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The Taste of Living

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The impulse to run her fingers over every surface she could was stronger in her than most, but when every bit of pressure and friction against her skin sparked bursts of flavor across her tongue, she couldn’t keep herself from reaching out for the newest thing that caught her eye.

Granted, not everything she got her hands on left a good impression, yet the thrill of discovering how something unfamiliar would tickle her taste buds made it nigh impossible to keep her hands to herself. She had , however, come into contact with something that disappointed her, and it was people , of all things . They were always either roasted peanuts or sweetened milk or some combination between the two, but they were never anything more. So when someone, somehow, didn’t figure into that range- 

That day at the Louvre, that one touch - that was all it took to draw her in.

His eyes might have been glistening honey, and his voice might have been molten chocolate, but neither of those could compare to his touch. While everyone else fell somewhere between peanuts and milk, the Count of St. Germain was fine wine and rich mascarpone - sharp, indulgent, intoxicating

Had it been a brief encounter, she would have brushed it off, would have chalked it up to her mind playing tricks on her, but… The then-stranger had hovered and lingered, and with his fingers gently tracing the edges of her ear, there was no mistaking the tingle of alcohol on her tongue that left her craving for more.

From there, she had ended up stumbling into a different time, a different world , and although every person she touched still tasted of peanuts or milk, she had come to know that past all the smoked paprika of leather and the mellow cream of cotton, the cherry sweetness of satin and the fairy floss tickle of silk - for whatever reason - the residents of the Mansion were a different story.

With his hand reaching out for hers from the very beginning, the taste that spread throughout her mouth when she had grabbed Napoleon’s hand for the very first time hardly matched his commanding presence. She expected strong liquors or bitter herbs, sharp cheeses or intense spices, something that would match the powerful figure history had made him to be, but instead... what lingered on her tongue was buttery macadamia and vanilla chiffon with a sprinkling of nutmeg.

His impressive reputation demanded respect, but the delicate taste he left in her mouth hinted at something more comfortable, modest, simple , and for quite some time, it had left her perplexed. However, with each subtle smile she caught sitting on his lips, with each gentle offer of his hand to her, she found herself unable to resist stretching out a hand of her own and welcoming the pleasant flavors that accompanied his touch.

It had been difficult to distinguish Leonardo’s taste behind all the layers of delectable fabric he draped himself in, and all the stacks of rosemary that were the books he surrounded himself with - in the library, in his room, in just about any place he felt comfortable. But when her fingers finally brushed against his as they both reached for a fallen textbook-

Leonardo was whiskey flames and roasted walnut bits, with dark chocolate chips melting smooth along her tongue. Warm and decadent, and just the right amount of sweetness that she would never get tired off.

Mozart wasn't one for physical contact, and while he avoided her touch, her mind couldn’t help but wonder. Maybe he was white chocolate and black currant, with just a splash of scotch - just like the keys and woodwork of his piano. Or maybe he was like the cherries and cream, wrapped in cotton candy, that made his clothes. 

Her imagination worked to discern what kind of flavours a person like him would have, only to be surprised when a sparkling lemonade fizzed on her tongue and an icy mint danced on her lips - all while he pulled her close to avoid an unceremonious fall. She was met by concern masked with a scowl and a snide remark, and she couldn't help but think to herself that he was a lot more refreshing than expected.

She shouldn't have been surprised to taste coffee when Arthur had poked her cheek, retaliation for having taken a peek at his unfinished manuscript - or so he said. His touch was not too different from a shot of dark caffeine in the morning, with barely enough sugar to make the bitterness tolerable. 

His brand of coffee never failed to wake her spirit at any moment of the day, but once the initial shock passed, an intense and dizzying butterscotch would flood her mouth. She'd often find herself reaching for a glass of water to wash out the overwhelming saccharinity, but she found that letting go, just to take his bare hand in hers again, worked just as well.

Often, she wondered if Isaac would be annoyed, should he ever find out what she tasted every time they touched. Putting aside the complications of having to explain her crossed senses, a certain pair of authors had gone out of their way, proving time and time again, his disdain for a certain fruit, but there was no mistaking the familiar sweetness that tickled her senses.

Apples, with a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar, and a splash of bourbon, dousing everything in an unexpected heat. His touch, as clumsy and hesitant and timid as they often were, brought about a sense of warm nostalgia that never failed to make her smile. A look of flushed confusion would settle on his features whenever he caught her grinning, and knowing the secret that she kept behind sealed lips, she could only smile wider.

