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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

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The Akuma landed on his waiting palm, a weightless presence. Papillon cupped his right hand over the butterfly, feeling his muscles knot and his heart and lungs clench as he pulled negative energy out of the world around him, focusing and funneling it down and into the waiting fire-spirit.

The Akuma’s wings became glowing purple… then slowly char black formed over it as Papillon continued to feed it negative energy, until only a few tiny cracks of its true color shone through.

Finished, Papillon took his right hand away, letting the Akuma fly free as it fluttered out of the window’s missing center pane of glass, heading out over Paris with deceptive speed.

Taking his cane out from under his right arm, Papillon rested it on the floor, both hands clenched over the deep purple terrarium jewel that capped his cane. He closed his eyes, breathing out slowly as he settled himself, waiting for his Akuma to reach his soon-to-be-Champion. He opened his eyes, purple light flaring in the outline of a butterfly before his face.

“And so it begins.”

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“Are you sure you’re okay with having to hide away for such a long time, Tikki?” Marinette asked, pacing her room, unable to sit still.

Tikki giggled. “Of course I am! I hide away in your purse for hours, and I’ve hidden away in your room for a long time before this time too when you’ve had guests.”

“Well, yeah but the guests aren’t Chat Noir. His hearing is really, really, REALLY good and if he hears you he’s going to try to find out what he heard and if THAT happens he’ll find you and if he finds you then he’ll know I’M Ladybug and I don’t want him to know that I’m Ladybug, it’s supposed to be a SECRET-I mean obviously, that’s why it’s a secret identity- but that means even from him and if he finds out who I am then he’ll tell me who HE is and then I’ll have to worry about HIM all the time and what if Papillon finds out that I know or he knows and he TARGETS us?! …well, would he though, cause I mean it’s not like he’s targeted us or tried to find out who we are- well, he did with Lady Wifi, so there is that- but he’s gotten control of my Chat THREE TIMES and he never even tried to find out who Chat was or asked Chat who I was, I don’t think anyway… I wish Chat could remember so we would KNOW but… No, I don’t wish Chat could remember unless he WANTS to remember, because remembering doing horrible things or not having your own free will would have to be HORRIBLE and I don’t want him to remember something horrible so I’m glad he doesn’t remember… Do you think he’s glad he doesn’t remember or that he wants to? …I wish I could ask him, but I can’t really, can I? Not as Ladybug and not as me. Uuuuuugh. But why does his hearing have to be so stupidly good? It’d make it so much easier for you to HIDE if it wasn’t. So you can’t… I don’t know what you do when you hide away, Tikki, but you can’t do that this time and I don’t want you to be miserable and-”

“Marinette.” Tikki flew over and gave her Chosen’s cheek a quick, comforting, hug. “I’ll be fine. There’s plenty of things I can do that won’t make any noise at all, don’t worry! I may even find a nice little hidden nook and watch you two play video games!”

That was, after all, what she’d done the last time these two had played together, although this time she wouldn’t have Plagg to snuggle with while she watched, which was too bad.

“Okay. If you’re sure?”

“I am,” Tikki promised. “You just have fun with Chat Noir toni-Oh!”

Tikki glanced to the north, then slowly followed the sensation of ‘Plagg’ up, up, up and closer.

Speaking of…

Giggling, Tikki darted off to find a comfortable hiding place.

Marinette let out her breath in one big gust, then slowly took a long breath in. She glanced up at a faint thud on her balcony, then there was a rap of someone lightly knocking on glass. She headed up the stairs to her loft and stood on her bed, raising up onto her toes as she unlocked the skylight and pushed it up and open.

Chat Noir offered a smile and wave where he stood on her balcony, leaning with marked casualness against the railing, a small gym bag slung over his shoulders. “Hi, Princess.”

Marinette opened her mouth to ask ‘why ‘Princess’’ and paused, eyes darting over Chat Noir; from the faint droop of his cat-ears, to his tensed eyebrows, to his stiff shoulders and ever so faintly hunched posture.

…He was expecting her to chase him away, wasn’t he? Or at least to turn him away. Had Alya mentioned to him that Marinette had initially turned down the idea of him hanging out with her? Or was Chat feeling uncertain? If so… WHY? Chat was confidant- if not OVER confidant- in all things, but most certainly about himself… Look at the utter silliness of the mess that was him ‘protecting’ her from Evillustrator. (She still had giggles about how ridiculously over the top he’d been ‘introducing’ himself. He was just so… so… EXTRA.) Maybe to him playing shining knight was one thing… but being FRIENDS was something altogether different?

Marinette heaved a slightly annoyed sigh. Honestly. Her Chat was so high maintenance at times, as well as so SILLY, even if he was well-meaning and just a little bit cute.

“Well?”

Chat jumped slightly.

Marinette smiled and pushed the skylight so that it leaned back against the chimney wall and made a little come-on gesture, crooking her fingers like she was trying to coax an actual cat to come closer. “Are you coming in, or not?”

Chat’s cat-ears perked up and he leaned forward ever so slightly, hopeful and confused. “What?”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “What do you mean, ‘what’? I’m inviting you in, Chaton.”

“B-but…”

Marinette chuckled. “Well, it’d be hard to play games up here, wouldn’t it? …and what kind of friend would I be if I left you all alone in the cold? …Even if it isn’t cold because, you know, it’s May and all, but still.”

Chat Noir simply lit up at the word friend, and he bounded happily to the skylight, swinging in smoothly once Marinette moved out of the way so that he landed lightly on the floor of her loft rather than on her bed.

Shaking her head at the silliness of kittens in general and her partner in particular, Marinette closed the skylight. Hopping off her bed, she led the way to the main floor of her loft, Chat bounding happily in her wake.

He pulled up short halfway down the stairs from her loft, eyes darting to the closed trapdoor, his cat-ears twitching. “Oh! Your mom is coming up, I should-”

Marinette reached over and patted his hand. “You should stay right there.”

Chat Noir blinked at her. “Wha-”

“I told them you would be visiting,” Marinette explained. “I didn’t want any panicking or confusion or to hide you or anything from them, and… well, I mean I know you’re gonna be careful, but-”

“But they can protect themselves if they know?”

Marinette winced and nodded.

Chat Noir shifted nervously, then shot to stand ramrod straight, hands clasped behind his back as Sabine pushed the trapdoor open. “Hello, Madame Cheng, thank you for allowing me to impose on your goodwill and the goodwill of your daughter and husband, I-”

Sabine laughed lightly, covering her mouth with one hand, her eyes dancing merrily. “It is no imposition. We are honored that one of the heroes of Paris will be spending time in our home.” She looked back down the stairs. “Isn’t that right, Tom?”

“Ask him if he wants fresh baked cookies!!”

Chat Noir’s face lit up and he glanced over at Marinette, eyes pleading.

Marinette tried to stand firm… but Kitten eyes were apparently her one weakness, so she nodded with a sigh. (It wasn’t that he was cute. He totally was not cute at all. He was just woeful and PATHETIC in a slightly adorable way.)

“Yes, please!!” Chat Noir said, almost bouncing where he stood on the stairs to Marinette’s loft.

“Fresh cookies coming right up!” Tom called up the stairs, and Marinette could hear him hurrying to the kitchen. Oh NO was he making cookies from SCRATCH? Chat would be here EVERY night if her parents spoiled him like this!!

Sabine was eyeing both Marinette and Chat Noir with an expression Marinette couldn’t place, her mom’s eyes lingering on Chat Noir’s face, then darting to his frame before looking at Marinette for a brief moment… and then her mom’s expression softened.

“Maman?”

Sabine kept the soft smile. “It’s nothing, ma chérie. I’m just glad that you were willing to extend the invitation of friendship to Chat Noir. You both enjoy your game… Is there anything you would like to drink, Chat Noir?”

Chat unclasped his hands to rub at the back of his head. “Some milk maybe?”

“Of course.” Sabine waved and headed down the stairs. Once she was out of sight, Chat bounded down the rest of the stairs to bounce to a stop beside Marinette, wrapping his arms around her in an enthusiastic hug. “Thank you!” he chirped.

Marinette smiled, her mom’s odd behavior forgotten as she laughed and shoved Chat away, heading to the trapdoor and leading him down to the main floor, where she claimed her favorite spot on the couch while Chat carefully pulled off his gym bag and put it down out of the way.

“Okay, Chaton. Game time; and I guarantee-” Marinette grabbed one of the two remotes and tossed it at Chat Noir, who caught it with a wide grin. “-I am gonna OWN you.”

Chapter Text

Nino found out that he’d missed calls from Alya when he took a break from trying to get his mix set up for this coming Sunday and saw that his phone was flashing wildly with notifications. Picking it up and unlocking it, he winced when he saw just how many times Alya had tried to call and text him.

Maybe he shouldn’t have had the phone silenced…

Or at least had it where he could see it.

Wincing, he shut down his headphones and pulled them off, then hit Alya’s icon and put the phone to his ear. It didn’t even get a full ring before it was answered.

By a silent Alya.

Man, oh man… he could totally HEAR the fuming and the glaring.

“Hiiiiiiiiii?”

…Was it worrying that he could tell that the glare had just gone up a couple million notches over a non-video call?

“So, um. I was totally working on getting my mixes ready for Sunday, and I left my phone on silent where I couldn’t see it, I’m sorry, babe, I won’t do it again, please don’t kill me?”

Okay, the glare seemed to have gone down a few notches… at the very least he no longer expected his phone to ice over, so that was progress.

“Are you okay? Why’d you call only my cell? Why not call the landline when you didn’t get through?”

Alya let out a long annoyed breath. #“Because I’m kinda freaking out.”#

Nino frowned. Welp, that sounded serious. He went over to his computer and sat down, booting it up, he was probably gonna need it. “About what, babe?”

#“You… So I was thinking about Monday.”#

Nino blinked. “Uh… huh…?” He really hoped Alya wasn’t going to try to pull one of her infamous ‘Rules were made to be broken!’ moments… He was pretty certain that Plagg had been REALLY serious about the whole ‘don’t talk about Chat Noir and secrets’ thing.

#“Huh? OH! No, no not that. Honest. Sinking ships, I get it, honest. Plaaaaaaaaaaaarfolomew is usually, like, super easy going. If he gets serious, then it’s REALLY serious.”#

“…Plarfolomew. Really? We’re butchering Space Balls now?”

#“Shut up, Space Balls is the best ever.”#

“Not arguing THAT, but… Babe. Plarfolomew?”

#“Shut up or it’ll be a week without smooching.”#

“Yes, babe.”

#“Right answer.”#

“So… Monday causing freak out?”

Alya blew out a huge breath, and Nino head her flop into her computer chair. #“Yeah, it… What Mademoiselle Bustier said before she got akumatized, about Lycée and… well, real life and ADULT life and… stuff. “#

Nino frowned. “Okay? I don’t know why that-”

#“I don’t know HOW to become what I want to be when I grow up!”#

Nino opened his mouth to answer, then paused, frowning. “What, really?”

#“…What?”#

Nino sighed. “Babe, you’re always like a million steps ahead of the game, so I thought… you had a plan, you know?”

#“Oh, well, yeah I do but… I just… I want to be a reporter, you know. Or I think I do. Maybe I want to be a newscaster or maybe a journalist. I know what I WANT to do, what I think- know- I’d be good at, but I’m not really sure what I’d be good at IS, or at least what the job would be called. Does that make sense?”#

Nino nodded before his brain caught up with him on the little detail that, oh yeah, audio-only conversation. “Yeah, it does.” It sounded a lot like how he’d been before he’d figured out that DJing was a near perfect fit for what he enjoyed, what he was good at, and what was a ‘real’ job… because it didn’t matter how awesome a job sounded on paper, if no one was hiring, or if the job didn’t exist outside of paper, then he’d be stuck, and…

Well.

Yeah, no thank you.

#“I just. Do I want to be a reporter? Or do I wanna be a newcaster? Or, heck, do I want to be a journalist?”# Alya huffed. #“It’s just so much. I lost track of time, forgot this was the last year of Collège. Forgot how specialized Lycée is, overall.”#

Nino smiled. “If it helps, Babe, I forgot too.”

#“You did? But you and Adrien and Chloé were like the only people not writing stuff down when Mademoiselle Bustier was talking about Lycée and stuff.”#

“Oh, well…” Nino rubbed the back of his neck. “I mean I forgot how specialized Lycée is, but… well, I’ve known for a long time what I want to be and have an idea of how to get there, now I just need to see which Lycée courses and stuff I need to go for, but that’s it really.”

#“Oh, that’d be nice. I just- I WANT to be able to tell people the truth and the news and just… TELL THEM stuff, you know? But now I’m wondering if I’d be better off going independent or online, like expanding the Ladyblog or something, rather than trying to get into a big company..”# Alya sighed and Nino heard her spin her computer chair around.

#“But at the same time I’m thinking maybe the best bet is to at least go for an internship at a big company for a while, work there WHILE I do independent articles- if that’s legal, I’m not sure that it is. What if they make me sign a contract not to do something like that? Do I write the articles for practice and just not PUBLISH them? Augh, why does adulating have to be HARD?! …Is it okay if I rant for a bit? Maybe that’ll help me get things clear in my head.”#

Nino smiled. “Rant away, Babe. Do you want me to just listen or do you want advice or what?”

#“Advice. OBVIOUSLY. If I’d just wanted someone to listen I’d be ranting to the twins.”#

Nino couldn’t help but laugh as he pictured that.

#“Oh hush you.”#

“Yes, Babe.”

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“Ha-HA!!” Marinette crowed as she won the match, leaping out of her seat to dance in victory even as D’Vorah did her win pose. “Take THAT, Chaton!!”

Chat Noir, for his part, just watched her with an expression that was somewhat amused, somewhat sad, somewhat offended and somewhat confused… all at the same time. It was a very impressive expression Marinette felt…

You know, for the guy who LOST. AGAIN! HA! She probably shouldn’t rub his face in it this time…

Well…

“I thought you said you were good at this, Chaton?”

Nah, it was fine. He knew she was joking, and it wasn’t like he couldn’t stand to lose a little wind from his sails.

Chat sighed and leaned back on the couch, staring up at the ceiling before smiling at her. “I am. One of the best players in my school at Mecha Strike III. I’m not as good at Mortal Kombat though, or other combat games… which is pretty obvious given how many times you’ve gotten the cool kills in Mortal Kombat. I already knew you’re better than me at this though. As you’ve shown. Multiple times.”

Tom glanced over at the duo from where he was sitting on the couch with the third controller. “So combat games are not the type you typically dedicate your time to, Chat Noir?” he asked.

Marinette scowled at her father behind Chat Noir’s head. It was just CHAT, he could take a little teasing, her dad didn’t need to step in.

Chat shook his head. “No, Monsieur Dupain. I like puzzle solvers and RPGs the best, although combat games are fun.” Chat instantly lit up and bounded over towards his gym bag and started digging through it. Marinette rolled her eyes, smiling at the living embodiment of goofiness that was her partner.

In a moment he was back, his arms full of video games. So full that several off them slipped out of his grasp to fall to the floor as he bounded back to her. “I almost forgot! I brought some of my favorite games with me! I didn’t know if you’d have them and I thought even if you did, well then I could just put the ones you had back in my bag, and if you didn’t have them or hadn’t played them maybe you’d like to and if you like the longer games you can borrow mine and would you like to play?! Oh!” Chat juggled his armful of games and held up one. “Wind Waker! It’s really cute and funny and it’s a ZELDA game and the combat is fun, and there’s puzzle solving and story and it’s great! Would you like to try it? Or…” he dug through his games again. “Seven! It’s like the best Final Fantasy EVER!”

Marinette opened her mouth, uncertain if she should say yes, or no, or-

Chat Noir used kitten eyes.

It was very effective.

Marinette sighed. “Sure. Why not?”

Chapter Text

“Okay… So, it looks like what I REALLY want is to be a journalist, cause I want to do more than read the report that someone else researched to a camera, I want to DO the research and tell people the facts and stuff,” Alya said, frowning at her computer screen and the twenty odd tabs she had open at the moment.

It was weird. She’d spent so much time just assuming that what she WANTED was to be a reporter, because that’s what Majestia, and Superman and so many others were in their civilian disguises and obviously that was the best possible career.

Comic book superheroes couldn’t have the wrong idea, right?

Alya sighed.

Apparently they could. It made a little part of her wonder what else she had assumed her superheroes were ‘right’ about that was just glossed over, half researched or even straight out fake. It was a disquieting thought at best.

#“Okay, Babe, lemme see if I’ve got this right…”#

Alya smiled as she listened to Nino tapping his way through tabs and shuffling papers. Talk about going the extra mile. She really had lucked out when Ladybug had locked her and Nino in that cage together and they’d decided to TALK instead of… well, lots of things.

#“It LOOKS like multimedia journalism fits what you want best… actually-”# Alya heard a lot of paper shuffling and smiled.

Seriously.

Extra. Mile.

He was getting serious smooches and snuggles for this.

#“Okay, I wrote down all the stuff that you said you WANT in your job and stuff and it looks like multimedia journalism is a perfect fit, reporting not so much. Does that sound right?”#

Alya nodded. “Yeah. Thanks for letting me rant, Nino. …and for writing stuff down and web hunting with me. Saying it out loud to someone makes things make more sense, or lets me catch things that DON’T make sense. Or well, it made sense in my head until the second I say it out loud and then-”

#“Yeah, I know what you mean.”# There was a bit of furious tapping on Nino’s end. #“So, any idea which school you want to go to after Lycée?”#

Alya went through the tabs on her computer. “Um, hold on… Yeah. Dauphine Université, their Institute of Journalism looks really good and it’s REALLY close to my place, I mean forget biking distance or busing, IPJ is WALKING distance. Plus they’ve got a really solid focus on media and tech which, well that is without a doubt both the way of the future AND the way I wanna go.” She sighed, leaning back and saving her open tabs to a new bookmark folder. “Everything else, like do I start writing my own articles or go for an internship and stuff…”

#“That can wait, right? At least till you’re done with Lycée and are heading to Université.”#

“Yup.” Alya rubbed the back of her neck. “So…” she tapped her word doc open and skimmed the notes. “Check my logic, here. Lycée professionel, talk to Mademoiselle Bustier to get an idea on what courses to take there for journalism, or at least who she thinks I should talk to at Lycée to find THAT out. Study a ton and stuff so I can get into Dauphine Université after Lycée. In the mean time… try to make the Ladyblog more professional while still keeping it free… maybe make a new blog where I can write articles and stuff and post in a more professional setting.”

The ‘make the Ladyblog more professional and maybe make a separate pro-stuff-only site’ had been Nino’s suggestion, but Alya was more than willing to admit that it was a good one. “Hey, how’d you come up with the idea of the ‘more pro’ stuff?”

Nino laughed. #“Cause it’s what I’m doing for DJing… mostly, anyway.”#

Alya blinked. “What, really?”

…Come to think of it, she’d had this whole conversation be about her and reporting and journalism and stuff, hadn’t she?

“Want to tell me about your DJ plans and stuff? I’d love to hear about it, I mean you’ve got it all figured out, right?”

#“Well… kinda mostly? But it’s mostly boring stuff.”#

“I doubt that,” Alya said firmly. Even if the DJ talk did turn out to be boring, she could suffer through it. He'd earned some serious points.

#“Thanks, Babe,”# Nino said, and Alya could hear his bashful smile in his voice. #“So, I’ve known that I want to be a DJ for, like, EVER… and around when I started Collège, a new guy, who was like 66 or maybe older, moved into our building complex who was a DJ. He practiced in the middle of the day, I guess cause the complex was mostly empty around then… and I just… well, followed the music-”#

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Well… This was embarrassing.

Marinette glared at the screen, her nose and lips scrunching up. She snapped her head to the side to glare at Chat Noir when she heard a snicker, but he was just blinking at her. He WAS smiling, but she knew Chat, there was no way he’d wiped a snicker or the smirk that went with it off his face that fas-

The snicker came again, and Marinette twisted on the couch to glare in accusation at her mom. “Mamaaaaaaaaaaan!!”

Sabine covered her mouth with her hands, trying to smother a giggle. “I’m sorry, ma chérie… it’s just- you’re so good at combat games. I’m… not used to-” Sabine waved at the TV screen.

Marinette huffed and crossed her arms and turned around and slumped to sulk low against the cushions.

So it turned out that while Marinette was AMAZING at combat games, the best in the school probably (especially side-scrollers, or evolved side-scrollers, or just any ‘true’ combat games) she was not so good at puzzle games anymore due to the whole ‘not playing them any more’ thing… and she was average- if not annoyingly slightly below average- at RPGs, apparently especially ‘classic’ RPGs.

Grumbling, Marinette shoved the controller at Chat. “Show me how the stupid combat works again.”

“Sure,” Chat said, taking the controller back and backing out of the death screen to the last save. He sent the blocky-almost-chibi-how-was-that-considered-passable-CGI-it-would-be-evicted-from-Minecraft servers forward until the fight triggered again. “See, Final Fantasy is REALLY old school, so it’s totally turn based…”

“So why are they standing there with their BACKS to the monsters?”

“Cause they surprised us.”

“…What.”

“They did. So they get to sneak attack and once each character gets hit they turn around and then the bad guys go again, then we can go. This is still the start of the game, so they won’t hit super hard, so our health’ll hold up long enough for us to use health and mana potions, plus we’ve got a few phoenix downs in case someone gets killed.”

Marinette grumbled, but paid careful attention to what, and how, Chat dealt with the fight.

Okay, while crude and annoying, it DID make some sense at least. The fight over, Chat handed the controller back to Marinette and happily sat back, eyes bright.

Marinette sighed. Her kitten was utterly ridiculous.

“Maybe we should try another game?” Marinette asked. “This one seems kinda dull.”

Annnnnd the tragic kitten eyes were back. That was NOT fair.

“No, no! Honest it’s really really awesome and yes the graphics are silly but the STORY! And the CHARACTERS! They’re really and utterly and Really, REALLY awesome and PLEEEAAAAAASE?!”

…Marinette was a little annoyed at how effective kitten eyes were.

“Fiiiiiiiiiiiine… But this had better be the BEST plot and the best CHARACTERS in the known UNIVERSE, Chaton.”

Chapter Text

Marinette found herself smiling, and breathed a sigh of relief when she got Cloud to run down the stairs into the old ruin, Vincent and Tifa coming to stand beside him and she saw Aerith’s familiar little figure kneeling on the platform on the water ahead. They’d caught up to her, and now she could rejoin the party and help save the day!

Vincent started to move to follow Cloud and Cloud’s little sprite made a ‘wait here’ gesture and Marinette sent him jumping across the pillars towards Aerith. Okay, she could kinda see why Chat liked this game now. The graphics WERE silly, and the plot was a little basic so far, but it was engaging and the music was kinda cool.

Cloud’s sprite landed at the base of the stairs and the screen faded to black.

Oooo, a cut scene!

“HEY!” she shouted at the screen when Cloud summoned his sword and almost used it against the silent, praying, Aerith “Don’t you do that!”

She hrphed, moderately appeased, when he couldn’t go through with it and backed off.

“Wait, what is who making you do wha- Wait, is this like with the Black Materia? Shoot, Sephiroth is here, isn’t h-” the screen faded to black again and a REAL cutscene, one of the ones with the ‘better’ graphics started. The light brightened and Aerith smiled at Cloud, and then-

“…Did… did Sephiroth just-”

Chat Noir nodded silently.

Marinette stared, helpless, as the cut scene continued, Aerith hair falling out of its braid (had Sephiroth cut the tie when he’d attacked? ), the camera following the glowing mana bauble for a moment. She didn’t even care when the game went back to the simpler graphics.

“What just… I don’t- And what was with Sephiroth’s lines about uniting with ultimate power and Cloud having feelings and- AUGH, BOSS FIGHT!” Marinette snatched up the controller that she’d dropped and started button mashing.

The boss defeated (and Marinette grumbled at the level up and items received screens because was this REALLY the time?! ) and somehow the simple white text on the black screen had more impact than they’d had last time. “Puppet?”

She watched as Vincent and Tifa had their silent good-byes to Aerith, then Cloud picked up her still form and carried her into the water… and let her go, Aerith sinking down into the silent depths.

Eyes wide, she slowly turned to stare at Chat Noir. “What… was that?”

“According to my Mom, who is- ...was… -one of the biggest Final Fantasy fans EVER- That was one of the most shocking, cinematic and genre-defining moments of video games,” Chat answered, serious. “Before this scene… nothing like THAT had ever happened in RPGs before, not really. The build-up, the cutting your feet out from under you, the permanent consequences…” Chat shrugged. “I used to play this with my Mom all the time. She told me that this is why Seven has such a massive following almost twenty years later, and everyone was just so SHOCKED when it happened during the game when they all did the first play through, and it’s why I have all the games set in Seven’s ‘world’, as well as having the film.”

“There’s a film?!”

Chat nodded, smiling. “Advent Children. I’ve got Last Order and ‘On the Way to a Smile’ too. Wanna borrow it all?”

“YES!”

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Nino really had it all figured out. Alya was kind of in awe at the moment, because WOW.

Because, yeah, like Alya (and- she’d be willing to bet a year’s allowance- likely the entire class, if not the entire school) he was still figuring out what how to ‘adult’.

Unlike Alya, he’d both already figured out what he wanted to do (DJ) and he’d already gotten a start towards that milestone, and indeed had gotten started a while ago… three years ago in fact when he first started hanging out with Tobias Garcia, the DJ who’d moved into his building complex. (Actually Tobias sounded like a cool guy, for someone who was apparently old enough to be a grandpa. Alya was glad that Nino still chatted with him and hung out and stuff, despite Tobias having had had most of his time taken up with raising his recently found - apparently after being through dead in a fire that claimed Garcia's daughter and son-in-law five or six years ago - grandson, Alain... who Nino apparently was friends and fellow 'music dudes' on the school's Radio Team with). Tobias had explained what being a DJ was and taught Nino the basics, and Nino had steadily and calmly heading towards his end goal since then.

He’d saved for nearly 3 years to get his DJ booth, and he’d been buying records and the other gear whenever he could.

#“So when I got the speakers early this summer, that was really when I could start DOING stuff instead of practicing. I’ve done a few small events, like for birthday parties and stuff, but getting on ‘The Challenge’ was my first REAL step towards the real, straight-up, SERIOUS plan.”#

Alya smiled. “Was winning four times part of the straight-up serious plan?”

#“That one… no. And honestly I don’t think anyone planned on that. I know TVi and Kidz+ sure didn’t. But the prize I’ve gotten for each win let me buy some REALLY good mixing software, and Adrien asked Natalie and she helped me set up a bank account with stuff so when I put money in it, the interest builds up and I get more money over time and stuff. It was really complex and stuff but it works. But I think I’m just gonna go for a Lycée général, or maybe techniques de la musque et la danse, no university… keep looking into getting a job at a club or the like, maybe keep doing parties on the side and stuff, and-”#

Alya frowned. “Wait. Nino, go back.”

#“Uh, okay. What part am I going back to?”#

“Kidz+. What do you mean they didn’t plan on you winning four times?”

#“Uh. Well, so after my second win Aurore came over to my place to warn me-”#

“WARN you?” Alya blinked. “Wait, Aurore?”

#“Aurore Beauréal, girl that made it to the finals for the position of Weather girl back in September?”#

“Aurore… she was Climatika, right? …What did come over to your place to warn you about?”

#“She… well, she’s a hundred percent certain that the weather girl contest was rigged. Big time. …And I think she might be right, especially when I thought about that stunt they pulled with Jack Gimault and Adrien’s dad and stuff.”#

Alya’s eyes went wide. “Seriously?”

#“Yeah. I mean I asked Adrien later and he said that according to his dad and Natalie. Kidz+ straight up lied and said they were some big name person who was doing an interview to work at the Agreste Company’s Butterfly line, you know the fine jewelry one? …it’s like they were setting Jack up to fail, but the real target mighta been Adrien’s dad. …But getting back to Aurore and the Weather Girl contest. You know how they only showed the percentages on the final vote for the Weather Girl contest? Aurore said that Mireille got more than a MILLION votes more than Aurore did.”#

“Well, that’s a lot, but-”

#“Alya, there’s only about TWO million people in Paris, and TVi and Kidz+ doesn’t broadcast outside of Paris, not really.”#

Alya blinked. “I-hold on a sec…” she pulled up a fresh tab and did a few quick searches. “Holy… shit.”

#“Yeah, that was my reaction. A few days later I did some searches about how much having all the video ad space in Paris for a full day costs, and how much all the banners and the huge signs and everything else would cost… then I looked up how many people were at Kidz+ and some other stuff and… it really doesn’t add up.”#

Alya’s jaw clenched and she pulled up the Kidz+ website, staring at the on-camera personalities and the contests they had. This was-

#“Alya. Alya, BREATHE. Babe, you need to calm down!”#

Nino’s voice snapped her back to herself and Alya closed her eyes and focused on calming down, smiling as she heard Nino start some music up. She focused on that and one breathing in, holding it, then letting it out slowly.

What Nino was talking about was messed up, and it looked like he might be right about it, and that was even more messed up… but if she got angry there was a risk of an Akuma fluttering into her room…

And then things would be ruined forever. Not just for her, but for Adrien and Ladybug and EVERYONE.

So no matter how messed up this was, no matter how much she wanted to find out the truth and tell EVERYONE what the truth was…

Ivan and Stoneheart showed that Papillon likely kept watch on previous Champions to re-Akumatize them.

She needed to breathe. She needed to calm down. She needed to not be angry, no matter how messed up the situation was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Gosh darn it! Cloud!! STOP GIVING THE BAD GUY THE MATERIA!”

Chat covered his mouth with both hands as he tried to hide his smile while Marinette flailed, poking buttons on the controller in hopes that Cloud would stop being stupid. “You aren’t one of the clones, you don’t look anything like him and you’re a SOLIDER you shouldn’t be doing this anyway and- NoNono don’t summon Meteor! Augh! Tifa punch him! Someone do something- AUGH!”

Chat Noir suddenly lost his smile, his head snapping up and away from the game and Marinette. One second he was still curled up on the couch, in the next he’d leapt clear across the room to land at the windows in the kitchen, shoving the window itself open, intensely focused.

Instinct had Marinette hitting pause on the game so the noise wouldn’t distract him as all of Chat’s attention focused on something he must have only just caught on the edge of his hearing.

One minute trickled past, then another as Chat focused on something to the west. His tail lashed sharply and he spun around, heading for the stairs to Marinette’s room.

“Chat?!” Marinette demanded, getting to her feet.

Halfway up the stairs, Chat Noir froze, then quickly twisted around to offer a quick bow. “I’m sorry, but I have to go.” His eyes darted from one person to another, and then his attention snapped to the west again… and his cat-ears flattened to his head while his tail lashed.

That was NEVER a good sign.

“Stay here and… stay away from the windows, maybe go downstairs, that should be safest…”

“Chat Noir?” Tom asked, getting to his feet, one hand catching Marinette’s shoulder and pulling her close to his side, trying to keep her as safe as he could.

“There’s… it’s an Akumatized Champion, that’s the only thing it can be, but-” the black clad hero’s attention went west again sharply. “There’s explosions. I don’t know what’s causing them… So actually, bakery wouldn’t be safest, the ovens and other stuff… Don’t know what’s exploding, I just-” he shook his head. “I have to go. Ladybug must already be there, and I have to- Please stay safe and thank you for letting me visit!”

And with that he was up the stairs and gone.

And Marinette, held against her dad’s side with her mom coming over to wrap her arms around both of them, couldn’t follow.

Chapter Text

Ladybug stared at her yoyo’s communication screen blankly. “I had to have heard that wrong,” she muttered, hitting the ‘replay message’ with her thumb.

The black screen sprang to life, showing a furiously blushing Chat Noir ducked down behind a wall. There was a faint thudding boom, like a large firework, followed by a much more… masonry sounding boom, and the sound of stonework collapsing.

#“Ladybug! There’s a Champion at Hôtel Matignon. She can fly, melee combat, no mind control. I think the Akuma is in her hammer, when she hits metal with it, it turns into, well, just about anything… including ranged weapons. Like cannons. She really likes cannons.”# There was another set of booms. #“…Very, very scary cannons. Calls herself the ‘Tinker’.”#

Alright. Chat sounded a bit stressed, but the information was the usual type they tried to tell each other when one of them got to an Akumatized before the other. Basic bullet points of what they’d found to be the vital info. But then-

#“PLEASE hurry, she doesn’t have leggings!”# Chat wailed on the recording, his blushes getting worse before he ended the call.

No. She HAD heard it right the first time. Maybe it’d make sense when she got there.

Ladybug sighed and closed her yoyo, then took off at a sprint along the rooftops of Paris, heading due west towards the heart of the 7th arrondissement, using her yoyo to cover distance in the long sweeping swings that she’d found best suited to covering long distances as fast as possible. It’d taken her longer than she would have liked to have slipped away from her parents in order to get out of the house and go help Chat with the latest Akumatized Champion. The fact that it was long past sunset actually ended up working to her advantage as she’d feigned exhaustion and had gone upstairs to ‘sleep’. Hopefully the pillows under her duvet would convince her parents she really was in bed. Hôtel Matignon was about 2 kilometers away the way a crow flew, which meant it wouldn’t take her very long to get there.

Ladybug landed on a rooftop and glanced north-west, biting her lip. “It’ll only take a second. Just a second. Chat’ll be fine.” Ladybug swung away and less than a minute later, landed on the rooftops across from Alya’s flat, peering in through the balcony doors.

No sign of Alya, although Ladybug could see Alya’s sisters and her Mom inside, all of whom looked worked up and worried, Alya’s mom had her phone pressed to her ear, free arm gesturing wildly as she shouted at whoever was on the other end of the line, and/or possibly left a scathing voicemail.

Ladybug was fairly certain she knew who was on the receiving end of the call. Alya must have snuck out to record the Akuma battle…

The Akuma battle with an enemy that apparently had a penchant for CANNONS. Ladybug spun and raced south west, pulling out her yoyo and hitting the central dot, then tapping Chat Noir’s icon. “C’mon… C’mon… pick up! Answer the phone! Answer the ph-!”

#“Ladybug! Did you get my mes-”#

“Yes, and you’ll be explaining the leggings and the blushing thing when I get there but just… Alya is there, filming! And you said the Champion liked CANNONS and can you find her and get her OUT of there before she gets KILLED?”

On the phone screen Chat Noir, who was still blushing mightily, blinked rapidly and glanced to the side. #“Uh. First part is gonna be easy, Bugaboo. Might have a little bit of trouble with the second part…”#

Ladybug frowned as she kept running over the rooftops of Paris. “What? Why? On BOTH parts, Minou.”

#“Uhhh, well the ‘easy’ part is because that part is already done? I saw Alya and Nino a minute or two ago and got them out of there before they got hurt. The, uh, second part problem is, well…”# The image shifted, swinging around, to show Nino and Alya sitting on the rooftop. Nino offered a bashful smile and wave. Alya just aimed a scowl past the camera, likely at Chat Noir. #“Side note,”# Chat offered from off camera. #“Alya’s phone fits very well in my pocket… also Alya knows a lot of really bad words.”#

#“And I’m gonna KEEP saying them until you GIVE ME BACK MY GOD DAMN PHONE!”#

#“If I give it back you’re just gonna go run back into the middle of that. So… no.”#

“Why are they THERE? Why didn’t you get them some place safe, Chat Noir?” Ladybug demanded.

#“Well, because there isn’t really one? The cannons have a really wide range, and I did actually TRY the first time, but then Alya just came back an- DOWN!!”# The camera shook wildly as Chat apparently lunged towards Alya and Nino, and there was a loud boom, the screen filled with dust.

“Chat? CHAT!? Alya! Nino! Someone answer me!”

There was some coughing, then a faint hiss. The black cloud of dust became brighter and there was a heavy THUD of something dropping to the rooftop nearby. Had part of a wall almost landed on them? What had HAPPENED? #“We’re okay,”# Chat’s voice said in a rasp. #“Hit near us is all. Chunk of wall went over, but I kept them safe. NcoughcoughNow will you stay away if I get you out of here?”#

#“…yes,”# Alya said in a soft voice. #“Are you sure you’re okay?”#

Chat chuckled, then coughed. #“Not even a bruise. Magic suit, always a bonus.”# the view of dust shifted, and Ladybug could just pick out the dark shadow that was probably Chat Noir. #“Ladybug, I’m going to get them out of the area now that they’ll be alright, then I’ll head back in. Tinker is still near Hôtel Matignon. I’m gonna send you a file with the locations of the cannons I know about and their range and stuff, and I’ll meet you there?”#

“Of course.” Ladybug closed her yoyo and breathed out slowly. They were fine. All three of them were fine, and Chat would get Alya and Nino to safety now that he knew they’d STAY safe instead of Alya rushing back in and Nino following in her wake.

Her yoyo offered a faint beep and Ladybug opened it up, looking over the map with its red dots and triangles. It took her a minute to figure out the locations, but once she did, she nodded. Alright. It’d make it difficult, but there were still safe zones and it’d probably be best to have one of them disable the cannons while the other kept Tinker busy… possibly trading off between said tasks as need be.

Ladybug took off again, heading more west then south-west now, towards the faint booms and explosions that were steadily growing louder. It wasn’t until Hôtel Matignon was in sight and Ladybug was carefully creeping around on the ground, trying to spot the Akumatized supervillain that she realized she’d forgotten to ask what Chat Noir had meant about the ‘leggings’ or why he’d been blushing so badly.

…That was also the moment that the question became invalid as she quickly discovered the answer. The Akumatized Champion was a woman with softly glowing golden skin wearing green. A green midriff exposing half-sleeve hoodie with slitted back, green heeled boots with turned down ankle cuffs, green hair in a pixie cut… and a green miniskirt- And as Chat had wailed, she had no leggings… and was currently flying above the rooftops. No wonder Chat had been blushing, her kitten might be a flirt, but he was also very much a gentleman.

This was going to make the battle… difficult.

Ducking a bit further out of sight, Ladybug pulled up the map Chat had sent her again, and started to work out a battle plan.

Chapter Text

Ladybug heard the distant boom and then a rapidly increasing whistling noise. She bit back a curse, racing way from the chimney she’d been hiding behind-

And was still sent flying clear off the roof from the explosion that followed the cannonball hitting her previous hiding spot.

She yelped in pain when she hit the pavement nose first and laid there for a moment, stunned and head ringing.

“Ow.”

Groaning, Ladybug pushed herself up and looked around to get orientated. It was so DARK at night, she never really got used to it, no matter how many times she and Chat Noir had to fight a ‘midnight Akuma’ as they tended to call them.

Night battles, a flying Akuma, and CANNONS… this was not going to be a fun fight, or an easy one.

Seeing a faint golden glow near the roof of a nearby building, Ladybug got to her feet and sprinted out of sight, ducking down one street and running up another before using her yoyo to get back to the rooftops and ducking out of sight again.

Well, the fact that the Champion GLOWED did make spotting her easier at night, there was at least that.

Ladybug watched as Tinker slowly flew past her hiding spot, shifting her grip on her yoyo as she eyed the hammer in Tinker’s hands, eyes darting around to check the surrounding buildings.

No. Darn it. She was on the wrong side and too low to really have a chance at lassoing the hammer directly, and there were no buildings near-by that would work well to ricochet her yoyo off of.

Grumbling quietly, she waited until Tinker had moved past, then carefully climbed the roof and rolled over the top to slide down the far side before running along the edge, one hand braced against the roof to help her keep her balance.

Alright. New plan was as followed. Get around to the other side of the street so she’d be on the side that Tinker was holding the hammer on, try to lasso the hammer. Hopefully she wouldn’t stumble too badly in the dark, and also hopefully she wouldn’t get spotted by Tinker or targeted by one of the cannons again.

It did make her wonder how the cannons worked. They weren’t just firing non-stop in the same direction or target. But at the same time it didn’t seem COMPLETELY random (the last shot had certainly seemed to target her for example). Ladybug finally got a block or three away and carefully edged up the top of the building to peek back at where she’d last seen Tinker.

Good. Tinker was still in sight and facing away from where Ladybug currently was. A quick leap and Ladybug was across the street and sliding down the roof to tuck herself out of sight again, swift and silent.

She heard a faint thud somewhere up ahead and ducked herself further into the shadows, looking at the now stationary glow up ahead. A long moment passed, but there was nothing else, and then the glow began to move again.

Tinker must have landed for a moment. Ladybug hadn’t heard the sound of metal on metal though, so Tinker likely hadn’t made anything new.

…Maybe the flight was a slightly limited thing and Tinker needed to land on occasion. It’d make everything easier if that was the case.

Ladybug waited for a slow count to ten, and when there was no sound of cannon fire, she started heading back towards Tinker, keeping to the far side of the rooftops for now.

Maybe Tinker had some remote or telepathic control of the cannons? So if she spotted someone she could have the closest cannon take aim and fire, but otherwise was just letting the cannons fire… as they pleased or something?

Self-aware cannons, what a terrifying thought.

There was no sound of him landing, but there were three soft footsteps behind her, a near silent courtesy so that Ladybug didn’t jump or flail when a warm presence suddenly came up behind her.

“So, I have a plan.”

His chest lightly brushed her back, then his shoulder pressed against hers as he edged right up against her, crouched on the slope of the roof. Chat Noir looked towards the faintly visible golden glow of the otherwise unseen Tinker, but she saw the closest cat-ear rotate towards her.

“There’s about twenty cannons that she’s made so far, and they’re the real danger. So I’m going to keep Tinker busy, try to get the hammer away from her, while you go take out the cannons. …I mean it’s not like you’d be a ton of help fighting her, given the whole LEGGINGS issue.” Ladybug couldn’t help the brief smile she got as she added that last part.

“Oh ha-ha, laugh it up, Bugaboo.”

“You do realize you’re still blushing, right?”

Chat Noir’s hands flew to his cheeks, before he huffed. “She’s wearing a MINISKIRT… and she doesn’t have LEGGINGS.”

Chat’s blushes looked almost painful now, his entire face and back of his neck deep red, and his voice had edged almost all the way out of a whisper, so Ladybug decided to take pity on him. “It’ll be fine. You just handle the cannons… or at least the ones that we’re in range of.”

Ladybug looked towards the glow again. She hadn’t heard the hammer hitting anything for Tinker to CREATE anything new, she was certain of that. She didn’t have Chat’s supernaturally good hearing, but this close to Tinker, she honestly didn’t need it. It was weird, actually, the whole glowing and flying thing. Akumas usually had powers that made sense, or at least followed a theme, with who they were… and Ladybug had to admit that she didn’t get how flying and glowing tied into the whole ‘Tinker who makes stuff’ theeeeeeeemeeee… wait.

Tinker.

Flying. Glowing with green clothes…

“…Did Papillon seriously make THAT pun?”

Chat blinked a few times, confused.

“It isn’t a miniskirt. It’s a PIXIE skirt.”

“Uhhhh?”

“Tinkerbell. Papillon just can’t resist a pun, can he? He’s worse than YOU.”

Chat turned to look at Ladybug and pouted. “You love my puns. Puns are awesome. Puns are the BEST.”

Ladybug booped Chat Noir’s nose. “Keep telling yourself that, Minou. Go get the cannons, then come back. I’ll call if I need help.”

Chat nodded. “Got it. Good luck, my Lady.”

Ladybug smiled and watched as Chat Noir silently leapt away.

Looking towards the glow that was now more than a block away, Ladybug darted forward…

And tripped over something she couldn’t see in the dark.

Off the roof she flailed, to land once more on her nose.

She laid there for a moment, then groaned, getting back to her feet and used her yoyo to get back to the rooftops. She looked in the direction of the glow, glad to see it was still slowly moving away. She glanced the way Chat Noir had gone, and was glad to see that there were no green eyes glinting in the night.

At least no one had SEEN that.

Chapter Text

“Stop dodging already!!”

Ladybug smiled and stuck her tongue out as she backflipped over Tinker as the Champion charged her, landing back on the roof and smirking as Tinker kept barreling on, having to pull around over the course of several blocks. “Nope!”

She glanced north when she heard the boom of a cannon, but quickly saw that it had been a ‘random’ shot, as it hit a building several kilometers away from where Ladybug and Tinker were fighting.

So it turned out that while Tinker could fly at a fairly decent speed, apparently DIDN’T need to land, and was well above average strength… she couldn’t corner worth a da- …worth a darn, and had a turn radius that would make an ocean liner point and laugh. “So, Disney fan? Or fan of the novel? Or maybe one of the other movies? Hook was awesome, and Tinkerbell was pretty darn cool in it, sooOOOOHHHH shoot!”

Ladybug dove to the side, barely managing to avoid Tinker’s hammer and went into a roll down the roof, pushing off just as she reached the edge, arcing up and over the street below to land on the chimney of the building across the way.

And then immediately had to leap away when she heard a faint boom.

Okay, so it turned out that getting information out of Akumatized Champions while keeping them distracted in the middle of battle was a little bit harder than it seemed. Maybe she should just stick to the occasional witty one-liner when the opportunity arose and planning and stuff and leave the distracting to Chat Noir, he had gotten very good at being a distraction over the past months.

Ladybug snapped her yoyo out and managed to snag Tinker’s hammer, but before she could get braced, Tinker flew straight up, plucking Ladybug off the rooftops. “Stop that!” Ladybug shrieked.

“You stop that first!” Tinker shouted down as she dove down towards the ground, before racing along the street.

Ladybug managed to roll her landing and tried to brace her feet, but ended up skidding along behind Tinker, unable to get purchase on the road, and not close enough to any lampposts or anything else to try to grab onto something to try to anchor herself.

What she wouldn’t give for TWO yoyos. Then she could keep Tinker’s hammer lassoed and could probably catch one of the poles or Morris columns that were currently JUST OUT OF REACH and… well. The situation would be quickly dealt with if she could just ANCHOR onto something!!

Tinker took to the air again, climbing straight up, and Ladybug yelped as she cleared the rooftops, and tried to reel more of the yoyo’s line in, getting steadily closer to Tinker as the champion started spiraling and looping and-

Okay, Ladybug was getting just a little bit airsick right now…

She started reeling the line in faster, only to end up flying forward, smacking into Tinker’s back and then falling down to twang and bounce at the end of the yoyo’s string when Tinker suddenly just STOPPED.

Because of course. It wasn’t like her nose wasn’t bruised ENOUGH.

This night was horrible and she wanted it to be over now.

“Why did it beep!?”

Ladybug blinked and started to look up before she REMEMBERED… and finally ended up looking somewhere off to Tinker’s left. “Why did what beep?”

“Your yoyo! Why did it beep!? It can’t explode right? It’s not like… a bug bomb or something?”

…huh that would actually be kinda useful on occasion, although it would-again- rely on her being able to have more than ONE yoyo… well, as long as it wasn’t too BIG an explosion, big would be bad. Something small, like for a distraction or… oooo… smoke bomb.

But getting back on topic.

“No, it’s not a bugbomb,” she told the empty air off to Tinker’s left. “To start I don’t have a ‘bugbomb’-” Yet. Definitely time to talk shop with Tikki. If Chat could split his baton and do other fun stuff with it, why couldn’t she split her yoyo?! Or have it be a bugsword, or a bugstaff or a bugshie… wait, she already had the shield.

“Even if I did WHY would I make something explode when I was using it to lasso you? …And why have it beep, beeping would let bad guys KNOW it was about to explode! That undoes the whole POINT!”

There was a faint light purple glow off to right of where Ladybug was staring, and Ladybug heard Tinker yelp-

And suddenly Ladybug was falling, Tinker having apparently managed to yank her yoyo’s string free of the hammer.

“Shoot!!!”

What had Papillon told Tinker!? It was times like this that Ladybug REALLY wished that she could HEAR what Papillon was telling his Champions, or that they would say more useful things in reply to him so she could FIGURE OUT what he’d said.

Ladybug flipped neatly and retracted her yoyo in one practiced move. A quick throw and she lassoed one of the chimneys below. A tug and she was perched on top of it. She leapt off in a flip and landed lightly on the street below and darted down an alley and then up a street to get out of Tinker’s line of sight.

A few seconds later, perched in the shadows where three roofs met, watching Tinker hunting for her a few blocks away, and Ladybug glanced down at her yoyo when it beeped softly. Oh, right, that’s what had started this whole mess wasn’t it? She pulled her yoyo off her hip to see what the beep Tinker had panicked about had actually been about, surprised when her yoyo beeped a second time.

On the little map of cannon locations, nine of the red dots had circles around them, two of the red dots were now small green catpaws, and a third dot was now a red catpaw.

Ladybug smiled. Chat had found the cannons they were in range of, marked them, and was steadily taking them out. Her yoyo beeped and the red catpaw went green, and a moment and a second beep later another of the circled dots became a red catpaw.

“Huh, have to ask him how he’s taking them out later,” Ladybug muttered to herself as she closed the yoyo and started creeping towards Tinker again. He obviously wasn’t using Cataclysm… even if he had cheese for his Kwami on him, it took Tikki a few minutes to recharge even when she rushed, and Chat was taking the cannons down too fast for that.

…Actually…

Ladybug pulled her yoyo off her hip again when it beeped yet again, then looked up ahead at Tinker. She smirked, tossing her yoyo in her hand as an idea came to her.

Ohhhhhh, this was going to be SO MUCH FUN.

Chapter Text

Tinker was beginning to think that she may have gotten a bad deal.

It had seemed good at first. Draw out the superhero duo and focus her attention on Chat Noir, keep him pinned with cannon fire while Papillon got… something… into place (he hadn’t been very clear about what that part of the plan was). If she could manage it, try to get his Miraculous, and once the matter of Chat Noir was sorted, she could get her revenge on Marianne, kick her greedy business stealing aft and then Tinker would get a check in the mail to buy her shop back.

It had been working at first. Papillon had been able to locate Chat Noir and keep track of him for Tinker, making it easy to keep track of him and get him pinned.

Then Ladybug had shown up before she could get Chat Noir properly pinned and it had all just fallen apart.

Honestly, wasn’t Papillon supposed to be after BOTH of them? Why was he so focused on Chat Noir all of a sudden?

~I have my reasons.~

Reasons or not, it was odd, and it felt almost haphazard, like Tinker was an afterthought or a stop-gap rather than the primary plan.

~I can assure you, my dear Tinker, that you are no afterthought. You are a vital element to my current strategy.~

Nice words, if there was any truth behind them. Tinker frowned, seeing a flash of red. A mental brush and she cursed as she realized how many of her cannons were now useless– disabled by the missing Chat Noir no doubt. Still, she managed to find two that she could quickly bring around to target and fire on the flash of red.

She smiled grimly at the yelp and seeing Ladybug going flying, having gotten caught in the explosion and raced after the falling hero, mentally cursing as she felt one of her two remaining cannons in range vani-

Ladybug twisted in midair and landed on a balcony, then wound up and threw something at Tinker.

Something that BEEPED.

“Since you like explosions so much, here’s one especially for you!!”

Tinker pulled up FAST and climbed frantically for distance, reaching out for the last cannon that was in range– just in time to feel it disabled. Stupid cat!

~Tinker… Tinker, stop running away!! Or if you are going to run at least head in Chat Noir’s most likely direction rather than letting Ladybug continue to distract you!~

“She was distracting you too, Papillon!!” Tinker snapped even as she stopped climbing and glanced down.

“So nice to know you noticed little old me!” Ladybug called up from somewhere Tinker couldn’t see.

“HEY! Private conversation with Butterfly Boss here!”

Tinker dodged to the left when she heard a sharp vhiiizzzz, and only just managed to avoid Ladybug’s attempt to lasso her hammer.

“Gosh darn it! Stop dodging!!”

Tinker smirked as she spotted Ladybug and started to dive down towards her-

~Ignore her! She’s just a distraction. I want CHAT NOIR found! I must have confirmation or negation of if he is- …find Chat Noir! He is your target on this eve, not Ladybug!~

Fair enough. Papillon WAS calling the shots, and if she wanted to get her business back from Marianne, that meant listening to the boss.

Tinker pulled up and banked around, heading towards the last cannon that had been disabled, ignoring Ladybug.

Which was obviously the LAST thing Ladybug had expected or wanted, if the yelp and sounds of the red clad hero giving frantic chase were anything to go by.

~Climb higher. The Ladybug does not have the Black Cat’s enhanced vision or hearing, if you can keep her to the rooftops she will not be able to see as well and will likely fall, or at the very least fall BEHIND.~

Good plan. Tinker gained height and sure enough, there was soon a dwindling wail and thud from below and behind. Tinker smirked, and she could hear Papillon laughing across the bond that his Akumas created between them. ~Well, that looked satisfyingly painful and embarrassing. Now, go see if you can find Chat Noir.~

“…That’s what I’m doing.”

~…my apologies, my dear Tinker.~

…Whatever. She was quickly coming up on the closest of the disabled cannons, and she changed her heading towards it. Maybe she could repair and reactivate them while she tried to find or draw out Chat Noir. That would certainly put a damper on…

Tinker slowed to a stop and stared, eyes wide, at the cannon.

Or the near shattered remains there-of.

Tinker landed for a second to examine the cannon, running her hand over the damage. The cannon was almost folded in half, a deep dent (almost a rent) about two and a half centimeters wide at the center of the ‘fold’. The underside of the cannon had split as the cannon folded from the impact. Tinker looked around the rest of the roof, eying the damage to the roof itself, as well as a two or three centimeter slice through the metal tiles that lined up perfectly with the dent in the cannon, and the way a chimney had been apparently cut in half. Raising above the rooftops, Tinker eyed the damage from this new angle, and whistled softly.

She followed the literal line of damage one way as it got shallower and landed a meter away from where the line stopped. Now… let’s see… She raised her hammer above her head, held in both hands, and brought it down in a fast arc to hit the roof by her feet. “That’s clever.”

~…What are you doing?~

“Chat Noir can extend his baton pretty much infinitely, like the string on Ladybug’s yoyo?”

~Yes, but I do not see- ~

“He extended his baton and just smashed the cannons from a distance, the tip of the baton was probably moving at supersonic speeds. Conservation of momentum for the actual destructive collision, but the staff breaking the sound barrier and the force comes from conservation of energy. …I wonder how much of the random ‘cannon fire’ was his baton breaking the sound barrier.”

~…Fascinating. However, Chat Noir needs to be found and dealt with NOW, before Ladybug catches up to you~

Alright, she’d found out HOW her cannons were taken out… but that didn’t tell her where Chat Noir was, or why he’d apparently taken the last cannon out minutes ago and hadn’t returned to help Ladybug fight Tinker.

So where WAS he?

She could feel Papillon’s impatience brewing across the link like a blizzard cresting the horizon as she tried to figure out what to do. The main problem, so far as Tinker was concerned, was that it was late, which meant it was dark, and Chat Noir wore black, making him hard to spot.

…Spot. Oh. Oh, now that might work.

Tinker flew down to the street and grabbed a motorcycle, then dragged it up to the rooftops and dropped it on the roof of the tallest building. She brought her hammer down on it, and with a chiming ring, the motorcycle became a spotlight and generator. Tinker took to the air as the spotlight turned on and began to sweep over Paris. She could see Ladybug heading towards her, and Tinker took vindictive pleasure is having the spotlight swing around sharply to catch Ladybug full in the face, making the superhero yelp and fall, caught off-guard and blinded.

Papillon was right, that WAS satisfyingly painful and embarrassing to watch.

~THERE!~

Tinker spun around, confused. “Where is there?”

~To your righ- your lef- your ri- …Tinker, will you STOP spinning about?! …Thank you. Look down to your left.~

Tinker followed Papillon’s directions, and a quick mental command had the spotlight swinging around to catch Chat Noir fully in its beam…

And he just… stood there, hands clasped behind his back, head raised and aimed at her as if he were looking at her… yet his eyes were tightly closed and he was blushing heavily.

Okay… this was… weird enough to warrant investigation.

Tinker cautiously flew down until she was almost level with Chat Noir, waiting for him to attack, or retreat…

Or at least open his eyes.

Completely nonplussed, Tinker landed and tilted her head to the side, considering the cat-boy in the spotlight. His head kept moving, and she could see his cat ears twitching and rotating. He was tracking her. “Sooooo…”

“Chat what are you DOING?! And where WERE you!?” Ladybug’s voice suddenly demanded and Tinker flew up several meters, hammer at the ready.

Chat Noir didn’t jump (given how good Papillon seemed to think his hearing was he’d likely heard Ladybug before she spoke, unlike Tinker), instead he took his hands out from behind his back and held them out towards Tinker.

“…Pants?” Tinker and Ladybug asked in perfect, poleaxed, synchronization.

Ladybug facepalmed while Tinker just stared at the green palazzo pants in total confusion.

“Chat, are you telling me that you honestly went out and stole PANTS instead of, I don’t know, coming back to help fight the bad guy?!”

“I didn’t steal them!” Chat yelped. “I paid for them! …Well, I left the money and tags and a note on the counter so that counts as paying for them!”

“CHAT!”

“Okay, wait, stop, rewind! WHY are you offering me PANTS?” Tinker demanded.

“You don’t have LEGGINGS!” Chat Noir wailed.

“I… What?”

~He… You… I don’t… What?~

“Okay, no, seriously, what does me not having leggings have to do with this?”

“You’re flying around in a miniskirt and you don’t have LEGGINGS!” Chat Noir held the green pants out again. “Please?”

“That doesn’t-” Tinker broke off sharply. She glanced down at herself, for the first time actually registering what she was wearing.

~…Um… I feel this would be a prudent time to note that I have very little influence over what my Champions wear… and that since I see from your point of view I… actually also missed this detail. I do however offer my apologies.~

Tinker landed sharply. “Do I have UNDERWEAR?!”

Every iota of visible skin on both Chat Noir and Ladybug went deep red.

“I don’t KNOW!” Chat wailed. “How could I know!? Knowing would require LOOKING and you DON’T HAVE LEGGINGS!!”

“Don’t look at ME!” Ladybug yelped when Tinker turned towards her. “I didn’t look any more than he did!!”

Tinker snatched the pants out of Chat Noir’s hands. Chat Noir politely turned around to wait while Tinker pulled the pants on, which made Ladybug mutter about how she wasn’t certain if he was ridiculous or adorable. Ladybug did, however, also wait while Tinker got the pants over her boots and then up and over her miniskirt.

“Okay… Now… I just…” Tinker honestly stalled out, and she had a feeling both superheroes had as well. Chat Noir’s cat-ears twitched and he cautiously turned around and opened his eyes, his blushes slowly starting to fade as the trio stood on the rooftop, bathed in the light of Tinker’s spotlight.

“So, what happens now?” Tinker asked, still utterly nonplussed. “I mean you just gave me pants, I don’t… this isn’t…” Tinker groaned and grabbed her hammer with both hands. “Screw it, I wasn’t ever going to get my business back anyway, was I?”

~No, don’t do th-!~

Papillon’s voice cut off sharply in her mind when Tinker snapped her peen hammer in half.

Ladybug scrambled for her yoyo as the Akuma fluttered out of the hammer and began to fly away, even as Tinker was engulfed in roiling dark motes.

Ladybug was fairly certain that NEVER had she managed to activate her yoyo and swing it around to capture a fleeing Akuma as fast as this moment- but the presence of the spotlight actually worked in her favor, as it let her keep track of the small green and gold butterfly against the night sky long enough for her to sight and capture it.

She heaved a sigh of relief when she caught the yoyo in her hand again, then lightly tapped the center spot, watching the now white butterfly fly away.

“What… what am I doing– am I on a ROOF!?”

Ladybug spun around to find a middle aged woman with platinum white hair in a pixie cut (and still wearing the green palazzo pants over her much more normal clothing) standing on the roof, looking surprised and confused and maybe a little scared. Ladybug tilted her head to the side, confused. The lady looked vaguely familiar, although Ladybug couldn't really seem to place her at the moment. Chat was standing next to the lady, holding her by the shoulder and one arm, and he was talking to her quietly as he led her towards the roof hatch. As he walked past Ladybug he paused and held up a fist, smiling.

Ladybug smiled back and bumped her fist against his. Figuring out why the lady looked familiar could wait till later. “Good job!”

The post battle tradition done, Chat Noir led the most recent victim of Papillon’s hunt off and Ladybug stood, hands on hips, considering Paris.

…Yeah, those cannons had done a LOT of damage hadn’t they? And who knew how many people might have been hurt. Time to summon a Lucky Charm and from there the Miraculous Restoration. Ladybug took a step back and threw her yoyo straight up.

“Lucky Charm!”

Chapter Text

Ladybug raced home even as the glowing columns of ladybugs circled and swirled through the city, repairing the damage done by Tinker. Her earrings beeped, adding a bit more length to her stride.

Less than three minutes.

Another beep and she was within sight of home. It was a bit of a risk, but Ladybug still stopped across the street and pulled out her yoyo, using it’s scan and zoom function to quickly check on where her parents were.

Good, in the living room and both looked worried, but not freaked out. That meant that the pillows under her duvet had fooled them. A quick leap and she was on the roof and carefully opening the skylight, and then dropping down onto her bed and dropping her transformation.

Marinette sighed softly in relief and pulled her pillows out from under her duvet and put them back in place while Tikki flew down to the desk, where Marinette did her best to keep a few cookies for Tikki to eat whenever she wanted. Marinette crawled under the duvet, glad that she’d had the sense to change into her PJs before transforming into Ladybug as it made everything easier now.

She yawned and snuggled deeper into her bed, hugging her pillow as she let herself relax and slowly drift off towards slee-

Tap tap.

Marinette blinked at the sudden sharp sound and lifted her head off her pillow as she looked around to see if she could figure out what that had been.

Everything was in place on the shelves above her bed, from her books to her alarm clock to her Chat Noir and Ladybug dolls.

Tap tap.

Marinette pushed herself up with her arms and carefully craned herself to the side, looking down into the dark of her room. Was that Tikki? It didn’t SOUND like anything Tikki would be doing…

Tap tap tap.

Wait, that sounded like it was… above her?

Tap tap TAP tap

… Marinette slowly looked up to her skylight, shrieked, flailing herself out of bed when she saw glowing green eyes staring at her out of the dark. Tangled with her duvet she managed, by sheer luck, to land on the LANDING of her bed-loft rather than toppling down the stairs.

Heart racing she glanced up again- just in time to see Chat Noir dive through her skylight and land on her bed, twisting around to stare at Marinette with wide, worried… GREEN eyes.

It had been Chat.

Of COURSE it had been Chat. How could it possibly have been an Akumatized Champion, they’d JUST sorted out Tinker and outside of Timebreaker, Papillon had never had two Champions active at the same time.

“Are you okay, Marinette!?”

“HI!”

Chat Noir blinked and leaned back, flopping to sit on Marinette’s bed. He blinked a few times, apparently nonplussed. “Hiiii? …Are you okay? I didn’t mean to scare you…”

“Marinette?! Ma chérie, what’s wrong, we heard you screa-OH!”

Chat Noir ducked lower, as if he were trying to hide, on Marinette’s bed. “Hello, Madame Cheng. I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure all of you were alright, but I woke Marinette up and scared her by mistake.”

Sabine seemed to relax when she realized what had happened. “Marinette?”

“I’m okay, Maman. I looked up and Chat’s eyes were reflecting the light and it startled me.”

“I didn’t mean to?”

Sabine sighed and smiled. “I know you didn’t. Tom and I are fine, Chat Noir, don’t worry. Marinette are you certain you’re alright?”

Marinette untangled herself from her duvet and got to her feet, brushing herself down and carefully checking herself over. “Well, I think I might have bruised my… uh… my tailbone, but I really am okay.”

Sabine offered a faint sigh of relief. “You know… it’s a school night. Maybe everyone should get as much sleep as they can?”

Chat Noir blinked and glanced at the alarm clock on Marinette’s shelf. “OH! …I’m glad everyone’s okay. Sorry again about scaring you, Marinette!”

And with that and a wave he was up and out through the skylight and then gone. Marinette looked over at her mom and the two shared a quiet laugh. Marinette got back into her bed and closed her eyes, then sat up, frowning. “Maman?”

Sabine paused in the act of closing Marinette’s trapdoor and looked at her daughter.

“What did you mean… about it being a school night?”

Sabine was silent for a moment, then she sighed and came back into Marinette’s room, walking up the loft stairs to sit on the edge of Marinette’s bed. “I think… and I’ve spoken to your father and he agrees with me… that Chat Noir is… probably about your age.”

Marinette’s eyes went wide. “But-”

“We aren’t… certain, of course,” Sabine said. “But if he is, it’s probably best if he got himself home to get some well-deserved rest, don’t you think?”

Marinette nodded slowly, dropping her eyes to her duvet, her hands twisting in the fabric. “What about Ladybug?”

“Well, I’ve only really met her once, but she seems like a good young woman… so I hope wherever she is she’s safe and getting a well-deserved night’s sleep too.” Sabine kissed Marinette’s forehead. “Just like I want for you, ma chérie.” Marinette smiled and hugged her mom, then watched her walk back down the loft-stairs, and from there out of Marinette’s room, Sabine closing the trapdoor behind her.

Marinette sighed softly, then looked up when Tikki flew up from below the loft and where-ever the Kwami had hidden herself away to sit on Marinette’s raised knees. “Is it… is it okay that they know how old Chat Noir is?”

Tikki’s eyes went wide. “Of course it is! The Glamour will keep them from finding out WHO he is, just like it keeps them from knowing who Ladybug is beneath your mask.”

Marinette sighed in relief. “Okay. …I left my phone on my washstand, would you be okay with setting my alarm for me, Tikki?”

Tikki flew up and hugged Marinette’s cheek. “Of course. I’ll even bring it up here. You just get some sleep, okay? It’s nearly 2 am now, so you’ll have to fall asleep now to get at least 6 hours of sleep!”

“And I need that to get through the day.” Marinette lifted a hand to press it gently against Tikki in a quick ‘hug’. “Thank you, Tikki.”

Tikki nuzzled Marinette’s cheek, then darted off towards the washstand. Marinette glanced up at the skylight, then snuggled back under her covers. “Sleep well, Chaton.”

Chapter Text

Wednesday morning came far too quickly… in no small part due to Marinette managing to sleep through her alarm and missing all of Foreign Language 1 and half of Geography… and WOW had Madame Mendeleiev had been annoyed at Marinette rushing in the middle of class.

The rest of the day had been quiet enough, although Marinette was disappointed when Adrien left school early (missing Maths entirely! ) for a fitting for the upcoming Men's Fashion Week in the last week of June, Haute Couture Week in the first week of July, and the four Fashion Weeks in September… or maybe just the week Fashion Week would be taking place in Paris.

Marinette hoped it was just Paris’ Fashion Week, her sweet Adrien being gone for four weeks was just too horrible to think about. At least with Men's Fashion, Haute Couture and Paris' Fashion Week Adrien would be IN Paris.

Wednesday evening was even quieter. There was no Champion sighted in the city, no Chat Noir visiting Marinette in her home to play video games, and as was the tradition between herself and Chat Noir, there was no patrol on Wednesday evening, as the duo usually ‘took the day off’ the day following a battle against Papillon’s current Akumatized Champion…

Mostly because Papillon had never once sent out a Champion the day after another. Marinette had a feeling that the attacks were draining to Papillon in at least SOME way and he needed to rest and recover just as much as she and Chat did.

Thursday morning, being Victory Day and thus a public holiday, came almost at noon for Marinette, who had decided to let herself sleep late so she could to try and catch up on some of the missing sleep she’d accumulated.

Tikki watched Marinette as her Chosen grabbed her sketchpad and went up onto the roof. She glanced to the west as she suddenly felt Plagg… Where-ever he had been most of the morning, it seemed that he was finally back within ‘pick-up’ range of their ability to sense the other’s location. Tikki considered her options carefully for a few minutes, then sighed. ~Plagg?~

~Yyyyyooooooooo?~

~Can we meet somewhere to talk about Papillon and Adrien and broken patterns? Notre Dame maybe? Or the Eiffel Tower if you’d prefer?~

~…I’m always down with hanging out with you, Tikki… but-~ Plagg broke off into a sigh, and Tikki waited patiently for him to get his thoughts in order. ~Look, I didn’t mention this before, but maybe I should have. There’s a lot more goin’ on then I told you while we were hanging out in Marinette’s bag in school Tuesday morning …I don’t want to be too far away from him, not right now.~

Tikki could feel the start of a headache right between her temples and winced, sinking down to sit on Marinette’s table as she felt her energy levels drop. It was… annoying how much of a drain talking to Plagg like this was. Before the Miraculi it would have been as effortless as simply BEING… ~Alright. I’ll come to you and we’ll talk about everything.~

~You sure you’re okay with leaving your Chosen?~

~Right now she’s happy, content and safe. I’ll let her know I’ll be out for a while, so it should be alright. …She does have my Luck even if I’m not there, and if I’m close, I can maybe give your Kitten a little bit of extra luck too.~

~A little luck will always be appreciated. We’re on our way back from ANOTHER fitting session for that big show thing, should be at the Mansion in five. See you soon.~

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Adrien slumped into the dining room and dropped heavily into his usual chair, leaning back and closing his eyes for a minute. It had been a long time since he’d been this worried… or this tired. Keeping his eyes open was a weirdly challenging chore.

Maybe eating would help counter the exhaustion. …and then a nap.

…Wouldn’t help with what he was worried with though.

Since Adrien had done so well with walking the catwalk for the Paris Fashion Week back in January, his father was planning on having him do the Men's Fashion Week in June and Paris Fashion Week in September… which was fine.

The problem was his Father was ALSO seriously considering having Adrien do the catwalk in London and Milan, and then New York after Paris. …and that… that was something he didn’t know if he could do. Even if, somehow, that ended up being a quiet month (which there had admittedly been on occasion) with no real akumatizations…

Adrien stared up dully at the ceiling.

Four weeks of modeling with no reprieve.

He wasn’t certain he could stand that. He could barely manage ONE solid week, four would be-

The staff came out of the kitchen and began to set up a dining spot in front of him… and a second dining spot to his right… set up for a leftie.

Adrien blinked dumbly at the second setting as the staff came back out and began to put the starter for lunch (a mixed salad today) on the plates and a small pot of coffee resting where both Adrien and his apparent guest could reach it easily.

But… but it had been MONTHS since…

“You would not BELIEVE the day I have had!”

Adrien looked over his shoulder and watched as Chloé strolled into the dining room and sat down on his right, as calm and casual as she would have been back in August, when they had shared lunch pretty much every other day.

“Chloé?”

Chloé glanced at Adrien and then turned her attention to the meal in front of her, reaching forward and picking up the coffee pot and pouring coffee for both herself and Adrien, putting a tiny dollop of cream in Adrien’s coffee and two sugar cubes, leaving her own coffee black.

Adrien felt his lips quirking into a small smile at that, a bit surprised that Chloé remembered how he liked his coffee.

“Actually, forget ‘day’, you would not believe the WEEK I have had! You know that Champion Tuesday night?”

“…Yes?”

“Well, her cannon fire hit Le Grande Paris, because of COURSE it did, and my room got hit-”

“…You weren’t in your room were you?”

Chloé’s jaw clenched for half a second. “It was like 1 am, Adrien, of course I was in my room.” She put her coffee cup down and started attacking the salad.

