Categories > Anime/Manga > Full Metal Alchemist > The Placidly Torrid, Abnormally Normal, Charmingly Skewed Love Affair (that almost wasn't)1 Reviews
The homegrown, small-town-intrigue deep south roots of what the author holds to be the strongest, most enduring romantic relationship in Amestris: Sig and Izumi Curtis. Something so grand had to st...
Izumi knew the townspeople of Dublith did not consider her normal, and that they tolerated her in the same way they tolerated Dante, though with a considerably smaller amount of respect. She did not even go so far as to consider herself normal. Any other girl of sixteen would have been more concerned about keeping her clothing and hair neat and clean than about whether or not she could knock down a few shoddily constructed practice dummies with a couple of well-placed dropkicks. Any normal girl would not have twisted such long, pretty hair into a multitude of dread locks - which she found much more manageable- and would have been more interested in sixteen-year-old boys than in alchemy.
Any normal girl would not have attempted the walk from Dante's manor all the way to the town common at such a late hour, and in such questionable weather. Any normal girl would have worn a coat to keep off the near freezing rain that was threatening to crawl inside her skin and sink into her bones. Any normal girl would have paid closer attention to where she was putting her feet on such a poorly lit path, and any normal girl would definitely not have sworn up and down to every god under, around, and beyond the sun when she twisted her ankle by catching her foot on a root that had worked itself free of the earth.
Moreover, any normal girl would have sat right down and cried when she realized that she could barely walk, but Izumi was quite abnormal, and at the moment, very glad to be so. She stumbled her way along, goaded on by the happy little lights she could see burning inside the windows of the townhouses a short way down into the valley. Izumi knew the sun had not set completely, but it was as black as tar out anyways, and the rain driving into her eyes did nothing to help her visibility.
She cursed again as a branch whipped her in the cheek, and stepped off the path into the forest, under the thick foliage of an old, gnarled oak. The leaves provided a brief respite from the torrential downpour, but only when the wind wasn't blowing. Leaning back against the rough bark, thankful of the lightning that had helped her thus far, she pulled a small, wax paper envelope from her pocket. This damnable little thing was the reason she was out in such weather. It was addressed to one Light Hoenheim, and Dante had insisted that it go out with the last post.
"I would go myself, my dear, but these clouds make my bones ache, and walking down that hill is so taxing on an old woman," Dante had said, tucking her shawl around her shoulders to ward off the slight chill in the air. Izumi had not needed much more persuasion: the woman taught her on top of feeding her, boarding her, and clothing her. One small letter really wasn't too much to ask.
She shoved the envelope back into her pocket, and was just about to hobble off again when a small yowling sound caught her ears. It was very nearby. In fact, it was coming from about four feet away, tucked in between the roots of another oak.
Already caked in mud from the shins down, it was only a small inconvenience to kneel down in the muck and mulch and peer between the tangled roots. In a crack of lightning and thunder, two small yellow eyes gleamed at her, and Izumi laughed despite herself. Reaching into the roots, heedless of the tiny, needle-like claws that dug themselves into her hand, she got a firm hold around the kitten's body and pulled it out. When she had righted herself, and gotten a better grip on the struggling animal, she cradled the tiny thing against her heartbeat, making sure to shield it as much as possible before setting off again for Dublith.
She had cleared the trees and was within about a hundred yards of the outermost buildings when she saw a lantern held high, bobbing along as whoever was bearing it walked quickly through the dark rain. As it drew closer, she realized it was being held aloft by Sig Curtis, the butcher's son, and she started slightly, for here was the one normal thing about her: alchemy or not, Izumi had been sweet on Sig since the moment she had laid eyes on him. He dwarfed her in height - no easy feat, for she was tall for her age, and was likely to keep growing- and something about his darkly quiet mannerisms had jumped out at her and lodged in her chest, making her heart beat faster whenever she so much as thought of thinking of him.
The circle of light drew nearer, illuminating first her feet - one of which was held oddly a bit off the ground - then her legs, torso, and finally her face - and she froze like a cow in front of an oncoming train.
For the first time in a long time, she wished she were just a bit more normal; had she been, she might not have been injured, covered in mud, and soaking wet. She wanted very much to turn and run away as fast as she could, but since her current speed was quite low, she just stood there, looking, she was sure, like a complete and utter dunce.
