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But We Are not The Angels of Old, and This is not The Kingdom of Heaven

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--

There was something soothingly dichotomist about basic Christianity.

If you were good, you were upraised and saved by God. If you were bad, you were pulled down and damned by the Devil. Lucifer, the fallen angel. Used to be God’s favourite but got too big for his britches and was cast down to the bowels of hell, where he now lurks and spends his time plotting and being really flagrantly evil.

It’s so simple that it’s almost childlike. Like a fairytale. Here is the bad guy, here is the good guy, there’s no crossover and there’s no changing the facts.

People like a good dichotomy. Shades of grey are problematic. Everyone seems to prefer an easy ‘either you’re saved or you’re damned’ view of death, easy peasy.

It’s no difference for Magical Girls.

The more pragmatic girls, who focus on the present and the now and fighting and not much else, ignore the whispers stolidly. But the girls who are more unsure, who need validation, who need a promise, who need the hope of something after they fade away from this existence. They wonder, and they whisper.

A Goddess, they say. Who takes you away when your Soul Gem turns black. Who leads you into an afterlife, rewards you for your service fighting demons. If you fight to the end. If you lose your life in the line of duty, then she comes for you. She leads you to salvation.

But there’s also a Devil, they say, A Demoness. Who will offer to break your contract for you, so that you don’t have to fight to the end. So you can give up. If your wish has gone wrong, if it didn’t have the result you truly desired, she’ll reverse it for you. Make it as if it never happened. But as a result, you’re damned to eternity in her service.

A Good Goddess and an Evil Demoness. It’s easy, it’s simple. It’s so straightforward that a child could get it, just like any religion.

Kyouko is getting a little tired of religion. Particularly the dichotomist kind.

“Sayaka came at me breathing fire today,” she says, stirring her finger idly in the cup of black coffee in front of her, “Ranting about how ‘that bitch’ was getting too many girls to fall into her evil clutches. Been busy today, Homura?”

Across from her, Homura gives her a flat, ambivalent gaze. Her eyes are like Madoka’s now, though also not. The same sense of eternity, of something endless and old, but of bottomless darkness, not bottomless light. She doesn’t reply to Kyouko’s comment. But Kyouko hadn’t really expected her to.

“I think she wants to form an audit,” Kyouko continues, pouring another packet of sugar into her drink, “So we can keep track of just how many girls we ‘lose’ to you, or something. I hope she doesn’t expect me to start keeping track of those numbers. She might be used to bossing Nagisa around to do her grunt work, but it ain’t gonna work on me.”

“What is that you do, exactly, Sakura-san?” Homura asks, head tilted slightly to the side, “Certainly, it isn’t your official task to bother me.”

Kyouko grins, “Wouldn’t that be something. If Sayaka wasn’t so offended by the mere idea of being in your presence I’m sure she would have suggested it. Someone coming by your palace of evil to distract you from all your dastardly plans.” Her grin flattens into something more akin to a grimace, and she taps a fingernail against the coffee cup. “She’s kind of obsessed with stopping you. That thing with her and justice; you remember.”

Homura takes a sip of her coffee. Her expression doesn’t change.

Kyouko takes a large drink of her own cup, draining it, before setting the empty dish back down on the table with a clatter.

“Anyways,” she says, “There has been a bit of a change, I think. It used to be that girls were convinced that going with you would bring about the end of days. They’d rather fight to the death then have you break their contract. But things are different nowadays, it looks like. Are Magical Girls nowadays just more afraid of death? Or, what?”

“Perhaps they’re just making stupider wishes,” Homura says glibly, and Kyouko snorts.

“Girls have always made stupid wishes,” she retorts, voice tight, “That’s one thing that will stay the same. Consistent.”

Homura makes a non-committal sound while she brings her cup up to her lips, unblinking gaze unchanging.

“Everything changes. The mental makeup of Magical Girls is no exception,” she states, no inflection in her tone, “Shall I give you an explanation to take back to Miki-san?”

Kyouko exchanges a look with her briefly, eyes narrowed, before returning her gaze to the empty cup, tracing her finger along the inside.

“Girls like her were rare in our days,” Homura continues “When there were Witches, and when the Incubators were hated. But without the unfairness of the incubation sequence, and of the inevitably doomed end, it is easier for girls like her to flourish. Girls who believe in the validity of justice. Girls who believe in the sanctity of a clear divide between good and evil, and right and wrong.”

