Fandom: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

  • Homura Akemi
  • Madoka Kaname
  • Canon Divergence
  • Alternate Universe - Different Powers
  • Open Ending

Length: 3.7k, Oneshot

Date Posted: 2020-10-27

Collections: Fic In A Box 2020



In which Homura's wish is a little different, and Madoka lives. This is not necessarily better.


Written for youngjusticewriter.

It could have gone differently.

When Akemi Homura makes her wish, all she can say is that she wants Madoka back, and she bites back sobbing as she pleads to keep her safe. This wish comes true, at least. She knows it does, because suddenly Madoka is awake in her arms, warm to the touch instead of corpse-cold and still, and that's more than she almost thought she could hope for.

Madoka looks her straight in the eye, unexpectedly, and screams.

Homura flinches, almost falling back, but Madoka stops screaming a few seconds later, instead breathing high and fast, shaking like a flower in a hurricane. Her wide eyes stare at nothing, tearing up, and she grips her own arms so tight the skin turns white beneath.

"What did you do?!" The back of her mouth tastes like blood and bile, as she points all her panic and fury at the little creature in front of her. Kyubey's tail waves in a lazy figure-eight, as catlike as its smug, insufferable face, and its voice invades her mind again.

"I brought her back for you. That's what you wanted, wasn't it? And now that you're a magical girl, you'll have the power you need to keep her safe."

Madoka makes a soft keening noise, and Homura's heart feels on the verge of shattering. "B-but she's still--!"

Kyubey tilts its head. "She was dead, if only for a few seconds. An emotional response is to be expected."

With another choked sound, Madoka grabs at Homura's blouse and grips it tight like a lifeline, still trembling. She seems to finally regain some awareness, enough to take in her surroundings, and looks up at Homura in wordless shock. Homura holds her a little closer, trying to comfort her. To have died, even if she was only gone a moment... Homura can't imagine the experience. It's chilling to even consider.

"Don't worry about her succumbing to despair, though," says Kyubey, though Homura finds it hard to call its voice reassuring. "She's not a magical girl anymore. I couldn't contract her if I tried, either."

Homura freezes, then, almost in disbelief. Was that even possible?

"She won't ever... ?" she asks, as all other questions turn to nonsense on her tongue.

"It's not a common wish to grant," Kyubey admits. "You're hardly the first magical girl to want to protect one of her friends, but usually, we don't like to set such limits. But your karmic potential is massive, Akemi Homura! What you could provide far outstrips the loss of Kaname Madoka's contributions."

Madoka sniffles, but isn't crying now, at least. She clutches at Homura's blouse a little tighter, and Homura almost has to lean in to hear her speak.

"It was real...?" She suddenly goes still, too still, and now Homura is shakier than she is. "It was... I... I was dead."

"You were," Kyubey chirps. "Very!" It does not sound terribly distressed by this at all.

Part of Homura wants to squeeze Kyubey very hard around its furry little neck, until its eyes bulge comically from its face. It is an uncharacteristically violent thought for her, and makes her feel a little sick inside. Outside her mind's eye, she does no such thing.

Madoka shudders. "Did I... defeat her, though? The witch?"

"Yes," Homura tells her, before Kyubey can get another word in. "You destroyed it."

"I'm glad." Madoka hiccups, and tears start down her face again, this time in earnest. "I was so-- I was so angry and scared! And sad, and--! I just wanted to keep everyone safe. So I'm glad... I got to do that. Even..." she trails off, faraway again. "Even if..."

Homura bites her lip and looks around. Mami's body (her body, oh god, Homura doesn't want to think about that) still lies out in the rubble somewhere. She can't tell where the seaboard ends and the city begins, and despite the clearing sky above them, it feels like the witch's barrier never left.

She's not sure it she could call any of this saved.

She helps Madoka stand, and realizes halfway up that she's wearing a different outfit from before, like they've switched places. Madoka is back in her school uniform with her plaid skirt and lace, salt-soaked and filthy with sand and muck, while Homura is dressed in purple and black, with ribbons down her legs, taller heels than she ever wore on Sundays, and a small, round shield on her arm.

They both stare curiously at the shield for a moment, upon noticing it. The metal is inlaid with little dots of colored crystal or glass, and etched with indecipherable designs.

"It's so pretty," Madoka says, and for a moment it feels like the two of them could be walking down the hall at school together, and Madoka has just complimented her on her braids or a keychain, but the shield feels like nothing less than a weapon in her hands. At the very least, any blood from the fight has disappeared along with Madoka's wounds, leaving only the stinging scrapes on Homura's palms and knees where she fell on the rocks trying to reach her.

