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Be My Escape

Chapter Text

When Marinette had first received her miraculous, she had been terrified. After some trial and error, her fear had gradually changed to confidence and self-assurance. She was a good Ladybug. Her instinct and creativity lent themselves well to her task. Marinette finally knew who she was and what her purpose was. She was Ladybug, the savior of Paris! What was there to dislike about that?

As it turns out, quite a lot.

Almost two years had gone by since the small box had appeared in her room, changing her world forever, and Marinette was tired. Exhausted, even. At sixteen, Marinette’s schoolwork was more demanding than ever, and it took up more and more of her time. Akuma attacks were still happening regularly, and no progress had been made to stop Hawkmoth.

To make matters worse, Ladybug’s relationship with Chat was gradually becoming more and more strained. Chat had confessed to her a while ago, but Ladybug felt that being superheroes just didn’t allow for that sort of relationship. Even being friends was hard, due to Ladybug’s refusal to share any sort of personal details. After years of Ladybug refusing to have any sort of personal connections with Chat, the superheroes had never felt farther apart.

It was on mornings like this that Marinette felt the worst. Rain clouds covered the sun, muting all the world’s colors and making everything appear dark and grey.

There were some types of rain that were beautiful, with golden light peeking through clouds, and with a shower of water pouring down and forming puddles in the roads. Those types of rain made everything appear brighter and instantly put Marinette in a good mood.

Today’s rain, however, was not that kind of rain.

When her alarm went off, Marinette woke feeling as if she was moving in slow motion. She hadn’t gotten enough sleep, and the dull weather made it even harder for Marinette to drag herself out of bed and to the bathroom.

She brushed her teeth, washed her face, and smudged concealer over her dark undereyes. Marinette examined herself in the mirror and proceeded to try and cover the pimple or two (or eight) that had magically appeared on her face overnight.

God, today was going to be awful.

She got dressed and shuffled downstairs to get breakfast. With her mom was visiting family in Amiens and her father working the bakery, Marinette found the kitchen deserted. She didn’t feel like making anything, so she grabbed a pastry and sat down.

She caught a glance of the clock that hung on the kitchen wall and got straight back up again. It was almost time to start walking to school anyway, so Marinette figured that she may as well leave now and be early for once.

 

✧✦✧


Adrien had gotten in the bad habit of sleeping through his alarm. Instead of waking to the soft, twinkling sound of his phone’s alarm, he woke to a loud yell coming from right by his ear.

“Adrieeennnn,” a squeaky, incredibly annoying voice whined. “It’s almost seven thirty, you were supposed to be up ages ago! I’m hungry!”

“Oh my god Plagg, will you shut up? I’m trying to sleep,” Adrien groaned.

“You can’t sleep, you have school! And Adrien, I’m hungry! I could file you for abuse, you know. You’re starving me!

Adrien dragged himself out of bed. Plagg was right, he did have school. In… thirty minutes. The blonde stretched and threw some cheese at his annoying Kwami. It was much too early to be dealing with Plagg right now.

“I know that you’re perfectly capable of getting the cheese yourself, you know. You just like to torment me, don’t you?” Adrien grumbled, pulling on some clothes.

Plagg ignored him, and proceeded to fly around Adrien’s head in circles.

 

✧✦✧

 

“Hi, Marinette!” Rose greeted Marinette as she walked through her school’s entrance, “wow, you’re early today! We still have twenty minutes before class. I’m proud of you!”

“Thanks, Rose,” Marinette smiled at the blonde.

She made her way to class, and noticed that there was barely anyone around. She settled down at her desk and took out her Physics notebook. If there were still twenty minutes until class started, Marinette figured that she may as well try to understand that cursed subject.

That is, until she heard the oh-so-familiar sound of Adrien Agreste’s beautiful laugh echoing down the hallway.

Well, there goes my concentration.

Adrien and Nino walked into the classroom, and Adrien waved at her, smiling. Nino greeted her with a friendly grin, “Hey, is Alya here yet? I need to talk to her about something”.

Adrien gave him a knowing look, which prompted Nino to burst into a furious blush.

It was no secret that he really liked Alya, and Marinette knew that Alya had liked him ever since Animan had trapped the two in a panther cage together. Their relationship had been stagnate for a while, though. They seemed to be trapped somewhere between ‘a thing’ and ‘just friends’.

Marinette shot Nino a curious look, answering, “No, I haven’t seen her yet today, but there’s still a while until class starts. I’m sure you’ll get a chance to talk to her”.

As if on cue, Alya opened the door and waved at everyone.

Before she could say anything, Nino blurted “I need to ask you something Alya!” He paused, waiting for a response from the girl. Alya nodded, prompting him to continue.

“Uhh…” Nino paused “In private, if you don’t mind.” Marinette noticed him glance awkwardly at her and Adrien.

“Oh! I’ll leave! Sorry for intruding,” Marinette mumbled, getting her book and leaving the room.

Adrien nodded, stuttering out an awkward “Me too!” before following Marinette out of the classroom.

God, why couldn’t she ever take social cues like a normal person? Nino had practically begged her to leave the classroom to give him and Alya some privacy, but what did Marinette do? She just sat there watching like an idiot! Why wasn’t she-

“Marinette? Are you ok?” Adrien’s voice pulled the girl out of her self-deprecating thoughts, “You look kind of upset...”

“O-oh! Uh, yes! I mean, you’re fine! I-I-I MEAN I’m fine! Not that you aren’t fine, I was just saying… you know…” Marinette looked dejectedly at the ground, sighing, “I’m fine. Thanks, Adrien.”

 

✧✦✧

 

As Adrien and Marinette exited the classroom, leaving Alya and Nino to talk, Adrien noticed that Marinette’s brow was furrowed and she seemed almost ready to burst into tears. She looked exhausted, with dark circles under her eyes. Her posture looked less confident than ever, with her shoulders tense and her hands clutched over her heart.

Why hadn’t he noticed this before? Now that he thought about it, Adrien realized that Marinette had been getting quieter and quieter over the last few months. She was usually bubbly and rather confident, always going out of her way to make others happy. She would drop everything to go make cupcakes for a friend’s birthday, or pause her day to write a nice note for someone who was having a hard time.

Although she was always rather shy around him, he hadn’t ever really minded. It had been enough to see the nice things she did for everyone else.

Now, though, she seemed to have curled up into herself. Adrien realized that he wanted to help her, just like she regularly helped everyone in their class.

“Marinette? Are you ok?” he blurted out, “You look kind of upset…” He trailed off, looking for a reaction.

The girl’s eyes widened as she gazed up at him, managing to stammer out, “O-oh! Uh, yes! I mean, you’re fine! I-I-I MEAN I’m fine! Not that you aren’t fine, I was just saying… you know…” she sighed, looking like she wanted to punch herself. “I’m fine. Thanks, Adrien.”

She turned away dejectedly and plopped down on a nearby bench. Adrien promptly followed suit and settled down beside her. He wracked his brain to think of something to say to break the silence between them. He noticed a physics book tucked under her arm, and exclaimed “Oh, I love physics! Are you enjoying the class?”

“Ah, w-well…” Marinette struggled to find the right words, “I have a lot of trouble grasping some of the concepts. It feels all jumbled in my mind, and I just can’t make myself understand it for the life of me” She laughed tiredly. “I can do writing, grammar, even math, but I just can’t seem to get physics right.”

“You know,” Adrien said, an idea popping into his head, “I could help you out with it sometime! I understand most of it pretty well, and I’m sure I could help you out a bit!”

She smiled at him, a real smile, if a bit tired. “I… I’d really like that. Thanks, Adri-”

Her sentence was cut off abruptly by a loud crash, followed by screams. Since they’d left the classroom, many more students had arrived at the school. These students were now frantically scrambling away from the front door, through which was visible a huge puff of smoke a few buildings over.

“Uhhhhh…” Adrien struggled to think of an excuse to go transform, but it turned out that he didn’t need to bother. He looked over to where Marinette had been sitting, but she had disappeared. He caught sight of the girl ducking into a supply closet, probably taking cover in case the Akuma made its way over to the school. Smart.

Adrien leapt to his feet and ducked into the boys’ bathroom.

Unfortunately, Adrien didn’t get to hide like everyone else. As Chat Noir, it was his job to protect the people of Paris.

“Plagg, Claws out!” he called, reveling in the adrenaline rush his transformation caused.

I’ll check on Marinette once Ladybug and I get rid of this Akuma, Chat thought to himself, glancing over his shoulder at the supply closed Marinette was in.

He turned away before he could notice the flash of pink light shining from under the door, and he never saw Ladybug emerge from the now empty supply closet.

Chapter Text

Ladybug ducked out of the supply closet quietly and made her way to the nearest window. She pried open the window and, using her yoyo, swung out onto the roof. Immediately, she got visuals of the Akuma. He certainly wasn’t easy to miss!

It was a huge man, standing as tall as many of the buildings. He was dressed in dirty overalls, a yellow reflective vest, and a hard hat. Some sort of construction worker, probably.

Oh, definitely a construction worker, Ladybug confirmed. In one of his hands, the Akuma grasped a chain with a huge wrecking ball on the end. He swung it with a loud yell, knocking huge holes in the buildings that happened to be in its path.

Ladybug swung closer, tentatively. She couldn’t even get near the Akuma without the possibility of getting hit with the wrecking ball!

“Yikes, someone needs to take a chill pill,” Chat Noir said as he landed with a thump behind Ladybug.

“Yeah, he seems a bit mad, doesn’t he?” Ladybug said. Turning to Chat, she said, “So, let’s just get this over with as soon as possible, ok? I’ve got things to do.” She smiled at him in a way that she hoped seemed encouraging.

Chat nodded and vaulted off of the building towards the Akuma.

It annoyed Ladybug to no end how reckless Chat was. He never thought before he jumped in, and certainly never asked her opinion. He had in the beginning, but not anymore. Chat was different now than the boy she’d first gotten to know, the boy that had encouraged her on her first day as a hero, the boy that looked at her with starry eyes and a huge grin. Ladybug missed that boy.

The heroine swung closer to the Akuma, eyes scanning for a possible akumatized item.

There was a nice ballpoint pen clipped into one of his pockets. That had to be the item! Now Ladybug just had to figure out how to get it…

As she neared the destruction, Ladybug caught sight of Chat balancing on the top of his staff directly in front of the Akuma. He was yelling something at it, probably some sort of pun. The Akuma swung the wrecking ball towards him, but he easily dodged it.

She really did have to get to class. Everyone was probably wondering where she’d gone, and she had been right in the middle of a conversation with Adrien. God, why did Akumas always have to show up at the worst time?

Deciding to hurry the fight along a little bit, Ladybug called for her lucky charm.

 

✧✦✧

 

A little over an hour and two failed lucky charms later, Ladybug finally swung back through a window and into an empty classroom. Noting that no one was around, she quickly dropped her transformation.

“Well that was a tough Akuma, huh, Marinette?” Tikki said as she practically inhaled the Macaroon Marinette had given her.

“Yeah, I’m exhausted,” Marinette sighed, “Maybe I should just say that I had to go home sick. Then I can go take a shower, a long nap, and maybe watch a movie.”

With a nod, Tikki said, “That might be for the best. Everyone deserves a break every once and a while, and you haven’t had one of those in a while! It could be just what you need!” The Kwami offered Marinette a reassuring smile. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she dove into Marinette’s bag.

“Mari! I knew I heard you in here! Where on earth have you been?” Alya exclaimed.

“Oh, Alya! I didn’t hear you come in!” Marinette spluttered, relieved that Alya hadn’t seen her Kwami.

“I can tell,” Alya laughed. “Where have you been for the past two hours? You missed Mrs. Bustier’s talk on ‘A Tale of Two Cities’!”

“Ugh, I was looking forward to that! I had questions about chapter thirteen…”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you did, miss literature geek,” Alya snorted. “Now girl, spill! Where were you? Last I saw, you were with Adrien!”

Marinette grinned. “Yeah, I talked to him for about… twenty seconds. And then I started feeling nauseous and went home, and I was just coming back to class to pick up… uh… my books.”

“Well what the hell are you doing in this random classroom then? Alya laughed. “C’mon girl, let’s go get your books together so you can head home.”

Marinette nodded her thanks and began following her friend down the hall to their homeroom.

“Holy crap!” Marinette exclaimed, stopping dead in her tracks. “I completely forgot! You and Nino, what did he have to ask you?”

“Oh my god, I never told you! Well, I meant to during class, but somebody disappeared on me before I got the chance,” Alya said, fake glaring at Marinette, who put her hands up in defeat.

“Alright, alright, I’m sorry about disappearing on you. So what happened?”

“Nino asked me to the movies!” Alya grinned, “He totally likes me, Mari!”

“YES!” Marinette fist pumped and hopped up and down beside her friend, “I knew it was bound to happen someday!”

 

✧✦✧

 

Adrien could faintly hear Marinette give an ungodly screech from down the hall as he detransformed. He could also hear Alya, which made sense.

They were probably talking about Nino, he grinned to himself.

As he dug through his bag to find some cheese for Plagg, Adrien thought about Ladybug. He could tell that she was trying her best to be friendly towards him, but as time went on, she continued to treat him in a way that was strictly professional. It was frustrating.

Since he first met her, all Adrien wanted was to get to know her, even in the simplest things. There didn’t need to be any personal details shared; nothing that could give away their identities.

As they got better and better at their jobs as heroes, Adrien had begun to realize that Ladybug would probably never love him, at least not in the way he loved her. But Adrien would be happy to settle for just friendship! However, Ladybug refused to share even the smallest details of their personal lives. She continued to distance herself from him emotionally, and she still expected him to stay the same flirty, clingy kid he had been when he’d first gotten his miraculous. She expected them to continue being the perfect duo, inseparable and unbeatable.

Unfortunately for her, Adrien was tired of this. He had tried so hard to get her to want to know him, and all she ever did was brush it off and laugh. They couldn’t stay the same unbeatable duo forever, not when they had a relationship built only upon his admiration for her. He had always been the one holding them together. After all his efforts, she continued to ignore him, to brush him off, and to push his feelings aside for the sake of the team.

Well, the team was falling apart now, thanks to Ladybug. Adrien was done being the only one who cared about their relationship. If Ladybug didn’t want to be his friend, then so be it.

 

✧✦✧

 

“Ahhhh...” Marinette sighed contentedly as she made herself comfortable under a thick blanket on her bed. She’d spent the afternoon pampering herself: Taking a warm bath with candles and bath salts, drawing out some design ideas, and watching romantic comedies on TV.

“You were right Tikki, I really needed this.”

Tikki laughed. “Of course I was, silly! Now why don’t you go straight to sleep? That way you’ll be nice and rested for school in the morning!”

“I will, right after I write a little in my diary. It won’t take long, there’s… just some things I need to get out. You know?”

“Oh Marinette, of course I understand! You do know that you can talk to me about anything though, right? I may not be an expert on human stuff, but I’ve been around you guys for many years. I’m a good listener, too!” Tikki said softly.

“Yeah, you’re right, Tikki. I know I can trust you,” Marinette said, smiling. “I just… Chat Noir has seemed rather distant lately. I’m a bit worried about him.”

“Well, maybe you should talk to him! I know he’d like to speak to you. He admires you a lot, you know.”

“Yeah,” Marinette shrugged, “He admires Ladybug. She’s not really me.”

“Ladybug is a huge part of you, Marinette! She couldn’t be so brave and caring if you didn’t exhibit those traits yourself!” Tikki exclaimed.

“Yeah, she’s a part of me, I understand that! But as myself… well… I’m a whole lot different than the girl Chat adores so much.” Marinette exhaled sharply, bordering on frustration.

“You can’t hold it against him, he doesn’t even know the other you! He admires Ladybug, yeah! But that doesn’t mean that he dislikes Marinette. I’m sure that if he got to know Marinette, he’d love her just as much as he loves Ladybug.” Tikki said, sitting on Marinette’s lap and placing a tiny paw on her hand. “Just try talking to him, okay?”

“I will. I’ll try to talk to him after the next Akuma,” Marinette said, resolute. “And I’m really sorry for getting upset with you. I’ve just got a lot on my plate right now.”

“It’s alright, Marinette! I understand. I’m always here for you.”

The girl got up and switched off her lamp. She made her way back to her bed, tucked herself under the blanket, and stared up at the glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to her ceiling. She’d arranged them into constellations, and had most of them memorized after many nights of staring up at them, unable to sleep.

Tonight was probably going to be another night like that.

She would stare at the ceiling for ages, memorizing the stars. She would think about Chat Noir. She would think about Adrien, and her other friends at school. She would think about homework, her family, and being Ladybug. She would finally fall asleep. Then, a few hours later, Marinette would wake up for school, still tired.

It was okay. She was used to this routine. It had been like this for the past year, after all. Even if she was used to it, though, Marinette desperately hoped that her mind would level out soon. She just wanted to feel normal again.

Chapter Text

Yawning, Marinette climbed the stairs leading to her school, attempting to blink away the lingering sleep from her eyes. As she’d predicted, she hadn’t gotten enough sleep last night, and with a physics test later today, Marinette was bummed.

Well, it would be ok. She had enough time to finish studying during lunch break, and maybe even a little nap.

God, a nap would be amazing.

Marinette’s eyes widened as she walked through her the door of her classroom. Nino had moved up a row into her seat beside Alya, and the only remaining seat in the classroom was right beside Adrien in Nino’s old seat.

“Oh, Mari!” Alya said, noticing Marinette standing in the doorway, “Nino and I wanted to sit together, since we’re dating now.” She then gave her friend a knowing wink, nodding at the open seat. “You’ll have to sit by Adrien, hope you don’t mind!”

“O-oh! Of course I don’t mind,” Marinette said, walking to her new seat. She hesitantly set her bags down and moved to sit on the bench beside Adrien.

“Hey Marinette! Looks like we’re gonna homeroom buddies now, huh?” Adrien laughed.

“Yeah,” She snorted “Guess we’re stuck third-wheeling Nino and Alya.”

“Lucky us,” the blonde said with a grin and a roll of his eyes.

As Mrs. Bustier began addressing the class, Marinette discreetly pulled out her phone and texted her best friend.

---

Marinette Dupain-Cheng:  I hate you for this, you know that, right?                                                 

Alya Cesaire:  Oh, I wouldn’t expect anything different. It was my plan all along. Enjoy! >3<

---

 

✧✦✧

 

When the bell rang for lunch break, Marinette gathered up her things as quickly as she could. By god, she was gonna have time for that nap before her physics test. As she shoved her books into her overcrowded bag, she felt a light tap on her shoulder.

“Hey, remember how I offered to help you out with physics sometime?” said a kind, cheerful voice that Marinette instantly recognized.

Damn it.

“Well, I thought I might be able to make good on that offer! If you still want help, that is. I have lunch break free, and I’d be happy to help you study for the test.”

So much for that nap…

Marinette turned to face Adrien. “Oh, that would be awesome! I need all the help I can get.”

“Do you wanna go to the café a few blocks over? We can study there, and grab lunch while we’re at it.”

“Sounds good! I’ll finish packing my things…” Marinette said.

“Alright, we can walk there together if you’d like! It’s not too far.”

Marinette smiled at him, cramming the last notebook into her overcrowded bag, “O-oh! Awesome. I’ll meet you outside?”

 

✧✦✧

 

As Adrien waited by the entrance of the school, he idly wondered why his heart was beating so fast.

It’s not like it was a date… He was just helping her with homework. Why did this even matter to him, anyway? He didn’t have a crush on Marinette or anything-

“Hey! You ready to go?” Marinette’s voice greeted him.

“Yeah!” He grinned at her.

They set off down the sidewalk together, with, he noticed, Marinette leaving a considerable space between them. She’d always been a bit shy around him, though, so her hesitance to be in such close proximity wasn’t totally unexpected.

A chilly autumn breeze swept up some leaves around them and ruffled Marinette’s hair. The sunlight shone on it, giving her black locks a slight blueish tint. Had her hair always been so pretty?

“So, uh…” Marinette said awkwardly, “How are you?”

“Oh, I’m good. A bit stressed out with schoolwork and all the other stuff my father plans for me, but… I’m doing well otherwise,” he shrugged.

“Hm, that makes sense. You don’t really seem to have much free time.”

Ha, she has no idea.

“Yeah, not much at all. I’m lucky to have this lunch break free, though! My father often wants me to eat at my house, but he didn’t ask me to today.” He paused. “What about you? How are you doing?”

Adrien was genuinely curious what she would say. Would she open up to him? Or would she simply tell him that she was fine and brush it off?

“I’m fine, thanks!” Marinette said.       

Well then. So much for opening up.

✧✦✧

 

Marinette speed-walked out of the classroom after she was finished packing up her things. She saw Adrien leaning against a wall near the exit.

Why did he have to look like a gorgeous model all the damn time?

As the two teenagers exited the school, Marinette found herself and Adrien in an awkward silence. Could she get up the nerve to start a conversation? Probably not, no.

He was walking so close to her, with barely a step between them. She could touch him! But she was not going to. If she were to accidentally brush his arm, who knows what she might do? Best to just keep her distance from him.

As the silence dragged on for over a minute, she couldn’t stand it any longer.

“So, uh…”

Way to go, Marinette. Not awkward at all.

“How are you?”

“Oh, I’m good. A bit stressed out with schoolwork and all the other stuff my father plans for me, but… I’m doing well otherwise,” Adrien replied.

Good, good. This was a conversation. A good conversation. With Adrien! A conversation with Adrien!

Okay, calm down Marinette. Its fine. He’s just your very attractive friend from school. Nothing to worry about.

“Hm, that makes sense. You don’t really seem to have much free time,” she replied.

Great job, not stalker-ish at all.

“Yeah, not much at all. I’m lucky to have this lunch break free, though!” He smiled, a radiant smile that made her feel warm inside, as if he were sharing some of his happiness with her.

“My father often wants me to eat at my house, but he didn’t ask me to today.” He paused. “What about you? How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, thanks!” Marinette said, as cheerfully as she could. There was no need to vent to Adrien about how awful she felt right now. He didn’t need to hear that.

They turned a corner and came into view of the café. It was a local favorite, known for its delicious soups and breads. The outside of the small building was rustic and simple, and very inviting. A few tables sat around the entrance.

As they entered, they were greeted with the comfortable aroma of freshly baked bread and spices. Marinette walked up to the counter and ordered, followed by Adrien, who walked to the register as she dug through her wallet.

“I’ll pay,” He said, and at her protests, laughed, “Okay, you can pay for us both next time then.”

Next time? There was going to be a next time? Holy shit, did he want this to be a regular thing?

After settling down at an outdoor table and taking a few sips of tomato soup, Marinette unzipped her backpack and pulled out her physics textbook. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

Adrien nodded and smiled at her.

If he keeps on doing that smiling thing, there’s no way I’m going to be able to concentrate! Maybe if I just avoid looking at him I can get something done. This isn’t romantic, just two friends helping each other out with homework. Just don’t think about it!

“Okay! So, what are you having trouble with?” Adrien asked her.

“Uh, everything. Just start at the beginning, okay?” She sighed.

He laughed.

God, his laugh.

There was no way she was going to be able to concentrate.

 

✧✦✧

 

“So, in that case, wouldn’t the terminal velocity equal 210 kilometers per hour?” Marinette asked, glancing up at Adrien, “If the air resistance is equal to F, then it should slow the fall by 38 kilometers per hour...”

“You’re almost there, but you forgot to account for the deceleration caused by the drag. That would slow it down by another 15 kilometers. So that would make 195 kilometers per hour the answer for problem 24, okay?”

“Oh. Right. That makes sense, actually. See, little details like that are why I’m having so much trouble in this class.” Marinette grinned and took a sip from her water.

“You’re doing really well though,” Adrien said, “Physics can be tricky, but I know you’ll get it with some practice!”

Marinette glanced up at the clock on the wall, and was shocked to see that there was only 15 minutes before they were due back at school. “Oh, we should probably start heading back now,” She said reluctantly.

Marinette had greatly enjoyed her time spent with Adrien, and she’d found that they got along quite well once she took a few deep breaths and just relaxed. The two had spent the past hour and a half in casual banter, with Adrien graciously giving Marinette pointers in physics. She still understood very little about the subject, but progress was progress. She certainly wouldn’t say no to a few more study sessions with her crush if the chance arose.

“Yeah, I didn’t realize the time! We really should start walking back.” Adrien replied, helping her gather her things. “Thanks for coming out with me!”

“Oh, why on earth are you thanking me?” Marinette laughed. “I should thank you, you’re the one who’s taking time out of your day to help me with schoolwork. I can’t imagine that this was your first choice of activities for lunch break.”

“Well, Nino’s out with Alya, and like I said, my father didn’t need me at home. I was happy to spend some time with you! It was no problem at all, really.”

Marinette followed Adrien to the café’s door and he stepped aside, holding the door open for her.

“Oh,” She giggled, “What a gentleman!”

Throughout the whole rest of the day, Marinette couldn’t take her eyes off of Adrien. How could someone be so perfect?

 

✧✦✧

 

The next morning, Marinette awoke with a start to the sound of raised voices in the bakery below.

It was a Saturday, couldn’t her parents at least try to be quiet?

She got out of bed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Thumping blearily down the stairs, she found her father with his arms crossed, watching as his assistant stomped out of the bakery. Her mother peered over the cash register warily.

Marinette’s father had hired an assistant to help with the many orders that came in daily, but she knew that the hired assistant regularly came in late, much to her father’s frustration. It looked like her father’s patience had finally worn thin, judging by the irritated look on his face.

“Papa? What happened?”

“That lazy boy got on my last nerve today,” He muttered, walking back into the bakery. “He arrived forty-five minutes late again, and when I asked him why, he seemed to think that he’d done nothing wrong. Since he doesn’t seem to take the job seriously at all, I figured it was just about time we let him go.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sure you’ll find a replacement soon,” She replied sleepily. “I’m going back to bed.”

She stumbled back up the stairs and into her bed. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

When she awoke thirty minutes later, it was to the sound of her mother’s screams downstairs.

“Wha-what the-?” Marinette jerked awake with a start, “What’s going on? Momma? Papa?”

The screams had been silenced almost immediately, but Marinette was sure that she had not imagined them. She jumped to her feet, tripping over the blankets tangled around her legs. Grabbing her purse for Tikki, just in case, she scrambled down the ladder to the staircase below. The whole house was eerily silent. Tiptoeing down the steps, she turned the corner into the bakery warily.

Her mother stood completely still with a terrified look on her face, a tray of unbaked cookies in her hands. Her father was frozen with his right hand shielding his wife from whatever had attacked them. Two customers, a mother and her son, stood stock still in front of the register, both with alarmed expressions plastered across their faces. All of them were completely motionless, frozen in time.

Marinette looked on for a moment, horrified. This had to be the work of an akuma.

Just as this thought went through her mind, said akuma emerged from the kitchen.

“Oh, well look who it is! My employer’s little daughter!” said the akuma. He looked around twenty-five, with messy brown hair and a satisfied smirk on his face. His outfit seemed mostly nondescript, except for the huge golden stopwatch hanging around his neck on a chain. “You know, I was just looking around for you! I froze your mother and father, and now it’s your turn!”

Marinette looked around the room, searching for some sort of way she could escape to go transform. Seeing none, she turned to the akuma, hoping to stall him somehow.

“Wh-why are you doing this?”

“Oh, it isn’t obvious? Your parents couldn’t forgive me for being late, so I’m going to make everyone late for everything! It’s only fair.”

“How on earth is that fair?” Marinette asked, still looking for a way to escape. Unfortunately, the akuma had backed her into a corner, and was continuing to walk closer. He held up his golden stopwatch and turned the dial slowly.

Just then, out of the corner of her eye, Marinette caught sight of a dark figure creeping through the bakery’s back door. Knowing exactly who it was, she looked back at the akuma, pretending she’d never seen Chat Noir creeping up behind him.

“Are you ready?” the akuma smirked, “Soon enough, you and all of Paris will be frozen in time!” He angled the stopwatch toward her and got ready to freeze her in time.

Before he had a chance, Chat Noir body-slammed the akuma from behind, sending him toppling forward into a window, which shattered into a million tiny pieces upon impact. Chat lunged forward and grabbed Marinette around the waist. He leapt backwards, avoiding the akuma’s fist, which was aimed straight for his head.

“I think it’s time we make our exit, don’t you, Princess?” Chat grinned.

The superhero leapt out through the broken window, carrying Marinette with him. He then used his staff to vault the two upwards and onto the bakery roof, where he lifted her onto his back.

“All comfy? Hold on tight, we wouldn’t want to lose such precious cargo now would we?”

