It haunts him: the dream he can’t remember, the one he can’t quite place. It haunts Adrien in the way he lives his life, but the seconds don’t always add up just right. Kagami blinks, her laughter short and precise, but there’s a glitch in reality when he feels nothing when he sees her smile.
“Adrien? Are you listening?”
His heart hangs heavy, unease a constant friend as he tries to muster up his own grin. “Of course,” he says. He grabs her to assure her. “But can you tell me your story again?”
They are having a study date. Their new relationship is precious and safe, but precarious when life reminds him of glitches, of mistakes, of all the things he can’t name. It itches his brain, forgotten memories, a funny thing that claws his patience.
Kagami narrows her eyes, the sharpness cutting through all nightmares that cling to daylight. Cool hands touch his cheek. “Not sleeping again?”
He places his palm over hers, relishing in the anchoring realization that her fingers fit perfectly between his. “No, no. I’m fine. You’re here and I’m fine.”
He means it.
“I’m happy that we’re able to be together, Adrien. You make me happy.”
He takes her palm and kisses it, his heart fluttering at her bashful smile.
Afternoon sun looks good on her cheeks, flushed and pink like a premature sunset. Adrien counts his blessings, thanks the heavens that their paths have met. Being with Kagami is akin to freedom, to having someone who truly understands him.
Even if, even if--
Adrien feels like he’s suffocating by a gravity that shouldn’t exist.
His dream plays on repeat. He falls in love with Ladybug for who she is and she falls in love with him for who he is and everything is perfect. His heart fills to the brim with adoration because she cherishes him more than anything, wants nothing but the best for him. There is no shame in his desperation when he soaks up her love like a drowning man needing air.
Their partnership effortlessly transitions to their civilian lives as he holds her close as they dance. Her every embrace is more precious than gold and her silvery smile paints his heart bold. Their friends are happy for them, her parents adore him, he feels like his world is entrenched in love in all ways. Friendship, family, romantic: all intersect in his beloved heroine.
He tells her he loves her with every breath and she does the same.
And nothing is more perfect, but he never remembers her face or her name.
It’s lunchtime as Marinette strides to the table, her back straight and confident. Her face, however, is red, her fingers trembling as she sits down to Alya. Both Nino and Adrien stop talking, curiosity getting the better of them. She is a paradox of timidness and boldness that seems echoing familiar.
“I--,” Marinette starts, her blue eyes marvelous and bright.
It’s the glitch in reality again, Adrien realizes. Sometimes when he looks at Marinette, she takes his breath away, like the far off dream becomes tangible because she exists. Marinette makes the glitch painful, like a sting that swallows him for wanting to change anything.
Alya gives her friend a patient smile. “What’s up, girl?”
The world pauses for a moment as Marinette loses all former shyness, it slides off her skin and she is born anew with a deep breath. Marinette beams, beautiful and stunning. “I—I told Luka how I felt about him and now—now we’re dating!”
Alya’s jaw drops, “You told a boy you liked him without me poking and prodding you!? What? Are you sure you’re Marinette?!”
Marinette nods, giggling and nervously tucks hair behind her ear. “I did. Just—took that leap, you know. Got out of my head. Like you always tell me to.”
“Way to go, Marinette!” Nino praises. He reaches across the table and pats her shoulder. “Never thought I’d see the day. You know—considering the last boy you liked—ouch!--I mean, you know, since you can be a bit shy around guys.”
Alya’s glare burns, but Adrien feels like he’s missing something when Marinette ducks her head and avoids his eye.
She smiles all the same. “Yeah, I know what you mean, but this time, it’s different. Luka is a nice boy and I like him. I can talk to him...”
Something is pressing on his heart again, the way that Marinette seems at ease. Adrien doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t know why this entire conversation makes him feel like he’s breathing concrete.
“Congratulations, Marinette,” he manages to say.
Her blue eyes fall to him and he feels breathless again.
Sunset is warm over Paris, but deep down, he feels cold.
Knuckles knock on the side of his head. “Hello, Earth to Chat Noir! Are you even paying attention?”
Chat Noir blinks and finds Ladybug’s intense stare studying him too close. It’s the glitch, he tells himself, the dream can’t be real.
“Funny you say that. My girlfriend said the same thing to me recently.”
Ladybug stills for a moment. “Girlfriend?”
He swallows. “Yeah. I asked her out a few weeks ago. For real this time! You know her act--”
Ladybug puts her hand over his mouth and Chat Noir stops breathing. “Don’t tell me who it is! If I know her, then I’ll know her boyfriend too. We can’t know each other’s identities!”
He rolls his eyes, the cold in his bones too much compared to the warmth of her hand. “Yes, yes. I know. You’ve made it very clear.”
