Okay, listen. I don't know if anyone is even gonna read this but I needed it to exist because episode 12 of season 2 just ruined me. In so many ways. I needed to write SOMETHING, so here... take it...
It's not much, basically a re-write of the end of the episode, but I had to. I stayed up till 1am doing this.
Disclaimer: I do not own Uma Musume.
Frigid rain pelts down on McQueen, soaking her through to the bone.
But that's fine. That's fine.
Because it doesn't hurt.
The biting cold numbs all else, to the point where she can't even fathom the pain.
Not that there is any.
Because she's fine. She's absolutely fine.
I can hardly let this injury stand in my way.
In spite of what her grandmother said.
In spite of what her doctor said.
In spite of how she knows she can feel her leg isn't moving properly anymore.
Nothing will stop her from running by Teio's side.
I've finally found her. I've finally found an opponent who I can clash with seriously for the rest of my life. With you, I know I can run on forever. I knew it was our destiny on that day.
Bright memories fill her mind, colorful and warm and full of life. Teio blossoms at the center of it all.
But then the cold, gray reality crashes back into her with a vengeance. Hot, searing pain shoots up her left leg, lighting her muscles on fire.
But she can't go down. She can't give up.
Teio wouldn't. She didn't give up.
So neither can McQueen.
"Which is why… I can't let this stop me-"
Abandoning the railing that she'd clung to for support, she continues to run. Though it's disgraceful to call this lame, limping gate a run at this point.
An injury like this… is of no concern!
The rain hisses a warning, but she doesn't listen. Ears flat, she pushes onward, believing that if she can push past the pain just one step further it might miraculously vanish.
Teio did it… Time and again she rose to her feet and moved forward! Even after her dream of an undefeated triple crown was lost, after her dream of being undefeated had ended… after all the times she broke her leg…
The voices of her doctor, her butler, and her grandmother continue clashing in the back of her mind, their words of harsh reality attempting to smother her final spark of hope.
I can still run. I am Mejiro McQueen! And I will experience that moment where we both give our all and run together, once more!
But even now as she continues to run, she can feel it. Past the cold, the pain is there, and it isn't fading. If anything, it's getting worse with every step she takes, with every breath she gasps. While her right leg moves as she wants it to, her left simply won't obey. Stiff and burning, it begins to drag behind her through the mud.
I will run… again…
Teio fills her head. Her voice, always so full of life. Her eyes, always so determined. Her smile, always so inviting.
I promised her…
They had run together before. So few times, but it had been the most fun she'd ever had in all her life. Where she had been born to run, she had discovered genuine joy only when running with Tokai Teio. No other race had brought her quite the same thrill, frustration, or enjoyment.
I… want that again… To run with Teio…
The pain comes again, hotter than before. Her muscles cramp and spasm, and the next thing she knows the ground is rushing up at her. She crashes to her knees, panting and shuddering with her whole body.
Even if she tries to deny it, the reality is clear. Her delusions of grandeur end here. It's horrible and frustrating and painful and unfair. But it's truth, and there's nothing she can do about it.
Even so, she wants to deny it for just a little longer.
Clutching the rail, she heaves herself up, staggering and sopping wet. She isn't even sure if her leg is burning or freezing or numb anymore. The sensations are all jumbled. There's a pounding in her chest and in her ears that won't stop.
Her ears flick and naturally turn in the direction of that voice.
She's come. McQueen's most treasured rival and friend.
Teio races through the rain at a pace McQueen knows she'll never be able to match again.
As Teio calls out for her once more, McQueen hauls herself fully to her feet and leans heavily back against the rail, putting her lame leg to the back. Forcing her voice to be steady, she turns to her.
"What's the matter, Teio? You're in such a panic."
Teio pauses a few feet shy of her.
"Butler-san told me… about your leg."
McQueen puts on a smile.
"Is that all? It won't be a problem at all. The Fall Tennoushou is in four days. I should resume training."
"But it has to hurt a lot, right?"
"I can still manage to run. I'll simply have to bear with the pain." To demonstrate her intent, she moves away from the rail and proceeds forward on the track. "This won't be enough to-"
But she doesn't make it one step. Not even a single step. She can't even handle that much before her leg gives out and has her smashing to her hands and knees.
With a yelp, Teio darts forward.
