What Could Have Been

BY : Cat_Eyes
Category: +M through R > Miraculous LadyBug
Dragon prints: 305
Disclaimer: I do not own Miraculous Ladybug. Miraculous Ladybug is the intellectual property of Thomas Astruc and released by Zag studios. No profit was made writing this story.

Chat Noir didn't like being evil. It depressed him whenever he heard people call him a villain, to be hated and feared across the world.

Perhaps things would have been different if Gabriel hadn't walked into his room, without knocking, the first time Adrien had transformed. If he had been able to keep his new powers a secret, perhaps things would have been drastically different.

But, they weren't. Papillon was his father, and Gabriel had seen him the first time he changed into Chat Noir. Gabriel had put forward a compelling argument for working together, though.

'With your ring, and the earrings of the ladybug, we could bring your mother back,' Gabriel had said.

If only Adrien had noticed the mad glint in his eyes, had seen the need to possess the ring and earrings overwhelm Gabriel's humanity. But, back then, he had wanted his mother back, too. He missed her dearly and would have been willing to do almost anything for her return.

Plagg wasn't happy. He insisted the cat was supposed to help the ladybug, but Adrien felt helpless in the face of Gabriel's desperation.

He shrugged off any ill feelings that settled in his stomach. He reasoned that he shouldn't feel bad for the girl who held the earrings. She was an obstacle in his path, and he couldn't allow his conscience to sway him.

When it became obvious Ladybug would not willingly surrender her earrings, Chat Noir grew frustrated. Not just with her, but also with Gabriel, as well as himself. 

Adrien was still never allowed to go to school, Gabriel's fears of him disappearing too real and all-encompassing. So, Adrien remained alone and friendless.

He despised himself for his weakness, his inability to soothe Gabriel's fanaticism, and his desire to talk to Ladybug.

Over time, Chat Noir began to see the effects Papillon's actions had on people. They were distraught, unhappy, and sometimes, shunned by the people around them. The ignorant masses believed the former victims had somehow become an agent of evil, not a mere puppet for Papillon's use. They were called monsters by many, and understood only by those who had been in their situation.

Adrien wanted to tell everyone that they weren't evil monsters. They had just become the worst versions of themselves, given physical form, by magical means and that it was temporary. These people were normal, every day citizens, just as they'd always been.

Adrien slowly began to resent Gabriel. His desire for the ring was all-consuming, even to the point of sacrificing Adrien's well-being. 

 


 

'You're not getting my miraculous, so just forget it,' Ladybug shouted at him.

Chat Noir merely stared at her, standing on the opposite rooftop across the street. 

An akuma raged below them as people scattered and ran everywhere. Chat Noir turned away when he heard shrieks of fear and shouts of accusation directed at him. 

Chat Noir turned back to Ladybug, but she was already gone. She was off to be a hero, and Chat Noir couldn't suppress the stab of envy. Ladybug was beloved by all, people sang her praises wherever he looked. They were cheering as she defeated the akuma, and still shouted their support when she turned to look at him, next. 

Chat Noir almost expected her to come after him, but that wasn't her style. She never chased him any more than she absolutely had to. Perhaps her own kwami had told her they were supposed to be a team. Why she didn't take his miraculous and find another teammate was a mystery to him.

 

Back in his house, Gabriel berated him severely for not doing anything to assist the akuma. Adrien let the tirade wash over him, long since desensitised to Gabriel's disappointment. 

Adrien was sick of it. He wanted to distance himself from Gabriel, personally and professionally. He was cold and distant as a father, demanding and critical as a boss, and utterly unbearable as Papillon. Adrien wasn't sure how much more he could stand.

He retired, alone, to his room. Plagg had vanished with a huff of disgust, apparently as tired of the situation as he was.

Every time he confronted Ladybug, he found himself wanting to remain by her side, more and more. He wanted what she had. He wanted what she could give him. He thought she was amazing and just wanted her to look at him. To see him as more than her enemy. He wanted her to see his potential.

But, she never did.

How could she? Adrien asked himself. All I ever did was try to rip her ears off.

There was no way he could even bask in Ladybug's reflected glory. He was an outsider, one of his own making. The truth of that rankled, exasperating his self-loathing. All Adrien wanted to do was talk to her, but he couldn't work up the nerve to do it.

He shook his head at himself, turning on his computer to check the Ladyblog. When Gabriel had seen him on this site, he had been livid. Adrien had explained it was a good way to track their enemy's movements, and while not a lie at the time, things were certainly different now. Adrien continued to let Gabriel believe he was keeping an eye on Ladybug.

