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Last Wishes

Chapter Text

A soft thud echoed through the too large empty bedroom, as the black boots of Chat Noir landed on the floor just as they had countless times before and after defeating Papillion's latest akuma. Paris's hero didn't move for several moments. He just stood there staring blankly at the indifferent room he lived in.
Because this time was different.
This time, they had lost. He had lost... everything. 

He glared down at the black ring as it flashed back to silver, dropping his protective armor. 

For once, Plagg was silent. He had simply curled up in the crook of Adrien’s neck and purred. 
Adrien wished the kwami would make his usual demand for camembert or mock his chosen for his awful attempts at flirting, if only so he'd have reason to scream at the small creature. 
Not that any of this was Plagg's fault. 
No, the blame laid neatly on his own shoulders. He collapsed to the floor under the weight of his own guilt. He pulled his knees into his chest, and sobbed silently, only his quaking form betraying his grief because even now, he knew he couldn't be discovered. His behavior and devastation could not be explained to Nathalie or to his father, and so he had to cry in secret. 
The thought made him want to scream.
Ladybug deserved better. Her loss deserved acknowledgement. 
But he would honor her wishes. She wouldn't want her death to compromise his ability to protect their city. It's why she had always insisted their identities remain secret, to protect their loved ones. But also, to protect themselves so those they loved couldn't be used against them.
But in this moment, he could let himself fall to pieces. He knew what he had to do now - Ladybug had left him directions because they both had known that this was a possibility. 
He slammed his fists into the floor, relishing in the physical lancing pain the action brought. 
Why did it have to be her? It was supposed to be him. He was her shield! How could he have failed? If he had just gotten there thirty seconds earlier, maybe he could have made a difference.
Yes, he knew what he was supposed to do next, but he didn't want to. He wasn’t sure he could face what she had left him.
If he opened that box, he was going to know who she was. How could fate be so cruel? How many times had he begged, wished, and prayed to know. Today, he would take it all back. Today, he was willing to give up ever knowing, if it meant she would come back to him - if she would keep fighting by his side.
But he had to open that box. It was what she had wanted. She wanted her family and friends to know what had happened to her. She didn't want them to spend the rest of their lives wondering. 
He wiped his tears, and forced himself back to his feet. The journey into his oversized walk in closet had never felt further. He hesitated again in the doorway.
He forced himself to take another step in the cavernous space, ignoring the rows of shoes and racks of starched well pressed designer clothes. All his attention focused on the bookcase filled with anime and video games. He had placed the small shelf in the corner of the closet for the specific purpose of hiding this treasure. This awful treasure that he had never hoped to have reason to open. 
He pushed aside the bookshelf, and moved a poster of Jagged Stone that covered the wall behind the shelf to reveal the rectangular shaped hole Plagg had helped him carve into the lower wall just over a year prior when Ladybug had made her tearful request after too close a call. He pulled out a dusty wooden box finished in cherry walnut red that had been sealed along the opening with layers of white glue.
"Adrien," the kwami whispered, hovering above his shoulder. "It's okay to wait a day." 
The part-time superhero shook his head, wiping more tears he hadn't noticed falling from his face with the back of his hand. He didn't want to wait. He needed to do something. 
Otherwise he was going to destroy something.
He brought the small box to his room and used a pair of scissors to break through the seal and took off the lid. The interior held a small pile of vellum envelopes laying beautifully on a red velvet lining. He fanned them out to reveal four letters, took a deep breath and flipped them over to reveal the addressees. 
"No no no no no," he whispered in horror, his throat locked as the grief hit him all over again. 
Chat Noir
Tom Dupain & Sabine Cheng
Ayla Cesaire
Adrien Agreste
Those painfully familiar names added up to only one person. One amazingly kind, warm, brave, and selfless person. 
His lady was his princess. 
He had lost them both.
"I'm so sorry kid," Plagg whispered. 
He couldn't hold back the wracking howling sobs this time. He didn’t even try.

Chapter Text

To my dearest partner, Chat Noir,
I know what you’re thinking. And I need you to hear me kitty, because you are wrong. 

It wasn’t your fault.

I don’t know if I really knew what I was signing up for when I accepted the miraculous, but I learned quickly what it could mean. I knew what the risks were, but I couldn’t stop. 

You are probably the only person in my life that can really understand what this feels like. How you’ve found your purpose and that it is so much bigger than you ever thought it could be – where you know you can make a difference. How good it feels to go flying over rooftops – the freedom of it! And how beautiful Paris looks – how grand. It’s worth protecting.

Even if there was a terrible cost, I think it was worth it. Being Ladybug helped me to find my own voice. Before I became Ladybug, I was silent in my life, shy, stepped on, and alone. Ladybug taught me I could stand up for myself and for others. It gave me the confidence to be comfortable in my own skin, and decide that this girl was pretty awesome in her own right. 

You have been my best friend, and I would have quit on day two if you hadn’t been there to share this responsibility with me. You were the reason, the inspiration – that convinced me I could do this. So, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being there with me, for having my back, for facing every villain without flinching, and for loving me. 

I want you to know. I need you to really hear me this time. It wasn’t your fault.

You were already the best partner a girl could ask for because you trusted me without hesitation, because you made me laugh when it all felt like too much. And then you came and befriended me as myself. I think that night when you visited me as Marinette on my balcony and told me your feelings for Ladybug, I truly saw you for the first time. I saw how gentle you were, how genuine and sweet.

I know it may be difficult, maybe even feel impossible, but I hope you can find it within you to open your heart again. Because you deserve the best. You deserve to be loved and cherished.

I'm sorry that I've left so much on your shoulders. I never could have done this alone, and it kills me that I'm now asking you to take on a task I could never face. I hope you can forgive me for leaving you alone. Please know that I never wanted to. That I never would have left you by choice. 

