Felix didn’t talk about Tibet.
Adrien knew his brother wasn’t exactly a social person and never had been. The elder Agreste had a knack for breezing through tasks, avoiding conversations, and pushing people away. The only people Felix ever seemed to connect to were Adrien and their mother, and well—the less said about Mother, the better.
Felix never really talked about people he met, feelings, dreams. He stuck to bare bones facts, sneering a bit at incompetence. Where their father occasionally softened, Felix was prickly. Adrien didn’t blame him, no matter how he disagreed with the way he handled things. But the year and a half in Tibet was something blanked out from history. Felix never called of his own volition during that time—he barely called at all since—was standoffish even for him, and Adrien didn’t believe a single one of his excuses. Once he’d moved to China for another part of his studies, he’d communicated again, but it was never quite the same.
So when Father announced that Felix would be coming home in a little over a week to stay, Adrien almost didn’t believe it. But his brother confirmed it in a phone call after dinner, one that made him a little late for patrol but no less uneasy—great, bubbly even, but nervous all the same. Even Ladybug noticed.
“What’s wrong, minou?” she asked. The corners of his mouth pulled up a bit—not his best smile, no.
“Family issues, milady. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you ready to see Master Fu? We planned tonight and all.”
“Purrfectly so,” he grinned.
Marinette glanced at Chat again. They were both sitting in Fu’s living room, waiting for him to bring out tea and begin telling them new parts of their duties as superheroes.
Or at least, that’s the gist of the message she got, which said more things about destiny, good, evil, and such.
“You two have the most powerful pair of Miraculous, the powers of creation and destruction. The other five are strong, but not nearly as much as yours. Because Hawkmoth is after the cat and bug specifically, I think it’s time you chose a team to lead against him. He grows more powerful, more dangerous. I need you two to help me choose the Fox, the Bee, and the Turtle—Wayzz needs a new partner, after all.”
“What about the last two? I think we’re part of the seven, right?” Marinette asked.
“The Peacock and the Butterfly,” agreed Master Fu. “They are both lost to me, for now. The Butterfly is Hawkmoth’s. Should you relieve him of it, you can either bring it to me or to someone you trust as another hero.” Chat frowned.
“What objects are they?”
“Both are brooches, as they are a pair much like your two. The Fox and the Turtle usually go hand-in-hand as well, and the Bee—well. The Bee is always temperamental.”
“So, you want us to choose the Miraculous holders and send them your way?” guessed Marinette. Adrien frowned.
“There are three of them and two of us. How do we coordinate this without revealing our identities?” Fu blinked, peering at them in confusion.
“You haven’t yet?”
“Yet?! I thought we weren’t supposed to! My kwami said—”
“Tikki’s a bit uptight about the whole thing,” Wayzz drawled, “She was really upset last time when their reveal didn’t happen at a very opportune moment.”
Marinette took a few deep breaths.
“So, what your saying is we could tell each other?”
“There comes a certain point in a relationship with your partner where it becomes more beneficial than dangerous. The magic that protects your identities weakens so that you might be able to notice one another in these moments. At this stage, finding out, rather than directly telling each other, I think is perfectly permissible. There will be a point at which you must tell each other. I imagine when the two of you find out, it will be wise to come to me—and to bring Rena and two others you choose so we might coordinate what happens next. I’ll trust you to present them with their Miraculous in the meantime.”
Gabriel glanced again at his watch. Adrien looked up at him, a small smile on his face.
“Nervous, Father? I mean, I know I am. It feels like forever since we’ve seen him.” Gabriel just sighed and nodded. But his eyes flicked up, and he straightened. Adrien scanned the airport to see—
“Felix!” he shouted, waving. His brother gave a small wave in return, pulling a suitcase and backpack along.
“Adrien. Father,” he said once they got close enough to one another. Felix gave Adrien a short hug and awkwardly yanked their father into it.
“Gorilla has the limo outside. I’m sure you’re exhausted. We can talk at dinner tonight,” their father decided, pulling away.
“Yes, of course,” Felix nodded primly. Adrien looked harder at his brother. He’d always made no mistake of being very proper and aloof, but Adrien couldn’t help but see there was something very different about how he held himself now. More adult? More confident? Freer, maybe—not like he was choreographing every move he made.
It kind of reminded Adrien of how Chat Noir had freed him to do what he wanted. He smiled—well, despite the lack of communication, it looked like those years away certainly helped his brother be himself.
When it was announced that Felix would be joining in his final year of school, the rumors started. That he was a trouble maker. That he did shady work for Gabriel in his foreign investors’ corporations. It was all whispers about the elder Agreste, especially because Adrien had never spoken a word about him—the most concerning part of it all.
“I didn’t even know you had a brother,” Alya said sharply at lunch, glancing across to the empty table where the older Agreste was sitting.
“Yeah, well . . . he wasn’t exactly home? When our mom disappeared, he begged Father to study in Tibet where she was seen last. Father let him study abroad with an approved tutor, but . . . I dunno. He stopped communicating with us beyond basic checking in. And he didn’t come home right away for lycée—he moved to China to finish his studies there. That’s kinda why I learned Chinese,” he blushed a bit. Nino’s eyes were bright as he frowned.
“That’s not cool, leaving you behind like that. Big brothers shouldn’t—”
“He’s only two years older, Nino,” Adrien said, “I certainly don’t blame him. I just missed him.”
“Big brothers don’t leave little brothers alone,” Nino insisted, “I know it’s different with me and Chris because he’s really little, but that’s still not okay. Especially with how your dad wouldn’t let you make friends.” Adrien sighed.
“Knowing my brother, he probably didn’t make any, either, while he was gone. Maybe one if they were stubborn enough. Felix is . . . difficult. But I’m going to find out what happened with him in Tibet.”
“I’ve bought a storefront,” Felix said at dinner, “A place just down the street. It will need some remodeling, but I’m going to hold some classes there.”
“What do you mean by that?” Gabriel asked, frowning. Felix blinked like he’d just noticed Father was there.
“I’m going to teach dance lessons, father. And self-defense later, once I get approved for that.”
“I thought you were working with the finance division?”
“I am, for now, and I’d be willing to assist in a smaller capacity, but that’s not what I want to do with my life on the whole.” Adrien glanced between the two of them.
“What you want often interferes with your responsibilities, son.”
“I know that, father, but I’ve made my decision, father, and I’ll have you know that you ought to take your own advice,” he said, pointedly not looking at Adrien.
“And what do you mean by that?” Felix snorted.
“Well, if you insist—you’re a controlling ass when it comes to everyone, including Adrien, and yet you can’t be bothered to spend time with him. And I’m really quite surprised you let me study in Tibet, knowing you, but it’s probably because you knew what I was going to try to do and you couldn’t step away from your precious company to look for your missing wife—”
“Enough!” Adrien snapped. “Jesus, Felix, it’s not like you were here for me either!” Dead silence. Adrien grimaced as the two stared in what might as well have been slack-jawed shock.
“Come on. You know it’s true—I—ugh. You’re both so stubborn and single-minded it’s a wonder you even notice I exist sometimes, for all you argue about how you ought to treat me. Look, I get you care, but showing it more than once a week would be nice, you know.” He got up and walked as quickly as he could back to his room.
“Plagg, I’m patrolling early. Claws out.”
“Chaton? What’s wrong?”
He grimaced. Sometimes he wished his Lady weren’t so observant.
“I’m just disappointed in some people I looked up to.” Ladybug tensed.
“Not me, I hope.”
“Never you, my Lady—some family. Just wishing they’d talk to me instead of argue about me is all. They’re frustratingly similar. An alley cat’s got to get attention sometimes, right?” Her eyes softened.
“Well, no matter what, you’ve always got me.”
“I know, Bugaboo. Any ideas how I can get it through their thick heads?”
“Minou, maybe you should take them individually aside. That way they won’t be so angry with each other they won’t listen to you.”
“But then they’ll feel like I’m taking sides.”
“Well, if you tell them both how you’re feeling, you should probably plan out ahead how you’ll confront them. And probably talk to your friends about it—goodness knows I’d hate to see you sitting and suffering quietly. It’d be so unlike you, kitty.”
“Why, I never!” he grinned. His Lady knew just how to cheer him up. “Do you really think I’d be the type to suf-fur silently? It’s quite dramatic, that.” She rolled her eyes.
“Such a drama queen, kitty. . . Still . . . if you need me, Chaton, don’t hesitate to call me. Or any of your friends, okay?” He glanced out over the city, then smiled wearily at her.
“I know I can count on you, my Lady.”
The drive to school was silent most of the way. Felix stared into his lap for most of it, while Adrien fidgeted. As Gorrilla turned the final corner, though, Felix spoke.
“I’m sorry. We both know I’m an asshole, but that’s not an excuse, and I should learn. I don’t expect you to forgive me quite yet for leaving you alone all that time. Maybe we can talk about it?” Adrien only had time to nod before they’d arrived and Felix disappeared into the cluster of students heading to class.
Ladybug had said to try to talk it out. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to put his problems on everyone else’s shoulders. Apparently, though, Adrien wasn’t that good at hiding how upset he was, because Marinette was tripping over her words to talk to him again.
She still had a stutter on occasion when she was worried or flustered, but they were friends now—it was only noticeable when she was really worried. So Adrien must have been projecting a lot of how he was feeling if Marinette was back to stuttering.
“A-Adrien? Are you okay?” she asked. Sure, just tired. That’d be the easy answer, the lie. But his Lady’s advice echoed in his head—not to hesitate to get help from his friends, too.
“Not really. Didn’t get much sleep last night. I found out . . . some bad news.”
“That’s too bad,” she murmured, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not the specifics right now, but . . . have you ever kept up hope for a hopeless case, and then you finally just—give up, even though it was so important to you?” his voice was desperate. He sighed. Marinette thought carefully before answering. Adrien seemed really upset, so whatever it was—it might have to do with his mother’s disappearance, or the way his father was, or Felix being home.
“Not on a large scale, and not with people,” she admitted, “But I get attached to projects sometimes. Sometimes you think if you put enough into something, it will work out. But it doesn’t.”
“It’s my dad. He’s . . . not the man I keep hoping he is. And Felix, even though he says he’s on my side, he’s not even been here, so just saying it isn’t enough. I’ve told one person I trust, but—I don’t know. I’m not good at taking her advice, sometimes.”
“I’m so sorry, Adrien. They’re just looking out for you, though, right?” He hoped so.
“Yeah. I guess. I don’t know what to do,” he said. She nodded solemnly.
“Other than try to talk through the problem with someone you’re comfortable with so you can work it out with them the way you want, I don’t either. Do you want to talk to Nino too?” Adrien snorted.
