let go on the spot. “For tonight, I’m going to switch your section. I’m giving you the west VIP section. As I’m sure you know, only premium members will come there, and those have all gone through vigorous background and medical checks. You won’t have to worry about remembering a condom or needing the bouncers.” Lindir realizes the switch is meant to calm him, but the mention of condoms still deepens his blush. He goes through his own weekly tests for this job, though he’s yet to do anything that would change his results. Erestor continues, “Thranduil has his usual table booked for eight o’clock—I’m switching your tables specifically for him. I’m sure you’ve seen him before—he’s quite handsome, and frankly one of our most popular members with the staff, and he also tends to occupy more than one server at once, so you won’t be alone in the spotlight. If Thranduil can’t suck you into loosening up, no one can.”

There’s another pause, wherein Lindir says nothing. He’s seen Thranduil before, of course, and finds him reasonably good-looking, but not exactly Lindir’s type—whatever that is. He’s still determined to make some sort of move, if only to secure his position. He’s still hoping to find, at some point, the wild anonymous release he first got on board for, and it’s not impossible that Thranduil will coax that out of him.

The only problem he has with the situation is that Feren usually covers the west VIP section and won’t be pleased—Thranduil’s his favourite customer. Thranduil’s a lot of staff members’ favourite customer. Unfortunately, Lindir needs him right now more than they do, and ultimately says, “Thank you. I’ll do my best.”

“Good. I need to see progress.” Erestor then straightens out again and gestures for the door, giving Lindir the impression they’re done. Lindir moves to stand and doesn’t realize how fully he’d collapsed in the chair until he’s out of it; his bones are tired all over again, aching to slump down and sleep.

As Lindir’s hand closes around the handle of the office door, Erestor calls, “Lindir.” Lindir glances nervously over his shoulder, and Erestor sternly adds, “Don’t let this pressure you into anything you’re uncomfortable with. If it doesn’t work out within the week, you’ll still be given a good reference letter, and you’re still young and quite capable; I’m sure you’ll land on your feet.”

It’s not about that. But Lindir nods and retreats.

The costumes have been bunny clichés for the past month, slightly less irksome than the leather gear they wore before that and more irksome than the mini-dresses before that. These consist of stockings and a bathing-suit-like torso with a corset back and a fluffy white tail on the rear that looks frankly better suited for women than on Lindir’s lithely shapeless body. He always worries that his package, though not particularly sizeable, is going to fall out of the thong bottom, and the sweetheart neckline stops halfway over his nipples, making it not much of a neckline at all. Some of the other servers have their costume properly covering their chest, others not at all, and Lindir guiltily enjoys the in-between state—every time his nipples get chafed too much, become sore and a little painful, it gives him that forbidden thrill and reminds him why he’s here—he wants more. ...And then a customer will beckon him closer, and Lindir will revert into professionalism with no further interest, leaving him to spend too many nights wondering what’s wrong with him.

His station’s right next to Feren, who tells him unceremoniously, “It’s okay, I forgive you.” When Lindir looks over, he clarifies, “For taking my section.” With a shrug, he adds, “Eru knows you need that premium money more than I do.”

Lindir politely never asks how much the others make in tips, but he’s sure it’s exponentially more than his. He spares Feren a small smile and says, “Thank you. I appreciate it—I know how much you like Thranduil.”

“Thranduil’s coming?” Feren repeats, face whirring away from his mirror. Regret instantly washes over him, and Lindir wishes he hadn’t said anything. But Feren recovers shortly and sighs, “Well, it’s probably for the best. If anyone can seduce you out of your weird shell, he can. You should give him your number sometime—it’s fine, he’s premium, they checked him out—he gives the craziest sexts; I spend half my off days reading them. And he’s an amazing lay. Hey, he usually takes more than one anyway—check if I’m free when he asks for more, okay?”

Lindir nods and is sure that’ll happen. He’s never been asked to join into Thranduil’s orgies, and he can guess why; he’s quite plain-looking, and looks even worse tonight. With one hand holding the front of his outfit against his chest, the other rakes through his hair. Staring at himself in the mirror, he can see how the dark bags under his eyes caught Erestor’s attention. He looks like he feels; ready to collapse. He decides he doesn’t have the energy to bother brushing out his hair and vacillates between wanting to look good and doubting anyone will want him anyway.