With so much Love,
Your Lady, 
Your Princess, 

It had taken six attempts to make it all the way through the letter. And since then, he had read it at least fifteen times, though honestly, he had lost count. He just couldn't look away. He clung to each word, trying to imagine Ladybug's confident voice or Marinette's nervous stutter saying each heartfelt word out loud. 
Because he would never hear her voice again. 
He dissolved into tears again. Some detached corner of his mind was amazed he was still capable of crying. Another part didn't believe he would ever be able to stop.
He had always taken the sound of her voice for granted. And her smirk, the way she would roll her eyes at the most ridiculous pun, her creativity in figuring out some hair brained way to overcome an enemy – he had taken all of it for granted. Because despite some close calls, he assumed that they would always come out of every encounter victorious.
If only he had been just a little bit faster. How could he have ever let her take that hit? One minute she had been there in her legs wide in a low fighting stance, her yo-yo whirling at impossible speeds as her shield, and the next moment she was falling into some singularity – her lithe form crushed and absorbed, before vanishing altogether. There wasn't even a body to bury or a miraculous to recover.
He had hoped when he defeated the akuma, she would return, but apparently destroying the butterfly did not have the same effect as purifying one. And he had no ability to reset everything the way she had.
It should have been him. 
It’s not your fault.
Her words haunted him. Because how could it not be his fault?
Intellectually, he knew she was right. And he was touched that she knew him well enough to offer that exact assurance, but he didn't know if he could ever believe it.
Eventually, his sobs slowed, and then ebbed completely. His limbs felt heavy and despondent - nothing was worth getting up from the floor for. Plagg had curled up on his chest, had not uttered a word, and had never left his side. The kwami offering what small comfort he could with his mere presence, no doubt very aware that no words were adequate.
No one else had come to check on him during his caterwauling expression of grief. Not his father. Not even Nathalie. He wasn't sure if he was angry and disappointed by that fact, or relieved. Probably both. He would think about it more later – now, such small things were beneath his notice.
He couldn't have said how long he lay there. The room had grown dimmer with the passage of day, but the sun had yet to set. The thought of the day's ending without Marinette home in her room propelled him upwards as nothing else would have.
He had to get up. He couldn't stand the thought of Tom and Sabine having time to realize that their daughter was missing. He glanced at the clock. 
The bakery was open for another hour.
He still had time.
"Plagg?" his voice cracked from grief and disuse. "Claws out."

Chapter Text

Chat Noir stood on the sidewalk outside the bakery five minutes before they closed. He ignored the startled glances from passerbys that his presence brought, too distracted by the warm glow shining into the night from the bakery’s front window display. He watched Sabine hand a white paper bag to a customer with a warm smile. He didn't want to go in. He didn't want to ruin the safe cheery haven with his terrible world-ending news. 
But he had to. It was what she had asked of him, why she had left him with the box in the first place.
Sabine's petite form approached the door, no doubt to lock it for the evening.
Her movement made him propel one foot in front of the other. He pulled the door open before the petite woman could turn the lock, and slipped inside right in front of her.

"Chat Noir!" Sabine exclaimed, clearly startled by his sudden appearance six inches from her face. "To what do we owe the honor?"
Summoned by her exclamation, Tom came in from a back room with furrowed eyebrows. 
Chat looked between them. He couldn’t speak. A brick had lodged itself in his throat, painfully choking off any words.

“What’s wrong, honey?” Her voice oozed with genuine warmth and concern. She placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. 
He crumpled like paper. His own maelstrom of grief hit him all over again, stronger this time. He wasn’t even sure how that was possible. 
Small arms encompassed him immediately. And for a moment he allowed his head to fall on her thin shoulders, basked in the sensation of being held by a mother's embrace, and trembled like a leaf as wild feral sobs were torn from his throat.
"It's okay honey. You can tell us what happened," Sabine soothed, an arm rubbing small comforting full circles on his back. 
The invitation was a bucket of cold water. And he immediately struggled to pull himself together. He needed to be strong. For Ladybug. For Marinette. For her parents who didn’t yet know they had lost a daughter.
He had no right to indulge in their compassion. He forced himself to breathe. His throat remained tight and swollen, but he managed to mostly cut off his cries. His eyes were hot and puffy, but the tears ebbed. He gently pushed the warmth away. 
“I’m s-sorry,” he choked out, as he pulled out the letter. “I wasn't there in time. I should have been there sooner. It should have been me.”

Tom and Sabine exchanged puzzled looks, before turning concerned eyes to him. He was doing this all wrong. He shoved the letter into her hands.
Sabine’s face turned white as soon as she read their names. No doubt she recognized the handwriting. "Tom?" she reached for him, her voice cracking. And he was already there, his thick arms swallowing her completely, his support the only thing preventing her from collapsing immediately to the ground.
With shaking hands, she tore open the envelope.
Her dark eyes scanned through the letter quickly. “Tom,” she sobbed. “Marinette’s… Mari’s…” She held out the letter to him so that he could read it. He took it from her trembling hands, and placed it reverently on the counter without glancing at its contents. Then he crushed his wife’s form into his own. They both shook like an unexpected earthquake, the sound of their devastated sobs barely muffled by their faces being buried in one another’s shoulders. 
Chat’s own tears were falling again, but he managed to tremble silently not wanting to intrude on their family’s grief. He needed to leave. He turned silently on his heels. He would come back again, and answer all their questions. But for now, he thought it best to give them some time.

"Where do you think you're going?" Tom barked just before his hand touched bakery’s door. 

Chat froze at the anger in the other man's voice. Marinette may have felt that it wasn't his fault, but clearly her father felt differently. 

"Come here," the father ordered. 
And the hero obeyed. He would face whatever Tom had in store for him, certain he deserved it. 

He stiffened in surprise when the older man pulled him forcefully into their hug. But then once again, he couldn’t contain his own grief – not in the face of such compassion. He melted in their warmth, and they all cried together. 

Maman and Papa, 

I’ve been keeping a secret from you both, and my only regret was that I had to lie to you... like constantly. 

I’ve wondered over and over again if it would’ve been easier to have told you. Sometimes, I thought you might have even suspected. But in the end, I decided it was kinder to keep the secret. I didn't want you to worry about me too much.

You see, I am Ladybug. 

And if you’re reading this... if Chat Noir delivered this to you, it means I didn’t make it. I’m sorry for hitting you with both bombshells at the same time, but I needed you to know. I didn’t want you to have to wonder how it could have happened or believe I just went missing. And I wanted you to truly know the daughter you had raised.

I'm not sure if you would have approved of me taking on this responsibility. I feel I need to explain why I chose to continue doing this even once I realized how dangerous it was. Initially, I actually said no and perhaps now, you're wishing I had stuck with that initial answer. But apparently, not just anyone can be Ladybug. You have to be chosen. You have to be compassionate and creative.

