Reaching Up

She did not cook, did not clean, did not sew clothing like the women of his village. She was not at all like the women of his village. And he would have had it no other way.

It was entirely up to him to provide for them, while she wandered the forest nearby, speaking to the animals in her tongue. From the response they had to her, deer and birds and rabbits resting about her with cocked and attentive heads, he thought that they might understand it where he did not. He understood very little about her, even as the days passed and the moon changed phases and the seasons of rain came and went once and again.

Again, he would have had it no other way. He'd made only half-hearted attempts to teach her the language he spoke, and had only succeeded in coaxing her to learn such simple words as yes and no - even then, she did not use them often. It was not an inconvenience, for something in the way she responded to him told him that although his words likely made as little sense to her as hers did to him, she understood. So did he, somehow. They spoke rarely; it was both futile and unnecessary. Their understanding came on a deeper level. With only a confused glance, he was reproved for his one attempt at a hunt; he should not kill her friends in the forest. An outstretched hand told her to stay close to him, for there were humans about, and no friendlier to him than they would have been to someone as unusual as she.

His attempts at creating some semblance of a normal life for them had been quickly abandoned as well. He had known all his life that even he did not quite fit into the definition of normalcy that he'd grown up surrounded by - and she? She was anything but normal.

He'd tried to secure ordinary shelter, ordinary clothing. It was futile, for she clashed with their physical surroundings no matter how simple and universal he tried to make them - she was of another world, composed of light and shadow, and not the ordinary elements of life he'd tried to surround her in, no matter what changes had been wrought through the castle's destruction. A makeshift hut of branches and grass had been ignored while she danced in the cold rain. Upon securing new garments for them both, to shelter them from the wind and the chill, she'd worn the woolen dress only a few moments before simply discarding it, returning to the tattered dress of some thin fabric he'd never encountered before or since the first moment he'd set eyes upon her. Impractical as it was for a life lived wandering the forests without hearth or home, it was the only clothing that suited her, that fit her physically and spiritually, and she did not outgrow it - she did not grow at all, though he did. He'd grown as tall as she now.

If she was not wearing that dress, she wore nothing at all, and she went bare through the woods without an ounce of shame. It seemed to him that she had never learned such an emotion, given the life she'd lived, and therefore there was no awkwardness for him either if she chose to go without clothing. The rules for males and females did not apply to her, much less those of the village he'd grown up in, and without that taboo, the sight of her body seemed as natural as the trees or the wind or the water.

He knew, of course, that she was not natural, but she was not natural in an entirely natural way - she was exactly what she was meant to be, and did not know any other way to behave. If she was not entirely present in his world, then he would have to find a way to rise to hers, because she could not comprehend the world he lived in, except to recognize and appreciate the effort he put forth for her there.

He tried to bridge the gap between them, from his world to hers, in the only ways he could. He took her hand to keep her from wandering too far as they passed through the forest, he held her close as they huddled from men who wandered too near, he gathered fruits and nuts to set before her instead of hunting the forest for meat. He knew to anyone ordinary, it would seem as though she took and took and gave nothing back to him, but to him, it was precisely the opposite. Each moment with her was a unique blessing that no one else living had received.

The gap remained, however, and as he grew older it became more troubling, accustomed to it as he was. He wanted to reach her, to see what she saw and feel what she felt. It had nothing to do with language, and he made no further attempts at such things; he didn't want to dull her natural brilliance by making her ordinary in even the smallest way. Though he'd been born extraordinary, he was still ordinary in many ways, and she was not.

She did not change with time, and he did not want her to.

His own changes, however, were difficult to ignore, though when thinking about it, he found that they were not changes at all. It was this realization that let him decide at last.

Standing with him beneath a slender young tree in her gauzy dress, she appeared to glow in the moonlight. Her expression was vague as ever - she seemed confused as to what he was trying to say and why he was trying to say it, in the same manner that she'd seemed not to understand when he'd given her new clothing, or tried to keep her out of the rains when they came; it was simply not something she'd ever learned about.

As he could not express himself to her in words she would understand, he spoke to her in the same way he had for the years since they'd met. Eclipsing her pale hands beneath his darker ones, his actions spoke in his behalf as he leaned forward, experimentally brushing his lips against hers. Her lips felt like a breeze after the rains, soft and damp and elusive.

She did not respond, either to encourage or discourage, and he found himself wondering if she did not understand this either. Trying to make himself clearer, he pressed against her mouth once more, capturing her lower lip gently and caressing it with his own. His hands slipped up from her fingers to her elbows, stroking the smooth skin lightly as he coaxed her closer.

She made a soft sound that he did not think was a word at all, even in her language, and he let go of her, opening his eyes and moving back cautiously.

There was no longer a confused look in her eyes, but a glimmer of vague surprise. For once she did not seem distant, as if her attention was somewhere else entirely, but now it was on what had just passed between them on this plane - as if he'd brought her from whatever heaven her soul normally dwelt in to look upon the earth where he lived for the first time. Her dark gaze remained on him as she slowly lifted one white hand to her mouth in disbelief.

At first he was frightened of what he'd done to her. Above all else, he did not want to cause her to become only another part of his world, or to become something as ordinary as a woman for him. But as he watched, her pale lips curved in a gentle smile, then parted as her whispery voice put forth a single word in his language, elevating his world to hers in only a brief moment.


Personally, I think one of the best things about ICO is that they chose to make Ico a young boy, ruling out the generic concept of romantic tension in favor of something more precious - the selfless choice to help someone in need. ...But who knows what happens after the game's ending? Despite that opinion, I think that simple, sweet friendship could in time become something more...