At first, Chat doesn’t know. Of course he doesn’t, the ridiculous cat had skipped right past the instructions to Hero Mode. She knows he doesn’t the second he tries to use cataclysm twice in a row.
He finds out by their first patrol, after the third akuma attack. She knows because he lands silently, posture stiff and expression blank. The night is a heavy blanket over both of them, a grim feeling that chases them over the rooftops.
But at the end of the night, Chat bows to her before running off with a pun and a smirk. They might not be able to talk about it, but they’ll be able to get past it and that lifts some of the weight in her chest.
Sometimes, Chat's flirtations seem more sincere than usual or she’ll see him watching her with a soft expression on his face. Whether his feelings are platonic or romantic, she can’t help but feel like she’s drowning in one overwhelming thought:
Oh god, I can't let him fall in love with a dying girl.
Sometimes, Marinette wonders how she’ll go. Will it be sudden with no warning? Or will it be slow and gradual? Will her loved ones be forced to watch her wither away, unable to do anything, despite what the doctors may try? Will the doctors just shake their heads and shrug, unsure of what is causing this otherwise healthy girl to die? Or will they give it a fancy scientific name and subject her to all the treatments that follow?
Sometimes, Marinette realizes that she’s never going to graduate.
For the first few months, she doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t live her life any differently. She stays up late, designs in her free time, is late for school, and pricks her thumb constantly. She laughs with Alya and sneaks cookies for Tikki. It's always there, in the back of her mind, but she tries to ignore it. She doesn’t want it taking over her life.
She wishes that she were brave enough to talk to Adrien, to walk up to him and just tell him how she feels. But as video games and Chinese and pastries bring them closer, she realizes she can’t do it. She can’t do that to him. She can’t hurt him like that.
Marinette holds everyone but Tikki at arm's length. She smiles quickly and ducks her head. She holds her fate close, like a secret. A secret that will only hurt others.
For the first time, Ladybug has a hard time catching her breath after an akuma attack. When she sees the look on Chat’s face, she plays it off like she has a cold and that's all. Neither of them believe her.
She goes home and panics.
It's been six months. Six months since she became Ladybug. And she's already starting to wilt. It’s too soon, too fast. She has a few more years to live, doesn’t she? More lives to save, more akumas to fight. She has more designs to make and tests to take and cookies to eat and phones to ‘borrow’ and friends to make. It can’t all be ending now.
She can’t do her homework. She can’t draw or design, although her fingers are itching to get all of her mind out on paper so it’s there as physical proof that she existed after she’s gone. She just curls up on her bed and cries. Tikki cuddles against her, murmuring soft comforts as she sobs. She cries herself dry and then keeps laying there, staring at the wall, feeling nothing but empty.
Something inside her has broken. All feeling has been wrung out of her and she’s been left out in the sun to dry. Her skin is too tight and her head is filled with cotton. It’s like whatever spark or life existed in her is just gone .
She didn’t want this to turn her into a shell. And yet, here she is.
Marinette squeezes her eyes shut. She’s desperately trying to relight that spark, but she doesn’t know how. She’s not sure how she’s going to get up and keep living her life. If she can’t be Marinette, then she definitely won’t be able to be Ladybug. Not now.
She misses Chat. She saw him just a few hours ago, but she misses him. And right now she needs someone who understands what she’s going through.
But she can’t call Chat. She can’t get up and transform right now to call him, even if she was willing to let him see her at her weakest point. So she texts Alya, because it’s easiest. Because she barely has to move to reach her phone, because texting is easier than talking. Alya still ends up calling within the first five minutes of their conversation.
Alya chides her for being up so late, but Marinette softly points up that Alya’s awake as well. Alya tucks away the journalist part of herself and listens to Marinette talk, words dropping from her mouth without a thought, her brain to mouth filter completely gone. She makes up some weak excuse about being stressed because of school. At some point, she may have hinted at being Ladybug. Marinette can’t even remember what was said by morning. All she knows is that when she somehow drags herself out of bed to school, Alya is waiting with a hug, a cup of coffee, and a gentle smile.
