Marinette doesn’t see Chat Noir in the couple of days immediately after New York, but he accidentally (he says, and she isn’t–she can’t get mad at him now, not after everything–) clicks on the remote control for her plushie three times, messaging her immediately after to apologise – a corner of a book against the button, pressing it while rearranging his bag, having to slam something quickly on top of it so as not to have it discovered by someone else – and she reassures him it’s fine and, for some reason, feels a certain sort of fondness under everything else that she can’t quite place yet–
Breaking News: Body of fourteen-year-old boy uncovered by firemen under the rubble of(...)
“Hello, this is Nadja Chamack live from Paris. The authorities haven’t managed to locate the boy’s family yet...”
All of Paris is wondering: Can Ladybug’s Lucky Charm fix this?
–Marinette mutes the notifications for news on her phone for a few hours that night and stares at the plushie. It doesn’t move. He won’t be the first to contact me. If he couldn’t face me after…. She reaches out – once, twice, three times, drops her hand.
She moves to stand up, but then her chair squeaks and for some reason she remembers–
“– If she’d been a real person, I would’ve–”
–and she’s out through her skylight and transformed within thirty seconds, running the rooftops towards the Montparnasse Tower, dialing his baton– ring, ring, riiiing –yanks herself up by one of the ledges, lands in a ball on the top, knocks her wrists, sides, knees, and then immediately opens up her yoyo again to dial–
–but he’s already there, back turned to her, staring up at the moon. “Hey, Ladybug,” he says, softly.
She gets up, steps forward, and then her eyes focus on the part of his suit where the moonlight shines in a silver strip and she moves backwards instead, a semi-conscious flinch bringing her arms closer to her body as it shifts into a battle stance.
He turns around, two streaks on his face reflecting the light from above, but doesn’t comment on her pose though he does cast his eyes downwards. She drops her stance immediately and walks to him, hand reaching forward to wipe off the tears, but he shakes his head and smiles, just a tiny bit, as if rewarding her effort.
Her heart is in her stomach. “Chat…”
She doesn’t know how to finish that sentence. She doesn’t even know if she can. There is no point in offering him forgiveness; no point in telling him it’s fine, that this was the better outcome of a choice he didn’t even make, because I don’t–
He looks back at the moon. “I’ve been here for three hours already, I think. How did you know where to find me?”
She blanches. “I – I don’t know, I chose this randomly, I was calling you to meet here.”
He nods, turning his head back at her. “Right.” The smile on his face makes her breath hitch. She lets the tears stream down her face.
“Plagg,” he says, stops, reconsiders, reformulates, res omethings into something less painful, or tries to, at least, probably, for me. “He told me it’s unavoidable. Sooner or later, the cracks spread and the building tumbles down; so does a black cat wielder’s power. Tikki’s can be controlled through creative output,” at this Chat’s eyes soften as he looks at her and oh, I’ve been a fool– "and, theoretically, Plagg’s could be, too: through rest and unwinding and processing and stopping. But that...rarely happens for me.”
Ladybug doesn’t know much about his civilian life, but she does know this much: there are very few instances in which she has wished she could just waltz in and use her powers as a threat rather than a negotiable benefit, and meeting Chat’s family would be one of them. If she could.
“Chaton,” she says, because she has to, because tonight they’re standing there and they’re brokenhearted and the building is closed and everyone is still recovering from the shock of the first akuma-related ( permanent, she reminds herself, forcefully, because if she’s ripping off band-aids it might as well be all of them) death, but tomorrow, or whenever the next akuma attack is (but Hawkmoth’s been too quiet and she would rather bet on sooner than later) the media will swarm them with questions and this time, the state might not close its eyes because the two superpowered teenagers with zero actual authority beyond their own mystery have–have–
“Chat,” she repeats, realising she’s reached to hold his arms above his elbows in an unconscious effort to somehow ground herself, “they wouldn’t care about that even if we could tell them. It would be the opposite: at best, they’d try and confiscate your miraculous and leave me with mine because I’m the one who can fix things, and oh, don’t worry, Ladybug, Hawkmoth won’t get his hands on this but then he will and–”
“Ladybug,” he says, startling her, and now he’s gripping her arms, too, and she can’t help thinking they’re both holding onto each other like a lifeline even though there isn’t one in sight. She finds herself staring at his eyes, desperately searching for an anchor before the impending storm, but that’s always been me, hasn’t it? because I’m the one who can fix things–
“I can’t fix this,” she says and she pulls away, pulls away because she has to, because if she stays in his orbit a bit longer she might crash into him and I cannot stitch my own heart, Chat, I don’t– ”I don’t know how to,” she adds, tries to continue holding his gaze but he’s started hiccupping, he is, and she can feel the sobs rise into her chest, too. “Not you or me or–” she breaks on us and falls to her knees and she feels him fold around her, shaking equally as much, but I can’t just stitch this together, I can’t stitch myself together and I don’t know what forgiveness means anymore andandand–
–and the night envelops them, then: and it is not a balm and it is not a needle with a thread and it offers no solutions, but the moon sheds light on their exposed hearts, for all the world and each other to see, and Marinette is somehow sure this is exactly what they need.
(Or deserve, at any rate; some wounds have to clot on their own.)