This was a disaster.
Marinette stared at the doctor as he gestured at the x-ray on the screen, the one that showed in detail what her leg looked like right now. She had hoped against hope that the pain that she was feeling was just a sprain or a strained muscle or a really bad bruise, but instead-
"-the break isn't terrible, and it won't need surgery, but Marinette will need a cast and will have to be on crutches for several weeks to keep her weight off of her leg while it heals. Physical activity should be limited as to not aggravate the fracture-"
-her leg was broken.
She wanted to curse Lila to hell and back. Hissing threats at her when they were alone in the bathroom or the hallway was one thing, but pushing Marinette down the stairs was another. Now Marinette was physically injured, and as if that wasn't bad enough, she was pretty sure that this would make being Ladybug pretty difficult if not outright impossible.
At least this time, there had been witnesses. Four of them, all adults, and none that Lila had noticed when she had shoved Marinette down the stairs in front of the school when they both arrived late for school. One had called up the police at once, and all of them had given the officer who showed up their names and testified that the push had been deliberate and that Lila had looked entirely pleased with herself when she saw Marinette curled up in pain. There would be a report and charges filed as soon as Dr. Fernand finished checking up on Marinette, and at the very least a restraining order to keep Lila far, far away from Marinette.
But that was all in the future, and didn't change the fact that Marinette's leg was broken and she was going to be spending probably a month in a cast. Over a month, even.
"At least you don't need surgery, Marinette!" Tikki whispered to her as the doctor conferred with her parents about how to best deal with the many, many stairs in their house. "As far as broken bones go, yours should heal relatively quickly! My powers will help."
Marinette only frowned more. Relatively quickly, when speaking of broken bones healing, still wasn't fast enough. Hawkmoth rarely went for more than a couple days without akumatizing someone, after all. Unless the Miraculous magic allowed her to heal overnight, there would be problems.
"At least you have strong arms, young lady," Dr. Fernand told Marinette cheerfully, apparently finally done with talking to her parents. "Some people find themselves stuck in chairs and not moving much when they have a broken leg because they find that their arms get tired with crutches, but I don't think that you'll have that problem. Don't be tempted to overdo it, though- you do want to spend a fair bit of time resting."
Marinette's frown didn't lessen. Her doctor didn't appear surprised. After all, she was in pain, and apparently going to be hugely inconvenienced for the next month and a half thanks to a schoolyard bully. There was really no way to put a positive spin on that.
"Well, let's go ahead now with setting the bone and putting the cast on," Dr. Fernand said after a pause, glancing from Marinette to her parents. "And then we can make sure that you don't have any other injuries that need to be treated before you go."
"This is a disaster, Tikki, what am I supposed to do?" Marinette groaned as soon as she had gotten home and was alone. Her parents had fussed over her the entire trip from the hospital to the police station (Lila had been expelled already, apparently, the four witnesses'' accounts plus a urgent and very enlightening meeting with Mrs. Rossi enough to make Mr. Damocles decide that he didn't want Lila at his school) and then home, where they had then spent a fair amount of time moving Marinette's bedding, school things, and several changes of clothes down to the guest room for her to stay there, so she would have less stairs to deal with. She appreciated the support, but she also had to figure out what she could and couldn't do as Ladybug right now, in case an akuma popped up. "Transforming won't take away my broken leg, will it?"
"Previously existing injuries aren't healed by transforming, no." Tikki flitted around Marinette, giving blankets little tugs here and there to settle them more comfortably around Marinette. "So you can't transform and go out."
Marinette groaned some more.
"Normally in these situations, the Guardian would assign a few temporary holders to take your place," Tikki told Marinette, giving a blanket one final tug before landing next to her on the pillow. "They would hold on to their miraculous until you were well enough to go out again. But you're the Guardian, and you can't exactly go sneaking around handing out Miraculous with a broken leg. And if you go out with any sort of crutches or anything as Ladybug, then Hawkmoth will know to look for someone who recently broke their leg and he could find out your secret identity!"
"Freaking Lila," Marinette grumbled. This was all her fault, but at least everything had fallen apart for Lila because of it, too. Then she sighed, because harping on it would only attract negative emotions and she was not in the mood to find out if being akumatized and running around on her leg would injure it further or not. "Okay. So do you have any ideas? The best I can come up with would be to transform, call up Chat Noir, and reveal my identity to him so that he can come get more Miraculous to assign to backups."
Tikki hummed in thought. "That is a possibility, but- well, I think that that might be more of a last resort. We don't know who he would pick for backup holders, and all of the ones we had before- well, they can't be used again, not for something like this."
"Because Hawkmoth might suspect them first, even if they got a different Miraculous," Marinette finished. She sighed. "Right."
"And we do still need the Ladybug Miraculous in play, but I don't feel comfortable with it getting assigned to just anyone," Tikki finished. "Since you've had temporary holders get possessed and turned against you before. You've always managed to escape, but not everyone could."
