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I've Got You Now

Chapter Text

As the taxi puttered ever deeper into the heart of Paris, images flashed before his eyes which were too familiar to be worth notice. Felix had seen them every day for twenty years: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Seine, Notre Dame.... And yet, when the American students had asked him, full of curiosity, what it had been like, to live down the street from such treasures, Felix could only shrug. He had never given it much thought.

There was only one building which warranted his attention, then and now, and he was returning to it after four long years.

Felix had to make a conscious effort not to allow his feet to dance restlessly on the floor of the cab. He was filled with nervous anticipation. The irrational part of him wanted to demand that the car stop: let him get out and run the rest of the way. But logic broke in and reminded him that the cab would be faster, no matter how gruelingly slow the journey felt.

Four minutes later, Felix found himself lingering outside the Agreste residence, adrenaline and bravado made moot by his childish reservations. He shuffled his feet, uncertain. No matter what, there was someone he had to see. But it could wait. It could wait five minutes while he caught his breath and dashed unpleasant memories from his thoughts. He could have gotten here an hour sooner—still, he would have had to face these demons.

The sound of an engine approaching the curb, heels striking pavement, and a car door firmly shut barely registered in Felix’s mind. It wasn’t until the heels took a steady pace towards him and a deep, feminine voice spoke that he turned his head.

“Felix Agreste?” the woman inquired uncertainly.

He had never seen her before in his life. She was tall and austere, with everything about her—hair, suit, thin lips—neatly tucked away. Felix’s eyes flicked to the car she had departed: a black sedan with blacker windows and a license plate that read “habit deus”.

By the looks of her, and the fact that she had just stepped down from an Agreste vehicle, she must be one of Gabriel Agreste’s secretaries. And a very trusted one indeed, if she knew of—and, what’s more, could recognize—the eldest Agreste son.

“Yes,” Felix acknowledged. “And you are?”

The woman bowed subtly over her armful of files. “Nathalie. Gabriel Agreste’s personal secretary. We were not expecting you, Monsieur.”

“No, you weren’t. I have not come to see M. Agreste. I’m here for Adrien.”

Nathalie nodded, and made as if to lead the way inside, keying in the gate code. “Very well. I will notify M. Agreste.”

But Felix stopped her. “I’d really rather you not.”

The woman turned, and a slight quirk overtook her right eyebrow. There—it was the first proof Felix had seen that this woman was not a robot. “He really will wish to know,” Nathalie pressed.

Felix imposed his height on her, and lowered his voice to a firm tone. “I’m sure he will, but I have no business with him. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” And he pushed past her into the inner courtyard.

Like a particularly pungent candle, the memory of his childhood hit Felix as soon as he crossed the threshold. Nothing specific—just floating, garbled images and impressions. He had expected as much when he had decided to return. But he had not expected the child within him to stir and tickle his heart as it wandered forlornly. The sensation spread, until his whole body felt like a sleeping foot recently aroused.

But Felix had not come here to reminisce. He had only a brief purpose, and once that was finished, he could return to his flat on the city outskirts and remain on the safe side of his father’s fenced-in heart. He just had to see Adrien first.

Felix entered the oversized house that was as silent as a grave. Taking advantage of his poor eyesight, he willed himself not to look around—there was no use remembering such things. Nathalie’s heels struck the floor behind him, very nearly drawing his attention away from the figure at the top of the front steps....

...Adrien.

He was everything and nothing like Felix remembered him. Of course, he had watched his brother grow, keeping up with the magazine that regularly featured the popular model. But this real-life Adrien was so much more alive and recognizable than even the best of his pictures. His dusty blonde hair had been persuaded to settle against his head, though a few stray hairs rebelled. His face shone from the work of extensive care and expertly applied makeup, and his clothes were pristinely ironed. Everything was in place, just as Gabriel Agreste would wish of his son.

Felix knew better. Under the layer of staged perfection, Felix saw how his little brother slouched. He saw how Adrien stared at his feet as he descended the stairs. And, as the younger Agreste came closer, Felix saw how his skin stretched tight around his jawline, and the bones of his elbows protruded at three neat angles.

Just as he had feared, things were not well here. No, they were far from well.

Nathalie spoke up: “Adrien, your brother has come to visit.”

The boy’s head snapped up. He had reached the foot of the stairs and stood a few arm’s lengths away from Felix. Some bright innocence passed over Adrien’s features, making it seem like he was a child again, ready to leap into his brother’s arms and rejoice. But Felix watched as Adrien immediately collected himself, banishing those traces of hope from his countenance. From this close, Felix could now take note of the dark circles under his brother’s foundation, and the redness of his eyes.

“It is good to see you,” Adrien greeted politely. “What brings you here?”

Felix’s brow lowered, observing how the boy watched the ground dully as he spoke. Who had taught his little brother that submissive posture?

“Adrien,” he responded, sounding more harsh, more distant than he had intended. “It has been so long.”

At that, Adrien finally looked up, his bright green eyes searching his brother’s face—for something. Felix gulped, realizing how much Adrien’s mannerisms matched their father. And how much Adrien looked like that woman.

It was Felix’s turn to watch the floor.

Nathalie broke in, then. “Adrien, if I may. You will be late for your Chinese lesson.”

Chinese lesson? Felix wondered. It was nearing dinnertime.

“Yes, Nathalie,” Adrien replied demurely. And then, with only a second glance at Felix, the younger Agreste followed the secretary out of the front door.

As the large oak door settled into its frame and sunlight was banished from the Agreste household, Felix felt a shiver creep up his spine.

Raising his eyes to the stairway, he met the steely gaze of his father.

Chapter Text

Adrien

Adrien thought he must be dreaming. Long ago had he lost all hope of his brother returning. As the years had dragged on, he had finally stored Felix in a deep compartment of his heart where he kept Maman and the father he used to know. It was a fact of his life, he had come to accept, that those he loved would never be by his side.

For example, Ladybug.

But now was not the time to think about that. He needed to focus.

Youde shihou, wo qu tushuguan kan shu,” he replied, hearing his tutor’s question even though he wasn’t paying attention. Something about hobbies, so he’d given the standard “sometimes I go to the library to read books” answer.

The tutor grumbled, less than satisfied. It was no secret that Adrien could care less for this class, even though his performance was decent. Deep down, Adrien was sure, some part of him wanted to care—it was the same part of him that had been so enthusiastic about finally attending school three years ago. But now, his head was full of fog, and his thoughts kept straying to dark places.

On the surface, his mind was on autopilot, carrying on this conversation in elementary-level Chinese although he was already fluent. However dull, he was happy for the distraction, keeping his mind from spiraling downwards. It was a task that seemed harder and harder these days.

How could he face Felix like this? Just like Father, just like Maman, and just like all of his fans and photographers, Felix expected Adrien to be calm, collected, and cheerful. In fact, Felix had so much confidence in Adrien’s unblighted happiness, that he had thought it would be fine to leave all those years ago. Sure, he had been fine without his older brother—crushed under the foot of Gabriel Agreste—but totally fine.

“Go home,” his tutor said, suddenly breaking through his thoughts.

“Sorry?”

“I said, go home. I can’t teach you any more. You speak better Chinese than the president of Mainland China. Really, I don’t know why your father sends you here anymore, instead of feeding you.” The elderly Taiwanese man clucked his tongue.

Adrien had no answer to that—and what was he supposed to say? So he bowed as he gathered his bag. “Xie xie, Laoshi,” he mumbled, and found his way to the door. As he followed the long hallway out of the school building, he wobbled on his feet, and wondered if he had eaten anything that day. It was getting increasingly difficult to keep track of lately.

He had to admit it, he thought wryly: he was a mess. And perhaps that was the true reason he couldn’t bring himself to face Felix. He wasn’t exactly the bundle of joy that Felix had known anymore. In light of Felix’s expectations, Adrien was nothing short of a disappointment. And if there was anyone Adrien couldn’t bear to let down, it was his brother.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Ah.... He should have known.

Of course Adrien would react like that—timid, distant. Felix had never been much of a big brother to him. Back then, Adrien’s life had revolved around his mother... and Felix had avoided that woman at all costs.

She had never been cruel to him. In fact, Madeleine Agreste had never been much of anything to him. She was tentative and unsure around her step-son, which had made him feel out of place—in the way. And he had thought that it was all very unfair; after all, she had been the one who barged in, stole his father’s attention, and sent Felix off to boarding school.

And then she had brought the little glow-worm that was Adrien into their family. Despite everything, Felix would be eternally grateful for that.

Felix knew what it was like to lose a mother. His had died when he was four years old. How much harder would it have been for Adrien to lose his own mother at the sensitive age of thirteen? To make matters worse, it seemed that Father had entirely withdrawn. Felix had watched his younger brother over the years, noticing each drastic weight loss and the steadily increasing sorrow concealed in his eyes. Three years ago, there had been a brief period where joy seemed to radiate from the younger Agreste’s face, as if he had discovered a new passion or fallen in love. But after that, Felix had seen the model return to his pleasant smiles undermined by some jaded outlook.

Felix would readily admit to being protective—and he was! After all, he had taken the job offer at the Prefecture simply for the purpose of being closer to Adrien. It was time for him to step up and be a big brother for once.

It was laughable, though, Felix thought as he reached his small flat on the city outskirts. This one-room apartment was all he could afford with his meager job as a detective. He was an Agreste; he should be living in a high-rise condominium overlooking the Eiffel Tower, or a castle clinging to the hills by the sea. Not this white-walled studio with a sticking doorknob. He wondered if it even... no; no it did not lock. Wonderful.

But, miserable as it was, this was freedom. He had three suits, one pair of shoes, a box of instant coffee, and a sleeping bag. All things he had procured with his own money. No longer did he belong to Gabriel Agreste, and he had reminded the man of that just this evening, when he had left the Agreste mansion without a second glance. His message had been clear: I have nothing to say to you.

Tumbling down onto his sleeping bag and throwing an arm over his face, Felix wondered briefly what might have happened. If he had stayed when he saw his father at the top of the stairs; if he had said something. Likely, the only effect would be the deepening of the hollow space in his chest—not something he was keen on inflicting upon himself.

Then again, it would not be the last time he would see the man. Felix would visit Adrien again; and again, until the boy was able to warm to him. At some point, a conversation with his father would be inevitable.

Felix’s phone alerted him of a text; once, twice, three times, and on until ten texts had appeared in a row. The elder Agreste smirked, knowing before he looked exactly who it was: Brigitte.

Hi.

Hello.

[Smiley face]

Are you in Paris?

Are you free right now?

Did you see Adrien yet?

I’m outside your door.

Just kidding, I don’t know where you live.

Where do you live?

I have cookies.

Felix couldn’t contain the smile that broke across his face. He hadn’t seen her in four years, but Brigitte was still obnoxious. The two had kept up over email during his studies in the States, and he confided almost everything to her. He had shrugged at the idea of seeing her again; she was a good old friend, who had formerly been his stalker. But for some reason, now, his heart was pounding quickly in his chest. Inexplicably, he had no idea what to do or say.

I got in this morning, he sent back.

And: I don’t like sweet things.

With that, Felix flung the phone aside and curled into his make-shift bed. Brigitte was probably everything he needed right now. But he didn’t want her to see him like this... so full of doubt and insecurity. And anyways, he had a big day tomorrow, his first day at the Prefecture. It wouldn’t hurt to sleep early.

And so, he did.


 

 

Felix woke to distant screams. He glanced at the clock. Five AM sharp. Fine, he thought. There was no going back to sleep.

Twenty minutes later, he was en route to the Prefecture. Leaning forward, he asked the cabby:

“What is all this commotion? I heard screaming.”

The cabby laughed. “You must be new here! It’s an akuma. You know, the monsters that attack Paris from time to time. But don’t worry; Ladybug and Chat Noir have it under control.”

“Ah,” Felix mused, sitting back. “I have seen it, on the television.” He remembered the strange reports of masked heroes in the French capital. Taking it as a publicity stunt, he had disregarded the hype. He might have to catch up on the news now, though, since he would be working with the police. He wondered vaguely if the prestigious law enforcement system of France even took the two masquerading kids seriously.

He didn’t have to wonder for long. As he was shown to his office, the captain of his department briefed him on current events, informing him of the akuma attack that had taken place earlier in the morning.

“We are so fortunate to have Ladybug and Chat Noir!” he exclaimed. “They have saved the city so many times when the Prefecture could do nothing.”

Felix frowned in interest. That seemed to be a generous admission. Perhaps he had judged the Ladybug phenomenon entirely wrong. Perhaps there really was a mysterious villain named Hawkmoth who possessed civilians with evil butterflies.

Felix was left in his office to accustom himself to his surroundings, so he took advantage of the time to do some research. Apparently, there was an entire blog dedicated to the two superheroes. Hours later, Felix was still absorbed in videos and pictures of the duo. There was something about them that drew him in, sparked his curiosity, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“I see you’ve been acquainted with the city’s guardians,” a female voice said from behind him.

Felix jumped to notice one of his coworkers standing by his shoulder with a case file. She was a middle-aged woman with a stern but kindly face.

“Anna,” she introduced herself briefly, and then slapped the file onto Felix’s desk. “We’ll be working on this case together, Monsieur Agreste--”

“Please, call me Felix.”

She quirked an eyebrow at the interruption, but continued on. “Felix, then. There’s been a robbery in the tourism district.”

“Any suspects?”

“That’s the thing. We know exactly who did it. Dominic Benoit; he escaped prison last week and has been in hiding until now. At this point, it’s just a matter of tracking him down. We found the cell phone he’s been using, and have a list of names for his recent calls. Questioning those contacts should give us some leads.”

Felix flipped through the file as Anna spoke. His photographic memory locked in on each detail, storing them away for later use. Benoit was a large man, at 180 cm. He had a gruff face covered in stubble and haphazard brown hair that looked like it had just been released from a beanie cap.

Glancing over the list of recent calls, Felix stood and straightened his blazer. “Well then, shall we?”

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Their first point of contact was Benoit’s grandmother, with whom he had been living prior to his arrest. He had stopped by her house for money five days ago, the same day of his escape. The elderly Mme. Benoit said that her grandson had mentioned one of his old friends. A shady character, Mme. Benoit said. Sure enough, looking over the call records, this “friend” had been Benoit’s very next contact, and a brief search through their records indicated his involvement in a gang.

So, the two detectives’ next destination was a quiet neighborhood, not too far from where Felix currently resided. Along the way, Anna told Felix about Benoit’s history: he had been unemployed for most of his twenties, estranged from his father, and taken in by his grandmother. Somewhere in his early thirties, he had begun running small errands for a local gang. These small errands escalated into commissioned crimes, until he had finally been nabbed for attempted murder. Apparently, Benoit had a chip on his shoulder towards society in general. He believed the world was out to get him, and that no one was capable of understanding him. Anna knew this because she had been the one to arrest and interrogate him. It was one of the more frightening experiences of her career, and so she was all the more determined to capture him because of this.

Felix listened, although his thoughts kept wandering. He replayed in his head the moment in which Adrien had passed him in the doorway of the Agreste home. Felix was still taller, he realized, by a few substantial inches. He wondered if that was genetic, or due to Adrien’s poor diet in recent vital years of growth. He wondered if his younger brother would have another growth spurt, as Felix had, upon entering his twenties. And he wondered if Father had even noticed how small his second son was.

Felix checked himself—was he an older brother, or a mother? Shouldn’t he be happy to be taller? It was probably genetic after all; Madeleine Agreste had been a petite woman.

Ah, right. That had been another of Felix’s insecurities: his step-mother was a delicate woman, so he shouldn’t hate her. He should be kind and gentle with her. But then, Felix had never been kind or gentle. From early in his childhood, the other children had pointed out his permanent scowl. He squinted because of his poor eyesight, but the other children did not know that this was the reason, and they did not care. They said he was scary and mean, and he supposed that at some point, he had taken on that image of himself.

With Anna talking in the back of his mind, he wondered if Dominic Benoit had been the same way: somewhere along the way he had been labeled as rebellious and perhaps lazy, and so that was what he became.

“Are you even listening?” Anna said sharply.

Felix snapped his head around to look at her. They were stopped at a traffic light a few blocks down from their destination, and she was appraising him with that particular stare that meant Felix was looking stand-offish again.

Trying to rearrange his features, he said: “Sorry. Yes.”

“Really? Because you were just glaring at that telephone pole like it had personally offended you.”

“What telephone pole?”

The light turned, and Anna accelerated. She shook her head. “Never mind. I’ve heard you are a genius. You listen even when you aren’t listening, right?”

Felix felt himself involuntarily turn red. For some reason, he resented that word, “genius”. Sure, he could be off in another world inside his head and still store away every bit of information Anna had relayed. He was able to listen to two lectures at once, which aided him in finishing school early. It just came naturally to him, and there was no effort given on his end, so he wondered why he should be complimented for it.

But he said none of this to Anna. He didn’t have the time or the patience.

By then, they had pulled in to an apartment complex. Anna eyed the building with determination.

“Benoit called this friend six times in the past five days, and this friend is also his last contact. It is likely that he is staying here, so be prepared.”

Felix nodded. “Understood.”

Before they could even exit the car, a scream rang out through the parking lot. In the next second, a great blunt force collided with the roof of their car, caving it. Felix grabbed Anna by the back of the neck and ducked with her, barely avoiding being crushed by the roof.

“Get out of the car!” he shouted at her, as if she needed the instruction. She was already out and on her feet, baton drawn. But she was up against something that the two detectives certainly had not been expecting.

Clumsily tumbling out of the car, Felix jerked around to see a large man bearing down on them, swinging an ornate golden cane. He was wearing what looked like an expensive white tuxedo made of spandex, dark brand-name sunglasses, and an array of chains and jewels, all topped with a crown fit for the King of France.

“BENOOOIT!” the man howled. “WHERE IS MY MONEY?”

Felix rolled out of the way as the man brought his great cane down again, and huddled behind a nearby dumpster with Anna.

“That’s his friend, Germaine,” she noted. “He’s been akumatized—they must have had a fight!”

Felix swept his attention back to the rampaging monster of a man, and wondered why he hadn’t realized it before: his ridiculous clothing, dramatically increased size, and angry, senseless vendetta—these were all things associated with the akumas he had been researching. He just hadn’t thought he’d encounter one so soon.

“I WAS GOING TO BE RICH!” Germaine screamed. “I WAS GOING TO BE THE BOSS!” He swung his cane back and forth, sweeping the windows out of nearby cars and sending civilians running for cover. All the while, he was looking around frantically for Benoit.

Just as Felix was getting to his feet to confront the troubled man, Anna pulled him back down firmly, shaking her head.

“This is not something that the police can handle,” she told him. “Ladybug and Chat Noir will be here soon.”

As if on cue, two figures descended on the parking lot, one swinging a large red yo-yo, and the other vaulting in on a long black pole. Felix gasped as he realized that these were the two heroes he had been watching on the Ladyblog earlier today.

“Well, this is rich,” Chat Noir said, obviously pleased with himself. In fact, he was paying no attention to the raving villain, instead training his eyes on his partner.

“Move, you stupid Cat!” Ladybug called as the akumatized man’s cane came down towards the black-clad hero. At the last second, she wound her yo-yo around the cane and jerked it away, preventing it from striking her partner. “You need to be more careful!”

Unfazed, Chat Noir swiped at the villain, temporarily knocking him away. “Oh, but I cane’t when you’re distracting me with your beauty.”

The Boss-man retaliated, tackling Chat Noir to the ground. “Do you know where Benoit is?” he demanded. And then his eyes focused on something else, and he seized Chat’s left hand. “This, this is valuable, you say?” The man seemed to be talking to a voice in his own head, staring greedily at the silver ring on Chat’s paw.

“No you DON’T!” Ladybug shouted fiercely, capturing Boss-man with her yo-yo string and pinning him to Felix and Anna’s crushed car. Boss-man’s cane clattered to the ground, and Ladybug snapped it with her foot as if it were made of wood. A black butterfly fluttered out of it, which she promptly captured. Without further ado, Ladybug shouted “MIRACULOUS CLEANSE!”

Since she seemed to have the situation under control, Felix crossed to Chat Noir’s side and offered him a hand up.

The cat-like hero had started to say something, but then he saw the detective’s face. With bright green eyes widening, he simply stared as Felix helped him rise to his feet.

“Felix...?” Chat asked feebly.

What? How did this kid know his name?

Before he could ask any questions, a warm pink light washed over the world around them, restoring car windows and returning Germaine to his usual self. The patrol car Anna had been driving straightened out its bent edges as the roof popped back into place. Felix had seen this happen many times in the videos he’d watched, but actually experiencing it was entirely different.

Returning his attention to Chat Noir, Felix noticed and angry bruise blossoming along his jawline. Noting his stare, Chat covered the blemish with a paw and shrugged.

“I’m bad luck,” he explained. “Miraculous Cleanse doesn’t work on me.”

Felix thought back to all of the videos of the superheroes’ battles, and all of the injuries he had witnessed Chat Noir sustain—mostly for Ladybug’s sake. Did this mean that Chat carried those injuries away from the battle and into his civilian life?

Chat gave Felix one more unreadable look and then skipped towards his partner.

“Our dates get shorter every time, My Lady!” he complained, grabbing at her hand and trying to kiss it. “How is it paw-sible for us to grow close like this?”

Ladybug deftly slipped from his grasp. “Ugh, Chat. This is not a date! Really, it’s been three years and you still haven’t given up?” She bent to help a disoriented Germaine to his feet and lead him over to Anna.

Three years? Felix thought. Why was that familiar? Ah, that was when Chat Noir and Ladybug had first appeared; that must be why. But, no, there was something else entirely.

At Ladybug’s rejection, Chat pouted, his ears drooping.

Once Germaine was in Anna’s custody, Ladybug turned back to her slouching partner. “Here, kitty,” she said, flicking the bell on his collar. “How about this: if you don’t get hurt next battle, we can plan a time to meet at the Eiffel Tower.”

The cat-like hero brightened instantly, ears pointing straight up and tail wagging in glee. “Yes, My Lady!”

Just then, a beep from their general vicinity startled Ladybug, and she grasped at her ear. “I’ve got to go!” she yelped, and swung away.

Chat watched her go, practically drooling, and Felix watched Chat, curious.

“Well, I should go too,” Chat said finally, waving, before vaulting towards the center of Paris.

Felix had rarely been awe-struck in his life. Things just made sense to him, or he absorbed them and let them sit on his brain until they did make sense. But right now, the elder Agreste brother was awe-struck. Something was there, refusing to click, and it fascinated and frustrated him that he couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Chat Noir knew who Felix was. Which somehow made sense to Felix. The problem was, he knew it shouldn’t make sense. It shouldn’t, but it did.

Because, if he wasn’t wrong, he knew Chat Noir.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix dreamed that night. He dreamed of the last time he had seen Adrien before leaving for university in the States. Four years ago, he’d been sitting in one of their house’s many parlors with Brigitte, letting her know that he’d be willing to date her when he returned.

“What will your father think?” she asked anxiously.

“It doesn’t matter what he thinks,” Felix had told her stubbornly.

But the dark-haired girl shook her head. “What if he disowns you? You will lose everything.”

Felix huffed. “And you think I can’t get it all back? With this?” he gestured to his formidable brain.

Brigitte normally would have giggled at his arrogance, but she was tight-lipped. “No; even if you can earn the money back and make it all your own, you still won’t have your relationship with your father. Everyone needs a father, Felix.”

If the drawbridge of Felix’s inner fortress had been down before, it snapped back up at these words. “Not a father like that, Brigitte,” he replied coldly.

She flinched at his harsh tone, but didn’t argue. After a long silence, she finally asked: “What about Adrien?”

“What about Adrien?” Felix countered, but before he could go on, Brigitte gasped.

Following her gaze, Felix turned to see his younger brother standing in the doorway, eyes wide after hearing those three dismissive words: what about Adrien?

The boy fled, and Felix was certain he saw tears threatening to burst forth.

He hadn’t been able to tell Adrien what he was really trying to say: What about Adrien? I can still have a relationship with him without Father. In fact, that would be better. Maybe I can get him out of this hellhole too.

Adrien had lost his mother the year prior. And then he lost his only brother with those half-spoken departing words.

That wasn’t what I meant to say! It wasn’t what it sounded like! Felix’s mind screamed, protesting the memory. But still, Felix had left, and he had left Adrien all alone. Even without those incriminating words, his actions were unforgivable.

The guilt had eaten away at him, until finally he had returned to make amends.

He could only hope that Adrien would accept his feeble efforts.


 

 

 

I know what you’re doing.

Felix was staring at the text long before he realized he was awake. He cursed. Brigitte knew not to text him while he was asleep, because he always woke up to read it.

You’re clamming up because you feel guilty. You can’t even talk to him, can you?

“I haven’t had the chance to talk to him!” Felix whined at the phone. He threw it down and rolled onto his back. It was still the middle of the night. After a few hopeless attempts at falling back asleep, he picked up the phone again and dialed Brigitte.

“Yes?” she answered. Oh, was it refreshing to hear her voice.

“Coffee?” he asked groggily.

“You want to get coffee with me?” she asked, deciphering his sleep-talk.

He nodded before he realized she couldn’t see him. “Yes,” he mumbled.

“When?” she asked, and Felix could hear her barely concealing her excitement.

He ran a hand through his bed-bent hair and looked down at himself to see what he was wearing. “Right now?”

“Oh. Okay. Give me—give me five—I mean, thirty minutes! I’ll be ready in thirty minutes!”

Felix could hear something banging and several somethings clattering, and he giggled to himself. It was cute how she cared to put makeup on when he had seen her in sweatpants. He proceeded to spend the next half hour taming his hair and selecting his best—not too nice but comfortably prim—outfit.

Who was he kidding, he was just as bad as she was.

Forty-five minutes later, he was slumped over a table at the twenty-four-hour cafe on the corner. He checked his cell phone for the tenth time in two minutes to make sure he had told Brigitte the location, and was shocked to see that it was half past one. Had he really called a young girl out so late at night? He must not have been fully awake. In fact, he wasn’t even sure how he had gotten here.

Someone approached his table and tapped a coffee cup lightly down by his head. Straightening slowly, Felix took in the dazzling form of Brigitte.

“Oh, goodness, Felix, are you even awake?”

He shook his head honestly.

She sat down and reached across the table to smooth down the hair that had sprung out of place. “There. Now, drink your coffee. Macchiatto, right? No flavor, twenty-three second shot.”

He grinned stupidly. She knew him so well. Hah, well, she had made a profession of it.

Once the crème-tainted espresso had revived Felix sufficiently, Brigitte spoke, addressing him with what he now recognized as her motherly tone:

“Now, I know you didn’t call me out here because you were so eager to see me,” she said, taking a pointed sip of her vanilla latte.

“Why would you say that?” he grumbled.

“Because you, Felix Agreste, never do anything just to make yourself happy.”

He stared as she narrowed her eyes at him, entranced by her sparkling dark irises. This girl had only grown more beautiful over the past four years. He would never admit it, but he had missed her, and he realized that now more than ever.

“Touche,” he admitted.

She took the hand that he had abandoned on the table gently into her own. Tracing circles in his palm with her thumb, she continued. “Now, what is troubling you? What happened with Adrien?”

He swallowed, hating to have to lean on her—hating to show his vulnerable side in front of her. But, after all, she had been there on that day, when Adrien had thought his own brother was rejecting him. “Nothing happened,” he began. “I went there, and... well, then he had to go. We didn’t even speak. He—he kind of seemed uncomfortable.”

Brigitte frowned. “That does make sense. He hasn’t seen or spoken to you in four years.”

Felix winced. “I just thought... I don’t know what I thought.”

“Was your father there?”

Felix nodded. “He came out of his office after Adrien left. I didn’t say anything to him, but he saw me.”

It was subtle, but Felix noticed it: Brigitte squeezed his hand. He glanced up and she was smiling—smiling at the emotional wreck that was Felix.

He loved her.

“So, you’ll go see him again, right?” she asked. “Adrien, that is.”

“Of course.”

“Felix, these things take time. Don’t worry so much.”

He nodded, knowing she was right, but couldn’t avoid the heavy sigh that followed. “It’s just... Adrien’s not like me. He doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to Father. And I can tell Father is taking advantage of that. He’s so thin, Brigitte.”

Although Brigitte’s face tightened in concern, her smile didn’t falter. “So are you, silly,” she teased.

“Shut up.”

“I bet you can still fit into my sweaters.”

“No, I can’t.”

“Come on! Just try it this once. Please?”

“No way!”

Chapter Text

Felix

 

There was no saying no to Brigitte. What a frightening woman. It was four in the morning when Felix finally staggered back to his apartment, wearing Brigitte’s sweater. They had exchanged sweaters right there in the cafe, and then he had walked her home, chastising her for coming out this way in the dark.

Settling back onto his sleeping-bag, he pulled the woven pink fabric of the sweater up to his nose. It smelled like flowers, but underneath that, there was something else, something distinctly Brigitte.

She had been right; it fit him snugly.

He thought back on the events of the day. After the akuma had been defeated and the superheroes had departed, he and Anna had taken Gerrmaine into custody. At the station, the akuma victim had told them his story, and they had no reason to doubt he was telling the truth:

Benoit had stayed with him the past four days, going on about some plan he was concocting to make millions robbing an upscale furniture store in the tourism district. He had promised Germaine a third of the spoils for harboring him and driving him to and from the location.

When asked what had happened to the get-away car, Germaine confessed that it had disappeared earlier that day, along with Benoit.

“So at this point, should we be putting up blockades?” Felix had asked Anna.

But his partner shook her head. “No; if he had wanted to leave Paris, he would be long gone by now.”

So, their next lead was the phone number Germaine offered them. After losing his cell phone in the robbery, Benoit had been using a new one to keep in touch with Germaine. If the detectives could track the recent calls for that number, they would have no problem tracking down the fugitive. Anna had delivered the necessary information to the analysis department, and then sent Felix home. It had been a long day, she told him, and he had seen his first akuma.

Felix had agreed to go home early, but only because he wanted to try to visit Adrien again. As he had approached the Agreste residence, though, a black sedan had pulled up and deposited the younger Agreste in front of the mansion. Instinctively, Felix had ducked around the corner, unable to face his brother. In the end, he reluctantly returned to his apartment, having stood outside the Agreste’s formidable wall for over an hour.

He really was becoming like Brigitte, he thought wryly.

That didn’t stop him from returning the next day, after a full day at work with no further leads. Apparently, Benoit had only called Germaine on his replacement phone, and then had discarded that one as well when he abandoned Germaine. Anna and Felix would have to track Benoit down the old-fashioned way. In the meantime, they would process some more minor cases.

But Felix could worry about that later. He was standing just outside the gate of the Agreste home, waiting for Adrien to return from school. He had been impressed when he found out that Adrien had managed to convince Father to let him attend school. An old acquaintance, whose younger sibling attended the same secondary school, had leaked this information to him. Perhaps Felix had underestimated his little brother—he could and had stood up to Father.

The sedan pulled up right on time, and Adrien robotically unloaded himself from the back seat. Stopping short when he saw someone standing before him, the boy raised his head.

“Felix,” he said as his eyes met his brother’s.

“Adrien.”

The younger Agreste’s eyes shifted nervously. “I have a photoshoot,” he said apologetically, though his feet remained rooted to the ground, as if he didn’t want to leave.

Felix tried to remember what he had been meaning to say. “Adrien, I—” He cut himself off, noticing something, a discoloration on his brother’s cheek. He reached out to touch it, but Adrien flinched away. “Is that a bruise?” he asked.

“No. I mean, yes. I fell.”

Adrien was a bad liar; Felix didn’t need to be a detective to see that. “Are you being bullied?”

“No.” Well, that wasn’t a lie.

And then, “Was it Father?”

“No!” Not a lie either.

Felix realized he had mis-stepped. Adrien was backing away from him, feeling cornered. “Look, you don’t have to tell me,” Felix conceded. “But I’d like to talk to you. To set things right.”

Darkness passed over Adrien’s face at that, but was gone as soon as it came. “Alright,” he said, shrugging and pasting on that fake smile he showed to the cameras.

This was not what Felix had wanted.

“Uh, I’ve got to go. Bye!” the younger Agreste said suddenly, and swept past Felix.

Felix caught him by his elbow. “Wait.”

Adrien was tense, more tense than he should have been, and Felix wondered why. “I know you’re busy, but don’t forget to eat dinner,” Felix said, as gently as he could.

Adrien’s smile faltered slightly, and he jerked his arm away. “Yeah,” he mumbled, and disappeared into the house.

A large hand came down on Felix’s shoulder, and he turned to recognize his old driver, Gorilla. “I’m glad you’re back, and so is Adrien,” the large man said.

For a man of few words, this was a drastic admission. Felix allowed himself to smile. “Thanks, Gorilla.”

At that moment, Felix’s cell rang, and he hurried to answer it when he saw that it was a call from Anna.

“We’ve got a lead on Benoit,” she said, sounding out of breath.

“What? Where?” Felix demanded, waving goodbye to Gorilla apologetically.

“He’s been spotted by the Seine. Just across from Notre Dame!”

“I’ll be right there,” Felix assured her, breaking into a run.

He was ready to hang up before Anna shouted: “Wait! Felix, he’s been akumatized.”



Adrien

 

Adrien winced inwardly. That had been a less than graceful exit; but then again, there had been nothing graceful about the conversation in the first place. Why did Felix have to be so observant? He had been gone for four years without knowing if his little brother was dead or alive, and now he thought he could come back and notice a tiny bruise?

If Adrien had held on to any hope that he could be close to his brother, it was gone. There was a chasm between them that just couldn’t be bridged. Too many things had happened in Adrien’s life in the past four years that the elder Agreste just wouldn’t understand.

And yet he wanted to play brother now?! Who did he think he was?

“Hey kid, you’ve got to calm down before we transform,” Plagg spoke up, hovering beside his charge’s ear. “I can’t have you using Cataclysm in a mood like this.”

In a second, Adrien’s anger deflated. Who was he kidding? He could never stay angry long with Felix. Instead, tears now welled up, but he dashed them away. It was time to focus.

“Plagg, claws out!”

Chapter Text

Paris was, once more, in chaos. A monster of a man was tearing through the streets, wielding a huge gavel and smashing parking meters, police cars, stop signs—anything that had been installed by the government. He struck an odd image, with his powdered wig and outdated parliamentary clothes.

“I AM OUTLAW!” he shouted. “I AM ABOVE THE LAW! YOU CAN’T CATCH ME!”

“Not so fast,” Ladybug replied, swinging her yo-yo beside her.

“Huh? Ladybug?” the villain asked, turning on her. He swung his gavel blindly, nearly striking a civilian on the way to take out a postage box. “You are above the law too, are you not? We could rule Paris together!”

“Even if I could be above the law, I wouldn’t want to be,” Ladybug shot back, taking a swipe at Outlaw’s gavel. “The law is there to protect people!” As if to accentuate her point, she shifted her direction to pull a crying child from the streets and return her to her mother’s arms.

“I’m pretty sure you’re trying to commit tree-son,” Chat Noir sang at Outlaw from his perch on a nearby tree branch.

Outlaw growled and drove his gavel into the tree’s trunk just as Chat sprung away. The tree snapped like a twig, sending splinters and branches flying.

“Oh my, what a smashing ensemble,” Chat punned relentlessly.

“Chat! Lead him away from all of these people before he hurts someone!” Ladybug yelled, still ushering people out of the streets.

“Yes, M’Lady!” Chat shouted back, vaulting over Outlaw’s head. He led the villain away from the crowds and into a quiet park. The few civilians who had been mulling about fled and took cover.

“I JUST NEED YOUR MIRACULOUS!” Outlaw wailed. “AND THEN I CAN RULE THE WORLD!”

“Okay, Out-claw,” Chat replied. “Go ahead and try to get it!”

Felix entered the scene just as the cat-like hero was leading Outlaw on a circular chase around the park. The masked boy was successfully dodging attacks, but it was clear that his pursuer was learning his patterns, and Chat was getting tired. Along the way, he kept turning to look at the villain, which was slowing him down. Felix wondered, as he ducked behind a formidable tree, why the cat would risk so many glances. And then he remembered: the akuma victims always had a special object in which the akuma resided, and Ladybug had to get her hands on that object in order to defeat them.

Taking full advantage of his hiding place, Felix studied Outlaw’s costume. It couldn’t be the golden buttons—there were too many of them. And it wasn’t the wig; that was definitely part of the costume’s theme.... But there was something out of place, something that didn’t fit.

Felix spotted it and leaped out into Chat’s line of vision. “There!” he shouted. “It’s the scarf! He’s wearing a wool scarf under his collar!”

Instead of making use of this information, Chat Noir simply slowed, with eyes wide in surprise. He stared at Felix, not seeing the gavel bearing down towards him.

Ladybug swung in just in time, flying feet-first into the villain’s chest, knocking him backwards.

“Nice of you to swing by, my lady,” Chat purred, kissing her hand.

“You’re lucky I did, Kitty,” she snapped. “What is it lately with akumas and blunt-force objects? Hawkmoth is getting less and less creative.” And then, noticing Felix’s presence: “You’re the detective from yesterday!”

But there was no time for introductions. Outlaw was on his feet again, and now his attention was on Felix. “DETECTIVE?!” he roared. And he came barreling towards the elder Agreste son.

“Run!” Ladybug shouted.

Felix didn’t need telling twice. He turned tail and ran, not looking back, even though he knew that Outlaw was faster and the heroic duo might not reach him in time.

Then, he realized he was leading the villain back towards the streets, filled with onlookers. He halted his trajectory and spun around, drawing his baton. If this akuma wanted to terrorize the people of Paris, it would have to go through him first.

He hadn’t realized that Outlaw was already upon him. He hadn’t seen the gavel as it was raised high above his head, ready to strike. And he hadn’t seen the streak of black as someone stepped between him and his attacker.

All of this registered in Felix’s brain only after the villain’s weapon had slammed into Chat Noir with crushing force. The sound of cracking bones rang through the air. Chat was thrown into a nearby tree with a scream that was cut short on impact. He slid to the ground and didn’t get up.

Chaton!” Ladybug cried, fear laced in her voice.

Felix sunk to his knees in shock, eyes fixed to the crumpled form of his savior. Even if he had noticed Outlaw coming around for a second attack, he wouldn’t have been able to react.

Thankfully, Ladybug came just in time, lassoing Outlaw’s gavel and yanking it away from him. Only, she underestimated his strength and determination; the villain clung to his weapon, flying along with it.

“Let go!” she demanded angrily, throwing her yo-yo this way and that in an attempt to dislodge the man. Still, he held on, flying over Ladybug, with his gavel coming dangerously close to her head. Soon, she was forced to release the gavel and she tumbled away, stunned, but refused to back down. All the while, she was shouting to her partner to get up; yelling at him to please be okay. She managed to land a hit on Outlaw, but this only angered him more, and he came after her with renewed energy. It wasn’t long before she was sprawled at the base of a tree, panting and unable to block the villain’s strike. At the back of Felix’s mind, he knew he should stand, he should go to her; he should do something; but his legs refused to work.

“CATACLYSM!” Chat Noir called. And, seeming to come out of nowhere, he leaped at the gavel, pressing his palm flat against its wooden surface. It rotted and crumbled instantly, leaving Outlaw empty-handed.

At the sight of Chat standing and very much alive, Felix felt his strength rush back with a flood of adrenaline. He found his face wet with tears of pure, unguarded relief.

“Chat! Are you alright?” Ladybug gasped, rushing over to her triumphant partner.

“Never better, My Lady,” he grinned, flexing his muscles.

Ladybug eyed him dubiously, but did not press the matter. She mopped at the sweat on her brow and tried to regain her bearings. “Where is the akuma?”

“It’s in the scarf. Fel—uh, the detective noticed it.”

The bug-like hero nodded, taking on her signature determined stance. “Lucky Charm!” she called, and a “No Trespassing” sign materialized, falling into her hands. “What...?” she wondered momentarily, before her eyes locked on several objects in her surroundings: a tree root, Felix’s handcuffs, and Outlaw’s scarf.

The akuma’s victim had returned to his pursuit of Felix, blocked only by Chat Noir. The black-clad hero twirled his baton, deflecting swipes and punches.

“Monsieur Detective!” Ladybug shouted urgently. “Give me your handcuffs!”

“What?!”

Now!”

Hesitantly, Felix drew the handcuffs from within his blazer pocket. No sooner had they emerged into the sunshine than Ladybug snatched them away with her yo-yo.

“Outlaw!” she demanded, getting the villain’s attention as he grappled with Chat over the magic bo staff. “You cannot come this way!”

Clever, Felix thought. The challenge would be too enticing for the rebellious akuma victim.

Outlaw roared, shoving Chat Noir to the side and charging toward Ladybug. “I don’t obey the rules!” he pointed out, sounding like a broken record.

Ladybug’s brow lowered as the monster approached but she stood her ground. “Neither do I,” she warned.

The villain didn’t see the root protruding from the ground just steps away from his target. His foot caught, and he fell onto his face before her, powdered wig flying off. Ladybug lunged for him and snapped the handcuffs into place behind his back before he could react. In the next moment, still seated on her opponent’s back, the triumphant girl snatched the scarf from Outlaw’s neck and tore it in one swift motion.

“No!” he wailed. “My grandmother made that for me!”

The tainted butterfly emerged from its host, and Ladybug snatched it into her multifunctional yo-yo. It emerged cleansed, and fluttered off into the lowering sunset. As Benoit moaned in defeat, the red-clad girl stood and twirled the “No Trespassing” sign and then threw it into the air. It burst into a soft pink dust, righting fallen trees and restoring car windows.

With her signature dimpled smile, Ladybug cheered to herself. “We did it, Chat Noir! We won! Chat—what are you doing?”

“Just taking a cat-nap,” her partner replied from his position flat on his back several feet away.

The heroine stomped over to him and glared down. “Your ring is beeping.”

Shh.... It’s not real.

“You know what’s not real?” she replied mockingly. “Your charm.”

Ooh, Felix thought, that had to sting. But Chat Noir seemed delighted.

“My Lady! You just admitted that I have charm!”

“What?! No! I just said it’s not real!”

“Real or not, you said it’s there.”

“Oh, please.”

“Ladybug, your voice is meow-sic to my ears.”

Felix returned his attention to Benoit, who writhed on the ground, furious. “How did this happen?!”

“Your contract with Hawkmoth fell through,” Felix explained, crouching beside the criminal. He pinched the repaired scarf from the ground where it had fallen. “Here. Your grandmother made it for you, right?”

Benoit’s eyes filled with tears. “How did you know?”

The wail of sirens announced the approach of the police, and soon Anna was jogging towards Felix. She and another officer escorted Benoit away while Felix approached his benefactors.

By then, Ladybug was helping Chat Noir to his feet. On the way up, he cried out suddenly, and she looked him over in concern. “What is it?” she demanded.

Felix quickened his pace, alarmed. The cat-like hero had taken a hard hit, and he knew that Miraculous Cleanse hadn’t done much to help.

Finally, Chat raised his head, smirking. “It was just my heart,” he explained. “Aching for you.”

Ladybug scowled at him. “Chat... you have blood on your forehead.”

He touched it curiously. “That? Oh, that, you healed with your Miraculous Cleanse... thing.”

Her earring beeped a warning just as his ring followed suit. “We’ve got to go,” she pointed out. “Thank you for your help, Detective...?”

“Agreste,” Felix clarified. “Felix Agreste.”

For some inexplicable reason that startled both of her companions, Ladybug’s cheeks burst into flames and she slapped her hands over her mouth. “Agreste?!” she squeaked.

“Do you know him, My Lady?” Chat asked, amused.

She shook her head, uncharacteristically flustered. “I just—I—I worked with the Agreste family once, remember, Kitty?” She elbowed her partner in the ribs, soliciting a pained grunt and an increasingly green complexion, which only Felix seemed to notice. In a rush to depart, she gave Felix an awkward wave. “Well, it was nice to meet you!” she yelped, and then swung away into the night.

Chat gave a lazy salute and vaulted away in the opposite direction.

Not two seconds later, Felix heard a crash in an alleyway across the street. He grimaced. He really should catch up to Anna and help her bring Benoit into the station. He should go back to the Prefecture and write up a report of the incident. But Anna had nearly every officer in Paris there to help her out, and reports could be written tomorrow.

Right now, a cat needed help.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir

 

That was a bad move,” Plagg said in Chat’s head as he tried to straighten from his crash landing.

“No, really?” he jabbed back. “You think I did that on purr-pose?”

Don’t use that tone with me; I just saved your life.

Chat stumbled and caught himself against the alley wall. This was an alleyway, right? Yes, those were bricks, and over there was a wall. Ohh no. His head did not want to turn that way. “Right. Plagg, I didn’t know you could do that.”

Only in emergencies, mind. Don’t count on it, you hear? Promise me you will never do something that stupid again.”

Emergencies. Chat Noir supposed that just now had been an emergency. He remembered jumping in front of Felix to block Outlaw’s gavel; but then he had misjudged something and taken the full force of the hit. The rest was spotty after that. He had heard sounds, and found himself moving at some point, calling Cataclysm, and then staring up at a grumpy Ladybug.

Nothing like this had ever happened before—not this bad. Chat had seen that gavel shatter a tree trunk, and it had hit him with that same force. He should be dead. But along with the magical reinforcement of his suit, Plagg’s emergency mending had pulled him back from the brink, leaving him bruised and his body in shock.

The last blinking light on his ring alerted him to its expiration, and he could feel Plagg withdrawing. “No, wait, Plagg...” he protested, but it was too late.

The transformation lifted, and Adrien Agreste was swallowed by darkness.


 Felix

 

The crowds had calmed and dwindled by the time Felix emerged from the park, scanning the alleyways for runaway heroes. He heard murmurs around him:

“That was the third one in two days!”

“I wonder why the video hasn’t been posted on the Ladyblog yet. It’s usually up by now.”

“Maybe she didn’t catch it this time.”

“It was hard to see anything anyways.”

“I bet she was sitting in the trees, filming.”

Some daring girl, Felix thought. She risked her life filming akuma battles, and hadn’t yet been deterred. Alya, he thought her name was. At least, that was the name he remembered from the blog.

A clatter, followed by a familiar beep, drew Felix towards a particularly darkened alleyway. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he slipped between the dampened bricks. It was narrow at the entrance, but the walls tapered away from each other. The back door of a cafe, and a cluster of dumpsters occupied the open space, closed in by a cement wall. There, in the corner between the bricks and the back wall, a dark figure leaned, clutching his side. Taking in the sharp corners of cat-ears on the figure’s head, Felix rushed forward. He had nearly reached the shadowy form when a familiar voice gasped:

“No, wait, Plagg....”

A blinding green light flooded the area. It washed over Chat Noir, magically peeling away the leather suit and mask to reveal street clothes and an ordinary kid.

“Ordinary” would have been the appropriate word, had Felix Agreste not known exactly who this was. His first thought was: What will Father think when he hears about this?

And his second thought was: Father will never hear about this.

As soon as the transformation released, Felix watched his little brother pitch forward, lifelessly, to the ground. He lay still, his pale face illuminated by a tiny patch of moonlight and his body partially cradled between the wall and the ground.

No,” Felix gasped, and flew to his knees beside Adrien. “Hey, buddy, wake up. Adrien?”

There was no response, only the hiss of pained, shallow breaths. Felix’s hands fluttered uselessly around Adrien’s face—he was afraid to touch him. If he moved him, and a broken bone shifted the wrong way.... Felix shivered at the thought.

“You can touch him, you know,” a nasally voice said from just behind Felix’s ear.

He couldn’t hold back the yelp as he swept around, looking for the source of the voice. There was no one there. No one, except a tiny, disproportionate, floating cat. Felix yelped again.

“Long story short,” the floating cat said. “I’m what makes him Chat Noir; the name’s Plagg. Now, I know I’m extremely interesting, but I’d rather you focus on him right now. I’m not too keen on having to pick a new holder any time soon.”

Felix gulped, unsure of what any of that meant. He finally worked up the courage to press his hand to Adrien’s cheek. He was cold.

“I’m calling an ambulance,” he said, drawing his cell phone from his pocket.

Plagg flew around and plastered himself to the phone screen, preventing the human from using it. “You can’t! If anyone finds out he’s Chat Noir, the word will spread and Hawk Moth will find out. And then Hawk Moth will target Adrien in his civilian life.”

Felix gulped. That was certainly a problem. But letting Adrien die because he didn’t receive proper care was an even bigger problem.

“Don’t worry; I mended the broken bones with my magical energy. He just needs to rest. Oh, and he has a concussion, but that will go away eventually,” Plagg reassured him.

Felix scowled at the tiny creature. Sure, no reason to worry at all.

At least he could get his brother to some place dry. Somewhere comfortable.... When Felix thought about comfort, there was one person who came to mind. But, no, that would be no good. He couldn’t bother her with something like this.

The detective removed his blazer and folded it into a temporary pillow. He settled Adrien’s head on it, but when he drew his hand away from the boy’s hair, it was covered in blood. He traced the source to a long, ragged gash on the back of Adrien’s head, where it had connected with the tree trunk. Swallowing his panic, Felix quickly unbuttoned his shirt and pressed it to the wound, trying to staunch the blood flow and wondering if his brother would need stitches.

Felix didn’t know how to stitch a wound. That was something hospitals did. But Plagg had warned him away from hospitals. That led him right back to where he started. There was only one person Felix knew who could handle things like this:

“Brigitte,” he said, when she answered his phone call. “Can you borrow your parents’ car?”

“I mean, I guess. I’ll have to ask them.”

Please.

“Felix, what’s wrong?”

“I, uh, I found a stray cat. It’s hurt.”

A smile appeared in Brigitte’s voice. “You called just the right person.”

She had no idea.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Brigitte was on her way. While Felix had been in the States studying criminology, Brigitte had attended veterinarian school, and was working her way towards starting her own practice.

She would know what to do. She had to.

After what seemed like an eternity, headlights dripped into the alleyway and a car door thumped shut.

“Felix?” Brigitte called in a loud whisper.

“Over here.”

“Where?” The flashlight on her cellphone blinded him, but he knew she could see him when she gasped and started running. “That’s not a cat, Felix.”

He had some sarcastic comments up his sleeve, but he was not in the mood for joking. “He’s hurt,” Felix explained, his voice breaking. “His head, and... here.” He gestured vaguely to Adrien’s ribs. “I think he needs stitches.”

Brigitte lowered herself to sit beside Felix and eyed him levelly. “Felix, you know I’m not a real doctor. I treat animals, not people.”

Plagg swept out from Adrien’s sweater pocket and hovered before Brigitte’s face, looking deeply into her eyes. “She’ll do,” he concluded.

“What is this?” Brigitte squeaked.

“I am not a ‘this’,” Plagg insisted, slumping back down. “I am a powerful demi-god.”

The dark-haired girl seemed to hear none of this, and immediately clamped the tiny cat-spirit in her hands and pressed him to her face. “Ooh, I love it! Is this Adrien’s pet?”

Plagg looked absolutely mortified as he was smeared over the doting girl’s cheek.

“Brigitte,” Felix snapped, his voice coming out more harsh than he had intended. “What should I do?”

“Oh! Oh.” She released Plagg. “Um, I’ll have to look at him more closely, with better light. I’m guessing you have a good reason for calling me instead of an ambulance?” She picked up one of Adrien’s hands and took his pulse.

Felix nodded. “Brigitte, Adrien, he’s....”

“Chat Noir,” Plagg said through a huge yawn. “Thanks to me and my awesome fashion sense.”

Brigitte clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh my. Oh my gosh. Oh, wow. I did not expect—well, that would explain—I mean, wow! Okay, okay, I’m calming down; deep breaths.”

“Yeah, yeah,” the tiny black cat said through a yawn. “Stop gawking and get me some Camembert. I’m starving.”

In the space of half a minute, Brigitte had collected herself, and Felix let out a sigh of relief. Truly, she was amazing. If he had her, he could handle this. He looked to Brigitte for direction, and she pushed her hair back, wearing that face that told him she was in her serious zone. “Let’s get him in the car first,” she decided. “And we’ll go from there.”


 

The car ride was a blur. Felix was scared, and so, so helpless. He sat in Brigitte’s back seat with Adrien’s head in his lap. The younger Agreste had come around partially and was talking, but Felix couldn’t understand anything he said—only “Ladybug” here and there. His mumbling eventually trailed off into tears, and Felix stroked his cheeks, trying to comfort him. Unfocused green eyes gazed pleadingly into overlooking gray ones. When had Adrien learned such a lonely look?

Finally, Felix made out a few words:

“Ladybug, my brother came back.”

Oh.... Oh. Felix realized what was going on; he was being mistaken for Ladybug, and eavesdropping on a conversation about himself. Unable to resist the urge to hear more, he leaned close over his brother’s face.

“I’m afraid,” Adrien admitted. “What if I’m not good enough?”

“You’re Adrien. Of course you’re good enough, you stupid glow worm,” Felix said softly.

If Adrien heard him, he showed no sign of it. He only said: “I miss him.” He clasped his older brother’s arm to his chest, huddling around it as if it were a lifeline. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, almost inaudibly.

“You’d better be,” Felix replied, to conceal his emotion. Try as he might, he couldn’t avoid smoothing down his brother’s hair with his free hand.

The boy reacted to his touch and whimpered. “Hurts,” he mumbled.

Felix held back the tears that threatened his eyes. “Shh,” he soothed. “I’ve got you. You’re going to be okay.” As a street light flashed through the window, Felix caught sight of the telltale bruise on his brother’s cheek.

He should have connected the dots: Chat Noir had been bruised in the akuma fight the previous day, and then this evening, Adrien had been sporting a bruise in the exact same spot.

No, even before that, Felix had gone wrong. He shouldn’t have gotten involved in the akuma battle today; if he hadn’t, Adrien wouldn’t have been injured protecting him. And before that, he should have been there for Adrien in the past four years, so that he wouldn’t even think of doing something as ridiculous as this.

When the car slowed to a stop and Brigitte pulled the key out of the ignition, Felix looked up.

“Your clinic...?” He asked in confusion. They had pulled into the tiny parking-lot behind the animal hospital where Brigitte worked.

She shrugged, twisting around to look at the brothers. “Boss gave me a key. Your ‘cat’ there needs stitches and pain killers, and we’ve got all that inside.”

“Isn’t this... illegal?”

“Oh yeah, definitely. So what? Go ahead and arrest me if you want.”

And so, like always, Felix was dragged along with Brigitte’s crazy logic, his fear mitigated by her confidence. Between the two of them, they were able to get Adrien inside the clinic, where they pushed together four waiting-room chairs to serve as a makeshift bed. As soon as he was settled, Plagg dove under the covers, exhausted.

Felix watched anxiously as Brigitte examined the younger Agreste’s various injuries. When she unbuttoned his shirt, Felix paled. Dark purple and red blotches covered the boy’s torso where he had connected with the gavel and the tree. Brigitte’s face tightened in concern, and her lips grew thinner as she prodded the protruding ribs.

“Nothing’s broken,” she concluded. “But there might be a few fractures. It’s got to be hurting him to breathe.”

Felix nodded, his vision tunneling. He would do anything to bear those bruises instead of Adrien.

Roused by Brigitte’s inspections, Adrien blinked and turned his head towards Felix. “Where...?”

The elder brother crouched so that he was at eye-level. “You’re safe,” he explained. “Someone is helping you.”

Adrien’s breath hitched and tears appeared at the corners of his eyes. “Everything hurts,” he admitted, like a child.

“I know,” Felix replied. He was embarrassed to hold his brother’s hand in front of Brigitte, but he did it anyways. “She’s seeing what she can do to make it better.”

The boy’s clouded eyes glinted with mischief. “Do I need a CAT-scan?” he asked.

“He probably does,” Brigitte whispered, and then realization dawned on her face. “Oh! Oh, I get it. Because CAT and chat, and hah, oh. Good one.”

Adrien tried to giggle, but it quickly turned into rasping moans, and then all at once he propelled himself over the side of the chairs and retched violently.

Felix heard the splash as he hauled Adrien from the chairs’ edge, barely preventing him from toppling to the floor. When he settled his brother back under the blankets, the latter was out cold.

“Oh, Felix,” Brigitte said softly. He followed her gaze to the floor and saw the devastating truth: it was evident from the color and consistency of the vomit that Adrien hadn’t eaten in days. Felix knew in that moment that stitches and bandages couldn’t fix this. No, the problem was much deeper than the surface, and it would take time to heal.

Felix heard a cell phone buzz in Adrien’s pocket. Plucking it out, he checked the caller ID. “’Nino’?” After brief deliberation, he answered it.

The voice of a young man spoke frantically on the other end.

“Hey. We know you’ve got Adrien in there and he’s in bad shape. We’re at the back door. Can you let us in?”

“What? Who is this?”

“We’re his friends from school. Nino and Alya.”

Felix recognized the girl’s name from the Ladyblog. “No. No reporters.”

The girl must have snatched the phone from Nino, because she was the one to respond: “We’re not here to be reporters. We’re here to be friends. We know Adrien’s secret.”

She sounded sincere, and even if she wasn’t, Felix figured it wouldn’t hurt to let her in. Keep your friends close, and enemies closer, was the saying.

Felix had never made a better decision in his life.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix

 

The two took complete control of the situation: Nino threw his bag onto the counter and dumped out a pile of cheese, which Plagg set to devouring; and Alya helped Brigitte with cleaning and bandaging. As they worked, the younger girl filled the veterinarian in on Adrien’s medical history.

“He’s not allergic to anything but feathers, and he hasn’t had any past health problems besides being underweight. Oh, and he can’t do anesthetics—he has bad reactions to those.”

“Yeah, and you do not want to see that,” Nino added. “He starts chasing imaginary mice everywhere.”

“Actually, that might be kind of fun to see,” Alya grinned.

“How do you know all this?” Felix asked. It was all news to him, even the feathers part. Just how bad of a brother was he?

Nino shrugged. “We’re his friends. Us, him, and Marinette, we do everything together. Except saving Paris, that is.”

Brigitte gasped. “So you know that he’s—he’s—!”

“Chat Noir?” Alya filled in matter-of-factly. “Well, yeah. Him and Mar—Ladybug are really bad at lying, so we figured it out. Ah, what pure souls,” she sighed, tucking some of Adrien’s damp hair behind his ear affectionately. “They still have no idea that we know.”

Felix noticed that the kid called Nino was watching him intently. When their eyes met, the latter spoke up: “Are you his half-brother?”

Felix nodded, wondering how much he deserved the title right now. “Did he mention me?” he asked in a small voice.

“Just once,” Nino said apologetically. “There’s some things he just doesn’t talk about, and most of them have to do with his family.”

“Your name is Felix, right?” Alya said off-handedly.

When the brother in question nodded in affirmative, Nino balked. “Wait, how did you know that? He didn’t even tell me that!”

“Marinette,” Alya said, and it was all the answer Nino seemed to need.

Nino’s phone lit up with a notification. “Sabine’s here!” he announced, and skipped off to the door.

“Wait, who?” Felix protested, but the younger boy was already gone.

“Marinette’s mom,” Alya explained, pulling a blanket up to Adrien’s shoulders. “She knows too. About his secret identity.”

Nino led a small, Chinese woman into the room, and she shuffled over with a greeting bow to Felix and Brigitte. Throwing her large bundle of bags onto the counter, she rushed over to Adrien’s side.

Aiya,” she gasped, touching his face and soothing him when he whimpered. “I brought rice porridge,” she said, waving vaguely to her luggage on the counter. “Alya, would you get it out?”

Watching Sabine, Felix saw the mother he had always missed: calm and steady, and so, so warm. She fed Adrien like a baby, cradling his head and scooping up the bits that dribbled down his chin. In order not to burn his tongue, she blew carefully on each spoonful. With every bite, more color returned to the younger Agrete’s cheeks.

Feeling absolutely useless, Felix shrunk back against the wall. Brigitte eyed him sympathetically and came to him, draping a blanket around his shoulders.

“Here,” she said, “You must be cold.”

He glanced down at himself, only then remembering that he had stripped down to his undershirt. He couldn’t find it in himself to care as his eyes wandered back to his brother.

Brigitte followed Felix’s gaze. “I think he’s going to be fine; he’ll just need some company.” She eyed her watch. “We’ve got to clear out of here before the head veterinarian comes in at six.”

“Thank you, Brigitte. I don’t know how to.... Will you be okay? You won’t get in trouble?”

She shook her head. “I already checked. There’s no cameras in the building, and if my boss asks any questions, I can tell her I found a stray cat and brought it in. That’s a much smaller offense than bringing a human in here.”

Felix nodded uncertainly, trying to get ahold of himself. Really, he had seen dead bodies and been in shoot-outs; he’d think he could handle seeing his brother get a few bruises. But his hands still shook, and his heart still pounded.

Brigitte leaned over and kissed him sweetly on the cheek. Who knew that a kiss could fix everything? It took all of the panic and tension out of him in an instant. He turned and planted a thank-you kiss on her forehead.

Then, the veterinarian gave him a look which he had learned meant: I’m about to tell you something you won’t like.

“What?” he inquired cautiously.

“I’m sending him home with you.”

Felix sat up straight. “What?! I don’t even have furniture! And besides, I don’t know what to do with him!”

Apparently his protests were a smidgeon too loud, because Alya, Nino, and Sabine all looked up, startled.

“Easy,” Brigitte smirked. “You just feed him and give him attention.”

“Brigitte, he’s not actually a cat.”

“It’s the same principle.”

Felix opened his mouth to protest again, but closed it immediately. He should know by now that arguing with Brigitte would be fruitless.

And so, not an hour later, Felix sat in his apartment, trying to coax a drowsy Adrien into his sleeping bag. “The cat’s out of the bag,” the boy kept mumbling. And then, as he situated himself inside: “And now the cat’s back in the bag.”

“Adrien, you know that’s something I can’t unsee. I can’t just magically forget that you’re Chat Noir, no matter how much either of us want that.”

The younger Agreste blushed in the dim light and turned his face away. He had been partially awake since the ride home, drifting between humiliated to loopy. He was likely aware that Felix knew his secret, but not always with it enough to remember.

Felix leaned close. “Hey, do you know who I am?”

The bright green eyes tried to focus on his face. “Felix?”

“Yeah.” Finally, Felix was not being mistaken for Ladybug.

“How did I...?”

Felix sighed and sat back. “You detransformed in the alleyway, and I found you there.”

“Detrans... oh. Oh.” Adrien’s eyes widened as he fully realized the implications: Felix knew he was Chat Noir. “That wasn’t me,” was his best comeback.

“Sure, okay,” Felix replied sarcastically.

His little brother had started to doze off, having curled tightly onto his side. One hand snaked out of the covers and clutched at Felix’s shirtsleeve. Felix tried to shake him off, but the grip was too tight. And so, he found himself drifting off to sleep right there next to Adrien.

Before the apartment was silent, the younger sibling spoke up one more time:

“Felix... when you arrested Benoit—did you tell him, ‘you’re under Agreste’?”

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix awoke in darkness. His hand searched the ground beside him, puzzled to find it bare. He felt the slippery material of his sleeping bag covering him like a blanket.

“Adrien...?” He twisted his head around and saw the boy standing in the shadows of his open window. He was Chat Noir again, resplendent with black leather and twitching ears. He glanced back when he heard his brother call his name, luminous eyes standing out in the dark.

“I have to get home before morning,” he explained. “Father will be upset.”

“Are you in any shape—”

“I’m fine.” And then, with a charming smile, he saluted his goodbye and dove into the night.


 Adrien

 

Adrien spent the rest of that early morning sitting against the large windows of his room, staring out into the awakening Parisian sky. He couldn’t get the image out of his head: that look in Felix’s eyes as he gazed down at him. Was it pity? Concern? Disappointment?

