Unconventional Bedfellows
By: Illusion of the Mirror

It was well past midnight when Bolin heard the panel door of his room slide open. At first he didn't know the sound, couldn't determine it from the howling winter wind that swirled snow through the courtyard outside and rattled his windowpane. In fact, it wasn't until he felt the chilly air ghost up his spine that he realized there was an intruder in his room: an intruder who was very quietly sliding under the blankets behind him.

Now, Bolin couldn't say what it was that made him stay completely still as this intruder curled up against his back. If asked, he wouldn't have been able to come up with a reason why he merely closed his eyes and let himself slip back into a deep sleep. And when morning came, bright beams slanting through the window to fall across his notably empty bed, Bolin was completely content to chalk the entire experience up to a rogue session of lucid dreaming. That is, until his placed a hesitant hand against the mattress and found the spot beside him to be oddly warm.

The way he saw it, since the person unknown had not electrocuted him in his sleep, he could safely assume that they were not an equalist. And since he was residing in a guest room on Air Temple Island, remarkable because it was cut off from the rest of the world, he found his list of suspects to be drastically narrowed.

Yet, it wasn't though he could go around asking each of the other residents, "Hey, did you sneak into my bed last night?" And after breakfast in the common room held no revelations that anything was out of the ordinary, he began to question whether a slightly warm indent in the mattress was adequate evidence against an overactive imagination.

But that night Bolin's peaceful slumber was once again disturbed. This time, he listened intently as the trespasser padded across the wooden floorboards on deliberately silent feet. He held his breath as they seemingly paused at his bedside before once again slipping into bed with him without so much as a by your leave. Trembling arms folded up beneath his shoulder blades, warm, shallow breaths tickling the tiny hairs at the nape of his neck.

Curiosity tugged at his every muscle, but Bolin forced himself to remain still so as not to spook his mystery bedfellow. He contented himself to count the seconds between each of the intruder's breaths, waiting the good part of a half hour before endeavoring to roll over onto his back. It was only then that he opened his eyes.

There was no way he could have been prepared for the sight that greeted him.

Moonlight spilled through the curtains, giving the young avatar's skin an almost ethereal glow. Shadow traced the planes of her face while loose tendrils of her chocolate locks blew in and out with the soft puffs of air passing her parted lips. And when she unconsciously adjusted to his movement, hand lightly fisting in the fabric of his bedshirt, Bolin forgot how to breathe.

She was absolutely, heart-rendingly beautiful: perfect in the way that only Korra could be. And once he had thoroughly convinced himself that his subconscious was not, in fact, playing some cruel trick on him, he reached out, intent on brushing those lovely little hairs from her even lovelier face. He was entranced, utterly bewitched, but as her brow lightly furrowed in her sleep, something stayed his hand.

Korra had been different since her kidnapping and subsequent escape. She didn't talk as much, didn't laugh as loud, and when she smiled, it never seemed to reach her eyes. She needs time, Mako had said. Give her some space. And though it had been overwhelmingly difficult not to take the young avatar into his arms and sob until he was a puddle of emotional goo, Bolin had reluctantly agreed.

After her initial retelling of the events, everyone had seemed intent on behaving as though nothing had happened, at least on the surface, and he supposed this was mostly for Korra's sake. She needed time. She needed space. She needed normalcy. But even Bolin could tell that beneath the business-as-usual exterior they were all just waiting for the next shoe to drop. A tense calm had settled over the island and he was absolutely, positively sure he didn't want to be the one to break it.

But this. This was utterly unexpected and most definitely not business-as-usual. Every molecule of his being itched to hold her, to touch her, but the warning bells were going off in his mind and Bolin was suddenly much too tired to puzzle out why. So he did the only thing that made sense: he rolled back over and willed himself to sleep.

- O -

The next night when Bolin felt the blankets stir beside him, he rolled over to look straight into the avatar's eyes. She seemed startled at first, not unlike she'd been bitten, but then a defiant expression settled on her face, almost challenging him to say something.

He wanted to. Spirits knew he had a million questions. But he didn't. Instead, he scooted over, silently offering her more room, and then shut his eyes. It seemed like an eternity as he waited for her to…well he wasn't at all sure what he expected. He had not, however, expected her to take him up on his offer, and when she slipped in beside him, pulling the covers up to her chin, he suddenly realized that he'd been holding his breath.

