Marinette had been having trouble lately. A lot of trouble with almost everything. She didn't know what on earth was going on with her life. She knew she was clumsy but even she didn't normally mess up this much. It was ridiculous. It was heartbreaking. It was...embarrassing.
She was failing classes and alienating her friends. She was disappointing her parents by neglecting her duties in the bakery. But that wasn't even the worst thing she had done.
She buried her face further into her pillow, nails digging into the plush cushion. She could feel tears leak from her eyes and soak into her pillow.
Was she just a screw up to everyone around her? To her parents? To Tikki? To Cat Noir? To all her friends?
Marinette was pretty sure she knew the answer. She let out a quiet sob, clutching her pillow tighter and clenching her eyes shut.
Cat Noir didn't need her. She was glad she gave him the earrings. He'd make a better Ladybug than she ever could be. Especially after yesterday.
Her heart ached at the memory. How could she have let that happen? The man was just within her reach. She could have saved him. She should have.
She was a failure. Plain and simple. Also a monster. That man had a family and Ladybug failed them. She failed herself. She failed Cat Noir. She failed Paris. Sure she defeated the enemy but at what cost? A life? A life was precious and she let one slip through her grasp.
She wasn't a hero. Not by a long shot.
So Marinette locked herself in her room. She ignored everyone. Alya, Adrien, her parents, all of Paris. She hadn't left her room at all.
Her fingers came up to feel her bare ears. No earrings. Good. She gave up her miraculous. It was better this way. Cat Noir would be a better Ladybug. He'd be a better hero. She was sure of it. Anyone would be better than her…
Marinette stiffened when she heard a noise from up above. It was a small tapping, deliberate and annoying. She groaned and tried to ignore it. What was he doing here? He was the last person she wanted to see.
Still the tapping persisted, pausing every so often and then continuing. At every pause she hoped the person would just give up and go away but no such luck.
The hatch opened up and moonlight illuminated her room briefly. A cat-like figure landed quietly in the middle of her room.
Marinette's hold on her pillow got tighter. Maybe he would take the hint and go away? Yeah, right. Who was she kidding?
"No." Marinette said, turning her head towards the wall.
"I appreciate the enthusiasm but I didn't say anything yet." Cat Noir said in his usual playful tone.
"You didn't have to. I'm not leaving this room and I'm not going to be Ladybug. So you can just leave." Marinette told him, staring at his shadow on her wall.
"Okay." said Cat, his shadow offering a shrug.
"Look can you just-" Marinette frowned, turning to finally look at him in confusion. "Okay?"
"Yeah. Okay." he repeated. "That's not why I'm here."
Marinette rose a brow, staring at him. Was this some sort of trick? She narrowed her eyes. "I'm not in the mood for games, Cat Noir. If you're going to be annoying, go be it somewhere else." She turned her back to him, placing her face back in her pillow.
Cat Noir whistled and sat on the edge of the bed. "That's a little harsh don't you think? Especially since I came to you for help."
"I'm not helping you save Paris. I told you I quit being Ladybug, remember?" Marinette sighed.
How could Cat Noir not remember that she said she wouldn't be helping him anymore. She gave him the stupid earrings. All he had to do was pierce his ears and put them on. He could be both Cat Noir and Ladybug. He would be powerful enough to save Paris on his own. He wouldn't need her at all.
"I remember. I pierced my ears, see?" Cat Noir held back his blonde hair to show her the new studs holding his ear holes open. He didn't yet have on her miraculous. "But I have no idea how to go from there."
Marinette's eyes went wide when she looked at his ears.
"My dad wasn't so crazy about me having earrings but I have to say I'm loving the look." He said.
Marinette wasn't so sure what she had been expecting but it wasn't this. She thought he would show up and beg her to be Ladybug again, not readily take her job. But this was good. He was doing what she told him to do. Which made her wonder…
"How's Tikki?" She asked, sitting up in her bed.
She felt bad about doing this to Tikki again but Tikki was wrong. Marinette couldn't be the chosen one after all. Not after what happened. Having that man die on her watch was the proof. It was all the proof she needed to never transform into Ladybug again. This was the right thing...wasn't it?
"I don't know." said Cat Noir. "I haven't put them on yet."
"Well what are you waiting for?" Marinette huffed. "Put them on. Be Ladybug." She waved a hand in his direction.
"Ladybug, it wasn't your fault." He said calmly.
