She's never felt this angry before. A burning rage courses through her veins. So foreign, but so good. So strong and powerful. Nothing could stop her—she could do anything she wanted. The world was hers to mold.
"Hello, Lady Luck. I am Hawk Moth."
Hawk Moth… She knew that name…
"It's such a shame, isn't it? That some people are so much luckier than others?"
She thought back to a few hours ago, when Chloé had been "randomly" picked to go on stage and meet Patricia, the world's most famous journalist. Alya's heart had been broken. Then the liar claimed to be Ladybug's most dedicated fan, running France's most popular Ladybug blog—the same blog she'd mocked Alya for two days ago. Then pictures showed up on the screen. Every single picture from the Ladyblog, Alya's masterpieces. Of course, the liar didn't say that. Oh, no. Chloé claimed them as her own. Come to find out, everything had been rigged. No surprise there, but this was the last straw. Hurting Alya just to get another photo in the newspaper? Perhaps her photo and a small paragraph in a magazine? Chloé had gone too far this time. Alya deserved Patricia's praise. Alya.
"I'm giving you the power to take luck away. To bring the powerful to their knees. The more luck you take, the stronger you will be. Strong enough to help me."
Take luck away? Rip Chloé off her high pedestal? Let her see how every other person has to strive for their rewards? With no luck from their fathers and last name?
"Do you accept my offer?"
Marinette didn't have to think a moment longer.
A black body suit. Red polka dots. A black mask. She looked so much like LadyBug, aside from the red, flowing miniskirt attached to her hips, that Chat Noir constantly hesitated in his attacks. He stayed on the defensive, unable to switch into offense. He knew the girl in front of him could only be stopped with a proper fight, but the idea of hitting her? It was nearly unbearable.
"What's the matter, Char Noir? It's not like you to hold back your punches." With a coy smirk, she threw her arm out, finger splayed.
Chat barley dodged the wave of ladybugs that Marinette threw his way.
That was the other reason he couldn't bring himself to fight back: this Akuma was in Marinette. Sweet, loving, brave Marinette. The girl who was so shy that she couldn't string a sentence together half the time. There was no way that Adrien, let alone Chat Noir, could ever hurt her.
"Come on! Fight me like the superhero you are!" she goaded.
Except Marinette wasn't in charge right now.
Lady Luck's the one running the show
"This isn't you," Chat shouted. "Don't make me hurt you, Marinette!"
Lady Luck scoffed. "You couldn't hurt a fly, Kitty Cat."
"What?" Chat stared at the figure before him, his jaw slack. Kitty Cat. Marinette just called him Kitty Cat. Only Ladybug ever called him that. Well, that and a few other cat-related pet names. Everyone else simply referred to him as Chat Noir, though a few others did simplify his name to Chat. He didn't know anyone who referred to his superhero form as Kitty Cat except his partner, so why did Marinette say it?
Too late, he realized Lady Luck's hand was inches from his face.
"Ahh!" he cried out, quickly using his baton to block the touch and then whack her hand away. He jumped backwards before she could use her other hand to sneak up on him.
Even if her fingers merely grazed through his hair, Chat would get cursed with the worst luck imaginable. Or he'll turn into a cluster of Lady Luck's ladybugs. He's seen both scenarios first hand, and neither of them are pleasant. He doesn't know how many of her ladybug minions were once people, but she has thousands of them to do her bidding. He refuses to become one of them.
"If you give me your ring, this will be over with quicker," Lady Luck promised.
Jumping onto a streetlamp, Chat laughed, "You'll never get my ring, Lady Luck! But your efforts will be noted, I can promise you that."
"Oh, I will get that ring," the girl said smoothly. Her ladybug minions swarmed around her legs, lifting her until the two teenagers were face-to-face. "Haven't you noticed you're all alone? There's no Ladybug here to save you or the city."
From her swarm, ladybugs shot out, but Chat was prepared. He jumped off the pole, back-flipping onto the ground and twirled his baton above his head to block the tornado of ladybugs from pancaking him. Sweat dripped down his face as he fell onto one knee. Even when his arms ached and cramped, he didn't stop twirling the baton until the ladybugs finally relented, several long minutes later.
Heaving for breath, Chat narrowed his eyes at the girl standing before him. "She's coming," he gritted out. "Ladybug'll be here."
Lady Luck laughed, and the sound was so familiar that Chat's blood went cold and shivers crawled down his spine.
"Sh-She will," he repeated, without as much conviction. "She's just. Just late." Her laugh had thrown him off. There was something about it…
"No, she's not," Lady Luck grinned. "Ladybug's not coming to save you this time. How…unlucky, don't you think?"
"Confident words," Chat said, wishing they hadn't cut him as deep they did.
