Someone asked me how much they'd have to pay me to get me to update again soon. I said $50. As expected, that person did not follow through.
...yeah well then today someone actually DID.
Now, I am obviously not above taking bribes/updating on commission (nor am I above being commissioned to write things related to this fic), however let me just say this right now: I'm moving in like...9 days. I have a lot I need to focus on right now and this story is not one of those things. So do not ask me to update and do not pester me about updates in the near future, even if you are willing to pay. I am moving across the world to a country where the language is not mine, gonna be dealing with culture shock, language barriers, and the responsibilities of my job. Don't add to my stress.
Marinette's eyes flicked to Adrien, the look of guilt on his face and the way he hunched over miserably. To Plagg, floating out in the open with an eerily emotionless stare. To Alya, staring right at her.
She'd seen everything.
"So." Alya said with an edge to her voice that Marinette had never heard before. "This explains a lot."
Marinette bit her lip.
"And I do mean a lot."
Tikki laid a supportive paw on Marinette's shoulder. The touch spurred Marinette into motion. Swallowing once, she climbed down from her bed and joined Adrien on the chaise. Alya waited, watching her with cold, narrow eyes.
"I'm sorry," Adrien whispered. "She cornered me and wouldn't let me call you…"
Marinette shook her head. "It's not your fault, minou."
"I can't believe this." Alya blurted out and they both looked at her incredulously. "I absolutely, cannot fucking believe this. Or you two! Seriously? SERIOUSLY? This whole time? It's been you this whole time?"
"All those interviews. Volpina. The studio. All of it. You?"
They nodded again.
"Unbelievable." Alya shook her head. "What, was it all just a game to you? Messing with me?"
"Hey!" Marinette snapped. "I get you're upset and I get you're pissed but I've told you before: this is not a game for us. It's never been a game! We came to you because we trusted you. We gave you those interviews and exclusives because you're our friend and we wanted to help."
"You think we'd intentionally screw with you like that?" Adrien added angrily. "You know us better! Or you should!"
"Well clearly I know absolutely jack about either of you!" Alya shot back. "Oh, and yeah, what the hell you guys? You've let me sit here for months and talk about my research then you just up and take it from me?! Y-you let them put evil magic on me?!"
"They had to." Tikki interrupted. Alya's head whipped towards the kwami who smiled kindly, despite the tension in the room. "Hello Alya. It's…well, I am glad for the chance to finally speak with you."
The aggression faded, genuine curiosity replacing it. "Who are you?" Alya asked.
"I am Tikki, the kwami of Creation. Marinette is my Guardian, and, in exchange, I give her the power of Ladybug to carry out her responsibilities."
Alya's eyes widened and then slid to Plagg. The dark kwami's blank expression did not waver. "Plagg. Kwami of Destruction," he said stiffly.
"Plagg?" Tikki murmured.
Plagg glanced at her then returned his stare to Alya. "I'm restraining myself."
Adrien cleared his throat. "She might have threatened me," he muttered to Marinette, who stiffened.
"Threatened you how?" she demanded.
"She threatened to tell everyone online if I didn't sit here and wait for you to come back."
Marinette rounded on Alya furiously but her friend(?) held her hands up. "I wasn't actually going to, okay? I actually have some self-preservation instincts."
Plagg hissed at her and Marinette rose to her feet, but Adrien grabbed her arm. "No. I knew she wasn't going to, either. I only played along to keep her here."
"Excuse me?" Alya squawked.
The Guardians ignored her and Adrien stared at Marinette intently. Cold swept through Marinette in a wave and she sank back down onto the chase. "No," she muttered, shaking her head "I can't. We can't." Her voice broke and tears began welling in her eyes as one of her worst nightmares unfolded around her.
"What?" Alya asked.
Marinette shook her head and a sob ripped its way from her chest. She felt Adrien put his arms around her and she shuddered. This couldn't be happening.
