Actions

Work Header

Troisième Troubles

Chapter Text

Marinette woke up slowly, and opened her eyes even more slowly. For a moment, she wondered where she was. She was cold, and the room she was in didn’t look familiar. Then she remembered the previous day. Several weeks before, Chloé had asked her to help redecorate her suite, and they had spent two afternoons picking out a new color palette and new furniture, as well as changing some of the layout of the room. The colors were now shades of blue, with splashes of bright yellows and bold golds for accent and contrast. In front of the TV was now a huge multi-section couch that formed a squared off u-shape and would allow for a whole group of friends to sit together. The couch was centered around an adjustable-height table, that usually sat as a coffee table, but could, with some cleverly engineered pieces, be raised up to be used as a table for meals or for playing games. She, Chloé, Alix, Alya, and Aurore (and what was up with all the ‘A’ names in their group? Adrien just made it worse) had had a girls’ night, playing a couple board games and a card game that involved lying as much as possible. Adrien and Nino had plans to hang out together, so that they wouldn’t miss their ladies too much. Marinette hadn’t laughed so much in a long time, and Alix’s triumphant crow when she won the card game, followed by her dancing on the table (which had somehow not folded to its lower form under her weight) had her giggling for the next hour as they watched a movie. After the movie, the other girls had crashed on the couch, each taking one of the straight sections, and Marinette had cuddled up with Chloé under the new, goldenrod bedspread. Chloé wasn’t in bed now, however, and Marinette pouted in disappointment at the lack of stealable girlfriend warmth.

She heard movement behind her, and she rolled over to see the blonde coming out of her bathroom, wearing a robe with her hair up in a towel. Chloé must have heard her move, because she turned toward the bed and then lit up in a brilliant smile. “Good morning, Mari,” she said. Marinette marveled at how much Chloé’s face had changed when she let go of the perpetual scowl that had graced her face for as long as she could remember.

“Morning, Chloé,” she said, following the words with a yawn. “Up early?”

Chloé grimaced. “Jean came by earlier. My mother is coming into Paris today, and I father wanted to talk to me about it. I expect he wants to know how I want to handle things. I really don’t want to see her. Unfortunately, she’s here for the new Gabriel fashion line launch, and I can just guess how she’s been salivating at tearing down their new approach to marketing.”

It was Marinette’s turn to grimace. The fall Gabriel fashion line was the best, in her opinion, that they had in years. But it was their marketing campaign that had been revolutionary in this day and age, and it had all been due to luck and the creativity of Vincent the photographer. It all came from the photoshoot during the World Cup fireworks. Marinette had thought that Alya and Adrien looked completely adorable in their outfits, but she knew how exacting Gabriel Agreste was, and she had doubted that he would think Alya had met his standards. He would feel Alya was was too hippy and too curvy, her face was too full, that her eyes were a boring hazel color (Gabriel preferred models with blue and green eyes), and she had a noticeable beauty mark on her forehead. True, the photos had all been staged so that Alya’s beauty mark was away from the camera, but Marinette had not held out much hope. She loved Alya, and thought her best friend was beautiful, but she wasn’t the sort of beautiful that models for the Gabriel line matched.

The photo had been an afterthought. Damn if Vincent wasn’t a damn photographic genius, though. Adrien and Alya hadn’t even been looking at the camera. They thought that the shoot was over, they didn’t even know that Vincent was going to take the picture. They were just facing each other, staring into each other’s eyes, their bodies still mostly turned to the camera, hands clasped and the fingers of their upstage hands laced together. Fireworks were going off in the background. It was a moment just between them, and then Vincent snapped that one last picture.

It was stunning. There was a starburst of fireworks behind them, all blue and purple and white. Adrien’s pale skin and blond hair set off her darker looks and ombré brown and red hair. Their interlaced fingers, the pale and caramel contrasting skin tones standing out; they pair complimented each other, and made for a striking visual image. It was an unguarded moment of affection, and that showed in the picture as well. Alya had no idea how the photographer had managed to get all the elements in the shot. Vincent had said something about delayed shutter and second curtain flashes. He hadn’t been sure the shot would work either, he was shooting from the hip, inspired by the moment. There could be no retakes, because then the moment would be posed, staged, and it wouldn’t feel as real. But it worked, and it was perfect. When Alya had seen the proof images the next day, she hadn’t cared if Gabriel Agreste like it, she just wanted a copy of the photo for her own. She and Adrien looked amazing. They looked like they were in love.

The marketing people at Gabriel saw something else. They saw Alya looking beautiful, but also looking real. She wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t need to be. Here was a normal, average girl looking absolutely gorgeous in something from their clothing line. She was someone that every girl who saw the ads could identify with. A normal girl, standing with the gorgeous supermodel Adrien Agreste, in an affectionate embrace. Every girl that saw the ad would want to be her. They could see themselves in her place, because she was just like them. She wasn’t a model, or an actress, or a pop star. The teaser photos, lead with that shot, went out the next week, plastered all over the website. They had been an unprecedented success. Alya and Adrien were brought back in, and they shot for two days in dozens of outfits. These pictures didn’t hide Alya’s beauty mark. It just made her more human, more identifiable. She had been stunned, overwhelmed, and hadn’t really understood just what was going on. Adrien had told the whole group that they brought in four more pairs of models, four teenage high-fashion supermodels, and four good looking, but normal people, two of each gender of both groups, and reshot their whole seasonal campaign in five days.

The fashion show launching the line was this weekend, and the ten models that were in the marketing campaign were the sole models for the show. And while they first would walk the catwalk as individuals, they would be paired off at the end and walk as pairs, as couples. Then the full ad campaign would launch. Adrien had brought some of the proofs home to show to all the classmates who were able to stop by, and everyone was of the opinion that it was brilliant, and would do well.

Audrey Bourgeois attending the show as a fashion critic, however, was going to throw a wrench into the works. She had strong opinions about what was fashionable, and she had torn apart more than one designer for how their models had not shown off their fashion line to the best effect. A scathing review from her could seriously affect the acceptance of the fall line.

“She isn’t that petty, is she?” Marinette finally asked.

Chloé grimaced again. “She is. She was humiliated that I left without even telling her goodbye, and she knows that Adrien and Alya are my friends. She has already made snarky comments about the teasers on the website, and she called Alya a provincial little colonial.”

Marinette sat up in bed, and almost snarled. “What a fucking bitch!” she shouted.

“You’re going to wake the other girls,” Chloé said, shushing Marinette.

“I’m already awake,” Alya said, sitting up.

“Me too!” Alix said, jumping up and over the back of the couch, her shirt flaring as she landed, giving Chloé and Marinette a good view of her panties, the only thing she wore under her oversized sleeping shirt.

“You are such an Japanophile, Alix,” Chloé said, giggling. “Aren’t horizontal striped panties like a fetish over there?”

“Don’t diss the shimapan, Chloé. They are like the only girly thing I wear. I don’t know why they make me feel sexy, but they do,” Alix replied.

“You are so loud, Alix,” Aurore said, sitting up as well. “I think it’s because Japanese girls are about as busty as you are, Alix,” she said. “And yes, I know that’s the pot calling the kettle black.”

Alix glared, but just gave Aurore the finger before turning back to the Chloé and Marinette. “Are you going to let Chloé’s mom ruin things for Alya and Adrien and this fall line? I think it’s awesome, you know. I’m not one for fashion, but I could actually see myself wearing something like that. I can’t identify with those tall, skinny models at all. That short model, Hanna, though…I can see myself in something she wears.”

Alya looked really upset, Marinette saw, and she hopped off the bed and walked over to her best friend and hugged her. “I don’t know what we’ll do, Alya, but you looked amazing, and I refuse to let that ignorant, bigoted bitch ruin this.” She knew how deeply a comment like ‘provincial little colonial’ hurt Alya. She was insulted because of her dark skin all the time. The increase in refugees – many of them from the Middle East and Eastern Europe – with darker skin tones had only made things worse. Many French nationals saw them as threats, taking jobs away from native Frenchmen, while insisting on following their own religious rules and laws, and ignoring those French laws that disagreed with their views. Marinette wasn’t sure how she felt about the issues. Ladybug protected the whole of Paris, and that wouldn’t change. Marinette knew she didn’t know enough to make any kind of informed decision yet. It was another thing that she would have to learn. Just one more thing on the ever growing list of things Ladybug needed to know.

“Thanks Mari,” Alya murmered. “Why do some people have to be awful?”

“Yeah,” Alix agreed. “Chloé, why is your mom such a fucking cu…um, bitch?”

Aurore giggled at Alix’s last-second self-censoring. “Tell us how you really feel, Alix,” she said, giggling more.

“There are words even I don’t like using,” Alix said. “Even if they are completely appropriate sometimes. Every time I think Chloé’s mom can’t get any worse, I hear some new story.”

“Maybe…” Aurore started to say, pausing before continuing, “Maybe Ladybug could show up at the fashion show?”

Chloé shook her head. “There is no legitimate reason for Ladybug to do so. There hasn’t been any akuma threat toward it, and the last attack was two days ago. With Papillion restricting his attacks to a week to eight days between incidents, I don’t think we would see anything at the show.”

“Damn,” Alix said. “I thought it was a good idea.”

“We can’t abuse our powers like that, Alix,” Marinette said. She was still unused to having Alix and Aurore around. She knew there were more that knew, as well, but both Alix and Aurore, as well as Nino, absolutely refused to say who was in the know. Marinette respected them for that choice. It spoke well of them that they would protect their friends on the other side of the divide. She had some ideas of course. She was pretty sure Rose and Juleka knew. She wasn’t sure about Ondine, but she was pretty sure that Kim didn’t know, because he couldn’t keep a secret to save his life. If Sabrina didn’t know, Marinette would eat the hat she had made for the fashion contest. Sabrina kept her own counsel very well though, and she would never hurt Chloé. Marinette was thankful that the redhead was asexual, or she was sure that she would have had to compete for Chloé’s affections. Sabrina loved Chloé almost unconditionally. The redhead had put up with way too much shit from the old Chloé for that not to be the case.

“It would be really satisfying, though,” Alix said, pouting.

“It would,” Alya said, growling. “I may need you to hold the Fox Miraculous for a few days, Marinette,” the redheaded blogger admitted. “I’m not sure I could withstand the temptation to strike back at her, if she ruins this.”

“Alya,” Trixx said, floating up and interjecting, “It is unwise for you to relinquish your Miraculous, even for a short time. It could be stolen, and that could be a catastrophe if someone were to put it on, especially someone of low moral character.”

“I think Trixx is right,” Tikki said, sailing over to join in. “If there is a crisis, we need Rena Rouge able to respond.”

“Are we joining in the conversation?” Pollen asked. “I’m all for stinging Mme. Bourgeois. She really is awful. I felt ill being around all that negative emotion.”

Trixx and Tikki both looked over at Pollen. “Is she really that bad?” Trixx asked. “You could feel her emotions?”

Pollen flew in a looping spiral. “Absolutely. I think…I think she’s likely to become an akuma. She’s full of bitterness and hate and spite and arrogance. I don’t think she cares about anyone but herself.”

“The Fox Warrior cannot lash out at the woman, no matter how awful she may act,” said the rumbing voice of Tatsuu. “It may be best for her to follow her suggested course of action.”

“I…I have an idea,” Aurore said. “I don’t know if it’s a good one. And I’m probably being presumptuous. But…could I hold onto the Fox Miraculous? Would that be possible? Or allowed?” Aurore waved her hands at the looks the rest of the room, people and Kwami both, were giving her. “I’m not saying I want to be Rena Rouge,” she said. “But if I was wearing it, no one could steal it, right? I could protect it if someone was trying to take it. Not that anyone would even know what it is, right? And if Alya needs it, I can get it to her quickly. If Marinette has it, it doesn’t do anyone any good at all, because she has to be Ladybug. She might not have the time to find Alya.”

Marinette and Alya looked thoughtful, Alix didn’t seem to have an opinion, as she went to grab her phone and check her messages. Chloé was frowning, but slowly nodding her head. Aurore was looking at Trixx, however. “Well,” the Fox Kwami finally said, “I don’t…Aurore would be acceptable, if I had to be held by another. I don’t like it much, though. Alya is my partner. I should be with Alya.”

Marinette finally spoke up. “We’ll keep the idea in reserve. If nothing else, Aurore should hold onto the Fox Miraculous during the fashion show. Adrien can probably keep his ring on, but I doubt that the show directors would be happy with you wearing it,” she said.

“I wore it on my ankle for most of the photoshoots,” Alya admitted. “But I would be changing clothes much too quickly for that to work at the show.”

Trixx nodded reluctantly. “Let’s try not to need it, then.”

On that inauspicious note, the girls split up to get dressed for the day, each with mixed emotions for the week to come.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

“You’re a fool, Gabriel,” the tall, dark haired woman said. “Nooroo is fighting you ever step of the way. I’ve seen it now. You aren’t going to succeed if you keep going on this way.”

“What do you suggest,” he said through gritted teeth. Madeleine was difficult to deal with in the best of times, and she had been insufferable since her sister’s disappearance. Emilie’s sister was possessed of strong opinions, and she had argued against keeping the Peacock Miraculous locked away. Gabriel loathed the very idea of letting her use the Miraculous, but he knew that he was struggling right now. The incident that had almost killed Queen Bee had done something to his connection to Nooroo. He was beginning to believe it was because he had harmed another Miraculous user. The Kwami had a connection, and by violating that bond, he had given the Butterfly Kwami a means to fight against him.

“Give me the Peacock Miraculous,” she said. “You are getting nowhere appealing to the baser natures of your akuma victims. Perhaps we should try another way.”

“And you can do this?” Gabriel asked.

“You know the strengths of that Miraculous. Why try and persuade them to help you, when you can get them to help you because they want to?” Madeleine asked.

“Because I find the idea abhorrent,” he said. “I may manipulate my victims, but they choose to give in, they choose to accept my gift of power. A precious few have not. Your way would befuddle them and give them no more free choice in the matter than a puppet.”

Madeleine gazed at him with a look of utter disdain. “This is why you fail as a villain, dear brother-in-law. You are still, at heart, a hero.” She growled at him. “I don’t give a fucking shit about all those worms out there. They are scum, cockroaches. I will find my sister, and I will punish the bastards that took her. I will smash the sanctimonious bastard of a Great Guardian for sitting on his hands, doing nothing, while a former Miraculous holder is trapped somewhere. Even if she is dead, and I don’t for a moment believe that, he should have had the balls to track down her body and bring her back to you, to Adrien. Now, give me the goddamn Peacock Miraculous, Gabriel. You don’t have the nerve to do what must be done. I do.”

Gabriel cursed his weakness, even as he knew Madeleine was right about him. He didn’t think her way would work. But he was desperate. He knew he would regret giving into her, but with her standing there, looking so much like Emilie in her fury, he could do nothing to resist her. He opened his safe and withdrew the Peacock Miraculous, handing it over with closed eyes. He heard Duusu’s voice as the Kwami emerged, and he heard the trepidation, the fear in the Kwami’s voice when she saw Madeleine. Then he heard her speak the words that he had longed to hear, even as he cursed the voice that said them.

“Duusu, Transform me.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Rose Lavillant walked down the street holding the hand of her girlfriend, Juleka Couffaine. She ignored the few glares that were directed their way. She had on a cute outfit today, a white halter top dress that showed off the wings tattooed on her back, and Juleka was actually also wearing white today…all white, a gorgeous lacy Lolita dress with lacy gloves, thigh-high lacy white stockings, and a white parasol. Her hair was done up in a French plait with the start of each plait on the left side made up of one of the normally concealed rainbow colors dyed in her hair. Her undercut was perhaps a centimeter long and was bleached to white, the colors and cut having been done the previous day in anticipation of their date. They were going down to one of the Chinese neighborhoods, Rose had wanted some Vegetable Mei Fun, and they had both wanted to get some Dim Sum, so they planned a fancy date and were having quite a bit of fun. The Quartier Asiatique was always lively, and it was fairly close to home, being in the Thirteenth Arrondissement. Despite the bustle, it was a rather peaceful day, and there were few of those left before classes resumed and they would be in the hectic schedule of Troisiéme. She leaned into Juleka, looking up, and was rewarded with a shy, loving smile.

Because she was looking at Juleka, she didn’t see the explosion of glass as the little old man was thrown through the door to his shop. The man was dressed in a brightly printed red and white shirt, and was small and frail-looking. Rose turned and saw the large, hulking man stepping through the shattered glass of the door frame, his eyes glazed over in a fog, a bright blue peacock feather stuck to his forehead.

“Juleka,” Rose said in a tone the taller girl had only heard half a dozen times in her life. “Run. You know who to call.”

Despite the command in Rose’s voice, Juleka wanted to protest. “But…”

Run!” Rose shouted, and there was steel in the small blonde’s voice. Juleka folded her umbrella and ran, kicking off the low heels she wore as she went. As soon as she got away from here, she had to call Alix. Or maybe even Marinette. This was a Ladybug situation, and there might not be any time. She wasn’t religious, but the tall goth girl prayed for Rose to be safe.

Rose hoped Juleka would be safe. She didn’t have time to spare her another thought, the big man was stalking toward the little old man in the street, who was struggling to get to his feet. She grabbed the hem of her dress, and ripped up the side seam, splitting the dress to her waist. She needed the ability to move. She was really pissed. She really liked this dress. She kicked off her shoes, and then she moved.

She slammed her fists into the big man’s side, one-two-three, and she heard bones crack. The man spun on her surprisingly quick, swinging with a fist, and she winced as she recognized that the man had at least some training in the martial arts. Then she stopped thinking as she let instinct, training, and reflexes take over. In and out, kick, kick, drop back, deflect, palm strike, sweep, roll back, snap kick, break and fall back, in and joint lock, lever the elbow and drive him down, shit!

She didn’t have the size and leverage to stop the man if he truly wanted to move, and his elbow dislocated as he spun on her, his other fist launched at her head. She dropped her hold, but she was hopelessly out of position, and she barely got her arm up in time to block. The hammering blow as he spun smashed into her blocking arm, and she screamed as she felt the bones crack, even as the blow sent her spinning away. She crashed on to the ground, trying to roll and mostly doing just that, then doing a kip-up back onto her feet. She held her broken arm in close, thankful that it was her off-arm. It was an ugly break, and was going to take some time to heal. The big man closed on her, seeing her weakness, and Rose winced inside. She had been trying not to do too much damage to the man. Now, she didn’t have a choice.

As the man closed, she backed toward the building behind her. She turned suddenly, leaping, pushing off the building, and turning in a vicious spinning kick. It was a total bullshit move, suited more to movies and video games than real life, but the man was fighting dumb. He was slow and strong, but had fallen for the arm bar, and she had gotten several good blows in that should have been blocked or at least deflected somewhat. Whatever had him under control, he wasn’t running at anything like full capacity. This had given her a chance. The spinning kick struck him in the face, and Rose winced as she felt bones her foot crunch with the blow. Think about the pain later. The man staggered and fell to one knee, and Rose was on him. Two palm strikes to the jaw, and why wasn’t he going down? Did he not feel any pain? He was staggered by every blow, but tried to get up again. Twin snap kick to the head, and this time he spun to the ground. The big man tried to push up off the ground, and Rose struck him with a palm on the back of the skull, smashing his face into the ground with the stunning blow. He dropped, and Rose took a deep breath. The she heard the sound of smashing wood come from the shattered door, and she ran through it before she even had another thought.

Rose turned the corner, and saw a blue woman standing there, the petals of her dress reminding the blonde of a peacock. She was probably the source of the feather, Rose realized, which meant she was extremely dangerous.

“I am quite impressed, child,” the blue woman said, her voice chill with scorn, “but you meddle in affairs that you have no business in.”

“Anyone who brainwashes people and has them throw a little old man through a window seems to be the bad guy to me,” Rose spat. “So I don’t really care what you think. I just have to keep you busy until Ladybug gets here. My girlfriend knows the Ladybloggers, and you can bet that even Ladybug gets their tweets. She’s on her way.”

The peacock woman glared at Rose. “You are a fool, child. No one can stand against Mayura for long. Papillion and I will win in the end.”

“And you’re a bitch, and stop calling me a child. And I don’t care about what you think. Get your hands off that box, or I’ll remove them from it for you,” the pixie blonde said, and then she moved again. She knew the blue woman wouldn’t give in. She just wanted to try and keep her off guard. And it seemed to work. The woman jumped away from Rose’s strikes. She may be powerful, but she had no technique whatsoever.

The new game of cat-and-mouse began. Rose struck out with outrageous kicks and punches that would never work against a trained person, but this blue bitch wasn’t trained. At all. She was probably some spoiled rich bitch who got a fancy toy and thought it made her better than anyone. Rose was as angry as she had been in years. She continued to lash out with flashy kicks, and the woman was backed out of the door, cursing at her and lashing out with her fan. Rose dodged it, not wanting the feathered weapon to get anywhere near her. The woman was outside, and the big hulking man was still on the ground. Then Rose heard a cry of ‘Lucky Charm’, and she sighed with relief. Ladybug was here. Marinette was here. Rose fell against the wall, exhausted, and as the anger and adrenaline rush left her, she blacked out.

She came to almost immediately, but as if she were at the end of a long tunnel. The noises and voices and the booming crunch of bodies smashing into walls as the heroes and the villain fought. Then it got quieter, and she heard the glorious shout.

“Miraculous – Ladybug!”

She felt the cure wash over her, almost screaming again as her bones re-set themselves. She could still feel the ache, and wasn’t sure if it was just a phantom pain left from the sudden absence of it, or if it was still actually hurt. She felt less tired, and finally came fully conscious, opening her eyes. Ladybug was looking at her with concern. “Hey there, hero,” Rose whispered.

“I think you’re the heroine today,” Ladybug said to her. “I can’t even tell you how important it was what you did.”

Rose looked around. There were police on the scene, looking after the old man, who was still quite dazed for some reason. “She was smashing something inside,” the blonde told her. “Some box.”

“Oh, no…” Ladybug whispered. “Oh god…”

Rose pushed herself up. “Come on, we need to check it out,” she said.

Ladybug’s timer was chiming loudly now. “I need to go.” But Rose could tell that she was torn, that she didn’t want to leave whatever it was that was inside this shop. That made her decision easy. She leaned in close to Ladybug.

“I know, Marinette,” she whispered. “Juleka and I both know. And I know that, whatever is going on, you need to get inside right now. Whatever is in there, she tried to kill that little old man for it.” Ladybug nodded, and ran through the door. Rose stumbled and then followed her in. “Where are the others?” she asked as she followed the heroine.

“Juleka called me directly,” Ladybug admitted. “She thought it was too urgent to play the telephone game, she said. She was really worried about you.”

I was really worried about me. I’m glad you were here and able to do the Miraculous cure, I think I messed him up pretty good,” Rose said.

“You, Mlle. Lavillant, are one scary girl,” Ladybug – no, Marinette – told her as red sparkles surrounded her and she changed back into her civilian form. She rushed over to the dresser along the wall, and the smashed wooden box, and she whimpered. Then she began pulling at the box, pulling what looked like drawers open. Some of them were already open, and she was increasingly frantic, dropping to the floor and looking under the dresser, looking quickly everywhere around the room. “Oh, god. Oh my god,” she whispered.

“What is it?” Rose asked softly.

“Six. Oh, god, Rose. She took six of them.”

“Six what?” the blonde asked, with growing dread.

“Six of the Miraculous,” Marinette said in a whisper.

“Oh, god…” Rose said. Marinette began to sob, and Rose leaned over and pulled her into a hug. Marinette clutched her tightly and buried her head into her shoulder, sobbing and wailing. They were still there when the rest of Team Miraculous arrived, all in civilian form. Chloé took Marinette from her and held her close, whispering to her, but she knew that Chloé could not console her girlfriend right now. Team Miraculous’ fight against Papillion, and now Mayura, was now going to be much, much harder. Rose had failed them. She vowed then and there that she would never fail anyone again. The next time, she would do what she had to do, even if it killed her. She felt Juleka step up behind her and take her in a hug, and she leaned against her girlfriend, then she turned in her girlfriend’s arms, tucked her face against Juleka’s chest, and cried hot, angry tears, her own sobs coming at last. She and Juleka dropped to their knees, and the taller girl’s arms grew tighter. Rose cried for a long, long time.

Chapter Text

Marinette looked around from her sitting position on the floor at Master Fu’s massage parlor. It was mostly cleaned up now. The shattered wooden box that had held the Miraculous was in a plastic tub sitting on top of the dresser. The broken glass had all been swept up, and the front door was filled with a temporary wood replacement for the glass. The torn mattresses were stacked to the side, and the scarred walls could be repaired with time. It was all the things that couldn’t be seen that were not so easily repaired. Marinette waited with Chloé seated beside her. Rena Rouge and Wyvern – the name Alix had decided upon, with approval of her Kwami – were making a very visible patrol though the Quartier Asiatique. Adrien was at the offices of Gabriel, talking to the show promoters and the marketing people, informing them of Audrey Bourgeois’ presence and her likely vindictive actions to punish her daughter. Juleka had taken the visibly shaken Rose home. Marinette knew that Rose felt herself a failure, when nothing could be further from the truth. She had fought a – not akuma, because Mayura’s victims were something else – a mind controlled puppet of a new and vicious foe. She had stopped the woman from taking all the Miraculous, and possibly from ripping the Turtle Miraculous from Master Fu. From his body, because Marinette had no doubts that she would have driven her puppet to kill the Great Guardian.

Papillion, for all his misanthropy and disdain, seemed to have some sense of honor. He seduced his victims, gifting them with power in return for their aid in accomplishing his goals. He never drove his victims to endanger themselves. Rose could have killed the big man she fought. He turned out to be an aspiring black-belt at a local Tae Kwan Do studio, who had failed to pass his test. The police hadn’t gotten any more information out of the man before they had taken him to the station to interview as a material witness to the attack. Marinette was sure it would be a few days before he remembered anything of value, it was always that way with the akuma victims.

Waiting for Master Fu, Marinette felt the weight of her failure. The Guardian had asked her to find a new holder for the Turtle Miraculous, and she had stalled in indecision. She knew what the costs to being Ladybug were, and she had been unwilling to ask anyone she knew to face those costs. Now Papillion and Mayura held six of the Miraculous: The Horse, the Goat, the Rooster, the Dog, the Pig, and the Tiger. None of those Miraculous held the power of hers or of Chat Noir’s, or even of the five immediately below that: The Turtle, Fox, Bee, Peacock, and Butterfly Miraculous. Nevertheless, the Zodiac Miraculous were enormously powerful, and Marinette had failed to give the Guardian the help he needed to protect them. She didn’t know how Mayura had found Master Fu, but it didn’t matter right now. The only thing that mattered was protecting the other six, and getting the rest of the Miraculous back. Including the Peacock and Butterfly. Mayura had already proved herself dangerous and violent, and even unstable. Team Miraculous would need to stop them. Right now, though, she didn’t know how.

Marinette felt Chloé’s hand take hers, and she knew that her fears must have been reflected on her face. Her girlfriend didn’t say anything, she just held on tight. Marinette reveled in that touch and drew strength from it. Chloé would help her through this. All of her friends would.

She looked up as Master Fu walked in, Wayzz floating in behind him. Tikki and Pollen had been in council with the Turtle Kwami, and now came to join with their partners, hovering just above their shoulders. “Hello girls, thank you for coming to see me,” he spoke.

Marinette bowed low, her head almost touching the floor. “I am so sorry, Master Fu. We couldn’t stop her. It’s all my fault.”

Master Fu held up a hand. “It is not. Mayura is a disturbed individual. Before she attacked, she ranted at me, screaming at me about how she would use the power of the Miraculous to their fullest.”

“How did she find you?” Chloé asked.

“She forced Nooroo to show her my face. I have been the Guardian for some time, and Nooroo knew me. She used Duusu’s power to force the answer out of the poor Kwami, including my name. She will not be able to use the information a second time,” he said.

“What will you do, Master Fu?” Marinette asked.

“I need to go on a journey for a time. I have grown complacent, living in my own ivory tower. I have failed you and the rest of your friends, and you will pay the price for my hubris,” he said. “I will leave you the means to contact me, but the message may take days to reach me.”

“Why can’t you remain here?” Chloé asked. “We need you!”

The Guardian shook his head. “There is little I can teach you anymore. You have found your strength amongst each other. It is time for you and the rest of your generation of heroes to take the lead. You will need to find the next Great Guardian.” He looked at Wayzz. “My friend, it is time for you to leave me. These young people will need the aid of a new Miraculous holder.”

“But what about all the things that are in the book, that we don’t understand? The potions and powders to strengthen the Kwami, the ways to find greater powers inside ourselves?” Marinette asked, sounding a bit hysteric.

“Ladybug – Marinette. You do not need me for this. Your friend Adrien can read the text in the book. You and your friend Alya both possess the skills to concoct the potions, taught to you by your progenitors,” Master Fu said. “I am old, Marinette Dupain-Cheng. I was afraid to let go, afraid to take someone into my trust after the loss of the Butterfly and the Peacock. You must be better than me, child,” he said gently.

“I’m scared, Master,” Marinette whispered. She heard Chloé move, and felt the blonde enfold her in her arms.

“I will be here with you, Mari, always. You never will face this alone. I promise you this,” Chloé told her softly.

Master Fu nodded. “You have found strength in your friends. You have changed how the holders have fought for so long, and I can see the bonds that protect you and hold you together.” He looked at Wayzz again. “So long, old friend. I will hope to see you again.”

“It has been a pleasure, Wang Fu. I will always remember you. You have served as my Miraculous bearer with honor.” With that, the Kwami glowed and flowed into the bracelet on Master Fu’s wrist, and the old man removed it, handing it to Marinette.

“You must find a holder for the Turtle Miraculous. If you choose to entrust more Miraculous to people you trust, I leave that in your hands. The world is different now. It needs more heroes, especially with the threat Mayura represents. I appoint you interim guardian of the Miraculous, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, holder of the Ladybug Miraculous,” he intoned, and he held out the small square wooden box that now held the remaining Miraculous. “Serve well. Entrust these only to those who would use their power for good.”

Marinette nodded, not knowing what to say, so she could only answer with, “I will.”

“Please, convey my most humble thanks to the young lady who saved me from Mayura’s puppet,” the old man said. “She is a most formidable warrior.”

“Rose is amazing,” Marinette said, nodding.

“Rose did the right thing, knowing how dangerous it was. She is a wonderful person, and for a long time I didn’t appreciate how strong she is,” Chloé said.

“Then perhaps you may already have an answer before you,” the former Guardian said. Marinette and Chloé thought about his words all the way home.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Nino and Aurore walked down a path along the Seine, dressed for a nice dinner out, the glow of the street lamps casting islands of shining light on the ground. Aurore had her hands around Nino’s arm, leaning into him. Nino still couldn’t believe his luck at times. He hadn’t known Aurore well at all, although he had always seen her as beautiful. She had always seemed aloof and proud, and he had always believed himself too middle class for someone like her. His crush on Marinette was at least partly due to the fact that she was so down-to-earth and generous. She cared about everyone, surely she would be able to care about him. Of course, Marinette had found someone else. Then Nino had held Alya in his affections, and for a time, she had seemed to reciprocate his feelings. Then, suddenly, a wall had formed between them. He knew now that it was when she had accepted the Fox Miraculous and became Rena Rouge. But it had hurt him, especially when she began to date Adrien, who had become his best friend. And then Aurore had come. She had changed, become less aloof, and she said she liked him. At first, he had gone out with her because he liked the idea of being liked, and she was beautiful. He learned through his time with her that she really cared for him, and the more he learned about her, the more he came to care for her. She was beautiful and smart, and once she got over her loss of confidence, she was brave, bold, and passionate. One night, after having dinner, she had demanded that he make a choice. Was he her friend, or was he her boyfriend? He needed to choose, because she was falling more and more for him, and she needed to know now, before she fell any further. He stayed with her every step of the way, running into danger to get the scoop for the Ladyblog. She found him charming, and clever, and dedicated, and she needed to know if he felt the same. He had leaned down and kissed her, and she had almost leapt into his arms. He knew he had made the right choice.

Tonight, they had something more to think about. Team Miraculous faced a new threat, a dangerous and, so far, a violent one. If they continued their work for the blog, they could find themselves in a new kind of danger. They would, of course, continue to cover the aftermath of the battles between Team Miraculous and their foes, but the Ladyblog had now become known for their on-the-spot coverage. Aurore was the voice and face all of Paris trusted for the best, most accurate coverage of all things Ladybug. Team Miraculous trusted her – he knew why, but to the average Parisian, the fact that Team Miraculous trusted her was the greatest endorsement she could receive. The Ladyblog had started to get requests for usage rights – with royalties – from broadcast networks. Yesterday, a request had come from the BBC. The Ladyblog was international. Nino’s girlfriend was becoming world famous, at the ripe young age of fifteen.

Aurore was one of the oldest members of the Troisiéme class at Collège Françoise Dupont. Her father’s stint as an attaché to the French Embassy in Japan, and her two years as an exchange student, had thrown her off-schedule when her family moved back to France. She had tested back into school a year lower than she should have been, and she began Sixième with Nino and the rest of his class. Nino hadn’t known until she had told him earlier this summer. He made a few jokes about older women, but she had stolen his hat and smacked him, and refused to return the hat for the rest of the night. Nino hadn’t teased her again.

“What are we going to do?” he asked his girlfriend.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, Nino,” she said. “I want to be an international correspondent someday. That might mean war zones, political unrest, natural disasters. I need to do this to prove to myself that I can do it. Maybe it’s selfish, but that’s what I want to do. If you don’t want to join me in it, I won’t hold it against you. Having you to come back safe to wouldn’t be such a bad thing.” Aurore smiled wanly, but Nino knew she was putting on a brave face. She was strong because he was there for her. She still wasn’t fully over her confidence issues. He hoped this would be enough for her. He didn’t want her becoming reckless. If she did, it was his job to keep her safe. He couldn’t do that if he wasn’t at her side.

“I’m in,” he said simply. She tugged him to a stop, and leaned up and kissed him on the cheek.

The pair kept walking, until they neared the classy townhouse her family lived in. Nino was reluctant to drop her off, it was fairly early still, but it had been a long and stressful day, with the rush to the site of the fight between Team Miraculous and the new villain. Running subtle interference with the police and the other media outlets had become second nature to the pair, but this incident had been bad, and they knew that Marinette and the others were too wrapped up in emotion to be their normally extremely conscientious selves about protecting their identies. It would only take one slip. The Ladybloggers would make sure that slip didn’t happen.

“Nino Lahiffe, Aurore Beauréal,” they heard a familiar voice say. The pair looked up and saw Queen Bee standing on the top of the wall they were walking next to. “Team Miraculous wanted to thank you for your diligent and honest work today,” she said. Bee hopped down next to them, and shook each of their hands. “I know it seems like very little, but we all thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.” With that, she leapt back up to the wall, then pulled out her trompo and let it carry her away.

“What was that about?” Nino murmured. “They’ve never done that before.”

“Not. Here,” Aurore said through her teeth. He looked over at her but didn’t reply. They kept walking until they reached the townhouse, and Aurore dragged him inside and into the foyer. She held up a tiny folded square of paper, and unfolded it in front of him. There was only one line:

Meet us on the roof of the TVi building at 10:30pm

“That’s only an hour away,” Nino said. “And how are we going to get into the TVi building?”

Aurore smiled sweetly. “You really should listen to me more, and not just stare into my eyes, Nino. TVi gave us building passes last week. In return for access to their editing equipment, they get any footage we edit there for rebroadcast rights royalty-free. Their computers are way more powerful than anything we have right now, and they have the best software in the business. I can put banners at the bottom of reports, and the Ladyblog symbol and URL. I didn’t use it today because I didn’t want to edit the footage there, in case there was a slip-up.”

“Got it,” Nino said. “You have to admit, they are gorgeous eyes,” he said with a grin. She stood on tiptoes and kissed him.

“Flattery will get you more of those,” the little blonde said. “But we should get going for now. I just want to change into something more comfortable. The wind on the top of that building is murder. I’ll be flipping my skirt at everyone.”

“We can’t have that,” the DJ and cameraman said in reply.

“Mmhm. That sight is just for you,” she said with a smirk, before turning and running up the stairs. Nino was still in a daze when she came back downstairs three minutes later.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Rose Lavillant sat on her balcony, looking up at the moon. She kept going through the fight in her head. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She had only made one mistake, and that was in judgment. She had thought that the man would still feel pain, that he wouldn’t fight through the arm bar. That he had been willing to dislocate his elbow to strike at her had come as a nasty shock, and she had paid for it. It was a bitter pill to swallow. She was faster, smarter, sharper, and none of it had mattered. She was tiny, and the big man had powered through her defenses. She could still feel the memory of the pain when her arm bones had snapped. So much power. She hated her weakness. All she could do was get better, but for the first time, she questioned if it would be enough. She had never felt like this before, and it scared her. Even Juleka hadn’t been able to comfort her, and she had finally left her girlfriend. She needed to be alone for a while.