 


 

The following evening, Chat Noir was out, running around to work off his frustration. He was taking the circuitous route home again, when he smelled something divine. It was the aroma of baking bread, and it made his mouth water. Chat Noir realised he had skipped dinner for the sake of this run.

Following his nose, he came to the T & S Bakery and Patisserie. The smell really was delectable, although it was clear the shop had closed for the night. Chat Noir looked to the balcony atop the store, where a plate piled high with pastries sat on a wooden table. Before he could move, a girl emerged from an access hatch, steaming mug and book in hand. She settled in a deck chair by the table and began to read by the light of her lanterns.

Chat Noir watched mournfully. He had seen this girl around the local school, and surrounding area. Sometimes she was alone, sometimes accompanied by a friend. Chat Noir felt the, now familiar, stab of envy. This girl went to school, she had friends, and a family. Chat Noir's body tilted forward, his eyes fixed on the girl.

His legs moved of their own accord, and he found himself crouching on the railing of the girl's balcony. She looked up at the sound and muffled her shriek of surprise with her book. She stared at him, eyes wide, from behind her book. She curled her legs in front of her chest, trembling, as she waited for him to attack.

Chat Noir held his hands up in a placating gesture. 'It's ok,' he said, quietly. 'I'm not going to hurt you.'

She didn't move, and chose to remain quiet.

Chat Noir lowered his head with a sigh. 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you. I'll go now.'

He leapt off before she could respond. He didn't want to be rude, but he couldn't stand to see her cry, either.

Adrien went to bed early that night, and for the first time since he received his miraculous, he allowed his tears to soak his pillow until he fell asleep.

 


 

Chat Noir found himself looking at the bakery again, the following night. The shop was dark, as was the balcony on the roof. The girl had clearly not wanted to take the chance of seeing him again. Chat Noir sighed.

Just as he was about to leave, he heard the access hatch creak open. A pale face peered through the narrow gap, eyes darting from side to side as the girl looked to see if he were about.

Chat Noir sat still, hoping she would be brave enough to emerge. The lanterns turned on and the girl climbed out, book and mug gripped tight. She settled in her chair again, eyes still shifting from side to side. Chat Noir decided to leave, and turned his back.

'Wait,' a voice cried.

Chat Noir turned around automatically. He was surprised to see the girl standing at her balcony railing, looking at him with a hand outstretched. He briefly wondered if she had called to him, but she was looking at him earnestly. Against his better judgement, Chat Noir turned back and jumped over to her railing, landing a small distance away from her.

She was staring at him. Her head was tilted to one side, her posture defensive, but she was looking at him.

'Good evening,' Chat Noir said, voice soft.

'Hello,' she returned. 'What are you doing here?'

Chat Noir looked at her in confusion. 'You called out to me,' he replied.

She shook her head. 'No, I mean, you've been loitering around since yesterday. Why do you keep coming back?'

Chat Noir shuffled awkwardly. He had only been here twice, surely that wasn't enough to arouse suspicion. But, he figured, since it was him hanging around, perhaps she was right to be concerned.

'Sorry. It wasn't intentional,' he replied.

She was looking at him again. 'You're not like I imagined you'd be.'

He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. 'You imagined someone bigger and scarier?'

She shrugged. 'I imagined someone who never apologised.'

'Sorry to disappoint you, Princess, but not everything you see on TV is accurate.'

She scrunched her nose at the nickname. Chat Noir suppressed a grin.

'My name is Marinette,' she told him, pointedly.

'It's a pleasure to meet you, Princess,' Chat Noir said with a polite inclination of his head. 'My name is Chat Noir.'

Marinette huffed in annoyance. 'I know that. What I don't know is what you're doing here.'

Chat Noir decided he liked Marinette. Once she got over her initial fright, she was actually willing to talk to him. She may have been annoyed and unwelcoming, but she was still there. He imagined that's what having a friend was like.

Chat Noir slid off her railing to stand properly. He gave her a small bow, and said, 'I honestly had no reason for being here, beyond the fact that this was on my way home. I will confess that your shop smells really good, though.'

His stomach rumbled, then, reminding him he had skipped dinner a second night in a row. He blushed as Marinette looked at his belly in surprise.

'You're hungry?' she asked.

'One of the many drawbacks of being me. Sometimes mealtimes have to be sacrificed.'

Marinette was looking at him again, an indecipherable expression on her face. 'Wait here a moment.'

