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Destiny is a Funny Thing

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Adrien hadn't meant to find out. Really, he hadn't. One could argue that it wasn't even entirely his fault. If it wasn't for that scarf…..

If his Lady hadn't made him that scarf, hadn't proudly stated that she made it herself, her identity would have stayed secret.

So in way, it's partially her fault.

Not that he'd ever tell her that.

Not that he'd ever admit that he discovered her identity. She doesn't want him to know. Whatever reason she has for not telling him, even after all this time, don't matter. He'll let her think her secret is safe, and keep his own identity to himself.

Because….even though three years have passed since they first became a crime fighting duo, his feelings haven't faded one bit.


"Hey Kitty, do you know what day it is?" Ladybug asks with a smile.

The nickname is still relatively new, so Chat Noir can't help but smile when he hears it.

"I'm guessing Saturday is the wrong answer?" Chat asks, raising his eyebrows.

"It's our third anniversary of being a crime fighting duo! So, I got you a gift!" She produces a small red gift bag from behind her bag.

"M-My Lady," He stutters in surprise as he takes the bag from her, wincing slightly at this slip up. Chat told himself he was going to stop calling her that. "I wasn't expecting this. I must apawlogize for not having one for you."

Ladybug shakes her head at the pun. "That's okay. I figured you probably forgot. Go on, open it. I made it myself so you'd better like it."

Chat reaches into the bag and pulls out a scarf the exact shade of green as his eyes, with a black cat sewn on one end. "This is….amazing, thank you." He says in slight awe.

He knows she's a designer, she'd told him that all those months ago after her initial reveal. But he had no idea how good her skills were. He'd never doubted that she was amazing of course, but he'd never actually seen any of her work.

"I'm glad you like it. I expect something next time we patrol together, okay?"

"Of course, I'll have something blow you away."

"You better." She suddenly reaches out and pulls Chat into a tight hug. "Happy Anniversary, Kitty Cat."

Chat returns the embrace, somewhat stiffly, hating the confusion that twists his stomach.

"I...I should go." He says, pulling away. "Things seem to be quiet tonight and I have some homework I need to finish." The lie tastes sour in his mouth, but he needs to clear his head and he's not going to do it as long as he's around Ladybug.

"Oh, okay. You really shouldn't put off your homework. Goodnight, silly kitty." Ladybug gives Chat one last smile and wave before swinging away on her Yo-yo.


"It's not like you to lie to Ladybug." Plagg comments once they're back in Adrien's room.

Adrien chooses to ignore the Kwami and silently flops backwards onto his large bed.

"Are you going to sulk all night?" Plagg asks, flying across the room to float above the teens head.

"I'm not sulking." Adrien glared. "I'm just thinking."

"Again huh? She told you it's fine, so why don't you just ask her out already?"

"Because I can't just go up to her and say 'Hey Princess, want to see a movie with me?'. It's complicated Plagg."

"Which is why I prefer cheese. Nothing complicated about that." The Kwami comments as he flies back to his pile of cheese.

"That's very helpful, thank you." Adrien sighs.

He has to admit, if only to himself, Plagg has a point. She had told Adrien, or rather, Chat Noir, that he shouldn't feel conflicted. That he could love Ladybug but still fall for another girl, she doesn't believe that you can fall out of love after all.

He wonders though. If she knew he was talking about her, would she have told him something different? He really had been unfair to her that night.


That proud statement and a rare moment of clumsiness on his part are what started all of it. So in way, they're both to blame. Perhaps it was just fate or destiny. Maybe they were fated to reveal themselves. Maybe he's destined to love Ladybug.

For how else could he explain falling for her twice?

Chapter Text

"Do you think Chat Noir is okay, Tikki?" Marinette asks, turning to her Kwami. "He seemed off tonight."

"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about." Tikki assures the teen between bites of cookie. "He's probably still figuring things out with that girl he likes."

"Yeah, maybe." Marinette sighs and fiddles with the pencil on her desk. "It'd make sense, I guess. I wonder how that's going?"

"You can always ask next time he visits."

"If he visits again. Now that he has someone special in his life, he might not need his 'princess' to talk to anymore."

"You could always ask him as Ladybug." Tikki suggests floating over to Marinette, a cookie in her hands. "Just say you know Marinette as well and she mentioned it."

"I can't do that! Chat Noir would think I betrayed his trust. That's not the kind of thing you just blab to other people." She runs her hands through her black hair that hangs loose at her shoulders. "Well I hope it's going well. I don't care about him the way that he wants, but I do want him to be happy. I'm going up to the terrace for a while, make sure to stay out of sight."

"I haven't been caught yet!" Tikki calls cheerfully after Marinette as she climbs up the stairs.

The teen shakes her head at her kwami's antics. With a sigh, she stretches out on the lounge chair and stares up at the starry night sky. Her mind slowly going back to the last time she saw Chat Noir as Marinette.


"You're up late, Princess." An all too familiar voice says.

Marinette turns her gaze from the sky to where Chat Noir sits on the railing. "Couldn't sleep. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I was just finishing my patrol and saw you awake." Chat smiles. "Figured I'd pay a visit to see how you're doing."

After the Evillustrator incident, Chat Noir had taken to randomly checking on her. While she initially protested it, wanting to keep her superhero life and civilian life separate, she quickly gave in knowing she'd never win. She found she didn't mind all that much though, Chat Noir made good company. It didn't hurt that he seemed to accell at physics, and was always happy to help her.

"Here." She stands up from the lounge chair and hands him the cup of hot chocolate she's holding. "I'll go get another one."

"Thanks." Chat gives her a tired smile, taking the cup gratefully. "If you could bring me a treat, that'd be great."

Marinette agrees to grab him something, throwing a worried look over her shoulder at the hero. It's not like him to miss a pun opportunity. She quickly and quietly grabs a new cup, and grabs a ziplock bag of leftover pastries then heads back up to her terrace. She tosses the bag at Chat, who's now sitting against the half wall next to the chair and pours herself some hot chocolate from the thermos.

"You're oddly quiet tonight." Marinette comments. "No puns even."

"Yeah? Sorry about that."

"Something on your mind?" He merely shrugs in response. "Did something happen with Ladybug?"

Chat looks at Marinette for a long few moments. He can't talk to her about this can he? It's not fair. Not fair to Marinette….to talk to her about her. She wouldn't know of course...but still.

"I mean, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I only asked because I can tell something's bothering you. If I'm prying to much-"

"You're not." Chat cuts in. The last thing he wants to do is make her feel bad. "I was just lost in thought."

"So...did something happen with Ladybug?"

"Kind of. But that's not…..it's a another girl actually."

Marinette chokes on her Hot Chocolate at this. "I thought….I thought you loved Ladybug."

"I do, but she loves someone else." Chat Noir drops his eyes to the cup in his hands. "And I want her to be happy….so I backed off."

"Okay…..and now there's another girl?"

"Yeah. She's a friend of mine. And she's sweet and confident and so smart." He's a horrible person. An absolutely horrible person. "But I still love Ladybug."

"So you feel….what? Disloyal for liking another girl?" Marinette silently prays she's wrong.

"No, no. I…." Chat sighs, squeezing the cup. "I feel like it'd be unfair to her, for me to ask her out when I still love Ladybug."

Well that was unexpected. Marinette pushes herself up so she's sitting straight. "Chat, that's not something you should feel bad about."

"Why shouldn't I?" Chat finally looks up at her, pain shining in his eyes. "Don't you think it's wrong for me to date someone when I still have feelings for someone else?"

"Let me ask you something before I answer that. Do you think of Ladybug when you're with this girl? Or have thoughts like 'if only she could be Ladybug's civilian form'? That kind of thing?"

"No, of course not. I mean….at first I did…"

"But not now." Marinette finishes for him, refilling his cup. "I don't see any problem with it."

"Really?" Chat's eyes widen.

Marinette giggles at this response, filling her own cup. "Yes. I don't believe you can fall out of love. So I can't say you're a bad person for loving another girl, can I? This girl can block out Ladybug, that means she's in the forefront of your mind, not Ladybug. That should be enough for her."

"I guess you're right."

"Of course I am." Marinette smiles and bumps his foot with her own. "So stop being a chicken and ask her out already."


"Marinette." Tikki urgently pokes her human. "Marinette, it's morning. You need to get up or you'll be late!"

"Wha?" Marinette's groggy voice mutters. "Five more minutes Tikki."

"Normally I'd be happy to oblige, but you're supposed to get to school early to meet Adrien remember?"

"Adrien! Oh crap!" Marinette jolts awake, only now realizing she's still on her terrace. "I fell asleep up here again, in my clothes even. Where's my Ladybug Luck when I need it?" She jumps down onto her bed, and takes the stairs two at a time to reach her closet.

"You're lucky it's warm out, Marinette. You need to be more careful." Tikki chides, floating after the girl.

"I know, and I will. Tomorrow." She replies, hurriedly changing out of her outfit into a pair of dark wash denim capris, and a black short sleeve shirt. "Where is that tank-top…"

"Your desk." Tikki supplies helpfully.

"Thank you." Marinette runs over to the desk, where a white tank top with a large pink heart on the front, and a blue vest lay. "And here's my vest." She grabs the items and throws them on over her shirt.

"Don't forget this." Tikki flies over holding a pink head band.

Marinette runs a brush through her a hair a few times and takes the headband from Tikki, pushing it into her hair. "Shoes...shoes…."

"Down stairs." Tikki calls over her shoulder, already dropping into Marinette's school bag.

"Right." Marinette grabs her bag, opens the hatch and slides down the ladder. She finds her blue high tops in the living room and shoves them on then makes her way down the stairs to the bakery. "Morning mom, dad. I'm running late so I gotta go."

"Oh Marinette, just in time." Sabine beams. "Your friend just walked in, he's waiting for you out front."

"My friend? What friend?"

"Don't make him wait dear." Sabine smiles, giving her daughter a gentle push towards the door. "It's impolite."

"But Mom-" Marinette tries to protest, but she's already being pushed through the door into the front of the bakery. Her eyes instantly zoom in on Adrien, who's wearing a hooded green short sleeve shirt that matches his eyes perfectly, and a pair of jeans. "A-Adrien, hi. I thought we w-were meeting at school." Marinette has gotten to the point where she can hold a normal conversation with Adrien, but sometimes when he sneaks up on her, the old habit comes back.

Adrien smiles and holds out one of the paper cups he's holding. "I had a feeling you might sleep in. I brought you a coffee."

"Thanks, but you really didn't have to do this." Marinette takes a grateful drink of the coffee.

"It's my fault we have to go to school early to work on it, and you've done most of the work yourself." The blonde insists, holding the door open for Marinette as they leave the bakery. "This is the least I could do."

"It wasn't your fault though, you've been busy with work. And you called when you could to help with the paper. But thank you. I really needed this."

"Let me guess." Adrien teases, "You fell asleep at your desk again?"

"No. I fell asleep on my terrace." Marinette mutters as she takes a drink from the cup, her cheeks redding.

"Oh, that's much better."

"It was an accident. Let's just get to the library and finish the paper okay?" She picks up her pace as the reach the school.

"Okay." Adrien agrees, a small smile playing on his lips. He likes this side of Marinette.

"So I think I've got most of the information we need," Marinette explains as she pulls out the papers. "we just need to finish the last couple of paragraphs. There's a book I need for the last reference, so can you start writing while I find it?"

"Sure." He pulls the papers to him, but his eyes end up following Marinette. He can't help but smile as he watches her look for the book she needs, happy to be in this place with Marinette.

When it started, Adrien couldn't tell you. He was so blinded by his feelings for Ladybug that he didn't see it. After Ladybug's rejection, he found that a certain girl was making his heart beat out of rhythm.


One day, Marinette shows up to school with her hair down instead of the usual low ponytails. It made Adrien….happy. Really happy. As Chat Noir, he'd mentioned to Marinette during one of their night talks that he likes it when he leaves her hair loose. She'd listened to him, and decided to give it a try. He had to comment on it.

"Your hair looks nice that way, you should do that more often." He said casually, stopping at her locker on the way to class.

"T-thank you." Marinette beams, her cheeks dusted pink. "I think I might keep it this way, easier in the morning you know?" The warning bell rings. "Oops, we better go. I'll see you later Adrien." She shuts her locker and rushes off.

Adrien stands frozen by the locker. His heart is beating fast, and he realizes that his own cheeks are warm.


"Adrikins!" Adrien visibly flinches at Chloé's call from down the hall. "Daddy just called and told me about the party your father is hosting Friday night.. We need to go shopping so we can match."

"Match?" Adrien's eyes widen. He does not like where this is going.

"Of course silly. My dad told me your definitely going, and since we'll going together we should match."

Thinking quickly on his feet he blurts out, "Actually Chloé, I've already made plans to go with someone else."

"What?" The girl scowls. "And just who is it?"

"Marinette." The half-french, half-chinese girl jumps a little at her name.

"Marinette?" Chloé all but yells. "Why would you want to go with a plain girl like her?"

"Because she's my friend. I wasn't able to help much with the project, so I invited her to the party to repay her for working so hard."

"Hm, well that doesn't stop us from going together. You can still be my date."

"Sorry Chloé, I can't." Adrien is really pushing this, and he's going to owe Marinette big time for dragging her into this. He has no choice to go to the party, but he's certainly not going to be Chloé's date. Whatever he has to do to make it up to Marinette will be worth. "When I say I invited Marinette, I mean as my date. Right Marinette?" He turns to the girl finally, pleading with his eyes for her to go along with it.

"Y-yeah." Marinette forces a smile through her shock, "Sorry Chloé, maybe next time?"

The blond growls and storms off, Sabrina obediently following behind.

"Well...that was exciting." Nino chuckles, walking up beside Adrien. "You really dodged a bullet there man."

"Excuse us for a moment." Alya grabs Marinette's arm and pulls her out of the building into the school's court yard. "Girl, why didn't you tell me that you got a date with Adrien?"

"Umm….because I just found out myself?" Marinette flushes. "H-he didn't mention anything about a party this morning. I think he just said that do get Chloé off his case."

"But still! You're going to a party with Adrien. Even if it's just as friends, this could be an important step!" Alya squeezes Marinette's shoulders. "This is your time to shine."

"Alya, you coming with me to the music shop today?" Nino asks, giving his girlfriend a look when he walks up to the two with Adrien by his side.

"Yes, I want to get that new album. We'll see you guys later!" Alya grabs Nino's hand and drags him off rather quickly.

"So…...I'm your date to a party." Marinette says after a few moments of awkward silence.

"Yeah….I'm sorry about that." Adrien rubs the back of his neck. "I just went with the first thing that came to mind. I know it's not fair to drag you into this. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"Don't worry about it, the party could be fun."

"Not likely."

"And at the very least it'll be an interesting experience." Marinette smiles, ever the optimist. "If it totally sucks, then you can treat me to ice cream afterwards as repayment."

"R-right. Okay. The uh….the date thing." Adrien shuffles his feet. "It's no big deal, I just said that to chloé so she wouldn't be bugging us all night."

"I figured as much. So, what should I wear?"

"It's just going to low-key dinner party, so you won't need anything fancy. A nice dress, or skirt and blouse should be fine. You should wear one of your designs if you can." Adrien adds. "I think a few of the designers that work with my dad will be there. It'd be a good opportunity to show off your work."

"Ok, I'll see what I can do."

"G-great. I'll pick you up at seven then?" Adrien asks, his heartbeat picking up slightly.

"Sounds good."


Adrien believes in fate and destiny, but he also believes people are only fated to do things that they'd choose anyways. Maybe he's fated to love Ladybug, but he chose to love someone else. He chose to love Marinette. He didn't fall in love with Marinette. He walked into love with her, his eyes wide open, choosing every step along the way.

Chapter Text

"Excuse us for a moment." Alya grabs Marinette's arm and pulls her out of the building.

"Dude, I can't believe you finally got the courage to ask Marinette out!" Nino punches Adrien's shoulder. "This is awesome!"

"I haven't actually." Adrien admits, walking down the hallway.

"Wait, so that was all a lie?" Nino asks, moving to catch up with his friend. "Seriously dude?"

"I went with the first thing that came to mind, okay?"

"It's a good thing Marinette is the kind of girl who'd do along with this." Nino sighs, "But since she's going with you anyways, why don't you just ask her to be your date for real?"

"I can't just ask her out like that." Adrien grumbles.

"Whatever, man." Nino shakes his head pushing the doors to the outside open. "Alya, you coming with me to the music shop today?" He gives his girlfriend a pointed look.

"Yes, I want to get that new album. We'll see you guys later!" Alya grabs Nino's hand and drags him off rather quickly. "I can't believe those two." She mutters when they're around a corner and well out of earshot.

"I know." The Dj agrees. "They have a non-date date. That's going to be so awkward."

"It's not a date, but they'll have to act like it is. Poor Marinette is probably freaking out already."

Nino grins widely. Well, now is a good as time as ever to finally tell Alya. "I'm more worried about Adrien. That boy can't get up the courage to ask Marinette out for coffee, no way is he going to last the entire night."

"Yeah that will be a prob-Wait, what?" There's the reaction Nino was hoping for. The redhead turns on her heals and jerks Nino to a stop. "Did you just say…" Her mouth moves soundlessly.

"That Adrien likes Marinette? Yeah. Man, you should see what he's like around her when he thinks no one is looking. That boy fell hard. I've been telling him for months to just ask her out."

Alya blinks a few times, then shifts into reporter mode. "So Adrien wants it to be a date." Nino nods. "And we know Marinette wants it to be a date. But neither of them are willing to admit that to the other."

"Right."

"Marinette has it in her head for some reason that she's just some plain jane, but what's Adrien's excuse?"

"That's…." Nino sighs and looks around, spotting a coffee shop. "Come here." He grabs Alya's hand and pulls her to one of the empty tables outside of the shop. "Adrien hasn't really told me so this is mere speculation, but I think he's afraid of messing things up."

"What do you mean?" Alya knits her eyebrows in confusion.

"Marinette is his friend, but if he asked her out and she rejected him...it could screw everything up. To him, it's not worth the risk. He can't risk losing her."

"But why? Sure getting rejected hurts, and things could be awkward, but that's life. I've been telling Marinette that for years."

Nino removes his hat and runs his hand through his hair. "It's different for Adrien. Ever since what happened with his mom he's had a few issues."

"His mom? Isn't she dead?"

"I wish." At Alya's indignant look, Nino hurriedly adds, "What I mean is it'd be better if she was dead because then at least Adrien would know what happened to her. About four years ago now, Adrien's mom just disappeared."

"Like she was abducted?"

Nino shrugs. "That's the thing, no one knows. The day she disappeared, she left work like usual, but never made it home. I think his dad had a private investigator look for her or something, to keep it out of the press, but he couldn't find a single trace of her."

"That's horrible." Alya gasps. "Why...why hasn't Adrien said anything?"

"He doesn't like to talk about it. Anyways," Nino fiddles with his hat. "the idea of losing anyone else terrifies him. I think that's why he puts up with Chloé's crap as much as he does. She's a brat, but she's also his childhood friend."

"This is crazy." Alya drops her head on the table. "What are we going to do with those two?"


A girl with blue eyes wearing a black helmet that hides her hair with matching elbow and knee pads, a plain black shirt, and khaki shorts roller skates through the dark streets of Paris. Breathing hard, she looks over her shoulder, her eyes scanning the empty streets. She can't let anyone see where's she's going. Can't risk being held up, she's running late as it is. Her father, while understanding of the situation, had insisted she finish her chores before she left the house. He knows, but he doesn't know. He doesn't understand what's happening like she does.

"Papillon, he's getting stronger. Dad doesn't understand, he can't. Heck I barely understand and I'm involved!" The girl hisses to herself. "We're on a time limit…..and we don't even know just how long or short it is. To think, a couple of weeks ago, I was just a normal girl going to school and hanging with my friends. And my classmates were just normal people too. To think I've been going to school with Ladybug and Chat Noir for years. This is all so crazy." She shakes her head, picking up her pace. "But it's all true. And it has to be me. It can only be me, that's why dad gave it to me instead of my brother."

She takes a turn that leads her down an alley and slows to a stop.

"You're late." A voice says, not unkindly. "I was beginning to worry."

"I'm sorry." The girl pants, leaning against the wall. "I had chores, my dad wouldn't let me leave."

"It's okay dear." A hand reaches out from the darkness and caresses the girl's cheek. "As long as you're safe, that's all that matters. We need you, you're the best protection they have. I trust you brought it?"

"Sure did." The girl reaches into her pocket and pulls out the item she was instructed to bring. "So this is what will let me join the others in the fight?"

"Yes. This holds a very special item that will grant you the power to fight alongside them."

"So...what do I do now?"

"Now, we train. I can only spend so much time here, and while I'm gone it's important you keep practicing."

"Of course." The girl nods.

"And when the time comes, I will need you to pass on the message to Chat Noir and Ladybug."

"You're not going to do it? Don't you want to see them?"

"Of course I do, but I'm needed elsewhere." The figure replies. "You must explain what is happening, and tell them...tell them that it's imperative that they reveal their secret identities."

"I'm pretty sure Ladybug won't like that." The girl smirks. "But Chat Noir will be ecstatic. All of Paris knows he was in love with Ladybug at one point, and now he's fallen for her civilian self."

"He has?" The surprise can clearly be heard in the figure's voice. Surprise, and pain.

"Yeah." The girl smiles gently. "Marinette...she's a nice girl. Sweet, positive, enthusiastic and so brave. And she really loves him, I can tell. They're cute together."

"I see. They're both so grown up."

"They have to be, they fight to save Paris every week."

Laughter fills the air. "True. Now, back to the matter at hand."

The girl nods, straightening slightly. "I'm ready."

"It's time to embrace your destiny."


"Can I have my gift now that we're done with patrol?" Ladybug asks.

"Impatient aren't we, Ladybug?"

"Chat, would you like to test if cats really land on their feet?" Ladybug asks sweetly. "Because I'm happy to give you a push off the building."

"Meowch." Chat Noir grins, but holds out the package he'd been carrying around all night. "It's not handmade, but I think I did a pretty good job."

"We'll see, Kitty." Ladybug rips the wrapping paper to reveal a sketchbook and a set of pencils.

"I wasn't sure if you'd need a new one, but I figured as a designer you can alway use more." Chat explains, rubbing the back of his neck. "And I asked the store clerk, she said those are supposed to be the best of the best for drawing."

"Chat...this….it's too much. These must have cost a fortune."

"Not to sound like a spoiled brat, but it's really no big deal. What I wear on a regular basis cost a lot more than those."

"So you're rich."

"My family is." Chat corrects. "So….do you like them?"

"Yes, thank you. I actually do need a new sketch book. And I know just the outfit I'll use this to design."

"Oh?"

"We're not supposed to discuss personal details of our civilian lives. Curiosity killed the cat, after all."

"Ah, but stratification brought it back." Chat retorts. "Mew really can't tell me anything?"

Ladybug rolls her eyes with a sigh, but relents. "Fine. I'm going to a party, and I've decided I want to wear something new." She's leaving out details, but knowing that she was invited by a boy from school would only hurt Chat.

"I'm sure you'll have a catastic time." Chat smiles. "As luck would have it, I'll be attending a pawty soon as well. I wonder if it'll be the same one?"

"No way. I really should get going, I need to get started if I'm going to have any hope of finishing on time."

"Then I won't keep you. Goodnight, Ladybug."

"Goodnight, Kitty cat."

Chat Noir watches until Ladybug disappears and then makes a decision. If he hurries, he can make it home and to his princess to drop off his gift without worrying about his power running out.

He's almost home when he spots something out of the corner of his eye. Chat Noir stops on a roof and looks to the streets below. A girl in dark clothing skates by, nothing out of the ordinary other than the late hour. Why would a girl be skating in the streets this late?

"Adrien…" The whisper floats in his ear with the wind.

Chat whips around, finding no one there. But he knows he heard someone say his name. A long forgotten voice. Could she be? No. It's late, he's getting tired. That's all it is. With new determination, he returns home, grabbing the small present from his room and jumping out of his window again. If the Princess isn't awake, he'll just leave it for her to find. After he'd dragged Marinette into his mess with Chloé, he'd been thinking of ways to make it up to her and that's when he saw it in a store window. When he saw her wearing the headband this morning, all he could think was how cute she looked. And this, this would look just as good.

When he reaches the bakery, Chat is pleased to see that the light in Marinette's room is on. He lands on the balcony and gives the glass trap door a few taps. After a moment Marinette appears.

"Chat? What are you doing here?" She asks as she pulls herself up onto the balcony.

"Simply delivering a package, Purrincess." He holds out the bag in his hand. "For you."

Marinette blinks in surprise. "You...got me a gift? Why?"

"I can't just want to do something nice?"

"Chat." Marinette gives him a pointed look, still not taking the bag from him.

"Fine, it's because you keep putting up with this Alley Cat okay?" He sighs. "Mew really helped me last time so I thought I'd get you something, as a thank you." Not entirely a lie. He had been thinking of a way to thank Marinette as Chat Noir. He just happened to also want to give her something as Adrien.

The blackette stares at him for another minute before taking the bag. "Ok, thank you." She gives him a warm smile. "If you don't mind me asking, how are things going with that girl?"

Chat's face visibly reddens. Of course she would ask about that. Residual guilt wells in his stomach. He shouldn't be talking to her about this, not in this way. "Umm…..I'm going to a party with her."

Marinette's smile widens. So that's why he seemed so happy about the party. He's going with the girl. "That's good. Be sure to behave. Don't use the puns, they're horrible."

"Don't worry, I'll bee-have." Chat smirks.

"Chat!" She swats at the teen, but he easily dodges. "If you scare her off, you'll only have yourself to blame."

"I'll keep that in mind." A beep fills the air. "Sorry to cut the visit short, but it looks like I've got to go."

"Better hurry home then." Marinette gives him a gentle shove towards the railing and stays on the balcony until he's almost out of sight.

"Marinette, what did he give you?" Tikki asks when her human comes back down the stairs to the desk.

"I don't know yet."

"Well open it, open!"

"Okay, okay." Marinette chuckles, pulling the tissue paper out of the bag. She smiles when sees what it is. "That Alley Cat."

"Oh! That's cute! You should wear it to the party!" Tikki cheers. "You can make your outfit match it."

"That's….not a bad idea." She grabs her new sketchpad and makes edits to the design she'd already started. "Chat Noir deserves a little love now and again too."


The week drags slowly by, but finally friday night arrives and Adrien finds himself waiting in the Dupain-Cheng's livingroom. Marinette's parents were busy in the bakery, so they sent him up the stairs with a smile. Now he sits trying not to look as anxious as he feels.

Friends. They're going as friends. But they have to pretend it's a date. Adrien groans, covering his face with his hands. This is a mess. A complete and utter-

"A-Adrien, you're here." Marinette's started voice makes the model jump slightly. "Did my parents send you up?"

"Yeah, they were busy…." Adrien's voice drifts off when he takes in Marinette's outfit.

The first thing Adrien notices is Marinette's curled hair and that she's applied a light amount of make up, both of which he's never seen her do before. She's wearing a black headband with a green paw print on the right side that's identical to the one on Chat Noir's ring. A black choker with a single golden bell is tied around her neck. She wears a green off the shoulder shirt with lace on the edges, a knee length black skirt with green paw prints that wrap around the skirt gradually moving upwards in a spiral. Green tulle sticks out from beneath the skirt with a pair of black ankle high suede boots to match. A small black purse hangs from her shoulder.

Not only has she chosen to wear the gift he gave her for the first time, but she designed her outfit to match it. And she looked….

"What is it?" Marinette asks nervously, looking down at her outfit. "Did I mess something up? I didn't have a lot of time but I thought I did okay…"

Adrien pushes off the couch and crosses the room in a few quick strides. He grabs Marinette's hands to keep her from fussing with her outfit. "It's fine, great even. You look…..you're…."

"Why Marinette you look beautiful!" Sabine exclaims, standing in the doorway. "That outfit turned out so well. Don't you agree Adrien?"

"Uh...y-yeah." Realizing he's still holding Marinette's hands, he pulls away slightly. "I feel underdressed now." He gestures at his light blue button up shirt and khaki pants.

"Nonsense. You look very handsome. Can I get a picture?"

"Mom!" Marinette's cheeks flush.

"What?" Sabine asks innocently. "You know I like getting a picture of your latest designs. You don't mind, do you Adrien?"

"Not at all." Adrien smiles brightly. He slips an arm around Marinette and pulls her to him.

"You two look so cute."

"Just take the picture, mom." Marinette grumbles.

After a few pictures, Sabine finally lets them leave. Marinette is quiet, hyper aware of Adrien's hand on the small of her back as they walk to the limousine. It's not until after they've started driving that she finds her voice.

"I'm sorry about my mom."

"Don't be." Adrien insists. "She's sweet. I can tell she's proud of you." There's a pause. "And she's right, you really do look beautiful. I especially like the headband."

Marinette is extremely grateful for the darkness in the car as she feels her cheeks heat. She has no way of knowing that Adrien is feeling the exact same way.

"T-thank you. I um, I got it from...from a friend. Yeah, a friend gave it to me as a gift." Oh no, she's starting to babble.

"They must be a Chat Noir fan." He says, feeling rather pleased with himself. She obviously likes it.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that." Marinette agrees. "It inspired this outfit, obviously. It's my tribute to Chat, he deserves a little love every and again too."

"You think so?"

"W-well yeah, the media always focuses on Ladybug. Plus she's always correcting people telling them he's her partner, not sidekick."

"So you're a fan as well?" Adrien asks hopefully.

"As much as anyone is I guess. He's a flirt, but he's a good guy. Ladybug wouldn't be able to do her thing if he wasn't around." Marinette replies as they pull up to the building the where the party is being held. "Looks like it's showtime."


A girl wearing a sleek black helmet with blue eye shields covering both her eyes and single piece black suit covers her from head to ankles, with a glowing red hourglass on the chest skates through the backstreets of Paris. Her rollerblade are black with a red glowing hourglass on the outside of each and glowing blue wheels. A dark grey shield is attached to her left wrist.

"Something is going to happen tonight. I can feel it. I have to get to that party, even if I have to sneak inside. Those two are going to need my help." The girl mutters, increasing her speed. "Papillon has been silent for too long, I don't like it."

"Yes, perhaps it's time I make a move." A voice cuts through the air.

"Papillon." The girl skids to a stop. "So you're making a physical appearance now. That's not you M.O."

"Mm, places to be, people to infect." Papillon smirks. "And who might you be? I sense power coming from you girl. Another Miraculous holder perhaps?"

"Wouldn't you like to know." The girl smirks in return.

"Yes, I would. I can sense the others awakening. Do you really think you can defeat me? I am the greatest that has ever been."

"Oh we'll take you down. Because Ladybug and Chat Noir are also the greatest that have ever been."

"Ah, but they have trouble with my akuma don't they? They're power is no match for mine."

"Maybe so. But that's why they have me." The girl smirks. "Timekeeper is my name. Protecting Ladybug and Chat Noir is my game."

"So you've appeared again, but this time you're a little girl." Papillon laughs.

"I'd watch it if I were you." Timekeeper says cooly. "I know who you are, Papillon."

This gets a reaction from the villain. "Do you now?"

"I'm the keeper of all the secrets." She says confidently. "And when the time comes, I'll reveal your secret to your son. Do you really think even he could still love his father, after he knows what you've done?"

"You!" Papillon starts, but the girl disappears in the blink of an eye.

Timekeeper. Guardian of Ladybug and Chat Noir. And most likely all Miraculous holders. She will prove to be an annoyance.


 

"I can't believe a professional designer just complimented me on my outfit." Marinette squeals. "That just happened right, I'm not dreaming?"

"You're not dreaming." Adrien grins. "You need to have more confidence in yourself. Your designs are amazing. You've won all of my dad's contests."

"Winning school contests doesn't prove anything." The girl drops her gaze to the floor.

"Crap, don't freak out but my dad is coming this way."

"What?!" Marinette's head jerks up. "Oh no. Oh no, what if he hates my outfit?"

"Relax, he's going to love it." Adrien takes her hand, interlocking their fingers and giving in a gentle squeeze.

"Adrien, I heard from Chloé that you brought someone else tonight. I assume to this is the girl?" Gabriel asks in his usual professional tone.

"Yes, father. This is Marinette, she's-"

"The winner of my contests, yes." Gabriel gives Marinette a once over. "Is this outfit of your own design?"

"Except for the headband." She supplies. "It's what inspired this outfit."

"Yes, I can tell. Quite the interesting take on Paris' superhero."

"And she made it this week." Adrien adds. He's desperate for his father to be impressed with Marinette. If he gave her even one real compliment, Marinette would be over the moon. "I didn't ask her about the party until Monday after school."

"You created this in four days? While maintaining your school work?"

"Y-yes sir. I-I mean...it's not technically done, I was going to add some beading but even with the late nights I didn't have time so I-"

"Of course, Adrien really should have given you more time to prepare." Gabriel nods. "Even with such a time constraint, you've created an impeccable outfit."

"Really? I-I mean, thank you, sir." Adrien winces slightly, Marinette is squeezing his hand rather hard now. "That really means a lot."

"It's good that you're here as well." Gabriel reaches into his jacket and pulls out a thick envelope with Marinette's name on it. "It's was going to have Adrien give this to you in school, but now I can give it to you in person."

Slightly confused, Marinette takes the envelope. "Um what is-"

"I'm afraid I must be going now, I have a business item to attend to. I will see you two later." He starts to walk away and then turns back, "Oh and Marinette. If you would like I can put you down as Adrien's plus one for all future events. To ensure you are informed with enough time to prepare, should you choose to wear your own design again."

Marinette's jaw drops, her mind going blank. Gabriel Agreste had personally complimented her work and is inviting her to attend events with Adrien in the future. "She looks to Adrien, who's nodding vigorously with a large grin.

"O-Okay." Marinette squeaks.

"Good, I look forward to seeing more of your designs in the future." With that, Gabriel turns and disappears amongst the crowd.

"Adrien."

"Yeah?" The teen snaps out of his happy thoughts. Marinette will be his plus one from now on. He has a ready excuse to not go with Chloé. He'd be able to spend even more time with Marinette, just the two of them.

"I think I need to sit down."

Adrien chuckles, but pulls her towards an empty table.

"Gabriel Agreste complimented my outfit. He liked it, he actually liked it!"

Adrien wants to pull Marinette into his arms and tell her that, of course he liked it. She's an amazing designer. And he'd be crazy to not see that. But he can't, that'd be too much. He probably should let go of her hand. But….he doesn't want to. Not yet. He wants to enjoy this moment while he can.

"Do you have any idea what this is?" Marinette waves the envelope between them.

"No idea. Why don't you open it?"

Marinette's gaze moves from the envelope to their still interlocked hands. Her cheeks coloring with, in Adrien's opinion, a cute blush.

"I guess…..….I should give you your hand back so you can do that you can do that." Adrien starts Adrien starts to pull away but Marinette squeezes his hand to stop him.

"No, don't. I mean….I just…..I'm nervous." She admits, her blush darkening.

"Okay, then let me help you get it open at least."

It takes a few minutes, but they manage to get the envelope open. Marinette pulls out the letter and her eyes slowly widen as she reads is.

"He's offering me an internship this summer."

"I didn't even know you applied." Adrien leans over to read the letter as well.

"I didn't." She says, just above a whisper. "I didn't think I'd have a chance, so I never turned in the application."

"So, my dad decided to offer you one even though you didn't apply. See? Winning those contests did have an impact."

"An internship with your dad….that's a dream come true. I can't believe this."

"I'm really happy for you Marinette." Adrien smiles earnestly, squeezing her hand. "This is amazing."

"Yeah, it is. Will you excuse me for a second? I think I need to splash some water on my face and have a moment to take this all in."

"Yeah, sure, of course." Adrien nods, reluctantly letting go of Marinette's hand so she can stand and make her way to the restroom.

Once Marinette is checked that she's completely alone in the bathroom, she does a happy dance. Nothing, nothing could ruin this night.

There a sudden loud crash from outside and she hears a man shout, "I am Leech!"

Okay. That has potential for ruining her night. Marinette reaches down and opens her purse so Tikki can fly out.

"Tikki, transform me!'

Chapter Text

"I can't believe an Akuma would have the guts to attack a party like this." Chloé complains to Adrien, who's only half listening as he's looking around for Marinette.

"Well, it is kind of your fault." Adrien points out. Chloé had attacked the poor man rather harshly.

"I can't believe you would say that after I've just been attacked!" Chloé gives a fake sob. "It's not my fault the man was so incompetent. Adrikin's, I'm so distraught. You better escort me home, personally."

"Right." Adrien replies, finally spotting Marinette and waving her over. "Marinette, Chloé seems to be upset about the attack. Do you mind if I have the driver drop her off before I bring you home?"

Marinette holds back a sigh as the other girl glares at her. Even though Chloé thinks Adrien's on a date, she acts like this. But Marinette can't say anything, not in front of Adrien anyways. When they'd started getting closer Marinette made a promise to herself try to be nicer to Chloé, at least when Adrien is around, for his sake. Though she doesn't understand why, Chloé is one of his childhood friends. Marinette doesn't want to make Adrien feel like he has to choose between being friends with her, or being friends with Chloé.

Marinette forces a smile, "Of course not. We can't very well leave her alone when she's so upset after all."

"But Adrien, it's better if it's just the two of us."

"Chloe, Marinette is my date." Adrien's heart beat picks up at the word. "It'd be rude to ditch her."

"Then we'll drop her off first and we can have some alone time." Chloe suggests with a smirk.

"Chloe...could you at least attempt to be polite?" Adrien asks in a tired tone. "I know you and Marinette don't get along well, but at least she's polite to you."

"Yeah, when you're around. You should see how she acts when we're alone."

Marinette bites the inside of her cheek and drops her gaze to the floor. She's good at being nice to Chloe when Adrien's around, but when he's not...that's a work in progress.

"Well, looks like your dad managed to get out of his meeting to come check on you." Adrian gestures to the mayor who is searching the room for his daughter. "You should go home with them. Come on, Marinette." He grabs the girl's hand and pulls her to the exit.

"Adrian I-" Marinette starts but is cut off by your file. She pulls it out of her prayers and answers it. "Hey mom. Yeah, but we're both fine... I wasn't even in the room at the time." She pauses, listening to her mother's response. Yeah, the party ended early because the attack so I'll be home soo-" the phone is suddenly pulled from her hand. "Adrian!" She protests.

"Actually Sabine, I'll be keeping it Marinette will longer if that's okay. We're going for ice cream since the attack stopped us from getting dessert... Don't worry I won't keep her too late. Alright, good night." Adrian hangs up and hands the phone back. "Come on, there's a good ice cream shop near here."

"We don't have to. I honestly did have a good time." Marinette protests. "And I don't want you to think I mind doing things like this for you."

"I know I don't have to, but I want to. I hate coming to these things, but having you here made it kind of fun for once. So let me get you some ice cream as thank you for coming with me tonight."

"O-Okay." She agrees and allows the boy to lead the way.

After a few minutes of silence Adrien looks over at Marinette and asks, "I'm not judging, but what Chloe said..."

"It's true." Marinette sighs, having anticipated this. "But it's not as bad as she made it sound."

"So you do treat her differently when I'm around?"

"Kind of. I... Chloe and I don't get along, you know that."

"I get it. Chloe can be a brat, even snap at her sometimes. But why-"

"Because she's your childhood friend." Marinette supplies. "Because it's not fair to make you uncomfortable because we don't get along. I do try to be polite with her even when you're not around. But it's not as easy without you being there as a physical reminder to behave, be nice, and that she's your friend."

"Marinette..."

"I know I'm not doing a very good job and I need to work on it more. But I swear, I am trying. The last thing I want to do is hurt you."

