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Love Letters from a Former Hero

Chapter Text

 

Betrayal was a horrible thing.

Before today, Marinette had never lived through the visceral, terrible and overwhelming pain of it. Sure, people had hurt her in the past, both physically and emotionally.

But nothing like this. This was…this was something else. A whole other level of pain she’d never experienced and wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy…

Her enemy.

Marinette stared up at her bedroom ceiling, numb with shock and grief. Over and over again, memories from earlier that day tormented her, twisted her heart, made her stomach flip with nausea. And all the while her thoughts tormented her with denial.

It’s not true.

There’s been a mistake.

He wouldn’t betray me.

She turned to her side, tucking in under her duvet as her legs curled up to her chest. The news still rang in her ears, Alya’s frantic messages, the internet exploding with theories and drama and hysteria over the fact that one of Paris’ own heroes had turned on them. It was unescapable. Only here, underneath her blankets, was she was safe from it.

Just for tonight, just for now, Ladybug needed to hide, needed to save herself.

But even as she hid from the world, she couldn’t hide from her own thoughts, from the truth.

Chat Noir had betrayed her, had betrayed Paris. Of his own volition, he had worked against her.

He had shown up to the battle late that afternoon, alongside the akuma.

At first, she’d thought he’d been luring the akuma to her, a tactic he’d used in the past. Until he turned and attacked her. Until he’d tried to take her Miraculous.

Until he declared he was working for Hawkmoth.

Then- even as she’d tried to reason with him, to break through whatever spell the akuma had on him before she’d finally realised no such spell existed- she knew his intentions. She knew it was real.

And it killed her.

“Marinette?”

It was the first time Tikki had spoken since they’d gotten back home and, for the first time ever, Marinette ignored her.

A few minutes passed in quiet torture. When it was clear Marinette wanted no part in any conversation, in fact she sunk down further under her blankets until only the top of her head was visible, Tikki went on. “I know things seem bad right now, but it’ll turn out alright it the end. I promise it’ll be ok.” Marinette felt the soft weight of her kwami landing on the other side of the blankets, resting where her shoulder was. “You’re stronger, and braver than you know. You’ll get through it.”

Why was it, Marinette wondered, that something as simple as a small act of gentleness, could completely dissolve the walls she’d built up around herself? One moment she was- not fine, but at least holding it together- the next, she felt tears pooling in her eyes.

That was all it took to fall apart completely.

She cried into the night.


The next day was spent in a zombie-like haze. Part of Marinette realised she was in a deep state of shock still at Chat Noir (her friend, her partner, her kitty) betraying her, whilst the other part was simply focusing on surviving, on making it through whatever the day had to throw at her.

She’d wanted nothing more than to stay under her blanket. The blankets that had left her feeling safe and protected, at a time where she’d never felt so lost and scared, especially considering she’d had a grand total of two hour’s rest. But the world didn’t stop for her despair and eventually her mother called her down to get ready for school.

Maybe the distraction of schoolwork would help? Who knew, really. Marinette went through all the motions of getting ready, having breakfast, walking to school, in a robotic-like haze. She was vaguely aware of her mother casting concerned glances in her direction as she left home for the day, but she managed to wave it off with the excuse that she was coming down with a cold.

It was the start of winter and, though the walk to school was short, the darkness of the early morning and the blisteringly cold wind sliced through her. But it wasn’t until she made it to school, and heard snippets of her classmates’ conversations, that her insides turned to ice.

“Oh my god! Did you catch the Ladyblog last night?”

“I can’t believe Chat Noir would do that!”

“It can’t be real right? It’s some sort of hoax. He’d never betray Ladybug like that!”

“I agree, he must be possessed or blackmailed. Logically speaking, they’ve been partners for two years now. It makes no sense.”

“You’re right Max, the whole thing stinks.”

Marinette collapsed into her seat, elbows on the desk, head in her hands. Of course. Of course, school was going to be worse. Of course, it was all anyone was going to want to talk about. Even Alya and Nino, who came to class holding hands, were talking about it, breaking their conversation only to find their seats.

As Alya slid into her spot beside Marinette, she glanced at the empty seat beside Nino and frowned. “No Adrien today?”

