A/N: This work takes place after the end of the series. It is slightly AU in the fact that Sayaka is alive and now lives with the other three in Mitakihara. Beyond that, everything else is the same, though there's so little canon information to work with after the end that I'm forced to take a few liberties. Most of the information about the demons is pulled from Puella Magi Kazumi Magica, a spin-off that I assume takes place in the same universe.

If there are any inconsistencies, please let me know.

Chapter One: Meetings

Sayaka laid her head against the cold metal of the guardrail and looked down at the schoolyard below. The rooftop was deserted except for her, as it always was. Few people took the trouble to climb all the way up here to eat lunch, especially in winter when the wind cut right to the bone. Shivering, Sayaka pulled her coat closer to herself. She was late.

Almost unconsciously, her gaze drifted to the far corner of the school courtyard, to a particular bench occupied by a particular couple. Kyousuke and Hitomi sat close together, their lunchboxes spread out in their laps, completely oblivious to the world. Sayaka felt a dull throb in her heart; it still hurt, but it was almost nothing now and soon it would be gone altogether. The first time, she had slapped the green-haired girl in the face and ran away crying. The thought brought a smile to her lips. It all seemed so silly now.

Taking a sip of her juice, Sayaka stared up at the sky and wondered how much money she should've wished for instead. Enough to buy a house, at least. A big mansion on a cliff overlooking the sea, with a pool and a movie theater –


Sayaka whirled around, her hands on her hips. "You're late."

With a shrug, the red-haired girl leapt from the top of the guardrail and landed next to her, her green coat trailing behind her like a pair of wings. "I stopped by a takoyaki stall on my way here. Want some?"

"Honestly…" Begrudgingly, Sayaka took the offered dumpling and plopped it in her mouth. "And how many times do I have to tell you not to jump over here from the other building? What if someone saw you?

"Yeah, yeah, just give me some of yours also." Without even waiting for a reply, Kyouko scooped up Sayaka's lunchbox, opened it, and stuffed the two largest sushi rolls into her mouth. "It's good," she said with her mouth full. "Your mother's still as good a cook as ever."

Sayaka brought her hand to her face. She had never had a sibling, but she thought that this was probably what it felt like to have an annoying younger sister. Kyouko had moved onto the egg rolls now, using her chopsticks to shovel them into her mouth. Bits of rice clung to her cheeks. With a sigh, Sayaka picked up the forgotten bag of takoyaki and started eating. It was never an even trade, she mused, staring down at the half-empty bag. Her mother would be wondering again why she returned home hungry.

"That was good," Kyouko said, patting her stomach. "I wish I could cook like that. So many delicious things for me to eat."

"You're going to get fat, you know."

The redhead grinned, her lone fan glinting under the sun. "With the kind of exercise we get? Unlikely. An unexpected side-benefit, if you will. You can't fight demons on an empty stomach."

"You're taking this magical girl thing too liberally," Sayaka accused. "Our job is to protect this city by hunting down demons, not to pig out. It's a dangerous job. With an attitude like that, I'm surprised you managed to last so long. Speaking of which, we're having another meeting this afternoon. Mami says it's important. Usual place."

Kyouko groaned. "Again? I've already been here for three weeks and still that girl never learns. It's simple: she keeps to her territory, I keep to my own. When will she realize I'm not part of her little group?"

"You hang out with me often enough."

"You're a special case. We're alike, you and I. Remember that time? You were fighting the demon, cutting it up like – "

"So will you come or not?" Sayaka cut in. She did not want to remember.

"Yeah, don't worry about it, I'll be there." Kyouko waved her hand dismissively. "But you tell her that it's only because of those cakes."

Resting her back against the guardrail, Sayaka stared at the downcast sky. Did Kyouko ever think about something besides her stomach? It was unlikely. Next to her, the redhead was actually sitting on the guardrail, her back to the wide open sky and looking as nonchalant as ever when an errant breeze could send her careening over the edge. Not that it mattered, of course. They could fall from a skyscraper and walk away without a scratch.

"Mami and Homura found a pattern to the demon killings, I think," Sayaka said. "I heard them talking about it this morning."

Kyouko snorted. "I'll bet. Just like last time, right?"

"Like you've come up with anything better."

"I say the best thing we can do right now is wait. It's bound to make a mistake sometime, right? And what's it to us if some poor sap gets his head chopped off? Better than running head-long into something we don't understand."

"And you call yourself a magical girl," Sayaka said, though her tone bore no venom. Mami and Homura took their roles as protectors to heart. Ever since the mass suicides had started a week ago, the two of them had worked ceaselessly day and night to track down the demon responsible. Sayaka had also tried, of course, but those two were in a whole another league of their own. She was hardly in a position to berate the redhead for doing nothing.

"Say…" Kyouko's head suddenly appeared upside down in Sayaka's vision, her long red ponytail dangling an inch off the floor. "Wanna catch a movie with me?"

"Huh? Right now?"

"Of course. The new one that just came out, with that actor you like. I'm not really sure what it's about, though. It's supposed to be pretty good. Afterwards we can head over to Mami's place. What

do you say?"

"Honestly..." Sayaka barely managed to stifle her grin. Only Kyouko could transition from demon-hunting to movie-watching so casually. "You're too easy-going. Some of us still have school, you know. Lunch break is ending soon. I have to get to class."

Kyouko shrugged, slipping off the guardrail back onto the rooftop. "Your loss."

With a slight twist of her feet, Kyouko leapt away from the school, landing on top of a building twenty meters away. She tensed, about to take another leap, then turned around at the last minute. Her bright red hair danced wildly in the wind. Cupping her hands to her mouth, Kyouko shouted, "And don't forget to tell Mami to make some of those cream puffs!"

