2018-10-07 - An Opposite of Grief

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
An Opposite Of Grief

After the marathon grief of Reckoning and Over And Over Again, Madoka desperately seeks, and finds, Kozue, fearing for her life. Two girls weep in the darkness for what they've lost... and dare to believe that there might still be something to be found.


Kozue Kaoru, Madoka Kaname


Mami's Apartment; Shibuya Shopping Ward

OOC - IC Date:

10/19/2018 (moved to 10/07/2018 for ordering) - 05-20-2018 (after midnight)

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Lifting up the covers to one side, she slid her fingers around the shoulders, and rebalanced her to laying in a sideways position. Gravity had caused her to lean in a way that felt unnatural - and that would not do. She had to make certain that she wasn't listing too far one way.

I like it when you make the guest bed for me. I try to do as many chores as I can, but I don't think to do my bed every day...

Sliding the covers back around her, she renestled them, tucked them around her tightly. Comfortably. Trying to ignore how cold the skin had become. Trying to ignore that the warmth of the covers would do no good. Not anymore. Then knelt down to slide the edges...

...and you tuck it really tight. I never pull it out from under the mattress. I just...

... beneath the mattress, doing this on all four sides, until every single wrinkle was stretched taut in the sheets and covers. Until it looked like the bed was newly made and Sayaka Miki had just...

Squeeze Under. Because then it feels like you tucked me in.

... climbed in. It had been said to Mami Tomoe but Mami Tomoe was gone. An honor she'd never think to take for herself - given to her by Kozue. She knows how much this latchkey girl valued the idea of being tucked in by Mami Tomoe. And so she'll give her that as best as she can.

It's the least she could do. Her fingers slid through the hairs of her head delicately, displacing them just subtly - in a gesture of obvious affection, before allowing her hand to slip away.

Leaving the room with footsteps so muted as to be inaudible, she closed the door, allowing a sliver of moonlight from the windows to still reach its fingers into the room as she walked to the kitchen with the lights off, and flipped on the switch, illuminating it suddenly.

Dumping out a kettle of stale water in the sink, she turns on the faucet and fills it back up, before setting it on the stovetop and sets it aglow. There's a box of teabags right beside the stove, half opened, spilled out over the counter. Even after her death it feels half heretical to have teabags in Mami Tomoe's place, but right now - she can't bring herself to exert any real effort to doing simple things.

Instead she just walks back over to dump herself on the couch, drawing up her knees under the too large T-shirt she was wearing such that she was enveloped into it. Ohtori Swim Club - 2014 emblazoned on it. It hadn't been the size she'd ordered, but there's something extra casual about having such accidents on hand. It invokes the feel of wearing a significant other's clothing - even if it was her own. Sayaka had her favorite girlfriend things - and Kozue had her own.

It wasn't quite right. Just like Sayaka's place of rest wasn't quite... but it was as close as it gets right now. Allowing her eyes to lull closed, she figures she'll be awakened by the kettle's wispy whistle.

She doesn't remember that she forgot to lock or latch the door. That it's only half-closed at best. She has not lived in Mami's apartment so long that such things have become muscle memory and she can only devote herself thinking actively to so many things at the moment.

Her security does not even rate as a priority.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Umbra Nigra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDLUUZgy9Dk

Madoka was already having a panic attack BEFORE she arrived at Mami's apartment to find the door ajar and the kettle whistling. With every sprinting pace through the fog, it asserted itself more and more strongly. The sweat sinking into the loosely tied hair at the nape of her neck was less from exertion and more from fear. Her feet slapping against the concrete sent a jarring drumbeat up her legs and straight through her core: too-late-too-late-don't-be-too-late.

When she skids to a stop in the foyer, not even a deeply ingrained sense of loyalty to the cleanliness and perfection of Mami's apartment can make her take the time to kick off her shoes. She bursts straight in and heretically dashes further into the apartment, leaving little Madoka-shoe-sized prints on the floor (it stopped raining a while ago, but she may never be fully dry every again, for the rest of her life, so thoroughly soaked was she; in fact, she still smells a little bit like Cassandra's flood).

