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Luck of the Draw

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Tikki worries about Marinette sometimes.

Not often. The girl is one of the best that Tikki has ever chosen – dedicated and passionate, but also warm-hearted and cheerful, quick to defend a friend but also willing (usually) to grit her teeth and get the job done even when her duty calls on her to help an enemy.

But Tikki can’t deny that the warning signs are there.

A certain swagger when Ladybug goes to face the latest akuma. A tendency to dismiss the advice of others – especially those she considers beneath her, morally or otherwise. The easy acceptance of the assumption that while she most certainly can hold her own against any akuma, Chat Noir will always need help.

To be fair, the last is true enough. Chat Noir does need Ladybug’s help to purify akuma, now that Plagg refuses to teach his chosen how to use Jinx.

Tikki can’t hold that choice against him, though. The last time a Chat Noir had used Jinx had been during Europe’s Dark Ages – and that Chat Noir had been denounced by the very people she’d been defending as a witch and a devil worshipper. She’d nearly been stoned to death by her own community before she and Plagg had managed to escape and vanish into the night.

Tikki hadn’t seen Plagg again for years. Decades. He’d stayed with that Chat Noir until the end of her natural life – trying to make up, with his presence, for what she’d lost because of his powers.

Since then, Plagg has refused to ever teach another Chat Noir the Jinx, the counterpart to Lucky Charm that, as Lucky Charm allows Ladybug’s Miracle to restore what an akuma has destroyed, would enable Chat Noir to use Cataclysm to unmake the evil wrought by an akuma. It’s made things harder. Harder on Tikki’s Ladybugs, who have to shoulder the responsibility of being the only one capable of actually undoing an akuma’s evil. Harder on Plagg’s Chat Noirs, who have to resign themselves to always standing subordinate to Ladybug, rather than as the equal and balancing power that they were meant to be.

Plagg doesn’t care. “No Chat of mine,” he’d said flatly, when Tikki had tentatively asked, “is going to face down a mob made of their own friends and family. Never again.”

Tikki can’t really blame him. The power of Ladybug, the power to bless oneself and one’s allies with good fortune, was welcomed, even lauded, by bystanders. The power of Chat Noir, the power to curse one’s enemies with misfortune… often drew a far more ambivalent response. Even when the final results of the two powers came out to the same thing.

The Ladybug of that era had been no help, either. They’d fought a long, hard battle for years against the akuma, in those days… and Tikki’s Ladybug had fallen prey to all the worst consequences of Ladybug’s powers.

When Plagg loses one of his Chat Noirs, it’s usually to outside circumstances. Even a cat runs out of lives eventually, and sometimes the odds are stacked too high for even Chat Noir’s ability to flick the enemy’s scale to make enough of a difference.

All too often, Tikki loses her Ladybugs to themselves.

Never to evil. No Ladybug or Chat Noir has ever fallen to evil, or to the whispers of the akuma; Tikki and Plagg choose the new bearers of the Miraculouses carefully. Ladybug is, and always will be, a hero.

But being a hero doesn’t always mean being a good person.

Good luck is insidious. Ladybugs get used to it. Rely on it. And, slowly, over time, they begin to forget that luck is, by definition, unearned good fortune. They begin to take it for granted. To take credit for it, and assume that good fortune is theirs by right, that they somehow deserve it.

And thus, by definition, anyone less fortunate than they must not deserve such a boon.

It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes – once in a very great while – Tikki chances on a chosen whose heart is big enough that all the good fortune in the world can’t make them blind to the sorrow and pain of the less fortunate, the hard choices that have to be made when one’s back is to the wall and there is no Lucky Charm to give you something better than the lesser of two evils. Sometimes she gets lucky – so to speak – and something happens to wake a Ladybug up before they slide too far.

And sometimes Tikki doesn’t, and her Ladybugs grow arrogant and cruel – not with malice, like the Bourgeois girl, but with a simple lack of empathy, an inability to remember what it means to not live life with a Lucky Charm at one’s beck and call.

Tikki and Plagg have learned to adapt. Plagg chooses the resilient ones – children who have already learned one of life’s hardest lessons, that the world can be cruel for no reason and that sometimes all one can do is roll with the punches and come up laughing, because why cry over spilled milk when you can turn it into cheese?

And Tikki… Tikki chooses people like Marinette – bright people, good people, people who could be so much more, if they just had a little more confidence, a little more faith that the world won’t chew them up and spit them out if they take a chance. It makes convincing them that they can be Ladybug hard, at first, but… Ladybug gives them strength, gives them courage, gives them confidence. And then Tikki draws a line in the sand, forcing the transformation to break whenever Ladybug slips into using the Lucky Charm for selfish reasons, so that they remember that the good luck is a gift and not something to be taken for granted.

And when the need for Ladybug is over and the world is safe again… Tikki leaves them, before new-won strength becomes callousness, courage becomes arrogance, or confidence becomes over-confidence.

Even if she desperately wants to stay.

Plagg does stay. But Plagg’s chosen have different needs. There’s never been a black mask without tragedy hidden beneath it, and Tikki tries not to wonder what pain lies behind the laughter in his current chosen’s green eyes. Plagg likes to find children who have learned to stand on their own, and give them something more, a life where they don’t have to be alone. A way to give others the happy ending they themselves were denied. And much as he loves to pretend to be self-centered, the grumpy old cat would never be so cruel as to take that away from his Chat Noirs just because they aren’t absolutely needed anymore.

Besides. The longer he stays with his chosen, the more free cheese he can cadge off them. Cats are born opportunists, after all.

And cupboard love is simple, and honest, and easy for even the most wounded heart to trust.

Tikki envies him that freedom.

But who knows. Marinette is one of her best – as good a fit as Plagg’s new Chat Noir, and she hasn’t seen a bonding like that in centuries. The girl gets a little full of herself – but she’s at the age where that sort of thing happens sometimes, regardless of magic and Miraculouses, and when something comes to remind her not to take her new powers of luck for granted, she takes that lesson to heart.

So for now, Tikki will stay, and hope. And provide a comforting and sometimes chiding voice as her new charge feels her way through this new existence Tikki has brought down on Marinette’s head. Maybe Marinette will finally confess her crush, and Tikki will get a chance to test her own sneaking suspicion that if she crept into Adrien’s bag during school, she’d find her old partner and counterpart cheerfully catnapping away a Camembert-induced cheese coma.

Tikki tries not to let her own powers of luck go to her head. But she’s going to take advantage of fortune when it knocks!