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Connecting the dots

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Honey Queen was right, Ladybug hadn’t been too far behind him. She’d seen the trail on the Ladyblog too, and correctly guessed the Chat Noir would leap right into the obvious trap. It was just a matter of tracking him on the GPS built into her yoyo, much like when she had tracked him to Copy Cat’s lair.

She peeked through a window to see Chat Noir dragging something through a door while a woman who had clearly been akumatised waited. He returned quickly and stopped in front of her. Ladybug couldn’t hear what the woman was saying, but one yellow gloved hand was stroking Chat’s hair.

She didn’t like it.

“Sorry I’m late to the party, I guess my invite got lost in the mail.” Ladybug slipped into the empty warehouse from an open window.

“Oh, it’s your ex-partner. How awkward.” Honey Queen trailed one hand possessively over Chat’s shoulder. “You see, Ladybug, Chat Noir is devoted to me now.”

The spotted heroine pulled a face. “Right, and I’m sure that’s of his own free will. He came to investigate a series of impersonations and suddenly decided to work for the enemy.”

Honey Queen sighed. “Impersonations? Oh Ladybug, Chat had been working for me for weeks already. Tell her, darling.”

“She’s right, Ladybug.” Chat continued to lean into the Akuma’s caresses. “I was sick of being rejected by you, but now I’ve met my Honey and she’s so sweet to me. I don’t care about being a superhero anymore, I just want to make her happy. That’s why I stole jewellery for her, and that’s why I’ll take your miraculous!” Chat’s voice didn’t sound strange, he actually sounded like himself. She also couldn’t see any black lipstick or other signs of possession. Ladybug pursed her lips.

“And you do make me happy, my darling.” Honey Queen’s hand slipped up to his neck, and she pulled him in for a kiss. Ladybug clenched her fists as Chat shuddered slightly. “Now, darling, take her miraculous!

Chat Noir instantly straightened and leapt towards the red clad girl. His movements were as fast as usual, and it was difficult to dodge them all. As much as she didn’t enjoy being on the defensive, Ladybug didn’t particularly want to hurt her partner so she did her best to avoid hitting him full on. He was making it unavoidable though, as he had fought side by side with her and her yoyo too many times not to be able to dodge half-hearted attacks.

“Chat, what are you doing?!” She narrowly avoided a kick and used his tail to swing him away from her. “That could have seriously hurt me!”

He paused, hands twitching and breathing heavily. During their fight, the Miraculous users had moved half the length of the warehouse away from where they had started. He still couldn’t control his movements, but his mind felt a little less hazy. Chat still felt like he was playing catch up. He’d been moving the boy that Honey Queen had controlled and used as a lure, and then he’d been overcome with an amazingly strong instinct to attack the intruder and defend his Queen.

“Darling.” Honey Queen crooked her finger, and Chat Noir staggered back towards her. Ladybug watched intently as he reached her and his movements became smooth again. More controlled. She didn’t have much time to consider what this meant, as Chat launched right back into the fight.

She did note that the other woman was making an effort to remain close to the action, and Chat would use any pause in the action to retreat to the Akuma where she would often stroke his face or grace him with another kiss.

Ladybug gasped as he got a good hold on her and tossed her into a wall. The sound of her head striking the wall was loud in her ears, but it almost seemed to knock some sense into her. Hadn’t they dealt with possession and kisses before?

Armed with plan, she forced her body to ignore the pain of her aching head and stand. It was mostly muscle memory that eased her posture into a defensive stance, and it was just in time as Chat was attacking again.

Ladybug did her best to avoid the worst of the blows, but she could not block them all. He swept his foot under hers at just the precise moment to cause her to fall over backwards. He used the moment of vulnerability to hold her down, one hand on each arm.

Chat was actually growling at her and he was leaning a little too far away for what she had planned, but Ladybug knew what to do. She wrapped her legs around him and flipped their positions so that she was on top. Wasting no time, Ladybug leaned down and kissed him right on the lips.

