A dark-skinned girl with a fragile body and hair piled up in curls on her head strode down the hallway like she owned it, swinging the too-long sleeve of her thick wool jumper in one hand, and nodding like a gracious overlord at the kids and Derek stood in one corner talking. “Hale!” She greeted as she walked past, smirking in his direction.
“What are you so chipper about?” He asked, smiling back, and she turned, still swinging her sleeve vigorously, and walking backwards. “Nothin’ much. Heard it rain last night.”
“Oh, you’ve a wonderful sense of humour.” Derek said darkly, smiling at her. “Now if I could only get you to eat!”
“Hah!” The girl departed into another room, expression smug.
She walked a few more corridors, almost walking right past the open door into Stiles’ room, where the boy was crunched up on his bed and hugging his knees. She did a double take, smirking as she walked in. Stiles finally looked up to notice her standing there, big brown eyes full of laughter. “Well, good morning. Heard you got a little wet last night.” Her accent had something of Texas in it. Walking to the bed, she held out a hand to be shaken. Her face was so thin, it looked slightly inhuman, childlike. “Jodie. Jodie Armenta.”
“Stiles Stilinski.” He said, quietly. Stiles was always quiet now. It was like the inner voice that bounced and grinned and worried had been drowned and killed.
“Y’know, congratulations, you really shook ‘em up around here. I’m impressed. For a beginner, you did good.” When he remained silent, Jodie kept talking, made herself at home. “Been here two weeks. Not bad as hospitals go. The last one I was in was a real dump.”
Finally, curiosity killed the cat. Licking his lips, Stiles leaned forward to watch her. “How many have you been in?”
“Four, counting this one.” Jodie replied, and there was something bitter in her expression, and tired in her tone. “Took me seven months to get out of the last one.”
“Seven months?” The thought repelled him, spending seven months in a hospital like this. It seemed so endless.
“Took me a long time to con them.” Her walk was one of someone who seemed convinced in the cleverness of what she was. She walked right up close to him, and her body was tiny too. Like Stiles’, her forearms looked like twigs that might snap. “See, they like to think they can cure you. So you put on enough weight, till they think you’re better. Once you’re out, you lose it again. No big deal.”
He looked at her, expression half sad, half intrigued, mouth open. “How come you’re back?”
“I got careless. They got some new drugs they wanna try on me.” The girl kept pacing, pausing enough between each so it didn’t seem quite so hysterical “To see if they can cure my Bulimia”
“What’s that?” A small smile on his lips, because this girl was...like him. Just a little, wasn’t she? Too much inside.
Jodie full on grinned. “What’s Bulimia? I got a lot to teach you.” She finally sat in the seat beside the bed, knees still jigging. “It’s like an eating disorder, but without the simplicity of just...stopping. So I binge and get rid of it sometimes, and sometimes I starve.”
She leant further forwards. “It’s like, you empty the fridge, and then hit the burger places, pizza joints, donut shops. Anywhere you can eat, you eat. I could eat three weeks straight, I could win awards.”
Stiles couldn’t help feeling the little bubble of disgust in the pit of his stomach. “So- if you eat like that, how come-?” He gestured at Jodie’s bones. “I mean, how come you aren’t five hundred pounds?”
Her expression got sour at the mention of weight, and she stood again, slapping her hand against the table. “Vomiting. Laxatives.”
Stiles’ gaze went to the window, deep in thought. “I’d rather not eat.”
“So would I, but I can’t help it.” Jodie stared sourly at the table, picking at her jumper. “Sometimes I heave ten times a day. Doctors tell me it’s dangerous, but I…”
In the silence, they both looked down, Jodie swallowing hard, and Stiles clicking his knuckles. Finally, she glanced back up at him, joy all gone from her eyes. “It’s better than being fat.”
After another awkward three or four seconds of nothing, she changed the subject. “What are you here for, are you gonna get cured?”
“My Dad put me in. I wanna get out.” He groaned, feeling at home with this odd girl.
“Well if you wanna get out, there’s some tricks you have to learn.” Jodie replied matter of factly, scooping her hair behind her ear. “They watch you like a hawk around here. Everything you eat. They weigh you every day. So listen up-”
Jodie was interrupted by an angry looking nurse, beckoning with a finger. “Armenta! I want you in your room now!”
She fixed the woman with a cold expression. “Coming mother.” Her voice was pure sass, and she rolled her eyes as the woman turned away. Stiles held back a laugh. “Stick with me, y’know? And don’t waste your time with the nurses, they’re not worth it, the Doctors are much more sympathetic. Later.” Jodie turned on her heel and started humming back down the corridor, swinging her jumper sleeve as she went.
For a moment, Stiles watched her, grinning widely at her form as it got smaller and smaller until she turned the corner. Slowly, his smile dropped, leaving him with an expression of half-terror.
At the Doctor’s station, Derek leant over the counter, watching the Doctor on call.
“Look, I know you don’t like this Hale, but we need to act soon-” The large man slipped some papers into a file.
“All I’m asking is a for three or four days. Maybe he’ll settle down, maybe he’ll stabilize.”
“Stabilize?!” The man shook his head, shoving more papers in Derek’s direction. “Here, the latest test results. His condition is drastic, he could go into shock at any time. He remains dangerously malnourished, there’s hypotension, BUN indicates incipient renal dysfunction, which relates directly to low blood supply and an overwhelming concentration of toxins. That’s all three, Hale, Heart, Liver and Kidneys. NG feed starts when I get hold of Jenks.”
Two nurses held Stiles’ arms down, gently, although ready to become firm if he moved. The Doctor leant over him had the slight fine tube ready, leaning over him, but he kept twisting his face away. Why was this more terrifying than facing Alpha werewolves, or a whole clan of Gnomes with weaponry?
“Please. I’ll eat anything you want.” He said, softly, trying to puppy dog eye the Doctor into stopping this now. Scott was always better at puppy dog eyes. He hadn’t seen any of them once since he came here.
“It’s a little late for that, don’t you think? You need more nourishment than normal food can give. We’re going to give you extra through a special tube through your nose and into your stomach. Try and relax. It won’t hurt a bit. Okay?”
“Mhmm.” He stayed tense, no matter how much he closed his eyes and tried to make the panic go away. Stiles made a soft noise of discomfort, without meaning to as she slipped it in, working it down inside him. His breathing quickening, knuckles white. A tear slipped down his cheek, and a nurse quickly dabbed it away, as he blinked, trying not to freak out and hit out. His fingers writhed as he waited, so tense. The light above him, and the Doctor’s ugly pored face staring down at him, all seemed too yellow. When they finally moved away, taping the end of the tube to his face and hooking it over his ear, he felt three things. Relief, discomfort, and...a little hope.