And so began their nightly tradition. Korra would quietly sneak into his room and Bolin would be waiting, ready to pull back the blankets and let her in. He would fall asleep listening to her steady breathing and she would be gone in the morning, a warm depression in the mattress the only evidence she'd been there at all.

It wasn't difficult to decipher the rules of their unconventional arrangement. Korra never asked to join him and he never asked her why. Neither of them spoke of it in the light of day, keeping the conversation on pretty much anything else and avoiding even that if there was no one else around. And he never held her. That was the most important and most difficult rule. She would snuggle in beside him, but somehow Bolin knew that if he wrapped her in his arms and breathed in the heady scent of her, it would all be over. And even though he wasn't quite sure what it was, he was sure he didn't want it to end.

- O -

Some nights Korra would drape her arm across his abdomen. Some nights she would pull so far away he feared she would fall to the floor. But every night as she climbed into bed with him, Bolin briefly entertained the notion that this was something more than not wanting to sleep alone. Maybe the hand splayed across his chest was actually meant for him and not his brother sleeping down the hall. It bothered him how little guilt he felt over the entire situation, but only just a little bit. After all, he was pretty sure it didn't mean anything.

At least, not to Korra.

- O -

Everything changed the night a huge snowstorm blew across the bay. Bolin was more than a little worried that Korra would decide not to brave the cold trek from the girl's bunkhouse to the men's. Part of him hoped that she wouldn't. But in the end it didn't matter because she did come, just like she always did, and relief flooded through him as she noiselessly crossed the room.

This time, however, instead of crawling beneath the blankets and unknowingly torturing him until he fell asleep, Korra sat on the edge of the bed, her back hunched as she faced away from him. Puzzled, Bolin leaned forward and found that she was shaking and though the room was awash in darkness, he could still see the single glistening tear that forged its way down her cheek. And all at once the rules didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered except the beautiful, baffling, stubborn woman that he had come to love, and when he pulled her to him and she didn't resist, his heart sang even as it was breaking beneath the weight of her stifled sobs.

And then her arms were around him and her face was buried in his chest, tears soaking the front of his ragged undershirt. "Shh…" he crooned, stroking the back of her head, reveling in the feel of her rarely loosed hair twining between his fingers. "It's okay…you're not alone."Her hands balled into fists in the back of his shirt as sobs racked her body. "I'm here," he whispered, his own eyes threatening to brim over with tears. "I'm always here."

Slowly, Korra calmed, her outburst giving way to quiet sniffles, but still she clung to him as he gently rocked her in his steady arms, quietly humming a tune his mother used to sing to him at night. The storm howled outside, threatening to rip the building up by the roots, but Bolin didn't care. As he laid the sleeping avatar back against his pillow and wrapped his arm around her, he knew that he would always be here: taking what she would give, even if it wasn't meant for him.

It wasn't really a surprise when he woke to find himself alone in his room. But somehow, it hurt just the same.

- O -

Korra didn't come the next night. Or the next. And even though he saw her throughout the day, it felt as though she was some impossible distance from him. When he met her gaze, she would turn away, when they passed in the hall, she would give him a distinctly wide berth. It was like a stab to the heart, but Bolin knew it was his own fault. He broke the rules and now he had to pay the price. In fact, he had almost convinced himself it was better this way.


- O -

It had only been a week since Korra's last visit, though to Bolin it could have been ten years. The knock at his door was so soft that if he hadn't been standing near it, he wouldn't have heard. When his heart lurched painfully into his throat, he knew who it was and for a split second, he thought about simply blowing out the candle and going to sleep.

Then the second passed and he slid open the door.

And there she stood: wrapped in an embroidered blue robe lined with plush white fur. Damp hair framed her face and Bolin found himself idly wondering why she would be taking a bath so late at night.

"Hey," she half-whispered from the darkness of the hallway. "Can I come in?"

He said yes. Of course he said yes. And when she crossed over the threshold, slippered feet scraping lightly against the wooden floorboards, he tried vainly to recall any time that he'd actually told her 'no.'

"I'm glad you're up," she began in hushed tones as he closed the door. "I was hoping we could talk."

"What about?" he attempted to sound light-hearted but when he turned, he found her standing directly in front of him, hand on her hip.

"You know what about."

Bolin couldn't determine the emotion that flashed across her face just then. It wasn't anger or sadness...maybe something in between? He sighed nervously and was suddenly acutely aware that he had no idea what to do with his hands. "Oh. That."