He was still struggling and scowling at her when she pulled back. Maybe it needed to be longer? She tried a few more kisses before she started scowling herself. It was clear that it wasn’t working, though Chat Noir himself didn’t particularly mind her attempts. In fact, he wished he had more control over himself so he could encourage his Lady to continue.

Finally, he broke her grip and was able to fling her away from him. Honey Queen only laughed as Ladybug skidded along the concrete.

“You see?” The Akuma’s honey-sweet voice called. “There is no curse to break, Chat Noir works for me under his own free will. Now either hand over your Miraculous or prepare to fight your old partner until one of you is defeated for good!”

Ladybug cursed, one hand clutching at her side where Chat had managed to get hit in with his stick.

“I don’t know how you’re doing it, but I do know that you’re controlling him. Chat Noir is my partner and closest friend, I trust him with everything. Even if he was tired and wanted to change things, he would never help an akuma and he would never hurt me!” Chat had returned to the other woman and seemed to be moving easier again. It was now or never. “He’s always had my back, and now it’s time for me to return the favour. Lucky Charm!” 

A perfume bottle fell from the sky, and Ladybug grabbed it just before Chat Noir could. Now she just had to think of a way to use it while avoiding the continuous attacks.

Perfume. Perfume smells, but she couldn’t see how that would help right now. Does it have alcohol in it? That would make it flammable, but there wasn’t anything to light a flame. The bottle was made of glass, should she smash it? But no, if it was only glass that she needed the lucky charm would have just given her an empty bottle. On closer inspection, there was a raised design in the glass that created a picture of a bee.

Both of them paused to regain their breath, Chat’s was particularly shaky, and Ladybug spritzed the perfume in front of her to test the scent. It didn’t smell like much of anything, so she spritzed it a few more times. She still couldn’t smell anything, but she did notice that Chat was now glancing between her and Honey Queen. He looked slightly confused, and Honey Queen herself looked to be downright panicking.

“Chat Noir!” The akuma called “Come to me, my darling.” But he stayed where he was, half way between the two girls. It was the first time that he hadn’t instantly obeyed her for the whole fight.

The perfume that didn’t smell like anything was somehow disrupting whatever control Honey Queen had over her partner.

Honey Queen was obviously modelled on a Queen bee. Queens had some level of control over the hive, which must have been amplified in the akuma. Ladybug wasn’t holding a bottle of perfume, she was holding a bottle of Queen bee pheromones!

A large wooden board leaning against the wall was suddenly flashing red with black spots, closely followed by the leaves and other bits of debris that covered the floor. She almost missed it because she was already wearing the spots, but she was flashing too.

Ladybug turned the bottle around and sprayed herself liberally. Chat was quick to react, staggering towards her. The aggressiveness that he’d been feeling since Ladybug had arrived disappeared, and his instinct to protect Honey Queen seemed to transfer to Ladybug. If he was going to be controlled one way or the other, he would definitely prefer to be Ladybug’s loyal minion.

Honey Queen was yelling at them, but Ladybug paid her no mind. The control over her partner was broken, and she just needed to make it stay that way. Honey Queen couldn’t be allowed to use her pheromones on Chat Noir again, or he might be swayed back to her side.

She threw the bottle at the wooden board, causing it to topple over. There was a loud clatter as it fell, but it was the gust of wind it made that stirred up all the rubbish on the floor that Ladybug was interested in. Like most piles of natural litter in the city, this pile contained a large amount of pigeon feathers. A whole lot of which were now being blown onto Chat Noir.

“Uhh… Ahh… ACHOO!” And that cleared up any possibility of an imposter, she seriously doubted that many people had such a severe allergic reaction to pigeon feathers. Ladybug wanted to kick herself for not noticing the obvious connection between Chat Noir and Adrien sooner.

While all of this had been happening, Honey Queen had been running over to the Miraculous users. She now clutched Chat Noir’s head and pulled him towards her neck.

