There's this song I've always loved – called I Believe, performed by Joe Satriani – that runs through this fic and particularly this chapter. Fair warning: Satch is known for being a brilliant guitarist but his excursions into singing his own stuff were a bit hit and miss. This song is one of those. The lyrics have never quite seemed to make sense on their own, as if he was retelling some story we hadn't heard yet. It's been a joy writing something that might have been that story. I hope you've enjoyed it, please leave a review and let me know what you think!
It had been hours, empty hours. His feet were full of all the things he couldn't think about, and his head was empty of any memory of the truth of things. Adrien finally stopped his restless walking at the top of a bridge over a rail line. The day was dissolving into night, the sky turning pink in both the west and the east as the sun fell over the horizon. In the eastern sky a full moon rose, tinted the palest of pinks by day's last gasp. He had a clear view of the moon from the bridge, rooftops falling away below him.
It gave him nothing.
Apparently, last night it had given him almost everything.
It was a pity he couldn't remember any of it.
He'd seen the news articles, the videos on social media and gossip sites. Nathalie had given him a list and advised him not to read most of it. They showed an Adrien he barely recognised and yet somehow knew all too well. Stories were running wild about how Paris' golden model had gone dark, or rather, light, how he'd given people a feeling they still couldn't forget. And especially they were talking about how he'd gotten the city's beloved superheroine to kiss him. By all rights he shouldn't have been able to be out here on the streets, alone and unbothered.
Yet somehow, here he was. It was as if nobody could see him.
He'd have enjoyed the change if that wasn't already how he felt all the time.
The soft hiss of a yoyo string retracting caught his ear. But he didn't look around. There was no reason for her to talk to him other than to check in on a recently akumatised person. Just business. That's if she wanted to talk to him at all. After all, he'd done her a great wrong. And he was, honestly, embarrassed. She must feel so much worse.
A hand touched him on the shoulder, very gently and briefly.
When he didn't turn, she leaned on the bridge barrier next to him, looking out at the pink moon.
"It's all right", she said quietly.
"No", he said, just as quietly.
There was a minute of silence, full and potent with things unsaid - but to his surprise, not an awkward one.
"I know you don't remember what happened, so I'd like to show you something", she said. "I'll have to take you somewhere, if that's all right?"
He couldn't trust himself to speak. But he must have given some sign or nod, because she put one arm around him. He froze – and then, very cautiously, put his arms around her, avoiding the straps of the traveller's bag she had over her shoulder. She tossed her yoyo, and suddenly they were hurtling off of the bridge. He yelped.
They landed in a park Adrien wasn't so familiar with, though it was sparking some kind of memory. And then it hit him. The opening scene of the Ladyblog's livestream. He'd pulled it up on his phone earlier – then closed the browser window. He hadn't been able to watch what he'd done.
"Yes", she said, watching him carefully. "This is where we were last night."
There were a few people drifting around the plaza. They looked like native Parisians, not tourists, but somehow they also looked slightly lost, almost... thin. As if they were shadows of themselves. Once or twice someone would look in his direction, they'd flinch with recognition, and then they'd turn away and keep drifting. Ladybug followed his gaze.
"They're people you affected last night. Quite a few of them have come back here."
"Why?" For a moment he was truly puzzled. The effects of the akuma's magic should have well and truly worn off.
"You gave them something, something they barely even understood they wanted until they got it."
She wasn't looking at him, but at the people. The compassion in her face made him feel ill, twisted up with longing for this amazing woman next to him and with the certain knowledge that he had ruined any chance of that longing ever coming to anything.
"They know there's no magic, but they're trying to come to grips with what it was that happened. And what to do next."
Some of the people were greeting each other. The sadness didn't leave their faces, but somehow he could see that they became less alone with each greeting, each casual touch. And there were many of those.
