live long and pawspurr: how are you today?
Marinated Beef ™: i’m going to let hawkmom fucking kill me
live long and pawspurr: hawkmom
Marinated Beef ™: show the sick and dying some respect
live long and pawspurr: please don’t die
Marinated Beef ™: eughh no promises
live long and pawspurr: i miss you. class isn’t the same w/o you there, intensely staring at the back of my head
Marinated Beef ™: you’re going to have to deal w patrol by yourself tonight too
live long and pawspurr: that’s fine. just worry about getting better <3
Marinated Beef ™: thanks <3
live long and pawspurr: HEY UH
live long and pawspurr: HOW ARE YOU FEELING
Marinated Beef ™: like my bones have turned to soup
live long and pawspurr: BONE SOUP
live long and pawspurr: THAT BAD HUH
Marinated Beef ™: why are you yelling
live long and pawspurr: NO REASON
live long and pawspurr: are you in ur room
Marinated Beef ™: yes??
live long and pawspurr: ok don’t move
Marinated Beef ™: what?
Marinated Beef ™: you’re supposed to be at school?
Marinated Beef ™: adrien???
Adrien didn’t knock. He slid through the trapdoor and almost toppled onto Marinette. His hand was clapped over his eyes. She supposed he was trying to be polite, not looking in case she was undressed, but any politeness was ruined by his steel-toed boots knocking into her socked feet.
“Sorry!” Adrien flailed and almost whacked her in the face. Marinette caught his hand, steadying it against her pillow. “Are you decent?”
“I’m decent,” Marinette said. Her voice was croaky and barely there.
Adrien peaked out over his fingers and winced. She was rugged up in her winter pyjamas, her hair in twin plaits rather than pigtails, her fringe matted to her face with sweat. She managed a weak smile for him.
“Not that I’m not always glad to see you, but what are you doing? I was napping. It was a good nap.”
Adrien sat up. He didn’t make any jokes, or tell her how pretty he thought she still looked, bedraggled and sweaty as she was. That, if anything, told Marinette how serious this was.
“Tikki,” Adrien called. The kwami rose from where was sleeping on Marinette’s desk in a tangle of chocolate wrappers.
“Adrien?” she asked, rubbing at one eye. “What are you doing here?”
Adrien shook the question off. “Can Plagg purify akumas? Or is there a way that I could, I don’t know … catch the akumas and store them in a jam jar for a while?”
Marinette levered herself up onto her elbows and stared at him in dawning horror. “There’s an akuma,” she said slowly.
Adrien laughed, high and shaky. “What? Of course not.”
Marinette knew Adrien. She knew what he looked like when he was panicking.
He didn’t get panicked often. He was calm. He was a pillar of bravery she could depend upon. He usually only panicked when something came up involving his parents, something bad happened to her, or he was alone to deal with something.
Like being alone to face an akuma.
“Only Ladybug can purify akuma,” Tikki said.
Adrien ran a hand through his hair, fluffing it up even more. “Right. Cool. Cool, cool, cool.”
Marinette grabbed onto his wrist before he could spiral any further towards a panic attack. “I can’t be Ladybug right now,” she said, even if she wanted to push through, wanted to chase a handful of painkillers down with a can of redbull, and dash into the fight with Adrien. She would only be putting both of them in danger. She had tried to climb down from her bedroom to get breakfast, and almost brained herself on the railing. Her hand-eye co-ordination was ruined. “But that doesn’t mean someone else can’t be instead.”
Adrien blinked at her. Tikki gasped, looking from Adrien to Marinette.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I trust you both. As long as it would work with someone that’s not me … ?”
“Adrien is still a miraculous user, technically,” Tikki said, “and it would only be temporary.”
“What are you talking about?” Adrien asked.
Marinette laid her hands on his armoured shoulders. “Adrien,” Marinette said, “how would you like to be Ladybug today?”
The akumaised retail worker was ransacking a shopping complex. A sizeable crowd was hidden in the surrounding shops, enjoying the spectacle. When Adrien arrived on the scene, she was laying waste to a smoothie shack in the food court and screaming, “Down with capitalism!”
Adrien came in through a slot in the glass ceiling and landed on a table, hands on his hips. “Hey, if you break it, you buy it.”
The akuma spun around, teeth bared, and then froze. “Lady … bug?”
