It had been two years since Madoka died to rewrite the universe. She thought she would be able to see her again soon. It wasn't supposed to be that long. The school year continued and she fought the new wraiths like she would witches. And then she entered high school and nothing had changed. Madoka still came to visit promising she would finish her business as soon as possible, but it felt like every time she came closer, something new needed taken care of.
Homura had already started her second year of high school. Every day she looked at the ribbon on the bed stand when she woke up. But every few days she decided she could afford to not wear it. Getting ready for school took too long and she couldn't fuss with a ribbon every day. Madoka still visited her almost weekly, she didn't need the reminder anymore. She couldn't mind that she wasn't going to wear an old hair ribbon every day for the rest of her life.
"You aren't wearing my ribbon anymore?" Madoka sounded hurt at first. She hadn't touched it for four days straight now.
"It's getting old, ribbons aren't meant to last that long." It was true that the color had faded, the ends had frayed, and it wouldn't last much longer before wearing through entirely.
"I like you with your ribbon, you're cutest with your hair pulled back." She could only hear her, but her voice was so pouty it hurt. There was also a large inconsistency in what she said.
"I always keep my hair back. It's just faster to use a headband than tie a ribbon." She also didn't have to retie a headband throughout the day. Madoka couldn't really expect her to wear it for the rest of her life.
"It's not the same," she argued. "Didn't you complain that you missed me?"
"It's hard to miss you if you're here right now. I don't need to be reminded of you all the time." It could get lonely when she was gone, but the regular visits were far more than she expected when they separated.
"I miss you when I'm not here." Being up in space working with the universe did sound lonely, but she also was surrounded by every dead magical girl. Sayaka was her best friend before they even met, so it wasn't as if she didn't have other friends. They had already had that argument recently.
"You could visit me more often if you'd like, I'm always here. And you can find me if I'm not." Even though it was selfish, she did wish that she would come down and see her more often. But she not only had a universe to supervise, she had other friends.
"I would, but the more time I spend here, the longer it takes me to get everything in order." She really did sound like she wanted to see her more often.
"I know. Take as long as you need." If she didn't do her job perfectly, something really important could be messed up.
"Don't worry, I'm not making any mistakes." The brief tension dissipated as soon as it had started. "Can you tell me about your week?"
Small talk about Homura's daily life reminded Madoka of when she was human. She watched other people still, but hearing about something so personal helped a lot more. "Yeah, sure. Not much happened, but we had a substitute two days ago."
Madoka said she wasn't able to visit any more often than weekly, but four days later she showed up in her room. It would have been a pleasant surprise, but she felt incredibly guilty. Any other day would have better. Her timing couldn't be any worse; she wasn't able to stay tonight.
"But why? We both said we wanted to see each other more often." She could almost hear her frowning and crossing her arms.
"Well, I met someone." She wanted to leave it at that.
"I'm glad you're making friends, you know I'm happy for you. But I don't get to see you every day like they do." Madoka wasn't satisfied with her initial answer.
"I met another girl." The less she had to explain, the better she would feel about giving her the news.
"Most of your friends are girls."
"I mean I met a girl who likes me."
There was a long pause before Madoka spoke again. Homura kicked her shoes off and stared at her feet awkwardly while she waited. "Likes you like a friend, right?"
"We're going on a date tonight. That's why I can't be here tonight." She moved to change out of her uniform, but felt it would be awkward to drop this news on her while undressing.
"But what about me? I'm still here with you." This was the saddest she'd ever heard her, audibly heartbroken. "You promised you would wait for me."
"I am, I just…." She struggled to find a way to explain without directly breaking her promise. "I'm not saying it's permanent. But we don't know how long it'll take until we can see each other again."
"But you promised," she insisted. "You shouldn't see other girls."
"It's just a date." She pulled a change of clothes out of her dresser. "Can you…well I have to change. Are you even able to look away or do you just see everything?"
"It's never been a problem before." She could only assume she was still watching, but she pulled her shirt up over her head anyways. "What's changed now?"
"I told you, I might have…." It was hard to say in front of her, even though she had been so excited before coming home. "I might have a girlfriend now."
"You have me." Her tone changed quickly. She sounded angrier than she had ever heard her before, although it actually sounded adorable despite how made she was at her. She shook that thought from her head. There was someone else, Madoka wasn't around anymore, they could only be friends like this.
"I don't have you as long as you aren't alive." She thought maybe Madoka would be happy for her. That she found someone to be with when she wasn't around. But she could understand why she'd be upset at least.
"You aren't alive either," she said bitterly. That stung. Not the comment itself, she had already come to terms with that years ago, but that she felt that she had to lash out.
"Madoka…." She gripped a pair of socks tightly. There wasn't anything she could say to fix this. But even if she did say something, she couldn't cancel her date.
"If you don't think this is wrong, you wouldn't sound so guilty about it." Homura would have plugged her ears if that would actually quiet Madoka's voice. "I actually can't believe this. I saw every timeline. How could you leave after that?"
"I'm not leaving you!" she yelled, throwing a hand over her mouth and taking a deep breath in case her parents in the other room heard her. "I never said I'm not waiting for you, I'm just seeing someone else tonight."
"I'm not seeing anybody else. I don't have anybody else like you do." She paused for a second, catching her breath, or stopping to hold back tears, she wasn't sure. "I gave up everything to save this world. And to save you!"
"That, I…." There wasn't anything she could say. She had a point, as much as she hated to admit it. But she couldn't spend her life moping and waiting on something that might not even happen. She was just spending time with other girls while she waited.
"Go get ready to see her, I'll get back to my business. If I'm spending time here, I'm not taking care of what I should be doing." The air in the room suddenly felt lighter, less stuffy. She hadn't even noticed until it cleared up.