She takes another sip of her coffee, and waves her free hand, refilling the cup that’s in front of Kyouko. The other girl yelps, pulling her finger out of the now steaming cup and shooting Homura a glare.

“Magical Girls have a certainty now that they didn’t in our days,” Homura continues, “They know there is an ending waiting for them. A Law of Cycles, and a Goddess who leads it. There’s less hesitancy when contracting. Less thought goes into it.”

Her face wrinkles a little, expression a bizare mix of distaste and pity.

“Stupider wishes,” she says flatly, “That’s the result. They don’t think it through, or don’t word it correctly and don’t get the desired result. It’s not a wish that they are willing to die for. No matter what afterlife awaits.”

“And so you step in,” Kyouko finishes, “And break their contract for them.”

Homura falls silent again, sipping her coffee, expression blank.

“Sayaka hates the idea so much,” Kyouko continues, voice a little rougher, “I don’t get it. She knows, the same as all of us, that wishes have a tendency to turn around and bite you in the ass. Or otherwise just don't work the way you want them to. I think it’s the contract breaking thing; it offends her sensibilities.”

“Miki-san dislikes being forced into close examination of herself,” Homura says flatly, “I imagine she doesn’t like thinking of what her thought process would have been had she been offered the choice to break her contract.”

Kyouko stiffens a little, pausing in the motion of lifting the cup up to her lips. Homura stares back, emotionless. Kyouko turns her head away, tipping the coffee back into her throat.

“Anyways,” she says, swallowing, “I’m going to head back now. I guess this is my customary, required warning for you to stop tempting Girls away from their duty, stop ignoring the Law of the Universe and breaking the Incubators’ contracts, etc. etc. Mami is disappointed and Sayaka is pissed. You know the spiel.”

“And as always, I’m afraid I must decline,” Homura says simply, though there’s a hint of what could almost be a smirk playing about her lips, “Goodbye, Sakura-san.”

“See you, Homura,” Kyouko says, finishing her coffee and standing up from the table. “Catch you in the next round of battle for the immortal souls of Magical Girls everywhere.”

The little park in which the table was situated is in the midst of spring, as always, sakura blossoms floating down through the air. There are girls, everywhere. Laughing, playing. Walking with parents, walking with partners. They’re biking to school, they’re heading home from the school. An idyllic world in which they’ll spend eternity. A beautiful, utopian city of Homura’s own creation.

Walking through it always gives Kyouko the worst kinds of shivers. She remembers what it was like to be trapped here. To be trapped in this perfect illusion, an impossible rendition of her wildest dreams. Of a peaceful, happy life, with all of her friends. Alive. Together.

But it had been wrong. It had been a world twisted and beholden to Homura. And Madoka had broken free of it, eventually. Reversed it, to the way the world was supposed to be. She’d been so sad, Kyouko remembers. Madoka had been so sad.

And Homura had disappeared. Slunk away. Ashamed and defeated. Madoka had looked for her, but they were about on par in terms of power, and she had been unable to find her old friend.

It was only later, long after Mami and Kyouko had both fallen and joined Sayaka and Nagisa at Madoka’s side, that they discovered the new role that Homura had created for herself. Her newest attempt to prioritize desire over law, and to screw over the Incubators. A role of ‘contract-breaker’. A temptress who could free girls from the duty placed upon them by the Incubators, if they were willing to have their wishes undone. And in exchange, they had two choices. To spend eternity in an idyllic world, free of painful memories, but oblivious. Or to serve the Demoness herself, as personal guards, and as soldiers in her unending war against the immortal Incubators, with a promise of that idyllic world as a retirement option.

Kyouko passes a pair of these Choice Two girls as she exits Homura’s domain. They’re guarding the entrance, and nod to her as she passes by. They both look to be about eleven, maybe twelve. Serious-faced, and at strict attention. Kyouko wonders if they regret it. Trading a life of fighting for an eternity of one.

Sayaka doesn’t get it. Nagisa can’t comprehend it. Mami shakes her head and sighs. But they don’t really understand. They don’t understand just how badly a poorly made wish can mess up everything. Not just for you, but for everyone you love and care about.

Kyouko had been willing to fight Witches forever if it meant her father had believers and her family had food. If Homura had come to her after it had all gone wrong, if she had told her she could reverse her wish, bring her family back to life and her father’s sanity with it, and all Kyouko had to do was sign up her soul for an eternity skewering those fucking Incubators’ with her spear?

