Genji had, over the years, learned to love and appreciate his new body as much as his old. He was at peace with the way metal and flesh entwined within him. The faint hum of his inner motors went from keeping him up at night to helping him fall asleep. Not to mention the whole shurikens-in-the-hand-thing always helped break the ice with new agents. With the help of his master Zenyatta Genji had learned to truly accept his new form.
That being said: God did he miss salt.
At first he just assumed the hospital food he ate during his recovery was just bland as hell. Then he chalked it up to the Overwatch cafeteria either having terrible food or just making sure Blackwatch agents got the worst of it. It wasn’t until Genji stole some of McCree’s popcorn did he put two and two together. Salt was lost to him forever.
At least he still could taste sugar or he would have gone insane. Well, that and Zenyatta. Mostly Zenyatta. But sugar was still important to his mental well being. Which was his reasoning behind taking the last cupcake from the kitchen. A Mei cupcake no less! With cut up marshmallows on top to look like snowflakes! It took all of his ninja training to get back to his personal quarters with his ill gotten gains safe and sound.
“Have you acquired your treasure, my student?”
Genji wasn’t shocked at all to see Zenyatta sitting by the large windows in his room. If pressed he would admit that he chose this room for the sole purpose that Zenyatta would come over to admire the view. And if Zenyatta ended up staying there and powering down as Genji slept so be it. There were times Genji debated simply asking Zenyatta to move in but the words never made it past his lips. It wasn’t like they were still on the road, forced to share whatever shelter they could.
“Indeed I have, Master.” Genji took his normal seat across from Zenyatta and placed the cupcake between the two of them. “There was a close call with Roadhog, but thankfully he was distracted by Junkrat catching on fire. Again.”
Zenyatta tilted his head ever-so-slightly, which to Genji was the omnic’s version of smiling. “Then I am thankful you have made it back with your life. But what now? Will you save it for after dinner?”
Genji shook his head. “Took too much risk. I’ll have to eat it now and dispose of the evidence!” He picked up the ill gotten cupcake and removed the wrapper with care. There were people in Overwatch, McCree to be exact, that would curse him for not chewing up the wrapping like gum first. McCree also ate cheddar-and-McDonald Apple Pie sandwiches so Genji did not trust his judgement.
He took his first bite of the cupcake and could have died of happiness right there and then. The rich double-chocolate cake batter, topped with handmade cream cheese frosting, marshmallows and sprinkles combining together in an explosion of sugar overload. In another life he would of hated it, but now he treasured every second. Genji swallowed and went to take another bite, only to stop when he noticed Zenyatta was staring at him. Zenyatta quickly looked away, knowing he was caught.
“Forgive me, my dear student, I was caught up in a thought.”
Genji licked a spot of frosting off his lips. If Zenyatta’s lights brightened in that moment he didn’t notice. “More thoughts of butterflies, Master?”
“Not as such. I simply was wondering what your cupcake tastes like.”
“It tastes...like chocolate? Cream Cheese?” Genji waved the half-eaten cupcake. “And whatever marshmallow flavoring is?”
Zenyatta let out an airy chuckle. “Yes, yes, I am aware of those flavors. I daresay it is impossible to spend any amount of time with a non-omnic without chocolate being mentioned at least once. But I cannot comprehend the concept of taste the same as you cannot feel the energy that powers me. How beautiful and tragic the world is for letting us share a life that we cannot experience the same way.”
Genji did not reply right away. The truth was he hated not being able to share something as simple as the joy of eating with Zenyatta. They had shared so much over the years, to stop now felt wrong. He tore off a piece of the chocolate cake and popped it into his mouth. Chocolate. There had to be a way to describe the taste of chocolate. He thought of Angela and her Swiss chocolates, her savouring each piece as if it healed her. Yet at the same time she would always hide them away when anyone entered her office as if she was doing something bad.
Rich and healing, yet feeling guilt at the same time. Something deserved yet shameful.
“It tastes like the first night I spent at the Monastery.”
Zenyatta’s head jerked up yet he did not speak. So Genji continued.
“I had been observing you, ah, the monks for some time. I couldn’t believe that you were all so real. So Genuine. After Blackwatch I assumed everyone and everything had a dark side to it. I was determined to find out the truth about what the Shambali were up to.”
