Since becoming the slayer, happiness had been a fleeting thing in Marinette’s life for a variety of reasons. But those next couple weeks were the happiest she’d been in a very long time. She took to spending her nights at Adrien’s once they were done with patrols. Falling asleep and waking up in his arms was the perfect start and end to all her days, helping to assuage some of the other stress she was under.
And then came the day when everything fell apart.
It was a Thursday night, which meant Adrien was spending time with Chloé, and Marinette had decided not to patrol. In the beginning, she had only patrolled a few nights a week. She didn’t mind doing it more now, since vampire appearances had really ramped up and it was a convenient excuse to spend time with her partner, but she wasn’t exactly opposed to spending a night catching up on her homework and maybe even helping her parents out in the bakery.
That was where she was when she felt her phone vibrate against her hip with a new text message. Marinette quelled her immediate instinct to grab her phone and instead smiled at the customer she was serving, accepting their payment and putting the money into the register. Then she pushed the pastry box across the counter and bid the man goodnight. As soon as he turned away, another woman stepped up to the counter. She pasted another smile on her face and picked up another box and a set of tongs.
It was a good twenty minutes before there was enough of a lull for Marinette to feel safe in taking out her phone. She cast a furtive glance around at the customers before pulling her phone out to take what was supposed to be a quick peek. The whole world ground to a stop when she saw that the text was from Chloé.
C.Bourgeois: you need to come immediately chat's been hurt
That was all it said.
"Maman!" Marinette immediately ran for the backroom, her heart thundering.
"Marinette?" Both her parents looked up as she burst inside. Her papa was in the middle of piping macaron batter, and her maman was painstakingly decorating some cookies.
"I have to go. A - Alya's been in an accident," Marinette said, thankfully retaining enough of a brain past her panic to swap Alya's name in at the last second. Her parents would definitely wonder who Adrien was, and those were questions Marinette couldn't bear to answer right now. Eventually she'd have to tell them that she had a very serious boyfriend, and come up with some sort of explanation as to why Adrien was never around during the day - but that would have to wait.
"Oh dear," Tom exclaimed. "Is she okay?"
"Uh - I'm not really sure. Nino texted me. But I need to go see her right away," Marinette said.
"Of course. Go ahead. I'll look after the bakery," Sabina said, getting up. "Let us know if Alya is alright."
"I will," Marinette promised before sprinting out the door. Chloé hadn't specificed a place, which probably meant they had to be at Le Grand Paris. She probably set a record for how fast she made it there, sprinting full steam.
Alya was waiting outside for her. "Oh, thank god, finally!" she blurted out as Marinette ran up. "What took so long?"
"Bakery - working - couldn't check - where is he?!" Marinette gasped out, grabbing Alya's shoulders.
"Upstairs. Come on." Alya wriggled out of her hold, took Marinette's hand, and they hurried inside. A few people looked at them, and Marinette realized that she hadn't even stopped to take her apron off. No wonder people were staring. She looked like a madwoman with the bright pink Dupain-Cheng bakery apron, her hair a mess, gasping and sweating after her run.
They took the elevator to the top floor. Alya led her down the hall and opened the door. Marinette caught a glimpse of Nino and Chloé in the room, but her attention was immediately drawn to the still figure laying in the king-sized bed. Adrien seemed impossibly small, dwarfed by the large bed, his skin even paler than usual. Plagg was curled up on the pillow beside, silently watching over him. Marinette rushed over to the bed, her heart finding a new home in her throat. Adrien was so still that it would've been easy to believe he was dead.
"What happened?" Marinette asked shakily, clasping her hands together so tightly that it hurt. Tikki emerged from her pocket and flew down to sit beside Plagg.
"We were attacked," Chloé said bluntly. "Chat fought them off, but he was injured in the process."
Marinette looked over at her, taking Chloé in for the first time and realizing that Chloé had a black eye. There was a bandage on her right cheek and she was sitting tensely, like maybe her ribs were sore or something like that. Most tellingly of all, Nino had a hand on Chloé's arm and was patting it reassuringly. Chloé hadn't wrenched her arm away, even though normally that would've been her first reaction.
"Are you okay?" Marinette said.
"I'm fine," Chloé said, which may or may not have been the truth.
"How did you get attacked? I thought you guys were staying here," Marinette said, returning her gaze to Adrien. She dared to reach out and touch his hand, flinching inwardly at just how cold skin was. Adrien always ran cold because that's just the way vampires were, but it had never been like this before.
"I was hungry," Chloé said quietly.
"Plagg, is he okay?" Marinette asked, looking at the kwami.
"He needs blood," Plagg said.
"He can have mine," Marinette said without an ounce of hesitation.
"Marinette!" Alya exclaimed.
"No," Nino said at the same time.
Chloé stood up. "That's not necessary. Alya and I can go to Chat's place. He's got blood in his fridge, right? We'll bring some back for him."
"Good idea," Alya said instantly, nodding at Chloé. "That's good enough, right Plagg?"
Plagg hesitated before nodding. "It should be, but you'll have to move fast."
"I should go with you," Marinette said.
"No way. You stay here. Chat needs you," Alya said. "We'll be okay. No one will look twice at a couple of girls."
"Unless there are vampires looking for an easy snack," Marinette pointed out.
"I'll go with them," Tikki piped up. "They'll be okay if I'm there." She nuzzled Plagg, then flew off the bed and over to Alya and landed on Alya's shoulder.
"Be careful," Nino said, shooting his girlfriend a worried look.
"We'll be fine," Alya said confidently. "Let's go, Chloé."
