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Fearless (250 and Dark Stars)

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The door to the hospital room slid open slowly, and Subaru paused for a moment before she stepped in.

The figure on the bed, as still and silent as death, was unmistakable. “Minato.” For a moment Subaru looked like she was going to cry. Then she walked over to the bed. “Minato, it's me, Subaru. Do you remember me?”

Under his hand was a five-year pointed star made of paper in different colors. Subaru took his other hand. “I'm glad I found you.”

He did not move or make a sound. But there were tears in his eyes.

(x-X-x)

“She found Minato.”

The other members of the Cosplay Club were silent as Aoi spoke. Her different uniform marked her as the only one who was not from the same school as the others.

“I never doubted that she would.” Nanako said, breaking the silence.

“That’s right.” Hikaru added, dropping the dress she had been altering. It was one of the many costumes that stood on dressmakers dummies or hung from hangers on the wall. “We found each other too.” But she didn't say more than that.

They never really talked about how they had realized that they knew each other. Itsuki had summed it up best. “It's too precious to talk about.” And that was all they had ever said about it.

Aoi looked unhappy. “Subaru said that Minato is still in a coma.”

“That's going to make the romance a little difficult.” Hikaru noted.

“Don't joke about it!” Aoi snapped. “This is serious! What if he doesn't wake up?”

“We will just have to hope that he does.” Nanako replied.

Aoi didn't look very sure.

(x-X-x)

For two weeks Subaru went by the hospital every day on her way home. Itsuki had agreed to run the Astronomy Society for her, and Hikaru was going to help. Nanko had suggested that for the time being they should simply merge the Astronomy Society and Cosplay Club and that looked more likely to happen everyday.

On the first day of the third week since she had begun her visits, Subaru was late arriving to the hospital. The details of the merger of the clubs had held her up. When she opened the door of the hospital room she found Minato watching her as she entered.

Over the next several days it became clear that though Minato was awake, that was all that could be said about the matter. He could not communicate. He could barely move and often seemed oblivious to the actions that happened around him.

But Subaru still came by after school and visited. It was when she was there that Minato was at his most aware. He could not speak, but she did, telling him about the day she had had and the Astronomy Society’s new Meteor Forecast which had been Itsuki’s idea for the weekly flier that detailed upcoming astronomical events.

Subaru talked about anything and everything and the doctors began to notice that while she was there Minato was also the most responsive, even if all he was doing was listening to her words.

(x-X-x)

“We want to run some tests, and see how Minato’s brain is functioning.” The doctors told Subaru one evening, three days after Minato had woken from his coma.

She seemed surprised. “But, why, why are you asking me about it?”

“Because he’s much calmer when you’re here, so we wanted to know if you could be here when we do the CT scan.” Noticing that Subaru still looked confused, the doctor went on. “We need to run these test to see how Minato’s brain was affected by his coma. But right now he can’t communicate. We wanted you to explain the test to him and stay nearby during it, because he is calmer when you are here.”

Subaru considered it. “Okay.”

(-)

Subaru’s telescope stayed at the school these days. The Astronomy Society had permission to lock the observatory doors to keep anyone from stealing it, but since the club’s president tended to be absent, it was easier for everyone to leave it there rather than have to go to Subaru’s house to pick it up every morning and return it after school.

It was dusk. The Cosplay Club members and Aoi were there, looking at the night sky. Nanako was peering through the telescope when she suddenly pulled away. “Itsuki, will you hand me the star chart?”

Itsuki obliged, handing over the map of the night sky. “What is it you’re seeing?” She asked.

“I’m not certain.” Nanako replied. She opened the map and spread it on the floor. The other three crowded around. The lavender-haired girl pulled out a pen. “I saw a new star, right here.” She circled a spot on the map.

“But there shouldn’t be anything there.” Aoi said.

“I know. That’s what makes it so strange. And it’s pink, too.” Nanako told them.

Aoi reached for another star chart. “I didn’t think there was such a thing as a pink star.” The chart she opened was of star sizes and colors.

Itsuki peered over her shoulder. “Maybe it’s a red star that looks pink because of the distance.” She offered.

Hikaru picked up the star map. “I’m going to take this home with me and ask my mother if she’ll look for us. The bigger telescope might show us something different.”

“That’s a good idea.” Itsuki said.

Aoi went over to the telescope and peered through it. Sure enough, off in the distance was a blurry pink light. “Too bad Subaru’s not here to see this.”