And when I tried to walk away it just resulted in the people I cared about - you both included - facing the danger instead, and with no ability to protect themselves. I just couldn't walk away knowing that I could protect them, that I could protect you.

And later, I will admit I came to enjoy it. Flying across rooftops is amazingly freeing! And Paris looks gorgeous from the top of the Eiffel Tower. And it’s so rewarding to know you’re making a difference – that you’re able to help in a way that no one else can.

Being Ladybug also helped me find my courage. I learned that when the cards were down, I could overcome my anxiety, and I could make a difference. I learned to stand up for myself and others even out of the costume, and I made so many friends because of it.

I want you to know that I could only be a heroine because of your support and love. I hope you can understand. I hope that you can forgive me. And even if you can't, that you can be proud of all I was able to accomplish as Ladybug.

With all my love, 
PS. Please take care Chat for me. I think he has a rough life and he won’t know how to handle this.

Chat Noir had never expected the evening to progress to him sitting in the Dupain-Cheng dining room across from Marinette’s parents. They shared a pot of hot tea as Tom and Sabine asked him questions about his time as a hero – more specifically, the time he had spent with Ladybug. He had been hesitant at first, not wanting to cause more pain, but he quickly realized they wanted to know about it. They wanted to know about this aspect of their daughter’s life. And he was really the only person that could share it with them.

His recounted stories of battles and patrols often resulted in tears in at least one of them. And as soon as one of them started crying, the other two were going to get dragged in. But it was cathartic. Adrien had never been able to share this part of his life with anyone.

"Did you know who she was?" Tom asked into his tea, never making eye contact. 

"No, she always insisted that we couldn't know until after Papillion was defeated. She had so much to protect. I never understood. I don't have a lot of people in my life like she does... did. She was one of the few," his voice cracked. "As both Marinette, and Ladybug."

"Does anyone know your identity?" Sabine added softly, refilling everyone’s cups with the ornate teapot.

He shook his head. "No one except the person who gave us the miraculous."

"Would you take off your mask, if I asked you to?"

He froze, feeling uncertain. "Why are you asking?"

"Because you don't have a Ladybug to deliver your letters for you. Because you are clearly still very young to be handling all of this, because you just said you don't have a lot of people in your life. And because I want to know the person who had my daughter's back."

He couldn’t say no to that. And he really didn’t want to.

“Plagg, claws in.”

“Oh honey,” Sabine was holding him again, even as she was crying. He didn’t know why his being Adrien made Sabine even more motherly, but he wasn’t going to question it.

Chapter Text

Chat thought it should be easier to deliver the letter to Alya than Tom and Sabine. Alya wasn't family. Alya had only known Marinette for the last two years. Alya had already attended Marinette's service three days prior. Alya also had reason to suspect that Ladybug was gone. She had caught her disappearance on film. She would have some grieving out of the way. She would be more prepared for this blow.
And Chat Noir had theoretically had practice delivering the news and revelation. He didn't even have to say anything. Just hand her the letter and walk away.
It should have been easier.
But it wasn't.
Perhaps because Chat Noir had to face his own grief all over again through the eyes of someone else. 
It didn't help that Alya was already staring into space, her eyes unfocused and uncaring. He tapped on her window and she didn't even notice. He tried again a little harder. Her attention jumped to his, and he watched her whole form go rigid. But she managed to shake herself loose to come and open the window.
"She's not coming back, is she?" she asked, her words barely above a whisper.
"Huh?" He slipped past her into her bedroom.
"Ladybug. If you're here by yourself, it means..." and she was crying again. "First Marinette, and now Ladybug." She crumpled into a heap on the floor, her back against the wall under the window she had just opened.  
He sat carefully beside her and didn’t comment on her last statement. Instead, he handed her the letter. "You need to read this."
"This is Marinette's handwriting! How did you get this?!" she demanded, her eyes flashing in anger.
"Read it," he repeated. “It will make sense in a minute.” Somehow, he wasn't crying.
She wasted no time at all ripping open the envelope. Her eyes poured over the letter drinking in every word. 
"Oh my god!” she gasped. Tears welled at the edges of her eyes. “H-How could I not have seen it?” 
Alya crumpled into him and he held her as she shook with silent tears. He didn’t this time. Perhaps, he had finally cried himself out. 
Now, he felt numb.

When I met you, I was shy and a bit of a pushover filled with righteous indignation that I never had any way to express. You helped me stand up to Chloé for the first time in three years of her bullying me. You helped me do something with all that righteousness. And suddenly, I was able to shine in my own right, able to stand up for myself and others, able to come out of my shell and befriend all my peers. All because you believed in me. 
You already know all that. I’ve already told you this in person. And I can never say thank you enough - can never cherish you enough.
But you don't know the impact you had on Ladybug.
You are Ladybug's hero.
When the miraculous showed up on my desk and the kwami of creation introduced herself, I freaked out. And I said no. I never wanted to be Ladybug. I tried to give away my miraculous after I failed the first day. 
I tried to give it to you. 
You were strong and confident. You knew how to stand up to bullies. You ran towards danger wanting to do something about it when I just wanted to hide. 
But you missed the present I had left you when you left your backpack behind, trying to get the scoop of a decade. I went chasing after you with your bag in hand, trying to get you to notice. But before I could reach you, someone needed me.
You needed me. 
You were in danger and I had to act. But I still screwed up. And I was more convinced than ever that I couldn't do this.
But your belief in me never wavered. Even after I had failed. You still trusted that Ladybug would show up and save the day! I had to live up to that. Because I couldn’t disappoint you. 
You believed in me. Both as Ladybug and as Marinette within the same week! Even though you didn’t know either of us very well! No one other than my parents had really ever done that for me. I couldn’t let you down. 
I literally never would have been Ladybug without you. You’re the reason I stood up and accepted my role as Ladybug on that very first day.
I’m sorry that I never completely confided in you. I think you can now understand why. I was never mad that you never confided your secret to me either. It just made me trust you more.
So here at the end, I needed you to know. 
You are my hero. 
Your bestie always and forever, 
P.S. And I know it’s probably unfair of me to ask, but I was hoping you would write Ladybug’s obituary.
Alya sat, her head resting against his shoulder long after she had read Marinette’s final good-bye. Long after she had cried herself out. Neither of them spoke. The room grew dim as the sun set, but still neither moved. Instead they clung to one another. No words were adequate, so no words had been spoken. 
"I feel like I didn't know her at all," Alya finally spoke into the silence.