"Oh, I'm very confident."
Suddenly, the ladybug swarm was around Chat, pinning his arms to his aides. Despite his struggles, his arms wouldn't budge—Cataclysm was impossible. He cursed himself for getting distracted, but no matter how hard he tried to shake the exchange out of his head, he couldn't. It had already burrowed itself under his skin, leaving him feeling slightly dizzy.
"And it looks like you're out of luck." She took her finger and traced his jawline. When she reached his chin, she put her thumb on his lip, stilling him. "You're nothing without your Ladybug, mon petit chat."
Then she did something that surprised him beyond belief. Lady Luck, who was really Marinette possessed by an Akuma, leaned in and kissed him. She kissed him. He was too stunned to move.
The next thing Chat knew, he was alone, his ring was gone, and the tight, black suit was replaced with his regular clothes. He was Adrien once again.
"Oh no." He looked down at himself—the self that was nothing but a rich model with a boring life and no superpowers. He sank to his knees, feeling like he'd just swallowed three-day-old, moldy baguette. "Oh no."
"Oh no is right!"
Adrien gasped as the creature appeared in front of his face. "Plagg?! But I thought…? The ring…!"
The black kwami rolled his eyes. "You think just because that Akuma took your ring, I'd follow her? Why'd I do that? I bet she wouldn't give me any cheese."
Adrien shook his head. "I don't understand."
"The ring is just that—a ring," Plagg explained. "Sure, I've been connected with it for thousands of years, but we're not a package deal. I could've attach to a necklace or even a pair of underwear."
The thought of his powers coming from underwear made Adrien's stomach churn. "Eugh. I'm really glad you didn't."
Plagg didn't laugh—he looked serious and worried. "But the problem is, I can't just attach to anything at random. There are rules; so, right now, we need to get that ring back. Once Hawk Moth has the ring, he can use me to become Chat Noir, or worse, take my powers and combine them with his own."
And that can't happen, Adrien thought to himself firmly. There has to be a way around this… Aloud, he asked, "But if you attach yourself to something else, the ring will just be an ordinary object again, right?"
"Yes, but I told you," Plagg sighed. "There are rules. And before you ask, the rules are way too long and complicated to explain. They're in a completely different language too, and a dead one at that. It's one the problem with them being ancient rules and all. But right now, we need to focus on finding Marinette and stopping her before she gets to Hawk Moth!"
"How?" Adrien asked, spreading his arms wide in defeat. "I can't transform, I have no idea how to find Hawk Moth, and I don't even know where the Akuma is hiding on Marinette! Plus, she touched me! I'm cursed with even worse luck now. And Ladybug is nowhere to be seen. Everything is doomed!"
"Way to think positively," Plagg muttered, rolling his eyes.
That's when a tiny, red floating-thing slammed into Adrien's chest. He caught it in his hands as it fluttered down. It was shaking.
"Tikki!" Plagg gasped, flying towards the red creature.
"Tikki?" Adrien asked. Then his eyes widened. "You're Ladybug's kwami!"
"Y-Yes," Tikki stuttered. She looked frightened and very weak.
"Where is she? Where is Ladybug?!" Adrien demanded. "Is she hurt?"
The red kwami shook her head no.
That left…"Is she in trouble?"
"Very m-much so," Tikki answered. She hugged herself. "H-Hawk Moth. He… It's in her earrings. T-The Akuma."
"Her earnings?" Adrien repeated, puzzled. "What do y—? Oh! You mean Marinette's earrings!"
Plagg was floating around Adrien's hands, looking worriedly at Tikki. "Will you be okay?" he asked.
Tikki huddled inwards, cringing as if someone had shouted loudly in her ear. "Once the b-butterfly is go-one, I'll be fi-ine."
It took all of Adrien's power not to drop the kwami then and there.
"Butterfly…" His head was swirling, making connections it never had before. "You mean… Marinette is…"
"Yes." Tikki looked up, sounding strong as she said, "You need to save her, Chat. Save our Ladybug."
It took a few seconds for Adrien to collect his thoughts.
An Akuma is in Marinette's earrings, turning her into Lady Luck. Ladybug is nowhere in sight. Tikki, Ladybug's kwami, is weak and frail. Once the Akuma is out of Marinette's earrings, Tikki will be okay. Adrien needs to save Marinette. By doing so, he'll save Tikki, which means Ladybug will be saved too. Which means Marinette has to be Ladybug. Marinette was Ladybug. She's… Ladybug was sitting behind him all this time.
Plagg's voice roused Adrien from his thoughts.
"Right!" he cried, rushing to his feet. "We need to go save Marinette!" He took a step and promptly fell flat on his face. "What the..?" Looking down, Adrien tried not to groan. His shoelace was untied. His luck was already worsening! He looked up to see Plagg holding a semi-conscious Tikki.
