Queen Bee flies to the Louvre faster than she's flown in a long time, thoughts focused on saving Nath and pointedly not on the fact that he's in trouble again. She lands on a rooftop a little away from the museum to see Chat Noir and Ladybug fighting what seems to be three clones of one akuma.
Great. It can replicate itself. Well, if the akuma is distracted by Chat and LB, then... maybe she can get past him to the hostages? Flying around, dipping behind rooftops and chimneys to stay hidden, Queen Bee slips into the Louvre entrance, flying immediately down the stairs.
The museum is empty - most of the patrons have fled, save the ones trapped - but she can hear soft voices coming from the left. She flies in that direction carefully and quietly, feet inches above the ground to keep herself silent.
She ducks behind an art installation when she spots people. Behind the doorway a few feet ahead are the twenty or so hostages, sitting on the floor, huddled together, including a very familiar mop of red hair. Nath.
And in the way, guarding the doorway, is at least one copy of an akuma that can multiply at will. Great. This’ll go fine.
Steeling herself and curling her hands into fists, she jumps out, flying forward. The akuma copy doesn’t react to her appearance, giving her a chance to swoop in and sock him in the jaw.
The distracted akuma is knocked aside by the blow and he sits him slowly, rubbing his jaw.
“Didn’t anyone ever teach you it’s not nice to kidnap people?” she chides, landing smoothly on the ground and walking towards him, arms crossed.
The akuma smirks. “And here everyone was saying you gave up on Paris! Shame, you really should.”
Queenie doesn’t flinch – but just barely. “Let’s just get this over with.” She cracks her knuckles, stepping forward and spreading her wings behind her.
Chat spots Ladybug diving behind an overturned car, holding a spotted item in her hands that he can't quite make out. Knocking one of the akuma copies aside, he dashes over, vaulting behind the car as well and landing beside her. His eyes fall on the item she's staring at, and he blinks. "A frying pan?"
"I don't know!" Ladybug snaps, before taking a breath. "Sorry, I – what the heck do I do with a frying pan?"
"Rapunzel smash?" Chat offers helpfully.
Ladybug sighs. "I think you're mixing up your pop culture references again." She sighs. "Any sign of Queenie?"
Chat frowns and shakes his head.
Ladybug bites her lip. "Alright, it's just us, then. We need to get back out there." She glances back at the frying pan.
"You'll figure it out," Chat assures her, following her gaze. "And quickly, hopefully, since you've got less than five minutes. Shout if you get an idea."
Ladybug nods, and the two of them whirl back around the car in opposite directions, heading towards the three akuma copies with a frying pan and no plan at all.
Chat Noir rounds on the copies as Ladybug sends her yo-yo out to wrap around the main akuma and pull him towards her, separating them.
"You tried that already," the akuma chides. "You can't hold me."
His necklace starts to glow and he separates again, leaving Ladybug staring down two copies instead of one. She curses under her breath, calling her yo-yo back and diving away from a blast from one of them. She's seconds away from just throwing the frying pan at them and hoping for the best when suddenly the akuma and his copies stop in place.
Chat Noir skids to a stop, blinking and glancing at Ladybug, who stands up cautiously, stepping towards the frozen akuma. She reaches out to grab his necklace, but the akuma dissolves, disappearing along with his three copies.
"What just happened?" Chat runs over to her, thrown for a loop. "Were they all copies? Where's the real one?"
Ladybug glances at the unused frying pan in her hands for a second, processing, and stiffens as she realizes. "The hostages!"
Chat curses. "He didn't leave a copy with them, he stayed there himself," he realizes, as Ladybug's earrings beep. “I’ve got them, go recharge!”
Ladybug swallows and nods, running off as Chat takes off for the Louvre entrance.
Queen Bee vs. one akuma clone had felt fair. Queen Bee vs. two akuma clones had felt less fair. Queen Bee vs. three of them was annoying.
