It was too much today. Too many flashing lights and too much rain slapping the roof with a vengeance. The storm raging outside was shaking his bones. It hadn't been many months since his return to District 12 – the great Dr Aurelius claimed he had made excellent progress and pushed for him to return. Peeta knew he only wanted to move on to the paying customers – customers bent on erasing the Capitol version of the war from their minds. His return was harder than he expected, prompting fresh memories that were a mixture of real and shiny and that pulled him backwards in his recovery. He was relapsing and there was no Doctor and no family and no her to save him this time.
He tried not to be bitter. And he tried very desperately to stay away from her.
But today it was just all too much as he sat on his torn couch in his desolate Victor's House in the remains of what was once his home. Watching the rain pound the ground outside, Peeta clung to himself hoping his next hijacking would come sooner rather than later. At least in the dark of a storm he could mask the rage and the damage and the screams. Well, at least he could try. His walnut bedposts would never reassemble themselves after he shattered them.
The last time his mind had let loose, she had been at the window, watching through the pane of glass and gripping the sill with white knuckles. She hadn't entered the house to save him. And he hadn't been conscious enough to notice. It was only after, as the headache pulsed through his skull that he'd seen her slink away, shoulders tense. He knew she wouldn't come back – she was just as damaged as him.
Later, as he held himself tight in front of a dying fire he never noticed he'd built, Sae came with a bowl of game stew. She sat on the couch and watched him for a while, silence enveloping them. Peeta couldn't tell what she had been waiting for and didn't want to give in to whatever it was. He was tired of the silent manipulation everyone used against him. He was no longer playing their games. Soon after, Peeta heard the rustle of fabric, felt the warmth of a blanket over his shoulders, and realized Sae had left. He was alone again, the bowl of stew cool next to his head. Slowly he reached for it, his muscles aching from the stress of being clenched tight for hours, and sipped its broth. The squirrel meat reminded him of a warm stove and the smell of fresh bread. His legs curled back into his chest and he slipped into darkness as the tears stained his cheeks.
Peeta's mind clicked back to the present, the fleeting memory dissipating and leaving him overly conscious of his now and the storm creaking outside. He lifted himself to his feet, prodding slowly into the kitchen and opening the glow of the fridge to illuminate the room as he scavenged for anything to fill his stomach. He knew once the 'jack hit that he could be gone for hours, or days. He never really knew how much time he lost without someone to monitor. He would argue though that at least he could feel the darkness coating his mind like the black tar from the Capitol street he knew to be real. The same tar that had almost made him kill her last time. He grabbed some cool cheese and the loaf of grainy bread from the counter and sat to eat a few slices.
His thoughts returned to that street and he knew without panic that it was going to be a bad one and that she would be the feature again. His insides clenched tight at how much he hated hating her. He was tired of it. He just wanted her to be there and for him to be right and for them to have never gone into the Arena. He wanted to go back in time to a dingy coal-coated school building with small desks and her braid hanging lightly on her shoulders and her olive skin brightened by her grey eyes. He finished his second slice and gripped the table's edge as the thunder rolled.
It hit like it always did, a brick to the temples and a flash of rage, bleaching his cheeks of colour and making his adrenaline pump. His heart stuttered with the rush of chemicals as he rose, steady and limping, to the porch door where he looked out. The storm was lashing the windows of Haymitch's poorly painted shutters but Peeta didn't see it. Instead his mind focused on the Capitol street where he tossed Mitchell into his death. She was there, egging him on, cuddling up with him, with Gale, laughing with sharp teeth and muttation traits. She wasn't human. She wasn't even his anymore. Ever.
Peeta twisted on his feet and reached for the chair he had risen from, gripping its back and bringing it down on the window, on his reflection. The shatter rang out above the noise of the storm and he yelled out his breath. The rage barrelled through him as he reached and uprooted the table knocking it into the stove gate. He began to pace the now open kitchen floor, shoving various knick knacks his mother had brought to the floor with a shattering crash. His feet were bare as he quickened his pace in the glass. If there was recognition of the blood streaks forming it didn't show.
