2017-03-03 - Intermezzo Charlotte (Charlotte's Web 2.5)

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Title: Intermezzo Charlotte

Mami finds Madoka, lost in a labyrinth. Madoka finds her wish.


Mami Tomoe, Madoka Kaname


Charlotte's Labyrinth

OOC - IC Date:

03-03-2017 - 01-01-2015

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Her...nest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFskRPKB9pM

Madoka hid in the morgue.

It was still a morgue when she went inside -- dashing into the hospital, into shelter, to get away from the familiar, was a really good idea. Except for how it was a nurse familiar. That made it a really bad idea.

But she had a few minutes to lose herself within figuratively but not literally labyrinthine hallways. Nothing but luck led her downstairs instead of up, but instinct turned her away from the wet labs, from the radiation machines, down another level further where everything was still, and quiet, and cold. Where nurses do not go.

She sat in a corner of the room, trying not to look at the corpses, and trying not to look at the liquid dripping from the ceiling, which is prismatic and strange in the worst way. Every time a drop hits the puddle, it all becomes a new cheerful, childish color, and she flinches. Eventually the drips become streams. Eventually it laps at her toes. By then, all the corpses have Yaori's face, except for the ones that have Sayaka's.

Eventually she drowns.


She keeps her head down, tucked up between her knees, hands wrapped around her own ankles. She tries not to think about anything, tries not to be anything. Witches are roused by using magic, but she's the least magic thing in the world. There's no one to see here -- just another corpse.

Sometimes she hears noises, muffled and far away; occasionally, something stirs the little pink hairs at the nape of her neck, the ones too short to be contained by her favorite red ribbons, and she wonders if she is moving, or if it's something else. She doesn't ever look. There's no point in looking. Anything she could see would be worse than what's behind her eyelids. Her eyes are wide shut.

Corpses can't dream. They can't meditate either but she tries. She was never any good at it, breathing at the wrong rates and giggling when the PE teacher caught her sneaking looks at Sayaka and Hitomi on either side of her, and smacked the bottom of her foot.

Is she dreaming of sneaking a peek, or really looking? She can't tell, but the morgue is gone now. She's at a crossroads, lit from above such that her little ball of a shadow casts one in all four directions. Like the drips, its color changes periodically. It can't be good to be here. Things happen at intersections. They can't help themselves.

She can't help herself, as the nurses approach her from every direction, a vanguard of little round eyethings as escort, rainbowed syringes outstretched.

She screams.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

In this, right now, Mami Tomoe is alone.

Mami would never say that she was better off alone. She would never indicate that that sort of lonely approach was superior for her, had any benefit... Except if she had to. Except if she saw it as the only way. And in this, it is:

Mami Tomoe, not at all an ordinary girl, hunts faster with the ability to keep moving on her own two feet, stay mobile, pay attention to nothing but the hunt. Against a Witch, it's worth it to go more slowly for more help, but Mami's not searching for the Witch.

Mami Tomoe is searching for Madoka Kaname, and her heart is in her throat as she takes light steps, having turned a corner away from safety and strength in numbers, moving at instinct--at whim--at guesswork--up instead of down. She could have moved downward, and then what would have happened? Here, her steps shouldn't be so light in this bizarre place, with the heaviness of who's missing. But years of practice overcoming fear help her here, too, as obscene as that feels.

...But there's no way for Madoka to see her; Mami has no magic to hunt for an ordinary girl. Nevertheless...

The nurses approach from all directions. Madoka screams. It's a full heatbeat before the explosions begin. All at once, brilliant golden bullets fly in the center of the strange spoon heads of the Familiars, while Mami's arm slips around her pink-haired friend protectively.

Madoka, her normal friend. Her tie to that world. Precious Madoka.

A wave of Mami's arm as she starts firing more shining rifles in a cacophony of gunfire, against each of these round eye things fired more than once, so many guns at once that she is faintly aglow with the magic of it. She fires with a ferocity barely covered by her elegant motions.

Mami isn't much for meditating either. She looks the same way she did as the day she met Madoka... except for her expression.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka-chan hangs on. The familiars, an existential threat to her soul and sanity, are just mayflies to Mami, at least in this quantity, and silence falls back over this part of the labyrinth almost as quickly as it was broken.