“It sucks, doesn’t it?” She turned and saw the black-clad form of Chat Noir. “Knowing that you did everything you could, and it wasn’t enough?”

She nodded. “It’s awful,” she said quietly. “But you always succeed in the end. Team Miraculous doesn’t fail. Ever.”

“We failed today,” Chat countered. “And we’re more than Team Miraculous, you know. We have civilian lives, and things don’t always turn out right. Doing your best, and it not being enough? I understand that.”

Rose nodded. “I hate this,” she admitted. “It’s not fair. Right now I feel like nothing I ever do will matter. I’ll always be a tiny little girl.”

“You did so much today, Rose,” Chat said seriously. “Without you, we’d be facing the terror of Papillion and Mayura holding thirteen Miraculous, instead of just six. You saved all of Paris from that. Never, ever feel that you failed.”

“I’m trying,” she said. “But I don’t believe it here,” she said, tapping her chest over her heart.

“Come with me,” Chat Noir said.

“What?” the pixie blonde asked. “Where? Why? How?”

“Just come with me,” Chat said with a soft grin. “And as to how, how does a piggyback ride across the rooftops of Paris sound?”

“Terrifying and exhilarating,” Rose said, grinning despite herself. “Let’s go.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Queen Bee sat on the billboard support slab, Ladybug leaning against the wall in front of her, with her arms wrapped around her girlfriend’s shoulders. Wyvern was practicing with her sanjiegun, still learning to use the weapon without smacking herself in the face. Bee thought it something in the nature of a dragon that, so far, the Dragon Warrior was the only second Miraculous holder with an actual weapon as their item, and Chat Noir rarely used his as such. Rena was providing a sparring partner for Wyvern, who was getting better at entrapping arms and legs and then forcing her opponents to the ground. With her size, she tended to use jumps and falls throw all her weight into the moves. It seemed to work for her.

She heard the door to the roof open, and Aurore bounced out the door, with Nino shuffling out behind her. The grin on Aurore’s face when she spotted the four protectors of the city was almost blinding. Queen Bee could guess what she was thinking. This wasn’t a meeting of those in the know, this was a Team Miraculous meeting. Her mind was probably in overdrive right now. A moment later, Bee heard a high pitched squeal, and Chat Noir landed on the roof, Rose Lavillant riding piggyback on his back.

“Chat,” she asked slowly, “Did you just do a pole-jump to the roof of the TVi building with Rose on your back?”

“Um, yes?” Chat said.

“It was awesome!” Rose enthused.

“Bad kitty,” Ladybug said. “You could have hurt her if you made a mistake.”

Chat gave her a grin. “Come on, Bugaboo,” he said, “I don’t make those mistakes.”

Ladybug rolled her eyes. “Of course not,” she said. “So, everyone is here. I, um, hadn’t really thought about how to do this.”

Queen Bee gave her a little shove, then hopped down. She gave a murmur, and her transformation fell away, leaving Chloé standing there. Rena facepalmed, and Wyvern giggled.

“Leave it to the crazy blonde to make a big statement,” the newest member of Team Miraculous said, grinning.

“I’m medicated for that, thank you very much,” Chloé said snarkily. The rest of Team Miraculous dropped their transformations, and then it was seven members of Mme. Bustier’s class, and one honorary member, standing on the roof of the tall building.

“So what’s going on,” Aurore asked. “It must be something big, this is the first time you’ve actually let us see you transform.”

“I saw it earlier today,” Rose said quietly. “I was looking after Marinette.”

“Thank you, Rose,” Marinette said seriously. “I was a mess there for a bit.” She took a deep breath. “I made mistake. I was resisting doing something that I needed to do, because I didn’t want anyone to have to go through the struggles I went through keeping my secret for so long. I hadn’t really internalized that you all knew now. I could trust you. I should have trusted you long ago.” She took another deep breath. “Nino,” she said, “you’ve been Adrien’s best friend since school began, but you also have faithfully protected our secrets. I ask you to accept this.” She stepped over to him, and put the bracelet of the Turtle Miraculous on his wrist. There was a green flash, and Wayzz spun out of it. He looked at Nino for a moment, and then nodded. Nino was stunned at the floating little green sprite. “I am Wayzz, the Turtle Kwami.” Nino just nodded, a bit overwhelmed.

Marinette turned to the pixie-haired blonde. “Rose, you have been a good friend, and you stood up for Chloé and I when we started dating. You showed immeasurable courage today, and you proved that you deserve to be here.” She walked up to Rose, and brushed her hair up, slipping a thin metal band under her bangs to encircle her head. “I’m sorry that this is the most awkward of the Miraculous to wear. They were made with this kind of circlet was not uncommon.” As she finished arranging it, there was a gold flash, and deep brown little sprite appeared, his head and face silver. The little creature examined Rose for a moment, flying in a spiral around her, taking in the firm muscle in her arms, the callous on her knuckles, and the firm stance she held.

“You have picked well, Ladybug,” the little monkey Kwami said. “I am Maffa. The legends of the Monkey Warriors are known even today. I expect you to do great things, girl,” he said. Rose brought her arms up, putting a fist in her open palm, both held in front of her breastbone, and bowed.

Marinette turned to Aurore. “Good evening, Aurore,” she said. “What do you think? Is Nino up to the task? Will you support him?”

“Of course,” said the pigtailed blonde instantly. “This is an honor for him. I’ll stand by him, always.”

Marinette flashed her a happy smile. “I’m so glad to hear that,” she said. “And I apologize now for all the jokes you’ll hear in the future. I really couldn’t resist this particular temptation.” She wrapped a blue banded choker around Aurore’s neck, the choker centered on a flat, rounded blue stone. A blue flash followed, and a white, rabbit-eared little creature appeared before her.

“She looks fun!” the creature said instantly. “I’m Lopp!”

“A rabbit named Lopp?” Aurore couldn’t help but ask.

“They stole my name!” the little thing insisted.

“Of course,” Aurore said.

“Now,” Marinette said, before they could say anything more, “I think we need a little run. Nothing like jumping right into the deep end, right, Adrien? Alix?”

“It’s kind of tradition,” Alix said. “Chloé’s the only one that didn’t have her first transformation during a time of need.”

“But that isn’t the best precedent,” Adrien continued. “But you still need a bit of a workout.”

“A run would do them good,” Alya said. “I call dibs on chasing Aurore.”

Chloé sighed. “Don’t scare the new kids,” she said, walking over to the three new bearers, who all now looked a bit stunned as what was happening truly registered on them. “Still, no time like the present.” She tapped her hair comb, which Nino, Aurore, and Rose realized was her Miraculous. “Pollen,” she said, then she tapped Rose, Nino, and Aurore’s Miraculous quickly in turn. “Wayzz, Maffa, Lopp…” she said, even as the others behind her all called out the names of their Kwami.

“…Transform us!”

Chapter Text

The sound of driving rain woke Chloé slowly. She opened her eyes and looked past Marinette’s head to watch the rain pound against the skylight balcony access above Marinette’s bed. She closed her eyes again and listened to the rhythmic drumming as the storm lashed against the building and the city. Thunder rumbled, and she felt Marinette push back further into her arms, whimpering slightly. After the incident that had almost killed Chloé, Marinette had developed an aversion to storms. She preferred to stay inside during them now, preferably with a cup of hot cocoa; when they happened at night, she took refuge in Chloé’s arms. Twice, Marinette had shown up at Chloé’s suite, dripping from the rain, after a bad storm had begun when she had been home alone. It was something that she needed to work through, but it was taking Marinette some time. Almost losing Chloé had scared her deeply, and the rain still reminded her of that. Chloé wanted to help her, but the best thing to do was be there when she woke from the storm. That, more than anything, was the reassurance she needed.

Chloé drew her girlfriend closer and took a deep breath, reveling in the smell of her hair. She knew she was taking refuge in Marinette’s presence as well. She had retreated to Marinette’s, knowing that if she had stayed in her suite last night, her mother would have awoken her this morning. She couldn’t even have the staff keep her out. She was still technically married to André Bourgeois, and therefore was part owner of Le Grand Paris. The staff literally could not go against her will, especially when it came to matters of family. It was one confrontation that Chloé would rather not have, but she knew she would have to face her mother sooner or later. She would likely have to face her at the Gabriel fall line launch, if she was to have any hope of preventing her mother from striking out in a vindictive manner. Chloé was feeling more and more like the adult in the relationship she had with Audrey. What a mess.

A sound drew Chloé’s attention, and she realized that it was the sound of the trapdoor opening. “Chloé? Are you awake?” she heard Sabine call softly.

“Yes, Mama Sabine,” she answered back quietly. “How did you know I was here?”

“It started storming and Marinette is still in bed. The only way that’s been true lately is if you’ve been here,” Sabine replied. “Would you like me to pour you a mug of cocoa? I brought enough up for all of us.”

“Please, Mama Sabine,” she said. Then she leaned in close to Marinette’s ear and whispered to her, “wake up, my love…or I’ll drink all the hot cocoa.”

“If you get between me and the chocolatey liquid of life, I cannot be held responsible for my actions,” Marinette muttered, rolling over and reaching up, pulling Chloé down on top of her. The blonde smiled and nuzzled into Marinette’s neck. “Good morning, Chloé,” she heard Marinette say.

“Good morning, my Mari,” Chloé replied. “Thanks for letting me stay last night.”

She felt Marinette giggle. “Like I would ever refuse you staying here,” she said.

“I just don’t want you to think I’m imposing. I just couldn’t face having to deal with my mother this morning,” Chloé replied, sitting up and stepping down from the loft bed. Sabine handed her a mug of hot cocoa, and she sipped at it greedily. She heard Marinette shuffling down behind her, and turned to see her girlfriend, wrapped in her comforter, sitting down on the bottom steps ad accepting the proffered mug from her mother.

“Your mother is here in Paris, Chloé?” Mme. Cheng asked.

“She is,” Chloé said in disgust. “She’s doing reviews of the fall fashion lines, and she’s targeting the Gabriel show, because she knows I’m friends with Adrien and Alya and she wants to hurt me. I came home early from New York, and apparently embarrassed her when she called the hotel to have me brought to an event, and I was already gone. When she called, she didn’t even ask why I left, she just started ranting at me, how I made Audrey Bourgeois look bad. Then she found out that I was dating Marinette, and pretty much completely lost it. That indigent baker’s wretched little daughter was the nicest thing she said.”

Marinette grimaced. “Your mother does have a skill for the language,” she admitted.

“Just one more thing to lord over those she believes herself better than,” the blonde said disgustedly. “I know I used to be like her, but I can’t believe it when I look at her now.”

“You grew up, Chloé,” Sabine said. “And yes, you got medication that helps you. But admitting that you had a problem, that was part of the growing up process.” She walked over and gave her daughter’s girlfriend a hug. “You can stay here as long as you like,” she said. “This storm doesn’t seem like it will be stopping anytime soon.”

“It probably won’t,” Marinette said softly. “Yesterday…the balance was upset yesterday, Maman. There are more Miraculous than just ours, and yesterday, an evil person managed to steal six of them. Nature reacts to shifts in power, or the grand use of it.” She sighed. “Maman, could you bring us up some spice muffins and some more cocoa? I think we’re going to be doing research today.”

“No, but I can put a plate together for you,” Sabine said. “You’re a big enough girl to get your own food.”

“I’ll come and get it, Mama Sabine,” Chloé told her. “I kind of wanted to ask you something anyway.”

“If it was about you giving Marinette a ring as a symbol of your relationship, it’s much too late to ask that,” Sabine teased her.

Chloé stuck out her tongue at Sabine, and then shook her head. She looked over at Marinette. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Mari,” she said, then she opened the trapdoor for Mme. Cheng. Sabine walked down the steps, and Chloé followed. She closed the trapdoor, and descended the rest of the stairs. She sat down on one of the benches at the dining table while Sabine down to the bakery for some muffins. She soon returned with a small basket of them.

“You know that you girls eat most of the spice muffins we bake, don’t you?” Sabine teased.

“We need the calories,” Chloé replied honestly. “I love your macarons, but they are small, and not very filling. Utterly delicious, but…I need food,” she added with a laugh.

“You and Marinette both, I know,” Sabine told her, moving to the stove and beginning to prepare more cocoa. “Now, what would you like to ask me?”

Chloé fidgeted. “I would normally ask my therapist about something like this, but that would require her knowing, well, everything. And I trust her, but…I can’t. Not with this. It isn’t just my secret to tell.”

Mme. Cheng nodded. “I understand, Chloé. You have a burden, and it makes it even more difficult to ask for help, because of the matters of trust. What would you like to ask me, then?”

Chloé fidgeted for a moment, then looked up at Sabine and looked her in the eye. “Is the relationship between Marinette and I unhealthy?” she asked softly.

Sabine looked startled. “Why would you ask that, Chloé?”

“I…We rely so much on each other. I hide from my father here sometimes. We never spend more than two nights apart, before one of us stays with the other. I’m hiding here from my mother right now. Sometimes it feels like we’re enabling each other’s dependencies.”

Sabine smiled softly. “I can tell that you’ve been serious about your therapy. Enabling? Dependencies? You’re learning a lot, Chloé. Have you ever thought about being a counselor?” She giggled when the blonde looked at her as if she had grown a second head. “It was just an idea. People who have suffered mental illness are more likely to recognize it in others, and have experienced the trials that their patients are going through. I know that university is a long way away, but it is something to think about. It isn’t too soon to start thinking about what track you are going to attend in lycée.”

Chloé made a moue. “Mama Sabine…”

Sabine couldn’t help but giggle, turning back to the cocoa. “In answer to your question, Chloé…I am not a counselor. But I don’t think that you are Marinette are in an unhealthy relationship, not knowing everything that is behind it. Your alter egos and your other life. It scares me that my girls are out there fighting evil – saying that phrase seems ridiculous, but it’s true – but you do it very well, and I am proud of you. There is a bond and a trust between you that most teenagers just can’t have. I am happy that you are restricting the physical aspects of your relationship for now, but I also know that it wasn’t that long ago that you both would be looking to find a husband, soon. If you and Marinette stay together for the rest of your lives, I would welcome you into our family. That you worry about being too codependent – and yes, I know that’s what you are thinking – then you can stop. If I see that changing, you can be assured that I will be the first to let you know.” She poured the cocoa into a pot, put it on a tray, and set it on the table in front of her daughter’s girlfriend.

“Thank you, Mama Sabine,” Chloé replied. She took the basket of muffins put it on the tray as well, picked the tray up, and headed back up the steps. Marinette must have heard her feet on the steps, because the trapdoor opened up as she got near it. She stepped through and set the tray on the chaise. Marinette was still wrapped in her comforter, and when Chloé set the tray down, Marinette spread her arms and wrapped them around her girlfriend, enveloping them both in the heavy blanket. Chloé returned the hug firmly, and squeaked when Marinette returned the hug, hard. She still got a secret thrill from knowing how firm and strong her girlfriend’s body was. She grinned wickedly and reached down, grabbing Marinette’s rear and giving it a good squeeze, and Marinette giggled.

“Behave, Chloé,” the blunette said, but Chloé felt Marinette’s hand place themselves on her rear, pulling her closer.

“And if I don’t want to?” the blonde replied.

Marinette leaned her face in close. “Hmmmm. Misbehaving does sound fun,” she said, leaning in, as if for a kiss…then pushing a hand, which Chloé hadn’t even realized was no longer on her butt, into Chloé’s face. “But, only after we finish the cocoa, because we are not wasting any of the chocolatey liquid of life.”

Chloé grinned. “Who can say no to that?” She snuck in a kiss, and they moved over to the chaise, sitting down, wrapping up together in the comforter once more, and slowly sipped their cocoa, ate spiced muffins, and listened to the storm outside. As long as they were together, they could face any storm.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Adrien walked into his father’s atelier, determined to speak with the man. Gabriel looked up from the financials he was going through, and though his demeanor did not betray his thoughts, Adrien could see the slight flare of irritation in the man’s eyes. However, he knew that his father would be very curious as to why his son would force his way past Nathalie to speak with him. Adrien saw his father put the papers before him down, and the man stood up behind the desk. “Yes, Adrien?”

“Father,” Adrien said, then paused. He knew his father was less than thrilled with his ongoing relationship with Alya, not because of her race or background, but rather because it diverted Adrien from attending to matters that his father believed to be more important or more productive. He also knew that Gabriel found his relationship the lesser of two evils, since Adrien would request Mr. Dupont’s services to drive them to various dating locales, and would not try to ditch the bodyguard. Adrien’s association with The Gorilla had become much easier now that he wasn’t trying to lose the man constantly, and in turn Alain allowed him to bend some rules, as long as the man was nearby for backup. Still, he needed to bring this up, for his sake, and Alya’s. “Father, I was speaking with Chloé Bourgeois, and she has informed me that her mother will be attending the launch party for the fall youth fashion line.”

Gabriel pressed his hands together, and regarded his son with a measuring look. “Audrey Bourgeois has often attended the fashion launch events of Gabriel in the past, why would her attendance now be of concern?”

Adrien swallowed. “Because Chloé defied and embarrassed her mother, and now Audrey is trying to use her position and influence to strike back at her daughter, by attacking her friends. By attacking me, and Alya, and the whole fall campaign.”

“Is that so?” Gabriel said calmly, but his son could see the anger in the man’s eyes now. It was not, Adrien knew, anger at him, but at the petty and vindictive nature of Audrey Bourgeois. He knew that his father had never particularly cared for Audrey, even though she was Emilie Agreste’s childhood friend. Without his mother to act as a buffer between the two, or perhaps a bridge, the two had simply avoided interacting. That was about to change, and Adrien realized that Chloé’s mother had never had to deal with an angry Gabriel Agreste without the help of Emilie. He almost felt sorry for the woman. Almost.

“Yes, father,” Adrien replied to the man. “I’m very sorry, I didn’t understand just how bad the falling out between Chloé and her mother had become.” He felt his father’s eyes on him, looking for something, possibly something inside him, Adrien could never be sure, but it always unnerved him.

“Is this because of her relationship with the designer girl, ah, Mlle. Marinette Dupain-Cheng?” Gabriel asked. He looked very angry, and Adrien knew his father’s view of the rights of same-sex couples was one thing they unequivocally shared. Gabriel hated bigots.

Trust his father to remember Marinette because of her designs, though, and not her friendship with Adrien. Still, it gave him something to work with. “Not directly, although – you remember what Chloé used to be like,” Adrien temporized.

“Yes,” Gabriel agreed.

“She was already changing for before they started dating, but Marinette was the catalyst for Chloé. She’s finally happy with herself, and she has reevaluated what is important to her. The things her mother stands for no longer interest her, and Audrey can’t seem to understand that,” Adrien said. “I don’t know if Audrey hates that Chloé is dating a girl, but I’m pretty sure that she hates that she’s dating Marinette. Chloé told me some of the things that Audrey has said in her letters and emails. She’s vicious, and if she could find a way to attack Marinette’s family I’m sure she would, but the Dupain-Cheng family has M. Mayor Bourgeois, personages such as Jagged Stone and Clara Nightingale, and really, just about everyone that Marinette has ever met. She has a talent for making friends. Unfortunately, it also means that the enemies she makes are…formidable.” Adrien realized that he had just rambled at his father, but rather than scorn, he thought he could almost see respect in his father’s eyes now.

“She seems to have a friend and champion in you,” Gabriel said coolly, but without the disdain he usually used when talking about Adrien’s friends.

“She’s Alya’s best friend, and she’s helped me a lot this past year,” he replied.

Gabriel regarded him with little emotion for a long moment, before frowning. “I will warn the staff of the event of Mme. Bourgeois’ presence and her likely motives. We can’t exclude her, but we can also refuse to offer her press credentials. I’m sure she will try to bully someone into issuing them to her, so I will have security…no, better yet, I shall have M. Dupont attend to the matter, she cannot bully him, I am sure.” Gabriel focused clearly on Adrien. “You cannot give her a reason to attack you, a justification to excuse her poison pen critiques. Be on your best behavior. I will also have Nathalie monitoring you, and the whole event is, of course, being filmed. I will have a crew assigned to follow you after the catwalk portion of the show is finished.” Adrien bit his lip, knowing that he and Alya would get no privacy at all, but despite that, he appreciated what his father was doing. Video was the ultimate impartial witness.

“Thank you, Father,” Adrien said. “And thank you for everything you did for this fall line. I know it isn’t what you envisioned for marketing, but…”

Gabriel held up a hand. “It was not, I admit, an approach I would have thought to take, and it does not suit my tastes, but I can say without doubt that the photos from your fireworks photoshoot have resulted in some of the highest traffic our website and social media outlets have seen,” he said. “That photo,” – there was no doubt which photo that was – “has been shared and retweeted over 30 million times as of this morning, Adrien. The exposure has been most satisfactory. I would like for this launch to be the most successful seasonal launch of a youth line that Gabriel has ever had. Marketing tells me we have connected to our customers in a way we never have before. They see that they can look beautiful in Gabriel clothing in a way that all the models and expensive, exotic photo shots could never convey. That will push Gabriel to the top. I will not let someone ruin that for some petty squabble that has absolutely nothing to do with my company. Mme. Bourgeois will find that she doesn’t have quite as many friends in the industry as she believes she does if she continues to push this vindictive act.”

Adrien almost let out a sigh of relief. He was angry at Audrey for threatening his company, and that made it personal for him. He would look out for Adrien, Alya, and everyone else as a matter of course. If he didn’t know what a revolting bitch Audrey was, he might have felt sorry for her. “Thank you, Father,” he said.

Gabriel nodded. “If there is nothing else, I now have much to do on top of all the other work I was dealing with this morning. Thank you for bringing this to my attention so promptly, Adrien. We have time to respond properly because of it. I’m quite sure that Audrey considers you and her daughter no threat to her plans. That error will cost her quite dearly.” Gabriel took a deep breath. “I will be busy the rest of the day. Vincent is doing prep work all day today, so you have no scheduled shoots. I would prefer if you were not to go out, with this awful weather, and the show so close, but…I would not object to you having a few friends visit today. As long as I am not disturbed.”

Adrien almost gaped, but caught himself. “Thank you, Father.”

Gabriel nodded his head once. “Send M. Dupont in on your way out, Adrien. Tomorrow, Nathalie has a full schedule for you in preparation for the show on Friday. Good day, son.”

Adrien nodded, and saw his way out.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Kanina bounded across the rooftops, Rena Rouge following as they ran through the rain. It was miserable weather, but patrolling in the rain meant that they were more accustomed to it when the occasion to fight in it came upon them. Or that’s what Rena had said. Kanina was still getting used to the whole thing. She leapt long and far, using the power of the Rabbit Kwami to make incredible jumps, whipping her skipping rope out to catch herself if she missed, or more likely slipped on the wet roofs. She thought a skipping rope was kind of a silly tool, but then Ladybug had a yoyo and Queen Bee had a trompo, so there were worse things. But why couldn’t she have gotten something cool like Wyvern’s sanjiegun or Capuchin’s meteor hammer? Even Carapace had a shield – the thought made her grin turn wry. She would get Ladybug, oh yes she would. Turtle and Rabbit Kwami? The tortoise and the hare? Really? She was sure she could come up with a comment about how spots and stripes clash at the appropriate moment.

She landed, and a moment later, Rena Rouge caught up with her. “I’ve been doing this for months, and I’m in good shape, how are you leaving me behind?” the Fox Warrior asked. The Rabbit Warrior reached back and rung the water out of her ponytails. The transformation had pulled them up and had them sticking up just like rabbit ears, but when they were wet, they tried to hang in her face. At least the blue bodysuit, with its lighter blue accents, shed water well, and her body wasn’t wet at all.

“Because I’m the Energizer Bunny,” Kanina replied. “I keep going and going!”

“That’s good to know,” Rena said, a wicked gleam in her eyes. “I’m sure that Carapace is very enthusiastic about that fact.”

“Yes…wait what?”

“And the Rabbit Warrior! Is it true what they say about rabbits?” Rena asked with a sly grin.

“You suck, Rena,” Kanina said softly.

“Chat Noir can only wish that,” Rena said so matter of fact that the rabbit warrior almost slipped on the tiles she was standing on.

“Oh. My. God, Rena!” Kanina yelled loudly. “You ecchi fox!”

“Ecchi?”

“Means perverse,” Kanina told her. “I went to school in Japan for two years, you know,” she said.

“I didn’t,” Rena admitted, “but we don’t talk about things like that in costume. I’ll give you a pass because you didn’t know, but facts like that can lead very quickly to your identity if someone has another fact or two. Every time they can narrow their search, your secret is that much more at risk, because they will be looking in the right places for further mistakes.”

Kanina nodded. “Okay. Thank you for the lesson, Rena,” she said. “I wish it didn’t have to be in the rain, though.”

“Well,” the fox warrior told her, “it should do something for you to know that Chat and Carapace are just as miserable as we are. We can finish our patrol, and then we can get back to a warm room, warm food, blankets, and a movie marathon. Really, akuma don’t like the rain.” She leaned in very close, so she could whisper to the rabbit warrior. “Except for you, Mlle. Climatika,” Rena said very quietly. The girl jumped back, and then glared.

“Bitch,” Kanina muttered. “At least my powers weren’t dependant on phone signal.”

“Hey, that’s uncalled for!”

Kanina smiled, tensed slightly, and then leapt. She landed two roofs away, and Rena growled. The rabbit girl was going to be an absolute nightmare to keep up with when she got into shape. Rena gathered herself, and then leapt after her new teammate.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

“Lila Rossi,” a cultured female voice said, and Lila spun around, looking for the source.

“Who’s there?” Lila asked. She flinched when she saw a tall, regal lady, dressed in shades of blue, her pale skin somehow conveying a tinge of blue itself.

“I am Mayura,” the blue lady said, and Lila just barely held herself still. She felt like running. She had seen what little the Ladyblog had to say about this woman, and none of it was good. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much she could do, except listen to whatever the scary woman had to say. “I know you were wronged by Ladybug and Chat Noir. I know you still harbor a hate for the scarlet heroine. I am here to aid you in your revenge.”

Lila shook her head. “Your news is out of date. I’m getting over that. It was petty, it was childish, and I was being a bitch. I mean, I am a bitch, but not that kind of bitch. Sorry that you troubled yourself for nothing, though.” She hoped that that would work.

Mayura seemed to let out a little sigh. “I had thought you would want to help me in what I want,” the blue villainess said.

Lila shook her head again. “I’m done with Miraculous, I’m done with Papillion, and I’m done with you. The best revenge is to live well and happy. I don’t need your help with that.”

The peacock woman sneered, and she regarded Lila coldly. “I will tell you when you are done with me, girl,” she said. She snapped her fan open and waved it past her face. Lila felt a little dizzy, but shook her head to clear it. Mayura’s fan began to dance before her. “You do want to help me, don’t you, Mlle. Rossi?”

Lila shook her head again. “Stop that, whatever it is. I don’t like you, and I don’t want to like you. That whispering voice is easy to ignore.” Her eyes went wide. “You…you’re like Papillion! You have a Miraculous! And you’re using it wrong!”

Mayura snarled. “What was that?”

“I read it in a book,” Lila sing-songed, grinning. “Mayura is the peacock warrior, with the power of inspiration and charisma. She raises spirits and inspires the people to stand up for themselves!”

Where. Is. The book,” Mayura growled.

“I. Don’t. Know,” Lila countered. “I only saw it for a short while. I’ve done more than a bit of research into the Miraculous. And the person who had the book when I saw it? They lost it, it was taken from them, so even if you knew who I borrowed it from, it wouldn’t help you now. So go away. You have nothing that I want.” Power flared, and Lila found herself rooted, unable to move as Mayura pushed out some kind of siren call. She turned her head to look at the villainess, and spat. “Weak. You can’t inspire, you can only demand. At least Papillion offered something in return.”

Mayura stalked over and slapped her. “You conceited little bitch. I am Mayura, and you will love me. You will obey me. You will serve me. And you will be happy as you do so.”

“That worked out well for the last guy, didn’t it? He got his ass kicked by a normal girl.”

Mayura backhanded her, sending her spinning to the ground. On the ground on her hands and knees, Lila realized that taunting the crazy bitch holding you captive with the memory of her debut loss wasn’t, perhaps, the best idea. “You will love me. You just need a little…inspiration.” Lila saw her tug on one of the feathers in her fan, and it came free. She walked closer and dropped the feather on Lila’s back.

The whispers were back, but a hundred times stronger, and Lila bit her lip. The pain helped her focus. She needed to get up, and away. This was a bad, bad place to be. She staggered, and tried to get up, brushing at the feather as she came upright, but it didn’t move. She couldn’t move, couldn’t run. She cursed internally. “I will not give in, you crazy bitch,” she ground out.

Mayura grinned, and it wasn’t a good grin. She pulled out another feather, and traced it along Lila’s jaw, from ear to ear. “You will be my little pet, girl.” She walked around Lila, who was still struggling to move. Lila felt the feather brush across her neck, then it was laid across her back, and the voices began to drown out her thoughts. Love Mayura. She wants the best for you. Serve Mayura. She will give you everything you want. Give in to Mayura. She grit her teeth, holding in a scream. She would not give this bitch the satisfaction. “You are mine.”

Lila looked up at her, and spat in the peacock villainess’ face. She was backhanded again for her act, and she landed hard on her ass, and then on her back, the wind knocked out of her as she hit. She was still gasping for air when Mayura laid a third feather between her breasts. Lila couldn’t fight it anymore, and she felt herself stand. The third feather made it easier to think. The voices were so strong that they controlled her body almost on their own. They couldn’t think, though. She felt like a puppet. Now she understood what Rose had said in her interview. Puppet. She cursed herself, but she wasn’t sure what she could have done to get away. Mayura gave her no real chance to escape. Still, what could little Lila Rossi do to Ladybug. She lost as Volpina. Lila could do nothing.

Mayura walked over to her. “Much better. Such a good girl.” Mayura caressed her face, and Lila shuddered internally. Crazy bitch. Then the peacock bitch reached up, and Lila felt cool metal against first one ear, then the other. “You will be the first, Lila Rossi.” Mayura reached up, and tapped the metal. Lila actually flinched when the white light flashed, and a cute little gray floating stuffed animal thing appeared in front of her face. It had two adorable horns, and she felt back for it, and terrified for herself. The cool metal was a Miraculous. She was well and truly fucked.

Mayura grinned wickedly, and tapped the Miraculous again. “Nassa – Transform Her!” Light enveloped Lila, and, thankfully, she passed out.

Chapter Text

Chloé and Marinette walked toward the VIP entrance to the ballroom that was hosting the Gabriel Fall Fashion Premier. Marinette had been gifted the passes by Nathalie Sancoeur as part of an ongoing effort by the Gabriel brand to encourage young new designers. It had included a plus-one, so of course Marinette brought Chloé, even though the blonde could probably have arranged for passes on her own. Not having to rely on the Bourgeois name for once was rather nice, in her opinion. As the couple came to the penultimate corner before the entrance, they could hear shouting. Very loud shouting. Very loud, feminine shouting. They turned the corner and found Audrey Bourgeois trying to get into the face of Alain Dupont – known to all of Adrien’s friends as ‘The Gorilla’ – and failing, as M. Dupont was both much taller than her, and a much more physically imposing specimen. A nervous-looking intern manning the press desk was practically hiding behind the huge man. The Gorilla stared down at Audrey with pure disinterest.

“Madame,” he said in his deep voice – which Marinette and Chloé had only heard a handful of times in the past year – “you are not included on the press list. In fact, there are specific instructions to deny you entry through the press access. While I do not know why these instructions were issued, I also do not care. You did not apply for press access before the event – unlike every other media outlet present today. You may think that the rules do not apply to you, but I can assure you that Gabriel does not agree.”

“The company, or the man?” Audrey snarled.

“In this case, they are the same, Madame,” the bodyguard said. “Now, please remove yourself, or we shall be forced to contact security.”

“This. Is. Not. Over,” the fashion critic growled, glaring at him.

“Get over yourself, Audrey,” Chloé said suddenly. “Act like the adult you claim to be.”

Chloé’s mother whirled, and stared coldly at her daughter. “What are you doing here, Chloé?”

“Me?” the blonde asked with a smirk. “Why, I’m attending the premier as a VIP.”

Audrey looked furious. “And just how did you rate that, if they won’t admit me? Audrey Bourgeois. I’m one of the most respected fashion critics in the world!”

Chloé laughed. “If by respected, you mean feared, then perhaps that is true, but no one really respects you, Audrey. You’re a petty little bitch who never grew up, just older.” Chloé looked her mother up and down. “Much older.”

Mme. Bourgeois stormed up to Chloé and got in her face. “I am your mother and you will show me respect.”

“You haven’t been a mother in years Audrey, and I have come to the point where I no longer care. I have more important concerns that your petty sniping and long-held grudges. And I have people that love me far more than you ever did. I was just a bauble to show off, ‘look at me, I’m a mother!’ Or maybe it was some kind of vanity? ‘Look, I had a child and I still look fabulous!’ You certainly lost interest in me soon enough after you had me. Did you want someone that you could shape into your own twisted image? I have no interest in that, or in you. You abandoned father and me, and I spent years trying to be Mlle. Audrey the Second in the vain hope that you would come back and actually be my mother. But you didn’t, because all you care about is yourself!”

Audrey raised her hand and began to swing it as if to slap Chloé, but her arm was caught by Marinette, and the blunette held the arm in an iron grip. “Let go of me, little girl, or I will see you broken.”

Marinette stood up incredibly straight, and pushed right into Audrey’s face. “I will protect Chloé, even if it’s from her own mother,” she said, her voice very, very cold.

“If you try to even harm a hair on my Marinette’s head, I will inform father. He is this close,” and Chloé held her thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart, “to filing the divorce papers he had drawn up earlier this year. You already threatened my friends, and you threatened Gabriel Agreste with your petty, vindictive bitching, because I got tired of watching you act absolutely horridly to everyone around you and left. If you threaten my girlfriend, who has helped me heal the damaged parts of my soul that you poisoned with your attitudes and your hatred.”

Chloé’s mother had snarled again at the words ‘my girlfriend’, and she stared up at Marinette, who had perhaps three centimeters of height on her – except that Marinette was in two centimeter heels, and Audrey’s wedges had to be five or six centimeters, with a two centimeter platform. “This is the jumped-up little peasant bitch who thinks she can seduce you into some depraved Sapphic relationship?” Audrey asked sharply. “She’s not even pretty. She’s not even French.”

The younger blonde smirked. “I seduced her, Audrey,” she said. “She’s bisexual, and had the hugest crush on Adrien for the longest time – but then, half the girls in Paris have crushed on Adrien. But I told her that I was falling for her, and she gave me the chance to win her heart. I have never looked back. But I am the sister of Sappho here, Audrey. I’m the lesbian here. I’m the queer. I’m the little homosexual deviant that sprang from your loins, Audrey.” Her mother’s mouth opened and closed like that of a fish, but no sound came out, and Chloé barreled onwards. “The good thing about being a lesbian is that I won’t be passing on the genetic time bomb that is involved with being your daughter. I won’t be passing your fucked up genes onto anyone.” Chloé pushed her mother away from Marinette, and stood square in her face.

“I know you’re here to try and spread trash about the Gabriel fall line in some childish attempt to punish me,” Chloé said. “You won’t be getting in, Audrey, and no other respectable designer in Paris will let you in, either. You are trying to punish children by attacking someone’s livelihood, and no one will stand for that. I’m fourteen fucking years old, Audrey. Fourteen! You are supposed to be standing up for me, not trying to be the one to tear me down! You are the worst fucking fashion mother since Ragyo Kiryuin, and she’s not even real!”

“What?”

“She’s a crazy anime mom that tries to take the world over with demonically possessed clothing,” Marinette put in helpfully.

“She also experimented on her children and turned them into a kind of monster,” Chloé added. “So in that, you are the same. I am not some fucking toy that you can use and then throw away when I am inconvenient, Audrey, but that is exactly what you did.” Chloé took a deep breath. “Now, here is what is going to happen. You are going to turn around. You are going to walk away. You are not going to last out and any of the dozens of people who have lined up, waiting for you to get your temper tantrum finished so that they can get to their fucking seats in a fashion show that you aren’t even attending.” She watched Audrey turn around and blanch as she realized the size of the audience that had seen at least the end of the dressing down. “M. Dupont told you you aren’t going in as press. I doubt you have any other ticket, and certainly not a VIP pass. So, Audrey, you need to leave.”

