They were 15 when it happened. Everyone had hoped if anyone it wouldn’t be them. A few years back everyone could see how little Marinette Dupain-Cheng who had the sun in her smile and flour in her hair would run around and laugh with young Adrien Agreste, his hair reflecting her sunny smile and his green eyes reminiscent of his deceased mother’s.
When they were younger they were inseparable did everything together and everyone hoped beyond hoped that if anything, their luck would hold out. That of the 8 terror filled years ahead, neither of them get reaped. And certainly not together. This feeling only intensified when the two best friends got together when they were 14. Even then they had a bond so much stronger than others. Practically soulmates.
The nights before the reaping were always terrifying. They always met up and they always comforted each other. Their names weren’t in the bowls many times. At 15 the most either of them had was 3 slips of paper. Adrien’s family was relatively well off and Marinette’s family ran a bakery. Getting tesserae was never required.
The crowds were silent as the formality speeches and video’s were given. Then came the actual reaping. Everyone waited with bated breaths. Every teen hoped it wasn’t them. Every parent prayed for their child.
It was silent. The boy gulped and shakily moved forward. No one volunteered. He wasn’t expecting anyone to. His eyes searched the crowd. Her face was blank as she looked at him. She was trying to be brave. Trying to send him a silent reassurance. He didn’t even know who the second tribute was. All he could think of was how he had promised Marinette they wouldn’t get reaped. And he was the one who had broken it.
When his father and her family came to see him he promised her he’d try his hardest. There was no way he couldn’t. He loved her. He wouldn’t let her go through the pain of losing him. Whatever it took. He shouldn’t have made a promise he couldn’t keep in the first place, but now he was a tribute, an akuma. The least he could do was try to make it back alive.
Plagg and Tikki let him sit and stew over his thoughts for a while. Finally Plagg snapped.
“This is no place for a pity party kid. If you wanna see her again then stop moping.”
Plagg was clear cut and to the point. Him and Tikki had won the games roughly ten years before them, one year separating their games. Adrien could see they were tired and in pain. Training tributes to see them die, year upon year wasn’t easy. Tikki took to the girl tribute which left Adrien with Plagg. He was sharp and didn’t let Adrien mope for too long. He couldn’t afford to if he wanted to win the games.
Plagg wasn’t nurturing in the least. In the games there was little sympathy. Plagg could see the fire in his eyes, the drive this boy had to come home. He saw a chance that Adrien could win.
Plagg saw Adrien’s situation as an advantage. He was told to play up his childhood friendship and romance. That would win him sponsors. The Capitol loved drama and romance. It was like a sitcom to them. At first he was furious. How dare Plagg shrug off his relationship with Marinette as just a ply for the cameras ? But Plagg also had a point. Even without the romance as fuel to the fire, he was the most determined player in the game. His eyes burned with a it during training.
He was going home.
The stylists dressed him up in a black cat suit. It was sharp around the edges, and had a golden bell around the neck. Paired with his confident smirk he looked ready to kill. The people were rooting for the akuma quickly dubbed Chat Noir. That was a good thing.
When the games started Adrien was the embodiment of stealth. He earned his name as a cat. To the surprise of everyone he had no allies and rarely killed anyone. He was near impossible to find for the other tributes and settled for waiting the games out. He didn’t want to kill more than necessary.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t scared though. He was terrified. He kept a mask and a stoic expression. He had laughed and joked for all he was worth at the capitol, and was now quiet and reserved in the game, playing his personality to the extremes.
Seven died in the bloodbath at the Cornucopia. The game makers had set out obstacles and natural disasters which killed five more. The rest died at the hands of another.
When only five tributes were left he finally took action. It made him sick to think about it but he was sure the game-makers would do much worse if no one took action. ‘At least the tribute had a quick death’ he had tried to console himself. Eating the fruit hadn’t been painful, it was more mercy than the remaining careers had to offer. It had been a quick switch in the akuma’s supply bag. That didn’t make him any less of a coward.