Nino shrugged. “Probably has some kind of lame photoshoot to go to, you know how it is,” he reasoned, “So as I was saying, Chat’s totally working as a double agent. I bet him and Ladybug worked out their little routine before yesterday’s attack. All of his shtick about it being ‘for the best’ and the way he didn’t want to hit her properly. You could tell his attacks were lacklustre! I’m telling you, they’re setting Hawkmoth up!”

Alya shook her head, “See I don’t think it was fake. Didn’t you see the look of anguish on Ladybug’s face? I was right there on the scene. You should’ve seen the way her face paled when he stepped forwards and told her he was working for Hawkmoth. There’s no way it was acting. She was genuinely shocked and hurt by Chat Noir’s betrayal, as we all were.”

“But it doesn’t add up!” Nino argued, “Chat Noir is… he loves Ladybug. And if you’re talking ‘bout anguish, didn’t you see his face too? He looked so sad. It didn’t look like he wanted to do it.”

It was all Marinette could do not to scream. The walls around her seemed to wobble and wave, then shrink as they inched in on her, the low hum of conversation turned into incessant buzzing. Her chest grew tight. Everyone kept talking about it. They wouldn’t stop. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t escape. She was stuck, pinned into this hellish and warped dimension with no way to escape, just like her nightmares where she tried to move but couldn’t no matter how hard she tried.

All her mind wanted to do was make her run away. But her body wasn’t listening. It sat still, frozen in panic.

Because this made it real. Yesterday, and even this morning, she could’ve pretended it was a bad dream. But all of her classmates together, speculating on the why’s and the how’s, was too much. She needed to get away. She needed silence. She needed to get out.

Marinette was only vaguely aware of Alya calling her name. It felt like her friend was talking to her through several layers’ worth of concrete, her words were so muffled sounding. Only when she felt the warm weight of Alya’s hand on her arm was she able to hear properly again, find some sort of ground. “Mari? You ok?”

Her breath was coming out in short rasps. Her lips were dry. She looked at Alya with desperation in her eyes, and managed to find the strength to shake her head.

Alya swore under her breath. “God, I think you’re having a panic attack.”

“Oh my god, are you ok?” Nino asked, getting up.

“I’m going to take you to the nurses office,” Alya declared, standing up and taking Marinette’s hand. “Come on, you’ll be able to calm down much better without all these bozos being so loud.”

Marinette said nothing, hating how weak she felt. She was Ladybug damn it. She needed to be strong, she needed to figure out what she needed to do next. She needed to do the opposite of panic and hide, and ignore the overwhelming sadness pressing on her chest like a dead weight.

But all she could do in that moment was let her best friend lead her out of the nurse’s office. Sitting with her, Alya talked about nothing and everything. Silly things, fun things. Nothing serious. Nothing about Chat Noir. For that, Marinette was truly grateful.

They both missed the first lesson of the day, and thus missed the memo that came to their class. Though Alya went back after the first lesson finished, Marinette was sent home sick after that. She missed the memo completely. Her phone was turned off throughout the day.

She remained ignorant of the fact that Adrien Agreste would no longer be attending their school


 

They were due to patrol together that night, her and Chat Noir. Although patrolling was the last thing she wanted to do, the thought of Chat Noir appearing at their usual meeting spot, all smiles and apologies and explanations, was too much to resist. She knew, deep down, that it wasn’t going to happen. Chat Noir had turned on her, and there was nothing she could do about it.

It was funny, she thought whilst scanning the wintery city skyline, how quickly she could cycle through the different stages of grief. From denial to anger, bargaining to depression, but never acceptance- never ever acceptance. She kept torturing herself, sitting there for hours, torn between loving him and missing him and hating him, as she waited for her partner to show up.

He never did, and the city had never looked so cold and unforgiving as it did to her then.

Ladybug was unable to tell how long she sat on that rooftop, legs dangling over the ledge listlessly, but she knew it was far too long to be anything other than pathetic.

When she’d finally resigned herself to going back home (there were no akumas and what good would she be in the exhausted state she was in? No, she needed to rest) she stood up, stretched her aching limbs…

And gave a start when her yo-yo beeped.

