The day felt wrong somehow. Part of Adrien wished he were anywhere but here, out celebrating with the rest of the world. Even the sky exulted in recent events, the sun shining in an uncharacteristically warm day in the midst of winter.
But not Adrien.
While elsewhere the mayor declared a citywide holiday, Adrien Agreste stood solemnly in front of a simple gray headstone.
HERE LIES GABRIEL AGRESTE
19XX - 20XX
Looking at those four words, Adrien couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the strange mix of emotions swirling through his head: anger, grief, betrayal, shock. His dad had been Hawk Moth, and now everyone knew. Now he knew.
He had helped kill his father, and no one could ever know.
Life carried on.
Natalie still took care of him, as addressed in his father’s will. He still attended classes. He still studied Chinese and fencing. In some ways, everything was the same, and that somehow made everything worse. In every place where a normal son might feel his father’s absence, Adrien felt an acute pang of longing, grieving not for his father but for the chance to know his father.
Maybe if he’d tried harder to know his father, he could have stopped him, stopped Hawk Moth before it came to this. Maybe it wouldn’t have hurt so much to find out.
Not everything was the same, of course. It couldn’t be, not when his father had been exposed as the terror of Paris. Sales from Gabriel’s fashion line dropped dramatically, and the numerous Adrien perfume ads all across Paris all disappeared within two weeks. At school, at least, everyone made an effort to act normal. That didn’t hide the furtive glances other students sent Adrien when they thought he wasn’t looking, studying him carefully for any sign that he might carry whatever it was that caused his father to akumatize people. He didn’t miss the way Miss Bustier kept her gaze on anyone in the class but him, only ever calling on him if no one else knew the answer. Nor did the extra space everyone, including the ever-clinging Chloe, gave him slip his notice. Only Nino and Marinette still made the active effort to talk to him, doing their best to lift him from the depression he was rapidly sinking into.
They couldn’t understand, though. No one could.
After the obligatory awards ceremonies and public appearances, Adrien had little excuse to go out as Chat Noir. And, in turn, Ladybug sightings became less and less frequent.
Adrien hated to admit it, but he was somewhat thankful for that fact. He still loved her, but now every time he saw her, it was like he was back in their last fight together.
They had finally drawn Hawk Moth out of his lair, and now they all stood, panting, inside an abandoned warehouse. The lion-like akuma raged behind the doors of a storage container, but they couldn’t let Hawk Moth get away, not when he was so close.
“Give it up, Hawk Moth!” Ladybug said.
Hawk Moth only laughed and spread his arms. There had been an edge of hysteria to the laugh that Adrien only noticed in hindsight.
Chat and Ladybug exchanged a glance, and she nodded.
He drew in a deep breath and shouted “CATACLYSM!” The heady rush of power filled his body and sharpened his senses. He ran towards Hawk Moth, ducking a swipe from his cane and feinting at it before bringing his hand to the container behind him, where the akuma was trapped. He sprang out of the way as the door crumbled to ash and the akuma leapt forward.
He was barely fast enough to catch the polka-dotted steak Ladybug threw him, roll behind Hawk Moth, and plant the steak just behind him. Now, with Hawk Moth occupied with the massive black lion stalking towards him, Adrien looked to Ladybug, who spun her yo-yo, preparing to lasso Hawk Moth.
Then the lion sprang.
Hawk Moth leapt backward to avoid its gaping jaws and razor-sharp claws. And tripped.
And instead of falling into the trap Ladybug had laid out, he landed squarely atop the steak.
By the time Adrien and Ladybug had captured the akuma, it was too late. Hawk Moth lay in an expanding puddle of blood, his body brutalized by the claws of the beast he had created.
And Adrien watched, kneeling in the pool of blood, as Hawk Moth exhaled for the last time, and his costume faded away.
So what if he went out of his way to avoid seeing her? It wasn’t his fault that his brain freaked out and his stomach heaved whenever he saw her. And even though it wasn’t really her fault either, he couldn’t help but associate her with that memory.
The nightmares were bad enough, but the flashbacks were so much worse.
At least he could wake up from the nightmares.
