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The Torture of Chat Noir

Chapter Text

Marinette looked sullenly at the posters on nearly every lamp post in Paris.
Avis de Recherche: Adrien Agreste, 15 ans
Vu en dernier: dans le maison de Gabriel Agreste
Récompense pour le découverte de Adrien Agreste: 250,000€
The middle of the poster had Adrien’s face on it. The message was simple, Adrien had been missing for two weeks, and Gabriel and all of Paris were desperate to find him, but Ladybug had other things to worry about. Chat Noir had been missing for two weeks as well. There was still no sign of either boy in any part of the city. Marinette figured that they must be the same place, if they were still alive.
Tikki insisted that Chat Noir was still alive, but she said it was vital that Ladybug find him quickly. Every night Marinette went out into the city of Paris with her tracker looking for Chat Noir, but for some reason it didn’t work
“Then how do I find him? How do I save him?” Marinette had demanded. Tikki would just shake her head.
“I wish I knew. Just know, Marinette, if he dies, it isn’t your fault.”
Tikki would remind Marinette of that every time she came home empty handed from her late night searches for Chat Noir.
“Marinette, stop staring at that,” Marinette’s best friend Alya came up beside her and put an arm on her shoulder, “I don’t want you to start crying again. He’s going to be found in no time, I promise. Come on, let’s get to class,” Alya offered a big smile and Marinette offered a half hearted one as Alya led her away. Alya handed Marinette a latte she was carrying. Marinette took it graciously. She had been out until 4 searching for both Chat Noir and Adrien. At least she got a few hours of sleep that night. Most nights she didn’t sleep, but was so exhausted last night. Alya didn’t know about Marinette’s late night excursions, but she recognized that her friend was constantly tired and made arrangements accordingly.
“What would I do without you Alya?” Marinette asked.
“Fail school. Look, Marinette, everyone’s upset over this. I know it would help a lot of people out if you got some pep back in your step. You’re our class president, we’re supposed to look up to you.”
“You run the blog, what do you think of what’s happening to Paris?” Marinette asked.
“Oh, I wrote an article on the school blog suggesting that Adrien probably got sick of his father and ran off. Nino thinks it’s possible.”
“Not that blog. I’m talking about the other one,” Marinette said. Alya sucked in a deep breath.
“Is this what has you so worked up, girl? Chat Noir? Yes, it’s scary, but Chat Noir can take care of himself. Who knows, maybe he’s the one trying to find Adrien. Besides, Ladybug is taking care of Paris just fine on her own right now. Chat Noir will come back, and so will Adrien, and everything will be back to normal. “
This didn’t make Marinette feel any better, but she pretended to perk up regardless. Like Alya said- she had a job to do, and today it was more important than any other. Tonight there was going to be a winter ball, but after Adrien Agreste’s disappearance the school decided it would be too dangerous to hold a large gathering of students until after he was found. Many of Marinette’s classmates were disappointed about it. Chloe wouldn’t stop talking about how she would be winter queen this year, and Adrien would be her king, and since it never happened, it went uncontested.
Still, Marinette was relieved she didn’t have the duty of helping to put that together for the school and still having to be Ladybug and a diligent student.
Dance or no dance, it would still be a long night of fruitless work ahead of her. Where was Chat Noir?
*********************************************************************************************
Two weeks ago:

Adrien was upset. He had just gotten through a huge fight with his father. In two weeks there would be a dance at his school, and he practically begged his father to let him go, but the answer was still no. He slammed the door shut to his room and flopped onto his bed.
“Why do I bother, Plagg? I ask for one rudimentary thing, and I get refused again and again.” Adrien said.
“I think it’s because you use big words like rudimentary,” Plagg said, taking a large bite of cheese.
“I use words like that because I study my tail off to prove to my dad I belong here. I carry the peise of being a levisomnous feline mesonoxien, knowing the Cardano cubic formula, I can recognize the difference between a Tonal or real answer in a fugue, i can speak Chinese and English on top of my native language, attend every photoshoot and yet I still remain a myrmidon to my father.”
“I understood none of that.” Plagg said.
“I’m sick of being a top student, a superhero that stays out past midnight, doing everything my father wants of me, yet I’m still a slave to him. I’m not free to be myself.”
“Couldn’t you say that earlier without trying to show off? We get it, you’re smart,” Plagg yawned, “You humans are so funny.”
“Plagg, could you stop being an arrogant beast for one minute!?” Adrien shouted. He had never lashed out as his Kwami like that before. He immediately tried to retract his statement, “I’m- I’m sorry, I’m just at my breaking point. All I wanted to do was go to a dance, spend time with friends outside of the classroom. I want to try something new that my dad doesn’t decide for me, and instead I get yelled at and I’m threatened to be taken out of school if I ever suggest something like that again. Now I’m getting an extra photoshoot that night instead. I would give anything to be free of my dad,” Adrien put his face in his hands. Plagg flitted up beside him and patted Adrien’s shoulder.
“Hey, Adrien, you do have a way out. I don’t mind transforming. Look, I might not like you as much as Camembert, but you are important. Do you need to go out for a run tonight?” Adrien looked up at shock at his lazy kwami.
“Are you serious? You never want to do anything like that!”
“You are my chosen wielder, i’m supposed to help you! Now hurry up before I change my mind.”
Adrien grinned and stretched out his arm.
“Plagg, transform me!” he said. Chat Noir quickly slipped out of the Agreste Mansion and lept around the rooftops of Paris.
It was exhilarating to be up there on the rooftops. There was always that split second as he arched through the sky between leaps where he felt he was really free- there wasn’t gravity or his father to bring him down. He would smack back down on the rooftops once more and only use them to bring himself higher. It was evening, so Paris was alive with lights. Cars bustled around the busy streets as people went to dinner. It was too early for many people to be heading home, and he knew that most of the city would be out past midnight. He could smell the food- vintage wines, garlic and olive oil, smoked morteau sausage, fresh fougasse baking, the fish in matelote. All of it was delicious, but nothing compared to the desserts he knew where waiting to be made. There were macarons, crepes, petite madeleines, and a few galette de rois for the american tourists who insisted on it. Chat Noir always adored the scent of desserts, because after he became a model his father never allowed him to eat them. His father didn’t allow him to eat much of anything. Meals consisted of chicken or fish surrounded by some new strange vegetable. They were delicious since Gabriel had a personal chef making them, but a kid could only have asparagus sauteed so many different ways before he became sick of it.
Adrien’s diet was often so tightly regulated that the chef sometimes took pity on him, and he could get a few treats here and there, but lately all of his food sneaking was used to get Plagg more cheese. Ah, yes, being the son of a wealthy designer was so prestigious!
Chat stopped on the roof of a restaurant by the Seine. He watched the tourists snap pictures of the eiffel tower by the water- didn’t they realize that Paris was so much more than a tower? It was a city of culture and life. There were bustling markets and street artists and old buildings that served as cafes. Tucked into every corner of the city was an amazing treasure just waiting to be discovered, like the restaurant he was currently perched on. There was a young jazz singer who could silence a crowd by just humming a single note, and suddenly everyone would pay attention. A few streets over was an art gallery which was now featuring the artwork of an old man who decided to learn how to paint only four years ago. It seemed like all anyone who wanted to visit Paris only wanted to see what could be seen in photographs, not what they could experience.
Plagg was right- he needed this. He closed his eyes and leaned back, enjoying a moment of peace. It was broken when he heard a scream. He shot up and ran towards the sound.
The sound led him to a narrow street where a single car was parked. The scream seemed to come from the car. Chat Noir was cautious as he walked towards it and looked inside. The screams seemed to be coming from the radio, except there was a small bundle wrapped in blankets in the back.
Curiosity go the best of him. Chat Noir reached down to open the door and as soon as he touched it, he felt a rough jolt go through him and his muscles seized up. He lost control and fell down on the ground. The car was set up to taser whoever touched it! Who would do something like that?
Chat Noir was struggling to get back on his feet when someone grabbed him from behind and hauled him up. He felt something sharp go into his neck. He tried to push away from whoever had just injected him, but his vision was starting to blur and spin. The man, whose face was covered by a scarf, opened the car door and pushed Chat inside. Chat fell on the bundles of blankets, which was just a bundle of blankets as it turned out. One of Chat’s feet were hanging out of the door and the man pushed it in. Chat Noir could barely move. Everything throbbed and became duller and duller. He could barely make out the revving of the car engine before he lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

