Disclaimer: I do not own Aang and Katara. I just own this little one-shot.

Author's Note: This one-shot contains spoilers for episode 8, "The Puppetmaster". Consider yourself warned.

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Bloodbender

"Congratulations, Katara. You're a Bloodbender."

Sitting next to the lake that the gang had set up camp by, Katara brought a hand to her mouth as her stomach rolled. Oh, moon spirit, she didn't want to throw up again. She'd already done that once, and while even Sokka had made no crack against her she didn't want to suffer the humiliation again. If she could control people's blood, she needed to learn how to control her own stomach.

Control blood.

Bloodbender.

She lost the battle.

Rolling quickly to the side in a childish attempt to keep from dirtying the clear water, Katara curled her fingers into the grass and vomited, unable to control her body's impulses. Her body trembled as her stomach emptied itself of its pitiful contents—she hadn't eaten much except the dinner Hamma had made the night before—and her sweat and tears mingled together, making her eyes sting.

Once she started, unlike before, she simply couldn't stop. It was as though her body was trying to purge her of what her mind simply could not forget, as though she was trying to somehow purify herself after feeling so dirty.

And the irony was, she still felt dirty.

"Congratulations, Katara. You're a Bloodbender."

The tears began to fall, and to her everlasting relief her stomach gave one last great heave but settled with a soft rumble. A bitter taste filled her mouth, and with a sob she buried her face in her arms, hunched over, sobbing raggedly. For the first time in her life, all she wanted was to go back and forget she'd ever learned Bloodbending.

But she couldn't forget. Ever.

As her tears continued to fall, she dimly heard the sound of footsteps in the grass. She made no attempt to even stop crying, didn't even try to sit up. She didn't care what anyone thought of her at this point.

"Katara?"

Her heart twisted painfully in her chest, and with a hitch of breath she recognized the soft, uncertain voice. Aang.

She wanted her tears to cease, to sit up and smile and tell him everything was all right; but the sobs kept rising, and her tears kept falling. She couldn't have stopped even if she wanted to.

For a long moment there was silence, and Katara wondered if Aang had possibly retreated back to the fire and left her to shed her tears in private. She hoped he had.

I'm pathetic. I'm so… pathetic…

And then she felt his hand against her back. "Katara?" he repeated, speaking directly into her ear. "Katara?"

She swallowed against the hot ball of tears still rising in her throat, giving a soft hiccup; wordlessly Aang knelt next to her and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close so his cheek was against her hair.

Something inside her broke neatly in two. Katara felt it, and wondered if maybe it was her heart.

With no shame, with no thought other than to seek comfort, she grabbed on to Aang's shirt and curled into his arms, whimpering softly into his neck as he held her, so warm and so understanding and so Aang. Her tears began to slow, but her breathing was still labored.

Aang smelled of sky bison and smoke, of the trees and the grass, of the fire lilies she'd walked through with Hamma—he smelled of dirt and water, of everything Katara had ever known and everything she'd been before becoming a Bloodbender. Shamelessly she inhaled his scent deeply, drinking it in like water.

"Is there anything I can do?" he murmured into her ear, gently stroking her back. "Can I help at all?"

Katara could feel her tears rising again.

"I want to forget," she whispered, and squeezed her eyes shut to keep from crying again. "I want to forget Bloodbending! I want to forget controlling people from the inside! But I can't." A soft sob escaped despite her best efforts. "I just can't. It's inside me now, and I can feel it, and it won't go away."

Aang said nothing, just continued stroking her back in that same, soothing manner that relaxed her muscles even as her heart and mind warred on. Against her will tears began to fall again, and she curled tighter against Aang.

"Do you want me to go back to Sokka and Toph?" His voice was gentle, so gentle. "I can leave you alone for awhile if you want."

"Please." Her voice, in contrast to his, was heartbreakingly weak, sounding achingly young and vulnerable. "Please, Aang. Please don't go. If I'm alone again, I might…"

I might start thinking about Bloodbending again.

He understood, and his arms tightened around her, holding her closer.

"Okay," he murmured. "Okay. I'm not going anywhere, not if you don't want me to."

"Thank you…"

She sniffled. Of all things, she had to at least justify herself to him.

"I just... when you're with me, Aang… I can think of myself as I was before," she whispered. "I can… I can think of myself as a Waterbender, as a healer. When I'm alone, I… I think of myself as… a Bloodbender."

Aang said nothing, but his arms tightened around her. "You're not a Bloodbender," he said harshly. "Don't think of yourself as one. You're a Waterbender, Katara. A Waterbender."

"I know… but how…"

How do I forget?

Her words trailed off into sobs once more, and without saying anything Aang rested his cheek against her hair again, holding her steady as she trembled, whispering softly into her ear as she cried.

"Congratulations, Katara. You're a Bloodbender."

"I want to be a Waterbender again," she sobbed. "Just a Waterbender. Aang, how do I become a Waterbender again?"

His heart breaking for her, Aang turned his head and gently kissed her forehead, tears beginning to fill his own eyes.

"I'll teach you tomorrow," he promised. "Tomorrow, I'll teach you how to be a Waterbender again."

The End

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I watched "The Puppetmaster" on Youtube, and it has got to be the darkest episode of Avatar to date. My heart ached for Katara. And, being a Kataang fan, I imagined something like this happening in the episode's aftermath.

Read and review, please!