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Kore Complex

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“If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is grass in the beginning.” -Vincent Van Gogh

~

Betrayal hurt. Plain and simple, it hurt like no other kind of pain. Heartbreak was a close second, loneliness too, but betrayal left a throbbing ache in your chest where the metaphorical knife was left.

Hands shaking, vision blurring, Marinette bowed her head as she attempted to begin her exercises. In four seconds. One…two…three…four. Hold for seven seconds. One…two…three…four…five…six…seven. Out for nine. One…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight…nine. Repeating it over and over again, focusing on herself, her worth. She was proud. She was confident. She was Marinette Dupain-Cheng.

No bully was going to make her get akumatized!

She was better than any of the pettiness Lila offered her, she was Ladybug! She was Marinette Dupain-Cheng! No liar would make her succumb to working with Hawkmoth.

“How are you feeling, Marinette?” Tikki’s squeaky voice questioned tentatively, peering up to her chosen with her wide eyes. She had taken station right there on her lap, keeping watch for black wings, just in case she needed to help Marinette fight against another akuma.

Sighing softly, Marinette scoops Tikki onto her palm so they were eye to eye, “Still the same but I’m a lot calmer. I…Tikki, we need to talk to Master Fu and Maman and Papa about this. I can’t…Ladybug needs to never be akumatized. We can’t risk it. It’ll probably be easier for me if I just..left.” It had been almost a month since Lila’s arrival, and she could feel the shift in everything. It hurt. It hurt a lot, especially with Adrien actively reminding her to stamp down her emotions, actively avoiding her once others were around to avoid her too.

He was such a coward, she had come to realize. So much for having her back…but what should she expect? He had excused Chloe so many times, berated herself for being /excited/ for her bully’s departure, and just ignored her feelings. Kagami, Lila, and Chloe can fight over him, she was getting over him.

“Whatever you think is best. I’ll always be here for you, Marinette.” She flew up, nuzzling her chosen’s cheek.

When they had first began their partnership together, Tikki had the habit of lecturing the young chosen, but she had to remind herself that this was a barely fourteen-year-old girl given a responsibility usually reserved to those trained by the guardians, already adults, typically. Marinette was a young girl who needed love, guidance, and friendship, not another figure head who didn’t listen to her or dismissed her claims.

“I know, Tikki.” Tears prickled at her eyes, heart fluttering with happiness. If nothing else, she had Tikki. Tikki who was there for her, loved her, guided her, and helped her. “Now to just talk to Maman and Papa.” Her parents were amazing, they loved her, but they sometimes had tendencies to just leave her to her own devices. It was both a blessing and a curse.

~

Collège Françoise Dupont was not the only Collège in Paris, it was convenient and close and privately owned, so it was no hardship finding another Collège for her to transfer to. Though her attendance was questionable, her grades and scores were amongst the best, so schools offered her scholarships in the arts once they displayed interest during Spring break, but only one of the schools called to her: Jeanne d'Arc Académie. Old, beautifully structured, and with a highly reputable standing, it was an honor to attend. Their sister schools, Saint-Denis Académie- their école élémentaire- and Jeanne de Clisson Académie-their Lycée, all within walking distances of each other and meant to keep student relationships close. Typically, students would progress from the primary school to the secondary schools, but there was always transfers.

Sure, it would be a commute through the metro and sure she would have to wear a uniform, but it would give her a start to a better road. A road she deserved to venture on.

When she told Tikki the name of her new Collège, the sweet kwami nearly cried tears of joy. “It’s Jeanne, she’s watching out for her fellow ladybug.” She had stated, voice wobbly and emotional but oh so happy. It was no secret to her that one of the greatest historical figures was a Ladybug, Tikki had told her about many following The Pharaoh fiasco. Tikki tried to deny it, but she got the feeling that Jeanne’s time as Ladybug reminded the ancient god of Marinette at the moment.

Her mother had excused her from Dupont following the break, informing the principal and her teacher that Marinette will be attending studies elsewhere. When ventured why, those stormy eyes leveled them both with a look that caused shivers, “We would like to keep the reason to ourselves. We wouldn’t want false rumors to escalate out of hand.” The bite to her tone had the pair obeying without another question.

She ignored any greetings her daughter’s bullies extended to her, ignored them all as she exited the school for the last time. She had a daughter and husband to get to.

There was many things Tom and Sabine regretted. They regretted going to Milan after eating copious amounts of bad seafood, most of their trip was spent throwing up in the hotel room and never venturing outside; they regretted the argument that caused the riff between Sabine and her family, only recently reconnecting after talking about the issue; and they regretted never seeing what they and others were doing to their daughter. They should’ve reached out to her, made the effort to talk with her, to help her understand that emotions were valid and should never be a shaming issue, that any type of bullying should’ve never happened to their sweet girl. Oh yes, they regretted those things, but never again would it happen.

Tom was at home, helping Marinette get her paperwork signed and analyzed, watching over his baby girl who seemed to bloom over the weekend. Never again would he allow another to hurt her, especially from his own tendencies. The pithivier was nearly finished now, and his mama was on her way to spend time with her nipotina. They would all get through this together.

