Queen Bee had grown accustomed to her newly granted powers after just a few patrols with Ladybug and Chat Noir. The trio went out each night in search of Volpino, hoping to finally put an end to his torment and - if they were lucky - find out who was behind the akumas.
It was shaping up to be another uneventful night of flying around the city. After hours and hours of endless scouting, Chat Noir claimed it was time to call it a night, and the three heroes split up to head to their own homes for the night. Only once Ladybug found himself completely alone did Volpino finally show his face.
“Nico, Nico, Nico,” Ethan taunted from the edge of the rooftop. “Thought that upping your numbers would give you a better shot? Strength in numbers means nothing when you can’t even find me.”
Nico flipped open his yoyo, not even needing to look down at his hand to know that he was hitting the call button to contact Chat Noir. He hit it repeatedly; call-hang up, call-hang up, call-hang up. Will would know what it meant. Nico just hoped he would think to bring Annabeth, too.
“Just going to stand there?” Ethan continued, finally taking a few steps closer. “Nothing to say? You’ve had two months to try to stop me, don’t you have a plan yet?”
“No, I do,” Nico replied, eyes scanning the skyline behind Ethan until he saw a familiar cat-like silhouette nearby. “I just need you to step a little closer for it to work. Five steps should do it.”
“And then what?” Ethan took two steps forward.
“I can’t ruin the surprise,” Nico told him.
“Do you really think you can take me on all by yourself?” Two more steps.
“I guess we’ll just have to see.”
One more step.
Nico lunged. Ethan dodged. Will appeared just in time for them to be surrounded by Volpino mirages. Each one spoke in a unified voice: “You’re out of tricks boys.”
Nico brought out his yoyo, spinning it in front of him before swinging it in a wide circle, taking out each of the mirages and aiming to tie Ethan up. Once the yoyo reached the real deal, however, Ethan raised a hand and caught the string, giving it one forceful pull to knock Nico off his feet. He wound up on his back on the ground, too disoriented to get up before Ethan could plant a foot on his chest, keeping him pinned.
“I’ll be taking your earrings, now,” Ethan said, though just as he started to reach out, he froze completely.
Nico shoved the foot off his chest, causing Ethan to tip over and collapse on the ground, arms and legs still stiff.
Annabeth offered him a hand to help him up as Will called out for his Cataclysm before tearing the akumatized necklace from Ethan’s chest. As the necklace dissolved into dust, the black butterfly akuma flew out of it. Nico tossed up his yoyo to capture and purify it just before it flew out of reach.
“Nice work,” Nico said to Annabeth.
“You too, Ladybug,” she replied.
“Really, Queen Bee, we couldn’t have done it without you,” Will said. “But I’m sure you know that your work is done. We’ll need your Miraculous back.”
“Of course,” Annabeth said. “Can we get off this roof, first?”
In the end, Nico took the still-frozen Ethan to the nearest police station, and Will took Annabeth home before collecting her Miraculous. The two met up on Nico’s balcony before heading inside for bed.
They slept most of the day away now that they finally had a chance to relax. They only woke up around the mid-afternoon because Will’s phone kept going off. Nico tried to hide under the covers as Will checked his phone, but once Will was awake he never let Nico sleep any later.
“Hey,” Will said as he pulled the blanket off Nico’s head. Nico groaned in response and pressed his face into Will’s chest instead. “It’s three-thirty, babe, we should get up.”
“No. Still tired.”
“I need to go home soon,” Will continued, pressing a kiss to the top of Nico’s head. “You should come with me.”
Nico leaned back and squinted up at Will in confusion.
“You haven’t met my mom. I think she’d like to meet you. We can all have dinner tonight and then maybe you could stay over.”
“You want me to meet your mom?” Nico whispered.
“Of course I do. I love you.”
Nico bit his lip.
“You don’t have to say it,” Will told him, reaching up to stroke his cheek. “And you don’t have to come over--”
“No, I want to,” Nico cut in. “Let me take a shower and get dressed.”
In half an hour, they were dressed and ready to go, stopping downstairs to say both good morning and goodbye to the Jacksons. They walked to Will’s, letting themselves in and heading straight up to Will’s room so that he could change out of the clothes he’d been wearing for about three days straight.
Nico was ready to fall back asleep on Will’s bed when Will dragged him back out of the room. “Come on, you sleepy bug. Let’s go find my mom.”
Nico would have gotten lost if not for Will leading him through the mansion he lived in - he wondered if Will had ever gotten lost himself. Will hesitated outside a set of double doors, glancing at the empty desk that sat beside them.
“I guess we can just...go in,” Will muttered. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer from the otherside. He pushed the door open anyway. “Mama?” he called when he entered.
“Is this your mom’s office?” Nico asked. “Where does that staircase go?”
“Staircase--” Will spun around, expecting to see the wall of bookcases that he remembered there being, but instead saw a staircase leading upward. “What the hell is that?” Was his mom some kind of cartoon villain or something?
Nico squeezed his hand. “Should we...go up there?”