She stops dead not because she sees Kozue but because otherwise she will crash straight into the table, and her rubber soles make a tremendous shriek like a car's brakes pumped at high speed. Standing there, hugging herself in terror of what she's about to find in this violated sanctum, her eyes rolling wildly --

-- the more afraid she is for the living, the less she has to think about the dead --

-- Sayaka's expression swims in front of her eyes --

-- Kyuubey's corpse interposes itself on top, and she swallows, hard --

-- she looks left -- looks right -- and sees.


As though she hadn't so much lost all that momentum as just bottled it up to be used again later, she launches across the room to the couch, and is practically parallel to the floor in midair when she crashes into her quarry.

Holding her close, so close, so close. Kozue can smell Cassandra's water, yes, and also Madoka's fear.

Fear for her.

"Yuh-you're here, you're still here, you're safe," she's starting to weep with a terrible, terrible relief, and her babbling brook has to compete with a boulder-sized lump in her throat. "I -- I was scared -- I'm sorry we, we got separated --"

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue's in that liminal state of consciousness, between sleep and waking. Her mind just active enough that it's unlikely she'll cross the threshold to sleep - or if she does, won't for long. And then Madoka bursts in. Even that doesn't jolt her. Not even when her rubber soles squeak almost horrifically.

It's the sound of her name. Startling, her knees jerk out from their place under the T-shirt, as she looks up in a daze. Her eyes on Madoka, unfocused as she launches herself at the couch. Kozue has the same dried salt water smell. However, instead of panic and fear - the emotion of surprise is fading into resignation, sadness.

Kozue's arms move like they're not sure what to do, like they haven't decided even what to do right now with this moment.

"Hey..." As her perception kicks into higher gear, and Madoka weep in relief. "...just look at you..." A finger moves up to the other girl's right eye. Rubs right there beside it. "... all a fright."

She doesn't say she's okay. She knows she's not. And she knows Madoka's not.

"Don't apologize. We've both had the worst kind of night... just look at that face of yours..."

There's a small inhalation, before she murmurs, the finger stroking down the side of her face, then back up to her eye, just at the pink hairline, "So worried about me, when you should be looking out for yourself." Her tone is so dull, like she's mostly devoid of ability to respond to this, yet there's something soothing in it. "That's all anyone can be expected to do at times like these..."

Kozue feels alone in most places. Even when she's around other people. Yet right now at least, with someone like that so nearby, someone Sayaka loved and connected to. She feels... just a little less isolated.

There's something painful as her eyelids slowly shutter in a blink, as she whispers, "... no wonder she loved you so much."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

How many times tonight has Madoka cried?

There's always more. She's inexhaustible and exhausted beyond all endurance at the same time.

It's always different. Each time a different feeling finds itself carved, in starker relief than the rest, into the crowded depths of her assaulted heart.

This time it's relief, and in a way that's a kindness. It's better than grief and it's better than horror.

But both remain. This isn't catharsis -- it's just the latest explosion of an infected internal wound.

Madoka's shadows stand out, too. Her cheeks seem deep and her cheekbones harsh. Her eyes are lost in the translucent sea of her clammy skin. Over her shoulder, her spine seems knobbly against her stiffened uniform (it, too, has gone through a lot tonight) though maybe that's just the twisted, tortured way she's drooped. Like everything has just been... squeezed.

Kozue's touch startles her into a strange stillness entirely different from calm, and what could have been ten minutes of Madoka crying herself out instead turns into a Madoka listening very closely to each and every dull word, with increasingly bated breath. She freezes in the headlights -- one wild animal to another -- as the other girl's fingertip works its way across her face.

For some definition of freezing that involves trembling, anyway.

Madoka seems to be waiting for permission to move -- she aches to curl more deeply into the couch, into Kozue, but is unable or unwilling to break the contact they currently have, whose terms are set by the bluenette. But she doesn't wait for permission to speak. She gulps -- the pain in Kozue's eyes helps her focus, forces her past the fear and its adrenaline-filled recession -- and speaks. Wetly, but clearly.

"She loved you so much," she echoes. "She... she asked for you, at the very end."

This is too much, and she shakes, harder and harder, like a willow torn in all directions in once by a storm.

"...I'm sorry..." she repeats, for an entirely different reason. Where before it was absurd, now it feels profound, as the grief bubbles up within her and brings with it a terrible clarity for how Kozue's loss is equal to but beautifully, awfully different from her own. Madoka's eyes are a deep pool instead of a churning ocean, and they reflect blue.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue's eyes betray hints of crying too. Oh not so much as Madoka. Kozue can only offer so many tears. She wore no makeup tonight for their skirmish, instead of running streaks it's just the little healing signs of puffiness.