Chat frowned. "Are you kidding? You could practically read her mind. If anyone spoke Marinette it was you."
Her hazel eyes squinted at him. "How would you know?"
He snorted. "Are you kidding, Alya? Marinette was always best under pressure or during emergencies. During those times, she could see a direct path to what needed to be done and she would do it. She was a leader and an inspiration.”

“But the rest of the time,” he barreled forward, his eyes burned with threatened tears. He ignored it. “She was an anxious mess. There were so many times where you coached her through and out of her spirals. So many times when she couldn’t get words out in the correct order. So many times she was trying to stutter through a single sentence. But if you were there, you could always translate.”

Her head shifted on his shoulder. He couldn’t see her face as she had turned away from him.

“She always turned so pink when she gave you those grateful smiles," he continued.

“How do you know all of this?” she asked softly.

He tensed. 
"You go to school with us," she accused without heat. It wasn't a question. “There’s no way you could know otherwise.”

"She would kill me," he mumbled. "I've practically blown my identity twice now in delivering these two letters."

She smiled in sympathy, and patted his hand consolingly. There was no joy in the action. “Who did you tell?”

“Her parents. It just doesn't seem as important at the moment,” he admitted with a shrug. “I never had anyone to protect except her."
"I'm sure that's not true.” She frowned at him the way one would frown at a small child that didn’t understand.

“Are you mad at her for not telling you?” His masked eyes swung towards her, with genuine curiosity.

“No.” Her frown deepened. “Maybe? I mean, I’m not upset she didn’t tell me that she was Ladybug. I understand why she didn’t. I never confided in her about my secret identity either. Though I guess she already knew."
"Your secret identity?"
"I was Rena Rouge."
He should have been surprised. But he wasn’t. 

"Of course you were." Which meant Nino was Carapace. They were all his closest friends... every single one of them. Even Chloé. No wonder he worked so well with all of them. God, he was so blind.

"But I guess I do wish I had known or figured it out,” Alya continued. “I just feel bad about all the times I got mad at her for disappearing or flaking. I think I could’ve been a better friend and not added to her already huge serving of stress, if I had known.”
"It's the price of being a superhero," he said softly.
"What's it like for you? Are you always flaking on your friends?" Her hazel eyes turned back to him.

That was ironic considering she was a major spoke on his social wheel. 
He shrugged evasively. "My friends are used to me bailing for other reasons outside my control. They are often disappointed, but not usually mad at me. I guess Mari had it worse in some ways."

"Yeah, at least she knew why I occasionally bailed on her."

Chat laughed. "You were always chasing the akumas long before Rena Rouge came on the scene. Your obsession with filming the action always drove LB mad." He sobered. "Maybe that's why she picked you. So, you could defend yourself."

"Ha!” she barked, clapping her hand onto her knees. “I think it was manipulative."
"What do you mean?" he asked.

"She wanted me to understand what it meant to have a secret identity, so that if I ever figured hers out I would consider her perspective before I published everything."

He cocked his head towards her. "Would you really have exposed her after discovering it was your best friend?"
"I think you were actually her best friend," Alya whispered, her eyes downcast into her lap.
He shrugged. "Maybe in some ways. But her civilian life was always more important to her.”
Alya didn’t respond. Chat didn’t know how to fill the silence that suddenly felt oppressive.
“So, would you?” he finally prompted her

"Expose Ladybug’s identity?” she repeated, her head on his shoulder again. “Not intentionally for sure. But there were so many times where I was live streaming and trying to catch her mid transformation. I definitely could have exposed her with no ability to take it back. I guess Lady Wifi is a part of me still."
“Did you keep doing it after she made you Rena Rouge?” he asked into the growing darkness.

“For a little while. But I quickly realized how dangerous it would be for all of us if someone found out.”
“Yeah,” Chat agreed. It had taken him awhile to learn that too.
They spent the rest of the evening sharing stories about both Marinette and Ladybug. They even managed to laugh a few times – maybe there was a hysterical edge to it, but it was good. It felt right. Like touching a bruise that was still tender, but not excruciating anymore.
"Thank you for this," Chat finally said hours later. 
"What do you mean?"
"It was just nice to talk about and remember her with someone that knew her well. Especially someone that knew her on both sides of the mask."

“Yeah, for me too. If you need to talk in the coming days or weeks, please know I’m willing to be there for you.”

He gave her a tight hug before rising to his feet. 

“Thank you Alya. That means a lot to me.”

Chapter Text

The Ladyblog’s announcement of Ladybug’s passing had hit the internet four days prior. The people of Paris had expressed shock, grief, and fear that they were no longer protected. The Ladybug statue was covered in flowers, candles, and tokens of appreciation. All of Paris was in mourning.

Until just as suddenly, it wasn’t.

There hadn’t been an akuma in weeks - since the fateful day of their catastrophic loss. Perhaps, Papillion had given up now that Ladybug’s miraculous couldn’t be stolen away. The average citizen no longer feared akumas, and therefore no longer missed Ladybug.

People walked the sidewalks again wearing bright colors, laughing about their days, no longer worried about the threat of a potential akuma. It was enough to make Adrien want to scream! How could Paris move on so quickly? How could they forget Ladybug’s heroic sacrifice overnight?

It was infuriating. Adrien was of half a mind to track down Papillion and beg him to release another akuma. He wasn’t sure if he just wanted something to beat up on, or if he wanted to remind the city why they had loved Ladybug in the first place.

“It’s natural for people to move on kid,” Plagg had told him. “Most people didn’t know her.” 

The teenager sighed. He knew the kwami was right, but Marinette deserved better. He flipped the now familiar envelope over and again in his hands, reading his name in Marinette's flowing handwriting. He still hadn't opened it. Instead, he had taken to playing with it like it was some fidget toy when he needed something in his hands.

He had delivered Alya’s letter to her over a week ago, but he still couldn’t bring himself to open his own.  This letter's existence was an enigma to him. He couldn’t figure out why Marinette had written him a letter. Like, they were friends, but surely, she was closer to Nino or Luka. Why him?

He knew all he had to do was open the goddamn letter and she would tell him. 
But he was terrified of what her words might reveal. 

And it would be the very last thing she could say to him. As long as he kept it unopened and sealed, there was a little bit more he had never heard her say. A promise that she still had more to share with him. If he read it, that would be it. It would be the last thing she would ever say to anyone. 