"Madoka, are you still there?" There was no response. She squeezed her eyes shut and threw the socks at the opposite wall, landing with a soft fwump. Not bothering to gather the energy to walk across the room, she pulled another pair out of the dresser. Before she could put them on, she threw herself onto the bed and buried her face into a pillow, holding back tears as hard as she could. She thought she would be fine with Madoka as just a friend, and she thought Madoka would be okay with it.
She glanced at the clock. About two hours until she would have to leave. That gave her two hours to lay down and calm herself. She stuffed the ribbon into the nightstand's drawer angrily and laid back down for the next hour.
"Homura-chan, how have you been?" It had been about a week since her falling out with Madoka.
"Better. Sorry if I sounded mad at you last time. I really want to make this work." She leaned back in her chair, grinning at the ceiling. It was hard to keep from smiling, and she was almost embarrassed at how little control she had over it.
"It's fine, it's fine! I understand completely." Thankfully she was okay with the situation.
"Thank you, Nana. Are you still going tonight?" Their first date had been incredibly awkward for her after that fight, but she told her that she knew it was hard to fight with a close friend.
"Yeah, I just called to check on you. I wanted to make sure you were okay. You looked really upset last time." It was embarrassing how visibly upset she was when she went out that first time. But Nana told her she thought it was cute how concerned she was for her friend, and did her best to cheer her up. It wasn't ideal, but it went well.
"I'm alright. I haven't spoken to her all week though, she's ignoring me." She thought Madoka would come by today, but maybe it was easier that she didn't. It would be a complete disaster if she came to patch things up only to have to leave on a second date when that was the cause.
"Don't get so hung up on it, Homura-chan. You can't let people like that get to you. If she was your friend she wouldn't do that to you." She sounded so earnest and eager to help, and she had only known her for a week. It was almost amusing how similar Nana was to Madoka, but that didn't help.
"I suppose. I'm just giving her space right now, we've never fought like this." It wasn't because her relationship with Madoka was toxic, she just didn't take this news well. Eventually this would be over and they would be friends again.
"You know what's best for you." Homura balanced the phone between her ear and shoulder as she listened, opening a window. It was warm and stuffy inside her room since she closed the door to speak.
"We've worked through worse than this." An argument wasn't anything like those years of fighting witches to save her. But this felt harder to get through. Back then she could start over and try again. This time, if she messed up, she had to live with it.
"I have to go get ready, I'll see you there at seven." Her smile was often audible, too.
"Yes, goodbye." Homura hung up the phone after a cheerful goodbye from Nana. She was excited and her heart pounded, she never had the time for real dates before. Not like this. Her relationship with Madoka didn't leave much room for that. After those years of one-sided awkwardness and repetition, real dates were something new.
She could have sworn she felt something brush against her, but that was impossible. Madoka would have made herself known, she was terrible at hiding. This was just guilt putting her nerves on edge, but there wasn't any reason to feel guilty. She could do what she wanted because they weren't together, because Madoka was dead.
Talking on the phone with Nana became easier the more often she did it. But while that part of her life improved, Madoka hadn't been around. She counted off another week on her calendar. After two years of weekly visits, missing two weeks left her feeling empty.
She sighed, slumping over her homework splayed across the desk. "Math homework right now," she said out of habit. "Advanced algebra. I'd ask you for help, but you were never great at math." Madoka wasn't there to hear her, but it was therapeutic. But the lack of response just reminded her she wasn't there.
She glanced at the nightstand. The old ribbon was still in there where she left it. It was ridiculous to just go in there to hold it again, it wasn't really her and it wouldn't bring her back. But against her better judgment, she crossed the room to sit on the bed and hold it.
It gained a thin layer of dust from being in a drawer she never opened for that long, but she brushed it off, rubbing it between her fingers. The fabric was so thin from daily use she worried the friction might tear it, but it was all she had left of her now. Just like she thought when she first left. She supposed that gave her a little time to adjust to her not being around anymore.
"I thought you were done with that." Homura nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard that.
"Madoka?" She hurriedly put the ribbon down, ashamed to be caught staring at it like that now that she was with someone else.
"Hm." She gave a short grunt filled with accusation.
"You've been gone for awhile."
"No, I've still been coming to see you."
"You never said anything." Instantly her stomach dropped. There was no telling what she overheard, but whatever it was made her upset.
"I thought you were too busy with Nana to talk to me." She must have heard at least one conversation over the phone.
"I still want to see you, you're my best friend. Nana can wait if you want to talk." Nana didn't seem the type to mind if she had to cut a phone call short.
"Aren't best friends supposed to approve new girlfriends before you start going out?" She sounded annoyed.
"I thought you didn't want to meet her." Madoka was so upset upon finding out, she assumed she didn't want anything to do with her.
"You spend a lot of time with her, I'm curious." She did sound genuinely intrigued. "And it's my job to make sure she's worth your time."
She was surprised at the offer. The last time they'd spoken, she was so angry. She cooled off pretty quickly, but Homura had nothing to complain about. They were still friends like she wanted, and maybe when they could be together again, they could patch up their own relationship like before.
"What did you have in mind?" She wasn't ready to let her parents meet Nana, so having her over was out of the question. "I could invite her out for tonight, if you don't mind watching us."
"I already planned on coming to see you, so I'll be fine." Homura picked up her phone and entered her number, waiting for her to answer. This was great, as nerve wracking as it was.
"Hello, Nana?" She could feel Madoka over her shoulder, probably leaning in to hear the other end of the phone.
"Ah, Homura-chan!" Nana sounded surprised. "What is it?"
"She sounds pretty." Madoka said.
"She is, you'll like her." Homura thought back. "Nothing important. Do you want to go get dinner tonight?"
"Oh, sure! I have to tell my parents I won't be here tonight." They quickly made their plans, Madoka chiming in with her own anticipation to meet her, in a way.
"I have to get changed," Homura said, opening her closet. "Are you staying?"
"You should wear something nice." Madoka was likely looking through her clothes with her.