“I am your mother!” Audrey shrieked. “You will not speak to me that way.”

“You’re my incubator. A woman has to be present to qualify as a mother,” Chloé snarled, then she took a deep breath, and stepped back next to Marinette. “I got lucky, though. Marinette’s mother has been willing to teach me a lot of the things that you never did, never would. Things that daddy couldn’t teach me, because he’s not a woman. Mama Sabine has taught me what a mother should be, and you certainly aren’t one.” She turned her head to look at Marinette. “We’ve held up the line long enough, Mari my love. We should go inside.” Marinette just nodded with a wry smile, and they turned, presented their VIP passes to the intern at the table, and entered through the door, leaving the fuming Audrey Bourgeois behind.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Gabriel Agreste watched Audrey Bourgeois stalk away on the security monitor. He was, as he had often been recently, torn between how he should react.

As a man, and one who had known Audrey for years, seeing her getting dressed down by her daughter brought him great satisfaction. She would not be ruining his fashion show.

As Papillion, he saw someone ripe to fall victim to an akuma butterfly. She would most assuredly attack the Gabriel fashion premier, but any damage would be fixed by Ladybug after…he stopped, stunned. He had assumed that Audrey would be defeated by Ladybug. She didn’t stand a chance. She had nothing on some of the akuma that had faced Team Miraculous recently. And she was too petty to pursue the Miraculous, she would be too focused on her ‘revenge’. Perhaps…

He didn’t think Audrey Bourgeois could possibly defeat Ladybug. But that almost made turning her into an akuma better. Either she claimed the Miraculous, or she was humiliated. Either way was a win for Gabriel.

“Nathalie,” she said to his assistant.

“Yes, M. Agreste?”

“Can you call for the car to take me to the mansion? Audrey Bourgeois seems to have been dealt with, so I will not need to be here,” he said.

“You aren’t staying for the premier show?” Nathalie asked.

Gabriel shook his head. “This isn’t my premier show, this is Adrien’s. This is the first time he has stepped up and taken a role in the business of this company. He will be the one to receive the accolades today. He has earned them for his hard work.”

Nathalie smiled softly. “I understand, M. Agreste. I will call for a driver. Is there anything you wish for me to tell him?”?

“Tell him that I am proud of what he has accomplished with this season’s work, and proud of his growth in business, and…and as a person,” Gabriel said after a moment’s hesitation.

“Shouldn’t you tell him yourself, sir?” Nathalie asked softly.

“I cannot, Nathalie,” he said quietly. “I still cannot face him without seeing his mother in his eyes, in his face. I can’t say these words, not to him. Not right now.”

“Sir…” Nathalie began.

He turned sharply. “No, Nathalie. This is not the time. This is Adrien’s day. We can revisit the matter another time.”

“Yes, M. Agreste.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Marinette and Chloé had found their seats, both (despite Chloé’s former air of connection to the rich and famous) a bit in awe of the people surrounding them. Clara Nightingale (who actually waved at them!) and Jagged Stone they were at least somewhat used to, but some of the others! There were a handful of movie stars, two film directors, a half a dozen models, and the same number of famous fashion designers. XY was there, and they were seated right behind Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, whom Chloé only recognized because they had stayed once at Le Grand Paris when Bangalter was in Paris for an event. She had whispered to her girlfriend who the duo actually were, and she giggled when Marinette almost fell out of her chair. Being superheroes, they understood and respected the need for others to have their privacy, so they didn’t let on that they knew that the pair was better known – in their robotic alter-egos – as Daft Punk. Marinette and Chloé were both feeling quite star-struck, and the fact that the people they were surrounded by would probably feel similar if they knew they were sitting with Ladybug and Queen Bee did nothing to lessen the effect.

The house lights dropped, and the music began as the runway was lit up with bright lights. The thumping but cheerful beat made Marinette smile, and her smile broadened as the first model strutted out on the runway. It was Alya, rocking her outfit, and when she reached the end of the stage she paused for just a moment, winked at the audience, and turned and strode back off, putting a confident, sexy swagger into her stride. Then Marinette’s attention was drawn to Adrien, and then the next model, and the next, as one after another they showed off the Gabriel line of fall fashion. The models were the same mix of supermodels and good-looking, but obviously amateur models, and Marinette recognized a few from the proofs Adrien had shown them. There were more models than had been in the catalogue shoots, she knew, but there wasn’t enough time for the models to change for their reappearance if not for increasing their numbers. But before Marinette could quite believe, Alya was back on stage – this time walking hand-in-hand with Adrien, in complementary outfits. The next couple hadn’t yet started their walk when Adrien and Alya hit the end of the stage, and they paused together, moving into a more intimate pose. Marinette saw Alya placing a hand on Adrien’s chest, while Adrien drew her close with a hand around her waist, and the pair stared into each other’s eyes for just a moment, before they looked out at the audience, and then turned away as the next couple had started striding down the runway to show off their coordinated outfits.

Of course, that was when there was an explosion on the stage.

Or it only looked like an explosion. Golden smoke billowed out from the stage, and then a figure was revealed to be standing there. It was an akuma, of course, but a striking one, her body all in gold, carrying a golden staff. Marinette heard Chloé curse, and she wasn’t far behind her. It had to be Audrey Bourgeois.

The akuma began to speak. “You think you can have a fashion premier without the Style Queen? I am the arbiter of what is couture and stylish, and I find your pathetic showing here unworthy to be called fashion. Your models are lacking, your disgusting displays of affection are nauseating, and your music is insipid. I will show you what is fashionable!” She lashed out with her staff, striking Adrien and Alya with it, and the pair was instantly turned into gold.

“Oh, fuck,” Chloé said softly. Then Style Queen was leaping back, as a small, feminine redheaded figure crashed down onto the stage, her staff whipping around, forcing Style Queen back. Chloé looked at Marinette, and they both ran from the room. Wyvern would have to handle this until they could transform.

“You know,” the petite figure of Wyvern stated calmly, “crashing a party you weren’t invited to isn’t fashionable, it’s rude. Not to mention it being trespassing. You should call yourself the Bad-mannered Queen, or maybe just the Bitch Queen.”

“You are Wyvern, yes?” Style Queen asked. “Uncouth and poorly dressed, just like the peasant you must be under those tacky garments. And I am Style Queen, girl, wherever I go, whatever I do, that is fashionable.”

“Just shut up,” Wyvern said, giving the ends of her staff a twist; the weapon broke into its sanjiegun form, and the crimson heroine leapt for the villain, catching the swinging staff at waist level on the chain between two bars, crossing her arms and binding the head of the staff momentarily. The Dragon Warrior leapt and twisted, lashing out with a foot, and yelped as the unmoving mass of Style Queen altered her expected course and sent her tumbling, her grip on her weapon lost as she crashed to the ground.

“That was rather pathetic, even for some little peasant girl,” Style Queen stated with a smirk.

Wyvern rolled to her feet. “Working for what you have is being a peasant? So, what, being a parasitic bitch that doesn’t actually do anything useful except insult people is upper class, then? I’ll just keep on being a peasant, then. Seems to me that the only thing being upper class has done for you is made you all alone.”

Style Queen shrieked and lunged at the small heroine before her, swinging her staff back and forth. Wyvern parried the blows, knocking them aside, snapping her weapon back into staff form between strikes. Her palms smarted and her arms shook with every blow. The akuma had the weight of gold, making her a juggernaut of power just by her normal movements. Wyvern knew she was much stronger in her Miraculous form, but Style Queen was a monster. She stumbled, and was sure that the akuma was going to catch her with the next blow of her staff, but before that happened, there was a flash of scarlet, and the head of the staff was entangled by a yoyo.

“Definitely not stylish, Queenie,” Ladybug said. Queen Bee, standing beside her, didn’t bother to quip. She just growled, lashing out with her arm and sending her magical trompo racing across the ground toward the villain. The akuma chuckled, and so was very surprised when the impact of the trompo sent her flying across the room. The string top curved back to Queen Bee, and she snatched it up, the string wrapping itself about the trompo instantly.

The golden villain struggled back to her feet, an angry snarl on her face. “I will crush all of you little insects. ‘Team Miraculous’, hah! What a plebian name!”

“You are an arrogant bitch, you know that?” Wyvern said, having regained her feet, running over to stand beside Ladybug and Bee. “Plebian this, peasant that, fashionable this…is there anything inside your head except nastiness?”

“I do not have to explain myself to a worm like you,” Style Queen said.

“It’s pronounced wyrm,” Wyvern said with a smirk. “Arrogant, bigoted, and uneducated, what a combination you have going for you, Queenie,” she said.

“I am tired of you,” the villain said. She raised her staff, and vanished in a billow of golden smoke.

“We need to find where she went,” Ladybug said instantly. “Follow me.” The trio ran out of the ballroom and quickly made their way outside. There was a mass of golden statues outside, and Ladybug bit down a curse. She leapt to the roofs, followed by her partners. Style Queen’s path was easy to see, the shining golden statues that had been people lined the road she had taken.

“She’s headed toward the Tower,” Bee said. “What is it with akuma villains and the Eiffel Tower?”

“Maybe Papillion really hates it?” Wyvern said.

Ladybug flipped her yoyo open in communication mode, trying the sequences for Kanina and Carapace. Neither answered, meaning they were probably still operating as Team Ladyblog. That was fine for now; Aurore, at least, had to maintain her position as the lead reporter for the Ladyblog, and in truth she had been practicing for this eventuality. She had gotten very good at placing the half-dozen GoPro cameras she had purchased around a battlefield, although she had yet to do so in an actual fight. Once she was set up, she could transform into Kanina and join the fight. It was an imperfect solution, but Aurore needed to keep doing her job for the Ladyblog. If she stopped reporting or was replaced as soon as Kanina appeared – just as Alya had stepped back from reporting soon after Rena Rouge had appeared – then too many questions would begin to be asked. Nino was less so; as long as the video rolled, whether he was running the camera or not didn’t always matter. While he needed to be there, he and Aurore had already started branching out, with the two of them going different directions on the battlefield to increase their coverage. Ladybug still thought they were crazy, but the work they did for the Ladyblog was important. It allowed them some control over their public image, and people trusted the Ladyblog. They trusted Aurore, and the girl was getting international recognition, as was the Ladyblog. Ladybug admitted that her decision to bring the pair in had not been completely thought out, but she trusted them. The trio started running along the rooftops to follow Style Queen. She wasn’t worried about the last member of their team. As soon as word of an akuma was broadcast, she was certain to be on the way. Since her mother was (once again) out of the country, and her father was fairly hands-off and permissive in raising her, Rose could disappear for days at a time and her father wouldn’t worry as long as he got a message from her every day. This gave Rose the most freedom of any of the Miraculous holders, and she was always ready to respond. Even if it wasn’t Mayura, Rose was going to stop anyone who tried to hurt the people of Paris.

Style Queen was nearing the next intersection when a weight on the end of a long rope smashed into her face. While the damage it did was minimal, Style Queen was, underneath it all, still human, and she wasn’t used to her newfound power. Getting hit in the face caused her to recoil backwards, and she fell on her golden ass. Then her attacker bounded into view.

The black bodysuit was skintight as the rest of theirs were, but this one had a silver fur collar, and a hood that was out of a silvery material that almost matched the fur. The wearer had a long rope draped across her shoulders, and was idly spinning the weights on each end of it around in her hands. A fuzzy, narrow tail hung out the back of her outfit. “Hello,” the tiny, suited figure said, “I think you really need to stop that right now. None of those people hurt you. And since I know you aren’t going to stop on your own,” the girl said, flipping the rope over her shoulders and spinning it around, so that she was holding one end in her hand, with the other – now shrunken – end spinning in a wide circle, “me and my friends are going to stop you.”

Style Queen laughed. “You think you can do it, little girl? You are no more than a monkey compared to me!”

The little heroine bowed. When she stood, the hood flopped back enough to show the short blonde hair the girl wore, and the circlet around her forehead. “Capuchin is my name. Here to serve you.” With no more words, the weighted end of her meteor hammer struck out, spinning and dancing, then back, spin, and the other end was suddenly flying towards the akuma. The flashing weapon flew all around Style Queen, and the akuma growled but was too off-balance to do much more than flinch and dodge. Then the rest of Team Miraculous struck. None of the attacks did much to Style Queen, but the whirlwind of violence around her kept her completely distracted, the socialite Audrey Bourgeois completely unused to anything like the physicality being displayed. She hadn’t seen such since her days in school, which were further off than she would have admitted, and the blur of action was more than she was ready for. Style Queen teleported in another puff of golden smoke, but in her disoriented state she could only teleport down the street. She turned to sneer at Team Miraculous, when she was bowled over – actually knocked over – by a green-clad hero with a wearing a green shield. The golden villain sneered and started to strike at the green hero with her staff, when it was stopped by a glowing green dome of energy. Style Queen had little time to contemplate this turn of events when her arms were bound by a weighted cord that spun around them half a dozen times. The villain looked at the bindings, and before she could formulate her response, Ladybug swung in and snatched her staff away. Then Queen Bee darted in, snatching her necklace off, leaving her trompo spinning at the feet of the transformed style maven. Once again, she was sent flying, this time swinging in an arc as the Monkey Heroine drove the other end of her meteor hammer into the ground to act as the fulcrum of a pendulum. She smashed into the ground, dazed, being vaguely aware that her power was leaving her now, and then she heard the words, ‘Miraculous…Ladybug!’, and a red light washed over her, leaving her Audrey Bourgeois once again. She was stunned. How had she lost? She was Audrey Bourgeois!

She looked up, expecting to see the group of heroes standing above her – she had seen enough pictures of the supposed heroes of Paris to know that this was the standard actions of the group after they defeated one of their foes – but she saw no one. There was a blonde girl with a video camera that held the camera on her for perhaps half a dozen seconds, before she dropped the lens, stared for a moment longer, then walked away. Audrey turned and saw the group – Team Miraculous – walking away from her without looking back. Dismissing her. She was Audrey Bourgeois, and she was being dismissed as if she wasn’t worth the heroes’ time. As if she didn’t matter. As if she wasn’t…worth the effort to save. She wanted to scream at them, but she had no energy left. She was Audrey Bourgeois, and they weren’t fit to kiss her shoes. Why were they not attending to her? Why were they not here, making sure that she was fine, making sure that her every need was attended to? Why was no one here at all? Where was her audience? Where was…anyone?

She sat there, staring without understanding at where the figures of the heroes had retreated, until the police arrived.

Chapter Text

Swinging the door open, Aurore Beauréal was mildly surprised to see Mireille Caquet standing on her doorstep. “Hey Rory,” the half-Korean girl said softly.

“Hey Miri,” Aurore said, feeling awkward. She hadn’t spoken much to Mireille since the other girl had won the KIDS+ weather forecaster contest, for several reasons, not of them particularly good, except perhaps the one. She had been jealous, of course, because the contest had come down to a popularity contest, and Miri had always come across as more personable. She was, admittedly, a sore loser. She had also been horribly embarrassed after the akuma incident, and she had a hard time facing Mireille, who knew that Aurore had become the victim of one of Papillion’s akuma butterflies because she was jealous, and a sore loser. The only halfway decent reason she had for avoiding Miri, for being mad at her, was because she knew that Mireille didn’t actually want to be a TV reporter. Or a TV weathergirl. Or have anything to do with the news media. Mireille wanted to be a singer – she wanted to be the next Lea Salonga, actually – and she thought that getting exposure on TV as a weathergirl would make her more recognizable. While she was working very hard at her singing, with vocal coaches and dance coaches to teach her to since and dance at the same time, Mireille also hoped to jumpstart her career on one of those TV talent shows. If she succeeded in that, then her exposure on TV as the KIDS+ weathergirl might give her the edge in a close vote though recognition. Aurore thought the whole thing was horribly baroque. And she, damn it, wanted to be a reporter. Losing to Mireille had been infuriating. Because anything would have served her purpose, as long as it got her exposure. Aurore needed to be seen doing news-type things, because she wanted to be a reporter. So, for all these reasons, Aurore had stopped talking to Miri. They hadn’t been the closest of friends, but they were close enough to have nicknames for each other, although Aurore didn’t particularly care for ‘Rory’. Mireille had pointed out that a person doesn’t get to choose their nickname, it is bestowed upon them by their friends and agreed upon until something happens that elicits a nickname change – which the person also doesn’t get to choose. More baroqueness.

“I’d ask how you are,” Mireille said, “but I see you all the time on the Ladyblog reports. You’re amazing, Rory! You’ve interviewed all of Team Miraculous, except for the rabbit and the turtle, you cover akuma battles – I could never do that!” Aurore led the girl into the parlor and they sat down, Mireille on the couch, and Aurore in a wingback chair, as Mireille was talking.

Aurore didn’t – quite – glare at her. “It’s not that different from being a weather forecaster,” the blonde replied. “Just with more explosions.”

Mireille looked at her oddly, then shook her head. “I don’t think explosions are a good thing.”

“No,” the blonde allowed, “but they do make things more interesting.”

The half-Korean gave her a wan smile. “I’m sure.” She seemed to be contemplating something, then brought her head up to meet Aurore’s eyes. “Class lists are up,” she said.

“Oh?” Aurore hadn’t heard this yet. She was going to have to go and look.

“Yes,” Miri said, nodding. “apparently Collège Françoise Dupont is the hot place to go to school this year. You’d think all the akuma attacks would warn people off, but there are some transfers in. The official excuse is that the school is going to be offering Mandarin Chinese as a language elective – something that your friend Adrien Agreste’s father had something to do with, apparently. If Adrien was to continue going to school at CFD, then he would need to take his language elective in a language that the school didn’t offer – Chinese – so Gabriel Agreste had persuaded Adrien’s tutor to apply to the school. Chinese was now an offered language at Collège Françoise Dupont, which gave local parents an excuse to send their children there.”

Aurore frowned. “So…classes are larger this year?”

“Yes, they are. And there has been some shifting of students around,” Mireille temporized.

The blonde sighed. “Just spit it out, Miri,” she said.

“You’ve been transferred to Mme. Bustier’s class.”

Aurore stared at Mireille for a moment. “You mean her former class,” she said.

Mireille grinned. “No, it’s still her class. She’s moving up with them, then will take a Quatrième class next year. Or maybe a Sixième class and stay with them all four years.”

Aurore raised her eyebrow skeptically. “And how do you know this?”

Mireille’s grin broadened. “I was walking by the school when she stormed out of the building having a screaming row with M. Lafayette. She told him he could have her class over her dead body, and told M. Damocles that if he didn’t let her have her way, she would take the job that one of the private schools nearby had offered her, and that most, if not all, of her class would follow. And how would he like losing Adrien Agreste, Chloé Bourgeois, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and the four main individuals running the Ladyblog, plus having to explain to the board why he suddenly had a mass outflow of students. I didn’t know Mme. Bustier could get so angry. I think what she said was that they had agreed that she would get the class again, and M. Lafayette tried to snatch them away by invoking seniority.”

“Well,” Aurore said, “I can almost guarantee there would have been a bit of a revolt amongst the students…”

“Just like Les Mis!” Mireille exclaimed. “But with fewer weapons. And death,” she added.

“You have Les Mis on the brain,” she said to the girl.

“That is true,” the half-Korean girl said. “But back to my original point. You’re in Mme. Bustier’s class now. You’re in the exciting class.”

“What does that even mean?” Aurore asked.

“Almost all of them have been turned into akuma. Which I realize isn’t a good thing, but it happens because interesting, exciting things happen around them,” Mireille explained. “And I’m going to be in the boring class, where nothing ever happens. Probably with a disgruntled M. Lafayette.”

“Our class is not boring,” Aurore said. “If being an akuma is the standard, both Jean and I were possessed by the damned butterflies.”

“Yours didn’t even happen at school,” Mireille countered. “You were at TVi. And it happened because you’re a jealous bitch,” she added with a grin.

“And now you are being a jealous bitch,” Aurore replied.

“Ouch,” Mireille said. “Truth again.”

“It’s my reporter’s eye, I can seek out and find the truth,” she said with a smirk.

The blunette rolled her eyes. “The truth is usually Ladybug kicking someone’s ass. You’re more like a battlefield reporter than an investigative journalist.”

Aurore shrugged. “I suppose I am. But I’m a fifteen-year-old battlefield reporter with rebroadcast rights in 22 different countries,” she said with a grin. “And that’s just direct contact. The BBC and…NBC, I think…are handling a lot of the rebroadcast agreements and taking a seven-and-a-half percent cut of the fees from that as their brokerage fee. It’s way easier for us, we don’t really have the time to deal with most of it. We are still students, you know.”

“See, interesting and exciting things,” Mireille said with a pout.

“Fair point.”

Mireille sighed. “I guess this is the payment for the good karma that let me win the contest last year. I guess, now, that I’m,” and she paused, then continued, “On My Own,” with a grin.

“Oh good god, Miri,” Aurore said, groaning. “You are obsessed. And why are you referring to On My Own and not Mon Histoire? You’re being a rather poor Frenchwoman.”

“Because,” Mireille said with a smirk, “Mon Histoire wasn’t a part of the original French production. It was added as an adaptation of On My Own after the song was added to the English production.”

“You are such a nerd, Mireille,” the blonde told the girl.

“I know. It’s why you love me, though.”

Aurore sighed. “It is. I have missed you, Miri. I’m sorry I was a bitch.”

Mireille shook her head. “I’m sorry too, Rory. I let the competition get away from me. I should have stepped down when it got to the final round with just the two of us, but…people liked me. It’s addictive, you know?”

“Oh, yes,” Aurore said with a grin. “Why do you think I keep going out there risking my life?”

“Crazy girl,” Mireille told her.

“I cannot deny this,” the blonde replied. “Since it’s a quiet day, and Nino is getting ready for a show he has tonight, I don’t really have any plans. Would you like to have lunch with me, and we can catch up?”

“I’d like that,” Mireille replied. “Besides, I want to hear about Nino. We haven’t gossiped in forever.”

Aurore grinned again, and she stood, leading Mireille to the kitchen, putting together a lunch and then sitting at the table, eating slowly as they regaled each other with some of the things the other had missed during their estrangement. Aurore felt a huge weight lift off of her shoulders. She had her friend back. The pair spent the afternoon together, reveling in enjoyment of one of the last days of summer, as only two good friends can.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Ondine Marceau walked down the street a few paces behind her boyfriend, looking at his silhouette in the orange light of the sunset. Kim was looking back at her over his shoulder occasionally, while telling a story about his day as he led them to some ‘cool place’ he had found. Ondine was fairly certain that ‘cool place’ meant ‘place where we can make out where we won’t get caught’, but she didn’t mind that too much. She couldn’t even go to Kim’s home right now, and her parents disapproved of anything that took time away from her swimming, so a private place for some kissing and groping sounded exciting and fun. She was more than a bit frustrated on that score, and she knew Kim was too, and since his birthday was in just a few days, having a private spot would be even better – she had a nice present in mind for his birthday.

She patted her firm belly – she had eaten so much getting dinner with Kim that she might burst. She flexed and rolled her shoulders, enjoying the crack of her back. Then she was snapping her neck from side-to-side, enjoying more cracking coming from the vertebrae there. She could see Kim shudder, and he stopped and turned fully around to complain – he always said it would cause her problems later in life. He froze when he turned, though, which made Ondine freeze as well. Something was very not good.

“Lê Chiến Kim,” came a chill, feminine voice, “Ondine Marceau. I have the need of the services of one of you. I will allow you to choose which of you will serve me.” Ondine turned to see the blue woman that the Ladyblog had reported upon. Mayura was her name. She was bad, bad news. Shit.

“Ondine,” Kim said firmly, walking over to her with his hands in the pocket of his hoodie. “Run.”

“What?”

He stopped by her side, looking her in the eyes. “You need to run. Run hard, run fast.”

“But…”

Kim pulled his right hand out of the hoodie and threw what was in it into Mayura’s eyes. “RUN!” he screamed, grabbing her hand and dragging her to the corner, where he pushed her to turn, while he kept running straight. She stumbled and almost stopped, but knew that he was right. Right now, she needed to run. Run, and call for help. She turned back to look at him, but he passed from sight as she stared back. She knew what he was doing, the chivalrous jerk. He was making himself an easier target. And she knew that Mayura was going to be pissed. She knew what he had thrown in her face. Kim almost always carried a small bottle of Vietnamese hot sauce with him – he said French food was too bland – when they went out to get food. He had used it earlier tonight at dinner. He had just thrown the whole bottle into Mayura’s face. It wasn’t quite pepper spray, but there was also a lot of it. In her eyes, her nose, her mouth. Even with magical superpowers, that had to hurt. She knew Ladybug needed magic to breathe underwater (wince) so pepper spray or hot sauce should be no different.

She could only hope that Kim would be safe.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lê Chiến Kim knew he was in deep, deep shit. He had just basically pepper sprayed a scary magical bitch that had, supposedly, had an old man beaten almost to death, and had the same attacker try to do the same to Rose. He almost winced in sympathy for the brainwashed man, Rose fought mean. Even if no one knew how strong the blue woman was, she apparently could use her feathers to brainwash or mind-control or do something to people that made them unable to choose their own actions. Kim was not okay with that, but he definitely wasn’t okay with that happening to his girlfriend. Not if he could do something about it.

Kim knew he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world. He wasn’t dumb, but he put in the minimum effort at school, using most of his focus on sports and fitness. Even when he learned things in school he didn’t always quite understand them. Instead of confusing himself, he did what he needed to get by, and focused on what he loved. Sports, fitness, and now, Ondine.

As he ran, he thought about his girlfriend. She was beautiful, strong (only Marinette was stronger, and he wasn’t supposed to know that fact), fierce, and she liked him. Maybe she even loved him. He knew that he loved her, because she didn’t ask him to be anything other than what he was. She pushed him to be the best person that he could be, but in his definition, and no one else’s. She helped him figure out who that person was, too, without more than a nudge now and then to make him think. He was smart enough to know that she was picking the sorts of questions she asked him, but most of them were questions he had thought of himself, she just knew how to ask them at the right times. He loved her for that. Damn, he hoped she was safe.

He finally turned a corner, in the minute hope that perhaps he could lose the blue bitch, but he skidded to a stop when he saw the figure standing in the side street in front of him. She was short, dressed in a white and gray bodysuit that left very little to the imagination. She had sort of headdress on that resembled the horns of a big ram. She was holding a golden hoop – with a diameter of about 40cm – in each hand, flipping one to spin around a bit before catching it, over and over. Oh, and it was Lila Rossi, and she had a glazed look in her eyes that told him that Lila was probably not actually at home right now. He heard movement behind him, and glanced back to see that Mayura was there, looking utterly furious. But she wasn’t the problem. The zombie Lila in front of him, wearing something like a Miraculous suit, was a big problem.

This was really, really going to suck.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Kanina leapt from rooftop to rooftop, her pigtail-ears blowing back in the wind of her passage. She loved this time of day. She almost always went out on patrol at sunset, enjoying the last light of the day, but also giving herself a bigger challenge. Shadows were tricky this time of day, and she needed to stay alert to keep from missing a jump and having an awkward, embarrassing landing. Another embarrassing, awkward landing. Damn it.

She was the only one of Team Miraculous that had patrol every night now. Because they knew she couldn’t respond to most of the emergencies, because she needed to be Aurore of Team Ladyblog instead, she had volunteered to cover one of the patrols almost every night. Since there were four routes, three of the other seven had to patrol each night, except Saturday night, which she had off. Alix, Mari and Chloé, and Rose always covered Saturday, so that Aurore and Nino, and Adrien and Alya, could have a date night, or a double-date, since Adrien and Nino were best friends, but would rarely get to hang out much outside of school once it started up again. Or that was the plan. They had, sort of, done it this past weekend, but Friday had been the attack of the Audrey-kuma. Although there wasn’t much difference, as far as Kanina could tell.

She wished she had been there when Mme. Bourgeois had tried to go to the hotel the next morning. She had gotten the story from Alix, who had been going to the hotel to see Chloé – didn’t that boggle the mind. The doorman had had orders to keep her out, and when she threatened his job, he had laughed. Then he used the subtly hidden microphone on his equally hidden two-way radio to call the manager. Who came to the door and explained to her that no, she would no longer be allowed to enter Le Grand Paris.  While Audrey was still screaming at the man – who weathered the tantrum with aplomb – a black Mercedes had pulled up, disgorging a pair of gentlemen in very expensive suits, carrying very expensive attaché cases. They interposed themselves between Audrey and the door. The first handed her an envelope, which supposedly had a letter informing her that his firm would no longer be representing her on retainer, due to the documents that the second attorney then handed her: divorce papers, filed by Andre Bourgeois, suing for divorce due to abandonment, mental abuse, and adultery. Audrey could, of course, put the firm back on her own retainer, but only after the divorce was finalized. Since the lawyers on retainer were both representing M. Mayor Bourgeois they couldn’t represent her as well as. Conflict of interest, you know, and none of the other partners were comfortable with stepping in to represent her, even if the firm hadn’t already been representing M. Mayor Bourgeois. Audrey had apparently had a full on meltdown, and the police had been called, and she was hauled off for the second time in as many days. First, for trespassing at the Fashion Premier, since, if she hadn’t been trespassing, she probably wouldn’t have gotten angry enough to draw Papillion’s attention. Then for being a public nuisance. The thought made Kanina giggle, right as she missed a landing and her face slammed into the roof. Ow.

She picked herself up, and was dusting herself off when she heard it. Or rather, them. Panicked footfalls. The sort of thing people running from Akuma usually produced. Definitely something to look into. Three leaps, and Kanina was falling to the street, landing right in front of the running person, who was…Ondine?

“Oh, thank god,”Ondine said, taking shuddering gulps of air. “Mayura. Kim. We ran. He made himself a target. Help him!”

“Will you be okay?” Kanina asked.

“Yeah,” Ondine said, even though her face was full of worry. Then, Kanina heard a beeping, and pulled at the handle of the jump-rope coiled at her hip, pushing it open like a sliding phone.

“Kanina,” she said.

Mayura is attacked Kim and Ondine, she might be safe, but Kim, less so,” the voice of Rena told her.

“I just found a redheaded girl,” she paused, and looked at Ondine. “What’s your name, mlle?”

“I will fucking kill you later if you keep pulling this bullshit cover identity thing, Aurore, when Kim is probably being attacked right now!” Ondine growled.

She’s pissed at that, isn’t she?” Kanina heard Rena say.

“Oh, yeah,” Kanina replied. “Which way was he running?” Ondine told her, and she relayed the information. “I’m keeping her with me, call in the Team,” she finished, and closed the phone on Rena’s affirmative. She scooped Ondine up in her arms, and she jumped.

Kanina could jump, better than any of the rest of the team, and now that she had a few days practice, she had gotten a much better feel for her powers, and she could move really fast. She was back on the street Ondine and Kim had split on, and she started bounding up the boulevard, leaping over cars, the wind crashing past her, Ondine squealing in her arms.

If it hadn’t been for her rabbit-sensitive hearing, she might have missed the fight. She skidded to a stop, Ondine almost tumbling from her arms, then running behind a car as Kanina pulled her skipping rope out and faced the battle scene, and she blanched. Kim was a mess, blood on his face, and his left leg was bent at an unnatural angle. And the girl he was fighting…

“Fuck.” It was Lila, visibly Lila, even though she was wearing what looked like a Miraculous. As she looked, Lila’s face turned toward her, but there was nothing in her eyes. Nothing at all. The smug blue bitch was standing off to the side, with an insufferable expression on her face. Oh, joy. Planting her back foot, she powered off, leaping into battle.

She quickly found that she was somewhat at a disadvantage against Lila. The pair of hoops gave the girl a lot of flexibility in combat. She was spinning one around her arm at the wrist, acting as a shield much as Ladybug did with her yoyo. Her closed fist was still vulnerable, but it was a small target, and one that Kanina wasn’t good enough to hit just yet. She could snap the other ring in a curving arc, like a boomerang, and the Rabbit Warrior had had to leap to avoid it more than once. She stumbled again, and was sure that the next ring had her name on it, when a weight on a chain shot through the center of the flying ring, arresting its trajectory. Kanina felt relief. Capuchin was here.

The hooded blonde landed next to her. “Is that…Lila?”

“Yeah,” Kanina replied. “Or a really good magic disguise. But I think it is Lila. Mayura looks too damn smug. She knows Lila is a sore point with Team Miraculous, because she’s one of the few victims that is still angry with us. Since, you know, Ladybug pissed her off in the first place.”

The ring trapped by Capuchin’s meteor hammer dissolved in a sparkle of light, reappearing with the other hoop. “Oh, that’s good,” Capuchin said, “I think she can summon one ring if she has the other.”

“It’s probably partly how the boomerang effect works,” Kanina said.

“It’s a good bet.”

“How are we going to do this?” Kanina asked her teammate.

Capuchin just moved. Her meteor hammer lashed out toward Lila’s foot, making her dodge, and making her take her rings in hand – apparently, she wasn’t skilled enough to use the shield in motion yet. Kanina leapt in, whipping the skipping rope she held around Lila’s legs, causing the girl to fall. Capuchin turned, and charged Mayura, meteor hammer shooting out in a straight line – how did she do that, she needed to learn that trick. The blue woman knocked the strike away with her fan, then did the same with the next three attacks. Then she waved the fan, and a blast of air knocked Capuchin back, sending her spinning to stop by slamming into a car. The Monkey Warrior just pushed away from the car and went back into a fighting stance.

“Lila,” Mayura said suddenly, “we are leaving.”

“Yes,” Lila agreed in a monotone.

Mayura waved the fan again, and another blast of wind lashed out, and Kanina and Capuchin had to fight against it to stay standing. Kim was knocked down, rolling against a bus shelter with a hard thump. As the winds died, Ondine ran around the car she had hidden behind, dashing to Kim. Capuchin looked at Kanina. “I can’t catch them, I don’t think. And one of us needs to stay and watch those two.”

“I’m on it,” Kanina said, looking up at the rooftops that Mayura and Lila had gone up and over. “Quickleap,” she muttered. She leapt, and then was moving across the rooftops faster than she could see. She focused on her target, the moving forms of Lila and the blue bitch from hell. Then she was in front of them, skidding to a stop as her Miraculous power faded. She heard the first beep as her timeout counter started. “I don’t think the party is over, yet,” she said.

“You’re a fool if you think you can stop us,” Mayura told her with a sneer.

“What about us, then?” Kanina heard a voice say behind her, and then Rena and Ladybug were there. This was better, she had to admit. Much better.

The next phase of the battle was too fast for Kanina to follow. Ladybug was so fast, her experience was showing. This was normal for her, now. Rena was a ghost, her minor illusions and flickering body motion making it hard for Lila to make contact. Mayura and Lila were forced back-to-back, and then Kanina heard Ladybug call out ‘Lucky Charm’. The object she received was a beach umbrella, and the Rabbit Warrior really wanted to see how this would work.

“Lila, now,” Mayura said.

“Unfollowable Path,” Lila murmured, and then Mayura lashed out with another wind blast. Kanina had a glimpse of Lila scooping up Mayura in her arms. She watched in sick fascination as the brainwashed girl made impossible leaps, landing on three impossibly small spots, and bounded away so quickly that she knew she had no chance of following. Kanina nodded. Goat Warrior. Mountain goats could climb almost sheer cliff faces, that none but another mountain goat could follow. Since there were no other Goat Kwami or Goat Warriors…well, damn.

“Are you okay?” Ladybug asked her.

“I’m fine,” Kanina told her. “Kim is beat to shit, though. You going to do the Miraculous cure?”

“No point in not doing so,” Ladybug replied. “I doubt Mayura will try again today.”

“She has Lila brainwashed.”

“Puppeted, we’re calling it, but yeah, noticed that. That makes things harder,” Ladybug said.

“She was after Kim and Ondine for the same reason,” Kanina added.

“Why?” Rena asked.

“Not because they are students as CFD,” Ladybug murmured. “Akuma victims?”

“As good a guess as any,” Rena said, nodding.

“We need to check on all the former victims,” Ladybug said. “Kanina, you and I need to transform, feed our Kwami, and then get out there and check. Capuchin can watch Kim and Ondine until Carapace gets here to protect them. Then we all go looking. I’ll get Queen Bee to get the list together and bring it. Better yet, we’ll call Sabrina.”

“She knows?” Rena asked.

Kanina rolled her eyes. “Of course she knows. She’s smart, and Chloé is her best friend.”

“Point.” Rena said, nodding.

