She had snapped. The realization dawned on her the way one realizes they’ve broken a bone: with a sharp gasp, a moment of suspense as one waits for the consequence, and then, an unimaginable pain. The truth that had been wearing her down since the moment those earrings appeared in her room finally came out. It was a stubborn truth: now it had managed to wrestle its way into the open, it refused to go back into the shadows.
Marinette couldn’t contain herself. A cracked dam only holds on for so long. The worst part was that she seldom ever faltered, and now that she did, there was no one to catch her fall. Not Chat Noir, not Master Fu. Not Alya, or her parents, and in a way, the fact that she could only talk to Tikki about what she was feeling made it even worse. It’s not that she belittled her friendship with the kwami, but sometimes she wished she had someone she could talk to. Someone who would be able to wrap their arms around her and told her it would be okay.
She sniffed again as she muffled her moans by biting into her jacket. She choked. She shivered.
A sob escaped her as she opened her palm to reveal the earrings. She had taken them off after coming back from defeating Chloe.
No, she wouldn’t give them up. After all, even if she wanted to, she was now the only person who could bestow the responsibility of the Ladybug onto someone else. Either way, she was caught up in this.
“Marinette, are you okay?”
“Not now, Tikki.”
“Please. I need to be alone. Just... just give me a moment.”
Tikki floated down to Marinette’s room without question, hearing how Marinette started to cry as soon as she was out of sight.
Mari looked at the stars with a cloudy vision, catching a certain cat vaulting merrily through the Parisian rooftops from the corner of her eye.
She crumbled down, not being able to know what made her so incredibly sad. She was heartbroken and paralyzed with terror knowing Hawkmoth was lurking. That’s another reason why she took the earrings off. If worse came to worst, at least he wouldn’t catch her with them on.
She choked again, enraged at the fact she couldn’t even grief properly. She couldn’t do anything! There was always the Miraculous to think about, and now she was the guardian. The succession could not have had happened with poorer timing. She felt weak, naked. For the first time ever, the mask had given her a taste of the kind of sacrifice it required, and Marinette wasn’t sure she would be strong enough not to lose herself in it.
It had taken Master Fu from her, due to her mistakes. It had taken Chat Noir’s affection, because duty demanded her to force herself against her instincts. It had taken Adrien, because she couldn’t be a regular girl feeling a regular crush. She had to keep herself in check.
“I can’t do this,” she muttered. “I can’t--.”
Rocking herself on the ground, she cried herself to sleep.
Her mother found her early in the morning and shook her awake. “Marinette, what are you doing sleeping in the balcony?”
It took Marinette a moment to realize where she was, what had happened. “I’m okay mom,” she replied with a raspy voice. “I was just tired.”
Sabine glanced at her daughter with preoccupation. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
The next day, everything felt heavier, dimmer. It felt as if her body wasn’t actually hers, rather a corpse she was commanding.
Sit up. Push the covers away with the left hand. Slide the legs to the right. Stand. Put left foot to the front, now the right...
She arrived late to school that day.
“Marinette...” Madame Bustier said, with a resigned sigh. “If you show up late again, I’ll have to put you in detention, you know that, right?”
Monotonously, she replied. “Yes, Madame Bustier. I’m sorry. I will try to do better.”
She marched to her seat, diligently avoiding the sight of the blond sitting at the front of the class.
“Hey girl,are you okay?” Alya whispered.
Alya gave her a concerned look. “Did you hear about...?”
“Yes. I’m fine, Alya. We can talk later. I already came in late, I need to catch up.”
Alya’s stomach sank and her throat closed. Marinette wasn’t fooling her. She knew she was hurting; she knew because she was also hurting for her.
As soon as the final bell rang, Marinette picked up her things and was the first to walk out the door.
“Is she okay?” Nino asked Alya.
Alya shook her head. “I’m worried about her.”
“Maybe we can give her a house call later?”
“That’s the thing, Nino.”
Alya produced her phone to show the recent conversation with Marinette:
“Hey girl! Do you wanna hang out later?”
“I can’t. I haven’t started the essay we have to turn in tomorrow.”
“Oh! Yeah, I’m not done with it yet either lol. Should we work on it together? :D”
“You know that never works with me, I always get distracted.”
“Yeah haha. I know :P But hey! Tomorrow’s Friday. There’s that movie you wanted to watch. Maybe we can go.”
