Marinette couldn't quite believe the sight before her as she landed on the rooftop overlooking the park. She'd seen a lot of akumas over the years, but this one took the cake. She watched the young girl attack a few people yet didn't do more than shove them aside. She needed to get down there quick and make sure people found some form of safety before the akuma really landed a blow. She hadn't a clue what the akuma's powers consisted of or what had driven the little girl into becoming whatever she was.
Before Marinette could swing out her yo-yo, Chat Noir landed beside her and offered her a sly smirk as he, too, watched the progression of the young akuma below them.
"Well, My Lady, I guess this one shouldn't be too hard. I mean we've handled worse with Puppeteer and Gigantitan. Surely, we can handle this little girl as well." He shot her a two-fingered salute, vaulting off the rooftop and sprinting toward the akuma at full speed.
"Chat, no, wait," she called after him, swinging her yo-yo and racing behind him. She'd seen the akuma's special power, and it frightened her. She had to get Chat out of the akuma's range before the akuma struck him. She called out his name again as she neared, her hands reaching out and latching onto his arms.
She never got the chance to pull him to safety.
The akuma had seen them and struck while they'd been distracted, a large beam of light pouring from her hairbrush.
When Marinette dared to open her eyes again, she yelped, realizing they'd been transformed into action figure-sized dolls. Before she could grab Chat and make a run for it, the akuma scooped them up and took off with them, her glee evident as she sang her victory in gaining the dolls she's always wanted for her collection.
"Chat, are you okay?" Marinette struggled to see over the akuma's hand into the other where she hoped her partner was. "Come on, Chat. Talk to me."
"I'm purrfectly okay, Bugaboo. This akuma can’t hurt me." He offered her another smirk as he raised his voice and called up his Cataclysm.
Marinette watched, hopeful, as his hand touched the edge of the hairbrush he was squished against. Nothing happened, much to her horror.
Why hadn't it worked?
"Try your Lucky Charm, My Lady," he shouted as his own rising panic threatened to overwhelm him.
Steadying her voice, she called up her special power, crying out when nothing came.
What's going on? What has the akuma done to them?
She tried not to fret as the akuma entered a house, presumably her own and skipped upstairs to her room. When the akuma plopped them inside a large dollhouse, she proudly proclaimed, "Welcome home, Ladybug and Chat Noir. You're going to be my friends forever and ever."
Marinette felt the panic rising within her as she stared at her partner, hoping he'd have some idea. They needed a plan to get them out of their current predicament. What had he done to get himself out of Pixelator's trap? Cataclysm? Maybe it'll work this time if they crack the dollhouse.
When she asked him to try again, he stared at his hand for the longest time, his eyes so wide that his pupils had become narrowed slits.
"My Lady, we have bigger problems," he whispered, showing her his right hand, specifically where his ring sat. Rather than the cool black metal ring with the bright green paw pad, she found a piece of bright green plastic shoved through a punched hole in his hand.
Her hand reached out to touch him before a new thought came unbidden. Retracting, she touched her ears and found a similar problem. She needed to be sure though, asking, "Chat, my earrings?"
"Red plastic, My Lady. It looks like they're punched in the same way as my ring."
Moaning, she dropped to a crouch, losing her composure for the first time since being hit by the akuma's power. "Oh, no, Chat, how are we going to fix this? This can't be happening, can it? What are we going to do?"
He glanced around the dollhouse, his eyes assessing before he turned back to her and whispered, "I don't know yet, but we're not giving up. Do you hear me? We'll figure this out. We always do."
That had been two days ago, Marinette mused. She paced the upper floor of the dollhouse, wondering so many things. How were her parents? Did they know she was missing? Were they frantic with worry? How would she ever explain what had happened to her? What about Tikki? She hadn't seen her kwami since being hit. Was Tikki still with her? Was she just as trapped? Then, there was Chat. What about her partner? His family? Surely, he was missed by someone. What about his kwami? Would he ever see Plagg again?
The thoughts kept tormenting her as she continued her pacing, wishing she could find some solution to their problem. They couldn't stay in the akuma's room as playthings forever. Right?
The akuma had already gotten bored with them after the first day, going out and returning with a few new friends to play with. When she finished with them, she just tossed them into another part of the playhouse, disregarding them as much as she did Marinette and Chat.