His dark brows drew down in puzzlement. He was, no doubt, wondering what kind of idiot would be out in this rain. Instead of laughing at her, Sig set the lantern down on the least muddy patch of ground he could find, unclasped his rain slicker, and swung it around over her shoulders.
"What are you doing all the way down here in this weather?" Sig asked, turning away from Izumi to look out at the surrounding landscape. He appeared to be searching for something, and was paying little attention to the fact that he would soon be as wet as Izumi was under his raincoat.
"I could ask you the same thing," she said back, pushing her wet hair out of her face. "Your shop is on the other side of town."
"I'm looking for Emmaline's kitten", he answered distractedly, and Izumi's heart twisted in a small fit of jealousy. Emmaline Prath, the mechanic's snotty little blonde ditz of a daughter, was Sig's girlfriend.
Izumi smiled, a little bitterly, and uncurled her hands to reveal the small, distressed feline. The little ball of wet fur just screeched at the both of them, and struggled to be released.
"The damn thing got out the door earlier today, before it started raining," Sig continued, taking the kitten from her and bending to retrieve the lantern, oblivious to the sour look on Izumi's face. "She's been nagging at me all day to go out and look for it."
Nagging? Izumi thought slyly. Happy couples don't nag...
What she said was, "Trouble in paradise?" trying to keep the glee out of her voice.
Sig just snorted at this, then turned to her suddenly and said, "Let's get out of this weather."
Izumi nodded, though in all truth she had completely forgotten it was raining. Sig turned to go back the way he had come, tucking the kitten into the pocket of his jacket. Izumi, who had to take two steps for every one of his, was hard pressed to keep up. Her ankle no longer pained her: instead, all she could feel was her toes throbbing in time with her heartbeat. Her foot had gone numb, and it still refused to support her weight.
Sig stopped abruptly and turned around, and Izumi nearly ran into him.
"Are you limping?" he asked, and something in his voice made it seem as if he desperately wanted to smile.
Izumi just stared blankly at him, then replied tersely, "Of course not."
Squaring her shoulders, she limped ahead of him, standing as straight as she could.
He did smile then, but he had learned it was best to let bull-headed young women burn themselves out before attempting to offer any kind of assistance. They were less likely to maim you if they were exhausted.
"Careful there," he said gently, catching her by the shoulders when she nearly fell on her face. She glared up at him and he offered, "Ground's slippery." She could feel the strength and warmth of his hands, even through the raincoat.
She made a show of sighing resignedly to take a few moments to collect herself. The kitten mewed from his pocket and she muttered, "I tripped over a root walking down that damn path in that stupid dark forest."
"Let me carry you," he offered, and she froze. She turned back over her shoulder to stare at him incredulously, and all he did was stare back.
Then she made a rather unladylike snorting noise - that sounded to Sig to mean something along the lines of "In your bloody dreams, you mass of raging male hormones"- and said "You can't carry me and the lantern; the last thing we need is another twisted ankle caused by visual impairment!"
"I think I can manage a lantern and a little thing like you," he said, sounding quite full of himself. She was tempted to shout, "Manage this!" and kick him in the knee, but she was fairly certain he wouldn't feel it: you needed two good legs for a decent kick, anyways.
"Fine, fine," she mumbled to herself. To him, she said "As long as you don't haul me over your shoulder or burn me with that damn lantern!"
He chuckled at her and got down on one knee in the muddy street, holding an arm out to her. When she just stood there he reached out, pulled her flush against him, and hooked his arm around the back of her thighs.
"Put your arms around my neck and bend your knees," he said, and she could feel the low rumble of his voice deep in his chest. He shifted a little in the dirt, moving against her, straightening his back, and bracing his arm so that her toes just barely touched the ground. Then he stood, lifting her with him, held in one arm like a child. He gave a grunt and took a theatrically exaggerated breath, chuckling to himself at the way her brows drew down in anger. He quieted when the front of her foot hit his thigh, not hard, but too close to the mark for his comfort.
He set off back the way he had come, Izumi in one hand, lantern held high in the other. The rain had abated somewhat, but the lightning was growing more sporadic and the thunder was getting steadily louder, none of which Izumi was paying much attention to. There was an uncomfortably, comfortable warmth spreading across her skin wherever they touched. She could feel it radiating off him, and her ankle was going from swollen and numb back to swollen and painful.
