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At Least Taste the Fruit

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Stiles is seven and people tell him he has his mother’s cheekbones. High and proud.

And he smiles often, tilting his head to emphasize his cheekbones. He’s got his father’s jaw and his father’s nose and his father’s face but he’s got his mother’s cheekbones.

It’s nice until it isn’t. It’s nice until she gets sick and then the skin clings to those cheekbones.

Stiles starts ducking his head so that they aren’t so high and proud.

Stiles wants to break his cheekbones when he goes to the funeral, wants to have his mother and not just her cheekbones.

He lets himself stuff his cheeks full of hamburger helper and fried chicken and all the food the mourners feel fit to give them. When that’s gone, he makes food to fill his stomach, large meals that are simply done. His tummy goes soft and his arms get flab and his cheeks round out. No one can see his cheekbones anymore.

The ruddy cheeks gather acne over the skin, making him want to scratch and pick and put pit-pockets in his skin. He doesn’t though.

He’s ten and his father is looking at him over a shot of whiskey. His breath smells of defeat, and he’s sighing, so sadly, saying, “You have so much of your mother in you. It’s all that’s left of her.” And he cries, cries into the shot glass, cries like Stiles may be taken too.

It slots into place then. His mother isn’t coming back and Stiles hates her for it, hates himself for it. He learns how to tell his father no. He takes the whiskey away from him, and he starts planning better meals.

Stiles looks in the mirror and sees his mother’s skin. He sees her eyes. If he would let himself, he would probably see her slim, bony fingers instead of the stubby, chubby ones he owned. He could get the cheekbones to poke out from his skin.

He could salvage what little he had of his mother. He eats less.
--
Most days look the same. He wakes up, and grabs a cup of coffee. He doesn’t put in sugar, he doesn’t put in cream. His father shuffles into the kitchen, either just getting off his shift or going onto shift. He makes toast. Stiles doesn’t eat it.

He moves slowly, making sure not to overdo himself. He doesn’t breathe heavy in front of his dad. He drinks two bottles of water before leaving the house.

He goes to school, and he says that hunger is just a feeling. Just like the flutter he felt in his heart for Lydia Martin was just a feeling.

Lunch comes around and he drinks a bottle of water slowly and eats an apple. Sometimes Scott will shove some curly fries at him and he’ll eat them. Sometimes he doesn’t even eat the apple.

He’ll be late to the next class, knees bent on the bathroom floor, giving up what little he had taken. Stiles catches sight of his thin fingers and stares at them, wondering why they were so large. He wondered if he could make bone smaller, make himself smaller.

The taste of acid makes him feel like he is in control. That he has control here.

Dinner is some celery when his father isn’t home. It’s a meal if he is, which means another trip to the bathroom. Stiles could tuck his fingers up his ribs, push and feel a little meat slide across his bones. Bile tastes better than the potatoes anyway.

The weekend ends up with him usually eating the same thing, more or less. He always avoids looking at it, not thinking as he chewed it. He doesn’t want to think about the crunch, crunch, calorie.

Water is so sweet, filling his stomach on nothing.

The sockets around his eyes hollow out. Stiles thought it made a wonderful outline to his cheekbones.

He refuses to notice the sideways looks his father began to give him.

Scott invites him out more, always out to eat or hang and then eat. Stiles always shoves it down, smiling and joking with Scott while he feels himself curl up. He catches Scott outside the bathroom once, after he had purged himself. Stiles says he isn’t feeling well, that he needs to go home.

He jokes that the Chinese take out was bad.

He runs the sink from then on out.

Stiles feels tired all the time. He puts a blanket over his mirror in his room, because he sees that he is still too large. The second growth spurt grows his bones, grows his width.

He wishes he could remove his shoulder blades.

His father asks if he’s sick, and Stiles says yes. He doesn’t go to school for a week, and when his dad is home he brings him soup. Sometimes Stiles has the energy to take a few sips and smile weakly at him. Sometimes he has the strength to stand and walk to the bathroom, pouring it out to make it look like he finished it. Sometimes he doesn’t.

