Disclaimer: Linguistically not mine.

A/N: I started a challenge on LiveJournal for people to provide me with pieces of fanart that I would attempt to write fic for. This one actually turned out very different than I (and probably to original artist) intended. Interestingly, during the course of this fic

Based on lediz. deviantart. com/art/Kinda-love-29650524

My Life as a Polyglot

Fic © Scribbler, April 2009.

Image © LeDiz, February 2006.

Anzu was a body linguist. She said a lot with words, but even more without them. In the beginning she wasn't even aware she was 'speaking', but over time she picked up on her friends' physical ticks and habits – the way Shizuka squinted when she concentrated, like she was trying to remember where she'd left her glasses, even after her operation; the way Jounouchi scratched the back of his neck before squaring his shoulders defiantly when he knew he'd done something wrong; the way Bakura always kept his back to a wall after Egypt. The more she read into their movements, the more she started making a conscious effort to modify her own so she didn't give away anything she wasn't ready to give.

Maybe it was armchair psychology, but it was amazing how much you could tell about a person just by watching them do simple daily tasks – and, in the case of her friends, not so simple, rather more apocalyptic tasks.

Whatever they were doing, watching them was a learning experience. Their faces often said one thing, their mouths another, and their bodies something else entirely. Yuugi was the worst culprit – I'm fine with his mouth, I'm coping with his expression, I'm in agony with his body language. He could stand in the classic Hero Pose – legs apart, arms akimbo, neck arched – but to Anzu's eye his shoulders, knees and spine were screaming out his anxiety each time he went into a duel without the Puzzle. His muscles didn't unclench until six months after they got back from Cairo.

Anzu listened with her eyes. It was probably a throwback to her dance training – Miss Odori would always walk the line of girls at the barre and tutor them in the ways of adopting a character with the tiniest of movements. Loosen your wrists as you walked and you became Coppélia, the living doll; tilt your head, slacken your knees and you were the delirious Giselle; slant your shoulders and widen your eyes to become proud Prince Ivan seeing the Firebird for the first time. Anzu learned more about body language from those classes than anyone could have predicted.

It was one of the reasons she was so embarrassed that she didn't figure out Yuugi and Yami were different people sooner. She could blame her raging hormones, the fact she'd never come across real magic before, or the cheese she'd had for lunch that day, but inside she nursed hot embarrassment that she could've missed something so obvious. Yuugi was an eternally open posture; he walked with his neck exposed, greeting the world with open arms no matter how many times it tried to destroy him. Yami was barely contained violence in quivering shoulders and sweeping gestures that denied any apprehension he might feel.

You could mistake Honda and Jounouchi as being the same on first viewing. They shared the same overconfident stance and the same long stride, which challenged the world and everything in it to just try and take a piece out of them. They didn't walk, they swaggered. Upon closer inspection, however, you started to notice the differences. Honda was more cautious, Jounouchi more aggressive. They both ran at dangerous situations, but Honda took smaller steps to give himself time to figure out what he was going to do when he got there. When Jounouchi ran, one of his shoulders lowered involuntarily, as if he intended to barrel through whatever it was – animal, vegetable, mineral or swirling magical vortex poised to shred his soul into confetti.

When Anzu ran her feet went heels first, because that gait made it hardest to stop and turn around so she could run the other way.

She had no delusions about her own bravery. She could be brave when it came to her friends and family. Seeing them in danger spurred her into action, but she wasn't heroic – not the way the others were.

Yami walked up to danger and poked it in the eye with an overdramatic pointing gesture.

Jounouchi had endured years living with a violent drunkard because as long as he was there as a human stress ball his father wouldn't take his cruelty out on Shizuka by withholding alimony.

Yuugi had accepted the burden of living with the Millennium Puzzle – sharing his mind, his life, his very mind with someone else – and done it with a smile.

Bakura survived the Spirit of the Millennium Ring with his sanity intact.

Those were just a fraction of the heroic things they'd done, and kept doing even after the Millennium Items were gone. Compared to that, Anzu was positively cowardly, with her inner voice shrieking at her to go back and save yourself you little fool each and every time.

Perhaps that was why the boundaries disappeared after Yami rediscovered his memories and left them. Suddenly Anzu's concept of personal space changed, altering in direct proportion with the tension in Yuugi's shoulders and the haunted look in Bakura's eyes. She tried talking to them – they all did – but Yuugi just gave a wan smile, murmuring how he was happy Yami finally had peace, and Bakura just shook his head and refused to talk at all.

