NOTE: I would like to say that this may be seen as offensive to some, whether it be for medical bending of the rules or a disagreement in views of treatment centers. You are not being forced to read it. Please simply close the page and we'll both remain happy. I'm not trying to come off rude, but it's only a warning before you read...

"So did you guys kiss?"

Winry instantly rolled her eyes. Her pushy roommate had been nagging at her about this specific topic for a good half hour by now. She had picked up on her good mood during the remainder of class, and found it miraculous when Winry had decided to create one of her very own paper airplanes. After all, she hadn't been the type to construct such things- especially not during a class session.

"You're being overdramatic, you know? Nothing happened… He's my doctor for god's sake. What did you expect him to do?"

Somehow, she doubted that she wanted to hear an answer- Paninya had been known to give very strange ones.

"Kiss you. What else? That's why I'm asking. Did he?" she persisted.

Winry groaned inwardly as she shuffled around on her small, unmade bed. She had fixed the blankets and sheets that morning, so she held no concerns of losing points for a disastrous bed as of now. Besides, Paninya's stubbornness was more than enough reason to toss her sheets around.

"No. He didn't kiss me. Why would you even assume something crazy like that? He's my doctor, Paninya," she explained again slowly. Sometimes her roommate could be so frustrating.

"Well, you did volunteer to go first when he stepped in. And from what I kept hearing, you despise him. So it sounds to me like some sort of lustful attraction. I mean if I were you're doctor, I sure wouldn't hesitate to give you a good feel or two. Dr. Elric is a lucky guy."

By this time, Winry had grown use to Paninya's shameless attempts at flirting with her. In the beginning, she admittedly had been a little shaken up at the thought of a female complimenting her looks and body, but any fear she had felt at first was now little to none. Paninya was harmless, she was certain; a little odd now and then, but definitely harmless. She may have inflicted pain on herself, but Winry could never imagine the girl attacking someone in such an inappropriate manner. However, beating someone within an inch of their life… was a different story.

Instead of choosing to comment on Paninya's not-so-subtle hint, Winry climbed out of her unorganized bed and traveled the small distance to the large window of their room. As far as she could see, the clouds were only growing darker, and the cold was graciously pushing into the glass, chilling her fingertips on the surface. The rain appeared to have gotten worse as well, but that had been so easily expected. Still, she would not complain… In this hospital, she was finding this weather somehow a growing comfort more than a burden.

"You sure like that window, don't ya, girly? It's so gloomy outside though. What's there to look at?" Paninya asked, still seated on her bed.

Winry made an educated guess to assume that the girl she shared her room with wasn't the type to admire such beauty; not to say that she didn't care for stormy weather, but staring at raindrops from a window didn't seem to entertain her nearly as much as constructing paper planes.

"I'd rather do something more exciting," her roommate mumbled.

"Did you wanna go get a deck of cards out of the Day Room?"

Winry was starting to grow bored with playing cards and everything else that was located in the Day Room. What she would give to get her hands on something motivational. Nothing in this building appeared to provide such an opportunity, and her roommate seemed to agree, judging by the sudden distasteful look crossing her face.

"I think I've done every single activity that little room has to offer. Cards, puzzles, board games, and I even tried to read a book. That says a lot for me."

Winry inwardly agreed. She would have thought it impossible to get the girl to read anything. But then again…

"What kind of book was it?" she asked.

Paninya beamed a broad, proud smile.

"A special edition comic book; it's called 'When Aliens and Ducks Attack', volume three. It's kind of interesting. I wish they had the other two here. Those ducks and aliens make quite a team, you know? I'd join them any day.

It figured. Paninya wouldn't touch a real novel with a ten foot stick if her life depended on it. A comic seemed reasonable for her rambunctious personality.

"You'd… probably fit in just fine too, no doubt. The aliens would be happy to have you," Winry mumbled.

"Don't forget the ducks!"

"And the ducks…"

It made her wonder just why a mental institution would have such a comic. If someone came into this facility sane, they probably would leave the opposite if they got ahold of that particular 'book'. Aliens and ducks working together in apparent world domination was definitely an odd combination. Still, it made Paninya happy, so what was the harm?

"I wasn't aware a hospital like this would accept reading material like that, considering the violence factor," she said, continuing her gaze out the window. The clouds grew darker still, and she believed her eyes were even detecting small hints of fog.

"Hey, it doesn't have blood or anything. An eight year old could even enjoy it. It's perfectly reasonable," Paninya argued.

Winry feared the day the other girl would have children. She could only imagine what Paninya felt was reasonable; she had already gotten an idea of her values, and needless to say, they were unimpressive. And it wasn't to suggest that hers were all that grand either. She had a painfully stubborn attitude, obvious personal problems, and sarcasm to boot. The hospital staff was still learning that relatively quick within the week she had been here so far. Still, she knew she had a better sense of morality than her fellow roommate. She wasn't addicted to drugs, and if she were to have a future, it wouldn't be one of flipping burgers for the rest of her life. She wasn't exactly sure what she would like to be, but no doubt it would involve some form of mechanics. It didn't fit in with the category of female careers, but that didn't matter to her.

'Maybe it's a good sign that I'm even considering a future for myself in the first place. I'd bet Dr. Elric would be happy to hear it.'