"Marinette, stop." Adrien places his hands on her shoulders and looks directly into her eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes that once made him wonder if she was someone else. "It means a lot to me that your trying, so please don't feel bad. What you doing, it takes a lot of strength. To face someone who you know doesn't like you, who you could easily be hateful to but choosing to be nice instead...that takes a lot of strength. And courage. You're an amazing person, please don't let the Chloes of the world make you forget that. Ever."

"I um...T-thank you." Marinette stutters out, butterflies erupting in her stomach. "So...um...Ice cream?"

From a distance two figures watched the teens walked into the ice cream shop.

"Those two, seriously." The girl with dark brown hair and eyes when Fox like outfit and a black mask that covers her eyes, shakes her head. "They're so obvious."

"Tell me about it." The others smirks. "Pretty much everyone in class now as they are in love with each other. So, you understand the plan, Volpina?"

"I'm moving in with my cousin because my parents wanted me to see more of the world. I'm not tell him him or anyone about my powers unless I have to. I am not to make my superhero self known before the set date. Did I get everything Timekeeper?" Volpina raises an eyebrow.

"You forgot that you're not allowed to tell Chat Noir or Ladybug that you know who they are."

"Right, right." Volpina rolls her eyes. "I've been told this a dozen times. Tell me Timekeeper, this Marinette girl, what do you make of her?"

"She's a good friend of mine, and my classmate for years."

"Do you think she's good for Adrien?"

"What do you mean?"

"Look, we may not have grown up together, but I do care about Adrien. He's been through a lot. What with his mother disappearing and how his dad is..."

"Marinette will won't hurt him, not on purpose anyways. She loves him very much and wants him to be happy more than anything. She knows his home life sucks, so she invites him to help in the bakery whenever he wants, that way he doesn't have to be home alone so much." Timekeeper explains. "His childhood friend hates her and how close they are, but Marinette makes an effort to be polite to her at the very least. She told me once that she thinks he blocks part of himself off, but she can't figure out why."

"She's saw that, did she?"

Timekeeper nods. "I'm willing to bet that what she's seeing is the pain of his mom's parents that he hides from everyone."

"And what are her feelings on that?"

"He doesn't discuss his mom, so what happened to her is an common knowledge. Marinette just hopes that one day he'll feel comfortable enough to confide in her."

"So, she really loves him."

"Even as Chat Noir she does everything she can not hurt him."

"Okay, I approve of her." Volpina gives a solemn nod. "When are they going to reveal themselves?"

"Not until I'm given the order. They deserve to have as normal a life as possible for as long as possible." Timekeeper replies. "And I'll be the one telling them, just so you know."

"Yeah, yeah. New girl gets all the glory." Volpina. "I like you. Don't get yourself killed in this battle."

"Don't worry, I don't plan to." Timekeeper smiles. "Right now, I'm the only reason ladybug and Chat Noir aren't getting their butts kicked. Their powers may be expanding but not enough, and even with my help they barely made it through the battle without transforming back to their civilian selves."

"Papillon is getting stronger." The Italian girl states. "I think they're realizing too. It makes me wonder if we should be encouraging this."

"What? Them acting like normal teenagers?"

"They're not normal teenagers."

"But they deserve to be." Timekeeper argues. "I want them to be happy and enjoy times like this while they can. Besides, having someone to fight for can only help them survive."

"Be realistic, timekeeper." Volpina insists. "Their lives are going to be turned upside down in the flip of a coin. Should we really be allowing more complications?"

"Yes. Because we both know that Chat Noir...Adrien will never be the same after the final battle. He deserves happiness while he can get it."

Volpina's eyes soften and drop to the ground. She knows that Timekeeper is right. Adrien deserves better than what he's when everything gets revealed, Adrien's world will shatter. Why did this have to happen him?

"He's more than just a superhero." Timekeeper says, her voice full of sympathy. "He's a teenage boy who just wants to be loved and to have a family. Of course will do everything we can to protect him from truth, but there's only so much were going to be able to do. Even if he never learns the entire truth, the results will leave him broken. Adrien will need Marinette to pick up the pieces when this for is all over."


"Girl, why didn't you call me all weekend?" Alya demands during lunch on Monday. "You were supposed to give me details."

"I'm sorry, it was kind of late when we got back Friday night and then we were busy with deliveries most of the weekend."

"Hold up, we? As in your family or a you and-"

"Hey Marinette, Alya."

Alix, now sporting a pixie cut, joins the two at the table in the small cafe they'd chosen to eat at. Alex had made her way into their tiny group about six months earlier. While they had always been friends, the three of them were not particularly close before then. For reasons unknown to Marinette and Alya she decided to change that, and the three have been inseparable ever since.

"How was that the date?"

"That's what I'm trying to figure out." Alya says.

"We went to the dinner party, I met Adrien's dad-"

"You met Adrien's dad?!" Alya exclaims. Will

"Don't freak her out." Alex hushees the girl, "Or we'll l never get full story. Go on, Marinette."

"He liked the outfit I design, and gave me an official offer for an internship."

"Seriously?!" Both girls practically shout.

"Yeah and then the Akuma attacked. Thank you Chloe."

"I swear, that girl causes so many Akuma she should be charged with community service." Alya scowls.

"And since the dinner party got cut shor, Adrien took me out for ice cream. After we shook off Chloe that is."

"You said you got in late." The redhead prompts.

"We ended up walking around and talking for a while and we kind of lost time."

"And this delivery business?"

"W-well, Adrien's dad went out of town on Saturday and Adrien didn't want to be home alone all weekend so... He came over to help end the bakery and we spent most the weekend doing deliveries."

"So you and Adrien spent most of the weekend alone." Alix grins. "Go Marinette. So, what happened?"

"I just told you." Marinette insists,

"Are you serious?" Alya gapes. "You spent most of the weekend together and nothing happened?"

The french-Asian girl blushes. "Not technically."

"Ooh, spill. Now."

"It was nothing." Marinette fiddles with her straw.

"Let us be the ones to decide that." Alix takes a long drink of her juice. "Like Alya said, spill."

"We kind of... held hands."

"Yes!"

"Finally!"

"Who made the first move?" Alya is half out of her seat and practically leaing across the table at this point.

"He did. B-but he only did it because I was nervous about meeting his dad. Mr. Agreste is kind of intimidating. A-anyways, I need to get something from block class. I'll see you guys in a bit."

When Marinette is gone, Alya groans and lets her head all on the table. "What are we going to do with those two?"

"Lock them in a room until they've made out a few times?" Alix suggests, resting her chin on her hand.

"It'd have to be one without windows, knowing those two."

"We need to get them to spend more time together alone, outside of school."

"We've been doing that. We got them partnered on the project, and he ended up having to work so much that they barely worked on it together. The phone calls don't count because they weren't actually together." Alya sighs. "We just need someway to force them together."

"That's it!" Alix brightens, streaking a chair.

"What is?"

"Camping!"

"Camping? How does that solve our problem?"

"Well go camping over spring break, just the five of us. Think about it: no work, no people bother us, and no distraction since you, me and Nino will be working to get them together. We'll get tired out early one night, and the two of them will have a chance to talk by the fire. Alone. It's perfect."

"You know Alix, it's kind of scary how into this you are." Alya smiles in spite of herself.

"It's been two years and Adrien's finally returning Marinette's feelings. Everyone short of Chloe would be willing to help." Alix rolls her eyes. "Besides, I'm their friend. I just want them to be happy."

"I know, me too."

"So?"

"So, I like it." Alya nods. "But how are we going to get Adrien on board? He always has worked over the break."

"Let me work on that. Anwyays we better get going if we want to make it back to class on time."

"Alix, you're a secret genius."


"Maybe I should have waited a few days after all." A girl with olive of skin dark brown hair and matching eyes mutters as she walks down the hall.

"You'll be fine, Anita." Adrien assures the girl.

"But what if your friends don't like me?"

"That could never happen." He pulls the girl the girl into a one armed hug just as Marinette walks up.

"Adrien, I thought you went coming today... since she weren't here this morning."

Anita, seeing the pain building in the girl's eyes, steps forward and extends her hand. "I'm Anita."

"Marinette." Marinette forces a smile and shakes Anita's hand.

"So you're a Marinette." Anita grins. "I was hoping I get to meet you. I've heard so much about you."

"O-oh?"

"Anita." Adrien's cheeks heat up.

"Don't worry it was all good. I just transferred here, so Adrien was helping with some of the paperwork since Gabriel couldn't be here himself. Everything was so spur of the moment, I'm not surprised my cousin didn't get a chance to mention it." She puts an extra emphasis on the cousin part of Marinette sake. "But Adrien é un ragazzo casí idiota, he probably wouldn't have told you even if he did have prior warning."

"Hey, I understood that." Adrien scowls. "I've studied since you last visited."

"I'm sorry, but I'm lost." Marinette pipes up.

"No I'm sorry. That that was Italian, sometimes I slip up." Anita explains. "I grew up in Italy."

"And she only 'slips up' when she's insulting people." Adrien adds. "Which is why Anita, I know enough Italian to know when I'm being insulted."

"I didn't know you studied Italian as well as Chinese."

"It's just something I've been doing on the side because of this one." He gestures to Anita. "She's been studying Chinese too, comes in handy when we want to have private conversations in public."

"So you're close?" Marinette guesses. Adrien had mentioned a cousin he's regular contact with. And now that Marinette has gotten a good look at her, Anita looks vaguely similar to a call from one of his family pictures.

"We're practically siblings even though we don't get to see each other much." Anita replies. "Speaking of which, Nǐ gàosù tā nǐ de gǎnshòu?"

Adrien's cheeks glow red and he glances at Marinette briefly before replying, "Nǐ zài shuō shénme?"

"Bùyào shìtú yǐncáng tā. Hěn míngxiǎn, nǐ ài shàngle tā."

If possible, Adrien's cheeks get redder. "I-I'm not d-doing this here." He stutters and walks away without waiting for either girl.

"What did you say to him?" Marinette's eyes are wide. She's never seen Adrien like that before. Marinette had tutoring sessions with Adrien to learn Chinese, but she isn't very good and they were speaking fast so she was completely lost.

"Don't worry about it. He so easy to tease I couldn't resist."

"But what were you teasing him about?"

"You'll find out soon enough." Anita smiles knowingly. "I'll make sure. Now we summonsed to class and Adrien ditched me? We're in the same class."

"Sure. Follow me."

Chapter Text

Chat Noir and Ladybug.

Marinette and Adrien.

Which is real and which is fake?

How much do they use the masks to hide?

Plagg can't say for sure. He's been with Adrien for four years, but he stopped claiming to know him when his mother disappeared. The light in his eyes that originally pulled Plagg in, it disappeared. Sure as Chat Noir he raced across the rooftops with a confident smile. Wild and carefree. But it's not real. Not entirely. It can't be.

Because she broke him.

She left him. Without a word, not enough of a warning. She didn't understand that her son was thirteen. He may have a destiny greater than most but he needed his mother. And she left.

Plagg refuses to forgive her.

Every time he looks into his boys eyes and sees the sadness where there once was light, he hates her.

For a year he was a lost, lonely boy.

Then fate, like it always does, intervened.

Suddenly he wasn't just Adrien, he was Chat Noir. Hero of all of Paris. He was no longer lost because he had a purpose. He was no longer alone because Ladybug thought beside him. He now had a friend, a partner .

And like all the others before him, he fell. Fell for his lady.

Plagg often teased him and said love was overrated, but he didn't mean a word of it. Ladybug chased away some of his darkness. She helped bring back his smile. If she could heal him, Plagg would be happy.

But fate and destiny are cruel.

'I love someone else'. That's what she told him and Plagg could feel his own heart breaking at the words. It's not fair. The only two women Adrien had loved in his life had broken him.

Plagg couldn't hate Ladybug though. He could tell it hurt her to be hurting Chat. She didn't choose to love another. She didn't choose to leave Adrien.

Then Marinette appeared on Plagg's radar. Positive, enthusiastic, sweet Marinette. Oh how she loved his boy. He could see it every time the girl looked at Adrien. She made him smile, made him laugh. When he was lonely, she opened up her home. Her heart was his, even if Adrien didn't realize it yet.

Plagg knew, even before Adrien did. The way his heart just barely skipped a beat. Plagg could see it in Adrien's eyes. The girl was the one. Adrien would realize later that somewhere along the way, he developed strong feelings for the girl. Without ladybug to blind him, he was free to fall for his Princess.

Plagg cheered when Adrien admitted to liking the girl.

This girl would be the one, Plagg could tell.

His broken, lonely boy would be no more. Marinette would bring back is light. She would fight off his sadness. The hole that woman left would be filled with everything that is Marinette.

She wasn't ladybug.

Which means she wasn't his destiny. They weren't fated.

Plagg vowed to fight with everything he had to make his boy happy.

Screw destiny. Screw his fate.

Destiny and faith are nothing but cruel uncaring forces.

But Plagg is a force of his own.

He would not let his boy succumbed to this so-called fate.

Marinette would be the one to heal his boy. Not ladybug. Marinette would be the one to tell Adrien that his worth does not rest in being Chat Noir.

Yes he supported, encouraged even, the idea of Adrien revealing himself to Marinette. Because he knew, he knew Marinette could love both Adrien and Chat Noir. Would love both of them. She would be everything that Adrien needed.

Plagg with fight destiny even if it killed him.

That's what he told himself.

But fate and destiny work in ways even the Kawmi can't understand.

Marinette and ladybug, they were the same person .

Marinette and ladybug loved Adrien . The broken boy who thought he was worthless.

So maybe fate and destiny weren't so bad.

The girl Chat Noir was destined to fall for and the girl Plagg fought for were the same.

She loved him, and him her.

In the week of bliss, Plagg saw the shadows of the boy he met at thirteen.

But Papillon ruined everything.

With this be his boy's destiny too? No .

Plagg won't let it. He refuses. He cares about this for more than any other Chat Noir. Even if he's never admitted it out loud.

He will save Adrien's happiness.

He will fight this fate, this so-called destiny.

Tikki, his love, his soulmate, his other half , calls him crazy.

And maybe he is.

But even if it kills him, Plagg will find a way to save the Princess.

And in turn, he will save his boy from destiny's cruel clutches.

Because without his Princess, Adrien will never be whole.

Without his Princess, Adrien will never be sane again.

He already lost his family, Plagg won't let them lose his Princess too.

It's do or die.

If he can't wake Princess, he will lose his boy to those dark, dark thoughts Plagg knows run through his mind.

He will not lose another one.

He can't lose Adrien.

This time, it's his turn to throw himself on the blade.

Him and Tikki.

They will change the course of destiny.

Chapter Text

"Man, I can't believe we're actually doing this." Nino exclaims when they've finished setting up the third two-man tent.

"How did you get Adrien's dad to agree, Anita?"

Anita clasps her hands together and says, "oh uncle, I really want to go camping with my friends. But I'm nervous to be around them for so long without Adrien. You simply must let him come."

"And that actually worked?" Alix asks, going her gear into one of the tents at random.

"I had to add on that we wouldn't explore the woods stick strictly to the labeled trails, and agreed to bring a first aid kit which is ridiculously huge." Anita kicks one of her Smollett. "That's what this is. Of course taking a week off meant Adrien had to pack schedule over the last couple weeks, but he was more than happy to do it. Especially when he found out that Marinette would be coming."

"I'm glad you came to stay when you did." Alya places a hand on Anita's shoulder. "We'll need all the help we can get to get those two idiots together."

"Tell me about it, Adrien can be so dense sometimes. So, what's the plan?"

"First, you're putting your bags in the same tent as my stuff." Alix instructs then turns to Nino. "And you, stop what you're doing. Your bags are going in with Alya's."

"Not that I'm complaining, but why?"

"We taking advantage of the fact that Marinette and Adrien had to work this morning and won't be coming until this evening. We've picked the tents we want to sleep in and will be completely set up by the time they get to here, so it will be inconveniencing one of us to have to switch with one of them." Alix grins wickedly. "Leaving them stuck sleeping in the same tent together."

"Alix, you scare me." Anita jokes.

"Don't worry, she scares all of us." Alya pats the girl's shoulder.


"You're going on a trip?" Chat asks in surprise.

"Yeah, so think you can keep an eye on things for a week?" Ladybug asks.

"Umm….Normally I would be more than happy to... But I am also going to be gone for the break."

"Are you serious?" Chat nods sadly. "Will you at least be close enough that you could come running back if something happens?"

"I don't know. My friends and I are going camping but we haven't decided on a place yet."

"... you going camping. What are the odds?"

"Ladybug?" Chat questions. He'd heard her perfectly fine, but he didn't understand what she meant.

"I'm kind of going camping too." Ladybug explains. "Well... I don't know. We both need to be here in order to take down an Akuma anyways. Maybe we can convince friends to pick a spot that's close enough for us to come back if we need to? Satellite radios should in the woods so we could both bring one check regularly, I guess."

"Papillon has been quiet and spacing out his attacks." Chat points out. "We might not even need to worry."

"Honestly I'd feel better if one of us was here though." Ladybug sighs. "Could you possibly just go another time? Maybe during the summer?"

"No way. I worked my tail off to get this break. Why don't mew move your plans?"

"Because I can't." she bites her lip. She can't miss out on a chance to spend a week camping with Adrien.

"Then we'll have to go with the plan."

"I guess."

"Okay, if that's settled I'll be going to go."

"Homework again?" Ladybug crosses her arms and raises her eyebrows. "I haven't asked because I didn't want to pry, but I've noticed that sometimes you seem off. Tonight's puns were weak."

"It's nothing." Chat looks away from her to the lights of Paris.

"Come on, you can talk to me."

"...it's confusing being around mew sometimes." He admits. "My feelings get all mixed up...and I end up feeling guilty."

"Oh." Ladybug mutters. She's not sure what she can say to help.

"Please don't feel bad. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty or anything." Chat pleads, turning back to his partner.

"I know." Ladybug assures him. "I just wish I could help. Do you want to do patrols separately for a while? I don't mind doing that if it will help."

"There you go feeling bad again."

"No, I just... I don't want to make things harder for you. I mean I thought we were okay but if you need space..."

"We are fine." Chat insists. "I'm the one with the problem. There's... There's this girl from my school that I really like, but I still have feelings for you. Most of the time I can ignore it, but sometimes when I'm with you I can't and then I feel guilty because it's not fair to her. Which is kind of stupid because we're not actually dating. Everything gets mixed up sometimes... and that makes things confusing."

"It's not stupid Chat. Feelings are complicated, girls especially understand." Ladybug moves to stand next to Chat. "I'm glad you found someone who can outshine me. So if your feelings for me are reason you haven't asked her out, then I say just go for it. Obviously they're not a problem when you're around her, and they seem to becoming not a problem when your with me. If you really feel like you need to, then tell her. I'm sure she'll understand."

"That's not the reason. I mean it was at first, but a friend told me something similar to what you said that made me feel better about it."

"Okay, so what's the problem? Maybe I can help."

Chat sighs, folding his arms. "She doesn't know all of me and I don't feel like I can ask her out when I'm not being completely honest about myself."

Ladybug's eyes widen with realization. "Chat, no."

"Yeah, I knew that would be your reaction. Which is why I've kept my feelings to myself."

Ladybug lets out a groan. This is getting ridiculous, there's a reason they haven't revealed their identities to civilians. But Chat looks miserable. Keeping their identities a secret makes things easier for her, but is it fair to him? He obviously doesn't have same insecurities that she does, so of course he'd want to reveal himself. How else could he have a relationship that isn't full of lies? But even one person knowing could ruin everything...

"What does your Kwami say?"

"Plagg?"

"Yeah. I'm assuming you've talked to him about this."

Chat visibly brightens. "He actually thinks it's a good idea. Said she's a practical girl in control of her emotions. She wouldn't let her feelings rage enough to become a victim to Papillon."

"So he trusts her?"

"Yes. Honestly, Plagg was the one who suggested revealing myself to her."

"And you, being as unbiased as possible, do you trust her? You're positive she won't tell?"

Chat nods. "I can't see her ever doing that. She's too kind a person."

It's a risk, but Plagg is actually encouraging it... And Chat, he'd be happier. Free to be honest with this girl he's so clearly fallen for. The risk is only to Chat and who is she to stop him from being honest with a girl he could quite easily be falling in love with?

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yes, but you can only tell this girl. And it better be somewhere secluded where no one has a chance of hearing you. Got it, kitty?"

"Yes, of course. Thank you." Chat smiles brighter than he has in weeks.

"I just want you to be happy."


Adrien looks over at Marinette, who's fallen asleep in her seat. They'll be camping for a week and at some point during that time, he'll be revealing himself to her. Adrien would be lying if he said he wasn't nervous, but he's tired of hiding things from Marinette. This at least, is one thing he can tell her about. She'll get to know both sides and, hopefully, be willing to give him a chance. He just wants a chance with her. A chance to be with this amazing girl he cares so much about. Adrien chuckles to himself and leans his head against the cool window. Who is he kidding? He doesn't just care about her.

Adrien is in love with Marinette.

The knight in shining armor loves his Princess. It's no wonder she out shines Ladybug. They Princess is higher than a lady after all.

What makes this perfect is that Plagg approves, wholeheartedly.


"Are you sulking again?" Plagg questions when Adrien collapses onto his.

"No." Adrien replies rolling onto his back. "I'm just thinking about Marinette."

"When are you ever not thinking about her?" The Kwami points out, devouring the pile of cheese.

"Plagg, I'm serious. I want to ask her out, but I keep thinking about what it would be like if an Akuma attacked. If I'm with her, I would have to figure out a way to get away from her. Then I'd be distracted, worrying if she's okay. And there's only so many times I could disappear on Marinette before she either gets suspicious or begins to think I'm a jerk."

Could it really be possible? Could Adrien...

Plagg throws down his cheese, this is more important than cheese. He has to know. The Kwami flies over so he's hovering above Adrien's face.

"What?"

That look, those eyes. How many times has Plagg seen them? He really is... Liking her was one thing, infatuations had happened in the past so Plagg didn't get his hopes up. But this, this was Adrien breaking away from destiny. He knew it, he knew it had to Marinette. She's the one, there's no other explanation for how this could happen. Yes. Yes this is perfect.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" Adrien asks looking up at Plagg who's eyes are wide, jaw dropped.

"You have to tell her."

"Tell her what?"

"That your Chat Noir!"

Adrien gives Plagg a bewildered look, "Did you eat some bad cheese?"

"I'm being serious!" Plagg headbutts Adrien's forehead. "You need to tell her."

"Why?"

"Because you in love with her you idiot!"

"W-what?" Adrien jolts up, cheeks flaming. "I-I-"

"Oh don't bother trying to deny it." Plagg waves off boy's protests. "I can see it plan his day. You need to tell Marinette truth. Tell her you're Chat Noir. Let her see both sides of you."

"Y-You agreed with ladybug that are attending stay secret!"

"That was before Marinette came into the picture. I like Marinette. More importantly, I trust. She has a good head on her shoulders. I've been watching her you know. Marinette is very practical, and she has excellent control of her emotions. She's not one to let her feelings rage and become a victim to Papillon."

"I can't believe you're encouraging us."

Plagg floats closer to Adrien. "Listen, I'm not going to let you blow it with a girl that you're in love with just because you're a superhero. Your secret identity isn't worth that to me. So tell her, you have my blessings."


Adrien is going to tell Marinette the truth. While he's beyond nervous, it's a relief knowing that soon he will have one last thing he has to hide from her. And maybe... Maybe she'll be able to help him figure out who he really is.


"You're entering dangerous territory." A figure who stands hidden in the trees says. "How can you be so reckless? I expect this from Timekeeper because she's so inexperienced, but you Volpina?"

"Ill make them better fighters." Volpina shrugs, looking over her shoulder at the campground. "Besides, she makes an happy."

"His happiness levels aren't of concern right now."

"Yeah, I know you don't care about is happiness." Volpina glares at the person hidden shadows.

"Volpina, that's not fair." Timekeeper protests.

"You have no right to speak." Volpina continues, ignoring Timekeeper. "Adrien broke four years ago when his mother disappeared. I look at pictures of him from back then and look at him now... And there is a noticeable difference in his eyes. Adrien was so happy back then. But now he carries around the sadness that he tried to hide from the world."

"I know he was hurt-" the figure tries.

"No, you don't know. You weren't there." The Fox girl growls. "It passes me off that Adrien had to be hutr that way. Sometimes I catch some looking at Marinette, and for a few moments he's the boy I see in those pictures again. And I'm able to get a little less mad, because he loves her. He loves her so much the pain in his heart, the pain his own parents caused, is starting to fade. She has the power to heal him. If I have to fight Papillon by myself to give the relationship the chance it needs to thrive, I will.

"You won't be alone." Timekeeper says with determination. "I'll be with you."

"You both know that their fees-"

"Screw that." Volpina snaps. "Others in the past may have failed, died, or never gotten together, but that doesn't have to be their destiny. I refuse to let it be. I know what happened to Chat Noir in most of the past incarnations. And you may be coldhearted enough to have accepted it," she takes a step closer to the figure. "but I refuse. I will die before I let that happen to Adrien."

"Chat Noir protects ladybug, he has no choice. It's instinct. He will throw himself in front of the attack in order to save her."

"And I will throw myself in front of him." Volpina retorts. "In this battle, I'm on Adrien's side. And the best chance he has of being happy is Marinette."

Timekeeper looks over at the campground, her lips forming a frown. "We need to move. Marinette's awake."

Chapter Text

 

 

Ladybug and Chat Noir.

Adrien and Marinette.

Which is fake and which is real?

How much do they use the masks to hide?

Tikki wasn't sure until she saw the way Adrien broke.

Marinette is his other half.

The Yin to his Yang.

Tikki's love for Marinette is nothing compared to Adrien's.

She realized that too late.

She let Marinette fall.

And now Adrien is broken.

Out of all the events of tonight, it was Marinette's fall that broke him. Adrien needs Marinette.

Plagg has a plan.

But it's crazy.

Plagg, her love, her soulmate, or other half, has lost his mind.

"You're crazy! Can't do that!" Tikki shouts. "We knew this could happen. I understand that your in the pain-"

"No you don't." Plagg's voice is hushed and solemn. "You can't understand. You've never lost a ladybug. All of them lived full lives. I've had Chat Noir's die in freak accidents, die protecting ladybug, been murdered, even become murderers themselves. I can't lose this one. He's my boy. I can't let him give in."

"Why?" The others are joining the now. "Why is this one so much different than the others?"

Adrien is indeed a special boy, but to take such a risk...

Plagg looks around the room, his tear filled eyes finally landing on Tikki after a few agonizingly long moments. "Because he's my boy, Tikki. I love him ."

"Plagg." Tikki gasps.

Plagg cares about all the Chat Noirs, even those who turned on him. He'd told Tikki so many times over the years. But he never, never , admitted it to anyone else. Never claimed to love anybody but herself.

Plagg met Adrien when the boy was thirteen, just a budding youth. He had to sit by and watch us Adrien broke inside a year later. Slowly he tried to pick up the pieces that just wouldn't stay in place. Watched as Adrien fell for his lady, only to ultimately have his heart broken. How Plagg had the strength to push him towards Marinette, she has no idea. He pushed so hard, he was willing to toss away Adrien's biggest secret. And Plagg must have watched like a proud parent as Adrien fell for Marinette. Plagg put so much time and energy into the boy. Into making him whole. And when that finally happened fate intervened.

And Adrien broke all over again.

"I have to wake her Tikki, I have to. He needs her."

"Just... Just give me a minute." She flies away, time to organize your thoughts.

She understands, of course she does. And she wants Marinette back too. But not at the risk of Plagg. She just got them back. Tikki flies into the room where the two teens are sleeping.

Marinette lays under the covers of the double bed, her eyes closed. Just looking at her you think she was merely asleep, but Tikki knows better. Marinette is fighting a grand battle that no one can see. Adrien lays next to Marinette, one arm draped over her stomach. Evidence of tears are still visible on his cheeks.

"Excuse me?" Tikki turns to see a boy with messy red orange hair and torquise eyes standing in the doorway. "I'm still a little lost about all of this, but you're Tikki...right?"

"Yes. How can I help you, Nathanaël?"

"Is... is Marinette going to be okay? I was told something happened to her."

"I don't know." The Kwami admits with a sigh. "That depends a lot on Marinette."

"And Adrien... He really cares about Marinette, huh? He hasn't left her side."

"Those two love each other very much. As you humans would say, they were written in the stars."

"What will happen to him if Marinette can't wake up?"

"..."

"He's losing hope." Nathanaël mutters. "I don't think any of us so I'm much we be hurt without a more make a difference. Without Marinette, all he can see is the darkness. I hope she wakes up soon."

"Go find your girl." Tikki instructs. "There's nothing we can do for these two right now. But she needs you. All of us failed tonight. We failed to protect them. And... she feels guilty for surviving. Many before her died in the final battle. That's believed to be the destiny of the Timekeepers. But she didn't die. Survivors guilt can be a powerful thing. So go find her and make sure she stays stable."

"Okay." The boy nods and walks away.

With determination, Tikki flies back to her mate.

If they can't wake up Marinette, Adrien will be lost to the darkness.

It's time to stop being a coward. She won't let Plagg lose another one.

Her and Plagg.

They will change the course of destiny.

 

Chapter Text

They care about Adrien, of course they do. That Volpina when accuse them of not caring , it's revolting. Everything they've done has been for Adrien. They gave up everything to make his life easier. Yes Adrien must have been hurt, but he knew why things had to happen that way. Knew that there wasn't any choice. When the time comes, he'll tell Volpina that. He understands, they know he does. Volpina and timekeeper are much too young; all of them are. Master Fu is by far the oldest of the Miraculous holders, and that's by a large margin. The rest of them are still kids. Why did they have to be chosen? Kids shouldn't have to fight this battle. But the event of 25 years ago made it necessary.

That event as well put them in this particular position. Save weren't meant to gain the power when they did. It's the reason the Miraculous were separated. My ladybug and Chat Noir are forced to fight alone. Having a Master Fu here it for so long is a big risk. The holders must be kept up. Unless it's absolutely necessary for them to be gathered.

They cannot risk a repeat of the massacre in China.


Timekeeper. Volpina. Xuan Wu. And the mysterious power source.

They are gathering to take him down. But how much are they willing to risk? Surely the Kwami have won some of the danger of this gathering. Last time they tried, all but one of them died. The four miraculous users that have gathered are of no concern to him. With his power and his brilliant plan, they don't stand a chance. Timekeeper is nothing but a nuisance. Her power is growing rapidly, allowing her to interfere with his plans.

But that mysterious power source. Whoever they are, they've managed to evade his careful detection.

His Kwami one spoke of a leader. One who surpasses all the users, whose job it is to find those who are chosen. Only his Kwami has freedom, she refuses to be confined. And it would be with her power that he completes his goal. He doesn't care what he has to do to get what he wants. He must have all seven of the miraculous, only with their power will he be able to get her back. She's the only woman he ever loved, he can't keep living his life without her. He can barely stand to look at his son who looks so much like his mother. He knows the boy has suffered as he has. He was a mere child when she disappeared. This is for him as well.

Yes, his son would understand. Timekeeper is wrong, his son will understand. Because all his son wants is to get his mother back.

Yes. He would reach this goal at any cost. For his son.


Adrien had heard Marinette leave, having never actually gotten to sleep. The idea of sleeping the same tent is Marinette had been pleasant enough, but actually doing it was another matter. When they'd all turned in for the night, Adrien found it near impossible to sleep when he could hear Marinette breathing next to him. After 20 minutes have passed, more than double time it takes to walk to the restrooms, Adrien pulls on his jacket and shoes, then flips his flashlight on as he exits the tent. Much to his relief, Adrien finds Marinette laying on the table staring up at the night sky.

"How are you not freezing?" Adrien smiles as Marinette jumps and looks over at him.

"A-Adrien. You scared the crap out of me." Marinette scolds, shifting to sit up. "What are you doing up?"

"I think I'm the one who should be asking you that."

"Well I asked first."

"I heard you leave, but when you come back I decided to come look for you." Adrien sits on the table next to, careful to keep the flashlight pointed at the ground.

"Really? I was trying to be quiet."

"I wasn't really in a deep sleep. So, what's your excuse?"

"I just couldn't sleep." Marinette mumbles.

From the little light provided by the flashlight, Adrien can see that Marinette is lying. She looks tired. She's looked tired for a while, like she's not getting enough sleep. Alya has commented on it more than once, but Marinette insists that she's fine.

"You don't have to lie to me. If you don't want tell me just say so." He clicks the flashlight off, leaving them in darkness. "I get it, everyone has secrets."

"Even you?" Marinette's voice is small.

Adrien chuckles. "Yeah, even me."

"Like what?"

'That I've been lying to everyone, including my own father, for years. That I'm actually Chat Noir, hero of Paris. Or how about that I'm completely and madly in love with you?'

"If I told you they wouldn't be secrets, now with they?" Adrien replies after a the silence. "Besides, this isn't exactly the best place to be revealing secrets."

"In the dark under a starry night sky?"

"The forest has ears, Marinette. I wouldn't put it past Anita, or Alya for that matter, to be listening to us if they happened to wake up."

"Ah, you have to point there." Marinette admits. "Will you tell me some other time then?"

"When the time is right, I will. It's a promise" Adrien turns the flashlight on an jumps off the table, holding his hand out to Marinette. "But for now, we should get some sleep. We have all day of hiking us."


Marinette and Adrien walk a hiking trail by themselves, the others had decided to to take a different trail with the agreement to meet up at lunch. Adrien walks a little behind Martinette, Plagg is peeking out from his pocket giving the teen an encouraging smile. This would be the perfect time to tell her. They're completely alone, no risk of being overheard. But how do you bring up that your superhero in casual conversation?

"Oooh, this is it!" Marinette breaks into run a as she reaches a bend in the trail. "Come on Adrien, you've got to see this!"

Adrien smiles to himself, picking up his pace to catch up with the girl.

"I didn't realize it'd be so loud." Marinette leans against the railing, looking out at the waterfall rushing over the cliff. "And look, there is a rainbow."

"It's pretty amazing." Adrien agrees. "Marinette." Her name slips from his lips almost unconsciously.

"Hm?" Marinette turns to Adrien. Her eyes are sparkling with excitement.

"I... I'm glad I was able to come here with you. I just wanted you to know that." Adrien looks away from her now, fighting down a blush. "I've never been able to do anything like this. Just spending time with my friends without worrying about photoshoots or other appointments my father set for me." He slides his hand down the railing until it covers Marinette's. "And I'm...really glad that I get to experience it with you."

This isn't what Adrien wanted to tell her. It's not what he should tell her. He wants to tell her everything. But maybe he needs to work up to that truth. He has the rest of the week to tell her. There's no need to rush himself.

"I'm really glad you're here with me too." Marinette says this so softly that Adrien can barely hear it over the resting water.


They know. Of course they know. But they keep the knowledge to themselves. They let Ladybug and Chat Noir thinks their identities are still a secret to everyone but themselves. The heroes don't need to know that they now.

Honestly, it wasn't that hard to figure out. There was just one too many bathroom breaks when someone had been Akumatized. And their mannerisms were also give away. To people who spend so much time around the two heroes in their civilian form, it was easy to catch similarities. The way they talk, the way they work off of each other, and little phrases they accidentally let slip.

But most of all, the way he looks at her. Like she's the sun, giving him life just by being in his presence. Like there's no one else in the world that matters. That love, love that perhaps burns deeper he realizes, that shines in his eyes. Anyone who has seen the way Chat Noir looks at Ladybug, could tell you they're nearly identical. Well, Chat Noir used to look at ladybug that way. Something happened to change that, which is very ironic considering the circumstances.

No matter the circumstances, they're glad. More than anything, they want him to be happy. And loving her, it clearly brings so much joy to him. He's yet to confess, but they're sure it's coming. Love like that can't just be passed by. And they don't think he's the type to let it.

How she feels about him, that's another matter. In the beginning. She was head over heels for him. But now they can't say for certain how she feels. She's become guarded and almost withdrawn even with them. They understand that it's probably a side effect of being a superhero, but it does complicate things. Of course more than anything they want her happy too.

But they can't help but wish that both of their children could be happy together. They get each other in a way no one else will ever be able to. Their shared secret, while currently not revealed between the two of them, will be a strong bond that glues them together. So wouldn't it be perfect if they could love each other and be happy together?

Then again, reality is harsh. And they clearly see the signs. A battle is coming. A big battle. Perhaps their final battle.

Yes, soon they will need to confront Papillon.

And they will take him down or die trying.

This is a fact that terrifies them. Both of their children would give up their lives to save Paris. They're so brave, and so selfless. Fighting as the heroes of Paris changed them. No longer the people they once were, no longer their civilian selves from before; even outside of the costume. And of course, they are so proud of Ladybug and Chat Noir. They're honored to be able to call Ladybug and Chat Noir their children. But it's because Ladybug and Chat Noir are their children, that they are so terrified.

They must struggle to accept the knowledge that they may lose one or both of their children. Ladybug and Chat Noir are not invincible. Even if they come out alive they may not be whole. These are their children, and they are forced to sit on the sidelines unable to do anything.

They are the parents. Parents are supposed to protect their children. The job of the parent is to keep the child safe. And they've tried, they've tried so hard. But this time... This time they have no power to do anything.

Their children have to go out and face their arch nemesis by themselves.

And as parents, all they can do is pray for their safe return.

"Just let them stay alive." They plead in time of weakness. "They don't have to be whole, we can help him. We will help them. We will heal them. We can't lose our children. So please just let them come back home alive."


"Chat, please! You can't leave me alone! We're supposed to be partners." Ladybug sobs into Chat Noir's still chest. "You can't die. I need you."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Chat, no! Why? Why did you do it?"

"I can't... let my lady get hurt." Chat coughs, a large piece of metal sticking out of his chest.. "Looks like I've used up my last life."

"No! Don't leave me!"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Chat, stop this!" Ladybug pleads.

"Marinette."

"These woman are trash. I'm cleansing the city."

"This isn't what we're meant to do!"

"What do you care of what I do? You've already spurned my love."

"Marinette, please."

"Chat, just stop. You my partner and I still care about you." Ladybug insists. "Please don't make me kill you."

"Don't make me laugh."

"Marinette, wake up."

"You you only care about yourself." Chat sneers.

"That's not true!"

"You kill me? You don't have the power."

"Come on Marinette, wake up."

"Yes I do. My powers has evolved since you left me. Please chat. Just come back to me."

"Never!"

"Then you leave me no choice." Ladybug sighs heavily, tears stinging eyes. "Goodbye Chat Noir, my partner, my friend."

"You're scaring me, Marinette! Please, please just wake up!"


Marinette sucks in large gulps of air, her eyes are open but it's too dark to see..

"Shh... It's okay. It's over now." A calming voice whispers in her ear. "Take deep breaths, you're safe now."

Marinette can tell that she is being held in someone's arms while they gently rock her back and forth. This is all her brain can register before the waves of images hit and the sobs erupt from her chest.

Why is this happening? Why now? Why does she keep seeing the her partner die?

Chapter Text

 

Watching his boy trying to wake Marinette is painful. Adrien is scared, understandably so as he'd been awakened by the sounds of her cries.

Though still fully asleep Marinette is sobbing, muttering incoherently. With his train die, Plagg can see equal parts sadness and terror in her face. What could cause that? Plagg buries himself back in sleeping bag at the sound of the tent zipper. It's the reporter girl, asking about Marinette. Not surprising that Marinette woke the others. Adrien sensor away, insisting handle Marinette. At this point she's starting to calm down, but not talking at.

Several minutes after the girl has left, Marinette speaks. "Why? Why, Chat?"