“Just take a deep breath, darling, and I’ll give you some more kisses.” But Chat just sneezed on her and made a horribly wet sniffling noise. Both girls cringed at the sound.

“It’s no use, Honey Queen. Chat Noir can’t smell a thing anymore, so there’s no way to get him back under your control no matter how close you get to him.” The boy himself seemed to be shaking off the last bits of akuma magic, but he still sounded like he could barely breathe between sneezes.

“No! I won’t let it end here!” The akuma dashed for the door that Chat had dragged something through earlier, but her speciality was manipulation, not speed or strength. It took only moments for Ladybug to wrap her up with the yoyo’s string and break the lovely crown that adorned her hair.

The butterfly was purified and the lucky charm tossed above to reset everything back to its original condition. The magic even rushed over Chat Noir, clearing away the feathers.

“Uuugh… Where am I?” The girl had finally been cleansed of the akuma after an unusually long possession, and she looked even more disorientated than usual. As much as she wanted to be mad at the girl for causing them so much trouble, Ladybug knew that it wasn’t her fault.

“I’m afraid that you haven’t quite been yourself for a couple of weeks. Your parents are probably worried, so we’ll take you home and explain everything.” The girl looked in awe at one of her heroes.

“Ladybug!” She gasped. “Does that mean…” Ladybug watched as the girls eyes darted around as if she was looking for something. She squeaked when Chat Noir walked over to join them. Aww, she had a crush. It was kind of cute now that she wasn’t rubbing herself all over Ladybug’s partner.

Chat was grumbling as he approached. “That was all kinds of awful. Well, except for those kisses.” he winked at his Lady who rolled her eyes in response. “I can’t believe that we finally had a kiss that I was awake for, but I still couldn’t even respond. I have the worst luck in the world! I don’t suppose you want to try that again?” Chat waggled his eyebrows.

Ladybug was about to respond with one of her usual masterful shut downs when her earrings beeped.

“Chat Noir, can you stay here while I go recharge? I don’t think we’re finished for today.” Chat gave her the ok, mentioning that they actually had a second victim in the next room who’d need to be taken home too.

It didn’t take him long while he tried to comfort the girl to notice that she really was a fan after all. The poor girl looked star struck as he tried to make conversation with her while they waited. She’d managed to get out that her name was Casey, but the rest had been incoherent babble. It kind of reminded him of how Marinette used to act, and he couldn’t believe that he’d never realised she had a crush on him. Poor girl, he was kind of surprised that his obliviousness wasn’t enough to turn her off him.

Ladybug returned and they traded places. Chat hadn’t used Cataclysm, so he didn’t need to take a break, but he did need to go and find the boy that he’d stashed somewhere. He had felt kind of floaty while it was all happening, so his memory of where he'd dropped the kid was a bit hazy.

He eventually returned to find the girls talking quietly amongst themselves.

“…and he couldn’t keep his eyes off her, it was so frustrating. It feels like boys don’t even notice I exist, but as soon as Penelope transferred here they were all over her. Just because she developed a little bit faster than the rest of us!”

Ladybug sighed in commiseration. “I know exactly how you feel.” Casey looked at her in disbelief so she continued “It’s true! I’m not exactly blessed in that department either.” They both looked at her small chest and giggled. Chat felt a bit uncomfortable, and he shifted the dead weight of the boy who was still passed out. “And I had the biggest crush for months on a boy that barely noticed I was in his class! It was so embarrassing.”

Chat Noir cleared his throat. “As a guy who plays enough sports to overhear a lot of locker room conversations, you really don’t want to date guys who are only interested in… particularly voluptuous girls anyway. The kind of stuff they say, it’s not how you want your boyfriend to talk about you.”

Casey smiled hesitantly. “So you don’t care about that kind of thing?” She asked nervously. Chat shook his head vehemently in response. “There are so many other things to find attractive in a person that I’ve never thought much about physical attributes.” He turned to look directly into his partner’s eyes. “Like a strong will, and a kind heart, and the bravery to protect the people that she cares about.”

