AN: I don't own any of the characters I am just corrupting them and it's fun.

This story now has a Beta so can I give a huge thank you to chesirekitten909 for dealing with my grammatical mistakes so I can give you all perfect chapters.

FanFiction Queen: In that case please don't tell me. Please tell him, he might stop sulking so I can write his one shot. I am glad you liked the chapter. Hope it was enough detail for you. Erm Oin and Balin are not going to get on it…him…each other, probably for a long time yet. I am having giggles writing them being so clueless and Scribe hasn't finished playing with them yet. Ah wacko internet is always good. Rokets? Mirror? Is this another thing I do not want to know? Also the multiple personality thing is hard to decipher when one tries it at 3.30 in the morning. But I will try. Queen will definitely be getting more Sexy!Scribe! I just cannot promise when. Assassin will get her wish because I am updating now so Queen will be happy. Narrator will be happy because I am updating so no mopey Queen and no acrobatic Assassin (yeah I'm not holding out much hope on that last one either). I hope it has stopped raining.

Guest: Since I don't know how long you are going to be away for I hope I get this chapter out on time. Book thingy? Tell more when you return. I am always interested in book thingies.

Chapter Seventy Three – Preparations.

The following days passed as if in a blur, dwarfs and a single hobbit working through the extensive list of what would need to be ready for them to travel through what had once been the great Green wood, but was now merely known as Mirkwood. The business wasn't to say that they completely forgot to enjoy themselves in a safe environment while they could. While the days were filled with hustle and bustle the nights were filled with laughter, song and games. Each member of the company were reluctant to leave the safety of Beorn's home and several of them were becoming forlorn at the idea they would have to leave their gentle, yet scary host behind when they started up on their journey again. Fili and Kili in particular spent a great deal of time around the skin-changer, soaking up his company as he basked in theirs. When not attempting to help the company prepare to leave the safety of the hall, Thorin spent his time watching his heirs interact with the huge male who had offered them his home and his help. As he watched he realised that Beorn had filled a hole in his nephews' lives that he doubted they had even realised was missing. Their laughter rang free and bright, occasionally being joined by the deep rumble of Beorn's growl like laughter when they pulled a particularly ridiculous stunt. Thorin felt his heart thaw further towards the huge male and after several days of watching them interact left them to it. His nephews were learning and enjoying themselves, while being kept safe and he would not begrudge them that. Nor did he fail to see that Beorn's smiles came easier the more time he spent around the young dwarfs. Satisfied his nephews were well taken care of Thorin turned his attention to the rest of the company and watched them from the corner of his eye as he was working. They all seemed to be healing well and more of their natural characters were showing through the longer they stayed at Beorn's. Thorin was loath to make them leave, but could only hope that their new found friendships and relationships would provide them with the support they needed to get them safely to the mountain. He wasn't idle when he was watching his kin and his One, instead he was mucking in with any and all jobs he could turn his hand to.

Several times a member of the company had to bite back snickers at the sight of the royal dwarf sitting under the braches of a huge ancient oak, needle and thread held warily in his large hands as he attacked mending and darning with as much focus as he would lead an army. Dori in particular found the sight amusing and spent a good few hours sitting with his once and future king showing him what stitches would be best used and explaining just why they were using the different stitches they were. By now Dori's natural deference to the royal dwarfs had been tempered slightly by several months of travel so not only was he happy to teach Thorin he wasted no time in pointing out when and what the other dwarf was doing wrong.

Dori wasn't the only member of the company Thorin was learning from. He could be found pouring over large maps and charts, Bofur planted beside him, when the company were done with their evening meal and Bombur could no longer see properly to work the leather. Bofur was attempting to teach Thorin the basics of navigating outside of a mountain, and his failures caused much hilarity amongst the company. This may have been helped by Beorn and Bilbo's complete incapability to understand how anyone couldn't grasp that moss meant that side of the tree pointed north. Or that the waters of the River Running all flowed roughly south east. Bofur could be seen hiding behind the brim of his hat after these encounters. He wasn't a dwarf for no reason though and his stubbornness matched Thorin's without fail, so they repeatedly went over the basic lessons until Thorin could recite them without having to think. Thorin accepted the gentle mocking with a grace that would put even the oldest of the Sindarin elves to shame, merely smiling innocently at which ever dwarf's voice was raised in laughter.