~

Master Fu was a lot easier to speak to. Of course, he was concerned, but he reassures her people are placed in your life to test you, to teach you, to use you, and some to bring out the best in you. It just turned out her classmates were lessons for her to learn from, to understand that she was not at fault in any of this. The willfully blind see what they wish.

Marinette couldn’t help but feel guilty towards Wayzz, his expression resigned and disappointed, apologizing that Ni-Carapace would not be returning to the field to work with. He reassured her it was fine, “You and Chat Noir are who we need, any new chosen will emerge later.”

“You need to teach me to help me learn calming techniques, master. I don’t want the ladybug miraculous to be lost over hurt feelings. Those emotions may be justified, but I have a duty to Paris and myself.”

His proud expression made her beam with confidence in return.

Meditation was the best form of inner peace, at least for herself. She was right, he stated, her emotions and feelings were not to be ignored, lest they fester and rot, so she needed to confront each situation for her own healing. Master Fu guided her through exercises for her to practice in calming herself, to reassure herself in situations of distress. He sat with her as she walked herself through each confrontation with a classmate, only visible to her mind’s eye but she needed it.

Day sessions were implemented, Marinette saying that she was seeing her Master for Chinese lessons and meditation practice-it became more of a thing once Akumas emerged. Her parents were proud she was taking steps ahead to better and protect herself, hugging her close to let her know they absolutely loved their little girl.

~

Nonnia Gina always challenged her, challenged her minds’ thinking by telling her how unique the world was. How modern Mongolians continued their old traditions of being nomadic and training golden eagles for hunts, but some switched from horses to motorcycles; how Gregorian dancing used to be her favorite thing but it hurt now in her older years; how monstrous fish could become in the less treaded areas of the world, recalling how a British fisherman had been at a nearby village and caught a beast of a fish. She expanded her nipotina’s understanding of the world, but sometimes it was best to get to their roots.

Which lead them to their current situation. It’s not like Gina meant to introduce knife fighting to her granddaughter, but Marinette was a talented girl and Tom was too much of a softy. After Befana, Gina made an effort to keep in contact and visit her nipotina more often so they could reconnect; now, Akuma’s were a terrifying things but they were nothing in comparison to the real monsters in life. So knife fighting became a thing for them.

“Come on! I know you know how to better defend yourself.” She challenged, smirking as sapphires narrowed in concentration as Marinette allowed herself to move properly with the knife in her hand. “That’s it! You should hold nothing back in situations of life or death, that will only mean death or injury for yourself or another. The monster fighting you will not hold back!”

Marinette grunted, the blades colliding together as they almost danced together. Faintly, she compared it to fencing, but fencing was not /nearly/ as fun as Italian knife fighting. Close though. Like Savate wasn’t nearly as fun as American kickboxing. She needed something hard, fast, and made her sweat. It’s why she had loved ballet, why she had loved shaolin Kung Fu, why she loved practice fighting with Chat Noir. They were a challenge.

So just like she was beating her Nonnia in their fight, she was going to beat everyone and live the life she deserved!

Chapter Text

“This is not your heart breaking my darling, this is your heart hatching, shedding the shell of who you once were, this is your rebirth.”

~

“I promise I’ll be fine. It’s won’t be my last time taking the metro by myself!” She reminds her parents, smiling sweetly to them. “I’ll make it back home safely on my own.” She reassures her parents, smiling at their worried expressions. “I’m the daughter of Sabine Cheng and Tom Dupain, I am Marinette, I can do anything.”

Her father’s big green eyes welled with happy tears as he leaned down to kiss his daughter’s midnight hair, heart swelled with pride. “You just call us if you need anything, Mon trésor.” Voice cracking as he stepped back for his wife to have her turn.

“I’m so proud of you, hǔ zǐ. You’re going to do great. Are you going to come home for lunch?” She questions, fingers tucking back a stray strand of hair, adjusting her daughter’s lapel where a ladybug pin rested-extra luck was always a nice thing, before looking to her daughter’s warm eyes.

“I’ll go home for lunch. I promise it’ll be okay, but I should go so I can have my tour at least.” She teases, smiling as she hugs her mother close before releasing her, watching her parents depart back towards the metro.

Tikki peaks out from the purse, smiling to her. “I think this was a nice wake up call for all of us.” She states, watching them vanish from sight. Even she, in the beginning, thought that it might all just pass away and people will come to realize how much of a little liar the Italian girl was.

Marinette hums softly, adjusting her vest before turning on her heel to march up the steps towards the gated entrance. Presenting her transfer papers, she didn’t have her ID yet, she was told which way towards the office before she journeyed her way there. It was still a good half hour until classes began, most of the students in their own groups, eyes occasionally trailing on her figure as she walked along the wide halls.

During the spring break, she had been given the school uniform options and shops that carried their plaid cloth for those fashion students willing to create their own options. Which is exactly what she settled, after looking over the pictures of the uniforms-best to not stray from the design, lest she get in trouble-before she created what she currently wore: teal plaid skirt that brushed her knees, cream collared blouse, teal crossover bow tie, black vest, black knee highs, and suede black oxfords. The little pin on her lapel had been a commission from an artist she found online, an itty turquoise ladybug with red dots instead of black.