Adrien watched her for a minute before he reached over to lightly touch her shoulder. “You okay?”

“I’m always okay,” Chloé scoffed, flipping her hair with one hand.

But she stopped attacking the salad and picked up her coffee cup to sip at it again.

“So your room got hit and…?”

“You know I watched that interview that Alya managed to get with Ladybug and Chat Noir, where they talked about the Miraculous Restoration, and let me tell you that I apparently need to have WORDS.”

Adrien’s eyebrows raced skywards. “Oooookay?”

“Do you have any idea how often I’ve had things that just ‘miraculously’ get missed by the Restoration?!”

“Ummmm… no?”

“Hundreds of times!”

“…Hundreds?”

“…Well, at least three or four. …Maybe seven. In ANY case, over half of my clothes weren’t fixed! It’s a disaster! I have nothing to wear! You have to come shopping with me, Sabrina is worthless when it comes to giving an honest critique on clothes, and furthermore-”

Adrien slowly found himself smiling at Chloé continued to talk. It was nice to see the Chloé that he had known, once upon time, rather the one he’d almost gotten used to seeing at school. Snarky and abrasive but not cruel, and remembering the things he liked, finding excuses for him to get out of the mansion and just… pretend to be a normal kid, shopping and snarking and… He had wondered where his friend had gone.

Maybe she wasn’t as far away as he’d thought.

“So, shopping this Saturday, just like always?” Chloé asked as the servers came in and replaced the starter with the main course.

Adrien considered for a minute, but then nodded with a faint smile. “Yeah, shopping this Saturday… BUT-” he held up one finger. “We have to work on our Latin Project today, and then every other day, until we get it DONE. …and no trying to pretend your brain hurts or that you don’t know Latin, you’re just as fluent as I am and you ARE gonna help me with this.”

Chloé groaned and moaned and complained all the way through main course and the following cheese course and even (since it WAS a holiday and thus he got to fudge on his diet) the dessert, but she finally capitulated with grumble about how her brain was already hurting.

Well, step one was successful… Now to figure out how to convince her to go along with step two.

Chapter Text

Tikki frowned at the massive windows of Adrien’s room, crossing her arms as she idly watched a group of repairmen work on something– Tikki couldn’t figure out what… maybe a powerline or pipe? –of Square de la Tour Saint-Jacques. They’d been working for almost an hour now, and had been working there when Adrien had woken up and headed out to the Fitting according to Plagg, although given how much time they seemed to spend staring at the Agreste Mansion and just apparently arguing amongst themselves or bragging about things Tikki wasn’t all that surprised at how slow their work was. Watching them ‘work’ did provide her with something to focus on as she sorted out everything Plagg had told her at least.

“So, on top of Papillon starting to suspect Adrien… Which is worrying enough in and of itself… you think his father might also suspect him?”

Plagg sighed from where he was sitting on top of Adrien’s central computer monitor, eating a thick wedge of cheese. “Like I said, it was weird. He reacted the same way he did when he saw Ladybug’s earrings. But-”

“But people know what the Miraculi look like. I’m still not… really used to that,” Tikki admitted, flying over to pick a croissant and sit down on the monitor next to Plagg.

“There’s a website with some REALLY accurate costumes, Miraculi included. Alya showed it to Adrien, Nino and I on Mond-”

“I still can’t believe you DID that,” Tikki growled.

“You say that every time. We've known each other for more than fifteen-thousand years and yet every single time… Your Chosen always have a support group, and an awesome one at that. Mine don’t. Adrien NEEDS people who care about HIM, who can help him and be there for him.”

“His Father-”

“Isn’t THERE. Maybe he means well, but he isn’t there and Adrien needs people he can trust, that he knows are gonna be in HIS CORNER. Natalie is nice enough and seems to care, but she isn’t in his corner, and she works for- and answers to- his father, not him. As for the Gorilla, well…” Plagg tossed his cheese up and swallowed it in one gulp. “Observant guy, if– y’know –QUIET with the whole can’t talk thing. Alya you know I didn’t plan on, that was just the only way I could get an Offering in time to try to save Adrien. …Nino was totally me though.”

Tikki groaned. No matter what, it was too late, and Plagg wouldn’t ever try to pull this stunt with Marinette, he knew where Tikki’s lines in the sand were. “…How accurate were the costumes?”

“As accurate as that statue of our Chosen in Square René Viviani Park, accurate enough that I’d halfway swear that the Glamour tried to kick in. And they’ve got some ‘original’ color variations. Like a yellow ladybug and an orange one and a pink one and a black with red spots one… pretty much if there’s a ladybug in the real world with a color scheme, they’ve got a Ladybug costume variation of it. Same goes for the Chat Noir costumes.”

Tikki sighed. “So we can’t be sure if he somehow recognized it, or if he thought it was from a site like that costume one… or even if it was just that it was something he hadn’t noticed about his son.”

Plagg nodded. “Yup. Which is why I’m focusing on Papillon. HIM I know to be a threat. Adrien’s dad… who knows how to take anything the guy does. Maybe he means well, maybe he doesn’t, maybe he doesn’t even care.”

Tikki finished her croissant and nuzzled Plagg, wrapping her arms around him, hugging him as close as she could for that one, precious, moment. Plagg returned the hug and nuzzle, then his tail came around and tickled the back of Tikki’s neck, making her dart back, giggling helplessly.

She flew back and batted him with her paws for a moment, making Plagg laugh and fall off the monitor. Tikki giggled, then headed off, phasing through the window and darting from hiding place to hiding place as she made her way back to Tom & Sabine’s Boulangerie Patisserie, as she reached Notre Dame and raced across the Seine, she smiled as she reached the ‘detection’ range of her Chosen and soon had a precise lock on where Marinette was (still at her home) and a general feeling of Marinette’s mood as wel-

Hm.

Oh dear.

Tikki sped up and was soon back at Marinette’s rooftop balcony, where Marinette had apparently managed to work herself up into a tizzy. Tikki landed on Marinette’s cable-spool table, offering a wave to Marinette as the girl paced back and forth, arms flailing.

Well, while Marinette was definitely worked up emotionally, she didn’t seem to be hitting any WORRYING extremes, so nothing that would likely risk drawing an Akuma. And even if it did, now that Tikki was here she could keep an eye out for the butterfly spirits and take care of them if need be.

The danger assessed, Tikki turned her attention back to Marinette, trying to figure out what her Chosen was so worked up about, picking up Marinette’s abandoned sketchbook and flipping through the pages to the newest drawings, eying the pile of balled up paper on the floor. She really DID have to teach Marinette to stop doing that. Just because something wasn’t perfect, or wasn’t exactly what she wanted didn’t mean it should be cast aside. It could turn out to be something that she wanted to use later, or at the very least have elements that she could use.

Tikki finished looking through the sketchbook and returned her full attention to Marinette, who was still swapping back and forth between ‘I will be the greatest fashion designer to ever exist and it’ll be so easy!!’ and ‘Oh god, I’ll die alone and unknown and living on the streets without a penny or rag to my name and I won’t even get to get into lycée!!’ without any transition or pauses in-between the two extremes.

Oh dear. Tikki poked at Marinette’s phone to pull up its most recent searches and quickly confirmed her theory. Combine this with the sketchbook, and Tikki was fairly certain she could see how this had gotten started. Marinette had started doing research about what she’d need to do for lycée and universite beyond that, such as a portfolio…

And that lead here.

Tikki flew over and hugged Marinette’s cheek as the girl took a breath. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here, Marinette. Why don’t you sit down and have some orange juice and we can talk about everything? I’m sure it won’t be as scary if we break it down into manageable parts!”

“But there’s SO MUCH!” Marinette wailed. “And I haven’t done ANYTHING, I don’t have a portfolio and my designs are all-”

“Marinette,” Tikki said firmly, letting go of Marinette’s check and flying over to gently headbutt her in the temple. “You’ve done more than you realize, and a portfolio is easier to set up then you’d think! Come on, come sit down and catch your breath and we’ll figure this out! I know you forgot to set up the appointment to talk to Mademoiselle Bustier yesterday, but we can try again tomorrow! We have time, it’ll be okay, you’ll see!”

“Do you really think so?” Marinette asked, hopeful.

Tikki smiled. “I know so.”







Notes (Which were too long for the notes block):

Hey, everyone! I’ve got a question that will actually need an answer sometime in the near future, likely LONG before we get an answer from the canon show so I’m gonna have to come up with something that will likely break canon (Like how I had Nooroo’s ‘recharge’ item being sweet/fortified drinks like Redbull)
But I really want to get other people’s thoughts on the matter, so I’m posting this NOW and the question/debate will remain live until I start posting the next fic.

The Question: If the Butterfly’s powers were being used properly, do you think the Champions would retain recall of their actions after the Butterfly withdrew the Akuma? (operating under the assumption that in NORMAL circumstances the Butterfly CAN ‘recall’ the Akuma without the whole ‘needing someone to break the item’ issue for this. For this debate, assume that ‘The Butterfly can have a Champion stand-down/recall the Akuma at any desired point’ is canon)

The Debate: There are pros and cons to remembering and not remembering.
The Champions remembering would overall work to Papillon's benefit, as they'd be able to come up with excuses to slip away if Papillon used them more than once, etc
But also them remembering having that power, then having it be taken away... ooohhh, that could end badly with fearful regularity.

My Current view/thoughts: The way that the akumatized clearly can remember things WHILE they are akumatized might actually be the solution.
Chat's lines about the Akuma acting as a 'temporary hard-drive' were originally just Chat being... well, himself and more me just throwing random thoughts out.
But now I'm starting to think he might be right. The Akuma might be acting as an EXTERNAL hard-drive. When they akumatize someone, all of that person's memories are written/stored on the AKUMA rather than the person's own long term memory (thus them having no recall upon being de-akumatized). When the Butterfly is NOT being misused, the Akumas would not be purified when they leave the Champion, thus those stored memories would be retained.
We actually see evidence of this with Stoneheart, who WHILE he was Stoneheart the second time had clear recall of his actions the first time, despite IVAN lacking recall.

So I'm currently leaning towards 'even normally they lose recall due to Akumas being external hard-drives'.

Related to this, I think the Akuma ability to multiply is something… that doesn’t HAVE to happen. IE I think they usually just return to the Butterfly without multiplying, but the option of multiplying is always present. Tikki likely didn’t bring up LB not capturing the Akuma because Mari was so happy and proud of herself and Tikki was hoping this new Butterfly would not be aware of the ‘multiplying’ ability. That would make Ivan a re-akumatization risk (more so than usual) but Tikki wouldn’t have to worry about the ARMY.
(No, I can’t really explain the ‘did you capture the Akuma’ question away… every other instance in the show indicates that the Kwamis are fully aware of what’s going on while they are powering their Chosen, but randomly this one time they couldn’t… It’s weird. Honestly I’m leaning towards the Kwamis lying a bit there or something)

Chapter Text

Adrien grumbled, burying his hands in his hair as he glared at the list of films he and Chloé had managed to narrow the list down to.

He was starting to understand what Chloé was talking about when she said her brain hurt.

“Can we take a break?” Chloé groaned from where she was slumped on Adrien’s couch, head dangling over the edge and ankles resting on the backrest as she glared upside down at the list.

“We just took a break twenty minutes ago,” Adrien sighed, slumping to lay on the floor. “We have to work for, like, at least forty minute chunks in-between breaks.”

Chloé raised an eyebrow at him and held her phone up dramatically and started typing on it.

“What’re you doing?”

“Setting an ALARM.”

…Fair enough.

“Okay, so what are the… oh, just give me the list.” Chloé reached over and after smacking her hand on the paper for a bit before she managed to snag it and drag it over to herself, reading over the list.

“I think maybe La Belle et la Bête would be best.”

“That’s just because it’s your favorite film out of the ones we narrowed it down to. I swear, what is it with you and Jean Cocteau.”

“Well, yeah but it’s a solid story and really beautiful and deep and it’s what kickstarted post-war French Cinema and-”

“It’s a surrealist what-even by a guy hated by the actual, REAL, Surrealists and Dadaists. …But I guess the what-even factor will make re-writing the script into Latin easier.”

“It delves into a tortured artists SOUL!”

“…What?!”

“It’s a timeless masterpiece of the silverscreen!”

“…So it’s a nice bit of black and white. Why can’t we use something in COLOR?”

“CHLOÉ!!”

Chloé stuck her tongue out at Adrien, who pointedly ignored it.

“Look, how about we watch it through and see if we can use it or if there’s too much stuff we won’t be able to translate to Latin properly?”

Chloé rolled her eyes and dragged her phone out of her pocket and turned the alarm off dramatically, then slumped to lay on her back on the couch again, head hanging off the edge. “Fine,” she waved a languid hand.

Adrien rolled to his feet and went over to put the DVD into the player. He opened the desk drawer and grabbed the remote, then went back to his spot by the couch and hit play.

“Oh, great, a preamble, and it doesn’t even have nice dramatic music. …Maybe we should play Phantom of the Opera’s overture.”

“Chloé just READ it, please?”

“Alright fine…. Children have complete faith in us… yeah, gonna call bull on THAT-”

“CHLOÉ!”

“What? It’s not true.”

“It, well- but-” Adrien huffed, then his scowl cleared as the answer came to him. “We have to translate it ANYWAY because of the project!” he declared, pointing happily at Chloé, then resting his fists on his hips when Chloé groaned and buried her face in the couch’s cushions with a faint ‘fiiiiiiine’.

He won!

“…Okay, but I have never heard the ‘hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim and cause him shame’ thing, why is it even in there?”

“To explain why the Beast has smoke pouring off him later in the film!” Adrien yelped, offended that Chloé hadn’t realized that.

“…Wait so the film goes straight from Checkoff’s gun to ‘ignore the plotholes, look at the pretty pictures and use child logic’? In like ONE SENTENCE?”

“Uh. Well. When you put it… I-” Adrien groaned and slumped. “Yes.”

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Tikki watched as Marinette looked through portfolios online to try and get an idea of what a portfolio actually WAS, and what type of portfolio people looked for in the fashion industry.

It turned out that the biggest factor was actually… well, the school and course. Which made sense to Tikki at least. There were some things that seemed to be fairly universal however.

A well made one in A4 or letter size (thus easily double the size of Marinette’s current sketchbook) with a neutral colored cover and sleeves that would let Marinette easily take out, add or move around the pages of her portfolio to make it look just right for the varying standards.

The size and sleeves part had been easy to convince Marinette of, but Tikki was having a terrible time trying to convince Marinette NOT to have the cover be pink, or dark pink with light pink polka dots, or how pink lace on a white backdrop would look so amazing-

“Marinette,” Tikki said, smiling fondly. “I know you love pink, and that you’ll probably love pink all your life, but every site we’ve seen has said that neutral colored covers are best, especially dark grey or black ones because they’re more professional.”

Marinette huffed and crossed her arms. “Pink is professional.”

Tikki giggled. “No, it isn’t. Just because something is your favorite color doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice all the time, Marinette, and that’s okay. Every site we’ve checked has said that neutrals, especially black, are the way to go because it has to be something that will work ANYWHERE and everywhere, decades down the line.”

“And black goes with everything,” Marinette admitted with a sigh. “Always has and probably always will.”

Tikki nodded, smiling. “Now, I know it says not to have a logo on it… but maybe you could have your apple-blossom logo on the INSIDE of the front cover if you really want to have it.”

Marinette brightened slightly. “Do you think I could?”

“I think it’d be okay. We can probably ask when you go talk to someone at some of the lycées you want to go to. In the meantime, why don’t we look for the perfect professional portfolio online? This site-” Tikki flew over and moved through the open tabs on Marinette’s computer until she found the site she wanted. “-has some really nice links for portfolios! And it has the best advice about setting up a physical portfolio and digital ones!”

Marinette smiled and took the mouse from Tikki, opening the links to portfolios for sale in new tabs. “Wow, portfolios are expensive!” Marinette breathed, looking at the prices, all of which were three digits long, ranging from 100 euros to 300 euros. “I think I can buy one that isn’t black or grey as long as it’s got the sleeves and REALLY good binding,” she said. “That way I can make the cover myself, like I did for my sketchbook!”

“Well… if you do that we should find out what the best fabric would be… maybe just get the portfolio that’s perfect now and you can embroider your logo and just redo the inside of the cover later?”

Marinette huffed and poked Tikki. “You’re no fun.”

“Sometimes I’m not,” Tikki admitted, smiling fondly.

Marinette smiled. “You’re usually fun though.”

Tikki giggled.

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“…May the devil himself splatter you with his dung… oh I am USING that,” Chloé muttered, typing it down on her phone’s ‘notepad’.

“Chloé!” Adrien yelped.

Chapter Text

Tikki carefully phased through the floor of Marinette’s room and then peeked through the ceiling of the kitchen, she spotted Marinette and Sabine sitting together on the couch in the family room, both of them with their back to the kitchen. A quick glance around to make certain that no one else was in sight, and Tikki phased out of the ceiling and darted down to skim over the floor until she was at the couch, which she swiftly dove under.

There, now she could listen in and she wouldn’t have to worry about being seen or anything else.

Tikki glanced down at herself and frowned, brushing at her chest.

Except dust-bunnies.

“So I’ve narrowed the list down to these four for the portfolios…” Tikki heard the shuffle of the pages Marinette had printed as her Chosen handed the pages to her mom and Sabine looked through them.

“These look very nice Marinette, but…” Sabine sighed softly. “They are a bit expensive. I know you want to be a fashion designer, but maybe you should wait until you start lycée before you start putting money down into things like this?”

“But everything I found said that it’s best to get started on portfolios NOW, and this is what a works as… well, it’ll be easy to modify however I need it and it looks professional and it’s well made.”

Sabine was silent for several minutes, and Tikki heard her shuffling through the papers. “Well, what we can do is this…” the papers were put down on the couch and Sabine shifted so she faced Marinette completely. “You have an allowance, as well as the money you make from the few things you sell. I’m going to make a rule now, that– outside of special circumstances –you have save up the money to buy yourself things you want for your fashion career, like the portfolio and the cloth and sewing supplies. These things all cost money, but are not ruinously expensive, and are all within your budget…”

“Oh, but Maman-!!”

“No, ma chérie. I know we’ve been paying for all the cloth and thread and ribbon you’ve wanted, not made you pay for anything from your allowance, but paying for things yourself will help teach you to budget- and THAT is something that you would need to know in the fashion industry… especially when you’re just getting started and after you move out on your own.”

Marinette groaned. “But-”

“I’m not going to change my mind, you know, puppy dog eyes don’t work on me like they do your father.”

Tikki covered her mouth to stifle her giggle at the faint ‘awwwww’ that statement got from Marinette.

“I also would like you to look into spending time with some of the tailors and seamstresses and sewers and the like in the area. You learned a lot from the internet and on your own, but there are so many things that those professionals could teach you. Many of them would probably be willing to let you simply sit and watch while they worked, perhaps give you a few pointers. Others might want a least a little bit of payment for the time they’d be spending teaching you or having you in the shop when they would usually be working… but they would be more likely to let you practice with scraps or their machines… there’s a tailor who works with his wife next to your favorite fabric store for example, and his wife is a seamstress. They’re a very sweet old couple, why don’t you go talk to them sometime today?”

“Well… I guess… but– but if I have to pay them to just sit and watch, then it’ll take even LONGER to save up for the portfolio, and-”

“Marinette, I know you are very good and a quick learner, but you still have more to learn… watching and getting help from those with more experience with you is… well, you know how good I am at frosting and decorating cakes and cookies? I learned how to do that by watching and helping out at a professional chef’s business back in China when I was about your age. My uncle did the same when he was younger, and was the one who suggest the place to me. I’m now passing this lesson on to you.”

Marinette was silent, and Tikki hoped that Marinette was remembering what Tikki had told her when they’d faced Antibug about advice… the Kwami smiled in delight when Marinette sighed, then spoke up.

“You’re right, Maman.” The couch offered a faint noise as Marinette leaned forward and hugged her mom. “Thank you for the good advice, I’ll do my best to follow it.”

Sabine returned the hug and got to her feet. “Now, if something comes up that you don’t think you can afford, or that you KNOW you can’t afford fast enough, that’s when you talk to me or your father and we’ll figure something out, alright? I’m not throwing you to the wolves, ma chérie, just trying to help you get a bit of a feel for the big wide world.”

“I know, Maman. I think I’ll go talk to the tailor right now, then I can make my plans.”

“A wonderful plan. I know you’ll do wonderfully.”

Marinette got to her feet and hugged Sabine, then thundered up the stairs. Tikki watched her go… then squeaked when she realized what that meant and phased into the floor, racing under the surface till she got to the wall and phased up through that to pop out into Marinette’s room.

“Oh, Tikki, there you are!”

“Sorry, I wanted to see how the conversation between you and your mom went,” Tikki explained.

Marinette nodded and smiled, opening up her purse so Tikki could tuck herself into it even as Marinette pulled her shoes on and dashed off down the stairs and from there out and towards the fabric shop, the tailor and the seamstress.

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“…Did she just say she wants a MONKEY!?”

Adrien blinked and tried to swallow the huge bite of cheese and cracker he’d just taken so he could answer Chloé.

“She DID! Why didn’t you tell me there was going to be a monkey in this film?! I LOVE monkeys!”

“…but you hate the gorillas and chimps in-”

“Those are APES, Adrihoney. Monkeys have TAILS.”

“…That is seriously the only difference?”

“Well, no, I mean Apes are larger and have a different body structure overall… monkeys tend to be more… well, animal like. Barrel chested, the way the hips and neck connect, the proportions- …Look monkeys are cool, apes are not, that’s all there is to it.”

Adrien rolled his eyes and picked up another cracker, putting a nice big piece of smoked gouda on it.

“…You seriously mean to tell me that a family of aristocrats don’t have roses growing at their home in FRANCE? That no one in this town grows roses? That there aren’t WILD roses in the woods or fields? No wonder the sisters are laughing at her.”

Adrien offered a muffled ‘child logic’ around his mouthful of cracker and cheese, which made Chloé grimace and throw a napkin at him.

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Marinette paused outside the door of the small shop, taking a slow breath in.

“You can do it, Marinette!” Tikki chirped from Marinette’s purse.

Marinette smiled and squared her shoulders and opened the door, walking in and looking around to get a feel of the shop.

It was a nice size, a big enough rectangle to not feel crowded, but still rather cozy and comfortable. It was indeed right next to the corner fabric shop that Marinette loved to visit, sharing one of its walls with the back wall of the fabric shop and from what Marinette could tell the tailor/seamstress shop owned both this and the second floor (and maybe the third floor of the three story building as well).

One wall was lined with display shelves for bolts of fabric. Some had small, narrow shelves with tiny bolts, some were huge shelves with jumbo bolts. Where each display met the next, there was a mannequin. Some mannequins were in suits, others in dresses, and one or two were even in casual wear. The other wall was lined with racks and poles, with shirts, jackets, pants and dresses all neatly hanging up, ready to have their form adjusted for a perfect fit.

The center aisle of the store had small desk displays or free standing shelves, with either bolts of cloth or premade clothes neatly hanging. The very center had a handful of comfy looking chairs, and at the far end were three fitting areas, each raised pedestal neatly placed in front of three mirrors. One of the fitting booths was in use, a regal and taciturn looking woman being fitted for a suit by a smiling white-haired man who seemed immune to the sneer and occasional nasty aside that the woman kept aiming his way.

Another woman was heading straight for Marinette, but she was smiling just as kindly as the old man, her face wreathed in laugh lines and wrinkles, her curly white hair barely contained by the braid she had it in. “Hello, mademoiselle! Welcome to our shop! Are you looking for a fitting or a completely custom work?”

“Umm, actually I… well, my Maman… she said I should…” Marinette took a deep breath. “I want to be a fashion designer? My Maman said that I should come and ask if I could… stay and watch and learn? Am I saying this badly? I’m saying this badly. I don’t MEAN to say it badly I just don’t one hundred percent know what I want to ask or how to ask it or what’d go into it outside of me watching and LEARNING and I want to learn, because learning about things I love is the best and being able to make stuff and make it fit would be really important and-”

“If you’re going to prattle on would you PLEASE mind doing it somewhere else?” the woman who was being fitted suddenly interrupted sharply. “There are PAYING customers present.”

The elderly lady lost her smile for a moment, although she had it back on her face by the time she turned to face the taciturn woman being fitted by the old man. “Of course, my apologies. Mademoiselle, why don’t you come with me to the front of the shop. We can talk there without interrupting my husband or the Madame.”

Marinette nodded and followed the white-haired woman’s lead until they were at the front of the shop. Marinette gravitated to the bolts of cloth, examining them as she tried to gather her thoughts again.

The lady waited, seeming to understand. Once Marinette looked up, she held out a hand to the noirette. “Hello, mademoiselle. I’m Russi Homobonus-” she laughed when Marinette’s eyebrows made a run for her hairline. “Yes, really. Wayne told me that he was born fated to be a tailor, with that being his surname. While Saint Homobonus doesn’t work quite as well for a seamstress… well, he was the patron saint of clothmakers and shoemakers as well, so perhaps a seamstress isn’t too big a leap.”

Marinette shook Mme. Homobonus’ offered hand. “I’m Marinette Dupain-Cheng, Madame. I’m very pleased to meet you.”

“As am I to meet you. Now…” Mme. Homobonus glanced towards the back of the store, judging the customer and her reactions. “You said that your mother suggested you come here to watch us work?”

Marinette nodded, shuffling one foot. “She said that she learned a lot watching a professional cook back in China, and she wants me to learn more about being a fashion designer and clothes maker and…” Marinette gulped. “I’m not sure how to ask. I can pay if you need me to, but I really want to learn.”

“Well, Wayne and I will be going on a late lunch break after we fit Madame Vallée, and we can talk about all of this then, if you’d like?”

Having this discussion withOUT the taciturn and nasty woman present would be wonderful. “Can I have my Maman come with me?”

“Of course!”

Marinette nodded. “That sounds great. When should… how long…”

Mme. Homobonus glanced at the back of the store again, and winced. “How about… You give me a number to call, and I will let you know as soon as we are free?”

“That works.”






Notes (Which were too long for the notes block): This gentle start in the world of having to pay for things yourself and think about a budget is… well, not something I had.

I grew up poor. Paycheck to paycheck and some days having to skip at least one meal. Then when I was 16 my leg and hip (and a bunch of other areas) were forever ruined due to the actions of three girls jealous that I, a mixed race kid of low income, got to dance the role of the Swan Queen/Black swan. That made… everything more complicated.

BUT this is something that many of my family members who have married into the family from more well to do families did/have done and… well, it’s a very reasonable idea.

Marinette almost certainly gets an allowance, and given how well-to-do her family has to be given the home they own and other factors. It’s also likely a generous allowance. That means that it won’t take Marinette very long to save up to buy the portfolio she wants or the cloth/materials she wants/needs.

As for the ‘sitting and watching pros work, and possibly paying them for the privilege of doing so/getting pointers’…Yeah, that is actually a thing. I’ve mentioned before that my Mom was about at Marinette’s skill level when my mom was 16, and that said skill is – in reality- hard work to gain and maintain… one of the MAIN THINGS my mom did was go around to knitters and crochetors and seamstresses and clothing shops and above all else TAILORS. Most of them were more than willing to let my mom sit and watch and give pointers… several did require SOME form of payment (usually only a few dollars) to counter the supplies that they let my mom practice with, or the time where they couldn’t use their machines because my mom was practicing, etc. Sabine is, basically, making a VERY GOOD suggestion to Marinette right now… if Mari wants to get better and get experience and all of that- this is the best way to do it.

The tailor and seamstress couple co-owning a shop is actually based off the couple my mom ‘apprenticed’ herself to from when she was 12-21 (they did not ask for payment until she was 15, which is also when they let her start using the machinery like the forming press for hats, the sewing machine, etc). You USED to see a lot of that sort of thing, actually… or at least you would see seamstress (oddly, the term seamstress is often used as a unisex word, although seamster is used for male seamstresses on occasion) working fairly close to a tailor shop… largely because their skills complement each other with very little crossover/worry of losing customers to the other.

Generally, a seamstress sews clothes, fabrics and apparel for a living. A tailor works at altering clothing and apparel to fit a client/customer. By apprenticing herself to this couple, Mari is going to learn SO MUCH, and refine the skills she has, as well as actually getting her foot in the door to an extent in fashion, or at least getting her foot on the first rung of the ladder.

For one thing she’ll hopefully learn that you do not make a bowler hat by cutting felt and laying it over a cardboard truss and sewing it into place… bowlers are made by STEAM PRESSING and SHAPING felt and you need special gear (and a second person) for it. The hat Marinette made will
A: not hold its shape well, it’s going to sag wherever the cardboard trusses are not present, and
B: as soon as the cardboard deteriorates the hat will collapse completely…
this process will be accelerated by the heavy felt feathers on it, and any time the hat is exposed to moisture… although granted that one requires her working with a hatter for a bit, although hatters usually have seamstresses make the lining and do finishing work… granted while the side of the lining is stitched and pleated to the top of the lining, the lining is GLUED to the hat. As is the decorative band. The only thing that is actually stitched TO the hat is the leather interior band that helps hold the hat in place/wick sweat (and it is those stitch marks that the decorative band hides… which is why the band is GLUED on, so the lining doesn’t have stitches showing.)

Chapter Text

Adrien leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands. “Just LOOK at that design,” he sighed.

Chloé stared at the back of Adrien’s head, for a split second smiling softly. She had forgotten how ridiculous he could be. She looked at the castle. “It IS very Gustave Doré,” she admitted. “It reminds me of Doré’s Greek myth works with the trees and the way the castle looks almost like how he paints cliffs.”

Adrien nodded happily. “Like Les Oceanides les Naiades de la Mer!”

Chloé paused the film and backed it up slightly, tilting her head as she considered the image. “…Yeah, I can see that. …The trees are totally Mont Sainte-Odile Avec Mur Paien though.”

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After explaining what had happened at the shop to her mom, and Sabine agreeing to go with her to the shop when the owners called, Marinette went upstairs to try and wrap her head around everything.

She found herself smiling after a moment. She was doing it. She really was. Yeah it was kinda bleh that she had to start paying for supplies and stuff that she wanted, but… well, she did have a large allowance, and it wouldn’t take her long to save up for the portfolio even if she DID end up having to pay the couple at the Tailor/Seamstress shop to watch and practice and learn from them (And Maman was right, it WAS a good thing to pay people when she’d be intruding in their space and taking up their time so they could explain things and use supplies that they’d have to pay for and the like). Some of the rarer or more expensive fabrics that she liked to experiment with would take her longer to buy now, but… well, she could manage it.

“So, what’s your plan?” Tikki asked as she (for reasons Marinette couldn’t fathom) brought all of the discarded sketches Marinette had thrown aside down from the rooftop balcony and put them on table beside the computer.

“Well, first I’ll find out how much the Homobonuses want to charge, if anything for me… well, for me apprenticing to them and how many days a week, and how many hours, they want me to be there.”

Tikki dashed up to the balcony and came back down with another armful of balled up sketches. “And then?” she asked as she carefully added them to the growing pile on the desk.

“Then? Then I’ll save up and get my portfolio and put it together and I’ll show it when I start lycée! They’ll be so impressed and I’ll get into all the best classes and it’ll be so much fun and so easy and maybe I’ll be able to skip a year- no, two years! I’ll get a job at the Agreste Company, maybe the formal line, but Adrien models the casual line for the most part so I guess I could design casual clothes instead! Just imagine Adrien modeling MY clothes! It’d be perfect! And my designs will be on the runways in Paris and Milan and London and New York and it’ll fly off the racks and I’ll be world-renowned and amazing and once I marry Adrien that would mean I could CO-OWN the Agreste Company and start putting out all the designs I want!”

Tikki watched as Marinette spun and danced in place, her hands clasped by her chin. With a smile and a sigh, Tikki flew over and caught Marinette’s wrist, smiling when Marinette opened her eyes to look at the crimson Kwami.

“Maybe we should start with managing your time for being at the Homobonus’ store and saving up for the portfolio and ask a counselor at the lycée what course is best for you?”

Marinette giggled, but then nodded. “Yeah, I guess… maybe. …Start small?”

Tikki giggled. “Small steps are the way to start. Running leaps can come after you’ve gotten started.”

Marinette nodded and watched as Tikki flew up to the balcony again and came down with another armful of balled up pages. “Tikki?”

“Yes, Marinette?”

“Umm… what are-” Marinette paused as Tikki flew back up to the balcony and came back with a single balled up page, and closed the skylight behind herself. “What’re you doing?”

“Well…” Tikki flew over to the desk and uncrumpled the page she was holding and looked at the sketch of a dress that seemed to be based off one of the trees with a bush growing at its base from the park. “Can I ask you a few questions first?”

Marinette nodded. “Of course, Tikki.”

“Do you hate this sketch?”

Marinette walked over to look at the sketch and see which one it was. “Oh, that one? No, I don’t hate it.”

Tikki landed next to the uncrumpled page and waved a paw at the other balled up pages. “What about the other sketches? Do you hate any of them?”

Marinette shook her head and sat down on her swivel chair. “No, I don’t hate any of them.”

Tikki nodded and looked up at Marinette. “If you don’t hate them, why did you crumple them up and throw them away?”

“Well, ‘cause it wasn’t what I wanted.”

“But what if you decide you want a hobble dress based off a tree and bush sometime in the future?”

“Then I’ll just draw it again,” Marinttte said, smiling.

“What if the bush around that tree dies, or what if you can’t get the same angle… or what if you forget where you saw the perfect combination of tree and bush… or even just can’t get the lines to flow just how you want?”

Marinette frowned, considering that. “Well… I guess that I’d… I could probably draw it from memory or even my imagination?”

Tikki smiled. “You could, you’re very creative. But…” Tikki picked up the page and flew over to Marinette, offering it to her. “You wouldn’t have to redraw it if you kept this one. I know it isn’t perfect, or exactly what you want right now… but you don’t hate it, or even dislike it. By keeping it, if you decide to do a tree themed fashion line in the future you’ve already got a start, and maybe even before then some part of this can inspire you, like how Chloé’s comment about the paper dress inspired you!”

Marinette bit her lip and reached out to take the sketch. “Well…”

“Marinette, do you remember all those sketches you made for the bowler hat before you ended up on the pigeon themed one?”

“Of course!”

“Can you remember them well enough to draw them again if you wanted, say, an Eiffel Tower themed bowler to go with the glasses you made Jagged Stone? Or maybe a wheat themed one again?”

Marinette opened her mouth and then paused, frowning. “…Maybe. I think I could?”

Tikki nodded. “Now… do you remember at the start of the bowler hat contest, when we were still at school, and how you were looking through your sketch book to see if you had something that would work, even as a basis? That’s something that will probably happen again. If you keep the sketches that you don’t hate but aren’t perfect, then they can inspire you later.”

Marinette blinked and nodded slowly. “That makes sense. Even if I end up having to come up with something totally new… maybe next time it can inspire me, or maybe I won’t even have to sketch it!”

Tikki nodded, smiling. “It can’t hurt, and it might help a lot. Just because something isn’t perfect or exactly what you think you need at that moment doesn’t mean it should be cast aside.”

Marinette smiled and reached over to the pile of balled up sketches and carefully began to uncrumple them, Tikki helping her.

Some of them Marinette looked at and crumpled up again, tossing them into her wastebin, but most of them were decent, and a few were actually kinda nice now that she looked at them a second time. Tikki flew over with a binder and clear page sleeves and Marinette nodded, carefully putting the sketches into the sleeves.

“Thank you, Tikki.”

Tikki looked up from where she was trying to get the last page into its sleeve. “For what?”

“For… well, helping me calm down earlier, and looking for portfolios and this too.”

Tikki smiled and flew over to hug Marinette’s cheek. “I’m always happy to help you, Marinette.”

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“…THING!”

Adrien smiled as he watched the ‘bodyless hand’ pour Belle’s father a drink of wine. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is where the Addams Family got it from. …Not to mention the whole THEME and look. I mean doesn’t this look like it’s straight out of the old TV show?”

“…Wait. Does that mean that everything would be shades of PINK if this was in color?”

Adrien frowned and hit pause and twisted around to stare at Chloé in confusion. “Everything what?”

Chloé whipped out her phone. “Oh, you have GOT to see what the Addams Family set looks like in color… Something to do with how pink showed up in black and white film and why Frankenstein’s monster is GREEN…”

Chapter Text

Marinette walked alongside Sabine as her mom set a calm, steady pace to the Homobonus Store. “Thank you for coming, Maman.”

Sabine smiled. “It is nothing, ma chérie. I suggested this, it’s only fair that I come along to help you get everything set up.”

“I was thinking Wednesday afternoons and Sundays, unless an Akumatized Champion attack happens? With maybe some holidays?”

Sabine nodded. “That sounds like a good idea. That gives you time for school and your own fashion projects, as well as just a little time to do whatever you wish in.”

“What do you think a fair amount would be for me to pay them?”

“Well… that I think we should see what they think is fair.”

Marinette nodded. She hoped it wouldn’t be TOO much… if it was it would take her SO LONG to get the portfolio and any supplies she wanted for designing after this.

Actually it was already going to take such a long time to get anything now. She was so used to just… being able to get what she wanted and needed without worrying about it.

Budgeting hadn’t even started and it already was NO FUN.

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“How did they make his eyes do that glittery thin-KITTY!”

“Chloéééééé…”

“Oh, don’t you pull some romantic gobbley gook, the Beast is a KITTY! He’s even got little bitty stripes and SPARKLIES in his outfit!”

“Chloé, he’s MAJESTIC and-”

“Oh, please he’s no more majestic than Chat Noir. ...Not quite as cute, but still. That is not majestic.”

“Yes he is, the Beast-”

…wait.

“Chat Noir is cute?”

Chloé rolled her eyes. “What rock have you been living under, Adrien? EVERYONE has eyed that… butt… at least once.”

Adrien felt his cheeks starting to burn. “What?”

“…Really? Come on, I’ve seen Juleka eye it once or twice and she’s only got eyes for girls. Hell, I’ve even seen LADYBUG eyeing it once or twice. ”

Adrien choked.

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Woooooooooow. There was SO MUCH COOL STUFF.

Marinette found that she just couldn’t stand still, twisting and darting around and looking at all the machinery and fabrics and tools that filled the space of the second floor of the Homobonus’ shop. She and her mom had gotten everything sorted out with Wayne and Russi fairly quickly for an amount that everyone had felt was fair, and the old couple had been perfectly happy with Marinette coming in on Wednesdays and Sundays… and if an Akumatized Supervillain attacked, Marinette could come in on Saturday to ‘make up’ for it.

Now Marinette had been allowed up to the second floor, which was apparently the ‘work’ floor where all the seamstressing and tailoring work happened. Russi and Wayne watched her wandering around. A loud knocking sound from downstairs had had Wayne heading down to check it out, offering his wife and Marinette a friendly wave as he went.

There were two (TWO) electric sewing machines. One was small, about half again the size of the one Marinette owned, the other was much larger and bulkier and Marinette honestly wouldn’t be surprised if you could sew COWHIDE with it. There was a very new looking computerized sewing machine tucked into a back corner under a bright lamp… Marinette wandered over and giggled, covering her mouth when she realized that the tag was actually still attached to the computerized sewing machine.

Very, VERY new it seemed.

“Ah, you saw the tag?” Russi asked as she walked over, smiling.

Marinette nodded, trying to stop her giggles.

“It’s very useful for some things, and we decided to get one after a large commission we finished. So far it’s earning its keep. Thom swears by it, Lisette thinks it’s silly and Eppie agrees with Wayne and I about how it’s… alright.”

“Thom, Lisette and Eppie?”

“Ah, don’t tell me you thought Wayne and I ran a shop as large as this all by our lonesome?”

Marinette shrugged. The store WAS significantly larger than the Confiserie, Boulangerie, and Patisserie that her mom and dad ran on their own, but surely tailoring and seamstressing couldn’t be as hard as baking? It was so easy after all for Marinette to design and make clothes from patterns and backpacks and assemble purse-kits or create cover-sleeves for books…

Russi smiled. “We have three people who work for us. Eppie and Lisette are tailors like my Wayne, and Thom is learning to be a seamstress, he and Lisette are engaged now and talking about buying our little shop when Wayne and I retire this year or next. We have the shop open both Saturday and Sunday and most holidays, but today ended up being a quiet day so our trio of apprentices left early.”

Marinette nodded and wandered over to look at the biggest and heaviest (And most complex looking, there were over ten bobbins on it!! ) sewing machine she’d ever seen. She reached over to gently touch it. “What’s this?”

“Ah, that’s my old workhorse. It’s an overclocker sewing machine. They are only good for a few things… mostly giving you very, VERY professional seams or gathering or attaching binding, but it is very VERY good at what it does, and it’s much faster than any other type of sewing machine could be.” Russi walked over and patted the machine fondly. “It can trim while it sews and make perfect rolled hems and more.”

Wow! Marinette looked the machine over, eyes shining. Hems were EVIL. The fact that there was something that could FIX that and make hemming and finishing easy?

Worth the price of admission to learn how to use an overclocker!

Heck, it was worth the price of admission and the free time she was losing just to learn that overclockers existed!! The world was a wonderful place!

A woman’s voice, raised in anger, could suddenly be heard from downstairs, making both Marinette and Russi look towards it. “Oh dear...” Russi said softly. She walked to the head of the stairs and listened for a moment, then winced. “Ah, Madame Fabienne Vallée is back.” Russi turned to Marinette. “I probably need to go down and save my Wayne from that woman’s ‘riotous fury’...” see’s the expression on Marinette’s face, Russi regained her smile. “Oh don’t worry, you won’t have to go past her. I’ll take you out through the back entrance before I head into the shop. This way.”

Marinette followed Russi down the stairs and, rather than heading out the door right in front of the stairs, Russi lead Marinette down a narrow, cluttered hall to an equally narrow door.

“Here we are. And it’s on the side opposite the shop’s entrance too.”

Marinette listened to the shouting that was going on. “What about… Akumas?”

Russi frowned faintly, humming as she looked towards the shop. “It… should be alright. There will always be fussy, stuck-up pricks of customers. So long as Wayne and I get the Madame satisfied, she should not end up Akumatized… and Wayne and I have thick skins. …and one of the advantages of age is learning that not everything be one hundred percent emotion and passion all the time. …but thank you for thinking of it, it IS a new concern in all matters.”

Marinette nodded and slipped out the narrow door and was soon walking home, humming happily.

“Well?” Tikki asked from her purse.

“Maman was right, Tikki. …and I think I’m going to LIKE learning there, as well as learning a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“So it’s worth having less allowance left at the end of the week, and losing free time?”

Marinette smiled. “Definitely worth it. I can’t wait for Sunday.”

Chapter Text

“…So am I supposed to apply child logic to the relationship?”

Adrien blinked at Chloé. “What do you mean?” He frowned. “Oh, don’t tell me you buy that stupid ‘Stockholm’ junk…”

Chloé scoffed. “Adrihoney, please. I do have a brain. Even in this film it’s only got the vaguest connection to that, and ‘It’s Stockholm Syndrome’ doesn’t hold up if you actually look at it. …or know what Stockholm Syndrome is…”

“Okay, so what-”

“You’ve gotta admit that it’s a bit flat and… a bit…” Chloé stared at the screen, where the Beast was either holding himself up or lounging against the wall, covered in blood with smoke pouring off him. “…weird.”

“…Yeah, okay you do have a point.”

“Any ideas how we translate THIS to Latin?”

“Ummm…”

“…I will admit that her little snarky sash swirl and toss is cool though. I gotta try that sometime.”

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Marinette hummed softly as she played Mecha Strike III online, biting her tongue as she concentrated.

Max, it turned out, was actually a lot better when he was going all out and not just playing casually to see who would be his partner.

A LOT better, definitely Marinette’s equal in this game… and since he could dedicate all his free time to games and playing and practicing, it had turned out that he was actually better than her at other games, even combat games. She COULD give him a run for his money with Mortal Kombat though, and honestly- given how good Max was- Marinette took certain pride in her rare hard won victories.

In Mecha Strike, however, they were equal. She won against him about as often as he won against her, and roughly half their matches ended in draws.

It was actually really nice, and she tried to set aside an hour or three every Saturday to play online with Max. When she’d found that she had some free time this Thursday, she’d called Max to see if he’d like to play a few rounds. As she played, a thought occurred to her and she reached up to tap the button on her headset, turning the mic back on. “Hey, Max?” she asked.

#“Yes, Marinette?”#

“Have you ever played Final Fantasy?”

#“…I’ve played all of them, are you talking about one in particu-SHOOT!! Nooooo!! …okay that was a good combo, Mari, you made my mech’s head fly off, I didn’t even know that was an animation option. How’d you manage it?”#

Marinette smiled. “There’s an exploit in the ranged mechs if you’re stuck doing melee for a minute. If you hit North, South, East, East, West, North, North and then North and South at the same time you kinda glitch into your enemy and the game deals a LOT of damage to the other player sorting it out. It’s a fun exploit, though I don’t know if it works with melee or mixed-purpose mechs.”

#“What is it with you and exploits?”#

“They make the game easier!”

Max sighed over the line, and Marinette imagined him rolling his eyes at her.

#“Do me a favor and do NOT introduce Kim to exploits. He already is obsessed with speed runs, he’d abuse exploits to the point that he’d use nothing else if he found out about them… unless we could convince him that no exploits was more of a challenge…”#

“Fair enough.”

#“So you were asking about Final Fantasy?”# Max asked as the game reset and the mechs loaded in.

“Yeah, a friend of mine lent me Seven and it’s kinda slow and the graphics are goofy, but the plot’s good and the characters are fun. …Not that great at the game mechanics, but still… fun. I’m gonna play the other games set in the ‘World of Seven’ or whatever it’s called, but which ones do you think I should play after I finish the ‘Seven’ games?”

#“Well, as a general rule, the odds are the good games. Not saying the even numbered games are BAD… they just generally aren’t as good as the odds. The graphics get better the higher the number, obviously, and you might like the later combat systems better too. …Tactics is really hard, and I don’t think you’d like it much, even though I loved it.”#

“Oh? Any reason why?”

#“Well, you told me that you don’t like ‘long consequence’ games, or things where you have to do lots of managing or if you don’t do something fast enough you can lose. Tactics has all of that.”#

“Oh, yeah that doesn’t sound like something for me then.”

#“If you like Final Fantasy you’ll LOVE Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross though. Trigger is a bit older than Seven, but the cut scenes are all anime-”#

“Bleh, really?”

#“Huh, I did not peg you for an anime anti.”#

“Anime is OKAY just… I don’t like the art style all that much, and a lot of the plots are kinda just… there… for me. If the plot or characters are good enough I’ll watch it though.”

#“Fair enough. …Well, I think the plot of Chrono Trigger’d be worth it, but you should probably talk to Mylène about it, she’s a HUGE Chrono Fan. I know she got Ivan hooked on it.”#

“Cool, I’ll do that tomorrow. So after I finish all the ‘Seven’ games, if I don’t go for Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross, which one do you think I should try next?”

#“Well, Nine is one of my favorites, so I’m gonna go with that.”#

“Cool.” Marinette groaned as Max took out her mech in an impressive combo. She huffed, puffing her cheeks as she waited through the loading screen. She looked at the pile of games Chat Noir had left at her place and frowned, tilting her head to the side to read the titles. …That was a lot of titles with Zelda.

“Hey, Max? Are the Zelda games fun? And more importantly is Zelda a fun character? Does he have fun lines like they do in Final Fantasy?”

Max cracked up, hitting pause on his end.

Marinette waited patiently until Max seemed to calm down. “What’d I say?”

#“Sorry… Sorry, shouldn’t have laughed it’s just… Yeah, I can tell you haven’t played any of the Zelda games.”#

“Well, yeah I asked about them, so-”

#“No, no, that’s not it. Mari, Zelda is a GIRL. She’s like always a kick ass Princess that the plot is centered around and usually gets up to fun stuff. But you, the player, control ‘Link’. …Who’s a guy and doesn’t talk or have any lines… most of us just kinda assume he’s mute, cause he doesn’t even have the little ‘nonsense sounds insteada of words’ that the others have.”#

“Oh. …OHHHHHHHH, so when I asked if HE had fun LINES talking about ZELDA-”

#“Yup. Still, sorry for laughing… It was just kinda funny.”#

“No, it’s cool, I would have laughed to! …My friend who lent me the games said the Zelda games were fun and suggested… Uhhh, hold on…” Marinette got up to poke through the games. “Uhhh, I think it was ‘Wind Walker’? …Is that a CHIBI?”

Max laughed. #“If it’s Wind Waker, the answer is yes. Wind Waker is 3d, but it’s designed to have this real ‘cell animation’ design, and is pretty chibi… but the plot and characters are a ton of fun, and they pull some REALLY fun stuff with the characters and back story.”#

“Okay, cool, I’ll check it out later.” Marinette went back to her computer. “All set if you want to unpause, Max.”

#“Unpausing. You are going DOWN, Dupain-Cheng!”#

“In your DREAMS, Kanté!!”

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“Wait, wait, wait. Stop. Rewind.”

“Uhhh, literally rewind or-”

“Belle arrived on a horse, on a horse that the Beast GAVE her father… which raised its own questions about what happened to the Dad’s horse… why the glove?”

“Cause… it’s teleportation? …and we get a really cool scene and imagery? I mean check out how she arrives at her house!” Adrien hit play again.

“…Adrihoney, the movie just gasped at itself.”

“…Yeah, okay that is a little bit hokey.”

Chapter Text

Marinette hummed softly to herself as she looked over the portfolio site again. Max had headed off to do chores a couple of minutes ago and, lacking anything else to do at the moment, Marinette had gravitated back to what had started this whole, very eventful, day.

“Wow, sometimes they won’t even OPEN a portfolio if it’s too grungy or they think it’s disgusting?!”

“It makes sense,” Tikki said as she munched on a cookie. “You wouldn’t go to an interview in a dirty sweat-suit and expect them to give you a job about designing clothes. …Sometimes all they see at the interviews are portfolios people have turned in. First impressions are important, so is dressing for the job… and your portfolio is part of that.”

Marinette nodded. That made sense. At least she didn’t need a portfolio to get INTO lycée, although she would need one to get into any of the universities she wanted. She could probably start getting a digital portfolio together… although that was apparently as variable as the physical portfolio, so it’d probably be best to have everything in folders on her computer and then just put what she needed for the portfolio into the email or flashdrive each time.

Hmmm, well, the glasses she’d made for Jagged Stone would probably always be a good thing to have in her portfolio. Leaning over, Marinette snagged her sketchbook and opened it to a fresh page. She’d do some sketches and the like now, get an idea of what to make it look like for when she had the portfolio.

Hmmm. What else?

Well, she’d made her purse and backpack this summer… but she’d used online guides and pattern ‘blueprints’ for them, so did that count?

But then again, most of her clothes had been made using patterns or at most modified from patterns (her capris, to use one example, used the waist and hips of the pattern from a set of slacks and the legs of another pattern of capris).

So did any of those count?

…Best to ask Mademoiselle Bustier or a counselor at lycée whenever she managed to get an appointment.

She HAD made some small designs without the use of patterns… the glasses and pigeon hat among them, so she could definitely include things like that!

Ooo, Tikki had mentioned the Eiffel Tower bowler hat to go with the glasses she’d made for Jagged Stone and that was a really good idea now that Marinette thought of it!

Marinette started to flip back through her sketchbook and then groaned.

Well, here was direct evidence of what Tikki has said about keeping old sketches. Now she’d have to re-draw ALL the bowler designs she came up with from scratch. Uuuuugggh. She wasn’t even certain she could remember all them!

Grumbling, Marinette went back to the unused pages and tried to capture the feel and look of the Eiffel Tower bowler hat again.

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“Okay, first she randomly could cry diamonds and now the necklace turns to literal crap when other people hold it? …Cool effect for the crap-to-pearls though, especially given the whole 1940s thing.”

“They are bad people and not worthy-”

“Does that mean the diamonds turn to crap too? Cause if that’s the case then they are screwed if they try to use them for money or anything! Unless you think the jeweler is also gonna be as awesome as Belle and her dad? …And anyway IS her dad all that awesome? I mean he did kinda go ‘sure I’ll send you a daughter to die in my place! Hey Belle, wanna help me out, LOL?”

“I-. …Uh. I don’t... Well, I mean-”

“MONKEY!!”

Adrien facepalmed even as Chloé lunged forward and snatched the remote control out of Adrien’s hand and, still half sprawled over him without even seeming to realize it, she rewound the film to where the sisters were looking into the magic mirror again.

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She just couldn’t get the new sketch to look like her memory of the original sketch.

Marinette huffed and slumped on her desk, glaring at her sketchbook. It had BETRAYED HER.

Wanting a distraction, Marinette looked around until she saw Tikki floating by the window looking off into the distance…

Distance.

Marinette sat up. “Tikki? Can I ask you something?

“Of course, Marinette,” Tikki said, flying over to sit on the currently abandoned sketchbook.

“Early today, you went… well, out for a bit.”

Tikki nodded. “To go to talk to Plagg about Papillon and, well, a lot of other things.”

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Marinette admitted.

Tikki tilted her head, confused. “You didn’t know I could talk to Plagg?”

“Talk to… No, no, I meant I didn’t know you could… travel? That you could range- is range the right word? –range away from the Miraculous… away from me, I guess.”

Tikki’s expression cleared. “OH! …Well, that makes sense, I guess you were too distracted by worrying about me being sick to realize how far away I’d gotten from you and the Miraculous with Princess Fragrance, huh?”

Marinette opened her mouth, the closed it blinking. Wow, yeah… she’d finally been reunited with Tikki, she'd been somewhere in the 8th Arrondissement hadn’t she? The car had driven off so fast too, it might even have gotten all the way to the 8th while she was still at the hotel in the 4th.

“How far away can you go?”

Tikki hummed, considering. “You know, I’ve never really tested the limits? I could ask Plagg for you, if you’d like. He likes testing the bonds of the Miracle Stones, so he’s probably found the edge at some point. It’s definitely larger than Paris, that much I’m certain of.”

“What happens if I go to transform and you’re far away?”

“Well, there’ll be a small delay due to the distance, but I’ll still arrive FAST. At the speed the transformation calls, I can cross all of Paris in less than a minute.”

“Wow, you could sense I wanted to transform that far away!?” Marinette asked, delighted.

“Weeeeellllll…”

“…well?”

“It isn’t so much as ‘I would sense you’ as… well, if you call for the transformation, the MIRACULOUS summons me to power it, no matter how far away I am or if I want to or if you’ll be seen or anything else.”

“Oh, that makes… wait, so if you’re far away you can’t sense me?”

Tikki nodded. “My ability to sense a Chosen… to know where you are and how you’re feeling is… well, it was an unintended side effect of the Miraculi when they were crafted and we were bound. Plagg and I, being the first, are sort of… a prototype run for the others that came later. Among other things, our ability to sense and find our Chosen is very limited… I couldn’t sense you if you were here and I was at Notre Dame for example.”

“Wow. …Has that ever caused problems?”

Tikki dropped her gaze to the desktop. “Yes, far too many times. It’s why I don’t like ranging away all that much.”

Marinette scooped Tikki up and hugged her close, wanting to comfort her friend. Tikki seemed to enjoy it, hugging Marinette back. After a minute Marinette set Tikki back on the desktop.

“Tikki?”

“Yes, Marinette?”

“You said you and Plagg were… first? Kinda like prototypes?”

Tikki nodded. “That’s right.”

“…Could you tell me what that means? I mean, I know what prototype means, but… are there things you can do that other Kwami can’t? Are there things other Kwami can do that you can’t?”

Tikki giggled. “WELLLL, one of the ‘I can do that no one else except Plagg can do’ things is that there is really nothing that limits what I can talk about… I can tell you anything I wish about Kwamis and Miraculi… provided, of course, that I think you’re ready for it.”

“If I’m ready for it?”

Tikki smiled. “You’re very young, Marinette. There are something that are best if left till you’re older and wiser. Your Dad wouldn’t have tried to teach you how to bake bread or use the oven when you were one year old, would he?”

“Oh. I guess that makes sense. So… there’s a limit for how far away you can sense me, and a limit for how far away you can go from the Miraculous… Is that the same for the other Kwa- Wait! Chat Noir! THAT’S how you knew he was coming on Friday! …AND on Tuesday! You can sense other Kwami can’t you!!”

“I can sense, Plagg but I can’t sense other Kwami,” Tikki clarified. “Plagg and I are two parts of the same whole. I can sense him from far further away than I can my Chosen, among a few other things.”

“Okay.” Marinette rested her chin on her hands and locked her eyes onto Tikki. “What else can you tell me?”

Chapter Text

“…Hey, how the heck did the horse get back to Belle’s home for Avenant to ride back to the Beast’s castle? Didn’t Belle ride THAT horse to the Beast’s place in the first place?”

“Um. You know I’m not sure. We can rewatch to see if it’s the same horse?”

“Also if everyone saw the stuff turn to crap, why do they think stealing it will make it NOT turn to crap?”

“…Child … logic…?”

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“-and so after Peklenc, the unnerved haliae, and amused jinn left, the Guardians decided to outlaw the ‘hide the Miracle Stones game’ as hazardous to everyone’s health and legal standing. …Much to Morrigu’s annoyance!”

“So… the Miraculi CAN be damaged?”

“Like the Miraculous 'magical items' and Lucky Charms, they’re impervious to most damage-magical and mundane,” Tikki clarified. “But they can be damaged or destroyed. And both damage and destruction to a Miracle Stone can remain even after the Ladybug uses the Restoration, as the destruction remained for Zeeb’s… Peklenc’s to use his true name… Miraculous and the damage did for Morrigu’s Miraculous.”

Marinette gasped in horror.

Tikki blinked in confusion. “Marinette?”

“It must be so horrible, to have a damaged Miraculous- I just… if the earrings were ever damaged I don’t think I could bear the idea of you being hurt, and-”

“OH! No, no, I didn’t explain this well. The Miraculi being damaged doesn’t HURT us, Marinette, I swear!” Tikki smiled. “The raven brooch has been cracked for over one thousand years now, and Morrigu suffers no harm from it. She’s still the same-old cranky, strong-willed, cantankerous… person… that she was before.” Tikki giggled. “Don’t ever tell her this, but I think she’s actually really nice, and I like it when I get to work with her, or just hang out.”

Marinette relaxed ever so slightly. “It doesn’t hurt you? Or… or kill you?”

Tikki shook her head. “Not in the slightest,” she promised. “Zeeb NOT being killed when his Miraculous was destroyed was not a fluke, it was just… Well, the Miracle Stones were created by human hands… the hands of sorcerers, but human none the less. They’re…” Tikki trailed off, considering. “Well, I guess you could say they’re a contract? …yes, that works. They’re a contract the sorcerers created. And just like if you were to damage or destroy a contract, it wouldn’t hurt the PEOPLE the contract was about-”

“But what about someone being hurt because of what the contract was about, or supposed to stop?”

Tikki paused before answering. “Okay, I guess you could argue that someone might be hurt because they’re no longer protected or something by what the contract was about, but that doesn’t… really… apply here.”

Marinette nodded.

“So Morrigu’s ‘contract’ has a few rips, and burns… and some of the words can’t be read anymore, but the contract is still… intact? I think that’s the best way to put it.”

“That makes sense. I’m glad she wasn’t hurt when the Black Cat hid her and Peklenc’s Miraculi.”

Tikki smiled. “Well, in all fairness Morrigu probably had a hand in what happened and why. She IS omen as well as war and death, and often had debates with the sorcerers that crafted the Miraculi and the Guardians who later followed them. That Black Cat was a mischievous scamp. She was the daughter of a fisher- or…” Tikki hummed. “No, not fisher, they dove for shellfish and would weave these beautiful golden fabrics from something they got from some of the shellfish. I can’t remember what though. Plagg could tell you, if you ask him. She had so much potential…”

Marinette nodded, then bit her lip. “Tikki?”

“Yes?”

“Have I… about potential… I was- well…” Marinette huffed. “How come Chat can split hit baton but I can’t split my yoyo?”

Tikki giggled. “Can’t you?”

“I mean it’d be so USEFUL and- wait…” Marinette eyed Tikki. “What do you mean ‘Can’t I’?”

Tikki giggled again.

“Tikkiiiiiiiiiiiiii…”

“Yes, Marinette?” Tikki chirped oh so innocently… and then ruined it by giggling yet again.

Marinette flailed her arms around. “I don’t, you just… Why has he figured it out and I haven’t?!”

“Honestly? Chat Noir likes to experiment and find out the why and how of things. You tend to find out what works and go with it. You are creative but you don’t often care much about WHY something works, or HOW it works, only that it does. That’s okay, but sometimes you can miss things… just like sometimes Chat gets so caught up in trying to figure out the whys and hows that he messes up the end result, or it takes him too long to get to the solution. You both are very different from each other in many ways, after all.”

Marinette huffed and crossed her arms, but finally slumped and sighed. “So anything Chat can do, I can do?”

“Every ability one of you has, the other has an equivalent to. It might not be the same thing, but it WILL be equal… like Cataclysm and Restoration or like Purify and Vanquish.”

Marinette nodded absently, already mentally going over how she could experiment with her yoyo to see if she could get it to split and, once she did so, all the new cool things she’d be able to do. It was going to be AMAZING! …She probably shouldn’t wait till the next Champion though. “Tikki, would it be okay if I practice next patrol and let Chat patrol alone?”

“He should be fine with it, as long as you call him and leave him a message so he knows not to expect you. I’ll be okay with it too.”

Marinette nodded. And if she couldn’t figure out HOW to get her yoyo to split, she could always either call Chat or just go find him along the patrol route and ask him how he got his baton to split, and… huh, wait a second.

“Tikki, you said that the Restoration couldn’t fix a damaged Miraculous or restore a destroyed one… but I thought the Restoration was… well, I thought it could fix anything and everything, no limits or stuff.”

Tikki shook her head. “No. Like everything in life, there are limits.”

Marinette frowned and sat up straight. She’d been operating under the assumption that the Reset was a true, perfect, magical ‘fix all’. “Okay, tell me everything.”

“It won’t be everything,” Tikki warned. “As I said before, there are some things that… well, you aren’t ready for, among other factors.”

“Tell me everything you can then,” Marinette said as she grabbed a notebook and pen.

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“….What just happened!? How did Avenant and the Beast switch places!? Were they always the same people? I mean we never see them at the same time and they were played by the same person… Was that statue always alive and a guard for the vault!? Why didn’t the Beast mention the magic body-swapping arrow-armed statue security guard to Belle?! …I… where are they… stop getting raptured! GET DOWN OFF THAT CLOUD AND COME BACK HERE AND EXPLAIN! Don’t you dare ‘Fin’ me! THE ENDING IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE SENSE!! …uugh my brain hurrrrrrts….”

Adrien covered his mouth with both hands, trying to hide his smile.

Chapter Text

“Okay, so…” Marinette looked at the notes she’d taken of everything Tikki said she could be told.

They were kinda rambley. She’d have to go through and get everything all neat and stuff… and have them somewhere where her mom wouldn’t find them while cleaning her room or-

Marinette glanced at her Diary Box.

That’d work.

Getting up, Marinette unlocked the box and pulled her diary out, then walked back to the desk and put it down. She’d lose a few pages to notes instead of being able to write about her day, but this was important. And she was about halfway through the diary already, she was going to have to order a new wooden box and diary set online and a second spring-scale and spring-latch-and-lock set from-

“Oh! OH!! THAT’S Why Tinker looked familiar!!”

“Marinette?”

“When she de-Akumatized, I thought Tinker looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her!” Marinette pointed at her diary box. “Tinker’s Jane Wren! She’s the metalsmith that owns that shop near the Eiffel Tower? She makes a lot of delicate mechanical things, and sells some of them as sets so people can assemble it themselves if they like. I bought the parts for my diary box from her!”

“Oh! That’s nice. I’m glad you remembered.”

“Me too. I’m more than half way through my current diary, so I’ll order a new diary and box off the net tonight, then swing by her shop this weekend with the dimensions and mass and stuff to set up an order for the parts.”

“Ah, which lead to you remembering who’d helped you,” Tikki said, nodding.

Marinette smiled. “Yup.”

But back to business.

Carefully flipping back and forth between the notes she’d scribbled and her diary, Marinette wrote everything down in what seemed to be the order of importance (to her at least). It took several minutes, but Marinette was satisfied with the end result.

“Now… what do I do with these?” she wondered, looking at her notes. Couldn’t just put them in the garbage, after all. Shredding them up might not be enough…

“Ball them up and I’ll take care of them,” Tikki said. She smiled at Marinette’s confused look.

Marinette finally just shrugged and balled all the pages up, then handed the first one to Tikki.

Who opened her mouth impossibly wide and ATE the page in one gulp, then held out a paw for the next.

Marinette squeaked.

“What? Just because I like cookies doesn’t mean I can’t eat anything and everything else.”

That was… fair enough. Marinette handed the rest of the balled up pages, one at a time, to Tikki, and tried not to squeak again at tiny little Tikki munching each of them in a single deceptive snap.

Okay. New thing to be added to the list of things that were very new and kinda almost scary in a way about Tikki.

The loose pages of notes all gone, Marinette looked back to her diary-notes. “Okay… so…” first thing on the list was… “Actually, this one is something I’d kinda figured out already.”

“Oh?”

Marinette nodded. “Well, I mean outside of the fact that I’ve always used the Lucky Charm to summon the Restoration… well, I did try a bunch of ways to summon it WITHOUT a Lucky Charm and nothing happened, so it makes sense that they’re kinda a two-part deal of a single ability… I mean I tried just shouting ‘Miraculous Restoration’, and then shouting that while throwing random things in the air, and throwing my YOYO up in the air and throwing CHAT up in the air, and none of those worked, so-”

“I still can’t believe you did that,” Tikki said, shaking her head.

“Which one?” THAT earned her a look from Tikki. “Oh, Chat? Well, it made SENSE… He’s got a Miraculous and he’s connected to… well, what powers us like the Lucky Charms are, so… Oh don’t give me that look, he was FINE.”

“He landed in the SEINE.”

“Well, yeah... I did apologize.”

“You were laughing so hard I think it kinda NEGATES the apology.”

“I couldn’t help it! He was all huhWHAAAAAA and flailing like a real cat and then SPLOOSH!” Marinette giggled and went back to her diary-notes. “Anyway, it was just CHAT, and he was fine! He forgave me and said he understood.”

“Of course he did,” Tikki sighed softly.

There really wasn’t… much here, now that Marinette looked at the notes. A lot of what she and Tikki had covered had been things Marinette already knew or had figured out. She had to use Lucky Charm to summon the Restoration, although she didn’t have to have USED the Charm- that one she’d proven a few times, like how she’d summoned the tarp Lucky Charm to try and stop the bank robbers but had never used it because the nice driver lady had crashed the car herself to try to help.

The fact that, so long as it had happened because of the battle, themselves or their enemy, the Miraculous Restoration could fix ANYTHING, up to and including death, was nice to have confirmed and written down. …Although, it did make Marinette worry about WHY Chat had known that. He had been unconscious when his heart stopped (and thus he technically died) due to Madame Mort after all, AND Alya had been the one to save him with CPR, rather than the Restoration… So how could he have known?

It was still a disquieting thought. Marinette moved on to the next point of interest in the notes, not certain she really wanted to know the answer to it. Not yet, maybe not ever.

“Why can I make the Restoration add or miss things?” Marinette asked Tikki, scowling as she thought of what THAT had resulted with in her room after Madame Mort.

Tikki shrugged. “Honestly? Free will. Humans have free will and that will is VERY powerful, and since the Ladybug is the one SUMMONING the reset… the will of the Ladybug is going to influence it. And it can be a good thing too, you know. Think about Alix’s watch. Yes, in the second timeline you could argue that it was dropped because you shouted at Chloé to put it down, but that usually wouldn’t be enough… since you dropping and destroying Alya’s phone while the Mime was attacking people a couple of meters away, and dropping it a second time when you saw the cop car flying by, wasn’t enough for the phone to be fixed by the Restoration. And sometimes… Sometimes you’ll NEED things to stay broken or the like. Imagine if there was something that was going to explode BEFORE a fight started, like a damaged engine, and during the fight Chat used Cataclysm to destroy the… whatever… during the fight. If the Restoration repaired the thingy, it’d still explode once it was restored! But if it WASN’T restored thanks to the Ladybug WILLING it to stay destroyed…”

“Oh. …Okay, that does make sense. So it’s kinda a safety feature and just… kinda also ‘human’?”

“Yes, exactly.”

"Is it just subconscious or is it conscious or what?"

"Both. At first, like up until now, it's subconscious, because you didn't even know you could influence it. Now that you know, you can influence consciously as well, but your subconscious is still going to play a part."

"Is Cataclysm like that?"

"Yes. At first what was destroyed and how was totally subconscious... but Chat likes to experiment and find out the how and why, so now it's conscious control mostly."

Marinette nodded and looked back at what she'd written. The last point of note… needed clarification, at least in Marinette’s mind. “Tikki, what did you mean when you said the Lucky Charm HAD to be tied to a battle for the Restoration to work? I mean… if I were to transform right now and summon Lucky Charm, would I not get a Lucky Charm?”

“No, you would get one. It’d be a completely random object though, since both you and I wouldn’t be willing it to be something you could use in a… situation, I guess you could say.”

“Wait, so my will is impacting the Lucky Charm too?”

“Of course! Not much, since I am the one that ultimately chooses the Lucky Charm because as a Luck God I can see what will help you the most, that's how I can show you the parts to the puzzle with your Lucky Vision... but if you feel strongly about something, I'll work with you... and your will can - hm - override my choice to a degree at times. ...but with practice you could extend more control over both the Lucky Charm and Restoration if you wanted.”

"So, you're helping me with the Lucky Charm vision?"

"Yes. I can only give you the keystone with the Lucky Charm and show you the pieces tough. you're the one that assembles it, you're the one that uses it creatively, who does the battle plans, who leads. I'm just helping. The Restoration is all you though, just like Cataclysm is all Chat."

THAT was nice to know! Marinette quickly scribbled those additions into her notes.

“So… if I could always get a Lucky Charm, what did you mean?”

“Well, you can always summon a Lucky Charm… but the Restoration won’t… really do anything, because it won’t be tied to anything, not tied to any battle you see- even if there was something you really REALLY wanted fixed, the Restoration wouldn’t be able to fix it. We got very, VERY lucky with Ivan and Stoneheart you know.”

“We did?”

Tikki nodded. “In that he showed up a second time. You summoned Lucky Charm in that first battle, but you never used the Charm to summon the Restoration, and you left the Charm behind, so you probably wouldn’t have been able to find it to use it later. Since Stoneheart showed up a second time, and you used the Restoration THEN, and subconsciously wanted EVERYTHING fixed… the Restoration was able to repair and restore and reset everything from the FIRST battle with Stoneheart.”