Perhaps it's the way Madoka's face looks when she opens her eyes again. The motion starts to slow in her fingers - moreso when Madoka says she loved her.

It stops entirely when she says 'she asked for you'. When Kozue was at her lowest - and asked for her - Sayaka came. She showed up soaked from the journey - and it wasn't obvious she would. Yet she made it just before the critical moment when everything might have ended.

And now Kozue learns she was just... a second - too late.

Too late to see the joy in her eyes one last time. Too late to show her that she was there. That she could return the favor. Two tiny droplets leak out of her eyes almost immediately, blurring that blue reflection. She hadn't run dry after all.


Kozue says as she retracts the hand. It feels so pitiful. To know that she failed her too.

This gives Madoka the opportunity to curl up on the couch though as she wanted.

"I... I see..." Betraying the emotional frailness that would be obvious to anyone in these moments, she just slides her knees retract back up into the comfort of her oversized cotton coccoon.

"I..." She struggles to articulate how she feels right now, and then suddenly she finds the words in a muted whisper, "... I let her sink."

Tilting her head back against the cushions, she has this slightly distant stare, like she's looking past Madoka - towards the bedroom. "You ever break a promise to someone that noone expects you to keep? Well... a few years back at summer camp when I taught her how to swim... I told her the world was sink or swim... but I wouldn't let her sink."

There's a quirk of her lips as it's like a sort of wry smile in a twisted way, "It didn't mean anything more than... I just wouldn't let her drown while learning how to stroke properly. But... once we connected... I think... I decided to extend it to... you know? Life. I'd teach her to live one way or another... and I wouldn't let her sink."

There's a soft exhalation of her breath like a sigh, "And now - after - it's like I'm finding out I was letting her drown all along. Just watching. Letting it happen."

Raising her head off the cushions like she was lifting her weight up and shifting it around, she thumps it back almost immediately. "... that's what it feels like." Twisting her neck just subtly, she eyes Madoka. "I'm glad... you were there for her at the end."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Inevitabilis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzZDsp3fA40

"Nnno," Madoka tries to interrupt, feebly, but hers is not an interrupting nature and for all the headshaking she does, and the curling -- between the cushion and kind of under Kozue's arm, she puts both of hers around Kozue's waist which creates this natural result -- she doesn't stop the other girl from sharing her feelings.

She does her best to receive them instead, though she has to fight her own continued instinct to deny, to reject. Accepting is harder. It brings a different cast to her grief, like illuminating a statue under a whole new spotlight. Her breathing is the loudest part about her; too ragged, and too sudden, like her urge is to hyperventilate but she's forcing herself not to, and instead she's forgetting to breathe at all until she has to take in a huge gasp, which lasts her for another while...

Instead of breathing she feels. It fills her instead of air, swirling around inside her -- Kozue's fragility, her misery, and most of all -- it finds its home within Madoka especially easily because it already lives there -- her feeling that it is all her fault.

It's very quiet, in the living room of the dead girl's apartment.

Madoka remembers to breathe, and this time she exhales with words. A rough, throaty whisper.

"Me too," she agrees. "Me too, for all of it. All of it, Kozue-chan."

When next she inhales, she is quietly, instinctively matching its timing to Kozue's. Though there are blankets between them, she is holding on very tight, and feels the shift in pressure. Or maybe her reddened ears -- from cold, she must have been outside for hours, where has she been? -- hear it, are attuned to that soft bit of proof that, for the first time tonight, she wasn't too slow, or too late.

Her head's weight is split between a cushion and Kozue's shoulder, but it sinks more towards the latter as, on her next breath, another idea issues forth from her. It would be easy to say that she sounds dull and empty, but that is a lazy characterization of her too-flat, too-level cadence.

"I tried to wish for her to come back," she whispers, into the night, with a soft and fierce love and, paired with it, a hard, terrible horror. They balance each other out, the high and the low. "It was the whole reason I came to Haneda. I knew I'd fail to stop them. I guess... I thought... that after it was over... whoever lived would realize how pointless it all was... and maybe know enough remorse, and regret, for it to be a relief when the other one returned."

The room is just a little bit darker when Madoka closes her eyes.

