“Wow Marinette, great Ladybug costume!”
Wow Marinette, great Ladybug costume.
Marinette. Ladybug. Costume.
Alya’s words reverberated in her head like someone kept hitting pause and rewinding the moment over and over again, until sheer, unadulterated panic swallowed her whole. She was vaguely aware of the Ghostbusters theme song playing somewhere to her right, and the faint smell of delicious cookies wafting from the kitchen, but her body couldn’t keep up with her brain as everything seemed to grind to a halting stop.
She wasn’t in a costume. She was transformed. As Ladybug.
Her first reaction was to screech at the frequency of a broken violin, but she held it in with all of her superhero might. Instead, it bubbled up inside of her like a boiling pot and came out as terrible, awkward laughter.
“Y-y-eah! Yup! Yesiree! You found me!” Internally cringing at how jittery she sounded, the spotted hero’s usual confidence came crashing down, down, down.
Alya smiled and came in for a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here! I thought you said your parents weren’t going to let you out tonight?”
“You snuck out ?” the journalist’s eyes grew wide.
“Um!” Marinette struggled to find a hole in the web of lies she concocted to make tonight go smoothly. So much for that. She opted to change the subject, saying, “Don’t worry about it! Where’s your James?”
Surprised, Marinette let out a laugh and gestured to Alya’s costume. “The other half of Team Rocket. James.”
“...Oh! ” glancing behind her shoulder, Alya shrugged. “I don’t know, Nino was here just a second ago. C’mon, I want you to see my amazing decorating skills in action! I spent three hours setting up the living room.”
Grabbing her by the arm, Alya led Marinette through her house. The party was in full swing as Marinette - even though she was supposed to be Ladybug - had shown up fashionably late. Black and orange streamers hung from the ceiling, spiderwebs were draped in the corners of the room, and the contents of every vase had been replaced with black roses or plastic eyeballs. Marinette recognized almost everyone there. A clown and an alien (Alix and Kim) snickered as they kicked a balloon back and forth at each other. The kitchen counter was stacked with snacks, treats, and candy; Rose and Juleka hovered by the small cotton candy machine.
Walking by her friends and classmates shot Marinette’s nerves to all hell. Some of them gave her suspicious looks or gasped in familiarity, because they thought she was Ladybug (she was! ). With her free hand she fidgeted with her mask (even though it was magically glued onto her face) hoping it would throw them off.
“What do you think? Do you think Ladybug will like it?” Expectantly, Alya motioned to the room. Without waiting for an answer, she continued, practically glowing with excitement. “Any minute Ladybug is going to be here! In my house . At my party!”
She’s already here, Alya.
Marinette wanted to explode and disappear in a swooping vanish, like a firework, or a marshmallow in the microwave. Just explode and let the leftover pieces be someone else’s problem to clean up.
“Have you ever met her? I think she’ll really like your costume! Maybe you can sneak a selfie with her!”
Marinette wanted to cry.
She shoved a handful of candy corn in her mouth to avoid answering Alya’s question, because she couldn’t trust her voice at the moment. Also, she hated candy corn. Alya gave her a weird look, but moved on.
Tikki, she thought desperately as she chewed, despite knowing the kwami couldn’t answer her, What should I do?! She’s gonna find out! Everyone is, when Ladybug doesn’t show up . Should I leave? And… come back? As myself?! This is so bad this is so so bad this is a disaster I-
“Well hello there, Bugaboo. ” A voice all too familiar interrupted the designer’s lamenting internal dialogue.
In retrospect, it was all Marinette’s fault.
Following an akuma attack, Alya had ambushed Ladybug and Chat Noir with the ferocity of a wolf hunting after two baby rabbits. Chat was taken aback; he hid behind Ladybug as Alya advanced. Ladybug already knew what was coming (Alya hadn’t shut up about it for the past two weeks) and braced herself.