Marinette looked away that time. It wasn't as though she had done anything better than anyone else to avoid possession, necessarily. People just tended to sacrifice themselves for her so that Ladybug could keep going. Maybe some of it was skill, but luck and other people's sacrifices accounted for the rest.
"I have an idea, but I don't know if you're necessarily going to like it," Tikki said after a moment's pause. "I know that Master Fu told you to tell no one about your alter ego, but I think that you should tell your parents."
"What?" Marinette exclaimed, sitting bolt upright in bed and then immediately hissing at the jolt of pain that shot through her leg at that. Tikki shot off the pillow and flitted about, concerned, but Marinette forced her attention off of the pain and back to her kwami. "What do you mean, tell my parents? Isn't that more dangerous than telling Chat Noir?"
"We need a Ladybug," Tikki pointed out. "A temporary Ladybug that we can rely on. And didn't you tell me that your mom took gymnastics and martial arts as a kid? She's got a jump-start on what she needs to be able to do as Ladybug. And if she has any questions, then she knows who the regular Ladybug is to consult you, and I can be nearby." When Marinette still hesitated, she added, "And you'll know that she won't be tempted to keep the Miraculous after you've healed and are ready to go out again, because she knows you and won't want to betray your trust."
That was true. Marinette worried her lip, thinking it over. Tikki made some good points, but Marinette was so used to holding her secret tight to her chest and not letting anyone know. Even knowing that Master Fu knew had felt strange at first. Chat Noir finding out... well, it wasn't quite as strange of a thought. It sort of felt like they had been heading in that direction ever since their partnership first started. Maybe the timing wasn't perfect, but Marinette had always thought that her partner would be the first one to know who was behind her mask.
But her parents would be on her list of people to tell, too, once it was safe. Marinette had been close to them ever since she was a child, and her being Ladybug- well, it was a part of a life that she couldn't tell them about, something that sometimes caused conflict when she couldn't explain why she hadn't been where she had been meant to be. Once it was safe- once Hawkmoth was gone- then she had thought that maybe she could tell them and they could get back some of the closeness that they had lost over the past year and a half.
And now Tikki was suggesting that she could tell them now.
"I- I can see your point," Marinette said slowly, even though everything in her- well, she just didn't want to. But she didn't have much of a choice. Her mom would probably be a good Ladybug, and Marinette could keep in contact with her and with Tikki. Her mind was already whirring, trying to come up with contingency plans, just in case things went wrong. Some ideas were already emerging, safeguards that would make sure that if something went wrong and her parents were akumatized or hit by a mind-controlling akuma, the damage wouldn't be nearly as bad as it might be otherwise. "And I guess I don't really have a choice, or better options. I'll do it."
Tikki beamed. "Okay! And this might be a blessing in disguise, Marinette. I know that your absences and exhaustion have been worrying your parents, so maybe having to share the Ladybug side of your life with them will help take some of the stress off."
"Yeah." Marinette took one deep, calming breath, and then another and another, until her parents entered her room again. They were carrying a few more of her school supplies and her cat pillow this time, apparently serious about transforming the guest room into something more familiar while she was staying there. As much as she wanted to put telling her parents off, to try to find another option, a better one, she couldn't afford to wait until it was too late and there was an akuma attacking and no time to properly explain things. So Marinette steadied herself as much as she could and opened her mouth.
"Mama? Papa? There's something that I need to tell you about..."
Marinette muffled a yawn after her parents had bid her good-night and headed down to their own bedroom. Her talk with them had gone better than she had worried it might, and things were all set up so that her mom would take the Ladybug Miraculous during the day, while Marinette took her earrings back at night to speed up her healing. The chest of dormant Miraculous had been pulled out and moved down to the guest room so that Marinette could reach it, and then tucked away in a new hiding spot. Everything was ready for her mom to take up the substitute Ladybug role, and yet...
No, that was a lie. There was still one thing that Marinette had to do.
"How much do you think I should tell Chat Noir, Tikki?" Marinette asked, tugging one last tangle out of her hair before tugging it back into pigtails for the night. "I mean, he knows Marinette. If I tell him that I broke my leg and he finds out that Marinette also broke her leg on the same day, he could figure me out. And if you were still hoping to avoid that..."
"You both have some growing to do before I would recommend a reveal," Tikki agreed. She frowned, thinking hard. "Well, the last akuma attack that you had was two days ago, and it was in the morning. You can say that you broke your leg right afterwards, so there's some distance between the two. He might still be suspicious, but there won't be any solid confirmation that it's you."
"And then he shouldn't say anything about broken legs when reporters ask," Marinette finished. "He can just say that I was involved in an unfortunate accident and need to take a short break while I recover or something. Short might not be the thing to call it, I know!" she hastily added before Tikki could scold her about trying to go back out before her leg was ready. "But we don't want Hawkmoth to know how long I'll be out. If he's always guessing, then hopefully he won't be as likely to try to take quite as much advantage of my absence."
Tikki spun in an excited circle. "That's a good thought! And Chat Noir is transformed now," she added. "I told Plagg that you needed to call him. Are you ready?"
