"I'm sure there'll be another Chat Noir to give me cheese... But he won't be you."
Adrien smiled softly at Plagg's words, the fingers around his Miraculous lowering, as his kwami soothed the sharp, spiked pain in his chest. He could be patient just a little while longer. Even if he was itching to do something. To help. Adrien didn't like being benched... But Plagg said they needed him. So he'd wait-
Both boy and kwami started as a green figure landed on the rooftop with them. The short man was covered in turtle inspired armor. Adrien saw a stern gaze look out from under the stranger's conical hat.
"Master- !" Plagg exclaimed, green bubbles coming out of his mouth. "You transformed!"
"Master?" Adrien glanced between his kwami and... "Who are you?"
"I am the Guardian of the Miraculous, Chat Noir."
Adrien's eyes widened at the sound of his hero name.
Steeling himself for what had to be done Master Fu leveled a disappointed look at the boy. "And you, Adrien, have made a serious breach of trust."
"Wh-what?" The unease in Adrien's gut rose at the scolding tone of the Guardian.
"Master," Plagg tried. "He was just-"
"About to give up one of the two most powerful Miraculous. The one I entrusted into his care." Master Fu didn't raise his voice, he spoke evenly, factually, grimly. Trying to get the boy to admit his mistake.
Instinctively, Adrien covered the ring with his hand.
"Maybe I was wrong to trust you with Destruction." Master Fu sighed.
Plagg zipped toward the Guardian. "Master, you can't mean that!"
A cold, sharp jolt arced across Adrien's spine as his eyes widened. Then narrowed, Chat Noir rising with his anger. "Trust? You kept me in the dark! Ladybug-"
"It was not her secret to keep." Brow furrowing, Master Fu looked back at Adrien. "Ladybug vouched for you. And here you are, proving that she was mistaken, that you're not ready. Surely you can understand that?"
"I didn't even know you existed!" Adrien dug his fingernails into his palms, trying to ignore the patronizing attitude of the Guardian. "Why did you choose me if you were just going to keep me at arms length? Why does Ladybug get to choose our teammates? Why did it take all of Paris!" Here Adrien extended his arms to take in the drowned city. "Flooding for you to show your face!"
Plagg tried to interject but he was spoken over.
"It is precisely because Paris is flooded that I am here!" Master Fu took a step toward Adrien and the boy stepped back. "I chose you because I thought you would stand by Ladybug no matter what."
Adrien tensed but forced himself to stand his ground.
"I should have interfered sooner." The Guardian pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "I thought you would grow out of this infatuation you have with Ladybug."
Genuine confusion came over Adrien despite his anger and hurt. "Wh- What are you talking about?"
"Just because Ladybug does not love you back is no reason to behave in this manner!"
"What are you talking about!?" Adrien shouted. Does he really think so little of me? "What does that have to do with anything!?"
"Ladybug proved herself to me!" Master Fu shouted back, ignoring Adrien's inquiry. "You haven't!"
It was like the Guardian had struck him, Adrien flinching from the blow. Looking away from the Guardian's gaze, his eyes found Plagg's. For the first time since he met the kwami, Plagg was silent. Ears and tail drooping. Like he felt every cruel jab the Guardian's words dealt the boy.
Master Fu softened his features as he took in the boy's trembling, tense stance. Like a cat ready to pounce... Or run. "Do you understand?" he asked gently. "Ladybug trusts me and you should too. Without trust a team will fail. But if you can't, then I'll find someone who can."
Forcing his eyes back towards the Guardian, Adrien's mind made a sudden, unexpected turn. You sound like Father. Adrien stilled and examined the 'Master' again.
The Guardian wasn't as tall as Gabriel or as... looming as Gabriel. His voice wasn't as cold. But the manner in which this stranger spoke of trust was familiar. Like Adrien had heard it before.
Empty promises, his mind whispered. He goes on and on about trust while offering none in return. Cold dread turned to searing heat in Adrien's chest. Using Ladybug, someone you love, to guilt you into following orders. Fists trembled at his side with the effort of restraining his growing rage. Threatens to replace you for daring to ask questions! Adrien's heartbeat pounded in his ears, insisting, demanding.
"Do you understand?" Master Fu repeated.
"... I understand," Adrien said as he brought his hand up to tear the cursed ring off.
"NO!" Plagg latched himself onto the ring.
Master Fu's eyes blew wide open with shock. "What do you think you're doing!"
Adrien gazed at Plagg with a pained expression. But it quickly hardened into a glare as Adrien lifted his eyes to the Guardian. "What does it look like? I'm quitting."
Panic bloomed in Master Fu's chest as he mentally sought a way to push Adrien in the right direction. Seizing onto the first thought that came to him.
"I'm sorry, Plagg." Adrien didn't look at his friend.
"If you do this you'll prove I was right not to trust you!"
"... Please, Adrien..."
"You'll prove that you're not ready!"
"Goodbye. I'll mi-" Adrien swallowed the lump in his throat. "I'll miss you."
"That you're unworthy of wielding a Miraculous!"
Using the Guardian's desperate words as fuel, Adrien pushed down his upbringing. The side of himself that told him to be respectful of his elders. And let Chat Noir out for the last time. "OK, boomer."
With that, Adrien yanked the Miraculous off and practically threw it at the Guardian. Scrambling to make sure the ring didn't fall into the waters below, Master Fu was distracted just long enough for Adrien to disappear.
Staring at the empty space in disbelief, Master Fu's brow furrowed. He could look for the boy... but Adrien had already made his choice. And there were more pressing matters than a former Chosen's tantrum.
Master Fu hurried to Ladybug's aid.
Adrien didn't move from his hiding place in a corner of the roof. Even as he heard the stranger leave. The rage he felt replaced with heartbreak. Tears pooled in his eyes as his mind caught up.
The person Adrien trusted most in the world trusted that- that- man, more than she trusted him. That is, Ladybug didn't really trust him. Adrien pulled his knees to his chest.
Being Chat Noir was his favorite thing in the world... But just like everything else he wasn't 'good enough'. Not for his Father, not for Ladybug, not even for Plagg! Adrien buried his face into his arms.
Pain bloomed throughout his body, shoulders shaking, as he allowed himself to mourn the loss of Chat Noir. Only one other person would mourn with him. In that moment Adrien doubted anyone else would be sorry to see Chat go... And even he would get a new holder soon enough.
Ladybug would get a partner she could count on, the so-called Guardian would get someone who doesn't question orders and even Father wouldn't have to deal with his disappearances.
Really, the only one who lost anything... was him. And what did that matter if Paris was safer without him? He stayed there, curled into a ball, crying silently into his arms.
Until the Miraculous Cure lifted him off the roof not fifteen minutes later.