Balin and Dori discuss.

'I'm not trying to cast dispersions, and I know it is not my place to protest. I have only the greatest respect for Dwalin as a warrior and a dwarf, and I am as certain as you are that he has honorable intentions regarding Ori.' Sort of. It was hard for Dori to tell if Dwalin had any sensitivity left under all of those scars and frowns. 'It is simply a matter of age and ... well, to put it bluntly, Dwalin is at least twice Ori's size. Simply as a matter of logistics, it cannot work.' Dori was going to add, to press the point, that whenever Dwalin and Ori slept side by side, Ori all but vanished into a mass of fur and muscle. Whether that was why Ori liked to sleep next to Dwalin was entirely beside the point. But that was where he chose to hold his tongue.

'I feel your concern on Ori's behalf,' Balin replied, measuring his sentences. 'And I agree that there certainly are many differences between them. But had you considered, my dear fellow, that therein lies the compatibility?'

Dori paused. 'I'm afraid I don't grasp your meaning,' he admitted doubtfully.

'Ori is young, and exceptionally enthusiastic in his support of our leader. Which is why, when you and Nori cannot be there to watch over him, an experienced and patient partner like Dwalin would be ideal.'

Dori nodded guardedly. The thought had crossed his mind, though he had hoped to be able to dispel the suggestion. Hearing it spoken out loud made that harder to do.

'Dwalin, in turn (and I say this in confidence, I hope you understand, Dori) was once in danger of becoming entirely embittered by the life we've been made to live, forced onto the road and subjected to countless deaths and sufferings. But your brother has offered something Dwalin thought he had lost many, many decades ago.'

'And what is that?'

'Simple, meaningful affection. A chance to preserve some of the hope and innocence left amongst us.' Then, briefly, it was Balin's turn to pause.

'A home.'

Dori let the silence settle on them, shifting his wooden bowl from hand to hand and twiddling his spoon. Across the fire from them, Dwalin was sharpening one of his twin axes, and Ori was alternating between wolfing down mouthfuls of stew and reading over notes in his journal. If either of them had noticed their elder brothers sitting together or the quiet conversation they were having, they did not show it.

'I hesitate to accept their relationship on the grounds that it is for Dwalin's sake, and Ori's safety,' Dori murmured. 'It is simply not enough for me.'

'You're forgetting the reason they set out to bother us with their romance in the first place, friend,' Balin said, smiling wanly. 'They're already in love.'

Dori looked again across the fire, just in time to see Dwalin brush Ori's foot with his hand as he propped one axe on a log, and picked up the other. Ori glanced up at the same moment, and when their eyes met, there was a silent exchange. Quiet fondness. Hope and innocence.

A moot point it was, then. Disapproval amongst dwarves could build unbreakable walls, but love amongst dwarves could hollow out mountains.

Dori fought down a snort, and turned stoic attention to his food. Balin's wan smile remained.

Ori and Dwalin slept side by side that night.