Feren seamlessly slides into view behind him and takes up the strings of the corset back. Feren ties it loosely up, and Lindir, like usual, can’t find the courage to admit he wants to feel it tighter. When Feren’s finished, Lindir mumbles, “Thanks.” The headband with the erect rabbit ears comes last.

“Come on,” Feren mutters, slapping Lindir lightly on one exposed hip. “Let’s go get you some tips.”

Two hours into Lindir’s shift, he’s exhausted, and would frankly ask to go home early if his job weren’t already on the line. Instead, he scrubs dully at the bar counter with one eye on his tables, glad that thus far, the only people he’s had at them were quick and on record as not into men. One of the other perks of serving premium members only is the record of their preferences, so he doesn’t have to waste time flirting and failing.

When Thranduil does enter the bar, he’s easy to spot—his elegant white-blond hair stands out amongst the crowd, his silver suit shining under the lights, and he stands particularly tall. Lindir retires his cleaning and sucks in a breath, willing himself to wake up, and fetches a laminated menu.

The three VIP sections are all pressed against the stage, the booths against the walls on slightly elevated ground, each of the three fenced off by velvet ropes. Amidst the see of buzzing patrons and scantily clad staff, it’s hard to see who occupies the black leather wrap-around couch in the farthest corner until Lindir’s stepping into the section.

Then he pauses abruptly, eyes on Thranduil’s table. Thranduil is indeed stretched out there, coat already draped atop the oak countertop. He’s brought a guest with him—one that Lindir’s never seen before, though it’s not unusual for the rich and powerful to bring business partners here for meetings. The man that sits next to Thranduil is undoubtedly one of those.

Dressed in a crisp button up and black dress pants, the man is definitely older, looking even a tad more so than Thranduil, with long brown hair spilling down his back and broad shoulders. He’s overall long, trim, polished-looking, but nowhere near as shiny as Thranduil seems. His expression is soft, his eyes gentle. The more Lindir looks at him, the more he strikes Lindir as unwaveringly handsome, though it’s in a subtle, unique way, perhaps not something Lindir’s coworkers would agree with him on. It doesn’t matter. He’s suddenly struck with an uncharacteristic fluttering in his stomach, his skin warming—he isn’t at all used to this, but he feels the distinct stab of interest that he’s only before felt for the stray movie star or book character.

It takes him a second to regain himself, and he only does so because someone elbows past him and it jars him back to reality. He’s definitely too sleepy to be here—he’s zoning out and misguidedly placing dreamlike feelings on customers. Sucking in a breath, he wills himself back to sanity and returns to the bar for another menu.

Stilettos are common to the servers, and Lindir’s never had trouble walking in them before—he was given instructions during training about finding a relatively comfortable pair—but now he’s hyper-conscious of not tripping in his frazzled state. As he climbs back into the VIP section clutching both menus almost protectively to his chest, he can hear the end of Thranduil’s conversation over the general din and the electronic music. “...don’t offer an alcoholic option anyway.”

“Elrond, that is precisely why I am bringing up such a deal. I assure you, my vineyards—”

“Are the best, I’m sure, but you’re missing the point that I don’t see a need for it.”

Elrond, Lindir thinks, must be the man’s name, and he logs it away as he comes to stand before their table, feeling horribly clumsy. He doesn’t want to interrupt but doesn’t know what to do. Elrond is the first to notice him, looking over as Thranduil continues, “You may not, but your guests—” Then he spots Lindir and stops, raising one expectant eyebrow.

“Um, your... your menus,” Lindir mumbles, surprising himself at just much he’s lost it. He timidly drops both onto the table, painfully aware of how much of his body he’s no longer covering. It takes him a second to remember to add, “Tonight’s special is the Sinadrin cocktail and smaug-sliders. The dance show will be starting at eight thirty.”

Elrond is politely looking at his face, Thranduil looking right through him, until that last part. “Is Bard performing?”

