Notes and Disclaimers: Yokohama Shopping Log (Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou) and the characters of Alpha and Kokone are owned by Ashinano Hitoshi, Kodansha, Asiadou and SME Visual Works, and I can't thank them enough, because I believe that this series is one of THE most breathakingly gorgeous and wonderful ever. And I mean *ever*. Manga and anime. I am thoroughly gaga over both Alpha and Kokone and especially them together. If they were my characters I would never be able to stop writing them.
This is a shoujoai romance story. No sex. Go away and read something else if you wanted sex. But, if you love Alpha and Kokone as much as I do, then pull up a chair, have a cup of coffee and enjoy. :-) When you are done, let me know that you liked it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, "Worldshaking" Fanfic supports and recommends that you support Yuricon and ALC Publishing. Buy manga, attend events, join the mailing list!
And again, because "fanfic doesn't have to suck" WSF supports the Fanfic Revolution.
In Your Eyes
The road was rough, bouncing and jolting the scooter beneath her. Kokone relaxed her grip, trying to find a rhythm in the unpredictable motion, but the handlebars kicked and she was forced to grab wildly to keep from spinning out. When she had started out on this trip the roads were in good repair, but out here there were more holes than road and, in some places, no road at all.
None of this really bothered Kokone; it was just something she observed as she rode. In fact, if anything, the poor road conditions kept her attention fully on her ride, and less on her destination. The front wheel once again bucked, but this time it wasn't the road that was at fault. Kokone could tell that she was fidgeting; beneath her cool exterior, there was a constant twitching, one that threatened to fatally distract her several times. It all came down to one thing, really; every time she even *thought* the name "Alpha," Kokone became nervous. With some annoyance, she wrested the front wheel under control once again, then frowned furiously, wishing her heart would be as easily controlled.
After several hours of self-imposed torture, Kokone gave up for the day. She found a pleasant lay-by where others had, clearly, camped for the night. Wood lay stacked neatly by a stone-lined fire pit. Holes, tire tracks and footprints were recent enough not to have been washed away by rain and wind. Kokone set her scooter's kickstand and removed her helmet, letting the breeze move through her hair and cool her face. She imagined the other travelers who had come this way, weary with the miles, or just out for a jaunt. Letting her glance linger on the remains of the last fire, she wondered about the person who had laid it - was he old, or young? Did she find something she was looking for, or lose something she no longer wanted? Did he share a good meal with a friend, or lay here alone, watching the stars in the dark sky? As she stood in silent contemplation of those who preceded her in this place, the sun began to set behind orange and pink-tinted clouds.
Before the last light faded, Kokone removed a tarpaulin from her carryall and set up a makeshift tent, fascinated, as always, by her desire for shelter. Why did those who design her make her so fragile? Why did she like the warmth of a bath or the taste of food at all? There was no need for an android to feel these things, if you thought about it - they could just as well have made her impervious to cold and able to refuel with sand...and yet, here she was, heating up a can of soup over a small fire and happy for both the food and the warmth....
....and tired from the ride, she admitted to herself with a sleepy smile.
After she had eaten, Kokone cleaned up her garbage, damped down the fire for the night and curled up in her blanket, hands tucked in between legs for warmth, and slept.
The morning air was cold. Kokone pulled the blanket tightly around her, trying to eke out what little extra warmth she could, but gave up as her breath began to condense on the blanket's edge. Reluctantly, she rose, stretched, and began to pack her belongings away in the carryall. A can of peaches served for breakfast, after which Kokone spent a few minutes finding enough wood to supply the next visitor with a warm fire. When that was all done, she put on her helmet and goggles and, once again, was on the road.
The day warmed quickly. In no time at all, she had left the wooded hills and was bouncing along a track that rose above a silvery ocean. Sand drifted across the road in places, slowing her progress, but Kokone didn't mind. The longer she took to arrive, the longer she could enjoy the journey.
The land flattened out, the trees receded, leaving only Kokone and a long stretch of almost uninterrupted horizon. Tall grasses waved on either side of the road, the occasional bird flew overhead, but the day was otherwise undisturbed by any living creature. Eventually the road filled in again, and a few dwellings appeared on one side of the road or other. When a lone truck passed her going in the opposite direction, Kokone waved at the old man in the driver's seat.
