Continuing Tales

Both of You

A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by Maerynn

Part 17 of 53

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The next morning, Marinette woke up feeling groggy and disoriented. After painfully extracting herself from her bed, she dragged herself disheartenedly to the bathroom. A single glance into the mirror confirmed what she already knew: she looked awful. She had slept maybe a grand total of an hour or so, earning herself rather dark and large bags under her eyes. Said eyes were still swollen from the night's crying, and her cheeks were stained by the unending flow of tears that had only subdued in the wee hours of the morning. She was even paler than usual, her complexion somewhat waxy. Suppressing a loud groan, the young woman washed her face with slow, calculated movements, hoping to regain a semblance of composure in front of her parents.

It became clear quite soon that she had miserably failed, though, seeing that the second she had stepped a toe into the kitchen she was met with a loud and worried gasp and instantly wrapped into a tight motherly hug. Something in her eyes must've given her away to the perceptive woman, considering the way she held her daughter tight, gently drawing circles on her back. "What's wrong honey? What happened to break your heart like that?"

Something snapped inside Marinette hearing those words. Her mother's acceptance of her distress, her quiet and loving understanding shattered the fragile facade the young woman had been able to maintain ever since she had woken up. She dissolved into a mess of tears and stutters into her mother's arms, sobbing uncontrollably, all thoughts of hiding her pain long gone.

When he came back up from the bakery where he had been busy preparing for the long day ahead of him in the shop, Tom found them like that, embracing each other curled up on their kitchen floor. His daughter's face was buried in his wife's stomach, her little shoulders violently shaken with her frantic sobs as she clung desperately to her mother's shirt. Sabine was stroking her hair gently, whispering gentle reassuring words, peppering feather-light kisses on the crown of her head. His father's heart shattering into a million pieces, he kneeled beside the two beings the most important to him and wrapped his arms around them both, holding them to his chest in a tender embrace.

For the second time that day, her parents' love and presence were her undoing. A dam broke inside her, and words came spilling, unbidden, freeing. Hiccupping through her sobs, she told them about Adrien kissing her in the school's library, told her about how it had confused her way more than she was willing to admit. She told them about the friend she had been so sure loved her for herself and finally turned out to be in love with only one side of her. She told them everything she could without telling them about her double identity, and exactly who the boy she had fallen out of love with Adrien for was. And yet, despite the obvious holes in her story, Tom and Sabine understood her pain, her very broken heart. They didn't press further, didn't question her, instead listening intently as their daughter willingly shared what she could with them.

Seeing the distressed state Marinette was in, they decided it would be inhumane to send her to school like that. Sabine called Mr. Damocl├Ęs, explaining him that Marinette wasn't feeling well and would be back as soon as her state would make it possible. When the young woman voiced worries about falling behind on school work, her father shrugged and offered to drop by the school and collect her assignments for the week.

When it became clear that her parents weren't going to back down and let her go to school in the state she was currently in, Marinette gave in. If she had to be honest, she didn't felt strong enough to face her classmates, not even speaking of looking Adrien in the eye. Surrendering to their logical arguments and concern for her wellbeing, she hugged them tightly one last time before retreating to her room to try and get some rest, despite her heart being heavy with misery.

Adrien didn't show up at school the next day. Nino texted him for an explanation, but the only answer he received was a simple, "Haven't slept." Never before had his friend been that short and straightforward with him, so the young DJ chose to let him be, and hopefully get some rest.

The day after, though, when his friend exited the usual silver luxury car and climbed the school's step with his head bowed down, his shoulders slumped and his face pale, it was clear something was very wrong with the blond model. Worried sick with his best friend, Nino tried to intercept him before he entered the building, only to be brushed off harshly, Adrien never even meeting his gaze.

Something was really wrong with him.

Adrien sorrowfully contemplated Marinette's empty seat, his stomach stuck somewhere in his throat. Her absence somehow made their fallout even more real, more painful. Pulling himself together for the sake of the show, the blond reluctantly leaned toward her best friend, afraid to hear her answer. "Hey Alya, where's Marinette? Running late again?"

She shook her head, eying him warily. "Nope. You just missed her dad actually, he came to get her things. Apparently, she's kinda sick and probably won't show up at all this week. Why do you ask? Do you know something I don't?"

He sighed. If only she knew the full extent of that statement. "I think I've messed things up really bad with her."

Alya steel glare softened instantly. "Don't worry too much about it. Short of being a creepy stalker or torturing a kitten in front of her, you should be okay. She won't be able to stay mad for long, after all, we're talking about you."

He stared at her in disbelief. "What's so special about me? She's in love with someone else, not me."

Alya chuckled lightly. "Feelings don't have an off switch, Adrien. She has been head over heels for you for the last four years, even though you somehow was oblivious enough to skip over that. Even if she's with someone else, I know for sure that you'll always have a special place in her heart. Besides, even if you two never end up dating against all odds, you both became quite close friends lately. She still cares about you a lot."

"I don't deserve her to."

His tone was gloomier than he had intended. Alya patted his hand reassuringly. "Mari tends to wear her heart on her sleeve and she can get pretty intense sometimes. I know for a fact that pushing her feelings for you aside to let Mystery Man in took its toll on her, and you didn't make things easy on her by suddenly insisting on spending so much time with her. But she'll come around eventually. Just give her time and space to sort her feelings out."