“Wait… so if Stoneheart hadn’t returned, if it’d been a DIFFERENT Champion, then…”

“Then the damage done by Stoneheart in your first battle would not have been repaired, nothing from that would have been fixed. To fix THAT we would have had to find out where the wet-suit Lucky Charm from that battle went.”

“Wait, you mean… somewhere in Paris there’s still a black-spotted red wetsuit?!”

“Yes?”

“But it’s been EIGHT MONTHS!”

“…Yeeeeees?”

“I thought the Lucky Charms just…” Marinette waggled her fingers. “Poofed after a while if I didn’t use them!”

“No, a Lucky Charm remains, physical and in potentia, until it’s used to summon the Restoration.”

“Wait… does that mean that the record Lucky Charm that I used to stop Chloé from kissing my Adrien is still out there?”

“And the safety cone, since you only used the bike lock Lucky Charm to summon the Restoration after Timebreaker.”

Marinette blinked. Okay. Wow. “So… if I were to use one of those Lucky Charms tomorrow…”

“Tomorrow? They wouldn’t fix anything, because the battles they’re tied to had everything repaired already.”

Marinette nodded. “So… say I hadn’t summoned a Lucky Charm after the fight with Tinker. If I focused on Tinker and the damage her canons did and summoned a Charm right now…”

Tikki shook her head. “It’s been too long, it wouldn’t be tied to the battle. We cut it close enough to the wire after Mnemosyne. Plagg was ready to drop Chat’s transformation to tell you to summon the Lucky Charm, but we got lucky and Chat finished explaining things to you-without-memories and you summoned the Charm in time.”

Marinette took a minute to work through that. “So… I only have like an hour after a battle where I can still summon a Lucky Charm and have it be tied to THAT battle, is that what you’re saying?”

“Well… I wouldn’t say an hour since human measurements of time are… recent and kinda arbitrary. Time IS real, and quantifiable of course, but the Lucky Charms are tied to… real time, not the way humans divide it up.”

“I’m lost…”

“Time passes. A year is a REAL thing because it’s how long it takes the earth to complete one orbit around the sun. A ‘real’ year might have a slightly different number of DAYS each time, but the time that passed is real. The sun rises, passes over head and sets. The moon passes through the sky and both take about the same amount of time every day to do so. Seasons come and go in a regular order and for about the same amount of time. Time is real. An ‘hour’ is not.”

“…Still lost.”

Tikki sighed. “I can’t just say ‘yes’ to ‘an hour after a battle’ because an hour is a relatively new division of time. When the Miraculi were forged time was divided differently for example.”

“Okay, soooo… using how we humans divide time NOW so I can figure it out… how long after a battle do I have to summon a Lucky Charm and still have it be tied TO the battle?”

Tikki frowned, arms crossed as she worked out the math.

And then face palmed.

“…About an hour.”

Marinette fell out of her chair laughing.

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Adrien shuffled through the pages of the transcript of La Belle et La Bête that he’d printed up and split with Chloé, writing down the best Latin translation he could think of in the space under the printed dialogue. He’d moved to sit on the couch like Chloé was now, using one of his math books as a ‘table top’ on his lap. Chloé had claimed his history book as it was both longer and wider, yet thinner (and thus lighter) then the math book.

He glanced up at Chloé through his lashes, then bit his lip and decided to that this was probably his best, if not only, chance.

“Chloé?”

“Hmm?”

“I… I was wondering if- at school- why you act so different from… why you’re so- I just…” Adrien dropped his gaze, staring at his coffee table. “You aren’t a terrible person. You act different with me, how you used to be, then you do at school. Why… Why can’t you be more… be more YOU… at school? Just maybe be a little bit nicer? Is it- is it because of me?”

Adrien looked up at Chloé, but she wasn’t looking at him, instead she was glaring down at the transcript pages on her lap. “You don’t have to chase people away, Chloé. I’d never leave you. I told you that in the basement and I meant it. I’m not her. I’ll never stop being your friend, even if I get angry at you, which… well I do, sometimes.”

Chloé’s hands clenched, the pages crumpling, one tearing ever so slightly.

“Maybe being nice would work better for you? You used to tell me about ‘more flies with honey than with vinegar’, and-”

“You’re not going to drop this are you?” Chloé asked, voice flat, still refusing to look up from the crumpled pages.

Adrien gulped, but then shook his head. “No. I should have done this earlier. I should have done this back in September. You’re my FRIEND, Chloé. You’re snarky and sardonic and sometimes cold. You aren’t cruel. You never were cruel. I want… I want my FRIEND back, Chloé. Not the mask you wear at school. Not the casually cruel Mayor’s daughter. I want YOU, my friend, back. I want other people to be your friend.”

Chloé scowled and glanced at Adrien out of the corner of her eye, considering his open, hopeful, expression. “I’m not going to change who I am for you or anyone else, Adrien.”

“I don’t WANT you to change who you are, Chloé. I just… I just want you to show more of who you really are with people besides me and Sabrina. The mask you wear at school isn’t any more real than my masks.”

Chloé grimaced at that. “Fine. I will ATTEMPT it, if only so that you stop badgering me.”

Adrien’s face lit up in a smile and he glanced at the clock, getting to his feet. “Want to go eat dinner?”

Chloé looked at the clock sharply, eyebrows racing up. “Geez, how’d it get THAT late?” She got to her feet and pulled her phone out. “Always up for dinner with you, Adrihoney, just let me tell Papa.”

Adrien nodded and soon the two were back in the dining hall, eating dinner and talking about their Latin project, and planning the shopping trip for this Saturday.

Just outside the dining hall, unseen and unheard, a silent observer considered the two children as they ate, his hands clasped behind his back.

Chapter Text

“So, the note that started everything… the reason you made my Ivan become the first akumatized supervillain ever in the history of ever… was because you were trying to be MY wingman, Kim?!”

Kim shrugged as he walked along backwards in front of the small group as they headed to school, hands laced behind his head, Alix and Max having a casual competition between themselves about who could direct him the best to keep him from ‘breaking his fool head’ as Max had put it.

Ivan huffed. “Don’t listen to him, Mylène. He was just poking at me like usual. It was just a stupid note.”

“Bold words for someone who KEEPS that ‘stupid note’ in his wallet right next to his first ever ‘Mylène’ song lyrics and… what is it ten or twenty pictures of Mylène now?”

“Two steps to your left, Kim,” Alix offered. “Unless you want to smack into a hydrant.”

“KIIIIIM!!” Ivan growled, blushing furiously, the blushes only getting worse when Mylène giggled and squeezed his hand, pressing up against his side.

“You kept the lyrics?”

Ivan aimed a scowl at Kim, who just smirked back, unlacing his hands to make a little ‘go on’ wave before lacing his fingers behind his head again.

“You’ll be stepping down off the curb in two point five paces, Kim.”

Mylène swung Ivan’s hand back and forth gently and looked up at him as they walked, waiting.

“Stepping up onto the next curb in one… two… uppity up!”

“…Yeeeeeeeeeeeees,” Ivan finally admitted. When Mylène stared up at him hopefully, Ivan sighed and pulled out his wallet, showing the two carefully folded pieces of paper tucked into it, and bashfully letting her see the handful of pictures he had of the two of them, or that he’d taken of Mylène (or had been given by her in half of the cases).

When Mylène pulled her own wallet out to show Ivan all the pictures SHE had Alix rolled her eyes while Kim and Max laughed.

“Romantic garbage, I will never understand you people,” Alix groaned, although she smiled as she said it.

“So you don’t think they’re soooouuuuuul maaaates?” Max asked, poking Alix in the ribs.

Alix just rolled her eyes again, then looked further ahead. “Hey, if we swing right a block or two we’ll go past the Dupain-Cheng bakery… We’re kinda early since Ivan, Kim and I have lacrosse practice and stuff, but they open at 7ish, right? D’you think they’ll let us come in t’ buy some stuff a couple of minutes early?”

“Probably, they’re really nice,” Mylène offered.

“Especially if we wake Mari up and haul her along with us so she’s early instead of late for once,” Kim snickered.

“You know, she always had a bad habit of sleeping late or skipping classes when she had an excuse before, but she’s gotten worse this year,” Alix said with a small frown, then her eyes went wide. “Shoot, Kim look out for the-!!”

CLANG

“…post. Sorry.”

“It’s okay… I mean OW, but it’s okay.”

Wincing, Kim waited until the others caught up with him and just started walking alongside them, stretching his legs out slightly and twisting around to try and keep himself from getting stiff.

“While I’m certain her parents would be HAPPY for Mari to wake up early and get to school on time at minimum… I admit I can’t see a reason for Mari to be willing to do so.”

“…Max, my man… Adrien’s been on both our basketball and lacrosse teams since the start of the school year. Mari may come to every GAME to ogle the guy, but so far she’s missed every practice… which means I don’t think she knows that Adrien sometimes takes up my Kim Challenge and plays freaking topless.”

Mylène squeaked. “Does… anyone… else… do… that?” she asked, glancing up at Ivan before returning her attention to Kim.

Kim smirked. “Why do you think I told you that you HAD to start coming to watch practice, Mylène?”

Mylène blushed furiously, but made a sound that could likely be summed up as ‘I’m dying but my mind is in a VERY happy place so who cares?’.

“KIIIIIIIM!”

Kim laughed. “So, going back a bit. Yes, Mylène, I was totally being YOUR wingman. Ivan had been making doe-eyes at you since forever, but your teddy-bear wouldn’t do anything more than be a woeful waif… and a Challenge was exactly what he needed, even if it did piss him off at the MOMENT. …In my defense, no one coulda seen the whole Akumas and Papillon and stuff coming.”

“That’s true enough,” Alix admitted. “But how did you even notice that they liked each other? I didn’t notice and I had home room with them! You were in a different home room!”

Kim smirked and buffed his knuckles against his chest. “Alix, Alix, Alix… Surely by now you’ve realized that I see all? That I know all? That I’ve got the Eyyyyyye of the Tiiiiiiiger, and the thrill of the fight. Rising up to the challenge of our riiiiiivallll…”

Everyone groaned and rolled their eyes, ignoring Kim as he started singing his self-admitted favorite song in the cosmos (at least it was mostly on key), dancing alongside them as they walked to the Dupain-Cheng Bakery. Kim kept singing while Max knocked on the door, while Mylène and Alix explained about why they were heading to school early, while Tom gave them all fresh croissants (and Tom joined in with a deep baritone), while Sabine vanished upstairs and came down with a dragging Marinette, and then continued on as they headed off towards school yet again, towing a half awake Marinette along with them as Kim finally headed towards finishing the third run through of the entire song...

Only to break off with an ‘It’s the EyyyyyyyeeeeeyyyyyyyAAAAAAAAAH’ as a swatch of pins suddenly lashed out at him from down the street like a swarm of bees.

Kim threw himself down and out of way of the attack, dragging Ivan and Marinette with him. Marinette seemed to snap fully awake the second Kim grabbed her.

“What just-?!” Marinette started to demand, looking around wildly as best she could with Kim practically on top of her.

“RUN!” a man screamed, running past the six children, several other people out on the road seeming to take the man’s advice as Kim, Marinette and Ivan tried to regain their feet as they were knocked one way then the other by what was only half a step from being a panicked mob… if they were not already there.

Marinette let the crowd push her away from the others and finally climbed up onto a stoop to try and see above everyone’s heads to try and find out what was going on…

Or more specifically to try and get an idea of who the supervillain was this time, and maybe get a rough idea of the abilities and-

“Oh no…”

Down the street, next to the fabric shop, a spider’s web of thread was forming. Thick skeins of thread arced and twisted in the air like living things, latching onto the surrounding buildings and grasping and twisting around it to anchor itself before racing down between the gaps to wrap and warp it’s way to the ground. The light dimmed and Marinette looked up in dawning horror as she saw the web weave itself overhead between the buildings, more and more of it racing down to fill in the gaps between THESE buildings as well. She twisted to watch the new ceiling race past… Whoever the Champion was, the intent of caging everyone in was obvious.

She screamed when something warm wrapped around her wrist, yanking her off the stoop.

“Mari, what the hell are you doing?!”

Marinette landed on the sidewalk and didn’t even have a chance to really catch her balance before Ivan, because it was Ivan who had grabbed her wrist, pulled her along with him, Mylène held almost on his shoulder, the rainbow dreaded girl clinging to his shoulder, her eyes wide and face pale.

Ivan set the pace as the group frantically tried to outrun the web. Ivan let go of Marinette’s wrist the second she regained her balance, and for a split second Marinette debated sprinting ahead to try and get away so she could come back as Ladybug. She wasn’t the most athletic person in the world when not suited up, but Marinette had always been good at running, able to nearly keep up with Kim (…which was very impressive given the fact that Kim was possibly superhuman or something, given he could keep up with Alix when she was ROLLERBLADING full out and had set records) and she COULD run as long as Kim could with no real shortness of breath.

…But doing that would mean abandoning her friends.

And in a second, the point became moot as the web suddenly raced down in front of them, and this close, Marinette could see the hundreds of tiny needles that lead each thread slamming into the concrete, asphalt and cobble, anchoring the web.

“Okay… anyone have ideas?” Alix asked. Marinette looked over her shoulder and gulped as she saw a man walking out of the fabric shop, more and more threads proceeding him and following in his wake. He looked like he should be at a medieval re-enactment or film with his blue tunic, red pants, black tights and grey cloth shoes, all topped off with a jaunty yellow hat.

Actually it looked kind of familiar, although Marinette couldn’t place the outfit… she COULD place the man wearing it.

“Oh no, Monsieur Homobonus!”

Alix slapped a hand over Marinette’s mouth, but it was already too late, the Akumatized man turning to look at them, eyes narrowing as he lifted one hand up, a skein of threads a thick as Ivan’s chest raising up and coiling like a snake before it rushed at the 6 children.

Chapter Text

Everyone dove to the side to try to get out of the way of the attack, and while they all mostly made it, Marinette and Alix, being in the center of the strike, were not as lucky.

The strings hit and tangled in Marinette’s blazer, and Alix’s shirts and shorts. The two girls shrieked as the Champion at the end of the street crooked his fingers and began to drag the duo to him, their feet scrabbling over the cobble- Alix’s track shoes granting her more traction than Marinette’s smooth soled ballet slippers.

The other four were suddenly THERE, Kim and Max grabbing Alix’s wrists even as Ivan and Mylène grabbed Marinette’s, all four adding their strength and traction to trying to stop, or at least slow, their friends capture.

Marinette twisted, trying to shrug her way out of her blazer without accidently yanking her wrists out of the grip that Ivan and Mylène had on her-

And suddenly it didn’t matter, as there was a flare of purple light around the face of the Akumatized supervillain, and his fingers clenched sharply before he dragged his hand back sharply-

…and al the clothing that his threads had tangled and wove their way into unraveled, the threads that had made the fabrics racing back to the Champion alongside the thread he’d sent their way, leaving Marinette without her blazer…

And Alix in nothing but her underclothes, shoes, backpack and her watch-which she’d taken to wearing on a necklace chain after the disaster of her birthday. Alix’s eyes went wide as she started to register what had happened, staring down in rapidly mounting horror-

SHOOMP!!

There was a flash of red rushing past her face, fabric burning her nose as it raced past, and sudden downward pressure that nearly took her off her feet, fabric pinning her arms to her side and pressing her backpack harshly against her… and Alix’s mounting horror was derailed into total confusion as red fabric flopped over her face. It took a lot of wiggling, but she managed to work one arm up and shoved at the loose fabric in front of her face and looked down to see what in all the seven hells had happened.

…She was wearing Kim’ hoodie. Alix looked up and around in confusion and saw Kim looking down at her with a worried expression, his cheeks and bare chest burning in a blush.

“Kim, what-?”

Kim rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, sorry? I just… you’re such a shrimp that I figured my hoodie would cover… ah- I mean not that I loo- well you were in just- and so I…”

Marinette stepped forward suddenly, and the other five looked at her hopefully. Marinette had been known for her take charge (and take no prisoners) personality for YEARS, and the mess at City Hall had shown that this ability had blossomed under the new… insanity… that was Paris’ new norm.

“Let’s get out of his line of sight before he changes his mind or focuses on us again,” she said crisply, edging sideways until she reached one of the alleys and darted down it. The others kept a wary eye on the apparently distracted Champion (who looked to be gathering more thread from other people who’d been caught in this mess in the same way Alix and Marinette had gotten hit).

Down the alley, they found Marinette at a door that was only half blocked by the threads, struggling to open it, both hands latched onto the door handle, on foot braced on the wall beside it as she threw her full (slight) weight into trying to pull it open.

“How did you get it unlocked!?” Max demanded as Ivan and Kim raced over and grabbed the edge of the door, the two burly boys able to force it most of the way open, despite the pressure of the threads that half covered it and tangled in the hinges.

“Just lucky,” Marinette said with a small shrug, glancing down at her purse, her eyes widening as she snapped it closed before slipping through the gap, Max and Alix following her and pushing at the door to get it open a bit wider so Mylène could slip through. With Mylène bracing her back against the door and the other three pushing they were able to get the door open wide enough for Kim to squeeze in, and Kim threw his full strength into pushing, which got the door open enough for Ivan to get in as well. All five of them inside, Marinette jogged off, leading the others into the building and scrambling through the hallway towards the back of the building.

“Okay, plan is we get out on the OTHER side of the thread wall and get somewhere and safe, maybe split up so we can try to find Ladybug and Chat Noir or a way to contact them. Monsieur Homobonus is focused by the fabric shop, so we SHOULD be in the clear…” Marinette said firmly as she grabbed the door knob of the backdoor and unlocked it.

“You know him, Mari?” Alix asked as she finished getting her arms through the sleeves of Kim’s hoodie and rolling them back far enough to make use of her hands.

Marinette nodded as she eased the door open as slowly and quietly as she could. “He and his wife own a Tailor/Seamstress shop near the fabric shop and I’m… apprenticing? I guess? To them two or three days a week so I can learn stuff. He’s REALLY nice… I hope Madame Homobonus is okay…”

Creeping out onto Rue Lagrange, the five glanced up and breathed a sigh of relief at the lack of threads overhead. “Okay, we’ve got a clear shot to the park from here… maybe get across the bridge from there.”

Max nodded. “That makes sense, Mari… We can all head for one of our homes if we can get across to the fourth arrondissement.”

Marinette nodded, smiling. “That’s the plan.”

Just as they got within sight of the park, the light around them dimmed. All six of them snapped their gaze up to watch as threads weaved a roof above their heads, and then slowly looked back the way they’d come.

The wall of threads was slowly parting, thick coils twisting and twining, grabbing the new Akumatized supervillain like living things, lifting him up and forward towards the teens.

“You! You’re his friends! If I have you, he’ll come to me!”

“Monsieur Homobonus, PLEASE…”

“Oh, THAT doesn’t sound good at ALL,” Ivan groaned.

“His… His who? Wh-why-?” Mylène broke off with a scream as a coil lashed out from the new roof and tried to grab her. Ivan snarled a curse and grabbed her up and out of the way, holding her bridal style, Mylène wrapping her arms around Ivan’s neck like a lifeline.

“Mari, you still up to my snuff with running?” Kim asked softly, eyes locked onto the approaching supervillain.

Marinette glanced at Kim, then set her jaw and nodded. “Yes.”

“Kay. So trying for the bridge?”

“That’s the plan. …Ivan, hope you’ve been working on track!”

“…Faster then I used to be, Mari.”

“RUN!” Marinette ordered.

Kim grabbed Alix, tucking her up under one arm and spun around ducking down and bulldozing his shoulder into Max’s stomach, making the lean teen fold up over his shoulder even as Kim regained his balance and, grabbing Max’s knees, took off down the street. Marinette and Ivan kept pace as Marinette lead the mad dash towards the park, hoping that the trees, benches and fences would provide some cover from the thick coils and skeins of thread and let them escape.

“KIM! Put me DOWN!” Alix screeched even as Max wheezed on Kim’s shoulder.

“You may be Mighty Mouse but you’re not fast enough without your skates, Alix!!”

“Run if you want! You won’t escape the Tailor!!”

Chapter Text

Running away on foot with other kids as a civilian was probably not the best plan she’d ever come up with… Frankly, Marinette was still probably more sleep addled than she wanted to admit – It was too early for this nonsense, there should be a law against people getting Akumatized before noon.

Alix finally gave up on trying to wiggle out of Kim’s grip and instead brought her legs forward and managed to shuck off her shoes, winding up and throwing them at one of coils, then stuffing both hands into the hoodie she was wearing, struggling to get her backpack open.

They reached the park and Marinette looked back to see where the Tailor was, Ivan reaching forward and putting a hand on her back to keep her from running into something. She dove to the right, the others following her, putting the fence and trees between the group and the Tailor-

Her luck held- as it so often did- and the thick coils of thread that the Tailor had just sent their way hit the trees and fence and tangled twisting and yanking and knitting around the fence poles and tree limbs as if they’d been the target of an army of yarn bombers.

They dove beneath the densely packed trees that formed a pavilion like space, keeping close to the fence as they kept running, heading for Seine. The coils that were chasing after them seemed to lose purpose, getting tangled on the trunks, branches and bushes of the trees and stopping their chase. Marinette kept half her attention on the Tailor, who she could see down the street, suspended near the roofs of the buildings, suspended by his web of threads like a spider in a web. Reaching the end of the pavilion of trees the three runners paused and Alix took the opportunity to yank her roller blades out of her backpack, cursing when her school books and tablet were dragged out alongside the skates, bonking her on the head and clattering to the ground.

“There is no way he lost track of us,” Ivan muttered, looking at the Tailor. “What’s he waiting for?”

“He most likely knows we’re under the trees, just not precisely where or where we’re going,” Max offered, bracing his hands against the small of Kim’s back and pushing himself up slightly to try and see better. “And he may be one of the Akumatized who becomes more… aggressive or sadistic upon accepting Papillon’s offer and thus might just be… playing cat to our mouse.”

“Where ARE we going?” Mylène asked quietly while Alix muttered and grumbled and waved one of her skates wildly at Marinette who took it without thinking. One hand free, Alix shoved her foot into the skate she was holding and pulled the straps tight. “I mean… I know we’re trying to get across the Seine but...”

Marinette sighed quietly. “I wanted to try for Petite Pont, cause it’s a straight run across, not much for him to build his web across but…”

“Petit Pont’s too open,” Kim said. “Trust me. There is nothing scarier than being out in the open with no where to go and an Akumatized that you were the trigger for… or who’s just pissed in general at you… stalking towards you.” He nodded straight ahead. “And Pont au Double is RIGHT THERE and it’s really short.”

Marinette looked across the park, biting her lip as she debated. She pulled out her phone and looked at it, then hit Alya’s number and held it to her ear as she glanced to the left. Home was right THERE and it was so tempting to just run home – her mom and dad would probably be totally awesome and it’d be safe and-

“Mari, gimme my skate.”

-and no. No that’d be putting her parents in danger, and what good would it do? She couldn’t exactly say ‘I’m going up to take a nap’ so she could transform now could she? The call to Alya went to Alya’s voice mail and Marinette cursed. Alya must still be in bed, or not near her phone or something. “Alya! I need you to call Chat or… however you contact him. There’s a Champion right next to my place chasing us!!”

“Mari! Skate! Gimme!”

Marinette hung up her phone and stuffed it into her purse again. She couldn’t see her mom and dad, and the lights of the bakery were still off. They were probably still in the work room in the back, getting everything out of the oven, the dough that needed to rest or proof set aside, treats decorated and all the other tasks that they did every morning. Marinette gulped and resolutely looked away from her home. Home wasn’t safe if they’d have to pound on the front door or side door and hope that they’d be heard and her parents could get the door open in time and it wasn’t like the Tailor wouldn’t SEE THEM going there… She glanced back at the Tailor who was still waiting and watching and… smirking, the Mark of Papillon glowing in front of his face. The two of them knew where the group was, they were just… enjoying it. Like Max had put it ‘a cat to our mouse’… just waiting at the mouse hole, playing with them, toying with them.

Alix swiped at Marinette, just barely managing to smack Marinette’s shoulder with her fingertips. “Mari! Skate!!”

Marinette held the skate out to Alix without looking and nodded, blinking back what totally were not tears. “Get across and get the trees between us and him once we’re across… Then just try to get past Notre Dame and down Rue d’Arcole… or-” Marinette frowned. “Okay, two options. Head down d’Arcole to get to Pnot Notre Dame or we can just make a brake to get INTO Notre Dame… Lots of stuff in there that’ll tangle his threads and we can try to get out one of the other doors and have time to call ourselves or a way to have someone else call Chat Noir or Ladybug.”

“Kim. Down. NOW.”

“Aye aye, Mighty Mouse,” Kim said with a smirk, dropping Alix who landed neatly, grabbing the end of Kim’s hoodie and giving it a downward tug without thinking, despite the red fabric reaching her knees. Max grumbled as Kim swung the slim teen around into a princess carry.

“This is MOST embarrassing, Kim.”

“Not my fault you’ve got asthma and are snail slow, Max.”

“…Do I weigh anything to you?”

“Not really,” Kim admitted.

“Freaking Superman for a best friend.”

Mylène pulled out her phone. “Max and I can try to call while we run… should we try for Alya? Does she have a way to contact Ladybug and Chat Noir?”

Marinette breathed out slowly. “Yeah. Everybody got the plan?”

“Get across the bridge, then just keep running or get into Notre Dame,” Ivan said, pulling Mylène closer to his chest.

“On the count of three. One.”

Alix backed up a bit and dropped to a starting postion, face grim as she set her skates against the ground.

“Two.”

Kim glanced back over his shoulder, eying the Tailor and the waiting threads that were waiting… poised and coiled… to strike.

“THREE!”

They ran.

Chapter Text

They made it across the bridge- Mylène screaming into her phone for Alya to ANSWER THE PHONE ALREADY!! –and cut to the right the second they could, Alix stumbling slightly as she was forced to switch from skating to running on the grass… and once again the Tailor’s threads hit and tangled… and this time, given the way his smirk vanished, Marinette doubted it was intentional.

All around them, people on their way to work were taking notice of the newest danger to their day… Those on foot simply turned and made a break for it in every direction that was AWAY from the Akumatized supervillain. There were tires screeching and horns blaring from down the road, and Marinette didn’t dare to look but she’d be willing to bet from the sudden slamming of car doors that easily half the cars had been thrown into park at best and the former drivers and passengers were making a run for it. …And several probably stayed in their cars as that actually WAS often the safer bet than trying to run.

There was a roar of an engine and Ivan yelped as a bus suddenly tore past, bull-rushing Tailor… Tailor’s eyes widened and his hands spasmed and his web jerked him up, barely getting him up and out of the way of the bus, which hit the thin web that remained… for a second the bus was held prisoner… then the threads began to strain, then snap… and the bus was through.

“Okay, did anybody catch that bus number or see the driver?” Ivan asked. “Cause I think I just found my new favorite bus to ride.”

Marinette looked down the road. While trying to get all the way across the Seine would be nice… to be honest it wasn’t the simplest plan. “Okay, make for Notre Dame! Once we get in let his threads get tangled in the pews and pillars and stuff and draw him IN and then we get OUT and get away.”

“But… wait, it isn’t 8 yet?” Alix asked, but Marinette didn’t hear.

The Tailor was coming, already he was at the bridge, his web lowering him down to the ground as he started to stalk across… only to pause halfway across as the mark of Papillon flared to life before his face… and his expression was oddly one of confusion.

“I… didn’t? They’re right there, I can see them, I haven’t lost track of… No need to shout, they’re right- wait, are you… I- …Wait, you’re what?”

Alright, he was distracted, this was likely the best chance they were going to get!!

“GO!”

They took off again, cutting across the open space heading for the stairs and the front doo-

…The wrought iron gates were closed, and beyond them, the doors to the cathedral were closed.

Marinette yelped and ran past the closed (and annoyingly tall and SPIKY) gates. “I hate mornings! Papillon shouldn’t be allowed to Akumatize anyone before noon! WHY CAN’T IT BE OPEN ALREADY IT WAS A PERFECT PLAN!”

“Aren’t churches supposed to be open all the time?!” Kim demanded as they ran past the western façade, and then just kept running down the road towards Pont d’Arcole, dodging past the parked and turned off cars, ignoring the looks of the people they ran past who’d stayed in their cars. “Isn’t that like a big THING about churches for you guys?!”

“This isn’t a movie, Kim!” Alix snapped as she skated alongside Marinette. She looked over her shoulder. “INCOMING!”

Ivan and Kim dove to the right, while Alix and Marinette dove to the left, dodging between parked cars and putting the trees that lined the road. The Tailor’s face twisted with rage and he dragged backward with his hands clawed, dragging the cars that his threads had gotten tangled in and slowly ripping the trees out of the ground, the whole conflagration moving in a shower of sparks and loam and screams towards him before being dragged to the sides and up onto the sidewalks on either side of Tailor. He tried to unravel the threads that he’d used-

Only to find them getting tangled in the branches, bark, leaves and roots of the trees. Growling, Tailor looked ahead and saw the four runners almost all the way down Rue d’Arcole.

The mark of Papillon flared to life and Tailor winced, but then nodded and threw his arms forward, fingers spread wide.

All the thread that he’d amassed that was not caught in the tangle of trees, cars and his temper raced down the road, crawling over the sides of the buildings and leaving a rough, snarly weave over the facades in their wake. Reaching the end of the road just ahead of the six children, the threads lashed across their path, spinning and weaving into a web that rapidly thickened into heavy sheet of crisscrossing threads.

They tried to stop in time, and while Ivan and Marinette were able to pull up short, Kim and Alix ran smack into the fabric wall and rebounded off of it, off their feet and smacking heavily on the asphalt of the road. Max recovered the fastest and scrambled to his feet grabbing Kim with one hand and Alix with the other and dragged them away from the threads, worried that they were about to be grabbed. Ivan put Mylène down and he, Mylène and Marinette scrambled over to help Kim and Alix get back to their feet.

All six of them waited, tense as coiled springs as they stared down Tailor. Marinette looked at the thread wall, then the coils that covered the buildings and were tangled in the trees and cars.

They… might actually be okay. Tailor had used all his thread in stopping them from getting across the bridge. Yeah, they were trapped, but it might basically be a stalem-

Tailor drew his arms back slowly.

The threads that matted the sides of the buildings slowly unwound, crawling back towards their master, gathering over and around him like a living thing.

Ivan and Kim tensed up, shifting to stand in front of the other four, instinctively trying to protect them.

Marinette looked around wildly. There was nowhere to GO. Dodging behind trees wouldn’t work, not with this many threads… a mass that was already larger than a bus was wide and still growing… No convenient alleys, no doors, not even any windows that they could try to scramble into.

Okay. One last option, desperate though it might be…

“Monsieur Homobonus! Please, you’re a kind man, and I don’t think Russi will be happy with what you’re doing!!”

Tailor’s face twisted into one of pure rage even as the mark of Papillon flared to life. “If I succeed, she’ll be alright! I can’t LOSE HER!”

The mass of thread charged towards them, rebounding and reflecting off the cars that crowded the road, small flurries on the edge striking and tangling in the trees that lined the sidewalk, moving fast enough that the air itself hummed and shook into a roar.

Chapter Text

The mass of threads rushed at them-

And then exploded, flying wildly every which way, latching onto the buildings and trees with random, frantic strength, forming a gorgon’s knot instead of a web… and for a split second Marinette, peaking around Ivan’s bulk, couldn’t figure out what had happened.

And then the Tailor skidded UNDER the gorgon’s knot of thread and slid to a stop just past it, a meter or two away from the 6 children. A flash of silver drew Marinette’s eye to the gaps in the uneven gorgon’s knot and she watched, smiling broadly, as a familiar silver baton retracted up, up, up and back to – of all places- Notre Dame herself.

Marinette could see the familiar black-leather clad form standing on the railing of the rooftop of the north bell tower, as Chat looked over his shoulder, talking to a priest that she could just see standing on the roof proper behind Chat Noir. Chat nodded and the priest turned and vanished, probably heading inside. Chat turned his attention back to the Tailor, who was in the process of getting back to his feet, one hand pressed against the small of his back (probably where Chat’s baton had hit him, if Marinette was any judge).

The Tailor snarled as the Mark of Papillon flared to life and stood with his back to Marinette and the others and drew his hands up and around, and the gorgon’s knot untwisted itself into thick skeins once more, coiled and ready. “I remember my part, Papillon. I will honor it so long as you do the same.”

Chat leapt off the top of the bell tower and his baton extended, hitting the stone wall behind him, propelling Chat Noir down and forward. Tailor snapped his arms forward the coils of thread lanced out towards Chat Noir, the very air whining like a living thing. Chat Noir’s eyes narrowed and he twisted, splitting his baton and extended one then the other, pushing himself sharply one day, then the other, tumbling between the coils before landing on the street in a crisp forward roll and from there lightly flipping to his feet, eyes darting over the coils of thread before brushing over Tailor, the civilians who had elected to stay in their cars to the six students (his eyes flicking from Alix to Kim for a second as if confused) before finally returning to the Tailor. “So, let me guess. …Your doctor recommended you go on a high fiber diet.”

The Tailor scowled and clawed his hands and the mass of coils wove themselves into a web behind Chat Noir, and the web rushed towards the apparently unsuspecting superhero as Tailor then dragged his hands back towards his chest.

“Watch your back!!” Marinette shouted. “His threads!”

“Don’t worry, Princess, I’ve got this… I’ll even-” Chat pushed into a backflip and spun as he dove neatly through one of the gaps of the web, “-do a barrel roll!!”

“That’s an AILERON ROLL!” Max shouted in annoyance. “A Barrel Roll would be a FRONT FLIP!”

The Tailor’s eyes went wide and he shoved his hands forward, palms out and fingers spread and the web came to a confused stop, its gaps widening then narrowing in wild fluctuations for a moment.

…and the sound of threads rubbing on threads made Marinette look behind herself.

Chat landed and shifted his weight to one leg, cupping his elbow with one hand as he rested the other near his shoulder as he looked Tailor over with a critical eye that reminded Marinette of the look he’d given the Ladybug costume she’d gotten when dealing with the Pharaoh. “So I gotta ask. Are you seriously wearing RED BLOOMERS over BLACK TIGHTS?” Chat dove to the left, then the right, doing a front flip over a thick coil before he landed, back in the same sarcastic pose and pointed with the hand near his shoulder. “-and you’re really wearing that hat? With THOSE shoes? You really are a brave little tailor, aren’t you?”

The thick web behind them was fluctuating and shifting in sync with the threads that the Tailor was using against Chat Noir. “Kim, Ivan!” getting the duo’s attention, Marinette pointed at the web wall, specifically the largest gap that she could see. The duo realized what Marinette wanted before she could even say anything, running over and grabbing the edges of the gap and pulling as hard as they could, widening the gap.

On the street, Chat Noir’s eyes flicked over to the group and he smiled ever so faintly with a slight nod –then his eyes went wide and he dropped into a roll as one of the coils slammed needles first into the place he’d been standing, hard enough that Marinette could faintly feel the shudder of the ground through the soles of her ballet slippers.

Chat came up lightly and spun his baton, knocking two of the smaller coils aside. “Sorry, Threadmaster, but I guess I’ll just ply another day.”

“…What?”

“…Oh come on, the guy might be a Brit, but you’ve gotta admit James Bond is cool!”

“Alix!” Marinette hissed as Chat leapt over a coil of thread that tried to sweep his feet out from under him and rolled under another coil. Alix scrambled over and crawled through the gap easily. “Max, you’re next! Alix, where are you going?!”

Alix looked over her shoulder as she kept skating across the bridge. “I’m gonna get to a phone and get the call out or broadcast or something out for Ladybug! Chat Noir’s gonna need help!!” Marinette blinked as she helped Max get through the gap. Oh. Okay, that was a good idea. Wouldn’t do any good since Ladybug was a little… tangled up… with things, but Alix had no way to know that.

“What are you TALKING about?” Tailor demanded, shoving one hand forward, hand fisted as if throwing a punch, then snapped his hand wide, and the coil exploded a trillion threads spreading wide as it tried to ensnare the lithe, punning, cat.

“It was clever! Ply another day! …No? Okay, how about Tomorrow never Dyes? Merino Royale? Ewe to Ki-OOF!”

One of the small coils managed to snatch Chat’s ankle and Chat belly-flopped onto the asphalt. He lashed out with his claws, ripping at the threads with a snarl, eyes locked onto the larger incoming coils. He slammed his baton into the street and then extended it. For a second the threads on his ankle held… then snapped and Chat was up and above the rooftops, perched on the top of his baton. “Okay!” he shouted down. “I’ll admit Ewe to Kill was weak at best!”

Marinette glanced up from where she was helping Mylène get through the gap, Max balancing her as the brightly dreaded girl crawled through the gap. Alix was already out of sight and Marinette blinked when she heard a car door open, and then another, and another. She looked back and was surprised to see several people rushing to the web wall from the cars, many of them adults with children or teens in tow.

“HEY, I got it!” Chat Noir shouted up above them, keeping Tailor’s attention on HIM instead of the civilians behind the supervillain who were following Marinette’s plan, adults grabbing the edges of gaps and forcing them wider so that others could get through, two men coming over and grabbing the gap that Ivan and Kim were holding, forcing it even wider. “Ewe completely missed the point of the last joke!” he offered, smiling broadly, seemingly proud of himself as he flipped and twisted at the top of his baton, dodging the coils that were trying to snare him. “Okay! Okay, how about… uh… Gimme a second…”

Marinette bit her lip and looked at Kim and Ivan, who both flashed her reassuring smiles. Scrambling through the gap, Marinette looked back and breathed a sigh of relief as Kim scrambled through, followed by Ivan, the two turning around and holding the gap open so that others could get out, Max and Mylène coming over to help as well.

There was a panicked yowl from up above and Marinette looked up just in time to see one of the larger coils snag one of Chat’s legs. He wrapped his free leg around his baton and held onto it with his right hand, clawing madly at the threads that were winding their way around his leg with his left… but then the baton slowly bent… and then toppled down and out of sight and there was a crash of near-indestructible armored cat-boy hitting at least one car somewhere on the other side of the web wall.

“I’m gonna see if I can call Alya! Maybe she does have a way to call Ladybug too!”

“Good plan!” Ivan called as he braced the heels of his steel toes against the asphalt and pulled as hard as he could, trying to get the gap as wide as possible as people scrambled through the gaps.

Marinette turned and ran down the street. New plan. Find a place to transform and then get to the fight as quickly as possible... and hopefully it would be in time.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir’s head was ringing like a bell, and he couldn’t seem to get his lungs to work well enough to draw a breath in. The pressure on his left leg increased and Chat was ripped off the car he’d crash landed on and set flying across the road to smack into one building, then another.

As he was flung about towards the buildings on the opposite side of the road again, the threads that were wrapped around his leg parted, the combination of his mass and momentum too much for them, resulting in Chat flying down the street and smacking into the web wall before hitting the ground.

Which did at least seem to restart his lungs, Chat heaving deep breaths of air in, coughing and hacking as he pushed himself up to his feet, trying to focus despite his head still ringing, clawing the threads that were still wrapped around his left leg, dragging them off and tossing them aside. He looked around and managed to find the Akumatized supervillain… and the various massive coils of threads under his command.

He reached back for his baton, then yelped, patting his back when he found it missing.

“Looking for this?” the Champion asked, holding Chat’s baton up, smirking.

Chat scowled. He’d hated it when Copycat had taken his baton, he hated it now. Standing up straight (and ignoring the stab from the bruises he now had on his back), Chat crossed his arms and tried to nonchalance. “Darn it, Threadmaster, can’t we make amends?”

The Champion’s face shut down for a second. “What?”

Several someones behind Chat snickered, and Chat let his chest puff out a little bit. There, his puns WERE good and people appreciated them! He’d known it, of course, but evidence to show Ladybug was always nice. Chat took advantage of the moment of distraction to look around, getting a better idea of the situation, as well as trying to catch his breath, ignoring the twinges from his back as best he could. Ouch. He really had hit that car hard, hadn’t he?

Chat’s attention snapped over to the cars, searching for the one he’d hit, and he heaved a faint sigh of relief when he saw it was empty, the driver door and both back doors open. Good. Good, it’d been empty. He hadn’t hurt anyone. Actually, speaking of-

He stretched his arms above his head and strolled casually to the side as he made a show of stretching and twisting, aiming a smirk at the supervillain , keeping track of what was behind him with his cat-ears. Ah. There. No one behind him and a fair bit of space on either side too.

There was a burst of purple light as the Mark of Papillon blazed to life before the Champion’s face and one of his hands snapped forward sharply.

Chat’s eyes widened and he dropped into a roll, the cloud of pins hissing through where he’d been a moment before, hitting the web wall and punching a ragged hole through it.

“You can’t stop the Tailor on your own, Chat Noir! Where is Ladybug!? I need her Miraculous!”

Chat came out of his roll on all fours and charged the Champion in a cat-sprint, ears twitching and twisting as he tracked the hiss of pins and threads dodging from one side to the other to avoid the attacks. He smirked viciously as he reached Tailor and leapt at him, hands spread wide. Tailor jerked and ducked, twisting around to try and protect-

AH HA!

Chat’s hands closed on his baton and then he was past the Tailor and landing in a roll, coming up onto his fe-

Smack!

“…stupid car,” Chat groaned as he managed to get back to his feet and rushed away as fast as he could, holding his baton in one hand and rubbing his head with his other hand, ducking a thick coil of iridescent thread headed by gold needles. He eyed Tailor as he circled the supervillain, trying to get him facing so that there would be no civilians behind Chat himself to be put in danger.

When he’d made the lunge, Tailor had curled up and protected the bag he was wearing on his right hip. It looked like the tailor bags that he so often saw the men and women responsible for final fitting and emergency repairs of clothes for fashion shoots and catwalks wearing or using, actually… which given this guy’s whole ‘tailor’ theme made sense. …But there were so many things to have become the talisman! Was it the fabric scissors? One of the cloth rulers? One of the thimbles, or chalk, or the pincushion…

Oh NO, what if it was one of the PINS on the pincushion?! There were hundreds of them!!

But… this Champion seemed pretty focused on Ladybug, not him. So maybe that mess with Sans Sheriff, and what Nino had done on top of the plan Plagg had come up with had worked and Papillon had fallen for it and Adrien was no longer a suspect and everything would be okay and he wouldn’t have to be panicked or careful or worried about being locked up in the mansion for ever and ever again when Papillon revealed who he was and his father panicked and stuffed him back in the gilded cage to try and protect him and-

…and it was getting darker all of a sudden, that couldn’t be a good thing.

There was a steadily thickening web knitting overhead between the roofs of the buildings and forming a wall half way down the street from the other web wall.

Well THAT was annoyingly claustrophobic.

Chat dodged a coil, then twisted and slashed down with his both hands, slicing several of the threads off the coil, noting how the threads that lacked needles heading them floated down to the street, while the threads connected to the needles stayed in the coil, as did the threads behind where he’d cut.

So Tailor could control the pins and needles, but the thread needed to be connected to him or connected to a needle. That was usef-

The threads that had been fluttering to the ground suddenly latched onto his ankle, and before he could fully register that the ‘fluttering free’ had been a trap, Chat was ripped off his feet and dragged down the road, slamming heavily into the newly forming web wall, which deconstructed itself, lashing down and binding him in tighter and tighter loops, crushing the air out of his lungs before he even fully registered what was happening.

He couldn’t breathe.

Chat Noir tried to shove at the thread, tried to brace his back against SOMETHING to get that tiny bit of slack so he could draw a breath in, but there was no slack… and indeed it was getting tighter.

Could he summon Cataclysm without speaking?

He didn’t know, he’d never tried.

The bonds tightened even more, and he didn’t want to die like this- suffocation wasn’t the WORST way to die since you got to miss the actual dying part thanks to passing out but-

Worth trying.

He closed his eyes and spread his right hand as wide as he could, feeling threads lash in the space it created, forcing his hand wider and wider, his frame already going numb and head spinning.

Cataclysm!

He clenched his hand, or at least tried to… and willed- prayed – for all the thread to be destroyed as everything went black.

Chapter Text

Ladybug arrived, landing unnoticed by the Tailor for the moment on top of Notre Dame’s north tower, to what was honestly one of her worst case scenarios. A Champion who was focused, dangerous and had a solid grasp of his abilities and how to use them, was already active and had his primary weapon out and in use (and boy was there a lot of thread right now), and no Chat Noir in sight.

That last part was actually extra worrying, given that there SHOULD have been a Chat Noir in sight. Maybe in a bit of TROUBLE given how the last she’d seen of him had been him being yanked down from atop his baton, but he should BE HERE.

There was a cocoon in about the middle of the street, threads lashing around it and pulling taunt, and the Tailor seemed focused there, and-

And it suddenly occurred the Ladybug where Chat Noir was.

She started to spin her yoyo, eyes darting around as she tried to figure out what to do. Hitting the Tailor from this far away would be difficult at best, and even worse it wasn’t guaranteed to make the Tailor undo the cocoon (and a terrifying thought that made her even stop spinning the yoyo… what if hitting him made him TIGHTEN it even more? Their suits granted them only limited invulnerability after all! ).

Something made her look from the Tailor to the cocoon. She wasn’t quite certain what, although it felt a bit like the gentle subconscious nudge she occasionally got, especially when she’d first started, that had shown her how to use her abilities, up to an including the basics of parkouring and other gymnastic feats.

There was a small burst of shadows rushing towards the cocoon, then nothing…

Then the darkness raced over the threads in a wave, crisscrossing and devouring more and more and more… and the threads disintegrated into ash in the dark wave’s wake, ashes filling the air as needles and pins fell in a glittering rain, the Tailor twisting around, yanking wildly with his hands, trying to get ahead of Cataclysm’s destruction.

Chat Noir fell heavily to the ground, his right arm crumpled under him. After a moment he shifted, rolling part way onto his side, then lifting his chest off his right wrist, his movements awkward and much of his frame limp.

Yeah, no, she was getting him out of there NOW, thank you very much. Before Tailor stopped trying to salvage his thread and turned his attention on her partner. Ladybug threw her yoyo so that it rebounded off the ground behind Chat, slid under his chest and wrapped around him. A solid tug later and he was in her arms and she hopped off the railing and ducked down and out of sight.

He was unconscious, and frighteningly limp and for one very terrifyingly long moment she wasn’t certain if he was BREATHING, and even more than that she had no idea what to do if he hadn’t been breathing. She wasn’t Alya, she didn’t know CPR… she didn’t even know how to check if his heart was beating (Alya had put her fingers on Chat’s neck and that’s what she saw in shows but… when Ladybug tried it she couldn’t find the pulse at first, and once she did she didn’t know if it was fast, or slow, or weak or anything. )

“Chat? Come on, Minou, time to wake up now.” She lightly slapped his cheeks, and when he shifted and groaned tapped his cheeks a bit harder- and got hit in the chest and sent skidding across the roof when Chat lashed out with an arm when his eyes snapped open and he frantically sucked in a huge gulp of air, then curled up on himself, hacking.

“Wow, you can hit hard,” Ladybug groaned, rolling up to her knees and heading back over to Chat Noir, taking care to stay ducked below the railing. There was a solid chance Tailor had no idea where Chat Noir had been spirited away to and Ladybug intended to keep it that way. She sat down next to the hacking cat-boy and rubbed his back for a moment, smiling when he blinked up at her. “Hello, Minou.”

“Ladybug?” he rasped, coughed and greedily sucked in a few deep breaths, before shifting and sitting up beside her.

“What happened?”

“Well, I found that that a bunch of my f- that my c- that Marinette and her classmates were getting chased by an Akumatized Champion. You ‘member Marinette?”

Ladybug nodded, still rubbing Chat’s back. Tailor had just lost all of his thread, they likely had time before he could become a threat again. “I had you protect her from Evillustrator.”

“I… Um… I- …I’ll fill you in later? But I knew she was in trouble, so I came to help. Champion calls himself the Tailor, he can control threads and needles even-and this is extra important- if he doesn’t have a direct connection to them. That’s how I got grabbed, loose threads nabbed me and then…”

“Then he had you cocooned.”

Chat nodded, rubbing his chest. “And then I couldn’t breathe. I tried to do Cataclysm anyway-”

“It worked,” Ladybug told him firmly, smiling. “I think you took out pretty much ALL of his thread when you did it too.”

Chat nodded. “Which is why we’re sitting here insteada you going to handle him?”

“Yeah, kinda.” She glanced down when Chat’s ring beeped. “You up to heading back down there?”

Chat Noir flashed her his usual cocky smile. “Of course!”

Ladybug smiled and got to her feet and offered Chat a hand up. “Any idea what his Talisman is?”

“Something on the tailor bag on his right hip,” Chat said as he straightened up and turned to look over the railing. “He went to protect it when I made a lunge at him beforrrrrrAAAAAAUGH!”

Ladybug stared down at the street below while Chat Noir flopped to sit, pressing his fisted hands to his eyes, wailing.

So… it turned out that the Tailor had found a solution to Chat destroying almost all of his thread…

He’d gone for the most readily available source of cloth around him.

And now Ladybug had a wailing Chat.

She reached over and patted her poor kitten’s head, because WOW was he wailing, as she considered the various civilians who’d had fabric stolen by the Tailor in nothing bug shirts, pants and skirts, no tops or bottoms, and in a few cases in nothing but their UNDERCLOTHES… and in a few cases, not even that. Honestly, she was half wondering if Papillon had noticed how much Chat had been wailing over the lack of leggings in the Tinker fight and had prompted Tailor, or even chosen him to an extent, because of this ‘turning cloth into threads’ thing or of it was just Chat Noir’s bad luck backfiring on him.

“There are NAKED people! And half naked people! And people in nothing but their underclothes! NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WOULD BE NAKED PEOPLE WHEN I VOLUNTEERED FOR THIS, IT’S NOT FAIR!”

Chapter Text

Ladybug finally got Chat Noir up and into the fight by simply leaping off the bell tower and leaving him behind, swinging down to go fight the Tailor. Before she landed, he was at her side… even if his cat-ears were pinned flat to his hair, and every bit of visible skin was (quite literally) as red as her suit, and was having issues on where he was supposed to look as he tried NOT to look at the people in various stages in undress all trying to get away.

Ladybug ducked under a coil of red threads headed by tiny needles as it made a grab for her head, and as she landed threw her yoyo straight out, hitting the Tailor squarely in the chest before she retracted her yoyo and had to flip sideways to avoid the red coil on its return strike. Landing in a crouch, her gaze darted over to Chat Noir, gaging how he was doing.

He seemed to be alright, or at least he was able to stay focused enough to keep himself out of trouble, despite everything. And that really was all she could ask for at the moment. Although considering all factors, it probably would be best if they had more distance between each other… and Chat would likely do better higher up, give him some distance between himself and the… effected… civilians.

“Catnip scatterpiece!”

Chat Noir’s baton extended and he leapt up and above Tailor, landing on the rooftops behind the supervillain. What Ladybug wasn’t expecting was for Tailor to completely ignore Chat Noir and instead turn all of his focus on HER, even as the Mark of Papillon flared to life before his face. “I don’t have time to do that! You! Give me your Miraculous! NOW!” he roared, hands jerking forward, the vast majority of his thread rushing at her.

Ladybug’s eyes went wide and she yelped. While he didn’t have as much thread as he’d had before, there was still more than enough that having it all focused on her made things more than a little dicey.

Ladybug flipped and twisted nimbly, dodging the coils thin and thick as they lanced at her, trying to snag and bind.

“Hey! I hate to interrupt ewe, I know it’s the worsted, but I just need a skeinond of your time, you brave little tailor!!”

Ladybug almost, almost, closed her eyes and groaned under the onslaught of puns because… ugh, REALLY?! But she’d grown accustomed to them over the months, and managed to keep herself focused on the moment, and the dodging of coils of thread.

The Tailor, however, was not so immune, his coils shooting off on random tangents and he couldn’t seem to help but turn to look at Chat Noir, who was perched, sitting cat-style on the streetlamp just to the Tailor’s left. “…What?”

“What what? Don’t tell me my puns have gotten under your skein!” Chat smiled broadly, and his tail tip curled into a ball, then flicked sharply once.

Ladybug smiled and nodded, carefully and slowly backing up and away while the supervillains attention was on her partner, ducking low to stay as much out of his line of sight as possible. Hmmm, there was a alley right there… if she could back up to it, she could duck down it and summon Lucky Charm and that would, more than likely, be that.

“I think you just need to unwind a bit is all. Why don’t you tell me what’s been going on with you? I love a good yarn, you could give me some purls of wisdom…” Chat’s eyes stayed focused on the Tailor, but his cat-ears twitched and rotated, tracking the slowly moving coils.

He didn’t glance over at Ladybug as she edged up to the alley and ducked down it an out of sight, for which Ladybug was grateful… that might have drawn Tailor’s attention to her instead of the punning Chat Noir. Ladybug smiled and darted down the asphalt between the two buildings, dodging by the cars parked to the side until she was far enough away.

Alright. This should be far enough away.

Setting her stance, Ladybug unclipped her yoyo from her waist and threw it straight up into the air. “Lucky Charm!”

The yoyo paused at the peak of her throw and spun madly in place, throwing off sparks of white light as ladybugs materialized from within it, spreading out into the world before curling back in to gather up… and with a flash of white light, the ladybugs vanished and a heavy, weirdly shaped set of metal… the bar of metal looked like a drunkards attempt at a weathervane that was the Lucky Charm dropped into Ladybug’s hands.

“What the… what the heck is this thing?” She held it out in front of her, twisting it this way and that as she tried to figure out what it was. There was one part sticking down that looked like it would be how a weather vane attached to its socket on a rooftop… and a large socket-nut at the front, and a smaller socket nut on the top, above the curve. The whole thing flowed down into a thick tail and THAT had what looked like an oversized flathead screwdriver stuck onto the back of it. To make it even more confusing, it was far too heavy to ACTUALLY be an oddly abstract weathervane, easily massing a solid kilogram.

“Ooooookay then.” Holding the… thingy… in her right hand, she used her left hand to yoyo her way up to the rooftop, and snuck to the edge, peeking over it, letting her mind sink into that particular FOCUS that made color drain from the world and let… whatever was prompting her with Lucky Charm and how to use it, mark certain items and people in bursts of black-spotted red, listening to Chat with half an ear… Although to be honest at this point she was more keeping track of his puns. Who knew that he could have had anywhere NEAR so many sewing puns?!

“May the fleece be with ewe!”

Tailor’s threads, Chat Noir, Chat’s baton, and-

Knit long and prosper!”

Two fire hydrants.

Ewe will be assimilated!!”

Ladybug looked back to the Lucky Charm, shifting it in her hands. Huh… now that she thought about it, the curvy part DID look a lot like the tricoise wrenches that firefighters had hanging off their belts to access and open fire hydrants, although in size it was more like the big ones that hung on firetrucks (where those tricoise wrenches or Guillemin wrenches? Did the names indicate size or not? …Great now it’d be bugging her for DAYS until she could find a firefighter to ask him)

“Ladybug is a total example of Purl Power!! …Oh come on, that was a good one!!”

Alright, what could she do with those various elements? How could she combine them into a single, cohesive, plan?

“As ye sew so shall ye rip!! And-WHAAUGH! That’s not fair! Why do you have invisible thread! Let go… stupid freaking… HAH! …and that is NOT staying on my arm, I learned my lesson, thank you VERY much! …Who they heck had invisible thread in their clothes anyway? Or was that just some of the left overs from the fabric shop like your thick iridescent coil?”

Think, think, think…

“You know, I’m just a simple knittycat. Maybe I should stop with all these sewing jokes before I run out of good material, but then again maybe I’ll just keep going for the shear fun of it!”

Ladybug broke into a huge smile and leapt off the roof, flipping and twisting neatly to land beside her partner, who smiled without taking his eyes off Tailor. “Good morning, my Lady. I must say, I think this guy might be a criminal.”

Ladybug blinked in confusion. “Oh?”

“He’s following a pattern.”

“…just how many of those do you HAVE?!” Ladybug demanded as she flipped over one coil and went into a split to avoid a second, then rolled back up to her feet.

“Oh, tons still. I don’t think the Brave Little Tailor likes them much though.”

“I don’t think anyone like them mu-glk!!” Ladybug froze for a second, then stared at the Tailor, taking in the medieval outfit, the blue tunic, the red pants, the black tights, the grey shoes and yellow hat… “Oh GOD he IS…”

“I KNOW!!” Chat said, bouncing slightly. “All he needs are giant black circles on his head and maybe a white face and white gloves and it’s just like Mickey Mouse!!”

Ladybug couldn’t help but giggle. “Alright Minou, I need you to-”

She gabbed Chat’s waist without thinking as the Tailor suddenly gathered all of his thread up and sent it at them in a single massive coil. Chat knew why and in practiced move he extended his baton, one end slamming deep into the ground and a moment both later were high in the air perched on Chat’s baton. Well, Chat was perched on it, Ladybug sat on his right thigh as the threads roared past Chat’s baton below, trying to snare and tangle the smooth metal, but not, for the moment, climbing towards them.

“And Fabricadabra!” Chat chirped, which made Ladybug elbow him in the side.

“I need your Miraculous, Ladybug!” Tailor shouted up at them as he gathered his threads up again, letting them coil and twist behind him as he prepared another strike. “Give it to me!”

“Heard that before!” Ladybug called down. “You’ll have to do better than that!”

The Mark of Papillon flared to life, and Ladybug decided to take the moment for all it was worth. “Chat. I need you to get all of his thread tangled up as close to right THERE-,” she pointed to the exact spot where the water from the two hydrants would cross. “-as you can.”

For a split second, Chat’s frame went tense, but then he was nodding and shifting his weight. “Of course, bugaboo. …You jump clear as I go down?”

Ladybug nodded.

Chat Noir shifted his weight and Ladybug moved so that she was standing on his shoulders… and then Chat hit the pawpad on his baton, shrinking it down and yanking him down from the sky, and Ladybug pushed off his shoulders into a powerful, graceful, arc. She landed on the rooftop and leapt from there to the road, running down the sidewalk even as Chat Noir landed in a two point landing right where Ladybug had pointed. He arched his back, threw out his chest and tossed his arms up, like the gymnasts in the Olympics when they finished their routines.

For a split second the Tailor didn’t seem to know what to do, then he snarled and the thread rushed forward in a single wave. In the split second before impact, Chat dropped into a tight ball, his right arm tucked in tight against his abdomen, his left arm folded up and against his side, left hand wrapped around his right hand, and his knees almost at his chest.

Then the all the threads hit and Chat was cocooned yet again.

Ladybug set her jaw and ran to the first of the hydrants and used what she figured was some kind of fire-hydrant wrench to wrench it open and a second later a column of water hit the cocoon, shoving it to the side, soaking the threads and tangling them, shoving the whole conglomeration sideways across the street so that it hit and tangled with two trees.

“No!” Tailor shouted.

Ladybug darted across the street and headed for the second hydrant, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Mark of Papillon flair to life before Tailor’s face.

“What? Why should I tell her- but I can still!” Tailor winced, almost curling up on himself for a moment. “Alright. Alright, I’ll tell her.” Tailor looked up just as Ladybug set the wrench against the fire-hydrant cap. “Ladybug, wait! PLEASE!”

Maybe it was the oddness of Papillon’s unheard order. Maybe it was the desperation in his voice. Ladybug wasn’t certain why, but she waited.

“I need your Miraculous, I-” the Mark flared to life again and Tailor,s hand’s clenched and he breathed out harshly. “A customer struck my Russi. She.. she hit the ground so hard, I… please. Papillon says that the Restoration can be… that if a skilled Chosen uses it, the Restoration can save my wife, bring her b- …even though it was before I accepted Papillon’s deal. I need your Miraculous. I need to get it to Papillon so he can use them to save my wife.”

Ladybug’s hands clenched on the wrench. Oh no. She’d had a nagging fear that it might have been something like that… but…

She sucked a deep breath in and set her jaw. “I can do that. Papillon has never used the Ladybug Miraculous. I have for over eight months. Let me destroy your Talisman and purify the Akuma and I’ll save your wife.

“No, save her NOW!”

…Dang it.

Ladybug’s earrings beeped sharply.

But using the Restoration WOULD mean Tailor had no thread to use, there were no civilians in sight right now. Without his thread, the battle would be over quickly no matter what.

Stepping away from the second hydrant, Ladybug threw the fire-hydrant wrench high into the air, focusing everything she had onto Russi Homobonus as Marinette had seen her just the day before; the kind, gentle smile and caring soul… and FOCUSED all of her will into making certain that this time the Restoration would include one extra old lady. She’d been the TRIGGER for all of this; that HAD to count anyway!!

Up above the wrench burst into a Wheel of Life and the columns of ladybugs swarmed the city, four of the eight columns heading across the Seine, straight towards where Ladybug knew the Homobonus store to be.

One column raced down and wrapped around the utterly saturated cocoon of thread, curling back and forth as the other three columns raced back and forth across the streets and buildings where the battle had taken place.

And still Ladybug poured her will into exerting every iota of control that Tikki said she had over the Restoration.

The column that had been focusing on the cocoon finally pulled away, leaving a slightly dazed looking Chat Noir standing alone on the dry street. Chat wavered for a second, then doubled over and took several deep breaths, hands on his knees. “Not fun,” he muttered, almost too softly for Ladybug to hear. “Never fun.” He gulped a few more deep breaths in then looked up and around, jolting backwards with wide eyes when he saw Tailor. “Ladybug!?” he yelped.

Ladybug held up a hand, one finger raised, closing her eyes to better concentrate now that Chat Noir was free and could keep her safe incase Tailor decided to attack.

After a minute, Chat’s hand came to rest on her shoulder, a warm and familiar weight. “The Restoration finished.”

Ladybug opened her eyes and took a shaky breath, she went to pull out her yoyo and then froze. “What’s the phone number for your shop? We can call and make certain that the Restoration saved your wife.”

“Saved his wife?!” Chat Noir demanded.

“I’ll fill you in later, promise.”

Tailor opened his mouth, and then closed it with an expression of shock as the Mark of Papillon flared to life before his face. “I… you did? But why- Oh. That. I thank you.”

“Ummmmmmm?” the two superheroes asked in unwitting sync.

“Russi is alright, she… she remembers taking the blow, and then nothing until now, according to Papillon.”

“Papillon. Called your shop. To check on… Your wife just had a casual phone chat with PAPILLON?!” Ladybug demanded, while Chat stared, jaw hanging. “No. No, I am not dealing with this. She’s okay and that was the deal. Your Talisman.”

“What even is happening right now?” Chat asked, watching with a poleaxed expression as Tailor took the tailor bag from his hip and held it up.

“It’s the bag itself.”

Ladybug lassoed the bag with her yoyo, yanking it to her hands and quickly ripping the bag in half, letting it fall to the ground. Chat Noir stepped back until he was out of the way of her yoyo as the Akuma raced skywards. Ladybug slid her finger over the cover of the yoyo, opening it to reveal the shining light within. Swinging it to get it up to speed, she swung it up and around, snatching the fleeing Akuma out of the air. “Gotcha!”

A quick tap of the central spot, and the now purified Akuma fluttered gently away. “Bye bye, little butterfly,” Ladybug said softly, then looked at Tailor as the now so very familiar black motes and purple lights engulfed him.

Chat Noir jumped when his ring beeped, looking down at it and wincing, cat-ears flattening to his hair, when he saw he was down just the central pawpad. “Ladybug, I-”

Ladybug’s own earrings beeped, and she reached up, running her fingers over them, feeling the subtle divots of the spots.

Three spots left.

That would be enough. It should be enough. She could let Monsieur Homobonus use her yoyo to call his shop and talk to his wife himself, and that would likely do him a WORLD of good...

“I’ve got it. Shoo home, Minou.”

Chat Noir smiled and started to turn, then looked back, a sparkle in his eyes. “I just have to say something, my Lady.”

“Oh? Ladybug asked, eying her partner.

Ewe complete me,” Chat said with a completely straight face. “I wool always love ewe.”

Ladybug groaned. “Again with the PUNS. Wool you just leave me in PEACE?”

Chat smiled and started to leap away… then stumbled and turned to look back at Ladybug, who felt her face growing red as WHAT she had just said began to register.

“Did you-?”

“NO!”

“You DID!!”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…”

Chapter Text

Adrien yawned his way into Foreign Language 2 and started to head for his normal seat, only to pull up short when he saw Marinette, Aurore and Mireille sitting at his usual spot at the front table.

Oh. Right. Group project. He’d remembered that. Honest. Totally and completely.

Blushing faintly, he headed up the stairs to the back of the classroom and sat down in middle of the bench, aiming a smile at Nathanaël, who didn’t even look up from his sketchbook. Adrien mentally shrugged, slumping slightly in his seat and letting his eyes close for a second.

Soooooo tiiiiiiiired. First waking up early for practice, then the mess of an Akumatized Champion attacking his friends… at least Alya had found out about it and called Nino, who’d been able to whip up a distraction for Adrien to successfully sneak off to go do battle.

Adrien aimed a tired scowl at his still slightly damp and smelling of metallic water clothes.

Unfortunately that distraction had been Nino somehow making the school’s fire suppression system turn on. Bleh.

Shifting to sit properly, Adrien reached into his bookbag and pulled out the folder that he’d put the papers for the class project in and laid it down on the table. Lightly hitting his thigh with one fist to try and wake himself up, Adrien looked around at the room, surprised to see Marinette apparently asleep at the front of the room, face buried in her arms on the desk.

Which, while it likely would get her in trouble with the teacher in a minute or two, ended up being a lucky break for her as Chloé strode into the classroom and walked back to the table the three of them had been assigned to with a smirk.

Adrien bit back a huff at that. Always a competition, always one she had to win, by any means necessary.

“Hiiiiii, Adrihoney, how was your morning?” Chloé asked, throwing her arms around Adrien in a hug before pulling away to smugly sit beside him. “Pretend as if I don’t know of course.”

Adrien blinked. “I’m surprised you’re so happy, after what happened.”

Chloé’s smile slipped at that for a split second as she pouted. “If I find out who triggered the fire suppression system, there will be WORDS. It took me forever to save my hair and I doubt my clothes are salvageable. BUT…” she offered a happy little sigh. “Watching your practice after the court was cleaned up afterwards was worth it. I love Kim Challenges.”

Adrien made a mental note to make certain that Chloé never found out that Nino had been responsible for the triggering of the fire suppression system (even IF Nino kept cackling about Adrien having to use the shower excuse AGAIN). He spared a glance to the front of the room again, reminded of the weird look Marinette had had on her face the whole time she’d watched what had ended up being a half practice due to the fire suppression system and Kim, Alix and Ivan showing up late. He offered Chloé a small shrug. “Woke up early for a lacrosse practice that was delayed, got a little practice in, have managed to slog my way through French and Maths, am now hoping to get through Italian and make it to lunch.” He glanced to the side. “How about you, Nathanaël?”

Nathanaël jumped, looking up from his sketchbook with a look of faint panic. “What?”

“How was your morning?” Adrien asked again.

“Uh. Good? I guess?”

Adrien nodded. When Nathanaël looked back down to his sketchbook, Adrien reached out with one foot and tapped the toe of his shoe against Chloé’s ankle. He ignored the glare that got him and aimed a significant look at her, then nodded at Nathanaël.

Chloé blinked and looked at Nathanaël, then looked to Adrien, aghast.

Adrien scowled and nodded, crossing his arms.

Chloé crossed her arms as well and scowled right back, then waved a hand at the rest of the class.

Adrien shook his head and nodded at the oblivious Nathanaël again, then pointed at the folder of papers he’d put on the desk, raising one eyebrow.

Chloé’s shoulders curled up slightly and she pouted.

Adrien took out his phone and pulled up the calendar and scrolled to Saturday and selected the ‘shopping with Chloé’ note he’d put in, with the time his father had allowed for him to be out and about and held his finger threateningly over the delete button.

Chloé’s eyes went wide and she stared at Adrien, who just lifted both eyebrows and waited until Chloé huffed and rolled her eyes, then shifted to look around Adrien at Nathanaël.

“Is that fan manga or something original?”

Nathanaël jumped AGAIN and looked up at Chloé blankly. “…What?”

Chloé rolled her eyes and waved a hand at the sketchbook. “Your manga. Fan or original content?”

Nathanaël’s jaw worked for a minute or two, and he eyed Chloé, trying to figure out what she was planning… when the trap would snap shut.

But Chloé just waited and Adrien was putting his phone away (why had he had it out, Nathanaël wondered) and looked at Nathanaël’s sketch book with interest as well.

“Original. Mostly I mean.” Nathanaël set his jaw and decided to go for broke. Better to spring the trap now then have it snap shut when he was off guard. “I got twelve pages of my next issue sketched out…” he breathed a mental sigh of relief when the bell for class to start rang. Alright. That would be the end of that weirdn-

“Next issue?” Adrien asked, interested.

“I…uhh… I started drawing some short comics? My foster parents bought me some supplies for Hanukkah, and I figured… I love reading manga and I love drawing so I’d… draw manga. Set in Paris. About Ladybug and Chat Noir and some of the adventures they maybe could have.”

“Wait. The ‘Miraculous’ mini mangas that the Lyoko Comics shop is doing the limited publishing run on?” She pouted and flipped her ponytail over her shoulder when the teacher aimed a glare back at their table, although Adrien ducked and turned his attention to the folder of papers.

Nathanaël stared at Chloé, not quite able to process what was happening right now. “You read comics?”

“I read MANGA,” Chloé clarified with a huff, waving one hand in a dismissive gesture. “Lyoko Comics is the only place worth buying from, nowhere else in Paris has a passable collection.”

This, while true, was something of an issue for Nathanaël to wrap his head around because that meant that he and Chloé shopped at the same store… possibly REGULARLY. …and wait a second.

“You’ve read the Miraculous mini-mangas?”

“All four of them,” Chloé said. “I’ve been TRYING to get the shop to sell me the originals instead of just the prints but so far no luck.”

“I read them too,” Adrien said with a smile, glancing up from the folder of papers. “I’m… I guess you could say I’m a huge fan of Ladybug and Chat Noir, and the mini mangas were… good natured and fun to read, kinda stuff w- they might actually get up to, y’know?”

Chloé… was the person… that kept trying to buy his originals?!

WHAT WAS HE SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS INFORMATION!?

Chloé leaned around Adrien to get a better look at his sketchbook. “So, you’re ‘Nath!’ and this is May’s com-is that GOKU?”

The last was a delighted shriek that made the teacher turn and glare in their direction.

“Chloéééééé!” Adrien hissed.

Chloé ignored him, all of her attention on Nathanaël’s sketchbook.

Nathanaël, for his part, blushed. “Uh. No? Of course not? Goku is protected under international copyright laws and is a well-known trademark and I totally couldn’t have him in a manga I was gonna have published and how do YOU know Goku anyway?”

“Everyone knows Dragon Ball,” Adrien said with a small shrug, even he ignored the glare the teacher sent their way this time.

Chloé, for her part, pouted. “I probably know more about Goku then YOU do. I own all 42 tankōbon volumes, I own DVDs of all 18 films, the three specials, the two festival shorts, the OVAs, and all the series- even all of Dragon Ball Kai that’s been released so far AND I have… almost all of the video games. …What, there’s a lot of them and it’s hard to get some of the right consoles or handhelds for the older games! I’d like to see YOU do better!”