Adrien knew he needed some kind of help, but that was no simple task. It’s not as though he could go to therapy as Adrien Agreste and talk about how he helped kill Hawk Moth. He’d be institutionalized. Plagg didn’t seem to understand what the big deal was when Adrien tried talking to him. He didn’t know Master Fu well enough to feel comfortable talking to him about this. And going to therapy as Chat Noir seemed somehow ludicrous. Nearly every person who knew him as his superhero identity idolized him in some way or another. In fact, he was pretty sure there were only two people who didn’t, and Ladybug was out of the question.
Which is how he found himself running across rooftops in his hero costume one night, maybe a month and a half after his father’s death, trying to stay unseen as he made his way to Marinette’s house. Alighting on her rooftop, he hesitated before tapping lightly on the trapdoor leading to her room. Moments passed, and the trapdoor opened, revealing a bleary eyed Marinette.
“Chat Noir? What are you doing here?”
“Marinette, I…” He stood there for a moment, searching for the words, but they didn’t come. His eyes filled with tears.
Marinette’s eyes widened. “O...kay,” she said softly. She shuffled herself into a sitting position and motioned for Chat to sit next to her. “What’s wrong?”
He sat down next to her, bringing his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. He no longer bothered to hold the tears in. “I just - I see his face every night. Hawk Moth’s, I mean.” He broke down into rough sobs as Marinette rubbed his back.
“Hey,” she murmured. “It’s okay-”
“No it’s not!” He rubbed furiously at the tears running down his mask. “He was a person, a father! And I killed him!”
Marinette’s hand stilled. “Surely you can’t believe it’s really your fault, Kitty?”
His silence was answer enough.
“From what I heard, it was an accident,” she said.
He turned to look at her. “Marinette, I held him in my arms as he died. If we had been just a bit faster in catching the akuma, if I’d thought to call for help sooner, then he might still be alive.”
She stared at him, concern and - was that guilt? - in her eyes. “Chat, if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s Hawk Moth’s himself. He created that akuma.”
Chat’s eyes flashed. “So you think it was all some great big elaborate suicide? I don’t think so.”
She flushed and looked away. “If you’re determined to blame someone, it was Ladybug’s plan that put him in harm’s way in the first place.” Her voice was tiny.
Chat sighed and buried his face in his knees. “I don’t know.”
“Chat, you don’t need to do this to yourself-”
“Then what am I supposed to do, Marinette? I look at myself in the mirror and I see a murderer and no amount of logic can change that.” The tears had resumed their steady flow.
Marinette was quiet for a moment. “Then maybe you can change the person in the mirror.” Chat looked at her, his head cocked.
“Look, despite what anybody says, you and Ladybug have saved Paris more times than I can count. You, of all people, deserve to rest and become the person you want to be. You don’t have to wear the mask, Chat. Especially not if it hurts.”
He nodded to himself. “Maybe you’re right.”
She smiled wistfully. “I know I am.” She leaned forward and brushed her lips across his forehead. “Now go try to rest.”
They both stood up and she opened her arms in invitation. Chat smiled and obliged, wrapping his arms around her in a tight hug. “Thank you, Marinette,” he whispered. She hugged him harder in response.
He broke the hug, stepping back and readying himself to make his way back to the Agreste mansion.
“Drop by sometime!” Marinette called after him as he left.
He paused, looked over his shoulder, and winked. “Of course, Princess.”
Then he leapt away into the night, her words still weighing on his mind. He really didn’t have to be Chat Noir anymore. And he wouldn’t have to look at Ladybug anymore, whispered a distant corner of his mind. He stopped running for a moment, lost in thought. As much as he hated to admit it, there was a kernel of truth there. He needed help, and seeing Ladybug was doing the opposite of that. Bitterness set in like a stone in his stomach. Marinette was right. Chat Noir and Ladybug were murderers, whether he liked it or not. So he would stop being Chat Noir.
He did not go home, as he had originally planned. Instead, he made his way to a different part of the city, de-transforming and walking the last few blocks as a normal person. Plagg hovered nervously over his shoulder as Adrien marched up to an old apartment building and went inside.
Finally, he stood before Master Fu’s door. For a moment, he was unsure. Would Master Fu be asleep? Maybe he should come back tomorrow.
The door in front of him opened, interrupting his thoughts. Master Fu’s expression was sad, almost pitying. “Ah. Adrien. I was wondering when I’d see you.” He opened the door wider, inviting Adrien inside.
Seated across from Master Fu, looking down at the tea mug in his hands, Adrien finally spoke. “Master Fu, I would like to return my Miraculous.”