Now she’s more careful. She watches herself and her breathing, careful not to push. Ladybug never had limits before, but now she calculates each step. Patrols have become more of a watch over Paris than a patrol. Whenever Chat looks even the slightest bit tired, she suggests they just relax for the night. She knows she doesn’t need to rest this much just yet, she could still play chase across the rooftops if she wanted to, but she wants to last as long as she can.
There are still nights where she lays on her bed and stares at the wall in silence. Alya always knows what nights those are, because she’ll get late night text messages. Marinette will always get to school to find a copy of the homework and a cup of coffee handed to her as Alya tries to hide her worry.
Somehow, in shutting herself away from everyone, she finds herself spending more time with Adrien. They end up playing video games in her room more often than she expects and she wonders how this became a thing. How trying to distance herself from everyone ended with her being closer to everyone she tried to push away. Alya slips her little messages in the cardboard sleeve of her coffee. Nino constantly emails her playlists. Adrien is just there .
They’re making this easier.
They’re making this harder .
On their one year anniversary as partners, Chat hugs her tighter than he did when he thought that she’d been killed by Animan. He hugs her and she hugs back just as tight, almost afraid that she’s going to slip through his arms. She still has time. They know that she still has time. Tikki had said two to three years. The side effect of the miraculous, a lifespan like the animals they were named for.
They’re lucky enough for a free day. No akumas, no Hawk Moth, no minor crimes. They sit on the Eiffel Tower and watch the city move beneath them like ants. She breathes in all the fresh air she can. She knows she still has time, but it feels like it’s starting to come down to the wire and each breath of air is a gift.
They still haven’t talked about it. She doubts they ever will.
She doesn’t know how this is going to effect Chat’s lifespan. She doesn’t know if she wants to. She doesn’t want to think about Chat going through Ladybug after Ladybug as his life stretches out. Instead, she turns back to the Paris skyline and swings her feet as the sunset paints the sky pinks and golds.
He catches her hand when her miraculous beeps. She turns to look at him in surprise. They’ve been sitting in companionable silence for hours, shoulders brushing. For a moment, they just stare at each other, not wanting to shatter whatever balance they’ve found. This delicate balance that they’re barely holding onto as is.
Chat squeezes her hand. “I love you,” he says softly.
Her breath catches in her throat. Please, don’t. “I know,” she murmurs with a smile. She pulls away and throws her yo-yo, swinging away as she tastes salt on her lips.
It’s starting to become noticeable. In the way she walks and moves, the tiredness that she carries on her bones. She sleeps as much as she can, but she can’t shake her exhaustion. She smiles at Chat when he asks her if she’s feeling alright and they both know. She falls asleep on him that night, completely drained by the akuma they’d fought the day before. She’s not sure how she’s going to keep this up for at least another ten months.
She tells Chat that she’s going to tell one of her friends. She feels like he has a right to know that someone will know her identity. She’s caught slightly off guard by his reaction, a small smile as he tells her to do whatever she needs to, before pressing his cheek against hers and leaping off into the night with his miraculous beeping. As he vanishes into the shadows, she brushes her fingers against her cheek.
Marinette paces around her room. Tikki nuzzles her neck as she does so, promising it’ll be okay. Tikki’s original warning still worries her, but she’s weighed the pros and cons and decided that Alya needs to know. Alya with her blog and her coffee and her notes and her friendship.
Alya deserves to know.
She wrings her hands as Alya pushes her trap door open. Marinette has Alya sit down as she continues to pace, rambling on and on. She doesn’t think she’s making any sense. She doesn’t sound like she’s making sense. But Alya is nodding like she’s following along. She hadn’t reacted when Marinette mentioned Chat Noir, or when she casually dropped that she was Ladybug and moved on as fast as possible. She’s just nodding and sitting calmly, like she’s hearing things she’s heard a thousand times. Marinette stops rambling and takes a deep breath, turning towards Alya.