The bubble of shame burrowing in Adrien’s chest told him it had indeed been disappointment. No matter how he tried to distract himself or fall asleep, that shame remained, choking him from the inside. At some point, Adrien moved to his bathroom and huddled by the toilet, waiting for his stomach to make true on its threats to heave.

It never did.

A knock came at the door.

“Adrien? It is time to leave for school,” Nathalie informed him.

The Agreste heir checked his watch. He had five minutes. Thankfully, he hadn’t changed out of his clothes from the previous day. All he needed to do to get ready was slather on some makeup, slick down his hair, brush his teeth—ooh, that was not going to work; he had bitten his tongue. A mint would do the trick.

Just as he was reaching for the doorknob, something caught in the corner of his eye. He looked down at himself. The length of his shirtfront was covered in the gray hues of gutter water. His jeans were torn and muddy, and was that blood on his collar? Yes, it was blood.

Adrien sighed and made his way dejectedly to his closet. He would have to change after all. And if he had any doubts remaining that the night before had really happened, they were dashed away now.

He hurried into his classroom just as the professor was calling the last name on the roll sheet.

“I see you’ve decided to join us,” she said, raising an eyebrow as she made a check mark by his name.

Marinette arrived ten minutes later, as usual, and received the same stern treatment, but this was lost to Adrien. The remainder of the class was a blur, and he didn’t even know he’d fallen asleep until he woke with a start. Some loud noise had shaken his desk, and the entire classroom was startled into shocked silence. He was suddenly aware that his face was pressed against his desk, the moisture of drool trailing from his lips.

Adrien looked around, groggy. Everyone was staring at him. What had happened? His questioning eyes found Nino.

“Dude...” his friend said quietly. “You okay, man?”

It came to Adrien slowly: he must have fallen asleep, and his head must have dropped onto the desk, producing the loud sound that woke him and captured the attention of the entire class. He felt a blush creep up his neck and ears as he heard giggles and chattering rise around the room.

“See me after class, Monsieur Agreste,” the professor said, and continued the lesson.

Adrien obeyed dutifully, although he wasn’t entirely sure what the professor was talking about when he stood before her an hour later. Her words were garbled, and the air around her kept flexing and spiraling. Finally, with an exasperated huff, she dismissed him.

He was happily surprised to find his three friends waiting for him in the hallway.

“Marinette insisted that we wait up for you,” Alya said pointedly, putting an arm around the blushing girl’s shoulders.

“Yeah, we were going to get ice cream,” Nino explained. “Wanna come?”

Ice cream?!Yes, yes, he very much wanted ice cream. He could eat a whole bucket of it. It had been so long since he’d had it that he could barely remember the flavor, but he was sure it was good. And he was feeling so hot right now, it might help him cool down....

“A-Adrien?” Marinette’s sweet voice surfaced in his thoughts. “Would you like to cream the ice store with us? I-I mean—”

Adrien was terribly confused. Was that Marinette mixing up her words again, or was it his brain scrambling them? He and his brain had not been on good terms today. Now, he couldn’t remember how to put a sentence together. He stared into Mari’s piercing blue eyes, using them as an anchor. Slowly, his thoughts collected, though he felt like he was miles away from the present.

And, pulling together what he knew to be his most charming grin, he said: “Of course! I’d love to.”

Then, the world turned upside-down.


Sabrina

 

Sabrina watched as Chloe eavesdropped on the group of friends from a distance. The blonde girl had been unnaturally quiet this year, no longer imposing herself on Adrien like she had been doing since middle school. Perhaps it was because this was their last year of secondary school, and the mayor’s daughter had resigned herself to the fact that she and Adrien would soon part ways. Chloe was planning to study in New York, and Adrien would follow the whims of his father, whatever those were.

Sabrina’s friend was subdued, but there was also a great tension brewing under the surface. It came out in bursts when she would suddenly snap at her bespectacled friend, and it frightened the latter. Some day, she feared, Chloe would break down, and there was no telling how that would manifest.

She put a hand on her best friend’s shoulder. “Chloe,” she urged, “Why don’t we go home? You were going to show me those new shoes you got, right?”

Chloe brushed her off. “I don’t care about those shoes anymore. You can look them up online if you really want to see them.”

“But we were going to—”

“Back off, Sabrina! Really, we’re adults now. Can’t you function on your own?” Chloe spat out the words with none of her usual mean-hearted enthusiasm.

Such things no longer hurt Sabrina. She knew why Chloe lashed out. Deep down, the girl was lonely. She filled in the gap her mother had left with stylish clothes, cutting remarks, and Adrien. Very rarely, Sarbina had witnessed her friend’s barriers fall, and she had broken down crying, telling Sabrina how grateful and unworthy she was to have her friendship.

Now, she let Sabrina lead her away from the happily congregated friends. But Sabrina watched her friend sidelong as they walked, and the red-haired girl could see the darkness growing—darkness which she was powerless to stop.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

It could have been a dream, except proof was scattered all over Felix’s apartment, and Brigitte was texting him non-stop.

How is your cat doing?

Does he have an appetite? If so, that’s good.

Did you get any sleep?

So

Guess what?

I got in trouble.

Head vet is mad because I found a stray cat and didn’t let her meet it. LOL

She likes cats. A lot.

Felix sighed and put his phone down. The scrolling dots at the bottom of the screen showed that Brigitte was in the process of typing her next message. It was so unnecessary—she could say everything she wanted to say in one large message, but instead she sent this stream of short, clipped messages. As a result, his phone buzzed every few seconds, driving him crazy.

He glanced around at the open window, the discarded bandages, and his sleeping bag strewn about by his feet. Felix had lived alone for most of his life, so he didn’t understand why, at this moment, he was so lonely. He had no furniture, no food, no television; and yet, with Adrien there, the tiny apartment had felt like home. His brother’s absence left the place feeling empty and unforgiving.

Sighing, Felix picked up a disposable cup and poured a packet of instant coffee into it, before remembering that he had no way to prepare hot water. He set the cup of powder aside; he’d have to use it later when he had a kettle. In the meantime, the unused cup would sit on his counter, taking up space.

He had to face the facts: Felix was just as useless a brother as he always had been. That wasn’t going to change any time soon. He was like the cup of instant coffee powder—cheap, tasteless, and, ultimately, in the way.

Felix felt an odd fluttering in his chest, inexplicably rendering him light-headed and mildly irritable. It was such a slight feeling, but somehow it terrified him to his core. And why was it so inviting?

Then, a strangely familiar voice whispered, coming from within his head and from all around:

No, not yet.”

The feeling left as soon as it had come. Brushing it off as fatigue, the elder Agreste pulled himself together and headed out the door towards the Prefecture.


 Adrien - Marinette

 

“Of course! I’d love to,” Adrien told Mari, but his voice tapered into a whisper.

Nino saw it first, but it was too late to do anything to stop it. Adrien’s head fell back and he tipped forward, landing on Marinette. She yelped, and her automatic response was to push him away. He slumped into the opposite wall and sat there limply.

“Adrien?!” Marinette gasped, horrified.

Nino crouched by his friend and lifted his face so he could look him in the eye. The latter blinked and stared at Nino, dazed.

“I meant to do that,” he mumbled.

“Sure you did, Ade. Man, I told you not to come to school today.”

“I—I’ll go get the nurse,” Marinette offered, and rushed frantically down the hallway.

Still holding his friend’s head up, Nino clucked like a mother hen. “Did you even eat anything today?”

Adrien nodded as best he could, and held up a finger. “I had one.”

“One what?”

“One of... a thing.”

“What thing?”

For a moment, Adrien screwed up his face as if he were trying to solve the secrets of the universe. “Oh, wait,” he concluded. “That was yesterday.”

“You—”

Before Nino could shake the life out of him, Alya crouched down and put a hand on Adrien’s knee. Giving Nino a side-long glance to shut him up, she spoke soothingly to Adrien: “Alright, we’re going to take care of you. We’ll get you better.”

A tear crept down Adrien’s cheek as his eyes shifted to Alya.

The nurse came striding down the hallway, then, with Marinette on her heels. Sweeping down with her lab coat tails flying, she examined Adrien. “What seems to be the problem?” she asked.

“He has a concussion,” Alya informed the nurse.

“Yeah, he, uh, fell down the stairs earlier,” Nino lied.

“He did?!” Marinette gasped.

“Earlier this morning, Mari. You weren’t here yet,” Alya diverted.

“It was pretty bad,” Nino elaborated. “He was out for a few minutes.”

“And why didn’t you bring him to the nurse’s office then?” the nurse asked sternly.

“He wouldn’t let us!” Alya protested. “He didn’t want to be late to class.”

The nurse sighed, still displeased. She shone her flashlight into Adrien’s eyes. “It does look like a concussion,” she agreed.

“I have a con-claw-shun,” Adrien mumbled with a stupid smile, looking around for reactions. “Everything looks dif-fur-ent now, heh...heh.”

Nino clapped a hand over Adrien’s mouth to shut him up, but Alya saw that it was already too late: Marinette had gone quite pale, her eyes wide with some realization.

Alya approached the subject cautiously. “Marinette, you didn’t know Adrien was....”

Marinette’s face went two shades paler—

“You didn’t know he was such a big fan of Chat Noir, did you?”

The raven-headed girl’s soul seemed to snap back into her body. “Huh? Oh, no, I-I mean I knew he was a fan, but this....” She seemed to buy it, and was visibly relieved.

Alya apologized silently for misleading her best friend. But here, she saw a rare opportunity. “You’re a fan of Chat Noir too, right, Mari? He’s really cool, and brave, and funny....”

“And terribly good-looking,” Adrien drawled in contribution.

“Sure, Adrien, that too.”

“He’s incorrigible,” Marinette broke in, wrinkling her nose.

Alya and Nino exchanged a look. Well. That had backfired.

But, looking at Adrien, he didn’t even seem to have heard his classmate’s cutting words. He had passed out, and when Nino pressed a hand to his forehead, it was hot with fever.

The nurse stood and pulled out her cell phone. “I’ll call his father....”

“No!” Alya and Nino said in unison, earning them a stern look.

“I mean, it’s not necessary. We can escort him home. Right, Mari? Nino?” Alya corrected.

“Right,” Nino agreed, and clumsily hoisted his friend onto his back. “How is he so heavy?!”

The nurse still seemed concerned, but didn’t protest as the group of friends exited the school. Alya pulled Mari close as they followed a staggering Nino.

“Your house is closest to the school, yeah?” she whispered.

“Yes...?”

“We’re going to bring Adrien there.”

Marinette jumped away from Alya, her face on fire. “Eep! My house? Shouldn’t we just bring him home?”

“Do you really think M. Agreste is going to take proper care of him?”

Marinette frowned, thinking of all the dreary details she knew of Adrien’s home life. She thought of the way he drooled and devoured the croissants she would bring him, as if he’d been starving. “No,” she answered sadly.

After that, they walked in silence until they reached the Dupain-Cheng bakery. Halfway to their destination, Adrien had come to and insisted on walking, and he did so decently enough with Nino’s arm around his shoulders for support. The bakery was empty from the mid-afternoon lull, and Mme. Cheng sang as she wiped down the counters.

Sabine rushed over as soon as she saw the bedraggled bunch cross the threshold and immediately squished Adrien’s cheeks between her hands. “Poor child,” she gasped, and Adrien giggled deliriously.

Half an hour later, the blonde boy was upstairs in the Dupain-Cheng living room, bundled up in an armchair, being spoon-fed by Sabine for the second time that day. Alya and Nino had ducked out with some excuse about a homework assignment, leaving a trembling Marinette to the mercy of her own anxiety. Adrien had been in her house before, but not like this. He was wrapped in a blanket that she had used recently—she couldn’t remember the last time it had been washed—and what if it smelled like her feet? What’s more, her mother was mothering him, feeding him the rice porridge Marinette had always been fed when she was sick as a kid. It made her feel like he had crossed the line from friend to family, and she didn’t quite know how to deal with that.

“Marinette? Can you hear me? I need you to feed him while I go back to the store,” her mother was saying.

“What? Me? I feed him?” Mari stammered.

Sabine nodded patiently. “He needs to drink some water, too. You’ll be fine, Mari.” She squeezed her daughter’s hand and then was gone.

Marinette gulped and took the bowl of porridge in her shaking hands. Slowly but surely, she managed to direct the spoon to Adrien’s lips.

He opened his eyes. “My Lady?”

Marinette dropped the spoon. She ducked to retrieve it and managed to clip her head against the coffee table. Then, on the way back up, she upended the bowl of porridge and its contents landed soundly on the carpet.

Blinking through stars and tears, Marinette turned her attention to Adrien. He was smiling. Reaching out to her, he patted her head as if he were praising a puppy.

“That’s okay, Mari. I’m not hungry.”

She felt herself blushing as she bent to scoop up the fallen food. “There’s more kitchen in the food! I mean! There’s a food kitchen! Ah, porridge! I’ll go kitchen the porridge!”

But as she was fleeing, Adrien caught her arm. Looking sheepish, he asked: “Can you... stay with me?”

Mari’s heart pounded so hard it hurt. She gulped down her panic and nodded. “S-Sure.”

He smiled gratefully, and then lapsed into silence.

“Is everything okay?” Marinette asked after a time. She winced. Obviously, everything was not okay. “I mean,” she corrected. “Besides falling down the stairs.”

He sat up straighter. “Falling... what?”

“Nino and Alya said you tripped this morning. Did you—did you eat breakfast?” she asked in a hushed tone, voicing a concern she had held for some time.

His green eyes widened briefly, and she thought she saw the threat of tears lingering within. But not seconds later, he had managed to squash that emotion. He snapped back into character as sweet, bashful Adrien. “I guess not,” he admitted.

Marinette didn’t know what came over her, but she heard the resolute words leave her mouth before she could stop them: “I’m going to feed you breakfast every day from now on.”

In the aftermath of this proclamation, Adrien stared at her in awe and Marinette buried her face in a couch pillow. Before she knew it, the blonde had scooted forward in his chair to put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“I would love that, Mari.”

Chapter Text

Raising his eyes to the stairway, Felix met the steely gaze of his father.

 

Felix and Adrien meet again after four years.

Chapter Text

Marinette - Adrien

 

Marinette was certain she had never been so happy in her life. Her favorite boy was sitting in her living room, watching her favorite movie, and they were laughing together at all her favorite parts. She could never have guessed how much they had in common! She had seen hints of it when he came over years ago to play video games, but her crush had blinded her from making sense of anything until now.

Now, they simply sat together as friends. He was grateful for her company, and she was grateful for his existence. But there was something... something lingering at the back of Mari’s mind. Was it something he had said? Whatever it was, it had planted a seed of doubt that she couldn’t quite place. She was certain it would come back to her later, when she lay in her bed trying to sleep.

The movie was nearly over, and Adrien was shoveling porridge into his mouth. “Your mom is such a good cook, Mari,” he said through a full mouth.

“You think so?”

“Of course! This is amazing! I haven’t felt this good in years!”

After he said it, he immediately realized how pathetic it sounded. “I mean... After so long eating rich people food, you kind of get tired of it, yeah? So this is nice.”

“Are you saying that my mom cooks poor people food?” Mari folded her arms in mock sternness.

“No, no! Well, yes. I suppose. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. No, it’s so much better!”

Mari nodded in satisfaction. “Hm. I guess you’re right. Rich people food sounds horrible. People should know we’re not supposed to eat snails, am I right?”

They bantered on like this all the way through the ending credits, until the raven-headed girl stood to switch the television off. When she turned back to her friend, she caught him with his mask down, a forlorn look directed out the window.

She returned to her seat beside him. “Adrien, is something bothering you?”

He looked at her, and she finally saw trust in his eyes—green eyes that were so, so familiar. He nodded. “My brother came home,” he said simply.

Mari was one of the few Parisians who was aware that Adrien even had a brother, thanks to her stalking habits. She cringed, wondering if she should hide this fact. But her friend didn’t give her time to wonder much, as he continued:

“Just when I had managed to forget about him and accept that he was never coming back, he shows up. And I’m—I’m just me.... And I’m so afraid he’s disappointed in me.”

Marinette couldn’t help but squeeze his hand. He looked so lost. “You’re Adrien,” she said, as if it meant everything.

Unbeknownst to her, she had stirred a memory in the boy, of a half-dream the night before:

Of course you’re good enough, you stupid glowworm.”

He took in a sharp breath and sat forward so suddenly that Mari was afraid he would topple. But he remained steady, his cheeks flushed with healthy color. “That’s it!” he gleamed. “He found out! He knows, and he still.... Okay, alright, this is—this is—thank you Mari!” And he dove to wrap her tightly in his arms.

The poor girl had no idea what he was saying or how she had ended up hugging Adrien Agreste, but she wasn’t complaining. Trying not to lose her cool, she snaked her arms around his middle and patted his back in response.

Sabine came up the stairs at that moment, and the two teenagers broke away from their embrace with unnecessary guilt. Smiling at their innocence, she approached Adrien to check his temperature. “Oh my, Kitten! You seem to be doing much better!”

Adrien nodded guilelessly, but Marinette paled.

“Maman... did you just call Adrien ‘Kitten’?”

Marinette had no time to question further, because Tikki pinched her from inside her sweater—the signal they had agreed on when an akuma was loose. She yelped and jumped from her chair. “I—I have to go! I homeworked a project! I mean, I have to sew a finish! I mean—”

“That’s fine, dear,” Sabine said with a hint of amusement, as her daughter wasted no time rushing to her room.

Adrien was puzzled at her sudden flight but was immediately distracted as Plagg pinched from under his shirt. “Akuma,” the tiny cat whispered.

Adrien shot to his feet immediately, held still only by the startled expression of Mme. Cheng. “I just remembered that I got a text from Nathalie,” he explained hurriedly. And without further ado, he shoved his feet into his shoes and made for the door. When he had nearly reached the stairs, he turned back, returning to the chair. He made a hasty job of folding the blanket and placing it carefully on the couch, and then rushed away again, proclaiming his gratitude breathlessly.

Sabine stood and blocked Adrien’s way, catching him by the shoulders. His sudden whirlwind of action was brought to a halt. Looking up gently into his eyes, she gave him a warm smile. “Don’t push yourself, alright?”

What was this? Mme. Cheng hardly knew him, yet she had fed him and nursed him back to health and seemed to genuinely care for him. He nodded contritely.

“And do call us when you get home. It’s already so late.”

Adrien seemed lost for words, unable to even muster his signature smile—he had craved this motherly affection for so long that he had no idea how to handle the emotion rising up within him.

“I will,” he finally said. And when Sabine pulled him into a tight hug, he said “thank you” with all his heart, returning the embrace with barely controlled desperation. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, he chanted silently to himself. He had to be strong now. He had to be Chat Noir.

The warmth that now filled him was no longer feverish—it was the first real happiness he had felt in a long time.

Chapter Text

Adrien

Adrien gets bored in Chinese class.

 

Felix and Chat

Chat sees Felix for the first time in costume.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix knew something was wrong as soon as he saw Anna that morning. He had come in early to make up for leaving her to tie up the case the night before, but still she gazed at him with a distinctly resentful stare. She carried herself gracefully, though, and accepted his apology, so he thought the storm had passed.

He had never been so wrong.

Benoit had spent the night at the prefecture and was to give his statement this morning. He admitted to all of his crimes in a dejected voice, made no requests for trial or lawyer, and only asked to see his grandmother before being locked back up.

Unfortunately, the matter wasn’t so simple. The Prefecture needed information on the gang that Benoit and Germaine had been associated with, and in the two men they had valuable informants. They were offered shorter sentences and witness protection for any tips they could offer, but both former friends still refused.

Anna ran a hand through her short brown hair, sighing heavily. It was past lunchtime, and neither man had budged. Felix took over and used his smarts to his advantage, nudging them towards spilling what they knew. When that didn’t work, he played a game of mental chess with Benoit, but when he got to checkmate, the robber became furious and violent, requiring several officers to detain him.

Felix checked the Ladyblog on the way to the next room. No sightings of Ladybug and Chat Noir yet today. Good. Adrien needed his rest.

He stepped into Germaine’s room. Dropping into his seat with a satisfied grin, he lied to the man: “Benoit gave in. He said that it’s you who is threatening him. Is this true?”

Germaine was understandably flummoxed. “Why would he say that? I’ve done nothing of the sort! Let me talk to him. Bastard! I should never have called him friend.”

Felix’s grin widened. Germaine was walking right into his trap. “Oh but on the contrary—Benoit said that you are very close to the higher-ups. They sent you to ensure that he doesn’t talk.”

“That’s ridiculous! I left that gang five years ago!”

Felix mentally checked off in his head: Question one, answered.

“Hmm,” Felix pressed. “Then I wonder where Benoit got that idea. Perhaps he really is being threatened?”

Germaine sat back. “If he is, it’s not me. The only guy I can think of is Font du Lac—” he froze mid-speech, realizing what he had said. He paled as Felix stood and gathered his files.

“That will be all, thank you. We assure you that you will be given the utmost protection.”

Question two: answered.

Now, Felix finally had some results to show Anna.

By evening, this new information was forwarded to the organized crimes unit, and the team of two was left with a hefty stack of paperwork to turn in by the end of the day. Anna set to it silently as Felix pinched his nose to keep himself awake. He had been up most the night with Adrien, and the lack of sleep, coupled with jet lag, was getting to him. It was not going to prevent him from finishing this paperwork, though; he had left Anna alone on this case too many times.

The section chief approached their desk and tapped on it lightly. “M. Agreste?” he began. “May I speak to you in my office?”

With an apologetic glance to Anna, Felix obeyed.

Everything went downhill from there.

Chief Roger informed Felix that he had been watching the interrogation, and was thoroughly impressed. What’s more, the chief had seen his newly hired detective on the news the previous night, jumping into the battle with the akuma. Felix didn’t mind the praise, but his superior spent a good hour saying something that he could have summed up in five minutes. Not wanting to lose his job though, he endured silently.

What hit hard was Chief Roger’s closing words.

“In light of your performance on this case, I’ll be assigning you a long-term partner. Anna is just temporary, while you get used to things.... The truth is, she’ll be retiring soon. We’ve been holding on to her because she has five kids to support on her own, and three are at university, but she is getting tired. I’m considering moving her to a more clerical position.”

Finally granted the opportunity to speak up, Felix countered: “Actually, Anna shouldered most of the work on this case. She was pursuing Benoit long before I got here; and while we were investigating, she let me leave early to attend to family matters. If anyone deserves praise for this case, it’s her.... With all due respect.”

Chief Roger considered this with a harrumph. “Hard work and commitment is admirable, and necessary, for this job. But so are results. Anna had her days, in her youth, when her efforts were fruitful.”

Felix frowned, saddened by this cynical outlook. But he made no argument, thinking that he needed to get back to help Anna. So he said: “I understand perfectly well.”

And when he turned to leave, a pale-faced Anna stood in the doorway. She held the pile of paperwork in her arms and strode forward with purpose, slamming the stack down on the chief’s desk. “It just needs your approval,” she said through her teeth.

Felix frowned. “Is there anything...?”

“It’s all done,” she snapped, and then stormed out of the room.

Knowing that he had messed up grandly, Felix followed his partner back to her desk. She was putting on her coat and strapping on her purse when her knees suddenly buckled and she sat heavily on the ground. Felix rushed forward to check on her, but a bright purple light threw him back. Then, Anna conversed briefly with a voice only she could hear, before standing and turning on her partner.

As she turned, magic swirled around her, transforming her appearance. Her usually dark skin took on a ghastly pale hue, and her clothes faded into inky black tendrils. A blinding lamp formed at the back of her neck, bending to shine light over her face, painting her features in shadow. She held a clipboard in one hand, to which several sheets of blank paper were attached, fluttering in the magical wind.

She grinned wide with pointed teeth, and cocked her head at Felix. “I do all the work and you get all the praise, huh?” she said in a rumbling voice that sounded like it came from a being as large as the Earth. “Well, you’re out of luck, because Anna is gone now.”

She spread her arms wide, a triumphant gleam in her eye. “I AM INTERROGATOR, AND I WILL UNCOVER YOUR SECRETS!”

Chapter Text

Brigitte

The girl who puts color in Felix's world.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

This was not how Felix had expected his day to end. Not like this: hoisted in the air by a rampaging akuma victim and thrown through the window of their tenth-floor office. The glass shattered as his back connected with it, and then he was falling.

It was only fair, after all, that he should be punished like this. He had left Adrien alone for four years without a word, left him to the mercy of their abusive father. Felix had no right to come back after all this time and think that they could be like brothers again. So now he was going to die, as he should have long ago.

Something slammed into him just before he landed, propelling him sideways. He blacked out from the whiplash, and when he came to, he was lying on the sidewalk as Ladybug stood over him protectively.

“Monsieur Agreste!” she called, keeping her eyes glued to the approaching Interrogator. “You need to run away!”

Felix made a sound of compliance. He did indeed need to run away; the question was more if he could. He found his knees shaky and pinpricks of pain all across his back. He reached over his own shoulder and plucked out a shard of bloody glass. More than his injuries, though, something else was holding him in place: if Chat Noir was going to be joining Ladybug for this fight, Felix wanted to be there to watch. He couldn’t let his baby brother get hurt again.

Ladybug spun her yoyo like a propeller, creating an impenetrable shield. Laughing maniacally, Interrogator plucked a paper from her clipboard and flung it towards the superhero, as if it were a knife. It was deflected, shooting off to the side and burying itself two centimeters deep into the concrete. It was definitely not normal paper. Felix made a mental note to avoid it.

“AGRESTE!” Interrogator called with a vengeance. In her left hand, she brandished a fresh paper. “IT MUST BE NICE TO BE A GENIUS, HUH? YOU GET ALL THE PRAISE WHILE I DO ALL THE WORK?!” She shot papers this way and that, not seeming to mind that Ladybug deflected every one.

Felix’s heart sank. This was all his fault. If only he had stayed with Anna to help her complete the paperwork.... If only he had told her when he had the chance how much he had appreciated her partnership, as brief as it had been. He was always failing like this, wasn’t he? Always absent at the worst times, always too late.

Ladybug backed up until she was right before Felix, pushed back by the constant attacks. “Monsieur Agreste, please run!” she gasped, breathless with exertion.

Instead of obeying, the detective stood, resolute. “The akuma is in the clipboard,” he told the heroine. “Let me help you; she’s my friend.”

Ladybug turned to look at him, and faltered. Interrogator swung out another lethal paper—and met with the unyielding bar of a black bo staff.

“Chat!” Ladybug called.

“Looks like this akuma prefers the spotlight,” her black-clad partner quipped, wincing in the bright light.

She slapped her forehead. “Ugh, Chat. We’ve got a civilian involved. Can you get him out of here?”

Chat—Adrien, Felix had to keep reminding himself, the idea still incongruous in his head—glanced back at his brother. “You should get out of here,” he said simply. “We’ll handle this.”

“But A—Chat Noir! I can help! Besides, you’re—”

“I’m fine, Felix. Just get away from here.” There was an edge in Chat’s voice that made Felix flinch. Interrogator chose that moment to lash out at the hero, and her paper slipped past the guard of Chat’s baton. The projectile was coming straight for his face.

Unsure of what force propelled him, Felix found himself suddenly with his arms around his brother, holding the younger Agreste’s face to his chest and twisting, so that Interrogator’s paper connected with his back.

At first, Felix didn’t feel anything. He slumped to the ground with Chat still in his arms, while Ladybug stepped in to take on Interrogator. The world was oddly silent, until he slowly became aware of Chat talking to him.

The boy was cursing, calling Felix stupid, and... crying?

“Glowworm, are you alright?” Felix asked, and wondered why his voice sounded so far away.

“Of course I am, idiot,” was the reply.

Felix flooded with relief. And then the feeling came back—pain, lots of pain from the glass and from the paper lodged in his shoulder blade—along with another sensation. His thoughts seemed to sort themselves until his deepest emotions and best-kept secrets came through. They bubbled up in his chest, and didn’t stop until they had escaped his parted lips.

“I’m sorry,” he found himself saying. “I shouldn’t have left back then. I regretted it every day. And now I don’t know if you’ll accept me again. I feel like I’ll never be the brother I want to be for you. I know I can’t take back my mistakes, but please just give me a chance. I’ll try my best. I love you, Ade—”

Chat clamped a hand over his brother’s mouth and the two stared at each other, perplexed and embarrassed. Glancing around frantically, the younger Agreste saw that Ladybug was caught up in the fight and didn’t seem to have heard Felix’s identifying words.

Felix was mortified. He would never say any of those things he had just said. What’s worse, it had felt so good to say them, to get them off his chest. He had been more honest than he had his whole life. And his mouth still refused to close, trying to spill more sincere and sappy words even as Chat struggled to keep it shut. Felix clenched his teeth together, fighting the effects of Interrogator’s charmed paper.

Cautiously, the superhero withdrew his hand. There was a moment where it seemed that Felix had himself under control, but then blatantly sincere words burst forth:

“I hide my emotions because I’m afraid of rejection, but I’m really just a softie inside.”

Felix wanted to crawl into a hole in the ground and die.

Rather than being concerned about his brother’s traumatized state, Chat’s cheeks bulged with held-back laughter. The brat was enjoying this.

“I really wish you would stop listening to me because I’m scared that this thing will make me tell you how much you mean to me, and how proud I am of you,” Felix blurted involuntarily.

Chat could no longer contain his laughter and broke into hysterics, grasping Felix by the face. The elder Agreste could see tears in his brother’s eyes as he spoke: “Stay right here,” he said gently. “Hang in there, you big dork. I’ll take care of this.” And he skipped off to join Ladybug in battle.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix missed much of what happened next in the fight as he was overcome by a great urge to call Brigitte and propose—no, he had to tell her, he was not drunk. He just really, really wanted to marry her right now. Oh, and he loved her. He just had never told her that because he was stubborn.

With horror, he realized what he was doing and hung up. Ohh, oh no. He was never going to live that down.

Cringing, Felix turned his attention back to the battle. The rational, un-enchanted part of his thoughts was reminding him to be careful—Ladybug was here, and if he said the wrong thing around her, she would be able to guess who Chat Noir was. She was familiar with the Agreste family, after all. He briefly considered gagging himself with his tie, but his injuries prevented him from reaching his hands behind his head to fasten a knot.

Stuffing the useless piece of fabric in his pocket, he pushed himself shakily to his feet and shuffled forward, trying to get a better look at what was going on. By now, patrol cars had blocked off the battle area, and the streets had been evacuated. It was apparent that a few other civilians had been struck with truth-papers: Felix wasn’t the only one who had decided to spontaneously propose; others were hugging each other in tears; and one poor soul had been slapped and abandoned. Ladybug had managed to catch Interrogator around the ankle with her yoyo, but the akuma victim simply followed the momentum, diving close to the heroine and taking a swipe at her. Chat was there to deflect it, bouncing away before Interrogator could land another hit. He taunted her, turning her attention away so that Ladybug could have a grab at the clipboard.

Felix sighed. It seemed they had the situation under control. Now, he just needed to control himself until Miraculous Cleanse fixed his rabid honesty. As long as no one spoke to him—

Psst,” someone said to his right. He jerked around and saw Alya peeking around the corner of a building, phone in hands, filming the battle. He desperately hoped it was not a live-stream.

“I’m desperately hoping that’s not a live-stream,” he told her, before he could stop himself.

She looked him up and down, perplexed. “What happened to you? You look awful. And waaay more grumpy than last time I saw you.”

“I’m not grumpy!” he snapped. “I’m very insecure about my scowl, and I wish people would accept that this is just what my face looks like!”

“Whoa, whoa,” Alya said defensively. “Wait. Did you get hit by one of those papers?”

“Yes,” he replied. “And now I’m afraid that I’m going to tell the whole world that my precious little brother is Chat Noir.” Immediately, Felix stuffed his knuckles into his mouth, smothering any more words that would try to come out.

“Yikes,” Alya sympathized. “I do not envy you right now. And by the way, this is not a live-stream. I haven’t done that since I found out their identities. Want to be able to edit the video if I have to, you know?”

Felix relaxed a bit at that news. “I’m so glad my brother has a friend like you,” he told Alya.

She seemed to look at him in a new light. “Thanks,” she said, a little perplexed.

There was an ear-splitting crack in the direction of the battle, and Felix turned to see Ladybug holding two halves of Anna’s clipboard. A black butterfly danced away from the broken pieces, only to be snatched out of the air and purified by Ladybug’s yo-yo.

Felix hurried to the scene with Alya on his heels. Chat rushed forward to meet them, beaming triumphantly.

“I’m so proud of you,” Felix proclaimed, as soon as they were within hearing range. He started to cover his mouth, but then hesitated. That was actually something he wanted Adrien to know. So he let himself talk. “You did great,” he reiterated, wrapping his brother in a tight hug.

Chat seemed startled, but accepted the hug. When he spoke, there was a hint of levity that Felix hadn’t heard in his voice in years: “Well, it was mostly Ladybug....”

Then, as they stood there embracing, Ladybug tossed up the Miraculous Cleanse spell, releasing a healing pink light over the area. Felix shivered as he felt the glass dissolving away from his back and the scratches closing up. The pain faded, and he no longer had the urge to spill his soul out to the world. As he drew back from Chat, a rare smile graced his face.

“Wh-where am I?” a frightened voice asked from a few meters away.

Felix’s stomach twisted. Anna.

He approached her cautiously, where she sat, confused, on the damp ground. She looked tired and ragged, worn down by overwork and lack of recognition.

“Felix...?” she eked out.

He crouched beside her. “Anna,” he said softly. “Are you alright?”

“I-I think so,” she said, her voice trembling.

Felix looked her directly in the eye. Anna was strong; she could handle this. “Anna, you were akumatized.”

She paled, but as he had expected, took the news gracefully. “Did I hurt anyone? What did I do?”

Felix shook his head. “Everything’s okay.” And then, “Is there someone I can call for you? To help you get home?”

Anna nodded. “My daughter.” Fumbling in her pocket, she found her cell phone. “It’s alright, Felix. I can call her.”

Felix glanced around at his companions. Ladybug and Chat Noir were giving each other a fist bump, Alya had disappeared into the night, and—was that Chief Roger? Yes, yes it was. He was approaching his detectives with a purposeful stride.

Well, it was now or never.

“Anna,” Felix began, projecting his voice so that Chief Roger could hear him. “I want to apologize to you for my negligence in this case. I am young and inexperienced, but you were patient with me and covered for my mistakes. Without you, Benoit and Germaine would be roaming the streets, and we would have no leads on the gang.” He emphasized this last sentence, looking at the chief as he spoke.

Chief Roger gave him a wry smile and a sigh. “Detective Fajari,” he said, addressing Anna. “It was certainly a misjudgment on my part not to acknowledge your work. Your performance was indeed exceptional, and I would like for you to continue training our incompetent genius here—M. Agreste.”

Anna’s face dropped ten years in seconds. With those few words of praise, her stress seemed to fall away in waves. She nodded earnestly, maintaining her steely expression. “I’ll keep him in line, chief.”

Felix was about to say something else when Ladybug’s panicked cry rang through the air:

Chaton!”

His stomach dropped to his feet. Turning towards the heroic duo amidst the gasps of onlookers, he saw Ladybug cradling a senseless Chat. The boy seemed to have fallen suddenly, caught in the strong arms of his partner. She shook him, but he only groaned, one hand clamped to his stomach.

Felix was beside them in a heartbeat. He tugged at Chat’s hand, trying to see what was underneath, imagining gruesome, bloody wounds—there was nothing. Not even the tiniest scratch marred the cat-like hero’s suit.

Ladybug sobbed as her earrings beeped urgently, but she remained rooted to the ground. “Chaton, what’s wrong?” she whimpered.

Felix inched closer, patting his brother’s cheeks. “Come on, say something.”

Chat’s eyes rolled open and met Felix’s, full of tears. “’M dizzy,” he murmured. “And my stomach hurts.”

“How does it hurt?” the elder brother asked frantically. “Is it sharp, or dull, or...?”

“It’s all the things,” Chat whined. A great gurgling growl rose up from the depths of his gut. “There, that’s it—it hurts more when it does that.”

Felix met Ladybug’s eyes and saw amusement growing in them. Fear gave way to relief as they both realized what was going on.

“Ade—mm... Kid. Chat.”

“Yes?” the hero mewled forlornly.

“Chat, you’re hungry. That’s hunger.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix had never been so happy to watch his paycheck crumble before his eyes. Adrien chomped away across the table from him, stuffing his cheeks with huge mouthfuls at a time. Felix had long since had his fill of the greasy Japanese dumplings, but Adrien was on his third order.

“This is amazing!” the boy said as he chewed. “I’ve always wanted to try these!”

“That’s good, but you should really slow down,” Felix chided, handing his brother a napkin.

Adrien laid down his chopsticks. “Ah, right. Sorry.” And, finishing his bite, he sat back soberly. A few long moments passed in which the younger brother was silent, staring down at his hands.

“Adrien? What are you doing?”

“I-I thought I was eating too much.” There was fear laced in his voice that shouldn’t have been there.

“What? No, I said you were eating too fast, not too much. In fact—” he summoned one of the waitstaff. “Another order of gyoza, please. Actually, make that two.”

Adrien’s eyes sparkled as he leaned forward in anticipation. “Then... can I eat more?”

“Of course!”

The brightest smile Felix had seen yet graced his brother’s face as he wasted no time stuffing his cheeks once more. And then, as the elder brother watched, tears broke free and began to spill down the bulging cheeks.

“What’s wrong?”

Adrien sniffed and spoke around his mouthful: “I just forgot how good it feels to eat as much as I want.” Blushing as he swallowed, the boy swiped tears away from his eyes.

Felix’s heart broke, watching his brother cry tears of joy. He was never going to let Adrien starve again.

The waitstaff brought the two additional orders, along with the tab. Felix tried his best to avoid cringing as he eyed the balance. A quick calculation told him that he would now have to wait another month to buy a kettle.

It was so, so worth it.

After the battle with Interrogator, the brothers had parted ways with Ladybug, retreating to an alleyway so Chat could release his transformation. Plagg, too tired to even ask for cheese, had fallen asleep in the depths of Adrien’s pocket. Then they had made for the closest restaurant, Adrien staggering along listlessly. As soon as they entered the building and the aroma of garlic hit their nostrils, Adrien’s dull green eyes had lit up, and Felix could swear he could see cat ears popping up on his brother’s head, tilted forward with interest.

Thankfully, the Japanese restaurant was fairly empty, and the few patrons seemed uninterested in the popular model who had just entered. Just to be safe, Felix selected a table in the corner, tucked away from visibility. And when he told Adrien to order whatever he wanted, he might as well have told him he was the queen of England: a mixture of disbelief and whimsical glee overcame his features.

“Adrien, you’re eighteen years old,” Felix pointed out. “You can eat whatever you want; Father has no say in that.”

It had been the wrong thing to say. Of course, none of this was Adrien’s fault, so the last thing he needed was a scolding. Fortunately, Adrien was distracted by the arrival of their orders, so he hadn’t caught a word of what Felix had said.

“I’m so full,” Adrien complained as they left the establishment. “And why do I keep—” a soft burp interrupted his speech “—burping?”

“It’s because you ate so fast, dummy.”

Although he was weighed down by the large meal, the younger Agreste walked along with renewed energy, cheeks pink with a healthy flush. And when he looked at Felix, his green eyes were bright and sharp. It was a complete turn-around from just an hour before, when he could barely stand. The fresh memory wrenched at Felix’s stomach: his brother, pale and unresponsive in Ladybug’s arms. Adrien needed to never, never scare him like that again.

“Ah, right here,” Felix said, pointing out a cafe. He entered without explanation, but Adrien simply followed him blindly. Felix led him to a couch in the corner where he would be able to see him from the counter, and Adrien promptly fell asleep.

Scoffing at the boy’s guileless behavior, Felix ordered their drinks and not five minutes later returned to the couch.

“Ade,” he said softly, nudging Adrien. The younger brother’s petite nose was producing a delicate snore—no. No, that was not a snore, was it? Leaning closer, Felix discovered that the sound was not, in fact, coming from his nose, but rather from his chest.

He was purring.

Felix recoiled, slightly disturbed, and Adrien chose that moment to wake.

“Here,” Felix said, offering the larger of the two coffee cups as his brother rubbed sleep from his eyes.

After a few seconds of staring at the drink dumbly, he said to Felix: “Is this coffee?”

Felix deadpanned: “We are in a cafe; use your imagination.”

Several more silent moments passed. Finally, Adrien spoke: “Father never let me drink coffee.”

The realization hit Felix like a train. This poor kid had never had coffee in his life. Such a thing bordered on tragedy.

“Go ahead and try it,” he urged. “I think you’ll like this one. It’s a caramel machiatto.” Felix had taken a wild guess and figured that the sweetest drink on the menu would suit his marshmallow of a brother’s tastes.

Adrien’s reverent sip slowly morphed into a joyful grin of epiphany. “How have I never had this before?” he gushed. “It’s fantastic!” He took several substantial gulps of the sweet drink.

It wasn’t until a while later, when Adrien had downed the whole thing, that Felix began to regret introducing his little brother to caffeine.

He went crazy.

Adrien couldn’t seem to stop talking about anything and everything. He told terrible jokes, recounted his battles with Ladybug, and let loose close to five hundred cat puns. He skipped as they walked along, vibrating with unspent energy.

“Felix, I love coffee,” he said for the umpteenth time. “Did I already say that? Anyways, I love, love, love it! Not as much as I love Ladybug, but I think it might be close. I’m going to drink it every day. You’ll drink it with me, won’t you? We can go to that cafe together; or we can go to another one if there’s one you like better, there’s like two thousand cafes in Paris. Felix, are you listening? You don’t understand—I really, really like coffee. It’s magical!

Plagg hovered by Felix’s ear. “I told you it was a bad idea,” the tiny cat murmured.

“Bad idea” was an understatement. Adrien had impulsively jumped onto an inclining wall adjoining the sidewalk and was balancing along at an alarming pace. Any minute now, Felix worried, he was going to fall and crack his head open.

“Adrien, get down!” he said in a frustrated tone.

“Ummm.... Nope!” the boy sang.

Felix glanced around. Thankfully, it was late enough at night that this district was relatively deserted. Otherwise, passerby would see their city’s favorite model hopping along like a belligerent five-year-old.

Felix had an idea. “Adrien, come down here; I want to give you a hug.”

“Hug?!” the younger sibling repeated, imaginary cat ears swiveling to attention. He immediately took the frightening leap to the ground, landed on his feet, and flung his arms around Felix.

The latter’s natural instinct was to break away, feeling his personal space violated, but, seeing Adrien’s enthusiasm, he managed to restrain himself. Stiffly, he patted Adrien’s back in what he hoped was an encouraging gesture. And there it was again—purring. How was he doing that? It was going to take Felix some time to get used to.

Without warning, Adrien yelped and fell back.

“What’s wrong?!” Felix asked, startled. Could his injuries from the battle with Outlaw still be bothering him?

“My phone buzzed,” he replied flatly.

Felix slapped his own forehead in exasperation.

Digging the cell phone out of his pocket, Adrien unlocked the screen and immediately paled. “It’s Nathalie. She says.... Oh, thank goodness, she says Father left on a business trip earlier this evening.”

Felix glanced at his watch. Ten til midnight. “You should get back home,” he told his brother, albeit reluctantly.

“Don’t want to,” Adrien protested, and furiously stabbed his thumbs onto the phone, replying to Nathalie’s message. “I’m staying with you, okay? There. I just let Nathalie know.”

“What?! Adrien, I live in a studio flat. Do you know what that is?”

“Nope. Sounds cool.”

“It’s too small, is what it is. And I don’t have furniture. Wait—you’ve been there, don’t you remember?”

“Not really.”

Felix tore at his hair, not sure what to do with this kid.

Adrien cocked his head to the side, pulling off his best puppy eyes. “You don’t want me?” he asked, pouting.

Hook, line, and sinker—Felix was done. There was no way he could say no to that face; Adrien was going to get his way. Of all the spoiled—! No, no. Felix corrected himself. Adrien was not spoiled. He was anything but spoiled. But he was certainly a brat, and he knew exactly what he was doing.

“Whatever we do,” Plagg spoke up. “I hope there’s cheese involved.”

“I don’t have cheese,” Felix snapped.

“Kid, did you hear that? He doesn’t have cheese.”

Adrien shrugged. “We can always go buy some. That is, if I’m allowed to stay...?”

Felix let out a big harrumph. “Fine. Just, don’t expect any luxuries like beds or personal bathrooms.”

Apparently, Adrien only heard the first part of what Felix said, because he took off immediately, shoving his fists in the air triumphantly and bounding in the direction he thought Felix’s apartment was in. It was actually in the completely opposite direction, but the elder Agreste had hardly any energy to tell him. Really, at nearly twenty-five, Felix was not as young as he used to be. He couldn’t keep up with hyper teenagers.

“Come on, old man!” said teenager called, and directed a mischievous grin towards his brother.

Well, now, that was just not going to fly. Felix took off after the boy and easily caught him in a headlock, grinding his knuckles into the messy blonde hair.

“Okay, okay! I take it back!” Adrien whimpered, and Felix released him. Helping him smooth his hair back down, he smiled at his brother.

“Let’s go home.”


 Marinette

 

Marinette woke with a start. Some memory had invaded her dreams and upset her, so much so that her heart pounded and a cold sweat trickled over her forehead.

It couldn’t be, could it?

But then, what couldn’t be? She knew she had figured something out, someone had said something significant, but for the life of her, she could not remember just what.

“Tikki,” Mari said into the darkness, and got a comforting squeak in reply. “I can’t remember—” She cut herself off, her thoughts suddenly filled with Chat Noir:

Chat Noir sacrificing himself for Felix Agreste in the battle with Outlaw.

Chat Noir being protected from Interrogator by Felix Agreste.

Chat Noir crying over Felix Agreste.

Chat Noir and Felix Agreste embracing when they had won the battle.

And, finally: Chat Noir and Felix Agreste disappearing into the night together.

Marinette sat bolt upright. “Tikki!” she gasped. “They can’t be, can they? I mean, it was obvious all along, but could it actually be...?” It seemed right, but she still wondered if this was really the thing she had figured out.

“Marinette, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Tikki. I just never thought....” Blushing, Mari settled back into her bed, thoughts racing. The next time she saw Chat, she was going to have a lot of questions for him.

Chapter Text

Brigitte & Plagg

Plagg is Brigitte's new favorite thing.

Chapter Text

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Felix discovers that Adrien is Chat Noir, and meets Plagg.

Chapter Text

Chloe

 

Chloe had taken to nighttime strolls. As long as she wore a hooded sweater and fake glasses, no one would recognize her. And her father wouldn’t notice her absence—he only paid her any attention when she asked for things.

The night air of Paris was crisp this time of year. The way it hit her face helped her think more clearly, and she imagined it was good for her pores as well.

Chloe wasn’t sure when it had started, but she’d come to a sort of painful self-awareness that helped her notice things she never had before. For one thing, her father didn’t love her. Secondly, she didn’t have any real friends—Sabrina just put up with her, and Adrien hated her. Thirdly, and most importantly, this was all her fault. She was selfish and mean, obsessed with her own appearance and condescending of others. Her classmates couldn’t stand her, and she was beginning to see why.

But she couldn’t change. After all, she had been this way her whole life. Most of these things were habits she’d never be able to break. And even if she did change, who would think she was being sincere? Those that hated her would continue hating her. Just seeing her face would remind them of all the hurtful things she had said and done. Furthermore, what was even her motivation for changing? She wanted to be liked. That, in and of itself, was selfish.

No, Chloe becoming “likeable” would benefit no one but herself. She had made so many people miserable, so why convince them to spend more time with her? They were better off staying far away. She had bound herself up into a web that she could never untangle.

If only she could start fresh, become a new person. At first she had thought going to New York for university would help her achieve that. But then she had realized that, even in New York, she would still be Cloe Bourgeois, the spoiled brat of Paris.

She had always envied Ladybug and Chat Noir; they could put on a mask and run freely around Paris, forgetting their names and whatever people expected of them in their ordinary lives. Chloe wished she had a mask, so that she could break free from her old self. She’d started taking these nightly walks for just that purpose. She felt anonymous behind these lenseless glasses with thick plastic frames. If she wanted to do a good deed, she could without someone being suspicious. If she wanted to smile at passerby, she could without frightening them. Right now, no one feared or respected her, and she was okay with that. She was okay with not being Chloe Bourgeois for a while. Here, she was no longer a toxic force to those around her. She wasn’t hurting anyone right now.

A sound up ahead caught her attention, and she looked up to see an elderly man leaning against the wall of a cafe, struggling. It seemed that he was trying to bend down, but stiff joints prevented him from moving like that. After brief examination, she spotted the problem: his left shoelace was untied. There was no way this ancient man could squat down like a youngster and tie the loose strands.

Chloe jogged up to him. “Monsieur, may I help you?” she asked.

The man looked up with a sparkle in his eye. “Oh, what a kind young lady. You see, my shoe lace is untied, and I can’t reach it. I’m very old, you know.”

Unsure what to think of this man, Chloe gave him a soft smile and crouched down. Quickly, she tied a double knot in his left shoelace and checked the right one while she was at it. “There!” she exclaimed, elated. Who knew tying a shoe could feel so good? She’d have tried to be a nice kid a lot sooner if she had known.

“Thank you, Mademoiselle Chloe.” And then, gathering his cane, the elderly man scurried off past her into the night.

“Wait!” she called, turning. “How do you know my name?”

But the man was gone, seemingly vanished into thin air.

Heart pounding and puzzled by the strangeness of it all, Chloe returned to her quarters. As she lifted her sweater over her head, she felt something hard in her pocket. Investigating, she found a small black box, just big enough to fit into the palm of her hand. Where had this come from? Had the old man slipped it into her pocket somehow?

Filled with nervous anticipation, she opened the box.


 

Brigitte

 

As soon as she saw the call was from Felix, Brigitte lunged for the phone. The momentum carried her further than she had intended, and she slid off of her desk chair, hitting the ground elbow-first. Oblivious to any of this, she left herself there on the floor as she answered the call.

“Hi, Felix! What’s up?”

“Brigitte. I need your help.” Felix sounded tired and a little shaken.

Brigitte sat up and switched the phone to her right ear. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Adrien. He was doing a lot better, so I took him out to eat, and then he followed me home, but he had a hard time getting up the stairs, and then he threw up on my shoes, and he was crying, and then he fell asleep.”

“Okay. Okay, slow down. What did he eat?”

“Japanese dumplings.”

“You mean those greasy fried ones stuffed with pork and cabbage that they make super small because you’re not supposed to eat too many of them?!”

“...Yes.”

“How many did he eat?”

“About fifteen,” Felix replied, sounding more guilt-ridden with every word. “And he might have had the largest size of caramel machiatto afterward.”

“Oh, Felix....” Brigitte slapped her forehead. For all the intelligence Felix had packed into his brain, he could be really stupid sometimes. She took a deep breath before speaking again. “I’ll be right over.”

Chapter Text

Felix & Anna

Anna

Felix makes amends with his partner, Anna.

Mari & Adrien

Mari and Adrien watch a movie together.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Once Adrien was taken care of and wrapped up tightly in several blankets, Felix huddled against the wall, head in his hands. Brigitte approached him and squeezed his shoulder.

“Hey, hey, Felix,” she said soothingly. “You didn’t know this would happen. It’s not your fault. He probably had a bigger appetite than his body could handle.”

“She’s right, Felix,” Adrien contributed drowsily. “I wanted to eat those. You couldn’t have stopped me if you wanted to.”

Apparently, three plate-fulls of greasy, meaty food was not a good idea for someone who had been living on salads and apples most of their life. Felix couldn’t believe he had been so stupid. That kind of thing should be common sense! And now, because of him, Adrien was curled up on the floor, quietly whimpering and fighting off a high fever. Without Brigitte’s intervention, he’d still be at the mercy of his ignorant brother. Thankfully, Adrien should be fine in no time, Brigitte had said, as long as Felix didn’t overfeed him again.

Felix picked up one of her hands and kissed it. “You’re amazing. How am I ever going to repay you?” he murmured.

With a gleam in her eye, she pretended to think about it. “You could... marry me, maybe?”

“Of course I will, but what—” Felix blushed, realizing what he’d just agreed to. “Brigitte, you shouldn’t marry me. I have no money, no house... I don’t even have shoes!”

Brigitte winced sympathetically. “Well, you know, I have money, and a house, and plenty of shoes to go around,” she quipped.

Felix gave her a withering look.

She scoffed. “Don’t tell me you’ve already changed your mind? What happened to the ‘Marry me today, Brigitte’ and the ‘I can’t live without you, Brigitte’? Huh?”

He went scarlet, remembering the phone call he’d made to her while under Interrogator’s influence. “I... haven’t changed my mind,” he said meekly. “Just, I want things to be....”

“Perfect?” she finished for him. “Felix, nothing is perfect. We’ll be okay.”

“Just marry her already,” Adrien whined from under the blankets.

“Oh, now, there: we all know you can’t say no to Adrien,” Brigitte teased.

“I can’t say no to you either,” Felix tossed back at her.

“It’s settled, then,” she decided, clapping her hands. She took him by the chin and kissed him, and Felix was a goner. If she remained by his side for the rest of his life, getting the better of him, he would die happy.

The next day was Sunday, so Adrien had no school, but Felix had to go in to work. Brigitte, having the day off, volunteered to stay with Adrien at Felix’s apartment and keep an eye on him. When Felix left, Adrien was sitting up, eating porridge, and looking much better, if not a little droopy.

Try as he might, Felix couldn’t concentrate on his job. He had been up half the night worrying over Adrien and could hardly sleep after that. When he woke up, he had a nervous feeling in his stomach, and he remembered that he and Brigitte had decided to marry. Or rather, Brigitte had enchanted him with her charm and coerced him into agreeing.

“This is perfect preparation for when the baby keeps us up all night!” Brigitte had said gleefully, when she saw the dark circles under Felix’s eyes that morning.

Baby? Felix had thought. No way. He couldn’t even take proper care of his little brother, what was he going to do with a baby?!

He had grabbed Brigitte gently by the shoulders. “Are you pregnant?” he had squeaked. She couldn’t be, right? But then again, this was Brigitte, the girl who had picked out the names for five children before she’d even spoken a word to Felix.

She had giggled. “No, Felix. Think about it: how would that even be possible? We haven’t... you know.”

As realization had dawned on Felix, he had turned away, ears flushing bright red. “Right,” he said.

Now, he put his pen down and let his head fall onto his desk. Why, why did he have to make a fool of himself every time he was around Brigitte?!

At that moment, Anna entered the room with a stack of files.

“We’ve got a new case. Reports of missing children—”

“I don’t have any children!” Felix burst out.

“Right...,” Anna said, bewildered. “So about the case, there are three missing children in this district between the ages of five and seven. They all attend the same ballet class, so today we have an interview scheduled with the instructor.”

In a wink, Felix put his head on straight and sorted out his thoughts. “Is the instructor a suspect?” he asked.

“No; she was with the students when one of the incidents happened.”

“That doesn’t mean she’s not an accomplice.”

“We certainly can’t rule that out.”

Felix drew his lips into a tight line. This job was always harder when the victims were children. He left with Anna for their meeting with a heavy heart.

When he arrived home that night, he opened his door, began to walk in, then stepped back and shut it. He had entered the wrong room.... Hadn’t he? That was definitely not what his apartment had looked like when he had left this morning. But it was unmistakeable: there was the number by the door.

Felix entered the apartment again. It was fully furnished, resplendent with a bed, a dresser, a table with two chairs, and some various appliances in the kitchen. There was even a tasteful rug spread out on the plain wooden floor. Someone had crammed all of this in here and somehow made it look like there was plenty of space.

Adrien was nowhere to be seen.

Alarmed, Felix called Brigitte. She didn’t answer, so he paced the room, silently cursing himself for not getting Adrien’s number. As he circled, he noticed that his closet had been filled with clothes, and several pairs of shoes were laid out, some his size, and some Adrien’s. Some still had stickers on them from the local resale store, but they were in pristine condition.

A breeze tickled his hair, so he crossed the room to close the window, finding it just as strange as everything else that it had been open.

“Hold it!” a familiar voice yelled, and Felix reeled back just in time to avoid being tackled by Chat Noir as he dove into the apartment. The black-clad hero was wearing a backpack that absolutely reeked, and when he released his transformation, Plagg dove hungrily into its depths.

Adrien greeted Felix, panting and bright-eyed.

“Explain,” Felix said, crossing his arms.

“I just got my stash of Camembert from home; it’s all in the bag,” he said, gesturing to his backpack.

“No, no. Explain this,” Felix clarified, flinging a hand out at the rest of the room.

“Oh!” Adrien exclaimed, bursting with excitement. “Brigitte and I brought those. She went to a resale store—I had no idea clothes could be so cheap! But anyways, I got that at a dumpster; that one’s been in Father’s basement for ages—he’s never going to use it; and that was an extra one Brigitte had. Hmm... that one is from a dumpster too. Oh, and that is from the Indian rug store; it’s a gift from the Fernandes family. Brigitte’s parents wanted you to have it. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Felix tried to keep up with Adrien’s little tour, but the boy spoke too fast. In the end, he only caught the part about the rug. “You... did this all today?” he asked dumbly.

Adrien nodded enthusiastically. Then, he shrank away sheepishly. “Do... you like it?”

Felix thought about this for a moment. Once he got over the initial surprise, he felt like a weight had been taken off of his shoulders. All of those things he thought he’d never earn the money for, were right in front of him. No longer did he have to agonize over the fact that he couldn’t give Adrien a comfortable, safe place to stay.

“Do I like it?” he repeated. “What’s not to like? I can finally live like a human being.”

The way Adrien lit up made Felix feel like there was still some hope in this dreary world.

“You better not have spent too much money on all of this, though,” Felix warned.

“Nope!” his brother assured him. “Brigitte said she took it out of her dowry, and that now you owe her a visit to her parents.” The boy relayed this information with a sly wink.

Felix sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “You’re not supposed to conspire with her! You’re supposed to be on my side!”

Adrien reached up and patted Felix’s head reassuringly, fixing the hair he had just mussed. “Don’t worry; it’ll be fine. They’ll like you.”

“Adrien’s right,” Brigitte said from the door. “They’ve been begging to meet you since the day you got back in the country.”

Felix melted at the sight of her. How did she get more beautiful every time he saw her? He would meet her parents a thousand times if he had to, no matter how much they frightened him. And Brigitte knew that; she knew she had him wrapped around her finger.

Holding up the bags she held in each hand, which exuded an enticing aroma, Brigitte broke into a toothy grin. “Who’s hungry?”

Chapter Text

Marinette

Adrien

Marinette unknowingly says just what Adrien needed to hear.

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix woke prematurely, feeling crowded and hot. Something was constricting around his chest, and something hard pressed against his cheek. The worst sensation was the tickle in his ear cavity—the fine, wispy strands of something were poking the sensitive skin next to his ear drum. And the whole bed was vibrating.

At first he thought it must be a terrible dream, formed from the trauma of receiving Brigitte’s clipped and frequent texts. He had heard that millennials could develop this disorder: strange sensations akin to the buzz of a cell phone alert.

But no.... As Felix came fully to his senses, he knew that this was nothing of the sort. Rather, a very large “cat” had infiltrated his bed, and had managed to clamp onto him like a koala in his sleep. It was purring away, obviously content with this arrangement.

Turning his head and pushing Adrien’s aside in the process, Felix grumbled: “Go back to your bed, Ade.”

Incoherent mumbles.

Felix gave his brother another nudge with his chin. He found his arms and pulled them out from under Adrien, trying to shove him away with the numb limbs. “Get off,” he persisted.

“Hmm... nope.”

Felix huffed and pushed harder. “Adrien, seriously. I can’t sleep like this.”

“Shh, it’s okay.”

“No, it’s not!” Felix shouted, and sat up. He shoved his hair back out of his eyes in frustration as he watched Adrien start awake. In his irritation, the elder sibling could hardly feel remorse as he realized Adrien wasn’t even aware that he had crawled into the bed. The poor kid mumbled confused apologies and slunk back down to the sleeping bag on the floor.

Felix slammed his face back into his pillow, trying to get comfortable again. After all, Adrien had been the one to insist on sleeping on the ground. One of them had to do it, and the boy had claimed that he preferred the floor anyways.

Of course, the elder Agreste hardly believed the ridiculous bluff, but, as always, it was useless to argue. Now, he was wishing that he had taken the floor instead, if only it would keep Adrien from sneaking in to disturb his sleep with cuddles and purring.

Felix listened as his brother’s breathing evened out, hoping that he’d be able to get back to sleep himself. The younger sibling didn’t purr again, which struck Felix as both a relief and a shame.

When he finally drifted off, he dreamed of his childhood. He was five years old again, and a strange woman had been in the house for some time. She was beautiful, like an angel, with piercing green eyes. Little Felix was afraid to like her: for one, he might start to think of her as his mother and forget his own mother; secondly, Father seemed to love her more than he loved Felix, which frightened him.

The woman, Madeleine, got in trouble with Father a lot, just like Felix did. Today, she was in trouble again, but this time he could sense that it was much worse than usual.

“This is unacceptable,” Gabriel was saying as his son rounded the corner. The boy drew back, hiding his presence.

“You should have realized that sooner,” Madeleine said boldly, but her voice shook.

Gabriel’s next words were filled with rage. “No. No, you should have had this under control! If this gets out, the reputation of my company will go downhill.”

“Then marry me,” the woman said.

Chair legs scraped across the floor as someone stood abruptly. “I gave you that option already, Madeleine, but you refused to give me the Miraculouses. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten your betrayal.”

Felix heard heels tap on the floor—Madeleine was stepping back cautiously. “If you don’t marry me, I’ll tell the world that this is your child. It won’t be hard to prove it.”

There will be no child!” Gabriel fumed. “I’ve already told you to take care of it. However much it costs, I will pay for it! Otherwise, you’re on your own. Do you want to return to the streets?”

Felix’s little heart pounded as he pressed himself against the wall. What child? Did Madeleine have a baby? Her stomach wasn’t big! And yet, they were talking as if the baby was already there. But why didn’t Father want it? Could he even do that—make a baby disappear? The idea sent shivers down Felix’s spine.

There was silence for several moments, and the boy thought he could hear Madeleine sniffling. Father was making her cry again.

“No,” she said in a quiet voice.

What?” Gabriel hissed.

“No,” she repeated, more firmly.

Felix held his breath as he waited for his father to reply. And then, in icy tones, the man spoke: “Fine. I gave you a choice. You’ll go back to the slums where I found you. And don’t you dare try to tell anyone about this, or you will regret it.”

With that, Gabriel Agreste turned on his heel and exited the room, slamming the door behind him.

The Agreste child crept out from his hiding place and watched as Madeleine sank to the ground in tears. She had her back to the boy, but he could see how she covered her face with her hands and her shoulders shook. For the first time since he’d met her, Felix felt sad for her. Tiptoeing forward, he crouched in front of her. Before she even took notice of him, he had hesitantly reached out and touched her belly with one small, pudgy hand.

Madeleine froze at the sudden touch, peeling her hands from her eyes and blinking at the boy before her. “Felix...?”

A thoughtful expression had overcome his young face, pinching his tiny, bothered eyebrows. Finally, he looked up at her. “Do you have a baby in here?” he asked.

Her eyes widened and filled with fresh tears. Swallowing down a sob, she nodded. “Yes. Yes, I do.”

His brow furrowed further. “What does it look like? How does it fit in there?”

The green-eyed woman blinked back more tears. “Hmm... I guess right now it’s the size of a caterpillar.”