"Looks like that bad luck is finally starting to settle in," the black kwami said.
"Shut up, Plagg," Adrien grumbled.
It took Adrien way too long to locate Lady Luck. He lost count how many times he tripped after reaching twenty-seven. He ran into poles, walls, chairs, and people at least nine times each, and he was nearly run over thrice!
"This is not good," Plagg muttered. He was flying besides Adrien's shoulder, still supporting Tikki.
"You need to hide!" Adrien hissed. He turned a corner way too fast and crashed into some tables. He winced as he felt more bruises form on his shins and ribs. His hands were already torn up and bleeding from the concrete.
"Everyone is too panicked by Lady Luck to even notice us," Plagg countered. "Why hasn't she gone to Hawk Moth yet?"
"That's what I want to know too," Adrien muttered. He couldn't figure out what Lady Luck's plan was, and that was troubling. He also couldn't find her. That was troubling too.
Finally, after over an hour of running and searching, Adrien found her. She was cornering Chloé outside her father's office building.
"No more, Chloé," Lady Luck was saying as the ladybugs swirled around her. "No more will you terrorize your classmates. No more will you enjoy your luck."
"Stop!" Adrien shouted.
"Adrien! Help me!" Chloé cried out, reaching out to him. For once, she looked concerned—no, terrified. Her hair was a mess, her makeup was running, and one shoe was missing, but she didn't mention any of that. "I don't want to die!" she sobbed.
Lady Luck turned around. "Well, well, well. Who would've known black cats have more good luck than bad? I thought you'd be dead by now."
Chloé tried to creep away, but a wall of ladybugs enclosed her in an unescapable box. Adrien could hear her screaming.
"Stop it, Marinette!" he shouted. "Fight back! Fight the Akuma! This isn't you, Marinette! This isn't Ladybug!"
For a second, surprise colored Lady Luck's face, but it disappeared quickly. It was all Adrien needed though. Marinette was still in there somewhere, still wanted to keep her identity a secret. Ladybug could win this battle yet!
"Or perhaps I shouldn't wait for bad luck," Lady Luck said thoughtfully, ignoring his words. "Perhaps I should just kill you myself!"
Another swarm of ladybugs launched at Adrien. He dived right, but the swarm followed his movements. They wedged themselves underneath his body before he could even touch the ground and reversed his momentum, slamming him into a wall a few meters away. Something in his chest cracked and he fell painfully to his knees.
"Even without your powers, you still try to do the right thing. How…sweet." Lady Luck moved towards him, moving her foot when he almost coughed blood on it. "Disgusting. I don't know what I ever saw in you."
He jerked his head up. "What?" Marinette saw something in him? Or was it Ladybug? Both of them? What did she see? Was it Adrien or Chat Noir? Both his identities?
So preoccupied with his thoughts, Adrien didn't pay attention to the danger he was still in. A swarm of ladybugs attacked from his left, ramming into his side, where he heard the crack earlier, and knocking the breath out of his lungs. This time, he was flung him into the nearest lamppost. Every inch of his body screamed in pain.
Lady Luck walked over to where he was crumpled on the ground. "And your father. How disappointed he is. In himself, that is. You should've heard him swear when I took off your ring. That was the longest he's ever been silent. His yapping away in my head got old fast."
"M-My father?" What did his father have to do with anything? He felt blood trickle out the corner in his mouth. That isn't good, right? No, it's not good. Everything hurts.
"Yes." Lady Luck knelt down, moving his hair out from his eyes. He watched her as she did a double take at his mouth. She breathed in deeply. Once. Twice. Slowly, she looked back up and stared into his eyes. Something had shifted in her gaze.
"You're eyes… They're so green…" It was a quiet declaration, and Adrien wondered if she even meant to say it aloud.
"Marinette?" he whispered, hoping beyond hope that this battle was over, that she was back. "M-My Lady?"
He struggled to get to his feet, and was half surprised when Lady Luck didn't stop him. In fact she helped him. Was this even real? Was Marinette, Ladybug, back? Pain was eating away at his thoughts, and he couldn't stand straight up, his ribs protesting in agony, but that didn't matter right now. Adrien looked up into the girl's eyes wondering how he never saw it before. Ladybug's eyes and Marinette's eyes… Both so beautifully blue… Maybe she was wondering the same thing. Not many people have his eye color either—as green as healthy, wet grass a producer once told him. (He still wasn't sure if he liked that description.)
The moment seemed to last forever. Gazing into each other's eyes like they've never done before. The shift occurred all too soon. Adrien watched it happen. Lady Luck released his wrist and took a step back, her lips twisting in a cruel grin. Her eyes held the sharp glint of an Akuma.
