“I love you,” Adrien repeated, softer this time, as his thumb traced the outline of his ring. Plagg barely managed a groan over his last bites of camembert, but Adrien didn’t seem to notice. His head dropped as he pulled away from the window, pressing his fingers into his forehead. He could feel the rapidity of his heart beating in his temple as his mind began to race.
I’ve waited long enough. I have to do something.
“I have to tell her,” he suddenly blurted out. Inspired, his head jerked up and his eyes widened, his hands forming fists at his side. Racing towards the desk, he started to smile. His grin widened as he grew giddy with excitement, adrenaline pumping possibilities through his already overflowing mind.
Plagg burped, unconcerned with Adrien’s realization. The kwami scowled as the sudden shortage of camembert dawned on him. Forlorn at the absence of his cheese, he perched on the desk chair and turned to Adrien.
“You have so many ladies to choose from anyway. What’s so special about Ladybug?” he whined. “I mean, maybe if she was made of cheese, I’d understand the appeal, but–”
At the mention of Ladybug, Adrien sighed, ignoring the kwami’s complaints. Right hand on the chair, he leaned into it, imagining every scenario in which he confesses his true feelings. Distracted by his daydreaming, he shifted all his weight to his side and started to lose his balance. Sliding into the swivel chair, he lost control, spinning it in the process. The chair slipped out from under him and rolled across the room, flinging a yelping Plagg off. The kwami shot across the room, smacking into the window and bouncing onto the floor. Adrien tried to catch himself but bumped his head on the desk, sending a cascade of papers onto the floor and as he landed with a thud.
Crumpled on the floor, he reached a hand out to push papers out of the way. He crawled out from under the desk but lifted his head too early. He groaned as his head made impact with the desk, causing his tablet to tumble. He barely managed to catch it before it connected with the floor and shattered. Fumbling, he accidentally pressed the on button, and the tablet screen opened to his reading for the night: Fairy Tales in Practice. He clicked the tablet off and slid it away.
Across the room, he heard a thud as his chair hit an arcade machine, shaking the wall. Pain shot briefly through his head as he rose to his feet, catching the sound of a faint whimper from across the room.
“You okay, Plagg?” Adrien groaned. Rubbing the tender spot on his head, he rushed to the crumpled kwami. He scooped him up to check for any damage.
“I’m fine, lover boy. Next time keep your head out of the clouds and watch where you’re swooning, huh?”
“I’m sorry, Plagg,” he sputtered. “I jus–”
“Yeah, yeah. You have to find Ladybug,” Plagg interrupted. “So you can tell her you looooove her.” The kwami stuck his tongue out as he popped out of Adrien’s palms. “Yuck. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but when are you going to tell her? And how ?” His antennae started to bounce excitedly and he flew in close to Adrien’s face. Adrien’s eyes started to cross as he stared at Plagg, who continued his barrage.
“But what if she rejects you? Or what if she stops talking to you altogether? I bet she already has a boyfriend...oh, wouldn’t that feel terrible? Holy Swiss, what if sh–”
His ramblings were cut short by Adrien, who snatched the kwami out of midair.
“Alright, alright. I get it. You have to tell her immediately...blah blah blah. Well, I still prefer my camembert to your lady troubles. Just promise me you’ll get some more cheese before you go off to make goo-goo eyes at your lovebug. You’re going to owe me. Big time.”
* * *
Chat Noir slipped out of his bathroom window, slinking out of the house unnoticed. His mind was set on one thing: Ladybug. He jumped onto a nearby roof, scanning the city for his partner.
I have to find Ladybug. Before I lose another chance.
He bounced from block to block, haplessly searching the skyline for any sign of Ladybug. He tried to contact her every few minutes, one hand hovering over his baton at all times. No luck.
At one point, he caught glimpse of black and red while mid-jump and froze, tumbling to the ground. Rubbing his already sore head, his shoulders slumped when he realized it was just some crudely painted street art on the side of a fromagerie. The mural read “LADY CHANCE” in messy scrawl and featured a hastily constructed depiction of Ladybug, a lanky red figure dotted in black against the peeling white facade of the store. The faint scent of cheese radiated from the building, and Chat noted the tang of camembert in the air. At the smell of cheese, his mind wandered to Plagg, whose voice surfaced in his head.
But what if she rejects you?
The kwami’s words jolted him back on track. He clenched his fists and leapt onto the wall, dismissing the echoes of Plagg’s protests as he began to ascend.
“I sure hope luck is on my side this time, my lady,” he whispered. He scaled the side of the building, more determined than ever.
Don’t lose focus, he reassured himself. You won’t mess up. Not this time.
Upon reaching the roof, Chat resumed the hunt. He searched for what seemed like hours. A sinking feeling began to form in his stomach as his pace slowed. The city was agitated, but he couldn’t pinpoint the problem. The uneasy feeling started to gnaw at his concentration. He could hear fragments of barely discernable arguments muffled beneath his feet. The sounds of soft sobbing floated up off buildings. There were flowers strewn across the sidewalks.