She turned and hopped back down her hatch. Chat Noir did as she instructed, too perplexed to move. When she came back, she carried a plate stacked with pastries and a mug of something hot. She set them on the table, eyeing him warily as she neared him. Chat Noir took a step back to give her room.

'You can have this,' she said. 'Maman would disown me if I let anyone starve to death on her roof.'

'Even me?' he couldn't help but ask. He bit his tongue, praying she hadn't heard.

'Even you,' Marinette replied, still giving him that odd look.

Chat Noir looked at the plate she offered, coming forward when she retreated to her hatch. It was generously laden with an assortment of sweet and savoury breads and pastries. 'Wont this put you out?' he asked, suddenly concerned.

Marinette raised an eyebrow at him. 'For a few left overs? We do better business that that,' she said, a disdainful tone in her voice.

'If you're sure, then, thank you,' he replied. Chat Noir chose a croissant and took a bite. It was easily the best thing he had ever eaten. His eyes widened as he looked up at her. 'This is delicious,' he said, emphatically.

Marinette gave him a small smile, and Chat Noir felt tears sting his eyes. As Adrien, no one had smiled at him since his mother was around. As Chat Noir, only Papillon smiled at him, but that was not a friendly smile. It was covetous and cruel. Nothing like how Marinette was smiling at him now.

Chat Noir ate more of the things she'd brought, praising each one as he tasted it, just so he could see her smile.

'Don't you get fed?' she teased him.

Chat Noir swallowed his last bite. 'Yeah, but not anything as good as this. You get to eat like this every day?'

Marinette gave a delicate snort. 'If I ate like that every day, I'd be as round as I am tall.'

Chat Noir felt a thrill of rebellion. 'Is this stuff really that fattening?'

'Yeah,' Marinette shrugged. 'Croissants alone have a shocking amount of butter in them.'

He grinned at her, the first genuine smile he had made in months. 'They were my favourite,' he admitted.

Marinette perched on her chair, giving him a curious look. 'You really aren't what I imagined.'

Chat Noir leaned against the railing, crossing his arms. He looked away from her and asked, 'what did you imagine?'

'Like I said, someone who didn't apologise. Who would expect people to cater to his whims, so he wouldn't destroy their houses. Someone more demanding, I guess.'

'Oh. Well, like I said, you can't always believe what you see on TV.'

'I guess not. Can I ask you a question?' she asked, tentatively.

He looked up at her. 'Of course.'

She raised an eyebrow at him. 'You said "one of the drawbacks of being you." What are the drawbacks?'

Chat Noir sighed, rubbing the back of his head. 'There are too many to list.'

'Do you regret the way things have turned out?'

'Yes.'

She looked at him in surprise. 'I didn't expect you to say that.'

Chat Noir lifted one shoulder in a half shrug. 'It's the truth.'

'So,' she continued, quietly, 'if you could do anything different, what would it be?'

'Everything,' Chat Noir replied, equally quiet.

When she continued to look puzzled, he explained. 'Did you know the Black Cat and the Ladybug are supposed to work together?'

'Really?'

'Yeah. Two sides of the same coin. Equals and opposites. We're supposed to balance each other, make up for what the other lacks. Except, it didn't work out that way, and Ladybug works perfectly fine all on her own. She wouldn't want me for her partner, anyway.'

'Do you want to be her partner?'

'Yes.'

Marinette's eyes bulged. 'Then why are you working with Papillon?'

'I work for him, not with. As for why, well, there are extenuating circumstances.'

Marinette leaned forward in her seat. 'What kind of circumstances?' she asked softly.

Chat Noir couldn't look at her. Nor could he run away. 'Papillon knows who I am, for one. He wants the same thing I do, for another.'

Marinette swallowed. 'How could he know who you are? What is it that you both want so badly?'

Chat Noir just shook his head. 'I can't answer those questions, Princess,' he replied, sadly.

He wanted to. Marinette would understand. She would at least acknowledge the difficult position he was in. She would keep his secrets. But Gabriel had taught him to not trust anyone right away.

'Can you tell me why you can't just switch sides? If you're unhappy with Papillon, why stay with him?'

'It's not as easy as that,' he said, morosely. 'I have no choice.'

'You always have a choice,' she disagreed.

Chat Noir gave her a sceptical look.

'You could let things stay as they are,' Marinette said, raising one finger. 'You could defect to Ladybug's side,' she continued, checking off another finger. 'Or, you could become Ladybug's partner in secret and be her spy. Finally, you could give up your miraculous entirely.' She ticked off two more fingers.

