***I don't own the series Fullmetal Alchemist or the characters within***
"No peeking!" Winry sang out as she guided a blindfolded Al into the kitchen. Today was Al's sixteenth birthday, and Winry had sent him into town under the impression that he was just picking up some supplies for her, but really it was to give Ed time to sneak Mei into the house without him knowing about it. The girl had practically gone through a complete metamorphosis and Al probably would not have recognized her right away anyhow, but Winry wanted to be sure he got the best surprise ever for his birthday.
"Really Winry," he said, chuckling as he bumped into the door frame and then into a chair. "This wasn't necessary at all! I hope there aren't a whole lot of people waiting to say 'surprise' or anything!" Finally he felt himself being halted, and he could feel the worn kitchen table under his fingertips and smell fresh homemade strawberry cake.
"Hey now, it wasn't all her idea," Ed piped up as Granny lit the candles. "Actually, this part was my idea, the surprise part and your present was all Winry."
With a grin and a sigh, Alphonse said, "That's very nice guys, but you didn't have to, really." As they began to sing, Al suddenly cried out, "Hey, can't I see my cake?"
Winry swatted his hand away and said, "Not til after you make a wish!" Al heaved a loud groan as Winry rejoined the chorus of off pitch singers, and then she helped him to lean over so he could blow out the miniature candles on his birthday cake. "Did you make a wish!"
"Yes! Now can I take this blindfold off?" he griped as his hands yanked the very feminine looking scarf from his eyes. He first looked down at the cake, surprised that he'd gotten them all out in his blinded state, and when he looked up to ask Winry what the big deal was, he saw Mei, sitting just as pretty as you like across the small table from him.
His eyes bulged from his face, his cheeks began to turn a bright red, and his mouth worked soundlessly as words refused to come. "I…" He couldn't rip his gaze from the girl's face. "Mei, are you really here or am I imagining you?"
She leapt up and ran around the table and slammed into him, their arms coming around each other as they were reunited in Pinako's kitchen. Mei's dark eyes were helplessly squirting happy tears into Al's shirt, and Al had dipped his head to rest on hers, one of her spun-up buns right before his nose.
Winry and Al exchanged a knowing look, and Pinako smiled as she watched the two of them. After a moment, they parted, Al forgetting completely about the cake and opting instead to ask how she'd gotten to Resembool and then to the house without his knowledge. Pinako pulled out two chairs for them, settling the girl next to Al as Winry cut the cake and passed around pieces to everyone. Afterward, he took Mei by the hand and they walked around Resembool, talking and catching up and making up for lost time.
Before they returned to the house, they stopped at a little bridge that overlooked where a tributary joined the river about a mile down the valley. They watched the sunset color the sky and the water, and Al looked down at his little admirer, the girl from Xing who he'd kept up a written correspondence with and had come to love. "I've been making wishes on my birthday cake for years, and not once has my wish ever come true, at least not until today."
Mei smiled at him. "I haven't given you your present yet, Alphonse-sama." She scrambled to stand on top of the low brick wall that served as a guard rail for vehicle traffic and gently laid her hands on his shoulders. She leaned in slowly, closing her eyes as she closed the distance between them, and she planted a soft, sweet kiss to his lips. While at first he wasn't very responsive, after a few moments of her breath puffing onto his cheek, he kissed her back. They pulled away from each other, and she whispered, "Happy birthday, Al."
Mei had never called him just Al before. With her it was always Alphonse-sama or Al-sama. "You're gonna drop that whole '-sama' business finally?" he asked as he hugged her tight before she hopped off the wall and took his hand, him leading the way back home.
"Yes, because I know you've never liked for me to do it." She squeezed his hand. "I want you to like the things that I do… I want to make you happy."
He blushed. "That kiss was a good start." He loved how she smirked at that and leaned into him.
"I thought so too."