"I had no idea," her voice hitches, "How right I'd be..."

This time she inhales her words instead of exhaling them, quivering. "...Sayaka-chan never even had a chance..."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Perhaps Kozue is too absorbed in her own misery over her failure to feel Madoka in these moments. Her interruption goes unheeded, and the rhythm of the other girl's breathing quickens even as Kozue's slows from moment to moment - as she works it out. The two are such a contrast - yet they both share in their grief over this girl - and the different forms and shades it takes.

She starts paying attention more when Madoka says 'Me too.' "You too... huh?" Kozue's nose makes this sound of an indelicate sniff. "Guess... that's hindsight."

Then she sits up straighter at that... statement, "You... were actually..." Madoka would have become a Puella Magi to save Sayaka. Given herself wholly over to this terrible life where girls can become these monsters. "...I..." Something falters in this profound idea of selflessness.

"You didn't right?"

After all, the body lay unmoving in the other room. Her eyes still look over Madoka's hands all the same for a quick check. It was in past tense - it was all before they knew.

It starts to settle in that of course she wouldn't have - now that she knows they become monsters. If she had such a wish herself - and that was the trade-off. ... Perhaps it's the grief talking that makes her think she'd do it without hesitation, for a singular day. Perhaps it isn't. She doesn't know. All she knows is that its closed to her by a mark from a red star. '...Sayaka-chan never stood a chance.'

How many things would they have done differently had they known back then what they'd known now? She would have enver allowed Sayaka to do this for starters.

Yet all the same - there's an overwhelming feeling that it might have been futile. Every angle of thinking 'what might she have done differently' ends the same way. It takes her back to that hindsight statement.

"... yeah." Kozue says eventually, "I think I was... hoping the same. That she'd realize how pointless it was... if I'd known... that her thinking it all pointless would be... the end of her."

Closing her eyes, she looks away from Madoka, painfully. Then whispering, "I don't know... I don't... know... I always think I have it all figured out. That... give me long enough and I could have done something to save her - from others - from herself but... this time it feels like... there's nothing I could have done..." To her old self, this vulnerability would have felt pathetic.

"... I don't know what's worse. The idea that its my fault somehow this happened to her - or that it isn't."

After a moment, she opens her eyes and... says, "You know I'd like to say it's a good thing you didn't wish... that... she'd hate it so much that... what happened to her could now happen to you but... I... I don't know. Part of me wishes you had made that trade." It feels like she should be sorry about that or something. Yet... she can't bring herself to apologize. "... I should hate that part of myself, but... I can't..."

It's the same part of her - that loves Sayaka. Though such an admission would feel pointless. She couldn't tell her while she could understand her.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Again, Madoka elects not to interrupt. There's a sort of... deeply ingrained sense of fair play in her, right now, perhaps in response to the profound unfairness of the world that has just been revealed. So many things are out of her control, but this is in her control. It's Kozue's turn.

Her bare, ringless hands, still locked around Kozue, start to move a little with her words, rubbing in gentle little circles. The motion is almost completely muffled by the blankets, it's a weak imitation of a massage, but it is steady and it is kind.

'...if I'd known that her thinking it all pointless would be the end fo her.'

Rub, rub.

'...that it's my fault...or that it isn't..."

Rub, rub, rub.

'Part of me wishes...'

Rub. The rubbing stops, because Madoka clenches her fingers into the blankets and uses it for leverage to press her head against Kozue's, as though she's taking her temperature.

Really it just means that their tears can meet at the cheekbone and intertwine.

(Countless times, Madoka has done this to Sayaka, and in at least half of them their heads wound up going KLONK. Fate is, for once, kind to the two girls here; she keeps her balance and the gesture is as tender as it wants to be instead of comically clumsy. It is in moments like these possible to see beyond the quivering and the pratfalls, the toast-in-teeth and the dangling ribbons, to the woman she might be when she grows up. To the young lady she is now, even.)

Kozue can feel Madoka's eyelashes as they reopen, and then the whole world is pink.

"I did wish," she corrects, with a terrible sorrow. "But... that girl was there," right now she can't even bear to say her name, "And she... she..."

Her throat throbs as she gulps down another freak-out -- and succeeds. Mournfully but gravely too, solemnly, Madoka stares into Kozue's eyes and Kozue can see in them the witness of not one murder tonight, but two.