Lindir has to wrack his memory, but he’s sure he saw the rugged mortal dancer backstage on his way in. “I believe so.”

Thranduil’s lips twist into a wide smirk, and he tells Elrond, “My favourite—I come for these shows alone.” Elrond, to Lindir’s surprise, looks as though he wants to roll his eyes. Thranduil seems not to notice and returns to Lindir. “What happened to my usual servers? Are they sick?”

Flushing, Lindir mumbles, “No?” He figured a regular as renowned as Thranduil would notice, and he can see that Thranduil’s not impressed with the change.

Gathering the menus back up without bothering to look, he hands them to Lindir and orders, “Bring two of my bottles to the table, a large linguini for me and a garden salad for my boring friend here, and two more attractive servers.”

While Lindir blinks, too stunned to know how to interrupt that, Elrond turns to hiss admonishingly, “Thranduil.”

“Trust me, this one is unusually plain for them,” Thranduil replies, waving a hand at Lindir and confirming how he meant the statement—servers more attractive than Lindir. It should probably hurt more than it does, but instead it just triggers more weariness. It does warm him to see Elrond glaring at Thranduil on his behalf.

Lindir tucks the menus back against his chest and recites, “Yes, Sir.” He’s suddenly curious as to how all his coworkers find Thranduil so charming but supposes they’re treated better and don’t see how flippant he is with others that don’t meet his expectations. Lindir supposes it doesn’t matter—he’s too tired to entertain anyone anyway.

He’s just turned to go when Elrond tells him, “Please, don’t bring anyone for me. Just the salad will do.”

Thranduil sighs, “Has anyone ever told you how dreadfully dull you are?” But Elrond doesn’t pay Thranduil any mind, and Lindir nods with a strange feeling of triumph—he’s not sure he wanted to see anyone in Elrond’s lap.

Lindir knows he’s failed. He’s made absolutely no progress and has no chance now, and the crushing disappointment of that only adds to his fatigue. He puts in the food order, which will have to be served after the show as servers are discouraged from carrying orders in the dark, and finds Meludir, who's working tonight as a spare behind the bar. When Lindir tells him Thranduil wanted someone, Meludir lights up instantly and practically runs out. When Lindir asks for two of Thranduil’s bottles, Meludir seems to know exactly what that means and fetches them, one for each to carry with matching wine glasses.

As soon as they’re at the table, Meludir sets his bottle down without even bothering to pour it. Lindir pops the cork on his, relieved at how easily it comes off, and sets to pouring some of the dark red liquid into Elrond’s glass. Meludir drifts right around the table and climbs eagerly into Thranduil’s lap, giggling delightedly as he asks, “Welcome back, Sir. Am I going to get to suck your big cock tonight, or would you like me to ride it instead?” It takes everything Lindir has to keep his face neutral and keep pouring.

Elrond stops him before it’s half full with a polite, “That’s enough,” and it makes Lindir wish that they didn’t have such strict touching policies—that Elrond could touch him without Lindir having to initiate contact first. He assumes Elrond must know that rule—new entrants are always briefed before admittance, and the member that brought them would be penalized for their actions as well; a good incentive to keep patrons watching one another—Elrond waits until Lindir’s withdrawn before taking the glass by its stem and drawing it closer.

While Thranduil visibly fondles Meludir’s ass, Lindir directs to Elrond, “Can I get you anything else before the show starts? Unfortunately, your food won’t be ready until the first intermission, but we have quick appetizers...”

“That’s alright—” Elrond starts, but is interrupted by the lights starting to dim. The rate is slow—a warning—and the music fades with it.

Holding Meludir aside by his honey hair, Thranduil interjects, “He still needs someone to play with.”

“I absolutely do not,” Elrond returns, but Thranduil just rolls his eyes.

“Would you live a little? Why do you think I brought you here? Trust me, the show will make you want something to grind into, and the staff here is quite amenable.”

“I’m sure they are, but—”

By now the lights are completely gone, throwing them into pure blackness before the first light dramatically flickers onto the stage. With a frustrated growl, Thranduil insists, “Just take the plain one, will you? He’s right there; it would be rude of you to deny him a chance to earn a better tip—they pay well here, yes, but the servers expect a significant increase from their patrons.”