She stalled, unable to comprehend what she heard. That beeping… it was from the communicator.

There was only one person who could talk to her through her yo-yo.

Ah. The four of the five stages of grief came back to greet her again, this time all out once so all she could do was stare as her yo-yo continued to beep. It almost felt like it was mocking her.

Ladybug frowned. So what if Chat wanted to speak to her? So what! He’d made the dumb choice to follow Hawkmoth, for whatever reason. He’d been the one to make his bed. Now he was the one that had to lie in it.

And her? Logically speaking, she knew what she would have to do; ask Fu for a new partner.

She hated how logic made her heart twist again, how it made her legs so jelly-like. She hated how logic was the thing that made her reach for her yo-yo and open up her messages because maybe, just maybe, Chat really had been faking. Maybe Nino and Max were right. Maybe the was something she was missing. After all, her and Chat were so close, and had been close for years now. He couldn’t, wouldn’t throw it away for something so ridiculous as power.

She hoped his message would prove that.

Message To: Ladybug

From: Chat Noir

Message:

Lp vruub. Lp vr vr vruub. L grqw phdq lw. L kdyh wr wdon olnh wklv ehfdxvh khv zdwfklqj ph forvhob. L nqrz brxuh vpduw. Brx fdq iljxuh wkhvh rxw. loo vhqg brx dv pdqb dv l fdq. L zrqw hyhu wdnh brxu pludfxorxv L surplvh. Lg udwkhu glh. Sohdvh grqw kdwh ph. L oryh brx. L zloo dozdbv eh brxuv. aaaa

Ladybug wanted to throw her yo-yo off the roof. Was he mocking her? What the hell was that? Some sort of error message? It was bad enough he betrayed her, now he was rubbing it in her face by sending her nonsensical messages?

Instead of throwing her yo-yo off the roof, she used it to swing back home.

After all, she’d need it to fight Chat Noir.

He was her enemy now. Whether she liked it or not.

Chapter Text

It was Saturday, and Marinette was allowing herself time to mope.

She spent the day avoiding her phone, avoiding the news, avoiding anything that wasn’t her pyjamas, the carton of ice cream on her laps, and the copious amounts of anime she hadn’t had time to catch up on because of her Ladybug duties.

“Marinette, don’t you think you’ve had enough ice cream now?” Tikki asked, concerned.

“I’m aware I’m a stereotype,” she said, “but ice cream never, ever betrays you. Ice cream is always there.”

“As much as I can relate to a sweet tooth, I think that you might be avoiding things a bit too much,” Tikki advised, snuggling up onto Marinette’s lap. They were in the living room, and her parents were downstairs in the bakery, so it was safe for Tikki to come out for the time being. “I’m sure your friends are worried about you after you left school sick yesterday.”

Marinette held up a small teaspoon of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, “I brought you a spoon so we could share.”

Tikki’s eyes widened, her mouth hung open as though she wanted to protest further. Grinning (which felt odd considering how hollow she still felt), Marinette hovered the teaspoon closer to Tikki’s face.

It took about five seconds of conflicted silence before Tikki took the teaspoon from Marinette. Sitting back on Marinette’s knee, she looked down, gently nibbling the ice cream. “This conversation isn’t over,” she muttered.

Oh Marinette was sure of that.

The door slammed open and Marinette almost choked on a piece of brownie. Spinning around, she was relieved to see Tikki had already run off to hide, the little teaspoon clattered onto Marinette’s leg, causing a small stain on her pyjamas.

“GIRL ARE YOU DEAD OR SOMETHING, DAMN?!” Alya yelled, marching into the room with a furious vengeance. In her hand she held a paper bag and a stack of what appeared to be homework. “You haven’t been replying to any messages. I thought you were super sick in the hospital or something. Now I see you’re just chilling in your jammies at 2pm on a Saturday? What gives?”

She sat on the coffee table opposite Marinette, putting the items she’d brought to one side so she could fold her arms across her chest.

Marinette slouched lower, grabbing a cushion and wrapping it around herself. “I just don’t feel well,” she said, “I have this-err cough.” She coughed to indicate that she was indeed sick, though it didn’t sound convincing. Even to her.

