Note: These past couple of months have been getting me back into my old Animorphs phase.

Gosh, I loved these books so much as a young teen. Now, I've been introducing them to my little brother and we're reading through the series together.

This story is written for him. Rachel is his favorite character- followed by Ax and Tobias- (Coincidentally, Rachel and Tobias are my two favorites as well.) and I promised him a Rachel lives story. He was about as upset as I was by Rachel's death, which is to say a lot.

While I've come to appreciate some parts of Animorphs' ending (excluding The One and all that... nonsense), I do somewhat resent Rachel's death since a lot of people seem to think that was the only possible outcome for her character and I'm also just... so fascinated by the idea post-war Rachel and my own headcanons for her.

She's one of my favorite characters, period, and I think she deserves the chance to grow post-war.

Characters: Heavy focus on Rachel and Tobias, but will include the other Animorphs. Loren. Likely some mention of Elfangor.

Relationships: Canon pairings, so Rachel/Tobias. Not sure if this will mean Cassie/Ronnie or Cassie/Jake. Maybe both. I like Cassie/Jake better, obviously. But I don't want to completely ignore Ronnie's existence.

Warnings: PTSD, anxiety, depression and self-destructive behaviours.

Rachel takes to running at night.

There's a certain thrill that comes with courting danger. With putting your life on the line.

She hasn't forgotten that the Yeerks were never the only threat on good old planet Earth. No. Humans were pretty good at being dangerous themselves.

Even if the most she's going to come across on her nightly excursions is your average thug.

It's not the same as going toe to toe with a Hork-Bajir.

Nothing is ever going to be the same as going toe to toe with a Hork-Bajir.

But who knows? Maybe he'll even have a gun.

It scares her, but sometimes she misses the rush that came with battle.

Sometimes she feels that grizzly just beneath the surface. All she has to do is let it out…

It would be so easy. Good old grizzly. Her old friend.

It hasn't let her down yet.

It would be so easy…

Maybe if she's lucky, some punk will be stupid enough to mess with her. She's sure that after dark she looks like any other helpless blonde.

Better her than some other woman.

Rachel shakes off the thought and pushes herself harder. As if she could possibly outrun her thoughts instead of carrying them with her.

The war is over.

They won.

Not without consequences.

Tom is dead and by her own hands. She killed her own cousin.

By all rights, she should be dead.

She's not, if that much isn't obvious by now.

Killing her cousin was going to be the mission where she died.

If there's an olympics for how messed up a person can get, she thinks she might be the winner of the gold medal.

Or she and Jake might be tied for first place.

It's hard to tell.

Tom is dead by his orders.

"I don't have a way to get you out."

Jake's words. Telling her that she was on her own.

She'd accepted it.

On her own? Fine. She could do that. She liked it that way.

She had been prepared to go out fighting the Yeerks. She had welcomed it. Better her than any other one of them.

There wasn't a life for her outside the war.

Rachel stops, breathing hard. Sweat beads on her forehead and trickles down her

A noise bubbles up in her throat, emerging somewhere between a bitter laugh and a choked sob.

She stumbles, wrapping her arms around herself and doubles over. Her nails bite into the flesh of her arms. Nothing more than tiny pinpricks of pain in the back of her mind.

Blood on her claws, matting her fur. Some of it hers, but most of it not.

Blood in her mouth, coating her teeth.

She can still taste it.

The cries of the wounded mingling with the bear's own howls of pain as a Dracon beam burns a hole in its flank.

Those are sounds that she'll never forget. No matter how much she wants to.

Is that what she misses?

Again, the grizzly stirs. She can feel its power simmering just beneath the surface.

All she has to do is call it forth and it will protect her.

Rachel drops to her knees in the dirt. Tears are streaming down her cheeks. When did she start crying?

She never cries. Never.

She can't stop.