Winry instantly paused in her thought process. She was doing it again! In fact, she believed this was either the second or third time she had done it. For any trace amounts of positive thinking that she would apply to herself, she hopelessly would bring up Dr. Elric and his high chance of approval. To most people, they would take it as a sign of cooperation and beneficial treatment steps, but Winry's infamous stubborn trait took it as a weakness. She didn't want to start relying on a doctor; especially not him. And although she wasn't quite sure what direct issue she had with him, it seemed crucial to her to remain independent of his help or any other form of assistance.

'Besides, he tossed me in the Quiet Room.'

But he had sympathized with her enough to give her a couple gracious minutes outside in the courtyard. It had been cold and rainy, but that small amount of time had truly meant the world to her. After all, outings would now be so few and far between.

"Come on, Win. Stop staring and let's get ready for dinner. It's better than sitting here watching the boring ol' rain," complained Paninya.

That was something she definitely cared to disagree with. She already had heard what kind of dinner they would be having, and wasn't at all thrilled with the choices. Staring at the rain for a little longer was more than welcome in her eyes in exchange of that dreadful meal they would be having for the evening. But to avoid any unnecessary whining from the girl seated on the bed, Winry reluctantly gave in and moved away from the window.

"Alright, fine. It's getting too foggy outside to see anything interesting anyway. But I'll have you know that tonight's dinner isn't going to be too appealing for either of us."

Paninya quickly shuffled out of her bed, adjusting the socks on her feet, before carelessly kicking her fuzzy black slippers to the side.

"Oh? Try me. I'm not a picky person."

Winry wrinkled her nose.

"The disgusting mushy meatloaf with a side of that discolored stew we had a few nights back. Don't tell me you enjoyed that stuff."

She sure hadn't. And it would do her just fine to not have to encounter that miserable sludge ever again. In her opinion, the taste, texture, and smell of that stew belonged on a farm out in the countryside to feed pigs- at least they would enjoy it.

"Are you kidding? That stuff tastes like my grandma's specialty. What's so bad about it? The smell is a little odd, but the taste is unique," Paninya offered.

"Unique is hardly the word I would describe it as. I just think you've been in here too long. Or does real food no longer appeal to you?" Winry asked.

Her roommate paused in considerable thought.

"Well, I could sure go for a cheeseburger at a fast food place right about now. But I'd also love to have that stew on the side. Besides, grandma would be proud to see something similar to her special dish being served to a group of people like us."

That seemed like a bad joke. Winry wondered what kind of old lady would ever be so cruel as to feel pride and joy for having such a depressing concoction served to a number of adolescents with mental issues. They at least deserved something remotely healthy- if not that, then something that actually tasted decent.

"You realize you're probably one of the rare few that actually enjoy that stuff, right? I don't even think the people that make it will eat any of it. And that says a lot, you know?"

"Not true. Josephine likes it. She's the main cook here too. I saw her eating a third bowl on the last day it was served. She enjoyed it just fine," Paninya argued, moving closer to their bedroom door.

Winry guessed the mere conversation of it was building an appetite for the other girl, for she was out and down the hall before their discussion had even come to a proper close. Still, she was grateful that their topic had shifted away from Dr. Elric. Conversing about slime stew was hardly her preference, but the former had made her embarrassed.

'Well, on the bright side, at least one of us is looking forward to dinner now,' she thought gloomily, trudging back to her bed. Unlike Paninya, she had grown fond of wearing slippers throughout her stay. It sure beat slipping and sliding down the long tile hallways; not to mention dirtying her socks faster than necessary. Shoes would be appropriate as well, but what was the point if they could have no laces?

Shrugging off her beginning footwear thoughts, Winry comfortably slid the slippers onto her feet and walked slowly to the exit of the room. She couldn't delay their dinner forever. She wished she could, since the incoming visual of the stew in her mind was making her stomach churn in protest.

'I don't think all the seasoning in the world could change that stew's terrible flavor.'

Even if that may have been so, she was still going to try. If necessary, Winry would use half or the entire container of salt and pepper, an extra drop of milk, and anything else potentially edible. And if it worked well, it would be a true miracle indeed.

'God owes me that much,' she thought bitterly.

"Oh you've got to be kidding. Not again."

Edward stared ahead at the small selection of food inside the small cafeteria, grimacing. His fellow colleagues stood behind him, chuckling and idly chattering about their upcoming dinner. Clearly, they didn't appear to look nearly as upset as he was. Dr. Elric considered himself a reasonable eater, for he was a growing young man after all. But if there was anything that he was actually taking a building resentment for, it would be the persistent appearance of the gruesome mess before him- the main chef's 'appetizing' stew.

"This damn stuff deserves a gold medal; one for its talented skill to resemble mud, and two for managing to somehow taste worse than milk. And that says a lot, considering that usually milk is what's supposed to be in here. Does Josephine not know about its crappy taste? None of the patients eat the stuff, and if they do, it's only because they're starving from the night before! No wonder so many 'em try escape. I'd try too if I was stuck eating this sorry excuse for stew every week," he complained.

"Such language, Dr. Elric. Mind the patients that are coming in. They'll hear you."

