Takes place after Mockingjay - before the epilogue. Just a little one-shot on how Peeta and Katniss' deal with the demons. Most likely just a one-shot. Unless you think I should continue?
Spoilers for Mockingjay!
Recovery and Relapse
It's strange how it happens.
But then again, there is little in this new life that isn't strange to me now.
That's the answer, according to my doctor. To Greasy Sae.
I hadn't heard from Haymitch in weeks. And when the front door opened after another day I spent sitting and staring at the wall, the ghosts of my past obscuring my view of the wall across the room, I expected that its Haymitch finally come to scold me, to tell me I have to move.
But it wasn't.
And since that day, I'd seen Peeta walking past my window, out and about, moving, working, doing. Unlike me, the dead survivor.
Some days I wish I had died. Slow and painfully, fast and clean – at this point, I've endured every manner of bodily torment and so I'm beyond caring how my death would come. Anything other than this endless torment, where the ghosts follow and suffocate me, always failed, always lost, always out of reach. And then the pain would end.
And right now the pain in my heart is beyond any physical pain I've ever felt. Some days, I can't see any other way to make it stop.
Something broke in me when he planted the roses for Prim.
For a second it was almost the boy with bread. Thinner and scarred, his blue eyes cloudy with pain and effort, his expression so close to the open, trusting Peeta that haunts my memories. Just another ghost.
But, even after I disposed of Snow's roses in my room and eventually came back down from the panic attack that had me scrubbing my too-sensitive skin raw in the effort to clean the memories away, he was still there.
Living, working, doing.
It was then I realized the difference. This ghost I could bring back.
After that, I started to try.
We both had bad days. Sometimes bad weeks. We created routines.
Peeta baked. Peeta painted. I wrote. We tended Prim's garden, now filled with every type of wildflower we could find in the Meadow.
The survivors, I called them.
I still couldn't hunt. But I wore my father's jacket like a talisman against the memories.
Sometimes it was enough.
It was strange the way it worked. Because no matter what we did, the routines, keeping busy, letting out the memories, honoring the dead – no matter what we did, the ghosts could never stay buried for long.
And even as we'd edge toward recovery, we'd inevitably fall. Relapse.
It was one such day when Peeta and I were working on Prim's garden. Peeta's blue eyes, blinking in the bright sun, held a gleam I hadn't seen in ages. Something in me stirred and that reaching feeling filled me again, that hunger for more.
He must have sensed it too, because as I leaned, sweaty and coated in dirt, toward him, a tiny smile curled his lips and he leaned in, too.
But, before our lips touched, a wasp – an ordinary, everyday wasp – buzzed angrily between us, startling us apart. I swiped at the annoying thing, feeling a disgruntled growl humming in my chest, before returning my gaze to Peeta.
I expected a grin, maybe an annoyed scowl.
Instead, I saw narrowed eyes with a suspicious, furious edge, and that face. The face of Not-Peeta. The face of mutt-Peeta.
His whole body shook with fear and rage, and he stood, slowly, taking a cautious step away from me, his eyes burning on my face. His fists shook in his anger and his face contorted in disgust. And pain.
"You," he said, his voice low and fierce. "You tried to kill me with trackerjackets in the arena," he paused, "You wanted me dead," his brow furrowing in pain despite the fierce look on his face. And the added, his eyes pleading, his voice breaking, "Real or not real?"
My heart, which had been pounding out of my chest, slowed. I let out a breath.
"Not real," I whispered, my eyes welling with tears.
Yes, he was damaged. Yes, he was tormented. But not gone. Not gone.
Peeta's face fell, and the shaking in his limbs intensified from the subtle shake of anger to the uncontrollable tremor of panic and pain. He fell to his knees, his forehead bowed to the dirt, his sobs wracking his chest.
Finally my body moved without the lead weight of my grief, my guilt. When I rose, unthinkingly, instinctually, and ran to wrap Peeta in my arms, for the first time in weeks, I felt light.
And as he sobbed and shook, for the first time in my life words didn't fall heavy-handed from my mouth. It was effortless and right and I whispered it over and over and over.
"I love you, Peeta," and "Peeta, I'm here."
It was strange how it happened. How the relapse periods would erupt out of nowhere.
How I'd be helping Peeta bake and then an image of Prim standing before the baker's cake display would throw me into a fit.
Or how an image or a touch could throw Peeta into a two-day panic with memories of torture.
Sometimes he would let me hold him. Sometimes he would lock himself in his room and forbid me to come near him. And it broke my heart, until the time he managed to scream as he did so, "For your own protection!"
But even then, I'd sat outside his door.
Saying what I should have said from the first moment of his rescue.
Sometimes, after, he'd tell me about the nightmares, about the memories. The ghosts that wouldn't die. He was reluctant. But it seemed to help him. And even though it fueled my own nightmares, somehow finally knowing what he'd been through felt like a relief.
It's strange how it happens. But after a while, we noticed that, when baking and painting and gardening didn't help – helping each other always did.
So our lives continued in a strange pattern of recovery and relapse.
But never at the same time.
Somehow whenever I fell, Peeta found the strength to pull me back up. To hold me, comfort me. To chase the ghosts away. And whenever they claimed him, somehow I always had the strength to save him.
It was like the Quarter Quell all over again.
Only now we fought on the same side.
For as I saved him, he saved me – and somehow we both survived.