“Last time he had an issue with how I was treated by my dad, he got akumatized,” he pointed out.
“Only Nino would be turned by watching someone else getting hurt,” she smiled. Adrien chuckled.
“True. But I did get good news, too. I think Felix might actually be open to reconnecting.” Marinette tamped down the urge to narrow her eyes in suspicion. If Felix was in it for Adrien’s sake and making mistakes and bad choices, that was one thing. But if he was being deliberately selfish, she would demolish him.
Time to meet the other Agreste and decide whether she needed to knock some sense into him or just straight up give him a black eye.
During lunch, Felix snuck onto the school roof and called Bridgette.
“And you’d better have packed all of your necessities,” she said firmly, “I don’t want you to have to rely on your father entirely while you’re there.”
“I did,” he rolled his eyes, “And my bank account still receives everything I need from the café. I’m in Paris to support Adrien, not for Pere—I’ve set myself up perfectly well. But what would you do without me? You’ve not drowned yourself in coffee orders yet?” She made a face at the camera on her phone, the light from her window glaring at him momentarily.
“The café is doing fine. Hey, did you know I have a few relatives in Paris? There’s a second cousin named Marinette. She should be about Adrien’s age—wouldn’t it be wild if they were friends?”
“About as wild as a secret superhero love square in Tibet,” Felix said dryly. Bridgette’s laugh was high and bright, but sad, too.
“I’m still kind of relieved,” she sighed, “I mean, I miss Tikki, but being Ladybug . . . it was so much pressure. I don’t think I’d pick up a Miraculous again unless they really needed me.”
“I’d do it in a heartbeat, now that the curse is lifted. Any of the Miraculous, for that matter—I’d even return to the cat,” he smirked. She rolled her eyes.
“Right, right. Well, my shift starts in a few minutes. See you, xiǎo māo,” she teased.
“See you, coccinelle.”
It must have been somewhat of a genetic thing for Agrestes to get on Marinette’s bad side at first. She couldn’t find Adrien’s brother anywhere, which fueled her frustration. She sure heard a lot about him, though. Though he was technically transferring, his scores were high enough that he probably didn’t even need to attend his final year of lycée. He was two years above Marinette and her friends, so he didn’t exactly have their same schedule. Marinette didn’t have to be in the same classes to know about him, however. Everybody was talking about him.
Felix Agreste was smart. His history and literature grades were insane. And he wasn’t just smart—he was fast. He was on the lycée track and fencing teams immediately after trying out. Kagami gushed over how skilled he was.
He was the buzz of the whole school for an entirely different reason—he was the ice prince to Adrien’s kind warmth. He didn’t seem to want to make friends with anyone, dismissing people left and right that first week. He just came and went with Adrien, did his studies, did his club duties, and left. Even Chloe avoided him personally.
Adrien just shrugged apologetically when other people asked about him.
Marinette had a plan.
Step one: Find Felix. Step two: ply with cookies. Step three: feel him out and determine whether he’ll be toxic for Adrien. There were probably some missing steps, but she’d always been good at improvising. They had a coinciding free period on Tuesdays, so she scoured the school for him, eventually catching him on the roof. Which threw her, of course, because what kind of prim, proper ice prince goes to the roof to be alone? He definitely seemed precariously perched on a ledge, but he seemed unbothered, reading a thick book.
“Felix?” she had to double check, because with the wind ruffling his hair and the way he was lounging, he seemed entirely different.
“Hm. Hello . . . who are you?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. He very pointedly looked back at the book he was reading. Ah. Definitely Felix.
“My name’s Marinette. Adrien told us you were coming to stay for the year, so I brought some pastries from my family’s bakery to welcome you back to Paris! I would have brought them earlier, but I couldn’t find you.” she said, offering a small box of cookies. He could smell raspberries and vanilla—they must have been freshly baked. A familiar smell—there’s a second cousin named Marinette echoed in his memory as it clicked.
“Please tell me you do not have a cousin named Bridgette Cheng,” he said, annoyance and hesitation filling his tone. He still took the offered cookies.
“Um, I don’t have a cousin named Bridgette Cheng?” she said. It was more of a question than an answer. He groaned.
“It should figure that I cannot escape her even when we’re on separate continents. Did she tell you about me?” Marinette was baffled. She hadn’t spoken with Bridgette in quite some time, but she’d always been quite outgoing at family parties, leading the charge on things. Marinette had admired that.
“No. How do you know her?”
“We were in the same study group for a year in Tibet. She was very . . . persistent. We dated for some time. She’s my best friend now,” he clarified. That should have been the end of the discussion, but she stayed. Where Bridgette was overbearing, though, Marinette was hesitant. Where his Lady was fiery, with him casting shadows, this girl was a warm glow.
He could see how easily Adrien befriended her. With a small smile, he let her babble on about their friend group.
The curse was lifted with Bridgette, but maybe being home would finally break this unlucky streak.
“So do you want to go to the park with us? Alya and Nino have been gushing about this swing dance class—they set up a tent and a floor, teach a few classes, and let people dance for a few hours.” Felix blinked.
“You’re aware I’m a professional dancer? That I’m working on opening my own studio?”
“And?” Marinette raised an eyebrow—was she mocking him?
“I hardly need swing dance classes.”
“Well, the rest of us do if we don’t want to make fools of ourselves. I’m clumsy enough as it is, but it’ll be fun, so why does it matter how much experience you have?” Felix frowned.
“Friday night, barring akuma attacks.” What the hell was an akuma?
“An akuma?—oh, you haven’t been living in Paris. Right.” She went on to explain akumas, what they were, and the town’s resident superheroes—Chat Noir and Ladybug, along with Rena Rouge. His eyes widened.
“Chat Noir and Ladybug? Does everyone know about them?” Marinette laughed.
“Alya runs the Ladyblog, completely dedicated to them. Check it out sometime.”
Felix was going to have a heart attack in the privacy of his own room, but until then, he nodded.
“Friday, right. I’ll be there. Bridgette’s expecting me to call her—goodbye.” He whipped his phone out, pulling up the Ladyblog as Marinette waved goodbye.
What was his life.
Felix sent Bridgette a link to the Ladyblog and a facepalm gif, since that pretty much summed up his entire emotional state over the situation. She sent back a bunch of exclamation points.
Why would Plagg and Tikki come to Paris?
“I am Deadline! You’ll have to finish your tasks before the timer runs out!”
An akuma with a penchant for calendars and clocks roamed through the streets of Paris. Adrien rushed in immediately. Ladybug clearly noticed his aggression but looked like she wasn’t going to push the topic.
Well, he was going to take that as a sign of acceptance.
A group of third year students needed defending from the clockwork-piece-like minions that the akuma had gathered. One of the students was Felix.
Adrien fought the squad off, turning to pick up his brother and friends, only to find that Felix had someone in his arms as well. He raised an eyebrow.
“Are you a superhero or are you not? Help me get these people out of here.” And that was beyond weird that he was not going to analyze. Felix acted like he’d seen Chat Noir before, even though he’d just heard about it the day before with Marinette (Alya had gasped. He doesn’t know anything about them? Then he can be a totally impartial judge that will tell me the truth about whether my ship is valid or not!) Not to mention Felix had already been helping civilians. Adrien would not have expected him to know what to do, let alone want to put the effort forth when his own life was in danger.
Maybe he’d judged Felix a bit too harshly.
Ladybug purified the akuma and they met on the Eiffel Tower briefly.
“So you’ll bring the fox to Rena for good and I’ll take care of the Turtle,” he repeated quickly.
“Right. We’ll talk about the Bee after patrol tomorrow, okay?”
Marinette sucked in a breath. As Ladybug, she so rarely got this nervous about talking—but here she was.
“Alya?” she asked. The reporter blinked.
“Ladybug! Oh my goodness, hi! There isn’t another akuma, is there? Right after Deadline, too—”
“No, actually. I’ve had some talks with Chat Noir and . . . the powers that be, and well, you’ve earned your place as Rena Rouge, long term.” She gave Alya the necklace, and she gasped.
“How—wow, this is amazing.”
“There are two other Miraculous that Chat and I have access to—we’re expanding our team. Chat and I will take care of most things, but if an akuma gets out of hand or we’re unavailable, we’re going to count on you, okay?”
“You got it, Ladybug,” Alya grinned, “Besides, I gotta keep my Clark-Kent-reporter identity, huh? I wonder if Nino could be my Lois,” she mused.
“Until there’s a safer time, you’re going to have to keep your identity a secret,” Marinette warned again, “It’s getting close to a time where Chat Noir and I might be able to share with each other—and we’ve been doing this and building trust for a long time. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
Alya agreed with a firm nod.
“Whoa, dude, Chat Noir? What are you doing here?”
“Hey, Nino. So, you know how Rena Rouge is sometimes teaming up with Ladybug and I?”
“Well,” Chat held up a bracelet, “I know you’re a really amazing person. The only reason you were akumatized was because you cared about your friend—I think that’s pretty awesome. So, since Ladybug and I can’t be everywhere at once, and Hawkmoth is only getting stronger—do you want to be a superhero?”
Nino’s eyes widened.
“Are you serious? I mean, I’m totally saying yes, but me?”
“Absolutely. The Turtle Miraculous is all about protection, so I definitely don’t see anyone else I’d rather have. I’m not too good at explaining the history of it all, but Wayzz—he’ll know what to do, mostly. Here.” He offered the bracelet, which Nino put on. Wayzz grinned and waved. Nino waved back dazedly.
“Hey, mini dude. I’m assuming you’re Wayzz?”
“I am. I’m your kwami—between me and your Miraculous, you’ll have superpowers when you activate it. Now just say, ‘shell on!’”
“Wayzz, shell on!” A forest green light exploded around him. Nino grinned at Chat.
“Well, looks like I’ll be Carapace. How, uh, do I change back?”
“Probably, like, shell off or something? I dunno. Wayzz will explain more once you do. Anyway, Ladybug and I are going to plan a meeting for the whole team once a week, but we’ll still be in charge of the main battles. Don’t make unnecessary risks, yeah?” He seemed pleased with himself.
“Sure, dude. I’ll do my best,” Nino nodded, looking himself over with the outfit still.
“Right—well, I leave you in Wayzz’s capable hands. Catch ya later!” And the cat was gone.
Nino just stared in the mirror for a few minutes, looking at his new outfit.
“Bro,” he whispered, “Adrien would flip.”
Adrien was surprised that Felix was so negative towards their father. He’d always been extremely dutiful and well-mannered, but that icy demeanor he wore at school was for home, too, unless it was only Adrien around. Father seemed surprised, too, every time he tried to make conversation to make up with him. It turned awkward and halting even as Father attempted to make small talk.