She took a step back and glanced at the floor before continuing. "These past few weeks have been...difficult. Ever since I came to Republic City, actually, but especially recently." At this, she folded her arms as though she was cold. "It's bad enough that I can't seem to learn airbending, but now with the equalists and Amon and Tarrlok…I just…being the avatar is hard. And sometimes I just feel so alone."

"But Korra, you're not alone."

"I know." She smiled weakly. "I have you and Tenzin and Mako and all the others. It's just that when it's dark and I'm by myself, well suddenly I'm back in that box in the cabin basement. And I need someone. I need to hear someone breathing, to feel them beside me. I know it's silly but I get scared."

He took a step forward, needing to comfort her yet not knowing how. "That's not silly, Korra."

She smiled at him then, really smiled. "I knew you'd say that."

Shrugging, he beamed back at her. "It's true."

The silence that followed was full of unspoken emotion and Bolin was just about to make some jape about the weather when she closed the gap between them, her arms encircling him. "I'm sorry, Bolin. I didn't mean to hurt you. Not again."

He enfolded her in an assuring hug, careful to keep his hands far above her waist. "It's okay, Korra. I understand. It's Mako you want, not me. I'm sorry that I-"

Suddenly, she wrenched away from him, stunning him into silence. But it wasn't anger in her eyes. It wasn't defiance. In fact it almost seemed like…pain? Oh spirits, had he hurt her?

"No, Bo. You don't understand. And at first, I didn't either." Her ocean blue eyes bored straight into his own, and Bolin felt strangely exposed.

"I came to you, not Mako. I was scared and confused but I was also ashamed and I didn't want Mako to see. I wanted…I wanted you."

The last part was spoken so softly, Bolin thought for sure he hadn't heard her correctly. But in a split second she went from biting her lip to pressing those same lips against his and the question was replaced by six million others which were promptly forgotten when Korra gripped the front of his shirt and tugged him flush up against her.

It wasn't until she began to pull away that Bolin realized he'd been standing there frozen while the most amazing young woman he had ever known kissed him. He could hardly comprehend why, but he'd be damned if he was going to let the moment pass him by. So he did the only thing that made sense: he wrapped his arms around her and crushed his lips against hers.

At first, Korra went rigid, as though his response had been entirely unexpected, but she soon relaxed into him, fingers lightly trailing up his neck to tangle in his hair. Something in Bolin snapped then and he realized in a panic that this was at once too much and not nearly enough. She wasn't his, but he was hers, body and soul. She was oxygen. She was life.

And if this was the part she needed him to play, then he would gladly do it. He could nurse his broken heart tomorrow.

When her tongue slid out to trace his bottom lip, warm and wet, Bolin eagerly obliged. I'm dreaming, his brain screamed as his own tongue slipped between her teeth. I'm dreaming and I don't ever want to wake up. She tasted like salt water and tealeaves, smelled of cinnamon and moonbeams. It didn't make sense but it was somehow so Korra and he plundered her mouth with a renewed intensity, desperate to take all she was willing to offer.

His lungs burned for lack of air but it was she that broke the contact with a gasp, swollen lips parted as she drew in gulps of blessedly cool air. Unable to bear the loss of her lips on his, Bolin dipped his head and began to lift and drop feather-light kisses along the graceful curve of her neck, lingering briefly over her pulse point and coaxing something akin to a whimper from her throat.

Cupping her feverishly warm cheek with his palm, he worked his way down to her clavicle, feeling her eyelashes flutter against his thumb as he grazed a particularly sensitive spot. His other hand tugged gently at her neckline intent on exposing a shoulder to his careful ministrations, but when his fingertips brushed her skin and found no fabric beneath the soft fur lining of her robe, he realized with a start that she might not be wearing anything else.

Bolin took a half-step back, eyes so wide he was sure they were bulging from their sockets. But she just gazed back at him, eyes sparkling in the candlelight, cheeks flushed as an almost teasing smile parted her lips and with a flick of her wrist, the candle guttered out. He watched helplessly as her hand slid down and gently tugged the belt holding her modesty in place. Then with a shrug of her shoulders, let the garment pool limply at her feet.

And there she stood, bold as you please, clothed only in starlight. Bolin felt like he should say something, but for the life of him couldn't remember how to form a single word. His eyes greedily drank her in. She was a vision, a goddess, and as his gaze skirted her full breasts and settled on the dark curls between her thighs, he suddenly became stiflingly warm. When he finally met her eyes again, he found her waiting patiently and decided that he was not, in fact, dreaming. I'm dead, he thought as his fingers twitched at his sides. I've died in my sleep and in the presence of an angel.

