|A Mother's Journey
Author: DrYuriMom PM
Throughout time, mothers have watched their children go off to fight with both pride and fear in their hearts. Would the mothers of magical girls be any different if they knew?Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Hurt/Comfort - Homura A. - Chapters: 9 - Words: 67,418 - Reviews: 43 - Favs: 40 - Follows: 52 - Updated: 06-04-13 - Published: 06-28-12 - id: 8264940
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Of the many painful things I've personally experienced over the years, the loss of my daughters was the most devastating. Parents shouldn't have to bury their children, whatever the circumstances. That said, at least I have always known the fate of my offspring. I can't imagine what it must be like for all the mothers who innocently send their girl off to school one day and simply never see her again. Madoka's Blessing is a bittersweet thing; She leaves no body to mourn any more than did the witches of the universe before Her. My heart goes out to each and every mother throughout history who lost her beautiful and brave daughter without ever knowing why.
A Mother's Loss
Saturday, May 21
(A little over three weeks after Sagitta Luminis,
Cosmos Secundum ad Madoka)
"Next is Akemi-san, a classmate of Miki-san's who was the last reported acquaintance to see her before her disappearance. Security cameras visually documented her interaction with Miki Sayaka in a bus stop shelter approximately 90 minutes before her last documented sighting."
Homura, dressed properly in her Mitakihara Junior High School uniform, was sitting at a table facing a room of people made up of press, law enforcement and government officials, and curious citizens. Efforts to find Sayaka had been unsuccessful and her parents, who had been estranged before Sayaka's disappearance, had come together in order to work tirelessly in their very public effort to get the word out and find their daughter.
The extent of their success at getting public attention was phenomenal given unexplained disappearances were a common enough occurance as to rarely note acknowledgement in the media unless the lost person was some kind of public figure. Although Homura knew the effort to be doomed to failure from the start, just as she knew WHY traceless disappearances were so common in this world, she couldn't exactly explain to the world what had really happened, press conference or no. Instead, she found herself after classes this Saturday afternoon seated in a row of people including Sayaka's parents, her teacher, the school principal, and her classmate Shizuki Hitomi.
Homura leaned forward into the microphone on the table before her and began her part of the story. "As Saotome-sensei and Shizuki-san have already explained, Miki-san has been having a rough time lately."
In the corner of her eye, she could see the normally self-assured Hitomi once again cringe at the mention of the 'personal issue' which had been identified as a 'key fact' related to their friend's disappearance. The green-haired girl's confession to Sayaka's childhood friend, Kamijou Kyousuke, was now public knowledge all over the prefecture. In fact, it was the drama of just this fact which had enabled the Miki family to shoehorn their cause into the generally jaded public eye.
People see what they want to see.
Kyouko's words of a few days past passed through Homura's internal thoughts as she marveled over how unquestioningly accepting humanity seemed to be of the supernatural phenomenon occurring around them but out of their perception...other than the disappearances. Like sheep to the slaughter, Homura mused, not for the first time since gaining her new memories wondering why Madoka's world had turned out this way.
Homura's darkening thoughts were quickly interrupted as she noted Miki Ai, Sayaka's mother, reaching out her hand and placing it on the distressed girl's arm to help calm her. Curiously, and despite the shameless use of Hitomi's story by Sayaka's mother to help propel their case in the media, the two had become very supportive of each other after Hitomi's rather spectacular, and very Japanese, prostration before the elder Miki as she begged forgiveness for her part in the travesty that was Sayaka's recent actions.
"Where does that little bitch get off starting the water works every time it's pointed out this whole thing is her fault?" Kyouko's angry mental voice sounded in Homura's head and the younger magical girl looked down, feigning emotion she should be feeling but wasn't, while she dealt with her mentor's infamous temper.
"Tomoe-san," Homura sent privately to their mutual blonde friend, her mental voice intentionally conveying her irritation.
"Is Sakura-san editorializing again?" Mami responded in the same private manner.
"Yes," was Homura's simple answer.
"I'm on it."