"Th-thank you." Homura frowns at it a moment later, though. "I don't know how to use it."

"I think it comes with being a magical girl. I didn't know how to use a bow before, either." As if reminded of her stripped power, Madoka fidgets at the place around her middle finger, where her soul gem's ring would sit.

The sun begins to filter in through the clouds, tentative and reaching. Homura picks a direction away from the shoreline, and together, they start walking.


Civilization proves farther away than either of them expected. They've been walking for what feels like hours, trudging through the sandy mud and flooded ground. (Madoka, at one point, thinks to grab a stick to test the ground in front of them for quicksand, just in case. They don't find any, though. It's just miserable seawater and grit.)

The sunlight has begun to dry them both off, at least, by the time they start reaching larger chunks of rubble. There are toppled buildings here, shattered concrete and splintered barnacled wood, stripped frames and steel beams twisted beyond recognition. Kyubey has to start weaving around chunks of broken glass amid the silt. Homura's gut twists a little seeing it follow them so calmly, when the city is in pieces around them. It's like it doesn't care at all, the way it didn't sound like it cared when Madoka was dead. She doesn't know what to think of it anymore.

She just wants to go home.

They finally stop at the mostly intact base of an office high-rise that must have been near the waterfront before the witch came through. The remains of the shattered windows look fancy and avante-garde, like it was meant to be more public art than an actual building. Maybe it was planned by the same architect behind Madoka's school. Homura gets a little laugh out of her from saying as much aloud, though it doesn't lighten the mood much.

Madoka stays on the ground floor, in the mercifully evacuated lobby, while Homura decides to scavenge around. She isn't sure what she expects to find, but it feels like this is what she's supposed to do, in a situation like this -- in what feels like the end of the world.

There's not much to find in the upper floors, anyway. Just more wreckage, waterlogged carpets, and flotsam.

She pokes around a little, hesitant and dreading, wondering if she can at least find some food. Even if most of it is ruined, there are probably vending machines somewhere she can break into, and she doesn't know how long the journey will take them. Or maybe, she can find a water fountain, so they can at least drink and wash their clothes.

The corridors run long, and the rooms have a lifeless, business quality to them. It almost reminds her of the endless halls and wards of the hospital, but with a bland, unfamiliar flavor that distances it from even the closest memories she has. Despite the magic humming under her skin and in the gemstone on her hand, and weeks of sneaking out to tag along during witch hunts, it's difficult to shake the feeling she is not supposed to be here.

Maybe it's how empty it is. The whole place feels silent and hollow.

It's all cubicles and tables in the office rooms, mostly overturned, scattering soggy stationary and garbage over the floor like the aftermath of an earthquake. Paperwork and staplers and erasers and pens and pencils cover the ground amid still more glass shards and sand and crusting salt. Homura considers heading up another level to check for a vending machine alley, or even a cafeteria, and then a passing detail stops her dead in her tracks.

There is a pale white hand, poking out from behind a doorway.

With a sense of growing nausea, she takes a step closer, and then another. She doesn't really want to see what's past the door, but if someone is still alive, she should at least try to help. Madoka knows some first aid from, school, she's pretty sure, and there's got to be something around here for emergencies.

She gets as far as the threshold, and covers her mouth with a hand, gripping the doorframe for support.

The woman on the floor must have been an office worker. She wears a grey pencil skirt and a pressed blazer, and her hand lies half a meter apart from the rest of her. A clean cut separates the two, like the slice of a sword or a scalpel. Farther away, a leg lingers under a fallen table. Homura doesn't know if it belongs to the same woman or not.

Something sharp and frantic in her heart says She's in danger, just a moment before she hears the scream from downstairs.

Homura's legs carry her so fast it feels like flying, like teleporting, but for the skim of ground underfoot. She doesn't even bother with rounding the corner on the last flight of steps. The drywall gives way as easy as paper and she tears into the room in a cloud of plaster and dust to find Madoka backed into the corner, holding a lobby chair in front of her, legs-out, like the flimsy plastic will keep her safe from the thing in the center of the room.

It looks like a magical girl, almost, but flattened into a cutout doll and scribbled over in ballpoint pen, more humanoid than any witch Homura has ever seen. The creature turns and cackles at her, shoulders jerking on unseen puppet strings. Its fingers curl in manic claws, and the walls of the lobby crackle and flash like filmstrips.

Even in the grey desaturation of the newly formed labyrinth, she can see the corona of thin, paper-flat blades around it are spotted with blood.

