Every time. Without fail.
Morning. Afternoon. Evening. Night. Every time.
He never screams. Never thrashes. Never in tears.
He wakes up paralyzed. Frozen from the tip of the toes on the only foot he has left, to the top of his head. Hands barely able to even clench. His entire body is no longer his own. His lungs burn as he forces himself to do the only thing he can until it will end -- breathe.
The nightmare doesn't stop when he opens his eyes.
Because it's not his imagination. It's his memories.
Sometimes he remembers it exactly as it was. Sometimes it turns inside out, inflates even worse. The blood bath, trackerjack venom, screams, canon bursts, the lack of food and water, the lightening terror behind every plan. Knowing you would die, only not when or how.
Almost dying. Wanting to die. Telling her to kill him.
Except she saved him. In the cave. At the horn.
He shouldn't begrudge her. Katniss Everdeen.
That she found a way to manipulate the Hunger Games that wasn't ruthless murder. Lying should be a lesser crime. Especially against murdering or taking part in the plot of murdering two dozen other children. Peeta is guilty of both of those.
He shouldn't. But he does.
Begrudge her. Hate her.
He never lied about that. About any of that. How he'd felt, for how long. He planned with Haymitch to hand it over in the interviews to give her a better chance at survival. He hadn't minded that, when he was going to make sure she lived before he died.
But they're both alive. They've both killed. Both survived.
He refused to lie, to be used by Capital, pervert himself.
Instead Katniss did them to him, for him.
Used him. Lied to him. Let him believe.
Saved his life.
He gets up, forgetting and remembering that he's still learning to walk, to bake loaves of bread, in the middle of the night. In this house that is not his home, away from the family that never expected him to live. Empty and still and quiet. A single candle flickering in the darkness. No electric lights.
Making himself remember their faces.
One by one. In the high sun. Splattered with blood. Clutching weapons. Swallowing food. Watching the smallest movement of every teammate. Against fire light. Rage and desperation. The elusive calm of their features in sleep. The pallor of death. He's saves her for last. And first. And every other thought.
The thick, rich yeasty smell that clogs up his nose, that feels like the only comfort he knows because it is the only constant he's ever had. Sitting on the kitchen floor, staring at the first bright white painting canvas that had been brought to his house, as he tried to remember.
That he is alive. To be bitter. To hate. To love.
To remember. To bake bread, and wish he'd died.
Twenty-two other people weren't this lucky.