The craving fades away, finally.
--
He feels so thin on the hospital bed. Is this how great it feels? Because Stiles doesn’t feel great. He looks at his father, who sits slumped in the chair next to him, and feels guilt. If he was better, if he wasn’t so massive with all of his problems, they wouldn’t be here.

An apple sits on the table in front of him. His father urges him to eat it. He did it every day, a few months ago, but now his throat closes up.

He bites into and all he tastes is the sharp tang of the acid in his stomach.

Scott comes by, usually when Melissa’s not there. Melissa is his nurse, though. But he thinks that Scott blames himself for whatever is wrong, and that Melissa does a little too. He doesn’t see a problem.

They put him on a tube. It’s giving him nourishment, they say. It’s pumping him fat, he thinks. He wants to tear it out of his arm.

A doctor tells him, in a clinical voice, that he suffers from anorexia. Some distance part of his mind says it makes sense. It doesn’t make looking at the apple any easier though, doesn’t make him any more inclined to eat it.

His father cries a lot. Stiles keeps his eyes closed during most of it, sometimes feeling too tired to lift his hand. Sometimes he cries too, cries in a panic, because he can feel his body growing plump. He can feel his mother slipping away.

A man comes in, to talk to him. He has kind eyes, but shaky hands. He is young, and he probably hasn’t seen many Stiles. “You crave a perfection, Stiles?”

And Stiles thinks, cravings are empty. They aren’t anything to me.

He says, “You have a hunger. You want to fill a need in your life.”

And Stiles thinks that hunger is just a feeling. It will fade.

Finally, he asks, “Why won’t you eat?”

And Stiles smiles, bitterly. I can’t.
--
His father gives him a pamphlet. He has a resolution that Stiles hasn’t seen in him since he took the whiskey away and told him he needed to get a hold of himself.

The pamphlet is for rehab. Stiles blinks. Slowly. Reads the words that stick in his brain. Supportive help. Comforting seclusion. Hale.

Stiles is leaving the hospital, a prison of tubes, for a different prison.

Chapter Text

He spends a few weeks longer in the hospital, just until he can stand. During it, the doctors encourage him to eat. He tries to persuade his dad to change his mind.

Nothing changes though.

Stiles doesn’t like mirrors, but he stares into the bathroom one at the hospital. The tube sticks into his arm, edging just on what he could see in his reflection. He imagines his cheeks are chubby again and he doesn’t want to vomit up nothing, but he does.

His bathroom time is monitored, and he is sure his father has called the place. The “rehab.”

Stiles learns how to sit up in the bed on his own, how long he can stand before being dizzy, how many feet he can walk. His knees knock together, the bone causing them to touch. He hates it.

His father takes him away when he can walk from his bed to the end of the hall. He thinks it’s good proof that he is letting them do what they want.

He could get better without going away, he tells himself. But the tube is still there and he still presses under his ribs for comfort. His father doesn’t believe or trust him anymore.

The drive isn’t too long. His father stops for fast food, buying Stiles french fries. The smell of the oil makes his stomach uneasy, so he spends the rest of the ride with his face pressed against the window. His father stares at him, waiting for Stiles to eat them.

The fact that there are eyes on him suffocates him.

Stiles presses his wrist bones with his fingers, reminding himself that he is getting bird wrists and slim fingers and high cheekbones. His mouth is dry.

The rehab center lays in the middle of preserve, the drive in showing sprawling trees of fruit waving in the breeze. Stiles looks on blankly, wondering what will happen here.

His father tells him to call him when he can. He says he will. He tells Stiles that this is for the better. Stiles nods, not believing it. He tells him he just wants his son back. Stiles flinches.

Stiles just wanted to keep his mother alive in his bones.

When they get out of the car, Stiles leans against the hood and looks at the big house. It’s white, with a sprawling porch. It makes him think of the old movies his mother would watch with him. He lets his dad get his duffel bag, just enough clothes for a month, because they fear he will break if he tries to lift anything.

He drops his gaze to his arms, skin tight against the bones. The bones make the rest of him look small. They’re so big. Maybe he is too weak to carry the bags.

They walk to the front of the house, where a tall woman with dark hair waits. She smiles, her eyes never flitting nervously to see if Stiles is going to be okay. She doesn’t hold a tightness around her eyes while looking into his. She knows him, it already feels like.