"It's a familiar," Kyubey informs her, helpful as ever. "Left behind by the fragments of the stage-building witch. It's not powerful enough to become a witch itself yet, but I imagine it will be stronger than many other familiars you've faced. You should be strong enough to defeat it, though."

She barely listens. Madoka is in danger, and Homura sees red.

The familiar lunges, swinging a cycling phase of blades like wings behind the arc of its outstretched arms, and Homura leaps forward without a second thought, all but throwing herself into the path of the attack. It's like she can't stop herself -- she's an arrow loose from the bow, a bullet from the barrel of a gun, already on an unstoppable, intractable path from the moment she sets into motion.

She would have made herself a senseless sacrifice, in that moment, if not for her shield. She raises it instinctively to block, and light spirals out from the center as the familiar strikes, a whirling illusion made solid. The force of the blow still pushes her back, but she holds, and shoves back, sending the familiar sprawling across the room.

It gets to its feet quickly, and jumps backward into the flickering wall with a screech, disappearing in a snap of motion.

Something makes impact with the back of her head, and the world flashes into spots and damaged film-frames as the familiar knocks Homura forward onto the floor. She rolls and recovers to dodge blades impaling themselves in the nondescript patterns of the lobby carpet, kicking blindly for a second before she regains her bearings, and swings the side of her shield directly into its face.

(It occurs to her she should be in pain right now, but Madoka is in danger. Nothing else matters.)

The familiar screams, and Homura shoves off the carpet to force the edge of the shield deeper, trying to put herself on top. She kicks it again, this time landing a foot in its paper-doll guts, then trips and tackles it to the floor.

It writhes beneath her as she raises the shield again and drives it down, once, twice, and then it shatters and dissipates like smoke with a final dying wail.

She stays there, kneeling, suspended in the follow-through of the last strike, and trembles. Tries to take stock of what just happened, because it was too fast to think. Was this what it was like for Madoka, when she fought? (Was this what it had been like for Mami, when she died?)

Fumbling at the carpet with numb fingers finds nothing to collect. Of course. It's a familiar; there is no grief seed for it to leave behind, only wreckage and injuries in its wake.

Homura sways, a little unsteady as the rush of the fight wears off. Her heart is pounding so fast she can't count the beats (did her contract even fix that? Could she die here and now from her own faulty heart, put through exertion it was never meant to handle?) Blood spatters the carpet as she rises to stand.

"Homura!" She turns. Madoka is still holding the chair like a bullfighter, white-knuckled in the corner. "You're, you're um."

"You've injured yourself," Kyubey explains.

Homura doesn't feel any pain yet. She reaches back, tentatively, and finds something wet in her hair. And--

She cries out, gritting her teeth and nearly biting her tongue. There are wounds, deeper than she realized, where the familiar must have caught her with the blades. There are cuts going into her head, into her skull, oh god,--

"H-hey! Hey!" Madoka is at her side, somehow, already. Her hands support Homura's shoulders, keeping her upright, as Homura stares dizzily at the blood on her hands. "It's okay, it's okay, if you've got enough magic you can heal, and we- we'll try to stay out of fights for now, okay? Homura?"

Homura doesn't answer her, and feels bad about it, because she shouldn't be scaring Madoka like this. She can't quite stop thinking, rewinding and replaying the part where the blades went through her skull and her brain, and that could have been Madoka, if she had just been a little too slow. Just like the rest of them. That could have been Madoka, bleeding out her fresh new chance at life on this stupid lobby carpet, dull eyes staring into the ceiling as her hands went cold in Homura's grasp, and she wouldn't have been able to do anything about it.

"Homura? Hey. Homura. Listen to my voice, okay?"

Homura listens. Her heart is still too fast, and she wants nothing more than to grab Madoka in her arms right now and carry her out of this building and run as far towards civilization as her legs will take her, but she stands in place, and she listens.

"I'm fine. See?" Madoka lets go with one hand, and holds out her arm as if for inspection. Homura can't see any sign of injuries, only a little blood smeared on her fingers from Homura's hair. "It didn't get to me at all."

"I h-heard you scream," Homura manages, after a few seconds longer. "I was-- I thought--"

"It's all right," Madoka tries to reassure her. "You protected me. I was mostly scared for you!" She laughs, weakly. "I was worried you would use up too much magic in your first fight, and hurt yourself." She sighed. "We probably should have stuck together, too. When it showed up... for a moment, I forgot that I couldn't fight it by myself anymore."

Homura takes a shaky, deep breath, in and then out.

"But that's okay! I mean, I really wish I could help more, b-but as long as you're here, I'm safe. So..."

