Adrien had thought Ladybug was different.
He had thought every time she scaled up the palace walls, every time she snuck past the guards and into his room, she’d done it for him . Because she believed he was her friend. Because she enjoyed his company. He’d thought, foolishly, that perhaps for once someone else saw him as more than just a prince. As more than just the heir to the throne, as more than just a pretty face to look at. That perhaps she actually. . . . liked him.
Really, he should’ve known.
Yet never in a million years would he have imagined she had sought out his company just to kill him.
The day had started out just fine. Adrien dutifully went through his tasks for the day; he studied, observed his father as he learned how to be the future king—which wouldn’t be long from now, as his eighteenth birthday was just around the corner—and practiced his fencing. But his mind had been on autopilot nearly the entire time, because honestly? The only thing Adrien was really looking forward to was Ladybug’s visit tonight. It had been almost a week since he’d last seen her, and last night she’d left a note in his room to let him know that she’d be dropping in today. The news had instantly lifted his spirits. He sailed through the day with only one intent: to finish his work as soon as possible so he could get back to his room.
Coupled with the fact that he had considerably less work than he usually did, Adrien found himself hurrying back to his chambers much earlier than expected. The sun was just starting to set. Normally he would have a load of work after dinner as well, but he’d somehow churned through it due to sheer motivation.
Huh. He’d have to use Ladybug as motivation more often. Maybe that would finally get his father off his back for a while.
So he walked through the corridor and up to his room, just about to open the door when he heard voices coming from inside.
“. . . .if he comes in while we’re here?” someone asked. The voice sounded distinctly feminine.
“He won’t,” someone else said. Adrien’s heart leapt. He recognized that voice! “I know his schedule. He’s not going to be back for the next hour or two.”
Adrien frowned. Who was Ladybug with in his room? And why were they so worried about him suddenly coming in?
“But what if someone else—”
“Rena,” Ladybug interrupted, firm and authoritative. “You asked me to speak with you at the palace, and this is the only place I know where no one will interrupt us. Trust me on this.”
Whoever this Rena person was let out a sigh. “Fine.”
Adrien pressed his back against the wall and leaned back against it on the left side of his bedroom door. He really hoped Ladybug was right and no one would come through this corridor. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to explain to anyone why he was currently eavesdropping on whoever was in his room.
Why? Why was Ladybug in there already? Didn’t she say she was coming to meet him later tonight? Why was she acting as if she wasn’t supposed to be there?
Because she’s not. She’s in there without your knowledge. She isn’t supposed to be here.
So what exactly was she doing?
“What did you want to talk about?” Ladybug asked.
“You know exactly what I want to talk about,” Rena said.
“No, I don’t,” Ladybug said. She seemed to be getting annoyed. “Just get to the point.”
“All I wanted to say was that you can’t keep stalling forever.”
“Please, LB, don’t act all innocent.” Rena’s voice suddenly dropped down to a whisper. Adrien had to crane his ears to hear her. “You’ve known him for what, over a year now? Surely you’ve gained his trust by now.”
His trust? Were they talking about him ?
“It’s not that simple,” Ladybug said. “I don’t want to rush anything. We don’t have enough information yet.”
The longer this conversation went on, the more and more Adrien was confused. Rush what?
“That’s not why you’re stalling and you know it,” Rena said. “You’re an excellent assassin. One of the best Team Miraculous has, in fact. So why wait?”
Adrien instantly clamped a hand over his mouth to stop himself from gasping out loud.
Assassin? Team Miraculous? Did this mean. . . .?
Ladybug’s breath hitched. “I—”
“Your job is to kill him, Ladybug!” Rena suddenly hissed. “What part of that do you not understand?”
Your job is to kill him.
You’re an excellent assassin.
Surely you’ve gained his trust by now?
Adrien was a lot of things, but he most definitely wasn’t stupid. And if what he’d just heard was true. . . .
It took all of his self-control to stay in place, to not scream and burst into the room, demanding to know what was happening. His hands clenched into fists at his sides.
All at once, his entire world came crashing down around him at the next words his friend—could he even call her that anymore?—whispered.
“I know, Rena,” Ladybug said quietly. “I know.”
Adrien could almost picture her biting her lip as she always did whenever she was nervous. But no. Obviously she wasn’t nervous. Obviously she didn’t feel guilty. She needed to kill him, after all. And apparently, this wasn’t anything new.
The bare, raw pain of utter betrayal scorched his heart. He swallowed the lump in his throat and blinked back the tears welling in his eyes.
I thought you were my friend. I thought you cared about me. I thought I could trust you.
I thought you were different.
“You need to finish it,” Rena said. “In the next couple of days. That’s why I’m here. I’m supposed to do the job for you if you can’t.”
I thought you saw past the facade I held. I thought you saw me as more than a prince, the heir of the throne, a pretty face to look at.
I thought you were different.
He desperately wanted to walk away, to leave this nightmare and forget all about it. But he couldn’t leave without knowing what she really felt about him, without knowing if she’d ever seen him the same way he’d seen her. . . .
So he waited just a little longer. Even though it nearly killed him inside.
Kind of fitting then, wasn’t it?