He could be found late at night curled up with Bilbo as the hobbit recounted tales of the Shire and answered the dwarf's questions about Scribe. Thorin's deep laugh could be heard in the jasmine scented air as the stars shone against their velvet backdrop, or the drums of the deep mountain entwining with the bells of the Shire as they raised their voices in song. The oak stretched its branches over their heads, creating a canopy of night-slivered leaves and a pattern of dark criss-crossed branches. They rested against its roots for many long hours with Thorin returning the tales with ones of his own childhood and the wonders of Erebor, waiting until the joyous merry making of the company dwindled to the soft rumbling snores. Then like misbehaving tweens they would giggle and slip further into the wooded area upon Beorn's lands, hand in hand, and in the dubious privacy Bilbo taught Thorin one of the traits that Scribe was well known for. He found the dwarf to be a fast learner and dawn would see them slumbering Bilbo's head resting on Thorin's chest and one of the dwarf's large hands splayed across Bilbo's back.

On the mornings after they had been a bit too enthusiastic Thorin would hunt down Dwalin and Nori to help them with the restoration of the company's weapons. He could do this in his sleep and though he put up with much teasing from his oldest friend and the thief he could now give as good as he got. Many a time he managed to reduce the twosome to blushing and stuttering as they tried to answer an innocently asked but deviously phrased question.

When he needed an escape from the company's teasing Thorin sought out Gandalf or Beorn for tales of what he could expect when he led the company into Mirkwood, and pestered the wizard for any and all rumours the Istari had heard about the lands beyond the forest's borders. Beorn listened as attentively to the wizard's answers as Thorin, their faces echoes of dismay as they heard of the devastation that was still present and the floating town on the lake.

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While Bilbo spent the nights with Thorin getting to know the dwarf he was courting better, he spent his days with barely a moment to breath. Just because he was busy didn't mean he didn't have time to see and hear what was going on in the company. Fili and Kili had adopted Beorn as an older, much loved brother and seemed to be learning estate management from the large man, as well as easing the skin-changer's heart-pain. Dori was gradually relaxing with the company, finally trusting that Dwalin would not hurt Ori, he even seemed to understand that he didn't need to mother Ori anymore. Bilbo had had to stop himself laughing out loud several times when he had observed the older dwarf taking himself to task for starting to mother the slight dwarf, he did wonder if Ori realised that Dori was trying. Dwalin and Ori were becoming closer every day; they sparred endlessly when they weren't at the jobs they had been given by Thorin escaping late in the evening at roughly the same time as Bilbo did. Their relationship seemed strengthened by the fact Nori and Dwalin actually spent hours at a time conversing about anything and everything as they worked on the company's weapons. The unlikely friendship they had stuck up seemed a positive omen for the rest of the journey and instantly put Bilbo on edge. Bombur's wicked sense of humour was appearing more and more the longer they spent at Beorn's and Bilbo was drawn into many discussion-arguments with his friend that sent even Scribe's head spinning.

What caught his eye the most however was the almost pair-bonded actions of Oin and Balin who yet seemed to be nothing more than friends. Close friends, but friends all the same. Their interactions wound Bilbo up so much that he merely gave into the urge to question them insistently about it. Well, he questioned Oin first. It wasn't hard to get time with the healer without anyone else from the company present as most of the dwarfs were too leery of being forced into more treatment to bother them when they were working on restocking their supplies.

Bilbo eyed the old dwarf as he carefully ground dried aloe vera into a fine paste. "Oin?" he asked, voice pitched to be cautiously inquiring, rather than the innocent tone he knew set the old dwarf's radar going.

"Hmm?" Oin barely glanced up from where he was carefully unspooling the cotton he would use on any wounds that needed stitching into a bowl that was a heated mixture of ground willow bark, water and powdered eucalyptus leaves.

Bilbo resisted the urge to snicker, "I have a couple of questions about courting in dwarfen culture if you don't mind answering them." He didn't raise his eyes from the half completed powder, instead observing Oin from under his eyelashes.