"I had planned on it." She often forgot her own wardrobe, as she primarily wore her school uniform or the magical girl outfit. Choosing something to wear was less a battle of indecision than not knowing what she owned.
"You should wear my ribbon." It laid discarded on the bed still, but….
She tried to think of a tactful way to say that she didn't want to wear it. Not only it was old, she shouldn't wear something from an ex-girlfriend on a date. "It's falling apart, I'd rather keep it in one piece."
"It's no good having it if you don't wear it," Madoka pouted.
"It's no good having it if it breaks." She changed into a different skirt. "I'm not wearing it."
`You want to look cute, right?" The clothes hanging in her closet moved side to side slightly until one fell to the floor. "Wear this with it."
"I already put a skirt on." She hung it back up and pulled out a blouse. "I don't need help."
"That one doesn't look good." Another fell onto the floor.
"It's fine, Madoka." As soon as she finished changing, she put the fallen skirt back on its hanger.
"No it's not fine. I'm saying this as your friend, you shouldn't wear that skirt," she insisted.
"You didn't have a problem with it before." She put the ribbon back inside the drawer to keep it safe.
"I said that as your girlfriend, now I have to be honest." A shirt hit her in the back of the head; Madoka must have thrown it. "This one is pretty."
"I like what I picked." This one she didn't even bother putting away, leaving it laying on the bed. "We're leaving soon."
"She must not be picky."
"It's fine, Madoka."
"I'm only looking out for you." Another shirt dropped. "Are you sure you don't want to change?"
"Please just drop it." She was frustrated with how many clothes she was going to have to pick up and put away.
"I did drop it, that's why your good clothes are on the floor." There was a considerable pile growing on her closet floor.
"We're leaving." She didn't mind waiting if she could keep Madoka from making a further mess of her room.
"Are you that excited to see her?" Her voice followed her even as she left her room.
"You could say that." They didn't have to leave for another half hour, but she didn't mind waiting. Madoka would keep her company, too.
"We never went on a date like this," she said as they walked.
"You're right, we never had the opportunity." She used to wish more than anything that they could act like a normal couple, including dates like this. But that possibility was long gone, and she was done waiting.
"We could have gone out like this before." That was another thought she'd had, but it seemed impossible. They had gone out several times, enjoying each other's companies in a public restaurant. But it wasn't any different from this now, other than it being a trip to see her new girlfriend. Unless she was really there, it would be impossible for them to go out formally.
"You were always too busy," was the answer she gave. "We did go out, but we didn't have time for real dates after you died."
"I would have made time," she said.
Homura rested her forehead in her palm. "Every time we went out, it wasn't for very long because you had to leave."
"I only ever spent time with you, it was never dating." Although they never called it dating, it was as close as they could get. She talked about her day while Madoka listened, speaking as long as she could until she left. Without a tangible form, they couldn't date properly.
"You can call it what you want, it didn't work." Maybe it was too early to take her along on a date.
"Can we have one now?" Was it considered cheating if she just explained what a date was like to her incorporeal ex-girlfriend? She didn't have to tell anybody.
"I can show you what it's like." There were still almost 20 minutes to kill. "It doesn't sound that special when you explain it. But it's not that different from just talking."
"Could you tell me more about it?" She was about to see an actual date, but she was just so curious about it. Homura wasn't inconvenienced by telling her, and it would pass the time. She explained as best she could, eventually talking about the past two weeks she missed. Even though it was a "date" in name, it didn't feel any different from talking in her room.
"Homura-chan!" She snapped out of her mental conversation and looked up to see Nana running towards her.
"Is that her?" Homura sat up straighter and moved over to one side of the bench, telling Madoka that it was.
"Sorry I'm late, sorry." She sounded out of breath and leaned over, holding her hands on her knees. "I thought I would get here faster, I hope you weren't waiting long."
"I hope she's at least funny," Madoka said disapprovingly.
Homura wasn't sure what she meant by that, but she ignored it rather than asking her to elaborate. "It's fine, I wasn't here long."
"We've been talking for a half hour," Madoka told her.
"I don't want her to feel bad, we got here early." The time passed quickly and she didn't notice it had been so long.
"Sorry. Are you ready to go in?" She stood back up, breath still heavy but more even than it had been before.
They had decided to meet up at a small diner. Nothing spectacular, but inexpensive and affordable on an allowance. "I take it back, you dressed up too much for this."
"I just expected…different. You made such a big deal about clothing."
Homura nearly spoke aloud at that. "Madoka you were the one pulling my clothes out."
"And you put up a fight and refused to change," she argued back.
"Homura-chan? What did you want?" She looked up, too distracted with her conversation to notice she was supposed to order. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine." She placed her order, still talking. "I'm not going to argue with you right now."
"I told you I was going to check out Nana for you. And I did. I don't approve." Homura waited for a reason, but was met with silence.
"I don't like her, find someone else."
She sighed, slumping over. "I'm staying with her, Madoka."
"No you have to take my advice," she insisted. "She's not good for you."
As she started to argue back, Nana waved her hand in her face. "Hey, you there? Are you sure you're alright?"
"Sorry, I…." It wasn't possible to say she was defending her to her dead ex-girlfriend. "I guess I just have a lot on my mind right now. I'm having some trouble with math."
"Oh, is that all? I could help you with that," Nana offered. "I'm pretty good at math, so you could come over to my place."
Homura knew she was fine at math, but her heart skipped a beat. Nana was inviting her over just to help her with schoolwork. "Thanks, I'll consider that."
"You too are getting close fast."
"I don't mind if you watch us, but I can't keep getting distracted by you." She toyed with the ends of a napkin nervously. Previous dates were awkward for her, and while she thought she would get used to it over time, having Madoka figuratively breathing down her neck wasn't helping.
"Just tell me if you can't figure it out for yourself." Nana smiled, playing with the straw in her cup.