It's barely audible to Plagg, so he knows Adrien doesn't catch it. Plagg's sticks his head out of the sleeping bag just enough to see. Adrien is gently rocking Marinette, who has her face buried in his chest, while whispering comforting words. She had a nightmare about Chat. A bad one. Is it because she knows him or...

"Adrien..." Marinette mutters, this time just loud enough to be heard.

"Yeah, I'm here Marinette. It's okay, it was just a nightmare." Adrien assures her, rubbing his hands up and down Marinette's arm.

Plagg chooses to pull his head back down, this could get mushy and he isn't interested in that.

"Do you want to talk about it? It seemed like you are having a horrible nightmare."

"I was." Marinette's voice iss louder, but not by much. "Someone I care about died, over and over. There was so much blood."

Plagg's ears perked up. Care about? If she was really dreaming of Chat, that means she cares about him. That's perfect.

"When you woke me up, I was about to kill him because he'd become a murderer."

What? Why is she... It could be a coincidence. It has to be.

"I could actually see the body. It was horrible."

"Do you want me to get you some water?" Adrien asks.

"No!" Her voice still isn't at a normal level, but the fear can clearly be heard. "Don't leave me."

"Okay, okay. I'm not going anywhere, I promise."

Adrien tries to look to Plagg for help, but finds that the Kwami is burrowed in the sleeping bag. He lets out a sigh, wishing not for the first time that he wasn't an only child. Maybe then he'd know what to do. There were tricks Adrien's parents used when he was little and had nightmares, but he can't….can he? Would it even work? Parents provide a sense of security, comfort and he's just Adrien. Without being Chat Noir what kind security could he really make her feel? What is plain old Adrien supposed to do to fix this?

In the end, the sound of Marinette's muffled sobs are what make him act.

"It's going to be okay, Marinette. Just hold on." Adrien whispers.

He grabs the edge of Marinette's sleeping bag and pulls it so it's right next to his, an easy feat even if he didn't have enhanced strength because most of Marinette's weight is on his lap, not the sleeping bag. Slowly, and somewhat awkwardly, Adrien shifts so they're both lying down in their sleeping bags. Marinette instantly rolls into him, gripping the front of his pajama shirt and resting her forehead against his chest without saying a word. Adrien gently draws circles on her back as he starts speaking,

"When I was younger, my parents would lay like this with me after I had a bad dream. I used to have the most vivid nightmares. My parents couldn't figure out why. They didn't let me watch anything even remotely scary. It wasn't even allowed to watch shows with blood in it."

Adrien doesn't know why he's telling her this. He hasn't even told me Nino. Maybe it's to comfort her, show Marinette that she's not the only one with these horrendous dreams. Or maybe it's just because he's tired of secrets. Marinette... She makes Adrien want to tell her everything. It feels like he can tell her everything without fear. Reasons don't really matter. Adrien wants to tell her everything, and he will. One secret at a time.

"I kept dreaming of my death, of killing others. They took me this a specialist, but nothing he suggested worked. So they finally settled on sleeping with me. They figured if I had more nightmares they'd be able to wake me up right away. Thing is though, I never had a nightmare when they were with me. It was like they were somehow protecting me from them. So they started taking turns sleeping in my bed with me. They started experimenting with leaving after I fell asleep, which kind of worked. If they stayed with me until I fell asleep, I had nightmares less often. They ended up settling for that because between work and me...they barely saw each other. After a couple of months, the nightmares just stopped. I used to think they had some kind of magic that protected me from the nightmares. Looking back I probably just felt safer when my parents were with me. There was this lullaby my mother used to sing to me, I don't remember the words anymore but I think I remember the tune."

Adrien hums a gentle tune, until Marinette breathing evens out and he's sure she's fully asleep. Adrien leans up to carefully place a kiss on Marinette's temple.

"I love you, Princess." He mutters before drifting off to sleep himself.

Plagg peaks out from Adrien sleeping bag, a rather annoyed expression on his face. In the four years he's known Adrien, the boy has never mentioned those nightmares. Plagg expected they would happen, they always do. He suspected they would be starting soon, with how powerful Papillon is getting. Yes it was only a matter of time. But to have gotten them as a mere child. Perhaps Adrien is more closely linked to his past selves than Plagg thought. Or... That he was chosen much earlier than either of them realized.

Marinette dreams though, those worry him. It's possible they don't mean anything, but the intensity and amount makes him think otherwise. Could she be another holder? There's three outs there somewhere still. She could be. If that's the case, which one? And why is she having nightmares when both Adrien and Ladybug are fine? Or are they? Could Ladybug have started having them? But if that's the case, they have less time than Plagg believed.

He needs to start training Adrien.

The final battle is coming and Plagg will not let Adrien die in it.


Alix lets out a yawn, stretching her arms above her head as she walks to the table. "Please tell me there is something warm to drink."

"There's tea on the stove." Anita replies. "And we have pancakes."

"Are Marinette and Adrien still asleep?" Alix asks, realizing that the two on Table. "I'm going to give this lazybums a wake up call."

"Don't." Alya's voice stops the girl. "They were up late last night. Let them sleep."

"What were they doing that kept them up late?" Anita questions.

"Better yet, how do you know that?" Alix grins, raising her eyebrows.

Nino reddens slightly as he chokes on his food.

"Get your mind out of the gutter. I woke up because I heard Marinette. Sounded like she was having a nightmare. Adrien had trouble waking her up, I actually went into the tent to help when she finally seemed to come out of it. It would've taken Marinette a while to calm down enough to fall back asleep."

"I know nightmares are unpleasant, but come on." Nino gives Alya a skeptical look. "It's not like she's a little kid."

"I know it sounds ridiculous, Marinette... She has full-blown horror movie nightmares. We're talking blood, death, even murder. They're extremely realistic and detailed. Marinette once drew me a picture of something from her nightmare and honestly...it was horrifying. I don't know how she could dream up that kind of stuff, you know? She had one once while sleeping over at my house, and it took her until sunrise to fall back asleep."

Anita and Alex exchange looks, having a silent conversation.

"Since those two are clearly sleeping in, should we drive down the mountain?" Alya suggests, changing the subject. "I promised my mom I'd checked in with her. We could pick up some fun snacks for the hike later too."

"That's a good idea." Alix agrees. "We'll leave a note for the lovebirds, just in case they wake up before we get back."


When Marinette wakes up, she's groggy. She slips out of her sleeping bag, feeling much to warm. Marinette's hand bumps against something cold. She looks down finding water bottle, and she takes a long drink from it. The events of last night are a blur. The images from her nightmares are sharp as ever, except for the faces. But the rest... She remembers Adrien's voice, a soothing melody and nothing more. She lets out a sigh. Why is this happening, why now? What do they mean?

"Hey Tikki-"

"Marinette?" Adrien's voice calls from the entrance of the tent. "You awake?"

"Y-Yeah, I'm up."

"I thought I heard you moving around in here. The others drove down the mountain to check in with parents apparently. I was just making myself a sandwich, you want one?"

"Um...no thanks. I'm not really hungry." Marinette replies.

She quickly changes out of her pajamas, pulls her hair into a low ponytail and tucks Tikki into her fanny pack before clipping it into place. Marinette winces slightly and shields her eyes with her hand as she steps outside the time.

"Why does it have to be so bright?" She mumbles as she stumbles to the table, where a plate filled with fruit waits for her.

"I know you said you're not hungry, but you should try eat something." Adrien says in way of explanation.

"Thanks." Marinette manages a small smile.

"So...are you feeling better?" Adrien asks tentatively, taking a seat next to her.

Marinette blinks a few times before understanding hits. If the past is any indication of how she acted last night, it wasn't pretty. "I guess. My brain is still foggy. And I um... I actually don't remember most of last night. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. I know it was quite the sight."

"You don't have to apologize Marinette. Be honest with me, are those nightmares the real reason you couldn't sleep the other night?" Marinette nods slowly. "Are they a regular occurrence?"

"I get them about every other night. Some are worse than others. I usually can't fall back asleep for a while afterwards so."

"Why haven't you told anyone?"

"They're just nightmares. It's not like telling anyone will help." Marinette mutters. "Besides, I don't want to be a burden."

"You're not a burden, Marinette." Adrien replies, laying his hand on top of hers. "Please don't talk about yourself that way." When Marinette doesn't say anything, Adrien pulls his hand away asks, "Does...what happened last night happen a lot?"

"When I was younger, they happened enough that my parents started calling them my 'little episodes'. When I would have nightmares sometimes I would wake up and seem somewhat lucid, even talk with my parents, but in the morning I would have no recollection of it." Marinette explains. "After a while my parents took me to a doctor, who referred me to a therapist, who sent me to a child psychologist. It was a giant waste of money because none of them could figure out why I was having nightmares and 'episodes'."

"What made them stop?" Adrien questions.

"Beats me." Marinette shrugs. "They just stopped one day and, until recently, haven't come back."

"If you don't mind me asking, what are the nightmares about?"

"Usually, someone I care about dying." This isn't a total lie. All the dreams are of Chat Noir, she's not sure it's her Chat Noir but in the nightmares she cares deeply about him. All of them. "Sometimes to protect me, sometimes for reasons I don't now. And sometimes... Sometimes the person is a murderer. I try to talk to them, but in the end I have to kill them in order to stop hurting anyone else."

"Marinette I-" Adrien is cut off by the sound of crunching dirt, signaling the others return.

Alya practically jumps out of the car, a mix of relief and panic on her face.

"Think goodness you guys are awake. I hate to ruin the trip, but we need to get back home."

"Why? What's going on?" Marinette asks.

"It's Mylene. Her dad's disappeared."


Another disappearance.

The disappearances had started a few months ago.

First it was Aurore, being so popular it generated a lot of attention. But there wasn't a trail to follow. Not a single clue was left behind. It had been speculated that seat just ran away.

'After all she is a teenager.' People had said.

But none of her stuff was missing. Then Otis, the zookeeper, disappeared just as suddenly. Next was Theo, who seemed to have disappeared during an Akuma attack. And now Fred Harpele, Mylene's dad.

Four people missing, no clues, no trail. The only good piece of news has been no bodies have been found.

"Okay, I know this isn't really appropriate but I was on the Ladyblog-"

"Alya, come on." Nino protests from behind the wheel.

"I wasn't posting. I was checking something. I found a pattern with all these disappearances." Alya turns to the backseat were Adrien sits with Marinette asleep on his shoulder. "It might be a coincidence, but there is a pattern."

"What is it?" Adrien asks.

"All of them were Akumatized." Alya holds her found out, the Ladyblog already pulled up. "All of them at some point or another were Akuma victims. That's weird right?" Adrien nods in agreement. "Do you think Papillon is behind this?"

"Why would he do this?" Nino asks.

"I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's nothing. It's just... Weird."

'Weird indeed.' Adrien silently agrees. 'I need to tell ladybug about this.'

Chapter Text

Sabine wakes in the middle of the night. After staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, she lets out a sigh. Knowing she won't be able to fall back asleep until she checked on her children, she pushes the blankets off and stands up. It's not that she's extreme worried, or had some kind of dream that put her on edge. It's just a mom thing. When Sabine steps into Marinette's room, she immediately notices that Adrien isn't there.

Sabine and Tom weren't surprised see the kids return early, they'd heard about Fred Harpele that morning after all. It's in character for both of them to drop what they're doing to help a friend in need. After visiting with Mylene, they had come back to help out in the bakery. When Sabine overheard that Adrien was going to an empty home because his cousin made plans to stay with Alya and his father is out of town, she invited him to stay the night. The way his face lit up made her heart hurt. Adrien is such a sweet boy and it's more than clear that he doesn't get the affection he deserves at home. Sometimes Sabine wonders if he gets any. She tries not to think badly of Gabriel, being a single parent can't be easy. Adrien had confided in her during one of his visits that his mother had disappeared without a trace four years ago. Dealing with that, it takes it toll. But to make your own son pay the price….

Sabine and Tom are happy to fill the void.

They welcomed his help in the shop, insisted he stay for dinner frequently, and always asked about his day. While at first shy and untrusting, he slowly started opening up when he realized they genuinely cared and wanted an answer to the questions they often asked.

When it became increasingly obvious that Adrien was developing feelings for their daughter, Sabine placed a hand on her husband's arm and quietly passed along the information while Adrien talked with Marinette behind the front counter. Tom grinned but was quick to add "Don't you start meddling." Of course she wouldn't, Sabine assured him. After all, it was painfully clear that Adrien himself had yet to realize the feelings were there. And then there was Marinette. While at one point Sabine had known that her daughter had a crush on Adrien, she didn't know if it still held true. Marinette had started pulling away by that point, keeping more and more behind closed doors. She understood of course, it was the price of the job. But in times like that, she wished her daughter didn't feel like she has to hide from her own parents.

Sabine find Adrien in the living room, staring at the family picture that sits on a shelf of the bookcase. She quietly walks up to him and speaks,

"We need to take a new photo." Adrien jumps at Sabine's sudden appearance beside him. "You two have changed so much in the past year."

"Yeah...I guess."

"Up for a midnight snack?" Sabine guesses with a gentle smile.

"No...just couldn't sleep. You?"

"When I wake up at night, I can't fall back asleep until I know my children are safe in their beds. When I saw you weren't in Marinette's room I came looking for you. As a parent, it's my job to worry about you."

"Sorry, I guess I should get back to bed."

"No, let's sit. I feel like we haven't really had a chance to talk in a while." Sabine pulls him to the couch and sits down. "Both of you have been so busy lately, we hardly see you."

"Yeah, sorry about that. It a lot of work to convince my dad to give me all of spring break off." Adrien replies, sitting next to her.

"So, anything you want to tell me about?" Yes. Tonight would be when Sabine let's Adrien know that she knows about everything. Well, his part in everything. Truthfully Tom and Sabine had been looking for a good time them both to sit them both down and talk, but they could never get one of them alone long enough to have that particular conversation. She needs to take advantage of this moment. But which to discuss first?

"Um...nothing particularly exciting has happened to me recently." The way his face reddens ever so slightly is not lost on Sabine. "But Marinette she…"

"Yes, Marinette. I wanted to talk to you about her actually."

"You-You did?"

"I just want to make sure you know that no matter what happens with Marinette, you'll always be part of this family." She raises her hand to cup Adrien's cheek.

"I'm not…I don't…" Adrien sputters, his face becoming very hot.

"Don't try to deny it." Sabine smiles. "I'm your mother, it's my job to notice these kinds of things."

"Oh…." Adrien's gaze drops to his lap. "I don't suppose you have any advice?"

Sabine sighs, dropping her hand. "Unfortunately, Marinette's reached a stage where she hides this kind of thing from me. I couldn't tell you if I wanted to. Just be honest with her." She lifts his chin to make Adrien look her in the eye. "I think it might be a good idea to tell you that you're Chat Noir."

Adrien's eyes widen, his lips moving soundlessly.

"See? Even she agrees!" The black Kwami flies up between the two. "I told you."

"P-Plagg! What are you doing?"

"Oh what's the use in hiding? She's clearly figured it out. I've been wondering about it for a while. When you've been around as long as I have, you learn to read people."

"So you're Plagg." Sabine smiles at the Kwami. "I've got caught glimpses of you. Tom and I were trying to figure out just what you are."

"I'm what's known as a Kwami. I'm the one who gives Adrien his powers." Plagg explains. "More importantly, your mom agrees with me. Proof that it was good advice."

"I never said I wasn't going to do it." Adrien argues.

"You're taking your sweet time with it."

"I'm working on it."

"Oh please, you had the perfect opportunity but you decided to get all mushy instead."

"Okay, I think we'd better get back to bed." Adrien shoves Plagg back into his pajama pocket, standing up. "He has a bit of an attitude, sorry."

"Adrien wait." Sabine pushes off the couch and grabs the teen's shoulder to stop him. "I know things are….hard at home. Tom and I are here for you, you can tell us anything. I promise that even your darkest thoughts can't make us stop loving you. More than anything, we want you to be happy. But you can't be if you keep everything buried inside."

"You don't want to hear it." Adrien mutters to the floor.

"Yes, I do. I want to hear anything that's on your mind. I know it's been hard having your mom gone, but I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere."

"...There are things I can't tell you." Adrien shakes his head. "I've been sworn to secrecy."

"So tell me about everything else. Tom and I both want you to feel safe confiding in us." Sabine envelopes Adrien in a tight embrace.

In the scheme of things, Adrien's mom hasn't been gone that long. But for Adrien...it's been an eternity. An eternity since he's been held like this by a mother. He'd almost forgotten what it felt like.

"I love you Adrien, never forget that."

It's whispered like a promise.

This is what makes him crack. A broken sob escapes Adrien's lips as he confesses something he hasn't even dared tell Plagg. He shouldn't feel this way. He has no right to feel this way, and he hates himself for it. He's a horrible child, a failure. He doesn't deserve to be Chat Noir when he feels this way. A hero isn't selfish. A hero puts the needs of others before himself. A hero doesn't have these kinds of thoughts, he doesn't feel this way. Adrien is nothing more than a terribly selfish child stamping his foot because he can't have his way.

Adrien knows that when the time comes, he will only find disappointment in her eyes. She holds expectations for him, he knows that. And he's failed all of them. He's not strong. He's not selfless and endlessly caring. He's weak, broken, and so selfish. What will she think of him when she finds out? He can't bring himself to think of it.


Adrien's confession isn't news to Plagg. Truthfully, he'd been waiting for the day when Adrien would finally admit it out loud. Plagg is grateful for Sabine's presence now that he's finally admitted it. She holds him, whispering words that carry much more weight than if Plagg ever said them.

Plagg lingers in the living room as Sabine sends his boy back to bed. He needs to have a talk with this woman.

"I hope he doesn't continue to beat himself up over this." Sabine sighs, turning back to the Kwami.

"I'm not sworn to secrecy you know." Plagg says casually, floating over to the couch and dropping onto the arm rest. "I can tell you anything you want to know. Like how my boy is hopelessly in love with your daughter. Who is a much preferable choice than Ladybug."

"Do you not like Ladybug?" Sabine asks, joining him on the couch.

"No, it's not that. She's a good girl, she is." Plagg shakes his head with a sigh. "But she can't love Chat Noir."

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

"Call it fate, destiny. Heck, call it a side-effect, a curse. Being Chat Noir and Ladybug comes with a price." Plagg explains. "Ladybug can't love Chat Noir until she's fulfilled her destiny."

"You have rules that restrict feelings?" Sabine's eyebrows knit together.

"No, it's not like that. It's the magic. See, Ladybug's job is to cleanse the Akuma and eventually take down Papillon. It's her destiny. Their destiny really. Both Chat Noir and Ladybug are destined to take on Papillon. But if Ladybug were to fall in love with Chat Noir, her mind wouldn't be on her job. She would be worrying about Chat more than anything. He would be her top priority, not the citizens of Paris. To prevent this, there's ancient magic in place that suppresses her feelings until after Papillon has been defeated."

"Does this magic only affect Ladybug where Chat Noir is concerned? Or will it stop her from falling in love with anyone?"

"She's allowed to fall for a civilian. In that case, the magic actually...enhances the feelings. Making them stronger, bigger. If Ladybug has someone waiting for her after the final battle-"

"Then she'll have it in her mind that she can't lose, because some is waiting for her safe return." Sabine finishes. Plagg nods. "So...if Ladybug were to fall for Chat Noir's civilian form..."

"The moment she finds out his other identity, the magic would activate and suppress her feelings. We Kwami don't agree with it, but it's part of the deal. And it's not like it completely stops her feelings. Plenty of Ladybug's have been in relationships with their partners. They just couldn't fully commit until after Papillon was defeated...what's wrong?"

Sabine shakes her head, forcing a smile. "Nothing, just taking it all in."

"Now you see why I was so happy when he started falling for Marinette. She's a girl who actually can and does love him. If only my boy would open his eyes and realize it."

"She is? She does?"

Plagg chuckles, a smirk playing on his lips. "As sure as the sky is blue. Don't feel bad for not noticing it. I have the advantage of being an unseen observer. Marinette can't hide things from me. Marinette is a special one, I can tell. I just know she'll be the one heal Adrien."

"Yeah...she really is special." Sabine agrees. "Well, we probably should get back to bed. I'm sure even Kwami's need their rest."

"We do indeed." Plagg zooms across the room and stops in the doorway, turning to Sabine, who's paused to look at the family photo. He needs to tell her. It's a cruel truth, but it's even crueler not to warn her. "There is one thing I didn't tell you."

"Plagg, why doesn't Chat Noir have magic that stops him from falling in love with Ladybug?"

"This woman is perceptive as always." Plagg mutters to himself, to Sabine he says, "Because he's Ladybug's armor. Chat Noir has far more offensive power than Ladybug. He fights to take down the Akuma and Papillon, but mostly to keep his Lady safe. If Chat Noir is in love with her, it only enables that. And it's always been his destiny to fall for Ladybug."

"Would he die for her?"

"If that's what it takes, yes."

"...How many times has it happened?"

"More than I care to admit." Plagg sighs, flying over to her and placing a paw on her cheek. "The number is far too great for my liking."

"So...we might lose him then." Sabine whispers, tears welling in her eyes. "There's a good chance he won't come back to us after the final battle."

"I will not let Adrien die. I refuse to let it happen."

"Not even you can fight destiny Plagg." Sabine smiles sadly. "Fate and destiny are surely beyond even you."

"Watch me. I'm already doing it by pushing Adrien towards Marinette. I'm not losing my boy. Not this time." Plagg flies away, but once again stops in the doorway. This time he only half turns back to Sabine. "Just so you know, Adrien's mom left him."

"I know he feels that way, but she disappeared and that's not-"

"She didn't just disappear. She left him. And by doing so, she broke him." Plagg glares at the ground. "She chose to leave him. I know it and Adrien knows it too. I hate her and I will never forgive her for it, no matter what happens in the future."


A girl walks through the streets of Paris underneath a dark blue umbrella as the rain comes down around her. The weather is fitting for a day such as this. Another disappearance. Papillon must be behind them, she is sure. But why? What is he planning? This Papillon...what makes him more dangerous than those before him is not his power, but his brilliance. His earlier attempts all ended in failure, so he started strategizing. Looking back, there have been too many close calls for comfort.

The girl pulls open the door of an antique shop, the bell tinkling as she steps inside.

"A customer in this weather, what a surprise." A short man with brown eyes and a grey hair wearing a red button up shirt leans against the counter. "Will you please turn the sign to closed? I don't believe I'll be getting any more customers in this weather."

The girl closes her umbrella, and flips the sign then moves to the counter. She pulls a metal object from her pocket and holds it out. "I'm hoping that you could appraise this for me."

"This is quite beautiful." The man holds out his hand, palm up. "May I?"

With a small, confident smile, the girl drops it into his palm.

Instantly the object emits an almost unnoticeable soft blue glow.

"Interesting. Very interesting." The man gives a smile of his own. "You are wise, young one."

"And it seems you are more that just a mere shop owner, Master Fu."

Master Fu lets out a hearty laugh, handing the item back. "That I am. And you are no mere girl. I have been wondering when you would seek me out, Timekeeper."

"You know why I'm here I trust?"

"Of course. I may not be active like our young ones, but I have kept my eye on the war. Always watching from the background, waiting for a sign that the time has come for me to step in."

"We need everyone." Timekeeper says simply.

"Yes, I can see that. I know that The Master has been gathering the others." Master Fu walks around the counter to stand in front of the girl. "I know Volpina is in town. That you are here tells me that you want the yellow one."

"I told you, we need everyone."

"Very well. I have already found our girl. I have been watching her for years, she is a suitable candidate. I've been slowly training her over the past few years, she does her job well. It's because of her that we know Papillon's true identity."

"Who is she?"

Master Fu smiles. "I think that should stay my little secret for now. The girl has to put on quite the act, the fewer who know about it, the better."

"Why does she need to act?"

"Wearing the mask carries its risks, you know that. This girl does what she needs to in order to protect those she cares about. You need not worry. Now that the time has come, I will lead her down the path to her destiny and let the real training begin."

Timekeeper smiles and nods. "If the tales I heard are true, then I know for a fact I don't." She walks to the door and opens her umbrella. "I heard how you survived the massacre in China. I'm sorry for your lose, but I hope you will lend us your power once more. Those two…..they have parents waiting for them to come home this time. Parents shouldn't outlive their children, Master Fu."

"Indeed they should not. I will do what I can in this war. But whether they live or die is up to them, you know that."

"Yeah, well, we'll see." Timekeeper mutters in reply, and walks out into the pouring rain.

 

Chapter Text

"Chat you're….you've been lying to me?" Ladybug's eyes widen in disbelief.

"No, I haven't Ladybug." Chat replies, almost pleadingly. She has to understand. She's his partner, his best friend. If only she understands, then he'll be happy. "What you see when I'm Chat Noir is who I am."

"Chat, you're disguise is not who you are! It's not possible. How could you say that's who you are?"

"Because it is!" Chat gestures down at himself. "This isn't me. Not really. Plagg, he makes it so I can be my true self."

"Oh Chat...no. This...this isn't right. You have to realize that." Ladybug shakes her head sadly. "You're sick. You need help, professional help."

"Ladybug….even you reject me?" Chat's voice breaks, tears stinging his eyes. "You're supposed to be my partner."

"I'm not rejecting you." She takes his hands in hers. "I'll be with you every step of the way. You're just...you have an illness Chat, but it's curable."

Chat rips his hands away, his head dropping. "I'm not ill! I thought...I thought you would understand...that….I love you Ladybug...how...how could you do this to me?"

"Chat-"

"Back off Ladybug." A male voice interjects. "You've done enough damage."

"I'm trying to help." Ladybug argues.

"I'm sorry….I….I shouldn't have….you don't have to tell me you're identity. I don't want to know it. I don't want to know the girl behind the mask, it'll just make this worse." Chat takes a few steps back. His chest tightens, heartbeat picking up, tears rolling down his face. His world is crumbling down around him. If even Ladybug, his partner, his friend...his love, can't accept him….then he needs to escape.

So he turns and runs, not looking back. He can't look back. There's nothing left for him there.


Adrien wakes with a jolt. Whether it was the raging storm, or the dreams that woke him, he's not sure. Unlike the night before, Adrien doesn't have any confusion about his surroundings. He's at Marinette's again because a large storm blew in during the day and Marinette's parents insisted that he stay until the storm blew over. Adrien of course, had no objections.

Running his hands through his hair, Adrien sits up. The last dream had been unpleasant, but tame. It's the ones before that confuse him.

"Plagg."

"You okay kid?" Plagg asks with a sleepy voice.

"You said these nightmares are memories of previous Chat Noirs."

"They are."

"So why," Adrien turns to his Kwami, "why is Marinette in them?"

Plagg lets out a sigh, and flies up to pat Adrien's cheek. "Because that's what you fear. Right now, these memories can only come to you in your dreams. The problem is, they're just that, dreams. If something is strong enough, they can seep in. You fear losing her, so she appears in your dreams."

"What if something happens to her Plagg?" Adrien's voice is just barely a whisper, but Plagg can hear the fear. "What if I'm not enough to protect her?"

"Kid, when are you going to understand that what that you're allowed to feel? I chose you. You're Chat Noir. You deserve to be Chat Noir. Even heroes have a breaking point. What you feel may be selfish, but it's human. Which, may I remind you, you are."

"She didn't want me to-"

"I don't care what that woman wanted!" Plagg hisses, hatred in his voice. "If she says one word against anything you've done in the last four years, I'll show her the true meaning of pain."

"Plagg-"

"No. No excuses, Adrien. She doesn't get a say in this. She left you. What you've done, what you've felt; she gets no part of it. Tom and Sabine accept you. They don't think any less of you because of how you feel. They are the only ones that matter. Them and Marinette. And I guarantee when you tell her, she'll tell you the same thing I've been saying for years." Plagg drops back down onto the chaise and crawls under the blanket. "Now go check on her, I know you won't be able to sleep until you see for yourself that she's fine."

Adrien pushes off the chaise, knowing that Plagg is right. The logical part of his brain knows it's ridiculous, that it's just a dream. It's not like he hasn't had nightmares about his friends being hurt before, those happened off and on since he started being Chat Noir. But knowing his dreams are real events has him on an edge. Or maybe it's just because it's Marinette. Any nightmare with Marinette would be horrific. His greatest fear right now is that he won't be able to protect her. If something were to happen to his princess….

'Don't think like that' Adrien shakes his head to clear it.

He gently sits on the edge of the bed so he doesn't jostle Marinette. A smile plays on Marinette's lips as she snuggles into her pillow, some of her hair falling into her face.

"I wonder what you're dreaming about princess…" Adrien tucks Marinette's hair behind her ear.

"Mm…" Marinette's eyes slowly blink open. "...Adrien? What's wrong?"

"It's nothing...I didn't mean to wake you." Adrien starts to leave but Marinette's hand shoots out to stop him.

"Wait," Marinette says, now sitting up. "I can tell something's wrong, please talk to me."

"It's stupid, but I had a nightmare and...I wanted to check on you." Adrien rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. "Remind myself that you're fine."

"It's not stupid. Sometimes when I dream of my parents getting an accident, or being attacked by an akuma, I sneak down and check on them. Do you want to talk about it? It might help."

"Someone got Akumatized and while Ladybug and Chat Noir were fighting it, you ended up in the line of an attack." It's not a lie, but not the full truth. But how is he supposed to explain that he was dreaming of Ladybug being attacked, then her suddenly turning into Marinette?

Marinette chuckles. "That's funny, I was dreaming of Ladybug and Chat Noir fighting an Akuma victim too. Only in my dream, they were kicking butt like usual."

"...they've had a few close calls lately." Adrien whispers, his gaze dropping to the comforter. "Do you ever worry about them? The city puts them on a pedestal as heroes...but behind the mask, they're humans too."

"Yeah….I do, actually. All the time. I worry that next time, Papillon will win." Marinette looks up at the glass trap door, watching the rain pour down. With determination, she moves her gaze back to Adrien. "If I tell you something, will you promise keep it a secret?"

"Of course."

"I….know Chat Noir, he's sort of a friend of mine."

"O-oh, really?" Adrien feigns surprise, his heartbeat quickening.

"He came to check on me after Nathanael got Akumatized, and then after Max...he claimed he was worried because I seem to be an akuma magnet." Marinette smiles at the memory. "I think he just wanted someone to talk to though. That, and he liked that I gave him pastries when he came by. He's actually the one who gave me the Chat Noir headband."

"He must really like you."

"Like I said, we're friends. I gave him some advice, so he gave me it as a thank you gift. The fights where it seems like Ladybug and Chat might lose….they scare me. Not because that means Papillon will have no one to fight him, though that's a scary thought, but because that means Chat will be gone."

"What do you mean?" Adrien's eyebrows knit together. She's right of course, but had she really been able to pick up on that from his visits?

"Chat would die before he lets an Akuma get his Miraculous." Marinette mutters. "That's just how he is. He's a courageous idiot who'll do whatever it takes to save Paris, even if at the cost of his life."

"That's true but-" A loud clap of thunder sounds as lightning lights up the room, making Adrien cringe.

"Are you scared of thunder?" Marinette teases managing a small smile.

"You know how some people don't like the sound styrofoam makes when you pull it out of a box?" She nods. "Thunder is my styrofoam."

"Then lay and talk with me until the storm has blown over a little."

"I don't think your parents would be too happy about that."

Marinette rolls her eyes. "It's not like we'd be doing anything wrong. Besides, they totally trust us. It's not that different from us sharing a tent. Since you're paranoid, you can lay on top of the comforter with a blanket, okay? Now go get one."

With a sigh of defeat, Adrien moves to do as he's told. Once he's settled back on the bed, he rolls on his side to face Marinette. "Do you ever wonder who Chat Noir is as a civilian?"

"Of course, doesn't everybody? That's the big question, isn't it? Who are Chat Noir and Ladybug?"

"But you're friends with him, so you probably wonder more than others."

Marinette bites the inside of her cheek, deep in thought. "I don't know about that. Chat deserves his privacy, deserves a part of his life where he's not the hero of Paris. I feel like if I wonder about it, then I'll try to find clues and make connections...it's not my buisness who he is. I may not know his real name, or what he looks like without the mask, but I know him. That's enough for me."

"Good point. But what if he wanted to tell you?" Adrien presses. He's not sure why he's asking. Not sure what he wants to hear in answer. "If he came to you and told you he wants you to know who his civilian identity is. Would you let him?"

"I'm not sure I could stop him." Marinette laughs.

"I'm serious."

"Okay, sorry. If Chat really wanted to tell me….I don't know."

Ladybug would always run away when Chat Noir asked about revealing their identities in the past. But he hadn't brought it up in a long time. Not since before she confessed to being in love with someone else. If he offered, she couldn't let him do it. What right does she have to his civilian identity when she's letting fear stop her from showing Chat hers? But on the other hand, what right does she have to stop him just because she's too scared to show him hers? If he really and truly wanted her to know….would it be right to let her fear keep him behind the mask?

"I guess….." Marinette finally whispers, "I don't have any right to stop him. If he thinks telling me the truth will somehow make him happy, who am I to tell him no?"

Adrien lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. She doesn't actively want to know, but she's open to the idea. She won't totally reject him outright.

"What about you? Do you ever wonder who Ladybug is behind the mask?"

"I think it's impossible to be friends with Alya and not wonder, at least a little bit." Adrien smiles. "But like you said, it's best not to wonder. Everyone wants privacy to some extent, even superheroes. That's why they wear masks, right? I look at Alya's blog from time to time only to be supportive. I don't go digging for answers."

"So... If you were friends with Ladybug and she wanted to tell you, would you let her?"

Adrien mulls this over for a few minutes. Had she asked him this a couple of years ago, he would have said yes automatically. He knows Ladybug doesn't want their identities be revealed. She refuses to tell him why, but he's chosen to respect her wishes. It's like Marinette said, he doesn't need to know her real name to know Ladybug. They've been partners for three years and maybe he doesn't know everything about her, but she doesn't know everything about him either. Wearing the masks makes them hide a portion of themselves.

"If she was my friend," Adrien answers slowly, choosing his words carefully. "and she really wanted to tell me, not because she felt like she owes it to me, but because she really wanted me to know...then yeah I guess. Not even Char Noir knows her civilian identity, she has to have a good reason to not even tell her partner right? So I'd want to make sure it's what she really wants to do. That guilt or whatever isn't playing a part in the decision."

"I have to say, it would be interesting to know who they really are. They could be anybody, including someone we see every day." Marinette admits.

"Yeah, even the girl sitting right behind you in class."

Adrien will probably never admit it to Marinette, but there was a brief time when he wondered if she could be Ladybug. When she wore her hair in the low ponytails, he could easily see a resemblance. And after she stopped being shy around him, he noticed a few personality traits that they shared. But Adrien shot the theory down. It would be too easy, that's the kind of thing that only happens in movies. And because it wasn't fair to Marinette. By that point, Adrien had admitted to himself that he had feelings for his classmate. That he had them for a lot longer than he realized. Ladybug was no longer blinding him from those feelings but it wouldn't be fair to automatically start comparing Marinette to Ladybug. It would only complicate things, and if by some miracle Marinette felt the same way about him, she would eventually wonder if Adrien liked Marinette for herself or because she's similar to Ladybug. If Adrien wanted a chance with her, a real chance with her, he had to squash that idea. So he let it go and decided to find out more about the girl behind that beautiful smile.


Master Fu looks up from his book at the sound of the bell above the door. "Well well, I must say this is a surprise. I'm afraid I was just about to break for lunch."

"Good, because I'm not here to shop." The girl standing in front of the door turns and flips the sign over. "And I'm starving."

"Then by all means, join me for lunch." Master Fu guides the girl into past the counter into the back.

"You know Master Fu, I still find it odd that a Kung Fu master like yourself would be content with running an antique shop."

"We all have to retire sometime. Running the shop allows me to meet interesting people, such as yourself."

"You're here!" A feminine voice squeals.

A small yellow figure with a large head, small body and phoenix like wings flies through the air to land on the girl's head.

"Hey, Rikku. It's good to see you."

"Do we get to transform?" Rikku asks. "It's been so long! Let's become Caleo!"

"I have things to discuss with Caleo." Master Fu calls over his shoulder as he walks through a door on the other side of the room.

"Sorry Rikku, you know it's best to listen to Master Fu."

"But it's not fair. The others get to fight and I'm stuck here in this shop."

"Our time will come Rikku." The girl replies, taking a seat at the round table in front of the room's fireplace. "I'm just hoping Master Fu will tell me I can stop pretending."

"Sorry Caleo, but we can't let that happen yet." Master Fu places a bowl of ramen in front of the girl.

"But we already know who Papillon is. And can't you call me by my real name?"

"I prefer to call you by your chosen name, Caleo."

Caleo rolls her eyes, choosing not to reply in favor of eating.

"I know putting on this act is hard, and we're grateful that you discovered Papillon's true identity. I know that was hard for you."

"Hard? Acting like I do is hard. Hiding my true personality even from my parents is hard. But finding out that Papillon is…." Caleo shakes her head. "I saw it with my own eyes...but I can't believe it. He's my godfather. I can't believe he'd betray me this way. Betray his son!"

"I know, I commend you for handling all of this so well." Master Fu smiles gently. "I know you feel as if you have no choice in all of this-"

"I don't, not really. If I don't step up I'm a selfish bitch. I just...I want to be myself. It's been three years. I know that doesn't seem like a lot to you, but at my age that's a long time."

"I know, and I'm sorry we have to ask this of you. But you understand why it's important."

"I know. It allowed me to track down Papillon without suspicion, gave me more chances to track him down, and makes less people for Papillon to use against me." Caleo sighs. "But….I hate lying to my friends. I have one protected thanks to you, but the other….I'm losing him. He doesn't like who've I've become."

"So find a way to discreetly change the way you act when you're alone with him." Master Fu advises.

"And how am I supposed to do that?"

"You're a smart girl, you'll figure it out." Rikku encourages. "And I'll help you, if you visit more."

"That won't be necessary." Master Fu stands, holding out a small black box. "From today on, I want you to carry you're miraculous with you everywhere."

Caleo's eyes widen, a gasp escaping her lips. "You mean that I'm…"

"Yes, you're destiny begins today Caleo."

"Thank you." Caleo gently takes the box. "Thank you Master Fu. I promise, I won't let you down. I won't let Paris down."


"What are we looking for again?" Plagg asks as he flies over the shelf in Adrien's closet.

"A photo album. I know I have one filled with pictures of me and Anita when we were younger." The blonde replies, climbing onto the step ladder to search the shelf as well. "It has to be in here somewhere."

"Kid are you sure you want to find it? There are bound to be pictures of your moth-" Plagg cuts off at the sound of Adrien's startled yelp and a loud crash. He turns around to find Adrien sprawled on the floor, the contents of a box around him. Plagg flies down, removing the blues scarf that had landed on Adrien's face. "You okay? What happened?"

"My foot slipped and I knocked the box over in the process of falling." Adrien replies. "I'm just a little winded." Looking at the scarf and in the Plagg's paws, Adrien gets an odd sense of déjà vu. "Hold onto that for a second."

Adrien rummages through the closet until he finds the green scarf given to him by Ladybug. Holding them up next each other he realizes that aside from the color and cat head, they're identical. The handiwork is exactly the same. Ladybug said she made the green scarf herself. So who ever made the blue one... That person is Ladybug's civilian self. He's had something handmade by Ladybug all this time.

"What's going through your head?" Plagg gives Adrien a curious look.

"These were both made by Ladybug..."

"Adrien-"

"Adrien." Nathalie's voice calls. Plagg hides among the hanging clothes seconds before the woman steps into the closet. "Lunch we be ready soon. I suggest you get the mess cleaned up."

