Truth was having a terrible, awful, rotten, very bad day. If he could use his powers on the universe, he would’ve asked what he did to deserve this kind of treatment.
It started with his girlfriend keeping a secret from him concerning her ditching their dates, then escalated to Jagged Stone - who’d been his idol for years - turning out to be the father who abandoned him, and now he was fighting Ladybug and Chat Noir in Marinette’s room after he’d been told by multiple people that Marinette’s supposed “secret” was that she was in love with Adrien, as if he hadn’t already known that and they just wanted to mock him.
His civilian self had never been never someone to presume, but now it’s all he could do. Marinette must’ve ditched him because she didn’t really love him, Jagged probably never even felt bad about abandoning him, and despite Adrien never even trying to win Marinette’s heart, he was just better than Luka in every way, because the rich model with all the connections Marinette could ever want would always outmatch the “guitar boy” who worked a part-time job, lived on a houseboat, and had parents who either kept secrets from him or flat-out didn’t want him.
Had it not been for his akumatization working to drive him towards a goal without interference, he would’ve cried. He wanted nothing more than to wake up and think the whole thing was just a bad nightmare, with dating Marinette just being brief highlights of it that kept getting shot down with a reminder that he wasn’t good enough.
He wanted it all to be over.
Chat Noir was still trying to banter with him, but Truth wasn’t having it. While going after Ladybug first wasn’t ideal, as she was the smarter out of the two, it was easier to get rid of Chat Noir and deal with the heroes one at a time.
Thus, when Ladybug had run across the room to use her Lucky Charm, Truth acted. He managed to grab Chat Noir and throw him into the chest that Ladybug had been hiding in before, then locked it tight to prevent Chat from escaping. That done, he went after Ladybug, who was stunned but nevertheless prepared to fight. Chat Noir being out of the picture didn’t impact her ability to fight, but Truth had Pharo on his side to knock Ladybug around when it was too hard to get a spotlight on her.
Finally, he managed to tackle her, her lying on her back and him pinning her arms down. The chest nearby rattled in protest, but Pharo shined its spotlight on it, preventing it from moving anymore.
Truth watched as Ladybug looked around for a method of escape, but she came up empty. Her eyes widened in the realization that… this was it. This was the end.
“Now,” Truth said, clamping down harder on her arms as he leaned down, “tell me the truth!”
Ladybug tried to shut her lips tight, but he could see her struggling, her body shaking as she tried to free her arms to stop herself. It was only a matter of time.
Then, her mouth opened, and out came the words, “I love you, Luka!”
He froze, his fingers twitching in his confusion while he could only stare down at her in shock.
“And I’m so sorry! I’m sorry for everything! I wanted to tell you - I always wanted you to know - but I couldn’t, and you deserve so much better than a hero who can’t give you the time you deserve!”
A cold realization washed over him in form of a shudder. Those words could’ve been interpreted in so many ways, but he was the only one who registered their real meaning: that Marinette was Ladybug, her “ditching” had been her needing to fight akuma, her keeping secrets had been out of a desire to protect him, and he—
…He had only caused her more problems by getting akumatized, being no better than all those that had interrupted their dates. She loved him, and he gave into Shadow Moth to go against her.
Ladybug continued rambling, oblivious to his internal crisis, “You’re incredible, and I just love you so much. I knew you were special from the day we met, when you called me—”
Truth clamped his hand over her mouth, preventing her from spilling any more secrets. He could feel Shadow Moth’s influence in his mind, demanding that he remove his hand, but Truth ignored it, just as he’d been ignoring so many of his commands. The energy from akumatization that once made him feel powerful now made him feel disgusted with himself, guilt swirling in his gut and making him regret everything.
He reached up with his other hand, grabbing at his necklace and tearing it off. Ladybug’s brows rose at the crunching of his akumatized object, and the last things he saw were the akuma flying free and Ladybug’s expression turning to something…
Marinette de-transformed in a nearby alleyway and headed down towards the Seine, having not yet processed all of her feelings from that day. She had a little time left, given that Luka had quietly asked to walk back home himself, but she’d gotten no closer to clearing her mind since leaving her house. She was still a jumbled mess of “what if"s and "but maybe"s, and ultimately knew that it was going to be a matter of essentially winging it and just saying everything that she had on her mind.