With a slight smile and a shake of her head, Korra reached out and grabbed his hand, placing it over her left breast in unspoken permission. It was warm and supple in his palm and when he experimentally brushed the pad of his thumb across her nipple she moaned. This time, it wasn't his fingers that twitched.

She drew a few deep breaths, breasts heaving, and then reached out pull at them of his shirt. Taking the cue, Bolin quickly discarded the offending article of clothing. Once that was done, Korra paused, a contemplative expression settled on her face. The chilled air of the room might have been what raised goosebumps on his skin, but more likely it was the way she was gingerly tracing the contours of his muscular chest and abdomen. "Wow," she whispered almost rapturously before leaning down to place a chaste kiss over his racing heart.

And, spirits, that did it! He crushed her to him as his lips claimed hers once more. His disbelief was rapidly turning into blindingly acute need, a need she was no doubt noticing as it pressed into her stomach.

But Bolin didn't have the capacity to be self-conscious or apologetic; his senses were on overload. The taste of her tongue, the scent of her sweat, the warmth of her lithe body in his arms, nipples hard as pebbles as they rubbed against his chest, it was all driving him into a frenzy. The voice in his mind was wailing that things were going too far too fast and as Korra began to maneuver the two of them toward the bed without breaking contact it occurred him that maybe, just maybe, she had planned this from the start. However, he knew that to ask, he'd have to stop kissing her, and the question became decidedly less important because she was moaning into his mouth in the most maddening of ways.

Then, all at once, she was pulling him down onto the bed, toned calves crossed against the small of his back. He can feel her through his bed shorts, hot and so impossibly wet that his hips bucked into her of their own accord and she keened, low and long, fingernails digging half-moons into his shoulder blades.

She whispered his name, sweat glistening on her upper lip. "Bolin, please."

It wasn't supposed to be like this. He'd always imagined laying her down on a bed of white satin pillows. She would gasp and writhe as he memorized every inch of her, burning each scar, each birthmark, into his brain. He would bring her to completion, fingers entwined with her own, and only then would he seek any pleasure for himself. That's how it should have been. But as Korra yanked the waistband of his shorts down below his hips, Bolin realized he didn't have the strength or the will to stop her.

"Please," she hissed as his tip gently nudged her soaking core. "I want this…Bolin, I want you."

And though it broke his heart, Bolin was helpless to do anything but oblige, centering himself before slowly, achingly slowly, pushing inside her. She clung to him as he filled her and he could feel her drawing him in until he was buried to the hilt in her gloriously tight heat. It was the most wonderful sensation he'd ever experienced, but it still wasn't enough.

Impatient, Korra rolled her hips and he knew he couldn't last long. She was molten silk, and as he began to rock into her, his trembling fingers found the tiny bundle of buried in her soft curls. It wasn't long before they settled into a quick rhythm. For every thrust of his hips, her own would surge upward to meet him as she urged him on with murmured praise and shallow gasps. Her hooded eyes were glazed over with lust and Bolin dipped to kiss away the beads of sweat gathering on her forehead, a familiar heat coiling almost painfully inside him. No…not yet…not until Korra…

"Oh, spirits!" A sob hitched in the young avatar's throat as she suddenly clenched around him, hands scrabbling for purchase in the sheets. Though he wanted nothing more that to watch her ride out her orgasm his own release came swift and strong, draining any remaining strength from his limbs.

As the last waves of pleasure receded, Bolin opened his eyes to find Korra gazing straight up at him. Moisture glistened on her skin in the pale moonlight and, from this angle, he could almost swear she had a halo. Hesitant fingers brushed the sweat damp hair from his brow then lightly trailed down to his lips. He leaned into her touch, planting a kiss against her palm before pulling out of her and rolling onto his back.

This time, when she snuggled up next to him and wrapped an arm tightly around his middle, Bolin held her, tracing circles on her skin and watching contentedly as she drifted into a peaceful slumber. When he was certain that the soft noises escaping her parted lips were merely the remnants of a dream, Bolin placed a tender kiss on the crown of her head.

"I'm here, Korra," he whispered as sleep blurred his vision and began to claim him. "No matter what you need…I'm here."

When he woke the next morning, sun rays slicing through the gloom, his bed was empty, warm indent where the woman he loved had been sleeping.

- O -