A trumpet sounds, and a bloom of gold dust erupts from his right. It sends Adrien into a panic, and he tries to pull Ladybug back. But, before he can pull her far enough, another trumpet sounds and she turns into a cloud of that wretched gold dust.
He almost breaks down on the spot, then and there, but he pulls himself together enough to pull back the snake head. A hiss sounds through his ears, and then he’s in the sewer again, looking into Ladybug’s eyes.
“We now have five minutes, within this time range, you can go back as many times as you want. But as-“
He envelopes her in a bone crushing hug, one he’s found himself doing multiple times already. A thousand times already. 15,462 times already. 15,462 times he’s had to witness her being captured. 15,462 times he’s seen his own failure. 15,462 times he’s failed her. Suddenly, the man hole cover opens, and a trumpet sounds, and Ladybug is enveloped in a gold plume of dust.
Adrien wakes up with a bloodcurdling scream, covered in a cold sweat. He looks over to Plagg, and all that comes to mind is: “Perfect team huh?” Those mocking, sad eyes are looking at him with pity. He can’t handle it. Not now.
So, with a shiver, he turns around to look at his phone. Hoping that he got more than 30 minutes of sleep. 01:01 it reads, and he sighs in frustration and despair. Frustration because he can’t get enough sleep, despite being constantly tired. Despair because it hadn’t even been a minute after he fell asleep and he already had a night terror.
Shaking, he tries to pull off his covers and sheets to get to the shower to wash the sweat off, but the sheets cling to his feet and legs.
After a minute of struggling, he finally rips them off and slides to the ground on unsteady feet.
Slowly, he makes his way over to the bathroom, dutifully ignoring whatever look Plagg is sending him. Whether it be pain, pity, or sadness. He can’t look at those green eyes again. Not for a long while.
Even if the events of Desperada happened two and a half months ago.
Just the name alone sends a severe shake down his spine. He turns the water on hot and strips his clothing before slipping under the warm streams of water. He lets the water wash away his thoughts. Clear his mind of anything and everything.
Normally he would go out as Chat Noir to ease his mind. But... ever since Party Crasher...
He couldn’t even save her then... how can he save her from anything else...?
Another shiver racks his body, and he reaches a hand out to the wall to steady himself.
His eyes burn, but it’s become a normal sensation.
People say he’s just Ladybug’s sidekick, just a permanent temporary miraculous wielder that isn’t important. They’re right, after all. He only holds her back... creates problems. He can destroy anything he touches, it makes sense that he would destroy any relationship he has with anyone. His arm buckles with another shake, and he slams into the porcelain tiles. But, he can’t find it in himself to care.
His whole power set is based off of destruction and bad luck. It makes sense that all he can ever do is hurt people.
Suddenly, something flicks his left wrist, and Adrien startles badly. Everything is tuned out, and panic dominates. When feeling returns, he realizes that it was his own hand that flicked his wrist. Muscle memory gained after the multiple months of flicking the miraculous. His hand flicks his wrist again, and all Adrien can do is watch it, memories of the 25,913 times he failed flying through his memory.
After a few minutes, Adrien slowly looks up, registering the weird presence in the air.
Plagg is looking at him, those bright green eyes staring at him in pity. “Perfect team, huh?”
A sob escapes from his chapped lips, as his arms wrap around his body, curling up into a ball.
He failed. He failed her so many times. Then, Luka gets it after only a few attempts...
He isn’t suited to be a hero. To be Chat Noir. He’s supposed to be Ladybug’s partner, her protection. And he wasn’t able to do that.
He can’t even look at Luka, his blue tinted hair triggering it all to come back...
He can barely look at Plagg...
He almost can’t work with Ladybug, all the terror and memories come rushing back every time. He can’t look into those eyes that he’s confessed to. Those wonderfully supporting eyes. The eyes of the girl he's kissed so many times. The eyes that don't remember, can't remember. The eyes of the one person he was supposed to keep safe at all costs. The person he’s watched die 25, 914 times.