Chat Noir was silent for a moment. 'You seem to have overlooked something important, Princess.'

'What's that?'

'Ladybug won't want to work with me.'

Marinette looked at him questioningly. 'How do you know that?'

'Because she hates me. I keep trying to steal her miraculous.'

'Maybe if you talked to her, she would be willing to give you a chance.'

'I don't deserve a chance. There's a reason people hate me, you know.'

A voice from within the house called Marinette to bed.

'I have to go, but think about what I said. Please?'

Chat Noir turned to her. He hoisted himself onto her railing and bowed to her. 'I will, I promise. Thank you for listening, Marinette.'

Chat Noir extended his baton and vaulted away before she could respond. He turned back briefly, once he was hidden in the shadows, to see Marinette climbing back into her house. He then went back to his own house, thinking hard on what she had said.

 


 

Gabriel scolded him harshly the following morning.

'What do you think you were doing, talking with some no-account girl? Do you want to risk everything we have worked so hard for?'

Adrien shook his head. There was no point answering verbally while Gabriel was mid-rant.

'Furthermore, you were sloppy. You allowed yourself to be seen, photographed, by some media hack. We do not need your picture all over the papers. What if that reporter had heard you? Did you say anything incriminating?'

'No, Father,' Adrien replied, automatically.

Everything Gabriel was saying was true. He had been sloppy. But Marinette was not "some no-account girl." He wondered how she was coping with her name in the papers. he hoped he hadn't caused her too many problems.

He didn't think she'd appreciate it, but Adrien considered her his friend. The first new friend he had made in years. He thought about Chloe, but he hadn't seen her in almost a year now, and their personal correspondence had dwindled down to almost nothing. Chloe was a former friend, at best. Adrien had mixed feelings about that. Chloe had been his only friend since they were toddlers, and had gone through a lot together. But Chloe was also callous, selfish, and wilful. If he were to be honest with himself, Adrien had to admit that Chloe wasn't much of a friend at all.

'So, do you care to explain yourself, Adrien?' Gabriel asked.

Adrien looked beyond Gabriel's shoulder dispassionately. 'I was merely curious as to why she didn't run away, screaming, at the sight of me.'

Gabriel looked at him in disbelief. 'Is that all, Adrien, really?'

'Yes, Father.'

'You expect me to believe that?' Gabriel was scornful.

'She also gave me something to eat, when I asked for it,' Adrien continued, hoping Gabriel would let the issue rest.

'You have food here. Is that not good enough for you, anymore?'

As tempting as it was to give a facetious answer, Adrien restrained himself. It would do no good to provoke Gabriel when he was in a mood. 'She was merely convenient, that's all.'

Gabriel snorted. 'You are to never see that girl again. Your after-hours runs are banned, indefinitely.'

Adrien spluttered in disbelief. 'Father, it's not that bad,' he argued.

'You were seen,' Gabriel hissed, leaning over his desk toward Adrien. 'Go to your room. You're grounded until further notice.'

Adrien suppressed a frustrated sigh, and walked out of Gabriel's office. He let the door slam behind him, and stomped up to his room.

Slamming his bedroom door as well, Adrien threw himself face-first, onto his bed.

'A little melodramatic, weren't you?' Plagg asked.

Adrien mumbled into his blankets.

Plagg floated over and allowed himself to fall onto Adrien's pillow. 'I didn't understand that, but I assume we're going to ignore the old man and go out, anyway.'

'That's exactly what we're doing,' Adrien growled. 'That man has no right to stop me from doing anything.'

Once the time read ten o'clock, Chat Noir opened his window and fled into the night.

 

 

Marinette's balcony was dark. Chat Noir supposed it was too late for her to be up, so he moved on. His apologies for being seen by the media would have to wait. He then ran all over the city, still thinking about what she said.

Her options had been on his mind all day. If he were to stay with Gabriel, nothing would change. He would still be chasing after Ladybug, fighting her, and failing to get her earrings. The public would still call him a monster, hate him and curse his name.

If he were to switch sides, Gabriel would kick him out of the only home he had ever known. He would also demand Adrien's miraculous, maybe even try to fight him for it.

For all of Gabriel's faults, he was still Adrien's father, and Adrien wasn't sure he could fight him, let alone win.

Becoming Ladybug's spy had some appeal. He would get to remain in his home, live his life as he normally would, but secretly be working with Ladybug. But this was counting heavily on the assumption that she would want to work with him. Furthermore, it involved deceiving Gabriel. The man Adrien had once known was gone, but he wasn't confident he would be able to betray his own father so easily.