Marinette nodded, and allowed him to carry her, leaping and vaulting over shops and houses. She found that the experience of traveling this way was much different without her suit and yoyo. Those powers gave her a sense of security and safety, and she knew that with them, she could always catch herself. However, without them, the ground seemed an awfully long way down. The wind whipped her hair around her face and chilled her through her pajamas, and she shivered.

“You okay, Princess?” Chat asked, sounding genuinely concerned. “That akuma seemed to have it in for your family!”

“Yeah, I’m perfectly fine! He was one of my father’s employees, he got fired this morning. I think that’s why I was being targeted.”

“That makes sense. You’re still a target to him, though. Perhaps even more so than before, since I think we just made him mad,” Chat laughed over the wind. “I’m gonna find you somewhere safe to wait out the akuma, and I’ll go take him down. Ladybug and I will rescue your parents, so don’t you worry!”

“Sounds great, Chat,” Marinette said with a secret roll of her eyes. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, even if she did appreciate Chat’s last-minute rescue back in the bakery.

Chat finally slowed to a halt beside a small boutique.

“Hey you like fashion, don’t you? Why don’t you hide out in here?”

Marinette wondered how Chat knew that she liked fashion. Perhaps she’d mentioned it to him before, and had just forgotten.

“This will be great. Thanks for saving me back there, Chat!”

“No problem at all, Purrrr-incess! It’s all in the life of a superhero.” With a wink, he turned and vaulted into the sky.

Looking into the boutique, Marinette wished she had time to go inside and look at the designs. Unfortunately, she had a job to do. Marinette ducked into an empty alley just behind the shop.

“You ready, Tikki?”

The little kwami whizzed out of her purse. “Let’s go, Marinette! We’ve got your parents to save!”

After calling for her miraculous transformation, Ladybug tossed her yoyo and attached it to a nearby building. She let the indestructible string pull her upwards into the Paris skyline.

Ladybug turned and gave one last wistful look to the little boutique, far below her. She’d have to come back another time. Sometimes, sacrifices must be made.

Chapter Text

Ladybug whizzed through the air, hooking her yoyo onto different buildings. Even if being Ladybug was exhausting, she could never seem to get enough of this feeling. With the cool air rushing through her hair far above the streets of Paris, she felt like she could do anything, at least for a few minutes.

However, she was brought back to reality by the sight of her parents’ bakery, her home, below her. The front window was entirely shattered, and through it, she could see her mother and father frozen in time. She still had an important job to do. She couldn’t simply live her whole life up in the sky, no matter how much she wanted to.

Continuing over the rooftops, she searched for Chat Noir. Where had the silly cat gotten to? He couldn’t be much ahead of her, she’d only left the boutique a minute after him!

Flying just above her school, Ladybug finally caught sight of him, sitting atop his baton. She swung himself toward him and perched atop a tall building.

“Chat! Where’s the Akuma?” She yelled over the wind, waving at him.

He glanced over at her, fixing those brilliant green eyes onto hers. Dropping his staff, he fell for a few feet before catching himself again and vaulting over to her.

“I had to get Marinette away from him, and in the process I lost track of where he was. He was at her bakery, so I’ve checked only the immediate area surrounding it. He didn’t seem to have any sort of mechanism for travel as far as I know, so he’s gotta be hiding out somewhere.”

Just then, a few scattered screams rang out from a few streets over.

“Well, let’s look over there for a start, shall we?” Ladybug said.

Chat merely nodded, vaulting away toward direction from which the screams had come.

He could be so confusing sometimes! With Marinette, Chat had been in seemingly high spirits, making jokes and laughing, just like the Chat she knew. But with Ladybug, he was entirely different. Gone were the days of constant flirting and puns. Now, she hadn’t heard a single pun in what seemed like forever.

Well, that’s a problem for another day. For now, I have to focus on this Akuma!

Brushing her thoughts aside, she launched herself after Chat. Just a few streets over, she came into view of about a dozen people who had clearly been running from something, now completely frozen. Definitely the Akuma.

She peered over the group of people, searching for any sign of the Akuma’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, after searching and re-searching the area, there was still no sign of the Akuma.

“Just use your lucky charm, let’s get this over with.” Chat said to her.

Deciding to comply with his request, she called for her lucky charm and wasn’t surprised to see a pair of binoculars fall into her hands.

“Pretty straightforward lucky charm for a change, huh?” she laughed, pressing the binoculars to her eyes. After some scanning, she caught sight of the Akuma through a shop window a good distance away. He had already frozen the people inside, and he now appeared to be speaking to someone.

Chat had clearly noticed this as well, as looked at her with a nod. They approached the shop together, taking care not to be spotted by the Akuma. Crouching directly under the front window, Ladybug was able to hear that he was addressing hawkmoth.

He suddenly burst through the front door of the little shop, looking down at them triumphantly.

“Ha! Don’t you know that eavesdropping is very rude?” He scoffed, glaring down at them with a grin.

What Ladybug failed to notice, however, was that his hands were pointing the clock’s face directly at her, discreetly turning the dial.

Ladybug looked over at Chat just in time to see him point is baton directly at the Akuma’s stomach, extending it so that the Akuma was sent flying through the air away from them with a screech.

“Chat! I could have easily gotten his akumatized object! Why on earth did you do that?” She said in an accusatory tone.

“He was getting ready to fire his weapon at you, Ladybug,” He growled, “Like it or not, I just saved you. I’m so very sorry if I wasn’t complying with your plan of action.” He immediately vaulted away to the other side of the road, where the Akuma was dragging himself onto his feet.

Ladybug looked after him with a dismayed expression on her face. She felt awful for reacting badly to him knocking the Akuma away, and to make matters worse, she could see her partner getting more and more emotionally distant from her by the second.

Shaking her head, she leapt after her partner and the Akuma. Upon catching up to them, Ladybug discovered that Chat had pinned the Akuma against a wall with his arm. Using his unoccupied arm, he was attempting to pry the Akuma’s clock out of his hands. She promptly sent slung her yoyo to it, wrapping the string around the Clock’s long metal chain. The clock was ripped from the Akuma’s hands, and Chat grabbed it, dropping it onto the ground and crushing it with his boot.

A little black butterfly emerged from the shattered glass and attempted to escape from Ladybug’s cleansing yoyo. Its little wings weren’t enough, however, and it was promptly snapped up in the magical device.

Ladybug tossed her lucky charm into the air, letting the healing magic wash over Paris. The giant shattered clock on the ground became an ordinary wristwatch, and the multiple frozen people immediately came back to life. They continued running and screaming as if nothing had happened. They probably weren’t even aware that any time had passed. After a few seconds of this, however, the civilians seemed to notice the absence of the Akuma that had been previously chasing them and slowed down, glancing over at Ladybug and Chat Noir sheepishly.

“Well, that’s that.” Chat said, readying his baton to leave.

“Wait, Chat!” Ladybug called desperately, running up to him. “Please, wait up!” He paused, turning to face her.

“I am really, really sorry, Chat. I reacted badly. Thank you for saving me,” Ladybug said, looking at the ground.

“Its fine, Ladybug.” He said flatly, “Thanks.” He turned from her and vaulted away, leaving the brokenhearted heroine standing beside the akuma victim.

 

✧✦✧

 

Tikki was released from the transformation a few minutes later, the moment Marinette dropped in through her trapdoor.

The girl let out a strangled sob, muffled against her pillow.

“Hey, Marinette! It’s gonna be ok, I promise! Whatever’s going on with Chat, I’m sure you’ll resolve it quickly!” Tikki cried, looking at her miserable charge.

Marinette sat up and wiped her eyes, “Tikki, he’s never been like this before! He’s been upset before, of course. Like when Frozer was an akuma when I was younger, he seemed really upset with me. B-but... He’s always gotten over it quickly! This time, though, he… it seemed like this has been building up for a while. He hasn’t seemed like himself around me in a while, and I don’t know what I-I’m doing wrong, Tikki!” She sobbed against her hands, “I can’t lose him, I can’t!”

In response, the little Kwami only nuzzled up against Marinette, patting her hair gently. She wasn’t sure what she could tell Marinette that would make her feel better, but she knew one thing for sure. Plagg would be getting a visit from her tonight. She had to find out why Chat was acting the way that he was. There had to be a reason behind it, right?

 

✧✦✧

 

Chat vaulted away from Ladybug, frustrated. He let his baton carry him toward the little boutique where he had left Marinette. It was a good idea to check on her, to just make sure she hadn’t been injured or gotten lost in the chaos surrounding the Akuma attack. He would give her a lift back to her house, if she wanted. Maybe they could even talk for a while.

There was something so calming about Marinette’s presence, something he couldn’t find elsewhere. He loved being around her, but it was always so awkward to approach her as Adrien. Marinette had always been especially shy around Adrien, and he couldn’t figure out why. Although he tried to be as kind to her as he could, there always seemed to be a sort of wall between them.

Among all his friends, Marinette was one of the most popular. She had always been feisty, and sweet, and funny, and everything that people loved. Even with a certain distance between them, Adrien still found Marinette to be one of his very favorite people.

Lately, though, Adrien had recognized a change in Marinette’s attitude. She was far quieter around everyone, constantly closing up on herself. She seemed to doubt every move she made, and was constantly second-guessing herself.

Maybe, as Chat, he would be able to reach her in a way that Adrien couldn’t. Maybe he would be able to tear down the walls that she had put up around herself. Maybe she could help him, too. If he was able to get to know her, and if she wasn’t as self-conscious around Chat as she was around Adrien, maybe she could lend him some of her warmth and joy.

Maybe they could be friends.

Chat touched down near the boutique’s front door and walked inside, the little bells that hung from the doorknob twinkling lightly.

After glancing around the small shop, it became apparent that there was no one there except the clerk and two women shopping together. No Marinette.

He walked quickly out of the shop and onto the open street. There was still no sign of his friend.

He could hear an ambulance just a few streets away.

Oh, god.

What if something had happened to her during the attack? What if she was on that ambulance, fighting for her life because he had failed to protect her?

Panic seized at Chat Noir’s heart, making it skip a beat. He had to find her, had to make sure she was okay.

Her house. I have to check her house before I jump to any conclusions.

Chat extended his baton, leaping away from the little boutique. He sprinted across rooftops, his heart pounding in his chest.

After a few torturous minutes, he finally dropped onto her little balcony. He knocked on the trapdoor, praying that she would open it. He waited a moment, and when he received no answer, he knocked again. “Marinette? Marinette, are you in there? Please answer me!” He practically begged.

Then, to his relief, he could hear someone fiddling with the lock. The door opened hesitantly. “Chat?”

He could feel himself relax the moment Marinette’s head popped out of the trapdoor. He let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding as he pulled her into a tight hug. He immediately pulled back, realizing that she barely knew him as Chat. They certainly weren’t on hug level yet.

“Wha… what’s wrong?” She questioned hesitantly.

He bowed his head, looking away from her eyes. “I tried to check on you after the Akuma, but you weren’t at the boutique. I… I thought something might have happened to you. Sorry for bothering you, I’ll go now that I know you’re okay.”

“W-wait!” She said, almost frantically. “I should probably thank you for saving me earlier. That nasty Akuma almost got me, so thanks for coming to my rescue.”

He looked up at her, and thought he noticed a light blush on her cheeks. He was probably imagining it though, right? Before he could get a good look, she turned around and began descending the ladder. “I’ll be right back, ok? Just wait here.”

The trapdoor shut behind her, and he was left sitting alone on her little balcony.

The balcony was cute. It seemed so… Her. There were delicate fairy lights draped around the wall and railing, as well as many flowerpots. Many of them were painted with pretty designs, probably done by Marinette herself. Most were empty, due to the cold weather, but a few of the more hardy plants still survived, adding a touch of green to the balcony. There was a soft lawn couch, as well as a chair or two. The cushions atop them were, of course, pink.

After about a minute of sitting up there, the trapdoor creaked open again. “Ugh, I really need to oil that thing. It’s so noisy,” Marinette groaned. “I brought some food, in case you were hungry. Also hot cocoa! It’s kind of chilly out, so I think it’s about time to break out the hot drinks.” She placed a tray of bakery goods onto a small table, as well as two mugs of cocoa and a blanket.

“Wow, thank you! You didn’t have to do this, you know…”

“Oh, it’s okay! It’s always nice to get a chance to talk to a friend,” she smiled.

He smiled back.

The two sat on her balcony for hours, sipping hot cocoa and talking about everything and nothing.

They discussed their favorite movies. She fangirled about Jagged stone’s latest album, and Chat told her stories about the craziest akumas. It was only once Chat noticed that they could only see by the light of street lamps and Marinette’s fairy lights that he thought about leaving. The sun had long since set. Nathalie had probably noticed his disappearance, and he had to go back home. He didn’t want to leave. He felt so happy now, with Marinette. So content.

“Marinette, thank you so much for all of this, really.” He rose to his feet, stretching.

“It was no problem at all, really. It was the least I could to. And I really enjoyed talking to you,” she said with a light smile. He thought that her smile seemed just a bit sad.

He looked at her, and when their eyes met he averted his gaze, staring intently down at the floor.

Wait, why am I blushing?

“I guess I’ll see you around then, huh?” He mumbled.

“Yeah. See you around,” She smiled, “Thanks again.”

He turned and vaulted off her balcony. With a last glance back, he saw her wave before closing the trapdoor behind her.

Why was his heart pounding so quickly in his chest?

He took a deep breath, then shook his head harshly. He had to get home, his father would be furious with him for staying out so late.

Chapter Text

It was an absolute downpour outside. Rainwater flowed down the road in torrents and the wind threw large drops against Marinette’s bedroom window, creating a loud, dull sound. Marinette was extremely thankful that school was off, seeing as it was a Sunday. She didn’t want to have to go out in this awful weather. With the harsh chill in the autumn air paired with the rain, getting to school would have been a nightmare.

Another loud blast of thunder caused Marinette to jump in her chair, her pencil’s neat line going off course, creating a harsh mark that marred her drawing. With a sigh of frustration, she ran her eraser over the ruined sketch. Marinette had been sitting at her desk for almost an hour, trying to get inspiration for some sort of design, but nothing good would come to her brain. The moment she had some free time to draw, she wasn’t able to!

With another sigh, Marinette got up and closed her sketchbook. There was no use wasting time on drawing if she was unable to produce anything worthwhile. Either way, she had other things she should be working on, so maybe her artist’s block was for the better.

After taking a look around, it came to Marinette’s attention that her room was in desperate need of a good cleaning. What better time than a dreary Sunday afternoon for such a task?

Marinette still felt somewhat drowsy, probably due to the dull greyness of the world outside, so she turned on her computer and selected a playlist full of her favorite cheerful songs to put her in a cleaning mood.

Now… what part of my room shall be my first victim?’ Marinette thought to herself, surveying her cluttered dwelling with a scowl. She opened her closet doors and studied the mess inside. A perfect place to start cleaning.

 

✧✦✧

 

Two hours and four full trash bags later, Marinette was finally satisfied. Her room was considerably neater, with drawings pinned neatly on her walls, books stacked on her desk, and clothes all folded and put away. She had cleared out Tikki’s old cookie boxes too, which had been a task all by itself.

Suddenly, Marinette was startled by her phone ringing in her pocket. She scrambled to get it out of her pocket, and saw Alya’s name flashing on the screen.

“Alya? What’s up?”

“Girl, apparently there’s an akuma right near your house! Did you see it?”

Marinette gasped, almost dropping her phone. She had to transform!

“Uh, Mari? You good? You sounded a little startled there…” Alya’s voice came through her phone.

“O-oh! Yeah I’m alright, sorry! I haven’t seen it, but I’ll be sure to let you know if I do. I May even be able to snap a few pictures for the Ladyblog and send them to you!”

“Oh girl, thanks for the offer, but I’m on my way over already to vlog it!”

Marinette sighed, rubbing her hand against the side of her face. “There’s really no need for you to do that, you vlog almost every akuma! I don’t want you to get hurt, or to get sick from the cold…” She trailed off, knowing that it was a lost cause. Once Alya was set on something, there was no stopping her.

“Ha, good one Marinette. I’m almost there already.”

“Oh, okay. Uh… my mom is calling me now, I think she needs help in the bakery. I’ll talk to you after!” Marinette said and promptly hang up.

“Tikki,” She called, rousing her kwami from her nap. “I’ve got to transform!”

The kwami whizzed over to her chosen, “Oh, it’s gonna be cold and wet out there, try to make this fight quick,” she mumbled, “It’s far harder for me to work in weather like this…”

Marinette already knew that during the cold months the ladybug kwami slowed down a bit, but she didn’t know that it was truly harder for her to hold transformations in the rain.

“Alright Tikki, I’ll make it as quick as I can! I don’t really want to get sick in weather like this either.”

“Well in that case, you know the magic words!” Tikki grinned.

Marinette transformed and climbed the ladder to her balcony, taking shelter under the overhang. She wasn’t excited about going out in this weather at all. A harsh wind sent raindrops nearly horizontal, and they pounded onto Ladybug’s cheek, feeling like tiny needles piercing her skin. Thunder rumbled, and the occasional burst of lightning lit up the street. To top it all off, there was an icy feel to the air that got under her magical suit and chilled her right to the bone. Tikki was right, it was a good idea to get this over with quickly.

She unhooked her yoyo from her waist and whizzed off the balcony to a nearby rooftop, surveying the surrounding streets. Almost immediately, she caught sight of an akuma wearing a brightly colored, sleeveless sundress. That couldn’t be too comfortable in this weather. She had her hair tied up in a pretty bun with a small butterfly-shaped clip in it.

As Ladybug watched, she noticed that the akuma had a parasol, which she pulled out and pointed at a girl. A green burst of light was sent from the tip, and the poor civilian was suddenly dressed in shorts and a tank top. She screamed and ducked into a nearby shop.

Ladybug whizzed over to the akuma, coming to a stop a few meters in front of her.

“Ah, Ladybug! What a pleasant surprise!” The akuma exclaimed, sounding uncharacteristically cheerful. “You can call me Printemps. Aren’t you tired of all this cold weather? Well, I’m here to make Paris feel like spring again!”

She then pointed her parasol at a nearby flowerbed, which lay empty. With a blast of green light, the flowerbed was suddenly full of gorgeous pink flowers.

Ladybug had to admit, this akuma wasn’t half bad.

“See?” Printemps exclaimed, giddy. “I haven’t figured out how to change the actual weather yet, but I’ll be sure to make everything look like springtime, at least!”

Ladybug had to surpress a laugh. What was the point of making things look like spring if she couldn’t get rid of the bad weather?

“Well, I’m afraid that I really must take your miraculous. This silly Hawkmoth person is requiring it if I want to keep my powers, or something like that. Seems ridiculous that he’d want to take away my powers; they’re so lovely!” She said, patting her parasol. “Speaking of my powers, you could use a makeover! I think a lovely skirt would suit you nicely.”

Before Ladybug could react, the blast of green light hit her square in the chest, knocking her back slightly. As she regained her balance, Ladybug was shocked to realize that her supersuit had been replaced with a black and red spotted skirt that went down to mid-thigh, a black tank top, and flip-flops.

How on earth am I supposed to run in this?’ Ladybug thought to herself with dismay. And to make matters worse, the cold wind was even more biting now, and she shivered. Her clothes were already mostly soaked through, chilling her to the bone.

“Oh, look who it is!” Printemps said, looking past Ladybug to a figure that had just landed behind her. “I think Chat Noir could use a makeover too!” She pointed her parasol at him and fired, but Chat easily dodged it and landed beside Ladybug. He glanced at her briefly before turning back to the akuma.

“Hey, I like what you’re going for here, but I really can’t let you continue,” Chat said to Printemps. He lunged forward toward her, but she jumped back, looking furious.

“First Hawkmoth threatens to take my powers, and now you try to as well?” She yelled, her hair flying out of its pretty bun. “How dare you?”

Again, Printemps pointed her parasol at Chat and fired. This time, though, the burst of light that emerged was a dark and angry purple. It shot through the air at Chat and hit him in the chest, sending him flying backwards into the side of a shop. He groaned, rising to his feet. “Ok, no need to get so upset…”

“Oh, there is every need! I’m trying to help make Paris beautiful, and you ungrateful heroes are trying to stop me? Well, let’s see how well that works out for you!” She fired another purple blast, hitting Ladybug in the shoulder. She was flung back, hitting the ground hard. This time, with no supersuit to minimize damage, Ladybug felt a sharp pain in her left shoulder as she hit the street. She tried to sit up, but the pain blinded her and she collapsed back down.

“Ladybug? Ladybug, are you alright?” she heard Chat’s voice call from somewhere near her. She opened her eyes and took a deep breath, forcing herself to sit up halfway. She grimaced, sharp pains shooting from her shoulder down her arm.

“I… I’m alright. Just… ugh, just give me a minute. Try to get ahold of her parasol, I think the akuma’s in there.”

Chat turned from her and once again lunged at Printemps, who spun around him and hit him in the back with another purple blast. He hit the pavement hard, and groaned again before pushing himself to his feet. He swung his baton at the akuma, hitting her in the stomach and sending her stumbling into a wall. Chat lunged for the parasol, and fear momentarily crossed Printemps’ features.

Ladybug struggled to her feet. She needed to help, despite the pain.

Suddenly, Ladybug saw a certain reckless redhead appear around a street corner. Alya pulled out her phone, and said something to the camera, turning it to face the akuma.

“Stay back!” Ladybug shouted, hoping to be heard over the pouring rain. Alya seemed to understand, and she gave Ladybug a half-nod.

Ladybug turned her attention back to Prentemps, who was firing blast after blast at Chat, who dodged them again and again.

Ladybug shivered harshly, and the movement sent a sharp pain to her left shoulder once again. It was time to end this madness.

 

✧✦✧

 

After calling for her Lucky Charm, (a hairdryer), Ladybug and Chat Noir defeated the akuma with relative ease. Chat ended up doing most of the work, leaving Ladybug slumped against a wall, cradling her hurt shoulder.

When the miraculous cure swept over Paris, it returned all the more cheerful, springtime objects back to normal, and it also replaced Ladybug’s suit. The return of the suit dulled the pain in her shoulder considerably, but not entirely.

Soon enough, the akuma, a young girl who was sad about a party being cancelled because of the storm, was taken home.

“Sorry, Chat. I was a bit useless today…” Ladybug grimaced.

“It’s fine.” Chat said, glancing at her. “I hope your shoulder feels better, but I should head home now.”

“Wait!” Ladybug called after him, and he turned around to look at her curiously. “I was thinking… I know we don’t really get to talk much. Maybe I could bring some snacks to our next patrol, and we could hang out for a bit afterwards? It’d be really nice to catch up with you…” He looked at her, an unreadable expression on his face.

“Thanks for the offer, but I’m not sure I have the time to spare. Maybe another time, Ladybug,” he said before vaulting off quickly.

Ladybug sighed, looking at the ground. His reaction hadn’t been totally unexpected, but it still hurt her.

She used her good arm to fling herself back towards her balcony, and ducked inside. She dropped her transformation, and her shoulder immediately ached again. The suit must have been dulling the pain, sense it didn’t appear that the miraculous cure had fully healed it. She was still shivering from the cold, and her hair was soaked and plastered against her skin.

Marinette decided to take a hot shower. Hopefully she wouldn’t wake up sick tomorrow, even though the odds were not in her favor on that matter.

 

✧✦✧

 

Adrien hadn’t seen Marinette at school all day, and when he’d asked Alya about it, he discovered that she was home with a fever from being outside in the rain. Seemed like something she would do, to be honest. They had been planning to study together again during lunch hour, and he wondered if she still wanted to. Adrien knew that if he were home sick, he would have wanted company. Maybe Marinette did too?

Before he could think too hard about it, he pressed ‘call’ over her name on his phone screen. It rang with no answer for a few seconds, but just when he was about to give up and cut the call, he heard someone pick up on the other end.

“Adrien?” Marinette’s voice came through.

He chucked, wondering why she sounded so shocked. “Hey, Marinette! I heard you were sick, how are you feeling?”

“Oh! Uh, I’m alright! A bit of a fever, I went out in the rain yesterday and got soaked. Pretty stupid of me, but it’s too late now.” She hesitated for a moment, “What’s up?”

“Well, if you’re up for it, we were gonna study physics today, remember? We don’t have to if you don’t feel well enough, of course. I thought you might appreciate some company, though.”

“I… I totally forgot, I’m so sorry!” She gasped, “I’d love to do that, though. This morning has been pretty boring with no school.”

“Alright, awesome! Do you wanna just meet at your house?”

“Ah, that would probably be best...”

“Great! Well, I’ll see you during lunch break then.”

After they’d hung up, Alya approached him with a sly look on her face. “You sure look happy about something, Agreste. Wanna tell me what’s up?” Why was she smirking at him like that? He didn’t really look that excited, did he?

“Oh, I was just talking to Marinette. We’re planning on meeting up later on to study.”

She replied, “Oh, well, have fun! Tell Mari ‘hi’ for me.” She smirked at him again before strutting off to join Nino, where she started excitedly telling him about something.

Why does it feel like she knows something I don’t?” Adrien thought to himself, puzzled. Shrugging it off, he hiked up his bag and began walking to his next class, unable to keep the grin off his face.

He couldn’t wait to see Marinette.

Chapter Text

“Mama?” Marinette called, climbing down her ladder on slightly shaky legs. “Do we have any extra croissants from yesterday?”

“Yes, we do. Why do you need them?”

“Adrien is coming over in a few minutes to help me with physics, I wanted to have something for him to eat…” she replied, “Is that okay?”

“Of course, love. Are you feeling better then?”

“Quite a bit better, yeah. My fever is down a bit, so I think I’ll be ok with him coming over.”

Her mother hummed in agreement, before picking up her broom and continuing to sweep.

Marinette glanced around the kitchen, furrowing her brow. After a moment, her eyes fell on a big plate which was placed, naturally, on the top shelf of a cabinet. With only slight stiffness from her shoulder, she hauled herself onto a countertop, standing on it to reach the platter.

“Marinette! Don’t do that, you’re getting your feet on the counter!” Her mother said, exasperated.

Marinette ignored her mother’s scolding, grabbing the platter and hopping down onto the floor. “I needed the plate. I’ll wipe off the counter, don’t worry.”

“Well then, you’re clearly feeling perfectly fine, if you still have the energy to sass me. Maybe we should have sent you to school after all!” Sabine scoffed, with a glint of humor in her eye.

“No mama, I have a fever,” Marinette replied easily as she piled a few croissants onto the plate. She set the platter on the table and looked at it for a moment, unsatisfied. Maybe some filling to dip the plain croissants in would help.

Would Adrien prefer chocolate sauce or marmalade?

Ah, why not both?

She began gathering the ingredients for chocolate sauce and putting them into the stand mixer.

“So, this Adrien boy, he seems… nice,” Sabine said with a sly smirk on her face.

“Ah! I mean... well, he’s very nice, yeah!” Marinette stuttered. She stared at her mother, feeling betrayed. Was she making fun of her?

“Do you and he study together often?”

“I mean, not often. This is only our second time hanging out… studying. Hanging out to study. And nothing else.”

Marinette had long sense taken down the posters of Adrien that had previously been plastered all over her room after deciding that it was too risky to keep them up. Also, it seemed a bit… stalkerish. And Marinette was not stalking Adrien. She only knew his daily schedule by heart due to casual observation.

Yes, casual observation.

So what was her mother implying…?

“Oh, of course. Nothing else at all. Just studying.” Sabine grinned, still sweeping the floor.

“Mom, we’re not- I mean, he doesn’t like me like that! We’re just friends…”

Thankfully, Sabine finally dropped the subject, turning to continue straitening up the kitchen.

After finishing the chocolate and marmalade and carefully arranging the snack on the table, Marinette retreated back to her room to wait the remaining twenty minutes until Adrien arrived. Climbing the ladder, she noticed that the pain in her shoulder had returned, throbbing with a dull, aching pain. She grabbed the ice pack which she had left on her bedroom floor, pressing it to her hurt limb. The ice was slightly melted, the outside of the bag covered in perspiration which dampened her shirt, but it was still cold enough to help.

She pulled out her phone, frowning when she noticed a few texts from Alya on her lockscreen.

---

<Alya Cesaire 12:01> Girl, Adrien told me that he’s going to your house during lunch break!

<Alya Cesaire 12:01> Were you planning on keeping this important event secret? You know I gotta know these things, it’s my sacred duty as your best friend!

---

Marinette frowned at her phone screen. She hadn’t been keeping it a secret, per say, but she didn’t exactly want the whole school to know about her and Adrien studying together. They were bound to assume things, and the last thing Marinette wanted was to embarrass Adrien. She knew that he didn’t see her in that way, and that was fine. There was no reason for her classmate’s teasing to change anything between them.

---

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 12:03> Of course I would have told you, eventually. I just kind of didn’t want everyone to know. I feel like people would make fun of him…?