Sig was climbing the steps at the front of the shop, fighting for a free hand, when the door swung open. Standing silhouetted in the warm light was Emmaline, whose face fell when she saw that her beau was carrying more than just her kitten and the lantern. For a few moments, she looked as if she wanted to do nothing more than burst into tears, then her features took on a slightly jealous hue. She quickly stepped aside to let them in, but the minute the bad weather was locked out, she rounded on Sig and Izumi, both of whom felt and looked slightly guilty.
"What is she doing here?" Emmaline demanded in a harsh whisper, as though Izumi were not dripping water all over the floor right in front of her.
"Have a heart, Em," Sig protested, setting both the lantern and Izumi down on the front counter. "She twisted her ankle on the way down the valley. I found her out limpin' around in the rain, I couldn't just leave her there."
"Serves her right, going outside in this weather," Emmaline muttered, crossing her arms and looking out the window. The wind was knocking against the glass almost violently, and the rain had returned in torrents.
"I found your stupid cat when I was outside in this weather," Izumi announced cooly.
Emmaline's mind seemed to exclude the "I" and "stupid" in Izumi's sentence: she heard only the "found your cat," and she broke out into a very sunny smile, directed at Sig. He pulled the kitten from his pocket, and with a shrill squeal, Emmaline leapt forward to swoop it up from his cupped hands.
"I'll be right back," Sig said, when it was clear neither young woman was paying him any attention: Izumi was glaring at the back of Emmaline's head, and Emmaline was cooing sweet nothings to the kitten, who was clawing and shredding her hand as much as it had Izumi's.
Sig exited the room, heading back into the portion of the building that was used as housing, and Izumi wished immediately that she had not been left alone with Emmaline. The other girl made her skin crawl. The very sight of her blonde hair and sun-tanned skin, polar opposite to Izumi's dark dread locks and too pale complexion, made her want to destroy something in a fit of violent jealousy. Emmaline was small and boyishly slim, where Izumi was tall and, though it had embarrassed her until about ten minutes ago, quite full figured. What in the world made such a delightfully unrefined, quiet young man date someone as loud, brash, and shallow as Emmaline?
Then it suddenly struck her that she and Emmaline were not all that different.
"What are you sneering at?" Emmaline demanded, now leaning against the wall, the kitten tucked under her chin.
"I twisted my ankle," Izumi said in lieu of her actual thought. "I'm not allowed to be upset?"
"Did you even bother to look at the sky before you went outside?" Emmaline demanded, and Izumi wanted very much to kick her shoe off at the other girl's face.
Sig returned then, bearing a towel, a blanket, and a small red raincoat that obviously belonged to Emmaline.
"Dry yourself off," he said unnecessarily, handing the towel to Izumi and laying the blanket down beside her. "I'm gonna walk Emmaline home before it gets any later and her father's inclined to beat the tar outta me."
"You're imagining things," Emmaline quipped while he helped her into her raincoat. "He does NOT hate you."
"He sure as hell don't like me," Sig muttered, taking back the rain slicker Izumi held out to him once she had peeled it off herself. He tucked himself into it with a mumbled thanks, then said more clearly, "She only lives a few streets over. I'll be back in a minute or two."
With that, he grabbed Emmaline's hand, pulled open the door, and dragged the protesting girl out into the rain.
When the door had closed with a click! Izumi couldn't help but wonder if she was alone. She looked back down the darkened hallway, told herself it was silly to be afraid, and spent the next minute and a half waiting on pins and needles.
Lightning crackled across the sky, the door swung open, and Izumi nearly fell off the counter in a start. Sig stepped inside, shook the water off himself, and dropped the soaking raincoat next to Izumi. Neither said a word, and in the silence that followed Sig grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders, taking care to tuck her into it.
"What do you say we get dried off and warmed up?" he asked, pushing the wet hair off his forehead.
She just nodded, and hopped off the counter, landing harshly on her one good leg.
"Hey now," he said before picking her up in both arms, blanket and all.
"I think I can limp safely over a dry wood floor," she retorted, scowling up at him.
"No one said you couldn't," he soothed, smiling a little in the face of her all-encompassing pride. "But I haven't got the lamps lit yet, and there's a good chance you'd trip over the furniture."