(-)

The CT scan machine was in a separate room from the one Subaru was sitting in. She was sitting with one of the technicians in a smaller room. It had been difficult to watch the technicians strap Minato to the table and get his head into the harness that would hold it still for the scan, but she had maintained her cheer through it. Minato had become agitated when they had taken his earrings off, but Subaru had promised to keep them safe until the test was over and that had been enough to settle him down. There was a window that let her look into the other room, and a microphone that would let them talk to Minato, if they needed too.

She sat there patiently, watching the scan do it’s job. The earrings were in the pocket of her uniform. “We’re almost finished.” The technician told her.

Subaru was at the microphone in an instant, pushing down the button to let her broadcast. “Don’t worry, Minato-kun!” We’re almost finished!” She said cheerfully, then returned to her seat.

“Have you two known each other for a long time?” The technician asked.

“Since we were children!” Subaru replied.

“After all this time, Minato-kun is very fortunate to have a friend like you.” The technician replied.

Subaru didn’t say anything. She looked thoughtful.

She was waiting in Minato’s hospital room when the latter’s bed was wheeled back in. She gave the earrings back to one of the nurses and waited while the nurse put them back in Minato’s ears for him. When the nurses and aides had left, she picked up Minato’s hand. “I have to go home now, but I’ll come back and see you tomorrow.” She said.

Minato’s blue eyes met her brown ones and she felt him faintly squeeze her hand.

“Until tomorrow.” Subaru said cheerfully, then she walked out the door.

Her bravado lasted until she was walking out the door, and then she sighed. “Tomorrow...there’s always tomorrow.” She repeated sadly. There had been three weeks of tomorrows, and Minato was not any better.

A bolide overhead made her look up at the sudden light, and that was when she saw the pink star.

“A pink star?...but that shouldn’t be.”

She looked at the star for a long moment, and then closed her eyes. “I wish…”

(-)

Between the Earth and the sun, a glowing pink sigil made up of interconnected circles floated in place. In the circles were scenes of Puella Magi from the world below.

A young woman in a flowing white dress who went by the name of Penitent Gretchen, though once known as Madoka Kaname, stood on the sigil, watching one of the scenes of a Puella Magi fighting a wraith unfold before her. “A narrow miss.” Gretchen said, then noticed a tiny pink diamond floating up to her. “Mm?” She took it in her hands and held it close to her ear.

She listened to the wish, and looked thoughtfully down at the glowing lights of the planet below.

(x-X-x)

Minato’s physical therapy began the next day. He had only the most basic muscle functions left. Keeping a grip on Subaru's hand was just about the most of his strength.

When Subaru came by that afternoon she brought a coffee table book with her. It was full of pictures from the Hubble Telescope.

At first she didn't think she was going to be able to stay. Minato was asleep and he looked exhausted. Subaru was turning to leave when the book that she had tucked under her arm slipped out and hit the floor with a thud.

“Oh!” She gasped, looking at the book. She scooped it up and looked back at the bed. Minato was awake and looking at her.

“I'm sorry I woke you up.” Subaru said. “I'm still a little clumsy.” She debated whether or not to leave, but decided to stay. She turned and walked back to the bed.

“I thought that you might want to look at this.” She said, settling on the bed next to him and setting the book on her lap. The bed was raised enough that Minato was sitting up. She showed him the cover, which showed a picture of the Small Magellanic Cloud.

He smiled. Subaru smiled back and opened the book.

She took her time and read all the captions on the pictures. Then she turned a page and they saw a picture of the Pleiades.

“I remember when we saw that together.” Subaru said. She looked at Minato. “Do you remember that?”

He smiled at her and tightened his grip on her hand.

“You do remember.” Subaru said, and smiled. “I'm really glad!”

(-)

“My mother looked at the spot on the map that you marked.” Hikaru said to Nanako that afternoon. “There was nothing there.”

Nanako, Itsuki, and Aoi looked at her expectantly, sensing that there was more to come.

“When I looked through the telescope, I saw it.” Hikaru said. “I couldn't see it clearly but it was shining like a pink star.”

There was a pause. Itsuki said, “It sounds like magic.”

“That's what I was thinking.” Hikaru admitted.

“It’s very exciting.” Itsuki exclaimed.

“Even if we can't transform, we might still be able to have a little magic.” Aoi admitted.

Later that evening as Aoi was walking home, she crossed the road and almost ran into Subaru. “Subaru?” She asked, then noticed that the pink haired girl was clutching a book and crying. “Subaru, what’s wrong? I thought you were visiting Minato tonight?”

The pink-haired girl whimpered and shook her head. “Minato-kun is sleeping. He fell asleep while I was there.”