<Alya Cesaire 12:04> I’ll defend you and Adrien from our classmates’ merciless teasing! Again, it’s my duty! I know there’s nothing going on between you and Adrien. At least for now…

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 12:04> What the hell is that supposed to mean???????

<Alya Cesaire 12:05> >:D

---

Marinette huffed, placing her phone face down on her desk.

This is exactly what she had been worrying about! She didn’t want people assuming things about her and Adrien’s feelings for each other when there were none. They were just friends, and Marinette would have to settle for that. No matter how much she wanted something more, Adrien wasn’t interested in anything like that. And she could live with that!

His friendship meant the world to her, even if she wanted something else. Even if she wanted to cuddle with him on the couch or hold his hand on the way to school. Even if she wanted to be able to flirt with him, and to give him little kisses on the cheek when they said goodbye. Even if she sometimes wanted to shove him against a wall and kiss him senseless-

Ah! Bad thoughts!

They were friends. Friends, and nothing else.

“Marinette! Your friend is here!” Her mother’s voice suddenly startled Marinette out of her thoughts.

“Coming!” She tossed the melted ice pack into the trash and rushed into the bathroom, where she quickly checked her makeup and pulled back her hair into a bun on the top of her head. Opening the trapdoor, she climbed down the ladder slowly. She still didn’t feel like herself, but that wasn’t worth dwelling on.

When Marinette came down the stairs into the kitchen, Adrien was talking cheerfully with her mother. She stood there in the doorway for a moment, not wanting to break up their conversation, before Adrien seemed to notice her presence.

“Oh, hey Marinette!” He said, smiling at her. “How are you feeling?”

“Quite a bit better, thanks! U-uh, I got some croissants if you want them! Its lunchtime, so I thought you might be hungry. Unless you’ve already eaten, that is...?” She trailed off, looking at him sheepishly.

“This is perfect, Marinette! Thank you so much,” He said, sitting down at the table and taking a croissant. “We can eat and hang out for a few minutes, then we can start studying. Is that fine?”

“That sounds perfect,” she agreed, sitting down across from him and grabbing a croissant of her own.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, eating their croissants, before Adrien finished his and glanced up at her.

“You know what? If it’s alright with you, I think we should ditch the physics for today. School is no fun while you’re sick, and plus my brain is kinda fried anyway.”

Did he not want to hang out with her anymore? She couldn’t exactly blame him, he probably had better things to do than do physics with his random sick friend.

“I understand! Thanks for coming over, anyway. I hope you enjoyed the croissant! Sorry for the trouble…” She said, trying to hide the disappointment in her voice.

“Oh! No! That’s… that’s not what I meant. I don’t want to leave! I mean, unless you want me to? If you’d rather me leave, that’s fine too. I totally understand.”

“You wanted to stay? But I thought…”

“No! I mean, yes! I wanted to stay,” Adrien laughed nervously, “Sorry, that was a bit confusing, huh? I meant that if you wanted to, we could do something other than physics?”

“Oh! Sorry, I’d love for you to stay! I didn’t mean to imply that I didn’t want you to, I’d actually like that a lot. If you want.” She paused for a moment, daring to glance up at him and catch his eye. “Erm, so… what do you wanna do? I’ve got movies, art projects, video games… lots of stuff, actually.”

“Do you still play Ultimate Mecha Strike?” He asked with a glint in his eye.

“Um, of course I still play Ultimate Mecha Strike!” She grinned, “That’s not a game you can just get bored of.”

“Well then, what do you say to a match? Me verses you? I remember you being pretty good, but I’d like to think that I’ve improved since then. Maybe I have a chance this time,” He laughed.

“Oh, you’re on! There’s no beating me at this game.”

Adrien smirked at her, and her heart skipped a beat in her chest. “Watch me.”

 

✧✦✧

 

Adrien flopped back on the couch, defeated. He’d just lost a sixth round of Ultimate Mecha Strike against Marinette, and despite his initial confidence, he had to admit that he was still nowhere near the level of skill with which his friend played the game. It certainly didn’t help, though, that Adrien was constantly being distracted by watching her face as she concentrated intently on the game. He wasn’t trying to look, really. It just… happened. He was inexplicably drawn to her, and the more time he spent around her, the more addicted he became.

“Ha!” Marinette gloated, looking down at him from her perch on the couch’s armrest, “I told you there was no beating me!”

“Alright, alright. You win. Apparently I haven’t improved as much as I thought,” Adrien replied, scowling at his controller.

“You were still really good, though. I’ve had a lot of practice, my dad and I play together a lot.” She said, adjusting herself on the armrest so that she was facing him.

“Yeah, that must be nice…” Adrien said.

He practically laughed at the idea of his father playing a video game with him. The idea of that was almost ridiculous. Did normal families play video games together? Did normal dads actually spend time with their children? Marinette’s did, obviously. It struck Adrien how different his family’s dynamic was than Marinette’s. In Marinette’s family, they ate meals together, they talked, and they played video games. Marinette helped her parents in the bakery often, he knew. Her parents actually trusted her to help them. His father would have never even considered letting Adrien help him. The idea was almost laughable.

“Your parents are really nice, you know.” Adrien said quietly, sitting up to face her.

“Oh, I guess they are. Why… Why do you say?”

“I don’t know. I was talking to your mom before you came down, and she just seemed so friendly. She didn’t really seem to care that I’m… You know.”

“I don’t know, actually.” Marinette said.

Adrien stared down at his hands, trying to find the right words to say. “People usually act differently around me because of my father. And probably because they occasionally see my face on a billboard or magazine cover. So it was nice, talking to your mom. She was just effortlessly nice. She made me comfortable. And your dad seems pretty awesome too. He plays Mecha Strike with you, so…”

Marinette laughed softly. “Yeah, I guess he does. They are pretty great. I probably take them for granted sometimes, actually.”

Adrien smiled lightly, glancing up to meet her eyes. “We all do that, though, I guess. We fail to notice things that are right in front of us. Things, or people, that make us happy. I know I do.”

 Marinette looked at him with an unidentifiable emotion shining in her eyes. Maybe it was more than one emotion, he couldn’t be sure.

They were close together, he realized somewhere in the back of his mind, with his arm brushing lightly against hers on the couch and their knees touching. They were turned toward each other, each looking into the other’s eyes. What did he do with this? He couldn’t break her gaze, he didn’t want to. He wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore.

And then, she looked away. She broke his gaze, turning away from him and standing up.

“Uhm, w-” she paused and cleared her throat. “Well, it’s probably time for you to go back to school… Lunch break is almost over.” She said, sounding oddly strained.

“Oh.” He blinked hard, trying to get himself to think straight. What was wrong with him? “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He stood too, and walked over to retrieve his backpack where he’d hung it over a kitchen chair.

“Thanks for coming over, Adrien. I had a lot of fun. You kept me from being bored all day, so uh. Thanks.”

She still sounded odd, but that wasn’t something to dwell on.

“Yeah. Uh, no problem. I had a lot of fun too! Nino had detention, so it was the best thing I had to do anyway.”

He looked up at her, and was alarmed to see a look of dismay cross her features.

“I mean! Not that I didn’t want to be here. That’s not what I meant at all, sorry. I actually really did want to be here! I had a lot of fun.” He stammered, blushing furiously.

She laughed nervously. “It’s fine, I know what you mean. I had fun too. Thanks for coming.”

Adrien smiled, pulling open the door. After saying one last goodbye, he turned the corner and was out of view from the bakery. As soon as the little building was out of sight, though, he turned around, gazing back toward it with a blush still spreading over his features.

Suddenly, Plagg whizzed out from under his shirt with a big smirk plastered all over his face.

“What on earth was that, loverboy?”

Adrien exhaled sharply, casting a withering look at his kwami. “Would you shut up, Plagg?”

“What, are you in denial? Keep in mind, I was inside your jacket. I could literally feel how fast your heart was beating when you were beside her on the couch.” When Adrien blushed again, Plagg grinned evilly. “You wanted to kiss her, didn’t you?”

“I- No! I wouldn’t- I mean, of course I didn’t want to kiss her. She would hate me. And either way, I don’t-”

Plagg cut him off abruptly. “Oh? I dare you to finish that sentence. You don’t what? I can tell you like her, dumbass. You just need to get it through your own head.”

Adrien shook his head, walking faster. “Shut up, Plagg.”

Chapter Text

Tikki peered over at Marinette’s sleeping form. Her chosen had been unable to sleep for a few hours, just lying in bed staring at the ceiling, checking her phone every now and then. Finally, though, Marinette had gone to sleep. She now lay under a soft grey blanket, her back rising and falling with slow, steady breaths.

Now was Tikki’s chance.

She wouldn’t usually sneak off like this. She hated betraying her chosen’s trust more than anything.

Tikki knew that Marinette, with her strong sense of pride, would not be happy about her intervention. But she knew that something had to be done about the situation between Ladybug and Chat Noir.

Marinette was trying, Tikki knew. She was trying to regain Chat’s trust. But Chat wasn’t receptive, and their teamwork was suffering. The two heroes had never been so far apart emotionally, and Tikki knew that this distance was effecting Marinette greatly. Due to the emotional connection between chosen and kwami, Tikki was having more and more trouble getting Ladybug’s powers to work properly. Thus far, there had been no issues with cleansing akumas, but that was bound to change soon if things continued the way they were.

That was why Tikki had to visit Plagg tonight. Perhaps her fellow kwami would be able to talk some sense into Chat. Into Adrien.

The little red kwami silently phased through a window and took a deep breath of the night air. She sent out her consciousness, searching for Plagg. She knew who his chosen was, but she couldn’t quite recall where he lived. Paris was a big city.

Tikki could sense him not too far away, however. She followed the invisible trail that would lead her to Plagg, flying above the Paris skyline. Even though it was dark out, she couldn’t risk being seen. It was better to stick to the rooftops.

Soon enough, she arrived at the Agreste Mansion. She recognized it at once, immediately zipping over to Adrien’s window. She phased through after carefully checking to make sure that the boy was asleep.

“Plagg?” She whispered as quietly as she could as she slowly drifted around the large room.

All of a sudden, the little cat-like kwami whizzed down from a small balcony with a magnificent grin on his face. “Oh, Sugarcube! I knew I sensed you around!”

Tikki shushed Plagg harshly, slapping her little paw over the other Kwami’s mouth. “Be quiet, you’ll wake Adrien up! And don’t call me that.” she said with a glare.

Plagg rolled his eyes, ducking out of under her paw. “Oh, come on, Sugarcube, there’s no need to be so grumpy. I was just happy to see youuuuu!”

Tikki sent him another glare. “I’m actually here for rather important business, so if you wouldn’t mind?” She said, leading him over to a corner out of earshot of the sleeping Adrien.

“Chat Noir is being horrible to Ladybug,” She said bluntly, crossing her arms. “He refuses to speak to her unless he has to, and he’s making her feel awful! I’m actually beginning to have trouble with her powers due to her emotional state, thanks to Chat! Would you please explain what is going on with him?”

Plagg’s grin fell away from his face as she spoke. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said, “You’re saying that Chat is being rude to Ladybug?”

“Yes…?”

“No, you’ve got it backwards. Ladybug rejected Chat. She broke his heart, Tikki! He’s just trying to protect himself!”

“What?” Tikki said, shocked. “Chat is pushing Ladybug away! She still wants to be friends, she never wanted to lose him like this!”

“Yeah? Well, if you ask me, she’s going about it pretty badly. Chat is putting up walls because he doesn’t want to be hurt again!”

“You know that they could have never worked out. She doesn’t love him, Plagg,” Tikki said, her expression softening.

“Oh really?” Plagg said, looking pointedly over at Adrien’s sleeping form. “Because I’m pretty sure that she does! If they would just reveal themselves…”

No, Plagg! You know that that can never happen! It puts them both in danger, as well as their loved ones. It’s too great a risk.”

Plagg rolled his eyes. “That’s the same excuse you’ve been using for millennia.”

“Because it’s true! Rules like these are incredibly important, Plagg.”

“Yeah, and rules are made to be broken. Every one of our chosens have been different and needed different things. This rule isn’t working for these two! Why can’t you see that?”

Tikki turned away from him harshly. “This conversation clearly isn’t going anywhere. I should be getting back to Marinette.”

Plagg shrugged. “You’re taking the rules too far, as usual. Just let me know when you decide to see sense.”

Without saying goodbye, Tikki phased back out onto the open street. She wasn’t seeing sense? Plagg was the one not seeing sense! Rules like these were important, and they protected people. It just wasn’t smart for Marinette and Adrien to reveal themselves. It could only end badly.

 

✧✦✧

 

Marinette jogged up the school steps on her way to the first class of the day. Her fever had disappeared overnight, making her able to return to school having only missed two days. She was right on time for class, thankfully. She didn’t need to start her return to school by being late.

She dropped her bag off at her desk, noting that Adrien hadn’t arrived yet. His spot next to hers lay empty.

Marinette made her way over to Alya, who was chatting with Nino and Rose. Upon seeing her best friend, Alya shoved past Nino and threw her arms around her.

“Ahh, Mari! You’re back, finally!” She said dramatically, draping her arms around Marinette’s shoulders and slumping over her. “You have no idea how hard it was without you. I barely survived.”

“Ha, right,” Marinette said, playfully shoving Alya off of her. Alya laughed as she shoulder-bumped Marinette.

“But for real girl, I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Thanks, Alya,” She said, glancing over at Nino and Rose. “How are you guys?”

“Not too bad,” Nino grinned, and Rose nodded in agreement.

At that exact moment, though, Mrs. Bustier interrupted, saying “Alright, class! Take a seat, we’ve got quite a bit to go over and very little time to do it.”

Everyone took their seats as Mrs. Bustier spoke. Marinette looked sadly at Adrien’s empty seat beside her. He was still nowhere to be found. She pulled out her phone, discreetly hiding it under the desk so she could text Alya.

---

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 8:08> Do you know where Adrien is?

<Alya Cesare 8:09> Nino said that he had some sort of modeling thing going on. You miss him??????

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 8:09> Nope! Just curious.

<Alya Cesare 8:09> Whatever you say, girlie ;)

 

✧✦✧

 

Adrien flopped onto his bed, exhausted. His father had made him stay all day at a charity event to talk to people who could help him get even bigger, better modeling opportunities. Or, in his father’s words, to ‘make connections’. As if his current modeling schedule wasn’t enough.

And then, to top his awful day off, an Akuma had shown up while he was on his way home. He’d convinced his bodyguard to pull over at a store so that he could use the restroom, where he transformed and fought the horse-themed Akuma. Seeing Ladybug was the last thing he had needed, though, and it only succeeded in putting him in worse mood.

Adrien dimly noted that it had gotten mostly dark outside. Street lights had already come on, and the sun was fast disappearing behind the Paris skyline. He could just call it a night and go to sleep, even though it wasn’t his normal bedtime. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.

He jumped sharply when, all of a sudden, his phone buzzed in his back pocket. He pulled it out, fully prepared to just ignore whoever was texting him.

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:48> Hey Adrien! Mrs. Bustier asked me to tell you about the homework for today. We have to read pages 115-150 in history, and fill out worksheets 4 and 5 for physics.

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:49> Oh, and in English we have to read chapter 8.

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:49> Sorry for bothering you…

---

Oh, Marinette. He could handle Marinette. She was relaxing to talk to, and texting her for a while could be nice. He could certainly use some of her kindness right now... It was a stark contrast from the cold professionalism that he’d been dealing with all day.

---

<Adrien Agreste 7:51> No no you’re not bothering me! Thanks for giving me the homework.

<Adrien Agreste 7:52> How was school? I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to go!

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:52> Thank you! It was pretty good. Everyone missed you haha

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:53> How was… wherever you were?

<Adrien Agreste 7:54> Oh, it was alright. Thanks.

---

There was a long pause before her next reply, and when it finally came, he found himself feeling unreasonably disappointed.

---

<Marinette Dupain Cheng 7:57> Hey, I’m really sorry, but my mom wants me to put my phone away now. She discovered something from one of her health podcasts about how the light from electronics is bad for sleeping or something like that…

<Marinette Dupain Cheng 7:57> As if I was going to sleep this early lol

<Marinette Dupain Cheng 7:57> See you tomorrow?

<Adrien Agreste 7:54> Yep, Sleep well!

<Marinette Dupain Cheng 7:57> :D

---

Why did he feel so disappointed? He shouldn’t care. He’d seen her barely two days ago, and he was going to see her tomorrow morning at school anyway!

But… School was different. They barely got to talk properly. Just quiet whispers during class, or short snippets of conversations during breaks.

She had said that she didn’t plan on going to sleep yet. Visiting her as Chat couldn’t hurt, could it?

No, no, no. That was greedy; she probably didn’t want to deal with Chat Noir right now. And it was kind of weird to show up on girls’ balconies in the dead of night. Not like he was planning on anything like that, but still. It felt wrong.

But he had payed her visits before, and she hadn’t seemed to mind…

Adrien wanted to see her; he’d missed being around her at school today, and the few texts they’d exchanged didn’t feel like enough. Not when she was so close, just a few streets over. A two-minute jog as Chat.

“Hey, Plagg?”

“Mmm?”

“Can we transform?”

“Wha- Why?” Plagg said, clearly a little ticked off, “There’s no Akuma, is there now? I though you said you were tired!”

“I am, that’s why we need to transform. I want to see Marinette. She’s… calming. Or something.”

Plagg rolled his eyes, “Okay, loverboy. But I’m gonna need a lot of extra cheese when we get back.”

“Deal. And don’t call me that.”

Adrien called for his transformation and left his room through a window, closing it quietly behind him. He jogged along the silent rooftops toward Marinette’s house, and, soon enough, saw the familiar balcony. Using his staff, he vaulted onto the terrace and landed with a soft thump. Suddenly, a startled squeal and a crash came from inside Marinette’s room, and Chat realized that he’d probably scared her. Should he knock? Call her name? Leave?  Maybe leaving would be better. He had known this was a bad idea!

But his desire to see her outweighed his embarrassment, and he finally decided that he should at least make sure she was alright. It sounded like she’d fallen out of her chair a moment ago, and it seemed rude to leave without at least making sure she wasn’t hurt or anything. Maybe he could stay for a while after that.

“Uh… Marinette? Are you okay in there?” He said, leaning down to the trapdoor. “It’s just me, sorry if I scared you.”

Suddenly, the trapdoor swung open, smacking him on the top of his head and sending him toppling onto his side with a grunt. He sat up, rubbing his head, and saw Marinette’s horrified-looking face peering out from the door.

“Oh my god! Chat! I am so sorry!” She said, quickly pulling herself onto the balcony. She crouched down beside him, gently taking his wrist and moving his hand off of the side of his head.

“It doesn’t look like there’s any blood, just a bit of a bruise. I’ll go grab some ice for that, okay? Ugh, I am so sorry. I’m awful.” As quickly as she’d come, she disappeared back through the door before he could reply.

He sat in shock on the floor, legs splayed out in front of him. His head felt fine, honestly. He probably didn’t even need ice.

Marinette reappeared through the trapdoor a few moments later with a bag of ice cubes clutched in one hand. She held it out to him. “Here, can you use this to make sure it doesn’t swell? Gosh, I am really sorry, Chat…”

“It’s fine, really! I’m the one who should be sorry; I shouldn’t have landed on your balcony uninvited. I probably scared you, huh?” he said, gingerly pressing the ice pack to his head.

Marinette laughed softly. “Maybe a bit. But I don’t mind, It’s just… the sound startled me, you know?”

“Yeah, I can imagine.”

“So, uh, why are you… I mean, do you need something?” Marinette said slowly.

“No, well, not exactly? I just wanted to see you. Sorry, I’m not sure if that’s weird… I just figured that since we’ve hung out once or twice before that it was okay? But I really should have asked you first or something,” he responded sheepishly, looking at the ground.

“It’s alright! I don’t mind at all, really. I actually appreciate that you came over just now. I always enjoy some company,” She beamed at him. Maybe he was imagining it, but he thought that her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“So…” She continued, “Do you want anything? I can get snacks, maybe?”

“Yeah, that would be great!” He was always up for snacks.

“You’re certainly excited. Are you sure you’re not just here for the snacks?”

“Oh no, you caught me,” He snorted. “Seriously, being a superhero requires some serious calorie intake.”

“I’m sure it does,” She paused briefly. “There was an akuma today, right? How was that?”

“Oh, nothing special. We defeated it, as always. There’s no getting past me,” He smirked.

Marinette snorted. “Oh? It seemed like Ladybug did most the work today, according to the Ladyblog.”

His face fell for a moment at the mention of his partner, but he quickly composed himself again. Marinette definitely didn’t need to hear about his drama with Ladybug; she had enough going on in her own life. “Yeah, well she always did like to be the boss,” He shrugged, trying hard to keep the bitterness out of his tone.

Marinette looked down at the floor, looking unreasonably disappointed. She didn’t respond, just made a soft “mmm” and continued to stare resolutely at the ground.

What had he said wrong? Desperate to stop the awkward silence, he racked his mind for something to say. “So, uh… do you wanna watch a movie or something? And get those snacks you were talking about, of course!”

She looked back up with a laugh, “I should have known you’d get stuck on the snacks. But a movie sounds nice!”

She turned around and began climbing back down the ladder to her room. Halfway down, she glanced back up at Chat, who was still sitting on the balcony, holding the ice pack to his head. “You coming?”

“Uhm… inside?”

“I thought you said you wanted to watch a movie,” She deadpanned, “you’re the one that shows up uninvited on my balcony, and now you think it’s weird that I invite you inside?”

“I mean, no? I just wasn’t expecting you to be so… welcoming, I guess.”

Marinette snorted. “Have you met my parents? The people that raised me would probably invite a complete stranger inside if the stranger was nice enough. At least you’re not a stranger! Plus, it’s cold out here. I am not in the mood to sit out on the cold, dark balcony for who knows how long.”

Chat shrugged. “I’m not complaining.”

Once Marinette had gotten to the bottom of the ladder and made her way across her room, Chat jumped straight through the trapdoor and into her room. She rolled her eyes with a laugh, “Showoff.”

Chat grinned and followed her to the chaise, which she gestured to with one hand. “You can sit here, I’m gonna go get snacks. Anything in particular you’d like?”

“Nope, surprise me!”

Once Marinette was gone, Chat took a look around the room. He had been here multiple times. Barely two days ago, even. He thought back to that day with a slight grimace. Those few minutes at the end of their hang-out had been awkward. He was going to have to keep from getting too carried away this time; Marinette didn’t need to have both Adrien and Chat getting all mushy around her.

Marinette interrupted his thoughts when she came back up through the trapdoor with a plate of various bakery goods balanced carefully on one hand. “So, what do you want to watch? All the movies I have are in here,” she said, bending to open a small cabinet under her computer. “I haven’t seen most of these in a long time; I’ve been pretty busy. So anything you pick is fine with me.”

Chat glanced over the stack of movies, his eyes immediately falling upon ‘Spirited Away’, one of his very favorite movies.

“How about this?” He said, pulling it from the stack.

“Oh, I love that movie! Good choice.” She took the movie from his hands and slid the disk into the DVD player on her computer. “We’re gonna have to watch it on here; I don’t have a real TV in my room, and I don’t think watching it downstairs is such a good idea… My parents are probably in their room by now, but I don’t want to wake them up or anything.”

“Oh, are you trying to hide me?” Chat laughed.

“I’m not trying to hide you, exactly… I just don’t want my overprotective parents to know about the furry superhero I invited into our house.”

Chat put on an exaggeratedly offended expression. “I am not a furry! And that sounds like hiding to me.”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine! I’m trying to hide you, then. And you’re totally a furry, Chat.” Ignoring his glares, she grabbed a few blankets from her bed and tossed them down to him. Once she had finished setting everything up, she sat down on the chaise next to him. “All comfy?”

Chat nodded with a grin. The blankets were fluffy and warm, and the pastries were, obviously, delicious. He was perfectly happy. There was really no better way he could have spent the evening, in his opinion.

Marinette leaned forward, using the computer mouse to play the movie. She sat back down, pulling the blankets around her and settling down next to him.

Chat was painfully aware of their proximity again. She was so close to him, their shoulders almost touching as they sat on the chaise. It’s not that he minded, exactly… He just didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. But she hadn’t moved away yet, so she obviously didn’t mind! Frowning to himself, Chat turned his attention to the movie.

 

✧✦✧

 

“Chat?” a gentle voice wormed its way into his sleepy consciousness. “Hey, Chat, wake up.”

Who was talking? He recognized the voice, but everything was slightly fuzzy in his mind.

“Chat! The movie’s over.”

Oh, Marinette. Why was Marinette here?

“It’s time for you to scram, kitty. I have to sleep.” A gentle finger poked his cheek, pulling him from his half-asleep daze. Chat Noir blearily opened his eyes to find a pair of magnificent blue ones staring into his own.

Oh, shit.

“Sorry, bud, but I’ve got school in the morning, so I really need to sleep. You do too, evidently,” Marinette said with a smirk.

“Uhg, I am so sorry,” Chat said, raising a gloved hand to rub the side of his face. “I must have drifted off there…”

Marinette snorted. “Yeah, I figured. You literally slumped onto my lap halfway through the movie. You were either asleep or dead, and I figured it was the first one. I was right, thank goodness. Chat Noir’s dead body in my bedroom would have been a hard one to explain away.”

Wait, he’d been asleep on her lap? She’d let him sleep on her lap?

“U-uh…” Chat stared at her dumbly for a moment before he managed to compose himself. “Yeah, I guess it would have been.”

“Well, Kitty, It really is time for you to head home. Or to a dumpster… wherever you live.”

“Excuse you! I do not live in a dumpster!” Chat protested.

“Well, how should I know?” Marinette shot back, grabbing his wrist and hauling him off of the chaise.

Wow, she is really strong.

She dragged him over to the ladder and pointed at it. “Out.”

“Why, Princess! Are you kicking me out?”

“…Yes? Was I not clear enough in my intensions?” she laughed.

With a dramatic sigh, he climbed out onto the balcony, where Marinette soon appeared beside him.

Chat paused to decide what to say. “Well, uh. Thanks for letting me come over! I had a good time, even if I did an awful job of showing it. Falling asleep on one’s host isn’t terribly polite.”

“Its fine, you seemed like you needed a little sleep! I, on the other hand, enjoyed the movie. Too bad you missed all the best parts.”

Chat made a pouty face at her. “Not my fault.”

“It was totally your fault. Now get out of here, Alley Cat!” Marinette made a shooing motion with her hands.

He grinned at her, turned to leave, and then paused. Should he ask? Or was that imposing? Deciding it was better to just ask, he turned back toward Marinette, who was already halfway down the ladder.

“Can I come over again sometime? Maybe to finish the movie?”

She let out an airy laugh. “Well, I already finished it! But… if you wanted to watch another one sometime, I’d be happy to do that.”

Chat let out a slight sigh of relief. He shot one last grin at her before turning and vaulting away toward his house. She had enjoyed herself! She had enjoyed herself enough, even, to let him come over again!

He heard his ring give a warning beep, and hurried a little faster toward his house. Marinette wasn’t the only one who had to wake up soon for school. Chat Noir may enjoy running around Paris rooftops in the dead of night, but Adrien Agreste had to sleep.

Chapter Text

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng, you are a full thirty minutes late! This is getting ridiculous!” Miss Bustier announced loudly as Marinette appeared through the classroom door. This morning she’d left her house in a hurry, having slept through her alarm. She had been tired, and Chat being over until the early hours certainly hadn’t helped matters.

“I’m really sorry... I, uh, I missed my alarm.” Marinette apologized profusely before making her way to her seat. As she arranged her bag, she dared to look up and catch Adrien’s eye. He smiled at her encouragingly, and she grinned back as she unloaded her pencil case. Distracted, Marinette accidentally let a few gel pens escape from her grasp and roll onto the ground with a loud clatter.

Marinette! If you’re going to arrive late, at least do it discreetly!” Miss Bustier said in an irritated tone. Marinette blushed even more profusely and scrambled to pick up the dropped items which had rolled under her desk. After collecting the last of them, all the while fighting to get her blush back under control, she rose to her feet and sat down on the bench beside Adrien. Chloe was absent, she noticed. The blonde’s usual place lay empty.

Miss Bustier had resumed her lecture. She made a note on the board before glancing at her laptop, and her mouth deepened into a frown, stretching her smile lines the wrong way.

“Well everyone, it looks like we’ll have to pause class for a while. I just received an alert from the school that there is an Akuma within a kilometer of here, so classes will be suspended until Ladybug and Chat Noir deal with it.” She closed her laptop and slid it into her bag, continuing, “Please pack up your things and exit the school in an orderly manner. For those of you that live far away, call someone to pick you up. I don’t want any of you getting near the Akuma.”

