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East & West

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Nature itself seemed to be taking a break as the hot rays of sun lightly touched the growing bulbs of flowers. Eying the great weather outside, the young Xingese woman allowed herself a few minutes of rest. Mei Elric, née Chang, was comfortably sit in a wooden chair as she admired her surroundings. The beautiful landscape around the house was very different from her home country, but it was just as beautiful. It was all very lovely: the wide, open green fields that covered every single inch of earth; the tall trees that reached up to the bright blue sky… But as beautiful and as relaxing this place was… it still wasn't home.

Her homeland was Xing and it was so far away. And it was now impossible for her to reach it - in more ways than one. It wasn't impossible to reach because of the many kilometers of a scalding desert, or the long journey to reach the first city under the Chang's clan command, which was almost in the middle of the country. Her home wasn't far because of those reasons. Rather than physical distance, her real difficulty was the lack of understanding of her own family.

.

"Stop this nonsense once and for all, Mei!" His father shouted at her while her other family members looked disdainfully at her. "This… this aberration of a relationship you have with that foreigner is disgracing this family and I will not stand it any longer!" She could see her aunts frown and some of her cousins snicker from the corner of her eye, but still she stood firmly in her seat. "Either you stop it altogether or you will be banned from this family!"

She tried to stop the tears while her hands trembled viciously - she was a member of the Chang family, she would not cry. Feeling like a defendant in a courtroom, she was already being judged without even having the chance to defend herself.

"You can't do that, father! I am the firstborn and I represent the Chang clan in the court, and shall continue to do so." She was glad her voice was still strong. "It is my duty and-"

"Your duty is to honor this family by marring an honorable suitor and conceive strong heirs to this clan."

"Alphonse-sama is more than honorable-"

"That is, of course, because you were unable to acquire immortality when you came back from Amestris the Yao brat." The venom in her father's words was very palpable. His hatred for her seemed to be bigger than for any of the other clans.

"Father, that's no way to refer to our Emperor." Mei said stubbornly.

Even now, after all of her and Emperor Ling's efforts, there still was tension between the major clans of Xing.

Before she could respond, her mother made her presence known for the first during the meeting. The matriarch of the Chang family spoke with a reprimanding tone.

"Mei, please understand. This is a very troubled time for our clan; and as a member, you should do your best to maintain our integrity."

Mei couldn't stand it anymore. She left the room without looking at anyone's face. As much as it hurt, she didn't regret not being able to speak to her parents after that day. She did, however, regret taking one good look to remember their faces before she left Xing to join Alphonse in Amestris less than a few weeks later.

.

Alphonse reached his main objective of obtaining the chimera's original human form after a couple of years under her tutelage. It was impressive how far the young alchemist came and how he was still able to learn and do so much. Initially their training hadn't shown outstanding results, but once Mei understood Alphonse learned better through theory, there were instant results. In only a few months he had already mastered the basics of Alkahestry.

Mei once pondered if maybe the fact that Edward could no longer do Alchemy propelled Alphonse to focus solely on the art for the last years, but she soon discovered that the youngest Elric brother truly loved both Alchemy and Alkahestry. Needless to say, Mei had been very pleased. Not only was Alphonse her match in philosophical discussions, they could now entertain any subject, from the most complicated forms of Alkahestry to Xing's least known cultural fact.

Passing time with Alphonse easily became Mei's favorite past time; she could talk about anything with him and he possessed the freedom of speech and mind she found in no one else. As much as she loved to be with Alphonse – he finally made her stop calling him '-sama' all the time – it pained her just as much to think of the time when he would leave Xing in search for new adventures. Every day the young Xingese woman would ask herself if today would be the day when Alphonse would leave and, as the sun set and the moon rose to the sky, she would ask herself it tomorrow would be the fateful, horrible day.

However, for her surprise, Alphonse didn't leave Xing immediately after completing his training. Under the (assumption) he would be helping Ling with (some things) referring to the philosophy stone, the Amestrian stayed in Xing for five more months. Those months had been the happiest in Mei's life: both alchemists would spend time together as she would show him her country's customs. Every day seemed to be like a date for them and while she enjoyed every moment of it, she also couldn't help being confused. Alphonse's reason for staying weren't related to her and yet he'd come see her everyday while he wouldn't see Ling nearly as often. One day she had enough courage - and curiosity - to ask him.

She remembered his reaction with a fond smile. Upon her enquire Alphonse had blushed and smiled sheepishly at her with his all too captivating charm.

"Mei, for an Alkahestry and martial arts master, you can be quite dense at times!" He laughed good-naturedly.

From then on they were a couple. Their little dates escalated to more, but Alphonse was and had always been the perfect gentleman to her and her family, even if they didn't approve of them. Mei didn't care at the time; she figured they'd eventually understand. Hopefully.

Even so, almost five years after they entered a relationship, her family was commanding her to end it. Mei couldn't believe it. Were they that blind? Didn't they see how happy and complete Alphonse made her, how perfectly and harmoniously they fit? Almost like Ying and Yang, she thought fondly. Yet they didn't seem to understand at all. Even after they received the Emperor's blessing, the traditionalists' opinion didn't change.

The decision to leave Xing came from her, rather than Alphonse. With a few spoken words to the Emperor – and a hug from Lan Fan, which visibly surprised everyone in court including Mei herself – and a glare at the parents who would most probably disown her without a hitch, Mei left Xing with a wide smile.

Of course she had been troubled, to say the least, and anxious about a new life in a foreign country (perhaps not so foreign since she did visit it as a little girl and even participated in a series of events that changed Amestris forever). Of course she caught herself thinking at times about home, her clan, and whether she would be able to come back to it at all.