The others don’t get it. They don’t understand why girls choose Homura. Not when they’ve already been promised a world of salvation under the Goddess. And even down below, the Magical Girls currently in service see it in those old terms. The way that religions always seem to polarize into good and evil. The Law of Cycles is good and the Contract-breaker is bad. The Goddess figure and the Demoness figure, perfect opposites.

Kyouko thinks it’s damn sad. Especially considering how much Homura still cares about Madoka. Kyouko doesn’t think anything could stop Homura from caring about Madoka.

Crossing from Homura’s dimension into Madoka’s isn’t difficult. That, at the least, is different from classic Christianity. It’s not that Madoka sits above and Homura sits below. They both have their own planes of existence, parallel to the one Earth sits in, and on a similar frequency to one on another. If Madoka was a Christian God, and Homura was a Christian Devil, it would be very easy for them to wage war upon each other.

But they’re not. They’re two goddesses who used to be girls who loved each other. And now, in the time since Madoka broke free of Homura’s prison, they haven’t spoken to each other. Not once.

Kyouko is greeted as soon as she arrives in Madoka’s world. She and the others from Mitakihara, known to be friends of the Goddess, are treated as something akin to minor deities themselves. The girls at the gates bow low to her, even the ones who aren’t from a culture that condones it. As she makes her way through the city of pink and gold, the paradise for Magical Girls who have served their terms, cries of ‘Kyouko-san!’ and ‘Miss Kyouko, welcome back!’ echo along the street.

Everyone assumes she’s been out on a mission from the Goddess, obviously. They’d be less friendly if they knew she took trips to visit the Demoness. But Kyouko’s learned a few things in her life, and her afterlife. Mostly that holding grudges is stupid, love makes you do dumbass things, and that the dichotomy of good and evil is bullshit.

If only she could get Sayaka to see it the same way.

They all ‘live’ together, in a space based off of Mami’s apartment in Mitakihara, though larger. It was a place that they had all spent time in at one point or another. A place they’d all felt comfortable in. A place they don’t mind modeling their home for eternity after.

Madoka doesn’t live with them of course. Despite her best efforts, it’s difficult for her to exist tangibly for long stretches of time. That’s why she had Sayaka and Nagisa helping her, and now Kyouko and Mami doing the same.

Again, Kyouko thinks of the world that Homura created. A world where Madoka was able to live with her family, her mother and father and brother. Where she could talk to her friends and loved ones and touch them and embrace them whenever she wanted.

Nagisa is too young to understand the complexities of the situation. Sayaka and Mami are both too tied up in the idea of justice. It seems like Kyouko’s the only one who gets it.

She’s never asked Madoka, though. She’s never asked the Goddess how she feels about Homura’s actions, her motives, and her new role. It might be that she’s afraid to.

Mami isn’t home. Neither is Nagisa. Kyouko can sense that as soon as she enters the apartment. Unfortunately, the one person who she wants to avoid is in the apartment. But maybe Kyouko can just cut through the kitchen, grab a snack and duck into her room-

Kyouko.”

Dammit.

Kyouko turns around on her heel, hands tucked into the pockets of her hoodie, and a casual expression on her face.

Sayaka’s standing with her hands on her hips, looking full of righteous fury, as usual. She’s dressed in civilian clothes, but she’s got one of her swords at her hip. Probably not a good sign.

“Sayaka,” Kyouko greets, grinning uneasily, “What’s with the wea-,”

“Where were you!” shouts Sayaka, not buying it for a second, “Actually, don’t answer that. I know where you were-,”

“Then why did you ask?!” Kyouko shouts back, throwing her hands up in the air. “And why are you yelling at me! God, I-,”

“I’m sorry, am I not supposed to yell when you’re cavorting with the enemy?” hisses Sayaka, and that’s. That's it. Kyouko has had it.

“You’re impossible!” she explodes, “How can you stand being so self-righteous all the time! The girls down below call her the Devil because they don’t know any better. We do! We know that’s not true! We know it’s not that simple and we know she’s not some demon out to destroy-,”

“We don’t know anything!” Sayaka spits back. “Did you forget what she did to us? To Madoka? How can you say-,”

“Did you forget why she did it?” Kyouko snaps, “She wasn’t trying to crumble the kingdom down or bring hell to earth. She was just-,”

“She was just what, Kyouko? She was just what?” snarls Sayaka, “How are you trying to defend her? She-,”

“She was just following through with her wish!” Kyouko roars, hands balled into fists. It’s so loud and venomous that Sayaka actually recoils, and then steps back as Kyouko advances on her.