Honda, Jounouchi and Otogi all floundered, not sure what to do for the best. This wasn't something they could run at, throw money at, or wave cards at, and they didn't have a pre-programmed response beyond these.

Otogi's movements were surprisingly feminine for a guy – especially a guy who wasn't gay. Anzu had her doubts to begin with, and watched him closely, until he leaned across the lunch table one day and asked why she kept checking out his butt. Amidst the spluttering and blushing he laughed like a drain, making her feel three inches tall and so furious she dumped her yakisoba all over him. It wasn't until Kaiba Corp. Grand Prix, when she saw Siegfried Von Schroeder in action, that she realised Otogi's flamboyance worked along the same lines as 'attack is the best form of defence' – he redirected the world's focus from himself to his mannerisms, hiding in plain sight every uncertainty and doubt that ever had the audacity to cross his mind.

After Egypt, he became so campy he practically glittered.

Bakura's personal space was his haven. Nobody wanted to invade it, especially carrying the guilt that they hadn't noticed the Spirit of the Ring was controlling him for so long. That guilt kept the others out, but it was what drove Anzu to cross the boundaries. She couldn't live bearing that kind of weight. It was like having indigestion, replete with nausea and the feeling your guts were too big for your body. Her heart ached for him as much as his pain frightened her and the little voice demanded she stop pressing his damn doorbell!

Bakura wasn't interested in empty words, so she didn't use them. 'It'll be all right' and 'Are you okay?' were so stupid and pointless when you'd been through what he had. She spoke using a different lexicon – approaching from the front when he hid in the classroom at lunchtime; not stopping, but dropping a brief squeeze on his shoulder as she passed him, bent over his work and trying to ignore the world; waiting by his shoes like an unimpressive bodyguard after school; turning up at his apartment unannounced, with home cooking they both knew was awful, and inviting him to test her latest experiment. She didn't mollycoddle and she didn't use 'tough love', like she would have with the others. She just ignored his air of 'leave me the hell alone' and waited for him to tell her to stop.

He never did.

She'd known he wouldn't because of the way he hunched.

Bakura hunched his shoulders all the time and walked with a slight stoop, like he was protecting his heart in his chest. He didn't want to die, or fade into the background. He was defensive because he'd been hurt, and because he wanted to preserve what was left of himself now the Spirit was gone. Someone who'd given up or genuinely wanted to be left alone wouldn't carry himself that way. Deep down, Ryou Bakura wanted to be saved, but he wasn't sure he wanted to go through the invasiveness it involved. It required persistence, which Anzu was good at. She was also good at bossing her friends about until they did it to, dragging Bakura back into the light with gentle tugs of the rope thrown around his heart.

Yuugi didn't need saving that way. Truth be told, he didn't need saving at all. He missed Yami, and it was torture to suddenly be without him, but that was understandable. There wasn't anything any of them could do about that except wait for time to turn the raw wound into a tolerable scar. With Yuugi it wasn't about rescuing him from some internal void. Yami had already done that.

So why could Anzu not shake the feeling that there was more she could be doing for him? It was the same feeling she'd gotten when she saw Bakura hunching, but this time the conclusion wasn't immediately obvious. Yuugi was stronger now than he'd ever been before; or at least the inner strength that had carried him through a troubled childhood had been externalised. Six months after Egypt, when he was finally more at ease with living life as himself, not just as Yami's other half, she still got the same peculiar feeling when she looked at him – like she was missing something vital that she shouldn't because it was so damn obvious.

She didn't get it until the circus came to Domino and they all arranged to go see it together. They invited Bakura, and Jounouchi volunteered to make sure he actually came. Anzu couldn't help smiling at the offer. Jounouchi still walked like a hooligan half the time, but when he let his guard down his actions were tender as his sister's in their own way.

Yuugi was already at the park bench – their appointed meeting place – when she arrived. He sat with his usual posture: open, honest and unerringly approachable. He'd been that way whenever she saw him after Egypt, and try as she might, she couldn't read anything from it to tell her what she should do to get rid of that odd, dislocated feeling. She knew she was missing something. She knew she should be doing something for him, but she didn't know what it was.

He waved her over, already talking as she sat down. He hadn't been to a circus since they were kids and her mom took them both to see it. He started to reminisce, wondering whether they sold peanuts by throwing packets like baseball games in American movies, and whether there would be any elephants now animal rights were such an issue. Anzu listened to him chatter, that peculiar something pinching the back of her mind, but, again, she had no idea what it was or what she should do about it. Inwardly sighing, she plonked herself down, and for the briefest of moments Yuugi leaned towards her. It was entirely involuntary, over in under a second, and sent such a whipcrack of realisation through her that her teeth almost clacked together.