The school was huge, almost three times the size of her old school and this was only the Collège! She couldn’t even imagine how large the Lycée was!

With a breath of relief, the noirette entered inside the office to get her class schedule-it was only for the next two and a half months anyway-before a girl with pale golden hair entered the room, smiling azure eyes finding the shorter girl easily in the mess of adults. “Hello! I’m Allegra, our class representative. I’ll show you around before our first class, but we’ll stop by the lockers so you won’t have to lug your things all around with you.”

A relieved giggle escaped Marinette, the girl a breath of fresh air compared to the previous weeks. “Thank you. I’m Marinette! I got my schedule and ID, so I believe I’m all set!”

Once the pair were confirmed by the receptionist that the transfer had all she needed, the pair headed for the noirette’s locker. “I know Jeanne can be pretty daunting, but she gets easier to travel around after the second week.  You should’ve seen my friend Claude. He somehow found himself in the Lycée next door! It’s a miracle he didn’t kill himself from his stupidity.” She scoffs, rolling her eyes, before grinning at Marinette’s shy giggles. “I know it can be pretty scary transferring, but you’ll love it here. Claude, Allan, Felix, Saranya, and I all love it and you’re welcome to hang out with us.”

“Thank you so much, I had to…transfer due to problems at my old school. I could definitely use some awesome people around.” Marinette grins softly, glancing nervously up to the other.

Suddenly enveloped by a hug, Allegra sighs softly, shaking her head and making her braid swish from side to side. “Much too pure. We gotta protect this. Pretty sure Claude is going to adopt you and call you little sis.”

Not sure how to reply but relieved to find she had at least one new friend, parting from the embrace so they could explore the school areas Marinette would need. Their schedules were fairly similar, though on different days, save for Allegra’s music classes and Marinette’s art classes. “And unlike others, we get Fridays half off, not Wednesdays. I think it’s so we don’t have to burden them with our amazing fashion sense.” The blonde snorts, grinning at the mere idea. Maybe the teachers were afraid of the wonderful fashion free-dress days allowed.

“They’re surely ashamed. At least the uniforms aren’t too bad.” She offers, only receiving a mocking glare in return. It seems her clumsiness had finally decided to appear, because she crashed into a very solid, very tall, male chest. Squeaking, she flails away with hurried apologies spilling from her lips. “I am SO SO SORRY! I-I wasn’t looking where I was GOING, but t-that’s no excuse. Oh merde, I am so sorry!”

The easy chuckle only made her whimper, trying to shrink herself, before a warm voice reassured her, “No worries! You’re the transfer, right? I’m Claude, nice to meet you…”

“Marinette. Nice to, uh, crash into you.”

Laughter escaped the taller male, helping to steady her. “I like you! But you’re not the only one to be at fault, at least you didn’t fall for me.” He quips, winking at her, earning a groan from Allegra and a sweet giggle from Marinette. He bows before her, deep and flourishing in over dramatics, “I will work on my horrible directional skills so we don’t crash into each other again.” Before standing back up with a friendly grin.

He was easily taller than she expected Allegra’s friend to be, likely passing 170 centimeters! Wind swept hair, the color akin to the mocha macarons she was fond of on long nights, with twinkling bluebird-blue eyes and sweet dimples. His teal plaid tie was crooked already, loosened and hanging outside of his black vest-though it seemed he cared very little about that fact.

“Come on, the rest of us were waiting for you both to meet the new girl. Ladies?” He offers his arms for the girls, both humoring the joker and letting him lead the way.

They passed by other groups, some offering a greeting in passing, many murmuring about the new student who arrived late to the semester, before they finally came upon three students sitting in Marinette’s first class. From their chatter along the way, Claude and Felix were in 3rd grade while the rest, including herself, were in 4th grade. But Claude and Felix preferred to hang out with the majority of the group in their area.

“Look what I brought! Our resident Music Queen and the new Ladybug princess!” Claude teases, spotting the little ladybug pin she had placed at the lapel of her jacket. “Everyone, this is Marinette. Marinette this is Allan.”

“Pleasure, Mademoiselle.” Saluted a sepia-brown male, hazel green eyes holding a steady confidence, white headphones casually resting around his neck.

“This right here is Saranya.”

“Sup girl, I like you’re pin.” Quipped a smirking girl, olive brown skin complimented with magenta tipped chestnut brown hair, matching magenta sunglasses resting on her head.

“And here, lastly but certainly not least, is Fé!”

“Félix, you dolt. Pleasure, Marinette.” Silver grey eyes met her own sky blue, stony face showing the softest signs of welcome. “Don’t mind Claude, he’s always an idiot.”

“Hey!”

Laughter filtered from the group, Claude’s pout seen but was soon gone for his own laughter.

“It’s so nice to meet you all, I hope we can all get along.” She greets, shyly hunching her shoulders but it seemed that all five of them weren’t having it.

