Adrien Agreste. Age 26. A successful international supermodel, currently changing careers to a CEO of a fashion empire. Was born and raised in Paris, had moved to the USA 6 years ago, came back for a visit. Kind, handsome, lonely. Had experienced a lot, had seen even more. Had nothing left that could surprise him anymore.
Except, maybe, this - a small, blonde girl, with emerald eyes and freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose – a splitting image of his mother Lillian Agreste, excluding, perhaps, the freckles. Adrien didn't remember his mama very well anymore - she died when he was still a tween but he spent hours staring at every single picture they had of her and knew every detail of her face, every peculiarity, every gorgeous feature, the way she smiled, the way her eyes sparkled, the way they loved. Now with his eyes wide open, Adrien observed her little copy playing with her dolls at the park but couldn't believe his eyes. Even less he could believe his ears.
Her name was Emma. Emma Dupain-Cheng, to be exact.
Six years ago, without warning, at the age of twenty Adrien had left Paris. One morning his father offered him a chance of a lifetime career move, with one catch: Pack a bag and catch a plane in two hours. Adrien agreed without arguing.
He regretted leaving his Lady behind, of course, but that, maybe, for the best. They did have this huge fight last time they saw each other. She did tell him that she wished she'd never met him. He interfered with her feelings, she said, confused her, made her fall in love with him, made it impossible for her and that mysterious boy she was always pining after to be together. His Lady wept, shivered and looked absolutely miserable on his account. She was mad at Chat for that night, a single night they spent together. Adrien wished he could regret it the way she did, but he just couldn't. It was too perfect to not treasure it forever.
The duo had been celebrating her 20th birthday. He invited her to a dinner. It went so well, they had so much fun, their easy friendship slowly slipping into a dangerous territory. At the end neither could resist the romantic spell they were plunged into. Or maybe only Ladybug couldn't, because while Chat Noir had never hidden how he felt about his partner and that how he always wanted their relationship to be much more, she suddenly allowed him to go the length he could only dream of. She asked for that herself and made the first move. For the first and what seemed like for the last time because when he woke up the next day, she was gone.
Then followed the fight. A few days later when they met again Ladybug was an emotional mess. She said she had thought a lot about what had happened and admitted that she loved him but also insisted that she couldn't be with him because she loved that other boy. She claimed that it wouldn't be fair to either of them so she would rather stay alone than hurting anyone by half-loving them. Chat tried to reason with her, to say that he'd accept what she was willing to give him and it'll be more than enough but at the end, they just fought harder. Always so determined and stubborn, Ladybug told him that her mind was made up – she would rather live a miserable life than giving him only a half of her heart and always look over her shoulder for that other guy. He deserved so much more, he needed someone who could love him with all their heart she said and disappeared into the night.
So when Adrien heard about the job in America next morning, he didn't think twice. To leave and let Ladybug be happy with that other man sounded like a sensible solution at the time. He didn't want to stay in the way of his Lady's happiness anymore. He'd had enough of being a problem. Because if not for him, he figured, and his dumb, stubborn attempts to win her over, she'd be free to be with that other man already. She'd be happy by now. Adrien loved Ladybug too much to continue destroying her life. His love, apparently, was just as destructive as his powers were. Maybe, there was an underlying reason he was chosen to be Chat Noir in the first place, after all. Chat Noir got his chance with Ladybug and it wasn't "it" for the girl of his dreams so he had to step down, to leave and give up his miraculous so she could be free of him, his stupidity, his foolish feelings. Without him confusing her, Ladybug would actually have a chance to be happy with that other lucky, lucky man…
He could live with that.
The truly devastating consequence, however, was he had to quit being Chat Noir. The miraculous had to stay in Paris, Plagg explained, and if Adrien left he had to give the ring to a new wielder. Adrien didn't even need to think; there were matters much bigger and more important than his desire to jump across the rooftops of Paris. Hawkmoth was gone and Adrien wasn't needed anymore. Heartbroken but determined, Adrien removed his ring and gave it back to Plagg. After the man supplied his kwami with enough Camembert to last him a month, they parted in silence. Words would've been pointless and only would've led to tears and more pain.
In a moment Plagg was gone from Adrien's life. He remained in his heart forever.
The only person he called from the airport was Nino, the only friend he kept in touch with after they finished school. Other goodbyes were either unnecessary or too painful.