Adrien spun around, showing off the tight red suit, the yo-yo on his hip, and the red mask. His hair was swept back. There was a whirl of ribbon around his neck where a bell normally sat
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Adrien said, “I’m Chat Noir and I’ll be your designated Ladybug for this evening.”
“What,” said the akuma.
Adrien unhooked the yo-yo and spun it around. His isolated childhood may have left him with social awkwardness and deep-seeded personal issues, but it gave him years to master inane toys. Like yo-yos.
Hawkmoth had no idea what hit him.
Marinated Beef ™: stay off the internet
live long and pawspurr: why? does everyone hate me as ladybug :(
Marinated Beef ™: oh no the opposite
Marinated Beef ™: its kind of obscene actually
Marinated Beef ™: i just don’t want you getting a big head
live long and pawspurr: that’s impawissble :3c
Marinated Beef ™: you’re impawissble
live long and pawspurr: so
live long and pawspurr: what did YOU think
Marinated Beef ™: i thought it sucked that my partner had to go and fight w/o me
Marinated Beef ™: what if something happened and i wasn’t there to help you
live long and pawspurr: you’ve fought w/o me before. and i was fine
Marinated Beef ™: still……
live long and pawspurr: what did you think of the suit, i mean
Marinated Beef ™: it was ok
Marinated Beef ™: the ribbon was a nice touch
live long and pawspurr: just ok? :(
Marinated Beef ™: fine
Marinated Beef ™: i thought you were very pretty
live long and pawspurr: :3c
“I’m so conflicted,” Alya said, spreading her hands out. She looked like she was having an existential crisis.
“I thought you said Chat Noir was hot,” Nino said from the front row.
“He is,” Alya said, “but Chat as Ladybug is just … it’s just … ”
Adrien shifted in his seat, pulling at his fingers. “Bad?”
Alya and Nino focussed their attention on Adrien.
“Bad?” Alya repeated, mouth hanging open.
“Dude,” Nino said, “are you blind? Have you seen that man?”
Marinette pulled her head off the desk. Her nose was red and her eyes were too bright, hazed over with the remnants of a fever, but she was aware enough to be in class. “Chat Noir is physically incapable of looking bad,” she said with only the smallest slur.
Adrien flushed. Nino nodded his agreement, and Alya cackled. “Girl, your crush on Chat is showing again.”
“Shut up,” Marinette said.
Across the aisle, Chloe sniffed. “No one is as good as the real Ladybug, especially not that mangy alley cat.”
Juleka shrugged. “I thought it was hot.”
“He looked so sweet,” Rose said, clasping her hands together. “Especially with the ribbon.”
“It was a different look for him, yeah," Nino agreed. “A little weird, though. Chat Noir seems like kind of a bad boy, but take him out of the black leather and put him in red polka dots and he looks like the kind of boy my mum would approve of.”
Adrien squinted, trying to work out if that was a compliment or not—he wasn’t aiming for bad boy as Chat Noir, was he? And sweet enough to earn parental approval? He certainly wasn’t aiming for that.
Marinette burst out laughing. “Chat? A bad boy?”
Adrien sat up in his seat. “Chat could be bad if he wanted!”
“With his puns and his gooey kitten eyes? No way. He doesn’t even swear.”
“Chat could swear if he wanted to,” Adrien said.
Alya blinked at Marinette with dawning comprehension. “Marinette,” Alya said slowly, laying a hand on her friend’s shoulder as she came to a great realisation, “you’re secretly a big superhero fan, aren’t you?”
Marinette stopped laughing. “Uh. I read your Ladyblog posts.”
“You actually do! I wasn’t sure if you were just humouring me, but if you know what a dork Chat actually is, then you must watch some of my livestreams.”
“Chat isn’t a—” Adrien began.
The look Alya and Marinette both shot him stopped Adrien mid-sentence. He turned back around, slumping down in his seat.
“Chat’s cool,” Adrien grumbled under his breath.
Nino patted him on the shoulder. “It’s okay. I think Chat Noir is a total catch.”
Alya corned them after the next akuma attack. Adrien was Chat Noir, this time. He had enjoyed the spots, but it was comforting to go back to the familiar black leather.
Adrien and Marinette fist-bumped, the destroyed street clearing behind them, and then there Alya was, shoving her camera phone in their faces.
“Ladybug, Chat Noir,” she said, bouncing on her toes, “can I get a statement about the last akuma attack a few days ago? That was Chat Noir dressed as Ladybug, right? What was with the sudden costume swap?”
