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Joke of the Year

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Marinette blinked, staring. “I’m… what?” she repeated, exhaustion making her a little slow on the uptake. She'd walked into class- actually on time since she hadn't slept at all, and thus didn't need to drag herself out of bed- and the very first thing she registered was everyone clustered around Lila, who had just said something to her.

 

“You’re the only one of us who hasn’t been akumatized, Marinette,” Lila Rossi said, a faux worried expression on her face. Marinette could see the slight smirk she tried to hide, though. “And you’re always disappearing during akuma battles… what else are we supposed to think except that you’re working for Hawkmoth?”

 

----

 

It had been a horrible week for Marinette. Everything had gone wrong, and a lot of those things had, she was sure, been orchestrated or at least influenced by Lila. Some of it was random chance or bad luck- like accidentally ruining part of the large order her parents were supposed to fill, or falling down the stairs this morning- but a lot of it had to be intentional sabotage. 

 

The papier mache model she had built for her history project, that was pristine when she’d brought it into school on Monday? Inexplicably smashed by the time their History class rolled around. The new outfit she’d worn the next day to try and cheer herself up over the project debacle? Somehow she was pushed up against a wall that had just been repainted between classes and the outfit was ruined. 

 

She’d had to fight six akumas in the past two days, Luka had pressed her for a definitive answer on their relationship, her grades were slipping, and she had barely slept between manning the register so her parents could frantically remake the order she’d ruined, homework, and her Ladybug duties.

 

Not to mention that, being so tired after the three-hour long akuma battle that had started at midnight last night, she hadn’t been paying attention and accidentally chose the same alley as Chat Noir to detransform in, which… well, that was a whole other kettle of fish, and a major source of stress. In short, Marinette had reached the end of her considerable store of patience.

 

----

 

For a moment, the classroom was silent, everyone looking at her with a sort of fascinated horror. Then, Marinette lost it.

 

Marinette had thought the week couldn't get any worse, honestly, but she had made some sort of peace with her rotten luck. After all, Ladybug couldn't afford to lose control of her emotions and risk akumatization. But at Lila's accusation, all the feelings of inadequacy, regret, anxiety, and hurt that she'd forced herself to ignore and bury came surging up stronger than ever. But as they did, she began to see the absurdity of her situation, and instead of rage, all her emotions came out in laughter.

 

*Snrk!* “Pffftttt, ahaha!… no, no, don’t look at me, it’s too funny!” she said, rapidly losing control over her voice and expression. 

 

It really was too funny. After the week she’d had, being accused of helping her arch enemy was the crowning moment, and all of a sudden it all seemed so… hilariously awful. Even so, it was a serious accusation, and she might have been able to regain control of herself if Adrien hadn’t walked in just then.

 

“What’s so funny?” he asked in a sort of dull voice that betrayed just how tired he was too.

 

Marinette tried to answer him, but her convulsive laughter kept getting in the way. 

 

“Ap-pfff-.. Apparently, I’m, haha... w-w-working for… f-for Hawkmoth!”  

 

Her tone rose toward the end as she collapsed into helpless giggles. She risked a glance at him, hoping that her new knowledge and his usual perfect beauty would work as a damper.

 

But looking at her partner was a mistake. Before her eyes she saw the carefully veiled exhaustion in his eyes turn to unholy glee and before she knew it, he made everything worse. 

 

“Working for Hawkmoth?” His tone, too, was higher than normal, trying to mask his own amusement. “You?”  

 

And then his control broke, and he collapsed into giggles, too. Marinette’s laughter fed on his, and it wasn’t long before they were both sitting on the floor, clinging helplessly to each other while their laughter made the classroom walls ring.

 

“Oh, OH… I know…! You- you’ve been w-wrapping people up in wool!” he chortled. "And they get so angry they- they-!"

 

Marinette snorted long and hard.

 

“Y-you… you’ve been sh-shining a light on people to attract the butterflies!” Adrien gasped out, before doubling up, wheezing.

 

Marinette wailed . “S-stop!... it hurts!” 

 

By this time tears were streaming down both their faces, and it really did hurt. It was hard to catch her breath, and more than half of their laughter was toneless wheezing. Finally, finally she managed to stop laughing. Marinette wiped her eyes and tried to think of how to defend herself. But one look at Lila’s enraged face set her off again.

 

“Stop it!” Lila shouted, not even trying to pretend she wasn’t furious anymore. “It’s not funny! You’re helping Hawkmoth, just admit it!”

 

That sent Marinette howling into Adrien’s arms again, both of them too overcome to worry about the close contact. Besides, he was her kitty. How could she be self-conscious around her pun-loving, dorky, superhero partner?

 

The rest of their classmates seemed more puzzled than anything, and some even started laughing as well- either because Marinette and Adrien were infectious, or because they realized how ridiculous the accusation was. Marinette fixed her gaze on Alya’s sheepish face and slowly caught her breath.

 

“No, no… it is funny,” she said, getting to her feet, a huge smile still on her face. She wiped her eyes again and, still chuckling because she couldn’t help herself, she approached Lila and gave the girl a hug. Lila stiffened, and Marinette could feel her practically vibrating with rage at the way her intended sabotage had backfired. She snorted again and backed off.

 

“Thank you, Lila,” she said, sincerely for once. “After the week I’ve had, I really needed a laugh.”

 

She turned away to see Adrien getting up off the floor with Nino’s help, a bemused smile on the latter’s face. Adrien was still trying to get control over his giggles. She met his eyes and smiled warmly, suddenly sure that the identity reveal was not the calamity she’d thought it was. Ms. Bustier came into the classroom then and everyone went back to their seats, crisis thoroughly averted. 

 

For the rest of the day, all Marinette had to do was meet Adrien’s eyes for them both to snicker at the fabulous joke Lila, of all people, had gifted them with. The fact that Lila stayed quiet for the rest of the day was just icing on the cake.

 

And when an akuma came for Rose the next week, Marinette dashed over and started shouting encouragement to the butterfly... which had the effect of snapping Rose out of her enraged state and make her start laughing. The whole class joined in then, laughing and waving off the denied butterfly with cheers.