“Or a worm?” Felix asked excitedly.

Laughter graced Madeleine’s face briefly. “Yes, a worm, I suppose.”

The boy stared into her luminescent eyes. “I bet it’s a glow worm. They’re pretty and green, like your eyes,” he said, as if it was the most profound thing in the world. And then, returning his attention to her belly, he tapped it gently. “Hi, little Glowworm.” he said. “I’m gonna be your brother.”


 

Felix woke with a start. He rubbed at his damp cheeks with the back of his hand. How could he have forgotten that? It had been seven months before Adrien was born—when his rapidly forming heart had already started to beat. Young Felix hadn’t understood back then, but now he could guess what had transpired between his father and Madeleine. She had been his most treasured model, hand-picked by him off the streets and rescued from homelessness. After having an affair with her, Gabriel had refused to accept the consequences. He had presented the girl with an ultimatum: get rid of the child or go back to the streets. If she gave birth, it would be too much of a stain on Gabriel’s name—not to mention, the end of Madeleine’s career.

But, no, there was something else. Gabriel had wanted the Miraculouses. Those were what Ladybug and Chat Noir wore to transform. How had he known about them? And what did Madeleine have to do with them? Likely, Felix would never know; Madeleine was gone now.

The only thing Felix knew—the only thing that mattered—was that Adrien was here today. Despite Gabriel’s ultimatum, the boy had been born. What’s more, Adrien’s parents had married, and there had been no scandal. Either Father hadn’t followed through with his threats, or Madeleine had given him something he wanted in return.

A small whimper caught Felix’s attention, and he squinted in the darkness at the floor by the bed. Adrien was curled there in the sleeping bag, his face scrunched up in some sad dream, and his slight frame trembling. The elder brother sighed; there was no helping it.

“Ade,” he whispered. “Hey, buddy.”

There was no answer. The younger blonde just went on shaking in a deep sleep.

Felix was briefly alarmed, thinking that perhaps his brother had another fever, but when he dropped down out of the bed to check, everything was normal. Adrien just wouldn’t wake up.

Fine, then, Felix thought. He could just leave him here and have the bed to himself like he wanted. Adrien wouldn’t blame him, or even know the difference. It would be the sensible line of action.

So, naturally, Felix hoisted his brother in his arms, blankets and all, and tossed him onto the bed. When he climbed in beside the younger Agreste, he hugged the boy close. And when Adrien snuggled in against his chest, he didn’t complain. Nor did he protest when that inexplicable purring started up again.

Because when he shifted around to get a look at Adrien’s face, it was peaceful and relaxed, a contented smile pushing at his cheeks.

And that was worth everything.


 Hawkmoth

 

Hawkmoth sat in his office, watching the surveillance footage.

The children were learning well. Everything was going according to plan: the police had not even an inkling that he was behind this, and those meddlesome superheroes had not sensed his akuma. Soon, they would let their guard down, and at that moment, he would strike.

But for now, he was slowly cultivating his champion’s abilities, gathering minions, and waiting patiently.

There was one more thing he had to take care of: if this operation was going to succeed, he needed to make sure there was no chance of that boy getting involved. Adrien needed to come home, and stay home.

Gabriel Agreste picked up his phone.

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Father’s back. I’m going to talk to him.

Felix stared at his phone as he woke, feeling cold and alone in his bed. He pinched his nose. This day had been inevitable, but need it have come so soon?

Brigitte had brought over soup the night before. She had said that in order for Adrien to get back to the diet his body needed, he’d have to start small and light. Then she would gradually bring more solid food and more meat, until his stomach was no longer sensitive. Adrien was already looking so much healthier.

Now, the boy would be forced to return home, to the cold, famished environment of the Agreste mansion.

Felix readied himself for work with dread brewing in his gut and anger pinching his brow. Gabriel Agreste had no right to treat Adrien like a puppet. He hadn’t wanted him in the first place, but as soon as he found out that the boy was useful, he’d changed his mind. Adrien was his dearest possession, on display for the world to see—but not to touch. No, he belonged only to Gabriel Agreste, who had control over everything in his life while playing at being a father.

A tickle of anger tugged at Felix, and he froze in his steps, blazer half-on. Everything was magnified: his resentment for his father, his irritation that he could do nothing.... And he suddenly felt powerful—or, at least, power was in his reach, if he would only accept it. He had a right to be angry! And Gabriel Agreste deserved to be punished. If Felix could just give in, he’d have the ability knock the bastard off of his throne of self-interest.

Felix’s phone buzzed with a text, snapping him back to reality. He trembled, breath coming in gasps as he tried to collect himself. That spiteful anger was so foreign to him; he’d felt like he couldn’t control himself. And he had liked it.

Shaking away the dark thoughts, he shrugged on his blazer and glanced at his phone. There were five texts in a row from Adrien:

I just finished talking to Father. Heading to school now.

See you later!

___;;;^._.^;;;___

^^^ Do you like it? Brigitte taught me how to do that.

It’s a cat by the way.

A weight fell from Felix’s shoulders. Adrien was sounding surprisingly chipper for having just had a confrontation with Father. And he said “see you later”; did that mean he would be staying with Felix? How had he managed that?

Filled with renewed hope, Felix set off for the Prefecture.

That same hope was soon dashed by terrible news: another child had been kidnapped, straight out of the parking lot of her family’s apartment, leaving behind only a single shoe. Her parents were at the Prefecture, and her mother was grasping Anna’s hands, pleading with her.

“You have to find my baby. I never told her I was proud of her—if anything’s happened to her—” The woman broke down in tears and had to be escorted away.

Anna turned a grim eye on Felix. Things like this shook him to the core, but the older woman had seen thousands of these cases, so she kept herself calm.

“They’re estimating that it took place yesterday afternoon, when the girl was walking back from school,” she began, tossing the file onto Felix’s desk. “There’s a photograph of the shoe in there, just the way they found it at the scene.”

Felix peered at the photograph. The shoe’s laces were undone and pulled wide. It would have been easy for the shoe to fall off of the girl’s foot, without any struggle. She could have simply been carried off by someone she trusted.

“I want to get a list of every tenant of this apartment,” he told Anna. If his hunch was correct, the perpetrator had been in front of them this entire time.


 Marinette

 

Marinette arrived at school fifteen minutes early. Her new-found motivation—namely, making breakfast for Adrien—had her out of bed in the wee hours and rushing out the door with enthusiasm.

Now, to locate her query.

“Hey girl! Look who’s early for once! And what smells so good?” Alya dropped an arm around Mari, leaning in to get a whiff of the specially prepared breakfast.

Marinette pulled away from her. “It’s for Adrien! Have you seen him?”

Alya wiggled her eyebrows. “Oh? This is an interesting development.” She nodded to the corridor by the lockers. “He’s moping over there. Nino tried to talk to him but he gave him this creepy smile and changed the subject. Definitely in a bad mood, I’d say.”

Marinette slouched, wondering what could be bothering her ray of sunshine. Was it about his brother again? Perhaps he had found out...? No, no; if it was what she thought it was, Adrien would probably be happy—after all, he was a huge fan of Chat Noir.

She approached him carefully, holding the bundle of food in front of her like a shield. However, she failed to remember that there were low-lying benches between her and Adrien, and tumbled right over them. The breakfast went flying through the air, straight towards him.

Nonchalantly, the blonde boy turned, saw the projectile, and caught it. He seemed to do this unconsciously, and he stared down, puzzled, at the box in his hands. Then, he realized what had happened and jumped to his feet.

“Marinette! Are you alright?”

The girl feebly held up a hand. “I’m alive....”

The next thing she knew, Adrien was helping her to her feet, concern written across his features. Handing the box back to her, he sat her down on one of the benches. Mari stared at him, taken off guard by his closeness and the fact that he looked like he had been crying. Who had made Adrien cry? Apparently, Marinette had someone to punch.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

She started, blinking rapidly and noticing the box in her hands. “Oh! You caught this. You’re so attractive. I mean! Attentive! You’re so attentive. Why were you crying?” Marinette’s ears turned strawberry red as her mouth ran on without her permission.

Adrien touched the back of his neck self-consciously. “Oh, this? It’s just allergies. Um. There were a lot of pigeons on the steps this morning, and, you know, I’m allergic to feathers.”

Mari eyed him suspiciously but didn’t press for the truth. “Oh. Well, this is for you,” she said, holding the box out to him. “It’s food. I mean, the kind of food that you eat in the morning. I guess you can eat it at other times too, but it’s morning now, and it’s edible. But I understand if you don’t like it; you can just throw it away. You won’t hurt my feelings. Not that I have feelings for you—wait! I do have feelings for you! No! Oh goodness, forget what I just said—”

Adrien patted the top of her head, silencing her. “Thank you, Mari,” he said, and the smile that graced his face was not unnatural or faked; it was soft and genuine, and when he opened the box and sniffed at the contents, his entire countenance was transformed.

Out of the darkening clouds, the sun had returned.

“Mari, how did you know I love croissants?”

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Later on, Felix would wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t followed his instincts that day. If he had listened to Anna’s urgings to be patient, to wait for more evidence. He had blatantly disobeyed and rushed to the scene solely for the sake of a hunch that could have cost him his career.

And thank goodness he had.

Anna eyed Felix sidelong as Madame Petrov let them into her apartment and they were engulfed by an unusual, stuffy gloominess. Something was off.

“I will go make tea,” Mme. Petrov said. “Please, sit down.”

The detectives obeyed as the ballet instructor disappeared into the kitchen. So far, nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. After skimming through the list of tenants in the apartment complex where the latest kidnapping had taken place, Felix had spotted Petrov’s name. They had already questioned her in her studio, and could find no reason to suspect her. Her alibis, though, had been strangely rehearsed, which raised a red flag in Felix’s mind. Add to that the coincidence of her living in the same complex as the recently kidnapped girl, and questioning her a second time seemed to be the next logical course of action.

“How many floors do these flats have?” he asked Anna quietly.

“Two,” she answered. “I believe this one has a basement.”

Felix shivered at the thought. This case was already creepy enough, even for him, what with the vanishing children and Mme. Petrov’s hollow eyes. Throwing a basement into the mix was the stuff of nightmares.

Felix glanced around. The decorations were quaint; polished wooden furniture blended with the drab carpets. Lace doilies matched the drawn curtains. Paintings of ballerinas covered the walls, and there was an old TV in the corner. A bookshelf filled the room with the dusty scent of old books. None of this indicated anything other that what they already knew: she lived alone, and lived simply.

“Felix, think about it. It can’t possibly be her. She was teaching her class when the second and third victims were taken,” Anna whispered.

“True. But she might have an accomplice,” he replied, tapping his temple in meditation. If there was indeed an accomplice, where were the signs of his or her presence? Supposing she was keeping the children here, in her apartment, there should be something left behind by her partner to indicate that they had been here.

Something caught Felix’s eye, and he dove to fish a hair barrette from the strands of carpet. It was bright pink and glittery, covered in hearts and flowers. Mme. Petrov did not seem the type of woman to wear such a thing. He showed it to Anna, and her eyebrows shot upwards.

Mme. Petrov entered the room before Anna could comment, and Felix hurriedly stowed the hair clip in his pocket.

“Such a pity, those little ones,” the ballet instructor tutted as she set down her tray. “How do you take your tea?”

“I... don’t,” Felix answered, and immediately flinched at the venomous look the woman gave him.

Regaining her gracious expression in an instant, Petrov turned to Anna. “And you, Madame?”

“I’ll just take it plain,” Anna conceded, elbowing Felix for his blatant honesty.

He ignored her. Instead, he was watching the ballerina’s face, noting her unblinking eyes and painted-on smile. How had he not seen it before?

“What can you tell us about the children who are missing, Madame? They were all in your class,” he inquired.

Petrov pressed a hand to her cheek in concern. “Oh, yes. Those children were quite pitiable. They have nothing in common, except they are all in my class.... And, I noticed, each of them has very controlling parents. Terribly pushy to their children. Pah!” She shook her head and sipped her tea. Her face was cast in shadow, masking her features.

Felix stood and crossed to the window, drawing the curtains wide. Mme. Petrov protested, launching to her feet, but it was too late. The young detective was watching her reflection in the unveiled glass, and his blood ran cold.

She was hardly human. Her head was covered in outgrown tendrils of hair that seemed to move on their own, and her skin had turned a stark white. Her face was that of a doll’s, with grotesquely large eyes and porcelain features. A lacy blue dress billowed around her, and her arms were spread wide. There was a force within her embrace like a tide, and the two detectives felt immediately drawn into it. In a heartbeat, Felix was no longer afraid, but only wished to sink into her arms and rest.

He shook the hypnosis away as Anna shouted “Akuma!” and reached for her phone. Grabbing her by the shoulders as she dialed their emergency number, he fled with her into the kitchen, barricading the door behind them.

The chilling laugh of Mme. Petrov oozed through the walls. “You will come to me eventually, children. Everyone needs a loving mother, and I am here for you! I am Mama Donna—come to me, children.”

Anna’s call connected. “Hello? Hello? Yes, this is Detective Fajari. We have an akuma victim in an apartment complex....”

Felix tuned her out, listening for Mama Donna.

“Yes! Call them here. Call Ladybug and Chat Noir! I want those children too. I will free them from their Miraculouses,” Mama Donna proclaimed, scratching at the kitchen door.

Felix gulped, spotting a door by the sink. It was partially open, revealing inky blackness within. “Is that the way to the basement?” he asked Anna.

She crossed the room and peered inside. “Looks like.”

He considered the situation. It would not be wise for Anna to go into the basement alone, in case of an accomplice or some other danger. Felix was younger and better able to defend himself, so he insisted on going in first. However, he was caught between holding off Mama Donna and venturing into the basement.

Anna sighed. “Felix, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. I’ll hold off this akuma victim while you go down there.”

He nodded grimly, unable to argue with her logic, and handed the barricaded door off to her. She drew her baton and braced herself, but not before clamping a hand onto Felix’s shoulder.

“Just, be prepared,” she warned him. “It might not be pretty. Not all missing persons cases have a happy ending, and there’s no telling.... Just, keep a grip on yourself; I know you can. And be careful.”

He nodded, a strange feeling stirring in his chest. All of this time spent with Anna and now this akuma victim who wanted to mother everyone—it was messing with his head, digging up a hole he hadn’t known was hurting him.

Tossing his confusion away, Felix made a break for the basement. He felt his way around until he found a light switch, and then recoiled with horror.

Chairs stood in a circle around the perimeter of the room. Covered in dust and cobwebs of varying degrees, eleven children sat in the chairs, as still as dolls and staring blankly ahead. He recognized each one from the reports, and there, in the closest chair, sat the girl with the missing shoe.

Holding his breath, Felix inched forward, approaching the girl. She took no notice of him, only gazing into nothingness. He touched a hand to her neck.

She was alive.

He apprehensively released the breath he had been holding as he checked the vital signs of each remaining child. They were all alive, despite being caught in a death-like trance. He wondered if they had been fed or given water. Would they remember any of this later? And could Ladybug’s Miraculous Cleanse fix this?

Nothing was for certain with this case. Usually, akumas transformed their victims, and the super-villains remained with that appearance throughout their possession. But Mme. Petrov had managed to appear as her normal self, up until the light from the window was shone upon her. Was this a new breed of akuma?

Felix remounted the stairs to relay what he had learned to Anna, and stepped into the kitchen just as Mama Donna broke through. Anna was thrown to the side and trapped under the fallen door, and the villain cackled.

“So, you found my children, Detective? They are happy now. No more demands from their so-called parents. They are free from the pressure. No, my children, you don’t have to achieve! You don’t have to become anything! You can just rest,” she gushed, eyes flashing with madness.

“I’m afraid you’ve gone tutu far, Claw-ma Donna,” Chat Noir said as he appeared at the doorway. Ladybug rushed past him and helped Anna to her feet.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Anna gasped, leaning on Ladybug. “Please, you have to save the children.”

Chat and Ladybug exchanged a look. “Children?” they asked.

To answer their question, the kidnapped children robotically climbed to the top of the stairs, muttering “Maman” and “Mummy” as they approached. They grabbed at Felix’s arms, trying to restrain him, but he flinched away. They kept coming, slowly but steadily.

“Are they hypnotized?” Ladybug asked, gazing around wide-eyed at the zombie-like children.

“I think so,” Felix told her. “She—She makes people think she’s their mother.”

Ladybug cringed and stuck out her tongue in disgust. “Who would want a mother like that?” she asked rhetorically, only to turn and find Chat stumbling towards the akuma victim.

“Maman...?” he breathed, dazed.

Anna regained her feet and backed out of the room as Ladybug shook her partner, standing between him and Mama Donna.

“Chat! Fight it! She’s not your mother!”

She was taken aback to see tears in the boy’s eyes as he snapped out of it. “I know,” he said. “It just felt so nice.”

“Out of the way! Ungrateful wretch!” Mama Donna screeched, swatting Ladybug away. The girl tumbled directly into the feet of the waiting zombie-children, and they bore down on her, grabbing her wrists, ankles, and hair.

“Ladybug!” Chat shouted in concern, but was too busy grappling with Mama Donna to help her. Felix jumped into the fray, trying to peel the children’s surprisingly strong grips away from the heroine.

“My yo-yo!” she gasped, and Felix spotted it a couple meters away. Right. If she had that, she could likely find a way to free herself.

He didn’t expect the children to lurch into action as soon as he ducked for the yo-yo. And he certainly didn’t expect them to lift Ladybug over their heads and toss her through the back door. This might have been fine—after all, this was a ground-floor flat—except for the fact that the complex was built into a hill and gave way to a hundred meter drop. The back door opened onto a balcony, and Ladybug was going over the rail.

Chat screamed her name. Felix yelled and futilely threw the yo-yo, only for one of the children to bat it away. Mama Donna purred her praise to her children.

And Ladybug dropped out of sight.


 Ladybug

 

This was it, Ladybug thought. There was no surviving this. What would her parents think? Would they even know that she had been Ladybug? And Chat. Oh, poor Chat; he was going to blame himself. And how would he even cleanse the akuma without her? Would Tikki find a new holder? Perhaps Felix could become Ladybug. Yes, that would make Chat happy. Maybe he would be happy enough to forget her.

Suddenly, something splashed against Ladybug’s abdomen, hard enough to knock her breath out. She fell a split second longer and then bounced to a halt, suspended. Gasping, she looked up through spotted vision, raising a hesitant hand to touch the substance that held her. It was of a soft golden hue, gooey but strong, stretching down from some height above her.

It was... honey?!

 

Chapter Text

Ladybug

 

“WHAT IS THIS?!” Ladybug screamed as soon as she regained her voice. Sure, it was honey, but it was thicker and stronger than glue, stretching down towards her with unnatural elasticity. When she touched it, it clung to her fingers, and she ended up with tendrils of the yellow goo on her fingertips as she pulled them away. “WH—WHAT IS THIS?!” she shouted again, still stunned from her fall and, frankly, horrified.

A voice sounded from above, just at the edge of the rooftop: “QUIT COMPLAINING, I’M TRYING TO SAVE YOU!”

Ladybug frowned deeply. Why was that voice so familiar? And why was it so annoying?

And then the honey-glue bounced and swung around, pulling Ladybug with it. She tumbled through the sky, getting a whirling view of Paris before landing soundly in the arms of her savior.

“Can you stand?” the girl asked.

Ladybug stuttered dizzily.

“Okay, fine. Then sit. You’re heavy.”

And the red-clad hero felt herself being gently lowered to the ground. She rolled to the side and put out her hands to support herself as she regained her balance. It was then that she finally beheld the mysterious newcomer.

She was a tall, lithe girl with a golden ponytail. Clad in a suit much like Ladybug’s, she also sported the round, translucent wings of a bee and twitching antennae. Her suit was of black and yellow stripes, another nod to the honey-making insect, and in her right hand, she held a gun. With the flip of a switch, the remaining honey that had been stuck to Ladybug detached and was sucked back into the gun’s nozzle.

“What? You’ve never seen a superhero before?” the girl asked.

Ladybug narrowed her eyes and inched away. Could this be another akuma? She put a hand to her belt, grabbing for her yo-yo, only to remember that she had dropped it in Mama Donna’s apartment.

Right! There was a creepy akuma on the loose! She had to get back and help Chat. She peered over the edge of the roof. If she had her yo-yo, she would take that route, but for now, she’d have to take the stairs. She inched cautiously toward them, keeping an eye on the strange girl.

“Are you an akuma?” Ladybug asked.

The girl’s eyes widened. “What?! No! I am a miraculous holder, like you.” The girl puffed up her chest and gestured to herself with an elegant hand. “I’m here to save Paris with you. Besides, If I wanted your miraculous, I could have taken it, like, twenty times by now.” She made a shrill noise of self-satisfaction and held out her hand. “You can call me Queen Bee.”

Ladybug’s lower eyelid twitched. She did not like this girl. She was haughty, with an upturned nose and a presumptuous attitude. Ladybug didn’t know why, but she felt insulted.

Even so, she believed this “Queen Bee”, and, like it or not, could use another ally at this point. So she shook the girl’s extended hand.

...Which she immediately regretted, as Queen Bee tightened her grip on Ladybug’s hand and pulled her close, grabbing her around the middle. With an ominous buzz, the yellow-striped stranger launched into the air and then took a terrifying dive, bee-lining for Mme. Petrov’s window, carrying a screaming Ladybug with her.

With a crazed look and a wild shimmer in her eyes, she shouted for all of Paris to hear:

“LET’S GO KICK SOME AKUMA!”


 Felix

 

Felix stared out into the empty sky, where Ladybug had been only seconds before. Just the other day, she’d saved him from falling to his death, and now this was how he repaid her? He might as well have just sat back and watched for all the help he’d been. And now, Ladybug was... gone?

No. It couldn’t be.

Felix heard a thud behind him and turned to see Chat collapsed at Mama Donna’s feet, the light gone from his eyes.

Mama Donna wrapped her arms around the boy from behind, smiling greedily. “Yes... yes! My poor child. You’ve worked so hard your whole life, but it’s never enough. Everyone has expectations, even that girl, but you’ll never measure up. That’s alright. Just give up and rest here. You don’t have to try anymore. That’s right, just relax. I’ll take this Miraculous, and everything will—”

“LET GO OF HIM!” Felix shouted, coming at Mama Donna with his baton.

Just before the blow connected, she spun around, using Chat as a shield. Felix ended up smacking his brother over the head, and cringing as he heard bone connect with metal. He was horrified at having hit Chat, but the effect turned out to be in their favor. The shock of pain snapped Chat Noir back to his senses, and he squirmed his way out of Mama Donna’s arms.

“Children! Take them down!” the akuma victim ordered, and her minions stirred into action, lumbering towards the brothers like tiny zombies.

Felix was trying to help Chat to his feet, but the latter seemed to still be in shock, mumbling someone’s name over and over. The elder brother leaned in close, trying to make out the feeble syllables. It wasn’t “Ladybug”, but some other name, some—there, he heard it clearly that time.

But who was “Mari”?

Chat Noir burst to life all at once, scrambling for the balcony. He managed to dodge his way around the hypnotized children and frantically clutch at the rail, peering down the hillside.

“LADYBUG!” he shouted, and Felix heard an unbearable brokenness in his voice.

Shaking off the children who grabbed at him, Felix tried to get to his little brother, until he spotted something that made him step back. “Chat, look out—”

At that moment, Ladybug came flying into the apartment, held in the arms of a strange, bee-like girl. The red-clad superhero was screaming as they collided with Chat and the three of them tumbled into the kitchen in a tangle of limbs. The yellow-striped girl stood first, brushing herself off and then brandishing a golden pistol at Mama Donna. Chat and Ladybug remained sitting on the floor, his arms wrapped tightly around her.

“I thought you were gone,” he whimpered.

Ladybug hugged him back, patting his head. “It’s okay, Kitty. I’m here,” she soothed. And then, drawing back: “Now let’s cleanse this akuma, yeah?”

Chat nodded, eyes shining and filled with renewed energy. However, as the two heroes stood, it quickly became apparent that they weren’t needed. Queen Bee shot a glob of honey at the children, who by that point had surrounded Felix, restraining him. Mama Donna’s minions were stuck in place, along with Felix. Then, the bee-like girl turned on the akuma victim, aiming a second shot at her.

In response, Mama Donna stood up tall, her skirts gathering around her hips like a tutu, revealing the strong legs of a ballerina. She lifted her right leg at a ninety degree angle and spun on her left toes, creating a whirlwind. In order to not be swept off the balcony again, Ladybug grabbed her yo-yo and wound it around the light fixture, holding Chat close to her. Debris and kitchen appliances whipped around in the air, forcing Felix to duck and cover for the children as best as he could.

Queen Bee remained calm through it all, shooting a bit of honey at each of her feet to anchor her to the floor. And then, honing in on the blur that was Mama Donna, she took aim and shot. A giant glob of honey slammed into the akuma victim, halting her momentum and pinning her to the wall. The wind immediately died down, and everything fell to the floor, leaving Mme. Petrov’s kitchen in shambles.

The yellow-clad hero let out a sigh of satisfaction, and turned to Ladybug. “She’s all yours,” the girl said smugly.

Knowing she should be thankful, a grumpy Ladybug kept her mouth shut as she retracted her yo-yo and plodded over to Mama Donna. A quick scan told her that the akuma was in her slipper, so she took that off and tore it, and then caught and cleansed the butterfly.

Once Miraculous Cleanse had restored the kitchen and brought the kidnapped children to their senses, Anna crept back into the room. She was followed closely by a group of officers who had come for backup. Seeing that the situation was under control, the policemen prepared to escort the children home, and the two detectives helped a disoriented Mme. Petrov to her feet.

Queen Bee smirked and flipped her hair. “My work here is done,” she said haughtily. And then, saluting, she took off flying through the window. “Au revoir!

She was gone before Chat and Ladybug could even ask one of the thousands of questions whirling in their minds. Of course, this didn’t bother Chat at all. He had his Ladybug, safe and sound in his arms, and that was all he needed.

“Chat, you can let go of me now,” Ladybug grumbled. Despite herself, she patted his back in a calming rhythm.

He pressed his face to her neck, soaking in the warmth. “Just a little longer,” he begged, purring. Behind him, his tail twitched with contentment.

She rolled her eyes.... And then she remembered. Paling, she glanced across the room to where Felix Agreste stood with the shaken akuma victim. He kept making furtive glances at the super-duo.

“Hey... Chat,” she began.

“Hmm?”

She pushed him away, hands on his shoulders and eyes dead-set on his to get his full attention. “Don’t you feel sorry towards Felix?”

His head tilted like a confused puppy’s. “Sorry for what?”

“For, for hugging me like that! In front of him! And always flirting with me.”

Chat frowned, thoroughly confused. “Um, I don’t think he cares—”

“Of course he does!” she snapped, stepping closer and pressing an accusatory finger to his chest. “Look, I know about your relationship with him.”

Chat’s ears went back, and his eyes widened. “You... you do?”

“It’s obvious, Chat! You’re really shameless, aren’t you? Trying to play like there’s nothing going on between you two and then turning around to flirt with me. Well, I won’t be part of it. You—you two timer!” Her words grew louder and angrier as she spoke, and a furious blush took over her entire face and neck. With those parting words, she huffed and swung away, leaving behind a bewildered and shell-shocked Chat.


 

Later, when the case proceedings had been wrapped up for the day, Felix found Adrien sulking in a corner. The detective took a seat beside his brother, letting out a long and weary sigh.

“Here, let me see that,” he said gently, coaxing Adrien to bow his head so he could search through the mop of blonde hair. Felix found the healing gash from the Outlaw incident, and then a tender lump blossoming closer to the boy’s temple. He winced. “I guess I smacked you pretty hard, huh?”

Adrien only shrugged quietly, lost in his thoughts. After biting his bottom lip for several moments of anxious contemplation, he finally asked what had been weighing on his mind since that afternoon.

“Felix.”

“Yeah?”

“What is a ‘two-timer’?”

 

Chapter Text

Felix & Brigitte

~~She scoffed. “Don’t tell me you’ve already changed your mind? What happened to the ‘Marry me today, Brigitte’ and the ‘I can’t live without you, Brigitte’? Huh?”~~

 

 

Chapter Text

 Marinette

 

Unable to focus on her homework or her designs, Marinette flung herself onto her bed and hugged a pillow to her chest. Just thinking about Chat made her head hurt. He had seemed so confused, that she was beginning to question herself.

But, Mari reminded herself, the first thing she had learned about Chat was not to take anything he said or did seriously. He was a flirt and a jokester. Sure, he was her best friend, and she cared about him, but the way he behaved sometimes made it hard for her to know who he really was. She had always brushed this aside in the name of friendship and camaraderie, so why was it bothering her so much now? Why did it matter that he flirted with her while having a relationship with Felix? She had always assumed that he flirted with other people anyways. So what was different now?

“Marinette, why are you blushing?” Tikki asked, suddenly directly in front of the girl’s nose.

Mari yelped and covered her face with her pillow. “I’m not blushing! Why would I blush?”

“Is it about Chat and Felix?” the kwami teased. “Are you jealous?”

“WHAT? I mean... what? Why would I be jealous?” she shot back, attempting a nonchalant air.

Tikki folded her arms and twisted her face into the kwami version of “I call bullshit”, but said nothing.

To change the subject, Marinette asked: “Tikki... was that girl today a miraculous holder?”

Tikki nodded. “She has the bee kwami. Master Fu must have given it to her.”

“But it’s been three years! Why would Master Fu start giving out the other Miraculouses now?”

The red kwami looked troubled. “He must have sensed a need.... In the past, if Ladybug and Chat Noir were awakened, there wasn’t a need for the other Miraculouses, unless....”

“Unless what?”

“Unless there were extreme circumstances. If there were a natural disaster, or a war, or a great, dark power. And—and there have been times when either Ladybug or Chat Noir were... lost.” Tikki spoke with increasingly soft words, her eyes filling with centuries of grief.

Marinette, feeling the gravity of Tikki’s words settle on her shoulders, gulped before continuing: “Well, there hasn’t been a natural disaster; there’s not a war anywhere near here; and Chat and I are both alive and well. So, does that mean there’s some evil power out there? Worse than Hawkmoth?”

Tikki bit her lip. “Mari, do you remember what Felix Agreste said about the akuma victim today? That she looked normal, until they confronted her? She’d been passing off as her usual self for days, kidnapping her students.”

The girl gasped and nodded. “Do you think she could control her appearance?”

“I’m not sure. But this is not familiar to me. Usually, Nooroo’s champions have a completely different appearance, as a sign that they’ve been possessed. So this must be a new species.”

“Like an evolved akuma victim?” Mari ventured.


 Felix

 

“Exactly,” Plagg said, as Adrien asked the same question miles away. “Which means that Hawkmoth either learned a new skill we weren’t aware of, or he’s gained some new power. Now, give me some cheese; I answered your questions.”

Felix pinched his nose as his younger brother crossed the room to their mini-fridge to grant the tiny cat’s request. The detective had just been introduced to the whole concept of akumas and kwamis—and now this?! It was like Hawkmoth had been waiting for Felix to arrive in Paris to show his new power and harass the elder Agreste wherever he went.

Felix paused in his thoughts. Something tickled at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. It was like a puzzle piece had suddenly fallen into place and everything made sense, but he couldn’t quite grasp it.

Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Chat Noir and Ladybug would have their plates full with these evolved villains, and with their mysterious new ally. Things would be more dangerous than ever, and Felix could only hope that his brother wouldn’t do anything stupid.

He eyed the smug, black kwami side-long before snatching it up tightly in his fist. Adrien was still digging through the refrigerator, and noticed nothing as Felix fixed his glare on Plagg.

“Promise me something,” he demanded.

Plagg bit him.

“Ow!” Felix gasped, releasing the cat-spirit.

“Ugh, you taste terrible,” the kwami complained. He sat back and cleaned his ears. “I don’t talk to people who squish me, much less promise them anything.”

The detective opened his mouth to speak, but Adrien was now approaching with a wheel of cheese.

“You want me to keep him safe, don’t you?” Plagg assumed lazily.

Adrien stopped walking and looked at Felix, and the latter flushed with embarrassment. “Yes,” he admitted.

Plagg shrugged. “I can’t promise something like that. Look, the kid does what he wants, no matter how dumb it is. Trust me, I’d rather stay inside and sleep and eat cheese. But, no! We have to go out and fight villains! All because Master Fu left me in the hands of a self-sacrificing goody-two-shoes.”

Although he was miffed with both the kwami and his little brother, Felix couldn’t help but grin, seeing Adrien mouth along exaggeratedly to Plagg’s words behind his back. That little speech must have been a regular complaint of the black cat.

In a huff, Plagg snatched the cheese from Adrien’s hands and retreated to his nest of blankets. The brothers sat together at the table in silence.

“Look, I—” they both began at the same time.

“Go ahead,” Adrien said meekly.

“No, you go ahead.”

The younger boy sighed. “I’m sorry for worrying you all the time. Usually I’m better at being Chat Noir than this. I—I’ll try not to mess up again....” He trailed off when Felix held up a hand.

“That’s not why I asked Plagg to keep you safe. I think you can handle yourself. I’m actually really pr—prou—prouuuud... of... you.” The sentimental words had to be forced out of Felix’s mouth, feeling foreign on his tongue.

Adrien stared at him open-mouthed for a heart-beat, and then broke into uncontrollable giggles.

“Shut up,” Felix growled.

He tried, he really tried, but Adrien could not keep the smirk off of his face.

The elder sibling ground his teeth in humiliation. This was going to be the death of him. “I just wanted Plagg to look out for you—and you should look out for yourself—because there’s so much going on right now that we’re not sure about. If you get hurt again, I’ll—I’ll confiscate your Pikachu pillow!”

Adrien paled. “You wouldn’t.”

His brother leaned forward, eyebrows drawing deep shadows over his eyes. “I would.”

“Alright. I’ll try not to get hurt, but if I do, I’ll hide it from you,” the boy concluded, and wiggled his eyebrows, knowing he was being a brat.

Furious, Felix prepared his comeback, only to be interrupted by the buzz of Adrien’s phone. “What is it?” he asked, curiously, seeing that whoever had texted him, the younger Agreste had immediately sobered.

“Oh, Nathalie says that I have a photoshoot after fencing lessons tomorrow. It’s going to be a full day. I probably won’t be home until late.” He sighed and tapped the screen with his thumbs, letting Nathalie know he’d gotten the message.

Felix frowned. “I’ve been meaning to ask; how did you get Father to agree to let you stay here?”

Adrien winced. “I... kind of... didn’t? I mean, I talked to him, and I told him I was staying here, and, well, he didn’t like that. But eventually he said I can stay if I keep up my private lessons and modeling, and if I don’t tell anyone about it. Uh, he thinks it will look bad. His reputation as an ideal father will be stained or something. He said he won’t stop me from living here, and that he’ll let me figure out on my own how—how privileged I’ve been in his house, and how grateful I should be.”

Felix studied his brother as he spoke. Adrien maintained an uncomfortable smile throughout the speech, but by the last sentence, his voice had taken on a slightly mocking tone. Felix figured that was healthy. Gabriel Agreste was, after all, a ridiculous human being. Even a ray of sunshine like Adrien could see that. Still, the dull and shameful look in Adrien’s eyes as he recounted the conversation told Felix that he had definitely taken Father’s words to heart.

“Don’t let him get to you,” Felix advised, knowing it would take more than that to reassure his younger brother.

“I’m not!” the latter insisted with a bright smile. “Oh, and also,” Adrien continued, his smile dropping. “He said something about making sure that I don’t get mixed up in all the akuma attacks, since they seem to happen around you a lot. He thinks it’s more dangerous for me to live with you because of that. But, you know, he’s right. There have been a lot of akuma attacks near you lately.”

That tickle was back again, and the answer was there, floating at the periphery of Felix’s imagination. It was something so unbelievable, though, that he refused to acknowledge or process it. Instead, he shook the feeling off and scoffed. “What does he know? You’ve been involved with akumas all this time without me here.”

“Hah, yeah, I though that was funny. You’re actually trying to keep me away from them.”

They laughed and made light of the situation, but both brothers were filled with misgivings, and the atmosphere around them was riddled with uncertainties.

Chapter Text

Hawkmoth

 

Hawkmoth sat back in his chair and folded his hands in contentment. Everything had gone according to plan. Madame Petrov had been apprehended, the children had been returned home, and the superheroes thought their work was done. They were grievously mistaken.

The masked man was filled with nervous anticipation, knowing he was so close to accomplishing his goal. Now that he had come so far, he didn’t want to rush things; failure was not an option at this point. If he could wait a couple days longer, he could be even stronger. However, tonight would be ideal: Adrien was occupied with lessons and photo-shoots. He would be under the watchful eye of Nathalie the entire evening. There would be no chance of him getting involved in what Hawkmoth now had to do.

For the sake of Paris, he thought.

For the sake of Madeleine.

One day, Adrien would understand.

The villain took one last breath before calling on his kwami: “Nooroo, awaken the dormant akuma.”


 Nathaniel

 

Nathaniel sighed and glanced over at Chloe’s empty seat for what must have been the hundredth time that day. Familiar music was droning on in the background of his thoughts, but he was paying more attention to his sketchbook. Today, he couldn’t seem to find inspiration. Usually, he drew to the tune of “Tomato Head” and “Nerd”—shrill tones biting through his blaring headphones and somehow stirring his motivation.

Now, no one spoke to him.

It was funny, he thought. Chloe obviously hated him and was out to ruin his day, but, in the end, she was the only person who actually acknowledged his existence.

Without her, he felt empty.

The mayor’s daughter had been absent from class for the past few days, but no one else seemed to care or notice. Sabrina sat alone at the front of the class, shoulders sloped and weary.

“She’s on vacation,” the bespectacled girl had told him, once he worked up the courage to ask.

Vacation... where? Her father was still in town, and Nathaniel knew her mother was gone. She never talked about other family or friends. Was she on her own somewhere? He sensed that there was more to the story, and that something might be terribly wrong, but answers were hard to find.

Over the past year, Nathaniel had noticed a change in the spoiled girl. She spoke less, toned down her bullying, and just seemed to withdraw into herself. Whenever he met eyes with her, he saw darkness haunting her features. Chloe had been mean, and she had been full of herself, but he had never thought of her as such a sad person. The loneliness he sensed in her had deep roots, and resonated with his own.

Of course, she wasn’t exactly friendly either. She likely had no idea how to be friendly, even if she wanted to be. Chloe scowled at the world, distorting her pretty features, but there was a desperation in her eyes, and he knew she needed love. Slowly, he had begun to wonder if he could fill that void, and if, in return, she could fill his. Perhaps their lonely souls could comfort each other.

It was ridiculous; even more so than when he had harbored a crush on Marinette. Chloe would never look at “Tomato Head”, and even if she did, she wouldn’t see him as a man. She would see a scrawny boy who was as flimsy and sensitive as his timid features betrayed.

His pencil-lead snapped, and Nathaniel blinked, drawn back to reality. The page before him was adorned with a carbon-copy sketch of none other than Chloe Bourgeois. Every line, every feature, matched the girl’s countenance like a photograph. The only difference from the real Chloe was that this one was smiling brightly: eyes crinkled, mouth open, cheeks shining. She looked happy and healthy. He was certain he had never seen her with that expression.

Panicking, Nathaniel closed his sketching journal, hoping no one had seen the incriminating drawing. He was almost reassured when he saw his classmates’ heads bent away from him, focused on their studies, but then he turned to his right.

Lila was gazing at his recently-closed sketchbook, and he knew from her eyes that she had seen his latest piece.

“You know, they say she ran away from home,” Lila drawled, yawning.

Who was he kidding? Of all the people to find out, the brunette could hardly care less about his crush. Unlike she did towards Chloe, she had no interest in spreading rumors about him.

But... ran away? It had to just be a rumor. Chloe was absolutely dependent on her father, throwing his influence and money here and there. She likely didn’t know how to function on her own. Unless, of course, that had changed over the past year as well.

He had to confirm it.

Taking a deep breath to steel himself, the red-head approached Sabrina after school. She held a binder in her arms, full of Chloe’s homework, and he offered to take it in her place.

Sabrina looked him up and down incredulously. “If you want to....”

He backpedaled. “I mean, I thought you’d want to go hang out with Rose and Juleka. I—I heard you talking about it, and... and this way you won’t be late.”

She all but pushed the binder at him. “Alright, no need to stutter. You can take it. Just, don’t expect to see her. Every time I’ve gone to deliver it, this butler comes out and grabs it, and then just slams the door in my face. Good luck.” And then, after thinking a moment: “You know... I think it might actually be good for her to know that someone besides me cares. That is, if she’s even there.”

Nathaniel was left wondering just what he’d gotten himself into.

 

Nathaniel had barely made it to Chloe’s neighborhood when a rock flew out of nowhere and hit him. It bounced harmlessly off of his shoulder, but his stomach filled with dread. He’d encountered plenty of bullies in this area, and they saw him as easy pickings. Likely, they’d give him a good beating for having an empty wallet.

Turning slowly, the artist raised his eyes to the source of the projectile—and immediately, every ounce of fear deflated.

A child stood across the street, hefting another pebble in her palm. She was surrounded by friends, all children under the age of perhaps ten, eyeing him with menacing glares. Nathaniel gave them an awkward wave. Perhaps they were playing a game?

But then, as he continued on his way, several more pebbles collided with his back. He whipped around, holding his hands up to protect himself, only to find the crowd of children now charging at him rabidly. They looked positively demented, and their eyes glowed red. It finally clicked: these were some akuma victim’s minions. But why—why did it have to be children? It was so much creepier this way!

With a tiny shriek, Nathaniel scrambled down the sidewalk, running as fast as his legs would take him. Only, he couldn’t run long before he had to stop and fish for his inhaler. Cursing over and over in his head, the boy could only listen as the stampede of brainwashed children drew near.

And then they were upon him, tackling him. Their weight crushed him as his bag was thrown one way and his inhaler the other. He struggled, wheezing, but could do nothing as a blank-faced child upended his backpack and spilled the contents. Nathaniel’s sketchbook and Chloe’s homework binder fell out, scuffing against the pavement.

“No,” he gasped, but couldn’t make his voice work.

The child with his bag locked eyes on him. “You smell like the people who took Maman away,” she accused. “They thought they’d stopped us, but Maman lives on in our hearts.”

“W-what?” Nathaniel stuttered. This was all so bizarre: these expressionless children who were all wearing leotards. Was this an army of tiny ballerinas?

Dropping his backpack, the child stooped to retrieve Nathaniel’s sketchbook. “Is this your precious thing?” the girl asked.

“Don’t—!”

But it was too late. The artist watched as the page with a smiling Chloe was ripped from the book and rent in two. He lost his will to fight, giving in to the children pinning him down as he watched the fragments of paper fall.

And then a great big glob of something slammed into the pile of children, throwing them off of Nathaniel. He had no time to react before he was plucked off the ground, tossed up into someone’s arms, and carried like a princess to a nearby roof.

He would have screamed if he weren’t suffocating from panic.

Instead, he simply clung to his savior in the least-masculine manner possible, and squeezed his eyes shut against the world.

“Hey, Tomato Head, are you okay?” a voice floated out of the air.

“N-no,” he replied honestly, slowly prying his eyes open to find himself sitting near the railing of a rooftop pavilion. His eyes landed on the feet of his strange savior, and he followed her yellow, striped suit up the pleasing curve of her body to her sun-shaded face. Her pinched face was angled down at him, full of sour curiosity, and she held an oddly-shaped gun lazily beside her cheek. Baby-blue eyes glinted with energy.

It slowly registered in the red-head’s shell-shocked mind that he was gazing at the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. If Nathaniel had been struggling to breathe before, then there was no hope now.

He was in love.

Chapter Text

Ladybug

Ladybug looks up at her mysterious savior.

Chapter Text

Queen Bee

 

Queen Bee touched down to the ground, shooting a net of honey at the akumatized children without missing a beat. That should hold them until Ladybug and Chat Noir arrived. Now, Tomato Head needed his inhaler; where was it...?

Her thoughts trailed off, and she stooped to retrieve two scraps of paper from the ground. They were dirty and crumpled, but when she matched up the torn edges, she could see the once-intact drawing clearly.

Purposefully keeping her mind blank, the super-girl folded the page and tucked it into her pocket. Then, she gathered up Nathaniel’s things, finally spotting his inhaler on the opposite sidewalk.

She leapt back up beside him.

“Here you go. Stop freaking out,” she huffed, tossing his belongings to him. They landed soundly in the gasping boy’s lap, and she turned away so that he wouldn’t see her face twist with worry. She listened as the red-head sucked in his medicine and got his lungs working again. When his breath finally came steady, she faced him.

“Who are you?” he asked, eye sparkling with wonder.

No one had ever looked at her like that. What was she supposed to do with this kid, this one who completely threw her off balance? The flustered girl cleared her throat and regained her composure, returning her nose to its skyward position.

“I’m Queen Bee, the new superhero. I save Paris. But mostly, I save Ladybug and Chat Noir so that they can save Paris. I’m humble, you know? Hoh, hoh.” Merde, seeing Tomato Head was making her Chloe side show through.

He didn’t seem to mind. Instead, his smile widened, and he almost hyperventilated again. “That’s amazing!”

She waved dismissively with false modesty. “What can I say? I like helping people.” She gave him a hand up. “Now, where do you live? I’ll take you home.”

The artist shook his head. “But no! What about the akuma?”

“They’re stuck down there,” Queen Bee explained. “It’ll be fine until—mmmph!”

A crazed ballerina tackled the superhero from behind, and she threw it off, leaning over the railing to see several more climbing the walls of the building. The akumatized children were licking their lips, clinging to the bricks with sticky fingers. Had they... eaten the honey?!

“Talk about sugar overdose,” Nathaniel commented. “They are literally bouncing off the walls.”

“Ugh!” Queen Bee grunted in frustration. “Those two will have to deal with this. I’m getting you out of here!”

And then, before the boy could react, she scooped Tomato Head up into her arms and took off over the roofs of Paris.


 Gorilla

 

Gorilla pulled up to the curb just as Plagg pinched Adrien. The boy froze in his steps. He was due for a photo-shoot, and would already be late because of school. If he missed it, Father would be furious.

Adrien winced as Plagg pinched a second time, this time more insistently.

Father would just have to deal.

Gorilla had already circled the car and opened Adrien’s door, waiting for him to climb in, but instead, the boy backed away. It took a few seconds for it to register in the driver’s brain that his charge was fleeing, but by then it was too late. The model had retreated into the school and hid himself in a bathroom stall to transform.

Not even attempting to chase the Agreste son, Gorrilla shook his head. He wondered briefly if he should call and inform M. Agreste.... No, he decided. He’d tell a white lie about a fender bender, and it might spare the boy a lecture. Just this once.

Just this once, Gorilla would not have to see Adrien exit his father’s office with a tear-stained face.


 Hawkmoth

 

Hawkmoth watched in satisfaction as Ladybug arrived on the scene. The bee miraculous holder had long since disappeared, off to bring some civilian to safety. That was fine; Hawkmoth didn’t need her Miraculous. It was Ladybug and Chat Noir he was after.

Already, he could see that his plan was working. Ladybug was flustered because the akuma victims were children; because there were so many of them at once; and because she thought she’d already cleansed them. Her uncertainty would work to her disadvantage, as it already had: the children were grasping at her yo-yo string, deliberately tying knots in it as she struggled to tear it away. Not wanting to hurt them, she made no other attempts to fight back.

Hawkmoth smirked. Her kindness would be her downfall.

Then, Chat Noir showed up, and things got iffy. His boundless energy and trickery led the hypnotized children in circles, until they were wrapped up in Ladybug’s yo-yo, hopelessly tangled.

Hawkmoth grew desperate, an emotion that was only heightened when he received a phone call from one of his employees.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE’S NOT AT THE SET?” Gabriel roared through the line at the flustered costumer.

Hanging up, the villain focused his anger. This needed to finish soon. Adrien could be anywhere right now, and if things went as planned, it could get messy. His son needed to be somewhere safe.

He activated the purple mask, shoving his voice into the minds of his minions.

Use any means,” he demanded. “I don’t care what you do—use your teeth if you have to—just get their Miraculouses!”

“Yes, Hawkmoth,” they said in unison.


 Chat

 

“My Lady, what do you—YEOW!” Chat reeled back as the third child in a row buried her teeth into his flesh, breaking the skin on his leg. “I don’t think these are human,” he whimpered.

“They are, Chat! They’re just akumatized and they need help,” Ladybug countered, full of determination. She was busy unreeling her yo-yo further and winding it around a lamppost so the children would stop moving around. How she was going to call Lucky Charm with the string bound up like this, she had no idea. For now, stopping them would be enough.

“But how come there’s—ow—how come there’s so many? And I thought we cleansed Mama Donna?”

Ladybug frowned in determination. “I don’t know, Chat. My kwami says that Hawkmoth must have gained new powers.”

Finally dancing out of range of the gnashing teeth, Chat rubbed one of his sore arms. “Yeah, my kwami said something similar. They can hide their akumatization now. But we’ve never seen multiples like this before.”

“He must be putting all of his cards on the table,” Ladybug guessed.

“I hope this is all of his cards,” Chat countered. “Where do you think the akuma is?”

Ladybug was struggling to keep hold of her yo-yo while the children wiggled and clawed their way to freedom. She took a close look at each of the girls. They were dressed plainly in pink leotards, ballet slippers, and their hair tied up in neat little buns. No jewelry, hair clips, bags—nothing that seemed out of the ordinary.

Wait. Wait. There! It was almost imperceptible, but each girl had a golden star on her shoulder—the kind of stickers that teachers hand out for good behavior. The stars were black around the edges, purple motes lingering around them.

In that moment, something gave in, and Ladybug’s yo-yo unraveled all at once, reeling itself back and colliding painfully with her hand. She almost dropped her magical weapon, but this was no time to let her guard down.

“Chat! It’s in their stickers!” She shouted as the children burst free and charged in all directions.

He steeled himself, taking an en guarde stance. “Right. What’s the plan?”

“Don’t ask me—what are they doing?”

The akumatized ballerinas had taken a circle formation, surrounding the two superheroes. They proceeded to execute an organized barrage: one child charged, and when that attack was deflected, the next came. Neither of the superheroes wanted to hurt the children, so they had taken to gently shoving them away. The result was that both Ladybug and Chat Noir were fighting off continuous attacks from all sides, and were quickly overwhelmed.

Ladybug felt her back bump against Chat’s, and she let herself press close to him. As the battle grew increasingly viscous, she was thankful for Chat’s presence, like an anchor beside her. She’d never be able to do this alone. She cleared her throat awkwardly, and spoke between attacks.

“Chat... I wanted to let you know I’m sorry.”

“For what?” he grunted, making a failed grab for one of the children’s stickers. “Whatever—whatever could you do that you should be sorry for?”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Ladybug rolled her eyes. “I mean about the other day, when we fought Mama Donna, and after—look out—! After, I yelled at you.”

She felt Chat shrug against her shoulders. “Nothing unusual,” he noted.

Ladybug slung her yo-yo around a ballerina’s torso and flung her into a bush. “Come on, Chat. You know I was being selfish. I—get OFF of him—! I should respect your lifestyle, even if I don’t feel the same way. I guess I just hoped—I mean I knew you were a flirt, but maybe somehow—”

“Uh, Ladybug,” Chat cut her off. “Could we talk about this later? Maybe when we’re not being torn to shreds by rabid children?” He hissed and wiped at his cheek where one of the girls had scratched him.

Hawkmoth would pay. These children didn’t deserve this. They were being made to behave like animals! And all so that Hawkmoth could gain power. Chat was disgusted.

Without warning, a ballerina came running at Ladybug, ramming her shoulder into the red-suited girl’s stomach. The latter’s breath whooshed out of her, and she fell backwards, taking Chat with her.

“Ladybug!” Chat cried in concern, but she couldn’t answer him—she couldn’t breathe.

In a last-ditch effort of defense, the cat-like hero raised his baton, only to have it kicked out of his hand. The children closed in.

Chat threw himself over his partner, shielding her with his body as all of the children tackled at once.


 

Chapter Text

Queen Bee

 

This is your house?” Queen Bee asked as she deposited her blushing burden by his front gate.

“Uh, yeah,” he shrugged, straightening his bag on his shoulder. “Why?”

The girl frowned, sticking out her bottom lip. “It’s just... not what I expected. I didn’t know your parents ran a business.”

“I live with my grandfather.”

“Oh.”

The two teenagers faced each other awkwardly for a heartbeat.

“So... how is it that you know me again?” Nathaniel asked, a glint in his eye. He pretended that he hadn’t seen the torn edges of his sketch book page protruding from her pocket.

She avoided eye-contact. “Well... you’re in the same class as the Bourgeois girl, Chloe, right?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Aaand, I’ve just always admired her because she has an amazing sense of style and she’s gorgeous—she’s just so cool, so, yeah. I’ve seen you around her.” The bee-like hero’s words were rushed and jumpy, hardly believable.

“Right.”

“Right! And I’m totally not Chloe. I’m someone else. I go to your school. But I’m not Chloe, okay? Hmph. Really, Tomato Head, it’s rude to ask a super-girl’s identity.” Queen Bee folded her arms over her chest and flipped her hair.

“I didn’t ask,” Nathaniel pointed out.

The girl was horrified for a brief moment. “You were going to!” she bumbled.

Her companion could only grin at her, and the suited girl was struck yet again by his expression. No one had given her that look. Ever. As if she was cute. As if she were loveable. As if she had made them smile.

“A-anyway,” she charged ahead, squelching her emotion. “I should get back to help Ladybug and Chat Noir. Those two probably can’t handle things without me. A tout a l’heure, my dear!” And she gave him a light peck on the cheek.

Her face bright red before she could realize what had just happened, the mortified super-girl took off on her magical wings, disappearing into the Paris sky.

Nathaniel watched as she went, finding himself metaphorically head-over-heels and knowing he could never get up. As soon as she was out of range and he figured she couldn’t hear him, he whispered after her:

Be safe, Chloe.”


 Felix

 

“Felix, we have a problem,” Anna said as soon as the detective returned from his lunch break.

He nearly dropped his coffee upon entering the division to find a whole team of Missing Persons investigators crowded into his office. They looked grim, poring over maps and charts, caught up in some harrowing discussion.

“What’s happened?” Felix wondered aloud.

“It’s the children who were sent home after the case with Mme. Petrov,” his partner informed him. “They’ve all disappeared from their homes this morning.”

What?!”

“Their parents say that they hadn’t been themselves since they returned home,” one of the visiting investigators said.

“The doctors thought it was just trauma, and that they would recover with time. These things happen, in kidnappings,” another continued to explain.

“But now they’re gone again, Felix. It doesn’t make any sense. Mme. Petrov has been out of the country, visiting family,” Anna clarified.

Felix set down his machiatto and pinched his nose in concentration. “Do we have any leads?” His mind raced with all of the possibilities. Was it a side-effect of the brain-washing Mama Donna had done to them? Shouldn’t Miraculous Cleanse have erased all of that? Unless... unless Hawkmoth had discovered a way around it. Felix didn’t even want to consider that. Perhaps the children had manifested new subconscious habits, such as sleepwalking, after their experience. It often happened to victims: nightmares, strange tics, even seizures. But for all of them to vanish at the same time...? Cold dread was pooling in the blonde detective’s gut, and he almost didn’t want to know the answer.

“No, we haven’t come up with anything yet—”

“Wait! Look at this,” one of the Missing Persons investigators called suddenly, holding up an iPad.

On the screen was a news report, with a small icon in the corner that said “live stream”. The picture was blurry, smearing light and color as the camera’s wielder tried to follow an unidentifiable figure through the sky. And the voice—that voice, Felix would recognize anywhere.

“We are on the scene, fellow Parisians, with the first live stream in a long time, bringing to you real-time footage of the mysterious bee lady who has been spotted around the city. She’s a little hard to see right now, but she is flying—Nino drive faster!”

A muffled voice in the background protested: “This is the speed limit Alya—ow! Don’t hit the driver!”

Alya continued without missing a beat: “As you can see, she is buzzing along towards a disturbance in the Sixth Arrondissement. Ladybug and Chat Noir are already on the scene, where reports of akumatized children have been made—”

There were exchanged looks all around the office.

“—We do not have clear footage of this new super-human, so there’s no telling if she’s friend or foe, or, as a commenter just pointed out, Hawkmoth herself! Rest assured, we’ve got the camera trained on her—Nino, left! No, no, right...! We’re on her tail, so in no time you will be witnessing her abilities first-hand. Now, we are approaching the reported intersection where this began earlier today....”

The flying figure could be seen descending as the car turned a corner and slowed. There was a jumbled mess of cobbles and brick as Alya climbed out of the vehicle, slamming the door behind her, disregarding Nino’s pleads to be careful. Then, the viewers got a full-on picture of Queen Bee’s pinched, concentrated face as she shot what appeared to be thick honey out of her gun. The camera was jostled again as Alya retreated out of the way of the volleys. When it steadied again, it showed children stuck to buildings and sidewalks in the golden goop, writhing and making inhuman noises. They were the missing children.

As their suspicions were confirmed onscreen, the Missing Persons group became restless, gathering their things and preparing to head out. Felix, however, wanted to see more, and halted the man with the iPad before he could put it away, gripping the device with sweaty palms.

“You can see, Ladybloggers, that this new super-girl seems to be on the good side, and she just immobilized the villains. To clarify, we do have multiple villains; they don’t seem to be puppets; they are each akumatized—and wait! There’s Ladybug and Chat Noir! Ladybug! Over here! Lady—oh, no.... Chat? Chat!”

The camera spun around to briefly settle on the two heroes, before immediately dropping and clattering in the street. With only a view of the sky, Felix could hear Nino cursing and running, while Alya gasped and followed. The iPad shook in Felix’s grip as he listened to Alya join in the cursing, calling out the black cat’s name.

And then a face appeared in the camera’s view—the face of a child, white as porcelain, with eyes stained a dark purple from lid to lid. The possessed girl lifted a slippered foot and brought it down viciously on the filming device.

All at once, the picture flickered out and died, and a little piece of Felix went with it.

He had only seen his brother on screen for a split second, but what he had seen was enough to strike panicked fear down to his core.

Adrien, he thought, barely aware of himself as he swept into Anna’s patrol car and they rushed to the scene.

Adrien...!

Chapter Text

Felix and Madeleine

"Hi, little Glowworm. I'm gonna be your brother!"

 

Felix and Adrien

[Felix is trying very hard to be annoyed about this]

Chapter Text

Felix winced. “I guess I smacked you pretty hard, huh?”

Adrien only shrugged quietly, lost in his thoughts. After biting his bottom lip for several moments of anxious contemplation, he finally asked what had been weighing on his mind since that afternoon.

“Felix.”

“Yeah?”

“What is a ‘two-timer’?”

Felix sat back, folding his arms. “A two-timer? Sort of like a cheater. Why?”

Adrien sighed, staring at his shoes. “Ladybug was mad at me today, and that’s what she called me.”

“What?! Where did that come from?”

“I don’t know!” The younger sibling threw his hands up in exasperation. “She said something like I should feel sorry towards you and that flirting with her would make you upset.”

Felix’s scowl deepened. That just didn’t make sense.... Perhaps Ladybug had a few screws missing. Or perhaps... perhaps—oh. Ohhh. Oh dear. “Adrien... does Ladybug know your identity?”

“No? I mean, I didn’t think so.”

“Then she doesn’t know we’re brothers. Wait, what do you mean you didn’t think so?”

“She—I mean, she obviously doesn’t know my civilian identity. She acts totally different around me when I’m not Chat. But she said she knows what my relationship is with you.”

Felix cocked an eyebrow. “Did she define what she thought our relationship was?”

“Um. No.” Adrien looked up, face twisted in concentration, completely lost.

His brother continued: “Right. So. Wow, this is awkward.” Felix tipped forward and buried his face in his hands, trying to hide the embarrassment that his epiphany was inducing.

“What’s awkward?”

“Nothing.”

“Fe, come on, tell me!”

Felix finally pulled his hands from his face. Adrien was pawing at his shoulder, begging him to answer with wide, curious eyes....

He gave in.

“Ade, she thinks we’re dating. Ladybug thinks you—or, Chat, more specifically—and I are dating.

Adrien’s jaw dropped. “Dating?”

“Mm. Dating.”

Adrien’s face was blank for a few moments, and Felix watched as this information sank in. He could practically see the gears turning behind the bright green eyes. It wasn’t until he saw the smirk growing on his little brother’s lips that Felix knew he shouldn’t have said a thing.

“She thinks we’re dating,” Adrien said, finally, mischief laced in his tones.

Ohhh no. This wasn’t good.

Without warning, the younger Agreste threw his head back, laughing uncontrollably. “She—oh my—she thinks you, and me—hah—we’re—like that?! Oh, Ladybug! My Lady, she is so funny! Don’t tell me you don’t think that’s funny. Of course she’s mad at me! She thinks I’m in love with both of you. Oh, I’m so glad I didn’t actually do something wrong this time. Look—come here.”

Felix, who had been glowering and red-faced throughout this outburst, was tugged into Adrien’s arms, and the boy pressed his lips to the crown of his head in a joyful kiss. Immediately, the detective squirmed away.

“Ugh. Gross! Stop that.”

Eyebrow wiggles. “You know you like it.”

“Not one bit. Let go.”

Ignored. “Wow, I see where she’s coming from. We do live together—”

“That’s not even—”

“And we sleep together—”

“That was one time.

“And you do looooove me...!”

YES I DO!”

Adrien froze, cheeks round with contained laughter, and a horrified Felix clamped a hand over his own mouth. The former’s eyes were tear-filled half-moons, sparkling with the sincere pleasure of simply hearing that he was loved. Sure, it was a playful exchange, but underneath the surface, the elder Agreste saw clearly his brother’s pure desire for affection.

Felix melted.

Unbeknownst to him, when his dam of emotion broke, his forehead cleared of lines, and his scowl gave way to a gentle smile. The rare expression signaled to Adrien that he could unleash his joy, and the room was once again filled with gleeful laughter.

A light scoff was all Felix could muster in retort.

“Heh. Come here.” And he drew his baby brother into a tight, gruff hug. He’s a good kid, was the thought Felix kept to himself. Please, never let him doubt how important he is. Never let him think he’s not loved.

As an afterthought, Felix shifted his face around so that Adrien could hear him clearly. “Ade. Hey.”

“Mm.”

“You’ve got some serious explaining to do to Ladybug, yeah?”

“Oh, yeah.”

Chapter Text

Ladybug gasped, slowly regaining her breath under the heavy weight of her partner. Her face was pressed to the concrete, and Chat’s arm blocked her vision, so she could only hear and feel what was going on. She heard the growls and inhuman cries of the hypnotized children; she heard them complain about the loss of Mama Donna:

“She was going to take care of us!”

“Our old parents were too strict! She saved us!”

“Mama didn’t want us to achieve anything!”

“We were finally free with her!”

Ladybug shuddered, wondering what kind of twisted ideas had gone into Mama Donna’s akumatization. From what she had gathered already, the ballet instructor had seen her students scolded by their parents for not reaching expectations. She had seen these tiny girls being pushed to their limits to succeed, driven to perfection by controlling mothers. In reaction, Mme. Petrov had gone to the opposite extreme, telling the children to do nothing and simply rest. The sad paradox was that in rebelling against domineering mothers, Mme. Petrov had become nothing short of a puppeteer herself.

Now, whatever had been done to these children, they were fighting to avenge their captor. Hawkmoth, as always, had convinced them that he was on their side, and in return for his powers, the children were commanded to steal the Miraculouses.

