Hold it. Hold it.
Try that on. Try this on.
Ignore the stiff muscles and sore backs. They have fancy new machines and medicines to cure your insignificant ails! Don’t whine at me! I’m making you famous. Ride home, nightly routine. Wake up. Shower, moisturize, apply skin products, hair products. Whiten teeth. Use those fancy back machines and medications. Smile at adoring fans. Go to college, ignore that Lila girl who totally has a crush on you. She’s just another crazy fan. They are all just crazy fans. Keep good grades, the newspapers are watching. Father’s watching. Fans watching.
Adrien’s life was perfect for everyone.
Everyone, that is, except him.
He was perfect. He had to be perfect.
Being a model has to be amazing. Standing there for hours is amazing.
He’s so hot! Do you have acne? Again? I’m so disappointed.
No one really looked. No one really cared. It was a show for them. Him, another piece of the world of entertainment they built around themselves. Did that make them happy? Probably not. It’s all a game for them. If only someone understood. If only he had someone to talk to.
Plagg was always there to talk, but that wasn’t really his thing. He would float there, piece of cheese in his tiny paws, going “Uh-huh.” and “So sorry, kid.” every now and again. He often found himself coping with his thoughts by jumping across roofs as Chat Noir. It wasn’t mature of him, per ce, but it was refreshing all the same. Hawkmoth’s attacks had dwindled over time and there had been six months in which only two akumas had appeared. As it was it had been a month and a half since the last attack. His time as his alter ego was cherished, due to how little he actually used it. And his time with Ladybug was cherished even more. But of all the cherished time he spent as Chat, there was one person he loved to use it the most with.
They had been meeting for some time now, always sometime at dusk. She never really knew when he was going to show up, so, every night at sunset, she would sit on her new balcony with one project or another, waiting for him. If he didn’t show up before the sun set, she would go inside, but leave her window unlocked. This was their silent order of operations.
Chat showed up right as the sun dipped below the horizon. Marinette was packing up the sweater she had been knitting when he landed, nearly silently. He crouched down and held his hands out in front of him as he snuck forward. She had just picked up the last ball of yarn when he attacked. Hands outstretched and fingers wiggling he tickled the back of her neck and quickly worked his way down her spine. She gasped and spun. Quick as a wink he was on her. Their lips connected and Chat’s armed embraced Marinette. Her twenty year old body felt warm as it melted against him. When they finally broke apart Marinette was glaring playfully at him.
“I thought Death had finally come to meet me, covered from head to toe in black leather,” she scolded him gently, poking his chest while she looked up at him. He was a good foot taller than her so he merely chuckled at the “threatening” finger. He suddenly grabbed both of her wrists and pulled them down by her sides. She squealed while Chat leaned down in front of her.
“I am Death, and I am here to steal your breath away,” and with that Chat placed a soft kiss against her lips. It promised that there would be more. More days like this to look forward to. More sunsets where he would meet her. This was what was holding Chat, as well as Adrien, up in life. Without this he would be lost, forever wandering the depths of the black, repetitive, ocean of his life.
Marinette had approached Chat years ago with a love confession. In the end her father had gotten akumatized and it was all very dramatic. Chat had decided to pursue her after seeing her crying on her old balcony at her parents' bakery. She had just broken up with Luka after he told her he fancied Kagami. Wanting to help her, but also having to keep up appearances as Adrien, he met her as Chat. After his first visit she asked if he could come back the next sunset. And he had come back. Again and again. Sunset after sunset. Day after day, week after week. And they fell in love.
Their first kiss was a strange memory. Chat’s visit had started like any other night. He landed on Marinette’s brand new balcony on her brand new store, which sold everything from knitting needles to thin sundresses. She had sat down next to him on the railing, leaning her head on her shoulder. She was tense tonight, Chat had felt it in her shoulders when she sat down next to him. He had naively assumed it was the stress of owning a new business, but he couldn’t have been farther off.
“Who are you Chat? Really? Who are you?”
He had stiffened and looked down at her. She was squinting at him suspiciously with tired eyes. The thought had occurred to him, in the midst of his panic, that he had never kissed her. So he did. Out of impulse. It was a shy thing, that kiss. A question without words. Do you love me and trust me enough to know that I will tell you? It asked. Marinette had pulled away first and Chat looked away, regretting the impulsive decision and fearing the consequences.