She's just a second shy of catching her and sparing her the pain of the impact, but at the very least she's able to put her arms around McQueen and support her just a bit from here.
And only now that she's this close to her does Teio realize she's shaking. But it isn't just from the cold. And it probably isn't just from the physical pain in her leg either.
Teio has felt both of those kinds of tremors before herself.
But what is shaking McQueen to her very core right now is less of those things, and more the all-consuming devastation.
The loss of her dream.
Of everything she's ever longed for.
Teio slips her arms around McQueen's sides and holds her up in an awkward sort of hug. She can feel her breathing hard, trembling, about to break-
"D-Don't force yourself-"
"I am not!"
McQueen clutches Teio's arms with hands that quiver with the ferocity of her grip. Teio softens her voice.
"I must… remain strong… With dignity, never giving an inch… I have to remain in the position of the strongest horse girl… that is where I will wait for you…"
Without warning, she tries to stand again, and Teio isn't sure what to do. She knows the unspeakable pain of a reality that crushes dreams. She knows McQueen can't be standing up and running like this.
And yet, who is she to tell someone else not to keep pushing forward and keep trying, in spite of the odds? If Teio told her to stop now, she'd be the biggest hypocrite that ever lived.
As much as it pains her to see McQueen so hurt, both physically and emotionally, she can't tell her to stop.
"I've looked forward to it… for so long… We can compete to see who is the-"
But McQueen doesn't even get halfway up before her knees buckle, and she collapses back into Teio's arms.
Teio locks her arms around her tightly now, keeping her close, keeping her from hurting herself any more. She can hear McQueen's strained breaths as they begin breaking into sobs, her words interrupted by sniffles as her voice begins to shatter.
"And yet… it won't move… I can't make it move…"
She tries. She really does. Teio can tell she's still trying to get up, to move her injured leg. But it just won't work.
"I… can't run anymore…"
The words come from McQueen's lips, but Teio feels them like knives in her heart. She'd said them once, too.
McQueen's heart pounds painfully against hers, and even when she pushes herself back, Teio can still feel its reverberations in her own chest. The water running down McQueen's face isn't just rain anymore.
"I can't keep my promise to you-!"
The tears burst free and spill down her face without mercy, and Teio can do nothing but watch.
McQueen shatters, raising her voice in the most heartbreaking caterwaul, a wail that breaks Teio's heart into pieces.
It hurts. Seeing McQueen like this hurts more than her own injuries ever had, more than her frustrations and her fears and her shortcomings and her losses piled together.
All Teio can do for her now is pull her in close and hold her tight.
And even in spite of Teio's desperate embrace, McQueen still seems intent on falling apart. Her whole body shudders from the core. She is twice as cold as Teio feels, and her heart is stampeding harder than any race they've ever run.
Teio feels responsible in some way. She had been the one to claim herself as McQueen's rival. She had been the one to challenge her, to lose to her, to train with her…
The one to go on a date with her, to cherish her, to realize just how much she loved her…
If it hadn't been for Teio, McQueen wouldn't be in so much pain right now. She would have accepted reality and given up already.
But because of Teio, she had kept trying until now.
In spite of the pain.
In spite of the devastation.
In spite of the fact that everything she had ever wanted and worked for was now being ripped from her hands.
McQueen has lost everything. Teio can only know that feeling because she had experienced it for herself.
McQueen's tears rush freely down her face, and her voice breaks with more sobs as she clings to Teio with everything she's got left.
For Teio, it's shocking.
To hear the proper, distinguished voice she'd always known now rasping and fracturing in pitch with how hard she's crying.
To feel the strong and confident horse girl she'd always been able to lean on now trembling and jolting with pain.
To see the refined, poised, confident Meijiro McQueen - her best friend and rival - now reduced to a crumpled girl, scared that she's losing everything…
It's almost too much for her to bear.
She doesn't know what to do. She doesn't know what to say.
So she just hugs her tighter and speaks from her heart.
"Fate… is kind of a bully, huh?" She strokes her hands down McQueen's shuddering back, through her rain-soaked hair. "It really seems set on keeping us from racing each other… I thought we'd be able to run again at the Takarazuka Kinen… but then I broke my leg. People started saying I wouldn't be able to run the same way again… And now this happens to you…"
It really is cruel. Like fate had only teased them with the hopes and dreams they'd aspired for, only to laugh as it snatched them all out from under them.