She says her name is Talia. Stiles nods listlessly. She tells him everyone else is having dinner and he blinks up at her. Did people like him eat here? His mouth watered for a second, an old reaction, before his stomach felt like heaving.

Stiles schooled his expression, but he thinks she still saw it on his face. She takes the bag gently from his dad, and suddenly he’s wrapped up in his dad’s strong arms. He tells him that he will miss Stiles. Stiles agrees.

He follows Talia after watching his father pull away. She hands off his bags to a younger man, strong with muscle and an unhappy look present on his face. Stiles idly thinks he’d be pretty if he smiled.

He wonders where he will take his bags. Perhaps he will share a room with someone.

They go into a kitchen room, with a table sprawled out in the far wall. Stiles stutters to a stop, staring at the sight before him.

Some of them are so much thinner than he is. It hurts his stomach to look at.

Talia gently ushers him forward, as if he wanted to have a seat. There is fruit and meat and sauce that lay out on the table. He sits across a girl in a wheelchair, her blonde hair hanging loosely in front of her dead eyes.

He doesn’t want to look at her, but he does. She scares him.

Next to her sits a boy, with hollowed out cheeks and defined collarbones and wrists. He eats a bite, closing his eyes as he does so, when Stiles sits. He almost wants to ask why he screws his eyes shut, but he feels like he knows.

The girl next to him seems to have no problem eating, a little meat on the inside of her arm. Stiles watches as she eats a whole orange. He wonders why she is here, if she can now eat.

The girl eats nothing, sitting there, breathing shallowly. The boy with the messy curls and collarbones turns to them after a moment of quiet, after a moment to allow Talia to leave them. He asks who Stiles is. Stiles tells him.

His name turns out to be Isaac. He introduces the girl before them as Erica, and the girl next to Stiles chimes in as Heather. She smiles a small smile, juice on her lips. There are two others sitting, but neither speak.

Stiles looks at the meat, and the idea of the oil resting in his stomach, turning into fat and acne stop him from picking up a slice. He doesn’t want it either way. But he is sure he must take something.

He hesitantly reaches for some offered slices of apple, setting them gingerly on the plate. He stares at them.

Isaac is urging Erica to eat something. He reminds her of the hospital, he reminds her of her life, all in fever-hushed tones. Stiles keeps his eyes on his apple slices, feeling his throat close up.

He can feel the bones of his thighs if he presses his hands down.

Isaac manages to get Erica to eat a single slice of an orange, and she cries as she does so. Stiles can see her wanting to spit it out, the minutes it took for her to force herself to swallow. She keeps her eyes closed as well.

Stiles feels bad for watching her eat. She cries so hard that a dark, burly man, with a tag called “Boyd” comes to remove her.

The rest watch on as if it is nothing new, except Isaac seems a little sadder. His shoulders stoop low, and he sighs long and hard. Stiles wonders if he could force himself to eat if he would be here for less time.

He wonders if he can pretend, can compromise just enough, that he could go home.

Isaac picks up another piece of apple, shutting his eyes tight before putting in his mouth. Stiles wants to follow suit, but something keeps his hands chained to his lap and his jaw wired shut.

Chapter Text

Stiles is let go after drinking three glasses of water. Boyd returns, and watches him quietly. He doesn’t feel intrusive, but Stiles can’t seem to block out the fact that people are watching him bury his mother’s memory under food.

He gets taken to a room. He supposes it is his room, with a walking space and a twin bed and calming blue walls. There’s a waste bin, with no trash bag. He guesses that some people could try to hide their upheavals under wads of forgotten words.

He unpacks his duffel slowly. Six plaid shirts. Thirteen t-shirts. Four pair of pants. He hangs them in the closet wordlessly.

Sighing, Stiles thinks of home. He thinks of his father.

He wonders if he’s eating healthy. If he would have been more careful, more aware, would he be skipping dinner at home tonight?

There’s a small book case, three rows of books neatly on the shelves. It’s a good few classics, marking the room as more than just a temporary home.

This is Talia’s home.

