"…putting us in a lot of danger, you know. Our silence isn't gonna come cheap."

"Yeah and not to mention those injuries are quite severe…does that runt really have our money?"

"Yes so you'd better hope he wakes up soon…robbing us blind…"

The first thing Ed heard when he came to was his own pulse throbbing in his ears; he had a headache bad enough to nearly make him pass out again, so he kept his eyes closed. Then he heard the voices, coming from what sounded like the next room—they were arguing, but in the stiffly hushed "hospital voices" that always sound too loud to sick people anyway so Ed knew he was in some sort of clinic. That made sense, he thought, feeling the his pounding head and aching muscles, but that wasn't right somehow…He didn't want to be in a hospital, he had something he had to do…someone got away, had caused an explosion in a mine shaft and—

"Kimbley!" He yelled out loud, remembering the moment he sat up how he'd been impaled in that same fight against the Red Lotus Alchemist. Feeling sick, he doubled over and put his automail arm against his gauze-covered stomach. Ed didn't feel any better when the people in the next room heard his yell and started standing up with irritatingly loud footsteps and the scraping of chairs against a wooden floor. Soon the small metal-framed bed he currently occupied was surrounded by an old man and woman (apparently the doctors) and the two chimeras who'd obviously taken him to them despite his demands to chase Kimbley. The old woman pushed him back into his pillows with surprising strength, and the old man immediately started checking his pulse and feeling his forehead with a briskness Ed did not altogether appreciate. "K-kff..Kimbley," he coughed, "I need to go after Kimbley…" The doctor merely slapped his protesting hand away from his stitches so he could inspect them, while the black-haired chimera Darius said,

"Are you serious, Kid? Do you realize how close you came to dying yesterday?"

"I don't care…I can't just…sit here…" Unfortunately, even as Ed struggled pathetically against the doctors, he had to admit that it was hard to do anything other than sit in his condition. He grimaced.

"Look, Fullmetal," said the other chimera, Heinkel. His eyes were narrowed in concern behind his glasses. "I know you want to help your friends, but if you rush after that guy like this you'll only get your midget butt kicked again.

"Who the hell are you calling short—" Ed gave another attempt at rolling out of bed, but lost his balance and had to grab Heinkel's arm to steady himself. To his surprise, the chimera hissed in pain, but then he felt the bandages under his fingers and remembered that arm was the one he had sliced with his automail blade earlier in the fight. Nevertheless, Heinkel was still holding out his forearm for Ed to brace himself against, and the young alchemist immediately felt guilty—maybe it was the mustache or something, but that half-lion could look pretty darn fatherly in his human form sometimes. He grunted an apology and gave up, slumping dejectedly into the pillows.

"That's more like it, sonny," the old man mumbled in approval. He was now pointing a light into each of Ed's eyes to see if his pupils reacted properly. "You're not going anywhere for a while." Despite the conversation earlier, he did not start demanding payment for treating him like Ed expected. He just stepped away when he was satisfied Ed didn't have a concussion and left the room, probably to get some other device for assessing Ed's physical health. His wife had left a while ago, also searching for something in the next room. Ed grumbled impatiently, anxious to leave and stop Kimbley, to stop him from catching up to Al and the others...were they okay? Were they worrying about him? They probably didn't even know whether he was alive or dead, Winry was probably—

"Where'd you get those?" Ed asked Darius, pointing to the plain civilian clothes that had replaced their military uniforms. The question came out a little louder than he'd expected, but he wanted to interrupt his own train of thought before he started thinking things he shouldn't. Darius glanced at his turtleneck sweater and told him,

"They're the doctors'. They may be greedy as hell, but they've been kind enough to let us stay here until we're healed, and they won't squeal on us to the MPs. Provided, of course—" He looked at Ed almost apologetically. "—that we pay them enough incentive for them to do so."

"That's fine, I've got plenty of money in my State Alchemist account…but one of you'll have to get it 'cause I think they'll be just waiting for me to show up at a bank somewhere." The old lady suddenly returned through the doorway carrying a bundle of civilian clothes.

"Right you are, you keep your wallets full and we'll keep our mouths shut," she cackled. "Here, boy, put these on if you're going to be moving around, you don't need a cold on top of the damage already done to your body." She held out a shirt, coat, and pair of pants that all seemed to be made out of a thicker material than most shops in Central sold. It reminded him vaguely of Resembool wool. Her husband, meanwhile, had returned with a tray of bowls filled with stew.

"Come eat once you're finished," he told them, and he nodded toward a screen in the patient room that Ed could get dressed behind. To no one in particular, he added, "We'll need to go out for groceries sometime soon…" Darius stood to take the tray off his hands and rumbled his gratitude while Heinkel hooked his foot around the leg of a stool and dragged it over to a rickety table. Grimacing at the noise, Ed got up gingerly and went behind the screen with the new clothes under his arm.

"What'd you guys do with your uniforms anyway?" he asked while shrugging off his slightly bloody cotton shirt. The thing was a far cry from the robes the Rockbells gave surgery patients, but it at least offered some protection from pneumonia after the doctors had closed Ed's wounds.

"Burned 'em," answered Darius, "along with your cloak and shirt. They were ruined, kid, and reeking of blood."

"You burned my cloak?" Ed said indignantly. He knew logically that he could easily transmute an identical one given the materials, but he had liked that cloak. It made him feel badass. He grumbled and kicked off his pants.