"Alya, we…" Adrien trailed off, at a loss. Fortunately, Tikki stepped in.
"Our Guardians are bound to the rules we give them," she explained. "They have their duties, they have their priorities, and that is that. But in order to protect themselves, the Guardians of old decided to add another rule to their list, one which they would enforce, and all their successors would be bound to."
Marinette glanced up at Alya.
"And that is that no outsiders may know their identities…and live."
Alya stared at Tikki for a long, silent minute. Then she looked at Adrien. "You kept me here to kill me," she stated flatly.
Adrien looked away. "I had to," he said quietly. "If the others found out I let you go…."
Alya abruptly stood but only managed to take a single step towards the door before both kwami swooped in to halt her advance. "Get out of the way!" she snapped. "I am so done with this shit!"
"If you try to leave, you will be killed," Plagg warned her.
"And if I stay I'll be killed, too, apparently!"
"No!" Marinette pushed herself to her feet. "No, no, Tikki, Plagg, please, her Curse should cover this, too, right?"
"It would," Tikki confirmed with a nod.
Plagg scoffed. "After the stunt she pulled?"
The kwami of Creation gave him a tempering look but Plagg refused to budge for a long minute. Then he abruptly let out a loud sigh and folded his arms, turning away. Tikki nodded and addressed the humans once more. "Yes. Her Curse applies to all of our secrets she has knowledge of, your identities included. However, given the loophole, the others may see fit to apply another layer of protection in the interim."
"You mean the fact that I can still write about your secrets all I want?" Alya said shrewdly. "Yeah, I wondered why they left out something so obvious."
Tikki looked at Marinette who pursed her lips, realizing the kwami intended for her to explain. "It was my idea. A chance for you to prove yourself without realizing you were doing it."
Alya's eyebrows shot towards her hairline and she folded her arms. "What?"
"I…was… hoping maybe…we could use you as an example of why things can change." Marinette glanced at Adrien briefly. "Guardians have been living by the same rules for thousands of years and we, Adrien and me, I mean, we know things have to change. And the others are starting to realize it, too. I wanted to prove that even people like you could be saved."
"People like me?"
"What she means," Adrien interrupted, "is people who uncover our secrets. The rule is that we're supposed to…y'know…kill you for it. But we're trying to prove that other methods are possible."
"Which is why a Curse was placed on you," Marinette added, "but I thought that, by leaving a loophole, you could prove that you were worth the risk. You didn't mean any harm, you were just curious." She folded her arms and shook her head. "You shouldn't have to die for that."
"And many of us kwami agree. You are a wonderful girl, Alya." Tikki floated up to Alya's eye level. "Talented, smart, strong, and uniquely gifted. The kind of person who can change the world just by being alive. The world is better to have you in it and to cut your life short would be such a waste of passion and potential."
Alya ducked her head. "Thanks…I think."
"Were it up to me, I think you would make an asset to our cause."
No, Marinette thought angrily. She didn't want Alya anywhere near their world and if Tikki started putting ideas into her head—
"So, what happens now? I just…pretend like I never saw anything?" Alya asked.
Tikki shook her head. "No. Adrien and Marinette must tell the other Guardians what's happened as soon as possible. They may choose to close the loophole in your curse…or…"
"I will strongly advise against it," Tikki vowed, giving her an encouraging smile. "And my word counts for a lot."
Alya swallowed thickly. "This…I just…" Shaking her head, she staggered back and flopped down onto the desk chair. She buried her face in her hands.
Tikki sighed, antenna drooping, and turned to face Marinette and Adrien. "Would the three of you like a few minutes?"
Tikki and Plagg exchanged a look then flew towards the ceiling, leaving the teenagers alone.
The air rushed out of Marinette's chest a heavy sigh and she sank back onto the chaise next to Adrien. He kissed her temple and sighed miserably. "Today sucks," he murmured.