The five were so easy to talk to, connections formed as they chatted about the class about to start; she, Saranya, Allegra, and Allan shared their History and Geography class-the one they were currently in, before they split up. She had French and English with Allan on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; Italian and Biology with Allegra on Mondays and Wednesdays; and Art and EPS with Saranya on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It wasn’t just switching between two teachers, but it would be fun to walk around and explore the huge school.

The warning bell rang, making the two boys leave with waves and confirmations to join her at her home for lunch-why did she agree to that?!-before they vanished in the crowds. It was easier befriending people in her class, especially since a class group project was required for that day, to do some research from the textbook of local history.

She was asked a few dozen questions, each she answered as much as she could-she didn’t want to scare these guys off-before the inevitable ‘Why’d you transfer here so late?’ question popped up. Marinette bit her bottom lip before releasing the breath she held, might as well get this out of the way. “Please don’t doubt me too.” She thought internally.

So she told them, told them how she had heard of fantastical tales of this amazing girl who’s done so much, told them that she doubted the claims, told them about seeing Ladybug confronting the liar, how the liar didn’t stop her lies, how she avoided school with tales of travel even though public records detailed that her mother-so by extension her-were there in Paris the whole time, how she lied about rescuing Jagged Stone’s cat on a plane runway even though he’s stated on record that he’s only ever kept reptiles as pets, how the one other person who knew the truth wouldn’t reveal it, how all her friends began to alienate her…hate her.

She didn’t even realize she was crying until she felt arms pulling her into a warm embrace. Saranya held her close with comforting words spoken in a tongue she didn’t recognize, didn’t make it any less soothing, as Allan and Allegra snarl their open distaste her previous class. “Well WE have you now, those little cretins aren’t allowed to have you ever again.” Saranya hummed, running manicured nails through midnight locks.

The other two softly cheered their agreements, grinning for Marinette. She wasn’t alone anymore.

Lunch couldn’t have come sooner, Marinette giggling as they all piled into Allegra’s Limo-a limo!- for the commute for the bakery. “I can’t believe you’re parents own a bakery! You’re a pastry princess! A little cream puff.” Claude cooed, earning himself several groans even as Marinette laughs. He acted so much like Chat Noir, at least those times he wasn’t grossly obsessed with getting a kiss, it only proved to brighten her mood more.

“It is pretty cool that your parents own a bakery. And you’re sure it’s cool that we’re all going?” Allan asks, peering over towards her, having pulled out a black flat cap from his bag before they left.

She nods, hand in her bag as if she were trying to find something instead of giving Tikki a cookie she bought, “I texted them between classes, they’re happy to welcome you guys. They might be a little much, but they’re just worried and excited.”

A soft hum came from her right, grey eyes, no more of a silver green color, never leaving their place in the book, “From what Sar told us, I don’t blame them.” Félix finally lifted his eyes, stony expression hiding the storm brewing behind that gaze, “But they have nothing to worry about now.”

He was intense, but she could feel her heart skip from those reassuring words, but he seemed to be trying to handle her with care. They all were, likely worried for their new friend after all.

“We’re here!” Gasps rang through the car. “You own the Dupain-Cheng patisserie and boulangerie?!”

Chapter Text


“when they told her her story was written in the stars, she went to the heavens and crushed each one with her bare hands, stars have no power over her, the night sky is hers now, and she will carve it with constellations of her own.” – never tell a goddess her fate // k.s.

 

~
 

“Your mom was so nice to pack us up a picnic basket!” Allan grins, carrying the basket as Marinette carried the blanket, the other four had dashed off to find spot. “I still can’t believe your parents own the Dupain-Cheng patisserie and boulangerie, it’s so cool!”
 

She giggled into the patterned material in her hands, beaming over to him, “It is, I loved learning to bake from them. It wasn’t until I was in école élémentaire, and that was only because a friend’s parent tried to order a cake through ME after school! It was so weird.” Marinette could recall the memory, snickering at the confusion the other parents had presented to her asking them what they were doing. She hadn’t a clue they were so popular! She just loved baking with her Maman and Papa.
 

He releases a wistful sigh, head tipped back as he closed his eyes before gazing over to her, “You know, you’re really strong, right? I don’t think I could make it out of that kind of hell.” Allan looked a little ashamed of the confession but continued on, “I was bullied at first as a kid, but Fé and Claude were quick to stop it after one day. None of us like the idea of bullying. So we got you Mari, alright?”
 

Eyes widening at the reassurance, her expression softened before giving a jerky nod. She would never admit how her heart clenched at those reassuring words, never admit her eyes prickled with tears but she held on. She refused to cry anymore; it was a new life.
 

And she already had amazing friends!
 

Once they both made it, Marinette a little quieter but no less bubbly as the six of them sat around eating.
 

“And then,” Claude began around a bite of his sandwich, crumbs escaping his mouth much to Allegra’s (and all of their) disgust, “M. Toulouse is just being a pain just to be a PAIN. I swear, he has a vendetta against me!”
 