Marinette sighed and shoved her books right back into her bag. She just couldn’t settle down, could she?

The girl swung her bag over her shoulder and speed-walked out of school. As soon as she left the premises, she broke into a run along the sidewalk. She made a right turn into an alleyway a few streets down to be sure that none of her classmates would see her as they left the school. Frantically looking around the backstreet, Marinette dropped her heavy bag behind some boxes and opened her purse for her Kwami.

“Tikki, transform me!”

A pink light lit up the alleyway and when it disappeared, Ladybug stood in Marinette’s place. She unhooked her yo-yo and used it to swing onto the rooftop above, from which she could see many of the surrounding streets. Immediately, Ladybug caught sight of the Akuma, or, at least, where the Akuma had been. Huge ice spikes protruded from the ground, leaving splintered wood and brick scattered all over. The spikes had, evidently, gone through some sort of building.

Ladybug felt her face go white. If anyone had been in that building...

She sent out her yo-yo and shot forward through the air, landing on the ground near the spikes. A woman lay on the ground just a few meters away. Frantically, Ladybug rushed over to the woman and lifted her head onto her lap. Her chest was rising and falling with shallow breaths and her eyes were squeezed shut. She was alive, thank god. With horror, though, she noticed that the woman’s forearm was twisted the wrong direction.

“Someone call an ambulance!” Ladybug said, turning her head toward the few other people that were emerging warily from surrounding buildings. When she saw people getting out their phones, she turned her attention back to the woman who lay on her lap.

“Madame? Miss, please, are you alright?”

The woman’s eyes opened, though her face was still contorted with pain. “I- yes, I think so, but my arm-”

“It’s alright, it’s gonna be fine. We’ll get an ambulance here for you. You’re gonna be fine.”

The woman, who looked to be in her thirties, relaxed slightly in Ladybug’s lap. She was well dressed, with her curly black hair pulled back into a bun. By the looks of it, she probably worked in some sort of office job.

“Do you work in the building that was... affected?”

“No, no... I- I was just walking past on my way to work. I don’t know the building.”

“Did you see what happened?”

“I heard... this horrible creaking noise, and then those spikes burst out of the ground. I think some of the debris from the building hit me, but I... I’m not sure.” The woman said, adjusting herself slightly. She exhaled sharply in pain, squeezing her eyes shut again.

“It’s gonna be fine. The ambulance will be here soon...”

As if on cue, the blaring sound of an ambulance’s sirens appeared in the distance, growing closer and louder by the second. When it pulled up, two medics immediately got out, pulling a gurney through the double doors. They carried the woman onto it, and Ladybug gently clasped the woman’s hand.

“Thank you for your help. They’ll take good care of you, I promise.”

The woman smiled weakly in return as the medics loaded the gurney back onto the vehicle. One of them gave a nod and a smile to Ladybug as he slid the doors shut, climbing back inside.

After it drove away, the heroine turned to fully survey the damage. A good portion of the building was in shambles, but its windows were boarded up and there seemed to be no one inside. Just to be safe, Ladybug searched through the wreckage, but found nothing. Thank goodness. It was really lucky, after all, that the destroyed building had been vacant. If there had been anyone inside, things might have been much worse.

After hurriedly thanking the people who called the ambulance, Ladybug whizzed off to try and find the Akuma again. She had to catch it before it did any more damage!

 

✧✦✧

 

As soon as Miss Bustier dismissed the class, Adrien was gone. He’d hurriedly packed his things up and ran out of the classroom before anyone else. If he could transform before students were flooding the hallways, it would make things a lot easier. He ran into the boy’s bathroom, and after a quick glance around, knew that it was empty.

Once transformed, Chat Noir poked his head into the hallway. Immediately, he snapped his head back inside as Marinette ran past. Luckily she hadn’t seen him and was clearly very focused on whatever she was doing. She slid around the corner, disappearing into the courtyard. After one final look around, Chat deemed it safe to go out. He ran through the halls until he found an empty classroom with a window, which he opened and climbed out through.

He vaulted from rooftop to rooftop, searching for any sign on the Akuma. Eventually he paused on a roof, slipping slightly as one of the tiles broke out from under his feet. The little building wasn’t in such good shape, with the windows boarded up and weeds growing in the little flowerpots outside the windows. He quickly regained his balance and climbed up, searching for any sign of the Akuma.

Suddenly, a horrible creaking sound came from somewhere below him. It sounded something like pipes bursting: a loud, popping, squeaky noise.

And then he heard the wood and bricks being torn to pieces below him. He had no time to react other than to reach for his baton before an icy spike displaced the roof under his feet, sending him flying into a house on the other side of the street. He slammed into the solid wall of brick and collapsed onto the ground with a groan. His eyes were squeezed shut, his baton held up defensively, but the street was virtually silent now.

He opened up his eyes warily and saw about six huge, icy pillars towering into the sky. They reached above many of the buildings, casting a cold shadow on the street.

Suddenly, he saw Ladybug’s bullet-like form whizzing through the sky, using her yo-yo to propel herself toward the destroyed building. She landed forcefully and immediately ran towards something on the ground. No, not something. Someone. A woman lay on the ground, but she was moving slightly. She was conscious, at least, and Chat was sure that Ladybug was more than capable of dealing with that situation.

He, on the other hand, had to find that Akuma. It was able to rip a whole building to pieces in a matter of seconds, and Chat didn’t want to know what else it could do if left unchecked.

He vaulted high into the air and onto one of the icy protrusions. It was completely solid, and so cold that it made the air around it feel chilled. He could see his breath and even feel the cold through his suit. In fact, he noted, the ice seemed to be actually freezing his boots: a thin frost crept upwards from the soles of his feet and around his ankles.

Deciding it wasn’t such a good idea to touch it, Chat vaulted off of the ice and onto a nearby rooftop, which was also gradually being covered in frost from the ice spikes.

Damn, how cold are those things?

After examining the ice for a moment more, Chat used his baton to carry himself over the rooftops, searching for any sign of the Akuma. Maybe it was just his imagination, but Chat thought that streets felt eery and the crisp morning air seemed to have taken on a new chill. Below, he saw a mother shepherding her two children into a duplex and a few people walking hurriedly down the street, presumably in an effort to avoid the Akuma. The Akuma, however, was nowhere to be found. With the last few pedestrians making their way to shelter, the small residential street where Chat stood was left virtually deserted.

He turned his head abruptly as a sharp whizzing noise alerted him to Ladybug’s approach. She landed a few feet behind him with barely a sound, placing her yo-yo back on her hip. With a nod and a tense smile, she walked up beside Chat as he turned his gaze back to the front, having barely acknowledged her presence.

She cleared her throat softly. “Uhm... so, any sign of the Akuma?” He shook his head, still looking away from her. After a moment, she continued awkwardly, “There was a destroyed building back there. Giant spears of ice had gone straight through it. There was no one inside, thank goodness, but one woman was hurt by debris. A broken arm and light concussion, probably, but I’m no doctor.”

Chat nodded again, saying, “Yeah, I saw. I was looking for the Akuma, but I haven’t seen any sign of it yet.”

“It seems really powerful; we’ve got to find it before it seriously hurts someone.”

“I agree, but how?” He asked, frustration evident in his voice. “We haven’t even seen it yet, only its powers in action. We have no idea what it looks like... It could be anywhere!”

She gave a stiff laugh. “Ladybugs aren’t very good trackers, I thought that was the cat’s job!”

“Yeah, well I’ve been trying, and haven’t exactly had much luck.” Chat began to walk down the slanted edge of the roof, stopping just above a small balcony. He jumped down onto it and peered down into the mostly-empty flowerpots that sat on the wooden floor. The rainwater which had pooled in the pots had entirely frozen over. He ran his clawed finger along the railing of the balcony, only to find that it was also covered in a layer of frost.

He looked up at Ladybug, who still stood on the rooftop above. “It’s all frozen over. It looks like the ice from those spikes is spreading and getting on everything.”

“It’s really cold enough to do that?”

Chat shrugged. “Maybe, or maybe it’s just part of the magic. Either way, it’s no good.” Ladybug nodded in agreement, and Chat continued, “I say we should split up and look for any sign of it. Use your communicator to call me if you find any sign of it.”

Ladybug looked like she wanted to protest, but seemed to think better of it. She gave one more nod and, with that, unhooked her yo-yo and shot off.

 

✧✦✧

 

Nearly an hour later, Chat Noir had searched every road, every little alleyway and backstreet, in the miles surrounding the first ice spikes. The only other damage done by the Akuma seemed to be in the park, where a water fountain had exploded into icy shards, much like the ones that had destroyed the building. Now he stood by the Louvre pyramid, surrounded by what seemed to be a small army of news reporters.

“Chat Noir, have you stopped the Akuma?” Demanded a small woman wearing a rather badly-tailored business suit.

“Where is the Akuma now?” Another reporter, a tall, salt-and-pepper-haired man, asked as he held a microphone out to Chat.

“If you haven’t caught it, does that mean we are all still at risk?” Alya shoved to the forefront of the crowd, holding out her cell phone to record.

Chat held up his hands, attempting to slow down the flood of questions. “I haven’t been able to find any sign of the Akuma since the original incidents. We ask that you all please stay in safe places until this is resolved. If anyone sees a sign of the Akuma, please report it and stay far away. Don’t ever-” Chat paused when he felt is baton vibrate in his hand, signaling a call from Ladybug. “Uh, that’s really all I have time for right now. Stay cool!” He winked at the crowd before vaulting away.

Once he was out of eyesight of the crowd, Chat opened his baton. “What’s going on?”

“I’m at the Bourgeois Hotel and... I could use your help.” 

 

✧✦✧

 

Ladybug ran her hand along the ice sealing the huge glass doors of the Bourgeois Hotel shut. It was just like the ice spikes had been: as she held her gloved hand against it, frost crept up her fingers and towards her wrist. She pulled her hand back quickly, clenching it into a fist to break the thin layer of ice which coated her joints.

Ladybug frowned tightly, walking a few steps back into the street to allow herself a fuller view of the Hotel. A thick layer of bluish ice encased the whole building, trapping hundreds of people inside. Hundreds of people who, despite her’s and the police’s best efforts, could not be contacted. They had tried calling the hotel, only to be sent straight to voicemail. The police chief had tried using his megaphone to talk to the people inside, but there had been no audible response. One officer had even tried emailing the front desk, but he had yet to receive a reply.

“I bet the ice is somehow blocking the signals, and that’s why we can’t call or email them,” said a young policeman who had walked up to stand beside Ladybug.

“That could be it,” the heroine agreed. She turned sharply when Chat Noir dropped down a few  meters from her. He straightened, looking up at the ice-covered Hotel. His mouth hung slightly open as he took in the imposing sight.

“There are people in there?” He asked, glancing over at Ladybug.

“We think so. There’s not really anywhere else they could have gone, anyway, but they haven’t replied to any of our attempts to contact them...”

“Catacly-”

“No!” Ladybug grabbed his raised hand before he could finish calling upon his power. “I’m not sure how the ice will respond to cataclysm. We shouldn’t risk wasting your transformation this early on, and either way, we’re gonna need to use your powers later. I have a plan,” She said frantically.

Chat yanked his hand out of her grip as if he had been burned. Ladybug drew her hands to her chest, taking a step backwards. What had she done wrong? He stared at her oddly, his brows furrowed. “Okay then, let’s hear it.”

“U-uhm... well, I was just thinking... There’s tunnels under the city, right? If we can find one that goes under the hotel, you can cataclysm us through the floor and inside.”

Chat frowned in consideration. “I guess so, yeah.”

“Great!” Ladybug pulled out her yo-yo, using it to bring up a map of the Paris tunnel system. “Wow, this is confusing,” she laughed. After a few moments of concentration, she managed to find a tunnel that did seem to lead under the Hotel.

“Okay, follow me,” Ladybug said, her confidence returning. This was a solid plan! The heroine walked a street over, eventually crouching over a manhole in the middle of the road. “According to my map, this is the entrance that should lead under the hotel.”

Chat nodded and hooked his fingers around the grip. He dragged the metal cover away from the opening, revealing a ladder of that lead into the ground. Ladybug wrinkled her nose at the musty odor coming from the manhole. “Do you think it’s sewage?”

“I doubt it... It’s more likely just a drainage tunnel that has collected debris and trash from the streets along with the rainwater.”

“And that is why we don’t litter,” Ladybug grimaced. “Gross.”

Chat lowered his body into the manhole, gripping the metal rungs of the ladder tightly. Ladybug watched him descend until his black suit melted into the darkness of the tunnel and she could no longer see him. After a few moments of waiting, though, she heard a light splash and Chat called up, “Okay, I’m in.”

Ladybug clambered into the manhole, hands sliding on the damp rungs of the ladder. She lowered herself down until she felt her feet meet the more-or-less solid ground. The concrete tunnel was filled with ice cold water up to her knees, and, as Chat has predicted, trash. Lots of trash. She couldn’t see it, exactly, but when she moved her feet she could feel things floating in the water. Yuck. 

Blinking a few times, she attempted to adjust her eyes to the low light.

“Ugh, I can barely see anything,” she muttered, the sound echoing oddly around the tunnel.

Ladybug thought she heard Chat sigh. “Here, take my hand. I can see,” he said, and she felt his clawed hand close around her own. She sucked in her breath unintentionally at the sudden contact, but forced herself to relax, giving Chat’s hand a light squeeze.

“Okay, you tell me which way we’re going,” Chat said.

“The tunnel should go to the right for a few hundred feet before making two branches. Take the one on the ri- er, left,” Ladybug replied, examining the lit-up map on her yoyo. Chat waded through the water, pulling her behind him. The frigid water sloshed around her legs, making her toes go slightly numb and tingly. Ladybugs just aren’t cut out for the cold.

“Okay, one more left,” The heroine directed as she watched the little ladybug representing her location move through the tunnels. As they neared the hotel, the water seemed to grow even colder and every step they took made a cracking sound due to the ice that was forming over its surface. Ladybug’s legs were entirely numb at this point, and each time her foot touched the ground sent pain like sharp needles through her skin.

After a few more minutes of stumbling awkwardly through the dark, she finally saw the ladybug icon arrive right under the hotel.

“Stop here,” She ordered. Chat paused, letting go of her hand immediately. The air somehow felt colder without his touch, and she shivered. “Uh... Can you get us through here? We should be right under the hotel.”

Chat raised his arm to the ceiling, finding that he could touch it easily without standing on his toes. “Cataclysm,” He called, and pressed his hand into the concrete. It crumbled to dust at his touch, the bigger pieces dropping into the water with little splashes, and powder fluffing around them in the small space. As the layers of concrete crumbled away, bright light illuminated the tunnel. Ladybug jerked back, blinking rapidly to adjust her eyes to the sudden daylight.

Chat extended his baton and jumped up through the hole, with Ladybug following close behind. They stood in what looked to be a banquet hall, completely deserted. Chat ducked into a side room to detransform and recharge his Kwami. While he was gone, Ladybug stood still, looking around her at the scene.

Everything was covered thinly in ice, tinting the world blue and silver. It was kind of beautiful, Ladybug thought. Scary, too. Forces like these were dangerous.

After a few minutes, Ladybug tried to take a step and found herself unable to move. Shocked, her gaze shot to her feet, where ice was creeping up around her ankles. It had frozen her to the ground! After a few tries, she managed to break her right foot out of its shell. Using that foot, she stomped on the ice around the other, breaking it to pieces.

“Chat, don’t stop moving! You’ll freeze to anything you touch for too long!”

The heroes made their way through the hotel, searching for any sign of the Akuma. As they traveled, they occasionally came across a hotel-goer or a worker. They were all trapped in ice, unmoving. It looked as if the ice had come incredibly quickly, since they were all frozen in action. Some people were carrying trays of food. Others stood, waiting for an elevator with impatient looks on their faces. There was a small line of people waiting to check into their rooms at the front desk.

The first time Ladybug came across a person, she had desperately clawed at the ice, hit it, and chipped at it with her yo-yo. Anything to break the ice and release the person inside. Nothing worked, though. The ice was as solid as diamonds, unbreakable and unmoving. 

After splitting up and covering most of the first floor, the heroes had reconvened at the grande staircase in the lobby.

“I was hoping the elevators would work so we wouldn’t have to try and climb up an icy staircase, but no luck.” Ladybug frowned. “The elevators were jammed up and wouldn’t even open, so I guess we’re taking the stairs.” Chat gave no response.

She gripped the railing and pulled herself up, placing each foot carefully to prevent any slips. “hah, this is pathetic,” Ladybug laughed nervously. “The heroes of Paris can barely get up a staircase.”

The girl paused and frowned again. It was starting to feel like she was talking to herself!

“Chat? Are you going to ignore everything I say?”

He stopped walking and looked at her, eyebrows raised. “We’re not here to chit-chat...” He paused, frowning at the accidental pun, before continuing, “We’re here on a job, as you always liked to remind me.”

Ladybug recoiled, hurt by the sharp words. Is that how she seemed to him?

“Chat...” she trailed off, watching him return his attention to climbing. Everything she said was lost. How could she get through to him like this?

Finally, the heroes arrived at the top of the staircase. Chat turned to the left and made his way down a hallway, so Ladybug took the right hall. As she walked, she passed one or two icy people. There were doors on either side of the hall, but they were sealed with ice just like every doorway in the hotel. So she walked straight down the hallway, looking for any room without a door blocking the entrance.

As she rounded a corner, Ladybug found herself in some sort of ballroom. The golden chandelier dripped with ice-sickles and the dance floor looked more like a skating rink. All around the room were people, trapped in ice where they stood. Some danced, their clothes frozen in motion. The tables around the floor were set beautifully with crystal glasses and china plates, the edges of which were painted gold. The water in the flowerpots at the center of each table had also exploded into spikes, the rose petals trapped in shards of glassy ice. Some people still sat at the tables. One woman had a little girl sitting on her lap, playing with her feathery earrings.

Ladybug turned around, taking in the scene. It was like some sort of tragic painting... Beautiful, in a sort of terrifying way.

Still, though, this room held no sign of the Akuma. The only living things in here were the frozen party-goers, and the only sound was that of Ladybug’s rapidly beating heart.

Chapter Text

“So the only way to get to the top floor is with an elevator?” Ladybug said in disbelief. “Isn’t that a fire hazard or something?”

“There’s probably a fire escape outside,” Chat responded. “Although I’m not in the mood to go back down all those stairs only to come back up the fire escape. How about I cataclysm the elevator door and we climb up the shaft?”

Ladybug nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I think that’ll work.”

Chat called on his power for the second time, and as soon as the door crumbled, Ladybug swung through the opening and up the empty shaft. Chat followed with his baton, ignoring his ring’s warning beep.

The fifth floor is just Chloe’s room, so it shouldn’t take as long to search, he reasoned.  I’ll be able to recharge afterwards.

Chat rose into a huge room, decorated with pink satin and gold-plated ornaments. Chloe’s bedroom. He had been in here countless times due to Adrien’s and Chloe’s long friendship. Chat could remember being in here as a little boy, back when he still enjoyed his entitled friend’s company. Back when he didn’t mind being bossed around quite so much.

As he looked around, he thought that he could feel a slight bite to the air, even colder than it had been on the previous floors. After a quick glance at Ladybug, he confirmed that she felt it too, her arms wrapped around her shoulders in an attempt to suppress her shivers. She turned to him, teeth chattering.

“Chat, there’s no one in here. Let’s head out for a short break to feed our Kwamis and warm up. I really don’t know how much longer I can last in this weather.”

Chat nodded. It was already well into the afternoon and he had to recharge his power anyway.

“Okay, we’ll split up and rest for a few minutes.”

Ladybug broke the ice off her feet and jumped stiffly down the elevator shaft, leaving Chat alone in Chloe’s room. His ring beeped frantically, and since there was no one around, he let the transformation drop. Without his suit, the air was even colder. It bit into his exposed skin, leaving a sharp tingling sensation.

“Geez, Adrien! Where are we, a freezer?” Plagg squeaked.

“Ugh, It didn’t feel this bad with the suit on!”

“Yeah, Cats have a thick coat to protect from the cold, something that is reflected in your suit’s powers. Humans only have very minimal body hair. An evolutionary flaw, in my opinion. Where’s my Camembert?”

Adrien sighed, providing the little god with his cheese. “Eat quickly, I want to transform and get someplace warm.”

Plagg was more than happy to comply, shoving the cheese into his mouth with alarming speed. Suddenly, he paused, darting into Adrien’s jacket without a word. The teen turned quickly to find a familiar figure standing in the doorway to the huge closet.

Ch-Chloe?!” He said, sucking in breath sharply.

If this was indeed Chloe, she looked nothing like girl he knew. The only similarities were the piercing blue eyes and slender form. The figure’s flesh had turned clear and blue and her hair had been replaced with steam, cascading over her shoulders and pooling at her feet. It wasn’t unlike the steam that comes from a bucket of dry ice. Every feature of the Akuma was smooth, and the light glinted off its face like the bright sun on a snowy day. Adrien blinked and stepped back quickly, stumbling over his own feet.

“Adrikins,” the Akuma said. It was almost Chloe’s voice, but it sounded colder somehow, echoing off of the walls and startling Adrien with the chill that it possessed.

The Akuma smiled coldly. “I’m glad you’re here. I was beginning to get lonely... The people here aren’t much fun when they’re frozen.” She walked slowly toward him, every movement she made producing a crackling sound.

Adrien took another step back, only to find himself pressed against a wall. The Akuma continued walking until she was just a few feet from him. He could feel the chill radiating out from her.

“Chloe, what are-” Adrien attempted.

“Ah, ah, ah!” The Akuma chided, taking another step closer. She lifted her icy hand and pressed her finger against his mouth. His lips burned at the contact, so cold that it felt like touching a hot iron. He flinched away as the Akuma continued, “I don’t go by that anymore. Call me Frostia.”

“O-okay.”

How was he supposed to get out of this? Ladybug was gone, he couldn’t transform, and he was freezing.

“Hey Chlo—er, Frostia... I should probably get home.”

“But you just got here, Adrikins,” She said slowly, “And I wouldn’t want you giving away my position to Ladybug or Chat Noir.”

Good, she didn’t know his identity. She hadn’t seen him detransform.

“Yeah, well I wouldn’t do that,” He protested.

“I’d rather you stay here... I like having some company.”

“Frostia, I’ve got to go,” Adrien said through chattering teeth. He slid along the length of the wall and around the Akuma.

“NO!” Frostia growled, lunging at him. He dodged her hand and ducked around her, trying to make it to the elevator shaft. If he could climb down without his transformation, he would be able to make it down the stairs and hide somewhere where he could transform without being seen. He just had to make it to the elevator shaft—

Frostia leapt in front of him, steam puffing around her with the quick movement. She put out her hand, blocking Adrien’s path.

“I don’t want you to leave!” She said sharply.

“Chloe, please.”

“What did I say about calling me that?” She snarled.

Adrien ducked around her again, slipping slightly on the floor but managing to regain his balance. Frostia shrieked and lunged at him again, her icy hand missing him by just inches.

“Fine, Adrikins,” she spat. “If you wont’t stay willingly, I guess I’ll have to make you!” She lifted her hand again, holding it out towards him. The floor shot up into spikes, barely missing him. Adrien leapt to the side, slipping on the ice and falling to the ground. He threw his arms behind him, scrambling backwards until his back hit a couch. Frostia smirked, jabbing her hand at him again. The ice on the ground shot upwards, encasing him. 

Frostia looked down on Adrien’s frozen form with a frown. “Mmm, what a shame.”

She turned away without a second glance.

 

✧✦✧

 

Ladybug detransformed right as she dropped through her trapdoor, collapsing onto the ground as Marinette. Tikki fell from the transformation and into Marinette’s hands, shivering.

“Oh, Tikki!”

“I’ll be f-fine, Marinette. Could you ge-get me some cookies and something warm?”

Marinette nodded, grabbing a sweater off of her bed and throwing it over herself. She let herself downstairs into the bakery as quickly as she could, avoiding her parents. After grabbing what she needed she made her way back into her bedroom, sitting on the floor next to her Kwami. She picked up the little red goddess and pulled a tea cozy around her trembling form, setting her back down beside a plate of cookies.

“Thanks,” Tikki said through a mouthful of sweets.

“Ugh, I’m freezing.”

“I’m very sorry, Marinette, that’s probably partly my doing. Ladybugs are warm-weather creatures, and naturally, the suit adopts some of that creature’s tendencies. Such as an aversion to cold weather.”

“Oh...”

“But, it should not be quite this bad...” the Kwami continued. “The powers also respond to your emotional state, which is... well, you’ve been better, haven’t you?”

“Is this about Chat?”

“Your high stress levels also play a part, I’m sure. School has not been easy on you, and neither has your duty as Ladybug. But, yes, your... strained relationship with Plagg’s charge isn’t helping matters.”

Marinette looked at the ground. “I’m trying to get through to him, but he just... he hates me, Tikki!” She glanced up at her Kwami with big eyes brimming with tears.

“I’m sure he doesn’t, Marinette. He’s just stubborn. Stubborn, and sad. Sad about things that we cannot and should not change. I’ve tried to talk some sense into Plagg, but his Kwami is, regrettably, just as stubborn as he.”

Marinette sniffed. “I’ve tried everything... what am I doing wrong?”

“He is at fault for your strained relationship, but nonetheless something must change. Your powers will only get weaker if these hard feelings continue...”

“I’ll open up to him, tell him how I feel.”

Tikki nodded thoughtfully. “But don’t be afraid to be firm with him, Marinette. The boy could use a kick in the tail.”

Marinette looked at the ground. “Maybe you're right. But for now, we should get back to Akuma-searching. Is there anything I can do to keep us warmer this time?”

“Just try to stick to sunny areas or indoors. Don’t let yourself get too cold this time!”

Marinette nodded, calling for her transformation. Once on the balcony, she paused to call Chat on her yo-yo. It rang with no response, though, and he wasn’t showing up on her locator map. Had he detransformed?

Well, it didn’t matter. She could search on her own.

Snapping her yo-yo shut, she used it to soar into the Paris skyline. The ice had spread so that Everything was covered in a fine layer, and cold fog blanketed the streets. Everything seemed almost tinted blue, making the city look oddly fake. It was eerie, Ladybug thought.

Thirty minutes later, the heroine was alone on the street, pacing to keep warm. Chat still wasn’t responding to her calls and she was beginning to be worried. She had left him alone at the hotel over an hour ago and hadn’t seen him since. Maybe he’d fallen asleep during his break. Yeah, that could be it.

Or... what if, after she’d left him in the hotel, he’d found something? Had he found the akuma and had to fight it alone? Oh god, she never should have left him!

Ladybug unhooked her yo-yo from her waist and shot up into the air towards the hotel. The cold wind whipped at her hair and face, freezing her ears and nose. She passed above building after building. Finally, she was above the hotel. 

She stood on the roof, hands on her hips in concentration. How was she supposed to get in? The only way inside was through the tunnels, which she couldn’t get through without Chat’s help. This wasn’t good...

Wracking her brain for any sort of plan, she dropped down onto Chloe’s balcony. The windows were frosted over, so looking through evidently wasn’t an option. Ladybug paced back and forth, trying to keep her feet from freezing to the ground.

Without Chat, it seemed that her only hope for getting inside would be to use her lucky charm. She hated to risk it this early on, but she needed to know Chat was okay. He had to be okay...

“Lucky charm!”

A blowtorch fell from the sky into her waiting hands. Well, at least she knew what to do with this!

Fumbling with the dials, flames suddenly sprung to life in her grip. She held the weapon to the glass doors, watching as the ice steamed and melted away slowly. Once a big enough hole was exposed, she broke through the glass quickly before the ice had a chance to repair itself.

The heroine slid through the small entrance, quickly glancing around. Her gaze immediately fell upon a familiar head of blonde hair that was just visible from over a couch. She sprinted over.

“Chat! I—” She paused abruptly. This wasn’t Chat...

The heroine collapsed to her knees in front of the frozen figure. It was Adrien. What was he doing in here? She hadn’t seen him earlier, but he was in a rather secluded corner, and she had been distracted by the cold.

Her gloved hand reached out slowly, hesitating for a minute next to his face. She cupped her hand around his cheek, running her fingers almost reverently along his jawline. 

“Oh, Adrien...”

“Step away from him, Ladybug,” came a sharp voice from behind her. Ladybug jolted around, finding herself face to face with...

Chloe?”

“Ugh! Why do you all call me that!” Said the icy figure. “It should be obvious that I’m not her anymore. I’m Frostia!”

Ladybug rose to her feet, stepping in front of Adrien. “What did you do to him?” She said, her voice cracking. Whether from the cold or from emotion, she wasn’t sure.

“Oooh, someone’s a little defensive,” The akuma taunted. “He was being impossible, as usual, so I froze him. Obviously.”