As she approached the Liberty to wait for Luka, she paused as she noticed another figure already standing there. After all, Jagged Stone wasn’t exactly someone you could not notice.
Before she could debate on whether to approach him, Jagged seemed to sense her and glanced over to make eye contact. She stiffened, only able to wave awkwardly and pretend like she didn’t know why he’d be there.
"Hey, frockstar,” Jagged greeted tiredly, his smile not quite reaching its usual lengths. “What are you doing here?”
“Um…” She walked over, standing next to him and staring in the direction where Luka was going to come from. “I need to talk to my boyfriend.”
“Ah.” It took a few seconds for the words to actually register with him, at which point Jagged turned to her, mouth agape as he grabbed her shoulders. “My son’s your boyfriend?!”
She didn’t quite have the energy to feign total surprise at the “son” comment, but she didn’t have to. Jagged immediately pulled back without really looking at her, regaining his composure just as quickly as he’d lost it.
“You… wouldn’t happen to be able to put in a good word for me, hm?” He grinned sheepishly, jabbing at Marinette with a hopeful elbow. “Haven’t exactly figured out what I’m gonna say yet.”
She was torn between being upset with him on Luka’s behalf and feigning sympathy because it was not only none of her business, but she was in a similar boat and felt like she had no right to judge.
She went with the latter, smiling weakly and jabbing him back. “That makes two of us.” Then, she frowned as her nerves came back. “And… anyway, I don’t know if he’ll want to keep being my boyfriend after tonight.”
For once, Jagged didn’t pry or ask questions, the atmosphere probably felt even by him. They just stood there, waiting.
After a few minutes, Luka finally walked into view, staring at the ground and seeming defeated. Marinette felt ill at the sight, her fingers clutching at the fabric of her capris to find a sense of stability.
Should she approach him? Let Jagged go first? Or, maybe that would seem evasive, so—
She felt a pat on her shoulder, looking up at see Jagged urging her forward with his eyes. She wasn’t sure if she should be grateful or consider him to be the evasive one, but Luka’s akumatization was also mostly because of her and thus it only made sense for her to go first.
She ran the distance to get to him, Luka glancing up at the sound of her footsteps and stopping as she got to him. The usual light in his eyes wasn’t there, and she had to force herself to even say a simple, “Um… hi.”
“Hey.” He hesitated, then rubbed the back of his head. “I’m really sorry, Marinette.”
“I got akumatized, and I was in your room when I woke up.” His brows furrowed with uncharacteristic anxiety. “I didn’t have to hear the song to know what the notes were. I must’ve gone after you.”
Marinette blinked, having not even thought about him feeling guilty over the whole thing. She shook her head, reassuring, “No no! I mean—you told me to run! You didn’t go after me, not really!”
She wasn’t technically lying; he never sought her out to her knowledge, and even as Ladybug, she’d always had to chase him.
Luka sighed in relief, though his expression didn’t change much. “I’m glad.”
He met her gaze again. She yearned for the way he used to look at her like he wanted to get lost in her forever, but his eyes soon darted elsewhere as he noticed Jagged Stone standing not too far away.
Marinette tried not to get discouraged, stepping back into his vision and waving her hands to try and divert his attention. “Ah—don’t worry about that! Look—” She paused, needing a moment to breathe, then lowered her hands and shifted to seriousness. “Can we talk? And walk? It’s… really important.”
She couldn’t imagine the conclusions he must’ve been coming to in his head, partly because he didn’t voice any of them. His eyes merely searched hers, seeking nothing in particular.
“Sure, Marinette,” he agreed.
She managed a smile, happy that she made it this far at least. She reached out to take his hand, but stopped herself at the last second and simply walked past him, Luka taking one look back at Jagged before following after her.
The walk was tense and quiet, the only sounds coming from the evening ambiance and their footsteps. The uncertainty of it all gave her anxiety, but she’d been sure of that uncertainty since she first decided to talk to him about this.