Marinette gave that a few seconds' thought, then nodded. She knew what she wanted to say, and since it wasn't her normal room behind her, she should be fine. "Yeah. Tikki, transform me!"
As soon as the last of the sparkles faded, Ladybug's yo-yo rang. She answered at once, her partner's concerned face filling the screen at once.
"Is there something going on?" Chat Noir asked anxiously, before Ladybug had a chance to say anything. "Plagg's seemed worried since earlier this afternoon, and you've never contacted me like this before-"
"I've broken my leg."
Chat Noir's mouth promptly snapped shut, and his eyes grew huge.
"It happened a couple days ago, after we wrapped up with the akuma," Ladybug said, launching into the story that she and Tikki had decided on. "And- well, the doctor said that it was a pretty clean break- pretty straightforward, I mean, one break instead of a shatter or anything. And Tikki said that being a Miraculous holder would speed the process along a little, too. But it's still going to be a few weeks before I can fight again."
"A few weeks," Chat Noir echoed, clearly falling back on his butt. Behind him, Ladybug could see the familiar scene of the rooftops. Already, she ached to be able to go back out and run over the rooftops next to him. How she was going to survive weeks without going out- well, that was going to be torture. "Weeks. How- what are we going to do?"
"Well, good news is that I've arranged a replacement Ladybug," she told him, adjusting herself on the bed with a small hiss. She had held off on taking her pain meds for a bit so that she could be more clear-headed while talking to her partner, and- well, she was looking forward to being able to take her meds and having them kick in again. "It was Tikki's suggestion, really. My mom will be taking over for me until I've been cleared to have the cast removed and do physical activity again."
Chat Noir perked up at that. "I'll get to meet your mom? That's so cool! What's she like? I mean, I guess I'll find out," he added quickly. "But I bet she's great, just like you! She must be, if your kwami suggested her to be your substitute."
Ladybug nodded. She was super lucky.
"I hope I never get taken out of commission," Chat Noir said after a moment. "I wouldn't ever trust my father with my secret, and the other adults around... well, either I wouldn't trust them with it, or I would worry that they would return it afterwards. They would just, like, confiscate it, then make sure I never went out of their sight again."
Ladybug cringed. That wasn't good. It was something she had briefly worried about before she told her parents, but it wasn't- it wasn't a serious worry, not really. She trusted her parents more than that. "That's hard. And- well, fair warning, my dad might join you guys for a battle sometime. I had to tell both of them, and he- well, he was really enthusiastic about the idea of possibly getting to be a superhero."
Chat Noir laughed hard at that. "I can't wait! It sounds fun." Then he got more serious. "I still worry, though. Being Ladybug is hard. Managing for more than one battle? And if we get a really difficult battle?"
"I've already thought about that, and I have an idea." Ladybug resisted the urge to shift in her seat again. "I have all of the other Miraculous, so I can still slip away and transform, and then monitor the battle from a distance- I'm still figuring out how, but I should be able to jump from newsfeed to newsfeed, Tikki said. If I use Sass, then if something goes wrong- well, then I can reset, as long as I got Second Chance activated in time. And I'll use an earpiece so that I can tell my mom what to do differently, and she can tell me what's going on."
"Ooh, I like that!" Chat Noir said appreciatively. "Hopefully it'll work."
"Hopefully," Ladybug agreed. She tried and failed to keep herself from yawning. "And we can adjust as we go, but I think it's a good place to be in right now. As good as it can be, at least. I'd rather be out there myself."
"Well, rest and take care of yourself," Chat Noir told her. "Don't push too hard, or you can get set back again. And once you've been cleared, it might be a good idea to ease yourself back in, instead of just jumping back to full-time. Just to be sure."
Ladybug nodded. In theory, it was easy enough to say that. In reality, she knew that she was going to be itching to just go again as soon as the cast was off. "Right."
"Go to bed, my Lady," Chat Noir told her, smiling gently at her. "Thanks for letting me know."
"Of course." She smothered another yawn. "G'night, Chat Noir."
"Good night, Ladybug."
Their call ended, and Ladybug slumped back against her pillows with a sigh. That was done, and- oh, she had forgotten to tell him what to say when reporters asked about Coccinelle being there instead of Ladybug. She quickly messaged him with that bit of information, then released her transformation with a sigh.
Now everything was set up for her mom and Chat Noir to continue forward until her leg had healed up and Marinette could go back out again.
Maybe it wasn't ideal, but- well, Marinette hoped that things would go to plan. That was really all she could do.
a/n: wooo new multi-chapter story! Not sure how many it'll be yet- for once, I'm starting to post before everything is written and complete- but considering that I plan to update this story every other week (schedule allowing- my cabin DOES have internet, it turns out, but as the season goes on we'll be doing a lot of traveling), I should be able to get ahead and not be scrambling to finish chapters last-minute. Hopefully. We'll see how busy it gets once my season really gets going.
As always, comments make my day! :)