Kyoko is the first person to kiss Homura, really kiss her, their faces smashed together, Kyoko’s tongue so far down Homura’s throat Homura can hardly breathe. It’s all right; Homura doesn’t need to breathe, she just needs more of Kyoko, more of this kiss.
They’re in an alley near the centre of Mitakihara, the sky just beginning to turn pink with the dawn. They’ve won, but barely, and Homura’s heart is pounding in her chest from the exertion of battle. She’d trailed Kyoko into the alley, and when she’d turned around, Homura had been directly behind her, their lips nearly touching already.
So this kiss isn’t entirely Kyoko’s idea, and Homura is definitely involved, backed gladly against the side of a building, hands pulling at Kyoko’s hair, pulling her in, until something inside her breaks. Then there’s a blur, and Kyoko, lightning-fast, pins Homura to the wall, the handle-end of her spear pressed into Homura’s breastbone. It hurts.
I must have slapped her, Homura thinks. She tastes blood, hot and metallic against her tongue. Or bit her, I must have bit her. I must have done it for Sayaka. She wipes her mouth and says, I thought you only kiss Mami.
Kyoko snorts. She jabs Homura’s chest and grins, sharply. I kiss whoever I want, she says. Her eyes narrow. And I only kiss people who want to be kissed.
Homura has spent weeks wondering what it would be like to kiss Kyoko, wondering about that snag tooth, if she would taste like apples. Homura doesn’t even like apples, but she doesn’t—she doesn’t want to wonder, she wants to know. She covers Kyoko’s hand with her own and together they move the spear away from Homura’s chest. Homura touches Kyoko’s hair, lightly this time, and kisses her again.
Kyoko’s mouth responds to the pressure of her own. Her eyes are on Homura, calculating. Homura has seen the way Kyoko and Mami look at each other, and it’s not any way Kyoko has ever looked at Homura, but she’s learning to make do.
She closes her eyes and leans closer, kisses Kyoko less gently. An icy breeze wafts up between them, under Homura’s blouse, and curls up against the mark on her chest that’s beginning to swell. Homura feels first a chill, and then nothing at all.
:: :: ::
It’s an unusually hot night for this time of year, and Homura is restless. She props herself up on one elbow and studies Mami, slumbering beside her, naked except for a mostly-unbuttoned school blouse. They attend the same academic high school (though Mami, older, will be gone next year), and Homura spends most of what little free time she has studying for a future she doesn’t actually believe in. Hope is just as academic as mathematics and science, really. And yet.
Homura reaches for the light. Mami had been crying again earlier, tears she hadn’t bothered to hide from Homura, and her face looks damp still. Homura hasn’t cried. She worries she used up all her tears years ago, that she’ll never cry again, but whenever she thinks about it her chest tightens in fear, so she keeps telling herself she just hasn’t cried yet. Mami’s curls hang limply around her face or else stick to her flushed cheeks. Homura feels suddenly claustrophobic.
She gets up on wobbly legs, puts on underwear and the shirt she was wearing before, and tries to open the bedroom window. It’s stuck and won’t slide, no matter how much Homura pushes. She tries pulling from the other angle, and that doesn’t work either, so she leaves it and is looking for an electric fan when she hears a small pop coming from the recalcitrant window. It slides open easily now, and Homura shakes her head in disbelief. She leans out and sucks in the city air. It’s clearer and cooler than she’s expecting, and she stays by the window for a few minutes before reluctantly moving aside to let the air circulate.
Homura pours herself some green ice tea and curls up in the comfortable chair next to Mami’s bed. She has homework, but her physics book doesn’t get opened, and she just sits, listening to Mami breathe and to the sounds of the city at night, never quiet. She aches, but not unpleasantly. The bedside lamp throws pleasing shadows on the walls and ceiling. Mami’s apartment feels like a place where people could live cosily, even though it’s always been just Mami. Homura doesn’t think Kyoko had ever moved in, not really. She watches as Mami, still asleep, rolls onto her side and flings one arm over Homura’s empty pillow.
Everyone’s first lover should probably be like Mami, she thinks: kind and patient and generous. More skilled than oneself. Though Homura wonders if there might not be something, too, to fumbling about and muddling through with someone just as clueless as you. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to be always so far ahead, she thinks, maybe we could have caught up, together.
Homura starts crying then: silently, so she won’t wake Mami.
:: :: ::
Her first girlfriend is her classmate, Hitomi. Their relationship is based, on Homura’s part, entirely on that fact that Hitomi is pretty and a good kisser and lets Homura put her mouth between her legs. She has a small scar on her hip, like a tiny birthmark, that Homura always kisses on her way up or down her body, and she sounds so beautiful when she comes that it almost makes up for everything else.
She has no idea how Hitomi feels about her, other than ashamed; Hitomi never acknowledges her outside of their lunchtime assignations, and Homura remembers, vaguely, Madoka or Sayaka or someone mentioning years ago that Hitomi had always wrinkled her nose at girls who liked other girls.
She’s a pretty lousy girlfriend, but then, so is Homura.