“You… but…” wait. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute. “You like anime and manga.”

“Duh.”

Chloé Bourgeois was a weeb. Nathanaël couldn’t believe it. What was he supposed to DO with this motherload of information…

Wait.

“You have all 42 tankōbon volumes?”

“Pff, of course.”

“Adrien, Chloé, Nathanaël. PLEASE stop playing around and start working on your final project for the term.”

He was missing 10 of the tankōbon, and there was such a difference between HOLDING a manga and reading it and seeing it online… And she had the specials and FESTIVAL showings? And what video games did she have?!

“…If I let you look at the pages I’ve got sketched out for this month’s issue can I read them?”

Chloé eyed him, visibly debating the barter. She jumped suddenly and aimed a glare at Adrien, lifting one foot up to rub at her ankle. Had Adrien just KICKED Chloé?

“Fine.” She held a hand out for the sketchbook and made grabby fingers. Nathanaël slid it over, hoping things weren’t about to blow up in his face.

To his surprise, Adrien leaned over to look at the sketchbook as well as Chloé started reading the pages.

Properly.

Right to Left.

Chloé Bourgeois weeb confirmed. When had he fallen into an alternate reality?

A hand suddenly slapped down on the sketchbook, making all three of them jump and look up M. Rossi.

“If you three cannot focus on the task at hand, I’m going to have to ask… you… to… What are you doing, mademoiselle Bourgeois?”

Chloé aimed a flat look at the teacher and held her phone to her ear. “Papa? Hiiiii, how’re you? Oh I’m fine, Papa; just calling to say I love you… you know that if I had a problem I’d let you know…” Chloé trailed off and aimed a calm smirk at the teacher.

Luca Rossi was no fool, and in any case when they failed to do any of the term project, that would be that. Releasing the sketchbook, he stepped back and stalked off.

“Kay, bye Papa, I looooooove youuuuuu. Hugs and kisses. Mwah.”

Adrien aimed a look at Chloé, who returned it with a confused blink as she put her phone back in her purse. “What?”

“We’re gonna get in trouble.”

“No, we won’t, that’s what I just PREVENTED from happening.”

“Ugh.”

Chloé huffed and returned her attention to the sketchbook. “Ah, I knew it; that is Goku.”

“Only for right now,” Nathanaël muttered. “He’s a place holder for the Champion, who’s gonna be Monkey King themed. I wanted to remember the abilities I was gonna him and to keep a good idea of how powerful the Champion will be as I go.”

Chloé looked at the comic. “Could they beat him? Goku IS the most powerful person in the universe. …no matter what that stupid ScrewAttack show said in their Deathbattle episode. They totally cherry-picked to make Superman as uber as possible while making Goku as weak as they could get away with, it sucked.”

“Gohan’s more powerful,” Adrien muttered under his breath.

“No, he isn’t, Adrihoney,” Chloé said casually, still reading through the manga.

“Yes he is. They SAY so in the show. You watch the show, right Nathanaël? Remember when Old Kai unlocked Gohan’s full potential? He was stated, flat out-” the last was said with a glare at Chloé, who completely ignored him, “-that Gohan was the most powerful being anyone had ever sensed.”

“Boo still defeated him,” Chloé sing-songed.

“Only cause Boo used Piccolo’s training and knowledge of Gohan!”

“Mmmhmmm…”

“Nathanaël… Nath… c’mon! Help me out here!”

“I… well, I can’t believe I’m SAYING this… but Chloé’s right.”

“Ha!”

“Nooooooooooo, why does everybody ignore Gohan’s power?!!”

“Because he doesn’t use it, he just sits around being a teacher and stuff all day,” Nathanaël offered. “Goku trains and loves fighting and being challenged, so he’s got more experience and skill and maybe more power.”

Adrien crossed his arms and slumped into a sulk. “Gohan’s more powerful,” he muttered in soft rebellion.

“Goku,” Nathanaël and Chloé insisted.

Chapter Text

Marinette was having the worst day.

She scowled at the packet of papers and tried to listen to what Mireille was saying, scribbling drawings in the margins of her pages.

It should have been a good day. Yesterday had been amazing and awesome and she’d gotten so much done and learned so much and she’d even gone to sleep at a decent hour…

Then she’d had to unexpectedly wake up early (ugh) and go to school early (UGH) and fight what had ended up being a very… complicated… battle early in the morning (UGH).

Getting to school and seeing Adrien playing TOPLESS after Kim had challenged him had made up for all of that though… The image of her Adrien running around the court bare-chested had lasted her through French and Maths – even if she had ended up sleeping through most of said classes.

And then Italian had rolled around, and Marinette wasn’t certain that the memory of Adrien playing basketball topless was going to be enough to get her through this.

At the back of the class, Chloé laughed before Adrien shushed her.

Marinette got to her feet. “Monsieur Rossi, may I please be excused to the bathroom?”

“Of course, Marinette.”

“Thank you.”

Grabbing her purse and pulling it on, Marinette walked calmly out of the room, stridently ignoring Chloé, Adrien and Nathanaël quietly arguing about something. She kept her chin up and her shoulders back until she was in the bathroom and in a stall. Only then did she sag and let her eyes prickle.

It wasn’t FAIR. It really wasn’t. Chloé was laughing and spending time with Adrien, and even though it was Chloé, Adrien was talking to her and she was LAUGHING and Adrien had been smiling and Nathanaël had looked confused and not angry. It couldn’t be fair, could it?

Tikki opened Marinette’s purse flew out, then pulled some toilet paper from the roll and offered it to Marinette with a sympathetic smile.

“Want to talk about it?” Tikki asked gently.

Marinette sniffled and wiped her face with the toilet paper. “In a minute?”

Tikki nodded. “Okay.” She settled herself on Marinette’s shoulder to wait, hugging Marinette’s neck and softly chirring.

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The air rustled with the wings of thousands of tiny fire spirits bound in the form of butterflies by a magic so ancient no human who now lived could remember its crafting.

“Nooroo, detransform me.”

Purple light and roiling black crawled over Papillon’s form, and Nooroo flew out of the brooch and fell, exhausted, towards the floor.

Only to land on her Master’s palm.

She blinked up at the man who had caught her as he pulled a pink gemstone out of his pocket while the Akumas slowly settled and landed on the floor of the domed room.

“Nooroo, are you feeling up to insuring that my bedroom is clear?”

Nooroo ducked and fussed with the tails of her hindwings before finally managing to softly admit that she could not.

“Hmm. Hide for now, if you please. I am certain I can think of an excuse should the need arise.”

Nooroo nodded as her Master lifted her up to the cloth he wore around his neck (what was it called? She forgot) and tucked herself into the folds, snuggling up against her Miraculous. There was moment of sharp disorientation as her master used his ensorceled gem to teleport them, then the creak of the trapdoor, then the soft tap-tap of shoes on ladder rungs, then another creak as the trapdoor was closed. A minute passed, then there was a soft metallic clink and the hiss of a can being opened, then fizzing liquid being poured into something.

“Nooroo.”

Nooroo peaked out from the cloth and saw her Master’s hand waiting for her. She stepped out onto the waiting palm and was lowered down to the dresser top where there was an open can of Red Bull, and beside it a tea-cup saucer filled with Red Bull.

Nooroo sat by the saucer and leaned over to daintily sip from it, watching as her Master moved over to his computer desk and booted up his computer, the three large screens springing to life, showing images of the new studies being done of the papyrus and other items the Pharaoh had used to open a portal over Paris.

Nooroo took another long sip of her Red Bull, watching her master work for a few minutes before speaking up. “Master?”

“Yes, Nooroo?”

“May I ask…. Why?”

The typing slowed, then stilled for a moment before he sighed. “I assume you are speaking of the debacle with Tailor this morning.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but… “Yes, Master.”

“The terms of the bargain that we struck were very straight forward. In return for his attack, he would gain the Ladybug earrings and give them to me, I would don them and use them to resurrect his wife. If I do not honor the deals made between myself and my Champions, I will have no one willing to accept my offer, and thus no supervillains to draw out the Ladybug and the Black Cat.” Her Master resumed typing. “It was not the manner of deal that I prefer to strike. Those who wish for straight forward revenge are both easier to manipulate and it is far easier for me to honor the deal in full – so long as they have the opportunity for revenge I have kept my part – full and valid.”

“But Tailor…”

“Tailor did not want revenge. He wanted to save his wife.” Her Master paused, hands clenching, thumb running over the silver ring he wore. “I felt… certain sympathy. But it became clear that Tailor was going to loose the battle, so I prompted him to tell Ladybug the terms of our deal. She is young and innocent to much of the world. Even if he were not able to convince her to give him, and by extension myself, the earrings – she would be aware of the situation and I presumed she would attempt to save M. Homobonus’ wife. A presumption that was proven correct.”

Nooroo sipped at the red bull in the saucer again. “I… am surprised that you honor the deals, Master.”

He turned to look at her, blue eyes curious but controlled. “Oh?”

Nooroo flinched.

“You think that because I misuse your abilities to create supervillains to achieve my ends that I would misuse all factors of the Butterfly Miraculous?”

Well…

He sighed and took off his glasses, polishing them on a piece of cloth. “I have my reasons for what I am doing, Nooroo, as you are well aware. But if you are curious of this matter, we can of course discuss it. Whom would you like to speak of first?”

Nooroo blinked a few times, off guard and off balance. She finished the saucer of Red Bull to buy herself a moment to think… but, why not start at the beginning?

“Stoneheart.”

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After they finished reading the pages of the mini-manga Nathanaël had sketched out, Adrien was able to get the group to at least start working on their project, although he had paused in worry when Marinette stormed out of the room. She’d looked close to tears, so he pulled his cellphone out of his pocket held it beneath the table while he sent a text to Alya, telling her what was happening and made a mental note to try to swing by Marinette’s house later as Chat Noir. The text sent, and thus everything he could do at the moment done, Adrien managed to return his focus to the class project.

…Mostly.

He kept getting distracted trying to defend Gohan’s honor and skill, as well as the series that had focused on Gohan rather than Goku.

Nathanaël hadn’t been much on task even BEFORE the whole debate had spawned, and Chloé was bound and determined to win the semi-argument with Adrien, especially once Chi-Chi and Android 18 and Videl, her three favorite characters, began to be discussed. What little attention Adrien had been trying to give to the project went flying out the window when Nathanaël brought up Future Trunks and the History of Trunks TV special… because that was how he’d gotten involved in the Dragon Ball franchise and was one of his favorite plot lines of the series even now.

This, and the talks about how different Chi-Chi, Android 18, Videl and the others were from each other… in personalities and story lines… somehow led to Sailor Moon.

And you know what? He could probably get most of the project done later, solo if need be. There was ANIME to talk about, with people who knew it and loved it as much as he did.

Chapter Text

Alya headed into the bathroom and paused after entering, listening carefully even as she glanced at her phone again to double check (well hexa check… was there a word for check six times? ) that she’d read the text from Adrien correctly.

Ah, there. Marinette’s voice and the faintest of sniffles from the stall farthest from the door. Marinette had probably called someone, most likely her mom, and was talking to them on her cell phone to get herself calmed down.

Alya walked to the stall and lightly knocked on the door. “Mari? Hey, it’s me. Can you come out?”

There was a long pause, then the lock clicked and the door swung open. Alya took in the slightly puffy eyes combined with the angry set of Marinette’s jaw and sighed ruefully. “What did Chloé do this time?”

And why had Adrien’s text implied that nothing had happened in the class to cause Marinette to leave? Socially clueless or not, even he tended to notice the big things. Although it was possible that, given how Marinette had been forced to wake up far earlier than her norm, then had a very stressful morning – what with a Champion chasing her – that Chloé existing might have been enough to set Marinette off.

Marinette gulped and fussed with her purse, refusing to meet Alya’s eyes. “It’s stupid.”

Alya pulled Marinette into a hug. “Why don’t you tell me, and I’ll be the judge of that?”

“…Chloé’s in a group project with Adrien in Italian.”

Alya nodded. “And Nathanaël. And you’re in a group project with him in Art, so that’s okay, right?”

“No, it isn’t! Italian is TWICE a week, Art is only once and… and then…” Marinette gulped. “They were at the back of the room and laughing and joking and talking and it was CHLOÉ, how is that fair?”

Oh dear.

“Do you know what they were talking about?”

“…No,” Marinette admitted.

“Well, we could ask Adrien what they were talking about…?”

Marinette blushed. “We can’t do that!” she squeaked.

Alya huffed. It was really hard to get these two hooked up when Marinette refused pretty much any and all chances at normal interactions and Adrien was, to quote Nino, a socially oblivious puppy. Fine. She’d ask Adrien what the talk had been about later. The most likely option was Adrien’s inability to say no and Chloé being her usual evil self and over-riding everything, but it was always possible that there was more going on than that.

Unlikely, but possible.

“Do you think you’re up to going back to class?” She nodded at Marinette’s purse. “Did you have a good talk with your mom?”

Marinette looked down at her purse sharply, took a slow breath in and held it, then let it out in a whoosh and nodded. “I had a good talk, got everything mostly sorted out. As for class… I think so? If nothing else, class is only for an hour.”

“Half hour now,” Alya said with a rueful smile. “Come on, Adrien leant me a handkerchief, and if we soak it in some cold water and you hold it to your face that’ll take care of the redness and puffiness.”

“…You have… WHY!?”

“Well, I was crying a bit cause of the scare after Madame Mort,” Alya said as she pulled the square of cloth out of her pocket and handed it to Marinette. It was true enough after all. “And apparently Adrien carries handkerchiefs on him.”

Marinette stared at the white square of linen with the complex ‘stained glass’ butterfly picked out in rainbow thread in the bottom corner, eyes glittering.

Alya sighed. She had a feeling that the handkerchief was going to ‘mysteriously’ disappear sometime in the near future. “Come on, girl. Face fixing time.”

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“Stoneheart…? Stoneheart first wanted revenge for a slight, and then simply to be with the one he loved. He was indicative of my preferred bargains.” Her Master stood up and walked over to the dresser Nooroo sat on and poured the saucer full of Red Bull again, then walked back to his computer table. “Champions who simply wish for revenge or recognition are those I tend to seek out because it makes the deal between us simple and clean. I offer them the chance to try for revenge or recognition so long as they attempt to get me the Miracle Stones WHILE they try for their revenge. Even if they are not successful in their revenge, as Stoneheart was not, I only offer them the chance to TRY, not the guarantee of success.”

“The bargain with your Champion was kept, but…” Nooroo decided to go for broke. “You do more than you have to, sometimes. Often it’s little things, a small word here, a nudge there, but the efforts remain. Effort that, given Champions can not remember their time transformed, you do not need to expend.”

“They recall the offer. Were I to not uphold my end of the bargain, given that all recall the bargains made and accepted, soon no one would be willing to accept, excluding those that – for the time being – I would prefer not to make deals with.”

Nooroo took a huge gulp from her saucer of Red Bull to try and gather up some courage. “Your discussion with the Mayor after Stoneheart’s first attack to prevent Ivan from being thrown in jail… all the work you did so that there would be no legal consequences at all… that-”

“That was simply done for the future. If all my Champions ended up in jail after each Akumatization, then even with the dream logic state that occurs upon my extending the offer, most would not accept and I would have no one to serve my needs.”

Nooroo drank the rest of her saucer of Red Bull and gave her wings a cautious flap before rising and tilting the can to begin drinking from it directly, watching her Master return his attention to his computers again.

“…What of the Pharaoh?”

“What of him?”

Nooroo couldn’t help the flat look she aimed at the back of her Master’s head, then at the screens that were pulled up.

He seemed to sense the look, and looked back over his shoulder at her, then returned his attention to the screens. “Jalil had recently, very recently, lost his mother. He curbed his grief into obsession and managed to translate a scroll that those with decades more experience had been unable to. My offer was, however, to JALIL. The fact that the pharaoh who first attempted the ritual would use the blood connection between himself and Jalil and my Akumatization to possess and control Jalil’s Champion form was… not something I was aware could happen – as the mess that followed made evident. Given all matters, the Pharaoh, and Jalil, are the only time I have not been able to keep my part of the bargain with a Champion.”

“Because all the actions that occurred while Akumatized were Jalil’s ancient ancestor, not Jalil himself?”

“Yes. Hence my work to prove that the spell working was in no part tied to the abilities of the Champion or my Akuma and insuring that Jalil was given credit for his translation and his high placement on the team that is studying the scroll and related matters.”

You know, if it weren’t for the whole ‘likely to bring about an apocalypse due to misuse of one of the most versatile and powerful Miraculi’ thing her current Master could arguably be one of the best Chosen of the Butterfly Miraculous ever.

And with THAT fun thought, Nooroo tipped the can to drink more Red Bull.

Chapter Text

Somehow Nathanaël wasn’t surprised to find out that Chloé was a Sailor Moon fan. He’d already found out she was a weeb (although he’d had the sense not to use that word aloud, who knew how Chloé would react to THAT and this almost truce was too delicate to risk) and Chloé was well known to not only be a Ladybug fan, but – thanks to Lady Wifi – all of Paris knew that Chloé cosplayed as her hero.

Jumping from there to ‘Chloé knows and likes Sailor Moon’, a franchise famous for its female leads, female writer and artist, and ‘female power’ themes… well, honestly, what else could one expect?

What DID surprise him was that Chloé liked a small handful of elements of the English Dub almost as much as the original Japanese when it came to the anime.

“Mostly the music,” Chloé admitted as she looked at the packet of papers Adrien had shoved in front of her, skimming through the pages and filling some of the answers of the huge questionnaire that was the term project. “The American score and songs are actually really cool. I still love Rainy Day Man… and I know the whole ‘romance’ thing is like, super important in the Japanese, but I really like the more ‘superhero’ focus in the English dub, especially the theme song but also just in a lot of the dialogue – I like how Darian is a bit more sarcastic in the Dub, how he was a model, his occasional ‘these Sailor Scouts will be the death of me’ lines cause it’s so prophetic and to me better than ‘I can’t stand to be around arguing girls’. Superhero stuff is cooler than just EVERY little thing being about romance.”

“Yeah, cause you don’t have a romantic bone in your body,” Adrien grumbled as he took the packet of papers from Chloé and went through them, checking to see what she’d written for the questions. All three of them looked up when Marinette walked back into the classroom and took her seat again. M. Rossi walked over to talk to her, nodding when she’d explained that she’d felt sick and accepting her apology for missing half of the class.

Chloé glared at Adrien, then kept talking like he hadn’t said a word. “Now, the dub was… bad overall. I don’t think anyone could argue that. There are just some SMALL things that I like in the dub. I mean they’re Sailor SENSHI, more superheroey fits soldiers, or guardians depending on the translation, better than ‘I’m in love, gosh I’m so in love, what a crush, I’ve got a crush’. And honestly the fact that every transformation ended with ‘Make Up! ’ was… seriously, make up? No matter what people say eye shadow and lipstick are not weapons, having a make up transformation was, and always will be, silly… and the ‘pretty this’ and ‘pretty that’ got a bit tiring too. I also kinda like that the transformations are sped up, they’re so SLOW in the original. I mean yeah, first time go slow to show it off, but afterwards speed it up please.”

“I always found it funny that the Sailor Senshi were basically ‘Navy-Enlisted Army-Enlisted’ though,” Nathanaël offered. “I think that’s why the American dub went for Scout instead of Soldier.”

Adrien looked up sharply at that and blinked. “HUH. Yeah. I mean they just transliterated Tuxedo Kamen to Tuxedo Mask. Senshi can mean ‘guardian’ too though, not just soldier, but maybe they didn’t want to get rid of the alliteration."

"Plus, astronaught means 'star sailor' in the Latin," Chloé said. "Given the whole 'planet' and 'star' theme... Naoko Takeuchi probably would have known that and wanted that translation... maybe. Or maybe the translators to English just did their own thing."

Adrien shrugged. "Mosta the other names are just changed to English names that had the same…” Adrien paused. “Well, not meaning, but the way people thought of the names was the same, like Umino to Melvin… Usagi being Serena makes sense ‘cause it’s still a moon pun.” He pushed the packet of papers over to Nathanaël, pointing to the small exclamation points he’d put by the questions he wanted Nathanaël to answer.

Chloé eyed Nathanaël with an expression he couldn’t place, so Nathanaël just turned his attention to the packet as the safer bet.

“Probably one of the only things that made sense,” Chloé admitted. “If there was a way to have the more superhero theme in the original Japanese and some of the English soundtrack that’d be awesome though. …Usagi’s pre-death and rebirth name should totally have been Serena though, instead of it being Serenity like her mom, it got confusing in the later series which Serenity they were talking about, cause they didn’t always think to tack the Queen or Princess on.”

“Speaking of later series, how do you think of Crystal is gonna do when it starts coming out this June?” Adrien asked.

“Ugggh, it’s a reboot. It’s gonna be great, horrible or just-kinda-different-enough to cash in and it’s probably gonna be the third.”

Annnnnnnd there went any chance at focusing on the packet. Nathanaël perked up and turned his attention to the conversation. “I’m worried about the animation quality, they are kinda rushing it.”

Adrien nodded. “Plus the new trend of ‘well we can just fix it before we put the DVDs out so it doesn’t matter if the one on TV is bad’.”

Nathanaël pulled a disgusted face. “I hate that trend. I’m not sure what’s worse about it. The ‘rush to get stuff out fast’, the ‘TV audience doesn’t matter cause they’ll watch any crap we put out’, or the ‘if we make it bad now that gives people a reason to buy the DVDs cause we’ll only fix it there’.”

“How about all three?” Chloé asked.

“…All three,” Adrien and Nathanaël agreed.

Adrien frowned slightly. "Well, okay, part of the reason is they have to buy the slot and it's become more common to buy a slot sooner rather than later so they rush animation, 'cause the station can just sell the slot to someone else, or put reruns on... But the way the anime companies keep buying the time slots before they even START the animation, I don't like. And I don't like some of the stuff the animators say at the panels, or the way they act, 'cause... Well, yeah, some of it is you don't muss the nest and insult the people that you need to sell your product to, but some of it is the 'three things' too."

Nathanaël frowned and considered that. "I guess. They could buy a later slot to give themselves more time off the bat, but some companies want to get the product out the door while anime is on the rise again and I really don't like the 'faster instead of better' mentality... both as an artist and as a anime fan."

Chloé huffed. "It's cutting corners, and some of them ARE jerks about it. Papa always says that cutting corners is the fastest way to end up with a pile of worthless garbage."

Nathanaël considered that, thinking about the Mayor's hotel and just the man in general. ...Say what you wanted, but Mayor Bourgeois did NOT cut corners. There was a reason the man had been mayor longer than Nathanaël had been alive. Face twisting up slightly - because just being annoyed at the animators for being jerks was easier and simpler then seeing the shades of grey - he turned his attention to the packet.

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“What of Lady Wifi?”

The clacking of keys stopped and Nooroo’s Master turned his chair to face her, leaning back as he considered her for a long moment. Nooroo dared to return his gaze, wings shivering faintly despite her resolve.

“This is important to you.”

“Yes.” More than she was willing to admit aloud.

“Very well then. Let us discuss the matter in full depth. I presume that it is not the convoluted plan that I was forced to enact when I realized that Lady Wifi would either refuse all commands or stand down the moment she discovered the truth of Ladybug’s identity that you wish to discuss?”

“No, Master.”

“The way that I, through channels, spoke to the Mayor and the Principal to sort out the mess of Alya violating French Privacy laws with her photographs, as well as her plans to use the school’s social media site, or sites, to push her own agenda and side of the argument.”

“You did more than that. You removed the strike from her record and had the Principal drop the expulsion.”

“I was forced to essentially break my part of the deal with her when I realized I would lose control of her the moment Ladybug was revealed, it seemed only fitting that I address what lead to her being in a… mentality… that led to her accepting my deal in the first place.”

“Copycat.”

Her Master leaned back and steepled his fingers, studying Nooroo. “Théo lost much of his standing in the art community after the mess of stealing the Mona Lisa, my work through channels and a few words in the right ears so he would be hired by the Butterfly Jewelry line to make the imitation Miraculi in their powered as well as unpowered state, as well as the other animal themed jewelry in the line to hide them, was simply to give him a steady income until he regains his standing. It was not enough for him to keep his Warehouse on it’s own however, and the young man has been doing odd jobs to bring in enough to keep the building.”

“Rogercop.”

“Nothing more than some gentle pressure to insure that the Mayor followed through with rewarding Roger with a higher rank and accompanying pay-grade rather than simply dropping the matter once Ladybug was no longer in earshot.”

“Evillustrator.”

“Nathanaël’s short comics… might prove useful to me in the same way Théo’s work on the special items in the Butterfly line may… in the same way that the highly detailed copies of the Ladybug and Chat Noir Miraculi that I… leaked… to certain high end sites may prove useful. …Admittedly that did end up being directly responsible for the current confusion about the silver ring Adrien wears. But the possible usefulness of his ‘mini mangas’ was my primary reason for working to have the comics have a small publishing run.”

Nooroo crossed her arms. “Pixelator.”

“The fact that he fouled up his chance to capture Jagged Stone via his camera ability and then wound up in legal trouble after the degree of his stalking was somehow revealed-"

“And that does not constitute breaking the deal in your mind?”

“No, Nooroo, that anonymous call I made to the police does not count as breaking the deal. Not informing the police of the… issue… was never part of the deal.”

Nooroo sighed. She could ask about Princess Fragrance, the Puppeteer, or Reflekta, or many of the others where her Master had done, or planned, some small aid above and beyond the deal… but those were such small deviations from the norm that she wasn’t certain they NEEDED to be brought up, or what good it would do to bring them up. Talking about Tailor had been what lead to this entire discussion. However…

“Tinker.”

“I hardly think that what I did constitutes going above and beyo-”

“You purchased her shop anonymously from the woman who stole it out from under her and gifted it back to Tinker with the rent for the rest of the year paid in full, deeded to her name,” Nooroo pointed out, crossing her arms yet again.

Was that a BLUSH she saw for a fraction of a second?!

“My deal with her included aiding her in regaining control of her stolen business. The factor of her… Akumatized form’s ‘costume’… and the manner in which discovering it knocked her out of the dream state, thus leading to her breaking her own Talisman were not something anticipated. However, my actions were primarily to hold up my part of our deal. Nothing more. Is there any other matter you wish to discuss at this point in time?”

“…No. Not at this point in time.”

“Very well,” the matter – so far as he was concerned – finished, her Master turned back to his computer. Nooroo quietly sighed and went back to drinking her Red Bull, listening to the grandfather clock out in the hall slowly tick-tocking as time passed by.

Chapter Text

“So where do you want to go for lunch?” Nino asked as he and Alya walked down the stairs, Nino taking the lead for the moment as he shifted up onto his toes to see which, if any, of the buses were at the bus stops or heading their way.

“Well, I was thinking we could… Mari?”

Nino blinked and turned around to look at Alya, then followed Alya’s line of sight and frowned when he saw the petite noirette standing on the sidewalk, staring forlornly down the road.

Nino and Alya both frowned and headed towards Marinette, Alya throwing an arm over Marinette’s shoulder and pulling her in for a quick hug. “Class was bad, huh?” she asked.

Marinette jumped and looked at Alya as if surprised, but then relaxed, and from there slumped. “No, class was okay. Mireille and Aurore weren’t angry at me being gone for half of class, and Monsieur Rossi was okay with me leaving and being gone for a bit cause I felt… sick…”

“But?” Alya asked.

“Adrien spent the WHOLE class talking, and BEING NICE, with Chloé. …and then, for lunch… he…” Marinette scowled down at the road. “He invited Chloé and Nathanaël to have lunch with him at his house! And they agreed and they got in his car and Adrien is having lunch with CHLOÉ!”

Alya and Nino winced. The ultimate betrayal – from Marinette’s point of view at least, given her long standing rivalry with Chloé and crush on Adrien.

“If he was talking with, and invited, Nathanaël too then it was probably just Adrien being… Adrien. He’s a friendly guy. He wants to be friends with everyone,” Nino said.

Adrien also still considered Chloé his friend, so far as Nino knew, and he had mentioned that Chloé acted fairly different at school than she had ‘before’... although Nino doubted either of those two factors would matter much to Marinette right now.

“Well, Nino and I were going to lunch, why don’t you come with us?” Alya offered, glancing at Nino to make sure that was alright. When Nino smiled and nodded, she turned back to Marinette. “We can go to my place – no one’ll be home and there’s a great sandwich place right next door.”

Marinette pouted, but Alya just smiled and Nino agreed with Alya and soon the trio were heading for the metro and Alya’s home beyond that.

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Adrien smiled at the server as she brought in the starter for lunch. “Thank you, Édith.” He shared a smile with her, both Édith and Adrien’s eyes glittering with suppressed laughter as she stopped the cart by the table and put a bowl of soup in front of Adrien and Nathanaël… and just as Chloé started to open her mouth and complain, put a terrine in front of her.

Chloé subsided and began to eat her starter while Nathanaël and Adrien tucked into their soup.

“Now, do you observe kashrut partially or fully, dear?” Édith asked Nathanaël as she turned the serving cart around to head back to the kitchen.

Nathanaël blinked, caught off guard.

“I texted them while we were driving to let them know that you’re Jewish,” Adrien explained. “We keep Kosher here, but it's kinda... not perfect now.”

“Oh, uh. …Fully?”

Édith nodded. “We’ll make sure it’s a kosher lunch.”

Nathanaël blinked again and then nodded with a shy smile. “Thank you?”

“No trouble dear. …And Chloé, love, did you actually think we’d forget how much you hate soup?”

Chloé surprised Nathanaël with a twisted smile. “It’s been almost a year.”

“Mm-hmm. It has.”

And with that, the server left, and Adrien snickered into his soup. “I think we can safely say that your freakouts over the only starter option being soup last summer was memorable if nothing else.”

“Oh shut up, I hate soup.”

“I think everyone in Paris knows that Chloé.”

Chloé huffed and turned her attention to Nathanaël, flipping her hair so the edges of the ponytail smacked Adrien in the face – which Adrien jumped at, but then ignored with the air of long practice.

“So you know Dragon Ball, you’re reasonably well educated in Sailor Senshi… what about Yugioh?”

Nathanaël had to wonder about the ‘reasonably well educated’ part and if that was an insult or not… but no way was he letting her think he didn’t know Yugioh. “Probably better than YOU,” he said, turning her earlier comment about Dragon Ball back on her.

Adrien snickered while Chloé looked at Nathanaël with a scandalized expression.

Chloé hrmphed, but rather than picking a fight, just turned the discussion to the characters of the series. The results of said discussion honestly didn’t surprise Nathanaël at all, once he thought about it.

Chloé was aggressive, forward and dominating… and like Nathanaël himself, a Seto Kaiba and Yami fan, although unlike Nathanaël she didn’t care much about Yugi. She was, also like Nathanaël, a HUGE Prideshipper. The two started discussing the merits of that ship, Chloé dismissing the faces Adrien was pulling, as Adrien tended to only like healthy, happy, relationships when shipping. Which, despite all the awesomeness, Nath could admit that Prideshipping was not really the best example of ‘happy, healthy and wholesome’.

Adrien, who was in Nathanaël’s opinion Chloé’s opposite in pretty much all elements of personality, was a huge fan of Anzu, Mino, and anime Mokuba (and from what Nath could tell, Adrien borderline hated Mokuba in the manga for some reason), as well as Jonouchi and Honda.

“I don’t know. I mean I like Jonouchi and Honda too, and I REALLY love Yugi…” Nathanaël shrugged. “But I don’t get what you’ve got against Yami, Adrien.”

“He’s cruel and more than a little psycho,” Adrien grumbled as the remains of the main course were taken away.

“He starts OUT like that but he slowly became a decent enough person,” Chloé pointed out. “Even in the manga. Isn’t that a huge part of the theme of the anime anyway? Redemption? Look at Pegasus! He gets redemmed in the anime, even if they did kill him off in the manga.”

“Wait, they what?” Nathanaël asked, confused.

Chloé’s attention snapped to Nathanaël and she stared at him, aghast. “What?”

“What do you mean they killed Pegasus in the manga?”

“You don’t KNOW?!” Chloé shrilled.

Nathanaël shrugged. “I only ever really watched the anime.”

“Ohhhh no,” Adrien groaned.

Chloé was suddenly on her feet, and Nathanaël found his wrist caught in grip of titanium as Chloé marched out of the dining room, towing Nathanaël along in her wake as she marched out of the Agreste Mansion and made a bee-line towards Le Grande Paris, Adrien trotting along-sde with a long suffering expression.

“Wha- What are you?! Hey, leggo!”

“No way, Tomato-child. How DARE you have never read the manga- what are you a SAVAGE?! You are coming with me and you WILL read the manga like any CIVILIZED PERSON SHOULD HAVE!”

“And you can lend him the Dragon Ball tankōbon like you promised after he let you look at his Miraculous Mini-Manga early,” Adrien said.

“That too.”

Nathanaël, for his part, just let himself be towed along as they crossed the street, still trying to figure out if he should be offended at the ‘savage’ comment or the ‘tomato-child’ or if he should just roll with it because - hey, manga and more importantly DRAGON BALL TANKŌBON.

He finally went with just rolling with it as Chloé marched past the doorman and to the elevators, Chloé pulling the elevator key out of her pocket and hitting the button for the royal suites. It was probably easier and – well, Adrien was still there and tagging along and Nathanaël had a feeling that would act as a buffer on Chloé’s… Chloéness.

…But seriously, he was gonna be able to get his hands on a complete collection of Dragon Ball tankōbon, that made most of this worth it.

Chapter Text

“Oh, hold on guys, lemme check the mail…”

Nino and Marinette both pulled up short as Alya headed over to the complex’s mail box and juggled her bookbag and sandwich box until she was able to get a hand free to open it up, dragging the mail out and letting the letters and assortment of boxes fall into her open and waiting bookbag.

That sorted, she closed and locked the mail box again and took the lead as the trio headed up the stairs to the top-floor Césaire flat.

They sat down at the table, pulling up three of the six chairs as they got comfortable, looking out at Paris through the glass balcony doors.

Marinette eyed the pallet of 12 small, fist sized, mason jars that Alya and Nino had bought at the shop when they’d purchased lunch as the duo put them down on the table. She waited until they were all mostly done eating before she finally couldn’t stand it anymore.

“So… Why the mason jars?”

Nino and Alya exchanged glances. “Wellllll, remember how I’m friends with Chat Noir?” Alya asked.

“Yeah?”

“So it turns out that you can capture an Akuma in a mason jar,” Nino offered with an awkward laugh, tugging at his hat.

Marinette froze, eyes going wide as she looked at the mason jars, then looked at Alya and Nino. “Why-?!”

“You were really upset, Mari,” Nino offered quietly. “We wanted to be able to at least try to protect you.”

Alya shrugged and waved at the mason jars. “I figure these are big enough to hold an Akuma, and small enough that I can tie some string around the neck and have it hanging somewhere that I can get to fast – Nino and other people too.” She nodded at the jars. “I want you to take one too. Maybe take three, for your mom and dad too.”

Marinette gulped, tearing up slightly. “You were gonna try to… to capture an Akuma… in itty bitty jars… for me?”

“Of course!”

Marinette launched herself at her friends, wrapping her arms around both of them. “You’re both the BEST!”

The chairs tipped and the trio went over to crash to the floor with a wail, a curse and a yelp.

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Chloé opened the doors to her royal suite and dragged Nathanaël in, although she let go of his wrist once they were past the doors. Nathanaël rubbed his wrist and followed Adrien out to the balcony as he looked around the huge suite as Chloé headed off into her bedroom.

While he’d been in here once before, it’d really only been technically… he hadn’t exactly gotten the best look, what with the whole having just been de-akumatized and then Ladybug and Chat Noir leaving him in the room he’d just apparently destroyed, with the girl he’d threatened and maybe almost killed (he still wasn’t clear on that part), and his head still sorta in a fog.

Fortunately, rather than getting revenge, Chloé had just stood there scowling with arms crossed until Nathanaël had realized WHERE HE WAS and then told him to get out. Nathanaël had beat a hasty retreat and gone home – where his foster parents had…

Well, hadn’t really known what to do, so Nathanaël had just ended up going to his room and then gone to school the next day like nothing had happened.

Life in Paris was weird.

On the balcony, Nathanaël tucked himself into the big overstuffed couch.

“So, do you want to borrow ALL of the Dragon Ball tankōbon or just some of them?” Adrien asked.

“Uh. I’m actually only missing like ten of them. A Critical Moment for the Dragon Balls, Son Goku’s Assault, Son Goku’s Counterattack, The Dragon and Tiger Mutally Strike, Son Gohan and Piccolo Daimao, Goku or Ginyu, The Warrior Who Surpassed Goku, Birth of a New Hero, The Plan Begins Moving and The Earth Army’s Last Secret Weapon.”

Adrien nodded and headed into Chloé’s room, passing by Chloé as she came out, lugging a box that was too heavy for her to lift. Chloé just kept moving backward, dragging the box across the floor, through the open glass doors until she was out on the balcony.

“Oh-KAY!” Chloé flopped onto the couch with a massive whoosh, then pointed at the box. “You are taking THAT, and you will read it like a civilized person.”

“Chloé! I’m stealing your Sailor Moon shinshouban!” Adrien called from inside.

“What… Why would you… Adrien, what happened to YOUR collection?!”

“Uh… A cat got in my room and kinda sorta ate a bunch of my manga!”

“…If my manga is eaten by a stray cat, I will END YOU!!”

“Kay!”

Nathanaël looked at the box with it’s 60 volumes and felt his eyebrows race for his hair line. “They published THAT MANY?”

Chloé opened her mouth, then slumped and pouted. “Well no. That’s the 38 original tankōbon and… the 22 republished bunkoban.”

“Why… do I have to read both? Are there editing changes or something?”

“…Well, no.”

“Then, why-”

“Because I didn’t think to just take one set out of the box, alright!? Ugh just… Here, take the bunkoban!”

Annnd now Nathanaël had 22 volumes of manga being literally dumped on his lap while Chloé grabbed the box and – with some struggling – hefted the box up and marched back into her bedroom.

Adrien plopped down next to Nathanaël, holding a small box with the ten Dragon Ball tankōbon under one arm, and another box with 14 volumes under the other. He put the Dragon Ball box next to Nathanaël’s hip and put the Sailor Moon box on his own lap, pulling the first volume out and opening it up to start reading it. “If it helps, she totally did this to me too when she found out I hadn’t read the Yugioh manga.”

“Is she… usually like this?”

Adrien glanced at Nathanaël, then shrugged. “Yeah, pretty much.”

Huh.

Chloé marched back onto the balcony carrying an empty box, which she tossed at Nathanaël’s head, and then flopped into her one of the overstuffed chairs, holding a Naruto manga. “Alright. So the manga started VERY differently than the anime, there were games of all different types; like tabletop, arcade, all that stuff… and Yami was arguably a villain-”

“Actually he was absolutely psycho,” Adrien offered, not looking up from his Sailor Moon manga. “He would pass judgements on bullies and criminals in penalty games and give them punishments that always-”

“Usually!” Chloé insisted.

“-outweighed the crime. Like there was a bully in school and Yami challenged him to a game that involved putting a knife through a stack of bills on your hand. Any money you removed from the stack was yours to keep, but if you took too much you’d stab yourself or something like that. Bully gets greedy, like Yami expected, and stabs his hand to get all the cash. Well, then Yami punishes him by giving him all the money he could ever want, except the bully loses his mind and is found talking to leaves about how rich he is.”

Adrien made a face, staring down at the Sailor Moon volume he was reading. “Sometimes people Yami duels lose their minds, sometimes they die, sometimes they go into a coma, stuff like that.”

“Then Kaiba came along and Duel Monsters is introduced,” Chloé said, raising her voice slightly to talk over Adrien. “He did essentially what he did in the first episode of the anime, except it was tabletop and Yami created the monsters thru a penalty game to try and scare Kaiba to death. …Except Kaiba being Kaiba and all cool and controlled, regained himself, and used that as inspiration to create the holographic things like in the show.”

“And then Kaiba brought Yugi and his friends to apologize and stuck them in a DEATH TRAP LABYRINTH that was basically made up of traps to kill them. When Yami gets to the end and beats Kaiba again, he uses what is basically mind crush and Kaiba goes into a coma and has to remember what’s important to him while re-assembling his soul like a puzzle,” Adrien said, shuddering.

“But Mokuba-”

“-who is a JERK in the manga-”

“Not that much of a jerk, Adrien, honestly. But Mokuba is kidnapped and Kaiba wakes up and is nowhere near as sadistic as before and Kaiba saves his company from Pegasus and rescues Mokuba.” Chloé waved a hand at the 22 volumes. “The whole thing is like that. Different enough to be really cool. …Although if anything the manga got MORE hooked on the card game then the anime did.”

“…So it’s different but… is the anime better?”

“Welllllll…”

“Yes,” Adrien said bluntly.

“To YOU,” Chloé grumbled.

“The only reason you’re saying that is cause you’re a manga purist. That’s why you like Season 0 so much.”

“…This is true,” Chloé admitted. “Manga’s still good though.”

Adrien huffed.

Nathanaël started putting the 22 volumes that were all over his lap, the couch and the floor into the box Chloé had chucked at him. “What’s season zero?”

“The short series from the late 90s that never really left Japan,” Chloé grumbled. “It focused on the early part of the manga, where it was all different games and the psychological horror aspect.”

“But it got cancelled and the other anime started up after the manga was already laser pointed at the card game,” Adrien said.

“And it REALLY sucks that the ‘main’ anime completely ignored a good portion of the manga AND changed a lot of backstory to make it ‘work’ or simplified it to the ridiculous point,” Chloé grumbled, opening the Naruto manga and reading it in what was without a doubt the most aggressive way possible in the universe.

“You like the Noa virtual world arc well enough,” Adrien said.

“It’s good enough that it should have been canon for the manga,” Chloé admitted, although she didn’t look up from Naruto.

“I liked that arc too, even if it was filler," Nathanaël offered. "…Battle City was AWESOME. It was so cool to see better costumes, to get more of the Egyptian backstory AND Kaiba backstory.”

“One can never go wrong with Kaiba backstory,” Chloé said.

“The expansion on the main plot and millennium items was really cool,” Adrien said, and both Chloé and Nathanaël agreed. “…What do you think of Capsule Monsters, Nathanaël?”

“It suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked!” Chloé called from her chair.

“It was actually really cool,” Nathanaël said. “But Season 5…” he shuddered, pulling a face. “UGH the ANIMATION just ruined everything.”

“I liked parts of it,” Adrien admitted. “Season 4 was ridiculous though. The bad guys were eh, the premise was eh, the plot was more hole than not, and it’s when the bad animation started to creep in.”

“Okay, the animation part is true,” Nathanaël said, “But Yami had to deal with the fact that he was still dark deep down thanks to the ‘dark side’ card and Yugi sacrificing his soul in Yami’s place after Yami lost!”

“AND,” Chloé interjected, “Kaiba had good parts and had to deal with someone who refused to see that Kaiba wasn’t his dad and had changed himself and his company and wasn’t evil and warmongering and stuff.”

Adrien muttered rebelliously, but Chloé just ignored him and turned the topic to the dub.

None of the trio were willing to touch on Yugi’s mom being written out of the dub. Nathanaël was in foster care, Chloé’s mother had ‘abandoned’ her and their relationship had been strained prior to that, and Adrien’s mom had disappeared just under a year ago… ‘Missing Moms’ was something none of them wanted to touch at the moment, maybe not ever.

Unlike Sailor Moon, it turned out that Chloé preferred the Japanese soundtrack to the American soundtrack. She did like Pegasus’ song from the dub, and a few of the songs, but that was it. "Also some of the sound effects and edits done with the card game were sometimes cool, sometimes not but if nothing else didn’t detract from how cool the game was."

“Yeah, I’ve got…” Nathanaël rubbed the back of his head. “Probably an embarrassing amount of the cards. And I still play, sometimes even in tournaments.”

Chloé looked up from her manga, eyes glittering. “You duel?”

“Well, yeah. …I actually probably know the card game better than the anime, to be honest.”

Chloé was on her feet and Nathanaël found himself being towed along by her AGAIN, this time into her bedroom. Nathanaël couldn’t help looking around, as he didn’t really remember it from the last time he’d been in here and-

Was that a teddy bear SWAROVSKI CRYSTALS for EYES on the bed!?

Chloé let go of Nathanaël’s wrist and marched over to the bookcases that stood against the back wall of her room, bracketing TV desk. Smiling smugly, she waved a hand at one of the shelves that had photo ablums on it. One large one was gold and had ‘deck’ engraved into it, there was a slim white one with blue engraved scroll work, two big silver ones with ‘Monsters’ engraved into it, one thick black one with ‘traps’ and one thick white one with ‘spells’.

“You got enough cards to get another monster album?” Adrien asked from the door way, sounding impressed.

Nathanaël walked over to the bookcase and, watching Chloé carefully, took the thick gold-covered photo album down and opened it up, curious to see what type of deck Chloé played with.

His eyes went wide at the first page of card holders and he gulped. “Remind me to never duel you.”

Chloé flopped into one of the three comfortable looking chairs that she had in her room, cackling.

Chapter Text

Once everyone’s emotions (and chairs) had been sorted and settled, and lunches finished, Alya pulled the mail out of her bookbag while Nino and Marinette cleaned the dishes and threw away the garbage.

“All RIGHT, it came in!!”

Marinette looked at Nino, who shrugged and turned off the water for the sink. Marinette put the plate she’d been drying down on the counter and she and Nino dried their hands with the towel, then walked over to the table.

“What came in, babe?”

Alya held up a small box, smiling in delight. “The Chat Calicot ring!”

“The Chat what?” Marinette asked.

Nino, however, laughed. “You couldn’t resist getting SOMETHING from that costume site could you?”

Alya stuck her tongue out at Nino. “Silence! It’s awesome! …And the costumes were WAY out of my budget.” She opened the box and dug through the packing peanuts until she found the ring, carefully wrapped in soft fabric. “Oh cool, they even send a little baggie of the batteries!”

Alya set the small baggie down on the table and then carefully unwound the cloth from around the ring. Using her thumbnail, she opened up the battery cover on the underside of the ring and put the small watch-battery in, then closed the cover back up. Turning the ring right side up, she pressed the top left and bottom right ‘claws’ at the same, turning the LEDs under the silver plastic face on – showing the white, orange and ‘black’ toe pads and white central pawpad.

“Oh, that’s cool!” Marinette said, leaning in to look closer at it. “Wow, it looks so much like the real one,” she whispered, reaching forward to trace the shape that was as familiar to her as her own earrings. “Well, I mean, from the pictures.”

“Except for the whole silver thing,” Nino said with a smile.

“I’d’ve had to get a Chat Noir or one of the Chat Tigré rings if I’d wanted it in black like the real one,” Alya said, shrugging. She pressed the ‘claws’ a few times until all of the pads winked out, then pulled her cellphone out of her pocket. She pulled the jack-plug that her ladybug bauble used out of the headphone jack and slid the cord through the ring.

Holding the bauble up by the cord, she smiled smugly when she saw that the ladybug charm was wider than the ring’s opening, thus preventing the ring from falling off. Quite pleased with herself, she plugged the jack back into the plug and pocketed her phone once more.

Marinette and Nino went back into the kitchen to finish cleaning up while Alya finished sorting the mail, putting the letters for Marlena in one pile, Otis in another, ‘junk mail’ in a third, and things she was not certain of in a fourth pile on the table. The mail done, Alya went to dig through the kitchen and grabbed the spool of cotton string her mom kept for tying roasts and other cooking needs and grabbed a set of scissors and a hot glue gun and paper plate as well. Sitting back down at the kitchen table, she plugged the hot glue gun in and set it down on the paper plate to catch any glue drippings as she tied the string around the neck of each mason jar as tightly as she could.

Then, tongue sticking out, she carefully ran the hot glue along the top and bottom of the string to connect it to the glass as best she could (as well as covering the knot in a quick blob of glue to ensure it didn’t come undone).

She then measured out a hand-length of string and cut it from the spool. She tied a loop in the string on the other end (and sealed THAT knot with a blob of glue as well) that was big enough to slide over the mason jar. Standing up, she slid the loop through the belt loop of her jeans, put the string loop over the mason and then let the jar go, nodding at how it hung a few centimeters down.

“Nice fashion accessory, babe,” Nino said as he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around Alya’s shoulders, kissing her cheek. “Maybe we can get some carabiners or something to make it even easier to unclip it from whatever people want to hang it off of.”

Alya tapped a fingernail against the glass. “And maybe get some metal jars or something, I mean glass can break kinda easy. I think as long as it’s air tight and you can get the lid really secure it’ll work. I dunno. Chat said that he was gonna try to talk to Ladybug sometime today to arrange this week’s interview for Saturday and he thinks talking about Akumas… but especially telling everybody who watches about the mason jars… is a really good idea.”

Nino nodded. “Makes sense. I mean yoga and ‘control your emotions’ classes and stuff have gotten really popular this year… Heck, that guy that punched someone out just before an Akuma landed is kinda being hailed as a hero since the Akuma just… fluttered off like it was pissed insteada making a talisman. Making it where people who spot an Akuma in time can TRY to do something? That’s gonna be good for everybody.”

Well, now Marinette knew to expect a call or message from Chat Noir sometime today. But, she had to admit that she agreed with her kitty, even if that did mean that she wouldn’t have time Saturday night to try and figure out how to split her yoyo or the like as she’d been planning (even if Tailor’s appearance had canceled tonight’s planned patrol and moved it to Sunday). Getting this knowledge as widespread as possible as FAST as possible could only be a good thing. …Buuuuut.

“I think you should wait till after the interview is posted to start wearing the jar, Alya.”

Alya and Nino looked over at Marinette, surprised. “Oh?” Alya asked. “Why?”

“Well… People’ll see it and ask about it, and keeping the fact that you’re friends – actual hang out and casual talk friends – with Chat Noir probably isn’t super safe for you or him, right? But if you wait till after the interview, then you can just say that you found out about it THEN and that’ll be safer for everyone, right?”

“Ooooo, yeah. That’s a good point.” Alya carefully slid the loop back over the mason jar and put the stringed jar on the table next to the small pallet. “Thanks, Mari.”

Marinette smiled. “No trouble.”

Everything sorted, and the string, scissors, jars, and hot glue gun put away, the trio decided – as they still had just under half an hour of lunch break – to walk back to school rather than catching a bus and enjoy the sunny May day.

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Chloé had an absolutely VICIOUS deck; made up almost entirely of Ultra Rare cards, bolstered by some really nasty spell and trap cards in what was likely one of the most effective combination of Aggro, Burn and Beatdown decks that Nathanaël had ever seen. Chloé could attack off the bat, and could likely take many of her opponents down and out of the duel before most players were able to get started. There were a LOT of draw power, deck thinners and searchers to let her search for exactly what she wanted as well. He couldn’t find many Sakuretsu Armor cards or other ‘send enemy to graveyard’ types. …From the look of it Chloé preferred Dimension Prison and the like, basically taking her enemies out of the game permanently.

And wow that was a full page of Raigeki cards, and a following 2 pages of cards designed to turn enemy attacks back on them or provide continuous assault in both traps and spells.

The first pages, while powerful, were out of place with the rest of Chloé’s deck, because they were basically a ‘whittled down to the basics’ Instant Win Deck for Exodia the Forbidden One. After staring at them for a minute, Nathanaël finally looked over at Chloé. “So, you like using… I mean, Exodia is an Instant Win, and…”

Adrien surprised Nathanaël with a smile. “Nah, that was just her copying me. My deck is mostly Instant Win. I’ve got two versions of the Exodia the Forbidden One Deck, one Exodius the Ultimate Forbidden Lord Deck, a Final Countdown Deck and a Destiny Board Deck, since there’s actually more crossover between them then most people think. I’ve also got a Last Turn Deck set off to the side, in case it ever gets unbanned.”

Nathanaël stared at Adrien. He would NOT have pegged quiet, kind, soft-spoken Adrien as an Instant Win Deck guy.

Adrien shrugged. “I like playing the long game – I’m good at things that take a long time to set up. My deck’s supplemented by a big enough Ritual Monsters deck and Stall Deck to hide that it’s really an Instant Win deck, usually. When it doesn’t it’s still enough to buy me time to get one of the decks all the way in place to win.”

Chloé waved a languid hand at her Deck album. “I usually just send Exodia to the graveyard early on and make sure I have him protected and everything set up, but I usually don’t need him with my deck. He’s just there so that if things go sour I can summon him and win. Adrihoney helped me get that deck down to the bare-bones last year.”

“What’s your deck like, Nathanaël?” Adrien asked, looking genuinely curious.

“Uhh, mostly it’s a Ritual Monsters and Union Monsters Deck. I’ve got some good Return, Skill Drain and Soul Drain worked into it too. Nothing super fancy. …I’ve got some good Blue Eyes and Dark Magicians. Some of them were really expensive, but… Well, BLUE EYES.”

“Oh great, there’s more than one of you,” Adrien groaned.

“Huh?”

Chloé bounded to her feet and headed over to the bookcase, pulling the slim white album down and presenting it smugly to Nathanaël.

…who soon found himself all but drooling because Chloé had EVERY SINGLE BLUE EYES WHITE DRAGON! Every variant, every rarity, and she had multiples of most of them. Even the cards that were 100 euros or so.

He whined when the album was taken away and put back on the bookshelf.

“Sorry, but we’ve gotta get back to school,” Adrien said, his box of Sailor Moon volumes tucked under his arm as he shooed Nathanaël and Chloé out of the room and towards the elevator. “We’ve only got like 15 minutes before lunch break is over.”

Nathanaël sulked all the way down the hall and to the elevator, slumping as the doors closed... Then he then yelped and hit the ‘door open’ button and ran to Chloé’s room… only to have to run BACK when he found the doors locked.

“What are you-”

“I forgot the manga!”

Chloé huffed and handed him the small keyring she kept in her pocket, holding it up by one of the seven keys. “Fine.”

Nathanaël snatched the keyring and scrambled back to Chloé’s room, unlocking the doors and running towards the balcony.

“But I’m only doing this because you don’t get to weasel out of reading the Yugioh manga!” Chloé shouted as the doors to her room swung closed.

Nathanaël looked back over his shoulder as he ran through Chloé’s solar. “I wasn’t going to!”

OOMPH!

Nathanaël ran headlong into a man in a white tux, knocking the man backwards and sending Nathanaël sprawling to the floor.

Nath groaned and looked up at the man, who looked as startled as Nathanaël felt. The man blinked suddenly and then offered Nathanaël a hand and a smile. “Sorry about that. I was cleaning mademoiselle Chloé’s room. I wasn’t expecting any of her friends to come in.”

Nathanaël took the man’s hand and got to his feet. “No, it’s okay, I should have looked where I was going. I just gotta get the manga.”

“Ah, the boxes are still on the balcony.”

“Great!” Nathanaël ran out to the balcony, grabbing the box with the Yugioh volumes and putting the box of Dragon Ball volumes on top of it, then picked both up at the same time.

As he got to the door, the cleaner went to open it… then paused. “If you would be so kind as to not mention me, or my knocking you over, to mademoiselle Chloé or mondamoiseau Adrien… I would prefer to avoid any… trouble that might arise from potentially injuring one of mademoiselle’s friends…”

Nathanaël nodded. Not getting people in trouble when HE was the one who’d run headlong into the guy was definitely the best way to go. “Sure.”

The cleaner opened the door and Nathanaël edged his way through, trying to make it look like he’d been the one to open it – because solidarity!

He walked to the elevator while Chloé laughed at him. Nathanaël dared to stick his tongue out at her – and was smugly pleased when Chloé stopped laughing to stare at him in wide-eyed shock as the elevator doors closed.

It wasn’t until he was all the way to the lobby and trying to figure out how to get into Chloé’s limo without dropping the precious boxes of manga that he really registered that the cleaner had called Nathanaël Chloé’s FRIEND.

He sat on the red leather seat, listening to Chloé and Adrien argue over whether or not Pegasus’ additional plan to get the millennium items in the dub was a cool addition or not, trying to figure out how he felt about someone thinking he was friends with Chloé.

…and how he felt about the fact that maybe… just maybe mind you! …he didn’t think that it would be utterly horrible to be so.

Life in Paris was weird.

Chapter Text

Marinette walked into the bakery, carefully edging her way past the evening crowd, offering a rueful smile to her mom as she went past – somehow she always forgot to just use the private side door, it was something of a family in-joke by this point.

She poked her head into the bakery work room and offered a wave to her dad, who was folding dough and butter into ever thinner layers, getting the laminated dough ready to be made into croissants for tomorrow morning. He gave Marinette a smile and nod, and Marinette went to the stairs and started heading up.

She got to the second floor landing and was about to put her foot on the stairs leading up to the third floor, she felt a sharp poke on her hip. Marinette looked down at her purse and met Tikki’s eyes. Before Marinette could even open her mouth, Tikki held one paw up to her mouth in a gesture for silence. Once Marinette nodded, Tikki pointed upwards, then held her paw curled up near her mouth and mouthed ‘nyaaaah’.

Marinette raised her eyebrows. Chat? What was Chat Noir doing (she would assume) on her balcony?

…Well, probably best to go find out.

Marinette trotted up the stairs, to the living room and then up the stairs to her loft and sure enough, just as she came up through the trap door, there was a tap tap tap at her skylight.

Marinette waved Chat in, smiling as he leapt lightly from her bed-loft to the floor of her room.

“Good afternoon, Marinette!” he chirped, hands clasped behind the small of his back as he rocked back and forth on his feet.

Marinette couldn’t help but smile at her goofy partner. “Good afternoon, Chat Noir. What brings you to my balcony?”

“Well, this cat heard tale that his Princess had a rough day, and I wanted to check on you and make sure you were alright,” Chat said, lifting one hand to rub at the back of his head, even as he smiled.

Ah, Alya must have decided to bring in the big guns. Marinette had such good friends. But still… she didn’t want to talk about Chloé, or Adrien, with Chat Noir. So, time to see if her luck would hold and Alya hadn’t told Marinette’s punning kitty about WHAT had made her day so rough.

“Well, it’s kinda a bit silly-”

“I’m sure it isn’t!” Chat insisted.

Marinette smiled. “No, it is. I was just feeling a bit ill – probably something I ate for breakfast, or maybe just the mess with Tailor, or maybe something in the room set me off – so I went to the bathroom. But I’m better now, honest.”

“You’re sure?”

“Positive. But, while I have you here… when do you want to come by to play games again?”

“Oh. Ummmmmmmmmm,” Chat Noir went back to rocking on his feet, his face contorting into the most ridiculous and adorable face-journey expressions as he so very obviously went over every detail of his schedule in his head. Marinette couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her, because he kept sticking his tongue out just the tiiiiiiiiiniest little bit. “Ah! Next Monday evening?”

Marinette stuck her hand out. “Next Monday evening it is, Chaton.”

Chat shook her hand to seal the bargain then trotted up the stairs towards her skylight.

Marinette waited until Tikki flew up out of her purse, taking that as an all clear. “Do you think he’s going home or will he try to call me, well – Ladybug – about Alya wanting to do an interview tomorrow?”

“Welllll, he’s actually tried to call you a few times. I get a sort of… buzz? in my head when he tries to call you on your yoyo and you’re not transformed, whether or not he leaves a message.”

Marinette nodded. “Well, probably best to answer his call then, no?”

Tikki giggled and nodded.

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Soon, a freshly transformed Ladybug was landing with as much stealth as she could muster on the south bell tower of Notre Dame, her yoyo already ringing.

Ladybug smiled and sat down on the rooftop, trusting the railing to keep her hidden from sight as she answered the call. “Good evening, Minou. Did you have a nice relaxing day after fighting with the Tailor?”

#“Actually… yeah,”# Chat said, smiling bashfully. #“I’m not sure I can go into why, ‘cause secrecy, but yeah. Good day. You?”#

Ladybug winced. “Not so good. Not horrible, just… not the best. A big part of it was I despise early mornings. …and someone I… don’t like… was kinda annoying and-some other stuff-in class. But I got to spend time with my friends at lunch, so I’m alright.”

#“Tomorrow will be better, I know it,”# Chat promised. #“And, uh, speaking of tomorrow. You know how Alya said she wanted to do weekly interviews, for us to pay her back after helping me after Madame Mort? She’d like to do this week’s interview tomorrow, about Akumas.”#

You know, knowing that he was friends with Alya (and maybe Nino?) now, she had to admit that her Chat was probably the worst liar in the known universe. His FACE, his body language, his voice… nothing but tells. How did he manage to keep his identity secret!?

“Sounds good.” Ladybug then smirked, unable to resist. “We can tell her about the mason jars; that is something that I want as many people in Paris to know as possible.”

Chat Noir’s face broke into a relieved smile. #“Yes! That’s a wonderful idea, my Lady.”#

So. Many. Tells.

Well, while she was loathe to sacrifice her mornings it probably would work best for everyone else. “So, can you contact Alya and have her set up the interview for tomorrow morni- …Chat?”

On her yoyo’s screen, Chat was rubbing the back of his head. #“I uh, I don’t have Saturday morning or afternoon free,”# he admitted. #“I’m going shopping with a friend who had most of her clothes missed by the Miraculous Restoration after the Tinker fight to replace said missing clothing and that will be an all morning affair, and probably all afternoon too.”#

“The Restoration missed… is your friend okay? She wasn’t hurt was she? …or, well, the Restoration healed HER right?”

#“She was totally and completely healed,”# Chat Noir confirmed. #“And the damage to her sui… to the hot- …to her home was repaired too. It’s just that her CLOTHES were missed for some reason. And this is a friend that… I… I kinda became estranged with her, this last year or so? And I wanna be friends with her again, and she’s trying, so I gotta try too, right?”#

“Yes, you should try too. Late Saturday evening it is. Say 8pm?” Well, now she could sleep in tomorrow morning like she loved doing.

#“That should work. Thank you, my Lady.”#

Ladybug glanced around the rooftop of the bell tower and frowned as she remembered something. “Hey, Chat?”

#“Yes, LB?”#

“With Tailor… when you first arrived at the fight, you were up on one of Notre Dame’s bell towers, and I saw you talking with a priest?” Realizing what she had just admitted, Ladybug quickly tacked on – “Or at least, that’s what it looked like in the video a friend showed me.”

#“Wow, I’m surprised someone got a camera focused up there that fast. I’ll have to tell Alya she’s got competition in the ‘fastest phone in the west’.”# Chat smiled at his own joke, while Ladybug rolled her eyes. #“But anyway… I sometimes stop at Notre Dame on my solo patrols, especially if I get caught out in the rain – or snow, and I’ve gotten to know a few of the people there. The priest – Father Kelly – is one of them. When I got to the Tailor fight, I landed on the bell tower. Father Kelly was up there, I forget why – I think he was trying to get a clear look at the situation maybe – and he headed down to get the doors and gates open so that people could retreat into the cathedral. …And/or so that I could potentially take the fight into Notre Dame, depending.”# Chat rubbed the back of his neck again and smiled ruefully. #“Nothing ended up coming from it, of course.”#

“No, that was a good idea. It was one I’d thought of too… as I was heading to the fight. But I decided not to go for it, because I totally and one hundred percent really remembered that the cathedral would have been closed that early in the morning.” Thinking about the Tailor, she made a mental note to go over to M. and Mme. Homobonus’ Tailor & Seamstress shop to check on both of them tomorrow. She was fairly certain that what they had all planned to be the first of her 'apprentice Tailor Time's this Sunday would be put off to next Wednesday given M. Homobonus being akumatized and Mme. Homobonus being injured.

Now was there anything else… oh, wait, right. She wanted to practice with her yoyo and see if she could manage to split it. While trying to sort it out tomorrow was a possibility, she honestly wanted to be able to call Chat to ask for help if she couldn’t figure it out – and that meant she couldn’t do it while he was out shopping with his friend.

“Chat, can you handle patrol on your own this Sunday? I’ve got some stuff I want to do around that time, and-”

#“Say no more, Bugaboo. I’ve got you covered,”# Chat said with a little salute.

The duo said their goodbyes, and soon Ladybug was landing on her balcony and, after ducking out of sight, de-transformed. Sighing softly, she laid down in her lounge chair, smiling up at the sky.

Tomorrow would be better, and today hadn’t even been that awful, now that she thought about it… which meant tomorrow would be GREAT.

Chapter Text

Alya tightened her grip on Chat Noir’s shoulders, koala hugging him with all four limbs as tightly as she could, staring in wide-eyed silent horror as the rooftops of Paris grew larger and larger and this was nowhere NEAR as much fun as she’d thought it would be when she recorded Ladybug and Chat Noir dropping in to do battle from extreme height.

She saw Chat’s mouth move, but she couldn’t hear anything but the roaring of the wind. He lifted his arms and spun his baton, and Alya grunted as she was jerked by the sudden motion, mashing her face into Chat Noir’s shoulder. “Oh God, I hate you!!”

“No, you don’t!” Chat chirped as he kept up the helicopter spin of his baton, keeping the last few meters of the fall to a gentle decent. He landed on the rooftop of a warehouse and looked around, cat-ears twitching and rotating as he scanned the area. When Alya started to unhook her legs from around Chat’s waist, he lifted a hand up and lightly tapped her ankle and shook his head.

Alya readjusted her grip and stayed put as Chat Noir scanned the area, then opened a trapdoor on the roof. He tapped Alya’s ankle again, and Alya slid off his back, handing him the heavy backpack with the camera and collapsed tripod. Once he’d taken it, she sat down on the edge of the trap door and stuck her feet into the dark, feeling around until she found the rungs of the ladder. A long, slow breath and she started climbing down into the pitch black warehouse.

She wasn’t certain how far she’d gotten when there was a creak from up above as Chat closed the trapdoor. “Hold still a second, Alya… I’m gonna come down to you.”

Alya stopped climbing and waited… a second later she felt Chat Noir scramble down to her level and wrap an arm around her waist.

“Okay, now – just wrap your arms around my shoulders… No, that’s my arm… that’s my neck… okay, yeah, that’s my FACE Alya, thank you for smacking it… Okay, yeah, that’s my shoulders. Here we go.”

Alya gulped, and couldn’t help the yelp when he jumped off the ladder, his free arm coming up to scoop under her knees and hold her up as – what felt like a second later – he landed lightly on the floor of the warehouse.

He walked through the dark and sat Alya down on what felt like a desk.

“Okay, there’s a bunch of canvas and heavy cloth laying around, I’m gonna hang them like black-out curtains so we can turn the lights on.”

“Sounds good.” Alya waited a minute, then pulled her phone out of her pocket and pulled up her email, idly sorting mail that was for her, mail that was for the Ladyblog, and mail that was really just spam or junk that had gotten through her filters.

There was soooooo muuuuuuuch. She really WAS going to have to get a new email account for the Ladyblog – and considering how many people kept trying to email her videos, she probably should put the 10 euros a month down and get the terabyte account.

“So, did you have a good Saturday?” she asked the darkness in general.

“Yeah, actually. Well, until the end I did. …I was glad the Gorilla was there, gotta admit.”

Alya looked up from her phone, realized that staring at the bright screen had stolen any night vision she might have had, and huffed as she looked back to the screen. “Oh? What happened?”

“Bunch of creepy stalkers, I think. Maybe something more, but probably stalkers.”

“…You are going to explain now.”

“So, late afternoon… Chloé and I had finished up the shoe shopping and were just about done with shopping for clothes proper and a group of… I dunno, six men? Showed up and started ‘hanging out’ near-by, some of them taking pictures on their phones real subtly, some of them just WATCHING…” there was the sound of that distinctive uuuuugh sound that some people made when they shuddered. “After a bit they moved in close, tried to separate me and Chloé from the Gorilla and maybe each other… that’s when the Gorilla stepped in. The guys all booked though, but now…”

There was a sigh from somewhere near the roof.

“Now everybody is on edge, so it kinda soured the day. Père’s on edge because he’s certain it’s another kidnapping attempt and after the last one, and with Maman not here – plus he really, REALLY hates stalkers. The Gorilla’s on edge because that’s his job and he said that he was worried it was kidnappers too. …Chloé and I are on edge because both of us HATE stalkers and – well, we’ve both been kidnapped before. Being kidnapped SUCKS and is probably the most terrifying thing ever. So we went to the mansion and Chloé finished shopping online and she and I watched La Belle et la Bete again to work on the translation to Latin for class. …The part BEFORE that was fun though, especially ‘cause I actually really like shopping. I’ve got a GREAT eye for color and shape and fit and stuff.”

Alya frowned at her phone, thinking off a pull down schedule and walls of pictures. “Hey, umm… What do you consider stalking? I mean I know lots of girls, and some boys, that have like their walls PLASTERED with your pictures…”

“I’m a model, Alya. I don’t really mind people having pictures of me up… well, I kinda am a bit iffy about candid pictures, but – they’re just pictures, you know? That they probably got out of magazines, or off the internet, or all that stuff. They didn’t follow me around hiding in bushes taking pictures when I didn’t know it and uuuuuuuuuugh.”

Alya nodded. Okay. So pictures were fine as long as they were ‘public domain’ and okay even if they were candids so long as no creepy stalking was used to get the pictures. One worry off the list.

“What about… Oh, I don’t know… what if someone had a schedule?”

“Uh. Public schedule? Like they printed my public schedule off the Agreste Corporation website?”

Alya mentally winced, doing her best to make certain that it didn’t show on her face. She couldn’t see anything, but she knew Chat Noir could probably see HER with near perfect clarity. “I don’t know? I guess?”

“Public schedule I… guess I’d be okay with, kinda sorta not that much.”

Oh boy.

Time to distract the sunshine kitten. “That makes sense. Hey, you said that the Gorilla SAID that the guys might have been kidnappers but… I’ve never heard the guy say a word.”

“Oh, that’s because he’s mute, or mostly mute. …Technically mute? He can make sounds but he can’t TALK, something with his voice box and a nerve or something? His son’s totally mute though.”

Alya looked up at that, squinting into the total blackness of the warehouse. “What, seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“Then how did he say-”

“Sign language is a thing, Alya.”

Alya blushed and closed her eyes. “Crap. I knew that. I did. I swear.” Although that DID finally explain how the Gorilla had been ‘talking’ to Gabriel behind Alya after Sans Sheriff without Alya hearing anything. It hadn’t been expressions or telepathy, simply sign language.

She heard Chat snicker up near the roof and she stuck her tongue out in his general direction.

Well, that had probably distracted him. Now she just had to figure out what to do, if anything, about Marinette’s schedule. …Maybe it was all from the public website? She couldn’t really remember everything that had been on the list, outside of Adrien’s fencing lessons and photoshoots. Actually, to see if that was where Marinette had gotten it, all she’d have to do is pull up the Agreste Corporation website when she got home.

Everything else, including deciding where Alya herself should stand on this matter could be sorted out after that. …did she side with her BFF or with someone who was newly her friend but would obviously be super uncomfortable about something that her BFF might have done… or should she maybe just let things be instead of saying anything? Adrien obviously didn’t know about the schedule, and Marinette was unlikely to let him see it, so maybe Adrien could just remain blissfully ignorant, that was a possibility, right?

