Sorry for the wait, I've been living in hostels the last few weeks and just haven't felt like writing. But now I have a job and am *hopefully* on my way to having somewhere to live so things are hopefully getting better~


(C) I own none of the characters.

"Marinette Dupain-Cheng."

Marinette felt her feet move by themselves across the stage, the tassel from her hat flicking into her eye and the carpet snagging on her heels. A bright light blinded her and she was suddenly standing with the others, a diploma in hand and gown whipping around her calves. She could hear her father yelling in the background but his voice reached her through a fog, everything was slow and blurry but her mind still couldn't keep up.

"We finally did it!" She looked at the hand suddenly on her shoulder (or maybe it had always been there) and followed the arm to the owner's beaming face, his red hair flashing and eyes careful.

It took her a beat to process his words and she could tell from the tension of his smile that it had been a beat too long. She twitched the edges of her mouth up, the grin feeling sickening on her face.

"Congratulations!" she supplied, because it was what everyone around her was saying and it saved her from thinking of something. The group started moving and they followed, Nathanael pulling her off to the side once they exited the amphitheater.

"So, I need to talk to you. We haven't really spoken about what happened weeks ago and I really want to."

Marinette blinked, her brain slowly speeding up as it processed that this wasn't a conversation that she wanted to be having.

She stepped back from his grasp, hands smoothing down the front of her gown. She breathed.

"You already know everything that happened. I told you."

He frowned, "I know that the plan was to use my power to coax Chat Noir out of him. Not to make him kill his father. Not to make him disappear again."

She could tell he was hurt, could see that her betraying use of his moth had unraveled him slightly. He clearly wasn't used to being forced to do things against his will, something that she envied to no end.

A muscle in her cheek twitched, "I'm sorry it all ended up this way. Making him leave again was the furthest thing from my mind, believe me. But there's nothing we can do. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings."

"I'm moving to Rome."

She paused, back turned to him as she'd started to leave. He continued at her hesitance, "One of my comic fans messaged me saying there's another hero there that fights weird monsters. She thought I should check it out. I've researched the attacks, they're real, and I'm going."

Without turning she nodded and left, leaving him to watch the retreating back of the girl he'd once loved not too long ago.

The front door to her apartment whined shut and Marinette slumped onto her bed, mattress creaking. Tikki looked up at her from the pillow, eyes sharp.

"How was graduation? And dinner with your parents?" she asked, having not been present for either event. She hadn't accompanied Marinette out in weeks, and Marinette hadn't thought to question it.

"Fine," she replied, staring up at the peeling ceiling.

"You got two emails," Tikki continued, glancing over to the laptop on the desk. Wordlessly Marinette wrenched herself from the covers and clicked on the icon, her heart spluttering when she saw who the first was from, then practically stopping when she read the contents of the second.

The address of the second was generic, something likely machine-generated, and she would've deleted it had it not been for the single line of text.

You are not forgiven, but with this we're even.

There was a single attachment. She opened it. A tear rolled down her cheek.

Adrien leant back in his office chair, the New York streetlights reflecting off his desk. He tapped the titanium of his new ring against the wood in thought. He'd needed to have something there, something to fill the absence of his miraculous. He'd kept feeling surprised every time he hit his hand on something and that particular area of his finger would come into contact with it, and while the replacement did help with that problem, the weight was still just a bit off.

He stood and left the office, turning back to look at the chair there that had also belonged to his father. His hands shook.

The revolving doors squealed as he exited the lobby and Adrien Agreste never stepped foot in the building again.

Strawberry-flavored gum coated Chloé's lips as the bubble she'd been working on for the last 2 minutes burst against them and she idly scraped it off with her teeth, her eyes lazily scanning the hotel email for anything that didn't involve guest reservations or other hotel-related things. Her lips pursed, another bubble emerging, when her phone beeped and she swiped the lock screen, eyes flickering over the new email. The gum fell out of her mouth, forgotten.

Natalie sighed at the clatter of mail falling onto her front door mat, her hands already lamenting the loss of warmth from the tea she'd just made as she went to clear the post from her entryway. It was the usual compilation of bills and gym ads, but the weight of the last latter made her pause, the white starchiness of the envelope and the address label were just a little too official to be written off as a bank statement or the like.

She went back to her dining room table, her nail tearing expertly through the seal. Her eyes flashed from side to side as she read the letter, then went back to read it again. Then again. She slowly lowered it, her pupils unfocused and staring off into the distance. The cane in the umbrella stand stood there just in her peripheral, mocking.

The news was having an absolute field day.

Alya stood in the middle of the office as people rushed around her. It was her first day back after her honeymoon for Christ's sake – she hadn't thought she'd been this out of the loop. She scanned the front page of the newspaper in her hand again, the other still holding the bagel she'd been about to take a bite of but had long since forgotten.

"Agreste Hands Over All To Old Secretary"

It was scandalous, it was big business news, it was definitely front-page worthy, it was absolutely fucking ludicrous.

Alya had read the entire article three times, just to make sure she'd actually read it correctly because surely Adrien couldn't be so fucking stupid.

He'd given it all to Natalie, his father's old secretary. All of it, his entire company, his buildings, the brand itself. The whole article detailed an exact list of everything he'd handed over and the speculations behind the drastic move, yet said nothing about where the once super model-turned businessman-turned ghost currently was, and Alya couldn't help think that was a good move on their part. If she'd known she'd make a point of marching her ass over there and throttling some sense into him.