It had been almost 14 months since Al's journey to Xing. After spending a month at the imperial palace among the Xingese royalty, he asked the Emperor if he could take Mei with him to gather his research on alkahestry, citing his lack of fluency in the Xingese language as the necessity for having Mei as his personal translator. Ling had given him a smirk that day, gave his blessing to take his little sister with him, but warned him, "Do with her as you wish, but if she sheds a single tear over you, you'll have to answer to me." Al gave his word that he would treat her as the princess she was and they were off over the countryside, speaking with alkahestry masters and fellow researchers and students alike.
Al and Mei learned a lot about the world in that time they were gone. They each learned alkahestry to a new level, learned about the world at large (after all, Al was only seventeen when they left, and Mei only thirteen), and of course, a lot about each other. Al learned very quickly that when Mei said it was time to go to bed, she did not always mean go to sleep. However, if she said it was time to go to sleep, she meant it, and she didn't put up with Al's little shenanigans when she was tired. She learned that if he said he was trying to concentrate, it was best to leave him alone. Although he might spend all day working on something, if Mei managed to leave him to his work and not pester him, he would reward her in whatever way she chose, and most of the time it was to simply unbraid, untwist and brush her long, long hair. He learned Mei was scared of lightning, and she learned Al could out-snore the biggest bears. He learned the places on her body that sent her eyes fluttering shut, and she learned that he blushed at the mere mention of removing his clothing for her.
It was mid summer again, and they had made their way into a rather large town in Xing's most southern province, near the ocean. There was a telephone there, and Al placed a call to Granny's to check in with his family. He learned that Ed was just about finished in the west, having gathered all he could out that way and would be coming home soon. He learned there was to be a wedding for his brother and Winry probably very soon after Ed returned home, and though Al wasn't quite ready to leave Xing, surely a month or two hiatus for the wedding and to simply take a break from their seemingly endless journey would be alright. He told Granny to send his love to those back home, and to count on seeing them in about two weeks or so, then he hung up the phone and went about finding he and Mei a place to stay for the night.
After dinner, they'd taken their baths and were resting after the first round of love making. Al held his sweet girl close to him and sighed, "It's almost your birthday, Mei. Have you thought about what you'd like to have as your gift?"
She sighed as she snuggled up closer to his warm, bare chest. "You asked me this question last year, Al," she said with a grin. "I already told you, I have everything I could ever want right here in this bed."
"It would really make me feel better if I could give you something besides myself," he said as he kissed the top of her head. "Come on, isn't there anything you want? Hair combs, ribbons, what about new earrings or new shoes? Geeze, I'll even get you a puppy if that's what you want!"
Though she never said anything about it, she always hoped he'd figure out that what she really wanted was for him to marry her, to just be Al's wife, and maybe one day the mother of his children. Her eye lashes fluttered against his warm skin. "Really Al, all I want is you. Anything else would just be a thing."
Al ran his fingers through her hair until she finally fell asleep, and then he stared at the ceiling, deep in thought. He wasn't going to let her go another year without some kind of gift. He decided to call Winry bright and early in the morning and see if she could suggest something. Having temporarily resolved the issue, he was able to snuggle down into his girl's arms and find rest for himself.
The next morning when Mei woke up, Al was missing, but their suitcases were still unpacked and in the tiny room. She figured he must have gone to get them some breakfast and went about getting dressed and fixing her hair for the day. He came strolling in with basket full of fruit and some dried meat. Mei thought he looked suspiciously happy this morning, but he assured her it was just because he'd had a great night sleep. She gave him a look that said she would have her eye on him for the next few days, but he brushed it off by handing her a container of lemonade. "Drink up, we're making our way back to Granny's."
She took a bite of an orange he'd peeled for her. "It's a little early, don't you think?"
He shook his head as he blew on his hot tea. "By the time we make our way back to the new depot and get across the desert we'll be right on time. Besides, I'm ready for a break." He couldn't help the silly grin on his face, he just hoped Mei didn't read too much into it, hoping instead that she'd take it as just relief from beginning their hiatus to their research. Thankfully, she finished her breakfast without any more thought about it and they set out that day for Resembool.