Although the two were sitting in the back of the room, Homura could see Mami elbow Kyouko and she suspected the two were now engaged in their own private conversation. Kyouko's rising agitation was clear by the enthusiasm with which she was tearing into an apple she had pulled from a rather large and full brown paper bag. Homura was just glad to be left alone to keep up her act in front of the whole world.
"Miki-san and I were talking about her situation when we ran into the shelter to avoid the rain. The conversation was…stressed…with me trying to encourage her to look forward and not back. In the end she ran off, telling me not to follow her. I haven't seen her since."
Homura leaned back again into her chair, choosing to leave her description of the intensely personal event vague and hoping that would be allowed. With any luck the interrogations, and her web of 'creative interpretations of the events' which had played out in private with the police, wouldn't be repeated publicly at the press conference. As it was, she knew she was leaning heavily on her stoic other self to get through it all, and losing yet more of herself in exchange.
How was I supposed to know I should have called the police at that point? She thought didactically, strictly to herself. At the time I had no idea what she was going to do. That was before I got colony dropped by all these new memories. And even now I know there wasn't really anything we could have done for her, much less by those who aren't one of us. Once she makes the wish for that boy, she falls fast. There was never an exception. Not once.
As the public relations officer started to speak again it became clear she was off the hook and Homura relaxed slightly, trying her best to find her own center again rather than continuing to lean on her admittedly more confident and calculating self. She was sitting on the other side of Hitomi from Sayaka's mom and, in defiance of the emotionally distant girl she was threatening to become, a girl who steadfastly refused to reach out to anyone, she placed her hand comfortingly on her classmate's shoulder. Hitomi broke down for the second time, leaning into Homura and crying softly against her.
At first Homura wasn't entirely sure whether the voice was the increasingly persistent and influential one in the back of her head or a certain indignant redhead in the back of the room. Given their similarly dubious esteem for the girl now attached to her shoulder it could easily have been either, but a quick look in the direction of the physically manifest girl essentially confirmed the origin of the quip.
"Mami," Homura sent to them both this time, her vexation evident in her mental voice if perhaps not on her still very public face. "If she doesn't shut up you have my permission to shoot her. Use the big gun, please."
Homura wasn't looking in the direction of her two magical girl friends anymore, rather directing her attention to the girl grieving against her, but she still could feel the weight of Kyouko's glare. She ignored it, given she had more pressing matters up front.
"Thank you, Akemi-san," the police press specialist who was helping coordinate the conference said. "I know this is hard."
"Yes, sir," was Homura's only response as Hitomi continued to cling to her and Homura ran her hand comfortingly down the girl's light-green hair, her voice making quiet soothing noises when she wasn't speaking. She could almost visualize the disapproving scowl of her other self over the unabashed display of compassion, see herself turn around with the characteristic Homura hair toss that seemed to cross all timelines and walk away in irritated disinterest.
You may be dead inside, but I'm not. At least not yet. I'll let you lead when it makes sense, but kindly allow me what I'm good at.
The conference proceeded to switch to a police detective who described that Sayaka had next been seen about 10 minutes later on security cameras in the adjacent train stop over where the girl had boarded the next arriving train. As that train did its loop run, cameras on the train had documented her interaction with two unsavory men who had since been questioned multiple times.
Although the men were clearly a potential risk for a girl like Sayaka, nothing had been found to connect the two after Sayaka apparently left the train as it looped back around to the nearest main station to her school. The term 'apparently' was necessary since unexplained interference had prevented cameras from functioning in that station during the period when Sayaka's train had arrived. She had been on the train along with the two men when it arrived at the station, and she wasn't on the train when it departed but the two men still were. The men denied any culpability, and no evidence other than circumstantial could be found to suggest foul play on their part. Sayaka had never been seen again by any reliable witness or electronic device once the train approached the station.
