I have to give a big shout out thank you to my little sister for helping me out with this chapter! I really wanted to make it the best it could be because I've been wanting to write/post this chapter for FOREVER and it was really annoying when I found I couldn't even end it right. Goodness.
And while I'm at it, I'm gonna take the time to thank every single person who's reviewed and Favorited and followed. I really wish I could go through and thank all of you for all the support and love you've given me, but there are just too many of you which is another huge thing to thank you all for. I really honestly and truly cannot express how awesome and amazing and special you all make me feel. It's crazy. So thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart! I would not have gotten this far without all of you.
And so, without further ado, chapter 50.
"Actually, Alphonse, I would like to talk to you for a moment." Al paused on his way out of his chair and towards the exit.
The court session had come to an end over an hour ago, but the Elders, Ling, Al and Mei were still present in the throne room. Mostly because after the court session had ended, they had both been forced to sit and listen as the Elders gave them a well-rehearsed, and yes, one hour long rant about the abandon of duties and irresponsibility of their actions and their improper behavior and that it was only their good position with the Emperor that kept from further punishment.
It had been quite exhausting, and Al was not looking forward to whatever it was Ling was stopping him from leaving to talk to him about.
Mei stopped, halfway out of her own chair and looked back at him, question on her face. Al shrugged. He had no idea what Ling wanted with him.
"Alone, too, please," the Emperor continued, giving a pointed stare to the Elders. They looked offended for a little bit before shooting him affronted looks and following the Chang heiress out of the door.
Al was left alone in the large throne room with Ling.
"Alphonse Elric," he said imperiously, before hopping off his throne and walking down so they were standing closer. "What am I supposed to do with you?"
"Do with me?"
"You present a very, very big problem that I have spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to figure out. And not only do you not acknowledge my efforts, which is understandable, but you seem to spite them. Why do you spite my hard work, Al?"
Al frankly had no idea what Ling was going on about.
"I think it's only fair that after all I've done to give you the opportunity you want, that you at least attempt to take it. I'm by no means claiming to have done half of the work for you, but I have cleared the way for you to do the work. And you've already done a lot of that. So what's holding you back?"
"What do you mean what's holding me back? What's holding me back from what?"
Ling gave him a look.
Al really didn't have much of a response to that except to turn bright red.
"What are you talking—"
"Please Al, don't treat me like I'm stupid."
"You're completely obvious and everyone knows it," Ling said briskly, blowing past Al's protestations. "Do you have any idea how far I've had to stick out my neck for you two? You know I fought for weeks with the Elders to allow you and Mei to leave together. And when she disappeared with you off to Amestris, I had a field day trying to get them not to disown her and kick you out of the country forever on the spot! And none of this was made easier when I got a telegram from the Chang Providence's leader demanding to know why I allowed a foreigner to court his niece without first consulting him."
"He did what?"
"You heard me, Al. In fact from what he described in his letter, I'm surprised he asked about courting and not an engagement."
The pink coloring was turning more red.
"But I've continued to stick out my neck for you and take it all in stride and protect you two because I can see that you're in love." Definitely red now. "But then you two show up, and you're still at the exact same spot you were two years ago! I don't know what your issue is, but you need to fix it."
"She's doesn't even know how I feel," Al admitted, staring at his shoes.
"Then fix that." The bluntness made him splutter.
"What- but… but how? Where? When? I can't just go up to her and tell her!"
Al's jaw fell down. "Why not? You took forever to tell Lan Fan!"
"I did," Ling agreed, nodding. "And that's why I'm probably the best to tell you to get a move on. Because I'm infinitely happier being able to have my feeling out in the open with her. And I can tell you there's nothing quite like knowing she feels the same way."
"But I don't even know if she feels the same way!"
Ling stopped and stared at Al with a look on his face that made the already awkward conversation even more awkward.
"… Is it possible to get eyesight problems from staring blankly at a flat white expanse for four years?"
"I think you developed some serious sight problems while your body was in the Gate because that's the only way to describe the very real and serious blindness you seem to be experiencing."
Ling continued to stare in disbelief. "Seriously?" No response. "Okay fine. Then I'm not giving you a choice. You may be an Amestrian citizen, but because of your position I still have the authority to order you around. You are going to tell the Princess of your feelings at 8:00 tonight by the lily pond in the gardens. Pick her some flowers or something. Be yourself, it's what she likes. Sorry, loves. And no, you don't have a choice. I'll make sure no one's in the area for you. Dismissed."
Ling really was being completely sincere in trying to get the Amestrian together with his little sister—finally, but really, the look on his face when he blew past everything he said… it was just too good to pass up the opportunity.
Mei was waiting for him outside of the door, pacing in front of the door aimlessly. What were they talking about in there? There was no yelling and or shouting which meant it couldn't have been something terrible. Was it about Ed? Or… her? Some of the Elders had been giving her dirty looks as they walked by her, but that could easily have just been from the previous subject matter.
"Al?" she had to call out to him to get him to turn and look at her. He was walking with his head down and was muttering slightly to himself. And his cheeks were red.
He saw her and the color in his face intensified.
"What did Ling want to talk to you about?"
"… nothing much," he said, distractedly as he stared at her face, a little uncomfortably. "I uh… Things need to change."
She frowned. "What do you mean, Al?"
"You just said things need to change. What needs to change?" She was just trying to make conversation and figure out what was going on. She did not expect him to turn red and start muttering fiercely to himself.
"Nothing!" he shouted, quickly.
"I didn't ask you anything…" Now he was starting to scare her. What had they talked about?
"Oh. Right. Uh…" She frowned at him, now concerned.
"Al, are you okay?"
"… no. Uh, Mei, we need to talk." For some reason, she could feel something dropping out of her stomach. This did not seem right. Something was off.
