“But why does it have to be me?” Bilbo protested.
“Because Gloin, Ori, Dwalin, Nori, Dori and I have to take care of things.” Balin (who was acting as emissary for the group) explained. “As Thorin, Fili, and Kili’s next of kin, we need to take over their duties. And Gandalf…well, I’m sure he’ll be in and out, but he comes and goes as he pleases.”
“And it’ll take all four of you? These duties?” Bilbo snorted, incredulously, rolling his eyes over the group of dwarves, who avoided his eyes.
“Oh, yes!” Balin nodded enthusiastically. “There’s the treasure to count, repairs to be made, dealings with the elves, dealings with the men, messages to be sent, sur-“
“Very well.” Bilbo interrupted, beginning to see the sense in what Balin was saying. “But what of Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur?”
“We’re descended from coal-miners.” Bofur spoke up. “We will be heading the repair teams.”
“I thought they were-“
“Er, the point is,” Balin cut him off, “that, apart from Oin, none of us will have time to sit with Thorin, Fili, and Kili.”
Bilbo gnashed his teeth. “This wasn’t in the original contract!” He pointed out.
“True.” Balin allowed. “But…” He hesitated, as if unsure of himself, “we…we’ve come to think of you as family. If…if you wish to leave, then we won’t stop you. But we had hoped that…that is, we thought you might consider us good enough friends to stay on with us.”
Looking around, Bilbo saw all of the dwarves nodding in agreement. Well, of course when they put it that way…“Oh, alright!” He exclaimed, eliciting smiles and cheers from the Company. “I wish they had died.” Bilbo muttered under his breath. He didn’t mean it, of course. But learning that one was supposed to be at the beck and call of three dwarves, when it felt like he himself should be resting, didn’t exactly make him feel like a hero. “
Cheer up. It won’t be that difficult. Oin will take care of all the medical stuff.” Dwalin smiled, understandingly, placing a hand on the hobbit’s shoulder. “All you need to do is help change the bandages and make sure that Thorin, Fili, and Kili have everything they need.”
Bilbo sighed and straightened up. “Well, I suppose it could be worse.”
“Well, we best be off!” Dwalin said, nudging his brother’s arm.
“That’s right.” Balin agreed. “Lot’s to do!”
The Company made their goodbyes, and quickly headed for the door.
“Poor blighter.” Gloin muttered.
Bombur nodded. “Doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.”