Thankfully, neither Ladybug nor Chat’s Miraculous had been taken yet—she could see the glint of a ring on the hand that blocked her face. But the kids were putting in their best effort. Blow after blow connected, and Ladybug could feel her partner tensing as tiny hands pulled at him.

“Kitty, I’m fine now; can you let me up?” she called to him.

He didn’t seem to hear her.

She tried to physically push him off, but was confronted with the weight of not only her kitten, but of several determined children. If only she could call Lucky Charm... but she knew her yo-yo was on the ground, just out of her reach.

The spotted hero was about to give up hope, when a shrill battle-cry cut through the air. By the way her stomach twisted in immediate annoyance, Ladybug knew exactly who it was.

So, she wasn’t surprised when, little by little, the children were lifted away, howling, and she was left trapped only under the body of her partner. It would have been a relief had Chat not remained draped over her, deadweight.

This had happened before; Ladybug would have to finish the battle without her partner. But it didn’t mean her heart broke any less when she eased out from under him and had to leave him lying there in the street, like roadkill. 

Before straightening, Ladybug touched her knuckles to the unmarred side of her partner’s face, producing a weak flinch. It was both an apology and a way to reassure herself—he was going to be fine; she just had to hurry and cast Miraculous Cleanse for him.

Filled with renewed urgency, the spotted hero scrambled over to her yo-yo and tossed it in the air, calling Lucky Charm. The akumatized children were trapped all around her in webs of honey, and Queen Bee was touching down by Chat, nudging him with her foot.

“So, where’s the akuma?” the blonde girl asked, holstering her gun with a frown down at the black cat.

“It’s in the—oof!” Ladybug’s sentence was cut off by the impact of a life-size stuffed doll dropping out of the sky. Straightening, the confused heroine saw that she held a perfect likeness of Chat Noir in her arms—although, more like her puppet version of him than the real thing—sporting a goofy, drawn-on face and a red polka-dotted tail.

Her Lucky Charm.

Queen Bee sauntered over, wrinkling her nose. “What is that going to be good for?”

Ignoring her, Ladybug glanced around. The tiny villains were busily eating away at their binds, and she cringed. Even if she had attempted to remove their stickers while they were plastered in honey, she would have gotten a firm bite on the hand by their extra-sharp teeth. As always, rounding up the akuma would take some creativity.

There, between two of the buildings to her left, was a courtyard. It was lined with carefully pruned bushes and topped with a center walkway featuring a happily running fountain. Ladybug patterns mapped out her every move, and the superheroine could see the plan before her eyes.

“Queen Bee! Take Chat Noir away—up to a roof or something; just get him out of here,” Ladybug commanded her new teammate.

“Ugh, why?”

“Just do it, okay?”

Without further protest, the yellow-striped girl grabbed the unconscious Chat by the collar and flew over the roofs of Paris, off to deposit him somewhere safe.

Good, Ladybug thought. The further away from here, the better.

And then, she waited. One by one the children were freeing themselves from the honey, stalking towards Ladybug and the fake Chat. As soon as the last one broke free, the girl darted towards the fountained courtyard, drew herself up into the air on her yo-yo, and dropped the Chat-doll into the midst of the bushes.

The akumatized children swarmed. Like pigeons to a loaf of bread, they were upon the doll in seconds, biting, tearing out seams and stuffing. They didn’t seem to notice that this wasn’t actually Chat Noir. Which was good: this way, Ladybug’s plan would work.

The red-suited heroine dropped lightly into the grass of the courtyard, separated from the rabid children only by the space of a bush. As focused as they were on attacking what they thought to be Chat, Ladybug was able to reach through the bushes and yank away the girls’ stickers. She managed to get all but one before the last champion took notice of her and swerved away, growling.

Dragging the Chat-doll out onto the street with her teeth buried in its ankle, the akuma villain fled from Ladybug. Filled with determination, the heroic girl was right on the ballerina’s tail, diving after her to get to her sticker.

Ladybug had taken the reward stars away from the other were-children, but she hadn’t torn them yet, waiting to cleanse them all at once. So the other children soon came to their angry senses and scrambled after the heroine.

Just in time, Queen Bee returned from her trip to the Dupain-Cheng bakery. Chloe knew that Marinette was acquainted with Chat Noir, so she figured leaving the black-clad boy on her balcony would be a safe bet. However, on her way back, the winged girl had picked up the tail of that dogged reporter, Alya, and had been followed by screeching tires to the scene of the battle.

Needless to say, Queen Bee was pissed by the time she returned to Ladybug.

This had better be the last time, she thought as she trapped the children once again with her honey. Only one ballerina managed to evade—the one with fake-Chat clenched in her teeth. Ladybug didn’t seem to mind, though, and dove after that one with a triumphant cry.

Several things happened at once: one, Nino and Alya drove up to the scene, the latter wielding a camera and calling after her favorite superheroes; two, the hypnotized little girl dropped ragdoll-Chat, who was now missing an arm and covered in dirt, as she reeled away from Ladybug; and, three, Alya dropped her phone in horror, and both she and Nino took off running towards their friends, calling out Chat’s name.

The stockinged akuma victim dashed away, stopping only to step on Alya’s phone, crushing it. Ladybug took off in pursuit, and sirens started up in the distance.

Just blocks away, Felix had seen and heard the past few minutes play out, and, catching only a fleeting glimpse of what he assumed to be his brother—broken, ragged, and limp—he imagined the worst.

Chapter Text

Chloe and Nath

Chloe sweeps Nathaniel off of his feet~

webcomic

Hug

My first attempt at a webcomic.

Chapter Text

 Queen Bee

 

Queen Bee watched the flock of white butterflies fluttering up into the clouds, half of her attention on the children around her. Their akumas had been released, but Ladybug had yet to cast Miraculous Cleanse. Said heroine was returning to the scene with Alya on her tail, enduring an enthusiastic interview. Queen Bee only picked up clips of what was being said, and, anyways, Ladybug was distracted. She was mostly focused on getting at the fake Chat Noir, which some random policeman was currently crouching over, looking distraught. He was the second person to mistake the doll for the real Chat, after that geek, Nino.

“You’re amazing, Ladybug! There were so many this time—how did you manage it?” Alya was asking.

“It wasn’t all me,” Ladybug replied absent-mindedly. “I couldn’t have done it without Chat, and....”

Queen Bee didn’t hear the next part of what the girl said, but she had heard enough. Ladybug had never liked her; Chloe remembered all too clearly the run-in she’d had with her role-model years back. But now, Chloe was wearing a mask, unrecognizable as the mean girl Ladybug knew, and what’s more, she was doing good, nice things. At this moment, she was holding back the akumatized children with her honey globs so that Ladybug could finish the job.

Still, no one acknowledged her. What was the point? Her father would give her the same amount of attention whether she tried to be kind or not. Adrien would never like her no matter what she did. Ladybug treated her new persona with the same revulsion she had always directed at Chloe. And Nathaniel—it had probably been her own, twisted mind that had made her think he might be interested in her. No, now that she thought about it, the boy had been cowering and frightful during their entire encounter—like a cornered animal.

Returning her full attention to the retreating butterflies, Queen Bee numbly accepted the fact that she could never make anyone happy. Not like Adrien or Ladybug did, simply by being present. Nor could she make up for her abrasive nature by doing good deeds. Nothing would change.

But perhaps, she thought as she kept her eyes trained on the butterflies, perhaps she could do something.

Giving one last check to the children to make sure they were stuck in place, Queen Bee took off into the Paris sky, following Hawkmoth’s minions.


 Ladybug

 

“That’s really not funny,” Ladybug pointed out. “Not one bit.”

“Hush, Ladybug. You know it’s funny. Look—Nino’s crying with laughter!” Alya trained her boyfriend’s phone on the scene before her as crowds gathered and police tried to assess the situation.

“I’m not laughing, Alya,” Nino countered. “I’m still crying because I had the same misunderstanding. It’s not funny; it’s traumatizing!”

The brunette waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, you guys are babies. Do you have any idea how priceless this moment is? I mean, if Chat sees this—”

Ladybug cut her off, stepping forward and pushing the phone down. She crouched before Felix Agreste, and reached out to touch his arm in comfort.

“Monsieur Agreste,” she began gently. “This isn’t Chat Noir. I’m sure you can see now.... Monsieur Agreste?”

Ladybug leaned in, trying to get an angle at his eyes. He was sitting listlessly before the Chat-doll, his tears having turned into shocked silence. His eyes were dull with grief, but there was something else there, a slight hint of purple. She could see the veins in his forehead and neck pulsing as if he were in the throes of violent anger.

Alarmed, the heroine shook the detective, calling out his name sharply. That seemed to snap Felix out of it, and he looked up at the red-clad girl, sniffling.

“Detective, this is not Chat. I need it to cast Miraculous Cleanse. May I?” She was still concerned, but he seemed to have returned to himself. She figured it was safe to try to reason with him.

The young man wiped his eyes and nodded. “Right. But...?”

Knowing already what his question was, Ladybug gave him a reassuring smile. “Chat is fine. He’s in a safe place right now; don’t worry.”

Hauling up the fake-Chat, Ladybug tossed it in the air as best she could, calling the spell. Pink sparkles rushed over the areas affected by the akuma, hovering over the children and returning them to normal. Instead of staying put in their confusion, the terrified children took off, hiding in the garden.

But the bug-like heroine was hardly aware of all of this: her mind was stuck on that purple glow of anger she had seen in Felix’s eyes. It might have been nothing, but it bothered her nonetheless. She could only hope she had been seeing things.


 Chat Noir

 

Shhh.... Hold still; I’m almost done.... There.”

Whatever had been stinging Chat Noir’s face was withdrawn, leaving a dull ache on his left cheek. He blinked his eyes open, straining to get a gauge on his surroundings. Everything was blurry, so he shook his head and tried to sit up, but strong arms pushed him back down.

“Don’t try to get up just yet,” a familiar voice said.

Two faces loomed before him, and he waited until they came into focus. Immediately, he was scrambling up again as he recognized them.

“Monsieur Dupain! Madame Cheng! My deepest apologies I—oof!”

In his surprise, the superhero had managed to fall off the couch, lose his balance on an injured leg, and tumble face-first to the floor. Tom Dupain caught him around the middle and dumped him back on the cushions, like a particularly large loaf of bread.

“No apologies allowed here, son. Under any other circumstances, I’d ask what you thought you were doing on my daughter’s balcony, but in this case, I’m glad you came to us.” The baker smiled warmly through his mustache.

Chat tried to form words, his brain stuck on “son” and the comfort that word had given him.... But that was not the point. “I didn’t mean to,” he tried to explain. “I mean, I really didn’t come here—I don’t remember—”

Sabine reached out and stroked the boy’s hair. “However you got here, we’re glad we could help you. You’re welcome here any time.”

Chat took a deep breath to hold his tears back. Looking down at himself, he could see that his leg had been bandaged, and the other scrapes and cuts had the numb feel of having been washed and disinfected. Really, he was none the worse for wear, considering—he had thought those children would kill him. In actuality, they’d probably just pinched a nerve during the struggle and knocked him out.

“Right!” he gasped, sitting up once again, but this time neither of Marinette’s parents moved to stop him. “The akumatized children! Is Ladybug still fighting them?”

Tom nodded and reached around for his mobile device, retrieving it from the coffee table. He tapped the screen to play a video.

Chat could hear Alya’s voice as the camera followed Queen Bee and then surveyed the battleground, where growling children were being caught up in honey, and Ladybug stood strong and determined next to a—what was that?!

“To clarify, we do have multiple villains,” Alya narrated. “They don’t seem to be puppets; they are each akumatized—and wait! There’s Ladybug and Chat Noir! Ladybug! Over here! Lady—oh, no. Chat? Chat!”

The black-clad hero gripped the screen, only to have the picture cut out seconds later. “What? That—that’s not me!”

Tom and Sabine nodded grimly.

“This is the last footage, though,” Sabine informed him.

“When was it taken?”

Tom checked the video and eyed his watch. “Oh... seven minutes ago.”

Chat leapt to his feet, making a show of smiling for them so they wouldn’t worry.

“I’m coming, Ladybug!” he said to open air. And then, turning to give the Dupain-Chengs a suave salute, he announced: “The cat is back on the prowl!” And he stepped out of the window.

It wasn’t until Tom Dupain caught the cat-like hero by the tail and pulled him back inside that the latter realized he was sans baton. Blushing furiously, Chat mustered a sheepish laugh and let them show him to the front door.

But, seriously, who had decided it was a good idea to dump him on Marinette’s balcony? And without his baton to boot? Running all the way back to the battle might get him there too late to help Ladybug, even without his sore leg. He was trying his best not to limp, but from the looks of concern on the civilians he passed, he wasn’t doing a very good job.

It doesn’t matter, he thought as he quickened his pace. As long as I can get back to Ladybug, who cares if I look a little uncool?

It’s not like she would notice a difference, the dark part of his mind contributed.

You owe me a ton of Camembert when this is over. And I mean a ton. A literal ton,” Plagg whined from behind Chat’s thoughts.

“I know, buddy. I messed up again.”

“’ Messed up’ doesn’t cut it, kid. If that bite on your leg had been a centimeter to the left, you’d have bled out from your femoral artery.”

Chat gulped, once again struck by how sickening Hawkmoth’s actions were—that he would use those innocent ballerinas like this. If it was unpleasant for Chat to be bitten by them, how much more traumatizing was it to be the one doing the biting? He hoped with all his being that the children wouldn’t remember their experience. “Thanks for the image, Plagg.”

Anytime.”

By now, Chat could hear sirens, and he sprinted through a garden courtyard to get closer to the commotion. In his hurry, he nearly tripped over a tiny girl crouching beside the bushes. She was disheveled, and her tears made streaks through the dirt on her face. Her right shoe was missing.

“Hey, are you alright?” he asked gently, lowering himself to her level.

She looked up and stopped crying for a moment. “Chat Noir...?” her eyes shone with unbridled admiration.

“The one and only,” he confirmed.

As he watched, her face screwed up and tears spilled once more down her cheeks. “I want my parents,” she cried.

Chat flicked his ears around, tuning in to his enhanced hearing for a moment. Just a block away, he could hear Ladybug laughing. Good. That meant that she’d been able to cleanse the akuma without a problem. He recognized the girl before him as one of the akumatized children, but now it was like she had gotten her humanity back.

He extended a gloved hand towards her. “Don’t worry; I’ll take you to your parents.”

At these words, the other girls emerged from their hiding places in the bushes and gathered around Chat.

“We were so scared,” one of them sobbed as she threw her little arms around his neck. He saw with relief that they were no longer freezing in their leotards, but hat been returned to their warm street clothing—jeans and sweaters, and crocheted dresses. And although they were pale and dirty, there were no traces of their feral behavior; no blood on their hands or mouths, their dull baby teeth restored to normalcy. As always, Miraculous Cleanse was nothing short of... miraculous.

“Everything’s okay now,” he reassured them. “We’re going to go find your parents, alright?”

He picked up the single-shoed girl, and was surprised by arms around his neck as he stood—a monkey of a girl was stealing a piggy-back. Chuckling, he tucked an arm around her leg to hold her up. He had barely started walking when he felt a tug on his tail, and, looking back, saw three more girls holding on like baby elephants. They grinned innocently up at him.

Well, if it made them feel better, then so be it....

And thus he walked out into the street, following the sound of sirens and general commotion. The girl in his arms sucked her thumb and stared ahead anxiously. As he came in view of the gathered crowd with his flock of children, Chat could see civilians standing behind the patrol cars: mostly couples clinging to each other in apprehension.

“Maman! Papa!” the girls cried, and, one after the other, took off towards their families. At the sound of their shouting, heads turned. Chat saw Ladybug, Alya, Nino, and... Felix.

Before he could approach his friends, the little girl squirmed in Chat’s arms, and he looked around to see a young couple tearfully reaching out for her. She jumped into her Papa’s embrace, and all the while her parents were crying through their “thank you”s.

But there was hardly a chance to rejoice. When the black-clad hero turned back to his friends, he was confronted face-to-face with Felix.

A very angry Felix.

Taking a cautious step back from the wrath of his brother, the black cat raised a paw to wave. “Uh, hi?” he started, tentatively. “What-did-I-do?”

It was Ladybug who saved him.

“Chat!” she called, grabbing him around the arm. “Didn’t you need to talk about something? Let’s go over here.” And she dragged him away. As they went, and they passed Alya and Nino, Chat could see that the latter was recovering from tears—why? Because of that thing he had seen in the video? It couldn’t be. Something else must be bothering him.

“You don’t need to explain anything,” Ladybug said, holding her hands up to halt him. “I respect your relationship, and I realize that you have the right to flirt....” She trailed off, looking at him for the first time. Her features slowly twisted in dismayed confusion.

“What is it?”

Speechless, she reached one hand up to touch his injured cheek, and he flinched away involuntarily. “Isn’t this.... Isn’t this from the children? But I cleansed the akuma... I-I thought—”

His lady was pale as realization set in, and he tried to cover the scratches as best he could. “It’s fine, Bugaboo. Don’t worry; it doesn’t hurt.” He tried to flash one of his Adrien smiles, the ones that made the world seem like a better place.

It wasn’t working. Ladybug was close to tears, and from the look in her eyes, she had retreated within herself, overcome with self-doubt.

He had to change the subject.

“Anyways, Ladybug, you were saying that you respect my relationship. The thing is, there is no relationship. Well, not like you might be thinking. Felix and I are just good friends. We go way back,” he sped through the explanation, looking for some sign of the light returning to the super-heroine’s eyes.

She just raised her eyebrows in dull surprise. “Oh,” she said.

So he grabbed her by the shoulders, bending his head down so she was forced to look him in the eye. “Look, LB,” he said. “Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. There were a lot of akumas to cleanse today, and, hey, the Miraculous Cleanse probably had a lot of trouble getting those kids back to normal, I mean, did you see them? So. If just this one time it doesn’t fix everything, it’s not the end of the world.” It was hard to lie to her, but if a half-truth would keep her from looking so dead inside, it was worth it.

She burst into tears and flung her arms around his neck, letting him hold her and rub her back soothingly. “I just—hate—seeing you like this,” she sobbed into his neck. “I thought I could fix it! Why are you still smiling? You stupid, stupid kitty.”

He just grinned all the more, savoring the warmth of her embrace. If she was calling him stupid, she’d be alright. Ladybug was a softie, mask on or off, but she had a spark to her that kept her on her feet. It was what made her an anchor, not only for their class, but for her idiot cat as well.

Ladybug pulled back, swiping at her tears. Her earrings beeped angrily at her, but she ignored them. “So—so you’re not dating Felix Agreste?”

Chat had to fight to contain his laughter. “Hah—nope! Although....”

The girl’s eyebrows twitched under her mask. “Although what?”

The cat-hero leaned in close, cupping a secretive hand beside his mouth. “Don’t tell anyone,” he whispered, “But I think Felix has a crush on me.”

His partner gasped, her hand flying to her mouth and a light blush gracing her cheeks.

And, with a wink, Chat delivered his closing statement: “But don’t worry, Buginette! I only have eyes for you!”

She hit him, and he giggled.

“Now, buzz on home before you detransform!” he advised as he backed away, blowing a kiss.

Alright, he though to himself. That charm was spot on!

So pleased was the cat with his own inner pun that he didn’t see his brother approaching him until that latter pounced. Felix clamped a firm hand on Chat’s shoulder, his features grim. Chat turned to face his angry brother, looking like a kitten who had just unrolled the entire toilet-paper roll:

I didn’t do it, but maybe I did, but I’m so, so sorry! You still love me, right?

There was no scolding, no reprimands, only Felix’s flat and exhausted tones as he uttered one sentence:

“Let’s go home.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Queen Bee

 

Queen Bee remained on the street across the way as the white butterfly phased through a large, decorative window. She almost laughed to herself. If there were anywhere in Paris that a flamboyant supervillain would choose as his lair, it would be this building. Archaic and foreboding, affronted with a huge stained-glass depiction of a butterfly—it practically had to have been tailor-made for Hawkmoth.

The curious heroine crept around the back of the building to a narrow door from which planks had recently been plied. She tiptoed around the ruins, holding her breath. There was no way she was going to fail at this. She had come this far—if she messed up, there would be one more thing for Ladybug to lord over her.

It had been a restaurant once, this building. Or perhaps some kind of show-house. A bar in the corner was covered in dust and long-neglected glasses. Tables and chairs were draped with moth-eaten sheets, and chandeliers shimmered unsteadily in the eaves. Around the back wall, by the kitchens, a stairway led upwards. From the dimly-lit corridor above, Queen Bee could hear the rustle of a thousand tiny wings.

At first, the sound was just at the back of her awareness, but as she came closer, it grew louder. The rhythmic thrum caught up with the pace of the blood in her ears, and she found her pulse quickening to match it. It was hypnotizing, dark, and surreal.

And it drew her in.

Silently, the blonde heroine crept up the old staircase. A voice at the back of her head urged her to turn back—it was her kwami, voicing apprehension and wariness.

No, Queen Bee thought. She had come this far. She couldn’t go back now. She would show Ladybug—she would show all of Paris—that Chloe Bourgeois could do a good deed.

My, what an honor,” a deep voice drawled from above.

Queen Bee climbed the last few steps and came level with a great antechamber. Decaying beams supported the high ceilings, and dust sparkled along with the hordes of butterflies.

Butterflies. Butterflies which sang to the rush of her blood.

A man stood at the center of the room, leaning on a finely pointed cane. Up to his ears in a vinyl suit, his face was hidden by both mask and shadow.

“The newest miraculous holder,” the man hummed. “What a catch.”

Queen Bee shook her head. She needed to focus. “Are... Are you Hawkmoth?”

The villain threw his head back and cackled. “Am I Hawkmoth?” he mocked. “Of course I am Hawkmoth. And you are Chloe Bourgeois.”

She fell to her knees.

“Oh, Chloe dear, my akuma know the scent of every person they have touched. Don’t think I wouldn’t recognize you.”

Of course. It was all coming back to her. She had been so angry. And who could blame her? She had a right to be angry!

No, no. This wasn’t right. She had to prove everyone wrong. She had to show them that she could be good. She had to make people like her.

“Oh, they will like you,” Hawkmoth answered her thoughts. “Believe me, they will. And I have just the thing.”

Queen Bee lifted her aching head, letting the sound of the flapping wings fill her once again. She allowed her breathing to be caught up in their frantic rhythm; she let her thoughts fall back on the white, fluttering nothingness. Yes, this was right. This was the way. This... this was everything she needed. And it was right in her grasp.

“I’m listening, Hawkmoth.”


 Adrien

 

The bus ride back home was silent, but as soon as the brothers entered their apartment, Felix turned on Adrien.

“Tell me what happened.”

Knowing that Felix was dead serious and more than a little upset, Adrien wasted no time explaining: “Well, those kids showed up again, and Ladybug and I were trying to figure out what was going on. And then they kind of overwhelmed us. I don’t remember anything after that, but I woke up at Marinette’s house, and her parents were taking care of me. I got back to the battle as soon as I could, but by then, it was already over.”

Felix listened with closed eyes, the bridge of his nose pinched firmly by his thumb and forefinger. Adrien shied away—that nose-pinch was never a good sign.

“I have a question,” the younger sibling ventured. “What was that thing I saw that looked like me?”

Felix sighed. “That was the Lucky Charm. Who knows what it was good for except giving half of Paris a heart attack. We—we thought....” He trailed off, as if the next words were too painful to say.

“You thought it was me,” Adrien supplied for him. “And you thought... oh.” They had thought he was dead. He tried to laugh it off. “That thing didn’t look anything like me! For one thing, I’m taller. I’m definitely better-looking, and my hair is not that dull! I can’t believe you mistook that for me! What an insult.”

He looked around at Felix to see if the mood had lightened, but, if anything, it had darkened. In fact, the elder Agreste was grinding his teeth so hard that muscles jumped in his jaw, and his eyes shone in anger—anger it must be, because Felix never cried.

“Hey... I’m sorry?” Adrien tried.

“He’s not looking for your ‘sorry’, kid,” Plagg chimed in. “He wants you to step up and start taking responsibility for your own well-being.”

“Stay out of this, Plagg,” Felix growled. “Ade, go put him in the refrigerator or something.”

As the younger brother obeyed, the elder plopped down at the kitchen table, burying his head in his hands, shoulders slumping in exhaustion. Adrien set Plagg down by the cheese, leaving the door propped open so he wouldn’t be too cold. When he rejoined Felix at the table, he was reminded of countless conversations with his father: yet again, he had been a disappointment.

“What Plagg said is right,” Felix finally admitted. “I didn’t want to say it like that, in case you got upset.”

“Why would I get upset?”

“You’re sensitive, Adrien.”

“Yeah?”

“And that makes it hard to talk about these things. You react.”

Adrien let that sink in, staring down at his hands and knowing that his expression would only confirm Felix’s accusation.

“I still want to know what you have to say,” he said, trying to control the shaking in his voice.

Felix peered at him over folded hands for a moment, and then shrugged. “That was it. I wanted to tell you to take care of yourself.”

“That was it? Fe, you tell me that almost every day.”

“But you don’t take me seriously.”

“Of course I do!”

“Then why did today happen?”

Adrien tried not to flinch; he really tried. But, like Felix had said, he was sensitive. “Felix, I didn’t mean for it to go that way.... It’s not like I try to get hurt.”

“But do you ever try not to?”

“I-I—” the younger Agreste was at a loss for words. “I was trying to protect Ladybug,” he mumbled. His chest was getting tighter by the second, and he could feel the pressure of tears behind his forehead. Adrien tried his best to keep a straight face as his brother continued:

“Are you sure she even needed protecting? She seems capable of taking care of herself.”

“Right,” the boy said softly, lowering his eyes. “She doesn’t need me around.”

“Ade, you know that’s not what I meant.”

“But it’s true. I’m Chat Noir; if I don’t protect Ladybug, what’s the point?”

Felix flung out his hands in exasperation. “Adrien, if you can’t even take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of anyone else?”

“How am I not—”

“You can’t even feed yourself, Adrien. When I got back to Paris, you were literally dying of starvation. Can’t you see why we’re all concerned? I feel like I can’t take my eyes off of you. If I leave you alone, I might lose you!” Felix’s tone had escalated with emotion, and he had shoved his chair back, standing and turning away.

The words hit Adrien like a slap in the face. He had failed Felix. The elder Agreste had expected to return home to find his younger brother grown and independent. Instead, Adrien was not much more than a child—needy, forlorn, impaired in many ways. There was nothing to be proud of—only a little boy who needed to be led around by the hand.

Though his vision tunneled, Adrien took a deep breath, grasping for the surface of his inner turmoil. “But, Father wanted...,” he began.

Screw Father!” Felix spat, whirling towards the table and slamming his palm down. “Screw him and all of his inhuman expectations. That man has never—”

“Monsiuer Agreste?” a familiar voice spoke at the door, accompanied by a soft knock.

The brothers’ eyes met, temporarily snapped out of their argument by shared apprehension. Green eyes widened as Adrien shook his head, half in disbelief and half in pleading. Felix pursed his lips and crossed to the door.

“Gorilla. What brings you here?” Felix tried to collect his voice after his outburst.

With a sympathetic frown, the large man reported: “Monsieur Agreste wishes to speak with Adrien.”

The elder sibling’s rage came flooding back with the mention of his father. He began to close the apartment door, hoping Gorilla would get the hint. “Tell him Adrien will come speak with him when he’s ready.”

Even as Felix finished his sentence, the bodyguard stepped to the side, revealing the livid countenance of Gabriel Agreste. He stood—in all of his affluent, cold-hearted glory—in the blinking, green-hued halls of his son’s apartment building.

Brushing off his shoulder as if a speck of poverty had accidentally alighted there, Gabriel swept indifferently past Felix and honed in on his younger son like a vulture.

Adrien was caught between stuttering apologies and waiting to be spoken to, and the indecision struck him breathless. By the time his father reached him and bent towards him, his face had taken on a light tinge of green.

Gabriel spoke softly at first, but there was a dangerous tension in his voice. “I received a phone call, informing me that you were not at your photo shoot this afternoon. And then I heard about the commotion with the monster outbreak—you can see why a father would be concerned. And not even a phone call? Really, Adrien. What—”

The fashion designer cut himself off, taking a close look at his son’s face for the first time. With a trembling hand, he grabbed Adrien by the chin, forcing the latter to turn his cheek into closer view.

What is this?!” he amended his sentence.

His father’s grip was so gentle that all Adrien could feel was his pulse beating against the former’s thumb. Too afraid to swallow lest his father feel his throat move, the boy spoke with a thick voice:

“I fell. On the way home today, I tripped, a-and....”

Gabriel’s hand tightened on his son. “Stop your stuttering. How could you let this happen?” he spat. “Were you trying to ruin your career? Do you know what these kinds of scars can mean for a model? After all I have done for you to get you to this point. And you just want to throw it all away?”

“No....” The youngest Agreste’s voice was hardly more than a whisper. He looked up at his fath—no, no, he couldn’t meet those eyes. He looked down at the hand gripping his face; the white knuckles and the red mess of his cheek. He looked at Gorilla, standing soberly in the doorway. And he looked... at Felix.

There. There was some strength. He had to breathe. In and out... in and out. Felix was there. This would be over soon. He couldn’t let this overwhelm him. Felix was there....

“I warned you,” Gabriel continued. “This is what happens when you push away all that I have given you. When you give up order and structure. When you spurn your own father to run off and put yourself in danger!

“I warned you not to move in with your thankless brother. Do you think you’re an adult? Do you think you’re mature enough to be on your own like this? I have sheltered you, raised you, given you everything! You’re too much like your mother—careless, trusting, but spiteful of the only one who seeks to care for you. Just like her, you would be nowhere without me! That brother of yours has no appreciation for your value, and he lets you roam the streets—where things like this happen!”

“IT’S NOT his fault!” Adrien roared suddenly, swiping away his father’s hand. The slap of skin on skin rang through the apartment.

Gabriel actually took a step back, sputtering, shocked by his demure son’s tone and actions. Felix, who had been ready to come to his brother’s defense, stopped in his tracks, equally astounded.

Adrien, too, was surprised by his own moxie, but he decided to ride the wave he had mounted. “It was not Felix’s fault,” he reiterated, his voice lower but strong and firm. He took a step forward, forcing his father back again. And then, pointing to the wound on his cheek: “I got myself into this. No, I wasn’t thinking about my career. But I’ll worry about the consequences. Do not bring my brother into this, Father. And do not—ever—bring my mother into this.”

Gabriel recoiled, knowing his iron grasp on his son was loosening. His gaze shifted between a determined Adrien and a bewildered Felix. Even Gorilla was frowning in his direction. He was cornered. Sure, moths were drawn instinctively toward their desires, but this one knew when to retreat.

“Ask yourself,” he hissed at Adrien, leaning close to the boy’s ear. “Just who it is that pays your tuition. You might choose your words more selectively if you thought about that.

And then, without a word more, the austere designer swept from his sons’ hovel, to the refuge of his personal cab.

The studio apartment was left silent, the door creaking on its hinges and Adrien panting by the table. Felix approached his brother cautiously, feeling like a tornado had just swept through.

“Hey, Ade...?”

Adrien only gazed blankly at something just past Felix’s shoulder, taking quick, hitching breaths. His hands were curling and uncurling at his sides, and his legs trembled.

“Ade? Hey, wait—!”

Felix caught him just as his knees buckled. The younger Agreste leaned into his brother, his head heavy on Felix’s shoulder.

“You okay, buddy?” the elder sibling asked softly.

A sniffle was the only answer.

“Are you hungry?”

No response.

“You aren’t hurt anywhere else... are you?”

Adrien pushed away, angling his head so that his brother wouldn’t see his tears. Felix thought he heard a mumbled “sorry”. The boy shuffled to the refrigerator and scooped Plagg up silently.

“Come on, tell me what’s going on,” Felix pressed.

Just more barely audible apologies. And then: “Plagg, transforme moi.”

Before Felix could say a thing, his brother had been swept up into costume. Shoulders slumped and tail limp, Chat Noir leapt from the window.

“Wait, Ade, it’s...!” the elder brother called, only to realize he wouldn’t be heard. Chat was long gone, bounding away on his baton. Felix was left to finish his sentence in a helpless whisper:

“...Raining.”

 

Chapter Text

Marinette and Tikki

Marinette comes to a startling conclusion about her kitten and a certain detective....


 

 

Gabriel

Papa Agreste gazes coldly down at his eldest son (end of first chapter).

As per NekoChan16's request ^_^

Gabriel

But when Felix turns to leave....

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix 

 

“...So, then, he got upset, turned into Chat Noir, and hopped out the window into the rain?” Brigitte asked, turning from the window to her frazzled fiancé.

Felix nodded, biting his thumbnail to smithereens.

The brunette sighed, rubbing her face as if she could scrub away her frustration. “Felix... I’m going to say this in the kindest way possible.”

“Mm?”

“You. Are an idiot.”

“Right. I know that. So, what do I do about it?” He was jittery with anxiety, eyes flickering to the door periodically.

Brigitte sighed and came to sit beside Felix on the bed, scrubbing gently at his hair with the towel in her hand. “Well, you certainly don’t go running out into the rain like you did a moment ago,” she chided. The two had literally run into each other on the sidewalk, putting an abrupt halt to Felix’s mad dash to find a brother who did not want to be found. Brigitte, properly equipped with a jacket and umbrella, had practically dragged a soaking Felix home by the earlobe.

“He’s out there somewhere, Brigitte. And he’s wet, and cold, and—”

The elder Agreste was cut off by the brunette’s hands pressing into his cheeks. “Felix, Felix. I know. You told me. But you can’t fix that by panicking. You need to calm down.”

Felix felt his scowl deepen. She was right, damn it. But that was the problem—he didn’t want to calm down. Wrenching his face out of her hands, he turned away, deliberately taking deep breaths. Coming under control of his respiration did nothing to slow his racing thoughts.

“Think, Felix,” Brigitte’s voice of reason broke through. “You have Alya and Nino’s phone numbers. Would they know where he is? Maybe they have an idea of where he goes when he’s upset?”

She was right, but, putting himself in Adrien’s shoes, Felix was certain that the boy wouldn’t have told anyone—he’d want to be alone. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

He got two vastly different answers.

From Nino: “What?! Is Adrien missing? Is he okay? When did you last see him?”

And, from Alya: “When he’s upset, he goes to Marinette’s place.”

“Who is Marinette?” Felix wondered aloud. He had heard her name before.... Alya and Nino had mentioned that she was the fourth member of Adrien’s friend circle.... Adrien had said that he woke up at her house today; that her parents had tended to him. And.... could she possibly be the “Mari” Adrien mentioned so often? Wasn’t that the name he had called Ladybug?

Felix’s phone lit up with an incoming call, and he sighed and answered it.

“Allô—”

“Detective! What happened to Adrien? Did you find him?” the frantic voice gasped from across the line.

“Nino,” Felix retorted. “I just sent you that text five minutes ago. No, I haven’t found him.”

There was a commotion at the other end: the swish of a jacket, the slam of a door. “Yeah, okay, I’m coming.”

“Nino, calm down. I don’t think Adrien wants us to make a big deal over this. I think he wants to be alone.” Felix glanced over at Brigitte, who was quirking her eyebrows at him: You’re one to talk. She was... right.

“Yeah, the dude only wants to be alone when he really needs someone there with him.”

“What?”

Nino sighed. “It’s like this: Adrien thrives on human contact. He never turns down a chance to hang out. Look, my man Adrien ran away from home so he could go to school. What kind of kid does that? So, my point is, he doesn’t actually want to be alone. Ever. When he runs away or hides, it’s because he doesn’t want to bother you. He doesn’t want the shit he has to deal with to bring you down too. What can I say? He’s an idiot cinnamon roll.”

Felix took a moment to process this, reminding himself that Adrien was practically his emotional opposite. If he wanted to put his feet in his brother’s shoes, he’d have to guess at the contrary course of action from his own instinct.

The phone buzzed against Felix’s face, and he drew it away briefly to read Alya’s text:

Mari says no.

Felix cursed.

“Alya said he’s not at Marinette’s. Can you tell me where else he could have gone?”

Felix could hear the showering rain around Nino when he spoke. “Dude—I mean, Detective—I’m in the Ninth Arrondissement, near the Opera House. I’m going to head towards the Seine—I’ve caught him moping there before. Alya is in the Fifth Arrondissement, checking the parks. Let’s try to meet at the Eiffel tower.”

“Right,” Felix agreed, impressed. Give him a few years, and Nino might make a good detective.

As he set off into the night with Brigitte, the elder Agreste sibling shuffled through the pile of things he shouldn’t have said earlier. Even if he was right, it just wasn’t the time. Bedraggled as he had been, Adrien must have been aware of how stupid his actions were. The kid didn’t need his big brother rubbing it in.

And, Felix supposed, a lot of his own frustration was with himself, not Adrien. He felt guilty for not being there for his brother; and he felt responsible for Adrien’s reckless behavior. The only way to ease the guilt he felt had been to place some of it on Adrien’s shoulders.

How selfish could Felix get? He owed his little brother a huge apology.

Brigitte squeezed his hand. “You’re an idiot,” she reminded him.

He looked down at her seriously. “You’re engaged to an idiot.”

She shrugged. “It could be worse. At least you’re a cute idiot.”

And then, noticing that her attempts at humor were ineffective, she changed her tone:

“We’ll find him; don’t worry.”


 Chat Noir

 

Chat came to a sprawling stop on the middle platform of the Eiffel Tower. Every inch of his skin smarted from the wet that, at this point, it could not escape. He was shuddering so hard he could barely move, so he just lay where he had landed and curled in on himself. He vaguely registered that he was whimpering, and an anxious purr rose up in his chest.

The tower gave some respite from the downpour, but stray raindrops, tossed onto the platform by the wind, still pelted the hero. It was just as well, he thought. Every physical sensation, unpleasant as it might be, would only serve to distract him from the pain inside.

Normally, when he was upset, Chat would visit Marinette. She was a stubborn girl, but she could never turn away a lonely kitten. She fed him, too. That part was always a bonus.

But today was different. Today, he didn’t want Marnette to see him—didn’t want anyone to see him. He had no right to burden them like that. And he was so... tired. Sure, he might feel better if he could see Mari’s smile right now, but it wouldn’t last long. “Defeated” seemed to be his default setting lately, and he would always return to it.

Thoughts of the previous hour—of Felix’s harsh words and the visit from Gabriel Agreste—were like a frigid pool. Chat stood at the edge of that metaphorical pool, testing the waters with a light dip of his toe. But as soon as he made contact with the icy water, he flinched back. He knew that if he dove back into the freezing pool of tonight’s shame, he’d lose his will to live altogether.

So he set those thoughts aside in a tiny box, stowing them in the farthest corner of his mind. Some dust must have risen as he rearranged his memories, because the next thing Chat knew, he was filled with reminiscence, basking in the comfort of his mother.

This was the safest place on Earth, he knew. When she held him, when she spoke with him, those rare chances that they ate a meal together—at those times, Adrien truly felt at home. He belonged with her, and she loved him, and of that, there was no doubt. He didn’t have to smile and wear nice clothes to get her attention. She remained with him when he cried, when he lashed out, when he was immature. And never did she face him with anything but a serene smile. Her busy schedule made the time he spent with her that much more sweet.

Losing her forever might have been inevitable.


 

 

 

It was a half dream, a re-living of a dark, frantic memory.

Mother had left for Tibet the day before, going to visit her birth mother. It was a long flight, with two layovers, so the Agreste family did not expect to hear from her for quite a while. Nothing, however, could have prepared them for the news that came pounding on the front door at four in the morning.

Adrien had never been a light sleeper, in any sense of the word. But that night, he had woken, almost instinctively, around the time that his father answered the door and received the news. A thirteen-year-old Adrien had crept down the stairs, trying not to slip in his socks against the marble floor. He thought he might get a glass of milk before returning to bed.

But the boy never made it to the kitchen. Instead, he witnessed his father, standing in the grand doorway of the mansion, conversing with two men who stood outside in shadow. Gabriel was suddenly struck as if by an arrow, but seemed to gain control of his legs before he could fall.

“Thank you,” he said simply to the men, and they went off into the night. Gabriel closed the door.

Adrien wondered if he should go back to his room before his father saw him—he didn’t want to be chastised. But he remained, rooted to the floor at the base of the steps, gazing with growing awe at the trembling of his father’s shoulders.

Gabriel Agreste, stern father, controlling spouse, and ruthless designer, was weeping.

Weeping. A lance of pure terror cut through Adrien’s chest. If this man could weep, the world must be ending.

“Father...?” he spoke hesitantly, and was taken aback by how loud his voice was in the cavernous hall, breaking through the still night and rising above the silent tears of the tall man by the door.

Even just watching the man’s back, Adrien could see plainly how Gabriel straightened and composed himself. He slid his glasses from his nose and pinched away his tears before turning to his son.

“Why are you out of bed? Are you ill?”

“I was thirsty. Father... who were those men?”

The elder Agreste gazed at his son in weary contemplation, as if sizing him up and wondering what to say to a boy of his age. “Adrien,” Gabriel said finally, his voice with a haggard edge to it. “There’s something—”

The man seemed unable to speak for a moment, and Adrien waited.

He continued: “Something has happened. The plane your mother was on—it was over the Pacific—and they.... Well, they lost the signal.”

Young Adrien stared, uncomprehending. His brain refused to process the implications.

Gabriel let out an unintentional sob—a kind of sob that seemed incongruous with his stoic character. He blinked his eyes to banish the tears. “Adrien, they’ve been looking since yesterday night. There was a distress call, immediately before they lost communication. They think the engines failed. Adrien—your mother’s plane didn’t make it. She’s gone.”

Adrien’s world came to an abrupt halt. He heard himself say “Oh”, and then, the next thing he knew, his father was crouching over him.

“Felix!” Gabriel called. “Felix, come down here, hurry!”

Feeling was coming back. The sharp edges of two stairs pressed into Adrien’s back. His father had a hand behind his head, holding it up.

Someone was crying... no, laughing? It was a keening, breathless sound that preceded human language and expression. A heart broken, a world shattered—it was the only sound he could make.

It was Adrien himself making that noise.

“Stop that,” Gabriel was saying. “Stop that; you’re hurting yourself.”

How could he tell him to stop? Mother was gone.

Mother was... gone.

“...drien... ey....on.... Hey, Ade? I need you to breathe. Can you do that for me?” Felix was speaking now, his voice warping into focus.

No. No, he couldn’t. He was vaguely aware of being transferred into Felix’s arms, and the older boy was holding him firmly to his chest, rubbing circles against his back.

“Ma—Maman—” Adrien choked over his words, and he convulsed with grief. He was quickly exhausting himself, but his body was rejecting this new reality: a world without Mother. No, that wasn’t a world. And if it was, it no longer had any purpose. His sobbing devolved into hoarse gasps, his lungs set on some rhythm he couldn’t keep up with.

Felix’s soothing hand moved up to his brother’s hair, stroking a bit more frantically.

“Here, Ade, focus on my hand. Focus on me touching your head.”

He tried. He really tried; but there was so much pressure and rushing in his head that he needed to focus somewhere else. So instead, he ran his thumbs over the fabric he clenched in his hands—Felix’s nightshirt. It was a coarse, low thread count. Adrien knew his brother wore it in a sort of rebellion—it was not a Gabriel product. From time to time it became lumpy with loose threads, and Adrien would pick them out, much to Felix’s vexation.

Before the boy realized it, his breathing had become slower and more productive.

“It’ll be okay. Just breathe.... Alright,” Felix murmured, and he made more gentle sounds, coaxing the smaller boy out of hysteria.

Adrien sagged against his brother, wishing with all his might that this could be a dream. Judging by the acute pain in his throat from all the crying he’d done, he knew that this was all too real.

“Adrien, listen to me,” Felix said softly. “They’re still searching. That means she might be out there somewhere. Okay? Just think about that. We don’t know for sure she’s gone yet.”

A pathetic sob escaped the younger boy’s mouth. Felix angled back to look into his eyes, pushing sweat-soaked hair from his forehead.

“Ugh. You have snot all over,” he told Adrien.

Which made him think of Mother. Mother, squeezing dribble away from his nose with a tissue; Mother, pinching away his tears when he cried; Mother, holding him and rocking him. Adrien’s face crumpled as these thoughts twisted at his heart. Felix, seeing his brother’s renewed distress, pulled him close, until his chin rested soundly atop Adrien’s head. The youngest Agreste brought his hands up to cover his face, not wanting to dirty Felix’s shirt. Felix only held him tighter, mumbling words of comfort.

“Shh. Okay? Hush. I’ve got you, Adrien. I’ve got you now.”


 

 

Maman’s plane was never found. Not even a trace of debris had surfaced in the vastness of that ocean. Adrien and Felix both spent hours on websites designed for crowd-sourcing searches—nothing. Gabriel holed himself up in his office, and with every day grew more distant from his sons. A sense of normalcy never fully returned to the Agreste house, though the weeks sped by. Adrien held back his tears, and Felix returned to his brooding.


 

It was funny, Chat thought. Back then, Adrien had avoided seeking Felix out for comfort, not wanting to burden him—but, on the flip-side, Felix had avoided Adrien as well, thinking he needed space. Now that he was older and could understand the dynamics of their relationship, Chat was ready to admit it: he and his brother were hopeless.

I’ve got you now.”

How could Adrien have forgotten those words? What more proof did he need that Felix would be there for him, come what may?

Perhaps Adrien wasn’t required to be perfect. All Felix asked was that his baby brother wouldn’t worry him so much. Now that would be a difficult task. Perhaps even harder than saving Paris. Not because Chat didn’t think he could stay out of trouble—he could, for the most part—but because Felix was a natural worrywart.

They’d make it, nonetheless.

A sneeze brought the black-clad hero fully to his senses, and he realized that he had been huddled on the Eiffel Tower’s platform for some time, slipping in and out of dreams. He was still in costume, but he could hear Plagg’s complaints at the back of his mind. The kwami might release the transformation any time now.

“Better get home now,” Chat muttered to no one. But before he could climb to his feet, everything came crashing back: Felix, angry; Father, threatening; Mother, leaving him....

The tears flooded to the surface again, and Chat stared through blurring vision at the city around him. Paris was beautiful at night, but in his heart, he knew it was lacking. It was cold and empty without Madeleine Agreste.

Father was hurting, too. The man had changed so much since his wife’s disappearance. Likely, his only way of coping was to bubble-wrap his son and spit out viscous words. Adrien had to have faith in him—faith in the man he used to be.

Chat sighed. It was time. Felix was waiting for him, was there for him, had faith in him. He could do this.

The cat-like hero stood, wet hair hanging lank across his forehead as he steeled himself and blinked back the tears. He pulled it out: that box in his mind where he had stored all of the shame, the fear, the sense of worthlessness. He pulled it out, and he unpacked it, hurt by aching hurt.

I’ve got you now,” Felix’s voice echoed through his memories.

I will always be with you,” Maman soothed, her voice ethereal in the clouded night.

Adrien Agreste closed his eyes and faced his pain.


 

 Chloe

 

Chloe sat against her velvety pillows, flipping through Ladyblog videos on her phone. She was starting to see this whole thing in a new light. It was just.... What would Adrien think?

Her childhood friend didn’t have a mean bone in his body, even when he might benefit by setting someone else’s needs aside. He was hardly ever around during the akuma attacks, but it was clear that he was just as distressed by them as anyone else. Surely, he would despise whoever had been the cause of all this strife.

Chloe closed her phone with a sharp click and tapped it against her chin. She wondered why Ladybug would not be curious to know Hawkmoth’s motives. The heroine simply charged forward like a bull, hardly considering that there might be some purpose behind all this.

After what Chloe had learned earlier that evening, she didn’t blame Hawkmoth. He had one goal, and it was a noble one: wielding the powers of creation and destruction, he would bring back Adrien’s mother, Madeleine Agreste. And who could deny a grieving man the chance to reunite with his beloved?

He’d chosen a very unproductive way to go about it, that was for sure. Chloe could think of a million things he might have done—ways that he could have obtained the Miraculouses without even lifting a finger. If he was going to make any progress, he would need help.

Chloe glanced over at her kwami, where it slept on a pillow beside her. The tiny Bee Kwami was exhausted from the day’s adventures. The odd little creature would definitely hate Chloe for what she was about to do. Ladybug would hate her; Adrien would hate her; merde, all of Paris would hate her.

But would that change anything?

Over the past week, Chloe had come to accept this simple truth about her life. Whether she was kind or mean, she would never be likeable. On the surface, the outcome would be the same. That was something she could never change. So, then, what did it matter if she appeared to be on the wrong side of things? If she committed questionable acts to achieve a greater goal? It would only confirm to those who saw her that she was selfish and mean-spirited. But she would know better. She would know that, in the end, she had helped to bring some good back into the world.

Latently, the Bourgeois daughter realized that her heart was pounding. This was it—she had made her decision. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she thought of the friends she had hoped to have; she thought of the glory that being Queen Bee might have brought her; she thought of the hours she’d spent before the mirror, trying to turn her smirk into a gentle smile; and she thought of her mother—no, no, not that. She could not touch that wound, smarting as it was and angry red, refusing to heal. More deep breaths. She could do this. She was no coward. She would do it for Adrien—for Madeleine.

And Chloe Bourgeois took her hopes, her disappointments, her dreams, her pain—she took all of these and packed them tightly into a box. Around that box she placed a lock, and then she dropped it into the depths of her spirit, where it could not easily surface.

She was ready.

Chapter Text

Felix and Brigitte

Illustration for chapter 44: Healthy relationship 101

 

Chloe

Chloe makes her decision.

 

 

More Chapter 44 illustrations coming!

Chapter Text

 Felix

 

Alya sent a text roughly two hours later.

We found Adrien.

And then, after a skipped heartbeat:

He’s fine. Was at the Eiffel Tower all along.

Felix related this information to Brigitte.

“Well, that’s great!” she said. “Let’s go get him.”

But Felix lingered back while Brigitte charged ahead. Jumping at the touch of the rain, she quickly retreated under the umbrella.

“What’s wrong? Are you scared?” she teased.

“No,” he snapped. And then, more gently: “I just... thought of something.” It was strange. Felix had never felt this way towards another person. It was like an impulse, urging him to do whatever it might take to make Adrien happy. Really, he would go to the ends of the world to make that kid smile. This was not like Felix. Usually, he would go out of his way to avoid human contact, and any kind of inconvenience would make him irritated. He wasn’t a people-person. That was part of the reason it had taken so long for his thick skull to appreciate Brigitte.

But with Adrien, it was different. Adrien managed to bring brightness wherever he went, no matter what mood he was in. And Felix, who was not accustomed to smiling, could not help but do exactly that when he was around the boy.

He’d refused to accept it, but it was a reality Felix could no longer ignore: he wanted to spoil Adrien, and shower him with everything he had been deprived of these past few years.

“You’re blushing,” Brigitte noted.

“It’s the cold.”

“Uh-huh. What are you thinking about?”

Felix sighed. With the amount of power she had over him, Brigitte could certainly compete with Adrien. He told her:

“I just feel like I need to give Adrien things, and feed him, and make him... happy.” His voice became a mumble as he realized what he was saying.

Brigitte only smiled knowingly. “Your maternal instinct has kicked in.”

That... was not what Felix was expecting. “My... what?”

His fiance burst into laughter. “Oh, gosh, Fe, you look so terrified! I’m joking.”

“Oh.”

“Only half-joking. BUT anyways, that’s totally normal for an older sibling to feel towards a younger one. Especially if that older sibling is aware of some kind of neglect or hardship, or feels they need to protect that younger sibling from the parents.”

Felix stared down at her, processing this information and falling in love with her all over again—for the thousandth time. “Why did you minor in psychology if you were going to be a vet?”

Brigitte grinned and tapped him on the nose. “Because I wanted to be able to understand you.”

She was... amazing, for lack of a better word. He kissed her forehead. “I love you. Let’s go get coffee for Adrien.”


 Alya & Nino

 

Alya sighed and glanced down at Adrien. He was insisting he was fine, but he looked like a drowned rat. From his seat on the opposite end of the bench, Nino kept shooting her worried glances over the blonde head.

The three friends had taken refuge under a covered bus stop, after Nino and Alya had come across Adrien climbing down the Eiffel Tower like a spider. Awkwardly, he had explained to them that he was “just getting fresh air” and “have you seen the night sky from up there?” The couple had stared at their friend, dumbfounded, wondering if he actually expected them to buy those terrible excuses. Should they nod and smile and risk looking gullible?

“Maybe we should tell him,” Nino had suggested out of the corner of his mouth.

“Not right now!” Alya had scolded. Finding out that two of his best friends had known his greatest secret all along was probably the last thing the poor kid needed.

“Tell me what?” Adrien had asked, sniffling and dabbing a sleeve at his running nose. His eyes were puffy, as if he had been crying, and the scratches from the akuma battle were bright red and raw from irritation. Judging by the blue tinge of his lips and his stiff movements, he was past the point of shivering.

Alya had pulled off Nino’s coat, despite his protests, and put it around the other boy’s shoulders. “...Tell you that you look miserable,” she had said, answering his question. “Next time you need fresh air, bring a coat, okay? And make sure the air is actually fresh and not full of, you know... water.”

Adrien had nodded sheepishly. Everyone knew he had a bad habit of rushing out into the cold without even a sweater.

Now, the trio sat on the slanted bench of the bus stop, waiting for Brigitte and Felix to arrive. Alya had discreetly sent a message to Marinette, telling her to get her butt over to meet them there—and to bring croissants. The bespectacled brunette was burning with determination: Adrien would not be left alone tonight; no, they would crowd him and coddle him until he was begging for a moment of peace.

“Hey, man, you know, your brother’s not mad at you,” Nino reassured his friend, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Adrien nodded mutely.

“Yeah, I think his face just kind of looks like that, you know?” Alya contributed.

The forlorn model beamed his signature smile up at them. “You guys are great. Thanks for trying to make me feel better.”

Nino gave Alya raised eyebrows behind Adrien’s back. He’s doing it again, he mouthed to his girlfriend.

“Um... What did Felix tell you?” the blonde asked carefully.

Flailing, Nino tried to slap together a story. “Uh, he said that he needed help rearranging the furniture! A-and you went out on a walk so he was wondering where to find you—”

“Shut up, Nino.” Alya reached across to smack him. “Adrien, the truth is, your brother told us how he was worried about you after the fight today. He said that your father showed up, and we know how your dad is, so....”

“Ah.” Adrien lowered his reddening face, and Alya cringed. They were making him feel like he’d caused a scene.

Which he had.

She put a hand on his shoulder. “Look, Adrien. We all have times when we want to go cry in the rain.”

Nino jumped in: “Yeah, dude, if Gabriel Agreste was my pops, I’d make that, like, a daily habit.”

Alya rolled her eyes at her boyfriend and went on: “But that’s what friends are for. We’re here for you when you feel down. And we know that if it was any of us, you would do the same thing.”

Adrien finally looked up, his face glowing at the word “friends”. With a chattering, toothy smile, he put an arm each around his friends and drew them close in a wiry, grateful hug.

After a few minutes of silence, Alya craned her head around to look at her boyfriend.

“Is he asleep?” she whispered.

Nino nodded.

“He’s had a long day,” the girl sighed, untangling herself and pushing Adrien’s weight onto Nino.

“When are we going to tell him?” Nino asked in a low voice. He put his arms around his best friend like a protective mother koala.

“Not tonight,” Alya retorted. “Besides, Mari is coming; he’ll be nervous enough with her around.”

Nino frowned. “He still thinks she doesn’t like him.”

“What? Why would he think that? She makes breakfast for him every morning! He’s the reason she makes it to school on time these days.”

Nino put a finger over his lips in warning as Alya’s voice rose; although, both friends knew they needn’t worry: Adrien was dead to the world. “Alya,” he said. “This is Adrien we’re talking about here. He’s not going to believe that anyone actually likes him unless they spell it out to him.”

“True. And, seeing as Marinette can’t spell, think, or talk in his presence, that’s going to take a long time.”

“What’s going to take a long time?” Marinette asked, having just ducked under the bus shelter. Her arms were full of bags, and she was adorable with her red, dotted raincoat and cold-flushed cheeks. There was just one problem....

“Ugh, Marinette, what is that smell?” Alya asked leaning away from her.

“Oh, this?” the black-haired girl held up one of her larger bags. “Maman made jiaozi—Chinese dumplings. It’s the cabbage that smells so bad, but they taste like heaven.”

Nino cringed. “Keep them away from Adrien. I don’t want him drooling on my shoulder.”

Mari let out a yelp, seeing her crush for the first time. But before she could follow her instinct to back away, Alya grabbed her and yanked her down onto the bench, squishing Mari between herself and the sleeping Adrien.

“There you go,” Alya said triumphantly. “It’s a dream come true, right?”

Mari protested, too distressed with her proximity to Adrien to actually enjoy it. In her flailing and struggling, she managed to shove both her crush and Nino off the bench and send them tumbling onto the sidewalk. Alya, accustomed to Marinette’s exasperating antics, grabbed the bags of food before they could join the boys on the ground.

In the aftermath, Nino cursed and whimpered, having taken the brunt of the fall; Adrien woke up; and Marinette was close to tears in embarrassment. Alya looked on, unsurprised, and suppressed laughter. If her hands weren’t full, she would be slapping her forehead.

“What’s the deal, Marinette?” Nino whined.

“I-I’m so clumsy—I mean, sorry—I mean, sorry me, apologizing, I, AAH—ADRIEN YOUR FACE DID I DO THAT?!”

“Alya, dude, I think you broke Marinette.”

“Shut up, Nino. Marinette, calm down. Adrien! Don’t sleep on the sidewalk!”

“Wha...?” Adrien mumbled drowsily. “Oh, hi, Lady—Marinette!” Immediately brightening, the blonde jumped back to his seat next to Marinette, seemingly unaware that her ears had turned into steam engines and she was seconds away from collapsing altogether. The flustered girl fussed over the scratches on his face, and he basked in the attention.

Nino caught Alya’s eye as he stood and brushed himself off, and the couple shared the same thought from either side of their oblivious friends: These two are hopeless.


 Felix

 

“Let’s go get coffee for Adrien” somehow turned into coffee for everyone, Alya and Nino included. Oh, and Marinette too. Thankfully the cafe had carrying trays big enough to accommodate their large order, so Brigitte was able to hold the drinks while Felix held the umbrella.

“Lovely, just lovely. Oh, I know! Next time, let’s get coffee for all of Paris. Better yet, let’s just give the whole country of France a big cup of coffee.”

Felix’s grumblings fell on deaf ears. “We’ll take them back to your place and invite Adrien’s friends over. It’ll be good for him,” Brigitte had said.

Felix... could not protest.

By the time the couple met up with Adrien and his friends, it was after midnight; and then, when the group finally filed into Felix’s apartment, the detective only had six hours before he needed to leave for work. Alya and Nino didn’t seem fazed, and they didn’t bother to ask for permission as they made themselves at home. Even Brigitte was going along with the whims of these seemingly nocturnal teenagers. In fact, the Indian girl had bonded almost immediately with Marinette, and the two seemed to be joined at the hip, discussing something in hushed voices.

Felix didn’t know what to think of Marinette. She seemed to be intelligent, and even outgoing, but when faced with Adrien, she clammed up and turned into a bumbling mess. He wasn’t sure what Adrien saw in her. Sure, she was pretty, but she was also very strange. She kept giving Felix side-long glances, as if she knew something about him and was trying to figure him out.

When he and Brigitte had approached the group where they huddled under a bus shelter, Marinette and the younger Agreste had been making googly eyes at each other. Apparently, it was obvious to everyone but them that they were mutually smitten. Adrien seemed happy, so Felix wasn’t complaining. For now.

Really, Adrien was much more peaceful than Felix had expected. With how upset he had been earlier that evening, it was a wonder that he was now smiling and joking around with his friends. Felix knew he needed to apologize to Adrien, and that the brothers were due for a long, meaningful talk. But when he saw Adrien sitting there, laughing at something Marinette had said, Felix only held out a coffee cup and cleared his throat.

“Here. Take it, Glowworm,” he had said.

And that was it. Whatever hard feelings there had been earlier, the brothers had made amends for now. Adrien’s entire countenance had lit up at the prospect of coffee, and he had immediately taken to downing the sweet, warm beverage.

Felix sighed. He had been smart this time, and had ordered decaf. Hopefully that, combined with Adrien’s exhaustion from the day’s events, would keep the boy from bouncing off the walls.

Now, the elder Agreste dragged a hand down his face in defeat. The kids were devouring Madame Cheng’s jiaozi, Brigitte was conspiring with Marinette, and Felix was gazing, disbelieving, at his own coffee mug.

Café décaféiné was scrawled along the side.

And there, across the table, Adrien held a mug that noted in curving letters: double espresso.

When had the mix-up occurred? How had he allowed such a lethal dosage of caffeine to end up in his brother’s hands?

It was too late, of course. The contents of Adrien’s mug had been consumed. And, “holding the coffee mug” was a very generous way of describing what the boy was actually doing:

He was slumped against the table, face upturned and the spout of the mug clenched in his teeth. Like a very confused goldfish, Adrien was sucking out the last remnants of foam from his beverage, making an awful sound and giggling softly all the while.

Felix cast an accusatory glare at Brigitte, and she held her hands up in defense: I didn’t do it.

He pinched his nose. It was likely his own fault, and now everyone was going to pay for it.

“Marinette, aren’t you going to drink some coffee?” Brigitte asked. It was their first interaction that had risen above a hushed tone. Felix had only caught words like “stalking” and “gorgeous” and, frankly, did not want to know what the girls had been discussing.

Mari waved her hands dismissively. “I really shouldn’t.... I only drink coffee when I’m up all night working on a project.”

“Well, great!” Alya chipped in. “Because we’re going to be up all night playing video games at Felix’s place.”

Adrien released his empty cup with a plunk! “Video games?” he burst out. “I love video games. What video games? Wow, this is awesome. I can’t wait! What are we going to play?”

“You’re going to do what now?!” Felix broke in.

“A video game marathon. Dude, why else do you think I brought my game console?” Nino explained, dragging the device out of his suspiciously square-shaped bag.

...He’d brought that along to search for Adrien? No. No. Felix didn’t even want to question some of the things these kids chose to do. It might kill too many brain cells.

Marinette was cracking her knuckles—a shockingly loud display for someone so tiny and delicate. “Well, in that case,” she said. And she proceeded to gulp down her coffee in one go. She stood suddenly, pushing her chair back. Mari turned to Adrien, bursting with energy and freed from her usual nervous bumbling. “Let’s do this. Agreste, you’re going down.”

The rest of the party watched in stunned silence as Adrien stood as well. “I’d like to see you try, Dupain-Cheng,” he goaded.

And thus began Felix Agreste’s long, long night of chaos.


 

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Marinette went undefeated, although a caffeine-high Adrien was dangerous competition. Distraction ended up being his Achilles heel: as soon as he would get ahead, a speck of dust would float by and entirely capture his attention. He’d be across the room in seconds, chasing that elusive particle, game abandoned.

“You need to concentrate,” Mari would complain, grabbing him by the belt of his pants to drag him back. Then, she would realize what she was doing, trip over her feet in a flustered mess, and they would both end up in a heap on the floor.

“Aren’t you going to play?” Felix had asked Nino and Alya at one point.

Alya, tearing up with laughter at the expense of her friends, had responded: “No, no. We’re having too much fun just watching those two.”

When the time came for Marinette and Adrien to crash, they did so spectacularly. They passed out within minutes of each other, and lay sprawled at the foot of the television, Mari using the blonde’s arm as a pillow.

“Aw, the show’s over,” Alya whined. And then, her eyes lighting up again: “Picture time!”

Nino retrieved the game controllers. “Wanna go, Detective?”