He hugged himself tightly, and let his eyes linger on his Lady. It might be the last time he saw her for a while. He didn't think he could keep this all hidden as Chat Noir. She seemed to feel his look and turned back to him, putting her bag down on a bench and reaching for him.
"There's something I want you to understand" she said, and for some reason she was blushing. "You didn't make anyone do anything last night that they didn't want to."
"The news articles said something about how people just danced", he admitted. "I didn't – I couldn't watch any of the feed. But I hoped it was true."
"It was" she said.
They stood there for about thirty seconds in silence, her getting steadily redder, before he realised what she was referring to.
"OH", he said. "You mean..."
She looked at the ground. "ImeanIwouldhavedonethatforanyrandomcitizen notthatyou'rerandom Idon'tmean uhhhhh..."
It was the most incoherent he'd ever seen his Lady. And he wasn't sure what she'd actually just said. But it sounded rather like she...
A small trickle of warmth bled back into the cold ache in his heart.
Like she'd kissed him because she wanted to.
"Anyway", she said, shaking herself and looking like a confident superheroine again, "what I wanted to show you is over here." She took his hand and led him over to the wall of one of the buildings, holding his fingers so they trailed across the cool stone.
And suddenly, he realised exactly where he was. Where they were.
At Le mur des je t'aime. The wall of I love you.
Written in more than 300 languages, carved by a calligrapher's expert hand into stone.
"I wanted you to know, to really know, that I meant everything I was telling you", she said.
"And the akumatised me fell for it?" he said. Had it been love, or a clever trick? His heart was falling in so many pieces, so many directions.
She shook her head, smiling. "I wouldn't have been able to trick the akumatised you. In the moonlight, we understood far too much of each other. And you didn't even seem to notice where we were. But that's not what I meant."
In some wonder, he looked at his Lady as she poked him gently in the chest and said "I meant this you". She looked briefly over his shoulder, and he remembered the other people wandering in the park. All just a little lost, as he was.
As he had been a minute ago.
"I didn't want you to be lost too" she said, so quietly he almost didn't hear it.
A clock chimed somewhere on a nearby street, and she stiffened.
"I'm going to have to go", she said, looking worriedly at him. "I mean, it's not you, it's... well, my partner was affected by the akuma, so his, uh... he's going to.. uh... look, I can't stay." She started to reach for her yoyo.
"Wait", he said, gesturing back to the bench. "You've left your bag."
"Oh, it's not mine", she smiled, then corrected herself. "Well, it's not for me, anyway. It's for Chat Noir. He lost something important when the akuma's spell took him over." She looked worried for a moment. "I kept hi.. uh, it safe for him, but he needs it back. I'm...", and she very carefully did not look around her at the people coming into the plaza, "I'm expecting that he will come here tonight too."
"You aren't going to wait for him?" Adrien didn't know whether to sound surprised or lost. He didn't know what he felt.
"I would, but he'll be without his mask". She put a hand to her mouth, looking briefly embarrassed. "Please don't look for him, or tell anyone I said that. His privacy's as important as mine is. But we have patrol tomorrow night, so I hope by then he'll be up to coming out." A fond smile flickered across her face, and Adrien felt another trickle of warmth running through his heart.
She touched his shoulder one last time, then turned and walked away through the trees until she had a clear line of sight to the buildings around them. Adrien stood by the bag and watched until she was out of sight, the reassuring weight of a kwami slipping under his shirt and pushing against the skin of his chest.
The following night, under a large golden moon in a deep indigo sky, a girl in spots held a boy in black as he wept.
"Ssh", she murmured. "You're not alone."
A/N: And that's the end of the fic! Thanks for following along with me. Please do leave a review and let me know how you think I went - whether you liked my choice of powers for akumatised!Adrien, whether you liked Ladybug's response, if you liked any of the songs and if they fit the action. This fic was a writing stretch for me in a lot of ways so I'd love to know your thoughts.
Also: I'd love to know what you think happened on the night the moon rose yellow. (I'm leaving that one to your imagination :-) )