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The Soulmate Liar AU

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Soulmate AU where Lila keeps trying to fake soulmate connections.

In this AU, there are multiple kinds of soulmate indicators, and the more you share with your partner the stronger your connection will be. Lila, knowing this, decides that if she wants Adrien? The best way to get him is to fake being his soulmate!

She uses a single colored contact lens to fake heterochromia for the “eye swap.” She spies on him constantly, so that whenever he gets an injury or has something written on his skin, she’ll get a matching one, up to actually injuring herself to make it work. (She hides any injuries she has that he doesn’t share.) When he starts humming, she “absentmindedly” joins him. She even makes up a soulmark and puts it on her right shoulder blade (on her back so it looks like she couldn’t have done it herself); it’s an altered version of the Gabriel company logo, redesigned to indicate the son instead of the father. Her soulmarks are impeccable. Inarguable. Unimpeachable, even.

What Lila doesn’t know—what nobody knows—is that Adrien already knows who his soulmate is.

There’s a seamstress ladybug hidden on his heel, a match for the swashbuckler pianist cat on Marinette’s. Marinette is the only person outside Adrien’s family who’s ever known his mother’s lullaby. Their eyes swapped during the gum incident, though both of them were too angry at each other to notice at the time and only realized hours later. Adrien gets an alarming number of fresh bruises every time Marinette uses the stairs, he’s grown very used to the feeling of phantom needles stabbing into his fingers, and Marinette confirmed—in private—that the day she had to go to the hospital for stitches on a gash that randomly opened on her arm was the same day that Jean accidentally slashed open Adrien’s arm with a defective fencing saber. Same arm. Same injury.

There’s also the fact that, the first time Chat Noir got punched in the chest hard enough to break a rib, Ladybug immediately jerked over and began vomiting blood.

Marinette and Adrien have been openly dating for months now, but they’re keeping their soulmate connection a secret for safety. After all, if someone finds out that harming Marinette directly transfers that harm to Adrien? Well, a baker’s daughter is much easier to kidnap than an heir with a bodyguard, even if that baker’s daughter is Ladybug.

Lila is thus very confused as to why Adrien keeps turning her down. How is he this attached to Dupain-Cheng that he’s rejecting his actual, literal soulmate? Sure, she’s faking, but he doesn’t know that! Faking soulmarks is so ridiculous that it’s basically unheard of, so there’s no way he could be calling her bluff!

Meanwhile, Adrien and Marinette simply sit back, laugh, and enjoy watching Lila flail about trying to convince the exact wrong person of their destined connection.

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The thing is, Adrienette haven’t told anyone about their connection, except their parents—not even Nino and Alya know. And Lila’s faked soulmarks are very, very good.

Which means Alya 100% believes that Lila is Adrien’s soulmate, and doesn’t understand why he refuses to listen.

She keeps trying to set them up, despite his discomfort—and despite his existing relationship with Marinette. Yeah, Mari’s her best friend, and yeah Adrien’s clearly uncomfortable around Lila, but they’re soulmates! That’s more important than a fling relationship, and clearly he can get used to her. The evidence is clearly there! She doesn’t know why Marinette keeps denying it, why she refuses to believe that Liladrien are soulmates and break up with him for his own happiness. So she keeps coming up with schemes to get Adrienette to break up and put Liladrien together, schemes that continually drive away her friend. But it’s okay! She’ll see, when Adrien is so much happier with Lila!

Nino, of course, sees the same signs, but unlike Alya he’s much better at reading people. He sees how Lila and Adrien interact. See how she touches him in ways that make him shudder. Sees how he tries to twist away from her every time she comes near. Soulmate or not, putting Adrien and Lila together is wrong.

He and Alya end up in an epic screaming match that nearly ruins their relationship then and there. And then, when Lila gets involved, tells Alya how Marinette must have turned Nino against them… it does.

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The end of the feud starts when Marinette and Adrien manage to drag them all to Andre’s. Andre serves the two of them a custom flavor combination that sounds downright delicious and makes absolute sense for the pair, Nino and Alya get each others’ flavors with dark chocolate or sour fruit syrup on top (because they still love each other, even if their relationship is in tatters and their hearts are hurting), and Lila gets… one scoop of unsweetened coffee ice cream.