“And?” Aoi asked.

Subaru opened the book to the picture of the Pleiades. “Minato took me to see this.”

Aoi looked at her. “You didn't cry while you were there, did you?”

The question seemed to shock Subaru out of her sorrow. “N-no! I wouldn't do that.” She said, and her voice was quieter.

Aoi nodded. “Come on. I'll walk you home.”

They walked together down the road.

“We found a pink star the other day.” Aoi said after a while.

Subaru had been looking at her feet, but she looked up at Aoi’s words. “Really? I thought I saw a pink star the other night too.”

“It's kind of strange. Itsuki thinks it's magic because Hikaru’s Mom looked at it through the observatory telescope and didn't see anything.” Aoi told her. Then she asked, “How is Minato?”

“He can't talk. And the nurse said he started therapy today which is why he fell asleep.” Subaru said. She looked at her feet again. “It's too sad. Minato doesn't deserve this.”

Aoi looked upset. “I'm sorry Subaru.”

“It's okay.” Subaru said quietly. “I am not giving up.”

Aoi looked at the stars spread above. “Look. That pink star is out again.”

(-)

Madoka had been on the area to handle a problem with another Puella Magi, but while she was waiting for the right moment to intervene, she was trying to determine who had made the wish she had received.

She sat on the edge of her sigil, swinging her feet off the side. Her wings were spread behind her. In the circles behind her scenes from the life of the Puella Magi she had come to help.

And in some of the other circles, scenes of five other magical girls that had no association with the Puella Magi, played out.

And Madoka tried to puzzle out what had happened.

(x-X-x)

Itsuki was lying on the floor of the observatory, looking at one of the night sky maps that Subaru had taped to the ceiling. It showed the winter constellations. Other posters showed the constellations in other seasons.

“Isn't there something we can do?” She asked.

“Wish upon a star.” Hikaru suggested.

“It's got to be so boring being at a hospital all the time.” Itsuki continued. School had just let out; there had not been enough time for Aoi to arrive yet. “I would go crazy, stuck in bed all day.”

“That's it.” Nanako said suddenly. The other two looked at her. “I know what we can do.” She slapped a sign on the door proclaiming that neither of the clubs would be meeting.

“Let's go. We have shopping to do.”

The other two still looked confused. “What will we do if Aoi shows up?” Hikaru asked.

“We might meet her along the way.” Nanako said. “And if we don't we can call her.”

In class the next morning Itsuki was the first to spot Subaru. “Hey, Subaru, be sure and come by the observatory before you leave school, okay? We have a surprise for you and Minato-kun.”

“Oh, okay.” Subaru agreed.

(-)

Minato was flexing his fingers as best as he could and waiting for Subaru to arrive. The therapy was going slowly and he was tired. The last time Subaru had visited after his therapy he had fallen asleep.

It frustrated him. It frustrated him first because he had wanted to look at the book she had brought. It frustrated him secondly because he had been asleep for too long already and he didn't want to sleep anymore.

But there was nothing else to do and nothing that he could do.

Before his depressed thoughts could take him down any further, the door opened and Subaru came into the room with a basket on her arm. “Sorry I'm late. My friends had something for me to pick up.” The basket was plain, round wicker and covered with a dark blue cloth shot through with silver sparkles, making it look like a night sky.

Subaru set the basket on the edge of the bed. “My friends didn't want you to be bored and lonely in a hospital so they put this together. I didn't even know until they told me after class today what they were doing.” She unfolded the cloth and pulled out the first item. It was a poster. When she unfurled it they saw that it was a poster of the night sky.

“Wow.” Subaru breathed when they had seen it. “This is really cool.” The picture showed a rainbow of nebulae.

She hung the poster opposite to the bed where Minato could see it. “It reminds me of traveling through the stars.” Subaru said happily. Then she went back to the basket.

The next item she discovered were tiny glowing LED lights on a cord. With the press of a button they would light up. Subaru's eyes were sparkling and Minato looked happier than he had been since he woke up. “If we hang these on railing at the top of the bed, you'll always be able to have the stars with you!” Subaru exclaimed. “Even when it's cloudy or rainy out!”

Subaru climbed onto the bed. She reached up over Minato and started to loop the lights through the railing.

Minato closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of having her that close.

When she was finished, Subaru looked back at the basket. “Nanako said that I shouldn't unpack everything at once. She said that if I was careful then there would be surprises for several days.”

The response was rough and faint, but Subaru heard Minato say, “yes.”

She looked more excited them she had about the basket. “Minato! You're speaking!”