Plagg flew in front of Adrien’s face. “What?! Adrien! What about me? You can’t just give up your Miraculous!” He turned to Master Fu. “Can he?”
Master Fu’s expression was unreadable. “Indeed he may, Plagg.”
Adrien set down his tea mug and his fingers went to the ring on his hand. He gently removed it from his finger and set it on the table in front of him, seeing Plagg disappear out of the corner of his eye. He could no longer see Wayzz either.
Master Fu studied him. “Are you sure about this?”
Adrien nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“Very well.” Master Fu took the ring from the table and closed his hand around it. “Thank you for the good you have done as the holder of this Miraculous.”
Adrien gave a tight smile and turned to leave.
“Oh, and one more thing, Adrien,” called Master Fu. “Did you happen to grab Hawk Moth’s Miraculous?”
Adrien paused, one hand on the door. “No.”
He left without another word.
Sitting in his room, Adrien turned the brooch over in his hand. It didn’t look special, just four silken scraps pinned together in the vague shape of wings by the gem in the center. His father’s Miraculous.
Adrien was not entirely sure why he lied to Master Fu that day. All he knew was that his chest seized up at the thought of giving this brooch to anyone else. It felt like his last real link to his father. This little thing shaped so much of his father’s life in the years since Adrien’s mother died.
It was a mystery to Adrien. How did his father acquire it? Why did he use it? What made him decide to hurt people with it?
Maybe Adrien could use it to understand his father better. He wasn’t sure which he feared more, the knowledge that his father was a good person inside or the confirmation that he really was the monster everyone else saw.
He pinned the brooch to his shirt.
A small, timid lavender kwami emerged from the brooch to hover in front of him. “Hello, Master. My name is Nooroo.”
Adrien gave the kwami a wan smile. “Hello Nooroo. Can you tell me about my father, Gabriel?”
“And this is where your father would stand, looking out at the city and waiting for someone ready to be akumatized.” Nooroo glanced at the stained-glass windows with trepidation.
Adrien looked around the chamber, conflicting emotions boiling in his chest. “And what were his words again?”
Nooroo trembled as they whispered, “Dark Wings Rise.”
Adrien repeated the words, his voice no louder than a sigh, and suddenly he was filled with a heady power, similar to the one he felt when he had transformed into Chat Noir.
He looked down at himself in wonder, taking in the silvery suit, the cape, the cane. And the butterflies. Oh, wow, the butterflies. They were beautiful. Their luminescent wings filled the chamber with a shifting, yet serene light. He had only ever seen them alone, after Ladybug had de-evilized the akuma.
He reached out and let one alight on his gloved hand. How could something so soft and beautiful as this tiny creature be used for such evil?
He was filled with a sudden rage, one with few real targets. From moment to moment, it shifted from his father for using this power for violence, to the world for not understanding his grief for the only family he had left, and finally towards himself and Ladybug for killing his father.
For the first time since his father’s death, Adrien let himself feel. The rage felt good after the months of numbness. In it were swirls of grief and pangs of guilt. When he came back to himself, he was kneeling on the floor, tears were streaming down his face, and the butterfly in his hand was glowing violet.
The butterfly took off, and Adrien stared in horror. Had he just created an akuma?
He quickly removed the brooch, feeling the power drain from him once again. He dropped it on the floor and scrambled backward. The akuma remained, though. Adrien could do little as the akuma floated towards him and landed on his shirt, right above his heart.
A dark, twisted perversion of the energy which usually followed his transformations emanated from the spot the akuma landed. Adrien shuddered, feeling the vestiges of his rage flare back into a powerful maelstrom.
After only a moment’s struggle, he grinned, a red haze falling over his vision.
With a dark bubbling, his clothes transformed into a chitinous suit of armor, with a glowing amethyst sitting above his heart. A black helmet of the same glistening chitin formed over his head, leaving only his mouth and chin bare. A set of black and purple wings unfurled from his back, the patterns on them shifting with every heartbeat. Twin scimitars, black as night and smoking, formed in the hands of the person who was no longer Adrien.
A twisted version of his own voice echoed through his head.
Welcome, Dark Fury.