That was true. Edward was known for being a little more outgoing than most doctors in this place, but he did have to mind his words when his patients were around. Sometimes things occasionally slipped, but so far he had done reasonably well. Truth be told, he had a natural fondness for cursing, and was infamous for his over the top temper and cynical views. He still didn't have a religion he followed, and his feelings towards certain subjects could be considered unfavorably blunt… Still, he somehow managed himself well in the expansive field of medicine.

"How's your new patient coming along, Dr. Elric? I hear she's been a handful. What medication have you started her on? "

Nosy bastards. They were always 'concerned' about every patient, other than their own. His colleagues were soundly smart in their chosen profession, but they lacked common sense. Like himself, they were knowledgeable in about every medication out on the market and considered dosages as simple as the alphabet. But for one reason or another, every patient that was not their own fully intrigued them.

"She's as much of a handful as any other I'm giving treatment to. It's common for them to show signs of difficulty their first week. I'm not too concerned… she'll be fine," he insisted.

His words had actually been a simple truth. Patients did react strongly their first week kept under supervision; some a little worse than others, but the initial seven days always proved to be the most difficult.

"Has she shown any signs of improvement?" One asked.

Dr. Elric sighed and took a step closer to the line of food, reluctantly choosing to order a very small bowl of the biohazard stew. It made his stomach churn, but he was unfortunately experiencing hunger pangs. It may have looked liked trash, but it would no doubt calm his raging appetite.

"Depends on how you define that. She's talking more, so I guess I would label that as an improvement."

Winry was having an up and down period in Edward's opinion. As of late, she seemed to be doing better, but that in no way guaranteed some miraculous recovery anytime soon. He was a realist, if nothing else.

"Like I said… she'll be fine. I'm monitoring her," he huffed.

He would not repeat the same mistake. If he were to ever detect another disturbing abnormality in Winry's behavior, he would take the necessary steps to correct it. Edward didn't need anybody to tell him that he could have very well lost a patient that day because of his half hearted decision to leave her alone in her dark hour. The bandages he was forced to see wrapped around the girl's arm served very well as his daily reminder to remain cautious.

"Anyway, be quiet already, would ya? Take your own advice and mind the patients. They're coming in here, and I'd rather they didn't hear us discussing their personal lives. They do expect some privacy, you know?"

Choosing to not wait for whatever response was in mind; Dr. Elric quickly gathered the rest of his food and moved to find a table. Typically, they always settled for a spot that remained at a reasonable distance from their patients. With their discussions often played around the medical profession, the words they would so often toss around would most likely annoy or intimidate the others trying to eat in peace. Edward could converse in such ways for hours if he was expected to, but it didn't mean he preferred it. Still, he always indulged and humored the others, often overjoying them with his surprising intellect.

'Here we go again- Doctor Talk, session number two hundred. Don't these guys ever get bored with talking about generally the same thing?" he wondered.

Some of his patients were more than a little odd at times, but at least their conversations always surprised him and kept him alert. The ones who he was preparing to speak to now only managed to influence his will to sleep. The topics were always the same, and they always ended with at least one disagreement. The whole process was insanely dull and monotonous.

'I'll bet if Winry could understand some of the terms we use, she'd have a strong opinion on all of it,' he thought. 'She's in here for a reason, but she's definitely an outspoken one.'

Winry didn't appear to come off as anyone who was severely timid. Despite her diagnosis, she upheld her attitude and overall view of certain subjects. Like himself, she was thick headed. They both operated on the motto of 'My way or the highway'- a rather narrow minded view of looking at the world.

'No wonder it's so hard to make conversation with her.'

Speaking of Winry, he did believe he was catching a good glimpse of her straggling along at the end of the incoming patient line. Paninya, as usual, was beside her, most likely chattering about the most senseless things. He noted that a lot of girls did that. The two should have considered themselves lucky. Their conversation could focus on anything and everything. Granted, he would still get suspicious if they began to initiate any strange motions or mutter keywords such as, 'escape, lock, alarm, etc'. Other than that, his patients were not tied down in their chosen topics. At least not right now. The young teenagers were obligated to participate in group discussions of personal feelings, but aside from those awkward meetings, they had a broad range. At least he would like to think so. Lately, Edward had been sidestepping his medical approach to Winry altogether, and engaged her in open conversation. It was tending to keep tipping towards his metal prosthetic, but it certainly was far more welcome than the brimming anger he had been receiving from her, or the disturbing silence.

"She seems to be talking a lot more. That's a good sign."

Dr. Elric jumped in his seat and shifted his attention to the left. His annoying colleagues had managed to sneak up on him through his thoughts, and each now possessed their own small bowl of the toxic stew. How exciting…

"I told you guys that she was doing a lot better… or is my word not good enough?"

It sure didn't seem to be. Edward was considered a highly respected doctor. His analysis of people and objects alike was admirable, but he still had his difficult times where it seemed as though the ones above him regarded him as nothing more than a child. He was referred to as a prodigy in his earlier ages, but it in no way made him stupid-perhaps a little gullible from time to time, but certainly not stupid.

"Nonsense, Edward. Your word is as good as the rest of ours. We were merely complimenting you on your decision making for the girl. Why, I had a patient a couple years ago. A stubborn mule, she was. Wouldn't speak a word for weeks… I'm only happy to see you weren't burdened with the same personality type," a middle aged doctor explained.

