"Why are you so cold, Akemi-san?" she asks. The thing lounging across her shoulders smiles.


Homura doesn't Do Things. Running too fast and too long causes her breath to stick, turns her heart into a jazz pianist. Sometimes even walking too far makes her head thick; she has to sit down before her legs give up on her completely. But Homura is running now, through hallways made of glass.

I can give you anything you want, it had said before it made her magical.

I want to see the cherry blossoms through your splattered brains, she thinks now.

A flash of white. It could be her body shouting "no!," warning her that she could collapse at any time. Come, mahou shoujo, says the voice inside her head, putting its feet on her mental coffee table and expecting her to make it tea. Come and get me.

Her pistol is in both hands. She doesn't know how it got there.

It rises up on its hind feet, cocks its head. In the space it's made between her ears it asks: Aren't you coming?

Her hands trembling-Homura doesn't Do Things, especially not things like this-she pulls the trigger, and gets her wish. In the explosion of blood and brains and gunpowder, she sees Madoka's face, hears her voice. Oh, Homura, I knew you would-

-Try that. The thing lifts its tail and looks back at her, smiling still. I have many forms.

Through the glass, the cherry blossoms are pink and white and perfect.


"Come to my house after school," Homura says.

Madoka pokes at the shrimp in the bento they're sharing. She hasn't touched the chicken cream stew Homura made, although it is her favorite. "Thank you so much for the lunch, Akemi-san, but-"

"Call me Homura."

Madoka looks up then, her chopsticks in mid-air. "But I just met you this morning."

"I'd prefer it if you called me Homura."

"All right." She eats her shrimp. "I'd...love to come over, but I have to do 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.' Miss Saotome's making us translate all the verses. Something about how it'll prepare us for a lifetime of heartache."

"We can study together," Homura says.

"That's really nice of you...Homura. But can we watch Shugo Chara! first?"


She puts her hand on her wrist, feels her pulse hop like a butterfly after being held in a child's palm.

"Homura," she says. "Please kill me."


"How can a ferret be evil?"

Homura has chosen Tomoe for her senpai; she carries her books, holds the cafeteria door open for her. And sometimes, even now, she forgets.

"Well, maybe not evil, exactly." Homura flicks her eyes from Tomoe's breasts-they always fall there, her boobs are so huge-to the topmost book she's holding: Advanced Algebra. "But ferrets are too cute to be trusted."

Tomoe laughs; the sound is like windchimes, which somehow lessens the sting. "You're so funny! I'll have to tell my parents all about your ferret army on our trip!"


"We're driving to the beach for the weekend," her senpai says.


I have many forms.


"I have everything I could ever want-including homework." Madoka's resting her head on Homura's shoulder, eyes closed, her book of poetry face-down, a cabin roof in her lap. They're sitting on a bench in the park; Matsuo Basho would appreciate that they were out enjoying nature rather than just reading about it.

"Hm." Homura traces flowers on the back of Madoka's hand with her thumb. The way the sun dances on

(Madoka's knuckles)

the lake makes her feel like they're in a painting, warm and safe within its boundaries. All she wants is to sit and feel Madoka's weight on her right shoulder forever. Homura reaches for her shield.

No, she can't do that. She loves Madoka too much to do that.

Are you sure?

"Yes," she says, warm and sleepy, and stiffens when she realizes that Madoka's answered, too.

You can always have more, it tells her. Them.

"No!" By the time Madoka's head crashes into her lap, Homura's pulled the pin and the grenade is arcing toward that smiling bastard face. When its smile finally breaks, Madoka vomits. Then she screams and screams and screams.


She can't save them all, she knows that now.


"I don't need you!" Sayaka pushes her off to the side with all her might. Homura hasn't fallen, but there are swarms of marshmallow-men around her feet, skewering her ankles with tiny sticks. She's holding onto her Soul Gem so tightly the corner cuts into her palm, making it bleed. Sayaka doesn't hold on to hers. When she'd pushed Homura, she'd stepped so far forward and used so much force that her Soul Gem swung out from the chain around her neck. Now the Witch swings her huge graham-cracker hands out, traps the gem between them, and makes her hands cinnamony balls of flame. Sayaka doesn't even have time to scream before her Soul Gem explodes.

Homura cocks her gun before she can think about the blistery chain-links around Sayaka's neck (she was dead before she would've felt them, anyway) and before she can think about Madoka crying and rocking in a corner, she shoots the Witch. After the barrier implodes, Homura wonders how she'll save her if she can't save them all.


"Why are you so cold, Akemi-san?"


"Homura, please kill me."


"Why are you so cold, Akemi-san?"


"Homura, please kill me."


I have many forms. It has as much feeling as her own voice does now. She tells its half-truths, answers only the questions that are asked-and less of them as time goes on. She has become the thing she hates the most, and that's why she's still here.

Still fighting for your wish? It blinks, but the smile never falters.

She wants to tell it no, she hasn't been fighting for her wish for a couple thousand rewinds now. Her wish isn't worth this. Only Madoka-her Madoka-is. But she knows the value of keeping secrets. Instead, she thinks, You have forms, but I have lifetimes, and lobs a bomb in its stupid, smiling face.