Disclaimer: I do not own Puella Magi Madoka Magica or Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. This is only a fanfiction, I'm not getting a single cent from it so please think of it as free publicity and don't sue me.
Oh, I also promise I'll give back the characters dry-cleaned and in a recognizable shape. Mostly. Well, I've already got my own Protectors of the Plot Continuum Agents (Sergio, Nikki and Corolla. You won't find anything about them here, though) stationed in the fic and ready, so if I mess up they'll handle the cleanup. Oh, I don't own the PPC too, but at least I have an official Permission for that.
Reviews and especially constructive criticism are welcome.
WARNING: This fanfic is trying to mix epic battles, serious themes and silliness. Possibility of crazyness. Read at your own risk.
Chapter One - For Want Of A Nail
Killing off Walpurgisnacht alone proved to be even more difficult than Homura expected. That thing shrugged off anti-ship missiles and tons of C4 plastic explosive with barely scratches.
Homura wasn't so lucky. She had a leg pinned down by debris, was badly injured, and her shield was completely empty. No more weapons, no more sand.
"Why... Why I can't beat her, no matter how many times I try?"
She started to turn her shield to go back in time again... but stopped, suddenly realizing how futile would be that.
"If I repeat this again... Madoka's fate will keep getting worse. Everything I've done..."
Homura began to cry, her soul gem darkening with her despair. She closed her eyes, waiting for the moment her Soul Gem would start cracking, the moment she would become a Witch.
Then, somebody took her hand.
"It's okay. It's okay now, Homura-chan."
Homura opened her eyes.
What was she doing there? If she stayed at the hall, she would probably have survived even with Walpurgis rampaging through Mitakihara. Unless...
"Madoka... You didn't?"
If she had contracted, she was doomed. The whole world was doomed, in fact.
"Homura-chan... I'm sorry. I will become a Puella Magi."
Homura had to stop her. If only she wasn't pinned down...
"I finally understand. I found a wish I want to get fulfilled. So I'll use my life for that."
Homura had to stop her. This was the last chance left to save Madoka from the cruel destiny of a Puella Magi.
"Don't... Then I... I..."
Homura started crying again.
"Then what for...?"
Why she wasn't able to talk? She needed every single bit of persuasion she had, and she was stuttering instead.
"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."
Homura felt Madoka's warm embrace. It feels great, she thought. If only we were alone at my house...
Wait, why was she thinking something like that in such a dire situation?
"I think I turned out this way because you protected me and looked over me all this time. I'm really sorry."
Madoka got up, smiling softly.
"This is the answer I found. Believe in me. I won't let all your work go to waste."
Homura called out Madoka's name again. What was she up to?
"You're shouldering the destinies of countless worlds and you're the focal point of all the fate lines." Kyubey spoke, "No matter how impossible your wish is, it could probably be fulfilled."
Homura started hoping again. Now Madoka fully knew how the Puella Magi system worked, and she seemed to have grasped her time travels too. Did Madoka figure out how to use the rules in her favor?
"Now, Madoka Kaname, what do you wish so much that you'll pay it with your soul?"
"I... I wish for entropy to never have existed, so no girl ever had to become a Puella Magi! I want to erase all the sufferance you Incubators caused in this world!"
Homura widened her eyes. She didn't find a way to bend the rules of the contract... she decided to destroy the whole thing the contract was made for!
"Madoka Kaname, are you trying to change the laws of physics? No... If your wish is fulfilled, you'll rewrite history! The universe itself will be rewritten from the very beginning! Did you even understand what entropy is?"
"I don't know, but this is my wish." Madoka coldly replied. "Grant it, Incubator!"
A pillar of light emerged from Madoka and shot in the sky, while an huge shockwave swept the area.
Then, it was all over. The city (or, rather, what remained of it) didn't change, Walpurgisnacht was still spinning around in the sky, and Madoka was lying on the ground, motionless.
Since the shockwave shattered the piece of concrete pinning her down, Homura managed to get up and reach Madoka.
"Madoka! Answer me!"
Homura shook her body in desperation, but Madoka didn't move.
"Madoka! Wake up! Madoka!"
Homura grabbed Kyubey by the neck.