"It was my fault. And don't call me that, Cat. I'm Marinette. I'm not Ladybug anymore." Marinette looked away. "I can't do it…"
"Can't or won't?"
"It doesn't matter." She sighed. "Look, do you need help putting them on? I can do that." Marinette crawled to the end of the bed, reaching towards Cat's ears.
"Marinette." Cat Noir grabbed her hands, staring into her bright blue eyes. They were shining under the moonlight of the open hatch.
Marinette averted her attention from his emerald gaze to her hands he held in his lap.
"It wasn't your fault." He said again. "Accidents happen."
"This wasn't just some accident, Cat! A man is gone because I couldn't save him because I-"
"Because you saved me." finished Cat Noir.
Marinette looked back up at him, feeling the start of tears pooling in her eyes again. "I couldn't let you die. If something happened to you I don't know what I would-" she bit her lip, stopping herself. "I'm not a hero. I'm emotionally compromised. I can't make saving Paris my top priority when you take up that slot. Because I know if given the choice between saving you and Paris...I would always pick you." She pulled her hands out of his, turning away to glare at the floor. "That's selfish and not something a hero would do."
Cat Noir stared at the back of her head in silence for a long moment. Then he looked down, thinking about something. Finally he spoke again. "Me too."
Marinette rose a brow at him. After that whole speech he heard her give, that was what he had to say? Me too? Me too to what? "Cat-"
"Don't call me that." Cat Noir held his hand out in front of his face. He pulled his ring off and transformed back into Adrien Agreste.
Marinette was confused but she gave a small smile. It was always great to see the boy beneath the ridiculous puns and the mask. "Adrien, what are you doing?"
"Me too what? What are you-" Marinette blinked when his finger came up to her lips to silence her.
"I would have done the same thing." said Adrien. "If given the choice between you and someone else. Even between you and all of Paris."
"You don't mean that." She shook her head.
"But I do!" Adrien exclaimed. "I would have saved you. A thousand times over."
"Once is enough.." Marinette mumbled.
"I would have done the same thing. So I'm emotionally compromised too. I can't be a hero. And I wouldn't want to be one without you!"
"Adrien…" Marinette pleaded.
"And I won't be." Adrien took the box out of his pocket and placed his miraculous besides hers.
Marinette stared at their miraculous's side by side in the box until Adrien shut it. She felt a tug at her heart. Were they really going to give up being Ladybug and Cat Noir? Could they?
She would miss being Ladybug and fighting side by side with the one she loved. Adrien was her soulmate and she was his. Their destiny had been intertwined from the very beginning. But she made such a big mistake…
Could she even call it a mistake? She saved Adrien's life. She chose him over a civilian. That was bad but she knew she would do it over again a thousand times if she had to.
Adrien put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder. They sat together in the bright moonlight, listening to the night breeze.
"I guess we're both not so perfect huh?" Marinette said.
"No one is." said Adrien with a shrug. "Except milady." He bowed his head to her.
Marinette smiled and rolled her eyes, shaking her head. He was forever a goofball. She frowned and looked down. "I don't want to give up being Ladybug. But I don't want innocent people to get hurt because of my decisions. That's kind of a lot to handle..."
"Hey, you don't have to do either." Adrien took her hand in his and held it. He smiled at her charmingly, making a blush break out over Marinette's cheeks. "But I respect your decision whatever it is. Just tell me what you want and we'll do it. Even if I have to go out there and fight evil by myself as uh...Lady Noir? Catbug?"
Marinette smiled, shaking her head. She wasn't ready to give up. "Nice names but no way are you going out there by yourself." She stood up and took the box from him, taking out her earrings.
Adrien looked up in surprise at first but eventually smirked. He knew that look in Marinette's eyes. That look of determination she got when she was about to do something amazing. She was back.
Marinette put on her earrings and Tikki appeared before her eyes.
"Marinette!" Tikki exclaimed happily, hugging Marinette's cheek. "I knew you would come back!"
"Tikki, spots on!" Marinette transformed into Ladybug with a confident smile on her face, giving her signature stance.
Adrien slipped his ring on. "Plagg, claws out!"
Plagg frowned sadly. "Can't I eat first?" he said before he was sucked into the ring.
Adrien transformed into Cat Noir, smirking back at Ladybug. His smirk turned into a look of shock as Ladybug pulled him in for a long kiss. Cat's smirk returned along with a blush across his cheeks. "I love you, Marinette."
"I love you too, but call me Ladybug."