Marinette watched them leave, feeling torn. Part of her knew she should go with them. Paris after dark wasn't a safe place for anyone to be, but teenagers were definitely a preferred snack for vampires. On the other hand, Alya and Chloé weren't normal teenagers and they had Tikki with them. Plus, the sun had only set a couple of hours ago. She crossed her fingers that they would be okay and gingerly sat down on the edge of the bed, taking Adrien's hand into hers. She intertwined their fingers and brought his hand up so that she could kiss the back of it.
"He should be okay," Plagg said, looking up at her.
"What happened?" Marinette asked again, figuring she'd get a better answer out of Plagg.
"There were too many of them. He was overwhelmed and trying to protect Chloé. It was just too much." Plagg's tail lashed the air as he spoke. "It's getting worse out there. These weren't your typical, dumbass vampires. They had a plan. They were after Chat specifically."
"To get to me," Marinette whispered, guilt resting heavily on her shoulders.
"Probably," Plagg agreed.
Marinette couldn't think of anything else to say to that, so she fell quiet. Plagg eventually crawled beneath Adrien's shirt and curled up, forming a little ball over Adrien's chest where his heart would've been.
"Marinette?" Nino said after several minutes of silence. She startled, having almost forgotten Nino was there.
"What?" she asked, twisting to look at him.
Nino got up and moved over to her, pulling his chair with him. "I'm sure Plagg is right. Adrien will be fine. And I know what you're thinking, but this isn't your fault."
"I'm the slayer," Marinette said heavily. "They wouldn't have been after Ad - Chat if it weren't for me."
He gave her a curious look for the slip, but all he said was, "I don't think that's true. Chat is a vampire with a soul. That already makes him an outcast. Lots of vampires, demons witches - they've all seen Chat helping you, but more importantly they've seen Chat protecting humans. And that makes him an enemy. They would be trying to get rid of him regarldess of whether he was working with you or not."
"Maybe," Marinette mumbled, unconvinced. "But you can't tell me he isn't a bigger target because of me."
"I'll give you that," Nino admitted.
"I just wish there was something I could do. I hate this," Marinette said, squeezing Adrien's hand tighter.
"Well," Nino said, and there was something about the way he said it that made her look over at him.
"Well what?" Marinette said.
Nino shifted a little, glancing at the door, and then leaned towards her. "Do you remember how you ask me to look into a cure? I didn't find one," he added quickly, when Marinette's head shot around to look at him hopefully. "I've done a lot of searching and haven't come across any stories where a vampire was able to turn back into a human. As it is, it's supposed to be impossible for a vampire to keep their soul. Chat is the only one out there." They both looked down at Adrien.
And to think, the reason Adrien had his soul back was because of a curse. The only reason he'd kept it was because of Plagg. Marinette bit her lip. It really was an extraordinary set of circumstances that had brought this boy to her. She could've lost Adrien so easily without ever meeting him. What would she do if she had to be the slayer alone? Wandering the streets at night alone, fighting for her life alone, never having another ally in battle... the thought of how unbearably lonely that would be made her tighten her grip on Adrien's hand even more to reassure herself that he was still there.
"But I did come across a reference to something called the Miraculous," Nino continued. "Apparently, it's a magical trinket that allows vampires complete vulnerability to all of their usual weaknesses. Meaning not only would a vampire be impervious to crosses, fire and being staked, it also allows a vampire to walk in the sunlight without being hurt by it."
"What? Really?" Marinette gasped.
Nino nodded. "There's not a lot of lore about it, surprisingly. It seems like a lot of people doubt that it even existed, but I think it did. Something like that doesn't just come out of nowhere, you know?" He reached down and grabbed his backpack, pulling out one of Master Fu's books. He flipped it open to a specific page and held the book out to Marinette so that she could see, pointing to a very small picture on the lower left half of the page. Marinette squinted at it.
"Is that... a ring?" she asked finally.
"I think so. There seemed to be some inconsistencies about what shape the Miraculous took, and everything I found referred to it specifically as a trinket and not a ring or a bracelet or necklace. I'm wondering if maybe it can change shape depending on who owns it," Nino explained. "Regardless, if Chat could get his hands on this... he'd be able to walk around in the sunlight with you, Marinette. You could have a normal relationship." He grinned at her.
Marinette had to blink hard to keep from crying, touched at how hard her friend had been trying. "Nino, thank you. I really appreciate you doing all of this research."
Nino blushed, looking a little embarrassed. "It's no big deal, Mari. You know I get a kick out of all these old books, and the information about the Miraculous is fascinating. I thought, with your permission, I might talk to Alya about it. She can put her Google-fu skills to work and I can keep looking through books whenever Master Fu isn't paying too much attention to what I'm researching. Between the two of us, we might be able to come up with a location or at least somewhere to look."
"That would be amazing," Marinette said with a tearful smile. Being able to walk down the street with Adrien in the middle of the day sounded like a dream come true. Of course, that was getting ahead of herself - even if the Miraculous was really, there was a chance that it had been destroyed over the years. And even if it did exist, and was somewhere out there waiting for the right vampire to stumble across it, they would have to find it first. Still, it was more than she'd had before and she was willing to take anything at this point.
"No problem," Nino said with another smile. "I'll go over to Master Fu's with you tomorrow. I can research while he's distracted with your training."
"Great," Marinette said, realizing she was looking forward to training for probably the first time ever. She turned back to Adrien, envisioning how beautiful he would look with the sun hitting his hair and eyes.
She hoped someday she could see it for real.