"He's not the true villain though," she said. "There's someone worse than Hawk Moth."
Adrien felt tears sting his eyes. He wanted that moment back. He saw his Lady fighting—and winning—for a few precious minutes. She had been so close…but the Akuma overpowered her again. No matter what it cost him, he had to destroy those earrings.
"Are you saying you're the true villain?"
Lady Luck laughed. This time, it sounded nothing like the laugh Adrien once knew. "Oh no, not yet. Once I get rid of the man behind the curtain, I will be."
"Just a pawn," she revealed, waving her hand dismissively. "Someone's been whispering in his ear too."
"Who?" Adrien asked, trying to buy more time. He was curious as to who could be whispering in Hawk Moth's ears, but right now, his only concern was the girl in front of him. How was he supposed to get Marinette's earrings without being attacked by ladybugs again? How was he supposed to save his Lady?
"Don't know. Don't really care either." She smirked. "But with your miraculous, I can become even more powerful." She looked around. "Where's that kwami of yours?"
Seizing his chance, Adrien launched himself at Lady Luck, reaching for her earrings. It might've worked, had he not tripped on his shoelace again.
Stepping out of his way, letting him fall face-first unhindered on the concrete ground, Lady Luck laughed. She laughed harder as she saw the tears fall freely from his face. He was in so. much. pain.
"You really thought that would work?" She raised her hand, and this time, Adrien knew he was going to die. His Lady wasn't going to break through this time. The curse of bad luck, right? He was going to die. At least he wouldn't hurt anymore.
Well, he thought it was the end.
"No! Marinette! Marinette, stop!"
Adrien looked up, fear seizing his heart. That voice…
"Alya!" he shouted. His chest spasmed; he gritted his teeth. "No, get out of here! Run!"
But she didn't hear him. Or she ignored him, which is entirely possible as well. Standing above him, arms stretched, she begged, "Please stop, Marinette! Please!" She was crying, her eyes red and her glasses foggy.
"He must be punished," Lady Luck said. She spoke as if Alya was her partner, not another victim of terror.
Alya bravely put herself between her friend and the crumbled superhero on the ground. "Adrien didn't do anything! Marinette, you like him, remember? You like Adrien!"
When Lady Luck looked back down, Adrien saw her uncertainty and confusion.
Yes, he thought. Please, Marinette. Ladybug remember. Please…
"Yes, but… Chat Noir…"
Alya, of course, didn't know that the two were the same. "That's not Chat Noir. That's Adrien. You're big time crush. Please remember, Marinette!"
Crush? Marinette had a…crush on him? Was that why she always acted so weird? Was that what she saw him in? A crush was a better explanation than what he thought—that she was scared of him in some way. Crush he could handle. If they ever got out of this, Adrien could totally handle a crush from his love's secret identity.
If they ever got out of this… He had to stand up. Had to get ready to fight. Adrien moaned as he pushed himself onto his hands and knees. His vision blacked out for a few moments as he was overcome with pain.
"Oh, but he is."
A hand clutched Adrien's throat and squeezed.
Adrien couldn't breathe.
"He is Chat Noir."
Alya stuttered out half-words, until she said, "E-Even if he is… Even…. Marinette, he's not the problem though. Chloé was the one. Chloé hurt me, Marinette, not Adri—uh, I mean Chat Noir." She paused, and even though his vision was turning black and his lungs were burning, Adrien could see her crying again. "Please let him go."
Lady Luck looked at him frowning.
"My Lady…" he choked out. "Please…"
Suddenly, he was dropped.
"You're right," she said, though her voice sounded strange. Adrien hoped it was because Marinette was fighting the Akuma again. "It's Chloé's fault. Hers. Only she should be to blame."
After a hesitation, Lady Luck turned and walked away. Alya dropped to her knees
"Oh my God! Adrien! Are you okay?" She put her arms around him, helping him stand up. "We need to get you out of here."
"No," he breathed out, his head bobbed backwards. "No, I have to stop this."
"Are you crazy?!" She tugged him a few steps backwards. "We're not safe here!"
"I have to stop this," Adrien repeated, breathing heavily. "I'm the only one who can."
He heard Alya gulp. "So… You're…" She took a breath, trying to steady her shaking voice. "Are you really him? Chat Noir?"
He looked at her sadly, then looked at his ring-less hand. "I was. At least."
"Oh." Alya looked torn between glee, fear, and tears. "Well… Well, Ladybug should be here. She can stop Marinette."
"Ladybug can't stop herself," Adrien answered.
"She can't… What?" Alya's eyes went wide and she looked over at Lady Luck's retreating form. "Marinette is… And she never… She's…"
"I have to stop her," he repeated. "Remind her who she really is."