Alya raised her head. "I-is this really my life right now?" she asked. Neither of them answered her and Alya shook her head. "I'm sorry I was such a bitch, I just…oh God. This is too much. I can't."
"No, we're sorry," Adrien said.
The three of them sat in silence for several long moments, processing. Adrien rubbed Marinette's arm and sighed again.
"Wait," Alya said suddenly. "Why was Sombra here?"
"We were hanging out." Marinette smiled. "Doing homework and stuff. We're her only friends, really."
Alya shook her head slowly. "How…old is she?"
"Thirteen?! But…" She froze, mouth still open to speak, and her eyes bugged out again. Marinette could just see the pieces sliding into place in her mind "That girl," she whispered. "The one I saw you with."
"When was this?" Adrien asked.
"A couple weeks ago. You were getting ice cream. Little tiny thing, brown hair? That's Sombra?"
Neither Guardian said anything but she took their silence as confirmation.
"But she's so…she's a baby."
"We were both fourteen," Adrien reminded her. "Most new Guardians start around our age. But she's lucky, she has Jacob to guide her. That's usually how it works—the older trains the younger."
"But not with you two."
"Papillon killed both of our predecessors," Marinette said simply. "Not long before we were chosen, both of them dead in the same day. Partners like us are really rare."
"But…why is he after you? I mean, I've always wanted to know, and you can tell me now, right?"
The Guardians glanced at each other for a moment and then Adrien shrugged. "I don't see why not."
Marinette nodded. "Yeah, okay. He's after us because he was after the last Ladybug and Black Cat. He blamed them for the death of his partner, Libelle, because they were all fighting the same enemy together. Or, I guess, he blamed them for not saving her."
"I think…I read about that. A conflict in Romania in the early 1900s."
"Latvia," Adrien corrected. "She died in Latvia. But the date is right"
"Well, the author never mentioned her dying so he must've just lost track of them after Romania." Alya shook her head. "I don't know. But you were saying?"
"So, after Libelle and her kwami died, Papillon kind of…went insane. He wanted them and their kwami dead." Adrien scowled. "And since Guardians inherit the fights of their predecessors, in his eyes, their guilt passed onto us."
"Harsh," she breathed. "Why did the…kwami, right? Why did they pick you? Why didn't they just hide until he died or something?"
"Because he won't just die and even if he did, they couldn't be without Guardians that long. It's not safe," Marinette explained. "They need us. We protect them and their Miraculous and they give us powers and abilities to do our jobs."
"But why you two specifically? They could've picked anyone, right?"
"No, not really. There's a lot of criteria. We were…the best fit and the best match." Marinette smiled, despite herself. "Hey, guess what, Alya, I was right along. He's totally my soul mate."
Alya stared at her for a few seconds then rolled her eyes. "Girl, I swear."
"Guess what, Alya, I was right all along," Adrien parroted in a tone he reserved for Chat Noir only, flinging his arm around Marinette dramatically. "Ladybug and I are totally made for each other."
"Oh my god." Both girls said at once in very different ways. Adrien laughed.
"Okay, but seriously though. That's really why?" Alya asked and both of them nodded. "That's…pretty cool, actually. What about the others? You can't tell me they're all soulmates."
"They're not," Marinette assured her. "The kwami look for compatibility with the surviving partner. Like with Sombra. The bat kwami knew she would be good for Firefly, and he would be good for her, and that's why he chose her out of the rest."
"If she's thirteen…how old is he?"
"A few decades shy of three hundred," Adrien said matter-of-factly. Alya's eyes bugged. "They're all pretty old. Taawuus is about his age. Elohi's nearly four hundred and Kasai is from the actual Feudal Era."
"Like, Japanese Feudal Era?"
"The one and only."
"Holy shit. I never would've even guessed." Alya shook her head. "Are you guys going to get that old?"
"If we're lucky," Marinette said. "Guardians are going longer and longer between their fights. This is the first time some of them have had to do anything in years. Since we don't die and are even harder to kill, most of us die fighting."