That isn't normal, but there's a lot about this situation that isn't normal -- really, Madoka has far less idea of that than most, by this time of night. The labyrinth is /big/, a statement that rarely has much meaning in such a warped space. It's important here, though. Stillness is the smart Puella Magi's friend, not to mention the hapless civilian's, and the sort of skirmish Mami just had would, on a regular night, be enough to have kicked up the entire hornet's nest for a sequence of nonstop action that would end only in the Witch's death, or...

But not tonight, and after a few seconds of quiet, long enough for Mami to firmly and absolutely affirm that Madoka's heart is pounding, because she can feel it, mashed between their chests, first going a million miles a minute like a little bird's, then gradually, reluctantly, slowing -- after that, Madoka loosens her grip a little bit, and peers around.

She regrets it immediately. The vertigo is bad; there's a bit of a funhouse feel to this particular labyrinth, with twists and turns, ups and downs, in all four directions. No obvious route onwards, or outwards, from the crossroads. Gulping down another wave of panic, she concentrates on a mantra, on something good. The only good thing right now. Golden, beautiful. Her precious friend.

"Mami... Mami... M-Mami..."

Her eyelids droop.

"I-I'm sorry... you had to save me again."

Ah, meaningless self-inflicted guilt. Always a safe refuge for Madoka's feelings, when she doesn't know where else to turn. Which isn't to say she isn't feeling it for real -- it's very real. It's a lot easier to handle than what passes for reality in this place.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami fully expects it to be worse, to have to start running in short order, but there's no point if she can't safeguard Madoka first. But then, it's been awfully quiet on the way up here already; little is normal about this Labyrinth, little is normal about any of this.

But it is still, and Mami lets out a few quick breaths, her own heart beating quickly for her, though not as rabbit fast as her friend's. She's committed now to the Witch's death or hers, if it comes to it... But not...

After the few moments, Mami still hasn't retreated back from Madoka, despite it being fine by now, there being no obvious need to safeguard her. Her weapons are gone from her hand, and she only lets goenoughto allow Madoka to move as she will. It leaes her close enough to try to support her when Madoka seems to panic again.

It's fair to panic, isn't it?

"Madoka-chan..." She waits, and sees that apology, which puts a knife through her hart that Madoka might nto see in her eyes if she can't look up.

"Please," Mami says, "You don't have to apologize. I /chose/ to come for you. I'm just glad you're all right."

She hesitates, "I was so afraid that you wouldn't be."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka isn't going to be the one to lead the way down these technicolor hallways; she will remain at this precipice of possibilities until taken from it. And taken she must be -- they can't stay there forever. Even she seems aware of it, glancing tremulously down each one, over her shoulder...

She's not okay. The thought echoes over and over in her mind, begs to be voiced, but she refuses. She cannot, must not do that to Mami right now. If Mami can march in here alone to come save her from these horrifying monsters, then Madoka can be okay for her. That's a fair exchange, right? It is the least she can do.

She laughs nervously, instead of bursting into tears, but it comes out as more of a snuffle. "I... I... okay. I'm, I guess, I guess I'm glad you keep choosing."

What with the fundamental conflict between the Chevaliers and the Shepherds, she is increasingly aware of the importance of having a Puella Magi choose to care about you. It is a dirty, tainted feeling. It's not why she's Mami's friend... but once you think something like that, you can't unthink it. It just sits there, like a mark on your neck.

Casting about wildly for something else to say, she blurts out, "Can I... can I make you cocoa? After? Enough for all of us..."

For the first time, she wonders where Sayaka is, and Mami can see the panic rising in her eyes again.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It will have to be Mami, but that's just Mami's place. Mami is the one who leads, who rescues, who takes others through danger with her knowledge and because it is what she /does/. So of course Mami will, after just a moment to et Madoka catch her breath.

Mami, frazzled as she is, missed at the time the accidental pressure in her own voice.

But she spots the laughter, spots the little noise. "Madoka-chan--" She starts to say something else but cuts off at those words, at the way Madoka says she 'keeps choosing', and it's soft the way she holds her breath. She can't help but do otherwise, for a few momnts, until Madoka speaks up with something else instead, and shakes her head.

Chooses to. Like a fickle, selfish girl who might not at any time. Like... She knows on some level that...

Mami looks back to Madoka and puts on a smile suddenly, nodding twice. "Yes, of course, I would love that. Sayaka-chan will too, we can drink it together when we're all out of here and back at my apartment after this is taken care of." A pause, "Here, let's start moving." She starts nudging Madoka farther down, walking with her after that, towards the place from which Mami came.