“You ever going to open it, kid?” Plagg asked, hovering over his chosen’s left shoulder.
“I don’t know if I can,” he admitted.

"Trust me. It will hurt..."
"Thanks Plagg,” Adrien interjected dryly. “That’s super encouraging. "
"...and then, you can start healing."
Adrien stared at the envelope for several more seconds, and then slipped a trembling finger under the vellum flap and tore it open. He slipped the letter out, set it on his desk still folded unable to look at it yet, and stood up and paced his overly cavernous room.

He sat back down in the chair, only to immediately stand back up, dig his hands into his hair, and pull at the messy yellow locks it in agitation as he continued his pacing once again.

Plagg wisely stayed silent. 
After what felt like hours, but was probably only ten or so minutes, Adrien eventually stood over the desk, not being able to handle sitting down, he carefully and reverently unfolded the letter and forced his eyes to float over the opening words.
I’d like to think that this letter is now redundant. That I eventually gathered the courage to confess, but my track record has been awful so far. Honestly, it almost seems cruel to tell you now, but this is my last chance. And well, I wanted to follow through for once. And this way, there’s no way my nerves can overtake me, there’s no way for me to back out.

I love you.
He crushed the letter into a balled fist, slammed it onto the desk, and kicked away from the heartfelt message as if burned. He stormed back and forth from his desk to his bed, harder and faster than before. He needed an outlet for his sudden agitation and there was none to be had. His life, every last minute of it, was some cruel cosmic joke. They had both been cheated. 

If he could speak to her again, he would scream at how stupid and unfair her insistence on secret identities was. At how needlessly complicated her insistence on following the rules had made both of their lives. He couldn’t ever remember being angrier with her. He hadn’t been this angry when she rejected him. Not the first time, nor the second. He hadn’t even been this angry with her when he realized that she had been keeping Master Fu’s secrets about their miraculous from him.

He tore his hair from its roots. He should have opened that door after Lady Wifi. Or opened his eyes during Dark Owl! Or looked over the barricade every single time they hid from each other when their transformations had timed out in the middle of a battle!

Some hysterical sound somewhere between a laugh and a cry tore itself from his throat. It wasn’t fair. 
Plagg approached the crumpled letter, smoothed it out carefully, and floated the awful treasure back to his chosen.

"You've gotten to the hurt part, but you have to finish to begin the healing part."

The comment hurt – like knives into every inch of his chest. Plagg had known.

Plagg had known she loved Adrien.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he demanded, his voice cracking through his choked-up throat.

“It wasn’t my place,” the small cat god spoke so quietly, Adrien wouldn’t have been able to hear him without his enhanced feline senses. Plagg offered the heavy vellum paper to him again.

"I don't want to read it," Adrien sounded like a petulant child even to his own ears. He couldn’t bring himself to care. 
"She wanted you to read it.”

Adrien scowled hard at his ever-present companion. That was such a low blow, even for his mischievous kwami. The teenager snatched the vellum paper that hung between them, sat down on the smooth floor under his desk, and brought her words back into his line of sight.
I love you.
It was the second day we met, when you apologized for putting gum on my chair, or rather apologized for doing something you hadn't actually done. I remember thinking how unfair I had been to make such a snap judgement and to not let you explain. You were so genuine.

And then you gave me your umbrella even though you thought I was still mad at you. It struck me as kind. And I just haven't met very many boys who are also kind. And your care made me feel warm. 

Even in the rain.
And my affections only grew when I saw that your generosity, care for others, and overall kindness wasn’t just a one time thing. You helped me translate for my uncle at the drop of a hat, you gave up your seat in the gaming competition so Max could have his dream when I had been rather selfish. You see the best in people like Chloé! You picked up that stupid prescription that I gave you completely accidentally. And you sat with me, and made sure I wasn’t alone when the rest of the class exiled me to the corner.

And when I see all the modeling that you do, all the fans that you have, it amazes me that you never let that attention and admiration go to your head. You persevere through your overwhelming and regimented schedule, and I just know you are amazingly resilient. When I have struggled to balance everything from fighting akumas to school and my normal life to suddenly being a celebrity, I look up to you.

I am sorry I never had the courage to tell you this to your face. I tried so many times, and even got so close (that prescription was supposed to be one of them). You would probably laugh at some of the schemes I attempted (you should ask Alya about it sometime when you want to laugh). But something always got in the way. Usually my nerves. 

But I wanted you to know. 

I hope that you can find someone that you love as much or more than I loved you. So often, you seem lonely. And that’s not right. You deserve to be seen, to be comforted, and appreciated. You are far more than a pretty face on a billboard. And you should never have to be alone. 

Just so you know, I think you're amazing.

He clutched the letter to his chest as if it could offer the physical comfort he wanted and needed. He trembled and struggled for air through his keening sobs, and hot tears slipped unnoticed down his face.
“Plagg?” he managed, his voice hoarse and cracking. “W-What do I do now?”

His kwami had curled onto his shoulder and was purring. Adrien was not in the right mind to appreciate the gesture, but maybe he would look back and remember. 

“What do you want to do?” the creature offered softly.
“Break things,” Adrien admitted.
“We could do that.” There was no judgment or mockery in his tone. 
“It won’t help.”
"Says you!” a bit of levity breaking into Plagg’s nasally voice. “I find breaking things to be very therapeutic."
"But it won't bring her back. It won't restore the time we lost. It won’t replace what we could have had."
"You are angry."

Adrien’s hands tightened into fists - his fingernails pressed painfully into his palms like a dull knife. He snapped his eyelids shut not wanting to take in any of the world.
"Angry doesn’t begin to describe it!” he raged. “I can't believe we spent two fucking years dancing around each other. We could've been together!” 

He bolted to his feet and kicked his desk chair across the room. It rolled silently to a stop, and he found himself wishing he had hurled the piece of furniture through the window instead. 

“Like if Adrien had never gone to school, would Marinette have fallen in love with Chat Noir?!" 

He stabbed a pen into the solid wood surface of his desk as he spoke. It remained embedded in the surface. He couldn’t pull it back out.

“Or if we had never been given the miraculous, would Adrien have fallen in love with Marinette without Ladybug being there to fill his heart and mind?!”

A second pen joined the first with a resounding thud. 

