posted: 10.30.20
word count: 1.649
prompt: sacrifice

Marinette's screams pierce Adrien's heart, but there's very little he can do about it as he single-handedly fought off the mind-controlled zombie staff from an interrupted photo shoot. That alone was taking enough of Adrien's concentration, and still, there was a part of him that wanted to react and run to her as he's done for the last six years. Marinette was screaming for her brother, and Adrien felt like everything was all his fault, and that might be true, he may have caused this one. If he had to do it all over again he would certainly try to do things a little differently, but he would be damned if someone bullied his baby sister and got away with it.

However, his words could have been a little less… harsh.

...Yeah, no, Adrien thought about it and decided the Akuma would definitely happen again.

In the corner of his eye, he can see Ladybug approach the golden cage, probably attempting to calm Marinette down; instead, her screams only grew louder. Adrien's heart hurt a little more. He needed to get up there and convince his sister to either hush or leave with one of them. Marinette can be stubborn when she wanted something, but hopefully, Adrien will be able to convince her even as Chat Noir.

"Do you have any idea where the kid's brother is?" Ladybug suddenly appeared at Adrien's back. He shifted his focus to only the zombie staff in front of him, knowing his partner had his back. Fighting in circles got exhausting.

"Yeah, I got him somewhere safe before the Akuma could find him. Obviously, I was too late to grab his sister." He wasn't. Adrien thought he had locked Marinette in the dressing room. Either she escaped or one of the zombies removed her.

"Well, do you think you can go get him?" Ladybug growled. It sounded like she took a particularly hard hit. "She won't let me anywhere near her, let alone stop screaming."

"Can you take things from here?" He asked. "The Akuma's gone to search for Adrien again, but these guys are a pain."

"Of course, Kitty-Cat," Ladybug winked at him. "A couple of zombies? Don't insult me."

"I'll see if I can get her to leave with me," he told her. "Try not to get too bored without me." With that, Adrien gave a particularly hard kick to a zombie then leaped away to the golden cage Marinette was being held. She was a mess, her pigtails had come loose and her face was red and covered in tears. She was hiccuping and Adrien's heart broke from having put her through all of this."

"Hey, there, Princess," Adrien crouched down to Marinette's height. "How about you and I get out of here?"

"You're not Adrien, so go away!" Marinette screamed. Adrien winced. Her throat was going to be sore tomorrow and her voice probably hoarse. He made plans to make her a big cup of tea tonight but knew he would more likely be in his father's office for a lecture instead. Hopefully, there would still be enough time to brush Marinette's hair, maybe even time for cuddles before bed. Maybe he'll let her sleep with him in his bed tonight. Adrien will probably have to let her sleep in his bed tonight. That was fine. He could use the comfort himself.

"What if I told you that I knew where your big brother is? Will you let me take you to him?"

"I WANT ADRIEN!" Marinette screamed again. "BRING ME MY BROTHER!"

"Princess, Princess calm down," Adrien called. Marinette only continued to scream incoherently and his heart hammered. She was going to make herself sick at this rate, and it was not going to be anyone else's fault but his own. He got it, she was scared, and he and Ladybug were probably not making it any better. Chat Noir was not making it any better. "Marinette, please, stop screaming!" Adrien didn't like the pleading in his voice, but he didn't know what else to do. He can hear the sound of the Akuma approaching, the thunder of his steps and the lightning of his mind-control striking the local bystanders. He needed to get Marinette out of here and he needed to do it fast. The sooner she was put somewhere safe and out of the way, the sooner Adrien can concentrate on quickly getting rid of the Akuma so that he can get back to her and get them home.

"You know my name?" For once, Marinette didn't scream, and Adrien decided that he might as well blow the entire lid off.

"Of course I know your name," he told her gently. "I'm your big brother, how can I not?"

"You're not Adrien," Marinette's calm gives way to anger and she inhales a deep breath to begin screaming again. Adrien scrambles to speak before that can happen.

"Marinette Agreste, don't you dare scream, or I won't braid your hair for a week." Adrien threatens. There's a pause, and Adrien can see in her face that Marinette doesn't know what to do.

"I like my braids, they make my hair pretty and curly," she pouts in the end. Adrien could deal with pouting. Pouting was not screaming.

"I know. I am Adrien," he tells her. "I'll prove it to you just as soon as I get you out of here. What do you say?"

"I want to stay with you,"

"I know," Adrien resisted the urge to bang his head against the bars of the cage, "but if I'm worried about my favorite lady getting hurt, I won't be able to make the bad guy go away."

"Do you promise you're Adrien?" Marinette's voice is small, and Adrien's heart breaks a little more at the desperation. At the fear on his sister's face.

"I pinky swear it," he offered a clawed finger. Marinette grabbed it with her own through the bars of the cage, and they pressed their thumbs together, Adrien being careful not to prick her with the sharp nails. Satisfied, Marinette held up her arms and reached for him, asking without words for him to pick her up. "Back up for a moment, Marinette. Cataclysm!" Dark energy gathered around Adrien's hand and he sliced through the bars of the cage, creating a hole large enough for Marinette to crawl through. Immediately, the timer for his transformation beeps, reminding him that he's now on countdown. On the ground, Ladybug fought with the Akuma villain, her yo-yo a pink blur as she attacked, and withdrew, still dodging zombies. Adrien knew that once he got Marinette far enough away and recharged Plagg, he would be able to help her defeat him within a few minutes easily. She just had to hold on a little while longer.

Adrien ran as far as five minutes would allow him to, finding a local library that would be suitable to deposit his sister for the time being. He stopped outside in a shaded alleyway and let his transformation fall. He stood in front of Marinette so that she was able to watch him go from superhero to big brother before her eyes.

"It's really you!" she cried, throwing her arms around his waist and squeezing harder than she should have had the strength to. "I was so scared the bad guy got you."

"Are you kidding me? Your big brother is too tough for that. I'm what the bad guys are afraid of."

"No, they aren't. They kick your butt."

"You take that back!"

"Nuh-uh. They kick your butt. You just kick them harder." Marinette lets Adrien go, fresh tears shining in her eyes. Already, her voice is rough from the screaming, and she's rubbing at her eyes in sleepiness. "Can we go home now?"

"Not yet, Marinette," Adrien reached down to draw her into his arms and gave her another squeeze. "I gotta finish helping Ladybug. Why don't we get you inside? You can sit in the library in one of the big bean bag chairs like you like and read a book for a little? And I'll pick you up as soon as we finish?" Adrien didn't really like the plan, but it was the best one he had.

"Okay," she agreed easily, probably the sleepiness getting to her. So Adrien found Marinette a bean bag chair and dragged it near a librarian's desk. He made sure his sister was comfy with a picture book in her lap, and kissed her forehead goodbye. Before he left, he asked a librarian to keep an eye on her while he went outside to "take a phone call."

The Akuma went down in only minutes after that, and Adrien only stuck around just long enough to give Ladybug their celebratory fist bump. Back at the library, he found Marinette right where he left her, curled up with her book, and asleep. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her back to the studio where the photo shoot had been scheduled, the Miraculous Cure having repaired all of the damage from the fight. There was still time for the photo shoot to be saved, Adrien supposed, and had this been a job for just Adrien, he knew he would have been made to see things through until the end. However, with Marinette involved… He would have Nathalie reschedule the whole thing. It wasn't like she'll have a choice, literally no one will be willing to wake a Marinette from her nap. Not unless they wanted her Akumatized too.