A Brand New Day
Madoka's Wish changed the universe. Broke the system. Gave everyone a new chance. What will life hold for Homura in a world without Puellae Magi, or Witches ... or Incubators? A very AU story in an alternate post-series time-line.
I don't own Puella Magi Madoka Magica or any associated characters.
Blackness was replaced by the vague, blurry outlines of a ceiling. She sat up, very slowly, blinking, as she looked around. There was a window, open with a curtain billowing in the breeze. There was a little rolling stand beside her bed. There was a chair, unnecessary since the girl never had visitors herself. Beyond that were other blurred objects. The girl swung her legs over the side of the bed, and scooted toward the rolling stand, upon which sat her glasses. They had red partial frames, frameless along the top edge according to the current fashion.
The girl put the glasses on, and blinked as the room came into focus. It was a white, sterile hospital room. The girl shivered. Somehow this room was both intimately familiar to her, and strange in a way that she could not comprehend. The calendar on the wall showed the date. The 16th. This date was circled multiple times, creating a little flower pattern.
The sixteenth. Why did she have a strange feeling about that date? Why, when she considered it, did it give her a funny, twisty feeling in the pit of her stomach? She could only shrug it off. She was being released from the hospital today, and in a week she would begin school. She picked up the acceptance papers from the rolling bed-side stand, with a slight smile.
"Akemi Homura," she whispered to herself, "your life begins today."
Homura wore her hair in twin, thickly braided pony-tails. A loose off-white tunic covered a purple turtle-neck blouse. A black knee-length skirt, black tights, and brown shoes completed her outfit. She only had a few more hours of life in the hospital, before being able to go home.
She wasn't sure if it was really all that much of a home. A quiet, lonely, dimly-lit apartment, paid for by a charity, and maintained for her while she had been in the hospital … six months here. She almost felt as though this place were more of a home. She had the doctors and nurses. She had … friends here. Friends that she might never see again. She wasn't sure if she would get the chance to visit them or not. Things were going to get hectic, between school and trying to get some kind of life started.
It was with a heavy heart that she knocked quietly on the door of one of two people she would really miss.
"Come in," came a voice filled with hope and optimistic sunshine. Homura smiled. She always smiled when she visited her friend and neighbor in the hospital.
She pushed the door open and walked into the room. Sunshine shone in through an open window, curtains billowing in the fresh breeze. A table full of flowers and pretty plants stood near to the bed, within easy view of its occupant. A rolling bed-side stand held an empty teacup and a plate with no more than crumbs upon it. Breakfast, apparently.
She stepped forward, and looked at the person lying in the bed. She had a beaming smile in a pretty, no a glowing, face that was framed by blond hair styled fetchingly into two twisty drill-bit pigtails. Her amber eyes glimmered in the sunlight, and as always Homura marveled at the girl's strength of spirit. She didn't know how she could remain so happy. Not with her truncated body. The accident had been nearly fatal, Homura knew. She had lost both of her legs, and her right arm, while still on her body, was useless, paralyzed entirely below the elbow, and barely able to move at all. Her left arm had somehow been spared, and with this she was able to do so many things for herself. But, it would be some time before she would ever be able to leave the hospital, even so. She had been here two years, and since the accident had also claimed her parents, she had no one readily available to care for her needs.
"Homura-chan, how nice of you to visit me."
"It's always a pleasure, Mami."
The older girl had always insisted that Homura simply call her by her first name. She blinked, not wanting to tear up right now. She walked over to the bed, leaning over and wrapping her arms around Mami. The blond squeezed her tight with her left arm, and the two girls held their embrace for a warm, comforting moment.
"I … I'm going to be released from the hospital today, Mami."
"Oh. That's … that's wonderful news, Homura-chan. I'm so very happy for you."
There was a note of disappointment in the girl's voice that Homura couldn't help but note. Her heart beat with heavy sorrow.
"I … that is … I didn't want to leave without visiting you. And .. saying thanks."
"For what, Homura-chan? I didn't do anything."
"Oh, but you did, Mami! You … you kept me going. When I was admitted to the hospital … well, I didn't think I was going to make it. Then I met you … you are … amazing, Mami-senpai. I know that I would never be able to hold up like you can."
"Well. You had a heart operation. Very serious. Don't sell your own spirit short, Homura-chan."
"No, that's just it, Mami-senpai! Because of you I know that I can make it."
Mami smiled, but Homura detected a darkness that had clouded over her expression.