“So basically, I’m going to die within the next two years.”
Her parents have noticed. Of course they’ve noticed. They may not notice her leaving to be Ladybug, but they can see how she’s slowly fading away. And then the dreaded parade of doctors begins.
There’s blood work and different scans and every possible test to take. Large scientific words are thrown around and make her head spin. Within four months, she’s tried too many medications to name, not that she could pronounce the names if she tried.
She’s dying. Slowly but not too painfully yet. She hides it well enough at school. No one asks, but it might just be because they’re too afraid to.
When she collapses in class after an akuma attack, there’s no more denying it.
Marinette has at least six more months to live, but she can’t keep living the same life.
She’s caught off guard by the cat knocking at her trap door, his green eyes staring back at her in the darkness. He says he heard about her fainting and was just checking in. She raises her eyebrows and promises that she’s fine, she was just dehydrated. She pretends she doesn’t know Chat well enough to be able to tell that he doesn’t believe her.
His tail flicks back and forth nervously throughout the entire conversation. He seems on edge, restless. She wishes she was Ladybug because she’d flick his bell and chide him for being so worried.
It takes longer than she would’ve expected to get Chat to leave. His usual humor and flirtations are gone, replaced by an anxiety she’s only ever seen in his eyes.
There’s an empty feeling in her as soon as he leaves, a tugging in her stomach that makes her feel slightly sick.
She should tell him.
She starts planning her goodbyes.
She spends every waking moment pouring her soul out into her journal and sketchbooks. She wants to leave something physical behind. She considers giving her sketchbooks to Adrien, although the likelihood of Gabriel ever seeing them is nearly zero. Maybe she’ll put them online. She lets her mind consider every option as she fills page after page, ink staining her hands. She stays up most nights, unable to waste her time on sleep. School is unimportant, she’s been missing more and more days and can barely keep up anymore. So she spends all classes she attends designing. She notes colors in the margins and marks down ideas for fabrics and different types of stitches. She makes embroidery samples and stacks them next to her sketchbooks.
She can’t tell her parents.
She thought about it. She spent hours turning the idea over in her mind. She has no idea how they’d react. She can’t imagine they’d let her still be Ladybug— she isn’t sure how Chat hasn’t stopped her from coming out on patrols.
She asks Alya to tell her parents when she’s gone. Alya hands her a video camera and shakes her head, saying to tell them herself.
She does four takes.
She can’t get through one without crying.
She sits down next to Chat, swinging her legs over the edge of the roof. She lets herself sag against his side. She’s too tired to sit up straight or even care. After a minute of silence, she says, “I think I hate doctors.” Her throat tightens and the words seem to tremble and shake.
Chat turns to look at her with wide, surprised eyes. She’s destroying the glass wall they’ve created. There’s no putting it back together.
“I know they’re doing their best, but… I hate them.”
Chat just laughs and takes her hand. “My Lady,” he says, “can I suggest apples?”
She snorts, and he kisses the back of her hand.
“My name’s Marinette,” she says.
Chat jerks away.
She keeps her eyes trained ahead. She’s done hiding it. She no longer has a weak point that she doesn’t want Chat to see, her entire life is a weak point. She needs Chat with her every step of the way now. Her time is starting to wind down, and she wants to have him in her life more than just on patrols and during attacks. She wants him to know every part of her, especially the terrified teenage girl who’s on the edge of breaking.
“Thought you should know,” she adds softly.
She can feel his eyes on her and she’s never felt more exposed. She wishes she could see inside his head, know exactly what he’s thinking. She doesn’t want him to be disappointed. She doesn’t want him to regret being her partner, her friend.
Chat looks forward, straight backed. “My name’s Adrien,” he says.
