07 – Cuppa Wake Up

By Chronic Guardian

Written for Twelve Shots of Summer: Seventh Soul, Week 7 – Dating, Start!/But No One Came

"You alright, boss?"

Kairi holds the wayfinder in both her hands and stares at the damaged Gummiphone on the cafe table. She hears the question, but she can't manage more than a nod in response. She hasn't moved for the last half hour or so while silhouettes cross the windows framed by streetlights. Naminé hasn't contacted her yet, but it's possible her Nobody hasn't resurfaced from the lanes between yet.

It's also possible Kairi's phone can't take calls anymore, but she's kind of hoping if she leaves it alone long enough it will recover.

At least she came out with enough munny for cup of coffee, not to mention a world with a coffee shop. Moogle shops are frequent enough out in the wilds, but convenience stands just can't conjure the simple magic of a chair and four walls.

Lifting her cup for a sip, she tips it back all the way and waits a second before realizing she's already emptied the whole thing.

"You want a refill on that?" the cafe owner asks behind her. He's on the scruffy side of acceptable appearance-wise with a black waistcoat and slacks over white shirt with the top buttons undone and the sleeves rolled up. His chin is covered in stubble and a pair of small-lens shades sit on his nose, despite conducting business indoors.

Still, he's friendly enough, even if he's charging an arm and a leg for coffee. It's probably an artisan blend, but Kairi drowned her last cup in so much cream and sugar that it may as well have been instant pour-over.

Still, her latest endeavors have left her high on funds and short on friends, so she might as well stay a while.

"Thank you." She makes an effort to look back at the owner and nod while she takes out her wallet. "Sorry for the..." she trails off just short of "bother", remembering she's the only one in the shop. The barista keeps himself busy, but she could almost swear he's been polishing the same cup for the past ten minutes.

"Don't worry about it," he tells her, affably waving off the half-formed apology. "Although… it's kinda rare my house blend doesn't do anything for a girl. Something on your mind?"

"Someone," she corrects. She should smile at the thought of him, but every memory she reaches for seems slippery and dim, like glass beads clouded over with guilt.

"Ohhh," the tiny bit of his eyes she can see over his shades flick to her phone as a grin spreads across his face. "Someone you're waiting for?"

"I've been waiting," she agrees, "a long time."

It was her great mistake in all this, waiting around for things to happen. Even when she'd gotten a keyblade of her own, she'd just gone and wasted her time in training. She should have gone with Sora, she should have been by his side and walked the same trials. Even if things ended the same, if she could have just been with him a little longer...

Instead, here she was. Alone. He wouldn't come for her this time. Now it was her turn to go after him, to climb whatever walls and walk whatever roads would eventually bring them together again.

"Ah, gee... so that's how it is," the cafe owner chuckles ruefully to himself. "Well, if he's making you wait this long, maybe he needs a nudge. You want me to talk to him?"

"Huh?" Kairi blinks in surprise, then tilts her head with a light frown. "I'm… not sure how much that would help."

If nothing else, they won't be having that conversation anytime soon. And Kairi sort of hopes to have a few talks of her own with Sora before she starts sharing him with strangers again...

Still, the cafe owner presses on undaunted. "Oh, yeah?" he begins refilling her mug. "When did you start dating?"

"Dating?" Kairi jerks upright, then suppresses a yelp as the coffee misses its target and hits her hand instead.

"Whoa there!" the cafe owner pulls back and fumble for a handkerchief from his waistcoat pocket. "Sorry about that, Miss. Just… seemed like a natural thing to ask, I guess. So you're not that far yet, huh? Guy must be a real keeper if you're holdin' out this long."

He says the last part with a dry sarcasm as he retreats to the kitchen and trades his pitcher for a few items from a first aid kit.

"It's okay," Kairi returns through partially clenched teeth. The burn stings, but she's not sure if she's allowed to remedy it with magic in this world. Naminé said something about not disrupting the status quo before they got separated, and she's in no position to be disrupting interplanetary politics just because her hand hurts.

...Not that the rationalization makes it hurt any less.

"Here ya are," the cafe owner returns with ointment and a bandage. They look at eachother a moment, both waiting to see how the other means to proceed, before he takes the initiative and gently lifts her hand so he can treat it. "It'll take longer than a Cure spell," he says while he works, "but if you're that worried about fitting in it should do. Really should work on waking up that potential though."

Her cheeks flare red even as the pain goes away. Not only could she have saved him the trouble, now he has the idea she's too incompetent to try herself. She can't help but send an indignant magical pulse in protest, healing the burn right under his hands to prove herself.

The man stops with the bandage half-wrapped around her wrist and gives a glance over the rims of his shades. "Well… ain't that something?"

"I-I know how Cure works!" she stammers out defiantly.

"Huh," he straightens up, nodding. "...and?"

Kairi ducks her head and continues on in a mumble. "I just… didn't know if it was allowed."

"Well, generally yes," the cafe owner muses, rubbing his chin as he turns to the windows. "Although… I guess it's not so obvious in this world. The Realground parts of San Fransokyo are stablized enough that they don't even see Heartless these days. You and me, though?" he looks back to her and smiles. "We're in the Underground."

"Underground?" She can't help a skeptical look. Unless "underground" means something else in this world, the streets outside look anything but submerged.