“Or if we had just revealed ourselves to one another, and could have realized that everything was mutual instead of repeatedly hurting each other over and over again!"

A third pen was added. Really, he could do this all day.

"You can't do this to yourself kid," Plagg said, his voice soft and understanding. 

Adrien swiped the tears from his face with the back of his hand, fell back to the ground and pulled his knees to his chest. He had never thought a moment would come that he wished that he hadn't been chosen to be Chat Noir, but it had arrived. If someone else had the miraculous of destruction, maybe Marinette would still be alive. 

"Why were we chosen, Plagg?"

The kwami flew to him and hovered inches from his face. 
"You were well suited to me, and Marinette to Tikki. You complemented each other. And you passed the Master's test."
"What do you mean, we complemented each other?" 
"Ladybug and Chat Noir are opposites - two sides of the same coin. Creation and Destruction. You have to complement each other." 
"You mean like personality?" Adrien asked distantly, as he scuffed the floor to his right.  
The kwami shook his head. "No, it's on a spiritual level." 
"Yeah, like your souls."

"Souls..." Adrien repeated, feeling beyond numb. "Are you saying that Marinette and I are... were soul mates?" 

"Soul-mates sure, but I don't think humans actually know what the term means. It has nothing to do with romanticism. It's has to do with karma and the agreements you made when you both came into this life."
"So, I didn't just lose my partner and my crush. I lost my fucking soul mate?" his voice suddenly hard and icy.
"You cannot lose a soulmate. There's nothing ‘were’ about it kid. Souls are immortal."

Perhaps Plagg was trying to be comforting. But his perspective as a five-thousand-year-old god was skewed. He saw a big picture where an individual’s soul was immortal. His knowledge brought no comfort to a sixteen-year-old boy grieving the loss of the only person in his life who saw him in every aspect of his world and still accepted and loved him.

“But I won’t ever see her again,” he whispered.

“No, you likely won’t. At least, not as Adrien.”

Adrien wrapped his arms around his legs and buried his head between his knees. He rocked himself back and forward, struggling for air as the wracking convulsing took over his body again. 

Plagg was there, purring again on his shoulder like a tiny little heated motor. The little black kitten had never let his side. 

But it didn’t help. 

He felt empty. 


And completely alone.


Chapter Text

Adrien’s fingers slowly spun the hot tea cup idly in his hands. He had yet to take a sip, but the brew smelled nice and it was warm. That was comforting - like holding a little ball of sunshine in the middle of a cold winter’s blizzard.

“How have you been keeping busy?” 

Adrien glanced towards the red Hawaiian shirt that Master Fu always seemed to be wearing. He didn’t bother making eye contact.

He shrugged, letting his eyes fall down to watch the little entrails of vapor rise from his cup with too much of his attention. “My father has cut my workload in half, so I’ve mostly been hanging out with Nino and Alya a lot. We don’t talk about much, but it’s just nice that they’re there.”

“That’s good.”

They fell into silence again. Adrien shifted uncomfortably, searching in desperation for anything to say or to focus on. Adrien hated the quiet. Silence created too much space for thoughts and feelings that the teenager didn’t much feel like exploring at the moment. His eyes landed on a smoke grey ring on the red table cloth - evidence of an old burn in the otherwise smooth protective fabric that stretched over the low roundtable between him and Master Fu. He took a sip of tea. It was mild - some kind of white tea. But Adrien had never tasted anything quite like it before so he suspected Fu had made an original blend of several different varieties.

“And there have been no akumas?” Fu asked.

The miraculous guardian already knew the answer to that question, but Adrien felt grateful for the bone anyway. “Not since Lady- Marinette…” he trailed off with a shake of his head. He could not for the life of him figure out why the word ‘died’ was so very hard to say.

“Perhaps he assumed that with the Ladybug miraculous gone, his goals are no longer achievable,” the old man concluded with a contemplative hum. “This would be a fortunate turn of events.”

Adrien slammed his cup down on the table. “Fortunate?!”

Fu took another sip of his own tea, his outward demeanor calm and unaffected, his brown eyes soft with compassion. “You know that’s not what I meant.”

Adrien slumped over the table, as the fight just left him as quickly as it had boiled over. He didn’t think he could face an akuma right now anyway. Not alone.

His eyes remained dry. And that was a miracle.

“Wayzz has devised a method to retrieve the ladybug miraculous,” Fu commented casually after a careful measured sip of tea. He might as well have been talking about the weather.

It took a moment for the words to process, but when they did Adrien felt that he had been hit by a truck.  Plagg had been remarkably supportive over the last month for the mischievous little sprite. It has taken Adrien far too long to realize that Plagg wasn’t grieving Tikki. When Adrien had asked about it, his kwami had said the creation miraculous hadn’t been destroyed. That it had to have survived in order for the physical planet earth to remain in existence. Plagg didn’t know when he would see Tikki again - sometimes they were separated for a millennia at a time, but he knew that the balance of the world could not be maintained without her continued existence.

He had started talking about weird dimensions and the astral plane where the kwamis lived whenever they weren’t bonded to a physical anchor. Adrien had stopped listening after that. If they wouldn’t recover Tikki and her miraculous for another thousand years, she couldn’t help him. But if Wayzz could recover her sooner... 

He tried not to hope. Hope was dangerous. But he felt the slightest warmth of it bubble up in his chest anyway.

“We could bring Marinette back,” he whispered.  

“You have to be careful with that line of thinking,” Fu said, his voice still as smooth as the surface of an undisturbed pond.


“Wanting to revive Marinette is a very human and natural wish, but you must be aware of the consequences of such an endeavor.”

“I don’t care about the consequences!” Adrien snapped, his hand gripping the table cloth in tight fists. 

“Papillion didn’t either.” 

Adrien threw his tea cup against the wall. It shattered. Fu did not react except to pour him another cup of tea in a new cup.

“To bring Marinette back, you must inflict this pain - the pain you are feeling right now - on another.”

“Do I get to choose who?” Adrien asked. He would choose Papillion.


It wasn’t that much of a deterrent honestly. He would do it. If it were solely up to him he would make the trade in a heartbeat. Adrien felt he might understand Papillion more than he ever wanted to, but that wouldn’t stop him.

But Marinette… she would never forgive him. 

Adrien sighed. He forced himself to sip at his new cup of tea, trying to get a handle on his own feelings.

“She wouldn’t want me to do it.” 