He’s looking at the dog-eared Frankenstein, when there is a quick rapping at his door. Stiles shuts it quickly, stuffing it back where it needs to be. He wonders why they bother with the illusion of privacy.

The door swings open to a man that looks like Talia...and not. The facial structure is the same, but whereas Talia is tall for women, he is average. He has lighter hair and eyes, which crinkle from a grin around his goatee.

“Are you the new kid?” He asks, voice deep with intrigue. “You know, most of the time the kids take a week before sitting at the table.”

Stiles blinks at him, really hearing his words. He tells him that most of the time the kids aren’t the Sheriff’s son. He doesn’t understand why it’s funny, but the man laughs. Stiles looks down, thumb slipping between each digit to feel the bone. He calms. He shuts off.

The man tells him, distantly, that his name is Peter. Stiles nods. He tells him that he is sent by his sister to get Stiles to group.

Stiles follows, without really speaking back. Peter’s smile disappears shortly after, replaced by worried curiosity. Stiles sees it for a moment, before avoiding it. He doesn’t need to see that look again.

The group has Isaac and Heather in it. It’s small. Personal.

The only other person is a girl that could be a younger twin of Talia. Stiles thinks she is probably her daughter, and when she introduces herself as Laura, Stiles nods.

She tells the other two to introduce themselves, even as Heather butts in to say they already did. Laura gently presses for them to tell him about what brought them here.

Heather has no problem, saying that she hated mirrors and she hated how her hips held fat no matter how many lunges she did. She talks about how she would eat, and then purge - using that word draws something deep and vicious in Stiles - and then eat again. Until she finally was able to stop eating. Her mom brought her here, hoping that she could learn to love her own body again, and heal her mind.

She ends by confidently saying that she believes everyone here can achieve those goals. Laura nods encouragingly, reaching out a hand to touch Heather.

Stiles numbly thinks that he doesn’t hate his body. He doesn’t mind it at all, because it can be a testament for something that once was. He’s very smart, his mind isn’t broken. He just nods though.

Isaac shifts uncomfortably, taking a little more time with his response than Heather. He stutters out that his father wasn’t a nice man, that he would sometimes withhold food from him as punishment. When he was put into the foster care system, he was adopted but his parents fought all the time so he stopped eating. He said he didn’t feel like he should get that reward.

He shifts uncomfortably as Laura purses her lips and scribbles down some things. He won’t look at anyone.

Finally, Laura turns her face to him. Why is Stiles here?

Because of his dad, he says. Laura frowns.

No, she insists, why won’t Stiles eat?

And his throat feels tight, and he shrugs, because he doesn’t hate his body. No one is punishing him. He doesn’t eat because he can’t. He doesn’t hate food.

He doesn’t hate food. He hates what it brings.

So he shrugs, and says to ask his father. Laura seems to be taken aback, hands curling tightly over her clip board. Stiles trains his eyes on it so he won’t look at her. He won’t answer the question again.

She stumbles for a second, before telling Stiles that it can be rough for everyone. She’s sure that he will warm up and understand that they aren’t out to hurt him.

He’s sure that he could make himself fake it.

The session is over fairly quickly after that, with Heather answering everything in optimistic tones and Isaac nodding. Stiles keeps his hands folded over his chest, wrists digging into his ribs, while struggling to keep his breathing normal.

Peter waits near his room again, holding a book in his hands. He looks up, smirking again, when Stiles comes close. Stiles looks at him warily. He tells Stiles that he heard Laura saying his first session didn’t go well.

Stiles stands still, wondering if his sessions could hold back his ability to get home. To get away.

Peter says that he doesn’t host a group because he thinks that it’s a load of shit. And Stiles blinks at him slowly, because he’s sure that this man shouldn’t be allowed to say that. Peter grins delightedly at Stiles’ expression.

He continues on saying that if the people that need help want help, they will speak out themselves. He lifts a shoulder slightly, admitting that he thinks that rushing it by forced interaction is making responses and everything much less genuine. Like someone could fake their way through recovery, by saying all the right things.

A significant look is thrown Stiles’ way.