Her heart pounds and blood rushes in her ears.
“Thought you should know.”
She throws herself into life full heartedly. It’s hard, but she does it anyway. Any day now could very well be her last.
She stays up all night talking to Alya. She listens to Nino mix his music and gives her input. She has Adrien teach her Chinese and piano. She indulges and makes risky designs. She spends more time with the rest of her classmates. She plays video games with Adrien when getting up is too much.
She tells Chloé she’s sorry for thinking the worst of her. Chloé stares at her for a second before hugging her tightly and apologizing herself. Marinette freezes, not sure what to do. Chloé pulls away with a surprisingly knowing look on her face and tells Marinette to feel better.
She kisses Adrien. She spends all the time she can with him. And one day, in the middle of a video game, she kisses him.
She kisses Adrien and cuddles with him and watches movies with him. He calls her princess softly under his breath and presses kisses to her forehead. She finds comfort in his voice and in his presence.
She tells Nino. She sees no point in hiding it from him. He stares at her and whispers “dude” softly. Then he hugs her tight.
At some point, Adrien must have told Nino and Alya. Tikki hovers out in the open whenever she can, Plagg preferring the comfort of Adrien’s bag and pockets. They don’t talk about Ladybug and Chat Noir. They don’t talk about how akuma attacks have died down to nearly nothing and patrols are scarce. The Ladyblog runs on theories and fan creation.
She hugs her parents and tells them she loves them. She tries to find some way to make it easier for them. To make it hurt less.
She can't come up with anything.
She’s admitted to the hospital.
She hates it. Tikki stays with Adrien, both visiting whenever possible. Adrien visits during hours, and sometimes at night Chat Noir will break in. She feels better when he’s curled up on the bed with her, telling her bad jokes and stories about things Nino and Alya have done.
She gives Alya the key to her journal. She tells her to do what she wants with it, she doesn’t care either way.
She gives Adrien another scarf. One she’d sewn during all those hours she sat waiting in different doctors’ offices. This time, she tells him it’s from her. This time, she tells him she loves him.
She gives Alya, Adrien, and Nino all of her sketchbooks and samples. She doesn't know what they’re going to do with them. She just hopes that they keep a small piece of her.
She gives them her friendship, her love. She gives them everything she can, trying to show them somehow how much they mean to her. She can’t express it in words. She can’t express it in material objects. She just hopes that they know.
She gives her parents all the love she can to try and make this less painful. It hurts to see them. She hates how sad they look. Their smiles can’t hide how sad their eyes are. Alya’s exported the video. They’ll see it when she's gone.
When she’s gone.
She’ll be gone soon.
She gives Tikki back her earrings. She won’t be needing them anymore.
She gives Paris her life. She gives Tikki her life. She gives it to Hawk Moth, to his akumas, to whatever hatred and anger made his heart turn cold.
She gives her life to the world.
She hopes she’s done her best.
At first, Chat doesn’t know. He had just bypassed all of the rules to jump into the fun stuff. From the second he first transformed until he’d learned everything Plagg had been trying to tell him, he regretted it. He remembers the way she had looked at him and it’s not so strange anymore.
Plagg tells him before the first patrol. It’s a hushed whisper, an asterisk tacked onto their powers that Plagg, and Adrien, would both rather forget. It means nothing for Adrien, it means everything for her.
He can’t smile when he’s on patrol.
He can barely even look at her. He thinks about how she’d stepped up and into the role of Ladybug when she needed to, he remembers her stuttering and lack of confidence. It’s only been a few weeks, but so many things have changed since that first day.
Now she has a time limit.
Adrien wonders how she’ll go. He wonders if it’ll be quick and out of the blue. Part of him hopes it’s not, he wants to say goodbye. If it’s slow, he wonders if he’ll see it. He wonders if he’ll see it in the way she moves and holds herself. He hopes if it’s slow, it’s not too painful. He doesn’t want it to be painful either way. Preferably, she wouldn’t be dying at all, but she’d known what she was getting into when she accepted the miraculous.