"Well. I hope that you'll be able to visit me, occasionally. I know you'll probably be too busy but …."
"No, Mami. I will never, ever, be too busy to visit you."
That seemed to cheer the blond, and Homura noticed the darkness disappearing to be replaced by her more familiar, sunny disposition.
Homura took a deep breath. While visiting Mami always made her happy, visiting her other friend was more of a challenge. She felt she had to do it, because somehow Homura had always managed to bring joy to her day, however hopeless her situation. So, she padded down the corridor in the pediatric wing, and knocked softly on the door. There was no answer.
One of the nurses stopped as she was walking past.
"Yes. Is … is Charlotte sleeping? I wanted to say good-bye to her before I was discharged from the hospital. She … well, we are kinda friends."
The nurse's face contorted in sorrow, and Homura immediately knew something had happened.
"Oh … you … didn't know. I am so very sorry."
Homura gasped. Her heart skipped a beat, and it almost felt to her as though all the benefits of the medicine and the surgery were swept away in that one painful moment.
"When … when did she … pass on?"
"Last night, I'm afraid. She … well, she was asleep when it happened. She didn't suffer."
Of course she had. She had suffered every minute of every day for the six months Homura had been in the hospital. Tears rolled down Homura's cheeks as she thought about the last time the two had spoken to each other. So many things had been unsaid between them ... so many things the poor girl would never experience. At least she was no longer in pain. Maybe, Homura mused, the girl's dreams were right … and there would be all the cheese she could ever want in heaven.
The door to the hospital's chapel opened, and a teary-eyed Homura, her glasses folded and in her lap, looked up as a girl, blurry due to her tears and poor eyesight, stopped short of entering.
"Oh. Sorry. Didn't know someone was here."
It was a small room intended to be a place of peace, where hospital visitors could pray or consult with a chaplain for spiritual guidance. It was a place Homura had often come to after visiting Charlotte, and now that she was gone ….
"No. No it's … it's okay. I am … leaving."
"Nah, don't do that. I just … well, I just needed some peace."
"Umm … come in, I guess. I just … needed some too."
Homura wiped her eyes and put her glasses on. The newcomer was a girl of about Homura's age. She had short blue hair and lovely, brilliant, blue eyes. She wore a dark blue blazer with white piping, a light blue overall-dress that reached her mid-thighs, a white U-cut blouse, and fashionable brown ankle-boots.
"If it's not a bother?"
"Oh, no. Of course not. You … look familiar. Have we met before?"
The bluenette grinned and closed the door behind her as she entered.
"Don't think so. You've probably seen me around the hospital. Name's Miki Sayaka."
"Nice to meet you, Miki-san. My name's Akemi Homura."
"Nice to meet you, Akemi-san."
She smiled, and took a seat beside Homura, extending a hand to her. The dark-haired girl looked at the hand, her cheeks turning slightly pink, before shyly taking it. Sayaka smirked and firmly gripped and shook her hand.
"Patient or visitor?"
"No," Homura replied with a shrug. "I mean, I was a patient, but I was just released."
She patted a small suitcase that held all the worldly possessions that she had taken with her into the hospital.
"Congratulations. Me, I'm a visitor. I come by twice a week, or more if I can, to visit Kamijou Kyousuke. Heard of him?"
"Ummm … no. I am afraid not."
Sayaka shrugged, with a sigh.
"Used to be an awesome violinist. Then … well, he was partially paralyzed in an accident."
"Yeah. Well, I think he'll be okay. He just needs a little more treatment and therapy, and before you know it, he'll be wowing people all over the world with his virtuosity!"
Homura forced herself to smile.
"Hey, why the sad face? You're free, Kamijou-kun's gonna be fine, all's well, yeah?"
"Well … no. I … see, one of the friends that I made here in the hospital … she, well …."
"Ohhhh. I am sorry, Akemi-san. Here I am going on about myself and everything and … I didn't know."
"No, it … it's okay. I just have to remember the happy times I spent with her."
"There ya go! Well, I guess I better go. See you around?"
"Well … probably not."
"Oh right, discharged. Say, you're about my age. Where are you gonna go to school?"
Homura smiled with a hint of pride.
"Mitakihara Middle School."
It was a new institution, and Homura was right to feel proud that she had been accepted there.
"How about that. I will see you around then."
"Really? Wow. Maybe … well, maybe we can be friends, Miki-san."
"I think I'd like that, Akemi-san."