Félix rolls his eyes, primly sipping from the tea her mother had kindly given him-Lavender if she recalled correctly-before returning to his Niçoise salad, “It’s because you aggravated the old man, you can’t exactly blame his vendetta.”
 

Claude, very maturely, blew a raspberry towards the irritated blond.
 

Settling her raspberry clafoutis down, Saranya wrapped her arm around Marinette’s slim shoulders, grinning down to the noirette. “Since we’re going to be controlling the fashion industry one day, I totally need to show you my fashion articles! I know it’s nothing big, but we can totally rule with our combined powers.” She grins, drawing out her phone to show off her blog.
 

Gasping, Marinette hurriedly set her sandwich down in favor of looking over the detailed blog. Critiques, fashion advice, videos going over the year’s trends, even make up tutorials! “I didn’t know you had your own blog! This is so cool, I couldn’t talk to anyone about how the Gabriel brand has slowly been losing it’s competitive edge.” She exclaims, waving her arms, eyes mirroring her displeasure of being without another fashion outlet.
 

“I talked about it last month on my blog and VuTube Channel.” Saranya boasted, her chest puffing out proudly, clicking on the blog’s tab to display her VuTube page, “He’s been slowly losing an edge on the market, but years of his fashion is his only saving grace.”
 

Allegra sighs softly, shaking her head as she picks a little strawberry up, “I think we lost them.”
 

“I think so too, what do you say Fé?” Hazel eyes glanced over to the pale teen, who looked amused at the animated conversation between the two fashionistas.
 

The slight smirk on his lips gave way to his amusement, refocusing his silvered green eyes back on the book, “Well, they’re not wrong.”
 

A loud groan escaped the mocha haired male, glaring at the other. “Ugh, shut up you pretty rich boy.” He muttered bitterly.
 

“You think I’m pretty? I’m touched Claude.” He drawled, his deadpan voice causing the other two to laugh as Claude glares at his best friend.
 

The impromptu grappling match was surely all of Félix’s fault. Obviously.
 

Marinette giggles as she helps Félix pick out some leaves from his uniform as they hurry to return the finished lunch basket to her parents, Allan and Saranya already inside-and ordering the whole bakery-with Claude and Allegra taking the blanket to the apartment upstairs on Mrs. Cheng’s insistence.
 

“I-I think I got all of it.” She giggles, biting her lip to contain more as the moody teen turned a rueful glare in her direction. “The bathroom is just that way, I’ll go wait outside for you guys!”
 

After a soft hum of agreement, he heads off as she departed the opposite direction.
 

The cool breeze outside felt like a relief to her, allowing her to release the excited ‘yes!’ into the afternoon air. She survived that hell and made it onto greener walks of life! She had amazing friends, friends she bonded with, friends who believed her. Marinette was pretty sure she saw Allan and Claude snickering over the Lila “Best Friend of Ladybug” interview during the picnic.
 

“Marinette?” She turns at the surprised exclamation, eyes widening as she spotted a familiar blond haired, green eyed, ex crush of hers.
 

“Oh fuck.” Her mind oh so helpfully provided, her dumbstruck expression morphing to one of panic as he began to hurry to talk to her. With a very determined expression.
 

No no no no! She couldn’t do this, not yet! She didn’t want to deal with him. Deal with the situation from before. She was still getting over the hurt of it all.
 

Allegra was heaven sent in that moment, stepping out to greet her when she saw her friend’s expression. She set her lips in a straight line, before pulling the door back, “We’re leaving, let’s go.” She had never once heard the blonde’s voice so cold, the frost practically chilling her skin.
 

The tone must’ve been one the other’s were familiar with because they were all in the limo and driving off-despite shouts of her name heard-from the pleasant patisserie and boulangerie.
 

“We got you, Marinette.” Allan reassures, glaring back at the despondent blond. “We told you, they’re not allowed to have you back. You’re ours now.”
 

The others voiced their agreements, seeming to almost seethe at the idea of her old classmate trying to get her. It felt…it felt really nice. She smiles, nodding as she leans against his shoulder, letting the others chat amongst themselves and feeling her worries slip away once more. She may be strong and confident, but it was always nice to know she had back up.
 

~
 

The first day had went by without a hitch, having at least one of them in nearly all of her classes, and the on campus gym had a boxing bag and plenty of equipment to practice with!
 

And for the second time that day, it seemed that her clumsiness emerged, bumping into someone which resulted in both of them getting knocked to their bottoms. “Sorry! Was lost in my thoughts.” She apologized, grinning apologetically before her eyes widen at the sight of oh so familiar topaz blue eyes, eyes that had never judged her unfairly.
 

“Marinette?”
 

~
 

Their walk was silent as they walked down the empty sidewalks, through side streets towards her home.
 

“What happened?” He finally asked, gazing down to her, the gentleness she’s known for months bubbling forth in his expression.
 

So she told him, just as she told her new friends that afternoon, though she couldn’t prevent the trepidation in that moment, heart thudding against her ribs. Juleka hadn’t believed her, so why would he?
 