Grinning, Sayaka watched the redhead bound away from rooftop-to-rooftop until she disappeared into the city foliage. Off to find more food, no doubt. Cleaning up the remains of their lunch, Sayaka headed back down the stairs into the school building, closing the door behind her. They would see each other again soon.

As it turned out, Kyouko did not go immediately searching for food. She leaped past her favorite sushi restaurant, sailed over the local grocery store, dashed past countless snack food stalls before finally stopping at a large, brick-red building with Mita Arcade emblazoned in neon letters.

Kyouko came here precisely at this time of day because the arcade stood mostly empty, its usual denizens still at school. It was an old brick building with peeling walls; nowadays, most people played videogames in the comfort of their own homes, but Kyouko had fond memories of arcades. She and her sister used to whittle away the hours watching other people play. Right now, of course, the only people present were the delinquents. She flashed them a smile as she walked in and grinned when they immediately turned their heads away, refusing to meet her eyes. They had learned well.

It was a good choice to come to Mitakihara, she decided. Her old town was small and boring and nothing ever happened. All she ever got were tiny demons, microscopic, even, barely enough to qualify as a snack. She had left as soon as she could. The big city was where it's at, and Mitakihara was one of the biggest in the country. Two million people, each with their own fears and insecurities. It was a perfect breeding ground for demons.

Not to mention all the entertainment. Nibbling on a stick of Pocky, she sat down at her favorite machine and inserted a coin into the slot. CHALLENGER FOUND, the screen flashed. Kyouko smirked. This chump had no clue what was about to hit him.

Truthfully, she would rather be at the movie theater, but lately she had gotten bored of watching movies by herself. She wished Sayaka had gone with her. Perhaps she would pay the blue-haired girl a visit tonight, do a marathon of the current shows, stop by a restaurant on the way. None of them needed sleep anyway.

She flexed her fingers, placing one hand on the joystick and the other on the buttons. The screen flashed. 3…2…1…


She jumped up, biting off the end of her Pocky. On-screen, her character stood motionless as her opponent pummeled her. Exasperatedly, Kyouko sank her chin into her palms. "Not this again."

The delicate, white-furred body of Kyubey landed on her shoulder as lightly as a feather. She had no clue where he always appeared from, save that he always came from out of sight and was always impossible to sense. And always he bore irritating news. She wouldn't have been surprised if the little rat could teleport.

"I already know what you're going to say, and my answer is no," Kyouko said. "Tell Mami to take care of her own problems. It's not in my territory, so it's not my job. End of discussion."

Kyubey tilted his head. "So you've sensed it already. Impressive. But I thought you would jump at the chance to get some more Grief Seeds."

"It's a matter of propriety. I have my territory, and she has hers, yeah? Gotta respect the boundaries."

"Times are changing, Kyouko. The other three girls are working together as a cohesive unit to protect the city – a more efficient method, by far. Humans have always progressed towards whatever gives them the greatest advantage. I don't understand why you refuse to join them." Kyubey brushed his tail along Kyouko's cheek in what might've been a reassuring gesture. "Besides, Mami isn't the one who asked for this. It's Sayaka."

Kyouko rested her head against the machine. On-screen, the words GAME OVER flashed in brilliant gold letters. "Sayaka, huh? I'll bet Mami put her up to it, the poor girl. She doesn't even know she's being taken advantage of."

"It will be troublesome for either of them to fake a sickness again. The teachers are catching on."

With a shake of her head, Kyouko stood up, her ponytail swishing behind her. "Fine, you win. I was getting bored anyway. This'll be a good chance for exercise. Besides, now Sayaka owes me one."

The moment she stepped outside she wished she had dressed in something more substantial than jean shorts; the warmth of the arcade had left her sensitive to the winter air. Shivering, Kyouko skirted along the rooftops, keeping her senses sharp. For her, it was easy to detect when and where a demon appeared; there was a little buzz inside her brain, muted but insistent like a mosquito, and with a little concentration she could discern its general direction. Kyouko prided herself on having the best senses out of any of them. In the past she often had to race for Grief Seeds, where the first magical girl to find the demon laid claim to it. Times were changing, Kyubey had said. Perhaps he was right. But Kyouko had always been stubborn.

She found the demon at the former Mitakihara Nursing Home, before it had been torn down to make room for a new apartment complex. Construction hadn't started yet, though, so the demon wandered around the deserted site like a lost child, unable to find prey. No doubt Mami would count this as lucky – there were no humans for it to feed off of. Kyouko clicked her tongue.

"She called me here for this? It doesn't even have a host yet! I say we leave it alone, wait for it to find some poor sap to possess. As of now, I doubt I'll even get anything from this."

But then again…Kyouko heaved a sigh. Sayaka would no doubt get mad at her, and the reprimanding from Mami would be unbearable. So she leapt from the rooftop, kicking up a small cloud of dust as she landed in front of the demon. It was roughly humanoid, about as large as she was, its skin as black as ink and crawling with countless symbols. As it walked, it dragged its elongated arms behind it. Almost gorilla-like, Kyouko thought off-handedly, as her spear materialized between her fingertips. She thrust the weapon forward, encountering no resistance as it pierced through the demon's chest. The metal point came out clean through the other side. The monster paused, almost as if it was surprised, then vanished in a puff of dark dust.

"Man, just as I thought. One Grief Seed. And look at how small it is! This thing won't clean my Soul Gem at all. You can have it, Kyubey. It's not even worth picking up."

The small black cube lay on the ground like a discarded bottle cap. Kyubey bent over it, his mouth opening as wide as a snake's. Kyouko caught a flash of pure darkness welling from void, and then the mouth closed and it was gone.

She checked her watch. 1:30. Quickly, she turned around and started for the arcade. If she hurried, she had just enough time for a few quick games before the meeting. And perhaps some food along the way.