A/N: I don't own anything. I promise.
I wrote this story for Amy who is great.
Mei Chang sits on the palace steps, forgoing dignity and royal status today. There are 100 of them, and she sits at the top, looking down on the spread of the city. She is simply a girl waiting for a boy who might not even care about her. She really has absolutely no idea, except that he means more to her than pretty much anyone. However, Alphonse Elric did request that she teach him alkahestry, so maybe…well, there were thousands of people more skilled than she was, ancient masters and so on. But he wanted HER.
She thinks back to all the times he'd saved her life, and wonders, if it were possible, if, just maybe, if, there was a sliver of affection beyond friendship. He'd sacrificed a majority of his metal body for her, and if that didn't mean something, she can't imagine what would. She can only hope, and wait, and build glass castles in her mind of all the things they would say to each other when they met again. She only hopes they won't shatter. She hears the sound of many footsteps against the smooth cobblestones of the large palace compound, approaching the palace itself.
The entourage rounds a corner and comes into view. She quickly searches for Al's face. The last she saw of it, it was hollow-cheeked and ashen. He was nearly broken. But this face? The one that catches her eye and grins sincerely? It's strong and golden, a set jaw and a sweetness to his countenance. It was a face that had recovered from hell, and grown up. Her stomach drops, not unpleasantly, but she feels as if the wind has been knocked out of her. Can a look do that? Can it really?
She moves to scamper down the stairs and meet her old friends again. Travelling with Al is Jerso and Zampano, the chimeras that had helped them all so much, hidden underground on the Promise Day. And mostly, she thinks, she wants to greet Al. It hadn't really hit her until his gold eyes warmed her heart and made it beat like a hummingbird's, a million times a minute. It's her heart he holds now, whether he knows it or not.
So, as she takes a step down the stairs, her mind is elsewhere and her feet get lost. They stutter on the edge of the step before she tumbles down and down. Ow, ow, ow, ow! is all she can think of as she hits each step with a thud, the edges sometimes slicing through her skin until she is covered with cuts. On the last of the many steps, she hits her head hard against the stone ground. Dizzy and disoriented and really really hurting (her body and her pride), she doesn't even try to get up. She uses her medicinal knowledge to determine that she probably has a concussion. How awfully, awfully embarrassing.
Is…is that Al? She tries to say something in return, but can't seem to find her tongue, or make it say what she wants it to. She ends up uttering a sort of quiet groan. Hearing footsteps approach, she tenses, then relaxes when it's Al's voice that speaks softly. "Hey, are you okay?". Mei nods a little and tries to sit up. Al's arm wraps around her waist to help steady her, and despite her condition, she feels a thrill.
"I…I think…I have a concussion."
"Here, let me check. Look at me. Yeah, your pupils are dilated. How many fingers am I holding up?"
She tries to see, but it's like she's underwater and the world is swimming. "Um, 2?"
Al chuckles warmly, "Not even close, Mei. It's good to see you again."
"Come on, let's get you to a doctor."
Al helps Mei stand, but she's so dizzy that she instinctively clutches his shoulder for support. They both blush and look at something else. Jerso and Zampano share a glance and desperately try to contain their laughter.
"Hey princess, you okay?"
"She will be."
Mei smiles a tiny smile. Yes, she would be okay, because Al was here to help her and that's all she'd ever really need.
Mei sits cross-legged on a bed in the hospital infirmary, still in her dirty, torn robes, still with blood matting her hair, still a little dizzy. But since the alkahestry doctor had fixed her concussion, she attributes the dizziness to the fact that Al is sitting on a chair next to the bed, smiling at her while they talk.
"It's been a long time, Mei."
"Yes, it has. Over two years. How is life in Resembool?"
"It's…quiet. But nice. Probably much more fun here, though. Already I've had a more exciting time than I have in months!"
Mei laughed lightly, glancing at him and quickly looking away again. She wondered what he thought of her. She was a fourteen-year-old princess who'd managed to humiliate herself in front of the first international envoy their country had had in centuries. Never mind that she was in love with him.
"You came here to learn alkahestry, right?"
"Yeah, I don't really know the first thing about it. My brother and I want to learn as much as we can about different forms of alchemy. We also just wanted to see the world, but don't tell that to anyone. We might lose our research grants." He said with a smirk. "What's the basic idea behind alkahestry? I know it has to do with chi, or energy, and something called a dragon's pulse. But all that makes no sense to me."
"Let me explain. You have chi paths running through your body, and there are chi paths running under the earth. Try and feel the energy of the earth flowing through your body."
He closes his eyes tightly and scrunches up his face inn concentration. It's adorable.
"No, no you can't do it like that! You have to relax and connect to the earth. Here, I have an idea."
As he opens his eyes, she takes a deep breath and grabs both his hands. They seem so big that hers are almost swallowed. She blushes again, but fights not to let it show. "See if you can feel the energy flowing between us. Every time to people touch, their energy connects. Since they are both connected to the earth, the energy flows up from the earth and through them, before returning back to the earth. Can you feel it?"
"I think so. It feels warm, like sunlight. It's…so powerful. I can't believe that this was here all along and alchemists never knew about it! I can feel it, it has a heartbeat!"
"That's why it's called the dragon's pulse. The earth is the heart of the dragon, and it moves the flow of energy. It can't be created or destroyed, but it takes many forms."
She realises they're still holding hands. She has no desire to let go. He hasn't yet, either.
"That's amazing! You're amazing! It makes so much sense the way you explain it. Thank you."
He smiles at her, shyly, and his eyes are making her melt.
"I really missed you, Mei."
"I really missed you too. I'm glad you came to Xing."
And before she actually realises what's happening, he's leaning in to kiss her, and then he's kissing her, and she's kissing him back and the dragon's pulse is still beating between them. She's sure their hearts are breathing heavily, the same. She loves how his lips taste, like sunshine and warmth. His hands are at her waist now, and hers around his neck. She's overjoyed, and the butterflies in her stomach are soaring.
The door bangs open.
"What the hell are you doing with my little sister, Elric?"