Once the destruction of the kitchen was complete, his mind propelled him into the dark of the front room where his makeshift couch-bed was waiting. He grabbed at the already existing tear that ran from the leg to the shoulder and pulled. Fluff and fabric rained around him as his mind flashed with images of birds being pulled apart and feathers coating the room. His mind never saw what was real as the black coated tar slithered through.
It was hours before he felt her presence watching from the doorway. Somehow still deep within the black he had felt he wasn't alone. His blood boiled and his mind seized another vicious and shiny memory. He hadn't moved from the front room, instead choosing to rip tiles from the mantle place as he bloodied his fingers.
"Peeta?" The voice was unsure and hesitant as it penetrated the black. He turned and the menace in his too-wide pupils caused her to falter and step back. He stepped forward. There was no washing of the tar from his mind yet. He was still smothered by its thickness.
"You need to leave," he rasped. He must have been yelling for his voice to be so ragged. She shook her head and replied "I can't".
A moment passed as his fingers flexed in and out of fists. His mind was racing with bright and shiny memories, every so often stunted by a dull memory of a warm embrace or a chaste kiss. He didn't know which was real. It stuttered on a shiny scenario of limbs and sharp teeth that bit his skin, the thought violent and terrifying. In his rage he stepped forward again and she reached out with her hands not to grab but to halt. He lifted one hand and grabbed both of hers in his and then pulled her towards him. She tumbled and tripped over her feet and fell into his chest roughly, her hair and shirt soaking through his shirt and dripping on his floor from the rain. He forced his lips down to hers roughly and pushed them against the wall. Her wrists tried to force his release and she struggled to step back. She was strong enough to force it, if necessary, but her heart wasn't in it. Some reason had propelled her into his darkness and he knew she was just as destroyed as him. He lifted her hands over her head and adjusted to holding each hand in one of his own. Peeta's mind was still replaying shiny thoughts as he gripped tighter, fresh bruises undoubtedly springing forth on her forearms. She whimpered under his pressure and it was like his mind split in two.
Inside it was as though he was watching two camera scenes play out – a shiny memory of her ripping his hair out and scratching for his eyes and the second of himself violently forcing himself on her, his body reacting to the contact of hers. His consciousness hated himself but he couldn't find the control to clear the black away. His body was winning, tearing at her shirt sleeves and flipping her face-first against the paint. He bit her neck in return and pushed his clothed self against her from behind; his insides recoiled as she sobbed once, her hands still strung up above her in his grip. She'd given up the fight and was letting him do this to her – where was her fight? Where was his Katniss? He didn't understand. He didn't understand why he couldn't stop hurting her.
And then he was in a corner having propelled himself there in a moment of light in the black. He vomited up his bread and cheese into a pile of sick as she curled up across the room, her shirt half-hanging off her shoulder. His fingers clutched, bloody and sore, around his knees as his mind began to clear. He needed to leave; he needed to help. He was torn and knew he had no recourse to help her now. He had done this. He had broken her.
Crawling to his ripped feet he pushed out the back door and sprinted the few hundred yards to Haymitch's porch as the rain pounded on his shoulders. Peeta didn't wait to knock and he tore through the door and into the foul kitchen where Haymitch was unconscious on his table. Peeta screamed and cried and babbled nonsense until Haymitch stuttered awake and sobered into awareness. With one quick look at the blood and mess on and around him, Haymitch was out the door.
Peeta watched from afar as Haymitch hesitated on Peeta's porch, examining the broken glass and bloody kitchen as he slowly entered. And then Peeta was gone, running through the Village, running for the fence. He couldn't face what he'd done. He'd rather die. And so he made into the woods, tearing through the branches his shirt whipping in the rain and catching on the tree. His lopsided step tripped him up on a rock and he tumbled down and down and down until he went dark.