“Look, I know you’re busy people and you’ll probably say no and the last thing you want to do is go to a silly little Halloween party, but my mom is a professional chef and-”
“I’ll be there,” Ladybug interjected, successfully stunning Alya into silence and making Chat gape. The hero held up a hand, her expression serious. “On one condition. You have to stop chasing akumas looking for us. Akumas are dangerous and while we’re fighting, Chat Noir and I are dangerous, too. You almost got cataclysmed in the face today.”
Coming out from his hiding place, Chat piped up, “And while I’ve always wanted to give someone a makeover, that’s not really how I planned on doing it.”
Alya was shocked, to say the least. “So… you’ll come?”
Ladybug nodded. “I will. As long as you keep your promise.”
“I-I do! I promise!” the journalist drew an X her chest with a finger. “Cross my heart. And what about you, Chat Noir?”
Chat blinked. Ladybug could see his thoughts written all over his face. He was surprised she had said yes to something like this, even though it went against everything she’s been preaching to him. He seemed partially jealous, but put on a happy expression nonetheless.
“I’ll try to make an appearance. If my lady will be there, I should be too.”
Saying yes had been easy.
The hard part was figuring out how Marinette was going to skip the party.
She knew the only solution was an assortment of little white lies that made her stomach coil with guilt. And that’s what she did. She told her parents she was going to the party, but told Alya that her parents grounded her for getting so many tardies. (That wasn’t a total lie. She was one snoozed alarm away from getting detention)
Ladybug would show up to the party, Marinette would be safely tucked away at home, and that was that. She’d made a plan, dammit. That was Marinette’s speciality, like her father’s was a raspberry danish.
All she wanted was to do something nice for her best friend. What could go wrong?
Chat Noir leaned against a nearby wall, trying to look effortlessly cool. In any other situation, Marinette would have burst out laughing, but dread overwhelmed those thoughts after he called her his favorite nickname.
Her head was swimming- nope, drowning as she struggled to act like Marinette and not too much like Ladybug even though she technically was Ladybug and-
Alya tilted her head, confused. Her wig threatened to slide off.
Marinette erupted into another round of horrendous, nervous giggles as she tried to deflect! Deflect! “My costume is pretty convincing, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess so! This is some of your best work yet, Mari,” Alya said, beaming. She turned her attention to the other hero. “Chat, have you heard anything from Ladybug?”
Chat narrowed his eyes, his gaze lingering on Marinette for a long, excruciating moment. She didn’t break eye contact but prayed that he wouldn’t notice the involuntary blush on her cheeks as her face caught on fire. The way he stared at her was like an injection of concentrated lava.
The charade had to end at some point. She knew one day, Chat would know her identity. Alya, too. Logically, she couldn't keep the secret from them forever. But was today really that day?
Finally, finally he looked away and shook his head.
As fate continued to pummel Marinette’s “good luck” into submission, Alya’s mom called her daughter over, leaving Chat and
Ladybug Marinette alone.
“I didn’t take you for a big Ladybug fan, Princess,” looking her up and down, he smirked. He pushed off the wall and waltzed up to her, effectively making her already racing heart go haywire. Gently he took ahold of her hand and inspected her suit. God, why wouldn’t she stop trembling? “What’s it made of?”
“Uhhh-” holy hell she was a designer and couldn’t think of any other fabric besides “-spandex?”
“Really? This must be the highest quality spandex I’ve ever seen.”
Slipping her hand out of his grasp and crossing her arms over her chest, she retorted shakily, “A-and what do you know about fabrics or fashion, Chat?”
“Excuse me, have you seen this?” he took a step back (she could finally breathe again) and posed dramatically, throwing in a wink.
She rolled her eyes, ready to tease him about the dangers of leather and chafing, but there was a tap on her shoulder. She tore her attention away from Chat’s theatrics (which wasn’t difficult to do) to find a concerned looking Nino.
“Dude, have you seen Adrien around? I got really into a game of pin the wart on the witch and I haven't seen him in awhile.”