(-)

It had been a quiet day at the Cosplay Club. The members had been trying to come up with some new costumes for a play the Theatre Club was going to put on.
Aoi had been trying to design the costumes that the royal family in the Theatre Club’s skit would be using but she had ended up drawing circles on the paper. Hikaru was looking out the window, watching the sky grow dark. Itsuki was watching the others. Nanako was the only one that was able to keep working and she sat calmly sewing a seam on a costume.

Aoi set her pen down. “Let's wish upon a star.”

“Hmmm?” The others looked at her curiously.

“The pink star would be the perfect one for us to make a wish for Subaru on.” Aoi said. “And it will work as well as anything else.”

“And if all four of us make the same wish then it will be even stronger!” Itsuki added.

But Hikaru wasn't sure. “Will we be satisfied if we use up a wish for Subaru? What if there's something we wanted to wish for?”

“Is there something you want to wish for?” Aoi asked.

“N-no! Not right now anyway.” Hikaru said.

“There are other stars.” Nanako said. The others turned to look at her. “There are other stars that we can make wishes on if we need them.”

“Then let's do it!” Itsuki said.

The four of them crowded around the window. The pink star was out. “There are clouds coming in.” Nanako noted. “We'd better hurry.”

“On the count of three!” Itsuki announced. “Ready, everyone? One, two…

“Three!”

(-)

Late that night, Subaru sat at her desk in her room. She was trying to get caught up on her homework, but she was tired. She had been at the hospital until visiting hours were over, trying to cheer up Minato. His therapy was going fine, according to the nurses, but he was frustrated by how slowly it was going. Subaru had tried to remind him that his was making progress and that things took time. When she left the hospital late that evening, she thought Minato had seemed more upbeat than he had when she came in.

She rubbed her eyes and laid her pencil down on the desk. The house was quiet and Subaru felt certain that she was the last one up.

She looked at her notebook and then closed it. Earth science was hard, but she knew when she got to the astronomy chapter she would do well. Maybe tomorrow Nanako can help me with the science questions I couldn’t figure out. She thought.

Subaru looked out the window over her desk and noticed that the pink star was out.

Back at the hospital, Minato was looking out the window of his hospital room, and wishing that he was still flying through the stars rather than lying in a hospital bed. The tiny LED lights were the only illumination in the room except for the glow from the hospital machines.

Only the brightest stars were able to sign in the city. He could only see part of them, but he knew they were out there, and earnestly wished to be somewhere else.

There was a pink light in the sky and it reminded him of Subaru. “I’ll open the door as many times as it takes!” He heard Subaru’s voice in his head, and smiled in spite of himself.

If she wouldn’t give up, he didn’t have an excuse to give up either.

(-)

The Puella Magi crisis was over but Gretchen hadn't left yet. She was trying to figure out how to bring hope to the girl who had made a hopeless wish.

Gretchen didn't grant wishes. She brought hope. “But that girl needs hope..” She mused. “I know it.”

She looked at the planet Earth down below and then she noticed something. There was something coming towards her. She reached out her hands and four more diamonds in four different colors landed gently in her hands, glowing against her white gloves. One diamond was bright blue, another was blue-grey, then yellow, then purple.

She listened to the wishes, then pulled out the pink diamond, the one she had found first. When she added the pink diamond, it created a five-point star.

Gretchen smiled. “Now I understand.” She opened her wings and took the sky.

(x-X-x)

After school at the hospital found Subaru unpacking more of the basket. “Oh…” She pulled out a portable CD player and a CD, then smiled. “It’s a music CD! Hikaru’s father is a musician. Let’s listen!”

As she was pulling the CD out, she found underneath it two boxes of strawberry milk. “And it looks like we get to have a snack today too.”

She set up the CD and player and helped Minato get the straw into his milk box. Then she picked hers up and joined Minato on the bed and together they listened to the music.

(-)

Madoka decided that the school uniform would be less noticeable, even though it wouldn’t match the uniform of the school she was going to.

When she arrived at the school, though, the observatory door was locked. This wasn’t a problem for her, she simply opened the door. But the room beyond was empty save for a telescope, chairs, and the posters on the ceiling.

She looked around but no one was there. Then Madoka pulled out the star and held it up. It began to glow. “This is definitely where the wish came from.”

How pressing was it? She wondered. The way the wishes sounded, no one was in immediate danger.

She turned to the door. It was time to take a walk through the school and see if there was anything else she could learn while she was here.

And maybe she could find out where the wish had come from.

“I’m starting to think that I should have brought Sayaka and Nagisa with me.”