In what little Lindir can see through the neon glow of the stage, Elrond looks unconvinced, but less adamant. He opens his mouth, likely to protest again, but Lindir blurts, “Please. I would love to serve you.”

Elrond looks around at him in surprise, and Lindir hopes the darkness hides his blush. He’s never been so forward, but this is the stuff of his fantasies—Elrond is, and he knows exactly how rare this feeling is; who knows when he’ll want to sit in a customer’s lap again. He looks at Elrond pleadingly, hoping the lack of options is on his side; the stage music’s started up, and most of the audience is clapping already, whistling in anticipation. It’s very likely that once the dancers come on stage, Elrond will have no interest in Lindir’s mess, so he steps around the table, right against the edge of the couch, biting his lip and trying to resist just crawling forward. Despite his inexperience, the urge is insurmountable, made fiercer by how wantonly Meludir is already grinding into Thranduil. Thranduil insists for him, “Elrond, just take him.”

With a sigh, Elrond nods and reaches out a hand. Bizarrely ecstatic, Lindir takes it. The contact is an instant burst of electricity—Elrond’s hands are larger than his own and feel far stronger, wrapping softly around his slender fingers. He stumbles forward, embarrassed but no good and trying to swiftly recover. He climbs between Elrond and the table’s edge far too awkwardly, spreading his legs around Elrond’s lap like Meludir’s done. The position is exhilarating, though he has no clue if he’s done it right or what to do next. So he just sits there, hoping Elrond’s alright with his failure and silently relishing the proximity. It’s everything out of his dirty fantasies but better, because now he has a face to it, and it’s real, he’s really sitting in a handsome customer’s lap, with that customer wrapping one strong arm around him. He’s a little surprised at how gentle it is—he’s steadied, not pulled in, held at his back instead of his waist or hips. Elrond spares one glance at his chest, nipples now shamefully hard against the top of his outfit, the nubs visibly pushing at the material and the tops exposed. Lindir lays one hand on each of Elrond’s shoulders and wonders how he’s supposed to go about kissing—should he kiss? In his peripherals, Meludir is simply resting his head on Thranduil’s shoulder, giving Thranduil room to view the stage.

The announcer’s talking now, the microphone-enhanced words drowned out in Lindir’s buzzing ears. He wants to ask Elrond what to do, fully knowing he probably won’t be heard, and opens his mouth, only to let out a wide yawn.

A look of surprise comes over Elrond’s face, and Lindir turns completely scarlet, hand darting up to cover his mouth in horror. He’s not sure he’s ever been so embarrassed in his life. But Elrond only dons a soft, kind smile that makes Lindir’s heart clench. He’s glad Thranduil’s too distracted to point out how terrible he is. He doesn’t know what to do.

Then he hears the footsteps of the dancers, quickly swallowed up in more applause. Thranduil swats Elrond’s shoulder, narrowly missing Lindir’s hand, and calls over the crowd, “The scruffy one on the left—watch him.” Bard, Lindir guesses, without turning around to look. He doesn’t need to; he’s seen this show a hundred times, and while the performers are impressive, none of them have enticed him as much as Elrond. But now Elrond is glancing at the stage around Lindir, likely trying to spot Thranduil’s mysterious target, and Lindir is left feeling in the way and hopeless. Elrond’s arm tightens the faintest bit around Lindir’s waist, and Lindir scoots forward, so that his body brushes Elrond’s taut stomach. It gives him a slight hitch of breath—Elrond’s warm and feels so solid, so sturdy. Lindir’s gripped with the inexplicable desire to wrap completely around Elrond. Elrond doesn’t protest to the closeness, so Lindir lets himself draw closer, his head falling aside so as not to block the show.

He’s dizzy from a mix of sensations and has no energy to deal with them, and that’s part of what guides his head to Elrond’s shoulder. He lays it there, hoping he’s not blocking anything, and contemplates grinding into Elrond’s crotch. He wants to. He wants to feel what’s there. But he also wants Elrond to guide him, so he waits in the meantime and lets himself slowly unwind, eventually melting into Elrond’s firm body with a bizarre sense of peace.