Another breath. She tries to focus on Madoka's hand on her shoulder, the memory of the dead familiar evaporating into nothing, and the pulse of her gem beneath her shield.

"Oh, look, the wound's already closing up," comments Kyubey from its perch on the narrow arm of a chair.

Madoka starts a little. "Oh, it is! That's good, at least."

Taking one final deep breath, just to brace herself, Homura lifts her hand and touches the wounded spot again. The cut already feels shallower, and she can almost find the beginnings of a scab under her fingertips. "... Ah."

"We should probably clean it, though," Madoka says. "Did you find a drinking fountain or something upstairs, or was it just office stuff?"

Homura thinks of the office woman and her hand in the doorway, and for the third or fourth time in the last hour, she feels sick. "... no. I-it was all offices. Nothing else."

Madoka frowns a little, but shrugs. "I guess we can look somewhere else, then. Maybe the building across from this one?"


"Let's go, then." Madoka takes her hand and tugs, gently, towards the door.


They find vending machines out back behind the next building. Two are smashed open by concrete debris; Madoka steps around the broken glass to retrieve an armful of leaking bottled water, while Homura fights the urge to stop her from endangering herself any worse. If nothing else, she doesn't let her out of her sight this time. If Madoka needs her protection, Homura needs to be there. She won't let herself be caught like that again.

Homura's hair is no longer sticky with blood by the time they finish the third bottle, and the water runs mostly clear after the fifth. The second vending machine is less useful, with half the contents displaced by solid concrete, but the remaining food inside it still edible. She can't find any pockets on her costume, but once she figures out how to transform back, she and Madoka both fill their pockets with packaged snacks. There's nothing substantial, but at least soda and rice crackers will keep them both fed for a little while.

At some point, Kyubey stops following them. Homura doesn't know if it got bored, or just didn't see the need to stick around, but finds the lack of guidance uneasier than expected.

They don't find another person for hours. Homura says nothing about the bodies, even though she's sure Madoka must see some of them. It still turns her stomach inside-out each time they stumble across once, in the broken streets and toppled buildings, but she feels like she's starting to get a handle on it after the fifth or sixth corpse that peers out from under a piece of rubble or floats along the ditch beside a flooded road.

As the day fades into a dimming evening, Madoka's legs finally reach their limit. Homura picks her up and carries her, clumsily -- she tries to hold her sideways over both arms, like cradling someone smaller, but it's difficult to maintain her grip while walking, so Madoka shows her how to hold someone in a fireman's carry like she learned during a first aid course once, instead.

She's not very heavy, but Homura knows in that moment, deep down, she could carry Madoka forever if it meant keeping her safe.

It's nearly dusk by the time they find signs of life, in the form of tents and tarps set up at the edge of the concrete, all the way to where it breaks off into muddy standing water. Someone has started a campfire. Homura can smell the smoke as they approach.

"I think this is near where I live!" Madoka tells her, wriggling down from Homura's hold to walk beside her again, a little better-rested. "That's the neighbor down the road from us, there, see? I think my parents might be around here."

Strangers wave at them as they come into view. Homura lets Madoka take the lead, but follows at her side like a personal guard. Nobody here should harm either of them, but she's confident she could dispatch any of them if they threatened Madoka. (And she has to stop herself from continuing that train of thought, because the conclusions it takes her to frighten her down to her core. It's like she can feel every scrap of ill intent that might be cast in Madoka's direction, and she doesn't know how to make it stop.)

Madoka takes her hand, and Homura almost startles in response, but she squeezes it tight instead, in recognition.

"You can stay with us for the night, if my house is still, um. Here." Madoka goes quiet, as if realizing all over again the damage the stage-building witch did. Something in Homura's chest twists painfully, seeking something she can fight and protect from, but she can't turn back time and un-destroy the city. She can only help sift through the rubble, and give everything she has to stop it from ever happening again.

"Thank you," says Homura, and squeezes Madoka's hand again. Voices waft by on the breeze, and she waits for Madoka to take the first step.

"Let's go, then," Madoka says, in a voice just starting to tear up, and she starts off toward the campsite.

Homura follows a step behind, struggling to quell the worries in her soul. Madoka will be safe, she tries to tell herself. The fight is over. There is nothing to fear here.

Except for things she can't control, like the aftermath and the damage and the crumbling city coast around them. Except for all the things that could hurt Madoka because they've already happened, and it's just a matter of when the penny drops. Except for the things that will hurt her in the heart and not the body, where there is no blow to shield her from, and no witch to slay.

If Madoka's family... if Madoka's family is...

(Perhaps this wish will consume her, after all.)