To say it had been the most difficult month in Marinette’s life was an understatement.
Thirty days since Master Fu lost his memories and transferred the title of Guardian to her. Thirty days since she’d last seen him, boarding a train and saying goodbye without even remembering who she was.
“I will never leave you.”
The words were haunting. That was what her mentor said, but he didn’t stay true to his promise. And it was all her fault.
Sometimes, she’d gone as far as putting on the rabbit miraculous, wishing to go back in time and save him. But the kwamis always warned her against it, and they nuzzled her face as she cried.
As much as it was painful, she tried to stay strong for the kwamis, especially for Wayzz. He was going through a tough time, too, and she did her best to help him through it. Tikki, bless her soul, was helping her chosen adjust into her new role, guiding her. Things weren’t so bad, she just wished Master Fu was still with her.
In that month, Marinette had grown isolated from her friends. She talked less with them, and although she didn’t stutter around Adrien anymore, the only conversation between them was a daily greeting. Alya looked hurt at first, and it made the young designer feel bad, but she wanted to be alone. Besides, what if they suddenly wanted to hang out at her place? She had duties no one could know about. She wasn’t going to risk it.
The girl was busy making plans for the future and fighting akumas. It was a miracle that her parents never went into her room, because that would be a huge problem. She was turning eighteen in a week, and she had to figure out a way to tell her mom and dad that she was moving out without breaking their hearts. There was no way she could keep hiding and hoping they wouldn’t notice the miracle box. Master Fu had left her his apartment, with legal papers and everything, so that issue was solved.
Everything she was doing was for the greater good, and deep down, she was trying to squash her guilt, even though it looked like it wouldn’t go away anytime soon.
Currently, she sat on her chaise wearing most of the miraculouses, as the kwamis told stories and laughed. Some of them hadn’t come out in years, and it lifted her spirits to see how happy they were. The exhaustion she felt sometimes was worth it.
“Pigtails?” Plagg, who visited often, came up to her while the others talked.
She smiled. “Yes, Plagg?”
There weren’t many moments where Plagg was serious, but as she looked at him, she could see his concerned expression. “I think it’s time you find those temporary miraculous holders. You can’t keep doing it on your own.”
Oh, that was another issue. The other holders’ identities had been revealed to Hawkmoth, so Ladybug couldn’t call on them again, and when the fight required another set of powers, she fused her miraculous with whichever other one was needed. Chat Noir had offered to do it sometimes, but there was no way she could risk his health. She needed him more than anything. Besides, Wayzz had told her she was the first person ever to be physically and mentally strong enough to hold that many miraculouses. Nothing would go wrong (she hoped).
“I don’t trust anyone else, Plagg.” She caressed his head. “And we’re good like this. I’m good, you don’t have to worry.”
“Of course I worry about you, Marinette. Do you think we haven’t noticed that dizziness you get sometimes?”
“Those are sporadic.” She sighed. “I’m fine, I promise I’ll stop if I get sick.”
The tiny black cat didn’t look convinced, but nodded. “Okay. There’s something else we need to talk about.”
Dread settled on her chest. She already knew what he wanted to say, and she wasn’t really in the mood to discuss it. In fact, she was never in the mood.
“You need to know Chat’s identity.”
“I don’t— later, okay? I’m still new to this.”
“You and I both now you’re already perfectly qualified.” Plagg rolled his eyes. “You’re stalling. What are you so afraid of? I would’ve told you already if there wasn’t a spell preventing me from doing it.”
She wasn’t afraid, she was downright terrified. What if Chat was someone she knew? What if she was fond of him and he got hurt? What if her love for him grew and he no longer felt the same, and she had to live with the fact that she could see the boy who had loved her deeply on the streets? No, she preferred the comfort of the mask.
“Plagg is right, Master.” Wayzz floated in front of her face. “You have to know.”
“Does he—“ Marinette swallowed a knot on her throat. “Does he have to know who I am?”
“No, you can keep your identity a secret, unless there is an emergency.”
“Then... tell him to meet me at midnight, Plagg. In our usual spot.”
“Yes!” The kwami made to leave. “I promise you’ll really like him.”
That was exactly what she feared.
Ladybug arrived earlier than her partner, and paced around with her arms crossed. Her nervousness was extreme, and if it weren’t for the gloves, she would be biting her nails. She was about to find out Chat’s identity, and somehow, she knew it would change their dynamic forever. What she didn’t know was if it would be for better or worse.
“Good night, LB.” Chat Noir snapped her out of her thoughts. “I was kinda surprised you wanted to meet up so late.”
Pushing down the longing to hear him say ‘my lady’, she gave him a smile. It had been a month since he’d last said it, she had to get over it. “Sleep... doesn’t come often these days.”
His cat ears dropped. “Are you okay? Is there anything I can help you with?”
“I’m okay, Chat, don’t worry. Did Plagg tell you why I asked you to come?”
“No, he said you would tell me.”
She took a deep breath. “Ugh, he couldn’t have made things a little easier for me.”
Chat raised an eyebrow. “What is it, Ladybug?”
The spotted heroine scratched her left ear. “Uh, you know how I’m the Guardian now?” He nodded, and she continued. “Well, I— I’ve been dragging this out, but... I need to know your identity.”
Several emotions passed through his eyes: confusion, shock, and then understanding. “Of course. I knew it would only be a matter of time.”
An awkward silence passed between them, but he cleared his throat.
“So... should I detransform?”
“Okay, then. Claws in.”
A flash of green light engulfed him, and when it was gone...
Oh God. Oh God. It can’t be.
Her heart pounded in her ears as she took in the sight before her. Adrien Agreste. Out of all the people in the city, her partner had to be him. Right then, she knew she had been right to panic. Indeed, she cared about him more than anything. There was no way she could watch him take hits for her after this.
For thirty days, she had been carefully building a wall around her heart, but in that moment, she could see it crumbling to dust right before her eyes. She could feel the lightning striking twice.
Marinette was falling again.