“It seems travelling has given you some independence?”
“Quite a bit, actually. I’m even running a small business in China with my ex as we speak. We’re friends now, though, no worries about a scandal. Which is .”
“Ex?” Adrien stared. Felix only ever complained about Bridgette, the annoying girl that fawned over him during school, but surely—
“She’s actually your friend Marinette’s cousin,” Felix said. “They’re both incredibly clumsy.”
Father got a call and left.
“What was that?” Adrien asked, furrowing his brow. “Why were you so—”
“Distant? Tell me, Adrien, when has Father been close with us?” he sneered, but after a moment he seemed to give up on the antagonism and collapse.
“I’m sorry. I’ve grown tired of trying and failing to please him. It’s why I pursued dance further—much as modeling and desk work has worked well for me, it leaves me stiff and agitated.” He looked like he was going to continue, but he turned his head sharply, cutting off.
“Tell me about Brigette?” Felix narrowed his eyes.
“Trying to get girl advice out of me?”
“No,” Adrien said, “I just miss you and don’t know anything about your supposed best friend, which is a tragedy.”
And now Felix just looked amused.
“Right. We met at school in Tibet.” Adrien’s eyes widened considerably. Is she why he dropped everything? “She had a really embarrassing, pushy crush on me from the start. I mostly ignored her or shrugged her off. Meanwhile, we were talking on an online gaming forum with usernames that gave no indication to our real identities. We made a good team. I flirted with her shamelessly, and she always denied me—I . . . I fell in love with her for real. And I kept suggesting we meet in real life, but she was sure I was a creep.” Adrien laughed.
“Wow, that’s a convoluted relationship!”
“Yeah. We finally confessed and kissed, dated a while—she’s a sweetheart with a temper—but ultimately? We aren’t cut out for romance long term. I don’t regret it, but we moved on and became friends. We run a café and bakery—she came up with the recipes and I do the financial planning—just a small place in Suzhou where she lives close to her family, but it keeps us both busy.” Adrien looked pleased to finally know about what Felix had been up to. Maybe it wasn’t all the details, but at least he was offering an opening to be a part of his life. Adrien took the opening, glad it had been decently easy. His father, though . . . that would take some work.
“No, I will not continue,” Felix said firmly, “to make a fool of myself on this dance floor. I know how to dance. This is nothing but child’s play, and you all will slow me down. I will gladly sit in the corner and watch Chat Noir fail videos instead.” They all looked indignant. Adrien especially looked horrified at the videos comment.
“Excuse you, but you’re going to have to dance like the rest of us. That’s the point. We’re all doing this to have fun, not to look cool,” Marinette insisted. “You said you’d come. Just enjoy yourself.”
“Hey guys!” A group of their classmates had apparently been on the other end of the tent that was set up. Felix recognized Luka, who was in his class, Kagami from fencing club and—
“Adrikins!” Chloe. Maybe she was the reason he’d avoided Bridgette so much—the clinginess was all too familiar from their childhood annoyance.
“Kill me now,” groaned Alya. But, dare he say it, miraculously, the night still went decently well.
During a break, he sat and doodled on napkins while Nino and Alya sat near him. Mostly sketches of Miraculous items. Nino eyed his drawings.
“Hm? I think they’re what give Ladybug and company their powers.” He and Alya leaned in closer for a better look. A black cat and a ladybug kwami each featured in the doodles. Kwamis for sure, recognizable to any Miraculous holder. Nino looked like he had something to say, but he dropped it almost immediately.
Felix didn’t bother asking. He danced with Kagami for some time before grabbing some water off to the side with Luka.
“So, they drag you here too?” guessed Luka. “Juleka was too excited for me to say no.”
“Marinette was insistent,” he replied.
“She has that effect on people, yeah,” he sighed wistfully. Felix raised his eyebrows. The singer laughed at his expression.
“I think everyone in school has had a crush on Marinette at some point. But she has the obvious crush on Adrien, so no one’s going to really go for it anymore. Heck, I think Chloe’s pettiness with her is just pulling pigtails.” Felix snorted. If you heard the rest of the class, you’d know that it’s the same for you. Even Marinette, Adrien, Rose—it’s a miracle you haven’t figured it out yet. After all, if Marinette was the most popular girl in her class, Luka was the most popular guy in his.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t doubt it. Do you have sheet music for that new piece you mentioned? I wanted to see if I could do a bit of a violin riff off of it.” Luka blinked.
“Yeah, sure. Send me a recording, or maybe we can do a jam session? Violins are a lot more portable than pianos,” he said, cocking his head towards Adrien, who was partnered with Nino for a swing dance round and was laughing nearly hysterically at Nino’s two left feet. He nodded.
“Sweet! Can’t wait,” Luka smiled brilliantly.
“Sounds fun,” Felix agreed, turning his face quickly, because he definitely felt some unwelcome heat rising to his cheeks.
He really wished he was done pining after unattainable people.
“Hey, Rena. Hello, my Lady. This is Carapace. He’ll be joining the team now.” Rena squinted at Carapace with scrutiny.
“Hey, shell boy.” His left eye twitched.
Their entire training-slash-introduction session built up their dynamic. Rena was big and brassy, fearless enough to take chances. Carapace’s high level of control clashed into her, taking impacts and sending them to ricochet right back at her.
This was both a literal interpretation of their fighting styles and of their smack talk. While they sparred, Ladybug and Chat threw around ideas for the Bee chosen, but no one seemed to quite fit.
“We’ll probably have to think more about it,” Marinette finally conceded. They looked back up at the new heroes, both pulling amused smirks at the commentary.
“Well, Captain America, don’t you think you’re a little slow to get all the way to the Louvre and back before me?”
“Capta—you know what, no. I’m plenty fast.”
“Bring it, ninja turtle.”
“Back off, the ninja turtles were cool! Do you even know any cool foxes?”
“Shut up, shellhead!”
“Enough with the Marvel references,” he grumbled, “I look nothing like Iron Man!”
“Okay, no Marvel—does that make me Wonder Woman?”
And thus, a rivalry began. It was an odd experience—the two liked Chat and Ladybug fine, but not each other. As they scheduled patrols, Chat made sure that at least to start, the two of them would never be alone together.
It appeared that, despite that animosity, love was in the air at lycee. Alya and Nino got together (finally, in Adrien’s opinion), and there was definitely something going on between Luka and Felix. Adrien couldn’t help but hang out with Marinette, the only other single person in their group.
It didn’t help that he had a bit of a crush.
Sure, he was loyal to his Lady, but it was possible to like more than one person at a time. Felix was sure to tell him this as soon as he expressed his worries.
“I still love Bridgette. It’s a different kind of love, now, but I still love her. Sure, I have some feelings for Luka, too—you’re okay, Adrien, trust me. And, as Luka told me, everyone has had a crush on Marinette at some point. You’re clearly not the only one that has had this problem. My question is—who’s the other crush?” Adrien blushed hard at that, wincing at Felix’s vicious grin. He muttered something quietly.
“Oh? I didn’t quite hear you.”
“. . . it’s Ladybug.” Felix blinked, glancing downwards at Adrien’s hands before heaving a dejected sigh.
“You know, somehow, I’m not surprised.”
How hadn’t he noticed the ring until then? Was it magic? Bad fucking luck? Whatever the case, this just confirmed that the universe apparently just wanted to fuck with him. Adrien was wearing that godforsaken ring.
F: The new Chat Noir is my brother, he texted Bridgette, I’m going to strangle Plagg.
B: Can I help?
F: Scratch that, I’m going to strangle Adrien first. What is up with those puns?!?!
He sent a pun compilation of Chat Noir. It was ridiculous and embarrassing.
B: Yours were almost as bad, don’t you lie
F: Are you kitten me?
B: Case and point
But the question was, then, what was he supposed to do?
Their classes had gathered with the express purpose of making their ship canon. At least, that was what Alya claimed.
Previous ideas involved everything from rigged dating games and Seven Minutes in Heaven to somehow bribing Hawkmoth into literally making one of them an akuma for the specific purpose of getting the two to stop being so blind to each other. Felix rolled his eyes at every plan.
“My brother is absolutely too oblivious for this to even be feasible. You could smash their heads together, say ‘kiss’, and they’d both apologize and never speak again.”
“And here’s Felix Fuckface McDreamcrusher, our resident pessimist,” said Nino dryly. Alya’s eye twitched at the middle name.
“It’s like they’re going in slow motion,” mused Luka. “Actually, Felix, why don’t you talk to Adrien? Maybe he’ll realize he’s had feelings for her.”
“He already knows that,” Felix rolled his eyes. “He just has another crush that’s stronger and more long-lived.” Alya gaped.
“Who? I didn’t know this!”
“There are some things Adrien keeps to himself, you know,” Felix smirked. “And who doesn’t go to their older sibling for advice sometimes?”
Nino cracked a smile. “Dude, you gotta tell us!”
“I’m not allowed to say,” which wasn’t strictly true, but unless people knew that Chat Noir was Adrien, they wouldn’t be able to reconcile a crush on Ladybug—a superhero Adrien has barely met—being stronger than a crush on Marinette. Everyone groaned.
“Can we please find something? I need two things in life: LadyNoir and Adrinette,” Alya grumbled. Felix rolled his eyes when Nino squawked indignantly.
And not ignored the nagging feeling that something was important about what she said.
“Akuma!” someone screamed outside. Everyone got up and bolted. He ran into Marinette, who was running in the direction of the disaster. Before he could grab her arm and ask her what the hell she was thinking, light glinted off her ears in a familiar way.
Felix nearly sank to his knees in the hallway there. I know those earrings.
He grimaced as he hurried away from the destruction. Okay, standing by clearly wasn’t an option anymore.
Adrien stared at the note on his bed in horror. He’d just returned from school after an akuma fight near the end of the day, and other extracurriculars had been canceled, so he’d planned on chilling out and playing some video games. But the note on his bed was pretty worrying.
Adrien. I know that you are Chat Noir. I am the previous holder of the Black Cat Miraculous. I recently discovered Ladybug’s identity as well, completely by accident. I don’t want to ruin any secrecy or plans you’ve built, so I will keep my identity and both of yours to myself unless you want to discuss this. Write a response and give it to Plagg to bring to me when you’ve figured out a plan of action. Us cats have to stick together, right? I’ll follow your lead.
“Oh.. My. God.” He stared at the typed-up letter with a slight twitch in his eye before writing his response.
“Plagg, please bring this letter to your previous holder.”