"But when there's no fighting…" Adrien trailed off.
"There's almost no chance you'll die," Alya finished and nodded. "Wow. You two could live centuries. You'll get to watch the world change and change. That's so…cool." She leaned forward onto her knees. "I want to help. There has to be some way I can help."
"No," Marinette interjected sharply, shaking her head. "No way."
"Oh, come on! Who am I gonna tell, right?"
"It's not just that. It's…" She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "The Curse on you is only a temporary solution. There's um…it was just insurance until…well, there's a Guardian who can mess with memories…"
Alya went completely still for a long moment. She didn't even blink.
…Perhaps…Marinette could have worded that better. "I mean—"
"You're gonna let them wipe my mind?"
"No," Adrien said immediately. "We don't know exactly how it's going to happen but…they're going to take your memories of everything related to our secrets. Or at least change them so you don't know the dangerous stuff. …I think."
Adrien ducked his head.
"I'm sorry," Marientte whispered. "It was the kwami's idea…it was the only thing anyone could think of. I couldn't just let them kill you. I—I-I know we haven't done right by you. We let things get too far. But you were my best friend when no one else was. You've supported me through some of the craziest parts of my life without even realizing it." She leaned forward. "You've been there for me in ways Chat Noir never could've been. I know you're angry with us, with me, and you have every right to be, and I would understand if you never forgive me…but I do love you, very much, and I don't want your life ruined just because of me. Of us. And the only way for that to happen is if you forget you ever knew any of this."
Alya's eyes were full of tears by the time Marinette was finished. She reached up to wipe at them hastily with the back of her hand and sighed.
"There's something else you should know, too," Adrien murmured. "My father knows. He…you know, now that I think about it, you both probably started out the same: researching the heroes. Only he got a lot, lot farther than you." His expression turned grim. "He found a book detailing…everything about Guardians. I don't even know why it exists since reading it is a death sentence but…it's there, and he found it, and decoded it. He's known I'm Chat Noir for years."
Alya furrowed her brow. "And he's still alive?"
Adrien gave a little half shrug. "I…well, he's trying to prove his value right now. He's been making all the housing arrangements and pretty much anything else the others need. We're trying to convince them that we need someone like him to help us now that the world has changed so much. It's going good so far, but…there's still a chance things might not end well. And he has too many memories. He'll…they'll kill him."
"Shit," Alya breathed
Marinette nodded. "And it's all or nothing. Either the Guardians all agree unanimously to create this new position which he will fill, in which case, he's bound to his duty for life like we are, or he has to die. It…you'll have a better life if you just let the Guardian take your memories. I know all of this seems so cool but it's—"
"It's not." Adrien leaned forward. "Trust us, we know how it seems in the beginning. We fell for it, too, and now we're stuck for life. But you have a chance, an out. Please take it."
Alya took a deep breath…then shook her head. "Okay. I…okay. I don't…I didn't…mean for any of this. But I don't want…" She shook her head again, pulled her glasses off with one hand, and wiped her eyes with the other. "I'll cooperate. I'll let them do whatever. Just…" she pursed her lips, eyes downcast. "After this…stay away from me. At least as Ladybug and Chat Noir. I don't…I don't know how I feel about Adrien and Marinette yet but… I don't want your world near me, my family, or Nino. I know I won't remember this, and I know I'll probably do the exact opposite of what I want right now, so you have to promise me you'll do it for me. Stay away."
Marinette nodded, tears welling in her eyes. They weren't okay. Nothing about this was okay. Everything had just…gone so wrong, so fast, and the rest of the day was going to be absolutely miserable and she was not ready but…but…she could do this. They could do this.
"I promise," Marinette said and Adrien echoed her right after. Marinette sniffed once, wiped her eyes, then pulled her phone from her pocket. Time to call Jacob.
Come check me out on tumblr at wintermoth! If you want to, feel free to tag anything about this fic with "ML Guardians AU"