…somehow, Alya had a feeling that it wasn’t.

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Ladybug landed lightly on the rooftop of Théo’s warehouse, looking around with raised eyebrows before she double checked the address Chat Noir had messaged her with earlier in the day with a ‘Interview will be here’ message.

With a little winking cat emoji.

Because of COURSE Chat had somehow found a way to get emojis on their MAGICAL ITEMS that didn’t even exist in the physical realm all the time.

Actually, it was kinda awesome and she’d added it to her list of ‘get my yoyo to do the thing’ for tomorrow afternoon, because emojis were the best.

She found the rooftop trapdoor that she’d used to get into the warehouse during the mess of Copycat, and eased it open, peaking in to make certain everything was clear.

The warehouse’s lights were turned on, although there were thick sheets (maybe rugs or heavy canvas) hanging so that they covered the inside of all the windows and skylights, and even the big bay doors, keeping any light from leaking out. Ladybug could see Alya sitting on Théo’s work desk, her attention on her phone as she drummed her heels on the wood. Chat was getting three mismatched chairs into place in front of the tripod mounted camera, his tail lashing as he danced around, and Ladybug could just see the white cord of earphones sticking out from one of his pockets, trailing up and vanishing under his wild blond hair.

Ladybug shook her head and dropped down onto the ladder that lead from the trapdoor, and closed the trapdoor carefully, then leapt down to lightly land behind Chat Noir. Alya started, but then smiled when Ladybug put a finger to her lips.

Staying out of Chat’s line of sight, Ladybug snuck up behind her partner, slowly taking a deep breath in…

The leather cat-ears twitched, and then rotated back, tracking her. Chat stopped dancing and turned around, smiling. “Good evening, my Lady! Did you have a nice Saturday?”

Ladybug blew the breath out in a huff. Right. Chat Noir could hear with his cat-ears independently from his real ears. Darn it, she’d been all set and mentally giggling about make him flail.

Ah well.

“Actually, yes I did. I got to sleep in, and I swung by to check on the man who became the Tailor… and his wife.”

“Oh good! Was she really okay?!”

“Yes, and apparently Papillon DID actually call the shop to talk to Madame Homobonus. Caller ID was just a bunch of gobblygook though, so he must’ve used his magical item to call,” Ladybug said, frowning as she crossed his arms. “I’m glad she’s okay but… well, that was really weird. The whole thing was weird, but the way it went down in the end was REALLY weird.”

“Yeah, it was… Although, I don’t think Papillon’s ever gone for a Champion who was just out to… well, bring his wife… bring her back to…” Chat broke off, and his ears went flat against his head. “He’s changing things, this last month or so. I don’t like it, LB.”

Ladybug sighed. “I don’t either, Minou.”

“So… um. I’ve got a lot of videos… of battles and other stuff. On the Ladyblog. Maybe there’s a pattern that you two can pick out if you watch it all at once instead of – living it – over a month?”

Ladybug blinked and turned to look at Alya, and found herself smiling. “That might just work!”

“Yeah, especially if we just watch or read the cliffnotes versions or something, at least on the first watch through,” Chat added.

Alya nodded. “I can do that. Or I think I can. Especially if I ask Juleka for help, she’s really good with computers and stuff. …Nino too, he’s good with videos and video programs. Maybe bring in some of the kids in the computer club.”

Ladybug nodded, and then looked at Chat sharply when he started to bounce in place subtly, his tail swinging. What was he… Ladybug’s eyes went to the white earbud cord, and she scowled up at Chat. “Chat Noir are you LISTENING TO MUSIC while I’m talking to you about VERY IMPORTANT matters?!”

Chat froze, eyes slowly going wide as he ducked and then finally offered a faint “Noooooooooooo?” in a hopeful tone.

Ladybug glared.

Chat sighed and slumped, unzipping his pocket and taking his ipod out and hitting stop on it, unplugging the headphones, pulling the earbuds out from under his hair and handing them to Alya with a quiet thank you. When Ladybug held her hand out for the ipod, Chat curled both hands up around it and took a step away.

“If you can’t be responsible, you don’t get to keep your toys. And anyway, what if you lost it and someone found it! They could use it to find out your identity!”

“I bought it with cash months ago AS Chat Noir and I don’t have my real name or any music that I didn’t get off the internet via my baton and pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaase lemme keep it my Lady?”

Ladybug blinked, because really? He’d gone out and bought something with cash so it wouldn’t be linked to his real identity? “Fine, you can keep it. But no bringing it on patrols or to battle or anything.”

“Aw, but-”

“No.”

Chat slumped and scowled, and put his ipod back in his pocket, and Ladybug nodded. There. That was THAT sorted.

She looked over when Alya giggled, and just out of the corner of her eye, she saw Chat stick his tongue out at Alya.

Actually… while she had been told this as herself, had either Chat or Alya told LADYBUG that they were friends now? Thinking it over, she realized that the conversation had never happened. So it was probably best to get it hashed out now, before she accidently let something she shouldn’t know as ‘Ladybug’ slip. “So… you two are friends now?”

Chat Noir and Alya both jumped, and Chat offered an awkward chuckle, rubbing the back of his head, staring down at the floor. “Yeah, we’ve been friends since Alya helped me after Madame Mort.” He glanced up at Ladybug through his bangs, silently asking if that was okay.

“And THEN I found out that the goof has almost no friends,” Alya interjected, hopping off the desk, sticking her phone in her pocket. “And can’t let THAT stand. I mean how could I?”

Ladybug looked to Chat, feeling a small stab in her heart when instead of denying Alya’s statement and insisting that he had hundreds of friends… he instead just blushed ever so faintly, rubbing the back of his head again with a sheepish grin.

Somehow, she’d still hoped that Alya had been wrong.

“So I’ve introduced him to two of my friends… Marinette and Nino? Nino was turned into Bubbler, back in early September, if you remember him? And Marinette told me that she met you once or twice.”

“I’m being super careful when I go to hang out with them, my Lady,” Chat insisted earnestly. “I always take a different path, and I check to make sure no one is following me, or is in sight, and I spoke to Plagg and he said that as long as I’m careful the Glamour will sort out any recording equipment.”

Ooooo, that was a fun fact to know. She’d have to ask Tikki about it later. But…

“That’s good… on both the being careful and the friends part.”

“So it’s… okay? You’re okay with it, LB?”

…It really was unfair how effective kitten eyes were.

“Yes. As long as you promise to be careful, how could I say no to you having friends, my Chaton?”

Alya punched a fist in the air with a whoop of victory, even as Chat scooped Ladybug up in a grateful hug. “Thank you!”

Feet dangling, toes only just brushing the floor, Ladybug could only laugh. “Okay, okay. We’ve got an interview to do, you two.”

Chat Noir gave Ladybug another small squeeze, then let her go and headed over to finish getting the chairs into place.

“So… why have the interview here?” Ladybug asked.

“Well, I… found out that Théo hasn’t been able to work in his warehouse for a while, cause a lot of the art community are still angry at him for the whole stealing the Mona Lisa thing, so he hasn’t gotten commissions. He’s gotten a job at the Fine Jewelry line of the Agreste Corporation and that’s bringing in enough for him to keep the warehouse though. …So I figured having the lights on for an hour or less wouldn’t be a massive blow to his wallet, AND-” Chat moved the last chair into place and pointed towards Théo’s work desk. “I left enough cash to cover expenses with a note – so if he notices and comes to investigate he’ll find it so he’ll know what happened and won’t have to eat his losses or anything.”

That… well, she couldn’t think of any problems with that, although there probably WERE issues.

…Buuuuuuuut…

Ladybug looked around the warehouse while Alya turned the camera on, got it focused and hit record.

Nice big open space, no way anyone would see here like they would on a rooftop or the like…

Well, she knew where she was coming tomorrow to practice and experiment with her yoyo while Chat was on patrol! And she wouldn’t even to turn the lights on, since she’d be coming in the afternoon! She could even leave a note alongside Chat’s to explain to Théo and thank him and everything!

Quite happy with the perfect solution to the ‘where to practice in private’ problem, Ladybug sat down on one of the three chairs, while Alya took a second, and Chat the third.

“To start; thank you again, Ladybug and Chat Noir, for being willing to do these interviews.”

Ladybug smiled. “You’re quite welcome, Alya. This week, I wanted to talk to you – and by extension Paris – about Akumas, mason jars, and something that I think will help all of Paris deal with the threat of Papillon and his Akumas.”

Chapter Text

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

Nino glanced over at Adrien. “Are you quoting Star Wars, bro?”

Adrien shook his head, not taking his eyes off Alec and the tall, buff woman that the show host was, for lack of a better word, haranguing. Nino wasn’t clear on what the proud military woman was supposed to DO for her challenge on the show – and given that she kept demanding that Alec tell her the challenge so that they could get started, Nino had a feeling that he wasn’t the only one who had missed, or not been able to make sense of, Alec’s explanation.

If there’d even BEEN an explanation. Maybe this was like Jack Grimault, and TVi was rigging the contest again.

Nino gulped. He was supposed to go up next. What if the ‘target’ of this wasn’t the person Alec was now accusing of some NASTY stuff, but… what if it was Nino himself?

Adrien’s hand suddenly clenched on Nino’s shoulder. Nino tore his eyes off the stage to look at his friend, and when he got a good look at Adrien’s expression quickly looked in the direction Adrien was.

Almost invisible in the shadows, a small black and purple butterfly was fluttering down towards the stage.

“Oh Shiiiiuuuuuh!”

The word broke off into a gasp as all the air in Nino’s lungs was driven out by Adrien’s bodyguard grabbing him with one hand and Adrien with the other and BOOKING out of the room. Nino focused on trying to get AIR as floor, stairs, and more floor whizzed past under him. He hadn’t really managed to fully get everything sorted in his head or lungs before the ground changed to cement and he and Adrien were LITERALLY thrown into Adrien’s limo, the driver was in his seat and driving off… somehow managing to drive fast without speeding, Nino wasn’t certain how THAT worked.

Nino. Elbow…

Nino looked down and realized that when he’d landed on top of Adrien, he’d managed to have pile-driven his elbow into the blond’s solar plexus.

“Right, sorry!”

Nino grabbed the seat and hauled himself off the carfloor. Adrien wheezed for a moment, then slowly dragged himself up to sit beside Nino, reaching forward and pressing his thumb against a reader by the small screen built into the back of the passenger seat to turn it on.

“Dude, why would you even need a car-TV to be fingerprint locked?”

“Cause it’s also a computer and video-phone with a direct line to the house.”

“…That’s both a good reason and a holy-hell-those-things-EXIST?”

Adrien nodded, distracted, as he typed on the touch screen.

The Gorilla offered a gruff grumbling sound and Adrien sighed, edging back in his seat and buckling up, nudging Nino to do the same, before he went back to typing and after a moment had pulled up the Challenge show, then grumbled when it just had a ‘technical difficulties’ screen, and switched to TVi’s news channel instead.

The screen cleared showing what looked like TVi’s old station (which, from what Nino could remember, TVi had started to use as a backup this year when their two year old skyscraper was too close, or the center point, of an Akumatized event, as the old TVi station was a small building in the south-west corner of the 16th Arrondissement). It actually seemed to be working for them, and several other news stations were doing the same thing.

A young woman, pale with ash blond hair and grey-blue eyes was on screen, reading from a tablet, as the old screens behind her showed muted video of the woman on The Challenge show being Akumatized, and, apparently commanding everyone via her voice. #“-k again that anyone who goes to try and record this Champion, is going in to try to find or help kith or kin, or is in the danger area marked by this map...”# she paused and glanced over her shoulder at the repeating clip, then looked off camera. #“Guys, MAP!”#

The clip repeated twice more… then cut to a map showing most of the 15th Arrondissement highlighted in a constricting bullseye that was focused – currently – on where the new TVi Skyscraper stood.

The young woman looked back to her tablet. #“The… uh, where was… ah. The Champion has displayed control abilities via her voice, all indications are that the control works even over radio or television sound, please use caut-”#

Adrien turned the TV off with a savage motion and leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms.

Nino blinked and cautiously leaned back to be even with his friend. “Adrien?”

“Nothing important. Thinking.”

Nino frowned and put a hand on Adrien’s shoulder. “Dude, what-”

“Nothing important. Just… nothing important.”

Nothing Nino tried would work; Adrien just stayed silent, staring out the window with his arms crossed as the limo wove through Paris and finally pulled up to the Agreste Mansion. It pulled through the gates and, rather than stopping in front of the front doors, pulled around and into what initially looked like a small covered parking garage…

And then the floor tilted down under the car and the floor in front of the car tilted up and the limo drove down the newly exposed ramp, making a sharp turn almost immediately into a small parking garage that must have been under the Agreste Mansion. Nino twisted around and looked out the back window, and only just was able to catch the ‘ramp’ closing up behind them.

Nino turned back. “…Dude, SERIOUSLY?!” He demanded of-

The empty seat beside him, with the car door open beyond. Nino yelped and unbuckled and scrambled out of the car and, spotting a flash of blond hair and grey shirt, took off after Adrien.

Dang his bro could run.

Nino followed Adrien up one flight of stairs to – oh, hey, main floor – and up the stairs that graced the back wall of the mansion and into Adrien’s room, barely managing to keep the door from slamming shut in his face.

“DUDE!”

Adrien stopped running, chest heaving. “Nino, I have to-”

The door opened and the Gorilla walked in, and Nino felt a little annoyed that the massive bodyguard didn’t seem to be out of breath like Nino and Adrien were.

Adrien’s hands fisted. “-take a shower,” he muttered, jaw clenched.

“…Really?” How had ‘showers’ ended up being Adrien’s go to excuse? Why not going to bed or- Nino glanced around Adrien’s room. Oh. Wait. Weird giant loft space, no closet, bed out in the open for all to see… Nowhere EXCEPT the bathroom to get out of sight.

Adrien offered a sunny, yet sheepish, smile, and chuckled – such a sharp change in attitude that Nino found himself frowning. “Ah, you know me, it’s the model in me.”

And with that Adrien went into the bathroom and closed the door, and a moment later Nino heard the spray of water as he turned the shower on.

Nino glanced up at a near silent huff of air and saw the Gorilla staring at the bathroom door with a rueful expression.

“So, uh. …I guess we’re gonna be waiting a while?”

The man nodded and lifted his hands up. ::Yes. We will use his TV to watch the news. Need to make sure the fight does not come here. Follow.::

Nino nodded and followed the bodyguard, glad that he was as fluent as he was in signed French. Granted, with Claude Jan Chaplin - one of the members of the school radio ‘team’ and fellow member of the music option course – being fully mute all of the radio team had sort of learned it as a matter of course… and because Claude was so bouncy, and happy and JOYFUL and good natured and happy to teach (and good at teaching) that it had just kinda HAPPENED.

Soon both were sitting on the couch, watching the muted TV, where it looked like the Champion (who, according to the subtitles, was calling herself 'Soldier') had moved to the 13th Arrondissement. Nino glanced at the bathroom again, wishing there was a way that he could go turn the shower off now that Chat Noir had likely slipped out. “Man, you guys must have insane water bills.”

The Gorilla huffed what Nino assumed was a laugh. ::Remember secret ramp to parking garage? Giant titanium panels that cover all windows? …And doors now? ...and new 'heavy duty' gate? 2 meter thick mansion walls made of yellow granite, with 3 meter thick curtain wall made of yellow granite complete with catwalk and tall spikey fence at top?::

“…Yeeeeah?”

::That tells you all you need to know.:: The Gorilla pointed down. ::Secret well. DEEP well. All water used comes from it. House is still ‘on grid’ though. Mme A.G.R.E.S.T.E.-:: he paused and made an ‘A’, with both hands, palms down. He circled the right ‘A’ over the left ‘A’ a few times, then tapped his right hand on top of his left.

Nino frowned. That… usually meant appointment, right, so… Oh wait, name-signs were a thing. And given how punctual and over the top the Agreste’s seemed to be using ‘appointment’ for their name sign made sense. He mimicked the sign. “Agreste, right?”

That got him a nod and a faint smile. ::Mme Agreste managed to buy, of all things, a hotel water tank in secret more than a decade ago. Water from grid feeds into it, different amount everyday, some-:: the Gorilla paused for a second, waggling his fingers and moving his hands around as if he were playing an invisible accordion in what Nino could remember Claude doing for ‘uhhh’ or other ‘I’m thinking’ filler sounds. ::Complex algorithm, then feeds out into outgoing pipes. Closed system. Waste water house uses also feeds into filtration system built in basement. Clean water feeds back into water table and from there well.::

Nino blinked, gaping. “What the FUCKING HELL, dude?”

::Language.::

“Sorry. What the freaking heck, dude?!”

The bodyguard’s lips might have quirked in a smile. ::The Agreste are… odd. Something going on with them, their past and current lives too. Mansion is a fortress. Curtain wall has granite stones on exterior around rebar-reinforced cement 'filling'. Extends UNDER mansion, sides and bottom. We are in a giant open topped box. Cement all single, unbroken, box, all coated in few centimeters of ‘bomb proof’ truck lining both sides. A bullet and bomb proof box. Mansion walls have same. Only holes in wall are pipes for water, power, other.::

Nino blinked a few times, trying to wrap his head around all of that. “…Okay, gonna be saying – sorry, signing – ‘language’ at me again but… FUCKING HELL, Dude. What’s out there?!”

::Do not know. Above my paygrade. But perk is my son gets to live in giant safe box, although he had to stay away from Adrien like everyone else not adult. That perk, not losing my son as he lost his mother and I lost my wife, worth not asking.::

Nino blinked. “Your son?” There was another kid somewhere in the mansion?

… Okay, that was a LOOK that the Gorilla just gave him.

“What?”

::You are-:: the bodyguard made a letter ‘N’ and waved it over his forearm in what would usually be the sign for music. ::-Yes?::

“Uhhh? What’s that sign, I don’t know-”

Another huff of air. ::N.I.N.O. Music. N with music. Name sign.::

“OH! …Wait, how do you have a name sign for ME?”

A ‘C’ was waved over the Gorilla’s forearm in the music sign again. ::C.L.A.U.D.E.J.E.A.N.M.A.R.C.E.L.C.H.A.P.L.I.N,::

“Cee Ell Aye You… Holy… You’re Claude’s DAD!?”

::Yes. How do you not know?::

“Well, I mean Claude mentioned his dad was a bodyguard but I never MET the guy, and I’ve only been in the mansion, like… three times now! …Four if you count September but I only stood in the entrance room that time.”

::Christmas.::

“Dude, seriously? There were like… 42 people there! And then M. Agreste invited the staff and THEIR families to come and join us and it was over a hundred people!!”

::This is true.::

“Uh, well. Does that mean Claude is here?” …and actually. “Um. Wait, Claude said his dad’s name was-”

A huff of air. ::Yes. My mother said she could not resist ‘gifting’ me with that given name.::

“…no wonder you never tell people.” Nino put one hand over his heart and held up the other. “Your secret is safe with me, dude.”

::Thank you. But no, Claude is not here. He is at your school, getting lesson from M H.A.P.R.È.L.E.::

Nino glanced at the muted TV, then pulled out his phone. “Want me to call Claude and warn him?”

::Yes. That would be faster than text.::

Nino nodded. “Gonna call my family and…” he trailed off in horror when he caught glimpse of very familiar curly auburn hair on the TV screen, moving with the controlled ‘troops’. “…Alya…

The Gorilla’s eyes snapped to the screen and he winced, reaching over and putting one of his massive hands on Nino’s shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze.

On screen, the Akumatized woman in her blue uniform with its tasseled shoulder pads suddenly… vanished.

For a second Nino was terrified that the Champion could TELEPORT… but then there was a huge splash on the Seine, and a flash of silver. The camera spun around and juuuust managed to get Chat Noir in focus (who was wearing what looked like heavy duty ear muffs over where his real, human, ears were hidden by his hair) before the black clad hero leapt out of frame. The camera tried to pan to follow, but there was only a flash of black in the middle of the crowd of troops, then the flash was in an alley and gone.

…And so was Alya.

Nino managed a small, watery, smile at that.

Chat had gotten Alya out of there. Yeah, his friend might have to tie Alya up or lock her in a room or something, but Alya was out of there and SAFE(ish). Maybe it was a bit selfish of Nino, but the fact that his (girl)friend was going to be as safe as she could be was… was a really big thing.

“Thanks, dude,” he offered quietly to the screen, pulling his glasses off and rubbing his eyes with his wrist. He took a few deep breaths, then pulled up his contact list, getting to his feet and walking to the look out the windows. Call Claude as promised. Then call Alya’s family to let them know that Chat Noir had gotten Alya out of there and safe (and make sure the rest of the Césaires were alright), then work on the phone tree from there.

Behind Nino, the Gorilla raised an eyebrow and got to his feet. He walked a few steps, then nodded when Nino failed to notice. Walking quickly, the burly man went to the bathroom and opened the door, stepping in and turning the shower off. He did a quick check on the first aid kit that Adrien thought he had hidden amongst his make-up kits, then stepped back out and closed the door, walking over to Adrien’s computer and booting it up. He pulled up a different news station on each monitor and then went to stand where he could see all three monitors and the TV screen, hands clenched behind his back and jaw tight.

‘Stay safe, kid.’

Chapter Text

Ladybug glared at her yoyo. This SHOULD be easy, darn it. Chat Noir had managed to figure it out on his own with no idea that it COULD be done, so Ladybug – knowing that her yoyo COULD be split and duplicated – should have it easy.

Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be case.

She’d tried pulling on it while thinking ‘separate’, and ‘duplicate’ and ‘gosh darn it I want you to turn into two yoyos already!! ’ and that hadn’t worked.

She’d tried giving it just a little twist while pulling, she’d tried just twisting it apart like taking the lid off a bottle, and she’d also tried just shaking it while screaming in frustration.

None of that had worked either.

Right now, Ladybug was regretting coming to the warehouse as early as she had – there was no way Chat Noir had started his patrol yet, which meant she couldn’t call him to ask for help… which had been the original POINT of trying this on a patrol day.

She’d just been impatient and hadn’t been able to wait till late afternoon, and now here she was in Théo’s warehouse, stuck glaring at her yoyo for another hour at least until she could ask Chat Noir for a pointer or two instead of figuring it out immediately and having extra time to practice what would certainly be some wicked duel wielding yoyo moves.

Ladybug growled and put the yoyo down on the floor and carefully set her feet so that her toes JUUUUUUST tucked into the gap in the yoyo, slipping her fingers into the space left in the string-gap of the yoyo.

She braced, then threw her full weight and strength into trying to pry the yoyo into splitting by sheer force.

She thought she felt the littlest bit of give and closed her eyes and clenched her jaw, leaning even further back, trying to eke out just that little bit extra strength.

It was going to split. It was going to split. So help her, it was GOING TO-

Ring!

Ladybug’s eyes snapped open and she lost her balance, flopping onto the floor on her back as her ringing yoyo raced upwards, smashed into the roof of the warehouse and ricocheted off, leaving a dent in its wake and went sailing towards one of the windows that lined the top of the warehouse.

“NopeNoNopityNopeNopeNOOOOO!!!” Ladybug yelped, leaping frantically after her yoyo – and only just managed to snatch it before it hit the glass. She pushed off the wall of the warehouse rather than just smash into it and landed on the nearest rafter.

Ladybug hit the phone icon, and the yoyo slid open… and Ladybug’s stomach sank the second she saw Chat’s expression, the way his cat-ears were plastered flat to his hair.

“Chat?”

#“There’s a Champion,”# Chat Noir said. #“She can control people via her voice… works even over recorded audio or over a TV, according to the news, so make sure if you check on your yoyo it’s muted and get some REALLY GOOD earmuffs.”# He ran a hand nervously over the set of heavy duty ear muffs that were currently resting around his neck. #“She gives an order and people just seem to… obey, act like they’re in a trance or kinda out of it and’ll keep following the order and when they’ve finished they just… wait for the next order.”# Chat Noir shuddered harshly, shoulders curling up. #She’s currently in the 13th Arrondissement. Uh. Calls herself ‘Soldier’.”#

He glanced at something off camera. #“Her ability is powerful, but it isn’t perfect. If you can get someone away from her, where they can’t hear her, they’ll follow ANY orders, from anyone. …and you can order them to only hear you. I think that’d work at least, but I haven’t tested if Al- …if someone told that won’t actually hear Soldier and not follow her orders anymore. I don’t want to risk anyone.”#

“Chat… how do you know about the ‘follow anyone’s orders’?” Ladybug asked.

Chat gulped. #“Alya.”#

Ladybug’s lungs stopped working for a second and her stomach dropped again.

#“She must’ve gone to record the attack and got controlled. I saw her as I was arriving and… knocked Soldier into the Seine and got Alya out of there and just… ran until I was somewhere safe. Alya stopped struggling when I told her to – because I was afraid I was gonna drop her – and I just… I told her to only hear and obey me and to stay HERE and she’s doing that and I don’t… I couldn’t think of anything else to do, and I was afraid that maybe you’d gotten controlled too so I called and you aren’t controlled and that’s good and-”#

“Chat,” Ladybug said firmly, but gently. “Thank you for getting Alya out of there and safe. Do you know if Nino was with her?

Chat shook his head. #“No, Nino’s at my - …uhh, he had The Challenge show, and that’s where the Soldier was Akumatized, but he got out of there with me. He’s safe.”#

Ladybug nodded, wincing. She’d forgotten about Nino’s fifth challenge on the Challenge show this afternoon. “I’m in the 12th Arrondissement, in the Bercy District. Where are you?”

#“Catacombs under the 14th Arrondissement.”#

Ladybug’s eyes went wide. “HOW ARE THE CATACOMBS SAFE?!”

#“I’ve been exploring them for, uh, a while. I have a whole system, and claws make it easier. I used to have to use a chisel or dremel. We’re right next to one of the metro lines here, two or three turns away from it. …I’m not gonna leave Alya here, don’t worry. I’m gonna leave her the Agreste Mansion, that place is a fortress second to none and Nino can keep her extra safe.”#

Ladybug mentally pulled up her map of Paris and put it together with her and Chat Noir’s ‘travel speed’ and then nodded. “Okay. I’m gonna get my earmuffs, and head to the 13th Arrondissement. Once you can, come find me and we’ll sort this out.”

#“Got it, my Lady. Be careful.”#

“You too, Minou.” Ladybug slid the yoyo closed and took a deep breath in, the let it out slowly.

…and winced. A Champion with mind control abilities, Chat was visibly and obviously nervous at best and she hadn’t even thought to ask once if he was alright… or at least if he was going to be alright.

“I’ll make it up to him,” she promised herself quietly as she pulled up hearing protection that would kill all outside sound and where she could get it on her yoyo.

And there was a shop, and it was – more or less – on the way. A quick check on the map to lock the location into her mind and Ladybug leapt from the rafter to the rooftop trapdoor and a moment later, she was gone.

In the middle of the warehouse floor, unnoticed and now forgotten, lay a red yoyo.

Chapter Text

It was very terrifying, and very weird, being in a silent world.

Ladybug hadn’t realized just how MUCH sound was a part of her life and her ability to handle battle situations, or, well, any situation. It turned out that total silence also messed with her spatial awareness and made it impossible to keep track of anything that was out of her line of sight… Soldier’s controlled ‘troops’ kept getting behind her and grabbing at her earmuffs, and her pigtails, and her limbs and even her pigtail ribbons and it was TERRIFYING.

Even the circling news helicopter, something that should have been almost unbearably loud given how close they were flying, was silent.

She’d finally resorted to retreating to the rooftops and attacking from a distance. It was harder to get a clear shot as Soldier like this, but at least no one could sneak up on h-

Something landed on her shoulder and Ladybug YELPED and made a wild, flailing, leap throwing her yoyo blindly and a moment later was three rooftops away, flailing wildly around her shoulders and head. She looked back where she’d been, but the rooftop looked clear.

Maybe it’d just been her imagination.

Ladybug returned her attention to Soldier, wincing as her initial strike hit one of the controlled troops instead of her initial target.

“Sorry!” she shouted – or hoped she shouted. She could feel the vibration in her throat and, for some reason, where her ears met her jaw, could feel the air rushing past her lips, but there was no sound.

Weird, weird, weird, WEIRD!

Ladybug saw Soldier point up at her, the woman’s mouth moving as she issued orders, and the ‘troops’ all went to Ladybug’s current building, climbing over each other, trying to climb the side of the building itself….

And then Soldier doubled over, clutching her throat and gagging as a silver baton shot down from somewhere high in the sky and smashed into Soldier’s neck.

Ladybug smiled and watched as Chat dropped out of the night sky, using his baton in a helicopter spin at the last moment as he landed in the street, the streetlamps acting almost like spotlights. He tilted his head when the ‘troops’ around him ignored him completely, still trying to climb the two story building to get to Ladybug.

He finally shrugged and sent his baton smashing into the still doubled over Soldier, catching her on the tip and smashing her into a building. Ladybug smirked and snapped her yoyo out, catching Soldier as she fell and with a yank and practiced snap of the wrist sent the Champion into another building.

She and Chat began to double team Soldier, keeping her from giving more orders. Ladybug leapt from the building when some of the ‘troops’ started to reach the rooftop to land on a three story building across the street, smiling as she started to spin her yoyo, and seeing an opportunity she swung her yoyo out and managed to lasso Soldier to a lightpole when the burly woman landed next to it.

“Now we just need to find out what her Talisman is…” Ladybug muttered.

One of Chat’s cat-ears twitched and rotated towards her, tracking her, and then swung forward again.

Ladybug leaned back, considering Soldier, eyes darting over her, then froze when the still coughing Champion had the Mark of Papillon flare in front of her face…

And Soldier smiled.

What was-

Chat’s cat-ear had tracked her.

He’d heard her.

…Chat Noir could hear from his cat-ears.

“CHAT, RUN!!” Ladybug screamed, or hoped she screamed, making her throat feel raw with the force of the cry she couldn’t hear. “Now!! Before she can give an order, RUN!!!”

Both of Chat’s cat-ears snapped towards her, and Ladybug could see the exact instant that he realized that he’d HEARD her, and that it was just sheer luck that Soldier hadn’t been able to speak/give orders where he could have heard her yet.

Chat started to plant his baton-

And then Soldier opened her mouth and said… something.

And Chat Noir staggered, baton falling to the street as he snapped his hands up towards his cat-ears… but the motion slowed, his hands stopping just shy of covering the leather ears. His pupils dilated and his expression went blank as his shoulders slumped and his arms dropped to limply hang at his sides as he looked up at Soldier.

Soldier looked past him to meet Ladybug’s eyes, smirking as she gave another order.

Chat Noir nodded and lifted his hands, and grabbed his Miraculous, starting to slide it off.

“NO!”

Ladybug retracted her yoyo, freeing Soldier as she leapt off the rooftop, landing next to Chat Noir. She laced her left hand together with Chat’s right hand, locking her fingers with his, trapping the ring in place as she spun and cast her yoyo, hooking the skids of the still circling news helicopter. A solid tug and she was away, dragging Chat Noir with her, their hands interlocked.

They landed several blocks away, but Ladybug knew it wasn’t enough, not with how good Chat’s hearing was. “Come with me!! Don’t try to go back, come with me!!” she shouted into the silent world, dragging Chat behind her as she ran towards the end of the roof, already throwing her yoyo for the next chimney.

She ran east, pulling up her yoyo and, since when she tried to let go of Chat’s hand to type he reached up to take off his Miraculous again which made her quickly lace her fingers with his again, typed with her nose to get a live map of where Soldier was and where Ladybug herself was… and where any locations that were known to be broadcasting Soldier’s voice/orders were because she was fairly certain that at least SOME people had decided to leave their TVs unmuted or the like.

She tugged on Chat’s hand. “Come on.”

A few minutes later, she was landing in Bois de Vincennes and tugging Chat down one of the hiking paths, pulling him off to the side and into a thick group of trees. A quick check with her yoyo to make sure that all was quiet around them and with a sigh she pulled off her earmuffs, letting them rest on her shoulders as she finally turned to look, really look, at her partner as he dully and fitfully plucked at his ring.

Well. Time to see if what Chat had found out with Alya was true.

“Chat Noir. I… I order you to stop trying to take your Miraculous off. You are to keep it on.”

Chat stopped tugging at his ring and looked up at Ladybug dully.

Ladybug cautiously let go of Chat’s hand, and breathed a sigh of relief when his right hand just dropped to hang limply at his side.

“I’m sorry. We should have remembered… I should have remembered that you can hear from your cat-ears.”

Chat Noir just stood, dully waiting for orders, his chin dropping and eyes closing as his shoulders slumped again… and Ladybug could see his hands shaking.

“Are you alright?” she asked without thinking.

“No,” Chat answered in an emotionless monotone.

Ladybug blinked. “Chat, are you… are you YOU under there? I mean can you… is it just you have to obey orders but you’re you under that?”

Chat was silent for a moment, hands still shaking. “…I await orders.”

That was… probably a no. Probably for the best, being AWARE and a captive in your own mind was probably worse than just drifting or something.

Maybe.

She reached up and ran a hand through Chat’s hair, wanting to give him just a bit of comfort just in case there was anything of CHAT trapped under there. “If I give you orders, you’ll obey them, right?”

“As you order, so I obey.”

She could maybe go back and fight Soldier on her own, but that hadn’t been working for her at all. There were just too many troops, too many people chasing her and getting in the way of her yoyo. …And she couldn’t trust that no one would sneak up behind her, not with the earmuffs on. She needed Chat there to guard her back to have any chance of doing this.

“Okay.” Ladybug took a deep breath and blew it out in one big gust. “…Okay. You hear NO ONE’S voice but mine. You follow no orders but mine, you HEAR no orders but mine. My voice is the only one you hear, there is no one else.”

“I hear nothing but you. I obey no one but you. The only orders are yours,” Chat recited back dully, eyes still closed and hands shaking.

Ladybug reached over and caught his hands with hers, giving them a gentle squeeze. “We’re going to go back and stop Soldier. You protect me. That’s your orders. You’re going to guard my back and keep me safe while I focus on Soldier.”

“I will keep you safe.”

Ladybug nodded. “That’s right. You keep me safe. …You’re going to follow me and we’re going back to the 13th Arrondissement and… we’ll make sure that the ‘no one but me’ order works. If it doesn’t I’m just gonna get you someplace safe and come up with a new plan.”

“Someplace safe and plan.”

“Yeah.” Ladybug tugged at Chat’s hands, then pulled her earmuffs back on, trying not to wince at the sudden total silence. “Time to go, Minou.”

Chat Noir raised his head and opened his eyes, pupils still totally dilated and face slack. Ladybug walked back a few strides, then nodded when Chat stumbled in her wake. She led him back to the hiking trail and from there to the nearest building. From there she was able to throw her yoyo and catch something at the top of the Adoma building. She wrapped an arm around Chat Noir’s waist and a tug later both were off.

Chapter Text

Ladybug could not think of a way this battle could be going worse.

Chat Noir was doing his best, but he was far, FAR, off from his A-game… actually he was far enough off that it made the misery off the battle with M. Pigeon seem like A-game in comparison.

And it wasn’t his fault, and she knew it, but the fact that Chat was so off meant that she couldn’t, really, trust him to guard her back and Ladybug was pretty much certain that her chest was going to explode from the stress soon.

It had seemed, at first, like it was going to work out perfectly. She had landed on the rooftop and let go of Chat Noir, taking a step to the side as she looked down at the street, getting a feel for the situation and figuring out where Soldier was and where Chat’s baton had gone.

The baton, it turned out, was still laying forgotten and ignored in the street where Chat had dropped it when he’d tried to cover his ears.

Soldier was standing at the head of the street, on top of a news van, giving orders to her troops.

There was a burst of light as the Mark of Papillon flared to life in front of her face, and Soldier looked up sharply, scanning the rooftops until she spotted Ladybug and Chat Noir. Ladybug had shifted so she could see Soldier and Chat Noir as the tall, burly woman had smiled and her mouth moved as she gave an order.

Chat Noir hadn’t even blinked.

Ladybug had let Soldier make a few more orders, then had nodded to herself when Chat had continued to have no reaction at all. “Chat, go grab your baton and come back to me, okay?”

Chat Noir had nodded and leapt down to the street, snatching his baton up and then extending it, and in a moment was back at Ladybug’s side, looking to her as he silently waited for more orders.

The plan had ended up turning into ‘stay on the rooftops and try to figure out what the Talisman was and switch rooftops when too many civilian ‘troops’ got up there for Chat to keep them off Ladybug’.

It wasn’t a very complex plan.

The issue was, due to how OFF Chat was, it also was turning out to not be a very GOOD plan either.

All of the rooftops within attacking distance of Soldier were now covered in her troops, in fact there were so many people on them that there wasn’t even room for Ladybug and Chat Noir to LAND.

So Ladybug had switched to fire escapes for a while, until all of THEM ended up covered in ‘troops’.

Now she and Chat were on the street, Chat doing his best to guard Ladybug’s back while they dealt with both the controlled troops AND Soldier herself – who had turned out to be terrifyingly strong, fast, and agile.

…and who had a very, VERY solid education in melee combat. And the ‘subconcious pointers’ combat style that Ladybug had been using for the last 8 months really wasn’t as good as professional combat training it seemed.

And now Ladybug had found a few flaws in the orders she’d given Chat Noir.

Because she’d told him to hear nothing but her voice and her orders… Chat was at the moment as functionally ‘deaf’ as Ladybug herself was. He seemed totally unaware of any sounds around him, which had unfortunately included some of the troops picking up a lamppost that had been knocked over by a car and hitting him with it like a battering ram.

Given the way Chat had started moving slower and kept hunching up after that, Ladybug was fairly certain he had what was possibly the world’s worst bruise – and right now she was hoping that was all.

The other main flaw was that she’d ordered him to keep her safe, and that apparently overrode her order to guard her back… and Chat Noir seemed to have come to the conclusion that Soldier was a bigger threat than the civilians around them, so he kept stopping his ‘back guarding’ activities to attack Soldier and Ladybug had to keep ordering him back to guard her.

And that meant she kept getting blindsided and mobbed by the ‘troops’.

Soldier grabbed Ladybug and managed to pin her, one arm snaking around Ladybug’s neck, the other delivering a punishing blow to Ladybug’s solar plexus before grabbing at the earmuffs.

Chat slammed into both of them like a wrecking ball, lashing out with his claws, driving Soldier off Ladybug and attacking the Akumatized supervillain with a viciousness that was very much the opposite of his usual combat style.

Unfortunately, Soldier managed to keep her grip on Ladybug’s earmuffs as she was taken down by Chat Noir, and Chat didn’t seem to see them, as he made no attempt to snatch them away from Soldier, instead he just kept attacking her, claws leaving slashes all over her.

Ladybug slapped both hands over her ears, pressing against them as hard as she could, looking around to try and find some place to GO because she had to get out of here NOW before-

…Soldier was hyper focused on protecting the medal pinned to the left-breast of the military coat that she wore.

That had to be her Talisman! All they had to do was damage it!! Ladybug cursed mentally when Chat took a kick to his probably-bruised ribcage and collapsed to the street, curled up and hacking, as Soldier stood up.

“Cha-!”

One of the controlled troops hit Ladybug in a flying tackle, dragging at her arms. Ladybug kicked at him, then – when he managed to drag one hand away from her ears – she grabbed a handful of the white fabric of his suit and just threw him down the str-

“Ladybug.”

The word echoed and re-echoed in her head, bouncing off her thoughts and breaking them apart and she shouldn’t listen she had to cover her ears she had to… had… h-

“Stop fighting.”

The troops stopped advancing towards Ladybug, who stood in the middle of the street, blinking.

She… she should-

“Stand down.”

Ladybug turned and looked up, watching as Soldier walked towards her, the world fading into a distant, unimportant haze – only her commander remaining in focus.

Yes. She should stand down. Those were her orders. That was what she had to do.

Soldier smiled. “Give me your Miraculous.”

Chapter Text

Nino distantly wondered if this was what a panic attack felt like…

He couldn’t breathe – and all he could hear was a roaring sound in his ears and-

The Gorilla suddenly grabbed Nino by the shoulders and made him turn away from the TV and computer screens, making Nino sit down and lean forward a bit, one massive hand rubbing Nino’s back in a soothing circle.

::In.::

Nino blinked, still gasping. “Wh-”

::Breathe. Pattern. Breathe in.::

Nino breathed in as the bodyguard slowly signed ‘in’.

::Hold. … Now out.::

It took several minutes, but Nino finally felt like himself and looked up at the Gorilla. “That… That was-”

::Panic attack. Mild one, but probably bad for you.::

“…Man, panic attacks SUCK.”

::Yes. You OK now?::

“Yeah. I guess?” Nino took a few more deep breaths, then looked back to the TV screen. “Did you see where-?”

::No. But we can rewind. If you need to, turn so you do not see.::

Nino nodded. He walked over to sit on the edge of Adrien’s bed, running his hand over the ‘sleeping’ Alya’s hair… because everyone had been a little freaked out when Chat Noir had brought her to the mansion about Alya just standing or sitting somewhere all vacant and waiting for orders and so very much NOT Alya… so Chat had told her to sleep, and while freaky it was still a lot LESS freaky and Nino could just kinda pretend that everything was okay and Alya was her normal self and just tired.

Seeing his best friend get mind controlled on live TV was… kinda horrible, although Ladybug had at least gotten him out of there and done something so that he wasn’t controlled by Soldier anymore, or at least didn’t have to follow her orders… although anyone who knew Chat Noir had been able to tell the leather clad hero was WAY off when he and Ladybug had returned for round-two of fighting Soldier.

But then… then Ladybug had gotten controlled.

The Gorilla (or… wait, he knew the guy’s name now, was it rude to mentally call him the ‘Gorilla’? …Also how did one admit that Nino and Nino’s best friend had just been calling the guy ‘the Gorilla’ without being crazy rude? …augh) finished rewinding to the point where Soldier managed to yank Ladybug’s earmuffs off, kicked the apparently injured Chat Noir into a ball on the ground and said something that just… made Ladybug stop fighting.

On the TV screen, Soldier walked calmly towards the now controlled Ladybug, as all around her all the troops stopped moving and, like Ladybug, just stood and waited… and behind Soldier, Chat Noir tried to get to his feet, before collapsing, clutching his chest.

Soldier spoke again, and Ladybug reached up and grabbed her right earring, pulling it off, then reached over to take off her left earring.

Chat Noir slammed into Ladybug, pinning her arms to her chest and yanking her off her feet and away from Soldier, whose eyes went wide in shock. Chat Noir stumbled, falling to one knee before recovering and leaping to the top of a van, then a lightpole… then he was on a rooftop, shoving the civilian troops aside roughly, leaping across the street and running at what Nino guessed was probably close to his top speed, and in moments was out of sight.

“Where do you think he’s taking her?”

::Here, I hope.::

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“What!? NO! Stop that ri-! Come…

Soldier’s voice dwindled away as Ladybug was carried further and further away, even as Ladybug stopped struggling and went limp the moment Soldier ordered her to ‘stop’. She watched as the city of Paris scrolled away in front of her in a hazy blurr, cheek resting on black leather, ragged breathing harsh in her ear as she was carried further and further away.

First rooftops, then streets, then suddenly the sun was gone and she was carried through brightly lit, rough hewn tunnels… and slowly the tunnels became dimly lit, when they were not pitch black, and the run slowed to a walk. Ladybug remained limp, heels now dragging along the ground, occasionally tangling up the legs of her captor as he walked through the tunnels, his breathing still harsh and ragged in her ear.

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“What do we do if he goes someplace else?”

::I do not know. Hope?::

“Hope?”

::That where ever he takes her it is not where… Not where they can not get orders. He is controlled, and she is too now. Soldier’s troops stall out with no orders. No orders, both trapped, city trapped.::

Nino’s chest clenched. “…That is so much worse than my original worst case scenario…”

The Gorilla shrugged, flipping between news coverage, trying to figure out where Chat Noir had taken Ladybug.

Nino’s heart straight up DROPPED when one of the news stations showed Chat Noir landing on a street and running into one of the entrances of the Catacombs. “Oh no… How could he… WHY!?”

::He knows the catacombs. Thought it was safe, took Alya there before here.::

“The CATACOMBS?!” Nino grabbed his hat, dragging it down. “He was… He was himself before with Alya, he could THINK! They’ll be lost in there forever just… staring at each other waiting for orders and Soldier’ll control all of Paris and maybe the world and the two of them’ll still be trapped and alone and-”

The Gorilla gave a short, sharp, whistle. When Nino looked at him, the man was watching Nino with a strange expression.

“What?”

::Hope. Plague. Luck.::

“I… what?

The Gorilla shook his head and looked back to the TV screens. ::Secret.::

Nino groaned. Great. His best friend was gonna die in the catacombs, Papillon was gonna use Soldier to take over the world and the Gorilla was making no sense.

Just great.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir staggered through the tunnels of the catacombs, stopping at each turning or crossway to dully study the wall at about one and a half meters up… then moving on. He reached a section of metal grating in front of a pitch black tunnel and stopped, carefully adjusting his hold on the limp Ladybug and grabbed at the metal grating.

Keep you safe.

He missed the first time, then managed to get a hold the second time. Breath rasping, he pulled on the grating and the whole thing swung out on creaky, poorly installed hinges.

Chat Noir staggered into the tunnel, letting the ‘door’ swing closed behind him, putting one hand on the left wall of the tunnel, stumbling in the pitch black as the tunnel curved tightly around in a gentle upwards slope, occasionally swinging to curve in a new direction… and then his hand met empty space and Chat fell sideways through thick black rugs to land with a grunt in a what was either a small room or a large alcove with an LED hurricane lamp lit up in one corner, its blue-tinged light showing the scrubbed clean stone, some roughshod shelving made of cinderblocks and 2 by 8s bracketed by two metal bins, their lids firmly locked. On the rough shelving stood a few metal containers, some batteries, a second LED lamp, a few jugs of water, and a few other odds and ends.

Go someplace safe and plan.

Chat dragged himself up to his knees and from there to his feet, staggering all the way into the room, the rugs that were hanging off a pole swinging back into place to block any light from escaping the tiny hidey-hole.

Stumbling to the nearest metal bin, Chat managed to fumble the lock open and yank the lid off, dragging a tightly rolled sleeping bag out. Reaching the center of the room, Chat rolled the sleeping bag out and gently laid Ladybug down on it then backed up, collapsing to his knees in front of her, shoulders slumping as his eyes closed, chest heaving as he breathed raggedly, a thin trickle of blood dripping out of the corner of his mouth.

I await your orders.

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Roger Raincomprix’s jaw clenched and he looked to his right, where Mayor André Bourgeois sat at his desk, then looked back to the muted TV screen. His eyes went to Sabrina, who was still pressed up against Chloé’s side, both arms wrapped around the tall blonde. He wasn’t surprised when Chloé looked over and met his gaze, her jaw set into a stubborn angle.

“Sir. We have to do something.”

André took a slow breath in, then got to his feet. “How many police officers remain uncontrolled?”

“At least 90% of the police force, sir.”

André nodded. “What do you suggest, Brigadier?”

“Continue the evacuations to try and deny Soldier more troops, send people in riot gear and some really good hearing protection to try and corral Soldier in, maybe start whittling her troops down…”

“…Define ‘whittling down’.”

“Drag them off to the side, load them in cars or vans, drive them out of order range… stick ‘em in cells for right now.”

“And when the prisons are full? There are well over a thousand people controlled already.”

“Handcuff them to each other in a circle around morris columns, handcuff them to fences, handcuff them to car doors,” Roger said.

“It doesn’t have to be pretty, or NICE, it just needs to get them out of the fight.” Chloé snapped when her father frowned thunderously at Roger.

“People might end up hurt if we do that,” André pointed out.

“The Miraculous Restoration will take care of it,” Chloé said flatly.

“Ladybug was controlled by Soldier and Chat Noir, who is ALSO controlled, went into the catacombs,” André pointed out sadly. “We’ll likely never be able to FIND them, Chl-”

“We’ll find them, or they’ll save themselves. You’ll see.”

André and Roger exchanged sad glances, neither having the heart to correct her.

“Soldier looked like she had enhanced strength and speed, but I’ll bet that a water hose or ten’ll put a damper on her day,” Roger said. And if that didn’t work… well, that’s what guns were for. He was not going to get HIS people killed if he had anything to say about it.

André met Roger’s eyes for along moment, then nodded. “Do what you feel is needed, Brigadier.”

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Wayzz growled and readjusted his grip on the collar of the Hawaiian print shirt and PULLED, dragging Master Fu further down the ally. “You just HAD to go to the stupid show,” he muttered as he readjusted his grip and pulled once more, Fu stumbling along in a daze.

“You couldn’t observe it on TV this time… No, No… ‘I know best, Wayzz’ and ‘There are things I miss watching over the television, Wayzz’ and ‘Even if an Akuma appears all we’ll have to do is tuck ourselves out of sight behind protective magics, just as we did for Gamer, Wayzz’.”

Wayzz kept pulling and got Fu around the corner and, after looking around, dragged him to the nearest door. “STAY,” he ordered sharply. He let go of Fu’s shirt, and when he stayed put, Wayzz phased through the door, then opened it quickly, flying back out and grabbing Fu’s shirt again, pulling him in and slammed the door shut.

“Alright. Now…”

Wayzz got his Master sitting on a chair and, after flying around, managed to find a CD player and headphones. “Master. You are to sit here and listen to music.”

“I will sit and listen.”

Wayzz stuck the headphones on Fu’s head and turned the volume up as high as he dared. “RUB YOUR BELLY AND PAT YOUR HEAD!!”

Fu didn’t react, sitting quietly on the chair, staring blankly into space.

Wayzz sighed in relief and sank to sit on the arm of the chair for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. “Well, that is that sorted. …Hopefully all the walking and running and the like Soldier had you doing will have done you no harm. …Now the question becomes… What do I do?”

Wayzz sighed, glancing towards the windows when he heard Soldier barking orders to head for the catacombs and find the escaped Ladybug and Chat Noir. Scowling, the green Kwami flew the windows and pulled the curtains closed. There. No one would see his Master.

“I am not Tikki. Nor am I Plagg. There is no connection between myself and Creation, or between myself and Destruction, no method of tracking that I can employ. …Were that there was, it would have made finding Nooroo and defeating this Papillon a simple matter.” Wayzz sighed and flew in a sloppy circuit of the room as he thought. “The sorcerers made it so that we can sense when one of us Wakes, so that we can sense when someone dances in Unison… you would think that allowing at least SOME of us the ability to TRACK other Kwamis would have been common sense.”

Shadows moved past the window. Soldier’s troops were on the move.

“Granted. They thought that capturing and binding gods to the whim of whomever wore the baubles they crafted was a good idea. Perhaps expecting common sense is foolishness.”

Wayzz sighed and looked at his Master, then flew to the window, phasing through the curtains and the glass beyond.

He flew west.

Chapter Text

Of all the things Roger had been expecting when he’d walked into the Préfecture de Police of the 16th Arrondissement, planning on using it as his base of operations, the vast majority of the Préfecture being controlled and just… sitting around… was not one of them.

He also didn’t expect to see two of the attempted bank robbers from last week out of their cells and directing the controlled people around while apparently trying to keep the people who had by some chance managed to avoid being controlled by Soldier’s commands calm and the situation under control.

“What the actual HELL is going on here!?”

Philippe Pierpont jumped, pulling the baby he’d been holding in his arms close in an instinctive protective gesture, while Maxime Pierpont slapped her hands over the ears of the young girl she’d been talking to, aiming such a LOOK at Roger that he couldn’t help but offer a ‘Sorry’.

He walked all the way into the Préfecture, taking the situation in, then looked to the two attempted bank robbers. “An explanation, now.”

“The TVs weren’t muted and ‘The Challenge’ is apparently really popular with the police force here and several of the inmates,” Philippe said, handing the baby he’d been holding back to her mother. “Pretty much everyone was controlled off the bat, or by heading over to see what had happened before TVi cut feed.”

Roger looked around the Préfecture again and sighed. “Wonderful. …Wait, if the inmates were watching, then how are you two-”

“We, uh… we don’t know,” Maxime admitted. “We could hear Soldier talking, just like everyone else but it… Uhh, nothing happened to us?” she shrugged. “When people started heading for the exit we tried shouting at them to stop and that worked. No clue WHY, but it worked.”

Roger sighed. “Yeah, we got a call from a kid saying that Chat Noir found out that Soldier’s ‘troops’ will follow anyone’s orders about five minutes ago.” As well some VERY interesting information about Akumas and mason jars (and possibly ANY airtight container) that had resulted in the police making what was possibly the ODDEST pit-stop and request from every store they passed in the history of Paris. And if it worked…

Well.

The Paris police force was already in the process of making riot gear with specialized reflective gasmasks and hearing protection standard gear. Having a mason jar or three hanging off one’s belt wouldn’t be the ODDEST addition.

“…You ordered someone to let you out of the cells, I guess?”

The Pierpont siblings both shrugged.

“Why did you stay? You could have run, gotten out of Paris and off-radar with no issues.”

Philippe scoffed. “We would have been found eventually. And where the heeeeeck would we have gone?”

“Plus, we came out and there were freaking KIDS milling around… Some of them controlled, some of them not. …No way does anyone with a functioning soul just stroll out of the building when there’s little kids screaming in fear,” Maxime grumbled, picking up the young girl she’d been comforting and bouncing her on her hip, not saying anything when her dreads were yanked on and the kid buried her face, covered in tears and all the other elements of a three year old crying their heart out, in Maxime’s shoulder.

Roger’s smiled at that. “Alright.” He looked at the people that had come with him, then considered the Préfecture again.

He now had far, FAR fewer resources than he’d been expecting, as well as having less space than the plan originally called for.

Alright. He’d just make due with what he had. And two people who could apparently HEAR Soldier without getting controlled were a resource that he couldn’t ignore. Knowing what the actual hell the bad-guy was saying/ordering could make all the difference in this mess.

“Let’s get everybody controlled somewhere out of the way and safe. All the kids, and their parents or guardians or whatever if they aren’t controlled ‘ll go into the conference room.” He pointed at four police officers that he knew were good with kids. “You lot have got kid corralling duties. Everyone else, let’s get set up. We’ve got troops to whittle down, an Akumatized to deal with and two missing superheroes.”

He looked at the Pierpont siblings. “So you two heard her clearly, and… no joy across the ‘yes, master’ board?”

Philippe and Maxime exchanged glances. “Yeah?” Philippe said cautiously.

“Great. You two come with me, we’re gonna plunk you in front of TVs with headsets. You tell us what Soldier is saying so we can keep our people and the civilians as safe as possible.”

Maxime shrugged. “Sure. People not dying sounds like a good plan, and it’s not like we had anywhere to be.”

“There’s an understatement,” Philippe muttered, but he followed Roger into a fairly large office, raising an eyebrow when Roger grabbed the comfortable looking chair behind the desk and wheeled it around, holding it in place for Maxime to sit.

“If you’ll come with me, we’ll grab a good chair for you too from another office, Monsieur Pierpont. Madame, you can turn on the TV if you want, though – obviously – keep it muted till we find some headsets.”

Maxime nodded, and once Roger and Philippe were out of the room, leaned forward to turn one of the two TVs on, grabbing the remote stuck via a velcro patch to the TV. She muted the TV, then flipped through the channels until she found what looked like a good one (lots of video, little to no time looking at the news anchors, and they were the station that had a news copter on scene) and rewound until she got to the start of the whole mess.

She frowned, wishing she could check to see if anyone was watching… but there HAD to be security cameras in here, no way was she doing something as obvious as looking over her shoulder. Should she fast forward, see if she’d actually seen what she THOUGHT she’d seen or not?

…Aw hell, why the fuck not.

Alright. Nothing… nothing… nothing… noth-THERE!

Maxime stopped fast-forwarding the and watched as, almost perfectly centered on camera, a small green… flying… turtle… flew out of an old guy’s Hawaiian shirt and grabbed said old dude by the shirt collar, dragging him down an alley and out of sight.

Okay, on one hand… super villains and super heroes and all that fun shit, aliens probably wasn’t that big a jump…

On the other hand. …Little green aliens that looked like freaking chibi turtles… no fucking way.

…So either aliens were real and cuter than expected, or there was something else going on. The fact that the camera operator hadn’t reacted to what he’d recorded or tracked the ALIEN ABDUCTION made Maxime think that whatever it was, it was part and parcel of the whole mind mojo that she and Philippe were apparently immune to.

On the screen, the chibest of kaijus made a repeat appearance, solo this time, flying low to the ground and heading west.

Maxime rewound one more time, doing her best to memorize the old guy’s face. Maybe she’d get lucky and he always wore loud Hawaiian shirts, maybe she wouldn’t. But she’d always had a good memory for faces and names, and later, once she got out of here – which hopefully she would… the whole ‘not running away’ and ‘helping out’ thing was BOUND to look good in court, right? - she was going chibi kaiju and old guy hunting.

But for right now…

Maxime rewound to the start again.

Try to make sure there would be a ‘later’.

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Wayzz tucked himself into a rose bush and carefully edged through the branches and lifted a leaf up, peeking out from his cover at Soldier and her troops as they stood at the entrance to the Catacombs, Soldier interrogating a group of ten or so people who had apparently been in the catacombs or nearby and seen Chat Noir enter, as several groups of people kept arriving, carrying rope, police and caution tape, string and balls of yarn, and anything ‘rope like’.

Soldier finished questioning the people, then growled to herself when the Mark of Papillon flared to life before her.

“Well, if he’s such an important resource you should have done a better job insuring his safety. ...Hmph. To get back to important matters… We have Chat Noir and Ladybug’s rough heading, and I have enough troops for a search, and enough rope to keep them from getting lost. It will take time, but the catacombs are not the minotaur’s labyrinth, the walls and passages don’t shift when you aren’t looking. A structured, sensible search will find them, and then you’ll have your Miraculi… and once you have those, it will be time for my reward.”

…Another Champion exhibiting little to no Dream Logic. This was MOST concerning. That indicated that Papillon was changing his modus operandi for some reason… And after eight months, to initiate a change this drastic so suddenly…

Wayzz scowled.

Sort out the matter later. Finding the Ladybug and the Black Cat before Soldier or her troops did was the vital matter.

Darting from hiding place to hiding place, Wayzz worked his way to the catacombs entrance and after making a mad dash, managed to snag one of the largest maps he could see of the known catacombs and a pencil stub. Sitting on a rooftop, he folded the map up into a thick square and stuck the pencil stub in his mouth.

Holding the map carefully, Wayzz phased down through the roof. He poked his head out of the ceiling of the catacombs and looked around until he spotted Soldier. He waited until she was looking in the opposite direction, then phased all the way through the roof and started his grid-pattern search, phasing through any walls that got in the way of his nice, neat, lines; holding the map in front of himself , crossing off sections of the catacombs as he went.

He would find the young heroes, of that he was certain.

He just hoped it would be in time.

Chapter Text

Deep in the catacombs, tucked into a hidden room, two heroes waited… alone in the dark.

Or…

BlipBlipBlipBlipBlipBlipBlipBeep!

Perhaps not so alone after all.

Green light and black motes crawled over Chat Noir, leaving Adrien, eyes still closed and slumped on his knees, in their wake.

Plagg flew out of the ring and flopped onto the stone floor. “Uuugh. …Forced de-transformations… never fun.”

Gathering himself up, the black cat Kwami flew up to check his Chosen.

…The healing Plagg had been able to do via the transformation magic had done SOME good. At the very least it had undone the damage Soldier’s kicks had done to Adrien’s ribcage. Plagg nuzzled Adrien’s temple, purring softly. “I know you can’t hear me, but don’t you worry Kid, I’ve got you. Everything’ll be fine.”

There was a flash of red and white light behind Plagg, and he turned to see Tikki comforting Marinette, whispering for her to close her eyes and go to sleep. After a minute, she sighed flew to Marinette’s closed left hand and gently opened it, taking the earring out of it. She gently put it back in Marinette’s right ear and then looked up at Plagg. “She honestly was doing the best she could.”

“I know.”

“And Adrien forgot about his cat-ears as well…”

“I know.”

“…and she really felt awful about it, and about giving him orders, and-”

“Tikki, I know. I’m not angry at her. She’s a KID. …He’s a kid. They’re gonna mess up, and we can only do so much to help ‘em… especially when we’re stuck powering the suits.”

Tikki sighed, antennae slicked back. “Is Adrien alright?”

Plagg nodded. “Soldier broke some of his ribs when she landed those kicks, but THAT I can fix… He’s still a little banged up, but nothing more than bruises. How’s the Buglet?”

“She’s alright. …She’ll probably be freaked out when- she’s never been controlled before.”

Plagg huffed, crossing his arms. “No, she hasn’t. Why would she? She’s got your luck.”

“Your ability to bad luck those around your Chosen is equal with my ability to give my Chosen good luck,” Tikki pointed out.

“Equal in final result, but combine ‘other people have bad luck’ with ‘hyper protective kitten that can’t bring himself to really hurt people’ and… well.” He waved at the situation.

Tikki flew over and gave Plagg a hug. “He’s a good Chosen, Plagg. You always choose the kindest people.”

Plagg sagged and returned Tikki’s hug. “Yours is a good Chosen too, Tikki. I’m sorry. I’m just worried about them. Things are getting messy, and messy is dangerous.”

And Plagg had lost far, far, more Chosen before their time than Tikki over the centuries. “I know. I worry too.”

The two kept up their hug for a few minutes longer, slowly spinning in their ancient dance. Finally Tikki broke off the hug and looked around. “Where are we?”

“One of Adrien’s hidey-holes.”

“You’re joking.”

Plagg snickered and shook his head. “I think it’s ‘cause he was locked up in that gilded cage all his life. Couple years ago, he apparently figured out how to parkour down the sheer granite wall under his window AND how to parkour back UP and started slipping away.”

Tikki frowned, then her eyes went wide when she remembered the layout of the Agreste Mansion and the one and half story sheer drop to the sidewalk that was beneath Adrien’s windows. “He could have been hurt!”

“He was being hurt already. Locking a kid up, not letting them interact with anyone their own age, barely allowing them to interact with adults… humans are social creatures. Cloistering is just as harmful, at that extreme.”

Tikki sighed and shook her head. “But the catacombs?” Plagg shrugged. “He started in the known and mapped parts and just started slowly working his way out. Rope to explore, marks carved into the walls at shoulder height once he’s mapped it out. He’s got two or five other little hidey holes just like this one, all over… under… the city.”

“…Why?”

“Why not? …The challenge of it? Pride at navigating what so many think can’t be navigated? That little spot of comfort, knowing that if the cage grew too tight, he had somewhere to go?” He aimed a smirk at Tikki. “You’ll notice I don’t ask ‘why’ about a certain Buglet’s ability to lie… and how many phones is she up to now?”

Tikki frowned. “That is totally different.”

“No, it isn’t. It’s just as much a part of her as stitching cloth together and coming up with battle plans on the fly.”

Tikki scowled, but couldn’t argue, so she changed the subject. “Do you think we could get to someone who knows about us, to get some Offerings? We’re not going to be able to do ANYTHING if we can’t recharge to transform them again.”

“Which means it’s a good thing my Kitten took us to one of his more… regularly visited… hidey holes.” Plagg took Tikki’s hand and towed her over to the make-shift shelving, opening one of the metal containers and flipping the lid back dramatically. “Taaa daaaa!!”

“…Pemmican? Plagg, it’s been… what… two thousand years since you last took offerings from the first of the hunt. …Are you falling back on old habits?”

Plagg blinked and darted forward, then groaned. “…Wrong container.” He closed the lid and latched it back into the locked position, then flew to the next container (MREs), then the next (more pemmican), and then to the last, which was a tight metal mesh, rather than solid metal. “Ah!! …Taaaa daaaaaagaaaaaaaaaiiiiiinIIIIIiiiIII shoulda remembered it was the mesh one.”

In the mesh container were several waxed hard cheeses wrapped in cheese cloth, and a few packages of hardtack, biscuits, crackers, and trail mix.

“Cookies don’t really do ‘long term’ storage,” Plagg explained. “It’s also not the first of the harvest…”

Tikki smiled and pulled the large bag of trail mix out, then held the mesh lid open while Plagg grabbed one of the waxed rounds of cheese. She closed and latched the lid and sat down on the shelving beside Plagg, and both set to eating.

~So, what’s the plan?~

~We recharge, transform them, have Ladybug summon a Lucky Charm and from there, the Restoration.~

~…Tikki, Adrien can’t register anything but LADYBUG right now… He can’t give her orders.~

~We’ll have Marinette tell him what to say and he’ll repeat it back to her once we transform them.~

~Won’t work. The Glamour impacts voices and voice recognition. Even if Adrien KNEW that Marinette was Ladybug, he wouldn’t be able to hear Marinette, not right now, not with the orders Ladybug gave him.~

~…Shoot.~

~I could give the orders you know.~

~I don’t want to risk her finding out… I just… this isn’t the time for a reveal, Plagg.~

Plagg rolled his eyes.

~It isn’t.~

~Whatever. Still the only real option, you know. It’s not like there’s anyone els-~

There was a burst of green sparks in one corner of the room, Tikki and Plagg both looked up, and were just in time to see Wayzz’s feet phasing into the wall.

“WAYZZ!?” the two demanded in perfect sync. Both dropped their offerings and made a mad dash for the corner.

Just as they reached the wall, there was another bust of green sparks, and Wayzz stuck his head back into the room, pencil stub still in his mouth, map sticking halfway out of the wall.

The green Kwami smiled and flew all the way out of the wall, leaving the map stuck half in and half out of the stone and hit Tikki and Plagg in a flying tackle, the pencil stub falling to clatter to the ground as he wrapped his arms around both of them as the three tumbled out of control for a moment before finally managing to correct and catch themselves.

“Wayzz, what are you doing here? Did Master Fu send you?” Tikki asked.

Wayzz let go of the duo to rub at the back of his head. “Uh, no. He… might have… been at TVi, and in the studio, when Soldier was Akumatized? And we couldn’t tuck ourselves away behind protective magics before she spoke.”

Plagg stared. “Fu got got?”

Wayzz nodded. “I managed to get him into a room and set up so that he could not hear Soldier’s orders, and decided the best course of action would be to find the two of you and your Chosen.”

“Probably a good plan,” Tikki said. “And it solves the problem we were facing.”

Wayzz nodded absently as he looked around, getting an idea of the room, breathing a soft sigh of relief when he saw the heavy rugs hanging in front of the door. “Soldier has her troops deployed in the catacombs, searching for you in a very… methodical and logical manner.”

Tikki and Plagg exchanged glances. “No dream logic again?” Tikki asked. “I thought that might be the case when we fought her, but that was such a mess that I thought perhaps I was wrong…”

Wayzz nodded.

“Well, THAT’S not good,” Plagg groaned.

“Wayzz, there’s a lot more going on than you realize. After this mess, come to the Mansion, we need to get you up to date,” Tikki said.

"Come to the Mansion late Thursday evening," Plagg said. "Say elevenish. I'll make sure the kitten stays asleep so we can talk."

Tikki looked at Plagg. "Are you going to knock him deep with that purring trick again?"

Plagg shrugged. "It works. He's a stupidly light sleeper, Tikki, and my trick just... helps him go to sleep fast and makes him sleep deep, nothing more."

Tikki shook her head. “Thursday at eleven pm it is. But for right now…” she nodded towards Adrien and Marinette.

“Adrien can’t register anyone but Ladybug right now, but Marinette’ll follow anyone’s orders. …Although we PROBABLY should write down a cliffnotes version of what’s going on out there so they don’t walk out right into Soldier and her troops.”

Wayzz nodded and looked at his right hand… then yelped and looked around for the map, groaning and sinking several centimeters when he saw it stuck in the wall. He flew over and grabbed it… but since it was now ‘part of’ the wall, he couldn’t phase it out. Finally giving up with a groan, he looked over at the other two Kwami. “I don’t suppose either of you have some paper to spare?”

Tikki buried her face in her hands, groaning, while Plagg cackled.

Chapter Text

“This should be easy enough,” Plagg said, watching as Tikki dove into the earrings and red light and white sparks crawled over Marinette, leaving Ladybug in its wake. He landed on Adrien’s shoulder, pressing up against his Chosen’s temple and purring softly. “Don’t worry, we’ll have everything sorted soon, Kid.”

Wayzz wisely pretended to have not heard Plagg’s comment and flew down to hover in front of Ladybug. “Ladybug. Wake up.”

Ladybug’s eyes opened and she stared dully at Wayzz, pupil’s fully dilated.

“Stand up, please.”

Ladybug got to her feet, her motions awkward and slow. Wayzz flew forward and caught her hand, tugging her forward a step so that she was no longer standing on the sleeping bag. “Summon Lucky Charm.”

Ladybug slid her yoyo off her hip and set her stance, then threw her yoyo straight up. “Lucky Charm!”

Adrien shifted as the yoyo paused at the peak of its throw and spun madly in place – throwing off sparks of white light as ladybugs materialized and gathered around the yoyo, but he faded away again when Ladybug remained silent.

Wayzz darted forward and caught the Charm, an audio recorder, as it fell. He flew over and put it down on the make-shift shelving, then flew back to Ladybug. “Say ‘de-transform me’.”

“De-transform me,” Ladybug repeated back obediently, which had Adrien shifting again, although he still failed to open his eyes. Tikki flew out of the earrings and, after giving Marinette’s cheek a quick hug, went back to her bag of trailmix, quickly eating it up.

Plagg and Wayzz flew over and rolled the sleeping bag back up, then carried it over to the open metal bin, stuffing it back in and clamping the lid on and latching it down tight.

Plagg eyed the recorder. “Tikki, you better not be planning what I think you are.”

Tikki scowled, her cheeks bulging as she kept stuffing down the trailmix as fast as she could.

“I mean it, Tikki.”

Tikki continued to ignore Plagg, who finally flew over to sit (sulk, really) on Adrien’s shoulder, pressing against the boy’s temple and purring softly while Tikki finished eating the trailmix.

Wayzz looked between the duo and winced. Beeeeest not to get in the middle of THAT, he decided before flying around and doing his best to clean up the room, eating the wax and cheesecloth that the cheese had been wrapped in so that there wouldn’t be anything to draw in pests to Adrien’s little safe nook.

Done recharging, Tikki flew back to Marinette. “Plagg, Wayzz, it’s time.”

Plagg huffed and gave Adrien’s temple a final nuzzle, then dove into the ring, and in a moment Chat Noir waited on bent knee before Marinette.

Tikki looked to Wayzz. “You’ll keep them safe?”

Wayzz nodded. “I promise.”

Tikki smiled and dove into the earrings. Wayzz flew over and grabbed the Lucky Charm and flew back to Ladybug. “Ladybug, I have very specific orders for you. You are to listen to them in full before you act upon them.”

“I will listen to the full orders before acting.”