“Her wish was to protect Madoka, you know that, don’t you?! We all know that!” Kyouko continues, fuming, “And we also know that the wish didn’t line up with the desire. She wanted to protect Madoka so that Madoka could be safe and happy. Then Madoka became a Goddess, the Incubators went after her, and fulfilling her wish became a lot damn harder.”

Sayaka is trembling. “You can’t honestly be-,”

“Willing to admit Homura was wrong? Yes,” Kyouko interrupts, “Willing to admit robbing people of free will is fucked up? Yes! Also willing to admit she’s not evil, she’s not the enemy, she’s still my friend, and she still loves Madoka more than anything, also yes! Goddamn Sayaka,” Kyouko exhales heavily, hands still shaking in fists at her side. “You won’t even say her damn name. None of you say her damn name when you talk about her. Like you really buy into this Demoness crap. Like you forgot who she was. Who she is.”

Sayaka’s mouth hangs open uselessly for a few short seconds, before she licks her lips and swallows thickly.

“It’s you who’s bought into the Demoness’s crap,” she counters, voice wavering, “She’s wrong, and she’s preventing Girls from being saved by tricking them with her contract breaking. There’s nothing good about that. There’s nothing that’s not evil about preventing Magical Girls from achieving the salvation we’ve all been promised.”

Kyouko wants to scream. She wants to take Sayaka by the shoulders and shake her. But it won’t work. It never works. They’ve had this argument before. Less loud, of course, but they’ve had it. It always ends the same. But not this time. Kyouko’s not going to sulk away this time, letting Sayaka think she’s right, in all her righteousness.

“I would have taken it,” Kyouko says, voice thick, “If it had worked for us the same back then. If someone offered to break my contract and reverse my wish, I would have taken it.”

Sayaka’s eyes widen, and her expression is stricken for a moment, then it hardens.

“No you wouldn’t have,” she says, “You think you would have, but you’re not-,”

“I’m not what, Sayaka?” snaps Kyouko, “Weak? Cowardly? Evil? Is there only a certain type of girl that Homura can tempt? Do you consider me to be part of your righteous circle, capable of doing no wrong? Well I would have. I fucking would have Sayaka. For my sister and my mother and my father, I would have. You forget. You forget about us, the girls’ whose wishes messed up more lives than our own. Me and Homura. We’re both those kind of girls. And I get it Sayaka, you’re not. To you, girls who don’t believe in justice and law and order above all things are wrong. Evil. Demons.”

“Don’t twist my words-,” Sayaka begins, indignant, but Kyouko refuses to hear it. She turns away from her, marching right back out the door.

“Right and wrong, good and evil, I hate it. I’ve always hated it.” She fumes. “I can’t stand it here. You’re all so far up your own asses. Someone needs to design halos to float over all your damn heads. You don’t get it! This isn’t heaven, Homura’s world isn’t hell, and she isn’t your Antichrist! Madoka may be a Goddess, but we’re not avenging angels. We’re all just girls. We’re fallible and human, and Homura and those who choose her are the same. But you keep waging your war against Lucifer, Michael. If it’s battle lines you’re looking to draw, I know where I stand in your eyes. Because I’m the same. I’ve always been the same. Desire over law, from fucking day one. And that’s not always evil, that’s not always wrong. But if you’re determined to see no other road but yours then, then I guess I better leave. Before someone takes a blade to my wings and casts me down in heavenly fire.”

--

“It sounds like you may have been somewhat overdramatic,” Homura says, sounding way too amused and not enough grateful to Kyouko for defending her honour.

“I’ll admit, the Michael Lucifer thing may have been over the top,” Kyouko admits between grit teeth, “But I honestly just couldn’t stand it anymore! Who does she think she is? She’s let this ‘Goddess’s First Lieutenant’ thing go to her head.”

“She finally has a purpose that allows her to protect everything she wanted to, while still upholding all of her core values,” Homura says, her tone a little quieter, “Would you begrudge her that?”

Kyouko stills in her frustrated, agitated movements, turning to look at Homura, who has moved her gaze off to the side. The response she just gave was very, very loaded, and Kyouko can’t stop thinking about the implications.