"You've helped me with my math before, you're being ridiculous," Madoka huffed. "Do you always change your outlook when a girl comes along?"
"You're the one being ridiculous. Quiet down." She already regretted allowing her to tag along. "How has your day been?"
"She likes to talk. More than you even." Madoka continued to commentate while Nana spoke.
"I'm trying to hold a conversation." One of the servers brought them their food. "I'm sorry, I didn't think this would go so badly, but can we talk about it later?"
"Do you really want me to leave? Would you bet your soul on that wish?"
Homura choked on a French fry, coughing hysterically until she managed to swallow. "Ah, are you alright?" Nana stopped talking about a group assignment to lean in and check on her.
"I'm fine." She took a long drink of water, coughing still but less forcefully. "Don't even joke about that!" She was surprised that Madoka was over it enough to say that.
"You look upset about something, are you sure you want to be out right now?" She looked concerned, and she felt bad. All she had seen from her since they started going out was concern, because she was still too distracted by Madoka.
"I think it's best if I am out, it's probably stress." This was partially true. She also didn't trust Madoka to leave her house in order. "I don't see your problem. I understand that you're upset, but you're overreacting."
"No, I'm helping you understand that she's wrong for you." She sounded uncharacteristically smug.
"Just watch yourself, okay?" Nana kept watching her as she continued eating.
"If your heart beats too hard like this, that can't be good for it."
"You know I already fixed that." She would often tease her for how hard her heart would pound when they spoke at night. It felt different from that now, a little less friendly maybe, although she couldn't place it.
"You didn't tell me how school is going for you, other than math." Nana leaned in, interested. "Are you doing well in your other subjects?"
"You didn't tell her you just left a two-year relationship?" Madoka asked.
"Yes, I'm doing well right now." She decided to respond to Nana first. "I can't explain who you are to her."
"So you're not being honest in your relationship."
"You know I can't tell her about it." She was getting frustrated, but kept smiling.
"That's good, I was worried you might need help for things other than math." Nana gave a short, awkward laugh. "I'm not too great at some of them."
"Did you just tell her that she's your first girlfriend?"
"I could help you if you're having any trouble," she offered. "It hasn't come up."
"So you just can't be honest," Madoka repeated.
"I don't think I'm doing that badly, but thanks for the offer."
"Just let me know if you need it." She looked down, having trouble figuring out what to say. After spending uncounted years not talking to people unnecessarily, two years wasn't enough time to learn all the right things to say. "You both are fairly similar, I don't see your problem with her."
"No, there is a big difference between us."
Homura thought over any major differences between the two, other than magic. Both were overly kind, open, and friendly people. "What's that?"
"She's with you and I'm not." That was an angrier answer than she expected. She wondered why she even came on the date, unless it was actually her goal to make her feel bad. And the more they spoke, the more likely it felt.
They continued for another half hour, Madoka speaking less frequently after that. She sat back bitterly, Homura becoming more and more awkward each passing minute. "Go on," she would taunt. "She cares, doesn't she? Go ahead and keep talking."
And she did continue talking for the whole duration, enjoying her time with Nana as much as she could. When they eventually split for the night, Nana walked closer to her shyly, leaning in just long enough to kiss her cheek before turning and walking away. Homura stood, stunned, holding her hand up to her face.
"How sweet," Madoka said as sarcastically as she was able.
"Please, can we just talk about it later?" This was not a good time for this. She was confused and shocked and just wanted to think it over quietly.
"If you have time to talk with her, you have time to talk with me." It was rare that she could actually feel Madoka, but there was an almost-overwhelming pressure around her.
"I don't have time to talk with you, Madoka." She began walking home. Standing around on the sidewalk wasn't going to make it any better. "It's not your business anymore."
"I have more important things to do anyways." The pressure lifted as quickly as it started.
"Wait, Madoka, don't go." There was no response. She promised herself she would make it back home. She wasn't going to break down and cry over this. Not until she was home.
"So how has this week been?" Madoka sounded cheerful for the first time since they separated. She still visited weekly, but never for more than an hour. It had been a month since she tagged along on their date, and she hadn't followed them on one since then.
"I don't want to talk about it." She sat at her desk doing chemistry homework, a thick textbook open in front of her.
"What's wrong? You look upset." Homura felt the slightest breeze as Madoka hovered over her shoulder. "Wanna talk about it?"
"No. I have homework to finish." She didn't want anything more than to distract herself.
Homura gripped her pencil hard enough to dig her fingernails into her thumb and buried her face in her opposite hand. "I'm busy right now."
"That bad?" Madoka sounded too happy. It was clear that she already knew what was going on.
"She said it wasn't working out." Her voice was forcibly even.
"That's too bad, what happened?" There was a well-defined pressure on her back as Madoka leaned in closer.
Homura stood and walked away from the desk, Madoka not following her. "She said I was acting too distant and we were incompatible. Just leave it."
"I can't imagine how hard it would be to go through that." She still sounded happy, but Homura knew better.
"You know it was because of you." It was impossible to show how interested she was in somebody when Madoka wouldn't leave her alone.
"We shouldn't have separated if you were going to miss me that much." She could hear her grinning from across the room.
"That's not what this is about." Of course she still loved Madoka, but it wasn't possible for them to be together. She couldn't move on if she continued to angrily visit her.
"That's exactly what this is about. I told you that you should have picked someone else."
"It doesn't matter who I was with. This would have happened either way."
"It wouldn't have happened if you were with me."
"Madoka…." She was being too stubborn about this. It felt impossible to get through to her that they couldn't be together, not until she could come back. "No, I'm going to find someone else."
"I don't want you with someone else, they aren't right for you," Madoka argued.
"Just stay out of this, it's my business."
"It's my business too, you're my best friend."
Homura flopped over to lie on the bed. "No, it's my business who I choose to date. If you don't like her then you'll have to live with it."
