ptahrrific: Madoka preparing to take on Walpurgis (madoka magica)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2012-12-01 11:15 am

Madoka Magica | Homura, Madoka | PG-13 | Persephone's Waltz (3)

Title: Persephone's Waltz, Chapter 3: If I write Mama a letter....
Characters/Pairings: Homura, Madoka
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer/Warnings: See table of contents.

Homura reveals a few more pieces of information, and Madoka tries to come up with a more subtle plan.


March 27

On the second page of her notebook, Madoka started a set of columns, labeled "Do Shower" and "Do Not Shower."

In the "Do" column she jotted "I will feel better if I am clean," "Not showering won't get me out any faster," and "There is not much ventilation in here." Facing these under "Do Not" were "Strawberry soap" and "Unlike food, showering is not an essential" "Perhaps the smell will keep Homura away."

She chewed on the pen for a moment, then crossed out that last item and added to the "Do" column: "If the smell keeps Homura away, I will have fewer chances to talk sense into her."

After all, Homura didn't seem evil. Crazy, yes, but there were all kinds of treatments for that, weren't there? And there were some disorders that got worse for a while and then better again. If Homura was having an episode like that, she would start to come out of it on her own. If Madoka could urge her in that direction, promise not to get her in trouble if she in turn promised to see a doctor....

If only she had some kind of special talent for psychiatry! Or anything else, for that matter. That might be the strangest part of Homura's delusion: the idea that a completely ordinary, unremarkable girl like Madoka would be the target of some kind of danger.

Another idea struck her, and to the "Do" column she added "My family will be less worried if I am clean and healthy-looking when I am found." She had vague images of news stories comparing the "before" images of kidnapped children, eyes bright and faces round with smiles, to gaunt "after" pictures with stringy hair and sullen, haunted expressions. It wouldn't get so bad after only a couple of days, of course, but the less she put Mama and Papa in mind of those nightmares, the better.

So there it was, laid out on paper in plain Japanese: a five-to-two tally in favor of showering. Even if her gut still twisted at the first "Do Not" item, at the thought of using more of that stalkerish soap, much less of putting on one of those perfectly chosen outfits afterward.

Madoka looked over the list one last time, then tore the page out of the notepad and took it with her into the bathroom. It floated in shreds on the surface of the toilet bowl while she took a brisk shower, its pieces slowly softening into pulp. When her face and body had been thoroughly scrubbed she stepped out onto the tiles, wrapped a fluffy towel around herself, and flushed.


The knock on the door echoed down the steps, nearly startling Madoka into falling off the bed. "A-Akemi-san!" she stammered, scrambling to the foot of the stairs.

Homura stood at the top of the steps, silhouetted against the bright light of the room above. If she noticed that Madoka had exchanged the musty school uniform for a blue-and-yellow striped shirt and cutoff shorts, it didn't show on her face. "Kaname Madoka. I can't stay long. Is there anything I need to bring you?"

Madoka's pulse began to race. Had her escape attempts made Homura rethink the idea of spending time with her? Even such a fragile link to the outside world was better than none at all. "W-when will you come back?"

"Tomorrow. At six, the same as today."

"Then, no. I don't need anything."

"All right. Have you looked at the computer yet?"

"Only a little," stammered Madoka. She had checked its clock, confirmed it had no Internet connection, and given it up in favor of making herself lunch. Or whatever it was called when your first meal of the day was in the afternoon.

"There's a game on the desktop," said Homura. "Give it a try."

She closed the door without saying goodbye.


After several fruitless rounds of Kaguya Super Contract Z, Madoka's hand began to cramp. She pushed the mouse away and got to her feet, walking a tight circle on the free parts of the floor.

The walk to school had always felt like a chore, and even when it came to getting to the mall or visiting one of her friends, the trip was the least interesting part. Gym had never been her best subject; she had a lot of energy but no coordination, and not much strength or ability to aim. But there was a restlessness eating her now, and somehow she recognized it as a craving for exercise.

One thing had reassured her about the game: it didn't have the spooky connection to her tastes that defined everything else Homura had provided. It was a simple Flash game with a straightforward goal, and still it required more speed and strategy than Madoka possessed.