“Ugh, what am I, a mailman? Fine, but there better be cheese in it for me.”
Felix bit his palm to keep from laughing.
“You’re not serious, Plagg.”
“The both of you, ridiculous drama queens, ugh,” the kwami said. Felix just gave him a chunk of cheese.
Keep it to yourself for now. I’ll talk to my Lady about it. I have to be careful enough as it is with my brother home; I don’t want to have to keep you out of things, too. Maybe in some time we can meet and train together. Until then, how about we chat online? I also gave Plagg instructions for a possible contact with me.
Adrien, looking after him. Sweet of him really.
“Why didn’t you just storm up to his room for answers?” Plagg asked. “You would have done that before.”
“Maybe. But he doesn’t need that baggage. I’ve seen how amazing of a hero he is; he doesn’t need me.”
“You’re his brother,” Plagg said doubtfully. Felix gave him a crooked Chat grin.
“So there’s a cosplay contest coming up in a month,” Alya began, “And Mari, I want your help.”
They were at lunch, talking about plans to get together for fun. Adrien tried to hold together his excitement at the idea.
“Dude, yes,” Nino insisted, “we can do a group cosplay and own the skit competition. I watched it last year.”
“Right? So that means we need to plan. There are six of us.” Her eyes widened. “Could we be the Avengers? That’d be—”
“No Marvel,” Nino said, making a face. “Captain America I am not, and we all know that our resident blonde cinnamon roll would rather be Batman anyway.”
“Do you really think any of us could be Thor or the Hulk?” Felix raised his eyebrows.
“I’ll have you know I’d make a fantastic Thor,” Alya said.
“We could be the Scooby gang plus one villain?” Nino offered.
“No, clearly we should be Sailor Scouts,” Adrien said. Everyone stared at him. His eyes narrowed.
“What? You can’t tell me I’m a dork for this, Felix, you totally had a crush on Sailor Mercury when we were little—”
“Okay, I’m going to stop you right there,” Alya said, “Not because I’m not interested, but because that is hilarious and I need a second to absorb it.” Felix was bright red, but he made no effort to try to dig himself out of that situation. Luka put an arm around his shoulder and he definitely could not lose the heat in his cheeks.
“Team Avatar? There’s enough guys and girls, and it’s really recognizable,” offered Marinette.
“Yes!” Alya squealed. “Katara, Aang, Sokka, Toph, Zuko, and—well, we could go the meme route and get the cabbage guy, or we could have Iroh, who is the real MVP of the show—” she began listing off possible characters.
“What if Adrien and I were both Aang, but one of us for the skit was Avatar State or something? Even doing the intro to the show would be pretty impressive,” suggested Luka. “Adrien can be Aang, Alya can be Katara, Marinette can be Toph, Nino can be Sokka, and Felix can be Zuko.”
“We could do a shortened version of the intro before doing the skit,” Marinette piped in. “The first few and the last few lines, then break into whatever we’re going to do. The question is—do we go funny or serious?”
“Why not both?” Adrien smiled, “Isn’t that kind of how the show is?” and they set to planning.
Eventually it turned out they didn’t have a reason to have anyone be in the Avatar state, which was when Luka bowed out.
“I’ll help Nino cut together the soundtrack, but honestly? I’m probably going to have a gig that weekend, and I don’t want to be too drained for it or for the contest to do a good job.” Felix nearly pouted.
“We’ll grab you some merch!” promised Nino.
“Adrien, thank you so much for helping me with this,” Marinette smiled.
“It’s no problem, Mari—I know this chapter was rough for everyone.”
“Except you,” she pointed out. He just laughed, head thrown back, and they dove in to their work. Apparently, derivatives were actually essentially slope, and integrals were essentially areas, all calculated rather than counted on graph paper in odd shapes.
“So a derivative of a quadratic function will look linear, and a derivative of a linear function is a constant. Okay?” Adrien traced his finger from one set to another as he explained, and it actually did start to make sense—that the slope would change accordingly with each use of the derivative.
They worked on a few example problems, and Adrien was patient enough to help her when she got stuck.
“You should be a physics or calculus professor when you grow up,” Marinette said offhandedly, “You’re a good teacher.” He paused.
“You think so?”
“Yeah—well, you’re really nice, patient, and you explain things clearly. I never would have gotten through this without you.”
“Most people just assume I’m always going to be a model.”
“Well, you could always do both. Or neither! I mean, we’re still young. There’s plenty to learn.” Adrien stared at her curiously.
“I know,” she said firmly. “You can choose who and how you want to be.”
“Plaaaaaagg,” Adrien flopped onto his bed, hands over his eyes, “She’s so cute. And smart. And amazing. What am I supposed to do?”
“Give me camembert,” was the kwami’s immediate response.
“Ugh. No—what am I supposed to do about Marinette and Ladybug?”
“Well, you could try giving them camembert. And whoever likes it less, date them, so I get it more.” Adrien’s nose wrinkled in disgust.
“You’re no help.”
“Not again,” Alya groaned, “You’ve got the ‘Protect Adrien at all costs’ look right now. What happened?”
“It’s not completely about Adrien this time. I’m just thinking about some unfortunate coincidences. Like Felix not being here for about as long as Hawkmoth has been around.” Alya’s eyes widened.
“Nino! I know you don’t like him, but if you’re thinking what I think you are . . .”
“That Felix might be Hawkmoth? Hear me out, Als, seriously—”
“I know I had some weird theories, but come on—”
“He drew some pretty specifically weird stuff to do with the Miraculous,” Nino argued.
Ugh, this would be easier if he was talking to her as Carapace, but it was too late for that. At least Alya wasn’t completely making a scene over how wrong he was, though.
Felix Agreste as Hawkmoth? No. Alya refused to give that more than a passing thought.
(it made a lot of sense)
Adrien did not deserve that.
(she was going to have to snoop, wasn’t she?)
It was bad enough that he had an absent family. Any one of them being a supervillain would just be icing on the cake.
“Do you have a second?” Felix looked up, startled. Idiot, keep your guard up. He’d always had to be alert when his bad luck hit—even though that wasn’t really an issue anymore, the habit was ingrained in him.
It was Luka, smiling softly.
“As I’m reading for fun, not for work, I’d say so,” Felix said, setting it down carefully, bookmark in place. Felix had to reign in his iron control again whenever Luka was nearby, now, or he’d go full Chat Noir on him. No one needed that. It would be entirely embarrassing.
“I was wondering if you wanted to go out sometime? On a date?” And he said things so easily. Felix had to bite his tongue not to make Chat-related lines start spewing out.
“That sounds great—what would you like to do?” Felix asked. No cat puns. No pick-up lines. No cat puns. No pick-up lines.
“Want to bring your violin over to my place? We can hang out, play some music, all that,” he offered. No music pick-up lines. No music pick-up lines.
“Tomorrow, maybe?” he asked.
“After school,” Luka agreed. And then he pecked him on the lips before heading to class.
Adrien teased him about his blush the whole way home.
It was going to take some time to get the whole cosplay together. They’d met up in the gym, laying down tarps to start painting and constructing bits of their costumes. While Marinette was on the ground with her sewing machine, Nino had superglue and Alya had paint ready for their props. Other students passed by, interested, or rushed to meet one another for projects.
“Nice,” Chloe snorted after passing by a second time.
“What?” Marinette asked, looking up.
“I don’t know, I just figured a designer would notice something different about her jacket,” Chloe drawled. Marinette took it off to find paint splatters all across the back in clashing, bright colors. These were the same colors conveniently splashed just behind her on the tarp, where Chloe was standing.
Felix snarled, slamming his hands on the table.
“Why can’t you just be nice for once in your life? Do you have to always be such a horrible person?” Chloe’s eyes widened before she snapped.
“I’ve tried being nice, but it’s gotten me nothing!”
“Well, being a bully will lose you everything, long term,” he replied, “I would know.” She stormed out of the room.
“Uh, Fe? You were a bit harsh,” Adrien said quietly.
“A bit—did you hear what she said? Are you that desensitized to her?” Felix asked, looking around the room.
“She’s really gotten better in the last few months,” said Juleka, “But it’s her mom’s birthday, so we usually expect this.” Felix froze. Chloe’s mother—he’d remembered exactly how bad that relationship was. He cursed.
“I’m a jerk.”
“Good, job, you’re self-aware,” Adrien said dryly. Felix dropped his head into his hands, groaning.
“I’ll apologize when I see her again.”
The buzzing started two minutes later, and only got louder.
“What is up with all of these bees?” wondered Alya.
Nino bit his lip before asking what they were all thinking.
And then a blonde in a black jumpsuit dove into the room.
“I am the Drone that stings right where it hurts,” she said, “I won’t allow anyone to be less than best, because we deserve that at least.” And she snapped, swarms of bees coming in formation at her will.
“Ugh, I can’t bee-lieve this,” Adrien said, biting his lip immediately after as if he’d said something wrong. Marinette glanced at him, choking off laughter.
“Really? Bee puns?” And his unapologetic smirk and shrug was—was—
You dumb cat.
And then her mind started scrambling, because Adrien=Chat Noir. Sweet sunshine boy that helped her with math and was so nice to everyone was the flirty, dorky, selfless, brave partner that was definitely in love with her. Whose idea of romantic nicknames for her were My Lady and Princess.
Oh no. He’s even cuter.
The rest of them were tugging her backwards as they looked for a way out of the mess.
Right, bees—the Drone. Akuma. Marinette guessed that Felix would be her main target, beyond Chat and Ladybug. She needed to get Adrien out of the room with her. Maybe Alya, too, the way things were looking.
They were closer to the outer doors than she was. Drone had come from the training rooms.
“If we make a break for the door, we might get stung. Anyone up for being a distraction?” asked Nino.
“I’ll do it,” Felix said. “It’s me she wants, anyway. You all get out of here. Hawkmoth won’t let her just stop with me—he’ll want the Miraculous from Chat Noir and Ladybug too much.”
“You guys have to get out of here,” Felix insisted, “And get help from the superheroes of Paris. Chloe’s negative emotions are strong, and that’s only going to make her powers more difficult to deal with.” That seemed to shut Adrien up. They rushed out the door, hearing the tail end of Felix’s distraction.
“Bees? Really, Chloe? You’re lucky I’m not allergic, or—”
“Chat! Rena! Carapace! I’m glad you’re all here. Drone has Felix Agreste in that gym,” she gestured. “Any plans, before he gets hurt?”
“Get him a good distance from her, isolate her, figure out where the akuma is,” Carapace listed off. They stormed the gym.
Three of her larger bees stung Felix, stuck to him. He was shaking.