Just as promised, they arrived the day after Ed. The house was a mess with wedding things strung out all over the rooms downstairs, and Winry stole Mei every chance she got to help her decide on everything from her dress to the cake, the champagne to the honeymoon destination. Every night when Mei finally came to bed, Al would take her hair down and brush it out, and she would fall asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow. Al would give her a soft smile and wrap his arms around her and follow suit.
The day of the wedding, the front yard was alive with people. Many of Winry's regular customers had come, some of their military friends had come, even General Mustang and Lt. Col. Hawkeye had made their way in from the new Ishvallan settlement (and no one was surprised to see the engagement ring on her finger, or the smug grin Roy carried when someone asked who gave it to her). Mei stood beside Winry dressed in a beautiful white and pale pink Xingese style dress as her maid of honor, and Al stood in a black and dark green Xingese style pant suit beside Ed. The officiator guided Ed and Winry through their vows, blessed them and their union and pronounced them husband and wife. After a sweet and tender kiss that left the guests applauding, Ed turned to the crowd and said, "Actually, if you wouldn't mind staying for a moment longer…" He nodded to someone at the back of the crowd of seated people, and in no time, a streak of red and black had raced up the aisle and taken the justice of the peace's place.
The look of fear on Mei's face was very apparent, as she'd left her kunai in the house. She dropped the bouquet of flowers and assumed an attack stance, but was shaken out of it by Winry who was now behind her and pushing her towards Al. He was smiling at her and reaching for her hand.
"Have you asked her yet?" the person who streaked past asked. Mei turned her head to look who it was that was talking so friendly to Al, and her jaw dropped. Her older brother, the very Emperor of Xing, stood in formal assassin's garb, the kind that was reserved for his personal guards within the palace. He flashed a grin at his sister.
Al turned to her and took her hand. "Mei, I asked you what you wanted for your birthday, and you said all you wanted was me. If that's what you truly want, then…" he got down on one knee as Ed and Winry's wedding party looked on, "will you marry me, Mei Chang?"
He had produced a ring from somewhere, a princess cut ruby ring set in a polished white gold filigree setting. She looked at Winry, who was positively beaming, then at Ling, then back to Al who was waiting for an answer. Suddenly it all made sense why Winry had all but kept her away from Al the whole time they'd been back. She took a deep breath, started giggling and then crying happy tears. Unable to speak, she simply nodded, and stuck her hand out as the crowd to her left came alive with cheering and whistles.
Al rose up and kissed her quickly, then turned them to face Ling. Ling stood crookedly, running his hands through his bangs. He looked out at the crowd, then back to the little sister that he met back when the world was falling apart and Ed was still performing alchemy. He gave her a soft smile, and finally straightened his stance as Lan Fan made her presence known, standing just off to the side of the area that had been sectioned off and designated as the 'altar'.
"I know you guys are expecting some kind of big fancy speech or ceremony from me, but I can't really offer that. Because Al and Mei's current residence is listed as Xing, I came to make their union official." He looked back at the couple he was supposedly marrying. "Al, the day you asked to take Mei with you, I considered her to be yours, and I had my advisors put Mei down as your wife that afternoon."
Al's eyes widened. "How did you know I would ask her one day?"
Ling grinned evilly, "Because I heard what you two did the night you came to stay at my palace." Al and Mei blushed bright red and the crowd behind them whooped and laughed. Speaking to the crowd, Ling said, "My servants are quite faithful when reporting the latest gossip."