I Marinette scrolled through her phone as she lay on her daybed. Her phone let out a beep as Alya shot her a message.
Mari, have you seen the news?- A.
No, why?- M
Gabriel just issued an official statement regarding his wayward son. You’re not going to like this- A
Alya sent the link and Marinette clicked on it. Gabriel was standing in front of press. Photography lights were flashing, yet Gabriel didn’t even bat an eyelash. He looked directly into the camera filming him.
“I’m surprised that Adrien has not come home yet. I still believe that this is an act of rebellion on his part and would urge him, if he is watching this, to come home.”
“Gabriel Agreste, where do you think your son is at the moment?” the reporter asked.
“Likely in Germany. There are enough fans of his over there that would hide him from police and private investigators. Once he sobers up, I expect him home and expecting me to pay off any of the debts he incurred with this little excursion.”
“But, Mr. Agreste, wouldn’t pictures of your son show up on social media if he was in Germany? It has been roughly two weeks since your son has been missing,” the reporter said. Gabriel narrowed his eyes.
“This interview is over. I will be taking no more questions. Good day.”
Can you believe him? It’s like he doesn’t care. At least we care about Adrien. How does the search go? -M
Slowly. I had a lead in Switzerland, but it wasn’t him. All my ladyblog fans are searching, I promise. We’re doing the best we can, but it’s been two weeks Mari. Have you thought about the possibility that we won’t find Adrien or Chat Noir? -A
Alya- whether we find them or night we need to find the truth. It’s out there, and we can’t stop until we know what happened to them. What happened to lady wifi- always hunting the truth? You can’t give up just because the trail has gotten cold! -M
Cold trials i can handle. This trail is nonexistent! I’m just saying that you have a life out of this hunt, and maybe you should focus on that a little more. -A
….. How’s Nino doing?-M
I don’t know. He won’t talk to me anymore. He’s back to pre-Adrien. If I’m lucky he will say hello to me, but he’s pretty broken about the whole thing. But I think he’ll heal in time. I’ve given him the same advice I’ve given you. You should get some sleep. I’ll see you at school, alright? -A
Marinette sighed and put her phone down. Like most nights, she didn't think she would get a lot of sleep.
“Tikki, let’s make this quick tonight. My parents can only excuse so many late days to class.”
********************************************
Chat Noir woke up with a headache. He was chained to a chair bolted to the ground in a dark room. There was a spotlight on him.
“Good Morning, sleeping beauty!” A burly man wearing a cheap cat mask stepped into view.
“Where am I?” Chat Noir demanded. The man laughed.
“That’s going to be the least of your worries soon, my friend!” he said “You’ve pissed off the wrong people, kitty. My men and I decided it’s time to train the little feral cat that’s been running around Paris, ruining our plans. The only problem is that we didn’t catch that little bug that’s been helping you. We’re going to to teach you a lesson, and then we’re going to teach your partner the same lesson.”
“You’ll never catch her.” Chat Noir spat.
“Oh ye of little faith! You see that over there?” He pointed into the darkness. Chat Noir squinted and saw the glint of something metalic., “That’s our camera. We’re going to film this little exchange, and broadcast it in a few weeks to all of Paris, and then tell her what she can do to gain your freedom. If you decide to do your funny little cat trick, you can only break out of one part of this building. We’ll know who you are, kitty. We can go after everyone you love, and it will be your fault. Now that we have our bases covered, shall we begin?”
Chat Noir just glared at the man who stepped behind the camera. A little red light flashed to show that it had turned on. Three other thugs came into the small cone of light, each of them wearing the same cheap cat masks. One carried a baseball bat.
“Start with the kneecaps, boys. We’ll get more creative later.”
*****************************************************
Ladybug swung around town on her yoyo. She was supposed to be looking for any ‘evil-doers’ ruining her fair city, but she was staring at every shadow, thinking that it might be her partner.
“I’m going crazy” she said to herself. She had been searching for two weeks, and she was still nowhere closer to finding him.
She was swooping by one of the street-display televisions when it suddenly came to life. In fact, from the lights that were coming on everywhere, it seemed like every television in Paris had just come to life.
On the screen was a man wearing a cat mask covering his face.
“Paris, you’re probably wondering where your dear Chat Noir is.” the man said, “Well, look no further! You can sleep well, knowing we’ve found him!” The screen changed. There was a cone of light in a dark room, and there was Chat Noir, curled up on the floor. He wore a spiked collar around his neck, and metal spikes were sticking out of his knees. Part of his black leather costume was ripped, especially in the area around his spine, where the flesh was ripped as well.
“Chat Noir, say hello to Paris!” a voice from the screen said. Chat Noir looked up. Ladybug gasped- his eyes seemed dead. There was bruising all around his face, and his lip was fat and bleeding. He seemed like he was about to moan something when the screen cut back to the man in the mask.
“We have a special treat for you, Ladybug. We’re going to show you everything we did to him. Did you know you superheros have the ability to heal very quickly? It’s amazing. Watch carefully, and we’re going to speed up the footage for you. At the end, we’re going to tell you exactly what you can do to help him.”
The video started with them breaking his kneecaps with a baseball bat. It only got worse from there, and Ladybug couldn’t do anything but stand there and watch.