"Oh," was all she could think of to say in the face of such sound logic, so she contented herself to the feel of his arms, and began a slew of guilty little fantasies in which he carried her to his bed.
By the time he had set her down in the armchair and managed to light one of the lamps she was on fantasy number three. He gave the color in her cheeks a second glance, and wondered if he shouldn't have been quicker with getting her out of the rain and into some dry clothes. He wished his mother and father were home - they were visiting his aunt, who was expecting a baby- because he didn't know what he would do if Izumi were to take ill. The color in her cheeks darkened when she caught him staring at her, and she looked away towards the fire, which was no more than smoldering coals on the hearth.
In the ensuing silence, he put a kettle on for tea, stoked the fire until it was roaring properly, and changed into a dry shirt. When he returned to the living room he found Izumi had migrated from the armchair and was now sitting in front of the fire. She had pulled her hair out of its ponytail, and was now drawing the wet black ropes over her shoulder to wring the water out of them. The droplets ran down her pale arms and fell onto the hearth to sizzle into nothingness.
She turned to look at him and asked, "What would Emmaline say if she knew I was spending the night?"
"She knows," he answered, trying not to think that the tone of her voice somehow confirmed all the guilty things he had been thinking since he had carried her through the front door.
He just stared at her as if to say, "What, you think she wants us alone together?"
He was spared answering by the whistling of the kettle. He returned a few minutes later with two steaming mugs. He handed one to Izumi, kept the other for himself, and sat down beside her on the floor. She had shirked the blanket, which lay around her folded legs and was steaming in the heat from the fire.
She sat the cup down, and wincing a little, began to pull her shoes off. The old black boots were covered in mud, which was not all that much worse than their usual worn appearance. It took her twice as long to get her left shoe off because her ankle was so swollen.
"Do you have any ice?" she asked, still scrutinizing her injured appendage. It was an ugly purple-red color, and was about twice as large as it should have been.
Sig didn't answer, but climbed to his feet and left the room, returning moments later with a small misshapen block of white ice wrapped in a towel. Izumi took the ice when he offered it to her and pressed it to her ankle with a grimace.
"So why were you out walking around in this weather?" he asked when the silence had stretched on for longer than he felt was necessary.
She swore softly, and dug in her pockets for the stupid letter that had been so important. Its chances of making it out with the five o'clock post had been slim at best, and they were quite impossible now. The address was smeared almost beyond recognition, and Izumi was almost certain the letter in the envelope was illegible.
Dante would be mad - or as mad as Dante ever seemed to get. The old woman never showed much emotion past slight disgruntlement, mild annoyance and half-hearted disappointment. Though Izumi knew very well that it wasn't Dante's fault she had tripped over that root, she felt some sort of recompense was due, so the threw the letter in the fire.
"Letters get lost in the post all the time. She'll never know," Izumi said, more to herself as an excuse than to Sig as an explanation. She looked at the thin pages curling and crackling in the heat, and immediately regretted that she had acted so rashly. She watched the letter burn itself to smoke, feeling all the worse for doing so while sitting alone with another woman's man.
But then again, why was Sig sitting here with her if he didn't want to be? He could have put her to bed and left her well on her own. He could have taken ten minutes, a quarter of an hour walking Emmaline home.
Yet, there he was, sitting beside her, staring past the flames.
"I should tell Emmaline," he said suddenly with a sigh.
This puzzled Izumi greatly, for nothing had occurred that she felt Emmaline needed to know about. She turned to Sig to ask just what he needed to confess so badly, but his mouth connected with hers- in a manner much gentler than she had thought him capable of- and her words were swallowed up. His hands pushed the hair back off her neck and shoulders before resting there, and for a few blissful moments, even the rain outside was warm and gentle.
He pulled away suddenly, and wouldn't look at her. Izumi's mouth felt cold despite the fire blazing mere feet from her face. The ice lay forgotten by her foot, where she had let it fall when Sig had kissed her.
Izumi looked out at the room that surrounded her, mind working furiously and yet all thoughts coming up blank - almost blank: the memory of him had crawled down the back of her throat and stuck in her chest, right beside her infatuation for his quiet persona.
When she snuck at glance at him, he was still staring at the floor by his knee.
