Entry for Kataang Festival Fic Rumble Competition over on Kataang Forever.

Recommended Listening: Requiem for a Dream, pretty much any version. This is dark. For the full effect, once you get to the corresponding part in the story, you'll also want to go to whale sounds . com without the spaces and click on the keening/longing button.

A/N: This was originally supposed to be a character study on Katara and Bloodbending, but as you will see, it got a little…out of control.

Edit: There is deliberately no mention of when this takes place. I left out time references on purpose, so you can decide for yourself how old you are comfortable with them being here.

I want to scream, I want to shout
I want to have faith and never doubt
I want to bend, I want to break
to sleep and never wake
to break down walls and to escape
be alone and hide my face
I want to feel, I want to touch
want to stop wanting it so much

- toad the wet sprocket, desire

Bloodbending is about control. Bloodbending is about strength of mind. Bloodbending is relentless.

Katara lay alone in the dark, on the sand, eyes wide and staring. The moon, bright, full, hung in the sky above her. The ocean was quiet, waves lapping higher and higher as the tide rose, until finally the water covered her bare feet. Silver drops of moonlight shimmering over an ink-dark expanse. The scent of sea-salt and sulfur, ever present here in the Fire Nation.

Life scuttered brilliantly in the sand all around her.

She'd always gone a little crazy in the light of the full moon. She has a vague memory of someone explaining the significance of this when she was a child, before the power had swelled inside her. Her heartbeat is fluttering, a little unsteady, like she's been engaged in some demanding activity. And she can't seem to slow her breathing. Her fingers twitch on the sand and she flattens them.

There will be no bending tonight.

Something new, she notes, as the water comes up to cover her calves: she can feel the life in the ocean as well, now that she is connected to it. All those beating hearts, all those blood filled bodies. The urgent longing wells up inside of her again and she pushes it ruthlessly back down.

Not. Tonight.

She is a Waterbender. She is healer, sister, friend. Someday, she will be someone's lover and wife. She is cook and cleaner, she is quasi-mother to a group of fledgling warriors. She is a warrior herself, a fighter. Relentless in the protection of those she loves. She is daughter and granddaughter, a woman of the Southern Water Tribe.

In the light of Yue's bright eye, she is a Bloodbender.

She will not be a killer.

She's felt this night coming. She's felt the power swelling in her, rising slow and inevitable like the tide, this urge that has grown until the compulsion is so strong she can taste it. Now she waits here, alone at the edge of the world with the ocean lapping at her legs. Quivering. Every muscle in her body full of vitality and energy and power. In a few days the cycle will ebb and she will sleep like the dead. Until then, she will do her best to avoid everyone.

But there's not much she can do when they seek her out.

She senses his approach long before he gets to the beach. At the beginning, her awareness of the blood in other bodies was muted at best, and at worst she only had to leave camp to escape it. Now she is aware of him the moment he steps onto the dunes, far down the beach from her position. She doesn't even have to look, she can feel his awareness of her. Light footsteps that make no sound at all, and a pulse that thrums through her like thunder.

Aang sits beside her in the sand.

For a while, he says nothing, and she is grateful that he gives her time to adjust to his nearness before he breaks her concentration with words.

"I couldn't sleep either," he says eventually.

Once upon a time, they'd practiced Waterbending on full moon nights. The first time Sokka had woken to find them missing, he'd asked quite a few embarrassing questions but he'd also lived with Katara all their lives and knew her eccentricities. Benders were weird. This was an accepted fact.

She wonders if Aang wants her to teach him Bloodbending, but he has not asked and she will not offer.

Aang's heart is steady, a slow and even beat that she is intimately familiar with. The loudness of it echoes through the sand beneath her and the water around her, vibrating her very bones. Her hand reaches out of its own violation and takes his wrist, fingers curling around the blood flowing beneath the thin layer of soft skin.

Aang tilts his head, regarding her silently.

Her own pulse is thready and erratic, her breathing still hasn't calmed, and she can only guess at what he might be seeing in her eyes. The ocean has come up to her waist now, cold and dark water. She is half-swallowed by her element.