“Thanks Alya, but I have to help my parents at the bakery.”
“Wow,” Nino said. “Is it bad that I read it in like, a robot voice? She didn’t even throw in an emoji. Not even one. That girl never actually writes. Let alone actually like, writing properly.”
“I’m so worried about her. What if Hawkmoth akumatizes her!”
“I’m sure Ladybug would save her,” Nino said warmly, squeezing her hand. “And you know, you have to give Marinette some credit. She’s a tough little nugget. I’m sure she’ll handle it. Especially if we support her.”
Nino’s words gave Alya some peace of mind, but as the days passed, she came to learn that peace was misplaced. Marinette did not handle it. If anything, she was getting worse. She wasn’t sure someone could get sick of heartbreak, until she saw her arrive one day.
She looked terrible. Pale, tired, anxious, sad. It was so obvious even Adrien noticed, and that was already a statement. By then, Marinette had been growing tired of people’s questions. If it wasn’t her parents, it was Alya. If it wasn’t Alya, it was the girls, if not them, then Nino, or Nathaniel, or Max.
“Girl, we need to talk.” Alya had finally worked up the courage to confront her friend after she had practically fainted in the chemistry lab. It had caused quite the ruckus. When she came to her senses and was ready to stand up, the first thing she saw had been Adrien and Nino trying to pull her up. But in a gesture that took everyone by surprise, she flinched away from both, then got up by herself.
“This... this needs to stop. Look, I understand that you’re sad right now. I totally get it. I know that it’s painful, but you have to try to overcome it. For your sake.”
“What are you talking abo-- you think I’m sad because Adrien has a girlfriend now,” she whispered.
Alya was surprised at the ease with which she spoke of the subject. Marinette chuckled darkly.
“And aren’t you?”
“It’s not just that. You wouldn’t understand...” she muttered.
“Mari, don’t try to play hero. Please, I’m just trying to help you. It hurts to see you this way. I know how much you love him and--”
“That’s not what this is about! Why does everybody automatically assume that-- that, UGH!” she screamed, and caught herself a moment too late.
Alya had tears in her eyes. “Then tell me!” she pleaded. “Let me help you. I don’t care what it is, I will help you. I promise.”
Marinette was simply not thinking. These days her emotions were the ones commanding her life.
“You can’t help me. No one can.”
She stormed off before Alya could follow her and rushed to her house, reaching her room just in time before she collapsed. She cried against her chaise, which is where the Miraculous Box rested.
“I HATE YOU!” she cried as rage surged through her, and threw the box across the room, spewing every single Miraculous on the ground. She immediately regretted her lash-out and precipitated herself on the floor, picking the jewelry as fast as she could and carefully putting them in their corresponding cushion.
“I’m sorry...” she sobbed, hugging the box tightly and pressing her head against it. “I don’t know what to do...”
She felt Tikki’s tiny paws squeezing against her cheek.
“You should not have to go through this alone, Marinette,” she said sadly. “I know you feel alone,” she continued, anticipating Marinette would try to refute her. “But I will help you in whatever way I can. So will Wayzz, Plagg. Everyone else.”
Marinette couldn’t bring herself to speak of her thankfulness, it all hurt too much, and she didn’t know how to stop it.
The next day after school, her parents intercepted her as she was making her way to seclude herself, she suspected, also in an attempt to get her to talk.
“Ep-pep-pep. Hold it, miss,” her dad said, opening a cupboard.
Marinette sighed. Great, now she also was in trouble with her parents.
“Don’t you think for a moment we haven’t noticed how you’ve been acting.” He produced a thin box wrapped in sparkly pink.
Marinette was taken by surprise. She took the box and carefully unwrapped it, revealing the latest version of Mega Strike.
“Thanks, dad,” she said, trying her best to show excitement, even though realistically, she couldn’t find it in her.
“You’ve been working so hard lately we thought you deserved a little treat,” her mom explained. “Your grades are excellent, you always make time to help us at the bakery... most importantly, we see what a wonderful woman you’re becoming. We know it can be hard to be young sometimes, but we want you to know we’re proud of you, Mari. You will always have us, no matter what happens.”
“Thanks mom,” she said, forcing herself to smile.
“What do you say we go for a round or two?” her dad said, squeezing her in a hearty hug.