“Ondine outed herself as knowing too,” Kanina told Ladybug.

“That’s good to know,” the scarlet hero said.

“Where is Queen Bee?” Rena asked.

“Doing lawyer stuff. They wanted her statement about the confrontation between her and her mother at the event,” Ladybug replied, saying as much as she would in her hero guise.

“Got it,” Rena said. “Let’s go.”

They organized as they said, and scoured the city, checking on each of the former victims. By eleven at night, they knew that, besides Lila, Alix’s brother Jalil Kubdel, who had been the Pharaoh; the obsessed photographer Vincent Asa, who had been Pixelator; and Penny Rolling, Jagged Stone’s assistant, who had been Troublemaker, were all missing. Mayura now had holders for four of the stolen Miraculous. Calls were made, friends were warned discretely. Neither they, nor any of their friends, slept easy that night.

Chapter Text

Lila Rossi lay in a bed. It was a comfortable bed, but it was also her prison, for she was bound to it every night while Mayura, or whoever she really was, slept. Her room was a cell; her hands were bound closely to the bed frame, but she had just enough movement to be able to get to the toilet next to the bed. She hadn’t had to take a crap yet while she was bound, but that was sure to be unpleasant, and she was dreading her first period as a prisoner of this thoroughly psychotic bitch. Lila spent most of her days in a magic-induced possession thrall that (thankfully) left her mostly unaware. The things she did came back to her in dreams, though, much like they had after she had been under Papillion’s sway. It was about as bad as she had feared. She was more thankful than she could say that Kim and Ondine got away, even if she thought Kim was a testosterone laden stooge.

She brought her hands up to her ears. Mayura removed her Miraculous earrings each night, of course – Lila would surely escape otherwise. Miraculous. She dreamt of the other Miraculous holders she had fought. The Rabbit and the Monkey. She wondered who they were.

She had a good idea of who Ladybug and Chat Noir were. There were too many strange things happening around her class. Adrien and Marinette were the only two members of her class that hadn’t been akuma victims, which was in and of itself suspicious. She wondered if anyone outside of the school realized that. Then Marinette and Chloé start dating, and Adrien and Alya, and then both Queen Bee and Rena Rouge appeared. Knowing that much, she had ideas about the rest of the group, but they were just ideas.

She had been scared that Mayura would learn her suspicions about her class, but that wasn’t how the Peacock’s powers worked, apparently. Mayura subverted her will and control of her body, but her mind remained her own. She couldn’t answer Mayura’s musings even if she had wanted to – which, of course, she didn’t. Lila found it quite amusing that the blue bitch had, if not answers, then quite a few conjectures about the identities of her foes standing right next to her, and she had no idea. Every little victory she had against her captor, she would revel in.

The door swung open, and Mayura strode in, a feather already in her hand. As the villain took control over Lila’s body once more, she plotted and planned in her mind, and she swore to herself once again: someday soon, she would be free, and on that day there would be a reckoning.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Marinette and Chloé were working on their assignments in Chloé’s room when there was a knock at the door. Chloé sighed and stood, striding toward the door. Marinette turned to watch her girlfriend walk across the room, and Chloé looked over her shoulder and smirked, putting some extra wiggle in her walk. Marinette giggled. Chloé opened the door to see Butler Jean standing there, but apparently he was only escort, for standing behind him were Ondine Marceau and Alix Kubdel. Chloé stood back, making room for the girl to come in, and nodded to Butler Jean. “Do you think you could bring some drinks, and maybe a tray of snacks, please?” she asked, and the majordomo nodded. Chloé closed the door, and escorted the girls to where she and Marinette had been studying.

“Hi, Ondine,” Marinette said, “are you okay?”

“No,” Ondine said with a slight snarl. “I’m scared, angry, lonely, and I feel unsafe at home.”

“Lonely? Why are you lonely?” Chloé asked. “Surely Kim wouldn’t leave you alone.”

“Kim’s parents decided to go visit family back in Vietnam, and took him with them,” Ondine replied. “They are worried their baby boy might get hurt, or worse, and the fact that he was with me and protecting me when he was attacked was just one more thing to hold against me, apparently.” The look on her face was something between fury and anguish.

“Oh, I’m sorry Ondine,” Marinette said. “I know it’s not really my fault or anything, but I feel awful that you’re getting dragged into all of it.”

“Not your fault,” Ondine agreed.

Marinette turned to Alix. “Alix, I don’t even know what to say.”

Alix shook her head. “It isn’t your fault. I can’t even tell you how angry I am, but you had nothing to do with it. It could have been Sabrina’s dad, or Mylène’s, or Juleka’s mom. Or even Butler Jean out there. There are too many of our family and friends that have been Papillion’s victims. He’s the bastard that painted a target on the people we care about. I’m saving all my anger for that fucker Papillion, and fucking Mayura.”

Ondine hugged Alix from behind. “What she’s not telling you is that she had a screaming fit at my home last night. She got all the anger out then.”

Alix flushed. “I needed to yell. I know it isn’t their fault, but I also had to work through it. While yelling. A lot.”

“Did she break anything?” Chloé asked,

“Just a lamp,” Ondine said. “I could completely understand. That could have been me going through that.” She took a deep breath. “I know that Aurore already told you, but…yeah, I know about your secrets.”

“Thank you for telling us,” Marinette told her.

“Does Kim know?” Chloé asked.

“Officially? No,” Alix said. “He has suspicions, and has mentioned them, but he also has said that he doesn’t really want to know for sure. He said it’s easier not to talk about a thing when it’s only a theory, and if he were to know for sure he’s afraid he might screw up.” She sighed. “He’s a big dummy.”

“He’s our big dummy, though,” Ondine said.

“You’re sharing him now?” Chloé asked. “How outré.”

“NO!” Alix and Ondine said together.

“Ew,” Alix added, “he’s my best friend, I can’t even…just ick!”

Chloé giggled. Alix was just too easy to wind up.

“That brings us to why I’m here, though,” Ondine said. “I’m not going to be helpless again. Marinette, I want in.”

“You want in?” Marinette echoed.

Ondine nodded. “I want in. Like Alix is in,” she added.

“Oh.” Marinette looked at her with a hard eye. “And you think I can just hand that out? You think that you are ready for that sort of power? You think that you can demand to be let in?”

The redhead swimmer flushed. “Well, no. I don’t know if you can hand it out, but you have to know who can make that choice. I don’t know if I’m ready, but…if Alix can do it, I think I can.” Ondine grinned at Alix’s sour look. “And I’m not demanding…I’m begging. Please, let me in.”

Marinette stared hard at Ondine, considering her. “This…this isn’t an easy thing, you understand? We…we were rather cavalier with our first choices.” The blunette frowned for a moment. “I don’t suppose we were any more outrageous in our expectations than Master Fu. He just dropped the Miraculous on Adrien and me. No explanation, no anything. They were just there, and we were expected to become heroes. I think he chose correctly, but it was…very presumptive. It was unbelievably stressful, before everyone began to help. Hiding the secret of who I was, and the impact it had on my daily life, it almost broke me a few times.” Marinette looked Ondine fully in the eyes. “Then we made the same mistake. Alya, I asked her the first time, and she thought it was a one-time thing. She was willing to give it up, even though it broke her heart. She at least chose this. But I made the choice for Chloé.”

“I really didn’t mind,” Chloé interjected. “It was a dream that I never thought I deserved a chance at. It changed me, for the good.”

“I know love,” Marinette told her, before turning back to Ondine. “Then we made the decision for everyone else. Alix, we needed desperately at that moment. She could have been a one-time thing, too, except she already knew about us, and it just made sense. She wanted to keep it. She wanted to be Wyvern. Why she puts up with that grump Tatsuu I have no idea, but she wanted this. Nino, Aurore, and Rose…we decided for them. They could have walked away, but we put them on the spot. How do you turn down a hero asking for help?”

“It’s not easy to turn down,” Alix said. “And being a hero? It’s such a rush. I’m not sure I could give it up.”

Ondine looked between the three other girls. “So you don’t think I can do it?”

“Oh, you could do it,” Chloé said. “You have the attitude, and the discipline. But…it will change your life. You may have to choose between swimming, and being a hero. Do you understand that? Being a Miraculous holder, it isn’t a part-time thing. Well, excepting maybe Aurore, but special circumstances there. She needs to be Team Ladyblog Reporter Aurore. But being Kanina keeps her safe, if things go really, really bad. It was selfish of us to put that much of a burden on her, but…we trust her. We didn’t really ask if that was what she wanted. And to be fair, she does love being Kanina. But she loves being Aurore more. And we need her to be that Aurore more than we need her to be Kanina. But we can’t take that away from her, either.”

“She does more than her share,” Marinette added, “but we put more pressure on her than is really fair. More pressure than we have to deal with, now that we have each other, and our friends. We were selfish.”

Ondine nodded. “I understand. And I don’t know that I have a choice, anyway. Mayura may still come after me, again. I think that would do more to wreck a swimming career than being a hero would. I still want it. I want to be a hero. If you’ll let me.”

Marinette nodded. “We’ll…I’ll think about it.”

Ondine nodded back. “Thank you.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Rose pushed back into Juleka’s arms, the taller girl tightening her grip as the pair cuddled in bed. The petite blonde needed the solace she found spending time with her girlfriend. Juleka had quietly declared the evening to be a sleepover, and Rose hadn’t argued. The gentle rocking of the houseboat was comforting, even though this wasn’t the houseboat from so many of her memories. The new one was nice, but it didn’t have the history that the old one did. This one was newer, cleaner, and didn’t have the character the old one did. It would, in time, but it just wasn’t the same. That didn’t matter though; all that really mattered was that Juleka was here. “Are you alright?” she heard the husky tones of her girlfriend’s voice ask.

“Not entirely,” Rose said honestly. “We had no idea. We never do. All we can do is react. That’s what being a superhero is. We have to wait for evil to act, and then try to stop it. At least, that’s what the rules are now.” She sighed. “Marinette said that Jeanne d’Arc was a holder of the Ladybug Miraculous. She took war to the English. She didn’t go looking for a war, but when one started, she took the war to them, and she beat them, and probably won the victories that allowed France to become the nation it is.”

“Even if it cost her her life?” Juleka asked.

Rose pushed back into Juleka, which the taller girl knew to interpret as a shrug. “That’s sometimes the price of being a heroine.”

Juleka squeezed Rose hard. “I’d rather you not pay that price,” she murmured.

“I would rather not either,” Rose admitted. “But Mayura is evil. Papillion is angry and desperate – I know you could feel that, too,” she said, and at Juleka’s affirmative sound, she continued. “Papillion is amoral. He isn’t doing it to hurt people, he just doesn’t care about anything but his goal. Mayura is evil. It radiated off of her both times that I’ve seen her. She doesn’t care for anyone but herself, or her goals, either, but she enjoys hurting people. She’s cruel. Even if there was an easier way, she wouldn’t take it. I think Papillion would.”

“I think Papillion is very alone,” Juleka said. “Something about him…it felt brittle and worn. Fragile. He felt, it felt, as if anger and fear is all he has left.”

“I think maybe you’re right,” the pixie blonde said.

“I like the new cable knit beanie you’ve been wearing,” Juleka said, changing the subject.

“Thanks,” Rose mumbled. “I don’t really have a choice, my Miraculous isn’t exactly subtle.”

“You shouldn’t complain so much,” said a tenor voice, and Juleka tensed slightly. She still wasn’t quite used to the little Kwami’s presence, and because he was usually quiet, every time he spoke it caught her off guard. “You hold one of the more honored Miraculous. My holders are legends.”

“Unfortunately,” Rose said, “the style of your Miraculous hasn’t been in style for several hundred years, and that was only in East Asia. So I have to make accommodations. If someone sees me wearing the circlet, and sees Capuchin wearing the circlet, they might just make the connection. I’d rather not risk it.”

“As long as you fight with honor,” Maffa said.

“She does,” Juleka said.

“Of course she does,” Maffa said. “My holder would do no less. I would refuse an honorless cur such as Dusuu’s current holder.”

“Can you do that?” Rose asked.

“A few of us can,” Maffa replied. “I can, Tatsuu can, and Rutta, the Ox Kwami. The Fox Miraculous is extremely difficult to use if Trixx is unwilling. None of the other higher Kwami can. As we grow weaker in power, the stronger we grow in will.”

“I wondered how Lila could be using the Goat Miraculous if the Kwami was unwilling,” Rose said.

Maffa floated before their faces, looking troubled. “It could be that the girl, Lila, is actually a good match for the Goat Kwami. That the Peacock bearer is controlling her does not change her suitability.”

“Lila? As a Miraculous holder?” Juleka said. “That’s…a little hard to believe.”

“She’s getting better…kinda,” Rose said.

“She’s still mean,” Juleka replied.

“She is,” Rose agreed. “So is Chloé, if you piss her off. Did you hear about what she said to her mother?”

“I don’t think Audrey has really been her mother for a long time,” Juleka replied. “Chloé just said all the things she’s been holding in for years. I can kind of relate.”

“Your mom is awesome, though,” Rose countered.

“My mom is a big kid,” her girlfriend responded, “and while sometimes that’s been kind of cool, sometimes I wish she had been a little bit more of a mom and a little less of a best friend.”

“I wish I could understand that. My mom doesn’t even always get to be a mom. But when she’s home she makes up for it. And I’ve gotten to do some really cool things, and meet some awesome people,” Rose said.

“Your mom is pretty great,” Juleka agreed.

“Thanks.”

“So,” the taller girl said, “do you want to talk about what’s really bothering you?”

“It’s the same thing,” Rose said. “We have to react. And that bitch Mayura stole away some of our friends and family. Chloé says Jagged Stone is waffling between furious and despondent, and he had the hotel staff throw his manager out of the hotel the other day. Alix is livid. We’re all at least somewhat upset about Lila. And it feels like a failure that someone like that crazy photographer stalker guy gets taken away without anyone noticing.”

“Crazy photographer stalker guy?”

“In really can’t come up with a better description. He’s a sad, lonely man,” Rose said. “And that makes me feel guilty, too.”

“I’m sorry, Rose,” Juleka said.

“I’ll get through,” Rose said. “Somehow.”

“I know you will,” her girlfriend replied. “Now, how about some sleep? It was a long day.”

“I would love some sleep,” Rose admitted.

“Good.” Juleka hugged Rose tightly again. “Night Rose. Love you.”

“I love you too.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

“Lila Rossi.”

Lila almost jumped to her feet, before her bound hands stopped her and dragged her back into the bed. The deep voice had startled her out of sleep. It was a voice out of her nightmares. The fact that it was more welcome than the voice that drowned out her thoughts when Mayura possessed her said something about just how messed up her life was at the moment. It still wasn’t a welcome voice, though.

“Papillion,” she said flatly. The man walked out of the shadowed doorway and into the dimly lit room, and she got her first view of him. He was tall. Dressed in purple and gray, with a full face cowl. There was a butterfly pin centered on his jacket. He carried a cane in his hand. His eyes were bright, angry, and possessed just a flicker of madness. He scared her, but not nearly as much as Mayura. “What do you want? Here to gloat?”

“I am not,” Papillion said. “I have no need, no desire, and no cause to gloat. You are not my goal. The stolen zodiac Miraculous are not my goal. They do not have the power that I need. I require the power of the Miraculous of creation and destruction. I require the Miraculous of Ladybug and Chat Noir.”

“Then why are you here?” the short girl asked.

“I regret what Mayura has done to you. This was not my desire, and I find her methods repugnant,” Papillion replied.

“I seem to remember you doing something similar,” she countered.

“I offered power,” he said, snarling. “You did not have to accept. There are those that did not. I never forced anyone to act against their will.”

“I’m pretty sure you lashed out at those that tried to disobey you,” Lila countered. “Your victims? We talk, you know.”

“I am aware,” he replied coldly. “You see yourself as a victim?”

“Sure. A patsy? A dupe? A sucker? All of those. You used me. You used all of us,” Lila countered.

“You cannot understand. I need the Miraculous,” he said.

“Why? What’s so damn important? What’s your wish?”

Papillion started. “My wish?”

“Your wish,” Lila repeated. “There’s a book about the Miraculous, you know. Someone out there has it, but…there are photos of the pages. I have some, but not a lot. But I have one that tells me that when you have both of those Miraculous, you get a wish. I’m not sure if it isn’t a monkey’s paw wish, though.”

“It is…not. There is a price. If you are willing to pay the price, you can have your wish,” Papillion replied.

“Right. So what is your wish?”

“I am not in the habit of sharing my secrets,” Papillion replied. “I do not intend to start now.”

“Right,” Lila said with a sigh. “So then, why are you here?”

“You were taken because of your prior involvement with me, as my…pawn. You are being held within my demesne. I felt it necessary to see for myself what I am being made a party to,” he told her.

“And how does that make you feel, being a kidnapper?”

Papillion growled once more. “I am not a kidnapper.”

“An accessory to kidnapping then. I’m being held prisoner against my will.”

The violet villain growled again. “It is not my will that holds you.”

“Then let me go,” Lila said.

“Would that I could,” Papillion said. “Mayura would come after you, and bring you back.”

“I have places to go, people to go to,” Lila countered.

“I would also have to fight her. I am disinclined to do so,” the villain told her.

“So you’d rather just be an accessory to kidnapping, and possibly to murder. She’s tried to kill, she’s tried to use me to kill. She’s a psychotic bitch and she needs to have a bullet put in her head,” Lila told him. “And I think you know it.”

“I cannot advocate killing.”

Lila barked a harsh laugh. “Do you know how many people have been killed, that their deaths have been undone by Ladybug? Do you know that you almost killed Queen Bee? That you did kill her, but Ladybug brought her back?”

Papillion flinched. “I…am aware.”

“Or that Jagged Stone was trying to kill XY? Or…”

I. Am. Aware.” Papillion ground out.

“So then…”

“I cannot let you go, Lila Rossi. I would counsel you, however.”

“Counsel me? About what?” Lila asked.

Papillion almost looked at a loss for words, then firmed back up into his implacable self. “Mayura is not all powerful. She is strong, but you…you have a strong will. I cannot free you, but it…would not break my heart to see you escape from her grasp. I cannot act against her, for reasons you need not know. But she is not my ally. I made a mistake, and you are suffering for it, and because of that, I owe you this much. When you are out, and fighting…when you are pushing the hardest, that is the time to break free.”

“I’m barely aware of where I am,” Lila told him. “How can I break free if I don’t even know where I am or what I am doing?”

Papillion reached out, and held his hand before her. There was a butterfly upon it. A white, ethereal butterfly. “Take it. I will not force it upon you. But it will let you see from inside the prison of your mind.”

“Why are you doing this? Really?” Lila asked.

“Because Mayura has no honor. I will defeat Ladybug, and Chat Noir. I will do so without purposefully threatening any more lives. And I will make the wish I strive for.”

“Did you ever just think of asking them? That maybe they would have loaned you the Miraculous to make that one wish?” she asked.

“If that was once the case, it is much too late for that now,” Papillion replied.

“You’d be surprised. Ladybug is very forgiving. She forgave me.”

“I cannot.”

Lila took the butterfly from him, and it flitted to her nose, before vanishing in a flash of light. “How long will this last?”

“Now that you have accepted this one, I can send them to you every night.”

Why are you doing this?”

“Because Mayura does not deserve a victory,” Papillion replied. “And you do not deserve to be her prisoner.”

“You are a fucked up individual, Papillion,” Lila told him.

“Yes, I am,” he agreed, before turning and walking out.

Chapter Text

Adrien walked into his father’s atelier to find him arguing with a tall, blond woman. For one fleeting moment, he thought it was his mother, but then the differences started to register. And they were striking differences. Whereas his mother had always had a gentle, kind smile on her face, this woman looked angry. Her body language was closed and tense. Her voice had a harsh edge to it that Adrien had never heard in his mother’s. Her entire demeanor was off-putting, and for a moment he thought about turning around before he was noticed, but then his father turned to see him, and the woman cut off what she was saying , turning to see him standing there.

“Who is…oh,” she said. “It’s her stupid little brat.”

Adrien saw his father grit his teeth, an undignified gesture that he almost never indulged in. “That will be more than enough of that, thank you, Madeleine.”

The woman raked her eyes up and down Adrien’s form, coldly calculating. “At least he got most of his looks from her. He’s almost pretty, if you like the waifish sort.”

Adrien was a bit confused. How could the woman not know…wait. Madeleine. That was the name of his mother’s sister, the one that his father didn’t care for. What was she doing here? And she was his aunt, how did she not know who he was? Even if they weren’t family, he was a famous model, who worked for his father’s company. Unless she was completely out of touch with reality, she should have some idea of who he was. But she didn’t. That was…odd. He thought about saying something, but hesitated. He really didn’t want to talk to the angry woman. He looked at his father. “I’m sorry to disturb you, father, I was hoping to speak with you about something, but it can wait until you are done with your guest.”

His father eyed him speculatively, then nodded, and Adrien turned and walked out the door, closing it behind him. He heard the woman start in with the yelling again. What an unpleasant person. He understood why his father didn’t care for her. She reminded him rather strongly of Chloé’s mother. It was rather upsetting that the closest link to his mother, after his father, was such a bitch. Hopefully the woman would be done with Gabriel soon. Adrien wanted to make sure he knew about the former akuma victims being targeted by the crazy blue woman. Between Lila, Jalil, and the attack on Ondine and Kim, he hopefully had enough personal evidence to make his father take precautions. Most importantly, it was evidence that had nothing to do with his knowledge gained while he was Chat Noir.

Madeleine. Aunt Madeleine. What a horrible person. Adrien really hoped that he wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. He started to ascend the stairs when the door to the atelier slammed open, and he heard the sound of high heels on stone as his aunt stalked out of the room. She spun and glared through the opening back into the room.

“Gabriel, I will convince you that I am right. You are a fool. You should stop worrying about others, and see to your own. That is who matters, no one else does. Your continued sentimentality and concern for others will be your downfall, I assure you. You have made enough enemies in your time, I don’t think you want to be on the wrong side of me, as well,” the woman said with a snarl.

Gabriel Agreste stepped out of his atelier. “That sentimentality and concern for others is called morality, Madeleine. I have done things I am not proud of, but even I know that there are lines that you shouldn’t cross. That is what causes enemies. If you act this way toward me, if makes me wonder if you have anything but enemies,” he said.

“They are worms,” Madeleine retorted. “I don’t give a whit what that scum thinks. I don’t even care what you think. If you had kept Emilie safe, perhaps I would listen to you, but you didn’t. So screw you, Gabriel. Take your sanctimonious attitude and shove it up your fucking ass.” She looked up the stairs and spotted Adrien. “I hope you were worth Emilie ruining her life for, you stupid child.”

That. Is. Enough.” Gabriel growled. “I have to deal with you, for my sins, but if you speak to my son in that manner, or any manner, in fact, then you will learn just how unwelcome you are, Madeleine. Emilie loves her son, and she would not want you to show any less care for him than she does.”

“Fuck you, Gabriel,” Madeleine snarled, “you took my sister away, and then you had that little parasite, and now she’s gone, and no one knows where. Fuck you and your son and your whole miserable little empire. Stop waiting time with this worthless shit and find. My. Sister.

Gabriel looked up the stairs at Adrien. “Adrien, it would please me if you were elsewhere for the rest of the day. Let Mlle. Sancoeur and M. Dupont know where you will be if I need you, but I expect I will have to deal with Madeleine for the rest of the afternoon.” His gaze softened almost imperceptibly, but Adrien recognized the change in his manner. “I am sorry you have to see this, Adrien.”

Adrien swore that he had spent too much time around Chloé and Marinette recently, because he the words were coming out of his mouth before he could stop them. “It’s not your fault that this woman is a horrid bitch, father. And she’s no worse than Audrey. I’ve seen this before.”

A ghost of a smile crossed Gabriel’s face, while Madeleine seemed to be so angry that she was beyond speech. She just made little stuttering sounds. Her face crossed with fury. “Just so. Please, I will speak with you later. I could do without you antagonizing her any further, no matter how justified it may be.”

Adrien stared at his father once more, not sure if he had heard the man correctly, but decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and he had best leave before the situation got any worse. He made it inside his room just before the woman exploded in fury, and he couldn’t help but grin. Then the grin faded, as he replayed the incident in his head. For all that they said, they seemed to be speaking in couched terms. There were no details at all that had been revealed in the conversation. It almost felt like the conversations that he and Marinette used to have as Chat Noir and Ladybug, before they knew who each other were. He wasn’t sure though, it had been some time since they admitted their identities, and the memories of those moments had begun to fade.

No matter. He had a free pass for the day. He would call Nino, and see if he wanted to play some video games. And afterwards, maybe Chat Noir and Carapace could do a patrol. It was always fun to hang out with his best friend. And if Nino wasn’t available, he could see Alya. She always had time for him. And kisses. Musn’t forget the kisses. A thought crossed his mind. If Madeleine didn’t care for him now, he wondered how she would feel about his dating a girl from Martinique. Something told him she would be highly offended. He almost wished he could be there when the hateful woman found out. Almost.

He had calls to make. He needed to get out of here. He would think about Madeleine some other time. He didn’t want to waste another thought on such a useless and nasty person. She’d be gone soon. Good riddance.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Wyvern bounded over the rooftops with Kanina. Team Short Girl was well represented tonight. If only Kanina couldn’t leap so damn far. Keeping pace with her was a stone cold bitch.

She needed to run. She needed something to focus her mind on, and roof running served fabulously. She had to concentrate on each jump, each leap, each landing, or else she would plow a roof or slam into a building. While it wouldn’t hurt that much, doing so would be horribly embarrassing. She could do without that tonight.

Kanina slid to a stop atop the roof of an apartment building, and Wyvern landed next to her. “What’s up?” she asked.

The blonde Rabbit Warrior shrugged. “Five minute break. My back is killing me.”

“If only all of us had such a problem,” Wyvern replied. There was something goofy about the magic in the Rabbit Miraculous. Since she had started wearing it, Kanina had gone up three cup sizes. On her slender frame, it was ridiculously noticeable, and the sudden shift in balance, not to mention the added stress on her back, was a trial for the girl. Wyvern wasn’t sure if she would have put up with the trial or not. Since the boob fairy had yet to really grace her with her presence, she thought she wouldn’t mind all that much. Maybe not three cup sizes, but an increase wouldn’t be a bad thing. Not that she had anyone to show off to, unlike Kanina, but it was nice in concept. She figured if she had to deal with a horrid period, the least she could do is get some boobs out of the hormonal mess.

“It really is awful,” Kanina said. “If my Miraculous didn’t make me stronger, I’m sure I would be even more miserable. I look like a badly drawn anime character. Or some shitty doujin that some creep sells at Comiket.”

“I have no idea what you just said,” Wyvern replied.

“Japan thing,” the blonde told her.

“Right, crazy people land,” she replied.

Kanina shrugged. “There are worse ways to find an outlet. The Germans, for example.”

“They do seem to have some weird tastes,” the redhead replied.

“I’m blonde. I’m a fetish everywhere,” Kanina replied.

“Um, ginger here,” Wyvern counted.

“Point.”

“So,” Kanina said, “are you really okay?”

Wyvern sighed. “Did you get appointed to question me?”

“I kind of volunteered. Of all of us, I’m the closest to you.”

“Only if Ladybug decides not to accept…that girl,” Wyvern replied. “No offense, but…”

“I get it,” Kanina said, waving her off. “Are you sure you don’t have a crush on her?”

The redhead glared. “I’m pretty damn sure that I don’t. Even if I did, she is both painfully straight, and completely monogamous.”

“That sounds like you’ve asked,” the blonde countered.

“I swear to god, Kanina,” the Dragon Warrior said.

“Look,” the holder of the Rabbit Miraculous said, “I’m just worried about you. You seem lonely, but you don’t seem to have any interests. You spend almost all of your free time with her or her boyfriend, or both, when they are free to do so.”

“I’m really, really not going to talk about this,” Wyvern said. “Really, really.”

“I’m sorry,” Kanina replied. “I don’t mean to push. I just, well, care.”

“I know you do.”

“Just so you know, if I wasn’t pretty much straight, and totally happy with my boyfriend, I’d probably hit on you,” Kanina told her.

Wyvern actually blushed for a moment, then rolled her eyes. “Oh, good god. Being a rabbit must completely twist your hormones, you perv.”

“You’re cute,” the blonde said. “That’s all.”

“La la la, not hearing this. Let’s get back to patrolling.”

“Good plan. Let’s go,” she said, and they were off across the rooftops once more.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Ondine was in the gym, working on weight machines. Alix was on patrol, Kim was gone, she was waiting for an answer from Marinette…Ladybug…and the pool was closed for the night for cleaning and some maintenance. Weight work was really the only outlet she had to tire herself out. She hadn’t even gotten to make out with Kim before his parents dragged him off to Vietnam, and she was horny, lonely, and hyper. She had already been masturbating every night since Kim left, and she felt like a total pervert, but not enough of one to stop. Her fantasies were pretty kinky, though. Just thinking about them made her knees a little weak. She was a complete and total pervert. It must be something about being an athlete and being full of hormones and adrenaline. In a frank discussion she still couldn’t believe she had had with Chloé and Alix, they admitted that they had been feeling more amorous since receiving their Miraculous. The magic was slowly shaping their bodies to be in peak condition. Chloé was hot in a way Ondine had never thought of before, and Marinette was stunning. She freely admitted she had a thing for muscles, and Mari’s legs were incredible. She knew her legs were pretty awesome, but the Ladybug Miraculous holder was just about perfect.

Good god her hormones made her completely a mess. She gave up on working out, and went over to her bag, pulling out her phone.

FlippinHerFins: You still awake?

She waited a few minutes, and finally a reply came.

BettingFool: Yeah i am sorta. Whats up?

FlippinHerFins: Hyper. Lonely. Horny. And I can’t concentrate on working out

BettingFool: That sounds serious. You cant lift?

FlippinHerFins: Can’t focus at all

BettingFool: Probably better if you dont work out dont want you to drop a weight on your foot

FlippinHerFins: I almost did. My mind is all over the place. I feel like a perv

BettingFool: Oh? :) care to share?

FlippinHerFins: Not unless you are here to help

BettingFool: Damn

FlippinHerFins: Now who is the perv?

BettingFool: Im a guy. So me

FlippinHerFins: This is true. Do you know when you’ll be back?

BettingFool: Next week the day before classes start

FlippinHerFins: Damn

FlippinHerFins: Some of the girls are starting to look kissable i don’t even know what’s wrong with me

BettingFool: Thats kinda hot. But only if im there to watch

FlippinHerFins: Oh good god. Why do i put up with you again?

BettingFool: Because im cute hunky and too dumb to pull off twotiming you successfully so you know i wont cheat

BettingFool: Because i dont want to give up getting to kiss you. Or being able to grab your ass

FlippingHerFins: Your ass is pretty grabbable too. When you get back show me that place we can make out. We have time to make up for

BettingFool: Definitely

FlippinHerFins: Go to bed before i get any more perv thoughts i’m already going to have sore fingers tonight

BettingFool: Also hot

FlippinHerFins: Perv

BettingFool: Your perv :P

FlippinHerFins: Yup

BettingFool: Night

FlippinHerFins: Night

Ondine closed her phone. She realized that she had made a rather foolish choice, now she was really horny. God damn hormones. She packed her bag, slung it over her shoulder, and walked out of the gym. When she got outside, she was surprised to see Marinette standing there.

“Good Evening, Mlle. Marceau,” the blunette said.

“Evening, Legs,” Ondine replied.

“Legs?”

“Yours are perfect. And my mind is in the gutter,” the redhead told her.

“Well, look but don’t touch. I’m a bit flattered. Your legs are amazing.”

Ondine shook her head. “Yours are longer, and relatively slender. I have a lot more muscle.”

“Aethetics,” Marinette replied. “I prefer troublesome blondes, though,” she said with a grin.

“I prefer people with boy parts,” Ondine told her.

“Oh,” the undercover heroine said, “I like boy parts too. Or at least I had the worst crush on Adrien. I…am not sure what I would have done, if he had kissed me, but I’m pretty sure it would have gotten me suspended from school. Assuming I didn’t have a complete meltdown, and need to restart my brain.”

“I can see the meltdown,” Ondine said.

“Mean.”

“So what’s up?” the swimmer asked.

“You still want to do that thing?” Marinette asked.

Ondine grinned. “Very much so.”

“We’re having a girls night sleepover at Chloé’s suite tomorrow night,” Marinette said. “Combination last-hurrah-before-school and keep-the-girls-safe-from-peacock party.”

“Sounds fun! I’m bringing movies.”

“We are not watching ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Finding Nemo’ again.”

“They are great movies!” Ondine protested.

“Not all of us swim,” Marinette told her.

“Fair.”

“Come early, I’ll give you the thing then,” the blunette told her.

Ondine’s smile was brilliant.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Chloé knocked on the door to the bakery, and soon the door opened, and Sabine Cheng let the blonde in the door. “Good evening, Chloé, how are you?”

“Honestly, Mama Sabine? Pretty awful. Had to talk to the lawyers about my parents’ divorce today,” Chloé told her. Sabine took her into a hug, and she returned it, reveling in the feeling. “Thanks, Mama Sabine. I guess you’re my only maman now.”

“Is it that bad, truly?”

The blonde nodded. “She abandoned me. I think the only reasons she came back were to try and get back at me for leaving her in New York, and to try and get more money out of Daddy. She doesn’t get it still. Everyone I’ve met that’s been turned into an akuma, everyone that I know, except maybe Lila, came out of it with a better understanding of themselves. She’s still the same selfish woman she was before. She’s so awful.”

“Would you like me to make you some hot chocolate, and bring that and some cookies up to you and Marinette?” Sabine asked.

Chloé nodded. “Please?”

“Of course, dear.”

Chloé broke the hug, then started running up the stairs. She headed into the parlor, said hello to Tom, and then bolted up the stairs to Marinette’s room. She almost crashed through the trap door, and spotted Mari sitting on the chaise, reading. Without a word she glided over to the chaise, sat down next to her girlfriend, and wrapped her arms around her.

“Are you okay?” Marinette asked with concern.

“Divorce stuff. Interviews. It was really upsetting.”

Marinette turned in Chloé’s arms and returned the hug. “I’m sorry, love, but I’m here for you. We all are, you know that.”

Chloé nodded, pulling Marinette tighter, breathing her in, taking in the glorious smell of her girlfriend. She tilted her head up and kissed her on the corner of her jaw, and she squirmed a bit. “Stop that,” Marinette said, giggling, “or Maman will come up to see us making out.”

“How do you know she’s coming up?”

Marinette giggled again. “Because you’re emotionally distraught. Of course she’s going to make us cocoa.”

Chloé grinned, leaned back to take her head off of Marinette’s shoulder, then leaned in for a kiss. It was soft, sweet, protective, and still hot as hell. “Love you,” she said.

“Love you too, you silly girl.”

“Can I stay tonight?” the blonde asked.

Marinette giggled again. “You’re actually asking when you’re already here?”

Chloé snuggled back into Marinette’s arms. “Yes,” she said. “I want to make sure that I can snuggle with you the rest of the night.”

“I’d like that.”

The two stayed sitting together like that until Sabine came up with the hot chocolate and the cookies. They sat, quietly eating and sipping at the rich drink, enjoying each other’s company. This was what Chloé needed. This was what had been missing from her life for so long. She felt loved. She felt cared for. She felt like she was finally home. They finished their snack, then Marinette sketched some designs while Chloé posed for her, until it was rather late at night, and then they settled into bed together. As she drifted off to sleep, she pulled her Mari close, running her hands down her girlfriend’s back, giving her several naughty squeezes, as they drifted lower. She felt Mari’s lips gently kiss her forehead, and then she fell into a deep, deep sleep.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Mlle. Marceau,” Ondine heard a voice say. She was at Lycée Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - which was only a mile and a half from Collège Françoise Dupont, where most of her friends were still students – straightening out a mix-up in her schedule for the upcoming school year – her records or schedule had somehow gotten crossed with Odette Marceau’s, which had caused both of them consternation. School didn’t resume for a week and a half yet, but she was going to be gone for a swimming competition most of the next week, so she had been getting a jump on things. Which was good, because otherwise she might not have discovered this little hiccup. How records could still get messed up in an age where most things were done on computer, she wasn’t sure, but she supposed it all still relied on the quality of the people using the computers. If that was the case, she was worried, the secretary here was a complete idiot. As she heard her name, though, she turned to see who had called out for her.

He was tall, though not as tall as Kim. His hair was dyed in an black-to-blue ombré fade, and he looked vaguely familiar. “Yes?”

“Hi. My name’s Luka Couffaine,” he said.