(x-X-x)

When Subaru arrived at the hospital the next day it was immediately obvious that something was wrong. Minato was abnormally pale from the time spent in the hospital, but today his face was flushed in a way that was equally abnormal.

She didn’t say anything, but climbed into bed and pressed her forehead to his. He opened his eyes a moment after she did. “I thought I knew the answer.” She told him. “But I wanted to be sure.” She pulled away got off the bed.
“I’m sorry.” Minato told her.

Subaru shook her head. “Don’t be. I’m not upset about it. How do you feel?” It was a strange question to ask someone with a fever, but she asked it anyway. She pulled the basket out from under the bed. This time an audiobook was what she found.

“I’ll be okay.” Minato said.

“Do you want to listen?” Subaru asked, holding out the audiobook so he could see the title.

Minato nodded.

Subaru put the first disc in the CD player and checked to make sure the Bluetooth speaker was on and synced to the player. Then she climbed into bed next to him.

Minato meant to stay awake, but he drifted off to sleep shortly after Subaru arrived. When he woke up, he was momentarily disoriented. There was an unfamiliar buzzing sound in the room. He saw pink hair next to him and remembered where he was and who he was with.

Subaru was looking at a phone in a pink case with a star charm hanging off of it. She had a Earth Sciences textbook open on her lab to a page of questions and a notebook with writing on it tucked half under the book. The book was open to pictures of rocks. She seemed to realize that she was being watched and turned to look at him. “Minato! You’re awake!” She leaned over and pressed her forehead to his. “Your fever is gone.” She said, pulling away.

“How long was I asleep?” He asked. It had become a very important question for him ever since he had woken from his coma.

“Mmm…” She looked at the clock. “An hour and a half, maybe? I turned the book off, but i can turn it back on if you want. I turned it off after Chapter 1.”

“It’s fine.” Minato told her.

“I was working on my homework.” Subaru’s phone buzzed again and she picked it up and opened the text. It was from Nanako and read, “The right answer to #16 is D. I understand why you thought it was B. Remind me tomorrow at break before class starts and I’ll explain it to you.”

Subaru wrote down the answer in her notebook.

“Do you mind?” Minato asked, pointing at the book. Subaru shook her head and handed it to him. He flipped through it slowly.

“Maybe someday you’ll get to come back to school Minato.” Subaru told him. “Then you can join the Astronomy Society.”

He had never been in school, only tutored while in the hospital. Except for that one period of time… But he didn’t mention that. Instead he smiled and said, “Maybe.”

“I think you would like it.”

“I think I would too.”

(-)

Back at school, the Cosplay Club members looked up when they heard a knock on the door.

“Are we having a public event today?” Hikaru asked.

“Nothing was scheduled.” Itsuki replied. “And it’s too early for Aoi to be here.”

While they had been talking, Nanako had gone to answer the door. She pulled it open to find a pink haired girl in a frilly pink dress standing there, and for a moment was dumbfounded. Behind her, all noise in the classroom had stopped. Itsuki and Hikaru were just as surprised.

Nanako recovered from her shock first. “Is there something we can help you with?”

“Is this the Cosplay Club?” The girl in pink asked.

“It is.” Nanako replied. “Won’t you come in?”

The pink haired girl gave a nod and walked past her into the room.

“That’s Itsuki and Hikaru.” Nanako introduced the others in the room.

“You can call me Madoka.” The pink haired girl told her. “Do you accept members who don’t attend your school?”

There was a pause as the trio thought about Aoi. “Sometimes,” Nanako said, “but we don’t do it very much because the teachers might start asking questions. But it’s okay if you join us.”

Madoka smiled. “Thank you. Is this everyone in the club?”

“Not exactly.” Itsuki said. “Aoi isn't here yet. And Subaru must be at the hospital by now.”

“Hospital?” Madoka asked.

The three girls looked at each other and looked back at Madoka. Hikaru sighed. “It's a long story.”

Madoka clutched the skirt of her dress. “I would like to hear it, if you don't mind telling me.”
The girls looked at each other again.

“The story is this…” Itsuki began.

She didn’t tell the whole story, about the President, and the spaceship, and the magic, but she told enough that an outsider could understand what had happened and why the President of the Astronomy Club was never around.

Madoka listened patiently, then asked, “So what do you want to do?”

Aoi opened the door to the clubroom in time to hear the end of the story Itsuki was telling and hear Madoka’s question. “I want to make Subaru smile again.” She said firmly.

The others nodded.