Finally the careers got tired of waiting for him to show up. It was a gruesome fight. Adrien trembled in his hideout. It wasn’t far and he couldn’t bear the pained sounds coming from bloody murder they were forced into. They were fighting each other, just like he had predicted. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore.
Adrien finally showed himself at the last two tributes. The last two faced him off, eyes dark and angry at him having evaded them for so long. They taunted and mocked him. Compared to them he was lanky and pale but his eyes grew dark as soon as they mentioned his Princess.
“What, you think she’ll be home waiting for you ? Too bad all she’s getting back is a coffin.”
He knew she was watching. He knew she was scared for him. It was quick and he didn’t even really know what happened. All he remembered was seeing red and two canons going off. His eyes were blurred but he could make out the blood stains on his hands.
He was silent on the ride back to the capitol from the arena. After the pleasantries and formalities he could finally go home. His father and Marinette and her family were waiting for him. It was a tearful reunion. Then he was taken along to his new Victor’s Mansion. He didn’t let go of Marinette’s hand the whole time.
The first few days were odd for him. He didn’t know what to do now that he had survived the games. His house was too lonely. His father tried to be there, but no one really knew what to do. Finally he asked the Dupain-Chengs to move in with them. The house was too empty, there was too much money. What better than to share it ?
Plagg and Tikki were cautious. Normally such a thing wasn’t allowed. But the capitol was eating it up. They found the results of a victors PTSD to be amusing and adorable. So after limited complications Marinette, Sabine and Tom joined the Agreste’s.
The Victory Tour came and went with Marinette as a special Capitol guest. It was evident how protective the blonde was of his raven haired girlfriend. Their smiles and looks were enough to prove to everyone how much they cared for each other.
All should have been well. The year that passed was complicated and some days it took a lot to calm Adrien down from a nightmare or a flashback. Marinette always helped though. Everytime Adrien looked at her he saw her innocence. She didn’t understand the horrors of the arena. She tried to. He wished she didn’t. He’d go back a hundred times over if she didn’t.
The next year’s reaping came around. This year Adrien was to be a mentor. The Capitol had invited Marinette as a special guest again. The Capitol loved 'Adrienette’ as they had been dubbed and by popular demand the President invited her as well.
Adrien was tense the whole time as he stood on stage, waiting for the names to be called. He was responsible for whoever was chosen now. He would have to go back and see the akumas enter the same place he had barely escaped from, and see it all over again. Watch as two more teens either died, or lose the light in their eyes just as he had. He didn’t wish that on anyone. How did Plagg and Tikki do this every year ? Marinette was in the crowd as the names were about to be called. She gave him a small smile of reassurance, as if to say ‘Don’t worry. Your safe. You’ll be fine.’
But she wasn’t.
Adrien couldn’t breath. His eyes searched Tikki and Plagg’s faces. He pinched himself, begging, hoping, praying this was a dream. A small gasp had escpaed the crowd as they looked between a white faced Marinette as she shakily made her way to the stage.
Technically she was still 16. Technically she had to enter the games. No matter if she was dating a Victor, no matter if she was the Capitol’s sweetheart. She had been picked out of the hundreds of other girls. Adrien felt sick as he watched her climb up the steps. He wished he could volunteer, he wished he could save her, he wished he had any way to keep her from seeing what he had seen, to keep her from doing what he had had to do.
A dreaded feeling settled into the pit of his stomach. He had to mentor her. He had to see her go in there and if she got killed it would be on him. Another horrifying revelation hit him. She was the Capitol’s target these days. Everyone knew her from being associated with him. The other akumas would target her first. They’d go after her before anyone else.
The ride to the Capitol was tenser than usual. Adrien didn’t let go of Marinette the whole time. Her eyes were dry, cheeks devoid of colour. She trembled slightly but he could see her resolve was still strong. She wasn’t crying but he wanted to. How could she be so brave ? So strong ?
“Kid, you aren’t doing any mentoring this year.”
Adrien looked up at him. Marinette had long since fallen asleep.
“It’s obvious your still fresh from last years trama, and Marinette is too close to you to think straight. Tikki and I can handle the teaching. You just spend as much time with her as you can.”