“Kitty.” Ladybug murmured, suddenly feeling a touch warm. She was glad that they were both transformed right now, as she didn’t think she would survive receiving such a compliment from Adrien without two masks between them.

“Oooh…” Casey’s quiet voice jolted the heroes back to reality to find her looking between them curiously.

“Um.” Chat adjusted the unnamed boy currently hanging over his shoulder again. “Right.” Ladybug still looked flustered, but she was doing her best to regain her usual cool demeanour. “We better get you home then. And maybe take this one to a police station… Or a hospital?”

They didn’t actually make it to either location. It turns out that superheroes walking around with an unconscious boy thrown over their shoulder attracted a lot of attention. The police ended up finding them fairly quickly, and they explained the situation and handed the boy off.

Chat just thanked his lucky stars that they were reasonably well known by this point. He couldn’t imagine that would have gone down as smoothly when he had first started this and no one knew about Chat Noir or Ladybug. As it was, the police were happy enough to let the heroes escort Casey home as she seemed healthy enough and comfortable with them. They would follow up with her parents, who had filed a missing person report, tomorrow morning.

The sun was starting to set as the trio made their way towards Casey’s home, and said girl was becoming increasingly nervous. “What if they’re mad?” she whispered, just loud enough to be heard.

“They wont be.” Ladybug replied. “They’re your parents, I’m sure they’ve been worried sick and they’ll only be relieved to have you home.” Chat didn’t think that being her parents gave any kind of guarantee that they wouldn’t be angry at their child, but he knew Ladybug would back him up in explaining to them what had happened and trying to smooth it over if they were actually upset.

The group finally approached a store with a sign featuring a honeycomb design. Much like Marinette, Casey lived above her parent’s store. “The Honey Hive” was a store that specialised in organic honey and other natural products. They could see one woman walking slowly around the store replenishing stock that had been sold throughout the day. Her eyes looked dull and there were prominent dark circles under them. She barely looked up when the bell above the door chimed happily as the group entered, but when she noticed just who had walked in she froze in shock. Her pause didn’t last for longer than a few heart pounding seconds before she threw herself at her daughter and heaved a great sob.

Casey was quick to dissolve into tears, and it wasn’t long before her father rushed down the stairs after hearing the commotion. It was a beautiful family reunion, and Chat was a little jealous. His father would never show such emotion, in fact, he’d probably only notice that his son was missing when he failed to show up for a photoshoot.

Ladybug pointed towards the door and they were going to make a quiet retreat when Casey asked them to wait. They were introduced to her parents and thanked profusely.

“I almost forgot!” Ladybug handed over the crown that had been infected with an Akuma.

“Oh…” Casey took it and held it gingerly. “I bought it for the school dance because it was so pretty, but… someone said it wouldn’t suit me.” It was clear that whatever this person had said to her, it probably involved much stronger language.

“That someone was an idiot. It looked beautiful on you.” Chat winked at her, and her whole face turned bright pink. The girl stammered her thanks, and her mother brought over two small gift baskets with samples of honeycomb, hand creams, bees wax candles, and tiny little honey jars with various golden hues in them.

“We’ll never be able to thank you enough, but please take these. There’s an assortment of products in them, so I’m sure you’ll find something that you like. Even if it’s just the honey candies.” Both heroes thought it would probably been seen as rude to refuse, and it wasn’t the first time that they had been given gifts, so they accepted the baskets with thanks and finally left the family to their reunion.

"That went well." Ladybug hummed her agreement. "Don't think I've forgotten about you walking straight into an obvious trap though." She nudged her partner as they walked down the empty streets. The shops were all closed by now, the workers all on their way home.