Queen Bee vs four copies of the same akuma is just unnecessary.
She jumps up so she’s hovering above the four akuma copies and thinks through her options. Her only area-of-effect attack is something she cannot use right now – not with the hostages so close, and she—
Her thoughts are cut off by a shout of, “Cataclysm!” Black energy shoots down the hallway, collapsing the floor underneath the akuma and his clones and causing them all to crash to the floor below.
“Y’alright, Queenie?” Chat asks, hopping along the edges of the non-collapsed floor to reach her.
She lets out a breath and nods carefully. “Thanks.”
He winks with a grin. “Can you fly the hostages out of here? LB just went to recharge, she’ll be here soon.”
Queen Bee swivels so she can see the hostages, trapped now that Chat has destroyed the floor, and barely nods in agreement before Chat’s jumping down after the akuma.
“Okay,” Queenie says, taking a deep breath. “Let’s get you all out of here.”
Ladybug runs into the Louvre what feels like ages later and skids to a stop when Mylène runs out of a side hall.
“Mylène!” she shouts, her classmate pausing to turn. “Are you okay? The other hostages – Nathaniel?”
“We’re all fine,” Mylène promises. “Queen Bee got us out but then she flew off with Nath.”
Queenie is – was – here, she just went for the hostages. She took Nath? Shaking that thought away – she’d deal with it later – she nods. “Thanks. Get to safety, Ivan’s waiting for you.”
Mylène smiles at that and resumes hurrying for the exit as Ladybug races further into the Louvre.
Queenie’s nowhere to be found, but Ladybug follows the trail of destruction – the floor, Chat, really? – to her boyfriend just as his ring beeps out a two minute warning.
“M’lady,” he greets, breathing heavily.
She smiles fondly. “My turn – go recharge.”
He winks at her, “Back in a flash,” and dashes off towards a different room as Ladybug rounds on the tiring akuma.
“So, ready to give up yet?” she asks with a smirk, hands on her hips.
Queen Bee lands smoothly on a rooftop a black away from the Louvre and lets go of Nath, taking a step away from him.
“Thanks for the save,” he offers awkwardly.
Queen Bee bites her lip, hands tight at her sides. “That’s all you have to say, really?”
Nath blinks, “What?”
“You keep putting yourself in danger!” she snaps at him, taking a shaky breath to try and calm down.
“Excuse me?” Nath turns on her. “It’s not like I seek out danger, but it seems like being in danger is the only way for me to see you, since you’re avoiding me,” Nath snaps back at her.
Queenie flinches, and Nath swallows, sighing.
“Sorry, I… I didn’t mean that,” he runs a hand through his hair. “I just wanted to apologize to you.”
Queen Bee’s eyes widen at that. “Apologize? What the hell could you possible think you need to apologize for?”
“For not listening—” Nath starts, but Queen Bee cuts him off.
“Nathaniel, you’re not even a little at fault here. I didn’t check that you were safe. I ran in head first and you suffered for it.”
“You trusted me to get myself to safety, and I didn’t listen, QB—”
“I killed you!” Queen Bee snaps, and Nath falters. “Nath, you were dead. I hit you with my stupid electricity attack and your heart stopped.”
“It doesn’t—” Nath tries.
“Don’t you dare,” Queen Bee cuts him off. “I don’t care that the cure fixed it and brought you back to life, you’re going to live with his forever because of me. I don’t deserve to be a hero, I couldn’t even keep my idiot friend alive.”
With that, Queen Bee whirls around and flies away, leaving Nath on the rooftop, reeling.
Ladybug calls her second lucky charm of the day when Chat Noir returns from recharging, and the now-familiar and still-useless frying pan lands in her hands.
"I think I need to have a chat with Tikki about this," Ladybug says, glancing over at Chat as he smacks one of the akuma clones in the head with his baton and it vanishes, only to split from the main akuma again a moment later.