Homura had gotten home to find everything in order. The charity worker who had been going to her place to keep it clean had just finished her last duties in the place. She explained to Homura that a week's worth of groceries were in the fridge, wished her luck, and reminded her that they were just a phone call away should she need help.
And now she was alone.
She sighed, and looked around. In one corner sat a chair and a desk with a computer and cell phone sitting on it. They were newly purchased by Homura, from money that remained from her parents' estate. The cell phone and Internet services were set to activate tomorrow. A small swivel-lamp sat on the table also.
A couch sat in another part of the room, in front of a glass-topped coffee table, and facing a small television. She doubted if she would ever even watch it, except maybe for the news, but it was a nice homey touch.
With a sigh, she walked back to her bedroom. There was a double bed, far too big for her but it was what the apartment was furnished with. An open closet held several pairs of casual clothes, as well as her school uniform. A mirror-topped chest-of-drawers was the only other piece of furniture in the bedroom.
She set her suitcase down on her bed, and went back into the hallway, to look in her bathroom, which was spotlessly clean, and her kitchen. It was a small kitchen, but it had a refrigerator, oven and stove, microwave, and coffeemaker.
So. She was free. No more nurses. No more daily tests. No more hum of activity, of life, around her. She had a routine of medicines that she still needed to take, and in a week she would start school again. But for now? She had all the time in the world … and nothing to fill it with.
Shyly, Homura opened the door, and walked into the classroom. She had taken a deep breath before, steeling herself for this. She told herself, it would be okay. She had visited Mami last night, and she had told her the same thing. It was going to be okay.
"Lucky Homura-chan gets to go back to school. I'm jealous."
Now, as she saw the two dozen some strangers all looking at her enter, with wide, amazed eyes and questions beginning to form in their minds and expectations of what this transfer student could do … well, her stomach began to flip-flop on her, and she felt the sudden urge to turn and run.
Then she saw one friendly face that she recognized. Briefly, she caught and held the gaze of two lovely, glistening, piercing blue eyes, and she recognized Sayaka from last week. And Sayaka apparently recognized her as well, because a big silly grin crossed her face.
Homura took another deep breath, steeled by the knowledge that she knew (after a fashion) at least one other person here … and walked over beside Saotome-sensai's desk.
"Now, I would like everyone to greet a new transfer student. Please, introduce yourself dear."
"Ummm … I am … Akemi Homura. It is … a pleasure to meet you all. Please, treat me well."
She gave a quick, nervous bow, and blushed.
"Hey. Hey, Akemi-san. It's … it's okay. Really. I mean, you have been out of school for a long time."
Homura nodded, but that didn't keep her shoulders from shaking as she sobbed. She held her glasses in her hands, and sat between Sayaka and a green-haired girl, Shizuki Hitomi, that she had just been introduced to.
"Six .. six months," she stuttered.
"And you didn't get much exercise in the hospital, right?"
She glanced at Hitomi, and nodded. These girls were both being so very nice to her. They had been the only ones, it seemed. She had frozen at the white-board in math class, and had passed out in Phys Ed during warm-up. It had been a miserable day, and Homura had felt increasingly like crap. Now, with the day three quarters of the way done, another humiliation in English class had led to her running away from everyone, and finding herself up here. On the roof.
She had run to the center, where a low stone bench sat, and had collapsed in tears. Shortly afterward Sayaka and Hitomi had come after her, explaining that they had both been given permission by their teacher.
"Well," Sayaka said, putting an arm around Homura and smiling, "that means that we'll all just have to work a little harder, right?"
"W .. we?"
"Oh sure," said Hitomi, "we'll help you with math and English. We can't do too much with phys ed though."
Homura shrugged, but a silly grin and blush crossed her face.
"You … you mean it? I mean … you two just met me today."
"Nope. You're an old friend," replied Sayaka with a smirk.
"Oh. Well, that was still just a week ago. And we haven't spoken to or even seen each other since then."
"So? Don't worry about it Akemi-san."
"Say, Sayaka-chan. Shouldn't we all be less formal?"
"You're right, Hitomi-chan. We should be. Homura-chan. I think that sounds good."
"I … I guess so."
"Try it," Hitomi suggested.
"Ummm … okay … Hi .. Hitomi-chan. Sayaka-chan."
"See? That didn't kill ya, did it?" Sayaka grinned and squeezed Homura's shoulder.
"I … guess not."