He lifts up the book in his hands and Stiles notices that it is the Frankenstein he had picked up. “I think it’s strange you picked up this book. It’s all about a scientist dedicated in becoming god, and a man made of other men, with the best of parts.” He pauses, making sure Stiles is really listening. “Do you think that no one will see your parts if you eat?” He muses.

The book is held out for Stiles, who takes it dumbly. “Thank you.” He isn’t sure what to say. He slips past Peter, back into the room.

Chapter Text

He wakes up at nine. No one is there to shake him awake, to tell him there are things that need to be done. There is just a knock on the door, shaking him from slumber. What if he didn’t get up?

Stiles almost steps on the tray waiting for him. It’s a clear cup of pills and a lidded, large white Styrofoam cup. He pulls it inside gingerly, wondering if he could get away with tossing the pills. They’re probably supplements.

There’s juice in the cup. It’s startles him into spitting out the flavor.

It’s a way to eat without chewing. But Stiles didn’t need to chew to feel like he was gaining weight. He drinks half of it.

The pills go down with it. He isn’t sure he’ll keep it all down. He feels bloated, like his stomach is too small. Stiles wishes his stomach was nothing.

Down stairs there’s Isaac, Heather, the younger, scowling man, Boyd, and Peter. Peter seems out of place, lingering on the edge of the group. He notices Stiles looking at him, really looking at him, and sends a grin his way.

Stiles drops his eyes.

Boyd tells him gently that they go for a walk in the morning. He says they waited until Stiles came down to see if he wanted to go. Stiles asks if he has to.

Boyd shrugs, admitting he either had to mediate with the other group or go walking. Stiles wonders if he’d like mediating. He wonders if laying on the mat and breathing deeply until he slipped away from the world would count.

He decides to go walking.

Boyd and the man take the rear, trailing behind everyone with respective silence. Stiles trods on, ahead enough so they won’t start conversation, slow enough that he won’t need to sit down within ten minutes. It’s closer to twenty at the pace he is going.

Heather and Isaac are ahead, brisk walk in their step, hopefulness on their face. Do they want to get bigger? Don’t they already feel so big, so in the way? Is he the only one that feels like his body is too big for the body he needs?

Peter strolls next to him.

He says the weather is lovely. Stiles nods. He says that the sunrise here is nice to see. Stiles nods. He suggest Stiles try to rise earlier. Stiles nods.

“Do you miss home?” Peter asks, without even looking at him.

Stiles wants to startle to a stop, but his body stays in motion. The force of his words is not enough to stop his body. “Yeah.” He says softly. He has spoken often here, but this is the first time he feels like he is talking. “I hope my dad is okay.”

“I’m sure he shares the sentiment.” Peter agrees. He lulls into a quiet, and they pass by a meadow of apple trees.

They remind Stiles of a time when he felt like he had control. He feels as if all control is gone from him now.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to starve away, but it’s not going to work. It’s never going to work, Stiles.” Peter judges his response, but Stiles, Stiles had heard something similar before. He doesn’t stumble, just blinks at Peter.

He isn’t trying to starve anything away.

“Then what are you doing?” Stiles isn’t aware he spoke out loud.

Stiles says he doesn’t know. But they both know he is lying. Peter sighs, tipping his head thoughtfully before turning around and heading towards the house. No one follows him.

Stiles looks behind him and he feels like he did something he shouldn’t have.

He misses the easy way Peter would talk to him for the rest of the walk. Peter doesn’t act as if he is some fragile, startled thing. He treats Stiles as human. It’s nice.

They head back towards the house when the sun is high and Stiles has had to stop three times. The breeze sways the trees around them gently, the dirt path well-worn beneath their feet. Stiles feels like going into the house and apologizing.

It takes two more stops before they return to the house. Only Heather complains, but Stiles figures that she isn’t exactly the brightest.

Peter is in the living room with a cup of tea when they return. He holds a novel in his hand, seeming to have no care in the world. The rest file towards the kitchen for lunch, but Stiles will go in a minute.

He sits down, fidgeting on the seat he has chosen. He opens his mouth and closes it again. He’s aware, aware of everything for the first time since the hospital.

“Peter.” Stiles starts off gently.