“I, uh... Maybe later dad, it’s been a long day and I have a lot of homework to catch up on.”
“On the weekend, maybe?”
Marinette smiled at him. “Sure dad.”
She walked away before giving them a chance to persuade her to stay.
* * *
“Mrs. Cheng!” Alya said excitedly, rushing to the stand where Sabine and her husband were setting up their stand. They were participating in a street food festival.
Sabine looked up and saw Marinette’s friends approaching. Alya, Nino, Adrien, and his girlfriend, whose name she didn’t know.
“Hello dear! How are you?”
“I’m good. You remember Adrien and Nino, right?”
“And this is Kagami,” Alya said.
“Nice to meet you, ma’am,” Kagami said, with a subtle bow.
Sabine couldn’t help but notice the resemblance this girl had with her daughter. She tried not to judge Adrien.
“Nice to meet you, Kagami.”
She noticed the group, but especially Alya and Adrien were scanning the stand for Marinette. Now, she expected this from Alya but Adrien’s interest did not sit well with her. In either case, she didn’t show it.
“Marinette’s not here today,” she said.
“Oh, really?” Adrien said, explicitly disappointed.
“I was hoping she’d be here,” Alya said. “She didn’t answer my texts.”
Grateful for Alya’s concern, but also urged to protect her daughter, she said. “I’ll tell her to call you back after she returns from her date, dear.”
This had the intended effect on Adrien--he seemed taken aback, but Alya, Sabine knew, would be able to tie some strings together and figure out that in fact, Marinette was not in a date but rather locked up in her room, refusing to talk to anyone.
Sabine offered cookies to the group and as they slid by onto the next stand, Sabine beckoned Alya to stay for a while longer.
“May I talk to you for a second, Alya?”
“Sure, Mrs. Cheng. What’s up?”
“It’s about Marinette.”
“Has she talked to you lately?”
“No, ma’am, I swear I didn’t even know she was dating anyone. She’s been... quite absent.”
Sabine smiled kindly. “She is not. It was a moment of weakness,” Sabine admitted. “I know that boy did not mean to hurt her, but it simply makes me angry that he won’t stay away from her.”
“I understand,” Alya said. “I’ll talk to him about it.”
“No, that won’t be necessary. These things happen, it’s no-one’s fault. Marinette just needs to learn. But actually, it would mean a lot to me if you could talk to Marinette instead. We... we don’t know how to get to her. She simply won’t listen to us, maybe she’ll listen to you. We’re worried.”
Alya nodded. “I’ll try ma’am.”
Back at the house, Marinette found herself prepping her room for something Master Fu would probably advise against: She decided to complete the twenty-four hour fast Master Fu failed to complete, when he created the sentimonster. Her parents would be out of the house for exactly twenty-four hours. They had the food festival and then they had to drive up north to cater for a wedding.
She had cleared the floor of her bedroom, lit candles and incense, and placed a mat in front of her spotted Miraculous Box.
She sat down and sighed heavily. “Okay. It’s just you and me now.”
Her phone buzzed just before she started meditating. It was Alya. She ignored it. It buzzed a second time, it was Adrien. She reached for the phone and turned it off.
“Just you and me.”
If she was going to be the Guardian, she was going to be a good one. No distractions. She crossed her legs and rested her arms on them. Twenty-four hours of guardianship. That was the test. Twenty-four hours of not being Marinette, or Ladybug, but the Guardian of the last Miraculous Box.
“Just you and me.”
This wouldn’t be Master Fu’s wish if he was there, but it gave Marinette a sense of direction. Things happened so abruptly, he left her barely with any wisdom, any real advice about how to be a good Guardian. All she had was his letter and her memories of him. Something he himself did not have any longer.
She sighed and opened her eyes, fixing them on the box. How long had it been? An hour, maybe two? She was tempted to check her phone, but she fought against the urge. She needed to prove to herself she could do this.
The first couple hours dragged by, and Marinette, inexperienced in the art of meditating as she was, had been assaulted by thoughts of grief, guilt, and inadequacy. She was pretty sure replaying the image of Adrien with Kagami over and over in her mind was most definitely not part of the exercise, but she couldn’t help it. She was at her own emotions’ mercy. Something, she recognized, was unacceptable now that she was the Guardian.