The story was kind of cute. Bamboo shoots sprang up around the screen; you clicked them to "Contract" them, at which point they turned into "Princesses" and could be dragged across the screen to confront the evil "Shadows," which they automatically struck down with "Moonlight." But if a Princess used up all her Moonlight, she became a Shadow herself, and you had to Contract another and move her over to fight it.

She lasted a little longer in each round before running out of Princesses. There didn't seem to be anything else to the game, though, and after the third she lost interest.

In the absence of the game's cheery background music, the silence in the rest of the room began to feel smothering. She paused in her frantic pacing to see if the computer had a music folder, and tried not to be more terrified than usual when she found a neatly organized list of songs by all her favorite idols.

She loaded up an energetic Mars Reiko album, and went back to pacing.


March 28

Again Madoka slept with the lights on, covers and stuffed animals stacked over her head to let in air but keep her face shadowed. This time, when she woke, she was drained, but with a plan.

By now she must have been reported missing, and the police would be searching. They'd have to find her soon enough. But that was no reason she couldn't help them along a bit. She would ask Homura to sneak a message to her mother, and even though Homura wouldn't deliver it in person, she would hide within the text a cunning hint about her captor's identity.

All she had to do was figure out how to be cunning.

She tried to remember the way Homura had written her name in class on Friday. "Akemi" was in the characters for "daybreak" and "beauty." "Homura"...that had been in hiragana, right? But you could also write it with the kanji for "heart on fire." Could she work that into a normal letter without sounding strange?

Lying on her stomach on the mattress, she scribbled ideas on the top free page of her notepad, switching between pen and fork to work her way through a slice of the chocolate cake at the same time. Just one slice. Enough to keep her spirits up; not enough to leave her trapped with a stomachache or a sugar high.

Just because she's giving you cake, that doesn't mean you should let your guard down, warned her inner Sayaka.

I'll remember, Madoka assured her.

Well before six o'clock, she tore out this page too, hiding it under her mattress. She was filling the next sheet with innocent drawings (space princesses in long gowns, cute magical witches in wide pointed hats) when the knock arrived.

The white and purple uniform looked freshly washed, while the jelly-filled pastries in a box in her hand looked fresh from the oven. Homura obligingly cut a piece off one and ate it before handing the rest to Madoka. It was blueberry, not her favorite flavor but certainly delicious.

"You can sit down if you like," said Madoka shakily, waving Homura to the desk chair and seating herself on the mattress.

With crystalline grace Homura took the seat. Out of the corner of her eye, Madoka noticed along the way that the other girl's skirt and bow had been repaired. Or was this a completely new uniform? Was Homura dipping into a vast collection of identical cosplay outfits?

Madoka licked a trail of jam from the first pastry off her fingers, while Homura set into a rhythm of cutting a bite from each of the others and arranging the remainders on a plate. She seemed completely intent on the task, and it gave Madoka a shock when she spoke without looking up: "Would you like the notes?"

"W-what notes?"

"From class. I prepared a copy of Saturday's and today's notes, and will continue making copies for you, if you want them."

"You're still going to school?" blurted Madoka through her half-chewed food.

"Of course. It would be suspicious if I didn't."

In spite of the spectacle it made, Madoka stared openmouthed. That Homura could have the gall to show her face in front of Madoka's friends the day after locking her up....

She covered her mouth and swallowed, face red. Be cunning, remember? Ignore it. Act friendly.

"No one would blame you if you didn't keep up with your studies during the month you went missing," continued Homura, oblivious. "But I know you're a diligent student, and the routine might help you feel more comfortable."

The worst of it was, Homura was right. Much as Madoka loved vacations and days when school was canceled due to weather, the idea of skipping existing schoolwork that she was perfectly capable of doing filled her with guilt. "I...I'd like them, yes. Th-thank you."

Until now, she hadn't paid much attention to the shield buckled onto Homura's arm. It was well-crafted for a cosplay accessory, with a polished shine and strange, intricate patterns etched into the surface, but she had assumed it was little more than a pretty prop. When Homura retrieved a thumb drive on a violet lanyard from underneath it, Madoka realized it had some kind of pouch attached. Or maybe the whole inside was hollow: a hiding place, safe from any but the most creative pickpockets.