While it had come as a surprise when she realized that the residents of the mansion weren’t the same peanuts and milk she had long grown tired of, finding out just how different the van Gogh siblings were came as a similar shock - both in terms of personality and taste. 

When she had anticipated marshmallows, and vanilla, and all the innocent delights she could enjoy with childish glee, Vincent was toasted almonds and bittersweet marmalade. When she had anticipated espresso and absinthe and all the treats she could only barely stomach, Theo was meringue cookies and caramel peaches.

Vincent’s gentle nature was a welcome change of pace in a mansion filled with peculiar personalities, but whenever his skin met hers, it was no less of an experience than the others. It was citrus sparks and almond smoke with him, overwhelming her palate with a tingling mix of sweet, sour, bitter and salt. Whether it was the accidental brush of fingers or the occasional tug on her wrist, the slightest touch brought a tangy brightness that always cut through anything and everything unsavory - taste, sight, sound and all. 

On the other hand- From light to rich to tart, Theo was layer upon layer of utterly delightful  sugary goodness. His words could be bitter and burnt, and his gaze could be cold and sharp, but he had never held her in any way that would harm her. As rough and as callous and as blunt as he could be, the flavors that bloomed in her mouth each time he pulled her to his side by the hand was just innocent saccharine bliss.

Both time and space had separated her from the life she used to know, but still, she found a piece of home in the strange world she found herself in. A gentle swipe of Dazai’s finger against her cheek brought back the familiar taste of daifuku and matcha, tugging on her heartstrings and pulling out fond memories from the fog of her mind.

It reminded her of bright spring mornings under cherry blossoms in full bloom, and of warm summer evenings amidst the festival lights and music. It reminded her of crisp autumn afternoons outside as a rain of fiery leaves fell around her, and of calm winter nights inside as a year ended and another year began. That first time he touched her, she realized that those halcyon days may have passed, but never truly gone.

Jeanne wasn’t one to seek the company of others - much like a certain good friend of his - and it was almost as if he purposefully made himself scarce around her for one reason or the other. Nonetheless, under the same roof, it was inevitable for their paths to cross over and over again… just as it was inevitable for someone to fall ill after a reckless run through an unforgiving storm. 

As seldom as it was, vampires did get sick, and he had no choice but to yield to her care and attention once he had succumbed to fever. She had paused when she pressed the back of her hand to his forehead, experiencing flavors she hadn’t expected - the subtle prickle of black pepper, the fresh tang of plum and the gentle sweep of thyme. Her hand had lingered against his skin far longer than necessary, and when she finally regained the sense to let the man rest, she could only hope that one day, under more favorable conditions, he would let her stay by his side once more.

When she had first arrived at the mansion, she assumed she had already met all the vampires she could possibly meet in a lifetime, only to be proven wrong when she was introduced to the Bard of Avon himself - William Shakespeare. From the way he effortlessly weaved words together into poetry, to the way he disarmed her with just one look, it was just one thing after the other with him. Oh, but it was his touch, his touch - and the taste that flooded her mouth - was what overwhelmed her. 

He was sage, and basil, and star anise. Bitter, and sweet, and strange. Disconcerting, and intriguing, and soothing. His touch was gentle, and yet firm, and she wasn't quite sure whether or not to let go, wasn't quite sure which of his mismatched eyes she should dare look into, wasn't quite sure what to make of the man that stood before her, equally flustered and afraid of what she might find. 

Although she knew the residents of the mansion were peculiar, she had always thought that Sebastian was ordinary. As a fellow human from the same era as her, she had assumed that he was the same as her, the same as the humans who walked the streets of 19th Century France, the same as the humans who walked the streets of 21st Century France- the same peanuts and milk she had come to dread. But he wasn't. 

A sudden flick on her forehead for a mistake she had made, and the taste of Earl Grey and Key lime seeped all throughout her mouth. It had caught her by surprise, and she had reacted far more intensely than Sebastian had expected, causing him to worry and gently press his bare fingers against her forehead to soothe the irritated skin, but that only made the flavors that settled on her tongue all the more undeniable, all the more enjoyable. 

Maybe it was because they were brought together by the Count. Maybe it was because they found themselves in a strange point in the universe. Maybe it was because they chose to live their life anew. 

Whatever the reason, she hardly cared. Her days had long gone gray and dreary, but with the people she had come to know after stepping through that door in the Louvre, as unconventional as they were, her days had once again become brilliant and beautiful and fun. 

After so long, she once again could taste what it means to be alive.