Ling looked back to the two young people in front of him. "I will do my best to make this as much like a real wedding as possible." He spread his hands over their heads and said in a loud clear voice, "I ask the gods to look down upon these two who obviously love each other very much, and bless them and their friends and family here as they begin their life together." He dropped his hands back to his sides and asked Al, "Do you promise to me and to Mei and to whatever deity you hold dear that you will always take care of her, never lie to her, and… umm…"
"Take care of her when she's ill, make her laugh when she's sad, and cherish every smile she gives you?" Lan Fan said. Her eyes locked with Ling's as she said this and for a moment his mouth went dry. He nodded at her, then turned back to Al and Mei and said, "What she said, do you promise?"
Al looked at Mei, eyes bright and happy. "I promise." He felt like his face was going to crumble because he was smiling so hard.
"Mei, my little sister, do you promise to Al and to me and to the gods that you will take care of him when he's sick, make him laugh when life gets a little too much, and cherish every smile he gives you, and never lie to him and whatever else it was I said?" Everyone giggled quietly, and Ling even smiled at his own poorly rehearsed set of vows he offered to them.
"Yes, I promise!" she smiled as a tear rolled down her cheek.
Ling stood straight and proper before the both of them, speaking a Xingese prayer that ended in both he and Lan Fan bowing to them, and Al swept Mei up in his arms and put Ed's kiss to shame, one of his hands sliding down and squeezing Mei's little round bottom. Mustang, Havoc, and Braeda actually stood up and applauded while the gathering of friends cheered and gave wolf whistles.
"Well!" Ling exclaimed as he rubbed his hands together. "What're you waiting for! Look at all that food! Go! Eat! Dance! This is a celebration!" The guests and the happy couples joined together and indeed ate and danced and drank into the night, and when it came time to get sent off on their respective honeymoons, Al looked at Mei and said, "I didn't have anything planned for this part Mei, and as often as we travel, I thought I'd send Granny on a trip and we'd stay here if that's alright."
Mei's hand came to his face and she kissed him sweetly. "Wherever you decide to go, I will be right beside you."
"Just so long as you stay in your own room I don't mind," Granny said as she grabbed her suitcase and hat from the front porch, taking Maj. Armstrong's arm as he escorted her to his car. She motioned for Al to lean down and give her a hug, then she did the same to Mei. "Two kids couldn't deserve a better wedding. I wish you both the greatest happiness."
"Thank you so much Granny," Mei said as she released the little old woman.
"Don't thank me, thank Winry. This was all her idea." She waved goodbye, and soon after, everyone else began to make their way home. Al and Mei saw the rest of their guests off and made their way back to the house. Al picked his bride up and carried her over the threshold as was customary, and then he made his way carefully up the stairs.
"Did I surprise you?" he asked with a grin.
"Of course you did," she beamed.
"Was it the best birthday present ever?"
Mei snuggled against him as he maneuvered them into the bedroom. "Yes… I finally got my Alphonse-sama all to myself forever now." She felt cool linens pressing into her back as he laid her gently down in the bed. Her small hands gripped his face and pulled him down for a hungry kiss. "Allow me to express my gratitude, husband." Her fingers slid to his chest and began unbuttoning the tunic he was wearing. They spent the rest of the night sealing their marriage with physical proof of their deep love for one another.
Al looked at her sidelong as he sat at the typewriter, typing up the second volume of his handwritten notes. Mei had been unusually cheerful today, but it was a subtle kind of cheery, and Al was pretty sure there wasn't much about Mei that was subtle. It stuck out on her like plaid pants with a polka dot shirt. He paused for a moment, cracking his fingers and taking a sip of the tea she'd made him. "You feeling alright?" he asked. He didn't miss the flash of a blush in her cheeks as she answered him.
"Yes, I'm fine. Why do you ask?" Mei seemed to have a sneaky little grin on her lips.
"It's like you're lost in the clouds or something. Are you plotting some kind of birthday bash for me?" He narrowed his eyes questioningly at her as the grin grew and the blush returned. "That's it isn't it? Jeeze, you and Winry always make such a big deal out of my birthday. I'm not a kid anymore, it's just another day in the week for me." He gave a humph and turned back to the typewriter. "You really don't have to go through so much effort for that. I'm happy with just a nice dinner with you at that nice restaurant on 7th Avenue and then a nice evening practicing our tantric technique."
