All the Time in the World
The first time she sees Madoka alive again Homura breaks down. Madoka is their health officer but someone else – Sakura, Sayaka, what does it matter she's alive, she's alive, she's alive - escorts her to the nurse's office.
During lunch break, she spots the ring.
She's too late.
She's too late.
The next time she makes the jump, she tries for July instead of September.
The transfer nearly kills her and it's all she can do to stave off becoming a witch before collecting a grief seed.
She organizes her transfer papers, forges signatures and makes plans. She still can't quite control her emotions in front of Madoka who is her everything but she manages. She has to manage.
Kyuubey still hasn't made his move yet. Good.
She meets a girl named Mami. In the original timeline, the blonde has already died before Homura became a puella magi and in the second timeline, Madoka must have turned her back into a human without Homura noticing because she vaguely recalls those curls but not that ring.
"We… we could be friends?" The blonde asks shyly. "If we share our resources-"
It's a bad idea… but since Madoka won't become a puella magi Homura will need real firepower for Walpurgis Nacht.
She agrees. Kyuubey says nothing.
Within a month they've cleaned out the entire city. When they go to a nearby city to hunt, they get into a three-way war between the local magical girls, themselves, and the witches.
Mami dies. The blonde understands the reasons why puella magi must occasionally fight but her heart isn't in the battle.
By the time Homura makes it back it's already Walpurgis Night.
And Madoka, her bow and arrow clasped firmly in her hands, tells her it'll be alright, no need to cry, it'll be alright, shhhh, Madoka will fix this, please don't cry -
She tries for August. It's a little less convenient in terms of getting her transfer papers approved but this way, an alliance between Mami and herself won't destroy the careful ecology of human-familiar-witch-and-puella magi.
All goes well until Mami sees her trying to kill Kyuubey.
This time around she tries explaining it to Mami. Everything. The cost, the progression from puella magi to witch, kyuubey's role as an Incubator… all of it.
Two days later, Mami commits suicide.
Sayaka becomes a puella magi. Kyouko arrives.
Madoka makes her wish.
Everyone else is expendable.
She can't forget that. Madoka is the only one who matters. The one who will make the wish and doom the world (who cares about the world) and the one Homura wants to save.
Mami is expendable. So when Mami makes her overture again (always shy, always hesitant) Homura licks her dry, cracked lips-
This time around she tries explaining things to Sayaka.
It pushes the wannabe hero faster into making her wish.
How many times has she done this? How many times has she tried talking/speaking/negotiating?
How many times has she failed?
"Madoka… Madoka, please, listen to me- you can't save her, she's already-"
Madoka leaves and Homura tries but she can't get up onto her feet.
She doesn't have enough power.
A shield can be useful but it's not enough. She needs more power. She needs… she needs…
Homura thinks of Mami.
She spends the entire loop practicing with a stolen gun. She only learns later that it's called a Beretta, to be more specific an M9.
In the next loop she discovers it lacks stopping power.
Grenades are trickier but the US still hasn't left Japan and their weapons always make it into someone's pockets.
When you can stop time, you don't need to pay for anything.
Maybe, maybe if she kills enough people she can fix things.
She spends the entire loop trying to nerve herself up to the task of killing Kyuubey.
Bastard has more than one body.
Damn. How many-?
Why - why won't he die?
She doesn't need to kill Kyuubey.
But it's catharthic.
She spends the entire loop killing Kyuubey. Again and again and again and again. The little alien bleeds.
Is she becoming psychotic?
Madoka doesn't trust her at all in this loop.
This is research.
He has, at minimum, eighty-three bodies.
She starts compiling statistics.
There are patterns emerging. Mami always dies. Sayaka never lives. Sometimes it's Kyouko, sometimes it's Momoko, sometimes it's Haruka that arrives.
None of them believe her.
None of them ever believe her until it's too late.
Madoka never stops being kind.
Kyuubey never dies.
Homura always fails.
Kyuubey figures it out early in this loop.
"Why don't you ask her to wish for your success?" He suggests.
Failed one hundred times.
Failed five hundred times.
Failed one thousand times.
There's an old internet joke to be made here.
She kills Kamijou.
It doesn't help.
Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt.
Maybe if she...
No. Stop it Homura. Stop it.
Why… why are you…
I don't know…
How much longer… I can continue… doing this.
Because if you don't… if I keep failing…
I think I might-