Chapter Text

Marinette’s life was falling apart. She couldn’t even process what had happened last night, yet she couldn’t escape it either. News outlets were exploding with the footage from last night, which had played on every television in paris
And in front of kids. It played in front of kids.

School was canceled because of the traumatizing message, so Marinette was left to her own devices. What was she going to do?

Alya kept texting her, but Marinette was ignoring all of that. She hadn’t even changed out of her pajamas. Her mind kept on going over her options. What could she do? It was obviously a trap for her, but could she really leave Chat Noir like that?

Marinette’s phone buzzed once more. She had missed 27 messages from Alya. With a sigh, Marinette pulled up the chat. She looked through each of them

Marinette, please be safe. I want you to know I love you and care about you.
Are you okay? Earth to Marinette!
You wanna come over today?
Please message me back.
Mari, I don’t know if you want to hear this but I have a theory, and I don’t want to talk to nino about it, but I have to tell someone.
Do you know exactly how long Chat Noir has been gone?
And what about how long Adrien has been gone.
We don’t have specific dates, but they’ve been gone roughly the same amount of time

Marinette froze as she saw the next text.

Marinette, what if they have Adrien too?

Marinette felt light headed all of a sudden. She read the rest of Alya’s text with a numb, distant feeling. Alya further explained her theory in texts, but Marinette barely skimmed them. It made sense. The phone tumbled out of her fingers as she stared blankly at the wall.

“Marinette… what happened?” Tikki asked.

“Tikki- what if these men have Adrien too? They’ve both been gone for two weeks.” she whispered. Tikki fell silent for a moment.

“...Maybe they do, but what can you do about it? You know it’s a trap. Paris can’t afford to lose Ladybug or Marinette.”

Marinette brushed away a tear that slipped down her cheek.

“I know, but could I live with myself?” Marinette asked, “Tikki, you’ve been around for thousands of years. You have the wisdom of hundreds of ladybugs in the past. What would you do?”

“I don’t know.” Tikki said.

“And if I did go out and try to save them?”

“I would rather you give up the mantel of Ladybug than put yourself in such danger. Ladybug is important, but she is far less important than Marinette.”

“And what about Chat Noir? Or Adrien? What about whoever Chat Noir is under that mask? They don’t deserve to have someone at least try?”

“Someone else will step forward and try, Marinette. There will be other champions and heroes in this world, but there is only one Marinette.”

“What if they come too late?” Marinette said.

“You can’t do this alone.” Tikki said sadly.

“But there aren’t any other heroes in Paris.” Marinette said, “Only villains.”

She slumped down and looked at her half finished sewing projects. They all looked so hollow and empty now when they were once filled with life. She thought she was pouring her soul into them when she put in each new stitch, but now she found that her soul itself was unraveling.

If she couldn’t save anyone as a hero, then she couldn’t be a hero any longer. All those times fighting akumas felt wasted, and the joy of saving people withered away in an empty heart.

Le Papillion could have been a hero, but something in this world changed him. Would the same happen to Ladybug and Chat Noir after time spoiled their very being?

Marinette continued to think about Le Papillion. Her mind swirled with visions of black butterflies and all the akumas she fought. They were all products of a broken world, one that wasn’t meant for good people anymore. If the world wasn’t a place for heroes anymore, then Ladybug couldnt stay.

Marinette’s heart flickered with hope. A plan began to form like wisps of fog, but it was still there.

“Tikki, I know what to do.” Marinette said. Outside she heard the sounds of a new akuma attacking the city. She transformed, perhaps for her last time.

***************************************************************************************************
Ladybug didn’t even bother looking for the akumatized item. That’s not what she came to fight them for. She stood on the rooftop facing the new victim and spun her yoyo in the air.

“Papillion! I didn’t come here to fight! I want to talk.” she shouted. The akuma snarled and tried to claw at her. She grabbed it’s ugly fist and twisted it around. The akuma yelped, but Ladybug didn’t release it. She didn’t have time to mess around like this.

“I’m not going to play your little games today. It’s time we talk.” Ladybug said. She finally let go of the akuma and kicked it away from her. It scrambled away as a telltale butterfly mark appeared on it’s face.

“To what do I owe this pleasure, Ladybug? You aren’t normally in the mood to chat.” the akuma huffed out. The sound of both Papillion and the akuma talking at once grated beneath Ladybug’s skin, but she refused to show a reaction.

“I’ve come to make a deal. You wanted my miraculous, and it’s yours- for a price.” she said. The akuma stiffened.

“Depends on the price.” it said.

“The price is your help.” she said.