“You will use the Lucky Charm to summon the Miraculous Restoration, when you do so, you will focus on everyone who is in the catacombs, or is currently controlled by Soldier, to be returned to their homes or wherever they are SAFE… and… not in the catacombs. Chat Noir and I are to stay with you. …Repeat back to me what your orders are.”

“I will summon the Restoration. Everyone in the catacombs or controlled by Soldier will be returned home and safe. My Chat and you will stay with me.”

Wayzz nodded. “Tell Chat Noir to stand up.”

“Stand up, Chat.”

Chat Noir stood up, eyes still closed. He didn’t react when Wayzz flew over and grabbed his right hand, lifting it up and having Ladybug hold onto it.

Wayzz put the Lucky Charm in Ladybug’s left hand, then flew over and grabbed her and Chat Noir’s intertwined hands. “Repeat your orders once more.”

“I will summon the Restoration. Everyone in the catacombs or controlled by Soldier will be returned home and safe. My Chat and you will stay with me.”

“Good. …Follow your orders, Ladybug.” Ladybug threw the audio recorder up into the air. “Miraculous Restoration!”

Wayzz tightened his hold on the duo’s hands as one of the columns of ladybugs wrapped around the two young superheroes, even as the rest raced out into the tunnels of the catacombs, and the rest of Paris beyond that, dragging them first one way, then the other as the Restoration ran headlong into what was essentially conflicting orders.

Each of the three had a different home and place of safety, but at the same time, they were supposed to remain together… but with (at minimum) three different target locations the Restoration could not figure out where to put them, and so it kept dragging them around the city as it freed minds from Soldier’s control and returned everyone home or safe – held within a column of ladybugs – trying to either separate them or find a place that was safe for all three of them.

‘Stay together, stay together, we must stay together; above all else, all three of us MUST stay together…’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Roger glared at the entrance to the Catacombs. He pulled out his phone to check the text message again. Then put the phone back with a groan.

Great. The CHAMPION was somewhere in the catacombs too.

There was no way he was sending any of his people in there, not when they couldn’t hear and at any corner they might find themselves facing Soldier.

Nooooo thank you.

No, he was keeping his people out here where they had a CHANCE, thankyouverymuch. So instead of sending people in, the police were using the ropes that Soldier’s troops were all holding onto to slowly and steadily drag the controlled out of the catacombs, where they were given quick orders and loaded into vehicles and driven clear.

Granted, the idea was sound, and once Soldier was… dealt with (boy was he hoping that the mason jars worked, the idea of dealing with an army of ‘Soldiers’ was a terrifying one)… he was likely going to be using it so they could hopefully find Ladybug and Chat Noir.

Or at least find thei-

There was a red and white glow from within the catacombs, growing brighter faster – and with it the whispering thunder of trillions of wings.

Swarms of glowing ladybugs burst out of the catacombs, coiling around the controlled ‘troops’ before rushing away with them to who knew where, leaving Roger and the police standing alone on the street.

Which was NOT where he wanted to be when Soldier got out of the catacombs, if she was still in there. “Okay, time to get back to base.”

Moving to where most of the police could see him, Roger waved his arms and started directing everyone to their cars, pointing down the road. His phone buzzed against his hip and he pulled it out to read the text, raising his eyebrows when he saw it was a mass text ordering everyone back to ‘base’.

Huh, how had they… Wait, right… he’d ordered everyone to leave their comms on so that his ‘mind magic immune’ resources back at base could actually HEAR what was going on.

The Pierpont siblings were proving VERY useful. He was going to have to see if he could get their sentence to be helping the Paris police force out instead of sitting around in jail cells for however long their sentences ended up being. Probably better for EVERYONE involved if he could. …And certainly something he could swing for Maxime given she had tried to stop the robbery. He could possibly also swing it, or at least a version of it, for Phillipe since he’d only fired at the ceiling of the one story building and then loaded money into the duffel bags, never directly threatening or endangering anyone.

“Thanks for relaying you two. One of you let me know if anyone doesn’t get the text so I can get ‘em out of there… and the other see if you can figure out where the hell the Restoration just sent the troops.”

His phone buzzed again. **Second part is easy. People already being reported deposited in their homes, mind control free.**

“Okay then. So Soldier is either in the catacombs or she got sent back to her home. Relay this order for me: Find out where her home is, and – given her behavior and Akumatization – where her home base is, and send people to see if she showed up at either. Get my real riot teams at this and near-by catacombs entrances with firehoses, full riot control gear and mason jars in case she’s still in there.”

**Relaying.**

Roger nodded and went back to getting his people out of there.

And hoping that the superhero duo were safe, where-ever they were.

Chapter Text

In Notre Dame’s North Tower, a column of ladybug’s curled and coiled for a moment, as if uncertain, before leaving, fading from reality even as it raced skywards.

Inside the bell tower, Wayzz sagged and then dart to hide at the top of the nearest bell. That had been exhausting… and being pulled in multiple directions had actually been excruciatingly painful. But at least he’d finally been able to convince (to incorrectly use a term that implied awareness to pure creative magic) the Restoration to deposit himself and the two teens at Notre Dame, as the cathedral was the midpoint between the homes of the duo, and both considered it a relative point of safety. And while the cathedral below had many people within - what with it being a Sunday evening - the north tower was empty, and it was Emmanuel in the South Tower that rang the hour, meaning there was no concern of people being deafened by the bells that surrounded them. Now he simply had to wait and see how the young duo were. It would probably be best if they remained unaware of him for the time being… but if need be he could speak up. Hopefully it would not be needed, as he was fairly certain both Tikki and Master Fu would be adamantly opposed to the young heroes finding out about Wayzz. …and it would also likely raise some awkward questions… such as why they had to go it alone without the direct aid of a more experienced Miraculous Chosen.

Chat Noir, who by this point was –while miserable – used to waking up in a new location with a chunk of memories simply not THERE looked around sharply, most of his focus on finding out where he was (this time) and what was currently going on.

Ladybug, who was so very much NOT used to waking up in a new location or used to having a gaping hole where memories should be, flailed, limbs akimbo, voice echoing and re-echoing off the 9 bells of the north tower. “What- WHERE!? What’s going o- Where am I!? What happened!? Why are we in… what is this pla-?”

“Notre Dame,” Chat Noir said softly, looking around, his forehead creased. “Why are we at Notre Dame, Ladybug?”

“I… Why are… you asking me?”

“Um. You, you didn’t have us come here?” Chat looked around again. “But that was the Restoration?”

Ladybug hugged her chest, rubbing her arms. “Yeah, I… It was. I guess. I’m not… really used to being on the receiving end of it.”

“But… if it was the Restoration that means that I didn’t ruin everything, and you beat Soldier?”

Ladybug shook her head. “No. No, I didn’t beat Soldier. Soldier beat me.”

Chat Noir frowned in worry, stepping up to Ladybug and rubbing her shoulders, not saying anything when she pressed up against him in a hug, instead simply wrapping his arms around her, gently rubbing her back as Ladybug tried to settle. After a moment he started to purr softly, trying to give his partner as much comfort as he could. “I’m sorry. I didn’t protect you.”

Ladybug sighed against Chat’s shoulder. “You were off, ‘cause you were controlled and… I didn’t give the best orders. …Soldier managed to get my earmuffs off and then – then I’ve got nothing.”

Chat hugged Ladybug close, nuzzling her hair. “I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault. I knew it wasn’t working. I should have called a retreat, not kept pressing the attack.”

“So, if you got controlled, and I was already controlled… how did we end up here?”

Ladybug’s eyes went wide and she slapped her hands over Chat’s cat-ears.

“Ow! Ladybug, wha-?”

“We don’t know what happened to Soldier! What if she’s close enough that you can hear her!?”

“But… but I can’t - I haven’t?”

Ladybug just grabbed the earmuffs from around Chat’s neck and wedged them over where his real ears were. “Cover your ears till I find out where Soldier is.”

Chat pouted but did as ordered as Ladybug pulled her yoyo out, slid the top down to access the screen, muted it and started doing searches. Wayzz smiled. Look at them, figuring it out all on their own.

Ladybug breathed a sigh of relief and tapped Chat’s elbow and waited until he took his hands off his cat-ears and took the earmuffs off. “She’s been spotted down south, in the 14th Arrondissement, coming out of the Catacombs, although she’s heading north. Your hearing is good but it’s not THAT good.”

Chat nodded and put his earmuffs so that they rested around Ladybug’s neck, replacing the one’s she’d lost, as he moved around to look at her yoyo’s screen. “Is anybody covering what happened?”

Ladybug started to reach for the earmuffs, but Chat’s question distracted her and she typed into her yoyo. “Yeah, I should be able tooooOOOkay! The police tried to stop her with firehoses, but she got past them… So now she’s soaked, pissed off, and the police are trying to just evacuate as many people out of her path as they can. Uhhh, lemme see if I can find out what happened after I got controlled. Ummm, oh here! Got a video from that news helicopter and YOU TOOK ME INTO THE CATACOMBS!?”

Chat ducked. “I… yes? Apparently?”

“WHY!?”

“I dunno? I was kinda controlled so I can’t remember?”

Ladybug offered an annoyed groan. She tilted her head as she watched the columns of glowing ladybugs come flying out of the catacombs, curling out over the city – plucking all of Soldier’s troops away – before fading back out of reality. “Huh.” Ladybug reached up and ran her fingers over her earrings. “So I… my Kwami must have recharged?”

Chat Noir looked at Ladybug’s earrings. “All 5 spots, my Lady, so she must’ve.”

“And that explains me using the Restoration when we were both controlled… our Kwamis.”

Wayzz smiled. That was close enough to the truth, and likely what Tikki and Plagg would have done had Wayzz not found them.

Ladybug looked around and frowned. “Let’s go up to the roof, Chat, I think better when I can see what’s around me.”

Chat Noir nodded and bowed Ladybug up the stairs, making her giggle as she lead the way up the stairs. Up on the rooftop, she couldn’t help but glance across the river to her home.

Safe and warm, alive and bustling in all the ways the bell tower was not.

…but she couldn’t go home. Not yet. She had a duty to fulfill before she could go home and tell her parents that she’d been controlled and her dad and mom would hug her and talk to her and just… let her know that she was safe.

Ladybug took a deep, slow breath in and closed her yoyo. Chat pulled out his baton and slid it open, and with a few taps had his baton muted and showing the live footage of Soldier, keeping track of the Champion as she continue to head north FAST, angling the baton so Ladybug could see it clearly as well. Taking her eyes from the screen, and staring south, Ladybug set her jaw and threw her yoyo straight up into the air.

“Lucky Charm!!”

Chapter Text

Ladybug caught the Lucky Charm as it fell and frowned in confusion at it. “An audio recorder?”

What good would THAT do? A quiet huff, and she let her mind drift into that particular focus that made color drain from the world and looked around to see what she needed to use.

A flash of red and black-spots over Soldier on the muted screen of the baton, over the heavy-duty hearing protection Chat had and forced into her hands, over Chat Noir himself and finally over the recorder. Okay, so what was she supposed to d-

Ladybug looked up from the Lucky Charm and met Chat’s eyes. Open, trusting, and guileless, just as they always were. There was fear in them at the moment, but not of her… Never, she suspected, would the fear be of her. She glanced over her shoulder to the south, then looked back to the Lucky Charm.

It would be easy, wouldn’t it?

It would definitely be logical. ‘Sometimes, your heart tells you one thing, but a great superhero always listens to her head’. That’s what she’d learned from Tikki, and from over 8 months of being Ladybug.

It’d be easy. It’d be logical.

All she’d have to do was betray Chat Noir’s trust.

It wasn’t like he’d blame her, or be angry at her, or stop trusting her, or stop l-

Her hands clenched on the recorder. He’d understand. He’d forgive her. He always did, no matter what she asked of him, or demanded of him, or threw him at (or into) with no explanation. He knew her as well as she knew herself.

They’d already found out the hard way that normal hearing protection wouldn’t WORK for Chat, since he could still hear from his cat-ears. So Ladybug wearing the hearing protection and having Chat not wear any with his cat-ears still uncovered and letting Chat get controlled by Soldier’s voice again meant that she’d be able to record Soldier’s voice and… well, there were Champions that were not immune to their own powers, they’d run into them before. If the Lucky Charm was an AUDIO recorder that almost certainly meant Soldier was not immune to her own commands.

So record her commanding Chat Noir to obey, play it back and boom- problem solved.

Simple and easy and-

“…No.”

“My Lady?”

Ladybug looked around wildly, then smiled grimly when she saw what she needed. She shoved the audio recorder and the hearing-protection ear-muff into Chat Noir’s hands. “Hold these!”

“Uh, okay. I don’t-”

“I’ll be right back!” Ladybug shouted as she jumped off the bell tower to land in front of her house.

“I- what? I don’t- I just... I- I’ll just stay… okay?” Chat offered faintly as he watched Ladybug march into Tom and Sabine’s Boulangerie and Patisserie, which was still open, despite the late hour. (maybe they stayed open late on Sundays? Or maybe it wasn't as late as it looked and felt to Chat?)

He looked down at the Lucky Charm, and his cat-ears flattened to the top of his skull as he realized what it was, and what an audio recorder probably meant the plan would be. “Oh.” And that explained the bakery too, didn’t it? Once Soldier took c- control of him again, he’d be useless… or worse than useless. Ladybug probably didn’t want to have to worry about her time limit on top of having to… deal with… him. His hand clenched on the red audio recorder, making the plastic squeak. Maybe… there was another option? Maybe they could do this without a Lucky Charm? Maybe-

No. Chat closed his eyes and took a deep breath in, held it, then slowly let it out, forcing his hand to relax, so that he held the recorder loosely instead of tightly.

This was the Lucky Charm; that meant that whatever plan Ladybug came up with would be the best, most logical possible plan for everyone involved, even if it didn’t feel like it. That meant he couldn’t destroy or damage the Charm, even by mistake.

He watched as Ladybug left the bakery at a jog and headed down the street, vanishing around a corner.

The minutes ticked past, and then there was a familiar thud behind him, the sound of fabric shifting and stretching, the faint whir of a yoyo’s string being retracted. “I’m ready when you are, my L-”

“Lucky Charm!!”

Wait, WHAT? Chat spun around even as light flared and could only stare mutely as Ladybug summoned a second Lucky Charm, her face screwed up in a scowl of concentration as she glared up at the spinning yoyo, mouth moving as she muttered something to herself, a large bag of pastries by her feet, a second set of heavy-duty hearing protection earmuffs in her hand. “But- but you already…” he held the audio recorder up helplessly.

Ladybug continued to ignore him, all of her attention focused on summoning the Lucky Charm. She could influence the Restoration, she’d had that PROVEN, so it made sense that Tikki had been telling her the truth on Thursday about human will and how she could influence THIS part of her ability of Creation, right?

And right now she was hopefully influencing the hell out of it.

‘Hearing protection that’ll work for Chat. Hearing protection, or something that will be LIKE really, really good hearing protection that will work for Chat’s stupidly good and stupidly sensitive hearing.’ She kept repeating the thoughts like a mantra. If she didn’t get something that’d work, she was going to detransform, have Tikki eat MORE of the pastries she’d gotten and try again. And again, and again, and AGAIN until she got what she NEEDED. She didn’t care if she ended up with a hundred Lucky Charms. She was not going to betray Chat and force him to go down there and LET Soldier control him just to win the day.

It wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right and it didn’t matter if it was ‘logical’, that didn’t change how messed up it was for who- or what- ever was in charge of what the Lucky Charms to just make Chat and her do something like that.

A set of earbud earphones fell into her hand.

“Well, that’s not going to be enough!”

“Ladybug, what…?”

“I don’t care if whatever makes the Charms wants me to let you be controlled! I’m not gonna do it!” Ladybug snapped, scowling at the earphones in her hand. “I was trying to… I wanted to get something that would protect you, ‘cause the ear-muffs aren’t gonna be enough, not with how you can hear from your cat-ears as well as your real ears.” Ladybug blinked fast. It wasn’t fair. “It was supposed to work.”

“You… you were- for me?”

Ladybug looked up sharply. “Of course for you! You’re my PARTNER, Chat!” She blinked when her vision greyed out and Chat’s left pocket was lit up with a flash of red with black spots.

“Chat… did you bring your ipod with you?”

“I… um, yes? I know you said not to, but it won’t get damaged as long as it’s in my pocket, and-”

Ladybug smiled. “It has an earphone jack, right?”

“Yes?”

Ladybug held out a hand, her smiling broadening. “Gimme. We’re gonna find out how high we need the volume on an old ipod to go.”

Chat blinked, then his eyes widened and he unzipped his left pocket, taking out his ipod and holding it out to her.

Ladybug smiled and plugged the earphones in, then stuck the little buds into Chat’s cat-ears. When they didn’t stay put she dug in the bag of pastries and found two pieces of string that had been tying two boxes of macrons closed. A few minutes work and the earbuds were tied securely in place. “Okay, now you’re gonna turn up the volume until you don’t hear anything.” She took the new pair of the two ear-muffs and stuck them onto Chat’s head, before taking the old ones from Chat and sticking them around her neck. Chat readjusted them, then nodded

Ladybug hit the playlists that looked to be made up predominantly of loud, rock or metal songs and then handed Chat the ipod. “HEY!” she shouted, and clapped her hands right by his ear.

Chat frowned and turned the volume up, then looked to Ladybug again.

“LOOK!!” and another loud clap.

Chat shook his head and turned the volume up again, and now Ladybug could very faintly hear it.

“LISTEN!!” *clap*

Chat tilted his head, then frowned and turned the volume up again, loud enough that she could hear the music clearly this close to him.

Ladybug leaned in close and took a huge breath. “HEY!

Chat Noir smiled and nodded happily, tucking the ipod into his left pocket and zipping it as closed as he could with the earphone wire sticking out.

Ladybug held up one finger and walked around behind him. “HEY!

Chat didn’t even twitch.

Walking around in front of him again, Ladybug reached over and fluffed the hair in front of his cat-ears slightly to hide the earbuds as best she could, then tapped the ear-muffs, and waited until Chat lifted one off where his real ears were hidden beneath his hair.

“Okay. I’m going to de-transform and let my Kwami recharge again so we don’t have to worry about the timer, then we’re going to head in and, hopefully, she’ll try to command you again. If she doesn’t, we’ll come up with something else. Can you read lips at all or anything?”

Somehow she wasn’t surprised when Chat nodded.

“Only a little, but I can usually pick out every few words. Why?”

Ladybug handed the recorder Charm to Chat. “When you see her start the ‘obey me’ command, record it, then rewind the tape and play it. If that doesn’t work, we’re gonna fall back and come up with a new plan. NONE of the plans are going to include you getting controlled again, okay?”

Chat Noir gulped and nodded. “I don’t want them to include you getting controlled though.”

“They won’t. I promise, Minou.”

Chat nodded and watched as Ladybug went over to grab her bag of pastries and opened the trapdoor, dropping down into the belltower again. There was a flash of red and white light, and Chat hastily pulled the earmuffs back down over his human ears so he wouldn’t accidently hear his Lady’s unglamoured voice. He turned around and sat down on the rooftop, hugging his legs to his chest, belt-tail curling up around him as he waited.

And that was how Ladybug found him when she climbed back onto the bell tower’s roof. She walked around in front of him, and seeing that he had his eyes closed, his face pressed against his raised knees, reached out to gently run a hand through his hair.

Ladybug smiled when he jumped and looked up at her, and offered him a hand, pulling him up to his feet as she opened up her yoyo to check on Soldier’s location, eyebrows racing upwards when she saw the Champion was already in the 6th Arrondissement. Ladybug glanced up, searching the sky for news helicopters… but it was likely that someone had seen the two of them and reported it to the news… which meant that Papillon and by extension Soldier, knew where they were. Ladybug closed her yoyo, then pulled her own ear-muffs on and gave Chat a thumbs-up. She turned, ignoring the weird hollow emptiness from how silent the world had become, and leapt off the roof, heading towards Soldier, trusting Chat to follow her lead.

Chapter Text

Ladybug was beginning to think that this fight was CURSED. That was the only explanation, it really was.

…Alright, the fact that the only thing Ladybug could hear was her own heartbeat thundering in her ears, and it was Sunday evening which meant most people were home and a-bed and they kept fighting in residential areas, and she has ZERO spatial awareness, and both she and Chat were so scared and off balance and tense that they had probably done better on their first day might be MINOR influences…

But only minor and this fight was totally cursed.

It hadn’t even started out well, not really.

Oh, sure, there’d been a SPLIT SECOND of the universe pretending it wasn’t out to screw with them when they’d first landed and Soldier’s gaze had snapped to Chat and she’d seemed to try to order him… and Chat had recorded it with the Lucky Charm and it looked like it was going to be over in a second or two…

But then the universe had laughed and it had all gone to hell in a handbasket.

A handbasket made of shit.

Ladybug wanted the universe to gain a personification just so she could SMACK IT a few times.

Chat had gotten the recording, yes… but then he’d gotten mobbed by a group of Soldier’s new troops and the audio recorder had gone flying out of his hand to land on the ground and go skidding down the road. Ladybug has lost sight of it, as she’d leapt to help Chat, and the two had scrambled away to a clear rooftop for a quick check of their hearing protection.

Hearing protection all still in place and secure on both of them, Ladybug glared down at Soldier, thinking. Chat immediately turned to guard Ladybug’s back, his belt-tail occasionally brushing Ladybug’s back or legs as it lashed.

While simply retreating and summoning a new Lucky Charm WAS an option (there was even a bag of baked goods sitting on top of Notre Dame’s north bell tower, waiting for her and Tikki if needed), it was not something Ladybug particularly wanted to do. She hated falling back at the best of times, and she’d already had to do so FAR too many times this battle.

Retreating was what losers did, and Ladybug was NOT a loser, ergo Ladybug did not retreat…

So… what options did she have?

Ladybug looked around, considering. Lots of shops, and… huh, actually it looked like they’d landed in the more musical section, and that meant big open showrooms, which would overall probably be better for fighting then the rooftops and streets outside. And there might be paper inside which would let Ladybug ‘talk’ to Chat Noir, as using the text option on their magical items was not currently an option… what with the whole ‘using them in the fight’ thing.

Once they got Soldier into a building, Chat Noir could keep Soldier busy and Ladybug would have a chance of slipping away and back to the street to get the Lucky Charm b-

No. Wait.

Ladybug glanced over her shoulder, where Chat was keeping the small number of ‘troops’ that had made it up to the rooftop away from them. Ladybug looked back to Soldier, scowling when she saw the tall, buff woman was smirking at them.

…She’d have Chat slip away to go to the street and find the Lucky Charm. Ladybug would stay to keep Soldier busy. She would keep her promise to Chat Noir.

Plus, Chat had enhanced vision, he was the one most likely able to spot the Lucky Charm, where-ever it had gone - especially given that it wasn't yet that LATE in the evening, and thus wasn't SUPER dark out.

…Granted, this was reliant on Chat being willing to leave her to face Soldier solo, something that was the antithesis of their usual battle plans.

Uuuuugh. This was gonna SUCK wasn’t it?

Ladybug took a long slow breath in and aimed a glare down at Soldier, staring her down. She and Chat were going to do this. It would work, because they would MAKE IT WORK. And no matter how freaked out she was by having been controlled and missing memories and everything else…

They would make this work and win the day and… after the day was won she was going to go home and tell her mom and dad that she’d been one of Soldier’s troops (it was close enough to the truth) and just be safe and protected and hugged until the ball of terror in her chest loosened and went away.

Plans made, Ladybug moved backwards until she was shoulder to shoulder with Chat Noir, who glanced at her out of the corner of his eye before returning his attention to the troops before him.

Ladybug tapped his shoulder and pointed at the piano store across the street, and then took off running leaping across Rue Saint-Thomas d’Aquin flipping in midair to give Soldier a cheeky upside down smile and salute before finishing the flip to hit the window in front of her feet first in what SHOULD have been a satisfying crash of glass and was instead the hollow hammering of her heart in her ears, made all the more surreal by the glittering shards that filled the air around her, and the open space she landed in… the silent, bulking, somehow almost looming lines of pianos arrayed around her. She spun the second she landed, and was just in time to see Chat land on all fours before he straightened and looked around.

His face morphed from confusion to, of all things, awed joy. He spun around, taking the room in, his face lighting up in a huge smile, eyes dancing as his mouth moved as he – probably – babbled happily about… being in a room of pianos. For some reason. He even bounced in place, clapping his hands and pointed at one piano, then another, then another, completely distracted from the battle so far as Ladybug could tell.

A flash of shadow and blue through the broken window and Ladybug reached out and grabbed Chat’s wrist, dragging him with her as she ran out of the room and slammed through the door to get to the rest of the showroom/store/whatever even as Soldier landed in the room and gave chase.

Well.

This would at least mean they only had to deal with her for the time being.

Chapter Text

There had been times, especially when watching anime all alone in his room because his parents had been busy, and Chloé hadn’t been able to come over, that Adrien had wondered what real life would be like with a soundtrack – and from there he’d wondered what it’d be like with the WRONG soundtrack… what if the romance music didn’t fit the scene? What if the tempo on the battle music was way off?

Well, now he had his answer.

It was REALLY, REALLY WEIRD!!

And off putting.

The music didn’t match what was going on at all. It would crescendo when nothing was happening, and be in the middle of a long repetition or even ‘calm’ part while he was struggling with controlled ‘troops’ or even Soldier herself – his heart hammering and mouth dry in terror that at any second either the ear-muffs or the ear-buds would be ripped away and he’d be controlled AGAIN and would just… wake up somewhere with a huge hollow space in his memories… and the terror that he might have DONE something, and staying away from the Ladyblog and news and everything he could so he wouldn’t have to find out what he’d done, or almost done.

Chat Noir kept pace with Ladybug as she ran through the showroom(s) of Steinway and Son’s, as the last song on Jagged’s most recent album (a Ladybug tribute) finished and… Finntroll’s Blodsvept started (wow that was jarring. He needed to rework his playlist, rock ballad to folk metal didn’t work very well), letting her keep a grip on his wrist as he all but ran backwards, trusting her to keep him from running into anything as he stayed focused on Soldier, swinging his baton out at her, smirking when he caught her across the jaw-

And his own jaw dropped in horror when his hit sent her crashing into one of the pianos, breaking through the side and making one of the legs snap, the wire strings snapping and whipping around, wrapping around Soldier where it did not lash her.

“Aw, no, I didn’t-!”

Now he felt horrible. That had been such a NICE piano!!

Ladybug stopped and Chat did as well, trying to resist the urge to shake his head or cover his cat-ears as the folk metal pounded gratingly loud against his ears, making his head throb in the start of a headache that he hoped wouldn’t lead to a migraine.

He started to turn to look at Ladybug to see what she had planned-

And saw Ladybug lifting a baby grand piano over her head.

What was-?

Ladybug set, braced-

“Wait! No! LADYBUG DON’T! Not the PIAN-!”

-and threw the baby grand piano at Soldier, smashing her into the first piano and sending the whole mess skidding sideways into one of the longer grand pianos at high speeds, taking it with it to smash into the wall.

Chat felt the whine in his throat as he stared, then jumped when another baby grand flew overhead to smash into Soldier, followed by a third and then a fourth. He kept staring in horror even as Ladybug grabbed his wrist and pulled him from the room, leaving the rather obviously bruised and tangled Soldier behind.

“Bu-but they were all such NICE pianos…”

Ladybug gave him a harder tug and he slumped and followed behind – well was dragged behind, still staring behind them. Half to make certain no one snuck up behind them… and half to try and absorb the horror of at bare minimum six poor innocent perfect wonderful sweet pianos utterly destroyed that had never done anything to deserve such terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fates.

He could just see Ladybug out of the corner of his eye, and she kept giving him the oddest look as she dragged him into the next showroom. She stopped for a second at a desk, grabbing a pen and a piece of paper… then shook the pen before throwing it away in anger when she couldn’t get it to write, grabbing a second pen and quickly writing something down on a few sheets of paper. Chat kept careful watch of the room they’d just come out of, where he could just see Soldier trying to struggle free out of her piano prison (Poor pianos!)

Ladybug was suddenly shoving several sheets of paper in front of Chat Noir’s face, then pulled her yoyo off her hip and began spinning it, looking back the way they’d come, waiting for Soldier.

Alllllright. He was gonna guess he was supposed to read this.

Chat got halfway through the first sentence and scowled. He shoved the pages onto the table, shaking his head before holding his hands up where Ladybug could see them. ::No. Not going to do that. Not only no but hell no.::

Ladybug’s yoyo lost its rhythm for a second, falling into a pendulum swing and she stared at his hands blankly before pointing angrily at the pages.

::No!::

Ladybug pointed at his hands and then flailed her right hand with a ‘what even’ expression on her face.

::You. Me. Talk with Sign not writing?:: Chat sighed when Ladybug just kept staring at him blankly. Okay. Ladybug was one of the many, many people in Paris who didn’t know sign language. That made this a bit harder. He glanced back the way they’d come.

Soldier was almost free.

He pointed at the pages and shook his head violently. Grabbing the pen he wrote ‘Staying together!!’ Look for it together!’

Ladybug threw her arms up in disgust and pointed at her pages again.

Chat scowled and, glancing at the almost free Soldier, grabbed Ladybug’s wrist and pulled her with him as he ran towards the nearest window.

Get onto the street, stay with Ladybug, find the Lucky Charm, beat Soldier. His hand tightened on her wrist. Stay together, neither of them got controlled.

He glanced back at Ladybug and saw that she didn’t look angry, or resigned… instead she gave him a rueful smile, as if she understood what he was thinking. She sped up to run ahead of him, throwing her yoyo forward to shatter the window before leaping out to the roof across the way. Chat leapt after her, keeping his eyes trained on Soldier – who he could only JUST see inside Steinway & Son’s.

Ladybug stared at the street, jaw clenched, then looked around before nodding. She pointed Northeast and held her right hand flat, then held her left hand fisted above it, her pointer and middle finger making ‘legs’ that stood on the back of her flat right hand.

And then she dropped her right hand fast, and made her left hand flail and follow it down.

The top of her mask rose, following the eyebrows they hid.

Chat’s mouth moved as he tried to work it out, looking northwest at…

OH!

He nodded happily. That should work!!

Ladybug smiled and patted his shoulder, then turned and started running northwest towards the Seine, Chat keeping pace, half of his attention kept behind them.

Chapter Text

Soldier was fast, and surprisingly nimble given her buff build, but she was not as fast as Ladybug or Chat Noir, and she was nowhere NEAR as agile as either of the duo. She was, however, as strong as they were… if not stronger. She was also mostly invulnerable to physical harm.

…She also had been professionally trained in combat for, at minimum, the better part of a decade, and fighting her was really, REALLY scary.

Without a word or even a glance exchanged between them, Ladybug and Chat Noir had decided to keep this fight at a distance – melee was NOT an option. Neither, it turned out, was getting back to where Chat had lost the Lucky Charm audio recorder. THAT area was still filled with Soldier’s ‘troops’, making dropping in and searching the worst possible plan.

They led her over the rooftops.

Ladybug worried her lip as they went, occasionally turning to strike at Soldier with baton and yoyo, debating. Her plan would work, she was certain. Lucky Charm or no Lucky Charm.

Chat flipped his baton and extended it sharply, catching Soldier in the stomach. He withdrew the baton while Ladybug snapped her yoyo out in a rapid fire series of hits, landing two strikes for every hit of Chat’s baton.

Soldier fell back a few feet, eying the duo with calculating eyes. Chat shifted so that he could see Ladybug while keeping an eye behind them while Ladybug kept her gaze focused on Soldier, spinning her yoyo and sending the occasional rapid strike as she thought.

The main issue would be summoning the Miraculous Restoration. …Although just summoning another Charm, like she had Chat’s earbu-

Ladybug sighed, barely resisting the urge to close her eyes as she mentally winced. Right. No need to summon a THIRD Lucky Charm… just have Chat hand over the earbud Lucky Charm once they beat Soldier.

They’d beaten Champions with no Lucky Charm before, after all. …Heck, at least half the battles they fought over the past months had not required a Lucky Charm at all to win the day – many of them hadn’t even needed the Restoration as there had been little to no harm done before the Champion had been dealt with.

So they would beat Soldier with Ladybug’s current plan, and a healthy application of brute force, no new Lucky Charm needed.

Mind made up, Ladybug turned and sprinted north-east, glancing back over her shoulder to gauge how close Soldier was getting, and ensure that Chat Noir was keeping pace. Chat met her eyes and gave her a crisp nod. Ladybug smiled grimly and turned her attention fully ahead, trusting Chat to guard her back.

Soldier caught up to them at Monnaie de Paris, making a startling leap and catching Ladybug’s ankle, twisting in midair and throwing the red clad hero down so that she smashed into the roof of the parking garage. Ladybug hit hard, making a Ladybug shaped dent in the metal roof, head ringing and seeing far more stars than she should in the night sky as Soldier landed on the roof and leapt towards the downed hero.

Chat hit her from behind in a hard tackle, sending both arcing through the air to land on the rooftop of Monnaie de Paris’ central building, where the impact knocked them apart, both twisting to land and slide to a controlled stop on their feet. Soldier lifted one hand and pressed it against her cheek, raising her eyebrows when she took it away and found blood. She looked to Chat Noir, looking down at the claws of his left hand, now tipped in red.

Ladybug sat up, slowly and carefully, waiting for her head to stop ringing. On the rooftop, Chat’s mouth moved as he snarled something at Soldier, who tilted her head, considering, as the Mark of Papillon flared to life. Ladybug found herself almost wishing that she could hear as Soldier’s mouth moved – one-sided or not, incomplete or not, there were often many useful bits of information to be gleaned from what the Champions said as they spoke to Papillon, and Ladybug had a feeling this would have been one of the useful half-conversations, given how much Soldier seemed to be talking, and the way her expression kept morphing between confused and angry.

Chat spun his baton and swung it around, extending it as he went, teeth bared in a snarl as he tried to catch the apparently distracted Soldier with his baton. Soldier brought both of her arms up sharply, taking the blow on her forearms and skidding back a few feet before lunging towards Chat Noir, who leapt and went into a tight flip, landing behind Soldier and snapped his baton around again, extending it so that the tip slammed right in-between Soldier’s shoulder blades, knocking her off balance and face-first into the roof.

Ladybug got to her feet and leapt across the gap, flipping and landing heels first RIGHT where Chat’s baton had hit, then diving away to stand next to Chat Noir, smiling and mouthing ‘I’m fine’ when he looked at her with a worried expression.

Chat nodded and they returned their attention to Soldier as the Champion got back to her feet and shifted into a combat stance, arms raised and legs set, eyes narrowed and cheek covered in blood.

Ladybug started spinning her yoyo, then snapped it out in a quick strike, testing Soldier’s reaction tiiiIIIIIIEEEEE!!

Soldier snapped her arm forward and managed to grab the yoyo, then spun sharply, yanking Ladybug off her feet and sending her spinning about like whatever poor soul that ended up being the last kid in the chain in a game of Whip. Soldier kept spinning, steadily pulling the line in, and Ladybug had to let go of her yoyo’s line with one hand to clutch at her earmuffs, keeping them ON.

Did she let go of the yoyo?! Did she keep holding on even as she was spun around and around and pulled ever closer to Soldier!? Di-

Chat rolled forward, braced, and extended one end of his baton into the roof… and extended the other up so that the yoyo’s string hit it-

And the sudden stop yanked the yoyo’s string out of Ladybug’s hand and she went flying a few solid blocks to the south-east to land on top of Sainte Chapelle, even as the yoyo’s string wrapped around Chat’s baton. Chat retracted his baton just enough to get the end out of the roof, then threw his entire weight into a single, solid, YANK – ripping the yoyo out of Soldier’s grip.

Extending his baton one more time, Chat launched himself southward and landed next to Ladybug, who smiled and took her yoyo from her partner.

Okay. Not doing THAT again.

Ladybug looked around, trying to figure out where she’d landed as Soldier – if her expression and the way she’d gone almost puce in the face were anything to go by – cursed a bluestreak in an apoplectic rage – and started running over the rooftops towards Ladybug and Chat Noir.

Alright, further south then she’d originally intended, but the plan would still work.

Ladybug leapt north, Chat Noir her silent shadow.

Chapter Text

They landed on Pont au Change, both relieved to see that there was no one in sight save several police officers, all wearing very obvious hearing protection and the riot gear that was so very quickly becoming the standard. Ladybug waved to get their attention, then pointed at the end of the bridge then the other, and smiled when the police seemed to realize what she wanted and moved to blockade both sides of the bridge.

The fact that now they would not have to worry about civilian 'troops' sneaking up on them and being blindsided, Ladybug and Chat Noir fell into combat stances, turning their full attention to Soldier. Soldier, for her part, stayed on the rooftop, almost invisible against the night sky – debating her options. Her mouth moved as she tested to see if there was anyone she could control, her face falling into a scowl when it became apparent that, no, there was no one in earshot who did not have hearing protection. Soldier eyed the police, looking between the two groups guarding either side of the bridge and the two superheroes.

There were advantages and disadvantages for both the Champion and for the superheroes on the bridge. The smaller space worked, overall, in Soldier’s favor. The fact that Soldier could not order troops up for a sneak attack and it would be down to just her versus Ladybug and Chat Noir worked in the superheroes favor. There were other factors of course, but overall it boiled down to those two factors above all others. There was the chance that Soldier would not take the bait and would leave, forcing the duo to give chase, but Ladybug had a feeling that Soldier wouldn’t do that. She seemed too aggressive, too focused on getting the Miraculi. Hopefully, she’d take the bait and come out onto the bridge. …Once she did, it would just be a game of keep-bad-guy-busy until they could finish this up.

Chat moved forward slightly, his left shoulder just brushing Ladybug’s right shoulder as he glared up at Soldier, none of his usual punning, or smiles or baton flourishes anywhere to be seen. Ladybug shifted to lightly press her shoulder against his for a second, keeping her eyes locked onto Soldier. He probably was feeling just as miserable and tense and scared as she was after all.

On the rooftops, Soldier backed up a bit and Ladybug started spinning her yoyo, getting ready as Soldier ran forward and leapt at the duo on the bridge, who immediately dove apart, creating a gap for Soldier to pass through, rather than standing their ground, and Soldier went into a controlled roll, all set to smoothly come up to her f-

Ladybug spun and her yoyo snapped out and caught Soldier’s ankle; a solid yank and Soldier was ripped out of her roll and laid flat on her chest. Ladybug unhooked her yoyo with a practiced flick of her wrist, and even as the yoyo retracted back into her hand, Chat Noir rushed past her, mouth moving as shadows raced towards him, gathering in his palm as he leapt, snarling, hand clenching on a sphere of dark energy at the peak of his jump.

Soldier rolled onto her back, the Champion’s eyes going wide in terror as she saw Chat Noir finishing his leap, outstretched hand trailing black motes. Chat landed, his feet on either side of Soldier’s chest, hand darting down-

Only to stop when one of Soldier’s hands grabbed his wrist. He struggled, trying to get his hand free withOUT touching Soldier with his right hand, twisting and flopping as he fell to one side, feet lashing out in rapid fire kicks at Soldier’s chest and shoulder, mouth moving as he shouted into the soundless void. Ladybug yelped and ran forward to help. Soldier managing to CATCH Chat’s hand had not been part of her plan, and she doubted it was part of Chat’s.

Soldier’s free hand lashed out and grabbed the wire of the Lucky Charm earbuds, yanking them free from Chat’s cat-ears and twisting to throw them away.

Chat and Ladybug’s eyes met for one moment of perfect understanding…

-and then Chat used the fact that Soldier had twisted to brace his legs against the bridge, shoving himself up and over Soldier, his fingers almost brushing her dreads as he slammed his hand to the stone of the bridge, even as Ladybug turned and dove to grab the Lucky Charm with her right hand and snapped out her yoyo with her left, hitting the medal on Soldier’s chest even as the stone of the bridge shattered and collapsed into the pitch black waters of the Seine, dragging Chat and Soldier down with it. Ladybug clenched her jaw and made a frantic leap, managing – just barely – to clear the bridge and land on the road, knocking several of the police officers over as she did so.

“Sorry! Sorry, just… uh – CRAP!”

There was an Akuma rising out of the mess that had once been a bridge, a colonial blue one - far larger than normal with fringe-edged wings - although it's pale color made it easier to spot against the night sky. Stuffing the Lucky Charm in her mouth, she quickly ran her right index finger over the top of her yoyo before spinning it up to speed and swinging it around, snatching the fleeing Akuma out of the air. She breathed a sigh of relief around the red and black wire as she reeled the yoyo in, catching it in her left hand. She reached up and pulled the earmuffs off (Ah sound, how she had missed thee, let her count the ways) and tapped the central spot, watching as the now white, faintly glowing, Akuma fluttered away. “My my whittul uttehfie…”

She looked at the pile of stone and steel. That wasn’t what she’d wanted… she’d wanted to end the fight as fast as possible, yes, drop the bridge out from under Soldier… but Chat Noir getting caught up in it… Chat was supposed to have leapt in the absolute FIRST chance possible, hit the bridge, then leapt away so they could have watched Soldier flail, fail and fall into the Seine.

He was fine. He was fine, the suits were almost invulnerable and she was just on edge after being controlled and he was FINE and probably just uncomfortable and annoyed at being wet – he HATED getting wet, he was worse than real cats a single drop of rain hitting near him and he was under the nearest cover.

Taking the Lucky Charm out of her mouth, she threw it up into the air. “Miraculous Restoration!”

High overhead, the earbud headphones burst into the Wheel of Life, and eight columns of glowing ladybugs flew out over the city, three coming down to swarm and twist over the fallen bridge before rushing away, leaving Chat Noir, the now de-akumatized Champion, and Pont au Change hale and whole in their wake.

Ladybug breathed a sigh of relief and walked out to Chat, smiling when he turned to look at her.

Chat’s smile was perhaps a bit forced, and it didn’t reach his eyes… but Ladybug wasn’t certain if her smile was 100% real – not right now – not after Soldier controlling her, not after suddenly having a huge echoing hollow where memories should be.

Rather than their usual fist bump, Chat threw his arms around her in a tight hug.

Ladybug blinked, then wrapped her arms around Chat Noir, hugging him back. “I’m okay, Minou.” A sharp beep from his ring made her sigh and she let go of her partner and stepped back. “You have to go. I’ll see you Wednesday afternoon for patrol, okay?”

Chat nodded and leapt away. Ladybug took a slow breath, then pretended to jump, reaching up with one hand to touch her earrings, as if she’d heard them beep. She turned to look at the police officers. “I’m afraid I have to head off as well, officers, I leave everything in your capable hands!”

A quick toss, lasso and tug of her yoyo later and Ladybug was off. She would go home, use the skylight to get into her room, then head downstairs and tell her parents as much of the truth as she could without revealing that she was Ladybug… and her mom and dad would make everything better and she’d be safe and cared for and she’d be able to wrap her head around what had happened and the tight ball of terror in her chest would go away, never to return.

Chapter Text

“-and so I phased up through the roof, being careful to stay where I would not be seen. Ladybug came up with a very good plan, and the two headed off. I gave chase and was able to keep apace while remaining hidden. The initial plan, unfortunately, fell through… and to try and prevent both of them being controlled a second time, I continued to stay with the two young heroes… although thankfully my aid was not needed a second time, Master.”

Fu sighed softly in relief. “I am glad to hear that, Wayzz. …and I am sorry again for the worry and work I caused you by insisting I go to the TVi studio in person without having the protective magics up and in place before hand. …and I thank you for how little you have said ‘I told you so’, despite how well deserved said statement is.”

Wayzz smiled. “There comes a point when repetition ceases to be helpful in retention of vital information and simply becomes a harmful jab.”

Fu chuckled. “Very true, my friend.” He sighed and got to his feet, groaning as he moved. “Ah, but I will be sore for a week if not more I think…”

“Please, Master, sit back down, there is no rush.”

Fu shook his head. “No, it is best if we put the recorder Lucky Charm somewhere safe from prying eyes, senses and magic… and I am needed for this, as kwamis cannot open-“ Fu broke off. “…Wayzz, what is wrong?”

“I… I do not have the Lucky Charm. Master. When I saw Ladybug capturing the Akuma, I went back to the location where the Charm was lost… but I could not find it.”

Fu sat down sharply on the massage mattress he had just vacated.

“I am sorry, Master.”

“No, Wayzz, it is not your fault. We must discover where this Lucky Charm has gone and who absconded with it… this Charm, more than any other… if it were to fall into the wrong hands…”

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Marinette wrapped her arms around her dad, breathing out softly as his arm wrapped around her, pressing her up against his warm bulk, rubbing her shoulder. She sniffled, then smiled when her mom handed her another kleenex and wiped her eyes again. “Thanks, Maman.”

“You are welcome, ma chérie. Are you feeling a bit better now?”

Marinette nodded. “Lots. Honest.”

She’d cried herself out, talked everything out (as much as she could without revealing she was Ladybug – and Tikki had promised to talk about the Ladybug parts later tonight), and been hugged and made safe by both of her parents the whole time. …They’d even closed the bakery early to be there for her.

The knot of terror had, indeed, loosened and was slowly starting to go away. Maybe she’d have nightmares tonight, maybe not… but it wasn’t the sure thing that it had been earlier.

She couldn’t help the yawn that escaped her, and smiled when both of her parents laughed.

“Tired, ma chérie?” Tom asked.

Marinette nodded. “Yeah. I think I’m gonna see if I can sleep… is that okay?”

“Of course it is,” Sabine promised, dropping a kiss on Marinette’s forehead. “If you need to, come back down, we’ll be here.”

“Thank you.”

A final set of hugs, and Marinette went upstairs, got changed, and climbed up to sit on her bed. She could hear her parents walking around and talking for a bit before they headed down stairs… maybe to open the bakery again to get a few more hours of sales, maybe not.

Tikki flew over and sat on Marinette’s knees, giving Marinette time to organize her thoughts and feelings. Marinette for her part leaned back against her large cat pillow, hugging her Chat Noir and Ladybug plushies close. It was hard to wrap her head around this. All her life, she had always had control over herself, and she usually had a large amount of control over any situation she found herself in… if she didn’t like a lesson or a teacher, she always had the option of leaving – she might get in trouble later, but the option to leave was always there. If someone was mean to her, she could stand up to them or go to her parents or an authority and be secure in the knowledge that she would have help. Her thoughts were her own, her choices were her own, her room was her own, even her sketches and – since this summer – some of her clothes were her own, in design if nothing else.

She sighed softly. “I never… thought, realized? …that I could be controlled. That I was vulnerable to Champions.”

Tikki tilted her head. “But Chat Noir has been controlled by them, and you were vulnerable to Mnemosyne’s memory stealing.”

“I know, but-” Marinette broke off, and hugged the Chat Noir plushy closer against a stab of guilt. But she’d thought she was better than Chat – at least at first… and maybe even a little bit now. She was Lady Luck, after all. The Miraculous chosen of Creation. She knew she had supernatural good luck and… being controlled… that was bad luck. That meant it shouldn’t be able to happen to her, right?

Marinette looked up at Tikki. “I can be controlled, can’t I? It’s just been luck and Chat protecting me that’s stopped it.”

Tikki’s expression was sad. “Yes.”

“…That means that I could be controlled by an Akuma too?”

“Yes, although I can protect you from THAT at least…”

It hurt, realizing that she wasn’t immune, that there was a limit to the good luck she enjoyed, that she didn’t have another special power that had been keeping her totally safe from the dangers of being a superhero… It also left her with a turmoil in her head and belly. There were a lot of things she’d thought – about Papillon, about the Champions, about Chat and about herself – that had just been shaken to the core where they had not had their foundations ripped away.

“It’s a lot to think about,” she offered quietly.

“It is. But you have time to think about it, and you have your parents and Chat Noir and me and even Alya and your other friends too… and we can listen and help you. You don’t have to face this alone.”

Marinette smiled. “No, I don’t. Thank you, Tikki.” Wiggling her way under the covers, hugging her two plushies close, Marinette went to sleep.

“You’re welcome, Marinette.” Tikki flew over and pulled the comforter up, tucking Marinette in before curling herself up on Marinette’s pillow and falling asleep as well.

Chapter Text

Adrien closed his eyes, leaning forward to let his forehead rest on the tile wall as the warm water sprayed across his scalp and back. He took a slow breath in, then turned off the water and went to dry off, looking over to the counter to see if Plagg had finished the two wheels of Camembert that Adrien kept in a plastic baggie in his make-up box.

Plagg was slumped in the empty boxes, snoring and covered in crumbs of cheese.

Adrien smiled at that. At least Plagg was his normal self.

He dried himself off and got dressed, scooping Plagg up and tucking the sleeping kwami into the interior pocket of his over shirt, then put the empty boxes back into the baggy and wrapped it with a few winds of toilet paper before stuffing it into his garbage can.

He walked out of the bathroom and pulled up short when he found his bedroom empty. Confused, he poked around the room, trying to figure out where Nino, Alya, and the Gorilla had gone. He finally found two notes on his nightstand, one in Nino’s messy scrawl, the other in the Gorilla’s neat hand.

Hey bro!
So the Restoration came through and
So Chat Noir brought Alya here while you were in the shower after she got controlled and he rescued her so she’d be safe. When the Restoration came through it teleported took somethinged Alya away. I called her cellphone and it turns out the Restoration got her uncontrolled and took her home.
I called a cab and it should be here in a minute. I’m gonna go over to Alya’s and make sure she’s okay. If Soldier heads our way we’ll put on headphones and blast some music, so we’ll be safe.
Give us a call when you get out of the shower, okay?

Adrien breathed a soft sigh of relief. He’d been worried about Alya, it was nice to know that she was okay and had gotten to wake up at home and not somewhere she didn’t know or something.

Mondamoiseau Agreste,
Your friend left about twenty minutes ago to travel to the home of your young reporter friend, Alya, to make certain she is alright. As the Akumatized victim was just defeated and the Akuma purified, I felt it best to let you finish your shower and will be returning to my quarters.

Adrien put the two notes back down on his nightstand and sat down on his bed, hugging his legs to his chest as he rested his chin on his knees. After a minute, he kicked off his shoes and curled up on his bed, hugging his pillow and burying his face in it. His thoughts raced, twisting in vicious spirals. The echoing hollow where memories should be, the moment he could remember of Soldier talking and the way things just… cut sharply to standing in Notre Dame’s north tower with the murmur of Mass below and Ladybug panicking. Adrien’s arms clenched on the pillow and he pressed his face further into the fabric. Ladybug panicking, scared, off balance – missing memories and having been controlled. He’d been so ANGRY at Soldier for that. Ladybug was without fear, he’d hated Soldier for putting fear in his Lady’s eyes. Adrien’s breath hitched and his left hand clenched, visions of gouges in Soldier’s cheek, of half the woman’s face covered in blood, coming to mind and refusing to leave. He’d just been so ANGRY… at Ladybug being controlled, at Ladybug being thrown so hard into the roof… It was one thing for something to happen to HIM. It was something else entirely for something to happen to his Lady. He was drifting, not quite awake but not quite asleep, his thoughts still racing around in ever more vicious spirals, when he felt Plagg leave his over-shirt pocket and curl up on his pillow, pressed between the pillow and Adrien’s temple. Plagg, so far as Adrien could tell, went back to sleep – this time purring instead of snoring – and the gentle vibrations shook Adrien’s racing thoughts apart. Sleep seeped in through the cracks and soon Adrien drifted off.

He stirred, but didn’t wake, when the door opened and Natalie walked in. She lifted an eyebrow when she saw Adrien asleep, but walked in with a surprisingly quiet tred. Reaching the bed, she carefully lifted one side of the comforter and draped it over the sleeping boy, then turned and quietly quit the room, lifting her tablet as she went and pulling up Adrien’s schedule, frowning. She was going to have to find a way to lessen the load, it seemed, if Adrien was so worn thin that he was sleeping this heavily this early.

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Brigadier Roger Raincomprix stared in silent horror at the reporting officer, before he was finally able to gather himself up enough to speak.

“What do you mean EVERY PRISONER?!”

The officer jumped. “I… well, not every prisoner in Paris just… any prisoner that heard the initial broadcast and was controlled by Soldier… remotely… as it- as it were.”

Could his heart start up again? That would be nice. …His lungs joining in on the ‘working’ thing would be wonderful as well.

“How many prisoners is that?” Roger demanded.

“Um. It… Several hundred. But!”

“But?”

“But since the Restoration returned everyone to their homes, we’ve already sent out every available police officer to the homes of the prisoners and we’ve already managed to recapture most of them!”

“Well, at least there’s that.” Roger dropped into his chair, pulling his hat off and slapping it down onto the table. “What about those who were not Paris natives?” Roger asked.

“We’re contacting their home towns, sir.”

Roger growled, then sighed when the officer jumped and cringed. “No, no, you did good, Benoît. I’m just pissed at the situation. Mosta the people we just lost aren’t… the type we have to be super worried about. …but some of ‘em…”

“We’ve got murders and people marked as dangerous at the top of our lists, sir.”

“Good. That’s good.” Roger leaned back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling for a moment. “Soldier’s recorded voice no longer controls people, right? Her power is basically null and voided now that she was defeated, her Talisman destroyed and her Akuma was purified, like normal?”

“Yes, sir. I watched the video of her Akumatization myself and her ordering everyone to ‘obey my commands’ had no effect on me or anyone else that listened to that or any other recording.”

Roger got to his feet. “I’ll go tell the Mayor about this, we need to get on top of it as soon as…” Roger paused for a second. “Hey, where are the Peirpont siblings?”

“Um, back in a cell, sir, as they’re still under arrest for the attempted robbery and the use of firearms. …one of the best cells though.”

Roger chewed on his lip, debating. “Okay, we got anyone good at lawyer speech and junk on site? Someone who can write something up, make it sound all official and smart with little to no prep time?”

“Probably, sir.”

“Great. Grab me three of ‘em and a few reams of paper… and make sure none of ‘em are the type to get carsick if they read and write in a moving car. Gonna see if I can get the ball rolling on those two while I’m at it. …Mind mojo immune and damn decent kids are too good a resource to pass – and they deserve a good turn after today.”

“Yes, sir. They do.”

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In a domed room unknown to most of the world, deep in the heart of Paris, there was a floor covered in fire spirits, bound into the shape of white butterflies by ancient magics – and further bound in loyalty to Nooroo, who in turn was bound in loyalty to whomsoever wielded the Butterfly brooch.

For this moment, the round window built into the arched wall was dark, it’s shutters irised closed – the Akumas master gone, and the room silent save for a shifting and occasional fluttering of wings that was too soft to be consciously heard by mortal ears.

Vvvvvvsht!

The Akumas exploded into flight, rushing into the air as Papillon teleported into the room. Some calmed and fluttered down to land on the floor again, some began a lazy orbit around their master’s Master, but most simply remained airborne – holding position or carving lazy shapes in the air.

Papillon sighed, shoulders drooping for a moment before he gathered himself up and stood tall in the dark, staring down at the red audio recorder in his hand.

That had been a risk. Making the choice to turn his attention away from Soldier and her fight entirely in order to make use of his other resource(s) to get the Lucky Charm before either of the young heroes came to reclaim it had been a difficult choice, despite the potential compensation.

Papillon turned the audio recorder over and over in his hand. Normal, mundane objects had lost their power and connection to Soldier now that the Akuma had been purified… but a Lucky Charm was not a normal or mundane object, now was it?

This would require careful research and fact checking. If the Lucky Charm’s recording of Soldier’s voice retained its ability to control the minds of any who heard it, then he could make use of it – although he would have to be careful, for anyone controlled by the recording would remain controlled until such time that whomever wielded the Ladybug Miraculous used this Charm, and only this Charm, to summon the Restoration. There was also the danger that while he, while transformed, was immune to the abilities of his Champions – he might not be immune to a Lucky Charm recording simply due to it coming – in many ways – from the Ladybug and not directly from the Butterfly. Were that the case, playing it would leave him trapped and waiting for orders until he was discovered and the Charm given to Ladybug to be used in a restoration, or possibly he would remain there until his death.

Papillon frowned and carefully put the Lucky Charm into the interior pocket of his suit jacket. Best to store it somewhere that did not exist in reality at all times – there could be no fear of theft in this way.

Now. To business, real life, and research.

“Nooroo, detransform me.”

Chapter Text

Monday dragged for most everyone. Alya kept her head low all day, but she still had to deal with more than her fair share of people snarling at her when they weren’t shouting or sniping.

Lunch was a reprieve that hadn’t come soon enough. Rather than head out and face down whoever else was heading home or out to eat lunch, Alya instead headed into the library and sat down in the same out of the way corner that she’d lead Adrien (and Nino and Marinette) to the Friday before last.

Alya sighed, resting her head on her arms, staring at the bookshelves. That felt like a lifetime ago at the moment.

Maybe she could head over to Marinette’s for lunch. …but she wasn’t certain why Marinette hadn’t come into school today. If her friend had a cold or something, then Alya would be imposing if she went over there… and she’d also stand the risk of getting sick herself.

…Which after today, actually sounded kinda nice.

There was a soft scratch of wood, and Nino sat down beside her, Adrien sitting on her free side. “What’s wrong, babe?”

Alya couldn’t help the sniffle. “It’s because of Soldier. When… when I got controlled, Soldier saw that I was holding my phone and asked if I was livestreaming. I told her I was, so she ordered me to KEEP live-streaming.”

Nino winced. “Damn.”

Alya scrubbed at her eyes. “I stopped watching the recording on my phone once I saw that part, but I was walking around live-streaming Soldier until Chat got me out of there, so anybody that went to the Ladyblog and didn’t have their sound muted got controlled. I don’t even know how many people that is, just that it’s a lot. And after I got rescued, I don’t… who knows what people saw or heard when that happened or after and what if everyone who saw the live-stream knows about… about EVERYTHING… now?”

“I saw that you had your phone out, so I told you to switch it off when I grabbed you,” Adrien offered as Plagg slipped out of his over-shirt pocket to fly over and snuggle up against Alya’s neck, purring softly.

“At least there’s that,” Alya said, scrubbing at her eyes again. “What makes it horrible is that I know why everybody is angry at me, and they’ve got good REASON to be angry and that just makes it worse, really. …and what makes it stupid is that what hurts the most is that I looked at the hits to the Ladyblog and it’s like less than a quarter than it was yesterday and it was still dropping and I don’t want to look and see where it is NOW and what if people sue me or I’m forced to shut the Ladyblog down or something? And I KNOW that’s a stupid thing to be upset about, but I can’t help it.”

“It’s not stupid,” Nino said. “Your blog is important to you, it’s okay to get stressed when something goes wrong, you know… or-”

“It should be okay, but Papillon is messing up everything,” Adrien said.

“And me being here means that you can be upset and not worry about an Akuma,” Plagg said. “You’re officially off the radar, Grapes, and I’m bad lucking like crazy so no one’ll be able to get within earshot or eyeshot of this little nook.”

Adrien and Nino stared at Plagg, mouthing ‘grapes?’ in confusion, even as Alya laughed and turned her head to press a kiss to the top of Plagg’s head, which made the kwami smile smugly.

“Well, let’s go over the stuff you’re worried about, would that help?” Nino asked.

Alya nodded. “Probably.”

“Okay, so… no matter what you don’t have to worry about people suing you,” Nino said. “Or at least, not successfully. The new ‘Akuma’ laws’ll protect you, since the only reason you kept livestreaming was ‘cause you were being forced to by an akumatized, and you didn’t know when you started livestreaming that Soldier could control people. I mean, the TV stations, like TVi, are at more risk of getting sued for all the places that didn't cut sound fast enough. And I'll bet they're getting TONS of hate and lower hits too.”

“As for the hits…” Adrien frowned, thinking. “Well, you’ve had your hit count go down a few other times, right? Like after Lady Wifi and stuff. It’ll go up again, especially if you keep putting good, reliable, information out. …An’ me and Ladybug’ll keep doing the interviews that we promised after you – y’know – SAVED MY LIFE. That’s gotta help, right?”

Alya managed a smile at that. “Yeah. That’s gotta help.”

“As for the being upset and people being angry at you… That’s just part of life, Grapes.”

“Plagg!” Adrien growled.

“It is,” Plagg said. “Pretending everything is sweetness and light isn’t gonna MAKE it that. People are gonna be asses, and sometimes they’re gonna be RIGHT about why they’re being asses. And since Grapes here wants to go around interviewing people and, even worse, telling people that actual truth instead of whatever fits the most popular narrative… That means it’s gonna be something you run into all the time, and it’ll only get nastier when you haven’t got being a child in their eyes to protect you.”

He ducked into Alya’s hair when Adrien made a swipe at him, sticking his head out just so he could stick his tongue out at his Chosen – only for his eyes to go comically wide when Adrien snagged said tongue and used that to drag Plagg out of Alya’s hair, snatching Plagg up with his free hand, holding the kwami in close as he hissed a lecture to him… still holding Plagg’s tongue.

Alya sniffled, giggled and scrubbed at her eyes. “No, Adrien, it’s okay. He’s right and – I think – he was just trying to make me feel better.”

“Yeth I vuth.”

Alya giggled again.

Adrien considered, but then let Plagg go. “Only ‘cause you asked, Alya.”

Plagg waggled his tongue for a moment, then flew back to hide in Alya’s hair again with a hrmph. Alya smiled when she felt him press up against the back of her neck and start purring.

“So, how bad IS the hit drop?” Adrien asked.

Alya stared at Adrien, and Nino leaned back to join his girlfriend in gaping. “Dude, you’re like, ALWAYS on the blog and it’s got a hit counter, how can you not know?”

Adrien slumped and looked away from Alya and Nino and mumbled something, poking at the table.

“What was that?” Alya asked. “So we can actually understand you?”

Adrien slumped further, glaring at the table top. “I always avoid the Ladyblog and… the net and the news… after I get controlled. Okay? I don’t wanna know what I did this time or any time, so I just blacklist and avoid stuff until it dies down and people start talking about other things.”

“Wait, EVERY time, Dude?”

“Yes.”

Alya blinked. “So, wait, does that mean you don’t know about how with Heartbreaker, Ladybu-”

Adrien slapped his hands over his ears and started to hum loudly (and horribly off key).

“No, seriously, dude this is something you’d probably like,” Nino tried. He sighed when Adrien just closed his eyes and hummed louder.

Alya sighed. “Fine. We won’t…” she grumbled and poked Adrien in the shoulder and dragged one hand away from his ears. “We won’t talk about that. You are ridiculous.”

Adrien just shrugged. “Would a new article or post help with the hit count, do you think?”

Alya considered that. “Probably? Especially if I can write up something that… Well, that would come across as something I’d been working on before Soldier? …Or if it actually was something I was working on, like maybe I can publish that ‘YOLO’ sickness article from the first interview.”

“I could take you to talk with Doctor Martin on Wednesday evening, if you’d like.”

“Wednseday afternoon would work better for me,” Alya admitted.

“Yeah but his afternoon’s already booked, babe,” Nino said with a rueful smile. “He talked to his dad and got him to agree t’ help the Radio Team out – buy us some good quality gear to replace the junk we’ve been stuck with till now,” Nino explained when Alya looked over at him. “Juleka and I and Adrien looked over some websites t’ get the basic info as a… proposal? …to his dad, and it worked, so now we get to actually buy the stuff. Gonna wander around, hit the really good music and electronics stores, enjoy a day in the sun with people… stuff like that.”

Alya blinked, then smiled. “Sounds like fun.”

Adrien surprised Alya with a nod and smile of his own. “It does, I’m looking forward to it.”

Nino rolled his eyes. “People who like shopping are weird.”

Alya giggled. Well, if nothing else she was distracted out of her initial fugue. Her stomach growled and she got to her feet. “Come on, we can talk while we go to get something to eat. We’ve still got most of lunch, right?”

Nino glanced at his phone. “Yup. Where do you wanna go, babe?”

“Let’s swing by Mari’s place. Even if she’s sick I can drop off the stuff from class, and maybe her parents thought she left for school on time and don’t know she’s still snoozing, that’s happened a few times this year.”

Nino snorted as he got to his feet. “Happened a few times LAST year and the year before that, and the year before THAT. Mari and ‘on time’ have always had trouble meeting. …Add the fact that she doesn’t like school all that much, like any sensible person, and… well.”

Alya smiled as they headed out of the library. “Oh man, really?”

“Yup. There’s a reason Mademoiselle Bustier just sends Mari straight tot eh Principal mosta the time. I mean she’s worse this year, but that’s probably just ‘cause the Champions and Akumas and stuff wrecking her schedule and habits on top of… well, Mari.”

“Well, let’s find out what it is this time,” Alya said as she linked her arm with Nino’s.

“I hope she’s okay,” Adrien offered, trailing along behind the couple. “If she’s sick, do you think she’ll need anything?”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Alya said, looking over her shoulder as they walked out of the library. “She was okay when I skype chatted with her yesterday morning, after all. Her parents are awesome, so she’d have everything she needs and more if she did get a 24 hour bug. …come on, fresh pastries and breads CALL to my stomach.”

“I can hear your stomach calling back,” Nino joked, smiling when that got another giggle out of Alya.

The doors to the library swung closed behind the trio, leaving the space quiet once more.

Chapter Text

“Thanks again for checking on me, Alya.”

Alya snickered. “No problem, girl. You gonna be okay? Your Mom was looking at you weird when you came downstairs.”

Marinette nodded as she dragged her gym shirt off and stuffed it into her locker next to her gym shorts, pulling her shirt off its hanger and pulling it on. “Yeah, I just… had a bad night yesterday. I think my parents actually were just letting me sleep in instead of thinking I’d gotten to school, you know?”

Alya nodded as she buttoned her shirt up, before buttoning the jeans up and giving the shirt a tug to settle it over her hips how she liked it. She sat down on the bench to switch from her gym shoes to her normal sneakers while Marinette pulled her blazer on and then dragged a comb through her hair before rebinding it in her usual pigtails. “Do you wanna talk about whatever it is?”

Marinette paused, then sat down next to Alya, taking her gym shoes off. “Not yet? Maybe not for a while.”

Alya nodded and stood up, grabbing her bookbag and closing her locker before sticking her fingers into her hair and ruffling it up to let the last of the sweat dry. “At least PE was fun today. You are a CRAZY scary shot with a dodge ball, by the way. Also, awesome dodges.”

Marinette smiled as she slid her ballet slippers on, then stood up, putting her gym shoes in her locker and grabbing her purse and backpack before closing the locker. “Yeah, that was fun. …Kim and Alix are scary good though.”

“Kim and Alix are scary good at anything and everything athletic related, they don’t count. …Chloé doing that freaking ‘airbender’ flip over the ball Ivan chucked at her and nailing him was a ‘what reality is this’ though. Did YOU know she could move like that?”

Marinette scowled, nose scrunching up. “Yeah. She did stuff like that last year when we had the big dodgeball game too. Apparently, she takes ballet during the summer and maaayyyybe during the school year or something. She just usually doesn’t bother to do much of anything at PE.”

“Huh.” Alya shook her head. “Weird. If I had moves like that I’d bust them out all the time.”

Marinette smiled. “Yeah, busting out cool moves is awesome, obviously I should do so more often,” she said, posing for a second, which made Alya laugh.

“Yes, yes, I already told you, you were wicked scary.”

Smiling, the two left the locker room, heading towards Mme. Cisinski’s room. Marinette bounced happily to the round table that she was sharing with Rose, Alix and ADRIEN, happily sitting down beside Adrien, who offered her a faint smile, and Rose, who beamed.

Alya shook her head and went over to her own table, sitting down next to Juleka and aiming a smile at Nino. The rest of the class drifted in, Chloé sitting down in-between Alya and Nino… and Nathanaël ran is as the bell rang, physically throwing himself across the space to smash into his chair, tipping it into Nino, who barely managed to keep himself from tipping over and Nathanaël ended up in a heap under the table, groaning. He reached back and slapped the seat of his chair with one hand. “That counts as in my seat before the bell finished ringing.”

Mme. Cisinski considered that statement with raised eyebrows. “Well. …Yes? Are you alright, Nathanaël?”

Nathanaël worked his way out from under the table, righted his chair and sat down, blushing furiously. “I’m fine.”

“If you’re certain?”

“I’m fine!”

The art teacher shook her head, but headed back to her desk, as everyone in the class already knew what they were doing for their term project.

Well.

Almost everyone.

Group One was still in a bind.

Nino groaned, burying his face in his hands. “How did NONE of us come up with an idea for what to have the game be about? It’s been a WEEK and now we’ve only got eight weeks before it’s due!”

“Seven,” Alya said, glaring up at the ceiling, as if demanding inspiration from the heavens. “Madame Cisinski has to grade it.”

“Well, what HAVE we gotten done?” Nathanaël asked… “I mean there wasn’t anything I could work on, but-”

“Alya and I started the coding, since we know it’s going to be a combat or capture game,” Juleka said. “There’s some sites and the like that have bare bones coding for stuff like that where people can see and use it, so right now it’s just assembling all the parts and making sure they all work together.”

“I got a start on the music, but it’s super generic right now ‘cause we don’t-”

“What about heraldry?”

Alya, Juleka, Nino, and Nathanaël all turned to stare at Chloé… who ignored them, staring (or maybe glaring, who knew with Chloé’s default expressions) at Group Three, specifically at Adrien, arms crossed.

The other four exchanged glances, and Nathanaël surprised the others by leaning forward slightly to ask, “Um. Heraldry?”

Chloé looked at Nathanaël, then the rest of the group, her eyebrows going up as she took in everyone’s expressions. “Yeah, heraldry. …You know; armory, vexillology? …I mean if nothing else we can use charges and supporters, especially if we use heraldic animals – because how in the world do you fight and capture an Ordinary or a mascle?”

“…Okay, I only knew what half of those words meant, and the ones that I understood I don’t think mean what they usually mean,” Alya said.

Juleka, however, was starting to smile. “You know heraldry.”

Chloé raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow. “And this is a surprise?”

“Yes.”

Chloé’s other eyebrow joined the first.

“Okay, can the two heraldicry people explain what the heck is being discussed here?” Nino asked.

“You know what a coat of arms is, right?” Chloé asked.

Nino rolled his eyes. “Yes. The shield things.”

“That’s heraldry.”

“There’s literally hundreds of heraldic animals used in heraldry, all with set traditional designs and meanings,” Juleka said. “I don’t know all of them, but-“

“I do. Plus the other charges, and pretty much ANYTHING to do with heraldry.”

Alya leaned back, eying Chloé. “Why are you offering this up?”

Chloé’s arms crossed again. “Because if we don’t come up with something we’ll fail. I don’t want you to drag my grade down, so that means SOMEONE had to come up with a solution.”

Alya scowled.

“Soooooo, how would heraldry work for this game?” Nino asked quickly.

“Well, people could capture heraldic animals… and maybe non-animal Charges could be stuff that they can find and collect,” Juleka said. “The design of the shield, how it’s divided and it’s colors and stuff could maybe have an impact too. …Or oculd just be for rule of cool, if we can’t get the code complex enough.”

Chloé nodded. “Have it where you can add supporters, helms and crests and the like and that makes whatever you’ve got IN the shield more powerful, since HAVING helms and crests was an achievement. …Especially supporters… It used to be only the higher noble ranks could have supporters at all.”