When she presses Andre for an explanation, he tells her, sadly, “Your heart is full of bitterness and you love only yourself. Come and see me when you’ve learned the way to love others and I’ll give you a cone for free; until then, this is the only thing you will get from Sweethearts Ice Cream.”

Lila is naturally furious, but doesn’t show it and feigns hurt feelings instead. Marinette, Adrien, and Nino are openly pitying (and two of them are silently trying not to gloat). Alya tries to cheer her up, but a seed of doubt has been planted; Andre is never wrong, after all…

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That doubt opens the door. Alya’s asking questions now. She’s not refusing to hear it when Adrien tells her that Lila isn’t his soulmate anymore. So when he offers to set up a demonstration to prove it? She’s all in.

Adrien never explains why he waits until winter to set it up, but the truth is he needs Marinette in long sleeves so as not to blow the secret. And one day, just after class, he calls everyone over and says he’s going to prove to them that Lila isn’t his soulmate.

Because he knows she’s faking. So he knows how.

Every time they’d tried this previously, Alya had snapped at them—but Alya isn’t backing Lila up now, so there’s no way for her to get out of it when Adrien tells her to bare her arm and place it on the table, in full view of everyone. Then, he rolls up his sleeve, uncaps a sharpie, and starts to draw.

And Lila’s arm, predictably, remains blank.

The whole class goes ballistic. Faking a soulmate connection is one of the worst possible things someone their age can do, and Lila has been using that fake to manipulate them all along into getting her alone with Adrien, into sabotaging Adrien and Marinette’s relationship, into poisoning their own social scene. It’s unconscionable. If Hawkmoth were prepared, he’d get a full Scarlet Moth going; he’s caught off guard, though, so he only gets one.

Rose.

Rose, the first member of the class to know her soulmate, because Luka picked out the song in her heart the moment they met and told her it was a perfect match for his sister’s. Because Luka knew what Juleka’s eyes used to look like before she started wearing violet contacts, and recognized Rose’s eyes as the one she’d lost.

Rose believes in the sanctity of the soulmate bond, and Lila has just polluted it. Matchmaker will not forgive such a grievous crime. Matchmaker will make Lila pay.


Ah, but this is where the last bit gets interesting.

You see, Adrien was rather angry when he drew on his arm. Wasn’t particularly careful. Went too far up near his wrist.

The ink is poking out just about the sleeve of Marinette’s sweater.

And while they’re all running to hide from Matchmaker… Alya sees it. And suddenly everything makes sense.

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Alya to LB and CN: Are you sure we can’t let Matchmaker rough her up a little bit first? She totally deserves it for all the shit she’s pulled, especially against my best friend.

CN: My Lady? *hopeful kitty eyes*

LB: You have no idea how much I want to say yes right now, but it would unfortunately set a bad precedent.

.

(Really, though, Alya goes on to be a huge advocate for soulmate privacy and relationship rights, defending anyone and everyone who doesn’t want to share who their soulmate is, or who doesn’t want to be with their soulmate, for whatever reason. She also amps up her personal education about consent and soulmates, and starts fundraisers and advertisement on the Ladyblog for organizations that help people who don’t want to be with their soulmates, or whose soulmates turn out to be absolutely toxic, etc. Because, she realizes, it doesn’t matter, in the end, whether Marinette and Adrien are soulmates or not; she still should have supported their choice.)

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Yes, Gabriel knows. Adrien and Marinette figured it out sometime early in season 1, possibly before Adrien’s birthday but at the very least not long afterward—but given how the “soulmates” thing was wrapped up in their dual identities, both of them defaulted to “tell no one,” for safety reasons. Midway through season 1, they finally worked out which parts of the soulmate connection they could safely reveal without blowing their identities, at which point they told Marinette’s parents. (Adrien was adopted pretty much immediately.)

The main thing about keeping the soulmate connection secret, though, was for Marinette’s safety above all else. Thanks to actually having a support network, Adrien’s trust in his father had pretty much eroded by this point and he wanted to keep this secret even from Gabriel, but Marinette pointed out that the man’s reach and power would be immensely useful if they wanted to keep the secret buried, and if Gabriel knew about the truth of their connection, he would move heaven and earth to keep Marinette safe.