"I just don't want to see you get hurt." Homura felt her sit on the bed next to her. "It's my turn to protect you."
"That's not what this is about." Madoka rested her hand on her shoulder, and Homura tried to shake it off but it didn't move.
"We're magical girls, we can't live normal lives. We have to stay together because nobody else can find out about us."
"After everything, I just want to try to live a normal life." Almost half of her life was spent in time loop that resulted in this, and she wanted to be done with this magical girl business.
"But you refuse to accept that your life will never be normal."
"I didn't have to save you. If I just gave up, I wouldn't be going through this right now." A textbook sitting on her bedside table flew up and collided with the back of the head. She shouted and sat upright, instantly regretting speaking out of frustration like that. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that."
"You should take a break to calm down." Madoka's hand gently rubbed the sore spot where the book hit her. "It'll make you feel better."
"I want to be left alone."
Madoka sighed, pulling away. "I'll be back when I can. Don't get too depressed while I'm gone."
"Ooh, who's that from?" Homura jolted when she heard that only five days later. The letter held in her hand was quickly stuffed between two pages of her textbook.
"It hasn't been a full week, why are you here?" She regained her composure quickly, checking the date on her phone just in case. It was Thursday, too early for her to be here.
"Just wanted to say hi, it doesn't matter." Her textbook pages flipped open, but she closed the book and held it shut. "What's in the book?"
"A note from a classmate." She found it sitting on her desk when she'd returned from lunch.
"Is it a love letter? Let me see." She wasn't able to force the book open as long as Homura was holding it, so she begged instead.
"I haven't read it yet." There was nothing on the outside except a heart-shaped sticker holding it closed, and she had considered discarding it.
"You should read it, and then you should accept his confession. I'm sure he's great." She sounded excited enough to bounce up and down.
"I don't want to go out with a boy, Madoka."
"I know, you should date him."
Homura gave in and opened the letter, Madoka hovered over her shoulder. She blushed lightly and put it back down. "I'll take your advice and talk to her."
Madoka was suddenly quiet. "I take it back. She doesn't understand you."
"There wasn't much written in the letter." She was just surprised to find out that her classmate felt like that about her.
"Mama always told me people who can't confess their love in person are no good."
"You were okay with her until I told you she was a girl."
"I just remembered Mama's advice, you should follow it." This was an obvious lie; Madoka had never once forgotten anything her mother said.
"I'm going to talk to her at school tomorrow." It was an exciting thought. For the first time since she left the time loop, she was impatient for school to start.
"I'd really prefer you didn't. I don't approve, she's not right for you."
"You don't know who she is."
"I'll follow you to school and find out." Only a month ago Homura would have doubted this, but she wouldn't put this past her now.
"Aren't you supposed to watch over the universe?" This was more important than her love life.
"I spent so much time away because once I'm free, I can see you again. But if you don't care anymore, I don't need to work as often."
"That's ridiculous logic." Not to mention she did want her back. But she was just being so frustrating!
"Which homeroom are you in?" She completely ignored Homura's protests.
"You aren't coming with me to school."
"Then I'll just find you myself."
Thankfully Madoka didn't show up at her school that day, or even the next day. She and Yui had lunch together before their shared English class each day, uninterrupted. It wasn't until the start of the weekend that Madoka came to her on her walk home from school.
"Who's this? New girlfriend?"
Homura tensed, not expecting her here. Yui noticed her tightened grip on her hand, but said nothing, only squeezing it back. "Yes," she said shortly.
"I don't like her, find someone else." She felt Madoka pull on her arm, but without a proper body she couldn't do anything.
"You didn't like…." She paused before saying it. "The last girl."
"That worked out well." Homura stared downwards, not responding. It really was Madoka's fault, and she kept bringing it up.
"What's up?" Yui looked at her more closely when she turned away. "You alright?"
Homura looked upwards again and smiled. "I'm fine, just thinking."
"Well cheer up, we're at my street." They lived in the same direction from school, but Yui's house was several streets closer. "I'll call you later."
"Right." Yui pulled her into a quick hug before turning onto her street.
"Talk to you later," she said as she left.
"We're alone now," Madoka said when Homura began walking again."Can I walk home with you?"
"You can follow if you'd like." There was no point in telling her not to come along, since she would anyways.
"What are you doing when you're home?"
"Homework." And waiting for a phone call.
"You can do that any time. We should stay out longer," Madoka begged.
"And do what?"
"There's a fast food place a block away."
"You can't even eat." She felt ridiculous having to remind her of this.
"But you can. I can sit with you while you do."
"We can do that at home."
"But then we wouldn't be going out." She was probably crossing her arms and pouting.
"Is that what this is about?" Just being with her as a friend was okay. But she was tired of telling both Madoka and herself that they couldn't date.
"A little." Homura felt her hand on her shoulder. "It could be fun."
She frowned. "Out of the question."
"What else can we do together?"
"Help me with my homework." She had more homework in high school than before, which left little time for hunting the wraiths Madoka hadn't yet gotten rid of. Making time for a girlfriend cut into that further.
"Didn't Nana say she would help you with that?"
Homura ground her teeth together and turned at the next street. "We'll go for a few minutes if you stop bringing that up."
"No longer than that."
Madoka gave a resigned sigh. "Fiiiine."
"Mama and I watched a movie one time." Madoka was more often a distraction than help. but she considered it a good distraction. She had been visiting every three or four days, and despite the increased frequency, it didn't feel like the spoke often enough.
"What was it about?" The idle chatter was something she still looked forward to.
"There was a girl who left her boyfriend, but he still loved her. So he sabotaged her new boyfriends to make them leave her."
"I haven't seen that." She didn't like where this conversation was going.
"He wanted her to notice him, so he threw himself in front of a train and died. And then she realized that she loved him now that he was dead. But he came back as a ghost so she still couldn't be with someone else."