“It is four in the morning,” Felix replied, his face flat and uninterested.

Brigitte elbowed him. “Hey, isn’t it your job to encourage kids to stay in at night and not go out drinking? Shouldn’t you be supporting this whole video game thing?”

Felix grumbled. “It’s my job to make sure kids stay in their own homes and go to bed on time.”

“Okay, Santa Claus,” Nino chuckled. “So. Wanna play?”

“Did... someone say Santa Claws?” Adrien mumbled in his sleep, arching his fingers through the air dramatically before letting his arm fall back down over Marinette’s waist. Alya squealed in delight, crouching over her friends and snapping more incriminating photos.

Felix sighed as Nino handed him a controller. “Right. So, I actually don’t know how to play this kind of thing.”

The boy stared, dumbfounded for a moment, before regaining his composure. “Okay... first of all, you’re holding the controller upside-down—wait, wait. You mean you’ve never played a video game before?”

“Never.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be a genius or something?” Nino sputtered.

“Yeah, I’m a genius because I never let things like this turn my brain to mush!”

“Oooh, ouch. Well, Felix, my man, let’s see if my mush brain can kick your excessively sheltered ass!”

“Excessively—what?! Why, you...!”

They went at it. Video-gaming, it turned out, was surprisingly simple, once Felix figured out the rules and sorted out the buttons. He got the game-play down easily with his sponge-like brain, and, after the first few rounds, had Nino beat.

Then, his alarm clock rang.

Felix dropped his controller. It was that time already? Sure enough, sunlight was peeking through at the very corners of the windows. Alya was fast asleep, her head resting on Marinette’s stomach, and Nino was inching over to his girlfriend, mumbling about how Felix was too smart, no fun. Hugging Alya’s lower leg to his face, the brunette boy lapsed into obnoxious snoring.

Brigitte gathered up the blankets from Felix’s bed and set to draping them over the four sleeping teenagers.

“Go on to work,” she told her fiance. “I’ll keep an eye on them.”

Right. Brigitte was off work today.

The exhaustion caught up to him all at once.

“I am never allowing this, ever again,” Felix whined.


 Marinette - Brigitte

 

“Are you sure it’s okay to leave them like that?”

“Come on, Nino, they’ll be fine.”

“But what if Marinette has a heart attack?”

“Then... Adrien can give her mouth-to-mouth. Come on, we’re going to miss the bus.”

A door slammed.

Marinette heard the hushed voices vaguely as she stirred awake. Her pillow felt strange; it was comfortable, as if it was made to fit just so where her neck met her head, but it was also very hard. Not very pillow-like. And it was moving. Besides an odd thrumming, rushing sensation, Mari’s pillow was rising and falling rhythmically, accented by a low purr.

“Silly Kitty,” Mari giggled, eyes still closed. She fished her hand around, feeling the threads of a harsh, woven carpet as she searched for her phone. After several prolonged seconds of not finding it, she decided it was time to open her eyes.

Odd. She was definitely not in her bedroom; that was not her ceiling. Double odd: when she turned her head there was a—

“AAAHH!!!” Marinette Dupain-Cheng screamed and leapt to her feet, taking on a full, Ladybug-style fighting stance. She screamed again.

Brigitte, who had been dozing off on Felix’s bed, jerked awake and joined in the cacophony:

“AAAHH WHAT, WHAT IS WRONG—?! ...Oh, good morning, Marinette.”

The poor girl was beside herself, pale as the white flowers on her shirt, pointing down at Adrien Agreste with questioning, wide eyes. He hadn’t been disturbed in the least when she jumped away from him, nor did her squealing break through his peaceful slumber. The sleeping model only rolled onto his side, one hand searching futilely for his cuddle-bug.

“Ladybug...,” he mumbled.

Marinette screamed again.

Brigitte was standing by now, fighting back her amusement in order to bring some consolation to the younger girl. It was a lost cause, and soon, her laughter was breaking through as she tried to speak.

“Hey, Mari, it’s okay. Do you remember? You came here with all your friends last night and you were playing video games, and then you fell asleep. It happens. No big deal.”

The confused girl stuttered: “I—I, oh my gosh, Adrien—”

“That’s right, Mari, words. Use words.”

“Words. Phew, okay, calming down. But—did-you-see-Adrien-Agreste-and-his-bicep-was-my-pillow?!”

“Yeah, Ladybug likes my bicep. Wait—my bicep was a what?” Adrien said groggily, sitting up. And then, some dark terror dawned on his face, and he too was screaming.

“Whoa, whoa, what is it, Sunshine?” Brigitte rushed to the boy’s side, glad it was two hours past noon, because otherwise, the neighbors might have called the cops already.

“My arm. I can’t feel my arm. Where is it—there it is. Look! I can’t feel it.” Adrien held his left arm up for the two girls to see, flopping it around in demonstration.

Again, Brigitte was fighting laughter. “Your arm is fine, Adrien. You just lost circulation. Marinette was sleeping on it.”

Instead of showing relief, Adrien went two shades paler. “Marinette was.... She was....” And he directed his gaze, aghast, to his black-haired friend. “I’m so sorry!” he burst out. “I’ll take full responsibility!”

Marinette sat back down beside him. “No, no, Adrien, it’s not your fault I like your bicep—I mean, it’s my fault you’re nice to sleep on—I mean! Sure, you can marry me if you want—I MEAN!”

The poor girl might have gone on like that all day, if Adrien’s stomach hadn’t chosen that moment to announce to the world just how it felt about being empty. The blonde boy blushed as the noise filled the room, silencing Marinette, and he glanced sheepishly at Brigitte.

Brigitte sighed. Felix was right: these kids were hopeless. What with Adrien’s innocent kitten-eyes, begging for food, and Marinette’s frazzled bed-hair and flushed cheeks—she just couldn’t leave them alone. Felix had better be careful, Brigitte realized. If he didn’t hurry up and give her babies, she was going to go ahead and adopt these two cute little muffins.


 Felix

 

Meanwhile, Felix was at work on the streets of Paris, cornering a criminal at the end of an alleyway. He tackled the guy, and slapped handcuffs over his wrists, ready to get this job done.

“YOU’RE UNDER AGRESTE!” he shouted. “I—I mean, ARREST. You’re under arrest.”

...Damn it, Adrien.


 Nathaniel

 

Nathaniel sighed as he made his way home that evening after school. It had been another day without Chloe. She had seemed so alive yesterday—so thrilled by her new abilities—he had thought maybe she would have recovered enough from whatever had been bothering her to come back to school. Perhaps he’d just have to wait until the next akuma attack to see her.

He’d drawn five more sketches of her during class. In fact, she was all over his notebook. Resplendent in her Queen Bee disguise, she stood as confident and heroic as Ladybug.

A strange sound made Nathaniel stop short. Someone was whimpering—or choking—around the corner, down a damp and puddled alleyway.

This was the red-head’s dilemma: usually, if he saw someone in distress, he would want to help, but he was always keenly aware that he couldn’t do much for them. He was weak, easily excitable, and tended to panic in serious situations. Most of the time, whoever he was trying to rescue would end up having to rescue him. Nathaniel had to learn over the years not to rush into anything; the best thing he could do would be to call for help.

This time, he forgot all of that and rushed in anyways.

It was like nothing he had seen before: a man, in the standard uniform of a waiter, huddled against the wall of the alleyway, head buried in his arms as he sobbed. He didn’t seem to be hurt, and no one was attacking him; but a strange girl stood, eerily silent, gazing down at the trembling man. In the dim light of the setting sun, the alcove should have been cast in shadows, but a golden light was shimmering forth from the unsettling girl, gathering in intensity at the tip of her staff.

Nathaniel guessed right away that this was the work of an akuma. The girl was yellow from head to toe, with black stripes threading through her pulled-back hair and accenting her suit. Large, round sunglasses covered her eyes, giving her a bug-like, expressionless stare. She reminded him of someone, in her shape and stance, but he couldn’t put his finger on who.

The shining girl tipped her staff towards the man, and golden particles gathered around him, filling the air with an electric buzzing sound. The waiter’s grief seemed to deepen, and he rocked where he sat, grabbing fistfuls of his own hair.

“That’s right,” she urged, in a carefully controlled voice. “Think about how hurt you were. How dare they fire you. You have been wronged by the world. Take that feeling—take that anger, and nurture it.”

“STOP!” Nathaniel cried, surprising himself.

The villainess turned on him with a biting glare.

“I mean... stop? P-please?” the boy stuttered, amending his tone. He started to back away. It really would have been best to call for help. Maybe it wasn’t too late to back out—

The yellow-clad girl glided over to Nathaniel faster than he could take his next breath. She was inches from his face, staff at the ready. His heart stirred into a galloping beat, like a rabbit’s. Behind her dark sunglasses, he could see pained, baby-blue eyes.

“You...,” she hissed. “You want to feel my power too?”

His mouth moved, and his throat made noises, but he could not form words.

She leaned in, fingers closing around his collar. With the heels that were built in to her suit, she was just tall enough to glare down her familiar, upturned nose at him. The girl’s lips came close enough to brush Nathaniel’s ear, and he knew he was on the verge of fainting.

“Stay away from me if you don’t want to get hurt,” she warned in a low voice.

A familiar voice... a mournful voice... and, to Nathaniel, the most beautiful voice in the world.

“Ch-Chloe,” he breathed.

She flinched back, as if she had been slapped, and pushed him away. “How did you...?”

The boy’s brain was still trying to make sense of all this, and nonsense came out of his mouth: “You’re yellow. I mean, you—what happened to Queen Bee? Chloe, I—I look at you all the time. I mean, no, that’s not what I mean. But you are beautiful, s-so I draw you, and not anything weird or inappropriate I just—”

Nathaniel cut himself off, trying to catch his breath and knowing he sounded like an idiot.

Chloe was still backing away. “You need to stay away from me. It’s not safe.... I’m working for Hawkmoth—I-I don’t want to hurt you.” She sounded close to tears.

“What?! Hawkmoth? Chloe wait—” Nathaniel reached for her, but she slapped his hand away.

“I’m not Chloe anymore!” she snapped. “I’m Style Queen.”

The artist didn’t back down. “Wait, Chloe, you don’t have to do this! Ladybug can help you!”

“No she CAN’T!” Style Queen shrieked, and her staff came around, releasing a gold mist that hit Nathaniel full in the face.

He sat down heavily, confused at first. And then he felt it: something was tugging at his darkest emotions, inflating them and bringing them to the surface. Loneliness, betrayal, fear—they bubbled up and pushed at his boundaries. A single tear slid down his cheek.

After several moments of silence and sniffles, Style Queen cautiously approached the red-head once more. She seemed to have calmed down, shocked from her outburst when she struck her friend.

“You... where is your anger?” the blonde girl asked, sounding truly puzzled.

Nathaniel only clutched his chest, feeling more tears welling up and hoping this wouldn’t escalate into another asthma attack. “I’m not angry,” he blurted. “I... I like you, and I don’t know why you’re hurting so much.”

Style Queen took this in, staring down at her classmate and letting her own anger blossom. Like an incoming tide, she let the bitterness rush over any flustered elation that might have been provoked by the boy’s confession.

“You fool,” she spat. “You think you know Chloe Bourgeois? Believe me, you would not feel that way if you truly knew her. And anyways, she does not exist anymore. I have been reborn, and I do not have time to babysit crybabies with useless emotions.”

She bent down at the waist, bringing her face close. “Take my advice, shrimp: mind your own business.”

A shiver ran up Nathaniel’s spine, but he could still see the pain in her eyes, so he was far from giving up. When Style Queen turned back to the woeful waiter, the boy flung himself at her, enfolding her in his arms—anything to stop her.

Style Queen was stunned for a moment. She hadn’t expected Tomato Head to be so bold. But, as soon as she regained her bearings, she wrenched his arms away and threw him, with surprising strength, at the opposite wall.

Nathaniel connected painfully with the bricks and landed face-first in a puddle. Sputtering and shaken, he rushed at the villainess again.

“Chloe, please, don’t hurt that man. I know you don’t want to—”

She threw him again.

Nathaniel knew when to give up. He knew his limits. In fact, he tended to back out of things long before they became too difficult. But this was different. Something was driving him forward, again and again, begging his friend—his crush—to come to her senses. Why she would be working for Hawkmoth, he couldn’t fathom. Even more distressing—why she had given up her Miraculous—there was no telling. But he did know that she was in pain, and that she was intent on causing pain.

Of course, Chloe was Chloe: she had spent the majority of her life doing just that, hurting and being hurt. But Nathaniel knew better than what was on the surface. He had fallen in love with her this past year as he watched the girl underneath shine through. The girl underneath was frightened, lonely, and desperately in need of love.

Now, he fought for that girl. Again and again, he grabbed for her, struggling to hold her back. Style Queen was too strong, too fast, and tossed him aside easily time after time. He got back up each time, and tried again.

When, finally, Nathaniel’s attempts to stand failed, he lay soaked and bruised, battling his constricting chest and narrowing vision.

The villainess stood over the boy, trembling. “Don’t make me hurt you again,” she pleaded, in a quiet voice. Then, fishing in her pocket, she withdrew a folded paper and dropped it in the mud by his outstretched hands.

Nathaniel hiccoughed, trying to work up the strength to say something—anything to stop her. But he knew it was futile. He could only stare at the torn page as it sunk in the mud; his eyes followed the familiar lines of his own sketch, and he knew that if he unfolded it, he would see a brightly smiling Chloe.

It seemed so far-fetched now, he thought bitterly. Chloe, who had taken on the persona of Style Queen, was crouching over the distressed waiter, stirring up whatever negative emotions she could find. For whatever reason she was doing this, she seemed so lost.

With a shaking hand, Nathaniel took his torn sketch into his fingers and drew it close as consciousness left him. This time, he wouldn’t back down. He wouldn’t run away, or give up, or call for help like a coward. He could save Chloe’s smile—he could make her happiness a reality.

Hours later, he stumbled home, aching and covered in dirt.

Nathaniel found his grandfather in the living room, surrounded by darkness and flickering candles. The elderly man sat with legs folded on a floor cushion, a small cup of tea poised delicately at his lips. He had been conversing with his long-time friend, a tiny, turtle-like creature who sat beside him on his own miniature floor pillow.

The red-haired boy glanced around the room, locating the ornate wooden box that contained his family’s legacy. He looked back at the stooped figure of his grandfather, striking an odd image with his bright Hawaiian shirt amongst the traditional Chinese surroundings.

There was no more time for hesitating: if he wanted to help Chloe, Nathaniel had to do this.

So, taking in a deep breath, the boy spoke into the silence:

“Grandfather,” he said. “I’m ready to wield a Miraculous.”

~~~

 

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Anna stopped in her tracks as she entered Felix’s office, frozen with fright.

“Oh, good morning,” the young detective murmured.

Putting a hand to her heart, the older woman sighed in relief. “I thought you had been akumatized,” she confessed. “You look like a zombie; what happened?”

Felix knew she was right. He had looked in the mirror that morning and seemed to have aged ten years: his eyes were deeply shadowed and puffy; his face an unhealthy shade of gray.

“That idiotic glowworm,” he explained incoherently.

Anna quirked an eyebrow at him. “Is that a new narcotic codename? I wouldn’t do that if you want to keep your job.”

“No! Ugh. My brother. It’s just... well, there’s a lot going on I guess.”

Indeed, as if one sleepless night of coffee and video games hadn’t been enough, this last night had Felix up until dawn, nursing Adrien’s self-inflicted fever. This time, he hadn’t been able to call Brigitte for help; a box of abandoned kittens had been found out in the rain, and she was at the clinic around the clock, caring for them. Really, if Adrien hadn’t kept Felix up last night, Brigitte’s texts certainly would have:

Guess what!

We have kittens.

I mean, “we” as in here at the clinic. Not you and me.

That would be biologically impossible, lol.

Anyways, someone found this poor litter of kittens in the rain.

Couldn’t find their mom.

So now I’m their mom!

And then, several minutes later, as if she had been wondering whether to tell Felix or not—a rare occurrence; Brigitte had no filter:

I named one of them Adrien.

Felix had decided to keep the kittens secret from his brother. If the boy took one look at them, Felix knew, they’d be bringing at least one of them home. And that was an absolute no—Plagg and Adrien were enough of a handful as it was.

Another thing had happened last night: Adrien had confessed to knowing Ladybug’s identity. Felix had nodded, already having expected that to be the case.

“It’s that Marinette girl, isn’t it?” he had asked.

His brother’s face had gotten redder, if that was even possible. “The magic makes it impossible to figure out, but I guess my sense of smell trumps that,” he had explained.

Felix had lowered his eyebrows in dismay. “You... sniffed her?”

Adrien had shrugged drowsily. “Yeah.”

Oh dear. This was all Felix’s fault. If only he had been there for Adrien during those crucial years, he could have taught him about normal, socially-acceptable behavior. Sure, Felix didn’t know much in the way of how to behave around women, but at least he could have told Adrien what not to do. Sniffing was definitely one of those things.

Not bothering to hide his eye-roll, Felix had decided to divert the topic. “So... she doesn’t know who you are?” he had asked, remembering what Adrien had told him before.

Adrien had frowned. “That’s the way she wants it.”

“Odd girl,” Felix had commented. He still was in awe at how she managed to be two completely different people in and out of the suit.

“Isn’t she?” Adrien had replied, but his tone had been swoony and love-stricken. “She’s brave, and kind, and did I tell you she’s a geeeenius designer? Her parents are great, too.”

“You like her,” Felix had guessed. It wasn’t rocket science, after all.

Adrien had shaken his head. “I love her.”

Felix should have known his brother was a hopeless romantic. “And how does she feel?” he had asked, taking the rag from the boy’s forehead to refresh the cool water.

Adrien had sighed. “She, um. See, she doesn’t take me seriously when I’m Chat; but when I’m Adrien, she’s always so uncomfortable. I don’t know what she thinks of me.”

Seeing that the boy’s brow furrowed and his sweating quickened, Felix had wondered if this subject was worsening the fever. “I don’t think she would have called you a two-timer if she didn’t take you seriously as Chat,” he had assured Adrien.

“Oh, right.” That had seemed to calm him down, at least a little bit. In fact, he had gazed at Felix with a long, drowsy stare, blinking slowly every few seconds. The blinks had grown slower and slower, until finally he had drifted off to sleep.

Felix had continued to nurse him until his fever finally went down. All the while, Felix didn’t let Adrien hear the end of how stupid he was to go out in the rain yesterday; how he should have said something if his wounds were infected; how Felix was going to be up all night for the second time in a row.

To every complaint, the younger Agreste had simply smiled and said: “Love you too.”

 


 

 

Now, Felix was just holding out for lunch, at which time he planned to crash in the break room.

Anna took everything in stride and presented Felix with their new case. It was nothing too challenging, and he found himself going through the motions, trudging through the day until sundown, when he finally boarded the bus home.

Adrien’s here at the clinic.

Felix stared down at the text from Brigitte, sent just about an hour ago. That was good, he thought. This way, Felix could head back home on his own, and he could have some alone time to get some rest.

And then, with a jolt, he remembered the kittens. The equation ran through his head, and he didn’t have to be a genius to know what it added up to: Adrien, Brigitte, and orphaned kittens equaled impending disaster. It was the worst possible combination imaginable. No matter how he mapped it out, all roads led to Adrien bringing a kitten home—or two, or five. Brigitte would allow it, and Felix’s input would be moot.

He got off the bus and ran to the clinic, exhaustion tossed to the wind with a kind of manic fear. As he ran, he sent Brigitte a text:

DO NOT.

A second later, she replied:

Do not what? ;;;^._.^;;;

His thumbs scrambled across the screen. DO NOT GIVE KITTEN.

A few minutes passed. Felix had almost reached the animal clinic. And then:

Don’t worry, I was going to let you do the honors.

He’s in love.

Accompanying that last text was a picture of Adrien, smiling from ear to ear, cupping a white ball of fur to his chest. Felix came to a stop, panting, and just looked at that photo for a moment. He hadn’t seen Adrien smile like that in... well, it had been a while. The elder sibling allowed himself a smile of his own. This was exactly what he had been afraid of, and now there was no turning back.

He couldn’t let Adrien go home without that kitten.

The sleep-deprived detective walked the rest of the way to his fiance’s workplace, his brain sludging through a plan of action. First, he needed to register a pet with the apartment complex; then they would need food, a litter box, toys.... Adrien could handle all of that; he earned enough money from his modeling job to afford it. But did he know how to care for a cat? How to train them, groom them, keep them from destroying everything? The Agreste boys had never had a pet growing up, but Felix had seen videos of the nefarious creatures. They were always up to no good: jumping in boxes, knocking things off of shelves, climbing curtains, being unreasonably afraid of cucumbers.... Having a cat seemed, frankly... terrifying.

They’d figure it out, he reasoned, as soon as he saw the pair in person. All of the other kittens had found a home except this one: a tiny white Persian with a crooked tail and an even more crooked scowl. To Felix, the thing looked evil; to Adrien, she was the epitome of cuteness.

“She reminds me of you,” Adrien said, showing her off. “Her expression, that is. Here, hold her.”

Felix took the fluff-ball carefully under the arms, holding her up to his face. “It is kind of like looking in the mirror—minus the fur, and the tail, and the fact that I’m not a baby cat,” he grumbled sarcastically. “What are you going to name her?”

Adrien thought for a minute. “I was going to call her Petite Macaron.”

“Petite Macaron,” Felix repeated. It was too long, and seemed incongruous to this angry-looking, snaggle-toothed little monster.

Petite Macaron must have heard his thoughts, because, without warning, she lashed out with all four limbs, wielding ridiculously sharp claws. She managed to rake them over every inch of Felix’s face before he could react. He practically threw the growling abomination back at his brother and recoiled.

Instantly, upon returning to Adrien’s grasp, Petite Macaron played innocent, purring and flicking her crooked tail in contentment.

“Aw, Felix, you were holding her wrong,” Adrien admonished.

Felix could have sworn Petite Macaron shot him a smug grin at that. So, whenever Adrien wasn’t looking, he gave the kitten a vengeful stink-eye in return.

Brigitte drove them home in her parents’ car. She had prepared a make-shift litter box and a few cans of soft food, along with promises to help with Petite Macaron’s care.

“Whose idea was that name?” Felix asked, watching the kitten in Adrien’s lap with a suspicious gaze. Plagg was currently entertaining her, playing a game of hide-and-sneak.

“Well, Adrien came up with—what was it?” Brigitte began, catching his attention in the rear-view mirror.

The A-claw-meow-nable Snowcat,” the boy replied proudly.

“Yeah, that. But I told him it was too long. So then, Petite Clawssant was the next idea—that one was sort of okay.”

“She does kind of look like a croissant,” Adrien protested.

“It’s a hideous name, Adrien,” Brigitte shot back.

“It’s a hideous cat,” Felix agreed, under his breath.

Brigitte punched him.

Adrien stroked his kitten, and she rubbed up against him lovingly. “Brigitte told me to think of something I love that sounds cute, but—” he paused to sigh “—I couldn’t name her Ladybug, so I figured macarons are the next best thing.” His voice changed into baby talk as he addressed the kitten: “Isn’t that right, my little meow-caron?”

Brigitte eyed Felix apologetically as he touched his shredded face in contempt. “She’ll warm up to you,” his fiance assured him. “You just have to show her that you’re not as scary as you look.”

As if on cue, Petite Macaron squirmed out of Adrien’s arms and clawed her way to the front seat. Alighting on Felix’s lap, she circled for a moment and then squatted. When he realized what was happening, it was already too late.

She pooped on his lap.

...She pooped...

On his lap.

With a contented sniff, the crooked kitten leapt back to her master and curled up to sleep.

Brigitte nearly drove onto the sidewalk, overcome by laughter. “She just used you as a litter box!” the girl wailed between cackles.

Adrien was trying his best to apologize, but he couldn’t get a full sentence out through uncontrollable giggles.

“That’s it. She hates me,” Felix concluded, horrified at his predicament.

“No, no, she doesn’t,” Brigitte gasped, wiping away tears. “It actually means she feels secure around you, if she’s willing to poop on you.”

“That’s... nice to know.” It didn’t change the fact that he had a stink-bomb sitting on his left leg. Youtube had not prepared him for this.


 Villain

 

The angry waiter sat along the bank of the Seine, waiting for Hawkmoth. With Style Queen’s help, he had cultivated his resentment and desire for revenge. Now, all he needed was one word from his wonderful butterfly leader, and that negative emotion would turn into power. He would show them that they had been wrong to fire him. He would show those disrespectful customers that no one should mess with him.

By the end of the night, all of Paris would fear his name.

 

 

Chapter Text

Mari and Adrien

Adrien and Mari

Adrien and Mari ~accidentally~ cuddle after a long day.

 

Petite Macaron

Introducing Petite Macaron, seated amongst her namesakes.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Centipede-Man

 

A group of American girls filed out of a bustling Parisian restaurant, trailing violin music and clinking dishes behind them. In hushed voices, they murmured and glanced back over their shoulders at the busy venue.

“Can you believe how nasty that waiter was?” one of them scoffed.

“Right? He just tossed our plates down and didn’t say a word. What a jerk,” another whined.

“Guys, I think he knew we were tourists. I heard they hate Americans here.”

“What, really? Is it because, like, we beat them in World War II?”

The first girl spoke up again. “Shut up, Brittney, you’re wrong. That was World War I. Or, wait. Was it the Civil War...?”

“Seriously, though, guys. Should we talk to the manager? He, like, totally sneered at me.”

“Come on, guys,” the voice of reason among them spoke up. “Let’s not let one waiter with a nasty attitude ruin our night. Okay?”

The other girls frowned and reluctantly agreed.

In the next moment, the girl who had just spoken raised her eyes to a little above her friends’ heads, finally noticing the shadow looming behind them. As the ominous figure came into focus, she let out an impulsive shriek, throwing herself back. Her friends whirled around, alarmed.

There, materializing in the shadows of one of Paris’s ancient brick buildings, a giant, snake-like form had scuttered down to eye-level. A multitude of legs and a plated exoskeleton mimicked the appearance of a centipede—only, this one was a thousand times bigger than the house variety.

And it had a human face.

The American girls reeled away from the monstrosity, uttering curses and feeble sounds of terror. Brittney fainted.

The gargantuan centipede-man grinned a grin too wide for his face.

“A nasty waiter, you say?” he hissed. “Oh, I’ll show you nasty.”

And, like a terrible, hundred-legged bullet train, he charged.


 Alya & Nino

 

Paris could rightly claim to have seen its fair share of akuma. After three years of seeing them all shapes and sizes, it was very hard to surprise Paris. The lesson had quickly been learned: Hawkmoth was a half-boiled, impotent villain, and any akuma that came of him was no match for their bad-ass super-heroine, Ladybug. Sure, a few incidences recently had mildly startled the population, particularly one case involving young ballet students, but other than that, Paris was not worried.

Not until now.

Now, there was an akumatized villain tearing through Paris like none they had seen before. In the first fifteen minutes since its appearance, it had done more damage than Stoneheart and his copies had done in a day. The long, armored body and razor-sharp legs destroyed everything in its path, leaving central Paris a disaster zone. Emergency vehicles swarmed the streets, collecting injured citizens and rushing them away for urgent care. Many had simply been caught in the monster’s trail, hit with debris or shoved to the side. Many more had the telltale signs of having been attacked directly: two pinprick marks on their skin, swelling and black with some hideous infection.

The crazed centipede-man was biting people.

“The effects of the poison are as of yet unknown,” Alya reported into her phone, glancing nervously at the chaos behind her. “I repeat, stay in your homes. Until Ladybug and Chat Noir defeat this thing, it’s not safe—”

The video was cut off suddenly.

Alya dropped her head into her hands, sitting at Nino’s desk and screaming a muffled scream of frustration.

“That’s my second phone in a week, Nino! And you had to tackle me right then, right before they showed up!”

Nino frowned, nursing a scratched arm across the room. “You would have been killed, Alya.”

His girlfriend threw her arms up. “I wouldn’t have been killed! Just severely maimed or traumatized! It’s all in my line of work. And besides, if that akuma had bitten me, I could have found out what the poison does to people.”

He raised his eyebrows at her pointedly.

“Ugh, Nino, you’re being too dramatic.” Alya swiveled around and buried her face in the desk again, staring listlessly at her crushed phone. As if having her report cut off mid-sentence wasn’t enough, she was now confined to her boyfriend’s room. He had made a deal with her: she stay off the streets of Paris until the end of this battle, and he would buy her a new, shatter-proof phone. It was too good to pass up, but missing a chance to see Ladybug in action was absolute torture.

Nino ignored the girl’s antics and picked up his remote, turning on the news. He watched his girlfriend perk up instantly as the anchor narrated the Centipede-Man situation.

“We can’t get very close, but you can see that Ladybug and Chat Noir are on the scene. We can only hope that this is not beyond their abilities.... They do seem to be struggling. What’s that? Yes. Yes. We’ve just received a report that the akuma’s venom seems to induce a kind of paralysis, no word yet on fatalities. We urge all citizens to stay inside their homes or businesses until this is over.”

The cameraman suddenly swiveled the view around, and gasps could be heard in the background.

“Are you seeing this?”

“What—is that another...?”

“Zoom in, zoom in.”

The anchorwoman spoke up again. “It seems that a new character has been spotted, as you can see there at the edge of that roof. It is yet to be determined if this is friend or foe.”

Alya leapt from her seat at the desk and scrambled over to the television. Pressing her face almost flush to the screen, she gripped the edges in a white-knuckled hold.

“What in the...?” she gasped. Nino, too, inched forward, disbelieving.

“It looks like—well, this can’t be—but it looks like Volpina!” the anchor announced.

The camera blurred, and then zoomed in on the lithe figure leaping across rooftops, trailing a long shock of an orange tail behind it. The mysterious newcomer was clad in black calf-boots and long, matching gloves. Dark orange, baggy pants were paired with a tight-fitting sleeveless vest, which was accented with a white stripe around the collar and zipper. Disproportionately large fox-ears trailed out from the depths of a crimson mop of hair. The face was covered, nose to forehead, with a mask of long, slanting eyes, and in the figure’s left hand was held a paintbrush the size of a broom.

“...doesn’t seem to be Volpina,” the anchor was saying. “We can’t say for sure at this point, but this one seems to be a young man or woman wielding a large paintbrush. Paris has yet to see if this androgynous fox-hybrid will be of help or harm to our beloved heroes.”

Alya gripped the television almost to the point of breaking it and turned on her boyfriend. “Ninooooo...,” she growled.

He averted his eyes from her death-glare, instead opting to stroke his new kitten. The fluffy, black Persian hopped onto his lap and curled up contentedly. “We can watch what happens from here. Right? That way, if anything goes wrong, we’ll be ready to go help our buddies out.”

Alya stabbed a finger at the television. “Nino! That’s the actual Volpina! The real deal! You’re telling me to just sit and watch from here when the reporters can’t even tell if he’s male or female?!”

The brown-haired boy shrugged. “Does it matter? I thought you’d be more concerned with, I don’t know... whether he’s evil or not.”

His girlfriend rolled her eyes. “Hero or villain, what matters is if he gets in the way of LadyNoir! If he does, I’m going to kick his ass.” She buried a fist in her opposite palm to accentuate her words. “And yet... I’m listening to you.”

Nino glanced up sharply at this change in tone. The black kitten mewled.

Alya sighed. “You’re right. Lady B and Chat don’t need another couple of kids out there to have to rescue. This akuma is different. Well, the last two akuma were different, but this is... I don’t know. I have a bad feeling.” She turned her attention back to the TV, shoulders still tense but her fight gone out.

Nino set his kitten to the side and joined her. He gently put an arm around those strong, slightly quaking shoulders. Pressing a kiss to her temple through her hair, he said a silent prayer for his friends.


 Chat Noir

 

“Did someone call pest control?” Chat quipped, landing a kick to the side of Centipede-Man’s head.

The creature hissed and recoiled, hardly deterred. “I am a pest alright, but I’m not one that can be controlled!” he shouted, barbels flaring. With a flick of his tail, he sent the cat-like hero tumbling across the Paris sky.

Ladybug casually reached out and caught her partner, depositing him on the roof beside her while she surveyed the situation. The akuma victim had been rampaging for half an hour now. Fifteen buildings had been evacuated, and an estimated two hundred Parisians had been injured. Of those two hundred, seventeen had been bitten by the creature’s venomous fangs, and the poisoned civilians were exhibiting flu-like symptoms before lapsing into feverish comas.

They had to resolve this, and fast.

The red-spotted hero narrowed her eyes at the writhing monstrosity which was currently baring his dangerous fangs amongst a group of fleeing citizens. They had to get closer, somehow.... She decided on a plan of action.

“Chat, I want you to... what is that?” she asked suddenly in awe, interrupting herself.

Her partner followed her gaze, his hackles raised. “It looks like... a bunny?”

Ladybug gasped as her vision finally focused on the orange blur. “No, Chat! That’s Volpina!” Her stance changed immediately, knees bracing and fists tightening at her sides.

Chat took a long stare with his enhanced vision, noting small details of the figure that hopped towards them over the roofs. “Hey... LB? I don’t think that’s Volpina. The suit design is different. And she... he... doesn’t have....um.”

“A flute?”

“Yes. Those—That.”

“Right,” Ladybug nodded. “Do you think this is the real fox Miraculous, then?”

Chat shrugged. “Or the bunny Miraculous.”

His partner rolled her eyes. “There is no bunny Miraculous, Chaton.”

The black-clad hero wasn’t entirely convinced, especially since the newcomer was close enough now for him to see that the kid was terrified—and trembling. The hopping, the shaking, the general fear of the world—it was all more bunny-like than anything. What was this kid doing here anyways? He looked like he’d rather be anywhere else.


 Nathaniel

 

Nathaniel would rather be anywhere else right now. The suit was uncomfortable, the brush was heavy—how was he supposed to even paint with this thing? And he was currently leaping through the Parisian sky, a full five stories off the ground.

Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Don’t. Look. Down.

He knew he was going to look down eventually, and then he would freeze up in terror and fall to his death.

His brain was also sending panic signals through his body: he was overexerting himself. He should be having a massive asthma attack right now, and his brain was refusing to believe that the transformation protected him from that. The result was that Nathaniel had to make a constant effort to keep breathing, and to breathe deeply, trying to keep his mind off of oh shit is this even humanly possible?!

This was exactly why Grandfather had never allowed him to have a Miraculous.

He approached Paris’s two heroes, taking in their expressions of fear and concern.

“I’ve got this!” he yelled. What am I saying?!

But his kwami, Trixx, was coaching him through his thoughts, telling him what to paint—just like they’d practiced—to easily bring down this villain. He just had to get close enough and make sure Ladybug and Chat were out of the way.

So, before they could stop him, he veered towards the giant centipede-man, whipping his brush around as he went and trailing a bright orange stripe behind him.

I wonder if I look cool right now, he thought vaguely, seconds before his padded feet touched down under Centipede-Man’s nose.

However he looked, he certainly caught the supervillain’s attention, and quickly found himself face-to-face with a visage worse than death. Whatever this man had looked like before his akumatization, his purple-tinted features had stretched and distorted to accommodate the elongated snout and fangs of an insect. His eyes had lost their light and were wide and crackled with insanity. Some foul smell drifted from his mouth, leaking out while he grinned at the terrified, fox-like hero.

Centipede-Man’s face was less than a meter away from his, Nathaniel realized. He could feel his magical brush in his hand, pulsing with power. Trixx was at the back of his mind, urging him. This was his moment. This was his debut as the fox miraculous holder. This was his chance to impress Grandfather and save Chloe. This was his chance to help Ladybug and Chat Noir. This was it.

He raised his brush.

Centipede-Man hissed, widening his jaw and readying his fangs to sink into fear-soaked flesh.

It was too much for the fox-like hero. All thought and comprehension left him, and his body gave out. His brush clattered onto the roof tiles.

And in that moment, Nathaniel Kurtzburg fainted dead away.


 Chat Noir

 

Chat Noir slammed his baton into the super-villain’s face before it could lunge at the collapsed hero. While the centipede-like akuma victim was recovering, Chat crouched over the unknown newcomer and hooked one arm under the boy’s shoulders, hefting him off the ground and pressing him securely to his chest. Extending his baton again, he skedaddled out of there, launching back to where Ladybug stood, poised with her yo-yo.

“Was he bitten?” Ladybug asked urgently, not taking her eyes off of Centipede-Man.

Chat was currently trying to figure that out. A brief inspection told him that not a scratch marred the fox-boy, and his vitals were normal. Turning back to his partner in mild awe, Chat replied:

“I think he, uh.... I think he fainted.”

This got the red-clad girl to whip around with a sharp look. “What?!”

“Yeah, um. That’s what it looks like. He’s fine, except for the, uh, being unconscious.”

Ladybug pursed her lips, incredulosity mixing with concern on her features. “Well, we can figure him out later. I’m casting Lucky Charm.”

“Really now, are you?” a disembodied voice said from just over her shoulder. A sharp, clawed leg pinched the collar of her suit and tore downwards, opening the usually impenetrable fabric halfway down her shoulder blade.

The superheroine’s blue eyes widened, and she watched Chat stiffen suddenly, as hot breath tickled her neck.

“How about this,” the sinister voice proposed. “You give me your Miraculous, and I won’t bite you.”

Ladybug flinched, but didn’t move. She could feel the cold fangs touching the tiny hairs at the crook of her neck.

Centipede-Man reconsidered. “Oh no, that won’t work. I see. Then let’s try this: Chat Noir, you give me your Miraculous, and I won’t bite this little morsel-bug.”

Shivers ran down Ladybug’s body as the hot, wet surface of the akuma’s tongue traced up her spine. Her vision clouded over with tears, but she could still see Chat’s pale-faced determination as he reached for his ring.

“No, Chat, don’t,” she mouthed.

The cat-like hero’s brows only lowered in determination as he pulled the silver band slowly up his finger. However, just as the Miraculous came free of his first knuckle, Centipede-Man let out a terrible cackle, stopping Chat in his tracks.

“I was just kidding!” the supervillain exclaimed. His grin stretched and his eyes darkened ominously. “Bite first, Miraculous later.”

And he sunk his teeth into Ladybug’s flesh.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chat Noir

 

“NOOO!” Chat shouted. He shoved his ring back into place and launched himself at the akuma victim, just as Ladybug was released. She crumpled to the ground, gasping and whimpering, and Chat hit the villain with his full weight, sending both of them tumbling from the roof.

“I’m sorry, was that rude of me?” Centipede-Man sneered as they fell. “You should have known that the waiters of Paris are rude!”

Chat Noir didn’t care about whatever nonsense this creature was spewing. Shoving a heel into the guy’s eye was a more immediate concern.

His foot never connected. Instead, the giant centipede twisted and latched on to Chat’s boot with his spindly, armored legs and flung the superhero through a window.

Thankfully, it was one of the evacuated buildings, so no civilians were harmed and Chat was spared humiliation. Shaking stars out of his vision, the black-clad hero stood and growled a low growl, letting vengeful anger course through him.

The giant centipede peeked at him through the broken window. “Aw, is our little kitten angry?” he goaded in delight.

Chat howled and leapt through the window, claws swiping at the terrible villain. However, Centipede-Man veered out of the way just in time, leaving the cat-like hero to plummet towards the street. Chat extended his baton and caught himself, dropping onto the sidewalk in a well-practiced tumble. Without even taking a moment to regroup, he whirled around and jammed the end of his baton in between the armored plates of the centipede’s exoskeleton.

Centipede-Man howled and writhed, swinging his tail violently and forcing Chat to hop away. When the tail came back around, the superhero latched on, digging his claws in. He allowed himself to be swung to and fro. He had to hold on, for Ladybug’s sake. Centipede-Man was trying to shake him off, ramming him into buildings and dragging him over the pavement, but Chat was determined. He began a slow ascent of the giant centipede’s body, scanning as he went for anywhere the akuma could be hiding. His plan was to find that object, bring it to Ladybug, and end this as fast as possible.

The grotesque villain gathered up momentum and then whipped his tail out so fast that Chat could barely see the blur of Paris around him. He clung on still, watching the tail’s destination approaching with dangerous speed. The akumatized creature was aiming for a billboard of Adrien Agreste, smiling in the sunshine with windswept hair, showing off a cozy Gabriel brand sweater.

Chat was currently barreling right towards a huge picture of his own face. He braced himself—this was going to hurt.


 Felix

 

Felix rested his chin on steepled fingers, watching the broadcast. Just let him go this time, Brigitte had said. You can watch the battle on the news, she had said. It’ll be a good chance to practice having faith in him, she had said; you need to stop being a worry-wart.

Stay at home and watch, he could do. The part about not worrying, though? Impossible.

At first, it had been alright. A gigantic, creepy insect was destroying Paris and probably going to eat his little brother, but it could be worse. Chat Noir had landed a few blows, and Ladybug was right at his side, likely forming a plan. And then a kid dressed like a bunny had showed up and distracted the heroic duo just long enough for Ladybug to be bitten by Centipede-Man. Now, the news helicopters were circling the building where the red-clad hero lay on the roof, curled up and clutching her shoulder in pain. The sounds of Chat’s solo battle could be heard in the background.

Felix picked up his phone.

“Did you see that?” he asked when Brigitte answered.

“Yes,” she replied in a tense voice, and he could hear her clattering around with bottles and metal objects. “I’m on my way.”

“Me too,” he said, already out the door. “Are you stealing medical supplies from the clinic?”

More crashing and banging, drowned out by the screams and crumbling buildings in the fifth arrondissement. “Well, I wouldn’t call it stealing, more like borrowing—”

“Good girl.” He hung up the phone.

No cabby in his right mind would head towards the chaos right now, and the trains and buses were all temporarily down towards the middle of the city. Felix would have to take a bike.

Hang on Glowworm, he thought urgently. I’m coming!


 Style Queen

 

Style Queen hovered above Paris, taking in the chaos she’d instigated. The dust-covered rubble, the fleeing civilians, and the raging monster at the center of it all—this was not what she had expected. Did Hawkmoth really think it was necessary to destroy his own city and injure hundreds of people in order to get the Miraculouses? Was this really what Madeleine Agreste would have wanted?

Chloe doubted that Madame Agreste would appreciate returning from the dead to find her home in shambles.

Style Queen, however, could justify this. She wasn’t Chloe anymore; she couldn’t let flimsy idealism get in her way. If it took this much damage to convince those meddling superheroes that they should hand over their power, then so be it. The responsibility would lay in their hands after all. Hawkmoth would have no need for this drastic action if only they had surrendered. That was what Style Queen was here for, after all: to heighten the stakes with more powerful villains and get the message across that it was time to give up.

Beyond that, whatever the villains she helped spawn chose to do, it was not in her control. If they chose to fight dirty or terrorize the innocent, Style Queen did not count herself culpable. She couldn’t; there was no time for needless guilt if she was going to help Hawkmoth succeed. Some sacrifices had to be made, even if one of them happened to be her conscience.

She just hadn’t expected the akuma victim to bite Ladybug.

He could have killed her instantly, if the bite had been a little to the left. But apparently even the most vicious of villains was softer than that. Or perhaps he had just wanted to watch her writhe.

Either way, the seconds were now ticking by as Ladybug remained, fetal and trembling, at the edge of the roof. Style Queen could feel Hawkmoth’s rage through their mental connection—rage that the Miraculous hadn’t been obtained; rage that the battle dragged on and Chat Noir was holding out pretty well. Style Queen sent back a reassuring message: with Ladybug incapacitated, they would have plenty of time to snatch away her Miraculous. As for Chat Noir, there would be no problem. The black cat tired quickly these days, and Style Queen didn’t expect him to last much longer.

Then, as the villainess watched, Ladybug moved. Clutching her injured shoulder, the bug-like hero stood, swaying, by the roof’s railing. She fumbled to manage her yo-yo with one hand—the other hung useless at her side—and swung from the building.

Scoffing with mild awe, Style Queen watched Ladybug go before touching down on the previously occupied roof. The blonde girl strode to the edge, where the heroine had stood just moments earlier, and stared down at the roof tiles. A pool of blood had been left behind, as bright red as Ladybug’s suit, and it twisted Style Queen’s stomach more than it should have. It left her feeling hollow inside, and she had to screw her eyes shut to block out the unwelcome guilt.

Once this is over, she told herself, Ladybug will see that it was necessary.

A soft sound alerted the villainess that she was not alone. Spinning on her heels, she braced herself for confrontation—but it was only that scrawny fox-boy. He was stirring: he’d flopped onto his side to hug himself and sneeze. The red-haired runt reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Without realizing what she was doing, she’d crept closer, taking in his features. She could feel her heart dancing a little undecided dance... a flutter here, a pounding rush there. If only she could see his whole face....

Style Queen snapped out of it with a jolt. Hawkmoth didn’t need this one’s Miraculous, so there was no reason to pay him any mind. No reason at all! And if Hawkmoth were to see her giving special attention to this boy....

She didn’t know why, but something deep inside her told her to protect him.

That meant stowing her curiosity away in the back of her mind, far from Hawkmoth’s reach, and turning back to face the akuma battle. After all, there was no need to—

A hand grasped her ankle.

Barely breathing, Style Queen turned. She curled her fingers tighter around her staff. The last time someone had grasped her ankle like that, desperately, pleadingly—it had been just yesterday, in a damp alleyway, and she had felt like she was tearing her heart out of her own chest.

No... no. She could not look at his face. Instead, she held him in her peripheral vision and steeled herself for the inevitable.

Then, a familiar voice said, “Chloe?”

...And her walls came tumbling down.


 Chat Noir

 

Chat couldn’t help but scream as he found himself on the verge of being smashed into an image of his own nose, and, consequently, into the steel structure behind it. He let go at the last minute, allowing Centipede-Man to collide full-force with the billboard, flattening it.

As of yet, the superhero hadn’t spotted any object where the akuma could be hiding. He’d seen the guy’s face up close and, while it wasn’t a pretty picture, there was nothing out of the ordinary on it—not even an earring or a hat or a scarf that might be the cursed item.

Chat’s vision went red again as he thought of what this creature had done to Ladybug. Extending his baton, he propelled himself straight towards the guy’s face, ready to give him a good punch to the teeth.

Something stopped him on his way up. It was barely a glimpse, but it was all he needed: a glint of metal amongst a sea of dull, brown insect armor. He changed his direction mid-leap. It was small, and it was lodged between exoskeleton plates, but he could almost see what it was—

“Chat! Have you found the akuma?”

Ladybug’s voice caught him off-guard, and his urgent twist around to look at her cost him his concentration. Centipede-Man lashed out, sending the cat-like hero tumbling through the air.

Chat landed soundly in his partner’s arms—well, arm. She caught him around the middle as she swung away from the villain’s reach, and then immediately released him upon landing.

“Are you alright?” she asked him, staggering and clutching her shoulder. In order to save him just now, she had strained her injured arm, worsening the bleeding and likely sending the poison rushing even faster through her bloodstream.

Chat was almost certain he had cracked a rib, but he didn’t say anything about it. Ladybug had enough to deal with; her eyes were glassy and she couldn’t seem to stand straight. He watched her warily, knowing that it was only a matter of time before she toppled over and was lost to the world.

Don’t worry, Plagg said suddenly in his head. Her kwami is working on holding back the venom.

As reassuring as that was, Chat’s Lady was in pain, and he would not stand for that. He took her hand gently.

“There’s a metal thing about halfway down his body. Looks like a name-tag or something. I think that might be where the akuma is. Can you cast Lucky Charm?”

The dazed heroine nodded, and then fell to her knees, like a wilting flower. Chat caught her, avoiding her injured shoulder, and coaxed her to lean against him.

“I’m sorry, Kitty, I—”

He blinked back tears. “Shh, it’s alright. You can do this; I’m going to help you, okay?”

She nodded against his chest, and he brushed damp hair from her forehead, trying not to show his alarm at how warm she felt. Then, he reached for her yo-yo and pressed it into her fingers. With Chat holding her arm up, Ladybug was able to toss the yo-yo skyward.

“Lucky Charm,” she breathed weakly.


 Style Queen

 

Style Queen aimed a swift kick, felt it connect, and threw herself into the air, away from her greatest weakness. She didn’t look back.

She relocated Centipede-Man just in time to see Chat destroying his akumatized item. Wonderful. Now, Hawkmoth was going to be furious, and they would have to go through this all over again. Style Queen fled the scene.

Something halted her, though, just before she flew over the evacuating crowds. Some strong emotion was brewing, her power was telling her. Something she could cultivate. Something dark and dangerous, full of vengeance and festering resentment.

She recoiled when she saw the man—saw who he was. Sure, she was willing to take extreme measures to help Hawkmoth accomplish his goal. She wasn’t about to shy away from an opportunity, no matter how cruel it would be.

But, no. Not this; not him. Hawkmoth surely wouldn’t—

YES, HIM, Hawkmoth’s voice broke through her consciousness. HE IS READY NOW.

Style Queen could not disobey. She swallowed her misgivings and dove in like a falcon to its prey.


 Felix

 

Felix didn’t bother with formalities as he pushed upstream of the crowds. Everyone was bumping into everyone, and offending a stranger was currently the least of his worries.

His brother was in trouble. That girl, Marinette—Ladybug—was in trouble. He could hear the devastating sounds of the ongoing battle. At one point, Chat had screamed for all of Paris to hear. Felix swore, when this was all over, and Hawkmoth was found out, he would make him pay.

His brain tugged at him. Why didn’t he know who Hawkmoth was? He should know; it was so obvious after all. But something was there, blocking the connection that should have taken place, shutting down any hopes for a decisive conclusion.

The elder Agreste brother’s anger increased as he shouldered his way through the masses. His brain wasn’t working, he was getting nowhere, and, besides, anything he could do would be so very futile. His phone was ringing again and again in his pocket—Brigitte trying to contact him—but he ignored it. He was lost in a rage that only increased when he emerged from the crowd and took in the damage. The rubble, the dust, the frenzied paramedics pulling moaning civilians from the mess—it was all too much. Felix had reached his limit. If anything happened to Adrien, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to control himself anymore. The anger ate at him, filled his brain like a cancerous tumor.

He didn’t see Style Queen coming until it was too late.


 Chat Noir

 

Chat watched as pink light rushed around Paris, repairing the akuma’s damage. At the outskirts of the affected area, a crowd had accumulated. The people were shaken, but proud, rejoicing at their heroes’ triumph. Bite-victims were hopping out of ambulances and running to their loved ones. The battle had ended soon after Lucky Charm was cast. For both heroes, it had been a blur; a blind race to end this as quickly as possible. They had done it, and it was over; that was all they knew.

After cleansing the akuma, Chat Noir and Ladybug had returned to the roof where they had left the fox-like newcomer, but he had disappeared without a trace. They would likely have to wait until the next akuma battle to see him again. That is, if he hadn’t been completely frightened away.

Now, the black-clad hero looked down at his partner, where she lay in his arms, totally spent. She was smiling out at the healing city, and when the Miraculous Cure flooded around her, she let out a sigh and sagged in his grasp.

It was times like these that Chat no longer saw the larger-than-life heroine, and caught a precious glimpse of the ordinary young girl. He saw Marinette, vulnerable and frightened, but so very brave. He saw the Dupain-Cheng daughter, giving her all to protect her beloved city. And he saw his dear friend, clinging to him like an anchor.

He loved her so much more than he could ever put into words.

Her attention returned to him as color filled her cheeks. She was getting her strength back, but she remained where she lay, letting herself be cradled a little longer.

Ladybug’s hand drifted up to his cheek, brushing the bright pink scratches that marred his face. “The whole time while I was in pain just now,” she began softly. “I was thinking ‘Chat has felt worse; he’s been through worse’. I—I’m so sorry. I never realized....”

He tightened his grip. “Stop that. Don’t worry about me.”

There were tears in her eyes now. “But, Chaton, you’ve always taken hits for me, and you’ve been hurt so badly.... And I’ve never appreciated you enough.”

His Lady pushed herself up and kissed him on the cheek—kissed him right on that particularly ugly scratch that had split his upper lip.

As she drew back, Chat touched the spot and let his jaw drop. He saw Marinette again as Ladybug blushed and lowered her eyes.

“Now, don’t get any ideas from that, silly kitty,” she warned.

Too late. A stupid grin had overtaken Chat’s features, and he wasn’t sure he’d make it home—his legs were jelly.

And then, with a sharp beep, the moment ended. Ladybug gasped and touched her earrings.

“I should go,” she said, reluctantly.

Chat nodded, trying to come down from the clouds.

Ladybug bit her lip, lingering. Out of the blue, she kissed him again, and then stood and raced off into the Parisian sunset.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix and PM

Felix meets Petite Macaron~ 

 

NathFox

Nathaniel wields the fox miraculous~

 

Felixak

Felix's anger threatens to consume him. 

Chapter Text

 Marinette

 

Marinette darted into an alleyway to detransform, but as soon as her civilian form returned, she peeked around, searching the skies for her partner. There—she spotted his shadow atop a cafe roof, three blocks down. He seemed to be on his way home, leaping away as soon as she located him.

With a sigh, the girl swung back against the wall, knees weak. Everything had been a blur—the battle, the terrible pain of Centipede-Man's bite, the warmth of Chat supporting her while she cast Lucky Charm... But one thing had been clear in her mind, something she couldn't believe had not been clear before.

Ladybug had always taken Chat Noir for granted; never taken him seriously. Sure, he set himself up for that treatment, what with the joking around and the flirting; but when it came down to it, she needed Chat more than anything. He was her best friend, in a way that Alya wasn't, and in a way that Adrien—no matter how much she pined after him—might never be. Of all the people in Marinette's life, Chat was unique. She had Maman and Papa—but they had each other. She had Alya—but Alya had Nino, and her own family. Ladybug and Chat—partly, she assumed, because of their anonymity—didn't have anyone else. He was the one person in the world that she believed would be there for her, no matter what.

And yet, she hadn't realized it until she lay in his arms, vision white with pain, and all she could think about was that he had been through worse. For her sake, and for the sake of Paris, Chat let himself get beaten and battered. Her heart had always twisted to see him hurt, but experiencing intense pain first-hand opened her eyes in a whole new way.

And she knew he truly, genuinely loved her.

How could she not love him?

"Love isn't just a feeling, ma petite. It's an action," Maman had always said as she ironed one of Papa's humungous aprons.

Marinette knew her parents had set an example for her. They had shown her what love was, through the little things they did for each other each day. Over time, they had formed habits, and did those little caring acts without even having to think about them.

That was how Chat was to her. He seemed to act without thought, grabbing her out of the way and throwing himself into danger for her.

How had she come to deserve a love like that?

Pressing a hand over her mouth to hold back tears, Mari dropped into a crouch. It was the happiest and most overwhelming feeling she had ever experienced. She was so certain and yet so anxious at the same time. There was comfort and warmth, but also a great deal of fear. But she didn't mind the fear—it was so, so worth it.

When she had fallen in love with Adrien, it had been a faraway dream, a fantasy. He had always been too much, and she had always been too little. But Chat was real, and so was his love for her—she felt it more strongly than she felt the bricks against her back. She and Chat were equals, and she'd never felt the need to be anything else for him. With him, she felt safe and cherished.

Now, the tears overflowed, because Marinette Dupain-Cheng's life was changing forever. She knew that from this moment, nothing would be the same again. And yet, some things would remain as they always had, as they were meant to be.

Because Marinette could no longer deny it: she loved her Kitty, as a friend, as a brother, and... as a man.


Chat Noir

 

Chat Noir couldn't seem to calm down. His mind was spiraling around in happy little backflips, as if he had just downed a whole cappuccino; and yet, he was hyper-focused on one moment of recent history.

Ladybug had kissed him.

Ladybug... had kissed him.

Kissed him.

Sure, it had been on the cheek, but it had been awfully close to his lips. And, she had come back for a second one, so it must have been deliberate.

He would cherish that moment forever.

A man's scream ripped him out of his reverie. It had been distant, and yet unmistakable.

"Felix?!" he gasped, launching off of the roof. Following the direction of the scream, he found himself on a deserted street, in an area that had been evacuated. Eerie silence was broken only by the sound of leaves skittering across the sidewalk. Despite the emptiness of his surroundings, Chat's ears twitched, picking up on an electric tension.

And then he saw Felix.

Chat's brother huddled on his hands and knees, face bent close to the ground. His back jumped with panicked breaths, and he shuddered violently. From this distance, Chat couldn't see his face, concealed as it was by sweat-drenched hair.

Standing over the elder Agreste sibling was someone who, at first glance, Chat thought might be Queen Bee. However, it was clearly not the elusive super-girl: whoever this was had a glowing staff trained on the young detective at her feet, and a ruthless scowl twisting her features. The light from the staff was channeling towards Felix, until he was surrounded by the glow. It alternated between electric purple and yellow currents, and he convulsed each time it intensified.

Chat had no idea what any of this meant, but it was obvious that his brother was in pain. Felix seemed to be fighting something, and the black-clad hero needed to make it stop.

However, as soon as the staff-wielding girl caught sight of the hero, she backed away, and the light from her staff diminished. With one last glance at Felix, she fled.

Chat rushed to his brother's side. Felix was now sitting up, but he clutched his head in his hands, and his face was contorted with emotion. He didn't seem to see his little brother.

"Felix? Hey... can you hear me?" Chat clasped one hand around his brother's trying to pry it away from his head, trying to calm him down.

But the elder sibling just went on shaking, breath coming in puffs through flared nostrils and clenched teeth, face maroon with exertion.

Chat had Felix by the wrists now, alarm increasing with every second. "Fe—Look at me. Hey... Please, you're scaring me!"

Still getting no response, Chat desperately released his transformation and clutched at his brother's shirtfront. "Look, it's me, Adrien," he urged. "It's Adrien... Fe, come on, snap out of it. Plagg, what's wrong with him?"

Plagg yawned a toothy yawn. "Cheese first, answers later."

There were tears in the boy's eyes now. Felix was just getting worse, with veins bulging in his forehead and foam appearing at the corners of his mouth.

"Plagg," Adrien gasped. "We don't have time for cheese right now. You have to help him!"

The tiny cat floated close to the detective's face, studying him for a long moment. Then, nodding solemnly, he turned to his charge.

"Hit him over the head," he suggested.

Adrien scowled and pushed Plagg aside. Some help he was.

The boy touched his brother's face and finally—finally—got those gray eyes to look up. Focusing on Adrien, Felix slowly relaxed, the tension ebbing from his limbs and the lines from his face. His coloring faded from dark red to paper-white.

"Stay—stay away from me," Felix eked out, his voice barely a whisper. "Not—safe."

Tears of relief sprung into Adrien's eyes. "Shh, Fe. It's okay. You're going to be alright. You're fine; just breathe." As he spoke, he brushed hair from Felix's face soothingly, smearing away the sweat and dribble.

Felix trembled like a leaf, his face only growing paler. He reached out his hands to touch Adriens', as if checking that the boy was truly there.

"Ade... Ade... Oh, Adrien," he breathed, hiccuping weakly over his words.

And then, his eyes rolled back, his breath caught, and he slipped away from the world.

It was Adrien's turn to scream.


Chloe

 

Chloe sat, fetal, on her balcony, hands pressed to her ears and eyes squeezed shut. No matter what she did, she couldn't seem to block out the images. She didn't want to think about today. Not about the terrible villain that had been spawned through her power; not about how Ladybug had almost been killed; not about Nathaniel, pleading and clinging to her; and certainly not about Felix Agreste, fighting her power until he collapsed from the strain.

She hadn't killed him... had she? Adrien had looked devastated.

And that was another thing. When Style Queen had retreated at Chat Noir's arrival, she had lingered just out of sight... Long enough to see Felix having some sort of fit; long enough to see Chat panicking; and... long enough to see the black clad hero detransform into her childhood friend.

No wonder he had never loved her back: she had never truly known him. Chloe had been too caught up in herself to notice the telltale signs. Of course he was Chat Noir—everything made sense now. She had been so blind.

Did Adrien know that Hawkmoth was fighting to bring his mother—Madeleine Agreste—back to their family? Did he even know that Hawkmoth was his father? Gabriel Agreste obviously had no idea his son was even involved in this mess. Chloe wondered what might happen if Monsieur Agreste were to know that Adrien was Chat. Would he then change his ways? Would he hesitate before spawning a new akuma? Surely the man would withdraw from his scheming, unable to continue the fight out of fatherly love. Monsieur Agreste could be harsh, and sometimes cruel, but he would never want to hurt his own son.

Of course, that hadn't stopped him from ordering her to target Felix. In fact, Hawkmoth had been brewing a plan, ever since the young detective had returned to Paris. He knew the grudge that his eldest son bore, and he knew the way Felix's mind worked. To Hawkmoth, Felix was the perfect candidate to bring under his control. Coupled with Chloe's new power to intensify negative emotions, the supervillain was confident that this would be his final champion.

But had Hawkmoth known what such intense emotion might do to Felix? Chloe certainly hadn't. Through her magic, she had felt Felix's anger, resentment, and shame. She had felt his hatred for his father—intense enough to leave her breathless. Drawing out those emotions was likely the cruelest thing she had ever done.

The blonde girl curled in on herself, squeezing her eyes tight against the memory of Felix struggling under the light from her staff. A chilling breeze flowed around her, and she welcomed the shivers it produced—anything to distract her from her guilt. If only she could go back...

Chloe had known Felix since she was a small child. When she came over to play with Adrien, his elder brother would always be sulking around the mansion, reading a book and trying to remain unnoticed. She had teased Felix for his scowl, and Adrien had stood up for him. Chloe had never understood why her childhood friend liked his big brother so much; the guy was boring and didn't seem to pay Adrien any mind. So when Felix had left the country, just months shy of Madeleine's disappearance, Chloe had only felt her convictions about him confirmed.

Now, she understood... But now was too late.

I'm so sorry, Adrien, she thought through bitter tears. Some day, you will know why all of this had to be. Some day...


Gabriel

 

Gabriel Agreste did not show emotion as he took the phone call from Nathalie. A slight twitch of the jaw—that was all.

"When was this?" he asked in a detached tone.

"This evening, just before sundown," Nathalie informed him on the other end of the line.

"Do they know what happened?" he inquired, pinching his nose and sighing a deep sigh.

"It seems to have been triggered by some sort of stress, Monsieur. They said it was likely a psychological trauma."

Gabriel went two shades whiter, but otherwise, his countenance did not change.

"Monsieur? Are you alright?" Nathalie spoke up after her employer was silent for some time.

"Why wouldn't I be?" he replied dryly. And then, with another sigh. "I'll trust you to take care of it. It will be best if things like this do not go public. Understood?"

"Yes, Monsieur. Only..." She hesitated, as if there was something else she wished to say.

"Well?" Gabriel pressed impatiently.

"It's just—I was wondering if you'd like to see him," she posed, cautiously.

The man's brow dropped three centimeters, casting his eyes in stormy shadow. "That won't be necessary."

After hanging up, the fashion designer sat back in his chair and rested his eyes for a moment. That crease in his brow—there was no way it could be called guilt, or concern. Not at all. Why should he feel guilty? Why should he be concerned? No, no. Such things would only get in the way of his plans.

A notification popped up on his phone: a new video had been posted to the Ladyblog. "EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE: LADYNOIR CONFIRMED", it proclaimed, and it had been added by an anonymous source rather than the site's administrator.

He hit play.

It was blurry, and zoomed in far too much, but the red and black blurs atop the Parisian building were unmistakable. Ladybug and Chat Noir sat, facing each other, and the former had her hand pressed to the latter's cheek. And then, Ladybug leaned forward and kissed Chat, seemingly on the lips. She turned to leave in a hurry, but not before rushing back and kissing him again.

The video ended.

And a slow, sinister smile came over Gabriel's face. Of course, he had known that those foolish children cared for each other. But this was a crucial development: if they simply cared for each other as friends before, now those feelings had blossomed into love. And if anyone knew what love could make a person do, it was Gabriel. People killed and died for love...

….It naturally followed that they would also give up their Miraculous for love.

This was it: he knew Ladybug's weakness. Coercing her into giving up her Miraculous would be a piece of cake. And if a certain black cat had to be harmed in the process, Gabriel couldn't say he'd be too upset; he'd never liked that mangy troublemaker.

Hawkmoth's smirk grew in satisfaction; he had thought of a design for his last akuma.


Nathaniel

 

Nathaniel sat on the floor in front of his laptop, watching the clip from the news report over and over. He hugged a pillow to his chest and periodically buried his face in its comforting fluffiness.

"...Paris has yet to see if this androgynous fox-hybrid will be of help or harm to our beloved heroes," the anchor said, her words echoing in Nathaniel's mind. He hadn't even come up with a superhero name, and Paris was already dubbing him "androgynous fox-hybrid".

And then came the part where he had rushed into the fight, looking every bit as frightened as he had felt, and, without further ado, had fainted.

"I can't believe this!" the announcer had narrated, "The monster didn't even touch him!"

The last, pathetic footage had caught him being carried to safety by Chat Noir.

"Was that a joke?" the anchor wondered rhetorically.

Nathaniel buried his face in his pillow again, cheeks hot. He looked so small and insignificant in Chat's arms... As if he had needed further proof that he just wasn't cut out to be a superhero.

He tugged his sleeve up to look at the fox-tail pendant he had tied around his wrist. Grandfather had always been right—he didn't deserve it. But how else was he going to help Chloe?

"You keep your Miraculous concealed," Grandfather Fu observed, materializing beside Nathaniel.

The boy snatched his sleeve back down. You keep it concealed like a coward, he read into his grandfather's words.

Fu reached forward and hit the play button on the news video, and Nathaniel wanted to melt into the floor. Without changing his expression, the elderly man watched his grandson's first akuma battle. When the video had ended, the two sat in silence for a long moment. Nathaniel held his breath as Grandfather Fu ran two fingers over his graying goatee.

And then, finally: "How is your kwami?"

"She's fine... just resting. She says I'm a little hard to, uh... maintain." Nathaniel's voice trailed off in shame. When he accidentally met his grandfather's eyes, he caught the pity and concern that shone in them. He knew what was coming: Grandfather Fu was going to tell him he had failed; tell him "I told you so", and that he wasn't meant to wield a Miraculous. That what had just played out on the laptop screen-a spectacular display of his uselessness—was proof that the Fox Miraculous was in the wrong hands. Grandfather was going to demand that Nathaniel give it back.

The red-head stared at the ground and bit his lip, focusing on holding back the tears.

Then, out of the blue, Grandfather Fu smacked him on the back, hard enough to straighten the boy's posture and illicit a winded yelp.

"Well, that's that," the aging man said simply. And, with a crackling of his joints and a heavy lean on his grandson, he stood.

Nathaniel followed him with a questioning stare. That was it? He wasn't in trouble? He hadn't ruined everything?

Still clasping the boy's shoulder, Fu nodded and harrumphed. And then, looking into the nervous turquoise eyes without a hint of pity, he spoke:

"You were brave. Very brave."

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix

 

“I don’t need... hosp-lil’...,” Felix murmured as he watched the lights zoom by overhead, wondering why he had forgotten how to speak.

Brigitte was right there, in his face. “Shh, I know you don’t want to be here. They just want to figure out what happened.”

Felix frowned deeper—or rather, he tried to. He knew what had happened; no doctor needed to tell him. It had been the strange girl in the yellow suit, and that terrible light from her staff. She had done something to him, and he had resisted it, and then everything seemed to have exploded into nothingness. He just couldn’t quite put his finger on what she had done that he had needed so badly to resist. The thought of Adrien came to his mind, and something seemed to click. It had been Adrien who he had pictured in his head at that moment; Adrien who had compelled him to hold on to his sanity. He couldn’t let his little brother down, and that was why he had fought. He just couldn’t remember what it was he’d been fighting, nor explain why it would leave him feeling so weak.

He was still being wheeled down some hallway, and the doctors and nurses around him were fussing about his blood pressure and heart rate. They were telling Brigitte that they needed to take him for some tests, and she was squeezing Felix’s hand and then vanishing from his side....


 Adrien

 

Felix had stopped breathing, and Adrien had panicked. The next thing Adrien had known, he was staggering down the sidewalk, carrying Felix on his back. A paramedic had approached him and helped him load his brother onto a stretcher—one of the ones that had just been vacated by a victim of Centipede-Man. The emergency personnel had tried to ask Adrien questions, but the boy hadn’t heard them, hadn’t seen anything but Felix.

...Felix, lying there pale and limp; thick, dark blood leaking steadily from his nose.

The image had burned into Adrien’s brain, and he couldn’t shake it even now, hours later, as he sat at Felix’s bedside. There was proof right in front of his eyes that his elder brother was alive and whole, but part of him was lost in the recent fear, reliving it over and over.

Adrien shifted in his seat, trying to rest his head without bending his abdomen and not succeeding. Earlier, while carrying Felix to the ambulance, he had felt something snap in his own chest. The pain hadn’t registered at the time, but now it was making itself known, throbbing rhythmically. It was likely the rib he’d cracked in the akuma battle, worsened or dislocated by the strain. Adrien planned to leave it alone and hope it would heal itself; right now, Felix was more important.

Apparently, the elder Agreste sibling would be fine. He’d experienced a seizure, brought on by some psychological trauma, and the comatose state that followed had simply been the result of exhaustion. At least, that was how the doctors explained it, though they themselves admitted that they hadn’t seen anything like it. Their uncertainty frightened Adrien even more. Felix had always, always been healthy. If that yellow-clad girl’s magic could do this to Felix, he didn’t want to know what else it could do.

At least Felix was breathing on his own now. After the doctors had finished all of their testing, they had concluded that the young detective simply needed sleep. This prognosis had left Adrien feeling guilty, bringing to mind the many occasions he’d kept Felix up all night.

Clutching his brother’s cold hand and watching him sigh peacefully in his sleep, Adrien made a silent promise to take better care of Felix from now on.

Brigitte entered the room then, a water bottle in each hand. Her smile was strained when she looked at Felix, and Adrien knew that, despite her brave face, she was shaken to the core.

She came to stand by Adrien.

“How are you doing?” she asked, handing him a chilled water bottle.

He took it, instinctively pressing it to the side of his face. Afraid to open his mouth lest the tears come back, he simply nodded.

Brigitte’s eyes narrowed, and she leaned forward to look closely at the boy in the dim light. And then, with stunning intuition Adrien had only ever seen come from Brigitte—and, occasionally, Nino—she caught him in his act: “You hurt yourself carrying him, didn’t you?”

Adrien shook his head.

She didn’t let up. “Why are you holding your side like that? Ade—you’re sweating everywhere.”

“I’m fine,” he said tensely, snatching his hand away.

Cruel woman that she was—Brigitte poked him in the ribs, right in that sensitive spot where something was definitely broken. He hissed, she lowered her eyebrows, and he knew he couldn’t lie anymore.

“It’s fine,” he insisted, a last attempt at protest. She was going to make him go for treatment, and he didn’t want to leave Felix’s side.

Brigitte put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Adrien, I know you’re worried about Felix. But you know what you can do for him right now? You can go take care of yourself. Right? You can make sure that when he wakes up, he won’t have any reason to worry about you. Can you do that?”

As always, Brigitte was right. Somehow, no matter how hard he tried, Adrien always seemed to make everyone around him worry. Felix, Ladybug, Nino... even Father had looked at him with that expression occasionally: tight-lipped; eyes filled with pity. The least Adrien could do was try not to be such a burden.

Brigitte squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “Hey... hey. It’s not something to feel bad about. I just don’t want you wearing yourself out, like this idiot.”

Adrien nodded, keeping his thoughts to himself. “Thanks, Brigitte.” He stood slowly, stiffly. Brigitte reached to help him, and he shot her one of his best grins in gratitude. “Do you mind keeping an eye on Plagg?”

At that, a twinkle appeared in the girl’s eye, and she glanced over at the sleeping cat-god, curled up on the heater. “Of course.”

With one last longing stare at his brother, Adrien left the room, his heart heavy.


 Plagg

 

Do you mind keeping an eye on Plagg?”

“Of course.”

Plagg heard this little exchange—heard that voice—and was startled out of his blissful slumber. No, no, not that human girl!

But it was too late. Hands clamped around him, and the crazed human squealed, petting his head lightly with one finger.

“Oh, Plagg,” she murmured, “You are so soft and cuddly and wonderful—I just want to eat you up like a fluffy little meat bun!”

Eat him? ...Meat bun?! Plagg twisted around and opened his eyes with a start, finding himself centimeters from Brigitte’s face.

“Look at those eyes!” she gasped, talking to him like a baby. “They’re so big and green! You’re just too cute!”

Alright, Plagg couldn’t say he hated the praise. But this—this was humiliating. He was a powerful demigod, for Camembert’s sake. He was about to open his mouth to voice his protest when Brigitte’s expression suddenly changed.

Cupping Plagg to her cheek, the girl let out a small sob, face twisting with the threat of tears.

“Oh, Plagg...” she breathed, her brave exterior breaking down. “I was so scared.”

Plagg couldn’t stop her tears. He was the god of misfortune, after all. So, instead, he reached out a tiny paw and pressed it to her face, rubbing the soft, leathery pads of his toes over her skin in what he hoped was a soothing gesture.

And he began to purr.


 Felix

 

It seemed like no time had passed when Felix’s consciousness resurfaced. His vision was clear now, and the light on the ceiling above him was stationary; the air around him calm and quiet.

“Hey,” Brigitte said gently, enveloping one of his hands.

He turned his head towards her voice. “I told you I don’t need a hospital,” he whined.

She smiled, and he noted with a pang of guilt that her eyes were puffy and red with the remnants of tears. “You never actually told me that. You haven’t said a full sentence since we found you,” she informed him. Reaching over him, she pressed what he assumed was the nurse call-button.

He scowled. “I still didn’t need a hospital.” Felix looked down at himself, uncomfortable with all of the wires and tubes.

Brigitte’s cool hand smoothed over his forehead. “How do you feel?”

Felix squirmed, finding that only his head seemed to want to move. “I feel... stuck.”

His fiance’s smile finally reached her eyes, and she let out a scoff of a laugh. “Well, good, then. I’m not letting you go anywhere until we figure out exactly what happened.”

“What happened....” he turned his face away, letting the memories rush back. The image of the yellow-clad girl was still fresh in his mind, as was her awful, mind-warping magic. This time, however, he could recall what that magic had done to him—what it had made him feel. The overwhelming anger had been terrifying... and yet, he had craved it. He had been so close to giving in to it; so close to trading free will for power.

But then, Adrien had appeared. Felix wasn’t sure whether the image had simply been in his own mind, or if Adrien had actually been there with him, but the end result was that he had won the battle. Seeing his little brother had made him want to fight, and as soon as he chose to fight the yellow-clad girl’s magic, he had been able to overcome.

He didn’t want to think about what might have happened had he given in to that explosive anger.

“Monsieur Agreste?” a professional, unfamiliar voice asked, and Felix turned back to see that a nurse had joined Brigitte at his bedside. “It’s good to see you awake,” she said, stepping on a lever to elevate the bed. “Do you know why you are here?”

He nodded, and felt the first twinges of deep-set embarrassment. “When can I go home?” he voiced his impatience, almost pleading.

The nurse smiled pleasantly, as if she heard this question quite often. “We’ll be monitoring you for the rest of the day. You’re scheduled to check out later tonight if everything goes well. Now, I just need to take some readings....”

Once the nurse had gone, Brigitte and Felix sat in awkward silence. Noticing his companion’s uncharacteristic sullenness, the latter took up her hand, rubbing his thumbs over her knuckles.

“Did you eat?” he asked. “Since... then.” He didn’t even know when “then” was in relation to “now”. There was no clock in his limited line of vision.

She quirked an eyebrow. “Felix-Grumpypants-Agreste! I’m not sure if you’ve ever asked me such a sweet question before.”

“What?! Sure I have.”

“No... no. Not that I recall.”

“Just answer the question.”

Brigitte looked like she might break into tears again. “I... I really couldn’t eat, she admitted.

Felix tried to sit up, failed, and played it off as a stretch. “Alright, it couldn’t have been that bad. I mean, I was only out of it for what, an hour? Maybe two? So why all these wires, and questions, and tests? Why do you look so... hey, don’t—it’s okay.”

He reached a shaky hand up to brush away the tear that had escaped one of Brigitte’s eyes. Her lip trembled, and she apologized, and Felix knew that something was definitely wrong. This was the strong, bold girl who had stalked him for years without a drop of remorse. She was the love of his life who spoke sense into his thick skull. He had never seen her so shaken.

Brigitte’s brow twitched with something unreadable; her face was several shades paler than usual. “Felix,” she said, her voice thick. “They said you almost went into cardiac arrest.”

He could only stare at her in return. “Oh,” he said finally. That... was serious.

Adrien’s voice came from the doorway. “Yeah, when they said ‘arrest’, I was like, ‘Well, doesn’t he do that every day?’ Get it? Agreste? Cardiac Agreste? And you Agreste all the criminals?” Arms full of drinks, he kicked the door shut behind him. He, too, was flushed with signs of recent tears.

“He’s been waiting to tell you that one,” Brigitte told Felix. And then, snapping her attention around to Adrien: “Hey—are you supposed to be carrying all that?”

“What, this? This is nothing,” the boy dismissed, but Felix caught an almost imperceptible wince as he dumped the bottles onto the bedside table.

Filled with concern, Felix tried to push himself up, only to find his arms embarrassingly weak. He felt himself falling back onto the bed before he’d even gotten up on his elbows. Thankfully, Brigitte was right there, with a hand pressed to his back to spare him from humiliation.

“You’re not supposed to be sitting up just yet, Fe,” she scolded as she stuffed pillows behind his back to prop him up, one arm still lingering around his shoulders.

“Right,” he shot back. “I’m not sitting up; you’re helping me up.” And then, turning his attention to his brother: “Now, Ade, what the hell did you do this time, that you’re not even allowed to carry a few juice bottles?”

Adrien seemed to impersonate a five-year-old who had broken a vase. “Nothing,” he insisted, though guilt painted his features.

Felix’s fiance opened her mouth to speak, but Adrien interrupted her: “Please don’t tell him!”

She only shook her head. “He’s a big boy; I think he can handle the soul-crushing guilt.” Brigitte turned back to Felix and pushed stray hairs from his cheeks. “He broke a rib trying to carry you to an ambulance,” she explained.

The elder brother sat up straight all at once, a storm quickly collecting on his features. “Adrien...” he began, in a dangerous tone.

It was all the warning the boy needed. He shrunk away and touched his neck sheepishly, jabbing a thumb at the doorway. “I’m going to go see where the others ran off to. Gosh! It’s taking them so long; look at the time.” And he was gone.

Huffing with exertion and consternation, Felix slumped back onto his pillows. “...’Others’...?” he asked Brigitte breathlessly.

“Nino, Alya, and Marinette,” she clarified.

“Ah,” he grumbled, “So all of Paris knows.”

“It was kind of a big deal,” she mumbled.

Admonished, Felix eyed his fiance carefully. “How long was I out?”

Brigitte took a deep breath, obviously trying to hide her unrest. “It’s been maybe... eighteen hours?” she guessed.

“Oh,” was all Felix could say again.

“Can you tell me what happened?” she asked gently. “Actually, can you tell me what’s been going on with you? You’ve seemed... stressed. More stressed than Adrien can be blamed for.”

“He can be blamed for a lot—”

“Oh, poo-poo. You know you secretly like it when he drives you crazy.”

Despite the levity of what she’d just said, there was a certain determination in Brigitte’s eyes which told Felix that he couldn’t get away with hiding anything this time.

So, he caved.

“You know, my father...” he began.

Ohhh yeah, she knew the guy. “Who? Gabriel Pain-in-the-Agreste?” she quipped with a scowl.

Felix gave her a withering look. “You know that doesn’t really make sense.”

“But it’s funny.”

“Of course it is.” Felix tried to sit up straighter, and Brigitte helped him to adjust the pillows.

“See,” he continued, “When I was little, I really looked up to my father. He would yell a lot, and I got this idea that I was the reason he yelled. I thought if I could just be a bit better, he wouldn’t yell. I kind of made it my goal to be so good and quiet that he would never be angry again.

“Of course, that didn’t work. I think somewhere along the way, he figured out what I was up to, and he started using it to manipulate me. He would threaten to get mad, and I would do whatever he asked. I didn’t really see how messed up that was until Adrien came along. When he started treating Adrien the same way, I couldn’t stand it anymore. But, I didn’t feel like there was much I could do about it, so I bottled it up. I think that resentment has been growing inside me for too long, and all I ever do is run away from it.

“Brigitte, I’m so angry sometimes that it scares me. I hate him—I really do, I don’t know how else to describe it. And when I think about how he’s my father, and nothing will ever change that, I hate myself too. When I look in the mirror, I see him; when I look at him, I see me. I have his mannerisms, his personality, his voice—”

Felix paused to swallow after that very voice broke mid-vowel. He blinked back the tears. Brigitte was beside him, holding his hand; constant, steady.

“Lately—ever since I returned to Paris—I’ve been getting these, uh, episodes. It kind of feels like something’s fluttering in my head, and all I can think about is my hatred for Father: for what he’s done to Adrien; for how he raised us; for his arrogance. While it’s happening, it almost feels good.... But afterward, I’m disgusted with myself.”

He turned to look Brigitte in the eye. “I’m scared. I’m afraid I’ll give in to the anger and let it control me—what if... what if I hurt you or Adrien?”

Brigitte shook her head, murmuring soothing words and pushing his hair back sweetly. “No, no. Don’t think about it like that. Whatever is going on, you’ve been fighting it.”

Felix listened to her, appreciated the comfort, but couldn’t let go of the fear.

“There was a strange girl,” he continued, trying his best to recall the memory. “She had a staff with some power that seemed to make everything worse.”

Brigitte nodded knowingly. “Adrien saw her. And they interviewed the guy who was Centipede-Man; he remembers encountering her just before he was akumatized.”

Felix’s eyes widened at this last bit. “You don’t think...?”

“Oh, yeah, I do. Hawkmoth is targeting you, Felix.”


 Nooroo

 

Gabriel Agreste hadn’t always been such a twisted man, Nooroo was well aware. When the two had first bonded, the kwami had seen into his holder’s past. Nooroo knew about Gabriel’s childhood, growing up under the stern hand of an abusive father. Young Gabriel had fought so hard for independence, but he had not reached adulthood unscathed, without a twisted notion of love instilled in his heart.

Nooroo had seen how desperately in love Gabriel had been with his first wife—and he had seen the man’s heart break when she died. The widower had gathered up the fragmented pieces of his own heart and had stuck them back together all wrong. In his haste to become whole again, he had let some pieces fall from his hands, and gaping holes had formed in the crooked heart. Gabriel was left half-a-man, a shell, and, at times, a monster—

—A monster, such as he was when he wrenched the Miraculouses from Madeleine’s hands. A monster, as he was when he buried himself in books and ambition, seeking to claim every ounce of the ancient power for his own. A monster, as when he seized his kwami and demanded forbidden magic—

Nooroo felt Gabriel’s desire for revenge. Not revenge towards any particular person, but simply to satisfy his spite for the world. A man who would never be the same wanted a world that was equally damaged. If a peaceful world was what had taken his first wife’s life in a pointless car accident, then he would tolerate no peaceful world. Strife was in his soul, and so strife must be in the world.

Gabriel had tracked down the Miraculouses after finding a book describing their power. When he learned that two of them were in the hands of a half-Tibetan girl living in the slums, his scheming had begun. He had swept her off of her feet, made a name for her, and stolen her heart. When the girl, Madeleine, had begged him to marry her, he had taken the Miraculouses in exchange.

And then... something had changed in him. Healed, perhaps, was too optimistic a term, but some sign of life had come back into the man’s heart. He had truly fallen in love with his wife Madeleine—love, to the degree that he was capable of—and the birth of his second son gave him something he hadn’t had in so long: hope. Looking into these memories, Nooroo thought this might have been the man’s chance for redemption; darkness and spite had receded.

There was a flickering light in the Agreste household for thirteen years.

But all of that had come crashing down with Madeleine’s disappearance. This time, when Gabriel’s heart had shattered, he had refused to pick up the pieces. Instead, he had developed a festering madness, a need for power, justified by his desire for his lost wife. The world had failed him yet again, and there was nothing left but for him to take charge. He would earn the powers of life and destruction, and he would bring his wife back, no matter the cost.

And thus, Nooroo had been awakened.

Deep down, Gabriel Agreste was just a beast with a thorn in his paw, biting all who passed by to show them his pain. There was likely nothing more miserable than that.

Of course, Nooroo would never tell his master any of this. Even if the man were aware of the state of his own soul, he would not appreciate the tiny purple kwami describing it to him.

So Nooroo carried on in silence, yearning for freedom and yet filled to the brim with pity. When Gabriel had corrupted his power, it had been too late for the kwami to resist. He found his only hope in regularly voicing warnings to his master, explaining why this or that abuse of power was such a bad idea. Of course, the man never listened, but Nooroo thought he should still try.

This time, though, Gabriel was listening. But not because he had any intention of giving up his crusade—no, the kwami could sense that his master was tired, and ready to end this long and weary battle. This would be his last effort to gain Ladybug and Chat Noir’s Miraculouses, and he was going to make it count.

“It’s really not recommended,” Nooroo told him. “The magic is already so far corrupted....” You are losing your mind, he wanted to say. “You may not survive this.”

His master sighed. “So be it. If I accomplish my goal, then it will be worth it. This must not fail, Nooroo. Are you certain I can take complete control of his consciousness?”

“Y-yes,” Nooroo answered shakily. “Although, based on what’s happened, I wouldn’t recommend—”

“It won’t happen again,” Gabriel insisted. “That happened because he tried to resist the magic. This time, I will make sure he has no reason to resist.”

Nooroo knew what his master meant to do. He had done it before: using someone’s anger towards him as fuel for the akuma. There was likely no one in the world who hated Gabriel as much as Felix, so using his anger would simply be catastrophic.

Catastrophic was exactly what Hawkmoth wanted. This time, he wouldn’t fail.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chat Billboard

As requested by Dark Lady! Chat clings to Centipede-Man as he barrels towards a billboard of his own face!

 

Felix Nino

As requested by Fluffy-Chan! Nino introduces Felix to video games~

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Before Brigitte had much more time to speak with her troubled fiance, Adrien’s flock of friends descended on Felix. They showered him with flowers, fruit, pastries, and even a cup of coffee—which Adrien stole before Felix could stop him, claiming that the elder brother “needed to watch his blood pressure”. No, what he needed was a quiet room, free of boisterous teenagers, and an Adrien who was not high on caffeine.

But life was never fair, especially to an Agreste. So Felix endured the company with his characteristic scowl, tuning out the Nino kid as he blabbered on about music and video games, and giving Alya the occasional eye-roll when she complained that he hadn’t taken a video of Style Queen when he’d been attacked.

Eventually, Felix noticed that Marinette, when she wasn’t stealing shy glances at his goof of a brother, was cautiously eying Brigitte. And when the latter announced that she would go get more drinks, Mari volunteered to follow her.

Huh. Whatever that was about....

Adrien, meanwhile, was slowly building up into another crazed coffee-stupor. He bounced in his chair for some time, as if barely containing unbounded energy. Then, when he could sit no longer, he took to pacing—in an uneven, twirling sort of way that drove Felix up the wall. In little jolts of attentiveness, Adrien contributed to the conversation. However, when the subject came to Felix’s recent mishap, Adrien seemed to withdraw, dancing out of earshot and playing with random objects around the room. Nino and Alya seemed unaffected, if not slightly amused, by this behavior.

Something caught Felix’s eye, and he squinted at it, trying to be sure of what he was seeing. In a tone of uncertainty, he addressed his frolicking brother:

"Adrien... why is your bag moving?"

The boy immediately hopped up, slapping his forehead. "Oh! I forgot—I didn't want to leave her home alone, so I brought her." With an almost prideful air, he extracted a squirming ball of white fluff from his backpack.

Felix sat up straighter. "Seriously?! This is a hospital, Adrien. Think about it—what if someone is allergic to cats? You're going to give some innocent person pneumonia."

"I'm pretty sure that's not how it works. And anyways, they bring cats and dogs in here to comfort patients all the time. Here, have some comfort."

He plopped Petite Macaron down on Felix's lap. Immediately, the kitten started growling and digging her claws in.

"Aw, look, she likes you~"

Felix grunted in pain. "Oh yeah, I can tell by the way she's determined to claw me to shreds." He blew at the kitten’s ears to annoy her, and, succeeding, watched her skitter away across the room. Adrien went after her, chasing her like a mother cat.

As the younger Agreste failed to pluck Petite Macaron from the curtains, Felix buried his head in his hands. “I’m never going to be able to leave him alone, am I?” he questioned Adrien’s friends.

Nino shook his head. “No. None of us will,” he admitted, as if he had accepted his fate.

Alya was busy snapping photos, squealing as Adrien tried to catch the kitten that was climbing all over his clothes. “But, honestly. Do any of us want to?”

It was a rhetorical question. In fact—and Felix must have grown soft to be finally admitting this to himself—he probably needed Adrien by his side even more than Adrien needed him. This kid was his lifeline; he had quite literally held Felix back from the brink of insanity.

But, this thing about bringing a wild kitten into a hospital, and proceeding to hop all over the cabinets in an attempt to catch her? Felix could do without. And no, it was not cute in any way.

“Have you given him coffee before?” Felix asked suddenly, following Adrien with a wary eye as the boy finally got ahold of his cat.

Alya waved her hands in innocence. “No, never! We offered it, but he always said Daddy didn’t want him to drink it.”

“We thought it was part of his diet,” Nino continued.

“Oh gosh, but isn’t this so entertaining? Adrien is such a lightweight,” Alya giggled.

Your mom is a lightweight,” Adrien sneered, suddenly behind Alya. Petite Macaron had escaped again, probably hiding underneath some furniture.

“Hey!” She turned on him, and then paused. “That’s... actually not an insult, Ade.”

But he wasn’t listening. Adrien plopped himself down on Felix’s bed and just stared at his older brother for a moment. The latter squirmed, uncomfortable.

“You know who isn’t a lightweight?” Adrien mumbled. “This guy. You were so heavy.”

Felix could see tears forming in his little brother’s eyes. He wanted to say something, to make Adrien calm down and stop being so emotional, but he was lost for words.

Adrien latched onto his brother’s hand. “Don’t do that ever, ever, ever again,” he whined. “I was so scared that you—you were—”

Felix couldn’t hold back anymore, couldn’t be gruff, because he knew what Adrien was feeling—he knew it all too well. Adrien had put him through the same thing far too many times. He pulled his little brother into a tight hug, careful to avoid his injured ribs.

“It’s okay,” he said, in what he hoped was a comforting tone. “I’m okay, so just don’t think about it anymore.”

Adrien nodded into Felix’s shoulder. He seemed unembarrassed to be having this bonding moment in front of two of his friends. And, to his own surprise, Felix didn’t mind it either. He wanted nothing more than to hold and comfort his Glowworm right now.

A few moments later, Adrien spoke up again, his voice muffled against Felix’s hospital gown. “Fe, you smell bad. Like a dog.”

“Excuse me?!” Felix would have shoved him away had he not remembered to treat the brat gingerly. Instead, he pinched his upper arm. “Get off, then,” he grumbled.

“But I’m serious, you have that smell...” Adrien trailed off, pouting.

“Oh! I have just the thing!” Alya burst out. She extracted a small, glass bottle from her bag. “It’s essential oils. Back when I broke my leg really bad and had to sit in the hospital for a while, I started to stink too! This stuff really helped though. So—here, just rub it on your wrists.”

Adrien leaned forward in interest as the oil was applied, and Felix could almost see his invisible whiskers twitching. “Whaaaaat is that?” he breathed, sniffing like a curious animal.

“Uh, it’s lavender,” Alya answered, looking a bit like she was second-guessing herself.

“It’s soooo nice,” he purred. “Can I have some too?”

Alya’s confusion took on a mischievous air. Another of Adrien’s quirks was in the process of being unveiled. “Sure,” she complied, dabbing some of the oil onto his bony wrists.

Adrien stood, wrists held up to his nose, and spun lackadaisically around the room, purring in content. “Alya, this is wonderful,” he sang. He came to a dreamy stop by the couch and tipped over the arm, letting himself fall against the cushions. While the others watched, he simply lay still, legs dangling over the couch’s arm and hands flung up above his head. Nino eventually crept up beside his friend and poked him cautiously.

Shaking his head, Nino turned back to Alya and Felix. “Dude, Alya, you just K.O.’ed Adrien.”

Alya clamped her hands over her mouth in astonishment. “What?! Okay, that was cute and all, but it’s just perfume. You can’t tell me Adrien’s never smelled perfume before. Or that he gets all woozy like that every time he’s around someone who’s wearing it.”

Felix frowned. “I have never seen him do that before.”

Nino adjusted his hat and scratched his forehead. “Maybe it has something to do with Chat Noir and everything.” He retrieved a blanket from the cupboard and flung it over his best friend. Moments later, a white puff of a kitten crept from under the couch and hopped onto her master’s chest, curling up to sleep.

Something stirred under Felix’s blankets and Plagg emerged, eliciting a yelp from the young detective. He’d had no idea the cat god was under there this whole time.

The black cat yawned a toothy yawn. “What’s your name again, red hat? Anyways, you’re right. It’s because he’s Chat Noir that he acts like that. However, since he’s weak right now, the cat traits are showing through more than usual.”

Alya gaped. “Cool!”

Felix, however, sat up straighter in concern. “What do you mean he’s weak?”