“Chat?” Marinette had asked, taken aback by the kiss and confused by his apparent reaction to her question.
“I… I’m not ready yet, Mari. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure you’ll take me as who I am.”
Marinette, knowing she had said similar things to Chat as Ladybug, nodded in understanding. “I’m OK with where we are, Chat. And I trust you, I really, really do,” and with that she pulled him down to face her and passionately kissed him. A real, confident kiss. So much more than the shy thing they had just experienced.
Chat didn’t know why this thought crossed his mind now, but he still knew he wasn’t quite ready to reveal himself. Soon, he thought to himself, soon, for her.
No ones life is perfect. She knew that.
Yet, so many people thought hers was.
How wrong they were.
It might seem great. All the attention. The fans. The news. A whole fandom based around you.
But people seem to forget that with every job there are downfalls. Hers had more literal downfalls than others, but they were downfalls all the same. As Ladybug she was constantly helping the police force with violent criminals, muggers, and downright evil people. Every now and again they would have to fight an akuma, but those were rare nowadays. All of that came with very high risk of injury, and sometimes death itself. And as Marinette she was running her own small business with two coworkers in a room with a floor space of 10 by 6 square feet.
No ones life is perfect, especially not hers.
The small alarm that went off on her phone was especially unwelcome at this time. She was in the middle of measuring a woman’s biceps for a custom wedding dress that was expected in twelve days, when it went off. Marinette groaned and called Luise to finish the measurements.
“What is it?” the woman asked.
“My grandfather can’t walk and needs me to go get something for him,” Marinette lied easily. That was her excuse for the annoying alarm, and it always would be.
“Why can't he just call?”
‘He’s… not very modern, to say the least.”
“Oh,” the nosy woman seemed at a loss for words at that, as though she hadn’t wanted Marinette to leave just because her “uncle needed her.”
“I’m so sorry, Luise,” Marinette apologized in a low whisper as she left the room.
“I get it,” Luise answered in turn, “My aunt’s the same way.”
Marinette thanked her again then rushed out the door. She rushed down the street, cursing every time an alleyway had a drunken bum roosting in it. She needed to transform. Fast. There was an akuma on the loose and Chat needed her. She had connected her yo-yo’s receiver to her phone so that whenever Chat sent her a message an alarm would go off and her yo-yo would automatically trace it back to Chat. She let out a relieved cry when she turned into an empty alleyway. She quickly transformed behind a dumpster and went to join Chat.
This akuma was the second one this month. A very rare and not at all celebratory occasion. Chat was busily assessing the akuma’s power, goal, and weaknesses by the time she got there.
“So sorry I’m late,” Ladybug said, rolling out her shoulders. She hadn’t swung in awhile. She needed to get out more. Ladybug put that on her mental “I need to find more time to do this because it should be necessary” list. It was a long list nowadays. She didn’t have any time anymore. Heck, just last week she had fallen asleep while waiting for Chat on her balcony. He had ended up carrying her inside and putting her to bed while she protested that she was perfectly capable of walking and putting herself to bed.
“Hey, that’s not a problem, bugaboo,” Chat responded casually, snapping Ladybug back to the present. The pet name “bugaboo” sparked something in Ladybug. She supposed she was just irritated from all of her work at the shop, but it annoyed her that even though Chat had a girlfriend, herself no less (excusing the fact that he didn’t know that), he still called her pet names like “bugaboo” and “love-bug.
She would have to mention it later though because, at the moment, they had a problem on their hands. "Chat, report."
"Young female. Calls herself Petrection. Like protection for pets. I think that's really clever," Ladybug made an annoyed sound so Chat rushed on, "She has surrounded herself with cats, dogs, and birds, and she seems to be targeting all pet owners."
"Not many. She is constantly surrounded by animals, so she doesn't have any blind spots. She can't fly so we have that advantage. She controls the birds less so the air is pretty clear. And she is directly surrounded by puppies and kittens. I assume this is to protect them, but if we jump on her from above, she is pretty defenseless, save for her ball and chain, well, spiked collar and chain."
The battle ensued. Ladybug and Chat Noir flew through the air. The non pet owners whooped and hollered their encouragement. When the pair reached the top of the tornado of birds, they didn't hesitate. Down they went. It would've been a beautiful sight if it weren't for the occasional peck or claw from one of the rainbow specimens. When they reached the bottom Ladybug used her lucky charm while Chat stalked back and forth, looking for a weak point. They both knew the akuma would be in the spiked collar and chain.
