Had the circumstances been only slightly different, Bolin would have been on cloud nine. He was in his own bed, with Korra curled up at his side and fast asleep, and Mako safely at Asami's place and out of their hair for the night. Her head was warm against his shoulder, and her breath was slow and peaceful. Her limbs were tangled up around him like an octosquid's tentacles, trapping him in place, but he wouldn't have minded that at all had he not woken up at 3:29 in the morning with three slightly uncomfortable problems. The first was that her legs had pushed his left foot into an awkward angle, and the entire thing was now asleep. The second was that he had to pee pretty badly. And the third and by far the worst, as a result of problem number two…the front of his shorts were feeling a lot tighter than they normally did.
Bolin tried to lie still and wracked his brain for any useful advice he had read in How to be a Man. Avatar Aang's best seller came in handy for all kinds of situations, but there simply wasn't a chapter about what to do when you were sleeping next to the most perfect girl in the world on the very first night she ever stayed over at your place and found yourself with a bad case of…well…morning wood.
He had tried to wriggle out of Korra's arms, hoping he could sneak away without waking her, take care of those problems and crawl back into bed with her none the wiser. No such luck; Korra had an iron grip, and when he tried to pull away she just clutched him tighter and mumbled "No Meelo, you can't eat that."
He could have just woken her up, in theory. Korra was a notoriously deep sleeper, but surely she would wake up if he made enough noise or shook her hard enough. But then she would notice, and how was he supposed to explain that? Mako had caught him in such a state a few times, but Mako understood. How much did Korra know about the embarrassing quirks of the male anatomy? What if she misunderstood and took it all the wrong way?
It wouldn't have been the first time Bolin had embarrassed himself in front of Korra, really. He had already thrown up in front of her (which was very unattractive,) and cried in front of her (which was even less attractive,) and in spite of all that she still liked him. She could probably forgive this too, but at this point he was in no hurry to lose any more of his dignity around her. She deserved someone suave and cool, not someone who got awkward boners.
The situation suddenly became much more dire when Korra snuggled closer. Her thigh brushed up against his problematic nether regions and all at once he was getting harder for a reason that had nothing to do with his full bladder. The sensation gave him a sudden shock of panic, and he shoved her back as hard as he could, managing to break out of Korra's grip and knock himself off the edge of the bed in one motion.
He wasn't sure if it was the yelp he let out when he hit the floor or the shove that woke her up, but to his immense horror he saw Korra sit up and look around in sleepy confusion. His dignity's self-preservation took over from there; without thinking he jumped to his feet faster than he ever had, clamped both hands over his groin and bolted for the bathroom down the hall.
It was probably just luck that he managed to relieve both of his physical needs and rub the feeling back into his numb foot before he heard a knock at the door. Nerves made his stomach go all squirmy, but Chapter 5 of How to be a Man had clearly said that hiding in a bathroom to avoid an uncomfortable conversation was not gentlemanly. He braced himself with a deep breath and opened the door.
Korra stood outside, blinking groggily at the light from the bathroom and swaying slightly in place. She looked like a zombie, albeit an extremely attractive zombie. She was still clad in the oversized old shirt of his she had borrowed to sleep in, and he was momentarily distracted by the sight of her bare legs before reality reasserted itself.
"Um," said he, master of eloquence. "Hi."
Korra gave him a few more sluggish, confused blinks. "Wha' happened?"
Bolin forced an awkward laugh and tried to fight back the blush that was rapidly heating his face. "Y-yeah, sorry. I, uh, had to pee." There, that wasn't a lie. It just wasn't the whole truth.
Korra shrugged one shoulder, clearly too tired to really process a single word he said. "'Kay. Come back to bed. 's too early." She turned and began to stagger back in the direction of the bed, waving a hand limply for him to follow. It was his turn to stare at her in confusion for a long moment before hastily trotting after her. He made it back to the bed first, as Korra was lumbering at her sleepy zombie pace, and fidgeted awkwardly with the blankets until she had flopped down next to him again.
"Sorry I, y'know, woke you up," he mumbled, feeling the need to say something after that narrowly avoided disaster.
Korra's eyes were already closed as she wiggled her way closer, nuzzling her cheek against his arm. "No big deal," she slurred, wrapping an arm snugly around his chest as she rapidly drifted back off to sleep.
Was that it? Was it really that easy? Maybe. Korra had never judged him, never looked down on him, never teased except as friends do, never failed to accept him as he was. Maybe there had been nothing for him to worry about in the first place. Maybe it really was that easy to be around Korra, to just love her and let her love him without worrying about anything. The thought settled the fluttering in his chest down to a peaceful warmth, and it took no time at all for him to join her in sleep.