Homura listened to this story, mentally filling in the blanks from her own experiences during that evening when her own life had dramatically changed. Sayaka had indeed left the train at the station, but her reason was not only because it was familiar but also because the miasma had become dense in that area and there was a wraith grid forming, hence the camera interference. Sayaka engaged the wraiths alone at first rather than wait for help from her fellow magical girls. Sayaka's overall power had always been modest, and in her pre-existing despair she had resorted to extreme methods in the fight. By the time the others had arrived, Sayaka had already lost her mind. Homura shot the last wraith as Kyouko had run up to grab hold of Sayaka. The grid had fallen before she could be reached, and Sayaka had disappeared with it.
Apparently not even Madoka could save that girl once she made her wish, Homura thought to herself, at turns both sad and cross as she found herself remembering back to the times Sayaka had self-destructed over various timelines…memories she had gained that very night Sayaka had disappeared.
Once the rest of the details had been explained by the police, Miki Ai and her husband stood and took to the podium where the detectives had been speaking. Sayaka's father was first to take the microphone.
"Hello," the middle aged man began as he read from a prepared statement, clearly working hard to maintain his composure, "my name is Miki Tetsuya and I'm Sayaka's father. We want to thank everyone from the school to the transit system to law enforcement who are working tirelessly to help find Sayaka. Thank you especially to everyone who has been interviewed to help find clues as to what happened to our daughter. We know how stressful that can be, but I'm sure we all want to leave no stone unturned in the search. We will never be able to thank you enough for that help. Finally, we would like to thank the media. If it were not for you showing Sayaka on every newscast, printing her story in the papers, her story wouldn't be known to everyone. People from around the region have seen her picture. This is a tremendous help and we're very grateful. Please help us find our daughter." With that, the man had to retreat from the microphone into his wife's embrace.
After a few moments holding her husband, Miki Ai collected herself before approaching the podium, her own voice quivering with her emotion as she spoke from the heart. "Sayaka, sweetheart. If you can hear me, please know we love you, we miss you, we need you home now. We're doing everything we can to help get you back to us as soon as possible. We'll work everything out, I promise. I know we failed as parents for you, but please forgive us, honey. We believe in you and we'll never give up looking for you." With that the woman broke down into sobs and her husband took her into his arms and led her back to the table where the two, in addition to Hitomi, tried to find solace as the press conference was ended with words from the police, asking anyone with additional information regarding the events that night or afterwards to please come forward immediately. Boilerplate stuff that never really let anywhere in this world.
As Homura stood by to assist Hitomi if needed, Kyouko's voice sounded again in her head. "So first the little bitch knifes Sayaka in the back by stealin' her boy, and now she's weaselin' her way into stealin' her mom. Remind me again why you two are bein' so protective of her? I said I wouldn't kill her, just bloody her a bit. A few scars here and there so she looks outside like she does inside."
"And what would that accomplish, Sakura-san?" Mami's voice responded. "Don't forget that Shizuki-san was Miki-san's friend."
"Can you be so sure now, Mami?" Kyouko retorted. "Why don't you go ask her? Oh wait, we can't, now can we?" Kyouko stood up without looking at Mami and strode toward the front of the room against the flow of people making their exit. Her eyes connected with Homura's.
Homura coolly returned Kyouko's angry glare, realizing she wouldn't have been able to do so under the circumstances even a week ago. She found the measure of how much she was changing very unnerving, yet at the moment she had no choice but to fully embrace her other self and let it entirely guide her. "Kyouko, I won't let you hurt her." Her mental voice and glare both carried steel as she moved to stand between the redhead and the front of the room where the other speakers were still collected.
"Why are you so protective of the little bitch?" Kyouko pressed angrily as she stopped near the front of the rows of chairs currently emptying as everyone else began filing out. "I really don't get it. You barely know her."
"I know her better than you think. I'm sure you'll dismiss it, but the two times Shizuki-san made a contract with Kyubey, it was over the disappearance of Miki-san. Both times she wished for Miki-san to come back. Neither time was pretty at all given Miki-san had already become a witch. Both times Miki-san was a witch again within 24 hours and Shizuki-san with her. I'm not sure what that kind of wish would mean in this universe, but something tells me I don't want to find out. You're talking about just enhancing her angst, which we all know makes girls more interesting to Kyubey. I won't allow Hitomi to make a contract."