“No, no, my Lady, I—please, don’t—” he shook his head. “I can’t be cursed again, not again, no.”
“What did you do to him?!” shouted Chat. Drone laughed.
“I hit him where it hurt the most. That’s what I do, Chat Noir. I hurt people. Felix was just so kind as to remind me.”
“Hallucinations of pain and insecurity,” guessed Rena. “Don’t get stung. I’m going to make illusions to throw her off. I think the only object she had before this nonsense was the comb—so aim for that. I think she’ll forgive you later if you Cataclysm her, Chat. Carapace? Cover us the best you can so we can get in close and get Felix out of the line of fire.” Their turtle grumbled at being ordered around, but he put up his shield and darted around the room while Rena conjured illusions. Chat tackled Felix out of Drone’s grasp, but he struggled the whole way.
“Adrien! Adrien, oh god, he’s in danger . . . so much better than me as . . . still going to strangle him. No cheese,” Felix decided, delirious as he was.
They’d taken Drone down, but Ladybug was giving Chat funny looks.
“Chat, I think I accidentally figured out your identity. Can you meet me tonight at the Tower? I ought to let you know, too.” Chat spluttered, mind no doubt racing.
Nino glanced between them. It was kind of beginning to be obvious. Blonde dork. Clever and brave. Never in the same place at the same time.
But that means that Rena
Oh no. No no no no. He was not going to be responsible for their entire team spilling identities. He was going to keep his speculations to himself and not get in trouble with his girlfriend that he did not get along with in the mask. Not the girlfriend he really loved a lot and definitely didn’t now have a few ideas of kissing in uniform. Not the girlfriend that he’d definitely never called “Foxface” and other less pleasant variations of said name. Nope.
Alya really didn’t like her odds with Nino’s theory about Felix being Hawkmoth as he bashed Chloe. Crisis somewhat averted, mostly, seeing him not transformed while Chloe raged at him as Drone. (He very well could have had an ally take over for him, though, so she wouldn’t rule him out. His track record still wasn’t great. And he was still stubbornly silent on the whole “what I did in Tibet” thing.)
It still worried her that he had been drawing kwamis. It didn’t help that he was really sneaky about anything to do with his phone—that he always put it away the second someone was within five meters of him. Communicating with that accomplice, maybe?
Of course, it was all coincidences. But Felix Agreste knew too much and was giving her weird enough vibes that . . .
Oh lord. Poor Adrien.
“You’re Adrien Agreste, and you outed yourself with a pun,” she said sharply. Adrien kind of wanted to die, but he also kind of wanted to kiss her. That seemed to be his default, though, so he just smiled and shrugged.
“Well, at least I did it by being myself, m’Lady. I guess the cat is out of the bag.” Her cheeks went completely red.
“Ugh, damn it all, Chat, you do not get to be so cute about this.”
“Being cute isn’t allowed? That’s a shame. You’re so cute you should be put under Agreste.”
“ . . . ugh. Okay.” Her mouth twitched. “Be careful who you pun around, Adrien, or I won’t be the only one to figure it out.”
“Yeah, about that . . . so the previous Chat Noir kinda found me out and we’ve been messaging each other.” She frowned.
“I can’t imagine another Chat.”
“Me neither, but apparently, according to Plagg, he was a really unlucky Chat. The ring had been cursed when he had it.” Ladybug blinked.
“Huh. I guess . . . you want to know who I am, too?”
“Not without your permission, m’Lady. I’d like it, but only on your own terms.” And that was why denying Chat was so difficult.
“Soon, then,” she said, forcing her voice not to shake, “Just give me some time, kitty, and I’ll show you.”
“Anyway, I think I know who should get the Bee,” he said proudly. Marinette raised her eyebrows. Nice subject change, cat.
“Come on, you know it would work. She’s been trying really hard and I think she’d fit well with Pollen, from what Plagg has said.”
“ . . . you’re not wrong. I may not like Chloe, but being likable or not doesn’t denounce your hero abilities,” she allowed. “She’s your friend; you can do this.”
Chloe whipped around as her window closed. Someone had been in her room. Before she could let out a yell, however, she noticed—a little yellow hair comb. She picked it up.
“So you’re the one Chat thinks will work with me? Hm. Well, this will be interesting to say the least,” said a small, nasally voice. She blinked. A tiny bee-like creature was talking to her.
“What are you?” The thing was, apparently, a kwami, able to transform people into superheroes, and Chat Noir had chosen her.
“I don’t even like Chat,” she said, frowning.
“Does it matter? He thought you’d make a decent hero. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, hun. Wanna take a spin?”
Well, with an offer like that, how could she refuse?
“Queen Bee, at your service,” smirked Chloe as she jumped down to meet the others.
“Hey, Queenie,” waved Chat, “Glad you could join us. We were just figuring out how we were going to change up a patrol schedule.”
They’d had meetings about strategy before, but now there was a lull in the night—it wasn’t too hot or cold out, and they could just lie back after patrol and talk. Ladybug and Chat were slowly integrating them all into a patrol schedule, letting them take more time and covering more areas as they got used to having a larger team.
Maybe it was Guardian related powers, or maybe it was just that Nino was not dumb. He really wasn’t. He could put two and two together—that Felix somehow knows something, for better or for worse, that Mari was totally LB. Observe, do not engage, he repeated to himself, since he nearly called Ladybug “Mari” again.
“So . . . in the interest of, you know, honesty among friends, do we know who Hawkmoth is? If so, why aren’t we banging pans outside his house to keep him awake at night?” he asked, because if he could figure out the whole team, someone could figure out a dude with a purple butterfly motif.
“No idea,” said Ladybug, shaking her head. “We’re still working out from where he could be working. Between all of us, let’s do some research and recon throughout the next week to try to track akuma attacks and where he might be that we could get to him.
“On it,” Bee agreed.
Nino was totally going to take all the naps once they caught Hawkmoth.
Marinette knew she shouldn’t leave Adrien hanging—so the next time the cat ended up on her balcony, she beckoned Tikki over and let him figure it out.
“Mari?!” Adrien stared for a minute before detransforming.
“We’re—we’re idiots, aren’t we?” he managed after a moment of thinking. “How didn’t we notice? Forget the Miraculous magic, you’re literally exactly Ladybug.” Marinette snorted.
“The green eyes. The blonde hair. At Frightingale—we had everything but the masks. Imagine if we put them on before we had to transform—we wouldn’t have had to worry about the time out, huh?” He laughed. It devolved into reminiscing about moments with different akumas—bits and pieces they hadn’t been able to share.
“But—oh, man, I confessed my feelings about you to you,” he blushed.
“And you saw all those pictures of yourself in my room personally,” she groaned. “For the record, while I do like fashion, it’s mostly because I have a crush on you, too.” He lit up with a smile. Marinette hesitantly smiled back.
“That’s awesome, Mari. Want to be my girlfriend, Bugaboo?”
“Absolutely.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Before we plan any dates, though, explain to me how you were in two places for Gorizilla?”
Watching Chloe actually be nice was kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion—you wanted to cringe and look away, but the smoke and distortion was too fascinating.
She started by apologizing and buying entirely too expensive gifts for people she’d caused to become akumas.
Then she was pretty much radio silent, starting biting comments but never finishing them until she just stopped talking at all. Then. She did the unthinkable—something that made no sense whatsoever.
She made friends with Alya. So they could gush about Ladybug.
Marinette was pretty sure it felt like the twilight zone to everyone, but she had to check with Adrien first. He shrugged.
“Honestly, when we were kids? This is what it was like. It’s nice to have the old Chloe back.”
Queen Bee was . . . she was Chloe. There was no difference in personality whatsoever, and it was a good thing the team were the only ones to really witness Drone, or everyone in Paris would have them figured out. But as soon as Alya found out that her Adrinette ship was canon—her exact words—she decided that even Chloe needed to be invited in on the party celebrating the oblivious ones getting their acts together.
Chloe rolled her eyes at the invitation.
“It’s about time,” she drawled, “But I’m not being a fifth—or seventh, if Felix and Luka are coming—wheel. No thank you.”
“I’d date you, if I was single,” shrugged Nathan, interrupting the conversation from a few seats back. Chloe spluttered, and everyone else chuckled quietly.
“Damn, how smooth can you get?” wondered Nino, glancing appreciatively at the writer.
“As much as I agree with him, it’s wasted on a taken man,” sighed Marc, draping a hand around his boyfriend’s shoulder.
At the party, Felix leaned on Luka’s side, definitely not snuggling into him on the couch while watching Marinette and Adrien cream Nathan and Nino in Just Dance.
“You’d never think she was that graceful,” Felix said, “for all her stumbling.’
“Yeah, it happens,” said Luka. “Hey, want to check out this duet I wrote? I haven’t written classical in a while.” Felix blinked.
“Sure.” Luka pulled up sheet music on his phone, then played the generated file that matched it. Felix’s eyes scanned across the page as the tinny violins played together.
“I’m not just a guitar guy,” Luka smirked, “I also play a mean cowbell when the situation calls for it.” Felix snorted.
Surprisingly, Nathan carried Nino through the end and won the entire round of Jailhouse Rock. And Chloe kissed Nath and Marc, which left the writer a little stunned and the artist far too smug for anyone but her and the writer, who was blushing head to toe, to deal with.
“They’re perfect for each other,” groaned Alya.
The cosplay skit went phenomenally, and they got second place (the Chat Noir and Ladybug lip sync to Elephant Love Medley won, and Adrien did not stop eyeing Marinette for the entire duration of it). Unfortunately, that didn’t mean everyone was very happy with the situation.
A cosplayer who hadn’t placed was literally just turned into the superhero they were dressed as—and now they were rampaging the convention center. Marinette and Adrien hid under a table and transformed, but the Iron Man guy—who was calling himself Extremis, the dork—was just way too fast up in the air where he was.
“Hey, Cap, could use your help,” grunted Adrien as he pole vaulted again and missed the akuma. A shield whizzed past his ear and hit one of the leg repulsors.
“I am not Captain America, for the last time,” Carapace grumbled. “I am French, dammit, just like you. Do you see any red, white, or blue spangles on this outfit? I sure don’t.”
“Captain France just doesn’t have the same ring to it, though. And it only makes me think of Hetalia, which, no,” Chat said. “I would make a better France than you, though I’d have to grow my hair out. I’m a metter Tamaki Suoh anyway.”
“Focus!” snapped Ladybug. “Less banter, more fighting. You aren’t actually the Avengers, people.”
To be perfectly honest, running the Ladyblog was easier when she’d just been Alya. Now she was keeping a secret identity, not making Ladybug seem biased towards her as a blogger. It was a nightmare just trying not to ask more questions.