"Despite all the accumulated karma, she still wasn't powerful enough to make such a change. She put her own life force into it to make up for the difference, but unfortunately that wasn't enough either. What a waste, I would have harvested a lot of energy from her transformation in a Witch, maybe even enough to fulfill this planet's quota."
Those words filled Homura with anger. She tightened the grip on the Incubator's neck until she felt it snapping under her fingers.
She couldn't accept to lose Madoka again. Not after that. For once, she had felt like her struggle was finally over. She had felt like she could finally have a normal life, with Madoka as her best friend. She had felt like she could finally marry-
"However, her sacrifice led to some chaos in the time-space continuum. It may lead to some interesting changes in history. And I'd want my old body back, thanks. I'm always hungry after a reincarnation."
"Choke on it."
Homura threw the dead Incubator body at Kyubey.
"So... What are you going to do now, Homura Akemi? You're going to repeat all of this again?"
"Yes. After what she tried to do, I'm not going to give up. I will save her. It doesn't matter if I have to nuke Walpurgis or kill you a million times. It doesn't matter if I am going to die in the process. Madoka. Will. Survive."
Homura didn't wait for Kyubey's answer. She turned her shield and went back to the past.
Homura woke up in her hospital bed. She already lost count of how many times she lived that scene.
Then, the door of her room opened. Two girls around her age, an indigo-eyed brunette and a red-eyed blonde, entered.
Homura didn't recognize them, although the brunette was somehow familiar.
"How are you feeling today, Homura-chan?"
Her voice too was familiar, but Homura couldn't remember who she was. The brunette seemed to notice it.
"Homura-chan? Are you feeling alright? It's me, Nanoha. Your cousin."
Nanoha? Homura thought, Wasn't she... wasn't she killed eleven years ago?
Homura's uncle, Shiro Fuwa, and his family, including the then 3-years-old Nanoha, were wiped out by a bomb placed at a family reunion by terrorists. Akemi Takamachi, who was Momoko's sister, changed Homura's surname to her given name in order to hide her only daughter from them, as they were the only two survivors.
Akemi Takamachi recently died in a car accident, and since Homura didn't manage to find her natural father yet, she was alone.
But now Nanoha was alive and in front of her eyes. How is it possible? Homura thought.
Then, she realized it. Kyubey talked about Madoka's botched wish having side-effects on history. Somehow, Madoka's self-sacrifice ended up saving her family.
Or was it intentional? Did Madoka, realizing that she wasn't able to save the whole universe, decided to use the power she built up to save at least Homura's family?
Nanoha waved her hand in front of Homura's eyes.
"I'm sorry, Nanoha. I just woke up and I still feel dizzy. Otherwise, I am fine."
"Don't worry. Oh, let me introduce my best friend, Fate. When I told her about your operation, she was worried about you despite the fact that you never met."
"I'm Fate Testarossa-Harlaown. I'm pleased to meet you, and happy to see that you feel well."
"You worry too much, Fate-chan."
Before introducing herself too, Homura quickly glanced at her school admission papers. If Nanoha was alive, probably the attack never happened and so her surname would probably be Takamachi.
She was quite surprised to see that her name was still Homura Akemi instead. But there was indeed a difference on the papers.
The papers read "Uminari City Middle School" instead of "Mitakihara City Middle School".
While introducing herself, Homura thought about it. If she was going to study at different school from Madoka, she would have trouble finding a way to talk to her without scaring her too much. In the last timeline, she was already enough of a stranger to her only friend. Besides, Homura never heard of Uminari City before. She had to investigate that.
"Nanoha, can I ask you something?"
Nanoha nodded, with a jolt showing that she was eager to help her cousin.
"Why I chose to go to school in Uminari instead of here in Mitakihara?"
As an answer, she got weird looks from both of the girls.
"Mitakihara? Nanoha, aren't we still in Uminari?"
"Yes. What are you talking about, Homura-chan? Mitakihara changed name in the 1800s. For us, it has always been Uminari. You're acting quite strange, maybe you've got a fever."
Nanoha sat next to Homura and put an hand on her forehead.
"Sorry. I had a rather weird dream, I'm still confused." Homura hoped that it was enough of an excuse. It worked.
