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Emergence

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Apatura Corporation
Subject Name: REDACTED
Experiment #013

Day One

Subject has arrived at the facility and was taken in by Hawkmoth at 0800. They are only fifteen, bright and alert, and unaware of the experiments about to be conducted. Subject has been informed there is an unknown gene in him, and that using him for our research may prove beneficial to the world. Is it right to be lying to someone so young?

We have already had the opportunity to analyze the nature of this gene, and it appears powerful in nature yet destructive only. If it can be awakened like the subjects before, this boy will hold great, but terrible powers. However, he has a kind heart that I cannot see him using his abilities for anything cruel; even if Hawkmoth tries to tempt him as he has others in the past, I do not see this boy yielding.

I escorted him to his room, and we spoke during our walk. He said he was doing this because his father asked him. So his father has told him nothing, or perhaps he doesn’t know. I am ashamed we must perform this conduct on one so young and willing because of half-truths.

Day Two

The tests begin by telling him his number. In the facility, he is #013. It is more for us than him, to keep us impartial as we conduct our tests to draw his power out. Blood samples are drawn before the first injection at 0930.

Result : Negative

There is no reaction besides a minor elevation in heart rate. We hold him for three hours, releasing him for an hour, and bringing him back for another test. Time is now 1400.

Result : Negative

#013 is released to his room with some minor soreness at the injection site three hours later. Tests will resume in the morning.

Day Three

Beginning tests today at 0600. We must try to push for a reaction.

Result : Negative

Second Test administered 0930 hours.

Result : Negative

#013 states slight dizziness upon standing. It is gone when he returns. Third test administered 1400 hours.

Result : Negative

#013 is pale. Side effect from the injections, but he will feel better in the morning.

Day Four

Beginning tests again at 0600 hours.

Result : Negative

Raising the dosage for the next test at 0930 hours.

Result : Negative

#013 sweating profusely. Unable to keep lunch down according to his escort after another stop to the bathroom. Next test conducted at 1400 hours.

Result : Negative

#013 exhibiting fever symptoms. Until it goes away, we cannot resume testing.

Day Five

#013 temperature still elevated to 37.8 C. Dizzy upon standing, and vomiting food. We’re switching him to liquids.

Day Six

Temperature has risen to 38.9 C. #013 is barely awake and suffering mild hallucinations. We’ve had similar reactions before, and anticipate it will break tomorrow. For now, we will continue to monitor him.

Test results will be sent to Hawkmoth before his arrival tomorrow.

Day Seven

Hawkmoth has informed us we’re being too tepid halting the procedure for #013’s fever. He has gone to #013’s room to personally administer two days’ worth of injections to the subject. He’s unconscious when it happens.

1016 Hours - #013 fever has spiked again.

1134 Hours - #013 having seizures.

1523 Hours - #013 is screaming. He’s vomited blood four times within the hour.

1820 Hours - #013 alive, but isn’t responding. He remains lying on the ground, heaving.

2313 Hours - #013 has reduced his bed to ashes. Hawkmoth has deemed test a success.

Day Eight

#013 is recuperating after his fit yesterday. He is fairly despondent and has curled up in the Northwest corner of the room. He’s still on a liquid diet, and can be escorted to the bathroom, but returns to the corner once he’s back in the room. We don’t bring him a new bed, unsure if he’ll destroy it like the first.

Day Nine

Testing resumes on #013. He has not displayed powers since that evening. Subject’s eyes are determined, but his body is shaking as he’s strapped to the table.

First test administered 1000 hours

Results : Positive

At 1103, a reaction occurred. #013 began convulsing and clawing at the table. His nails are short, but he manages to gouge the vinyl and leaves behind distinctive, corroding marks in the material. He continues to do this, eventually ripping through the padding and affecting the metal.

He stops at 1300, his nails are cracked and bleeding, but the table will need replacement. He is escorted back to his room for today.

Day Ten

Escort has discovered #013 has lost his nails. His forearms have taken an ashen shade. Concerning, but tests are to proceed as normal.

Day Eleven

Dried blood present around #013’s mouth, but no bite wounds present on himself or his escort. Examining his mouth upon request, gums appear irritated. Teeth appear to be rising like they’re being pushed out.

2030 Hours – They are

Day Twelve

#013 is in pain again. Fingers are bleeding as his missing nails are being replaced. Up to his elbow, his skin has turned black with similar occurring around his feet to his knees. He begins spitting out blood and his old teeth, new teeth - new fangs - growing in instead.

One test administered at 1500 hours.

Result : Positive

#013 hisses at [NAME REDACTED]. Just a mere touch against the table and it’s falling apart. Appears the power wears off after one use. Safety measure : #013 is to be cuffed at all times outside of his room.

Day Thirteen

There’s the distinctive sound of yowling coming from #013’s room. Observing through the monitor, he’s writhing on the ground, kicking and lashing at anything near to him, and pulling his hair. His power is already wasted on the East wall, but he’s too preoccupied in his own distress to escape fortunately for us.

#013 has lost a considerable amount of weight. He wasn’t heavy upon admittance, but I would estimate about 5 kg have been lost since. I can make out his spine and ribs curled up as he is. And the beginning signs of a tail growing out on his lower back.

Day Fourteen

  • BEGINNING AUDIO PLAYBACK

#013: … When can I go home?

Hawkmoth: What do you mean?

#013: (pause) I mean, when can I go home? I was never told when you would be finished.

Hawkmoth: You must be mistaken. Our business with you is indefinite. You’ve developed nowhere near what we anticipated so we’ll be keeping you longer.

#013: But how much longer? What do I need in order for you to let me go? I’m destroying things I touch, a-and I have these… ears and tail…!

Hawkmoth: Don’t be difficult #013. If you’re going to serve the ‘greater good’, you need to do more than destroy one thing a day. As for your form, it is part of your power’s curse. Did you think you would remain human after this?

#013: I-I… what are you talking about? If my father learns about this--!

Hawkmoth: Your father will never know about it. In fact, I doubt your father will ever want to see you again. Once our work is complete, you will do as you are told, mutant.

#013: I’m not a mutant!

Hawkmoth: You belong to Apatura now. You will obey, Chat Noir.

#013: No! I will not! My name is—

  • END AUDIO PLAYBACK

A minor altercation occurs between Hawkmoth and #013. Attempts to retaliate thwarted by several guards because one cannot hold #013 despite lithe appearance. Subject hisses, accidentally raking charged hand against one of the bodyguards. Leg amputated before corrosion could spread too far.

Day Fifteen

#013 – Chat Noir – is stressed from prior day’s visit. Unable to get him to willingly apply to further testing. His hands are locked up and covered for today’s series of injections.

Results : Positive

Results : Positive

Results : Positive

Results : Positive

#013 is moved to a reinforced room and supplied a new bed. He hasn’t said anything all day.

2240 Hours - #013 vomits dinner

Day Sixteen

Subject not retaining solids again and appears to be in a great deal of pain. However, we continue tests unlike the last time he fell ill. Hawkmoth expects results.

Results : Positive

Results : Positive

#013 is struggling against his restraints and his eyes are shut tight.

Results : Positive

Further tests halted as #013 gets sick again.

Day Seventeen

He’s been screaming ever since awaking this morning. With his new vocal cords, he may not stop soon. The centre of his back has turned black and something is moving between it and his head. Once enough has accumulated, he’s attacking the walls with his claws.

They do not break as before, but he’s not stopping either. #013 screams, yowls, and claws everything in his room almost non-stop, but does tire at 1534 hours. He’s unresponsive.

Day Eighteen

Similar occurs as [DATE REDACTED]. #013 is nourished intravenously during periods of unconsciousness.

Day Nineteen

Resuming [DATE REDACTED] procedure today.

1100 Hours - #013 abruptly awakens and attacks [NAME REDACTED] before scratching at the walls. Subject’s eyes reported as ‘milky’ and his pupils are dilated. Attempts to approach result in another attack which is avoided. #013 seems unaware of other presences visually.

#013 has become blind.

Collared with bell in case of any sudden movements in the future.

Day Twenty

Hawkmoth orders us to stabilize #013 before we continue injections. We need to stabilize him anyway so he can properly eat as liquid nutrients will not sustain him.

Day Twenty-One

Hawkmoth is here again. #013 is screaming again, but his bouts are less frequent. Still, his bell jingles violently as he claws everything he can. They appear to be indestructible unless his powers keep them from breaking during his fit. He has not reduced anything to ash in days.

1613 Hours – There’s blood in #013’s room. Without anything else for him to tear at, Chat Noir appears to have turned his claws on himself. His frenzy isn’t about to die down either; we can’t touch him. It’s almost 1700 hours when he stops and we can examine him. He’s hissing, but cannot move. His wounds already appear mostly healed.

Hawkmoth is disappointed and demands #013 be restrained to prevent this from happening again.

Day Twenty-Two

#013 has been restrained as ordered. He has also been given a mask to shield his eyes. He might not be in control right now, but once he is, he may get his vision back. He doesn’t resist. He also doesn’t eat today.

Day Twenty-Three

Chat Noir is moving on all fours, stopping when his fits return. Again the power builds in his spine and runs up to his head before this happens. What happens to his mind with each consecutive attack?

Day Twenty-Four

He finally eats. He keeps it down for two hours.

Day Twenty-Five

Had to tighten Chat Noir’s chains.

Note : Send in clean-up crew later.

Day Twenty-Six -

Ordered to stop giving #013 shirts. He just keeps ripping them.

FILE CORRUPTED…

ENTRIES MISSING…

LOADING…

Day Thirty-Five

Complete restraint used on Chat Noir after Hawkmoth visits him. Feline attributes more prominent and making his actions less human.

His will is breaking.

Day Thirty-Six

A possible measure to counteract Experiment #013’s surges has been discovered. There is another mutant capable of absorbing the excess energy he releases and stabilize his own power, but locating them may take weeks of searching medical records. Hawkmoth makes it our priority. Chat Noir is wasting away; finding another mutant with his powers would be near impossible.

Our only hope - his only hope - is finding and awakening this mutant.

Day Forty-Two

We’re lucky.

We’re very lucky.

There is one individual around Experiment #013’s age that holds the accompanying mutant gene, and they too reside in Paris. Hawkmoth doesn’t expect the family to cooperate. He’s already sent the retrieval unit to collect her. Testing is to begin tonight.

2000 Hours - She is #707 from now on.

 

Chapter Text

The spot in front of her is still empty. Maybe the spot in front of her would always be empty. However, over a month ago, that seat had been occupied by a boy with golden locks and the most dazzling emerald eyes – even if she hadn’t wanted to admit that at first. He wore designer – a black t-shirt with three stripes, a white over-shirt with a raised collar, blue jeans, and orange sneakers – which was no surprise given his father. That first day Marinette met Adrien, she immediately disliked him.

Hate was far too strong in context of what truly occurred. And just thinking about that moment while she stared at the empty spot besides Nino, she hadn’t given him the opportunity to explain himself. It was just a general rule-of-thumb in this class that any friend of Chloe’s was just going to spell trouble.

But that hadn’t been Adrien. A curious paragon with a famous father, one would’ve expected him to be more spoiled like the aforementioned girl he was friends with, but that was judging him. No… it had been his last afternoon at collège as the rain fell when she saw the boy’s honesty; his shyness, his nervousness, his desire to make amends and start again on the right foot. The warmth that radiated from his gentle hands when their fingers touched, it lingered when she accepted his umbrella. And then his laugh once the umbrella snapped closed on her – the sincerity it held would make the likes of angels jealous.

Blood rushed to her face, and her heart hammered like a piston. Marinette had her celebrity crushes sure, but she knew this was different. Hand slipping away from her textbook – the teacher continued to lecture in the background – she placed it over her heart, feeling it pulse and trying to get it to settle before Alya heard (not that she would, but Marinette could never be sure). This was ridiculous. This wasn’t some movie where the heroine meets the hero and falls in love from one simple act of kindness.

… Except it was in this instance, wasn’t it?

She wanted to know more about him, beyond what the magazine articles she later picked up said. Interviews were one thing, but there was more to Adrien Agreste, more that was lost in printed texts and web columns that she wanted to ask him. Marinette wanted to be his friend – no, she wanted to be more than that. However, with her blue eyes falling on the empty chair again, she felt herself frown and clutch the front of her personalized shirt. He just appeared in her life to disappear after that first week – apparently, his only week in collège ever according to Nino. Those two had been fast friends, but now, Nino was alone. Well, he still had her and Alya, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Sigh escaping her lips, Marinette glanced down at her textbook and then up…

And she immediately knocked her knees into the underside of her desk. Mme. Bustier’s turquoise eyes were focused in her direction and the designer had absolutely no idea why.

“Have you re-joined us, Marinette?” she inquired, index finger tapping on opposing limb considering her arms were crossed.

Biting her lip, Marinette bowed her head and nodded, “S-Sorry Mme. Bustier.”

Before she could be lectured, the bell rang, signaling the end of the class period and the beginning of lunch hour. “Marinette, please stay behind. I would like to have a word with you,” Mme. Bustier called above the sounds of the other students packing. Flinching, the girl only nodded, and stopped packing her bag.

There was an unnecessary scoff from the front, and she just caught a flick of blonde, Chloe storming out with Sabrina trailing behind her. At least they didn’t stay behind to openly mock her for her daydreaming today which was both a relief and a concern. Considering Chloe and Adrien’s relationship, the blonde girl had become especially vindictive since Adrien’s abrupt homeschooling again. If her anger wasn’t directed at Marinette, she snapped at another student, a few she managed to send home in frustration or in tears. What made it worse was the teachers could do nothing about it given the fact she was the Mayor’s daughter. Nonetheless, Marinette was sure that the girl would come back after lunch was over with some comment in her direction.

“Nino and I will be waiting for you outside, okay?”

It was a relief to look up and see Alya still standing there. Marinette had only met the copper-skinned girl the first day of school too, Chloe having kicked her out of her usual seat. Alya had been sitting alone at the front and had jumped to defend Marinette from Chloe’s usual torment. Wavy ombre locks and intense hazel eyes, she could probably intimidate most of their class with a silent leer. If not that, her sharp tongue and quick wits would do the trick. If anything, Marinette was lucky to become fast friends with her otherwise, she probably wouldn’t be getting through many class days right now.

“Thanks, Alya. It shouldn’t take too long.” Her smile was forced, but she really was concerned about what Mme. Bustier might tell her. Alya must have realized, giving Marinette a reassuring pat on the shoulder before picking up her own bag and heading down the steps. Once she was outside that just left Marinette and Mme. Bustier in the room.

Eyes pulling away from the door after it closed, her teacher sighed, approaching the young designer who decided to take a seat, eyes up, but shoulders hunched forward, knowing this wouldn’t end well.

“Marinette, this is the sixth time this week I’ve caught you spacing out in class.” Sixth? Marinette’s eyes widened of course – it was only Tuesday, and she didn’t even realize that she had spaced out that often. “You’re a good student, but I’ll have to give you one hour detention after school for this behavior. Any more of this and I’ll have to inform the Principal, and I would prefer not to get him or your parents involved.”

She grimaced at the thought, just thinking how that conversation would go down. ‘ Hey Maman, Papa, I got caught daydreaming in class about a boy that came to school for a week and is now being homeschooled because I kinda maybe have this big crush on him!’ Yeah, that would go over well. Alya could probably already tell due to her behavior, but the moment she ended up going to the Principal’s office, it would only mean the whole school would find out later that day. Sure, she might be friends with practically everyone in the entire class, but they were not above a few jibes when people had crushes. Worse, if Chloe found out that she had a crush on Adrien, no doubt the girl’s fury would be turned on her tenfold.

“Yes, Mme. Bustier…” she sighed, head bowing. “I understand.”

It almost looked like her teacher wanted to say more, but she chose to refrain from doing so. Instead, she hummed, “Good. Off to lunch and your next class. I expect you back here immediately once school’s dismissed for today.” And with that, Marinette was left alone to pack her bag finally, slinging it over her shoulder once she stood up. She kept her head low upon stepping out of the classroom, missing the exchanged gaze between Alya and Nino still standing by for her. Their footsteps joined her on the stairs, and Alya’s hand fell on her shoulders.

“So, what did Mme. Bustier tell you?” she probed, leaning in after they finally stepped into the main courtyard. “She’s not calling your parents, right?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that.” Which, again, was a relief just saying it herself. “She just gave me an hour detention after school. I can’t believe I spaced out six times already…”

“She was actually keeping track of it?” Nino whistled, lowering his headphones so they hung around his neck. “Man, guess you have been doing it more often.”

“No kidding…” Alya sighed, lowering her hand. Glancing to the side, she shifted just enough to block Marinette. Chloe was near the bathrooms, and it looked like both her and Sabrina had cornered Rose – Rose of all people. Juleka was nearby at least with Alix and a few others from their class keeping a stern watch while maintaining their own conversations. Only once they were outside the main entrance did Alya give Marinette more space. “Anyway, girl, you have to stop looking at his seat. It’s been over a month; his dad’s not letting him come back to mingle around us common people.”

“I know. Really, I know, but…” she sighed miserably, fingers idly brushing some loose hair behind her ear. “… d-do you think it’s possible we could go over to his house and see him? I didn’t even get a chance to return his umbrella.”

“Uh-uh, no way that’s happening,” Nino snorted, stopping besides the girls at the crosswalk. They weren’t paying attention to the cars, waiting instead just for the crossing sign to turn for them. “I tried going over to see him the day we were told he was pulled outta class, and some really strict woman basically told me no one’s allowed to see Adrien right at the front gate. His dad’s way strict; I even heard Chloe tried to get her dad to convince the guy to let Adrien come back.”

“Huh, so that’s why she’s worse than usual.” Alya commented, rolling her eyes. The three of them proceeded across the street, Tom & Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie waiting on the other side. “Daddy had to tell her he couldn’t do it so now it’s our entire fault.”

“Maybe, but we really shouldn’t say it is because of that without any evidence,” Marinette interjected. Alya would argue, but with her friend holding the door open, she decided to save it for later, once the alluring smell of fresh buns and sweets weren’t wafting over them.

They often came here for lunch – mainly due to it being conveniently located across the street from their school, but also due-in-part of the owners, Marinette’s parents. Sabine Cheng and Tom Dupain always enjoyed having Marinette’s friends over even if their visits were typically around lunch time. With Sabine manning the register and Tom baking, they were left to chatting and eating lunch upstairs which was fine. However, Marinette nodded to Alya and Nino to go ahead.

“I still need to tell my parents about my detention.”

She caught her short Maman’s eye at the register, giving her a small wave when she cheerfully greeted them, “Hello, kids. Tom and I put some croissants out for you three upstairs. Help yourselves.”

“Thanks, Sabine!”

“Yeah, thanks a lot!”

“Our pleasure, you two.”

Alya and Nino going ahead, the register clicked following the next sell, accompanied by a, “Thank you! Have a good day!” Sabine smiled, but her gray eyes caught her daughter still standing by. Perplexed, she turned to face her. “Is everything alright, Marinette?”