Ladybug smiles, but it is wobbly at best. “Not because I don’t want to know you, Chat Noir. There’s no one more precious to me than you.”
Chat sighs and pulls her into a hug. “You think too much, has anyone ever told you that?”
Finally, she laughs. “All the time.”
Saturday night is blissful, with city lights being the only stars that they need.
Kagami lets go of his hand, rushing forward to embrace her friend.
“Marinette! I’m so happy to see you!”
Marinette stumbles and peaks over his girlfriend’s shoulder. “What happened?”
Adrien winces and rubs the back of his neck. “She’s a little drunk.”
“A lot drunk! It tastes like juice, Netta. Like juice. There was a whole bowl of it!”
Marinette laughs, her pajamas the same pair he remembers from the last time. “Well, I somehow convinced your mom to let you spend the night at my house so why don’t we get you some water and get you to bed.”
Kagami pulls back and grasps Marinette’s shoulders. “Only if Adrien tucks me in.”
Marinette shoots him a pleading look and Adrien jumps right in. “Of course, Kagami. Anything you’d like.”
Kagami swings and hugs him instead. “Me.”
Marinette stifles a laugh. “Oh my god, Kagami, I hope you remember this because you’re going to die.”
Marinette pulls his girlfriend by the hand and the three of them walk upstairs quietly trying to not wake up the Dupain-Chengs. Adrien learns quickly that Drunk Kagami is nothing like normal Kagami.
She has zero impulse control. Such as when she tries to engage everyone in an impromptu fencing match wielding a ladle.
“Kagami, no!” Marinette quietly scolds. “We can fence tomorrow. It’s bedtime now.”
Kagami shakes her head. “I don’t want to go to sleep. Not until I see Adrien leave.”
“I thought you wanted me to tuck you in?”
Kagami sighs and twirls the ladle in her hand. “I do, but...”
He reaches forward and stills her hand. In the background, he hears Marinette looking for something.
“What’s wrong, Kagami? You can talk to me.”
Kagami swallows, her drunk eyes glossy. “I know. But Marinette might still like you.”
His heart freezes the exact second Marinette drops something, muttering shit .
Tension rains down in the kitchen for a beat before Marinette clicks her tongue. “I don’t like Adrien anymore, Kagami. Don’t worry. I’m with Luka now. I like Luka.”
There’s the glitch again and the dissonance of this moment strikes Adrien as wrong, wrong, wrong. Nothing about what was just said was right and he can’t breathe, he can’t breathe, he--
Kagami looks soulfully at Marinette and everything is wrong.
“Here, drink some water, Kagami,” Marinette gently says. “I just want you to feel better, okay?”
Kagami nods and takes the glass. “Thanks, Marinette.”
Adrien catches Marinette’s eye and she smiles, soft and sad. “Anything for my friend.”
Adrien dreams that night, but everything is wrong.
His love is—dead.
Because of him.
Ladybug is dead because of him.
The world ends because of him.
A distance grows between him and Ladybug, between him and Marinette and no matter how much he tries to forget, Adrien believes his life is in a constant glitch.
In his dream, he kisses his Lady soundly on the mouth as he has done countless times. They are civilians again and they are cuddling in the grass watching clouds go by. This date is like any other, perfect and serene.
“I love you so much. I don’t think you understand.”
She laughs, clear as a bell. “I think I do. I’d do anything for you.”
She snuggles into his chest and hums. “Yes. As long as it means you’re happy.”
“I’ve never been happier than I’ve been with you.”
“Good,” his Lady says, but there is a silence that follows as her fingers curl into his shirt.
“But if we’re no longer together, I want you to be happy then too, okay, Adrien? Promise you’ll try to be happy.”
“Promise me, Adrien. Be happy. Be free.”
He frowns. “Fine. I promise.”
She kisses over his heart. “Good.”
“Anything for you, my love.”
Waking up crashes down on him as his dreams fade away.
Eyes wide open, he stares at the ceiling.
It haunts him, the glitch. The memories from then till now loop in his head, but remembering two timelines proves difficult as he paces a rooftop in the middle of the night.
“She has to know. She has to know,” he says to himself.
The moon is swollen, a painful doppelganger to his other life. Chat Blanc’s melancholy melody that echoes in his bones.
The yo-yo whirls past him, clinging to a rail for Ladybug to grapple. She swings up with ease, caution in her posture. She’s poised to greet him with friendliness and cheer, but her face pauses with concern.
“Everything okay, Kitty?”
“It’s real, isn’t it? You and me. Us. We were together, weren’t we?”