She passed a gas station where a lanky young girl sat with her feet up, chewing on a piece of long grass. As Kokone passed, she sat up, dropping her feet to the ground, then waved, her mouth moving. Kokone couldn't hear her words over the hum of the engine, but she could tell that she was calling out her name. She waved enthusiastically and called out, "Makki-san! Good afternoon!" but did not slow down.
At last her destination appeared on the horizon - a little white house, set well back from the road. The deck was bleached with warm afternoon sunshine, but there were no obvious signs of life. Turning off the scooter's engine, Kokone pulled off her helmet and listened for anything that might let her know whether anyone was home. After a moment, she could make out a high-pitched whine, followed by a scraping sound. It appeared to be coming from behind the house, so Kokone left her scooter parked where it was and headed in the direction of the sound.
"Hello?" She called out politely. "Is anyone home?" Her only answer was the sound of an electric saw. "Alpha-san?"
She cleared the side of the house to find herself facing a makeshift work area, with temporary storage and a handmade worktable. Alpha, wearing eye protection and sound dampeners, stood over a table saw, her attention completely focused on the project before her. Her green hair was pulled back into a bun, sweat rolling down her neck visibly. Kokone stopped where she was, her heart beating loudly in her chest, as she watched Alpha move a piece of wood slowly around the blade. As Kokone observed silently, she once again wondered about the creators who had designed them. Why sweat? Why tears? Why did her heart jump at the sight of Alpha's head bent low over a makeshift table and the smooth, pale stretch of skin along the back of her neck, where individual strands of green hair lay?
The sound of the saw faded away, and Kokone realized that Alpha was looking up at her in surprise. She started, embarrassed to have been caught staring, fumbling for the right words. "I...uh...I just...good afternoon!" she gasped, bowing low in greeting, feeling utterly foolish.
"Kokone-san!" Alpha's smile blossomed. "You made it!" She brushed sawdust off the form she had cut, and lifted it as she spoke. "I'm almost done here, can you wait just one moment?"
Kokone nodded, relieved that Alpha didn't seem to notice her awkward behavior. Her attention drifted from the other android to the wood in her hand. The saw sliced along a corner, slowly curving its way long the edge, until Alpha once again let her foot rise off the pedal, and lifted both her head and the piece of wood. A few brushes and she held what appeared to Kokone to be a double-sided oar, for a miniature kayak.
"That looks good," Alpha said, clearly pleased with herself. She lifted her eyes from the object and smiled at the other android. "How was your trip?" Alpha's eyes turned back to the object and spun it around slowly, as if it were being moved by the wind.
"Fine, thank you." Kokone found the banality of their exchange comforting. She still wasn't sure exactly what passed as "usual" behavior in every situation, but this she could do. "The road looks a little more worn away about three hours east, but other than that, it was pretty smooth." As Alpha lifted a second oar-shaped thing from a pile of sawdust, Kokone guessed suddenly what the other android had been making.
Alpha approached, pulling the handkerchief off her head and fanning herself with it. "You mean that area that's gotten all drifty? I know. After a storm a few months ago, I had to walk my scooter across it for about a mile, there was so much sand." She exhaled broadly, and squinted up at the sky. "I didn't realize how late it is. Are you hungry, or thirsty? Let me make you some lunch."
A knot of tension in Kokone's stomach loosened at this offer. "I'll help," she said with a smile.
As they prepared the meal, Kokone's conversation with Alpha was light, uncommitted to any particular topic, something the humans at work called, "chitchat." She enjoyed the give and take of their discussion, the calm relaxation that settled over her as they seated themselves in the window, ate sandwiches and drank coffee.
"Was that a new whirlygig you were working on?"
Alpha smiled shyly. "Yes. I just got a whim and wanted a new one. It'll be a fish when it's done, of course."
The lavender-haired android laughed. "Of course. You've gotten the porch all repaired," Kokone noted.
"Mmm," Alpha agreed, her eyes sparkling with accomplishment. "I originally enclosed it again, but then it smelled all mildewy, so I took the walls down and started over. When Takahiro-san came back for a visit, he helped he brought the wood over - and I've spent the last few months finishing it up." Her eyes traversed the polished slats of the porch with pride. "It looks good, doesn't it?"
"Better than the remnants after the storm, definitely." A silence fell over them, each woman recalling her own reactions to the damage the house had taken when a major typhoon had struck, several years ago. When Kokone spoke again her voice was a little shaky. "I was so worried about you, when I came by and you were gone. If Oji-san hadn't come by and told me that you had gone on walkabout, I don't know what I would have done."