“There are questions I don’t ask,” Kyouko says, quiet, “Because I’m not an idiot. But I’m worked up and running on impulsivity. So I’ll go ahead and ask one I’ve been sitting on.”

She leans forward, arms on the table. “Do you regret it? Becoming what you have?”

Homura’s eyes slide back towards Kyouko. The other girl moves back, unsettled. There’s something flickering there. Something moving within that dark, endless gaze. Emotion dancing where there’s so long been nothing but apathy.

“Regret?” Homura echoes, voice distant, “Remorse, yes. But regret? How could I? What would be left of me, if I allowed myself to experience a thing like regret?”

Something tightens inside Kyouko’s chest, “So that’s a no, then.”

Homura’s mouth twists, that same flicker of emotion moving across her face. “It is. There is only one thing that has ever made me regret my wish, and I’ve done all I can to alleviate the pain of that. I refute any judgment cast upon me, and I will never regret what I have become. Not as long as I maintain my purpose.”

Kyouko stares at her. A silence falls.

“Are you still protecting Madoka, though?” Kyouko asks, voice nearly inaudible. “That was another question I-, Have you broken your own contract as well?”

Homura’s head jerks up a little, and her lips press into a thin line. Kyouko can feel the curl of her anger in the air, the heady power of a God, twisting within the reality she’s created.

“You’ve insulted me,” Homura says, voice flat, “I thought you were the one person who had come to know me better than that, Sakura Kyouko.”

Then her eyes and attention snap away from Kyouko, leaving the other girl frozen in her chair as Homura’s gazes fixes on something behind her, eyes narrowed.

“An intruder,” she states, and the guard who has just approached them, one of her girls, hesitates.

“A visitor, from the other realm,” explains the guard, “A Miki Sayaka, looking to speak with a Sakura Kyouko?”

That startles Kyouko back to life, and has her whirling around in her chair so quickly that she almost tumbles out of it.

What?!” she squawks, “You can’t be serious. It must be an imposter. There’s no way Sayaka would set foot-,”

“She’s here,” Homura interrupts, expression and tone apathetic once more, “Miki Sayaka. She’s here for you.”

Kyouko’s voice dies away immediately, and she quiets, stilling in her chair. The weight of Homura’s last remonstration, and the unsaid accusation in her comment, leave her tense and heavy with guilt.

Finally, Homura moves her eyes away from the guard, and back to Kyouko.

“She’s here to apologize,” she says, and her voice is softer, surprisingly, “She’s braved the realm of her most hated enemy for it. You should go to her.”

Kyouko swallows, looking down at her legs. She’s spoken out of turn and put her foot in her mouth, besides. The other girls might think that Homura doesn’t have feelings anymore, but Kyouko knows better. She knows they exist, and she knows that she’s hurt them. “Homura, I-,”

“It’s alright, Kyouko,” Homura interjects, flipping her hair over her shoulder with an easy hand movement. Then her gaze intensifies, that cold, apathetic void burning with something dangerous and passionate. “But please remember, at the very least, that there is nothing in this universe, or in any hellish iteration those creatures could conjure, that would make me reverse my wish, or that would stop me from protecting Madoka. It is one truth that will not change. One thing that cannot be altered, no matter how the universe is rewritten. Please remember that.”

Homura takes a deep breath, folding her hands into her lap.

“Now,” she says curtly, “Go attend to Miki-san. I don’t think any of us want her here longer than is strictly necessary.”

--

Sayaka looks so uncomfortable.

It almost makes Kyouko want to walk a little slower. To meander her way over to where the other girl is standing, as close to the exit gates as she can get while still maintaining a distance from the guards. She’s in full Magical Girl costume, sword at her side, and she looks tense, unhappy, and really, really uncomfortable.

Kyouko is honestly surprised that she’s here. For one thing, Sayaka literally hates Homura. For another, she also hates everything Homura’s come to stand for, and this realm exemplifies that. Third, Kyouko’s really only been gone like an hour or so, and that’s really not enough time for Sayaka to have decided coming to get her was necessary. It’s not even enough time for Sayaka to have decided to apologize. It’s all a little fishy.

Kyouko walks a little quicker.

Sayaka straightens as she sees her coming, expression conflicted and mouth trembling. Kyouko squares her shoulders a little, lifts her chin. She’s not the one who’s apologizing, after all.