Marinette's last option of relinquishing his miraculous was unthinkable. Plagg would probably be thankful for the release, but Adrien was selfish and weak. As painful as being Chat Noir had become, Adrien didn't think he would be able to give it up. He didn't want to give it up, not before he'd even had a chance at redemption.

Chat Noir stopped on a nondescript rooftop, looking out at the lights. It made him feel small, all those lights in that vast expanse of space.

'You've gotten careless,' a voice behind him said.

Chat Noir spun around to see Ladybug, casually leaning against an air conditioning vent and inspecting her fingertips after she dragged them over the grubby surface.

'So I've been told,' he responded, carefully.

'You shouldn't be bothering innocent girls, you know.' She finally looked up at him, reproachfully.

'I know.'

'Then why do it?' she asked, sounding irritated.

He turned away from her. 'I don't know,' he replied, honestly. 'I guess I just wanted someone to talk to.'

Ladybug stared at him, flabbergasted. 'I guess you don't have any friends to talk to as Chat Noir.'

Chat Noir gave a bitter laugh. 'I don't have any friends as anyone. Can you blame me for reaching out when someone doesn't run away from me?'

Ladybug took a step toward him, a hand outstretched, but Chat Noir shrank back.

'I don't expect you to understand, Ladybug. Everybody loves you. You must have dozens of friends, no matter which face you wear. But, we can't all be as fortunate as you.'

Ladybug swallowed and lowered her hand. 'Do you resent me?'

Chat Noir squeezed his eyes shut and wrapped his arms around his chest. 'I resent myself,' he muttered.

She looked at him in surprise. 'Are you always so candid?' she asked.

Chat Noir looked at her. 'Believe it or not, I'm not a liar. I may be the scum of the earth, but I have never lied. Certainly not to you, or that girl.'

'Why single her and me out? I wouldn't think either of us had done anything to earn such unwavering trust.'

'Even a small gesture of kindness makes a difference. Marinette showed me a generosity I can't recall ever experiencing before. You, on the other hand, are everything I wish I could be.'

Not wanting to see how she'd react to that, Chat Noir turned and jumped off the building. He hid in the shadows until he was sure she was gone, then headed home. He berated himself the whole way; he hadn't meant to be that open with her.

 


 

Adrien was furious. Another argument with Gabriel had ended with both of them angry, and refusing to speak to one another. Adrien had wanted to attend school, the same one as Chloe, to see if he could "find out anything he could about Ladybug." Gabriel had refused, telling him the world was too dangerous, that he ought to be grateful Gabriel took such good care of him here.

Adrien had argued that they were the dangerous ones, that no one would want to kidnap Chat Noir, but Gabriel was adamant.

Adrien paced his room. Gabriel's paranoia and hypocrisy were galling, and he had borne enough. Adrien called on his transformation and scampered out his window, careless of any witnesses.

He ran across the city, people pointing and shouting as he passed, but no one was quick enough to catch him. It was still day time, and the police sent a helicopter after him. Chat Noir groaned before slipping down between two buildings, then into the metro. He detransformed once he was in the covering gloom, then proceeded to catch the next train. He didn't care where it took him, as long as it was away from there.

Adrien decided fate was, indeed, cruel when he exited the metro by the school near his house. He sighed at his own folly, rubbing the heel of his palm against his forehead, eyes clenched shut.

'Are you ok?' someone asked.

Adrien opened his eyes to see Marinette in front of him, looking at him in concern.

'You're not lost are you?' she asked.

He nearly blurted her name in surprise, before quickly covering his mistake. 'No, thank you, I'm fine,' he assured her.

There was another girl behind Marinette, a girl he recognised as the one who filmed most of his confrontations with Ladybug for her blog. She was looking at Adrien curiously, adjusting her glasses while she peered at him. He nodded politely to her.

'Sorry to worry you over nothing,' Adrien apologised with a brittle smile. He moved on, hoping Marinette hadn't recognised him. He wished he could talk to her like an ordinary person. She went to this school. Maybe if he attended school here, they'd be in the same class.

Adrien shook his head. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride, he thought.

That afternoon, he endured another of Gabriel's tirades. He ignored the insults, the veiled threats, and the commands for obedience. He needed to speak with Ladybug again.