Madoka tilted her head. “But there’s something you haven’t told me.” She said, and summoned her bow to her hand. She drew the string of the bow back. The four girls watched, agape, as she took aim at the ceiling and a sigil of glowing pink circles appeared.

“I came because I was called.” Madoka said, and let the arrow fly. It struck the sigil, and a moment later the four members of the Astronomy-Cosplay Club found themselves standing on a matching sigil in the middle of outer space, transformed.

“How is this possible?” Nanako asked. She got her answer as madoka turned towards them. As she turned, the pink dress she was wearing transformed in an explosion of butterflies, and she stood before them in white, with a dress that showed the stars and wings on her heels and her back.

“Who are you?” Hikaru asked.

“I was once called Madoka Kaname. I am now called Penitent Gretchen. I came because someone else, one of the magical girls I protect, called me, but while I was here I heard something else.” She explained, and held up the five pointed star made of their wishes.

“My job is to bring hope to people who need it.” Madoka finished, looking at them.

Aoi frowned. “Well, Subaru is probably the one who needs hope the most right now.”

Madoka nodded. “Let’s figure out how to make that happen.”

(-)

Subaru spent another half hour working on her homework while Minato watched over her shoulder, reading bits and pieces of the textbook. She finally closed her notebook and textbooks, letting out a breath as she did.

“That was a lot of questions.” Minato said. Subaru nodded, looking momentarily exhausted. Then she shook her head as if to clear it and slid her books and pen into her bag. She put the audio book back in the basket and pulled out another object, a fidget cube in a galaxy design. There was a note taped to it, and it read, in Itsuki’s clear hand writing, “For dexterity + boredom.”

Subaru pulled the note and tape off, and handed it to Minato. “This is for you too.” She got to her feet and set the basket down on the floor and picked up her bag. “I have to go home now.” She said.

“You’ll come back tomorrow?” Minato asked.

Subaru smiled and nodded. “Yes! I’ll come by after school tomorrow.” She said. She picked up her backpack and walked out the door, pausing as she left to wave goodbye.

Subaru was looking at her feet when she left the hospital. The stars were out overhead, but she didn’t look up, not even to see if the pink one was still there.

She came to a stop when she saw a pair of pink shoes with bows on them in front of her, and looked up at a pink-haired girl in a pink dress. “Are you alright?” The girl in pink asked.

Subaru looked surprised, but she nodded.

“Oh,” The girl in pink said. “I just wondered because you looked really sad a moment ago.”

“Who are you?” Subaru asked.

“My name is Gretchen. But I used to go by Madoka.” The other girl replied. “What’s your name?”

“S-Subaru.”

“Nice to meet you, Subaru. I came to help you.” Madoka said.

Subaru looked up, startled. “What do you mean?”

Madoka held up a five-pointed star. “I heard someone cry for help, and then someone else, several someone elses, wanted help for you too. You sounded like you needed hope, and that’s what I specialize in.”

“What do you mean?” Subaru asked.

“Exactly what I said.” Madoka said cheerfully. She held out a hand, and after a moment's hesitation, Subaru took it. Then the world around them changed and became a night sky spangled with stars. They were standing on a pink sigil, and Subaru saw that Earth was off in the horizon.

I wish the others were here to see this. Everyone should see it! Subaru thought. Then she looked at herself. She was in the black dress she had worn when they had found the last fragment and fixed the Pleiadian’s ship.

Madoka was still wearing her pink dress. Her shoes inexplicably made clicking noises as she walked. The surface of the sigil was solid, even though it looked like there was nothing there.

“You made a wish. Well, you started to make a wish.” Madoka said. “And you were depressed. But you never finished the wish. I think you thought my sigil was a star.”

Subaru thought back to the moment, days ago, when she had started to make a wish.

“A pink star?...but that shouldn’t be.” She looked at the star for a long moment, and then closed her eyes. “I wish…”

Then she paused and opened her eyes. What could she wish for? That Minato would get better? He was, slowly. That they wouldn’t lose each other again? She was working on making sure that never happened again. That they would watch the stars together again? There would be time for that.

Subaru huffed out a breath, smiled, and went on her way.

Everything was going to work out.

“I’ll be there no matter how long it takes.” Subaru said to no one in particular. Then she turned and walked towards home.

Subaru looked at Madoka. “That’s true. I was depressed. But I’m not now.”

“You keep giving your hope away.” Madoka said, realization dawning on her face.

“I don't mind it.” Subaru said. She looked at Madoka. “I said I would open the door as many times as I needed to. I will, no matter how long it takes.”

“No matter how long what takes?” A new voice asked, intruding on the conversation. Subaru recognized it though Madoka didn’t.