Izumi was the kind of girl who took what she wanted. She tried to be sure that what she wanted was not already someone else's, but if she was being honest with herself, she would have admitted that Emmaline could have fallen down a well and she probably would not have raised a hand in aid. Izumi also knew that what she was about to do wasn't right, but to be honest again, she was too young to care all that much. Emmaline would cry, she would mope, and she would move on with her life.
With these thoughts in mind, and an infirmity in her limbs that made her tremble, Izumi rose up on both knees, gripped Sig's forearm (somehow managing to shift his massive body toward her own) and kissed him: hard.
She was both shocked and bolstered by her own brazenness, but rational thought fled when his arms came up around her waist and pulled her close against him. She reveled in the texture of his mouth and the taste of his breath, and marveled at the tightening deep in her belly. His hands were oddly cool against the warmth of her back as his fingertips played along the line of bared skin at the hem of her blouse.
An ear-shattering crack of thunder startled the two apart, and Sig still could not look her in the eye. In truth, Izumi did not think she could have returned his gaze. There was something deeply personal about staring into the eyes of the young man you had just finished swapping spit with. If she looked at him, it wouldn't be swapping spit anymore; it would be something too deep for one so young, so Izumi just laid her head on his shoulder and let him hold her.
"I should get you to bed," he said momentarily, straightening and pulling away from her. It was all she could do to stop the cry of dismay that wanted to leap from her throat, but sitting in his arms in the quiet room had made her realize how exhausted she was, so she put up no fight when he scooped her back into his arms and stood.
"You can sleep in my bed," Sig said, his voice low and rumbling like the thunder.
Izumi couldn't help but snicker at this. "What, with you? I know Emmaline wouldn't forgive you for that!" she couldn't help but prod, delighting in the red darkening his face.
"Not with me, you crass-"
"Alright, I'm sorry," Izumi cut in, laughing. "Don't let me kick you out of your bed."
"I'll sleep in my parent's room," he interjected, pushing open the first door on the left with his foot.
The light from the hall spilled across a small room with a bed pushed into the far corner and a dresser against the wall. There was a set of paisley yellow curtains pulled shut across the window, and a few picture frames stared back at her.
"Do I need to light the lamp, or can you manage with the hall light?" he asked, moving into the room and setting her down on the bed.
"You know a certain inventor named William Wilhelm made this amazing discovery a few years ago," Izumi began conversationally. "He called it the lightbulb. You should clue your parents in."
"They know, thanks," he said irately, "and they're fine with the oil lamps. So am I."
"Even Dante has electricity now," she continued, idly beginning to undue the buttons on her blouse, wondering how far she would get before he thought to offer her something clean to sleep in.
She was down to her navel by the time Sig could draw his eyes away from her moving hands and back to her face. He turned abruptly on his heel and stalked over to the dresser, where he pulled out a clean white shirt, which he tossed over his shoulder at her. She smiled at his back and continued to undress, tossing her damp, mud smeared clothing into a small pile at the end of the bed before pulling his shirt over her head. The thing came down past her knees.
"Do you need anything else?" he queried, now facing her as she pulled her hair back into its customary ponytail.
"Glass of water would be nice," she said, producing the first pure thought either of them had had in half an hour.
He lumbered off to the kitchen and Izumi tucked herself under the covers, trying not to aggravate her ankle. She let her eyes wander over the pictures on the dresser: Sig with his father, Sig with Emmaline, two very small boys playing with a young woman Izumi recognized as Sig's mother. Her eyes lingered longest on the picture of Sig and Emmaline, and for the first time the night Izumi wondered what the hell she had been thinking when she had kissed him.
The guilty thought flew out of her head as his massive frame appeared in the doorway, blocking out the hall light and sending the room into darkness.
"Here y'go," he said softly, handing her a mug of cold water before making to leave the room again. "I'll take you back to Dante's tomorrow morning if the rain's stopped."
"Thanks," Izumi said, smiling up at him and taking a sip of the water.
He grabbed onto the doorknob, and mumbled a goodnight before pulling the door shut.
The rain continued to slap against the window long into the night, fading just before dawn. Izumi fell asleep almost instantly, so exhausted was she from the day's events. Her last lucid thought was imagining what it would be like to wake up underneath this same ceiling each morning. The possibility made her smile.