Because, whatever the future of their relationship was, it would be in his hands.
As they arrived at her intended destination, Marinette heard Luka briefly stop behind her, perhaps processing where she just took them. It was the Canal Saint-Martin, also known as the place where they’d first agreed to date, and now it was potentially the place where they’d break up as well. Marinette vaguely pondered if that would be for the best, like the memories would just cancel each other out and Luka could forget about it altogether if he wanted to.
Nevertheless, she walked over, glancing at the bridge for reference and sitting in roughly the same place she’d been all that time ago. She then tossed Luka a hopeful look, and he walked over to sit next to her.
Steeling herself up, Marinette took a breath, inhaling until she couldn’t take in any more oxygen and then exhaling for just as long. At least a little more emotionally prepared than she was before, she finally spoke up.
“I…I’m sorry, Luka. I’m sorry that I got you akumatized—” She saw that he was about to interject and cut him off. “—and I know you don’t blame me, but it doesn’t matter—I mean—it does matter, but I’m still sorry anyway, okay? You had a right to be hurt and maybe if I’d explained myself better, then things would’ve been different.”
He still seemed to want to argue, but was holding himself back so she could continue, which she appreciated.
“It’s not that I didn’t trust you. If anything, I—I trust you more than anyone else. You’ve never betrayed me and I know you’d never tell anyone if I told you my secret. You understand me even when I’m being the disaster that everyone laughs at - everyone but you - and…”
She sighed, pulling out her phone and navigating to her text conversation with him. Mentally wincing, she tapped on the photo of her Adrien wall that Ziggy had sent, then presented it to him. He leaned in to make sure of what it was, then looked back at her, clearly not understanding where she was going but knowing it wasn’t her being spiteful or rubbing it in.
She said as much, “You don’t assume anything, like when you got sent this dumb picture. I know it was obvious that it was an accident, but you didn’t have to go with it and you did. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you got mad, but you didn’t. Whenever I’m stammering and being an idiot because I’m scared or nervous, you don’t judge me for it or think that whatever comes out is what I actually mean. That’s so important to me, Luka, you have no idea.”
She settled the phone between them and kept the picture on-screen. Her gaze flickered down to it, silently encouraging him to look at it too, then glanced back up at him.
“How much do you know about fashion?”
He tilted his head, thrown off by the sudden question, but answered anyway, “Only what my sister’s ever talked about.”
“Do you know why fashion trends die so quickly?” When he shook his head, she explained, “Part of it is the over-exposure. When people hear about what’s in at the time, suddenly everyone starts wearing whatever it is, so everywhere you look, you see it, and then people get tired of it.”
There was a flicker of understanding in his eyes, Luka looking back-and-forth between her and the phone like he was piecing a puzzle together.
She confirmed it for him, “That’s why I have so many. I don’t feel that way about him anymore - I don’t think I ever did - but I just don’t know how to act around him. I hate how the whole idolizing thing took over my life and I already tried everything else, so I figured this might work.” She groaned. “And of course it blew up on me and you got sent that without any context. Of course.”
He gave a look of concern at the exasperation in her tone, but she tried to ignore it, not wanting his sympathy.
“My point is…” She gestured vaguely at the phone. “I stammer about him, but it’s not because I’m in love with him, it’s because I’ve never really been his friend and I don’t know how to do it. I’m not dedicated to him and I’m getting better at not doing the stuff I used to.”
His eyes flickered again and she wondered if he was thinking about that day on the Liberty where she was late to Kitty Section playing, where she ignored Adrien entirely. Just for emphasis, she tapped her phone and deleted the picture, adding on, “I’m only dedicated to you, Luka. I—”
She shifted in place, hitting the wall behind her feet a few times with her heels to ease off the anxiousness. It was so much easier when she’d been Ladybug, though granted that she was under the influence of Truth’s spell at the time. She and Luka were dating, yet she was sure he’d ask her to end it, making putting herself out there all the scarier.
“I…” She met his gaze. “I love you.” He gaped at the confession and she continued on, “I love you like I haven’t loved anyone else before; definitely not Adrien. It’s the kind of love that actually makes me happy, and comfortable, and my life is better with you in it.”