“Why would I help you when I could send akuma after akuma. Without your partner, you’ll nearly powerless.”

“And without my partner, you’ll never be able to get both miraculous.” Ladybug snapped, “Chat Noir is out of both of our grasps. You’ve seen the power of these men. They were able to capture a superhero able to destroy anything he touches. They were able to take over every television in Paris to show just how far they’re willing to go.”

“Your reach exceeds your grasp, little bug.” Papillion said, “and now you’re willing to make a deal with the devil himself. I accept.” He laughed. The akuma collapsed, and blackness bubbled over him, revealing the human victim underneath. The black butterfly flapped towards Ladybug and rested itself on her hair.

Ladybug didn’t care that she was making a deal with the devil, because no Hell imaginable could be worse than whatever Chat Noir was going through.

Chapter Text

A plan. Papillion agreed to help her, and now she needed a plan. What had he told her? Find someone to make his champion and what power would be the most useful. Right now his butterflies were scouting all of Paris to find any sign of where Chat Noir could be. She had half a day before she had to meet him again, and she needed to be ready.

Marinette ripped away Adrien’s schedule from her corkboard and began pinning new plans across it. It wasn’t until she noticed that there was a bloodstain on one of the papers papers that she realized she had ripped one of her nails tearing off the Adrian’s schedule. She looked at it callously. Chat Noir had several of his claws ripped off, so she could afford to have a few tears of her own.

Her phone buzzed. Alya kept on calling her, but she didn’t want to answer. Letting someone else in would make this whole nightmare seem real. Marinette had just agreed to work with Paris’ greatest super villains in exchange for what he wanted all along. Papillion had caused damage and destruction all over Paris again and again, and now Marinette was just handing over her miraculous.

“Marinette, you should check your phone.” Tikki said, “Alya is very worried about you.”

“And I’m worried about what needs to be done, Tikki.” Marinette said, “Chat Noir’s life is at stake, and I’m here working with the very villian we promised to protect Paris from. What am I supposed to do Tikki?”

“I think you’re making the best choice you can.” Tikki said quietly, “but you don’t have to face it all alone.”

“Who can I turn to? The only one I can even talk to about this is you. I can’t just go on patrol with Chat Noir and talk about my problems anymore. Everything is falling apart and I feel like I can’t do anything to stop it.”

“But you are, Marinette. You’re finding a way to save Chat Noir.” Tikki fluttered over with a band-aid and wrapped it around Marinette’s bleeding nail, “But you need to find someone you can trust who can save you.”

“I can’t go to my parents. I can’t go to Alya or any of my other friends. Adrien is missing, and is likely being tortured besides Chat Noir. What if Chat Noir is missing because he tried to save Adrien from being kidnapped?” Marinette slumped against her bed and started sobbing. Her mind was racing, and she felt trapped. Everything was coming at her all at once and she felt helpless.

A gentle knocking came from the trap door leading to her room.

“Marinette, are you doing okay? Would you like some tea?” her mother asked.

“Go away, mom. I just want to be alone.” Marinette called out. Her parent’s interference was the last thing she needed.

A loud, aggressive pounding came from the door.

“Let us in Girl!” Alya’s voice cut through the pounding.

“Alya, now’s not a good time.” Marinette croaked. The trap door flew open with Alya storming through.

“You won’t let your mom or your best friend in, so it’s time to talk, girl. What’s going on?” Alya demanded. Tikki quickly hid behind the daybed before she was spotted.

Marinette had to lie. How could she tell her friend anything? Where would she even start? How could she tell Alya that she just made a deal with Paris’ villain in exchange for helping to find Chat Noir and Adrien by giving up being Ladybug?

Alya sighed and kicked the trap door shut before sitting beside Marinette.

“I know it’s scary- one of Paris’ heroes are gone, but Ladybug will take care of things. I know it. I just got a few pictures of her going around town. She’s going to save Chat Noir, and she’s going to find Adrien, too. You just have to have faith in her.”

That didn’t make Marinette feel any better.

“Ladybug can’t save anyone.” Marinette said.

“Don’t say that Marinette. Ladybug always finds a way.”

“Ladybug sold herself out for her own selfish desires.” Marinette snapped, “Ladybug can’t even do anything for herself. She sold out to Papillion because she’s too much of a coward to try anything on her own. Ladybug is a fraud!”

Marinette yanked out her earrings and threw them against the wall as hard as she could.

“You can’t know that, Marinette.” Alya signed. She stood up and gathered the earrings which had clattered across the floor. She brought them back to Marinette and held them out to her friend.

“Keep them.” Marinette said numbly, “You’d be a better superhero anyways. Just give them back to Papillion when you’re done.”

“What are you talking about?” Alya said. She had never seen Marinette so distraut before. Alya looked down at the simple black studs.

“Alya, I agreed to let Papillion have the miraculous because I can’t even find Chat Noir, let alone rescue him! I’m too scared to do this on my own. Meanwhile terrorists are torturing my partner and broadcasting it for all of Paris to see. I don’t even know what’s right anymore. I just know I have to save him but I don’t know how. I’ve come up with quick plans before, but nothing is coming. I need to meet Papillion again in less than 12 hours with a suitable plan while he’s figuring out where Chat Noir is located. I didn’t even try, Alya! I didn’t even bother trying to rescue him before running to Papillion with my tail between my legs! I’m no longer a hero!” Marinette broke down again while Alya stared in shocked silence.

Slowly, Alya stood up and walked over to Marinette’s bin of scrap fabric. She pulled out a small bit of red fabric and started cutting it up with a pair of scissors. She then took a black sharpie and drew in five black dots. She walked back over to Marinette and put on the makeshift mask.

“You will still be Ladybug whether or not you’ve given up your powers. You’re a hero and a leader, because you are the only one willing to make the tough decisions. Don’t focus on the repercussions of the decisions you’ve made, just put one foot in front of the other and rescue Chat Noir and Adrien, okay? We’ll figure out what to do with Papillion when the time comes, okay Marinette? And please remember that it’s your heart that makes you a hero. You’re choosing to sacrifice everything you are in order to save someone else, and I’d say that is pretty heroic.”