She hesitates, "...Madoka-chan," she says, softly. "You don't think I'd stop coming for you, do you? ...Not really?"

She shouldn't be asking. It's not fair of her. But it's ringing away in her mind.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka winds up walking behind Mami, close enough that the older girl can feel her warmth, and sometimes her breath. There's a rustling noise that comes from her coat's arms, because she keeps twisting her hands together, church and steeple, then untangling them a few seconds later.

It takes too long for her to answer.

"No..." She sniffs, though if it's tearful it can do a pretty good impersonation of an oncoming cold, instead. "I just... I just..."

Her voice is getting smaller and smaller.

"I know you'll never stop coming, because you're so... so kind and wonderful, even if I never made a Contract. Even though... it would make things easier for you if I did. And I... I can't help,"

Her voice is getting higher and higher.

"I can't help feeling guilty... but at the same time, I feel selfish? Because,"


"BecauseI'mjealousofyouandSayaka," she admits, finally. Sniff. "So maybe... maybe I don't deserve you to keep coming. Because I'm not a good friend."

She's stopped walking.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

She may act unconcerned by Labyrinths, but Mami appreciates a little bit of human warmth, and Madoka's presence behind her given that she came here /for/ her is anything but little. Little noiss, little motions, little feelings.

But because of her question, Mami can't really appreciate it. It feels like too long, tugs at her heart and tugs at her lungs as she waits for an answer.


By the time Madoka has stopped, Mami has stopped too, and Madoka can't see her widened eyes the way Mami is turned away from her dear friend. 'Dear friend', as if there can be anything less a form of friendship for Mami, as if there would be anything different here. So feeling that way why...

Mami's head bows. "Madoka..." She hesitates, and folds her hands, "You're really jealous? Even though you haven't..." Turning, Mami shakes her head quickly, and there's a tangle in her heart that shows in her eyes.

"Of course I wanted you to Contract. But that's selfish of /me/. That's..." She stumbles over it, though not in the way that Madoka does; even Mami's hesitations are somehow more elegant.

"It's your decision... and... Do you..." Pause. "Do you think you're the only one who's jealous!?" Mami's fingers curl, but not into a fist; her hand just shakes a little despite herself.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka's the first to look up. In all this time they've spent together, she still hasn't grown at all, not one single inch. And her hands rush forward, her fingers yanking at each other harshly in their haste to replace themselves with Mami's hand instead.

She squeezes her tightest, which is not very tight at all. It is a ten-fingered hug.

Her eyes are full of tears.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami doesn't look up even when Madoka does; the older of the two is lost in her own question, in feeling guilt over voicing it. She's lost until Madoka's hands find hers, and then she blinks first there before looking up at Madoka's face.

Her eyes are not full of tears. Tears are merely the platform on which sits Madoka's reflection in gold. "Madoka..."

"I just assumed that you decided you didn't want to. I can't blame you for that!"

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka shakes her head, voicing a monoconsonant nnnnnn for negatory, still sniffly. But she doesn't elaborate -- she's not interested in her own problems. Not anymore. She sheds them like her tears, blinking up at the girl who is her idol less for her ability to fight monsters, and more for her ability to bake cakes.

Also her perfect hair. It would break Madoka's heart to know Mami cheats with magic.

"I-I, I can't blame you either," she burbles. "All this time... you're always so /brave/ about everything!" It's almost a complaint, but one backhanded well into affectionate territory. "You really... you really wish you could be normal again?"

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami watches Madoka, for each passing moment of that headshaking and sniffling denial, and then some. She needs to know what the other is... thinking, feeling.

...She doesn't plan to mention the times she cheats with her hair.

"You know I'm not that brave," Mami says softly, eyes large. She doesn't have the heart to argue that hard though. Instead she nods quickly, reaches up to place her other hand on the outside of Madoka's. "I... I really do. Living like this... Being in so much danger every day. Not having the time to have a /life/. I'm grateful for what I have, but..." Mami glances down at their hands. "It's greedy, and it's selfish. But I wish I had a life where my most pressing concern was finals."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"It's not -- it's not selfish!" Madoka's frown is ferocious, her outburst fierce. She's no shy kohai, not right now. If anything she sounds like her mother, on the opposite side of the kitchen table at midnight. Whether she's drunk on the scintillating liquid that rose around her in the morgue, or just her own love, it gives her a flushed boldness that feels good to pursue. "You don't... you never /chose/ this. You didn't have a choice. You told us, all along, at the very beginning..."