"I knew you'd save me if anything happened." Chat winked at her. "My Lady is more reliable than Prince Charming himself." Ladybug huffed in response, but they continued their leasurely stroll in comfortable silence. It wasn't often that they didn't have the pressure of an akuma or a time limit from their miraculous cutting their interactions short.

Finally, unable to keep it in any longer, Chat blurted out "How did you know that it really wasn't me? Anyone else would have looked at the evidence, even my own words, and believed her."

"Anyone else isn't your partner." She pointed out.  “Chat, we’ve been fighting together for months now. I meant it when I told Honey Queen that I trusted you. I trust you to tell me if you don’t want to work together anymore. I trust that you will never intentionally hurt me. I trust you with my life.” Ladybug took his hands and brought them up to her ears. “I trust you with my Miraculous.”

His thumb gently stroked over the earrings that gave Ladybug her magical powers. Coming from her, that was a pretty big deal. He exhaled shakily.

“But you can’t trust me with your identity.” Chat hadn’t mean to say that, and he cringed in anticipation for her reaction. He couldn’t believe he’d ruined the moment. She’d just told him that he trusted her with her life and her Miraculous, shouldn’t he be satisfied with that?

Her reaction wasn’t what he expected though. Instead of stepping away and scolding him like she usually did, Ladybug just sighed and leaned into him.

“That’s more about me than it is about you. I just… The real me is a bit of a letdown.” She continued despite his protests, “I’m plain looking, and fairly dull to be around. Definitely not the life of the party.” She smiled sadly. “I don’t have a lot of friends either. You say you like me, but the person you like isn’t real. No one would look at the real me and see Ladybug.”

Chat Noir clutched at her shoulders, dismayed at her lack of self-esteem. “That’s not true. You’re kind, and generous, and so, so strong. If people can’t see that then it’s their problem.”

Ladybug’s smile turned wry as she finally took a step back. “I should probably confess something. I sort of accidentally worked out who you are. And well, not even you have been able to see Ladybug in me, Adrien.”

He choked, shocked at the both revelation that his Lady knew who he was, and that he had met her and hadn’t known. Oh god, what if he’d said something stupid? Had he talked about how great Chat Noir was? He did that sometimes just because he found it funny, but if someone who knew who he was had heard… How embarrassing!

“So we… we know each other?” Chat’s mind was racing a hundred miles an hour. He could know her from school, or modelling, or maybe the café that he went to frequently between photo shoots? “That’s not fair. I’ve tried so hard not to think about what you might be like as a civilian because you’ve always been so dead set against us knowing. Then you go and work out who I am? You know who I am, so you have to tell me who you are. Please Ladybug!”

“You’re right. I still think it’s dangerous, and I’m still afraid that you’ll be disappointed. I couldn’t help it though, I just kept seeing Chat Noir in you.” Ladybug licked her lips nervously. “But…If you worked it out by yourself, if you could look at me and see Ladybug, I wouldn’t be mad.”

The leather ears that appeared when he transformed into Chat Noir perked up. She’d practically given him permission, or even encouraged him, to find her. Challenge accepted!

Ladybug excused herself, her head was still wringing from being smacked against the wall, and they separated to go to each of their homes. As soon as Adrien had leapt onto the balcony and squeezed through the door that he always left open just a crack, he de-transformed and grabbed some paper and a pen.

“Well, that happened.” Plagg said between bites. He’d dived into the cheese stash as Adrien had headed for the desk. “You owe me a whole wheel of Camembert for putting me through the whole ‘Akuma controlling you’ thing again. I feel dirty.

The blonde just nodded and absently agreed as he started to write a list of all the girls he could think of. He’d start with his class, then the girls he could remember meeting from other classes, and then the models.

Chloe was scratched off, he’d already crossed her off his mental list after the cosplay debacle. Alya had been Akuma-ised, so she could be crossed off too. Actually, so had most of the other girls in his class. That just left Marinette.

Marinette, who had confessed that she still had a crush on him.

Marinette, who would probably be expecting some kind of reply tomorrow.

Oh god.