That’s where she knew him from, she thought. “Juleka’s older brother?”

He nodded. “That would be me.”

“Well, hello, Luka Couffaine. What can I do for you? I was just getting ready to head back home to get some lunch. I have practice again later and I am starving right now,” she told him, walking. He started to walk with her.

“I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m going to be in Seconde here, and I recognized you from one of Juleka’s pictures on her social media,” he told her.

“Juleka has social media?”

Luka chuckled. “It’s mostly Rose tagging her in pictures, and checking them in at locations, and posting status updates about them both.”

Ondine had to chuckle too. “That sounds more like what I expected. She’s a great girl, but she doesn’t try to attract attention.”

“Sometimes she does,” Luka countered. “She’s been wearing her hair pulled up a lot this summer.”

“I’ve seen here a few times,” Ondine allowed. “Still rocking the full rainbow?”

“Oh yeah. Mom thinks it’s awesome, she’s glad that sis is starting to assert herself. My sister just gives her this look. She’s still kind of upset about the incident where mom got turned into an akuma,” Luka admitted. “My sister can really hold onto an idea when she wants to.”

The swimmer nodded. “Well, Marinette was almost killed, so I can understand where she’s coming from. The stories I’ve heard all say your mom was kind of being a jerk when it happened.”

Luka winced. “I can’t exactly deny that. She doesn’t do moderation well.”

“I think we all need to learn at some point that our parents aren’t perfect,” Ondine said.

“Maybe,” Luka admitted. “It was a pretty brutal lesson for her, though. Me too.”

The redhead sighed. “It always is. Mine involved me suffering a separated shoulder because I was pushing myself too hard while listening to my dad. He used to be my coach until two years ago. When my shoulder got screwed up, I realized that he really didn’t know what he was doing, that he was an amateur coach, and that I needed a professional now. We ended up having a really big fight about it, and we didn’t talk for almost two weeks. Drove my mother half-crazy.”

“Well, my mother already is half-crazy, so I’ll avoid any more of that driving,” Luka said with a grin.

Ondine laughed. “So what did you want to talk about, Luka Couffaine? You still didn’t answer me.”

“Oh!” he said. “It’s kind of awkward, actually, but…”

“If you’re trying to ask me out, I already have a boyfriend,” Ondine told him with a flat expression.

“What? Oh, no!” Luka replied. “Actually, I wanted to ask, since you’re friends with most of the class…do you know if Lila Rossi is dating anyone?”

Ondine’s face dropped. “You haven’t heard?”

Concern crossed Luka’s face. “Heard what?”

Ondine almost looked ill. “She was kidnapped by that new villain, Mayura, over two weeks ago. She’s appeared a few times then, according to the Ladyblog, but she’s apparently completely in some kind of magical thrall.”

Luka looked stricken. “Really?”

The swimmer nodded. “You hadn’t heard any of this?”

The musician shook his head. “I’ve been out of town for a couple weeks, went to see dad, and to see some of the sights. Mom doesn’t usually want to see him, so…”

“I’m sorry,” Ondine told him.

Luka shook his head again. “Nah, it’s fine, they actually get along well enough, I suppose. They never fight in front of us, never say anything bad about each other, they just…their lives went in different directions, and they grew apart. I think they both regret it, but neither of them can give up their life now to try and fix it. Maybe after Juleka and I are done with school they can talk things over. I dunno.”

“I understand,” Ondine told him. “You really should read the Ladyblog and catch up. Three other former akuma victims have been kidnapped – Alix’s brother was one of the victims – and Kim and I were attacked too. Kim’s in Vietnam right now, his parents completely freaked out, and went to visit family and get out of Paris.”

“Wow,” Luka said. “That’s just…crazy. Are you okay?”

Ondine nodded. “We got lucky. Kanina – she a new one, rabbit themed – found me, and then we found Kim in the middle of being attacked by Lila and the blue bitch, and then another new one – Capuchin, who is monkey themed – appeared, and Lila and the blue bitch ran. I didn’t see what happened after that, but Ladybug was involved, because she did a Miraculous cure a little later. According to the Ladyblog, Lila and Mayura escaped.”

Luka nodded. “Okay. I definitely need to do some reading, then. How does the Ladyblog get all of their information?”

The redhead shrugged. “Ladybug likes them. She trusts them not to twist the story, so she talks to them. The only other media person they usually talk to is Nadja Chamack. And most of the time, even they have to talk to Queen Bee.”

“So how many members does Team Miraculous have now? I’m losing track,” the blunette asked.

“Well,” Ondine said, “They have had Ladybug, Queen Bee, Chat Noir, Rena Rouge for a while. Then Wyvern appeared in July, and then Capuchin and Kanina and Carapace. So eight.”

“Well, damn.”

“But,” Ondine said, “We know that Mayura has Lila, Jalil Kubdel, who is Alix’s brother, and Vincent Asa, who is a photographer, and Penny Rolling…”

“She’s Jagged Stone’s manager!” Luka interrupted.

Ondine nodded. “She is. How did you know?”

“She came by after the incident with mom, after the houseboat was wrecked. We were staying at the hotel Chloé’s dad owns – as a favor from Chloé – and Jagged had heard how the akuma had wrecked our chance to play, and offered to find us a club to play at. He’s been at the center of several akuma incidents, so he gets it. But…our band was just a pickup band, mostly Juleka’s friends from school. We didn’t even have a keyboard player, or a bassist. Ju and I both play guitar. Rose was going to sing, and their friend Ivan was going to play drums,” Luka explained. But all the equipment was wrecked, and that was one of the incidents that Ladybug missed. So the boat didn’t get fixed, and neither did our gear. Jagged did get me and Ju new guitars, and the insurance replaced Ivan’s drum kit, but…” Luka shook his head. “I can’t believe she’s been kidnapped. Jagged must be going out of his mind, it’s her job to keep him going to the right places at the right times…damn.”

“Yeah, it sucks,” Ondine agreed. “I need to go get lunch, or I’ll die during practice, but you can come along, if you want. It would be nice to have someone to talk to about this stuff that isn’t in that class. I love them all to death, but…they are still two years younger than me, and sometimes they still act like kids.”

Luka nodded. “I completely understand. Rose spends the night with Ju all the time, and while they are mature most of the time, sometimes they go completely fourteen and start squealing and giggling and I just…ugh.” He laughed. “It’s nice to meet you, Mlle. Marceau.”

“Likewise, M. Couffaine.” Then the pair giggled at the mock seriousness, and grinned at each other. “Let’s go eat.”

They walked out of the school, and Ondine made a grand gesture, pointing down the road. “That way to the food!”

Luka smiled. “Yes, Mlle. Marceau,” he said. “That’s a nice bracelet you have there, by the way,” he continued, nodding to the sea-green bangle on her wrist.”

Ondine nodded, looking a bit shy. “Thanks. It was given to me by a friend.”

“Nice friend,” Luka observed.

The redhead nodded. “The best.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Queen Bee leapt over the rooftops. An akuma attack. And not just any akuma. This one was her fault. Except that it wasn’t, really. With the divorce from his wife, the attack and kidnapping of Penny Rolling from his hotel, and the constant bickering of his political rivals, her father had been under a lot of stress. A lot of stress. Then Chloé had had an argument with him, and her tongue had gotten away from her. She felt awful as soon as the words left her mouth, but she couldn’t take them back. Why had she said it? If you paid Audrey as much attention as you do me, no wonder she left. What had possessed her? She felt like the worst bitch in the world. She was the worst bitch in the world. And now her father was an akuma. Shit shit shit shit.

She was so distracted that she almost slammed into Ladybug, who was perched on the roof overlooking the plaza outside the Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall. The plaza was full of police and civil servants that were surrounded by a faint glow that indicated that they were being controlled by Malediktator. After dealing with the potential ongoing problems of Mayura and her puppets, this was much too close to the same situation. It was awful, and it was her fault.

Something must have shown on her face, because Ladybug turned fully to her after glancing her way. “It’s not your fault,” she said.

“It is,” Queen Bee insisted. “I said something awful to him. I’m such a bitch.”

Ladybug took her hand. “Bee, you are not a bitch. You’re human, and sometimes you make a mistake.”

Queen Bee snorted. “Easy for you to say, Ladybug. You’re practically perfect. You’d never do something like this.”

Now it was Ladybug’s turn to snort. “Oh god, you have no idea what a bitch I was. You have no idea the kinds of things I thought about you. You don’t know about the kinds of things that I did to you and said about you when I wasn’t in the costume. I was just as horrid to you in my own way as you were to me. The only difference is that I wasn’t horrible to anyone else, just to you. And because you were mean to everyone, people thought the way I acted toward you was justified. But it wasn’t. And so I was trying to be a better person, too, because I didn’t like how hypocritical I was being with you. And I’m glad I did, because I love the person that you are now. So stop worrying for now. We’ll take care of this, and then we can talk. You can talk to him, and apologize. He knows you’ve been under stress too, and I’m sure he’ll forgive you. He loves you more than anything. He divorced your mother because of how she was acting toward you. He’ll forgive you.” She reached out and took Queen Bee’s hand, squeezing it. “Angst later. Kick butt now, okay?”

Queen Bee smiled. Ladybug was right, even if it was hard to agree with her at the moment. “Alright, angst later. I reserve the right to be an angsty bitch later, though. I may need cuddles.”

“Always~,” Ladybug replied.

They heard movement behind them, and they turned to see Wyvern walked up to them. “Are you done making eyes at each other and being all emotional?” she asked. “Can we go kick some ass? I really need to vent on someone, and since the peacock bitch isn’t around, an akuma sounds kinda awesome.”

“Don’t hurt anyone too badly, Why,” Ladybug warned, pronouncing the first two letters of Wyvern’s name like the letter Y. She turned as she heard another landing, and looked over to see the turquoise and grey form of Katuali. The redhead had picked her name from a type of venomous sea snake, and it seemed to fit.

“Looks like a lot of people down there,” Katuali said. “Who does what?” she asked at Chat and Rena touched down behind them.

“Chat, Bee, and I will take on Malediktator,” Ladybug said. “Capuchin is staying in reserve – family stuff going on that she really doesn’t want to leave if she can avoid it, and we should be able to handle it. Kanina and Carapace are doing their other thing, but if we need them, they can join us. Why, Rena, and Kat, crowd control. Incapacitate and distract. Rena, we need all the illusion you can muster. Go big, overcome the control that the akuma has over them with something that will overwhelm them. Kat and Why, you two knock out anyone that Rena can’t scare off.” She looked over everyone as they all nodded. “Okay, let’s go.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Katuali was estatic. She was finally doing something, she had an outlet for all the frustration and helplessness she was feeling. She could do something.

She pulled out the rolled up bamboo mat that was her Miraculous tool. She had practiced with the tool a bit, and watched some YouTube videos on the mundane version of it, and she was impressed by the flexibility of the simple bamboo screen, called a nankin tamasudare in Japanese. Why most of the tools of the Miraculous holders seemed to be some kind of toy, she didn’t know, but it seemed to make doing the job more fun. She landed and flicked the screen out, then snapped it out. It extended into a long length of sticks that overlapped only at the ends. The end struck one of the police that hadn’t run when the illusion of the giant, roiling storm, complete with arcing lightning, caused the majority of the hypnotized victims to run out of the plaza, fearing they would be struck by the unnatural storm, knocking him off his feet. Katuali snapped it back, then twisted the toy into a sort of fan shape, striking the officer in the head and knocking him unconscious. Not as gentle as Ladybug might have done it, but she wasn’t Ladybug. She was Katuali, the sea-snake. She had to be her own brand of hero, not a copy of someone else. She snapped it out again, tangling in the legs of another officer, and then was upon him, wrapping her arm around his neck and choking him out quickly. Onto the next, and the next.

She knew Wyvern was doing something similar with her weapon – and it was a weapon – and choking out the victims of the akuma, sometimes two at once as she caught them with the chain sections of the sanjiegun, which seemed to stretch out when she needed them to. Katuali looked up as the storm illusion vanished. Rena must have hit the five minute mark. She’d be back to help as soon as Trixx was fed. She looked around, seeing that the plaza was almost entirely clear. She saw the flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye, and snapped the bamboo screen into an arch, blocking the ring flying toward her head. It rebounded and flew back toward where it came from, and into the hand of Lila Rossi, wearing the outfit of the Goat Warrior, with the vacant look in her eyes that meant she was a puppet of Mayura once more. It was time for the Snake Warrior to try and stop one of Mayura’s victims, and maybe save one of her…well, not a friend, exactly, but close enough. “Okay, Lila Rossi,” she said, “let’s go.” She lashed out with the bamboo screen, extending it once more, and then she had no time to think, letting the knowledge held within the Kwami guide her as she battled the puppeted girl.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lila looked out through the eyes of her controlled body, watching the new Miraculous holder fight her body. The new girl was good. She was angry, but good. Lila was pretty sure that it had to be Ondine Marceau. Her hair was too short for her to be Sabrina, and she was too tall to be Alix. And she doubted that Ladybug – Marinette, she was sure now – would go far outside her circle of friends to choose her fellows. It was probably a weakness, and the discovery of the identity of just one of them would lead to the discovery of the rest, but having a group that you could trust implicitly probably outweighed that weakness.

The weapon the new girl used was interesting, and fairly versatile. It was more interesting than the hoops that her body was carrying, anyway. She found it amusing that she could be so relaxed observing the fight, but there was nothing she could do at the moment, so it was better to muse about her ideas than to worry about it. She heard a heavy thud next to her, and her body looked over to see the Tiger holder – Penny Rolling – land next to her. She wished she could frown. Two on one wasn’t exactly the fairest of fights, but what could she do about it? She hoped Ondine could handle it. Mayura wasn’t far behind, and if she managed to take control of the girl…Lila would have to try and do something. She couldn’t forgive herself if she let what was happening to her happen to anyone else if she had any chance to stop it. And if Mayura killed her for it…better that than be a puppet. She just had to wait for her chance. She just had to wait.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Queen Bee bounced off the wall again. Her father was a tough bastard of an akuma – she had some respect that he was just as strong and stalwart as she had always thought he was – but she knew that she was just the distraction. Ladybug was setting up the conditions to beat him, and he heard her call out ‘Lucky Charm!’ almost on cue. She wasn’t sure what her girlfriend had called up, and had no time to look. She screamed out, “Whirling Field!” while she pulled the string of her Trompo. The top went spinning off, and then multiplied, covering a wide area. Everywhere that the tops spun, everything above and around them began to float. This was the offensive use of her top, a floating, frictionless field that immobilized everyone and everything in it. Her father – no, Malediktator – growled as he spun lazily in the field.

Then, suddenly, he was down, and Ladybug had the sash he wore as Mayor in her hands, tearing it. The akuma butterfly floated out of it, and then it was caught. She watched as the Miraculous cure was cast, and the red light washed the remnants of the akuma power out of her father. She ran from the room as it did so, and as soon as she found an isolated spot, she dropped her transformation, and was Chloé once more. She ran back to his office and barreled into her father’s arms as he stood up.

“Daddy, I’m so sorry,” she said as she began to sob. “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t! I love you so much, Daddy, I was just upset, and I was so stressed out, and I needed you to understand!” She felt his arms close around him, and she relaxed into his embrace.

“Chloé, I understand,” he said, his voice more firm and strong than she had heard from him in a long time. “I’m sorry that I scared you. I don’t really understand what happened to me, but…I’m here for you. I’ve always been here for you, even if I don’t do a very good job of it sometimes. I shouldn’t have…I know money hasn’t bought happiness for you. I was indulgent, but I was absent, too. Somehow, the job became more important than being your father.”

“I love that you’re the Mayor, Daddy,” Chloé said. “It means that people respect you. It means that people think you will do a good job looking out for them. Even if you’re kind of a jerk to your opponents,” she allowed.

“Well,” he said, “I will try to be less of a…jerk. Politics is ugly, but for you, I’ll try to be less antagonistic, and will try to run a more positive campaign. Sometimes it won’t be enough, and I will have to fight as dirty as my opponents, but I want to be someone that you can respect as you grow up. I love you, and I hope I can live up to the image you have of me.”

“You will, Daddy,” she said. “I know you will.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Katuali staggered, and then Wyvern was next to her, blocking Lila’s attack, the two rings coming down in an overhead blow that would have smashed her into the ground. Penny slashed in with the paired sticks she carried, and Katuali was able to snap her screen up into the blocking arch once more. The two puppeted fighter didn’t seem to feel any kind of pain, and were relentless in their attacks. Rena was back in the fight, but she was battling Alix’s brother Jalil, who was using pan pipes to send blasts of wind at his opponents. She wasn’t sure if Vincent Asa was on the battle field or not, but she hoped someone was handling the photographer if he was there, because she had her hands full. Lila – or puppet Lila – was a vicious little bitch, and Penny was almost as bad. She was glad that the woman wasn’t in control, because she was smart and quick thinking. The controlled version of her was probably less dangerous than if she had been fully in control.

Wyvern leapt on Penny, driving her back, and Katuali was fighting Lila solo again. The next few minutes were flashing glimpses of the battle, but she had very little time to do anything but rely on the implanted reflexes. Lila moved stiffly, but was almost a machine, never stopping, never giving her room to breathe.

Then something happened, and she wasn’t sure what it was. Lila just…froze. Completely, totally still. She looked like she was fighting herself. Katuali had no idea what was happening, but she seized on a lunatic idea. She pounced on Lila, tearing at her ears, and surprisingly the Miraculous she wore were almost easy to pull away. Light flashed, and Lila was…Lila again!

“What the hell?” Katuali muttered. She didn’t know why Lila had just stopped, but she wasn’t going to let this slip by. She could be confused later. She rolled Lila over and, for what seemed like the twentieth time that night, she wrapped her arm around her opponent’s neck and knocked them out. Then she looked up, surveying the battlefield. Ladybug and Chat Noir appeared, and then the two – no, three, there was Vincent – puppeted fighters were falling back, Jalil pushing them back with a huge blast of air. Before anyone could react, they were gone. She had never spotted Mayura, but she was sure the crazy bitch had been somewhere. She must have pulled the others out when Lila had been taken out. Or maybe she had retreated at the arrival of Ladybug and Chat Noir. It didn’t matter. She looked down at Lila, and then at the others. “Something weird just happened. But…”

Ladybug nodded. “We’ll figure it out later. Right now, let’s get Mlle. Rossi somewhere safe.”

“Ladybug!” came a voice from across the plaza, and they looked up to see Aurore and Nino running over. “You…you freed our classmate!”

Ladybug shook her head. “No, I can’t take credit for this. Katuali, here, managed to free her.” Ladybug regarded both for a moment – Katuali knew that she was just doing it for appearance sake – and then nodded. “Can we entrust you with Mlle. Rossi until her family can come for her? Or to get her home?”

Aurore nodded. “Of course!”

“We of Team Miraculous owe the Ladyblog once again,” she said, speaking with an over-the-top, melodramatic tone.

“You bet you do,” Nino muttered. “We’ll look after her.”

“Thank you!” Ladybug said, and then she was off. The rest of the team scattered, and Katuali looked at Aurore and Nino for a moment, bowed to them, and then leapt for the rooftops. She was sore, she was tired, she felt mentally drained, but…for the first time since she had been victimized by Papillion, she felt in control of her life. She knew, in that moment, that she had made the right choice, asking to join with Ladybug. She wanted to be a hero. And tonight, she had succeeded. Not bad for her first time out. But right now, she was going to go home and fall into bed. Tomorrow, she could figure out how to tell her boyfriend. She knew, without a doubt, that he would understand.

Chapter Text

Lila Rossi woke slowly and reluctantly. Her head hurt intensely, her neck was sore, and she felt strange for some reason. Then she realized what at least part of the strangeness was: she wasn’t in the bed she had slept in since she had been kidnapped by Mayura. There was a gentle breeze in the air, and there was faint music – as though someone was listening to music with headphones that were turned all the way to max volume. The bed was softer, and she was sleeping on her back for the first time since she had been taken, because her arms weren’t bound. She had no idea at all where she was, but she didn’t care at the moment. Even if Papillion held her captive, at least the bed was comfortable. She tried to sit up, but her body was stiff and sore. Well, damn. She tried to open her eyes, but they were crusty with sleep and tears, and they were blurry, and her arms were too sore to move up to clear the mess. Maybe she could get the attention of the person listening to the music? Wait, they probably did have headphones on. Damn it, weren’t they supposed to be watching over her or something? Why else would they be here? She grit her teeth in frustration and tried to move…and managed to kick the blanket half off of herself. Her legs worked, when the rest of her was a mess? Well, damn. She kicked out again – she couldn’t put a lot of force into the kick, because she couldn’t get her hips into it – and the blanket flipped up and away from the bed. The music got louder – the person pulled the headphones off, maybe? – and then a blurry face appeared before her eyes.

“You’re awake,” she heard a soft, husky female voice say. If it was one of her classmates, it could only be Juleka.

“Jlka?” Lila wanted to curse. Her throat was dry and her tongue felt gummy. As if by magic, a straw was put between her lips, and she managed to sip at it. Oh, god, that tasted good. Clean, pure, simple water. It had a slight metallic tang to it, but an immensely enjoyable one at the moment. She sipped several more times, working her tongue around her mouth as it became hydrated, chasing away the dryness. She took back any hurtful words she had ever said about Juleka, this was amazing right now. “Ju-le-ka?” she enunciated slowly.

“That’s right,” she heard the girl reply.

“Where at?”

“Um…you’re in Chloé’s suite at Le Grand Paris. A doctor came to see you earlier, and took some blood samples for testing, and gave you a thorough examination. She said she thinks that you are mostly suffering from a slight case of malnutrition, and a bigger concern of dehydration and exhaustion. Do you have a headache?”

“Yes,” she said simply.

“The doctor thought you might. It’s probably due to dehydration, on top of you getting knocked out by one of the Team Miraculous members, or that’s what she advised. She’ll be back in an hour or so unless you want me to have them call her now?”

“No,” Lila replied. She was almost more shocked at hearing Juleka speak so much than by waking up here. The tall, quiet girl rarely strung so many words together unless it was to answer a question in class. “Knocked out?”

“She used a sleeper choke on you, after she took the Miraculous you had been wearing off of you. Do you remember anything at all?” Juleka asked. “I don’t want to tell you too much, the doctor wants to see what you remember on your own first.”

“Tee. Emm. New,” Lila bit out. “Ginger girl?”

“That’s right,” Juleka agreed again. “Do you want me to wipe your eyes out? They are pretty gross and crusty.”

Please.” She heard a splash of water, and then a damp rag swabbed across her face, cleaning not only her eyes, but her nose, and wiping away the grime and sweat of sleep. That alone made her feel two-hundred-percent better. “Thank,” she said, looking clearly at the girl. She had her hair up in that rainbow ponytail she had taken to this summer. The shaved side facing her had a flower shaved into it: a Rose. Even she had to admit, that was cute. And Juleka was, at the moment, the closest thing to an angel that she knew. She gave her water. She cleaned her face. She had never realized before how important simple things were until you couldn’t do them for yourself. “More drink?”

“Okay,” came the reply, and the straw was between her lips again. She sipped, and that glorious water filled her mouth again. It was delicious, and familiar, but she wasn’t sure why. It was odd, but at the moment she didn’t much care. “Do you remember much at all?” Juleka asked. “You don’t have to tell me any of it, I was just told that you might not. I didn’t know if it was like being turned into an akuma. I know that I didn’t remember anything about that until much later.”

“Remember some,” Lila told her. “Not much first. Later, yes. Pap did weird thing. Helped.”

Juleka looked shocked. “Papillion helped you? Against his ally?”

“Not ally,” she said. “Um…rival? No like.” She cursed how tired and sore she felt, and how her mouth was still slow to reply. Shaping each word took forever.

“Papillion and Mayura don’t like each other?” the rainbow goth asked.

“Pap. Hates. Pea-cock. Bitch.” Lila enunciated as clearly as she could. “Told me. Also, they argue much.” She thought for a moment. “Why Chloé suite?”

“With you and Mayor Bourgeois both victims recovering from this latest attack, having you both in the same place made protecting you easier. Mayura looks like she’s a vengeful sort, so Team Miraculous has someone watching over you for now,” Juleka told her.

Lila sighed. She was pretty sure this was a mild fiction, because she was pretty sure Chloé was Queen Bee, since Marinette was almost certainly Ladybug. But it was a good cover story. Which meant that Juleka was in on it. That didn’t surprise her, the class dynamic had changed drastically since Marinette and Chloé had started dating. They had become a more cohesive whole, and they protected each other, but especially the group of Marinette, Chloé, Alya, and Adrien. She bit down a grimace. Adrien was with Alya now. Lila knew that she hadn’t had much of a chance with him after the Volpina incident, but it still hurt to think about. He was so damn pretty, and he was really nice. To be honest, he was much too nice for her to be involved with. She would have tarnished his pure, sweet soul. That would have been a desecration. She heard movement, and then felt the blankets being pulled back up the bed, and looked up to see Juleka rearranging the covers. She realized she had been woolgathering and going off on tangents. Juleka knew, which meant that Rose knew. That meant that Rose was the Monkey Warrior that had interrupted the fight with the Rabbit. Well, that was a good thing, wasn’t it? Rose was capable, and she was tenacious.

If Rose was the Monkey…the short ginger, the Dragon, was definitely Alix, and that made the tall ginger – the Snake, maybe? – that Ondine girl. She was certain that Marinette had kept the Miraculous holders close to her. The Rabbit was probably Aurore, although how she would do that and do all the Ladyblog reporting that she did…maybe the Rabbit had time powers? She wasn’t even sure how many other holders there were besides the ones she already knew, or had fought. Or not fought, but was a passenger in her body for the fight. The fact that she was free from that…wait, if she couldn’t move, did that mean that the peacock bitch still had partial control of her?

“Feathers?” she asked with a bit of panic in her voice.

“Feathers?” Juleka looked momentarily confused. “Oh, the peacock feathers?”

“Yes.”

“They vanished sometime last night. Do you know why?” the taller girl asked.

“Feathers go away when she sleeps,” Lila got out with only a bit of slurring. “Kept me locked up at night.”

“Oh. That’s awful,” Juleka said with conviction, and Lila was sure she meant it. And she was right, it was awful.

“Yes,” Lila agreed. She yawned. “Tired. Nap?”

Juleka nodded. “You can take a nap until the doctor comes back, if you need it. You aren’t tired of sleeping?”

“Worn out,” she replied. “Bad dreams before free.”

“I understand.”

“Thank,” Lila said, yawning again. She closed her eyes, and sleep reclaimed her again.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Papillion strode into the building that Mayura was using as her base of operations. It was, in fact, an old studio that had once held the Gabriel design studio when it was first starting out. He had been unwilling to part with it, for it held many good memories of his wife within its walls. Unfortunately, it was also a location that Madeleine had been aware of, for it predated even Gabriel’s marriage to Emilie. She had moved into the building without so much as a by-your-leave from him, and while he was furious, he was storing up that fury, savoring it until he could unleash it on this woman that proved over and over that she didn’t deserve any kind of power. That he had set up her recent failure meant little to him, it only proved that she had made no preparations for failure, believing in her arrogance that she could not suffer failure. He had long ago learned that lesson, and he always tried to minimize his exposure should matters truly go badly. The fact that Mayura had lost one of the Miraculous because of her lack of backup plan proved that his foresight was correct. He had certainly prepared for any interference that Mayura might have thrown his way. The fact that she attacked during the middle of one of his plots – well, he had prepared Mlle. Rossi for just that kind of interference. Mayura had had to split her attention too many ways, until it was too late to step in with the girl. That was all to the good, it took power away from her, even if it also took the chance to use it away from him. Right now, though, weakening Mayura through any and all means was essential to his continued plans. Now it was time for another strike.

“Mayura,” he growled as he approached the woman, “what did you think you were doing, interfering with one of my plots? And having done so, you lost a Miraculous to those idealistic fools?”

Mayura snarled. “Oh, and your plan was so superior? I provided more distractions, else your akuma would have stood no chance at all.”

“You should have attacked other parts of the city, then! You should have drawn all Team Miraculous out! Spread their attention throughout the city! Instead, you concentrated all your forces in the same place as mine, and allowed Ladybug and her allies to pick and choose their battles! They were able to summon the rest of their members – who had not even all arrived when your puppet was defeated – and overwhelm you with numbers and experience. Your puppets have no imagination, no creativity, and they cannot respond to the insanity that seems to be the hallmark of all of Team Miraculous,” Papillion told the woman in blue. “All you really did was allow them to reclaim one of their friends, and one of the stolen Miraculous. I thought you were to show me the proper way to be a villain, Mayura? I already know how to lose to Ladybug and her ilk, but not in so spectacular a style.”

“Fuck you, Gabriel…” Mayura began to snarl.

“NO!” Papillion shouted. “Do you not understand? I am Papillion. If you are to protect your secret, you must protect mine, which means you can never lapse in that manner. When I bear this mask, I am only Papillion. That it is, Mayura. Do you think that, if I were to use your name where it was witnessed by anyone, that it would not find its way to the Ladyblog within the day? Not only do they have a staff with a nose for ferreting out secrets, but they have a loyal network of fan that frequent the website and discuss every scrap of information they may come across. If they heard the names Gabriel or Madeleine, do you think it would not be on the front page of the Ladyblog that day? Do you think that Adrien would not make the connection at that point? He is a genius, however you may feel about him. He would figure it out, and that would destroy my relationship with my son. I would be most put out with you. Do not doubt that my wrath would be both swift, and great.”

“You talk grandly, Papillion, but I have not seen any more success out of you since my arrival,” Mayura spat.

“Since you arrived, you have done nothing but steal my resources, use my facilities, and interfere with my plans. Without my help, without the Peacock Miraculous, you would have accomplished exactly nothing. Your successes are my successes. And it is time for you to pay some of that help back. Give me the Horse Miraculous.”

“What? No!”

“I am not asking, Mayura. Give me the Horse Miraculous, or the next Akuma will come for you. And the next. And the next. I will run my powers dry to deny you rest, to deny you time to plan, to deny you time to recover. There is nowhere in this city that you can hide from me. I can always find the Peacock Miraculous.” Papillio stared down into Mayura’s eyes, and he saw the moment when she gave in. She stood, and walked over to a desk sitting along the wall. She opened one of the wooden drawers and drew out a box. She handed it over to the violet villain, and he opened it briefly, confirming the presence of the Miraculous, before closing it and tucking it into his jacket. “Thank you.”

“Get out,” Mayura growled.

“I can assure you that I get no pleasure from your company,” Papillion returned. “Do not cross me again, Mayura. If you wish to strike along side with my forces, you will co-ordinate with me, or I will have my akuma turn on you. Do remember that.” With that, he strode out of the door and away from the hateful woman.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Marinette and Chloé walked into Chloé’s suite, hearing a gentle, husky laugh coming from the direction of the bed. Juleka sat in a lounge chair that had been pulled to the bedside, and Lila was sitting up, propped against the headboard with some pillows. Rose was by the sideboard, pouring some tea and giggling as well. Lila looked quite put out. The Italian girl turned toward the sound of the door opening, and her face was a cascade of emotions. Happiness, anger, gratitude, pain, loathing, loneliness – everything crossed her face in a moment. She smiled wanly at the duo and waved. Juleka and Rose both looked in their direction, and both smiled in acknowledgement.

“Hello, Marinette!” Rose burbled. She finished pouring the tea into the cups set out, and then turned fully to them. “Would you like some tea?”

“No thank you,” Marinette said,

“That’s alright,” Chloé added. “We just had lunch with Mama Sabine and Tom, and I’m too full for anything more in my tummy for a while. Even tea.”

“They do make good food,” Lila said, surprising the two. “I love their baguettes. And their macarons. I’m sure their lunches are just as good.”

“Amazing,” Chloé agreed. “How are you feeling?”

Lila shrugged. “Very tired. Part of me feels disgusted by what I went through, but…it wasn’t me. It really wasn’t. It took three feathers for her to control me, and that…I was a passenger in my own body. It wasn’t like my memories of Volpina at all. When those memories came back to me, it was – I was still in control, just that every bad emotion, every personality flaw was magnified. Being Mayura’s puppet was just that. She was pulling the strings. I had no say in anything that my body was doing.”

Marinette recoiled, and the other three girls listening did as well. “That’s…I have no words,” Rose said. “What a monster.” Marinette watched as Lila nodded. Then the Italian girl looked intently at her.

“Marinette,” Lila said, looking away, “I – while I was being held by Mayura, I had a lot of time to think. That’s all I could do, really. And things just – you’re really Ladybug, aren’t you?” The question came so quickly that Marinette had no time to think about a proper response. And more damning than that was the fact that Chloé, Rose, and Juleka didn’t react. They had all heard the question, and the explanations before, and Juleka and Rose were both awful at faking surprise. Lila’s eyes got wider. “And they all know,” Lila continued. “That means that Chloé has to be Queen Bee, and Rose is the new one. Or one of the new ones.” She frowned. “Is Juleka a Miraculous holder too, one that I didn’t see?”

Marinette continued to look at Lila in shock for a moment, then she looked at the other girls. “I think we need to practice denying questions like that for the future, girls, or else someone else might surprise us like this again.” She turned to Lila. “You’ve been caught up in this fight twice now, and this time it was really bad. I can’t deny this, but…you can’t tell anyone, Lila. You’ve seen Mayura. If she knew who we are, who our families are, she would probably kill someone.”

Lila nodded in agreement. “I would never tell anyone. I had – I was pretty sure before now that you were Ladybug, and had ideas about the rest – I could have told Papillion. I could have tried to use the information to bargain for my freedom, but I never even considered it. As angry as I was with you after Volpina, I know that Papillion winning would be bad. Mayura winning would be much, much worse. Telling either of them would have been a crime of the worst sort.”

“Thank you,” Marinette said softly.

“You talked to Papillion?” Chloé asked.

Lila nodded. “He is…intense. He has a lot of anger, but also a lot of pain. He has a strange sense of honor, but he does have one. He hates Mayura, or hates her methods at least. He does not want her to win. He helped me…not escape. He helped me by giving me an opportunity. He helped me see outside, past Mayura’s enveloping control, and I was able to stop myself. The new ginger girl used that moment to beat me and knock me out.” Lila winced. “She’s mean, by the way.”

“She’s a bit…she’s frustrated at the moment,” Marinette said. “The attack gave her an outlet for her frustration. She may have taken people down a bit harder than we normally would have. But…” She paused. “This is hard to talk about. When we…when I am Ladybug, I don’t talk about any of the other members of the team except as their Miraculous identities. And when I’m Marinette, I don’t talk about us except as our normal identities. I don’t connect the two, because I don’t know who might be trying to listen in. And we’re all really careful about it. We’re not perfect, but we are very, very careful.”

“We should let her into the chat,” Rose said.

“Chat?” Chloé asked. “What chat?”

Rose blushed, and Juleka palmed her face. “Wow, love, you really screwed that up,” Juleka murmured. She looked over at Marinette and Chloé, debating for a moment, before sighing in resignation. “We have a group chat, everyone who knew before you original four started inviting others in. Most of the members have admitted that they know to you now, but not all of them have.”

“You’re talking about us in a chat room?” Chloé asked with an edge of hysteria in her voice. “You’re leaving electronic records?”

“No,” Rose said, “we use an encrypted chat client that…that…”

“Max,” Marinette said.

“Max has to be involved with something like that,” Chloé agreed.

Rose sighed. “Yes,” she agreed, “Max is involved. The chat client routes though Markov. His loyalty to Max is absolute, and he’ll wipe his memory before he lets any of our secrets get out. Even if that deleted him. He can’t betray the secrets he knows, even if he wanted to, it’s how he is programmed, but he wouldn’t want to.”

“Well,” Chloé said, “that makes me feel slightly better. The sparkplug is kind of annoying, but you’re right, he is loyal to Max, and by extension, to Max’s friends.”

“So,” Lila interjected, “what you’re saying is that there is a whole group of people that know what’s going on? And you talk to each other?”

“Marinette, Chloé, and…the other two…” Rose began.

“Adrien and Alya,” Lila told her. “I’m not dumb, Rose. I know all of you. You’re all in my class.” She looked alarmed for a moment. “Am I the only one in the class that didn’t know?”

“No,” Juleka said. She looked to Rose. “We might as well tell them everything,” she said. “Now that you’ve let the cat out of the bag and all.”

Rose nodded. “They can all yell at me later. It was a secret only as long as it was a secret from Marinette and the others. We all knew it would come out eventually.”