"Nathalie, where did father get this scarf?" The words are out of his mouth before he can stop.

Nathalie lets her shock only for a moment. "Why do you want to know?"

"I have a friend who asked me about it. They're hoping to get one like it. But you know, it's been so long you probably don't remember. It's not a big deal, I can-"

"Of course, I'll find out for you right away." Nathalie walks off before Adrien can protest.

Letting out a groan Adrien lets himself fall backwards onto the floor. "Why did I ask that? Ladybug doesn't want me to know. I completely respect that, so why did I just ask that? There's not stopping Nathalie when she's on a mission."

"You asked her because you need to know." Plagg says solemnly.

"I don't need to know-"

"Adrien, your mother abandoned you. And whether we like it or not that had an effect on you. Ladybug... She's your first love, your partner, your best friend. But your only connection to her is Papillon. When he's gone, you'll have no reason to meet anymore. Poof, she'll be gone from your life just like that. And deep down a part of you is terrified of that. If you don't find some way to know her outside of the costume, she can just abandon you. Just like your mother did."

"What I supposed to do Plagg? She's going to hate me."

"We don't know that this lead will take us directly to Ladybug. The one you father gave you a birthday could've been commissioned online. It's possible we would just be lead an online shop that has no personal info on the owner. So for now, go eat your lunch. What happens will happen."

 

Chapter Text

Rikku remembers clearly the day she met her chosen.

The girl had wandered into the story on a day like any other, in the time before Ladybug and Chat Noir. Well, before the current ones.

Rikku was in the backroom, grieving the loss of her most recent chosen. It had been over 20 years since that massacre but with a life as long as hers, 20 years is a such a short time. They shouldn't have died that day. It shouldn't have happened like that. Perhaps the worse part of it all, is that Papillon wasn't to blame. That Kwami hadn't found a holder yet.

No. It was the work of mere humans. Humans trying to spread terror, and hurt the masses. As heroes, the chosens couldn't just sit back and watch while so many people were killed. It was the quality that got them picked in the first place. They took a risk, and the paid the price with their lives. Six of the seven died that day. Only Master Fu survived. Rikku hated humans after that day, swearing that she'd never chose another holder.

Then she stumbled in.

The girl admitted that she wasn't sure why she came in. That it was clear Master Fu was still in the process of setting up shop. Master Fu simply laughed and invited her to look around. Said if the store drew her in, there must be something she's destined to own. This made the girl giggle, Rikku could hear the smile in her voice as she replied.

Rikku, unable to stop herself, slowly made her way to the doorway and peeked out into the shop. Rikku felt it, the ever familiar pull.

"Do you like that one?" Master Fu asked.

The girl was eyeing an item in the display case. The most important one in the shop.

And at first, it was almost as if the girl didn't hear Master Fu. She was being drawn in. Drawn in by the miraculous. As if….as if it was calling her.

"I think it likes you too." Master Fu was talking to the girl, but he had been looking straight at Rikku. Rikku had shook her head in protest, not wanting to choose another. "Fate and destiny have a funny way of leading us exactly to where we need to be."

"You can have it if you like."

Finally the girl had snapped out of her daze. "What? No I-I couldn't-I mean...this is incomplete isn't it?"

Master Fu smiled. "You can tell that can you? Impressive. It is indeed. I'm afraid the other half is hiding."

"Hiding?"

"You see, she was hurt quite badly many years ago. She hasn't fully recovered yet."

"She…." The girl, on instinct Rikku guessed, started looking around until her eyes fell on the small Kwami.

Having been caught, Rikku let out a sigh and flew into the shop to meet the girl. "Hi, I'm Rikku."

"What….what are you?"

"I'm a Kwami. And I hate you humans." Rikku glared at the girl, venom in her voice. "I trust no one but Master Fu. And I don't care what your destiny is. I will not help fulfill it."

Master Fu couldn't be so easily swayed though.

Despite Rikku's refusal, Master Fu explained what the Miraculouses are, and what it means to be a holder.

Over the course of the next six months, the girl came once a week for training. First learning the history, and then in fighting. The girl showed great aptitude for being a miraculous holder.

Rikku never joined in. Keeping up her steady distaste for the whole situation. But without fail, the girl greeted Rikku when she arrived and bid farewell when she left.

"You're drawn to her, why fight it?" Master Fu asked.

"Humans are horrid creatures."

"Will you prevent this girl her destiny because a few humans committed a terrible act?" He reasoned. "I lost friends that day too. My own…"

Rikku had flown away, not wanting to see the tears she knew would come. A few humans killed so many. Killed her chosen. She lost faith in humanity that day.

But that girl...she was everything those mad men weren't. Everything Rikku believed humans could not be.

It would take another six months for Rikku to greet the new chosen when she arrived.

The smile the girl gave was as bright as the sun.

When Ladybug and Chat Noir appeared, Rikku suggested they join the fight. But her chosen felt she wasn't ready.

So they continued their routine. Training with Master Fu, and learning to work with each other.

Rikku stayed at the shop. Master Fu said that until she entered battle, it was best not to carry the miraculous. Even in her civilian life, Master Fu kept an eye on the girl. He would not let another holder die.

"I'm going to hunt Papillon."

She said it, just like that.

"Caleo, think this through." Master Fu tried to protest.

He used her hero name. It was official. He deemed her worthy of joining the fight.

"I am." Caleo argued. "Papillon doesn't know about me, he can't. But I can tell when the others are active, just like you. I can use this to my advantage. I'll hunt him from the shadows."

So it was decided.

Who knew that it would turn out like this?

Caleo, she's holding it together. But she's not the one who lost a piece of her.

Chat Noir...Adrien, he won't be the same if Marinette doesn't wake up.

Tikki and Plagg are crazy. Their plan is crazy.

"You want to help them, don't you?"

Rikku stares up at her chosen. "...We're stronger as a collective."

"Then go."

"C-"

"I think Chat Noir has lost enough Ladybug's, don't you think?"

"We could fail."

"The important thing is that you try. None of us would be here like this, if it wasn't for them. We owe them our best efforts."

"I'll be back."

"I know you will. Now go."

Chapter Text

Timekeeper lays on a hill in an empty park, staring at the moon the hangs high in the sky above her.

"Am I doing the right thing?" She can't help but wonder. "I know what will happen if I don't try, but is it going to be enough? Even with nightly practices...I could fail. I could fail them, just like in the letter."

She reaches to the grass next to her, where an envelope rests. It's addressed to her civilian self. It's been quite a while since the envelope appeared on her bed.

When she tore it open, she had no way of knowing just how much the letter would change her life. And, hopefully, the lives of two of her classmates.

With a sigh, Timekeeper pulls the letter out and reads the words once more.

Timekeeper: Age 17,

I am writing you from what will be my place of death. I am you from 70 years in the future.

By the time you receive this you should know that sending a letter decades in the past isn't within our powers of time manipulation. Well, that's not necessarily true. Once your powers grow you can, but there's a price. Sending this letter will take all the power I have, killing me in the process.

I've discussed this with my husband(yes, you get married in the future. He's not always as open as you'd like, but he will love you very much one day. So be gentle with him until that day comes.), and he's in agreement. I've lived a long fulfilling life. I don't mind dying. In fact, I look forward to it. For only in death can I truly apologize to them .

I am writing you and breaking the rules I swore to follow because I have regrets. We all have regrets. The Miraculous holders, the kwami, myself and my husband. The fight with Papillon didn't go as planned. We may have beaten Papillon, but we lost that day. We failed them. And that failure…...it's something we all think about every. Single. Day.

We failed Chat Noir and Ladybug. Failed Marinette and Adrien.

Precious few know the truth. Nathaniel and Alya are the only non-heroes who know the truth. Nathaniel was told because he was around when it happened. Alya...I told her because it was too cruel not to.

I'm sitting in front of two graves as I write this, thinking about those days.

The days Marinette and Adrien died.

Marinette fell in the final battle. In a last ditch effort, Papillon used a move we didn't know he had. She fought long and hard. But in the end….she lost. She died in Adrien's arms.

To this day, I can hear his anguished cry when Marinette's heart stopped beating. I've never heard anything so broken.

In that incident, all I could think was 'Why didn't I let them be?'.

Tikki was distraught, she'd never lost a Ladybug so young. Plagg fell into a miserable silence, barely allowing anyone to feed him.

I think he knew. Knew what would happen because he couldn't save Marinette.

Adrien was put in an institution for a while, then released as an outpatient. He saw a therapist three times a week and took medication. We tried to be there for him. Support him the best we could. But none of it was enough.

Less than six months after Marinette died, Adrien threw himself off the Effile Tower.

We arrived too late to stop him.

It made the news, of course. No one understood how he got up there. As for the why….well, they chocked it up to his father's failing health. Everyone assumed the stress became too much after losing a classmate mere months before.

They shouldn't have died. That's not what should have happened.

They died because we couldn't protect them.

Maybe they were fated to die. Maybe they're destiny only lasted seventeen years. But if there's even the slightest chance that they can be saved, I have to take it. Fate and destiny, I've learned so much about them since that day. Maybe Marinette was fated to fall that day, but perhaps she wasn't destined to die. Maybe there was something someone could have done. If you can save her, you'll save Adrien.

I know that perhaps nothing can stop these events from occurring. But you can give them something I didn't. Time .

I accepted my destiny as Timekeeper. That I could no longer be a normal teenager. When Volpina came to town, I placed this expectation on the Miraculous holders as well. This made me push against Marinette and Adrien. I could tell Adrien was falling for her, and wanted to ask her out. All I could think was 'that idiot. He couldn't have picked a worse time to act like a silly teenager'. I couldn't let that happen, so I interfered. And then I made myself known to Ladybug and Chat Noir. I lectured them on being heroes. Told them their top priority, they're only priority was stopping Papillon. That they shouldn't get distracted by things in their civilian lives.

Marinette and Adrien slowly grew apart after that. And I smiled as the distance grew. Confident in my assumption that it was for the best, and that they'd have time after we took down Papillon.

I was wrong. Horrifically wrong.

I hate myself for getting in their way.

Maybe it won't make a difference, but it'll give them time to be happy. To be blissfully happy. If they're truly destined to die, then they deserve at least that much.

Encourage them. Help them realize their feelings. And most of all, let them be teenagers. Because they might not live to see adulthood.

Make Volpina understand. Make her see reason. Convince her to help you. It won't take much. She loves Adrien like a brother.

If you can, stop them from dying.

I'm not sure how this will be possible. If it's possible. I've played and replayed those events over and over in my head. Maybe if all the Kwamis worked together? They're stronger as a collective after all.

What you can do, what I should have done, is find a way to give Plagg more time. Expand your powers beyond what I did. Find a way to slow the darkness within Marinette. Even a few seconds could save Marinette's life, and in turn save Adrien.

Do everything you can to stop them from dying. And if they die anyways, please know that it was their destiny.

Take comfort in the fact that you've given them time I selfishly chose to deny them.

~Timekeeper: Age 87.

P.S. Let yourself be a normal teenager. Even if it's just with one person. Perhaps if you do, you'll realize your feelings sooner than I allowed myself to.

Can she really do this? Can she really save them from dying? Is what she's been doing enough?

Okay, sure, she's managed to kick start things. According to the time-line, Adrien and Marinette's relationship wasn't as far as it is now. So at the very least, she'll have partially succeeded in doing what her future self wanted. But what about her powers? She's working hard to expand them, but she hasn't figured out a way to stop Marinette from dying. The stupid letter doesn't tell her how Marinette died. How is she supposed to prevent it when she doesn't know what it is?

And what's with that last part? Let herself be a normal teenager with someone? It'll allow her to realize her feelings for them? Yeah right. She doesn't have that kind of luxury. Everything she does is to protect Adrien and Marinette, Ladybug and Chat Noir. She can't possibly let her guard down. Not in a time like this.

Why would her future self suggest that? Why is it so important?

"Hey, you're out late."

Thankful she let her disguise drop before reading the letter, the girl bolts up. The owner of the voice is a boy from her school.

"What are you doing out this late?" She asks, quickly folding the letter and shoving it in her back pocket.

The boy gives a smile and shrugs, "It's peaceful at night. It helps me clear my head so I can work. What about you? You were reading that letter pretty intently."

"Just….trying to figure some things out. The quiet helps me think too. But don't tell my dad, he probably wouldn't be too happy with me."

"I'll keep your secret if you keep mine."

"I'll take thar deal." The girl finds herself smiling.

"Do you…..do you want to join me for a walk? We could keep each other company for a while."

It's cute, the way he hesitates. As if realizing the weirdness of asking a girl to walk through empty streets at such a late hour only after the words had started to come out. He could have stopped of course, backed away from the potentially awkward situation. But he didn't. This makes her smile once again.

What could it hurt to forget about everything and pretend like she's normal for one night? Her classmate is pleasant enough. She could play pretend with him, even if only for a night. It's what her future self wants after all.

"That sounds nice actually. I've been laying her too long anyways." She pushes herself off the grass and brushes off the blades that stick to her clothes.

"What was that letter about anyways?" The boy asks as they start walking.

"Serious stuff I don't want to think about anymore. Come on, I know a Cafe that stays open late where we can get some Hot Chocolate."

"Perhaps if we meet up again, you'll tell me?" He asks, rather boldly.

"Hmm….I'm not opposed to the idea. Perhaps someday when everything it concerns is over with, I'll be able to explain everything."

"I'd like that."

They both smile at the promise.

Without saying a word, they both know this will not be the last time they meet as the moon hangs high in the sky.

Chapter Text

Why? Why? Why, oh why?

That's the word that keeps replaying in her head as she collapses to the floor, covering her ears in an attempt to drown out the cry that fills the room.

It's all her fault. All her fault. Why hadn't she let them be? She should have left well enough alone. Let them have a chance. Because now...because of her they never will.

The one person in this world that made her feel normal, if only for a few moments, crouches beside her with words of comfort. He tries to soothe her pain. But nothing he says can erase the guilt.

If only...if only she hadn't interfered.

If only...she had been better.

It should have been her taking that hit, not Marinette. As Timekeeper it's her duty to protect Ladybug and Chat Noir. But she failed. And she was unable to do anything, as she stood and watched Marinette slowly become corrupted by the darkness inside of her. Watched her die.

It's all her fault.


 

Why? Why? Why, oh why?

They didn't see this coming.

Wrong.

They did see this coming. But they failed to stop it.

They arrived too late.

The news broadcasts the story, citing the date as the day Adrien died. But they're wrong. They're all wrong.

Only those who were in the final battle know the truth.

Adrien died the day Marinette's heart stopped beating.

"There's nothing more we could have done. His own parents couldn't keep him grounded." The boy who keeps her sane says gently, pulling her into his arms. "He died with Marinette, all we did these past few months was delay the inevitable. None of us could have saved Adrien."

She doesn't deserve him. Doesn't deserve his kindness. But it's the only thing keeping her together.

"I know you feel guilty for surviving." He says, tightening his hold. "But I'm glad you did. Everything that's happened has been horrible...and it's going to keep being horrible, I know that. But you being here with me...it makes all of this less horrible. I'm so grateful that your destiny wasn't to die that day."


 

Why? Why? Why, oh why?

Even after all these years, she still asks that questions.

It's her husband who finds her in front of the graves. The graves of two who didn't make it past seventeen.

He is what keeps her sane. Though she doesn't deserve him or his love, she needs it. Needs it to stay alive each day. She knows it, and so does he. Which is why, no matter how hard she pushes, he will always come after her.

"You still feel guilty." He says, squeezing her hand. "You regret that you couldn't do more that day."

"Of course I do. It was my duty to protect them. It should be me in the ground, not them."

"My feelings still haven't changed." He cups her cheek, making her look at him. "I regret that we weren't able to save them that day, but I'm grateful that I didn't lose you too. I love you."

Despite herself, a smile forms on her lips. "I love you too." She mutters, pushing herself up on her toes to gently press her lips against his.


 

Why? Why? Why, oh why?

Even after all these years she wakes in the night from dreams of her failure.

Regret fills every fiber of her being.

This isn't fair. She shouldn't have been allowed to live a life full of love, when they had to die.

"I can't do this anymore." She cries into the night. "I can't take it anymore. I have to fix this."

"You know the rules." Her husband, her very reason for being, argues. "You know what will happen."

"I've lived long enough. I've lived too long. If there's a chance that I can change their future...I have to try."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I...I want to see them again. To apologize for my failure."

"Make sure you wait for me then." He reaches out to brush her bangs out of her face. "I'm going to miss you. So much."

"Don't take too long, you've made me wait enough as it is."

"I'll never live that down will I?"

"Years to officially ask me out, even more years to propose..."

"I get it, I get it." He leans forward, gently kissing her forehead. "Do what you need to and I'll meet you as soon as I can."

Chapter Text

"Hopefully Ladybug will be happy knowing that Paris wasn't hero-less all week after all." Chat says aloud as he finishes his patrol. "I wonder how Marinette is doing. She was really upset over the news about Mylene's dad."

"Adrien."

Chat Noir whips around, staff in his hand. His eyes narrow as he scans the area. "I know I heard something this time."

"Maybe it's your imagination." Plagg's floats into his mind.

"Yeah, maybe."

"Now focus." Plagg orders. "It's important that you listen to me. This stage of your training is potentially dangerous."

"Why is that? Why do we have to train every night?"

"Because your body can't handle a large increase of my power all at once. If we don't train every night you won't be powerful enough to take down Papillon. As you've already noticed, you can hold your transformation for longer after using Cataclysm."

"Not long enough."

"We're getting there. I keep telling you, this is going to take time. Which brings me to my next point. It's imperative that you control your emotions."

"Hey, I do cont-"

"Not enough. As your powers grow, so will their connection to emotions. Meaning, you get mad and Cataclysm can leak out without you even realizing it. Not even Ladybug is immune to it."


 I'm so sorry.

Nathaniel doesn't remember when the letter arrived. A letter sent from more than seventy years in the future.

I lied to your futureself. And maybe I shouldn't be sending you this letter, but I had to repay all that you've done for me.

It just appeared in his sketchbook one day. Addressed to him by name and age, a heart in the corner.

You gave me your love when I didn't deserve it and I took it, because it was the only thing keeping me whole.

Thinking it was a weird secret admirer, he didn't hesitate in opening it. What he found inside was anything but.

I failed. And my failure affected so many lives, yours included.

It had to be a prank. That's what he thought.

We found a spark. We were just beginning to blossom, but my failure ruined us. In my pain, I put a wall around myself. Being who you are, you didn't fight me.

Ok, so superheroes saved Paris at least once a week, but this? A letter from seventy years in the future?

I refused to let you in, but you stuck by me anyways. Giving me the strength to make it through each day. Giving me your love.

How could this be possible?

You loved me unconditionally, always. Even now, I don't deserve you or your love. Not when I failed to save them.

Do Ladybug and Chat Noir even have time travel powers?

We didn't have kids, though you wanted them. I couldn't save my own classmates, how was I supposed to be responsible for even more lives? I couldn't do it. And you, being the sweet, kind, and loving man that you are didn't fight me.

Was it possibly from someone else?

Maybe by sending this, I'm changing everything. Breaking the rules too much. Maybe this is too much for you. But I owe you.

Could there be other heroes?

I owe you so much. The least I can do is give you...give us a fighting chance. My past self is not a normal teenager. She acts as a guardian for Chat Noir and Ladybug.

A time line was included. Filled with dates and times. With instructions to come find her. But only when he was ready.

I train in the night, find me. Make me fight against destiny. Push me to be everything I can be. My past self will have no knowledge of the roll you will come to play in her life.

He had to see. Had to see if it was real. She probably wore a mask, so it's not like he'd know who she is.

The second envelope has a picture from that time period, and another letter. Open it only after you've developed a crush on a girl you go to school with. I promise you, that picture will be of the girl.

He snuck out, not an uncommon act these days. He had to know the truth. From the place he chose to hide, he saw her skate by. The description matched the letter.

I'm so sorry.

He fell. He fell hard. A smile he'd seen so many times before was all it took. He was a stuttering mess.

I know this isn't fair on you.

He had run away in a way not unlike Marinette used to.

But you have to be strong.

With shaking hands, he ripped open the second envelope.

And be brave.

His hand shook so bad he dropped the photo.

Because destiny and fate are cruel.

That same smile beamed up at him from the photo.

And my trials won't be easy.

Those same beautiful eyes shined like the sun.

And I'll need you now more than ever.

That adorable haircut.

I want to be worthy of your love. And I know with your strength, I can be. You can help me save them, simply by being you.

It's her.

I promise that I will love you very much. More than anyone else in this world.

God, it's her.

I will fight for us every step of the way. Because I have to believe that you're my destiny.

It was that letter that led him here. Walking the streets in the middle of the night, looking for a girl who didn't want to be found.

Maybe it's too soon, but she told him to be brave.

"Hello, Timekeeper." He says at the sight of a familiar blur of blue.

Timekeeper slows to a stop, looking over her shoulder at him.

"Excuse me?"

Be brave.

"That's your name isn't it? Guardian of Ladybug and Chat Noir? And a manipulator of time."

In the blink of an eye, she's in front of him. She's probably glaring at him from behind the eye shield.

"How do you know that?"

Nathaniel allows himself to smirk. "I have my ways. I've been keeping an eye on you, you know."

"How did you know where to find me?"

"That's a secret. I just wanted to let you know that I've got my eye on you."

Be strong and be brave.

Trying to channel the girl behind the mask, he leans forward and places a gentle kiss on her cheek.

"I'll see you around, Timekeeper."


 

Tikki had told him to 'got to his girl', so that's what he's doing. Not that she's his girl….they aren't dating...technically.

Things are complicated when you know how the future is supposed to play out.

"Damn it!" He hears her shout, and what sounds like a hard kick to the wall. "I knew what was going to happen, and I failed anyways!"

"Hey, you haven't failed yet." Nathaniel says soothingly, dropping down to where she collapsed on the floor. "They're both still alive, Marinette can still be saved."

"How?! I know what Plagg and Tikki are going to try, and it won't work. And then Adrien will get depressed, and it will have all been for nothing!"

"You gave them time together, that's not nothing."

"I was supposed to save them." Tears roll down her cheeks, and she leans into his shoulder as her body begins to shake.

"The great Timekeeper still has a few tricks, doesn't she?"

"I think I'm all out." She sobs.

"Nah. The way I see it, we just have to see outside the box."

"What we need is more time."

"That it!"

"What is?" Timekeeper pulls away to look up at him.

Nathaniel smiles gently, wiping away her tears. "You need to give Plagg more time."

"I already told you; I don't have enough power left to freeze Marinette's time, or even slow it drastically. And by the time I recover enough, it'll be too late."

Nathaniel's lips move upwards in a confident grin. "Who said anything about freezing Marinette's time?"


Marinette looks up in surprise at the sound of her phone.

"Who's texting me this late?"

"It's your Ladybug phone." Tikki supplies, dropping the phone into Marinette's lap.

Her Ladybug phone is used specifically to communicate with Chat Noir. Chat had been the one to suggest they get special phones, as their communicators don't work if they're not both transformed. They quickly proved their worth, scheduling patrols, making changes to the schedule, and alerting the other to an Akuma attack right away all became much easier.

"There had better not be an Akuma, it'll keep us up half the night." she clicks on the message.

[We need to chat. Meet me at the Eiffel Tower in 10?]

[Can this wait? It's late Chat Noir.]

[It's important.]

[Alright, see you in 10.]

Marinette transforms and makes her way to the Eiffel Tower at full speed. Hopefully she'll be able to get this over with quickly and go to bed at a decent hour.

"What's so important it couldn't wait?" She asks, landing next to Chat.

"It's about the kidnappings."

"I'm worried to Chat, but we've discussed this. It's not our job area."

"I know. But Ladybug, I think it might be." Chat protests. "A friend of my pointed out an odd pattern among the victims. All of them were Akumatized."

"Half of Paris has been Akumatized by now, it could be a coincidence." Ladybug retorts.

"Yeah, that's what I thought too. Which is why I didn't say anything. But the newest one was also-"

"Wait, there's been another one?"

Chat nods grimly. "It just got announced on the evening news, I'm not surprised you haven't heard. It was guy named Max. The video game guy."

"Max...no…." Ladybug mutters. "That's 5 people."

"Max disappeared just as mysteriously as the rest. Ladybug, I think it's time we offer to help the police. I think….I think Papillon is planning something." Chat sighs, running a hand through his hair. "Someone who's been Akumatized can be again, if he wishes it. I don't know what he's planning, but it's a safe bet that he is planning something."

"Being Akumatized is the only thing they have in common." Ladybug begins to pace. "I remember the news mentioning that it was odd how different the victims are."

"I know the police don't like us butting in, but this might be over their heads."

"And if we're right, the citizens need to know. Anyone who's been Akumatized need to be extremely careful."

"I don't think we can risk assuming that we're wrong." Chat insists.

"Unfortunately, you're right. We both have school, so we'll meet up this weekend and go to the police with our theory."

"Sounds like a plan."


 Master Fu looks up at the sound of the door.

"Well, this is unexpected. It's been a long time, Adrien."

"I need information." Adrien says, walking up to the counter and letting Plagg fly out of his shirt pocket.

"I'm happy to help whatever way I can. There's cheese for you in the fridge Plagg."

"See? This is how you should treat me." Plagg chides before flying off.

"It's been four years."

"So it has." Master Fu smiles. "And three since you started protecting Paris. It seems like such a short time."

"Feels like an eternity to me." Adrien mutters darkly. "I know you've been in touch with her."

"On occasion, when she allows it."

"Tell me how to contact her."

"You know I can't do that, Adrien."

"Why not?!" Adrien slams his hand on the counter.

"You know very well why."

Master Fu's eyes drop to the counter, deep sadness filling his features. He wishes the boy wouldn't make him say it out loud. Adrien doesn't need to hear this. Doesn't need to have the thoughts he's had running through his mind confirmed by another.

"Adrien….."

"Just say it. Admit it." His voice is not filled with anger, as would be justified. But sadness, and exhaustion.

"If your mother wanted to speak with you, she would have contacted you by now."

A full minute passes before Adrien pulls away from the counter. He mutters his thanks, and walks out of the store, Plagg flying after him already trying to console the boy.

Fate and Destiny will rip that boy apart.

 

Chapter Text

 

All of us have an Origin. But not all Origin stories are pleasant. Mine certainly isn't.

My origins start in a time before Ladybug and Chat Noir. Years before they became the heroes of Paris, when I was still a little girl. I was only eleven when I stumbled into the shop that marks the beginning of my story.

It had been a whole two months since my mother died. My father was too busy to watch me, so I was left in the care of a nanny. After claiming I needed a nap, my go to reason to get alone time, I snuck out. I needed out of the house, out from the constant eye of those pitying eye.

"That poor child." They would whisper, thinking I couldn't hear. That I couldn't see. "They say her mother took her own life."

"Yes," I wanted to shout at them all. "my mother killed herself. She didn't love my father, didn't love me enough to stay alive. And yeah, it sucks because I need my mother but she didn't need me. So please, just shut-up."

But I couldn't.

The public didn't know the truth, only rumors. My father fought hard to keep the cause of her death a secret. Told people it was an accident, that she mixed up her pills. It was to protect me he later claimed. But the adults slipped up. All it took was one time and access to Google to know my mother made a choice.

A choice to leave this world for good.

To leave me.

I hated my mother for that choice. But I hated myself more, for not being good enough to stop her from making it.

So I snuck out and found myself wandering the streets aimlessly, hating the whispers that followed. Hating the looks I received. For reasons beyond my understanding, I ended up walking into an antique shop clearly still getting ready to officially open. But the man was kind and did not chastise me, but invited me to look around. When a delicate looking comb caught my eye, he offered it to me.

That was how I came to meet Rikku.

Our first meeting was...to be frank, disastrous. She glared and yelled at me before running away. She hated me, and she didn't even know me.

Master Fu slowly explained the Miraculous to me and what it means to be a holder.

"It's your destiny to be a hero." He promised.

I did not tell him, could not, that I didn't believe. How could I be good enough to be a hero, when I wasn't good enough for my own mother?

He insisted on weekly meetings, something I could never bring myself to say no to because I enjoyed the time I spent in the little shop. Convincing my father I wanted to join an after school club was easy. While a kind man and great father, he was never around. After school every thursday I'd simply walk myself to the shop, where my lessons would continue. Every day I greeted Rikku, and bid her farewell. Everyday for a year, I was met with stoic silence. This kwami who, according to Fu, was supposed to be my best friend, hated me. It hurt more than I was willing to admit even to myself.

Then one day I just barely caught her quietly say, "try to be happier this week."

It wasn't a proper greeting or farewell, but I clung to it and tried to do as she asked. The next time I came to the shop, she was waiting next to the plate of fruit Master Fu always had waiting for me to snack on.

Two years later, Ladybug and Chat Noir appeared and fought their first Akuma victim.

"We should join them." Rikku cheered. "Show them what a veteran hero looks like."

But I shook my head and told her I wasn't ready. I knew the pressure being a hero would bring, and I didn't think I couldn't handle it. Just look at what pressure did to my mother.

"You are not your mother." Master Fu told me over and over. "You are strong. You only have to believe."

But I didn't. And that was always my problem. So we kept our routine. Until one day I made a decision. I couldn't be the hero Rikku and Master Fu wanted. Couldn't be the hero Ladybug and Chat Noir needed. But I could be a hero of the shadows. That was all I could let myself be.

They tried to talk me out of it. Tried telling me that it wasn't safe to hunt Papillon.

"I've been in training longer than Ladybug and Chat Noir. I know my powers better than them. I'm the only one who can."

"You could get yourself killed." Rikku argued.

"But perhaps that's what you want." He said it so quietly, but the disappointment was there. "Isn't why it's so easy for you to pretend to be someone else?"

I'd never said it aloud, but of course he knows. Knows that I live my life day by day. Figuring out each morning exactly how much of my smiles I'd have to fake. I still hadn't stopped hating myself and my mother. That hatred has taken it's toll.

"I can't be who you want me to be, okay? I've tried, but I don't deserve it. Just let me do things my way."

"Let her do this." Wayzz finally spoke. "Her time will come. Let her do what she feels is best. She needs to feel that she's earned the title of Hero."

Under Master Fu's watchful eye, I hunted Papillon. Every Time an Akuma was released, I followed the trail of darkness. And in a weird way, it did help. Fighting against the one who terrorized Paris. Helping Ladybug and Chat Noir even though they didn't know it. It gave my life a purpose. Gave me something greater than myself to fight for. With enough time, I would heal. Or perhaps, I was simply distracted by my desire to find Papillon.

I wanted the truth. Needed it. But when I got it? I nearly broke all over again. I wanted nothing more than to go back in time. Back to before I knew the truth.

Papillon….he was my mother's friend. I thought I could trust him. He comforted me after my mother's death. Helped me accept my father's new wife. And he'd betrayed me.

"It's time you joined the fight. Chat Noir has fallen under the Akuma's spell, and Ladybug will soon follow. She can't fight on her own. Not this time." Rikku tells me.

"I know."

"Are you ready to be a hero?"

"Yeah, I think I am." I smile, sliding the come into my hair.

"You know what to do then."

"Rikku, transform me!"

Ladybug has already used her Lucky Charm by the time I arrive. It created three pairs of tinted goggles. Ladybug is staring at them in confusion, but I've already got it figured out. The Akuma traps her victims by hitting them with beams of light, but in order for it to take effect, it has to hit you directly in the eyes.

"Put those on." I tell Ladybug as I jump in front of her and snatch up two pairs of the goggles. "And distract her while I go rescue Chat Noir."

"W-who are you?"

"We'll save the introductions for later. For now, all you need to know is that I'm on your side." I give her a smile and leap away.

Now it's my turn to be the mysterious hero.

 

Chapter Text

"Come on Chat Noir, wake up already." A voice shouts.

The images of the nightmares blur and a pair of goggles enter his vision, then behind those a pair orange eyes surrounded by a feathered mask appear with clarity.

"Who…"

"Good, you're snapping out of it."

"Who are you? And why am I wearing goggles?" Chat goes to remove them, but a hand stops him.

"No, leave them on. This area is still covered with her light beam." The owner of the voice orders, dropping his hand and backing up so he can see them properly.

The person is a girl he realizes. And not just any girl, but someone with powers like him and Ladybug. Her flowing red hair is streaked with gold, her bangs being held back by a white comb. The feathered mask wraps around the side of her face to cover her ears. Her outfit consists of a red body suit, blue knee high boots, a golden sash that's wrapped around her waist and clasped with a phoenix emblem, and white elbow length gloves.

"You didn't answer my question." He states.

"Look, Ladybug needs us so I'm just going to jump in and save explaination for later. My name is Caleo, I'm a Miraculous Holder just like you, yes there are other Miraculous out there, and no I have no idea if the others will be joining us."

"Master Fu…"

"Oh, you know about him? Good, good. That makes this easier, now let's go!" Caleo shouts and flies away.

"She can fly? That's not fair." Chat mumbles, watching her back. Caleo's hair flies behind her, the red and gold mixing seamlessly to give the illusion of fire. "I hate to admit it, but that girl is beautiful."

"We don't have time for this Adrien." Plagg nags. "You'd do well to be careful around her. You may find yourself getting burned."

"Yeah, yeah." Chat rolls his eyes and follows after Caleo.

"So, what I saw back there. Was that because of this weird light?"

Caleo drops down to glide beside him and says, "Yeah. She traps her victims in their worst nightmares. I'm….I'm sorry I didn't act quick enough to save you. I know it can't have been easy feeling like you were dying over and over again."

"How do you know that's what happened?"

"I've been educated better than Ladybug and you. I was actually chosen six years ago. I've had a lot of time to learn."

"Six years?" Chat gapes. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen."

"You were chosen when you were eleven? Are you kitten me?"

Caleo giggles. "Nope. I stumbled into Master Fu's shop one day and the rest, as they say, is history. Don't worry, I'll try not to make you look too bad in comparison."

Chat grins. "It would be a pleasure to be outshined by a master like you."

"It's great that you guys are getting along." Ladybug's annoyed voice carries over to them. "But I could use some help over here!"

The two break from their conversation to look over at Ladybug, who's fighting to get untangled from the string of her yo-yo. Chat's grin grows, while Caleo tries to cover her laugh with a cough.

"It would seem you've gotten yourself into quite a tangled mess."

"Oh shut it, Chat." Ladybug snaps. Her earrings beep, and one of the dots disappear.

"Crap, we're running out of time." Caleo calls. "Chat, if I had to bet I'd say the Akuma is in her locket. Think you can help me get it?"

"Any ideas how to get it away from her?"

Caleo bites the inside of her cheek. "You're not scared of fire are you?"

"This cat fears nothing."

"Right. Then I'll trap her in a ring of fire and you can swoop in and grab it." Caleo takes flight without waiting for a response from Chat. They need to get this done quickly. She has no doubts that Timekeeper is in the area, but Caleo doesn't know how long she can lengthen the time of Ladybug's transformation.

"Hey ugly, how about we heat things up?" Caleo shouts. She creates a ring fire around the akumatized victim and Chat easily swoops in to rip the locket from her neck.

"I like you already." Chat says, landing next to Caleo. "Unfortunately Ladybug is too tied up to help us purify the akuma."

"Go use Cataclysm on her yo-yo. She needs to get out of here before her transformation runs out." Caleo takes the locket from Chat. She throws it on the ground and stamps her foot on it.

"Are you crazy?" Chat exclaims. "Ladybug can't purify the Akuma and if it gets away-"

"Calm down kitty-kat. I've got this."

Caleo captures the Akuma between her hands, her eyes slowly glowing white. After a moment, she pulls her hands apart, a ball of fire forming between them. As the ball gets bigger, she slowly raises her hands above her head. She suddenly pulls her hands away and the ball of fire explodes outwards, a white butterfly flies away.

"How did you...Caleo!" Chat moves to catch the girl before she can hit the ground. "Are you okay?"

"Sorry….I've never done that before. I think I might have overdone it a bit. Used to much power. Go help Ladybug, I'm fine."

"But-"

"Seriously, I'm fine. Meet me at 10 p.m on top of the Eiffel Tower, we'll talk then. Pass the message onto Ladybug."

"Alright, if you're sure."

"I am. Go, before her transformation runs out."

With one last worried glance, Chat runs towards Ladybug. When he's halfway there, he suddenly freezes. A figure walks past him, someone Caleo has never truly met but knows very well. She walks with confidence, a smile playing on her lips. The girl wears a sleek black helmet with a blue eye shield covering both her eyes and single piece suit covers her from head to ankles, the shoulders and upper arms glow blue, a glowing red hourglass sits in the middle of her chest, her ankles both have a glowing red hourglass on the outside. A dark grey shield is attached to her left wrist.

"You did well for your first battle."

"Perfect timing as always, Timekeeper."

Timekeeper holds out her hand. "You passed a message to me without drawing suspicion, and even managed to win Chat over with that pun."

"I figured he'd appreciate it." Caleo lets Timekeeper help her to her feet. "It was...invigorating to actually be part of the fight."

"You will be a great asset to them. Though I'm afraid you'll have a hard time getting Ladybug to warm up to you."

"What do you mean?"

"Look at her face." Timekeeper gestures to Ladybug. "She's not happy that you did her job for her. Or that you worked with Chat so well. Or the way he was looking at you."

Caleo's face scrunches in confusion. "Looking at me?"

"Figures you weren't paying attention. If only you knew." Timekeeper chuckles, shaking her head. "There was pure unabashed admiration on his face as he watched you work. That's something usually reserved for Ladybug. She's a tad bit territorial it would seem."

"Well she's going to have to get used to it, I'm here to stay. Plus, Volpina and yourself will be joining us at some point."

"I'm not surprised you know about Volpina. She was quite impressed as well. We will meet tomorrow night and talk. For now, let's get you out of here and let those two get back to what they were doing."


 

"Somehow I thought you'd be punctual, being a superhero and all." Caleo teases as Chat Noir lands beside her.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, I had something to take care of first." He apologizes.

"Something?"

"I was checking on a friend, making sure she was okay after the attack this afternoon."

"Ooh, this friend is a girl. Is there something going on there?" Chat's face reddens, but he remains silent. "What's the matter, cat got your tongue?"

"You pun. We're going to get along great."

"Don't get used to it." Caleo rolls her eyes. "I know you like puns, it's my way off trying to break the ice. I may have acted confident during the fight, but I'm a nervous wreck. So, does Ladybug know you've been visiting this girl as Chat Noir?"

"...No." Chat admits.

"Don't worry, I'll keep your dirty little secret." Caleo winks.

"It's not like that!" Chat protests just as Ladybug lands on the platform.

"What's not like what?" Ladybug raises her eyebrow.

"Don't worry about it." Caleo waves off her question. "We were just talking while we were waiting for you."

"Barely here two minutes and she's already acting like she's in charge." Ladybug mutters.

The redhead lets out a sigh. "I was warned, yet I doubted it. There's no need to act so territorial Ladybug, we're on the same side."

"Are we? I find it a little suspicious that you appeared out of nowhere at just the right moment, did my job and disappeared just as suddenly." Ladybug retorts. "Look, I'm sure you had fun playing hero today but we don't need you."

"Yes you do. I am fire. Fire purifies things. I can purify the Akuma when you can't, like today."

"If you hadn't been so impatient-"

"I was doing my job! Whether you like it or not, I'm your backup."

"I don't need any back up besides Chat Noir." Ladybug snaps.

"I seriously can not believe how arrogant you're being right now." Caleo's voice is slightly raised now, her eyes set in a glare. "Chat Noir can't always be around to save you. You've seen the truth of that reality. Like it or not, I'm here as your backup. I spent six years preparing for this day, so I'd like it if we could get along."

"Six years?"