Dark Fury stood, triumphant, beneath the Eiffel tower. He watched in bitter amusement as people fought with deadly ferocity before him, friends turning on friends when they inhaled the smoke from his swords. He made sure to leave a clear trail of enraged people behind him, vandalizing a few buildings with his swords along the way for good measure. Surely Ladybug would arrive soon. She couldn’t miss it. Not when she was the main event.
Sure enough, hardly five minutes passed before her familiar red-suited form arrived.
“Who are you and what do you want?” she called out, that familiar, infuriatingly determined expression on her face.
His blood felt like it was on fire. The light from the amethyst turned a bright crimson. He bared his teeth in a snarl.
“My name is Dark Fury,” he said, voice as hard as stone. “And I’m here for your blood.”
He leapt forward with superhuman speed, swords crossed in front of him as he attacked with a vicious cross-slash. His fencer’s grace combined with his unnaturally strong body made the attack as beautiful as it was deadly. He was made to wield these swords.
Only Ladybug’s preternatural reflexes saved her as she leapt into a backwards handspring, narrowly avoiding the black blades. She looked slightly shaken.
Dark Fury smiled. “What? Did you think I was joking?” He laughed as he attacked again, his arms becoming a blur of whirling blades as he attacked relentlessly.
Ladybug managed to parry most of his blows with her yoyo, but she sustained a few cuts on her forearms. “Chat Noir, where the heck are you?” she hissed as she leapt back to catch her breath.
Dark Fury’s grin grew. “There’s no one to help you now,” his voice dropped, “murderer.”
He watched her flinch, enjoying it with a certain grim schadenfreude.
“Is that what this is about?” she said. “Hawk Moth’s death was an accident.” Her voice quavered a little at the last word.
His mouth drew into a line. “Is that what you really think?” he asked, punctuating his question with a renewed attack. She continued to dodge his blows.
Until she tripped.
She landed flat on her back, the breath knocked out of her. Dark Fury chuckled as he positioned his blades in an X above her neck. “Oh, now this is simply poetic. He died because he tripped, and now so will you.”
Marinette gasped for breath. “See? You say -” She coughed. “You say it yourself, he tripped!”
Dark Fury leaned in closer. “I know. Do you know what else I know, dear Ladybug?” A line of blood appeared on her neck where one of the blades pressed into it. “I know that he would never have been in that position were it not for your plan. And do you want to know how I know it?” His words were barely a whisper. “I know it because I was there.”
He watched as her eyes widened in understanding and horror. “Chat?”
“Not anymore,” he said, “Milady.”
He drew the twin swords across her throat, watching the blood pour out, just as he had watched the blood pour from his father’s body those months ago. He noted dispassionately that the blood was so much darker than the red of Ladybug’s suit.
And then, in a blink, the suit was gone.
And in the place of Ladybug was the blood-soaked body of Marinette.
The red haze over his vision lifted as horror and disbelief set in.
“No. No, it can’t be.”
His swords clattered to the pavement to either side of him. Tears dripped down his face behind the mask. He backed slowly away from the grisly scene. Glancing down at himself, he saw the blood on his gloves and ripped them off, throwing them as far away as he could. But it wasn’t enough. His hands could still remember the feeling of dragging the swords through her throat, slicing through her life and snuffing it out. He wanted to puke. Apparently the only thing he was good at was killing the people he cared about.
He turned to run away, only to stop short.
Another person, probably another teenage boy by the looks of things, stood before him, dressed in the garb of Chat Noir. His eyes were blue, along with the tips of his black hair. This strange, blue-eyed Chat Noir was not looking at Dark Fury, though. No, he had eyes only for Marinette, lying motionless on the ground.
“No,” he breathed. “I was too late.”
He charged forward, shoving Dark Fury aside and kneeling beside Marinette’s fallen form cradling her blood-soaked corpse. He brushed his hand over her face to close her eyes, then bent to touch his forehead to hers.
Dark Fury stood up, numbly watching the pair.
The blue eyed Chat Noir lifted his head and looked him in the eye as he began to back away. Hatred and anguish filled his aqua eyes, and the small part of Adrien that was left saw himself reflected in them.
“How could you do this to her?” the new Chat Noir shouted.
“You know what? Fuck you, I don’t care.” His chest heaved as he fought down a sob. He took another deep breath and spoke again, conviction like steel in his voice. “I’ll fucking kill you for what you did to her.”
Adrien had no doubt that he would.
He turned and fled.