If they were in a mathematical equation, they would cancel each other out and make a positive, but they aren’t, so they don’t. Homura wonders under what circumstances they could. Perhaps within the magical witches’ barriers of her youth. Perhaps not. And she wouldn’t wish her life, even now, on anyone; she’s had to warn Kuuybey off Hitomi as it is.
She doesn’t miss witches, not exactly, not even when she compares them to the beasts that stalk Mitakihara today. Hitomi doesn’t ask questions about where Homura disappears to so often, and Homura doesn’t ask which came first, Hitomi’s break-up with her long-time violin-prodigy boyfriend, or her general—rebellion, is the word, Homura supposes. By the time they start going out, Hitomi has shaved off most of her hair, leaving only a long, soft fringe, and has stopped going to tea ceremony and Japanese dance and all her other extra-curricular activities.
They’re in their last year of high school and Homura doesn’t know how Hitomi is going to pass the university entrance exams or even graduate, because she’s certainly not concentrating her studies either. Homura has her sights set on a prestigious private university with a strong theoretical physics program. She doesn’t know what Hitomi’s plans are. They don’t really talk which is one of the attractions as far as Homura is concerned.
They see each other most days at lunchtime. They meet on the roof of the high school, which is enclosed by the same high chain link fence Homura remembers from middle school. There is one door, which sometimes slams shut seemly of its own accord. Homura always starts when this happens, before turning her attention back to Hitomi.
She assumes Hitomi doesn’t remember Madoka at all, until the day she breaks off a kiss to finger Homura’s hair ribbon, an odd expression on her face. Her hand, when Homura pushes it out of the way, is trembling.
Homura avoids Hitomi for a week after that, eating her lunch in the classroom with everyone else, until the day Hitomi corners her outside of homeroom and asks how she is. Her eyes, half-hidden under her fringe, are worried.
Homura doesn’t know how to admit she misses Hitomi, but when she goes to the roof later, Hitomi shares her bento with her because she forgot her lunch, and holds her hand while Homura kisses her neck, and Homura doesn’t have to say anything at all. She remembers seeing other students up here before she started going out with Hitomi, but it strikes her, that day, that she hasn’t seen anyone else on the roof in ages.
Hitomi breaks up with her a couple of weeks later and Homura hears that she’s back with her old boyfriend, the prodigy. So few people at school are going out with anyone that the reunion is major news for days, Hitomi and Kamijou’s names on everyone’s lips everywhere Homura goes.
Now when they meet, Hitomi will sometimes say hello, Akemi-san, and when she does, Homura will say hello back.
She will not say, I only went out with you because all my friends are dead. I only kissed you because there is nobody else left.
:: :: ::
The first time Homura tells anyone about Madoka she is on a twelve-hour flight from Tokyo to London. She’s just spent the better part of four years studying theory, two of them with Fugisaki himself, but the only place even considering field drops is Oxford. Kuuybey warned her, in his mild way, that she is still under contract, but Homura doesn’t see any reason for England to be under fewer evil attacks than Japan, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.
This is not exactly Homura’s first flight, but it’s her first time on an airplane and she looks around, sizing it up. She has an aisle seat, in case of a disturbance, plus she’ll be able to get up and stretch her legs. This is something she should do, according to the reading she’s done. She remembers she should drink lots of fluids and takes a sip from the overpriced bottle of water she’d purchased at the airport.
Several of her fellow undergraduates will be joining Homura’s graduate program, and one of them is on her flight; she’d successfully avoided him in the departure lounge, but now she can see the back of his head, three aisles up, two seats over. Luckily his nearest toilets are on his far side. She’ll have to hope that if he gets up, he doesn’t see her on the way back to his seat.
Homura had had to keep her head down and study hard at university to get this far, and she has farther still to go. Time travel is an extremely competitive field. She still needs to be picked as a candidate for drops. She can’t afford distractions like friends and even small talk.
The plane departs, and when they level off, Homura tips her seat as far back as it will go and digs out her facemask. She doesn’t imagine she’ll get much rest, not with the roar from the engines, not to mention the other passengers, but she can at least try to relax. When she closes her eyes though, she finds that the noise has melted away as if by magic, and she sleeps after all.
Homura wakes up just before they begin their descent into London. She gets up to go pee and gets back to her seat just as the fasten seatbelts sign blinks on. She feels almost awake as she peers past the middle-aged Japanese woman sitting next to her. She sees only clouds and the occasional blue patch when she looks out the window. She sits back, obscurely disappointed.
The woman smiles and asks her if she slept well, if this is her first trip to London. Homura smiles back and says yes and yes, it is, and she discovers that the woman’s son works for a London investment firm and that he and his wife have a new baby boy, five months old, and that she hopes he’ll be at the airport when her plane lands this time. My son, not my grandson. Though it would be nice for my grandson to be here, too.
I’m meeting an old friend, Homura says impulsively. My first love, she adds, more quietly. She looks across the aisle and sees roads and trees and buildings though the opposite window, all in miniature and at a crazy angle.
How wonderful, just like a story, the woman exclaims, and presses Homura for the names of her favourite dramas.
Homura grips the arms of her seat as they hit the runway and hopes it won’t be too much longer now until she sees Madoka again.
:: :: ::