Speaking of Chat, where was that darned cat?
She glanced around, her eyes darting around for any sign of him within the room. While their powers were useless, they found their weapons still worked amazingly enough. Chat had been excited at the prospect, using his baton to leave the playhouse and explore the akuma's room at his leisure. Marinette had yet to join him, preferring to stay put and wrack her brain for any idea that could possibly work.
"Chat? Where are you?" She peered over the side, her eyes seeking out movement of any kind. "Chat, answer me."
"What's the matter, Bugaboo? Afraid I left you." He popped his head over the edge of the house, peering up at her with his Cheshire grin smirking wide. "I'd never leave you behind."
"Then, what are you doing? You shouldn't go too far, you know. What if the akuma comes back and decides to shrink you again?" She fought the urge to wrap her arms around him.
"Aww, you do care about me. I'm touched, LB." He swung over the edge, taking care with the items he'd gathered on his latest adventure. He pulled the small makeshift bag she'd made him close, tugging items out one at a time. "Hey, LB, look at this. It's a super tiny teapot. Think you might be able to use this?"
She took the little porcelain item from him, studying the small, intricate design on the side. How anyone could paint something so tiny was beyond her as she admired the handiwork.
"Yeah, I just might. Thank you, Chaton," she whispered, fighting back unbidden tears as she recalled all the pots of tea she shared with her mother. Oh, how she missed her mother as she held the teapot closer.
"Hey, hey, please, don't cry. Oh, My Lady, I didn't mean to make you cry." His arms wrapped around her, pulling her close.
She snuggled deeper into his arms, the teapot between them as she clung to him. Her head nestled in the crook of his shoulder. She fought her tears a few moments longer but gave into them as his warmth enveloped her. She cried until her tears dried up, her cheeks feeling stiff from the streaks coating them as they, too, dried.
"Better?" he asked, his voice soft. He'd started to purr to soothe her.
She couldn't help the smile forming as she realized how sweet he'd been during this whole ordeal. She hadn't expected it from her flirty partner, but he'd stepped up in ways she wouldn't forget. He'd certainly made their current living arrangements worthwhile as he helped her spruce up the dollhouse and brought her back little gifts he found around the akuma's room. Even without meaning to, he acted like an actual cat for her.
"Thanks, Chaton," she whispered, her voice too raw to handle anything higher, adding, "for everything."
"Hey, we're in this together, right?" He still held her close as he ran soothing circles over her back. "It's my fault. I shouldn't have dived into the fray like I did."
"Well, that's true, but then, you wouldn't be my Chat, would you?" She moved a step back and bopped his nose, her smile wide as she met his green gaze.
He coughed to cover his embarrassment, working to hide the blush rising up his neck. "I like when you call me yours. It makes this alley cat feel like he belongs to someone."
His hand rubbed at his nape as he spoke, his gaze staring down at the floor of the dollhouse.
"What about your family, Chat? Isn't someone missing you right now?" She moved closer, setting the teapot on the closest surface so she could touch him. She brought her hands close to his chest, her gaze assessing.
He shook his head, his eyes still not meeting hers. "I doubt it. My father only cares that I make him look good, not because I'm his son."
She didn't say anything for a few moments, unsure what she could say to ease that deep ache. How could she have missed this with her partner? Sure, she'd known his home life wasn't all that great, but she never imagined it could be so bad.
Promising herself to do better, she closed the distance between them, one hand resting over his heart as she vowed, "Then, consider me family, Chaton, because I'm not going anywhere. Not without you ever again."
He nodded. "Thanks, LB. That means a lot."
Returning to his bag, he pulled out the other items he found, including some food he'd managed to track down for them. They were little more than dried bread crumbs, but they'd do for the size the two currently were. When the last item had been removed, he stood, pulling his baton from its holder.
"I'll go see if I can find anything else we can possibly use." He pressed the button to extend his baton, his mind on his mission.
Not wanting him to leave her just yet, she touched his shoulder and gestured toward the small table. "Care to join me for a snack first? You must be hungry. You've barely eaten the past few days."
"You need your strength when the akuma comes back. If anyone's going to get us out of here, it's you." He offered her a smile, but she didn't miss the fatigue lining his mouth.
