Soon, very soon, Angst will return with a vengeance. But for now, enjoy the calm before the storm.

A little note on Óin's rebirth into Valinor. As I see it, if a dwarf (or elf) dies in battle in a 'regular' fashion, i.e. being slashed by a sword, hit over the head, used as an arrow-cushion, they get reborn fairly quickly. If, however, a body is being maimed or the dying dwarf (or elf) is clinging on to life, their rebirth is taking somewhat longer. Which is why Óin didn't show up with Balin and Ori as he was maimed by the Watcher. And it also explains how Fíli and Kíli had time to strike up a friendship with Ecthelion before Thorin showed up.

Oh, and Fíli and Kíli are an absolute delight...just felt like saying that :P

Chapter 9 - Preparations

Now (3021 T.A.)

"I have the feeling something's missing..." Kíli was scratching his so-called beard and Thorin was wondering for the hundredth time why he had allowed Bilbo to talk him into this. "Let them do the organising, they are your heirs so you should start trusting them with things. And besides, we can spend some more time alone..." Only Bilbo's idea of spending time alone was not quite the same as Thorin's.

After the night of their little celebration, the nightmare and the subsequent lovemaking, Thorin had done exactly what Bilbo had asked. He had let go of all his fears that he might inadvertently hurt his betrothed, and while their encounters were still loving and tender, the dwarven king no longer held back. But no matter how passionate he was, Bilbo matched him with an intensity that took Thorin's breath away.

And the mere thought of it made his blood rush south and pool in places it really shouldn't considering he was around his nephews. Besides, even if he had been alone with Bilbo, Master Baggins would probably have told him to get a grip and to not distract him. "We had a week of doing little else than getting reacquainted, Thorin, and we will have all eternity. But right now I have to do my own bit of planning. For once, I have a bit more notice before I set out on a journey with Thorin and Company, and I will use that time, thank you very much." And whenever they Bilbo had put it so persuasively...alone, Thorin was roped into those plans.

Plans that involved visiting the hobbit market in New Delving, visiting Bilbo's parents, visiting Frodo... That day, Bilbo had announced they would have to return to the market once more for some last minute acquisitions, and Thorin was more than happy to leave his nephews behind. If something was missing on their journey, Fíli and Kíli would have to do their best to make do with what they had. But did Fíli really have to shout after them, "Enjoy your market day, you two lovebirds!" Lovebirds? Lovebirds?! Of course it was nice that his nephews had embraced the news of their betrothal with so much joy and happiness, but to call them that... Though as their ponies trotted next to each other and he reached out for Bilbo's hand, he had to admit that maybe they were acting adults who were in love. But he would still have some choice words with his nephews...they could tease Thorin and Bilbo in private, but not in front of others!

When they finally reached the market, Bilbo made a beeline for a tailor shop. "I will most definitely not forget to bring my pocket handkerchiefs this time around." Alright, Thorin had smirked at that remembering how upset Bilbo had been when he had found out he had forgotten those. And how shocked he had been that Bilbo's antics had been almost endearing. Unfortunately Bilbo had seen the smirk... "And what, pray tell, is so funny?" That glare was enough to send lesser dwarves, like his nephews for example, into hysterics. But Thorin knew such a reaction would be rather unwise under the circumstances. However, the glare was short-lived and Bilbo himself began chuckling and buried his face in Thorin's furs.

He had taken to wearing his travelling clothes again at Bilbo's insistence and now he found the hobbit idly stroking the soft fur or the smooth velvet more often than not. And while such open displays of affection were new to Thorin, he wouldn't have changed things for all the gold in Erebor, no, make that in the whole of Arda. He wrapped his arms around the chuckling hobbit and placed a kiss on the unruly curls that covered his head. He would have to get Bilbo to grow them out. The King's consort needed longer hair, long enough to put certain clasps and beads into it. Not to mention the courting beads and braids...Bilbo would simply look stunning. And if certain parts of the dwarf's anatomy jumped at that mental image, then that was perfectly natural. Not that Bilbo agreed with that.

"Thorin Oakenshield!" The hobbit pulled away as if stung by... "We're in a very public place, amongst my kin no less!" He glared, but when he straightened his jacket, Thorin realised that... Bilbo noticed Thorin's inquisitive glances and glowered, "It's entirely your fault. I was a respectable gentlehobbit of the Shire before you came into my life..."

Thorin pulled the hobbit back into his arms. "And I was a miserable old dwarf who dwelt entirely too much on the past. You have filled me with life and joy and happiness, my dear hobbit, and I will be damned if I'll ever apologise for that. However, I do know where to draw the line...though not for propriety's sake. You are mine, and thus no one else will ever get to see you..." It was obvious that Bilbo knew the rest of that sentence since he pulled Thorin's head down for a not exactly chaste kiss. And if some of the passing hobbits stopped and stared, neither of them cared a whit. When Bilbo drew back finally, he actually stared right back. "My my, Master Baggins, you are becoming very dwarvish indeed. Next thing will be growing a beard I'd wager."