More tears drip down her cheeks, but they're angry now, angry on Mami's behalf. "And even if you did choose it, it still wouldn't be selfish to want to retire. You've done so much, for so many people. You've saved my life like twenty times!" It would be hyperbole, but it's not. It /should/ be, but it's not. "And I -- I've never saved anyone from anything ever, and I just sit around and feel sorry for myself because I don't have your problems. So don't... don't call yourself greedy or selfish, but even if you were those things, you'd still be my friend and I'd be yours."

The darkness is starting to close in around them, and even unattuned Madoka shifts her weight with the uncomfortable knowledge of danger approaching. Chin up, nose in the air, she starts dragging Mami forwards, taking the lead, for once, even though she has no idea where they're going.

Doesn't matter. It's a labyrinth. They're /supposed/ to be lost.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami's eyes widen in surprise when Madoka boldly answers what she'd said. That ferocity makes her stand up a little straighter, much as that's possible, and it certainly makes her listen.

Her mouth works a little without any answer given and Mami blinks her eyes against wet tears. Not many, but she wipes them away quickly all the same with the back of a half-gloved hand.

"Even if..." She starts, and stops, pausing to follow along after Madoka and make a cursory glance around for any furthr danger, not stopping to remember that she might have been planning to lead yet. "It's hard to do this every day, or cloe enough to. But... Maybe you haven't saved anyone, but you're still important to me, Madoka-chan." She keeps following, free hand now down at her side ready for a rifle.

"I thought... I really thought you might think less of me, for being jealous of you."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka keeps pulling them forward, but she never, at any point, lets go of Mami's hand with at least one of hers. Sometimes she switches sides, like a little kid escorting an adult across the street and keeping to the letter but not the spirit of the rules. And every so often she stops to give her another squeeze for good measure.

"Nnnnn," she repeats. "Nnn-nnn!" The way she shakes her head leads with her nose, so it's almost like she's nuzzling the air. And her anger is fading... it's hard for really to sustain a burn like that. It is not hard for her to keep a sparkle, though. "I... Mami, I don't. I really don't. But I don't feel flattered, either? Like, this should be almost as good as a lavu-letta, but..."

She's weighing it, tasting the feeling on her tongue. It's thoughtfulness, she concludes. That can be a feeling, not just an action.

They come to another crossroads. This one, like the last, has four directions (one of which they came from). It's a good reason to stop, at least for a minute, so once again she faces Mami directly, and screws up her courage.

"You asked if maybe I had decided just not to Contract, but... no. I mean, ehehe," she giggles nervously, "I've been saving it for an emergency, you know? It's why I like to go with you two out on patrol, other than just being together..."

That giggle was disguising real seriousness, though, and doing it badly. Eventually she just lets it go, and gazes gently up at her dear friend.

"But Mami... I mean... if being a normal girl, if that's your wish... it could be my wish too."

Sometimes she disguises her most intense moments with silly jokes, but not this time. She's almost shaking with absolute earnestness. With how right this feels.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Being pulled forward as she is, Mami can't quite manage to get both of her hands with Madoka's, but one is good enough, her fingers curling now and then under another squeeze.

It definitely seems to her like something of a sprkle though; Mami quiets thoughtfully, her face much like the way someone dips a foot into cold water at the pool except gentler, when Madoka says she doesn't think less of her but isn't flattered either. That expression turns into almost a flush at what it should almost be like, and while Mami doesn't pinken like her friend tends to at the moment, she does turn her face away again a moment.

She only turns back when they stop at this crossroads. She nods shallowly at Madoka's explanation as to why she hasn't Contracted yet, hesitates to say more, and then finds that she isn't inclined to interrupt that look from Madoka up at her, whatever it might be bringing. And what it does bring...

She's touched, that much is clear; less clear is the way the world around them seems so different, still like pop-up but far away in its way. It's hard for Mami to describe; all she really looks t is her friend. She's completely silent for a moment.

Her smile is silent, but it feels like it shouldn't be, warm and tenative and silent like a tiny sunrise. "Madoka..."

