Marinette couldn’t sleep again.
Before, she would be so overcome by the exhaustion that came from being Ladybug that as soon as she hit the mattress, she was out. But these days, she often found herself in a perpetual state of restlessness, ripped between exhausted consciousness and fitful sleep.
She scrubbed the exhaustion from her eyes and rose, the mattress springs squeaking under her weight. When she reached out for her love, she found his side of the bed empty. This wasn’t a problem; she knew where to find him.
It was a strange feeling, transforming after all these years. Tikki had been dormant for so long that Marinette was starting to wonder if she was still around.
The window creaked as she lifted the glass. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower lights shone like a beacon, glittering bright as Paris slept. And just as she had predicted, there he was. On the highest platform she could see his outline: black cat ears twitching, tail curling and uncurling languidly in the breeze. She had missed that sight.
The journey to his side was quick, her body slicing through the air with ease that only comes from years of practice. Her yoyo never missed its target, naturally reflexive to her and perfectly balanced in her hand.
He didn’t glance up as she landed, just held out his hand to help her down next to him. Her body fit so naturally with his. The nightmares couldn’t haunt her here, not with her head resting comfortably on his shoulder, his arm wrapped around her waist like it belonged there. He turned to press his lips against her forehead.
“You okay?” He murmured. Ladybug hummed, closing her eyes as she breathed him in. Soft leather and his signature designer cologne.
“I am now.” She whispered.
Chat Noir nodded, returning his gaze to the city below. He rested his head atop hers, reminding her of when they used to fall asleep in each other’s arms when they were young. Tears pricked her eyes at memories of them running along the rooftops, giggling and chasing each other with newfound energy. There was no real plan of what they would do if they caught their partner, and they always ended on the Eiffel tower, so taken aback by the view that they would forget their chase.
She had always thought she would get used to it, but she never did. Even now, years after deciding to metaphorically hang up the superhero suit up, she had to catch her breath at the sight below. A network of lights and movement, of shapes and lines and sounds.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before.” A 14 year-old Chat Noir had said, his pretty green eyes so young and wide, his voice barely above a whisper. “I wish I could come here every night.”
Speaking of that.
“You want to talk about why you’re on the Eiffel Tower at this time of night?” She asked.
Chat Noir shrugged. “I kind of woke up here.” Chat Noir said. “I don’t think I meant to. I think… I think I came here when... when I…”
He trailed off, something clearly bothering him. She squeezed her eyes shut.
Might as well get this over with .
“I haven’t been able to sleep.” Ladybug said, lifting her head so she could look at him. “I keep having these awful nightmares. I know you can tell, and I- I promise that I’m trying but I-”
Chat cut her off with a shake of his head. “Don’t apologize. If anything, I should be apologizing to you. It is kind of my fault you’re not sleeping.”
Ladybug grinned, nudging his shoulder with hers. “Just like before, huh?” She said.
“Not exactly the same thing.”
Ladybug settled back into his side, refusing to surrender her smile. She had to crane her neck to see him this way, but she thought it was worth it to see his eyes narrow. “It kind of is.”
Chat Noir leaned in close, like they were sharing a secret. “I don’t remember nightmares being the reason you stayed up with me, my love.” He whispered, smirking.
“You never complain either way.” She said, wiggling her eyebrows. He groaned as her eyes widened in mock fear, her mouth open in a silent gasp.
“Oh, Chat Noir -“
“Marinette, don’t- ”
“ Please save me from the evil akuma!” She cried, wrapping her arms around him tight. “My emotions are out of control and so are my hands you have to help m … oh, too much?”
The look on his face was almost comical. He looked half mortified half like he was on the verge of throwing her off the Eiffel Tower. His lips parted like he was going to say something, but then an embarrassed smile stretched across his face and he simply shook his head, turning back to the city below.
“You’re cheeky tonight.”
Ladybug giggled in response.
Comfortable silence stretched between the two, content to just be in each other’s company. It was quiet moments like these that she missed the most, those easy moments that were becoming harder and harder to find these days. Her home was always filled with music now, and though she loved the distraction, she also yearned for… for this . Moments where she could fall asleep to the sound of Adrien’s breathing, his steady heartbeat, and the soothing sound of the roads below.
Guilt twisted in her gut.
She shouldn’t wish for the quiet moments with Adrien anymore. She should be grateful for what she had. And she was grateful…wasn’t she?
For the second time that night, her breath caught in her throat, but it was unwelcome. Thoughts like those were the problem.