They tell him early in Season 2, and while he is at first furious (if he could choose a soulmate for his heir, he would not have chosen a baker’s daughter), he realizes rather rapidly a few things: one, he cannot change Adrien’s soulmate; two, Adrien isn’t his heir, Marinette is (Adrien is either Nathalie’s or Tom and Sabine’s, galling as that is to admit); and three: he hasn’t seen his son this happy in a very long time. And as someone who knows how weird soulmate relationships can be—Nathalie has his mark, he has Emelie’s, and Emelie had Nathalie’s—he appreciates how important they are.

This doesn’t mean he stops being Hawkmoth. This does mean he’s much more wary of fast-talking Italian diplobrats who are trying to take advantage of his son for his celebrity and lack the good sense to not lie to Adrien’s father about a soulmate connection. As Adrien’s father, he’s horrified. As Hawkmoth? He smells opportunity. She’s a perfect pawn, an absolute dupe, and as long as he keeps dangling the right carrots in front of her nose she’ll do whatever he wants.

(Quick note: Oni-Chan went down very differently in this AU. Thanks to the strength of the Adrienette relationship, Kagami and Marinette became friends much earlier. So when Kagami saw Lila posting a pic of her kissing a very clearly uncomfortable Adrien on Instagram with the hashtag #foundmysoulmate when she’d seen Adrien kissing Marinette not one hour before, she went absolutely berserk.)

Lila works for Gabriel as a spy for much of season 3. However, Gabriel isn’t sure whether to try to temper her hatred of his future daughter-in-law or to stoke it, to make her petty hatred more useful to him. When she comes to him with a plan to get his heir expelled, and in the process ruin her reputation? That is too far. He cuts her loose without a word of explanation.

(The Ladybug episode, similarly, ends up very different. Lila gets Akumatized into Marimposter before she can even walk into class, Sentibug still shows up, and Chat Noir is somehow immediately able to pick both of them out as fakes. No Catalyst/Scarlet Moth involved.)

With Lila no longer a useful piece on the board, Gabriel no longer has any reason to protect her, and instead moves to mitigate any damage she might do to his company by reporting their conversation to Principal Damocles. It’s suspicious as hell on his part, sure, but he’s able to play it off. And Damocles doesn’t quite believe a student would go that far—but when Lila comes back from Akumatization and accuses Marinette of the exact things Gabriel predicted she would, Damocles is already forewarned and immediately is able to pick apart her case to prove she’s lying.

That’s about when people in the class start to turn against Lila. After the ice cream thing, this is the second crack in Alya’s conviction. She may be undergoing more than a little cognitive dissonance thanks to her toxic friendship with Lila and her absolute belief in soulmates, but the fact of the matter is, Adrien’s soulmate wouldn’t do something like that unless it was somehow justified. And against Marinette? Something like that cannot be justified. Rival or not, Marinette is a good person. Flaky and scatterbrained, sure, but she doesn’t deserve any of what Lila tried to do.

Shaken, Alya agrees to Adrien’s soulmate proof challenge, which goes down the very next day.

The shock of learning exactly how wrong she was ends up forcing Alya to re-evaluate a lot of her preconceptions, which is how she realizes that, even if Lila were Adrien’s soulmate, it wouldn’t have justified anything she did. Lila has been actively malicious from the start, harassing Adrien and harming people out of petty jealousy, and Alya let her.

As soon as Rose is cleansed, Alya marches into the Principal’s office to report herself for bullying. When she gets home, she tells her parents what happened, grounds herself, handwrites Marinette 5 apology letters, and enrolls herself in courses on sexual harassment, ethics in journalism, and abusive relationships.

She’s stunned when Marinette forgives her the next day, thanking her for finally coming around.

Hawkmoth, having dropped Lila like a hot potato, returns to using Chloé as his favorite pawn without even bothering to acknowledge the loss.