"About… about us."
Her heart started hammering. Us? What did he have to say about them that would make him this worried and off-kilter? What would Ling have said to him that would make him this… this?
"What about us?" He didn't answer, still just staring at his feet. Her heart started beating faster as a horrible idea presented itself to him.
Al was a nice person. He wouldn't want to hurt her feeling over anything, but he was also too nice to lie to her through his actions or anything else. And if the two desires conflicted he would act exactly like this.
He wasn't going to… Had she been too obvious about her feelings? Had he finally decided that he couldn't lead her on anymore? Was he finally going to say those words she had been dreading…?
"… Uh… Meet me in the gardens tonight, please. About eight? Near the lily pond. Please." There was a lump in her throat.
"Yeah, sure. No problem."
"And… come alone? As in… no Xiao Mei?"
He was worried about Xiao Mei getting angry and biting him.
Mei nodded and bit her tongue, not trusting herself to speak.
He nodded, still distracted, and walked off down the hall muttering to himself again.
Mei continued to stay in place, trying to not let any tears fall from her eyes.
It was bitingly cold as Mei stood near the tree that overlooked the lily pond and she had to rub her arms viciously to keep them warm. She loved this spot in the garden, but she had the horrible feeling sitting in the pit of her stomach that she would soon hate it beyond any other.
"Hi, Mei." His voice was quiet and hesitant, a sure sign that he was nervous. He didn't know how she was going to react—he was scared.
"Hi, Alphonse," she said just as quietly in response, heart starting to beat faster again.
There was silence.
"Do you remember the last time we were here together?" Mei asked, smiling slightly. He smiled hesitantly in response.
"You mean when we set Ling and Lan Fan up and they ended up kissing?"
Silence again. Then Al coughed.
"Mei, there's something I need to tell you."
Her heart caught in her throat. Here it was. It was coming and she wasn't sure she would be able to hear it. But she had to let him say it at least.
"What is it, Al?" she asked, placing her hand on his arm. He lips twitched when she did so but then he continued forward.
"I wasn't planning on telling you, but I don't want to go another day without you knowing. I don't want to make anything awkward between us, Mei, I value our friendship too much." She was almost certain of it. He didn't want her to continue thinking he could ever possibly love her.
"Please wait, I want to be able to finish." She frowned, but didn't say anything.
"I've … I've known for a long time, but I haven't told you because like I said I don't want things to be awkward and if you don't feel the same way I promise that I won't act on it. I thought for a long time that it wasn't what it was and I was trying to deny it and then I just knew and things got awkward and I hated that and I don't want it to happen again." He paused again.
"The truth is … well… the truth is…"
He took a deep breath and stared directly in her eyes.
"I love you, Mei."
Her breath caught.
"I don't know how long I have, but I've known for almost two years now. And apparently I haven't been subtle about it at all because pretty much everyone's predicted it."
He stopped and stared at her with his huge golden eyes that she had grown to love more than any others. She had seen them closed shut in pain, in laughter, and in embarrassment. She had seen them wide in laughter and anticipation. She loved his eyes. She loved his hair, his smile, his laugh, his brain, his compassion, his protectiveness, his determination, his politeness, his never ending kindness.
She loved him.
She couldn't answer him, brain still trying to catch up to the rapid change. She had thought that he was going to do the complete opposite of what he just did. She had thought he was going to be telling her goodbye, not that he loved her.
Apparently he took her silence as a bad sign, though, because his shoulders slumped and he nodded, a fake smile on his face.
"That's fine. It's … it's completely fine."
"No, Mei, I'm serious. That's fine. I understand." There were signs of deep hurt in his eyes. "You don't feel the same way, and I can be—"
"No, you idiot."
"What?" Mei smiled, stepping closer to him. There was still hurt in his eyes, but now there was confusion as well.
"I love you too."
Now it was his turn to stare at her blankly.
"… You do?" She smiled wider and didn't even notice the tears that were starting to leak from her eyes, just nodding. "You do?" he asked again, this time voice sounding completely awed. "How long?"
"I never stopped. From Amestris. I had thought that it was a silly little crush but then when you came, you were so kind and happy and handsome and smart and wonderful it grew it something much more. I… I thought you… I was afraid you didn't feel the same way."
"Why do you think I didn't tell you? I've been terrified that you felt differently!"
Mei started laughing as the tears fell from her eyes. Al joined in and gently cupped the back of her neck with his hand then bent down so they were terribly close.
She met him on tip-toes.
The kiss didn't last long. It was simple. It was gentle. Lips on lips pressed together for a few short seconds before both parties pulled away. Then Al smiled and whispered the same words.
"I love you."
"I love you."
And they kissed again. And again. Until they were both laughing and smiling at each other when he picked her up and threatened to throw her in the pond to which she shrieked and retaliated by almost throwing him in.
"How are we going to do this?" he asked, as they, laughing, fell on to the grass near the pond, lying side by side. "We both have responsibilities to our countries and our families and you're the princess. I know Ling will support us, but—"
"Al, don't worry," she said calmly, reaching over and touching his face gently. "It doesn't matter what they do or say because we love each other. And… being in love is good for the soul. And the soul is the one thing that no one could ever take away from you. As long as we have that… it doesn't matter."
He smiled at her, then pulled her close and kissed her again.
"I love you."
"I love you too."
And they, smiling, laughing, and loving, laid near the lily pond under the stars, happy to finally be with each other entirely.
And here we find the end of Good For the Soul. 50 chapters, one week away from one entire year, and up to their love confession, I fear that if it continued it'd become an out of control monster. But do not fear! There is going to be a sequel up continuing from this point on! So keep your eyes open for that.
And once again, enormous amounts of gratitude to all of you guys. You made this entire journey possible.
And remember, AlMei is always going to be good for the soul.