Ladybug’s Earrings gave a warning beep, telling her that she would detransform in a few minutes. She glanced at Adrien. If this wasn’t Chat Noir, then where was he? She could use a little backup!

A purple butterfly symbol floated above Frostia’s face, showing that Hawkmoth was speaking to her. Seeing an opening, Ladybug shot out her yo-yo and wrapped the string around Frostia’s waist. The butterfly dissolved from her face and Frostia gave a shriek.

In one swift movement, Ladybug twined the yo-yo string around a golden support pillar, attaching Frostia to it. This gave the heroine a moment to search for an akumatized object. It had to be in her necklace, a blue diamond set against her collarbone. It was the only part of the Akuma that wasn’t made of solid ice.

Frostia’s arms weren’t tied down, though, and she raised them with a look of fury on her face. A pillar of ice sprung up in front of Ladybug throwing the heroine backwards across the room and causing her to loose her grip on her yo-yo. The heroine groaned. Why could she feel pain through the suit? That never used to happen!

She stood slowly, trying to ignore the beeps coming from her miraculous.

Just a little longer, Tikki.

Frostia shook off the yo-yo strings, advancing towards Ladybug.

“I’m going to need your earrings,” She said, voice cold.

The heroine leapt into the air, flipping above the akuma. She landed in a crouch directly behind her, where her yo-yo lay on the ground. Snatching it up, the heroine swung around the support pillar and landed her feet on the Akuma’s stomach.

Frostia fell back with a puff her steamy hair, obscuring Ladybug’s vision. She crouched low to the ground, turning slowly, searching for the Akuma.

Suddenly, she was knocked off her feet and forward by a pillar of ice which had sprung from the ground. The heroine’s face was scrunched up in pain, but she stood slowly despite it. Frostia glared at her from across the room with piercing ice blue eyes.

“I want your miraculous! I don’t like having to ask twice!”

Said miraculous only had two polka dots at this point, and its beeps were becoming more and more frequent. She had to hurry.

Frostia lunged toward Ladybug, but she ducked under the akuma and spun around behind. Reaching around the Akuma’s shoulders quickly, she yanked off the diamond necklace. Frostia shrieked in fury, lunging forward again and trying to snatch the necklace from Ladybug’s hand.

Ladybug was faster, though, and she pulled the chain apart, releasing the akuma. She purified it quickly and watched as her cure soared around the room and out over all of Paris. When it was finished, puddles of water still remained on the floor where the ice had been. Shouldn’t the cure have gotten rid of that?

Ladybug turned to see Chloe laying on the floor, dazed, and Adrien rubbing a hand over his face. She took a step toward him, but her Miraculous beeped again, even more frantically this time. The heroine looked sadly at him for a moment before shooting out the door and into the nearest alleyway, where her transformation dropped immediately. She collapsed against a brick wall, catching Tikki in her hands.

“Oh, I’m so sorry Tikki!”

“It’s alright... We made it,” The little goddess said with a shiver. “At least all the ice is gone... Maybe I can warm up a bit now.”

“Chat never showed...” Marinette said sadly. “Do you think he just... decided not to come?”

“No, I’m sure that’s not the case! He may be rude, but he’ll still do his duty. I hope so, at least... Master Fu chooses his miraculous holders well, Marinette,” Tikki said with a smile.

Marinette returned the smile sadly. She scooped up the Kwami and looked around cautiously. Seeing no one, the girl made her way down the street towards the bakery.

Chapter Text

The world around Adrien spun as Ladybug’s cure swept around him, melting the ice from his body and whisking it away into nowhere. It left his clothes and hair damp, but it didn’t matter. They’d dry.

He rubbed the side of his face in a daze, trying to ground himself. His vision gradually cleared, allowing him a view of the room. Everything was ice-free, but water still pooled on the floor. Chloe sat on her knees not far from him with her hands clutched to her chest. Her breath came in heavy, short puffs and her eyes swam with tears.

The blonde looked up, seeming to have just noticed Adrien’s presence. She stood quickly and used the back of her arm to wipe her eyes.

“Adrien, what are you doing here?” She said, voice harsh and raspy. Adrien could tell by the shake at the end of her words that she was hurt, though.

Chloe had always been a rather emotional girl. When she was little she threw tantrums at the smallest of things. She still did. But back then, she would also cry when she saw that a baby bird had fallen from its tree, or when she heard someone was ill. As she grew, though, something in her changed. She was still emotional, but the more... sensitive side to it was tucked away far into the back, hidden. Adrien rarely got the chance to see it. Sometimes, he wondered if it had disappeared entirely.

It was only when he heard the waver of her voice when she spoke or saw the shake of her hands that he knew that it was not, after all, entirely gone. He saw that now as she stood, looking down at him warily.

“Hey, Chlo.” Adrien said, rising to his feet and using his hand to steady his aching body against a couch. “Are you okay?”

She didn’t say anything. Just looked it him uncertainly, shifting from one foot to the other. He watched as her gaze shifted to the ground and her eyes filled back up with tears.

“I—I’m...” Chloe leaned back against the wall, using her hand to steady herself. “I’m fine!”

“Chloe, you know you can talk to me, right?” Adrien said slowly.

These words seemed to break the dam of Chloe’s emotions, and she took a few quick steps forward and buried her head in his shoulder, body wracking with silent, heaving sobs. Adrien stepped back in surprise, freezing with his arms at his sides.

“I did it again! I th-thought I could f-fight it this time but I couldn’t! I couldn’t!”

Adrien hesitantly wrapped himself around the shaking girl. “Hey, hey. It’s not your fault. Hawkmoth takes advantage of people emotions, it’s not you...”

Chloe only adjusted her position, clinging even closer to him.

“Do you... Do you know why this happened?” He asked carefully.

“It’s my m-mom. She hates me. She’s so cold... All I want is to im-impress her. To... To make her care about m-me...”

Sounds like we have that in common, Adrien thought bitterly. But this wasn’t about him. His friend needed him now.

Chloe sniffled. “I let myself get akumatized again. I thought I was better!”

“Listen,” Adrien said, gently pushing her back by the shoulders and making her look into his eyes. “This is Hawkmoth’s fault, not yours. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings. It’s... It’s good, even. Feelings are what makes us human.”

That’s what makes Hawkmoth so evil, Adrien can’t help but think. He gets into people’s heads, taking all their bad thoughts and resentments and insecurities and bringing them into the light. That’s something that Adrien wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. It was despicable.

Chloe shuddered, hugging him again sniffling into his jacket. It was gonna be all covered in tears and snot now. Lovely.

“I-I hope I didn’t hurt you, Adrien,” She said. “When I was an Akuma, I mean. I hope I didn’t do anything too bad.”

Adrien hesitated. “It’s okay now. No one is hurt.” Maybe it wasn’t the full truth, but she didn’t need to know that.

He rubbed his hand on her back gently, attempting to curb her sobs. Suddenly, his jacket moved and Adrien felt a sharp poke on his chest.

Oh god, I forgot about Plagg.

His Kwami was probably hungry and cold and was definitely a little upset at Adrien for making him wait this long for his precious cheese.

“Chloe, I’ve really got to get home. My, uh... father is probably looking for me.”

A blatant lie, but she didn’t need to know that.

“Oh, okay.” She sniffed and wiped her eyes again, crossing her arms. “I’ve got a new gossip magazine with a very interesting article on my favorite singer’s new girlfriend, so you can go now.”

Adrien laughed. “Alright, see you later then.”

 

✧✦✧

 

Marinette lay on her back on the bed, memorizing the ceiling while ice packs rested on her bruises.

There’s a little crack there, and whoever painted this left air bubbles under the paint. There’s a little black speck there, not sure what that is.

Her phone buzzed next to her, distracting her from the important task.

<Alya Cesaire 7:03> Where were you once school started up again? Did you not get the email?

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:03> What email?

<Alya Cesaire 7:05> Principal Dam. Said that since the Akuma hadn’t been spotted everyone could resume classes...

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:05> Oh, must have missed it. You know me haha.

<Alya Cesaire 7:06> Adrien never showed either. You sure you weren’t getting it on with him?

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:07> Alya!!!!!

<Alya Cesaire 7:07> Don’t blame me, you know you wanna ;)

<Alya Cesaire 7:08> But seriously you guys seem closer lately. I’m starting to feel like a third wheel!

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 7:09> Ha! Good one.

Marinette lay her phone face down, rolling her eyes.

She wondered how Adrien had fared after the Akuma. She’d hated leaving him like that, but she’d been seconds from transforming back. She hoped he was alright...

Well, why not check on him? Marinette was sure that any civilian would appreciate a visit from a superhero, and plus, she hadn’t been around Adrien enough lately. It had been a while since their last study session and she was finding that the more time she spent with him, the more she missed him when he was gone. Marinette had discovered that being around Adrien (and the other blonde boy in her life, Chat Noir,) had a way of unwinding her and making her forget about her stress for a few hours. It was nice, and she craved it.

A visit wouldn’t be so bad!

Marinette was sure Adrien would enjoy a visit from Ladybug, and anyways, it was her duty to make sure he was safe. That’s what superheroes are for!

With that resolve fresh in her mind, Marinette transformed and leapt out into the dusk. She swung from building to building, letting herself dip low enough for her toes to almost brush the ground before snapping her yo-yo out and whisking herself away from the pavement. Her mind relaxed in the wind through her hair and cool air whipping by her face.

She crouched on the roof of the Agreste mansion, trying to remember which window belonged to Adrien’s room. She’d been there before, but it had been a while. Finally deciding to test her luck, she gripped her yo-yo string and hung upside-down, peeking through a window. It was definitely Adrien’s room, with fencing awards hung on the walls and everything from video games to a rock climbing wall, this boy seemed to have everything.

She gave a light tap on the window with her knuckles. After a moment, a blonde head poked out from around a corner.

 

✧✦✧

 

Adrien wasn’t sure what to do. Ladybug was here, at his window, obviously wanting to be let in. As Adrien, a mere civilian, he should obviously open the window and see what she wanted. As Chat Noir, though, his pride prevented him from letting the heroine have her word. Plus, he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to allow Ladybug into Adrien’s life as well as Chat’s.

As the boy sat, undecided, the heroine still hung upside-down just outside his room, smiling brightly. She gave a tiny wave.

Finally, he moved towards the window, sliding it open with a click. Ladybug flipped around so she crouched on the windowsill.

Come on. You don’t know her well as Adrien. Act like it.

“U-uh...”

Oh, very unassuming. Way to go.

After watching him for a moment, Ladybug finally spoke up. “Hey, Adrien! I-I, uh...” she swallowed quickly, continuing, “I wanted to make sure you were alright... The akuma got you back there, but I didn’t have time to stay and check on you, unfortunately.”

“Oh, well, I’m doing fine. Your cure fixed everything, as always!”

“Good, good.” She slid off the windowsill, landing softly on the carpet. “It was a tough akuma, but we figured it out.”

She scuffed at the ground with her toes, looking around at the big room. “So, nice place you got here...”

Why couldn’t she just leave? She’d checked on him and obviously knew that he was alright, so what was she waiting for?

“I guess so, yeah.”

The heroine’s eyes lit up when she caught sight of his movie shelf. She made her way over to it, grinning. “Ooh, some of these are really good,” she said, fingers lighting along the spines of the DVD cases.

He followed behind her slowly and watched as she pulled out a case, reading the cover and running over it with her thumb. Sliding it back into place, her eyes flicked over the other movies. Her eyes were so pretty. Sky blue and so big. Ladybug’s eyes had always been one of Chat’s favorite things about her, if he was honest with himself. They reminded him of Marinette’s, he realized. Sweet Marinette.

People say that the eyes are windows to the soul, and Adrien couldn’t think of a better testament to that then Marinette’s. Her eyes seemed to shine when she was enjoying herself, and the way she looked at things she cared about had no comparison. He didn’t see it as much, lately, with how terrible she seemed to be feeling, but when he did, there was no sight as beautiful.

And now, as Adrien watched Ladybug browse his movie collection, he realized that his allegiance had really and truly changed. His heart no longer belonged to Ladybug. Ladybug didn’t want it. It belonged unequivocally to Marinette, and he couldn’t deny it anymore. He was done dancing around his feelings for her, pretending like they didn’t exist.

When he first saw ladybug, he had been struck right through the heart. Her beauty, her confidence, her bravery... He had wanted that. All of it. But was it worth the impossible struggle of breaking down her walls?

No, Adrien didn’t think it was.

His love for Marinette was different, though. She hadn’t struck him all at once like Ladybug had, making him forget his own name and leaving him breathless. His love for her had crept up on him slowly, startling him when he finally came face to face with what had always been there. Her love for the people around her, the way she acted around her friends and her family, was beautiful. When things got rough, she knew what to do, too. She was undeniably brave, just in a more understated way. Standing up for little injustices and making sure everyone felt wanted.

That was what he loved about her, he realized. Around her, she felt wanted. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he craved more of it.

More of Marinette. He couldn’t deny it any longer.

Ladybug spoke, snapping Adrien back to the present. “Do you wanna watch a movie, maybe? There’s a few in here I’ve been dying to see.”

Could he deny her? Letting her stay would be the polite thing to do, but this wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. He would far rather visit Marinette and watch a movie with her as Chat.

But what civilian in their right mind would turn Ladybug, savior of Paris, away?

“Sure, why not,” He found himself saying half-heartedly. Her face lit up and she pulled a disk out of its case.

“Awesome! Is this good with you?” She said, displaying the movie. Adrien nodded, taking it from her gloved hands and putting it into the DVD player. He gestured to the couch, inviting the heroine to take a seat. She flopped onto it with a grin, curling her knees to her chin and leaning against the armrest.

After getting the remote, he sat down beside her, keeping a respectable distance between them, and pressed play on the movie.

 

✧✦✧

 

With the ending scene wrapping up the movie, the credits rolled across the screen, accompanied by a slow, tender melody. Ladybug stretched, standing up and smiling.

“That was pretty good!”

Adrien nodded, standing up to meet her.

“Actually, though, I should probably get home,” She continued, glancing at the dark sky outside, street lights illuminating the deserted streets. After hearing Adrien’s affirming ‘mmm’ she walked the few paces to the window, climbing up to sit on the sill.

“Thanks so much for letting me crash your house tonight! I had a good time,” she smiled.

“Oh, no problem. Thanks for coming to check up on me,” he replied with a nod.

Perhaps it was just Ladybug’s imagination, but Adrien had seemed rather distant all night. Their scattered conversation throughout the movie had been mostly her talking and him nodding in agreement. She probably shouldn’t blame him, though. She knew his schedule to be demanding; he was likely tired.

So with another grin, Ladybug tilted back off of the windowsill, allowing herself to fall a short distance before shooting out her yo-yo and soaring towards her house.

She detransformed once she was in her room and climbed into her bed, feeling the enticingly soft blankets. Unfortunately, she still had homework to do before school tomorrow. Her grades were already down, and skipped homework was honestly the last thing Marinette needed right now.

So, against the pleas of her aching body, she pulled herself away from the bed and to her desk, where she attempted to conquer her physics textbook without Adrien’s help. They’d have to set up another study session soon, she thought.

She didn’t know it now, but tomorrow Marinette would wake up face down on her desk, late for school. But that was a problem for the morning. For now, she studied.

Chapter Text

Collège Françoise Dupont was on the verge of Winter break, each teacher giving their students a final burst of work before classes let out for two weeks. Stress levels among students seemed to skyrocket at the sudden increase in their studies’ difficulty and homework volume.

Marinette, especially, felt the pain of the workload, studying late into the night to keep up with her classes. Besides that, she was trying to make handmade Christmas gifts for her family and closest friends, and sewing took a lot of time. Lucky for her, there had been a lack of Akuma attacks in the past week, Frostia having been the last one. She could be grateful for that, at least.

Adrien, on the other hand, was on top of his schoolwork, as usual. Nathalie’s constant demands made sure of that. Her schedule for him planned out every minute, dedicating spots of time for each Class. Fencing had let off for winter break already, giving him large chunks of time off every day. His father was in Germany for a business trip, which took another level of stress off of his shoulders.

After school let off on Thursday afternoon, Adrien sat on the steps, waiting for his bodyguard to pull up in the car. He pulled out his phone and opened the schedule, finding a holiday photoshoot blocked for forty-five minutes from now. He sighed, running the hand not holding the phone through his hair. Holiday shoots tended to be the most extravagant, and thus, the least fun for Adrien. So the next four hours promised to be a bit of a drag.

“Adrien!” A familiar voice exclaimed beside him. “What are you doing sitting out here? It is so windy, I absolutely despise this weather!”

He looked up to see Chloe standing above him. She settled beside him, wrapping her arms around Adrien’s.

“Hey, Chlo! I’m just waiting for my driver, wha-” He paused in surprise as she reached up and pulled her fingers through his hair.

“It’s messy. I told you this weather is no good.”

“Uh. Okay,” He said, pushing her hands away gently. “I’m actually on the way to a shoot! So I’m sure the hair and makeup team will handle it.”

She snorted. “Whatever you say then, Adrikins. I always carry around a brush and hairspray to keep things like that from happening.”

He laughed. “You know, Chloe, why haven’t you taken up modeling? I’m sure you’d be amazing at it!”

“I know I’d be good at it. I just never got around to it. I don’t exactly need extra money, in case you can’t tell.”

“I know… But if you wanted to try it, I could probably get Nathalie to set a shoot up for you! I think you’d enjoy it.”

She paused and pursed her lips. “Fine, I guess you could. It might be fun. You have to show up and watch though, okay?”

“Of course I will!”

“Good.” Chloe rose to her feet and re-adjusted her coat. “So I’m going to dinner with Daddy and my mother at a very nice restaurant, so I really should go and get ready. Sorry to leave you alone.”

Adrien nodded and said goodbye cheerfully. He waved as she strode away toward a waiting car.

Chloe’s Akumatization had had something to do with her mother, according to her. Hopefully things were going well between them.

I’ll text her later, he thought. To check up on how dinner went.

Adrien stood, bobbing on his toes to try and keep his blood moving. It was chilly out here, Chloe was right about that. And the wind certainly didn’t help. He felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. He turned, grinning at Marinette.

“Hey, Adrien. You look cold,” The girl said with a light smile.

He laughed breathlessly. The wind tossed at her hair, which was pulled into a bun at the top of her head. Her bangs were messy and little flyaways blew around her ears. She pulled her beige duffle coat around her shoulders, hands covered by pale pink gloves. Her face was slightly flushed, a light smile playing on her lips.

She was… really pretty. So pretty.

“I guess I am a bit cold,” he said, glancing up to meet her eyes.

“I’m waiting for Alya,” Marinette sighed. “I need to get her measurements for the jacket I’m making her, but she’s still in there talking to Nino. I think I’ll just have to text her later…”

Adrien Laughed. “They’ve been pretty inseparable lately, huh? They barely have time for us commoners anymore.”

“I know! Although, to be fair, I probably wouldn’t be able to hang out much anyway. I’m really behind on school and am trying to handmake gifts for everyone this year, and I’ve been feeling… a little stressed lately.” She paused, furrowing her brows. “But that’s beside the point. Maybe during winter break Alya and I will be able to set something up.”

There she goes again, pretending like her feelings aren’t important…

“Maybe we could all do something together,” He suggested. “Just the four of us. We haven’t hung out in ages.”

She grinned. “That sounds great, actually. We’ll have to plan that. But what are you doing out here? It’s a little cold for cloud-watching.”

“O-oh! I’m just waiting for my driver. I have to go to a shoot, but he’s a little late today…”

Marinette’s face lit up, and he smiled. She was even prettier when she smiled like that.

“Ooh, a photoshoot! Who are you modeling for this time? Or… or are you not allowed to tell me? Because it’s fine if not, of course--”

Out of the corner of his eye, Adrien could see his driver pull up along the curb, looking at him through the tinted windows. Suddenly, a brilliant idea occurred to Adrien. What if…?

“N-no! Of course I can tell you. But I can do one better, if you want!”

She raised an eyebrow, looking at him expectantly.

“I can show you. Do you wanna come sit in on the shoot?”

Her mouth dropped open, face flooding red. “You—are you serious?”

When he grinned and nodded at her, she covered her face with her hands. “Oh my god, that would be amazing,” She said, slightly muffled.

“It’ll make it way more fun for me, anyway! Holiday shoots are the worst,” He laughed.

She squealed into her hands, peeking out through her fingers. “What time should I be there? Actually, where... where is it anyway?”

“I mean, as long as you don’t mind sitting through a little while of boredom while the designers get me ready, we can give you a ride!”

She squeaked, hands flying away from her face. It was cute. “A-are you sure?”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t,” He laughed. “Come on, the car is just here.”

Adrien hesitated for a moment before taking her gloved hand and leading her quickly toward the car. He glanced back at her and shot her a grin, laughing at the shocked look on her face. After opening the door and letting her inside, he climbed in to join her in the backseat.

Once the car had pulled out, Marinette grabbed her phone and typed furiously into it, clutching her pink glove in the other hand.

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 4:02> akdjfhdkjfhkha

<Alya Cesaire 4:02> WHAT??????

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 4:02> ADRIEN IS TAJING ME TO HIS PHOTOSHOOT

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 4:02> TAKING***

<Alya Cesaire 4:03> YOURE KIDDING OMG

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 4:03> nope!!!

<Alya Cesaire 4:03> you go girl!!!!

Marinette glanced up to see Adrien looking curiously at her.

“Uh… I’m texting my mom. Letting her know where I’ll be.”

Actually, she should really do that.

Adrien nodded. “Ah, right. Sorry, I should have asked if it was okay with her.”

“N-no worries!”

She texted her mom quickly before shutting off her phone and turning back to Adrien.

“You said it was a holiday shoot, right? What’s that all about?”

Adrien nodded. “It’s probably gonna be something for a magazine cover. Most likely me posing with a Christmas tree, kittens, a sweater, presents, or all of the above. Definitely dressed in red.”

“I hope it’s kittens.”

“Ohh, cat person?” Adrien grinned. There was, of course, a bit of a hidden meaning there. But Marinette didn’t know that.

“Definitely. I’ve got a place in my heart for dogs too, don’t get me wrong. But nothing is better than a cute kitty.”

He smiled again and she turned to look out the window. The car wove through other vehicles, probably going a bit above the speed limit. Adrien’s driver was really fast-paced.

After a few more minutes of cheerful conversation between them, the car made a sharp turn into a parking lot in front of a large building. It pulled into a parking slot labeled ‘reserved’ near the front of the lot. Adrien and she climbed out, walking together toward the building with the bodyguard flaking them closely.

A pretty girl that looked to be a model exited the building, walking toward her own car. She was wearing a cute outfit with her hair done, and Marinette wished she’d spent more time getting ready this morning. Of all the days to wake up late…

Adrien pulled the door open, letting her inside. She had no idea where she was going, so she walked a few paces behind him and allowed him to lead the way. This must have been a regular spot for him, though, and he seemed to know exactly where to go. The building was simply decorated, with black leather couches set up in the foyer and occasionally along the halls. The walls were a light grey with metal light fixtures set against them.

It was a short walk before Adrien paused in front of a door. It had a sign pinned to it that read ‘shoot in progress’. Marinette took a moment to compose herself, combing her flyaways into place with her fingers and straightening her jacket. This had to be one of the biggest things to happen in her budding fashion career, and she was not about to mess it up. Not like she actually expected anything to happen, but it didn’t hurt to look her best!

Adrien’s bodyguard swiped an access card on a scanner and pulled the door open to allow the teens inside. The room was fairly spacious, with a separate room for changing and a black curtain closing off an area for hair and makeup. People bustled around: stylists, set designers, and photographers, to name a few.

“So this is where most of my magazine shoots take place,” Adrien said, reminding her with a jolt that he was actually here. That all this was real. “You can probably take a seat over here while the stylists work their magic on me.”

He directed her to another leather couch sitting in the back of the room, in perfect view of all the important stuff. She settled down as Adrien was whisked into the changing room by a stylist.

The set had a lot more going on than Marinette had been expecting. A simple white background and floor, surrounded by lighting fixtures of every type. People were still setting things up, it appeared, taping down wires and adjusting lights. One severe-looking woman stood to the side, jotting something down on her clipboard.

Soon enough, Adrien came out of the dressing room, only to be guided back behind a curtain to have his hair and makeup done. Marinette watched in awe as the photoshoot came together. The photographer was in place, and he was now fiddling with the settings. Another model came out of a separate dressing room, already done up and ready for the shoot.

She was stunning, Marinette thought. Looking about her age, with long dark hair and soft skin. She was wearing a black strapless dress that hit mid-thigh, hugging every curve of her body and flaring out at the hips. Her makeup was relatively flashy; bright red eyeliner and golden highlighter illuminating her hazel skin.

Another stylist came up to the girl and touched up her hair, as if it weren’t perfect enough already. She was then directed into the set. The bright lights were adjusted accordingly as the photographer took a few practice shots and fiddled with his settings some more. He looked up from the camera, turning to the severe woman with the clipboard.

Marinette could hear him asking about Adrien, clearly impatient to start the shoot.

As if on cue, Adrien jogged out from behind the curtain with a smile and wave to Marinette before joining the crew.

Marinette stared at him as he talked to the photographer, her mouth slightly open and eyes wide. She’d seen him dressed up on magazine covers and billboards, but the real thing was… so much better. She hadn’t realized that was possible.

He was wearing a red suit with black lapels, cuffs, and pockets. His hair was combed and gelled up from his face in a style that she’d never seen him wear. She had to admit, though. It looked really good on him.

Of course, Marinette didn’t believe anything could look bad on Adrien. But this looked especially good. The way the suit jacket tapered at his waist in just the right place and how the pants were cut just so…

And he was looking at her, a crooked smile on his face. He’d definitely caught her staring.

Whoops.

She felt her face darken with a blush and she looked at her hands curled on her lap. She needed something to do.

Turning her attention to the set, Marinette watched as the female model stood, playing with her hair absently. The model looked up all of a sudden, smirking as Adrien joined her in front of the cameras. She said something to him that Marinette couldn’t make out and he laughed.

Adrien looked across the room at Marinette, giving her a grin and a thumbs-up. The photographer hurried to his camera and fiddled with the settings a bit more, and with that, the shoot had begun.

It went by in a flash, Marinette thought. There was so much going on that she had trouble concentrating on any one thing. People bustled around, adjusting things at the photographer’s request. Stylists flitted on and off the set, retouching makeup and adjusting clothes and hair. And of course, there were the models.

Adrien was Marinette’s main focus, of course, but the female model was a bit of a showstopper too. Jealousy flared in Marinette’s stomach. The model tilted her body towards Adrien’s, placing her wrist on his shoulder and leaning back, looking into the lens sideways while the blonde dragged his fingers through his hair and gave a sort of bad-boy smirk.

They both seemed to know exactly what to do and when, turning around in front of the cameras, trying different poses, and basically just making Marinette feel completely and utterly pathetic. She knew that it was stupid, feeling like that. But how could she ever be enough for Adrien? He was rich, handsome, and of course, one of the nicest people she knew. She was just Marinette, baker’s daughter and student.

And Ladybug, said a little voice in the back of her head. Although, she hadn’t been doing so well at that lately either.

She shook her head, looking back up at the shoot. Adrien was alone on the set now, and the girl had disappeared, probably to change back into street clothes.

Adrien moved in front of the camera effortlessly, obviously used to this. Photoshoots like this were probably everyday occurrences for him… But it was all new for Marinette, who suddenly felt like drawing out some new designs. She hadn’t had inspiration for a while, but here it was, like a happy little lamp turning on in her brain. Marinette welcomed that feeling. She reached into her bag, and after digging around for a minute, pulled out her sketchbook to draw. She carried it everywhere, even if she hadn’t used it much lately.

“Adrien mentioned he’d brought a friend.”

She looked up, surprised, to find the female model standing next to her. Was it possible that she was even prettier up close? She sat down on the couch next to Marinette, leaning on the armrest.

“Hey! Great job up there,” Marinette smiled.

The model returned the smile, lips curving up and revealing a cute dimple on her left cheek.

“Thanks. I’ve been dieting so hard for this dress,” she said, tugging at the hem with manicured nails. “I could totally go for a milkshake right about now.”

Marinette nodded solemnly. “I can only imagine. Modeling is a cutthroat business. Or so I’ve heard.”

“Tell me about it. This shoot was actually… well, it was my first big one, I guess you could say. Other than this, I’ve just had shoots for small companies and stuff like that. Modeling for Gabriel is a whole new experience.”

“Oh, yeah. I bet. I’m no model, but even I can tell that this is quite a setup.”

“Definitely.” The model paused. “Hey, what’s your name?”

“Oh! I’m Marinette. And you? I can’t believe I never asked!”

“I’m Amara.”