"I owe him a lot, "Alpha nodded. "He protected me, and watched the house, when I needed to get away and helped me repair it, too."
Kokone lifted her head and looked around her. "It looks really solid now."
"I've made some improvements. I don't have a lot of money but I have plenty of time."
Kokone watched Alpha as the other android recounted the repairs she had done on the house. Of course she hadn't changed, - outwardly, anyway - in the years since they had first met. Neither of them could change, really. But there was something in Alpha's voice that felt different. Many years ago, when Kokone had first met the other android, there had been something in her eyes, and voice, and motions, which spoke of anticipation. Kokone knew that in those days Alpha was actively waiting for the return of her owner. But many years had passed since then. Her neighbor Takahiro, once a young boy, was now a grown man with his own family and still Alpha's owner had not come back. Kokone could see tranquility in Alpha, a kind of contentment with what is, that filled her like liquid light. That must be what her human coworkers referred to as "maturity." In her own mind, she thought, "She glows."
They cleaned up lunch and Alpha made them another pot of coffee. The sun was bright, and the air warm, so she suggested that they drink it on the porch. Kokone agreed happily. Now that she was here, there was no reason to rush.
The sun had set again, and the two had come back into the house to make more coffee. As usual, no one had stopped by the café, but Alpha didn't seem to mind. If anything, Kokone thought, she seemed a little relieved that no one had interrupted their afternoon.
"Would you like to make the delivery now, or do you want to wait?" Alpha asked, rather suddenly, Kokone thought.
"I'll leave it up to you." Kokone knew well enough that Alpha needed time to process after receiving a message. She smiled internally at the memory of the first time she had delivered a message to the other android.
"How about we do it now, then?" Alpha set the coffee beans aside and walked over to the table.
"Okay..." Kokone sat down facing Alpha and put her hands out. She smiled shyly. "Hands," she said, taking Alpha's into her own, then, "And now stick out your tongue...."
Eyes closed, she moved forward to touch her tongue to Alpha's. She could feel something buzzing through her, as the message moved between them. It was a long message, with a lot of data, which made her feel awkward and tingly. As the data slipped through the connection, Kokone could feel Alpha's hands tighten their grip.
It seemed like a very long time this time, Kokone thought, as the end of message marker sounded in her head. Even so, she was reluctant to pull away from the other android. It was nice, she thought, even for a short time, to be touching Alpha. Kokone pulled back and let go of Alpha's hands.
As always, Alpha's face went pale, then her cheeks flamed. Her hands lifted to cover her mouth, but this time, her eyes went very wide and very unfocused. Kokone watched her with concern for a moment, then decided that there was nothing Alpha needed from her, nothing she could really do, in any case. Pushing back from the table, Kokone stood. Knowing that her words would be unheard, she excused herself. "I think I'll go sit out on the porch until you're...." Kokone closed the door behind her quietly, as Alpha's head slipped down onto the table.
It was cold, and dark, on the porch. The stars wheeled dizzyingly above her head, but Kokone hardly noticed. Her heart and mind were focused on the little house behind her, where light streamed from one small window and was otherwise without signs of life.
Where was Alpha now, she wondered. In her bedroom, or sitting at the table in the café, her head still filled with strange new images? Kokone blew on her hands to warm them up, and sighed. What was the message this time, where had it come from and what did it say?
The door behind her opened and warm golden light spilled out across the porch. Kokone stood up and spun around.
Maruko shuffled the papers, stuck the pen in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully, then took the pen in her hand and began to write.
"Yo, Nai,." she wrote, then stopped.
She wanted to thank him for all the images he had sent her. She'd done a few sketches using some of them and she hoped that he'd take a look and let her know what he thought. She stared down at the pieces of paper. She was sending them by regular mail, because Kokone was off on vacation and she didn't much like using the replacement method they had for delivery - it gave her a headache.
Maruko gazed at the paper, trying to frame her thoughts precisely. This was harder than simply sending data. With the camera, with robot-to-robot transfer, emotions, sense, feelings, colors, etc, transmitted precisely without loss or interference. But this was far more difficult. How was she supposed to communicate what she had experienced through mere words? How on earth did humans manage it all the time?
"Speaking of Kokone, I gave up, did I tell you that already?"
She could clearly remember telling him about the time she had taken the other android on a "date" to Café Alpha, but she hadn't told him that she had spent the afternoon sulking and being rude, because Kokone had never taken her eyes off Alpha the entire time.