But as soon as she arrived in Resembool, most of her worries were set aside. Regarding the tranquil landscape, every single inch of land covered by deep green shades of grass, Mei could easily see how this was Alphonse's home. It was very different from her own home; there were no trees like the one in Xing, not even the same medicinal herbs, and the vegetables were indeed quite different from what she was accustomed to. It had been quite the sight, she ex-heir to a Xingese clan and member of royalty, having a hard time eating berries and gazing in an almost obsessive way at the box of freshly picked strawberries. Edward once commented on how her curiosity easily rivaled his children's' own, and Mei obviously took it as an offense. While Alphonse and Winry had stopped them before any harm could've happened, Mei had been quite impressed with the late Fullmetal Alchemist's fighting abilities. Apparently Alchemy wasn't the only art Edward mastered, after all.

Day by day, as she learned new things about this foreign land and saw exotic types of fauna and flora as well as very different cultural aspects, Mei became more and more entranced with Amestris – just as Al himself had been with Xing. Soon the couple had yet another subject to discuss, one they could merrily pass the time while babysitting their godchildren while Winry and Edward engaged in yet another one of their date-fight-date events.

It hadn't happened in a single day and it was definitely not a last hour decision, like everything in Mei's life. After endless thinking, planning and daydreams with her vivid imagination, Mei realized that Amestris had also become her home. The kind people of Resembool and the loyal soldiers from the army found a way to her heart while the rich and different culture of the foreign land made her restless with curiosity as she tried to learn more and more. Without realizing, Amestris was slowly becoming more and more of a home to her.

.

She gave up everything for him: her rank, her clan, her home and her family. It had been her choice and she couldn't be more proud of herself, of them.

This wasn't her homeland; this wasn't Xing and there were no traditional festivities or oriental clothing besides her own. There was no sight of a single one of her relatives or another of her clan's never-ending meetings. Here she couldn't just stroll down the halls to meet the Emperor or spend all day training in the imperial grounds or even visit a tiny community of pandas.

This was Amestris, a country with a history and culture very different from her own, but still just as deep and interesting. There was a military with powerful efficiency sustaining a still young democracy and the festivities were slowly growing in size and diversity (according to Scar, who she still kept contact with, there would be Ishvalian festivities in the main land very soon). This country's books were written in a completely different language and Mei was still having a hard time to understand while Alphonse kindly understood her – for he had suffered just as much, if not more, with the Xingese writing – and helped her whenever possible.

Amestris was indeed very different from Xing and as such, she also felt differently about both places. Slowly, but surely, Mei was making Amestris her new home. She would not forget about Xing, not ever, and there was still hope that her clan would see in the future how important foreign relationships were (just as Ling himself had seen) and it would happen in a near future. Rather than forgetting and substituting, her heart was expanding and adding memories.

There was room in her heart for both Xing and Amestris – for the East and the West, both her homes. There was room in her mind for learning about both cultures and languages without ever forgetting a single detail. And there was definitely room in her heart to love and cherish both sides of her family. Her clan in Xing and the kind people from Resembool were equally special to her, no matter what.

A pair of golden eyes appeared before her, but Mei didn't flinch at all. She had always been able to sense Alphonse's ki, which was as vibrant and as golden as his orbs. The couple exchanged soft smiles and a quick peck before he kneeled down to his level, refusing to get a chair to sit "like any normal person".

Alphonse just shrugged with his easy-going smile and replied with a tone that bore no pain, "I've been out of practice with this body for too long", for the hundredth time.

It didn't bother Mei, though. She knew he meant no harm and was only justifying his attempts by being humble in true Elric – or maybe just Alphonse, really – fashion.

"I'd have helped you out there today, but since you refused having me there-" She commented off-handedly, already expecting his reaction.

As expected, the young man frowned at her.

"You know it's not that. I'm just worried about you, Mei. With your condition-"

"I'll have you know that the members of the Chang family never 'take the day off'. My mother still trained when she was pregnant and I don't expect to be any different." Her tone was haughty and authoritative while her eyes were anything but.

Already accustomed to his wife's playful banter – both of them did have a quirk for acting as royals every now and then as well – Alphonse smirked and played along.

"My humblest apologies, milady. Surely you understand that I, as your husband-"

"Princess consort" She added playfully.

"-Princess consort," he consented with a wink, "merely worry about your and the baby's safety."

"As any marvelous husband such as yourself would." She felt the need to complement.

Shiny gold met sparkling ebony.

"You may not be a prince, Alphonse," She noticed his smile at the ("finally!" as he said once) lack of suffix after his name – although she still couldn't bring herself to call him just 'Al'. "But you're quite the prince charming for me."

Mei's smile was a mixture between a small, warm one and a full out smirk. As she noticed the blush spread mercilessly on her husband's cheeks – that comment always got him – the smirk won the competition on her face. It was intriguing how Alphonse seemed to be at times an embarrassed teenager and at others a mature man. He once commented she was the same, but Mei disagreed. As open-minded as she may be, she was still a lady – and a Xingese one at that – and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Settling close to each other, Alphonse crouched on the floor despite Mei's resistance while he was still on eye level with her, the couple chatted absent-mindedly as they held hands and looked at each other with calm, understanding eyes.

These were the moments when Mei didn't question her current location. Wherever Alphonse was, it was already home for her. And Amestris was slowly, but surely, becoming her home as well.

.

This wasn't her home; Mei thought as they intertwined their fingers to touch her protuberant belly. Not yet, anyway.

.