She stills, the way her eyes refuse to look at him rings loud with silent truth. “Enough to know it was real...but don’t worry, I don’t remember who you were...are, I mean. I don’t know who you actually are. I don’t have memories of it though. Just that...I know that we happened.”
“So you’ve known? How long? When?”
“I’ve known for a while now. Bunnix came and got me to fix the timeline.”
“So, I really destroyed the world.”
“Yes. No. No, Chat. It’s my fault. I destroyed it. I used being Ladybug for my own purposes. I wanted to tell a boy that I liked him, but I used Ladybug to do it.”
“I used my powers to sneak around instead of telling him how I felt...”
He can’t breathe. “Does he know? This boy? Did you ever tell him?”
“No. I couldn’t. Because—I made the world end.”
“Ladybug—but that means, Ladybug. How did you make it not end?”
She smiled softly. “I had to erase my name from a present. Pretend it came from someone else. Somehow giving him the present helps us get together.”
“Yeah, I haven’t really figured out the entire timeline of that. But, all I know is that in the other timeline, our love…it caused so much pain. Is it? Are we really worth that?”
“You’re worth anything, Ladybug. Don’t you know that?”
“I’m really not. I’m not worth the world ending. We have...we can’t fall in love, Chat. Don’t you see? Us in love ruins everything.”
“That can’t be true! It can’t be--”
“Chat Noir!” she shouts. “Believe me, I wonder about it too. I wonder what we could have been! Chat Blanc—he was so kind, so true. I wonder what it meant to be in love with him. To somehow have all my dreams come true. But it’s not worth it. Not with everyone’s lives at stake. We can only keep the people safe. That’s our duty. No matter what we want, we are superheros.”
Chat Noir wants to argue, but he deflates. “It’s over, isn’t it? What could have been us?”
Ladybug sighs and cups his cheek. “In this life, we can be happy enough. I don’t need the moon and stars, I just want a chance to be.”
“I feel like we’re breaking up. Is that silly?”
“It seems like that, huh? But we won’t. I can’t lose you, Chat Noir. There’s no one I’d rather have at my side.”
“There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
Adrien accepts the dreams, accepts the glitch of all things that cannot be.
Moving on from Ladybug is painful, simultaneously in pieces, but whole as they fly through Paris together. There is beauty in their friendship, in their partnership that weathers every storm that Hawkmoth throws their way. He’s lucky enough to know her, to have her back when everything is going wrong.
Moving on from Ladybug is painful, but life becomes more beautiful with Kagami, with Marinette, with Nino and all his friends.
They don’t know it, but they hold his heart up when it wants to collapse again.
Winter finds them with soft snow and hot chocolate to keep them from the cold. Kagami is tucked at his side in a cafe, the glitch a faint memory.
She laces their fingers together and peers up at him with soft, sweet brown eyes. “I love spending time with you.”
He kisses her bangs. “Me too.”
Later that night, it smacks him in the face as they try to dodge a rogue akuma. Maybe he’s deluding himself, but he needs to say this out.
“Oh my god, Ladybug! I figured it out!”
“You know where the akuma is?!”
Chat Noir laughs, ducking from a stray missile.“What? No! I figured out why we didn’t work out.”
“...are you kidding me?”
“Listen, listen. I’m being serious here!”
“And I am seriously trying not to get hit!” Thankfully, she uses a trash can lid to deflect a random ball.
“Ladybug, this is our bonding time. We’re gonna be fine.”
She growls and hurls the lid like a frisbee. “Okay, ol’ wise one, why did our love destroy the world?”
“Basically, if my calculations are correct, which they totally are--”
“Our love was basically an atom bomb from the get go. Plainly speaking, we just loved each other too much and we blew the world to smithereens.”
“Because I loved you too much?” she scoffs.
“You know, if you said that to me a few months ago, I would die of happiness.”
“Okay, okay. But seriously. That was our problem. We loved too much without substance. While you only heard about us from Chat Blanc, I remember being with you. I would have literally done anything for you. Any-thing.”
She tugs at him and they end up nose to nose, an explosion happening in the background. “And what caused this great revelation?”
“I don’t know...just. My girlfriend, I guess? I like her a lot, but I feel like everything with her is a lot more...possible?”
“...that makes sense.”
She rolls her eyes for a moment, then thoughtfully hums.“Yeah. My boyfriend--”
“Boyfriend!? You never told me you had a boyfriend!”
He’s distracted for a moment, until she pushes him down, a stray projectile flying past above them. “Whoops. Sorry. But yeah. My boyfriend. He’s uh. He’s awesome. I feel like I can be myself with him. It’s nice not having to worry about being Ladybug, you know?”
“Yeah. I get that. When I’m not Chat Noir, my life is a lot more strict. My girlfriend gets that and we have a lot of the same interests.”