Juleka nodded. Marinette and Chloé had moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “To answer Lila: no, not everyone in class knows. Kim has theories, but doesn’t want to be involved, doesn’t want any of them confirmed. Ivan is too into his own things. Everyone else, though…”

“Plus Aurore, Ondine, and Marc,” Rose added.

“Does Mme. Bustier know?” Lila and Chloé asked in stereo. They looked askance at each other.

“If she does, she hasn’t said,” Juleka replied.

“My mother knows, though,” Marinette admitted.

“And I think Butler Jean does as well,” Chloé added. “But if he does, then he probably figured it out after he was made into an akuma. Probably not until after I became Queen Bee.”

“You sneaking out might have been a clue,” Marinette allowed.

“So, people know. Your friends know. And now, I do too.” Lila said. “So…I know this is – I know you don’t trust me, and that’s probably important, but – where are my Miraculous?”

“Your Miraculous?” Chloé asked.

“Yes,” Lila said, trying not to hiss the word, “my Miraculous. Whether or not I had any choice in the matter, the fact is that the Goat Kwami accepted me, protected me. And more than that, I need it to keep me safe, in case Mayura comes for me again. And even more than that, I want to take the fight back to her. She used me, she violated me, and I will make sure that she is stopped. I think that I have earned that chance,” she told the others. “Please,” she added after a moment. “I need to do this. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep at night unless I know I can protect myself. And I can’t let this happen to anyone else. Not even Papillion deserves what Mayura does to people. I will help stop her. I will help free the others.”

Marinette looked into Lila’s eyes, and the Italian girl stared back at her, without defiance, but also without any give at all. Finally, Marinette gave a small nod. “Well, they do say goats are stubborn,” she quipped. “Can you listen to me when the time comes?”

“They do say goats are stubborn,” Lila replied, grinning wickedly. “But yes, I can listen. We may not ever be best friends, but I have faith in Ladybug.”

“Good,” Marinette replied, nodding. “Don’t make me regret this, Lila.”

“I’ll try my best not to,” Lila replied, squirming. “I – thank you, all of you. Thank you, Marinette. Thank you, Ladybug.”

Chapter Text

“Thank you sooo much!” the teenage girl said, taking the magazine Alya held from her hands, the one she had just signed, along with Adrien, and the blogger just waved bemusedly as the girl turned and ran back to her friends. She looked over at her boyfriend.

“Is this what it’s always been like for you?” she asked

“Pretty much, yeah,” he replied. “How does it feel?”

“I want to go back to being the Ladyblogger, please and thank you,” Alya replied. It was completely crazy. Ever since the fashion show, younger girls had started idolizing her. She had no idea how to deal with this. She had, in fact, told the Gabriel people after the event where they could get off if they thought she was going to change her everyday fashion just for them, no matter how successful they were. They had just smiled and agreed. She was still weirded out by it all. But really. She was not a role model. She wasn’t.

Chloé thought it was hilarious. Alix had fallen out of her chair laughing. Marinette just gave her one of those sly grins that she had become a master of. Aurore and Nino just smiled at her and asked if they could get an interview before she was really famous. She had restrained herself from strangling everyone involved, but it was a close thing.

“I think it’s great that girls look up to you, Alya,” Adrien told her, leaning in to murmur to her. “You’re a much better role model than some stuck-up actress or model. You go out and do things. You run a wildly popular and successful blog. You’re a good student. You’re proof that girls can be smart and sexy. And you date a hot supermodel. What’s not to look up to?”

Alya pushed her hand in his face, shoving him away. “You are so full of yourself, M. Hot Supermodel,” she told him. Then she grabbed his lapel and pulled him back in close for a kiss. “You’re lucky you’re so kissable, M. Agreste.”

“I feel like I’m the lucky one,” Adrien replied, giving her a quick kiss. “I’ve got a girlfriend who doesn’t actually care that I’m a model, who knows all my secrets and shares some of them, and who has a fabulous body that she doesn’t mind cuddling up to me with.”

“I like cuddling,” Alya told him, leaning in for another kiss. “I also like spending time with you, doing anything at all. Do we actually have any plans, or are we just wandering?”

“Well,” the blond said, “we should probably stop in at Le Grand Paris and visit Lila at some point.”

Alya made a face, but nodded. “I suppose we should. She’s not as big a bitch as she used to be. Still don’t like that she tried to steal things that belong to me.”

Adrien smirked. “Your pendant? Your boyfriend?”

“Yes,” Alya replied. “Even if neither was quite mine at that point, she was trying to take both without actually having done the work to earn them.”

“You never had to earn me, you just had to be yourself and be loveable.”

Alya shrugged. “It’s hard sometimes. Looking different than most of your friends, it makes you question if the things people say are true. It took me a long time to believe that you might be willing to give me a chance.”

“I’m glad you finally realized it,” Adrien told her, taking her hand as they began to walk again. “I think that you kissing me that day was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It got me an incredible girlfriend, and that led to that amazing photoshoot, which lead to that marketing campaign – I still can’t believe that we did that! And then father let me take the lead on the promotions, picking the models, the event – everything! He gave me a chance to show him what I’ve learned and what I can do! He listens to me now, he acknowledges that I might have something valuable to say! And I never would have gotten that, at least not anytime soon, if not for you.” He raised their hands and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. “Thank you, Alya.”

Alya blushed, her dark skin barely showing what would have been a bright flush on most people. “You’re welcome, Adrien. I think you kissing me back was the best thing that happened to me. I can’t believe what’s happened to me in a year. I went from being the new girl, the colonial girl, to being the Ladyblogger. And then that took off, and suddenly there is too much for me to handle, and now I have people working for me, and I’m running a successful, if small, media outlet. And then I started dating you, and the modeling thing, and I just…I can’t believe it all. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from it all. That everything in my life is too amazing for it to be my life. Well, except for the fact that I have to have a lawyer, because of the Ladyblog, that isn’t so great. But – and this still blows my mind – the Ladyblog is getting rebroadcast around the world. Ladybug and Team Miraculous are the most popular heroes in Europe, more than Majestia or Knightowl and Sparrow. That’s completely crazy. And the Ladyblog has always been the number one source for Ladybug information. We did the first interviews, and…sorry, I’m babbling, but a year ago I was nobody. It’s hard to comprehend.”

Adrien kissed her hand again. “I don’t think you were ever nobody, Alya.”

Alya shook her head. “I wasn’t someone anyone wanted to know. My mom is a well-known chef. My father is successful in his field, and well respected. My sister Nora is an up-and-coming fighter. And the twins are, well, the twins. I was the least exciting person in my family, much less in any part of Paris.”

“Your family is pretty interesting,” Adrien said, “but they aren’t you. You have a life and energy to you. Nothing keeps you down. You have a sense of justice and an inquisitive mind that never stops looking for more knowledge. You’re fearless, and you bounce right back from things that would terrify most people, and dive right in again. I’m in awe of your energy and drive, Alya.”

“Awww, thank you, Adrien,” Alya said, leaning into him and kissing him on the cheek. He stopped and turned into the kiss, catching her lips with his and giving her a firm, if chaste, kiss. “Mmmmm,” she murmured, “I could really use some more of those. We haven’t gotten enough alone time recently, Adrien. I need your kisses and nibbles and your hands in my hair. And neither of us have a photoshoot for a week. I can kiss and nibble anywhere I want right now, and don’t have to worry about it showing up in a photo or having to explain it to Vincent and Alain or, god help me, your father. So I think we should go back to my family’s apartment – I know no one is home right now – and then I am going to kiss and nibble and molest your hot body, because I love you, and you’re mine, and I’m going to claim every inch of you.”

Adrien had frozen for a moment, staring at her wildly. “What did you say?”

“I’m going to claim every inch of you?”

“Before that.”

“You’re mine?”

“Before that,” Adrien growled slightly.

“I – oh! – I love you,” Alya told him.

“You do? Truly?”

Alya nodded. “We’ve been through things that other people can’t understand, Adrien. It’s made us grow up, and I think I understand what love is a little better, now. Real, adult love. And I’m not talking about sex, although that sounds great too, but – I love you, Adrien. You make every day better. I think of you first thing every day, and the last thing at night. I wish you were beside me as I fall asleep. Maybe I’m too young, but I think that’s what real love is.”

Adrien put his hands on Alya’s waist and pulled her close, and then kissed her deeply, his tongue caressing her lips briefly, before he brought a hand up to tangle in her hair. “I love you too. I want to kiss you a lot more, but if we start making out on the street, it will make it onto some website,” he said breathlessly. “So let’s go to your apartment. I want to kiss and nibble and molest your hot body, starting at your neck and stopping at your toes.”

Alya shivered. “You know just how to talk to a girl, M. Agreste,” she told him.

“I was thinking the same thing about you knowing how to talk to a boy, Mlle. Césaire,” he replied.

“I was thinking of letting my hands do the real talking. Now, more walking, less chatting, or I will be fondling and touching you right here in the streets.”

“Of course, lovely lady. Your wish is my command.”

Chapter Text

Nathanael and Marc sat opposite from each other at the table, Marc making some very rough storyboard sketches before handing them over to Nathanael to turn into art, while they and the redhead kept up a constant stream of brainstorming going between them, Marc trying to find the right words to tell their artist just what they wanted the story to show. They were great at characterization and world-building; they struggled to find the right words to properly describe any kind of action, thus the storyboarding.

Nathanael looked up from his tablet at the latest storyboard. “Hmm, that’s not bad. You’re getting better at showing me what you’re seeing in your head.”

Marc shrugged their shoulders. “I’ve been watching a lot of videos on YouTube, martial arts and anime fight scenes, and just use what I see there to make the storyboards.”

The artist nodded. “It’s not a bad plan. Professional animators have to use actual martial artists as models if they actually want to make their fights look like the real thing.”

Marc gave a jaunty salute, then returned to the story. “I really like the way this new story is coming along. The characters are interesting, and I like writing them. Penelope is kind of a bitch, though.”

“Penelope is supposed to be a bitch. She’s the antagonist. She needs to be more of a bitch, to be honest, but I think it will take time for you to work up to the proper way to convey her cattiness. I just use memories of old Chloé to fill in the parts you have trouble with,” the redhead told his paramour.

“She was a bitch, wasn’t she?”

“Lila’s worse, though. She called you a whiny little bitch,” Nathanael said.

Marc giggled and then made a moue. “Sometimes I am a bit of that, though I would prefer to use the words ‘whiny effete.’”

The artist threw up his hands. “You’re impossible!”

Marc clapped their hands together lightly. “I’m not, I just seem that way occasionally. I don’t care what someone like Lila says. I am what I am. Whatever that is each day, I’m still trying to figure that out.”

“What do you feel like today?”

Marc seemed to think about this for a moment. “I’m not as put off about having boy parts today as some days. I wish my brain would just settle one way or the other.” They smirked. “Either way, I still like your boy parts, Nathan.”

The redhead’s cheeks seemed to flame. “Good god, Marc. So embarrassing. Lewd!”

Marc giggled again. “If you weren’t stubbornly putting me off until your birthday, I wouldn’t have to be so lewd.”

“What happened to the shy kid I met months ago?”

The black-haired teen leaned back, laughing. “I think I met Chloé and Marinette and the rest of your class and got to hang out with them. They helped me learn how to speak up for myself.”

“I think they did too much of a good job,” the redhead grumbled.

Marc stood up and leaned across the table, kissing Nathanael on the cheek. “Oh stop whining, you dork. You know you love it.”

It was Nathanael’s turn to smirk. “I suppose I do. It helps that you’re so damn cute.”

“How’s that line go? ‘Cute? I’m not cute! Baka!’”

“I swear to god, if Aurore turns you into a tsundere, I may kill her,” the artist said with a sigh.

“Baka.”

“Don’t. Even. Start.”

Marc giggled again, they couldn’t help themselves. “You know that the anime has helped us with our action composition. I just identify better with the girls. And I’m not going to actually go tsundere. I already admitted I like you, goof.” Them their face went serious. “I just have trouble believing I’m cute, when I don’t even always like myself or how I look.”

“I think you look just fine,” Nathanael replied, “but I want you to be happy with yourself.”

“Thanks. Baka.”

“Zakkenayo, baka tsundere.”

“Mean! So mean!” Marc said melodramatically. “I may die from all the negative energy coming my way!”

Nathanael pulled the storyboard closer and scrutinized it. “What is Rachel trying to do here?” he asked, pointing to a panel.

Marc leaned in close. “Oh, she’s playing with the puzzle box. I just can’t draw that for anything, and-” They were silenced as Nathanael pushed up from his seat and pressed a gentle kiss to their lips. Marc’s brain completely stopped for a moment, before they fell backwards heavily into their seat. Finally, they looked up and glared cutely. “That is so not fair!”

“That’s revenge for that lewdness you said earlier. Besides, how can you say that kind of thing when you can’t actually kiss me without losing all composure?” the redhead asked.

“Words are easy, doing the thing is hard!”

“‘Zhu Li, do the thing!’” Nathanael quoted.

“And you say I’m bad with anime,” Marc pouted. “You and your American cartoons.”

“Korra is a lesbian icon. Or at least a bisexual one. She’s the most powerful being on her world, and she’s queer! That’s freaking awesome!” the artist countered. “How can you not love a queer superhero?”

“I do have to agree with you there,” Marc agreed. “A real queer superhero would be more awesome, though.”

Nathanael snorted. “You do remember the rumors about Ladybug and Queen Bee, right?”

“Well, yes,” Marc agreed. “But they haven’t really come out.”

“They stomped all over the Mayor, metaphorically, for his homophobic attitude. In public. Maybe they aren’t out, but they are definitely for queer rights,” the redhead argued.

They sighed. “Love is just Love. Love is Love, why is that so hard for some people to get?”

“Religion, fear, provincialism, the dislike of something different, repressed feelings. You name it,” Nathanael replied.

“That sucks,” Marc said, then they sighed. “Okay, enough about that. Let’s get back to our own queer superheroes, okay?”

“That sounds like a great plan, mon paramour.”

“Baka.”

Chapter Text

Alix sat on Ondine’s bed and watched the taller redhead pack her bag in preparation for her week-long swim trip. She frowned when she saw the swimmer pull out a familiar red hoodie before folding it and tucking it into her bag. “Kim gave you his hoodie?”

Ondine turned to look at her diminutive friend. “He did. Or one of them, he has three. Well, two now.”

“Why does Kim have three of the same hoodie?”

The swimmer laughed. “One of them is actually too small for him now, that’s the one he gave to me. He has a second in case something happens to the first. He really loves that hoodie.”

“He is such a dork,” Alix said emphatically.

Ondine nodded. “He is, but a cute one. And those shoulders, yum,” she said with a mock leer.

“Gross,” Alix said, making a face. “You’re such a perv, ‘dine.”

The taller redhead grinned again. “Yup. Getting dirtier all the time.” At Alix’s shocked look, she giggled. “What? I’m a growing girl, and an athlete. I have all these hormones and endorphins and loads of adrenaline coursing through my body. At the last Olympics, the athletes went through hundreds of thousands of condoms. All those sexy athletic bodies, competing and striving to be the best, needing an outlet for stress? I may not be world-class, but there is no less motivation for me.” She growled. “I’ve been so damn frustrated since Kim left, you have no idea.”

“Ew,” Alix said. “I do not want to picture Kim like that.”

“I wasn’t specifically talking about Kim, Alix,” Ondine replied. “I just haven’t been able to get myself off, honestly.”

“Wow, Ondine, waaaaay too much information there,” the smaller redhead replied, before curiosity got the better of her. “Why not?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be so damn frustrated!” the taller girl moaned. “Maybe something changed, I don’t know, it’s hard to get myself in the mood; thinking about Kim makes me want, well…”

“You’ve done it with him?” Alix asked, taking a drink of water out of the bottle she had.

Ondine shook her head. “I was waiting for his birthday. The day we were attacked, I was going to give him a blowjob before that bitch ruined that plan.”

Alix started coughing. “Good god Ondine, even more TMI!”

“Hey, I’m honest. This is girl talk, isn’t it?”

Alix shrugged. “It would be if I had any love life at all,” she replied. “As it is…I dunno, it just feels awkward.”

Ondine frowned. “I’m sorry, Alix. I didn’t mean to-”

“I know,” the skater replied. “It’s not your fault that no one wants me.”

“I don’t think that that’s true.”

“Oh, it is,” Alix said. “I gave up trying a while ago. I’m too small, I look too young, I’m not girly enough, I’m too aggressive. Take your pick, I’ve heard them all.”

Ondine winced. “I really am sorry. I don’t think any of those things are true. Collège and Lycée boys can really be jackasses. I got lucky that Kim is easy to convince and easy to teach, I was afraid he was going to be too pigheaded. Or that he wouldn’t even think of me like that. He was into Chloé for a while, I know.”

“And then Chloé turned out to be into Mari, ending that crush,” Alix quipped.

“Lucky for me,” Ondine said in reply. “So who is your crush, Alix?”

“Why do you care, Ondine?” the skater said, before wincing a bit herself. “Wait, no, I didn’t mean it that way. I just…nothing like that matters. I’m not even sure if I have a crush on anyone, and even if I did, it would just go unrequited.”

“Alix, are you – um – are you like Sabrina? Asexual?”

“What? Oh, no, I’m pretty sure I’m not. I…get turned on, yeah,” she admitted, blushing. “I just don’t really have much outlet for it.”

“You don’t masturbate?” the swimmer asked, slightly shocked.

“Good god, Ondine,” Alix repeated. “I…” she sighed. “I can’t, at home. You know we’re i-Mazigh-en, right? Berbers? We’re not really religious, but Grandmama and Grandpapa were, are, Muslim, and Dad inherited a lot of their attitudes, if not their religion. The one time he caught me – it was embarrassing as all hell, and if he had been angry, it would have been better, but he was just…so disappointed in me, and himself, as if he had failed as a father. Honestly, I haven’t been able to get in the right mindset since then at home, and where else would I do it. I can’t exactly go to the park, can I?”

“That really sucks,” Ondine told her. “I can’t imagine.”

“Perv.”

Ondine gave her an odd look. “It’s natural,” she said. “I’m not ashamed. I mean, I don’t go advertizing it, but there isn’t anything wrong with it at all. It’s really enjoyable.”

“I got interrupted the third time I did it, I hadn’t really figured out what worked good for me yet,” Alix muttered. “This is so awkward, Ondine, why are we talking about this?”

“Because you’re repressed as hell, and it’s hurting you, and you’re one of my best friends. I just want you to be happy,” the swimmer replied.

Alix snorted. “I don’t think this is helping,” she said.

“It’s helping you talk about it, and get comfortable with the idea. If you talk about it, maybe you’ll stop repressing all of your feelings and figure out what you actually want,” Ondine said.

The skater growled. “Just – let it go, Ondine, please.”

“I have been, and it’s not helping you. You just get more and more wrapped up and unhappy. And now you’re hiding behind being…you know…so that you don’t have to try,” the swimmer argued.

“That’s not fair! That’s not…true…”

“It is, and you know it is,” Ondine argued.

“Fuck you, Ondine,” Alix snarled, sniffling, her lip quivering. “Just leave it alone, it isn’t going to help.” The swimmer walked over and wrapped her arms around Alix, pulling her into a hug. The smaller girl wrapped her arms around Ondine and started to cry. After a moment, she was sobbing, her breath coming in great, heaving gasps. The breakdown was so sudden and so fierce that Ondine was significantly concerned. Alix must have been holding things in for a long time. “God this sucks,” Alix muttered after she calmed down, “my hormones are a fucking wreck, I’m so turned on all the time that my panties keep getting soaked, my nipples are so sensitive that my bra is driving me nuts rubbing against them, and may just jump the next person that touches my ears. Everyone is afraid of me PMS’ing, but the two days before that are almost worse.”

Ondine’s eyes went wide. “Really?”

“God, you have no idea,” Alix said into Ondine’s breastbone.

The swimmer reached up with her hand and caressed the lobe of Alix’s ear, and the smaller girl shuddered, then growled and started to pull away. “Fuck you, you fucking amazon, that isn’t even fucking funny, you have no idea-” and then Ondine was kissing her. Alix moaned and lost herself in the kiss for a long, long moment, before pushing the taller girl away in shock. “What the hell?”

“I thought that was obvious,” Ondine replied.

Alix spluttered, then looked furious. “So you’re just throwing Kim away, then? Or cheating on him?”

“No,” the taller redhead replied, “he and I talked about this, a lot. I thought I was straight, but lately all I can think about is you. Well, you and Kim. I still like him, and we’re still dating. I just…I want to see if there is something here, too. Is that selfish of me?”

“It fucking is, yes, you ginger bitch,” Alix snarled, and then she was pulling Ondine’s face down to hers and was kissing her. They fell down onto the bed and the height difference was obviated. Hands wandered, bras were unhooked, pants were unbuttoned, and necks and tummies and nipples were licked, sucked on, caressed, and fondled. They were taking a gasping, shuddering breather, when Alix looked over at Ondine again. “I don’t know if this means I like you, or like girls, or just like kissing, or am so damn horny that I don’t care who is touching me. If you hurt Kim, you’ll never fucking touch me, or anyone else again. Understand me?”

Ondine couldn’t help but smile. “Yes, I get it.”

“Good,” Alix said, crawling out of the bed. Ondine felt vaguely disappointed, until Alix locked the door to the bedroom, and then turned back to the bed, stripping her shirt off, tossing her unhooked bra away, and then pushing her unbuttoned jeans down off her hips to puddle on the floor. She stepped out of them one leg at a time, leaving her only in her horizontal striped, pink and white panties. She pointed a finger at the taller girl. “Don’t laugh at my panties, okay? I like them.”

“I never would,” Ondine said honestly. She stared up at Alix, who leaned down and pulled the taller girl’s shirt off over her head. Ondine shed her bra, and Alix looked her up and down.

“Damn, you have nice breasts,” the skater said softly. “I just want to fall into them.” She sat down next to Ondine, and looked at her nervously. “You aren’t just doing this because you’re horny, right?”

“I’m not,” the swimmer replied. “This started at the sleepover. You kissed me, remember? I dreamed about it that night, except we kept kissing. I woke up really confused.”

“I had just really wanted to kiss you, but I was denying it because you were with Kim, so there was no point,” Alix replied.

“How do you really feel about him?”

“Honestly? I’m not sure. We’ve been buddies forever. It’s kind of weird to even think about him that way, at least as far as dating. I wouldn’t mind making out with him, though. I have a thing for broad shoulders and muscles,” the shorter girl said.

“I remember something like that being said. Something about, if you did like girls, you’d be all over me.”

“I didn’t lie, did I?” Alix asked.

“You did not,” Ondine affirmed.

“Told you,” Alix replied, then she leaned over and kissed Ondine again, her hands coming up to caress and fondle the girl. Ondine fell back on the bed as they continued to kiss, and quickly shed her athletic shorts. Then both girls shed their panties, and began to explore each other, becoming lose in each other, giving pleasure to each other. Alix screamed into a pillow when she finally was brought to orgasm, then after recovering, she let Ondine teach her how to pleasure another woman, and this went on until both fell asleep, arms around each other, their need finally sated. Finally, Alix thought muzzily right before falling asleep. Finally, she wasn’t alone. She snuggled into the nude form of her best girl friend, and let sleep take her, happy in the pleasure she had given and received. Finally.

Chapter Text

Sabrina regarded herself in her mirror, turning to look at herself from different angles. She wasn’t vain. She knew she was rather average. She liked herself well enough, but she really didn’t see why people made all the effort they did most of the time. She understood it, but she thought a lot of it was silly. At the end of the day, you were what you were without any make-up, manicures, hair styles, or expensive clothing. What you were when you were naked should be good enough for people, right?

She supposed that there was a sexual element to the dealings, which was probably why she didn’t really get it. She understood it intellectually, but she had never felt it inside her heart. She didn’t feel that kind of attraction, and it made her feel like a perpetual outsider. She understood romance, but that was about personalities and emotions, as well as sex, and she just tended to accept the sexual attraction as a given whenever she tried to play matchmaker. Sex made people act silly about their emotions, but those she could at least understand. It occasionally blew up in her face, when she mistook dislike for sexual tension, but that was kind of funny, too, and definitely entertaining. She might be a bit evil, she supposed, but hey, that came with the red hair.

Be that as it may, she just didn’t really see the need to date anyone, especially while she was in school. And a teenager. Teenagers had desires, and it was easier if she just avoided all the drama by not trying to date. Maybe someday she would find someone who felt like she did, but she wasn’t holding her breath. She looked at herself again. Objectively, she didn’t have a bad body. It was rather boyish, with small breasts, and only a decent flare of hip, but her mother had developed late, so maybe she would, too. She just didn’t think she was particularly aesthetically pleasing. She had great skin, and hey eyes were pretty, but her hair was a rather boring shade of red, in her opinion, and she thought her nose was too big. She wasn’t worried about attracting a partner, at least not now, but if she was a little prettier, she was sure life would be a bit easier. Chloé and Marinette both had people falling over themselves to help them, and they were both very pretty. Considering they were – before Chloé’s reformation – almost diametrically opposites in personality, the fact that they were both pretty had to be a factor in that regard.

She looked at the mirror again, squinting. She was also practically blind without her glasses, and her prescription was bad enough that contacts were problematic. Her glasses were utilitarian, but that was okay, because they were one more element of the defenses she put up to get boys (and girls) to leave her alone. Teenagers just didn’t comprehend the concept of ‘asexual’ very well. She was still struggling with it, because she wasn’t sure why she was the way she was. She had had some frank – very frank, actually – talks with Chloé, and later with Marinette as well, which had led to her doing some…experimenting on her own. Maybe she was doing it completely wrong, but she didn’t think so. She just had no sexual response at all. She had tried. There had been some extremely embarrassing incidents with Chloé several years ago, with some experimental kissing (Sabrina hadn’t really gotten what was great about that, either, but it was probably a sex thing, too) which had led to some mutual self-exploration that had been interrupted by Sabrina’s mother. She wasn’t sure what was more embarrassing: that Chloé’s moans had been what had drawn her mother; that she hadn’t felt any pleasure at all, despite all the drama; or that her mother then decided to give them bothThe Talk. With diagrams, models, and puppets. Where in the hell had her mother gotten those puppets?

There was a knock at her door, and Sabrina sighed. She walked to her bed and pulled on her robe, but didn’t bother pulling her hair down out of the hair-ties that held it up in pigtails. She opened the door to find her mother standing there, with two visitors behind her. Aurore and Mireille. Well, this was different. “Hello, Maman. Good evening, Rory, Miri. What brings you by?”

“We – I – felt like we’ve been ignoring you,” Aurore told her.

Sabrina giggled, shaking her head. “If anything, it was me ignoring you. I haven’t been the best friend the last couple years. I was so busy trying to be Chloé’s best friend that I forgot about everyone else.”

“I never understood that,” Mireille said, “why did you want to be Chloé’s friend so badly?”

“Girls,” Sabrina’s mother said, “I’ll leave you in Sabrina’s care. I have some things left to prepare for tomorrow.” She gave them a wave and walked back down the hallway. Aurore and Mireille gave a half-wave and then both walked into Sabrina’s room, closing the door behind them.

Mireille’s eyes were wide. “So, your parents have reconciled?”

Sabrina nodded. “Dad’s promotion helped. There were some leadership classes that he had to go through to keep his promotion, included a couple classes on addressing the concerns of subordinates, with one of them on counseling personal matters. He realized how much he had let his job consume his personal life – I practically lived with Chloé half the time, and of course, Maman had left, but it was the first time he realized what the causes were. I mean, I disappeared for several days while I was an akuma and no one really noticed. That was a big eye opener for him, he knew he was neglecting me, and that really pushed him to change. It took some time for him to convince her that he was working on changing, but he did, and she moved back in a couple months ago.”

“That’s great!” the half-Korean girl enthused.

“I’m happy for you,” Aurore put in.

“It’s been a bit awkward,” Sabrina admitted. “But that’s mostly because she hadn’t really been aware of some of the things I’d been through. It’s really nice, though.” She smiled at the two girls. “So, what brings you by?”

Mireille laughed. “I just wanted to see you, honestly. It’s been a long time since we talked. I was really hurt when you started spending all your time with Chloé, but…I’m over it now. Chloé’s a much better person than she used to be, so I don’t feel as jealous. If she was still bitchy Chloé, I probably would be a lot more bitter.”

Aurore stared down at her foot, which she was worrying back and forth, before she looked up. “I feel like I was a bad friend. As soon as I started dating Nino I completely ignored you, after you helped set me up with him. I feel really ungrateful, and I’m sorry.”

Sabrina shook her head, and pulled Aurore into a hug. “It’s fine, silly girl. I know how all regulars teenagers get with your hormones and desires and things,” she said as she leaned back, looking into Aurore’s eyes. “I forgive you.”

“No changes, then?” Mireille asked. She had never really understood Sabrina’s asexuality, although she was trying. She still thought that there was a hormonal or developmental component to it, and that as Sabrina got older that it would go away.

Sabrina shook her head. “No. It’s okay, I’ve never had it, so I don’t miss it. It’s kind of nice, after watching what the whole school goes through, that I’m not a slave to hormones.”

“I still think it’s weird,” Mireille said, “but I just want you to be happy. You are happy, aren’t you?”

The redhead smiled. “Ecstatic. All the romantic tension in the class has settled out, which makes people so much easier to get along with. Chloé is so much nicer, and she and Marinette no longer clash, so the drama in class has almost disappeared. Everyone is helping each other. It’s almost like a second family, now. And we get to keep our ‘Mom’ again this year, so it’s great.” She looked at Mireille. “Sorry that we’re stealing Rory, though.”

“You get Rory and Marc. You should petition to take Jean and then you’ll have all the akuma kids,” the half-Korean girl said in a teasing tone.

“Do you feel left out? I’m sure we could get Chloé to be a bitch to you for old times’ sake so you could be in the akuma club, too,” Sabrina said with a giggle.

“Don’t even joke, Sabrina,” Aurore said. “You know how awful it was.”

Sabrina nodded. “I have to joke about it, it’s one of my coping mechanisms,” she said.

“Okay,” Aurore told her, “but don’t drag in any more of our friends.”

“You know,” Mireille said, “Chloé isn’t the only one who has been nicer recently.”

“Oh? Who do you mean?” Sabrina asked.

“Marinette,” the dark haired girl replied.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, Mademoiselle sweetness and light?” Sabrina asked.

Mireille nodded. “Maybe you didn’t see it, being inside the class, or having been so close to Chloé that it just seemed like their normal rivalry, but…Marinette turned into kind of a bitch for a while. She didn’t let anyone try and get close to Adrien Agreste, and she did some really nasty things to Chloé. And then Chloé started being nicer, and then she and Marinette started dating, and Mari went back to being the nice girl she was before Adrien came to school. Was she that hung up on him?”

Sabrina shrugged, sitting down on her bed. Mireille and Aurore sat down on the pillows she had on the floor. “Marinette really liked Adrien – she’s said she thinks she’s bisexual, or maybe pan. She’s just also very loyal to the person she’s involved with. She really loves Chloé. Chloé spend the whole time Marinette was in the hospital helping out at the Dupain-Cheng bakery, she practically moved into Mari’s room-”

“She’s still practically moved into Mari’s room,” Aurore interjected.

“Well, yes,” Sabrina allowed. “But Chloé did it because she wanted to help Marinette’s family. She wanted to help Marinette, however she could. They’re a bit codependent, but they really are made for each other. Adrien was a passing fancy in comparison. She still thinks he’s hot, but I think just about every girl I know thinks that.”

“He is pretty hot,” Aurore allowed. “But I also know what his sense of humor is like – he and Nino are almost constantly messaging bad jokes back and forth – and that he has terrible taste in foods he actually likes, and that he’s the most completely awkward, completely nerdy boy you will ever, ever meet. He’s too sweet for this world, but he’s also a complete dork.”

Sabrina nodded. “It’s true,” she agreed.

Mireille looked back and forth between both of them. “Really?”

“Completely serious,” Aurore told her.

“Wow.”

“Speaking of Nino, what is he doing tonight?” Sabrina asked.

“We spent most of the day together covering the akuma attack,” Aurore replied, “and with all the adrenaline and excitement, if we don’t spend some time apart, we end up making out. And it’s getting really, really hard to stop making out. Clothes started coming off last time, and we’re not really ready for that, so we are spending time apart after akuma attacks until we get ourselves under control.”

“That sounds…rather mature, actually,” Mireille said. “So who are you, and what did you do with Aurore?”

The blonde glared. “In the words of the philosopher, Alix Kubdel: fuck you, Mireille.” Mireille fell over laughing.

Sabrina shook her head. “I’m not sure Alix is a good person to emulate,” she said.

“She’s certainly assertive, though,” Aurore said.

“Well, yes and no,” Sabrina said with a secret smile.

Aurore eyed her. “What do you know?”

“Not telling,” the redhead replied.

“Oh god, this is about the A-O-K love-triangle, isn’t it?” Aurore moaned.

“A-O-K?” Mireille asked.

“It’s English. A-ok means that things are all good, but those three are definitely not all good,” the blonde said.

“I thought it wasn’t a triangle,” the half-Korean replied.

They all think it isn’t a triangle. So. Much. Denial,” Aurore muttered. Then she looked up. “What do you know, Sabrina?”

“Well,” the redhead said, “all I can say is, do you remember the last big sleepover, when everyone thought it would be funny to put ‘the ginger girls’ all together to sleep?”

Aurore grinned. “I may recall something about that,” she said.

“Alix and Ondine both talk in their sleep about the dreams they are in,” Sabrina replied.

“Oh?” the blonde said. Then her eyes went wide. “Oooooooooooooooh~” she said with a lilt. “So much denial?”

“So much,” Sabrina agreed.

Mireille looked back and forth between the two. “I thought…didn’t someone say…that Ondine girl is dating Kim, right?”

“Right,” the two other girls agreed.

“And Alix and Kim are best friends, and have said so repeatedly,” the dark-haired girl continued.

“Right,” the two agreed again.

“And that Alix and Ondine argue all the time, but are basically best girl friends now.”

“Right.”

“So…it’s all lies?” Mireille asked.

“Nope,” Aurore said, “just loads of denial.”

“Rivers of it,” Sabrina said, giggling.

“Terrible pun,” Mireille told her. The other two girls just laughed.

“I missed this,” Aurore said.

“Me too,” Mireille agreed.

Sabrina nodded. “Me too. I’m sorry. Chloé just…Chloé needed me more. She needed someone. I like to think that I did my part to keep her sane until she found someone who could be everything she needed.”

“I understand. You’re a really good friend,” Mireille told her.

“I know,” Sabrina said with a smirk.

“Egotistical, but a good friend,” Aurore agreed.

There was a knock at the door. “Sabrina, are your friends staying for dinner?” came her mother’s voice.

“Please?” Mireille and Aurore said together.

“I’d rather not go just yet,” Mireille added. “You two will have classes together. This is all I’ll have. I want to savor it.”

Sabrina stood up and walked over to Mireille, helping her stand up. Then she pulled the girl into a hug. “You’re my friend, Miri. I’ll always have an ear for you when you need me to.”

Mireille hugged her back. “Thanks, Sabrina,” she said. Then Aurore’s arms wrapped around them both.

“Group hug!” the blonde said.

“Dork,” Mireille said as they pulled apart.

“Okay, now, go help Maman with the table, I need to get dressed,” Sabrina told them. The two girls giggled, and then went out the door. Sabrina closed it behind them, then went to change. She didn’t look at the mirror at all.

Chapter Text

Chloé tossed her jacket onto the back of the desk chair before she flopped onto the chaise in Marinette’s room as her girlfriend dropped the trapdoor closed. Marinette didn’t even make it to a seat before flopping down, laying in the middle of the floor. Chloé tossed a pillow at her, and Marinette wrapped her arms around the pillow, hiding her face for a few moments. Then she pulled it from her face, but continued to hug the pillow. “God, I’m glad Lila’s back,” she murmured, “even if she’s going to drive me absolutely nuts.”

“Mayura didn’t break her,” Chloé said. “She’s tough.”

“She’s still a bitch,” the blunette opined, “but as we’ve said before, she’s our bitch now.”

Chloé nodded, rolling over so her head was hanging off the back of the chaise, looking at Marinette from upside down. “We might need to keep an eye on her at first. She’s really, really angry. She’s angrier than me, angrier that I’ve ever been.”

“What about what she said about Papillion?” Marinette asked.

“He’s Mayura’s enemy just as much as he is ours,” the blonde replied. “He’s not going to give up on your Miraculous.”

