A/N: Written as a Chocolate Box 2019 gift for ideallyqualia.

-()-

"Did we lose him?"

Madoka panted. Hands on her knees, she leaned forward, eyes flickering towards the mouth of the alleyway. Besides a peek of light from an apartment window, she saw nothing.

"I think so." Madoka straightened, adjusting the small bag on her shoulder full of her most valuable items and necessities. She hadn't thought anyone was after them in the first place—yet, Sayaka was obsessed with the police chasing after her. "It's okay now."

Sayaka breathed a sigh of relief. Still, the lines drawing down her cheeks didn't lose their tense edge. At every turn and cranny she swore eyes were on her. After Kyubey's information had been leaked during the fight—her blood curled in her veins, and she wanted to trash him, skewer him in a fire pit—she had known the horrific truth. Saving her from a gruesome fate was impossible.

The signs of her downfall were everywhere.

She had seen that police officer inspect her on the street for mischief; his fascination with her sword made her feel as though he could see into her soul, know the heinous acts she would commit once her Soul Gem broke.

It wasn't cosplay. Surely, he knew that, so she had dragged Madoka away. They ran, and they ran, and they ran until the alleyway.

Sayaka's examined their surroundings. The apartment light was enough to give her a view of the trash-littered, narrow walkway, and she spotted an abandoned door.

"Let's stay here tonight."

Madoka tiptoed to the door. Bracing herself, she yanked on the knob. Resistance came but, eventually, it budged. She held the door open for Sayaka. She walked inside, sword at the ready, but no creepy person or wild animal leapt out. Eyes adjusting to the darkness, she spotted a row of boxes and a big machine in the back. For the night, it was secluded.

Plopping down on the dusty floor, Sayaka sighed heavily. Madoka joined her. Carefully, she shrugged off her bag, and then tenderly did the same from Sayaka as she stared at the ceiling, tossing them off both into the darkness. She pried the hilt of her sword from her hands and laid it flat on the floor.

Sayaka's chin fell against her chest, defeated.

"Hey..." Madoka said, frowning. She scooted closer to her, leaning against her side. "We've been running from home for… two weeks? I hate to see you like this. It hurts. Are… Are you really sure you don't want to go home?"

"How can I?" Sayaka whispered. She hunched down, her eyes clamped shut. "Didn't you hear? He said I would turn into a… a…"

"That's not true!" Thinking quickly, Madoka wanted desperately to believe in Kyubey's bond with them, know he wasn't their worst enemy. She smiled reassuringly at her. "He exaggerated. We just misunderstood him. I-I really don't think he meant it that way." She brushed her fingertips across the metal of her Soul Gem. "You won't turn into a witch."

Sayaka shivered. The warmth of Madoka's touch flowed through her veins. Dearly, she wanted to believe her. Nonetheless, the finality in the little demon's words echoed throughout the chamber of her brain. His calm, procedural words replayed like a spray of blood across her face. To her, he had all but slashed the dreams of a hundred magical girls before her with perfect impassivity.

Death was looming.

Silence descended between them. For a while she listened to Madoka's quiet breath next to her. Then, she transformed out of her magical girl attire, returning to casual clothes. She reached in her pocket, fished out her phone, and turned it on. Immediately, she opened the first app she spotted on the screen.

"Don't do that," Madoka said, tugging her arm. She knew it wouldn't help either of them.

But it was too late. Sayaka flipped through the page with her finger. The phone's light glinted off her eyes, and she skimmed the text, each word memorized right away.

"Hitomi's dashboard is post after post begging anyone for any clues about where we are. 'Please, keep your eyes peeled for Sayaka and Madoka.' And this one, 'I looked around town all day yesterday but I didn't find them anywhere!'" Sayaka turned the phone in Madoka's direction. She scanned the page. "It's the same for everyone in the class."

Wincing, Madoka bit her lip. "I wish we could explain," she admitted. "I don't want them to feel upset. I don't want Hitomi-chan to blame herself for doing something wrong."

"Don't worry. They're happier not knowing."

"No, they can't be!" Madoka shook her head. "They're scared something bad happened. They can't be happy feeling responsible. If they don't know, they'll imagine the worst."

Sayaka clutched the phone. She didn't look away and focused on the task at hand. The next few apps kept up the trend of worries. It was not hard to find their families and friends chatting with each other, waiting for news.

"Do you want to see your parent's accounts?"

Madoka dug her nail into her palm. She wanted to see her Mama and Papa, and she wanted to play with Tatsuya again. "I'll want to tell them I'm okay. But I shouldn't…"

A pang of regret went through Sayaka's chest. Madoka cared about her family, like as she did hers. But the police may seriously track their location if they sent out messages.

"Did you see that lost poster on the corner this afternoon?" Sayaka asked, not bothering with the apps anymore. It wouldn't help but it was something else to say. "They used that picture we took last year at the park. I didn't know they would post flyers everywhere."

"I saw. I'm surprised they put them here."

"I also saw a clip of us on the city building's overhead television set," Sayaka continued, smile crooked. "They showed more pictures of us from school. That's when we bought lunch. We barely have money left. Our faces are out there but no one said anything to us."

Sayaka barked a laugh. She grabbed her stomach, the laughs spilling from her lips like sharp stones against glass, her throat raw.

Only Madoka was her confidant. Trusting her was the only thing she could do—she would say with her, and they would live together for as long as it took, until they found a nice little place to call their own. Maybe an abandoned house outside town would do for privacy.

They wouldn't have long to stay like that. But, Sayaka decided, a little romance was enough.

Uncomfortable, Madoka squirmed. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to make everything right. There had to be a mistake. Every day, she never left her side and did what she could, but her girlfriend constantly saw the ugly side of their lives.

Above all, Madoka wanted her to be happy.

"It's okay, Sayaka-chan," Madoka said. She hugged her, her heart squeezing painfully. "I'll always stay with you. No matter what."

"Can you love a monster?"

Madoka turned Sayaka towards her. She pressed a kiss to her cheek. "You'll never be a monster," she said, firm, eyes made of steel.

Sayaka's smile softened. "Hey, Madoka?"

"Yeah?"

"Having you here keeps me sane."

"Sayaka-chan…"

"Please don't leave. Don't stop touching me," Sayaka begged. She returned the hug, pulling her close, crushing. "A horrific monster needs someone gentle, or they'll… they'll only be a ruthless savage. And hurt people! I don't… I don't want that to happen. I'm supposed to be the heroine of justice. I…" Tears flowed from her eyes and dripped on Madoka's hair.

At first, she had thought forcing Madoka along with her on the streets would be selfish. But she had needed her, so unabashedly. To her delight, Madoka had followed her proposal, packing clothes and money and all, while she had sobbed and prayed for a miracle.

Without Madoka, she wouldn't be here, now.

Madoka's grip around her waist tightened. She patted her on the back, buried her face against her neck, and smelled the dirt on her skin from fighting and running all day long.

"I'll cherish and support you, always," Madoka said, dropping a cheerful note in her voice. "You're an incredible person with a good heart. We'll work on what to do in the morning."

Liquid fire was in her tone. Madoka wore her heart on her sleeve. She did not falter, not once, determination brimming high. Just as it did while they hopped from to city to city.

When she said it so directly, she almost believed in hope. But, regardless, she finally was warm and safe. Sayaka shut off the phone and placed it on the floor, forgetting about the reports. "Thank you, Madoka."