"She was chosen when she was only eleven." Chat supplies. "Pretty impressive, isn't it?"

"More like to good to be true." Ladybug scowls, crossing her arms. "If that's true, where have you been the last three years? Seems like you're nothing more than a spoiled brat seeking glory."

Caleo's eyes flare as her hand flies through the air, aiming for Ladybug's face. Chat's hand snatches her wrist before she can make contact, a frown set on his face.

"While what Ladybug said went too far," Chat momentarily moves his gaze to the hero as he says this, "I won't let you harm her. We're supposed to be partners."

Caleo takes a deep breath. "You're right. I'm sorry, I should have reacted better. You can let me go now. I'm fine, really."

When Chat's let go of her wrist, Caleo walks backwards to put distance between herself and Ladybug. Chat's respect for her growing with each step she takes.

"Why don't we play a game?" Chat suggests, trying to break the tension. "Ladybug and I started playing this a while back, it's called Truth. We've been using it to get to know each other better. No invasive identity questions and we have veto power. Pretty simple right?"

"Sounds like a good idea." Caleo is now pacing back and forth.

"And since you're new, we'll be asking you questions first." Ladybug says. "If you were chosen six years ago, why didn't you reveal yourself back then?"

"Because there was no need for a superhero." A half-truth. "Papillon wasn't around. The Miraculous holders aren't always chosen in the time of need. The prefered method is to find a Miraculous holder before a Papillon surfaces so the holders can be trained."

"How were you chosen?" Chat asks.

"I stumbled into Master Fu's shop one day. He had my Miraculous in the display case and it caught my eye. It was like it was calling to me, I was drawn to it...it felt like...like it was calling out to me. It was really weird."

"I know what you mean." Chat smiles. "It was the same way for me the first time I saw mine."

"Sorry to interrupt the bonding moment, but next question." Ladybug takes a step forward. "Why didn't you reveal yourself three years ago when Papillon showed up?"

Caleo's glowing eyes flicker and dim. "...I didn't feel ready."

"You think Chat or I did? We had no idea what we were doing, but we fought anyways. You had three years of training we didn't have, yet you didn't feel ready."

"Ladybug…"

"If I remember correctly," Caleo snaps, "you only fought after Chat Noir did a good bit of yelling."

"So," Chat raises his voice slightly to cut off Ladybug's retort. "What kind of training did you get?"

"Lots and lots of history lessons. The Miraculous have been around for a long time. Master Fu said it was important to learn from the success and failures of the previous holders. Master Fu personally taught me karate and helped me master my abilities."

"So why did you feel like you weren't ready?" Ladybug suddenly questions. "You spent three years being privately trained. Something Chat Noir and I didn't get."

Caleo's eyes flicker again, the light receding to slowly reveal the white of her eyes and finally forming iris as the light disappears completely. She wraps her arms around herself, head dropping slightly.

"I get it." She whispers. "You think I'm some kind of spoiled brat. And the truth is, I am spoiled. My dad gives me anything and everything I want. It's a game we play. I ask for things because I know it makes him feel better and he gives me what I want because he thinks it makes me happy."

Her voice cracks and Chat's jaw clenches. He knows what's coming next. Because he recognizes the abandoned look in her eyes, he recognizes it from the mirror. Her mom left her, one way or another.

"Caleo…" The words stick in Chat's throat. What is he supposed to say? That she doesn't have to explain? Ladybug isn't going to let this go. And the truth of the matter is, they need to know any potential weaknesses Caleo may have.

"We distract ourselves and pretend like everything is perfectly fine. Because then maybe….maybe we can forget that mom chose death over her family." Tears are rolling past the feathered mask. "My mother committed suicide two months before I was chosen. And my kwami? Yeah, she hated me. I wasn't good enough for my mother and I wasn't good enough for my partner. How was I supposed to be a hero? I didn't want to be a hero, but I didn't want to be at home either so I kept going to the shop for lessons."

"Caleo…"

"When you guys showed up three years ago, Rikku wanted me to fight with you. But I..I just couldn't do it okay?!" Her body is trembling now. "I wasn't enough for my mother, how I was I supposed to save Paris? I couldn't stand the pressure this all came with. And I know, I know you've needed me recently. But I….I'm sorry. I'm just so sorry."

Caleo turns on her heel and runs off the platform, disappearing into the night despite Chat's pleas for her to come back.

"What's gotten into you?" He demands icily.

"I didn't know-" Ladybug starts.

"Because you didn't give her a chance to explain! You just attacked her." Chat shakes his head. "Making her say those things out loud, making her admit that she feels inferior, that was cruel. You owe her an apology."

"Chat I didn't mean…" She let's the words fade. Chat has already run away, leaving her to stand alone on the platform.


 "This isn't good." Volpina sighs. "I understand now why you're hesitant to let me join them."

"I knew Ladybug wouldn't be happy, but I didn't think she'd react like this." Timekeeper admits. "Perhaps it'll be a good idea for me to have them reveal themselves soon."

"Caleo isn't ready for that."

"She doesn't need to be. Ladybug and Chat Noir are the ones who'll need time to adjust. Caleo, I'm sure, will take their identities in stride. She won't react as badly as Marinette."

Volpina grins. "I wish I could be there for that. Marinette finding out that her goofball partner who pined after her for years is the boy she's had a crush on all this time. And Adrien's reaction would be interesting to see too."

"That aside, do you think it wise to let Caleo continue fighting?" Timekeeper questions.

"She worked hard to feel like she earned her place." Volpina replies, her joking manner gone. "She finally feels like she's good enough, we can't take that away from her. It would devastate her."

"But is she ready to be a hero?"

"Yes. You saw the way she backed off when she realized how much Ladybug was getting to her. And you saw her in battle. I've never seen her so alive. You can't pull her out now, Timekeeper. Chat Noir and Ladybug need her. And she needs them. Chat understands her in a way the rest of us can't. The two of them can help each other realize that they do deserve their Miraculous."

"You're right, of course." Timekeeper rubs the back of her neck. "I just worry about her mental and emotional state."

"I won't let Ladybug do anything to harm Caleo." Volpina promises. "If she gets out of line, I will put Ladybug back in her place. Caleo has earned this and no one is going to take it away from her."

"Very well put." A male voice says from behind them. "You're everything I expected."

Chapter Text

"Chat is right, you know." Tikki reprimands as Marinette gets ready for bed.

"Not you too Tikki." The girl sighs.

"Caleo is an important Miraculous holder, and you were cruel to her."

"I know, I know. And I'll apologize to her okay? I didn't go there with the intention of upsetting her like that. But you have to admit her timing was suspicious. And she seemingly disappeared into thin air. You don't find that weird?"

Tikki sighs and turns away from her charge. She can't tell Marinette the truth because no, she doesn't. Not if a new Timekeeper has been appointed. Tikki wouldn't be surprised if there had been.

"Marinette….you have to understand, there are others out there with powers vastly different from you and Chat Noir."

"I figured that out when I saw Caleo in battle." Marinette replies, climbing into her bed. "Are you saying she can teleport too?"

With a sigh, the kwami flies up to be eye level with Marinette. "I'm saying that there are things you don't know, that you can't know. Not yet."

"Like that there's other Miraculous holders out there?"

"Yes. Plagg and I chose not to tell you because it wasn't necessary. There are things that we'd rather you not know until it becomes necessary."

"This Master Fu person, is he another holder?"

Tikki nods. "His kwami is named Wayzz and he holds the green miraculous."

"Just how many are there?"

"Seven."

Marinette's jaw drops slightly. "Seven? So I should be expecting...three more holders to show up?"

"N-no. Only….only two. The holders of the orange and blue miraculous."

"But you said-"

"I have to talk with Plagg before I can tell you anymore, Marinette."

"But I can't let Chat-"

"We have way of communicating without your help." Tikki smiles coyly. "Just rest for now, Marinette. And think of something to give Caleo as an apology."

"Yeah...I owe her that much." Marinette mutters as she lays down, pulling the blankets up to her chin.

'What's gotten into you?'

Jealousy.

Marinette wouldn't even admit it to Tikki, but she'd let herself turn into a green eyed monster.

She saw the way Chat was looking at her during the fight. Watched how seemed to click instantly. She came out of nowhere but that didn't stop Chat from giving her looks of pure adoration, didn't stop him from flirting with her. They were even sharing secrets. While Ladybug, his partner of three years, no longer holds a big enough placed in Chat Noir's heart to warrant a nickname.

And the worst part of it all?

She couldn't blame anyone but herself. She was the one who had pushed Chat Noir away.


Weeks.

Weeks she's been avoiding Adrien's questioning.

That damned scarf. Why did he now, two years later, have to wonder about it's origins?

Nathalie has been racking her brain for weeks, trying to come up with something to tell Adrien. She certainly can't tell him the truth, that she stole it from a classmate. That she'd been desperate because his father had waited until that day to tell her that she was supposed to get Adrien a birthday gift. It's not Adrien's anger she fears, but his disappointment. Everytime she imagines telling him the truth, that his father hadn't gotten him a birthday gift, Nathalie's heart cracks.

It's not her place to care about Adrien's well being. She's not his mother or caretaker. Nathalie is Gabriel's assistant. That role had been easy to play during the years she worked for the family. Then Adrien's mother disappeared.

Adrien fell into himself, becoming shy and quiet. And Gabriel...well he was never the same. And try as she might, Nathalie couldn't stop herself from stepping in to help Adrien being happy. Convincing Gabriel that fencing classes would teach the boy discipline, that basketball would be a great way to burn off energy. And most importantly, school. Nathalie managed to convince Gabriel of just how important it is for Adrien to be around kids his age. The agreement didn't come without it's strings, but Adrien was happy so it didn't matter.

Of course when it was brought up, Nathalie would avoid the topic. It's not her place to take care of Adrien's well being, But still, she can't just ignore that last request. Can't just sit by as the pain and despair build in Adrien's eyes. Eyes that are so much like his mother's.


"If something happens, take care of Adrien for me."

The request is so sudden it causes Nathalie to jerk her head up. "What? Nothing's going to happen to you."

"We can't predict the future. I could be hit by a car tomorrow and die. That's why I want you to promise me you'll do everything you can to make Adrien happy."

"It's not my place to do that ma'am." Nathalie argues.

"I'm making it your place. I need to know that if something happens to me, someone will be here for Adrien."

"His father-"

"His father will be affected too. Grief blinds people."

"...You're speaking as if this will actually happen. What's going on?"

"Nothing you need to worry about. I just like to be prepared, you know that." Alice smiles brightly. "Promise me, won't you?"

"If that's what you wish, ma'am."


Until that day, Alice Agreste had never lied to Nathalie.

A jingling ringtone fills the air, snapping Nathalie out of her thoughts. A glance at the caller I.D. makes her eyes widen. She hadn't gotten a call from this number in a long time.

"Has something happened?" She asks in lieu of a hello. After a reassurance she asks, "Then why are you calling? …. He's fine. He'd be better if he had his mother though."

Nathalie walks around her desk and sits in her chair her caller responds.

"Of course I understand, but the boy is hurting." She pauses, listening to the response. "You keep saying that, but-" She gets cut off. "Yes, of course I am. His schedule keeps him busy, but I make free time for him when I can. Having Anita here helps. He's quite happy that she's here."

Nathalie starts up her computer, waiting for something like 'that's good' or 'I'm glad'. When she gets a reply, Nathalie nearly drops the phone, her eyes widening.

"No, I can't!" She protests. "You told me…...of course I can see that things are changing! I'm not blind. But Adrien-" she's cut off by the person on the other line. "Alright, alright. I'll….I'll find a way to tell him."

She sighs, turning away from the computer screen. "I'll do what I can, but I'm not the one he needs. You are."

With that she hangs up, pushes herself out her chair, and moves to the window.

"She wants me to tell him."

The origins of the scarf was not the first time Nathalie lied to Adrien.

No, her lies started long before that.

She lies every time she pretends to believe his excuses for being tired.

She lies when she hides the notices of his unexplained absences or tardiness from Adrien's father.

She lies when she pretends to not know that he sneaks out at nights.

She lies to Adrien when she rearranges his schedule and claims his tutor canceled, so he can have time for his friends.

She lies when she puts a wall between them, keeping him from getting close. Refusing to let him see just how much she truly cares about him.

She lies when she claims to have no knowledge of his mother's disappearance. Lies when she let's Adrien claim the same.

But most of all, she lies to Adrien when she doesn't tell him that she knows he is Chat Noir.

How does she know? The Keeper told her so.

Yes, she lies to Adrien on a daily basis.

She does it because she cares about him. Because she knows Adrien's secret is the reason his eyes no longer look empty. Her lies let Adrien keep his freedom. Let's him feel in control of his life, even if it's only a small aspect.

But now, it's time for the lies to stop.

Nathalie closes her eyes and lets her forehead fall against the window. "Adrien…..I'm sorry."


The rain pours down around Anita as she walks home from her flute lessons.

"It's like even the weather can sense what's happening and is responding." She lets out a sigh. "Oona do you think-" The sounds of sobs cuts through the rain. She turns, her eyes searching for the source. After a moment, her eyes land on Marinette. "Marinette!" Anita runs to the girl, dropping her flute case to shrug off her jacket. "What are you doing out here without a jacket at least? Do you want to get sick?!"

"I-it's...it's all my fault." Marinette sobs. Either she doesn't notice Anita's presence, or Marinette's ignoring her. "All my fault."

"What's is? What's your fault?" The brunette questions.

"I shouldn't have…" Marinette sobs harder, losing the ability to speak.

Realizing she's not going to get anything out of Marinette, Anita runs through her options. She should take Marinette home of course, but she doesn't know how to get there from where they are. Her parents should be called, but she doesn't have their number. Adrien might have their number….no, it'd take too much time for to call Adrien, and have him call them then for them to find Anita and Marinette. Marinette's already shaking from her partially soaked clothing.

"Okay Marinette, you're coming with me." Anita decides, grabbing her case in one hand and pulling Marinette up with the other. The girl doesn't resist.

"It's my fault…"

"Whatever happened, I'm sure you'll be forgiven." Anita tries to comfort her. She pulls her phone out and dials, the call is answered on the first ring. "Adrien, I need a favor."


"Yeah, she's safe." Adrien says into his phone as he paces the hallway. "Anita found her and brought her here. She doesn't have your numbers and Marinette wasn't in any shape to give her directions…." Adrien sighs, running a hand through his hair. He hates the worry that laces Sabine's voice.

"It's fine, I'm just glad that she's safe. She ran out of here so fast, and Tom and I were busy in the bakery. I wish...I wish she wouldn't blame herself."

"Yeah...me too. Thanks for telling me what happened."

"Of course. I wouldn't be right for you to find out from some news feed."

"Do you think…." Adrien forces himself to stop pacing and lean against the wall. "Do you think it's possible she's not connected to the other disappearances? This was different from the other cases."

"She fits the profile." Sabine replies sadly. "I doubt it's a coincidence."

"I just…"

"I know honey, I know. I need to let Tom know that Marinette is okay. Make sure you take care of yourself too. I love you, Adrien."

"I...um...bye." He fumbles with his phone to end the call and lets himself slide down to the floor.

"You did good, kid." Plagg flies out of his jacket and pats Adrien's cheek. "Alya, Nino, Alix, and Sabine. Everyone's been notified, you did it."

Adrien bangs his head on the wall. "I'm an idiot. She...and I just…."

"She's the first person in 4 years to sincerely tell you that they love you, it's going to take time to readjust." Plagg assures him. "I don't think she expects you to say it back anytime soon. The important thing is that you believe her when she says it."

"I do, I just…" Adrien's chest tightens. He doesn't have words to describe his onslaught of emotions. "I'm scared."

"I know kid, but don't worry about it for now. Let's go check on Marinette and Anita, okay?"

Chapter Text

My story isn't tragic like Caleo's.

And it certainly isn't Cinderella-esque like Cer's.

But it's not without its sadness.

When I was thirteen, my aunt disappeared and I was forced to watch my cousin fall apart because of it. We were thirteen, neither of us knew how to handle what happened. So we clung to each other. We were always close, but the loss helped us cross the distance between us seemed to cause.

[How are you today?]

This was the text I would send faithfully everyday. I didn't ask if he was ok and I didn't tell him that I wanted him to be okay either. Those kinds of words are for self-gratitude, nothing more. There was no way Adrien could be okay in the near future and there was no point of pressuring him with my words.

We both took our lives day by day. Some days he did better than others. On his worst days, I tried to be his light at the end of the tunnel. Those were days we secretly video chatted under our covers late into the night. We talked every single day that first year, no matter what. Through the endless calls and texts, we held each other together. We told each other everything.

"You always told me you had no interest in modeling."

"I still don't, not really. But dad…"Adrien sighs, "he's have a hard time and I want to be there for him. You know he hasn't been the same since mom disappeared."

I couldn't argue with that, so I shut up about it. Instead I put my focus in getting him to smile again and in a way, I succeeded. The problem is, his smiles aren't the same as they used to be. The light isn't there anymore. Alice made it disappear.

"Nathalie convinced dad to let me go to public school!" Adrien cheered, spinning in his computer chair.

I smile his antics, glad that he's so happy. "That's great."

"I've even made a few friends!" He leans closer to the screen. "Real friends. Things started off rocky with Marinette, but I think I patched things up."

"Marinette? Do you already have a girlfriend?"

I was just teasing. I didn't expect him to actually fall for her.

"Marinette is worried about the contest, she doesn't think she'll win this time. But I know she'll win. Her designs are amazing."

I roll my eyes, a smirk playing on my lips. "So, when are you going to to admit that you have feelings for this Marinette girl?"

Watching him sputter a response as his face turned beat red was worth the radio silence I got for the next few days.

"How did you know?" He asks when he finally calls me again. He doesn't use the video chat, probably to give me less ammo.

"It's pretty obvious. You talk about her way more than any of your other friends, And you get this sappy look on your face anytime you talk about her."

"I do no-" There's a loud crash from his end.

"Is everything okay?"

"Yeah I um...I just forgot I have a fencing lesson in ten minutes and father will be angry if I'm late so I gotta go. Bye!" He hangs up before I can reply.

I let my phone drop to my bed and let out a long sigh.

He lied to me and sadly, that was nothing new. He had been lying to me for over two years before that conversation. At first I thought it was simply because he didn't want me worrying about him getting hurt during the Akuma attacks, so he kept them a secret. But he ended up telling me about them and the blog his friend runs. That only left one logical options, but I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be wrong so bad it hurt. I didn't want Adrien to be burdened with a destiny like mine. I wanted him to live a happy, normal life. It was enough that fate had taken that way from me, Adrien didn't need to lose it too.

"Y-you...how...how are you here? You're...you're supposed to be dead!"

"Is that what you truly believe?" She asked me, with that ever understanding smile.

"It's what I had to believe. Because if you were alive that meant you...you willingly broke him." I snap. "How could you do that to him?"

"He knew very well what had to happen. He understands why I did what I did."

No, he doesn't! I want to scream. I want to tell her everything she put him through, but what's the point? She thinks she's right, and my vengeful words won't change a single thing.

"Why are you here? Why out yourself to me?" I finally ask.

"I'm here to give you what is rightfully yours." She holds out a small black box inlaid with a red intricate design. "You have a great destiny to fulfil, Anita. Take what is inside this box and become Volpina."

We share a secret, even if he doesn't know it. Is it a lie if I haven't said anything? Can staying silent be considered lying? I think so. Shortly after coming to Paris to prepare the fight, I met Timekeeper and she told me the identities of Ladybug and Chat Noir. Turned out I was right after all. I hate that I was right. But I will do everything I can to protect Chat Noir and Ladybug. He may hate me in the end for all my lies, but it's a burden I'm willing to bear so long as he comes out the other end of this whole.


 

With the unexpected help of Nathalie I got Marinette to Adrien's room, at Adrien's suggestion since it's closer than mine to the front door, and got her changed into dry clothes while Adrien called her parents. Marinette had fallen asleep against me while I was drying her hair, so I set her down on Adrien's bed and tucked her in. I figure either Adrien won't care, or his reaction will be comical enough that it lifts the dark mood even a little bit.

"Do you think this is related to the disappearances?" A small orange fox creature asks, floating in front of me.

"Probably." I reply with a sigh. "These disappearances have everyone on edge, especially now that Ladybug and Chat Noir are officially involved in the police investigation."

At the sound of the door, Oona flies into my hood. Adrien looks worse for the wear, there's no doubt that this is another missing person. There's something more there, something deeper, but I'll save my questions about that for later.

"Marinette fell asleep?" Adrien asks, joining me on the bed.

"Poor this is exhausted. She fell asleep before I could get anything out of her."

"...There's this girl Marinette watches….well we all watch her really. She's a bit of a handful so Alya, Nino and I have been taking turns helping Marinette babysit her. She's really attached to Marinette, refuses to let anyone else babysit her. It's adorable the way she tries to emulate Marinette."

"What's her name?"

"Manon….she's only eight years old." Adrien's hand ball into fists.

"She's half the age of even the youngest victim!" I gasp. Why would Papillon take someone so young? What's the point of taking anyone at all? Is this even Papillon?

"That's not even the worst of it." Adrien takes a shaky breath, turning his gaze to Marinette. He lifts one hand and gently brushes her bangs back. "Marinette took her to the park to play. Manon asked for ice cream so Marinette went to get some. She couldn't have had her back turned on Manon for more than a few minutes, but by the time she turned around…..Manon was gone."

'It's all my fault'

"That's why….god...I can't imagine what that must have been like. Are you….are you okay?"

Adrien simply shrugs in response, focusing on running his hands through Marinette's hair. "Honestly, I'm kind of numb at this point. It hit me while I was calling everyone, but now I'm just focused on making sure Marinette is okay. What I'm feeling doesn't even compare to what Marinette is going through."

Keeping my eyes trained on the pure look of adoration Adrien is directing at marinette, I quietly ask, "If I ask you something, will you give me an honest answer?"

"Don't I always?"

"You're really in love with her….aren't you?" The question makes my stomach twist painfully, but I need to know. I need a confirmation. Even if I don't want to actually hear it.

Adrien looks over at me in surprise, before moving his gaze back to the sleeping girl and smiling in a way I haven't seen in over four years. "Yeah, I am."

Eyes stinging, I slide off the bed. "I've got to go. It's late...don't want to sleep in." I practically run from the room.

Of course, he's not Chat Noir for nothing and easily grabs ahold of my wrist before I can get very far.

"What's wrong? Why did you run away?"

I can feel the tears forming in my eyes as I turn around, but I don't care. "When aunt Alice disappeared, I promised myself that I'd get you to smile again. And I did...but it wasn't the same. So I decided that I'd do everything I could to bring back that light that shined in your eyes when you smiled. For four years I've done everything I can to heal the damage Alice did by disappearing. I was convinced that I'd be the one who brought your light back. But I didn't. Instead….instead it's this girl who I hadn't even met until recently.….she's the one who brought back the smile I haven't seen in over four years. She's the one who's healing you. And it hurts okay? Maybe I'm a little jealous too, I don't know. All I know is that Marinette is effortlessly doing what I've been trying to achieve for years. Knowing that there's nothing I can do for you...it hurts Adrien."

"Anita I….I'm sorry I….Marinette just…" Adrien fumbles for words.

"No." The word comes out harsher than I mean it to. "Don't you dare apologize. Not for this. This is not something you should be sorry for. I just...I need time. I'm happy for you, I am. Just give me tonight. I'll be fine in the morning, I promise."

I force a smile and pull away, running the rest of the way to my room. I lock the door behind me before collapsing onto my bed.

"It's not her you know." Oona says gently, floating above me. "Marinette isn't actively doing anything to heal Adrien. It's his love for her that's doing the job."

"What are you talking about?"

"I keep telling you, don't I?" Oona smiles gently. "There is no greater power in this world than that of love. That is why the Keeper must have a great capacity to love. The keeper is the only one who holds all of the Kwami's power at once for long periods of time. The power of love keeps them from being corrupted."

"Oona, you're sounding like a cliche fairytale again." I roll my eyes. This isn't the first time I've been given the love speech, not by a long shot.

"It's true! Look at Ladybug and Chat Noir. Throughout history, a common factor has always been their ability to love. It's a requirement of being a chosen. They are the frontline fighters, the ones who have to put their life on hold for the safety of others. So of course they have to love deeply." Oona drops closer to my face. "And it's love that's healing Adrien. Love from Marinette, though he doesn't see it. Love he gets from her parents, and his love for her. Loving her is letting him forget about the pain, and hatred he has held onto for the past four years."

I sigh, unable to argue. "I know, thanks for always being here to comfort me Oona."

"I just want you to be happy."

"I will be. Like I told Adrien, I'll be fine in the morning. I just need the night to feel sorry for myself."

Chapter Text

A secret war is brewing. One even the Miraculous holders are unaware of.


Alice received the box from Master Fu before her son was born.

"The previous Keeper of the Box has been killed and fate has brought me to you."

Needless to say, things did not go smoothly in the beginning. It took many many meetings for Alice to fully understand the destiny she was being handed.

The Box holds special powers within itself because it holds the Miraculous when they are not being held by chosen wielders. And as the Keeper of the Box, it's her job find those worthy of the Miraculous.


It was some months after his wife's disappearance that Gabriel found the box.

Gabriel had taken Adrien on a promised adventure that neither of them felt up to. Nathalie had actually suggested canceling the trip, but Gabriel wanted some sense of normalcy. Adrien was finally returning to himself, and Gabriel needed to encourage that.

Gabriel had found the box wedged in the tangled roots of a tall oak tree. When he turned to show it off, he found Adrien staring blanking at the horizon. Disappointed and sadness washed over him, this wasn't going as he hoped.

In the end, they called it quits before the sun even touched the mountains. They rode back in silence. Gabriel had no words in his arsenal that could heal the broken pieces of his son.

And that, perhaps, hurt even more than his wife's disappearance.


"Mommy? What's that?" Adrien's curious eyes widened as he walked closer.

"Cute kid." Plagg smirked. Alice had told him all about Adrien, of course. The boy was her pride and joy. And Plagg could see why, there was a light that burned bright from deep within him. "My name is Plagg, but you have to keep me a secret, okay kid? Other wise my magic will disappear."

"You're magic?"

After a little indulgence, Alice sent Adrien back out to play. She couldn't believe she let herself be so careless. She couldn't let him be involved.

"I see it, you know."

"See what?" Alice asked as she prepared to put Plagg back to sleep.

"The light of a chosen."

Alice nearly droped the box. "No. Plagg, don't you dare. Not my son."

Plagg feigned non-chalance. He knew how Alice felt about Adrien's safety, but there was no denying that pull. On the other hand, he didn't see any reason to tell her yet. "I'm just saying, he could be a holder one day. He has the potential."

"Lots of people do. My son will not be one."


It was several days after the failed trip that Gabriel finally opened the box. Inside rested a small purple broach that resembled a butterfly.

"Nice, isn't it?"

The sudden voice made Gabriel jump. He looked up to find a small purple mauve butterfly creature with butterfly wings, a long tail with a tip at the end of each lower wing, and darker mauve eyes. It also has a dark purple spiral on its head.

"I've been watching you."

"What are you?" Gabriel demanded.

"My name is Nooroo. I am what's known as a Kwami. I sensed great potential in you. If you let me, I can help you."

"Help me how?"

"You want your wife back don't you? She disappeared months ago without a trace, that must have hurt you. And your son, that poor boy looks positively broken." The creature smiled. "I can help you get her back."

"You're lying." Gabriel snapped. "The best men can't find her."

"The best men don't have the power of a god." Nooroo flew closer to Gabriel, the smile grew as he did so. "There are other Miraculous out there. Two in particular, the ones belonging to Ladybug and Chat Noir, when brought together will give you the power to do whatever you want. You want your son to smile again don't you?"

"Of course I do! But-"

"Then trust me. Take this miraculous and force Ladybug and Chat Noir out of hiding so you can take their miraculous for your own."

"..."

Nooroo flew down to grab a picture of Adrien to hold up, "Do it for your son, he needs his mother."


"Mom? Why is Plagg flying around?" Adrien blinked in surprise. He hadn't seen the small creature since he was a kid.

"Adrien, how many times do I have to tell you to knock before you entire my office?" Alice admonished before the meaning of Adrien's words hit her. "Wait, you remember Plagg?"

"Of course I do." Adrien smiled as the Kwami flew circles around him.

"But you were so young...I thought you'd brush him off as an imaginary friend you had."

"I told you." Plagg smirked. "This kid is special."

"It's been a long time Plagg." Adrien greeted. "Why are you back?"

"That's complicated Adrien and I really don't have time to-"

"You have to tell him everything." Plagg cut Alice off. He doesn't look at her, but at Adrien. "He needs to know."

"Plagg, no. I've told you before, I won't allow it."

Adrien looked at his mother in surprise, he'd never heard her angry before. "Mom?"

"I told you Alice, he has a light. He's the one."

"Choose someone else!"

"It doesn't work like that and you know it."

"Mother." Adrien cut in. "What is going on? What's Plagg talking about?"

"Your destiny. You're going to be the next Chat Noir."

"Adrien, please sit down." Alice sighed. "I have this is going to take some time to explain."


Papillon's victim screamed in agony as shot through him.

"I told you," Papillon growled, "you are not to hurt Chat Noir. If you refuse to listen, I will find another who will and you won't get the revenge you desire."

"teenagers today are so insolent." Nooroo whispered in Papillon's mind.

"This all will be for nothing if my son doesn't come out of this in one piece."

"He will understand. To get anything worth getting in this world requires some pain."

"Yes. All of this is to get his mother back. I know in the end, he'll understand that."


The war must come to a close and the time to choose is coming.

Adrien, the victim in the middle of the battle field, is blissfully unaware of where he stands. But he won't stay that way forever.

Mother or father, he can't have them both. Choosing one is betraying the other.

No matter what he does, in the end, he will lose.

Chapter Text

"Manon!"

On instinct I tried to roll over and find myself falling a short distance before my back crashes onto the floor. "Right... Sleeping on the couch." I groan.

The sound of stifled cries barely registers in my ears; if not for my enhanced hearing I probably wouldn't be able to hear them. Even now, in a time when she should be selfish, Marinette is worrying about me. Stifling the cries so she doesn't disturb me. Or maybe it's that she doesn't want me to know. Doesn't want to let me in enough to see the broken sides of her. That wall has always been there, I have one to. I have promises to keep, secrets to protect. I have my reasons for that wall, but what are hers? And why doesn't she want me reaching past it?

"Whatever you're thinking kid, stop it." Plagg hisses. "You can't start doubting her now."

I sigh, pushing myself up to walk across the room. Marinette has agrees. Marinette has her face buried in the pillow, so she doesn't notice me as I walk up. I feel her shaking shoulder freeze at my touch. This was definitely a bad idea.

"I woke you up." She mumbles, sitting up and wiping her face. "I didn't mean to. I'm sorry-"

"Don't." My nerves make it come out harsher than I intended. "You have nothing to apologize for. You dreamt of Manon, didn't you?"

Marinette nods, keeping her eyes downcast. "Her mom doesn't blame me, but she should. It's my fault Manon is gone."

"No, it's not." I retort, sitting next to her on the bed.

"Yes it is, I shouldn't have-"

"Shouldn't have taken your eyes off her for one minute? You couldn't have kept her in your sight the entire time."

I hate seeing her like this. I desperately want to help her, but I don't know how. I want to promise that ladybug and I will rescue Manon, but the truth is that we haven't been much help the police. I reach out and squeeze her hand.

"Please don't blame yourself."

"I can't help it."

"I know, I just...I..." If I push too hard, she's going to pull away me. I have to make her understand what I'm feeling, but I need to to be careful with my words. "I wish I could help. I hate seeing you beat yourself up like this."

We sit in silence for a moment, then she suddenly her arms are around me and she's sobbing into my chest. Instinctively I wrap my arms around her, pulling her tighter against me. Marinette loves Manon, no matter how much she says otherwise. What would I be like in her situation? If something happened to Marinette...I don't even want to think about it. What was it that mother once told me?

"There are somethings you can't fix Adrien. All you can do is be there and try to minimize the damage."

That's what I'm going to do. I'll fight desperately to keep her from falling apart.

Hours later, after Marinette has cried herself to sleep, I tell Plagg about my new found determination and where it came from.

"Kid," Plagg gives me a measured look, "your mother didn't tell you that."

"Yeah she did, it was-"

"Adrien." Plagg cuts me off, "That was Nathalie, not your mother. She told you that a few months after your mother disappeared."

That can't be right, it can't be. "But I...Mother..."

"We'll talk about it another time, kid. Get some sleep for now."

Like I'll be able to sleep now.


"How's Marinette?" I ask Aninta I sit down to eat lunch.

"She's been asleep all morning." She replies, gathering her things.

Anita and I both agreed that Marinette shouldn't be left alone. So, with the help of Nathalie, we arranged for her to be excuse from school for this morning and me this afternoon.

"I called Marinette's parent's on my way to school, like you asked me to. They said to bring her home wherever she's ready. They told me a little bit more about what happened yesterday. Marinette got questioned about Manon's disappearance and according to Sabine, it got pretty intense."

"Intense?"

"Sabine said...well they kind of insinuated that Marinette wasn't being careful enough." Anita sighs. "I get that the police are getting frustrated over these disappearances and lack of leads, but that's not an excuse to blame here. Honestly, I'm glad Marinette was getting ice cream when Manon was taken."

I raise my eyebrows at her, "Why?"

"I've been doing some research about the Akuma attacks. From my understanding, Papillon hasn't gone so far as actively putting someone's life in danger."

"Actually, Jackady tried to make father jump off the roof of a building."

"Oh...well aside from that then. So what if Marinette had been with Manon? She probably would have been captured too, right? To keep her quiet? And if this is a case of child abduction, like the police are thinking, then who knows what the kidnapper would have done to Marinette."

"...You've put a lot of thought into this. We don't even know it's Papillon behind all these disappearances."

"I had nothing to do but think. I should have just gone to school and let you stay here all day, at least then I would have had a distraction." Anita groans. "I even looked up what kind of powers those who disappeared had. The mime guy, a guy who can morph into any animal at will, an exact copy of Chat Noir, a girl with storm powers, that kid who had weird video game powers, and now the Manon, who was able to turn previous victims into their Akumatized selves and control them. If this is Papillon, he's building an army."

"But we don't know it is, so you shouldn't worry so much." I insist, ignoring the way my stomach twists. "Ladybug and Chat Noir have never been beaten."

"They've never fought six Akumatized people before!" Anita argues. "People can be Akumatized twice Adrien! Papillon could be gathering the best of his victims."

"Gathering them for what?"

"To finally bring down Ladybug and Chat Noir? I don't know. But it's a scary thought. Ladybug and Chat Noir might actually lose if it comes to that."

"Don't worry about it for now, okay? It's not like we can do anything about it anyways, we're just civilians." I'm lying to her, the one thing we promised to never do. But I can't let her know. I can't drag her into my mess.

"Right, well I'll go then. Keep me updated on Marinette."

I assure her I will and she takes off calling for The Gorilla.

She trusts me, more than she should. I wish I didn't have to put up barriers with her. I starting to realize though, that I never really had a choice in the matter. My destiny was set before I even met Anita.

"What are you drawing Adrien?" Mom leans in to see my picture.

"It's Plagg." I smile proudly. "He's saving the day."

"Plagg, we need to talk."

"I guess we do." Plagg flies out of my shirt pocket and helps himself to my food. "I knew I'd have to have this talk with you one day. Do you remember that conversation you had with Anita when you started modeling?"

"Yeah."

"Well before that, you had a conversation with Nathalie about how you wished things could go back to normal with your father."

"I can tell that dad is hurting. Things haven't been the same since mom disappeared. There has to be something I can do to fix things."

Nathalie lets out a sympathetic sigh, turning back to me."There are somethings you can't fix Adrien. All you can do is be there and try to minimize the damage."

"And I decided I'd do whatever I could to be there for him." I say as the memory comes flowing back. "But why..."

"Adrien...you didn't take your mother leaving well." Plagg says slowly, "You didn't talk to anyone, even me, for a month. Anita texted you everyday and that's the only communication you'd allow. You didn't actually start picking up her calls until months later."

[How are you today?]

[I don't want to talk.]

[Okay. I'm here for you. Always.]

The more I try to think back, the more I realize that I can't remember much of anything from that time.

"Nathalie was pretty worried about you kid, though I'm sure she'd deny it. I haven't seen her act that way since, so that says something about how you were acting."

"I better go check on Marinette." I say, pushing away from the table.

"Adrien-"

"We'll talk more later."

Mother leaving, her disappearance. Father never talks about it, and I hate even thinking about it. She walked out of my life four years ago and never looked back. She was only supposed to be gone for a year, year and a half at most. She lied.

"So you're the...Keeper of this box that holds all of these Miraculous things?" I ask when mom's finished explaining everything. "What does that mean exactly?"

"It means it's my job to find the Chosen holders when the time comes." Mom replies. "It's why I agree to go on so many trips, so I can hunt for the other holders. It's not often that they have to join the fight against Papillon, but they need to be found so they can be prepared should it come to that."

"Right. What happens in Papillon comes into power before you've found Ladybug and the others?"

"Then I'll have to go into hiding."

"Mom-"

"It's not an appealing idea, I know. But I can't risk Papillon finding me and taking the other three. I'd only have to be gone long enough to find the others." She promises.

A few months later, I find a small black box on my desk. In that instance, I know. She's gone. No warning, no goodbye. She's just gone.

"Adrien," Nathalie's voice is gentle, "your father has asked that you join him in his office."

I sit through dad's explanation and promises to do everything possible to find her before I'm finally free to go back to my room.

"Hey, kid." Plagg greets when I finally open the box.

"She's gone."

"Yeah, I'm sorry."


"I don't get it. Ladybug's avoiding Caleo and me now." I complain to Plagg. "I thought by now things would've gone back to normal."

"You're an idiot." Plagg rolls his eyes. "It's obvious that she's jealous."

"Jealous? Why would Ladybug be jealous?"

"Oh I don't know. This new girl comes in, you fall in sync almost immediately, and you quite clearly admire her. Meanwhile, Ladybug doesn't even get her own nickname anymore."

"You know why-"

"I'm not blaming you." Plagg cuts off my protest. "I know that after being rejected you needed space and pulled back from Ladybug because of that. And when you realized that you have feelings for Marinette, it made things complicated all over again. I honestly think Ladybug understood that, but I think she'd been hoping that at some point things could go back to the way they were. That this space you put between the two of you would disappear."

"I didn't realize..."

"Hold on, Tikki is trying to connect with me." Plagg lands on my knee and shuts his eyes.

I know he can communicate with her telepathically, but I've never actually seen him do it. Plagg said Tikki thinks it's for the best that they don't unless it's an emergency, so they don't accidentally slip and give away their chosen's identity. Plagg thinks it's stupid and that we shouldn't be so bothered with hiding our identities.

"We need to go meet Ladybug Notre Dame. Change into something dark, preferably black, grab a hoodie, and a mask."

"What? Why?"

"Tikki wanted to talk about how much we should tell you guys about Papillon and such, and freaked when I told her you already know everything. She wants to have a talk with me in person, and since Ladybug doesn't want to know your identity, you need a disguise."

"Um...okay. Should I text Caleo?"

"Might as well. I'm sure Rikku will want to stay informed. And if we're going to fill Ladybug in on everything, we might as well confirm what Caleo knows. Make sure she brings a mask."

Maybe telling Ladybug about mother will be a good thing. What she doesn't know, what she can't know, is how wrong she is about my 'instant connection' with Caleo. I knew about the others. I've been holding out hope that some of them would show up at one point; so of course when Caleo first showed up, I was happy. But when she said she was chosen six years ago, I got mad. Caleo was chosen two years before mother disappeared and she never told me. I couldn't help but wonder just how many times my mother lied to me. I didn't want to be angry, so I let myself go over the top with my excitement about a new team member.