Bilbo just shrugged, "I was Mad Bilbo Baggins in the Shire anyway, don't see why I should change that. But a beard, no thank you. I'm still a hobbit and we don't do facial hair." Thorin mock-sighed. "And don't give me that, Master Dwarf, if you know what's good for you. Now lets be off to buy those handkerchiefs..." Bilbo reached for his hand to pull him along, but Thorin didn't move. Glancing over his shoulder, Bilbo frowned at the dwarf, "Something the matter?" When there was no reply, the hobbit turned to face Thorin once more, grey eyes looking up at the dwarf questioningly. "Thorin?"

Thorin reached out to gently comb through Bilbo's curls. "No beard, no... But..." The hobbit's hair was so soft under his fingers, so very much like Bilbo himself. "What about your hair? Your braid...your braids would look so much better if you had longer hair..."

And Bilbo just smiled and pecked the dwarf on the tip of his nose. "One less thing to buy shears. Though, truth be told, I was already considering it myself. Not too long though, else my mother will start calling me her little girl or something like that again. She did it before when I was a young boy and wouldn't let her cut my hair for about a month because I wanted to have hair as long as that of the elves. Eventually I let her do it because some of the hobbit lasses were chasing me with ribbons..."

"No ribbons, I promise you. Just another bead or two..." The dwarf's calloused fingers had come to rest on Bilbo's braid as they did so often of late. "My betrothed. I never thought I would be able to say that last. But now I want the whole world to know that you're mine. Not because I am king..."

"But because you are the most infuriating, rude, obnoxious and procrastinating dwarf ever," Bilbo smirked. "Now, can we go? I don't want to have to resort to using someone's ripped off pocket again..." Thorin simply nodded and allowed the hobbit to pull him along.


"Right, so we have the cram, dried meats, dried fruits, some of Bilbo's pickled vegetables, apples, the ale casks, water flasks..." Kíli was rattling down his list for the tenth time, still convinced something was missing. And while Fíli had really tried to help his brother, the blond dwarf was by now convinced that the only thing missing was Kíli's brain. He had probably traded it in for that new bow of his. It was quite lovely indeed, of elven make and all that, but Kíli had paid quite a hefty price for it. Thorin wouldn't be very happy about it though. Being...civil to the elves was one thing, but the way Kíli was going... Soon he'd be asking those Lórien elves whether he could join their archery training and at that point their uncle would probably hit the roof.

It was one thing for an heir of Durin to embrace this new alliance with the elves, but it was quite another... Then again, Fíli had seen Thorin and Ecthelion discuss elvish weapons in general and Orcrist in particular and had even locked blades during several sparring sessions. But as always with Thorin, even if his nephews did exactly the same as their uncle, he might not see it thusly. Maybe he should warn Kíli before he got himself into more trouble. However, Fíli then remembered the fact that Bilbo was with them now. And Bilbo would be able to keep Thorin in check in ways that no one had ever thought possible.

After a quick glance over to his still mumbling brother, Fíli decided to use the time...Kíli could be hours at this rate...and work on his own sword skills. But just as he was getting ready to abuse a poor tree for fencing practice, Kíli shouted, "Oh Aulë, of course! How could I forget?!" Head turning to his now beaming brother, Fíli sighed and placed his swords back in their sheath. Practice would have to wait it seemed. "Fíli! I can't believe you didn't think of it either. I mean, how could we forget?"

"Yes, may have to elaborate a bit on this... What is it that I should have remembered? What could be so essential for our journey?" Kíli just grinned. "Brother...please? Just tell me?"

Kíli bounded to his side, still smiling like a loony. "Well, think... There was something a member of our merry Company was very very eager to have and when he noticed he'd forgotten about it..."

And then Fíli knew. Of course! "Bilbo's pocket handkerchiefs! We have to get him some. Knowing Thorin and Bilbo, they will be too do any actual shopping." Fíli shuddered, "You don't suppose the idea of ever going to get less..."

Kíli shrugged. "I hope so, brother. As I don't suppose they will ever get enough of shopping..." He chuckled, "But Fíli...the thought of them brings such joy to my heart. How long has Thorin been alone? How many years before he ever met Bilbo has he spent only by himself? And I know that mother always said he would find his special person not among our people but the other races... However, part of me always wondered if she was just trying to tease him with it. You know, by implying it might be an elf..." He grinned. "But then we met Bilbo, and I so hoped... Then we came here, and I know he tried to hide it, but I was so worried... And now..."

"I never thought Thorin could be this happy, this carefree. It's as if we have a totally different dwarf for an uncle now. As if simply having Bilbo by his side again, and being able to show him just how much he means to's as if our dearest hobbit has torn down all those walls Thorin had erected around himself. Bilbo had cracked them before, but now they are gone... And Bilbo...they are simply made for each other." Fíli frowned, "And as terrible as this may sound, I don't believe they would have been like this if Thorin had survived the battle. He might have upheld the banishment simply out of a feeling of being undeserving of Bilbo's saw him after." Brown eyes met his, sadness evident in their depth. "He was...broken. Not Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain. But Thorin..."

