A/N: Written after receiving the prompt "happily ever after" which is all I could ever want for this pairing like goddamnit just be happy you crazy kids.

Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist. Oh so many regrets.

...

Her lord's favorite story was of the girl with cinders in her hair.

When they were children, an old nanny with a tooth missing grin and knarled hands that could whip up the prince's favorite foods in mere seconds before his lady mother could disapprove would tell them about a girl with rags for clothes but a heart of gold who worked tirelessly for her cruel, low-ranking family. One day the emperor's heir happened upon her, saw her beauty beneath grime and muck and hardship and asked for her hand. She became empress and bore her husband many sons, loving him dearly until the end of her days. It is said, the nanny explained, that there is a version of this tale in every culture around the world.

The prince couldn't get enough of the story.

Respectfully silent, Lan Fan hated it.

She could understand (though didn't assume; never assume the young lord's thoughts) why perhaps he was so attached to it: the thought that someone born so low (the eleventh son) could be raised so high (heir to an empire) was a matter of personal identification for him.

But for girls like her. For her it is different.

Because while there is a place for jades hidden in the rough that only need a good, clean bath; for ladies with soft nightingale words and hands folded like silk; for beauties who can so easily rise by only the enchantment of a man- there is no place for girls who have been broken and rebuilt, for warriors who must bind budding breasts to hide femininity as if it were a contradiction, for women with rough skin and hardened muscles weighed down with grief for dead grandfathers-

For bodyguards who cannot make flesh arms reappear with mere soap and water.

There is no room for happily ever afters for girls like Lan Fan.

They do not exist. The closest thing she sees to a fairy tale is the Chang girl's courting with Alphonse Elric, and she is happy for her, truly she is- but Mei Chang is also a princess, traditionally lovely in the way any family can hope their daughter to be. Mei Chang is already of a standing to make conveniently romantic political marriages with foreigners.

Lan Fan is not bitter. But she has also known desire, and for much of her life she did not want to be reminded of it.

It is not until later that His Majesty makes her realize how unimportant fables really are.

Because he makes certain there are little magic moments in her life ("blessings," she is more likely to call them), ways he purposely makes her feel like a heroine in a story. It is in the way he grins into her lips for the first time. It is in the way he kisses beautiful into each of her metallic fingers on their first night as husband and wife. In the way that her hair is the only place he will whisper his soul and secrets into when they are alone. How he grins joy into her protruding belly as she whines about being on bed rest unable to protect him, how he promises with his heart in his throat over the crown of their newborn child's head that she will someday be a story, that Lan Fan, no one will forget you, you are so incredibly magnificent that they will not be able to, years from now everyone will sing tales of the warrior Empress Lan Fan and how she saved this country in ways her husband could never dream of-

There is not and never will be a happily ever after for Lan Fan. Bodies wither, generations grow and life will continue beyond her time. But she knows she is happy-and that is more than she could have ever hoped for.

(She will make certain her daughter is never made to feel unworthy over a stupid story.)

...

A/N: Inwardly laughing because I just realized I made a oneshot about happily ever after for Mei a couple years back and ahaha no cares given at all. I'm still taking prompts on my tumblr (woodrokiro. tumblr. com) for Fullmetal Alchemist pairings, preferably for the Fab Four (AlMei, LingFan, Royai, EdWin). For the sake of my feels for this show, please drop me an ask and I'll see what I can do! Hope you enjoyed and please review!