"You did smell pretty bad," supplied Heinkel. Ed saw the hem of his pants leave the table outside the screen on which he had draped them. He heard the chimera rifle through the pockets. "I think we'll have to dispose of these, too, but leather doesn't burn that easily—gawd, how can you still be walking around after losing all this blood?"

"Kid ain't human," Darius promptly replied. Ed snorted as he finished dressing.

"Isn't that a bit rich, coming from a chimera?"

"Aren't you a bit small to be such a smart-ass?"

"Who're you calling—!" Ed stopped short in mid-angry-leap toward Darius at the sight of Heinkel right outside the screen, inspecting something in his hand. Something about the man's stance made Ed uneasy.

"Hey Fullmetal," he said slowly, still staring into his cupped palm, "you thinking about accessorizing or something? 'Cause I think you're plenty pretty already."

"What the hell—?" Ed sputtered, but Heinkel just held his palm out toward Darius, who had gotten up in curiosity at Heinkel's odd remark. Unlike Heinkel, Darius didn't bother to deadpan at whatever was in the lion chimera's hand, instead releasing a short, bark-like guffaw.

"Preening might be the preferable scenario here, Heinkel. What if he's some sort of closet pervert who goes around stealing girls' jewelry…?" He looked up to see Ed staring with an expression of mixed bemusement and horror that deepened with each progressive word they uttered. "Or did you just rip them out of the poor girls' ears?"

Darius poked the things in Heinkel's hand with one finger, and Ed caught a glint of silver. His eyes widened as he finally realized the source of the men's amusement.

"GIVE ME THOSE!" he yelled, making a mad leap for Heinkel's right hand. The chimera merely closed his fist and blocked Ed's tackle with his left hand, which still held Ed's discarded pants.

"Important to you, are they? Care to tell us why you have these in your pants?" Heinkel was rewarded with an incoherent rant in which he caught the words "invasion of privacy" and "making me sound like a pervert." The boy was scrabbling desperately at the man's outstretched arm, to the point that both chimera were genuinely worried that he'd pop a stitch or blood vessel. The old man and woman, who'd retreated into the kitchen to boil bandages and eat their own meal, poked their heads around the doorway and berated them for "overexerting" each other. "We'll charge you all extra if we have to redo your stitches!" the woman shouted at them, and disappeared again. The Darius and Heinkel apologized sheepishly, properly chastised, and Ed took the chance to finally recover his belongings. He punched them each—with his right arm—as he counted the earrings in his other hand. (Given his still-recovering state, however, it probably didn't hurt them very much.)

He breathed a sigh of relief when he found all four silver hoops and a pair of stud earrings present. They had been in his pocket since Winry gave them to him for safekeeping; he had accepted them with some surprise and red-faced stuttering that he decided to blame on the cold. Ed remembered buying each pair of them for her as desperate peace offerings, that she might reconsider braining him with heavy tools. How was he to know that she would keep piercing her ears just to wear them all at once, the crazy woman?

Noticing the other two staring at him expectantly, he huffed in explanation, "They're Winry's, you idiots," which earned him some noises of surprise that he rolled his eyes at.

"Miss Winry's?" Heinkel echoed. "Why do you have them?"

"Prolonged exposure of skin touching metal leads to frostbite up here. She took 'em off and gave them to me for safekeeping." Ed shrugged, rolling his automail shoulder and hobbling over to one of the chairs at the table.

"Okay...but why do you—" Darius stressed the "you" far more than Heinkel did—"have them?" Ed felt his face heat at the insinuation.

"I'm the one who bought the things for her in the first place, why shouldn't I hold onto them?" He realized his mistake as soon as he saw two sets of eyebrows—or rather, just one set, as Darius didn't seem to have any—shoot upward. "I-it was Al's idea to get them for her! Otherwise she would've hit me with that damn wrench—" Heinkel's eyebrows shot even higher. Damnit, Alphonse always told him reacting without thinking would get him into trouble…! Abandoning his ill-conceived defensive front, he Ed put on a dismissive one instead. "Sh-she said she'd see me at the fort. She p-probably just gave them to me as a promise that I'd get there and return them to her."

The men said nothing. Ed thought back to his own promise, the one that he had so embarrassingly shouted at her in the middle of Central City Train Station. He hated seeing Winry cry. If he could, he would stop her from ever shedding sad tears again. He realized how close he came to having to break that promise yesterday. What if he hadn't regained consciousness in the mine shaft? What if Heinkel and Darius weren't there to pull the bar out of his side? What if—

"Hey…" The two looked up in mid-conversation ("Kimbley really is a bastard…but I can see why they chose her for a hostage…") and found Ed staring contemplatively into his bowl of stew. "I never did say thanks, you know…for yesterday." They exchanged a surprised glance. Darius spoke first.

"What are you talking about? You saved our lives back there. This just makes us even."

"Yeah, no need to thank us, kid. You're pretty decent for a loud-mouthed brat."

Ed scoffed, smiling a little at that last comment.

"Still," he said, "I've still got things to do. People are waiting for me. If it weren't for you, I would've lost the chance to ever get back to them. So thanks."

There was a small silence as all three simply sat companionably at the table and listened to the windowpanes rattle in their frames. Finally, Heinkel cleared his throat.

"Stew's getting cold," he said, and their stomachs rumbled in their agreement, so they finally lifted their spoons.

"So as long as long as we're laid up in this place," mumbled Darius a few minutes later, "feel like telling us why you're of such importance to the Fuhrer?"

"And why half your extremities are made of metal?"

Ed swallowed.

"It's a long story."

Hmm I'm not sure I like the ending, but this scene looked good in my head. I love the chimeras.