Technically speaking, everything was. Just not in the little world that the young teenager occupied. “I’m… going to be a little late coming home from school today.”

“Oh?”

Fortunately, there were few other customers in the shop, and they were currently browsing for their selections.

“Mme. Bustier gave me detention after school for daydreaming during class again.”

Her mother raised an eyebrow, but let out a low breath, “Is that all? From the way you were behaving, I was beginning to think you did something worse like… I don’t know, started a fire in Chemistry.”

“Maman! T-That was--!” her face burned and her hands slapped over her face. That had been a day, and they weren’t going to talk about it right now. Exhaling, she dragged her hands down and dropped her arms. “A-Anyway, I’ll just be home an hour later. She might have me clean up the classroom, or do an extra assignment.”

“That’s fine. I’ll just tell your father, dear.” She gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek, pulling away again with a dazzling smile. Marinette shared similar, her cheeks pink, “Thanks Maman. It won’t happen again after today, I promise!”

“I know. Otherwise, we may have to consider grounding you… Ah, is that everything then?”

Immediately from mother to cashier, Marinette sent her mother another smile before heading through the backdoor and making her way upstairs. There was quite a mess in the kitchen, but it appeared as though lunch had been mostly prepared. Alya was waving her phone at Nino, the two appearing to be in a heated argument over Jagged Stone and his most recent song release, and she had to sigh. Nothing changed, but she would have to. Adrien Agreste was not coming back to school and it was about time she stopped getting in trouble for thinking about him.

 


 

“Alright, Marinette. Turn in your assignment and you may leave.”

Lowering her pencil and flexing her fingers, Marinette rose from her seat and walked to the front. The extra assignment Mme. Bustier gave her was a short essay on La Belle et la Bête , comparing Beaumont and Villeneuve versions, and how the narrative on love changed between both authors. Mme. Bustier accepted with a smile, and she had to smile back too before going to pick up her bag. Finally, she could go home. In her goal to forget about Adrien for now, she had begun thinking about a new design for fall. If she started working on it now, it should be ready just in time for the season’s change.

Bag on her shoulders, she stepped out, and hurried down the stairs. The courtyard was cast in shadows, the sun hidden in the west by the second floor, but the light that reflected down blazed like fire. Another rush hour would be dying down at the bakery right about now; she did feel bad being unable to help with it, but she would make up for it tomorrow.

She could see the janitor entering the locker room from the corner of her eye, but met no one else as she headed to the double doors standing at the entryway. This was always eerie, seeing the usually-bustling halls so devoid of life, but that was just another reason to avoid detentions in the first place.

Her first step on the other side of the door was with a smile…

… but the next, her face had twisted. Her heart leapt and her eyes widened at the hand almost crushing her wrist. She wanted to scream, her head shooting up to look at whomever it was grabbing her, but a second hand covered her mouth with a damp rag. One whiff of the sweet-scented moisture had her head spinning and her body almost instantly became lax despite her best efforts to try struggling. She was dropping, but her feet were suddenly off the ground, glazed eyes facing upwards toward the dying sky. It felt like she was floating, but there was someone above her – a face she couldn’t discern, but their mouth seemed to be moving.

They shifted her, the smooth exterior of a van now visible as were other people surrounding it. They all looked the same, their voices muted to her ears, and someone seemingly talking on a cellphone. She gazed passed them all to a little bakery waiting on the corner across the street.

“M… Maman… Pa… pa …”

Marinette trembled, still fighting, trying to raise her arm and reach for the soft lights illuminating the fuzzy image, but the lights faded. The sky disappeared and leather dully reached her nose. In the distance – nearby? – she could hear a door slam shut and lock. Her head fell to her shoulders and she knew no more.

 

 

…...

 

“Tom… Tom, did Marinette come in through the side door?”

“No. You mean she isn’t upstairs right now?”

“I’ll go check, but you should call the school in case.”

 

Chapter Text

Apatura Corporation
Subject Name: REDACTED
Experiment #707

Day One

The time is 2000 hours and #707 has come around. As expected, she’s terrified. She’s pulling against her binds, and her screams are silenced behind the gag [NAME REDACTED] put on her. Hawkmoth wanted us to begin as soon as possible, for the sake of his desires, and for #013’s survival. If only they didn’t have DB013 or CL707 residing in them, but I must.

The testing begins. Blood samples are drawn before the first injection. The vein is missed several times, but that’s enough to make her light-headed so we can proceed.

Result : Negative

She flinches, but that isn’t new. Another injection is administered at 2200 hours.

Result : Negative

#707 is bleeding and her arm is red around the injection sites. Irritation is not the reaction we want. We’re supposed to resume in the morning. Please keep fighting; both of you.

Day Two

We do not begin too bright and early this morning. She’s struggling – I’m glad, but help is called in because of this. No doubt there’s going to be bruises on her wrists and I can only hope Hawkmoth isn’t too angry about it.

We proceed at 1130 hours.

Result : Negative

She’s in so much distress. If I wasn’t separated from her, I know I would be overwhelmed.

Next injection given at 1330 hours.

Result : Negative

Actually, results cannot be verified due to her stress. When she’s taken back to her room, she doesn’t use the bed. She only takes the top sheet and curls up against the North wall on the floor. Behind me, the others discuss sedation methods that shouldn’t interfere with testing.

Day Three -

It has taken effect. #707 has to be transported in for testing, but we should be able to administer three today. Technically, she’s on schedule, but she’s still behind #013’s original progress. The first injection is promptly at 0600 hours.

Result : Negative

Though she’s sedated, she’s aware. I can see her lips moving, but her voice isn’t strong enough to convey sound.

The time is 0900 hours.

Result : Negative

She’s repeating ‘It hurts’ over and over again.

Next injection is administered at 1200 hours.

Result : Negative

We break. She’s taken to get food and use the bathroom if she needs to. They push for one more injection before we must have her back in her room.

Result : Negative

It isn’t a reaction we anticipated. It’s too much; she’s bleeding profusely through her skin.

Day Four

She’s still bleeding. We cannot move her from her room. I’m not even near her room, but I can sense her fear.

I shouldn’t have gone near her when she first arrived. #707’s crying again; she thinks she’s dying. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, it’s possible she could.

It’s late and she’s crying for her parents.

Day Five

The bleeding has stopped finally; I can send someone to clean up her room now.

They report she’s shivering. Taking her temperature, #707 is measuring 36.2 C. Though we should run a test today, it’s decided one more day to make sure the bleeding has completely subsided. As for warming her, she is delivered more blankets and bundled up.

Day Six

Temperature is 35.9 C, but we will resume testing. #707 is shivering on the table, but she’s much easier to control. The first injection is administered at 0800 hours.

Result : Negative

Temperature reading is 35.4 C. Her mind is slow, but it’s still managing to scream so loudly. Next injection at 1300 hours after an attempt to warm her core temperature.

Result : Negative

Body reads at 34.8 C. Due to hypothermic state, treatment is stopped for today. Her room is warmed and she’s tucked into bed tightly.

Day Seven

Hawkmoth is, of course, displeased with the current results, but does not attempt to push them as he did with #013. However, he does point out to the other scientists that – due to the mutation they’re trying to activate - #707 hormone balance is most likely off, causing more than external bleeding.

An examination shows that she is indeed internally bleeding. [NAME REDACTED] is reprimanded for missing this detail, and Hawkmoth warns he does have another experiment in mind should he mess up again. He’s always been interested in a new bodyguard.

Day Eight

36.5 C this morning, but another examination shows hemorrhaging is still present. It is not as bad as yesterday; however, we give her medicine that should balance her hormone levels again. Hawkmoth is concerned if any of her organs have been compromised.

If his goal is a success, what does he intend to do with her after? I detected her waves of strengthening distress throughout the day during periods where she’s awake. I should soon stop detecting her emotions in a few more days.

Day Nine

Her temperature reading is at 37.0 C this morning, and the bleeding has subsided internally now, too. She’s trembling as she’s strapped down, and she’s looking around, mentally calling for help from any of the scientists with her, but they don’t respond. The next series of injections will be considerably detrimental to her current physical being.

The time is now 0700.

Result : Negative

The only reaction again is redness at the injection site. Next injection is at 1000 hours.

Result : Negative

Her shivers worsen, but she’s able to walk with the escort out, and is brought back still standing. The time is now 1400 hours.

Result : Positive

She’s almost hyperventilating, pulling at her straps. #707 is holding herself back until she screams. Somehow, everything around her comes undone including the straps to the table. That’s the limit as she tries to escape and is captured immediately. It’s a favorable result; Hawkmoth will not be displeased at the very least.

Day Ten

We attempt to stimulate the results from yesterday with only two injections.

First injection: the time is 0900 hours.

Result : Negative

#707 is furiously pulling at her bindings, but nothing occurs.

1100 hours.

Result : Negative

Screaming again, but she isn’t generating the field like before. Perhaps it’s too soon for her to perform such feat again. It takes almost an hour for her convulsions to die down, but she’s in a considerable amount of pain. She doesn’t eat lunch or dinner.

Day Eleven

Today we administer three more injections periodically for any other potential results. This gene does not express as many inhuman characteristics as others, but her changes are still behind schedule.

Result : Negative

Result : Negative

Convulsions again; #707 screaming her throat raw, but the field has not generated again.

Result : Positive

Discoloration apparent around the throat. The band is incomplete.

Day Twelve

Discoloration is darker today, but I’m not entirely certain what it means once it’s complete. #707 complains of pain in her throat, but refuses examination. She can only whimper through the procedures today.

Result : Negative

Result : Negative

Day Thirteen

She’s clutching her throat this morning, making choked sounds. The black ring around her throat appears to be complete now with a single sliver still lighter than the surrounding tissue.

She struggles to stand, and is dragged from her room for two procedures today.

Result : Negative

Result : Negative

Day Fourteen

Hawkmoth desired to speak to #707, but she only sits in bed staring at the ground. She does not utter a single word, and the skin around her throat is now completely black. When he leaves, she taps at her chest with shaking hands, trying to say something – actually, she’s just attempting to make a sound.

Nothing comes out even as she touches her throat and covers her face. I can see her crying, but the only sound she makes comes from her throwing her food tray across the room.

Day Fifteen

She does not struggle with today’s testing.

Result : Negative

Result : Positive

Both hands are expressing similar discoloration focused on the back. They are perfectly circular.

Result : Positive

Skin pigmentation around the eyes has taken on a flushed hue. One of her arms manages to come out of its strap which somehow came undone. #707 does not do anything more.

Day Sixteen

I was concerned this morning. More black pigment spots have appeared on #707’s body overnight, but fortunately, they appear to be the same as the two on her hands. They cover a good portion of her arms and legs. I will have to speak with [NAME REDACTED] later to know if they cover her torso as well.

1200 Hours – They are present, even on her back.

Day Seventeen

Subject is unresponsive today.

She’s hemorrhaging through her skin again for some inexplicable reason.

Day Eighteen

Enough energy to move from bed, but she barely crawls away from it. If she’s in any pain, I do not know.

Day Nineteen

Bleeding has stopped again, but skin remains vibrant red around the gray spots present. Temperature again appears to have dropped to 36.0 C; however, #707 refuses to get back in bed. She’s cocooned in a corner while the cleaning crew is at work.

She refuses to eat today.

Day Twenty

She sleeps all day, bundled up in her blankets. She shivers despite how warm the room temperature is.

Day Twenty-One

Hawkmoth does seem satisfied with the progress on #707 – Ladybug he’s calling her now, which I guess is appropriate considering her coloration and spots. He asks if she’s ready; that unfortunately means I must leave this shield behind and see how she’s developed with my own ability. Chat Noir was so much easier from a distance.

1000 Hours – She’s not ready yet, but now my mind has attached to her emotional wavelength again. I can sense how frightened she is, and how she’s still crying out. The power she can unleash is only concentrated to a small portion of her body, but still pulses with a fair amount of energy. It’s unstable, pulling too much of her strength, but that could aid her soon.

1900 Hours – I hear her voice whispering at this time, flooding my mind with warmth and sorrow.

2100 Hours Good night, Maman. Good night, Papa. I barricade the room in order to disconnect our link sooner.

Day Twenty-Seven

Progress has been made without my observance for the past week, messes having been made as well. Toxin now apparently present within #707’s bloodstream which could explain why she possibly bled out on [DATE REDACTED] in order for this new blood to take over. It seems her tissue and organs have apparently restructured themselves, too?

Either way, #707 has been in a constant state of discomfort since, which has only begun to wind down. I fear with Hawkmoth’s visit tomorrow, I will have to connect to her again just after I severed the link this time. If that happens, I hope she’s ready.

Day Twenty-Eight

As I anticipated, Hawkmoth has ordered me to see if she’s ready. I must again leave the shields that keep my mind separated from everyone else so I cannot be overwhelmed by their emotions. Even against others like me – natural or artificial – I do not want to remain on their wavelengths for too long.

Outside of her room was as far as I needed to go. Her emotional state is a mess. There is no fear, but I feel resignation. Any hope she may have had has diminished among despair. I search past to feel her powers, finding they now properly spread throughout her being, but there is no energy for it to stir. It’s the level we need.

Hawkmoth is satisfied when I report this, and says they will meet in three days. I am to remain connected, and escort #707 to #013’s room in order to strengthen it again.

Day Twenty-Nine

She wonders why no one has come by except to deliver food and take her to the bathroom.

Day Thirty

Apologizing over and over again.

Goodbyes over and over again.

I miss you, I miss you, goodbye, I’m sorry, I miss you, goodbye.

Day Thirty-One

#013 has settled from his most recent attack.

0800 Hours - #707 and #013 are within the same room.

 

Chapter Text

Four gray walls with barely any structural difference between them. She knew in one of them there is a door – in fact, sitting in the corner, swathed within her cocoon of blankets, Marinette knew where it was. The stiff rolling bed against the West wall was never moved, meaning the South wall had the door somewhere hidden inside it. However, with the simple tile patterning the wall, it would be easy to lose track of where it was if they moved the bed. For all she knew, they could have moved everything around the day before, or hours before? There were no windows; she couldn’t remember what day it was, whether it was morning or evening. She could only rely on the scientists when they did come by.

She hated it.

She hated it, but what else was she supposed to do?

Fingers clutching the sheets tighter, she pulled the edges in closer, making sure to cover her head, and trying not to see her hands. So much red, and now, it wasn’t going away. Nor were the dark spots that covered her skin from her feet all the way to the top of her sternum. Whatever they had done to her, and were still doing to her, there was no way she was leaving. Her Maman and Papa, she would never be able to make up missing so many rush hours during the weeknights and weekends. No more discussions of music and artists with Nino, no more discussion of superheroes and comics with Alya, and she never realized how much she wished she could just have another day dealing with Chloe.

‘I miss you.’

She bit her lip, thinking about her parents.

‘I’m sorry.’

Her forehead touched her knees tucked to her chest, feet turning inward beneath the blanket, and toes curling. A shudder raced down her back.

‘Goodbye… goodbye.’

Marinette’s head snapped up when light spilled in towards her, the hidden door having opened in the far wall. Bluebell eyes widened and she tried shrinking into the corner, trembling in her effort to turn away. By now, she was used to the scientists, the escorts, and the ‘nurses’ dragging her out of her room, but they were always the same. So the fact she doesn’t recognize the slight form standing there now had her panicked.

The hallway light glowed off his pale hair like a halo, a long strand resting curled on his forehead. He wore a white coat like all the others, but his bowtie reminded her of a butterfly, its small violet jeweled body glinting in the center. His dark dress shoes softly clicked with each step, but there was nowhere else for her to go as he made his approach.

Shortly, he towered above her cowering form in the corner. Her eyes shut tightly and she dreaded to know what he was about to do.

“Mar… S-Subject #707.”

Her trembling died down significantly at his stutter, and she paused, eyes opening part-way. Though facing the wall, she raised her head enough to turn it and looked back over her shoulder. Behind those glasses slipping down his nose, he had surprisingly large and very expressive eyes. Searching them, they seemed so awfully kind and terribly forlorn for a place like this.

And yet, he’s still here.

Marinette chewed her bottom lip, but continued staring at him… or, look at his hand when he extended it to her. She’s to be escorted somewhere, but she wondered where today, and why someone new now? Momentarily, she entertained the idea of not accepting his hand, and going back to facing the corner, but the thought made her wrists hurt. There were others he could call that would not hesitate to grab her and drag her down the hall, and her inability to moan in the faintest discomfort would result in them being fractured again. Tremors restarting, she could only accept this new escort’s hand, and slowly rising to her feet, she let the blankets fall away from her form.

Her shivering intensified, the small but modest hospital gown that she’s been provided doing little to keep her warm. They hadn’t given her any sandals or stockings to cover her feet either, making each step in or out of the room as chilling as the last. At least the escort’s hand felt warm.

Marinette’s mind followed the path he led her on blindly, eyes dimming when they near the all familiar divide. Left would take her to the table where she would be strapped down and blankly observed for hours, jabbed by one needle after the next, in attempts to get whatever they wanted. Unpleasantly her skin prickled at the phantom pain of the substances being injected into her body; and then there were the reactions where it felt like she was being burned alive, or torn from the inside out.

But her escort walked her right.

Minutely, she raised her head, blinking at the darkened corridor they now took. She had looked down in passing when she could, but there was nothing to see. Now going down it herself, the emptiness made it gloomy. There were plenty of doors around, but none of the lights above them were lit, signaling they were unoccupied. Maybe she was being relocated then to this forgotten hallway so she would finally disappear. All that was left was her mind, and left unable to communicate with anyone else was breaking that apart.

The escort was not stopping at any of the unlit doors though. He walked her all the way down to the end and turned left, taking her down one more hallway. Here, the lights might as well be out. There was a single light glowing from the shadows; the only one that actually existed in this corridor leading to a dead end.

She stopped when the scientist did. Her eyes watched him, but shortly fell to the thick sliding doors barring them from whatever was inside. The scientist squeezed her hand, her eyes failing to see how he winced in the darkness. His other arm moved to his coat pocket, drawing out a keycard. Holding it over the scanner, the doors opened silently two seconds later revealing a near pitch blackness that disallowed her from seeing the far wall. Was this room occupied? She could make out something reflective glinting in the low light, and the metal surface of another rolling bedpost, but the occupant wasn’t visible.

Suddenly, Marinette was stumbling forward, mouth open in a silent gasp. A swift pivot around, and she saw the scientist cringing before the doors shut and locked again. She smacked it with her palm in fervor, panicking when it didn’t open again. Once her eyes adjusted to the dimness, they blew wide and she recoiled. She tripped over her feet, falling back onto her butt and feeling her heart leap into her throat.