Homura questioned whether this movie existed. "That doesn't sound like the kind of movie you watch."
"It was Mama's. I just wanted to watch it with her."
"How is your mom doing, have you checked on her lately?" She changed the topic at the first opportunity.
"I saw her yesterday, they look happy." Madoka always sounded a little sad when she talked about her family. "Tatsuya is doing well in school, and I watched Papa plant carrots."
"Does he still remember you?"
Madoka giggled. "I think Mama gave up trying to figure out who he's talking about."
"I suppose that's weight off her mind. Are you alright?" She couldn't imagine how hard it was on her.
"It's better for her. Tatsuya has moved on and found real friends, too."
"I'm sure he'll still remember you. I did." She hadn't forgotten her yet, so it made sense.
"Yes, I think so too."
"No, I was considering seeing them today too, but I stayed here longer than I thought." There was an imprint in her bed where Madoka sat.
"We're not doing anything, you could leave." If all they were doing were sitting around, it would be selfish to ask her to stay.
"No, they wouldn't know I'm there. Nothing has changed since yesterday." The indent deepened as she leaned back. "But you do. I can't talk with them like you."
"If that's what you want." She shut her computer down and sat down next to her. "Are you sure that you're okay?"
"Yeah." She leaned against her side. "I just wish I could talk to them. But even if I did, they wouldn't know who I was."
"I'm always here if you want to talk."
"Thanks." She laid down across her lap.
"H-hey." Homura shifted to the side. "I said we could talk."
Madoka grumbled a little. "I thought we were really connecting there."
"If something is bothering you, just tell me."
"Other than being alone?" She sat back up. "We talked about everything else."
"There's nobody else you've found? You have the entire universe and every magical girl, and there's nobody else to spend your time with?"
"No, not yet." She huffed. "I'm faithful, unlike some people I've seen."
"You should find somebody that can be with you." It wouldn't hurt if she was going to wait it out with someone else. "You're amazing, and kind, and..." She cut herself off. Well it shouldn't be hard for you to find another partner."
"I don't want another partner. I miss having you."
"Conversations need to stop turning into this." She considered standing up and leaving her sitting alone. "Have you done anything else?"
"Nothing we haven't already talked about. What about you?"
"I've already told you about my week." Of course, part of the routine now included leaving out anything about girls she met. "You can stay if you want, while I study."
"I think I'll do that."
The years leading up to Homura's third and final year of high school were unremarkable, as she saw it. She had finally begun to adjust to lessons not repeating in a month-long loop now that it was nearly over and getting to be time for her to move out. Relationships came and went as they would for anyone, although she had a disadvantage that nobody else did.
"Homura-chan, I'm lonely." Madoka still hadn't left her after two years of chasing off everybody she was with. "You should invite someone over."
"I'm not doing that." She kept her nose in the book she was reading.
"Why not? I'll be nice. What about Touko-san?"
Homura gripped the book hard enough to bend the cover. "You know I'm not with her anymore."
"Oh yeah, she left you." Madoka acted as if she had honestly forgotten.
"You scared her off."
"You of all people shouldn't date anybody that superstitious. I was doing you a favor."
As much as Homura secretly appreciated that she found out so early that Touko believed her house to be haunted by "bad chi," it didn't make up for the many others. Whether she was "too distant," "taking it too quickly," or "not taking it seriously enough," Madoka had a hand in every breakup since they separated.
"Is there anyone left at your school who would date you?"
"It doesn't matter, I'm not looking right now." With school ending in a few short months, she wasn't about to throw herself into another relationship.
"What about Eri-chan in your English class? She's cute."
"She's already with Rin-san from the same class." They made no effort to keep it secret, at least.
"You had no problem with breaking hearts before. Go for it!"
"Rin-san is a boy, Madoka," she said flatly. If she knew about her classmates, she would have known that she wasn't interested in girls.
Madoka giggled. "Yeah, I just wanted to remind you."
Homura groaned and buried her face in her palm. "If you're done with your visit, I don't mind if you want to cut it short."
"No, I'm still enjoying myself." She could hear her grinning as widely as she could. Although she'd eventually lost her bitter tone, Homura wasn't sure that this was much better. "Oh, I left you a present."
"Hmm?" She wasn't expecting anything serious out of this.
"In your desk drawer."
Homura leaned over and slid it open. "Madoka…where's my stuff?" It had been emptied out entirely, when before it was nearly full with half-used pens and scraps of paper.
"I left a list of girls that you're allowed to date." She sounded as if she was trying her hardest to not laugh out loud.
"You're certainly feeling rowdy today. Where did my things go?"
"Under your bed."
"I'll get them later." She could have thrown away the drawer's contents entirely and lost nothing. There was no point in getting up for them now.
"Are you sure you don't want to get them now?"
"I'm positive." There was no way she was getting them now.
"Are you really, really, sure?" She practically begged.
She sighed. "What's under there?"
"Just your stuff." Madoka tried to hold in another giggle fit.
"Nothing." Homura waited silently for further answer. "Another list." She turned and glared towards the general center of the room. "It's got someone on it this time."
"I couldn't imagine who it would be."
"You have to look to find out."
"Is it you?"
Madoka's excited presence froze instantly. "Maybe."
"I'm happy the way I am right now."
"With me here?" She was smiling again.
"With my best friend."
Madoka pouted a little at that answer, but reached around the back of the chair to hug her. "Yeah, I'm glad we're friends."
Compared to the responsibility of controlling time to save a friend and the entire universe, getting a job and living alone was both less stressful and more repetitive, somehow. As the years passed since then, there were considerably less wraiths than before, meaning less time spent hunting them down. Whatever Madoka was doing, it was working, and she was able to spend more time on other activities.
"Nope, I don't like her either."
"You don't get to pick, Madoka!" There were some things that never changed as much as she wanted them to.
"She's bad for you, send her home."