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The Collector was actually very similar to canon! Except that Adrien is a bit more willing to believe that his father might be Hawkmoth, given how aware he is of how Gabriel is not a particularly good parent. The thing is, Gabriel doesn’t find out about Marinette being Adrien’s soulmate until after the Collector—though it’s entirely possible that Marinette needing to return the book is what spurred them to tell him.

Here’s where we get into some weird cause-and-effect. See, now that the identities have been revealed, Ladynoir are pretending to not be dating, lest Hawkmoth use that against them. However, when they get hit by Oblivio? That particular detail is one of the things they forget. So when they get their memories back and see that Alya has taken—and posted—the kiss picture? Both of them are horrified. Hawkmoth knows they’re together now. They try to deny it, to downplay it, but it doesn’t work very well.

In an event that is at first unrelated to that, Gabriel begins to secretly mentor Marinette. She has a keen eye for fashion and a brilliant creative mind that he can’t help being impressed by; however, they keep having personality clashes, as they have very different ideas on how people should be treated. It’s only once Gabriel realizes that Marinette’s soft-touch approach is actually getting better results that he starts trying to treat his underlings more fairly (unless he’s angling to create an Akuma). His respect for his future daughter-in-law grows with every minute they spend working together, and as it does, so does his ability to relate to his son. Marinette’s mere presence makes Gabriel a better businessman and a better father. And as Gabriel grows as a person, Marinette’s opinion of him—which was high before they met, then utterly cratered when she began dating Adrien—slowly grows as well.

All that progress is utterly destroyed when Hawkmoth and Ladybug, unbeknownst to each other, find out each other’s identities.

From Marinette’s perspective, her mentor, her future father-in-law, is so much worse than she’d ever believed. He’s a monster, a man who has committed serial genocide, a man who has maimed her and murdered his son over and over again for the pettiest of reasons, who has driven the entirety of Paris into paranoia. From Gabriel’s perspective, his son’s soulmate and his heir is cheating on Adrien with that goddamn cat. And since he’s grown closer to his son, he knows how devastated Adrien will be when he finds out. All that talk of being a better person, and she’s been a hypocrite this whole time.

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OOOOOOH.

Okay so: Gabriel pulls Adrien aside and tells him that Marinette is cheating on him. Adrien, of course, trusts Marinette over his own father at this point, even if his relationship with his dad has been repairing, so his first thought is “dad is either wrong or lying.”

When his father says she’s Ladybug, and she’s cheating on him with Chat Noir, Adrien panics—and Gabriel, being an empath, feels the panic, assumes it’s because his soulmate has betrayed him. But no: Adrien is freaking out because his dad knows Ladybug’s identity.

He immediately runs to Marinette to tell her, which Gabriel misinterprets as a rush to confrontation. Gabe holds off on the Akuma—it’s easier for Adrien to get close to her as Adrien than as an Akuma, and hearing the confession directly from his soulmate is far more likely to emotionally devastate him. Of course, when Adrien gets there and sees how wrecked Marinette is… well, that’s when it comes out.

Gabriel mistakes his son’s anger at him for anger at Marinette, and sends an Akuma. He’s expecting Adrien to succumb pretty quickly, given how awful the betrayal is—

But the thing he doesn’t realize is, Adrien and Marinette are supporting each other. Which means the Akuma doesn’t find anywhere to land—the hopelessness it requires just isn’t there.

Gabriel is confused. Stunned, even. Adrien’s reaction doesn’t make any sense! He’s been betrayed by his very soulmate—he should be ripe for Akumatizing!

Gabriel pulls the butterfly back to send it after someone else, so he’s not looking when his son transforms into Chat Noir.

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Without any negative emotions for the Akuma to latch onto, Hawkmoth is forced to once again throw the butterfly at Mister Pigeon. Instead of the insidious, emotionally devastating soulmate-vs.-soulmate duel he was expecting, the fight lasts all of ten minutes.

Then Ladybug and Chat Noir both vanish. And when Hawkmoth checks the bakery, Adrien is gone too. Which is when Gabriel makes a desperate—and really stupid—decision.