In her anger she'd turned the page, raging for some sort of explanation, but instead found another article about the strange sudden return of a sizeable amount of money to the bank accounts of the once-rich. The precise number happened to match the amount reported stolen from the families four years ago, and had been transferred there by an anonymous account. The article then featured an extensive interview with Chloé Bourgeois as she made sure everyone knew she was quitting her job and exactly which designer items she was planning on buying with her returned inheritance.

Alya, being the natural reporter that she was, couldn't help but wonder if the two articles, as different as they were, were somehow related.

Adrien stowed his luggage above his head and sat back in his seat, the plane engines rumbling to life beneath him. He reclined into the material, the low chatter and confined space of the economy seating lulling his muscles to relax, his spine recoiling from its upright position. Snow whirled idly passed the tiny window and he watched its descent, the flake reminding him of Nino and Alya's wedding. Reminding him of Marinette's startled face when she'd first seen him after all those years. Reminding him of her fevered eyes, dazed and unfocused and freed of grudge. Reminding him of her lips, their snarl, their laugh, their absolute underlying tenderness.

"When you left, you broke her," her mother's words at the wedding had not been kind, but he hadn't wanted them to be. His absence had impacted their entire family, and no one wanted to see their daughter a slave to the disappearance of a demon.

With a start the intercom asked him to switch his phone to airplane mode and he complied, a quick glance at the calendar reminded him that Marinette had graduated that afternoon. He hoped she liked his graduation present.

Marinette stood in front of her family's old bakery.

No, she chided herself, the paper heavy in her hand, it's mine. My bakery.

The email from the mystery sender had contained one attachment – the deed to the shop building.

She looked up at it, wondering when its previous occupants had moved, and whether or not her anonymous benefactor had had anything to do with their departure. The windows were darker and emptier than she'd ever seen them. The building stared back hollowly.

"Tikki." Her voice rattled around the space, the building swallowing her syllables and spitting them back at her. The kwami emerged from her bag, the significance of this visit not being lost on the sprite.

"Tikki," she said again, words failing her, blue eyes meeting blue and complete, unadulterated sorrow.

"Tikki," her sob hiccupped around the walls and Tikki nodded once in acknowledgment, then once again as Marinette reached up and unfastened her earrings, then once again as she handed them back to the kwami, her tiny fists closing around the studs. At the contact the kwami faded, her spots finally returning to her skin before she disappeared completely and Marinette was alone.

She sank to her knees and let the shadow of the bakery engulf her.

Four Years Later

Spring sunlight filtered through the curtains and into Adrien's office, the weak London rays glancing off of the dark oak of his desk and causing dust moats to swarm the leather books lining the walls. A stack of papers littered a corner of the desk and he graded the work leisurely, chuckling from time to time at the more outrageous answers some of the students had supplied to some of the harder questions. Whoever said physics majors didn't have a sense of humor clearly had never graded their midterms.

He reached over his head and stretched, spine curling comfortably in the supple chair. The light warmed his face and the peak of blue through the window was enough to persuade him to take a break, the pleasant weather too good to pass up after the previous constant rain.

The air was fresh and he had a persistent urge to run along the rooftops but quelled it quickly, favoring instead the walk through the park to his favorite coffee house. He glanced at his phone, smiling as the headlines on his news app continued to praise the new CEO of the Agreste company. Natalie had taken her new position in stride and the one share of company stock Adrien had kept for sentimentality definitely wasn't hurting from her ministrations.

The shop bell chimed as he entered and he let the coffee scent seep into his clothes, breathing in deeply as he waited in line, the ring on his finger tapping the counter absentmindedly. The weight of it was still wrong and it didn't quite make the same tenor when tapped, but the skin beneath was still whiter than the rest and, really, Adrien liked this new ring.

He carried his coffee to a table and his hands didn't shake and his vision wasn't red and he was free.

Marinette exited her office, the chic décor giving way to brilliant light and she was honestly surprised London could even supply any weather other than constantly overcast. She hefted the designs under her arm; she needed to prepare them for the new interns but the heavenly sky was just too tempting and she'd opted to do it in her favorite coffee shop instead of cooped up in her office. There she'd be constantly interrupted by her staff with questions about the new summer line and she really just needed a break.

She crossed through the park, the grass strewn with college kids from the University across the green, sunbathing and eating and working and she remembered the days when she used to do the same. The day she'd graduated college she'd simultaneously received both the acceptance to the design internship and the deed to her family's old bakery. That very same day she'd failed and lost her best friend.

The day after she'd sold the bakery and left Paris forever.

Her phone beeped and she stifled a grin at the picture Alya had sent of Marinette's new godchild, the infant dressed head to toe in red and black spots, Nino rolling his eyes in the background. Marinette was sure Alya was the only person alive so ecstatic about the new influx of spotted merchandise, but couldn't blame the marketers responsible. From what she'd heard, a certain crime-fighting duo were making quite the name for themselves over in the East and, really, the world could always do with a little more luck.

She reached the coffee house and entered. The shop bell chimed.

Well I hoped you liked it even though I kinda left it with a wee cliffhanger at the end there...LOLOLOLOL.

(It was also maybe not quite as dark as I was planning on leaving it?)

Will there be a sequel? Who knows. Maybe. Maybe not. Who knowwssss.

(Hopefully I tied up most of the loose ends at least...kinda..)

Let me know what you thought of this garbage!