“Same rules apply as last year.”
“What !,” Adrein hissed. She’ll die first if we keep up with that !”
“The Capitol already expects it kid. She’s already a target. The best thing we can do is get her sponsors. Everyone already has a soft spot for her from the Victory Tour. Trust me, this will help her. I don’t want to see her die any more than you do.”
Adrien stayed silent.
When they entered the Capitol Adrien was disgusted at the way they pretended to be devastated for him and Mari. They obviously saw this as nothing more than entertainment.
At the Opening Ceremony she was made into a Ladybug. Unintentionally they made her his direct opposite compared to his costume the previous year. Good luck as opposed to his bad.
She made allies the first day in training. Later she introduced him to Alya and Nino from District Three. They were very nice and like them had been best friends since childhood. They didn’t judge based on the Capitol’s stories and both teens were glad for that. The few days they were together they all became good friends which just increased Adrien’s sense of dread.
Only one could come out of the Arena out of twenty four. Adrien wasn’t even sure Marinette would. He refused to think otherwise, but it was there, nagging him at the back of his mind.
The interview with Nadja Chamak was where Marinette truly shined. Most of the questions revolved around their relationship and how she hoped to return. The crowd wasn’t happy when her turn was over.
The night before she had to enter they finally broke down. All pent up emotion, tears and curses was released. They fell asleep on the couch, exhausted and scared for days to come.
Tikki covered them with a blanket when she found them in the middle of the night.
The arena was big and a great place to hide. Marinette and Adrien shared one last hug. One last kiss. She told him she’d say hello to Nino and Alya when they met up. Adrien didn’t want her to head to the Cornucopia or the bloodbath. They both knew she would anyway. She was nothing if not fast or resourceful, albeit clumsy.
Adrien could barely keep his eyes from the screen for the next few days but at the same time he found it hard to watch. He was appreciative that Nino was trying to keep Alya and Marinette equally safe. They all kept each other safe.
Sometimes Marinette would look straight at the camera, eyes piercing but not as bright as they were before she left, as if she was looking at him for strength and comfort. Just that made him want to replace her in the Arena, even if he shuddered at the thought.
She had proven to be truly lucky again and again, narrowly avoiding death each time. Her weapon was a yo-yo. Why the game-makers put that there he had no idea. A sword or a knife would have been more useful but Adrien had seen Mari play with a yo-yo like a pro since they were six. It didn’t take her long to figure out how to use it as a weapon. The tributes who thought she was weak were quickly proven wrong. Halfway through the games Adrien dared to hope everything would be fine.
That’s when another tribute got Akumatized. The name came from scientifically enhanced butterflies which fed on the negative feelings of the tributes. It made some go ballistic and weren’t often used unless the games were too dull. It was because of that all tributes were now called Akumas. The purple butterfly had infected the tribute from District 10, it gave off a pheromone that terrified the already distraught girl, sending her over the brink of a panic attack. Adrien didn’t remember her name very well. Lila was it ?
His heart was gripped with fear as he saw Nino, Alya and Marientte run for their lives from the out of control Akuma. Adrien was frozen as he stared at the screen in the large viewing room. He could have stayed in his room but Plagg and Tikki had forced him out that day to take a walk. Somehow he had ended up here anyway. He saw the other mentors give him worried looks. He was the youngest there. The cameras were trained on him to catch his reactions as he saw his friends run for their lives. Just the thought made him sicker than before.
They ran for a good twenty minutes before finding a place of refuge. They had turned around and hid behind a few trees. The akuma passed still screeching and Marinette breathed a sigh of relief before turning around. Alya and Nino had their knives in their hands and Nino had his shield. Their expressions had turned hostile.
“Alya ? Nino ?” Marinette asked, her voice shaky and confused.
“Sorry Marinette, this is where we break ties.” Alya unsheathed her knife as Marinette’s eyes grew steely and she let out a bitter laugh.
What happened next was too fast for Adrien to register. Alya attacked, there was some screaming and the next moment Nino was pulling the ombre haired girl to her feet. She looked worse for wear but relatively unharmed.