“Don’t worry about it, ,” grinned Ladybug when they were alone on a patrol, “Though you may have to interview yourself to keep up the identity thing. Maybe everyone aught to have an interview—kind of a rotation? We’ll all be happy to do it, I’m sure.”
“Ugh, but I’ll have to use a mirage to put myself in two places at once. Or use a green screen. Editing,” she shuddered. Ladybug snickered.
“It’s fine if you want to use Mirage. I don’t blame you for wanting to save hours on editing.”
Alya smiled, but her eyes widened in an instant.
“Ladybug! I can use the Ladyblog to find Hawkmoth!”
“I can compile lists of people, where they encountered akumas, all that. I can map it out to find where the most sightings are, get a timeline too—I can reach out to akuma victims and get all the data in one go!”
The spotted hero grinned.
“You’re brilliant, Rena. Absolutely brilliant!”
Okay, Nino was sure that there was something very wrong about Felix.
He might have been a bit biased and protective over Adrien, but the point still stood.
Nino had pulled a Marinette and stolen Felix’s phone to look at messages—and someone named “Bri” and he very often talked about kwamis. He had been writing stuff down about Miraculous transformations that were pretty damn specific. Nino did not like how specific they were. And hey, it’s not like they’d catch Hawkmoth any easier than by surprise, right? He just had to convince Adrien, and maybe get him out of the house for a bit. Video games it was.
“Adrien, I think Felix is Hawkmoth.”
“I—it makes sense! He was gone just as long as Hawkmoth has been rearing his head, then suddenly he’s so interested in the Miraculous stuff when he gets here. He knows things about them that he shouldn’t and wasn’t even fazed by any of this magic superhero stuff—like it wasn’t new to him at all. Heck, he seemed to know more about Ladybug and Chat Noir than Alya and I do!” A snort from behind them made the boys jump—Adrien’s brother was standing in the doorway. Felix’s eyes narrowed at Nino.
“I don’t know what you were led to believe, Lahiffe, but I love my brother and have a completely reasonable explanation for understanding the way Miraculous work.”
“Jesus, Fe!” Adrien jumped back, on the defensive.
“You forgot your backpack,” Felix said dryly.
“Oh yeah? What reason could you possibly have?” Nino challenged, ready to call on Wayzz to fight. Felix stared at them both, considering for a few moments before answering.
“Before Paris had any superheroes, I was Chat Noir.”
“I wouldn’t normally tell you this, but I trust you two. While I was in Tibet I got ahold of the cat miraculous. My Ladybug is home in China, but she and I still talk. When I found out that the Miraculous were here, I decided to keep track of what was going on. I’m not the best of brothers, granted, but I’m not a supervillain,” he said.
“We are so talking about this at home. You were Chat Noir?” Adrien asked. Felix grinned.
“I get the feline you don’t believe me, Adri. Don’t worry. I’ll call my lady up to confirm if you want another opinion.”
“Okay, I believe him,” Nino shuddered. “Only Chat Noir or Adrien would make those terrible puns.”
“Hey!” they both said, affronted.
After the initial shock, Adrien mostly was miffed on the ride home. Felix smirked like the cat that got the cream and sat at Adrien’s desk, sprawling his legs outward and folding his hands in his lap.
“You decided that running around Paris in a magic leather catsuit would be a perfect thing to add to your schedule,” Felix drawled. “Because you have clearly have so much free time to be a superhero.”
“You dropped off the grid to run around Tibet in a magic leather catsuit,” Adrien huffed. “You do not have the higher ground here. And according to Plagg, there were stripper boots with yours.”
“. . . Fair. It was different with me and Plagg. The Cat Miraculous was cursed. I wasn’t quite myself when I received it . . .” he sighed.
“I think I need a bit more information than that.” Adrien crossed his arms. Finally—answers.
“I’d better be completely honest, huh?” he said wryly. “Bridgette was my Ladybug. I was cursed to have serious bad luck and destruction follow me everywhere I went unless Lady Luck kissed me out of love. So, as Chat Noir, I wooed her with all I had—just to get the curse removed. She was more interested in saving people from a crime syndicate that was selling Miraculous and ancient artifacts on the black market. But at some point, the false romance became real. And she kissed me. I kept the Miraculous, we kept fighting—but . . . it didn’t last.” He sounded wistful, but not entirely sad.
“But you’re friends now?” Adrien asked, because he definitely remembered that part.
“The best. Of course, this means I’ll be sparring with you more—best to have another cat to show you his tricks, right?”
“Huh. Now that I’m seeing up close, your outfit looks much more different than I thought,” Felix tilted his head.
“Plagg said we have a bit of influence on what we look like personally,” Adrien replied, readying his staff. Felix had a sabre ready, getting into a stance.
“What, not an epee? I thought you liked the heavier weight,” Adrien asked.
“Yes, with people that are slower than me. I’ve seen you fight,” Felix raised an eyebrow. “Give me your best shot, Chat Noir.” His little brother smirked, twirling his baton.
“With pleasure, Fe.”
“Yer a wizard, Mari,” squealed Alya, twirling in her new dress.
“Now, Mari, I speak directly to you,” intoned Nino, “Marinette Dupain-Cheng. The girl who lived. Come to die.” She rolled her eyes.
“Your turn, Juleka. Nice,” Sabrina said. Rather than go out and buy new dresses for the fall dance, everyone had commissioned Marinette to either make them something new or to edit something old. She’d run herself a little ragged to do it, not even managing to get a dress for herself done.
But Adrien had come through, sheepishly offering one of his father’s designs that didn’t make it to the runway.
“He’d throw it out since it didn’t reach absolute perfection, but I know you can edit it to make it yours. There’s just enough raw material for it, right?” Marinette squealed and made grabby hands for the garment bag he offered.
“I asked permission, too, so don’t worry about anything. He waved it off on me, but I thought it had potential and I could see you in it,” he confessed, unzipping it.
Out spilled a plain a-line dress in a heathery pink—Marinette’s hands immediately went for the material, examining the seams and the cut.
“I can work with this, definitely, and I see why he didn’t want it on the line, I can fix it for myself—thank you, Adrien,” she grinned, leaning in to peck him on the cheek.
They all gathered around for pictures and grinned. Adrien couldn’t help but just stare at Mari—what could he say? She was beautiful.
Marinette had taken the pink dress and carefully cut pieces to make a pleated skirt with a spiral effect—charcoal and pink together flaring out from her hips.
“Would my princess do me the honor of a dance?” he asked. She giggled.
“Only if my black knight will promise that I can have more than just one.”
“Deal,” he grinned before whispering, “My lady.”
Luka was breathtaking.
It terrified him, knowing that feeling again. Ladybug—Bridgette—had so often left him gasping for attention, for answers, always chasing behind her. Luka wasn’t quite like that; he gave Felix time to catch up. He didn’t sprint at top speed to leave him behind; he stayed just close enough for them to grab hands.
Luka and Nino had decided to trade off during the night—one DJ, one band, back and forth for forty-five minutes each. Luka was singing now, an upbeat cover of a song Felix didn’t know too well.
Felix was definitely falling for him. He ran his fingers through his hair again, but it kept puffing up—too Chat and not enough Agreste. Well, Luka was into punk-pop, so maybe he wouldn’t mind if he let loose a little.
“Fe,” Adrien said, knocking shoulders with his older brother. “It’s fine, you know? You don’t have to freak out over this. I think Luka really likes you.”
“He likes me enough to have asked me to the dance, yes,” Felix frowned.
“No—I think—” Adrien huffed. “I think you and him just fit, okay? Don’t give up on it because you think you don’t do relationships.”
Luka was coming down from his set—eyes practically glowing on the dance floor as he joined Felix again.
“Why me?” Felix asked while they danced, “It was one thing I never understood.”
“You know, I wasn’t always the nice guy everyone seems to think of me as,” Luka mused, “Sure, I never acted out, I’d never want to actually hurt anyone outright for no reason, but . . . ah. I was the kind of person that let my work consume me. Everything had to be about the next song. And last year? I spent most of it just ruminating in all that, feeling sorry that I pushed people away. Then the akumas started happening. Juleka—” He cut off.
“She was akumatized,” Felix guessed.
“And I realized that stewing in negativity wasn’t going to solve a thing,” Luka said, “It would make me a target for Hawkmoth, and it would make everyone else a target for me. That’s a scary thought, that I could hurt them just by beating myself up over already hurting them.” He shrugged.
“That’s exactly why I keep my distance from people. The less they deal with me, the easier it is,” Felix said. “I’m a walking catastrophe.”
“Huh, you say that, but I find you handsome, well-put-together, talented, and extremely unaware about how much people care about you,” he listed on his fingers. Felix blushed.
“You’re as oblivious as Adrien. I remember you, you know. We were really upset and worried no one could get in touch with you, then all of a sudden, you show up again like nothing happened.”
“I—I wasn’t good to be around,” he said lamely.
“And I support you being non-toxic to people, but that doesn’t mean your absence wasn’t, either. Lesser of two evils much?”
“You can just read me like an open book, can’t you?” Felix huffed. Luka leaned in close.
And heat bloomed in Felix’s cheeks once again—this time, because of a kiss.
“I finally got the map and timeline compiled! Most of it seems to be places related to public figures, lycee students, or the Agreste fashion lines,” said Rena, showing Ladybug and Chat the screen on her flute.
“Agreste?” frowned Chat. “Does that mean someone working there might be—”
“Well, the two sons go to the same lycee that most of the akumas come from. I’m inclined to believe it’s either Felix, who’s been MIA for some time, or someone close to the family that can work in the background,” she explained.
“It’s not Felix,” Chat shook his head. Carapace hummed an agreement.
“Well, that leaves employees, Adrien, or Gabriel himself—and I know it’s not Adrien,” Rena said.
“Let me share the data with one of my sources, and I’ll get back to you,” Chat nodded, heading home for the night.
It was only a few days later when they had their next meeting.
“Sooo . . . why are we here, exactly?” asked Queen Bee, leaning against a wall.
“We’re going to reveal our identities and bring in some of our non-powered allies—one of them has a lead on Hawkmoth and where the Peacock Miraculous went,” explained Ladybug. “We know one of them as the Guardian—he gave us our Miraculouses and was the previous Turtle. The previous Chat Noir has our lead.” Carapace raised his eyebrows, glancing at Chat.
“He’s a part of this?”
“You know who he is?” asked Rena, frowning.