I have to fix things with Ladybug.

But first, I need to visit the Princess in her tower.


Marinette is startled to see me, but she looks better. I almost believe the smile she gives me.

"Isn't this the time you're usually supposed to be on patrol?" She asks, a hand on her hip.

"Usually, but I wanted to check on you and give you this." I hold out a folded piece of paper to her. "I know Manon disappeared."

Her face falls. "Oh."

"I know you have your parents and plenty of friends to talk to. And I doubt you'd want to talk to me about this, but I...I wanted to give you the option...just in case. I always carry my phone, even on patrol." I gesture to the pocket holding my phone as evidence. "So...feel free to call me if you ever want to talk."

I'm turning to leave when Marinette suddenly hugs me. "Thanks, Chat." She's crying again, I can hear it. She pulls away, wiping her face. "Sorry, didn't mean to break down on you."

"We're going to find her."

"What?"

"Ladybug and I, we'll find Manon." Refusing to think through my actions, I lean in to kiss her forehead. "I promise you Marinette, I'm going to find her."

I'm gone from the terrace before she can respond.

'Marinette will be upset with Chat Noir if something happens to Manon.'

"If something happens to Manon, Chat Noir won't be around for her to be mad at."

/

"How is it that even with your speed, I beat you here?" Caleo asks when I arrive at Notre Dame.

"I had to make stop along the way."

"Visiting your girlfriend again?"

"She's not my girlfriend!" I protest, feeling my cheeks heat up. "She's having a hard time right now and I just wanted to see how she was doing."

Caleo's eyes glow brighter as she laughs. "Alright, I'll let it slide this time because you're being a gentlemen."

"I hope you don't mind me asking, but your eyes…."

"The glow reacts to my emotions. I'm sure by now you've been training with Plagg long enough to know that our powers become more connected to our emotions as they grow." I nod. "I've been training longer than you, so naturally mine react more. When I'm feeling confident or happy they glow brighter. When I'm insecure, like that night I fought with Ladybug, they slowly grow dimmer. It affects my fire abilities too. I've had to practice a lot of self-control over the years."

Ladybug lands beside me, looking surprised to see Caleo. "Caleo...you're here."

"Um...Yeah, Chat texted me saying we needed to meet. I can go if you-"

"No-it's not-I just..." Ladybug lets out a frustrated growl. "Stay." She orders, then swings away.

"Okay, that was weird."

"She told you to stay, so she's probably not mad anymore." I supply.

"Hopefully. Since we're waiting, that questions game we did the last time the three of us were together; how do you win?" Caleo asks, dropping to sit on the ground.

"Be the first one to get three points." I explain, sitting as well. "We don't really play for points anymore though. There's not enough to ask about."

"Because you have to keep your identities a secret."

"Yeah. When we first started, the idea was to ask a question that wasn't completely invasive about our civilian identities, but also something the other wouldn't want to answer. If you chose to skip the question, the other person got a point."

"Good way to learn more about each other."

"We had to get creative to avoid personal details. Changing names and places, that kind of thing."

"So, since you and Ladybug asked all the questions last time, that means it's my turn right?" I start to protest, but she's already talking. "This girl who's not your girlfriend, are you going to tell her about your double life as a superhero?"

She doesn't beat around the bush. "...Yeah I do."

Thankfully Ladybug's return saves me from further questions. Panting slightly, she holds out a box with a small bow on it to Caleo. "Here."

"What's this?"

"An apology gift." Ladybug explains. "It's a set of phoenix themed pajamas. I figured they were a safe choice since pajamas are more comfortable if they're loose anyways. If they're too big just let me know and I'll fix them."

"Wow….you didn't need to-"

"No, I did." Ladybug cuts her off. "I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance to explain yourself. Speaking of, Tikki is yelling at me right now. She wants to talk to Plagg, and Rikku, if she wants to join in."

"So that's why I was told to wear a mask and a hoodie." Caleo says, letting her transformation drop. She's wearing a simple black mask masquerade mask and a black jacket pulled up, completely hiding her hair.

"Plagg, with me. Now." Tikki orders, grabbing hold of my kwami and flying away.

"Tikki is cute." I say as I turn to Ladybug. "Hey, you're hair is longer then when you're transformed."

Ladybug fingers one of her ponytails that are sticking out from under her hood. "Yeah, I've been letting it grow out. I'm not sure why it's shorter when I'm transformed."

"It's to help hide our identities." Caleo supplies. "My hair is a different length too. What I'm interested in, is why Tikki seems to be mad at Plagg."

"Probably because Plagg didn't tell her that I already know that Papillon has the purple miraculous." I shrug. "And that Nooroo, Papillon's kwami, is evil."

"You know about that?" Caleo gapes, "How?"

"My uh...my mother is the Keeper of the Box."

"You're mother is The Keeper? Wait, then shouldn't you have already known about me?"

"She never told me about you."

"Can we backup a bit?" Ladybug interjects. "Who's this Keeper you're talking about? And this other kwami, Nooroo, is evil? I don't understand."

"The Miraculous, when no being held by chosen wielders, are kept in a special box that contains their power. The person chosen to hold it is The Keeper of the Box." Caleo explains. "Nooroo, from my understanding, was created to do good like the others. But over time she became corrupt. Ladybug and Chat Noir fight Papillon because Nooroo has yet to be captured."

"Well, that's not completely true." I correct her. "She has been put back in the box, but she keeps escaping. She doesn't like being held in place."

"Okay, I think I'm following. And this Keeper...she's your mom?" Ladybug looks at me for confirmation.

"Yeah. But I'm not in contact with her, so you won't be able to ask her any questions."

"I don't understand."

"Yeah, I don't get it either. The Keeper has been in regular contact with Master Fu and me."

I shake my head, avoiding their gazes. "It's complicated. I don't want to get into it. Besides, I think Tikki is done yelling at Plagg."

"I'm not the one who said we shouldn't be contact." Plagg argues as the three of them fly back to us. "Besides, like I said, it's a complicated situation."

Tikki's eyes connect with mine, a frown playing on her lips. What did Plagg tell her?

"I know. Did you guys talk?"

"Yep. Ladybug is all caught up." Caleo smiles. "And now we can all head home. I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for bed."

"Actually Chat I was hoping I could talk to you, in private." Ladybug looks over at Caleo. "I'm not trying to leave you out...I just-"

"Don't even worry about." Caleo cuts her off. "We may be a team, but I don't need to know everything. Everyone needs their privacy. Rikku, transform me!" With a wave farewell, she flies away into the night.

"Plagg and I will be...elsewhere. Shout for us when you're ready to leave." Tikki says and flies away with Plagg, leaving us alone.

"I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I should have trusted you." Ladybug rubs her arm, shifting her weight from one foot to another. "I had my doubt about Caleo but you clearly trusted her, and that should have been enough for me. So….I'm sorry. I had reasons that made sense at the time but...I don't know. I was stupid."

"You know Ladybug, if you wanted your nickname back, all you had to do was ask." I smile, hoping my tease will ease the tension. She blinks at me in confusion so I add, "Plagg told me that you were probably feeling jealous. Which I swear, I didn't mean to do. I wasn't sure if I was allowed….if it was okay for me to call you that after...after everything. I'm sorry if I made you feel like you've lost your importance to me. That could never happen; you're my partner, and nothing will ever change that. I'm always going to be here."

Ladybug takes a hesitant step forward. "You shouldn't be apologizing, I'm the one who caused all of this."

"You were just being honest, you have nothing to feel guilty for." I open my arms to her. "Come here."

With a water smile, she nearly tackles me in a hug. Somehow not having our magical disguises, knowing that's keeping our secret is plastic masks, makes this feel more real than any interaction we've had. I return her tight embrace, letting my head rest on top of hers as the silence of the night envelopes us.

"I would like my nickname back, if you don't mind."

"Your wish is my command, my lady." This earns a small giggle from Ladybug.

"Silly kitty."

Chapter Text

"So the reason you've been asking me to have Caleo cover your patrol nights was because you were making that gift?" Chat asks, leaning against the wall while talking to Ladybug.

"Yeah, I felt like just an apology wasn't enough." Ladybug admits, letting her head fall against Chat's shoulder. "Not after what I did to her. No one should be forced to talk about their personal lives like that. I should have listened to you, should have trusted you."

"It's okay, My Lady. People idolize us, call us saviors and heroes-but at the end of the day, we're human. We're teenagers dealing with responsibilities that would send most adults running. I don't expect perfection from you, and you shouldn't expect it from yourself."

"Chat…I want to ask you something, but I don't want to force you to talk either."

"You want to know about my mother."

It's not a question, but Ladybug nods anyways. "Why don't you talk to her?"

Chat lets out a heavy sigh. "She's not in my life."

"Oh. I'm sorry"

"Don't be." Chat's voice is lighter now. He wraps an arm around Ladybug's shoulders and lets his head rest on top of hers. "I have someone in my life who makes me forget. And…"

It's time for me to leave. I have no right to hear the rest of this conversation.

I see where Plagg and Tikki are hiding as I jump to the ground. Those two are cute, I'm sure they'll be happy when Ladybug and Chat Noir finally reveal themselves. They deserve time to be together too. I can't imagine being separated from someone I love for so long.

"Dad, what's going on? Who's this?"

"Sit down sweetie. We have some things to explain to you." Dad tells me, gesturing to the chair across from himself and the strange lady who sits next to him. She looks vaguely familiar, but I can't place why.

Chat Noir is wiser than he gives himself credit for. He very nearly quoted what I told Volpina. Beneath those masks they're teenagers with wants and needs, they shouldn't be faulted for that. How could I have ever been against this? Against them living their lives the best they could while maintaining their roles as heroes?

Oddly enough, I wasn't the only person to think this. Someone else made it perfectly clear that all too often, we forget about the people behind the mask.

It all started when Alya redesigned the Ladyblog and asked Nathaniel to draw pictures. After seeing an overall positive response, Alya suggested that the followers submit their fanart and each week she'd choose a handful to post on the blog. Alya insisted Nathaniel submit something, since everyone liked what he did before. What he gave her, I'm not sure anyone expected.

While everyone else drew pictures of Ladybug and Chat Noir in battle or simply posing as if they'd just won a great victory, Nathaniel's was different.

In Nathaniel's, Ladybug and Chat Noir had their heads bowed, a hand covering their faces while they held hands. They were only half transformed, one side the suit and the other his imagining of their civilian forms. Beneath the picture were five simple words,

'We're more than our Masks'

The next week, he submitted a comic strip one for Ladybug and Chat Noir. Ladybug as a civilian playing the guitar, writing music, laughing with her friends. Chat Noir as a civilian playing basketball, reading books, sitting in class.

"Me? A superhero?" I laugh. "You've got to be kidding me. I'm just a teenager."

"So are Ladybug and Chat Noir." The woman, Alice, says calmly. "They were younger than you when they started. You are younger than I would like, but there is no denying that you are the one destined to be the next Timekeeper."

"Dad, this is totally crazy. Tell me you don't actually believe this." I appeal to my father.

"Perhaps I should have told you sooner, but I was hoping it wouldn't be necessary until you were older." Dad replies with a sad shake of his head. "The duty of Timekeeper is one that has been assigned to our family. It is our legacy you could say. The gift I gave you, that's the key to your power. It also has the ability to detect the others."

"Others? What others?"

"The Miraculous Holders. You'll find it's a useful tool to find their civilian forms." Alice explains. "As Timekeeper, it's your job to protect the chosen holders."

"Say I actually believe all of this, who's Ladybug and Chat Noir?"

"Adrien Agreste and Marinette Dupain-cheng."

After Alya discovered that Nathaniel had whole profiles for the civilian forms of Ladybug and Chat Noir created, she suggested that he create a story for them. One thing led to another and with the help of someone else, Nathaniel started posting 'More than a mask' on the Ladyblog.

Set in a fictional town the comic tells the story not only of Ladybug and Chat Noir, but of Emma and Trevor. The teenagers behind the masks. He uses some previous Akuma attacks, but also ones of his own creation. I joked with him that I hope Papillon doesn't read the comic and get any ideas.

Emma is a caring, self-confident girl who likes playing the guitar and writing music. Having grown up surrounded by love, she tries her best every day to make people smile. Trevor is a kind but quiet boy who spends as much time as he can playing basketball or reading. When he's at home, he's often alone. Trevor's parents had a nasty divorce, and his father spends all his time at work.

When I questioned Nathaniel's depiction of Trevor's home life he told me, 'No one who acts that happy behind a mask is happy as themselves.'

I never thought much about Adrien's life outside of school. Not until his mom came to see me that night.

Since meeting his mom, I've been watching Adrien. It's weird, how much I'm seeing now that I'm looking. Behind every smile, there's a bit of sadness. I wonder what he thinks about his mom being gone, does he know the truth? Alice was oddly vague about that. If he doesn't, all he must know is that one day his mom was there and the next she wasn't. What must that be like? If dad disappeared, I'd be devastated.

"Hey Adrien," I find the words flowing from my mouth without my permission, "do you want to go somewhere for lunch? My dad is doing something special with my brother today, so he gave me money to treat myself and a friend to lunch."

Adrien's eyes widen in surprise. "You want me to go with you?"

He sounds happy, but shocked. Is it really that surprising? "That's what I said. Invite Nino too. It'll be fun."

"Two drinks, bit too confident that I'll show up don't you think?" I tease as I approach the table outside of a small cafe.

Nathaniel looks up from the page he's sketching on, a smile lighting up his face. "I'd call it hopeful. If you didn't show up, I would drink it myself."

"You've been out late a lot lately." I point out, pulling out the chair to sit down.

"I can say the same for you." He replies, returning to his artwork.

"Aren't you going to ask me why?"

"You said 'maybe'. I figure you'll tell me if you want me to know. It's not my business what you're doing." He stops again, looking up at me. "But I'd be a fool not to try to take advantage of us both being up late to have someone to talk to."

"What are you working on anyways?" I lean across the table, trying to get a look at the paper.

"Some panels for the Ladybug and Chat Noir comic."

"I read the newest chapter." I smile. "I like that you gave Emma red streaks."

"It seemed like a good idea. It's easier to have a secret identity if you look different in you civilian forms." Nathaniel says, "I'm glad Ladybug and Chat Noir were okay with me creating civilian versions of them so I can expand on the story. I just have to post a disclaimer that the civilian identities are completely of my creation and not influenced by them, so people like Alya don't get over excited and start questioning them about their personal lives."

"They've come out and said they like what you've done too."

"Yeah, that's pretty cool. But I'm afraid Ladybug isn't going to be too happy with where I'm taking this."

"What do you mean?"

"Here, take a look." Nathaniel flips back a page then slides the sketchbook over to me.

The page shows Emma and Trevor in their school library. He's complimenting her on a new piece he overheard her playing the day before. Emma thanks him and Trevor walks away. Nothing Ladybug would disagree with. Furrowing my eyebrows in confusion, I turn to the next page.

The page is mostly done, only needing the speech bubbles filled in and some more color. The page shows a blushing Emma hiding behind a bookshelf as she peeks out at Trevor, who seems to be studying at one of the tables.

"So Emma is developing feelings for Chat Noir's civilian identity." It's hard not to laugh at just how close to the real thing Nathaniel has gotten.

"Ladybug has made it clear that she doesn't have feelings for Chat Noir and everyone knows he's head over heels for her, so that's how I wrote them in the comic." He explains, taking the sketchbook back. "But I thought it'd be an interesting twist if she developed feelings for Trevor. Like they've sort of been friends for a while, but now things are changing. Do you think she'll be mad?"

"Well I don't know Ladybug so I can't say for sure, but I think she can separate herself from this comic book version of her. With everything you've added, these characters aren't Ladybug and Chat Noir."

"That's what my partner said. I um, I actually have some news about the comic too."

"Oh?"

"There's this woman who wants to invest in the comic, to get it published." His eyes practically shimmer with excitement. "She recently lost her daughter due to illness. Her daughter was a big fan of Ladybug and Chat Noir and before she died she mentioned that she wished she could meet them, just once. Somehow they found out, because the next day they showed up in her hospital room. One or both of them came to see her every single day until she died."

"Wow, that's amazing."

"She's already set up a charity in their name, to help other kids like her daughter. The only thing she's asking is that we donate part of the proceeds to the charity, which of course we're more than happy to do."

"So you're going to become a published author, huh?" I smirk, leaning back in my chair. "Do I get to claim I knew you from way back when?"

Nathaniel's cheeks redded, "I guess, if you want to. I would like to get your opinion on something else for the comic, if that's okay."

"Sure!" I'm practically bounce in my seat, scooting closer to the table. Even before I became Timekeeper, I loved reading his theories on what Ladybug and Chat Noir are like outside the costume. Knowing he has a story plot planned out, I've been trying to pry information out of him, but Nathaniel never budges.

"Well..." Nathaniel fiddles with his pencil. "I'm thinking of adding another hero."

"That could be interesting. If Ladybug and Chat Noir exist, why not others?"

"I'm thinking of making this girl with the power of time manipulation."

My blood runs cold. Me. He wants to put me into his comic. Does he know? Is he telling me this because he knows the girl who's hiding behind the mask? Or does he just think Timekeeper is cool and want to use her powers for his story? If I ask him and he doesn't know, then I'm revealing myself. But if he does know, then I'm falling into his trap.

"That's an interesting idea." I force out. "It would definitely be useful. You wouldn't want to introduce her too soon though."

"No, definitely not." Nathaniel agrees. "I'm going to save her for later in the series, possibly after the reveal."

My eyes widen in surprise as his widen in what must be horror. He didn't mean to tell me that. "There's going to be a reveal? How does it happen? When does it happen? Who finds out first?"

"I can't tell-"

"No. You can't hold out on me now." I grab his hands, giving him a pleading look. "You have to tell me."

He lets out a sigh, muttering something I don't catch. "Fine. Chat finds out first. They're hiding after an Akuma attack, discussing their patrol schedule for the week. Chat Noir turns away so Ladybug can detransform and run off before he does the same."

"Go on."

"Lizzie, who recorded the fight for her blog, calls out to Emma and starts going on about the fight. Chat, having enhanced hearing since he has cat abilities, hears Lizzie say Emma's name. Of course he tells himself that there's no way it's the Emma he knows. There's probably hundreds of girls named Emma in Paris. But he can't stop himself from looking to prove to himself that it's not her."

"But it is! How does he react?"

"He's surprised of course. His crime fighting partner, the girl who he's been crushing on for so long, is in fact a girl he talks with on almost a daily basis. Beyond that, we haven't figured it out."

"That is so not fair." I slump against the table. "I need to know if they're going to get together, especially now that I know that Emma has feelings for Trevor."

"Hey, at least you know more than anyone else."

"I know I had my doubts about this whole 'hero' thing, but this is totally cool!" I exclaim, looking down at myself.

"When you learn to control your power, you appearance will alter." Alice tells me. "The suit is designed to fit your skills for now, but in the future you'll learn to transform differently."

"And what exactly are my powers?"

"Time manipulation. Your job is to help keep Ladybug and Chat Noir alive. You are their guardian."

"You're a good guy Nathaniel, you know that?" The words come out without my permission as Nathaniel walks me home.

"I'm no better than anyone else." Nathaniel's cheeks turn the same color as his hair. "Walking you home is the proper thing to do."

"That's not what I meant." I shake my head. I'm not sure what I meant either, but it's the the truth. "You created a comic with the original purpose of reminding people that Ladybug and Chat Noir are teenagers behind their masks, you keep me company when I'm out late at night, and you don't even ask me why."

"Everyone needs a late night walk to clear their head sometimes. And like I said before, it's not my business unless you want to tell me."

"Why do you sneak out?" I ask curiously.

"I just have a lot running through my head lately." Nathaniel looks away from me as he says this. "I'm...trying to figuring things out, I guess."

"Figure out how?"

"Like, how I feel about things. If it's really a good idea for me to admit that I know certain things, even though I was told to." He meets my gaze, an expression I can't read on his features. "Just how much are we allowed to mess with fate before it becomes morally wrong?"

My steps slow, then stop. Why would he use that wording? Is he talking about Timekeeper?

"What do you mean?"

"Fate and destiny, do you think they actually exist?" Nathaniel stops as well, turning to face me.

I nod, of course I believe. After everything I've been through, after that letter, I have to. I'm actually starting to wonder if Nathaniel is the person mentioned in the letter. But what did my future self mean by 'Perhaps if you do, you'll realize your feelings sooner than I allowed myself to.'?

"Just how much do you think it's okay to fight them? To change them?" Nathaniel asks, his seriousness surprises me. "Is it really okay to fight to change a destiny that's not your own, even if you're involved in it?"

"I…" Why is he asking me this? Does he know what I'm up to? He can't possibly know, can he? "If you're trying to make it better, I think it's okay."

"But we can't guarantee that. Even if the other person asked you to, is it okay to mess with their destiny?"

My hand clenches into a fist, the uneasiness making my stomach twist. He's not making sense. "Why are you asking me this, Nathaniel?" My voice actually shakes. I'm not sure I want an answer.

"If someone had a regret, and a future version of them asked you to change things in order to fix it, would you do it? Is it morally okay to do so?" Nathaniel's eyebrows knit together. "Please, give me your honest opinion."

He's not going to answer me until I answer his questions. I never once questioned the moral and ethical repercussions of my choices. It's not my life I'm messing with, but Marinette and Adrien's. I'm doing everything I can to keep them alive, but is it really within my right to decide how their lives should play out? Is it immoral for me to mess with their lives without their permission?

"I don't know." My body is shaking along with my voice, "I guess, if their futureself asked, then they must have thought through the possible consequences. Even if the person in the present doesn't know, you have their consent."

Nathaniel's easy smile returns. "I think I agree. I'm sure that was an odd line of questioning," Nathaniel wraps me in his arms, his warmth enveloping me as my shaking slowly subsides. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to freak you out. "

"Why did you ask? Is it for the comic?"

"Yeah, for that girl with Time manipulation."

Somehow, deep down, I know he's lying.

The letter appears while I'm doing my homework. It appears out of thin air and drops onto my bed. Even after everything I've learned, I'm shocked to see it. Letters don't just show up out of nowhere.

Wanting answers, I rip the envelope open and read the letter. My eyes grow wider with each line, and I'm shaking my the end.

Chat Noir and Ladybug….Marinette and Adrien, they're going to die. I gave up my life to give them a fighting chance.

I can't reveal myself to them now, if this letter is right I'll only mess things up for them. But what can I do? What can I do to keep them from dying?

"Dad, I'm going out!" I announce, coming to a decision.

"But dinner's almost ready." Dad protests.

"I'm sorry, but I need to train."

Dad stops me as I try to run out the door. "Did something happen?"

"Kind of? Something will happen, and I don't know how to stop it. Please dad, I need to do this." I plead with him. I have to make him understand. "I need to be better."

I'm hoping for understanding, but instead I see pride in his eyes. "I've known since you were just a little girl that you'd be a great Timekeeper, should the time ever come. You've got such dedication and determination in everything you do. I'll put a plate in the fridge for you."

"Thanks, dad."

"Honey," Dad stops me again. "You're mom would be so proud of you."

"Following me again?" I can't shake him, even with my powers. It's like Nathaniel knows where I'm going to be and when. But that's not possible.

"It's not following if I was here first." Nathaniel smirks. Why does he seem more confident when I'm hidden behind a mask?

"It's a bit creepy that you're always at place I'm going."

"I'd say I'm just lucky."

"Why are you always out so late?" I roll my eyes in exasperation.

"I told you, I've got my eye on you."

"But why?"

Nathaniel confidently walks up to me. "I'm fighting against fate, just like you. Be sure you don't have regrets."

"What does that mean?"

"It means, I hope you succeed. I don't want my friends to die."


For once, I'm thankful for an Akuma attack.

I easily drop into Marinette's room and begin my search. I don't know what Papillon is up to, but now that I Manon has disappeared, I can't risk the dolls being stolen. Marinette may be worried, but it's better than Papillon actually having them. I'll apologize later for worrying her.

"Ah, here's Chat Noir...and there's Ladybug. Now where-" my communicator beeps.

Groaning in frustration, I tap the shield on my arm and it slides open to reveal Volpina's distressed face.

"You need to get here, now." She shouts.

"Volpina, I'm a little busy here."

"Caleo needs back up, and I can't do that without your help. Unless you'd like me to reveal myself to everyone?"

"Where are Ladybug and Chat Noir?" I demand. "I saw Ladybug leaving to fight the Akuma."

"They got hit and sent to another time."

"For the love of...I'll be there as soon as I can. If it looks like Caleo is in danger, step in."

"But I thought-"

"The time for following the rules is over, Volpina. We can't risk losing Caleo. Do what you have to do."

"Got it. Get here quickly."

"Looks like the rest of the dolls will have to wait." I sigh. "Who knows, this might even be a waste of time."

Chapter Text

Ladybug and Chat Noir crash onto a pile of pillows and blankets.

"Ha, told you that's where they'd fall." An unfamiliar female voice gloats. "I win."

"You guys couldn't have fallen just a foot or two to the left?" a male voice asks.

Pushing themselves into sitting positions, Ladybug and Chat Noir find themselves in an unfamiliar room. Two people sit with their backs to them, playing a video game. A boy with sandy blond hair sits to the left and a girl with shoulder length light red hair sits on the right.

"Make yourselves comfortable, we're not sure how long you're going to be here." The girl instructs, not taking her eyes off the t.v. "So there's really no point in me pausing in the act of kicking this guy's ass."

"Hey, I'm not-"

"WINNER!" The t.v. shouts, cutting off the boy.

"What was that?" The girl taunts, punching the boy in the arm.

"Okay, ow." The boy rubs the spot. "How is it that you look so much like your father but act nothing like him?"

"All part of my charm, Aaron."

"Are either of you going to explain what's going on?" Ladybug demands, scowling at the pair, they've started another round and have yet to even glance at the heroes.

"You got sent through time, obviously. Into the future to be precise. I'm Grace." The girl gestures to herself, then the boy. "And this is Aaron."

"You...knew we were coming?" Chat questions, an eyebrow raised.

"Yeah, you...well, you're futureself warned us of it." Aaron explains. "We know who both of you are actually."

"But-why-"

"Calm down Ladybug." Grace says, "We won't say anything. We're a...special case, that's why we know. Obviously it would be a bit of a problem if you just crashed into my room without warning."

"I guess. But we wouldn't need to tell you our identities to warn you." Ladybug reasons.

"Like Grace said, special case. You should know the rules, we can't tell you too much about the future."

The door sounds behind them.

"Mask?" Aaron calls.

"Yes, though I still think it's pointless." A girl with bright purple hair that's pulled into a ponytail drops onto a pillow next to Ladybug. Red eyes stare at the heroes intently from underneath a blue masquerade mask. "I don't look anything like my parents right now anyways."

"Better safe then sorry, Colette."

"Sorry about them." The girl, Colette, smiles. "They have no manners. It's a pleasure to meet you. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Chat Noir and Ladybug before. I've heard amazing things, of course."

Finally, Aaron and Grace end their game and turn to the heroes.

"This is my little sister." Aaron explains. "She's kind of a fan."

"You guys were before my time, but I've read everything I can get my hands on." Colette gushes. "I'm probably one of the only people who actually visits the Ladyblog anymore."

"Before you time? How far into the future did we get sent?" Ladybug asks, looking around the room again as if it'll give her some kind of clue.

"Not far. You guys just….retired a long time ago." Aaron scowls at his little sister. "Though I didn't want you knowing that."

"Sorry, it slipped. I'm excited." Colette replies. "You know why."

"...Yeah. Which is why I even let you come in here. Where's your sister anyways?"

"Oh, she's still cooking down stairs."

"Actually, I'm right here." A new voice says from the doorway.

"Nikola no!"

Grace suddenly throws herself onto Chat, covering his eyes with her hand.

"Mask, now!" Aaron shouts. "You know the rules."

"I never agreed to them. I'm not going to play this game with you, Aaron."

"Nikola for once...in your life...stop being stubborn!" Grace growls, fighting against Chat who's trying to push the girl off him. "You know...you can't be-"

With one last push, Chat manages to throw manages to throw Grace off of him. His eyes instantly lock on a pair of familiar eyes, a gasp escaping his mouth.

"Mother…"

"Mother?" Ladybug looks between the girl and Chat Noir. "Did you says that we're in the future?"

Aaron lets out a long frustrated breath. "You are. We are over a decade into your future."

"But she…" Chat mutters, still staring at the girl. "She looks like-"

"Your mother." Nikola finishes. "Yeah, so I've been told."

"So does that mean you're my-"

"Yes. Colette and I are twins."

"Really?" Chat eyes widen slightly.

From the looks of them, Colette and Nikola seem like complete opposites. Nikola is wearing dark wash baggy jeans that are ripped in the knees and a black shirt that's ripped at the bottom and on the sleeves with splashes of red on it, fitting of the attitude she's had so far. Colette on the other hand is wearing a long white spaghetti strap shirt that's patterned with cherries and a pair of pink shorts that stop mid-thigh. A silver ring that looks similar to his aside from the green gem he can see is set into it, hangs from a chain around her neck. Cute and bubbly, exactly how Colette's acted so far.

The outfit, aside from the ring, seems familiar somehow but before Chat can figure out why another voice comes floating into the room.

"Nikola, Colette, we're in the middle of a cooking lesson. You can't just run off-Ladybug? Is that really you?"

"Plagg? What the heck are you wearing?" Chat can't help but laugh. Plagg is wearing a small chef's hat on his head and an apron.

"If I'm going to teach these two to cook, I'm going to do it right." Plagg waves him off and flies up to Ladybug. "That's besides the point though. Ladybug! It's so good to see you."

"Right, Aaron said we retired. I guess life keeps Chat and I busy, huh?"

"Can we focus here?" Aaron interrupts. "Nikola, why would you do this? We were supposed to keep things of the future a secret."

"Because I refuse." Nikola crosses her arms. "And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Niko?"

"Look, what's done is done." Grace tries to smooth things over. "It's a small detail, one I'm sure he hoped would happen in the future anyways."

"No." Niko glares at Grace. "I'm not just going to sit by and watch when I have the chance to change things."

"Absolutely not." Aaron stands, moving to the girl.

"You can't mess with time Niko, you know that."

"This coming from you? You don't have any right to speak here." Niko fires at Grace.

"Niko please," The Colette pleads. "things are fine."

"Things are not fine!" Niko snaps. "Maybe Aaron is okay with things because he has memories, and maybe you're okay with dying your hair wild colors and wearing contacts because it's the only way you can get father to look at you; but I'm not." Niko's voice cracks, making her sound almost vulnerable. "I hate this. I hate it! I didn't get a single memory. Not one. And dad, don't even get me started on him."

"...Aaron, I'm sorry. But I have to stand with her." Colette reaches up and removes her mask.

"Nikola I understand this is hard-"

"It's Niko. Niko. Why the hell is that so hard for you to grasp?" Niko shouts, angry tears burning in her eyes.

"Because that's not your name." Aaron argues. "Why do you fight it so much?"

"Because I'm sick of seeing dad flinch every freaking time someone calls my name."

Colette takes her twin's hand and pulls her into a hug. "Niko, now's not the time for this."

Niko presses her free hand to her forehead and for a split second before she lowers it again, Chat notices an all too familiar ring. This girl, who obviously is his daughter, why does she have that? His eyes dart to Colette, she's not wearing earrings but could it be possible? Watching her whisper what Chat can only assume are words of comfort into Niko's ear, making Niko's cries slow with each word, it makes perfect sense.

"Aaron, I think you need to let them do this." Grace gives a sigh of resignation, pushing herself up from the floor. "Niko is right, I have no right to fight her on this. Your sisters need this. You need this. Ladybug, I'm afraid I need you to take you out of the room now."

"I'm not going anywhere until someone gives me answers." Ladybug states firmly. "Why is Plagg acting like he hasn't seen me in years?"

Grace closes her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. "Because Plagg hasn't seen you in over fifteen years."

"Why? What's happened?"

"We told you already, you and Chat...retired. Your earrings and Tikki were returned to the Keeper." Aaron pauses, "Do you know who that is yet?"

"Yeah, I told her everything." Chat supplies.

"Okay, good. That saves one explanation. Anyways, Tikki is now sleeping inside the box but Plagg-"

"I decided to stay and keep an eye my boy and his kids. Mostly the kids." Plagg interjects. "I hate to say it Chat, but you haven't been faring too well. Things have been...hard for a while now. You've been handling a lot on your own."

"Where am I in all of this?" Ladybug pipes up. "If they, the kids, know my civilian identity, surely Chat does in this time period. And I should know his,"

"Yes, you revealed yourself a number of years ago but um…" Plagg fades off, eyes filling with sadness.

"You're not around anymore." Grace fills the silence. "You're no longer in Chat Noir's civilian life."

Chat's stomach twists painfully at this news. So, even knowing her identity, he couldn't stop her from leaving.

"But why-"

"I can't answer anymore, Ladybug." Grace's tone makes it clear the subject is done. "Now we really need to go. This involves Chat's civilian identity, and I don't think there's anyway they can have this particular conversation without mentioning his identity. Since you don't know it yet, and to my knowledge don't wish to know, we need to leave so they can talk."

Ladybug sends Chat a conflicted look, unsure of what to do.

"It's fine, Ladybug. Go with Grace." Chat assures her.

Grace leads Ladybug out of the room, closing the door behind her, and into a room across the hall.

"So what did Niko mean when she said you have no room to talk?" Ladybug asks as she and Grace settle onto the couch in what she guesses is a family room of sorts.

"Hm, you always ask the hard questions." Grace's lips tilt upwards. "You'll find out soon enough. Let's just say my parents weren't the biggest fans of destiny, and leave it at that."

"Is one of your parents a Miraculous holder?"

"Honestly Ladybug, I can't tell you."

"You're letting Chat's kids tell him things about the future." She protests.

"That's different. And before you ask, I can't tell you how it's different, just that it is."

"Where am I in this time period?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Chat-"

"Wasn't supposed to find out. That damage is done, but I'm not going to inflict more."

"Can I atleast ask about Alya and Nino?

Grace rolls her eyes. "Alright, but you absolutely must keep it a secret. Not a word. Ever."

"I swear!" Ladybug straightens, bouncing slightly.

"They end up going separate ways during Uni for a while. They both attended different schools, in different cities, and Alya thought it was for the best."

"Seriously?"

"I'm not done yet. Don't interrupt. Now, after going through a few girlfriends and boyfriends, Alya finally realized that she would never move on from Nino. Something you'd been telling her all along."

"Well duh." Ladybug grins. "I can't believe she thought it was a possibility."

"Nino on the other hand, never dated. In fact, he ended up transferring to a school here in Paris. The very first time Alya and Nino met up after he moved back, he proposed." Grace has to cover her ears at this because Ladybug lets out a squeal.

"Oh my goodness."

"He owed you and Adrien a few favors for helping pull that off."

"Speaking of-" The spotted hero tries.

"No."

"But-"

"No. I'm not telling you what happened to you. Chat Noir isn't being told either, not technically. He gets to know he got married, which is kind of obvious considering he has three kids. But I guarantee you Aaron won't let the twins say who he marries."

"Can I know?"

"Nope."

"Fine." Ladybug sighs, leaning against the arm of the couch. "What about our reveal?"

Grace considers this for a minute, a smile spreading. "I think I'll keep that to myself. I don't want to deny the two of you that fun."

"Fun? I don't even want him to know, what makes you think it'll be fun for me?"

"Good point, still not telling you though."

"Is there anything I can know?" Ladybug huffs.

"Yes, there is." Grace pushes herself up slightly, looking the heroine straight in the eye. "Give my mother a message, 'The effort will work. Keep up what you're doing.'"

"B-but I don't know who you mom is."

"Don't worry, you'll know who she is when you meet her. Just remember what I said, she's not a fan of fate and destiny. In her hands, that mentality can be a powerful thing."


"You can take it from here, I presume?" Timekeeper asks, holding out Ladybug's yoyo, and Chat Noir's staff.

"Yeah. Thanks for the help. Things are going to get crazy, so you'd better get out of here while you can." Caleo says, taking the items.

After Timekeeper has disappeared, and time starts flowing again, Caleo drops the yoyo and staff at her feet.

"Here's hoping this works. Cleansing light!" Caleo throws her hand into the air, a large mass of tiny phoenix's exploding outward to repair the damage done by the battle. Phoenix's swarm around the yoyo and staff, revealing Ladybug and Chat Noir when they fly away.

"Ladybug, Chat Noir, thank goodness your alright!" Caleo pulls her teammates into a tight hug. "I was so worried."

"How long were we gone?" Ladybug asks, pulling away from the embrace.

"A couple of hours. I had some difficulty dealing with the Akuma, I had to reveal myself to the public." Caleo admits, "Speaking of which, we should probably get out of here. I've already had to deal with the girl who runs the Ladyblog asking endless questions. Everyone wants to know about the new hero who showed up when Chat Noir and Ladybug disappeared."

"I'm so sorry-"

"Don't apologize, I would have had to out myself at some point." Caleo sighs. "You guys go home, I'll answer a few questions to appease them."

"You're the one who should get rest." Ladybug protests.

"It's fine, really. Go on."

"Let's do as she says Ladybug." Chat says quietly, his eyes down cast. "Let's get out of here."

With a wave to Caleo the two take off.

"Hey, you!"

Well, at least she got a moment of peace. Putting on a smile, Caleo turns to face Alya. "I thought I told you to go home."

"And miss the scoop of a lifetime? No way." Alya holds up her phone to record. "Please, everyone wants to know. Who are you?"

"My name is Caleo, I'm Paris' newest hero."

"So you're working with Ladybug and Chat Noir? Then where were they today?"

'Detained. They were detained!'

'Thank you.'

"Unfortunately they were being detained by other matters." Caleo supplies. "They trusted me to get the job done. It took a while, but I think I did a pretty good job."

"You were able to cleanse the Akuma, isn't Ladybug supposed to be the only one who can do that?" Alya continues her line of questioning.

"Well it'd be a problem if something happened to Ladybug if that was really the case, don't you think? Think of me as Ladybug's back up. It'll still be her main duty to cleanse the Akuma," A frantic beep fills the air, "but if she can't I'll be around to do it for her."

'Caleo!'

"I'm sorry, but I have to cut this interview short for now."

"But I have more questions!"

"Next time!" Caleo promises over her shoulder as she flies away at top speed.


"So that was a crazy day." Ladybug attempts as they land at the top of the tower. "Chat...are you okay?"

"It's like you said, crazy day." Chat mutters, looking out at the city. "I'm not feeling up to patrol, let's just call it off and rest."

"If you want to talk-"

"No, I'd rather be alone if you don't mind."

"Chat, what did they tell you?"

From down below, a figure in quite the colorful outfit watches as Chat and Ladybug go their separate ways.

"So, those are Paris' famous heroes." The figure says to themselves. "Interesting. They're definitely too young for my liking. What were the kwami thinking choosing them? It's bad enough that Caleo and Volpina are only 17, but to have the main fighters be mere teenagers."

Shaking their head, the figure turns their back on the Eiffel Tower and starts walking away. "Oh well, nothing I can do about it. I need to focus on the reason I'm here, keeping those two love sick idiots alive. Something tells me I've got my work cut out for me."


After picking at her dinner, Marinette excuses herself saying she's not feeling well and wants to turn in early.

After taking a quick shower and changing into her pajamas, Marinette turns her lights off and lays in bed staring at the ceiling. Chat looked so sad when they parted ways. Marinette knows something those kids said is bothering him. Why didn't he talk to her? She thought after they talked on Notre Dame then had finally begun getting close again. But here he is, shutting her out all over again.