Determined to keep him with her, she tugged on his arm until he followed her to the table. She pushed the crumbs in front of him before turning back for the bottle of water he'd discovered, taking a few drops to fill up a cup for him.
"Eat." Her voice remained quiet yet firm, her hands resting on his shoulders. "You need to rest. I can't fight without you."
He took a bite, causing her to smile as he soon dug into the crumbs, finishing them off in minutes. He sank back in the chair as his stomach grumbled from the food he'd ingested, having grown accustomed to going without the past two days.
"No more sacrificing yourself for me, Chaton. You hear me? I'm a big girl, you know."
She took his hand in hers, leading him to the staircase they'd discovered minutes after being dumped in the dollhouse, leading him to the only bedroom. She pushed him down, forcing him to lie down while she covered him with a washcloth she'd found in the corner. The terry cloth wasn't necessarily soft, but it was comforting against their plastic-like skin.
"Sleep. I'll check on you in an hour, okay?"
"Kay," he murmured, drowsiness already seeping into him as his eyes closed. "I love you, Ladybug."
She gasped, stunned for a moment. She rebounded though as she heard his purr starting up. Leaning over him, she dropped a kiss on his temple, whispering, "I love you, too, Chaton."
A commotion near the door of the bedroom caught her attention.
Small voices begged the akuma to put them down.
The akuma merely laughed, tossing the doll-like people onto her bed and propping her hands on her hips. "I told you to buy me those dolls. It's your fault, Mama, Papa."
"Baby, please, reverse us. Let us help you. We'll get you the dolls, I promise," the woman begged, her hands clasped in front of her.
"No need, Mama. I already have the dolls I want." The akuma turned, heading toward the dollhouse.
Marinette wasn't about to let the little girl grab Chat when he was exhausted, shoving the bed back as far as it would go. She moved toward the edge, her features defiant as she waited for the little girl to grab her.
"Look, Dollmaker, you need to stop this. Let us go. My friend is sick." She hated lying, but she knew the situation was growing dire the longer they remained trapped in this form. "If you won't let us go, at least help us defeat Hawk Moth. He's only using you to get to us."
"Listen to Ladybug, baby," the little girl's father begged. His features wore a similar expression to the little girl's mother.
"No, you're mine now. I'm not letting you go." Her voice whined as she stomped her foot, adamant in her stubbornness.
"Please, Dollmaker, let me go. I promise we can play together if it'll make you happy. I can even make you a Chat Noir and Ladybug doll. I've made them before for another little girl." Marinette's voice grew hopeful despite her pleading tone. Her eyes widened as she caught Dollmaker's interest clearly expressed on her painted features.
"You have?" The akuma's eyes searched Marinette's, seeking confirmation.
She nodded. "You probably don't remember Puppeteer, do you? I made her a set of dolls. I can make you a similar one if you'd like. Just let me go."
The look on the Dollmaker's face caused Marinette's hope to soar as she waited for the young girl to do as she asked.
Those same hopes were dashed with the Dollmaker's next words. "I can't. Hawk Moth will hurt me. He's not happy I didn't get your miraculous before I changed you." Tears lurked behind the young girl's eyes as she continued, "He promised to hurt you, Mama, and Papa if I don't do as he asked. I can't let him hurt you."
This news surprised Marinette, anger building as she imagined a grown man threatening a small child. Oh, when she got her hands on him for that!
Thinking fast, she turned to Dollmaker. "Do you know where Hawk Moth is?"
The girl nodded, her eyes brightening as she seemed to catch on.
Smiling, Marinette asked, "How would you like to add another doll to your collection? He can't hurt you if he's like this. Then, you can let me go. I promise he won't ever hurt you or anyone ever again. Okay?"
She cringed at the thought of putting the little girl in danger, but she knew the girl's powers would help them in turning the tides against the notorious villain.
A squeal escaped her as Chat spoke from behind her, "Well, you two aren't going without me."
She started to protest but nodded in the end, knowing he'd fight her on this. "We leave in the morning. We all need our rest before we take him on."
Her gaze encompassed the little girl as well, motioning for the akumatized victim to head to bed and get some rest.
She thanked her luck that the young girl complied after setting her and Chat back in the dollhouse. As Dollmaker settled in her bed with her parents, Marinette turned to find Chat making room on the bed for them both.