“You’re just bothering him.” A sinister voice purred in her head, a voice disturbingly sounding like Lila. “Why would he bother to think you’re right, you nobody.” It continued. But she wasn’t a nobody! She had her own accomplishments, even if it meant she had to cut off people from her past life.
 

She expected him to scoff of her claims. Expected him to look at her in a new light, an ugly light, and claim he didn’t know the melody as well as he thought he did. Instead she found his calloused fingers seek her own, halting their journey so he could look into her fearful eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I heard those rumors and never told Juleka my own doubts over the claims. I’m sorry their intentions weren’t as pure and sincere as your own.”
 

Tears escaped her at those words, relief pouring through her as she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him as a sob escaped her. Why was the thought of Luka rejecting her so much more painful than Adrien? “Because he’s shown he’s cared over and over again.” She smiles, gripping the material of his hoodie under hands. “Thank you.”
 

Luka held her tight, rubbing soothing circles on her back as he let her release the rush of emotions that overwhelmed her. Her melody was still clear and sweet and sincere, but it was muddled with doubt, with caution and fear. She should never need to feel this. Not ever again.

Chapter Text

“the most dangerous woman of all is the one who refuses to rely on your sword to save her because she carries her own.” –  r.h. Sin

~

Another day, another sweet sweet release from Dupont. Marinette sighs happily as she stretches her arms, a happy hum escaping her from how good English had went. Allan had helped her understand The Scarlet Letter better, the American tale one that seemed to ring a note inside of her. “I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of the book already.” She yawns, covering her mouth.

“I knooooow, I always feel so bad for Hester and Pearl. This is my third time reading this and it’s still messed up.” He gathers his things, setting them away in his messenger bag, the rest of the class mostly gone. “How are you taking it? I know English is a pain.”

That was only the half of it. “English is so infuriating! Why is it such a big mess?!”

“It was made of several different languages, it’s bound to look like a pile of…that.” He grins at the sight of her laughing, settling his cap on his head as he escorted her away to the locker room. “Sooooo, you’ve been at Jeanne for a week, how’s it feel?”

“Still really…new. I’ve been going to Dupont for so long that a Jeanne is still foreign to me. I still get guests from Dupont, demanding to see me.” She rolls her eyes at that, her hand clenching on the edge of her jacket. “Including him. I swear, Allegra looked ready to maim him last time he passed by the bakery window. He was smart for once and didn’t enter inside.”

She had even gotten a visit from Chat. It disgusted her that Alya, now seemingly interested in her well being, had reached out to the hero after the last Akuma attack. It was too little, too late.

Allan whistles softly at the thought, his smile just a little too pleased at the thought. “Allegra wouldn’t maim him, neveeeer.”

“You’re such a little shit.”

They both shared a laugh as they finally made it to their lockers.

“I’m going to be staying after school, I want to check out the gym room. Have you been there before?”

“Nah, not really my thing. Felix, Claude, and Saranya are more into it than Allegra and I.” He slings his bag over his shoulder, smiling. “Good luck, though. You reserve it?”

She shook her head, setting her things away so she could change in the gym room. “I left it open for others. I just want to practice some moves my Nonnia taught me. She showed me some American boxing moves!” Marinette grins, recalling how rough the sport itself was when Gina had shown her how to box correctly.

With a final good bye, the pair went their separate ways to do what they wanted. Marinette went to the changing room to get into work out clothes, humming softly as she undid her pigtails so they could be refocused into a ponytail.

“You did really well today! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it here, Marinette.” Tikki grins, freely escaping the bag she placed in the locker. “How are you really feeling?”

“Drained, honestly.” She sighs but smiles softly. “But it’s so much fun here. Did you see the design I did based off of the fashion they spoke of in the book? I swear Tikki, all of Dupont and that Adrien obsession had me behind in all my poor designing!” Marinette shook her head at the mere thought. Honestly, she didn’t realize how bad she was until she thought about Chat’s “feelings” for Ladybug and she realized she was no better. Honestly, she had acted like she hadn’t had a crush before! “It’s still a lot and it hurts to see people from Dupont still, I still cry sometimes, but I’m getting better. I’m getting better for me.”

She had amazing friends, Luka was supporting her, Tikki and her had spoken about getting the suit redesigned, and she was more eager to learn her responsibilities as future guardian! It was a rough road ahead, but she could do it. She can do this.

The little god nuzzled her chosens’ cheek, oh so proud of the girl for growing up so much. She hated that had had to grow up from those cruel peers back in Dupont, but life lessons were always the hardest. “I think you should remember not to always do so much, you deserve rest too.”

She nods, smiling to the goddess before closing and locking her locker. The gym was empty, the students in sports having their own and this one only being here for the EPS class and for students eager to work out on their own.  “Go ahead and rest yourself too, I know that you’ve been getting sleepy.”

Tikki nods, not wanting to admit why she was getting sleepier. The balance was off, off due to actions and inactions, and would remain so unless fixed or a new player was chosen for the roles. Tikki had practically burned the felt that held her earrings in the box when they had been near Marinette. That was her chosen. She knew Marinette was destined.