"She's staying here." Kaori was the first girl she'd brought over since she'd moved, and tested the waters with how Madoka would react. So far, not well.
"No she isn't."
"Leave her alone." At the very least, she had gradually acted more civil towards them. "Can't you get a hobby?"
"But this is my hobby." She wasn't sure how she expected a different answer.
"Homura-san, can I borrow a room to change into my sweats?" Kaori held a bundle of clothing in the crook of her elbow.
"The bathroom is right there down the hall."
"She's getting comfy." She voiced her disapproval.
"I invited her to stay the night."
Madoka was silent for a moment. "She's not staying."
"Yes, she is." It was up to her who stayed in her place, not Madoka.
"I'll make her leave."
"No you won't. I'm not making you stay if you aren't comfortable being here with us." It might've made her feel better if she was gone.
"No I have to make sure you two don't get in any trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" She never felt that anything was an invasion of privacy as long as it was Madoka, but she felt it was crossing that border for the first time.
"What if there's a fire? I can save you from that."
"You're being ridiculous." She was more than capable of handling any situation.
"No I'm just looking out for your safety. You could die if I'm not here."
Homura rolled her eyes and moved into her room to change into her own pajamas. "If you're that concerned then you would never leave."
"You're right, I should stay here every day to make sure you're safe."
"Don't do that. Both of us have other responsibilities." Surely she was only bluffing.
"I'll do what it takes to keep you safe."
"Keep me safe from a distance." Kaori peeked inside the room before entering, leaving the clothes she'd changed out of near a dresser by the doorway.
"Place looks nice," she said, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "Nicer than my first."
"Thanks." Homura wasn't sure what to say to her. They had been out together several times, and they were both adults who lived on their own. She couldn't imagine it was this nerve wracking just to have someone stay the night.
"She's sitting in my spot," Madoka complained.
"You don't have a spot, you sit wherever is convenient."
She grumbled. "It's all my spot."
"Stop acting so childish." She was sure this would be less stressful if Madoka wasn't forcibly supervising.
Kaori picked up the TV remote and flipped through channels, providing a mild ice breaker. "What kind of service do you have?"
Homura thought for a moment before realizing she wasn't entirely sure. If she ever watched TV anymore, it was usually the news. "I think it's only basic."
"Oh well, nothing on this late probably." She kicked her legs up on the bed and leaned against the back wall.
"You look sick. Better make her leave in case it's contagious."
"I wonder if she notices how nervous you look." Homura sat back and tried to ignore her. "You're all sweaty and your face is red."
"And you're not helping." Kaori settled on some TV show she didn't recognize, with a bunch of people just sitting around talking.
"Of course I'm helping. I'm pointing out everything wrong so you know about it. Like how your shirt is coming up in the back the way you're sitting."
She pulled her shirt down as casually as she could. "This isn't your business." While she was arguing with Madoka, there was an awkward silence between her and Kaori. "What show is this?"
"I dunno, better than nothing." She watched it idly, fiddling with her fingernails and giving away that she probably did feel at least a little nervous. "Did you have anything planned?"
"Ah, no." She didn't even know she was supposed to have a plan, and wished she thought it through further.
"Nothing to do, time to go home." Homura felt this wasn't worth responding to.
"I could probably think of something," she half-heartedly suggested.
"Like wha- mph." Homura was cut off as Kaori wrapped her hard around the back of her neck and pressed her mouth against hers.
"Wh- hey, stop that!" Madoka grabbed Homura's shoulder.
"I'm busy, go away." She tried to block her out as she leaned into Kaori.
"No that's not allowed!" Madoka grumbled in frustration that she couldn't pull them apart. "Stop, this is a bad idea!"
"Madoka would you- nnh." She didn't finish the thought as Kaori wrapped her arms around her middle. And Madoka was unexpectedly silent after that.
Fwee, fwee, fwee! They broke apart at the sound of a loud siren, and the sprinkler in the ceiling showered them with icy water. Madoka came back sounding panicked. "Get out quick, there's a fire!"
Homura was about to rush out the door like they should, when it clicked. "Madoka you didn't."
"I'm just trying to protect you!"
"That's the fire alarm, come on." She grabbed Kaori by the wrist and pulled her to the door.
"Do you think everything is alright?"
"I'm sure it is." She expected a lot, but starting a fire somewhere just to set off the sprinkler system was too much.
"Nobody's hurt, it was just a spark in a maintenance room." Madoka followed them as they walked with the crowd of angry pajama-wearing tenants.
"I'm not talking to you."
"Now you're the one being childish." She didn't respond. "Homura-chaaan."
"How much stuff are you going to need replaced?" It was easier to ignore Madoka when Kaori was talking.
"Not much, I think." She'd seen magic used for enough improbable things that she was sure there was a way to remove water damage from a machine. And if not, she didn't have very many things that could be irreparably damaged by water.
"Should we just go to my place? Yours is probably underwater by now." Kaori rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly.
"If you don't mind." She felt it was one of her most frustrating nights in years, but perhaps getting out of her apartment would be therapeutic.
The night went without event, and Homura was surprised Madoka didn't follow them to Kaori's house. It was for the best. Madoka was very distracting, and she wouldn't even know how to begin explaining why she was acting distant or jittery.
She woke up alone, but the sound of a running shower clued her in as to why. The first thing she did was retrieve her shirt from where it was hanging off the nightstand and threw it back on, stretching her arms upwards as she woke up.
"Did you have a nice night?" She jolted when Madoka spoke.
"Yes, I did."
"Yeah, you sure looked like you did."
Her face flushed and she crossed her arms angrily. "It's none of your concern."
"That's why I was quiet." She was definitely upset.
"This isn't my place, you can't just come into other people's homes like that."
"It's not like I can knock on the door and ask to come in."
Homura groaned quietly. "Even if you did that, she wouldn't have let you in. You shouldn't be in here."