Elrond doesn’t touch him beyond the soothing arm around his back. He isn’t rocked back and forth, isn’t stroked, isn’t fondled. He’s almost disappointed about that. But it does make the job easier. All he has to do is wait to serve, likely until the show’s aroused Elrond enough to seek release in the nearest willing body. Lindir forgets himself and inhales the strong scent of Elrond’s earthy cologne and hopes that time comes soon.

The lights occasionally flicker. The songs crescendo and fall, the crowd often jumping in, but Lindir tunes most of it out, his eyes growing heavier. He feels strangely safe here. Mostly, he feels good and light-headed. Elrond is such a lovely pillow and doesn’t move at all. Lindir can feel his rabbit ears flagging against the back of the couch and can’t help but wonder how much of a mess he looks, slumped like this in a client’s lap. He doesn’t care. He wonders what Elrond does—if he’s a rich business tycoon like Thranduil or just a lucky friend. Lindir’s lucky. He’s glad he got this table. Parts of Elrond’s shirt smell abstractly like green tea. Lindir’s distantly aware that he’s thinking nonsense.

Before long, he isn’t thinking at all, just drifting off into a warm, pleasant sleep.

Something’s lightly shaking him. The beach he’s on is growing hazy, slipping out in a murky cloud. Someone’s talking, and he hears a grumbled, “Completely useless.”

“I think it’s cute,” someone else muses, a deep voice coming from above. Lindir blinks his eyes sleepily open and yawns into a stranger’s shoulder.

Only then, too late, does he realize that he’s nuzzling into a stranger’s shoulder.

He jolts upright, eyes blinking at the sudden burst of light, now that dark hair isn’t shielding his view. There’s a steady buzz in his air—the familiar thrum of the club. He recognizes the near-closing-time music. Reality comes crashing down on him; the show’s over. All of them. He slept through the entire thing.

In another man’s lap. Elrond, if he remembers right, though right now he doesn’t trust his brain at all. Lindir glances up at a smiling face, sure his own is utterly red with his blush. He’s still completely in Elrond’s lap, thighs spread wide around Elrond’s waist, his legs half asleep still and his knees buried between the cushions. His hands have fallen down, but he picks them up to cover his mouth, until he can mange to blurt, “I-I’m sorry! Oh, Eru, I’m so sorry.”

“That’s quite alright. You did look as though you needed it. ...And I’m afraid you looked so peaceful once you’d slipped off that I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”

Lindir slept wonderfully. But it completely wasn’t worth this. He finally found a customer he wanted to pleasure, and he fell asleep. He’s ashamed of himself more than he can put into words. He can’t believe how genuinely alright with it Elrond looks—surely any other customer would’ve gone straight to the manager to have him fired. Lindir’s sure he’ll be fired after this anyway. He doesn’t care for the irony of failing on the night he finally found someone he thought he could succeed with.

Lindir murmurs another broken, “I’m sorry.”

Elrond insists, “Please, don’t be. I was glad to play pillow for you.” His smile implies a measure of humour in the statement, but Lindir’s too broken up to laugh. With a sigh, Elrond adds, “Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed this, I really must be going now.”

“Of course!” Lindir splutters, hurriedly scrambling off, immediately missing the contact, and practically tripping backwards on his heels and partially-numb legs. It lets him see more of the table—the empty glasses, Elrond’s full bottle and Thranduil’s empty one, and the finished plates, which gives Lindir another stab of guilt; another server must’ve fetched their food while Lindir was sleeping. He can’t believe how long he slept.

He’s not surprised to see Feren and Meludir on either side of Thranduil, kissing his neck and rubbing along his body, but Lindir is surprised that Thranduil’s clothes are still on. Perhaps it’s out of respect for Elrond. When Elrond conspicuously clears his throat, Thranduil begrudgingly detangles himself, to both Feren and Meludir’s disappointed whines.