 

That night, Adrien snuck out the front door, while Plagg slept in his breast pocket. Adrien wasn't concerned for his safety, but he made sure to duck out of sight quickly if he heard someone approach from behind. Gabriel may be overprotective and paranoid, but that was no reason to be reckless.

There were still plenty of people about at ten thirty, coming from or going to work. Enjoying the cool air, or celebrating an event. Everything was peaceful when akumas weren't threatening the town. Adrien wished he had their normality, had nothing to worry about except for the normal things people had to deal with. Every day, Adrien felt more and more weighed down by Gabriel and his expectations. He wanted to leave, he should leave, but where would he go?

Suddenly, a warm force collided with his back and he was swept into the air. An arm circled his chest, but Adrien had squeezed his eyes shut the moment he felt someone hit his back. He was set back on his feet on the other side of the road, with a cranky Ladybug glaring at him.

'What do you think you were doing? You could have been flattened,' she told him with a stern glare.

Adrien looked around. Behind him was the road and a set of traffic lights. 'I'm sorry. What happened?'

Ladybug looked at him in disbelief. 'You just walked across a busy road without waiting for the lights. A car nearly ran you over. Do you have a death wish or something?' she shrieked.

Adrien cringed. 'I apologise,' he murmured. 'I didn't mean to inconvenience you.'

Ladybug spluttered incoherently, waving her arms about frantically. 'No, I didn't mean it like that. It's no inconvenience. You just scared me, is all.'

'Oh, well, then. I'm sorry to have scared you.' Adrien tried to smile reassuringly.

Ladybug dragged her hands down her face. She then looked at him so intently he began to think she had recognised him.

'It's getting late,' she commented, finally. 'Would you like me to take you home?'

Adrien backed away, hands up. 'No, thank you. I can manage. It's not far from here. Thank you, again, and good night, Ladybug.' Adrien turned and walked away as fast as he could, without looking like he was running away from her.

 


 

Two nights later, Chat Noir was watching Marinette's balcony again. She crawled up through her hatch and sat in her deck chair to read. Chat Noir jumped over, landing lightly on her railing in a crouch. She startled at the sudden noise, but eased her posture when she saw him. Her eyes remained wary, though.

'Chat Noir, to what do I owe the pleasure?'

'Good evening, Princess,' Chat Noir replied, bowing to her. 'I was just wondering, how would I tell Ladybug that I want to work with her instead of Papillon?'

'Wait, what? You find her and you tell her, of course.'

'Is it really a matter of course?' Chat Noir asked. 'I've been actively working against her for about a year now. She might want nothing to do with me.'

Marinette gulped. 'I think if you're straightforward and honest, she'll believe you. May I ask what brought this on?'

Chat Noir squatted on his heels, looking at the floor. Slowly, he moved toward her on all fours until his forehead bumped her knees. He pulled his legs forward and sat at her feet, still resting his head against her legs. 'Would it make you happy, if I changed sides?' he asked, softly.

Cautiously, she petted his hair. Softly at first, she tentatively stroked his head until he began to relax. 'It would,' she answered. 'But you shouldn't make a decision based on what other people think. You should want to do this for you.'

'I do want this for me, but sometimes what I want isn't enough.'

'Oh, Chat Noir,' Marinette whispered.

'I hate this,' Chat Noir blurted. 'I hate being the bad guy. I can't stand the thought that I make people scared and unhappy. I hate doing bad things, I hate that people hate me, and I hate that Ladybug hates me.' Chat Noir gulped a deep breath. 'Most of all, I hate myself. For my weakness, my selfishness, for everything.'

Chat Noir was crying by the time he finished speaking. His hands clenched and unclenched against the floor. He wanted to hold on to Marinette, but wasn't sure if she would want to hug him. He also couldn't risk scratching her.

Marinette eased herself out of her chair to kneel in front of him. She pulled him into a hug, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, as he cautiously slid his arms around her waist.

'Shh, it'll be ok,' she whispered over and over again in his ear. One hand rubbed his back while the other continued to stroke his hair.

His breathing evened out, but Chat Noir still held her delicately, his head resting against her shoulder. Marinette's presence was comforting and reassuring. She was soft and warm. Everything about her was the opposite of what he knew at home. Chat Noir briefly thought his home could go to rot and ruin, if he could stay as he was.

'Ladybug would be thrilled to have you on her side,' Marinette murmured. 'Just be honest with her, as you were with me. Trust that everything will work out. It'll all be ok, in the end. You'll see.'

He believed her. Tomorrow, he was going to find Ladybug.

He was going to end this.



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