“Kyouko,” Sayaka says, eyes flickering nervously to the guards at the gate behind her, and then forward again. “I- You know I don’t want to be here, so-,”

“So then, why are you here?” Kyouko interrupts sourly. She’s already doubtful that this is an actual apology and not a ‘Sayaka beats around the bush and avoids actually apologizing while simultaneously trying to drag Kyouko back by her ear’ situation.

But Sayaka looks a little hurt at the interruption. Her brow furrows and she sucks in a breath.

“Someone told me,” she says, speaking slowly, words carefully chosen, “That I was being obstinate. And that it wasn’t helping anyone being purposefully difficult and driving away my friends.”

“Oh? So you are capable of listening to a voice other than your own?” snipes Kyouko, a little bitter.

Sayaka’s shoulders hunch defensively. “Stop it. It’s not like that and you know it.”

“Then what is it like, Sayaka?” Kyouko asks, throwing her hands above her head, “What is it like, exactly? Why are you here?

Sayaka in Homura’s realm is a severe clash of interests and it’s throwing Kyouko off. She’s been visiting Homura for awhile, and one of the reasons she’s enjoyed it is the, well, the separation from her life in Madoka’s realm. The duty, the respect towards her that she never feels she’s warranted, the way righteousness just saturates the atmosphere. Visiting Homura’s been her escape from all of that. And seeing Sayaka here is kind of throwing that off.

Especially since, as predicted, Sayaka’s refusing to just suck it up and apologize.

“You know why I’m here!” exclaims Sayaka, exasperated. The guards behind her look over at them, and Kyouko raises on shoulder in a ‘sorry I can’t control what she does gesture’. Sayaka doesn’t miss it, and her cheeks colour.

“You’re sure chummy with everyone here,” she fumes, “You stormed off pretty quickly; you sure you’re not planning to ditch us for her? Join up with the legions of the Contract-breaker?”

“I’m already dead, dumbass, my contract’s fulfilled,” Kyouko sneers, “And I think I told you in pretty simple terms when I left. I’m not interested in living- or after-life existing, whatever –in your black and white world. If I’ve earned anything, it’s my right to spend eternity in a way that’s not morally absolutist.”

God, Kyouko can’t believe Sayaka came here and they’re still just having the same old argument. Honestly, she doesn’t know why she even bothers.

“Look can you just,” Kyouko huffs, trying not to raise her voice. “Can you just go? You’ve literally refused to just say why you’re here. I’m supposed to just assume you’re here to apologize? How the hell do you expect me to accept an apology you won’t even say? You are stubborn. And purposefully difficult. And I don’t want to argue with you anymore, so if you don’t have anything you’re willing to say that’s not more of that same bullshit, then you should just leave.”

That familiar expression of shocked hurt blooms on Sayaka’s face, and her lips waver a little. Kyouko’s tired of it. She’s emotionally drained and she doesn’t want to talk to Sayaka anymore.

“Just go,” she repeats tiredly, “Just go home, Sayaka.”

The other girl sucks in a shaky breath, before setting her mouth in a hard line and straightening out of the defensive posture.

“I can’t,” Sayaka says, voice rough. “Not, not without you. Kyouko, I- I’m sorry. I- we’ve always had trouble understanding each other. And I guess I’ve taken it for granted, the fact that we’ve gotten along easier up here, in this world, in death. There are some things that I just can’t accept, and I don’t understand why you do accept them. But I don’t, I know you’re not evil, I would never think something like that. You don’t- I’m not delusional, I know all Madoka wants is peace, and I’d never do anything to jeopardize that. I just-,”

Sayaka exhales heavily through her nose and closes her eyes briefly.

“What do you even talk about?” she demands, “When you’re here with, with her? What do the two of you even talk about?”

“Mostly, I just complain at her about everything,” Kyouko replies, after a moment’s hesitation, “She’s a good listener. And she doesn’t think I’m a heathen for preferring coffee over tea.” And that’s it, really. She and Homura don’t normally talk about anything deep or intimate. Kyouko complains, Homura listens and offers blunt, witty remarks. They drink coffee. The girls of Homura’s world dance in their endless dream around them. It’s casual.

“I see,” Sayaka says, quieting, “You’re friends.”

Kyouko folds her arms across her chest. “Yes, we are.”

Sayaka lifts her chin a little, swallowing. “I don’t understand it.”

Kyouko sighs and presses a hand to her forehead.