Marinette blanched. She’d completely forgotten that Adrien was there, or at least he’d told Alya, “I’ll try to make an appearance! We’ll just have to hope my father will allow it,” at lunch the other day. She shook her head.
"Oh hey, Chat Noir!” Nino exclaimed. “Thanks for coming, by the way, it's really cool of you to be here. It makes you feel more like one of us, ya know?"
Throwing a piece of candy in the air, Chat caught it with his mouth and chuckled. “All in a day’s work. Except most days I’m fighting off slime monsters or 50 foot tall babies instead of bobbing for apples. I just wish my lady was here, too. At least before all the pumpkin donuts are gone.” His locked eyes with Marinette for a fleeting second before saying, “I guess I should give her a ring, huh?”
As he took out his baton and activated the screen, Marinette felt time slowing down to a crawl for the second time that evening. No! No no nononono-
With superhuman agility on her side, it was easy to launch her entire body into Chat’s like a bowling ball, sending them both crashing to the ground and effectively making her partner drop the baton. He oof-ed when she accidentally elbowed him in the stomach.
The room went silent as everyone turned their attention towards them.
Nino was the first to react. “Bro, what the hell, Mari?!”
Chat just grinned up at her. Heat licked her face and her throat went dry as she hovered over him.
Oh my god why is he grinning.
“Why shouldn’t I call Ladybug, Marinette?”
She let out a squeak.
“Because! Because…” Because it’s me , kitty! She flailed to find something resembling an excuse. “...I ran into her on the way here?”
His smug expression intensified and he leaned up, dangerously close. “Really. ”
She briefly considered faking her own death. She jumped back, suddenly very aware of their position on the floor, the way his breath caressed her neck, the reflection of herself in his endless green eyes, the-
Marinette, please shut up, she pleaded with herself. We are not going to think about Chat Noir like this right now.
“Yerp! Yes! Uh-huh,” she lied. “She said... someone needed help getting their cat out of a tree but she would be here as soon as possible!”
To be fair, she’s never been good at coming up with this stuff on the fly.
Chat looked pleased as the punch sitting on the table next to him, like she hadn’t just ungracefully forced her way through an identity-saving lie and told him that he was the hottest guy in all of Paris.
He tapped his chin. “...Hmm. I guess that does sound like her. My lady is just too kind. And since she promised, I know she’ll be here.” He held out a hand and helped Marinette to her feet, his grip steady as it always was. Then he turned to Nino, adding, “By the way, I think I saw your friend Adrien go into the other room. I’ll go get him.”
Chat sauntered off without another word, brushing his shoulder against Marinette’s on his way out. She felt dozens of eyes on her following the odd exchange with the mysterious boy, but Nino was closest and he looked the most puzzled.
“What was that all about? Do you have a thing for Chat Noir?”
“Do I what?! ” she shrieked, her voice rising an octave with each word.
The DJ put his hands up in defense. “I don’t know! It looked like that to me, and I’m usually clueless about this kind of stuff!”
“Hey, Nino! Sorry, I heard you were looking for me?”
Marinette made an alien sound that was somewhere between a meep and an aklsfdjhsdljsjf .
The mental whiplash she was experiencing today was just truly unfair . In walked Adrien, decked out head to toe in spots, wearing a
perfect dazzling sexy custom Ladybug costume. Black panels broke up the polka-dotted pattern, emphasizing the muscles in his arms, legs, and chest. He stepped forward to create a little circle between the three of them, and his entire existence was making Marinette lightheaded.
Holy shit oh my god ohmygod does this mean he’s a Ladybug fan? Does he like her? Me?! Her??
He gave her a warm smile and she felt her knees buckle. “Marinette, wow! I thought mine was pretty good, but your Ladybug costume is incredible ,” he remarked.
“No, you are! I-I mean- incredible- your everything! C-costume! Your costume is too!”