“How was your walk?” Peter asks, cutting him off. He tells Peter the rest was good. Peter nods to himself. “I noticed that you didn’t really talk to anyone of your own free will. Do you have a lot of friends at home?”

Stiles starts talking on Scott, because he misses his best friend. He talks about how they met in second grade, how they both really loved each other, how Scott felt like Stiles going away was his fault.

“Going away?” Peter prods gently. It should feel like he was trying to do therapy on Stiles, but it doesn’t. He seems actually curious.

“Coming here. For my,” Stiles wrinkles his nose. “Problem.”

“Stiles, if someone is sick, say with pneumonia, and it’s so bad they can’t do anything anymore, isn’t it a problem? Don’t they go to the doctor?” Peter reasons. “Just because the issue starts in the mind doesn’t make it any less worse for the body.”

He lets Stiles sit in silence for a minute. Stiles isn’t sure what to think, but his mind refuses to put in information. It refuses to process the idea that his "problem" is anything like pneumonia. Peter eventually prods him to talk more about his friends.

Stiles starts talking about Lydia, the girl he was certain was the love of his life. He talks about meeting her in the fourth grade. He talks about realizing it wasn’t love in the ninth grade.

Peter offers him an apple from his pocket. Stiles stares at it for a minute. Peter promises he picked it on his walk back, so Stiles takes it. He holds it loosely, letting the skin get warm from his body heat.

He talks about Allison, saying she came freshmen year. He talks about how she stole Scott’s heart. He says she’s just as sweet as Scott. They are really meant for each other. He hopes they never leave the honeymoon stage.

The day slips by, and Peter finally stands, saying they should probably go socialize with the rest of the group. Apparently that is the normal for after lunch, for them all to hang around in another, larger, sitting room, watching movies and talking. It’s good for their support system.

Peter slips out of the room, and Stiles moves to stand before remembering the apple. He stares at it, the shiny green surface looking unblemished. He wants to go home.

He takes one bite.

Chapter Text

The days slip into routine by the end of the first week. Stiles would get up and take his supplements. He would try and drink the cup to at least halfway empty. He usually can only drink three or four swallows. He would go on a walk, now talking with Isaac and sometimes Derek, the scowling young man.

Then, before he must socialize with everyone else, he sits with Peter. And they talk. Sometimes the conversations are mundane, such as, Peter telling him he thinks a storm is coming and Stiles saying that the summer will do good with the rain. Peter asks him if he likes the rain and Stiles shrugs, before Peter holds out some type of fruit, whether it be an apple or pear or banana. Most days, Stiles eats a bite or two after Peter leaves him. Some days, when the conversation was hard, Stiles eats nothing.

He still won’t eat at the table.

Peter brings a chess set, setting it up before Stiles returns from his walk. Stiles feels a flicker of something, to have something to occupy his mind on. They settle into playing easily, Peter always one step ahead. The silence is comfortable, but then,

“Tell me about your mother, Stiles.” And Stiles was going to move a bishop, but his hand freezes mid-air and his breath is choked out of him.

He stands, feeling as if his lungs were too tight. No one has asked about his mother for years. He buried it down, down, with everything. Down with the needless idea of wanting, down with the craving of food, of anything. He leaves Peter sitting there, staring at him as if he was unsure on what to do.

Stiles locks himself in a bathroom. He knows it isn’t allowed, he isn’t allowed to use any locks. He does it anyway.

He counts his ribs. He touches his cheekbones. He stares at his fingers.

Stiles slowly pulls himself back together, shaking before the break but not breaking. He goes out to socialize later, hoping no one would scold him for locking himself any. Hoping he doesn’t have to eat anything else today.

His stomach feels so disgusting. He feels so disgusting, he feels disgusted that he would allow himself to eat. He feels tiny, ashamed, and too large all at once. Stiles feels as if all control has slipped from him.

He almost loses it again.

When he steps into the room, there are a few people still not there, but Peter is there, and everyone acts as if they assumed they were together for the last bit of time. He glances towards Peter, a sharp pang pulling in his chest, and he looks away.

He can’t look him in the eye.