“Anyway,” Ladybug interrupted, “First I wanted to do the identity thing. I don’t want there to be any confusion or distrust among us. Hawkmoth makes us so afraid to feel—I’m done being afraid of him. So. If we’re confronting him directly, not his akumas, then we need to be on the same page. Chat Noir and I know who each other are. We’ll try to take Hawkmoth’s Miraculous from him and reason with him rather than taking him to the police right away. If there is a fight, though, we need to know each other. We’ll walk in there, full trust, and we’ll know each other’s strengths. I—I’ll go first. Tikki, spots off.”
And with a flash of pink, Marinette was there.
“Dude!” Carapace and Rena stared at each other, wide-eyed.
“Um. Well. Hi, Alya,” said Nino, detransforming. Her eyes narrowed.
“You called me fu—” Nino spluttered, interrupting her.
“Uh, hi,” said Adrien while they were distracted. “After Mari I guess it’s no surprise, but—”
“Oh, come on!” Chloe snapped, “You’re the one who gave me the comb?” Meanwhile, their kwamis were gathered, reminiscing.
“Wow, Trixx, you got someone who likes finding out the truth. How’s that for a twist?” chuckled Pollen.
The Guardian explained the various transformations each kwami could go through and the potential for extended powers they could gain over time.
“Wielders that have their Miraculous for extended periods tend to collect new strengths. Hawkmoth has to have been training in secret for some time to gain enough influence to send out akumas away from himself.”
“Oh, I know exactly when he got started,” snarled a familiar voice behind them. Everyone turned to see an angry Felix, arms crossed, hair puffed out like, well, like an angry cat.
“You’ve got our lead?” asked Marinette. The dancer’s eyes were bright with his rage.
“Yes. Hawkmoth has the Peacock miraculous in his possession—got it off a black market deal or something.”
“Whose house are we banging pans outside of to make sure they get no sleep?” asked Nino.
“Ours. It’s father,” Felix hissed. “He’s Hawkmoth. I saw his kwami floating along the ceiling so no one would notice. It went to his study where he was alone.”
Well. Fuck Gabriel Agreste, then, for being an even shittier father than Nino had thought. Adrien’s eyes widened and narrowed extremely quickly. He grimaced.
“And he wants our Miraculous to—what?”
“To bring Mother back,” Felix said, “What else? But that doesn’t matter. We need to figure out who’s in on it at home, who we can trust. We have to take him down.”
“There is a possibility we can end it peacefully—relatively so,” Marinette said. The Agreste brothers gave her twin exasperated glares.
“This is Hawkmoth we’re talking about,” Alya warned.
“Yes, well, it’s also their father, and Monsieur Agreste isn’t entirely stupid. He’ll know he’s outnumbered and that we’ve found him out. If we can gain the upper hand in a fight, we can avoid as much damage as possible. That’d be the ultimate upper hand, right? Crippling him?” A light sparked in her eyes.
“And if he doesn’t have the Peacock Miraculous or the book on them—that’ll be one less tool he has. We’re going to have to steal them away.”
The battle strategy started with recon.
“I can leave my miraculous and Plagg with Felix while I investigate and get the Peacock,” Adrien began. “It’s going to definitely set off some alarms, so I might get caught. If I do, the old Chat will take over during the fight. We’ve never fought Hawkmoth directly, so be prepared for anything.”
“You want me to what.” Felix scowled.
“I want you to have my Miraculous when we go up against Father. I need to get the Peacock, and we both know you’ll be better at distracting him than I will, so if I get caught, they’ll still need a Chat.”
“But this team—it’s yours. I’m not Chat Noir anymore, Adrien.” His little brother scoffed.
“You can’t honestly tell me you don’t miss it. Besides, this is temporary, okay? You might not even have to transform, but since we all know that plans can go sideways with our bad luck—” Felix shook his head.
“I suppose we’ll need some information about his hideout,” Bee asked.
“I’m going to have Felix distract Father with business things while I sneak into his office and take the Peacock. I think he always wears his miraculous, so I can’t exactly steal it off of him, but at least we’ll have less in his hands. I’ll bring it and the ancient book back to Fu, and join you guys again to confront Father.”
“And if you get caught—by Nathalie or Gorilla or anyone—Felix is our guy?” Alya guessed.
“Plagg will stay with him in case you still need Chat and I don’t make it there.”
“Everyone got food to recharge? I know it’s five against one, but we can never be too careful,” Marinette said. “Tomorrow night, we’ll get started. Get some rest.”
“I still think you should keep Plagg with you,” Felix said stubbornly.
“If you don’t want to do this, we can adjust the plan,” Adrien said. The elder brother huffed.
“I’ll do it. I’m just not happy about it. Train with me for a bit?” he asked, because that was far easier to work through than the entire ocean of baggage that came with him and that ring.
“How’s about you use the ring, and I fence? For variety’s sake.” It sent something aching in Felix’s chest, but he nodded.
“Plagg? Claws out!” Adrien stared at Felix for a few moments before grinning.
“ . . . Plagg wasn’t kidding about the stripper boots. I like the belt, though.”
“Ugh. Let’s just do this.”
The vault was easy, so he pocketed the miraculous and tucked the book under his arm. A tiny blue bird appeared, but he shushed her.
“I’m getting you out of here. We’ll find a chosen for you soon, but for now Nooroo is under my Father’s control, and I need to get you to the Guardian,” he said quickly and quietly.
“I can get myself there, if need be. I sense other Kwamis and guardians well.”
“He doesn’t have Wayzz anymore, but Master Fu should be able to help you anyway,” Adrien agreed. “Will you be okay? This book looks too big to take.”
“Hmph. I’m stronger than I look.” Duusuu grabbed the book with surprisingly little effort and flew out the window. Adrien sighed in relief—one thing down. He noticed, though, a glint of something else—the painting of his parents had an odd gleam in some areas. If he just tapped them—
The painting opened up to reveal an elevator that definitely seemed ominous. He backed away, mind racing with he’s transformed akumas from our own home and have to get the others here before backing into someone.
“Nathalie?” She looked at him disapprovingly.
“Adrien. You know you aren’t allowed in your father’s office alone. What have you gotten yourself into?”
“Okay, time to ping Hawkmoth’s communicator in his Miraculous. We can be sure of whether he’s transformed and where his hideout is, so the sooner we—damn,” Chloe cursed, “It’s the mansion. No wonder he gets akumas going at all hours, he works from home!”
“We’ve got to hurry, then, or Adrien will be out of luck,” said Alya. They called Adrien, but there was no answer. They texted Felix the signal, too.
But Felix, with a shudder down his back, who couldn’t distract his father away from Nathalie calling him on something urgent, knew better than Alya. Black cats don’t run out of luck.
It just goes bad.
“I don’t know what he knows, but he released Duusu with the book,” Nathalie said.
His father sounded odd in his reply.
“No matter,” his voice echoed, “We have scans of all the pages.” Adrien’s eyes widened. Well, half of the mission was successful.
“Adrien,” he interrupted. “I don’t want to know what you think you were trying to help. I don’t appreciate you meddling in things you don’t understand. But here we are.”
Adrien had a few options. Reveal that he was Chat, fight, play dumb, and a few others. He needed to buy time. Play innocent-ish it was.
“I’m not a child, Father. That book had things on the Miraculous in it. That little bird—I don’t know what’s going on, but it has something to do with Ladybug and Chat Noir, right?” Adrien said cautiously. “Where does that elevator go?”
Gabriel seemed serene as ever before answering the question.
“I’ll show you. Come with me.”
With no word from Adrien, everyone rushed to the manor. Felix was already transformed and waiting, so they hurried to Gabriel’s study.
Ladybug quickly found their way in—a secret elevator that they all squished into together before tumbling out into the dark room full of butterflies.
Five Miraculous holders stood facing a beautiful glass window. The looming, black silhouette of Hawkmoth stood in the center of the room, surrounded by white butterflies.
“Ah, so now you’re breaking and entering besides sending a child to steal for you. Will wonders never cease, Ladybug?” Hawkmoth scoffed.
“I think you and I both know that this is beyond normal law,” Carapace said, readying his shield. “We’re superheroes; what else would you expect?”
The man smirked and waved a hand—butterflies swarmed to make big, white masses like some sort of radioactive monsters.
“Children, it’s better you step down now.”
He—he akumatized akumas. That was the only explanation for the butterfly monsters that were raging at either side of him, yowling and twitching like rabid wolves chained back.
Marinette glared at him.
“Are you going to lose both of your sons to bring your wife? Because that’s the path you’re on right now, Monsieur Agreste.” Hawkmoth paused.
“You know who I am?”
“I made it into your house, didn’t I? With my whole team and everything. And do you know the price of a wish on the Miraculous? If you ask for something, something of equal value to you will be taken. It’s a balance of creation and destruction. You may gain a wife and lose a son—both of them, because if one is lost to your scheming, the other will follow no matter your intentions.”
Rena and Carapace were engaging the butterfly monsters, bouncing back and forth with them. Queen Bee circled the room, trying to keep things contained.
“I just want my family back!” he snapped, “What could a child like you know about that?”
“She might not have that experience,” Chat snarled, “But I do. So does the true Chat. Of course, people always tell me I’m the brother that takes after you, father. I used to be proud of that. ” Hawkmoth’s eyes widened, and he stopped stone cold.
“. . . Felix.”
“And Adrien’s the one you’ve been going after this whole time. Ladybug is right, Father—doing what you’re doing? You’ll lose Adrien. You’ll lose me. And even if you get mother back, you’ll lose her again because of your own moronic, selfish choices.” He stood taller, leveled a cold glare at his father.
“I’d rather you give over your Miraculous than that. Much as we disagree, we are alike, Father. I want her back, too. I don’t do well with emotions like Adrien—we both have that in common. But don’t think for a second that I will do anything less than protect my little brother. Even from you and I.”
“And what were you doing in Tibet, then? I suppose disappearing was protection?”
“Not initially. I was looking for Mother, you know that. It was eventually all about protection, though, because when I first took on the Black Cat, I was cursed, and no one else deserved to be around me then. I was a mess. Father, Adrien deserves better than the people we both are. I’m making changes—so should you.” Gabriel grumbled, looking like he might agree.
It was then that a woman in dark blues—one that reminded Marinette of the pictures of the Peacock Miraculous—stalked forward, Adrien in one arm. She tossed him down at her feet, where he glowed with a red light until—
Until he was in a Chat Noir suit, colors reversed, with a rapier instead of a baton.
“Hawkmoth, I figured as much. Your heart is too soft for these children. Here, watch—Chat Blanc, at my bidding. You give powers based on emotions, impress things on them—I enhance the physical existence of someone, strip them to what they are, deep down. I didn’t think, after fighting so long, you’d be willing to give up on your goal after a few simpering speeches. Don’t you want her back?”