Oin shot him a suspicious look, "I thought Bal… sorry Balin had explained most of it to you the first night of our journey?"

Bilbo glanced up flashing the scowling dwarf an innocent smile, "He explained a lot, but I didn't pay attention to it all." He forced himself to adopt a sheepish expression, "I certainly didn't think I would ever need to use any of it." He chewed his lip and deliberately leant in, attempting to convince Oin that he was being completely serious. "I could have messed up badly with how I got together with Thorin as I used what I would have done in the Shire, I was just lucky our antiquated Tookish rituals sufficed."

Oin's face cleared and he nodded, "In that case you did well lad. What is it you wanted to know?"

Bilbo resisted the urge to smirk and forced his face into a thankful smile. "There are a couple of things really." He paused and glanced around beckoning Oin to lean in as well. "Firstly after the exchange of gifts and acceptance of each other's court do we …I…need to do anything else? It is just in hobbit custom that is kind of it and we would just go on dates…" he paused at Oin's blank look, "have meals with each other, go for walks…alone, visit with each other's families, dance at parties, and read to each other." He looked at Oin, "So do I need to do anything else?"

"Huh?" the healer looked dazed, but Bilbo realised he was looking at Balin with a strange light in his grey-brown eyes. "Oh sorry Bilbo," Bilbo bit his cheek to stop himself sniggering as the dwarf visibly shook himself, "If you hadn't done what you had then you would have had to exchange several gifts and announced your intentions to the company, but with the words you used and the had crafted gifts you gave you are both in the clear to court without issue."

Bilbo beamed and Oin smiled back, "Thank you Oin, you have put my mind at rest." He paused half turned to his partial crushed herb, before he faced the healer again, "Would it be frowned upon if I were to gift Thorin anything else?" he tilted his head.

Oin seemed to mull it over for several moments, "as you are both of similar rank…I know you claim you are not a prince but from what I've gathered you are the Shire's equal…then the giving of extra gifts, while not necessarily part of the courting, is normally encouraged as showing off your wealth."

Bilbo nodded, "And the fact I have given handmade gifts to others?"

Oin's face darkened, "oh you mean the things you've given to the bonded pairs and Bombur and Gloin wear in their hair, no they will not affect your courting Thorin."

"Healer Oin," Bilbo kept his voice soft, "I mean no offence by not gifting yourself or Master Balin anything, it is just," he bit his lip, knowing his seeming nervousness would draw the dwarf in, "It is just that I had originally thought you two were courting each other, so I wanted to give you both the gifts we give a bonded family member in the Shire." He sighed wistfully, ignoring the old dwarf doing a fantastic impression of a goldfish, "I even had the ear cuffs made, they are the best I have ever made since I have had longer to work on them than any of the others, but," he sighed mournfully, "I suppose if you two really aren't courting I will have to find a way to convert them into a hair bead or something for the two of you." He allowed himself to pout.

Oin stared at the energetic hobbit as his words sunk in, he had actually thought Balin and himself were courting. That Balin was his One. Oin shook his head as longed for words were whispered in Balin's voice inside his mind. "We are not courting Bilbo." He fought to keep his voice calm as the hobbit's face fell, "It is sweet that you thought so, it is probably the fact Balin and myself have been friends since we were but dwarflings." He sighed wistfully without realising it. "I would think I would know if he were my One by now." He turned from staring at Balin's back to look at Bilbo, "Your giving the gifts means you think of everyone as family, so what does it mean that Thorin's was made of stone rather than entirely out of metal?"

Bilbo's face cleared and Oin sighed in relief as the smaller male seemed diverted from his line of questioning. "Oh in the Shire we give hand crafted gifts to family members at bonding ceremonies, since I can work with metal and stone that is what I choose to gift. Metal work has always come easier to me than stone craft so I decided long ago that should I ever choose to bond I would work their gift from stone, as they would deserve the most I could give them. Thorin definitely proved that." Oin watched Bilbo's strangely coloured eyes light up as he talked about the royal dwarf and felt a wave of longing he thought had died when he hit his second century, Bilbo drew him back from the brink of wallowing, "Although just because I gift others metal doesn't mean they are any less important. Family is supposedly everything in the Shire. I say supposedly because other than my grandfather there was only ever the gang that I considered family." Oin watched as the smaller male started to gesture with his hands. "Every object I make is special to the ones I make it for. Nori's and Bifur's cause me a bit of pain because I didn't know them well enough to create it so it was completely tied to them. They proved me right in my naming them as family when I ran into elves after having to deal with that elf, the wizard, Thorin and Balin."

