Bolin's eyes scanned the ballroom carefully, unsure if he should take the first step in the execution of his mad plan.
It would be harmless, he decided; entirely harmless to ask Korra for a dance. Yes, she and his brother had gone steady... but a single dance at a public function like this one meant nothing, he told himself. It certainly wouldn't be a betrayal of any kind. His roving eyes spotted Asami, dancing with an older man who's name he did not know; Tenzin was dancing with Lin, while Pema danced with Bumi.
The sight of the married couple dancing with two other people seemed to reinforce his idea, and instill courage in him. His eyes darted back to Korra; she was still standing alone, he saw, much to his satisfaction.
He took a step forward; all he'd have to do was cross the ballroom, walk up to her, extend a hand, and the rest he would leave up to charm.
Bolin nodded, as though affirming his own convictions, took another step forward- then stopped.
Before him, Mako had popped into the scene. He was approaching Korra, walking along the opposite wall. Korra spotted him, a smile crossed her face; and a second later, they were talking. Another second, and Mako was extending a hand, Korra was accepting, and they were walking to the dance floor.
Bolin nodded, again; this time, the gesture one of acceptance.
Bolin turned at the sound of a male voice behind him. "Oh, hello, General."
"You can call me Iroh, you know," Iroh said. "We've known each other for months."
"Yeah.. yeah, I guess so, General," Bolin said absentmindedly.
At the use of the nickname which had only ever been used by his brother, Bolin's attention snapped to the man before him. "Yeah?"
Iroh lifted a hand, palm upwards. "Would you like to dance?"
Bolin's eyes widened; he waited a moment, to see if the general would laugh at his own joke, or to give himself a chance to recover from the silly hallucination.
But General Iroh was still there, hand uplifted, waiting for an answer.
"Um." How did one respond to this? "I... I don't think..."
"Everyone's preoccupied with their own happiness, Bolin." As Iroh spoke, he raised a hand and gestured to the couples spinning across the large hall. "Why not us?"
Bolin's former protests died on his lips. Why not him? He didn't always have to be second best, the one who stood on the sidelines and watched. Why not participate, why not act on his desires rather than watch others live them?
The word of agreement had no sooner left his mouth before Iroh siezed his hand and pulled him forward, into the throng of people.
They stood still, facing each other, as couples continued to move and sway around them; Bolin stared at his feet, awkwardly. He'd never danced with a man before; where should he place his hands? Iroh's shoulders? Iroh's waist?
"Here." Iroh grasped one of Bolin's hands and placed it on his shoulder; he took the other in his own, held it in midair.
A few couples seized their spinning for a few moments to watch them, but Bolin payed them no mind; Iroh certainly wasn't. His gaze was focused entirely on Bolin, and Bolin liked that.
They continued to dance, swaying in time with the soft music. Bolin was swept so smoothly around the dance floor that he felt as though he wasn't moving of his own will at all; he was flying, Iroh leading him, and he was startled to realize that he enjoyed it.
"Good to see you smiling," Iroh said.
At this, Bolin only smiled wider. "Thank you."
"Did you see?" The words were out of his mouth before he could take them back. He breathed in and plowed on; he was no longer smiling. "Did you see me try to ask Korra to dance? Is that why you asked me to dance- to make me feel better?"
"I did see," Iroh answered. "But that's not why I asked you to dance."
Bolin could see truth in Iroh's amber eyes, and he felt suddenly grateful for his consideration, his kindness, this dance. "Thank you," he said again.
Iroh only smiled.
They continued to glide around the ballroom; the general of the United Forces, and the earthbender who helped Avatar Korra save the world. There was no more unusual pair.
"Hey." Iroh's lips were suddenly by his ear. "Korra's staring at us. I think you've made her jealous."
Bolin was surprised to realize that he no longer cared.