“And lose the rest of my family in the process? You certainly didn’t mention that happening, La Paon,” he sneered. Chat Blanc stood rigidly next to her, not saying anything.
“Adrien,” whispered Ladybug, “What did you do to him?”
“True Colors,” she smiled, “He tried to set Duusuu free, but I happened to be right there. Too little, too late. It appears he identifies with Chat Noir more than Adrien Agreste, no? Poor cat. Well? Attack them—get their Miraculous!”
“ . . . I hate to break it to you,” said Blanc, “But I’m feline pretty normal. How about you, Noir? Shall we take this little show on the road?” Felix grinned as they both faced her.
“You messed with the wrong brothers,” Felix grinned, flexing his claws. Before the fight could start, the woman dashed out the stained-glass window in a flurry of shattered glass and feathers.
“We’ll take care of Hawkmoth; you go after her,” assured Chat Blanc. “Go.” And with that, Ladybug and the others ran after her. The pair of Chats turned around.
“So, Father. What’s it going to be?”
She threw feather darts at them. Luckily, Ladybug and Queen Bee were far too fast for her. Unluckily, she’d figured out who they cared about (Adrien, Adrien’s friends) and began systematically darting people who became strange versions of their akuma selves—reversed or nuanced differently—and dragged them towards the Eiffel Tower for a brawl.
Stormy Weather, Evillustrator, Reverser, Gorizzila. They were random victims scattered over time, but now it was a crowd of former akumas versus current heroes.
“It’s going to be your turn, Bee,” grimaced Ladybug, “Your drill can break it down. I can undo Hawkmoth’s devastation, but I’ve never done anything with the Peacock before!”
“Me?!” Bee stared for a few seconds before grimacing.
“Right. I can do it.”
The evening sunlight streamed through the shattered window. Felix glanced between his brother and father.
“Cataclysm,” he flicked a claw in Adrien’s direction. The younger brother’s eyes widened as he hadn’t had time to lift his rapier in defense.
“Felix!” gasped Hawkmoth, but all it did was change Adrien back to normal.
“Plagg, claws in,” Felix said. “Father, let’s talk this out. We’ve all been incapable of that thus far; maybe we can fix this.”
“ . . . Nooroo, dark wings fall,” he said. Father and sons stared at one another.
“This was all to get Mom back?” Adrien said wearily.
“Let’s start at the beginning,” Gabriel offered, “I’ll explain myself.”
“Please do. Then I will. And then Adrien can decide what to do with our miserable asses,” Felix grinned wryly, “He’s the only one with a clean slate of the three of us.” Adrien sputtered when Gabriel nodded.
“Trust us on this, Adrien. And you too, Felix, trust me—you both are far better young men than I could ever hope to be. Real heroes, indeed.”
No one would talk about the rush of pride that both of the boys tamped down, but it was there. Gabriel paused.
“I believe this will be in better hands with you. Nooroo?” the little purple butterfly floated at his shoulder.
“For what it’s worth, I really am sorry.”
“I understand. You had great potential, but you were blinded by your emotions. Goodbye, Gabriel.” He pressed the broach into Felix’s hand before sighing.
“They’re going to need you. Both of you. La Paon is Nathalie, and she knows how I fight. She was there—there was an explosion while we were hiking in Tibet. That’s when we all got separated. I never found your mother. Nathalie found the book and some Miraculous, ensuring me I’d be able to save her. Go—save Paris. I know you two will do what’s right.” Adrien gaped, but Felix nodded.
“Yes, father. We’ll have a long talk when we get home. Adrien?”
“ . . . right. Plagg, claws out!”
“Nooroo, wings rise!” The dark purple suit was reminiscent of his Chat Noir outfit, low cut in the front with mussed up hair. A half cape draped down his back and a silvery mask covered half his face.
La Paon stood tall, directing her minions. Rena and Carapace were boring right through her defenses, and Ladybug and the Bee were holding them in a contained area.
But she was winning all the same—where one opponent went down, another rose up.
“I don’t suppose it would be pawsible that you could just quit while you’re ahead?” asked a voice behind her. She whipped around.
“Chat Noir? And—”
“L’aile Violet. You’d best take Chat’s advice and step down, La Paon.” She glared.
“I will not be the last one. Scattered akumas and my monsutas will ravage this city with or without Hawkmoth and I behind them. Other Miraculous users will be corrupted. You will never be safe.”
“Is that a threat?” scoffed Violet.
“It’s a fact.” She detransformed and handed over her Miraculous. “I’ll take blame for Hawkmoth and La Paon. I only did it all to make Gabriel happy, and now you’ve ruined that chance—I’ll turn myself in.”
Just like that?
Adrien stared. They’d fought so long and so hard—and Father and Nathalie just gave in like that?
It was the best and worst thing, really. This particular fight was over.
“Come on, you beautiful butterfly boy,” snarked Chloe, “Let it happen.”
They were at Marinette’s when she asked.
“No. I can’t be—I won’t,” Felix insisted. “It’s—it'd end in disaster. I won’t be Father. I won’t.”
“No one ever said that,” Marinette shook her head, “But you worked well with us as Chat. And I think Nooroo could use someone like you after that ordeal.”
“The whole problem with Father was that he didn’t understand the emotions he was manipulating. How am I going to be any better?” he snapped.
“It’s not that he didn’t understand them, it’s that he didn’t respect them. And you do, Fe. I think you and Nooroo will be great together.” Adrien draped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him in for a half-hug.
“You got this, Fe.” Felix tilted his head and put on the broach.
“Nooroo? Wings rise.”
“Meet L'aile violet. Violet for short,” he smirked, spinning around to face the team. “I don’t suppose you want to pick out our Peacock while we’re at it?”
“You can bring this to your boyfriend,” chuckled Nino, handing him the Peacock miraculous. “It’ll do you wonders to not have to pout about him anymore.”
Hey, Ladyblog followers! Here’s Alya with a major scoop:
Hawkmoth down. Repeat: Hawkmoth down.
More later, plus an exclusive from Rena Rouge herself.
TRANSCRIPT FOR THOSE WITH A LACK OF (LADY) WIFI
Alya: So, Rena, it’s great to have you here!
Rena Rouge: Good to be here. Let’s get down to things, shall we?
A: Of course, right. So, is Hawkmoth done for good? We’re done with akuma attacks?
RR: Those have different answers—yes, Hawkmoth is done. We’ve all fought and confronted him how we had to—how we always were going to. As it turns out, emotions were Hawkmoth’s weakness as much as they were his strength—all he wanted were the Miraculous in a desperate attempt to bring a loved one back. Unfortunately, his wrongdoing did stir up other malevolent forces. We will still have akumas, and another kind of villain called a monsuta. We’ll give more details as we get them.
A: A superhero’s work is never done, huh? How is it, being on a team with Ladybug and Chat Noir?
RR: It’s great, really—I’ve always been a fan—but there are other new members to our team that you’ll see soon, so I’m not the newest one. We’ve all bonded pretty closely, especially over this final fight.
A: Ooh, close bonds—any romance?
RR: Hate to disappoint fans, but all of us are off the market!
A: What?! Most importantly, is Ladynoir canon?
RR: They are indeed. Still, this interview is more about the fact that Hawkmoth is no longer a major threat. Be careful about your emotions still—akumas will only go after the most sensitive and vulnerable. We’ve only dealt with a few monsutas, but don’t worry—we can handle it!
A: No doubt there! All right, Rena, thanks again—tune in next time, Ladybloggers!
Adrien took in all the information he could. His father’s accounts, Felix dealing with the cultish gangs that were after the Miraculous. La Paon’s warnings. He presented some of it to Master Fu, just to see what he could get out of it.
“Your mother, the previous Peacock trainee, was part of a team. I was the mentor for them, and we all defended the Temple of the Miraculous, where much of the magic involved was recorded and archived. I would eventually have brought your father in as well for Nooroo. It’s not terribly uncommon for families to have connections—not common, either. Enough that I’m not surprised, given how well you fit with Plagg. Still.”
Apparently, the organization Felix had fought had sprung from whoever had blown up the temple, separated his mother from the rest of their team, and cursed the Black Cat ring. The Chat Noir before Felix had been no hero.
"Don’t you think this is a bit overkill, Carapace?” asked Chat. “I mean, two heroes per crime scene seems awfully unfair.”
“You know, you say that, but here we are, not winning,” replied the Turtle, who was bashing the muggers back from the young man. Chat was spinning his baton, knocking them off balance.
“What do you mean, not winning?”
“I bet Rena that we could finish our patrol first. Whoever got back to the rendezvous first got to pick date night location next.”
“Dang. LB and I made a similar bet, but it was how many guys we could take down. So we just have to be faster than Rena and Azure, but more thorough than LB, Violet, and Queenie.”
“We’re doomed,” he deadpanned.
But the thing was that they weren’t—they had everything they needed right in their reach.
“Felix, you’re going to have to repeat that. I was in the kitchen and you know how reception is in there . . .” Bridgette said, holding her phone between her ear and her shoulder while she fixed her hair.
“That’s amazing, mao! I’ll definitely have to visit soon, but I’ll need the new hires to be stable on their own first. All right, my break’s over. Talk to you later. Yeah, yeah, you’re not the—you’re my kitten, and don’t you forget it. All right. Bye.” Bridgette sighed.
She saw this all coming to some degree. Felix had desperately wanted free the first time around, but he’d always felt the need to atone. That was why Bridgette thought they broke it off, in the end—he was too guilty, despite the fact that he genuinely fell for her. And she’d gained enough confidence to know that he did, and she didn’t need his apologies. She’d never needed him quite the way he’d needed her—and that had hurt. Because she did need him, but not so desperately, not so intensely. That wasn’t fair to him, though.
She was glad he had someone, really, she was. Their relationship had been good, but . . . their friendship was even better. She’d have to visit Aunt Sabine just to keep tabs on him and his beau sometime. Maybe scope out the new team and see Tikki again.
She fixed her bun and smiled for the next customer.
“Hi, welcome to the Lucky Cat Café and Bakery. What can I get for you?”
“A dozen vanilla almond jewel cookies. The raspberry filling, please. And a medium white chocolate mocha.”
“Of course! Name for the order?” Bridgette rang up the total and gathered the cookies from the display. Melodie waved from the kitchen as she made more to restock—those always went quickly whenever Felix was in town, so the crew had them down to a science.
“Emelie,” the woman said. Bridgette did a double-take. The woman was blonde with green eyes. Familiar green eyes.
Kitty, things are looking up.