If there was one person in the world that she could trust, it was her partner. He was always there for her, a steady presence by her side, and an encouraging word in her ear.
He was honest and trustworthy, and she trusted him with her life. She trusted him to have her back, to always tell her the truth, to no matter what.
And he did. If there was one thing that Chat Noir was, it was an honest man. He never told her a lie, never gave her a false hope that he didn’t fully believe in. Which was why when it happened, it came as such a shock to her.
The battle was over. The city was quiet and devastated. They’d finally beaten their adversary, but at a considerable cost. Ladybug’s earrings and Chat’s ring were collateral damage. They’d been destroyed in a last-ditch effort to keep them from evil’s claws, a tactic that worked, but resulted in a massive shockwave that spanned the evacuated city and knocked the heroes and their adversary out.
When Marinette woke, it was to a throbbing pain in her left leg and a dull ache in her head. She peeled her eyes open to find her leg trapped under a large chunk of rubble.
She hissed quietly at the pain, gripping her leg with one hand and ineffectually pushing at the rubble with the other. A minute into her futile efforts, her eyes widened, and she looked around in panic. “Chat?! Chat!” She screamed, seeing no sign of him.
A few seconds later, she heard his voice, and her heart sank. His voice was barely audible, weak, and strained in pain. “I-I’m here, M’lady…”
She twisted around, trying to locate the source of the voice behind her. “Chat? Are you okay?” She called.
There was a ragged exhale before she heard him once more. “I’m… I’m fine.” He mumbled.
Marinette’s eyes widened, and she inhaled sharply at the sudden burning sensation as his words were quickly seared across her arm in elegant calligraphy. She gripped her wrist as she stared down at the blood-red scrawl, her breath faltering as her broken world shattered around her.
“Chat?” She whispered, tears in her voice and her eyes. She lifted a hand to cover her mouth as she sobbed.
He can’t- He never lies- He’s my soulmate, and this is how I found out? Oh no. No. No, no, no, he’s going to die. He’s lying. He’s not fine. I’m going to lose my soulmate and I never even got to-
“Marinette?” Chat’s voice startled her from her internal panic.
Shock ran through her as she sat there, staring down at the letters. Her fingers ran over the words on her arm, her skin tingling lightly from the sensation. “You knew?” She asked quietly.
There was silence for a moment before he answered. “Yeah… You uh, you remember The Painter?”
She nodded quietly. The Painter had been one of the first villains they’d taken down together. “Yeah, I remember.”
Chat coughed lightly, making her worry spike. “Remember… at the school…” He inhaled with difficulty, a small whimper passing his lips. “We couldn’t find you after.” He finished in a rush.
She thought back to that day, recalling the battle and what happened after. She’d made it back later than she meant to, and her classmates were all searching for her. When they saw her, Adrien had rushed up to ask her where she was…
Adrien... Chat is Adrien.
“You asked where I was.” She said softly, more tears spilling over her cheeks.
“Ye-” Chat broke off with a forceful bout of coughing, Marinette biting her lip hard and shutting her eyes as she listened to the wet choking sound in his throat.
He continued once he regained his breath. “You said you were hiding in the janitor’s closet.” He whispered, a small strain of happiness in his voice. “And I got your words.”
Marinette gripped her arm tightly, holding back a sob. “Why… Why didn’t you say anything?”
Chat sighed softly. “I was too scared. And then when I realized you were Ladybug…” He trailed off for a few too many moments for her comfort. “You didn’t want us to know… Our identities.” He whined softly, and it sounded like he was shifting. “I thought… When we defeated Hawkmoth… I’d… Let the cat out of the bag.” He said, a familiar inflection in his voice that told her he was smirking.
She laughed, but the noise soon became hysterical because he was still making puns. He was her soulmate, he was dying, but he was still trying to make her laugh.
“Marinette…” The soft whisper had her calming down again, her laughter turning into quiet sniffles. “I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you… Not like this.” He murmured.
Marinette tilted her head as she stared at the freshly burned words across her arm. “I’m sorry too... I gave you awful words.” She said, because if he was trying to make her laugh, then she could at least return the favor before it was too late.
The quip made him laugh, and his bright giggles, though weak and just a little manic, brought a smile to her face as she closed her eyes again.
They were both quiet for a bit. Marinette’s headache grew more pronounced as the time passed, and she moved to lay back, her eyes closing.
“Marinette. I just- I don’t… I don’t think I’m going to make it out of this one, M’lady.” Adrien whispered, his voice almost strangled as he forced the words out despite his waning strength. “I have to tell you. Before it’s too late.” He coughed, and the liquid sound of it had more tears welling beneath her lashes. “I love you. I always have. You have to know that.” He said desperately.
“I know.” She told him, wanting more than anything to be able to reach out and take his hand to give it a reassuring squeeze. To see those bright green eyes of his, to hold him close to her chest. To press her lips against his just once before he faded away.
She opened her eyes and stared up at the dismal sky that was filled with grey clouds and smoke. “I love you too.” She whispered, tears slipping down into her hairline. “I love you so much, Adrien!” She cried, eyes closing as the pain behind her eyes increased, and sobs wracked her body.
“Shh, it’s okay, Bugaboo,” Adrien whispered, trying to soothe her, but the words just cut into her heart as her soulmark tingled, informing her that he was lying again.
“It’s not okay.” She whimpered, sniffing forcefully. “I don’t want to lose you.” She whispered.
“Bug… Don’t cry.” He breathed, so softly that she could hardly hear him. “I love you.”
She inhaled anxiously, her voice shaky and small as she answered. “I love you too.”
Seconds passed with no answer, no sound from her partner. “Chat?” She called, her voice cracking.
Tears glazed over her blue eyes as she broke down, clear rivulets flowing from her eyes as she squeezed them shut and wept silently for her lost loved one.