"...she killed him. Right there on the bench. One minute he was about to bring Sayaka-chan back, and the next he was just... full of lead."

One thing that Madoka smells like other than Cassandra, in fact, is cordite. Not overwhelmingly, but a little bit. It is an unusual note in her aromatic blend, though not unheard of. After all, it is the signature scent of the only person who could hope to compete with Sayaka for number of saves since they were both thrust into the world of magic.

"...he's gone," she finishes, hollowed-out by shock. Kozue can feel the hairs prickling on Madoka's smooth skin as awareness dawns within her. "...and...that means..."

No more wishes...

...and no more Witches.

Sayaka will be one of the very last.

"All of me wanted to make that trade... and if he appeared here right now, I would do it again. But... part of me wonders if maybe that was worth it. I think... I think it's something Sayaka-chan would have been proud to... make true... and that makes me hate myself..."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

She's not used to being comforted in this way. Whenever Kozue was like this - she always isolated herself away from everyone. She sat or lay alone in the dark. That's how it's been since she was a little girl. She would isolate herself away - and Miki would watch from afar. Sayaka is the only one who has seen her... at nearly this state. And now Madoka. It feels strange to have that comforting intimacy of touch. That warmth - that pressure of feeling.

It's different. It's nice. Part of her thought growing up was tucking these moments away out of sight, proving she could work through them on her own.

Now she wonders.

All the same, she's not certain how to return it. She's not a hugger, she's not a person who knows... how... to comfort someone with a touch... except...

"That girl?" Kozue echoes... then Madoka gives her further clues 'full of lead.' Kozue had never seen Kyubey - but she knew it existed. A wishmaker. "... she actually killed - it?"

Her whole body shakes for a moment, as if in this silent, terrible laughter, yet it never makes it, "Of course... Akemi-san ruined it." In that moment she might have gotten Sayaka back - in that moment Homura Akemi took it away.

"Of course she did..." She repeats. The scent of Madoka is strange to her nose, yet not unfamiliar. It smells like the battle she was just in. The scent of the day is on them all. "... that girl - I wish I could understand her better... just so I'd know the best way to... hate her, for holding all that back." However she then mumbles, "For snatching away my last chance at getting her back... but... I'm too tired to hate her."

The implications are clear to her. Sayaka had made them clear.

And yet Madoka's feelings remain in the wake of this execution. And there's only way she knows how to comfort with a touch. Kozue's hand reaches at an awkward angle slides over to gently grasp Madoka's from behind, as her fingers curve over, and slide into her palm. The curves and lines are different from those of Sayaka's hand, the hand itself is smaller. Perhaps even softer. Yet... those moments with Sayaka had taught her this at least.

"... you'd do that for her - even now... knowing what you do..." There's something quietly awed, and sad. "... even with those consequences..."

Those blue eyes meeting Madoka's squeeze out more tears freely, "... It's okay to hate yourself for how much you care about her. I know I did. I tried so hard to deny how much I cared - hated myself for it... but I put it aside. And all that's left is how I feel about her. So it's okay to tell me how much you hate yourself - because I know where it's coming from. And you'll never hear me telling you that's wrong - because I can see where it's coming from."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Madoka can't.

"I just can't..."

Kozue slides her hand into hers like Sayaka used to and she loses it completely. Madoka bawls like she did when she first found Kozue, only this time it's without any relief at all, just release -- sobs, wrenching sobs that tear themselves out of her almost violently. Lest they KLONK for an entirely unfunny reason she rather desperately shifts her weight to one side, hooks her chin over Kozue's shoulder like it was earlier, and hangs on for dear life while she cries and cries and cries.

"All this time," she forces out, in the midst of the storm, almost like its eye, minus the calmness, "All this time, I took for granted, that I'd be able to get her back, and now, naaaaaaaaaaaaaaoooooow I c-c-caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan't..."

An eye of the storm, minus the calmness, is simply the middle.

Madoka cries harder.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue doesn't know what to do with her other arm. She's... not a hugger. As Madoka breaks down almost violently in her need for comfort. In that release without relief. Kozue curls her neck to rest it upon Madoka's shoulder. And then her arm slowly rings around her.

Her shoulder is getting wetter by the moment in that salty warmth. The smell of ocean water changing when mixed by the scent of grief. Kozue's arm stays there, it doesn't move. It... doesn't for a moment.