"You're gonna kill yourself," Alya whispered. "You look half-dead already."
"Possibly… But the world needs Ladybug more than it needs Chat Noir. More than it needs Adrien." He remembered Lady Luck's words: You're nothing without Ladybug. "Run," he told Alya. "Run away from here. Take Tikki and Plagg. They're—well, they're the magic behind Ladybug and Chat Noir, I guess you could say." The two kwamis appeared beside her, with Plagg supporting an unconscious Tikki. "Make sure everyone's as far away as possible. Okay?"
He gripped her hand, and it looked like Alya was going to argue, but after a moment, she nodded, squeezing his hand lightly before letting go. Gently, she cupped Tikki in her hands. "Okay. Okay, I'll do that. Bring her back, yeah?"
"I will," Adrien promised.
"Bring yourself back too."
Adrien didn't respond to that. Alya waited for only a second more before she tucked Tikki carefully to her chest, turned around, and ran swiftly.
However, Plagg stayed a moment longer, his black eyes wide with grief. Gently, he touched Adrien's forehead. Immediately, warmth flooded his being and his pain faded into nothingness.
"That should help for now," Plagg whispered. "It won't last long. Get that ring." Then he flew off after Alya and Tikki, but not before Adrien saw the glistening of unshed tears in his kwami's eyes. He didn't want to—couldn't—dwell on that now.
Once he couldn't see Plagg and Alya's retreating forms anymore, Adrien took a deep breath, trying to gather his courage and stamina, before calling out, "Ladybug!"
"It's Lady Luck!" She turned around angrily. "And I just spared your life, Kitty. What do you think you're doing?"
Adrien took a step forward, grateful he didn't feel any pain, but he didn't know how long the numbness would last. He took another step. "Ladybug! I know you're in there!"
The girl crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "I told you; Ladybug isn't here! It's Lady Luck now!"
"You're strong, Ladybug!" Adrien shouted, ignoring the Akuma before him. He was talking to the girl within. To his best friend and partner and classmate. To the girl with fiery passion and kind heart. Each step brought him closer to that girl. His lady. His love. "You can fight this. Fight the Akuma!"
"Fight the Akuma? Why would anyone fight the Akuma?" Lady Luck laughed. Ladybugs flew around her legs, moving up her body to her hands. They began glowing. "Look at my power! Look how strong I am!"
"And how feared you are! You're terrifying the people you love! The people you've saved!"
"Am I terrifying you?" Lady Luck asked, her lips twisted in a devilish smile.
Adrien was standing right in front of her now. "Yes."
"Hmm." She looked him up and down. "And yet here you are. Challenging me."
He started to shake his head, but stopped when pain shot up and down his body. How could Plagg's touch be wearing off already? "I'm not challenging you. I'm asking you to stop. To fight."
"Sounds like a challenge to me."
"Fight yourself," he clarified. "I know you're in there, my Lady. Marinette, I know you don't want this."
"You sure about that?" But Lady Luck's voice was off again. As if she was questioning herself.
"You want to help people. Save people. Marinette, fight this."
"And why should I?" The girl demanded. "Why should I come back? Marinette is weak! She can't do anything like Ladybug can! She's a bumbling idiot. Pathetic. The world doesn't need Marinette."
Her admission surprised him; she didn't really think that way, did she? She can't actually think she's useless?
"Yes it does!" Adrien cried out. "The world does need you. Marinette, I need you."
Behind her, the ladybug cage melted, revealing Chloé. She was no longer crying, but upon seeing her freedom, she ran away as if in a trance.
"You? Adrien Agreste need me?" Lady Luck's voice was scathing but her eyes showed the truth. Hope. She hoped his words were true.
"Yes," he said, taking her hands. His body trembled in pain, and as each second passed by, it only became stronger. Once again, he felt the blood dripping from his mouth and felt his broken ribs move with each shallow breath. "Marinette, without you, who would've stoop up to bullies, like Chloé, for those people who couldn't stand up for themselves? And who would encourage everyone to be themselves and believe they can do anything? Marinette, you are so kind and brave and compassionate. It's those qualities that I fell in love with when you were Ladybug. It was you I was falling for, Marinette. You brought those qualities to Ladybug. To Paris."
There were tears in her eyes. "I… I don't see that…"
Adrien tenderly took Marinette's face in his hands as he slowly lowered his head down, half expecting her to shove him away. But she didn't. He put his lips on hers, pausing for a moment before gently moving his mouth open. She moved with him. He tilted his head and kissed her again. And again. And again. When he opened his eyes, there was no mask. Her eyes fluttered open at the loss of lips, and the minute he saw her crystals blues, Adrien knew it was over. For good this time.
Marinette was back. She fought the Akuma all by herself. She was back.