"So, Homura-chan. What're you doing now?"
The dark-haired girl's eyes went wide behind her glasses. She set down her empty cup, and glanced at the last bite of her sandwich. Hitomi and Sayaka glanced at each other, sharing a wry grin.
"Umm. That is … nothing, I guess. Well … some homework of course."
"Naaah, you don't wanna do that. Not right off that is. Come with me to the mall."
"Sayaka-chan drags me to her favorite music shop every time she can. She has this thing for classical music. Imagine that, huh?"
"Hey now! Just because I'm not as rich as you and don't live in a nice fancy house …."
"Yes, of course Sayaka-chan, you have impeccable taste in music. That's what it is. Well, I would love to go with you, but I have a class that I must attend to."
She started to stand.
"You … you have a class about tea?"
"Hey, Homura-chan. You okay?"
"Huh? Oh … yeah. I suppose so."
"What's wrong? Come on, talk to me."
They were strolling through the mall at a slow, easy pace. Homura had never really been here before, and it all seemed so big, and busy. The last time she had been anywhere like this had been years ago before her mother died. Since then her focus had been on hospitals, medicine, and being bounced around from one foster-care situation to another. Had Sayaka not been here beside her, Homura would have doubtless fled in terror.
"Well … I don't know, Sayaka-chan. I just have this nagging feeling that something is … I don't know. Missing."
"I don't know how to explain it, really. I mean, sometimes I get this strange sense of deja vu. You know, like … feeling that you've already done something before, but … you really haven't? But today … it's the opposite feeling. That something is supposed to happen … but it hasn't."
"Okay, that's kinda scary."
"Ahhh, don't worry about it. You're thinking too much, Homura-chan. Just probably outta your comfort zone."
"Well, yes. Very much yes."
They reached the music store and Sayaka made a bee-line to the classical music section. Homura, shyly, followed along behind her looking vaguely like a lost puppy-dog. When Sayaka stopped and picked up a pair of headphones, Homura blushed slightly, glancing at a pair of headphones immediately beside where Sayaka was standing.
"They're not gonna bite you, Homuchan."
Homura's blush deepened, and Sayaka grinned.
"Go, wander. Don't be afraid. Listen to some music. What do you like to listen to?"
"Ummm … that is … I don't really listen to music."
"Then listen to everything! Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rap, Country and Western … it's all here. Find something you like. Maybe you can pick up a CD tonight."
"Oh. Umm … I guess I could do that."
Sayaka chuckled and shook her head.
"Go on, then. Wander! I won't leave you behind if that's what you're afraid of."
Homura shrugged and grinned.
"Oh ... okay."
The two girls were walking home, both holding shopping-bags. Homura had found several CDs that she had enjoyed, and without even the slightest irony had purchased a CD of 1930's US Jazz alongside a popular, if somewhat heavy, Rock album, which had drawn a few curious looks but passed without much comment.
"So … you like classical music? Oh wait, your friend in the hospital …."
"Very quick, Homuchan. Yeah, I got hooked on classical thanks to Kamijou-kun. He taught me everything he knows, and I love seeing his face when he listens to really great music. So yes, the Debussy CD I got is for him. Though … well, the Mozart is for me."
She grinned, and Homura chuckled.
"Say, I'm going by the hospital tomorrow after school. You wanna come with? I'd love for you to meet Kamijou-kun, and I would really like to meet your friend Tamoe-san."
"Really? I mean, that wouldn't be a bother to you? To have me tagging along with you?"
"Bother? Homuchan, you're not a bother. Not even slightly. I mean, you could do to loosen up a bit."
Sayaka laughed, shaking her head. She trotted a pace ahead of Homura, and turned, walking backwards in front of her.
"See, that's what I mean. You're young, you're free. Live, girl, live!"
"Umm … that is … I'm not sure what I should … well … do."
Sayaka stopped, and so did Homura.
"Stick with me then, and I'll show you how to have fun!"
"What? Don't be afraid of having fun. That's what life is all about, Homuchan!"
"Why … why are you calling me Homuchan?"
"What, don't you like it?"
"It's … well, it's okay. Just … sounds kinda silly."
There was a wicked glint in Sayaka's eyes.
"Would you prefer me to go back to Akemi-san?"
"Well … no."
"Or maybe Homuhomu?"
"Ummm. Homuchan is … fine. But … what should I call you?"
"Whatever you want, Homuchan! We're friends, and that's what friends do, ne?"