Burdened? He did feel that way sometimes, but Edward didn't like to openly say the word. It sounded rather cold in his opinion, especially for a mental health specialist. But what did he know? He was still very young in their eyes.

'Why don't these old guys just retire then if it's too much of a burden for them?'

He probably needed to take his own advice. His thoughts on transferring Winry to another facility had been purely out of comfort for himself. Had he thought of her as a burden? Not really… But he was growing uncomfortable with how often she appeared in his mind. Her fiery attitude was addicting, but her accusation was continuously disturbing him. That had been the only reason he had ever thought of moving her out of state. It would have been for his benefit… not her own. And what a selfish move that would be if he ever chose to make it.

Half heartedly listening to his chattering colleagues as they gradually seated themselves, Edward continued to gaze at his blonde patient waiting in line. It frustrated him how much attention he unintentionally gave her. She wasn't the only person he was treating. He had many others, but her presence shamefully intrigued him. The fact that she tried so hard to usually get away from him was fascinating. He still didn't know too much about her on a personal level, but he couldn't help but be curious. It was his job to know of her medical history and incidents of depression and anxiety, such as school situations, but that was as far in depth as he could go without her choosing to reveal some information on her own.

'The only thing personal I got out of her was that… accusation against Roy,' he thought. 'And I don't see how she expects me to buy into that.'

Any other doctor would have revealed Winry's allegations to a higher level by now, but Edward was still stubbornly choosing to keep it hidden. Perhaps his young age was turning out to be a handicap after all. Not to mention the fact that he was still in close relations to the hospital's medical director. This was becoming an increasingly hard thing to swallow. But would it kill him to even try to consider it? Sitting in this type of profession awarded him the ability to see things differently. He knew he could, but he often chose not to. His area of expertise was focused primarily on the brain, so he was aware of how high the potential was for that specific spot. It was unfair and naïve to assume that certain people were not capable of certain things. Human beings were capable of anything; they simply masked it well. It was a tough truth to face, but ignoring it didn't make it go away. Yet, it didn't fix anything either. If people were adept to a growing list of crimes, big or small, then they were also inclined to lie. That little snippet of information was something he was certain everybody knew. So, if that were the case, then that didn't exactly cancel Winry out either in this situation. But there was a question that often was asked by many in circumstances such as these.

Why would she lie?

Why would she not? Edward knew Roy Mustang personally, but so did the girl's parents. And although the couple didn't seem to hold any ill judgments against the man, Winry was carrying a bitter grudge. But who was to say it wasn't over something else?

'But that doesn't make any sense either. She hasn't told anybody about him, aside from me. If I had it out for somebody, I sure as hell wouldn't be secretive about it,' he thought.

Edward also had to consider that night Winry attempted to escape. That panicked delusion she had fallen into had not been simple acting. It was real… so no matter how he looked at it, she did appear to be a true victim of something. He just wasn't sure what that 'something' was. He had guessed sexual abuse before his patient had even decided to reveal that information, but it still made him stubbornly reluctant to truly accept any forming conclusion.

"Are these real flowers?"

What an odd question to suddenly hear. Reluctantly breaking his gaze away from the forming line of young teens, Edward shifted his golden eyes back to the men he was seated with. Interestingly enough, the others that had accompanied him to dinner were focused and discussing the table's center piece design. In the middle rested a plastic vase with a small assortment of flowers poking out from the top. The design was rather simple and could very well pass on a minimal level of aesthetics, but it lacked authenticity. The flowers were very far from achieving an appearance of floral excellence. The fact that one of the men among him had even asked such a thing confused and disturbed him.

"You're kidding, right? As if we would even be allowed to have real flowers sit in here. Everyone's too afraid that the adolescents here would just try to eat them. Though in all honesty, I would be more concerned about them eating the artificial copy than the real thing," Edward pointed out.

As usual, the young man received agreement from his elder counterparts.

"I think they just try to give the kids here the illusion that they're in a normal place," he continued. Unfortunately, that sounded a little harsher than he had intended. Personally, he liked the modest design. But judging from patients' reactions to their surroundings, his opinion was not well within their favor. Edward wasn't crazy about the flowery setup, but he did appreciate the furniture, shamelessly. They weren't the most comfortable seating arrangements, but he still found them a little enjoyable.

"I mean no offense to this place's personal style. I do like their blue couches and interesting…flowers, but I do prefer a more elegant appearance myself."

And what he meant by 'elegant' was awesome and cool. His room back at home was nothing impressive, but at least it quenched his scientific thirst for knowledge that applied in numerous branches of study, aside from the one he was in. It probably wouldn't kill him either to invest in just a few more additional posters to decorate his walls when he should ever find the time.

Disregarding the developing conversation circling around furniture, Edward turned his attention back to the single line of patients awaiting their food. It was amazing that the other doctors were now discussing something other than medicine; a true miracle actually. But the topic was a little too feminine for his tastes. He didn't want to sip on stew and discuss 'pretty flowers' and furniture. He had a reputation to uphold. Why, Winry would laugh at him if she heard him conversing about fanciful house decorations.

'Why the hell should I care about what she'll think or do?' he thought defensively. 'If I want to talk about couches, flowers, and comforter sets, I'll do it!'