Plagg rolled his eyes and sank back down to the sheets, already bored with this conversation. “Well, he’s doing better now, but before he started living with you, he wasn’t eating hardly anything. Something about impressing his father. He kept getting injured in battle, and I was having to compensate a lot. But there’s only so much I can do. And, I don’t know....” the black cat trailed off, downcast. “He just didn’t seem too interested in living anymore.”

A stunned silence filled the room, mitigated only by Adrien’s soft snores. Felix’s jaw worked as he processed Plagg’s words. Finally, he turned to Alya and Nino:

“You two didn’t notice anything?” he asked.

They both fidgeted uncomfortably, but it was Nino who spoke up. “Oh, we noticed,” he replied, “But you know how Adrien is. Every time we would confront him about it, he would just give us that smile, crack a joke, and run away.”

“I think,” Alya mused softly, “He needed you, Felix.”

Plagg nodded his disproportionate head. “I saw into his thoughts,” the cat explained. “And they were full of his father. He just wanted acknowledgment; he wasn’t getting it, and that just left him feeling worthless. Sensitive little things, humans are.”

Felix’s fists curled together in his sheets. If it had ever been a question, it wasn’t now: he would never forgive Gabriel Agreste. The man’s selfish behavior had driven his youngest son—a boy who trusted and looked up to him—into such destructive patterns. The young detective's thoughts spiraled rapidly into unbridled rage.

It was Nino who snapped Felix out of it. “Hey, man,” he began, “I don’t know how it is between you and your father, but don’t think about it too much. Ade’s got you now, and he’s already a lot better. I can see it.”

“Yeah, Gabriel does not even deserve the energy it takes to be mad at him,” Alya pointed out.

They were... right. And Felix knew he shouldn’t feed his anger. But deep down, he had already decided: he owed his father a confrontation; to let him know once and for all that his sons would not be under his control any longer. And to warn him to keep his hands off of Adrien. For now, though, the resolution was a mere tickle at the back of his mind. Alya and Nino were right. He could worry about that later. For now... for now, he was just so tired.

Gazing at Adrien’s legs where they hung, lazily draped over the arm of the couch, Felix felt his own eyelids grow heavy. Before he knew it, he had nodded off, the soft sound of his brother’s purring filling his ears.

Felix dreamed. He dreamed of the summer when he was five years old and had been sent to stay with his maternal grandmother in the countryside. She had coddled Felix and harbored a barely veiled grudge against his father. One night, little Felix sat before the fireplace, in his grandmother’s lap, and her wiry hands worked a towel through his damp hair. She’d bathed him with her favorite lavender bar soap, and the scent filled the air.

“Felix, Felix...,” she hummed, in her croaking voice that was like the groan of an ancient tree. “Your mother picked that name—she did! And it’s a lovely name, don’t you forget. Yes. Your father never liked it. Said it wasn’t suitable for a man—an Agreste, no less! Pah! Let him run his mouth on. Be proud of your name, child.”

And that was Felix’s first tangible attachment to his mother. His memory of her was little more than an impression or sensation. He remembered that she held him, and he remembered that she was beautiful. Sometimes he would come across her smell, or hear a song she used to sing. He had one photograph of her. But Grandmama had given him something to cling to—Mother had named him. This knowledge was more precious than an heirloom jewel; a jewel which he would tuck into his breast pocket for safekeeping, feeling its comforting weight against his heart.

I’m sorry, Maman, was his next thought.

Why was he sorry? Why...?

Oh, yes. That’s right. He was not Felix any longer. He was....

Felix was back in the present, standing on a dark roadside. Clouds passed over the moon, blocking out the light, but he could dimly make out shadows and movements. A beast stood before him, its back turned. It stooped, intent on some poor victim which had become its meal.

The light of the moon returned, and Felix could see the form of a large, black wolf, gorging itself on a small bundle at its feet. Morbid curiosity won over fear, and Felix took a step closer. The small bundle was some sort of animal—long, ebony fur; a tail; sightless green eyes—

Felix recoiled, and his scream jolted him awake.

Brigitte’s hand was cupped to his cheek, cool relief to his burning skin.

“Shh,” she whispered. “You were dreaming.”

“A-Adrien,” Felix gasped. “He was—how... where is he?”

Brigitte frowned in confusion. “He’s just over there. Been sleeping this whole time. Was it a bad dream?”

Felix craned his neck to see the peaceful form of his brother, still lying where he had fallen onto the couch. He swallowed and tried to slow his breaths. When he finally felt under control again, he answered Brigitte’s question:

“It was... nothing.” Just the thought of the dream made bile rise in his throat. There was no way he could put it into words right now.

Brigitte eyed him with narrowed eyes. “Alright, I’ll take that for now. But if you change your mind later, you can tell me about it.”

Felix conceded. Looking around, the room was dark, and Alya and Nino seemed to have gone home. Mari as well, was nowhere in sight.

“They all went home,” Brigitte explained. Now, Felix could see that she was holding some paperwork.

“Is it time?” he asked.

“Yeah, congratulations, you’re all checked out. The nurse is just going to come by and get you unhooked.” Brigitte ran her knuckles over his cheek lovingly.

Felix leaned in to her touch. “Is that the bill?” he questioned. “How much is it?”

But his fiance shook her head. “There’s no bill. It was all taken care of.”

He frowned. “What? But this is a really nice room. And all of these things—” he tugged at the wires and tubes— “they have to be expensive.”

Brigitte nodded. “Oh, sure. It wasn’t free. But it was paid.”

Filled with a sinking mixture of embarrassment and alarm, Felix sat up. “What? Who...? Was it Adrien? You? Your parents?”

He watched as Brigitte shook her head to all of these. She put a soothing hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Felix. I really don’t think now is the best time to tell you, I don’t want you to—”

“Father,” he breathed.

She lowered her eyes, avoiding an answer, and Felix knew he was right.

Something clicked in Felix’s mind... as if he had been working on a mathematics equation, but had been missing a few links up until that moment. It seemed like it all came together, and the answer was hidden on the horizon. He could almost see it... he could feel it. He didn’t want to know, but deep down, the terrible truth was rearing its head. And as much as he tried to avoid it, refused to acknowledge it, he could ignore it no longer.

When it finally became clear, Felix was surprisingly calm. For any other person, their world might have come crashing down. But not for Felix Agreste. No, Felix had never had a “world”, never had a proper home. He’d never had anything to lose.

At least, that was what he thought as he faced the glaring truth and made up his mind what to do.

Unfortunately, Felix was very wrong. His “world” was gathered around him in that very hospital room. He had a home now.

Felix, in fact, had everything to lose.

Chapter Text

 

 

Marinette

[Earlier that day:]

Mari walked quietly behind Brigitte while the elder girl waited for her to catch up. They had purchased drinks from the cafe, and each girl had her arms full with trays. The younger girl had been silent during the entire trip, even though Brigitte had tried to make small talk. Finally having had enough, Felix’s fiance stopped and turned on her friend:

“Come on,” the veterinarian said. “What’s got you so down? You’ve been so quiet. I mean, Felix is fine, so is Adrien; but I don’t think that’s what’s bothering you.”

What was bothering her? Marinette thought back to her conversation with Chat, after they had cleansed the akumatized children:

Don’t tell anyone, but... I think Felix has a crush on me.”

The younger girl gulped and looked Brigitte in her twinkling brown eyes—so innocent and full of hope. Could she really tell her the truth and possibly destroy all of her dreams of the future?

Yes. Yes, she could. Brigitte needed to know about Felix and his feelings for Chat. Even if Chat didn’t like him back and nothing would ever come of it, Brigitte deserved to know that her fiance’s affections were divided. After all, if Marinette were in the same situation, she would want to know.

Mari took a deep breath. “There’s something I have to tell you,” she began bravely, even though the tray of drinks trembled in her hands.

Brigitte’s face softened, seeing the uneasiness in her friend’s posture. “What’s that?”

Mari dashed away her feelings of foolishness. This had to be said! “I... I think Adrien’s brother... that is, Felix.... I think he has feelings for Chat Noir!”

Perfect silence. Some passerby turned their heads and whispered. Brigitte stared at her companion incredulously before throwing her head back in a burst of laughter. Unable to catch her breath for several seconds, Brigitte only continued laughing uncontrollably.

That... was not the reaction Marinette was expecting, but alright....

“Of course he does!” Brigitte gasped through tears of amusement. “After all, they are—” She gasped and clamped a hand over her mouth. “Wait, Mari, do you know who Chat is?”

Mari’s brow quirked. “No...?”

Brigitte continued, her eyes becoming shifty. “Well, Felix and Chat are... old friends.”

“Right,” Marinette agreed. “But I think there’s something more....”

“Hm,” Brigitte nodded knowingly. “You’ve seen the rumors on the Ladyblog, haven’t you?” She giggled. “They’re cute together, right? But don’t worry; it’s not what you think it is. Hee hee, those two. Ah, this is so entertaining. I am never going to be bored for the rest of my life!”

Marinette wondered how Brigitte could take all of this so lightly—weren’t she and Felix planning to marry? But the conversation was obviously over, and Brigitte was beckoning her to hurry back before the drinks got cold. The younger girl was left more confused than she had been before their conversation, her head filled with questions.

Brigitte had asked her if she knew who Chat was. Was it possible that Brigitte knew her partner’s identity? And, if Chat had told Brigitte, who else might he have told? Even without her new-found feelings for the cat-boy, Marinette felt an acute sense of betrayal. She had thought that, of all people, Chat would have told her or Ladybug first. But, apparently, there were strong ties between the Agreste family and her partner, so it would make sense if Brigitte soon-to-be-Agreste knew.

Even so, it still hurt.


 

Chat Noir

 

Chat met up with Ladybug later that night.

“I sent a message to the Fox Miraculous holder,” she informed him, in lieu of a greeting.

He crawled up on all fours and then stood abruptly when he was just a centimeter away. “Not even a ‘hello’? That’s cold, My Lady, after what happened between us yesterday.” He leaned in, wiggling his eyebrows.

Tilting away, Ladybug pushed him back by the tip of his nose. “Whoa, slow down, crazy kitty. That was a thank you and nothing more.”

“The way you blush tells a different story.”

She turned away, covering her face. “Oh, stop, Chat! Focus.”

“I am focusing—very intently—on you.”

She turned back to him, eyes narrowing. “Chat... have you told anyone your identity?” she asked, out of the blue.

Green eyes widened. “Of course not, My Lady! I know how important that is to you. But, well, by accident, my brother knows. Oh! And his fiance kind of... found out.”

The red-clad girl took this information in. He didn’t seem to be lying, so what did this mean? And why did it have her heart racing a hundred kilometers a minute? She would have to mull it over later.

“Could it be that you’ve had a change of heart?” the cat-boy asked hopefully. “Would you like me to reveal myself to you? I assure you, I am handsome under the mask, but if you’re going for handsome and mysterious, I can’t guarantee the same effect....”

Ladybug rolled her eyes. “Look, there he is.”

The Fox Miraculous holder came into their sights, leaping across rooftops to reach their meeting place. It was Chat’s favorite rooftop because they could sit right up next to the air conditioning units, which hummed pleasantly and radiated heat. Ladybug also appreciated the cover it gave them, safe from the eyes of civilians and reporters.

“Hey, Bunny Boy,” Chat greeted as the newcomer joined them. Because of all the chaos yesterday, he hadn’t gotten a good look at the orange-clad kid, but now he could make out more details. The fear and uncertainty was still there, but not quite as strong as before, and there was an underlying sense of deep determination. Up close, Chat could see that the boy had striking turquoise eyes, reminding him of someone he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

“Chat Noir at your service,” he announced, paw out enthusiastically.

The red-head shook his paw, bowing timidly, and then looked over at Ladybug. She was not helping the newcomer’s anxiety, with her straight-backed, cross-armed posture.

“I-I’m not a bunny,” he mumbled.

Ladybug nodded. “I know. Don’t listen to that one—”

“—Hey!” Chat interjected.

“What do you call yourself?” she continued, without missing a beat.

“Uh... call myself?”

“Yeah, like your superhero name,” Chat explained.

The newcomer hedged. “Well, I hadn’t thought about that.”

The black-clad hero slapped him on the back encouragingly. “That’s fine. We can help you think of one.... How about Bouncing Bunny?”

“Chat...” Ladybug warned.

“But I’m not a bunny...” the red-head insisted.

“He’s not a bunny,” Ladybug confirmed. “We can think of a name for you later. How did you get a Miraculous?”

This question seemed to make the boy even more uncomfortable, and he wound his tail around his knees protectively. Gripping the puff of orange fur in his fists, he spoke with a timid voice. “I asked for one. I... have a friend who needs help.”

Ladybug’s jaw dropped. “Master Fu just gave you a Miraculous? Because you want to help a friend? He didn’t even make sure you were capable of wielding it?”

The new boy recoiled, and Chat winced sympathetically. Putting a hand on his partner’s shoulder, he protested: “It was his first time. Why don’t we hear the story from him before we assume things.”

But the fox-boy shook his head. “No, she’s right. I’m not the best candidate to wield a Miraculous. Gr—Master Fu was doing me a favor. And I promise, I’ll give it back when my friend is safe. Until then, it’s my only chance at saving her.”

Ladybug was not moved. Instead, she clenched her fists. “If everyone who needed to save a friend had a Miraculous, then half of Paris would be flying around in spandex and leather! This is bigger. The whole world is at stake here. We are here to stop Hawkmoth—not to chase after our own personal vendettas.”

The orange-clad boy clutched the fur of his tail even tighter. “What if I told you... that the friend I’m trying to help is Style Queen?”

“You’re siding with her?!”

“No! No. I want to stop her. I think she’s confused, and hurt, and I just want to let her know that I’m here for her.”

There was silence as the sincerity of the newcomer’s words sunk in for the superhero duo. Chat flicked away a tear. Stepping forward, he clamped a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“Alright, Bunny-Boo. You can join us.”

“Chat. He’s not a bunny. But, yes. I don’t see the harm in it,” Ladybug agreed, smiling softly.

The fox-boy’s eyes shone with gratitude.

“However,” the red-clad girl continued. “We need to talk about what happened yesterday, during the battle. Do you always... faint like that?”

The newcomer’s face immediately flushed redder than his hair. “Yes. I mean, no. I mean... I’m actually not sure? I’ve never been in that situation before. I’ve fainted before, but I’ve never been in battle...? So I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation. It’s possible. But next time, I’ll definitely—”

“You’re rambling, Funny Bunny,” Chat pointed out. “Look. Whatever happens, we’ve got your back.”

He ignored the stink-eye Ladybug shot him—she knew all too well that by “we’ve got your back” he meant “I’ve got your back”, and that Chat was just shouldering more responsibility. It was not the time to address that right now, as much as it irked her.

“We can set you up for long-range attacks,” Ladybug proposed. “I’m assuming that your paintbrush is your main weapon?”

The boy nodded. Whipping the paintbrush around from its holster on his back, he delicately painted a tiny rabbit in black ink. Before their eyes, the rabbit materialized, warm and alive and all cuddly gray fur. It hopped into Chat’s arms.

“There’s your bunny,” the illusionist quipped.

Chat was delighted, hugging and caressing the bundle in his arms. “You had a baby!” he exclaimed.

The gray bunny puffed out of existence as the fox-boy sighed in defeat. “Alright, now I think I really should come up with a name, if only to clarify that I’m not a freaking rabbit,” he said, turning to Ladybug.

“Who doesn’t want to be a rabbit...?” Chat muttered under his breath.

A grin spread across the red-clad girl’s face. “I know just the thing!”


 

Felix

 

The night was inky black; clouds obscured the moonlight. Only a slight breeze broke the stagnant chill, and it whistled through the Parisian streets like an omen.

Felix stopped at a street corner, waiting for the lights to change. Brigitte had left his apartment earlier that night, after he assured her a thousand times that he would rest and no he wouldn’t go anywhere. He hated lying to Brigitte, and he knew she could see right through him, but he also knew he had to do this. If he waited, he might lose his resolve or run away again.

No. He would never forgive himself if he didn’t face this.

In the end, it all came down to this: Felix had gone through life hating and doubting himself, unwilling to grow close to anyone, because he didn’t want to hurt others like his father had. To Felix, it was inevitable that he would become his father; even if he was blind to it, the reality remained. He was his father’s son, and of that, he was endlessly disgusted.

He had thought that distancing himself from his father and from Adrien would prevent him from becoming like the former and from hurting the latter. He had been so wrong. In the absence of his father, Felix’s bitterness had only grown. And Adrien had suffered the consequences: left alone with a monster who slowly drained away his vitality and will to live.

Now, Felix was filled with an unquenchable need to understand. Simply to ask Gabriel Agreste if he had realized what he was doing—if he had seen what was happening to his youngest son. He needed to know how his father had justified his actions, and what his motivations had been.

Without answers, the young detective assumed the worst: pure greed, malicious intent, and a cold, unfeeling heart. If the senior Agreste could be so heartless and blatantly inhuman, who was to say that Felix would not fall to the same vices?

This fear was very real to Felix, as he struggled to stay afloat in rationality. Beneath the surface, a violent current threatened to sweep him away. He wanted power; he wanted strength. He wanted Gabriel Agreste to cower at his feet, and he wanted to crush the miserable old man. He wanted to throw back at his father everything that had been so apathetically dished out to his sons. He wanted to see fear on that expressionless face.

Something was there, beckoning him, offering him that power he wanted so badly.

Whether it was the rational desire for clarity or the instinct of fury which pushed him onward, Felix was unsure. Somewhere in the muddled parts of his head, he knew the answer, and he knew how this was all connected. He knew that it was a mistake to be out here, to be willingly walking into the maw of the beast. But this was something Felix had to do; it could wait no longer.

Even if he would meet his ruin.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chloe

 

Chloe Bourgeois would never have thought she’d find the clack of her own heels to be unnerving. But this was not Chloe Bourgeois. No, it was likely that the girl would never reclaim her old identity. She had crossed the line as Style Queen, and there was no turning back.

It was funny, and absolutely pathetic: Chloe had run away from being “Chloe” at break-neck speed. But now that she had relinquished her childhood persona, she ached to have it back. She ached to be that petty girl again, quipping about her classmates’ wardrobes and throwing fits to get her way. Anything but this.

Now, she was a monster. A monster who had nearly killed a man, stirring up the darkness he had fought so hard to bury. The memory frightened her, sent her recoiling from her own self. But what frightened her even more was the fact that she would do it again, and again, if Hawkmoth so wished.

Because, if they could get Madaleine back, everything would be okay again. At least, that was what she had to tell herself as she walked over slick marble floors into the office of Gabriel Agreste.

“It is rude to show up unannounced, Mme. Bourgeois,” the silver-haired man said pleasantly, not looking up from his paperwork.

“Funny. I don’t recall you ever adhering to social convention,” Chloe bit back, settling in a chair and crossing her legs to feign ease.

“My, my. Whatever do you mean?” M. Agreste hummed.

The girl inspected her fingernails, trying to convince herself that this man did not intimidate her. Traitorously, her fingers shook to the rhythm of her rapidly beating heart. “I mean that most fathers do not torture their sons in their free time.”

Finally—finally—Gabriel Agreste looked up. Something flashed in his eyes as he set down his pen, and Chloe searched their depths for any trace of humanity. She found none. Just how far gone was this man?

“Chloe, I’m well aware of how your father dotes on you, but surely you have at least heard of parental discipline?” the man taunted.

Chloe felt cold inside. The insult hardly hit home, because she was so disturbed by the implications: Monsieur Agreste believed that Felix had deserved what happened to him. Reliving his worst memories, having his greatest fears and frustrations drawn out and intensified, and, ultimately, spending two days in the hospital was this father’s idea of “discipline”.

She was truly working with a monster. And that decided it: there was no way she could tell this man that Chat Noir was his own son. If he knew, Adrien would be in great danger, with or without the mask.

Perhaps the best thing Chloe could do for everyone would be to stay silent. She would remain by Hawkmoth’s side as Style Queen and help him achieve his goals while ensuring that he didn’t harm anyone in the process.

After all, someone had to keep an eye on him. Seeing his crazed grin, Chloe vaguely wondered if she would become the same way, her humanity slowly corroded by her abused powers. Hopefully, this would all be over before that happened.

On her way out of Gabriel Agreste’s office, Chloe ran face-first into a hurried and terribly disheveled Felix.

“Forgive me,” he said tersely, helping her up. Preoccupied as he was, it took him a moment to actually recognize her. “...Chloe? Chloe Bourgeois?”

She nodded mutely. Why was he here? This wasn’t good.... He shouldn’t see her here. And it was so hard to look at him, to see the results of what she had done: his face was pale and drawn, prickly from a day without shaving. White-blond hair stuck out at all angles atop his head, as if he had pulled at it, agonizing over some inner conflict. Judging by his rapid breathing and the emotions she was picking up with her new sensitivity, he had run here in an uncontrollable rage.

“Chloe, why are you here?” Felix asked, gripping her shoulders.

Heat rose to her face as she realized the many, awful ways her presence here could be interpreted: it was nearly midnight; she was an exceptionally beautiful young woman, alone in a mansion with an exceptionally rich and powerful man. “It—it’s not...,” she stuttered, trailing off.

Felix’s features crumpled into a deeper fury, if that was possible at this point. He gave her shoulder a brotherly squeeze. “You should go home,” he told her. “It’s not safe here.”

Chloe gulped. He knew. But... how?

Dread filled her as she watched Felix cross the hallway to his father’s office. Something was about to happen. She didn’t know what, but she definitely didn’t want to be there to see it. Even more so, she did not want Hawkmoth to ask her to hurt Felix again, which she was almost certain he would do.

So, she fled.

I am so sorry, Felix.

I am so, so sorry.

 

Felix

 

The door didn’t quite slam open as emphatically as Felix had hoped. No matter. He could make up for that with the deep growl that was rising from within.

“You’ve sunk to new lows, Father.”

Gabriel flicked nonchalantly through his paperwork. “I’m an ambitious man,” he drawled. “Arrest me.”

Felix balked, coming to lean over his father’s desk, planting his palms on the neat stacks of papers. “Ambition, you say? Ambition has you suffocating your own son and manipulating him like some kind of puppet?!”

Forced to look up, Gabriel kept his composure, only a bulging vein in his forehead belying his calm. “My, Felix, you are looking... ragged,” he noted, unabashedly changing the subject. “Shouldn’t you be resting? I heard about your... accident.”

“You heard about it, huh?” Felix snapped back. “Is that why you paid the hospital bill?”

Gabriel shrugged. “It’s the least I can do. You’ve taken Adrien under your wing, and we both know you won’t be able to afford his education.”

Even now, Felix was level-headed enough to see that he was being taunted. He knew he should resist the bait, but some external force egged him on.

“Can’t you see what you’ve done to him?” he asked his father through clenched teeth.

Gabriel’s gaze hardened. “I can see. I have given him many opportunities. If he chose not to take them, there is nothing I can do. You know I only want the best for my sons, but I can’t help it if they defy me.” He paused to sigh. “Thanks to you, Adrien will have to learn the hard way.”

Felix straightened, taking a moment to wrap his mind around this man’s reasoning. “Is that what you really think? Is that really how you see it?”

The elder Agreste stood, taking a languid step towards Madaleine’s portrait in the corner. “How else is there to see it?”

Something was overcoming Felix—dark, purple clouds were edging his vision, and a thousand tiny flutters filled his head and chest. The sensation pulsed and spread, laying waste to lingering inhibition and sending the words gushing from his mouth:

It’s cruelty, you sick bastard!” In a heartbeat, Felix had crossed the room and grabbed his father by the lapels.

Like a swelling tide, everything intensified as the young detective made contact with Gabriel Agreste. He gasped as his vision was entirely taken over by purple. Gabriel was grinning a satisfied grin, and Felix realized too late that he had made a terrible mistake.

“Now, now,” the elder Agreste soothed mockingly, his voice garbled as if coming from underwater. “You’ve had a long day, why don’t you sit down.”

Before he knew it, Felix was doing just that—on the floor.

“And, I know, it has been a challenge at your job, what with all of those akuma....”

“How do you know about that?” Felix vaguely heard himself asking.

Gabriel only chuckled. He had crouched before his son, gripping the hair at the back of his head with one wiry hand and pulling back so that Felix was looking up at him. “How do I know? Felix, really, I thought you would know the answer to that by now.”

Felix knew. Purple roiled over his vision, and he knew—oh, he knew, but he did not want to accept it.

It wasn’t a coincidence, his mind told him.

Hawkmoth specifically targeted those around you.

And Father knows... because Father is Hawkmoth.

Even as Gabriel’s grip tightened on his hair, sending waves of pain through his skull to mingle with the purple haze, Felix struggled to hold on. He couldn’t lose himself like this. He couldn’t let go. Adrien was counting on him.

“It’s too late to fight,” Gabriel hissed. With his free hand, he removed his ever-present scarf, revealing a glowing purple brooch.

Another tidal wave washed over Felix and this time he struggled to remember who he was, who Adrien was, why he even needed to fight.

Nooroo, transforme moi,” a dark voice commanded.

And Felix lost himself.

 

Nathalie

 

Nathalie paced in the foyer, chewing absent-mindedly at her thumb. Something was odd tonight. First, M. Agreste had requested that she leave the front door open; he was expecting visitors. For a man who was as safely guarded as a king at war, this was exceptionally strange. Indeed, it was nearly midnight.

Then, Chloe Bourgeois had marched in as if she owned the place, seeming unduly flustered. Soon after, Gabriel’s first son, Felix, had charged through like a bull, not even giving a word to Nathalie in greeting. She knew the young man was grumpy, but he had always been polite, so this was odd.

Chloe had rushed out, then, looking quite rattled, and shouting had echoed from Gabriel’s office. All Nathalie could think as she listened to father and son exchange verbal blows was that she was not paid nearly enough for this.

And then, all was silent. Nathalie’s heart pounded, wondering if she should call the police—after all, she had watched far too many midday soap operas, and from those she had gleaned that tragedy always results from family disputes. “Accidental” gunshots, brass trophies to the head, heart attacks—they happened every episode. The poor secretary’s mind raced with fatigue and bewilderment.

But, what she heard next was entirely unexpected. It was—it must have been, there was nothing else it could be—a howl. The howl of some wild beast—a wolf, perhaps. Angry, bitter, lonely. A loud crash, and something shattered upstairs. Nathalie instinctively slipped into a well-practiced Judo stance.

Nothing could have prepared her for what came next: a dark, silver wolf, the size of a polar bear, snarling and rabid, came barreling down the stairs. It gave no notice to the secretary, though its snarl split her ears. In less than a second, the beast had crossed the hall and bounded out the open door. In the aftermath, Gabriel’s cackles could be heard echoing from his office.

Nathalie slowly straightened her posture. No, no, she definitely was not paid enough for this. With one deft movement, she flung her iPad over her shoulder, letting it clatter to the ground.

That was it. Whatever was going on, M. Agreste could manage without her. She quit.

 

Chat Noir

 

Chat leaped away from the rendezvous with Ladybug, muttering about Bunny Boy. What was so wrong with being a bunny? Chat had come up with some pretty ingenious names for the kid, but all had been rejected. Instead, the red-head had gone with some boring fox-name.

Ah, well, c’est la vie. Especially when c’est la Chat.

Ugh, doesn’t even rhyme, he reprimanded himself.

Perhaps he would tell Brigitte about his ideas. After all, she always appreciated his puns.

And holy cat sweater, it would be nice to get home tonight. Felix was finally back from the hospital, probably snoring away and looking better than he had in days. Chat planned to jump in right beside his brother as soon as he got home and enjoy some well-needed snuggles. Petite Macaron would be right there, sandwiched contentedly between the brothers. The thought of it had Chat purring right then and there, his rumbling sounds of pleasure flooding his ears and overcoming his sensitive hearing.

The distracted cat missed the distinctive howl that tore through the Parisian night; he had no warning of what happened next:

Chat didn’t see the dark form rushing at him through the night, scrambling hungrily over roof tiles. He didn’t hear the heavy panting, the snarling of some great beast as it bore down upon him. The growling shadow collided with Chat, and he had no time to register what was happening before his world burst into oblivion.

 

Ladybug

 

When Ladybug stopped just short of her rooftop door, Tikki nudged her in a light tone of concern. Instead of replying, the girl crouched down on her heels and curled in on herself. Shivers were running up and down the length of her body, and her stomach twisted, trying to follow the way the world spun around her.

Everything was different now.

All these years, and she hadn’t seen it. Of course she hadn’t seen it! Adrien was—well, he was Adrien, and Chat was Chat. There could not have been two more different people.

Then again, Ladybug and Marinette seemed to be two different people as well.

The supergirl buried her face in her hands. All of those heart-wrenching comments Chat had made about family and fathers... all of those times Adrien had blushed furiously when he had made a pun. Even Mari had messed up from time to time, accidentally treating Adrien as if he were Chat.

Oh, she should have seen it.

The red-clad girl stood, finally speaking to her kwami.

“Did you know that Adrien was Chat?” she asked.

I figured it out,” Tikki said from within her mind. “Adrien brought his kwami to school, like you do.”

Ladybug simply nodded, crossing to the balcony rail and staring up at the stars. Realization had hit her on the way back from the meeting with the other two Miraculous holders. Chat Noir had said that his brother and his future sister-in-law knew his identity. Earlier that same day, Marinette had found out that Brigitte knew who Chat was behind the mask. It was only logical to assume that Felix must know as well; after all, they were very close... as close as brothers.

To think! All that time, Ladybug had assumed that Chat and Felix were in love with each other, when, really, she’d been picking up on their familial bond. And it had taken her jealousy of their relationship for her to come to terms with her feelings for Chat. It all could have been a mess: she could have fallen out of love with Adrien, only for the new object of her affections to be snatched away by a grumpy detective.

But it was funny how the world worked sometimes. She could never have imagined it even an hour ago, but now it made more sense than anything ever had. If Chat was Adrien, then she loved them both; she loved him fully, with all of his quirks. And she was not in danger of losing him to Felix. No, on the contrary, Felix had come at just the right time. He was exactly what Adrien needed: an anchor, a friend, a brother. He filled in voids that Mari could never fill. With Felix around, she could focus on loving her kitty, instead of constantly battling with his despair.

Tikki giggled in her subconscious. “Marinette, I think you’ve grown up!”

Ladybug plopped her chin onto her hands with a dreamy gaze. How had the world become so perfect?

A howl broke through the still night. It was the cry of a beast, the moan of a wolf, but it had an unnatural edge to it. Tikki’s sensors twitched in warning.

An akuma.

Right. Hawkmoth had a way of ruining the moment. At least, Ladybug thought as she readied her yo-yo, I’ll get to see Chat again!

 

 

Chapter Text

Hawkmoth

 

Hawkmoth’s voice echoed, as if to speak to all of Paris:

“Lone Wolf, I will give you power, and you will bring me Chat Noir.”

The supervillain watched through his butterfly mask as his champion snatched Chat Noir out of the sky. Beast and boy tumbled across a rooftop, their momentum halted by a large brick chimney. When the dust cleared, Chat Noir was sprawled on his back, and Lone Wolf stood over him. The hero had been knocked senseless in the tumble, and all the champion had to do now would be to drag the cat back to Hawkmoth’s lair. The villain almost let himself gloat in how smoothly this was going.

Almost. It was not over yet. There was the obvious obstacle: Lone Wolf was, after all, an animal, and his bloodlust currently blinded him. As he stooped over his prey, the beast snarled and salivated. Thick globs of drool plopped onto Chat’s cheeks and eyelids.

“Wonderful work, my lovely akuma,” Hawkmoth praised. “Now, I would prefer if you do not kill him—though, I do understand if instinct overcomes you.”

There was silence in response, broken only by the hungry pants of the beast. And then, an opposite tug awoke within. For some inexplicable reason, alarms were going off in the champion’s head, something far beneath the surface screaming do not hurt him.

Hawkmoth frowned. He should have complete control over Felix’s consciousness by now. It was strange that this singular voice had managed to break through.

“Bring him to me,” the masked man commanded, impatience leaking into his voice.

It hit Hawkmoth like a speeding bus: that resistance rising to the surface, cutting off the mental connection with a firm and final note of dissent:

NO.

Hawkmoth was thrown back, and Nooroo plopped out of his brooch. His own champion had cut him off. Gabriel could still sense the active akuma, infecting its victim, but he could no longer see through Lone Wolf’s eyes, no longer get a grasp on the puppet strings.

He should have known that Felix would fight him to the end.

 

Chat Noir

 

Chat woke slowly and wearily, his neck aching from lying at an odd angle. His shoulder was all twisted and bunched up under him, and his left arm had fallen asleep from being pressed against the cement.

Wait.... Cement?

The cat-like hero sat abruptly, ignoring the way every muscle and bone protested. His surroundings were dark, cast in the eery blue light of pre-dawn. He seemed to be in some kind of abandoned building; a historic one, by the smell of it. Brick and pavement crumbled drearily around him, and spiders dipped from dust-coated webs. In a far corner, heavy breathing made its deafening mark on the silence.

Chat wasn’t alone. He shifted his position to a crouch, reaching for his baton and ready to fight.

“Plagg, what’s going on?” he murmured.

Kid, finally, you’re awake. You need to get out of here,” came the relieved response.

“What? Why?” Chat squinted at the corner where the dark shape huddled, his night-vision helping him make out details. “Whoa...” he breathed when he finally saw it. “This has got to be the coolest akuma yet.”

It was a wolf, but it was impossibly large. Its silver coat shimmered in the moonlight and it bared glistening yellow teeth the length of Chat’s hand. It seemed to be cowering, almost... restraining itself; head lowered, sharp gray eyes warning Chat away. Paws were splayed before it, sporting talons that dug holes in the decrepit floor; its tail twitched in agitation.

Stop ogling,” Plagg urged. “We’re a cat, remember? Dogs are bad news. And this one is out to get you.”

“Out to get me?” Chat questioned.

What, you don’t remember? It came out of nowhere and attacked you ! We were almost delivered to Hawkmoth. Ugh... I need cheese.”

“Okay, hang on a little longer, Plagg. Why did it take us here? Why didn’t we get delivered to Hawkmoth?” Chat watched the beast cautiously, but it did not seem to make a move.

I don’t know! It looked like it refused to follow Hawkmoth’s orders. I think it brought you here to eat you,” Plagg groaned.

The black-clad hero inched forward, a hand out as if he were approaching a stray animal. “Then... why didn’t it eat me yet? It’s got all those teeth, but it doesn’t seem like it broke the skin earlier.”

No, it didn’t. Maybe it’s not hungry yet. Either way, kid, this thing is bad news!”

Chat ignored him, only continuing to shuffle forward. The wolf let out a low growl of warning, pressing itself further against the wall.

“Hey, it’s okay, big guy, I’m not going to hurt you,” Chat soothed.

You’re not?!” Plagg balked. “Seriously kid, have you gone insane?”

Dismissing the kwami’s protests, Chat held eye contact with the akuma victim, filled with pity and curiosity. Why had it disobeyed Hawkmoth? Better yet, why had it left Chat in one piece, when it had been given ample opportunity to tear him to shreds?

The wolf’s mouth came open as Chat approached, and a disembodied voice eked out: “Stay away... not safe.”

Chat Noir’s world collapsed around him. That voice was unmistakable.

“Felix...?” he gasped. Suddenly, he was rushing forward, throwing away his baton, and reaching for his brother. “Felix, what happened—”

Snarling, the beast rammed Chat, his skull connecting with the hero’s torso and propelling the latter across the room. Chat landed on his back, winded, as tears sprung into his eyes.

The akuma victim’s eyes glowed purple when he spoke:

“Felix is no more. I am Lone Wolf!” Ending the statement in a pitiful yelp, the beast shook his head, as if fighting off the source of the voice. “Stay back,” he rasped.

“No, no, no. Felix!” Chat sobbed. “Why are you like this?” He scrambled forward again, fingers barely brushing Lone Wolf’s fur before he turned violently and snapped at him.

Chat flinched back, heart pounding. No way... was he afraid of Felix? His brother? Akuma or not, Felix would never hurt him, and the boy chided himself for being startled.

Lone Wolf’s hackles were raised, his ears pressed back flat, disappearing into his fluffed mane. Stormy eyes glared dangerously, accompanied by the rumbling of a warning growl.

Undeterred, the cat-like hero shuffled forward once again.

“Don’t... come,” Felix’s voice echoed around the room—strained, as if each syllable was an effort. And, by the way he twitched and tossed his head, it seemed that the wolf was trying to keep control, struggling for a hold on sanity.

That was a good sign, right? Felix had been able to resist Hawkmoth so far. If Chat could just get through to him, perhaps they could get rid of the akuma altogether.

Kid, you’re not thinking straight,” Plagg protested. “You need to call Ladybug.”

“Right, Ladybug...” Chat murmured vaguely, drawing ever nearer to the hulking canine.

Kid! I’m starting to think you addled your head again—you’re being really stupid and reckless!” Plagg worried.

His charge could only grin. “Plagg, I don’t need a concussion to be reckless. You should know that by now. Besides, this is Felix,” he assured the cat-god.

And then, pressing a hand to the Lone Wolf’s furry shoulder: “Right buddy? You won’t—”

The beast gnashed his teeth in a feeble warning, but this time, the younger brother barely reacted.

“See, Plagg? He won’t hurt me,” Chat affirmed. With a burst of courage—or, stupidity, in Plagg’s opinion—the black-clad hero lunged forward and wrapped his arms around his akumatized brother. He buried his face in the wolf’s mane and rubbed soothing circles on the furry back. “You’re going to be alright, Felix. We’re going to fix this. We’ll get you back.”

Chat felt a tug, and he realized that the beast had gently tucked its teeth around his collar, trying to pull him back. The boy only shook his head.

“I’m not leaving you, Fe,” he protested.

Lone Wolf let out a low whine, and seemed to relax, if only a bit. Perhaps Chat was actually getting through to him.

All progress shattered in the next instant.

Chaton!”

A shrill cry broke through the air, and before either brother could even flinch, Ladybug’s yo-yo came around in a hurried arc to strike the head of the beast. Lone Wolf howled and reeled back, ripping Chat’s collar as it went. The cat-like hero’s bell clattered dully to the floor.

Any other time, Chat would have been thrilled to see his Lady. Now, he wasn’t sure if he could get through to his brother again. Lone Wolf’s eyes had lit up an intense purple when Ladybug struck him, and his countenance had taken on a feral twist. Whatever threads of Felix had been shining through, they were gone now. The akuma victim was completely lost again, out for the kill and ready to pounce.

Chat watched, stunned, as his partner slipped through the window and stalked urgently across the room. Taking one look at her kitten’s bedraggled appearance, she reeled in her yo-yo and sunk into a fighting stance, facing the growling creature.

“Chat, stay down if you’re hurt,” she urged. “I can handle this. I’m sorry for being late.”

“Ladybug, wait! He’s—he’s—I can get him back!” Chat shouted desperately.

Ladybug only whipped her yo-yo into a steady swing, brow bent in concentration. “It’s alright, Kitty. I’ll take care of it.”

“No, no. You don’t understand; I know him!” the black-clad hero was straightening now, cautiously poised between Lone Wolf and Ladybug—as if unsure whom to fight and whom to protect.

Before Ladybug could answer, Lone Wolf leaped forward, teeth gnashing at the super-girl’s spinning yo-yo. She caught him another smarting blow, but it only served to anger the beast further, and he came back twice as fierce.

Eager to help his Lady, Chat reached for his baton, only to find it missing. Left with no choice but to go at it with his bare hands, the cat-like hero flung himself into the fray, hooking an arm around Lone Wolf’s thick neck and pulling him bodily to the ground. The beast yelped and flailed reflexively, and Chat held on for dear life. He could see his partner staggering back, panting, but she seemed unhurt. Good.

“Felix,” he said, trying for a stern tone. “Felix, come back. Snap out of it.”

The wolf continued to struggle like a beached fish. Quickly getting his bearings, Lone Wolf reared his head around and snapped his formidable jaws. If Chat hadn’t rolled away in that split second, he might have lost his head.

Lone Wolf continued grasping for his prey, doggedly wielding sharpened teeth. When the creature finally bit down on the hero’s leg, Chat wasn’t fast enough to escape.

The sound of a bone shattering echoed around the hollow walls, followed closely by Chat’s scream of agony. Lost in shock, the boy hadn’t even realized he’d been bitten until he heard himself screaming. And then he told himself to be quiet: Felix would feel bad if he knew what he was doing; and Ladybug was here, he shouldn’t let her hear this.

But he could only stay silent so long. When Lone Wolf lifted him in the air by the grip on his ankle, another ragged cry broke out. The akuma victim shook his catch to silence it, and Chat collided viciously with floor and wall, voice cutting off abruptly.

 

Ladybug

 

It was over in a heartbeat. Ladybug watched in horror as her partner dangled from the wolf’s mouth like a beaten toy. She wasn’t even sure if he was still alive.

Ladybug knew she should fight. She knew she should do something. But every ounce of strength was gone from her limbs, and she sunk heavily to the floor, overwhelmed and shaking.

She hadn’t felt this way since she fought Stoneheart—since she’d first run away from her duty as a hero. She couldn’t win this; this beast was too strong. And her partner... her kitten, the source of her strength, the reason she kept going... he was just hanging there, broken and vulnerable. Ladybug knew she would not be here today without him.

She also knew that if she didn’t move right now, she would regret it for the rest of her life.

So she steeled herself, lunged, and yelled at the top of her lungs—a feeble attempt at a battle cry when the world seemed to be shattering around her.

Lone Wolf did not hesitate to drop his victim and turn on Ladybug, ramming her heavily in the stomach and sending her flying into the opposite wall.

The girl groaned as she slid to the floor, winded and bruised, watching through blurred vision as Lone Wolf gathered up her partner again and stole into the night.

Chaton!

… An indeterminable amount of time later, Ladybug had regained her breath and her hoarse cries had subsided into soft whimpers. She pushed herself to her feet and staggered over to where she had last seen Chat Noir. All that was left of him was his golden bell, glowing dully in the rising dawn. With a feeble sob, the red-clad girl stooped to retrieve the familiar trinket.

For now, it was proof: a sign that Chat was still transformed; was still alive.

It had all happened so fast. And she had been so useless. If only... if only she had been able to do something. She could have kept Chat from being taken. But, no. She had failed him. Her partner, her best friend.... Adrien.

Oh, no. No, no. Not Adrien.

The terrible sound of his scream burned through Ladybug’s memory, and she pressed her palms to her ears—as if that would block it out.

Her hands quickly curled into fists. She had to get him back. She had to—to—

Ladybug dropped from the edge of consciousness, as if from the edge of a cliff. Her breath quickened, and her vision blotted out, and she barely felt the morning breeze as she swung through the Parisian sky. The next thing she knew, she was standing in her parents’ bakery, panting and sweating a clammy sweat. Tom Dupain and Sabine Cheng stared at the distressed Ladybug in mild shock.

“Maman—Papa—” Ladybug blurted out before she could catch herself. She clapped a hand over her mouth, but her parents’ expressions didn’t change.

“What is it, dear?” her mother asked, hastily setting down a dish rag.

Tears were spilling down the supergirl’s face. “How—how did you know it was me?” The dregs of panic still choked her voice.

“We’ve known for a long time, Mari, dear,” Tom revealed, lumbering over to give her his full attention.

“You’re not mad?”

“No, no. We are so proud of you, Mari,” Tom soothed.

Her mother clasped her hand. “Now, what is wrong? Why are you so upset?”

The tears came flooding out, thicker and faster than ever. “Maman! It’s Chat Noir—my partner—they took him! The akuma took him. Hawkmoth has him now. Oh Maman, Papa, what should I do? He’s hurt really bad. He—he wasn’t moving. And I just watched. I’m so—so—” She cut herself off, overwhelmed by despairing cries.

Sabine encircled Ladybug in her arms. “Shh, shh. It’s not your fault. You did your best. Everything’s going to be fine. Tom, hurry, call Felix. And Alya and Nino.... And Marinette: take a deep breath. We’ll figure out what to do. Okay?” And then, standing back to look into her daughter’s eyes: “Now. Chat Noir—Adrien—is a strong person. And so are you, my dear. We’ll get your partner back, safe and sound.”

And, looking into her mother’s calming ebony eyes, Ladybug almost believed it.

Almost.

 

 

Chapter Text

Brigitte

 

Brigitte knew what had happened when she saw the mess.

Petite Macaron had left a neat pile of poop on the carpet by the refrigerator. The accident was hours old, dried into the carpet. If Felix had been home, he would never have let it sit.

But he must have been gone for quite a while when his fiance arrived at his apartment that morning. It was too early for him to go into work, so Brigitte guessed that he had left shortly after she had the night before. He never listened, did he? He was supposed to be resting! Goodness.

It didn’t surprise her, though. After their talk at the hospital, he had never quite let go of those building emotions... that need to confront his father. Brigitte should have known that he would storm out some day to meet with Gabriel, finally having had enough. She just hadn’t expected that he would leave in the middle of the night.... Or that he would still be gone the next morning.

Adrien was gone as well, the window left open where he must have leapt out as Chat Noir.

Petite Macaron emerged from where she had burrowed in a pile of Adrien’s clothes. The tiny ball of whiteness brushed up against Brigitte’s leg and mewled sadly. Brigitte bent to retrieve the kitten, sympathizing with her dejected scowl. Both of Petite Macaron’s housemates were missing, just days after she had been adopted. It had to be confusing.

“Shh, it’s alright, little one. We’ll find those silly boys,” Brigitte soothed.

On the dining table, Felix’s cell phone lit up with a notification: five missed calls from Sabine Cheng.

Brigitte had been trying not to panic. She’d been trying very hard not to make a big deal out of all of this. But when she called Sabine back, and they exchanged accounts and drew conclusions, there was little to do except panic.

Instead, Brigitte took a deep breath, said a Hail Mary, and, after several seconds, managed to speak again:

“I’ll be right over,” she told Sabine.

 

Felix

 

All around Felix was murky darkness. He wasn’t sure when he’d stopped struggling, but he knew that he had been drifting for quite some time now. As if lost deep in the sea, he was weightless, breathless, and blank.

Adrien.

The thought broke through, barely more than an impression at first, but then increasing in urgency. Adrien. He had to get to Adrien. Adrien was hurting.

Felix could hear a child whimpering in the distance. With all of his being, he wanted to go to that child. So, he mustered up every ounce of his strength and swam toward the voice. Eventually, his feet found solid ground, and he stumbled into a room that roared with silence.

Adrien sat there, at the center, eight years old and weeping.

Felix felt a stirring in his chest, as if he himself were only fourteen—lost for words and overwhelmed with sadness for the boy before him. This was the day, he realized, ten years ago, when his hatred for his father had truly taken root.

Green eyes looked up, blurred with tears, as Felix knelt beside this memory of his brother.

“M-maman said—” Adrien hiccuped. “Maman said, about Papa....” The child’s words trailed off into incoherent keening, muscles seizing too harshly with grief to muster the words.

Felix put his hand on Adrien’s head: a feeble attempt at comfort. He didn’t want this memory. Anything but this memory. He’d even go back into that dark nothingness if he had to.

After several waves of sobbing had washed over the child, he managed to speak again:

“Maman said that Papa didn’t want me,” the boy confessed, his own words producing fresh tears. “She said he was mad when I was born.”

And then he melted back into breathless panic, his eight-year-old self just too young to handle the pain. Immediately, Felix bundled him in his arms, practically pulling the boy into his lap. Adrien buried anxious fists in his brother’s sweater, nestling his head close to the comforting rhythm of Felix’s heart.

Memory or not, no matter how long ago it had been, it still hurt like hell to see Adrien like this.

Felix knew what had happened. Madeleine had been prone to awful bouts of depression since her marriage with Gabriel Agreste. She would cry uncontrollably, lose her temper, scream at the top of her lungs. Sometimes, she would drive away—alone, or with Adrien in tow—and disappear, only to return hours later. During these episodes, she would often say things she’d regret later. Of course, at these times, Adrien would be upset as well, thinking that he had somehow made his mother cry; that it was his fault she was so distraught.

It had never been this bad before. Felix had never seen Adrien so upset, and he was certain that Madeleine had at least had the sense, in the past, not to bring up Gabriel’s attitude concerning the unborn Adrien. Even if it was inevitable that the boy would find out, damn it all, did it have to be so soon? He was just a child, and now he was stiff with grief in Felix’s arms, too exhausted and catatonic to cry.

Felix nudged Adrien. “Hey, buddy. Glowworm? I want you to take a deep breath for me. Can you do that?”

This was the part of the memory that Felix hated the most. All of Adrien’s self-destructive tendencies seemed to stem from this moment, when, at barely eight years old, he had discovered that he could just... stop. If the pain was too much, he could just not breathe, and then he wouldn’t have to face it. He had done the same thing when he found out that Madeleine was gone. It scared Felix to death.

Back then, ten years ago, Felix had managed to shock his brother into breathing again, before he blacked out completely. But in this memory, the elder brother suddenly lost his hold on the boy, helpless as the smaller body slid from his arms and settled in a heap on the floor.

And, looking down at himself, Felix saw silver fur; fogging, putrid breath; giant paws which planted themselves beside his brother on the decaying wooden floor.

The air smelled overwhelmingly of blood. And Adrien was—he was lying where Felix had dropped him; fetal, as he had been in the womb; spat from the mouth of his own brother, just as he had been spat away by Garbriel Agreste eighteen years ago.

Felix howled.

And then, a force too strong and unexpected to fight overtook him, and he knew no more.

 

Style Queen

 

Style Queen could barely contain her horror when the monstrous, silver wolf sauntered into Hawkmoth’s hideout and dumped Chat Noir on the floor. She could only watch as the wolf suddenly staggered, shaking its head, gaping at the body before it with an all too human expression. Then, it threw its head back and howled.

Hawkmoth dealt with his rebelling champion swiftly, regaining control and commanding it into submission. The wolf’s eyes went blank and it retreated to one corner of the room.

Style Queen was certain that the wolf-like akuma victim was Felix. Hawkmoth had invited her to this place because he wanted her to see the “finale”, and marvel at his “latest creation”.

“How do you like my lovely akuma?” Hawkmoth addressed his follower. “Lone Wolf has done such an exceptional job in bringing Chat Noir to me.”

The girl hopped down from the rafters, her magic helping her ease gracefully to the floor. She was avoiding looking at Chat—no, she couldn’t risk it. Not in front of Hawkmoth. If he saw her dismay and she gave away Adrien’s identity....

She had become such a coward. This all could have been stopped, if only she had refused to influence Felix; if only she had warned him. She could have revealed Hawkmoth’s identity to the Agreste boys.... She could have revealed Chat’s identity to Gabriel. But, instead, she had remained silent. She had fled. And now, look at them. This was a situation that could only end in tragedy.

Style Queen’s attention was drawn back to Hawkmoth as he stooped over his captive. “Finally,” he hummed, “Finally, the power is within my grasp.” He grabbed Chat by the jaw, turning his head roughly so that he could see the masked face. “I’ve got you now, you mangy alley cat.”

The cat barely stirred, letting out a low moan of pain. His captor dropped him carelessly back to the floor.

The yellow-clad girl could not hold back a gasp when she saw the state Chat Noir was in: bloody and bruised and pale. Emotion filled her chest like circulation returning to a numb foot. It hurt to see him like this. Especially since she knew now that this was Adrien, and that she had failed him. Her childhood friend, her first crush... this was all her fault.

“Now there is nothing to stop me from getting the Ladybug Miraculous,” Hawkmoth gloated.

Style Queen closed her eyes and turned away. Hawkmoth was right; this would definitely guarantee his victory. Indeed, this might be the most effective way to get the Miraculouses out of Ladybug and Chat Noir’s hands. As much as she wanted to get her friend out of here and get him medical help, she knew she would have to allow Hawkmoth to proceed with his plan. And she knew she would have to help him.

“Style Queen, dear,” the villain called out to her suddenly. “I am sending a message to Ladybug. I expect you to meet with her and lead her here. And make sure she is fully... cooperative.”

Trying to hide the disgust that touched her to her core, Style Queen nodded and did as she was told. She was barely crossing the threshold of the building, however, when a streak of orange tackled her to the alley floor. Retaliating immediately, the yellow-clad villainess lashed out with her staff, reaching out for negativity.

Her weapon connected with flesh, but her magic fell flat, finding only emptiness. In the next instant, her attacker had dissolved away into nothingness. An illusion.

Désolé, Chloe,” Nathaniel called from above. He stood on the next roof over, brush held aloft. Painting a strong gust of wind, he used it to ride down into the cobbled alleyway beside her. There was a hardness in his face that hadn’t been there before. “You and Hawkmoth have gone too far,” he said bravely, though his voice shook.

Indeed, though he made quite the impression in his fox-like suit—it seemed fit for him in an endearing sort of way—he was visibly trembling. Standing before her and preparing to fight, it seemed, was taking all of the bravery he had.

Style Queen relaxed her position, reluctant to fight someone who was so frightened. “What do you mean?” she asked.

Nathaniel narrowed his eyes. “You know what I mean. I saw that akuma take Chat Noir. I followed them here. And I—I’m going to get him back from you.”

The villainess sighed. “By all means, do. But you’ll have to face Hawkmoth, not me. And I really don’t advise that.”

The boy relaxed his stance slightly. “You’re not going to stop me?”

She frowned. “I’m still thinking about it.” And then, narrowing her eyes: “What do they call you?”

Nathaniel started at the sudden question and blushed, redder than his clothes. “Uhh... B-brush Kit.” He held up his illusion paintbrush, as if to demonstrate.

Style Queen deadpanned. “That’s not even funny.”

Brush Kit squirmed.

“But it’s cute,” she concluded. “It suits you.”

Kit stared back at her, shock and hope overcoming his features. And then, he remembered why he was here: “D-Don’t try to distract me. I’m here for Chat.”

He made for the door, but Style Queen lashed out suddenly, barring his way with her staff.

“I’ve decided to stop you,” she explained. “Hawkmoth is not in his right mind. If you try to fight him, he won’t value your life.” She leaned closer, hoping he would catch the urgency in her tone. “What I’m saying is, you’ll die.”

Funny thing about courage, it’s like a fire. Sometimes, trying to put it out only makes it grow more intense. Style Queen could see it in the way her opponent’s eyes lit up at her words. Brush Kit was not backing down, even in the face of imminent death.

“Fine,” he bit out. “I’m not leaving without my friend.”

It was only a brief second—not long enough to lose her focus—but Style Queen was swept away in those determined turquoise eyes. And then she got ahold of herself, steeled herself. She knew what she had to do.

“Your funeral,” she muttered, and launched into battle.

 

Marinette/Ladybug

 

“I’ve got a message out to all of the Ladybloggers,” Alya reported, tapping her phone screen rapidly. “Two people have already responded—one saw a giant wolf with something in its mouth by the bank of the Seine. But that was around one AM, before you found them, Mari. Shh, shh. It’s okay. Listen to this next one: I saw a big, black shadow running down Champs Elysees around four this morning. That’s a lead, right? I mean, the Champs....”

“Is like the center of Paris. It could have gone anywhere from there,” Nino groaned, rubbing his face over with both hands. He had been on edge since arriving in the Dupain-Chengs’ bakery, eager to find his friend and bring him home, safe.

“But look at this,” Alya countered. She pointed to a familiar map of Paris on the wall. “Mari, you said you found them in the fourteenth arrondissement? So, if the akuma victim came from there, and passed through the eighth arrondissement, that means he either is still there, or he’s somewhere in the seventeenth. Narrows it down, right?”

Marinette clutched Chat’s bell gently to her chest, trying to hide her trembling fingers, and nodded. Tears kept threatening, pressing against her forehead. She was Ladybug, she told herself. She had to hold it together, be strong for her partner. If she could only stay calm and level-headed, she’d be able to at least think of something, and get him back faster.

“So, we’re going to search every building in the eighth and fourteenth arrondissiments?” Nino asked dubiously, breaking through Mari’s compounding anxiety.

Alya shrugged. “It doesn’t seem like we have another choice. Unless Ladybug has some sort of tracking device on him?”

“No,” Mari sighed. “He dropped his baton back—back there.... I couldn’t find it. That’s what my yo-yo tracks.” She squeezed her eyes shut immediately, trying to block out the images of Chat in the akuma victim’s mouth. Tikki hovered beside her and put a comforting paw on her shoulder.

“I tried to connect with Plagg, but he couldn’t hold on long enough to share information. I think he’s putting all of his energy in to repairing his Chosen,” the tiny Kwami revealed, downcast.

“Repairing...?” Nino breathed, paling.

“You guys can do that? That’s so cool! I mean, I thought that’s what Miraculous Cleanse was for. What’s the difference?” Alya burst out, her interest making her tactless.

Tikki sighed. “It’s only meant for extreme cases, such as life-threatening injuries. It takes a lot out of us. Plagg... despite appearances, he’s a big softie. He uses it a lot.”

“He’s a big softie, or Chat is just too reckless,” Nino muttered, dabbing at reddened eyes with his sleeve. “We’ve got to get them back,” he concluded in a broken voice.

There was silence for a moment, broken only by the muffled voices of Brigitte and Marinette’s parents in the next room. Felix’s fiance had arrived just shortly after Nino and Alya, clearly shaken by the news after her conversation with Sabine. She’d burst into tears as soon as she saw everyone, clutching desperately at the white kitten in her arms. Currently, the Dupain-Chengs were in the kitchen with her, trying everything they could to console her.

Alya’s phone lit up with a notification. “It’s the Ladyblog!” She shuffled around on the screen. “Someone posted a video.... Oh. Oh—guys, you should see this. Here, Mari. Sit down first.”

“I’ll pull it up on the laptop,” she offered.

Minutes later, Mari’s parents and Brigitte had emerged from the kitchen, and they had all congregated around the laptop screen. They faced a video which had been posted by “Je_Suis_Papillon”, titled “A Message for Ladybug”. No one had the courage to play it, except Alya, who lunged forward and got it started.

Immediately, the heartbreaking image rolled into view. Sabine gasped and Mari let out a low sob. Before their eyes, a limp Chat was being held up by the scruff by the violet shadow behind him. With his head tipped forward, they could not see the hero’s face, but they could see the blood that blossomed in patches on his scalp and tracked a steady trail down the tips of his hair.

Piercing blue eyes lit up in the background, accompanied by a satisfied smirk. Hawkmoth was gloating, as if he could see the horrified reactions he was producing in the viewers.

“Ladybug,” he hummed. “It’s come to this. I have your little kitten, and you have the Ladybug Miraculous. Shall I propose a trade? Come to the Rue de Fictional in the fourteenth arrondissement. My associate will show you the way from there. I suggest you hurry.”

The villain cupped Chat’s face in one hand, lifting it up so that they could see his pinched, pale features, and the way he gasped painfully with every breath. “As you can see, your kitten is still breathing.... For now.”

The video ended.

Silence reigned over the Dupain-Cheng household, broken only by Nino’s quiet crying.

Suddenly, Mari stood, stomping furiously. “I’m the only one who calls him ‘kitten’!” she barked. Tears were streaming steadily over her cheeks, but she had set her jaw and steeled her eyes. “Tikki, spots on!”

Once she was transformed, Ladybug removed the ribbons from her hair, letting it fall loose. She looped one of the ribbons through Chat’s bell and tied it around her neck, so that the golden trinket nestled safely by her heart. “I’m going,” she told everyone.

Alya held her back. “Hang on. We’re coming with you.”

“Alya, it’s not safe,” Ladybug protested, shrugging her off.

“So, what, then? You’re just going to go there and hand over your Miraculous?”

“No, I’m going to fight!”

“Did you hear what Hawkmoth said? He said his associate would show you the way. And then he’s got an akuma victim on top of that. You’re going to need some reinforcements, girl.” Alya crossed her arms and crooked her eyebrow, her signature you-know-I’m-right stance.

Ladybug gave in. “Alright. Just.... We’re going to need a plan. Brigitte, you said that you think that Felix has been akumatized, right?”

Brigitte paled but kept her composure, lips tightening as she nodded.

Ladybug’s mind raced, thinking back to the giant wolf that had abducted Chat. Its gray eyes and strange hesitance... the way Chat was so desperate to help it.... Her knees went weak again as the truth crashed down. Some part of her still hoped that it wasn’t Felix—that Felix hadn’t been forced to hurt his brother, whom he cared for so dearly. But the evidence was unmistakeable.

Shoving away renewed tears, Ladybug nodded. “We’ll get him back too.”

Nino, who had been silent for a while, finally spoke up. “Uh, I think we have an even bigger problem.”

All eyes turned on him.

“You know Hawkmoth’s voice? It sounds really familiar. Like, when you’re producing music, you have to pay attention to inflections and frequencies, so I guess I noticed it even though maybe it’s not that obvious—and, you know, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong, I’m mean, this is just messed up—”

“Nino, just say it.”

The boy took a deep breath, removed his hat, smoothed back his hair, and replaced the hat with a sigh. “Hawkmoth sounds like that stuck-up jerk, Gabriel Agreste. I mean, he sounds like Adrien’s dad.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chat Noir

 

Chat could feel Plagg struggling at the back of his consciousness.

I can’t keep this up much longer, kid, the cat-god moaned. I’m sorry.

Chat winced. Plagg never said he was sorry. “It’s alright, Plagg,” the hero rasped. “I know it’s really bad this time. I don’t expect you to... fix it.”

Chat knew he should probably be more worried. There was a wet, clogged feeling in his lungs if he tried to breathe too deeply, and his arms and legs were numb. He kept fading in and out of awareness, but this last time, he had managed to stay awake for several minutes.

“Looks like this cat is on his last claw,” he murmured wryly.

Ladybug is coming, Plagg told him. Hawkmoth called her over while you were unconscious.

Chat’s ears flickered at this news, and he tried to push himself up, but his limbs would not respond. “No, no, no. He can’t.... He’s going to threaten her. No. She’s going to be... in danger... ah!” The struggle to move quickly exhausted him, and Chat pressed his face to the dusty wooden floor, panting.

Hey, hey, calm down. I wouldn’t try to do anything right now if I were you, Plagg advised. Ladybug can handle this.

Chat felt himself drifting again. “Where’s... Fe?”

He didn’t hear Plagg’s answer as the darkness stole him away.

 

Felix

 

Felix paced in his confinement, restless and worried. He could see in the dark, but it wasn’t helping him much. He was locked in a square, compact room with no windows... no weak points in the walls either; he had tried that.

He could still taste blood in his mouth... he was unsure if that taste would ever go away.

He had to find Adrien.

Knowing full well that it was futile, the akumatized detective threw himself repeatedly against the padlocked door. Currently, Hawkmoth’s hold on his consciousness had retreated. It puzzled him. Normally, Hawkmoth’s victims remained conscious throughout the ordeal, with their actions heavily influenced by the villain. During their entire transformation, the victims would remain in that same, powerful spell. However, when Hawkmoth took over Felix, he took his mind completely. Hawkmoth would act through him, and Felix would be mostly blacked out through the duration. Perhaps these moments of reprieve—these times when the villain would retreat from Felix’s mind—were times that Hawkmoth needed a break. After all, maintaining two consciousnesses had to be a strain.

After countless failed attempts at breaking the door, Felix slumped to the ground. He let his head fall onto his forepaws in defeat.

Adrien was out there somewhere—possibly in this very same building—injured, alone, at the mercy of Hawkmoth. Felix had to get to him, had to help him. But, as he was, he was powerless.

A stirring rose up in the back of his mind, different from the stirring he had felt when Hawkmoth was taking over. It was as if something was growing there, sprouting limbs and pushing up through the soil.

Hope?

No. Not possible in this situation.

But that growing, stirring, fledgling thing was something that gave Felix hope, although he couldn’t fathom why.

He stood again, digging his powerful claws into the floorboards in determination.

I’m coming, Adrien, he thought, and then threw himself against the door.

 

Ladybug

 

Ladybug made her way down the Rue de Fictional with an air of caution. The street was strangely empty, void of traffic. It had somehow slipped the radar of the Parisian officials, and had been allowed to fall into disrepair. Crumbling sidewalks and potted streets cut a foreboding scene, keeping pedestrians and drivers at bay. Many of the shops and houses along the streetfront had been abandoned, and even the slight breeze could be heard whistling through a cracked window of one of the darkened third-floor apartments.

Ladybug reached the midway-point of the street, yo-yo at the ready. She angled her head towards the building to her right: a hollowed-out theater, resplendent with a butterfly window. The design rivaled the Notre Dame, sparkling a thousand shades of purple in the sunlight. It drew her in, flooding her senses with the sound of fluttering wings.

And then her world exploded in golden light. After a confusing, spinning swirl of sensations, Ladybug found herself in her parents’ bakery. The warm smell of baking bread spiraled around her. And then she heard the sobs... her mother was crying.

Tom looked over at his daughter from the corner where he held her grieving mother. “How could you, Marinette?” he admonished. “We thought we could count on you.”

“Wh-what?” she stuttered.

The freshly baked bread soon turned sour, burning and filling the house with smoke.

“How could you?” her parents asked again, voices distorting and fading away.

Ladybug fell back into the void, curling in on herself. What was happening? She had been outside of Hawkmoth’s lair... some spell had hit her. She almost had the answer, but she was too dazed to put the pieces together. All she knew was that a new image was solidifying before her, a vision—or a nightmare.

Chat Noir was lying on the ground, clutching his chest and coughing up blood.

“My Lady,” he gasped. “Why didn’t you come...? Why couldn’t you save me?”

Ladybug backed away, pressing her palms to her ears and shaking her head. “No, no. I came to save you. You’re going to make it. This isn’t real!” she shouted, voice rising in a crescendo.

And reality returned.

Ladybug waited for the world to stop spinning around her and then pushed herself up. She was lying on an uncomfortable bed of coated wires... a dog cage?!

Gathering her senses in alarm, Ladybug scrambled around, feeling her confines. It was indeed a large cage meant for a dog. The opening was padlocked shut, and the joints were reinforced... it was not something she could undo from the inside.

Her yo-yo was gone.

Trying to calm her breathing, the red-clad girl took in the room around her and her cage. It was a large atrium of crumbling, dusty wood; rafters threatened to splinter and crash through the floor. And there, across the room, was that butterfly window. It was surreal to be seeing it now from the inside.

How had she gotten here? She remembered the golden light, the sudden flood of negative emotions—she had failed her family, she had failed Chat—and then, suddenly, she was here. She must have blacked out. And she suspected that it was Queen Bee’s doing.

Something caught her eye in the light of the large window: a dark, huddled shape, quiet and unmoving.

Chat.

“No, no, no, no,” Ladybug stuttered as she scrambled against the bars of the cage, trying to get as close as she could to her partner. “Kitty, I’m here. Come on, get up. I’m here to get you. You’re going to be okay.”

The cat-like hero didn’t so much as twitch.

Voice raised with panic, Ladybug spoke again: “Chat! Get up, now! Okay? At least say something. Let me know... I need to know that you’re....” She couldn’t finish her sentence as a sob escaped her lips. “Please....”

He wouldn’t answer her.

She spent the next several minutes staring unblinkingly at the motionless form, trying to catch on to some sign that he was breathing. But her tears soon shook her vision, and she learned nothing at all. Defeated, the heroine slumped down in her cage. Tikki soothed her from the back of her mind.

Plagg is still with him. Look, you still have his bell, the kwami reminded her. That means he’s alive.

Ladybug nodded, but her heart was still breaking. Every minute that ticked by was another that Chat was injured and in pain. She just wanted to take him away from here and make him all better.

Papa, please come fast, she pleaded.

 

Brigitte

 

Brigitte followed Tom Dupain out of the car, hopping carefully over cracked sidewalk as he lumbered ahead. She was trying not to let anxiety overcome her. The plan was simple, she reminded herself: find Felix, slap some sense into him, get Adrien out of here, and hopefully kick Hawkmoth’s butt in the process.

They had tracked Ladybug here via her cell phone, waiting around the corner from the Rue de Fictional in case the heroine needed backup. The girl had entered a building midway down the street, but, soon after, had stopped moving somewhere inside. Either she had dropped her cell phone—or something had happened to her.

Brigitte braced herself as they turned down the alleyway, hoping to enter by a side door; the front door was, after all, blocked by debris and fallen beams. The mess of crates and rubbish seemed vacant at first, and Tom ducked his head through the narrow doorway on the left.

Just as they were about to enter, a spot of orange fur caught Brigitte’s eye, and she heard a whimper like that of a kitten. Never one to leave a suffering animal alone, the veterinarian motioned for Tom to go ahead.

Creeping towards the source of the noise, Brigitte crouched down by a pile of crates that seemed recently dislodged. She now saw that the orange fur was indeed a large, fluffy tail—but, beside the tail were... two human legs.

Trying not to panic, Brigitte pulled away the wood and trash that covered the rest of the body.

It was the new superhero.... What were they calling him...? Bunny Boo?

Whatever he was called, he was out cold, bruised and ruffled, but didn’t seem too severely injured.

“Hey, Bunny Boy,” Brigitte called, tapping his cheeks. “Wakey wakey. I think we kind of need you.”

The red-head turned his face away, features scrunched up. “Chloe,” he breathed.

“What? Nah—no. Brigitte here. Anyways, come on, kid, you’ve got to get up.”

Turquoise eyes cracked open, and Brigitte sighed in relief. She waved a hand to make sure he was really seeing her.

“Where does it hurt?”

“Everywhere,” the boy whined, struggling to sit up, with Brigitte’s help.

She watched him move, keeping an eye out for any impairment that could signify serious damage. “Alright,” she soothed. “It’ll be okay. You don’t have to get up. But can you tell me if you saw Ladybug?”

Suddenly, the hero’s eyes opened wide, and he grabbed at Brigitte’s forearm with a sense of urgency. “Ladybug!” he gasped.

“Yes, Ladybug. What about Ladybug?”

His eyes darted around, and finding his oversized paintbrush, he wedged himself to his feet. “Ladybug... she’s in danger!”

When the superhero staggered after just a couple steps, Brigitte grabbed him by his thin shoulders. “Whoa, whoa, kid. Don’t push yourself.”

He shook his head. “I’m fine,” he assured her. “It’s just my leg.”

Looking down, the veterinarian saw the source of the boy’s unsteadiness. She gasped and helped him sit. His lower leg was skinned from knee to ankle, bleeding freely in some areas, and blossoming in dark purple bruises on the outer rims of the wound. It seemed that his boot had been shredded around the area, which must have taken a great deal of force. Perhaps one of the crates had fallen on him...?

“It’s not broken, from what I can tell,” Brigitte surmised. “But it could use an x-ray to be on the safe side.”

The red-head bit his lip, holding back tears. He was trying to stand again. “I have to help Chat Noir and Ladybug. I can’t just sit here...!”

The older girl grasped his shoulders again, this time trying to calm him. “Shh, look. You’ve got to take care of yourself too, alright?”

He nodded obediently, taking a deep breath.

Brigitte was hardly calm herself. Behind her facade of level-headed reason, her brain was screaming at her to find Felix—help Adrien—get those boys back, safe. But, looking at this poor bunny-hero, she couldn’t dismiss her maternal instinct. Anyways, he was on their side, and they needed all the help they could get.

“You said Ladybug is in danger, right?”

He nodded. “Queen Bee attacked her and dragged her inside.”

Brigitte winced at the word “dragged”, her heart twisting at the idea of sweet, sweet Marinette being manhandled. “Do you know where she is now?”

The hero shook his head, flushing with shame. “Queen Bee threw me into those crates, and it’s all fuzzy after that.”

The veterinarian eyed her companion with pity, sighing inwardly. Back to square one. “What do they call you?” she questioned the hero.

Already seeming more focused, the boy responded: “Brush Kit.”

In any other circumstances, Brigitte would have thrown her head back and laughed until her sides were splitting. But, thankfully, she managed to mask her amusement for admiration. “Brush Kit, huh? So, what do you do?” An idea was slowly building in her mind.

He gripped his oversized brush, eyes lighting up as his own mind worked. “I make illusions.”

Brigitte snapped her fingers. “That’s it! You stay right here—well, I mean, you can get more comfortable—and just draw an illusion that will lead me to our friends, alright? Can you do that?”

He nodded and got to work, filled with renewed purpose.

Brigitte steeled herself to enter the building.

 

Ladybug

 

“So, the show begins,” a deep, jeering voice echoed around the antechamber.

Ladybug flinched and looked around desperately, finally peeling her eyes away from her unconscious partner.

Hawkmoth stepped into the light.

The red-clad heroine had considered Nino’s words about Hawkmoth and Gabriel Agreste having the same voice. She had considered them.... but no part of her wanted to believe it. However, seeing him now, up close, there was no mistaking it. He stood before her, her fashion role-model, Adrien’s father—Chat Noir’s father—one of the most respected men in Paris.

This had to be some kind of sick nightmare.

Did he know that the crumpled body at his feet was his son? And did he realize, as he pulled Chat up by the collar—

“DON’T TOUCH HIM!”

The words were out of Ladybug’s mouth before she knew it; a desperate screech that left her throat raw.

Of course, Hawkmoth didn’t listen. He chuckled a humorless chuckle. “My, my,” he purred. “Are we attached. Now, I can’t imagine you’d choose your Miraculous over him, Ladybug.”

Tears sprung into the heroine’s eyes as Hawkmoth produced a blade from his cane, pressing the sharp edge to Chat’s exposed throat.

“Hand it over, or the cat dies.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Brigitte

 

Brigitte followed Brush Kit’s illusion-fox through the halls of the crumbling building. By the many twists and turns they’d already taken, she was beginning to think that the illusion was confused. Brush Kit had said something about tracking Queen Bee’s scent... apparently, Queen Bee had been walking in circles.

When they reached what Brigitte assumed must have been the back of the building, a terrible scream echoed through the halls, stopping her in her tracks.

DON’T TOUCH HIM!” The voice was unmistakably Ladybug’s.

Adrien.

Brigitte turned on her heel, heading for the stairs—and the source of the scream—when something else caught her attention: panting, rattling, banging... the sounds of a struggling animal.

She gulped.

“Felix...?” she called out uncertainly. There was a door at the end of the hallway that was secured with a padlock. Every few seconds, the door shook on its hinges, and dust cascaded in its wake. A creature growled beyond.

The veterinarian crept closer.

When it had been deduced that Felix had been akumatized into a giant wolf-monster, Brigitte hadn’t been afraid. She had been concerned for her fiance, but, in the end, this was Felix. He may talk big and wear a scowl, but he would never hurt a fly. She trusted him, and she’d gone into this confident that she could get through to him and they’d overcome whatever magic Hawkmoth had cast.

Now, though, faced with that quaking door and the feral noises beyond, Brigitte’s heart shook. Felix wasn’t himself right now... and Felix was frightening. With wide eyes and trembling knees, his fiance barely managed to push herself forward.

She might have turned heel and ran, but to Brigitte Fernandes, that was not an option. She held steady, a singular motivation grounding her: Felix was in pain, and she needed to comfort him. It was simply the core of her personality, her modus operandi. It was why she became a veterinarian. It was why she was here.

Realizing all at once that the seconds were ticking by, Brigitte snapped into action. There was a wooden beam propped conveniently by the door, and she used it to bash the padlock. It shouldn’t have worked, but Lone Wolf’s efforts had already worn the lock down quite a bit.

The great beast came tumbling out. Like a dog getting out of a bath, he shook, dislodging splinters and dust. Then, he turned and met Brigitte with clear, silver eyes.

“Adrien,” she barely heard him say in his human voice.

That was all the confirmation she needed: Felix was somehow in control right now. She flung her arms around his bristling neck. Tears were already flowing over her cheeks before she noticed them.

“Yes, Felix. We have to get Adrien back.”

He growled low in his throat, acknowledging her words.

She drew back, threading her fingers in the long fur just below his ears. “It’s you right now, isn’t it?” she gasped in wonder.

Lone Wolf blinked.

 

Lone Wolf

 

Felix was just as confused as Brigitte about his mental freedom, but it was the least of his concerns. Right now, he had to get to Adrien. Forming words was a challenge as Lone Wolf, though, so he only managed to gasp Adrien’s name once again.

“Yes, yes. We should go. We need to find him,” Brigitte said through tears, stroking Felix’s mane soothingly. Seeing the questioning twitch of the wolf’s eyebrows, she went on: “I don’t know where he is, but he and Ladybug are somewhere in this building. This fox here....”

The brunette trailed off. The illusion-fox was gone.

Although Felix was curious about what Brigitte was looking for, and how she planned to find his brother, he was even more anxious to get moving. On his four, powerful legs, scouring the entire building would be a piece of cake—and, besides, he had some idea of where he needed to look.

Brigitte must have seen him shuffling restlessly. She embraced him once more. “Go, Felix,” she whispered. “Get him.”

For a brief moment, Lone Wolf met his fiance’s eyes: those sincere mocha pools. She gave him the strength he needed.

Felix took off.

 

Ladybug

 

Ladybug was sobbing freely now, and her chest ached as if it had been pierced through. Her right hand was poised to remove her earring, but she was frozen in place.

Her mind flashed back to three years ago, when Volpina had held Adrien out over Paris, dangling from the Eiffel Tower. Ladybug had been ready, then, to throw away her Miraculous for his sake. How much more now, after all they had been through together, should she be willing to give up everything for him? This was her Kitten, her best friend... the boy she loved.

And yet, she couldn’t move.

The sharpened tip of Hawkmoth’s cane pressed harder into Chat’s throat, and a bead of blood escaped.

“No,” Ladybug gasped.

Tikki spoke up in the back of her mind. You have to think this through, Marinette! If he gets ahold of the Miraculouses, the world will be doomed!

The red-clad heroine moaned, physically hurting now as she watched her partner suffer. “Tikki, I have to! Chat—I can’t let him—”

I know you care about him, Marinette, Tikki replied. But if Hawkmoth gets your Miraculous, you won’t be able to save anyone.

Like a flipped switch, Ladybug regained control of her fingers. Her face tightened in determination. “I hear you, Tikki,” she whispered. “But if I can’t save him, I’m just as screwed.”

And then, unclasping her right earring, Ladybug called out: “Alright, Hawkmoth! Let Chat go and I’ll give you my Miraculous!”

Hawkmoth sneered. “Oh-hoh, Ladybug. Always in control of everything... alright, we’ll do this on your terms.”

The villain released Chat and shoved him forward unceremoniously. Ladybug cried out, knowing that her partner would hit the ground hard, and she couldn’t catch him.

Just before the cat-like hero’s head could crack against the ground, a bulky shadow appeared out of nowhere, gently cradling the boy and settling him harmlessly on the floor. Tom Dupain straightened protectively over Chat’s body, and faced Hawkmoth.

Ladybug had to clamp both hands over her mouth to keep from shouting: “Papa!” Instead, a muffled squeal cut through the air.

The purple-clad villain was completely caught off guard. Before he could even question why the local baker was standing in his lair, Tom had taken three steps forward, wound up like a batter striking a home-run, and punched Hawkmoth square in the jaw.

The impact rang through the hollow chamber, and the villain went down like a stack of bricks.

Tom stepped back, panting, shoulders shaking. Ladybug had never seen her father so angry.

After taking a few moments to collect himself, he turned to his daughter. “Sweetheart,” he gasped, voice full of relief. He moved towards her cage.

She glanced at Hawkmoth. He hadn’t moved from where he fell. “Papa,” she answered, voice thick with tears. She shook her head. “Help Chat first.”

Tom nodded grimly and stooped to examine the boy at his feet. After coming to some silent conclusion, he gathered the hero in his arms and brought him to Ladybug’s side.

“How is he?” she asked anxiously.

Her father leaned her partner against the dog cage and got to work on the lock, his face somber. “He’s going to be alright, ma petite,” he told her in a choked voice. “We’ll get him out of here. Now, are you hurt? Did they do anything to you?”

Tears continued to flood over the heroine’s cheeks as she tried and failed to reach her partner through the bars. “I’m fine, Papa. I just need Chat to be okay.” She wiped at her eyes, trying to stay strong.

Tom glanced back at the supervillain as he managed to wrest the cage door open. Hawkmoth was still sprawled like a struck-down bird-of-prey.

Later, Ladybug would look back and think of the moment that her father knocked out Paris’s enemy, and glow with admiration. She would replay the scene in her head, and think, That’s my Papa.

But right now, she only had eyes for Chat Noir. She scrambled out of her tiny prison and to his side. As she eased her partner into her arms, she felt another painful stab through her heart. He was hurt pretty badly, she’d known that. But seeing him up close was another story.

As tenderly as she could, Ladybug brushed blood from Chat’s ashen cheek, thankful just to see him breathing.

“I’m sorry... I’m so, so sorry,” she mumbled over and over. “I should have realized it was you.... I should have taken care of you. I shouldn’t have let this happen. Y-you don’t deserve this. Oh, Chat—”

Neon green eyes fluttered open. “Hey, Bugaboo,” he rasped.

“Hey,” she answered, voice barely more than a sob. She tightened her grip on him, as if trying to will his body into movement. “We’re here now. We’ve got you. You’re going to be all right.”