She’d known she was going to die and she still chose to become Ladybug.
He’s never going to be as brave as her, her shadow will be cast over him long after she’s gone, and for that, he’s thankful. He’ll never step out of it.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to joke and laugh and smile. When Ladybug smiles, he doesn’t see a dying girl. He sees someone so bright and brilliant that she’s blinding. He supposes all stars must burn out, but why can’t she be one of the stars that shines for billions of years?
He tries not to think about it. The change in lifespan means almost nothing when he thinks about himself. But when he thinks about her it hits him like a truck. So he doesn’t. He poses and goes to class and sneaks away from Gorilla and follows color coded schedules. He makes friends. Nino breaks in and Adrien breaks out. He becomes friends with Alya and Marinette. The four of them go to the movies and do projects on Marinette’s floor. He ducks away from them to become Chat Noir. He keeps them at a distance, because he keeps losing people he cares about. He can’t care that much anymore.
He tells Chloé.
He isn’t supposed to. No one is supposed to know. But Chloé is Chloé, no matter how she may act at school. He leans on her, she leans on him. It’s how they work.
It’s two in the morning. Ladybug had nearly collapsed during an akuma attack earlier. She’d claimed it was a cold, that she was just a bit breathless, but she didn’t seem to notice how she swayed like butterfly flapping its wings could knock her over.
It’s finally real. And he’s going to lose someone else he loves. And more importantly, Ladybug is going to die. There’s no coming back from that. There are no magical ladybugs to save the day, no superhero swinging down from a building on her yo-yo to right the wrongs. Once she’s gone, she’s gone.
It's two in the morning and Chat Noir lands on Chloé Bourgeois’ balcony. He knocks on her glass doors until she gets out of bed, grumbling and threatening to call security. Her expression remains unimpressed as she opens the doors and demands to know why he’s there. Her eyes widen as Chat’s face crumples and he throws his arms around her neck.
She freezes, tense and unwelcoming. Somewhere in his sobs, he manages to detransform, encasing them in a green light and leaving Chloé to deal with aftermath.
Chloé takes it in stride, tugging him inside and onto her bed. They curl up and look up at the glow in the dark stars above their heads just like they used to and somehow, Adrien gets it all out.
She doesn’t say anything, Chloé never does. She just hugs him close and devises a plan to sneak him out in the morning. When he wakes up, he sees the steel in her eyes that he was too upset to notice before. She squeezes his hands and plasters on a smile, but he knows better.
He can’t help but watch her every move. He feels too tense, like he’s waiting for her to shatter at any second. He doesn’t want to feel this way. He knows that she can handle herself. Knowing that doesn’t actually make a difference.
So he throws himself into schoolwork and life outside of Chat Noir. He spends more time with Marinette. He learns how to get under her skin when they play video games, something he had previously thought was impossible. He hangs out with Nino every chance he gets, he gets to know Alya beyond the blog and Nino. He visits Chloé. She’s the same at school, but whenever she senses a bad day, she’s waiting up for him when he lands on her balcony. They curl up on her bed and talk about anything and everything. They don’t bring up his original reason for visiting.
He throws his everything into being Adrien but part of him is still thinking about her. He was trying to stay separate from people, so loved ones wouldn’t keep dropping like flies. And yet, as he sits in café, smiling at Nino and Alya as Marinette frantically scribbles down a dress design, his phone buzzing as Chloé sends him movie options for his next visit, he realizes how badly he’s failed.
He makes his mind up to tell her. It’s their first anniversary as partners, and if Plagg is right, she only has a year or two left. He refuses to let anything else happen without her hearing the words aloud. Whether she takes it as platonic or romantic, he doesn’t care. He loves her. In both ways, in every way. He doesn’t even need a reaction. He just needs her to know how much he loves her, how much she means to him, because she means the world.