Nathanaël tilted his head, considering. “That… could work. And it’s a lot of stuff to draw, especially cause it’s gotta look traditional while still being original art.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and did a search for **heraldic charges animals**, zoning out of the rest of the conversation.

“And we can indicate the Charges’ health with Attitude,” Juleka said. “There’s like at least five attitudes so-“

“Twenty-five. Ten for beasts, seven for birds, eight for others.”

Juleka blinked and stared at Chloé.

“…What?”

“You knew that, straight up off the top of your head?”

“…Yeah, so?”

“That was faster than I could have wikied it.”

Chloé leaned back. “Why would you need to wiki THAT?”

Alya snorted a laugh. “Alright. SO… Chloé will be our walking Wikipedia on heraldry and stuff. Juleka and I’ll work on the app and programming and stuff. Nino, you good on the music now that we’ve got a theme?”

“Yup.”

“Uh, you know what all these things are supposed to look like, right, Chloé?” Nathanaël asked, looking up from his phone.

Chloé nodded.

“Okay, so… I guess…” Frowning, Nathanaël showed the group his phone. “I don’t know which images or style is ACCURATE, and there aren’t pictures of everything. I can’t DRAW stuff if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be drawing looks like.”

“Uh, dude what’re you asking?”

Nathanaël opened his mouth, then closed it and mentally groaned before opening it again. “Chloé, I need you to work with me for the designs because I can’t find enough reliable resource images.” Nathanaël waited, desperately hoping this would work out.

Chloé pouted as she visibly considered that request before finally scowling. “Ugh, FINE.”

…Maybe he could distract Chloé with Dragon Ball episodes or Sailor Moon episodes or Card Captor Sakura or Naruto or something while he drew…

Chloé blinked and then groaned. “Ugh, that means going to YOUR place doesn’t it.”

Nathanaël scowled. “What’s wrong with my place? …You’ve never even SEEN my place!”

“I live in the penthouse of a five-star hotel famous enough and opulent enough that JAGGED. STONE. heard about it in the United States and insisted on one of the penthouse suites. Everything else is… well,” Chloé waved a dismissive hand.

Alya smirked. “We could meet up and work on the project on the weekends like we’re SUPPOSED TO at your place so you don’t have to stoop to our levels, princess.”

Chloé… didn’t scowl or snarl or snap. Instead she frowned faintly, tapping one lip with a finger as she debated the merits of Alya’s ‘suggestion’. “That WOULD probably be best,” she said, as if reluctant to admit it.

Nino snapped a foot out and lightly kicked Alya’s ankle when Alya’s scowl deepened and she opened her mouth, and quickly spoke up while Alya stared at him in confusion, rubbing her ankle. “That sounds great. What time works best for you Saturday and Sunday?”

“BOTH days?” Chloé groaned.

“Yes, both,” Alya said. “We’re a week behind now.”

Chloé groaned and slumped in her seat, but – after another glance at Group Three for some reason – finally acquiesced. “Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.”

“Saturday afternoons,” Nathanaël said. “There’s no way I can do mornings.”

Juleka blinked at him. “Why?”

“Shabbat.”

“And can it be Sunday evenings?” Nino asked. “I usually go to afternoon mass.”

“Me too,” Alya said.

Chloé groaned and pulled out her phone, checking her calendar for a few minutes.

Juleka eyed all of the others. “Can’t you just… skip all that stuff for a few weeks?”

“No,” Nino said calmly.

“Weird.”

“So you’ve said before, Couffaine.”

“And I’ll probably say it again, Lahiffe,” Juleka said, although she smiled faintly as she said it.

“…Alright, fine, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. Does that work for everyone?” Chloé demanded, her attention on her phone.

“Yeah.”

“Sure.”

“Yup.”

“Yes.”

Chloé typed on her phone for a few minutes, and then pocketed it.

Alya grabbed some sheets of paper and put them on the table. “Okay. So let’s sort out the BASICS of how this whole shield and supports and charger thingies are gonna work.”

Chapter Text

Marinette glanced down to her side. This wasn’t going like she’d expected. Curled up on the couch, head resting on the pillow Marinette had on her lap, hugging her giant cat pillow, covered in an electric blanket, and half asleep was Chat Noir. She glanced up when her mom came to sit down near Chat Noir’s feet, her mom’s smile so sad…

Marinette idly ran her fingers through Chat’s hair without conscious thought. Chat had been… off… when he’d shown up as promised near sunset. His shoulders tight, eyes dull and smile forced. It hadn’t been that hard to get him to open up and explain what was wrong. …She knew Chat, after all, and knew what was wrong – more or less.

She’d known Chat hated being controlled, that it was stressing him out, that it terrified him. What she hadn’t known, not really, was that where Marinette had been able to go home after Soldier and tell a version of what had happened to her parents and been safe and secure… Chat had had no one except his kwami – not this time, and not any time before it.

Oh, he’d spun it well enough. Tried to make it sound like he’d been fine and the utter lack of hugs or people to talk to or even people to just ask if he was okay was something totally alright…

But it wasn’t. And Marinette knew it, especially after Soldier and how much she’d needed her mom and dad. Grabbing Chat Noir around he shoulders hadn’t been something planned, and Chat hadn’t cried like they did in the movies… Instead he’d jerked as if shocked, then had slowly, oh so slowly, melted into the hug, arms wrapping around Marinette’s back as he’d buried his face in her shoulder. Still no tears or sobs or whispered confessions had come, but he’d pressed into the hug, and Marinette could feel him shaking as he hugged her as tightly as he dared. She wasn’t sure how long they’d been there before her mom and dad had added themselves to the hug. And Chat still hadn’t cried, although he’d closed his eyes and his breath had hitched and he’d just pressed into the comfort, as if he were afraid it’d be taken away.

After a bit, they’d all headed down from Marinette’s loft to the Living Room. Sabine had vanished downstairs for a few minutes, then come back up with the electric blanket from the master bedroom closet, which she’d tucked Chat Noir into while he sat down next to Marinette, before plugging it in and turning it on. Marinette had decided that acting as if everything was okay and normal was her best option, and played finished Final Fantasy VII while she and her mom and her dad and Chat had fresh bread and crackers with cheeses and drinks and Marinette hadn’t been able to help giggling at Chat’s reaction to some of the cheeses. Apparently, he HATED ‘smelly’ cheeses, to the point of refusing to eat bread that had been ‘tainted’ (his words) by the cheese. It had been funny, playing the big important final battles of the game while Chat flopped on the couch making ridiculous noises after accidently eating some camembert, although Marinette had ended up being exceptionally put out (actually less so than she’d acted, but she’d gotten a smile out of Chat Noir, so it’d been worth it) at the ending.

If you could call it an ending.

Skipping forward in time FIVE CENTURIES was cheating, darn it! Okay, yes, as Chat had pointed out that showed that the planet had healed… but what about the CHARACTERS!? What about Tifa, and Yuffie, and Cid, and Cloud, and Barret and Marleen, and even the Turks!?

That had gotten a giggle out of Chat, who’d suggested they watch ‘Advent Children’ before playing any other games, so Marinette had jogged up to her room to go grab the DVD.

He’d yawned while suggesting it, and it had been impulse that had Marinette grabbing Cheshire, her giant cat pillow, and dragged it down with her, handing it to Chat Noir while she’d sat down next to him again.

As the movie had went on, Chat had ended up laying down on the couch, hugging the giant pillow, wrapped up in her parents’ giant electric blanket, and now, near the end of the film, Chat was more asleep then awake, so far as Marinette could tell.

The music cut off sharply, and Kadaj hung from the edge of the building with one hand, clutching the box with the Jenova cells (perhaps even Jenova’s head?) close to his chest. Cloud landed and stood, staring down at the Remenant…

Kadaj threw the Jenova box at Cloud, and Cloud reacted without thinking and the camera followed the projectile as it slowly slid open, it’s protective stickers cut by Cloud’s own sword.

Kadaj leapt after the box, grabbing whatever was inside (dang it, they never WERE gonna find out EXACTLY what it was, were they?) and his eyes met Cloud’s as he slowly fell.

“I’ll show you my Reunion…”

“Poopy!” Marinette yelped, which earned her a faint giggle from the half asleep Chat Noir.

Cloud leapt after Kadaj, and while there was still no music a sharp whine of static started up, building and building until was almost painful as Cloud raced down, trying to get to Kadaj before-

Kadaj tensed, and then shoved the Jenova cells (or head, darn it let them see it!!) INTO his chest, his expression twisting up as he cried out in pain… before relaxing.

Kadaj’s fall slowed, and he flipped – slowly and gently, as if he were underwater – to touch down on a rooftop as gently as a feather. He looked up and raised his hands as if welcoming death as Cloud rushed down the whine of static growing unbearably loud-

And struck!

…and there was a flash of green light, as the static suddenly STOPPED… the roof caving in under them, leaving a new figure in Kadaj’s place, standing in a crater of his own making, Cloud hovering above him as impossibly long silver hair flared out in the wind, then slowly settled.

The air between the figure that HAD been Kadaj’s hands glowed green… and the green flared outwards like fire, as an impossibly long sword (Chat had said it was an elongated nodachi, not a katana), materialized.

Cloud gasped, staring down at-

“It’s been a long time…Cloud,” Sephoroth said as he smiled calmly up at Cloud.

“…Double poopy.”

Chapter Text

Marinette leaned her head against the bus window, staring up at the Eiffel Tower as it slowly grew larger and larger as the bus headed towards Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre. She’d called M. and Mme. Homobonus and explained that she’d been controlled by Soldier and was still feeling off, and the ‘apprentice’ time had been shifted to this coming Saturday. Now it was time for patrol, and she took care to always use a variety of paths, and methods, to arrive at the location that would be the meeting place for herself and Chat Noir before they headed out on patrol.

She hadn’t originally, instead having taken the most direct route as Ladybug, which was the fastest way as well. Efficiency for the win, right? …Wrong it turned out, as Alya had picked up on the pattern and started keeping tabs along it, and posting videos and theories on the Ladyblog, as Chat had eventually brought to her attention with the hesitant suggestion that maybe she should alter her paths and methods to get to the patrol meet-ups, maybe kinda sorta? Ladybug had agreed, and taken Chat’s suggestions for ways to take new paths and other ways to travel very well (she felt). Granted, the patrols hadn’t even been her idea, but Chat’s, and she’d been slow to agree. On the plus side, it had let her get used to the city layout from this new perspective, get to know parts of the city she hadn’t been to before. On the negative side, that was MORE time that she no longer had to herself and she hadn’t really seen a point to it.

Chat had finally talked her around. Unlike her, he apparently didn’t actually know the city very well, having had to stay in his house or a few other areas almost exclusively for reasons he had – due to the need for secret identities – been unable to explain; which had meant patrols were, for him, vital and his only real way to get to know it and build up a mental map of the city. He’d also pointed out that they didn’t really know each other yet, or how to fight WELL together, and on patrol they could spar and train.

That had been what really decided her, in the end. In those first fights with Stoneheart and Climatika and even Bubbler, Marinette had hated the feeling of panic deep in her chest because she didn’t know what to DO… and even though it had been useful, she hadn’t really liked the subtle push in the back of her head, or the way her body seemed to know what to do to fight or dodge with no say-so from MARINETTE.

That took away her control of herself and to a lesser extent the situation, and Marinette LOATHED not being in control. There was nothing more terrifying, more enraging, than not being in control to at least SOME extent.

Marinette sighed softly, her breath fogging the bus window, one hand fussing with the earmuffs she’d slung over the strap of her purse.

She’d had nightmares the last two evenings. Not ‘scream yourself awake’ bad for the most part, but bad enough. She’d seen what Chat had been like when he’d been controlled after all… it had been far too easy for her sleeping mind to imagine herself in Chat’s place… or Alya, or Nino… and again and again she saw her sweet Adrien in Chat’s place… saw herself and Adrien, herself and Chat, herself and all her friends… all trapped in a version of the catacombs her nightmares had whipped up, all trapped waiting for orders that would never come, staring at each other – trapped in their own minds – forced to watch as they’d…

Well, after that dream, Marinette had had to run to the bathroom, and after emptying her stomach, had run cold water over her wrists to try and push nausea back to bay. She wasn’t certain if she was lucky or unlucky in the fact that both of her parents had been down in the bakery setting up and baking for the day and thus hadn’t heard her. Tikki had kept her promise and had been there each time Marinette had woken up in a cold sweat in silent terror. Each time, Tikki and Marinette had talked, Tikki explaining what had happened, and why, until Marinette had felt calm enough to sleep again.

The bus stopped, brakes hissing, jarring Marinette out of her musing. Getting off the bus, she headed towards Trocadéro. There’d been something of a traffic jam on the way here, and she was several minutes late now at least. Hopefully Chat had not been waiting too long. If nothing else, the duo tended to attract large crowds when they hung around in one area for too long, and large crowds would make it difficult for Marinette to find a hidden nook to transform…

Marinette’s thoughts tumbled to a stop and she slowed down, then paused, looking around in confusion.

There were no crowds outside of the usual tourists and Parisians taking in the sites.

Marinette scanned the roofline, but there was no Chat Noir in sight. Granted, Chat could be somewhere where he couldn’t be seen from below, but how could she kno-

Oh, wait.

Marinette headed over to one of the more out of the way benches and sat down, then opened her purse, smiling down at Tikki when the crimson kwami looked up at her. “Tikki?” she asked as quietly as she could, “Can you tell where Chat Noir is?”

Tikki closed her eyes, and after a moment frowned. “He’s not here, that much I know for certain…”

“Do you know where he is?” It was possible that either Chat or Marinette had mixed up the location to meet up to head out for patrol, after all.

“Hmmmm… He’s not at the Eiffel Tower either, because I can’t sense him. Give me a moment?”

Marinette nodded and turned her attention to Trocadéro, watching the people walk by, taking note of any clothes that had an interesting look to them, memorizing the cut and color as best she could to sketch later for inspiration. She swung her legs for a moment, gnawing at her lip. Once she knew where Chat was, she really was going to have to find him and, no matter how much she wanted to avoid it… she had to at least try to talk to him. This whole mess was probably as bad for him as it was for her – and it might even be worse for him, given his past experiences being controlled, and he was missing more time than Marinette was. …She’d never really thought about it, never tried to see if he needed to talk, or even realized that he might not be okay after Heartbreaker, Princess Fragrance or Puppeteer. …She wouldn’t make the same mistake again, not now that she knew how it FELT. But at the same time, Marinette didn’t want to push the issue, what if she drove Chat away or made him clam up if she pushed?

“Where-ever he is, he’s outside of my range to sense him or talk to Plagg, Marinette.”

Marinette frowned and got to her feet, heading for one of the small, odd nooks that she had used to transform before. A moment and a command later, and Ladybug was sitting on some mulch, hidden from view by thick bushes. She pulled out her yoyo and slid it open, tapping Chat’s icon.

“Well, shoot.”

The call went through to Chat’s ‘answering machine’, which meant he wasn’t transformed at the moment.

Ladybug hung up and switched to the clock function. Maybe SHE had the time or day wrong somehow?

But no, it was indeed still Wednesday afternoon.

…Maybe Chat Noir had forgotten? Or maybe something had come up in real life and he couldn’t get out of it? He did have a crazy busy schedule in his civilian life after all, and for all she knew he might have one of the schools that did not have a half-day on Wednesday. Ladybug sighed, staring up at the sky through the heavy leaves.

She didn’t want to do patrol solo, she really didn’t feel up to it. It wasn’t like there hadn’t been times where, due to Chat not showing up, Ladybug had ‘canceled’ a patrol and just gone home or off to do something she’d been unable to earlier in real, civilian, life.

Mind made up, Ladybug left a quick message for Chat, telling him she’d decided to cancel today’s patrol, and to call her when he was able so they could set up the next patrol.

…in hindsight, Marinette realized a few minutes later, she probably should have waited to detransform until AFTER she got back out of the heavy bush. Grumbling, she finished untangling her earmuffs, then her blazer sleeve, and then finally her purse strap from the bushes clutches.

Finally free, Marinette looked around as she picked leaves and twigs out of her hair and clothes, wondering what she should do with her unexpected free afternoon.

“Marinette!?”

Chapter Text

“Marinette!?”

Marinette yelped and spun, limbs flailing, and finally ended up balancing on the ball of one foot, the other leg hiked all the way up, both arms clutching her purse (and by extension Tikki) tight to her chest, her heart hammering in her ears as she faced-

“Alya?!”

Alya stood with one hand on her hip, holding her phone with the other, the wrist of said hand lightly tapping a metal jar (or maybe mug) with a screw on lid and metal handle that was hanging via a carabiner off one of her jean’s belt loops. Alya chuckled, visibly bemused at Marinette’s flailing. “That’s my name, don’t wear it out. What were you doing in the bushes?”

“I thought I saw a cat. I thought it was trapped so I went to help… It uh… there was no cat. What’re you doing here?!”

Alya held the phone up and waggled it. “Ladybug and Chat Noir usually patrol two days after an Akumatized attack and I… uh… heard a rumor that they’d be starting their patrol from here today.”

Marinette blinked and slowly came out of her startled pose. “Heard a rumor?”

Alya shrugged with a rueful smile. “A certain sunshine child might have let it slip when he swung by on Monday to make sure I was okay after…” she trailed off and shrugged.

“After Soldier?” Marinette asked softly.

Alya nodded. “I still haven’t been able to watch the video I recorded on my phone. I’ll get around to it in a few days, but for right now…”

Marinette managed a smile. “Yeah, I…” she shrugged and waved at the earmuffs that Chat had given her that were currently hanging off the strap of her purse. “I kinda didn’t want to go out without these after… so…”

“Aw, Mari, you got controlled too?”

Marinette nodded. “Only for a bit, but… it never-” Marinette broke off, remembering just in time that she’d claimed to have been controlled by Black Knight had made him one of his knights to explain not staying with the group. “It never gets easier. Having blank spots where memories should be.”

Alya shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. Could be worse, of course. I mean I had you calling to check on me, Nino fussing, my family fussing, a certain cute cat-” She looked around. “Where IS that cat? I need a video to upload, dang it.”

Marinette couldn’t help but smile. “Considering the lack of crowds… I think the patrol might have been canceled. Chat isn’t here and I don’t think Ladybug will be showing up either.”

Alya looked around again. “Yeah, looks like.” She huffed and pushed the metal jar aside with her left hand so it was out of the way of her pocket, which she promptly stuffed her phone into.

Marinette pointed to Alya’s new accessory. “You published the Akuma interview video?”

“Yup. Nino found some metal jars that are about the right size, and I ordered some carabiners, so I figured… this way I don’t have to worry about the glass breaking. I’ve got some for you and your parents at my place, by the way. Wanna go get them?”

Well… why not? It wasn’t like she had any other plans at the moment. And being out and about would probably be better for her than sitting all alone at home. …or honestly better than the stuffy chaos of minding the till at the bakery. “Sure. It’s a nice day though, wanna walk? Maybe we’ll spot them on the way.”

Alya snickered and bumped her hip against Marinette’s. “Spot them, suuuure. More like the urbanophile just wants a chance to gawk at the architecture like always.”

Marinette shrugged. It was, after all, true, if not the whole reason.

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Nino pulled out his phone and hit Adrien’s icon again, holding it to his ear as he bounced on his feet, “Come on, dude, I really don’t wanna have to do this…” and groaned when the call went, yet again, to voice mail. Hanging up, Nino tugged on his hat, and stared at the gates of the Agreste Mansion.

Welp.

Nothing for it.

Nino walked over to the call button and pressed it, then took a step back as the weird spherical camera on a mobile stick (seriously, who was the Star Wars fan at the Mansion? Was it Natalie? Had it been Adrien’s Mom? …oh man, imagine if it was M. Agreste himself!) popped out of its little hidey hole in the wall and went RIGHT into his personal space.

#“Yes, what is- …Mondamoiseau Lahiffe?”#

“Uh, hiii? You can call me Nino, Madame Sancœur.”

#“…Hello, Nino. What are you doing here today?”# the camera levered up to look past Nino. #“…And who is that with you?”#

“Um, these are some of my classmates, from school? We’re in the Music Options course? Uhh, and we’re also the people in charge of the school Radio? This is Juleka Couffaine, her older brother Luka Couffaine, Marc Anciel… and Claude Jean-Marcel Chaplin… who you know. Or I think you know? He’s the Gorilla’s – I mean Monsieur Chaplin’s!! – son? And he like, lives here? In the servants quarters? …Which, dude, I can’t believe this place has servants quarters that are apparently like as plush as Chloé’s room…”

#“Hello Claude, I did not see you there. I must ask again why you are all here?”#

“Oh, uh. We were supposed to meet and hang out with Adrien, ‘cause he said he got his dad’s permission to help the School Radio out? But then he didn’t come to school today cause of a photoshoot, then he didn’t show for the meeting after school, and he isn’t answering his phone?”

#“…Ah. One moment please.”#

The spherical camera-onna-stick retracted sharply back into the wall, and its cover snapped closed again. Nino looked at his friends, and got four shrugs.

“I can’t believe you never told us you lived in the freaking AGRESTE Mansion, Claude,” Marc said, daring to reach over and lightly smack Claude in the shoulder.

Claude shrugged. ::Not something I was supposed to talk about. Also not really that important.::

Luka and Juleka exchanged glances. “Riiiiiiiight,” the two siblings drawled in perfect sync.

::It is not!::

“Keep telling yourself that, Claude,” Luka said, smiling.

Claude pouted at him, which did him no good.

“Do you think Monsieur Agreste woulda let you be friends with Adrien if you’d ended up being in the same class as him?” Nino asked.

::…Maybe? M. A.G.R.E-::

“Oh, your dad showed me the name-sign for Agreste, dude.” Nino said, showing the sign to the others.

“Isn’t that appointment?” Marc asked.

“Yeah, but you gotta admit it’s fitting.”

::That is good. M. Agreste is… very protective. So maybe. But I am not in his class so moot point.::

“You won’t get in trouble for being with us, will you?” Juleka asked, worried.

::Oh, that no. M Agreste is weird but fair. This happening because of school, so I am not breaking rules or deal to do it.::

“Well, at least there’s that.”

The metal plate slid down and the camera popped back out, even as the gates swung open. #“Please come into the foyer.”#

Nino mentally winced. Being in the foyer hadn’t ended that well for him before, but… well, he wasn’t alone this time – so maybe it’d be like Christmas or after Sans Sheriff and things would go well this time.

Setting his cap, Nino lead his friends past the gate and towards the front doors of the Agreste Mansion as the gates swung closed behind them.

Chapter Text

Marinette and Alya meandered along, enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris as they headed towards Alya’s home.

Alya groaned, pressing her hands against her head as she stared up at the sky. “I mean I just… Holy crap, girl… Lycée is only months away now! I mean, I know that – thanks to all the Papillon madness and us missing like… a cumulative two months of classes – that there’s the mandatory summer school and stuff instead of having it free like normal but… I just can’t wrap my head around it!”

“I know what you mean. I’ve known I want to be a fashion designer since… forever, but with how chaotic this year has been, I… well, I forgot how close lycée was, and how specialized it was and I didn’t – don’t – really know if there’s a fashion design course or program or whatever for lycée and stuff. I keep meaning to ask Mademoiselle Bustier about it, but stuff keeps coming up and by the time I remember it’s after school.”

“Want me to remind you tomorrow?”

Marinette stared at Alya, joyful, “Would you?!”

“Pff, of course, what’re best friends for?” Alya said, smiling. She laughed when Marinette threw her arms around her in an exuberant hug, hugging her back before they settled back to walking side by side.

“So, you know what you want to be… but you don’t know HOW you become what you want to be?” Alya asked.

Marinette nodded. “I’ve known for, well, forever, that I want to be a fashion designer.”

Alya smiled. “Well, you’ve got one up on me. Or had. I thought what I wanted was to be a reporter… turned out journalist was closer to what I wanted.”

“What’s the difference between the two?”

“Well. It’s… not so much the difference between the two as it is the difference between how you get there, especially for lycée and mostly universite beyond that.”

“Huh?”

“All reporters are journalists, but not all journalists are reporters. Reporters gather info from multiple sources and report said info. …but the thing is, they don’t always get to actually GO OUT and get the info. Most of the time their ‘multiple sources’ is stuff other people found out and relayed to them – and they just look pretty and say the stuff they’re handed. Journalists are… jack of all trades. Or it can refer to anyone who’s part of the whole editorial, news, info thing. Like I said, all reporters are journalists. Editors, photographers, cameramen, newspaper writers, bloggers, producers… they’re all journalists too.”

Marinette nodded, glancing up at a glimmer of light and faint chiming ring, but it was just a set of small bell-windchimes someone had hanging from a balcony.

“And… well, I want to go out and get the info and stuff myself, so I thought that meant ‘reporter, that’s for me!’, especially ‘cause so many comic heroes are reporters. But after researching, and with how big the internet is and blogging and vlogging and all that stuff… journalist and jack-of-all-trade’s the better fit. Plus, I can get a job as some other part of journalism – start on a more realistic rung of the ladder – and work my way up to where I wanna be. …and maybe where I wanna be is independent, not working for a big company.”

“Really? Wouldn’t a big company be better? I mean, you could work at TVi, that’d be awesome!”

Alya winced. “Oh, yeah, no.”

“No?”

“Okay, so I need to fill you in on some stuff that I was told and stuff I’ve been finding out doing research since…”

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Nino took one step past the front doors, and almost turned around and left.

Gabriel Agreste was in his office, the angriest Nino had ever heard the man. …Quite possibly the angriest he’d ever heard ANYONE. The five teens ended up almost huddled up together, staring at the closed door to the office, listening to Gabriel apparently read someone the RIOT act with some choice language that made even Luka, who was two years older than the others, blush and move to cover Claude’s ears without thinking, only to find both Juleka and Marc had beat him to the punch.

The office door opened and Natalie stepped out, closing the door behind herself before walking over to the huddle of teens. “Good afternoon.”

“Hi, Madame Sancœur. Um, what’s-?” Nino waved at the office doors

“There was an… issue… at Adrien’s photoshoot this morning.”

Nino’s jaw clenched and his heart dropped. Adrien not showing up, not answering his phone and his overly protective dad in a rage? “Is Adrien okay?”

Natalie offered a faint smile. “He will be. There was an issue with the props for his photoshoot. Someone used real feathers instead of false, and the ‘cannons’ that were to release them were also over filled. Adrien had a rather nasty allergy attack due to this.”

Luka, who like Adrien had a rather odd and rare allergy (alcohol in Luka case), winced. “Hospital bad?”

“Fortunately, no. He did not even require his epi-pen, although it was close.”

Well, that explained Adrien not showing up for the meeting, but what it didn’t explain was- Nino dug his phone out of his pocket and held it up. “Um, I tried calling Adrien, but he didn’t answer?”

“Adrien took one of his stronger allergy medicines due to how severe the allergy attack was, rather than taking Cetirizine. He most likely simply did not wake when his cell phone rang.”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘YOU LOADED FALSE FEATHERS IN’?! What came out was most certainly real feathers, and YOU are in charge of the props, cannons and other matters related there-in! …What do you mean THE CANNONS ARE NOW MISSING?! Do you have any earthly idea how expensive they are?!”

Natalie glanced towards the doors. “Hrm. …Why don’t you five head up to Adrien’s room? He most likely is at least partially awake… and most likely up to poking about on a computer ‘shopping trip’, and even if he is not up to that, he would most certainly enjoy the company.”

Well, Nino didn’t need telling twice. “Sure, that sounds cool. Right, dudes?”

The other four nodded and followed Nino as he headed up the stairs towards Adrien’s room, while Natalie went back to Gabriel’s office – probably to join M. Agreste in the reading of the riot act to the poor people in charge of the props.

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Marinette walked quietly, chewing her lip as she and Alya walked past Musée de l'Armée. “That’s… I don’t know, Alya. It seems kinda shaky. TVi and Kidz+ can’t be rigging contests, that’d make them-” Marinette broke off, huffing when she realized that she’d been about to say ‘that’d make them bad’, and she… didn’t want to think about her favorite station being ‘bad’.

That wasn’t very logical, now was it? That was her thinking with her heart, not her head.

“We’re still looking into it. Kinda hard to do real research and stuff, but – well, it doesn’t look that great. Just be careful, okay?”

Marinette aimed a look at Alya.

“What?”

Marinette raised both eyebrows.

“Whaaaaaaaaaat?”

“Did you really just say ‘be careful’, to me?”

“…Yeeeeaaaaah?”

“Irony, thy name is Alya.”

“Oh, is it?”

“Alya, you…” Marinette waved a hand. “You’re ALWAYS rushing into danger!”

“I do not!”

“You do so! The VERY FIRST DAY I MET YOU, you ran off after a monster and almost got killed! Then you did the same thing, including the almost dying thing, the very next day!”

“Okay, so trying to climb UP after the car landed and made a little lean-to over me wasn’t the brightest move and I shoulda just crawled out through the big gap at the bottom, but I thought – well, okay I didn’t really think beyond ‘wow, I bet if I get up top I’ll get a great shot!’ which wasn’t the best plan.”

“But you keep doing it! You keep running towards danger and-”

“How else am I gonna get the scoop!? And anyway, Ladybug’ll keep me safe, so wi-”

“But keeping YOU safe makes things harder, and more dangerous! And you keep trying to find out who Ladybug is, even though she’s made it obvious she wants her identity to stay secret! Why!?”

“Well, duh! If I knew who she was, I could offer her my help! More than I am now, I mean.” Alya slipped her backpack off one shoulder and swung it around, opening it up and letting Marinette look inside the smaller front pocket, where a baggie of macarons and a second baggie of cheese could be seen. “I can’t tell you WHY, but this is stuff that helps them when they have to go and recharge the… the magi- the Miraculi.”

“But you keep getting hurt, or put in danger, or… or all kinds of stuff! Timebreaker, Stoneheart, the Pharaoh…”

“Look. I’m gonna keep doing it. I know what I’m doing, I’ll be perfectly safe, and by doing it I get a scoop that NO ONE else does, and that keeps the Ladyblog front and center and the BEST source of info and high on hits!”

Marinette groaned. Fine. She’d tried. She had one more card to play, and if that met the same result, Marinette would transform and have a stern talking to Alya as Ladybug. …If that didn’t work, Marinette honestly had no idea what would.

But that was for later. Alya was stubborn, and it would do no good to continue to push the issue.

“Fine. …so, what’s your plans for lycée? Have YOU talked to any of the teachers about your options?”

Chapter Text

“But good lord, have you seen the videos people have posted of those two fights? His FACE!” Alya snickered. “I had no idea that someone could GO that red in the face without hurting something.”

Marinette couldn’t help the giggle. “I know. And with Tinker it was just…” she mimed some of the flailing and expressions Chat had had that night to the best of her ability. “…and ‘There are no LEGGINGS’ and then he bought her PANTS. He won the day – night – by buying an Akumatized Champion PANTS. And the FLAILING after Tailor decided to use people’s clothes to get more thread. ‘No one told me there would be naked people when I volunteered for this!’ just… lord that cat.”

Alya shook her head. “He is a goof. …You know, maybe it’s bad of me, but… I’m actually glad that the mess with Madame Mort happened. I like being his friend.” Alya shrugged. “Not that I liked the whole not breathing and heart stopping part – man am I glad I know CPR – but… overall, especially since it turned out okay, I’m glad.”

Marinette’s smile slipped, remembering those few moments on top of Notre Dame, where she hadn’t been certain if Chat had still been breathing, if his heart was still beating, after he’d been cocooned by Tailor’s thread.

And the terror of knowing that if he wasn’t, she had no idea what to DO.

“…Alya?”

“Yeah, girl?”

“…Could you teach me CPR?”

Alya stopped walking and turned to stare at Marinette, who fussed with the ear-muffs she had on her purse strap.

“What brought this on?”

“Madame Mort,” Marinette lied. “I just… if I’d been home alone, I would have-”

She would have lost him. The Miraculous Restoration would have brought him back, so long as she thought to summon Lucky Charm and then the Reset in time… but she still would have lost her partner, even if it’d only been for a bit. “If I know how to do CPR, I can help people. I can DO something.”

“That’s true. It’s the gift that keeps giving. But… I can’t.”

“Why?!”

Alya sighed running a hand through her hair. “Don’t give me that look. It’s not that I don’t WANT to, it’s just that there is NO WAY I can teach you myself.”

“Why not?”

“Alright, A: while I know how to do all of this stuff, that doesn’t mean I know how to TEACH it. There are some things that I was taught that I just… don’t think about, or that I do and don’t even realize it, not really. B: It’s technically illegal for me to teach anybody, cause I’m not an adult or licensed teacher. C: If I ignored A and B and did it anyway, even if we didn’t get caught and in trouble, we wouldn’t have any training dummies or anything else to practice with.”

Marinette winced. “That’s… a lot of good reasons.” Darn. Now how was she going to-

“BUUUUUUT… I do know a couple places and people who can teach you. The good places won’t be for free. …Won’t be super expensive though.”

Marinette bit her lip. “That… yeah, I’d like that.”

Alya nodded and pulled out her phone, typing on it for a few minutes before she struck off at a rapid clip. “And we’re off!!”

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Nino opened the door and waved the other four in ahead of him, keeping back so he could enjoy the reactions of the others to the sheer ridiculousness-extravagant-‘what-even’-ness that was Adrien’s room. He glanced towards Adrien’s bed, wincing when he saw the blond flopped on the king sized bed, one leg hanging off, obviously out like a light. Claude stopped by Nino and leaned against the wall, watching the other three with an amused expression.

Juleka walked to the center of the room then stopped, slowly turning around as she took in the space, focus shifting from the massive in-wall speakers to the media center with its ridiculously over the top TV to Adrien’s three-monitor computer set up. She slowly smiled. “Cool.”

Marc stopped two steps into the room and gaped at the whole thing. “Jeez… Zipline, rockwall, parkour gym, weight and workout gym, freaking LIBRARY…” He shook his head. “Rich people.”

“You’re rich too,” Luka pointed out, frowning at the floor for some reason.

Marc tilted his head with a ‘well, that’s true’ expression and sighed. “What’d the floor do to offend you?”

“There are no mats. …Granted with that height a mat wouldn’t do much good, you’d need one of those foam pits or something I think. …but there’s nothing.”

Juleka and Nino looked over at Luka, walking over to stare at the floor before shrugging. “I don’t-“ Juleka began.

“Rock wall.”

Nino, Juleka and Marc all looked at the wall in question, then looked back to Luka.

“…It’s a hard-wood floor, what happens when he falls?”

Claude offered a soft whistle to catch everyone’s attention, then pointed up at the ceiling. ::Track built into ceiling.:: he pointed at one of the walls. ::Safety harness and lines stored in there, counter weight or friction or something. When you fall, slows fall to slow drift. A.D.R.I.E.N. supposed to pull harness around and put it on before using rockwall or zipline.::

“Supposed to?” Juleka asked.

Nino couldn’t help the chuckle. “Yeah, I don’t think he uses the harness much, if at all, if I know Adrien.”

“How has he not broken something?” Luka asked.

::Oh, he has. Many times. Should see the fuss thrown up when that happens.::

“Not so cool then,” Juleka said.

Nino shrugged and headed over to the bed, plunking himself down by Adrien’s head, making the bed bounce. “Adrien. …Dude?” Adrien shifted, but failed to wake. “Wow, you are outta it.” He gave Adrien’s shoulder a shake. “AAAAaaaAAAAAAaaadriiiiIIEeeEEEeeeeennnnn…”

“mmmph?”

“Come on, dude, time to wake up.”

“mmmmmnn.”

Nino gave Adrien another shake, and blinked when he saw a flicker of black fur and green eyes as Plagg apparently went from hiding by Adrien’s shoulder to his chest.

A second later, Adrien jerked and winced, opening his eyes. “Ow, wha…?”

Plagg must have done something, Nino figured. But Nino was more than willing to use it to his advantage. He gave Adrien’s shoulder another sharp shake. “Dude. Time to wake up.”

Adrien blinked up at Nino, and Nino could see the exact instant that recognition kicked in. “Nino wha’re you doin’ here?” Adrien asked, sitting up when Nino levered him up by his shoulders.

“Shopping trip.”

“Th’z not for another few hours,” Adrien complained.

“Actually, it was supposed t’ kick off like an hour ago.”

Adrien gave another small jump, and aimed a bleary glare at his chest (or more accurately the pocket Plagg was likely hiding in), then blinked up at Nino. “Was?”

“Yeah, dude. I think your allergy meds knocked you way further out then you realized.”

Adrien grumbled, rubbing at his eyes with one fist, mumbling something about wishing he could have just used the magic Benadryl again… (Which totally confused Nino although he had a feeling it likely was something to do with Chat Noir stuff) That had been nice, no sneezing or head mucking or unable to breath or rash or anything and head clear even if there’d been a weird buzzing and stuff in his head and he-

“Magic Benadryl?” Juleka asked.

– jumped as he finally picked up on the fact that there were other people in the room. He stared, gaping, at the other four… and Nino could just hear a tiny whine of panic starting at the back of Adrien’s throat.

“Dude, I know you like anime, but you can’t expect magic anime medicine to exist in the real world,” Nino said quickly, smiling as he gave Adrien’s shoulder a solid shake.

Adrien blinked at Nino a few times, then nodded. “Okay. Sorry?”

Eeeyyyyyup, meds officially hitting best bro hard. “So… since you’re probably not feeling up to going out and stuff… I was thinking maybe we could do the shopping online? You guys okay with that?”

The other four shrugged.

“Dude with the card isn’t up to walking around Paris, so we’ll do what dude with card IS up to,” Marc said. “Probably won’t get as good deals this way though.”

“We’ll come close,” Luka said calmly, he glanced to the doors when they opened and the Gorilla came in, carrying two office chairs, a few other people (maids, Nino would guess) bringing three other chairs in as well.

::Dad!:: Claude ran across the massive space of Adrien’s room and launched himself at the Gorilla, who put a chair down and caught Claude in a one armed hug, squeezing him so tight that Claude wheezed before he was put down.

The chairs were set up in front of Adrien’s computer, and then the adults headed out (one of the maids ruffling Claude’s hair as she went).

“Okay, so… you up to introductions, bro?”

Adrien nodded, scrubbing at his face again.

“So I proudly introduce… the school’s radio team. Juleka’s our techie, also the one with goth and alt music and stuff. Luka,” the blue-tipped noiret offered a small wave. “Is our instrumental person and song/genre/instrument/singer identifier. Marc,” the noiret smiled shyly. “is our Voice on the radio… got a great speaking voice and on-air personality and WOW you should hear him sing. Claude you know… I… think?”

“Kinda? Sorry that I-”

Claude smiled. ::It is fine. Your dad, not you. My dad says nice things about you.::

Adrien perked up. “He does?”

Claude nodded.

“So Claude’s our sound guy, cleans up messy or staticy stuff. And that’s everyone.”

“What do you do for the Radio team?” Adrien asked Nino as everyone went over to the computer. Adrien logged in, then flopped to sit between Nino and Juleka, letting the others handle the computer.

“He’s our… well, DJ,” Luka said. “He makes the mixes and playlists and everything.”

Adrien nodded, yawning and slumping slightly even as Juleka pulled up the first site and the group began hunting for deals.

Less than two minutes later, and Adrien was asleep again. Fortunately, Juleka found Adrien using her shoulder as a pillow ‘almost as adorable as when Rose does it’. The teens decided to let Adrien snooze as they chatted and hunted for good deals, they’d wake him when they were done and ready to check out, if he didn’t wake up before hand.

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Alya plopped into her computer chair, letting her breath out in a single explosive burst, dropping her head back to stare up at the ceiling.

They had found a place to for Marinette to learn CPR that fit into Marinette’s ‘schedules are for the weak’ lifestyle AND Marinette’s budget, and Mari had decided that the best way to get started was to have her first lesson today.

So Alya had found a spot to sit and watch. Once the first lesson was done, Alya had had ruffled Marinette’s hair left to head home.

And now she was home.

Ah, well, no excuse to delay left now, was there?

Sighing softly, Alya pushed herself into a proper sitting position and rolled her chair forward, booting her computer up and typing in her password. She pulled up the word doc for the ‘YOLO’ article and got to work on what she could, as well as writing up as detailed a list of questions that she could. Chat would be swinging by her place sometime tonight to take her to meet and greet with Doctor Martin (whoever that was… hadn’t he said something about Madame Mort? ), and Alya had found that her life was MUCH easier if she had everything she wanted to ask written down.

That took a good hour or two, and when that was done, while she waited for the pages of questions (with nice big spaces under each question to write the answer in) to print up, Alya went through the article to edit and polish up the parts of the article that were pretty much done.

That took another hour.

She glanced out the window, groaning when she realized that that sunset was still a solid two hours away, and there was no way Chat would show up BEFORE sunset or even that close to sunset.

Alya scowled and spun her chair around, then pulled up Minecraft and headed towards her favorite server – and grumbled a curse when she saw it was down for maintenance. Great. What was she supposed to do for three hours?

Alya eyed her phone.

“Dammit.”

Grabbing her phone, she plugged the usb in and clicked on the ‘open folder’ option when the notification screen came up. Grabbing the livestream video file from Sunday, she dragged it to her computer’s desktop, then waited for the file to transfer, wincing when she saw how big the file was.

That was going to take a while in and of itself.

So, how to kill the next… Alya looked at the download information again… five minutes or so?

Alya looked at her phone and blinked when she saw a video from last week. Now that was weird, why had she left a long video on her phone, eating up vital storage space, instead of transferring it to her computer before going to bed like usual?

Alya clicked on the video, then immediately hit pause. She put her phone (face down) on her desk and casually strolled to her window, closing it up and pulling the drapes closed.

Then she scrambled around her room, frantically hunting, until she found her headphones. Going back to her desk, she plugged the headphones in and pulled them on, and only THEN did she flip the phone back up so she could see the screen, and hit play.

Adrien sat on Alya’s bed, Plagg laying down on top of his head. “Thanks again, Alya.”

“No trouble. Okay, phone’s set up. …Uh, Plagg, I can see you on the screen.”

“Of course you do. There’s a crack in the Glamour’s defenses for you now. It still works on big things, but the Glamour isn’t sentient, it’s just mindless magic. You know about me, can see me when I’m not working on hiding myself, which means you see me on the screen. Someone not in the know would just see Adrien sitting here, but they wouldn’t hear anything you just said, or I just said, ‘cause magic is simple… in both senses of the word.”

“Huh.”

“Can we… not test that part though? What if showing Alya’s mom or her sisters the video acts as a crack in the Glamour and then they can see you and they’d know and if they ever got angry Papillon’d know and they’d be in MORE danger…” Adrien asked nervously.

“Fiiiiine,” Plagg groaned, then sat up on Adrien’s head. “Alright. Time to make sure that this trick works on modern tech.”

Adrien sighed and got to his feet -

-and Plagg vanished off the screen.

“Whoa!” Alya yelped.

Adrien walked over to Alya’s PC tower, and his hip bumped the table as he walked past. The tower wobbled and then tipped, falling off the tabletop, and Adrien had to grab it. He carefully set it back in it’s place and checked it, then backed up. He scowled at the tower, then shook his head and walked over to Alya’s bookshelf, where he idly looked through the books for a few seconds, taking some off the shelf before putting them back. He yelped when some of the books on the top shelf, jarred by his actions, fell on him.

-and then Plagg winked back into view, hovering in front of Adrien and snickering while Adrien glowered at his kwami.

The video stopped and Alya leaned back, taking the headphones off and unplugging them from the phone, tossing them onto her bed. Even focusing on knowing what she did, and what she’d seen happening in reality – where she’d SEEN Plagg flying around and picking her computer off the desk and shoving it into Adrien’s arms, and heard Plagg telling Adrien to head over to the bookshelf, pointing out interesting titles, making a game of switching the books around before he’d dumped the top row of books on his Chosen… – the video had remained the same. Plagg must have actually, somehow, altered what the video actually RECORDED rather than just impacting how Alya’s brain perceived things.

She… probably should keep it for a little bit longer, if only to see if Adrien and Plagg saw this version or not to get solid confirmation of if the video itself was altered or not. BUT that did mean that Plagg’s statements that he was being careful that no security cameras or the like (which Alya knew some of her neighbors had) were recording Chat Noir coming or going from Alya’s room were likely valid. …also she probably should try to REMEMBER that she had the video on her phone because she didn’t want to risk it being on her computer. …although, would her computer be safer than her phone? Maybe she should transfer the video to her computer and put it in an encrypted folder (…although she’d have to look up how to do encrypted folders) and make sure it was wiped off her pho-

Alya’s computer beeped and she looked at it.

The video file had finished transferring.

Alya took a deep slow breath, staring at the icon, hovering the mouse over it. “You can do this, Alya. You’re tough. It’s just a thirteen minute video. Just watch it and you win. Just watch it and you can post it. Stop delaying and wimping out and Just. Watch. It.”

Alya held her breath and hit play.

Alya smiled broadly as she held her phone are arms length. “Open your eyes wide, because we are live from Paris!”

Alya pulled the phone in for a close up as she started running down the street towards the faint sounds of what sounded like a mob. “Here’s Alya on a mission for the one and only Ladyblog!”

Alya tapped something on the screen, and the phone switched to its back camera, showing the streets ahead as Alya continued to rush towards whatever was going on up ahead.

“From the sounds of it, another Akumatized Champion has struck Paris! Stick with me, guys, let’s go see if we can see Ladybug in action!”

The image of the street jerked as Alya ran towards what had to be the most recent person Akumatized by Papillon, dodging around people who were running away, and outpacing several people who were also walking (at an oddly sedate pace) towards the scoop as well. Alya cranked the phone up when there was a thunder of blades, showing a news helicopter swooping in before going to start circling, the roar masking everything else out for a moment.

“Hang on!!” Alya shouted at the top of her lungs, her voice only just audible over the low flying helicopter before it faded to something more reasonable, and rounded the corner, where a tall, heavily built woman in a colonial blue old fashioned military outfit – like what Javart was so often shown wearing in productions of Les Mis – was staring up at the helicopter. “We’re going-”

“Stop circling and land!” the woman suddenly shouted up at the helicopter.

“in… f-for”

“Obey my commands! Land and come to me!”

“…a… closer …” Alya trailed into silence, and slowly walked up to Soldier, the video jarring once or twice when she stumbled. Up above, the helicopter wavered in flight, then slowly sank down to land somewhere out of sight. Some of the people - mostly those that had been walking at that odd sedate pace - that Alya had raced past came up to stand by and around Alya, waiting quietly for their orders.

Soldier shook her head and looked around, considering the people she had thus far controlled. Her gaze locked onto Alya. “You! With the phone! Are you…” the woman paused when essentially everyone around her looked up and shifted, some sluggishly reaching for their pockets. “Oh for the love of…” Soldier pushed her way through the crowd and stood in front of Alya. “You. Girl. What is your name?”

“Alya Césaire.”

The Champion pointed at the phone. “Are you recording this, Alya Césaire?”

“I am livestreaming this.”

“Good. …You will continue to livestream.”

“I will continue to livestream.”

When the crew of the new helicopter came into view, Solder walked over to them, only to curse when she found that they had left their cameras and other equipment back at their helicopter. Muttering curses under her breath, Soldier turned and walked back to the ‘head’ of her army. “All who hear me, obey my commands! Come and join the ranks of my troops! All who stand here, MARCH!”

Soldier left at a fast pace, her troops stumbling into a shambling march in her wake.

They marched for several minutes before the Mark of Papillon flared to life before Soldier’s face. “FULL HALT!”

Everyone stopped moving.

Soldier looked around. “What do you mean he’s been spotted enroute, I don’t see him… YOU! I know you are hidden! Reveal yourself and come to me!!” Soldier winced suddenly as the Mark flared to life again. “Auuugh! What do you mean that was a bad choice, how else am I going… to…”

There was a second Mark of Papillon hovering in the air, moving slowly through the crowded troops before coming to a stop before Soldier…

Light flared, crawling up from the ground, revealing a middle aged man in a white tux with a blue undershirt and a red rose tucked into his lapel.

Soldier’s mouth moved for a solid minute before she found her voice. “Who the fucking hell are you!?”

“I am Spy.”

“You are… How the hell long have YOU been there?!”

“I have been in Papillon’s service this last week.”

“That isn’t what I-!”

The Mark of Papillon flared to life before both Akumatized, Soldier winced, head jerking to the side, but Spy just stood dully staring into space, trapped by Soldier’s orders.

“Well why the fucking hell didn’t you have him wear hearing protection! …No, I don’t… No, that won’t be of any use to either of us. …That will work though. Spy, you are to become invisible and fall back, when Ladybug and Chat Noir arrive, if they have hearing protection, you are to sneak up and remove the protection or capture their Miraculous. Do you understand?”

“I will remain invisible. I will remove Ladybug and Chat Noir’s hearing protection or capture their Miraculi.”

“Good. Follow your orders.”

Light flared, red, blue and white sparks crawling from Spy’s head down to his feet, leaving nothing in their wake.

Soldier nodded and looked around, getting a feel for her location. “Hmm. Best if I have the river to my back. Troops! MARCH!”

They walked for several more blocks, another news helicopter coming to begin circling… but they had apparently learned from the mistakes of their predecessors and showed no reaction when Soldier shouted up for them to obey her commands, instead they kept pace for several more minutes until the ‘army’ reached the Seine. Soldier signaled silently for a halt and moved to stand on a nearby car, scanning the horizon…

And suddenly vanished. Somewhere off camera there was a huge splash, and suddenly Chat Noir was filling the screen as he grabbed Alya and leapt up and away to the rooftops, the camera lashing around wildly as Alya struggled and Chat Noir RAN, the cityscape blurring past.

“Just-! OW! Stop struggling!!”

Alya went limp so sharply that Chat Noir almost dropped her, her phone ending up wedged against Chat’s chest when he scrambled to catch her and readjust his grip. “Hey, what-? …What are you doing?”

“I obey your orders,” Alya offered in a dull montone.

“You obey… Oh. Uh. Okay. We’ll work with that. Let’s get you someplace safe.” The screen shifted, showing the sky and just a glimpse of Alya and Chat Noir’s faces as Chat scooped Alya up into a princess carry. He took one stride, then glanced down at the phone, frowning. “Are you still livestreaming?”

“Yes. I am to keep livestreaming.”

“…Yeah, no, please and thank you. I order you to stop livestreaming. Turn your phone off and put it in your pocket.”

The screen cut to black.

Alya sat, eyes wide and hands clamped over her mouth, staring at the now black screen in horror. Hand shaking, she reached forward and grabbed her mouse, moving it back along the scroll bar until it was at about the 1/3rd mark. She clicked, and the video jumped back to show Soldier turning away from Alya.

Alya frowned and moved the video to where it was about a minute or so from the end.

Soldier all blurred as she was knocked away, her expression almost clear and one of total shock, with a silver staff smashing her right in the solar plexus. Alya found herself smiling grimly at THAT and took a quick screen capture before putting the video at the half-way mark.

Soldier stood, the Mark of Papillon glowing in front of her face, looking at a second Mark of Papillon that was apparently hovering over empty space.

Alya gulped. She took another screen capture and then grabbed the scroll bar with the mouse, dragging it slowly backwards until she got it where she wanted it, then pressed play.

Once more Soldier shouted out, trying to capture Chat Noir as he ‘was spotted enroute’ (oh God, oh God, oh GOD did that mean that the Spy had been shadowing CHAT this whole time? …had he been shadowing ADRIEN!?) and ended up capturing the Spy instead.

Once more Spy walked through the crowd, heeding Soldier’s accidental command, becoming visible in a flare of blue, red and white light to stand in his white tux before her.

Once more Spy stated that he had been in Papillons’ service for a week… that meant he’d been there since Tailor, if not sooner. Sans Sheriff has shown that Papillon could charge akumas AHEAD of time and have them lie in wait… had it been Tailor or Spy who had the pre-charged Akuma? Was it…

On the screen, Spy vanished in another flare of red, blue and white light.

Alya hit the stop button, one hand still pressed tight over her mouth.

There was another Champion.

And the Spy had been there the entire time.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir landed on the rooftop of the building across the street from Alya’s home (specifically across the window to Alya’s room) and paused, ducking down further into the shadows as he tilted his head, considering.

The window was closed, the shades drawn behind it.

Oooookay. Had Alya forgotten Chat would be visiting tonight to take her to talk to Dr. Martin tonight? If so… rude. He’d worked hard to get out of the allergy med ‘coma’ (once he’d woken up… again) and Plagg had cleared all the effects of the allergy meds from his system which did mean he was no longer knocked into an allergy med coma even if it did also mean that here he was with a mucked head, raw throat and clogged chest from the remnants of his allergic reaction and the window was closed!

Chat carefully looked around, ears twitching as he listened, making certain that the coast was clear before he leapt across the street to land on the window sill, reaching up to tap the glass.

He mock-scowled at Alya when she slid the shades open just enough to peek out. Alya’s eyes went wide and she scrambled to open the window. “You know Alya, I’m not Peter Pan. I’m not influenza here to steal children’s livvvvssSSSSAAAACK!”

Alya yanked Chat into the room by his bell, the leather clad hero faceplanting to her floor while Alya slammed the window closed again and pulled the curtains closed once more.

mmmrphll.” Chat found himself wondering if fighting through the after effects of a severe allergy attack was worth this. Anime had not prepared him for THIS aspect of friendship.

“Which way are you better at bad-lucking bad guys and making sure no one can listen in or see us or anything?!” Alya demanded as she spun around, and Chat was surprised to see terror in her eyes.

He got up to his feet and rubbed her shoulders to try and steady and comfort her. “Alya? What’s wrong?”

Alya shook her head. “No. This is vital, we have to make sure that NO ONE can be watching or listening in. You have the Glamour when you’re transformed like this, and it keeps cameras from recording you transform or detransform and maybe makes people not want to pay attention or remember or stuff… but when you’re separate Plagg can do the camera thing and maybe the other stuff too. Which works better?!”

“I… I don’t know?” Chat’s ring beeped sharply and both of them glanced down, just in time to see the cat’s paw flash, before all four pawpad’s vanished. “Uh. Gonna guess ‘separate’ is the answer to your question.”

Chat’s ring beeped again, then green light and black motes crawled up him, leaving Adrien behind. Plagg flew out of the ring and right up to Alya.

Who grabbed Plagg with one hand, and the collar of Adrien’s over-shirt with the other and dragged them over to her computer. “You need to bad luck like you did in the library when you were keeping me safe from Akumas, only, like, a million times stronger!” she hissed to Plagg.

Plagg’s eyes narrowed. “Got it.”

Alya dropped into her computer chair, putting Plagg on her shoulder as she pulled up her video editor, which was set to the start of a twelve minute video. “I didn’t have time to convert this, so we’re just gonna use the video preview to watch it.” She looked at Plagg.

“I am bad lucking so much right now that Papillon himself could try to teleport to your balcony and would end up in Atlantis.”

“Okay, good, because… wait, Atlantis is a real pl–No, never mind. Skip it. Later! You both need to watch this RIGHT NOW.”

Alya hit the button to start the video, and shifted so she could see both Adrien and Plagg at the same time as on the screen Soldier again captured and revealed the Spy with her commands, then the other clips she’d found in the last few hours by scouring every video she had on the Ladyblog (recorded by herself or sent in by other people) for the last week.

And there was someone THERE, now that she knew to look for it. Spotting Spy when he wasn’t invisible had ended up being easy (just look for dude in white tux), like when Spy had tried to tackle Ladybug after Soldier had pulled Ladybug’s earmuffs off.

It was harder to figure out when he’d been there and had been invisible. Some of the clips, Alya wasn’t certain was ACTUALLY Spy, due to the whole invisible thing, but she’d made some educated guesses, like with the clip after Chat had used Cataclysm on the cocoon of thread and dropped to the street, then moved oddly… Alya was MOSTLY certain that Chat had actually still been out at that point and the weird movement had been Spy trying to get Chat’s ring.

The video ended and Alya closed the preview window, then turn in the chair to look fully at Adrien, who was white as a sheet, and Plagg, who was scowling in deep thought.

“From what Soldier said, and some of the stuff Tailor and Tinker said… I think Spy has been shadowing Chat. And… after Sans Sheriff, I… what if he was shadowing Adrien too?”

Adrien backed up and sat down hard on Alya’s bed, breath coming in rapid gasps.

“Adrien?”

Adrien shook his head and wrapped his arms around his chest, focusing on the red kit-cat clock on Alya’s wall for some reason.

“Let him be, Alya,” Plagg said, flying off Alya’s shoulder to the computer, opening the preview window to watch the video again, muted this time. Alya bit her lip, but then turned her chair to give Adrien some privacy (was he having a panic attack? ) as she watched Plagg fast forward, rewind and rewatch section after section. Alya kept stealing glances at Adrien, breathing a sigh of relief when he seemed to settle down, taking his eyes off the wall clock and finally coming over to look at the screen as well.

“…Okay, I think we’ve lucked out,” Plagg said.

“We did?” Adrien and Alya asked in unwitting sync.

Plagg nodded. “The attacks are still happening. That pretty much is guaranteed to mean Papillon and Spy haven’t been able to catch the kid in the act or get solid confirmation that he wasn’t where he was SUPPOSED to be.”

Adrien heaved a massive sigh of relief, sagging and letting his head thump against the back of Alya’s chair.

Alya looked between the two of them. “Do you think you two should get back to the Mansion?”

“Mmmmmmmno. With how I’m bad-lucking, no one going to check to see if you’re actually in bed will remember or be able to do so, or’ll fall for the trick we’ve got in place,” Plagg said.

“And Chat Noir is SCHEDULED to go to Hôtel-Dieu de Paris tonight for a meet and greet with Doctor Martin. Him NOT showing up ’d look suspicious,” Adrien added.

Alya blinked. “Soooo, we’re still doing that. …Okay.”

Adrien offered a wane smile. “Not showing up when you’re supposed to is worse than showing up when you aren’t supposed to. This-” he waved at the screen. “Is gonna take planning. Have to try to map out where Spy has been, fill in Ladybug without letting Spy know that he’s been found out, and then draw him out and beat him.”

Alya nodded. “That makes sense. Do you know if Ladybug checks out the Ladyblog? If she does I could maybe set up a private chatroom for you two to use.”

Plagg snorted.

“No clue,” Adrien admitted. “-and knowing requires talking to her ANYWAY.”

Alya winced. “Okay, that’s a point.”

“I think I’ve got an idea of how to let her know.” Adrien sighed and straightened up. “At least I don’t have to worry about the water bill. Come on, we gotta get to the hospital or we’ll be super late. Plagg, transform me!”

Chapter Text

Chat autographed the sheet of paper and headed back to Alya, leading her around a corner and down another hall. …and only once they were out of sight of the nurses’ desk did he groan, shoulders slumping.

“Run around again?” Alya asked.

“Your Doctor is in another castle,” Chat said, nodding.

Alya nodded and walked alongside Chat as he headed towards where-ever this most recent nurse had directed them, then glanced at Chat. “You signed left handed.”

Chat nodded, looking at the signs on the walls, trying to figure out where to go. “Mm-hmm.”

“But you’re northpaw.”

“Taught myself to autograph southpaw. Can use my left a little for some other things too. Not really ambidextrous though.”

Alya nodded, looking down at her pages of questions. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why sign leftie?”

“Because then it’s not really my signature.” Chat suddenly paused, closed his eyes and groaned and turned around. “Shoot. It’s a habit. Come on, I gotta go give the nurse guy a REAL autograph, that was mean of me.”

Alya giggled and followed Chat as he went back, found the nurse again, explained what had happened and autographed something ELSE for the nurse… and for the five or so people who were in the area.

That done, Chat and Alya set off once again.

“So, who are we getting sent to this time?” Alya asked.

“Doctor Martin’s wife, she’s a Nurse Manager, she’s showing up as signed in and stuff. And someone’s wife should know where their spouse is.”

Alya nodded. “Um, just so I don’t embarrass myself later… Doctor Martin was Madame Mort, right?”

“Yup.”

“Okay, good. Thanks.”

“No trouble.”

The two finally got into the right part of the building and headed for the nurse station… and pulled up short when they saw several police officers sitting and standing around an older woman in a semi-out of the way alcove. Alya could see the exact instant that chat shifted into ‘professional’ mode. She hung back as Chat Noir strode over to the police, quietly and politely talking to them and the woman for several minutes before he put a hand onto the woman’s shoulder, ducking slightly to smile at her before turning and heading back to Alya. He headed towards an elevator and got in, Alya beside him, and hit he button for the top floor. There were several people on the elevator with them, so Alya waited quietly until they got to the top floor and Chat lead them to the nurses’ station. One of the nurses lead them over to a stairwell door, using his key so they could open it without triggering any alarms. They climbed up via the stairwell and onto the roof.

“Soooo?”

“That was Doctor Martin’s wife… Doctor Martin is missing and her wife thinks she was kidnapped.” Chat crossed his arms, staring out at Paris’ skyline. “Police say all the cameras in the building cut off for about an hour just around sunset. Doctor Martin signed in, but now she can’t be found, and there’s signs of what was either a struggle or a very messy robbery.”

“Robbery?”

“Bunch of stuff is missing. IVs, some meds, bunch of stuff.”

“Oh, that sounds so very bad.”

“No kidding. Promised the police I’d keep an eye out for Doctor Martin while on patrol… I’ve done it before, actually helped find one or two people. I think Ladybug has as well. What I’m super worried about, though, is-”

“The thieves or kidnappers or whatever they are being akumatized?”

Chat’s eyes went wide. “Oh no… I hadn’t thought of that. …ohhhhh, that’s bad. That would be so bad. Your worst case was worse than mine.”

Alya snorted a laugh. “Flattery will get you everywhere.”

Chat smiled at that. “No point in staying here though, I’ll get you home.”

Alya nodded and hopped onto Chat’s back, koala hugging him as he set his baton. A moment later, and they were rising up, up, up into the stratosphere (or so it felt to Alya). Chat eventually sent them forward in a controlled fall, wind roaring in Alya’s ears until, only a meter above Alya’s roof, he lifted his arms up and spun his baton into a helicopter-spin, and they touched down lightly on Alya’s roof. It was the work of a moment to get back into Alya’s room, the windows closed and shades drawn once more.

Chat gave Alya a little salute and turned to leave, then paused, looking at Alya’s computer. “Alya… do you think that you could – I dunno, map? – where Spy has been and stuff? And when? That’d probably make figuring out how to catch him easier.”

Alya stared at her computer, frowning. “Maybe? I might need help, from Juleka or maybe Max or stuff though. I’m good with computers, but I’m not SUPER good. Juleka can code and make apps and even basic programs… Max knows how to USE programs and code and stuff really well, he’s got a crazy good head for numbers and details and research.”

“Don’t let them know that you know who’s behind the mask though. …If you can manage it, make ‘em think you’re doing this totally solo – that you saw this and decided to find Spy on your own.”

Alya nodded. “I can do that. …Actually, before you go… there’s something I could use your help for.”

Chat tilted his head. “Oh?”

“At school. Give me a lift?”

Chat leaned back. “What, now?”

Alya nodded. “Yup. Now.”

Chat shook his head and turned around, letting Alya hop onto his back before he headed off into the night towards Collège Françoise Dupont.

Once there, he and Alya landed on the roof in one of the spots not covered by any of the school’s security cameras. Chat dropped his transformation and Plagg pulled his self-titled ‘cameras no worky’ trick… and the trio snuck into the school. First they went to the Main Office, and after some careful work, swung by the ‘target’ room of Alya’s evil plan. Then they snuck back to the roof and the off-camera corner, where Adrien transformed again before taking Alya home.

Chat let Alya slide off his back, then turned to face her. He smiled and gave Alya a quick hug. “Thank you.”

Alya returned the hug. “For what?”

“For noticing this and worrying about me and TELLING me and helping me and being my friend.”

Alya’s smile deepened and she hugged Chat harder. “Your welcome. Be careful getting home, okay? And be CAREFUL until Spy’s taken care of.”

“I will. You too.”

Alya closed her window and drew the shades again once Chat was out of sight. She turned to go to bed and paused, staring at her phone.

That still had the video of Plagg testing if his ability to ‘alter’ recordings worked or not…

Unwatched by Adrien and Plagg, and thus uncertain if it would work on kwamis or ‘Chosen’ or if it was just a REALLY strong glamour or if the recording was actually physically and permanently altered. Which was KINDA important, now more than before, what with the whole sneaking into school and messing around with stuff.

“SHOOT!”

Chapter Text

“Okay, so… WHAT exactly are we doing again?” Juleka asked as she and Max followed Alya into the school’s computer lab room a solid 42 minutes before class – indeed before SCHOOL – was due to start.

“Something really, REALLY important.”

“Important to you, important to your blog, importa-”

“Real world important, Max. Really, super, scary level real world important.” Alya bit her lip and closed the door. If Spy really was following Adrien he… shouldn’t… be interested or focusing on Alya, right? This should slide under the radar. And Plagg HAD promised to include Alya as best he could in the ‘bad luck umbrella of protection’. Alya should slide under the radar, even if she was doing something unusual like grabbing two of her classmates and dragging them into the school.

Juleka and Max exchanged looks, but followed Alya as she scrambled to the far side of the room, where a massive tower PC sat on a table in an out of the way alcove, a computer most of the school ‘lovingly’ referred to as Attack Beast – a massive hulking obsidian-black tower that was so ridiculously overpowered in all specs that there were school rumors that it had obtained sentience and the only reason it had never been akumatized was because its primal fury scared Papillon and his Akumas away.

Both of them gaped when Alya sat down and logged on, the massive tower whirling and growling to life as it’s hydro-cooling system and massive fans sprang to life to try to counter the ‘heat death of the universe’ that was the over powered components of the computer powering – and by extension HEATING – up. Attack Beast’s password was notoriously difficult, so far no one had been able to hack it, despite everyone and anyone with even the tiniest bit of computer knowledge having a go at it over the years.

“HOW?!”

“The same way I got permission from Monsieur Brent Turing-Babbage to work on Attack Beast during Technology today, and got permission to have this be our final project for Technology.”

That way being sneaking into the school in the dead of night via the Chat Noir express, some VERY careful work in the Main Office’s documents and permissions, and some careful poking around with M. Turing-Babbage’s personal computer to change what the ‘approved’ project of Alya, Juleka and Max was (man was she glad the three of them had been assigned to a group for the Final project for Technology), and set up ‘allowed’ time on the computer for a personal project.

Fortunately, M. Turing-Babbage was NOTORIOUSLY bad at remembering student names and projects and most everything else, relying on his computer and notes there-in for all of that. Something that students had… made use… of before Alya and likely would after.

Juleka and Max exchanged glances, and then pulled chairs up, sitting down bookends to Alya.

“So, what, EXACTLY, are we now doing for our final project?” Juleka asked.

“Well, I… actually watched the recording for the livestream that I did because of Soldier and…” Alya plugged a USB into the computer and pulled up a video file, then hit play.

Once the video of Spy being revealed, and the various small clips Alya had managed to compile, had played, Alya hit stop and pushed her chair back so she could see Juleka and Max at the same time.

Max grabbed the mouse and replayed the video, while Juleka leaned forward, frowning. After they’d rewatched it, both turned to Alya.

“That happened in my recording of my livestream on Sunday. Since it doesn’t record to my site but to my PHONE… it just… slipped under the radar until last night. I think I might have been the only person recording when that happened too, since NO ONE is talking about it.”

“Papillon has had another Champion bouncing around the city for a WEEK?” Juleka demanded.

“Logically… more than a week now,” Max said, frowning. “Some of these clips are from the day after Tinker’s attack last Tuesday… Soldier attacked on Sunday evening, the fact that he says ‘this last week’ indicates that Papillon akumatized Spy BEFORE he akumatized Tinker.”

“Do you think Spy was akumatized before Sans Sheriff?” Alya asked.

“…I would lean towards no. Several of your clips show Papillon confusing his akumatized with apparent non-sequiturs… it makes sense now that we know he apparently must speak to any and all akumatized if there is more than one active at a time. A hypothesis supported by the Timebreaker, during the brief period where there was both the time-traveler and the time-native Champion present, whenever the ‘Mark’ showed up it did so over both Timebreakers, and both spoke and responded as if Papillon were speaking to them at the same time… radio or conference call rather than individual, as it were.”

Juleka nodded. “And Sans Sheriff was ON TARGET the whole time, she didn’t get confused by Papillon ‘talking to someone else’, she just wanted him to clarify a few times.”

“So… Yeah, like I said, I found this last night and made the clips and…” Alya sighed. “You’re both really good with tech… making it and using it. I want to help Ladybug and Chat Noir out. Can you help me map out where and when Spy has been and stuff? If we do that, we can maybe figure out his patterns, so Ladybug and Chat Noir can find him and beat him?”

“Hmmm… maybe. I mean if nothing else we can put markers on a map with date and time,” Juleka said. “What do you think, Max?”

“That seems like an adequate minimum target of capabilities. I do think we can manage more than that… Perhaps come up with some form of tracking program that can later be applied to Akumas for our ‘final project’… but for now… Minimum capabilities first.”

Alya nodded and looked at the clock on the wall. “Okay, so we’ve got… Like twenty minutes before first bell, and obviously all of Technology, which gives us another hour. Would you guys be willing to sacrifice breaks and lunch? I can go grab stuff to eat and bring it back to school if you’re up for it.”

“Something like this? I’d go without lunch if we need to, or ask my brother to bring us stuff to eat. I can even call my Mom, get permission to stay after school.”

Max nodded. “I as well.”

Alya smiled. “Great! Let’s save the day!”

Chapter Text

Adrien leaned back in his seat as the limo slowly wove its way through traffic. He glanced at the Gorilla, but the man seemed hyper focused on the drive. He glanced down at the interior pocket of his shirt and raised his eyebrows slightly in question at Plagg.

Plagg was silent for a moment, before he looked up at Adrien and nodded.

They were clear.

Well, clear from Spy. Adrien leaned all the way back into his seat, closing his eyes for a second. He was TIRED. He’d been on high alert (and maybe a little bit panicked… alright maybe a LOT panicked) ever since Alya had shown him the video of Spy and pointed out that Spy might be shadowing ADRIEN. He couldn’t wait until Spy was… sorted out. If nothing else that should give him a day or two before he’d have to worry about ANOTHER invisible akumatized Champion tailing him and watching him and what if someone tried to get the Miraculous ring off or-

Plagg’s claws dug into Adrien’s chest.

Adrien jumped and scowled at Plagg, who scowled right back. Adrien slumped and sulked. Okay. New plan. Think of a way to throw Papillon off his trail so he was officially no longer a suspect and things could go back to NORMAL (or what counted for normal in a superhero’s life). He was GOOD at planning, so long as he had time to do it in after all.

Adrien yawned, his jaw popping.

Also… maybe get some sleep tonight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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“Okay, so… why do we have to sneak up to my room and transform again?”

“Because Chat Noir just got home and to a place where he knows no one can listen in and he has some very important things to tell you.”

“How do you know? Did you talk to Plagg?”