He strained to move his head in what Ladybug assumed was meant to be a nod. “You’re here,” he whispered, smiling. He coughed a dry cough that seemed to hurt his whole body. And then, drowsily, he said: “Ladybug, do you think cats get to go to heaven?”

His partner tried to hide the panic that pierced through to her core. “Yes,” she answered. “Yes, they do. But you’re not going anywhere any time soon, got it?”

Chat’s eyes slid closed. “Got it. I was just... curious.”

No, no, no. She didn’t like that look he’d had in his eyes, as if he were already resigned to his fate. This wasn’t okay. Fat tears were dropping generously from Ladybug’s eyes onto Chat’s face, but he didn’t seem to notice. They had to get him out of here.

She turned to her father. “Papa—” she began—just in time to see him flung across the room and lost in a cloud of white butterflies.

 

Nino

 

“Uh, maybe this isn’t the most appropriate time to ask this...” Nino trailed off, watching Alya’s progress over her shoulder. The blogger had linked up to a live video feed from Tom Dupain’s phone, and was trying to decipher the jolted images coming through from his breast pocket. There were a bunch of blurs, scuffs, and muffled voices. He seemed to have located his daughter, and she sounded distressed, but unharmed. Then something black pressed up against the phone screen, and the image dipped into confusing rushes, the sound filling with static. Alya turned up the volume and leaned in closer, waiting for the signal.

As soon as Tom indicated that they were ready, Nino and Alya would call the paramedics, and whatever other emergency services necessary to clean this mess up. They just had to be sure that Ladybug and Chat Noir were de-transformed by then.

“Ask away, Nino. I’m not picking anything up anyways. Ugh... maybe that front-pocket cell phone video idea was actually a really bad choice.”

Nino grimaced and held Petite Macaron closer, stroking behind her ears. “That was my idea....”

Halted by his remorseful tones, Alya turned to face her boyfriend. She placed a steadying hand on his shoulder, and he met her eyes. “We’ll get him back,” she assured him.

Nino nodded, on the verge of tears.

“Now,” Alya continued, “What were you going to ask me?”

“Right. I was wondering... why doesn’t Hawkmoth just take the Miraculouses? He’s had plenty of time to take Chat’s ring right off his finger....” Nino had to stop to gulp. “And, from what we can tell from the tracker and the video feed, he captured Ladybug as well. I mean, can’t he just take them if he wants them so badly?”

Alya frowned. “I guess he could. But, it doesn’t work like that. Marinette and Adrien would still have a bond with their Miraculouses, so no one else could use them. They have to give them up voluntarily for the bond to be broken. That’s why our favorite one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater—”

“Gabriel Agreste,” Nino interjected.

“Right. That’s why he’s trying so hard and playing the blackmail game.”

She and Nino were silent for a moment, only the static from Tom Dupain’s phone filling the room.

Finally, Nino spoke up: “Let’s pray for Adrien’s sake that it’s not him. Like, maybe it’s Gabe’s evil twin bro, just... just as long as it’s not Adrien’s pops. He doesn’t deserve that.”

Alya scowled in determination. “He doesn’t deserve any of this.”

The feeling was mutual: they couldn’t wait to get Adrien back, to tell him how wrong this all had been, convince him that he was loved and that no one would ever, ever hurt him like that again.

The video feed screeched abruptly, pulling them back to the present. There was a sudden flurry of white wings, a dull thud, and then nothing.

The feed cut out, and they were left, literally, in the dark.

 

Brigitte

 

Felix was long gone down the dark halls when Brigitte nearly collided with a staff leveled at her throat. There was a girl at the other end—Style Queen, if she remembered correctly—scowling as if she had just eaten a lemon. Brigitte slowly raised her hands in surrender.

“You will tell me why you are here, why you released Lone Wolf, and which direction he went,” the yellow clad girl demanded. “I will let you go if you cooperate, otherwise—”

Brigitte had had enough already. Fast as a whip, she shifted her stance, swept in close, and executed a Judo flip, pulling Style Queen over her head in a graceful ark. She made sure the girl hit the ground hard enough to stop her, but on safe landing points so as to avoid serious injury.

Too stunned to even comprehend what had just happened, the blonde girl could only curl in on herself, groaning.

Brigitte dug in her purse and withdrew a sleeve of pills. “Here! Advil! You’re going to want it for the bruises. Be sure not to take more than two every six hours!”

As an after thought, she snatched up Style Queen’s staff. “Sorry! I’m taking this.”

And she ran off in the direction Felix had gone.

 

Lone Wolf

 

Felix could feel it again—that stirring. It was like something was growing, ready to burst forth. It was uncertain and terrifying, but it was good.

That couldn’t be right. Nothing had been good since he’d been turned into this awful monster and forced to attack his own brother.

Hawkmoth would pay.

The fledgling goodness inside Felix burst forth, took root. Even as his large paws pounded over the decrepit floor, even as he wrested his way up narrow staircases, he could feel it. It was strength, clarity, hope. And it was altogether out of his grasp. It was something he couldn’t describe even if he tried.

It was trying to get out of him.

And he felt the urge to speak to it. Whatever you are, he told the thing, you’re going to help me. We’re going to get Adrien out of here.

There was a little sensation of consent, and Felix had to pause for a moment, because that was the first time the stirring had become a presence.

What on earth was happening?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ladybug

 

Once again, Ladybug found herself frozen, caught between cradling her partner and rushing to her father’s aid. Tom Dupain had disappeared behind the cloud of butterflies, and Hawkmoth stood, one hand raised to effortlessly sustain his fluttering minions. Ladybug didn’t know if her father could survive like that for long.

Mind made up, the red-clad heroine laid her partner gently on the floor, apologizing as he curled up and shivered. In a moment, she was between Hawkmoth and Tom, swinging her yo-yo around to catch on the villain’s staff. She reeled it in, satisfied when this distracted her opponent long enough to loosen his grip on the baker. At least she could hear her father breathing now, shouting out reassurances to his daughter.

She wasn’t expecting Hawkmoth to give in to her pull, coming up directly in front of her and slashing downwards with his cane. She was barely fast enough to bring an arm up to block the blow aimed at her chest.

Ladybug’s vision burst into whiteness as the blade sliced through her forearm, trailing deep and clean from wrist to elbow. She gasped, and then she was on her knees, blinking dumbly at the blood that was... was everywhere.

It hurt. It hurt so much worse than her sewing needles pricking her fingertips. It hurt more than the kitchen knives which she was so clumsy with. It even hurt more than Centipede-Man’s bite.

She was dizzy and nauseous all at once, staring at her torn flesh.

“P-papa,” she mumbled hazily as tears began to flow. It was all she could do.

Then she heard her father crying out in pain: Hawkmoth had struck again, tossing the baker across the room in a butterfly cloud. Tom landed with a thud near Chat and struggled to get up.

Snapped back to reality, Ladybug stumbled over to her father.

“It’s alright, mon cheri, it’s just my back,” Tom explained, barely able to sit before he trembled and collapsed again. “Take Chat Noir and get out of here, alright? I’ll be fine.”

“No, no, I won’t leave you, Papa,” Ladybug sobbed. But even as she spoke and clutched at her gushing arm, she knew this was getting out of hand. If she couldn’t defeat Hawkmoth soon, she would have to flee with Chat. There was only a matter of time before she passed out from blood loss.

She called Lucky Charm.

A red polka-dotted contraption fell into her arms: a... leg brace?

But, glancing at Chat, Ladybug knew right away what the Lucky Charm was for. Of course; his mangled ankle needed to be set immediately, or else he might have permanent damage. It wasn’t much help for getting them out of here, even less for defeating Hawkmoth, but it was something desperately needed.

“Papa,” she gasped, “Can you help me with this?”

Tom Dupain nodded grimly and shuffled over as best he could with his injured back. Before he did anything else, he wrestled out of his shirt and bound it tightly around his daughter’s bleeding arm. She gave him a wan smile of gratitude before turning back to her partner.

Now that she got a close look at Chat’s leg, Ladybug was overcome with the urge to vomit. Seeming to notice, her father put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“I’m going to set the bone,” he told her. “You might not want to watch. Just... hold him steady.”

She nodded grimly.

Hawkmoth cleared his throat, stepping right up behind the red-clad heroine. “It’s a touching scene, it really is. But I believe we have some unfinished business.”

Ladybug lunged to her feet, ignoring the rush of blackness that momentarily took over her vision. Already, her father’s makeshift bandage on her arm was starting to leak through, and her earrings had released their first shrill beep. But now was not the time to back down. She stood defensively between Hawkmoth and Chat.

Hawkmoth shook his head, tapping his cane into his palm impatiently. “Perhaps if you were a little more intelligent, you may have realized when it was time to surrender. Now—”

The villain cut himself off, eyes catching on something just above Ladybug’s shoulder.

“Who let you out?” he muttered, and the hairs on Ladybug’s neck stood on end.

She turned to see the hulking wolf akuma standing at the entrance of the atrium. The creature looked much like the last time she’d seen it, at least, before it went berserk. It was panting with exertion, but its eyes were bright and determined. It was almost as if Felix was in there, fighting.

Hawkmoth clenched his fist. “This time, you will obey,” he growled.

Lone Wolf’s howl echoed around the vaulted walls.

 

Lone Wolf/Felix

 

By the time Felix reached the atrium, chaos had broken loose. Ladybug was huddled to one side with a large, middle-aged man, and both appeared to be injured. Chat Noir was sprawled just behind them. And Hawkmoth—Hawkmoth had spotted his champion. Locking in on his target triumphantly, he tore away Felix’s will.

This time, the akumatized detective retained some level of consciousness.

No! he thought urgently. This can’t happen again... not with Adrien so close by.

But he could see his powerful paws plodding over the dusted floor. Lone Wolf was headed for Hawkmoth’s victims, hackles raised and ready to do more damage at his master’s command.

Felix would rather die than taste Adrien’s blood again.... He’d rather die than feel bone crunching and shattering in his jaws.

He fought.

Just like minutes ago, when he had been trapped in that padlocked room, Felix threw himself into the hold Hawkmoth had on Lone Wolf. It was sturdy, impenetrable. Just like that sealed door. It felt as futile as trying to lift up a rug while simultaneously being seated on it.

You hold yourself here, a Voice broke through, startling Felix’s subconscious. It seemed to come from the same place as that stirring, that strange sensation of hope.

Figuring he had gone as insane as insane comes, the defeated detective replied to the Voice.

Right, like I’d just let this happen. Do you think I want that bastard controlling me?!

You are angry, the Voice said in Felix’s head.

Of course I’m angry, Felix thought back.

You hate, the Voice pointed out. You hate Gabriel Agreste.

Yeah, and he deserves it.

But you don’t deserve it.

What? Felix wasn’t sure if he’d heard that correctly.

The hate is destroying you. Tearing you apart.

Felix puffed a breath through his nose in frustration. Fine. Let it. I still hate him. Now tell me what you are and why you’re in my head.

There was silence for a long moment. And then: If you will not let go of the hate, I cannot help you.

No! No. I need... I need help. What do I need to do?

Felix could have sworn he felt the Presence smiling. You need to give up your hate... and love Adrien.

I do love him, Felix insisted.

You cannot love anyone truly when you have hate in your heart.

Felix blew up again, snarling. How can I do that? How can I stop hating him? He’s the reason Adrien is in such bad shape!

You need to let go of the hate.

Fine. So the Voice was going to be stubborn. Let go of the hate, it said. Sure, sure, Felix could let go of the hate he harbored for the man who had ruined both his and Adrien’s life.

Your hate cannot hurt him. It only hurts you.

Great, now the little voice in Felix’s head was coming up with proverbs like some fortune cookie or motivational poster.

Your hate cannot help Adrien.

The Voice was... right. As much as the detective hated to admit it, as much as it felt impossible, Felix knew he had to do something about the hatred in his heart. It had overcome him, driven him to lie to Brigitte and Adrien, and led him to be turned into the monster he currently was. As long as he held on to this hatred, Hawkmoth’s tight fist clenched around his soul.

...Alright, Felix conceded. I’ll let it go. Just tell me how to help Adrien.

The Presence gave a pulse of satisfaction. Focus, it told him, focus on your love for Adrien. Focus on the man you are around Brigitte Fernandes. Focus on the strength that love gives you. You must not let anger consume you again.

Taking a deep breath, Felix did as he was told. As expected, it was difficult. But, it also felt like someone was holding his hand, guiding him through.

Maman, if you’re up there somewhere, help me, please.

Fluttering, bubbling up in his chest, a light—no, a pulse—no, something, something stirring, bursting forth—

And suddenly, Felix was on his hands and knees—knees—he was human again. He was panting and unbearably weak. It was all he could do to remain slumped there, arms barely suspending him above the dusty floor.

And there, on the ground just below his chest—his chest which was raw and carved out, as if something had been extracted—were two objects. One was a living, breathing creature, and the other was a plain, wordless, silver badge.

“Felix!” Brigitte gasped, beside his shoulder suddenly. “What—?”

“A... A kwami,” he replied, voice thin and thready. He wasn’t even sure what had inspired him to speak or how he knew that was what it was.

Sitting back on his legs, Felix gathered the sleeping creature in his palms. It was even more disproportionate than Adrien’s cat, and smaller. Just a cub; a gray wolf cub.

His own kwami.

My gift to you, the Presence said. And then it was gone.

Felix was left staring dumbfoundedly at his tiny new companion, trying to make sense of all of this. He turned his attention to the room around him.

Hawkmoth stood but a few arms’ lengths away, absolutely gobsmacked at having had his champion snatched away in such a manner. Taking advantage of Hawkmoth’s distraction, Ladybug and the large man had managed to drag Chat further away from the villain. The man was fixing a brace onto the injured hero’s leg, and Chat was yowling in pain.

Felix lurched forward, not quite managing to get to his feet, and he would have crash-landed on his shoulder if Brigitte hadn’t caught him.

“Whoa there. Slow down,” she soothed. “You just manifested some freakishly cute supernatural being out of your chest—you—you might want to sit down.”

Felix would have protested if he could. However, he felt like a deflated balloon; heavy and weightless all at once.

“Felix Agreste!” a soft voice squeaked, and the detective suddenly found himself face-to-face with a red, bug-like, flying blob.

Brigitte gasped in delight. “Ladybug’s kwami! But then.... Ladybug?”

Glancing back, the group saw Marinette in her civilian form, standing protectively in front of Tom and Chat.

“It’s alright,” Tikki assured them. “Marinette knew she wouldn’t have time to hide and transform. But that’s not important! Felix Agreste, you are the chosen one for an event that has not occurred in thousands of years—the birth of a kwami!”

Felix watched in growing confusion as the red kwami swooped into his palms and gathered the wolf cub into her arms. Rocking the cub like a baby, she continued:

“His name is Zakuu. The kwami of inner peace and forgiveness. Once you transform, you will have the power of temporary hypnosis.”

Casting a furtive glance at Hawkmoth to confirm that the villain was still in retreat, Felix questioned Tikki: “How do you know all of this?”

She gave him a small smile. “All of the kwami’s minds are connected. Even though this little one doesn’t understand what he is yet, I can feel the potential within him.”

Brigitte moved suddenly, rushing across the room to catch a collapsing Marinette. Felix took a moment to marvel at his fiance’s bravery as she turned her back to Hawkmoth, shielding the younger girl with her own body.

He had to help.

“Can I transform?” he asked desperately. “Can I use this now?”

Tikki swept down and retrieved his badge. “Put this on,” she instructed, “And say ‘transforme moi’.”

Felix took his Miraculous and his kwami from the ladybug-spirit. She nodded at him before returning to her chosen’s side.

He looked at Adrien, resting with his head in the older man’s lap. The boy seemed to have fallen back into unconsciousness, though he was still transformed. And Ladybug—Marinette—who had tried so hard to rescue and defend her partner, was totally wrung out, leaning against Brigitte.

And then there was Hawkmoth, barely recovering from his shock, eyes darting around as if testing the odds. Seeming to find them in his favor, he took a step forward, daring his eldest son to challenge him.

He needed to do this.

He was ready.

Felix fastened the silver badge to his shirt and poked the kwami. It cooed and blinked its eyes open.

“Zakuu,” he spoke with determination, “Transforme moi!”

 

 

Chapter Text

Zakuu

Felix's Miraculous and kwami.

 

Hugs

Chat Noir embraces Lone Wolf.

Miracufelix

Felix transforms!!! And since I realize the last chapter cut off before we could get a description, here you go: 

~Preview~

The world burst into color. Beside him, Brigitte was glowing a comforting, soft blue; feathery rays extended from her form as if to shield the people behind her. Marinette was a weak, flickering pink, with a solid core of strength. The man holding Chat was a pale, unchanging yellow. And Felix’s brother—his infuriating, hopelessly lovable little brother—was a bright green. Even in his subdued condition, his light was steady and strong, like the glowworm he’d always been. He stood out in this dark room, in stark contrast to....

Well, to Hawkmoth. Hawkmoth, who was a raging purple, swirling with black, fighting against empty white. There was a storm inside the villain; the last dregs of his humanity were sputtering out, leaving only a tension between deep-set shame and apathy. Felix couldn’t look for long; he feared he would be sucked into that turmoil. It seemed that Hawkmoth was already being punished for his evil deeds; he carried Hell within himself.

‘The kwami of inner peace and forgiveness’, huh? Felix thought, staring down at himself and Zakuu’s handiwork. He was clad in a dark silver suit, much like Chat’s black one. Heavy black boots gave him traction and grounded him, while padded gloves reinforced his grip. His hair had taken on a lighter, grayer tint and hung messily before his eyes, and a hood covered his head. A mask covered his face from forehead to nose.

As for gadgets? Felix was holding a tiny silver hammer in his hand, which hung from a chain like a stop-watch. The delicate chain weaved its way through his suit in a vine-like pattern, trailing up his arm   and stopping at his chest. It was as if his right arm had been extended, and he knew straight away what to do. With a flick of his wrist, he sent the hammer flying—as Ladybug did with her yo-yo—only, the chain extended from his arm a mere meter, much shorter than Ladybug’s. As it fell, the hammer seemed to grow, until it was twice the size any practical hammer should be.

His first attempt at using it felt dull. It seemed to vibrate as it struck the floor, but it had no effect. The floor was not even dented.

Hawkmoth stared back at Felix, shock morphing into satisfied contempt.

“I would stand here and wait while you figure that out,” the villain drawled. “But I’m in a bit of a hurry.” And, he rushed forward with his sharpened cane.

Felix spun out of the way—and immediately vowed never to do that again. Moving his own body out of the way had given Hawkmoth access to Brigitte and the others. If Felix hadn’t dropped to sweep Hawkmoth’s legs out from under him, the villain could have attacked them.

As it was, Felix downed his opponent just in time. And, then, grabbing him by the collar, flung him back to the opposite side of the room.

Huh. So this was the strength of a Miraculous. Felix... could live with that.

~End Preview~

Chapter Text

Felix

 

The world burst into color. Beside him, Brigitte was glowing a comforting, soft blue; feathery rays extended from her form as if to shield the people behind her. Marinette was a weak, flickering pink, with a solid core of strength. The man holding Chat was a pale, unchanging yellow. And Felix’s brother—his infuriating, hopelessly lovable little brother—was a bright green. Even in his subdued condition, his light was steady and strong, like the glowworm he’d always been. He stood out in this dark room, in stark contrast to....

Well, to Hawkmoth. Hawkmoth, who was a raging purple, swirling with black, fighting against empty white. There was a storm inside the villain; the last dregs of his humanity were sputtering out, leaving only a tension between deep-set shame and apathy. Felix couldn’t look for long; he feared he would be sucked into that turmoil. It seemed that Hawkmoth was already being punished for his evil deeds; he carried Hell within himself.

‘The kwami of inner peace and forgiveness’, huh? Felix thought, staring down at himself and Zakuu’s handiwork. He was clad in a dark silver suit, much like Chat’s black one. Heavy black boots gave him traction and grounded him, while padded gloves reinforced his grip. His hair had taken on a lighter, grayer tint and hung messily before his eyes, and a hood covered his head. A mask covered his face from forehead to nose.

As for gadgets? Felix was holding a tiny silver hammer in his hand, which hung from a chain like a stopwatch. The delicate chain weaved its way through his suit in a vine-like pattern, trailing up his arm and stopping at his chest. It was as if his right arm had been extended, and he knew straight away what to do. With a flick of his wrist, he sent the hammer flying—as Ladybug did with her yo-yo—only, the chain extended from his arm a mere meter, much shorter than Ladybug’s. As it fell, the hammer seemed to grow, until it was twice the size any practical hammer should be.

His first attempt at using it felt dull. It seemed to vibrate as it struck the floor, but it had no effect. The floor was not even dented.

Hawkmoth stared back at Felix, shock morphing into satisfied contempt.

“I would stand here and wait while you figure that out,” the villain drawled. “But I’m in a bit of a hurry.” And, he rushed forward with his sharpened cane.

Felix spun out of the way—and immediately vowed never to do that again. Moving his own body out of the way had given Hawkmoth access to Brigitte and the others. If Felix hadn’t dropped to sweep Hawkmoth’s legs out from under him, the villain could have attacked them.

As it was, Felix downed his opponent just in time. And, then, grabbing him by the collar, flung him back to the opposite side of the room.

Huh. So this was the strength of a Miraculous. Felix... could live with that.

Brimming with renewed confidence, the Wolf Miraculous holder stalked toward Hawkmoth, who had by now regained his feet. He swung his hammer as he walked, preparing to strike a blow. Tikki had said that he would have the power of hypnosis, but she hadn’t specified. Didn’t Hawkmoth also have that power? Was that not how he controlled his champions?

Hopefully, Felix’s power wouldn’t be anything like that.

Seeing as it hadn’t done any damage to the floor, Felix was almost certain that this wasn’t meant to be a bludgeoning weapon—not like Outlaw’s gavel. The only real effect of striking with it had been the vibrations he’d felt. They had been strange... not normal vibrations; they had been almost... calming. For the few seconds that he’d felt them, his head had been clear. A pure, white light, glittering with silver, had burst forth around the area.

He wanted to see if he could utilize that.

Close combat was going to be Hawkmoth’s weak point: the man always hid away while his minions did the dirty work. Only sheer desperation could explain why he resorted to it now.

Felix already had the upper hand.

He swung his hammer again, lunging towards Hawkmoth’s attack rather than trying to avoid it. The blade slipped under his armpit harmlessly, while his hammer came within inches of the villain’s face—only to swoop down and collide with the floor.

This time, the hammer hit flat and hard, klanging out a resonant tone like a gong. The sound waves were visible to Felix’s enhanced eyes, pulsing out like ocean waves at sunset. As they washed over Felix, he felt as if an iron were soothing away the wrinkles in his soul.

The waves reached Hawkmoth. The man tensed, grip faltering on his cane. For a moment, he stared at nothing, eyes vacant. There was no trace of the peace Felix was feeling—only something hollow and lifeless. His aura turned black and hard.

It made Felix feel sick. Was there really nothing good left in his father? Could even the kwami of forgiveness not scrape away his turmoil? Or rather, if it could, would there even be some trace of humanity left to show?

Hesitance cost Felix.

Hawkmoth recovered and rammed the dull end of his cane into Felix’s ribs. While the suit took the brunt of it, preventing anything from being broken, the blow still brought the fledgling hero to his knees.

While Felix was down, Marinette was unguarded, and a cloud of butterflies descended on her. Brigitte did her best to wave them away, arms flailing frantically, but the corrupted insects only latched on, dragging them both into Hawkmoth’s clutches.

Felix tackled Hawkmoth to the ground, immediately breaking the spell. It was a rough landing, and the villain was stunned, dropping his weapon. Felix took that opportunity to rise to his knees, keeping one knee firmly planted on his opponent’s chest. Mustering up all the strength provided him by adrenaline, Felix swung his hammer.

It was amazing how resonant the sound could be despite the ease with which he’d handled the  large chunk of metal. When it met the floor centimeters from Hawkmoth’s head, the Miraculous weapon set off an echo that seemed to reach to the depths of the earth. The downed villain cringed away, covering his ears. At first, Felix saw the same emptiness that had come of the first hammer strike, but then—no—something else was breaking through. It was only the slightest glimmer, but it was there. And, whatever it was, it took all the fight out of the older man. His body went slack under Felix, and his hands dropped away from his ears. A single tear found its way down his cheek as he stared vacantly at the ceiling.

Without hesitation, Felix fumbled at the brooch on his father’s chest. It took him a moment, with trembling fingers, but he managed to unlatch it and tear it away.

A burst of purple light, and—Gabriel Agreste lay pinned under his son.

Felix scrambled away, falling back. Finally, Hawkmoth was defeated. He had managed to stop his father. The Butterfly Miraculous pulsed against his palm with the weak life of the kwami who dwelt within. And Father... Father just stared blankly, a shell of the man he had been.

Let him be. Felix had nothing left for the man but pity.

His ears rung with adrenaline as he turned and went straight to Chat Noir’s side.

“Ade,” Felix said breathlessly as he grasped the boy’s hand. The room was still around them, Gabriel forgotten in the background, a mere shadow left in the past.

Chat took in a quick breath as he woke, lifting heavy eyelids.

“Fe,” he rasped, lips quirking into a wan smile.

“Yeah? It’s me.” Felix held his brother’s hand tighter.

“You did it. I knew you could.”

The elder brother glanced nervously back at Gabriel Agreste. Had Adrien seen…? But, judging by the relieved smile on the boy’s face, and the way his eyes kept going out of focus, Felix guessed not. That would definitely be a revelation for another time. Perhaps later, when Adrien was all patched up and well-fed, Felix would tell him that their father was Hawkmoth. Right now, Felix just wanted to wrap him up in a tight hug and tell him that everything was alright.

But, no, everything was not alright, because Felix had done this. He was the reason his little brother was bleeding, bruised, and broken. Unable to look into those smiling green eyes a second longer, Felix bowed over in shame, covering his watering eyes with trembling fingers.

“...s-sorry…. I’m so sorry, Ade. I--I don’t know--how can I….” His voice trailed off into incoherent sobs.

There was shuffling, and a soothing hand came down on Felix’s head.

“Shh,” Chat said softly, and Felix looked up to see him sitting straight, supported by the large man behind him. “It’s not your fault. It’s okay.”

Felix tried--he really did--to be strong for his brother. But before he knew it, he was hiccuping and gasping, crying the tears of the purely exhausted. Chat leaned towards him, encircling him in a firm embrace, resting his chin soundly on his shoulder.

“Just breathe,” the boy said, echoing Felix’s words from countless episodes in the past. “In and out, follow me. That’s all you have to do. Don’t think about anything.”

But Felix knew that today was a day he would never stop thinking about, for the rest of his life. He didn’t dare hug Adrien back, for fear of crushing him in his fragile state.

“Hey… Fe?” Chat said after several breaths.

“Mm?”

“Fe, you have a tail.”

Felix blinked, momentarily distracted from his grief. He twisted around, and, sure enough, there was a fluffy grey tail attached to his belt. Wait--no--oh, thank goodness… it was indeed attached to his belt, not his body. That would have been mildly disturbing.

Chat was laughing, and it was the most wonderful sound Felix had heard all day.

“What would Father think,” he paused to cough, “what would Father think if he saw us like this? Huh, Fe?”

Oh. So he really hadn’t seen. Tears rose up again as anger and bitterness seized Felix. He finally raised his arms and wrapped them around his oblivious brother.

Chat seemed to relax at Felix’s touch, and his head grew very heavy on his older brother’s shoulder. Felix was shifting to accommodate the added weight when footsteps sounded at the edge of the room.

He saw shadows, rather than people, when they approached. He vaguely registered Brigitte and Marinette calling out to the newcomers. The shorter one ducked under an arm of the large, middle-aged man and together they staggered from the room. The taller, thinner shadow approached Felix, and he worked to form words.

“You’re gonna…,” he slurred. “Gonna have to take him. I think I’m….”

I think I’m going to pass out.

Felix never finished his sentence.

As if he’d sprung a leak, the bravado drained out of Felix, and he was left shivering and weak—weaker than he had been when he first manifested Zakuu. Gravity pulled him toward the ground, and if it weren’t for the elbow he’d stubbornly wedged underneath himself, he’d have faceplanted.

At some point, Adrien had been pulled from his arms.

Brigitte. He couldn’t collapse in front of her. He had to make sure she and Adrien and everyone else got to safety. But everything was spinning and shaking in a dizzying pattern, and he couldn’t quite figure out how to stand.

Maybe... maybe if he detransformed...? Before he knew he’d spoken, there was a flash of silver light and Zakuu dropped into Brigitte’s palms.

Brigitte...? Suddenly, she was right there, holding his kwami, holding him . She positioned herself behind his back and managed to keep him somewhat upright.

She was saying something, but... Felix’s ears were clogged or something. He could only hear shapeless warbles.

Adrien. He needed to go to Adrien, get him out of here, help him, fix him—Felix caught a glimpse of blonde hair before all of his senses burned out in a puff of smoke.

 

Chat Noir

 

Felix had defeated Hawkmoth. That was good... right? But then Felix looked like he was going to puke, cry, or just collapse altogether... aaand he chose the last option, nearly knocking Brigitte over with his weight.

Chat Noir missed his brother’s warmth, but found himself cradled securely in another set of arms.

“Nino...?” Chat whispered, blinking his eyes open.

Nino tightened his grip on his friend. “Hey, dude, it’s me.”

The barely conscious hero mumbled something like “why you here”, and then seemed to drift off again. Nino didn’t like how his friend kept passing out.

“Bud, come on, stay with it.”

Ever obedient, Chat dragged himself back to awareness. “Okay.” Then, seeming to come to full consciousness: “Where’s Fe?”

Nino tried to angle himself around his friend so that he wouldn’t see his fainting brother and panic. “He’s over there. He’s fine. Damn, you should have seen him, he was badass.”

“Heh, Felix is always badass.... Wait—Lone Wolf?”

“Gone. Not sure how yet, but yeah. Look, let’s get you fixed up and then he can tell you all about it.”

The hero thought about it for a moment, seemed to remember, and giggled. "Nino, Nino. Felix had a tail!" 

"Yeah, he did. It was hilarious."

Chat tried to nod. “And Ladybug?” he asked drowsily.

Nino gave him a shaky smile. Could this kid just think of himself for once? “She’s fine. Brigitte’s uh—Brigitte’s stitching up her arm.”

Immediately, Chat was sitting up. “What?” he gasped, swaying, but catching himself against Nino. “She’s hurt?”

“Dude, I told you, Brigitte’s taking care of it. But you shouldn’t be sitting up. Seriously, you’re going to—”

He was cut off by his friend’s horrific wheezing and retching. After several long heartbeats of struggling, blood came up. Ignoring it, Chat took a shaky breath and stood. Fully awake for the first time in hours, he stared around the room, taking in his surroundings.

Marinette was detransformed, sitting beside Brigitte and looking pale and pinched as the elder girl carefully wove thread through her bleeding arm. Felix was sprawled on the ground beside the girls, panting and exhausted. A tiny, gray creature rested on his heaving chest. Tom Dupain was no longer in the room. And Hawkmoth….

Well. Hawkmoth was nowhere to be seen. In his place was….

No. That wasn’t right. It made so much sense. But, no. It couldn’t be.

Yes, it had to be an accident that Gabriel Agreste lay in the pale light of the window, and that Hawkmoth had vanished.

Staggering, dragging his bandaged leg, Chat crept closer to his father’s still form. His voice was caught in his throat, but he had a sinking feeling that, even if he called out, the man would not respond.

Nino spoke Chat’s name, but did not stop him. Gabriel had lost his power, and could no longer hurt anyone. Adrien had been affected more than anyone by the man’s schemes; he deserved to see the villain in his defeat.

Sirens picked up outside, heading towards the Rue de Fictional.

Chat Noir’s legs gave out just as he reached his father. He dragged himself closer, staring down at the shattered man.

Vacant eyes gazed dully out of a vacant face. Chat reached a hesitant hand out, his own eyes welling with tears.

And Gabriel Agreste’s eyes flashed purple.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Gabriel Agreste/Hawkmoth

 

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. It couldn’t end like this. Not after everything he had sacrificed. He had gotten so far, and now he was going to lose it all.

No. He wouldn’t allow it.

Hawkmoth had been defeated, but Gabriel Agreste would not give up.

Through dulled senses, he saw Chat Noir crouched beside him, mewling something unintelligible. Gabriel knew it was his last chance, so he dug deep within himself. He found that contract he had made with Nooroo, the one that had given him immense power; the one that had corrupted his kwami; the one that had chipped away at his humanity. He gathered the last dregs of that power which had pushed him past the brink--and he summoned it up to the surface.

He needed that power now. He could not lose here.

Too much was at stake; too much had already been lost.

He was quick about it: quick enough that when his eyes flashed purple and he cried out in a desperate fury, no one in the room had seen it coming.

“I sold my soul for this!” Gabriel spat.

And then, before anyone could react, he seized Chat Noir’s wrist in an unrelenting grip. With his other hand, Gabriel reached out towards his own glowing Miraculous. The brooch flew from Felix’s side, landing soundly in the villain’s palm.

Chat Noir struggled. He tried to pry Hawkmoth’s hand away, and when that didn’t work, he covered his right hand with his left, protecting his Miraculous ring. Transforming with a rush of exhilaration, Hawkmoth pulled at the boy’s fingers, but the latter held fast. He was not going to give up easily.

There were two ways to fully separate a Miraculous from its holder: one, the holder could hand it over willingly. Or, two, the holder could, tragically, pass on . What a pity, that this alley cat had to be so stubborn.

He brings this upon himself, Hawkmoth thought, looking into tear-filled green eyes.

His fingers closed around Chat’s throat.

 

Brigitte

 

Brigitte allowed herself to take a breath of relief. Hawkmoth--Gabriel Agreste, now that was going to take some getting used to, worst father-in-law ever --had been defeated. Felix, though thoroughly exhausted, was back to himself. Marinette was patched up and no longer teetering where she sat. And Chat--Adrien--was in bad shape, but Nino was watching over him, and the medical attention he so desperately needed was on its way.

When Chat got up and stumbled over to Gabriel’s side, her heart broke. The poor boy was calling for his father, but the man before him was broken, incoherent. It was clear, even from this distance, that he did not hear or recognize his son.

Chat hadn’t bothered to detransform. Tikki, Ladybug’s kwami, had explained earlier: Plagg would hold onto the transformation, even if Adrien tried to cancel it, in order to give his body a boost against his injuries. Brigitte just hoped that both kwami and chosen could hold out until help arrived.

Of course, it was in that moment, when Brigitte was finally letting herself relax, that Hell broke loose once more.

Hawkmoth was too quick for anyone to react in time. In what seemed like the span of a single breath, he had summoned his Miraculous, transformed, and wrestled Chat to the ground. Brigitte gasped when she saw the crazed villain grab hold of the cat-like hero’s throat, cutting off his air.

She was screaming, then, something to the effect of let go, let him have it, it’s not worth it, and at the same time, she knew Adrien would never listen. And, with sinking heart, she also knew that Hawkmoth would not give up, he was too strong, and he was about to kill her little brother.

Brigitte was barely to her feet when a wall of white butterflies caught her along her side and threw her against the opposite wall. Her vision flashed white and red, and when she came to, she was pinned. Just in front of her, Marinette had met the same fate. And out of reach, too far away, Chat was struggling, squirming, gasping, desperately fighting to live and protect Plagg.

Twisting, Brigitte could see Felix and Nino pinned behind her, unable to escape the terrible flutter of thousands of wings. Nino was yelling for his friend, and Felix was coming awake in horror, begging his kwami to stop sleeping and transform him now.

Brigitte choked back a sob. They weren’t going to make it.

It all happened far too fast.

 

Chat Noir

 

“Father…?” Chat’s voice broke mid-word as he knelt beside Gabriel Agreste. “Father, why are you here? Are you alright?”

The hero felt himself tingling all over as shock set in. All along… this? The terrible villain who had been after him and Ladybug for three years… had been Father? Why? What would drive him to do such a thing?

As much as he had despised Hawkmoth, as much as he had been angry at him for hurting Ladybug--for hurting Felix--Chat could not find it in himself to be angry with his father.

Seeing Gabriel looking so defeated, Chat could only pity him. He reached a hand out for the man’s face, to tell him that he was here, that he loved him, that they could fix this.

The next thing Chat knew, he was lying on his back, Hawkmoth--Father--bent over him, one hand pulling at Chat’s fingers, and the other--

The other hand, his father’s right hand, was clenched around Chat’s neck. Tight, crushing, and he… he couldn’t breathe.

Chat Noir squeezed his eyes shut. This isn’t Father, this isn’t Father, he chanted to himself. But no matter how hard he tried to convince himself, he couldn’t change the fact that the man looming over him, dressed in black and purple leather, was his father. And his father was trying to kill him.

Kid, let go! Plagg pleaded from inside his head.

But Chat was determined; he would not give up his Miraculous--he would not hand Plagg over.

He heard shouts, and in the corners of his blurring vision, Chat could see his friends trapped against the wall by Hawkmoth’s butterflies. He squirmed. He needed to go to them, help them.

And this? He didn’t want them to see this. Because his eyes and nose were streaming with uncontrollable tears; his head felt swollen with the pressure of trapped blood; and his body was shaking all over, in need of oxygen.

He wasn’t going to hold out much longer.

As his vision faded to gray, Chat looked once again into his father’s eyes. He saw the despair there; he saw the pain.

I’m sorry, Father, he thought. And then:

I’m sorry, Felix.

Mari.... Brigitte.... Nino…. I’m sorry.

Good bye.

 

Felix

 

Felix’s entire world narrowed to a point, and that point was Adrien. Adrien, whose hands were clenched defiantly, protecting his Miraculous; Adrien, whose masked eyes streamed with tears as he gazed pleadingly at his father; Adrien, who didn’t dare use his destructive power because, despite everything, he loved the man who was now trying to kill him.

And Felix… Felix couldn’t get free. He was forced to watch, until the end.

He yelled. He yelled at the top of his lungs: "ADRIEN!"

But his voice was drowned out in the cacophony of a thousand wings.

All too soon, Chat Noir’s hands fell apart, flopping down alongside his head. The boy’s eyes were closed, his mouth open, but breathless. Hawkmoth immediately lunged for the Miraculous, slipping it from the boy’s finger. Chat flashed green into Adrien and….

And Hawkmoth shattered like glass. His transformation fell away, the butterflies dissolved, and Gabriel Agreste was left on buckled knees, face ghostly white with shock. Recognition shone in his eyes as he stared at the body before him.

He had sold his soul; he had given up his humanity. He had gone so far for this power.

But he had never meant to kill his own son.

Two separate screams of grief tore through the cavernous room.


 

 

 

 

 

Eighteen years ago.

Felix had just turned six, and he sat in a cold, white-walled waiting room with his father. His feet dangled above the ground and he kicked them nervously, tapping his knees. Through the cover of his bangs, he watched his father.

“The magazine is upside down, Father,” he pointed out.

Gabriel Agreste cleared his throat loudly and turned the magazine around, but otherwise did not acknowledge his eldest son. His lips were pulled thin and his jaw clenched, though he was obviously trying very hard not to show his anxiety.

A woman screamed down the hallway.

The scream produced a flinch from the stoic Gabriel, but he did not look up.

Felix was terrified.

Not a moment later, the watery cries of an infant replaced the woman’s, and hurried feet shuffled down the hall.

“Monsieur Agreste?” a bright-faced nurse panted, coming around the corner. His latex gloves and green uniform were spattered with blood, the sight making Felix recoil.

Gabriel shot to his feet before checking himself. “Yes?” he asked in a purposefully calm voice.

“He’s been born. You have a son!”

Felix had to wiggle in place to keep from jumping up and down.

“Alright,” Gabriel replied, anticlimactically. But little Felix tugged at his hand.

“Papa! Can we go see them?”

His father shook him off. “Quiet. You will call me ‘Father’ in public, understand?”

The enthused nurse missed these harsh words. “What are you waiting for? Come see him!” he urged, and led them down the hallway.

They entered a room that was full of counters and sinks, metal carts and tubes, and a strange, slanting bed. Madeleine was on that bed, looking exhausted but happy. She met Gabriel’s eyes with a soft smile, beckoning him over.

Little Felix followed at his father’s elbow, feeling out of place. The solemn atmosphere of the room had him clinging to Gabriel’s coattails. As they neared the bed, he glanced up at the formidable man for direction--and couldn’t believe his eyes.

Gabriel Agreste was crying.

Felix had never seen his father cry. He hadn’t even thought the man capable of tears. The man was a robot, unflinching even at his first wife’s funeral. But on that day, when he first laid eyes on Adrien, Gabriel Agreste broke down. He bent over the bed where Madeleine was propped, holding her sleeping newborn, and put a hand to his mouth, shaking with emotion. Madeleine guided his trembling hand to his son’s head and pressed it there, as if to say “It’s alright; you won’t break him.”

From his father’s behavior, Felix thought there must be something wrong with the baby. He wiggled around, trying to get a good view, and ended up halfway on the bed with his step-mother. She smiled gently at him and tilted Adrien around so that the boy could see him.

Adrien was the tiniest, strangest-looking creature Felix had ever laid eyes upon. He looked bald, but in the light, Felix could see wisps of blonde hair, just like his own. His small, purple hands were in fists by his face, and his face was a peacefully sleeping flushed blob.

Adrien really did look like a worm. Not a glow-worm, just a regular, pink worm.

And he was beautiful.

Somehow, without fully understanding, Felix knew why Father was crying. He knew because, even at his young age, he instantly loved his baby brother. And he knew that Gabriel Agreste couldn’t help but love the child as well.

That tiny, three kilo baby was a ray of hope that shone on their family that day.


 

And now, that light had been extinguished, by none other than Gabriel Agreste himself.

 

 

Chapter Text

Felix

 

Felix’s sobs were garbled and choked by tears as he desperately struggled. When, suddenly, the butterflies dispersed and he dropped to the ground, he hardly skipped a beat in scrambling over to Adrien.

He knew it was futile, but that didn’t stop him from wailing his dissent and covering the boy with desperate touches, looking for some sign of life. Felix could hardly catch his own breath, going into full-blown panic as Adrien remained unresponsive. He looked so peaceful, so unaware of the tragic reality. If not for the red blotches covering his face and the blue tinge of his lips, he might have only been sleeping.

Felix went through the motions of CPR, but Adrien’s broken ribs prevented him from doing more than a few compressions--even if he could be resuscitated, a punctured lung would kill him just as fast. So he opened his airway, gave him air. He was vaguely aware of everyone crowding around.

After what felt like an eternity, Felix sat back. Nothing was working… Adrien was too far gone. He tenderly brushed cold tears from his brother’s cheeks and gathered him up by the shoulders, pressing him close in a final hug.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” he chanted in a hoarse whisper. And then, “No, no, you can’t--come on--ugh… no….” Felix’s voice broke as he trailed off into unintelligible moans. He rocked where he sat, his cheek pressed to Adrien’s and Adrien so, so limp in his arms.

After a few moments, Felix pulled back to touch his brother’s face again, praying for some sign, some change. But Adrien’s head lolled back and he remained still and silent. Felix cradled the back of his head in one hand, holding him like a baby.

This couldn’t be happening. If only--if only--maybe Plagg could fix it! Anything, anything to bring Adrien back. Felix needed him to breathe again.

He looked wildly around for the kwami. “Plagg,” he said, his voice cracked and toneless.

The kwami didn’t answer, and Felix spotted him lying still on the ground a meter away. Had.. the kwami been killed too? Plagg was faded around the edges, as if he were dissolving into nothingness. Tikki sat beside him, looking mournful.

“...Adrien?” Gabriel breathed, taking a step toward his sons, and cutting through Felix’s frantic haze.

Felix tightened his grip on his brother, turning his head to confront their father. “Stay away from him,” he growled.

“I-I didn’t know!” Gabriel stuttered.

“I don’t want to hear your excuses!” Felix screamed. “It’s too late—he’s already—!” The tears took him again, and he curled into the embrace, pressing his face into the crook of Adrien’s shoulder. He was still warm.

Felix was a broken beam, splintered and bending under overwhelming weight. In that moment, the beam finally snapped.

Lowering Adrien back down to the ground, Felix trembled with rage and grief. “I’ll kill you,” he said, his voice low. And then: “I’ll kill you!” he repeated, this time in a shout. He lunged at his father, tackling the man to the ground. They were equal in strength, but Gabriel’s age put him at a disadvantage. Doubled with Felix’s martial training and current manic state, the elder Agreste was easily subdued. Spittle flew from Felix’s mouth, though he was unaware of what he was saying, and he whaled into his father until his knuckles stung. Gabriel put up no resistance, resigned to his due punishment.

And Felix’s vision was consumed by red. Adrien was gone. Father had taken him away. In cold blood, he had taken him away. All for a little power, he had extinguished the light that was Adrien.

 

Marinette

 

Marinette stood, clutching her injured arm as she watched Felix tackle his father. She saw Adrien, lifeless on the floor, and the tiny black cat beside him. She had watched as Felix tried desperately to get the boy breathing again… and she had seen the utter despair when nothing seemed to work. Her mind was foggy, her stomach a rock, as she tried to digest the stone cold truth:

Adrien was dead, and she would never see his smile again.

Her feet carried her to him, and she fell heavily to her knees, touching his face with a trembling hand. It couldn’t be. Not her Chat. Not her Adrien. His skin was marred with burst blood vessels, his eyelids bruised and red. She wanted to wipe it all away, make him better, remove all the hurt--

And maybe she could! Her eyes locked on the polka-dotted cast on his leg. If only she could transform and call Miraculous Cleanse--

“Tikki,” she sobbed, calling to her kwami. “If I cast Miraculous Cleanse, I can save him, right? I can bring him back?”

Tikki looked up from where she bent over Plagg. Her only response was to shake her head.

Marinette opened her mouth to protest: “But--”

Nino put a hand on her shoulder, quieting her. “He didn’t want me to tell you, but Miraculous Cleanse doesn’t work on him. Never has.”

Marinette deflated. Her vision blurred over with tears, and her chest constricted.

She tried to gather Adrien into her arms, but her injury protested. She only managed to get him draped over her lap, and she bent low to bury her head in his chest, her thumb stroking his jaw.

"Please," she whimpered. "Please, Adrien... Chat. Not like this. You can't go like this."

Maybe it was her desperate pleas. Maybe it was something about how she'd moved him. Maybe Marinette's touch had sent him a spark of luck.

In the next moment, Adrien's entire body jerked. His mouth flew open, and a horrifying gasp seemed to rend the very air. It was followed by another, and then another, until the boy finally seemed to take in some oxygen, and his tense muscles relaxed. He lay as still as he had been over Marinette's lap, but now a faint whistle of breath could be heard through his parted lips. It was wet, and far too thin, but it was indeed breath.

Somehow, inexplicably, he was breathing. Adrien was breathing.

Flooding with relief, Mari threw her arms around her partner, squeezing him to her chest and producing a pained groan from the latter. She kissed his face in multiple places and squealed in delight when he cringed. Absent-minded with elation, she tossed him back to the ground and went to Felix, catching his fist before he could bring it down on his father again.

“Felix stop!” she shouted. “It’s okay!”

The detective tugged out of her hold. “It’s not okay!” he snapped. “He—he’s gone.” Sobbing incoherently, he brought his hand down on his father once more.

Gabriel Agreste was bloodied and dazed, and Marinette knew she had to stop this soon.

“Stop! Stop! You’ll kill him!” she shouted. Brigitte was at her side now, catching Felix around the torso and pulling him back.

“Good!” Felix responded, scrambling.

“No, Detective, you don’t understand!” she gasped, trying to restrain his flailing wrists again, flinching back when her injured arm was caught in the crossfire.

Brigitte hugged him tighter around the back, trying to calm him. “Look at Adrien,” she whispered desperately. “He’s breathing.”

 

Felix

 

Felix froze, and all of the fight drained out of him at once. Slipping out of Brigitte’s arms, he hurried over to his brother.

“Ade! Ade. Oh, Ade. Hey, come on, look at me.” Though he still got no response, Felix could see now that shallow breaths passed through Adrien’s parted lips, and a faint pulse fluttered just below his jaw. How… how? It didn’t matter. It was real.

Time and sound rushed back into Felix’s awareness. He heard the muffled sobs of the others in the room; he felt the dusty afternoon sun touching his skin; he heard the sirens--

“Nino, get the paramedics,” he ordered. “Bring them up here.”

The boy nodded and scurried off.

For several, terrifying minutes, the world had been a foreign place--a strange reality where Adrien no longer existed. But now… now it would be alright. The situation was far from ideal, but this, Felix could handle. That cruel other world--no, it wasn’t a world Felix wanted to live in.

He bent down low over Adrien and pressed a gentle kiss to the boy’s forehead, thanking him for being alive.

Felix could never let this happen again--this shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

I will protect you, he vowed silently. I’ve got you now.

 

Marinette

 

Marinette dashed away fresh tears. Adrien—Chat—would be alright. He was in good hands.

Now, as defender of Paris, there was another citizen she needed to tend to. Anger and fear and loathing rose in her throat like bile. Every wound inflicted, every terror cast--they were at the forefront of her memory, repelling her.

She swallowed them down.

Gabriel Agreste lay at her feet, half-conscious, covered in blood, and consumed by tears. She hugged her throbbing arm to her chest and crouched down.

“Monsieur Agreste,” she began gently.

The man only shook his head and buried his face in his hands.

She took one of those hands, trying to pull it away. “Monsieur. Don’t cry. He’s alive.”

After several attempts to speak that ended in hitched breaths, Gabriel spoke:

“I’m a monster.”

Mari didn’t hesitate. “I know; you are. You used to be my hero. I wanted to be like you. But you’ve been a terrible father to Adrien, and now, after what you’ve done, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you.”

Gabriel stilled, listening, one hand still covering his face.

Mari looked down at the hand she grasped. It was wrinkled, dry, and calloused; old, like her grandmother’s. She sighed a shuddering sigh.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you… but I know that Adrien will. That’s just the kind of person he is. So stop pitying yourself! Live, and pay for your crimes, and maybe one day you’ll really earn that forgiveness.

“No more evil-doing for you.”

 

 

Chapter Text

So, this is not a chapter.

Yes, I know:

I suck.

But I want all of my readers to know that I love you and this is continuing.

I just... have been having trouble with my brain. I get confused and I can't remember things? Maybe because of my sleeping disorder. Maybe because of ********** or **** ****** But I haven't felt up to writing in several months. Hence, the hiatus.

 

But there will be several more chapters, the next one dealing with the aftermath, Nathaniel and Chloe reuniting, Felix being a big worried idiot, everyone else loving on these two brothers like there's no tomorrow, and Gabriel getting a permanent fashion make-over.

 

Comment with anything you've been wanting to see in upcoming chapters, developments, resolutions, hospital shenanigans (cats and croissants are going to be sneaking into the ward, I guarantee). Tell me what will make you happy!

 

On TOP of that, I am thinking of writing a sequel.

And, any Voltron fans out there? I've got a fic in the works.

 

Ok stop reading here.

 

 UPDATE: What's written below (from a couple nights ago), is the first time I've sought attention in social media. I just didn't know who to turn to. But I am doing so much better now, mainly because of all the AMAZING people who reached out to me and shared their kindness. I'm a little overwhelmed by all of it, and that kindness is going to keep me going for a long time. 

I want everyone who reads this to know that there's no shame in asking for help, or admitting that you're going through something difficult. If you ever need to talk, I'm here, and probably 30 other people who would contact you on the spot if you needed to talk. Please, please, know that you are wonderful and lovable, and, gosh, words cannot express the difference you are making in the world just by holding on when life gets tough. 

So hold on.

You are loved, and so, so important.

Thanks again to everyone who contacted me and took time out of their days to write sweet emails, share cat pictures, shower me with validation, and celebrate our nerdiness. 

I love you guys so much ^_^

 

I'm posting this "chapter", one, because you guys deserve an explanation, and reassurance that this is going to continue (soon, I hope. do you hear me, brain??). But it's also maybe a little tiny cry for help. Look, I'm a big girl. An adult. But I'm really alone right now and I don't feel all that grown up and tonight is extra hard.

So, um, PM me? Or email me. My email is derpivert@gmail.com. Not sure if that'll go through. Gmail email, "derpivert".

Anyways. I could use someone to talk to. Someone who knows the real me--and nothing gets closer to the real me than this fic. We can talk about anything, doesn't have to be my issues; fandoms, characters, fics, your life, your cat's life, some obscure scientific or historical facts that only us nerds care about, pomeranians, Hawaiian shirts, etc, whatever.

Chapter Text

 

Chloe

 

Chloe wasn’t sure how long she sat against the wall in that empty hallway. She had heard the screams, the yelling, and, at one awful point, the devastated sobbing. She had felt the power melt away from her as Style Queen faded from existence….

She hadn’t felt anything. Her heart was numb, and along with it, her mind and body. It was a familiar defense mechanism, to detach. She had done it when her mother left, and now she did it as the weight of Hawkmoth’s lies manifested around her.

Eventually, the pain of the harsh floor digging into her tailbone began to register. Then came the bruises from when Brigitte Fernandez tossed her onto the floor. Chloe could have shifted into a more comfortable position, but she relished the pain. It distracted her, and, frankly, she deserved it.

There were sirens, and then there were footsteps--hurried, sprinting. She wondered if Adrien was okay--if Felix was--

No.

No, no, no.

She didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to know. Didn’t--didn’t-- ah!

“Chloe.”

The voice cut through her panic, and her head snapped up of its own accord.

Chloe hadn’t realized that she’d curled in on herself, buried her head in her arms, pulled at her hair, stopped breathing. But now she gulped in a breath and the world spun. Tears dropped uncontrollably over her cheeks, and she choked as she tried to speak.

Nathaniel hovered over her, cheeks red and eyes bright, and not a grudge to be seen.

Chloe knew she had to pull herself together. She didn’t deserve to be upset right now. Nathaniel had come to tell her that the police were here for her. Everything was over, Hawkmoth had been defeated, Chloe had been wrong--so, terribly wrong--and she should be ashamed.

Ashamed.

Ladybug would be ashamed. Chat, Adrien, her friends, her father--everyone--Nathaniel should be so ashamed of her.

But he just stood there, watching her levelly, one hand steadying him against the wall. Her eyes trailed down to his bandaged leg.

“I hurt you,” she gasped. “I hurt everyone. How can I....? How…?”

She was breaking down: something she had lost the right to do. But, dammit, she couldn’t stop it, and now Nathaniel, with his unyielding compassion would comfort her just like everyone had her whole, spoiled life. He was just another pawn in her constant game of manipulation. She was doing it again, reverting to her old ways.

But Nathaniel didn’t comfort her. He didn’t say anything. He dropped his eyes to his feet--a characteristic show of timidity--and then dropped himself down beside her.

When his back hit the wall, a stream of dust poured out of a crack in the ceiling. Perhaps it was the strain of the recent battle; perhaps the building was just that old. But it was clearly not going to hold up much longer.

“We should probably get out of here,” Nathaniel mused.

Chloe tilted her head back, the space between her and her almost-friend so cold.

“You go,” she said hollowly.

He shifted, moving his injured leg into a more comfortable position.

“I would,” he replied. “But I don’t think I can walk by myself right now.”

Chloe looked at him, agape. Was that a hint of slyness she detected in his voice?

If the way he avoided eye contact, and the subtle tug at the corners of his mouth was any indication, then yes.

She didn’t know the redhead had it in him.

Then, he extended a hand out to her.

“Help me?”


 

 

Brigitte

 

Chaos.

That was the only word Brigitte could think of to describe the next few hours. City officials and emergency personnel swarmed the building on the Rue de Fictional, and reporters thronged at the edges of a yellow-taped boundary.

Adrien was loaded into one ambulance, his father into another. Felix had gone with Adrien, and now Brigitte helped Marinette and her father into the car to follow. Nino and Alya said they would follow on foot.

Before shifting the car into gear, Brigitte stole a glance at the old building. It was trembling, bricks falling away here and there. It wouldn’t last long.

She felt a stab of worry which was immediately squelched when she spotted two figures supporting each other out of the building, away from the chaos and prying eyes. Brigitte sighed; those two would be okay.

The drive to the hospital was an unreal reprieve before the loud busyness of the emergency room. Marinette could hardly walk by the time they arrived, her usually pink lips a pale gray. She grabbed Brigitte’s sleeve before the nurses took her away.

“Please,” she whispered weakly. “Take them.”

Brigitte could only nod as Plagg and Tikki were pressed into her palms. Tikki was quiet and wide-eyed, holding onto her cat-like counterpart tightly, even as he seemed to flicker before their eyes. Brigitte’s mind went to the other tiny creature currently nestled in her pocket.

Well. She was a veterinarian after all. Go ahead and give her all the kwamis.

“I’ll take care of them,” she told Marinette, trying to muster a smile as the younger girl was led to a gurney.

Minutes later, Brigitte had tracked Felix down to the waiting room outside of one of the operating rooms. He paced like he was running away from his own skin, and his eyes were aglow with panic and exhaustion.

“How is he?” Brigitte asked carefully.

Felix’s head snapped up at her voice, as if he hadn’t seen her before that moment. He only shook his head. “I--I don’t know.”

What about you? Are you okay? Brigitte knew better than to ask. Felix hated that question on a good day. And right now--well, Brigitte knew the answer anyways.

She should have known not to tell him to sit down either. Should have known not to tell him he needed food and rest.

But mistakes were made, and before she knew it, her fiance had worked up into a full blown panic attack. His fists clenched and unclenched, and he couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from the glowing sign above the OR, and his breath was just far too shallow--

Brigitte held his shoulders, tried to draw his attention and ground him.

“Felix, look. It’s alright. It’s over; everything’s going to be alright.”

He shook his head, chest jumping with whimpers.

“He’s going to be alright, Fe. They’re taking care of him, shh….”

But she could barely get the words out when she struggled to believe them herself, when tears finally broke free and she just couldn’t be strong anymore. The weight of everything that had just happened, and the very tangible weight of the three miserable kwamis in her pocket was bending her, pushing her down, peeling back at her calm, and she couldn’t take it anymore.

Felix’s weight, as his knees buckled, was the absolute last straw. He sagged against her and she sunk to the ground. She let out a broken sob and could barely muster the voice to call for help. Brigitte surrendered to the pain and sorrow as she sat on the cold floor, rocking Felix in her arms. She had always tried so hard to be strong, but right now she just couldn’t. Maybe later, not now. Now, she could only pray that this would be the end of it. That things would only get better from here.

Later, she realized how merciful it had been that Felix remained unconscious for the next few hours. He was oblivious to those hours of unknowing before Adrien had been wheeled out of surgery; he was none the wiser when a doctor came by to relate that Gabriel Agreste had been admitted to the psych ward; by the time Felix woke up, the dust had settled, and Brigitte’s prayers had been answered.

It was going to get better.

All they could do now was wait.


 

 

Two weeks later….

 


 

 

Felix

 

“Fe….”

Adrien’s voice was nothing but a broken breath, like two brittle seashells being rubbed together over the whisper of ocean waves. Felix instinctively leaned forward, not daring to miss whatever his barely-waking brother was struggling so hard to say.

“Fe, when I died… I thought I would see Maman.”

Felix tried not to change his expression, tried not to show the sadness and fear in his eyes. He wasn’t sure if Adrien could see him clearly yet, but he kept himself in check nonetheless. When Adrien shed a tear at the thought of his Maman, Felix reached out and soothed his forehead.

“Shh… buddy, it’s okay. You didn’t die. That’s why you didn’t see her. You’ll get to see her, many, many years from now. Got it?”

Adrien nodded and drifted back to sleep, eyes racing under his eyelids in some distressing dream.

The truth was, Adrien had been clinically “dead” a few times, immediately after the incident. First, when Felix had tried in vain to revive him, and then twice on the ambulance. When Felix had asked why his brother kept crashing, the paramedics had told him it was due to internal damage.

And when he finally understood, Felix’s heart broke. Adrien was trying to breathe, his body was really giving its all to stay alive, but the boy’s throat just couldn’t handle it for very long.

He had flatlined just before they had arrived at the hospital, and then Felix hadn’t seen him for the next five hours.

And then there was that long day where they waited for Adrien to wake up. For a week after that, the boy drifted in and out, barely showing signs of coherence before succumbing once again to a deep sleep. Later, there was relief when the doctor said his brain activity was normal. There was still a constant oxygen mask on his face, but his vitals seemed to even out during the second week.

By then, Adrien’s ankle was healing nicely, but Felix could hardly bear to look at it.

“That wasn’t you; that was Hawkmoth,” Brigitte had assured him.

And he knew she was right. Lone Wolf--that monster created by Gabriel Agreste--had been the one to crush Adrien’s ankle in its jaws. If Felix had been aware of himself, he would never have allowed that. He knew that. But that didn’t change the fact that Felix could still feel the sensation of his teeth against bone, of blood filling his mouth.

Some nights he sat up, reliving everything, eyes blank and haunted.

Brigitte came to him, early in the morning, the day after they had received the news that Adrien would make a full recovery. One moment, Felix was lost in the horrors of his memory, and the next, she was beside him, a cool wave of the present moment.

Her smile was strained.  

She’s still trying to love me, he thought. She’s trying so hard, even after everything I did.

She brushed lank, unwashed hair away from his eyes and ran a thumb over the gathering stubble above his lips. Her eyes were exhausted, watery, and her brow was burdened with unspoken sadness.

Should I tell her it’s okay to let go?

A tear slipped down Felix’s cheek unwittingly.

No, the desperate part of his brain answered. I can’t. If she lets go of me, I’ll fall and never get up.

Brigitte pressed something into Felix’s hand, snapping him out of his spiraling thoughts. It was soft and warm, and he would have recoiled if he hadn’t immediately known what it was.

“Zakuu…?”

The brunette sniffed. “I’ve been holding onto him since… that day. He’s just been sleeping. Tikki said that he needs your help to, um. To get better.”

Felix shifted the tiny thing in his palm, stroking a thumb over the downy fur. If possible, Zakuu seemed more deeply asleep than when he had first manifested; his silver shine was dull, and he was fuzzy around the edges. It reminded Felix of….

Well. It reminded him of Plagg.

“What’s wrong with him?” Felix asked, but already a shard of dread was twisting in his gut. He didn’t have to see Brigitte’s upset fidgeting to know the answer.

It was a topic she had been avoiding while Adrien was in critical condition. Now that he was stable and on an upward track, here she was to address it.

Felix had thought he would be ready. He really had.

He was so, so not ready.

She must have seen his distress, because she grasped his free hand and held it tight, grounding him.

“Felix, listen to me. You’ve been so strong. No one expected you to control your anger. Who could have? Anyone-- anyone would have reacted like that. And, you stopped yourself. Before it was too late, you stopped.”

“Before it was too late” meant “before he killed Gabriel Agreste”.

Felix looked down at the creature in his palm, hand trembling. “Is that why…?”

Brigitte nodded, tears welling. “Tikki said that since he had just manifested, he needed, um, to be in harmony with your emotions.”

Felix ducked his head in resignation. He had known for a while. “He needed ‘inner peace’ and ‘forgiveness’, and I gave him rage. It broke him.”

But Brigitte squeezed his hand. “No. It didn’t break him.” She cast a meaningful glance up at Adrien. “It just bent him a little. He’s hurt, but he’ll get better. If you hold him and tell him it’s okay, he’ll figure out how to stand up straight again.”

Felix took in a breath that broke into a sob. “Brigitte,” he breathed. “I’m still so angry. And I don’t think that I can change that.”

At that, he found his cheeks squished soundly between his fiance’s palms. “Felix. Forgiveness is not about not being angry. And peace isn’t about not being afraid. You’ve got a huge heart, Felix. You’re angry because you love Adrien. You’re afraid because you don’t want to lose him. That’s what you need to focus on: love. And then, that anger, and that fear? They won’t matter that much anymore.

“Zakuu… and Adrien…. They need you to do that. And I know you can. It’s time to pop that shame bubble. Okay? You love Adrien, we know that. For Heaven’s sake, the whole universe knows that by now. It’s time you realized it too.”

Now, Felix watched Adrien sleep as he remembered Brigitte’s words. Plagg was curled against the bandages on the boy’s neck, looking healthy and solid. Zakuu, on the other hand, was flickering worse than ever in Fellix’s lap.

In theory, Felix had understood what Brigitte meant, about the love and the anger and the forgiveness. But in moments like these, when Adrien woke only to reveal that he’d expected to die… well, that anger reared its head and was a lot easier to focus on than the pain of Adrien’s words.

Gabriel Agreste was in the psychiatric ward, and would spend his days there until his sentencing. And after--if Anna’s suspicions were correct, and they usually were--he would likely end up being ruled a mental case and live out his sentence in the ward.

Felix hadn’t seen him. The older man’s wounds from Felix’s beating had been superficial, but his sanity had suffered. The eldest Agreste had a breakdown soon after that terrible day, and apparently spent his days staring vacantly out the window.

Felix couldn’t even bring himself to pity the man. He just… tried to forget. Zakuu needed that from him.

Adrien needed it from him.

And he tried. Oh, he tried.

But it was a weary, uphill battle that Felix had fought in endless circles. And Felix knew it was indeed endless.

Because it wasn’t Gabriel Agreste he couldn’t stop hating; couldn’t forgive. No.

It was himself.


 

 

Lhasa, Tibet

 

The woman sat in a quiet cafe, looking out at the heavenly city. With her dark brown hair grown out in its natural color and sunglasses covering her vibrant green eyes, she blended in well enough. Tourists took her for a local, and locals took her for a tourist.

She made her order fluently in her mother’s tongue, and then pulled out a tablet to browse the Parisian news.

Whatever she saw gave her pause.

Instead of lingering in that cafe to read more, as she usually did, the woman instead made a cryptic phone call.

“... to Paris. Tonight, if possible,” she said in Mandarin Chinese.

At least, that’s what the owner roughly translated when he overheard her from the kitchen. The only thing he knew for sure was that by the time the order was finished and brought out to her table, the mysterious woman was gone without a trace.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Two weeks ago…

 

Marinette

 

For the first time since she’d acquired her Ladybug powers, Marinette did not want to cast Miraculous Cleanse.

Brigitte Fernandes had brought her the polka-dotted leg brace that had been removed from Adrien’s ankle; surgery was over, a new cast was in place, and he didn’t need this one any more. Mari could transform, toss it in the air, and put the world back together.

It would heal her arm, which throbbed dully in her lap. It would soothe her dad’s back. It would repair the fallen building on the Rue de Fictional. And, somewhere out there, Queen Bee and Brush Kit would be magically cured of their bumps from the fight.

But Adrien would still be half-dead in Intensive Care. Felix Agreste would still be a broken man, recounting the ways he had hurt his brother with every breath. And Gabriel Agreste would still be the man behind Hawkmoth, who had torn his own family apart.

Nothing could fix that. Even if Ladybug’s power could have fixed Adrien’s injuries--and dammit, how could Mari never have realized- -she couldn’t take away the deep-rooted pain that the Agreste family would have to face.

So she sat in her bed, staring blankly at the Lucky Charm in her lap. Morphine and blood loss were dulling her thoughts; the heart monitor beside her caught her up in a sluggish rhythm. She knew she had to transform and cast Miraculous Cleanse, and she intended to do so. But every fiber of her being resisted. Even when her vision blurred and she couldn’t recall what she’d been thinking about, she knew that she didn’t want to do this.

Stubbornly, like a child, she didn’t want to. If it couldn’t help Adrien, she didn’t want to.

One large tear, and then another, plopped down on the plastic of the leg brace. Mari heard herself sob and felt her Maman’s hand rubbing circles in her back.

Marinette had been so strong--Ladybug had been strong. She had seen so much today and kept her composure because she’d had to. But now, she was breaking. She couldn’t keep it together any more. She was tired, and so, so sad.

She looked up at Papa, where he was seated awkwardly on the bed beside her in the ward. His back was in a brace, and the doctors had told him to take it easy for a few weeks.

The least she could do was relieve his pain.

She called Tikki out to transform her.

It was time.


 

Tom

 

Tom Dupain stared down at his knuckles as the bruises faded away. His back was finally free of that constant ache, thanks to the magic of Miraculous Cleanse, but those bruised knuckles were something he was going to miss.

They had meant justice.

Not nearly all of the justice sorely needed here, but some tiny sliver of it.

Tom had never liked violence. He was a big man, always had been, but his Maman had told him to use his size to protect, so that was what he did. When he was in grade school, he acted as an immovable wall between his friends and bullies--instead of knocking the bullies down, which he was quite capable of. He used his broad knuckles to give his Maman a back massage after a long day at work. He used his strength to make bread, kneading dough to perfection. When Mari was a baby and needed constant rocking at three AM, his unmatched endurance saved Sabine some sleep.

Gentle things… it had always been gentle things that Tom used his strength for. Never once in his life had he struck another person.

But back there, in that old building, watching Gabriel Agreste trample over his own son in the pursuit of power--knowing, already, how poorly Adrien was treated in his daily life--Tom had decided enough was enough.

He still didn’t like violence, didn’t think it was the answer.

But Adrien was a good kid. A rare kind of pure and generous that doesn’t come along often, who should be treasured. The way that Tom and Sabine treasured Mari, their own little light. Far from treasuring him, Gabriel had wronged his child in every way.

So, punching Gabriel Agreste? Knocking him flat on the floor and making him bleed? That… that was not violence.

It was mercy.


 

 

Present ...

 

Nino and Alya filed into the room in a burst of sound, generating a surprising amount of commotion for just two people. They were deep in their usual banter, but came to a stuttering hush as they crossed the threshold.

“Aww,” Alya sighed, taking in the heartwarming picture before her.

Marinette sat at Adrien’s bedside, gently wiping a cloth down his arm. He smiled contentedly under her ministrations, letting out the occasional purr.

“You guys look like an old married couple!” Alya glowed.

Marinette blushed furiously, but, unlike she might have done months ago, she didn’t flail and throw the cloth away. No, she managed to contain herself to a goofy smile.

Adrien reached up and pulled the oxygen mask away from his face. “She brushed my hair, and cleaned my ears, and clipped my nails--”

“Dude!” Nino broke in, nudging his friend. “You’re supposed to be at least a little embarrassed about that.”

Adrien shrugged. “I would do the same for her,” he glowed.

“Wow,” Alya gasped, pulling out her phone to take a photo or two. “Scratch the old married couple thing, these guys are like newlyweds.”

Both Adrien and Marinette burst into bright red blushes, and Marinette finally lost control, rubbing the cloth back and forth with a vengeance.

“Marinette,” Adrien whimpered, “You’re cleaning my bed sheets….”

“What?!” the girl gasped, finally noticing what she was doing. “Eh-heh, sorry….” She tossed the cloth over her shoulder. “Anyways, what’s new with you guys?”

Alya’s features took on a mischievous twist, and she elbowed Nino. “Come on, show them what’s in the bag!”

Nino looked terribly guilty, but he obliged, pulling what seemed to be a giant, formless cotton ball from his backpack. “She--uh, she really didn’t enjoy the trip over here, but I thought it would be worth it.”

Before he could get out another sentence, Adrien was lurching forward, arms outstretched and mindless of the various important wires he nearly tugged out of place.

“Petite Macaron!” he exclaimed, before sinking back with a wince. “Ow….”

“Hey, man, it’s okay, I’ll bring her to you,” Nino soothed, as Marinette helped Adrien lie back down. They deposited the kitten on his chest and she made her way closer to his face, purring and flicking her tail in content.

“I didn’t know if she would remember me,” he admitted, nuzzling her to his cheek. She ran her rough tongue over the tip of his nose.

“Nah, man, she remembers you. She pretty much attacks everyone who comes near her. This is the first time I’ve seen her so happy in weeks.”

At that, Adrien looked like he might cry, so Nino quickly whipped out his next surprise.

“And this!” he proclaimed, holding up the black puff he’d just produced from the depths of his bag. “I brought Adrien just in case Macaron got lonely.”

Nino set the kitten down on the bed and it immediately flopped over and began playing with its tail.

“You named your cat Adrien?!” Marinette squeaked. She looked halfway between scandalized and love-struck.

“Yeah, girl, where have you been?” Alya chuckled.

And immediately, all four friends sobered. Because Marinette had been here, with Adrien, and it had been hell.

After she and her father had been discharged, Mari had been coming to visit Adrien every day after school, often accompanied by Nino and Alya. Nino had taken it upon himself to look after Petite Macaron, and Alya had been helping Marinette keep up with her school work, so they hadn’t been able to be around as much. But Marinette had spent the most time with Adrien besides Felix and Brigitte, and she had been around to see how bad things had been.

How bad things still were.

Alya knew, because Marinette would call her late at night, sobbing. And Nino knew because Alya would be devastated after those phone calls, and she would go to him for comfort, telling him how much she wished things weren’t the way they were, how much she wished that this could all just be over.

Even now, they could all see it. They knew how much of an act Adrien was putting up. They had all seen how high of a dosage of painkillers he was on, the way he still couldn’t quite manage to sit up.

And that was only the surface. Adrien had been through deep psychological trauma. His life had been turned on end, his family torn apart.

And yet, he had never spoken about it. He remembered, they knew, because the doctors had already thoroughly evaluated him for amnesia. He simply avoided the issue.

He hadn’t even asked about his father.

Perhaps once, deep in the cover of nighttime, he had asked Felix. Maybe he already knew that Gabriel Agreste was currently receiving treatment in the psychiatric ward. But he never brought it up.

He would stare out the window sometimes, haunted and blank. But besides that, the three friends had seen no evidence of Adrien’s inner pain.

That is, no evidence that he showed intentionally. Unintentionally, that was another matter. During his sleep, he was plagued by nightmares, ones that he would still be trapped in upon waking. And, before today, his waking hours were brief, disoriented clips. It was the kind of thing that had run Felix haggard, reduced him to a sleepless, lurking presence who often forgot to eat--and more than often, didn’t have an appetite.

But today, today was better. Adrien was awake and alert for a record time, going on two hours. Exhaustion was showing in the planes of his face, but he was smiling, enjoying the time with his friends, thrilled by the surprise of the kittens.

At this point, that was all they could ask for.

“By the way, where is Felix?” Alya asked. “I’ve seen that floor lamp walk out of here more times than he has.”

The joke fell flat, because Felix really hadn’t left Adrien’s side in the past two weeks. Brigitte had barely managed to get him to step away for a shower and shave, and eating… eating was a work in progress.

Marinette sighed. “He left earlier, saying he was going to get coffee. I wonder if he fell asleep along the way.”

Seeing Adrien’s eyes widen in alarm, Alya waved a dismissive hand. “That’s something you would do, Mari. Felix is probably just getting some fresh air. And, speaking of fresh air,” She winked at Adrien. “The nurses said you’ll be clear to go on walks in a couple days.”

“Really?” Mari squealed.

But Adrien only squirmed uncomfortably, afraid to state the obvious.

“It’s okay,” Alya reassured him. “We’ll get you set up with a wheelchair.”

“Yeah,” Nino piped in, “Broken legs suck. We’ve got you covered, man.”

Adrien bit his lip, looking like he might cry for the second time that day. And he might have, if Adrien the cat hadn’t chosen that moment to tumble towards the boy’s face and slap him repeatedly, soft paw pads trying to get a reaction.

Petite Macaron was not happy with this assault on her master, and she hissed at her brother. Adrien-the-cat pounced, and the kittens’ squabble devolved into frenzied laps around and under the bed, pausing only to scratch at the sheets or spring spastically into the air. Adrien watched them and burst into uncontrollable laughter.

This was the scene that Felix walked in upon.

The detective’s coffee froze mid-sip, and his eyebrows lowered exponentially.

Nino and Alya shrunk back, both terrified of his wrath and shocked by his appearance. They had just seen him a few days ago, but in that short time, he seemed to have grown even thinner, his clothes and hair haphazard, and dark circles under his eyes. He looked about ready to fall over from exhaustion. Nino might have urged the guy to sit down if he hadn’t known the depth of Felix’s pride.

And, well, right now? It was not the best time to do anything except kowtow at Felix’s feet and beg for mercy.

However, any frustration Felix might have had at the friends for letting the rambunctious kittens invade his brother’s room was dashed away when Felix saw Adrien’s smile. The boy had barely noticed Felix’s entrance, continuing to play with the tousling felines.

“Monsieur Detective!” Mari gasped. “I mean, Fe-Felix! We didn’t mean to cause any trouble, I promise I’ll clean up after them, it’s just the k-kittens make Adrien really happy and Petite Macaron missed him so much!”

Nino held up his hands in surrender. “Totally on me, Dude, Sir. I was the one who brought them here. In my bag.”

“Yeah, and I made him do it,” Alya added.

“Fe, it’s fine,” Adrien broke in. One of the kittens was chewing on his hand while the other batted dangerously at his IV. “They can stay, right?”

Felix set down his coffee and frowned. After a few seconds of tense silence, he shrugged. Without a word, he retreated to the en suite couch.

The four friends cheered and launched back into their previous conversation. Alya and Nino argued about whether the latter should test out some skateboarding moves on Adrien’s wheelchair; Marinette loudly protested, while Adrien tried his best to keep up and laugh along. He was getting tired.

He was tired, but still, he had noticed: Felix had glanced, ever silent, at Adrien’s oxygen mask. And, he hadn’t had to say anything. Adrien knew Felix didn’t like that he had to wear it, so he hated to remind Adrien to put it back on. Still, he wished that Adrien would stop taking it off every chance he got. It may be cumbersome, and slightly embarrassing, but it helped a lot more than Adrien liked to admit.

Like now.

Adrien’s chuckles abruptly shifted to coughs and gasps, cutting off his friends’ banter. Alya scooped up the kittens to get them out of the way, while Marinette helped him turn onto his side. Nino rubbed his back and helped him fit the mask back over his nose and mouth, and, gradually, Adrien was able to breathe with ease.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, barely audible. “I’m sorry, guys, sorry, Fe….”

The boy caught sight of his brother, who stood at the foot of his bed, tense and shaking, nearly as white as the walls around them. Felix’s fists clenched and unclenched at his sides, and his eyes had a faraway look, as if stuck in some awful memory. It wasn’t hard to guess just which memory that was.

Before anyone could say anything to stop him, the detective turned on his heel and left the room.


 

 

Felix

 

Felix didn’t get very far down the hallway before he had to stop, press his back against the wall, and just focus on breathing.

Just now was not… it was not okay. Sure, it had resolved itself quickly, but it happened too often, and Felix was not sure how much more he could take.

From time to time, Adrien would pause in the middle of a conversation, and his breath would catch, and helplessness would flash over his eyes. But then, in the next moment, he’d be back to normal, breathing and talking and smiling.

The doctor said it was more of a psychological after-effect than anything physical, and that with time, it would pass.

But Felix knew better. Things didn’t pass. They haunted, and haunted and haunted--

Maybe it was Felix’s photographic memory. That twisted ability of his brain to deliver to him a precise rendering of anything he had so much as glanced at--and it seemed to favor the things he never wanted to see again.

So when Adrien would gasp or choke--or, sometimes, even when he so much as huffed in laughter--Felix would relive that nightmare from the building on the Rue de Fictional. He would see Gabriel Agreste killing his little brother, over and over. He would see Adrien like a corpse, and--

Well, perhaps Adrien would recover from his “glitches”, as Nino had dubbed the episodes. But Felix would be haunted for the rest of his days.

“Felix,” Brigitte’s voice cut through his angst.

It was odd. Her voice was gentle--it always was--but there was a sharpness to it that had him snapping to attention. Her features matched the urgency in her voice, pale and pinched.

“There’s something you should see,” she said, cautiously, grimly.

Felix followed her to a nearby break room. Patients and nurses alike gathered around the television, murmuring about the news program that played across the screen.

And when Felix saw it, he froze in his tracks. His heart sank to his feet, and his vision tunneled precariously. Because--

Because that woman, who was speaking to the anchor, on that screen--

That woman, who was alive and well, smiling and healthy, there in Paris at the broadcast station--

That was Madeleine Agreste.