Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Homecoming
The engine of Kokone's scooter purred away as she took the road out from Yokohama, the slight bumps and potholes avoided with the ease of experience. Goggles covered her eyes, her pink hair flowing in the breeze from under her helmet while the sun glowed down on her, the shadows of the trees swirling by.
The world around them was slowly winding down, everyone agreed with that, but the people still carried on with their lives as best as they could. The streets were still occupied by pedestrians and the occasional vehicles, people working and playing, sharing moments between them while living on each and every day.
Out past the city and into the highways, the silence of the world stretched out around Kokone. The plants, lamppost trees, and rolling fields of green stretched off into the distance. The seas were gradually rising, eating away at the coasts and drawing ever inward, reshaping these islands a little more each year.
Finally the familiar homes began to appear on the roadside and Kokone felt a sweet surge of anticipation. She passed by the landmarks that she had memorized so often, the old gas station and little city hall, homes of customers of the cafe, then the distinctive fish shape of one of Alpha's carved weather vanes.
Cafe Alpha was as she remembered it, the white painted shop gleaming, carefully maintained like the house behind it. Kokone brought her scooter to a stop and got off, the slim young woman taking off her goggles and tucking them and her helmet away into her scooter. A bit self consciously she dusted off her pants and pulled her jacket off, revealing a simple blouse underneath.
Alpha looked up as Kokone entered the cafe, her green hair pulled back neatly as she stood behind the counter in one of her nice outfits. Alpha always seemed to look good, her simple beauty elevating simple blouses, vests and other accessories to elegance in Kokone's eyes.
"Kokone," Alpha smiled happily as she hurried over to her side, gently taking Kokone's hands in her own.
Kokone felt a faint blush color her cheeks, looking into Alpha's warm, gentle eyes. Like always she felt her heart lift, a simple joy springing to life within her breast as that caring gaze washed over her. "I was going to send a letter saying I was coming," Kokone hesitated, "but..."
"You're always welcome," Alpha reassured her, drawing her over to a table and sitting down across from her. Quietly they talked, the intimate discussion of old friends who knew each other so well, smoothly catching up with each others lives.
Other than the two of them the cafe was empty, something that was sadly becoming more common as time went on. Alpha had loyal customers, and many of the remaining locals came in to drink a coffee and share time with Alpha, but the locals were fewer and fewer and the travelers had slowed to a trickle.
"I know how that feels," Kokone softly confessed as Alpha told her frankly of her declining business.
For years Kokone had driven and walked for the delivery company, becoming one of their most reliable employees. But as Yokohama gently shrunk the deliveries also came less, though there was still enough demand to keep them going. Still, the newer drivers were gradually being let go, the company shrinking with the city around them.
"Are you losing your job?" Alpha asked worriedly, looking into her eyes.
"No," Kokone shook her head, "not yet, but..."
"Yes?" Alpha asked softly.
"There are people working with me who have families, people who depend on them," Kokone said softly, her expression troubled. "I'm wondering if I should... step aside, since I only have myself to worry about."
"You love that job," Alpha blurted.
"I do," Kokone conceded. Some time as they talked their fingers had come together, holding on to each other gently. A smile, "And I don't really know what I'd do without the job, but maybe it's time for a change."
Alpha gave her fingers a comforting squeeze, then let go. "Would you like some coffee?" she asked brightly.
"Yes," Kokone smiled slightly, recognizing the gesture.
It was something Alpha did when she was thinking about something, considering a problem. Almost automatically she made the coffee, carefully measuring the beans, grinding them, and then pouring hot water on the grounds at just the right temperature. Alpha returned with the cups. setting them down with sweetener and cream, and quietly they prepared their coffees to drink.
Alpha took the steaming cup and drank a bit, sighing with contentment as she set it down. She looked up to meet Kokone's eyes, smiling at her shyly as she asked, "Would you like to move out here with me?"
"Huh?" Kokone blinked in surprise at how happy the question made her.
"I've been thinking about asking you this for awhile," Alpha admitted with a wry look, "but the moment never seemed right. You've been... content with your job, and I know that neither of us really likes change."
Kokone opened her mouth to object to that last comment, then closed it as she considered her point. For as long as she had known Alpha she had been driving the deliveries and Alpha had run her cafe, both the same as the world gently changed all around them. Even when their relationship had grown, drawing them closer, each had stubbornly maintained their separate lives.
Kokone took a drink of her own coffee to cover her racing thoughts then smiled back at Alpha as she conceded, "You could be right." She looked down into the swirling brown fluid in her cup, "But I wouldn't feel right just living here..."
"You could always help me in the cafe," Alpha offered, "and there's no reason you couldn't do deliveries out here, too. The mail is getting unreliable, and just doing deliveries between here and Yokohama every few weeks might be worth while."
"You've thought about this a lot," Kokone realized, feeling a bit guilty.
"I've been lonely for awhile now," Alpha admitted, "I want us to be together." She seemed to steel herself as she proposed, "I could even close the cafe here, find a location in Yokohama and then open one there..."
"You can't," Kokone felt a bit of shock that Alpha was even considering the possibility. This place was very dear to her, the last gift to Alpha from Owner, and she had watched over it with the same care she brought to everything.
"I could," Alpha said firmly, "if that's what it takes."
"No, I think I'd like to live here with you," Kokone said firmly, feeling a surge of pleasure at the idea and how Alpha's face lit up.
"Are you sure?" Alpha looked searchingly into her eyes.
Kokone thought of Yokohama a moment, of the shops and people she knew and the apartment she lived in. She knew she'd miss those things, the friendships that she had built, but in all honesty it wasn't home to her. Home was this quiet cafe and the presence of the woman across from her, the place she knew she was happiest.
"Yes, I'm sure," Kokone said, letting her joy flood her voice.
"I'm so glad," a few tears glistened in Alpha's eyes.
Gently Kokone reached out to wipe those tears away, drawing Alpha up from the seat as she drew her close. Without a word Alpha snuggled close and Kokone hugged her, the two holding each other in comfort and love.
"Are you all right?" Kokone finally asked.
"Yes," Alpha sighed softly, her breath teasing Kokone's skin as she confessed, "I was scared you'd say no."
"Never," and Kokone gently kissed her.
Notes: this is set some time before the end of the series, chapter #140. In that story Kokone is at the cafe, watching over it as Alpha drives into Yokohama for a coffee run, wearing one of Alpha's aprons and looking quite at home and I wanted to explain how Kokone might have gotten there. This also is a continuation of my fic "Valentine's Gift" where I implied that Alpha and Kokone's relationship might have become intimate.