“I don’t understand it,” Sayaka continues, “But I’ll respect it. Because you’re my friend. My good friend. And I don’t want to lose you. I’m sorry for, for seeming so stubborn, like I can’t see further then the end of my own nose. There are things that I believe in, and I’m not going to compromise them, but I’m not going to judge others for what they choose to believe either, it’s not my place.”

“Damn right it’s not,” snorts Kyouko, the tension in her shoulders finally fading away. She steps forwards, closing the distance that had yawned between herself and Sayaka.

“I accept your apology, Sayaka,” she says, sincerely, “And I’m sorry for cussing you out in religious metaphors.”

Sayaka stares at her a few moments, like she’s not sure she believes it. But then a slow, wry smile spreads across her face.

“That was pretty weird, even for you, Kyouko,” she teases, and Kyouko’s face breaks open into an easy grin.

--

Homura feels it as they leave her realm. Kyouko and Sayaka, together.

She supposes that this means it will be awhile before Kyouko visits her again. But that’s alright. This isn’t her place, not really. Kyouko belongs in the world of light with the others. With Mami and Nagisa and-

She’s left her table in the park. She doesn’t normally sit there, except when Kyouko comes to visit. She has her own room in her realm. A small, closed in area. Smaller than her house in Mitakihara. Slightly larger than her room at the convent. A place of solitude that she retreats to whenever she’s not out breaking contracts or taking coffee with Kyouko.

It’s odd then, that she feels someone approaching.

Her room exists in a pocket by itself, undisturbed by the rest of her realm and its residents. No one has access to it but her. No one knows it exists but her. It’s her room. It’s hers.

There’s a knock at the door.

Homura is both unnerved and stunned. She can’t imagine who it could be. Kyouko? No, she doesn’t have the power to find this place. It’s not a place that can be found. The Incubators wouldn’t dare-

The door swings open.

Madoka is standing in the doorway.

The door is open.

Madoka is standing in the doorway.

Madoka is standing in the doorway.

Madoka is-

“I’m sorry for opening the door without your permission,” says the Goddess, eyes hued gold, “But I was afraid you wouldn’t answer.”

If Homura was still capable of sleep, she’d pinch herself to ensure that she was awake. At the moment, she’s not sure if she’s caught in a dream or a nightmare. She hasn’t seen Madoka since the Goddess broke apart the world that Homura created to keep her safe and happy, and restored everything to how it had been before. With her trapped in an endless existence as the Law of Cycles, and the Incubators hungering after a way to control her.

Another attempt at protecting her thwarted. Homura had felt like she was stuck in the time loops again.

And now, Madoka’s here. Standing in her door. Looking at her. Looking at her. She’s looking at Homura. Her eyes are gold.

“May I come in?” Madoka asks softly, and Homura jolts, realizing that she’s staring. Her mouth’s hanging open. Oh.

She swallows thickly and nods, enlarging the dimensions of the room so there’s more space for Madoka and her sweeping gown and her endless hair and-

It’s so hard for Madoka to manifest like this. It’s so hard. Homura knows how hard it is. She knows because she thinks about it, all the time. How Madoka is trapped like this and how most of the time she can’t even talk or touch or feel and how she’s gathered her friends but can rarely spend time with them and how so much of her is just a concept now and it’s not fair.

And now Madoka’s spending the limited time she has manifested as human to come visit Homura? It’s terrible. Homura doesn’t deserve it. It’s terrible. She couldn’t keep Madoka safe and happy and human so all she can do is her second best option and be hated for it. It’s terrible. Madoka must hate her for it, as everyone else does. Madoka must hate her. It’s terrible. Madoka hates her.

She’s staring again. She must stop staring.

“It’s been awhile, hasn’t it, Homura-chan?” Madoka says with a sad smile as she moves into the room. “A very long time.”

Homura doesn’t know what to say. She sits on her chair and plays with her hair, gaze to the side. The floor is black tile. It’s cold under her feet. Madoka’s feet might be cold. She changes it to carpet with a thought. Madoka is looking at her. She’s stopped talking. Homura’s missed Madoka’s voice so much. Everything. She’s missed everything. But she has gotten so good at locking away all of her emotions. Everything. She’s been so good. But it is all hurting now. Everything.

“We’ve stayed away from each other, which was probably for the best,” Madoka continues, evidently accepting that Homura isn’t up to talking, “But I think enough time has passed, don’t you? I think continuing to avoid one another is silly.”