“Well,” Adrien began.
“Chat is a big Ladybug fan,” Marinette cut him off. “He even cosplays as me. It’s a little embarrassing, I have to say.”
Adrien opened his mouth to argue, and then closed it. Marinette wasn’t wrong. He was, in fact, a big Ladybug fan.
Adrien looked straight into the camera, and said, “I’m a cosplayer.”
Technically, he wasn’t lying; although, his anime cosplays were completely different to the magically enhanced suits the kwamis gave them.
Alya looked like she wanted to throttle them. It wasn’t an unfamiliar look.
A few weeks later, an akuma attacked when Marinette had detention. She’d missed too many classes and didn’t have Adrien’s neat excuses about modelling. Ms. Mendeleiev wouldn’t even let her duck out to go to the bathroom.
When her back was turned, Adrien snuck in, threw his ring and Plagg at Marinette, and caught Tikki zooming over with the earrings.
“You’re stuck with me again,” Adrien said to Tikki, dashing out of the classroom before they could be spotted. He slid the earrings in place, grateful he had pierced ears.
"You’re a hero too, Adrien. And you’re a better Ladybug than you think.”
“You’re much nicer than Plagg,” Adrien said. He ducked into the empty bathrooms. “Okay, Tikki—spots on.”
When Adrien arrived at the scene, the akuma looked him up and down, and said, “Pretending to be Ladybug, are you?”
Adrien struck a pose. “Hey, don’t be jealous just because you can’t pull off polka dots like we can.”
The butterfly symbol glowed over the akuma’s face. “I’ll take your miraculous, regardless of who you are.”
Adrien curled his fingers around the yo-yo. It was a familiar weight in his hands. It wasn’t like his baton—more an extension of his body than a weapon—but it wasn’t difficult to use. He didn’t know if that was the miraculous’s magic or his own experience around the yo-yo, but Tikki was right; he was on his way to being a half decent Ladybug.
Despite his confidence, the akuma wasn’t easy to take down. Half an hour into the fight, and Adrien’s muscles were beginning to ache. He hoped the red polka dots concealed sweat marks as well as black leather did.
“Hey, handsome,” a voice called, “look alive!”
Marinette. Her detention must have finally finished. She dropped into a crouch on the asphalt, and Adrien almost dropped his yo-yo.
“That’s you today,” Marinette said with a wink. A wink. “And may I just say how fetching you look in spots?” She tugged at the bell hanging from her throat. “You’ll make all the cats in Paris hot under the collar.”
Adrien stood there, mouth open, staring at her. He felt like he’d been hit over the head. He felt like the road under his red boots was tipping.“What?” he finally said. His face was warm.
Marinette cocked her head to one side. Her pigtails were gone, hair loose around her face. The ears, the fat bell that jingled whenever she moved, the black leather that hugged her body—
Adrien wanted to die, just a little bit.
"Are you okay?” Marinette said. Her voice was a low rumble.
“It’s not—” Adrien’s voice came out squeaky and pubescent. He cut himself off, clearing his throat. “It’s not a cat pun. Fetch. You said fetch. That’s a dog pun.”
“Don’t be such a purrfectionist, my lady.” Marinette rose from her crouch, sauntering over to him. She fiddled with the ribbon around his throat, not unlike the way she would tap his bell when he was Chat Noir. “What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?”
Adrien’s brain was melting.
The akuma interrupted them, screeching as he rounded the corner. “You can’t hide. I will have your miraculous.”
Adrien scooped Marinette up and launched his yo-yo into the air. They sailed over the street and onto a shingled roof.
“Do you want to switch back?” Adrien asked, shaking his head to clear it. If Plagg were here, he would be ranting about the uselessness of teenage hormones.
“No time,” Marinette said, using her baton to keep her balance on the uneven roof. The akuma screamed again, and the streetlights flickered. “He’s growing in strength.”
Once they worked together—Marinette shouting ideas for how Adrien could use the lucky charm, and Adrien shouting down directions for how to safely use cataclysm—it didn’t take long to take down the akuma.
Adrien purified the butterfly and then threw the lucky charm into the air.
The civilian looked around with confusion, while Marinette and Adrien fist-bumped.
“So,” Marinette said, pushing her hair behind her empty ears, “how did I do?”