"Yeah, the UG. Think of it like another side of the city. Some call it the Sleeping Realm, but nobody gets here just 'falling asleep'."

"So why am I here, then?"

"Well, there are a few ways, but I'm guessin' you came in through a dark door," he reasons. "It doesn't stick so much with someone like you, but that's the easiest way in."

"Easiest? Wait, so you mean—"

"Eheheh," the cafe owner chuckles and backs off with a shrug. "Sorry, Boss. Don't get me wrong, you've got potential. But having that potential and developing it are two different things, you know?"

She shoots him an indignant glare, as if doing so will make up for the truth in his words. She knows he's right, she should be better than this. She should know more and fight harder. She had always relied on Sora before this, and he had always delivered. Because she had him standing between the universe and her, she had been allowed to be weak.

But what does it really mean in the end? What are they? They shared a Paupu fruit before the end, so their destinies had to be intertwined now. But at the same time…

"Umm..." her expression softens and she looks down at her hands clasped on the table. "Sorry..."

"Don't worry about it, Boss," the cafe owner says. His tone is still filled with that easy cheer that makes it really seem like she hasn't ruffled his feathers in the slightest. "You're new to all this, right? Only natural you've got a few knowledge banks to fill out."

"...What did you mean by dating earlier?"

"Huh? Do they not have that where you're from?"

"Err… Sort of?" Kairi feels her blush coming back. Honestly, she hasn't touched the subject much in the last two years. She was just friends with Riku and Sora, and kind of expected things to work out from there. Part of her kind of expected something to come of it eventually, but she'd been content to wait for it in the meantime.

For a while, it had almost been Riku. He was strong, confident, driven. Whatever there was to pursue in the world, he ran to grasp it with both hands. He promised to bring her into a new world and protect her from anything with nothing but the strength of his heart.

But then there was Sora. Sora, who quietly watched the world as it was and earnestly held to what he knew was right. He wasn't always as strong or smart or motivated as Riku, but he was more true, more real. Where Riku used to face the world with a swelling bravado that made him seem big enough for any trial, Sora was too honest to oversell himself. Whatever small steps he made were sure, and whatever he told her, she knew he meant it.

So how had he seen their relationship? Did he think of them as "dating"? He cared about her a lot, she knows that for sure. But then, he also cared about Riku and the others, too. What is different about them? After dropping back and letting him handle the battles without her for so long, is she really all that special to him?

"How is it around here?" she asks at last. "Dating, I mean."

"Well, 'dating'. Hmm..." The man chuckles and rubs at the back of his head. "There's not really any one way about it, I guess. Some think it's holding hands and going to the movies, others say you gotta take it a few steps further. Personally, I'd say the important part is that you're willing to support that person, to chase after 'em when they're gone and fight for a better future together. Because even if you're apart most of the day, that's the person you wanna come home to. And if both of you know you feel that way..." he brought his hands together and smiled. "Boom! Dating."

"And… if I don't know?" She wants to say it's a sure thing with Sora, but it feels selfish speaking for him at this point. Yes, he'd given up everything to bring her back, but that was also part of how Sora was.

"Then you gotta go clear that up, young lady. You leave everything to your lunk and he's gonna get tired of carrying the relationship eventually. Sure, there's a whole art to being coy, but he's gotta know you're willing to put in the work, too."

"...Right." A serious look hardens on her face and she gives the man a nod. "No more waiting."

"Huh?" he seems vaguely amused by the declaration. "So you're not gonna wait around for someone to come, then?"

"No one's coming," she returns resolutely. "He came for me every time I needed him. This one's my turn."

Then, after a beat, she glances back to the coffee cup he had just refilled and a sheepish smile worms its way onto her face. "But… I'll still pay for that."

"Nah, don't worry about it," he tells her, picking up the mug to pour it in a carryout cup before offering it over. "This one's on the house, kid. Now get out there and push some horizons."

"Right!"

"Oh, but first," he catches her just as she's picking up her phone. "Lemme see that real quick. Seems you could use a patch job. Inspiration's great and all, but havin' the right tools for the job works wonders."

Kairi smiles and hands the device over. He's right.

It makes no sense waiting for a call like that.

-End-

Author's Notes:

There I go again, inching towards Kairi Hearts. Hope this still felt cohesive enough on its own, but man do I have a world of development I want to see this girl go through.

For full disclosure, yes that is Sanae Hanekoma (and not a certain OC from a creator who shall keep their anonymity for this instance) and yes I am insinuating that Shibuya would be a subdistrict of San Fransokyo. If this ever spins off into the bigger fic, this will probably serve as Kairi's hub world.

For now, though, it's just a fun little crossover to act as the stage while Kairi gets her act together. Really, it's not her fault that the games give her so little to do, but the girl certainly does have some growing to do as a result. Can't be so passive if she's the new main character, yeah?

Also, did you know you could be writing your own stories and having a great summer? It's true! Just look up the Twelve Shots of Summer forum for the latest in prompts and postings! Or, if that's too much, you could always just search up stories with the [Twelve Shots of Summer] tag and enjoy the goodness being produced by the community that way.

Whatever you do, make a choice and stand by it. The World Ends With You.

Yours,

-CG

[07-18-20]