After the soulmate proof challenge, Lila was expelled from the College François DuPont and is currently under investigation for sexual assault, since faking soulmarks counts as attempts at coercion towards sex under false pretenses. As a result, she’s been unable to leave the embassy, unable to chase butterflies—and with Hawkmoth having dropped her like the beat at a Skrillex concert, nothing’s been coming into the building. She’s been unable to do anything but stew.

The butterfly phases in through her wall, and she immediately jumps up, out of bed, out of her wallowing. Pounces on it.

{Greetings, Clotho,} he says in her mind. {I have discovered that Adrien Agreste’s soulmate is Ladybug. Are you interested in changing that?}

She grins. “Yes, Hawkmoth.”

{I give you the power to cut soulmate lines and restitch them to others. You may take Adrien’s bond for yourself—but you must not hurt Ladybug until you have done so. Once you have… you may do whatever you like.}

Lila’s grin grows feral, and she burns purple and leaps out the window.

Of course, both of them forgot something important—or rather, three important things that lead up to one important mistake: embassies have cameras. Lila’s mother no longer trusts her. And, unlike Kwami, the butterflies show up on recordings.

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Clotho has the ability to control the Red String of Fate—not just who is who is connected to whom, but how. On her side, she has scissors made to cut Miraculous-armored flesh; she can strike an opponent colorblind (to use for camouflage); she can connect two enemies to each other so when she harms one she takes out the other as well; she can stick two people together so that they can’t pull apart. By manipulating the soulmate bonds, Clotho can use them to her advantage, keeping opponents off-guard.

On the hero side, they have: Shellter, Venom, and Mirage. Ladybug and Chat Noir don’t even show up.

Clotho gets her ass handed to her.

Shellter no-sells her attacks; Mirage causes her to fire in the wrong direction, distracting her at a critical moment, at which point Queen Bee stings her in the back, immobilizing her, and the fight is over. Rena Rouge barely has to look for the Akumatized item before she snags it from Clotho, depriving her of her powers, then enlisting Carapace to help her carry the paralyzed Clotho back into the Italian Embassy and locking her inside a closet to wait for Ladybug to come take care of her. The guards are all too happy to keep watch over her. After seeing her willingly assisting a terrorist on the video feeds, the embassy is already drawing up extradition papers.

(As a side note: Rena is a little bit miffed that she didn’t get hit. Neither she nor Carapace—whose relationship has repaired in recent weeks—actually havesoulmates, and she kinda wanted to know what it felt like. But, well, c’est la vie.)

Meanwhile, halfway across the city, Hawkmoth and Mayura are steadily losing ground in a fight they can’t actually win. The Agreste Manor is coming apart under the onslaught of seven Miraculous holders as the two of them make a fighting retreat against Chat Noir, Ryuuko, and Ladybug, as well as the unseen Horse Miraculous holder who keeps altering the terrain by throwing up portals at random intervals. He must have an entire bag of apples to keep feeding his Kwami.

They can’t afford to hit Ladybug, lest they harm Adrien, but they can’t seem to actually connect with anyone else. Chat and Ryuuko move like they know exactly where each hit is going to land, and Ladybug keeps jumping in front of blows that she shouldn’t rationally know about, that they keep having to pull to prevent from killing their son. (They don’t see Viperion, directing the battle through Bluetooth headsets and Pegase’s portals, picking apart every move they make. They just know that, skilled as the holders usually are, this is something far beyond what they’ve ever displayed—and Hawkmoth and Mayura are losing.)

However, they do have one ace in the hole: they know Ladybug’s soulmate. And, Chat Noir or no, they know Marinette will do anything for Adrien. So they try to turn her, to tell her that they’re trying to bring Adrien’s mother back, that everything they’re doing is for her soulmate—

And Chat Noir laughs darkly. “She’s not the only one you betrayed, Father,” he snarls, and Hawkmoth and Mayura both freeze as they realize—every time they’ve killed Chat Noir, they’ve been murdering their son. Their Adrien.

And in that moment, when they’re frozen in shock, Ryuuko turns to lightning and arcs directly into their heads, knocking them both out before they can think to dodge.

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Adrien Agreste is a hero.