She bit her bottom lip, hands curling into fists at the tight feeling in her chest. She turned, placing one hand on the ground as she began to push herself up, her other hand landing on Luka’s shoulder to wordlessly insist that he didn’t have to stand with her, so his gaze merely followed her as she moved.
“But that’s the thing.” She took a few steps away, back turned to him as she stared up at the sky. Her stomach twisted itself in knots at the words in her throat, but she nonetheless admitted, “I don’t think it’s mutual.”
Luka’s voice took on a sharp, offended tone. “Marinette—”
She spun to face him, cutting him off, “—and I know that you’re going to say something sweet and heartfelt about how everyone has a place in your life and then something about how bad notes can still make good songs, but… Luka, you don’t understand.”
She turned away from him again, this time pacing as she counted off events. “Bullies and liars target me, and sometimes that means going after people I care about. I’m clumsy and a stuttering mess and you wouldn’t believe the mistakes I made that I couldn’t have even seen coming. It seems like I draw bad luck wherever I go; I mean, your mother is one of the most chaotic people I can think of, so you’d think she’d get akumatized a bunch, but it was only the day I showed up that she did. Even the other boys who only loved me for a little bit either got akumatized over it or became an anxious mess until they found out who they actually liked, and that last one would’ve at least been really useful to think about if I’d just made the connection back then, but I didn’t!” She paused, then met his eyes with a pained expression. “And then there’s you.”
“What do you mean?”
She stopped in place, not knowing whether to be touched or not by the fact that he either hadn’t noticed or was pretending not to. Throwing her arms out, she explained, “Things go bad whenever we hang out! I already mentioned your mom, but then there was the ice rink; even without me getting distracted when all you were trying to do was make me feel better, there was an akuma and you probably got frozen solid by him. When we were hanging out on the Liberty, Adrien just happened to show up on that day with Kagami to turn me into a mess, and then Desperada came to make everything worse.”
Marinette couldn’t remember when she’d started thinking about such things or feeling guilty for everything that ever happened. There was just a point where it felt like she was always apologizing for something, no matter how small it was, and stuff being her fault became par for the course by then.
“Then, both times you got akumatized, it was because of me—and I know you don’t blame me, but I’m always involved! You were ready to leave the TV station, but because I tried to put up a fight, Bob Roth threatened me and that was your last straw. Today was the same thing; you were already upset about what happened with your dad and then it was me who sent you over the edge!” She shut her eyes tight, the memories painful to relive. “You’re always putting up with me, Luka. You put up with me crying all over you and even dropped your guitar for it, and then you had to protect me from Miracle Queen’s mind control! I’m supposed to protect you!”
He recoiled at the volume of her voice, then furrowed his brows, his eyes darting back and forth as he seemed to process something particular about what she said.
“I’m supposed to make you happy, and I can’t. Out of all the people in Paris who should be able to keep you from getting akumatized, it should be me, and all I’ve done is hurt you. You’re the calmest person I’ve ever known and then I came along and gave you feelings you didn’t ask for. Sometimes—” She shook, choking briefly on the words. “Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been better for you if you never met me.”
Luka’s gaze sharpened. He didn’t reply, but turned fully to her, pushing himself up as if to approach.
However, she stepped back, his look then flashing to hurt. She took a breath, expression determined as she said with her whole chest, “I’m Ladybug, Luka.”
He froze, his body going stiff and his eyes blinking rapidly at either the reveal itself or the way she’d so firmly said it.
“I’m Ladybug,” she repeated quietly, this time with an ache in her voice, “and I’m telling you not because I trust you—I mean, I do trust you—but I also believe in you; that you wouldn’t sell me out to Shadow Moth even with all the mind control in the world. You’ve always had my back and supported me even when I didn’t deserve it, and I want you to know. It’s dangerous and I don’t know what’ll happen and I’m scared but I want you to know it.” She put a hand to her chest. “I’m the one who has to save Paris whenever something happens, and that’s why I always had to ditch you. I’m the one who messed up and lost you your identity as Viperion. I’m the new guardian of the miraculouses, and the kwami don’t even listen to me; they invaded my privacy and it was one of them that took and sent you that picture.”