Her eyes traced long, jagged scratches raked into the steel hatch and its surrounding walls. Actually, following them further, they were everywhere except for the high ceiling far beyond normal reach. Pulling herself backwards, Marinette flinched and drew her hand to her chest, head whipping down. More scratches crisscrossed the flooring, metal edges curling outward from them, one of them she had placed her palm on. He had placed her inside a room with something – a monster perhaps? She pulled her legs in, tucking her body in on itself. She shouldn’t have trusted that scientist; even though his eyes were so gentle, he brought her into some creature’s den. This had to be how it felt for a rabbit right before it was slaughtered.

There was a low hsss behind her, so low that she almost missed it were it not for the clicking that followed. She froze, but it rattled her bones and hastened her heart even as she held stalk still. There was only more hissing, more clinks of something like chains being shifted around with the softest tinkling bell underlying the chilling sound.

“… Hello?”

Marinette blinked, lips parted in surprise.

“Who’s there? What… what are you doing in here?”

The speaker was behind her, from the corner where the chains still rattled from. Even if she was able to speak she didn’t think she would answer, worried that giving away her location would only have her killed by this… thing mimicking a human’s voice – a young male’s at that. Chains continued to slide along the ground, but she sat still, holding her breath and hoping it wouldn’t find her. The niggling thought that maybe, just maybe, the creature could see in the dark only came to her mind last second before it happened.

Marinette’s entire body jolted when something warm clasped her left shoulder. Terror had her shove it off, hands instantly swinging back towards whence said touch came, allowing her to crawl towards the bed. Grasping one leg, she turned to face her aggressor, ready to try fighting for her life only to find herself stopping with her fear ebbing away in surprise.

Sitting back on their knees, dark hand pulled back to their pale body, was a boy. His thin form was hunched, shoulders forward, and his head low, just as startled as she was by the abrupt contact. She stared at him harder and mentally noted how he was similar to her, but different.

His changes had both hands and feet discolored, and his nails were sharp to points like claws. Squinting, she was sure out of that wild blonde hair growing over the nape of his neck were large triangular ears, and limply lying on the ground connected to him seemed to be a tail. He wore no gown like she did, but he did have a bell collar, and pants covering all the way down to his ankles which, she noticed, had cuffs tightly clamped on. Attention rising back to his hands, she noticed cuffs around his wrists, too.  While vaguely wondering why he was chained up in this room, her eyes drifted back to his torso, and she double took. She covered her mouth with a hand, blue eyes outlining his ribs and wiry muscles beneath his skin, and then the scars overlaying what was bare before her. Her eyes darted to his face when he turned his head and she watched his ears turn, top portion of his face and eyes covered by some weird eyeless mask.

“You… need to go back to the door. You need to get out before it starts again.”

His lips had moved, and his head had turned in her direction, back arching forward. Without knowing what he was talking about, Marinette could only sit by the bed with her brows knitted together. Weird spots seemed to be bubbling from his mid-back, their abnormal pitch blackness a true dark within the dim lighting. It crept along his spine and he gripped his shoulders, shaking his head in a feeble attempt like trying to get it off. Unfortunately, he held to him with vicious hooks and slipped into his head, forcing a rumbling groan from his mouth.

‘Those are fangs,’ Marinette thought, and flinched when one of his hands slapped the ground. His fingers curled, and his nails – with little resistance – just pierced the floor, ripping five new marks into the ground when his arm pulled back. Beyond moving herself to the far side of the bed, Marinette didn’t know what else to do. The poor boy’s face was contorted and he was beginning to breathe rapidly between intermittent growls. He scratched again and again, his actions moving closer to his stomach and getting so close another centimeter would pierce his flesh.

Silent exclamation from her mouth, she reached without thought to stop him, but whipped her hand back when his chains began to rapidly clattered across the floor. His arm – actually, his entire form – was pulled after it and he yelped, stumbling to his feet. The line was being drawn up towards the ceiling through a mechanism Marinette couldn’t make out. Snarling, his other hand almost grabbed the chains being reeled in, but the other chains soon too pulled, forcing his arm away. Both chains held taut above his head, claws too far apart to reach the opposite links which left the boy twisting in the center of the room.

Whether it was to do something about just being suspended by his wrists, or to relieve himself from the pain, she didn’t know. However, she cringed and covered her ears as he yelled and kicked, trying to rip himself free. All he was doing though was rubbing already bruised wrists to tearing. Marinette gagged, the pungent iron scent flooding her nose and bit her lip when she saw the rivulets of blood running down his arms.

Stop…

She wanted to say it so bad, unsure if she would even be saying this for the sake of his health, or just to end the torturous scene before her eyes. His screams were horrible to listen to, and the violent accompaniment of the rattling chains and his bell was making her chest ache. Why were they doing this to him? To both of them really; what did they want? Her fingers clenched her head, pressing harder against her ears to deafen his yells, but they just seemed louder, wave after wave of cold washing over her. Agonizing pain as another scream tore from his lungs, and she wanted to scream too, chest hurting more.

‘Please, there must be something I can do!’

Pant leaving her lips, the spotted girl grabbed the bed and pulled herself mutely to her feet, arms shaking at the abnormal amount of exertion it took. Another scream, another wash of cold, and she felt so empty, but within the same instance, there was a spark.

Bluebell eyes alight, Marinette pushed away from the mattress, and walked towards the trapped boy. Closer, he looked so much worse, scarred chest heaving, and sweat beading his skin. Those once tall ears had fallen back flat against his head and a keen was all he could muster with empty lungs despite his body still aching. A faint voice told her to keep her distance, that there was a real possibility of this stranger hurting her. She couldn’t though, a warmer sense telling her to do this – to reach into the darkness encircling his mind with her hands.

Her fingers were gentle brushing against his cheek, palms caressing his skin as she tangled his golden locks. Beneath her hands, he had tensed, but she continued to touch, bringing her hands back to his cheek to brush again.

Red – her skin was so red, and the black circles on her hands were darkening, heat seeping into her fingers and spreading down her arms. It filled the emptiness and eased her aching heart. Marinette had to blink when she felt the boy’s head lean towards her palm, the low vibration emanating from his chest now instead of his yells before. Was this working?

She found herself suddenly bearing his weight, the chains released without warning and dropping him into her arms. She caught him around the chest, but the abruptness had her falling backwards. Her hold loosened and knees bent; her butt contacted the ground for a second time with his head knocking her in the stomach. He grunted and she winced, curling in on herself and on him until the pain subsided.

It only took a few seconds before it passed. Once it did, she shifted her legs beneath him so he was pillowed by her lap, eyes gazing upon him sympathetically. Her hands resumed stroking his head, fingers combing through his hair and sweeping out the pitch black energy that dug into his mind. It latched to her fingers with each sweep and seemed to dissipate, leaving the exhausted cat boy panting and purring, cheek pressed to her skin.

“Y-You…” Her hands stilled, eyes wide, but then she breathed out. He startled her there. His head had turned up towards her, masked eyes directly at her. “You made… the pain stop. It’s finally gone.”

‘What pain? What did I stop?’

The words could not bypass her throat.

“… Thank you.”

Hand sweeping his hair aside, she blinked when his fingers encircled her own. She could feel minute tremors still running through them, but he was being so gentle, pads rubbing her skin. He must have been getting a sense of her, or as much as he could where he lay still weakened from whatever happened. It was so strange, but she noticed his other hand hesitantly rise and try reaching out for her. Lips pressed together, she drew her other hand from his head and took hold of his searching hand, ignoring the blood on his arm as she brought him close, guiding his first delicate touch against her cheek.

The boy paused and she felt him tilting his head. He was careful keeping his claws away from her skin, fingers patting and lightly skimming. He traced out her cheeks and chin, fingers drawing down her nose. She closed her eyes as he made out their shape, felt her lashes, and swept his fingers back, brushing some of her shoulder-length hair back.

Part of her was confused why he had to do this, but another was calmed by his actions; the intense fear telling her to leave him disappearing. This boy was like her, and somehow, she could do something for him. Unconsciously, her fingers came to his own face again, memorizing his jawline and cheeks, and following the outline of his mask around and to the bridge of his nose. She wondered if it would be so bad to take off his mask as her fingers hooked beneath it at his temples. Easily, she came around again, and slowly tried pushing it up.

He gave a small start, “Ah, wait---!”

Her lips pursed as she ignored his words, seeing more ashen skin, turned black instead of red and spotted like her own. Was he hiding that? His eyes were closed when she revealed them and more, up to his forehead with his mask pushing back his hair. His pale lashes stood in stark contrast to his lids which remained shut. A gentle touch and he turned his head away.

“I can’t see. The mask stops me from scratching my eyes just in case they figure out a way to get my vision back…”

Marinette opened her mouth, inhaling sharply. Blind? And she soon watched his eyelashes flutter and reveal one of his more abnormal changes. His whole eye was lime green, the iris somehow a deeper shade against that. Then there were his pupils, narrowed into a slit like a real cat’s; however, they were dilated and opaque, not focused on anything. It was fairly haunting to look at, but look she did, her hands resting on his temples. She wondered… was he scared? Unable to see anything, but still going through all these procedures?

“H-Hey… please, don’t cry.”

Blinking, she didn’t even realize that she had started to cry, but his fingers were indeed wiping away the few drops that were falling. From the looks of it, a few had landed on his face. She was sorry; it was completely unexpected…

“You don’t have to apologize.”

… What?

“What?”

Hands shooting up to her throat, she stared, eyes wide.

“I… I can talk?” she murmured, but winced. Her voice was rough lack of use, scratching her throat that she didn’t think going about a whisper would be manageable. “I… lost my voice. I can’t remember how long it’s been.”

Glossy green eyes widened and his hands pulled away, “You couldn’t… I should’ve picked up on that. I didn’t mean to ramble like an idiot.”

“N-No…!” Too much; she gasped before she started choking. His claws curled, a frown stretching across his face. She felt him flinch when she grabbed his hands. Thumb rubbing his knuckles, she held him close to her chest. “Please, don’t stop talking. You’re the only person I’ve been able to talk to in weeks.”

“… Right, the scientists have such riveting conversations with us,” he joked then gave her a lopsided smile. That earned a weak giggle from her. That had him in awe. “That’s the most wonderful thing I’ve heard.”

She tensed, feeling heat quickly flood her cheeks. “Well, I didn’t expect you to be a flirt.” At least he couldn’t see how embarrassed he was making her. Though, she didn’t see either how his pupils narrowed, or how the fog glossing them over seemed to be clearing away, the spots on her body darkening further. He blinked, red blooming over his own face.

“I didn’t expect my angel to wear spots.”

“Okay, now you’re… Wait.” Looking at his eyes, she leaned one way and then the other, eyes widening when his pupils followed. “Your eyes…”

“Yeah…” he murmured, amazed himself, “… Your eyes are beautiful…”

Did she squeak? She thought she heard something squeak and he just gave her a fanged grin. He opened his mouth to speak, but both of them froze when a new voice cut in.

“Your development has exceeded our expectations, #707. That will be enough for now.”

Heads snapping up, meadow and bluebell eyes took in the tall, masked form in a dark suit standing at the open doorway. He was flanked by several men Marinette was all too familiar with. She ducked closer to her companion who had rolled to his hands and knees beside her, low inhuman growls escaping him, but they didn’t seem deterred. His tail stood high and his pupils had thinned. He hissed, “Hawkmoth…!”

“For her not only to tame your power, but to cure your eyes, that is truly remarkable. But this was only a trial. You both still require some refinement.” He turned away, walking past the extra hands, “Take Ladybug back to her room. She’ll want a moment to adjust before her exam today. And keep out of the cat’s claws; we don’t need any incidents repeating.”

The boy was ready to struggle, but Marinette was not. Unfortunately, they grabbed his chains and pulled them down, sending him crashing to the ground, bell jingling upon impact. He hissed and spat, trying to pull free, but he could not. Behind him, she yelped and he turned his wild eyes back to see one large hand had enclosed tightly around her wrists. She tried clawing the man’s hand so he would let go, but he only lifted her off the ground by her arms back to her feet, toes skimming the ground. She screamed.

“L-Let her go! Get off me!”

His head turned and he tried biting, but they slipped his mask back over his eyes. No one heard the clatter when his left cuff unlocked itself, but everyone heard the escort behind him shout. Four claw marks burned on their arm quickly turning green and putrefying. Marinette stopped her twisting, gaping at the arm further decaying skin. The cat boy snarled, claw swinging again; she yelled for him to stop only to choke on her breath. H-Her voice…!

The man pulled her outside, feet clipping. She would have fallen were it not for still being held by her arms. Quietly, she whimpered, stinging eyes snapping back to the boy’s room. His yowl was the last sound ringing in her ears as she was forced around the corner, his door shutting with a light hiss.

Chapter Text

“Nooroo…”

Flinching, pale lavender eyes slid sideways beneath thick square frames and shoulders trembled upon slight form. Fingers fiddling with his butterfly pin, the timid scientist turned to his employer – or, his captor – with his head bowed low. If only there was another way, but he locked eyes with those of Hawkmoth’s, wondering what today’s plans were going to consist of. He hoped to draft more logs; he just got over the last bout of emotions warring in his head. He was almost positive the combination of Subjects #013 and #707 had left imprints on his mind.

“Y-Yes, sir?”

He watched, head ducking lower as the masked man strolled to his side, his cold eyes fixed upon the two monitors covering his two prized experiments. #707 was being strapped to the usual table, her screams inaudible since her separation from #013. Speaking of the cat mutant, his shackles had been reaffixed and pulled tight to put him in ‘time out,’ effectively locking him to the back of his cell. If the audio was on from his room, they would no doubt be hearing him yowling and shaking his chains. Nooroo turned his eyes down to a third monitor, one that observed the medical ward, and grimaced.

“How do you think their introduction went? Are they a match?” Hawkmoth’s voice was low and calm, but demanding still. It was blatantly obvious he wasn’t satisfied that the project was proceeding so slowly, but it wasn’t as though anything could be done to speed it up – not unless he wanted to almost kill either experiment.

Nooroo fingers crossed and slid as he rubbed his palms together, knowing exactly what he needed to do in order to answer his employer’s question. The emotions that had been swimming minutes ago, the fluctuation of the both artificial mutants’ powers when together, and just how those levels changed between then and their separations; Hawkmoth needed him in order to know. “Well, I…” he swallowed, pushing up his glasses with a pinky, “They’re perfectly matched, Hawkmoth.”

“Details… Explain everything that occurred,” he ordered while his attention remained on #707 mainly. Nooroo didn’t like it; nor did he like how the scientists were approaching the teenager with electrodes.

“… When you introduced #707, her initial emotion was fear from all the scratches in the room. As for #013, it was confusion. He immediately realized that she was not someone to be wary about, and became concerned when he noticed she was locked in with him.” He lowered his hands and looked away, wincing when #707’s new wave of emotions attempted to overtake the ones he was attempting to reflect on. “I-I’m sorry to report I was momentarily stunned by his energy’s initial flare, but I did sense #707’s emotions shift. When she touched him, his power was drawn to her in an instant. Even a little incompatibility is expected at first, but she was capable of capturing and converting the energy in order to heal both of them. There was a moment of contentedness, sir, but upon your entrance, their demeanor shifted again. #013 was determined to protect and #707 wanted to release him.”

“And release him she did…” A gloved finger tapped the screen observing the medical ward. “His power has never been this corrosive on tissue before.”

“Though, it’s… not permanent right now,” Nooroo managed to say, wincing at the glare he received. Hawkmoth turned his head away again, watching the operation taking place in both monitors.

“I’m aware of that fact, Nooroo. That’s the problem with handling artificials, isn’t it? And now that we know, we can begin trying to collect just what we need.”

Purple eyes blinking, they widened and whirled back to the screen observing the exam room. Around her wrists, ankles, and head, the bands were attached, but where they would usually be used to shock patients, it did the reverse. “Hawkmoth, it’s too early to try drawing any power from M—Ladybug! The connection may have been made, but she doesn’t know how to retain it. She used most of it releasing Chat Noir’s shackle!”

“Most is not all of it, and we need to collect what we can…”

They both watched the girl on the screen. Having one’s energy forcibly drained? It wasn’t something he wanted to experience, but Nooroo could feel her emotions flickering rapidly as her levels deteriorated. She went from thrashing to feeble attempts, and soon, became motionless within a minute, only the barest movements of her chest and quivering lashes hinting at her still being alive. Her scarlet skin and already grayed spots paled. There wasn’t even anything for him to feel.

“… Can you at least tell the nurses to handle her a little more… delicately, sir?” he requested, looking away while #707 was unstrapped from the table and machine. He felt the eyes in his direction again, and knew he would have to pick his words carefully. “Their healing has improved, but having to wait for her to heal again from a fractured bone just slows down our ability to work.”

“I need her in alive. That does not necessarily mean she herself has to be capable of moving,” Hawkmoth’s voice hissed, causing Nooroo’s eyes to widen. “But I will consider it… if only to avoid infections.”

Only consider it…

The pale-haired man knew that Hawkmoth would truly only consider it. He wouldn’t be taking these actions otherwise; performing these experiments and awakening two teenagers’ mutant genes when they shouldn’t be. They were dormant for a reason. However, he raised no argument as the masked man left. Instead, he turned his eyes to the monitors, seeing that they already transferred #707 to a bed much like the one in her room. They would roll her back to her room, and just remove the other bed, and that would be the end of it today.

 


 

Day Thirty-One -

#013 has settled from his most recent attack.

0800 Hours - #707 and #013 are within the same room.

1000 hours – Match was successful. Surprisingly done without hesitance. #013 and #707 do come from the same place and did attend the same school, but that should have no contributing factor to whether they pair properly, or not due to the coincidence. Under the right environmental stress, DB013 and CL707 will naturally awaken and pair together from my knowledge. If they’re not a match, their mutant powers will remain dormant.

If these two had been given the right environment, would they have paired together? We’ll never know now.

1030 hours - #707 removed from #013’s room. She unlocked his shackle and he was able to scratch a nurse. Arm had to be removed at shoulder to stop corrosive spread. #013 re-masked and put in time out.

1115 hours - #707 taken to exam room. Remaining energy retained from #013 drained. We are to see what we’re capable of doing with this amount. She has been rendered unconscious. Unsure when she’ll awaken again.

 


 

He didn’t expect her to awaken around lunch or dinner, and he didn’t expect her to awaken the next morning either. Diligently, he worked, doing his best to ignore the two polar emotional wavelengths now present within his mind, bending and twisting his own. But the day grew longer and soon passed without her moving once. Considering almost all of her energy was pulled, Nooroo ignored it until a second day passed and #707 still remained unmoved. Scientists questioned him, but he informed them that he could still sense her. If anything changed, he would inform them.

Shifting his attention to #013, there weren’t any improvements there either. Not that Chat Noir was typically emotionally stable this far into his treatments, but there were details about it that were highly abnormal. His energy levels fluctuated far more than normal. He wasn’t even able to get full nights’ rest anymore, and Nooroo himself ended up waking at odd hours because of the sudden flares of aggression and explosions of rage. #013’s energy would then drop and either immediately rebound or drop to dangerous levels that he could momentarily recollect himself while fighting for consciousness at the same instant.