Upon discovering his father’s identity of Hawkmoth, he immediately tracked down the Ladyblogger and got in touch with Ladybug and Chat Noir to tell them the truth. In return, they gave him the Snake Miraculous to help take the fight to his father, and it was Aspik revealing his identity that finally stunned them long enough for Ryuuko to get in the shot that allowed Ladybug to take their Miraculi.

Or at least, that’s what the news says. And since everyone else involved swears up and down that that’s what happened—right down to Gabriel Agreste himself—nobody has any reason to doubt it. Especially when Adrien and Chat (after the arrival of Rena Rouge, of course) have a very public argument as to what to do with Nathalie Sancouer.

Chat takes Adrien and the rest of the temporary heroes to return their Miraculi, while Rena hands Ladybug Clotho’s Akumatized item, which is quickly purified, and in seconds, the Agreste Manor is standing again. All the soulmate connections that Clotho tangled are put right.

Lila Rossi is immediately arrested by the embassy guards. Her mother can’t even look her in the eye. (Signora Rossi is herself placed under investigation as well. Within a few weeks, the investigation will clear her of all wrongdoing—but even then, the people of France have long memories. She will have to be moved to an embassy in a distant part of the world, where Hawkmoth is barely a blip on anyone’s radar. Her daughter will remain in Italy to be prosecuted.)

Gabriel and Nathalie are both taken to prison—without their Miraculi, they have no powers, so they’re no longer a threat. Besides, they’re not fighting anymore. Not when they know that Adrien was the boy they were hurting all this time, that he turned on them rather than let them continue. That, thanks to Marinette’s influence in their lives, their definition of “helping him” only hurt him more than either of them could bear.

But now Adrien’s father, and Marinette’s mentor, is gone, revealed as a traitor, a terrorist. He cared for them both, but still, he turned on them. Tried to kill them. Thanks to Adrien’s actions as “Aspik”—the only hero aside from Queen Bee whose identity has been revealed to the public—the company is not shut down, saving the livelihoods of hundreds. Instead, it passes into the hands of Adrien Agreste… who immediately registers Marinette Dupain-Cheng as his soulmate, granting her shared legal ownership of many of his new assets. (They’re still too young to legally get married, but soulmates have a number of protections under the law that function as a sort of pre-marriage for exactly these kinds of situations.) Everything that Adrien stands to inherit is now Marinette’s inheritance as well, rocketing her instantly to heiress status.

The public reveal of their soulmate status shocks many of their classmates, from whom it had been hidden for a year and a half. But none of them, save Lila, are truly surprised. If Hawkmoth were still operating, Lila would’ve earned an Akuma from rage at that revelation alone. As it is, she can only bloody her knuckles on walls in rage.

Neither Adrien nor Marinette are qualified to run a company, nor are they prepared to. They return to class as celebrities, heroes, simply wishing to return to the childhoods that have been stolen from them but unable to do so completely—without Nathalie, not even the board of directors knows all the moving parts of the company. Security at school tightens to protect the son and daughter-in-law of Hawkmoth. Kim starts showing up to school in an ill-fitting suit and dark glasses, acting as an unofficial bodyguard to the Agreste Heirs. (He is surprisingly good at it, and the Gorilla will eventually take him on as an apprentice.)

At the insistence of the Board, Adrien accepts an interim CEO, an executive gratefully poached from Audrey Bourgeois’s fashion house. Adrien, and surprisingly Chloé, begin to study business, so that they will be able to keep the company afloat for Marinette once they are of age to take over.

Adrien will finish his childhood in the bakery, under the care of parents who love him, and in the loving arms of his other half. But for now… for now, his father has been exposed as a terrorist and a madman. Marinette’s mentor has betrayed her, tried to kill her, even knowing how important she was to his son.

That kind of thing leaves scars.

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Healing is slow to come, but come it does, and Adrien and Marinette have each other for every step of the way.

More than that, they have Marinette’s entire family and all of their classmates, they have their best friends and their kwamis, they have their goals and hopes and dreams and the feeling that maybe, just maybe, they might finally have a chance to see them through.

Danger and disaster don’t end when Gabriel, Nathalie, and Lila are all finally locked up for good; nor does tragedy when Emilie finally passes, never having awoken from the unnatural sleep she was trapped in for so many years. But Hawkmoth and the byproducts of reign of terror over Paris have forged a bond between Marinette, Adrien, and their loved ones that is more resilient than any soulbond has ever proven to be.