Worry festered in his gut. Something was very, very off.
His heart started to sink as he paused to perch on a chimney. The Eiffel Tower loomed nearby, blocking out the sun. The thought of an akuma attack crossed his mind, and he started to forget his mission. If Paris was in danger, he needed to find Ladybug as soon as possible. If it was an akuma, it couldn’t have worse timing.
Not today. He tensed as he pulled out his baton again, ready to dial Ladybug – hoping this time she’ll answer – when suddenly he heard a familiar voice ring out.
“That doesn’t mean you have to take it out on all of Paris!”
Chat froze, almost dropping his baton as his heart beat frantic and fast in ears. He whipped his head to the right – spotted her. She stood on a nearby rooftop, facing a dark
winged figure who propelled himself into the air as Ladybug advanced. She jumped, swinging her yo-yo effortlessly, moving so fast she was almost flying between buildings. A smile started to surface as Chat watched her, a blur of red against the grey rooftops of Paris. The figure followed her close behind. Chat squinted, straining to see what – who – was in quick pursuit of his lady. Dark flashes erupted in the air behind her; the winged figure seemed to be shooting–
Chat’s eyes widened as it dawned on him. The akuma was aiming directly at Ladybug.
If he remained hidden, he could wait for the akuma to pass and then sneak in from behind, launching a surprise attack. It was too late to jump in front of the action – if I crash into Ladybug, that’d be a smooth entrance – but if he continued the incognito stakeout...
Watching her trajectory, he inched towards the roof’s edge. He gripped his baton and peered over the side, spotting a perfect spot to wait for her. He flung the metal into the building’s side and dropped down to perch on it. He scanned the sky for any sign of either Ladybug or the akuma, but the chimneys obstructed his view. He heard the sling of her yo-yo (still no sight of Ladybug) and started to shiver at the sounds of the winged figure’s cackles. Mind churning, a plan began to formulate.
Plagg’s voice resurfaced in his mind. What’s so special about Ladybug?
Guilt washed over him as he pressed his hand into rough brick and leaned into the building. There he was, cowering with his tail between his legs, while Ladybug was in danger. He knew she could handle anything on her own, but his head dropped in shame.
You have to get out there, Chat. Ladybug is counting on you. He shut his eyes and rubbed the forming bump on his head. Stupid Chat. He had been so blinded by his lovesick rantings, and there he was, hiding in the shadows. Useless to both his partner and Paris.
Chat’s confidence began to melt away, lifting his head to the sky in vain search for Ladybug. There was an urge to move, to flee, to crawl back to the rooftop and join the chase, but he felt frozen in place.
A voice nagged at him. Maybe it’s pointless. After all, how many times have you screwed everything up and she’s been the one who saved our skins?
Suddenly, he heard a thud. And a cry.
He grabbed onto the bricks and readied himself to pounce. There was a flash of red above him. His eyes widened as he focused on the falling figure. There was no sign of the akuma, just the spinning of a yo-yo and the sound of it latching onto the roof.
Then it was just them. No akuma. Ladybug dangled from her yo-yo, wrapped up in its wire. His breath caught in his throat and he grabbed his tail. Gripping the leather, he unconsciously started to spin it. All thoughts of the akuma dissipated as he gazed up at her. Renewed with purpose, Chat smirked and struck a pose, suppressing his nervous energy with his suave composure.
“Falling for me already, m’lady?” he purred. “I need to talk to you.” He tried to sound urgent while he reached for Ladybug, who dropped into his outstretched hand.
“It’s gotta wait,” she responded. Worry seeped through her words. Chat drew her closer as she continued. “Dark Cupid – ”
“Shhh,” he whispered, bringing a finger in front of her face. Her bluebell eyes widened, surprised by his interruption.
“I swore to myself that I’d tell you as soon as I saw you.” Her face was frozen. Chat felt butterflies stirring in his stomach. Now or never, Chat.
“Ladybug, I…I – ”
In the distance, he saw a flash of a figure. He swore it was a bird, but – the akuma. He tensed, his fingers tightening their grip on her arm.
He leaned into her, trying to spin her around and cover her body with his.
He was too slow.
The whoosh of an arrow. Her body jerked from the impact. He screamed.
The akuma was nowhere to be seen. Chat’s ears rang as he drew her closer. Useless, his mind hissed.
“Chat,” she choked out, voice breaking. “I –”
Suddenly, her whole body went limp. He held her closer, cradling her head as it fell onto his shoulder.
The butterflies in his stomach disappeared. She stirred, raising her face close to his. For one instant, she looked at Chat with a softness he’d never seen from her before.
Suddenly, a shadow passed over her face, and her lips blackened into a deep purple. He pulled back, fear bubbling up as she looked deep into his eyes. Her voice sounded harsh, rough even, as she spoke with marked determination.
“I hate you.”