Kagami took a deep breath and knocked on the Dupain-Cheng’s door. She shifted from foot to foot a little while she waited for an answer. She was nervous, she realized.
It was... odd. Kagami usually didn’t get nervous. Sometimes when her mother summoned her she felt a prickling almost like nerves, but that was all. Nervousness didn’t help anything, and she had no use for it.
Aside from when she fenced, Kagami always felt muted. Like she only half-felt her emotions, like there was a barrier between her and them, or like she was feeling the memory of an emotion rather than the emotion itself. The last time she let herself feel anger, she got akumatized for it.
Except when she was around Marinette. She always felt fully around Marinette. But why? Marinette and fencing — what did they have in common?
The door rattled, and Kagami heard the click of a lock turning. A short woman, shorter than even Kagami, with black hair and Marinette’s face answered the door.
She cocked her head to the side “Hello? Can I help you dear?”
“Ms Cheng? Good afternoon. I am Kagami Tsurugi. I believe Marinette is expecting me?”
The woman smiled warmly, and her resemblance to Marinette grew even more striking.
“Oh yes, Marinette said you’d be over. Next time feel free to come in through the bakery doors; I almost didn’t hear you knocking! And please, call me Sabine.”
Ms Cheng— Kagami couldn’t bring herself to address adults by their given names, it went against everything her mother drilled into her— opened the door, and Kagami crossed the threshold to find herself in a soothing blue stairwell. To the right she could see into the bakery. A large man who must have been Marinette’s father laughed along with a customer.
Ms Cheng gestured to the stairs. “Go on up to the third story and go through the door. There are another set of stairs that lead to Marinette’s room. She’s in the attic.”
“Thank you Ms Cheng.” Kagami bowed.
“Sabine,” she gently scolded.
“... Sabine,” Kagami forced herself to say.
Ms Cheng — Sabine — waved to her and went back into the bakery. Kagami climbed the stairs.
The door on the third floor led to a very pink living room. Every decoration, every pillow, every painting, lent to the comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. The entire Dupain-Cheng household was so colorful, unlike the stark white of Kagami’s house.
Kagami headed up the second set of stairs, and, after a moment of hesitation, knocked on the trap door.
“Come in,” came Marinette’s faint voice.
Kagami pushed the hatch open and took the last few steps into the room.
Marinette’s bedroom was a reflection of her. Pink and stylish and warm. Kagami couldn’t help but compare it to her own spartan room that she viewed as no more than a place to sleep and study. Was that a reflection of her?
Marinette was so feminine, but with an iron core. Her beauty and kindness belied her strength. The characteristics of the perfect woman, Kagami’s mother always said.
“Kagami! Hi, welcome.” Marinette bit her lip and made a sweeping gesture with her arm.
She was clearly nervous as well, and somehow that put Kagami at ease.
Both girls started, then laughed.
“You go first,” Kagami said.
“No, ah, you go first. You are the guest after all.” Marinette wrung her hands, her eyes fixed to the floor.
“No, I insist. We’re here to discuss your secret.”
Marinette let out a shaky breath, her expression sober. When she looked up and met Kagami’s gaze there was steel in her eyes.
Kagami nodded. “You’re Ladybug.”
“I am,” Marinette agreed.
There was no denying it. Kagami had plainly seen Marinette transform in front of her. There had been no choice, the akuma chasing them cut down everyone in its path, and if Marinette hadn’t transformed both girls would be dead.
Marinette sighed, and made her way over to her divan. She sat down and patted the space next to her. Kagami took the seat.
“I suppose I should explain everything.” Marinette chewed on her lip, her gaze distant.
“At the beginning of the school year,” she started slowly, “I was chosen to become Ladybug. I didn’t understand it at first. Why I was chosen. I had no confidence, no grace; it must have been a mistake.”
Marinette turned to look her straight in the eye, and Kagami was pinned
“Being Ladybug: it’s a huge responsibility, a heavy weight on my shoulders. But I love it. I am so honored that the people of Paris trust me to keep them safe, and doing so fulfills me like nothing else. I can’t imagine not being Ladybug. It feels like destiny.”
Kagami knew how she felt. It was the same way she felt about fencing. From the moment she first held a sabre, back when she was only five years old, and that passion ignited, she knew this was what she was meant to do. Destiny.
“Does anyone else know? That you’re Ladybug?”
“No. It’s too dangerous to tell anyone. I’d prefer if you never found out— not that I think you’re untrustworthy! But it’s dangerous.”
Kagami nodded. “I understand. ‘Three people can keep a secret if two are dead.’ And it is a dangerous secret.
“But I’m surprised that no one has figured it out before now,” she continued. “You are exactly the same as Ladybug as you are as Marinette, aside from the super powers.”
Marinette looked surprised at that.
“I- not really? I don’t become a totally different person or anything, I’m still me, but I’m crazy clumsy out of the suit. I’m notorious for running into things and tripping over my feet.”
Kagami placed her hand on top of Marinette’s where it rested on the divan beside her. Marinette’s eyes darted down to it, then back up to Kagami’s face, her mouth forming an ‘o’, her cheeks dusted pink.
“You said earlier that you have no grace, but everything I’ve seen contradicts that. You just started fencing, when was it, a few months ago? And you are already clearly quite talented. The few times we fought I was taken aback by your skill. Of course you could not best me, I’ve been fencing since kindergarten, but believe me when I say you have what it takes.
“And yes, you do trip and fall a lot, but you recover easily. The other day I saw you trip and use the momentum to propel yourself forward and smoothly regain your footing. That takes a lot more grace than simply walking without tripping.”
Marinette flushed pink, her freckles standing out against the color. It was cute.
“Oh, I, er, um, thank you!” Marinette’s eyes darted away and then back to Kagami’s face. She bit her lip shyly.
Their talk turned to fencing, and then school. Marinette gushed about how much she admired Adrien. Kagami didn’t like that, but she couldn’t understand why. Adrien was a good friend and an excellent fencer. She admired him greatly as well. Why would Marinette’s high regard for him bother her?
Marinette told her amusing stories about juggling her double life. Sometimes keeping her secret depended on people believing the thinnest of excuses, and they always did. Kagami honestly couldn’t fathom how she hadn’t been figured out before now.
Kagami’s ladylike smiles and demure laughter slowly turned into wide grins and unrestrained belly laughter. Her cheeks ached and her stomach burned. Her abdomen was even more sore than it was after a strenuous workout.
Marinette grinned at her and her eyes shone. Kagami’s heart beat in her chest.
Her blood raced in that way it only ever did when she fenced. When she donned her mask and the world narrowed down to her, her opponent, and her sword in her hand. Nothing but what was in front of her mattered when she fenced.
The feeling of her sword in her hand. The way her heart beat when Marinette smiled.
Fencing and Marinette.