“I know you’re lying,” Alya replied, raising her eyebrow. “You’re in your black jammies, you haven’t done your eyeliner and you’re eating chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, which you only eat in the worst of emergencies. You’re depressed about something.”

It was hard sometimes, being best friends with someone who had such a sharp investigative eye. If anyone was to figure out her identity, Marinette knew it would be Alya first above anyone else.

When Marinette dropped her head, saying nothing and instead pressing her face against the cushion, Alya’s stance softened. She relaxed her cross-armed stance and sighed, leaning forwards. “You’re sad, I can tell, and I think I know why.”

Marinette’s eyes widened, her heart froze in her throat and she was unable to breathe. Oh god. Had Alya really figured her out? Had she put two-and-two together and realised that Marinette’s sudden sadness coincided with Chat Noir’s betrayal? Suddenly, she wished she hadn’t eaten all that ice cream, as she was certain it was about to come back up all over again.

Alya moved from the coffee table to sit beside her, resting a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I know Adrien being pulled out of school must have been a shock, but you can’t shut everyone out like this. We know how you feel about him, but it’s not healthy to act like this.”

Wait. What?

“What are you talking about?” Marinette whispered, the lump in her throat rising again because no, no, no this couldn’t be happening. Surely, she’d misunderstood, surely Alya had misspoke, surely…

But one look from Alya was all it took for her to know the words she spoke were the truth. “Shit, you didn’t know.”

“A-Adrien left?” she stammered. Her mind turned black, her stomach dropped through the floor, falling down and endless pit. Her heart…her heart…

She didn’t think it was possible to actually feel it shatter. Her already fractured heart, injured by Chat’s betrayal, finally broke, exploded into a million shards which pierced her insides and all she knew was pain, pain, pain…

Alya squeezed her shoulder tighter and it was only when she pulled Marinette into a hug and whispered, “Oh girl come here,” with a tone as mournful as a breakup song, that Marinette realised the high-pitched cry was coming from herself.

She didn’t know what to do. Ladybug always had answers, but Marinette had never felt so lost.

They stayed together, curled up on the sofa for however long it took for Marinette to stop crying. Just when she felt like she had no more tears left, the world decided to test her further. She closed her eyes, drifting in and out of her pain as though she were floating in the cold, unknowing depths of space. Why? Why had Adrien been pulled out of school? Was it because Gabriel, seeing Chat help Hawkmoth, decided that the outside world was no longer safe for his beloved son? Had that been the final straw? She knew the decision couldn’t have been Adrien’s. He loved school, and had hated being home schooled, so Marinette couldn’t see him going back willingly.

So that left her with an even greater well of guilt, burying deep and parasitic into her chest. A part of her felt like such a colossal failure. She was supposed to serve and protect the people of Paris, was supposed to keep them safe. How could she have let this happen? Of course, Chat made the decision on his own, but maybe there had been something she’d missed? If she’d been just a little bit smarter, a little bit more attentive, a bit more communicative, she might have caught on- found some clue that would have put a stop to this. Now all of Paris was worried, unsettled, and now innocent people like Adrien were getting hurt. Because she hadn’t been responsible enough, because she hadn’t been enough.

When the shock had subsided, she sat up, rubbing at her still damp cheeks. “I wish I could fix this. I wish I could make this right.”

Alya sighed. “It’s not on you to fix everything just because you’re our class president you know,” she stated, flattening a kink in Marinette’s fringe. “The only one who can fix it is Gabriel Agreste. He’s the one that pulled Adrien out of school.”

“Maybe we could talk to him?” Marinette suggested, refusing to give up. She couldn’t- not without doing everything she could. Chat’s betrayal had come so thick and fast, that she’d been completely knocked over by it. She hadn’t had time to reason with him either. Maybe there was still hope. Maybe things could be fixed. She just couldn’t understand. It was Chat Noir, her kitty. He hated Hawkmoth as much as her!

And Adrien? All Marinette could picture was a small, lonely version of the boy she loved, locked away in that big manor without his friends to laugh with him through good times or hold him through the bad. Regardless of her feelings toward him, she wanted to fight for his freedom.