"Okay, so then let me kill her," Kyouko offered, seemingly quite comfortable with the logical solution to the problem.
"Kyouko!" Mami's exasperated mental voice rang out with her exceedingly rare use of a given name.
"That girl killed Sayaka and is getting away with it. Not only that, she's taking everything that was Sayaka's in the process. First her boy, then her mom, and now apparently even her new best friend. I can't stand watchin' it."
"No, Kyouko, Hitomi didn't kill Sayaka, Sayaka killed Sayaka." Homura corrected her mentor coldly, choosing first to be direct and second not to quibble over the details of Sayaka's demise. Homura believed in her heart Sayaka wasn't exactly dead as it were given what she knew of Madoka's wish and what her other self had experienced in the eternal moments before she re-entered the universe…her universe. "In the end, Sayaka was offered help and refused it. If you want to blame someone, go blame Kyubey for omitting the part about our soul gems really being our souls and our bodies being essentially remote control when Sayaka made her wish. You know full-well that's what doomed her in the end."
"Oh trust me, I'm not happy with him either."
"But taking it out on Kyubey won't give you any satisfaction whereas making Hitomi hurt will?" Homura looked briefly back at the classmate in question who was now moving to talk with Kyousuke. The boy, still dependent on crutches, was sitting at the far end of the front row away from Kyouko.
Despite the distance between the two and the redhead, Homura still moved slightly to maintain her interference position – knowing full well that distance would mean exactly nothing if Kyouko were to decide to disregard reason and act out in her current passion. "That's really helpful. What do you think that little Mami clone would have to say about THAT as her legacy? Remember how she was so strong in her sense of justice that she even moved you? Even near the end before she disappeared she shared with me that you letting go of your bitterness was one of the few good things to come out of her becoming a magical girl. Do you really want to ruin that?"
Kyouko glared at Homura a moment more, then turned and strode again to the back of the room.
"Sakura-san, we know you and Miki-san were becoming close before the end. It's normal to feel angry when you grieve someone you care about."
"Fuck off, Mami", Kyouko said sharply as she switched direction to head for the door. "You've already got one girl on your couch right now. I'm not interested in being part of your shrunken head collection. You have my word I won't hurt the conniving bitch, assuming she never gets in my way a' course. You can stick the rest of it up that uptight ass of yours. I'm going to find somethin' I can kill without you two bleedin' hearts whinin' over it. I'd suggest you stay outta my way right now. You especially, Kyubey. I know you're listening from somewhere. Ya always are."
Homura watched as Kyouko angrily pushed her way past others and stormed out the door.
"She just needs time to process," Mami assured her kohai.
"I know," Homura responded with a sigh. "I just don't need any of this on top of everything else I'm dealing with. Truth be told, right now I'm finding it hard to care about what happens to Hitomi. I have memories of killing her myself when she stood in my way of saving Madoka. It would certainly prevent her from contracting which is what really matters to me, so in some ways I wouldn't be overly disturbed if Kyouko were to kill her assuming it was done discreetly. I know that should bother me, it would have bothered me a lot two weeks ago, and yet it doesn't now. That's bothering me."
"You really expected me to follow that train of logic?"
Homura could see the bemused arched eyebrow that came with this comment from across the room and smiled slightly. "Not really."
Mami bent down to pick up a mostly full bag of apples, sitting where the owner had left them as she stormed out of the building, and rose from her seat in order to make her way out of the room, albeit much more calmly and considerately than had the recently departed redhead. "It looks like you're about to be interrupted. I'm going to follow Sakura-san and make sure she doesn't do anything ill advised while she's off acting her hair color. She wouldn't have left the apples here if she didn't really want me to follow her, regardless of her words."
Homura had to chuckle mentally at the observations even as she schooled her expression in anticipation for whatever was coming behind her.
Homura turned to see Miki Ai standing what had just recently been behind her. "Yes, Miki-san?"