Lavender eyes narrowing, the scientist just watched Chat Noir drop to the ground with a thump, no effort to cushion his fall. His chains had been released from his recent violent outburst, his claws caked by dried blood, and his back and stomach splattered with red and littered by fresh pink scars just faintly visible beneath the gore. Dark mist rose from his healing wounds to hovered above him, but it settled again, smoky tendrils piercing into the black mark centered in his back. Eyes darting between both screens, Nooroo could feel it.

Help me…!

Their voices screamed unconsciously through the connection from both ends, one fading while the other screeched, each trying again and again to answer the other, but they couldn’t. Nooroo’s eyes widened and he jumped to his feet before practically running out of his tower. When he came upon the first medic he could reach, he asked them – begged them – to examine #707, explaining hurriedly how she remained prone for the past few days going on three.

They did so…

And then, they called a team to assist them.

“Nooroo, you better have an explanation for calling me at this hour.”

0350 hours into another day and he probably shouldn’t have, but his orders were absolute – the staff would only do this under his explicit guidance.

“Sir, it’s about #707. She’s… She appears to be hibernating.” It hadn’t even occurred to Nooroo that Ladybug might right now, but she was. Her attempts to recover, it made sense why she was calling, and why Chat Noir’s powers refused to stop building. “I tried to warn you sir, that they were still too immature for the process. She can’t recuperate properly without any energy to recuperate with. #013 has been generating a surplus amount to try and help her, but since he isn’t near her, he’s having an increase in outbursts. He’s only managed to finally pass out because of the blood loss this evening.”

He shouldn’t be talking to Hawkmoth this way; he would undoubtedly be reprimanded for it later, either bombarded by too many wavelengths or forced again to control someone, but he couldn’t stand by and continue letting these kids suffer so much undue harm. They would be stuck this way forever; wasn’t that enough? Screaming in his own head, he only then realized that Hawkmoth had not said a word. Now he blanched, bracing for the inevitable no and warning not to call at this hour ever again.

“… Have #707 permanently moved into #013’s room. If they must co-habitat at this time, so be it. However, I expect better results in the second phase of treatment.”

“Hawkmo-…”

But the call was disconnected after that. Nooroo stared at the phone with blown eyes, waiting for it to ring again, but it didn’t. It didn’t suddenly explode either. Somehow, he had made it through speaking to Hawkmoth so directly and had his request answered. He raised a hand and patted his cheek, sitting down when he became dizzy from the realization that just really happened.

#013 and #707 were to be permanently housed together for their health.

Though, the longer he sat there, the longer they remained in their separate rooms.

Springing back out of his chair, his hands almost hit the console, but he stopped himself before he hit the wrong button. Intercom, but which room would they be in right now? He checked the time; quarter past four in the morning. Those on staff that were actually awake were still running experiments with Ladybug’s ‘luck’.

He flicked on the intercom.

“New orders just came in from Hawkmoth. He wants #707 moved into #013’s room ASAP. She will be residing there from now on.”

There were a few grumbles and ‘right away’ answering him before he turned the intercom off again. His eyes moved back to both unresponsive teenagers, lips pressed into a piteous smile. They might be immature, and they might be artificial mutants, but maybe – just maybe – this would give them a chance.

 

Chapter Text

It’s not often they only wind the chains around his ankles, but he feels his body being dragged across the ground as he stirred, and the shallow cuts being etched into his skin as he was pulled across scratches he left in the cool metal, their rough edges small claws of their own. His lashes twitch, but he doesn’t bother opening his eyes, feeling the pressure of the eyeless mask again – not that having it off would change anything. He couldn’t see. Briefly he had, but only when he met that girl – the other experiment – and she had taken his mask off. She also had the brightest blue eyes he’d ever seen, but he swore, he had seen them somewhere before.

Back to his current predicament, he gathered enough strength to growl deeply from his throat once he heard feet shuffling in his room, and metal wheels squeaking, the sound echoing in the room as they wheeled something in. He knew it was the scientists by scent alone, the thick mixture of chemicals, bleach, and various other disgusting fluids clinging to their coats and staining their skin. Honestly, they all weren’t terrible – nor were the soaps trying to cover it up – but he had been caged here for so long, it was just a matter of association. They smelled like the exam room, and he pushed himself to his hands and feet in a low crouch, his claws ready to strike the moment they dare come close enough.

Adrien felt his large ears slightly shift his hair, both turning in various directions as scientists continued milling about without a word in his room. He had nothing to say to them, the heavy rumble in his throat commanding them to leave instead. More scuffling, the rustling of sheets, and finally, they left; however, it was without the same accompaniment of wheels as before.

Unmoving, he still growled despite the familiar soft glide and soon rhythmic snaps came from the far end that enclosed him once more within his solitude. Behind him came the muffled click of hard teeth grinding together, the strained pull on his ankles loosening as his chains were released. Adrien didn’t stand though; instead, he sat back and exhaled slowly, bringing a hand up to rub his still throbbing head from his most recent outburst.

‘What time is it?’

Something he had been wondering now for the longest time. Back when he would ask, the scientists would only tell him the time measured in twenty-four hour clock opposed to the more standard AM/PM affair.  Foolishly, he only realized later that he should have tried making tally marks from day one because now, he could only try guessing. Days, weeks, maybe a few months; he only really doubted it had been a year, but just thinking that months were a viable possibility was alarming. Worse still, he wasn’t even sure why he was here anymore.

His ears folded forward, the weight flattening his hair down. He knew ruminating on the subject was pointless; Hawkmoth said his stay was indefinite. Over time, Adrien figured he would forget about everything outside his room, and then accept this place as being home. Crossing his legs, and straightening his back, he felt his tail curl around his feet. While waiting for the energy to come back and further shred his mind apart, he may as well attempt some breathing exercises and prepare for the worse. It already tickled his spine and coiled around his neck, taking its time to spread throughout his body and make him lose control. Sighing, he ignored how the sound reverberated in his ears before inhaling deeply… and froze.

Head bowing, his brows pressed as he sniffed again, ears rotating to listen closely. His blood from before had been cleaned up while he had been unconscious, leaving behind the usual sharp tang of wet iron, but there was something besides it right now. It was the cocktail of chemicals and bleach like the scientists, but there too, lingering beneath was something bittersweet and crisp. Though it held the smells he detested, he recognized the unique ones. He had smelled them before, not too long ago even.

Nose twitching, his arms slid over his legs, and his hands pressed against the ground. His chains clattered beside him, hissing as he proceeded forward on all fours to find out where the scent came from. Meanwhile, his ears picked up on the faded thump of a second beating heart and soft stirs of gentle breathing. Adrien carefully let his claws glide over the floor, wondering if there was a body lying somewhere or –

His hand recoiled when he tapped a cold bar far too soon, but he reached for it again. Pads touching the bedpost, his fingers encircled around it. There were no aesthetic differences about the bed that he could feel, but several more sniffs determined this was not his cot. He could taste the sweetness that spilled from it, the smell again oh so familiar…

… the hands brushing his cheek.

… the fingers combing through his hair.

Gentle, soft, and warm; three things he had grown unfamiliar with over the past few years as a house turned into a cage. His room closed, his world shrunk, but there was someone here that was so kind.

Holding the post still, Adrien rose gradually to his feet, his other hand touching the foreign mattress and bed sheets now within his room. He felt it move.

It was… occupied then?

Both hands rose and then settled on what felt like the edge of the bed. Sheets curled as he began to feel, his fingers careful to remain turned as to avoid snagging his claws or cutting anything – anyone – that would be on this bed. Heart beats still weakly thrummed, but they sounded a little stronger than compared to a few minutes before. Soon, he did feel where the sheets began to rise around a form, and he flinched.

This – they – felt cold… or at least, colder than anticipated. Fingers rising to the peak of the mass, he began trying to discern more. They were thin, seemed fairly small as he touched their feet far before the foot of the bed itself, and were breathing shallowly - those were the first three things he noted about them. Next, where the bedsheets ended at their shoulders, they were wearing a thin cotton fabric. A shirt? But finding where the neckline ended, and feeling how it overlapped, he concluded it to be some other attire like a gown, or robe. When his index finger contacted clammy skin, he swallowed.

They were human. And unlike with the scientists, he had to be careful not to scratch them.

His touch ghosting against his new roommate’s cheeks and down to their chin, his breath caught, smell again wafting to his memory.

It was of his head being in someone’s lap, nose so close to another’s bare legs. She had removed his mask, touched his eyes so delicately, and then he somehow saw her. Those open blue eyes like the summer sky and her hair so black, but glowing blue in the low light filling his room at the time. She had been blushing; well, he had called her his angel with spots.

And now his hands were on her face again, and he felt her eyelashes, frowning upon finding them closed. Ears turning forward in concentration, he realized the delayed heartbeat was hers. But… why was the question. Before, she had been terrified, and then so alive, wanting him to keep speaking to her, but now, she was motionless.

“What did they do to you?”

At least it seemed like her skin warmed beneath his palm, but he didn’t know if that was just because he was touching her, or if she actually was recovering. It did sound like her heart was beating faster. Leaning closer to her, his thumb stroking her cheek softly, Adrien wondered if it were at all possible for him to help. She had stopped the energy somehow from overwhelming him that day; he had felt it flow out of his body, but he didn’t understand how she did it. Could he possibly give it to her again? Would it help her?

Another time, another place, his actions would be inappropriate. Checking his chains gave him enough maneuverability, one of his hands slid along the fold of the bed sheets and pulled it back. It exposed her to the cool air of his room, but he quickly slid himself into the bed beside her. Whoever this girl was, if he could do anything to help her, he would.

For a second, he reconsidered, feeling the familiar stabbing pressure in the back of his head beginning to build, but he was already this far. He eased an arm beneath her, shivering at how cold her body still was as he pulled her towards his chest. He kept his legs away from hers to avoid his clawed toes from scratching, but also to limit the shackles pressing against her skin. Adrien didn’t even know if he had to hold her, if contact would pass on anything, but he would try. When she touched him, she had taken it away so he only hoped this worked.

Trembling fingers rubbed her back as his other arm moved around her shoulders and his hand cradled her head. Meticulously, he began to comb long silky tresses with his fingers, cautious to avoid cutting her with his claws. He felt her light breaths against his chest, and he sighed himself, letting his chin rest against the crown of her head.

His listened, he focused on her scent, and continued his ministrations, left ear flicking when there was finally a change. Her heartbeat sounded stronger and he felt the pressure building his head leaving him just like before. In his chest, he felt another rumble start, one unlike the growling earlier towards the scientists. While he didn’t like the fact that he purred, it might help her like it helped him before.

Nestling himself more comfortably upon her head and against the pillow, he waited, and he knew, he would keep waiting. The beating became stronger and her body began to warm while her breathing deepened. He purred more, unconsciously nuzzling the top of her head when he finally began to feel her stir beneath his claws. If only… if only he could see her, but his heart raced all the same and his tail curled beneath the sheets.

Adrien’s breath caught when she moved properly. Her knees bumped against his and her forehead bumped against his collarbone. He heard her inhale sharply, and she seemed to tense as more and more awareness came to her. He felt himself still similarly when he felt something soft against his torso – palms, and soon her fingertips were tracing over his freshly healed scars.

“H-Hey…” He spoke quietly, chiding himself mentally for stuttering. Really, he shouldn’t be so nervous, but feeling her flinch made him worry she might get the wrong idea maybe. “Don’t… don’t panic, please. It’s just me…” But they had never exchanged names, and he refused to use the code name they’d given him. “The scientists brought you in here a while ago. You… I don’t know. You were sleeping and you felt cold. I didn’t know what to do, but… if you want me to get out, I will.”

In fact, he figured she might want that, and began to withdraw himself.

“No…!”

His eyes would widen at her rasp. He stopped in his retreat, feeling her hands press flat against his chest again. “Please, don’t…” It was like before when they met. Though, by then, she had—

He inhaled abruptly. Her hands had left his chest and moved up to his face. Like that time too, her fingers moved over his face, from jawline to cheeks, and then moving around his mask. Quiet, he let her remove it again. He felt it push up his bangs and come to rest upon his head just before his ears. Those hands moving further, they came back down to his temples, thin fingers tangling themselves in his hair while her thumbs brushed just below each eye.

Brows pressing, he hesitated at her coaxing, but felt her thumbs stroke again.

Would he?

Could he see her again?

The weight of his ears pressed against his scalp, and his eyelids pressed tightly before he dare even attempt to barely open them. He expected to see nothing after all.

However, what he saw instead was the sky twinkling back at him, the girl’s eyes contrasting the red skin wrapping around them like a mask. It was similar with her pale skin that remained at her cheeks to her chin. Even her lips were more rosy pink that the vibrant red most of her body had taken. He stared at her longer, slowly bringing both of his hands to similarly caress her face as she did with his. Oddly enough, he felt the corner of his lip twitch.

“Hello again, angel.”

Even with her already permanently flushed skin, he could make out her blush rising to her cheeks. Her lips moved, but even he barely caught what she was saying with his advanced hearing. He would have tilted his head were it not for the angle so he only hummed inquisitively, hoping she would say it again.

“M-My name…”

“Is?”

He’d prefer knowing it instead of knowing her number or the name Hawkmoth had given her. Those large eyes looking into his own, again, he remembered seeing them somewhere before as they lit up…

“… Marinette.”

… when lightning struck as he held the umbrella out to her. His eyes widened.

“… Marinette?” His voice was just above a whisper, and he watched her own eyes open more. He couldn’t believe it. Though she had been mad at him for a misunderstanding, she seemed kind to others except for Chloe. Why? “You… why are you here? Your parents didn’t give you to Hawkmoth, did they?”

“What? No!” For a second, he saw anger flicker in her eyes, but it faltered. “… Did your parents…?”

He didn’t say anything, but his ears lowered. For a second, Marinette didn’t say anything either, taking his silence for his answer. She didn’t ask any more about it.

“… We’ve met, haven’t we?” she began cautiously. He blinked, feeling his hair fall upon his cheek as her fingers combed through his hair again possibly in an attempt to comfort him. “Your eyes aren’t exactly the same, but… No, I know I’ve met you before. It wasn’t for very long, but we spoke.”

“Yeah…” He brought his claws through her hair before pulling it away and holding it to his chest. “I… we got off on the wrong foot. I tried to apologize to you later, and I lent you my umbrella.”

He felt her hands still and then jolt back. There wasn’t even a need for him to look at her to know what her expression was now. However, he did hear her heart start to race and she gasped, “Oh my… Adrien…!? B-But we were told you were being homeschooled again…!”

“Yeah… that sounds like an excuse my father would make…” He only shook his head. “Anyway, I’m sorry. I should probably give you space… I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

Now that it was confirmed who they were – that this indeed was Marinette Dupain-Cheng, one of the first girls he ever met that immediately disliked him even after knowing his last name – she probably didn’t want him near. Moving again to slip out of bed, his head turning away, small hands suddenly seized his own and held. Adrien didn’t look back, but he did stop.

“Thank you. I never got to say that then… or tell you I forgive you.”

His glanced back at her from the corner of his eyes, but his attention soon drifted to the hand that she held and watched her thumb rub his bony knuckles. “I’ve been wanted to tell you that for a while. I should have given you a chance to explain yourself that day because, even if you are friends with Chloe, that shouldn’t mean you’re just like her… and I realized that when you gave me your umbrella. But then, you didn’t come to school the next day… Oh my god. This whole time you’ve been here… and they’ve been doing this to you without anyone knowing!”

Adrien said nothing. That allowed the question from nearly an hour ago almost immediately bubbled to his mind. “How long was that? Before you were brought here?”

“… Over a month.”

Beneath her fingers his tensed, the tremor coming to him before he could stop it. So, he had been correct believing perhaps he had been here a month, but now she was here, and while not exactly the same as him, she had her own changes. Those didn’t come in a few days, but over the course of weeks. Adrien was facing her properly again; he didn’t know when he fully turned to face her either, but he gazed at her intensely whilst his mind reviewed everything he learned.

So, he had been in this place for over a month, maybe two now considering Marinette’s change, and whatever Hawkmoth was doing was probably nowhere near completed. They had needed him, but why did they need her? He did remember they had been putting him through more experiments in his room to try stemming the bizarre energy flux he kept having and she happened to stop it, but…

‘No… no, no, no…’ Adrien pressed his lips tightly together, fangs gnashed behind them, dread sinking into his stomach. Marinette said her parents hadn’t given her to Hawkmoth, and if he thought about it, he wouldn’t put the man above kidnapping his potential subjects, not when he painstakingly bothered to fool his father. What lie had they even told him? At least his dad had given an alibi to his whereabouts, but Marinette’s parents had no idea; and while he didn’t know her parents, he found himself doubting they would let Hawkmoth have her.

Midnight threads tickling his chest, he blinked and noticed Marinette resting her forehead against him. It felt like his heart skipped a beat. “Marinette?”

“Sorry, but… can I sleep here?” It was then he noted her shoulders shaking and felt something damp touch his skin. He felt his eyes narrow, his lips curling downward as he watched, letting her squeeze his hand all the more. The scientists had brought her in for a reason… one that he still didn’t fully understand, but Hawkmoth’s reason, he was starting to get an clearer idea.

“…Mhm, you can sleep here.” A hand slipping beneath her shoulders, he brought it against her back, wondering if that made her feel secure. Would they take her away again? He didn’t know, but he also didn’t like the thought that they might. “Is this okay? Are you comfortable?”

“Yes. Thank you…”

But she shouldn’t thank him. He began rubbing slow circles on her back. “You’re welcome…” She couldn’t see him grimace while crying against his chest at least.

They fell silent, his hand moving even after she had actually fallen asleep. He listened to her breath, listened to her heart beat, and tried to listen beyond the walls of the sealed room. He heard no one approaching, and didn’t hear the gears grinding to pull in his restraints – it was just the two of them right now. It should only be him in here. And he didn’t know how he would do it either, but he pressed his forehead against Marinette.

“I’ll get you home…” Adrien wondered if she could hear him whispering as she slept. He heard her quietly sigh, and pulled back as she shifted. Her eyes remained closed and her breathing was still light. Within him, the purring that stopped before resumed as he bumped his head softly against hers again. “I promise, Marinette. One way or another… you’ll go home.”

 

Chapter Text

Apatura Corporation
Subject Name(s): REDACTED
Experiment #013 and Experiment #707

Day Seventy-Seven

Day one of #013 and #707 being commune together in #013’s cell. Despite everything that happened prior to their move in, they seem almost happy. Maybe it’s because they have today off - #707 is still regaining her strength, but quickly now that she’s able to remain around #013. Perhaps it’s because they already know each other. No matter the reason, they are comfortable even if the predicament hasn’t changed.

2300 Hours - Though they slept beside each other last night in the same bed, they sleep in their separate beds tonight. They move closer to each other as they slumber.