The lanyard coiled around the USB drive like the tail of a rattlesnake as it slid from Homura's hand onto the desk. "You can copy the files onto this computer," she said, standing up. "No need to hurry. I have plenty more."

"Akemi-san!" exclaimed Madoka, jumping to her feet along with Homura. "Will you do one more thing for me?"

"I told you before. I'll bring you anything you need."

"It's not something to bring me, though. If I write Mama a letter...."

She trailed off, starting to choke up. It could have been a clever strategy to play on Homura's pity, if it hadn't been entirely natural.

"You know I'd have to read it first," said Homura, with what might have been the faintest gleam of sympathy.

"Of course. I won't try to give away where I am! I'll tell her I'm with a friend somewhere!" On a beach, maybe, with a mention of how beautiful the sun over the ocean was at daybreak. "I just...she'll think I've been abducted, or killed, she'll be so scared...and Papa and Tatsuya-kun too...."

With her vision now swimming, Madoka almost missed Homura's nod. "You can write it. Don't say anything at all about where you are, true or not. I'll look at it when I visit you tomorrow, at six. If it needs to be rewritten, I'll tell you why. When it passes inspection, I'll arrange for your family to get it."


Halfway through reviewing the algebra notes, Madoka was struck by the image of Saotome-sensei breaking the news of her disappearance to the class. Hitomi had cried, she was sure. Sayaka had probably laughed it off, and loudly announced that Madoka was probably playing some sort of prank, she'd be back on Monday, no reason to worry, now how about those functions?

A forcefully cheerful appearance was always the first sign Sayaka felt like falling to pieces inside. Her smile when talking about Kamijou sometimes broke Madoka's heart.

The computer screen swam before her eyes. She wrapped herself around Panda-san and stayed there for a while, not moving until well after the brief swell of tears had dried.


March 29

Dear Mama and Papa,

I know you must be very worried. Please forgive me! I can't say what's going on, but I promise that I am safe and well. I promise to get lots of sleep and eat balanced meals, though I miss Papa-san's cooking already. You can let my friends and Saotome-sensei know that there is nothing to be afraid of.

When you miss me, please console yourselves with the beautiful family photos on your bureau, especially the one of us playing on the beach at daybreak. And know that I will be back just as soon as I can.

All my love to you and Tatsuya-kun,
Madoka ♥

She read through the letter three times, considering whether it was finally polished to satisfaction, or doomed to be added to the string of crumpled drafts that littered the floor. The question was rendered moot when she looked at the clock. Homura would be here any second.

What had her parents told Tatsuya? Was he old enough to understand what it meant that his sister was missing? His whole world was made up of a collection of simple routines and sweet, uncomplicated understandings; as far as he was concerned, a teenage girl's life of school trips and sleepovers, late nights and holidays, simply meant that she vanished and reappeared all the time for reasons nobody bothered to explain to him. Maybe he wouldn't be able to recognize that this time was different.

Or maybe, in an effort not to scare him, nobody had told him. Madoka couldn't remember when she had first understood what death was. It might be kinder not to force a little boy into the realization so soon.

Homura didn't arrive with food this time, just a second USB drive, which she placed without preamble on the desk. Madoka thrust the folded slip of paper at her, the gesture oddly like a girl presenting a crush with a love letter. Before Homura could examine it, she blurted, "Akemi-san, please...tell me something. You say I'm in danger, right? Don't I deserve to know how?"

"It's complicated," said Homura without missing a beat.

"So make it simple!" begged Madoka. "I know I'm not as smart as some people, but I'm sure if I tried—"

"Stop that," snapped Homura. Her expression hardly moved, but her voice that could have flash-frozen crops. "You are as intelligent and perceptive as anyone I've ever known, Kaname Madoka, and more than a lot of them. Don't you dare put yourself down."

Madoka cringed. "O-okay."

Homura took a deep breath. When she let it out, she was cool and composed once more.

"You've seen that I have certain...powers," she said, fingering the crease of the letter. "That I can transport myself before your eyes."

"Yes." Madoka didn't point out that, if she hadn't recognized this, she would still be trying to tackle Homura every chance she got.

"It's magic."