Mei had that soft smile on her face again, like she was miles away in some fairy tale thought. "If a nice night is what you want, then a nice night you shall have." Mei gave him a big cheesy smile, and he gave her a scowl that read, 'Smartass…' She breezed back into the other room where hundreds of pages from his journals were strewn about, getting back to organizing them into some sort of order so that he could type them up. Al thought that was strange, too; usually Mei put up more of a fight than that… He gave a sigh as he refocused on the notes in front of him.
The next day was Al's birthday, and he felt that same unusual happiness radiating from his wife, except today she seemed to be buzzing with excitement. At breakfast, he looked up at her and said, "Will you tell me what's going on?"
Mei smiled. "No." Well, at least that was normal behavior.
"Remember, no big party, you promised."
"I did, and there won't be one." She practically beamed as she shoveled a mouthful of scrambled eggs into her mouth. Al noticed that she'd made an exceptionally large breakfast, and that she was already on her third plate… What the hell was going on?
"For the record, you're acting really strange. I hope everything's okay…" He gave her a worried glance.
She giggled. Really though, despite how odd she was being lately, Al knew she was still his beautiful, sweet wife. If something was really wrong, she would have told him by now. And besides, did it have to be something bad? She seemed so happy… surely something good was going to happen. Maybe it was concerning her citizenship application? It'd been about two months since she applied to change her citizenship from Xing to Amestris as an ambassador.
"It will all be clear tonight after dinner," she said gently as she reached over and squeezed his hand.
"Mei, you better not have gotten me some huge gift. You know I have everything I've ever wanted right here."
'Not everything, Al,' she thought to herself. "I promise. Relax, today is your birthday, dearest. I have followed your wishes to the letter. I think you'll like it." They both turned back to their meal in companionable silence.
Around sunset, Mei knocked on the door to his study and told him it was time to get ready to go to dinner. They went into their bedroom to change clothes and as Mei slipped on a silken dress from Xing, Al gave her a strange look. It was awfully tight on her, and while it looked extremely uncomfortable to him, she insisted it was fine. "Wouldn't you rather wear something a little looser? I know you've got other dresses that fit better." He felt guilty… It was likely all that sitting around and reading and typing they'd both been doing lately. A few extra pounds were certainly no big deal, but to get in the habit of not moving was. Absently he felt of his own pudgy belly. It wouldn't hurt him to get in some exercise either.
Mei gave him a disappointed pout, the first discontent look he'd seen on her face in days, she said, "No, there's a reason I want to wear this one."
"Why?" he asked as he cinched his tie up around his neck.
"You'll see…" she droned as that goofy grin returned. Rolling his eyes and huffing he growled again about his desire to not have a big party. Mei reassured him it was only going to be the two of them and to freakin' relax already. She gave him a playful swat to his arm and sat down at her vanity to fix her hair.
Mei had made reservations at the restaurant a few days earlier, and they had a special secluded spot in the very back corner. A brightly burning stained glass lamp threw off a multicolored glow and they sat next to one another as they talked and ate. The waiter brought a box to the table with a tag that read 'From Winry, Ed and the kids'. Mei placed a tiny box next to it, and they finished their meal laughing as Al tried to figure out what his gifts were.
When they were finished with their meal, Mei sat her brother-in-law's gift in front of her husband. "Open this one first." Al gave her a small smile and was relieved when it was only a small cake with a single candle in its fluffy frosting. It was topped with chocolate drizzles and nuts and red powdered sugar, and it had a caramel flavored filling between two chocolate layers.
Mei seemed to rush through her slice of cake, and he chuckled. "You're really ready to give me this gift aren't ya?" She blushed adorably and looked into her lap. His hand came to her face and tilted her chin to him. "You really are the most wonderful gift I could ever receive. No object will ever amount to you and what you bring to my life." He kissed her with caramel coated lips and she moaned quietly. When they parted she grabbed the box she'd sat out for him and put it in his hands.