"I just wanted to thank you again for being Sayaka's friend, even if just for the few weeks you've been at the school before she…" the older woman's eyes looked down as she stumbled over the unsaid 'disappeared'.
"It really was nothing, Miki-san," Homura assured the woman as she struggled to connect again with her feelings after the recent intense telepathic exchange. "I'm the one who has her to thank, if anything. She was the first one to reach out to me and make me feel comfortable at school here."
It's strange, Homura thought as she spoke with Sayaka's mother, how much Sayaka filled the role Madoka had before. She was even the class nurse's aide and the one who helped magic me through the high jump the first day. On the other hand, this time Sayaka saved me when I tried to stop the suicide group, which was caused by wraiths this time, instead of her saving Madoka. And then I was the one who tried to save Sayaka in the bus stop. Sayaka and I together filled almost all the gaps left by Madoka in this timeline. I wonder how much Madoka had to do with bringing us so close together?
As Homura thought this, she found herself reflexively reaching up to finger the precious red ribbon in her hair. She could sense her other self wincing at the memories and her own blunt acknowledgement of how Madoka was now erased from anyone's knowledge except her own, reduced to simply a concept…however potent a concept 'hope for all magical girls' might be. As much as she wanted to allow herself time to ponder all this and console herself, she had to return her focus to the woman who was continuing the conversation unaware of the internal dialog occurring in the girl before her.
"It makes me happy to hear that she had such an impact on you," Miki-san smiled sadly. "I know so little about her life the past couple of years. With the silly thing that had come between her father and I...I horribly neglected her and I feel so guilty about it now. I should have been there for her. She had become so independent and it was so easy to just let her do her own thing. I see now I should have been more involved."
"Maybe, but she might have resented it. She liked her freedom."
"I suppose," Miki-san admitted with a sigh, then cocked her head to one side as a thought came to her. "You live alone here, don't you Akemi-san?"
Homura nodded, suddenly wary, unsure where the conversation was going.
"Be careful, child," Miki-san said, taking Homura in her arms. "In hindsight, I should have been watching over both of you and making sure you weren't out late all the time. I should have made sure my house was inviting enough that you were fine hanging out there. I'm sure your mother worries with you being here alone. I don't want her to have to go through what I'm going through."
Homura briefly squeezed the older woman holding her and then gently disengaged from the unnerving closeness before looking up at her and meeting her eyes. Despite her increasing coolness towards others, she felt moved to comfort the hurting woman. This is the mother of Madoka's childhood best friend, the voice in Homura's head sounded and she felt for once the other presence allow her uncontested center stage. Over sixty years of repetition and you never did learn to handle people, did you, Homura? she thought at herself.
She wasn't sure at first what to say, but words seemed to pop into her mind. From where, she hadn't any clue, since it certainly wasn't inspired by any of her other experiences, but she wasn't complaining at the moment. She tried her best to be reassuring, trying to bring the woman some sense of peace. "My mom does worry, but she has faith in me. You should have faith in Sayaka. I don't know where she is any more than you do, but I'm sure wherever she is she's making a difference. She's one of the bravest girls I know and lives to help those around her. It's what makes Sayaka, Sayaka."
As had happened occasionally during the past two weeks when interacting with Hitomi or others related to Sayaka's disappearance, Homura felt her magic active but had no idea what it was doing. As during the other times, she didn't have the luxury to examine the odd sensation. Her other self, the distrusting one, didn't seem to notice or mind so she decided again not to worry about it as she watched the woman before her think about the words and relax a bit.
"I can see that now. Strange how the absence of someone makes you truly see them." Miki-okaasan smiled as she continued speaking. "Sayaka's always been a fighter, you know. When I was in labor, she almost died. The cord got pinched and her heart almost stopped. She fought, though, and made it through just fine. Later on in school she had this thing against bullies." The woman's smile widened at this memory and she chuckled. "Rarely did a week go by that she didn't come home bruised after having defended yet another girl, or even the occasional boy like gentle little Kamijou-san, from being hurt. She was always looking out for others. At the time I didn't appreciate it. It meant repeated trips to the school to take responsibility for her actions, which were an inconvenience. I never told her how proud I was of her." The woman's smile remained, but tears started streaming along the sides of her cheeks. "She grew up so much when I wasn't paying attention. I regret that so much, now. I just wish I could have the chance to tell her how truly proud I am of her."