Alya took the mask off of Marinette and wrapped the earrings inside of it and offered it back to Marinette. Marinette let out a weak smile and took them back. She slowly put in the earrings, and as soon as the final earring clicked in with it’s back, Tikki glittered out.

“Marinette!” Tikki was about to begin scolding her champion when Alya screamed.

“Wh-What is that?” she yelled, scurrying away from the floating red creature.

“Alya, this is my kwami.” Marinette said, “She is what grants me my powers.”

“Wait, so you really are Ladybug?” Alya’s eyes grew wide as she tried to hide from Tikki.

“You didn’t believe me? Why did you make me the mask then?” Marinette demanded.

“I thought you were losing it, and I just wanted you to feel better! I’m your best friend, isn’t that what we do for each other?” Alya asked.

“Marinette, you can’t just yank out the earrings like that!” Tikki said. Alya started screaming again.

“Alya, please be quiet! Tikki’s not going to hurt you!” Marinette said.

“It talks? Why does it talk?” Alya asked. There was a thumping from the trapdoor and Alya, Tikki, and Marinette all fell silent.

“Marinette, is everything okay in there?” her father Tom asked.

“Yes, we’re just dandy.” Marinette said.

“Are you sure you don’t want any tea? Maybe a few snacks?” Sabine asked.

“We’re fine, Mr. and Mrs. Dupain Cheng!” Alya said.

“Alright, if you two say so, but can you please keep it down?” Tom said.

“Will do, Dad.” Marinette said. After they heard footsteps leading away from the trap door, they all took a sigh of relief.

“Now can we talk about this like rational adults?” Tikki asked. Alya nodded.

“Yeah. Marinette, you have some explaining to do.” Alya said, “Start from the beginning. When did you become Ladybug?”

Chapter Text

“I know now, Mari. At least let me help you.” Alya said, “If there’s anything I can do? You said you needed a plan? I could help come up with one.”

“Right now I need to pick a champion.” Marinette said, “Someone Papillion can possess with his akuma, or whatever it’s called when it hasn’t been filled with evil.”

“Can someone be akumatized twice?” Alya asked. The two girls turned to Tikki, who gave a solemn nod.

“It’s not often done because it is dangerous to the champion, but someone could continue to be possessed as long as they are able to take up the mantle of champion.” Tikki explained.

“Then Lady Wifi’s coming back, this time to save the day!” Alya pumped her fist into the air, and when she brought it down she mimed holding a microphone.

“Who is that accompanying our brave hero Ladybug? It can’t be, her once nemesis, the alluring and clever Lady Wifi.” she joked around. Marinette gave a half smile.

“Thanks for offering, but I don’t want you to be in danger.” Marinette said.

“But who could possibly be a better option? besides your usual partner of course. I know everything there is to know about fighting alongside Ladybug because I’ve been analyzing this for months. I’ve also been akumatized before, so I know what to expect. Also, who would be better equipped to handle high tech baddies? With a few adjustments to Lady Wifi’s original abilities, I can hack them right back with superhuman speed.” Alya was growing more excited with the prospect by the minute.

“Alya, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously enough.” Marinette scolded. Alya put her hands on Marinette’s shoulders.

“Marinette, you’re serious enough for the both of us right now. If you’re not going to bring a little joy back, then it’s up to me.” she said.

Tikki flittered beside the two girls.

“I think taking Alya is a wonderful idea. You know she will have your best interests in heart, Marinette, and she would never betray you.” Tikki said.

“But what if you get hurt?” Marinette said.

“Then I get hurt defending my best friend in the whole world.” Alya said with a shrug, “It seems like a fair trade. Besides, I finally get to be the hero I always dreamed about.”

“Alright,” Marinette said hesitantly, “But you have to follow my lead” She didn’t like the idea of Alya putting herself in the way of danger, but Tikki was right. Alya was her best option.

“With that settled, what’s next? What else do we need to plan for?” Alya asked.

“We need to meet up with Papillion and go from there,” Marinette said, “I’m doing everything one step at a time, because I don’t know what else to do.” she hid her face in her hands. Alya put her arm over her.

“Marinette, it’s okay. We’ll get through this together.” she said. Marinette gave Alya a sad smile.

“Thank you,” she said.
*****************************************
Marinette transformed into Ladybug and left Alya to go find Papillion. Soon after she took to the Parisian rooftops, a white butterfly fluttered down and landed on her head. A butterfly lense soon appeared in front of her.

“Hello, Ladybug. You certainly took your time picking a champion.” Papillion’s voice rang through.

“What’s with the white butterfly?” Ladybug asked, “It’s not your usual.”

Papillion was silent for a moment.

“I wanted people to know it wasn’t evil.”

“What?”

“I didn’t tell it to wreak havoc on Paris, so it didn’t turn black with the evilness in its heart.”

“So you’re telling me you turn the butterflies are black for aesthetics?” Ladybug snickered.

“Aesthetic is everything.” Papillion said seriously, “Now, who did you choose?”

“One of your old victims, Alya Cesair. She deserves a second chance at power. She would also know how Ladybug works better than everyone, so I can work with her.”

“A wise choice, little bug. I can only have one champion at a time, so this will the last time we will communicate directly until Chat noir, and hopefully Adrien Agreste, will be saved. Then I will come for the miraculous.”

“It will be worth it as long as I have Chat noir back.” Ladybug said. The lense faded away as a the pure white butterfly reappeared and fluttered away.
*********

Marinette returned to her home and an advanced version of Lady Wifi standing there.

“Helly, ladybug. Say hello to your new sidekick, Crosswire.” Alya said, “Papillion thought that Lady Wifi needed a few upgrades. I have a better control of technology. He gave me a communication device so that we can talk together. Isn’t this so cool?” Alya turned around to show off her new costume. The pink was replaced by green lines, and the green lines lighted up at different times, chasing each other.

“Then let’s get going. I have a plan.” Marinette said, “Tikki, spots on!”