Ladybug’s voice sounded panicked as she said, “no Rena, you can’t—”
“It’s not my choice, LB.” Her voice suddenly softened. “It’s what we have to do. You know that. If Adrien claims the throne, we’re going to be subjected to decades of a reign similar to Gabriel’s.”
“You don’t know that,” Ladybug said desperately. “He’s different. I know he is.”
“You’re blinded by your feelings for him. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’ll give you two days,” Rena said. “If you can’t do it before then, I’m supposed to do it for you. But you know what your faith is if you refuse the job.”
“I know.” Ladybug sighed, pausing before saying, “I think you should go. I’ll handle it from here.”
“Are you sure? Girl, I’m worried about you. You’re usually not like this.”
“I’m fine,” Ladybug said with the tone of someone that clearly was not.
Rena didn’t push it. “See you later, then.” Adrien heard receding footsteps and a loud creak he knew had to be the door to his balcony.
Minutes passed. No voices came from within his room. He pressed his ear against the wall, trying to pick out any sounds. When he didn’t hear anything, he assumed they’d left.
Adrien felt numb. Empty. In seemingly seconds, everything he’d known about Ladybug had fallen apart.
She’d lied to him. Had it been a lie that she was actually a baker’s daughter? Had it been a lie that she was a villager that sometimes stole from the palace in order to give to the poor (after all, that was how he’d first met her, when he’d accidentally caught her trying to steal something from his room). Had it been a lie that she actually enjoyed his company? That she was his friend? That she actually liked him?
In all honesty, he had no desire to go into his room and stand in the very place Ladybug and her friend had plotted his demise.
And yet, Ladybug had defended him.
It’s not that simple.
No Rena, you can’t—
He’s different. I know he is.
Despite himself, despite everything within him screaming at him not to trust her, not to fall for it, he recalled one last thing Rena had said.
You're blinded by your feelings for him. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Those words were the only reason Adrien walked inside. And perhaps it was a good thing he did. Ladybug was crouched on the floor, hugging her knees to her chest as she rocked herself back and forth. Silent tears streamed down her cheeks. She glanced up at him when his shadow appeared in the doorway.
“My prince,” she croaked, looking up at him with teary eyes.
Her playful nickname for him suddenly seemed wrong. So, so wrong. All Adrien wanted to do was cry, but he held himself back. Right now, all he wanted to feel was the anger. Not the sadness. Not the heart-wrenching feeling of betrayal.
And so he let the anger take the reins.
“My lady.” His tone held absolutely no warmth. “What are you doing here so early?”
Ladybug wiped the stray tears from her eyes and got to her feet. “I. . . . I had time, so I thought I’d come by.”
“I heard everything.”
She instantly paled. “W-what?”
Adrien took a deep breath and looked at her, into the bluebell eyes he’d gotten so used to in the past couple of months. “I heard what your friend said. I heard why you’re really here.” His voice cracked. “I—I heard. . . . I heard what you have to do.”
“Adrien. . . .”
“ Ladybug, ” he whispered, “I trusted you.” So much for keeping up the anger. He felt a sob begin to shake him, but he kept going. “I thought you cared about me. I thought you were my friend, I thought you—”
I thought you were different.
“I’m sorry,” she said, the tears in her eyes once again starting to fall. “Oh, Adrien, I’m so, so sorry.”
“Did you ever really care about me?”
Some part of him wanted her to say no. If she did, then he could hate her. His anger at her would be justified. But if she said—
“Of course I do,” Ladybug whispered. She slipped the hood of her red cloak off the top of her head, revealing her dark hair. He could now clearly see the mask that framed her eyes, the expression on her face as she said, “I always will.”
Adrien looked away from her. Great. Now there were tears in his eyes. “But you’re supposed to hate me.”
“I wanted to,” she murmured. “Gosh, you have no idea how much I wanted to. You’re Gabriel’s son, the heir to the throne, the person that gets everything he wants handed to him on a silver platter—”
“Do you think that was my choice?” he interrupted, hurt evident on his face.
“I thought you’d be stuck up,” Ladybug continued, “I thought you’d be bratty. I thought you’d be just like him, Adrien. Just like your father.”
I thought you’d be different, rang the unspoken words.
She bit her lip and glanced down at the floor. “How was I supposed to know you weren’t like that?”
Adrien blinked rapidly, but his vision blurred in front of him. Emotion after emotion surged through him, messing with his head and heart, colliding against one another with no mercy, pounding him with thought after thought until he couldn’t separate them, and he was drowning, falling, and there was no way out—
Until in the end, only one thought remained.
“You’re supposed to kill me.”
“I know!” Ladybug wrapped her arms around herself. “I know, I know, I know, but I can’t do it. I can’t do it, Adrien, I just can’t because I—” she broke off and squeezed her eyes shut.
And suddenly, that was the only answer he wanted. “Because you what?” Adrien whispered, not daring to breathe, not daring to believe—
“Because I love you,” she breathed, and that was the only thing he needed to hear.
And suddenly he was pulling her closer, blindly pressing his lips against her, and somehow, for some reason, she kissed him back, whispering soft promises to him as her hands dug into his hair and his arms wrapped around her tightly.
“We’ll figure it out together,” was the only thing he heard as they melded their lips together as one.
Maybe he was foolish. Maybe he was blind. Maybe he was plain stupid.
But something, some tiny, minuscule part of him, let himself believe her.