“I know. He seems to have some sense of honor, Lila’s right. His attacks have been – how do I say this – less indiscriminate. He’s become more concerned about minimizing casualties. It sounds like he doesn’t want to be the monster Mayura is. He’s done some monstrous things, but he’s always had a goal, and ultimately, we’re always the targets,” Marinette told her. “He’s our enemy. He doesn’t want to become a big enough problem for any other heroes to get involved. Majestia already knows about him, and Sparrow. That has to make him more cautious.”

“Mayura is our bigger concern then,” Chloé stated.

“Absolutely.”

“We should talk to everyone tomorrow,” the blonde told her. “We need to stop Mayura first. If we get the opportunity to stop Papillion, that’s all to the good. But Mayura seems to have a need to watch the chaos she spreads.”

“It gives us opportunities, yes,” Marinette agreed. “It’s so nice to have someone to talk to this about. I never realized just how much all this was weighing me down until I told you and Alya. As scary as that moment was, everything since that moment has been amazing. You’ve been amazing, Chloé.”

“I am pretty great,” her girlfriend agreed. Marinette threw the pillow at her.

“You’re a brat,” the blunette told her.

“I’m your favorite brat,” the blonde countered, rolling off the chaise onto the floor, landing on her hands and knees. She crawled over to Marinette and leaned down, kissing her in an inverted kiss. Her girlfriend giggled, looping her arms around Chloé’s neck and pulling her into the kiss. It was awkward, but she lost herself in the passion.

“I love you,” Marinette said when they broke the kiss, “so much.”

Chloé stood up, and pulled Marinette to her feet, then pulled her into a deep kiss. When they broke it, she whispered in her ear, “I love you too, Marinette,” and then nibbled on that ear, eliciting a quiet moan from the girl. Then Marinette picked her up, and carried her up the steps to the bed, carefully placing her down on the bed, before pouncing on her and nibbling her neck. Chloé moaned, louder that Marinette had. She felt the blunette’s hands slide up her side, caressing her hip, and then her breast. Chloé suddenly felt very warm, and pushed Marinette up, and then stripped her shirt off and shed her bra in quick, sure movements. Then she leaned back onto the bed, grinning at the stunned look on her girlfriend’s face.

“Gorgeous,” Marinette whispered. Then she pulled her own top off, and then leaned down, nibbling on Chloé’s neck, before kissing and nibbling further and further down. More clothing was shed, and soon they were nude, hands caressing breasts and hips, pulling each other in for deep, passionate kisses. Then Chloé felt a hand sliding up her inner thigh, and she sucked in a breath.

“Marinette,” she whispered, “please, please, I really want this. I think I’m ready. Please, touch me. Please, love me. Please, kiss me. Kiss me like that.”

“Always, Chloé,” she heard the reply. “Always.” Then they lost themselves in exploration and passion. When they were cuddling in the afterglow, Chloé began to giggle. “What are you laughing about,” Marinette asked softly.

“I think,” Chloé said, giggling more, “your parents may have heard us a bit. You were a bit loud.”

Marinette blushed. “That’s your fault, love. How did you learn how to do that?”

“Touching myself,” the blonde replied matter of factly. “Usually while thinking about you,” she said with a smirk.

Marinette blushed more. “That’s…wow, that’s sexy, Chlo.”

You’re sexy, Mari. That throaty moan you have just turns my insides into jelly,” the blonde told her. “And running my hands over that firm butt of yours, those legs…mmm mmm.” Chloé giggled again. “We’ve come really far in a year, love. So very far. I can’t even believe how far. You changed my whole world, Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Thank you for not giving up on me.”

“Thank you for showing me that you were worth not giving up on,” Marinette replied. “Thank you for changing, for making yourself a better person. Even before we fell in love, I had really started to like the new Chloé Bourgeois.” She giggled. “It might have taken the rest of the class a bit longer.”

“Having you was all I needed,” Chloé admitted. “But I’m glad that the class has come around. I’m glad that Sabrina is my real friend now. I’m happy that I learned to be a real friend, and you helped teach me that, Marinette. Thank you.”

Marinette snuggled into Chloé again. “Want to get under the covers?”

“It is getting a bit chilly with no clothing on,” Chloé admitted. The pair moved around, giggling more, before they finally made it under the covers.

“Is it safe to look now?” they heard Tikki ask.

“Is it?” Marinette asked Chloé.

“Um,” Chloé temporized. “Probably not,” she admitted.

They heard Tikki huff, and Pollen chuckle. “We’re going to go get some cookies. And honey. When you’re done being hormonal teenagers, come find us,” Tikki squeaked.

“Don’t let Papa see you,” Marinette said.

“Don’t let Mama Sabine spot you stealing cookies,” Chloé added.

“We’re sneaky,” Pollen said. “We won’t get caught.”

“Better not,” Marinette told them.

“Let’s go, Pollen. They’ll remember us once they’re too sore to fool around,” Tikki said, chuckling. The chuckle was cut off as the Kwami phased through the floor.

“So we can get too sore to fool around?” Marinette asked.

“I’ve never found out,” Chloé admitted.

“Maybe we should try to find out,” the blunette said. “Just to see if it’s possible, of course.”

“Are you going to be quieter?” Chloé asked.

“If I get too loud, you can always kiss me,” Marinette told her.

“I like that idea,” the blonde replied, grinning.

“Me too, Chlo. Me too.”

Chapter Text

Queen Bee slid down the face of the Louvre pyramid, pushing off as she neared the bottom, spinning around to catch sight of Jalil Kubdel, who was once more throwing whirlwinds of air as he came over the top of the structure. It was keeping her mostly grounded. Flying when her opponent could knock her right out of the sky was not a good choice to make it through the battle without serious injuries. On the other hand, he wasn’t particularly strong up close. Alix’s brother was mild-mannered and almost retiringly shy; picking a fight was definitely not his thing, which was reflected in his puppeted Miraculous form. He was the first truly awkward Miraculous user Bee had seen. Ladybug had her moments, but Jalil seemed to be awkward and clumsy all the time. Which was all to the good, because he had an alarming disregard for collateral damage, destruction of property, and innocent bystanders. Bee had leapt the pyramid because the plaza had been mostly evacuated at this point, and it drew him away from Place du Carrousel, where the people were still being moved away from the attack by Marura’s puppets. Penny Rolling was engaged with Capuchin and Chat Noir and was holding her own, which shocked Bee almost to the core. Capuchin was a badass. On the other hand, Capuchin was trying not to hurt the woman, while Penny-as-the-Tiger-Miraculous-Holder had no such regards. They knew that Ladybug could repair almost any damage with the Miraculous cure, but they didn’t want any of Mayura’s victims to remember being beaten into a bloody pulp by one of Paris’ heroes. It was a weakness that the puppets fully took advantage of. Vincent Asa was popping up in the damnedest places. They had determined that he could track them somehow, giving Team Miraculous no time to regroup or recover, as he pounced upon them as soon as they stopped moving. Queen Bee growled as she saw Ladybug and Wyvern battling M. D’Argencourt, who was bearing the Pig Miraculous. The fencing instructor was using a large yoyo-like weapon, except that it was spun along a cord that was held between two sticks. Sometimes there were a half-dozen of the hourglass-shaped objects whipping around, and the impacts hurt. While Jalil was awkward, M. D’Argencourt had excellent footwork and timing, and most of the team bore bruises and cuts from his accurate strikes. Katuali was out of town, Kanina and Carapace were still doing their thing as Aurore and Nino, although she had momentarily seen both of them emplacing their mini-cameras, so hopefully they would be joining the battle soon. Rena was out recharging her Kwami, having used her illusions to cover the crowd as they evacuated. And Lila was prowling the edges of the battle, keeping people away. She hadn’t had any chance to practice working with the rest of the team yet; it was surprising that she was even up for the fight, having been freed only two days ago.

It had been an interesting two days, Queen Bee had to admit. When Chloé and Marinette had gone downstairs for breakfast the morning after their passionate evening, Mama Sabine had just given them a look. She then told them both that she was giving them a pass for the evening, because they had had a stressful week, and the relief with Lila being rescued and all the other pressures had obviously needed some kind of outlet. However, she expected that if they did engage in such behavior again, that they would be much more circumspect. And that the only reason she was even considering allowing such behavior to go on was that a.), they would probably find somewhere less safe, or under much more observation, such as Chloé’s suite, or some park somewhere, to make out in, and b.) as they were both girls, there was no chance of pregnancy. Sabine didn’t think that they were necessarily mature enough for such actions, but she would much rather keep the pair safe if they were going to carry on with it anyway. She and Marinette had both been blushing furiously by the time Mama Sabine finished her lecture, and had been fully clothed last night when they went to bed.

That day had been…interesting. Adrien and Alya looked decidedly rumpled, as had Nino and Aurore. Alix actually had love bites on her neck, and absolutely refused to talk about it. She said it was something that they had to work out, but that no one was going to get hurt, all parties were aware of what was going on, and that was all she would say. The fact that she was extremely mellow the whole day was almost shocking. The fact that Chloé had seen another love bite on her side when her Alix’s shirt had been blown up by the wind told her a lot about just why the redhead was so damn mellow. Chloé wasn’t sure how she felt about the matter, but as long as they didn’t hurt anyone, she didn’t care if they wanted to form a love triangle, square, pentagon, or whatever. What was a three-pointed pyramid called? She couldn’t remember. That needed another member though, and she was pretty sure that trio was too wrapped up in each other. Even Marc and Nathanael had been rather pleased with themselves, although neither rumpled, bitten, or otherwise showing signs of any snuggling (or more) from the previous evening. Juleka and Rose, when they saw them, had looked all put together, but then, they probably had more experience in straightening up after a passionate tryst. Although Chloé would never ask if they did. Rose still scared her.

All this crossed her mind in a few seconds; right now, Queen Bee needed to focus on this battle. She dodged one of M. D’Argencourt’s crazy yoyo things, which smacked into Jalil, sending him flying back toward the pyramid. He landed with an ungainly thud, before struggling back to his feet. Bee tried to dart in to snag his Miraculous, which was another ring, but she had no chance before he recovered. She spun away, and put some distance between herself and Jalil. They would stop this. Hopefully, they would find Mayura, and take the fight to the real attacker here. Bee only hoped it was soon.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Wyvern was angry and frustrated, and snarled as she dodged another of the damned large yoyo-things that M. D’Argencourt kept throwing their way. This battle wasn’t going particularly well. The bystanders had all been evacuated, and none of the team had yet been injured, but they also weren’t making any real headway. She was particularly frustrated to see her brother as a puppet of Mayura, especially since she could do nothing to free him. She couldn’t even fight him; every time she tried to, she shied away from striking her shy, intellectual brother. So instead she was fighting M. D’Argencourt, whom she was also uncomfortable attacking, but she at least knew that the physical education teacher could take it. He was currently dishing it out better than she was, to be honest.

She flicked her sanjiegun out and caught one of the yoyo-things, snapping her weapon around before she released the projectile back in the direction of the puppeted man. She was rewarded with the weapon solidly impacting the man in the chest, knocking him down. Wyvern dashed in, trying to pin him down with her weapon, but he sprung to his feet and started to leap away. Before he got more than three feet into the air, Ladybug’s yoyo tangled around his feet and dragged him down. M. D’Argencourt slammed into the ground, and Wyvern renewed her dash toward him, hoping to snag the Miraculous from his wrist. She was stopped as she was struck in the face – again – by the weird open-weave ball that the blond man, Vincent, used as a weapon. The Dog Miraculous wielder was extremely aggravating. M. D’Argencourt was moving again, having struck out at Ladybug, forcing her to dodge and release her hold on him. The whole battle was going like this. There were only four of the puppeted Miraculous users, it should not be this damn hard. She looked around for Vincent, but he was gone again. She was really, really sick of this. And the worst thing was that at the end of the day, assuming everyone made it out of this alright, she didn’t have anyone to snuggle up with right now, who could help her forget the irritations and annoyances of the day. And she wouldn’t until the end of the week.

Life was so damn unfair.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lila was watching. She was patrolling the border of the battle, trying to get a fix on Vincent, in case the Dog Miraculous holder stopped somewhere that she could attack him, but she didn’t think it would happen. Besides, her real target was female, blue, and purely evil. She knew Mayura was here somewhere. She could feel it.

Because she was moving around the perimeter, she saw it happen. Queen Bee was dodging another of the Rooster holder’s whirlwinds when a perfectly timed throw of one of M. D’Argencourt’s diabolos caught her in the back of the head, sending her sprawling. She landed on the ground in a tumble, crashing back into the Louvre pyramid, shattering some of the glass panes of its surface. Ladybug moved to Bee’s side to protect her, but this suddenly left Wyvern up against the fencing instructor on her own, and the caught the next diabolo, which sent her flying clear over the pyramid. Lila was pretty sure that she wasn’t going to land short of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Chat Noir and Capuchin landed next to Ladybug, guarding the flanks, but Armand, Penny, and Jalil closed in around them. She still didn’t see Vincent, but she knew that he was lurking somewhere, ready to strike at the most opportune moment. Rena still wasn’t back in Miraculous form, or she would have called out on the communicator function of their items. She saw Aurore and Nino running for an alleyway, but she knew that they were at least a minute away.

She didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t a hero. She didn’t know how to be a hero. She wanted the Miraculous she held for revenge. Nassa had been mostly silent since she had been freed, whether from internal shame, or from disgust for Lila, she wasn’t sure. The Goat Kwami had been singularly unhelpful so far, although it did allow Lila to continue to use its powers. So that was something. But right now – what was she supposed to do?

Then Mayura appeared, stepping between her puppets to taunt Ladybug and Chat Noir. They were too far for Lila to hear what they were saying, but that didn’t really bother her. She knew where Mayura was now. Then Jalil played a short song on his pan-pipes, and a cyclone sprang up around the pyramid, cutting it off from the rest of area. That was okay, though. That meant that Mayura wasn’t going anywhere for a bit, and Lila liked that just fine.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Ladybug stared at the tableau around her. The cyclone surrounding them cut them off, but hopefully only for the next five minutes, until Jalil’s timer ran out. Unfortunately, five minutes could be a long, long time. Bee was still down behind her, moaning in pain. They had to keep Bee safe, or Mayura would likely either steal her Miraculous, or else would try to control her, as well.

Mayura sneered at them. “Little gutter rats, aren’t you? Each of you the mewling spawn of some poor whore and one of her endless parade of tricks, I expect. You will bow to me, you scum.”

“You are a psychotic, delusional bitch, you know that, right?” Chat Noir said so matter-of-factly that it took a moment for Ladybug to process it. The she had to stifle a giggle. Chat continued though, “You aren’t Louis-Alphonse, or Henri, Count of Paris, so you aren’t pretending to be some kind of royalty. So why do you think we would bow to you, Madame Crazy Lady?”

“Because I am your superior in every way, you little shit,” Mayura said flatly. “You aren’t fit to kiss my feet.”

“You keep opening your mouth, but all I’m hearing is crazy,” Capuchin interjected.

“You won’t be getting our Miraculous, Mayura,” Ladybug said.

“How are you going to stop me, little worms? You are well and truly caught,” Maruya said, her voice dripping with arrogance.

“We have friends coming,” Ladybug countered. “You have no friends at all, only puppets.”

“I need no friends. There are none worthy of me. The only person of any worth in my life was my sister, before that…that man came and took her away! And then she had that little parasite! Why would she ruin her life like that? She was perfect, we were perfect. Everything was going to be ours, the fashion, the wealth, the fame, and then she settled for some pathetic man. He never deserved her! She was mine! Mine!” She glared at Ladybug, spittle flying from her lips as she ranted.

“Wow.” Chat Noir said, stunned by the tirade of the obviously insane woman. “Mayura, you need help. You are way beyond crazy cat lady at this point.”

“That was a reach, kitty,” Ladybug said, still staring down the villainess.

“Go!” Mayura screamed, and Armand D’Agencourt, Penny Rolling, and Vincent Asa attacked. Ladybug lost track of time at that moment, falling into full awareness of the fight, dodging, blocking, leaping; her yoyo snapped out again and again, tangling weapons, deflecting attacks, and driving her opponents back. Her team was at a disadvantage, though, trying to defend Bee, and first Chat Noir, and then Capuchin were pinned down, and then Penny and Vincent were holding her arms, pinning her to the face of the pyramid. She struggled, but they were just as strong as she was. For the first time in a long time, she was truly scared. She looked, and Capuchin had two feathers on her back. She still seemed to be struggling, but she wasn’t able to fight past their control to free herself. M. D’Argencourt was stepping on Chat’s neck, keeping him from rising. Ladybug felt the panic rising. What could she do? She had to be able to do something. She had to. She was Ladybug.

Then Mayura pulled Chat’s Miraculous from his finger.

His transformation collapsed, and Mayura started to gloat, but then she froze. “Adrien? Adrien Agreste? You little shit, you fucking little shit, you’re the one that’s been stopping me? You’re her biggest mistake, and now I am going to erase that mistake. I was going to just take this from you, but now I can get my revenge, and no one will know.” Ladybug could just see her face, and she could see the absolute madness in Mayura’s eyes. She wasn’t sure what was going on with the woman, but she had snapped. She had no more time, the crazy bitch was going to kill Adrien any moment, and-

There was a crashing of glass as several of the panels making up the surface of the pyramid exploded outward, spraying Mayura with cutting shards. She instinctively raised her hands to guard her face, and Ladybug heard a voice say “I’ll take that!” as a flashing hand stripped Chat’s Miraculous out of the blue villainess’ grasp. Lila landed next to the woman, and then dashed toward Ladybug, kicking Vincent in the face and sending him sprawling. Ladybug staggered forward, but before she could break Penny’s hold, the woman wrapped an arm around the heroine’s throat and began to squeeze. Ladybug tried to pull the arm away, but she had no leverage. She saw Lila look back, seeing Mayura and Armand stalking toward the girl. Vincent was going to be on his feet in a moment. She met Lila’s eyes, her vision already graying out. Lila was the only chance they had, now. Mayura could not get her Miraculous. She reached up, grabbed her earrings with both hands, and pulled them away. She felt her transformation fall away, but Lila was there, and she slapped the earrings into the girl’s hand. Lila was their only hope, now.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lila had never been more terrified in her life. She had crashed her way into the Louvre through one of the old entrances, and run through the museum to come up inside the main pyramid, just in time to steal Chat’s – Adrien’s – Miraculous from Mayura. Then she and Ladybug had connected for just a moment, and she knew what Ladybug was going to do. The foolish, lunatic girl. Lila had just run, her hand flashing out to meet Ladybug’s – Marinette’s – to take her Miraculous. Then Lila had consciously used the power of her Miraculous for the first time. Unfollowable Path. What a fucking mess of a description. But it was more than just the ability to move where no others could. She could find the gaps in any barrier, and she used it now to slip through the winds of the cyclone that still separated the pyramid from the rest of the plaza. She knew she only had moments before Mayura had Jalil release the cyclone. She needed to run, and run fast. She saw Kanina and Carapace coming toward her, and she shook her head. “Fucking run!” she screamed, leaping toward them in massive strides. To their credit, they both turned and paced her as she passed them.

“What’s going on?” Kanina asked.

“Mayura stripped Chat of his Miraculous,” Lila said, still trying to protect the identities of the heroes. She had no idea what would happen after this, but she would not be the one to spread their secret. “I stole it from her, and they had Ladybug captive, and she gave me her Miraculous too, and oh god if Mayura catches me, catches us, it’s the end. She was getting ready to kill Chat when I took the Miraculous.” The trio kept running, Lila panting slightly. She wasn’t used to this. “Carapace, they need someone to protect them. Can you double back around? As long as Mayura is chasing me, they might be safe, but if she catches me, she’ll remember that she wants to kill them. Oh god, I hope she hasn’t killed them…” Lila felt as ill as she ever had in her life.

“I’m on it,” Carapace said. “You two stay safe,” he said, and then he leapt sideways onto another roof.

“What can I do?” Kanina asked. “Do you have any plan?”

“Keep the fuck away from Mayura is my only plan at the moment,” the Italian girl replied. “And I’m on a timer. I had to use my ability to get away, to get through the cyclone, because I knew she couldn’t immediately follow.” She tried to think. “Can you carry me?”

“Sure,” Kanina said, scooping Lila up in her arms. The Rabbit Miraculous holder began to make tremendous leaps, going much faster than Lila had been able to on her own.

“Don’t use your power if you can help it,” Lila told her. She looked down into her hands, at the two Miraculous held there. She didn’t want this responsibility. She didn’t want this temptation. She could have a wish. If she was willing to pay the price. She didn’t want to think about that at the moment. She slid the Cat ring onto her thumb, and then, terrified of losing them, went ahead and put the earrings into her ears. She felt her transformation fall away as soon as the ring was on her finger, and after she finished with the second earring, she looked down to her tummy to see no less than three Kwami sitting there. Nassa, the Ladybug Kwami, and the Cat Kwami.

“Who are you, you smelly girl?” the Cat asked.

The Ladybug Kwami tapped him on the nose. “She’s keeping us away from the scary woman who has Duusu.”

“I don’t know that I can,” Lila whispered. “I’m scared. I’m terrified of Mayura. I was her prisoner, and I couldn’t do anything. Papillion had to help me escape. I’m terrified that she’ll take me again.”

The three Kwami looked at each other, then back at Lila. “You already did something,” the Ladybug Kwami said. “I’m Tikki. The grumpy kitty is Plagg. And you got us away from Mayura. You kept our partners safe. They’re still alive because of you, Lila.”

“Do you have any plans to keep us all that way?” Kanina asked them. “I can hear everything you say. Big ears and all that,” she added.

“For the moment, keep running.” Lila said.

“What are you running from?” said a voice, and Kanina almost stumbled, but she managed to neither fall nor drop her load. Lila looked over and saw Rena Rouge running next to them.

“Mayura,” they said in stereo.

“I have Chat’s and Ladybug’s Miraculouses,” Lila added. “Bad things were bad.”

“Fuck,” Rena said. “Are we all that’s left?”

“Carapace went to guard LB and Kitty,” Kanina replied.

“And QB and Capuchin,” Lila added. “But if you see Capuchin, don’t trust her. Mayura had her pinned with a couple of feathers, so if we see her, she might be controlled.”

“Unlikely, since she was transformed,” Nassa said. “Possible, but unlikely.”

“That’s good, at least,” Rena said.

“Katuali is out of the city for a competition,” Lila said. “And Wyvern was knocked clear over the Louvre pyramid, so she’s not in the best shape, assuming that she’s still awake. She hadn’t made it back when I ran, though, or she would have been with Kanina and I.”

“Well, isn’t that grand?” Rena said. She pulled out her flute, and quickly played it. Almost instantly, dozens of copies of the trio were on all sides. The copies scattered, going in all directions. Kanina and Rena turned and took off in a completely different direction from what they had been heading in. “Hopefully that buys us some time,” she said.

“Vincent can track us,” Lila said. “But I kicked him in the face, so he might not be fully up to speed. At the very least, they have to let him lead. And Jalil has to recharge, so he won’t be with them.”

“And I’m pretty hard to track,” Kanina put in. “If I do my teleport thing, they might lose us.”

No,” Lila told her. “If you do that, Mayura might go back and try to kill Chat and LB. And QB, and anyone else she can get her hands on. She needs to keep following us.”

“Great,” Rena muttered. “We need to stop for a moment to recharge soon, though.”

“Yeah,” Kanina agreed. “I can’t look out for both of you.”

Lila closed her eyes, trying to clear her head. For just a moment, she enjoyed the feel of the air rippling through her hair, the warmth of Kanina, the soft cushiony feel of – “Good god, Kanina, have your breasts gotten bigger again?”

“No!” the blonde replied. “Not in the last week and a half, at least.”

“I haven’t really seen you in the last couple weeks. Except, kind of, when you were trying to kick puppet-me’s ass,” Lila told her.

“Oh, right,” Kanina said. “Then yeah. I think I’ve finally stopped, though. Stupid rabbit powers.”

“Only you, Lila,” Rena said, shaking her head.

“I’m sorry that I can’t stop being jealous,” Lila replied. “Totally not fair though.”

“Humans are weird,” Nassa opined.

“Teenagers are weird,” Tikki amended.

“No, humans are weird,” Plagg said. “Teenagers are insane. And have no taste for the finer foods.”

“Smelly cheese is not finer food,” Rena said. Her hearing was just as good as Kanina’s. “We need to stop soon. We need to regroup before they do.”

“Find a place, quickly,” Kanina said. “I’ll try and contact the others while you feed your Kwami.”

“Chloé has snacks for all the Kwami in her suite,” Rena said. “And we can get in relatively unnoticed.”

“Lead the way,” the blonde replied. Lila held on tight. She was till terrified, but they had the beginnings of a plan. They could do this.

They had to. There was no other choice.

Chapter Text

Queen Bee forced herself to open her eyes as consciousness returned. She was instantly sure that it had not been her best idea, as the photons stabbed her eyes with their pointy photon-ness. Then she remembered what she had been doing before she had been smashed to unconsciousness, and forced her eyes open again. She almost panicked at what she saw. Adrien and Marinette were both…Adrien and Marinette. She glanced down at herself, but she was still in her Queen Bee outfit. Then she panicked again, and crawled to them, but they were both breathing, so they hadn’t transformed back because they had died. But…

Her mind momentarily shut down when she saw that Marinette’s earrings were missing. So was Adrien’s ring. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do next, but a hand slapped over her mouth, and she was turned bodily to look at the owner of said hand. Who was Carapace. “Mayura almost got the Miraculous. She actually took Chat’s off him but Lila stole it from her, and then Ladybug gave her her Miraculous, and Lila ran. She’s with Kanina, and Rena is with her now, too,” the green-clad hero told her.

“We have to protect their secret,” Bee told him.

Carapace grimaced. “I’m not sure we can. Photographers and news media have long lenses. But now that you’re awake, we can get them out of here.”

“Where’s Wyvern?” Bee asked. “And Capuchin?”

“Wyvern’s up on the point of the pyramid,” Carapace told her. “She’s beat up pretty bad, she couldn’t carry anyone right now, but she’s keeping lookout. She saw Lila run away, and as soon as the cyclone that Jalil put up died away, Mayura, Vincent, and M. D’Argencourt started to follow. Penny picked up Jalil and went after them. She’s not happy that she couldn’t stop them, but she’s a mess. Capuchin had to go and recharge, and recover. Mayura had stopped her with her feathers; they didn’t take her over, but they paralyzed her. She’s a bit of a mess, but she’ll be okay once she recharges and has a few minutes to get her headspace back.”

“We need to get LB and Chat out of here. Now,” Bee said. She looked up the pyramid. “Wye, we need to move!” The Dragon Warrior hopped up and then slid down the face of the glass structure to join them.

“It’s time to get the hell out of here,” the diminutive redhead said. “Can you get your girl?”

“Always,” Bee replied, crouching down to pick Marinette up, bridal-style.

“I’ve got Chat,” Carapace said, throwing the boy over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

“Wye, lead the way,” Queen Bee said. Wyvern nodded and leapt for the rooftop of the Louvre. Bee and Carapace followed. They bounced and jumped over the rooftops along the Seine. Bee kept looking down at her girlfriend. She seemed wrong, with her earrings missing. They were a part of her now, and it was if she had been sullied or violated in some way. As soon as Mari and Adrien were safe, she was going to find Mayura and stop the crazy bitch.

“Where are we heading?” Wyvern called back to her.

“Le Grand,” the blonde replied without hesitation. “Even if the media tracks us there, the staff won’t let the media in. It takes an akuma to get past Philippe.”

“Your doorman is pretty tough,” Carapace said. “He still tells akuma that they can’t enter, even though he’s been blasted, captured, brainwashed, and god knows what else at least a dozen times now.”

“He’s the best,” Bee agreed.

The rest of the run was silent, until the trio alighted upon Chloé’s balcony. Queen Bee dropped her transformation as soon as she was inside the doors. Pollen instantly flashed off to the sideboard, where snacks for all the Kwami were laid in. Alix was there a moment later, as Tatsuu floated over to join the Bee Kwami. Wayzz was right behind, and Nino set Adrien down on one of the couches while Chloé put Marinette onto her – their? – bed. Alix flopped down onto the couch. “Can you ring Butler Jean and get him to bring up some ice?” Chloé regarded Alix for a moment, then sighed and walked over to the phone. Before she could pick it up, there was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Chloé demanded.

“It is Jean, Mademoiselle Chloé,” came the reply. Chloé looked to her friends, and they both shrugged. She walked to the door, and pulled it open a crack.

“Yes, Jean?” she asked. He was pushing a large cart, and looked quite concerned.

“Mademoiselle Chloé – Chloé, dear girl, please open the door. I have food, ice, bandages…” the majordomo started to say.

“What?” Chloé said, incredulous. Well, not quite, she had had inklings that Butler Jean had known what was going on for months, but to have it confirmed was still a bit of a shock.

“Mademoiselle Chloé, Open. The. Door. And. Let. Me. In,” Butler Jean said, every word filled with ice. Chloé just bobbed her head and then opened the door. The kind, efficient man pushed the laden cart into the suite. Chloé closed the door behind him. Her incredulity was shifting to bemusement as the majordomo pulled an icepack out and handed it to Alix, who was too grateful to question it at the moment as she flopped back down on the couch and placed the bag over her eyes. The man looked back to Chloé. “How long will you be here before you leave, Mademoiselle?” he asked. “I am quite unsure of the mechanism of your powers, and so…”

“As soon as the Kwami are fed, we’re going,” Chloé told him, pointing to the sideboard. The man’s eyes went momentarily wide, and then he nodded.

“That would explain the odd snack-food requests you’ve been making recently, I see,” Jean said with aplomb. “I shall endeavor to keep them well-stocked.”

“Can you take care of Alix for us please, Jean?” the blonde asked.

“I can come help!” the redhead protested. The fact that she didn’t sit up put the lie to her statement.

“Is no one freaked out that he knows about us?” Nino asked.

Alix actually did sit up now. “Just like we covered for them in school, apparently some of our parental figures have been covering for us. Mari’s mom, Jean, my dad, Alya’s mom, and Mme. Bustier for sure.”

“Wait, Mme. Bustier knows?” Chloé asked, her head snapping around to look at Alix. “And your dad?”

“My dad…okay, seriously, does no one pay attention to what my dad does? Did you not see my watch?” She pulled out her pocket watch and flipped it open, and the hologram appeared over it. “Dad researches myths, and curates archeology exhibits, but his focus is finding evidence of superheroes in antiquity and linking them to the myths and legends of the ancient world.” She dangled the watch. “My ancestor found the technology to make this work in some ancient tomb. So, new heroes pop up in Paris? Ones that are mentioned on scrolls and tablets that are on display in the exhibit that my dad is currently curating? Of course he figured it out. He just figured it wasn’t any of his business until I got involved in it.”

“Oh, good god,” Chloé muttered.

“Oh, fuck,” Nino said suddenly. He held up his mobile phone. “The media has pictures of Marinette and Adrien. They don’t have identities yet, and the pictures are poor, at a bad angle, but…”

“Oh, fuck,” Chloé agreed. “Pollen! Transform me!” she called out. The Bee Kwami flew into her haircomb and she transformed into her alter ego. As soon as the transformation was done, she pulled out her trompo and flipped it open like a phone, punching buttons for a moment before holding it to her ear. “Rena! The media has pics, bad ones, but pics of LB and Chat in civilian form. Alix is going to keep them off the Ladyblog, but we need to stop Mayura so we can get this under control. We need their Miraculous’ back with them. We’re at Le Grand.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

“We’re halfway across the city at the moment,” Rena told her. “I’m recharged, so are Kanina and Lila, but we have to keep moving. We can probably make it back to the Tower if that works for you, because I’m fresh out of ideas at the moment. I can use my illusions to let us break contact again, and then use Kanina’s leap to get us there, but without you, doing that would have left us completely vulnerable. Lila can’t even transform right now, she has her Miraculous, as well as LB’s and Chat’s. Her ears look ridiculous with those two sets of earrings, by the way.”

“Fuck you, Rena,” Lila said.

“I love you too, you copycat,” Rena replied.

“More planning less bitching please,” Kanina interjected. “Lila’s small but her big ass is heavy.”

“I do not have a big ass!” Lila screeched.

“Hey, it works for you though,” Kanina giggled. “You don’t have it up top, but your bottom’s not bad at all. Or at least that’s what the guys in my class all said.”

“Oh, fuck a duck,” Lila said, “just what I wanted to know.”

“They think you’re hot,” Kanina explained.

“I get that,” the Italian girl replied.

“You’re both idiots,” Rena put it. “Bee, we’re giving you five minutes, and then we’re leaping for the Tower. We’re getting tired, and our Kwami didn’t get a lot of recharge time. We didn’t leap before because we wanted to keep Mayura chasing us. If LB and Chat are safe…”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

“They’re only safe if we can catch Vincent,” Bee told her. “If he can track her, she’s not safe anywhere. We need to stop Mayura now. Today. Before Mari is exposed for sure. Carapace and I will head for the Tower. Alix – Wye – is staying here to guard, and to monitor the Ladyblog.” She held her head in her hands for a moment. “I’m losing track of who’s what, and how I can refer to them. This is a complete mess. We need to fix this.”

If you figure out how, I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. We’ll call Capuchin, just get your ass to the Tower,” she heard Rena say on the communicator. “See you in five.”

“We’ll be there,” she responded before closing the device. “Carapace, we’re going.”

“Wait,” a quiet voice called out. Bee spun around to see Marinette leaning on one elbow, reaching out to her. She dashed over and wrapped her girlfriend up in a hug.

“Oh god, Mari, I was so worried,” she began.

“I know, Bee, I know,” Marinette replied. “It’ll be okay.”

“You need to come with us,” The blonde said.

Marinette shook her head. “I can barely see straight. Even if I got my Miraculous back right now, I’d have to do a Miraculous cure to be of any use, and if I do that, then Mayura will retreat. And my secret will be exposed for nothing.”

“They might not know…” Bee began.

“They’ll figure it out soon enough,” the blunette told her. “You can’t be distracted fighting her, Bee – Chloé. Please. Stay safe for me. We’ll figure this out, but right now, stop the bitch. If she retreats, then we can change plans, but right now she probably thinks that all she has to do is catch Lila and she wins. She won’t even be thinking about regrouping. Now is the time to take her down.”

“Okay, love,” Queen Bee said. “We’ll do this.”

Marinette nodded, and then pointed to her bag that was sitting on the floor next to the nightstand. “Give me that, please?” Bee picked up the bag and handed it to her girlfriend, and Marinette opened it up, then pulled out a fancy silken bag. “The boxes are too hard to transport,” she explained. “Chat has the other one, it’s probably at the mansion.” Chloé was mystified for a moment, and then her eyes went wide.

“Is that…” she started to say.

“Yes,” Marinette nodded. “I know that this is going to be really awkward for you, and it’s a bad rush job, but you need the help. And I can’t use it, I’m Tikki’s partner. All the other Kwami are afraid of her for some reason.”

“Okay,” Bee said in a small voice. “I can do this.” She opened the bag and looked down into it, and then winced. “It is going to be awkward as hell, though.”

“You can do this,” Marinette told her. “Now go, you have like three more minutes.”

“Shit,” Queen Bee said, and then she was out the doors, Carapace hot on her heels. Marinette watched her go, and began to cry.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Rena, Kanina, and Lila appeared out of thin air in a flicker of movement, and landed in the grass near the Avenue Gustav Eiffel, across the road from that luminary’s great Tower. Kanina set Lila on her feet, and the girl staggered and almost fell, trying to control her heaving stomach. Moments later, Carapace ran across the road to join them. Capuchin landed after having dropped down from somewhere, a determined look on her face.

“Where’s Bee?” Rena asked.

“She had to make a stop,” Carapace said. “She’ll be here in a minute or two.”

“A stop?” Lila asked.

“For a good cause,” Carapace assured her. Kanina gave him a look, but saw in his expression that it was important, and let the topic go. The group looked around, but after five minutes saw no signs of Mayura. “How long do you think it will take the crazy peacock lady to find us?”

“Well,” Queen Bee said as she dropped down into the center of the group, “about as long as it takes for her to see the news. I may have issued a challenge to her.”

Rena palmed her face. “Really, Bee?”

“We need her focused on us, Rena,” the blonde said. “We need them to come after us, and not allow them to think about anything else right now. We have two goals here. Ideally, we need to stop Mayura. But if we don’t, we absolutely need to take Vincent, or at least his Miraculous. Even if it means some breakage. We cannot allow Mayura to escape with the Dog Miraculous. None of us are safe as long as she has it. Don’t hurt him any more than necessary if it comes to that, but he’s just too dangerous now that he’s fought all of us.”

“That’s a little cold,” Carapace said.