Chapter Text

Alya and Marinette, now in their superhero forms of Crosswire and Ladybug, sat perched on the rooftops looking down at a worn down warehouse.

Crosswire tapped some things into her wrist computer.

“All sensors point to this being the place. This place is giving off some significant signals. This place is a powerhouse. I couldn’t track the exact source of the videos because of all the repeaters and signal scrambling, but this is the likeliest candidate. Its power history has only been within the last few months. It’s inconspicuous, it’s a powerhouse, and there are men patrolling the outside. This has to be it!” Crosswire said.

“I trust you.” Ladybug said, “Are there any other security measures in place?”

Crosswire tapped on her controls.

“There are security cameras, but I can set them on a loop. Give them the save few minutes of footage without a red heroin swooping it. I’ll follow in close behind, just make sure to make it quick and quiet, we don’t want anyone to grow suspicious.”

Ladybug nodded and looked at the two thugs wandering around the perimeter of the warehouse. She swung down behind one of them and threw her yoyo around his neck. It wrapped around a couple of times before he even realized what was happening. He tried to call out, but ladybug pulled hard on the strings, choking him. His voice cut off in a strangled gurgle as Ladybug kept pulling. He clawed at his throat as his face turned red, but Ladybug didn’t let off. Finally, the man slumped over, passing out from the lack of air. She released it and hurried on to the next guard.

With the two guards knocked out, Ladybug went to the door. It was steel with a control panel on the side. Crosswire ran up next to her and started fiddling with the panel. She popped off the panel and plugged in two wires connected to her arm. The door slid open and the two girls slipped inside.

They looked around the narrow hallway they stood in, crouching down to stay in the shadows. There were two doors on either end of it. They chose the one on the north side.

Ladybug quietly opened the door and peeked inside. There was a dozen monitors mounted on the wall, with the outer ones looping the security camera feeds. The inner ones were of Chat Noir. He was beaten and bloody, but alone for now. A lazy guard had his feet up on the desk, paying only minimal attention to his surroundings. Ladybug threw her yoyo at him, wrapping it around his neck and tugging him off the chair. The impact of his head hitting the floor knocked him unconscious, and the girls slipped inside.

Crosswire plugged in a couple of wires to the computer towers and started tapping on her wrist keyboard. The video images of Chat Noir’s graphic torture pulled up onto the screens, each one a different, brutal beating.

“I’m going to wipe the files off of their computer. No one will ever have to see this again.” Crosswire said. Ladybug nodded and wiped away a tear forming in the corner of her eye.

“Find out where Chat Noir is first. Then see if Adrien is here. While you’re wiping the files I’m going to go save them.”

“If Adrien is even here, I’m not seeing any files indicating that they have two prisoners here. Also, Chat noir appears to be in the centermost room. Please be careful, Marinette.”

Ladybug looked at her friend and nodded, and then she ran on to get to the center room.

Ladybug was surprised to find that the warehouse was largely unguarded. A lot of time had gone into building walls to keep someone from reaching the center too quickly, and yet it took her less than five minutes to find her way to the center. She found the center door locked, but after calling up her lucky charm and getting a red polka-dotted bobby pin, she was inside.

The room was small and dimly lit. Chat Noir sat tied to a chair.He was eerily still. Ladybug ran to him, almost tripping over a second chair.

“Chat Noir! It’s me, Ladybug.” she said. She tugged at the ropes and started to loosen them. Chat Noir raised his head feebly to look at her.

“Ladybug, behind you-” he said. Big arms wrapped around Ladybug. She kicked and squirmed but the arms held fast. Two men came around, carrying ropes and chains. Soon Ladybug was tied down to the second chair. Her earings beeped loudly. She didn’t have much time left before she would detransform. She squirmed against the restraints.

“Aw, having trouble, little bug? You fell right into our trap. Did you really think it would be this easy? For being five thousand years old, you sure are naive.” A man stepped forward out of the shadows. He was dressed nicer than the other thugs. One of his men wheeled over a table full of painful looking objects. He picked up a crowbar and weighted it in his hands.

“I didn’t expect it to be so easy! W just about told you our plan, and still you came. You even used your little power to get here. How much time do you have. Minutes? Seconds? We can do to you what we couldn’t even dream of doing to your partner because he refused to use his gift. Watch.”

Two thugs slipped over and untied Chat Noir, who didn’t move. One held out his arm while the other one took a knife and brought it down on Chat Noir. The leather held. There wasn’t even a scratch. Ladybug couldn’t imagine what energy his Kwami must have been expending.

The man in charge walked over to Chat Noir.

“Now, that didn’t stop us from making it hurt, did it?” the man swung down with his crowbar and snapped Chat Noir’s arm. Chat Noir cried out and drew his arm back as best he could.

“Here’s another funny thing about your costumes. He’ll start healing right away. The bones will set themselves again and within the hour he’ll be right as rain. You won’t have that luxury. What have we got now, two minutes?” the man in charge walked over to Ladybug and knelt down beside her, putting a hand on her knee

“Look here, little lady, this is how it’s going to be. We’re going to film you detransforming, and we are going to do whatever we want to you since you won’t have your little suit protecting you. I’m certain my men will have a good time with this news.” he chuckled and looked around at his men. Ladybug shuttered as some of they laughed.The man continued.

“I’m going to film all of this, and show it to all of Paris. Every man, woman, and child will see their darling superhero get mutilated without miraculously recovering. They will see the girl behind the mask, and they are going to be horrified. We will strike fear into their hearts, and the world will no longer forget our names. We are the gang of wolves, and we will show what happens to anyone who crosses our paths!”

Ladybug’s earrings blinked again. She didn’t have much time left. Her only prayer was that Alya had the good sense to run while she still could. Ladybug swallowed. Why were they making her wait so long? Why didn’t they just take off her earrings and get it over with?

“Sir, we’ve found Ladybug’s sidekick.” a new thug entered the room, “She triggered a response in the decoy room trying to delete our video files.”