“No, I don’t think she would,” the old man agreed gently. 

They fell into silence again, and Adrien found that this time he didn’t mind. He didn’t much feel like talking anymore. He brushed away the sudden welling of tears from his eyes before attempting to bury himself in consuming his tea once again. Fu kept refilling his cup, and Adrien kept drinking. It was a good distraction. 

“It would do you good to speak with her,” Fu suggested after the teapot had been drained.



Adrien gripped his empty cup. He half expected it to break. It did not.

“She can’t hear me anymore,” he whispered.

The ancient man nodded. “Perhaps not, but you still have things that need to be said.”

Adrien tapped the pen in his hands against the table, staring down at the blank paper before him. He had so much to say and no idea where to begin. He hadn’t originally planned on following Fu’s advice. He was too angry still. With the man who had taken her away, and with the other man who had given the advice, but also with Marinette. 

She had left him.

The sudden snap of the pen breaking in his hands brought him back to the moment. 

He sighed, and pulled another pen from his drawer. He didn’t know that he wanted to write this letter, but he knew he didn’t want to keep feeling this way. He needed to try something.

Because he was growing increasingly destructive. And if he lost a few pens or destroyed his desk and furniture, he could care less. But he had snapped at both Nathalie and Nino this morning when they had been trying to cheer him up. And while Adrien didn’t want to be cheered up, he also didn’t want to keep hurting the people in his life that still cared about him.

It was Plagg who had reminded him that he needed to talk to Marinette. 

“But how?” 

“Do what she did. Write a letter.” 

So, that’s what he was trying to do.

Trying and failing. 

“You’re thinking too hard,” Plagg observed. The little black god was curled up on the corner of his desk, licking his own paw like a common house cat.

Adrien resisted the temptation to throw something at his kwami. “I can’t think of anything.” 

“It’s not about thinking. It’s about feeling.” 

Adrien looked up to the ceiling as if inspiration would fall from the sky. What did he even feel? At the moment? Regret? 

He uncapped the pen again and pressed it to the paper.

My Lady, 

I really wish that I had gotten to tell you who I was to your face. You deserved to know before anyone else, but I guess it can never happen now. 

The blond glared at the letter unhappily, before he crumpled the paper and tossed it aside. It was true, but it wasn’t really what he needed to say. He pulled a fresh sheet to start again.

Hey Princess, 

My name is Adrien. Apparently, we spent a lot of time together on both sides of the mask. Apparently, you were in love with me afterall. You’d probably be so mortified to know that. I can picture Ladybug punching me in the arm or Marinette turning bright red in an adorable stuttering mess. 

I wish I could have seen it. 

The words on the page blurred as his eyes burned. 

It’s not the time for jokes, Chaton.

Before even thinking about it, his pen scrawled angrily across the page, crossing out every single word, his pulse spiking in agitation and anger. He pulled a third piece of paper out, finally knowing what he needed to say.


It’s honestly weird that I finally know your name. I always wanted to know it and yet apparently, I had known it all along.

I need to be honest. I am angry with you. I always wanted to respect you and your wishes, but I wish more than anything, that I had revealed myself to you. Even if you weren’t ready to reciprocate. I understood your reasons. I did. I still do. But I didn’t have a beautiful family to protect like you did. You were my family. And I feel like I never got to know the whole complete package that made up the most amazing person that was you. 

And you never truly saw all of me either.

I don’t want to be mad at you. You were the best thing in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be whole again. But I know that you would want me to try. 

And so that’s what I’m doing. 

But I’m still angry. And I don’t know what to do with it. I just want to break things all the time. I wish you were here, to lecture me about throwing a fit. I wish I could scream at you. But more than that, I wish I could touch you just one more time. Or hear your voice while I sit next to you on the Eiffel Tower as the sun goes down.

He pulled back from the page, not wanting his tears to smear the ink. Part of him felt silly. What did it matter if the ink was smeared? It’s not like she was ever actually going to read it.

Plagg had moved to his shoulder at some point, nuzzling his catlike head into Adrien’s neck with soothing purrs. 

“Do you feel better?” Plagg asked, his feline green eyes soft.

Adrien touched the tear sliding down his cheek, as he considered the question. He was crying, but these tears were different. His body felt loose, his tension gone. The tears didn’t burn anymore. 

“I think so? I didn’t know that I felt this way. It’s a bit cathartic getting it out. I knew I was angry, but I never realized I was angry with her.” He turned to the black sprite on his shoulder. “I don’t want to be mad at her Plagg. She did nothing wrong.”

“She died. She left you alone,” Plagg countered flatly.

“She didn’t do it on purpose,” Adrien defended. 

“Doesn’t matter.” 

Adrien leaned back into his chair, and just let himself stare at the ceiling again, feeling numb more than anything. Eventually, he sat up and read over his words again. He wasn’t satisfied with it still. He wasn’t going to throw this one away, but he didn’t want to end it on this note either. 

He took the cap off the pen again. 

I quit modeling. I told my father I didn’t want to do it anymore. That I wanted to live my life doing something worthwhile. He didn’t say no, he didn’t give any orders, or really put up any sort of fight at all. In fact, he’s been more withdrawn lately than normal. I don’t know why. But I find myself not caring. I have too much of my own stuff to deal with to attempt bending over backwards in a pointless attempt to meet his impossible expectations just so he’ll talk with me. 

Instead, I spend more time with Nino, Alya, and your parents. They have become my family. Not a day goes by that I don’t see Nino. He comes by or I visit him with my newfound freedom. Alya is usually there. She misses you almost as much as I do. They don’t know that I’m Chat Noir, but I think I might tell them. It’d be nice to have a few people in my life that see all sides of me. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

I did tell your parents because they asked. And now, if they don’t hear from me every three days, I get an earful from them. It’s really nice to have someone worry about me. It’s no wonder you turned out as amazing as you did. They have me over for dinner at least once a week and they’ve given me some of your old things. I really enjoyed going through some of your sketchbooks. Your artwork and your designs are amazing! 

There hasn’t been an akuma since you disappeared. I guess Papillion was too successful. He lost the miraculous with that Akuma and now he can’t get what he wants either.  I’ve continued to do patrols anyway. I think Paris feels better seeing me keeping an eye out. But really, I don’t do it for Paris. I do it to remember you. 

I met Tikki. She was... distraught. Only Plagg could calm her. I wanted to ask them to revive you. It really doesn’t matter to me that someone else would die because anyone else is worth you breathing again. 