Through the timelines Miki Sayaka had always been a two dimensional figure for Homura, either a tool or an obstacle in the effort to save Madoka. Never had the time traveler given much thought to why the blue-haired spitfire had been the way she was, what motivated her, or what kind of people had formed her. Even before meeting Mami, the bravery Sayaka had shown in defending Madoka was exceptional. In the last timeline it was Sayaka who stood and resolutely defended Madoka from the presumed danger Homura presented…armed only with a fire extinguisher. There was no doubt these new revelations were having an effect on the girl aged beyond her apparent years.
Homura placed a hand on the woman's forearm as she said the next words that came to mind. "She knows, Miki-san. I didn't know her very long, but it was clear to me that your opinion of her meant a lot. She wanted to become the kind of person who would deserve your trust in her. I think she did. You have a lot to be proud of and you should have faith in her. She's alright."
The woman smiled and nodded. She seemed about to say something else when her husband, Hitomi, and Kyousuke came to stand with them. It was the paternal Miki who next spoke. "Kamijou-san has pointed out how little we've all been eating lately and he's right. I don't think Sayaka would appreciate us all wasting away while she's gone. It doesn't do her or us any good. Please everyone, let me take us out to an early dinner and let's try to make it a little light-hearted." The man then looked to each of them with a worried smile, clearly anxious about how his proposal might be misconstrued.
Homura watched as the others accepted the offer graciously. Although she didn't feel terribly enthusiastic over the idea, she sensed her presence was doing something even if she had no idea exactly what. Despite all that had happened over all the timelines, all the times she had fought with the blue-haired girl and all the times she had watched her die…occasionally at her own hands, Homura knew that the girl missing from these peoples' lives had been Madoka's dearest friend, along with her family the center of Madoka's world until the end of the final timeline.
This is what Madoka would want.
"So, where are we going to eat?" Homura said despite her reservations.
Real-world dedication: I dedicate this chapter to the biological parents of Kyron Hormon and all the parents of children who go missing without a trace. Much of the interview material quoted in this story was paraphrased or quoted from the real thing, adjusted to be relevant to a teenaged girl. As a parent, there is nothing I can imagine more frightening than to have my children simply disappear. ~Gwen
Acknowledgement: I wish to thank linkhyrule5 for his marvelous review assistance. As will be noted below, I readily admit my knowledge of Madoka canon is limited to the series and only recently the drama CD's and Oriko. I recognise I have holes in my database, yet I am enough of a purist to want to get it 'right'. This chapter has benefited greatly from the alternate perspective as well as a different set of eyes.
A/N: Thank you to my reviewers. Because of you, and those who have favorited this little effort of mine, I'll continue it. I am grateful to each of you who favorited or 'stickied' this story. It feels good to know there are people who like this stuff. Reviews are always welcome, and they may impact how I go about this as my next paragraph will make clear.
A word on punctuation convention. Telepathy is a well established skill of magical girls and incubators, and the humans who communicate with them. All thoughts, whether internal or broadcast, are in italics. To facilitate differentiation between internal dialog and thoughts meant for broadcast, those thoughts intended for sharing are in "italicized quotations". Note, occasionally there are internal thoughts that are picked up or unintentionally broadcast. These will (hopefully) be identified clearly in the story.
For those new to my methods, I maintain updated comments about my stories in my profile. If you are curious about progress and when to expect new chapters, you can find out there.
In closing I'll admit to being an unabashed shoujo writer. This is Mahou Shoujo after all! I write feelings and emotions and focus on (gasp!) relationships. I think my efforts will complement the shonen-esque sci fi focus that is prevalent here on the FFN PMMM section. That said, I'm enough of a fan to want to get it 'right', even if I write like a girl. ;-)