Regret followed realization along with frustration and a certain feeling of entrapment. Then burden, a weight that pressed so hard on her shoulders she felt like she was sinking into the ground. Fear, a notion of blindness. Loneliness. Helplessness.
She thought of everything she’d have to give up. Her friends, her family, her personal dreams. All had to come after the Miraculous. They all came second now, and like it or not, this was now her destiny.
As she tried to ride yet another wave of negative feelings, she watched as an akumatized butterfly flew in through her window and tentatively poised itself on top of the box, as if waiting on Marinette’s reaction. A surge of rage went through her, thinking how this was all Hawkmoth’s fault. The butterfly approached, no doubt sensing the increasing intensity of her emotions, but just as it was about to touch her skin, she firmly said, “No.”
She breathed, calmed herself, and slowly returned her attention to the box. The butterfly flew around her for a couple of minutes, but eventually left. Marinette scoffed at the sheer audacity. She had to give it to Hawmoth, few people were as overconfident as him.
The brief encounter with the butterfly readjusted her state of mind, replacing the self-pity for an abnegated dutifulness. She welcomed the burden but no longer grieved what she was exchanging for it. There was no one she could turn to anymore, and that meant she could only rely on herself to keep the Miraculous safe, and more importantly, to defeat Hawkmoth. This realization triggered a deeply hidden sense of self-sufficiency; the certain truth that, regardless of what was happening now, she knew she was going to be able to sort through it. She was the Guardian, she was Ladybug. Of course she’d be able to do it.
There was no room for failure. She had to.
* * *
It had been a few months since she had become Guardian and the new normalcy in Marinette’s life had settled in. Her classmates and friends slowly began to accept the fact that, for some reason, she had become more secretive and absent. They had stopped trying to pull her into conversations, inviting her to events. This suited Marinette very well. She spent most of her days absorbed in her thoughts of the best way to protect the box. Leaving it at home made her feel restless and carrying it around was an accident waiting to happen. She needed the time alone.
Curiously, her best ideas usually came to her when she rode the metro, so she made a point of doing it as often as she could. She especially enjoyed trips at peak hours, when the multitude of Parisians drowned her in anonymity. In a way, it felt safe. If there was nothing to do for the afternoon, she’d get into the metro with no particular intention to arrive anywhere and would stay there for hours.
It was one such afternoon that she saw a certain couple get into the same train as her a couple of doors down. Blood rushed to her head in anxiety, radiating heat as she frantically looked for a way to escape before they noticed her. It was too late. The doors had already shut, and the train was moving. It wasn’t a commuting time, so the wagon was empty. She knew one of them would eventually try to come up to her. In fact, Adrien had already caught glimpse of her and could hear him quietly tell Kagami he had spotted her.
She put her headphones on and turned her back on them, pretending she hadn’t seen them. She heard the pair approaching her just as the train had reached the next station.
The doors couldn’t open fast enough.
Marinette bolted out the train as soon as the doors slid open and briskly walked away in search of a crowd that would subtly mask her disappearance.
She paced around the lobby of the station catching her breath and calming herself, sure that she had lost them as they could not have possibly be headed for a perfectly ordinary neighborhood as where she had gotten down. Except she didn’t. Out of the corner of her eye, the pair’s heads slowly surfaced through the escalator, causing Marinette to swear under her breath and dart towards the exit praying to all the gods in her jewelry box to get rid of them.
“Where’s Mr. Agreste’s house arrest when you need it the most?” she exclaimed to herself as she ran down the avenue and went into the first shop she came across to find cover. A sickly-sweet strawberry scent filled up her nose as the bell on the door chimed to announce her arrival.
“Ma-Ma-Marinette?” Luka stuttered, this time completely intentionally.
Marinette gasped and turned around to see Luka, blushing brighter than a stop light, as he clasped his delivery boy helmet.
It took Marinette a few seconds to realize why Luka was so embarrassed and why the person he was delivering to gasped in shock when she entered. But then she looked around and the first thing she saw were what she could only assume were adult toys.
An unfortunate sheep-like wail escaped her mouth as she tripped back on a rack of condom boxes.
“What are you doing here?” she exclaimed, squirming at the small cardboard boxes that fell on her lap.
Luka, similarly, had lost his composure, to put it kindly. “I don’t know! I’m -- Pizza!” He pointed at the boxes. “What are YOU doing here?” he cried. “Oh my god. WHAT are you doing here?”
