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Second Chance Number 12,496

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“We now have five minutes. Within this time range you can go back in time as many times as you want...”

The words had become familiar at this point, memorized words he had heard thousands of times. A flick of his wrist was all it took to hear it once again, for the smell of the sewers to wash over him and the darkness of the underground to settle about them. He was barely listening to a word Ladybug said as he leaned against the wall, breathing turning heavy, sinking down to the ground.

“Adrien!” She cried in worry, pausing from her explanation. “Are you okay? I know this is a lot but–”

“Please,” Adrien whispered quietly. “Just give me a minute.”

Physically, he felt fine, like he could run a mile. His Second Chance reset everything, and the exhaustion he had felt from the fight before was now gone. To everyone it had never happened, nor the time before that, or before that...

But he remembered. Every single moment was clear in his mind. The memory of Ladybug disintegrating into nothing but gold dust was seared into his mind. It didn’t matter what he did, what path they went, what defensive measures they took– nothing was working. Again and again he had witnessed his Lady being blasted away, him being unable to do anything when it was her he should be protecting.

“We only have five minutes until you turn back, we don’t have time to wait–” She began, but he shook his head.

“I’ve already used Second Chance. Many times,” He whispered, and he felt her hand on his shoulder. “Please, just let me use this time around to rest, please...”

“How many times...?” Ladybug asked trailing off, and he had to hold back a wry laugh. This wasn’t the first time she had asked it, and he was sure she was expecting an answer like seven or eight. That had seemed like a lot at first too, he had been so sure that it would only take a few more times to get it right...

“This is Second Chance 12,496,” He said softly– it was surprisingly easy to keep count. To add another to the growing number in his head.

“What–?” Ladybug pulled back in surprise, and he glanced up at her to see the confusion on her face. “But that’s– how long has it–?”

“Weeks,” Adrien replied right away. The math had become easy to do in his head– it only spent a couple of minutes with each Second Chance, and it didn’t take much to convert those numbers into hours, and those into days.

And those days had now become weeks. Weeks of him flicking snake on his wrist, constantly resetting this timeline. He didn’t need food, he didn’t need sleep– each reset put him in the same state as before, continuously ready to leap straight back into the fight. His mind was different though, his powers allowed him to remember, and it was taking its toll. He was so tired, and he shuddered about even thinking of crawling back out of these sewers, where he knew Ladybug would only be torn from him once more.

“That many times?” Ladybug said with a small gasp, sinking down to her knees right next to him. Her hands were on his shoulders, and it didn’t take much for Adrien to lean against her. As Chat Noir she would have been likely to push him away, but right now she cradled his head with no hesitation. Was it because he was Adrien? A civilian she was supposed to protect? “But–”

“Shh,” He whispered, he hated hearing the worry in her voice, the fear. His eyes flickered to the bracelet on his wrist– he still had a couple of minutes to go. He couldn’t help up press up against her as she hugged him, such affection being rare for him.

And after failing so many times, just knowing his Lady was safe was everything to him.

He didn’t understand why she didn’t pull away as he brought her in close– he wasn’t Chat Noir right now, he was a stranger– wasn’t he? Just a civilian she had interacted with before, and had trusted because the Lucky Charm had told her. Why was she so relaxed holding him in her arms, his embrace pulling her close? He took in a sharp breath as she ran a hand down his back, trying to soothe him.

“I don’t want to stress you,” She whispered. He closed his eyes, frightened as he felt tears pricking them. When was the last time someone had held him so caringly? When was the last time someone had considered something as simple as his stress? The fact that the feeling was forgien hurt.

But she shouldn’t be worried about him. It was his job to protect her. She had chosen him to help her. He couldn’t give up now.

“It’ll work next time, I promise you,” He said, pulling his arms away so he could reach the snake bracelet, which only had one minute left. Still he leaned up against her, Ladybug having yet to make any effort to let go of him.

“No, Adrien, you’re pushing yourself too far–” She began, his fingers wrapping around the head of the snake bracelet.

“I love you, My Lady,” Adrien said quietly, and at his side Ladybug tensed. He closed his eyes, activating his Second Chance. There was a flash of light, and Ladybug’s warm arms disappeared from around him, and he was standing up once more.

“We now have five minutes. Within this time range you can...” A faint smile passed over his lips as he heard the familiar words. This was now Second Chance 12,497, and he had no intentions of sitting through this one. He turned towards Ladybug, smiling a smile his mind did not feel like giving– but it was so easy to do with his Lady in sight. It shouldn’t take much more than this, right? He had been doing this so many times that he knew every trick Desperada had, and this time they’d get the upper hand.

“Don’t worry, I got it,” Adrien said, winking at Ladybug and holding up his arm. “Things didn’t go as planned last time, so let’s find a different exit from the sewers this time around.”

They had done that before, but they’d go further this time. It would work this time.

“Perfect idea,” Ladybug beamed, that smile making his heart feel warm.

Though not as warm as her arms around him.