“I always wondered what brought you to us,” Zenyatta said, finally speaking. “You know, at the time I thought Brother Sage’s visual circuits had gone haywire, the way he shouted about seeing a ninja jumping around at night. Considering you eventually made yourself known to us, I take it we were not the evil omnic organization you made us out to be?”
Genji mumbled something under his breath.
“What was that, my dear pupil?”
“Yes, that and I discovered my armor plating wasn’t designed with Nepal’s winters in mind. Between freezing to death and exposing myself to a potentially dangerous organization I chose the one I could fight my way out of. As guilty as I felt for failing my self-imposed mission I cannot deny how much pleasure the simple bedding and roaring fire brought me. It had been so long since I felt truly warm. The joy, the guilt, the warmth flowing through me, that is what chocolate tastes like.”
“No wonder humans enjoy it so!” Zenyatta shuffled a little closer, their knees almost touching. “And what of the frosting?”
Genji swiped his finger across the top of the cupcake to get a touch of frosting before licking the digit. He wasn’t exactly sure what went into cream cheese frosting besides the obvious, but there was a hint a vanilla among the overpowering sweetness. Such mundane ingredients brought together to be more than the sum of their parts. Genji knew that feeling well.
“The frosting is a simple cream cheese with a hint of vanilla. I have seen Mei make it from scratch before, and it reminds me of my years training with you at the monastery. At first glance the frosting is simple, maybe even boring to most. But they are not aware of the work that goes into it. They cannot appreciate the love and care of the baker combing the ingredients into something far greater than the sum of their parts. My life as your student there may seem boring to most. But I saw the beauty of the simple life you taught me and found peace through it.”
“Does that make me the baker then? Putting love and care into your training?”
In his youth Genji would have been able to play off that line. But current Genji, far removed from his flirty past, could only sit there stunned until his inner systems reminded him to breathe. “I suppose it does, Master.”
Zenyatta let out an airy laugh. “Then that frosting must taste sublime if you are anything to go by, my student.”
Genji’s systems sent a warning about his sudden increased heart rate. He ignored it. “Do you often think about how I taste?”
This time Zenyatta paused, the lights on his forehead flashing before he said. “I am more interested in the taste of marshmallows.”
“Right. Marshmallows.” Genji took one off the cupcake and ate it quick, not really noting the taste at all. “They are light. Airy. Sweet and fluffy to where one would think they could float like you. They bring me to the day we left the monastery together to see the world. I was so nervous, so scared but at the same time I was so happy and excited I felt as if I was going to float away. There was a lightness about me. One I had not felt since my youth.”
“I felt the same way.” Zenyatta said, oddly quiet. “Although my floating was in a more literal sense.”
Their hands were both in front of them and dangerously close to touching. Genji didn’t know Zenyatta had felt the same back then. He suspected there was a lot about Zenyatta’s feelings he didn’t know. But he also knew he was on the verge of finding out, of taking that last step that he had been too afraid to take before. Genji put the cupcake aside and took Zenyatta’s hands within his own.
Zenyatta didn’t pull away. Instead he entwined his fingers around Genji’s. “And the sprinkles?”
“They are the countless days we have spent together,” Genji said, his eyes on their hands, not brave enough to look Zenyatta in the eye. “Training, traveling, fighting, all of it. They are every day, every second I have been at your side. Thousands of memories and moments I would not give for anything in this world. I do not regret a single one.”
“Not even the time that yak attempted to eat your leg after it had fallen off?”
“Not even that.”
Genji risked a glance up at Zenyatta. The lights on his head grew dim, a sign that he was deep in thought. But before Genji could ask if something was wrong Zenyatta lifted up his hand and cupped Genji’s cheek. The warm metal almost burned against his scarred skin.
“What do you think I taste like, Genji?”
Like metal, Genji thought as he closed the distance between them.
Like that soy-based coolant that runs through your body, Genji thought as he kissed the seam of Zenyatta’s mouth.
Like the polish you use that never could buff out all of your scars, Genji thought as his tongue flickered against Zenyatta’s faceplate.
But he did not say that, nor did he say the dozen other thoughts that ran through his mind. Instead he held Zenyatta close and searched for a description his teacher would be able to understand. Genji smiled when the answer came to him, and whispered it into Zenyatta’s audio sensor.