title: the art of linguistics
fandom: the Last Samurai
characters/pairings: Algren, Katsumoto
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: Katsumoto and Algren on either side of the language
notes: for karrenia_rune, for this request on fic on demand.

Language fascinated him.

The sound of a foreign language was one of the rare delicacies of open trade that Katsumoto savored; it was one of the amenities of war for Algren. Language had flavor and texture; it was fascinating to both that the feeling of the words could carry enough meaning that words that had no objective meaning could carry significance to an ignorant ear.

The poetry of language, though, was subtler than words alone. There was language in the clacking sound of wooden swords being heaved together. There was language in the sound of the rain washing down the muddy pathways of a mountain village. There was language in the casual formality of a family dinner, and the gentle sliding of doors. There was language in the flowing lines of clothes that looked more like undergarments to the American, and there was language in shining gold buttons of his jacket, still caked in blood and mud from the battle months ago.

Algren considered Katsumoto's English to be the best in Japan, and that annoyed him. The samurai was supposed to represent the past, after all. Wasn't English the future?

Katsumoto watched as gradually, one step at a time, Algren slipped into native customs, and started to wrap his tongue around the graceful words of Japan.

Katsumoto looked at Algren's diary, the words too cramped and dirty to be easily deciphered, and marveled at the ability of something as essential as words being scratched onto paper like that. There was no soul in the ink formations. But it fascinated him, nonetheless.

Algren refused to see the things that Katsumoto spread out on sprawling reams of handmade paper as words. The brushes, even, that he used were beyond the realm of calligraphy. It was art, but it was not language.

They stood together in the garden of the temple, pink blossoms that were dying all around them, and they artfully discussed discussion.

Algren watched the blossoms, feeling simultaneously outsider and guest, and he regretted that when he left this alien planet to return to the place that was no longer home, he would never again share in a conversation of this level.