Day Seventy-Eight

0700 Hours - Testing the energy collected from Ladybug, we have received mostly inconclusive results in regards to using it. Hawkmoth is disappointed of course, but concurs to the fact the sample they had taken from her had been quite small. The task for today is to collect another sample. He believes she should have enough after almost two whole days of exposure.

Removing #707 proves challenging even with #013 restrained. It must be a side effect of the constant bombardment on his mind the last few days, but he fights to break away from the wall. He only breaks one chain before #707 is escorted out.

1030 Hours – #707’s energy has being collected. There’s more than before, but not by much. She was unconscious again once the task was finished.

1200 Hours - #013 refuses to leave #707, and begins growling the moment someone even steps into the corridor adjacent to their room. His emotions roll between rational and something I cannot describe. I’ve only sensed it once before, and Hawkmoth properly orders the others not to approach the room for several hours.

2015 Hours - #707 has awakened, but is too weak to move. #013 helps her to bed.

Day Seventy-Nine

#707 requires another day to recuperate, but Hawkmoth is interested in #013’s overall development. With their matching successful, his energy is under better control, and he may possibly have other powers. Studying a mutant in control of bad luck and destruction is difficult, but an artificial should be easier to contain. This isn’t going to end well.

0900 Hours – There’s a struggle to chain #013’s hands and feet, and they even put his mask back on, too. Can they make him look any more like a prisoner? Nonetheless, his hands are tightly bound together. I wonder if I should remind the others he has no issue hurting himself since he’s already used Cataclysm today.

0930 Hours - #013 shackled down in a new testing room. They’re subjecting him to various audio cues over the speakers. They want to stress him enough see if he has any other powers. Two times a day, three hours each time, but only when #707 is recovering. Any damage, they expect him to recover either by healing himself, or Ladybug healing him instead.

Result: Negative

Result: Negative

1700 Hours - #013 has been returned to their room and is reattached to his chains in a state of obvious agitation. There’s concern he might turn this aggression on #707, but he doesn’t. I didn’t expect he would though. He just lays his head in her lap, and they keep their voices low as they talk again.

Day Eighty

Starting earlier today. Nurses have been sent to get #707 while #013 is held back. She doesn’t have enough strength to unshackle him, and he can still only break one.

0800 Hours – The energy being collected from #707 will be gathered and combined with the rest that was taken two days ago. It isn’t much – she only had a full day’s rest which could not allow her to recover what she lost. She is nowhere near the true amount of energy she can contain, but right now, it’s possible she cannot retain that much either. #707 has again lost consciousness, but they do not take her back into the room.

1100 Hours - #013 is twitching in his room, shredding the ground with his claws and snarling. He can only be separated from #707 for so long before this behavior picks up. They didn’t tell me they would be testing this today. Though, it explains his erratic behavior near the end of each test period yesterday.

1200 Hours – He’s screaming. They haven’t retracted his chains. His cot will need to be replaced once the misfortune crawling on his back subsides.

1300 Hours - #707 has been returned to the room. #013 crawled over to her and doesn’t move anymore.

1743 Hours - #707 moved finally. She just shifted closer to #013, but it’s something still. Looks like she’s whispering, but it’s too low for the audio to pick up.

1810 Hours - #013 awakened. He doesn’t move far, but only holds #707 to him. Neither of them will probably eat tonight.

Day Eighty-One

It’s far earlier than normal, but there’s a commotion with the scientists. I check on #013 and #707. They’re fine. One of them must have grabbed a blanket at some point, and now they’re curled against the North wall, asleep.

0600 Hours – Progress has been made with the energy that’s been collected. Looks like it responds to the desire of the user; however, it's been creating a random object of what seems to be of no pertinent use, leaving it up to the user to figure it out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to use the energy outside of #707. Her ability definitely grants her an instinctive and more flexible use such as unlocking #013’s cuffs, but it’s only a matter of time.

0800 Hours – Just like two days ago, #013 is again removed from #707 for further testing. She doesn’t even have the strength to stand and try stopping them. These extended periods of separation are hindering them.

1100 Hours – It’s been three hours, but they’re holding him in there. He’s been groaning for a while, and misfortune is sparking around him again. His behavior continues to become more fitful with each round, and his skin has become pale gray. Stop; they need to stop.

Result: Negative

1300 Hours - #013 is still breathing rapidly. Even after being allowed to see #707 and allowing her to stabilize his energy, it doesn’t look like he’s completely back to normal. He’s still gray, and she’s still pink with her spots faded.

Result: Negative

1630 Hours – He almost bit [NAME REDACTED]. He doesn’t move immediately once returned to their room.

1645 Hours - #707 calls to #013. He’s moving on all fours.

1650 Hours - #013 is purring again.

Day Eighty-Two

No tests today. Scientists are doing something, but aren’t informing me.

Day Eighty-Three

Again, what are they doing? [NAME REDACTED] seems to be leading it. He’s determined; I don’t like this.

Day Eighty-Four

Still no testing.

Hawkmoth is here.

There’s a procedure scheduled for tomorrow. His mask does not permit me any entry to his mind. I cannot even begin to think about what might be in store.

Day Eighty-Five

Already #707 has been taken to the exam room, but it’s not the usual one. She’s become a healthy shade of scarlet and black over the past few days. They’ve also moved #013 from their room? That’s not his testing room.

0500 Hours – #013 is

 


 

LOG 404

EXPERIMENT #013 – CHAT NOIR
EXPERIMENT #707 – LADYBUG

WE COLLECTED ALMOST EVERY SPECK OF #707’s ENERGY BEFORE IT HAPPENED.

FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS, WE HAVE NOTICED A CURIOUS CORRELATION BETWEEN CHAT NOIR AND LADYBUG. CHAT NOIR DRAWS IN FORTUNE - GOOD AND BAD - MAKING IT TANGIBLE, AND LADYBUG SUSTAINS HERSELF DAILY ON ‘GOOD’ FORTUNE, LEAVING CHAT NOIR TO BE POWERED BY ‘BAD’ FORTUNE PROPERLY. HOWEVER, SHOULD SHE BE DRAINED AND THEY’VE REMAIN SEPARATED, HE BECOMES AWARE OF HER STATE AND DRAWS IN MORE TO HELP HER RECOVERY. WE’VE BEEN EXPANDING HOW MUCH THEY CAN STORE.

RESULT : SUCCESS

WE ARE CLOSER. LADYBUG WILL EVENTUALLY BE ABLE TO WITHHOLD ENOUGH TO SURPASS THE LAWS OF NATURE IN OTHER WAYS. HOWEVER, WE’VE NEGLECTED HOW FAR CHAT NOIR HAS MENTALLY DETERIORATED. THIS MUST BE DUE TO THEIR ARTIFICIAL AWAKENING.

WHEN MUTANTS OF THEIR KIND ARE TO AWAKEN, THEY ARE ALWAYS TOGETHER. THEY MUST BE TOGETHER; THEY MUST MAINTAIN A BALANCE .

THERE’S ONLY A MONSTER HIDING IN THAT BODY. PERHAPS WE CAN FIND SOME WAY TO CIRCUMVENT LADYBUG’S NEED FOR HIM. THEY ARE ONLY ARTIFICIAL, AND HE WOULD BE TOO DANGEROUS TO JUST LEAVE ONCE WE ARE FINISHED.

 

  • DR. ELLIOT

 


 

Day Eighty-Eight

Power is back on. The sector has been quarantined. [NAME REDACTED] expects #013 to recover full use of his left hand despite how much he’s chewed off. Hawkmoth does not want them held apart for that long when #707 is significantly low on energy again.

They are to remain together for further studies pertaining to how much energy #707 can retain and present too when collecting it. The more we take, the more he’ll make anyway. We either have both, or we have neither: that is the rule.

#707 is the one wide awake and alert.

Day Eighty-Nine

1016 Hours - #013 moved. He doesn’t move far. He only seeks out #707 before collapsing again.

1915 Hours - #707 only eats so much. The rest she helps #013 eat.

Day Ninety

They’re being left alone again today. I decided to go near their room myself. Hopefully, Hawkmoth doesn’t find out.

#707 is concerned, scared for #013, but hopeful also. I think she’s scared for another reason though; she was the only one able to somehow stop #013 when it happened in her weakened state.

#013, I can’t describe again. These are not human emotions, but the ones I do detect seem similar to care and gratitude. There are hints of something else too, but I’m not entirely sure what the feeling is just yet.

Day Ninety-One

Hawkmoth wants to know how both Subjects are doing. I’m not sure what he wants to hear today. Does he want to know that #013 can move again, or does he want to know he’s walking around on two feet more often? We’re lucky he’s recovering physically and mentally, but that has to be #707’s doing.

She gained plenty of energy that day even on the cusp of death. She’s the only reason that part of the facility even remains standing. If she wasn’t here, I can only imagine what the permanent damage would have been, and what #013 would have done after.

Day Ninety-Two

Wounds appear much better than the day before. It will take another week for him to be fully recovered [NAME REDACTED] says, but I don’t think #013 will have that luxury. The scientists are working again, and they’re keeping me in the dark. I think that may be on Hawkmoth’s orders.

Day Ninety-Three

0241 Hours – I was awakened abruptly. #707 is awake.

A nightmare.

#013 manages to calm her down in a few minutes.

The others continue working throughout the day.

Day Ninety-Four

#707 is taken away early this morning, and has some of her energy taken. Only some; she actually remains awake once they’re done. Both of them are confused as am I.

I’m not sure I want to know what’s going on again, but Hawkmoth is a few days early. I’m fearful what the new test he plans on conducting will do.

Day Ninety-Five

I’m being too empathetic towards the Subjects.

Tomorrow, Hawkmoth intends on conducting the test, and I will be move to another room when the time comes.

I should not feel anything.

Day Ninety-Six

0305 Hours - #707 had another nightmare. #013 managed to calm her again.

The test is to be conducted this afternoon.

 

Chapter Text

Acid green glowed through her warped memory of that day, focusing intently and determined to maintain eye contact with her. They gazed, unblinking and wide, the slit pupils opened in the center of those iridescent irises locked on target. This was the part where lips flecked by blood and flesh twitch and revealed red-stained fangs beneath. There’s a hiss – no, he doesn’t hiss, but there does seem to be steam as his body temperature was heated far higher than the temperature of the room. He’s surrounded by the chaotic energies of fortune which made his blonde hair and green eyes brighter in contrast, gaunt body far paler in comparison.

Each step he took towards her hastened the structural decay of his examination room, the chains that had been holding him down crumbling to dust as he walked over them. He’s slow, almost shambling like a zombie in some generic horror film, but this was real, and she had no means to escape him since her body was still recovering from losing more energy than usual. Her hand just touched down behind her to try vainly to pull her away, but he was already standing above her. She took quick breaths, each one shakier than the previous one and her heart racing against her ribs as she looked him in the eye. This was the moment - this was where she watched the mouth pull back into a full grin and the claw lashed out.

In reality, he had continued to stand there. The nightmare Marinette saw, which made her awaken with a scream, had its foggy vestige swept away by warm hands and a soothing rumble. Adrien held onto her tightly that morning, his chin resting on the crown of her head, and his purrs bringing everything back into focus. Ocean eyes blinked, and the memory replayed itself correctly in her mind, her racing heart resuming a steady pulse.

Immediately around her, the ground had remained untouched and the sparks of the usually intangible force of fortune didn’t touch her either. They continued to dance around the scrawny boy that merely stared now with dim eyes, the energy that had been driving him mad lightening its burden. Marinette watched him silently drop to his knees with his head bowed forward and his ears fallen low, his face betraying confusion and pain.

He was covered in so many wounds and not all of them caused by claws, but the worst had been to his left wrist. Blind desperation to escape, she had later learned he had brought his fangs down on himself. She could see bone beneath frayed tendons and veins, and noted how his skin had been peeled to the knuckles probably as a result of ripping himself out of the cuff. Somehow, he hadn't bled out; nor had he destroyed the room, but a considerable amount of the rusting walls had been splashed red in his frenzy and threatened to buckle.

Marinette allowed the poor boy to sink against her chest, her arms open to receive him and then wrapping around his shoulders. The dark energy bouncing off his body curled and soon took another hue while she rubbed his back. Black to violet and finally, to red, the threads tangled around her fingers and arms, soaking into her body. Fingers combing his hair down, she held him tighter, and buried her face into his mane with her eyes shut tight.

Eyes opening now, Marinette shifted and roused from her nap when something moved beneath her head. Sitting up slowly, her eyes remained down and she watched Adrien settle in a new position upon their stiff bedding to resume his own slumber. Staring at him longer, she brought her right hand forward to his face, and gently brushed some of his hair back.

It was weird when she thought about it; how some time ago, she had mistakenly disliked him over a stupid piece of gum. Now here they were, trapped in some building, and living in the same room, both of them… she didn’t know what to call them. They were still human though, right? Fingers tracing his cheek where his pale skin blended into black that rounded his eyes and expanded over his brow line, disappearing further into his hair, her eyes followed that into wheat blonde strands and up to the tilted peaks of his cat ears. That day… no, no matter what happened, he was still that boy she met in the rain. Claws and other feline features would not change that. If they ever left this place behind, he would remain Adrien to her even if others did not see that.

In her absentminded strokes over his head now and passed his ear, she almost missed his half-open eye watching her curiously. Embarrassed, she nearly snapped her hand back, fingers just centimeters away from his head.

“Wait…”

Marinette blinked, freezing at his voice. He continued to lie there languidly while observing her, his bandaged hand coming into view as he covered his mouth a bit. His own cheeks tinged a soft rose and he hesitated.

“Could you… keep doing that?”

“… That?” She wasn’t teasing him with her question, she was merely bewildered. Too late already as his flush only darkened, but he didn’t say any more. Instead, his eyes dimmed and looked elsewhere, an action that had her frown. He had changed since that day, and she just knew that she wasn’t the only one plagued by the nightmare of that day. Less he seemed to act on his own person and more because of… instinct. A thought Marinette constantly had was that, if they went their separate ways, what would happen to him? Would he become entirely stripped of himself? She would become the only one to recognize him if they met again.

No, that was a terrible thought; one that she would never allow to come true.

Shifting back to better face him, she raised both hands, and met his head with her fingers. She started at his cheeks to cup his face warmly, and slowly moved them up to his hair, letting her digits weave into the tangled golden locks. Marinette knew – no, she saw his eyes widen – however, she allowed her nails to gently scratch his head and near the base of his ears with a smile gracing her lips. His mouth quivering in an attempt to speak, the only sound to escape him shortly was those of a light purr. The brows pressed together came undone and fluttering eyelids closed, his head leaning towards her hands and soon, just forward.

Foreheads touching, there was no helping her faint hum when they’re bodies came closer, his arms wrapping beneath her shoulders to pull her back down. She found herself covered again by the thin blanket they had been sharing before, the heat and his purrs putting her further into a state of calm.

It was curious, but maybe part of whatever they had now, he picked up on her still present distress. Honestly, there was so much about their strange bodies that she didn’t understand, and no one still bothered to explain anything about their whole connection to good and bad fortune. If that was all they wanted, then maybe Hawkmoth would be done with them soon. Maybe…

Needle-like pinpricks pressing into her back, and Marinette realized that the purring had changed to a deep-throated warning growl. They were accompanied by hard knocks against the bedpost as Adrien’s tail proceeded to thrash. Hands slipping away from his head, she already felt the tremors reaching her toes. Her eyes were bulging, but she refused to look anywhere that wasn’t Adrien’s chest. She didn’t want to believe who was coming, but Adrien’s growls were not faltering. After hours of nothing from them, she didn’t want to know what the scientists wanted.

Finally hearing their footsteps for herself, they stopped before the door. Even at this distance, she could not make out any of their chatter, and she worried what they might be discussing. Several pounding minutes had to have passed at least, but Adrien never ceased his sounds. However, they were soon drowned out by something louder.

It was humming at first, and then a creaking followed by the distinct clicks of heavy gears outside grinding their many teeth together. Soon, that was joined by several rattling hisses as chains began to move, pulled back towards the far North wall. Claws briefly pressing harder into her back, Marinette gasped when they released. She remained in bed, but Adrien was unceremoniously dragged out, a clawed hand drawing four marks into his mattress in a feeble attempt to hold on. Her fingers touched his, but only for a second, and she was quick to scramble to her feet just as the door opened.

Several scientists entered as expected accompanied by a few ‘nurses’. She worried they were here to take her away again – resume their testing with her as two ‘nurses’ approached – but that didn’t happen. Instead, her arms were seized roughly and soon, they were encased from her hands to her elbows in metal, two lights beeping at each wrist. Magnets bound them together in such a way that only by holding her arms to her chest did she manage to not accidentally hurt herself.

“Ladybug is secure.”

Wide eyes darting around, the two nurses stayed by her side; everyone else approached Adrien who steadily backed himself into a corner crouched on all fours. She could see the emotions flickering in his eyes as he backed away further, hissing lowly with his injured hand pulled tightly to his chest. She also noticed the moment those green orbs almost changed entirely to something more beastly; they took a brighter hue and the pupils nearly squashed entirely, focused on the nearest scientist. The nurse to his right swung first, and white momentarily burst in Marinette’s vision. There came a harsh snap, pop, and single screeching yowl followed by a thud.

“Adrien…!”

Her feet moved before her mind stopped her. She probably managed two steps before a nurse grabbed her, their massive fingers encircling her bicep and keeping her in place. Despite the risk of her arm being broken, she tried to wrench herself free, wanting desperately to reach her twitching friend as three scientists approached him. They talked in low whispers, hands gesturing and fingers pointing, but they were soon exchanging nods. A syringe she hadn’t been able to see from this angle, one decorated in red and black spots, was brought forward by the eldest scientists as he inserted the needle into the stunned boy’s shoulder. He hissed, but didn’t move, fingers twitching while the plunger was depressed to empty its contents.

She didn’t understand, but the scientists stepped back, attention drawn to Adrien gradually coming around. Several minutes passed before he began to shift, and Marinette noticed his sluggish movements. “W-What… did you do to me now…?” he growled, managing to get to his hands and knees, ears and tail still drooping. The black spot on his back was visible to everyone, and she felt herself swallow when familiar sparks beginning to dance around it. That happened occasionally, but this was proceeding to pop more frequently and tether around his limbs. His forehead creased, the scientists taking another step back with their assistants.

Marinette vision unexpectedly turned black. Next time she blinked, spots were dancing in her vision and both nurses were keeping her upright. If she screamed, she missed it over Adrien’s own. Barely did she manage to make out the boy, her narrowed eyes watching him writhe on the ground with his claws buried into his hair as many others around did. He didn’t stay like that long, the violent spasms making him twist, claw, and kick until he stilled on his side. The dark energy that usually gripped him was instead tinged red, the energy bleeding from him and reaching her in what felt like white hot waves scalding her skin. The worst came when it rose to her head, burning and pounding throughout her scalp. If her hands weren’t bound, she knew she would be gripping at her head with each pulse – each intense flinch from Adrien’s half-conscious form wheezing for breath, saliva trickling from his mouth.