Yet those thoughts were everything to her. She ached for her young life and everything that came with it. The promise of tomorrow, the hope that came from being in love with your best friend. Of course things changed, but Adrien was here. And it was like Master Fu had always said!
... Are you alright, Marinette?
Chat’s gently turned her chin with his thumb and forefinger, tilting his head to catch her lips with his. The soft gesture made her vision blurry, the press of his mouth against hers so familiar and sweet that she didn’t want it to end.
“I love you, my lady.”
“I love you too.” She whispered, her eyelids too heavy to keep open.
“You have to go now.” Chat murmured, his hand rubbing soothing circles on her arm.
Ladybug shook her head, yawning as she pressed closer. “I don’t want to go yet.”
He pressed his lips to the crown of her hair, holding her tight against him.
“Tell Luka I said hi.”
Ladybug felt her heart speed up, but she couldn’t open her eyes.
“He’s good for you. I’m happy you were able to move on.”
“I wish we had more time.”
Please don’t go. Please don’t leave me again.
“But it seems our time is up.”
Please. Please don’t-
“Wake up, my love.”
Wake up, my love.
Wake up! Adrien, please, wake up!
She could smell smoke. The smoke and blistering fire that engulfed the massage parlor and took not only her Master, but her miraculous as well. Tikki and Plagg were gone, trapped in the jewelry as the fire destroyed everything in its wake.
That fire had taken everything from her.
Where was he?
She felt a hand push her toward the exit of the burning building. Her partner, her whole life, her soulmate’s last act of heroism doing what he had always done.
Chat Noir had been protecting her.
“MARINETTE, GO !” He had cried. She sought his hand through the flames, desperately hoping in vain that she could pull him out, too. That they would both live, too.
Please don’t do this. Please don’t take him from me.
She screamed when she couldn’t find him, crying out desperately to see if he was still alive. They had doused the parlor in water, retrieved the destroyed box with nothing, nothing, nothing inside, and still she cried out for him. She had screamed and screamed his name until her voice was long gone, her body and soul burning though she had not touched the flames.
She had lost everything that day.
Marinette woke with a scream, sobs wracking her body. She couldn’t stop herself from crying, couldn’t hold back as the images replayed over and over in her mind. The smell of smoke clung to her, forcing her to open her mouth to gasp in mouthfuls of air. Her arms clutched her stomach, the pain so unbearably strong that she could physically feel her heart breaking all over again.
She could still feel the pressure of his hand on her back.
The bed moved next to her. Luka cursed, realizing that he – once again – had been unable to stop the attack. He tugged the bedside lamp on, illuminating the pitiful sight before him. Marinette’s eyes felt raw, her throat unbearably dry. She must have been crying in her sleep again.
“Are you okay?” Luka asked, taking her gently in his arms, unaware of how her stomach revolted at the action. The feeling made her cry harder. “You smell like smoke again, Mari.”
Marinette did not answer him. Her sobs were so heartbroken, so deep , that Luka could do nothing but hold her. But he knew it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough.
She refused to tell him why she woke up that way almost every night, calling out to Adrien nearly every time. Adrien and Marinette had been together for almost three years before the fire had taken him away.
She never told Luka why he was in that building with Ladybug and Chat Noir in the first place.
Ladybug hadn’t been seen in the four years since, but if Luka was right about his theory (a theory that he prayed every single day was wrong) then he understood why. Chat Noir was gone for good, taking the sweet blonde boy with him.
He had originally suggested that she move in with him because she seemed to be getting better. Luka and Marinette had been dating six months when she told him the nightmares had stopped coming.
The first night was fine.
The second night was bad.
The third night was worse.
The nightmares refused to leave her alone after that.
“I p-promise I’m trying to get better.” Marinette sobbed. “I don’t know w-why h-he…”
Luka shushed her, his hand smoothing her tangled hair down. “Don’t apologize. It’s okay. I understand.”
Marinette sniffed, wiping her eyes and nose with the back of her hand. Her lungs threatened to burst out of her chest.
“It’s not fair to you. I’m so, so sorry.” She said, unsure of what she was even apologizing for anymore. Luka didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing at all.
And maybe that was the problem.
Later that night, when she had calmed enough to lay back down, and he had turned the lights back off and held her close, she felt a familiar pang of guilt as she allowed her mind to wander. Her imagination ran wild, pretending that it was someone else’s arms she was in, someone else’s body she was pressed against, someone else’s words comforting her. Luka knew this, but he didn’t say anything.
He knew as well as she did.
It was the only way she could sleep.
The last thing Marinette registered before succumbing to sleep was the way the Eiffel Tower looked through their apartment window.
The lights were off.