The blonde chuckled. “I had to pull some strings with one of my father’s junior designers to get this made. I was going to ask you to help me make it, but after you said you were making Team Rocket, I didn’t want to overwhelm you.”
Just his face was overwhelming over. His face, with her mask on, looking so damn-
“Too late, dude,” Nino cut in, laughing.
Adrien sighed dreamily, ignoring his friend’s comment. “I can’t wait for Ladybug to get here.”
“I’m-” Marinette slapped a hand over her mouth to keep herself from blurting out something detrimental like, “I’m Ladybug,” or, “I’m here, let’s get married!”
Suddenly, she was struck with an idea. A stupid, impromptou idea that was just a failure waiting to happen, but it would help her reduce the
urge to attack Adrien with kisses growing suspicion of Alya and her guests. If Marinette could just get a few moments by herself and pull this off, maybe she could fix everything.
Tikki is going to kill me.
“-bathroom! I’m going there now! Bye!” she hurried off, triple-checking that the door was locked behind her.
Splashing water on her face to cool down, she let the tension in her shoulders ease up a bit. As far as she could tell, she was still safe. (Although Chat was acting strange, like the pieces were starting to come together in his head, and she couldn’t let that happen) As quietly as she could, she uttered, “Lucky Charm! ”
With a flash of blinding light, a polka-dotted package fell into her hands.
“...And what exactly am I supposed to do with eyeliner, black felt, and some glue?”
She tossed some ideas in her head, but couldn’t come up with anything from these objects alone. She searched the bathroom for more options, finally landing on a small tin of bobby pins and a pair of scissors. The creative part of her mind started firing away, giving her a clear answer.
I can’t believe I’m about to do this.
“Ladybug! Thank you so so so much for coming!” Alya’s attack hug was twice as strong and bone-crushing when it was for her favorite superhero. “Are you…?”
Ladybug plastered a big fake smile on her face, the hastily glued cat ears bobbing dangerously on top of her head. “I am. I’m Chat Noir. For Halloween. Isn’t that something.”
It was such a stupid idea, but it was working. She had drawn whiskers and a nose on her face with eyeliner, threw together some ears with the felt, jumped out the window and yo-yo-ed around the building to Alya’s front door.
Her earrings beeped, letting her know that Ladybug’s appearance had to be kept short and that soon all of this drama would be over. She couldn’t wait to go home and forget tonight ever happened.
Alya whisked her inside and set her up for rounds and rounds of selfies in front of the fireplace. She did a ridiculous pose with Team Rocket, a weird face with Kim and Alix, and even managed to take a picture with Adrien without getting too flustered. (Total lie. Behind both of their Ladybug masks they were mad blushing. The second he saw her, she saw his face burst into a nice shade of crimson, but she wasn’t sure why.)
“Oh, shit! I have to find Marinette! She wanted a picture with you too, and her Ladybug costume looks so real,” said Alya, frantically searching for her friend.
“No!” Ladybug’s panicked response earned her some strange looks. “I-I uh, I saw her on my way in. She said something about too much candy corn? I think she was heading home, she didn’t look too good.”
Alya and Nino shared expressions of concern, while Adrien just stared. Just like Chat had done before, his gaze was piercing, like a hot iron dancing all over her skin.
A monumental crash from the kitchen caught them all off guard. The ground beneath them shook and multiple people screamed, rushing toward the front door.
A tall, buff, grey figure stood in the middle of the room, bats fluttering around her like an entourage. She wore a studded black and red wrestling uniform, a long velvet black cape, tall black boots, and had glistening sharp fangs. She commanded the bats to attack the partygoers, and as soon as they were touched, they were trapped in giant, glowing purple cages.
"I am Count Smackula! I will wrestle anyone here to impress the strong and beautiful Nora Césaire!”