When she last spoke to Plagg, he admitted that his own chosen was more of a runner up. Adrien was good! There was no question of that, he did his job when he focused on it. And there in lied the problem. Adrien was a sweet boy with a kind heart, but the child lacked focus. Of course, the role of a superhero was freeing, to have powers no others held, but it was also a duty. The miraculous were not simply handed out on a whim, never for just fun. In the beginning, Adrien held such promise; he rebelled against his father a few times, called out others for wrong even if he held a sweet spot for the Queen B, and he placed an effort to attempt and befriend Marinette. Now…now he was enabling, allowing others to rule him, obeying without protest.  And with recent developments…they both worried about the balance.

Master Fu was simply letting Adrien keep his miraculous out of politeness and because he knew how to control it. But even the old man had noted the offness. They would continue to watch, but Adrien needed to learn to be better. Or Paris may witness a new Cat wielder.

~

A tired groan escaped him, closing the book before him. There, all finished with the last of Mary Shelley’s works. Glancing at the clock, he rose to gather his things. He would work out for an hour, shower, then head home to help prepare dinner with mother. It was a rare time for her to be home and he wanted to treasure the time as long as possible.

With everything gathered, Félix made his way to the locker room to change over before stepping out to…wow.

There she was, eyes solely focused on an unknown opponent, fencing against air, stabbing with barely held restraint. Snarled words escaped her, familiar words, words from his mothers’ country. Well well, seemed the newbie knew Italian. Once she was seemingly done with one turn, she continued on, working herself through and through. But the blade seemed almost too light in her hold, like it seemed to almost cripple her actions instead of enhancing them.

“You need to straighten your form, but I’m impressed.” Félix compliments as he walks over to her, her wide eyes taking him in. “But I doubt that something so light would do for you. Come with me next Tuesday and I shall show you fencing with a rapier, deal?” He peers down to her, finding some amusement with her surprise. Seems she had freckles too.

His cool gaze was patient as she broke from thought, her blush only adding to her charm. “F-Félix! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I didn’t hear you! I-I was so focused on pretend fighting and I just-wait, g-go with you?”

“Yes. I think you would do better with a rapier.” He admits, his brow rose. “Unless you do not wish to practice with a rapier?”

“NO! I-I mean, I would love to join you. I’ve wanted to learn to fence with a rapier but I…Well, I focused on the sabre more, let’s just say. I would be honored to accompany you.” She smiles, biting the bottom of her lip in nervousness.

He chuckles, lips quirking at how she acted at the invite. “Well, how about we practice with Sabers for now. Might as well get this in, no?”

Surprised, but no less pleased, she readied her gear to fight with him. “Yes, lets.” She waited for his smirk to disappear behind his mask before they began.

~

“W-Wow! You’re amazing.” Marinette praised, grinning up to the pale blond, accepting the hand he offered as she rises herself up.

He chuckles, shaking his head. “I am but thank you for your compliment.”

“And oh so humble.” She sighs, shaking her head with a fond chuckle.

“Of course. And I was right, you should practice with a heavier weapon, you’re stronger than you’ve shown us.” Setting the saber aside, he wiped away the sweat on his forehead. “Good game.” Shaking his hand, her grin easily came to her, “Good game.”

He undid his hair, shaking it out so his head could breathe easier. “Would you like a ride home? I think my mother would enjoy some of the desserts from your operation.”

“I’m sure maman and papa would be glad to have your business. A ride would be lovely.” She giggled.

Chapter Text

“Loyalty isn’t grey. It’s black and white. You’re either loyal completely, or not loyal at all. And people have to understand this. You can’t be loyal only when it serves you.”

 

~
 

“I can’t believe it’s almost break!” Saranya squeals, bouncing on the park bench as she uncovered her warm lunch, sighing happily at the sight of the Shahi egg curry next to the steaming white rice. “We need to plan out the blog for us to use! My users are already begging to know who you are.” She grins towards the noirette. Ever since she dropped some fun fashion shots with Marinette, people were eager to know who the designer behind the clothes were.
 

Marinette giggles, pulling out her own lunch of leftovers, drawing out the chopsticks so she could dig into the xiaolongbao her mom made last night, the shrimp fried rice temporarily ignored. “We totally do! I hope you don’t think I’m intruding.” Even three weeks in, it was still her go to to be on the side of caution. She didn’t want to step on any toes.
 

Scoffing, the brunette waved off her friends’ worries. “Please, I’m more popular than ever! They’re eager to see the summer videos I promised them, including a guest role from a particularly cute designer~.” She coos, grinning wolfishly at the bloom of pink on the others’ cheeks.
 

“Sara!”
 

Laugher escaped the pair as they grinned over their excitement to help the blog and VuTube page grow! Since they were still waiting for the other four, they could chitter about fashion all they longed to.
 

It was a safe space.
 

“Soooo, tell me about this darling guitarist you’re oh so fond of.” The brunette began innocently, tying her chestnut hair back into a simple ponytail as she listened to the nervous girl squeak. “Take your time, Félix and Allegra are picky eaters.” She smirks from behind her drink.
 