Adrien’s heart beat fast as he waited for the camera to pan to Marinette, for her to get up, make a sound. Anything, to show she was alive. He heard it before he saw it. A single canon shot resonated through the air.
His breath hitched. He couldn’t feel, he couldn’t see. His brain struggled to understand what happened. He didn’t notice sinking to the floor on his knees. He didn’t feel or hear the concerned voices of the other Victors and sponsors as they tried to calm him down. He barely felt the tiny rivulets streaming down his cheeks. His mouth acted of its own accord, his brain too fried to do anything else.
A choked sob and a guttural scream rang out of the hallways of the Victor’s building.
Adrien felt numb. The pain was unbearable. At this point he barely felt it anymore. He felt a rage unlike any other simmer in his stomach for the District 3 tributes. They had back stabbed Marinette in the very literal sense of the word. If either of them came back alive, he didn’t know what he’d do to them.
Tikki and Plagg talked in hushed whispers for the next few hours. Adrien didn’t know how, eventually his exhaustion caught up to him and he fell into a restless sleep.
Confused and disoriented would be how Adrien would describe himself. His movements were slow and sluggish and his body ached with the kind of pain it did during a fever. In the middle of the night Plagg had woken him up and after a series of not entirely clear events, a lot of subtle escaping and a ride in a hovercraft later they were in a large complex.
It was unlike the Capitol’s but the technology wasn’t far behind. His guide led him to a room to get cleaned up before leading him down another series of complicated hallways. She didn’t answer any of his questions aside from saying "You will find out soon enough.”
The hall they brought him to was large and didn’t have much people in it. Adrien looked around before his eyes zeroed in on two people conversing quietly in a corner of the room. He didn’t know how they were there and neither did he care. His blood boiled and all he could think of was that they had killed her. Before he could stop himself he gave the boy a punch straight in the face. The girl was startled and tried to placate him before he found himself being held back by a man ten times larger than him.
He struggled and hissed and the next second Plagg and Tikki were there to see what caused the commotion.
“What were you thinking.” Plagg hissed as Tikki helped Nino up. A doctor was already there to give him an ice pack. Adrien snarled.
“Let. Me. Go. They killed her. They're the reason she’s dead.”
“They were following orders. Its not their fault.” For a second he was taken aback as he tried to register what Plagg had said.
“You ordered them to kill Mari ? Wh-Why ?” His voice was pleading and confused as he tried to understand. A film of tears glossed over his eyes.
“Plagg !” Tikki’s voice was chiding but Adrien hardly heard her.
“Kid, she isn’t dead.” That snapped him awake from the pits of depression he was slowly descending to.
“Wh-what ? How ?”
“We only let you think that because we needed you to give a believable reaction and buy us some time. She’s alive, Adrien.”
A beat passed as his brain caught up to the words. He didn’t want to hope, he couldn’t bear it if they were just messing with her.
“You couldn’t have told me that ? Why did you let me think she was dead ?”
“We’re sorry Adrien,” whispered Tikki, “You should know none of us would ever harm Mari. We needed you to show raw pain, that’s why we tricked you.”
“Your reaction caused an uproar in the Capitol. While everyone mourned and gossiped it gave us enough time to escape. We’ve been planning this rebellion for a long time. Everything needed to be planned to the last second. Nino and Alya were in on it. They didn’t kill her.” The older man set a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Adrien’s mouth pressed in a thin line.
“Where is she ?”
His breath hitched as he saw her lying on the hospital bed. Her head was bandaged and gauze covered the places where she was wounded. Red stained her upper arm where Alya had cut out the canon indicator to set it off. All her major organs were intact.
Silent tears slipped down pale cheeks as he took her hand and kissed it. His fingers reached out and pressed against the pulse point in her wrist. A sigh of relief escaped as he realized she really was alive.
Marinette woke up half an hour later. He had sobbed and held her tight refusing to let her go.
“I’m sorry Princess, I’m so so sorry.”