She realized that her vision was staring to blur and looked skywards, trying to fight back tears.
“I-I’m not a normal girl. I can’t be a normal girlfriend, or give you everything you’d want out of a normal relationship. It’s my fault that you got akumatized because I just—I wanted you. I wanted to be in a relationship and go on dates with you, but Ladybug isn’t supposed to want things. She’s supposed to be selfless and only worry about everyone else, but… you made me happy, and I wanted more of that. You were the first person I really felt like I could be myself around without being scolded or lied to and I thought it would be okay…”
She noticed him moving and quickly turned her back to him, at least able to let the tears fall now without him seeing them.
“I’m sorry I dragged you into this. I always think I can handle things but then it goes wrong and I end up hurting people. If I’d just gone home the day of the music festival instead of complaining about Adrien not being around, then none of this would’ve happened.” She sighed in frustration, wiping her eyes clean of tears, and she was so focused on forcing her words out that she didn’t hear the footsteps coming from behind her. “I-it’s okay if you want to break up, Luka. It wasn’t fair that I kept you in the dark, and I understand if you’re mad, or you want to date other people, o-or if you don’t love me anymore—”
Her voice cut off with a gasp as a pair of arms wrapped around her midsection, pulling her against a familiar, warm chest that had an unfamiliarly pounding heartbeat. She tried to look up at him, but his hair was shadowing out his eyes and left only his trembling lips visible. In fact, his whole body was shaking, as if it were winter and no amount of layers could keep him warm.
“L-luka?” she called, confused.
“Stop,” he begged quietly, the hug tightening briefly to give her a squeeze. “Please.”
“But…” She trailed off, acknowledging the request. She’d never heard his voice just break like that.
“You’ve already sung your part of our duet, Marinette. Now it’s my turn.” He paused, taking an unsteady breath before continuing, “I’m glad you told me your secret. I know you’re worried about me being in danger, but it makes me happy that you can rely on me now. Music boxes aren’t meant to stay shut, and you deserve someone who you can open up to, even if I hate that you have to mute yourself in the first place to keep everyone safe.”
She opened her mouth, wanting to say that it was okay and it was just her job, but kept quiet to respect his earlier request.
“My life isn’t worse because I met you,” he murmured, an unspoken plea in his tone that told her to never think that way again. “I felt things with you that I never have before. My song started out as a flatline, then we met and you made it move. Music isn’t exciting if it doesn’t change but you did that for me. What you might see as bad notes is my passion for you, and I won’t apologize for it or make you apologize for messing up just like every person does. I’d never wanted someone before you, and even if you never wanted to date me, I’m grateful that I got to know you; to fall for you.”
Marinette blinked in an attempt to stop oncoming tears, Luka pulling her closer for comfort when she whimpered.
“All that mattered to me is when we were together, just the two of us. That’s when your melody plays the clearest and when I get to see you. Those two weeks when we were preparing our music video were some of the best two weeks of my life because I got to see you in your element. I’ve accepted every break in the tempo because I’ve heard you, I’ve heard the Marinette you’ve wanted to be, and I want to be there for every beat of it.” Then, he exhaled, adding with a somber tone, “I can’t imagine how much pressure you must be under, or how awful things are and how impossible it must be to sing when you can’t even take a breath without something going wrong. I just… I want to help you be happy. I don’t care what you, your kwami, or anyone else says; you’re allowed to be happy, Marinette, and I’d drop a thousand of my guitars if it meant that you get to play happy notes one more time.”
She let out a sob, blushing pink as her hands unconsciously raised to rest on the ones around her waist, Luka sighing in content and nestling further against her.
“So I don’t want to break up with you, Marinette. Not at all. I just want to find ways to make it easier on you - on both of us - and if that means finding ways of planning our dates around akuma attacks, or not planning at all and going wherever the rhythm leads, then that’s what we’ll do.”