“This appears to be a sufficient method.”

“It should even give us time to collect her energy.”

“He’s still breathing. Perhaps we need to lower the dosage.”

“Stop… Stop this please…” Why did they keep doing this? Adrien’s convulsions decreased, but he was shivering. The sparks that had been coming off him were as listless as his fallen ears and tail.

“Did she channel everything?”

“Yes. The initial intake dazed her, but the readings are proving positive.”

Red… red… there’s so much red.

Marinette doesn’t know if she’s ever seen this much red, but it was her skin glowing, and becoming brighter still the longer she looked at Adrien.

The scientists were touching him, moving his arms, examining his claws, and prodding the spot on his back. His lips twitched, but he couldn’t draw more than a grunt. More energy flared from his spine, but that resulted in him snapping his eyes shut and cringing again, Marinette trembling herself upon another scorching wave descending on her. They said she was channeling it, but did that mean she was taking everything that Adrien was drawing to him away? Did he have anything ? And was this what it always felt like? Her eyes caught his glazed emerald orbs, his breath coming out in fainter pants.

“So?”

“Let’s speak to Hawkmoth. A chamber should do until we’re finished…”

Dropping his hand, they rose, but they remained standing over him. They were still talking about him. Beyond breathing, Adrien didn’t move. Marinette held his gaze, but she didn’t know if he was looking at her any longer. It almost seemed like he was looking through her, and maybe he was.

She could see it though in her mind, the chamber that the scientists spoke about. Why, Marinette asked herself again. Her eyes closed, and she saw him trapped behind the glass, his arms bound and his eyes blinded by their mask. He didn’t move in the glorified coffin; he only existed until they needed him. Another needle, his muted cries, and her being seared alive as everything poured out of him, making him waste further away.

“I thought he didn’t want any more compromises to Chat Noir’s health.”

“#013 is only meant to be a conduit. He’ll survive. Besides, fewer compromises to the staff may be worth the exchange. He won’t be able to draw enough strength to evoke his destruction.”

Her vision was blaring red again.

There was a flame from the crown of her head began to ignite the rest of her body through her veins. How dare they , she thought. How dare they lie to him, and kidnap her. How dare they hurt him, and hurt her. And how dare they continue to plan to torture him in front of her like this…! Marinette never felt so outraged before, but she couldn’t stop it. They pulled at him again, dragging him with his chain, but Adrien made no sound this time.

The restraints on her arms felt light and her sight was clouded by a storm.

“G-Get away from him…!” she hissed, not even feeling the nurses tighten their hold on both arms. Her bones could be crushed now for all she cared, but she was going to get them first. The scientists’ attention was now on her and they let go of the chains. They were saying something, but she wasn’t listening. Her eyes were only focused on him in the eye of her fury and the nurse that dare pick him up by his bell collar. He choked, and scarlet overtook her vision.

Marinette felt nothing and barely made out what happened next. Adrien was released, the nurse sent soaring by a pink wave, one that caught the three scientists as well. It set them careening into the walls with consecutive slams, each body falling to the ground unconscious. The nurses holding her were next, one sent crashing into the two rolling beds and the other forcibly slammed into the door. Her fingers flexed and the shackles came undone, pieces clattering to the floor as her hands fell to her sides.

She said nothing.

In her mind, she was breaking Adrien’s chains while he watched her mutedly, his eyes wide. Though, this task was interrupted by shouting behind her. The door was open again, and people were entering their room, but the body of the nearest unconscious nurse rose only to be sent flying. It barreled all the bodies converged around the doorway down and anyone else hiding from her immediate sight were caught by the shockwave that followed.

How dare they, how dare they, how dare they…!

They needed to go away! This needed to stop! She would make it all stop!

A gasp escaped her as something wrapped around her shoulders and warmth pressed firmly against her back. Her hands were quick to rise, grabbing the thin limbs as her eyes narrowed; she was prepared to throw this assailant away, too.

“Marinette… Marinette, stop…”

Her fingers trembled at the softest voice whispering in her ear. The red clouding her vision lessened, but it didn’t fade. A gentle purr soon accompanied the warm embrace, and his face presses against her head so he could nuzzle. Her racing heart began to slow as her anger cooled.

“It’s okay… we’re okay now. Come back to me so we can go…”

“Adrien…” she murmured. Her vision came undone and the red finally cleared away, leaving her once more in the dim room. However, they were surrounded by the unconscious forms of some of their captors, their beds upturned, and the door standing wide open, unable to close due to an obstruction. She stared at it longer in disbelief, not entirely sure what happened or if any of this was real. “I-I… we…?”

“You broke my chains… and you gave me some of my energy back.” He stepped around her as he spoke, an arm not leaving her shoulder as he did so. Standing by her side and gazing towards her, she felt his hand sink down her arm and clasp her hand. Marinette’s lips parted, but she said nothing at his tired smile. “We can go before more of them arrive…” His head turning away led her to looking at the open door again. Open, meaning they could step out, meaning that they could potentially be anywhere but here.

Her eyes opened wider and her fingers tightened around his. “Right…! Let’s get out of here.”

From the corner of her eye, she saw him again look at her, his own eyes bright with his mirth.

He took the lead, walking them to the door and peeking out first. His ears quivered and his head turned all around as he checked the corridor. He stepped out first before helping her over the bodies, but both of them snapped their heads around when sirens began wailing overhead. Hands held tight together, they ran, Adrien taking them this way and that in a way that Marinette couldn’t follow. All of the hallways looked the same while they ran, unlit doors numerous and imposing on each side. She didn’t know how he did, but she was willing to chalk it up to his own condition, maybe even those instincts she considered before. No matter what led him, she knew to trust him.

It was the correct decision. He slowed when their pathway opened into what had to be a garage. Plenty of vehicles were parked throughout, but attention did not remain on them for very long. No, Marinette’s sight was drawn over them and toward the exit. She could see outside, the dark forest bathed in moonlight, the stars, and how it stretched beyond. It had been so long that she had almost forgotten how beautiful the evening could be even as it was slowly concealed by a barricade…!

Taking off again, she overcame Adrien and took the lead charging at the gate coming down to seal them in. She pushed herself, weaving through cars and trucks, keeping a tight grip on the clawed hand slipping from her hold.

“We’re almost there, Adrien!” she called behind her, chancing a brief look behind her. They had come this far, but it was no surprise to her to see him drooping. Whatever energy she had given him back was dwindling, and he probably was still incapable of taking in energy for himself. If it wasn’t for her holding onto him, he would undoubtedly fall over. Marinette slowed for him, but he shook his head. His fingers loosened.

“Don’t…! Keep running!”

Her hand braced and she shot him a glare over her shoulder.

“I’m not leaving without you! I can’t leave without you! Ah--!”

Feet skidded to a stop, and they both gazed at the solid iron wall that sealed their path to freedom. “No!” she cried, her palm pressing flat against the cold metal, banging it several times only to hear a dull thump. The alarms echoed in the room, and a voice crackled through on a speaker announcing Chat Noir and Ladybug were in Hangar Three. Eyes bulging, Marinette looked behind them again. The staff wasn’t there instantaneously, but they were coming; they would be there soon enough. If they were caught now, they would never have another opportunity like this. “There has to be some way we can get out…!”

There were no buttons or levers nearby that might open the door. She jumped at the light tug on her hand.

“Stand back… I-I need some space to see if this works,” Adrien mumbled, stepping forward. He placed a hand on the barricade, Marinette blinking, but acquiescing to his request. Hesitantly, she released his hand and moved away, watching him now touch the cool iron with both hands. Both her hands clasped before her chest, she stared at his back, wincing slightly when those sparks began to try gathering around his spine. Just as she thought, she was still drawing away his strength, but she watched as his shoulders hunched and muscles tensed. His hands pressed and claws curled – his legs began to shake.

“C’mon…” she barely heard him speak. “I can do this… I promised. … Ugh!”

The power gathering in his limbs was the wrong hue. She wanted to step forward, but her feet didn’t respond. Remaining rooted to her spot she watched the sparks crackle and race down his arms, and come to bubble around his quaking hands. His claws pushed again, puncturing the metal surface and finally, he pulled his arms downwards. The bubbling around his fingers sunk into his marks and instantly set to work rusting the immediate area before spreading outward. Adrien didn’t even wait for the rest of it to bend; instead, he seized her hand and burst through the barrier with his shoulder before the rest of it could crumble on them.

It went from dim fluorescent lights to darkness, and the air held a biting chill, but Marinette didn’t care. Her breath escaped in wispy pants and the moist earth – still fairly rough on her skin – would leave her feeling numb later, but that didn’t matter. Nothing else mattered as they raced into the forest, snapping fallen branches beneath bare feet, kicking leaves and dirt, and again leaving Adrien to guide them anywhere.

What had transpired this evening, it would take a while to catch up to her. Right now, they were gone…

They had escaped.

Chapter Text

The last time he slept this well had to be years ago. He hadn’t been that young, but he hadn’t been that old either, being on the cusp of becoming an actual pre-teen. Ensnared by warmth, and cuddling against his favorite stuffed toy, he would dream of tomorrow or the future; practical things for the most part, of things so far, but so near still. He didn’t have them anymore though, and when he did dream, it wouldn’t stay, or he didn’t want it to linger. He had to wake back up to the reality of it all - of his mother’s absence, of his father’s distance, and now, to his changes.

Adrien didn’t want to wake up. He wanted to continue embracing the warmth against him, to keep smelling sugar and the faded, but still clinging scent of freshly risen bread. In his sleep, there was no pain – it was only them. With a faint chuff and rattle, he shifted, inhaling the scent again. Chemicals and blood, but such a naturally sweet fragrance managed to wriggle out from beneath; and those were above the early morning frost clinging to wild flora and dampen the earth in sharp accompaniment of moist geodes. Though, hold on, that didn’t make sense. A light gust against his back and he grumbled, blindly reaching out for their blanket only to discover there wasn’t one. Annoyed, but curious, he had to give in, and open his eyes to allow reality in.

And then he felt them widen.

Muted tones of gray and brown filled his vision as he examined the cragged walls, and sunlight was visible at the cavern’s open mouth. Few plants grew near them, but he could smell the wafting fragrance of irises as the wind blew into the cave and around, again tickling his exposed back. Of course, these were only a few of the observations Adrien could manage from his position. He didn’t want to awaken Marinette to have a proper glance around. He decided to instead lie there, and remember how they had come to this place.

Claws closed tightly around her fingers, his pace had been quick and only stuttered when she tripped over objects unseen to her eyes. His own eyes blazed, slit pupils blown wide as moonlight refracted from the world around him and painted him a picture in the darkness. Fallen leaves and branches, long timbered trees with plants beginning to overtake their decaying form, and the coolness of the evening was dusting the night with dew already.

He had no idea where to go in all honesty – this was his first time in an actual forest. However, adrenaline running high, his inexperience in hiking could wait for now. Adrien tried thinking less just like back in the facility’s hallways, and allowed himself to be guided by something else instead. This ‘something’ brought him whirling around and picking up Marinette, and he suddenly felt departed from what occurred next; like he had become an outside observer to his own actions.

His lithe figure was fluid through the trees and underbrush like water, ears standing erect. The balls of his feet were propelling him more at a bound than mere run. If he could, he would have move on all fours, but he couldn’t set her down – no, he refused to set her down, the smells of the facility still powerful in his nostrils. As far as he could, as quick as he could, that’s all that needed to be done; but then his ears twitched at the echoing howls behind them. Their scent needed to disappear, too.

He clutched her with one arm and felt her arms tighten around his neck the moment he jumped. By impulse he took to the canopy; no fur on his thin body and a lack of material on hers meant diving headlong into the churning water he charged towards was out of the question. They ‘disappeared’ above, his claws on hand and both feet catching bark when he could not land upon a firm branch, and continued this pattern. Briefly, he noticed Marinette’s eyes shut tightly. Here, he wanted to think he said something, but he may have cooed instead – chirped? It had been a sound, but his state had not formed actual words. She said nothing either, but he caught her eyes gazing back when he landed again. Their heads bumped fleetingly before he leapt once more.

Eventually… there was the river. He crossed on foot with her feet brushing as they disturbed the silent current before moving further. There were no more howls reaching his ears, and the smells had faded. When he was positive it was safe, his mind shifted from fleeing to finding shelter for the evening. That’s when he had sniffed out the cave, walking them back from the mouth to lay down and avoid the sunlight disturbing them too soon in the morning. Settling down with her, thundering hearts calmed; things became fuzzy as the adrenaline settled, but he believed she spoke and stroked his ear once.

“Thank you…”

Adrien stared at the girl still sleeping in his arms, a claw moving several strands of dark hair behind her ear. Her eyes remained closed, but not tightly. Her lashes were delicately fallen against her round cheeks, and she herself seemed completely relaxed unlike the evening before. Claws curled, he let the pads of his fingers lightly trace the curve of her face, admiring how the feeling transitioned where red and peach met.  No one would notice from a distance really, but the texture of her new skin was unlike the normal skin that remained. It remained soft, but there was a unique sleekness to it and a notable firmness if pressure were applied, probably not unlike a beetle’s shell. He wondered about its ability to retain heat, sensing a minute shiver race through her body. But perhaps that was less about the chill and more about her shifting and sighing from slightly parted lips, all actions which had his full attention.

His tail curled and he watched her eyelids part. Tiredly, they blinked, and opened wider, and he knew his own grew when she finally looked at him. The delighted rumbling in his chest started before he could stop it. “Good morning, Marinette. Did you sleep well?”

She didn’t reply immediately, but continued to stare at him blankly. He could see her thoughts shifting, saw the bewilderment, realization… and suddenly, embarrassment as her face flushed scarlet. Words still caught, she managed a nod instead. Though he was confused now, he said nothing as her hands moved, touching his face and giving his ears a small tug. Her eyes widened more.

“… I-It wasn’t a dream?”

One of his ears flicked against her fingers and he nodded, smiling. “It happened… We got away. You got us out.”

“You destroyed the barricade,” she replied, scratching the tips of his ears, “And then you found us a place to rest.”

“I wouldn’t have if you didn’t free me… I never told you thank you before falling asleep.”

She had said it, and it confused him. There wasn’t really anything he had done to earn her thanks. He hadn’t broken her out of the room, and it was only luck he managed to break the barricade. As for finding them some place to rest, that wasn’t him either, but that other half he knew lingered inside him, filling the holes his powers left in his mind. Adrien himself had done nothing to help either of them.

“Adrien…” she started, but a grumble cut her off. The color returned to her face and her gaze fell. When it happened again, it was Adrien’s turn to feel his face burn. His ears pulled back and he withdrew a hand to scratch the tip of his nose. A faint giggle and he stared at Marinette again, feeling the burn worsen. “Guess I’m not the only one hungry…”

“A-Ah… No. We… we did skip lunch… and we missed dinner.” Not that he would’ve been able to eat dinner. Humming, she seemed to wriggle beneath his arm like she was contemplating whether or not to leave. Of course they had to; they couldn’t just remain in this forest.

Though, perhaps they could.

In fact, maybe they should, considering his changes and hers.

Thoughts aside when he noticed her absence from his hold, he slowly sat up beside her and followed her eyes outside. Just as he noted before, sunlight spilled into the cavern’s mouth, illuminating the rocks to a smoky tone, and ice glimmered on the moss clinging to stone crevices. Rust and gold danced in the cool breeze going by and still held to their branches firmly to try fighting their inevitable fall. The bright sky Adrien last remembered seeing had dulled now, the cool saturation it had before dialing back to a warm steel broken apart by thick clouds.

“It’s winter already.”

His eyes drifted over to Marinette, but soon fell to his lap. That’s right, public schooling started in September. And she had told him he had been gone for a month before she had been taken to the facility, and maybe a month had passed for her to be turned. November or December maybe, and either month would undoubtedly have his father terribly occupied. Adrien hoped his lack of inquiry was due to that. If it wasn’t… Suddenly, food didn’t sound so appetizing again.

Slowly rising to his feet, Adrien stretched to stop himself from thinking this time and huffed, “So, do you want to try finding some food, or start walking and hope we’re heading back to Paris?” Not the best suggestions he’s made in his life, but those were the only options before them right now. Where they were was anyone’s guess, and he had stupidly run off in who knows what direction too. He cast a grin to her despite his lip twitching at his uncertainty and held out a hand to help her stand. This was a mess.

Her palm resting in his did make him relax somewhat.

“I think…” she began, hand clasping his as she rose to her feet. Her other hand fixed the gown she still wore, dusting away both dirt and wrinkles. Only when she was satisfied did she look up at him with a firm eye. “We should do both… if we can.”

“Both?” He cocked his head. She nodded once in reply.

“As you said, we can only hope we’re going in the right direction. So, we should go which ever direction, and try finding something we can eat at the same time.” He blinked in surprise. He hadn’t considered that option, but it did make sense, and it was about on level with any other idea they had. Adrien failed to realize she was already moving until she pulled his arm and made him take a step forward. He gave a start, catching her again looking at him and speaking, “Come on. We’re not getting anywhere just by standing here. Besides, outside, fresh air… sunlight…!”

The sunlight, as they took the first few steps out, had him squint and shield his face. No surprise that happened and he certainly didn’t mean to hiss as he did. A gentle squeeze to his other hand kept his temper flare down and coaxed him to take a few more steps, easing his hand from his eyes. His dilated pupils contracted, granting him the ability to view the forest now bathed in morning.

The thicket of bushes and trees seemed to expand farther into the horizon, further than they had observed from the cave, the sea of gold becoming more scarlet and burnt umber. His ears quivered and he started to pay attention to more than what he just saw. There were birds that had yet flown singing in bright chirps and high peeps, small mammals like squirrels still scurried in the process of scavenging, and something large was shuffling its way through the distant brush. Turning his head, he managed to catch sight of the doe that hastily trotted in retreat. Left ear twitching again, he turned his head left, and noticed the river – no, incorrect. He must have been exhausted – creek they had crossed the night before. Frost stood on the muddy banks while the water washed away any ice that may have accumulated around. He didn’t even realize it had gotten that cold.

Really, here the two of them were, him only in pants and her in that gown. Not optimal winter outfits by any means, but he didn’t feel cold. Was hypothermia setting in? Did either of them have frostbite? How was he supposed to tell with his hands and feet black as they were?

“Adrien?”

She didn’t feel cold, but maybe he already had it? He walked through the creek with her. What if they both were just numb by now?

“Adrien…”

The pain probably didn’t compare at all to the stuff they’ve been through, but what if-

Adrien!

“What??”

Eyes wide, ears and tail high, Marinette was staring at him. When did they stop walking? Wait, which direction were they going? He blinked and focused, ears lowering in a second, “S-Sorry…”

“You… don’t have to apologize.” She raised an eyebrow with her lips curling downward. “You had this intense look on your face and you started to crush my hand a bit. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“… Oh.”