She had returned to the café a couple of times, determined to ruffle Alpha's feathers, but she had never managed to really come to hate the older android. After all, it was her own jealousy that was the problem, wasn't it? Alpha hadn't ever really done anything to her.
"I came right out and told her how Kokone feels, trying to shock her, but she just answered that she liked Kokone back, like it wasn't anything."
Maruko could remember the moment clearly. She had thought that, perhaps, Alpha hadn't really understood what she had meant, so she had said that she liked Kokone too. When Alpha didn't react to this, she had added that she liked Nai, as well. Alpha's response had been a dramatic "Ehhh?" and so she guessed that she had known what Maruko meant after all. But then, how did Alpha really feel about Kokone? Maruko had tried so many times to gain Kokone's attention, but every time, she had felt the other android slip further and further from her grasp.
The last time she had seen Kokone, Maruko had realized that there was just no way she was ever going to win this battle. She was a little sadder than she had expected to be, but had turned her feelings towards creating new drawings, so at least something had come of it all.
"Anyway, I sent Alpha a message - one of conciliation, I guess, and of concession. If you come to visit I'll let you see the whole thing, but here's the basic text...."
Her eyes were open, but it was a long, long time before she realized it. The message kept replaying over and over in her mind, as if it were on a loop. The images were overwhelming, full of unfamiliar sensations, not all pleasant. Some made her lonely, some horribly, unreasonably angry, and others simply made her sad. She knew well enough that these were not her own feelings, but those of the sender, but it was all too overwhelming at once to separate out and she hadn't even begun to figure out what her *own* feelings were.
When at last Alpha looked around herself, she was alone in a semi-darkened room. What little light there was came from the pale sky outside. She stumbled as she rose, knowing that there was something important that she was forgetting, but unable to focus clearly on the present or immediate past, now that her mind was so full with the message.
Alpha made her way towards her bedroom where she stripped automatically, and managed to make her way into the bathroom, and the tub. As the warm water covered her limbs she felt herself go slack and the message started once again.
Although we have already met several times, I feel as if I ought to introduce myself, because we...I...have never really started off correctly. I knew who you were long before you knew who I was...and even after we met, I wasn't playing fair with you. It wasn't your fault at all, I was just jealous of you.
Anyway, I'm not sure if I told you, or Kokone told you, but I am an artist when I have the chance. To apologize for being so mean to you and to explain why I was, in the first place I've made something for you. I hope you understand it and maybe one day come to like it. Call it a piece of collage."
Then the images began.
Kokone's face appeared in Alpha's mind, sitting across an unfamiliar table.
Kokone, smiling, talking, laughing. Kokone, serious, Kokone with her eyes shining, Kokone with a dreamy face, speaking of the unknown future. Image after image of the lavender-haired android, always animated, always speaking. Telling story after story about Alpha.
"And then Alpha said..." the next image came, like every image before and after it, dreams, hopes, desires, secrets, all about Alpha. And with them, the raw emotions belonging to Maruko, as her desire became more and more bitter, as the realization of that desire drew further and further away towards impossibility.
Alpha dropped her head backwards onto the tub rim until the message finished playing again. She scrubbed her face with her hands, and stood abruptly, forcing herself back into the present. There was something she needed to do. She toweled herself off, and dressed, drying her hair quickly and not very efficiently.
Walking back out to the café, she could feel cool night air coming in through the windows, and see the dark sky thickly lit with stars, The Milky Way was visible, even from where she stood.
Alpha opened the door and stepped out onto the porch where Kokone sat, looking alone and cold, almost frozen in time and space. Alpha was assailed once again with images from the "collage".
Kokone stood and turned, then froze as she saw Alpha's face. The older android stepped out onto the boards, the day's moisture condensed, cold and wet under her feet.
Kokone stuck her hands in her pockets, and smiled that shy smile of hers. "Did it come through all right?"
Alpha opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again without a sound. Tears formed and fell from her eyes and still she hadn't moved.
"Alpha-san?" Kokone took a step forward, but found her arms full of the other android, and her mouth touching fragrant green hair. "Alpha-san," she whispered.
After a long while, Alpha appeared to pull herself together. Stepping away from the other android, she half turned away. "Let's go inside," she said. "I'll make some coffee and we can talk."
Kokone followed her silently.
The door closed, leaving only the wind moving through the grass, and a square of golden light that illuminated the porch from a window in the café, where two silhouettes could be seen long into the night.