"It'd probably be easier to just give up, huh? But… I don't want to give up yet. I still want to run with you again." Here, she eases back just a little, enough to see her tearstained face. "Don't you feel the same way?"
McQueen tenses, and the tears start to fall faster.
"Of course I want to run! But I can't anymore! I may never be able to run again! Unless a miracle happens, I'll never be able to run like I used to! Just like you-!"
She shouts it all, every last one of her honest feelings, until she realizes she'd gone too far. With a gasp she stares at Teio with wavering eyes.
But even so, Teio doesn't so much as flinch. Rather, she smiles.
Even this ruffled, pained, unrefined side of McQueen… she loves it. She loves all of it, just as she loves all the rest of her. She's glad she'd found her and been here so McQueen could let everything out.
"No. You're right," Teio says. "Without a miracle, it's not gonna happen. So it's time to make a miracle."
McQueen blinks, lifting her eyes to Teio's once more.
Leave it to Teio to say something so childishly positive, so recklessly optimistic. Somehow, they're the exact words McQueen wants to hear right now.
Teio lets her arms fall away from McQueen's sides, and instead she brings their hands together.
"I'm gonna prove that you and I can run together again. Watch the Arima Kinen, okay? I'm gonna cross the goal before anybody else."
McQueen shakes her head slowly.
But Teio isn't joking. About any of this. She's deadly serious.
"Y-You can't possibly win… not in the condition you're in…"
"I'm gonna win anyway." Teio says it without hesitation, with only conviction and desire in her heart. "If I work hard enough to make a miracle happen, I know I can do it."
Those words strike something deep within McQueen. They are words no one else would ever have spoken to her, nor things she would have thought of herself.
Only her Tokai Teio would be able to say such things to her now.
Only Teio would be able to speak of miracles and pushing forward, of overcoming everything and achieving her dream in spite of the world being against her.
It's… exactly what McQueen wants to hear.
"Miracles can happen when people wish and strive for them. I'm certain of that."
She herself had told Teio as much once before. Even if they were rivals, they were more alike than not at any point in time.
McQueen gazes up at her now, and her eyes are pleading. She wants to believe. She wants to hope. Like Teio does.
Teio dips her head, bringing both of McQueen's hands up to fold them with hers, interlocking their fingers.
"When I was on the verge of giving up, you pulled me forward. When I felt like I was going to break, you were by my side. You've been the kind of strong horse girl I could chase after."
She curls her fingers with McQueen's, and the faintest bit of warmth begins to generate between their palms. The rain softens, and a breeze carries away the clouds, one by one.
Teio never loses her honest smile, even as she brings McQueen's hands to her lips and holds a gentle kiss to them.
"You were the one who said you'd wait for me. And now, it's my turn."
And yet, she finds she is no longer cold.
The dampness and the chills that have been assaulting her all this time through the pain have all but vanished. Not because of the sun breaking through. But because of Teio, and the warmth she shares.
Teio lowers their hands again, and her blue eyes shine more brightly than the sky after the rain has passed.
"So watch me, McQueen."
McQueen's heart throbs as Teio squeezes her hands.
Teio pulls her in for one last hug - a hug that McQueen returns with all her heart.
And then she lets her go.
Teio stands on her own two feet as McQueen's attendants arrive. Teio leaves her in their care and begins walking forward.
For now, McQueen cannot follow her. She can't even get up.
All she can do is watch Teio's back; a sight she has very rarely seen before. After all, McQueen has always been a step ahead of her.
But more than anything, she has been right beside her.
For now, it is her turn to stay behind.
But watching Teio's back breeds something warm and eager inside her chest.
She wants to catch up to her as soon as possible.
No matter what it takes.
She can't stop here. She won't.
Not until she is proudly at Tokai Teio's side once more.
So McQueen clutches her hand to her lips where Teio had done the same.
She closes her eyes, breathes, and wishes for a miracle.
A/N: Don't get me wrong, they set up the drama and heartache of the episode perfectly. But where was the hug? Why didn't Teio HUG her? I was losing my mind the whole time. She just takes her hand and then leaves her like that? Unacceptable. So I re-wrote it an added in hugs and warmth and softness because McQueen needs and deserves it.
I want Teio to be her miracle.
It they don't both get a happy end and a freaking hug in the finale, I am suing.