At some point amidst all her worried thoughts Marinette falls asleep; but her dreams do not bring her a pleasant escape.

"Hang on, Chat. You're going to be fine, you hear me?" Ladybug sobs.

"I'm afraid this is something even you can't fix, Ladybug." Chat coughs.

"T.k!" Ladybug whirls around, the tears in her eyes blurring her vision. "Please, you have to do something! Use your powers so we can get him medical attention."

"I'm sorry…" The blue and black blur apologizes, "Even with my help, you wouldn't make it in time."

"We can't just let him die!"

"There's nothing we can do."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"This is all your fault" Plagg uncharacteristically yells at Ladybug, tears rolling down his cheeks and falling to the ground. "Chat Noir, my kitten, he killed himself because of you! I will never forgive you for this Ladybug. No matter how many years pass."


It's too late for this. Marinette will surely be asleep.

It doesn't matter, Chat Noir decides. He wants, no needs, to see Marinette. He needs to make sure she wasn't harmed.

Dropping onto her terrace, he knocks on the glass trap door. Down below Marinette's sleeping form slowly stirs. She looks up at him in surprise, but reaches up to let him in nonetheless.

"It's a bit late for a visit, kitty cat. I don't have any-Chat, what's wrong?" Without a word Chat had hugged her, burying his face in her neck. "What's going on?"

Chat lets out a shaky breath, "I'm sorry to bother you so late, princess. It's...today's been...I wanted to make sure you were okay, after the akuma attack."

"I'm fine. I was in a safe hiding spot, but I hear that you took a trip through time." Marinette returns the embrace, feeling Chat's shoulders shake slightly.

"Yeah...it wasn't pleasant." Chat admits, tightening his hold. "I'm glad you were safe here in the present."

"Did something happen while you were...wherever you got sent?" Chat nods. "Not that I mind you coming to me but why don't you just talk to Ladybug?" Marinette needs to know. Why can he come be vulnerable with Marinette, who he hardly knows, but not Ladybug.

"I don't want to say it allowed, I can't."

"Okay, but I'm sure Ladybug would still do what she can to help. You should-"

"I don't want Ladybug right now." Chat confesses. "I just want to be with you right now, princess. Can I stay, just for a little bit?"

"O-of course, if that's what you want. Do you need anything? Water? Maybe a cookie?"

"No. You're all I need, princess."


"Your mom's...dead?" Chat's gaps.

"And you're a shitty dad because of it."

"Language." Aaron warns. "Mom was the love of your life. When she died, something broke inside of you. I was old enough to remember how you were before, I can remember with perfect clarity how you drastically changed after she passed."

"How old were you?" Chat questions, chest tightening uncomfortably.

"I was eight. There's a significant age gap between the twins and me because you adopted me when I was three."

"I-I see."

"You told aunty that the only reason you didn't kill yourself when mom died was because of Colette and I." Niko's hands squeeze into fists. "You have no idea what kind of pressure that put on us. Knowing we're the only thing keeping you alive. Colette and I, we're practically the perfect children."

"We study hard, always turn our work in on time, get good grades, do our chores and never cause trouble." Colette supplies. "My purple hair was the first 'bad' thing I've ever done."

"And I had to talk her into it." Niko adds. "I was hoping it'd get some kind of reaction out of your, that you'd yell or ground us or something. But you just said it looked cute and went back to work. Basically all you do is work these days."

"That's why Niko wants you to fix things. She...she wants to know our mom."

"What am I supposed to do to stop her from dying?"

"For starters," Niko looks up at Chat with a scowl, "stop being a doormat."

Chapter Text

Gabriel Agreste is not arrogant enough to call himself a genius, but he is far from stupid.

He sees the way Adrien looks Marinette Dupain-cheng and Gabriel sees the way she looks at Adrien. To be frank, it's part of the reason he offered her an internship; why when the company needed a few extra set of hands, she was the first person he picked to start the internship early.

Marinette's abilities are head and shoulders above her peers, that she won the four competitions he held at her school proved as much. He would be amiss to let her fall into the hands of another company, but that wasn't the deciding factor in his decision to extend the offer of an internship to the girl, despite her not applying. No, it was that look he caught Adrien giving her during one of their study sessions.

If this girl managed to capture his son's heart, Gabriel wanted to know more about her. The first time they met, she had been nothing short of polite, humble even. Nathalie informed him that when Marinette studied with Adrien, she was always polite and respectable. At school she seemed to be well liked all around, Chloe notwithstanding. If Chloe dislikes the girl, well that's a bonus in her favor in Gabriel's eyes.

But more than that, Gabriel wanted to know the sweet girl who turned into a beautiful young woman that fate had brought back into his son's life.


"Nathalie, I need to discuss something with you." Alice gestures for the woman to sit across from her. "There are many reasons why I made my husband choose you over many other qualified applicants. And it's not just because I've known you since you were a young girl."

"You hired me because of my background." Nathalie nods. "You are overprotective of Adrien, and wanted him protected as much as possible."

"Nathalie, there are things in this world that you don't know about." Alice stands and begins to pace. "Me, being who I am, I'm putting my family at risk."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Ma'am."

"No, of course not." Alice mutters to herself, still pacing. "There are...amazing things in this world. Miraculous things. But there's also great evil. I need to explain some things that are going to sound insane, but I promise you they aren't. I...I need you to be aware. To be knowledgeable. You can't protect Adrien if you're ignorant."

"Protect Adrien from what? What do you fear will happen to him?" Nathalie asks, concern coating her voice.

"From a great evil that he is destined to fight."


"With all due respect, you're a terrible father." Marinette snapped at Gabriel.

Gabriel allowed a small smirk at her boldness. He certainly didn't expect this sort of boldness from Marinette. Didn't expect their conversion to take this turn.

"I make sure Adrien's every need is taken care of."

"That may be true, but he's miserable." She protested. "His schedule is so full he doesn't have time to enjoy any of the fancy stuff he has. Or spend time with his friends."

"That is of no concern to me. Aside from you, I don't approve of any of his 'friends'."

"Well if you gave them a chance..." Marinette muttered under her breath.

"Yes?"

"I know of your first meeting with Nino, sir. But he was fifteen, of course he was going to make mistakes. The important thing is that he made an effort." Marinette boldly stared Gabriel down. "Even when he was akumatized, he was more interested in making his friend happy then getting the Miraculous from Ladybug and Chat Noir. To be honest, the first time I met you I'm not sure how I would have done if Adrien wasn't there. I, unlike Nino, was raised with very strict mannerisms. From the time I could understand what I was being taught, I was taught to be calm, polite, and respectful no matter what the situation. And yet at that dinner party, when you approached us, all I wanted to do was run away."

"Yet you did not."

"Like I said, that was because of Adrien." Marinette winced as she continued, "I'm pretty sure I made him lose some feeling in his hand. I was a bundle of nerves, despite being taught how to deal with that kind of situation. Imagine how much harder it would have been for someone who wasn't taught that. Actions speak louder than words. Nino's actions should be more than enough to prove how good of a friend he is."

"I know what's best for my son, far better than you could imagine." Gabriel retorts. "I am his father after all."

"You say that, but answer me this: what's Adrien's favorite color? His favorite band? What does he want to study in Uni?"

Waves of shame rolled over Gabriel as he realized he couldn't answer. He doesn't know the answers.

"What makes him happy? What does he fear?"

Finally, something he can answer.

You. "The nightmares." It slipped out before he thought through the repercussions. He was so desperate to answer one of the questions Marinette was firing at him, he didn't stop to think that Adrien might not have told her.

"Nightmares?"

He hasn't told her. Out of fear? No, surely he knew Marinette wouldn't judge him for something he couldn't control. So why…

"What nightmares?"

Gabriel sighed, turning in the direction of his office. "This is not the place to have this discussion. Please, join me in my office and I will explain."

Marinette silently followed him, a puzzled expression on her face. Perhaps this would be good in the long run, there are things he needs to discuss with her anyways. He'd been looking for a way to broach the topic, perhaps this it. He will have to apologize to Adrien later.

Gabriel moves to look out the windows as he begins to explain.

"When Adrien was young, he was plagued by nightmares." He glances at the girl, noting how she stiffens. "The first time it happened, the way he was screaming...my wife and I thought he was being attacked. We took him to specialist after specialist to every specialist in Paris and some outside of Paris, but they couldn't find any cause for it." Gabriel turned and walked back to his desk, picking up one of the framed photos. "Eventually we figured out that if we laid with Adrien, he'd at least get some sleep before the nightmares set in. And when that wasn't enough, we settled on taking turns sleeping with him so we could wake him up immediately. Through doing so, we discovered that the nightmares lessened when we were with him."

The way Marinette's hands clenched into fists, how her eyes ever so slightly widened, told Gabriel all he needed to know. The way this girl suffered and, if his assumptions were correct, was once again suffering was the same as Adrien.

"Between work, Adrien and the constant doctor visits, my wife and I hardly saw each other." Gabriel put the photo back in it's place. "It very nearly destroyed our marriage.

"Why are you telling me this?" Marinette's voice was barely above the whisper.

"Because I am many things, including what you accused me of, but I am not blind." Gabriel replied evenly.

Her pupils dilated, in fear? Fear of judgment?

"You know."

"I do."

"Did...did Adrien tell you?"

Now that is definitely fear in her voice. Does she not trust Adrien enough to know he wouldn't tell someone without her permission? No, that's not it. That fear, it was clouding her knowledge. That's something to discuss at another time.

"I run thorough background checks on all who work for me."

"Oh...I...I suppose that makes sense."

"I spoke with your parents to get an understanding of what happened and informed them that I would be discussing it with you."

Her hands clenched tighter, turning her knuckles white. "I-it's...I swear I won't let it interfere with-"

"There is no need to looks so afraid." Gabriel waved off her concern as he sat in his desk chair. "I didn't bring you in here to fire you."

"Th-then why? And why tell me about Adrien?"

"So you would understand the reason behind my offer. So long as you do not abuse the privilege, I will allow extra sick days should these nightmares that have so clearly resurfaced, become too much." Gabriel leaned forward slightly, "I saw what they can do to a person, and those around them, with my own eyes. I do not wish to see that happen to you."

"But...sir, you...you barely know me." Marinette protested, her voice carefully polite. "I'm just an intern."

At this, Gabriel gave a shake of his head. "You are hardly 'just' anything. There is a reason I offered you an internship, despite your lack of an application."

"I didn't think I was good enough."

"Yes, I have noticed that you undersell yourself. But that is neither here nor there. You have talent, a promising designer if I ever saw one. More importantly, you are Adrien's friend. That is why I am giving you this chance. Your well being important to Adrien, and if you push yourself too hard for this internship he won't be happy with either of us."

"Is Adrien...have his nightmares returned?" Marinette asked quietly.

As Gabriel opened his mouth to reply, the door opened.

"Father I-Marinette?" Adrien's face fills with surprise, then worry as his eyes flickered between the two. "Is...something wrong?"

"Not at all." Gabriel pushes himself up. "I was just inviting Ms. Dupain-cheng to join us for dinner. I am sure Anita will be pleased to see you, she has been quite...vocal about how much of your time the internship is taking up."

"You're staying for dinner?" Adrien's eyes moved to Marinette, searching for something.

"Y-yeah, I guess. I uh, I haven't seen Anita in a while, so I probably should take the offer."

"Adrien, will you please let Anita know that dinner will be served in a few minutes?" Gabriel asked, wanting his son out of the room. There was still something he wanted to address but couldn't with Adrien in the room.

Adrien gave a hesitant nod and left the room.

"I guess I should head down as well." Marinette muttered as she pushed herself up and headed for the door.

"One last thing." Gabriel called, making her turn back to him. "I'm afraid my son is quite dense, you're going to have to make the first move. That is, if you do want him to know how you feel."

Marinette's cheeks reddened and she ducked out of the office without a word.


"This world never ceases to amaze me." Tikki sighed, sticking her head out from Alice's purse. "So much has changed since…"

"You're also in a different country." Alice informed the kwami.

"Yes, France is quite lovely." Her eyes roamed the park. "Adrien is absolutely adorable! He looks just like you, Alice."

"Mm."

"Is that you son?" A woman's voice asked.

Alice casually covered the pocket Tikki is hiding in with her hand as she turned. "Yes, am I too assume that the girl Adrien is playing with is your daughter?"

"She is. She seems to really be getting along with Adrien. They're adorable, aren't they?"

The two mothers talked until Alice looked at her watch and decided it was time to go. Letting Adrien spend too much time with the girl would only hurt him in the end.

"Adrien, it's time to go honey." Alice called to her son.

"But mommy, I'm playing with the princess." Adrien protested.

"Well I'm sorry, but we have things to do. Say goodbye to the princess so we can go."

"Fine." Adrien mutters, pouting at her turns back to the girl.

As Alice and Adrien walked away from the sandbox, Tikki stuck her head out of the purse to catch a last glimpse of the little girl. To her surprise, the girl was looking over her shoulder. Tikki gave her a smile and winked before diving back into the purse.

The girl was cute. Cute and bright. Oh so bright.

Tikki knew, one day she'd do great things.


"Nathalie, where did this picture come from?" Gabriel inquired, picking up a framed photo from his desk.

"I found it in a box of photo's Adrien and Chloe were going through, you don't have many of Adrien while he was young so I thought you might enjoy it."

"I didn't realize Alice took this photo. He looks...happy."

"Quite similar this one, don't you think?" Nathalie held out another framed photo. "This was taken the day Marinette accompanied Adrien to his photoshoots. The photographer was impressed with the reaction Marinette was able to draw from Adrien, so he took a few photos."

In the picture Marinette laughing as she covers her face while Adrien holds up a camera, trying to take a photo of her. The smiles are almost identical to the first picture.

"...I haven't seen him smile like this since before Alice disappeared." Gabriel admitted.

"Marinette does seem to have quite the effect on him." Nathalie agreed.

"It's funny really. Even as kids, she was able to bring out his brightest smile."

"Them meeting again after all this time, it's almost like fate. Don't you think, sir?"


"You wished to speak with me, father?"

Gabriel looks up from the paperwork on his desk at Adrien's question. "Yes, I wanted to discuss a few things with you."

Adrien walks up to his father's desk, but doesn't sit down. "What about?"

"I know you're having nightmares again."

Gabriel is met with silence at this declaration.

"I know taking you to a doctor won't do any good, so what I need to know is if you want to be put back on your sleeping pills."

"Sleeping pills?" Adrien's eyes widen in surprise.

"I suppose you don't remember, you were quite young after all." Gabriel sighs. "The sleeping pills stopped you from dreaming, it was a last resort your mother and I settled on."

Adrien goes rigid at the mention of his mother. Gabriel never mentions her.

"After a few months on them, you were able to rest peacefully without their aid. I'd be happy to-"

"No." Adrien cuts his father off. "I...I don't...they're honestly not that bad father."

"I see. If you ever wish to take them-"

"I'll let you know." Adrien assures him. "...Is that all you wanted to talk about?"

"No." Gabriel shifts the papers on his desk, pulling a schedule in front of him. "I'm cutting a few of your extracellular activities."

"But father-"

"I'm going to arrange for your lessons to be cut down to two days a week." Gabriel talks over Adrien. "And photoshoots will be lessened until the end of exams, like usual. We'll discuss your summer activities when I get your exam results."

"R-really?"

"And one more thing, Adrien. I'll be away this weekend."

Adrien's happy mood immediately evaporates. "But father it's…"

"Work can't be ignored, Adrien. I know this weekend will be...unpleasant for you, if you and Anita are alone so why don't you invite that friend of your's over. Nino isn't it?" Gabriel suggests. "And tell Anita she's welcome to invite someone over for the weekend as well?"

"Seriously? Thank you, father!"

"Don't thank me." Gabriel lets his eyes drop back to the paperwork on his desk. "Marinette is the one who gave me the idea."

"She did?"

"She's quite the forceful young women, she reminds me of your mother actually." He keeps his eyes trained on the papers, the perfect picture of nonchalance.

"...Father, what did she say to you?"

"Nothing of concern. She simply spoke her mind on certain matters. Something I suggest you do. If you don't hurry up, some other boy is going to snatch her up."

Only then does Gabriel lift his eyes to look at his son, who was very red in the face. The sight makes him want to laugh, nostalgia of his younger days with Alice flooding him.

"I uh...I don't…" Adrien mutters, looking away from his father. "W-we're just friend father."

"That's precisely the problem, son. I'm telling you this so you can remedy it. I would hate to see you miss out on the opportunity to be with someone who quite clearly makes you happy, because you were too afraid."

"I-I'm not...I'm not afraid. I just…"

"Then you should have no trouble saying something." Gabriel retorts, a smile playing on his lips. "Asking her to prom would be a good start.

Adrien was floundering and all the while, Gabriel couldn't help but wonder if Alice would be proud in that moment. He's trying to emulate her, but is he doing a good job? Would she had teased Adrien so? Yes, she would, Gabriel decides. She would have done that, and so much more.


"Have you told him yet?"

"I have not yet found the right moment, Alice." Nathalie replies cooly. "It's not something I can just blurt out."

"But it's essential that he knows. He will need your help in the future." Alice states folding her arms on the table.

"I realize that. Adrien is hardly alone anymore. He's either with his friends or Anita, who by the way, doesn't know I know about either of them." Nathalie sighs. "And Gabriel has suddenly decided he needs to improve his parenting skills, I swear he's spent more time with Adrien in the last few weeks than he has in the last six months."

"That's a good thing."

"Of course it is. But it makes it hard for me to get him alone long enough to tell him about that...and the other thing."

"You still haven't told him about the scarf?" Alice chuckles. "Nathalie, you'll need to tell Adrien eventually."

"I have to come up with a feasible story."

"And make sure Gabriel isn't around so he doesn't question it."

"Exactly."

"Just make sure you tell him soon."

"...And when are you going to tell Adrien that you're back in town? Why are you back in town? Have has the last one arrived?"

"Yes, I'll be meeting with Cer later tonight. As for Adrien, he doesn't need to know."

Nathalie's hands curl into fists, but she remains silent.

"You disagree?"

"I've told you before, he needs his mother."

"As I've told you," Alice calmly shoots back, leaning back against her chair. "Adrien understands why I can't be around. It's necessary to bring Papillon down. Should he discover my importance, there could be problems."

"That does not stop you from revealing yourself to Chat Noir."

"I can't risk Adrien's behavior changing. He's waited this long, a little longer won't make a difference.

Nathalie simply looks away, her disagreement clear on her face.

It's of no concern to Alice. Nathalie may have stepped into her shoes, but Adrien is Alice's son. And at the of the day, she will always know what's best for him.

Chapter Text

"Reading on the job, My Lady?" Chat teases, landing next to her.

Ladybug looks up with a smile. "You're the one who took so long to finish patrolling. See anything?"

"Not much. Most people have heeded the warning to stay inside at night."

"Most?" Ladybug raises her eyebrow in a questioning manner.

"I saw someone I know walking around," Chat sighs, running a hand through his hair. "I have to figure out a way to talk to them about it."

"Were they an Akuma victim?"

"Yeah, a few years ago. Anyways, what are you reading?"

Deciding to let the subject drop for now, Ladybug holds up her phone so Chat can see the screen. "Nathaniel updated the comic."

"He's taking an interesting turn."

"You could call it that."

"Aw, come on, My Lady. Everyone loves a love story," Chat grins.

Ladybug sighs, putting her phone away. "Doesn't this worry you? How close he's gotten to being right?"

"Right about what?"

"About us. How we transform. He calls them fairies, but they work exactly the same as Plagg and Tikki. And they even look similar."

"He tried to take a different approach on the magical superheroes trope and got lucky," Chat shrugs. "I wouldn't worry about it. Now if he'd added Caleo before she appeared, I'd be worried."

"He's adding in a new hero. There's a glimpse of a girl in the shadows."

"I noticed that, but she looks nothing like Caleo. It's possible he just wanted to add a new hero. It's supposed to be a work of fiction after all."

"So you think I'm being too paranoid?" Ladybug asks in a tone that's still a touch concerned but also relieved.

"Just a bit."

"Alright, you win. Let's talk about something else."

"There is something I've been wanting to ask you about," Chat hesitantly admits. "But I've been….worried that you won't take it as me just being curious because of….because of what happened."

"What's the question, Chat?"

"Well, I've been wondering how things are going with your prince charming?"

Ladybug's eyes widen slightly. "Oh."

"You don't have to answer of course. I just thought I'd ask since you know about the girl I like."

"Things are...fine I guess." Ladybug looks away to hide her reddening face. "I um, I actually haven't said anything yet."

"The courageous Ladybug afraid of telling a guy her feelings?"

"You're not any better!" Ladybug snaps, scowling at her partner. "Last I heard, you hadn't said anything to your princess."

Chat raises his eyebrows. "Princess?" She couldn't possibly know...could she?

"Hey, you're the one who picked the royalty theme."

"Fair point." Chat grins mischievously, "How about a little challenge?"

"You know I like a challenge." Ladybug smiles with confidence. "Let's hear it."

"I'll say something to my princess, if you'll talk to your prince," Chat proposes.

"I can't just-"

"Prom," he cuts off Ladybug's protest. "We have to ask them to prom, that's the challenge."

"And if one of us chickens out?" Ladybug asks.

"Then they take over patrol for two weeks?"

"That'll effect Caleo, that's not fair since she's not involved."

"We could get her involved." Chat grins. "I'll bet there's someone she likes."

"Chat no-"

"Too late. I'm calling her." Chat pulls out his phone and dials Caleo's number, putting it on speaker.

"Hey Chat, did something happen?"

"No, Ladybug and I have a challenge going and want to know if you'd like to participate."

"Chat wants you to, I tried telling him it's a bad idea," Ladybug corrects, crossing her arms.

"Fine, I'd like you to do it with us."

"Of course, you may not be able to."

"Why not?"

"Well, in order to participate you need to have a crush on someone," Chat supplies.

There's silence for a moment, "You guys are supposed to be patrolling. What are you getting up to out there?"

"No one said we have to be serious all the time." Chat teases. "So I take it you do have a crush on someone?"

"Please tell me this challenge doesn't involve embarrassing myself."

"Not at all. All you have to do is ask your special someone to prom."

"You assume I'm not home schooled."

"Are you?" The duo asks in unison.

"...No." Caleo admits. "Is there at least someone kind of reward slash penalty for this?"

"If you chicken out you have to do all patrols, that aren't joint patrols, by you self for two weeks."

"Hm….make it three weeks and we have a deal." Caleo sounds more confident now. "What's the time limit?"

"Friday before prom?" Chat suggests. "We'll be getting together for patrol anyways."

"Sounds good to me. Ladybug?"

"That's fine, I guess."

She's going to be stuck with patrols for sure.


"Plagg, is Chat Noir always a boy?"

"Not always." Plagg knew Adrien would ask eventually. "It's rare, but girls have been Chat Noir. Usually they're a twin."

"So Chat Noir doesn't always fall for Ladybug?"

"In those cases no. There's an exception to every rule Adrien. They're still soulmates though, two halves of a whole."

"Niko had my ring."

"I know what you're thinking kid, and it's possible. The way those two acted, their personalities even...they'd be good candidates."

"But Collette wasn't wearing earrings." Adrien points out.

"That's because they're both under age." Plagg explains. "Normally, the chosen are adults. In rare cases, teens are chosen, but they don't transform until they've had years of training."

"But Ladybug and I-"

"Were an exception to the rule. Papillon rose to power sooner then any of us expected. We thought for sure Nooroo was laying low. The best candidates for the next Chosen were only fourteen, but there was nothing to be done about it."

"Caleo said she was chosen when she was eleven."

"And she didn't transform until she was about fifteen. She had four years of practice under her belt. She was prepared."

"Unlike us." Adrien sighs.

"Honestly kid, I think she was chosen by accident. She stumbled into the shop sooner than your mother anticipated. Humans are complicated creatures, we had no way of knowing that Caleo's mother would commit suicide, prompting her to wander the streets and stumble upon Master Fu's shop."

Plagg lands on Adrien's knee, a frown set on his lips. "You're avoiding what we should be discussing."

"I don't want to talk about it Plagg."

" I'd like to avoid anymore heart to hearts than are strictly necessary, but I think it's important that we talk about what happened with Chloe. Considering everything you've been through, what you said to her is a big deal."

"Because I'm in love with her. If you care about our friendship at all, that should be enough for you."

"After what happened with Sabine, I didn't think you'd admit it out loud anytime soon." Plagg admits. "Loving someone and being loved in returned, it's scary."

"I'm fine."

"Adrien, you had an anxiety attack because you mom told you she loves you. You're not fine."

Adrien remains silent, eyes dropping to the floor as he fiddles with the charm bracelet on his wrist.

"I'm not criticizing you, I don't expect you to be perfect. If I had realized sooner, I wouldn't have pushed you so hard."

"I don't know why I react this way." Adrien mutters, sounding defeated.

"Because the two people who are supposed to love you know matter what betrayed the trust you had in their love for you. It's scary because love for you has equaled people leaving you. It causes anxiety because you don't know how to be loved anymore. Because the last time a woman said she loved you, she disappeared. For all the bravado you put on around Ladybug, you were scared. You never confessed because you couldn't. If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that part of you was relieved when she prematurely rejected you. She saved you from having to come out and say it."

"But I told Chloe."

"I'm going to go out of character and act like Tikki for a moment. There are many forces in this world. Fate, destiny, us kwami, but far stronger than all of those is love. In fairy tales you read about true love's kiss breaking the spell and heroes triumphing over the villains because they hold love in their hearts. I have seen love destroy men and seen it turn the weakest of people into champions." Plagg flies up to rub his head against Adrien's cheek. "You love Marinette and that is what pushes you to piece the broken parts of yourself back together. You want to be better for her. Maybe you can't say it to Marinette yet, but you made a big step today. "

"That's what Tikki sounds like?" Adrien weakly smiles. "Ladybug is lucky."

Plagg pulls away to look Adrien in the eye. He's smiling softly, his eyes sparkling with...something. " Listen up, because you're probably never going to here this from me again. I'm proud of you, kid. You've done good."


"So who are the other two miraculous holders?"

The three heroes sit atop Notre Dame, once again in disguises so their kwami can be free to talk with them.

"Aside from Master Fu, we don't currently know who their civilian identities are." Tikki tells Marinette. "Their hero names are Genbu, Volpina and Cer."

Caleo laughs at this, prompting strange looks from the others.

"I'm sorry. It's just that Cer is pronounced the same way as an english word…" She bites back a final laugh. "Sorry, keep going Tikki."

"Wait, you know english?" Chat asks in surprise.

"Yes, I've been studying with Master Fu for years. One of the current holder is an english speaker, he's been learning since you two were chosen but Master Fu thought it'd be a good idea for me to learn just in case."

"So you know who-"

"No, I don't know who they are; Master Fu has never told me. All I've gotten out of him is that Cer is male and Volpina is female."

"Why wouldn't he tell you?" Ladybug questions.

She simply shrugs. "Same reason he hasn't told me your identities, I don't need to know. They'll join us if it becomes necessary."

"Which isn't always the case." Rikku chimes in. "There have been times when Ladybug and Chat Noir were able to take down Papillon."

"Their miraculous are animal themed as well. Volpina is themed around foxes, and Cer around peafowl." Caleo explains. "If they join us, it probably won't be until we're ready to fight Papillon. With how strong he's becoming, it's too much of a risk for us to be gathered."

"What I'd like to know, is why Papillon's so powerful." Plagg says as he flies back and forth across a short distance.

"Don't worry, I'm working on it."

"You're what?"

Chat Noir stares at his kwami, eyes wide in shock. In the four years he's spent with Plagg, he's never heard him so angry. Never heard him actually yell.

"I told you guy, I've been getting info on Papillon. I haven't quit that just because-"

"You will stop it right now." Plagg snaps, flying close to Caleo's face. "Now that your face is all over the news, now that Papillon knows you exist, you are to stay away from him."

"But I-"

"No! You teenagers are all so arrogant."

"Plagg." Tikki tries to reason.

"You think that having special powers makes you invincible, but they don't." Plagg continues as if she hadn't said anything. "We don't. Do you know why Rikku hated you when you first met her?"

"Plagg, please." This time it's Rikku.

"I'll tell you why. Because the last group of weilders got cocky." Plagg glares at the girl. "Five. Five of the chosen, and the Keeper, died trying to do something they had no buisness sticking their nose in."

Silence falls heavily over the group.

"...What happened?" It's Chat the breaks it with a small whisper.

"They were blown up." Plagg turns to his chosen. "By a group of humans that were already so vile they didn't need Papillon's help to kill hundreds of civilians. That incident is why the Miraculous are only brought together in desperate times. And that is why Rikku rejected you. She, out of all of us, held the biggest grudge. And this, this arrogance," Plagg turns back to Caleo, "is precisely why I told the Keeper that choosing teenagers was a terrible idea."

"You never told me about that." Ladybug looks up at Tikki, her eyebrows knitted together.

"That's because Tikki is far too forgiving." Plagg mutters.

"That is not true."

"Need I remind you of Molly?"

"Please plagg." Rikku cuts it, flying between the two.

"It wasn't her fault." Tikki fires back. "I know you don't think that but-"

"She killed him." Plagg shouts. "It's her fault that Chat Noir met an untimely death, and there is no forgiving that."

"Okay, time for a timeout." Rikku grabs the arguing kwami by the arms and flies away, despite the protesting teenagers below her.

"Caleo?" Chat looks to the girl, a question in his eyes.

"Don't look at me, I didn't learn about the lives of past Ladybugs and Chat Noirs."

"That's because it is not your place." Rikku sighs as she flies back to the group. "The lives of Ladybug and Chat Noir are harder than you know, Caleo. As I'm sure they can confirm."

"What did Plagg mean?" Ladybug asks. "Did this Molly girl really kill her Chat Noir?"

"Ladybug, please just let it go for now."

"But I've-"

"I know." The kwami cuts her off. "It's not what you're thinking of, I promise. Plagg would never hold that incident against Tikki. They'll be fine, this fight happens from time to time. And I'm sure they will tell you when they think the time is right."

"...What about you?" Ladybug's voice trembles.

"Hm?"

"Do you believe Molly killed her Chat Noir?"

"Ladybug…" Chat takes her hand in his, giving it a squeeze.

"Please Rikku."

The Kwami let's out a long sigh, "I believe that you humans are complicated creatures. You are always growing and learning."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"Ladybug, you don't need to hear this." Caleo slides herself so she's sitting next to Ladybug and wraps an arm around her. "It's not important."

"It is to me." Ladybug whispers. "Rikku, I need to know."

Rikku flies in a few slow circles, contemplating her thoughts. "Molly...If I'm being honest, I don't think she should have been chosen as Ladybug. She clearly wasn't right for the job."

"Rikku." Ladybug snaps. "Stop avoiding the question and just give me an answer."

"I'm trying, but I don't know Ladybug. Really, I don't." Rikku admits with a helpless shrug. "Ultimately, Micah made the decision, but…"

"But?"

Rikku lets out another sigh, closing her eyes. "But Molly was the one who pushed him to it." When her eyes open again, their shining with tears. "What you need to understand is that you humans...some of your societies are far behind our kind. The Kwami have been around for thousands of years, we've had time to learn and adapt. But your world...it can be cruel. Molly was a product of her time and Micah was a victim of his. That Molly was not able to rise above this, is why I say she should not have been chosen. Ultimately if Molly had been better, Micah wouldn't have died."

"So you do blame her."

"It's not that simple." Rikku shakes her head. "You humans see the world in black and white, when really it's nothing but shades of grey. I blame society, blame the humans who even now are so small minded that a boy like Micah was pushed to the brink. Who pushed him so far that he only found happiness and acceptance from behind a mask. I hold both Molly and Micah responsible for what happened. Micah was selfish and Molly was cruel. Yet both thought they were doing the right thing."

"What happened to them?"

"It is not my place to answer that. If you can't piece it together from your memories, then you must wait for Plagg and Tikki to discuss it when they are ready." Rikku gives each of the chosen a stern glance, "Do not push the issue. Both of them were scared by what happened. Plagg had never lost a Chat Noir that way, and Tikki...she was forced to take the Miraculous from her chosen for the first time."

"I think I understand why you hated humans so much." Caleo quietly states.

"The cruelty of this world is what corrupted my Nooroo; I still hold a grudge for that. You three give me hope, I pray that you do not become corrupted as well."


As the school day slowly drags on, Adrien finds himself regretting making the bet with Ladybug more and more. He'd hoped it'd give him a push to finally say something to Marinette, but everytime he tried to talk to her something came up.

Adrien is silently admitting defeat when he spots Nathaniel talking with a tall blond who's definitely too old to attend Lycee. When blue-ish grey eyes meet Adrien's, he places the face to a name.

"Are you ever going to stop being a doormat for your father?"

Adrien looks up from from the book he'd been reading. He'd only spoken with his fellow model a few times, but Adrien and Felix don't exactly get along. "I respect my father and want to make him happy."

"By being a doormat."

"I'm not a doormat." Adrien scowls. "I, unlike you, happen to have respect for my elders. And I, unlike you, care what other people think about me."

"But I, unlike you am not a doormat." Felix smirks. "When you're done being your father's doormat, you should let me know. We can hang out; I'd like to get to know you better."

"Why would you want to know me?" Adrien asks in surprise.

"I'll tell you next time." Felix smirks and walks away with his hand in his pocket.

There isn't a next time though. A short time later, Adrien gets informed that Felix quit modeling. For some reason, hearing this made Adrien hate Felix even more.

"What are you doing here, Felix?" Adrien asks coldly.

"Well hello to you too." Felix smirks, patting Nathaniel's shoulder. "If you must know, I came to visit Nathaniel here."

"You two know each other?"

"Felix is the co-author of More Than a Mask." Nathaniel explains.

"Felix is the co-author you keep going on about?" Adrien's voice holds disbelief. Felix, a writer? That image doesn't fit.

"Careful, I might think you don't like me." Felix feigns a hurt expression. "I've been following the Ladyblog for a while, and when I saw that Nathaniel was looking for help I offered my services."

"Alya's blog is really getting popular if you've been reading it." Adrien mutters.

"She should be proud, not everybody gets to watch real life superheroes in action. I'm hoping I'll get to see the famous Chat Noir and Ladybug in action while I'm here."

"How long will you be staying, by the way?" Nathanael asks.

"I'll probably stick around for a couple of months."

"Can you do that?"

"The perk of my job is that I can do it from almost anywhere." Felix smiles. "As long as I'm still turning in work, my editor doesn't care. Actually, he might be happy I'm here if I can get an interview with the resident heroes."

'Yeah, that's not going to happen.'

"Anyways, we'd better get going. Your mom won't be happy with us if we're late. I'll see you around, Adrien. That is, your father will let you out of the house. I remember quite clearly how...protective he was. Maybe if you've learned to stand up to him the three of us can hang out sometime."

Felix laughs at Adrien's scowl and wraps his arm around Nathaniel's shoulder, causing his shirt to ride up slightly. Adrien catches a glimpse of a sea-green belt buckle but before he can get a better look, Felix turns around and walks off with Nathaniel.

"Who was that?"

The sudden appearance of Alix makes Adrien jump. "Felix, he's Nathaniel's co-author."

"Felix...huh. What is he doing here?"

Adrien shrugs, "Helping Nathaniel with the comic, I guess? He said he came to surprise Nathaniel."

"I see." Alix chews on the inside of her cheek for a moment, lost in thought. "Take a walk with me."

"What?"

"Take a walk with me." She repeats, a hand on her hip. "We can get smoothies or something and talk. I feel bad for letting you completely bomb today."

The back of Adrien's neck heats up, "W-what do you mean?"

"There's no point trying to hide it. I know what you were trying to ask Marinette all day."

"O-oh. Was I being that obvious?"

"No, I've just been keeping my eye on you so I could step in if you need some help. And boy do you need help." Alix slips her arm around Adrien's and starts pulling him down the sidewalk. "I want to help you. So let's take a walk and create a battle plan."

"Why are you so willing to help me?" Adrien questions. "Not that I don't appreciate it. I know we're friends but…"

"Marinette makes you happy, that's enough isn't it?" Alix fires back, a soft smile forming. "We could be hit by a bus and die tomorrow, so we have to jump on the happy moments while we can."

"That's a bit morbid."

"But it's also true. We don't know what tomorrow will hold so we have to enjoy today while it lasts. I want you to find happiness before you run out of tomorrows."

Chapter Text

Cinderella-esque? Anita called my story Cinderella-esque? Please, my life was no such fairytale.

I grew up an orphan much like Cinderella and yes I was often mistreated, but I wasn't saved by a handsome prince-though I'm not opposed to the idea of it. That's just not how things played out. You could say I was saved, but only so I could be used by my saviour.

I'm sure I've lost you by now, so let me start from the beginning.

My parents died in a car accident when I was a three years old. They say it's a miracle that I survived, I blame fate. I had a destiny that needed to be fulfilled so I couldn't die that day.

After that I was passed between foster homes and group homes, never finding a place to land. I wasn't happy, and I wasn't one to hide that fact.

I was thirteen when I first met the Keeper. Of course I didn't know who she was back then. At that time, she wanted me to be a model. Said she saw potential in my future and wanted to invest in it. While I didn't have any interest in modeling, the promise of admission to a boarding school sold me. I knew by then that was the closest I would get to being out of the system. Outside of my work with the company, I didn't see her for over five years. And when she did show up, it wasn't anything I had been expecting.

"Me, a Miraculous Holder? A hero?" I scoff. "Please, I'm no hero."

"Not now, but you can be. Daxx is has chosen you, you can not fight this." Alice replies calmly. "We have known you would be the one to Cer for years."

"Is that why you wanted me to work with you?"

"It was easier to keep track of you that way, yes."

"And the adoption?" This surprises Alice. "Yeah, I know you adopted me. Does my 'brother'?"

"It is not something we have discussed with him."

"Why bother with it then?" I demand.

"We wanted you well educated and that was made easier by the adoption. It gave us control of your well being." She doesn't sound remotely ashamed for screwing with my life.

"So what, you did all of this to control me? To make me your perfect little warrior?"

"Felix, please." Daxx appeals to me. "No matter how you may feel about the Keeper, you must accept me. The world needs the Miraculous heroes. Ladybug and Chat Noir are young, they will need guidance when the time comes. Do not think of it of partnering with her, but with me. I have wanted you since the day I first saw you. I have wanted you just as you are."

"Okay, I'll try." I concede. "Don't expect much, I'm not hero material."

"I have never wanted more than you are willing to give." Daxx's small cheek rubs against mine, "I will always love you as you are."

It was shortly after that meeting that I learned of Alice's 'disappearance'. I realized there was nothing that wouldn't do for what she deemed the greater good. Sure, she messed with my life. But she abandoned her son. My brother.

Adrien started modeling for the company a few months later. It was the first time I was officially meeting my 'brother'. I wanted to ask him, ask if he knew the truth behind Alice's disappearance. Daxx talked me out of it, said it was too dangerous. I never got a chance to know him before I quit modeling for good. He is the only regret I have about leaving the company.

It was almost two years ago now that I was given a job to do by the letter that appeared out of thin air. The contents of that thing made me shake with horror.

I know you have your worry about Ladybug and Chat Noir because they are so young. And I know this won't lessen that worry, but it's important that you know.

Adrien is Chat Noir.

I'd had my suspicions, but this confirms it. Alice truly is cruel.

I didn't learn of your relations to Adrien until many years after we met. This knowledge brings me greater regret of my failure.

I didn't even know Timekeeper existed, but she chose me to write anyways.

Your brother killed himself because I wasn't strong enough.