"My lady…" Adrien started. Then he crumpled in her arms.
"Adrien! Oh God, Adrien, wake up!" Marinette sobbed. She held his body close to her, resting atop her thighs, with his head nestled in the crook of her arm. "This is all my fault." He was not waking up. Her tears fell onto his cheeks. "I'm so sorry, Adrien. I'm so sorry." It's been what felt like hours since he fainted in her arms and he wasn't waking up. His breathing was shallow and erratic. His shirt was covered in blood.
Footsteps echoed through the empty street. She looked up, but could barely see through her tears.
"Meri—oh no." That was Alya's voice. "What happened?"
"I don't…" Marinette cut herself off and clutched Adrien closer. She did know what happened. She happened. "I did this to him, Alya. I did this."
"It's not your fault," another voice said.
Marinette looked up, searching for her little red friend. "Tikki?"
"I'm here," the kwami said, perching on Marinette's shoulder.
"Is he going to be okay?" Alya asked.
"He'll be fine," a voice Marinette didn't recognize said. It was a black kwami. "You haven't taken the ring to Hawk Moth yet, have you?"
Hawk Moth. Oh God! How could Marinette forget? Hawk Moth was Adrien's father…
"No," she croaked out. "I put it back on his finger. I thought…" A new wave of sobs wracked her body. Her other shoulder flooded with warmth.
"He'll get better," Alya said. "I've seen you stitch up your father after he sliced his palm on a knife and care for your mother when she got very sick. You'll take good care of him."
In her arms, Adrien remained deathly silent.
"And I'll help," the black kwami said. "Once I go into his ring, I can heal him. It'll be a slow process, but it will ensure his life." He looked down at his charge solemnly. After a moment, he glanced up at Marinette. "But first, we need to take care of this mess. And I need cheese."
"Plagg's right," Tikki chimed from her shoulder. "About taking care of this. You need to transform into Ladybug, Marinette."
"But…" she looked down at Adrien again, not realizing her identity had been revealed to Alya.
"Here," her friend said, opening her arms. "You can take him back as soon as you're done."
She hesitated, but Marinette knew it was the right thing to do. Carefully, she maneuvered Adrien out of her arms and into Alya's.
"Okay." She stood up. "Okay…" Taking a deep breath, she cried out, "Transform! Ladybug!" A bright light surrounded her, turning her into the superhero she no longer deserved to be. "I was so consumed by hate," she murmured to herself, looking at her red suite with black polka dots. Unlike the others, she remembered what it was like to be an Akuma.
"Don't focus on that now," the black kwami, Plagg, said. "Reverse the damage. Alter everyone's memories while you're at it. That'll definitely reverse the damage."
"Right." Ladybug paused. "How do I do that?"
Plagg rolled his eyes, something Ladybug felt he did a lot. "I don't know. You're the Ladybug."
Closing her eyes, Marinette took a deep breath, waiting for her natural instinct to guide her. Taking out her yo-yo, she twirled it a few times before throwing it into the air, yelling, "Miraculous Charm!"
A golden light appeared, changing everything back to the way it was before. Before Marinette accepted evil and threw the city into chaos. She looked down stiffly once the light disappeared. Would everything be back to normal? Would he…?
Adrien was still unconscious and bleeding.
"Um, Alya shifted nervously. "I still remember everything. Did the memory erasing not work?"
"No, it did," Ladybug assured flatly. He was still hurt. He was still dying. "You were just too close to me. I'm sorry." She felt tears stinging her eyes once again.
"No, it's fine! I want to remember," her friend amended quickly. "I mean, Marinette, you're a hero! You're Ladybug—my best friend is Ladybug."
But Ladybug shook her head. "I don't deserve to be. I ruined everything. I hurt you and Chloé and Adrien," her voice cracked. "How can deserve to be a hero if I became a villain?"
"But you didn't stay one. You fought back and became you again," Alya countered. "You're the best Ladybug ever!"
"She's right," Plagg said, flying about her head. "Not many people can fight an Akuma within themselves. Even if they are Ladybug."
She grinned shyly. "Really?"
A loud beep filled the air.
"Oh!" Ladybug gasped, her hand automatically coming up to touch an earring. "This form won't last long." She reached out for Adrien, picking him up with ease, and carrying him gently in a bridal style. "We need to get out of here before everyone returns. But where should I take him? I can't take him home…"
"Your room, silly," Alya answered. "You'll be able to care for him with ease there."
"I think he needs a hospital though," she muttered, looking down worriedly.
"Not to worry, I'll be able to speed up his healing," Plagg said. "No one will die today, I promise. I just need some cheese. Camembert, to be specific."
"I'll get it!" Alya said, shooting her hand in the air. "Go home quickly, I'll meet you there."