Oh. Oh.

Yuugi's posture had always been open and inviting whenever she looked at him – especially since Yami left, as if he was reminding the world that he was still there in the wake of the (as he saw it) more confident, more competitive, more convincing Pharaoh Atem. Anzu realised, with the same dizzying embarrassment that clutched her whenever she thought of not initially being able to tell Yuugi and Yami apart, that she'd been missing the most significant part of that statement. Yuugi's posture had always been open and inviting whenever she looked at him. She'd been trying so hard to find the hidden meaning that sparked her fretfulness, she'd missed the wood for the trees.

Anzu was a body linguist. She said a lot with words, but even more without them.

So did the rest of the world, and perhaps she wasn't as great at reading both it and herself as she'd thought.

However, her meaning when she placed her hand quite firmly over Yuugi's, wrapping his fingers in her own and bringing him to a stuttering halt, was crystal clear. Yuugi stared down at her hand. She wasn't looking, but she knew that's what he'd be doing. He swallowed, hard. Then, very tentatively, he turned his hand over and clasped back so that their palms were touching. His grip grew firmer when she didn't push him away.

When the others arrived they also stared, and Anzu knew they were doing their own bit of body linguistics.

Sometimes you really didn't need words.


Side-flings, Homages and Downright Rip-offs

Loosen your wrists as you walked and you became Coppélia, the living doll.

-- Coppélia is a famous ballet about a somewhat creepy, lonely old man called Dr Coppélius, who makes dolls for a living. He has just completed his finest creation: a life-sized mechanical doll, whom he calls Coppélia. The doll looks just like a real person, to the point that the old man himself seems to have forgotten she's not real and frequently has to remind himself of that fact. He dreams of bringing her to life so she can be a proper companion for him in his dotage. He puts her on the balcony of his house so she can have better light to 'read' the book he has arranged in her hands. An impressionable young man called Franz sees her, thinks she is real, and falls in love with her at first sight – much to the chagrin of his jealous fiancée, Swanilda (check out the rest of the story at www. shomler. ).

Tilt your head, slacken your knees and you were the delirious Giselle.

-- Giselle is another famous ballet. The plot takes place in a village in the Rhineland, where a nobleman, Albrecht, has fallen for an ailing but lovely village girl, Giselle, whose weak heart conceals a kind nature and a love of life. He begins to court her, but because she's so sickly any shock might kill her, he pretends to be but a village boy himself so as not to intimidate her. He wantsher to love him, not his title, and Giselle loves her village so much she never wants to leave it even if it meant marrying into money the way other girls want to. Giselle, however, is already being courted by Hilarion, the woodsman. Hilarion discovers Albrecht's true identity just as a hunting party of nobles arrives in the village. The party includes Albrecht's betrothed – the beautiful noblewoman Bathilde, who mhe has been betrothed to since childhood, but whom he doesn't truly love. Bathilde, charmed by Giselle's sweet nature, presents her with a necklace as a thank you for providing food and shelter to the tired party. During their stay, jealous Hilarion reveals the truth about Albrecht. In her shock and pain at being betrayed (she thinks Albrecht wants to take her away from the village and was tricking her into loving him so she wouldn't resist), the delicate Giselle suffers a swoon and dies. Act Two takes place at night in a cemetery not far from the village. Hilarion comes to mourn at Giselle's grave. At midnight, the spirits of young girls who have died before their wedding day rise up from the earth. A terrified Hilarion flees and is pursued to his death for ruining Giselle's chance at happiness. Albrecht, too, comes to the grave bearing flowers, and the spirits, led by their queen, Myrtha, make him dance until dawn with the intension of killing him by exhaustion for lying to poor Giselle and setting in motion the events that led to her end. However, despite everything, the spirit of Giselle loves him still. She succeeds in intervening and prevents his death, and so Albrecht lives to see the dawn. He and Giselle share a last tragic farewell before she returns to the grave and Albrecht has to leave to do his duty and marry Bathilde according to their families' wishes.

Slant your shoulders and widen your eyes to become proud Prince Ivan seeing the Firebird for the first time.

-- The Firebird is a famous ballet based on a Russian folk tale (en. wikipedia. org/wiki/The (underscore) Firebird).

A/N: Did you know a person who can speak more than one language is called a polyglot? No, I didn't either. It sounds more like the noise you make when you cough up a particularly sticky piece of phlegm.