Without warning, Aang stands, tugging gently free of her grasp only to hold her hand and pull her upright with him. She resists only a moment. Standing beside him, the water drips down her legs. His pulse suddenly skips and she looks at him sharply, only to realize a moment later why and she turns her gaze down on herself.

In her blind walk from the campsite, she'd left a trail of clothes. Too much weight on overly sensitive skin. Restrictive and rough fabric had been discarded. As a Waterbender, anyway, she never wears much when she's in her element. Tonight, with the wildness inside of her, she's wearing even less. A few thin strips of cloth, and even these would be gone if she hadn't suspected he might come to her.

Katara's eyes trail back up to lock with his. A word, a gesture, even a breath and she would give him everything. Here and now, in the silver moonlight and black water. There is an unfathomable intensity inside of her and she is needing in a way she never has before. The slightest crook of his finger and she would be on her knees for him.

He swallows. Hard. Naked on his face is every raw, vulnerable thing he feels for her. He doesn't speak. This moment isn't about him. Before anything else, before even his identity as the Avatar, is Aang. Selfless in the truest sense of the word, her best friend.

No words are spoken. His fingers tighten around hers and he leads her out into the water. Gentle waves sloping around her. Once they are waist deep, he releases her. His smile is soft and a little sad.

The tables are turned tonight. The balance of their relationship is shifted. With her center of gravity thrown off, he is there to hold her to the earth. She's been the strong one for so long that to let go and lean on someone else, to give herself over completely is strange and alien beyond anything she's ever known. She's never trusted quite like this before, but then she's never held so little control over her own desires as she does in this moment, with the painful and unending awareness of all the life surrounding her. She doesn't trust herself now, so who better than Aang to be in control?

Liberating and terrifying, the turning over of her whole self to another person. Saying unspoken, thy will be done.

Katara releases a breath she hadn't been aware of holding. A shudder shakes her body, and then she gives up completely and lets her legs lose contact with the sand. The silver surface of the ocean closes over her. Immersion, into her element. Sinking into utter darkness. Eyes tightly shut, she moves easily into deeper water, spiraling with the ease of long practice. Graceful in the way only a Waterbender can be.

There is life all around her. With her eyes closed, the ocean glows with life. From the impossibly small sparks all around her to the faintly sensed immensity far away. Aang is a bright smear of silver behind her closed lids.

After an eternity, she surfaces. Drawing in great gulps of air. She is aware that he's watching her with concern. She flips over to drift on her back. Waves rocking her, moon beaming down all the raw energy she can't control.

"The water helps," she says after a while. Aang drifts a little closer.

"It usually does," he replies, just as quietly.

Katara draws in a breath and sinks, letting herself fall so far into the embrace of the water that the moon is little more than a pinprick. Cold weight. Blue eyes wide open, stinging with sea salt. Life stirring in the dark all around her. The tide pulls on her bones, urging her deeper, deeper. She wonders, not for the first time: what secrets does the darkness hold? What silent and unknown wonders wait below the reach of man, far out into the depths of the sea? Cold water and solid weight, deeper than humanity can reach or time can touch…what secrets lie in the vast abyss of the ocean?

Heartbeats, pulses—she is still too aware of the blood rushing through the millions of lives all around her but the current whispers through her ears and, held in the tight embrace of the ocean, her Waterbender self is finally able to silence the Bloodbender.

A sudden realization: I belong here.

There is a sound, a faraway moan. She whirls around to face it, every cell in her body poised. Waiting. It is a familiar call, a song from her childhood halfway around the world.

Silence stretches out, aching. And again: the long, low resonance, thrumming through her bones, so strong she can almost see the call rippling through the blackness of water around her.

She breaks through the surface in a rush of water and gasping breaths, unable to contain herself.

"Aang." She swims closer to him, taking his hand. "Come here."

They swim so far out that the beach is like a distant memory. Finally she stops. "Here," she says, looking around.

"Katara? I don't understand." Concern and confusion is clear in dark gray eyes, but his pulse is steady.

Her smile is slow. Blue eyes narrow. She wants to surprise him. "You will."

They don't have to wait long.

She can tell when he senses them. His eyes widen and his mouth drops open. An unseen presence, stirring the water column below them. Testing. But Aang is the Avatar and they sense that, perhaps. Surfacing in utter silence, broken a moment later by an explosive blast of air.