An akuma. Of course. Marinette dryly cursed the heavens for the upteenth time that night (there was a lot of why me?’s and why now?!’s) and went into Ladybug-mode, pushing Nino, Alya, and Adrien behind her but also realizing her time was rapidly running out as her earrings beeped again. She knew the layout of Alya’s house pretty well, she just needed the chance to escape after she made sure her friends were safe.
“Who is that? ” Adrien asked.
“Oh, nooo bro! That’s Beth. Rose’s cousin, I think? I heard she was gonna ask Nora out tonight. I don’t think it went so well,” Nino replied.
Rose, hiding behind an armchair, explained further, “She’s the captain of the wrestling team at their school. I thought she and Nora were perfect for each other.” She frowned.
“That really sucks.”
Everyone groaned. Marinette didn’t even care that she was groaning at something Adrien said. He deserved it.
“We need to get out of here. We’re directly in her path,” she said, swatting a stray bat away.
“Let’s go to my room!” Alya suggested, scrambling to open her phone to take a video. Count Smackula was making her way toward them as she trapped more and more people. She clapped her hands together and incited an echoing BOOM , like ear-splitting thunder had erupted from her fingertips. Red, angry sound waves came from her hands and hit a group of people trying to escape. They fell to the ground, frozen in mid-movement.
Their group stealthed around the corner, Ladybug using her yo-yo to create a shield as more bats swarmed them. Halfway down the hallway, there was another giant clap. Marinette’s first instinct was to shield and protect Adrien, who was closest to her, but as their group scattered, he was nowhere to be found. She took that as a good sign, that he was making a beeline toward safety.
“Where do you think you’re going, pipsqueaks?” Count Smackula sneered, her fangs making her voice lisp.
Beep beep beep! One final warning.
Marinette sprinted for the hallway closet, diving in at the last second before a familiar rush of warm pink energy released her transformation. She caught Tikki in her hands and reached for a cookie in her purse with practiced hands, even though the tiny space was pitch black.
“Well, this attack is really a pain in the neck, huh?”
She jumped about ten feet in the air and effectively hit her head on something hard. “AH! Chat?!”
“The one and only, my lady,” he said, the heat emanating from his body, mere inches away. Their bare skin brushed and she got goosebumps. His skin was scalding compared to hers, like he had just emerged from a hot tub-
Stop right now! Also a bad train of thought, Marinette, she scolded herself again.
“Should I keep calling you my lady?”
“What?” What was he talking about?
“Or do you prefer when I call you Princess?”
The shock startled her like a bucket of ice water. He knew. He knew! He knew. The words cycled through her brain, each iteration more powerful than the last.
“I love your ‘costume,’ by the way. It looks a little rushed, but I’m flattered,” he said mischievously, and she could’ve sworn the distance between them was shrinking rapidly. The darkness was a wicked thing; it made her feel like she was falling, falling closer to him… into him. He knew, and he was happy about it. About her, being Marinette.
“Where is Nora Césaire?! ” Another rumbling crash interrupted the heroes’ moment and brought Marinette to a stark reality. She had almost forgotten about the akuma.
“W-we better go,” she murmured, her voice feeling distant as she took a small step back. Tikki gave her a light tap on the shoulder, letting her charge know she was ready.
“As you wish, Princess.” She felt him move, like he was bowing. “Plagg, claws out!”
When he transformed, she saw him. Magical green light revealed a familiar form, in a familiar Ladybug costume. One pair of emerald green eyes transformed into another, but she could finally see that they were always the same shade. She felt her heart clench and cry out, like she had been struck with an arrow of pure, love-stricken gold. She felt herself soar, like when Adrien handed her his umbrella.
“L-let’s go defleat- defeat this akuma and then we can talk...?”
It was dark again, but she knew he was smiling, bright and big. “That sounds fangtastic to me.”
Despite the fact that her Halloween party was disrupted by an akuma (who was really just a girl who misunderstood the situation and thought Nora was flirting with someone else), Alya was a thousand times more shocked to open her closet door and find Marinette and Adrien making out.