“Good, bring her in. Let her watch her precious hero fall apart. ”

Another thug came in marching Crosswire. Her hands were bound, but Ladybug could see that they weren’t smart enough to keep her arms apart. Those nimble fingers were quick at work fraying the rope. Ladybug’s heart leapt with hope. If only she could loosen her own restraints- Alya couldn’t do this alone. Maybe the bobby pin would work? She looked over to see if there was anything that she could do when she saw Chat Noir reaching towards her. They had forgot to retie him.

“Cataclysm” he mumbled, touching her chair. Without the chair in the way, Ladybug became free of her restraints in the seconds before any of the thugs could react. Crosswire had freed herself as well. As the thugs lunged out towards Ladybug, Crosswire threw out her wires and electrocuted three thugs near her. Ladybug kicked the leader to the ground and wrapped her yoyo string around another thug’s ankle. She tugged and he fell with a crash. She looked around for more thugs, but didn’t see any beyond the one Alya was kicking in the stomach.

“I think we’re free. Chat Noir, we need to-” She froze and turned to look at her companion. He had picked up the crowbar with his good hand and was beating the leader’s face in. Ladybug’s blood chilled as she stared at the crushed face and splattered blood.

“Chat Noir, stop it!” She cried out, running to him. Chat Noir didn’t even acknowledge her, he just kept beating the leader again and again. Ladybug grabbed his arm.

“Stop it, he’s dead.” she said. Chat Noir paused, and slowly dropped the crowbar.

“Come on, Chat Noir, let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

They had just gotten Chat Noir out of the facility, supported on both sides by Ladybug and Crosswire, when Marinette detransformed. Tikki shuttered and hid inside Marinette’s bag which was stashed full of cookies. It was harder to carry him without the added strength the miraculous, but with Crosswire’s efforts they got him a good distance away before he detransformed.

Adrien appeared and bucked between the two of them. Marinette didn’t know what she expected when she discovered Chat Noir’s true identity, but this seemed to make sense. How could it be anyone other than him?

His arm didn’t look as broken as it did when the leader of the wolves first took a crowbar to it. Miraculouses must heal at a rapid rate. It made sense considering how often they were tossed around, yet able to get right back on their feet and continue fighting.

“Marinette, you have to help him!” Tikki said. Marinette suddenly noticed the small black Kwami laying on the ground and gingerly picked him up. The small form was still, but very warm. Marinette slipped it into her bag.

“We’ll take him to Master Fu right away. Tikki, are you ready to transform?” the small red kwami nodded, and so Marinette was back as Ladybug. She began to pull Adrien along once more when Crosswire stopped her.

“So this is it? This was the great Chat Noir?” the voice coming from Crosswire was not ALya’s voice. Hawkmoth must have taken over.

“Yes, and you helped save him. You have Adrien safe again. Isn’t that what you wanted?” Ladybug asked.

“Of course this is what I wanted! But I didn’t think my nemesis would be my own Goddam son!”

Ladybug stared at Crosswire and the butterfly shape surrounding her face.

“Mr. Agreste? You were Papillion all along?” ladybug asked.

“Just bring my son home safe.” Crosswire said. Ladybug nodded. A white butterfly emerged as Alya turned back to normal.

“That was weird.” She said.

“Alya, can you make it back safely from here? I need to take care of Adrien first.” ladybug said. Alya nodded and began running back towards her home. Laydbug slung Adrien over her back and began swinging off towards the Agreste Mansion.

Thw whole Agreste household was there to meet her at the front gate. Gabriel, with red eyes ran to his son and wrapped his arms around him. Ladybug hesitated, and then reached up to her ears to pull off her earings. Gabriel held up an arm to stop her.

“Keep your bloody miraculous,” he said, “You saved my son tonight with your cursed powers, so consider this a thank you.”

Ladybug was about to walk away when she felt something tug at her purse. Adrien’s tiny black Kwami floated out slowly and silently went to his master’s side. Ladybug took one more look at the broken man being held by his father and turned away. Chat Noir would come for her when he was ready, but for now she needed to sleep. A great burden had finally come off of her chest, and she could finally sleep in peace.
**********************************

Three months had passed since that harrowing experience. Three months of reporters going crazy about the mysterious return of Adrien Agreste, as well as the end of the nefarious gang who had imprisoned Chat Noir. There was a lot of speculation, as well as wild claims from conspiracy theorists claiming that Adrien Agreste hadn’t left, but was Chat Noir in captivity. Those stories were mostly dismissed as fantasy, and the generally settled on story that Adrien, scared at Chat Noir’s disappearance, had fled to Austria to stay with some distant relatives. However, despite the popularity of this theory, and the subtle confirmations made by Gabriel Agreste when he spoke about the incident, there was never any official story.

Soon after, it was announced that Adrien had left home for good. Gabriel was far more distraught when his son announced it than when he had up and left only weeks before. Marinette had been shocked seeing the reports, and was greatly concerned for her friend. She hadn’t even seen Chat Noir since the night she rescued him. At least Hawkmoth hadn’t bothered her since then.

Marinette sighed and looked down at her homework. At least she had Rena Rouge working as a full time super hero with her to patrol Paris. Having Alya was nice, but it wasn’t the same as the charming and daring Chat Noir.

There was a knock at her roof trap door which sent her out of her spiraling thoughts. She was confused, her and Alya weren’t going to patrol today on account of the large amounts of math homework they had been given. Marinette checked her phone to see if there were any texts left to her, but there were no new messages. She sighed. It was likely some bird who decided to make a new home on top of her trap door. She got up and climbed to the trap door, opening it wide and seeing a black, clawed hand offering her help up. Chat Noir gave her a half smile as he closed the trap door behind her.

Tears sprung up in Marinette’s eyes as she wrapped her arms around him. She didn’t realize how much she had missed him in the months he disappeared.
“Where have you been?” She sobbed into his chest, “Where have you been?”

Chat Noir held her close and stroked her her hair. Four months ago, if anyone where to tell her that she would miss everything about Chat Noir so much, including his smell and touch, she would have laughed. Now she pressed herself closer.

“I’m sorry Ladybug, I should have come sooner.” Chat said. He pulled her away from him so he could look at her face.

“There are so many things I need to ask you, that I needed to say and you disappeared as soon as we brought you back.” Marinette said. Chat Noir sighed.