“Sounds like my friends. Their parents are beyond strict, but thankfully they have each other. I’m glad they ended up together.”
“Ha, is this the mystery guy you tried confessing to, but somehow wound up with me instead?”
Ladybug says nothing, but glares.
“Oh shit. Really?”
“Yeah...I was really in love with him and psyched myself out too much when I was around him. My other friend is better suited for him. I kinda gave up when I realized that. Which is okay! I’m just glad they’re happy. God, being young and in love is hard.”
The moment is a little too real, a bit too close to home to be comfortable.
“You want to know what’s not hard?” He says.
“Being with you.”
“Oh my god. You’re going to fall in love again with me if you keep that up.”
He grins, his baton extending to catch an akuma. “Pretty sure that’s my line!”
It happens randomly over a weekend, but Kagami breaks up with him. January air is crisp as they walk hand and hand down the street.
“Mom is moving us back to Japan and well—we’re a little too young for long distance, I think.”
Adrien enjoys one more date, enjoys one more embrace.
He kisses her goodbye and he wonders if he would have ended the world for her.
Life continues and glitches go unspoken in Adrien’s life.
He spends time with his friends.
There are no more dreams about the timeline that never was.
He feels like his heart is finally moving on.
Until it doesn’t.
His world almost ends in Spring, the sun particularly scorching high on the rooftops. It is a standoff between Ladybug and Chat Noir against Hawkmoth.
This moment tastes bitter in his mouth, like he’s going to throw up for some reason.
Some taunts are said, some pleas are made, but nothing matters when Hawkmoth makes the first attack. Everything goes wrong when the Hawkmoth’s cane pierces Ladybug’s suit. Her stomach darkens maroon red as her face pales.
The world stops spinning as she falls to her knees and Hawkmoth stumbles back. It is almost as if it took this long for him to realize he’s been battling children.
“I—I didn’t,” the old man stutters, but Chat Noir ignores him as he files to his lady’s side.
He wraps around her and holds her close. “Get out here,” he says clearly. “If she dies, I will kill you.”
Something slides back into place with that declaration, like the glitch that never happened finally makes sense. Adrian would end the world for this girl, no matter what life they happen to live in.
“I’m gonna turn back soon,” Ladybug says. “I don’t want him to see him.”
Chat Noir scoops her up and leaps away, knowing for a fact that Hawkmoth won’t follow.
“Where should we go? Is there somewhere safe?”
Ladybug grunts for a moment. “Marinette’s room. The one above the bakery.
His fingers grip into her skin, just something to hold on. “She’ll help us?”
Ladybug sighs. “No, she won’t.”
He lands quietly on the rooftop, unsure why they’re here then.
Ladybug touches his face, her thumb smooth across his cheek. “Because I’m Marinette and I’m going to need you to help me, Adrian.”
Ladybug’s suit sparkles away and he’s left breathless.
The glitch comes back to stay.
It all happens so fast. The memories of before, Marinette’s face in center view. Getting Marinette’s parents to take her to the hospital. Their first kiss. The doctor performed a quick surgery. That last day.
Even no longer wearing the suit, Adrien can still feel her blood on his hands.
The hospital chairs are uncomfortable, but everyone sags with relief when the doctor says Marinette is in the clear. Her parents see her first, then Alya and Nino, and then finally, there’s a push at his shoulder.
He blinks and Nino nods to the door. “Marinette’s asking for you. You should go see her.”
Adrien walks to the door, every moment too surreal as his heart hammers in his chest. She sees him and smiles and gestures for him to sit.
“You know,” is the first thing he says.
He doesn’t have to ask for how long or how much because the brittle smile Marinette gives him is more than an answer enough. The room doesn’t have enough air in it and Adrien isn’t quite sure who is more fragile between the two of them.
He swallows, his mouth dry. “Where’s Luka?”
She gasps, and twiddles his fingers. “It’s too confusing to be with him...with all the memories. I’m sorry I didn’t understand before. To know and not know. It’s--”
“...agony,” he offers, his heart guarded.
She nods, her eyes a little teary. “I should have told you the truth sooner. I thought this was for the best.”
Adrian laughs and leans forward, dares himself to take her hand. “You need to stop thinking that you know what’s best for me. You always do that.”
“It’s because I--” her words die in her mouth, her fingers curling around his in panic.
He smiles and kisses her knuckles. “I know. Me too.”
He is quiet for a moment before he speaks again. “This time, we can take it slow. We already know what happens when we rush in. This is our timeline now. There’s no glitch here.”
And it is then, when Marinette looks at him, the sun is setting across Paris, that he finally understands love is less than euphoric and something more calm and consistent.
“I’d like that.”