There’s something tranquil about just sitting in silence on the top of the world. The Eiffel Tower is one of his favorite places to sit with her, the world moving below them as they’re totally separate from it. He closes his eyes and enjoys the afternoon as it dwindles to twilight.
He wonders what it would’ve been like if they didn’t know about the lifespans or if the lifespans weren’t a factor. Would their partnership be different? Would they be any closer? Would they be more distant?
He decides it doesn’t matter. She’d be alive for longer, or she wouldn’t be living with this intense weight on her shoulders. It doesn’t matter what else would change. It’d be worth it.
The peaceful silence is broken by the beeping of her miraculous. He grabs her hand before she can move— he has to tell her.
But he finds himself just staring at her, drinking her in. Taking in her sparkling eyes and spots of freckles. Memorizing the way her bangs fall and her mouth curves.
It’s a lot easier to say than he remembers from previous attempts.
“I love you.”
Ladybug’s eyes widen. “I know,” she says, almost whispering. She squeezes his hand so softly he barely notices before she’s pulling away and swinging off.
He watches her vanish into the streets of Paris, remembering the feeling of her hand in his.
It’s not going to be enough.
It’s going to be a long sickness, with his lady slowly crumbling away in front of him as he watches helplessly from the sidelines. Her fist bumps are weaker with each attack. She naps on patrols, ending up on his shoulder more often than not. He hums her his mother’s lullabies and tries not to think about why she’s so tired. He wonders if her friends and family are starting to get worried.
She says that she’s going to tell her friend she’s Ladybug and everything that comes with that. Chat smiles, bittersweet. He wishes she could tell him, but he understands why she can’t. She needs someone away from this, like how he could never tell her the things he says to Chloé. He tells her to do what she needs to take care of herself and leans to the side to press their cheeks together. His miraculous beeps, and he pulls away, bounding off towards his escape.
Adrien knocks on Chloé’s balcony doors and she let’s him in without batting an eye. She pulls up a movie on the television, the volume so low that there’s almost no purpose in it playing in the background. They sit on the bed, cross legged, and look up at the plastic glow in the dark stars.
After a few minutes of sitting in silence, Adrien reaches up and points to one of the stars, naming it and beginning the myth from memory. He remembers nights with his mother on the roof, tales of heroes and gods woven below the twinkling stars.
Chloé leans back on her hands to get a better look at their plastic sky. If he pretends hard enough, he can feel the night breeze and hear his mother’s lilting voice floating above his own.
When he runs out of stories, he drops his arm and looks down at his crossed legs.
“She’s going to die within the next two years.”
Chloé wraps an arm around him and starts telling the stories that she knows.
Every time he sees Ladybug outside of an akuma attack, he wants to send her home. He can handle patrols by himself. And he knows that if he said that to her she would threaten to throw him into the Seine.
She doesn’t tell him what’s going on. It’s some sort of silent pact that they made the night he first found out. And he hates it with a burning passion.
He wants to know if she’s okay. He wants to know if she’s in pain. He wants to know if there’s anything he can do to help.
Marinette passes out in the hallway. As he and Alya kneel down next to her to see if she’s okay, his heart pounds. Marinette had been sick lately. Alya had just said it was a long term cold. Nino runs to get help.
Adrien knows. In his gut, he knows.
But his heart refuses to make the connection.
He needs to see her. He needs to know she’s okay. He can’t handle not knowing if two people he cares about are okay. He doesn’t know exactly what comes over him, but he stops pacing around his bedroom and is transformed before he leaps out the window.
He runs, trying to run from the anxiety and the worry and the pain . And somehow, he ends up near the Dupain-Cheng bakery. He freezes and stares at Marinette’s balcony.
He needs to see her.
He knocks on her trap door until she answers, fumbling through a weak excuse about hearing that she’d fainted through the grapevine.