Mami speaks warmly, "I could make you meals to take along when you went off to your patrols together. Hear all about your stories. And I'd be getting to know my classmates better in the meantime. And maybe if I were in danger, you could save me."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

This is a fantasy that Madoka can get behind. She doesn't grin ear to ear, though. She's not smiling at all... she's swearing oaths to that sunrise, to its coming again after nightfall, and the next night, and the next. "You could join a club -- two clubs! And be captain. Get good grades, and go on dates. Sleep in on the weekends because you stayed up late going to concerts." She likes the look of this Mami. Loves it, even. She loves Mami in every form. "And--"

Now she smiles, shyly.

"I would save you /every/ time."

Something lurks at the edge of the crossroads -- it moves with a flick, with a twist.

He moves. It's Kyuubey, exposing himself to the spotlight above an inch of white fur at a time. He is fluffy and friendly and eager, so, so eager.

Madoka looks at him -- then back at Mami.

"I could do it right now if you want," she blurts out, hungry, awkward, happy, sad. A welter of complexity crosses her expression, and he doesn't understand any of it, but Mami does. They are all of them facets of the same deeper affection, something stronger than hope and greater than despair. "You don't have to fight one more Witch."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Ah!" Mami answers, and her golden eyebrows lift in delight along with a quiet smile of her own. Her eyes are just distant enough to be able to envision this idea, just close enough not to lose sight of Madoka before her. She looks /happy/, simply happy, daring to dream.

But Madoka brings the best part, and Mami's honey eyes shimmer when the shorter of the two says those words.

"I could have all of it, and my new heroine. It would be so wonderful. Concerts! I never go to concerts." She doesn't look away, "I wonder what your magic would be like? I've thought about it before..."

But there's the something, the Kyubey, and Mami glances at him too, then back at Madoka. Madoka blurts it out and Mami lets it wash over her, the precipice of her own desire. The sheer feeling in Madoka's face for /her/ make her want to melt, make her almost melt without doing it.

Right here, she could do it; this outfit would melt away, these guns no longer necessary, danger someone else's except for this one right here. It's frightening, but she could trust Madoka. All the things they talked about... The amazing show that Madoka would surely put on.

Mami puts on a small smile, looking at Madoka. "You'd really do it. You'd really make that wish, for /me/." She's overcome by the knowledge of it. "...I could advise you, while I'm still here on this Labyrinth. It's always hard, at first. I'm sure you'd be very talented, and you've seen others fight so often. Then we could talk about our new lives." A pause, and a small sigh. Her smile doesn't go away, but it's a complex sigh, not fully happy.

"...But I'd be asking you to do the same thing that I don't want to do now, that I want to stop. I'd be taking those clubs and dates from /you/. And I'd be abandoning Sayaka to the conflict with the others."

"I want it. I want it very badly. ...But even knowing that you're willing... That you feel that way about me, I..." Mami blinks, and her eyes wet again, "I-I'm so happy!"

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka's thought about her magic before too. She's filled whole sketchbooks with ruffles and blooms. Weird, that right now, as close as she's come to finding a wish she could really get behind, a wish that feels viscerally satisfying... the sort of wish with which to make her soul gem shine... it doesn't feel that important.

She follows Mami out of the crossroads and down another path, her excitement not quite ebbing, but... changing, as she hears and accepts the rejection as it comes. The lighting is changing, too. It's getting darker and brighter, both the shadows and the colored spots more intense.

She squeezes Mami's hand one more time.

"I'm happy too," she says quietly, sounding more like her usual self. "And... you don't have to decide right now, anyway."

Kyuubey's tail flicks -- it had drooped, before, with Mami's speech.

"Keep it with you, right here." Reaching up with her free hand, she touches Mami's chest, right over the heart, lightly, with two fingers. "And, um, if you decide you're ready... then I'm ready too. It's a promise."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There is no truly safe place in a Labyrinth, least of all one like this, and it's important to remember that. Distracted as she was, Mami recalls it now, feeling more sure, since that offer... since her decision.

Mami's hands curl inside Madoka's as they go, and this time she leads, but she doesn't forget that Madoka was leading her just moments ago. But Madoka's usual self is beloved of Mami too, so there's no disappointment. Mami misses Kyubey's answer... but not Madoka'as.

The touch is light, pink to her, and Mami lifts her spare hand to rest over the place Madoka indicated. "Madoka... Thank you. Knowing I still have the chance..." A look down at her dear friend, "It's everything I want. I'll keep it right here. I promise, when I'm ready I'll tell you."

A happy almost-laugh, "Aah, I could dance! But I shouldn't. The others still need us. We'll take care of this quickly, and go home."