“I needed to work a few things out first. Here, let’s sit down.” he led her to the railing and sat facing the eiffel tower, “I will answer any questions you have.”

“You’re father-” Marinette began.

“Is no longer my father, Ladybug. I left that part of my life behind.”

“But you’re Adrien Agreste!” Marinette said.

“I feel like part of me died when I was being tortured. That part was the boy who endlessly waited for his father’s love and never recieved it. It was the boy that looked in the world and saw more innocence than evil, who thought being a superhero was a fun hobby to pass the time, who thought that what he felt for a girl was truly love when it was in fact infatuation.”. He gave her a sad smile.

“What about school? What about Nino and your friends.”

“Ladybug, I’m already far more advanced than any of the students. I should be in a university by now. As far as friends go, they are trivial compared to the responsibility of being the saviors of Paris, and maybe even being the saviors of mankind. Ladybug, I-” he was cut off abruptly by Marinette.

“Stop calling me Ladybug. Right now I’m Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and you’re going to address me like you would address a friend. You might have forgotten who you are outside of of the mask, but I certainly haven’t. And my friends are my strength. Without Alya, I never would have been able to save you. Without the rest of our friends, I wouldn’t have had the courage to keep going even though I was scared. Stop being a coward, Adrien, and face the world as both a man and a hero.” Marinette’s heart was beating so loudly she thought that even Chat Noir could hear it. If he did, he made no sign of it. He just smiled that same sad smile and brushed her hair away from her face.

“You are the perfect Ladybug, Marinette,” he said, “Why did it take me so long to realize that it was you? Your passions will take you far and give you the strength you need.”

“Stop acting so wise. You may have been through a lot, but that doesn’t make you some great grandmaster or something.” she snapped.

“You’re right. I feel like I’m more acutely aware of my very ignorance than I have ever been.” Chat said. Marinette stared at him.

“What happened to you?” she asked. Chat Noir closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. There was a pregnant pause, when suddenly he spoke.

“I was captured and bound. They began hurting me in ways I had never felt before. I felt all of their rage at what we had done to them, and I felt their small frustrations like not being able to get through my suit. Even though I healed quickly and they couldn’t pierce me, they broke me again and again and again. They got more and more creative. They crushed my spine, broke all of my fingers, pulled out each of my teeth and cut out my tongue. I felt it all, yet I kept on healing. I went through Hell, and a few hours later I was right back at the entrance. They even did things to humiliate me. At one point they shaved my head, yet it grew back within a day. Then they talked about the horrible things they would do to you once they had you, and if the rest of it was bad, this was unbearable. I broke. I couldn’t take it anymore, but I couldn’t escape. Hell, most of of the time I couldn’t even walk.

“Plagg, my Kwami, helped me through it. Our Kwami don’t just disappear, they become part of us. He let me escape into his mind, and by extension, theirs. I got to see all of the other Chat Noirs of the past. They taught me things I never knew, trained me in new powers, and showed me what happened if I failed to protect you. I watched Jeanne d’arc burn. I watched the betrayal of Hippolyta. I watched Mudekudeku die in battle. I saw their failures and felt their sorrows, and I can’t let that happen to you. We have a big battle to fight, perhaps the biggest of all time, and it’s my job to make sure you don’t end up like the other miraculous weilders. I don’t care what I have to sacrifice, or what I have to endure, I will protect you, and I will save you this time. I promise.” Marinette saw tears running down his cheeks as he spoke, “Death was brought to sacrifice what Life could not. Destruction was brought to save Creation. And that is probably the greatest torture of all. I now understand, but I have to learn more.”

“Chat-” Marinette was unsure of what to say. She no longer felt like she was talking ot her old partner. Something had changed within him and she wasn’t sure it left him completely whole. Something inside her told her that he now carried the spirits, and the burden, of the other Chat Noirs, and that had changed him. She just hoped that one day she could bring Adrien Agreste and her lovable partner back.

“Chat,” She said, finding words and questions, although they seemed petty now to her. “How come they didn’t take off your ring?”
Chat laughed a little.

“They didn’t figure it out at first, but after a few days they remembered one of the Akumas trying to pull it off of me. They tried, but I was so connected to my miraculous that it wouldn’t budge, and they just believed that only a miraculous wielder, or those under their power, could remove it. They did try to force me to use my power numerous times, but I knew I needed to save it for something far more important, and that was saving you. I want you to know, that if Alya wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have touched the chair with my cataclysm.” he said. Marinette felt cold. He didn’t need to finish that thought.

“So what now?” Marinette said, jumping off the railing and back to the patio, “back to being the greatest crime fighting duo in all of Paris?” She knew her smile was fake, but she would do anything to lighten the mood.

Chat Noir shook his head.

“Papillion will come back, but I think you have a great companion already. I need to train more with Master Fu, and I still need to heal before I can go back out there.”

“But you look- oh.” Marinette realized what he was talking about. What nightmares came to him every time he closed his eyes? What fears came to cling to him every moment like a hungry shadow? Marinette didn't want to know. She didn’t think she was even ready to know that much. How was she still so immature?

Chat Noir followed her onto the patio and took her hands in his.

“Marinette, you look so concerned. What can I do to help?” he pleaded.

“We’re not even on the same level anymore, Chat. What does this mean for us?” she asked. Chat Noir suddenly pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.

“Marinette, my darling Ladybug, you will grow, you will learn, and you will eventually surpass me in everything you need to. You don’t have to try to change, you just will, I promise. And when you need me, I will be there for you.”

He put his finger under her chin and tilted her head up. She could see into his eyes. They were no longer the eyes of her Chat Noir. They were something older and stranger. He had traded something away in order to survive, and she wasn’t sure she would ever get it back. She thought about this after they had said their goodbyes, and long after he disappeared into the night.

Adrien Agreste and his version of Chat Noir was gone. Not even years of healing from the traumas of his torture would bring him back, but Marinette made a decision that night. One day, it wouldn’t matter that she was the Savior of Paris, because one day she would be the Savior of Chat Noir.