“Minato!” She exclaimed, and turned to see him standing there in the white and blue clothes he had worn the last time they had caught a engine fragment. She laughed and ran over to him, throwing her arms around him. Minato caught her and held her tightly. “I’m really glad you’re here.” She exclaimed.

Madoka looked surprised. How did he get here? She didn’t have much time to wonder as just then they heard another voice.

“Subarun!” This voice Madoka did recognize, and she looked up in time to Aoi, Itsuki, Hikaru, and Nanako. They were still transformed and holding hands, making a four pointed star as they drifted down toward the sigil.

“Subaru! It's good to see you again.” Itsuki called as the girls hovered to a stop over the sigil. They released each other’s hands and landed facing Madoka, Subaru, and Minato.

“We have missed seeing you at the Astronomy Society.” Nanako said. “But we understand that you are busy.”

“Everyone!” Subaru said, and tears filled her eyes.

“Don't cry, Subaru.” Aoi told her. “We understand that you have something very important to do.”

Subaru turned to Madoka. “Thank you, Madoka. I am really glad you brought everyone here.”

“I didn’t bring them.” Madoka said. She looked confused for a moment, then she looked at Subaru. “You must have brought them here.”

“Huh? But I can’t ...I can’t do anything like that.” Subaru said.

Madoka looked at her. “The only thing I did was transform your friends and bring you here. I left them back at the school long before I found you. I didn’t call him here.” She nodded at Minato. “Or transform you, or them. So it must have been you.””

“I don’t have any magic anymore.” Subaru told her as the other pink haired girl turned to look out over the edge of the sigil. “And you never said why you brought me here.”

“I bring hope to those who need it.” Madoka repeated. She had been looking out at the stars. Now she turned to face them, and as she did a flurry of butterflies in greys and reds and blues swarmed around her. As she turned into the butterfly swarm her dress transformed. It became white edged in pink, with a long train in the back. The underside of the train showed an expanse of stars turning in their paths. Madoka’s hair was still tied back with white ribbons, but it was long enough that it trailed behind her as well. She wore tall white stockings and low-heeled shoes. There were two wings made of energy on her back, and two more wings on her heels.

“I wasn't sure what to do to help you.” Madoka admitted. “You never made a wish. Someone else made a wish for you. But some things can't be changed by magic. I can't heal a Puella Magi until their magic is all used up. I can't fix what happened to you.” She looked at Minato. “But I don't need to. You get better a little more every day.”

She held up the five-pointed star.

“Are...are those our wishes?” Aoi asked.

One diamond was bright blue, another was blue-grey, then yellow, then purple. Madoka listened to the blue-grey on first. “I wish that Subaru and Minato would be happy together.” Then the purple. “I wish Subaru could find her happy ending, whatever that takes.” Then the yellow. “I wish that Subaru would be happy.” And the blue. “I don’t want Subaru to run out of hope.”

They all came to rest on one person: Subaru.

“They are.” Madoka said. “I came to grant them. Or to try to. But I don’t think I can.” She turned to look at Subaru who shook her head.

“I’m not giving up now.” She told Madoka.

Madoka nodded. “I know.” She opened her hands. In them was the five-point star in different colors, now hanging from a chain as a pendant. She pressed it into Subaru’s hands and closed the other girl’s fingers around it. “I don’t need this any longer. I think you should keep it.”

Madoka smiled at Subaru and spread her wings. She lifted into the void of space and looked back at them as she began to fade into the stars. “And if someone tells you it’s wrong to hope, tell them they’re wrong. Every time.”

“I will!” Subaru promised.

Madoka nodded, once, as if to indicate she had expected that response. Then she was gone, leaving them standing on the sigil.

The sigil began to drift back toward Earth, so slowly that they could hardly tell it was moving.

“It seems kind of silly that she would bring us all the way out here and leave us to get home this way.” Aoi said.

“Po-warm.” Nanako replied, holding her hands out over the rings of the sigil, and the others paused.

“You're right.” Itsuki said, following Nanako’s lead and holding out her hands over the lines of magic that made up the sigil. “It is po-warm.”

“This is everyone’s wishes, isn’t it?” Subaru said, holding out the necklace Madoka had given her.

“We wanted you to have a happy ending.” Aoi said. “So we all made a wish on that pink star.”

Subaru smiled. “Thank you, everyone.” She linked her arm through Minato’s. “When the people I care about are doing alright, then I’m happy.”

“I’m sorry.” Minato said.

“Don’t be.” Hikaru said. “You didn’t get to pick what happened to you. But someday you’ll have to join the Astronomy Society.”