To her surprise, Madoka found herself nodding with real acceptance. It was impossible. But being solid enough to grab one minute and disappearing the next was also impossible, and magic was as good an explanation as any.

"I'm a puella magi. A soldier in a war that science is powerless to explain. I have other abilities as well."

"Mind-reading?" blurted Madoka. It would explain so much. It would also torpedo her cunning plan.

Homura looked as close to startled as Madoka had yet seen her. "No. But that was a good guess."

It was an easy guess, Madoka wanted to protest. But Homura might take that as putting herself down, so she bit her tongue and nodded, hoping the other girl would move on.

"The enemies I fight are called witches. They drain the good feelings from the humans around them, and often kill people who stumble into their secret domains, which are called barriers."

"So I...I'm in danger from a witch?"

"No. You're in danger from an even worse enemy. A being called the Incubator."

The way she said the name gave Madoka the shivers. "And what does the Incubator do?" she asked, knees weak.

"I'll explain more tomorrow," said Homura, and opened the letter.

She read in perfect stillness except for the motion of her eyes as they tracked up and down the page. Madoka hardly dared breathe.

Then she said, "There are no photos of you at the beach on your parents' bureau."

Madoka burst into a high-pitched laugh that sounded painfully fake even to her. "W-what are you saying? Of course there is!" she babbled, voice cracking. "You're such a joker, Akemi-san! What would you know about the inside of my house, anyway?"

Homura regarded her so calmly that Madoka had a wild moment of wondering if her frantic reaction had even registered as strange. Maybe, just maybe, Homura was so detached from normal human reactions that—

"How can you think of yourself as unintelligent?" said Homura, handing the letter back. "It was a good plan. You underestimated how well I knew your home, but that was a flaw of misinformation, not of stupidity."

Shivering for an entirely different reason, Madoka clasped her hands against her chest, as if by refusing to take the paper she would force Homura to deliver it. She couldn't imagine why Homura was bothering to be kind. The ploy had been obvious, she'd leaped to it too soon and ruined her chances entirely, Mama would stay up until dawn again waiting by the phone while Papa kept having to check himself to avoid crying where Tatsuya could hear....

Homura was still talking. Madoka blinked back tears. "Sorry?"

"Rewrite it," repeated Homura. "I'll be back in half an hour for a version I can deliver."


The final, hint-free rewrite was in sketchier handwriting than its nearest ancestor: the characters slanted badly, and it was only with a fierce effort that none of the ink had ended up smudged. Madoka pulled herself together in time for Homura's return, and prayed it wouldn't take long.

Homura only scanned this letter for a few seconds before tucking it into the hidden pouch in her shield. "Did you play the game, Kaname-san?"

"Game?" stammered Madoka. Was Homura accusing her of trying to play another trick? This letter was clean, it truly was, all she wanted was for it to get to her family....

"The one on the computer." The cartoonish name sounded all wrong in a voice as somber as hers. "Kaguya Super Contract Z."

"Oh! Yes, I tried it," said Madoka, wracking her brain for anything that would explain this newfound penchant for small talk. "It was...difficult, I...."

"If you can win it," interrupted Homura, "I'll let you go free early."

Her message delivered, she didn't bother with the charade of the stairs, but simply vanished on the spot.
shanejayell: (Default)

[personal profile] shanejayell 2012-12-01 05:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Oooh. Very clever....
shanejayell: (Default)

[personal profile] shanejayell 2012-12-02 07:52 am (UTC)(link)
Bit of all of the above. You're clever for creating this scenario, Homura's ideogame is clever and Madoka is trying to be clever....
masu_trout: Delicious. ((PMMM) Mami *Lost My Head*)

[personal profile] masu_trout 2012-12-01 06:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh man, I love where this story is going. Poor Madoka! And your description of Kaguya Super Contract Z makes me want to go play a round of the Incubator game, haha.
shiba: <user user=iconomicon> ( edited ) (Default)

[personal profile] shiba 2012-12-04 03:41 pm (UTC)(link)
I just want to express my appreciation for not only this fic but also the stealth reference to PGSM, love it!

[personal profile] purplekitte 2013-02-23 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
I too lol-ed so hard at the Mars Reiko reference. These little things.