The clerk laughed. It was always a good day when teenagers entered the store. Their reactions never failed to entertain her.
“Don’t-- Forget I was here! FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED!” Marinette cried, just as the bell chimed again.
“I think she went in here.” Unmistakably, that was Adrien.
“Adrien, I don’t think she’ll appreciate you following in here...”
At this point, all Marinette could remit to was to scream incoherently, begging for death. “OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!”
She ran out the shop, swearing like a sailor, wondering how much money it would take to move away from Paris.
“What--.” Realization slowly dawned on Adrien. His reaction was identical to that of Marinette. He had never been in a sex shop before. Neither had Kagami, but she was more amused at Adrien than shocked by the experience. Luka, knowing this pair of nerds didn’t have it in them to make any damaging assumptions about why they were both there, chased after Mari without any explanation. The pizza money was left untouched on the counter, without him realizing.
He found Marinette sitting by herself on a bench by the river. She was huddled in a ball, with her face buried in the space between her knees and her chest. Luka stood there for a second as his thoughts caught up with the rest of his body. Suddenly it had dawned on him, he had no reason to come after Marinette like this other than the sheer and urgent need to explain himself and to let Marinette know he was certainly NOT buying anything in the store. The idea seemed a little stupid now that they weren’t surrounded by condom boxes.
She looked up tentatively, shyly resurfacing from her makeshift hideout. She groaned and tried to bury herself deeper.
“What are you doing here?” she complained with a muffled voice. “Leave!”
“I… uh.” He scratched his head. “Okay.”
Luka disposed himself to leave but turned on his heel abruptly. “Look, I just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t in that store to buy anything. I’m not like, some sort of pervert, or anything. I don’t do—I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with sex—I MEAN. No. I mean, it’s not wrong but like, at our age… I don’t want to have sex! I mean I like you but—but… I was just there to deliver a pizza! Oh my god, I’m gonna go die in a hole now…”
Marinette turned to him with a mildly disturbed expression, albeit quite amused. “You ramble like a broken faucet.”
Luka was completely red in the face. “Well, look who’s talking!”
She pressed her lips in a bit of a grimace. “Fair enough.”
“Anyway. That’s all I wanted to say. So… yeah.” He nodded firmly and then turned to leave, though once again changing his mind. “And actually, why were you there? And… are you okay?”
Luka’s question robbed Marinette of her breath.
“I’m fine, Luka,” she said quietly. “Or… at least better.”
“Jules and the girls keep asking about you when they hang out at the house. They—we were a little worried about you.”
“That’s very sweet of you. But I’m okay, really.”
Luka gazed at her for a moment and tentatively walked closer. “Look, uh, I don’t know what it is you’re dealing with. Everyone thinks you’re drifting away because… well, you know, that guy. But it didn’t seem like that to me that time I saw you at the park. All I’m saying is that whatever responsibility it is you have… well, you can share it, you know? With whoever it is you trust. Alya, Juleka, the girls… me. You’re not alone, Mari.”
Marinette’s throat closed painfully as she tried to keep the tears as close to herself as she could. Nonetheless, her eyes inevitably clouded, if only ever so slightly.
“Thank you, Luka.” She sighed and fixed her eyes in the river. What came out of her mouth next, came against her better judgement. She didn’t know exactly what prompted her. Perhaps the fact that something about Luka’s unfiltered honesty and quiet steadiness stirred trust in her. Or maybe, the fact that she desperately wanted to confide in someone, knowing that there was no one she could trust with her secrets.
She muttered, “Unfortunately this is not the kind of responsibility I can share with anyone.”
“Are you like, in the mafia, or something? In the macaroon mafia?”
Marinette cackled. “The macaroon mafia is not a thing, Luka. I would know, trust me.”
He shrugged and smirked, “Could be!” He struggled to push back the amusing image of tiny Marinette, with her pigtails and pink clothes, holding an equally pink gun in a standoff with some other baker.
“But… whatever it is, if it makes it easier on you, you can trust me. I swear I won’t judge.” A second, more obscure thought crossed his mind. One that suddenly made his stomach churn. “Wait. Is the “responsibility” the reason you were in the sex shop?” he shrieked.
“Oh my god. Marinette, listen to me.” He grabbed her by her shoulders. “Whoever is making you--.”