“Someday I would like that.” Minato said.

For the rest of the descent back to Earth, the six of them shared stories about their lives. Itsuki told them about her favorite memory of her brother. Nanako told them about the postcards she got from her mother and brother, all over the world. Subaru explained how her father had bought her her first telescope years ago. Aoi told them how she had first met Subaru when they went to school together. Hikaru told them about the first time she had gone to the observatory where her mother worked. Even Minato joined in, telling them how he had first met Elnath.

As they drew closer to Earth, the sigil began to glow brighter until they had to shield their eyes, and Subaru’s last thought was how happy she was that everyone was there together.

When Subaru woke up the next morning, she was asleep sitting up on the floor of her room, with her head leaning against the bed. She remembered the events of the night before and thought it was just a dream. Then she realized that there was something clenched in her hand, and saw it was a necklace of a five-point star.

[Epilogue: Two Months Later]

The telescope was able to make up for the differences between the ambient light in the air and the lights in outer space that they were trying to see. The roof of the hospital had a high wall around it, and the telescope stand was pressed against the wall, letting the device look out over the rail and into the sky.

Aoi peered through the telescope. “The brightness is...four?” She knelt down on the roof and added a notation to the sheets of lab work that were spread around. As soon as she was out of the way, Subaru peered through the telescope after her. The five pointed, five-colored star pendant she wore around her neck clinked against the telescope as did.

“Isn’t it great that you got this astronomy lab and you’re part of the Astronomy Society?” Itsuki asked, brushing her short hair out of her face before replacing her red headband. She was sitting on a low divider in the middle of the roof with Nanako.

“More importantly,” Hikaru said, peering over Aoi’s shoulder. “How come you skip out on clubs at your school and come meet with us and you still have to have us help with your homework. Didn’t you learn anything from being part of the astronomy society?”

“Ah, uh, I did! But I didn’t hear anything about a Brightness Scale.”

“There was an article about it in the last Meteor Forecast.” Minato was sitting in a wheelchair nearby. His hospital clothes were covered by a robe, and he had a blanket wrapped around his legs. Subaru had brought a sweater with her to the hospital that evening - “It was yours to start with, Minato!” - and he was wearing it as well even though the late spring night was pleasantly warm.

He had progressed to learning to walk again in his physical therapy and he was better at it every day, except for a balance problem that had yet to be corrected. This wasn’t an issue when someone was there to help him walk or when he was walking short distances, but for the trip to the roof he had been confined to the wheelchair.

“Really?” Aoi asked.

“Yes.” Nanako replied, pouring oolong tea out of a thermos into her cup. “Minato wrote it, I edited it, and it got published in Meteor Forecast.”

“I must have missed that edition.” The blue-haired girl admitted.

Subaru pulled away from the telescope. “Definitely a four!” She announced.

“Eh, Nanako, did Gorou bring you that tea?” Itsuki asked.

“He gave it to me before he left school. He said he would have been here tonight but he had to work in his family’s shop, so I brought it for the club.” Nanako replied.

“Gorou is the boy from the Garden Club,” Subura said in an undertone to Minato.

“He’s bringing you the tea.” Aoi said.

“He’s bringing tea for the group.” Nanako replied. "Because his family runs a tea shop."

“You can tell yourself whatever you want to believe.” Itsuki replied.

Hikaru had taken over lab work from Aoi and was busily drawing stars on the sheet. “You’re going to have to look all of these up and see what magnitude they are,” She announced. “I have no idea. I’m just drawing them.”

Itsuki had accepted the thermos of tea from Nanako. “Does anyone else want some tea?” She asked, after pouring herself a cup. No one answered, so she set the thermos down next to the wall.

Minato had been fiddling with his fidget cube, more to keep his fingers busy then anything else. It slipped out of his hand and clattered to the roof. Subaru picked it up and handed it back to him.

“Thank you.” He said. Subaru smiled.

“Look!” Aoi said suddenly. “The pink star is back!” The others looked in the direction she was pointing. Sure enough, there it was.

Hikaru dug through Aoi’s pen box until she found a pink ink pen. She held it up to try and gauge how far the pink star was from the other one, then marked it on the map.

“What am I going to say if my teacher asks about that?” Aoi asked.

“Don’t say anything.” Hikaru said.

“It’s like a guiding light.” Subaru said.

“The North Star.” Minato suggested.

“Our Polaris.” Nanako finished.

They stayed there until Aoi’s lab was finished. And long after they were gone, the pink star still shone overhead.

FINIS