She asked me to help prevent it and for a favor. I took up the job without thinking twice. If it meant saving Adrien, I would go to paris whether the Keeper liked it or not.

I have no right to ask anything of you, but this isn't just for me.

The boy Timekeeper believes is her destiny, is the one I'm desperately in love with. By fulfilling her request, I'll be breaking my own heart.

A dark corner of my mind told me I didn't have to listen. I could use my future knowledge against her. But I couldn't do it. Couldn't be that selfish. Even if I did keep them apart, there's no guarantee he'd love me. No, it was better to smash my own heart to pieces and let him find his happily ever after with the girl who willingly gave up her life so he could have a better future.

Yes, she loves him. Perhaps more than I ever could. With a promise to myself that I would smash my feelings down and support her however I could. With this decision in mind, I paid a visit to the girls during one of their late night meetings.

The two girls whip around in alarm, but instantly relax when their eyes find me.

"So, you're here already." Volpina smiles.

"The Keeper wants us all here. The final battle is coming after all." I shrug.

"I'm surprised you came without a fuss." Timekeeper admits.

"You're the reason I didn't fight it."

"What? I've never talked to you before now."

"Hm, I guess you decided to keep it a secret." I smile, reaching into the bag that hangs from my shoulder.

"Keep what a secret?" Timekeeper asks, frowning slightly.

"The fact that you sent me a letter too." I pull out a slightly bent envelope with my name and age written on the front. "Recognize this? You should have gotten one just like it."

"I sent you one too?" Timekeeper gapes. "How….why would I do that? When did you get that letter?"

"What is that?" Volpina asks.

"I'll explain later." Timekeeper mutters.

"Over a year ago. As for the why, you know me. I wasn't particularly fond of Ladybug and Chat Noir. I thought they were children who should not have been chosen as the newest holders."

"Yeah, I know your view on that." The girl nods. "You think only adults are mature enough to hold the responsibility."

"I think it's irresponsible to let children fight this battle." I correct.

"Then why did you come? What in that letter changed your mind?"

"For one, Chat Noir's story. Apparently we ended up bonding over our common pasts. I understand why, and I want to help him. Secondly, I started getting memories from the Miraculous holder before me. They survived the explosion, just barely. They ended up dying, but not before I heard Genbu crying for his daughter. I don't want to hear those same cries from Chat Noir. That kid has had a tough enough life, he doesn't need to lose the girl he loves. And then there's you."

"Me?" Timekeeper asks in surprise. "What do I have to do with your decision?"

"Quite a bit actually. See, you seemed to think you wouldn't listen to the letter. Not fully anyways. You wanted me here to keep you in line."

"Keep me in...I..that's ridiculous."

"And quite accurate, I'm sure." I smirk, knowing I'm right. Looks like I might have my work cut out for me on both sides. "You feel that you owe your future husband a great debt, one you want me to help make sure you repay."

"...I….what?"

"Let me see if I'm following this correctly." Volpina chuckles. "You're going to play matchmaker between Timekeeper's civilian identity and some guy?"

"Amongst other things. I have non-superhero related reasons to be here."

"But I'm your main priority?"

I smirk. "That's right. I'm sacrificing my own feelings in this endeavor so you better be a good girl and start listening to your future self."

"Woah, woah. Back up! Future self? Timekeeper sent a letter from the future?" I nod. "Uptight, no fooling around, by the book Timekeeper broke the rules?"

"There's...I had...will have...look, it's complicated okay?" Timekeeper snaps, her cheeks red.

"It's probably not a good idea to explain everything, Volpina." I sigh, running a hand through my hair. "Some bad things could possibly happen and Timekeeper seventy years in the future gave her life to change them."

"What things?" The fox demands.

"It's too risky to tell you Volpina." Timekeeper supplies. "At least for now. Just trust us when we say, it's worth the risk."

"You getting a boyfriend is worth the risk?"

"Hey, be nice to Timekeeper," I cut in, "she had no knowledge of the other letters until now."

"Yeah I-wait, did you say 'letters' with an S? Plural?" Timekeeper gapes. "I sent someone else one?"

"Whoops."

"Whoops my ass." Timekeeper growls. "Who has it? Who are you behind that mask?"

Timekeeper's cute when she's agitated. If she wasn't already destined for someone else, I might be interested.

"Those my dear, are secrets I'll be keeping for now."

"Oh no. You don't get to drop a bomb like that and not explain."

I can't help but laugh at this, because what can she do without my identity? She had no knowledge of what I know.

"You want answers? Then come find me." I challenge, knowing full well she won't anytime soon. She's too blind. "Find my civilian self and you'll get the answers your looking for."

"We can always ask Master Fu." Volpina objects. "He knows who you are."

"You think so do you?" I raise my eyebrows, tilting my head to one side. "By all means, feel free to test that theory. In the meantime, I'll be watching from the shadows and do my job as 'matchmaker' as Volpina so eloquently put it."


Papillon is not happy with Timekeeper.

Timekeeper has gotten in his way in the past, but why has he suddenly decided she needs to be eliminated? Why is he willing to come out into the open to do so?

I don't have answers to these questions, but I'm sure as hell not going to let him succeed. Adrien and Marinette need Timekeeper alive in order to survive the battle that's to come. Hell, I'm doing this for myself too. I've sacrificed too much for her. I gave up on pursuing the one I love for her sake. There were times I hated it. Hated her for giving me this responsibility. For giving me this knowledge early. But I won't let her die. I can't do that to Adrien and Marinette. Or to him .

"It's not polite to attack a girl from behind." I tell Papillon in english. If he's going to play dirty, I'm certainly not going to make this easy for him.

"So, you've finally arrived as well." Papillon replies calmly. "You think your power is a match for mine?"

"Well I did just stop your attack with my fan." I hold my hand out to the side, summoning my weapon back to my hand. "Let's make one thing clear, Papillon "

His face is passive, I can't tell if he understands everything I'm saying or not. I need to make sure he understands me, time to switch back to french I suppose.

"The only reason I'm not going to try to kill you right here, right now, is your son." I growl. "He deserves better parents that what fate gave him, but you two are the ones he wants. No matter how much he hates you, he doesn't want you dead. Your life is being spared for his sake."

"I'm doing this for my son." Papillon snaps. "You could never understand."

"You tried to turn your son into a monster!" I shout. "You've betrayed him on the highest level possible. Try turning him again. Try laying a hand on this girl," I gesture to where Timekeeper lays, slowly stirring back to consciousness, "And I won't let my personal feelings intervene. You bring harm to either of them again, and I will end you."

I draw my arm back and swing my fan forward. Rain and wind whips past me to hit Papillon. It's a weak attack, a simple warning, but it's enough to get my point across.

When the wind dies, Papillon is gone.

I may hate the role I have been given.

But I will protect them all so they can live out their destinies.

Chapter Text

Papillon sits in his lair across from a young girl, a chess table between them.

"I think it's time we change tactics." The girl says as she moves a pawn. "By sacrificing a pawn, we can get a better prize. A Lady is much better than a gamer."

"As you wish my queen." Papillon nods, moving a piece of his own. "Now that we have the girl, getting the one you seek will be easy."

"For this to work, I must know. How much are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? Would you for instance, give me the knight?"

"You want Adrien?"

"He has the potential to be a great villain. All it would take is the disappearance of his princess."

"Absolutely not."

The queen tilts her head in question, "Are you opposed to giving me Adrien, or the girl?"

"The girl." Papillon replies. "I will not take her from Adrien."

"Hmm...I suppose doing to him the exact thing you've been fighting so hard to fix would be too cruel. We can always take another pawn, combined with the other it should be enough to push him over the edge. Adrien sits on the edge of turning, we simply need to blow the wind in our favor."

"When will you take them?"

"At the point when he's most secure. He will have a mighty fall, trust me."

"I have full faith in your skills. After all, they're the reason I've kept you at my side for longer any other, Carabosse."


Adrien can't help but smile as he watches Alix as she sits across from him texting. He's not sure he's ever seen Alix smile like this before, it reminded him of...well, himself when he sees Marinette. It must have been sparked by something that got snuck into her text book, because one minute she was opening it to study with him and the next she suddenly said she had an urgent message.

"Why don't we go to prom as a group?" Alix suggests finally looking up from her text.

"Are you going with someone to prom?" Adrien asks, was that what the texting was about?

"It would seem so. Alya and Nino will be going together, obviously, so you could use us as an excuse. It might make asking her less awkward."

"I didn't think Adrien Agreste ever felt awkward."

Adrien turns in his seat, a scowl on his face. "What are you doing here Felix?"

"I was passing by and saw you guys, figured I'd come say hello." Felix explains, "It's funny that you guys were talking about prom because Nathaniel and I were just talking about it earlier."

"Most people our age are this time of year." Alix points out.

"True true, so am I right in guessing you're having trouble asking Marinette?"

"How do you know about her?" Adrien's face reddens.

"I'm friends with Nathaniel. Honestly, you're over complicating this." Felix reaches out and takes Adrien's phone that's laying on the table. He quickly sends a text before Adrien manages to take the phone back.

"What did you just do?"

"I solved your problem for you. Don't worry lover boy, she'll say yes." Felix smirks, "You can thank me later. Be sure to let me know how it goes."

"What is with that guy?" Alix asks when Felix is out of earshot.

"Felix has always been a bit….weird." Adrien explains, "I just hope Marinette doesn't get weirded out."

"I wouldn't worry, you going to check that or would you like me to?"

"I"ve got it."

[Sure! Sounds like fun!]

"So….what's her answer?" Alix leans forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the phone.

"She said yes." Adrien mutters, his heart pounding.

"Great, I'll let the others know then."

"Who are you going with anyways?"

"You'll have to wait and see," Alix teases.


[We need to talk. Now.]

When the Chat Noir phone chimed, Adrien had expected a message from Ladybug or Caleo asking to switch patrols. But it was Marinette instead.

[Are you okay?]

[No.]

A quick explanation to Plagg and he was running across the rooftops as Chat Noir. He'd given Marinette the number to make himself more accessible to her in the wake of what happened to Manon, but he hadn't really expected her use it.

Per her instruction, Chat Noir drops into Marinette's room without stopping to knock. The sight that meets him makes Chat freeze. Marinette's room is a disaster area, drawers pulled out, boxes turned over, very unlike Marinette. Chat jumps over the railing to land next to where Marinette is crouched, muttering to herself.

"Marinette, what's wrong? What happened here?"

Marinette looks up at him, her cheeks stained with tears, "They're gone. T-the dolls I made for Manon to play with, they're all gone."

"Dolls, do you mean the one she used to,,," If Anita's hunch is right, this is very bad.

Marinette nods. "I was going to give them to you o-or Ladybug so they couldn't be used if Manon got akumatized again."

So Anita had told Marinette that theory too.

"But they're gone, including the ones of you and Ladybug. I'm so sorry Chat. I should have realized sooner."

"Shh, this isn't your fault." Chat pulls Marinette into a tight embrace. "It's going to be okay. We'll figure something out. We have Caleo now, Manon won't be able to control her."

"Chat, I'm scared." Marinette's voice cracks.

"I know, so am I if I'm honest. But Ladybug and I always manage to think of something."

"He was here. Chat," Marinette pulls away to look up at the hero, "Papillon was in my room. I've been keeping that trap door locked, but he managed to get in here somehow. What would he have done to me if I had walked in? Or my parents?"

"You'll drive yourself insane wondering about that, all that matters is that you're safe." Chat presses his forehead against Marinette's. "I`m not going to let Papillon hurt you. I promise."

"Don't make promises you can't keep."

"I never do." Chat smiles, "Now let's get this room cleaned up and get you to bed princess."

 

 

"Chat?" Marinette's sleepy voice stops Chat as he's leaving.

"Yes, Princess?" Chat kneels down next to Marinette on the bed.

"Will you stay until I fall asleep? I don't want to be alone."

With the idea of Papillon creeping around her room, Chat doesn't blame her.

"Sure, I've got no where else to be."

Chat lays next to Marinette, taking her hand in his own. Marinette mutters a sleepy thanks, her eyelids falling shut. Without much thought, Chat starts humming his mother's lullaby. It worked before after all.

"Pretty." Marinette mutters softly.

When her breathing has evened out and Chat is sure she's asleep, he leans over and presses a kiss to her temple. "I won't let anything happen to you, Marinette. I'll keep you safe no matter what it takes.

Chapter Text

Adrien finally made a move, and Anita had to hear about it via text from Alix? She is so going to get on Adrien's case about this.

"Drop the attitude and be honest with me, why do you hate her so much?"

Anita pauses just short of knocking on Adrien's door. He must be talking to Chloe, the 'her' quite clearly is Marinette.

"I thought after what I told you, you'd at least be civil with her."

What he told her? What exactly did Adrien...augh! She shouldn't be listening in, it's wrong. Anita should just walk away now and pretend she never heard anything.

"I have been." Chloe retorts.

"Really? Because the past few days you've been worse than ever before."

"That's...that's because…"

"Because what?"

Yep. Yep, definitely time to get away. Anita starts to quietly walk away, but stops at the sound of Chloe's voice.

"Because she's taking you away from me!" She sounds….upset. Genuinely upset.

Anita has never spent much time with Chloe, but the girl never came across as the type to be honest and vulnerable.

"It's always Marinette needs this and Marinette needs that. You never make time for me anymore. Even on the anniversary you blew me off because of her."

Anniversary? Anita will have to ask Adrien about that later.

"That's not fair Chloe," Adrien protests, "she's having a hard time right now."

"And I'm not?"Chloe snaps, "You know how hard that day is for me. I needed you."

"It's been years Chloe."

"Is it any easier for you after all these years?" When Adrien doesn't answer Chloe adds, "That's what I thought."

"...I'm sorry, Chloe. I just thought…"

"That Marinette needed you more?" Chloe supplies, "I'm getting used to that."

"Marinette really did need me that day."

"So. Did. I."

Anita really shouldn't be listening to this, especially because she's starting to side with Chloe. Suddenly, the weight of someone's hand is on her shoulder.

Crap.

"I believe this isn't a conversation for others ears." Nathalie. Double crap. "Why don't you come with me? I have something I want to discuss with you."

Unsure of what else she can do, Anita nods, letting Nathalie's hand slowly guide her away from the door and down the hall. Nathalie remains quiet as they walk, all the while her hand keeping its steady grip on Anita's shoulder.

Nathalie guides her into a room that Anita and Adrien once played in, but now sits empty save for a few boxes and mats.

"Being guardian of Adrien's secrets doesn't mean you can eavesdrop on his conversations as you please." Nathalie chastises. "As Volpina, I expect much more maturity from you."

Nathalie smirks as Anita's eyes widen. "You...you know?"

"Yes, I do. I know about Adrien as well."

"Wha-How?" Anita demands.

"The same way you found out, his mother told me."

"Why would she tell you? You can't be a miraculous holder."

"Indeed I can't, but I have much to offer you. There is a reason Gabriel and Alice trusted Adrien with me even when his bodyguard wasn't around." Nathalie smirks, "In fact, I predate his bodyguard."

"Were you a past miraculous holder then? I can't see how else you could-" Anita cuts off, letting out a yelp of surprise. In the blink of an eye, Nathalie had pinned her to the mat they'd been standing on. "What the hell, Nathalie? Just who are you?"

"You asked a question, I'm answering it. I am more than capable of protecting Adrien, and even with your enhanced strength I can match you in a fight. I have skills that can only be developed from years of experience. My purpose is to protect Adrien, and the way I see it the best way to do that is to make sure those around him have the skills to keep him alive."

Nathalie's expression is harsh, but there's a fire in her eyes like Anita's never seen before.

"Who am I? I'm someone who got hurt and vowed to never let it happen again."


"Ladybug, thank you so much for coming." The nurse smiles as the hero walks up.

"I'm sorry I'm late, I got delayed."

Translation: She spent too long freaking out with Alya over skype about what happened earlier in the afternoon. Adrien had asked her to prom. Well, technically someone had sent the text for Adrien, but he was planning on asking her anyways….so it technically counts as Adrien asking her. As excited as she is, Marinette can't help but wonder one thing: does this mean she lost the bet? She'll have to wait until the joint patrol to find out.

"Of course, I understand. After all, under that mask is a hard working girl." The nurse gestures for Ladybug to follow her, "The kids will be so happy you came they won't care that you're a little late."

"Caleo is here, right?"

"Yes, she arrived a little while ago. She's a big hit, the kids love her. She's such a sweet child, all of you are. It means so much to all of us here that you go out of your way to help the city outside of akuma attacks."

"We feel it's important to do things like this. Our job is to bring hope to the citizens of Paris, in ways besides fighting the akuma." Ladybug explains, a small smile forming on her lips.

"Well all of us here certainly hope that even after you've defeated Papillon you'll still come visit the kids."

"Of course. I love making the kids hap-"

"Ladybug!" The kids cheer as the hero enters the playroom and run over to hug her.

"Okay kids, now that Ladybug is here it's story time," Caleo announces, "But you have to come sit on the story rug before we can start."

Later, after tales of their adventures had been told, casts signed, and pictures taken, Caleo and Ladybug wave their goodbyes.

"That was more exhausting than I anticipated." Caleo sighs.

"It can be tiring, but our visits make them so happy." Ladybug shrugs. "They're smiles makes it all worth it, you know?

"Yeah. Hey, Ladybug? Do you know who these kids are?" Caleo asks, looking in through the glass wall of a room where 12 kids lay sleeping.

The room is littered with flowers and get well cards. The walls covered with pictures and drawings. Some of the beds even have personal blankets.

"They're…..a sad story." Ladybug presses her hand against the glass. "Chat and I were wondering if we should tell you, we weren't sure if it was a good idea because there's nothing you can do for these kids. Nothing any of us can do."

"What do you mean? Are they seriously ill?"

Ladybug's yoyo rings as she opens her mouth to answer. "Hold on. Hey Chat."

"I'm sorry I'm late, have you already started with the kids?"

"It's okay Chat. We're actually done but I'm going to take Caleo to see Astrid, could you meet us there?"

"Are you sure you want to tell Caleo about her?"

"...No, but I think we owe it to her."

"She saw the others, didn't she?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. Then let's go visit Astrid. I'll bring the flowers this time."

Ladybug closes her yoyo and looks back up at Caleo, "Follow me."


They're all coming together, but will they be enough? Will they be ready in time? Will they survive? This, and so much more, runs through Nathalie's head on a loop. Her time with Anita did nothing to ease her worry.

"Can I help you with something?" An elderly voice asks.

Nathalie turns to face shop owner. "Master Fu, I must admit you are different than I imagined."

Master Fu smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "Yes, I'm often told that. You are Adrien's care taker are you not?"

"In a matter of speaking."

"Has something happened to him? Is that why you have come to me?"

"Adrien is perfectly fine." Nathalie allows her gaze to wander around the shop, "I wondered for a while, why Adrien would visit this place from time to time. Then I realized, it must be because you're like him."

"Adrien and I indeed have much in common, he is good company." Master Fu nods, his face giving nothing away.

"You gave that phoenix girl, Caleo, her miraculous did you not?"

"You are quite knowledgeable. Tell me, just how much do you know?"

"Everything I need to." Nathalie lets her eyes fall back on Master Fu. "Alice wouldn't leave Adrien in the hands of someone uninformed after all."

"I see."

"If you're upset that she didn't tell you about me, don't be. Alice doesn't like to share secrets. She may be the Keeper, but she doesn't fully understand what the job entails."

"You, a mere outsider feel you have the right to criticize the Keeper?" Master Fu challenges.

"It is because I am an outsider, that I have the right. I am not blinded by the loyalty of the Miraculous."

"Why have you come here, Nathalie?"

"I have a favor to ask. One I know Alice won't like, and will not fulfill."

"But you think I will?" Master Fu questions, eyebrows raising.

"You have a better understanding of this world than Alice." Nathalie explains, "I believe you are more level headed. I would do it myself, but I do not have the authority to do so."

"What is it you want me to do?"

"Please, take the Miraculous away from Adrien."


Chat is kneeling to place a small bouquet of pink carnations on the grave when Ladybug and Caleo arrive. Caleo lets out an audible gasp of surprise behind him.

"Not what you were expecting?" He asks, pushing up from the ground and turning to face them.

"Um..I...no. Not at all." She admits shakely, "How is she connected…"

"She was in the same class as the sleeping kids from the hospital." Ladybug explains, "The same thing that happened to the kids, happened to her."

"What did happen to them? What's wrong with them?"

"Nothing's wrong with them, that's the problem." Chat sighs, running a hand through his hair. "There's no explanation for why they're comatose, yet they are. Astrid...she was the only one who woke up."

"When they were running tests on the kids, they discovered her illness and started treatment right away. This...this thing that happened to them gave her a few more months with her family."

"Do you know why she woke up?"

Chat shakes her head, ""When they were running tests on the kids, they discovered that she was ill. A few days after the treatment started she just woke up, the doctors couldn't find an explanation for it.. We thought maybe it was akuma related, so we went to visit her but she didn't remember anything. Without any other instances, coupled with the fact that they don't wake up after Miraculous cures, we figured there was no way it could be an akuma. We went to see her everyday until she died, hoping she'd remember something but she never did."

"It makes me feel sick to think about." Ladybug wraps her arms around herself. "Astrid was a big fan. After she died, her mother kept thanking us for making her daughter so happy. Said we were so amazing for taking the time to come. We didn't deserve any of it. Our sole interest was gaining information on what happened."

"How long have they been asleep?" Caleo asks, voice shaking slightly.

"...Almost a year."

"What you're feeling now is why we didn't tell you." Ladybug sighs, walking over to Caleo to wrap an arm around the girl's shoulder. "We have these amazing abilities, but we're powerless to help those kids."


"Marinette made the scarf?"

"Yes. I am sorry it took so long for me to tell you this, I needed to speak with her first." Nathalie explains. "Initially she told me not to say, since it was a gift from your father after all she didn't need to be mentioned. I needed to get permission from her before I could disclose that information to you."

"I see…" Adrien mutters, feeling dizzy. Marinette made the scarf he got for his birthday. The scarf that matched the one ladybug made him. The one ladybug made herself, which means….

"There is one other thing." Nathalie cuts through his thoughts. "You may want to sit down for this Adrien."

"Nathalie, that is enough." Gabriel's voice comes from the doorway. "I will tell Adrien myself."

"I understand sir. I will excuse myself then." Nathalie silently leaves the room, closing the door behind her.

"Adrien, I'm afraid I have bad news."

Bad news. Bad news Gabriel won't let Nathalie tell him. The last time Gabriel insisted on breaking news to Adrien, his mother had disappeared.

"There was another disappearance. It will be all over the news and social media in a matter of hours. I don't wish for you to find out that way."

Panic flowing through him, Adrien asks, "Where's Anita?"

"She's at her flute lessons, she's safe." Gabriel assures him. "Adrien, it's Chloe."

"What?"

"It seems she was taken shortly after school." Gabriel explains. "According to her father, she parted ways with Sabrina a few blocks from their hotel but she never made it home."

Another previous victim. The pattern is holding.

"I'm going to do everything I can to help find her." Gabriel promises, squeezing Adrien's shoulders. "I'm going to get her back, you have my word."

"What good is that?" Adrien glares up at his father. "What good is your word?"

"Adrien-"

"You promised to find mother!" Adrien snaps, "It's been four years and you still haven't found her. You've given up on her!"

Adrien turns on his heels and runs from the room. He doesn't stop running until he's reached his room and slammed the door behind him.

"That was low Adrien." Plagg flies out. "You know very well that if the Keeper wishes it, no mere human would be able to find her."

"I don't care." Adrien states.

Adrien notices a picture frame on his desk that wasn't there before. He crosses the room to the desk and picks it up. A note it stuck to it.

Thought you might like to have this.

~Nathalie

Removing the sticky note reveals a picture of Adrien smiling as he's embraced by his mother.

"My mother is gone, Chloe is gone, Marinette is Ladybug-who is in love with someone else."

"Stop being so dramatic." Plagg rolls his eyes, "If you stopped to think-"

"She's in love with someone else Plagg, she told me to my face!"

"Yes but-"

"I hate this, I hate all of this."

Adrien glares down at the picture and Plagg wonders if Adrien's finally going to shout the words that have been brewing a storm in his heart.

Instead, Adrien lets out a scream and throws the picture at the wall. The glass smashed on impact and scatters onto the floor.

"Adrien!" Plagg turns to find his chosen is gone.


"Damn it, damn it, damn it!" Timekeeper shouts as she flies through the rain. "How could I let myself fall asleep on such an important night?! If Papillon gets his hands on Adrien we're in serious trouble."

She lands in front of him just before the butterfly can infect him, using her powers just in time to stop it.

"Thank goodness I got here in time." She lets out a sigh of relief. "Now to deal with you. Hopefully this works."

Timekeeper taps her shield, making it slide apart in the middle to reveal a light. She shines the light over the butterfly, only pulling away when the light faded. The butterfly is once again a plain white. She taps the shield again and it closes.

"Impressive. You're growing well."

Timekeeper whips around, coming face to face with a smiling Plagg.

"You should be frozen." Timekeeper protests. "I froze the time for everything around here, I'm sure of it."

"Sorry kid, but us kwami are much harder to effect when we're not in the miraculous."

"I see….and you know who I am?" Timekeeper asks.

"Of course I do, I've seen many Timekeepers come and go in my time. You are doing well. You have my thanks for stopping Adrien from being turned."

"Can you tell me what caused this? Even with everything that's going on, Adrien's seemed safe from attack."

"Mostly he's being an idiot." Plagg sighs. "I'll talk with him. I can tell you're running low on power, so you better go."

"Right." Timekeeper nods, "You look after Adrien, I don't want to have to come running to save him again."

"Speaking of which, meet me on top of the Agreste Manor at midnight." Plagg order. "I know your powers, I know their extent. There is no way you should have been able to save Adrien and you will tell me how you knew this was going to happen."

"I promise, I'll tell you everything when we meet." She's been caught, no use trying to hide it. Besides, maybe Plagg will be able to help her.

Timekeeper skates out of Adrien's eye sight before unfreezing time.

"Now, time to get home and dry off. Stupid rain."

She starts towards home, only making it a few feet before something hits her from behind and sends her flying.

"You've been a thorn in my side for far too long."

"P-Papillon…" She mutters, her vision blurring.

"It's time I eliminated you."

A second blow doesn't come. Instead,

"It's not polite to attack a girl from behind."

English? Could it be….

She blacks out before she can hear anymore.


"He fell without our interference, interesting." Carabosse smirks. "He's an interesting one, that knight." She picks up a chess piece and moves it. "I can't take the princess, but perhaps I can do her harm. A knight like him would certainly be furious if she was hurt in anyway."

Carabosse sighs and flies to the window. "Though I doubt Papillon will truly let me hurt her. If I go rogue, who knows what he'll do to me. So perhaps instead, I can take her Rook and watch her fall into delicious despair."

Chapter Text

"You really are an idiot. Do you ever use your brain?"

"I'm not in the mood, Plagg."

"Neither am I, but my idiot chosen is putting himself at risk." Plagg scowls. "Contrary to what you might think, the miraculous make it harder to be akumatized, not impossible. Keep raging like this and Papillon will come after you."

"But-"

"Not done." Plagg cuts Adrien off. "Since it seems you need a reminder, Marinette doesn't know that you're Chat Noir. Meaning the other boy she's head-over-heels for could be you. "

Plagg knows Adrien is, the boy is just too blind to see it.

"...Oh."

"I know you having a hard time, but we cannot let Papillon turn you. Especially now."

Timekeeper won't be able to pull that miracle twice. Even once had drained her more than she probably realizes.

Adrien nods, not meeting his kwami's eyes. Plagg sighs, a depressed Adrien isn't much better than a raging one.

"Why don't you go to the bakery? I bet Tom and Sabine would love to see you."


"Time…..keeper. Timekeeper."

"Where's….Papillon?" timekeeper asks, her vision slowly steadying.

"Gone, I took care of him." Cer assures her. "Why did he-"

"Timekeeper!" Another voice shouts.

"Damn it, Nathaniel! I told you to stay home."

"Nathaniel?" Timekeeper pushes herself up just as Nathaniel drops to his knees beside her.

"If you wanted me to stay away you shouldn't have told me that Timekeeper would be in trouble."

"How do you even know about Cer?"

"I told him." Cer answers. "I've told him pretty much everything, why wouldn't I?"

That explains a lot.

Timekeeper scowls. "So you're responsible for his knowledge. Do you have any idea how many rules you've broken?"

"I've never been a fan of playing by the rules." Cer smirks. "To be fair though, I didn't tell him about you. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that you're responsible for that tidbit. Are you hurt? Do I need to take you to the turtle?"

"I'm sore but otherwise fine."

"Alright, get yourself home and lay low for a while." Cer orders. "If Papillon is willing to personally attack you, we can't take any risks. Nathaniel, you get yourself home too."

"'Get yourself home', like he has any right to order me around." Timekeeper mutters as she flies down an empty side street. "Like I need him-"

'beep beep'

"Shit." Timekeeper lands just as her powers give out. "I knew that would use a lot of power, but I didn't think it would drain me. I guess that's why I was told not to try to reverse time. Now I have to walk home in the rain, joy"

A dizzy spell hits her and timekeeper stumbles. A warm hand grabs her arm to steady her.

"Whoa, careful."

"Nathaniel?"

How could he have gotten here so fast? Did Cer help him?

"You shouldn't be walking in the rain without an umbrella." Nathaniel chides. "You don't look so good, are you sick?"

"No, I'm fine. That's rude-" Nausea comes with the dizziness this time.

Nathaniel raises his hand to feel her forehead. "You're burning up! I'm getting you home."

"I haven't been out that long, I'm fine."

"You shouldn't have been out at all." Nathaniel's voice is unusually stern. "You're not some kind of invincible being, you get ill and break just like the rest of us. And it doesn't make you any less strong to admit it."

"Let yourself be a normal teenager. Even if it's just with one person."

Timekeeper lets her head fall against Nathaniel's shoulder. Maybe it's time she starts listening to her future self more.

"Nathaniel? Could you carry me? I feel weak."

"Sure."

She ends up being piggybacked, something she hadn't done since she was a child. She tells him this.

"Sometimes it's good to feel like a child. Being grown up isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"That's for sure." Timekeeper mutters, her eyes growing heavy.

From atop a tall building, a figure watches the streets below.

"There are consequences for messing with time. Are you prepared to face them, Timekeeper?"


Normally a teenager shoving away from the dinner table to sulk on the couch would be grounds for reprimanding. But Adrien is no normal teenager. He's a hero of Paris. Something he holds himself far too closely to. Adrien essentially throwing a tantrum made Plagg smile. Finally, finally he's letting go of the idea of being the perfect child. He's allowing himself to act like a normal teenager.

But still….it leaves Plagg with a heavy heart.

There are things Plagg should tell Adrien, things Adrien deserves to hear. But telling him now will do more harm than good. Adrien needs parental love and support, but he's not ready for it. Come on too strong, and they'll lose their chance. Humans are such weird creatures. If you are in desperate for love, why would you run away from it when it's being freely given? This reaction is something Plagg will possibly never understand, but that doesn't decrease the validity of it. Adrien is fragile, his trust broken. Something Plagg is sure Sabine and Tom picked up on.

Which is why Plagg hung back and, at Sabine's urging, Tom had made himself scarce after clearing the table.

"Does Marinette know?" Adrien isn't looking at her, preferring to stare out the window, but at least he's talking now.

"She does. Tom and I talked with her shortly after I told you that I know about you." Sabine explains, "And for the record, we told Marinette that she should reveal her identity to Chat Noir."

"Did you tell me to reveal myself because you knew?"

"It wasn't part of my conscious decision but I can't say for sure that it didn't play a part. But Adrien, I only encouraged it because I can tell it's hurting you to keep it from her. I thought, perhaps, you just needed someone to give you a push."

Sabine is good. Better, perhaps, than Adrien's mother ever was. Looking at her, Plagg can understand how a girl like Marinette came to be. Adrien needs Sabine, he needs a good mom. And she so badly wants him to see her that way. Plagg knows Adrien wants it too, but his fear is standing in his way. Being physically and emotionally abandoned by both your parents will do that to you.

"Father is going to be mad at me." Adrien sighs, finally looking at Sabine.

"You were upset, it's understandable. I think this has been coming for a long time, your father probably knows that." Okay, Sabine doesn't fully believe this but she refuses to speak ill of Adrien's father in front of him. "I informed him that you were here, and he said to bring you home whenever you're ready. He offered to have Nathalie bring an overnight bag if you want."

"It's better if I face father tonight. Besides I don't- I can't…"

Sabine place a hand on Adrien's shoulder to stop him. "I understand."

"Will….will come with me?" Adrien's voice is small, his eyes focus on the wall behind Sabine.

"Of course."

Yes, Sabine is exactly what Adrien needs.

Plagg can only pray that Adrien'll be ready to accept her love when everything comes to light.


When Sabine brings Adrien home, Gabriel is waiting for them on the stairs.

"Thank you for bringing my son home, Mrs. Dupain-Cheng. It's getting late Adrien, got to your room and prepare for bed."

Adrien mutters a good-bye to Sabine heads up the stairs. He's stopped by his father's hand. "I would like to speak with you when I am done here."

"Yes, Father." Adrien says and continues up the stairs to his room.

"Adrien is having a tough time, please don't be hard on him." Sabine says, her eyes on Adrien's closed bedroom door.

Gabriel sighs and joins Sabine at the bottom of the stairs. "This incident is partially my fault. I made a promise that brought up residual feelings for Adrien."

"Adrien mentioned that he said something he shouldn't have."

"No, he had every right." Gabriel shakes his head. "I understand where he was coming from. With the news about Chloe, I half expected something like this to happen. I dare say it's been a long time coming."

"Adrien keeps a lot inside," Sabine says, "he has put high expectations onto himself. I wonder why?"

"I can see where your daughter gets her daring from."

"You went to lengths most people wouldn't go to for Marinette. Which I am grateful for, but I think Adrien needs it more."

"He certainly does." Gabriel agrees, to Sabine's surprise. "Alice's disappearance created a rift between us. I've let it stand for far too long."

"Well, I should be going. Good-night Mr. Agreste."

Adrien sits on the edge of his bed with his head hung when Gabriel walks in.

"Had I known what Nathalie intended to do, I would have put a stop to it." Gabriel says, crossing the room to stand in front of Adrien. "I will speak with her to make sure this doesn't happen again. As for your actions this afternoon-"

"Father I-" Adrien tries to speak but Gabriel talks over him.

"I don't want an apology from you, Adrien. You should not apologize for speaking your honest feelings. I can't blame you for hating me. I had Nathalie frame another picture for you, it's much older but more suitable in my opinion." Gabriel sets the picture on the bed next to Adrien. "If you don't want it, you can give it to Nathalie or myself. Good night, Adrien."

"Father," Adrien calls, as Gabriel is leaving. "I don't hate you."

"Thank you, now get some rest."

After the door has clicked shut, Adrien picks up the photo. It's of him when he was 5 or 6 playing in the sandbox with a dark haired girl who looks to be the same age.

"You were cute back then, less annoying." Plagg teases.

"I wonder why picked this one? I don't even know who that girl is."


"Sit. Now." Plagg orders the moment Timekeeper's feet touch the down on the roof of the Agreste mansion.

"I'm fine-"

"You're at less than half power, despite having hours to rest. Sit." Timekeeper begrudgingly sits and looks at Plagg expectantly. "Now you're going to tell me how you were able to save Adrien."

"Over a year ago, I received a letter from my 87 year old self. It warned me of events that would be happening, and gave me a timeline to work with so I could do my best to stop them."

"What?" Plagg shouts, "That breaks one of your biggest rules! This is what you're giving me to work with?" Plagg shouts this up towards the sky, assuming that Alice is keeping a close eye. "A carefree Timekeeper who can't follow simple rules-"

"It was sent because I followed the rules!" Timekeeper cuts in. "I took them very seriously, insisting that nothing mattered more than my duty. I shoved that conviction onto the others as well. I purposely drove Marinette and Adrien apart on both sides of the mask."

Plagg scowls but remains quiet.

"I was convinced it was the right thing to do. But I-I fucked up." Timekeeper's visor slides up so she can wipe the tears that are falling from her eyes. "Marinette...she...Papillon killed her and Adrien he…."

"He killed himself." It's not a question.

"Yes on top of everything else, losing her was too much. I have to get stronger, I have to try to save her." She insists. "If I can't, because of the letter they got time to be happy. My future self gave up her life so they could have that chance."

"So what do we do to stop this?" Plagg asks, floating closer to Timekeeper. "How do we save them?"

"I expand my powers and hopefully stop the initial incident from happening."

"And if you can't?"

"Then you help Marinette fight the darkness. Help her fight the corruption Papillon will cause."

"Dive into a mind filled with darkness? That's suicidal."

"You think I don't know that?" Timekeeper snaps. "You think I want to ask this of you? Your life is far more important than mine and if I can, then I will be the one making the sacrifice. But I might not be enough to save her. This is Adrien we're talking about. You want more for him."

"Of course I do! But sacrifice myself? I'd be leaving Tikki behind, leaving the miraculous horribly unbalanced."

"Then it comes down to how much you care about this Chat Noir, doesn't it? Just how much is Adrien worth to you? As much as Micah?"

"Don't you dare bring him into this." Plagg growls. "You don't get to use him like that."

"You would have done anything to make him different. To save him from his life. You cared about him that much. But what about Adrien? Are you willing to do anything to save him from death? Because if I fail, that's the only option."


"Marinette, I've got the biggest news!" Alya pounces on to Marinette's bed, jolting the girl awake. "Please tell me you haven't watched the news yet."

"Seeing as you woke me up by acting like a crazy person, that's a definite no." Marinette stretches her arms above her head. "What's the big news?"

"Max and Mr. Haprele were found outside of their homes. Max has already spoken the police. Get this, he doesn't remember anything. He doesn't even know how he was taken."

"How is that possible?"

"I don't know. Max said he remembers passing out for some reason, and next thing he was being awakened by his frantic parents. Mylene hasn't told me much yet, but she did confirm that her dad has no memories of the time he was gone."

"That's insane."

"This changes everything. Some serial killer or abductor wouldn't just return them for no reason, right? All these disappearances have to be connected to Papillon. By why return them? Did his plans change?"

"Maybe he's trying to lull Ladybug and Chat Noir into a false sense of security."

"Ladybug! I've got to post this, maybe she'll see it and let me do an interview."

Marinette sighs as Alya jumps from her bed and runs down the stairs telling Marinette over her shoulder that she needs to borrow the computer.

"Looks like it's time for us to give the police another visit."


"I'm sorry we don't have any more to give you from the last time." The Chief officer apologizes.

"You don't have to apologize." Ladybug assures, looking over the piles of missing persons files. "You've clearly been busy. What's the game plan right now?"

"We're searching through missing cases from the last year or so and comparing them to the list of Akuma victims." The chief explains. "We were hoping we might find more cases that could be linked to Papillon. So far we haven't had any luck."

"There's a lot of cases." Chat comments, picking one at random. A young girl beams up at him from photos kept in the file. "Last seen leaving school….I never realized this kind of thing was such an often occurrence."

"Kidnappings happen more than we would like, that's for sure."

"You'll let us know if Max or Mr. Harprele remember anything?"

"Of course, right away."


Plagg had told Caleo, ordered really, to stop searching. The story she'd been told that night wasn't lost on her. But she has to know, has to finish the job she started.

Okay, she barely escaped detection, but so what? Her job is to do whatever it takes to protect the ones she loves.

The conversation she'd over heard, it explained so much. She has to tell the others right away. Or should she talk to Master Fu first?

"Either way doesn't matter." Caleo mutters to herself. "We're royally screwed."