She quirked a brow at him, waiting for him to answer her unspoken question.
"Just for tonight, Bug. Let me hold you, please. This cat knows how to behave." He crossed his hand over his heart.
She held out for another moment or two before sliding next to him, her back to his chest and his arm draped over her side. His hand held hers as she nestled close to him.
"It's been fun playing house with you, My Lady, even if it's not the best circumstances." He pressed a kiss in her hair before shifting so he could get comfortable.
"I know what you mean, Chaton. I wouldn't mind trying this for real one day." She felt sleep coming to claim her. She allowed it to take her knowing the plan she'd set for the next day had to work. She didn't know what would happen if it didn't.
"With me?" he asked, his voice soft and almost hopeful.
"Hmm, yeah, why not?"
She didn't hear his reply as she sank into a world of dreams. Dreams that had her and Chat living happily together in her small room in her parents' home. Dreams of them living together in a cute apartment she'd seen advertisements recently. Even, dreams of them becoming so much more than friends and partners, realizing the love she felt for him went beyond platonic.
When she woke the following morning, she knew she wanted those dreams to come true, her head turning to catch him watching her.
"Did you get any sleep?"
"Enough," he whispered. He leaned close and pressed a soft kiss on her cheek. "I meant what I said before, My Lady. I do love you, no matter what."
"I know." She stirred, coming to sit at the bed's edge. She glanced over her shoulder at him, smiling as she admitted, "I love you, too, Chaton."
Standing, she stretched and held her hand out to him. With a determined glint in her eye, she said, "Now, let's take care of Hawk Moth and become human again. Shall we?"
He nodded, helping her down from the dollhouse to the floor of Dollmaker's room.
She frowned as she'd caught sight of the empty bed, her gaze searching for any sign of the akumatized girl. Worry began to settle in her stomach as she found the girl missing along with her parents. Where could she have gone? Is she okay? Surely, she hadn't gone far.
Chat propelled them onto the young girl's bed where they found the bedding neat, almost as if the girl hadn't slept there at all.
"Chat? Where did she go?"
He shook his head, his worry as evident as she knew hers was.
"We need to find her. What if Hawk Moth tries to hurt her?" She paced the bed, her frantic thoughts almost jumbling with how fast she tried to figure out their new predicament. "She wouldn't confront him without us, would she?"
"Hey, we'll figure this out. We need to get out of this room first though." He looked around for several seconds, his mind discarding ideas as fast as hers. When he came back to her, he asked, "Any ideas?"
She shook her head. Despair filled her at the thought she'd sent the little girl to her doom by confronting Hawk Moth without them.
An excited voice came up the stairs not long after Marinette's despair threatened to overwhelm her.
Recognizing the voice as the Dollmaker's, Marinette called out, "Are you okay? Where are your parents? What were you thinking? Why didn't you take us with you?"
Her angry questions didn't phase the akuma as she stood before them with the widest grin. Her hand went into her backpack and pulled out the miniature Hawk Moth, his face lined in anger at being turned into a doll.
"I did it, Ladybug. I got him like you asked. Now, will you make me my dolls?" Dollmaker begged, her little body practically dancing in one spot.
Seeing the little girl hadn't been harmed yet wondering how this was even possible, she put on her sternest expression, demanding, "Hand Hawk Moth to me. I have some words for him first. Then, yes, I'll make you a set of dolls just for you, sweet Dollmaker."
The little girl dropped Hawk Moth with little ceremony on her bed, smiling despite the loud, indignant grunt he gave at being handled so unceremoniously.
Before he could say anything, Marinette had reached his side, pulling him up and grabbing the purple plastic that had to be his miraculous from his upper chest. She tossed it to Chat for safekeeping as she hooked back her arm and let it swing, landing a hard blow to the man's gut.
She smiled in satisfaction as he grunted in pain.
"You deserved that," she whispered in his ear. "I'm going to make sure you pay for all the pain you've caused every Parisian for the past six years. You understand me?"
He coughed, nodding.
She hurried to tie him up with a loose thread from the young girl's blanket. She'd fix that later, too, grateful the little girl had come through in the end.
"Okay, Dollmaker, it's your turn. Please, reverse your spell on me." Marinette swung down from the bed, coming to stand in the middle of the room. She offered the young girl a smile as she waited for the spell to wash over her.