"Star whales," Aang breathes, awed. "Katara, they're—"

He doesn't have the words.

Two of them, one about Appa's size and one twice as large. Skin blacker than the midnight ocean, sprinkled all over with silver specks. A reflection of the night sky above, swimming slow circles around them. They are silent now but her whole body is alive with their heartbeats, and for a moment it's more than she can bear. One hand, reaching out, fingers brushing water slick hide.

I wonder if—

She doesn't let herself finish the thought. Her breathing has gone all shaky again and her heart is racing so hard she flattens one hand over her chest to keep it in.

Aang is suddenly beside her, and takes both her hands. His eyes, searching hers.

Are you all right? Too much?

A deep breath. She closes her eyes, taking a moment to steady herself. Trying, anyway. There is such an overabundance of power inside her she can't help but become unbalanced. Through their hands, Aang's heartbeat is louder than her own. She moves away, staring up at the moon and trying to empty her mind, trying to ignore the tight burning in her chest and the twitching dance of her fingers.

Beneath all of this chaos, buried in the wake of a power stronger than her own identity—where is Katara in all of this compulsive longing? She is drowning in the blood fueled drum of an ocean of life, she is lost in a song of thunderous heartbeats and rolling waves. The salty liquid on her cheeks—tears or seawater?

Familiar hands fumble over her wrists, then Aang entwines their fingers and pulls her under the surface.

It is only here in the dark, here in this cold embrace of her element, that she feels like she can breathe again. His pulse steadies her and moonlight flecks his dark eyes with silver. There is a thread running between them, a tie of friendship and feeling that has bound them from the day she broke him out of the iceberg. So much has changed, but the ties that bind them are only winding tighter and tighter. Aang, Avatar and last Airbender, her best friend. She is clinging to his hands like he is her only salvation, like she's drowning and he's the last breath of air she will ever get. She is faltering, she is teetering on the edge, and he is there to hold her until she finds balance again.

The whales dance.

Spiraling down, twisting around and around each other. Slow, steady. The singing never stops or pauses. One at a time, like an exchange of vows, they pass the song back and forth between themselves. High keening question and low groan of answer vibrating through her until her heart ready to burst at the longing in the music. Low tones that reach impossible heights then drift off into near-silence. Haunting melody in an unknown tongue giving voice to a song as old as the stars.

The four of them rise together to breathe, the whales lifting themselves out of the water and crashing down again. Silver spray in the moonlight, and the wave nearly swamps them. Aang is grinning, and he catches her eye. There's something in his expression, some familiar intensity that she can't quite place. A quivering edge of uncertainty has risen within her. She has time for the vague outline of hesitation and then Aang takes her hands in his. He pulls her under, and they begin to dance as well.

Twisting slowly around the spinning whales, drifting over impossibly smooth skin. One vast blue eye regards her for a blink. She closes her eyes when she can't handle it anymore. Aang is a steady blur of silver, but all around her the water is blindingly bright with color. Brilliant blue spirals, twisting all around them and down into the blackness. Midnight blue darkness marks the massive shadows that are the star whales.

She is less and less aware of the compulsion to Bloodbend and increasingly aware of a new danger, equally forbidden, equally dark. It stirs her own blood to boiling point, brought on by the warmth of Aang's body beside her and the rough pressure of his hands over hers.

The pressure is gone, abruptly, and she blinks her eyes open in startlement to see Aang drifting away from her, mirroring the spinning dance of a whale. The other drifts behind her, stirring the currents that hold her steady.

Watching him, she names what she is feeling: desire. She wants to taste him. She wants his arms around her, wants to feel his breath over her skin, she wants his hands skimming over her body.

Her best friend opens his silver eyes and smiles at her. He holds out one hand, beckoning. And she is powerless.

The desire building inside her until she thinks she might explode with it, until it's beyond what she thought was her utmost tolerance. Aang's hands in her are burning and she can feel his wants almost as clearly as her own. Urgency rising within her, and when they surface for the final time, when the whales drift into the blackness and don't rise again, she pulls her hands away.

There is no breath inside her. No air, no lungs to draw air. There is only an all-consuming need. Her hands shake. She sets her teeth against each shuddering beat of her heart. She can't speak, she can't look at him.