She promises she’s fine.
He doesn’t believe her.
He doesn’t know how he’s going to say goodbye. He doesn’t want to. But he wants closure.
His mother left without a goodbye.
His father leaves all the time without a goodbye.
He’s used to not saying goodbye.
He doesn’t want Ladybug to be the same. But he doesn’t know if he’s going to get a chance to say goodbye. He doesn’t know if he’d be able to get any words out. He’s not sure if he’d be able to do more than crack a bad joke to hide how he feels like part of himself is dying along with her.
He’s trying to get used to patrols without her.
It’s strange and he doesn’t think he likes it. It’s too quiet.
(Part of him acknowledges the fact that there will probably be another Ladybug. And then another. Many more before he’s gone. But he doesn’t want another Ladybug. He wants his Ladybug.)
He looks up at her when she lands on the roof, the light of the fading sun looking like a halo around her. She sits down and leans against him, and he wants to pull her close and just hold her for as long as he can. Maybe if he holds on tight enough she won’t die.
She takes a deep breath. “I think I hate doctors.”
He freezes. This is not the plan. They aren’t supposed to talk about this. He’s supposed to watch her suffer in silence. He turns to her, hoping that doesn’t stop her from continuing.
“I know they’re doing their best,” she says, “but… I hate them.”
He laughs breathlessly. Relieved. Destroyed. He takes her hand in his. “My Lady, can I suggest apples?”
He kisses the back of her hand as she snorts, memorizing the feeling of her gloved hand against his lips.
“My name’s Marinette.”
His entire world stops.
Then it collapses.
It’s like he’s watching everything fall apart in slow motion and there’s not a single thing he can do to stop it. His partner, his best friend , is one of his other closest friends. He’s not just losing Ladybug, he’s losing Marinette. He’s losing her. All of her.
“Thought you should know.”
His heart restarts.
Now he knows. He knows.
What are the odds?
He looks forward, turning his gaze away from her and towards the horizon. “My name’s Adrien,” he says. He has nothing to hide from her. He never has. He would’ve told her every one of his secrets the minute they’d met if she asked him to.
He can feel her tense next to her.
“Thought you should know.”
He tells Nino. He doesn’t say anything about Ladybug — Marinette — but he’s having a harder time being Chat and the secret is heavier than ever. Talking to Nino about it is something entirely different than talking to Chloé. Nino shakes his head and just says that he should’ve seen it. Him and Plagg get on horrifyingly well.
He tells Alya. He’s guessing she already knows about Marinette and she confirms it immediately with the look on her face and an “are you serious.”
He throws himself into Marinette’s life. He spends more time at her house, they hang out with Alya and Nino and by themselves. He teaches her piano when she asks, teaching her his mother's favorite songs. He teaches her bits and pieces of Chinese, loving how she lights up whenever she gets the pronunciation right.
They’re sitting on the couch playing a video game when she kisses him. She catches him off guard and his brain shuts down.
He tries to dance around the subject of Ladybug whenever he talks to Chloé. If she notices, and she definitely does, she doesn’t comment on it. She just asks if he’s okay, he lies, and then they turn on a movie. It works.
Sometimes, he looks at Marinette and thinks it’s so unfair. He kisses her and hugs her and tells her that he loves her. He keeps the thoughts of unfairness to himself as he plays with her hair. It’s unfair. It’s unfair in every possible way.
If he could change places with her, he’d do so in a heartbeat.
She’s admitted to the hospital.
He’s had two years to accept that this was coming. He hasn’t even gotten close.
He visits as often as he can. He visits with her parents and with Alya and with Nino or a mix of them. He sneaks Tikki in in his pocket next to Plagg and sneaks in to visit in the night as Chat Noir. He curls up on the bed with her and tells her about his day. He softly sings her to sleep and kisses her cheek.
He’s taking every second with her that he can.
She starts giving away her things. She tells them what they can have. It kills him.