But I know it’s not what you would want. And I want to respect your wishes. Even if it makes me angry. 

Plagg gets to stay with me. Apparently, when a Kwami selects a chosen of their own will it’s usually for life unless the holder renounces them. And Tikki didn’t want a new holder yet. I think the pain of losing you is too fresh, and Fu pointed out it’s best if Papillion continues to believe the Ladybug Miraculous is gone forever. So in a way, you defeated your greatest enemy by falling in the way that you did.

Fu is training me to be the new Guardian. He said the reason you knew more than me was because you were getting this training. There are things only the Guardian can know. That it was never that he felt he couldn’t trust me.

Today was especially hard for me. I don’t know why. It wasn’t any different than yesterday. And yesterday, I thought I was doing better. But today… it just hit me all over again. That I’m never going to see you again. 

I took it out on Nino this morning… that’s why I’m writing this. 

I just miss you so much. I don’t know how to go on for however many years without you. But Plagg said I shouldn't think about the years without you.

I just have to get through today. (Sometimes I want to punch him).

Maybe I can do that. I promise you, I will try. 

Your knight, 
Your Chaton,

The bell chimed happily as Adrien entered the bakery. Sabine looked up from the counter at the sound, and offered him a warm smile. He moved behind the counter and greeted her with a hug. If he closed his eyes he could pretend the warm petite form against his chest was Marinette. 
“Adrien, it’s so good to see you. I’ve missed you,” she greeted in Mandarin as she kissed his cheek. “You really should come by every morning so I can check on you. There’s some free croissants in it for you.”
“Your bribes will get you everywhere,” he joked back. “Seriously though, I promise I’m doing okay. Please don’t worry about me.” He said, as he pulled away just slightly from her motherly embrace. 
“I will always worry about you,” she chided as she moved efficiently to fill up a small plate with his favorite pastries and a half wheel of camembert.
He opened his mouth to object. Sabine plugged his mouth with a croissant before he could. 
“You can take this upstairs with you. But before you head up, Tom created another original that he’s dying for you specifically to try.”
“An experiment? How exciting!” he exclaimed around a mouthful of flakey buttery pastry. He didn’t have to fake the excitement. Tom’s original creations were always the absolute best.
The bell chimed again, signaling another customer had come in. 
“You can head on back,” she nodded towards the back room. “How can I help you?” she greeted, switching back over to French.
Adrien slipped past the counter and moved into the back room. The dry heat of working ovens enveloped him for a second before he moved further back into the chill of the overly air-conditioned work room.
“Adrien! My boy, I have something for you!” Tom greeted, his attention focused acutely on the sweet confection in front of him. Perfectly round mini-cakes lined the baking-sheet, each with a beautifully smooth layer of semi-translucent orange colored coulis. Tom was in the process of decorating each one with some kind of cream or frosting and sliced strawberries.
“Sabine said as much!” the teenager clapped his hands together in eager anticipation. The rule was Adrien wasn’t allowed to ask what the cake was made out of until he had tried it.
Tom presented him with a single cake on a square plate. The cream and strawberries had been arranged to resemble a cat’s paw. The red of the strawberries looked so cheery on top of the orange. 
“It’s almost too pretty to eat,” Adrien commented. He bit into the treat and savored the smooth fluffy texture of a lightest weight cheesecake, an echo of passionfruit and strawberry just behind. Adrien closed his eyes enjoying the dessert that was clearly crafted with his own preferences in mind.
“You’ve outdone yourself Tom. I may never eat anything else again. I definitely appreciate the passion-fruit coulis, and this frosting! It is so delicate - I’ve not had anything quite like it, but it definitely accents the fruit flavors without taking anything away. What is it?”
“It’s one part marshmallow actually, and another part cream cheese. I thought the cheese combo with the passionfruit meant that both you and Plagg might like it!” 
“It might be too sweet for me,” Plagg commented leaping out of Adrien’s shirt, “But I’m happy to try it!” The black creatures flew over to the stand and inhaled a whole pie at once. 
“Wow! Perhaps, something both Tikki and I could enjoy! Not quite the same thing as camembert, but…” the kwami trailed off with a delighted little swirl mid-air. Adrien smiled. The first thing Tom and Sabine had learned about Plagg was that he thought mostly with his stomach.  
“I call it the Cat’s Delight!” Tom announced, clearly pleased with his invention. 
Adrien laughed. “It’s purr-fect.”
“I was hoping to get Chat Noir’s endorsement,” Tom added with a wink.
The teenager laughed again. The baker was likely joking, but Adrien saw no reason he couldn’t help him out with marketing. “I’ll see if something can be arranged. Mind if I grab another?”
“Take three!” Tom offered with a giant smile. “I made them with you in mind.” 
“Thanks Tom!” Adrien piled the sweets higher onto his plate before making his way upstairs to the apartment above the bakery and then to Marinette’s room, careful to not tip his over-filled plate of pastries during his climb.
Plagg floated across the room to Marinette’s desk immediately, tossing a wedge of camembert up into the air, only to inhale it before it could fall to the floor.
“I’m telling ya kid. Your foster parents have the best suppliers. You have to find out where they get this stuff so that you can order from them too.”
“You say that every time we come here,” Adrien commented absently.
“Because it’s true! And yet you fail to take the hint!”
Adrien rolled his eyes and left the kwami to his breakfast as he climbed up to Marinette’s balcony. He set the plate pastries down on a small table and retrieved the watering can Marinette had always left in the corner. He watered each plant, and then settled onto one of the patio lounge chairs. Plagg joined him a few minutes later.
Adrien pulled the letter he had written Marinette from under his overshirt, and placed it reverently on the side table between the two chairs. He opened it one last time, and let his eyes scan through it once more. 
He folded the letter reverently and slid it back into the envelope. Then he lit a candle and held the letter over the candle so the warm flame just barely kissed the corner. Slowly glowing oranges and yellows enveloped the paper, which turned bright ladybug red for a second, before crumbling to grey ash.
He hoped Plagg was right. That Marinette’s soul was immortal. And that on some level she could hear him. See him. He wanted her to know that he was okay… 
Well, working on it at least. He wanted her to know that he was somehow healing. 
He would always miss her. She would always be a part of him - a defining piece of his story. 
She had changed him forever. 
For the better.