“Probably not.” Will pulled him toward the stairs. They climbed silently until they reached the top where they pressed themselves up against a wall, peeking around the corner.
The room was dark aside from a giant round window where the figure of a woman stood, silhouetted in the light. She was holding a staff, and she was surrounded by white butterflies - they looked like freshly purified akumas - and she seemed to be talking to herself, though Will couldn’t hear what she had to say. He’d heard that voice through enough closed doors to recognize it even at its most muffled, though.
Will stepped out of their hiding place and called out, “Mama?”
The figure spun around, revealing the face of Naomi Solace. She gasped. “William! What are you doing here? How did you get up here? Where is Stephanie?” She stepped closer and her eyes caught on something behind Will. “Who is that with you?”
“Stephanie wasn’t there,” Will said. “What’s going on, Mama? What’s with the outfit and...and the mask?”
“William,” Naomi hissed. “Who is this boy with you?”
Will reached out for Nico’s hand, pulling him behind himself protectively. “Don’t worry about him, we’re not talking about him, we’re talking about you!”
Naomi raised the staff in her hand, pointing the end straight at Nico. “You’re Ladybug! I’ve seen you through Ethan’s eyes. William, get away from him, he’s dangerous!”
“Through Ethan’s eyes?” Will repeated. “You think he’s dangerous? You-- You’re-- What did Ethan call you?”
“Papillon,” Nico whispered in his ear.
“Papillon,” Will spit, loud enough for his mother to hear. “You’re responsible for the akumas!”
“Get me his earrings,” Naomi told him. She was close enough now that Will could see the unstable look in her eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d stood that close to his mother or actually saw emotion in her eyes other than disappointment. Not that he preferred the crazed terror pointed at him now. “Please, Sweetheart, I need his earrings!”
“You don’t understand!” Naomi shouted, her hand darting past Will’s head and swiping at Nico. “I need them!”
Will took a step back, pushing Nico back with him. “No, Mama, I do understand. You’re not getting his earrings or my ring, especially when I don’t know what you plan to do with them.”
Naomi pulled her hand back like she’d been shocked. “What do you mean, Will?”
“Don’t play dumb, Mama, you know exactly what you can do with these Miraculous.”
“Of course I know, but you can’t-- You’re not--” Naomi seemed to be hyperventilating. “William, you can’t be Chat Noir! That’s too dangerous, I can’t allow it! I’ve been fighting all this time to keep you safe!”
“How is akumatizing my classmates supposed to keep me safe?” Will argued.
“I’m trying to bring your father back!”
Will took another step back. This time out of surprise rather than fear. When he spoke again, his voice was barely above a whisper. “You can’t make someone love you. He doesn’t love us, or he wouldn’t have left.”
The slap across his face came as less of a surprise than his mother’s confession. “Shut up! You don’t know him like I did! You don’t know love like I do!”
“Yes I do, but not from you. I have friends who love me, and I love them. I love Nico, and maybe he hasn’t said it back, but I know he loves me, too.” Nico squeezed his hand reassuringly, and Will squeezed back. “I’ve felt more love from his family than I ever have from my own. If you loved me, you wouldn’t be fighting to bring dad back, you would be fighting to keep me here.”
Naomi stumbled backwards, clutching one hand to her chest. Tears had started to stream over her masked cheeks, and she looked seconds away from collapsing. Will’s mother was falling apart right in front of his eyes.
Will squeezed Nico’s hand once again before releasing it. He stepped toward his mother and held out his hand - the one without the ring, just in case Naomi made an attempt to steal it. “If you really loved me, you would give me your Miraculous.”
Naomi sobbed, falling forward into Will’s chest, clutching at his shirt. “I just wanted to feel loved,” she cried.
“So did I.”
Suddenly, Will was blinded by a white light, and when he was able to blink away the spots, he saw his mother in front of him. His actual mother, not Papillon. He felt as something was pressed into his hand before Naomi wrapped her arms around him and continued sobbing into his chest. Will held up his hand to see a small silver brooch.
Will wrapped an arm around Naomi and pressed a kiss to the top of her head before he looked over his shoulder to Nico. He was standing as far away as he possibly could, looking more uncomfortable than Will had ever seen him. “Nico,” he said, just barely audible over Naomi’s sobbing. “Take this.” He held out the brooch for Nico to take. “Take it to Chiron. And call an ambulance, please.”
Nico did everything Will asked, returning home after dropping the brooch off with Chiron. Sally could tell that he was upset as soon as he walked through the door halfway through dinner, and Nico felt terrible that he couldn’t tell the truth of what had really happened. He brushed off everyone’s questions with an “I don’t want to talk about it,” and set himself a place at the table.
It was well after the sun had finally set that Nico finally got up from the table, having spent almost an hour picking at the food on his plate before realizing that he wasn’t even hungry. He was washing his plate in the sink when there was a knock on the door, which Sally went to answer.
“Hi, Sally,” Will’s voice came from the doorway. “My mom is-- I just dropped her off at the hospital. Can I stay here for a while?”