Just not right now. He didn't feel like proving a point. He really just wanted to eat his food. But the stew was hot, and so was the rest of his meal, no doubt. So instead of running the risk of burning his tongue off or foolishly judge the decorum with the others, Edward planted his eyes back on Winry and her overwhelmingly chipper sidekick. One would think someone so happy wouldn't need to be in such a place, but he knew better. Winry could occasionally be deceiving as well. He could see her reason for being under observation, but ever so often, she appeared to be healthy and almost happy. But that was far from the truth. He knew that much, at least. Winry was holding a lot of anger inside. It was sad, but a lot of it was surprisingly directed at herself. He could still remember the pain that flooded the girl's face the day he sat with her in the bathroom. The amount of emotions he witnessed seemed almost endless. It wasn't a new thing he was learning to face and experience, but it still did manage to bother him.

Watching the two girls receive their small tray of food, Dr. Elric remained quiet as his eyes followed them to a table located in a far corner. The dining room wasn't too terribly large, so monitoring their behavior wouldn't be all that difficult- or so he assumed. His persistent desire to stare was bound to become noticeable at one point, so when gold eyes unexpectedly met blue eventually, Edward nearly choked.

Winry had detected his presence almost instantly, so the first thing she noticed was his eyes eerily glued on her own. At least that's it what it probably looked like… Thankfully, she appeared more confused and curious than angry. She probably couldn't figure out why he was choosing to spy on her during their evening meal of all times. Paninya, on the other hand, was seemingly choosing to take it in stride. The moment she noticed him staring, she leaned forward in her seat and playfully poked her tongue out at him, before nudging her dinner companion for more of their quiet conversation.

'Annoying brat', he thought irritably.

What were they talking about anyway? They had chosen a rather isolated area after all. It was his job to make sure they didn't go continuing with their strange, secret patient code. What if they were discussing another escape? He couldn't allow that.

Clearing his throat and pushing his bowl of stew aside, Edward prepared to stand from his seat. He was certain that he was bordering on nosy, but the staff would thank him if he prevented another escape from being planned out. They looked suspicious in his opinion- that or he was just looking for some ridiculous excuse to speak with his Rockbell patient again.

"Come now, Dr. Elric. Where are you rushing off to now? You haven't even taken one bite of your food yet. Surely it's not all that bad."

Edward froze midway in his chair. He should have known he would hear some protests; especially from the eldest in their group. The man may have been getting to his retiring point, but he still was soundly sharp.

"It's still kind of hot. I was going to check up on everyone and make sure they're doing okay," he explained weakly.

The old man waved a hand and huffed.

"Nonsense. This stew is at the perfect temperature. Sit down. You work too much. Eat and tell us of your medical theories and research. We're quite fond of them. The patients will be fine. That's what the rest of the staff is for."

Well, he very well couldn't argue. It would seem too awkward in his opinion. Besides, if he even tried, he was certain he would just hear more complaints from the others. The old man wasn't lying when he said they all enjoyed listening to his analytical view points.

Turning his eyes momentarily back to Winry, he offered her a subtle smile, before readjusting himself back into his seat. Whether those two had planned to escape or not, he was certain that their topic of choice would have been far more interesting than the one he was ready to participate in as of now.

"Well, there's always later,' he grumbled inwardly.

With that kept in mind, Edward leaned forward in his chair to prepare for their upcoming subject of choice and the atrocious bowl of stew. He almost hoped it was still hot. If that was the case, he would take his chances and purposefully toast his tongue- at least then the remaining meal would be numb to his poor taste buds.

"I'm gonna throw up."

Winry's stomach felt as though it had gone through a wash cycle of multiple rinse and spins. She had come to the conclusion that no matter what additional ingredients she added on to Chef Josephine's stew, it would still taste just as bad as it did in the very beginning. She had sprinkled it countless times with salt and pepper, and had snagged two miniature cartons of milk to smooth out the texture and tang. Unfortunately, all had miserably failed, and she now found herself curled into a hopeless ball on her bed with an aching, raging stomachache.

"You don't want to do that. Remember? They might accuse you of being anorexic. You are kinda skinny," Paninya joked.

Winry groaned into her pillow.

"I'm glad you're still feeling healthy and well."

Paninya didn't seem affected by their evening meal at all. But that had been expected, considering the fact that the girl had admitted to liking the served food. She was even starting to wonder if Chef Josephine was related at all to her roommate's mysterious grandmother. They both had a knack for brewing up the most unappetizing stew known to man.

"Of course I am. I could have gone for a third bowl if they would have let me. It's too bad they limit us to only second helpings. I don't see why. There was plenty more for all of us."

Winry shuddered at the thought.

"Why would any of us even want a second, much less a third helping?" she grimaced.

Paninya shrugged.

"Because it's good, that's why. In my opinion, it's just like fine wine. It takes some adjustments- an acquired taste, you know?"

She couldn't believe her roommate was comparing wine to the stew they had just been served. While wine was often seen as luxurious and elegant, the meal that had just gone down their digestive tract was far from it. It was possibly no better than eating out of a dumpster, as disgusting as that sounded.

"Whatever you say, just stop talking about that stuff, okay? I'd rather think of nice things to soothe my stomach right about now," Winry pleaded.

