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All Joy

Zürich, 1936

By the time they reach the hall it's standing room only, so Ed props up a wall while Herr Brunner negotiates seats for his wife and daughter in the last row. Bargain struck, he bustles back to Ed, who takes a step away under the guise of making room. He has no desire to share this day with anyone—particularly not a Swiss petit-bourgeois whose wife can't conceal her relief that her bluestocking daughter is about to reel in a husband. He's not sure what Al sees in the girl, either, but he's learned to stifle his doubts. Rubbing at a fading reminder of one such lesson on his left biceps, he hopes she appreciates what a formidable champion she's gained.

Once the ceremony begins, Ed taps his foot through the invocation and the addresses, counting the minutes until the only speech that matters: the announcement of his brother's name among the graduates, now and for all time Alphonse Elric, Ph.D. He picks his brother's black-gowned form out immediately when he rises with his fellows to receive his diploma, but finds it hard to keep him in focus once he steps onto the brightly-lit stage. He squints fiercely, conscious of watching not just for himself but for Granny Pinako and Winry and his mother and even the old bastard whose canny investments paid Al's tuition. See? There he is.

The bluestocking applauds so enthusiastically that her bobbed hair bounces above her shoulders and her mother feels compelled to pass some inhibiting remark. The girl folds her hands and leans away, frowning, but smiles again when her gaze crosses that of her fiancé's brother. See?

Meeting her apple-green eyes, proud and damp as his own, Ed finds unexpectedly that he doesn't mind sharing the moment after all.

In case anyone was wondering, Al is receiving his degree (in physics) from the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH), which began granting doctorates in 1909 and has numbered Wolfgang Pauli among its faculty and Albert Einstein among its graduates.