"Don't worry, Homura-chan! Rest and recover, otherwise Mom will start to worry. Speaking of her, she gave us a cake, since you couldn't be at my birthday party yesterday. I'm very sorry for coming here only today."
"Don't worry, it's fine."
Nanoha opened the box containing the cake. It wasn't very big, but it looked tasty. It reminded Homura of Mami's cakes, and her stomach started growling. Nanoha smiled, while Homura looked down in embarrassment. Apparently, her stomach missed the "cool and cold" order from her brain.
"Are you hungry, Homura-chan?"
Fate interrupted her.
"Isn't it against the rules, Nanoha?"
"Fate-chan, you know that we don't have to worry about that!"
Admiral Lindy Harlaown was sitting on the bridge of the Asura when she suddenly sneezed.
"Why I have the feeling that I'll have to cover up something for Nanoha again?"
After eating the cake and chatting a bit, Nanoha and Fate were on the way home from the hospital.
"She was quite different from what you told me." Fate admitted. Nanoha nodded in agreement.
"I think she didn't recover completely from Aunt Akemi's death. I want to help her, but I don't know how." Nanoha sighed. "I'm still a clumsy girl, aren't I?"
"Even if you are, you're my cute and clumsy best friend."
Actually, I'd like to be more than your best friend, Fate added in her thoughts.
"Fate-chan, don't tease me like that!"
Homura later learned that, instead of living alone in her flat, in this timeline she was going to stay at Nanoha's house. While she didn't mind that - in fact, all of the few memories of her family she had were happy - she probably would have troubles sneaking out to hunt Witches and stalk... er, protect Madoka.
She stopped thinking about that only when, that evening, she entered her new home. Mostly because she nearly fainted due to Aunt Momoko's excessively strong hug.
"Momoko, let her breath. She's still convalescent." Shiro warned.
"I was so worried about her! First Akemi's death, then her heart disease... She must be feeling awful!"
"Mom, she isn't going to feel any better if you smother her."
"Sorry for that, Homura-chan" Nanoha whispered into Homura's ear when she was finally free, "She's in maternal overdrive since Kyouya went abroad with Shinobu."
"I don't mind."
For the first time in months, Homura smiled. She was glad for being again with people that knew and loved her, after being completely alone for so long. Once again, she was in debt with Madoka.
I promise. I'm not going to fail again. This time I will save you, Madoka.
After dinner, Nanoha went towards the door.
"I'm going out with Fate-chan. Sorry for not staying with you, Homura-chan, but we have a commitment to do. I'd bring you too with us, but I don't want you to overexert yourself."
"Take care, Nanoha. Don't be too late." Momoko advised.
Later, Homura took a bath in order to relieve all the stress she built up in the previous timeline. While she didn't mind Miyuki being with her ("Mom's going to burst in every ten seconds to make sure you aren't drowning otherwise"), she would have preferred if Nanoha's sister stopped commenting on how silky and beautiful was her hair. Seriously, they asked what shampoo she used enough times already.
[Wide Area Search completed. No barriers have been found within the city.]
"Thank you, Raising Heart."
Nanoha and Fate, wearing their Barrier Jackets, were standing on the top of a skyscraper.
"Seems that tonight there isn't even a single one of those monsters around."
"Good. It means that I will be able to be with Homura-chan during her first evening home. Still, I wonder what those things are."
Nanoha and Fate weren't home only to complete their studies: the Time-Space Administration Bureau recently discovered on Earth the existence of a type of creature preying on humans with the help of dimensional barriers, and the two mages were investigating them.
Unfortunately, the monsters disappeared once killed and there was no way to take them down non-lethally, so research on them was slow. The little objects that the bigger ones left behind, dubbed "Dark Seeds" by TSAB scientists, were the only thing that could be analyzed in a laboratory, so Nanoha and Fate's current assignment was to gather as many of them as possible.
"Your idea of climbing up here was great, Fate-chan. Raising Heart's search range nearly doubled."
Fate glanced at her, her ominous cape fluttering ominously in the ominous wind. Wait, ominously? She was on Team Good Guys already.
"I actually did it because I thought it made us look cool." And to be alone with you.