Amara beamed and opened her mouth to say something else when Adrien walked up behind Marinette, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Hey Marinette, ready to go?”

“O-oh!” She startled and looked up at him with a smile. “Sure am. Just lemme do one last thing.”

“Okay, I’ll be over by Nathalie.”

Marinette turned back to Amara. “Sorry, I have to leave, apparently. But we should hang out sometime! Can I get your number?”

Amara’s face lit up. “Oh my god I’d love to hang out! We can get dinner and see a movie or something. It’ll be awesome.” She dictated her phone number to Marinette, who did the same.

“Okay, we’ll definitely set something up,” Marinette said after she’d finished.

“Of course! I can’t wait! Now get going, I think Adrien is waiting.”

Marinette laughed and backed up, waving. She turned and jogged over to Adrien and they started walking out of the studio together.

“That was… Amazing. Thank you so so much for inviting me.”

Adrien looked at her and smiled. “It was no problem, thank you for coming. You being there made it way more fun, you have no idea. Those things are usually so boring.”

“I didn’t exactly do much,” she laughed.

“You didn’t need to! Your mere presence was enough.”

For some reason, that statement reminded Marinette of Chat. That was totally something he’d say.

The two teens made their way out of the building and to the car waiting for them, chatting all along the way. The drive to her house flew by, feeling to Marinette like no time at all.

When the car stopped at her house, she hated to get out. Adrien walked her to the door though, and she brought him back out a little box of bakery sweets.

“As a sort of thank-you for today,” she said.

And after quick goodbyes, Adrien’s car pulled out and back into the evening Paris traffic.

As soon as it was gone, Marinette sprinted inside and to her room after greeting her parents. She had some designs in mind.

Chapter Text

Once school let out on Friday, Marinette and Alya hurriedly packed their bags and made a quick bathroom stop before leaving school. To celebrate the beginning of winter break, the friends had decided to go ice skating at the outdoor rink down the road from school. It was a bit of a walk, but they didn’t mind, making conversation and catching up the whole way. They’d both been busy for the past few weeks and hadn’t gotten to see each other aside from school, so there was a lot to talk about.

“There hasn’t been a single Akuma attack this month. All the updates on the Ladyblog have just been fan theories or recycled photos! Hawkmoth needs to up his game, honestly,” Alya raged.

“Are you seriously upset that there hasn’t been an evil supervillain ravaging our city? That’s so weird,” Marinette snorted.

“I know it’s a little odd—”

“Odd is an understatement. More like unethical.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry if I’m not looking out for the good of the city here. But for real, the Ladyblog has been an absolute graveyard. Comments and likes are waaaay down. Not good for business,” Alya said with a playful wink toward Marinette, who responded with a loud laugh. She slapped a hand over her mouth, glancing guiltily at a woman on a nearby bench who was staring at her.

“That was way louder than I meant for it to be.” Marinette said with a sheepish giggle.

“Oh, whatever.” Alya laughed and wrapped her arm around Marinette, pushing her down the street.

“Oh, so how’s Nino doing?” Marinette asked as soon as the embarrassed blush faded from her cheeks.

“Pretty good, I guess. I think I scare him a little, actually.”

“You scare Nino?” Marinette said with a laugh.

“I dunno. I feel like he’s intimidated by me.”

“You want me to talk to him? Maybe I can get an idea of what’s going on.”

“Oh, definitely not. I don’t think he’d take that too well.” Alya paused, weighing her options. “Although, maybe you could talk to Adrien about it…?”

“I guess I could… I just don’t want to pry.” Marinette paused to examine a boutique’s window, admiring a light blue floral blouse.

“Adrien won’t care if it’s coming from you,” Alya said with a smirk.

Marinette looked over at her with a glare and started walking again. “Don’t say things like that.”

“I only say it ‘cause it’s true!”

“Alya, really! I’m trying not to get my hopes up!”

Alya shrugged. “I think he likes you.” After noting Marinette’s grumpy expression, she continued, “What? I do!”

“I really, really want him to. But if I start thinking he does, if I get my heart set on it, and it turns out that he doesn’t…”

“I agree that you shouldn’t get your heart set on it, but it can’t hurt to drop a few hints, can it?”

“What do you mean?”

Alya rolled her eyes. “Just… I dunno, a little flirting! Drop a wink here and there, maybe try out some light physical contact?”

“No!” Marinette said with a shocked expression.

“It can’t hurt! If he doesn’t like you in that way, then he’ll just think you have a flirty personality or something. And if he does, well…” She pulled open the gate to the outdoor rink, letting Marinette in before following.

“Well what?” Marinette questioned suspiciously.

“Well, maybe he’ll reciprocate the flirting! Or even better, maybe he’ll finally take the hint and ask you out!”

The two girls walked to the rental skates booth and payed for two pairs before sitting down on the edge of a bench and starting to tie them up.

“That’s not gonna happen,” Marinette said stubbornly.

“It might! He already invited you to his photoshoot, and you two have been acting way closer than ever! An outsider might even mistake you for a couple, the way you’ve been acting.”

“You know what? I’m tired of this conversation. Let’s go skate,” Marinette said, standing up and wobbling lightly on the skates.

“Fine, just keep it in mind,” Alya said, finishing the bow on her left skate and grabbing Marinette’s hand to lead her onto the ice.

And Marinette hated to admit it, but maybe Alya was right. It was probably time to step up her game with Adrien if she wanted anything to happen.

✧✦✧

Marinette’s parents were out. Adrien knew this since, on his way from school, he had seen them leaving the bakery with what looked to be dinner clothes.

After a little snooping, he had learned from Nino (who had learned from Alya) that Marinette and Alya were going skating. Afterwards, apparently, Marinette would be heading home, since Alya had a dentist’s appointment at 5:00.

It was 4:20 now, since Adrien had had a meet-and-greet with fans after school. This left him… about 30 minutes until Marinette would be home. It was perfect. Everything lined up.

When his car pulled up in the driveway, instead of going up to his room like he normally would, he headed to the kitchen. He’d sent in a special request to the cook for a picnic dinner for two, and he found it sitting on the counter, packed neatly into a basket.

After calling out a quick ‘thank you’ to the cook, he carried the basket upstairs to his room and set it by the window.

Plagg floated beside his head, looking suspiciously down at the cute basket. “What are you doing?”

“Since Marinette’s alone, I’m bringing her dinner!”

“As Adrien?”

“No, of course not. As Chat Noir.”

“Don’t you think you should go as Adrien?”

“No…?”

Plagg gave a longsuffering sigh. “Why not?”

“I just wanna see her, okay? Chat is easier and… I think she likes him better.”

“That’s ridiculous. And don’t you think it’s a little confusing for her?”

“What is?” Adrien asked, his good mood severely diminished.

“Having both Chat and Adrien all over her! You wanted to kiss her last time you were there as Chat. What would happen if you gave into that?”

“I won’t!”

“You might.”

Adrien glared at Plagg, stuffing some stuff into his messenger bag. “Plagg, drop it. I’m going to see her, okay?”

Plagg shrugged. “Fine, but I think you’re making a mistake here. She clearly likes Adrien a lot, so why not just stick with that?”

Adrien ignored him, gathering together a few last items and putting them in his bag. No matter what Plagg said, tonight was going to be fun.

✧✦✧

Marinette took the short way home after saying goodbye to Alya, cutting across a few back alleys that she usually would have avoided in order to get home before it started getting dark. It was set to snow tonight, and she didn’t want to get stuck in that weather in her current state. Wearing a light blue sweater and leggings with lace-up boots, Marinette wasn’t exactly dressed for snow.

After a brisk walk, she jogged up the bakery’s front door and tugged on the handle. The door didn’t budge, and Marinette remembered that her parents were out for dinner. They’d probably left the back door open for her. She hoped so.

Luckily, she was right. The back door tugged open easily and Marinette sighed with relief at the rush of warm air that greeted her when she stepped inside. She took off her scarf and mittens, hanging them on a hook by the door, and unlaced her boots.

She climbed the stairs to her room and traded her socks for fluffy slippers and her leggings for pink-striped pajama pants. The sweater stayed on since it was soft. Tikki floated out of her backpack and settled on Marinette’s shoulder, cuddling into her hair, which had been taken out and splayed over her shoulders. It was getting longer and her signature pigtails just didn’t look as good anymore. Plus, the style was more childish than Marinette liked.

So instead of retying them in pigtails, Marinette pulled her hair into a French braid down the center of her head. She combed her bangs back down out of the braid with her fingers.

“I’m a little hungry,” Tikki said mildly.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t even think about dinner. You can go to the bakery and grab some cookies, I’ll be right down. I’m gonna take off my makeup.”

So Tikki whizzed off, leaving Marinette alone in the bathroom. She splashed water over her face, rubbing cleanser on her cheeks in circles.

When she opened the cabinet to return the cleanser bottle, her eyes landed upon a face mask she’d gotten for free with some makeup order a while ago. That might be fun to try on such a relaxing night. No homework, no parents, and a face mask. Perfect.

Marinette spread the lilac cream over her face and waved her hands above her face a few times, blowing air on it. This was probably pointless, and she wasn’t quite sure why she did it, but it felt like something she should do.

So with her face caked with the odd-smelling purple cream, Marinette grinned at herself in the mirror. She looked stupid, but she didn’t care.

Suddenly she jumped when a knock sounded from her trapdoor. She moved toward it cautiously, sliding the door open to reveal Chat sitting on her balcony, beaming at her.

“U-uhh…”

Chat laughed. “Nice face mask.”

“Sorry, I really wasn’t expecting guests,” she stammered out with a blush.

“It’s alright. I hope it’s not a bad time?”

“Oh, I mean… I’m not really doing anything, so I guess it’s fine?”

Chat grinned, beckoning for her to come up. She climbed the ladder and onto the balcony, where Chat sat next to a little basket and a black backpack.

“What’s all this?”

“I just wanted to bring you some dinner. Also I brought some movies and stuff.”

“How did you know I was alone for dinner?” Marinette said with a laugh.

“Uh… lucky guess?”

Marinette shrugged it off. “Well, thank you! This sounds great.”

After a beat of silence, she continued, “So… I’m starving, can we eat?”

Chat laughed. “Yeah, of course.”

He opened the picnic basket to discover a classic-looking red and white checkered blanket covering the food. “Oh, there’s a blanket in here too!”

Marinette raised one eyebrow. “You forgot that you packed a blanket?”

“Heh… I guess so.”

“Weird, but okay.” She took the blanket from him and spread it on the ground. It was a little too big and the edges folded up around the chairs and railing of the tiny balcony, but it worked.

She settled down on the blanket, sitting on her legs with her hands folded on her knees.

Chat pulled out the meal: some fancy sandwiches and pastries, along with a bunch of grapes and a glass bottle of sparkling water.

“Wow, you made all this?” Marinette said in disbelief. “I didn’t know you were such a chef!”

“O-oh, I didn’t actually. I… I ordered the sandwiches. And the pastries.”

“Oooh, look who’s got all the money,” she said teasingly.

He laughed nervously.

Was it just Marinette, or was he acting a little weird tonight?

She shrugged it off again though, biting into one of the fancy sandwiches. She found it hard to open her mouth wide enough, due to the fact that her face mask had dried, stiffening her face almost painfully.

She set the sandwich down. “You know what? I’m gonna go rinse this off. Be right back.”

Marinette disappeared down the ladder, leaving Chat Noir alone on the balcony. He popped a few grapes into his mouth and waited.

After a minute, Marinette reemerged through the trapdoor, kneeling again with her back to it. She grinned.

“So? Is my skin glowing yet?” She struck a goofy model pose, placing a hand under her chin and looking at him sideways.

“Oh, of course. Your skin glows like a thousand suns!”

The truth was, her skin didn’t look any different at all. They both knew that, and so they laughed.

“Yeah, I think that thing may have been a waste of my time,” she said, taking a bite out of her sandwich.

Chat shrugged. “I mean, it can’t have hurt.”

“No, I guess you’re right. What movies did you bring?”

“Oh!” He beamed and dragged the backpack over, pulling out a stack of three movies. “So this is one of my favorites, and I wasn’t sure if you’d seen it before—”

Suddenly he paused, brows furrowing. A little voice was coming from Marinette’s room, calling her name.

“Hey, who’s that?”

A horrified look shrouded Marinette’s features and she reached over and slammed the trapdoor shut.

“O-oh! That… that must be the computer. Maybe I forgot to turn it off!” Her voice possessed a shrill, panicked quality that Chat had never heard before.

“That didn’t sound like the computer. It was calling your name…”

“Heh, maybe… uh, maybe my parents are home early! I should probably go check. I’ll be right back!”

And before Chat could say anything else, she quickly opened the door and slid down, slamming it shut behind her.

It wasn’t her parents that had been calling her name, he was sure of it. There was only one thing he could think of that it could be. And it wasn’t good.

His morbid curiosity got the best of him, and he carefully pressed his ear against the trapdoor. He could hear Marinette’s hushed voice speaking urgently to someone.

Tikki! Chat’s here!”

The little voice responded, horrified. “Oh my goodness, I had no idea! I’m so sorry!”

“Go hide, quick.”

Dread settled over Chat. Tikki... Plagg had mentioned Tikki before.

 

Tikki was Ladybug’s kwami.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir stood completely still, mind whirling.

Tikki was Ladybug’s Kwami. He was sure of it. There was no other explanation for the strange voice in Marinette’s room.

Marinette and Ladybug certainly had their similarities. He couldn’t deny that. The raven black hair, the lithe form, the energetic, fierce personality… they even shared the same brilliant blue eyes.

But how could Marinette, his Marinette, be Ladybug? Ladybug broke his heart. Marinette was the one who put it back together.

“Uh, C-Chat? Sorry about that, it was my computer after all.” Marinette poked her head out of the trapdoor again, her face pale.

Chat didn’t reply, only looking at her blankly in response.

“It w-was playing an alarm that I set to remind me…” She trailed off, noticing Chat’s odd expression. Her hands gripped the ladder rungs so tightly her knuckles went pale as she pulled herself up onto the deck. “Is… Is something wrong?”

Chat rubbed his face, squeezing his eyes shut. This couldn’t be right. It couldn’t—

“Was that really your computer?”

She gave a high-pitched, nervous laugh, wrapping her arms around herself. “What else would it be?”

“A Kwami, maybe.”

Her eyes widened. “I don’t even know what that is!”

“Marinette…”

Chat wanted to believe that it was her computer, he knew that much. He didn’t want it to be a Kwami. That was the last thing he wanted.

But every blatant lie she told, the way her hands shook and her eyes were fixed at the ground…

He wracked his brain, but it was the only answer, really.

“Listen Chat, I-“

“Stop, just... just stop.” He said, voice trembling. “Don’t lie to me.”

Marinette only glanced up at him and back down again, her eyes welling with tears. They stood in silence for a moment. To Chat, it felt like an eternity.

“I’m sorry, Chat. I really am.”

His face was emotionless, his brain struggling to process the reality of the situation.

“I didn’t mean it to happen like this…”

Chat finally met her gaze, jaw clenched so hard it hurt. “You lied to me.”

“I- I had to! It’s our job, lying to people to keep them safe!” Her voice sounded desperate and strained.

Chat shook his head and took a step backwards toward the edge of the balcony, away from her. “I’m… I can’t believe this.”

“I only did what I had to do. Please, Chat!” Marinette reached out her hand, desperation in her eyes. The tears were spilling over now, streaming down her cheeks.

“You didn’t have to do anything. I told you… I told you so many times. How it would be better if we knew.”

“I didn’t mean—”

“Don’t,” he cut her off. “Marinette… Ladybug. I trusted Marinette. I thought... Actually, I don’t know what I thought.”

“Listen, I… I know you’re upset with Ladybug. I’m not sure why, but I’ll do anything to fix this. Give me a chance.” He didn’t answer. “Please, Chat,” she said, voice going to a hoarse whisper.

He shook his head, breaths coming short. “No, Ladybug. I can’t do this. Not now.” He took another step back until his back touched the railing. And without sparing her a second glance, he gripped the balcony and swung over it. He landed on the ground below it and used his staff to vault out of her sight.

Marinette’s hands shook as she stood alone on the balcony. A sob escaped her throat and she collapsed back onto the bench.

Her breath came in heaves. Her hands wrapped around herself, knees curling up to her chin. She buried her head into them, body shaking with sobs.

How could this have happened? She didn’t mean for this. She wanted to be Chat’s friend since Ladybug couldn’t. But now he knew that they were one and the same, all because she’d forgotten to tell Tikki he was here. Everything had been too good. She should have known.

She could feel a soft, small form appear beside her, tiny paws rubbing her hand.

“I’m so sorry, Marinette. I should have been more careful.”

“N-no Tikki,” she said, struggling to speak between gasps.

The little Kwami didn’t answer, only continuing her comforting pats.

✧✦✧

As soon as Chat was out of sight of Marinette’s house, he landed hard on a random rooftop and stopped there. His mind was spinning. It made sense, all of it did. The similarities between Ladybug and Marinette were too obvious now. In fact, he was surprised he hadn’t noticed them earlier.

But there were a few jarring differences too. Nothing superficial. They looked the same, spoke in much the same way, and moved with the same sense of purpose, despite Marinette’s clumsiness. But Marinette’s sweetness was something he never saw in Ladybug. Ladybug was empathetic and kind, sure, but not sweet. He never felt the same since of safety and warmth that he felt around Marinette around Ladybug.

Ladybug seemed to be endlessly strong and selfless. Every time she was around, it was like everyone could feel her presence. Her confidence was almost contagious. She never let her weakness show. Ladybug had always put her duty to the city first, even before her relationship with Chat.

Marinette was more subtle. Her strength presented itself in a different way. She wasn’t overbearing like Ladybug. But it felt like whenever he needed support, she was there. She didn’t have to say a word, maybe it was just a smile as she walked by in the hall. And when he was around her, he felt warmer, like she could share with him all the things his life was missing.

Maybe the differences were in his head, of course. He hadn’t wanted her to be ladybug, so maybe he’d been searching for anything to separate the two.

He was trying to meld the two girls into one in his mind, but they remained separate. He knew they were the same, rationally, but the way he saw them was just too different.

So Chat sat on that rooftop, watching as the sky grew dark. Shadowy clouds shrouded the moon and blocked out the few stars visible. He wished he could say that it was peaceful, but this was the heart of Paris. The evening was just beginning for most, so cars and busses still crowded the street and people walked the sidewalks, chattering.

Some were businesspeople, only just finishing up their long work days. But most were just Parisians and tourists out to enjoy the night. A group of five or six young adults walked just below Chat’s rooftop rowdily, no doubt off to some nightclub. A convertible sports car sped past, top down and blasting music. A woman and a man made their way through more leisurely, holding hands and speaking in lowered voices.

So even though Chat couldn’t call it peaceful, exactly, there was something oddly calming about it. He pushed his thoughts about Ladybug out of his mind and for a moment, things felt like they were back to normal.

But it was only a moment. Once he closed his eyes he could see her again. He shook his head and pushed himself to his feet.

Usually when he was out and about for non-Akuma related reasons, Chat would pause to talk with a few civilians, maybe take a few pictures or something. This time, though, as he vaulted over the rooftops, he didn’t spare them a second glance, just trying to get home.

✧✦✧

After what seemed like an eternity spent on the balcony, crying, Marinette had a fierce headache. So she finally dragged herself to her feet and started to climb down the ladder to her room. Halfway through, her eyes fell on Chat’s backpack and picnic, which he had left behind. For some reason the sight caused the tears to well back up in her eyes.

But Marinette shook them away, blinking hard to clear them. She went to the bathroom and splashed cold water over her face, which was red and splotchy from crying. The water ran down her neck and dampened the front of her shirt, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.

Tikki floated beside her, not saying anything, just looking at her with big sad eyes. Marinette ignored her too. She grabbed a dixie cup and filled it. The water cooled her throat and, after a few refills, her headache subsided slightly.

It was only a quarter-till’-ten, but all Marinette wanted was to go to sleep. Thank god it was break and she had no homework to do. So she brushed her teeth quickly and got into bed, pulling blankets and pillows around her, just trying to form a little nest to hide away in.

She closed her eyes and let herself sink into her pillow. Suddenly, a little buzz sounded from just beside her.

Who was texting her right now? And was it really important enough to open her eyes for?

Her curiosity got the best of her and she sat up, opening her phone.

Oh, a Ladyblog notification.

She tapped on it mindlessly.

‘Akuma Watch: Akuma spotted near Arc de Triomphe’

Her face paled as she read the headline. An Akuma? Now?

She had to go. It was her duty. Marinette could only hope that Chat wouldn’t be there; that he had missed the notification somehow.

She dragged herself out of bed, trying again to keep tears at bay. Why did they keep coming back?

Her parents weren’t home yet, but they were due to arrive in thirty minutes or so. She had better make this one quick.

So Marinette called on the transformation. “Tikki, transform me.”

A flash of pink flew into her earrings and they exploded into color. Marinette watched as the material of the suit snaked over her pajamas, threading around her body.

But the transformation seemed to fade, the pink light turning a few shades duller. The suit that almost completely covered her now paled too, and Marinette knew something was wrong.

Suddenly she could feel a sharp pain twinge at her ears.

“Tikki?!”

And then Marinette could feel the same pain, piercing her everywhere that the suit touched. It was almost blinding, but it only lasted a moment before the dull pink light flashed white and dissipated, leaving Marinette in her Pajamas, collapsed to her knees.

Her kwami lay next to her, eyes half-closed in exhaustion.

“T-Tikki!” Marinette sobbed, scooping the kwami up. “Are you okay? What happened?”

Tikki gave a little shudder and opened her eyes fully. “Sorry, Marinette. I couldn’t hold the transformation.”

“W-why?”

The kwami looked sadly at her chosen. “I’m afraid you’re just… not fit to be transformed. It’s not your fault, of course,” she took a deep breath, still regaining her energy. “Do you remember when I told you about how your powers respond to your mental state?”

Marinette nodded.

“Well, it seems that…”

“I can’t transform!?” Marinette said. She could feel panic rising in her throat. “I didn’t know… I thought it would just dull my powers or something! I didn’t think it would take all of them…”

“Hey, Marinette. It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

“C-can we try again? I’ll try to calm myself down beforehand this time—”

Tikki shook her head. “That’s just not safe right now… I could tell you felt pain during the transformation. I felt it too. I can’t let that happen again. It could get even worse, permanently damaging your powers or injuring you.”

“I have to help Chat…”

“I’ll handle it this time.”

“How…?”

“I gave you your powers, you think I don’t have some of my own?”

“Oh…”

Tikki smiled softly. “I’ll go find Chat Noir. Don’t worry about him. Now please, Marinette. Try to get a little rest.”

Marinette gave a tense nod. “Be careful, okay?”

“Don’t you worry about anything. I’ll be right back.”

And with that, the little Kwami phased through a window and out of Marinette’s sight. Marinette climbed back up onto her bed, pulling the blankets around her knees and sitting up, staring at the window Tikki had gone through.

✧✦✧

As soon as Adrien had seen the Ladyblog alert, he had had a fierce internal debate.

On one hand, it was his duty to go, to help capture the Akuma and protect the people of Paris.

But on the other… well, he wasn’t sure he could see Ladybug right now. He wasn’t sure if he could take it.

Ultimately, Plagg had made the decision for him.

Seriously, Adrien! You can’t just let some stupid squabble like that get in the way of your duty. If you just can’t stand to think about helping Ladybug, just think about all those citizens you’re protecting!” Plagg said all this with a heavy measure of sarcasm, but that didn’t make it any less true. This was still Adrien’s duty.

So here he was, vaulting over the rooftops as Chat Noir. He felt oddly weak in his suit, much different than he ever had before. A little less like a superhero and a little more like an ordinary boy without superpowers. They were still there, of course, just… less.

The Akuma had been reported at the Arc de Triomphe, which was a bit of a distance away. He tried to make it there quickly, but still, by the time he had arrived, He didn’t see the Akuma anywhere. Only the damage it had left behind, if you could even call it that.

Civilians that had been hiding were reappearing slowly and cautiously, stepping around pools of… something that had collected on the pavement underneath the Arc and on the street. Some of them were covered in whatever it was.

It was amber and almost clear, and it partially covered almost everything Chat could see. He knelt down and cautiously reached out a finger, poking it. It felt like sap, coming away with his finger and making it feel sticky. Gross. After smelling it, Chat could confirm that it was, in fact, tree sap, like the kind that seeps from the bark of a pine. There was just a lot more here than he had ever seen.

He rose to his feet and looked around. Ladybug wasn’t here, which was odd. She always had liked to be on time. But he supposed he had a job to do nonetheless. It was probably good she wasn’t here anyway. He needed her to cleanse the Akuma, but he could do the rest by himself.

After a split second of looking around, Chat heard a few scattered screams coming from the next street over. That had to be it.

When he arrived he saw a few cars coated in sap, gluing the doors shut and trapping the people inside. A few more pedestrians were being splattered with it as he approached. The Akuma was there too; a human form, but twice the height. Also, it had many features of a tree. Its hair was made of brown pine needles and its skin was almost bark-like.

The orange sap was simply pouring out of it, dripping from its arms and hair and pooling at its feet. He watched as it sort of… flung the sap at a pedestrian. There was no better way to describe it. It would swing its arm at a target and the sap would just fly off at it. The picture was odd, to say the least.

But he had spent too much time watching already. He leapt off the building and landed behind it. “Hey! Over here!”

The tree-person turned to peer at him through glowing orange eyes. It said nothing, just sending some sap flying toward him, which he dodged.

Now, where was the akumatized object?

There was an axe imbedded in one of its legs, sap pouring out of the wound almost like blood. That must be it.

So he lunged at it, gripping the handle only to be tossed off when the tree kicked its leg. He landed in a small puddle of sap with a grunt and struggled to pull himself up.

“Come on, that all you got?” he yelled.

Chat could have used one of his many tree-related puns, but he wasn’t quite in the mood for jokes right now. He honestly just wanted this fight over with where he could go home.

Chat?” a small voice said from behind a streetlight near him. He cautiously moved toward it and peered around, meeting the gaze of a Kwami. Ladybug’s Kwami. It was a bit smaller than Plagg, less furry, and bright redish-pink instead of black.

“I’m Tikki.”

“I figured,” he replied, not bothering to hide his contempt for the little creature. She was like the living embodiment of all his problems. This was the very Kwami that changed Marinette into Ladybug. That had told Marinette to lie to him time and time again.

“Listen, Chat. I’m here to help. Marinette can’t transform, but I can purify the Akuma.”

Marinette couldn’t transform?

“Okay. I’m in the middle of a fight here, so would you—” he paused suddenly when his ring gave a little beep, signaling that he was nearing the end of his transformation.

“What? But I… I never used my Cataclysm!”

The Kwami gave a sad nod. “It looks like your powers are giving out too. You had better hurry up, and be careful. Your powers are very unstable.”

“Wait, but why are they giving out!?” Chat said, horrified.

“Plagg can explain later!”

So Chat returned to the battle, trying to get the tree’s attention to no avail.

The axe was securely lodged in the tree’s leg. So it seemed his only option was to cataclysm the axe itself. But could he risk that in his current state? Tikki had said that his powers were unstable. That might mean that his cataclysm wouldn’t be as controlled, and that it could spread from the axe into the Akuma victim. That was something that he couldn’t risk.

So he wracked his brain, trying to come up with some sort of plan. His ring gave another beep, which he ignored.

He ran up and gripped the Axe, only to be flung off again and hit the ground hard. The breath was knocked out of his body and he lay there, gasping for air.

Suddenly, something shot out above him, glowing so brightly it almost hurt his eyes. It literally buzzed with power, the sound jittering him and making the pedestrians turn their heads away. Chat sat up slowly, blinking to adjust his eyes and trying to catch his breath.

It was a small magic form – Tikki, but brighter. Powerful. She flew around the Axe, which took on Tikki’s glow, thrumming with power. It shifted slightly, and then it fully exploded into pink light.

The light faded as quickly as it had come, and Tikki with it. It left behind a confused civilian, who Chat spoke to briefly, reassuring him that he hadn’t done anything wrong, before vaulting up onto a nearby roof.

Tikki had vanished with the Axe, and he could only assume that she had purified the Akuma herself and then somehow teleported back to Marinette.

Kwamis really were more powerful than they let on.

His ring beeped shrilly again, letting Chat know that he was about to detransform. He dropped off the roof into an empty alley just as it released, leaving him exhausted.

“Plagg, I never used my Cataclysm. What happened?” He demanded.

The cat Kwami drooped tiredly. “You were too angry and sad to transform, really. But I was the one that had to hold your transformation for that long. Let me tell you, it was not easy.”

Adrien sighed. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

“I never explained, so I guess it’s fine this time. Do you have cheese?”