He hadn’t realized at all. The hand around her fingers relaxed and she felt her digits squirm to get the feeling back. At least she didn’t look angry at him, but she still gave him a rather perturbed look. “… Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Is it something embarrassing?”

“Not… really. It’s actually kind of… silly.”

“It isn’t that silly if you almost had a panic attack over it.”

They were moving again as they spoke heading who knew where, but Marinette seemed confident. Adrien had no reason to doubt her anyway.

Scratching the back of his neck slightly with the tips of his claws, he shrugged. “I… was just thinking about how it’s practically winter and we’re not dressed for it. And then I started considering what if we had hypothermia or frostbite and just couldn’t tell at this point.” Blue eyes were on him again, wide in consideration. Now he really knew he shouldn’t have mentioned anything about it, catching her before she tripped over a stump.

“I don’t know? Honestly, I actually haven’t noticed that it’s really cold, but you know, you are really warm…”

“I’m warm?” He tilted his head, feeling a fang pinch his lip in confusion, “You’re warm. I didn’t want to wake up because it’s so comfortable lying next to you.”

Immediately her face came to match the rest of her skin – he really needed to remember that she blushed pretty easily. Considering all the nights they’d slept side-by-side, spoke to each other, and comforted the other after exams, it was cute that she could still become flustered. She was quite the friend to have – a friend…! Now it was his turn again to blush slightly.

“I-I could say the same thing about you,” she replied, pulling away from him. They continued walking before she spoke again. “Maybe… it’s something else to do with our forms? So far, everything else has been due to it.” Everything else… He looked at their joined hands wondering what life would be like if this hadn’t happened. It would be a better alternative; she wouldn’t have suffered after all. She would still get to be at home and with her friends – heck, she had been friends with everyone in class and they probably missed her.

“Anyway…”

His eyes darted up as she continued speaking.

“If we want to be careful, we can try making a fire when night comes. I doubt we’re going to be home by then.”

“Right…”

Silence fell between them, and Adrien’s mind again wandered as they walked.  His thoughts did stop occasionally so he could admire the scenery and also listen to their surroundings. The employees from Apatura had followed them for a distance and, until they were lost in the City of Paris, he would have to keep himself alert. Whether or not Marinette had heard him that evening, he was determined to get her home. From there, she would be able to figure out what to do, and he didn’t know what he would do. He had to remain somewhere nearby at least, and if he could explain that to his father, maybe some sort of arrangement could be made.

“Marinette, what are you going to do once we get back to Paris?”

There was a thoughtful hum from her direction, she didn’t answer. It took until they passed a small circle of rocks before she had an answer. “It depends. I want to see my parents first.” That much was expected – he steadied her as she stepped over a fallen tree, climbing over after her. Marinette stood beside him as he stepped down, her other hand nervously tugging at gown, “There’s also Alya. She’s probably been worried, too… It’s funny; we haven’t known each other very long, but friendship can be amazing like that.”

Adrien nodded with a small smile. The little he remembered about Alya and Marinette together, they just acted the way he had seen best friends act on television. Anyone would have thought they’d been together since childhood.

Gentle pressure on his hand had him walking again after Marinette.

“What about you? I know you only started, but you really hit it off with Nino…”

“I…” He faltered, emerald orbs darkening. Sure, he had been getting along with Nino, and Nino had declared himself Adrien’s best bud, but he didn’t know about troubling the other boy about this. He let out a low breath, “Maybe…? I don’t even know if anyone’s missing me.”

Abruptly he came to a halt when he bumped into Marinette’s back, a small ‘omph’ coming from him. An apology already on his tongue, he swallowed it when his companion whirled on him, bluebell eyes narrowed fiercely almost like during her rampage. “Now you listen here, Adrien…” His ears pulled flat and he took a step back as she stepped forward, a finger prodding his chest for emphasis, “Before I was kidnapped, Nino spent a whole month refusing to let anyone sit by him and attempting to visit you at your home. Chloe has been on a warpath ever since you stopped attending school. Really, you may not have been attending very long, but we all missed you. So don’t even think people aren’t missing you right now, got it?”

“Marinette…”

“I said got it!?”

“Y-Yes!” he yelped, heart leaping into his throat and fur standing at her glare. He wasn’t worried about the cold anymore; he felt like sweating bullets under that eye. Neither of them moved for what felt like ten seconds before she stepped back and gave his hand another squeeze. She turned forward and resumed walking, and he was glad she would remain completely unaware of his racing heart.

The silence resumed between them, and remained this time while they forged their path onward. Adrien couldn’t say how long they kept at it, but it was no doubt hours. The sun made its own trail across the sky, occasionally obscured by drifting clouds, and soon began its descent in the west, casting flaming twilight hues across the sky and through the trees. While they could keep going with his eyesight, it wouldn’t do them any good. They hadn’t found any food and it wouldn’t do them any good to just burn through their other energy supply without being sure if they could regain it.

“I don’t know if I’ll find another cave out here,” he said as they now considered finding shelter and possibly food. Marinette was looking into the trees, her expression falling into a pout. Nothing above them then, not that he thought it would be comfortable anyway. The cave had definitely been a lucky find for the two of them. Shrugging his shoulders, his sighed. “Unless there’s an abandoned den or something, but most animals have probably made and claimed them by now.”

“Maybe…” she mumbled. There was always the option of just sleeping on the ground, but he didn’t want to entertain the action. That other part of him kept warning him they were still being hunted. Eyes scanning the ground, he felt his arm being pulled. “… Wait.” He raised his head and blinked once, following after her obediently again when she started walking. It seemed like she was looking for something specifically, her head angled down and her eyes – he could make them out scanning the ground when she turned her head enough. In fact, she had them walking around a particularly large tree in a moment, stepping over roots, and halting near a thick tangle of moss. Slipping from his grasp, she crouched and pressed her hand against the moss. Adrien knelt down when she grabbed and pulled it aside, revealing a hole that seemed just big enough for both of them to fit in.

“Wow… you found one.” How she had done that, he didn’t know, but pressing his palms against the ground, he sniffed before deciding to creep inside. Whatever animal, or animals, that had occupied this den had been gone for some time. Their scent was practically faded save for a few key spots which they would’ve occupied the most. The den builders had packed the walls and softened the space furthest in the back with loose fur, fallen leaves, and moss. They had dug so much that Adrien figured that even he could at least sit inside if he hunched his shoulders enough. It was cool in the hollow, but not cold, just so much so that they wouldn’t need a fire if it came down to skipping it again.

His inspection done, Adrien turned around and crawled out, nodding with a satisfied grin to Marinette. “It’s just what we need.” That was… really fortunate for them. He curiously raised an eyebrow, “How did you know it was here?”

Sitting back on her heels, Marinette shook her head, “I don’t know. I just… I had this feeling come to me when I thought about us really needing a place to safely sleep, and something told me to come this way.”

“Incredible.” He was awed, and wondering if this was part of her ‘good fortune’ ability. And if it was, it had him scratching his chin. “… Do you think it would work again to find food? I mean, I could probably hunt something, but…” Catching food by claw, and then preparing it was possible, but did either of them know how? If they had to, he would try. There probably wasn’t any wild fruit to forage themselves this late in the year. However, his spotted companion was already concentrating, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. A minute passed, then two, and then she rose to her feet and turned. Leaning forward, Adrien rolled to all fours and soon hopped to his feet, quickly following after her. He had the scent of their den memorized; they wouldn’t lose it.

Her sudden cry had him jump, and he ran to her side, prepared to fight, but there was no one there. Instead, she was beaming, and pointing at a bush. Despite the early winter frost, there were bright semi-translucent red berries among the large leaves. While he was hesitant in his approach, Marinette jogged over to them, and knelt down a pick a few. When he was close enough, he gave an experimental sniff – would he even be able to smell if they were dangerous?

“Marinette, are these—Marinette!”

She had already eaten one. Her eyes gleamed. “I can’t believe these are still here. They’re delicious!”

“What if these are poisonous berries?” Adrien gasped, watching her eat a few more, his entire complexion pale. Innocently, she just blinked at him… and then ate another. He gaped.

“Calm down, Adrien. These are redcurrant berries.” She picked a few more and held it up for him to see. “The bakery gets them during the summer, and my parents make all kinds of sweets with them. My favorite is Maman’s redcurrant tart. Here…”

He felt the berry land on his tongue and she tapped his chin closed. Startled, he bit down, fangs puncturing the thin skin and releasing the juice into his mouth. At once, he was overwhelmed by sweetness with a slight tang… oh. “… I’ve had this before.”

“I’m not surprised,” she giggled, handing him a few more. He took them into his claws, holding back the urge to just stuff them all into his mouth. Instead, he carefully picked one up with a claw and held it up, seeing the small seeds inside as the setting sun glowed through it. He just heard Marinette mumble, “Looks like we should have enough in the morning to eat too…”

Shifting closer to her side while she gathered more, they both ate as it grew later. They wouldn’t be able to eat their fill if they still wanted some in the morning, but Adrien conceded that it was fine. Getting anything to eat at all was good enough considering their situation. Leaning, he allowed his head to nudge lightly against her, his bizarre cattish need to reaffirm affection getting the best of him. She laughed softly, and obliged with one hand scratching an ear.

“You’re amazing, you know?” he asked quietly, tail curling in delight to see her cheeks flush again. “Hush and eat your berries. We still need to make a fire…”

“Right. We should--”

A chill shot down his spine and he trailed, raising his head and pulling away from her hand. Sitting up straight, his head and ears moved in staccato, turning this way and that with his eyes darting. It was silent; far too silent for a forest that had been active the previous evening. A twig snapping echoed in his right ear and made it flick. He felt bluebell eyes boring into his head.

“Adrien…?”

Another crinkling crunch of leaves, and that was enough. His head snapped around to Marinette, pupils contracting. “Get to the den. Hurry!”

Any berries she had in her palm fell and Adrien swiftly covered them, claws swiping at the ground to rid of any imprints they may have left. Legs bent and elbows curled, he remained crouched on all fours, and turned still in this quadrupedal stance. The footsteps weren’t close; they would not hear Marinette running as he did, but they would be near soon. Hissing under his breath, Adrien turned and bolted after her, making sure to kick up the trail in the process. No footsteps, destroy the scent trail beneath decaying leaves and mud, he knew his hair was standing on end, but they could not be caught after only one day being out.

Back by the moss-hidden den, he was relieved that she was already out of sight. Both ears standing tall, he knew they were nearly here. He disturbed the moss enough to crawl into the hole, and his tail whipped to cover it again. Adrien glanced over his shoulder and slowly crawled over to Marinette who already huddled in the old bedding. He settled himself besides her, blocking her view of the den’s entrance and placed his claws on her shoulders, his forehead touching hers.

She was trembling. Despite what she had done to them the night before, they had her terrified.

“It’s okay…” he whispered, his low rumble rising in his chest. He shifted carefully on his feet so they could be shoulder to shoulder again, his head nuzzling hers. “It’s okay. We’re going home. We’re not going back to that place again…” His claw fell to clasp her hand and quietly lace his fingers between hers. He was scared too, but he refused to let them be caught. “Only listen to me.”

Meanwhile, he could hear the footsteps milling around near the tree. Adrien only allowed his ears to follow, but his eyes remained on Marinette.

“Are you sure they would come this way?”

“The little we still had brought us in this direction…”

The little of what? Had they used her power again? Eyes narrowing, his tail lashed against the ground.

“Look, just block this section on the map. We’ll return tomorrow morning and canvas the area with the dogs…”

“Hawkmoth’s not going to be happy.”

“And? How happy do you think he’ll be if they get back to the city? That mutant’ll practically be useless, and trying to find them will be a chore.”

They continued to talk as they walked away, but Adrien didn’t pay it much heed. Enough had been said to make him growl, “So much for a peaceful morning… and that fire.”

Footsteps completely gone, the natural ambience of the forest came back. The part-feline boy considered giving his friend more space, but it seemed like she could use him again. “Marinette, you believe me, right? I’m not going to let you be taken back to that place, okay?” He wrapped his arms around her, holding her as he had so many times before. One hand rubbed her back and the other cradled her head, allowing her to bury her face against his neck, the bell still collaring him pushed aside. Her shaking gradually became intermittent and eventually stopped entirely. “That’s it… You’re safe.”

Smiling, he felt her fingers move against his back and grip his shoulders. “Adrien…?”

“I’m here.” His cheek pressed against her temple, “They’re gone. We should get some sleep to get ahead of them tomorrow though. Can you do that?”

He felt her nails press into his back. They might leave half-moon grooves, but he didn’t mind. Adrien was focusing on her breathing, her heartbeat, and how she clung. If he kept being put into the situations she’d been through, he was sure he would feel frightened too.

“Will you sleep with me again?”

Were it not for his keen hearing, he may have missed her words. He knew he was frowning, but to see her so quickly go from vivacious to withdrawn, it made his chest hurt. He brought a hand to her face and tenderly combed her hair behind her ear. “Of course I will, Marinette.”

With care, he helped her settle on the softest patch of the nest and made sure to curl around her, bringing her back to his chest. His heart thumped behind her head, and his purrs rolled from him quietly. Eyes glowing almost yellow, he could see the tense lines in her body disappear. Her breathing was becoming softer, evening out to an acceptable state. Under his breath, he smiled and allowed his eyes to close as his lips brushed against her head.

“Good night, Marinette.”

Their fingers laced together, he felt her squeeze his hand.

“… Good night, Adrien.”

 

Chapter Text

She found herself in her room, covering her head and shutting off her alarm as it blared, only to finally react when her mother’s voice echoed through the door leading downstairs. Marinette swore she had the most peculiar dream – of being stolen away after school by some men in white and taken to a facility whose name she didn’t know.  So many horrible things happened in those walls; and her body, it had been permanently changed red and covered in spots. She must have stayed up too late working on her most recent design for M. Agreste’s competition.

Yawning, she stretched her arms as she rose, feeling her bed sheets spill from upon her back. Lowering her hands back down, she hummed and slipped out of bed. Down her ladder, and onto the main landing from her loft, she didn’t get dressed yet. There was something peculiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Was it the window? It was frighteningly overcast. Were they due for a storm? She couldn’t recall them the news reporting one. Opening the hatch, she proceeded down into the living room.

“Good morning, Maman…”

Marinette flinched at the sharp crack outside the large springline window, and shielded her eyes at the intense flash that followed. The gentle drum of rain against the glass panes eventually lured her to have a peek and she discovered the landing was now plunged into darkness. It wasn’t the first time for the power to be knocked out during extreme weather, but that wasn’t what bothered her the most. By now, her Maman would’ve sighed and mentioned having to go speak with her Papa about getting the candles and possibly closing up the shop, but she didn’t. In fact, she hadn’t even greeted Marinette, or told her she would be late for school if she didn’t get ready.

“… Maman? Are you here?”

A few seconds of silence, and Marinette hesitantly felt her way into the kitchen, her eyes skimming over countertops in search of any possible notes that had maybe been left for her. Though she came across no papers, she did feel her fingers brush against something sticky, but simultaneously slick. Wax – better yet, candle wax. It was lying on its side as though fallen over, the melted substance having pooled around the main stick itself. She righted it with a hum, “Now, if I can just light it…!?”

She jumped as the wick spontaneously sparked to light and the soft light illuminated – this wasn’t the kitchen. Eyes wide, both hands clutched to her chest, she traced the scratches harshly looming in the darkness, their contrast cruel and patterning manic.

“M-Maman…? Papa?”

Then… that hadn’t been a dream.

This was his room, the one which they had fled… but why were they back? And where was he? Marinette turned around, gazing into the corners and beneath the bed, but she did not see him. All she saw were more scarred walls echoing of him, but no gold or green caught in her vision. What did catch her eyes was the dark burgundy stains splattered across the floor and under her feet as she followed.  By the time she trailed it to the door, the coloration had become fresh crimson that not only stained the tiles, but the doorframe which she now noticed was broken, the sliding metal somehow jammed diagonally, leaving an opening big enough for a large dog or small human to get through at the bottom. Distressed mewling came in faintly from the other side.

“Adrien?”

Her heart pounded. That’s right; this place. Though he promised they would never come back, she really wasn’t the one in danger. They were going to lock him up, trap him in more than chains, and he would never move again. A piteous whimper and she noticed it was growing weaker.

Biting her cheek, she crouched, and crawled through the hole, ignoring the blood grabbing onto her hands and knees. She expected to come out into the hallway, but she found herself pulled to a stop. Head whipping to look behind, she noticed her right leg was shackled tightly and held by taut chain, the metal cuff digging into her skin. Still, she wouldn’t see the red mark – not against her red flesh. Kicking only resulted in rattling; it almost made her miss the next pitiful meow somewhere before her. Leg lowering again, she turned.

It was an entirely black mass of fur stretched over a wiry frame and breathing rapidly as it lay on their side. Roughly, it seemed to be a large cat with those triangular ears perched upon its head and its long listless tail, but the form was all wrong. For one thing, the paws were far too long and too thin as were the forearms and hind legs. The feet though, those were misshapen and absence of fur. Somewhere between curling while having human toes, they didn’t arch or bend properly; no animal or human would be able to walk on them. Fresh stitching running along both limb suggested this was intentional.

“Marinette…” That voice was far too low and choked by a rumble, but somehow, she recognized it as familiar. The ragged beast drew a claw back and groaned, luminescent green eyes glowing through their wild black mane. He looked dreadful, panting from the exertion, but he pulled himself closer. Just as he reached her, she felt a tug at her ankle, and again when he pulled himself those next few centimeters, his arms shaking. “Have to… have to get you home. Get you out of this place.” Once more, she was pulled from his reach even though she tried to pull back. He didn’t stop. “Your parents are waiting. You deserve to be with them.”

“… But what about you?”

This time, when he moved closer, the chain didn’t pull her back. In fact, she found that it was loose enough that she could sit up. His form before her, she could look him in the eye; she could also see what covered his body wasn’t actually fur, but energy – chaotic fortune crawling over his skin and rippling like fire. And she thought the chamber would have been bad, but this? They just let him suffer and kept him immobile. His green eyes were clouded. “No one misses me. I belong here… nowhere else.”

His elbows bent, and she caught him as he fell, arms wrapping around his chest. She almost choked; her arms weren’t meant to encircle around his torso like this. She shouldn’t be able to feel his shoulder blades jutting out or feel the space between his ribs so deeply. “No.” Marinette embraced him, but refrained from holding too tight. The cold flames wrapped around him felt warm against her skin, against her face as she pressed against his forehead. “You’re missed. Please, Adrien, so many people miss you. And your home…! You deserve to be there too.”

“I don’t…”

“No, I don’t want to hear you don’t have anywhere to go! If you can’t go home… then let me take care of you! You can share a home with me…” His claws were pressing against her hips, but she didn’t care. He needed to stop pushing himself; he needed to stop worrying about her, or allow her to worry about him. “You’ll have me, and my Maman and Papa, and we’ll find a way to get through this together… Please.”