And now, spending six years away, never finding peace, never forgetting his Lady, never loving anyone else, and never feeling at home anywhere, Adrien finally came back to attend his best friend's wedding. His bro was marrying his school sweetheart Alya Césaire, that crazy reporter he remembered from back in the days, the one who always chased after him and Ladybug. She wasn't that crazy now, however, she was a respected journalist with a successful career and was about to make his best friend happy. Adrien didn't plan to stay long. One week. A few days before, a few days after the wedding and he'd be back in his bachelor apartment in New York City. He'd planned to spend his visit as low-key as possible, see a few friends and avoid his father as much as possible. He didn't plan to be knocked off his rails by a carbon copy of his mother messing around in the sandbox of a local park.
This particular afternoon Adrien decided to surprise Nino. Arriving the previous day and not letting anyone know so he could sneak up on him was supposed to lift his mood and add just a bit of fun he desperately needed in his life right now. An hour ago Adrien called Nino, said he was at the New York airport, waiting for a plane and casually asked him what he was up too. The groom-to-be informed him that he was at a nearby park, doing a favor for a friend. Imagine Adrien's surprise when he arrived and startled Nino that "the favor" was two hours of babysitting Marinette's 5-year-old daughter. The same Marinette Dupain-Cheng that was so excessively shy and never fully got over her stutter around him; that girl who had always been a mystery to him; the only other girl he had ever had a crush on apart from Ladybug. A secret, tiny, minuscule crush he never let anyone know about and worked hard to get over. He had his Lady, he couldn't afford to stray away. He lost Ladybug but at least Marinette had her life all set up. That was good to know. Who knows what would've happened if Adrien let his destructive love ruin her life as well?
"… she had to go to an important meeting—" Nino's voice broke his train of thought, "—and her usual babysitter is sick. Alya couldn't do it, her parents are away and it's not like Emma would go to just anyone anyway," he added.
There was also something about this little girl's character and something about time and impossible to find… Adrien couldn't really distinguish words clearly anymore. It all mixed up in his head like white noise as he continued to just stand there, staring at a splitting image of his mother and wondering if there was something wrong with his head, or eyes, or maybe it was exhaustion, or maybe a combination of everything…
Then came the most stunning detail.
"You know, bro," Nino whispered conspiratorially. "Although Marinette won't admit it, we actually think that her father is Chat Noir."
Adrien choked on air. That statement definitely brought his attention back to Nino. Adrien quickly remembered that the said girl was around 5 years old plus 9 months of pregnancy… Adrien felt his insides froze. Six years ago, Chat Noir was him and if everything was correct, he was her father… Adrien frowned in confusion. He was pretty sure that he wasn't intimate with Marinette at any point of their acquaintance. Apart from that short crush fluke, he didn't even know her very well. In fact, because of his love for Ladybug and his innate loyalty, that he wasn't sure was a benefit or liability anymore, he had never even attempted to be with anyone else, successfully causing a rumor that he wasn't into girls in the circles he lived amongst in the US.
"And how do you know that, Nino?" he asked, trying not to sound too interested.
"Well, it's not a secret anymore but you should keep it to yourself anyways, just in case." The guy smirked at him with a knowing smile. "Our sweet little Marinette used to be Ladybug up to about six years ago."
Adrien paled but Nino didn't seem to notice being too excited finally to be able to spill the beans to his bestie.
"I couldn't tell you before because Alya wanted to keep it a secret," he smiled apologetically. "And I wanted to stay in her good graces, for quite obvious reasons. But now, having her engaged to me, I think, it's a bit more safe to tell? Keep it to yourself for now, thought. If my woman would find out that I told you, she- Just don't tell her, bro, ok?"
Adrien turned to Nino. "I won't, but you have to tell me how do you know all of that."
"Well, right about the time you were gone—" Nino started, "—in a matter of a few weeks we had a new Chat Noir. You could tell right away he was a newbie - a brown-haired teenager with no sick skills yet and quite serious, at that. Nothing like the cool dude we had before. A couple of days later," Nino sighed. "Our old Ladybug suddenly swung by Alya's apartment and told her that she had to give up being Ladybug to a new girl due to some complications and because there was a new, younger Chat Noir so he needed a new, younger Ladybug. Before that, however, she wanted to let Alya know who she was and to apologize. Alya freaked out at first but when Marinette appeared in Ladybug's place she understood what she meant."
Nino paused for a moment. He crossed his arms on his chest looking at the small girl currently climbing into a swing. "Then," he said in a much quieter voice. "Marinette took off her earrings and gave them to a small, red creature she called Tikki. They cried for like an hour or two and it left. Ever since that evening Marinette was a regular woman again and later we found out that her so-called 'complications' were her pregnancy."