“Adrien hasn’t been answering his calls. A bit like you actually,” Alya replied, reaching over to the table and grabbing a tissue to hand to Marinette, which she gratefully took. “I don’t think we could make much of a difference. Remember when Nino tried to throw Adrien a birthday party and ended up akumatised because of how much of an asshole Adrien’s dad is? It’s a pretty big mountain to climb.”

“All the more reason to grab some mountain gear and get climbing then,” Marinette replied, feeling a fire in her belly all of a sudden. Yes, she felt depressed, betrayed, heartbroken and guilty beyond belief, but she didn’t want to give up. As hopeless as she felt, she couldn’t. She couldn’t give up on Chat or Adrien. Hands curling into fists Marinette stood up and punched the air, trying to find a spark large enough to take on the massive tasks ahead of her. “Besides,” she added, turning back to look at Alya. “If Gabriel Agreste says no and acts rude, you can always tell him where to go like you always wanted.”

“You make a good point,” Alya nodded her head before grabbing the hem of Marinette’s top and yanking her back onto the sofa, “And I think it’s a noble pursuit. But maybe we should wait and ask everyone else if they’ll come with us? Adrien’s dad might be more convinced if we all show up to fight for Adrien to come back to school.”

Marinette agreed, and the pair began to set out a plan. Mission: Adrien’s Liberty

The objective: Save Adrien from a lonely life of home school hell.

And one by one, texts came flooding in from their classmates, determined to join them in their mission and help see it through until the end.

The afternoon went on and, after a much-needed shower and a change of clothes, Marinette had half the class hanging out in her living room, sharpies at the ready, forming their battle plans. It made the fragile pieces of her soul warm, to know how many people she had around her who supported her.

She stood in the kitchen, away from the main action, watching Kim argue with Alix over the best way to save Adrien. Kim thought it was best to charge in, Braveheart style, and tackle all the bodyguards in order to get Adrien out of there. Alix argued they should be sneaky and conduct a stealth rescue mission. Watching all of this with a smile, Marinette allowed herself to hope. Adrien had so many people who loved him, so many people who would miss him if her really did leave school for good.

But as quickly as a smile graced her lips did it die. Images of Chat Noir, the person behind the mask, flittered through her mind. What about him? Did he have people who cared about him besides her? People who could help her get to the bottom of his turncoat behaviour and help him see the light? She just couldn’t understand it. It all felt too wrong to understand.

All she could do was hope, that wherever he was, he was ok…


 

The cold, cavernous room flooded with light as the giant circular window opened. Adrien reached up to shield his eyes as sunlight burned his eyes. Once his eyes adjusted to the light, he looked up and his mouth opened at the horrible sight before him.

So this was Hawkmoth’s lair. This was the place his sworn enemy, his own father, had stood time and time again. This awful, terrible place was the scene of so many crimes against the city of Paris. Against the people he protected. Against his classmates, his friends…

And now he was standing in the middle of it. He was standing inside it and he hated it with every fibre of his being. But more than that he hated himself for being here- for not running for help- for not shouting it from the rooftops.

His father, Hawkmoth, stood in the light the circular window provided. A wild thought struck Adrien that he could hurt his father, he could tackle him right then and there. His hand wrapped around his now bare finger. He could get Plagg back…

But at the cost of everything he’d loved. Everything he wanted to fix. Everything he wanted to protect.

He was so ashamed. So conflicted. So unsure of how to proceed…

He was nothing more than a terrified child, watching everything he cared for slip through his hands like grains of sand, even as he desperately tried to cling on to them.

“It is a shame, son, that you can’t feel what I feel right now,” Gabriel opened his arms out wide, bathing in the glow of the pale sun rays. “That powerful surge, that draw, like a moth to light. Our next akuma is waiting for us.”

Adrien wrinkled his nose, feeling a surge of bile at being complicit in this.  He had to remind himself of why he was doing it. He stared down at his feet, hands clenched into fists, picturing Ladybug, picturing his friends…

Picturing his mother.