"I wanted to go after Bilbo, Fíli...get him to come back. Make him see..." Kíli signed, "But I was so scared he would turn down the request. I could see why he had done what he did and knew how unjust Thorin's treatment of him had been. But both their hearts were broken that day... I wish I had done it, though. Maybe they could have spent those eighty years together rather than apart." Fíli wrapped his arms around his brother's shoulders. "You're right. If he had survived, Thorin wouldn't have felt like he had a right to ask Bilbo's forgiveness. Though I think Bilbo might not have taken no for an answer. Maybe if we had survived as well..."

"To kick Thorin's sorry backside into action you mean?" Kíli nodded and chuckled. "Who knows, brother. All I know is that they are in a better place now, especially now they both wear their beads. Ever since that day, they've been so much..." Kíli nodded again. "It's as if a weight has been lifted from both of them. More so than before. I am so happy for them, and so glad that Aulë granted us the ability to make this come to a roundabout way." It was true, though. If Thorin had been left to his own devices, his choice would have likely taken him to the Halls. He had died with hatred of everything elven in his heart, and it had taken months until he was at least civil to Ecthelion. There was no way he would have chosen Valinor of his own volition.

"Sometimes... Sometimes I long to find what they have as well. To find someone to share my life with other than my stupid older brother." Kíli stuck out his tongue like the small dwarfling he sometimes still was...mentally at least. But then his eyes became pensive again as he continued, "But what dwarf would ever take me? Sure, there always were a lot of young dwarves who would smile at me or even wink...but the moment I turned my back I could hear the giggling."

A fierce desire to protect his younger brother came over Fíli then and he hugged Kíli tightly. "You will find your special someone, as well as I. I promise. And who knows...maybe we too will have to look further afield than our own race..." He had seen how some of the elven archers had eyed his brother and he knew that at least to them, he was beautiful. Why couldn't Kíli see that? Did the deeds of his own kin hurt him so much that he couldn't see appreciation in the eyes of others? Elves who had just arrived from Arda, who didn't know who Kíli was...

Unfortunately it was also said elves who encouraged Kíli in his archery, and that was indeed something dwarves generally frowned upon. It was something for those pointy-ears, not for dwarves. Dwarves used swords and axes... And most of the young dwarves his brother had mentioned wouldn't wait to see just how deadly Kíli could be with his bow, or indeed his sword. He was an archer with hardly anything worth calling a beard and that was that.

And Fíli vowed then, if only to himself, that he would see his brother as happy as his uncle was right now. Until then however..."Let us simply enjoy our uncles happiness for now. Even though some aspects of it are somewhat...too much to contemplate. I'm still shocked that Thorin actually...and in front of all of us. Well, not Thrór and Thráin but they found out about it quicker than you can draw an arrow. I think it was Balin..."

Kíli smiled as he disentangled himself from his brother's embrace. "Balin was beside himself with joy that night. Unfortunately you were too drunk to stay up, and Ori had disappeared into the library with Frodo, but Balin and I sat smoking Bungo's new leaf for hours. He was so happy, Fíli. 'Your uncle is finally whole again,' he said. But then he added, 'As is Master Baggins...' And then I made him spill. Oh Fíli, Bilbo was so sad, so very sad. All these years. We had each other and Thorin, and then Balin and Ori. And then finally Óin. Bilbo had no one for most of those years. All he had was... Oh, you don't know about it yet! Fíli, Thorin had given Bilbo his ring. His signet ring. And Bilbo carried it throughout these years. I saw it hanging around his neck when he busied himself in the garden yesterday..."

His...ring? Thorin had told them that he had asked Bilbo's forgiveness upon his deathbed, but this... "You don't suppose Bilbo knew what it meant?"

Kíli shrugged, "Not straight away... But judging by how much Bilbo knows of our culture and how little he knew on our journey, I think it's fair to say that he did some reading... And he knew all about the beads, Fíli, knew exactly what to put on the first one and I bet he has a good idea what should go on the second one as well..." Brown eyes sparkled with mirth, "And we shall be in the most awesome position of knowing what's on both of them long before Thorin and Bilbo..." They had long since seen Thorin's second bead, after all they had so graciously offered their assistance with the two boxes to their uncle. And obviously they would both be involved in Bilbo's second bead, so... "Do you think Bilbo will once again chose something like Thorin? I nearly fell over my own feet when Bilbo mentioned the mountain..."

That had indeed been a surprise, one that only showed the two brothers once more just how deep Thorin and Bilbo's connection truly went. "It's as if they really One soul. Oh Kíli, I cannot wait for mother to see them. She will be so proud... Well, after she kills Thorin for taking us with him on the journey and, you know, sorta causing our deaths..." And then the two brothers struck up a discussion about soul-bonds and how to secure their mother didn't murder their uncle...