Peter isn’t really sure how this all started.
If you said to him this time last year – “you’ll have an eating disorder in a years’ time” – he would have laughed incredulously, also giving you a dirty look on the way out.
But here he was.
The first thing he noticed was during his quiet, restful moments during patrol; perched on a roof somewhere watching the sky turn from orange to black, he would idly check his wrist. Looping his index finger and thumb around the red and blue of his suit – just making sure he could still encase the bone comfortably in between his fingers. Sometimes he’d just hold it there, like a safety belt, and he was calmer once he had checked. But he didn’t know why, and he didn’t know where he’d got this habit from – no one he knew did this. He then found himself skipping out on his patrol snack – a sandwich from Delmar’s, and he knew that he felt calmer with the way his stomach protested and squirmed towards the end of the evening, knowing that it was empty. He liked this feeling so much that he started skipping dinner all together, so his stomach would perform it’s symphony all evening, and he felt like a school kid being praised for acing a test. He did start picking up a few extra cuts and scrapes along the way though, he’d been struggling with his balance a lot. And of course, Karen had something to say; supposedly Peter’s blood sugar was too low to be doing as much activity as he was, and despite her being an AI she always managed to ask if he was ok in a very human way. Which was the first time he stopped to think “Am I ok?”
He decided he was perfectly fine.
He then decided that he hated the food at the school canteen – all that oily shit floating on the top of the sauces, grey looking chicken – he swore he’d caught food poisoning and was just being extra careful about what he ate from there. That’s literally all it was, he’d exclaimed with a huff to a worried looking Ned; eyes boring into the single apple and portion of rice on his plate. He noticed how his mouth filled with saliva as fast as a dam bursting every time Ned parked his full plate next to Peter’s very small one, but it was easily washed down with a chug of water. This was all fine, but the board at the front of the class started getting more blurry as the weeks went on; black dots kept swimming in front of it if he whipped his head up from the desk too fast after trying to reduce the constant fatigue he felt. He actually got referred to the guidance counselor for this, for having his head on the desk! Didn’t they have more important things to look out for? There were students who genuinely needed help with their problems, why did they keep pestering him to keep his appointments?
Of course this got round to May. She’d had a call from the school to say that they’d asked Peter several times to see the guidance counselor and hadn’t gone; they said they noticed that his grades had been steadily dropping, and that frankly, he looked like he never slept. He knew May had something to talk about as soon as he entered the front room, back from patrol and still steadying his racing heart. Seeing her leaning against the kitchen counter on one arm, mouth in a straight line and eye brow raised, he froze a little before greeting her in the usual way. She’d gotten straight into it – quizzed him to death about all this looking sickly, exhausted, and like he wasn’t enjoying things anymore, that she could tell something was wrong and wished she’d have asked before the school did, that it was ok to talk to her about anything. It felt like an assault – what did she and the school know, this was all just bullshit and now they’d convinced May there was something ‘wrong’ with him. He was just tired from patrolling and school had been catching up with him, but he was getting it sorted! And he did still enjoy things – he loved the way his trousers were too big for him, hipbones and spine protruding through his suit, loved the sound of his stomach growling reminding him of his self-discipline, he enjoyed seeing a new low number every week on the scales –
Peter caught himself before he said any of the latter things out loud to May; he knew she wouldn’t understand, and even he could see that it was a little odd for him to enjoy these things so much. When had he started enjoying these thing so much anyway? Time was so fuzzy recently – how long had it been since his last Delmar’s sandwich? How long had he been stood in front of May? How long had she been calling his name for him to answer her questions?
Safe to say that evening hadn’t been the best, but afterwards Peter learned he needed to try harder in front of May. He made sure he texted her more often, always made time to come and tell her about his day, asking about hers, showing her a smile, and it made life easier for her. She didn’t need to know about Peter’s periods of fasting, him passing out as he fell through the window from patrol some nights, about him basically screaming at Karen one night through his suit and several tears that if she notified Tony about his eating habits he’d decode her (Peter knew he wouldn’t do that, and maybe Karen did too, but the last thing he needed was Tony getting pissed at him for simply changing up his diet). He’d said some really nasty shit to her – it didn’t matter if she was an AI – he never imagined he’d say such venomous things about anyone.
It worked out for a bit. He and May were really good, Tony hadn’t been notified about any of the drama, and he still had hours of fun at the compound once a week, and Ned and MJ just gave up asking eventually. His fingernails were like the blue of his suit, and he’d been pretty badly apprehended many times as his shaking fists had been too slow to stop whatever he was dealing with. But as long as the little guy was still safe, that’s what mattered, he didn’t care how hurt he got (plus patrolling burned so many calories). As long as those numbers kept going down in a steady slope, as long as he felt that space in his stomach, he was happy. Peter was keeping his head just above the water, and it was bliss to feel so light and buoyant.
Until he passed out at the wrong time.