Not that there was much to think about right now that would be considered nice. Their room still wasn't much to look at, so it often proved to destroy whatever imagination she would obtain within limited amounts of time. The walls were still white, the bedding was still blue, and the furniture appeared to look less homely with every passing day.

"Why don't you just walk it off? Come on, a couple strolls down the hall up and down and you'll be fine."

As if. There was no way she would be moving from this spot any time soon. The staff could think what they wanted about her, but it wouldn't change her decision to remain still. She had become less stubborn with the small passage of time, but an upset stomach was more than enough reason to become snippy if provoked.

"Paninya, I'm not drunk. It's not like I'm trying to sober up or anything. I'm only interested in staying still right now. Besides, it's almost time for bed."

And what a blessing that was. Winry usually dreaded the upcoming hour of sleep, but taking in the consideration of pain she was in at the moment, she would take her chances. Besides, the sleeping medication that Rose had given to her a half hour prior was beginning to go into effect. Her eyelids were feeling heavy, and her body felt like lead. Thankfully, she had already done the evening requirements needed before sleep was approved. She had brushed her teeth, washed her face, and her daily shower had been done that early morning before school had started. Now it was time to relax and try to sleep away the queasy feeling bubbling through her.

"Well, you said you would rather think of nice things then? How about you think about Dr. Elric? He's nice to daydream about, I guess. Or even better… why don't you call him in here and ask for some medication to help your stomach?"

Winry's eyes snapped open fully, before rolling stubbornly on her side, keeping her back turned from the other girl on the opposite bed. She thought their silly talk of Edward was done and over with, but she was undoubtedly mistaken.

"Why would I go to him specifically? I could just ask Rose… she's a nurse. Besides, he's not even here anymore. The doctors are rarely around at this hour. You told me they typically always go home in the early evening."

Edward had stayed in the late hours for Winry's first couple nights within the treatment center, but eventually, he began to go home shortly after their dinner. It was typical, since patients were settling down for one remaining group session before bedtime. So, in truth, there was no need for them to be around until the following morning.

"Not tonight. He's still here. I guess he's doing his late night paperwork or something. It's a golden opportunity, girlie."

Winry pulled her blue blanket over her head and grumbled. She just wanted to sleep now and be left alone. Why did Paninya have to be so persistent?

"I told you if it gets too unbearable, I'll go find Rose. I don't need Dr. Elric to give me medicine personally. I'm not a baby," she insisted.

"Hey, nobody said it would make you a baby. I just think it would be kinda cute. I'm not the mushy type of person, but there can be exceptions," Paninya explained. "Besides, he was looking at you during dinner tonight. Maybe he wanted to talk to you."

"Or maybe he was just observing me like he does for all the rest of his patients, Paninya. He does that, you know? That's why he carries around that clipboard with a pen. It has nothing to do with wanting to talk to me."

Although, she had to admit that his staring had seemed to be a little more focused than that of what would be considered normal. Edward had seemed almost embarrassed that she had caught him watching her. If he truly had been just been observing her behavior and actions, then what was there to be embarrassed about?

"I think he likes to observe and talk to you. He's a doctor… he can do both at the same time. So come on… call him in here to fix up your stomach," Paninya persisted.

Winry tightened the hold on her blanket and pressed her face further into her pillow.

"No. Now go to sleep," she grumbled.

"Aww, come on Win."

"Goodnight, Paninya," she huffed.

It had been tempting to find at least someone to give her medication for her aching stomach, but she was certain that by laying still and resting, it would go away all on its own; especially if she could find her way to a peaceful sleep. Edward Elric was turning out to be an interesting person with his personality and mysterious prosthetic arm, but she refused to giggle with her roommate and compliment his handsome looks at the current hour. He was indeed appealing to the eye, she couldn't deny that… but to even admit such a thing seemed awkward, considering who he was to her.

Hearing nothing but the sweet sound of silence within the room, Winry guessed that Paninya had taken the hint and was on her own way to falling asleep. It usually took her little to no time at all. How fortunate that must have been to drift off at the touch of a pillow to one's cheek.

'It's just too bad that she snores.'

The evening dinner for the doctors had gone as well as could have been expected. It really hadn't been all that different from usual, aside from a few tossed in comments about more furniture. Edward had even reluctantly joined in, before granting their request to hear more about those theories they were always so curious about. Truthfully, his mind had still managed to stubbornly stick on the two girls eating in the corner, but the occasional sips at the stew in front of him never failed to make him cringe and temporarily entertain the thought of dumping his bowl onto the chef's head. Perhaps that would show her just how well liked her meal really was- not to mention the bland meatloaf. Despite all of that, Dr. Elric still chose to eat as much as humanly possible, for the sake of calming his appetite. However, in exchange he knew he had to now deal with a queasy stomach.

'Feeding all of us that crap should be considered a crime. Attempted murder by a lethal ingestion of poison,' he thought.

He always had felt that his stomach was relatively tough to strange food, but Chef Josephine's special servings on particular nights had him wondering if that was really the case. Perhaps his body was far more fragile than he thought. That or her cooking was just exceptionally bad.

'I think I'll stick with the latter. It makes me feel better.'