She can feel the question rising in him, she can feel the blood altering its balance in his body. He is going to move over to her, probably take her hand, he's going to look her in the eyes and ask, Are you okay, Katara? He is going to get so close that she'll feel the warmth of his body in the water, and she can't handle any kind of nearness at this moment. There is a dangerous thrill of energy pulsing through her, rising in the light of the moon, an urgency that is so strong she can't even articulate it to herself. Primal and powerful, swelling in her body with every wave that rolls over her, with every beat of Aang's heart.

She turns back towards the beach and pushes herself like she never has before, exerting every amount of energy she has. She can feel his confusion as he trails behind her.

Katara could reach the shore in no time at all with bending. She doesn't even try it. At last, she is staggering up onto the beach, gasping for breath. She falls onto her knees, hands sinking into the sand, gripping tight. She squeezes her eyes shut and grits her teeth.

Her whole body is alive with wanting him, every nerve is crying out for his touch and it hurts. Too alive, too aware, raw and exposed and aching.

She manages to say, after a long while, "I guess that wasn't such a good idea after all."

Somewhere off to one side, Aang is lying prone on the sand. Exhausted. He hadn't used any bending either. "Guess not."

Fingers trembling. Body shaking. Not from lack of energy but from need. Every deliberate, conscious thought inside her warring with desire and instinct. Katara fights hard to steady her breathing, to slow her racing and uneven heartbeat. The jagged edge of her self-control is slipping through her grasp.

Hold it in. You DON'T want to do this to him.

"They were beautiful." The words drift up softly, scarcely more than a whisper. She turns her head to look at him.

His body is stretched out and the water shines like silver on his skin. Moonlight illuminates him, blue arrow tattoos that are dark against his paleness. His shorts are soaked and cling intimately to his body. Need clenches in her gut. It feels like starvation. It feels like drowning.

She forces herself to her feet and walks back into the water.

"Katara?"

"I'm—fine." Lying. Voice coming out oddly strangled.

Aang is at her side in an instant, all solicitous concern. His voice, a million years away, is asking something but all she is aware of are his hands, rough palms on her shoulders. Burning through skin to the bone beneath. She is shaking. She wants to reach up and cover his hands with her own and slide them over her body. She wants to lean forward and taste him.

Something in her expression, some measure of desperate intent finally registers and he yanks his hands away from her. And licks his lips. His voice is low and rough over her name.

More than she can take.

She slams him away from her, water rising up to snatch him away. She stumbles back onto the beach.

What now? Where to go, when every feral instinct in her body is driving her towards him?

He is quiet when he wades out of the water. There is a long silence, filled with the struggling sound of her breathing.

"Um—" He won't look at her. His face is aflame with color. "Your, uh, your chest—" Vaguely waving a hand. She looks down, uncomprehending. The lone strip of fabric has slipped aside, exposing her breasts. She looks back up at him. He's turned his back to her, but she still has his heartbeat. Racing. Faster now than ever.

Why fight this? You want him. He wants you. He's always wanted you.

Self-control snaps with a soft sigh from her parted lips. She wraps her arms around him from behind. A violent shiver runs through him. Katara presses an open-mouthed kiss on his shoulder and lingers to taste the salt on his skin.

"Please," she begs in a rough whisper. "Aang, please. I need you."

A wordless sound, almost a cry, and then he turns and his arms close hard around her and his mouth comes crashing down on hers. His taste is everything she'd always imagined. His hands are rough over her skin, touching and exploring in a heated rush. His palm slides over her breast and holds her, his thumb strokes over her nipple. She gasps in his mouth, and then closes her teeth over his bottom lip. His hands clench and a shiver rakes his frame.

He breaks away, pulling back a little and opening his mouth like he's going to say something. Breathing hard, eyes only half-open and a little wild. But she doesn't want any words, she doesn't want logical arguments or confessions of feeling. She wants his hands on her naked skin, she wants his mouth moving over her body.

"Katara, I—this is—"

Katara holds his face in her hands, fingertips skimming his cheeks and then she closes the distance between them and silences him. Her body on fire, liquid heat pooling in her belly, urgent and dark. His tongue slides over hers and she sucks on it. He shivers, moaning, and she presses her hips against the hard length of him.