With a firm nod, Marinette released Adrien's legs and took her yo-yo out. "I'll see you soon," she said before swinging away.
"Remember! Camembert!" Plagg called out before diving and becoming a flash o green light. Alya could only assume that he went into Adrien's ring.
Sighing, the girl began walking south. Camembert, she muttered to herself. I'm going to smell like cheese for days.
A week came and went and Adrien still hadn't awaken. Despite giving many hints, no one remembered what had happened that day, which was good, but Marinette would've gladly accepted everyone hating her if it meant that Adrien would wake up.
It had been difficult calling his father to tell him some lie that she couldn't quite remember to keep Adrien from leaving her house. Getting her parents to let him stay wasn't as hard, but she suspected it had something to do with her mom catching Ladybug sneaking in through the balcony with an unconscious boy who had on a glowing ring. Unfortunately, that wouldn't get her out of going to school. Having to leave Adrien every morning, even if it was to her mother's very capable hands, was awful. At least Alya knew everything now—she helped Marinette get through school without breaking down crying at the very mention of Adrien's name. She even covered for her in the bakery, and was becoming quite the baker, so Marinette could stay by Adrien's side, tending to him, at all other hours of the day.
Early Saturday morning, eight days after the incident, Adrien finally woke up. (The times where his eyes were open, but glossy with fever and he couldn't say anything coherent weren't counted as him being awake.) Marinette never did like sleeping on the floor since she couldn't ever get comfortable enough to doze for longer than an hour, so when her sheets rustled and someone quietly cursed, she was wide awake to hear it.
"Adrien!" she gasped, jumping off the floor and rushing to his side.
"Yes, it's me," she said, suddenly wanting to cry. Her throat closed up and her eyes stung. God, hadn't she done enough crying? Shouldn't she be out of tears by now? "I'm so sorry, Adrien. I'm so—"
"Shh," the boy hushed, his hands cupping her cheeks. He tried to sit up, but failed to do so on his own, a pained moan forming in the back of his throat. The sound barely escaped his clenched teeth.
Immediately, Marinette acted. It was instinctual, putting her arms under his to carefully help him sit up. The part of her that wasn't blaming herself, wasn't drowning in misery and anger, screamed: Oh my God Adrien doesn't have a shirt on and his entire torso is against mine and I'm not wearing a bra, oh my God, he's gripping the back of my shirt and his forehead is in my neck he's basically on top of me he's touching me oh my God! But that part was so small and fragile, the crushing self-hate she had caused each word to crumble as soon as it was formed.
"Thanks," he breathed out, wincing as he shifted slightly, most likely to get more comfortable. When he shivered, causing his entire body to tremble, even his hair, she rushed to grab a blanket.
"This is all my fault, I'm so sorry," she whispered, willing her stinging eyes to not shed anymore tears because she's done far too much of it already, and it anyone had a right to cry, it was the boy in front of her. God, he should hate her after all she's done.
As soon as she placed the wool across his shoulder, Marinette tried to step back—no one would want the cause of all their injuriestouching them—but something stopped her. Adrien held the blanket around himself with one hand, but with the other, he had grabbed onto her wrist, keeping her in place.
"No, it's not your fault," he said quickly. Then, "Thank you."
She stared at his hand, too afraid to see his face, to see his hatred and disgust. "For nearly killing you?"
"For saving me," he clarified.
"After nearly killing you."
There was a pause, and she felt her hand being squeezed. She watched Adrien's hand tighten around her own as if she were watching an up-close scene of a romantic movie. Her life wasn't a movie though.
"Marinette, look at me." His voice was soft. Pleading.
She shook her head. She couldn't do it. What if it was an act? His voice only sounded kind so she wouldn't expect the distrust and anger that would shine in his eyes once she saw them. Or what if this was a nightmare? Adrien's face wouldn't be looking back at her; no, it would be her own visage, covered in deep, red blood and a black mask.
It wouldn't be the first time she dreamed of Lady Luck. Nor of blood.
"I…I can't…" Her voice cracked as she spoke.
It was illogical, she knew. Her partner would never trick her in such a horrid way, even if they weren't friends anymore—it wasn't his style. And this was much too real to be a nightmare; she's had enough of them to be able to tell the difference. She could never feel her pounding hart in nightmares, but right now, she wonders if her parents would wake from the sound. It was so loud.
Still, she couldn't take the chance. She couldn't bring herself to meet those green, green eyes.
"My lady. Please."