“Just a little bit, but I’ve got more at the house.”

“Well give me what you have so you can transform and get back then!”

✧✦✧

Marinette was finally asleep. Tikki phased through the window and smiled softly at the sleeping girl, settling down near her on the bed.

Poor Marinette.

Tikki knew, somewhere deep inside, that part of this was her fault. Perhaps Plagg was right on one regard. Every Ladybug and Chat Noir were different. With most, keeping identities secret was always the best option. It protected them both, as well as their families.

But perhaps these two needed something different. Perhaps it would have been easier if they’d shared their identities with each other at the beginning.

As Tikki looked at her chosen, her heart broke for her.

All Ladybugs had their fair share of problems, but Tikki knew that it was especially painful when a Ladybug had trouble with their Chat Noir. The two were partners for a reason; meant to work together, not apart.

Tikki could only hope.

Chapter Text

Marinette woke up to the sound of her mother’s warm voice.

“Honey? Will you watch the front desk while I pick up some things from the store?”

The girl sat up, dragging a hand over the side of her face. Light streamed through the cracks in her window shade. It had to be ten or eleven, later than she should have slept.

“Mmm… Yeah, mom, I’ve got it. I’ll be down in a few minutes,” she called, pulling herself out of bed and onto the floor. She quickly ran through her morning routine; washing her face, brushing her teeth, and pulling back her hair. She put on a simple outfit before heading downstairs.

“Thanks honey,” Sabine chirped before heading out the door with her purse in hand.

Marinette stepped behind the front desk, calling a greeting to her dad in the kitchen. She sat down on the little stool and rested her elbows on the counter. She rubbed the lingering sleep from her eyes with a harsh exhale of breath.

She hadn’t seen Chat Noir at all since he had left her balcony three days ago… the night she screwed everything up. Tikki had told her all about the Akuma Chat had had to fight without her. It had been a tree Akuma, one that Chat had been too weak to defeat on his own. Tikki never explained why this was, but Marinette was sure that it was the same reason she hadn’t been able to transform. Strong negative emotions.

It was horrible of her, but a tiny part of Marinette was relieved that he was feeling at least a little bad over all of this. Bad enough that his transformation had been weaker.

But oh, she missed him. Her heart ached every time she thought about him. Marinette almost wanted an Akuma to appear, just so she would have a chance to talk to him. To try and make things right.

He would forgive her, she was sure of that. He was angry, yes. But not so angry that he wouldn’t forgive her.

✧✦✧

Adrien wasn’t angry. At least, not in the way he would have expected.

He had been angry at first. And oh, how good it had felt. To just hate her for what she had done. He had trusted her with all of himself, and she hadn’t cared. She had thrown all of it away like it was nothing.

But soon the anger faded into something far worse.

No, he wasn’t angry with her. His pain was deeper than that. It was more like betrayal. And that hurt him so much more than anger.

The three days since he last saw Marinette had passed in a blur for Adrien. Christmas charity events sucked up much of his time, and his father had him working double in preparation for the fashion show to be held on Christmas Eve, just four days away. His mind was only partly on his work, though. She was still there every time he shut his eyes.

His mind was a whirlwind of confused thoughts. Sometimes Adrien thought that maybe, somehow, he could find it in himself to forgive her. Marinette was his friend, and even Ladybug had been, once. Could he really throw all that away?

But the next minute he would think of what she had done. Marinette had lead him on as both Chat and Adrien, making him believe that she was someone he could trust.

She wasn’t trustworthy. Not anymore. Adrien tried, but he couldn’t make himself forget the way she’d hurt him.

He had been lucky in one way, at least. His friends hadn’t tried to hang out since he’d discovered Marinette’s identity. This usually would have been a bad thing, but he knew that where his friends were, Marinette would be also. And he wasn’t sure that he would be able to act normally around her… to pretend like nothing was wrong.

Marinette didn’t know that Adrien and Chat were the same, and he didn’t plan on her ever finding out.

“Adrien, your father wants to see you.”

Nathalie opened the door to Adrien’s bedroom, where he was doing some piano practice in-between events. Maybe it didn’t quite qualify as practice though, as he was spending most of the time staring at the piano and thinking.

“Oh, uh. Right. I’ll be right there.”

Nathalie left and he got up from the piano, following her down the stairs and to his father’s office.

“Adrien,” he said by way of greeting.

“Hello father,” Adrien said. “You wanted to see me?”

The designer gathered up some papers on his desk, tapping them on their end to straighten the edge. “You know how important this fashion show is. The day before should really be reserved solely for rehearsals and preparations.”

Adrien nodded slowly, unsure of where this was going.

“However,” His father said, “Your friend Miss Bourgeois is hosting a party on that day. I’m sure you are aware.”

Adrien was, of course, aware. When he’d received the invitation ages ago, he’d brought it to his father, requesting to attend. His father had denied adamantly, insisting that the day before the show ought to be reserved for rehearsals.

“There will be a lot of people there,” His father continued, “Monsieur Bourgeois has plenty of connections, as you know. There’ll certainly be some paparazzi as well. It will be good publicity. That is why I’ve changed my mind. You will be attending Miss Bourgeois’ party.”

 “You… You changed your mind?” He stammered.

“I’ve moved up the rehearsal date to tomorrow. The dress rehearsal immediately before the show paired with that will give you plenty of time to perfect your technique.”

Adrien nodded in agreement. “Thank you, Father.”

“I’ll have your stylist put together an outfit. You are dismissed.”

So he left his father’s office, jogging back up the steps to his room and closing the door behind him. He let out a sharp breath as he leaned on the door.

This was good. The party would be a good break from everything. Something not related to modeling… something to distract him from Marinette.

Every year, Chloe invited their whole class. Nino, Kim, Alex… All his friends. All except Marinette. Usually, this sort of upset him. He’d even tried to have her attend once, but Chloe had been insistent back then. This time, though, Adrien was relieved that Marinette wouldn’t be there.

Plagg appeared beside him. “What’s up with you?”

“My father said I can go to Chloe’s party.”

“Oh, okay,” Plagg said, clearly a little disappointed. “I was expecting something a lot more exciting.”

“Like what?” Adrien scoffed.

“Like… I don’t know. The shipment of cheese just came it. You spoke to Marinette and decided to forgive her. Something like that.”

“I haven’t spoken to Marinette,” Adrien said bluntly, sitting down on his bed. “And I’m definitely not ready to forgive her.”

Plagg scoffed. “You’re gonna have to talk to her sometime!”

“Well, I’ll hold it off for as long as I can.”

The Kwami looked at his chosen with a strange emotion in his eyes, one that Adrien rarely saw. Was it concern? “Listen, kid. You can’t blame all of this on the girl… I’m sure Tikki was a big part of the problem here.”

Adrien looked at Plagg quizzically.

“Yep. The Ladybug Kwami always has been a stickler for the rules,” Plagg continued.

“Even if that is the case, Marinette still went along with it. She knew what she was doing.”

Plagg shrugged. “I guess.”

✧✦✧

Marinette sat alone at the front desk, arms folded. The morning rush had passed and now there were only occasional customers filing in.

As she waited for customers, Marinette scrolled through the Ladyblog, looking at pictures. She looked at photos from the most recent Akuma, the one Chat had had to fight without her. She scrolled past what seemed like hundreds of other photos; some from Akumas, some from patrols, some from interviews. She was all the way back into photos from ages ago before she knew it. From back when Ladybug and Chat were still best friends, the inseparable duo defeating every enemy together.

There were a few videos, too. Ladybug shooting through the air on her yo-yo to land a solid kick on the Akuma. Chat cataclysming the Eiffel tower.

There was one video that a civilian had gotten during one of their patrols. In it, Ladybug and Chat were bounding from rooftop to rooftop. Marinette could remember that night perfectly. They’d finished their patrol early and Chat had challenged her to a race, from the Notre Dame to a nearby university. She wouldn’t have usually accepted, but for some reason, that night, she did.

She had won the race, of course. Her yo-yo’s reach was far longer than that of Chat’s baton. She had never noticed the civilian taking the video. In it, she seemed focused, shooting through the air and swinging low to the street, laughing at Chat lagging behind.

Marinette knew that those times hadn’t been perfect, but they had certainly been a lot better. At least they had been friends then…

A few tears beaded in her eyes and she wiped them away with her arm. She slid her phone into her pocket, shaking her head and squeezing her eyes shut. She really needed to talk to Chat. Unfortunately, she had no way of contacting him, so she would just have to wait until the next Akuma showed up. Hopefully she would be able to transform then.

Just then, her phone buzzed. She sighed and pulled it out, answering the incoming call from Alya.

“Hey Alya.”

“Hi girl! Do you have a dress yet?”

“Uhhh… I have lots of dresses.”

“I mean one for the party,” Alya said.

The party? Marinette didn’t remember hearing about any party.

“What party?”

Alya snorted. “The Christmas Party Chloe’s holding. Did she seriously not invite you? Again?”

“Nope.”

“Well, that’s too bad. Cause you’re coming!”

“I can’t come if she didn’t invite me!”

Marinette could practically hear Alya roll her eyes through the phone.

“Oh, you suddenly care what Chloe thinks?”

“I mean…” Marinette trailed off. “Not really, but—”

“Exactly,” Alya cut her off. “So I take it you don’t have a dress?”

Marinette sighed. There was no point in protesting; Alya always had her way. Apparently she had a party to attend.

“No, I don’t. When is the party? I probably don’t have time to make one now…”

“No, you don’t. It’s gonna be on the day before Christmas Eve, so we only have today and tomorrow to get dresses.”

Marinette sighed. “So I’m guessing you want to go shopping then?”

“Ah, you know me too well.”

“Well,” Marinette continued, “We should probably get that out of the way today so we have time to make alterations and get accessories if we need to.”

Alya agreed excitedly. “So… Meet you at the Beaugrenelle Mall in an hour?”

“Make it two. I’ve gotta finish up at the bakery and put on some makeup.”

After finalizing their plans, Marinette hung up the phone. She wasn’t sure if she had the emotional capacity for one of Chloe’s parties right now… But it didn’t look like she had a choice this time.

Suddenly, Marinette heard the back door open. Her mom came into the room, setting her purse on the counter.

“Thank you, honey. I’ll take over from here,” Sabine smiled.

Marinette nodded. “Alya wants to go dress shopping at the mall in a little bit, so I’m gonna go get ready, okay?”

“Why do you need more dresses? Don’t you have enough?”

“Aw, there’s no such thing as too many dresses. Plus, this is a special occasion. Chloe’s having a party.”

“Oh, okay. She invited you this time?”

“Not exactly, but Alya’s making me come. I don’t think Chloe will really care if I’m there anyway… I feel like not inviting me is just tradition at this point,” She shrugged.

Sabine laughed. “Okay, go on then.”

Marinette climbed the ladder to her room and sat down onto the Chaise. Tikki floated up beside her.

Marinette covered her face with her hands and gave a weak laugh.

“Are you okay?” The little Kwami said with a concerned expression.

“It’s stupid, but it just feels wrong for me to go to a party right now. I need to talk to Chat… that should be my first priority.”

“I know, Marinette. But there’s nothing you can do right now…” Tikki said softly.

The girl shrugged half-heartedly.

“Plus,” Tikki continued, “Chat should really try to get over himself, too. He was pretty upset that night, during the Akuma fight. He probably needs time to himself. He’ll come to his senses and realize that you did nothing wrong.”

“But that’s the thing! I did do something wrong,” Marinette burst out. “I shouldn’t have lied to him.”

“That’s not true. You were only doing your duty.”

The girl turned to Tikki. “Don’t give me any more of that! I followed those rules, and look where it got me!”

Tikki flinched at her chosen’s harsh words. “I know it didn’t go as planned, but you only did what nearly every other Ladybug has done. Perhaps another method would have worked better, but what’s finished is finished!”

“If it weren’t for your stubbornness, none of this would have happened,” Marinette said, voice cracking.

“That’s—”

“You know I’m right, Tikki.” She stood up. “I have to go get ready.”

The Kwami raised opened her mouth as if to speak, but immediately thought better of it.

Tikki was sorry about what had happened, she really was. But how was she supposed to know it would end like this? Marinette was blaming her, acting as if Chat had had no part in it whatsoever!

She couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was time to pay Plagg another visit. She had to do something to end this!

✧✦✧

“Marinette!” Alya jogged up to her friend, looping her arm around hers. They stood at the entrance to their favorite mall, the Beaugrenelle. It was huge and never failed to intimidate Marinette with the hundreds of people bustling around it.

“Sorry I’m late,” Marinette said breathlessly. “The bus wasn’t on schedule.”

“That’s okay, I wasn’t waiting for long. But let’s get this dress thing out of the way so we can get a coffee!”

Marinette nodded. “Do you have a dress yet?”

“Nope! I was saving the trip to do with you. Shopping is always less tedious with friends.”

Marinette smiled. Alya’s cheerfulness was hard to resist. “Alright. Where to first?”

The two girls examined the directory, selecting a few stores to go to. They walked quickly to the closest one, but there wasn’t much there. The styles were far more contemporary than either of the girls’ tastes, so they left almost immediately.

“Okay, so no luck there,” Alya said as they walked out.

Marinette pointed to the map they’d picked up. “Next one is up a level.”

The next store gave them much more luck. Almost as soon as they walked in, Alya managed to find two dresses that were just her style. Marinette grabbed one as well, a knee-length rose-colored dress with a high waist and a soft, flowy skirt.

Once in the dressing room, they managed to snag to big dressing room so they could both fit. Alya put on one of her dresses, a burgundy dress with a lace neckline.

She stood, looking in the mirror at herself. After doing a few turns, she looked at Marinette.

“What’s your verdict?”

“It’s pretty… I mean, with a body like yours, you’d look good in a potato sack. But I think you should try the next one before we make any final decisions.”

Alya agreed immediately and slipped on her other choice. This one was much different: a metallic rose-gold fabric that moved in a beautiful way. The hem hit Alya just above the knee and the waist hugged her curves enticingly.

Marinette nodded fiercely and fanned her face with her hand. “You look hot.”

Her friend grinned, giving a few more turns before the mirror. “Ugh, I love it. And I actually have shoes already that would go with it!”

“So that’s a wrap then,” Marinette laughed. “It’s perfect.”

After Marinette tried on her dress, which they both agreed was not the one, Alya payed and the girls started walking to the next store.

As they walked, Alya’s phone gave a little bell chime, signaling a text. She pulled it out and opened it.

“Ooh! Nino says that Adrien is gonna be there after all!”

Adrien. Marinette hadn’t thought of him in what seemed like forever. There had really only been one blonde, green-eyed boy on her mind of late…

“A-Adrien’s gonna be there?” She could feel her face heat up.

“Yep! He had a modeling thing, but apparently his dad shuffled things around so he could go!”

Marinette said nothing, and Alya continued, “Soooo… looks like the stakes are higher now.”

“The stakes?”

“I mean we’ve definitely gotta get the perfect dress now! It has to knock Adrien off his feet.”

Marinette nodded uncertainly. It was weird… Usually the mention of his name would have sent her heart beating wildly. But this time? It seemed like an afterthought.

“You don’t seem nearly stressed enough,” Alya laughed. “The pressure is on, girl! We have to get the perfect dress now, something that will not only impress Chloe, but Adrien as well!”

“R-right. Let’s get going then!” Marinette took Alya’s hand and lead her toward the shop.

They arrived soon, walking through the delicate archway that marked the entrance. The store was pretty, with a certain aesthetic that appealed to Marinette’s style perfectly. Soft lines and lace. Floral patterns and pastels.

Alya seemed slightly disillusioned. This may have been Marinette’s style, but it wasn’t even close to hers.

Marinette caught sight of her expression and said, “Oh, shh. You already have your dress. This part is all me.”

Alya nodded with a laugh. “Right.”

✧✦✧

Eight dresses, two shoe stores, one coffee, and three hours later, Marinette arrived back to her house. She carried the bag holding her dress as well as a shoe box, since she hadn’t already owned any shoes that would have matched the dress she picked.

She dragged all of this up to her room and hung the dress. The fabric seemed like the type to wrinkle easily. After removing her shoes and changing into a more comfortable pair of pants, the girl climbed up to lay on her bed. She had a headache.

“Tikki?” She said slowly, “I’m gonna take a nap.”

“That’s okay, Marinette!” Tikki said, looking up at her chosen from her place on the desk.

She watched as Marinette’s breathing slowed to a steady pace before she phased out of the window, flying straight toward Chat Noir’s house. She needed to talk to Plagg.

When she arrived, she found Adrien’s bedroom empty. With a frustrated huff, Tikki gave a quick look around. Disappointingly, there was no sign of either Plagg or his chosen.

So, feeling unsatisfied, Tikki made her way back to her own house. She phased through the window, careful not to make a sound, and flew up to Marinette’s bed.

Suddenly, her little heart dropped. The bed was empty and Marinette stood in the bathroom door, looking oddly at her.

“Where were you?”

“Oh, Marinette! I was just… I had to talk to Plagg. About the current situation. You know.”

The girl climbed up the ladder to her. “And what did he say? Is Chat still upset with me?”

“I… they weren’t there. I’m sorry,” Tikki said softly.

Marinette didn’t bother to hide the disappointment in her eyes.

Chapter Text

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 4:01> I have to ask a favor.

Marinette sent out the text and immediately set her phone face-down on the counter when she caught he father’s disapproving glance.

“Sorry, Papa.”

“We’ve got ninety-three cupcakes left, you can text all you want after that.”

She nodded and picked up the frosting bag, bringing the tip to an undecorated cupcake and piping out turquoise icing.

Chloe’s Christmas party was being held that evening. Marinette’s dress had been carefully ironed and set out and Alya was set to come over two hours in advance to get ready. That was a mere hour away, though, and there were still almost a hundred cupcakes to frost.

It was cutting Marinette’s time dangerously close, but the bakery had received a big order and there were no employees available to help. So here she was, an hour from when Alya was due to arrive, frosting a batch of two-hundred cupcakes.

Fingers aching, Marinette finally set down the piping bag and rinsed her hands of the turquoise frosting. After making up a quick excuse to her father, she disappeared into her room and stood just beside her bed. She opened her phone to discover a reply from her best friend.

<Alya Cesaire 5:11> Hm?

<Alya Cesaire 5:11> Anything for you, cutie ;)

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 5:13> Stop your flirting! I need a favor.

<Alya Cesaire 5:14> So you said ;)

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 5:14> Alya!!!

<Alya Cesaire 5:14> Yeah, yeah. You’re no fun. What do you need?

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 5:15> Can I invite another friend to get ready with us? We met at Adrien’s photoshoot and it’s a mere coincidence that she’ll be attending the party too.

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 5:16> She’s really nice, I think you’ll like her.

<Alya Cesaire 5:16> Yes of course!

<Marinette Dupain-Cheng 5:16> Thank you! See ya then, babe ;)

<Alya Cesaire 5:16> Now THAT’s more like it.

Marinette set her phone down with a grin playing at her lips as she quickly made her way back down to the kitchen. No one could lift her spirits like Alya.

There had, of course, been no sign of Chat Noir. Marinette knew from the Ladyblog that Chat hadn’t been out on his regular patrols, and she hadn’t even tried to transform since the night of Chat’s disappearance. Beyond hurting her, that incident had greatly weakened Tikki and it had taken her hours to regain her strength. Marinette wasn’t willing to put her kwami through that again… not until it was really necessary.

✧✦✧

“I brought takeout,” Alya exclaimed, climbing Marinette’s ladder with about four bags in hand. Marinette marveled that she could hold them all while climbing.

Amara sat cross-legged on the ground beside Marinette, who was applying her makeup.

“Alya,” Marinette greeted. “This is Amara, the girl I met at the photoshoot!”

Amara cracked an eye open, careful not to disrupt Marinette’s careful makeup application. “Hi! You must be Alya.”

“That’s me. It’s nice to meet you,” Alya grinned.

She plopped down on the floor beside Marinette and Amara and began unloading the boxed meals. Chinese food, Marinette happily noted. She wrapped up Amara’s makeup, a smoky eye with glittering golden lip gloss, before settling down to eat.

The three girls ate in silence for a few minutes, each of them hungry from their respective long days. After a while, Alya piped up. “We have like an hour and a half now before we have to leave. We’d better get a move on.”

Alya scraped her empty food boxes to the side and began unloading the next bag, this one full of makeup. “I’ll do you first, Mari. Move back toward the light.”

Marinette complied, sitting cross-legged on the floor just beside her desk. Alya pumped out some of the foundation Marinette had provided on to the back of her hand.

“Lean back some, your face isn’t in the light.” She poked Marinette’s cheek lightly with her finger, tilting it back so the light from the nearby lamp illuminated it properly. The redhead used a beauty blender to pad foundation over her friend’s skin before moving on to concealer and blending it out with an expert hand.

 “What are you thinking for the eyeshadow color?” Alya opened a big palate with enough choices to overwhelm Marinette.

“Uhmm… I don’t really know. Maybe this?” She gestured to a shimmering cream color.

“I can work with that.”

Alya and Amara got along well, it seemed, chatting as Alya worked on Marinette’s eyeshadow.

Marinette closed her eyes and tried to relax as Alya used a fluffy brush to sweep color over her eyelids. Soon she moved onto eyeliner, tracing the outer corner of her eye with black liquid and forming it into a light, delicate wing shape.

“Oooh, this is pretty. Open your eyes,” Alya ordered.

Marinette did so, and Alya made a few more adjustments. “Okay, look in the mirror.”

It was a soft look, rose gold eyeshadow with shimmering cream white in her inner corners. The eyeliner was natural enough, but it accentuated her beautiful almond-shaped eyes, the product of her Asian heritage.

After profusely thanking her friend, Marinette started on Alya’s makeup. They’d decided on dramatic winged liner and a red lip, both of which complimented Alya’s face beautifully. They also applied highlighter to her cheekbones, nose, and cupids bow to accentuate her exotic features.

Once the girls were satisfied with their makeup, they began with their hair. Alya tied hers back into a slick ponytail, and Amara left her curly mane down with a few gold clips to hold it in place. Marinette put hers in a low bun with hair pulled out to frame her face.

Soon, Alya went to change into her dress while Marinette and Amara cleaned up from their meal.

Alya looked as stunning as Marinette remembered, the rose gold fabric hugging her curves enticingly. It shimmered in the light from the windows, making her quite the eye-catcher.

The redhead took a breath, tilting her chin down and pouting her lips in a stereotypical model pose, and Marinette had to admit: she really did look the part. She put her hands on her waist, strutting forward with her hips swaying from side-to-side. The show didn’t last long, though, before Alya burst into laughter.

Amara pulled on her dress while Marinette undressed. It was a deep emerald green slip dress, the simplicity making it especially beautiful.

“Can you tie this?” Marinette turned around, holding her dress up while Alya laced up the back.

Alya beamed as Marinette turned around, Amara letting out a soft “oooh”.

The dress was a pale pink, Marinette’s signature color, with red roses gathered at the breast and scattered down the skirt. The sleeves sat just off the shoulder, exposing the cute freckles that graced Marinette’s pale skin. The body of the dress was fitted around her waist, falling out into a loose thigh-length skirt.

“Adrien is gonna die,” Alya said.

Marinette’s face lit up with a fiery blush, frowning at Alya.

Amara, however, perked up immediately. “Do you mean-”

Marinette cut her off with a glare at Alya. “No, she doesn’t mean anything.”

“Oh, don’t listen to her,” Alya snorted. “It’s no secret that Marinette has a major crush on Adrien. I think he likes her back too, if he would just make a move… Or if Marinette would, for that matter!”

“I thought they were already dating,” Amara exclaimed. At Marinette and Alya’s shocked looks, she continued, “I mean, just from the little bit I saw at the photoshoot…”

“W-wow,” Marinette stammered.

Alya only snorted. “We wish!”

“Well,” Amara said confidently, hands on her hips. “If there’s any time for him to make a move, tonight will be it. You look beautiful.”

Marinette beamed. “You do too. You both do.”

✧✦✧

Per his stylist’s instructions, Adrien was to wear a simple black suit with a black dress shirt underneath. It was well fit and very flattering, but basic. Minimal makeup, a neat hairstyle, and only the essential accessories. In his father’s words, this party ‘is not a fashion show… it is a publicity stunt.’ Adrien was to look good, but only to help point to the real attraction: Gabriel’s runway show. That would be where people could see him wear all the really good designs.

So, after having dinner at an upscale restaurant downtown, Adrien headed to the Grand Paris Hotel, where Chloe’s party was being held.

Usually, when entering socialite’s parties like this, Adrien would have avoided the paparazzi as much as possible, maybe going through an alternative entrance or having his bodyguard escort him inside. This time, though, he had been clearly instructed to let the paparazzi have all the photos they wanted. Adrien’s father wanted this spread all over to help promote his show.

As Adrien opened the door of the sleek car, he was met with bright camera flashes. Any normal person might have been momentarily blinded, but Adrien only blinked a few times before his eyes adjusted to the white light.

Just ahead of him, a well-known fashion blogger posed for the cameras. He followed suit, walking forward confidently and pausing once or twice to allow the cameras a good shot.

The door of the hotel was pulled open for him and he was allowed inside. The lobby had been opened up and decorated, Christmas trees in every corner and delicate holly hanging from the ceiling.

It might have been beautiful, Adrien thought.

The scent of expensive perfume permeated the air, and near the food tables, he could smell warm spices and cookies.

He’d been in the room for no more than a minute when he was first approached. This was soon followed by even more people: people asking about the brand, people offering him a modeling contract, and more. He directed almost everyone to his agent, who would be able to deal with them more properly. Adrien barely knew anything about the workings of   his father’s company, despite popular belief.

From across the room, his eyes met with Chloe’s. She shot him a smile, wiggling her fingers at him, before turning back to the people she was chatting with. She stood beside a group of his classmates, and after fending off a small bunch of fans requesting selfies with him, he strode over to meet his friends.

They each greeted Adrien cheerfully, and Nino finished up his conversation with Alix to come join him.

"Hey man! I'm glad you managed to fight through the crowd of fans to get to us commoners."

"'Commoners' is not a word I would use to describe you," Adrien laughed. He looked over the group, noticing a clear absence. "Hey, where's Alya? Didn't you say she'd be here?"

"Oh, yeah! She just texted me. She's on her way with Mari and one of their friends."

Adrien's stomach dropped. Marinette was going to be here?

He knew that he would have to face her sometime, he just didn’t expect it to be so soon. He didn't feel ready to look at her and see, not his friend, but someone who had lied to him for years, who had played with his feelings without a care.

“…not sure if we met her before, but… Adrien? Are you listening to me?” Nino jabbed a finger against Adrien’s shoulder, jolting the blonde into reality.

“O-oh, right,” He said, trying to clear his head. He may not have wanted to see Marinette so soon, but he was going to have to push through. “Sorry. What were you saying?”

“I was saying that I don’t think we’ve met Mari and Alya’s friend before. Name’s Amara, Alya said.”

Amara… The name rang a bell.

“Yeah, I think I’ve done a photoshoot with her. The one Marinette came to.”

“Oh, that makes sense…” Nino trailed off. “Hey, wanna grab some snacks?”

“I’m on a pretty strict diet for the show, but I’ll come with you and get some water.”

Nino nodded. “Damn, your dads really putting you through the ringer for this one huh?”

“I mean, it’s an important show. The debuts of his new lines are always pretty big deals.”

The two boys wove their way over to one of the refreshment tables, laden with pastries and finger foods and all sorts of things Adrien wished he could try. But he resisted the temptation and just grabbed a glass of lemon water, watching as Nino piled his plate with bite-sized treats.

As they made their way back to the group, Nino talked non-stop between bites.

“I feel a little bad for poor Mari, she’s seemed really out of it lately.”

Adrien fought to keep his voice level as he replied, as casually as he could muster, “Oh? What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, Alya said she’s been all pouty. And a few days ago the three of us got together for lunch—you were at an event—and she barely said anything.”

“Do… do you know why?” Adrien was sure the tremble in his voice was evident now.

Nino shrugged. “Nope. She’s been a little stressed for a while now, though. Maybe it’s just catching up to her.”

Adrien nodded. The two boys re-joined the group of friends, his heart still beating rapidly. He didn’t think he could see her. Not yet…

“Alya, Mari! Over here!”

Adrien turned around, blood pounding in his head.

There she was, walking just beside Alya and Amara as they made their way to meet their friends. She walked just behind them, eyebrows furrowed in what appeared to be nervousness. And then she looked up, clear blue eyes meeting his gaze.

Those were Ladybug’s eyes.

After just a moment the connection was severed, her eyes flicking back to the ground with a blush blooming on her cheeks.

And Adrien couldn’t believe it. That this girl—his sweet, pretty classmate; the girl he had almost loved—could be the same as Ladybug.