Slowly, he brings a shaking hand up to level with his eyes. The Black Cat Miraculous. A now white ring. The miraculous that got him here. The miraculous he wore while Aspik. The duty he ignored.
He reaches another hand to the ring, and rests unsteady fingers on the ring. He doesn’t deserve this miraculous. Slowly, he brings his gaze up from his hands and locks his gaze with Plagg. The second being he failed 25,913 times. Plagg’s eyes are wide, the usually slanted pupils are almost as wide. His mouth is slightly hanging open in shock. Adrien can’t handle it. He slides to the ground, falling into his side and curls up into the fetal position, whimpering shallowly, his hands at his chest; the miraculous still in between two fingers.
They’re at the zoo, spilling out of the bus. It’s a school trip everyone has been looking forward to for months. And Adrien can’t help but dread it. All he can think is: 'Please no snakes, please no snakes, please no snakes.' And, of course, because of his pent up bad luck, the snake exhibit is the first one they go to.
As they’re going, he finds his fingers sliding on his wrist, trying to find the snake head to pull back. No matter how hard he fights it, he can’t stop it. He’s come to just ignore it. To ignore the confused looks from Nino. The indecipherable looks from Marinette. He can’t even find it in himself to care that his right ring finger feels naked. Useless. Or the way the Black Cat Miraculous seems to burn a hole in his shirt pocket.
Every step they take toward the exhibit, his heart rate speeds up until he’s likely to pass out. Until he’s sweating. Until he’s absolutely sure that everyone in a five mile radius can hear it. They reach the exhibit, and his heart stops for a split second, making his vision black and his body go completely numb.
'No, no no no, nonononononononononono!' Nino bumps his arm, and Adrien flinches severely, jumping back with a cry, arms raised defensively, his right hand flicking his left wrist.
Suddenly, everyone is looking at him. Their judging stares go right to his soul, dousing his entire being in ice.
After a few seconds, everyone turns around. Though, Nino, and Marinette keep looking back in concern. Chloé in confusion, Alya with curiosity. His flicking picks up in speed. As they’re walking through, Adrien stays in the middle of the hallway, as far away from the snakes. From the memories. When everyone gets bored, because what teenager doesn’t eventually get bored from looking at snakes for more than 30 minutes, he breathes a small sigh of relief. They’re done with it. He doesn’t have to be around the creatures again.
Then, a zookeeper rounds the corner, a smile on their face. They look at all the teenagers, and their eyes twinkle.
He knows a look like that... it’s one the Ladybug has all the time.
It’s the look of a plan forming. “Do you want to hold a snake?” His cry of “No!” Is drowned out by the entire class shouting “Yes!” The scientist looks at each of them, but when his eyes fall on Adrien, his smile falters for a second, but determination quickly sets in.
Every one starts walking, and as Kim passes, he bumps his arm, whispering: “C’mon, they’re just snakes!”
The thought of seeing one, holding one, sends his heart-rate to the max, and he starts to shake uncontrollably. But, no one notices, as he in now in the back. Well, no one but the scientist. He looks at him, smiles reassuringly, then grabs his hand and pulls him toward the Open Field Enclosure.
And despite his brain not sending any signals to his feet to move, the guy drags him over to the snakes.
He has yet to see his shaking.
His mind is blank. Numb. Nothing is being sent, and nothing is being received.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, they’re at the Open Field Enclosure. And the guy is picking up a snake. A large, blue snake with yellow eyes.
Immediately, he goes numb, he’s suddenly nowhere, and nothing is being registered. Not until the guy wraps the snake around his neck and a whimper escapes his throat.
It moves against his neck, its scales sliding and expanding and constricting. It’s tongue flicks out. Then, it starts moving, down his left shoulder... A cross between a whimper and a sob is released. Then, when it’s head reaches his wrist, and the snakes tongue flicks out, touching his flicking fingers, a scream is released and then everything goes black. When he wakes up, he’s on an uncomfortable bed, in a white room.
