He's thrown back by the akuma, and hears the crack as he hits the wall.

"Chat!"

She's by his side in a split second, holding him.

"My Lady... get out of here, I'll hold it off..." he tries to get up.

"Chat, stop. You can't..." her eyes glisten as she looks down at him. "You'll get yourself killed."

"I don't care. Please, I love you..."

She kisses his cheek softly. "I promise, I'll come back, Chaton."

And she's gone, running to the akuma, leaving him behind.

He pushes the pain out of his head, and forces himself to stand, trying to follow, but on broken legs, he can't catch her, no matter how much he fights, how many times he forces himself up.

He can't get to her in time.

The blast of light from the explosion shines over the city.

...

When he wakes up, his Father is watching over him.

"Where is she?" he whispers.

"You mean Ladybug?"

"Yes. Please. Where is she?"

Gabriel Agreste shakes his head. "They don't know. I'm sorry, Adrien. They haven't found her."

The words leave an emptiness in his chest. His cheeks ache, and his ribcage burns. Even his eyes sting. Everything just dully hurts. She's missing. It's almost worse than dead, since he knows, he knows that the hope is almost certainly false, but he can't grieve, he can't think she's...

It's Ladybug. She'll come back. She promised.

...

It's been a year since she disappeared. Everyone knows the secret he once guarded so carefully. Everyone knows why he won't stop searching.

He can't go near the Eiffel anymore without nearly breaking down. Simple words can pull at memories that leave him feeling numb and empty, with a sharp pain at his chest.

It's not like he's stopped living. After his injuries healed, he went back to his lessons... and to the fight against the akumas. He tries to focus on anything he can, but it's always there, tugging at the back of his mind. He hasn't laughed, really laughed, since she left, and any time he gets even a trace of where she might be, he drops everything and investigates until there's nothing left to search. He's long since figured out who he's looking for, and it was confirmed by the old man who gave them the stones.

He can't bring himself to give up, no matter how much he knows, somewhere inside, that he's not going to find her. Not alive.

On the anniversary of her disappearance, he goes to the part of the city where it happened. It was rebuilt, of course, after everything. There was no reason it wouldn't be. The Miraculous Cure may not have been around, but construction teams still were.

"Where are you?" he whispers. "Are you still here, somewhere? Or...?"

He stops, and shakes his head. She's not gone forever. She'll come back. He'll find her. She promised.

So what if his instincts are calling his lie? There's no proof she's gone... no body...

...

It's been two years, and Hawkmoth was caught.

"Father...?"

The icy blue eyes offer no answer.

"You... you were..."

"I was."

"Even after you knew it was your own son you were fighting, even after she... she..."

"Adrien..."

"Don't. I'm never going to forgive you for this."

He leaves the room, shaking with anger and pain. The only parent he had left is gone. He was never really there to begin with. As he steps out, he's nearly mobbed by reporters.

"So, how does it feel to be targeted by your own father?"

"Did you know who you were fighting before this?"

"Will this arrest lead to any new information concerning the disappearance of Marinette Dupain-Cheng, better known as Ladybug?"

The last question is what grabs him.

"I... I don't know."

"Get out! Leave him alone, he's a child who just went through something incredibly traumatic, have you no shame?"

He looks up to see Nathalie, eyes blazing as she turns away the reporters.

"Thanks," he whispers, once they get into the car.

"Of course. And, Adrien?"

"Yes?"

"There was, actually, information concerning Miss Dupain-Cheng. He said that, if she's alive... she probably won't have her memories."

He's caught off guard, and shakes his head slowly. "No..."

"I'm sorry."

...

He stands at the edge of the clearing, face carefully blank.

"So they found you then."

There's no response, not that he expected one.

"Do you know how long it's been? Since you went missing?"

The wind whistles through the trees, and his fa├žade of calm nearly cracks, as he's hit with the agony again.

"Th-three years, three days, and five hours. I didn't know if you were... I didn't know. But I never stopped looking."

He takes a few steps forward, and reaches out, before letting his hand collapse at his side.

"I told you I loved you. I still do. I think I always will."

In the distance, lightning strikes. The thunder shakes the ground, and the rain begins falling.

He can't stand it.

"Please, look at me! My Lady, Princess, Marinette, I need you please come home, please..." he drops to his knees, tears streaking his face. "Please, come back, you promised you would, I miss you. I just need you to be okay. I'll do anything, if you never want to see me again, then I'm gone, if you want me to stay with you, I'll be here forever, just please, please!" He's a sobbing mess on the ground. "I love you..."

He cries for what feels like forever, as the rain pours. Suddenly, though, it stops hitting him.

He looks up, and sees an umbrella held over his head.

"I don't break my promises, Chaton."