You did not break me
I'm still fighting for peace
The dark and quiet night was disturbed by the muffled sniffles coming from a rooftop above the streets of Paris. The lights lining of the city were subdued, blanketed by the inky blackness that was the midnight sky. One speck of colour, red, stood out, shoulders shaking with the force of trying to hold back all-too-powerful sobs.
“How much more do I have to lose?” Her voice was broken and raw, palms pressed to her eyes to stop the tears that kept coming. The late hour meant she had to be quiet, as the citizens of the city she fought so hard to keep safe were surely sleeping, something that she should be doing as well. But sleep eluded her. Her nights were full of nightmares and flashbacks of fighting, of love lost, of bright green eyes and a pair of pink lips normally formed into a smirk that turned into an animalistic snarl the last time she saw that perfect face.
“Why am I not good enough?” She croaked out.
It had been four years they had been working together. Four years of partnership. In those four years, she had even fallen for him. Hard. And everyone knew that Chat Noir was in love with Ladybug. She thought it was time to reveal their identities to each other, for she knew she could trust her Chat Noir. It felt right.
Up until everything went wrong.
As Ladybug's transformation fell, and Marinette was revealed, the look of pure joy on Chat's face was replaced with confusion, then disappointment, then scorn.
“You're lying. You can't be her.” He all but spat at her face.
Her knees gave out, and her vision swam. “Chat--” She reached out to him, only for him to step back.
“Don't.” His normally happy face was twisted in a glare, stone hard with no hint of the admiration he once held toward his Ladybug.
“I think it would be best if we took time apart from each other. Do different patrols.”
Marinette could feel her heart breaking. “Chaton, please,” she begged.
And she was left alone.
It was her patrol tonight, but she couldn't do very much. She wasn't strong enough to be the Ladybug that Chat wanted. The one that Chat loved. So she sat hidden on a rooftop they used to visit together, and let everything out. All of her realized fears, all of her insecurities, all of the heartbreak she felt.
It was incredible luck that she hadn't been targeted by an akuma. She was the perfect victim: emotions she had no control over, the severe urge to do something reckless, and the loss of hope.
She was eighteen. Eighteen. And already destroyed by love. Not once, but twice.
Adrien, while an unobtainable goal, was still her first love. Chat Noir, her flirty partner, was so much closer and had the possibility of a real relationship. But both of them were gone, and Marinette was left to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart.
She used to think that, as Ladybug, she could survive anything. She could walk through fire. She could bounce back from every injury, every hurt, every pain.
Now, now she was drowning. She could barely get out of bed most days, and when she did, she didn't speak to anyone. Her parents were worried, but out of the country on a second honeymoon. Alya, her best friend, left her behind, moving on with her life when Marinette couldn't keep up. And here she was, struggling to keep above water when she couldn't move a muscle, too bone weary and numb to notice that she was sinking into the deep.
Marinette didn't blame them. She wasn't good enough.
Her transformation released, a pink light flashing across the sky briefly, before a small red fairy appeared. Tikki, as the fairy was called, nuzzled against her chosen's face, an attempt to comfort the girl. Marinette lifted her head slightly, a weak smile on her tear-stained face. “Thank you, Tikki.”
Soft foot steps sounded behind the pair, almost too quiet to make out, but Marinette heard them, and tensed.
“Chat.” She whispered. Wiping her face with her sleeves, she slowly stood, and with a deep breath, she gathered all of her resolve to turn around to face the man.
“Wait,” Chat said. Marinette froze, resolve cracking, and she could feel the tears well up again.
She heard him move closer, until he was just behind her. Marinette was sure she was shaking now, fear and insecurities playing up her anxiety until she was a leaf in the wind. One strong gust would knock her down.
She tensed again when she could feel his warmth against her back, and flinched when he wrapped his arms around her middle. “I'm sorry, bugaboo, I'm so sorry.”
That was all it took for her to break down, and she collapsed in his arms, sobbing again. He turned her in his arms, pressing her face into his neck as he lowered the two of them to the flat of the roof.
“I'm so sorry, my lady, my princess.” Chat said over and over again. Marinette's shoulder was wet, and she knew that Chat was crying too. Which made her sob harder, because her strong kitty was sad and it was her fault.
Idly, she realized her skin wasn't feeling leather on her face, meaning that Chat had released his own transformation, but the thought did not make her feel better. She scrunched her eyes tight until it hurt, but did not allow them to open. She didn't want to know, didn't deserve to know, because she wasn't good enough.
She hiccuped against his neck, smelling her tears and the scent of sweat and leather and smoke and a cologne that made her think of when she was fourteen and chasing after Adrien. It made her heart clench and her stomach drop, but she clung to her kitten, her brave Chat Noir.
“Princess, open your eyes.”
Marinette shook her head. “I-I can't.”
“I'm not strong enough.” Her voice was barely a whimper, and it sounded so broken, even to her own ears, that she knew he must think she was pathetic. She expected him to push her away, to leave again, and she really wouldn't blame him. She wasn't Ladybug. Ladybug was perfect. She was just Marinette. “Don't leave me again. I'm-I'm not-”
His grip tightened on her, and he started trembling. “Oh, Mari, I'm so sorry.”
She buried one of her hands in the hair at the back of his neck, the other curling into the soft fabric-cotton? she thought-so that she had an anchor to the world, to him.
They sat like that for hours, until the sky started turning a dusky pink, holding on to each other like the world was going to rip them apart. For all Marinette knew, it would.
Eventually though, they knew that they had to go home. It terrified Marinette, that this might be the last time she could safely be with her Chaton, and she tried her hardest not to start crying again as he began to pull away.
“Princess,” Chat whispered, and Marinette thought she could endure hell because the way his voice sounded at that moment was the closest to heaven she would ever get, and let herself believe that the love she imagined was really there.
He placed one long-fingered hand against her chin, curling under and around to grip it firmly but not hard enough to leave a mark, and lifted her head from where she was snuggling against his neck. Her eyes were still closed, and tears had gathered in the corners. Her breath caught in her throat, trying to work around her heart, but still she marveled at how gentle he was being.
“Can-can I kiss you, Marinette?”
The tears started to roll down her cheeks, but she nodded. “Please.”
He pressed his lips to hers, warm and soft, and she was lost. Floating instead of drowning, the first breath of fresh air she'd had since she told him who she was. It was completely different from the first kiss they shared, four years ago, when he was under the control of Dark Cupid. That was rushed and frantic with more than a little fear, and he didn't remember it. But this, this was sweet and light, and was like flying and falling at the same time. It was fire and it was the first snow of winter, the first flower in the spring.
She was vaguely aware that she was crying again, but didn't want this to end. She couldn't handle it yet.
All too soon, he pulled away, lifting his other hand to wipe away the streaks leading into her hair. “Would you open your eyes now, love?”
Slowly, for she feared that the man before her would be nothing but a dream-and if he was, this was the best dream she's had in a while-she opened her bright blue eyes to look at her Chat.
And let out a surprised noise, halfway between a sob and a laugh, when she saw Adrien staring back at her.
“Hello, princess.” He smiled, bright and happy, like the smile she fell in love with when she was fourteen.
She lifted a hand to trace his features, to see if he was real. He caught her hand in his, and rubbed his cheek against her palm before pressing a kiss to it. His thumb made small circles around the inside of her wrist, the action sending butterflies straight to Marinette's stomach.
A little ways away, two fairies, one black, one red, sat on the overhang of another roof, looking at their chosen with fond smiles.