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mikkeneko

Perfume


There were three ways that you could identify the Fullmetal Alchemist, wherever he went.

The first was his unmistakable appearance. Blond hair might be fairly common, but gold eyes were not. Even now, three years after gaining his State Alchemist qualification at the fantastic age of twelve, he had hardly grown an inch past five feet; and he glowed like a flame in the brilliant red coat, stitched with the alchemical symbol of perfection. He always wore long sleeves, long pants and high boots, but when he moved or fought, snatches of metal became visible all the same; the glint of an automail limb, the silver flash of his watch.

The second was the trunk that he carried with him, always, everywhere. It was certainly impossible to ignore; the Fullmetal Alchemist would always be standing over it, haranguing the train stewards or the hotel bellboys or whoever was around to be careful and lift the end a little higher and don't jostle it, you fools, as though they would have wanted to drop a trunk full of possibly explosive alchemical equipment either. And if there was nobody around that he could make carry it, he would create a small cart right out of the street and move it himself, almost a ridiculous sight considering that the trunk was at least as large as he was.

The third was one that not everyone knew about, because while it was just as distinctive as the other two, it wasn't quite so obvious. Only those who talked to him, on business or in the street, really noticed it, and only those who spent quite some time in his presence could identify it. The faint perfume that followed him, wherever he went; the sharp tang of steel, overlaid by the whiff of formaldehyde. It wasn't entirely unpleasant, at least, nor did it seem all that strange an air to be hanging around a State Alchemist, but still, people noticed.

He was polite to the hotel staff, at least; he tipped the bellboys who had managed to maneuver his trunk into his room gently enough for his satisfaction. He thanked the maid who brought him his food, and encouraged by the smile, she tried her hand at a little flirting.

"Why don't you come down to eat in the common room?" she persuaded him, cocking her head to the side and smiling at him. "It should be fun tonight; some singers come around regularly, there might even be a show."

He shook his head, gloved hands gripping the edge of the tray. "Sorry, I've got work to do," he said.

She pouted a bit, but tried to draw him out anyway. "What kind of work do you do?" she said. "Work for the State? That's so amazing."

"Nah, not really." He shrugged. "We're searching for something. Something very important."

"We?" the maid said, confused. A faint smell tickled the back of her nose, something like cleaning chemicals.

"Me and my brother," the Fullmetal Alchemist said. "We've been searching for it for a long time, but we're almost there. And when we find it, we can get back what we lost."

Puzzled, the maid glanced past him into the room, but no matter how she looked at it, there was only one person there, only one bed, only one person's luggage in the room. "Then, are you sure you don't want to come down out of that stuffy room, and eat with other people?" she wheedled. "Or I could come in and eat with you. You must be lonely without your brother here."

He smiled, and shook his head again. "I'm never lonely," he said, "because my brother is with me, always."


She didn't see him before he checked out the next morning, watch, coat, trunk and all. But she was the one assigned to clean out the room for the next guest, and when she did, the crumpled sheets smelled overpoweringly of formaldehyde.