Adrien took her hand. “You’re a cat above the rest.”
Marinette adopted a smirk that sent a jolt down Adrien’s spine. That was not a kind smirk. “You honour me, my lady.” She grabbed her tail and spun it around. Adrien gulped. “How about a reward for all my hard work?”
“Uh,” Adrien said.
She curled her fingers around her tail and leaned in even closer. “I promise I don’t kiss and tail.”
“Why are you so shy, my lady? Is it difficult when people flirt with you so intensely?”
“Is this revenge for when we found out each other’s identities and I went a little crazy with the flirting?”
Marinette hooked a finger under Adrien’s ribbon and tugged him down to her level. Her eyes were so blue. Pastel blue sclera, darker blue cornea, and slitted pupils like a cat. He had seen photos of himself as Chat Noir, had studied the supernatural quality of his green eyes, but it was another thing entirely to see it close up. Were her eyes always this big?
“It’s pawssible,” she said in that low, silky voice.
“This is animal abuse,” Adrien said, choked. “Have mercy, my lady.”
“No, no, you’re my lady tonight.”
“Why does that sound so appealing?”
She broke character and burst into snorting laughter, one hand clapped over her mouth. The low mask obscured the way her nose scrunched up when she laughed, and in that moment, Adrien hated it.
“Excuse me!” They both looked up. Alya was there, panting like she had run a mile, holding her phone up, already filming. “Ladybug, can I have a quick word about the costume change?”
Marinette leant back on her baton, eyebrow raised at Adrien. “Well,” she said, “she asked you a question, Ladybug.”
Alya’s camera settled on Adrien. “Is this permanent, Ladybug?”
Adrien adopted a calm smile that was nothing like his signature Chat Noir smirks. “It’s temporary. Only Ladybug can purify an akuma, but sometimes the original Ladybug can’t make it to a fight. Not because she doesn’t want to—protecting Paris is our greatest responsibility—but because sometimes it’s just not possible. When that happens, we switch.”
“I didn’t think I was going to make it to the fight today,” Marinette cut in, throwing an arm over Adrien’s shoulders, “but then my luck cleared up, so I finished the fight as Chat Noir.”
“And what a lovely kitty you make,” Adrien said.
Alya was eating this up. The phone switched from Adrien to Marinette, too excited to stay on just one of them. “So the Miraculous aren’t keyed to one user, you can change them around? How does that work? How do you adjust working with another person’s powers?”
Marinette cut her off, “We’re going to transform.”
“Right.” Adrien waved at the camera. “Bug out.”
Marinette winked at the phone. “Stay pawisitive, Paris.”
Marinated Beef ™: was that okay?
Marinated Beef ™: was it too much?
live long and pawspurr: so she does get self conscious!
Marinated Beef ™: shut up. you know i do.
live long and pawspurr: sorry
live long and pawspurr: it’s hard to tell you’re anything but the embodiment of confidence when you swing around in that suit, kicking akuma butt and melting innocent teenage brains
Marinated Beef ™: i could say the exact same thing to you, mr leather catsuit
live long and pawspurr: are you saying i’m handsome
Marinated Beef ™: you’re literally a supermodel
live long and pawspurr: : (
Marinated Beef ™: you look great in anything, adrien.
live long and pawspurr: you pull off the catsuit better than i do
Marinated Beef ™: shut uppp
live long and pawspurr: you were amazing but
Marinated Beef ™: but?
live long and pawspurr: i missed your pigtails
live long and pawspurr: is that weird?
Marinated Beef ™: no, i get it
Marinated Beef ™: i missed your eyes
live long and pawspurr: i still had eyes
live long and pawspurr: did the transformation take away my eyes??
live long and pawspurr: marinette oh my god did it look like i didn’t have eyes
Marinated Beef ™: no, you goof
Marinated Beef ™: i missed the chat eyes
Marinated Beef ™: the all-over green, the gold, the slitted pupils
Marinated Beef ™: i love your eyes as adrien. but i love chat’s eyes too.
live long and pawspurr: …
Marinated Beef ™: ah! sorry! that was probably too much right??
live long and pawspurr: are you at home
Marinated Beef ™: yes…?
live long and pawspurr: open the balcony door
live long and pawspurr: i’m omw
It barely took a minute for Adrien to sneak out and use the yo-yo to sling to Marinette’s balcony. He released the transformation and slid into Marinette’s room.