There will be no consequences, no second thoughts, no hesitation, no uncertainty, no confusion. She wants him like she's never wanted anything in her life, needing him like she needs the air faltering in her lungs, like she needs the hot blood pulsing though her body.

This time she breaks the kiss, only to lower her mouth to Aang's throat. Tasting him, licking away the salt water, feeling his breath break and his heart stutter. A strangled groan that never quite makes it out of his throat, a rough sound more felt than heard.

The sound of surrender.

Aang's hands tighten, fingers digging into her hips. Helplessly, she arches into him, trailing her nails down the length of his spine. Plastered against him, drinking him in with kisses that are like drowning, hungry hands sliding over every inch of him she can reach. She wants to crawl inside his skin and beat with his heart. She wants him closer, she wants morethan this separation of flesh and blood will ever allow. His mouth moves over her neck, teeth scraping skin, and then he licks away the marks and sucks on the sensitive spot. Katara's nails clench in his shoulders and the breath comes fast and shallow out of her. Her heart is fluttering brokenly in her chest and he pushes her down into the sand and his body settles over hers, the heavy weight of him centered exactly where she wants him most.

A moment, a pause for breath. Gray eyes lock on blue, and she realizes he's just as lost in this as she is, and then rational thought burns away in the all-consuming need as he pins her arms together and uses his mouth on her.

Katara isn't aware of the words falling broken from her mouth, the helpless pleas for release. There is only the bright speck of the moon, suspended silver in the black sky above, and the heat of Aang pressing her into the sand. Lips and tongue and teeth skimming over her, hot and hungry, tasting and devouring as she squirms against him. She can't breathe, her whole body shakes, twisting and rubbing against him. He shifts to the side, and she meets his eyes, begging without words as he slides his hand over her belly, down her thigh, and slips a finger inside of her. Her breath hitches, her hips arching upwards to meet him. She slides her own hand down, guiding him, showing him how to touch her.

There should be shame, there should be embarrassment. At the very least, nervousness. No one has ever seen her naked, let alone touched her this way. There is only the tight, urgent need, only the half-articulated thought of how good, how right it feels to have his hands on her, rough palms gliding over smooth skin. The more he touches her the more she wants him, each stroke only serving to increase the heated need in her blood until she doesn't think she can stand it. Head thrown back, eyes wide and sightless, each panting, gasping breath loud in her ears, the thunder of her heart, and his eyes, focused on hers, so intent and dark. Her hand clenches on his thigh and she catches her lip in her teeth as she comes apart in his hands.

For a moment she can only stare up at him, every muscle in her body still wound tight. The release has shown her how deep this need really goes. The hunger inside of her, the desire to hold him closer than her own breath and feel his heartbeat rapid-fire against hers—the desire to see Aang come apart in passion the way he'd just seen her… She wants a thousand things that all begin here, with this union of flesh. A thousand things that are like the silver surface of the ocean, hiding unfathomable depth and darkness.

Kneeling before him, shaking, Katara holds his shoulders and straddles him. His hands tighten on her hips.

"I—I—Katara, are you sure this is—"

Never breaking eye contact, she reaches between them and holds the hard length of him. Aang shudders violently, and then Katara leans forward and lets her forehead rest against his while she positions him at her entrance. His breath falters, his hands clench, and she lowers herself onto him in one smooth motion. A little cry escapes her. Pierced to the core with foreign, hard heat, full in a way she has never imagined possible. It hurts, it burns, but it feels so good. Aang is trembling a little in her arms, his breath hitching in and out through parted lips. His eyes are closed, long lashes shadowed on his cheeks.

She pushes him back onto the sand, flattening her hands on his chest. The moonlight turns his eyes silver. She places his hands over her breasts, bracing her hands on him, and rocks her hips. Slowly, languishing in the way her body stretches to accommodate the length of him. Lowering herself all the way back down so that he is fully sheathed. Closing her eyes, increasing the pace, and there is nothing in the world but this slow build of pressure inside of her, nothing but Aang's hands on her body and his heartbeat thrumming through her; the hot, slick glide of their bodies moving together, until she throws her head back and the release bursts through her.