Then slowly it rubs, in this up and down motion. Like she was out of her depth but... at least... attempting to.

For the longest time she's silent, however as Madoka's grief amps up, it feels like something releases from her, as she sniffles suddenly, and more tears start to fall. Like she's choking on her own thoughts, and can't get them out because Madoka's grief is so present - because it's forcing her to admit what she already knew but didn't have the courage to say out loud.

Hiccuping once, "... the power to... revolutionize... the world... the... power to... not be refused... your wish..."

Now it's Madoka's shoulder that's becoming wet in turn, "I... I don't know... I don't know... it feels like there's nuh-nothing... left. Nuh-nothing I can do..."

It'd all take too long, or maybe be pointless. What power can give her such a miracle? A power that was now squandered by a clip from Homura Akemi's gun. It feels like a senseless act that closes off yet another path to them. Just like her expulsion closed off one - just like Tsuru's speed of working closes off another... and now this.

It's all gone.

And it feels like all that's left is a corpse laying inert in another room.

"... like I should just... guh-give up... and... take her to be buh-buried."

There she sniffles, and yet she knows. She knows that bed is a more fitting place for Sayaka than a funeral for a husk where a girl once lived. A place for people who hardly actually knew what a special girl she truly was. Parents who might as well be faceless for the role they had in her life.

She wants to tell Madoka that she has a plan to get her back. For it to be true for this girl who does actually care for her as much as she actually does herself.

There's nothing though. There's nothing left but two girls clinging holding each other.

"... I don't want to... I don't want... to... I don't... don't..."

She doesn't want to admit that all that's left of her is a hollowed out shell where Sayaka has been - and moving past this moment. Moving past this grief. She... doesn't want to.

Because she doesn't want Sayaka to fade from her life - in the way she knows that Mami Tomoe was fading from Sayaka's the longer she was dead.

Draining herself like a leaky faucet of warmth on Madoka's own shoulder she falls into an almost repetitious blubbering - more subdued that Madoka... but still as bereft of hope. "... it can't be over... it can't."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It would be easy for Madoka to cry herself to sleep -- sleep, sleep, she needs to sleep so badly -- in Kozue's arms. In an echo of her own motions, Kozue starts rubbing her shoulder, and it's still almost Sayaka's hand entangled in hers.

It is, indeed, the longest time, that these mutual lovers of the knight of justice, the white-caped swordswoman, the blue-haired student, the blue-eyed child -- they hold each other and Madoka cries.

But Kozue's tears -- and Kozue's words -- well.

It stops being about what is fair, and it starts being about what is right.

Madoka is smaller than Kozue and weaker too, but with her arms and a sprawled leg around the coccoon like a spider monkey, and their cheeks again pressed together, this time from the side, she is able to slowly rock them.

Back and forth.

Back -- and forth.

Back -- and -- forth.

Somewhere along the way she starts to croon, soothingly. At first it's just nothing, a sort of atonal nonsyllable. It starts going up and down, up and down. And finally it's a sort of gentle hum... no song in particular but a little bit of every lullabye, the product of both instinct and a lifetime of experience on the receiving end.

Unlike the Mikis or the Kaorus, the Kanames are a great family. Madoka knows a thousand and one ways to comfort someone. A thousand thousands, and one.

She doesn't just feel grief anymore, and she doesn't just feel Kozue's grief. Or Homura's. Or Eri's. Or Kyouko's. Or Mikoto's or Nori's or. There has been so much grief, tonight.

"It's not," she says, thinly but not wetly, because her tears have been staunched by a feeling more powerful than grief: the heartfelt desire to stop it. The opposite of war isn't peace, but the opposite of grief is...

"It's not over," she hopes. She doesn't just say it -- she dares, to a heart that has already been viciously brutalized, assaulted in the deepest ways possible, tonight -- she dares to open it, for now just a crack, to that possibility.

"M-magic," she names, that thing that has hurt them all so much, and yet, and yet, has also done so much for so many. "Magic and miracles do exist," she asserts, waveringly, convincing herself, sure, but succeeding. Her eyes are open again and they're looking at Kozue. Their cheeks, sticky with salt from tears in various states of dryness, separate with a sort of scraping feeling. A scraped-out feeling.

And her hand -- her hand, still in Kozue's, is starting to feel electric, like the two of them, connected, are forming a circuit, thrumming with emotion but also with power, with potential.