"Open it," she whispered. His honey colored eyes searched hers for a moment, then he smiled and nodded. It was a tiny box, maybe about the size of a child's building block. Lifting the lid, he found a Xingese coin with a hole in the middle. But instead of the bronze color it should have been for the denomination it was, it had been plated in silver, and it was on a ring that could be opened and he supposed more could be added to it. He'd seen similar things on some of the people he met while he was there, but Al really didn't know what it was.
"It's beautiful Mei, but I don't know what this is." She took it out of the box and clipped it to his belt loop. He was surprised to see her eyes shimmering with tears. Enough was enough; he grabbed her hands and asked her seriously, "Mei, what the hell is going on?" he asked as he thumbed away tears that had begun to fall.
"In Xing," she said with an unsteady voice, "it's traditional… for…" She smiled as she gave a sobbing kind of laugh. "It's traditional for a father to carry a ring of gixiong to let everyone know how many children he has."
Understanding bloomed on Al's face, and his jaw dropped slowly. "You… Mei, we… We're gonna have a baby?" His hand came to her belly, which was so very pronounced in the tight dress… Speaking of which… that made sense now too. Mei had been the same clothing size for years, ever since he'd come back to be with her. Now she was practically poured into her favorite elegant dress, and it was tightest where… his child was laying.
He threw his arms around her and laughed into her hair, holding her close and telling her over and over how this was the best birthday ever and asking how she was able to keep such a secret from him and why she didn't tell him right away. "How long do we have to wait for it to get here?"
"I'm already two months, so we only have seven more months to go, and then…" she said as she nuzzled her face into his neck, "we'll be parents."
"Have you told anyone else? Do Ed and Winry know?" Al asked as the goofy grin was now plastered all over his face too.
"No, I figured it should be you to share your birthday present with them." She beamed at him as he quickly laid money down on the table and began hurriedly putting what was left of the cake back into the box it came in.
"Come on, let's go tell 'em!" he said, grabbing her little hand and tugging her gently to follow him. He didn't think his feet touched the ground the whole way out to the car.
A few weeks later, Al sat down behind his typewriter again, this time in the kitchen, as he had moved out of the study to make room for the nursery. He saw another silver coin lying on a swath of red silk next to his coffee cup. On a notepad, he saw his wife had scribbled a note:
The doctor says it's TWINS!
She peeked at him from around the corner, then giggled as he slumped back in his chair, goofy grin renewed. He saw her and rose with a quickness, grabbing her gently and leaning down to kiss her growing belly, her fifteen year old body finally full and round and curvy in all the perfect places. "Thank goodness, I was worried it was just one really big baby in there," he chuckled as he kissed her neck.
"Nope, just two normal sized ones!"
He nuzzled her cheek. "I love you so much, Mei. I'm so lucky to have you, really."
"I know, I know… I'm quite a catch," she said as she kissed him on the lips. They disentangled from one another and Al placed the coin on the ring which now hung around his neck. The sound they made when they clinked together was almost like a soothing chime, almost like the sound of the windbell that hung outside their bedroom when they lived at the royal palace. Mei looked up at him. "You ever get the feeling that we were supposed to be together? I mean, aside from me falling in love with you when you were a suit of armor, our timing has been freaky good with each other…" She felt him nibbling at her ear lobe; Al must've been particularly pleased about the news of the second baby.
"I don't know if it was fate or destiny," he grunted as he suddenly hefted her off her feet. He walked in the direction of their bedroom as he continued, "All I know is I can't imagine my life with anyone else." Mei was gently deposited onto their bed and the curtains were softly drawn against the morning sun, a well worn night gown was removed along with neatly pressed slacks and a crisp, white oxford style shirt. The cooling coffee, red silk ribbon, and typewriter would all just have to wait. Surprises like this didn't happen everyday, after all.