Frowning to herself, she glances back at the frying pan before gripping it tightly in one hand. "Well, Rapunzel smash, I guess," she mumbles, rushing forward and smacking the akuma she thinks is the actual one on the head.
He stumbles, crashing into the ground as the copies stutter and vanish.
"Huh." Ladybug mumbles when the akuma doesn't move, unconscious. "Did that just work?"
"Did you just... smack him with the frying pan?" Chat asks, staring.
"It was your idea." Ladybug reminds him.
"I was joking!" Chat insists, diving forward as the akuma starts to stir and snatching the necklace from around his neck, shattering it in one hand. "I can't believe that actually worked."
"I don't know what else Tikki expected me to do with a frying pan." Ladybug sighed as she captures the butterfly and purifies it, sending off the cure and fixing the mostly-destroyed Louvre.
"Well, hey – after a battle that annoying, I'll take it." Chat grins at her. "Ready to go?"
Ladybug's earrings beep out a two-minute warning in response, and his grin turns determined. "Let's get you out of here before people start coming back in."
They manage to make it out of the Louvre and to the relative privacy of a nearby alleyway before Ladybug's transformation falls, Chat catching Marinette as Marinette catches Tikki.
“Thanks,” she pants, leaning against him and opening her purse for the kwami to help herself to the cookie feast inside.
Chat nods, smiling fondly at her. “So, did you run into Queen Bee earlier?”
“No, but I ran into Mylene,” Marinette says, shifting so she isn’t leaning on him and stretching out her sore shoulders. “She said Queenie got all the hostages out but then took Nath.”
“Took Nath?” Chat blinks.
Marinette shrugs helplessly. “Maybe they’re finally talking.”
“Maybe…” Chat frowns. “Well, I’ve got a little while left before I need to recharge again, want a ride home?” he teases.
Marinette smiles. “Sure, thanks.” She climbs up onto his back with familiar ease, holding on tight as he launches himself into the air with his baton.
They’re passing a nearby roof when they spot a flash of familiar red and see Nath, alone and stuck on a rooftop, peering over the edge like he's trying to figure out a way down.
“Wait, Chat—” Mari says, pointing, and Chat detours, landing smoothly. Mari slides off his back and hurries over to her classmate. “Nath?”
He startles, turning and frowning when he sees them. “Oh - hey Marinette, Chat Noir.”
“What are you doing up here?” Chat asks, frowning. “Mylène said she saw you with Queen Bee.”
“Yeah.” Nath sighs. “She sort of left me here. I think I upset her.”
Marinette glances at Chat. “Can you help him down?”
“Yeah, of course.” Chat offers a hand and Nath hesitates before nodding and taking it. A minute later, all three of them are back on the street.
“Thanks,” Nath says, shoving his hands in his pockets.
Marinette smiles. “Come on, let’s go talk.” She nudges him lightly. “Chat, mind if I meet you back at my house later?”
Chat smiles and shakes his head, giving her a kiss on the cheek before vaulting away.
Nath watches him go, before shaking his head and beginning to walk, Marinette at his side. “I don’t know how you two manage it – when I first starting running into QB, I thought about you and Chat and figured, well, okay, maybe this can work. And yeah, it did for a while, but…”
“It’s hard,” Marinette admits. “Chat and I got lucky – he quickly became like family to me and my parents but I almost messed up everything and lost him.”
Nath frowns and glances over, but Marinette shakes her head. “It’s in the past and I’d rather not talk about it, but it was a very different situation. We got lucky,” she repeats. “But Queen Bee… I don’t know her that well, but she seems like a very complicated and private person.”
Nath nods. “She’s blaming herself for an accident that was my fault.”
“Her attack hitting you?” Marinette guesses. When Nath looks over, surprised, she offers a sympathetic smile. “Chat told me. He was worried about both of you.”
Nath sighs and nods. “I tried to apologize and she blew up at me about how it wasn’t my fault.”
“I mean… it wasn’t.” Marinette says, stopping to turn to him. “You know that, right?”