At least it did mentally. Physically, he felt like rolling in a ball and cursing his decision to even eat dinner that night. Instead, he had no choice but to keep walking down the long hallway of the hospital. By all means, he should have gone home hours ago, but to avoid stacks of paperwork in the morning, Edward had decided to just complete them while he had the minimal motivation to do so. With that finished, he was currently passing by his patients' rooms, occasionally peering in to confirm their presence and location. It was well past 9:30 into the night, so he didn't expect any of them to be roaming about. Awake, maybe, but in bed no less. He had already caught a couple of them sitting up and talking, but decided to let it slide. He was simply too tired to correct petty behavior. Besides, that job belonged to Hughes tonight.

Reaching the room that belonged to the girls he had been 'spying' on earlier, Edward slowed himself down to a complete stop. From the small distance, he could hear no giggling or chortling, so he was guessing that the two had already fallen asleep for the night. It had been a rather long day, and he did believe Winry and Paninya were on sleeping medication. He was the one who had written the order for it, after all. Still, there was nothing wrong with checking up on them like he had been doing for everybody else.

Taking a few small steps towards the room, Dr. Elric turned his head to soon peer inside as he neared the doorway. From what he could see and hear, Paninya was snoring away on the far bed nearest to the window. The blankets and sheets were already halfway dangling to the ground, and her body was haphazardly sprawled on the small mattress. It humorously reminded him of how he himself could get at nights in his own bed. He had a tendency to sleep with his stomach out after eating a monstrous dinner. His brother never failed to mention it to him on the following days.

'At least someone's stomach survived that brick tasting stew,' he mused.

Speaking of survival, the one he had been eyeing earlier didn't look as though hers had done the same. As Edward moved further into the room, he could clearly see the blankets and sheets bundled in a tight ball, with a steady stream of blonde hair leaking out and a half hidden face. Winry didn't seem to look as though she had gone to sleep feeling too comfortable, but apparently her medication had still done its job in the end.

'It's too bad that not even Winry can handle the chef's food here.'

It was also too bad that he had never even gotten the chance to talk to her again like he had wanted. If it weren't for those annoying colleagues of his, he probably would have managed. Now he would never know if they had been discussing shady business in their secret patient code. Oh well. Maybe next time…

Hesitantly kneeling down at the girl's bedside, Edward took a closer look at the sleeping blonde within her blanket. She certainly didn't seem the type to lie, but who could really determine something like that with looks and appearances alone? For example, Not too many could ever guess his own story with how well he masked it day by day. But that wasn't to say he had ever lied about it. He just avoided the conversation altogether. And the only one who ever had been able to understand was Roy Mustang.

But Winry… her accusation was tearing down the comfortable walls he had built up. He had grown content knowing that at least one person, aside from his brother, had taken the time to support him and help him back to his feet with genuine concern. In fact, Mustang still chose to stubbornly pay for his repairs from time to time, whenever it was needed. He had lifted him up that day when his world had fallen apart. He had brought him to what he was now today... a well respected doctor. So how could a man who had done all of that do so much damage to a young girl like Winry? It just didn't seem possible to him. He could accept that fact someone had hurt her, but it couldn't have been Roy.

"Dr. Elric, did you intentionally include 'stalking' as part of your job description, or was it accidental?"

Edward slowly rose to his feet from his kneeling position and carefully turned his body to face the one standing in the doorway. Surprisingly, it had been the very person he had just been thinking about. As usual, the man presented himself as calmly and efficiently as ever.

"I don't consider it stalking at all, as a matter-of-fact, Mustang. You forget that quite a lot of the patients I treat have suicidal tendencies. I don't find anything wrong with making sure they're still breathing and living. Or does that bother you somehow?"

Yes, he respected the man to a degree, but it didn't mean he had to openly tolerate his sarcasm.

"Oh, of course not. I'm actually pleased to have such a dedicated young man as part of my staff, Edward. I have no doubt that Ms. Rockbell here is in good hands with you. Let's just hope her condition improves before long. I'd hate to have her transferred if things don't meet up to standard expectations," Mustang said.

Moving Winry to another location was supposed to be a last resort if the facility here could not adhere to her medical needs, but the mention of it so soon was unwelcome. Dr. Elric had gone over the thought as well, but as he had told himself before, it had only been for his own benefit, not his patient.

"It's only been a week. Don't insult me. She's doing better already. She's becoming more…social."

"Oh? That's good to hear. Is she participating in the group sessions yet?"

Edward sighed.

"From what I've been told, she hasn't been, no. But it's getting better. She's making progress, Mustang. And why do you always have to hassle me about these things anyway?"

A light chuckle escaped the other man's lips.

"Because I do believe its part of my job, correct? And is it wrong of me to be concerned for a good friends' young daughter? Winry was an exceptional student through her years of schooling. I'm only upset to see that she's fallen into a depression like this. It's difficult to watch."

Roy shrugged.

"In any case, I've come to relieve you of your overly long work shift today. I hear you've been overworking again, as usual, so I decided to drop by and extend an invitation."

Edward's eyes turned back to the sleeping Winry, signaling for the man behind him to tone his voice down.

"An invitation? To where? You're aware that my birthday isn't exactly here yet, right? Or is this to make up again for last year when you were late to the party?"

"Not exactly, no. It's only an attempt to pry you out of this mental institution so you can relax once in awhile. Besides, staying any longer in here and we might be waking up one of your patients very soon."