“Luka, I’m not a child slave, Jesus Christ!” She shook him off herself and then sighed. “I went into the shop by accident,” she said quietly, deciding to take him up on his word about confiding in him. “I… I was riding the metro just for fun and then I saw… well, you know who I saw. And I tried to get off the train before they noticed me, but it didn’t work. So, I went into the first shop I could find.”
She waited anxiously to see how Luka would respond to the story.
“Huh. I also ride the metro for fun,” he said. “It’s good inspiration.”
Marinette smiled at him brightly. He did not know how much she needed to hear that.
“I get it. Sometimes you just need to be by yourself.”
“That’s right,” Marinette said with a hearty nod.
Unqueued, the sound of Adrien and Kagami approaching, disturbed their comfortable silence. Marinette could have sworn Luka swore under his breath. He muttered something about certain people not knowing how to read the scene. Although she didn’t share the annoyance, she was thankful for the support.
Adrien and Kagami struggled to catch their breath as they arrived at the bench where Luka and Marinette were. Marinette, noticing that Luka’s annoyance at the pair was getting stronger now that she had told him her part of the story, decided to take ahold of the interaction.
“Adrien, Kagami,” she sounded surprised, to Luka’s own bewilderment. “What a nice coincidence, what are you doing here?”
Adrien gave her a slightly disbelieving glance. “We were in the same—and then—the shop—your wallet.”
Adrien produced Marinette’s wallet from his coat: A small squared thing she had made herself with pink-and-white polka-dotted fabric.
Marinette’s eyes widened as she dove into the pocket of her jacket, effectively finding nothing. She must have dropped it when she pulled out her headphones in the metro, and that’s why they chased after her. She felt slightly guilty for assuming other things.
“Thanks. That was… very nice of you.”
She took it and put it into her purse, noticing Adrien idled expectantly, as if hoping to strike a conversation. Anxiety began slowly bubbling in her insides. Between Luka growing annoyed, Kagami being evidently uncomfortable, and Adrien hopefully waiting her to disrupt the silence that had settled, she resolved to flee.
“So, I, uh… I should get going. See you.”
“Wait, I can walk you,” Luka said.
“We’re also not in a rush, right?” Adrien said. “We can walk with you guys, if you want.”
Luka threw an unappreciative glance at him, which took Adrien aback. Luka was friendly with him. He didn’t understand why he seemed like he didn’t want him there, especially when they were both friends with Marinette.
“No, thanks,” Marinette said. “I…” She couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to get rid of the trio. “I have to… go… you know? Heh. I’m busy with… bakery things and uh... you know, homework, and things. So busy.”
Catching on the drift, Luka intervened. “Ah, responsibilities. Yes, hate those.”
“Correct! So… yes. See ya!”
Marinette rushed out of the scene, leaving Luka to deal with the aftermath of a confused Adrien and a restless Kagami.
Luka knew better than to go poking around his nose in things that were not his business, but he really couldn’t help himself this time. Adrien’s utter obliviousness complemented by the fact Kagami evidently knew exactly how and why Marinette seemed so uneasy around them frustrated him beyond belief.
Against his better judgement, he dropped all pleasantries and snapped, “You know, you two should leave her alone.”
He walked away before Adrien had the opportunity to ask why, and Kagami, the chance to remark that they had bumped across her by accident.
Adrien went home confused and afraid that afternoon after his date with Kagami. He did not know where all this distance was coming from, why Marinette was acting so cold all of a sudden, nor why Luka and even Alya to some extent, were so stern with him.
“Kagami, did I do something wrong?”
She smiled at him kindly. “Why would you ask that?”
He shrugged. “It felt like Marinette and Luka didn’t want us around.”
Kagami didn’t have the courage to explain that his intuition had been correct, nor the reason why. “We probably just interrupted them. We would’ve acted the same if it was us.”
That left Adrien even more confused.
So, Marinette was dating Luka? Was that why they were acting coldly? It didn’t seem right. There must be something else. Why would them dating make them reject him?
Unexplainable words had materialized out of nowhere, that now demanded to be read between the lines of what went on around him. He was scared that there was no one he could ask without being judged. Normally, Nino or Ladybug would be the one to guide him through these knots and tangles of everyday life, but even Nino nowadays was a little less patient with his questions, and Ladybug… Well, it still hurt to talk to her.