Marinette didn’t swing to her destination. She walked. It was a small park, mostly deserted after dark. Not in the best part of town.
But Ladybug didn’t fear muggers.
And swinging in there might send the wrong message. So she walked.
It was a good way to calm down. She’d only told Chloe because she didn’t know if the others would decide to show up to protect her. Chloe had told her that it was her funeral, and to try not to punch the unstable insect demon in the face again.
She finally got to the park. It was empty, although she thought some of the bugs were moving in odd patterns.
Or maybe it was her paranoia.
She sat down on a swing, pushing it back and forth as she waited.
I wish I could talk to Tikki here. But that would come later, and for all that Tikki was her friend, sometimes she didn’t seem to fully understand humanity. Empathize with it, but not understand.
She heard the footsteps and looked up as Skitter appeared at the entrance to the park. She was wearing her costume, but no bugs followed her.
“Hello,” Marinette said.
Skitter didn’t reply, just found her way to the swing seat next to Marinette and waited.
The silence stretched out. Evidently Skitter wanted Marinette to speak first. She did. It was awkward as hell, with her sounding her way through the English words.
“I used to love these swings,” Marinette said.
“You can talk in French,” Skitter said. “I’m getting better at it.”
“Oh.” She actually sounded a little better. Well, Better than Marinette’s English. “I thought I could get to the moon on them, going faster and faster with my mother pushing me.” Marinette looked up. “Of course, then I fell off the swing and everything went to pieces with me sitting on the ground.”
Skitter said nothing.
“I thought you were like us, with powers, and I didn’t think about it. You have bugs, and from the way you reacted when I hit you, you’re not super strong. Back home, you don’t have a miraculous cure, and you live in a world full of people who can kill you if they can touch you.” Still nothing from Skitter. “So…” Marinette took a breath. “You have to use terror. You don’t have a choice, because you can’t laugh off a bullet, and you’re all alone.”
“And it keeps me from having to kill people,” Skitter said. “I don’t want to do that. When I started, I wanted to be a perfect hero, but… I wasn’t allowed to be that, and I found out the Protectorate is… not honest. They used to be my idols.”
“I…” Marinette paused. “I need to understand. You said trigger events can be difficult, but nobody talked about them in detail, even in what you gave us. But the way you act…” Skitter went absolutely still. “I’m not asking for yours,” Marinette said. “Just help me understand because we keep… missing each other.”
“It’s the worst day of your life.” Skitter was silent, and now Marinette could hear the buzz of insects in the distance, rising and falling. “The moment when you lose hope, there’s no way out and then… you get powers. But it’s never that simple. There was a Protectorate hero, Orca. He was killed by Burnscar, which is why I’m telling you his story. I found out when I was researching the Nine. He and his family were trapped when their car went off the road, into a lake. He triggered before he drowned and gained the ability to breathe water.”
“That—” Marinette fell silent as Skitter raised her hand.
“But his family didn’t and he couldn’t get out of the car for nearly an hour. An hour with their floating corpses. Everyone has a story like that. It’s always terrible, and a lot of times, your powers don’t really help, not with the problem you need help with. That’s why so many people turn villain.”
Like an Akuma, only a thousand times as bad, and permanent. Marinette shuddered.
“You’re helping us… but what do people back home say about you?”
“Some say I’m a villain. The people I protect… They say other things.”
Marinette didn’t say anything for a few moments, pushing her swing back and forth. “It’s hard to understand,” she finally said. “This mask—I’m different when I wear it. When I’m not in it, I’m just… a mess. I’m clumsy and stutter and act like a total spazz. But nothing hurt me when I took the Ladybug up.”
“I don’t think I would ever give my powers up,” Skitter said. “I think I’m more Skitter than—than who I was, at times.”
That’s terrible, Marinette thought. But she had another reason to be here.
“I think we need to work more closely together. If you’d told us, we would have been able to help without…”
“The bug-fueled terror and akumaization?”
“Yes.” Marinette shook her head. “And you can help us catch Hawkmoth. I think the Butterfly is the best way to get you back home—it’s done things similar to what you need before.”
“Do you want to unmask?”
Marinette shook her head. “I can’t. None of us can. All it would take would be one Akuma and all of our identities and families would be outed. I wish I didn’t know who I’d given the miraculouses to, but I can’t do anything about that.”
“I will.” Skitter looked over at Marinette. “My plan didn’t work. And I need to get back home—even now it might be too late, depending on what has happened.”
“Yeah. And every time we fight Hawkmoth, I wonder if he’s going to win. Maybe we can both get what we need.”
They didn’t say much after that.