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Years pass. Their scars aren’t gone, but they’re crowded out by happier memories, drowned out by joy on most days. On the days they aren’t, they surround themselves with their loved ones, who remind them of all the good things that have come in the days since.

It’s one of the good days when Marinette, having dropped a spool of red, thinks to ask Tikki, “Is it possible to create a soulbond between people who don’t have one?”

Tikki zips across the room to look into Marinette’s eyes. “What are you thinking of, Marinette?”

Marinette looks directly back at Tikki and says, “Alya.”

Tikki and Marinette talk, long and serious. Later, they’re joined by Adrien and Plagg, equally serious (even if they need to give Plagg a moment first). Finally, the two (four) of them invite Nino and Alya over to discuss things.

“Only if you want to,” Marinette tells Alya. “Only if you both want to,” she adds, looking at Nino. Alya smiles at Marinette, thinking of hard learned lessons of consent and choosing, of the people she’s helped to learn the same thing, how, even though she’s not proud of where she started, she’s proud of where she’s come.

“It would have to be subtle,” Tikki continues. “Soulbonds that develop later in life are not unheard of, but they usually don’t have more than one or two indicators. You’d have to choose carefully if you want to keep it quiet.”

Alya looks at Nino, who looks back at her. They’ve beaten the odds, a teenage romance still together in their early twenties and looking at a future together, neither of them soulbonded to anyone, let alone each other. “I don’t need to be soulbonded to you to want to be with you forever,” Alya tells Nino, meaning every word. There was a time when she thought soulbonds were sacred, that any romance without a soulbond had to fight an uphill battle to succeed. Now she knows that it’s the same for any romance, soulbonds or no, and the work she and Nino have put into their relationship together means more to her than the idea of a soulbond does. She’s still curious, wouldn’t mind it, but she doesn’t yearn for a soulbond the way she once did.

Nino smiles at her, kisses her forehead, the tip of her nose, her mouth. “I love you too, and no soulbond would ever make how I feel about you stronger or weaker.” Alya’s heart flutters, and she clutches him close, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes as she’s overwhelmed by feelings. “That said,” she hears Nino tell Marinette over her shoulder, “I wouldn’t mind seeing how it felt?”

Alya pulls back to look at her best friend, the young woman who showed her how to be a hero in more ways than one. “Maybe for a week?” she suggests. “Then, if we don’t think it adds anything, or if we don’t like it, can we dissolve it?”

Marinette smiles, and Adrien nods. “We can do that,” he says.

“We do want to be really careful to keep this quiet,” Marinette adds. “If word gets out that it’s even possible to change a soulbond, in any way—well, I don’t think I need to tell you how that would go.”

Alya thinks of all the people she’s worked with through the Soulbond Support Society, and Paris UnBound, and the advocacy she’s done on the Ladyblog for years now. “I understand,” she says, and Marinette knows she does, better than almost anyone. As much as she wishes she could share this, if it’s something they can’t make accessible to everyone, then it’s better to keep it quiet.

“One last thing, then,” says Adrien. “Do you have any preference for what kind of indicator you’ll want?”

Alya shakes her head, and looks at Nino. “Surprise me,” she says. He nods.

.

Four days later, Alya wakes up late and drags herself into the kitchen, half a night’s sleep ruined. She tells Nino that his new song sounds incredible, but she thought she’d asked him to stop practicing in their (very un-soundproofed) apartment.

Nino looks at her oddly. “Can you maybe hum a few bars?”

Confused, Alya complies. Nino joins in after only a few beats, the smile on his face growing into an absolutely irrepressible grin as he pulls her into a tight embrace. “—Nino?” Alya breaks off mid-hum, confused.

“Sorry, babe; I’ll have to remember this the next time I want to work at night. Or we might have to tweak our schedules a little.” He pulls back and cups her face in his hands, still beaming. “I was filling in for my friend Pablo at the club last night, remember?”

Though it’s already climbing in the sky, Alya feels the sun rise in her heart.