Homura’s head jerks up a little. She looks at the other Goddess, and then looks away. She wants to hold her hand. She wants to hear her laugh. She wants her to leave. Everything is hurting. She hates the colour of the carpet.  

“Kyouko thinks so too, that’s why she’s been visiting,” Madoka says, smiling, “I’m glad she has. I’m glad you haven’t been alone.”

Glad? About that? Homura had gotten the distinct impression that Kyouko was sneaking around behind the Goddess’s back. But of course. Of course of course. There could be nothing that escaped her notice. Not Madoka. And not when Kyouko was one of her favoured girls. Her friend.

“She believes in you, you know that, don’t you?” Madoka continues, “Kyouko. She believes in you. The way-,”

She pauses. “The way that I want to.”

Homura stiffens, and she looks at Madoka for a brief second before looking away again. Too bright. Too bright and beautiful to look at directly on. It’s not Homura’s place anymore. Madoka wants to believe in her? What’s left to believe?

“I do understand it, Homura.” Madoka says quietly, “My wish, my Law of Cycles, it breaks everything the universe preaches about Balance. Disrupts everything the Incubators sought to keep organized. So they came after me. Even as a Goddess, they came after me. And it vexed you so.”

Drove nails through my eyes and dragged claws through the insides of my brain it ate me up inside it gouged out scars and dug hooks in the few parts of me still left undamaged yes it vexed me so yes it did. Homura doesn’t reply.

“The girls who have their contract broken with you don’t disappear,” continues the Goddess, “Because they’re no longer Magical Girls, they leave a body behind. This body becomes a demon spawn. By breaking the contract they invite in the despair I would otherwise save them from. Their souls are protected from it, safe with you, but their bodies take it on, and release it into the world.”

Madoka blows out a heavy sigh, clasping her hands together. “Balance is kept. It’s still tipped in the balance of Hope, but it’s not the way I had it, when it was just me. When I had the scales tipped in such a way that could never be indefinitely managed. I know that now. With you in your role, with the two of us, there’s enough of a balance, between hope and despair and between existential power in general. It keeps the Incubators at bay. They don’t feel as if they’ve been cheated. They leave me alone.”

Yes yes yes that’s it you do understand you get it it was for you it’s always for you I’ll do anything always for you and it doesn’t matter if no one else understands they don’t have to as long as it works.

“I don’t like it,” Madoka says flatly, a bit of a pout to her bottom lip. “And I wish you hadn’t. I wish you hadn’t trapped us in that world and I wish you hadn’t steeped yourself in despair. But I also understand that some wishes aren’t meant to come true, and I, who have made countless wishes in all of the timelines in which I contracted, know very well the feeling of believing your wish was a mistake, that it wasn’t worth dying for. That it made everything worse. I understand the girls who choose you. And I understand your choice as well.”

Homura lifts her gaze up from the carpet at last, and her eyes are shining with tears. She’s breathless, her chest tight, and a sob breaks free from it as Madoka steps forward, taking her hands in hers. Touching her, for the first time in an eternity. She hasn’t touched Madoka in so long. She hasn’t been touched by anyone in so long.

“So I forgive you Homura-chan.” Madoka says, firmly, giving her hands a gentle squeeze. “I forgive you, and I accept the role you’ve made for yourself. You are not my enemy. You are merely the other choice. You are my partner in the keeping of the souls of Magical Girls. You are my partner in the management of death. I forgive you, and I want to be friends again.”

“I-,” Homura’s tries to speak, but her voice cracks, and her throat is closed. She can’t speak. She can’t believe this is really happening. Madoka is holding her hands. They’re so soft. Madoka is right in front of her, looking upon her kindly. Kindly. She doesn’t hate Homura. She doesn’t hate her.

Homura begins to cry.

“Thank you,” she sobs, “I-I don’t know if I deserve it. I don’t know if I’m right. B-but I won’t change it, not for anything. I will keep protecting you in any way I can. I-It’s all I have.” It’s all she’s had for so, so long.

“Not true, Homura-chan,” Madoka says softly, brushing one gloved hand against her cheek, “You have me, and Kyouko-chan. And one day they’ll come around, and you’ll have Nagisa-chan and Mami-san and Sayaka-chan as well. I know it. We could never quite manage to get ourselves all together in life, but we’ll do it in death. I know we will.”

Homura rubs her hands across her eyes. “Yes,” she says breathlessly, leaning into Madoka’s touch. “In death, we’ll find happiness.”