The pleasure fades just as fast as it had before, having taken off the jagged edge of hunger. She opens her eyes. Aang's hands are clenched on her waist and his mouth is a flat line, and every muscle in his body is tense. He hasn't let himself go.

Confusion, eyes narrow. Breath coming hard through her open mouth. "Aang? I don't under—"

He lifts her off of him, sliding all the way out. His heart is racing, his eyes are dark. He flattens her to the sand, lying over her, positioning himself between her legs and meeting her eyes. Dark and intent, he's wanted her for so long, satisfying a need that'd been building inside him since the first time he'd blinked up into those wide blue eyes.

He thrusts inside her with one twist of his hips, piercing her to the core. Like nothing that had ever come before, Katara realizes that they'd only scratched the surface. Opening up a pit of need inside of her that she had only glimpsed. Her voice breaks on his name, her hands trace the curve of his spine, her legs wrap around his hips. There is nothing but this, nothing in all the world but the overwhelming pressure, the heated pleasure building inside of her. The moon is gone, the whole world has faded into hot darkness and the slick glide of his body moving with hers. Unbearable, pulling tighter and tighter until she can't breathe, she can't see, she isn't aware of her nails dragging down his spine or her teeth meeting in his shoulder. There is only the explosion of release, every muscle in her body flooded with it.

Aang collapses on top of her. His heartbeat, the blood racing through his body—these things resonate through her own blood. Still wrapped around him, trembling a little, she opens her eyes. The moon is still a bright silver blur on the horizon, but on the other side of the world the darkness is fading to pale blue and pink. The sun is rising. She wants to say this, she wants to open her mouth and speak the words, but she can't coalesce her thoughts enough to command her body into action. Aang's body is warm on hers, he's still trying to catch his breath, and she wouldn't let him move even if he wanted to. He's still inside of her, and she tightens her legs around his waist. Trails one hand over his back in a gentle caress that draws a shiver from him.

As the crazed, compulsive urgency fades from her blood, she looks back at her own actions with shame and regret. He's her best friend, he was only trying to help, and she had taken advantage of him without a second thought. Pushing him beyond what either of them were ready for… Katara wants to think that the compulsions warring inside of her, Bloodbending and moonlight and hormonal urgency, are all to blame—she wants to think that she couldn't resist any longer, when the truth is that she hadn't wanted to. Now that the excuses are gone, now that the safety of darkness is fading with the sun, she strokes her fingers down the smooth skin of his back, she traces the scar tissue from the lightning strike, and she wonders what he's thinking. His heartbeat is slowing down, steadying, and his breathing has eased. He hasn't made any move at all, but she knows he's awake.

With her eyes closed, she gets lost in the steady pulse of blood through his body. The desire to reach out with her power and touch him is gone, but the awareness is stronger than ever. She could drown here in the warmth of his arms.

He shifts, stirring, and she loosens her hold just enough to meet his gaze.

"Hi," he says, and smiles at her. Her own mouth quirks in response.

"Hi."

The silence stretches between them, all the edges of how this could go, all the possibilities hanging in the air. And then he laughs a little, closes his eyes, and presses a gentle kiss to her forehead. Her nails clench on his back, but the uncertainty inside of her vanishes like it had never existed.

It is then she notices the mark on his shoulder where her teeth met in his skin. Blood welling up, smeared on pale skin. Katara meets his eyes, mouth parted although she has no idea what she's going to say.

"You bit me." Aang's tone is teasing and gentle, but there something deeper in his eyes that she can't quite put a name to.

"I…I guess…I got a little…distracted…"

This is part of her identity now, this monthly cycle of power that ebbs and flows with the tide. Bloodbender. He is her best friend and now they are tied together with this…complication, with this new level of intimacy and dependency that is all her fault. She'd lost control; she'd given up, drowning in desire. They'd drowned there together.

Katara is aware of Aang's eyes on her, but she's only looking at the bright smear of blood on his shoulder, the skin beneath dark with it, bruised. Something quivers uncertainly inside of her, dark intent stirring below the level of conscious thought. What was it that they used to say when they were kids…? Kiss it and make it better. Soft skin under her lips, a gentle kiss. And then, deliberately, she runs her tongue over the mark and licks away the blood.