Marinette stiffened. Of course, of course, he would say the one thing that would break her resolve. Slowly—carefully—she looked up. The first thing she noticed was his cut lips, where she wiped the blood away with a wet cloth. Then it was his nose, which had been badly broken, was still a little crooked, something she couldn't correct no matter how hard she tried. The cut above his eye, the one she stitched up, was the last aspect she focused on. She knew of all the bruises and scrapes that the blankets were hiding from her eyes—knew that his right ankle was swollen and his left kneecap was dislocated. A tear fell from her eye. She tried to stop, but another one slid down her cheek, followed by two more.
"Sit down. Next to me. Please."
Tentatively, she did, and wasn't sure what to make of Adrien letting go of her hand. Then she felt heat that could only belong to a body. Adrien's chin rested on her shoulder and his arms wrapped around her waist. She could feel his skin on her bare arm and his heat through her thin pajama top.
"I forgive you," he whispered. His lips grazed against her ear.
This time, she was the one who shivered, but it was involuntary—a glimmer of the old Marinette who couldn't talk to her crush without blushing and stammering like a fool. This Marinette had let evil bloom inside her. She didn't deserve to be forgiven. "H-How can you?"
"Because I know you." He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I thought I knew me too, she thought bitterly. Then I tried to kill you. Her eyes watered again at the memory. Forgiveness shouldn't be bestowed on such a monster. "But—"
Adrien didn't let her finish. "And I love you," he declared.
The air felt heavy, thick with something Marinette couldn't name. She didn't realize she was crying again until she spoke.
"D-Don't say th-that," she sobbed, shaking her head and hunching over. (Adrien didn't release her, so she ended up curling in towards him.) She dug the palms of her hands into her eyes, trying to stop her tears. "I don't des-s-serve it."
"That doesn't stop me from loving you," he said firmly, tightening his hold on her waist. "I love you with every fiber of my being, my lady." His voice lowered. "And I forgive you." He whispered this in her ear a few more times as she sobbed into him. She couldn't hear each word, but she caught forgive, love, and Marinette several times.
When her tears ran out, Marinette realized Adrien had been rocking them back and forth. He was still so very injured and probably in so much pain, but he was comforting her. With one last sniff, she pulled back, but only far enough so she could look him face-to-face. Their noses almost touching.
"You love me," she said hoarsely, still trying to wrap her mind around the notion.
When her final tear had fallen, she believed Adrien. He had forgiven her. After all, he let her sob into his bare shoulder—and she was an ugly crier. Someone who was only feigning forgiveness wouldn't have let that happen, and definitely not for the near hour that it did. It took Alya five days to convince Marinette that she had been forgiven, but Alya had managed it, so thinking that Adrien could too wasn't completely impossible to believe.
But Adrien loving her? Loving her? Loving Ladybug, sure, but Marinette wasn't Ladybug—and it wasn't the superhero that had evil in her, it was plain, old Marinette. How could Adrien love that?
But there was no hesitation when Adrien answered, "With all my heart."
Hesitantly, she took one of her hands, which had been resting on his chest, and brought it to his face. "Me?" she asked, needed to make sure she properly understood. Adrien could've meant he only loved her as Ladybug.
He seemed to understand what exactly she was imply though, and brought his hand to cup her face too. "You," he said. "How can I prove this to you?"
Marinette opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. She looked at him helplessly, wondering if this was when he would back out. Maybe he wouldn't laugh, but he'd definitely say, Wait, you do realize I only love you as a friend, right? As a partner? That's the way I love you.
But then Adrien leaned forward, and his lips were so sure against hers. So confident. She closed her eyes, moving her mouth against his, timidly at first, but as time went by and he didn't pull away, she grew more certain. She shifted her position, wanting to fully face him. As she did so, Adrien leant back. And kept leaning. She followed him down, pressing her body against his, only pulling away when she heard a low whine from the back of his throat.
"Am I hurting you?" she whispered, suddenly worried.
"Not at all," he murmured, gently pulling her head back down.
They laid there for a long time, kissing lazily in Marinette's bed with their legs intertwined and their hands tentatively roaming. Both teens were too nervous to go any farther and relieved when the other didn't attempt to.
When the sun was blaring brightly though the windows, the silence was finally broken. They had stopped kissing a few minutes ago, opting to play with each other's fingers. Marinette was pressed firmly against Adrien's side, her head resting against his chest while the hand that wasn't intertwining with hers was rubbing circles across her left hip.
"I guess there's only one thing left to say now," he whispered, looking down at Marinette fondly.
"And what's that?" She tilted her face towards him expectantly.
He looked down at her fondly. "About our identities…"
"Yeah?" she prompted.
He grinned, and she immediately knew what was about to happen. She's seen that look on Chat Noir more than enough times.
"I guess the cat's out of the bag now, heh?"
"Oh my God," she groaned. "Adrien, no."
He chuckled, nuzzling his nose into her neck.
"I'm glad though. I've got a really good feline about this."