Tikki nodded, helping Marinette close the drapes to her room and close and lock her trapdoor.

“Then why can’t Plagg just tell you everything? Why do it this way?”

Tikki paused, then sighed. “Because Plagg and my ability to communicate is… limited. It’s only by sheer chance, the fact that we were first bound of all kwamis and the fact that we are two halves of the same whole, that we can sense and speak to each other as we do. But we can’t sense each other or talk to each other if we’re too far away-”

“Like yesterday?”

Tikki nodded. “Like Wednesday, yes. And we can’t talk mind-to-mind for long even when we’re in range. It tires us out and gives us headaches.”

“So, anything really complex that takes a long time to talk about…”

“It’s best if Plagg and I transform the two of you so you can talk that way.”

Marinette nodded and went back to helping Tikki ‘secure’ the room as best she could.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Adrien stretched his arms above his head and slumped his way into the bathroom, closing the door and leaning against it, closing his eyes, before sliding to sit against the door for a second. Ugh. So tired. He hadn’t gotten any sleep last night, too worked up about Spy and Dr. Martin and everything else. Maybe instead of eating lunch today, after he called Ladybug and filled her in he could just… nap for all of lunch break. That’d be nice. Just nice and quiet and-

Something thumped his temple and Adrien jolted awake, raising one fist to scrub at his eyes.

“-drien. Kid. Wakey wakey. …Wake up or I start singing. …In Vulgar Latin.”

Adrien blinked his eyes clear and stared at Plagg, who was smirking and taking a long, deep, breath in.

Adrien yelped and reached forward with both hands, snagging his kwami. “Plagg, NO,” he hissed.

Plagg’s smirk deepened. “Whaaaaaa-aaaat?”

“Last time you sang you shattered glass!”

“Only ‘cause I was trying to. Do you know how hard it is to hit JUST the right high-C?”

“No breaking my mirrors. I’d have to explain to Père!”

“Fiiiiiiine”

Adrien slowly let go of Plagg. “...You know Vulgar Latin?”

Plagg snorted a laugh. “Kid, I predate Proto-Indo-European. Vulgar Latin is a BABY language to me.”

Adrien made a mental note to find out what the heck Proto-Indo-European even was and got to his feet. He glanced at the window, smiling when he saw that Plagg had moved one the stacks of towels to the window sill, blocking it off. He grabbed another towel and stuffed it against the bottom of the door then turned the water for the shower on. He glanced up at Plagg as the kwami hovered over. “You’re sure Ladybug’ll be transformed?”

“Yup.”

Adrien nodded. “Plagg, transform me.”

Plagg dove into the ring, and green light and black motes crawled over Adrien, leaving Chat Noir standing in the bathroom. Chat yawned massively and gave his head a shake, then eyed the shower. He walked over and stuck his head under the icy cold spray and held it there, occasionally catching a few palmfuls of water with his hands to scrub at his face with.

Finally feeling SEMI awake, Chat took his head back out of the shower and shook it, water spraying everywhere. He pulled his baton off his back, then paused, looking around in consternation.

Ladybug would likely be able to identify where he was if she saw it, she HAD seen his bathroom once or twice before…

After a minute to think, Chat Noir finally just grabbed one of his larger towels and threw it over his head and shoulders, sitting down in an out of sight corner of the shower. Yes, he was getting wet (BLEH) but at least it wasn’t ACTUALLY rain, and maybe the ice cold water hitting him would help him stay awake and alert.

Chat slid his baton open and hit Ladybug’s icon.

He was startled at how fast she answered it. Not even a single ring and the screen on his baton winked to life, and cleared to show Ladybug sitting in front of a brick wall that looked vaguely familiar, although he honestly couldn’t properly place it. He couldn’t help but smile. “My Lady, as always you brighten my day with your presence.”

The top edges of Ladybug’s mask rose, following the eyebrows they hid. “Apparently literally. Where are you? What’s that sound in the background?”

Chat ignored the question like a CHAMP, and avoided the ‘are you okay, do you need to talk about Soldier’ like a BOSS.

“My Lady, I… This is…” Chat sighed and ran a hand over his face, then scowled. Blargh, all wet from water from his hair, on top of the water that was now dripping (where it was not cascading) through the now saturated towel. “This is complex. Lemme tell you everything I know, and I’ll let you know once I’m done, and then we can… we can plan?”

Ladybug nodded, and although her eyes went wide, and she gasped more than once as Chat Noir explained the video that Alya had recorded of Spy and Soldier, as well as of the various clips she’d managed to find of him, and that Spy might have been shadowing Chat as his civilian self. He sent her the link and the password that Alya had given him, for where she’d uploaded the video(s) to a password protected page on the Ladyblog, and where Alya had promised to load the map she, Juleka and Max were working on. “And… that’s it.”

Ladybug nodded, looking more than a little freaked out. She took a deep breath in, then blew it out in a heavy burst. “I’m gonna watch the clips real quick, okay? I’ll be back as soon as I do that.”

Chat nodded and sighed softly when his screen went black.

Maybe he should see if he could get screen-in-screen or split screen to work. Something to experiment with, later, once everything was sorted.

Water splashed on his nose and Chat jerked backwards, smacking his head against the tile wall of his shower… and got another huge drip on his nose for his troubles.

BLLLLAAAAAAAARRRRRRGH!

The screen came back to life, and Ladybug aimed a serious look at Chat Noir. “Alright. You said Alya was working with some people to make a map of where Spy has been and when?”

Chat nodded. “Yes, my Lady. I was thinking that we could check the page during class-breaks and then after school, if the map is up by then… we can try to find and confront Spy.”

Ladybug considered that for a moment, the nodded. “What time do you get out of school?”

“School ends at 5:50pmish for me but… I have to go home first, my Père will notice if I’m not home. But once I get home, my kwami and I can make sure that the Spy isn’t here and head out to meet you somewhere at… 6:30 or so?”

Ladybug considered that, then nodded. “At the Eiffel Tower. Be CAREFUL, Minou. And don’t worry. We’ll figure this out and beat Spy.”

Chat Noir nodded. “Until this evening?”

“Until this evening.”

Chapter Text

Ladybug looked up from her yoyo at the faint thump and then looked down below where she sat at the chime of a bell. Chat Noir looked up at her from the beam below that he’d landed on. He leapt up when she waved to him and sat down beside her. “I was very careful coming here. Where-ever Spy is, he wasn’t at my home and he didn’t follow me.”

Ladybug nodded. “Something that occurred to me. ...No matter what, Spy probably still needs to sleep and eat, right? Remember how we found out afterwards with Invisible Girl that Sabrina was stealing food and sleeping in the hotel rooms for the few days she was akumatized? How we need to sleep and eat and stuff, even though we could stay transformed indefinitely so long as we don’t use our special powers? Spy probably has the same limit.”

Chat swung his legs, staring out at Paris. “That’s good. Might be why, and how, I lucked out so far… when I snuck out to visit my friends, he musta been away… eating or sleeping.”

“Bad luck on his part then.”

Chat snickered. “Yeah. Gonna have to get Plagg extra cheese for that. Plus extra cheese for the energy boost.”

“Energy boost?”

Chat nodded. “Didn’t really get any sleep last night, but when I transformed…” he smiled and stretched his arms over his head. “Head’s clear, got nice little ball of energy burning away in my chest, like I got 8 hours of sleep and drank one of those UBER energy drinks.”

Ladybug frowned. “How long will that last?”

“Usually lasts a couple of hours?”

“Usually… how often do you pull this stunt?”

“Not often,” Chat promised. “But sometimes I have to choose between patrol and saving the day or sleeping, and I can’t make it up later, cause my schedule is kinda stupidly full. Don’t worry, my Lady, no real side-effects from it, I promise.”

“Alright. You said it’s good for a couple of hours, what happens when it wears off?”

“I go plunk and sleep,” Chat said, smiling. “Pretty heavily, or so Plagg says.”

Ladybug nodded again and got to her feet. Grabbing her yoyo and sliding it open, she tapped on the screen for a moment while Chat got to his feet to stand beside her, looking at the map Alya, Max and Juleka had finished and posted half an hour after school had ended (and thus ten or so minutes ago).

“I like that the little marker flags have the TIME of the sightings… and the color coding.”

Ladybug nodded. “Me too. Makes it easier to spot patterns.”

Chat offered a faint noise of agreement, leaning in a bit closer to look at the map, reaching over with a finger to lightly trace patterns. …That was… and… oh geez, yeah, Spy had been following Adrien as well as Chat Noir, no doubt about it. Spotted near where Adrien had his mandarin classes WHEN he had them, near the school when he was at lacrosse practice, near the gym where – and when – he had his fencing lessons…

Wow, he hoped Ladybug didn’t figure out who he was from this; he HAD told her that he was worried Spy was following him as his civilian self too, keeping the secret was so important to her that she’d probably be angry (at him knowing his luck) if she figured it out.

What wasn’t clear was when, and where, Spy might be sleeping or eating. It was possible that Spy was staggering or alternating his patterns, although that made this MUCH more difficult.

“Darn, it looks like Spy USUALLY isn’t that active this late at night,” Ladybug muttered.

“Except when there was a Champion,” Chat agreed. “Or another Champion, I should say.”

“Or when we were supposed to have patrols. …Speaking of, where WERE you yesterday afternoon?”

“Oh, uh…” Chat rubbed the back of his neck, then decided to just go for the truth – or at least as much as he could. “I had a nasty allergy attack. …Kinda got a face-full of feathers at – uh – at work. Didn’t have to go to the hospital or need my epi-pen, but I did have to take some of my heavier allergy meds and… apparently spent most of the afternoon and a chunk of the evening dead to the world.”

Ladybug glanced at him. “Your allergies are that bad?”

Chat Noir blinked and nodded. “Yes?” How had it not been obvious?

“But you got grabbed by the ‘capture ball’ and you were fine!”

“Oh. That – uh – that was Plagg. I started to have a REALLY bad reaction, maybe anaphylactic shock bad, and Plagg used the Miraculous and the Suit to basically give me ‘Magic Benadryl’ to counter the reaction without knocking me out like real allergy meds do. I was riding high on that till I de-transformed.”

“Anaphylactic shock!?”

Chat stared. “I was sneezing when the pigeon flocks were literally METERS above us in the sky. A single feather can make me start sneezing like crazy. And with how many pigeons are in Paris I usually end up taking Cetirizine once or twice a week and I’ve got a little packet of them and my epi-pen on or near me pretty much at all times.”

“Why didn’t you SAY something then!?”

Chat offered a helpless shrug. “You came up with the plan and where you lead I follow?”

“Next time I tell you to do something that could result in you DYING, say something! Complain!”

“I kinda did?”

Ladybug scowled.

“What did you think all the whistling of the national anthem and dancing was about!? It’s not like that’s stuff I USUALLY do when we aren’t goofing around! Your ‘disguise’ was me wearing a police hat and NOTHING else! It was, like, your only bad plan ever!”

“…Dancing and whistling and acting out while not saying ‘Hey, Ladybug, can we do a plan that does not result in me dying horribly from anaphylactic shock and probably only worked because Monsieur Pigeon was already searching for us with plans to capture us” does not count as TELLING ME!”

Chat slumped and pouted. “I told you I had allergies.”

Ladybug groaned and rolled her eyes, smacking Chat’s bell before looking back to the map. “It looks like Spy’s been spotted near Le Grande Paris, a few times in the early evening. We’ll go there and see if we can draw him out. If you’re listening for it, do you think you can pick up him tailing us, even if he’s invisible?”

Chat Noir nodded. “I pick up things I usually wouldn’t if I concentrate on it… That’s how I could pick up Animan when he was flying, I focused on that particular wingbeat and stuff.”

“Alright, let’s go. If this doesn’t work, we’ll try again tomorrow morning. Spy’s been near m- Near Collège Françoise Dupont most mornings.”

“Sounds like a plan, my Lady.”

Chapter Text

Chat Noir landed across the street from the Agreste Mansion and ducked into the shadow of one of the chimneys. He kept his breathing as quiet as he could and looked around, searching for anything out of place. Not seeing anything he closed his eyes and focused on what he could hear, listening for the sound of a footfall on ceramic or metal roof tiles, the scratch of cloth against brick… any sound, no matter how soft, was carefully focused on and analyzed.

It took a long time, more than several minutes but less than an hour, before Chat Noir was satisfied that Spy was not somewhere nearby… that NO ONE was near-by who would see him.

Finally satisfied, Chat coiled himself up, then raced across the roof and leapt, arching over the street to dive right through his open window and land silently on the floor to his room. He waited, crouched and tense, carefully listening… then relaxed when it became apparent that he was in the clear.

Chat sighed softly and snuck his way into his bathroom. He stuffed a towel under the door and put a pile of towels on the window sill and then slowly relaxed out of his crouch, taking one last careful listen before nodding. “Plagg, de-transform me.”

Green light and black motes crawled up Chat Noir, and Adrien stuck his hands out to catch Plagg as the kwami flew out of the Black Cat ring. He smiled as Plagg rolled and moaned with his eyes closed, carefully switching his kwami so that he held the tiny black cat up against his chest with one hand as he took the piled of towels back down from the window and put it back under the sink, grabbing the towel he’d stuffed under the door and folding it as best he could one handed.

“Oh. Ohhhhhhh,” Plagg moaned. He opened one eye to gauge Adrien’s reaction and then flopped as dramatically as he could on Adrien’s palm, flinging one arm over his face. “OHHHHHHHHHH…”

Adrien snickered. “I’ve got some cheese for you in my mini-fridge, Plagg. Don’t worry.”

Plagg smiled at that, then did another dramatic flop-

“OhhhHHHHHHAAAAACK!”

-and ended up dramatizing himself straight off Adrien’s palm, only saved from splatting to the floor by Adrien catching him by the tail.

“You okay, Plagg?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Hey. Could you put some baked goods out again before you go to bed?”

Adrien blinked as he put Plagg back on his left palm, letting go of Plagg’s tail before he distractedly skritched behind the kwami’s ears. “Ladybug’s kwami is coming to visit again? Like she did last Thursday?”

Plagg nodded.

“Okay. Are the croissants still okay or does she like something else better?”

“Cookies if you can grab ‘em. Especially chocolate chip, Tikki got a taste for ‘em last time we were active in America.”

“Chocolate chip, got it.” Adrien walked over to the tiny mini-fridge he had built into the left third of his bedside dresser. He pulled out three wheels of cheese already sitting on a little plate and put them on the dresser top to warm up, yawning massively as he did so. Bleh, the energy boost he’d gotten was starting to wear off. “Anything else?”

Plagg considered for a moment. “Some hot chilies. Hottest you can find.”

Adrien stared down at Plagg in confusion. “Uhhh?”

“They taste good with cheese. …and hot chilies and chocolate is something Tikki totally loves,” Plagg said. Which WAS true, so it wasn’t like he was lying to the kid. He just wasn’t telling him everything.

Adrien shrugged. “Okay.” He tucked Plagg into his over-shirt pocket and snuck out of his room and down to the kitchen. The cookies were easy enough to find, but hot peppers turned out to be more of an issue. He finally found some (canned) chilies in the pantry and just grabbed a hand-crank can-opener on his way out.

Adrien put the plate of cookies on the dresser beside the cheese, then opened the two cans of chilies and emptied them onto a third plate before he tossed the cans and their lids in his trash. Yawning again, he dug some PJs out of his dresser and got changed, throwing his clothes into the laundry basket that his weird room design forced him to keep in his bathroom. He flopped down on his bed and snuggled under the covers, staring at the three plates.

Plagg flew over and curled up on Adrien’s temple and started to purr.

Adrien yawned and snuggled a bit deeper under his covers. “Plagg?”

“Hmm?”

“Is someone else coming t’night?”

“What makes you think that, Kid?”

“Th’ ho’ chi’es..” Adrien mumbled, even as his eyes drifted shut.

“Tikki really DOES like chilies and chocolate,” Plagg said, still purring. He waited a moment, then smiled when Adrien drifted off to sleep. He glanced at the clock, then settled bit more in his spot, ramping the purr up a few notches.

And with only a few minutes to spare! Ah well, he’d tuck Adrien nice and deep into a pleasant sleep while he waited. Stupid kid, pulling stunts like not SLEEPING for a full day and then going and running around on borrowed energy.

Well, Adrien was sleeping now, so that was THAT solved. He left Adrien for a moment and carefully ferried the three plates, one at a time, to the floor between Adrien’s bed and dresser, where no one could see them from the windows or anywhere else in the room unless they were standing by the bed or dresser. That done, he flew back to his Chosen and curled up on the boy’s temple to wait.

He smiled when Tikki flew into the room with as much stealth as she could muster, coming over to curl up beside Plagg on Adrien’s temple, chirring softly. “How are you both holding up?”

“Pretty good, all things considered. Defeating Spy’ll help, but we NEED to throw Papillon off my kitten’s trail, Tikki.”

Tikki nodded. “We do, I know. We’ll see if we can come up with something tonight, and if nothing else we’ll get STARTED, Plagg, I promise.”

Somewhere in the mansion, a clock struck the hour, and just as the eleventh chime began to fade, Wayzz snuck into Adrien’s room.

Tikki and Plagg left their spot on Adrien’s temple and flew down to the floor between the bed and dresser.

Wayzz smiled at the plate of peppers and scooped up a handful, eating it with a soft, polite, hum.

“That was all there was in the house,” Plagg explained as he started to eat his cheese and Tikki settled in to eat her chocolate chip cookies with a tiny pleased noise.

“No, no, it’s fine! It was very kind for him to get them in the first place.” Wayzz ate another bite, then sighed. “I… have something of extreme importance to tell both of you.”

“We do as well,” Tikki said. “Papillon-”

“I couldn’t recover the Lucky Charm.”

Tikki and Plagg froze, staring at Wayzz in silent horror, the cookie falling out of Tikki’s hands to the floor. On the bed, Adrien stirred, but failed to wake.

Wayzz sighed. “I stayed with your Chosen, as I promised, until it became clear that the battle would be won. I went back to where the Lucky Charm had been lost but it… wasn’t there. It was not that I could not FIND it… as you know, I can sense magical auras even from objects… it was not there. Someone found it and moved it, far enough away that it was outside of my ability to sense magic.”

“Was there any residual aura where the Charm should have been?” Plagg asked.

Wayzz shook his head. “None I could pick up, or at least none I could sort out from Soldier’s residual aura.”

“Papillon must have it then,” Tikki groaned.

“I would have picked his aura up, Tikki,” Wayzz said as he scooped up another handful of the canned green chilies

“No, Wayzz, we only just found this out ourselves. …Papillon has had a second Champion active since Tinker… possibly since Sans Sheriff. There is more, other ways he is switching his behaviors and patterns, but that is the most vital at this moment.”

Wayzz choked on the chilies. Tikki flew over to pat his shell while Plagg dashed up to curl up on Adrien’s temple when the blond stirred and started to wake, purring his Chosen back to sleep. Once Wayzz managed to settle and Adrien relaxed back into a good, deep, sleep, the trio of quantic kami settled down to their Offerings again.

“This is getting out of hand,” Tikki said firmly. “Papillon is changing his methods, things are getting more dangerous, Papillon might have a Lucky Charm…”

“Fu needs to stop shipping from the sidelines and start HELPING,” Plagg growled.

Wayzz scowled. “Fu cannot transform anymore, not without risking his health and life.”

“So let him be a wise old mentor. The kitten and the buglet need advice, wisdom… and an ally.”

Tikki sighed softly. “As much as I hate it… Plagg and I have been talking about this for the last few months, ever since Princess Fragrance. And… this time, he’s right. We can’t do this on our own anymore. Let Fu know that we will be leading our Chosen to meet Fu, individually!” the last was said with a glare at Plagg. “So that their identities remain a secret, as soon as we can find an excuse or opportunity.”

Plagg huffed. “Could just take ‘em to him tomorrow and go ‘hey kids, meet the Great Guardian’ you know.”

“No, we need a reason.”

Plagg rolled his eyes again.

“I’ll be pouring my luck into it, the chance will come soon,” Tikki promised.

Wayzz finished the last of the chilies. “I’ll let Fu know. And… Tikki. It doesn’t have to be a GOOD excuse. I know you hate anyone knowing.. anyone’s identity but I think this time Plagg might be right. Even if it is a lie…”

“Marinette hates liars.”

“You lied to her to get her to accept being Ladybug, tricked her into saying the phrase for the first transformation,” Plagg pointed out. “You’ve lied before and after when you’ve felt it was needed. Oh, don’t give me that look, at least I told my Chosen the truth and let him decide instead of tricking him into saying ‘transform me’ or claiming that he was a super special Chosen One, more special than all the rest.”

“She is a Chosen One.”

“Yeah, and so’s my kid. And so’s Fu. Anyone that we CHOOSE to wield us is a Chosen One.”

Tikki scowled and primly turned her back on Plagg, who stuck his tongue out at her back and then started making faces.

“We’ll have them come once we have a GOOD and REAL and SOLID reason to, Wayzz. If Plagg adds his bad luck to our enemies to my good lucking both of our Chosen, it will likely be soon.”

Wayzz nodded and took to the air. “I will do so. Good luck to you both, and may we see each other again soon.”

Tikki and Plagg watched Wayzz leave, and Plagg flew around to be in front of Tikki. “We shouldn’t wait.”

“We have to.”

“We don’t HAVE to, you just want to. Why are you so hung up on NO ONE knowing?”

“You know why.”

“I know your reason, but I still think it’s stupid. They should know each other, and they should have other people who know.”

“I’m not going to change my mind about this, Plagg.” Plagg rolled his eyes and grabbed Wayzz’s plate and put it on top of his own, then flew both up to the dresser, phasing through the door to the minifridge with them. He flew back out and curled up between Adrien’s temple and pillow. “Hide your plate in the fridge before you go, otherwise the maids’ll notice when they clean up in the morning.”

Tikki sighed. “Spy has been at or near Le Grande Paris quite a few times… he might even be sleeping there. If you can sneak over and see if you can find him, we can get this sorted tonight or before school tomorrow… And if that does not work, they can head for Collège Françoise Dupont, as Spy has been there many mornings.”

“I’ll convince Adrien. Hopefully this’ll be over soon.”

“Hopefully. …and we’ll come up with something to throw Papillon of Adrien’s trail, Plagg, I promise. If you and I can’t on our own, we’ll be able to with Fu.”

“I hope so, Tikki.”

“We will, I know it.”

Plagg offered a faint laugh. “Alright. If you know so.”

Tikki smiled and grabbed her plate, phasing into the mini-fridge with it and putting it down on top of Plagg and Wayzz’s plates before phasing out of the sidewall and then heading out of Adrien’s room, making her way back to Marinette’s rom with all the stealth she could muster.

Chapter Text

Ladybug landed on top of Notre Dame a full hour before school was due to start (and thus easily a half hour before she usually woke up) and yawned as she plopped to sit on the roof, scrubbing her eyes with one hand.

Uuuugh. Mornings were evil and terrible and waking up before the afternoon should be outlawed.

Or at least Papillon akumatizing anyone, and/or having a Champion active so that Ladybug had to wake up – or be awake at all – to deal with it in any way, shape, or form was proof positive of just how irredeemably evil Papillon was.

This was going to be a long, and probably BAD, Friday she could tell already.

Finally giving up on scrubbing the sleep from her eyes, she pulled out her yoyo, sliding it open and pulled up the map function, smiling when she saw Chat Noir’s green pawprint at Le Grande Paris. She went to call him, then paused, frowning. Wait, what if he was sneaking around and the ring gave him away?

Oh, wait, he had his text set up to vibrate, right?

She was MOSTLY certain he did in any case.

Certain enough to pull up the text messenger and type out a quick #Hey Minou Spy there or no?# and grumbled to find that autocorrect was apparently just as annoying on a magical yoyo as it was on her phone. #Not# Ugh, she didn’t use the text function enough on this, she needed to practice… or train the autocorrect like she had the one on her real-life phone.

There was a pause of a few minutes, then Ladybug’s yoyo buzzed as she received a texted reply… of a cat slumped with mournful eyes emoji… and dang it, she still had to get Chat to show her how he downloaded emojis onto his baton because EMOJIS… and a simple #No.#

#Shoot. Can you tell if he HAS been there?#

#That yes. Third floor corner room. M. Jean-Aloysius Wadsworth says no one has checked out the room, but the bed has been slept in and the shower used.#

#Wadsworth?#

#Majordomo. Head butler. Helped raise Chloé. M. Mustashio guy.#

#Got it. Sure he’s not at the hotel right now?#

#Sadly yes. Figure go to school, Plagg keep ear out, try to draw him out during break or lunch if we don’t catch him during classes? Can you stay near the school or would that get you in trouble?#

Ladybug frowned, considering. #How good is Plagg’s hearing?#

#As good as mine, if not better.#

Ladybug considered for a few minutes, then nodded. And, it would mean that she wouldn’t miss ANOTHER day of school… or at least would miss fewer classes. Granted, best not to let Chat know where she went to school…

#Sounds good. Have Plagg let Tikki know when he picks up Spy and I’ll head to the school.#

#Let Tikki know?#

#Yes. Fastest and safest way.#

#Um. No but how will Plagg let Tikki know?#

#By talking to her?#

#But you’re not going to be at the school and Plagg has to stay there so how can he talk to her if she isn’t there?#

#By talking telepathically or kwami radio or whatever it is?#

#THEY CAN DO THAT!?#

…Oh shoot, was she not supposed to have told him that?

Too late now.

#Yes. I thought you knew.#

#Plagg never tells me anything! Except when he does.#

#I’ll pretend that made sense. When Plagg hears or whatevers Spy, have him tell Tikki. I’ll head in and we’ll have it sorted before lunch.#

#Got it. See you later, my Lady!#

Ladybug rolled her eyes at the winking cat emoji (auuuuugh… MUST. LEARN. HOW!!!) and after carefully looking around, used her yoyo to get back to her rooftop and from there darted down through her skylight and into her room.

Ladybug sat cross-legged on her bed for a minute, considering her clock. Did she have enough time to take a nap?

…Mmmmnnnno. Unfortunately not.

Darn.

Oh well. She could transform, get washed up and dressed and surprise her parents by coming down early for breakfast instead of them needing to wake her!

…Also she could leave and get to school on time, which would be nice, in a prove-to-Alya-that-Marinette-was-not-always-late kinda way.

Course of action decided, Ladybug de-transformed and Marinette walked down the stairs to the ‘main floor’ of her loft and began to wash up, mentally going over the far FAR more vital plan for dealing with Spy.

The plan, such as it was, that Chat Noir had suggested was a good one, all the better given that Marinette could be ‘on site’ rather than having to actually skip school and hang out somewhere as Ladybug and hope no one spotted her – heh, spotted – and gave the game away to Spy.

So she’d wait in class until Tikki told her that Plagg had picked up Spy, then she head to the bathroom or the like and transform, sneak OUT of the school (there were windows that could let her get outside in the girl’s bathroom on the first floor and one of the bathroom stalls had a ceiling panel that was loose above it that she could use to get into the ceiling and from there to the roof on the second floor girl’s bathroom) and then ‘arrive’ to help Chat.

Who hopefully would be able to sneak out of class as well without running… into… Marin-

…Wait… Chat Noir was going to her… sch-

NOPE! No, not thinking about that right now!!

…Also, totally not going to look at the map tonight to see if she could figure it out with that…

AUGH. No! Secret identities! Bad brain, bad!! There was absolutely no way she was going to look at the map later!!

Stupid cat!

Now more than a little annoyed, Marinette stomped her way through the rest of washing up, getting dressed eating breakfast, her mom’s comments on how she apparently had a thunder god for a daughter now, and stomped her way towards school-

Only to pause as she stomped through the park, glancing down when she heard Tikki gasp.

“Tikki?”

“Spy’s at the school. Chat Noir is going to slip away and transform. You need to transform as well.”

“How will I know where Spy is?”

“I’ll mark it on your map. Or, well, I’ll mark where Chat wants to meet with you before going to confront Spy. He has the start of a plan to hopefully throw Papillon off his track. Hurry, Marinette, who knows when we’ll get a second chance!”

Marinette nodded and looked around.

The only people in the park were a group of 6 or so men who were installing something (maybe spotlight housing or housing for floodlights? She vaguely remembered Maman and Papa talking about how glad they were that there would be new, improved, lighting in the park at night) in the bushes around the central area, and from the looks of it some things had been added in a few other areas as well.

She’d have to remember to tell Maman, she’d be so happy to know about the soon-to-be-better-lighting!

Marinette casually – OH SO CASUALLY – strolled her way to the heaviest section of trees and brush, then ducked to be out of sight of the workers before she transformed.

Ladybug pulled her yoyo off her hip and slid it open, nodding when she saw a small butterfly symbol sitting on the roof of the school, near the solar panels. She snuck around, staying low so the bushes hid her from the workers, until she could throw her yoyo and lasso the chimney of one of the houses across the street.

A quick tug and she was off.

Chapter Text

Click click.

Spy froze, looking up slowly and carefully from where he was kneeling by the solar panels of the higher part of the roof of Collège Françoise Dupont.

Chat Noir was on the chimney to Spy’s right. The black-clad hero was crouched low, eyes focused on the students that were slowly heading into school. His tail coiled slowly, the metal tip of the belt lightly tapping the chimney again with the same soft double click as before.

How long had Chat Noir been there? The cat-themed hero was infamously silent and stealthy when he so desired, able to land with no sound even when dropping in from shocking heights. He could have landed a moment ago… or he might even have been there before Spy arrived, given how low to the chimney the hero was, it was possible Spy would not have seen him. Spy was incredibly glad that he had been invisible prior to arriving at the school, had arrived with all the stealth he had, and that Papillon was not in the habit of communicating with him, as the Mark of Papillon would often have given Spy’s location away.

…Furthermore, and likely more relevant… WHY was Chat Noir here? In the last (almost) two weeks, Spy had not seen the hero spending any time at the school. …Nor had he been able to spot the hero arriving or leaving from the school, if Chat Noir was indeed who Papillon thought he was. Chat Noir seemed hyper focused on the school and students, eyes flicking from person to person, ears twitching and swiveled forward at attention, listening oh-so-carefully to what went on below.

There must be a cause for the change in his behavior…

…Had Spy been found out?

It was possible, especially after that mess with Soldier, although if that were the case it was odd that it had taken Chat Noir nearly a full week to act on it. Spy grimaced, thinking over Sunday’s battle as he carefully watched Chat Noir. While Papillon had apologized for Spy being controlled (apparently, he’d been unaware that his Champions were NOT immune to each other’s abilities as Papillon himself was immune… indeed given the way the two Timebreaker’s had been immune to each other he had thought all Champions were so immune), the fact remained that Spy had been controlled and now was missing a few hours’ worth of memories that he had not consented to losing. …Going from hiding on a rooftop, waiting for Chat Noir to arrive… to suddenly being in his own bedroom at home in Boulogne-Billancourt with no transitional memories… Still, he’d accepted Papillon’s apology and had gone to get the Lucky Charm that Ladybug had dropped, meeting up with Papillon on the roof of Le Grande Paris to hand it over to him before going to try and find/track Chat Noir… something he’d been unable to do that evening.

There was a sharp thud to Spy’s left as Ladybug landed on the high arched roof over the school’s main entrance. The red-clad hero straightened up, but rather than putting her yoyo around her waist, like usual, she let it drop into a pendulum swing by her feet. “Good morning, Chat Noir.”

Ah, damn… if he’d been found out – which was looking VERY likely now – this wouldn’t go very well for him… Spy was optimized for stealth, not combat. His strength and reaction times were far better than human normal and possibly could put him on par with the duo, and he was likely as durable as the Miraculous duo… but the possible ability to go toe to toe with one of them did not negate the fact that this would be a two on one battle..

Spy slowly and carefully slid his hand into his tuxedo’s jacket pocket as Chat Noir stood up on top of the chimney, his hand closing around a small glass globe in the top interior pocket.

Hmm. Only one. …So, which of the two heroes to target?

“Good morning, my Lady, I look to you as if you were my sun,” Chat Noir said with a sweeping bow.

The yoyo’s pendulum swing stuttered for a moment. “Wait, you look at me with your face all screwed up and squinting really hard and only for a few seconds?”

“I… wait, that isn’t-“

“Because that’s how people look at the sun,” Ladybug said with a faint frown, apparently thrown off target by Chat Noir’s comment. “Which you shouldn’t do for too long anyway or it can permanently wreck your eyes. Especially if there’s an eclipse, which doesn’t make sense because there’s LESS light so why would that hurt your eyes…”

“Uh, that’s… there’s still radiant light and non-visible spectrum but your body doesn’t know that so your pupils dilate cause it’s darker and that’s really bad and I was trying to compliment you and I’m sorry?”

Ladybug blinked a few times… and then apparently got back on track. “Right. Apology accepted. …but you really squint at me and stuff?”

“No, I… I mean I… …I’m stopping now, I’ve hit two meters, gonna stop digging. Good morning, Ladybug. I’m glad you got my message. I’ve been skipping school the last few days after last Sunday, to check on… the matter I mentioned to you, as you know. …and boy is my family peeved at the ‘skipping out on lycée’ thing, let me tell you.”

Oh, now THAT was some interesting information… If it was to be trusted. Spy glanced to Ladybug, gauging her reactions.

“Skipping school AGAIN, Chat? Your grades are going to tank,” Ladybug said, sighing and shaking her head, her yoyo falling into a pendulum swing again. “Well, more than they have already.”

“Can’t all be top students, my Lady.”

Hmm. Both of the duo were not known for their lies – indeed, both were well known for getting easily flustered and tending to simply refuse to answer or switching the subject sharply. Either they were speaking the truth or they’d practiced this particular lie before arriving.

Unfortunately, one was just as likely – or unlikely – as the other. The only thing that could be certain was that this introduced doubt into the theory Papillon was currently so focused on. Spy carefully pulled his hand out of his tuxedo jacket, the small glass globe now in hand and ready to be thrown.

“So. The matter?” Ladybug asked.

“Resolved, my Lady. Or will be in a moment,” Chat Noir said, pulling his baton off his back and letting it extend to his preferred fighting length with a practiced flick of the wrist.

Spy shifted his weight, then snapped his arm around, throwing the small glass globe at Chat Noir, even as Spy leapt off the school’s rooftop and across the street. Spy did, after all, have the ability to become invisible… Chat Noir’s hearing was the primary threat to his ability to escape.

Chat Noir leapt off the chimney, extending his baton as he went and was several rooftops away when the glass globe hit the chimney and exploded into a white cloud of knock-out gas.

Spy landed on the rooftops, and scowled as he saw Ladybug leaping in his rough direction – avoiding the cloud of gas as the wind caught it and blew it away, dissipating it too much to be of any real use.

Damn and blast.

Nothing for it then.

Spy ran, the heroes of Paris tight on his heels.

Chapter Text

Mlle. Bustier frowned faintly as the tardy bell rang and two seats remained empty. “Nino, Alya, do either of you know where Adrien and Marinette are?”

“Oh, uh, Adrien started sneezing really bad – he said it was his allergies,” Nino said quickly. “He didn’t have cit… cetra… citri-something, his allergy pills? With him so he went to the nurses’ office to get some and stuff.”

“Cetirizine?”

Nino blinked and looked to his right at Chloé, surprised. “Uh, I guess?”

“Idiot. He’s supposed to keep at least four pills on him at all times,” Chloé muttered, crossing her arms and scowling.

“He had a nasty allergy attack on Wednesday, maybe he used them then?”

Chloé’s scowl, if anything, got worse, and Nino wondered if he’d just accidently sicced Chloé on his best friend.

Mlle. Bustier made a note on her tablet. “Well, that’s Adrien accounted for. Alya, do you know where Marinette is?”

“No, ma’am. I didn’t see her before school started either…”

Mlle. Bustier sighed. “Hopefully she’s just running late and won’t be adding another absentee mark to her tally.” She glanced up when there was a polite knock on the door before the door was opened.

A young girl, wearing a red leather jacket over a dark grey romper and light grey tights walked in confidently.

“Ah,” Mlle. Bustier looked at the tablet once more to be certain she had the correct pronunciation, then put the tablet down. “Class, I would like everyone to welcome Lila Rossi, a transfer student from Italy. Daughter of-”

“The Italian Diplomats, we’ll be here in Paris for… oh a few months as things are sorted out at various diplomatic functions,” Lila said calmly with a faint smile. “You know how it is.”

Mlle. Bustier smiled and waved a hand at the empty desk where Mylène (currently seated beside Ivan) and Alix (currently seated beside Nathanaël) usually sat. “Why don’t you take a seat there, Lila? You’ll be working on the term project with Marinette and Sabrina. Sabrina, would you mind sitting with Lila, at least for a few days, to get her up to speed on the project?”

“Of course, Mademoiselle,” Sabrina said, getting to her feet and grabbing her bag, moving back one row while Lila confidently strolled up to sit beside her, putting her bookbag on the floor beside her and her purse on the table.

“Alright, now that that is sorted, let us begin.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Spy ducked behind a chimney, then waited for Ladybug to move past before leaping after her, grappling with her, grabbing her wrists and slamming her up against the chimney. Chat Noir was still several rooftops away, if Spy could get Ladybug out of the fight, even temporarily, that could let him deal with Chat Noir.

Keeping this fight ‘one on one’ as much as possible was his only chance in this.

Ladybug growled and braced with her feet, managing to shove away from the chimney, dragging one hand down to shove at Spy’s chin, trying to force him off balance as they twisted around, first Spy then Ladybug slammed up against the chimney wall. Ladybug managed to twist her left hand down, despite Spy’s grip on her wrist, and grabbed her yoyo off her hip. Spy braced his feet and as she tried to throw the yoyo at him, he twisted them both around, making the yoyo go wild-

And in a spot of unexpected luck for Spy, it went flying right into Chat Noir’s chest, hitting the hero in the chest with a solid, painful sounding, THUMP… and with a cut off yelp the black clad hero went flying backwards and down, out of sight. A long moment later, there was another thump as Chat Noir hit the ground below.

Ladybug’s face twisted up in a wince. “SORRY, CHAT NOIR!”

No answer. Well, neither Spy or Papillon wanted the kid DEAD (especially if Chat Noir was who Papillon suspected him of being), so hopefully he’d only been stunned. BUT this did give Spy a FEW moments of solo combat time.

He took advantage of Ladybug being off balance and forced her to drop her arms near her hips, then leaned back and KICKED her back into the chimney with all the strength he could muster.

Bricks, dust and soot flew into the air in a thick cloud, then Ladybug bulldozed out of the cloud, and while she failed to hit him squarely, she still clipped him with her shoulder, sending him sailing back to smack into another chimney. Spy grunted as he hit and fell to the floor, and barely managed to roll out of the way when Ladybug closed the gap, stomping down HARD on the ground, missing Spy’s back by mere centimeters, and landing firmly on his hand, making something in his hand snap, which made him cry out despite himself.

Ladybug lashed out with a foot at the cry of pain and caught Spy in the ribs, sending him skittering over the roof.

Ladybug raced after him, going for another stomp, although this time she missed entirely, too far to the right to hit Spy.

Spy got his feet under him and lunged up, catching Ladybug’s stomach with his shoulder, sending her reeling back as Spy danced to the side, carefully checking his hand.

Damn and blast, broken.

“You’re in quite the mood, mademoiselle,” he said, before carefully continuing his sideways motion.

Ladybug coughed, scowling as she began to spin her yoyo, looking around and trying to figure out where Spy was. “And why shouldn’t I be? Do you have any idea how EARLY it is?!”

“You broke my hand,” Spy pointed out in a conversational tone.

“YOU BROKE MY CHAT!” Ladybug snapped, sending her yoyo out towards the spot Spy had been in not a moment before in a vicious strike.

Spy ducked behind the chimney he’d kicked Ladybug into, then knelt down low. “Well, far be it from me to keep you from checking on your partner. Let’s have a raincheck. Sometime next week, Sunday perhaps, sound good to you?”

The yoyo wrapped around the chimney, mere millimeters above his head.

“You know, it’s been a few minutes and nary a word from your Chat Noir. Probably best to check on him.”

There was silence, then a surprisingly strong – and long – series of curses, especially given how rarely Ladybug was known to curse, and the blushes she tended to get when others cursed. The yoyo retracted and Spy heard Ladybug dashing off and jumping off the rooftop.

Spy pushed himself to his feet and ran. While he had a CHANCE of defeating the duo in one on one combat, it was still in his best efforts to simply LEAVE and wait for the duo to lower their guard at a later date. After all, simply standing-down only to let Papillon re-Akumatize him later was always valid option.

He stopped for one moment to glance over the edge of the roof and look down onto the street. Hmm, Ladybug seemed worried, but not MASSIVELY so, and Chat Noir seemed to be moving (if sluggishly) so Chat Noir was not dead at least. Spy leapt across the gap to the next roof and winced as his vision went white for a moment.

Ah. Yes, that was definitely a broken hand. That hurt QUITE a bit…

He closed his eyes. ‘Papillon,’ he thought, making the thought as ‘loud and clear’ as he could as he began to walk up the roof to it’s peak, then began to move along the top towards the next roof, trying not to jar his hand.

There was a minute of silence, broken only by Ladybug summoning a Lucky Charm in the street below and behind him, and then-

~Spy?~

~I’ve been found out. I’ll be trying to work my way clear, but they have discovered me. The plan cannot proceed as it has been.~

~Hm, no it cannot… Do you wish to stand down or would you prefer to try to fight?~

~Fight and retreat if I can, stand down if that does not work. But first… you should know, and see, what happened on the roof of the school.~

Papillon was silent as Spy went over his memory of the initial confrontation, as he carefully leapt to the next rooftop, not even letting himself be distracted by the Miraculous Restoration bursting up over the rooftop and coiling around him for a moment, although he did flex his no longer broken hand in relief.

~Huh. Most interesting. If I were you, however-~

Chat Noir and Ladybug leapt up onto the roof Spy had just vacated, Chat Noir’s ears twitching, one of them swinging back to track Spy before Chat Noir turned around, green eyes narrowing as he saw the glowing Mark of Papillon.

~I would run.~

Chapter Text

“Darn it, how did we manage to lose him?” Ladybug demanded, hands on her hips as she glared around at the rooftops of Paris.

“He can go invisible, and he’s good at being quiet,” Chat Noir said in a distracted tone where he sat on his heels by Ladybug's side, his eyes closed and cat-ears twitching and rotating as he searched for any sign of Spy.

“Yeah, but still.”

“And we lost him initially cause of the whole not on the rooftops thing, and you had to go let your kwami recharge,” Chat said. “…Which I’m still sorry about.”

“Not your fault I nailed you with my yoyo, Chat.”

“Still sorry.”

“Don’t be. We’ll sort it out, don’t worry,” Ladybug promised, running her fingers through Chat’s hair, which made him smile and purr softly. “You just focus on finding Spy again.”

“Got it, my Lady.”

Ladybug pulled her yoyo off her hip while Chat carefully listened, trying to pick up Spy again. They’d lost him almost immediately after Ladybug had used the Restoration to heal Chat Noir, as they’d had to stop chasing Spy since Ladybug had needed to step off to the side for a while to let Tikki eat and recharge (although THIS TIME Marinette had had cookies in her purse, PROGRESS!) and Chat Noir hadn’t wanted to head off solo, worried that Ladybug calling him to find out where he was would give Chat’s location away to Spy.

Ladybug scowled at the time on her yoyo’s screen once she slid it open. Ugh, how was it 10:10 ALREADY? They’d really spent more than two hours on this mess? …Although this DID mean that she hadn’t had French or Maths today, and no group project time with Sabrina in French! …Maybe if they beat Spy before Lunch time she could just… take her time getting home, skip Foreign Language 2, not have to suffer through seeing Adrien and Nathanaël apparently working okay with CHLOÉ…

…That sounded like a nice plan, actually. PE would likely be fun today, and she was working with Alya for her Music project, and with Kim for Foreign Language 1 (who knew Kim was so good at English? Marinette certainly hadn’t!). That would let her miss most of what she DIDN’T like today, and would make up for having to have woken up early… and also for the scare Chat had given her earlier.

Chat Noir’s head snapped up and around suddenly, both cat-ears swiveling forward sharply, then he was on his feet and running. Ladybug slid her yoyo closed, keeping it in hand and ready to use as she kept pace, the duo racing south over the rooftops of Paris.

“So?” Ladybug asked as they leapt over a street, both making use of their magical items to get just a bit more lift, just a bit more distance.

“Building up ahead. He just opened a window and went inside, became visible again too, I heard the shimmer.”

“…Shimmering has a sound?”

“…Um. Yes? Anyway, he became visible again. Last time he did that was about an hour ago, so maybe the being invisible thing only lasts for an hour then he has to, I dunno, recharge?”

Ladybug nodded as they kept running. “Makes sense. Hit hard and fast?”

“I like that plan, my Lady,” Chat said with a vicious little smile. “I want this matter FINISHED. Do you remember the story we came up with?”

“I do. Not sure we can add to it without it being obvious, but we CAN make certain that we don’t contradict it.”

Chat smiled and sped up slightly, taking the lead. Ladybug fell in behind him, following as he leapt across a narrow road, flipping in midair to crash through a window feet-first, landing in the room in a controlled tumble.

Ladybug landed in the room and started spinning her yoyo, watching as Chat Noir came out of his roll and lunged across the room towards a very startled looking man in a white tux.

Huh, so he HAD gone visible again. Ladybug was going to have to listen if or when Spy went invisible again for the ‘shimmer’ sound. Ladybug held back for the moment, letting Chat deal with Spy. Her partner had had a very stressful time lately, especially since he was so certain Spy had been tailing his civilian self. Be that true or not, Chat THOUGHT it was and had – as a result – been freaked out at best for the last few days.

Best to let Chat Noir let some pressure off. If he needed her, she was here after all, and Chat was just as competent a fighter as Ladybug.

Chat, for his part, hit Spy in a flat tackle, slamming the man back into the wall.

Spy recovered quickly from his shock, fisting his hands together and slamming them down onto Chat Noir’s back, making the lean hero grunt, but not making him let go as Chat grappled with Spy the two twisting and skittering across the room, first one then the other hitting the wall. Ladybug watched and waited, yoyo in hand and ready.

Spy managed to grab a hold of Chat’s belt and, after a second to brace, threw the black-clad hero across the room. Ladybug leapt forward as Chat skidded across the floor, snapping her yoyo out to try and lasso Spy-

Who ducked under the strike, dropping onto his back and lashing out with one foot, catching Ladybug in the stomach and sending her staggering back, winded. Spy rolled back to his feet and swung his fist around, aiming a blow for Ladybug’s head, only to have Chat Noir grab his wrist, using it to toss Spy to the side before he threw a punch of his own at the akumatized man with a snarl. The two exchanged a rapid flurry of blows before Spy ducked under a roundhouse punch and danced to the side, away from both Ladybug and Chat Noir.

“Hey, Ladybug,” Chat offered suddenly in a surprisingly chipper tone. “Do you know which spy is the best at swimming?”

Spy blinked and looked to Ladybug, who was face-palming as she asked, with a soft groan, “No, Chat, who?”

“Is this really the time?” Spy asked.

“James Pond!” Chat chirped.

“REALLY?” Ladybug demanded.

“Aw, come on! What spy hangs the most photos?”

Ladybug ignored Chat Noir and leapt at Spy, who rolled under her and came up lightly on his feet, jumping over Chat Noir’s baton as the black clad hero tried to sweep Spy’s feet out form under him.

“Come on, it’s a good one! What spy hangs the most photos?!”

Ladybug groaned. “I don’t know, Chat. Who?”

Frames Bond!”

Ladybug sighed as Chat came up to her side and the two of them circled the room, Spy moving slowly and carefully opposite them, waiting for the next attack to start.

“Well, you’re in a better mood.”

“Finally getting to deal with the problem is always a good mood improver,” Chat said with a shrug. “…Hey, so what spy-”

“…Do I even want to know how many of those you have?” Ladybug asked.

Chat shrugged… and then leapt across the room at Spy in a rapid fire series of kicks, Ladybug rushing up behind him, trying to land a solid enough strike on Spy to finish the fight.

Spy, however, was swift and sure-footed, and managed to drop into a backwards roll that put him on the opposite side of the room from the duo again.

“So, what spy plays the most monopoly?” Chat asked in a conversational tone, slowly spinning his baton with one hand, stepping sideways slowly, ears twitching as he kept track of Spy.

Ladybug sighed. There was no help for it when Chat Noir got in a pun mood. …and odds were high that he was actually doing it to keep Spy off guard – if she wanted to be honest with herself – so she might as well play along. “I don’t know, Chat, who?”

Games Bond!” Chat stopped spinning his baton and let it extend out sharply so that it thunked into the door to the room, keeping it closed even as Spy made a dash towards it. “Ah ah ah… it’s rude to leave without exchanging good-byes.” He smirked, head slowly turning as Spy moved away from the door, and the trio went back to their slow, careful, circling. “So, what spy is the most magical?”

Ladybug started to open her mouth to ask, then paused, thinking. “James Wand?”

Chat blinked, opened and closed his mouth, blinked again, and then turned to stare at Ladybug with delighted eyes. “Yes!”

…She was never going to get him to stop the puns now, augh.

“I’ll have you know I’m FRENCH,” Spy grumbled, eyes narrowed as he glared at Chat Noir.

Chat just smirked and leapt across the room at Spy, slamming into the distracted Champion. The two grappled for a moment. Spy tried to twist free, but lost his balance and they hit one of the windows making the glass craze with cracks.

They struggled, twisting and turning too tightly for Ladybug to hit Spy with her yoyo without risking hitting Chat Noir... and then they hit the glass again-

And this time it shattered.

Chat hit first and fell through, eyes wide in shock, losing his grip on Spy as he fell.

Spy, for his part, shoved away from Chat Noir and leapt, clearing the street to land on the rooftops across the street, even as Ladybug’s yoyo lanced out, catching Chat Noir around the chest and pulling him back into the room, where Chat stumbled forward, only being stopped from falling flat on his face by Ladybug catching and balancing him. Both turned to stare at Spy, who’s jaw clenched before the white-tuxed man turned and ran off.

“Still visible. Must be a cool down period,” Ladybug muttered.

Chat nodded and then glanced sideways at Ladybug. “Soooooo…”

Ladybug glanced at Chat, frowning faintly. “So what?”

“So, why did the Spy cross the road?”

Ladybug’s face shut down. “REALLY?”

Chat snickered and leapt after Ladybug as she jumped to the rooftops, ears twitching before he spotted Spy and took off in pursuit, Ladybug at his side. “No, but really,” he offered in a conversational tone, “Why did the Spy cross the road?”

Ladybug groaned as she flipped neatly over a chimney. “I don’t know, Chat, why?”

“Because he was never really on your side!!”

Chapter Text

Spy’s ‘cool down’ period ended up being shorter than Ladybug would have liked.

Less than five minutes into the chase, Spy went invisible again in a shower of red, blue and white sparks, and Ladybug was certain that they were about to start ANOTHER two hours of hunting.

But Chat Noir just smirked and leapt sharply to the side, hitting the now invisible Spy and slamming him to the rooftop. “You’re very noisy, for a spy!” Chat chirped, struggling with the ‘empty air’.

Spy (apparently) managed to get to his feet, and he and Chat Noir twisted and struggled on the slope of the roof. Chat took a blow and staggered back, almost falling off the roof before he lashed out with one hand, apparently managing to grab Spy by the arm as he was yanked back to the peak of the roof. They grappled, twisting and shoving on the narrow space of the roof’s peak, Chat yelped, his arms suddenly pinned down to his side and nearly lifted of his feet for a moment and Ladybug started to run over the help, then froze, staring down the road.

Le Grande Paris loomed up ahead.

The sliding cover of its pool cover glinting in the sun, at the moment slid back, the pool uncovered.

Ladybug smirked. “Chat!” she pointed towards the hotel when Chat Noir looked over his shoulder at her, still trying to get free. Chat blinked and looked where she was pointing, then yelped as Spy apparently used Chat’s distraction to yank him off his feet, lunging forward to try and slam Chat into the chimney in front of them.

Chat managed to hike one leg up and stopped himself from being smashed into the chimney, then pushed off the brickwork, making Spy stagger backwards.

“Okay, no clue why you want us on the hotel roof, but-!” Chat shoved his left hand behind his back and managed to grab his baton, pulling it free and twisting it even as he grimly grabbed the empty air in front of his chest (or more accurately, Spy’s invisible arms), he twisted his head around, and Ladybug could see him calculating the distance and angles. “If that is what you wish!”

The baton extended.

“The pool, Chat!” Ladybug shouted as Chat (and she would assume Spy) arced up into the sky… and then down towards the hotel. She looped her yoyo over two chimneys and leapt onto the string, her weight making the string sink and strain. “Land in the pool!” Ladybug tugged and the yoyo’s string went taunt, launching Ladybug after Chat Noir and the invisible Spy.

Chat twisted and kicked, grappling with empty air as Spy apparently tried to get free, throwing punches and kicking out… and if the way he jerked about was anything to go by, took a few hits himself… and then they both smashed into the shallow end of the pool.

Ladybug used her yoyo in a helicopter spin and landed lightly beside the pool, her smirk deepening as she saw that she could clearly see where Spy was in the water, still see through, but it was like a giant – very detailed – bubble… hollow space in water created shimmer and shadows, making Spy very easy to see.

Well, THIS matter was sorted! She’d even be willing to bet that it’d be easy to see Spy once he got OUT of the water since he’d still be soaked!

In the water, both Chat Noir and Spy corrected themselves and Chat smirked, a burst of bubbles escaping him when he saw Spy’s shape in the water. Bracing with one foot, Chat pushed himself up to the surface and smiled as he made a flopping half-lunge, half-belly flop towards Spy.

…Granted she still had no idea what his akumatized item was.

Ladybug paused, biting her lip, as THAT thought occurred to her, hesitating on the roof as Chat and Spy battled in the pool, water sloshing and surging as first one then the other were dunked under the water, then struggled their way back up to the surface before dunking the other.

…oh gosh darn it, and it’d be pretty much impossible to figure it out while he was INVISIBLE, even with the water helping.

“Chat, I need to check-” Ladybug started, then paused when Chat got dunked again. “-I need to check images for the Talisman!” she finished when Chat managed to surged to the surface, shaking his head and leaping out of the water to slam into Spy in a koala hug, sending both smashing back under the water. Ladybug waited again until Spy stood up, Chat perched on his shoulders, legs flailing as he tried to over-balance Spy and send them tipping back into the water. “You got this?”

Chat gave her a thumbs-up and then yelped as Spy grabbed him by the bell, both going under water again.

…Normally, Ladybug would be more concerned but… well, they could see Spy now, Ladybug was RIGHT HERE to step in if needed, and…

Well, it was the SHALLOW END. The water was chest high on Chat Noir. She wasn’t THAT worried.

Ladybug pulled up the video Alya had posted to the Ladyblog of Spy, fast-forwarding through the video and zooming in on Spy in every image where the man could be seen, glancing up occasionally to make certain that Chat hadn’t gotten himself into trouble.

Okay, okay… could it be the tux itself?

Maybe, but Chat had dug his claws into the man a few times already, and usually any damage would be enough to force the akuma to abandon the talisman, so, probably not. Probably not the blue undershirt either, or the shoes either, for the same reasons… So what-

Oh.

Wait.

Ladybug slid her yoyo closed and leapt into the pool, landing piggyback style on Spy’s shoulders, sending the man forward to smash into Chat, and the whole lot of them dunked into the water.

Ladybug kept a tight grip on Spy with her legs, grabbing at his chest. Chat realized what she was doing and grabbed Spy’s hands, forcing them down to Spy’s side, bearhugging the man to keep them pinned and out of Ladybug’s way, holding his breath as he did his best to keep himself and Spy underwater, while staying close enough to the surface that Ladybug’s head stayed above the surface.

“Just a second, just a *cough* wrong pipe! *cough* second, I just…. GOT IT!”

Ladybug ripped the (currently invisible) red rose from Spy’s lapel and threw herself off Spy, half running and half swimming to the pool’s stairs with her prize, scrambling out to stand on the roof, ripping the rose petals off the steam in a vicious flurry.

The petals faded from clear to red as they fluttered, tattered and torn, to the ground… one of the ‘petals’ unfolded, fading from clear to blue tipped with white. Long, sharp edged wings fluttered and the akuma raced skywards even as purple and black boiled around Spy, Chat letting the man go and standing up, coughing even as he grabbed the former Champion and dragged him towards the steps.

Ladybug slid her finger over the top of her yoyo, opening it up and letting it drop before spinning it up to speed, shaking the water out of her eyes as she tracked the fleeing akuma.

“No, you don’t, little akuma!”

Ladybug swung her yoyo around, snagging the fleeing akuma and reeling the yoyo back to her hand. “Gotcha!”

Ladybug tapped the central spot and watched the now purified akuma race away. There. That should buy them a little while before Papillon could find another sneaky stealthy Champion. That bought them time to plan, she was certain.

Although… Spy had been akumatized nearly two weeks ago. Soldier was nearly a week past. …Papillion COULD akumatize someone soon, could even akumatize someone today if he wanted. Best to be on guard.

A white towel suddenly was draped over her head.

Ladybug yelped and dragged it off, and turned to find Chat smiling at her, a towel draped over his shoulders. He hooked a thumb over his shoulder, where an old man in average clothing was sitting on one of the pool chairs, dazedly drying himself off.

“Former-Spy’s all settled, my Lady. I thought you might want to dry off before we headed off… or maybe you’d like some help drying off?” the last was said with a broad smile and raised eyebrows.

Ladybug groaned and shoved Chat back by his nose, making him snicker. “Yeah, right, Minou.” Ladybug toweled her hair and then scrubbed at her suit, getting at least most of the water out. She looked around, judging the after effects of the battle.

Let’s see there were the two broken windows way back… where-ever. …They hadn’t damaged the walls or floor at all there. The chimney and rooftop where they’d sparred for a moment hadn’t been damaged… They’d landed in the pool and hadn’t damaged anything HERE… and the Miraculous Restoration would have sorted any and all damage Spy had done BEFORE today.

So…

Huh, no need to summon Lucky Charm and the Restoration. Nice.

Chat finished getting himself mostly dry, and Ladybug snickered at seeing his hair stick up in every direction thanks to his enthusiastic toweling of it even as Chat pulled his baton off of his back and slid it open.

“Oh, nice, it’s only 10:30! If I hurry I can get to class on time!”

Ladybug snorted a laugh. “Why would you want to?”

Chat pouted. “School’s great!”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Is so. I worked very hard to be able to go to school! It’s the best!”

Ladybug sighed. “You are a weird one, Minou.”

Chat Noir just shrugged.

“BUT, since I likely can’t make you realize how wrong you are in the few minutes we’ve got… go on, shoo. I’ll make sure the Champion is settled and take care of.”

Chat took a step back. “If you’re sure, my Lady?”

“I’m positive.” This DEFINITELY would give her an excuse to wait until Lunch before going back to school. Instant win!

“Alright. Then until I see you again, my Sun, my Moon, my Stars, my Heart.”

And with that and a goofily gallant bow, Chat Noir leapt off the rooftop of Le Grande Paris.

Chapter Text

“I hate this plan.”

Adrien scowled at Plagg, throwing a wadded-up piece of paper at the kwami, who simply ate it in a single snap. “You didn’t even let me finish telling you the plan!”

“Which should tell you how bad a plan it is.”

“It’s a good plan! It solves every problem and no one is gonna be in danger from it!”

“Oh, so you’re Odysseus now?”

Adrien groaned. “Plagg, I’m not gonna be in danger from this!”

“You THINK. …Actually, no, you don’t think. It’s a stupid plan.”

Adrien growled. “Okay fine. And what plan have YOU come up with?”

Plagg’s scowl deepened to match Adrien’s and the black kwami flopped to lay on top of Adrien’s central computer monitor, glaring at the wall.

“You haven’t, have you? …I’ll bet Ladybug’s kwami hasn’t either.”

Plagg’s ears flattened to his head and his tail began to lash.

“Plagg. I’ve been working on this for almost a full week. I’m good at planning stuff, when I have time to do it. It’ll work. It’ll fool Papillon, it’ll fool Père, it’ll fool everyone.”

“You realize that doing this means Chat Noir will have to lie to Ladybug.”

Adrien’s jaw clenched. “Not if the plan works right.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Plagg asked, turning his head to stare at Adrien.

“If it doesn’t… it…” Adrien let his breath out in a gust and set his jaw. “I never lied to Ladybug. I never will.”

“You lied about her.”

“Once. And I learned my lesson, I won’t do it again. I won’t lie to Ladybug.”

Plagg’s tail slowly coiled back and forth. “Fine. We’ll try your stupid plan. Where’s the stuff you’ll need?”

“Are you sure you can get them to work right with the transformation?”

“Oh, yeah, that part’ll be easy.”

“Okay, good. They’ll be in her closet, probably on or near the floor.”

Plagg nodded and raced off, phasing through the window.

Adrien took a slow breath in, held it, then let it out. “This will work. It will.”

Getting to his feet, he headed out of his room to go eat lunch.

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Marinette sat on a park bench, eating a sandwich and swinging her legs as she carefully thought over everything. In her purse, Tikki was happily munching her way through a pair of chocolate chip cookies, the last ones she’d had stored in her purse.

Had to remember to stop off at home before going to school and grab three or so more cookies and put them in a ziptop baggy so Tikki could recharge without Marinette needing to frantically hunt for supplies.

Marinette took a huge bite of her sandwich and went back to swinging her legs as she watched people walk through the park.

Spy, or Malko de Villiers to use his real name, had been akumatized for almost two whole weeks, the longest time anyone had spent akumatized, so far as Marinette knew. The only one who had come close, thus far, was Invisible Girl, as Sabrina had been akumatized for a few days.

He had, naturally, been extremely disoriented. Ladybug had stayed with him for more than an hour, explaining what had happened and where they were, and had even let him use her yoyo to call friends and family to let them know that he was alright.

Once that had been sorted, Ladybug had asked M. de Villiers what he could remember – the answer had been both shocking and, in a way, terrifying.

Malko de Villiers was a retired spy. Like, actual, real life spy. Marinette hadn’t know that spies were a THING outside of movies and books. M. de Villiers had assured her that they were real, although not very much like fiction showed it to be. Something in the way he’d talked about it had made Ladybug decide… not to ask too closely what being a Spy had been like in real life. Malko had served France for years before retiring, and had been living a calm, quiet life in Boulogne-Billancourt…

Until one day, about two weeks ago, while he’d been in a rage after some hoodlums had destroyed his beloved rose bushes… a black butterfly had fluttered down to land on – and phase into – the rose he’d been holding, and Papillon had made him an offer.

And the offer was, in its own way, terrifying.

Watch and follow Chat Noir. Watch and follow the person Papillon thought was Chat Noir’s civilian self.

Don’t hurt anyone, don’t kill anyone, don’t even try to get the Miraculi…

Just….

Watch and follow.

Papillon was, without a doubt, changing the status quo.

And Marinette had no idea what to do.

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Adrien ran down the stairs, mentally going over his plan for the rest of the day. Get to school, find Alya and Nino and fill them in on his plan, get the last few pieces into place, sign the weekly waiver that let him go to the gym for his fencing class in place of Friday PE classes, then tomorrow put the plan into action and all would be-

“Of course you’re bothering me!”

Adrien skidded to a stop on the black and white marble floor and glanced to his right at his father’s atelier, surprised to see the door partially open. Usually his father worked with the doors tightly closed, hating even the thought of any possible breach in privacy. What was-

“I was working on a very important file!” Gabriel snapped, and Adrien saw him stalk past the half open door, cellphone in hand. That was unusual. While his father did have a temper, it was usually a much colder, controlled, fury. Outbursts like this were rare. Curious, Adrien snuck over to the door even as his father demanded to know what the poor soul on the receiving end of the call wanted.

Adrien craned his neck a bit to try and see what his father had been doing on the far side of the room… oh, window shades were drawn back, that was probably it… as Gabriel read the poor soul the riot act… apparently there was an issue with the designs for the start of Men's Fashion Week – augh, it was only a month away! And beyond that loomed Fashion Month in September... only three months away. He HAD to remember to talk to Natalie! She’d understand, she’d help Adrien get out of doing all FOUR weeks, he was mostly certai-!

Adrien’s thoughts tumbled to a disorganized halt, everything cluttering and tangling to a total blank stop, nothing coherent forming outside of a faint buzzing hum at the base of his skull as his father said… something… and walked up to the portrait of Adrien’s mom.

Which was… swung open, like it was a door. And behind that, built into the wall, was a safe.

He watched as his father put something – a book? – in the safe, slamming it closed before swinging the portrait back to hide the safe. Adrien still couldn’t get words to form in his mind, let alone full thoughts, everything tripping over everything else. His father turned and started walking straight towards Adrien, and the fact that his father was LEAVING his atelier and would – in one mere instant – discover Adrien finally cut through the chaos.

Adrien gasped and scrambled away, diving to hide behind one of the support pillars that framed the small seating area beside the central stairwell.

He edged out from behind it as his father walked past, stalking over towards the door to the dining area (probably to go eat his own lunch, as Gabriel tended to eat after Adrien). Adrien stared after him, then turned to look at the still open door of the atelier. He heard the door to the dining room open, then close… and he frowned as the chaos in his head settled down to things that were at least starting to make sense, one fact rising up above everything else.

“He has a safe behind Maman’s portrait?”

“Ohhhh, I love dirty secrets!” Plagg gloated, and Adrien heard the kwami following him as he headed into his father’s atelier, glancing to Natalie’s desk more out of habit than anything. He knew she was waiting in the limo for him, wanting to discuss the ‘severe allergy attack’ he’d had at school this morning – Nino and Alya’s excuse for Adrien missing the first two classes of the day.

Adrien walked up to the portrait of Mme. Agreste, done so very much in the style of Klimt’s iconic ‘Woman in Gold’ and slid his fencing bag off his shoulder, letting it drop to the ground by his feet before setting his jaw and walking forward, grabbing the portrait and pulling… And the heavy frame swung forward smoothly, soft-locking in place once it was perpendicular to the wall.

Adrien turned to stare at the safe with its high tech looking keypad lock, reaching towards it while Plagg spurred him on with a delighted, “Oh yes, go on, GO ON!”

How long had this safe been here? Had it only been installed recently, during the renovations his father had had done after Jackady had shown the weak-points in the mansion’s security? Had it been installed after Maman had… since last year? Or was it older than that, something that had been there all along and Adrien had never suspected?

What would the code be? Maman’s birthday? Père’s? Adrien’s birthday? …No it couldn’t be that, his father forgot every year and even Maman had forgotten half the time, as she had ‘never had a head for dates, I forget my own birthday every year Adrien!’

…was it the date that Maman had…

Adrien paused, jerking his hand away from the keyboard.

“No, I can’t,” Adrien muttered, grabbing the strap of his bookbag. “Père wouldn’t like me digging through his things!” He turned, and tried to smile when he saw Plagg’s accusatory glare. “In any case, I don’t know the code,” he turned the smile up a notch as Plagg continue to stare, rubbing the back of his head nervously. “-and I’ll be late for my fencing class!”

“You’re SUCH a party pooper,” Plagg said flatly, and promptly phased into the safe.

“Plagg, NO!” Adrien hissed, hands slamming to either side of the safe… just as the locks clicked and the safe popped open ever so slightly. Père was going to KILL HIM…

“My, my, what have we got in HERE?” Plagg said as Adrien opened the safe as quickly as he could, planning on grabbing the kwami and STUFFING HIM INTO A-

Everything derailed in Adrien’s head again the instant he opened the safe door and saw what was inside. There was… a tourist book and some scrolls and a leather bound notebook and a book and a paper that Plagg was looking at and a blue pin leaning against a picture of Maman…

“A book on Tibet, an old receipt from a hotel, a load of old JUNK,” Plagg complained, letting a small letter or flyer or SOMETHING official looking drop as he took to the air. “Come on, where’s the GOOD stuff?!” Plagg demanded, grabbing the heavy leather bound book and throwing it at Adrien, the tome hitting Adrien’s chest hard enough to make Adrien stagger back a stride, arms snapping up to catch it by instinct.

This was the book Père had been looking at and put in the safe when Adrien had looked into the atelier… it was the only book IN the safe after all.

Plagg raced around to hover by Adrien’s shoulder, and frowned suddenly, rubbing his chin. “I KNOW I’ve seen this book somewhere before…” Curious, Adrien opened the book up and found himself looking at a picture of… himself.

Or, no, a picture of another Black Cat, the outfit looking like something out of his favorite animes, a crisp, clear picture of the baton and the Black Cat Miraculous on the page opposite the portrait of the ancient Black Cat.

That… This wasn’t…

“Why does my father keep this book in a safe?!” Adrien demanded, turning the pages.

By his shoulder, Plagg groaned dramatically… then the kwami’s eyes narrowed sharply. He glanced down at Adrien and the book, then looked to the safe, then quickly checked Adrien again as the blond studied the pages showing the combined power of the Black Cat and Ladybug Miraculi… Plagg looked back to the safe with a glint in his eyes. “Oooo, shiny!” He darted back to the safe and grabbed the blue ‘fan’ pin, examining it. “I like shiny,” he said as Adrien ignored him, turning to the next page of the book.

“Papillon?!”

Plagg looked up from the pin and flew over, still carrying the ‘shiny’, landing on Adrien’s shoulder and idly examining the pin while Adrien tried to wrap his brain around what he was seeing.

“What is this monster doing in the middle of all these superheroes?”

The sharp click of the front door opening made both Adrien and Plagg gasp and look up. Adrien closed the book, clutching it to his chest as he heard at least one person walking over the black and white marble tiles of the foyer. Plagg gasped and darted to hide in Adrien’s fencing bag, still clutching his ‘shiny prize’ as Adrien went to put the book back in the safe-

And then froze.

No. No, he wanted to know what was in the book. He wanted to know WHY his father had it. He wanted… a lot of things, but UNDERSTANDING was at the top of that list. Adrien slammed the safe, then the portrait closed and dropped down by his fencing bag, stuffing the book under his fencing jacket and pants to hide it from view.

“Adrien, you are going to be late.”

“Ah… I had forgotten this here,” Adrien offered, stumbling over his lie as he held up his fencing mask, offering an awkward fake laugh as he stuffed the mask back into the bag and got to his feet, rubbing the back of his head. “How airheaded of me!”

Natalie raised her eyebrows, but said nothing else, and Adrien quickly scrambled out of the atelier, obediently falling in behind the two adults as they headed into the limo, Adrien and Natalie sitting together in the back while the Gorilla got behind the driver’s seat.

“Now, Adrien, what is this Chloé told me about you not having your cetirizine with you?” Natalie asked, looking down at her tablet with a frown.

Adrien offered a hesitant laugh, and scrambled to think up an excuse.

In Adrien’s fencing bag, Plagg sat silently, staring back and forth between the last surviving manuscript of the Guardians of the Miraculous and the Peacock Pin…

Nearly two centuries.

Nearly two centuries since that night of mistakes, betrayal, fire, and death…

And now…

All three of them, all in Paris…

What was going on?