Bilbo realised that Oin had relaxed and mentally smirked, allowing a purr into his tone. "You seem interested in Shire customs." He stated, keeping his voice fairly neutral.

Oin didn't seem to notice, his old eyes back on Balin, "Aye." He agreed, "I want to say they are quaint, but that is the wrong word. Your courting rituals seem unique, but effective."

Bilbo leant in, elbows on the table, "I can tell you all you want to know if," he paused drawing the dwarf's attention solely onto him. "If you answer a question honestly."

"Okay, you did say you had two questions," Oin agreed and Bilbo smiled sunnily.

"Just between you and me, if you could describe your One. What you really want in your One. Would it match Balin?"

Bilbo watched Oin blush, and was pushing to his feet and gathering his stuff even as the dwarf started to shake his head. "I said honestly so I am not sharing." He stated, walking away and ignoring Oin's attempts to get his attention.

Having failed with straight talking Oin anyone else would be loathed to try to get answers out of a diplomat, but Bilbo had been brought up in the politics of Tooksborough and his years in the gang as Scribe and he had never backed down from a fight whether physical or verbal and he wasn't going to start with Balin. He plonked down beside the white haired dwarf, carefully placing his mortar and pestle down. "Oin is driving me insane." He stated in a long suffering tone.

"Oh?" Balin's interest was caught, "What's he done now?"

Bilbo looked directly into Balin's eyes, "Can't answer a straight question honestly but expects me to see him as family." He drawled.

Balin nodded, "We were both a little crushed to realise we were the only two in the company who hadn't received a handmade gift from you I must admit." Balin tilted his head, and Bilbo could see the gears turning in the old dwarf's head. "What have we not gotten one if I may be so bold? And don't give me that crap about Oin not answering questions."

Bilbo laughed, "I thought you were supposed to be a diplomat." He scratched his head carefully, "It is kind of embarrassing why you didn't get one, I have actually made you both one, but…" he shrugged lightly, lowering his voice, "I have been working on them since the trolls." He admitted, taking great amusement in watching one of Balin's bushy eyebrows shoot up, "It's just I made them the same way as Nori, Kili, Bifur, Dori, Dwalin, Fili, Bofur and Ori's." He knew Balin would get it almost immediately and he wasn't to be disappointed.

"You thought we were courting?" the white haired dwarf seemed to be in shock.

"Why wouldn't I?" Bilbo allowed his voice to sharped, "Look from the first night at mine you took a room together. You were nearly always side-by-side; you could finish each other's sentences." Bilbo looked at Balin, allowing the humour to twinkle in his eyes, "Everyone else who shared a room at Bag End ended up together." Balin's laugh filled the air and Bilbo set about finishing grinding the Aloe. "If you are sure you two will never court then I will set about transforming them into something else." He paused seeming to consider something and watched shades of suspicion form in Balin's eyes, "If Oin really isn't your One, do you have any idea what you want from them?"

"I…" Balin stopped and looked carefully at the hobbit, "Honestly I stopped thinking about it nearly a full century ago Bilbo." He admitted, tilting his head as he considered it, "It would have to be somebody who didn't mind my advanced years obviously. Someone I could talk with. Joke with. Looks haven't mattered to me since I was but a young thing of one hundred and twenty five, but pride in their appearance would be nice." He shrugged, "You know I really have no idea."

Bilbo laughed, carefully pouring the powdered he'd prepared into the small sealable pouch Bombur had made him. He pushed to his feet and dusted the pants of his leathers off. "You know to me you just described Healer Oin," he bowed, "Enjoy the rest of your day Master Balin." He started to walk away. "Tonight is the last night we spend under Master Beorn's roof."

AN: Leave me a review and let me know what you think.