All of her sketchbooks, her designs, her samples, they go to the three of them. They don't open them. They don't even take them out of her room. He exchanges a look with Alya and Nino when she tells them they’re theirs. They don't want them yet.
Alya wears the key to Marinette's journal around her neck. He doesn’t know if she’s ever going to open the box. He just knows that it’s sitting on Marinette’s desk, gathering dust.
Marinette gives him a scarf. A familiar one, this time it’s green. He wears it all the time. He runs his thumb over the small M in one corners. Over and over and over again.
She takes off her earrings and gives them to Tikki. She smiles sadly when she does so, thanking Tikki for changing her life as Tikki sniffs tearfully.
He loves her as hard as he can. He doesn’t know how to show her how much he loves her. How much she means to him.
Each day, she fades more and more before his eyes. Every breath could be her last. He wants to give her just one more.
Marinette Dupain-Cheng dies seven hundred and eighty three days after becoming Ladybug.
Everything is numb.
The funeral is a blur. He remembers Sabine and Tom hugging him tightly. He remembers Alya crying on Nino and Nino wrapping his arm around him. He remembers Chloé coming up to him and squeezing his hands. She’ll be waiting up for him.
He doesn’t remember anything anyone says. He remembers Tikki and Plagg in his suit pocket, silent. Motionless.
He remembers afterward. He remembers Tikki’s voice, barely there. He remembers her saying she should go back to Master Yu. He remembers nodding.
Everyone in Paris knew Ladybug was gone. Everyone had noticed her spending less and less time out, until after the last akuma. After that, she wasn’t seen again.
They try to ask Chat Noir what happened. He won’t answer. He gives the Ladyblog an exclusive interview. And by that, he means Alya typed something up and posted it, claiming it was an interview.
She says Ladybug is gone.
People make their own conclusions.
He stands in her room with Alya and Nino. They stare at her pile of sketchbooks. Alya hesitantly picks up an unfinished skirt. It takes all of ten seconds for silent tears to start rolling down her face.
They end up sitting on the floor, surrounded by open sketchbooks. They’re careful not to get any of their tears on the pages as they flip through.
Adrien spends as little time as Chat Noir as he can. He’s just glad for the lack of akuma attacks.
They throw themselves head first into the project. Alya dedicates all of her time to designing the website. Adrien organizes everything into categories. Nino takes pictures and scans images.
Alya promotes the website on the Ladyblog. Adrien sends it to his father. Repeatedly.
A site for Marinette’s designs. The Internet is forever, Alya reminds them tearfully. Her designs are immortalized. And so is she.
Ladybug is immortalized in bronze.
Marinette is immortalized in her designs.
She is immortalized in their minds.
Part of him wonders if it’s supposed to ache this much.
He misses his mother. He’s never stopped. But there’s always been a possibility that she could come back.
Marinette… Marinette isn’t coming back. Marinette is gone. For good.
And he doesn’t know how to deal with that.
School isn’t the same without Marinette. It wasn’t the same when she was sick, but then most of the class had been thinking she could get better.
He almost wishes he were home schooled again. As much as he hated the stifling feeling, he needs time to figure out how to grieve.
It doesn’t seem to get any easier. For any of them. But their lives keep going.
He catches her as she falls from the sky. Her yo-yo hadn’t caught onto the building she was aiming for. She stutters and stumbles out of his arms.
She struggles her way through her first akuma attack. She relies almost too heavily on him and his experience and it makes him feel like he’s drowning. Or maybe that’s just the grief.
It’s his first akuma attack without his Ladybug. And it feels so wrong.
He’s never going to love this Ladybug like his own. But he knows he’s going to love her like a friend, like a partner. Because Ladybug is his second half.
He’s going to love her, but he’s going to try not to. He’s going to try not to become friends with her, try not to get attached.
Before he didn’t know what the consequences of getting attached to Ladybugs were.
Now he knows.