But then he remembered how she had lead him on, not as Ladybug, but as Marinette. The late nights watching corny movies, the soft glances, the playful flirting, none of it meant anything. How could it, when her superhero persona had made it abundantly clear that she wanted nothing more than strict professionalism between them?

Adrien spun on his heel, muttering something in excuse, before weaving his way through the crowd. He bumped shoulders with people and ignored every word called out to him, making a beeline for the bathroom. He locked himself into a stall and finally stopped, taking a deep breath and running his fingers through his hair.

He had to stay collected. Marinette didn’t know that he was Chat Noir, but he had no doubt that she would soon if he couldn’t pull himself together.

✧✦✧

Marinette and Amara stood by the food table, sipping punch and talking on and off over the noise. There were a remarkable about of people here, almost all of whom seemed be relatively high-class. It was intimidating.

And it didn’t help that Adrien had shot off as soon as she had arrived without a word in greeting.

All in all, not a great start to the evening.

“Wanna try some of these?” Amara questioned, gesturing to a tray of egg rolls.

Marinette nodded and picked up a little china plate, serving herself a roll and grabbing some macarons while she was at it. She took a bite of each, humming her approval.

Amara’s gaze was focused on something across the room, eyes wide. “Oh my god…”

“What is it?”

“I, uh… Do you see that man over there? The tall one with the red suit? That’s Baptiste Chartier, the casting director for a movie I auditioned for.”

“A movie? That’s awesome!”

“I wanted to branch out from modeling. I wonder if I was cast... I’m trying not to get my hopes up.”

“Acting seems perfect for you,” Marinette said with a smile.

“Should I go ask him? If I was cast, I mean.”

“Ooh, yes!”

Resolve filled Amara’s gaze and she nodded. “Okay. I’m gonna. Wait here for me, I may need the moral support,” she said with a nervous laugh.

“You got this,” Marinette called as her friend walked over to meet the casting director.

She watched as Amara waited for him to finish speaking to someone before approaching him with a polite smile. Marinette couldn’t hear the words spoken, but when the director replied, she could see Amara’s face fall. She nodded, looking at the ground, before saying something else and heading back in Marinette’s direction.

Marinette jogged up to meet her only to find tears welling in her friend’s eyes.

“Amara! What happened?”

“I didn’t get the part,” She said slowly.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry…”

Amara shrugged half-heartedly. “That’s okay. There’s always other chances, right?”

“Of course. You’ll get your big break.”

There was a beat of silence where neither girl was quite sure what to say. Amara’s gaze was fixed on the ground and Marinette looked at her with concern.

“Hey, I’m just gonna go to the bathroom, okay?” Amara pulled her gaze from the floor.

“Do… do you need me to come?”

“No, I’ll be alright. Thanks though.”

Marinette nodded uncertainly. “Just be sure to come get me if you need anything. I’ll be with the rest of my class.” She placed a soft hand on Amara’s shoulder and gave a small smile. “I’m sure an even better role will come along soon enough.”

Amara nodded her thanks, turning to walk towards the bathroom. Marinette began walking too, back to join the group of her classmates. She didn’t notice the tiny black butterfly that trailed just behind her friend.

Chapter Text

Amara leaned over the bathroom sink, fighting back the tears that swam in the edges of her vision.

She hadn’t really expected to get the part. But it had been hard not to get her hopes up. So, when she’d gone to speak with her director, there had been a bright, hopeful bloom in her heart, telling her that she was going to make it.

But she hadn’t. Amara hadn’t gotten the part, and even though the director had tried to be encouraging, she didn’t feel it. She didn’t feel talented… She felt like a failure.

The tears spilled over and Amara could feel them track down her face and down her neck, some of them falling onto the clear marble of the sink.

Something was wrong. It was a strange feeling, sort of a dull ache all over. It wormed under her skin and her vision went foggy and her hands shook. She blinked a few times, fighting to clear her mind. The feeling only intensified though, and in the span of a moment, she heard a voice. It was coming from anywhere and everywhere, reaching her from every side of the room. It echoed off the walls of her mind and seeped through her consciousness.

Oh, Amara, it said.

The director may not believe in you, but I do.

I believe in you.

Amara’s breathing was fast and shallow, rasping in her throat as she listened to the voice in her mind.

I can offer you a part far greater than anything that director could have given you…

I can give you powers beyond your imagination.

Just agree to get me the miraculous of Ladybug and Chat Noir. If you can do that for me, the powers will be yours forever.

No one will be able to ignore you now. You won’t be slighted any more,

Something about the voice comforted Amara. The things it promised were irresistible. So she didn’t resist.

✧✦✧

Marinette stood with Alya and Nino at the edge of the room, just beside a tall marble pillar. The room was loud and crowded and so the three had done their best to escape the thick of it.

Alya and Nino flirted playfully, and Marinette felt like a major third wheel. Usually Adrien was there to mediate, but he’d disappeared soon after she had arrived.

It was a bit weird how he had left. He had met her gaze before something came over him and he rushed off toward the bathrooms. Marinette hoped he was okay. It would be a nightmare to be ill at a party like this.

Marinette broke away from her thoughts and looked up to find Nino’s back to her, his lips pressed passionately against Alya’s. It seemed like they’d forgotten she was here.

With an embarrassed squeak, Marinette turned on her heel and speed-walked away from the couple. Her throat burned slightly, so she weaved through the crowd to the refreshments, where she discovered a pitcher of chilled strawberry tea. She poured some into a crystal glass and took a few sips.

Marinette was sure it was just her imagination, but everything seemed to have gone a bit quieter, voices speaking only in hushed whispers. There was something off. She turned slowly, heart thudding in her chest. She could barely see over the crowd, standing on her toes to catch sight of whatever it was that had captivated everyone’s attention.

Amara walked through the sea of people, which spread easily to create a path for her, so captivated by her that they could hardly look away if they wanted to.

The only reason Marinette recognized the figure as Amara was her face. Everything else was transformed. It was all green, almost glowing with the rich color. Her dress had been shifted into something far more elaborate, an emerald, flowing skirt dragged behind her and the fabric shimmered seemingly from within. Her hair was straightened now, sleek verdant locks falling like a waterfall over her shoulders.

She was eye-catching, to be sure. It was no wonder she held the eyes of the crowd so easily.

Marinette was surprised to find that it was hard to draw her gaze away. Every step Amara took was enchanting and Marinette’s eyes felt almost glued to her.

Amara—the Akuma—clearly had a mission. She easily made her way through the crowd to meet a man Marinette recognized as the casting director that hadn’t given Amara a part—Monsieur Chartier.

The Akuma spoke, her words easily carrying to meet Marinette’s ears.

“Now, have you changed your mind about giving away my part?”

Chartier looked small in comparison to the Akuma, but he held his ground. “I-I’m sorry, the part was already given to someone else. There’s really nothing I can do…”

The Akuma sighed. “That’s alright.”

Monsieur Chartier visibly relaxed for a moment.

“I’m afraid, then,” The Akuma said, “that I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.”

Marinette watched in horror as the brilliant green dress almost evaporated, shreds of fabric threading around Amara and turning into thin threads of light snaking around her.

The dress had disappeared, revealing how the Akuma’s face, which looked almost normal, only lead to a body that was anything but. The natural brown skin of her neck melted into a clear, green, glass-like body. It was like the body of some supernatural doll, Marinette thought. The color of it shifted from shade to shade, impossible to follow the transformations. The threads of light still floated eerily around the Akuma, only adding to the surreal effect.

In the moments of near silence, the crowd took on a new, fearful aura. There was terror evident in their eyes, but they were still hardly able to look away.

After a moment, the Akuma finally spoke. “You, Monsieur Chartier, crushed my dream of becoming an actress. Now I’m here to make sure that no one gets to achieve their dreams either!”

With that, she took a few slow steps toward him before one of the threads of green light traveled from her fingertip and disappeared into Chartier’s chest. He seemed to be in pain for a moment before he opened his eyes, now the same brilliant green as the light.

“You do what I say now, Monsieur,” She spat.

She then whirled around to face the crowd. “Who wants to be next?”

Marinette finally broke herself from the daze she had been in. She spun around to run back into an empty hall, dodging around the crowds of civilians that had come to their senses and were now attempting to escape the Akuma.

Once she was alone, Marinette took a few deep breaths, trying to tune out the frenzied screams coming from the foyer.

“Tikki?” She called, voice shaking.

The Kwami came out hesitantly. “I really… I’m afraid that you are in no condition to transform.”

“I have to help Amara. Plus, transforming will give me a chance to talk to Chat. I have to do this.”

“If you’re sure, Marinette,” Tikki agreed halfheartedly. “Just be careful. Your powers won’t be stable.”

Marinette didn’t want a repeat of her last attempted transformation. It had fallen apart at the last moment, causing her excruciating pain and exhausting Tikki. But she was stronger this time. She had a purpose.

With a determined, if a little fearful, nod, Marinette called for her transformation.

The bright pink light burst around her and she could feel her suit wrap around. She willed the transformation to complete, and it did, the light dissipating to reveal Ladybug standing in Marinette’s place.

The transformation was almost painless this time. She could still feel some weakness through the costume, but at least it had worked.

The heroine unhooked her yo-yo, spinning it with as much confidence as she could muster, before she ran out into

✧✦✧

Shit.”

From his place in the hall, Adrien could hear the unmistakable sounds of some Akuma wreaking havoc on the partygoers.

He tried to think straight, but all he could come up with were a few confused sentences swirling in his brain.

Ladybug was sure to be there, for one thing. He would have to face her and fight alongside her. Could he handle it?

He hoped he could.

Because if there was nothing else, Adrien held his duty as Chat Noir above his personal feelings. Or at least, he tried to.

So after taking a moment to pull himself together, Adrien called on his transformation.

Once it was complete, he grabbed his baton and spun it as he ran out into the foyer.

The first thing he saw was an eerie, supernatural-looking Akuma walking leisurely around the room. The bright beams she shot from her fists burst like bombs against anything they hit.

It seemed Chat had taken too long, as the room was in shambles. Multiple pillars were crumbled and the velvety furniture had been charred and blast out of place.

There were also a few civilians who hadn’t managed to escape the Akuma’s power, their eyes turned an eerie shade of green. They did whatever she said, and most were currently blocking the doors to keep any more people from escaping.

Chat leapt over a bench and vaulted into the air, grabbing onto a chandelier and using it to jump down just in front of the Akuma.

“Oh, little kitty, if I were you I’d get out of my way,” the Akuma snarled.

Chat ignored the comment, cutting right to the chase. “Can we make this quick? I’m kind of busy at the moment.”

The truth was, he was just hoping that he could deal with the Akuma himself and get out of sight before Ladybug even appeared. Unfortunately, luck was not on his side, (no wonder, since he had made an enemy of Lady Luck herself,) and just then, he heard the telltale sound of Ladybug’s magic yo-yo.

The heroine landed softly beside him, and he could hear her breathing quicken as she opened her mouth to say something.

Before she had the chance, though, the Akuma took a sharp step toward him, causing him to have to duck around her in one fluid motion.

Ladybug stomped her foot in frustration, shoulders going limp. “Chat, I need to talk to you. Please…”

He turned to her sharply and their eyes met. “Now is really not the time, Ladybug,” he hissed.

She looked like she wanted to protest, but pushed it down, looking at the ground for a moment before resolve filled her eyes and she took out her yo-yo and slung it again toward the Akuma. It wrapped around her arm, but she easily threw it off with just a flick of her wrist and a poof of green light.

Ladybug huffed in frustration. Chat was trying to avoid her, she could tell. The only thing she could do was to defeat the Akuma quickly and then go chase him down. She needed to speak with him... had to fix the mistakes she’d made.

Ladybug ducked around a few more destructive beams and then slipped behind a marble pillar, panting. It was clear that Tikki had been right about one thing: her powers weren’t stable. She felt like she was about to detransform at any second.

One more reason to finish this fight as quickly as she could.          

✧✦✧

Chat sent out his baton and knocked the Akuma back, sending her into a pillar. She glared at him and fired a few more beams, which he easily dodged.

Ladybug’s brows furrowed, and she looked like she wanted to say something, before another destructive beam shot from the Akuma’s fist. She dodged it narrowly, stumbling into a piece of a half-burnt table with a gasp.

A few of the Akuma’s mind-controlled followers came at Ladybug, and the heroine, caught off-guard, stumbled backward into a wall.

“A little off your stride today, aren’t you?” Laughed the Akuma. “It looks like this will be an easy win for me…”

Chat lunged at her, baton spinning. If he could just get ahold of her necklace… that had to be the akumatized object. He slid under her arm and dodged another beam, reaching out for her necklace frantically. His claws scraped at the back of her neck, but he couldn’t quite reach the chain.

The Akuma spun around with a snarl. She glared at him, and then glanced straight upwards. Chat saw her smirk as she raised her fist to shoot a beam towards the ceiling above him.

He looked up to see the massive chandelier, entirely made of glass and dense metal, break from its hold on the ceiling. It plummeted toward him, and he could hear Ladybug yell something frantically.

He couldn’t dodge the chandelier, there wasn’t time, so he did the only thing that came to mind. He ducked his head and crouched to the ground, eyes squeezed shut.

✧✦✧

Ladybug watched in horror as the ceiling creaked and the huge chandelier broke off, plummeting towards Chat. She desperately clawed at the Akuma’s mind-controlled followers, who had pinned her between a wall and a broken pillar.

Chat! Get out of the way!” Her voice seemed out of place, cracking with terror.

She saw the panic flash through his eyes as he ducked.

The chandelier smashed to the ground. A horrible echoing crash resounded through the foyer and shards of broken glass flew through the air.

Ladybug screamed, fighting frantically against the Akuma’s followers. She could hardly see them, her vision tunneling until all she could see was the crushed chandelier.

She fought with everything she had, legs kicking and nails clawing desperately at the figures. She was vastly outnumbered and they trapped her against the wall, their hands reaching for her miraculous. She covered her ears with her hands, kicking at her assailants, still trying to get away. She had to help Chat

Ladybug could barely see through her haze of fear, but it was enough. She could see as the Akuma walked oh-so-slowly, calmly, up to the remains of shattered glass and bent metal that had been the chandelier.

The heroine gasped in pain as one of the Akuma’s followers scraped at her hand, still covering her miraculous. They jostled her, trying in vain to reach the earrings. She fought back hard, kicking since she couldn’t use her hands.

Once she’d gained a slight advantage, Ladybug reached for her yo-yo and used it to hook onto a pillar. With a grunt and a few more kicks, she managed to escape the follower’s desperate grasps. She shot upwards into the pillar and then kicked off of it to hit the ground at a roll.

The girl leapt to her feet, sprinting toward the wreckage.

She had to help Chat.

The Akuma was rising to her feet, back to Ladybug. She turned slowly to face her, something small held in between her finger and thumb.

Ladybug was too late. Her mouth opened in dread as she skidded to a stop, choking back a horrified sob.

The Akuma’s eerie green eyes rose to meet Ladybug’s frightened blue ones. The corners of her mouth turned up in a nasty smirk as she held up her hand, displaying what she held between her fingers, confirming Ladybug’s fear.

Chat’s miraculous.

Chapter Text

Gabriel Agreste watched through his Akuma’s eyes as Chat Noir’s transformation dropped to reveal Adrien, his own son, bloodied and unconscious within the rubble of a broken chandelier. As soon as he saw this, Gabriel’s world came to a grinding halt.

His Akuma was asking for directions: Chat Noir’s miraculous had been captured. Hawkmoth had nearly reached his goal. But at what cost?? Adrien, his own boy, was the one that had fought his dangerous Akumas time and time again. And now one had injured him deeply, possibly worse.

Gabriel clutched his head. Adrien .

But… wouldn’t Adrien understand? Gabriel’s goal had always been to reunite their family, to bring his wife, Adrien’s mother , back. Adrien had to understand that. If he had known , he never would have fought.

So really, the best thing Gabriel could do now was to continue. Adrien’s wounds would heal. But once he had both Ladybug’s and Chat Noir’s miraculous, their whole family would be together again. That was the best thing he could do for his son. And if Adrien had to suffer for it?

So be it.

✧✦✧

There has been countless times throughout Marinette’s time as ladybug where she had found herself inadvertently curious about the identity of Chat Noir. However, she never acted upon this curiosity. Maybe it was because of Tikki’s constant warnings against doing so: learning Chat’s identity could be dangerous for the both of them. Maybe it was because of her own insecurities. Maybe it was a little of both.

But now, as Ladybug stood before the emerald-eyed Akuma who grasped Chat’s miraculous, the smashed chandelier on the ground, and Chat’s civilian form trapped somewhere in the wreckage, she realized that she didn’t want to know his identity at all. That knowledge was too great for her to bear, too deep. Plus, with Chat’s mistrust of her as of late, would he even want her to know his identity? Maybe not. And the last thing Marinette wanted was to violate her partner’s trust yet again.

Ladybug stood a few arms-lengths away from the Akuma, who was once again speaking telepathically to hawkmoth, Chat’s ring grasped between two fingers. The heroine saw an opening: the Akuma was distracted. So without thinking, acting only on instinct and adrenaline, Ladybug lunged forward and wrapped her yo-yo around the Akuma’s waist and one of her arms.

The Akuma broke from her trance with a snarl and fired a few skewed blasts at Ladybug, all of which were easily dodged.

Ladybug still had no idea what the akumatized object was. But, unlike usual, logic wasn’t on her mind. She was only focused on one thing: getting Chat’s miraculous back and making the Akuma pay for ever laying a finger on him.

The Akuma burst from Ladybug’s yo-yo effortlessly, knocking the heroine back. She leapt to her feet and found herself being knocked back yet again by another blast. She hit a pillar and could feel cracks form in it where she had collided.

She collapsed onto one knee, hand on her head. Her ears rang slightly, and she was pretty sure the wet, hot substance trickling from her nose was blood.

Ladybug could feel her transformation wavering: it wouldn’t last much longer in its current, weakened, state.

Just another minute, Tikki, she said to herself. Hold on for another minute.

She launched her yo-yo and swung around the Akuma, feet hitting the back of her head and sending her stumbling forward. Chat’s ring clanked to the floor.

Ladybug shot down toward it just as the Akuma did. She reached it first, but another blast sent her flying away from it before she could grab it.

With her transformation weakening fast, Ladybug finally forced herself to think. If she couldn’t get Chat’s miraculous from the Akuma , she had no doubt that Amara would give it up willingly. So the best way to retrieve the miraculous would be to purify the Akuma. That would be difficult without Chat’s help.

Chat, who was still trapped under the Chandelier in his civilian form, possibly injured. One more reason to make this fight quick…

✧✦✧

The world seemed just out of focus. The edges of his vision were grey and the world moved in a way that caused his stomach to turn.

He felt like throwing up. There was a sickening taste of iron (blood?) in his mouth, and everything ached.

He closed his eyes, not wanting to watch the ceiling spin above him any more.

✧✦✧

The Akuma sent another blast toward Ladybug, who stumbled to the right at the last minute, barely avoiding it.

The heroine had decided that the akuma butterfly had to be housed in a gold bracelet cuff. It was the only thing that had remained from Amara’s outfit, and usually, that was where the akuma hid.

Ladybug repeatedly got nearly close enough to grab it before being shoved or kicked or blasted away and out of reach.

After a particularly strong blast, Ladybug fell onto the floor with a groan. Her transformation visibly flickered, sending a panic through her. She could hear Tikki trying to tell her to hide and detransform, so she dragged herself to her feet and, after giving a moment for her vision to clear, she swung over some furniture and into a narrow hallway which led to the kitchens. She went just far enough to be out of sight and collapsed behind a food cart that lay abandoned in the hall.

Her transformation released barely a second later, leaving Marinette holding a trembling Tikki in her hands.

“That was… Too much,” The kwami panted.

“I’m so sorry,” Marinette sobbed. “The Akuma has Chat’s miraculous--”

“Yes… She will be bringing it to Hawkmoth, now that you aren’t there to keep her from escaping…”

“Oh, god. What have I done??”

“This isn’t your fault, Marinette. Not even a little bit.”

“I couldn’t protect Chat, and then I couldn’t even get his miraculous back.”

“Maybe, but your transformation was weaker from the start.”

“What do I do now?”

“Chat is still out there,” Tikki said cautiously. “He needs your help.”
“Is… is there a way I can help him without seeing his identity?”

“I don’t think so… But it’s most important right now that you get him out of there before the Akuma returns for your miraculous.”

Marinette nodded and stood up, using the food cart to pull herself. Her head hurt and it felt like she may have a broken rib or two. With a wince, she raised fully to her feet and walked slowly into the lobby. Tikki had been right, the Akuma was gone, and Chat’s miraculous with her.

Marinette’s breath hung heavy in the air and her heart pounded in her chest as she neared the chandelier.

She knelt beside the wreckage, grabbing bent pieces of metal and dragging them out of the way. She winced as a shard of glass cut into her palm, but continued.

She could see Chat’s bright blonde hair, flecks of blood in it.

So this was it.

With a pained movement, Marinette managed to pull a big piece of metal from over him.

And she could see his face…

A little blood seeped from Adrien’s mouth and some more was caked on his forehead. His skin was horribly pale. The only thing that told her that he was alive was the shuddering rise and fall of his chest as he struggled for breath.

Marinette couldn’t process what was happening. She had expected to feel something, but right now she felt nothing but horror and disbelief. Tikki would probably call it shock.

Marinette knelt to Adrien’s side, ignoring the glass that pierced her knees. She placed her hand gingerly on his cheek and felt how cold he was.

“O-oh god, Tikki. What do I do?”

Marinette could feel panic rising in her. She had dealt with injuries before as Ladybug, but this… this was different.

“You have your phone in your purse… call an ambulance for him.”

“But they’ll figure out his identity!”
“No, they won’t. There were hundreds of civilians in this building when the Akuma attacked. For all they know, he is just one of them. Now hurry, you need to get him to help quickly.”

Marinette fumbled for her phone with shaking hands and dialed the number. She spoke to the operator, gave him their location, and briefly described Adrien’s injuries.

The operator kept Marinette on the phone until the Ambulance arrived, and the girl watched as the crew of people lifted Adrien into the vehicle. They let her come with him.

Once they were at the hospital, they took Adrien to another room while they performed an emergency operation on him.

A doctor cared for her, too. She had two broken ribs, a minor concussion, and more cuts and bruises than she could count. They kept her in her own room while she was treated. She was in pain, but it was nothing that wouldn’t heal. 

She hoped the same could be said for Adrien.

Her system was numb and the whole world moved around her as if it were a dream.

✧✦✧

Gabriel held in his palm one of the most powerful relics the world had to offer. After years of work, he grasped the miraculous of Chat Noir. He was halfway there. Now he just had to get Ladybug’s miraculous, a task which would be easier than ever without Chat Noir.

With a nod toward the Akuma that had accomplished his goal, Gabriel directed her back to the hotel where Ladybug had been left.

Ladybug and his son.

Hawkmoth watched through his akuma’s eyes as she swept the building. She found no sign of either of the children, but too much time had passed. Police sirens wailed nearby, growing louder and closer by the second.

“I believe that this is our cue,” Hawkmoth said to the Akuma telepathically, “You have done good work.”

“W-what? You said I could keep my powers if I could capture the miraculous!”

“I no longer need you. You have captured one miraculous, and I shall find someone better suited to capture the next. For now, you are only a waste of my powers.”

“No! You made a promise to me, now follow it through!”

Without another word, Hawkmoth called the akuma out of her.

He detransformed quickly, turning to go back up the steps and into the main house. Chat Noir’s miraculous was strung onto a chain and placed around his neck. Gabriel would not risk losing it.

Suddenly, Nathalie opened the door to his study, face pale and eyes frantic.

“Sir, it’s Adrien. He was injured in the attack and is in the hospital now.”

Gabriel nodded. “We should go.”

“Did you know about this?” Nathalie said, her tone accusatory.

He gathered his papers quickly before saying simply, “Yes.”

My god , Gabriel.”

“He will understand. This is a mere bump in the road”

“But how would you feel if Adrien were to… if he were to die because of this?”

Gabriel raised his hand sharply, cutting Nathalie off before she could say anything else. “Don’t ever say anything like that again. He will heal. I saw his injuries.”

Nathalie didn’t say another word in response.

✧✦✧

Adrien slowly opened his eyes. There was something beeping incessantly beside him, rhythmic and slow. The room he was in was dark, which he was glad for. He had a massive headache.

He tried to look around, but found that it hurt to move his neck. He could tell that it was a hospital room, at least. The clean white and blue fixtures, alongside the heart monitor and IV bag next to him, made that clear.

A door opened, startling Adrien slightly.

“Monsieur Agreste?”

“Yes,” Adrien said, or rather, croaked. His voice was weaker and scratchier than usual.

“Ah, good. Your heart rate increased, so I figured you’d woken up.” The person walked into the room, shutting the door behind himself gently. “Do you mind if I turn the lights on?”

Adrien nodded. The lights flicked on, causing him to shut his eyes sharply to shield them from the brightness.

“Alright, Monsieur. I’m Doctor Verne. I’m going to check on your levels, go ahead and relax.”

The doctor moved about, checking the machines and adjusting levels on little dials. Adrien was still far too bleary to understand what was going on.

“We have you on quite a lot of medications, so don’t worry if you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts,” the doctor said, seeming to read Adrien’s mind. “Now, I believe your family is here to see you. Do you feel up to visitors?”

“Uh,” Adrien croaked, “I suppose so… Could I have some water?”

Doctor Verne provided the drink before opening the door. “I’ll go get your family, and will be back in a few minutes to clear everything up.”

Adrien watched as the doctor left. A few moments later, the door opened again to reveal his Father, who came in to sit beside the bed.

“Adrien,” His Father said by way of greeting. “I was worried about you… How do you feel?”

The younger Agreste gave a small nod. “Not my best, but I’m okay.” He sipped his water with some difficulty, struggling to tilt his head up enough to not spill on himself. It was good, though. Cool and refreshing on his dry throat.

“Now, son. I understand that you may not be in the best state of mind as of now…”

That was one way to put it , Adrien thought to himself.

“However, I have some urgent matters that we really must discuss. Do you feel up to it?”

Adrien nodded warily.

“Perfect. Now, where to begin…” His father pulled a thin chain from around his neck. “I believe this belongs to you.”
Adrien sat up with no small level of pain, trying to better see what it was that his father held out to him.

This… This couldn’t be right. How could his Father have his miraculous??

Adrien held out his hand to take the ring, and once he held it, he could feel the familiar power that seemed to resonate from it. So it really was it. His face went pale.

His Father continued. “I know you must be quite confused...”

“How--How did you get this?” Adrien said with a measured level of judgement in his voice. There had to be something he was missing. He wasn’t seeing the full picture. Somehow... 

Gabriel nodded. “I know that you are Chat Noir.”

“H-how?”

“I could see.”

“Could see what??” Adrien was panicking now. This couldn’t be right. How could he know?? There was no way he could know--

“I saw as your transformation fell away. As my Akuma removed your miraculous from your finger.”

“I-- Your Akuma?”

“My Akuma,” Gabriel confirmed.
“No, no. no. This can’t-- you have to be lying. Please .”

Gabriel lowered his gaze. “You must understand, Adrien, that everything that I did was for you. For our family.”

“No,” Adrien almost sobbed.

“Let me explain, Adrien.”

“WHY? Why should I let you try to defend yourself? It’s been you , all this time! Oh, god…” His voice cracked.

His Father had never been there for him. Not since his mother had died. But this ? This was beyond everything.

“Just listen, Adrien. Please.”

Adrien didn’t say a word. Not because he was ready to listen, but just because he couldn’t find the strength in him to say anything.

“Your Mother meant everything to me. She was my entire life. And when you were born, it was you and her. We were such a beautiful thing… And I loved her with all of my heart.” Gabriel’s voice cracked with emotion, but he continued on. “I know you did too. When she… when she died, our family fell apart. But now we have the chance to bring her back. To put our family back together.”

Adrien looked sharply up at his father.

Gabriel continued, “When someone possesses both the miraculous of Ladybug and Chat Noir, they are given the powers of creation and destruction. Life and death. The foundations of the universe. And with these powers, the wielder is able to make a wish. Any wish, and it will come true. We can have our family again, Adrien. We can bring your mother back. Together.”

Adrien finally spoke. “Together?”
“I need your help, Adrien.”

“What do you need?”

“Ladybug trusts Chat Noir. She lets her guard down around you. We need her miraculous as well as yours to make this work. That is why I need your help.”

“You...you want me to take her miraculous from her?”

“Think of it as borrowing it. Once we have brought your mother back, both miraculous will be returned to you. Everything will stay the same, but this time, your mother will be home. Everything will be as it should be .”