"You're weird, Fate-chan."
Where am I?
Homura was walking in the darkness. She didn't remember how she got there, and she could barely see two steps ahead of herself.
Homura could recognize that voice between a thousands other. It was Madoka's.
"Homura-chan... Help me... It's cold..."
Homura followed the voice. If Madoka was in danger, she had to save her at all costs. After a while, the darkness faded a little bit, enough to make Homura see Madoka a few meters in front of her, lying on the ground, covered with blood. Very likely her own.
What had happened? Why Madoka was so badly injured? What or who had attacked her? Why she had those sad, dull eyes?
"Homura-chan... Are you here...? I can't see..."
Homura ran towards Madoka. She wasn't going to let her die. But at every step she made the distance between them increased instead, while creepy laughs started to resound.
Before she could even realize it, Homura was fighting three witches simultaneously. One was Oktavia, Sayaka's Witch form. Homura had never seen the others before, but somehow she knew that they were Mami and Kyoko's.
And she also knew that she was screwed. In every timeline she met her, Oktavia put one hell of a fight, and Candeloro and Ophelia looked just as strong. Homura couldn't focus on taking down one of them without exposing herself to the others, especially since she hadn't restocked her supply of weapons yet. She had just her laser-like energy attack, but wasn't able to use it properly as she never practiced with it very much.
Even using her time-stop power, it didn't take long before she was defeated. Despite the fact that she was immobile on the ground, however, the three witches didn't try to finish her off.
What? I'm here, a perfect target, she thought. Why aren't they putting me out my misery?
When she looked up again, though, they had disappeared. Instead, she saw Walpurgisnacht towering over her friend. The witch's laughter mixed with Madoka's blood-curling scream.
"No, no, NOOO!"
Homura jolted awake, panting heavily. She was in Nanoha's room, and there were obviously no Witches around. But what she had just seen, despite being not real, was enough to make her cry.
"What's the matter, Homura-chan?"
"I... I had a nightmare. Don't... don't worry."
Homura tried to recompose her usual cold mask, but failed.
"It's okay. It's okay now, Homura-chan. It was just a bad dream."
Homura wiped her tears and looked at Nanoha's smiling face. Those were the exact words Madoka said. In fact, Nanoha was a lot like the pink-haired girl. A bit too much, perhaps.
Homura started to worry. Did Nanoha take the place of Madoka in this timeline?
"Homura-chan, do you want to tell me what did you see in your dream? You might feel better afterwards."
"I... There was this girl, Madoka... She was dying... I couldn't save her..." Homura started crying again.
"Don't cry, Homura-chan. You make me feel sad too."
Nanoha embraced her cousin. To Homura, it felt very much like Madoka's embrace. After a little while, Nanoha talked again.
"Did you say that the girl of your dream was named Madoka?"
"Did she have pink hair?"
Homura nodded again.
"Weird. She's like of one of our classmates. Madoka Kaname, she's our health representative."
Homura withheld a sigh of relief while Nanoha went back to her bed.
"Homura-chan, what about sleeping together like we did when we were little?"
Homura was quite surprised by the offer. However, she had different memories from the Homura Nanoha knew. In fact, it was entirely possible that Nanoha acted like a bigger sister to her all the time, despite being a month younger.
"Good morning, Mrs. Takamachi."
Momoko leaned from the kitchen door.
"Hello, Fate. I'm sorry, but Nanoha is still sleeping. Would you mind to go upstairs and wake her up? You'll be late for school otherwise."
"Not at all."
Fate entered Nanoha's room. Homura's bed was empty, but there was a familiar curled-up shape under the blankets of Nanoha's one.
With a grin, Fate started tickling it... and found herself facing Homura's less than amused stare.
The blonde girl recoiled back from the shock.
"What...What are you doing in MY WIFE'S BED?"
"I can assure you that we didn't do anything inconvenient. She's my cousin, after all."
Nanoha stirred and opened her eyes.
"Oh, hi Fate-chan. Homura-chan had a nightmare tonight, so I thought that sleeping together would calm her down."
Nanoha embraced Homura again and started patting her head. Fate sweatdropped.
"Nanoha... You know that you cousin isn't a pet, right?"