“What for Kitty ?” A weak smile passed their lips at the childhood nicknames for each other.
“I couldn’t protect you. I couldn’t save you from getting hurt.”
“We both know its not your fault minou,” Her hands ran through his golden locks. “Besides it was necessary.”
“I’m fine now.”
A few moments of comfortable silence passed through them. The nurse found them asleep when she came to check up on them
The next two weeks Adrien refused to leave Marinette’s side. Her parents and his father had long since been brought from their district as well as some other people. Adrien didn’t know what was going on except that the Capitol was furious and President Hawkmoth was planning on waging war. The districts were rebelling, and they were the catalysts that set the reaction in motion.
“Did you talk to Nino and Alya yet ?” Her voice was soft. He shook his head.
“Minou you know it wasn’t their choice.”
"I know..., I just need more time. Aren’t you in the least troubled ? You didn’t know about this plan either.”
“I am,...but there’s not much we can do about it. Of course I’m mad we weren’t told, but I-I...I don’t think us complaining would help matters right now.”
“We have each other.”
“A what ?” asked Marinette her eyes wide.
“A team. You and Adrien are the main faces of this show. We have to hit the Capitol where it hits them the hardest.”
“I don’t quite understand. You want us to be the leaders of a team ?”
“Yes.” Tikki smiled softly at them. “The Capitol adores the both of you. We have a large portion of the districts with us, but if the Capitol turns against its leader...”
“...then we’re one step closer to winning the war.”
“As far as the civilians are interested in your dynamic, we can easily sway them. There was an uproar when Mari supposedly died, you all will be the drive of the rebellion. If they see you still fighting, they will too.”
“Who else will be on this team ?”
“You already know Nino and Alya. Lila is now well enough to join the team as well as Chloe and Ali.”
“How would this work...exactly ?” Adrien shared a look with Marinette. “Are we just acting for the camera ?”
“Nope. You’ll be going on real missions but they will be filmed. Your not defenseless after all.”
The seven teens looked around at each other tensely. They were getting their proper briefings now.
“Here’s the deal, Mari and Adrien are already known as the Capitol’s Luck counterparts. Ladybug and Chat Noir. Good luck to win the rebellion, and bad luck to bring the Capitol down.”
“And the rest of us ?” Chloe didn’t look impressed but the adults could see she wasn’t as disinterested as she put on.
A black haired woman with golden streaks and attire to match came forward. The seven recognized her as a past Victor and a good friend of Tikki and Plagg. She was Chloe’s mentor in the games.
“We’re not sending those two out there alone. Each of you were in these games. The Capitol recognizes you as some of the remaining tributes. You are now the face of the rebellion.”
“What makes you think we even want to do this ? Haven’t we been through enough already ?” Lila spat. She had started the games by lying and decieving even if it made her sick. She had barely recovered from her panic attack, despite the fact that her akumatization was just a ploy and not real.
“You knew what you all were signing up for when you agreed to help.”
“So did the others. Some still died.”
“They knew the risks. So did you.”
“Obviously we were going to agree. We didn’t sign up for being showpieces in a war we’re already tired of fighting.” Alya pointed out.
“We won’t force this on you. But its an important responsibility. You have the most chances of succeeding. You have the most reasons to want to succeed and win this war.” They all looked up startled at the grass green haired man. His olive eyes were wise and comforting.
“We’ll need time to discuss.” Ali spoke up the first time in the whole meeting. He looked at his comrades then turned back to the adults. “We’re not against it, but let us think it over.”
“Yeah dudes, you can’t just spring this on us and expect us to agree at once.”
“We know. Which is why you have a week to give us your answers. For all our sake’s, please try to get along.”
They bickered and fought and argued a lot that week. They also laughed and smiled and even cried. At the end of the week they called for a meeting with their mentors.
Marinette looked one last time uncertainly at Adrien, at Alya and Nino and Chloe and Lila and Ali. At their team. They had made their decision. They were all scared and nervous. She took a deep breath to strengthen her resolve and bury all doubts in the back of her mind.
A simple nod and look passed between them and their mentors.