He didn’t notice Hawkmoth approach him until he saw the black shiny shoes come into his line of vision. When he looked up, his father opened Adrien’s miraculous box, the ring inside a pale grey and half cast in shadow. “Time to transform, son.”

Adrien grabbed the miraculous and placed it on his finger, feeling a sense of relief so poignant, he might as well have been drowning boy being given air for the first time. As soon as the box opened, Plagg appeared in a burst of bright light.

He immediately turned around and began cursing Hawkmoth out. “You’re his father, you asshole! You’re supposed to love him, not blackmail him! Give Nooroo back and stop whatever crazy plans before you end up killing us all.”

As usual, Hawkmoth ignored him. So Plagg turned to Adrien, eyes wide and so betrayed that Adrien had to look away, he couldn’t stand it. Plagg looked sad. Plagg. And it was all his fault.

He was hurting everyone he loved.

It’s for the best. It’s for the best. I’m so sorry. It’s for the best.

“Kid,” Plagg whispered, “Please. Don’t do this. You’re better than this. You’re the best Chat Noir I’ve ever known. Don’t listen to his lies.”

But they weren’t lies, Adrien thought. He’d seen with his own eyes, the reasons for his father’s villainy. If he could find another way, if he could save them all, he could put an end to this madness. He could have a family again. He might lose his father for a while, as he had to pay for his crimes and Adrien would make sure he did. But he could fix this. He could.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to Plagg. “Transform me.”

“Father,” Chat whispered, once he was done transforming, ignoring the clawing feeling in his chest, the feeling of Plagg fighting against him. “Can’t you just let me go? Can’t you let me talk to Ladybug? If we just explained”-

“That’s not what we agreed son. And you know Ladybug is too wrapped up in her rules to truly understand us,” Hawkmoth rested a heavy hand on Chat’s shoulder. “You know this. It’s you and I against the world. It’s the only way.”

Chat didn’t believe it was the only way. Perhaps his father really did believe it, deep down. But there had to be a different way.

And, as his father resumed his position at the window in order to set his akuma on an unsuspecting citizen, Chat Noir pulled out his baton, and began to type a message.


 

The mission planning had devolved into a miniature pizza party with the remaining members of the class. Max, Nino, Alya, Juleka and Rose lounged around the living room, munching on the greasy, cheesy feast. Marinette was glad for the company. She felt a lot better in comparison to the way she’d woken up this morning. She smiled as Juleka fed Rose a bit of her pepperoni, the pair giggling and faking an overt show of romance, even though Marinette could tell they secretly enjoyed it. If their blushes were anything to go by at least.

It was as she was reaching for her third slice that she heard the sounds of screaming in the street below, car horns blaring, a high, cold, horrible laugh. They were familiar sounds.

Her eyes met Alya’s, and the Ladyblog reporter’s eyes widened in both shock and awe. In a flash, she had her camera out, ready to record. They both knew what those sounds meant.

“Yo, what the hell is that?!” Nino cried. Rose automatically clung to Juleka, having already figured out something awful was happening.

Marinette stood up, hurrying to the apartment door. “Stay here, everyone,” she said sternly, looking pointedly at Alya. “I’m going to check on my parents.”

She ignored everyone’s yells of protests, slamming the door behind her and leaning against it with a sigh. Why now? Why an akuma now?! She’d only just began to wrap her head around Chat’s betrayal and now she had to face him again. She hadn’t prepared anything, hadn’t figured out what to say, or even if she should say anything.

Maybe she should punch first and ask questions later.

After a few seconds of quiet, but very real, panic, Tikki appeared. Having took the long way around, by phasing though things in order to not be spotted by Marinette’s classmates, she looked at Marinette worriedly. “Are you ok?”

“I’m going to have to be,” Marinette replied. “It sounds like there’s an akuma out there, and I’m the only one who can cleanse them. So whatever happens, I have to be there.”

Tikki flew up to her nose, giving it a kiss. “You’re a brave girl, Marinette.”

That was funny. She didn’t feel brave. Even as she transformed into her superhero alter ego, the fear an uncertainty she felt as Marinette, lingered in her chest.

But Paris needed her, so she would step up.

Even if Chat Noir was no longer by her side.