"Ava fishing line?" Ladybug bug asked incredulously. She looked around. Of course! She could hook the line up to Chat’s stick, hook the akuma’s object, and bing bang boom, fight over. "Chat, give me your staff."
Chat obliged quickly turning for half a second to throw his staff at her. Ladybug caught it deftly and started wrapping the fishing line around it. Chat smiled as he figured out what she was thinking. It was no wonder he had a crush on her for years. He turned back to face the threat a second to late. The spiked collar caught him in the left temple. The world went grey as he touched the gaping wound. He fell to his knees as he pulled his hand away, the glove slick with blood. He was dimly aware of Ladybug screaming, but he couldn't respond because already the world had faded to black.
I am Death. And I am here to steal your breath away.
"Chat! Chat, no!" Ladybug was screaming. She whipped her hand made fishing pole and caught the akuma’s weapon. If Chat were still on his feet she knew he would have made a pun. But he wasn't on his feet, in fact he was laying on the ground, clearly unconscious. Ladybug ripped the collar in half and cleansed the akuma as fast as humanly possible. Her earring beeped right as she finished. Chat’s blood was pooling around his head.
Not enough time.
She reached Chat in two steps. She picked him up like one would a baby, and zipped away before the cameras could appear. She made it to an alleyway by her shop before her transformation dropped. She carried Chat in and closed the store. Luise and Ava took one look at her and ran to help.
"What the hell? Is that Chat Noir? Why do you have blood on your shirt?" Ava shot rapid fire questions at her. She was very talkative, but amazing at sewing and cleaning. Luise looked very concerned. Marinette's rush of adrenaline was dying, and she had to put Chat in the closest office chair available. She was shaking from carrying him all the way back and she hadn't even noticed she was crying until this moment.
"He… he just… and I… I can't lose him. Not now," Marinette's words were shaky and Ava embraced her while Luise got the first aid kit.
"You love him, don't you?" Luise asked quietly when she came back. She immediately got to work cleaning Chat’s wound. It wasn't as bad as Marinette had originally thought, but it was still awful.
"Is it that obvious?" Marinette asked with wide eyes. She was going into shock and Ava mumbled comforting words to her.
"I left at sunset once and you two were on the balcony, kissing.” Luise replied while bandaging the wound, "There. When he wakes up I'll have painkiller on hand."
"Thank you. Thank you so much," Marinette whispered.
Chat’s head throbbed. He kept his eyes closed against the sharp spikes of light that filled the room. Was he in the hospital? He remembered getting hit with the collar. He remembered the sharp spike slicing through his temple. It hadn't hurt then, but boy did it hurt now.
He groaned and curled up on the couch he was on. Couch? So not the hospital. He hadn't used Cataclysm, so he was still Chat Noir. Had Ladybug taken him here? Was he in Ladybug’s house? Would he meet Ladybug’s civilian form?
Too many questions. All he wanted right now was for the pain you stop. He groaned again, gloved hand coming up to his head. A hand caught his wrist and he tensed. If he had to fight now her would surely loose, but he would fight all the same.
"Don't touch it. It hasn't healed yet. Here, drink this," a thick, sweetly scented beverage was handed to him. He opened his right eye a crack, just enough to see that it was a purple red color. He wrinkled his nose.
"What is it?" he asked. He wasn't stupid. No one with sense would drink that foreign substance.
"Painkiller. And if I'm right, you want it desperately." The voice was right, he did want painkiller. So, the pain making his final decision, he drank, "That should kick in in a few minutes."
"Where am I?" Chat asked, squinting his eyes to look around.
"Spotted Fashion. Miss Marinette Dupain-Cheng’s fashion store. I trust you're familiar with her?" there was a smile behind the words that told Chat that this stranger knew about what he had with Marinette. He flushed and the person laughed kindly, "Don't be embarrassed. Marinette is a lovely person. And so are you. Your lives must be nearly perfect."
A humorless "ha" came from the other side of the room. Foot steps made their way closer to them. Chat heard someone crouch down next to him.
"Hi, Chat," a light kiss was placed on his forehead. He smiled and reached out, searching for Marinette’s hand. When he found it he pulled it to his chest.
"I was lost and you found me again, Princess." And in that moment, all was right with the world.
But all good things come to an end.