The young girl didn't hesitate in giving Marinette her original form back, too excited by the prospect of having dolls made by Ladybug herself.
Marinette took a moment to gaze down at her normal form again, her fingers darting to her earrings and feeling the familiar posts poking through her lobes. Oh, she'd finally gotten her self back. She fought the urge to wrap her arms around herself as she took the hairbrush the Dollmaker used to make her human dolls, breaking it.
A purple butterfly fluttered out.
With her yo-yo, she cleansed the butterfly and called upon her cure to change everyone back, righting the wrongs of Hawk Moth's victim after too many days unchecked.
As Chat appeared as his normal size on the small bed, next to a bound Hawk Moth untransformed, she gasped. Beside each other sat the two Agreste men, father and son staring at one another with something close to shock.
Her mind couldn't wrap around this new information as she waited for her Chaton's reaction to this development. She winced when she saw the anger in Adrien's eyes a moment before his own fist connected with his father's jaw, sending the older man to the ground.
She stopped him before he could do any more damage, hugging him tightly.
"It's okay. It's okay, Chaton," she chanted in his ear until he calmed.
Plagg rested on his shoulder, his tired eyes peering down at the scene with some semblance of justice and resignation.
Soon, Tikki joined the fray as her miraculous gave its final warning and pink magic washed over her, dropping her transformation.
Not bothering to dwell on this development, Marinette pulled her phone out of her purse and called the police, wanting to ensure Gabriel faced justice for his crimes against Paris and his own son.
It took several hours before the police finally allowed everyone involved to go their separate ways, needing statements from the victim, her parents, Marinette, and eventually Adrien.
When they finally came to stand outside the young girl's home, Marinette turned toward Adrien and asked, "Where do you want to go?"
"Home," he whispered. "Will you come with me?"
She nodded, not about to let him out of her sight. They'd been through too much the past few days. They had so many subjects to discuss. The list seemed endless in her mind, but she didn't care to discuss anything beyond getting home and eating. Sleep would be next. After they'd met their most basic needs, then they'd talk.
That's all she knew as she took his hand in hers, leading him toward the bakery. She swore to herself she'd never allow him to believe the bakery wasn't his home, too, not after all they'd discovered that day.
"And that's how Ladybug and Chat Noir first came to live together," Adrien said, eyeing his children as they sat with rapt attention at his feet. He smirked as he caught their awe at the story he'd told them.
"That's not possible. No one can be turned into a doll, can they, Papa?" Emma asked, her hands crossed over her arms as she eyed her dolls in the corner of the room.
Sensing a potential trap, he rushed to assure her. "Of course not, sweets. It's just a story, mon Coeur."
She nodded, her body relaxing.
Marinette came to stand in the doorway, a fond smile playing across her lips as she announced, "Bedtime, kiddos."
"Oh, Mama, just a few more minutes," Louis begged.
"Nope, bedtime." She pointed toward their beds, doing her best to hide her amusement at their antics. Her gaze strayed to her husband as he moved to stand beside. "Don't forget, little ones. We're visiting Grandmere and Grandpere tomorrow. You need to get plenty of sleep, okay?"
"Yes, Mama," they chorused, settling into their beds and closing their eyes.
Shutting off their light and closing the door, Marinette and Adrien made their way to their room down the hall, having taken over the mansion he'd once called home. It had taken a lot of work, but the old house didn't look anything like the one Adrien had known from his childhood, much of the coldness replaced with warmth and love.
Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her close to him, whispering, "Have I told you lately how much I love you, My Lady?"
"Only every chance you get, Chaton." She smiled at him, mumbling into his lips, "I love you, too."
He danced her around the large gallery as he hummed a familiar love song popular on the radio.
"Sweet Chaton, I can't believe you still insist on telling that story. It's not the happiest story of our lives, is it?" She moved with him, her smiling never faltering as she asked the same question she asked every time he retold that particular story, knowing the answer by heart. She just loved hearing him say it each time.
"Well, it might not, no, but it's still the story of how we fell in love." He pressed a kiss to her temple as he continued, "Besides, it was my first taste of what living with you would be like."
"Oh, yeah, how was it?"
"Wonderful, Bugaboo." Another kiss landed on her cheek. "It was absolutely wonderful."