Homura's still shaking with excitement the next day. The witch from yesterday, and the fight against it, still seemed unreal. Yet when she enters the classroom and sees Madoka smiling at her, she knows it wasn't simply a twisted dream.
She smiles back to Madoka and makes her way to her desk. She clutches her hands together and takes a deep breath. Then she asks, "Can I walk home with you today?"
Madoka's smile seems even brighter when she answers back; "I'd love to."
"T-Thank you." Homura swallows hard, her heart pounding in her chest as she moves to her seat. Her whole body is still thrumming, and she spends the class watching Madoka and remembering the way she fought yesterday.
The day is far too long. Finally, the final bell rings and grabs her things. In the next instant she's by Madoka's desk. Madoka looks up at her and blinks. Then she laughs. "Lets go."
Homura clutches her school bag a little more tightly and nods, following Madoka out of the classroom. They talk about Madoka's family at first. Her mother works as a competative business woman and her father takes care of her little brother at home. They all sound like kind, good people, same as Madoka.
"What about your family, Homura?" Madoka turns to her, giving her an expectant smile.
"My family is..." Homura swallows hard and looks down, her hands shaking.
"Ah, that's okay. You don't have to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable." Madoka looks away.
They're quiet for a long time and Homura curses herself for it. Then Madoka breaks the silence. "Ah, there he is." Then she's rushing ahead and kneeling in front of a small black cat.
Homura comes and kneels beside her. The cat's fur is dusty and matted, and there isn't a collar on him. Obviously a stray. Madoka scratches under the cat's chin and he purrs back happily.
"Are you taking care of him?" Homura asks, hesitantly reaching out to stroke the top of his head.
"Mhm. I try to do what I can." Madoka smiles a bit sadly. "Mama's allergic to cats, so I can't bring him home. I should've made that my wish."
The wish. Mami and Madoka told her how they made wishes in exchange for their powers and responsibilities as Puella Magi, though neither one of them told her what they had wished for.
The cat nuzzles up against her finger tips and Homura scratches behind its ears, bits of dirt and fur getting under her fingernails. She doesn't mind it. "What did you wish for, Madoka?"
"Don't tell Mami but..." Madoka laughs nervously. "He got hit by a car, so I wished he could live."
Homura frowns. "Why wouldn't you want Mami to know?"
"She'd say I wasted my wish." Madoka smiles sadly. "You only get one wish so you should think it through carefully and make sure its worth it."
Homura pulls heer hand back from the cat and turns to Madoka. "I think it was a good wish. You made your wish to help someone. That's what a Puella Magi is supposed to do."
"Mhm." Madoka nods, though her smile is still sad. "That's what we should do. Use our wishes and powers to help others."
They're quiet for a long moment. Then Homura is the one to break the silence. "You're a kind person, Madoka. One day, I want to be like you."
Madoka smiles a bit wider, but the sadness doesn't fade from it.
Madoka's lying on the ground, water soaking through her dress. Her skin is palm and cool to the touch. Her soul gem lies next to her, shattered.
And as Homura cries, Kyubey sits on the pillar above them, tail swaying and smiling -- always smiling. "Do you want to make a wish, Homura?"
She doesn't even need to think of it before the words are out of her mouth. She knows what her wish is.
One of the things Homura learns as a Puella Magi is that no-one can protect everyone. After watching Sayaka try and fail, she learns that Puella Magi aren't meant to protect at all. And Madoka's there to learn that lesson with her.
Homura fails to protect her that time, watching her twist and writhe as her soul gem blackens. Homura clutches the gun tightly and aims, unable to hold back her scream as she pulls the trigger.
She'll grant Madoka's last wish herself, so she will never have to suffer again.
Homura begins each timeline by arriving at Madoka's home, warning her not to make her wish before disappears into the night. The warning is never heeded.
Madoka finds the cat and makes the same wish again. Each timeline afterwards, Homura deals with the cat herself.
The next time, Madoka loses herself in a witch's field. Before she has the chance to make her wish, she dies. Each timeline afterwards, Homura makes certain to kill the witch herself before Madoka can die again.
The time after that, Madoka finds her fighting -- and losing. She makes her wish, for Homura's sake. Soon afterwards, Madoka is a witch.
When Madoka does not die, she wishes and Homura starts over each time. She loses count of the times she sees Madoka die, the times she finds her smiling as a proud Puella Magi, and the times she's crying in despair with a blackened soul gem.
Homura sometimes regrets her first, foolish wish. Now, she wishes for a timeline where Madoka would have never needed to suffer. Wishes are meaningless though, and Homura takes action once again, turning the clock and repeating the cycle over and over and over again.
Homura's soul gem is cracked and blackened, her body broken and her hope gone. She clutches her shield tightly, then lets go. All she has done is cause Madoka more suffering.
Still, she reaches out and tries one last time to stop it.
And Madoka makes her last wish.
Homura wakes up in the hospital bed, broken images from her dreams still running through her head. Today is the day that she is to be released so she doesn't have the time to think of much of it, but the heavy lonely feeling remains.
The return trip home is uneventful. Homura pays the taxi driver and steps up to her front door, her hands shaking as she pulls out her key. Today, she will begin living in this apartment all on her own with no-one else. It's enough to make her want to cry.
"Welcome home, Homura," a voice says as she opens the door. Inside is a girl dressed in pink, with a black cat twining itself around her legs. "I know you don't remember me, but I also know that you must be lonely." She smiles sweetly and steps up to Homura, pulling her into a hug. "Do you mind if we stay here for a little while?"
Tears well up in Homura's eyes and she drops her things. "I wish you can stay forever, Madoka."
Madoka laughs and strokes her hair. "Then I'll make that wish come true." Then she takes Homura's hand and leads her inside.