"And, a-and... I know they're stopping her. They stayed behind... to keep her from hurting anyone. A-and I think even some of the others," the Shepherds, presumably, Madoka has never really adopted that nomenclature, one of many subtle signs that her allegiance was more complicated than her friendship with the leaders, "I think they might help too. Maybe, maybe if we buy enough time... we really can find something."

It's a little much for her eyes to sparkle with a hundred thousand stars. But, when you're sleepy enough, you're dreamy too.

"It's not over," she concludes, fiercely. "N-not yet. I won't give up... on our Sayaka. Or on you... no matter what."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Waterfalls - Alexis Ffrench - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=favr_05qIo8

Madoka may be smaller than Kozue, though she finds her so easily to physically manipulate right now. The rocking rhythm is something Kozue falls into without realizing. Rasping her small nasally inhalations, it's like repetition is falling away to hyperventilating and incoherency. Madoka's crooning reaches out to her in ways she didn't realize she could be reached out to. In ways she hardly knew that existed. Or perhaps it's calling to a Kozue so young she doesn't even remember.

'It's not. It's not over.'

Kozue's head rocks from side to side, like she's trying to deny it. Even though she doesn't want to. Like she's trying to let a wound actually scab over rather than rip it off and let it hurt again. She cannot dare to hope. Hope is pain.

The world is cruel. The world is cynical. The world doesn't care for the hopes of Madoka Kaname and Kozue Kaoru.

The world doesn't care about Sayaka Miki.

It would take magic and miracles for it to be capable. And such magic and miracles always feel like setups. Kasagami Araki was not suddenly the King of the World upon gaining Anthy Himemiya. Kozue Kaoru was not able to simply reclaim Sayaka Miki with a single glance thanks to Tsuru.

Madoka Kaname was not able to reclaim Sayaka Miki because of something as mundane as a bullet. The cruelty of the world in leaden form, ripping through the giver of magic and miracles.

She cannot... let... herself... have this now at the nadir of feeling. If she does, perhaps she will never recover.

"Pluh-ese..." It's a whisper. It's a plea. It's like she's telling her to please stop. Please don't do this. Her hitching sobs grow in volume.



Miracles and Magic do exist.

One example was named Sayaka Miki.

And one of them was Utena Tenjou.

Because they drew her out of her complete cynicism. As she tried to change them - they also changed her. And within her there is a longing for some of the things they desired. Hope. Fairness. Justice.

It's a miracle that Kozue Kaoru is where she is now - when in any other world she'd be part of the cruel masquerade of Princes at Ohtori. A femme fatale that cares nothing for their system save how it can give her power.

This is where she is now though.

And right there is Madoka Kaname - a girl who cares for Sayaka as much, if not more; daring her to believe in something other than the cruelty of the world.

Perhaps she's citing the Chevaliers - the Shepherds. But she's asking her to believe in a third.

To deny this cruel reality for something better - would be that. And... she finds - she wants to.

Shoulders shaking as she drenches Madoka's shoulder, "... pluh-please..." Where before it was a plea to stop, now it's her asking her to be right - for her to put her hopes in her. As she chokes - on trying to regain her composure enough for coherency enough to whisper wetly, "... be right... I could... really use a miracle... right now..."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Voice Of No Return -- Adriana Figueroa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Xx33sE7cu4

Don't tell these girls that denial is just one stage of grief.

Let them rock together on the couch and dream of a better world.

Let Kozue cry, freely and unrestrained, in the arms of someone who loves her.

Let Madoka cry too -- she can't resist her heart, her heart which yearns to find a way to staunch Kozue's, her heart which breaks with Kozue's, is broken by Kozue's -- and her eyes can't stay dry for long.

Madoka's eyes grow heavy, and her shoulders do too.

Heavy, heavy.

Kozue's faith is so heavy.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Denial is just the first stage of grief.

Which makes Kozue's faith even heavier. Because once it is dropped - and lost to something like gravity.

Her descent through the others would be so rapid. Through anger - through bargaining -

Until the far too dangerous stages of depression and acceptance.

And if she'd made it there...

Madoka Kaname is the miracle that keeps her anchored to that first stage against her own faith and denial.

Unknowing that perhaps - in a very real way - her presence is what saved Kozue's life that night.