Lindir has to step aside to make room for Elrond to get up, and he blurts again, “Really, I’m truly sorry—please do come again, we’ll make up for it—” Even if Lindir won’t be around then, he doesn’t want to sink the club with him. But Elrond waves his hand.

“I promise you, there is nothing to make up for.”

“Sir, please...” But Lindir doesn’t know what else there is to say. He wants to drop to his knees and offer to pleasure Elrond right now, or to go home with him, to blow him in his car or warm his bed or anything really, but Elrond isn’t a premium member, and Lindir really would be fired for that, and Elrond would be banned. And it would be completely inappropriate. He winds up falling into a half-bow, faintly trembling, just to hide his face. He can hear Thranduil getting up to leave. Lindir almost jerks up to fetch the check but remembers belatedly that Thranduil, like most premium members, will likely pay by card at the front.

As Thranduil heads out of the VIP section, Elrond pauses to lay a hand on Lindir’s shoulder and gently guide him out of the bow. Lindir still averts his eyes to the floor, though he wants to memorize everything about Elrond before Lindir’s denied the chance to ever see him again. Elrond gives him a reassuring squeeze and says, “Please, don’t worry about this. I had a pleasant time.” Lindir wordlessly nods, more because he’s entranced then because he agrees.

Then Elrond is leaving too, and Lindir’s left hollowly standing there, wallowing in disappointment.

Both Feren and Meludir spare Lindir the embarrassment of talking about his sleep spell. Feren starts clearing the table, which Lindir gives him a thankful, though shaky, smile for. As Feren takes the stack back, Meludir tells Lindir, “He didn’t touch you while you slept; I kept one eye out.”

Lindir startles at the confession, and half the surprise is that he didn’t expect Elrond to have touched him during that, which, in retrospect, was an awfully trusting assumption. Sighing fondly, Meludir adds, “I thought you wouldn’t like it, though I certainly wouldn’t mind—what an easy way to make a tip.”

Lindir can’t help but twist his nose at the suggestion. Meludir just giggles at Lindir’s face and says, “We’re very different, I suppose. Well, Thranduil’s friend behaved, at least. ...Even if you didn’t.” And then Lindir just feels horrible all over again, and he quickly leaves to fetch a rag for cleaning before Meludir sees.

He’s full-blown sulking by the time he’s buttoning up his shirt, out of heels and back into sneakers. He takes the headband off last, forlornly thinking he’ll miss the ridiculous ears—it was decent fantasy fodder, even if he never got to actually live out the fantasy. Clearly, he’s incapable of it. He’s one of the last left in the back and politely declines Feren’s offer to drive him home—he’s too humiliated to sit with his coworkers for longer than he has to. He wants to just leave, but instead finds himself walking over to the office.

The door’s half open, and Lindir knocks and sticks his head around, half hoping to be sent away, but Erestor looks up and grins at him, gesturing and inviting, “Lindir, come in.”

So Lindir, not fooled by the bright greeting, does. He comes to slump in the same chair he did earlier, feeling exponentially worse.

“I hear you did a wonderful job tonight.”

Lindir’s face shoots up, eyes wide, shocked. Erestor looks completely serious.

“Thranduil’s friend left a sizeable tip for you, and Thranduil was quite pleased to inform us that friend plans on returning. He owns the Imladris Hotel, you know. Quite prestigious. Naturally, we’d love to have another wealthy member, particularly one in the hospitality industry—it’s good for other business connections.”

Lindir’s heard of the Imladris Hotel, of course, though he’s never set foot in the place; he doesn’t make nearly enough or leave the house nearly enough. But the greater surprise is that Elrond tipped him and plans on returning and, better yet, Lindir might actually be around for it.

“It might have taken a while, but whatever you did tonight, I would recommend again. Good job, Lindir.”

Lindir nods numbly, quite sure that Erestor’s not actually recommending he fall asleep on customers. He mumbles a weak, “Thank you, Sir.”

Erestor gives him a warm smile that he completely doesn’t deserve. Nonetheless, Lindir leaves the office with a tremendous swell of relief. Not only does he still have his dream job, but Elrond might come back.

Lindir just hopes it’s on a day he’s working.