The white noise from the shower stopped seconds before Kaori walked out, a towel wrapped around herself. "Oh, you're awake. Sorry, I'm a bit of an early riser."
"It's alright, I haven't been up long." She was slightly embarrassed to think that Kaori saw her asleep before taking her shower.
She picked her phone up off the dresser. "And sorry again, I have to make a phone call."
"Is everything alright?"
"It's nothing." She began punching numbers into the phone. "My family visited recently, and my brother must've put something on the mirror."
Homura had a suspicion that it wasn't anything caused by her family. "What happened?"
"The mirror is all fogged up, but it says 'get out.' He probably rubbed oil on it." She held up a finger and entered another room when he picked up.
"Wasn't me. Sounds like something wants you two separated."
"I've fought scarier than things that write on bathroom mirrors." It was far less extreme than starting a fire, but still not something that she should have done.
"You should get ready to leave. Don't you have things to do?"
"Nothing that can't be put off." She honestly wasn't sure when she was going to leave, but she was going to stay as long as possible if Kaori wasn't busy.
"Not surprised, he denied it." Kaori walked in, already half dressed and towel in hand. "Are you doing anything today?"
"I didn't have plans."
She stretched out across the bed and smiled. "Why don't you stay a little longer?"
"I don't think you should stay," Madoka said as if warning.
Homura ignored her and smiled back. "Sure."
Even though things were going so smoothly with Kaori, it was early enough to count the number of weeks that they were together before she ended it. And it was the same with Ryoko, Miyuki, and several others every time she thought she found somebody who would stay. As had become normal over the years. Madoka denied it every time.
"She's cheating on you." Homura had just shut the door behind her most recent partner, Rei, as she left.
"That's nice." She didn't make a habit of listening to Madoka's accusations.
"No, really. I caught her showering with another girl. Multiple times!"
She hesitated to even respond, let alone ask, "Who?"
"Me." She threw herself into a giggle fit.
"That…." She wasn't even sure if she believed her. "That's disgusting."
"Didn't stop you."
"That's completely different." It was too early to argue semantics with her, but every time of the day was bad for that. Her phone buzzed and she picked it up.
"Ah, I don't think you want to answer that."
"It's just a text message."
"No, I'm serious, I can tell, it's bad." She sounded frantic.
Homura ignored her and checked the message. It was from Rei, even though she just left. "What r u talking about? U didn't mention it when I was there."
There was nothing in her sent messages that made sense of it. She sent back, "I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"You really should just ignore it."
Homura turned on her while waiting for the response. "Were you sending messages from my phone?"
"Of course not!"
Her phone buzzed again as Rei sent her a screenshot of a series of texts she sent. "R u there?" "I can't wait 2 c u." They became increasingly desperate and nearly explicit as she scrolled down.
"Well, maybe I texted a little…I just wanted to let them know you were available."
Before anything, she sent back, "I'm sorry, someone else must have had my phone, I never sent any of those." She shot a disapproving glare in the direction she thought Madoka was.
"I was only trying to help."
"Is this why nobody responds to my messages?" Some things began to make sense in retrospect knowing this.
"That can't be the only reason."
Her phone buzzed once more, "It didn't look like ur writing. Sorry if I confused u."
"See? She understood and it means she's better than the other girls."
She doubted that was her intention. "How many others did you send this to?"
"I lost count." Homura glared again. "I'm serious, I was just weeding out the ones that weren't good enough."
"Is Rei good enough, then? Or will you find another reason to chase her away?"
"Probably. You can't be with someone who isn't perfect."
She put her phone down and flopped onto the couch, staring at the floor. It wasn't as if she was going to call previous girlfriends and ask to make amends, but things could have gone differently. Alternatively, Madoka would have found a different way to separate them and it would have been the same outcome. She was no longer able to turn back time to try it again.
"I have to go now. I've been here longer than I planned."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay so we can talk?" She sounded hopeful.
"We both have things to do, go."
"Alright..." Madoka disappeared without further argument.
"Homura-chan?" Madoka entered her living room more quietly than ever, rather than bursting in loudly or with a smug question.
"You weren't supposed to be here until tomorrow." Homura sat up straight and composed herself immediately, sure that she was here to hammer in her recent breakup.
"Done?" She racked her brain for anything she could be done with at this point in time. Nothing had gone on recently, unless she counted her now-successful attempts at making her single again.
"With everything. From when we were kids." Suddenly she realized what she was talking about and it felt like her heart stopped. "I'm done."
"You're being honest?" It sounded like a lie at this point, she'd been so impatient for it. But her voice was so sincere.
"I wouldn't lie about this."
"You really kept me waiting, it's been almost eight years now, hasn't it?" She wasn't sure how to react, and ended up smiling.
There was a bright light on the couch next to her, and she had to rub her eyes to make sure she wasn't seeing things after it nearly blinded her. Long pink hair tied up in ribbons, golden eyes, that smile... She didn't get a close look because she immediately leapt at her and pulled her into a tight hug.
"I missed you, Homura-chan."
It had been so long since she'd last heard her speak in person like this that it felt wrong to not hear it resonating in her head like before. But she was right there, speaking, and pinning her to the couch in a hug tighter than her arms should have been capable of.
She bit down on her lower lip and squeezed her eyes shut, too choked up to speak. All she could do was return the hug. If she tried any more, she was worried all that would come out would be a high-pitched squeak, or a sob.
"We waited this long." Madoka had a much tighter control on her voice. "Is it too late to start over?"
Of course it was too late. The last several years of her life was spent bickering with her as she tried to limit who she saw. Her jealousy reached ridiculous levels as she abused her abilities to keep other girls away from her. She had no privacy, no control over her life, and she was convinced at some points that she had no happiness.
But she was right there, laying on top of her, close to tears, and more real than she had ever been. She took a deep breath, just enough to speak steadily. "One more chance."