That was very true. They were shamelessly still talking in Winry and Paninya's room. Paninya was still snoring away, but it was the other girl who looked as though she was beginning to stir. How stupid they had been to stand in here and chat in the first place.

"Yeah, whatever. Let's go. But I'm not going to a bar. I'm tired of hearing the people in there complain at me because of my age and overall height. I never liked drinking very much, anyway."

Mustang turned to leave, shrugging once more.

"You open to having a bite to eat?"

"Hell no. Not after consuming that stew tonight. Pick something else…"

On the way out of the room, Edward had been tempted to steal one last glance at the sleeping girl behind him. He wasn't sure why it mattered to check once more, but his head tilted back to do just that. He expected to see Winry in the same position as she been in just moments ago- curled up, eyes closed, and oblivious to the world around her. While he confirmed that most of that was still trustfully the same, he noted one minor difference. Her eyes were now open- wide open. And if he didn't know better, he would guess that the deceptive girl had been awake all along. Sure, she looked tired from what he could see, but judging by the pained look crossing her features, he could very well assume that she had been listening to almost their entire conversation. And it wasn't to say that the topics of choice during their discussion had been inappropriate at all. Edward could only guess that she felt upset to find him now preparing to spend his leisure time with a man she held such hatred toward. But what could he do? He realized she was now awake, but what good would come out of it if he were to step back inside to comfort her? How could he? What could he have possibly said to make it any better for her? He could only truly console her if he allowed himself to believe her story. And he couldn't do that.

"Come on, Edward. We don't have all night. There is work in the morning, you know?"

Winry's eyes were holding him so tightly in place; he almost felt he was suffocating. She didn't look as though she was angry with him as of yet- just severely disappointed. Was it sad to admit that even he himself was starting to feel the same way? Edward felt like he was betraying her trust in him, as little as it was. He didn't have to stand before her and call her a liar. His actions were voicing that clearly enough just by what he was doing now, and he hated it. He felt so guilty.

Reluctantly turning his head back to the front, Dr. Elric stepped out of the room to follow behind the impatient medical director pacing down the hall. He felt terrible. Really, he did. But for the life of him, he couldn't make himself stop. He couldn't make himself go back to her to apologize. Edward had no other relationship with Winry, other than to treat her and guide her through a treatment program. He had no connective ties with her whatsoever. But he did have an obligation to the girl, whether he wanted to accept that or not. He had the responsibility to listen to her, and to make her feel safe. What he was doing now was none of the above, other than wilting the miniscule amount of trust that was desperately trying to grow between them. But just what was he supposed to do? What he had been trying to do for Winry, Mustang had done for him so long ago. How could she or anyone else expect him to walk away from that? He valued Roy's friendship, and was more than reluctant to just let it fall apart. How could anyone blame him for that?

Sighing, Edward moved ahead more quickly to catch up with the one walking before him. Perhaps a drink or two wouldn't be out of the question after all. Suddenly, he seemed to really need it. He just hoped they could make it through that terrible rain and fog outside.

'Goodnight Winry. I'm sorry.'

Silverbell: Yes, yes…You're all angry again at me. I did get some nudging from some of you over the past couple months to update. But as you know, life has a tendency to get in the way. I was working at the Fashion Show mall here at my job and I actually fainted a couple weeks ago. How humiliating that was! I'm back in college, and Japanese is getting pretty tough, but challenging. Not to mention, I'll admit… I'm such an addict to yahoo messenger and my occasional Facebook. But at least I'm honest! Anyway, I would like to stress to all of you that no matter how close Edward and Roy appear to be; there is no current plans to have them have a history or future of any yaoi. I will admit, I like yaoi, and I like that pairing, but this is for Edward and Winry. Roy is just… getting in the way, obviously. Damn you Roy!

Read and Review, please? Love you all! And Coco! Can't forget Coco! And Songbird! And- Oh geez… All of you! I love all of you!

Note- Also, I realize the romance is moving painfully slow for some of you. However, I must stress to you all the importance of taking it at this speed. Considering their circumstances in this situation; their roles they play to eachother, and their location... not to mention Roy's presence. It does hinder and delay their feelings... kinda like a road block. But there are changes, I hope you all can see. I also understand that this particular chapter did not carry ANY Edwin interactions. But I did that in itself to show our lovely Dr. Elric's growing desperation to speak with his... patient. So yes, yes.. I understand some of your complaints, and I do apologize if its going too slow for your liking. But I really have to pace myself.

But here... for your temporary enjoyment till the next chapter.

Dr. Elric: -Cough- Winry...?


Dr. Elric: Would you go tell the authorities if I admitted to having some sort of...attraction to you?


Dr. Elric: I mean, I know I'm your doctor...

Winry:... Um...

Dr. Elric: Ah hell.. Will you just go on a damn date with me?

Winry: ...Well I would, but...

Dr. Elric: You will? Great, then the courtyard it is. -Tugs her off-

Roy: -Peers over the window with binoculars- ...Interesting.

Silverbell: Oh, what a terrible mistake you've made Roy. The readers here aren't very happy with you. -Opens the magical 'Read and Reviewers' door- This is their perfect opportunity to now beat the snot out of you.

Roy- ...

Silverbell: Toodles!