“It could be life or death,” Capuchin put in. “His tracking is uncanny, and he’s great at ambush tactics. We take him down as lightly as possible, and as hard as necessary.”

“Ideally, we take down Mayura, and it isn’t a concern,” Rena said. She seemed to think about something for a moment, then looked at Kanina. “How is the Ladyblog covering this?”

Kanina blushed. “I called one of the grad students while we were recharging. She’s picking up the cameras from the Louvre, and bringing them, well…probably here now, if she saw your challenge. I can’t drop out right now, anyway, Vincent could tell that I’m Kanina.”

“Are you sure that Mayura would think to track us with Vincent? She hasn’t until now,” Rena said.

“She probably hadn’t thought about it until she took Chat’s Miraculous,” Capuchin proposed.

Lila looked startled for a moment. “Oh, shit,” she muttered, then looked around at everyone. “She recognized Adrien. Not like ‘it’s Adrien Agreste the model’. She knows him.”

“That…is not good,” Rena said. “Not good at all. We definitely need to stop her.”

There was a sudden blast of wind that ripped across the park, but it was too wide-spread to do more than whip dust into their faces. Coming out from under the Tower were Mayura, Penny Rolling, Vincent Asa, Jalil Kubdel, and Armand D’Argencourt.

“Dramatic entrance much?” Kanina muttered.

“Are you ready to hand over my Miraculous now?” Mayura growled, her voice somehow amplified through the plaza.

“Nope!” Lila quipped jovially. “Never never never,” she added.

“Such a stupid child,” the villainess said coldly.

“Perhaps we are stupid children,” Queen Bee said, “but you’re a sociopathic monster, and we’re going to stop you.”

“I’ve already removed three of you from the battlefield, and you have had no successes at all,” Mayura said haughtily. “You think you can stop me now?”

Well,” Rena replied, “in a word…yes.”

“Now!” Queen Bee shouted. As her call echoed, a long rope with a flat, carved piece of wood, like the blade of an oar with a hole bored through it near the tip, shot out from the shadow of one of the legs of the Tower. The attack from an unexpected direction caught Mayura’s group off guard, and the carved wood blade struck Vincent Asa in the head with the force of a boxer’s punch. The blond man spun around twice before collaping to the ground. From the shadow, a massive form stepped out, dressed all in black.

“I’m Svartur Uxa,” the figure said in a low voice as the rope retracted, “the Black Ox. And we are going to stop you. You won’t threaten the city, the people we love, any more.” The huge boy started to spin the blade over his head, and a low growl began to sound. He let out more cord, and the area immediately behind Mayura’s group was effectively blocked.

“Is that Ivan?” Rena whispered to Queen Bee as she began to run.

“Who better for the Kwami of Strength?” Bee replied back quietly, and then she leapt. The rest of the transformed group followed her, and then the area before the Eiffel Tower became a chaotic field of battle.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lila watched the battle between Team Miraculous and Mayura’s puppets. Mayura would surely lose the fight. Her friends knew the stakes this time, and they would be as careful as they could be, but also as ruthless as they needed to be. They would take down all of Mayura’s puppets, and then the woman would flee. She was too arrogant to believe that she would be defeated, but as soon as the fight turned against her, she would escape. Lila knew that her ability would release a storm of feathers that would block any pursuit. The woman, in her arrogance, had prattled on to Lila, unaware that Lila was actually aware. She had a typical narcissist’s need to tell herself how great she was. Then she would begin a guerrilla campaign, much like Papillion’s, at least until she had gathered power back to herself. Adrien would be at the greatest risk.

All of them were right, Mayura needed to be stopped.

Lila heard running, and turned to see a girl with a camera run up, huffing. She had a Ladyblog jacket on. This must be one of the grad students that worked for the website. Lila looked back at the battle, then at the girl, then back at the battle. The Ladyblog. The media. Everyone would know, soon. Everyone would know. Her friends’ lives were all about to be ruined, their privacy destroyed. Their families would be at risk from every villain who decided that Paris was a good place to attack. They would be at risk from Papillion.

She knew what she had to do. It scared her more than anything. But someone had said that courage was going on despite your fears. That would have to be enough. She turned to the grad student, pulling off the Goat Miraculous as she did. She handed them to the girl. “Make sure that these get back to Queen Bee and Rena Rouge,” she said softly. “You work for the Ladyblog. I trust you.”

“I – I will,” the girl said. “I’m Camille,” she added.

“I’m Lila,” she said, “but you probably know that already. It’s nice to meet you, Camille. But if this works the way I think it might, I don’t think I’ll remember that anymore.” She looked down at the Kwami that had emerged from her jacket to float in front of her. “I know this is a bad idea, but this isn’t for me.”

Tikki nodded. “I know, Lila. Thank you.”

“You are a good human, Lila Rossi,” Plagg said.

“I’m not,” Lila replied, “but thank you.” She took a deep breath, checking the Ladybug Miraculous earrings on her ears. She moved the Cat Miraculous ring from her thumb to her ring finger. She took one last, deep breath. “Tikki, Plagg…Transform Me!”

Chapter Text

Kanina dashed through the battle, throwing powerful kicks when the opportunity presented itself, and flicking her skipping rope out to deflect the weapons strikes of the puppeted Miraculous holders. She wasn’t sure that she was ready to try and confront Mayura; the peacock villainess was powerful and dangerous, and Kanina wasn’t the most marshal of the heroes of Team Miraculous. She was quite proud of her contributions to the battle, and was getting ready to fade away from the battle so that Aurore could arrive at the end to do Ladyblog coverage. She knew it was probably a bit selfish, but at the same time, her contributions for the Ladyblog were much more impactful. She nodded at Queen Bee, and Carapace, and received their acknowledgements. She turned and leapt away. Because of this, she was facing the right way to observe when Lila summoned the powers of the Ladybug and Cat Miraculous’ simultaneously. The explosion of power still knocked her off her feet. She rolled back to her feet quickly, and looked over her shoulder. Only Black Ox was still on his feet, a testament to his power and Ivan’s strength.

She watched as Lila, dressed in a black bodysuit accented by broad slashes of red, began to stalk toward the fight, and she knew she had to – had to – get to her camera. This was like nothing else that had ever been on the Ladyblog before. She activated her Quickstep and made two rapid jumps, first to where she had left her bag, near the Louvre, and then back to a copse of trees, one of the many, surrounding the Champ de Mars. She dropped her transformation even as she landed, pulling her camera out. She had never run as fast – as a civilian – as she ran at that moment. She slid to a halt next to Camille and brought the camera up.

“Hey boss,” Camille said, her focus on the scene before her. “Good timing.”

“Are you wide, or in close?” Aurore asked.

“Close,” Camille replied.

“I’ll set up for wide, then,” the blonde told her.

“Are you sure? You’re the face of the Ladyblog, your voice is the one that’s known.” The camera that was in close view was used by the commentator to observe the battle and keep a running description of the action going. It was much harder to do so in the wide focus, and for Aurore to cede the spot to her meant she was handing off the job. She was giving Camille the chance to shine, to be the face of the coverage of this fight.

“Yes,” Aurore said. “You were here first. It’s your show, Camille.”

The tall, leggy brunette swallowed for a moment, then chased away her nerves. She had a job to do.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lila strolled toward the fight, eldritch white flames flowing around and over her body. If she had been able to see herself, she would see that her eyes were alight, her irises glowing, and she was looking quite fey. She didn’t care about that. She cared what the power, what her choice could do. It scared her, the abilities she possessed, but she had a goal, and the power flowing through her would serve that end.

The combatants were still regaining their feet, which gave Lila more than enough time. She jumped, lightly, and landed amidst the battle. Her hand flashed out, flicking M. D’Argencourt in the forehead, and he staggered, his Miraculous form stripped away. She snagged the bracelet he wore, and held it in her off hand. Vincent Asa was next; flick, strip the torq from his neck, and then move on. She skipped over to Jalil, tapped him on the forehead, knocking his Miraculous form away, and then the Rooster Miraculous, a pendant, was hers as well. Penny actually managed to dodge her first strike, but not the second, and then her Miraculous, an elaborate harness bracelet with four rings, was reclaimed. She turned and handed the four to Queen Bee, who was watching, stunned. Mayura was back on her feet, and turned to see the battlefield, and she blanched when she saw Lila.

She hadn’t even finished turning away when Lila landed next to her. No flick for Mayura. Lila balled up a fist, and punched the peacock Miraculous holder with an uppercut that rocked the woman up and off her feet. The blue villainess crashed back to the ground, half-stunned. Lila dragged her up, and then slapped her. Once, twice, three, four, five times. Then she reached out and plucked the peacock Miraculous away, and her transformation fell away, revealing an elegant but crazed-looking blonde woman. Queen Bee let out a gasp, but Lila wasn’t going to be distracted. “Hello, Mayura. But that’s not your name, now, is it? Who are you?”

“Madeleine Lacroix,” the blonde woman spat. “Scum. Peasant. Foreign bitch.”

“Quite unpleasant, aren’t you?,” Lila commented offhandedly. “I should beat you bloody, but that wouldn’t satisfy me, and you aren’t worth staining my hands on.” She cocked her head. “How do you know Adrien Agreste, Madeleine? You recognized him.”

Madeleine actually spat in her face. “He’s my sister’s mewling little brat. The worthless brat. He and that bastard Gabriel stole my sister from me! The fucking scum.”

“Holy shit,” Carapace said softly. “She is completely, bug-fuck nuts.”

Lila turned to regard him for a moment, then turned back to watch Madeleine. She wiped the spittle from her face. “He’s family, you sociopathic bitch. You can’t understand that, though, can you? He’s not human to you, is he? No one is, except maybe your sister.” She took a deep breath, dropping the woman to the ground. “Where did you get the Peacock Miraculous, Madeleine.”

The blonde woman giggled, and stared up at Lila. “Why, I made Gabriel give it to me, of course. The spineless little worm. He hadn’t managed to get the Miraculous away from the Cat and the Ladybug. I knew I could do better. And I almost did, you cunt! You ruined my victory!” She raised a hand, but Lila simply took a step back, out of her reach. Then the words Madeleine had spoken penetrated the slight fog that the power had filled Lila’s mind with. “Wait. Gabriel Agreste is Papillion? Adrien’s father is the crazy villain that’s been tormenting the city for the past year?”

Madeleine giggled. “To think that the Miraculous had been in his home the whole time! It’s almost to laugh, if it weren’t so pathetic,” she added. “I suppose it all comes apart, now.”

Lila looked at Queen Bee. “You’ve heard all this?”

Bee nodded, then looked intently at Lila. “Are you okay, Lila?”

“I will be,” Lila murmured, then she met the blonde girl’s eyes. “I will be. Not sure what this is going to do, but whatever happens, I know that I would love to be your friend. Yours, and Ladybug’s, and Chat Noir’s…everyone’s. Don’t let me be a bitch again, okay?”

“What?” Bee asked, alarmed.

“Everything will be alright, Bee – Chloé,” Lila said, taking a deep, shuddering breath. “It will be alright.” She brought her hands up, as she had seen in the print in the Miraculous text. Before anyone could think to act, she spoke. “I wish for the memory, the records, the secret. Let all those who are trusted souls remain, and for the rest, none.”

Power flared around Lila, and then light flared between her hands, growing brighter and brighter, until it was impossibly bright, and everyone had to look away. And then that power burst forth.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

The light flashed and raced across the city, and then the country, and then it wrapped around the globe. Film was blanked, video was wiped clean, digital photos simply vanished from their drives. The internet was scoured clean of every image, every speculative comment. Every person not trusted by Marinette, Adrien, and their friends had the knowledge, even a vague theory, wiped from their minds. In moments, the power of creation and destruction reclaimed the secret of Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste’s double lives. The identities of Ladybug and Chat Noir were safe once more.

The light wrapping Lila Rossi vanished. Lila looked at Queen Bee and gave her a wan smile. Then, like a switch, her face went blank. A look of confusion, then distress, and then panic flickered across her face. Then her eyes rolled up, and her transformation vanished as she crumpled as her consciousness was stripped away.

Carapace and Svartur Uxa caught her. Uxa picked her up gingerly, and looked at Queen Bee. “What do we do?”

Queen Bee looked at the still murderous, but now confused Madeleine, and then the woman’s currently insensate victims. “Carapace, Rena, you stay here with them until the police arrive, and medical services. Make sure you explain exactly who Madeleine is. We’ll get the footage from the Ladyblog reporters that show her de-transformation. Remind them that the others are her victims, not her accomplices. We’ll all have to go make statements later. This will be a bit strange, actually having someone arrested.” She looked to Uxa. “Go with Capuchin. She’ll lead you to the place we meet. You’ll be in for some shocks, but…you have my thanks. You were gallant and valorous to answer our call to arms. You will have a choice to continue on, or this can be a one-time thing. For now, though, follow Capuchin.” The huge boy nodded, and walked behind the diminutive Capuchin as she began to lead him away from the battleground. Bee turned back to Rena and Carapace. “I need to go with Uxa and Capuchin. I need to be there when Lila wakes up. I – what she said right before she made the Wish scares me. She needs a friendly face.”

“And you need to get back to your Ladybug,” Rena added.

“As soon as we hand this crazy lady over to the police, you can leave too, Rena,” Carapace said. “I know that you want to see Chat. I can wait around to see if Kanina makes it back.”

Queen Bee marveled at the amount of doubletalk that often went on in their conversations. The fact that Aurore and one of the grad students that acted as contributors to the Ladyblog were running up at that moment to get close in shots of Madeleine and her victims just punctuated that point. She nodded to Carapace, put a hand on Rena’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze, and then ran to follow Svartur Uxa and Capuchin. When Ladybug’s and Chat Noir’s Miraculous were back in their hands, then Bee could face her next worry: she would have to tell Adrien that his father was their nemesis. That Gabriel Agreste was Papillion.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Marinette chewed on her thumbnail, a clear sign of her worry, because she hated people who bit their nails. She looked over at Adrien, who was attending to Alix, who was seated on the couch, with a first aid kit. The petite girl kept insisting that she had gotten worse injuries skating, but Marinette had insisted that she submit to Adrien’s ministrations. Marinette walked over to the balcony doors again, staring out over the city, waiting and worrying. She turned and started to walk back inside when she heard a familiar sound: footsteps on roof tiles. She turned back around to see Capuchin, who was followed by the massive, black-clad form that could only be the newest bearer of the Ox Miraculous: Ivan Bruel. As they neared, she could see that the huge boy was carrying a slumped and unconscious form, and she started to fret. When they landed, she could see that he was carrying Lila. What in the world?

“Put her on the bed,” Marinette told the transformed Ivan. He seemed to hesitate, and Marinette rolled her eyes. “Did Bee not tell you anything, except ‘want to save the world? Here’s your Miraculous?’” At the boy’s headshake, she rolled her eyes. “Okay. You’re Ivan, I’m Ladybug, your little monkey buddy that you followed here is Rose, and I’m the leader. So when we’re out of public view, even if you’re transformed – say, what’s your hero name?”

Ivan stood up ramrod straight and braced his shoulders. “Svartur Uxa!”

“Black Ox?” Adrien asked as he came through the door. “Very cool, my dude.”

Before Ivan could react, Marinette reached out and smacked Adrien on the shoulder. “This idiot is Chat Noir. So we have the Black Cat and the Black Ox. No time for cat jokes, kitty,” she said to them. “As I was saying: if we’re out of public view, then listen to me, regardless of form, when it comes to hero matters. Bee is my deputy. Now, put Lila on the bed, please. What happened to her?”

“I’m not sure,” Uxa said slowly. “There was a lot of light. She was wearing something black and red, and talked to the crazy blonde woman who had been the crazy blue woman, and then there was a whole bunch of light, and then she was Lila again.” He set Lila gently on Chloé’s bed, and then looked back and forth between Marinette, Adrien, and the now-transformed Rose. “Is it always this confusing?”

“Only when you start out,” Adrien said honestly. “One you’ve gotten your feet wet, it’s pretty awesome.”

Uxa nodded, and then transformed in a flash of light and was back to being Ivan. “Uh, Hi, Marinette. The one thing Queen Bee told me is to never call people know by their names while in costume, and always use code names in costume, even if we know who the person is in real life. Secrecy is vital, she said.”

Marinette winced. “It is. I’m just not sure how much of a secret my identity is, anymore.” There was a clatter on the balcony, and she turned to see Chloé running into the suite, energy still dripping off her form as she released her transformation into Queen Bee.

“Is she awake yet?” Chloé asked.

Marinette shook her head. “What happened to her? She just got out of bed.”

Chloé looked at Marinette, and then Adrien, and then grimaced. She walked over to Lila and reached out to her ears, and pulled away some earrings. Marinette was wondering why Chloé would take Lila’s Miraculous, was wondering what the girl had done, when Chloé pressed the contents of her hand into her girlfriend’s hands. Marinette looked into her hands and saw that Chloé had removed not Lila’s Miraculous, but the Ladybug Miraculous. Then Chloé pulled the ring from Lila’s finger, handed it to Adrien, and comprehension hit Marinette. “She made a Wish…” she whispered. “Oh, god, what did she wish for?”

“What?” Adrien asked. “You mean like a ‘Miraculous Diary’, capital-w Wish?” Chloé nodded, and Adrien winced as well. “Not good.”

Chloé gave a helpless shrug. “It wasn’t for her. It was for you, Marinette, and you, Adrien. She wished for your identities to be safe, that only those you trust would continue to know your identities. She safeguarded your secret.” Marinette and Adrien both gasped, and Chloé nodded. “I’m afraid of what it might have cost her. She asked us to be her friend, before she made it. I think she knew what the cost was.”

“It won’t be good,” Adrien said. Chloé looked at him, and then winced again.

“Adrien,” the blonde said. “Can you go sit down? There are some things I need to tell you.”

“Things?” Adrien asked. “What kinds of things?”

“The kind where you really need to be sitting down,” Chloé responded with a glare. Adrien gave her a look, one eyebrow cocked, but then went over to the couch. Alix cleared him a spot. Chloé turned and wrapped her arms around Marinette, and leaned into her. Marinette pulled Chloé into a deeper hug, and the blonde sagged with relief into her girlfriend’s arms. After a long, timeless moment, she picked her head up, kissed Marinette’s cheek, and then stood up straight. Marinette released her, and she took he blunette’s hand. “I really, really need you to keep holding my hand, Mari,” she whispered. Marinette nodded, and they walked together to the lounge area of the suite, sitting together in the oversized arm chair. Chloé took a deep breath, stared at Adrien for a few moments, and then let the breath out explosively.

“This is going to be bad, isn’t it?” Adrien said.

Chloé nodded. “No easy way to say it. Adrien, Ma – Mayura is your aunt, Madeleine Lacroix.” Adrien recoiled against the back of the couch, anger and disgust on his face. “We stopped her. We beat her. Lila did a lot. We have all of the Miraculous back, except the Horse. Except…damn, I’m not sure what Lila did with the Goat Miraculous-”

“She gave them to one of the Ladyblog girls, the grad student, Camille,” Alix said, looking up from her phone. “She just emailed me and asked if I could get in contact with someone from Team Miraculous to come and get them. I’m pretty sure that Rory has that covered, but I’ll message her to make sure. If you don’t need me, I’m going to go see if I can get Butler Jean to get some food up here. Preferably some red meat. And then I have to do some Ladyblog stuff, mod some forums and such. I’ll be back soon.”

“Okay, Alix,” Marinette told her. “Take Ivan with you?”

Alix waved to Ivan. “Sure. Come on, big guy, don’t walk so slow, I’m really damn hungry!” Ivan followed Alix as she walked out of the suite toward the elevators, closing the door behind them.

Chloé turned to Adrien. He looked like he had begun to take in the knowledge about Mayura. “I’m really sorry, Adrien. Mayu – Madeleine is crazy. Like, full-blown narcissistic, sociopathic crazy. She said some absolutely horrible things about you. She makes Audrey look sane and well-adjusted.”

“Good god,” Adrien muttered. “What a horrible woman. No wonder she was yelling at my father and treating him that way.”

“Ah.” Chloé’s voice was flat, without inflection. “That was the easy part, Adrien. Madeleine told us – I’m not sure if it’s true, but what it is what she told us – Madeleine told us that, that – fuck! – that your father…is Papillion.” Adrien went white. Marinette almost crushed Chloé’s hand when her own spasmed, hearing that.

“She said what?” Adrien croaked out hoarsely.

“She told us that your father was Papillion, and that she forced him to give her the Peacock Miraculous,” Chloé told him.

“Fuck,” Adrien swore. He looked straight at Chloé. “Is it true?”

The blonde shook her head. “No idea. We just came back here. I think that can wait, Lila was a more pressing need. Rena and Carapace were waiting for the police and the paramedics, and then Rena will be heading back here. Carapace is on media duty. Rena will be here for you soon, Adrien.” He nodded, staring off blankly. “Are you going to be okay – no, that’s a dumb question. Do you need anything right now, Adrien?”

He shook his head. “I just need Alya. Alya, and a bottle of wine, and probably a place to stay for a while.”

“I half expected you to go storming off to confront your father,” Chloé admitted.

“Oh, I will,” the model told her. “Not until Alya and the others are here. And Lila is important. I think Alix was going to call the doctor, too.”

“That’s good. I don’t think a doctor can help any of the problems that Lila is going to have, though,” Chloé confessed.

“Then she’ll have us to help,” Marinette said. She reached up and put her earrings on. There was a flash, and Tikki appeared.

Marinette!” the little Kwami cried, dashing in to nuzzle against her bearer’s cheek. “I am so sorry Marinette, I didn’t know…” The Ladybug Kwami hiccupped. “I didn’t know that Lila was going to do that!”

“I know you didn’t, Tikki,” Marinette said, rubbing the Kwami’s head. There was another flash of light, and Plagg reappeared.

“Ah, Adrien!” Plagg said. “I – I am…” Plagg ducked his head. “It is very good to see you, Adrien. I was afraid, when the ring was taken. And then Lila kept us safe, but then…I am sorry, Adrien, but we have little control over what those who wield our Miraculous do.”

Adrien patted Plagg on the head. “It’s okay, Plagg, I know.” He pulled the tiny cat into a hug. “I know.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Lila woke slowly. Her head felt really strange, and her body felt strange too, like it didn’t fit right. The bed she was on was soft, and much too big to be her bed. She could hear speaking in the background, but the speech was in French. French? What was going on? Had she been kidnapped and brought to France? She moved her arms and legs. They didn’t seem to be bound, so that may bust the kidnap theory. Unless they were nice kidnappers? Was there such a thing? Her head hurt, she was hungry, she needed to pee, and she really needed to know what was going on. “>Hello<?” she called out in Italian, and then “Hello?” in French.

“Ah, hello!” It was a girl’s voice, pleasant. Lila heard movement, and she opened her eyes just as a tall, pale, blue-haired girl same into her line of sight. “Hello, Lila, how are you feeling?”

“My head really hurts, and I’m really confused. Where the hell am I?” She looked around the room, then back over as a tanned, blonde girl walked up next to the blunette. “And who are you two?” She was surprised by the expressions of the two girls after she asked that. Pain, followed by grief? What the hell?

“You’re in Paris,” said the blue-haired girl. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Paris?? And I just started school last week,” Lila told her.

“Where?” The blonde asked.

“What? In Florence, where we live,” she replied.

“Just started school in Florence?” the blue-haired girl, who had a vaguely asian look, said.

Lila nodded. “We might be moving to France, but nothing had been finalized,” she confessed. “Did…did something happen to me? Did we already move? Was I in an accident?” She started to panic.

The blonde shook her head. “Not…exactly. Lila, my name is Chloé Bourgeois. My girlfriend here is Marinette Dupain-Cheng.” She took a deep breath. “I know they always say in TV shows and movies not to tell people with amnesia things, that they will remember on their own, but…we think we know why you can’t remember. And we’re pretty sure that if we’re right, you won’t ever remember.”

Lila gasped. “What – What happened?” she asked.

“Have you ever heard of a hero named ‘Ladybug’? She operates in Paris,” Chloé asked.

“Ladybug?” Lila asked, her nose scrunching. “Sounds like kind of a silly hero name. But no, haven’t heard of anyone called Ladybug.”

“She just started school,” Marinette said. “We had just started school…”

“Oh. Oh! Oh, shit,” Chloé hissed. “Fuck.”

What is it?” Lila asked, panic truly filling her now.

“Oh, Lila, no!” Marinette said, sitting down on the bed next to her, taking her hand. “It’s not – you’ve forgotten a lot. It’s not your fault. But you have friends, and we can help you through it.”

“You both are my friends here?” Lila asked, her hands shaking.

“Ummmmm,” Chloé temporized. “Um, well – we are now, but when we first met you, you were a brat, I was a bitch, and Mari was a goody two-shoes who infuriated both of us. But we worked through it. Some of it took time, but we worked through it. And if you want to give us a chance, we can work through it again. You’re worth it, Lila.”

Marinette nodded. “I really didn’t like you, Lila. You were moving in on the boy I liked at the time. Before Chloé confessed to me, and…yeah. Lots of things have happened.”

“Paris is exciting, but a little intimidating these days. There’s a supervillain that can take angry people, amplify that anger, and make them into powerful servants. The reason we tell you this is so you know that getting angry can be a bad thing,” Chloé told her.

“A supervillain?” Lila asked, suspicion on her face.

“I’ll give you a tablet, you can confirm it for yourself,” the blonde replied. “I know this is going to be hard, Lila. I’m sure you’re going to be angry, and frustrated, and will hate us some days. But you’re our friend, and we won’t give up on you. Okay?”

Lila was very, very unsure of anything. Things were not okay at all. But the two girls were making sure she knew that they were here to help. They were both a bit too nice, but…maybe some of the things her grandfather had been telling her were true. Maybe she should try to be nicer to people. These girls were honest with her. They believed she was worth making friends with. That – that would be enough for Lila. “Yeah,” she told them. “Okay. Thank you.” For some reason, she squeezed the blunette’s hand. “Thank you.”

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Nathalie Sancoeur opened the door to the Agreste Mansion. Someone was beating on the door, having bypassed the gates entirely. She sent a message off to Alain, and then went to the intercom, depressing the button and activating the door camera. She saw Chat Noir and Rena Rouge standing in front of the doors. Behind them, the rabbit girl was bouncing on the balls of her feet. Three of Team Miraculous, here? What could they want. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Chat Noir, Rena Rouge, and Kanina here to see M. Agreste,” the black-clad boy hero said.

“Is he expecting you?” Nathalien knew this was an insipid question, but it was her job, damn it!

“I very much doubt that,” Chat said. “Please open the door. We need to see him, now. We’d prefer not to have to break the door down, but if we have to, we will.”

Nathalie felt a bit of shock. Team Miraculous was very good about minimizing property damage, so if they were this emphatic… “Hold on, I’ll let you right in,” she said.

“Thank you,” Chat said on the screen, nodding his head slightly. Nathalie released the intercom controls and unlocked the door. The door was swinging open as Alain walked into the foyer from the other side of the hall.

“Team Miraculous has some business with M. Agreste, Alain, would you please escort them?” Nathalie told him. She felt ridiculous, but she wasn’t sure what else she could do.

“Where is Gabriel Agreste,” Chat growled. “Madeleine Lacroix was unmasked as being the woman behind Mayura’s mask, and was captured by some of our team earlier today. She has implicated Gabriel Agreste in matters pertaining to the Miraculous, and we wish to ask him about these accusations.”

Nathalie was nonplussed. “I don’t…how was he implicated?”

“She claimed she received her Miraculous from him. She also accused him of being Papillion. So you can see why we would wish for him to…clarify…these matters,” Rena Rouge said. “I was present when she confessed.”

“Ah,” Nathalie said. She turned to the Gorilla. “Alain, would you…can you…”

“Please, just walk us to his office. If he is Papillion…” Chat Noir said. The Gorilla nodded. He was a loyal employee of Gabriel Agreste, but – Team Miraculous was being polite, and if his employer was a supervillain, then he had used Alain in one of his ploys, and that didn’t sit well with Alain Dupont very well at all. He led them across the foyer to the entrance of Gabriel’s office. He pushed the door open, but the office was empty. On the desk, two envelopes were sitting propped against paperweights, so that their addressees were clearly visible. One was marked Ladybug and Chat Noir. The other was marked Adrien.

“I don’t think he’s here,” Alain said in his low voice.

Nathalie walked around the heroes. “Oh, sir,” she whispered. “Oh, my.” She turned to the trio of heroes. “I…M. Agreste…I didn’t know that he was leaving.”

“It’s alright, Mlle. Sancoeur,” Chat said, “it isn’t your fault that he’s run away.” He walked over to the desk and plucked up the letter marked Ladybug and Chat Noir. “I trust you will see that Adrien gets his letter?”

“Of course,” Nathalie nodded. She wasn’t sure that she wasn’t dreaming. By the end of the day, she would know that it wasn’t a dream. Though, she conceded, it was probably going to become a nightmare. If she had to face that, then so be it. She would protect Adrien. It was no longer her duty. Now, it was her honor.

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Ladybug and Team Miraculous

I could deny the accusations, but I won’t embarrass myself, or you, by pretending. Yes, I am Papillion. No, I will not give up on my quest to gain the Miraculous from you. I need their power to grant my Wish. I know that you will never trust me with your Miraculous willingly, so I will be forced to take them from you.

I know you understand the power of the combined Miraculous, now. I know that the Rossi girl used them to grant a wish. That she is alive afterward is a credit to her moral fiber, to choose a wish selfless enough for creation and destruction to leave whole. Or almost whole, because there is always a price.

I cannot ask another to ask for the Wish that I wish for. No one else can pay the price required for the Wish. And, as I said before, I know that you will never willingly trust me with such power, not after seeing it in action. I fear that we will continue to be foes until either you find me, or I achieve my Wish. I know which outcome I am betting on.

I do owe an apology for Mayura. I did not realize, until she had the power of the Peacock Miraculous, just how unhinged Madeleine had become. I have made mistakes in our conflict, and have endangered people, but Mayura was a madwoman, and I offer you a humble apology for releasing her upon the city. Paris is – was – my home. I would not see it destroyed.

Ladybug and Chat Noir, I will destroy you because I must. It brings me no great pleasure. There were times where I would have reveled in your destruction, but now I see it as an unfortunate necessity to achieve my desires. I will not apologize for something I do not feel sorrow for. I must have my wish. There is no alternative.

Gabriel Agreste

Papillion

3e.T 3e.T 3e.T

Adrien

I know you must be disappointed in me. You must feel that I have betrayed you. I can only say that everything I have done as Papillion, I have done for my family. ALL of my family. Someday, you will understand this.

I have left my proxies for Gabriel in your hands. Nathalie can represent you at meetings of the board, and I expect you to take the advice of the staff, but Gabriel is our company. Let the managers manage, but the creative decisions are in your hands. You did an excellent job with the fall campaign. I was immensely proud of how you handled all aspects of the launch. I know that my company is in good hands. I will return when I have accomplished my goal. You have my promise.

I love you, my son.

Your Father, Gabriel Agreste

Chapter Text

Ash and soot streaked Ladybug’s cheeks, and coated her suit, as she stared up wearily at the smoking towers of Notre Dame. Bee was flitting around, making sure that all the firefighters stayed safe, and relaying information to the commanders of the fire crews, allowing them to target the worst of the fires. Chat bounded back into the fray, for what was probably the fourteenth or fifteenth time, using his destructive power to clear debris to allow the firefighters to access the areas most in need of protection, the priceless artworks and irreplaceable documents. No one was sure if Ladybug’s powers could restore the grand cathedral, and they did not want to leave anything to chance. Rena used her illusions to create a 3D map, adding details as Queen Bee reported them, giving the emergency crews an accurate picture of the true scope of the blaze.

Everyone was participating. Even those that had stepped back, those that had been controlled, and those that had intended to only be a one-time volunteer, came forward to give aid. For the first time in months, every Zodiac Miraculous was in use. Even the mysterious holder of the Horse Miraculous had appeared, and was using their tremendous speed to move supplies to the crews fighting the blaze. The most shocking participant in the effort was Papillion, who had empowered half a dozen firefighters, and had simply told them to use their powers to save as much as they could. Each could draw water from the Seine, and each was worth a pumper truck on their own. Only the Peacock Miraculous was not in use to fight this terrible fire. Ladybug still was unsure who she could trust with such a power, and now was not the time to try.

Kanina landed in front of Ladybug, looking as if she had rolled in the soot. She had been acting as crowd control, and was managing some of the volunteers in doing the same. “The crowds are settling down now, there are enough gendarmes on scene now. We’re going to check in with the fire commander and see if he can use us anywhere. Are you going to be okay?”

Ladybug nodded wearily. She had stretched her creation power to the limit, providing much-needed pump equipment and hoses to the first crews on the scene, while their reinforcements fought their way through afternoon traffic. Five minutes at a time, over and over, Tikki stuffing herself full between every repetition, until there were enough firefighters, and enough trucks and ladders and pumpers and everything else needed to fight a fire were on site. She had never tried to do so much, she had never known she could do so much, with her powers. Now, though, she wanted to cry. Or to sleep. Seeing the blackened walls, the collapsed roof, the fallen spire, she wondered if they had done enough. If there wasn’t something more they could have done. She couldn’t think of it if there was, but that thought made her feel no better.

One of Papillion’s enhanced firefighters moved up next to her, and they stiffened as they arrived. “Ladybug,” the voice of Papillion issued from the man’s mouth, “this is not a truce. This is not a surrender. This…this is something more important than anything that stands between us. This is about national pride. This is about honor. This is about protecting something greater than ourselves.”

Ladybug gave a snort. “That’s rather rich coming from you, Gabriel. I could tell you how many historic buildings you’ve damaged in your schemes, but I would have to count them up. Not to mention the number of times that the Eiffel Tower has been damaged,” she replied, not bothering to hide her irritation.

“The Tower is an eyesore,” Papillion replied, “and yes, I have allowed those I have called too much freedom, without care for where or what they may damage. I will try to exercise more care. There is much I do not care for in this city, but…Emilie loves Notre Dame. I could not stand by and let it burn without taking action.”

Ladybug nodded her head. “I can believe that much,” she said in reply. She gave a sigh. “I should probably try and catch your equine friend, but they’ve been a big help. And you are right, you didn’t have to help, but you did anyway. And you haven’t tried to take my Miraculous.”

Papillion’s laughter echoed through the immediate area. “Ladybug, I know that your friends are watching me most closely. Even if I were to try, I doubt that I would get very far. But that does not matter. I would not take such action today, not with this. As I have said, this is about honor. I would hold onto what little I have left.”

The scarlet heroine looked at the empowered firefighter that was acting as Papillion’s conduit, and nodded. A moment later, the man’s form relaxed, and he shook himself. Then he nodded to Ladybug, before he ran off to rejoin the battle against the now smoldering building. As he left her sight, Queen Bee walked up next to her. “Are you going to be okay, love?” she asked.

Ladybug nodded. “I will be. I’m just incredibly exhausted. And I’m a little afraid. I know that someone, many someones, are out there waiting for me to fix things. To use my power to put everything back to rights. I’m not sure that I can. I’ve fixed things, even huge things, damaged by akuma. I’ve fixed small things with my power, even outside of fights. But this is on a whole other scale. I should have the power to do it, but…if I don’t, will people forgive me for it?”

Bee sighed, and then pulled her girlfriend into a hug. “Most will,” she replied. “There will always be those that expect miracles every time, and nothing will make them happy. You don’t have to be everyone’s idea of perfection all the time – I think you are actually perfect, but that’s just my personal idea of perfection – and you don’t have to carry the weight of the world’s problems on your shoulders, especially not by yourself. You taught me that. So, do the best you can. That’s all anyone can ask. And if they can’t accept that, well, Wyvern and Katuali and I will go and…”

Ladybug giggled, and leaned back. “No threatening the trolls for being trolls, love,” she said. “Thank you, though. For being willing to stand up for me, and for cheering me up.”

Bee leaned in and kissed her girlfriend on the cheek, and then let her go. “Now, are you ready to go back in? The fire may be under control now, but we still have a lot to do, and we need our leader to lead. Unless you would rather I do it?”

The blunette girl shook her head. “I’d have a revolt on my hands in no time,” she said with a giggle. “Okay, my bee-utiful one…”

“Oh god, Chat has infected you with his awful puns,” the blonde whined.

“…Oh god, he has,” Ladybug whimpered.

“Let’s never speak of this again,” Bee said.

“I agree completely.”

After a long moment, where a silent agreement to forget the last twenty seconds ever happened passed between them, Bee took Ladybug’s hand. “Let’s get to this, then. There is still a lot to save.”

“Yes, let’s get to it.”