Heather claims a majority of his attention, her and Isaac laying out on a couch together. They seem comfortable together. He wonders on Erica. He hasn’t seen her in few days.

Boyd looks sad. Stiles almost asks, before the desire dwindles from him. What does it matter? He won’t be staying here long.

He doesn’t eat dinner that night, sitting and drinking his water slowly. Peter is there, standing on the edge like Boyd usually does. It probably doesn’t feel intrusive to any of the others, but it’s as if someone has marked him for being watched with laser eyes.

Every movement feels like he’s been scrutinized. Stiles keeps a cap on his shaking hands, darts a flimsy smile at Isaac on occasion, it’s not like he smiles much anyway, and avoids looking.

The table clears but Stiles can’t get up yet. He hasn’t finished drinking his third glass. His mouth is dry, but his throat is tight and he wonders, in this room of two, how he thought he could put anything in his mouth with an audience.

Peter steps over to him, and Stiles almost starts crying. He isn’t sure why, whether he doesn’t want to lose the one person he actually speaks to or because he can’t speak on what Peter wants to talk about.

“I’m sorry.” He says. Stiles stares up at him, breath wavering, heartbeat pounding. He has no control here, and it terrifies him. “I wasn’t aware of what I was saying. Please talk to me about it when you’re ready.”

A warm hand reaches out to grasp Stiles, and it’s soft. Stiles is aware his is nothing but bone, but at least it’s slim. He looks so small in Peter’s hand. Peter squeezes softly before releasing him and leaving.

Stiles is left feeling marginally better, but very confused. His chest hurts.

He eats a slice of apple left over, almost as if he was forgiving Peter. He didn’t stay to wait for the fruit of the day today.

In therapy, he speaks. He says he thinks that he stopped eating because he was always making room for other people and their problems and he felt like he should just be getting smaller. He says that he couldn’t help with many of the problems, couldn’t fix them, and thus couldn’t eat knowing that something was wrong.

Laura looks encouraged by his false progress. She touches his knee, letting him know he can’t help with everything. He nods.

It’s a shaky step towards home.
--
Peter doesn’t bring it up again. They play chess, he goes on walks with them, and they sometimes socialize in front of the others. It’s a closeness that Stiles begins to enjoy.

Peter asks about his childhood and Stiles tells him. They spend hours at a time talking about their childhood.

He talks about meeting Scott, but this time he talks about how he was scared of never finding any friends. He talks about spending a lot of days at the police station, how nice all of the officers were to him, and how he was so certain he was going to grow up to be a cop.

“It was nice,” He finds himself saying. “They would let me play with the handcuffs, not like I would get caught in them, and on the computers. But I liked it even more when I was home, because my mom and I would make snicker doodle cookies and eat them all before my dad got home.”

Peter laughs at that, remarking a time when Talia got caught with her hand literally in the cookie jar. Her fist was too chubby as a child for her to reach into it. “We had to actually break the cookie jar. Talia cried for an hour straight, and when our mom asked if it was because she was scared, she said no. She said it was because all of those cookies went to waste on the floor with they broke it.”

Stiles finds it funny, to imagine strong and tall Talia as a big kid and that she cried over lost cookies. He laughs hard, and that time, Peter tosses him an apple instead of handing it. Stiles catches it, a loose smile of victory on his face.

He eats three bites, before realizing that he spoke on topics that he didn’t think he would ever let pass his lips. It’s shocking, that he thought on his mom for a moment without pain.

He still doesn’t eat dinner, but he’s a little less adverse to the fruit sitting out. There’s some grains too, and even a few pastries. No one touches those, though. The meat is there, and Heather actually sometimes eats some of it.

She’s improved so much she’ll probably get to go home by the end of the month. Isaac smiles at that, but seems a little sad. He eats better, Stiles can see it, but he still is going to be here for a while. He wonders who will join their group.

He wonders about Erica, thinking on how she couldn’t eat. An edge of panic brushes against him, that he may not get the choice between here and the hospital if he doesn’t eat. But he does. Peter knows he does. Peter will tell them he does.

The next night there are snicker doodle cookies. Stiles stares at them, something small breaking in his chest. It hurts, but only the slightest. He feels lighter.