Slowly, he sits up and paper wrinkles and crinkles under his weight. He looks around, and finds himself surrounded by pictures of animals. Beside the bed is a tray, with apples, crackers, cheese, and water on it. Where... is he in a veterinarian’s surgery room? How...? Did, did someone bring him here? He... he was at the sna-
Suddenly, the feeling of slithering scales sliding down his arm sends him into a panic attack. Shaking uncontrollably, unable to breathe.
When Adrien has eaten all that he could stomach, he walks out of the room to try and find the school group.
What he finds instead is a pile of multi colored snakes. The panic rises again, and he flails to get behind a door before any of them notice him. That is not the case, as apparently, he had released a loud sob. Now, on the other side of the door he has barricaded, there are a dozen snakes trying to get him.
Slowly, shakily, he slides down to the floor, sobs raking his body, breath coming is short bursts. Then, a hand touches his shoulder. And, it’s a weight he has come to know without a doubt.
It’s Ladybug’s hand, and his sobs only increase in intensity. After only a second's hesitation Ladybug wraps her arms around his shoulders and pulls him into her shoulder. They sit there in silence as Adrien’s nerves calm down. Hesitantly, he looks up and into her eyes. She smiles and holds up a box. A black, ornate box. The sight sends his pulse into overdrive again, and he flinches. Ladybug immediately pulls back, an unreadable emotion in her eyes.
Quickly, she puts the box back into her yo-yo and pulls him into a hug again, whispering "I'm sorry, that you had to go through that whole thing and that you're still dealing with the consequences." She pulls back and gives him a warm smile, then leaves. After a few minutes of trying to regain his bearings, he realizes that if Ladybug was transformed, there was an akuma. And if there was an akuma that means that Ladybug need- would like to have Chat Noir there. And, if she had a miraculous box, that means that she got tired of waiting for Chat, and had to leave the akuma to go find a wielder.
Shakily, he brings the ring out of his shirt pocket, and holds it before his eyes. The green paw print seems to mock him. Daring him to put it on. To join Ladybug, the superhero and be “The Perfect Team.” He almost drops the ring. But, slides it on. With a small flash of green, the ring turns white and forms around his finger. And Plagg appears before him. His mouth open to say something, but Adrien doesn’t give him the time as he whippers the phrase he used to say with such pride.
The suit feels foreign. The energy and strength unwanted. The baton clunky. The tail distracting. The bell, it’s as if it weighs 50 pounds. He- he shouldn’t be wearing this. He should find someone who is can protect her better. Maybe a police officer? Just as he’s about to grab the ring, his baton lets out a ring, startling him so bad that he almost calls upon Cataclysm. He waits until it goes silent to calm down and take his baton out. The second he slides the baton open to listen to what Ladybug had to say, it rings again, and he almost drops it then and there. A shriek escaping his throat. He doesn’t want to answer. But, Ladybug can pull up the map and look at where he is. He knows she knows he’s transformed because if he wasn’t, the call wouldn’t go through. So, reluctantly, he answers.
“Chat! There you are! Where have you been?! An akuma has been attacking for the past hour!”
He opens his mouth, but before he can say anything she cuts him off.
“You know what, never mind. Are you with the akuma?”
He shakes his head. Not trusting his voice. He, she’s never really been this angry at him before... it... this is why he shouldn’t be wearing the ring. Why he shouldn’t be her par- sidekick.
Ladybug huffs. “Ugh. Okay, it’s at the zoo, and is turning anyone they see into a snake.”
At that, an involuntary shiver runs down his spine and a whimper escapes his throat.
Ladybug shoots him a confused look “Mayura’s stepped in. There’s a snake sentimonster. I need you to keep them distracted for a bit, I’m going to grab Viperion.” Then she hangs up. She needs a distraction. Always a distraction. He's always the distraction. Even when the other temps are in play. But, he supposes that's just one more thing he's good at when Chat Noir. Always distracting. Distracting the Akuma, sentimonster, the temps, Ladybug... himself.
For a second, Adrien slides back to the ground. Snake akuma. Snake sentimonster. Viperion.
He shouldn't have put on the suit. But, it’s to late now. He has to go fight them.