She tried to keep quiet, but couldn’t help voicing, “W-what if… what if it doesn’t work? What if I have to bail on you every now and then? People will think—”
“I was never worried about that,” he retorted immediately. “I’m a Couffaine. My clothes are ripped, I carry my guitar in the basket on my bike, and I live on a boat. I stopped caring about what people thought a long time ago.”
He was unbelievable. Marinette didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so she did both. He just held her there, his heart still beating against her back but now serving as something to calm her.
“The only opinions that matter in our duet are yours and mine,” he said. His hold loosened, though hesitating like it was physically painful to release her. He let her go nonetheless and held his hands out in front of her, palms facing the sky. “So what about you, Marinette?”
She stared at his hands, then slowly raised her own to hover over them. She breathed up, then slid her fingers across his palms until their calloused fingertips met, neither making any move to pull away.
“I…I want to make it work,” she whispered, leaning back against him. “I want to be with you, Luka. I’m at my best when I’m with you. I just…”
She stopped, knowing that he would have an argument for anything she said. If she apologized for the failed dates that she can never fix, he’d argue that it’d be worse to leave things off a sour note, and that not every good song starts out good. If she tried to suggest other people for him to date or imply that it’d be easier with someone else, he’d say that his guitar plays only for her and he wouldn’t change that even if he could.
“…I’m sorry,” she said, smiling her first genuine smile of the night. “I won’t doubt myself anymore.”
Even though she couldn’t see his face, she knew he was smiling too. “Do you feel better?”
“Yeah. Do—do you?”
“Yeah,” he replied, voice thick with emotion.
Wanting to see his face, she slowly dropped their hands and turned to face him, silently hoping that she didn’t look awful from her earlier tears. However, to her surprise, she noticed that Luka’s eyes were watery despite his smile, just like her. Realizing something, she raised a hand to her shoulder, where his face had been hovering over ever since he’d hugged her from behind.
It was wet.
She threw her arms around his neck and pulled him against her. He returned the gesture, squeezing her lovingly and giving her back a few rubs that she responded to with a happy hum. They held the position, the warmth of the hug completely negating the slight chill of the night air.
Even when they pulled away, it wasn’t far nor for long. Marinette wasn’t sure which of them initiated it, but one moment they were staring at each other and the next they were kissing. It had been long overdue and she idly thought that it was better than she would’ve imagined their kiss at the cinema to be.
She breathed in his scent, her fingers blindly reaching up to slide into his hair. She almost felt like crying again, though this time in relief that everything had actually worked out for once and they were kissing without interruption. Even though Luka was more subtle in showing his emotions, she could tell that he felt the same from the way his hand on her back shook, practically vibrating with happiness.
The kiss eventually broke with a soft click, though she kept her hands on him for the sake of stability. They were both breathing a little hard from the emotional toll of the conversation yet not necessarily in a bad way.
And the love in his eyes - the life that she missed so much - was back. She honestly thought she wouldn’t have seen it again and she was tempted to just keep kissing him in relief, part of her aware that he definitely wouldn’t have minded it.
It took her a few tries to get the words out, hesitant to break up their wordless exchanges of love. She knew what revelation was waiting for Luka back at his houseboat - maybe he’d already guessed it - and she wanted to be there for him, so she asked carefully, “Do you… want me to come back to the Liberty with you?”
Eyes half-lidded, he gave her a soft smile and gently squeezed her hand. “Yeah. Do you want to sleep over?”
She nodded. “Mm, I’d like that.”
Holding hands, they began making their way back to the Liberty, the ambiance of the night finally coming through to soothe them. Marinette glanced down at their joined hands, then at the wide smile on Luka’s face, the latter clearly caused by the former.
She looked ahead at where they were walking, pretending that she hadn’t just been admiring him. “We could always go out for breakfast together. That might work out.”
“That sounds amazing.” Luka feigned a look of thoughtfulness. “Maybe Shadow Moth doesn’t like mornings?”
Marinette squeaked mid-giggle. “You’d think that’d be the case from the name, huh?”
He chuckled, covering his mouth with his free hand, and the conversation remained light from there. Any bad feelings from the day had evaporated, leaving only smiles and hope for the future in its place.
Everything was going to be okay. For once, Marinette could truly believe that.