Adrien just couldn't believe how Alya could be so understanding toward him. "Shouldn't you be mad at me that I upset her?"

She shrugged. "Don't get me wrong, if you ever hurt her I'm going to end you. However, right now you two aren't dating, which means you probably just had a fight about something. I'm sure you guys will work your way around it sooner or later. Nino and I fight all the time, but it doesn't mean we aren't happy together."

Her boyfriend cheerfully chimed in at that. "Right. After all, silly fights put some very welcomed action in our relationship. Haven't you heard about makeup hookups?"

Alya chuckled lightly, while Adrien mused silently about what she had just told him.

Very much later that day, Marinette heard without a single doubt the distinct knock on the skylight, prompting her blood to freeze in her veins. Before she even had time to choose whether to unlock the door or ignore it, her cell phone vibrated on her desk.

"Akuma. Balcony. Don't worry about suffering the sight of me."

A huge lump in her throat, she made her way to her balcony, her heart full of apprehensions. As promised, she found a small glass jar imprisoning a purple butterfly sitting on the floor, merely inches away from her face. She sighed in relief, unsure on how to feel about the whole ordeal. Chat quite visibly had to face an akumatized citizen all by himself, which made an insufferable guilt crawl up her throat. He also took her at her very word when she had stated she didn't want to see his face again, which she wasn't quite sure yet if it was a good thing or not.

She quickly asked Tikki to transform her on the spot and tried to overlook how hard, how unnatural it seemed to be this time around. Once she finally successfully transformed, she cured the akuma very laboriously and released the transformation almost immediately, not acknowledging how nerve-wracking it had seemed to be both to her and her kwami.

The week went on with Marinette still hiding at home, refusing to open her door to anyone, even Alya, who was beginning to doubt her best friend's parents when they assured her that their daughter would be quite fine.

Every single night after school, without fail, on his way home, Adrien would stop by the bakery, hoping in vain that her parents would finally let him in, give him a chance to see her, to explain everything to her. And every single night, without fail, Sabine and Tom would shake their head, looking genuinely sorry for the young man. Marinette wanted to be left alone and had clearly stated she didn't want to see him, or any blond boy for that matter. So every night, her parents sent him home empty-handed, and his heart heavier than before in his chest every time.

He then patrolled Paris alone as Chat Noir every night after his curfew. Transforming suddenly felt strenuous, exhausting, and on a few occasions, he had trouble keeping it up long enough to come back home. But he went on anyway. He had to.

Another akuma attack later that week left him bruised and badly wounded, but he took it in as his punishment for hurting her out of all people, the love of his life. He left the akuma on her balcony again like he had previously done, not even bothering to knock on the skylight this time, his text message even shorter than it had been before.

"Akuma. Already gone."

And unlike the last time, he didn't stick around on some remote rooftop to try and catch a desperate glimpse of her. He went straight back home, scared that his transformation would drop unexpectedly along the way like it had seemed to do more and more frequently lately.

Once he finally made it home, he buried himself in his bed, quietly crying himself to sleep, not aware of just how much trouble Marinette had meanwhile simply to transform to be able to cure the akuma.

Way later that night, when both of them had finally cried themselves to sleep, a very worried Tikki zipped through Marinette's window without looking back, heading for the Agreste mansion. She softly knocked on the window of Adrien's room, and Plagg, who had already felt the overwhelming presence of his soulmate, was quick to join her outside, fearing they would wake his pupil if they talked inside.

He was also the first one to voice his concerns out loud. "This is very bad, Tikki, I can barely keep him transformed. You have to talk to Marinette and make her forgive him. He's miserable without her."

Tikki sighed deeply, her beautiful blue eyes full of sorrows. "I know, Plagg. Marinette's not doing any better. Tonight, I was barely able to transform her at all, let alone cure the akuma. I honestly fear there won't be a next time."

The black cat deity shook his head forcefully. "There must be a way to reconcile them. Adrien really didn't mean any harm to her."

"I know that, but she's utterly convinced that Chat Noir only took interest in her because he knew that she was Ladybug."

Plagg gritted his teeth angrily. "I told the kid this would happen, and he didn't listen to me."

Tikki smiled softly. "They're only kids, they're bound to make silly mistakes."

A few minutes of silence went by, as the two deities mused silently over the events of the past week. Tikki was the first one to break the silence. "I'll try to talk Marinette into listening to whatever Adrien has to say to her. Maybe it'll be enough to fix things up."

Plagg retorted harshly, "If you weren't so keen on secret identities, we wouldn't even be here tonight. They would be happily loving each other, and everything would be disgustingly alright."

"We aren't supposed to interfere in any possible way, Plagg, and you're perfectly aware of that. Besides, this time around it isn't my doing. Marinette wants her secret safe to protect her parents and Alya. Can you respect that?"

He grunted unhappily. "I can, but meanwhile, Adrien is going mad with sadness. He's nothing without her."

Tikki smiled knowingly. "You deeply care about this one, don't you?"

Plagg looked away, sadness, regret, and something else she didn't know overfilling his gaze. "Adrien's special. He truly deserves to be happy. I don't want to lose him like I did the others."

The luck deity lovingly hugged her counterpart, trying awkwardly to comfort him. "Let's just hope this time, neither of us do."

Both of You

A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by Maerynn

Part 17 of 53

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