She shut her eyes, pink lights blinding her. Warmth curled around her cheek, dark flames burning red and fluttering away like petals. The claws were gone, his body suddenly felt fuller, and daring to open her eyes…


Adrien gazed back at her, a clawed hand resting against her cheek. She remained still, staring at him as he cocked his head, and she then slowly took in their familiar surroundings of dirt walls with roots piercing through at random intervals. Her fingers clenched and released their soft bedding of moss and fur before she pushed herself up slowly. He helped her sit, his claws brushing off any debris that clung to her while she rubbed her eyes. She had to stifle a brief yawn before speaking, “Adrien? What time is it?”

“It’s still early, but we need to leave soon. They could be back any moment.” Freezing, she watched his ears rise and hold still. Marinette remained silent and allowed him to listen, resting a hand over her heart to calm its rapid beat. Only at his relieved sigh did it finally calm. “Nothing. We should try grabbing some breakfast before we run.”

“Right… I’m ready to go when you are,” she replied, and was indeed ready to crawl out of their den. They had come this far now; she was ready to go home and… hide for the rest of her life she guessed. He crawled out and she crept out shortly after him, accepting his hand again to stand. She said nothing, letting him take the lead back to the redcurrant bush as she tried to figure out what would happen. They were still going to look like this once they returned; stepping out into public would only draw attention to that, and they would be found again by Hawkmoth. He would have to give up eventually, but they also wouldn’t be able to hide forever.

Biting her lip, she tried to think of something else, fingers twitching around Adrien’s hand. Perhaps that would do? She hadn’t really paid it much attention, but he did have a rather fine pelt of fur almost covering his hand. Each finger up to his claws, but only on top as his finger pads and his palm were bare and slightly rough. Considering how much else of him had become cat-like, she probably should have figured. She imagined it not stopping at his elbows though, saw it spread over his skin – remembered the way fortune festered over his body in her dream.

They couldn’t have arrived at the berries any sooner. Crouching down, their hands separated to eat, Adrien still scrutinizing each berry he picked while Marinette helped herself, albeit not as eager as the previous evening. She picked one and chewed slowly, eyes staring ahead. The berries were cold and the leaves appeared shrivel. They were lucky to find this plant before it began to wither; the once translucent skin was darker, reminding her now of cranberries, holidays, and home.

She stopped and green eyes flitted in her direction once he realized that she did.

“Adrien, when we get back, where are you going to go?” Turning her head, she caught his gaze before he could look away himself. His fingers tensed, a redcurrant caught between his claws dripping over his hand, but he did nothing. He said nothing, but his eyes did glass over and his tongue dragged over his fangs behind slightly parted lips.

It’d been a full minute before he shrugged and shook his head, “I don’t know. I thought about going home, but I don’t think my father will want to see me like this. Wherever I go, it has to be close to you though, right?” Her heart dropped; she had been hoping he would have another answer, that her dream had been only that. The promises he continued to make, telling her she would go home, he hadn’t been considering himself in any scenario. Eating the almost drip-dried berry from his claw, Adrien grinned half-heartedly, “The school’s near your home. I could sleep on the roof or even somewhere in the park.”

But she wasn’t the one who suffered in their separation. Brows knitted, she shook her head. She refused to allow this. “I’ll speak to my Maman and Papa about you staying with us. I know we have a spare bedroom.”

“What?” His eyes were wide, but she wasn’t looking at him anymore. Instead, she was picking a few redcurrants and pocketing them for later. “Marinette, you don’t have to do that… I’m not exactly safe to have indoors.”

“It’s worse for you to risk being outdoors or too far away,” she countered. “We’ve been sharing the same cell for weeks. The only time you were dangerous was to protect us, and you’ll have no reason to worry about my parents.” Before he could speak again, she grabbed his hand, startling him to silence with his mouth closing in a snap. “And… you need to remember that someone misses you! You may have promised to take me home, but you deserve a home too; you don’t belong in that place!”

Her eyes were narrowed and his own were bulging. If she didn’t have a hold of his hand, he probably would’ve crawled away. There was nothing he could say now; she had caught him, so many emotions swirling in his eyes.  “M-Marinette…” But he trailed, bowing his head. His ears pulled flat against his hair and his emerald orbs fell. It wasn’t like she meant to corner him like this, but she had to stop that dream, or nightmare, or whatever it really was. His mouth opened, then closed with a sigh, and his hand started shaking. She took hold of it with both hands, thumbs rubbing circles over his knuckles. The action did make him look up, but his head rose higher, faster, eyes looking over her head.

Both ears were up and his pupils thinned. Marinette held her breath – the forest was silent.

“… They’re here.” Those were words she had been dreading since awakening. While she managed not to hyperventilate, her heart was back to rapidly thrumming against her ribs. Her head turned. She almost wanted to look over her shoulder and see if she spotted any of them, but the moment they were seen, that would seal their fate. Blue met green, and both of them stood, hurriedly making their retreat.

Of course, this time, she heard the low barks and growls, and suspected they had already found the den they stayed in the previous evening. Escape, they needed to elude them. Sure, they were running now, but it wasn’t the right way. She knew the direction they had to head, she knew that it would have gotten them there by the afternoon, but she had to calm down in order to find them a new path. She had to do this before Adrien’s instincts came out, or he did something else of equal potential recklessness.

Closing her eyes, she trusted him to guide her while she steadied herself. Something, anything that would help them get away to cross the countryside. Blinking, she focused, concentrating on her breathing and pulse; thought about escaping their pursuers and their dogs, and making it back home. Paris, the 21 st Arrondissement, the bakery, her Maman and Papa still waiting for her… and a place for the two of them, safe and sound.

The wind muted itself and trees no longer blurred passed when she opened her eyes again. Everywhere, the world almost seemed dimmer, but patches were vivid and drawing her attention. This way, it called – that’s what it felt like to her – and they would be safe. The feeling was warm around her, making her shoulders rise, and resulting in a surge of confidence that had her curl her fingers tight. Adrien slowed, head whipping in her direction, but that was all she needed.

Marinette turned, pulling him towards the down-sloping hill. Her feet clipped, but Adrien caught her before she tumbled and rolled, picking her up. “Seems like you have an idea again. Just tell me where to go and I can get us there.”

She knew her lips were slightly parted, the argument dying in her throat the second he had reached the base of the hill. Glancing back, she didn’t even realize it had been that steep. Adrien was far more balanced and coordinated compared to her that was true. This wasn’t the moment they could risk her clumsiness slowing them down. Eyes narrowing in a determined glare, she nodded once and wrapped her arms around his neck, “Okay.”

They might be eventually followed back to Paris, but by then, they should be thoroughly lost to those seeking them. At least, she hoped.

Just like the evening they escaped, Adrien moved swiftly despite his almost emaciated state. There was some muscle coming back, and no doubt her Maman would make sure he was filled out at home. The moment Marinette told him which way, he immediately turned on his toes. The sun was creeping higher into the sky, but they weren’t safe yet; they probably weren’t going to be safe for a while longer. She could see his eyes occasionally flitting behind them, his ears picking up things that she obviously couldn’t.

That had to be why he ignored her a few seconds later, ducking beneath a low hanging branch and into several large bushes. Technically, it was correct, but it was the way that he set her down that felt wrong. Her eyes widened, “What are you doing?”

He pulled her arms away from his neck and held both of her hands close to his face. “… I’m going to try distracting them.” Her blood ran cold as he continued. “They’re still coming this way. They’re going to call in help, and that will be waiting for us wherever we come out. I can distract them… I can make them think we’re going another way.”

“Adrien, no… This is a bad idea!” she exclaimed, “You know what happens when we get separated. And that medicine they gave you, we have no idea if it’s worn off.”

“If it hasn’t, you’ll pull my energy and I can follow that,” he murmured, “And if it has, I know your scent. I can find you.”

“But… if they catch you…”

“They’re not.” She blinked, startled by him cut her off. He was looking behind them again, both ears shifting. His thumbs rubbed her fingers before he faced her, his eyes glowing as the sunlight caught his face. “Trust me, please. I’ll come back. I’ll find you… and we’ll both go home.”

Eyes wide, she searched his unique eyes, slipping one hand out of his hold to touch his cheek. She had to remind herself she was trying to find out if he was lying to her, but nothing was there. Nothing except that sincerity he always showed her when he held her while she recovered in their cell, when he calmed down from his exams, and when he came back from his madness. Her hand moved to his hair, combing it back, but also allowing her fingers to skim the edge of his ear.

She swallowed, but put on the best smile she could muster, “Come back soon. There’s a place waiting for us.”

“Right,” he managed a soft smile and pressed his head to hers. Even now, a purr rose from his chest. “I would really like a warm place.” She wished they could stay like this longer, but he had to pull away and rose to his feet. Their hands slipped away from each other. “Go on ahead.”

“I will. Don’t keep me waiting.” At least she could slip in a small lilting tease and he flashed a grin back. But then he was gone, and she stared at the empty space he occupied. For a while, she heard his bell, but that faded away soon, too. Her smile fell despite the path to their freedom still being clear. Hands pushing down, she stood up and dusted herself off. He would find her; she knew he would.

That reassurance didn’t stop the chill when the snarling started.

The first step didn’t tune the yelling out.

Her gasp didn’t drown out the yowl.

Almost every part of her yelled to save him, but the other still conceded to his plan. He was the one part cat. There were things that he could do that she unfortunately couldn’t, and if she appeared, that would only distract him. She managed to keep herself turned away and broke into a sprint once her legs responded. Everything still glowed, but not with the same intensity, latching onto the dregs of her hesitation. However, she would rather let her chest ache and keep her mind focused on reaching a ‘rendezvous point’.

The trees, once plentiful, were beginning to thin when she felt an invisible pull on her senses and turned right. Bushes and rocks seemed deliberately cleared at one point in particular. A hiking trail? If it was, then they had to be in a national forest. Or perhaps not? She didn’t exactly study local forests for fun, but she was skidding to a stop when the trees gave away to rocky cliffs and plenty of crevices to hide within.

Marinette panted softly, barely exhausted from her run. This was the place the cold earth offered to them, boulders split from erosion and the ground rattling beneath in the past. It glimmered beneath the now warming sunlight, the frost melting to form late morning dew to evaporate later. That shouldn’t do anything to her scent, or would it mess up Adrien’s tracking? She wasn’t sure, but if it did and the medicine no longer affected him, they would both be lost – him blind and her unable to call for him. Already she felt that prickling in her neck beginning to claw into her throat. Eyes darting, there was nothing that would really draw his attention should he manage sniff out this general location. Trying to keep a severe, but possible tactic from making her pick up a pointed rock, she awed at the bulge in her pocket.

Reaching in, she pulled out a single redcurrant berry. If the ripe summer fruit didn’t attract other animals first, Adrien would definitely be able to pick up its distinct smell.

Retracing her steps, she crushed berries against several trees spaced just a few meters apart, the last being on an oak closest to the cliff. Once that was accomplished, she waited and listened. She had heard humming before, but it was too far to determine if it was a helicopter. Minutes may have passed before she crept out of the tree line and bolted to the nearest crevice, seeing if it was fit for two. She had to check three more, coming upon a fifth that would seclude them enough. Grabbing onto the opening, she eased herself down, toes nervously tapping stone to find something she could stand on. There was only a small shelf, but it worked. Around the rim she smeared more redcurrants and stepped down to examine her work. Her pocket was lighter, but if this worked out, then a meager meal was worth it.

Sighing, Marinette settled herself in her hiding place and hugged her knees against her chest. Time crawled as she waited and wondered how far he had to run in order to lose the facility’s trackers and redirect the party waiting for them. Would they believe him without her there? They knew they needed to be together, and maybe they suspected similarly as they did about the medicine. If Adrien couldn’t be away from her too long, eventually he might lead them to her. That had to be their thought process if he was going to trick them.

The sun continued its trek across the sky and began to cast its light into her temporary grey domicile. Despite this, it was beginning to feel cold. She hugged her legs closer as a shiver passed through her and tried rubbing her legs. The pressure in her throat was increasing, but she could ignore. She favored looking skyward as it worsened and as the cold sunk into her skin, watching the shadows fall across the crevice. The sun and clouds were vying for dominance above. Head dropping, her shoulder met the wall beside her, causing her to shiver again. Too cold; she never realized it was this cold. It made her want to close her eyes even though she had to stay awake.

Don’t… don’t fall asleep.

She must have though because in another instant her eyes were snapping open at scratching overhead – a set of two claw and then four were tapping. They clicked not in the way maybe a prowling animal’s would, but more in a curious sense. There was a deep inhale and exhale before the clicking resumed, growing closer to her location.

“Marinette…?” The voice was subdued and she spotted four black fingers appear just over the crevice’s mouth. Marinette would’ve cried out if she could – or warn him before he fell over the lip – but she couldn’t. Instead, she had to drag her half-frozen form away from the wall and stumble to her feet. She fell, catching herself, palms faintly smacking against eroded slab. It made the blonde cat-boy curious and his head appeared with clouded eyes, trying to listen for anymore movements. She stepped onto her small shelf from before and gently touched his hand, feeling him flinch. The most sound she could try making were by trying to breathe.

No sound was needed on her part. Adrien already sniffed the hand clutching his own and permitted her to guide him inside. It was tricky though; she had to get him to turn around and come down with his feet first, but they managed with guiding prods here and there. With both feet on the ground, he sat down and let his back rest against the wall with a thump, a long groan escaping him.

Sitting down before him, Marinette’s eyes were immediately roaming over his person, checking for any injuries his escapade may have earned him, or any grime that may have traveled upon him. Mud did cake his feet with dried beige patches and new scars were notable on a thigh, his hip, and hands. One of the most concerning mark was around his neck where his bell collar once sat, a red indentation suggesting it may have been pulled off. The second was the bandage still wrapped securely around his left wrist. Once a pristine eggshell white, their two days out and his run had soiled it; although, from the wine red stain that had grown, his wound must have opened and she definitely didn’t recall blood being present last evening.

Daring to ghost her fingers over it, she changed this action in favor of taking hold of his hand and tracing over his bandage with her other hand. It wasn’t long before his free claw came to her shoulder and then followed the line of her neck to her face. They were back to this, just as naturally as before. Touching, comforting, and recovering – as much as they could in this situation. She crawled into his lap still holding his hand and let his arm wind around her shoulders. Her face pressed into the crook of his neck, and his chin rested on the crown of her head. They shared their stress and calmed themselves by breathing steadily together. His gentle purrs and body heat helped her recuperate further.

“Sorry I took so long.”

She shook her head. It was just like him to apologize about that honestly. That’s what she wanted to say, but her throat was taking its time to become undone and resume its proper function. A new wave of energy pulsed inside her body, sweeping away the cold that had overtaken it moment’s ago. “You’re back now,” her voice croaked, “That’s all that matters…”

“Thanks to you.” She pulled back and watched his eyes open, revealing clear gleaming emerald gazing back at her. “I was beginning to lose your scent around here, but I smelled the redcurrants staining the trees and rocks.”

“It’s a good thing I picked them,” she replied, voice stronger than when she spoke before. “I almost considered pricking my finger.”

“Marinette…”

His tone alone said he didn’t approve of that idea. She just rolled her eyes and raised her hand still stained by juice, “It’s over and done with. Let’s take a few more minutes before—Adrien?”

His pupils were dilated and fixed on her hand – scarlet staining upon red there. One eyebrow rising, both came together as fingers wrapped around her wrist and he drew the hand even closer to his face. She remained silent, watching him and considered calling his name again, but then she felt it.

Hot, rough, and wet against her palm, her eyes blew open when she saw his tongue peek out again and press against her skin. The heat flew to her cheeks and her face burned as she spluttered, trying to get any coherent word out. He didn’t pay attention to any of her actions. He just kept at his – she didn’t know what to call it! The point was Adrien was almost mindlessly licking her palm and each digit clean of redcurrant, and finished off with a satisfied rub against her now open hand. It seemed like he came to his senses a scant second later because he gave her palm the most confused stare.

“… What were we talking about?”

Marinette coughed. Was he really unaware of what he just did? He did have moments like that, but this instance was a first. Flushed, she flailed and snapped her hand back once his question processed. “Leaving! We were talking about heading out. We’re already behind schedule no thanks to those trackers. Ahaha…”

“I-If you say so…” He scratched the back of his head, ruffling his hair, and ducking to hide his own reddening face. That only made hers worse, her mind assuming that he was quite aware of his actions. Either way, it was another conversation for a later date.

Marinette stood first this time, and held out her hand to Adrien. He gratefully accepted the assistance standing, picking her up shortly to get them both back out of the crevice. The sun held over their heads, signaling of its soon gradual descent back down after its arching journey through the sky again. A moment taken to descend down the cliffs on their path, and Marinette’s feet touched the ground once again, their hands interlocking. Their eyes met, and she nodded, looking back towards the horizon ahead of them. Follow her was all that her actions said and was all that needed to be said at this point.

For hours they walked with barely any more discussion between, their fear of trackers keeping them alert to their surroundings, most of which was left to Adrien to listen for. Meanwhile, she continued guiding them on the vibrant path only she could see and keeping them on track. Their forest soon fell behind them to be replaced with country fields, long golden strands of wild grass waves that constantly crested beneath the wind. Though her path took them near roads, it was never too close. If anyone saw them, they would just be two figures out for a walk to be forgotten after their passing.

Energy circulating between them, they didn’t have to stop. They did break in order to eat the remaining berries still within her pocket. Once those were gone, the sun was further in its fall. Their shoulders touched – or her shoulder touched his bicep – for this leg, the darkening sky making her sight less a glow and more a hum. If only they had done this originally, Marinette considered, but to be fair, those first two days had them recovering from the last exam they underwent.

There was something exciting about traveling over flat and open terrain like they were. Twilight was firmly settling itself over the Earth, the mild winter sun now replaced by the cool silver moon. Stars twinkled to make their presence known, but they disappeared above the massive glittering city both kids were staring at in awe. Marinette could see the beacon from here – the beloved Eiffel Tower truly illuminating the night.

“Oh… we’re here… we really made it back.” Honestly, she never thought she would see Paris ever again, but there it was, welcoming and waiting before them. She wrapped her arms around Adrien with a fierce hug, “We made it back! We did it!”

For the first time in months, she felt giddy, laughing and he joined in, spinning around with her. There was still excitement when the twirling stopped, and she could hear it pouring from him in content rumbles. She gave him a scratch behind an ear as their heads touched.

“What’s our next stop then?” he crooned.

A gleam came to her eye. She already knew the destination; all they needed was the right way to go. Exhaling, the next path unfolded before her, and after their hike, it certainly looked simple enough. Her smile widened when she answered, “12 Rue Gotlib in the 21 st Arrondissement.”

“Alright...” His fingers fixed themselves between hers and held all the tighter as he grinned. “Let’s go home.”