Nino paused again. This time Adrien looked at his face surprised to found a range of emotions there. It was obvious Nino cared for Marinette. The mix of warmth and sadness when he looked at her daughter spoke volumes.
"She went through so much, man," Nino whispered a spike of anger spiking in his eyes. "That bastard… Left her alone and miserable…"
"Anyway," he sighed and turned to look at Adrien after a moment of composing himself back to his cheerful self. "We all helped her as much as we could and here we are. Emma is like our shared daughter and Marinette landed an awesome job so she is back on her feet."
"Did she tell you Emma's father was Chat Noir?" Adrien asked. As much as he needed to think this through he couldn't. His mind was just frazzled and confused with all the questions and doubts flooding him for that now. He was a father? To a five-year-old girl? He left his Lady pregnant and alone? Where was that other man? Was he so low that he didn't want to care for someone else's child? Why had no one tried to contact him? He would've jumped into the first plane right away-
"Nah," Nino interrupted his thoughts again. "No matter how hard we tried to make Marinette name the father she refused. The closest Alya got from her sounded something like 'I don't know who he is, I wish I knew but I don't'. But when Emma was born we all just knew. I mean, man, can you look at her – blond hair, green eyes, she even likes horrible puns at her 5 years – and deny it? How couldn't she be Chat Noir's daughter? No offense, bro." A small smirk suddenly played on Nino's lips. "But I even considered you as a possibility because, you know, Marinette had a huge crush on you for like forever. Had to give it up after Alya told me that Marinette hasn't seen you in like ages."
By this point, Adrien's head was not only throbbing but also spinning. That little bit about Marinette having had a crush on him was, maybe, just a little bit too much. He had to sit down.
"Hey, are you alright?" Nino eyed him suspiciously.
"Yeah," Adrien murmured in return. "Just a bit tired. Jetlag, long flight, time changes. You know?"
"Ok," Nino frowned and motioned to a nearby bench. "Wanna sit?"
"Sure." Adrien followed his friend and sat down. For the few next minutes, watching his newfound daughter and completely blanking Nino's chatter out, all he could do was to wonder what he was going to do. Did he need to do anything? Nino said Marinette was finally feeling fine again. Did he want to wreck her life again? And how did he feel about Ladybug being Marinette? True, he had a crush on his shy, cute, stuttering classmate but he never got to know her very well. Was her Ladybug persona her true character? Why hadn't he recognized her?
Adrien closed his eyes, trying to remember. Everyone seemed to love Marinette back in school, some even adored her. He remembered that he respected her a lot for her designs and her bravery but he never really gotten to know her because she always seemed to freeze around him, leaving him to believe that she simply didn't like him, thus giving him even more motivation for squishing that damned crush before it had a chance to develop any further. Graduation and separate colleges certainly helped.
Now Nino revealed that Marinette didn't hate him at all. Quite the contrary she more than liked him and if she really was his Ladybug that meant he was that mysterious boy she wanted to be with. And that meant that when he removed himself from the equation so she could be happy with that other boy, he actually left her alone and with "the consequences" of that one night. He was that…
Adrien got up and walked straight up to the small girl. He crouched beside her.
"Hello, Emma," he smiled. "My name is Adrien. How are you?"
The girl looked at him from head to toe suspiciously and suddenly smirked. "I don't speak with strangers," she said. "My mama told me not to. And don't even think—" she pouted, "—that if you give me a candy I'll follow you to your car so you can kidnap me! My mama will find you and kick your butt! Got it?"
Satisfied with herself, little Emma turned around and went on to play with her dolls leaving a little more than stunned Adrien behind.
Appearing out of nowhere, Nino chuckled having observed the whole situation. "She is Chat's daughter, I tell you. Just as fiery and feisty, isn't she?"
More like her mother, Adrien thought.
"Wait till you try to put her down to bed," Nino continued.
Adrien looked at him with an obvious interest. "What happens then?"
"She jumps around for an hour fighting akumas," Nino smiled fondly as Adrien's heart stung. His friend was obviously here to put his -Adrien's- child to bed. He wasn't. "Then she sneaks out of her room and tries to climb to the roof. Marinette even had to block all exits at her house." Nino's face abruptly downcast. "But that is more sad than funny, though."
"Why is that?" Adrien asked.
"Emma always says that she is looking for her daddy and for some reason, she thinks he will wait for her on a roof."
Please note: English is a strange and wonderful language where many words have multiple meanings and slang can change depending on your country of origin. It is my third language so while I will do my very best, there may be mistakes made along the way. If you notice any miscommunications or incorrect word usage, help a girl out.