“It wasn’t her fault either—” Nath says, but Marinette cuts him off.
“No, you’re right. It was just a bad situation. Yes, you could have been more careful, and yes, she could have been more cautious, but neither of you is at fault.”
Nath hesitates. “You weren’t even there.”
“You’re right,” Marinette mumbles. “I wasn’t.”
They walk in silence for a minute, before Nath speaks up. “I’m just worried she’ll do something rash.”
Marinette quirks a smile at that. “You mean like stop being a hero almost entirely? She already did that.”
“Yeah…” Nath sighs.
“Chat and LB will find her and make sure she’s okay,” Marinette promises, pushing back thoughts about how well that worked last time. “But Nath?”
Nath glances at her.
“You have to forgive yourself. Just like she needs to forgive herself.” Marinette reaches over and squeezes his shoulder.
Nath pauses, but nods. “Yeah. Thanks, Mari.”
Marinette smiles. “Any time. You know where I live, you have my number. Just call if you want to talk.”
Nath manages a small smile at that. “Alright, thanks. I’ll do that.”
Queen Bee has been on Marinette’s balcony for almost an hour, pacing and sitting and crying and practically pulling her hair out, when the girl finally gets home and hears her. She peeks out, startled.
“Queenie?” Marinette asks carefully. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Queen Bee shudders. “I need to – I’m… I’m giving up my miraculous.”
“What?” Marinette’s eyes widen and she scrambles up onto the balcony. “No, you can’t, Queen Bee—”
“I don’t deserve it, I’m not a hero.” Queen Bee says, reaching up towards her hair comb, hands shaking. “I should have given it up weeks ago, but I’m a coward, and—”
“Queen Bee.” Marinette takes her hand and squeezes it, pulling it away from the miraculous in her hair. “Come inside. Let’s talk about this.”
Queen Bee lets Marinette lead her inside, sitting down on the edge of her chaise and playing with her gloves.
“Why so suddenly?” Marinette finally asks her, sitting down in her desk chair and pulling it closer to the chaise.
“It’s not sudden,” Queen Bee admits. “I’ve been thinking about it since I took it off the first time.”
“So, why now?” Marinette asks. “Paris needs you, Queenie.”
Why now? Why not a month ago, or before then? Why now?
So she can’t change her mind again.
“It doesn’t matter,” Queen Bee says, reaching up. “If I give it to you, can you pass it on to Chat Noir?”
“Queenie, wait, if you take it off, you’ll—”
She cuts Marinette off. “I know. I don’t care.” She yanks the comb out of her hair and shuts her eyes as yellow light flashes and Chloe is left sitting on Marinette’s chaise, holding a hair comb and a very tired Pollen.
“Chloe?” Pollen asks, realizing what’s happening. “Chloe, no, please – you do deserve this. I picked you!”
“You picked wrong, Pollen.” Chloe hands the comb to a staring, silent Marinette. “Just give it to Chat, okay?” When Marinette makes no move to take it, Chloe drops it in the girl’s lap, ignoring Pollen’s protests and wincing as they fall silent and the kwami vanishes.
Marinette picks it up carefully, finally speaking. “Chloe, she’s right. This is yours.”
“It stopped being mine the second Nath’s heart stopped beating,” Chloe says, standing up and brushing off her pants. “Thanks, Dupain-Cheng,” she mumbles, before climbing down the stairs out of Marinette’s room and leaving her miraculous behind.
She makes it to the street beside the bakery before she starts shaking, leaning against the wall and wiping away tears with one hand as she pulls out her phone with her other hand to call her driver for a ride home. Her thumb hovers over the call button but she doesn’t press it, eyes flying up as a flickering white and purple butterfly crosses her vision for just a split second.
No, no, she’s already been akumatised, she’s a—
No, she isn’t. She doesn’t have a miraculous, she just gave it up, she—
Her world floods with purple, and Chloe is gone.