Tikki zipped past him to hug Marinette. Plagg met Adrien with crossed arms and a surly expression. “Trying to get rid of me, are you?”
Adrien rubbed at the back of his neck. “Honestly, I forgot we even needed to switch back.”
“You forgot? Well, fine. I like it better with Marinette anyway. She’s nicer and she lives in a bakery. A literal bakery.”
“You don’t even like bread that much,” Adrien said. He tried to scoop Plagg out of the air and bring him closer, but the kwami stayed stubbornly out of reach. Adrien sighed and reached into his pocket. “If you’re not my kwami, I guess you won’t want this, then … ”
Plagg snatched up the Camembert and stuffed it into his mouth. “I guess you’re forgiven,” he said through his full mouth.
“Did you enjoy your time with Adrien?” Marinette asked Tiki.
Tikki flashed Adrien a kind smile. “I missed you, Marinette, but I like spending time with him, too. I slept in his hair. It’s very soft.”
“Plagg sleeps in my hair, too,” Adrien said.
Plagg sniffed. “The rest of your room is just cold and uncomfortable, and you humans give off an unnecessary amount of body heat.”
Marinette laughed. “Your hair? That’s too cute.”
“It is not,” Plagg said.
“It’s comfortable,” Tikki said.
Marinette’s phone started vibrating on the desk. She picked it up and pulled a face. “Alya keeps sending me links to the latest Ladybug post.”
Adrien scrambled over to look at the screen. Marinette clicked on the screen at Adrien’s prodding. The latest post was half speculation about the miraculous switch and what it meant for their abilities, their future fights, and Hawkmoth. The other half was photos. Too many photos. Too many close ups.
“This is just fan service,” Adrien grumbled, flicking past a close up of him adorned in polka dots and ribbon. The Ladyblog occasionally accepted photo or video submissions, but most people weren’t Alya—they preferred to run from akuma rather than stay and film. It seemed that when they switched costume, everyone wanted to stay behind and capture it, rather than run for safety.
Adrien paused over a photo of Marinette. She was winking at something off-screen, her hair tumbling over one shoulder. Her hair was almost as black as the ears.
“Do people care that much?” Marinette asked. She looked up from her phone to see Adrien’s glazed expression. She prodded him in the side. He yelped.
“What’s wrong, Adrien?” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. She dropped her voice to that purr she had used today when she was Chat Noir. “Do you like it when I’m dressed up as Chat?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Adrien, still not looking at her.
“Hey, Adrien.” She hooked a finger into his collar and brought him closer. “Are you a bag of catnip?” He could feel her breath on his lips. “Because I want to sample you.”
He made a sound like a dog being stepped on.
Marinette pulled away, blinking. Was he even breathing? “Adrien, are you okay?”
“I have to—to—I left the stove on,” Adrien said, snatching Plagg out of the air and backing up. “Boodgye. I mean, good-bite. I mean. Goodnight, Marinette.”
When Adrien left with Plagg, Marinette collapsed onto her bed and flailed around. She groped for her phone and then dialled Alya.
“What’s up, girl?” Alya said. It was approaching midnight, but neither of them commented on how late it was.
“I need to die,” Marinette said. “Immediately.”
“I know the physics homework is hard, but—”
“It’s not that.” Marinette scrubbed at her hot cheeks. “I keep being so weird with Adrien.”
“You two have been acting close for ages. I was beginning to think you were dating on the down-low. You haven’t been weird around him in a while.”
“But I keep being so forward with him. What if I freaked him out? He probably thinks I’m weird.”Alya laughed. “Alya, this is serious!”
“Marinette, Adrien likes forwardness. You probably just embarrassed him.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. Oh, and speaking of tomato-faced boys, have you seen my latest post? Ladybug and Chat switched miraculous again. Poor Chat.”
Marinette pulled at her pigtails. “What?”
“Girl, Chat was so red.”
“He looked basically nonverbal.”
“Was it really that bad?”
“I thought he was going to die.”
Marinette groaned and shoved her face into her pillow. What had she done?
“Oh, come on,” Alya said, interpreting Marinette’s silence as concern, rather than what it was: humiliation. “He liked it. He looked like all his prayers had been answered and he didn’t know what to do with it.”
Marinette peeked out from beneath her pillow. “Really?”
“Really. And I think it went both ways, too. I totally caught Ladybug checking out his ass.”