Glaring at the other, Marinette sipped at her Lorina, the coconut lime a pleasurable fizz across her tongue. “He’s been really nice, h-he’s visited the bakery a few times.” She tries to add innocently, cursing the little stutter, seeing the girls’ curiousness bloom behind her drink. “We’ve…talked about what happened back at my old school. He’s been nothing but supportive for me…”
 

It had meant so much for Luka to stick fast to her side, to know that those cruel rumors were not the sweet girl he had gotten to know and care for. “He attends our Lycée. Seems he’s on a music scholarship.” She hadn’t known that before, but it makes sense for someone so talented to be so far ahead.
 

“Wow, that’s amazing. Music scholarships are rare, usually it’s just for business or economics.” She marveled, unused to it. From the top of her head, she could only think of twenty others across the Collège and Lycée. Then again, most of them had entered into the school from the beginning, instead of just getting scholarships.
 

“He is pretty incredible.” Marinette giggles, spying their friends making their way towards them at last. “It’s a good thing we have a two-hour lunch, otherwise they wouldn’t eat~.”
 

Claude came upon the table with the girls giggling, grinning himself. “What’s so funny?”
 

“N-Nothing.”
 

Allegra playfully glares, settling herself besides Marinette. “Well, I think we need to plan Claude’s funeral with how well his studying is going with M. Vargas.”
 

“Allegraaaa!!”
 

~
 

Collège Françoise Dupont was such a freeing experience to encounter, it had all his friends and he could grow up being a normal kid! Well…had almost all of his friends.
 

Adrien sighs as he fiddles with his pencil, acutely aware that the person behind him was Lila and not the breath of fresh air that was Marinette. “You left her alone.” A voice inside his mind snarled. “Why would she stay?”
 

“Shut up.” He mutters under his breath, thinking about the pretty noirette. Why didn’t she just stay low? He never saw her outwardly expose Lila but he saw her expression enough to know-and likely everyone else knew- that the designer did not like the exchange student. Lila was pretty…unlikeable but she wasn’t bad.
 

“She did a mirage of you falling off the Eiffel tower so she could get both of your miraculouses. She did the mirage of your LADY cataclysming you.”
 

Yeah that voice was annoying.
 

Maybe he should go talk to Marinette? He missed her, but she’s been actively avoiding him or those people she hangs out with now were always squirrelling her away. Why was she so stubborn? Everyone knew not to poke a bear to prove it could get angry, so why was she focused on that? No better than Chloe at times.
 

Shaking his head, he tried to focus on some positives. He had patrol tonight with his Lady and she had been in a better mood all week! And their Master had visited Adrien lately to train him? It was weird and sometimes sounded like lessons or lectures, but he got the basic concept. He was a superhero, after all, and he’s read and seen plenty of media of what to do and not to do as a hero!
 

Plagg had just been acting weird too, more testy than normal too…maybe he should-
 

“Dude! Wake up, class is over. Come on, Lila gots the idea to head to the park!” Nino grins, grabbing his bag. “She even got us some food her personal chef made her!”
 

“Why, of course I did! I couldn’t just let you guys pay for subpar food; you all deserve the best.” She grins toothily, before latching onto Adrien’s arm. “Adrien, come on~, we can go get the lunches while Alya and Nino go pick out a spot!”
 

Alya cheers, bouncing down the steps before exiting the class. “Sounds like a plan! We’ll go pick out a shady spot to enjoy. Don’t be too long~.” She sings, sharing a laugh as she and Nino walk off.
 

This was quickly getting annoying, but Lila was pretty nice so he could deal with it. He just had to set a good example! She’d learn to be a good person soon enough! And then Mari could come back to school, she’d apologize for being so stubborn, he’d romance his Lady, and they could move to an Island and live off of fruits with an adorable little hamster!
 

The photo from two months ago was a cherished prize in his heart, the kiss one he wished he could remember. But it just meant they were meant to be, his Lady was just being stubborn.
 

Once they got the, rather stinky-it made Plagg’s food smell amazing, food from Lila’s locker, they headed off towards the park. He saw a confrontation happening, just beyond the fountain so he couldn’t see it all happening. “Come on! Let’s make sure everything’s okay!”
 

He and Lila hurried up towards the shouting, eyes widening at the sight of Alya and Marinette yelling at each other, tears in the noirette’s eyes while Alya seemed to be snarling out downright hateful comments.
 

“You’re so pathetic!” Rang the brunette’s voice, her hands in shaking fists. “Just because you were being a bitch and acting all jealous about Lila’s life, you needed to switch schools!? What the hell Mari! I expected better from you!”
 

Alya looked like she was ready to tear the sun from the sky, her body rigid, eyes ablaze as she confronted Marinette. Nino looked almost terrified for his girlfriend, conflicted.
 

On the opposite side, Marinette was standing guard before her new friends, all five looked ready to fight but Marinette kept them from it. Her glimmering eyes held unshed tears, but her expression was fiercely protective, ready to defend herself and her new friends to her last breath.
 

“I switched schools for me! I don’t want to deal with this Mlle. Césaire, just leave us alone.” She spat, a trembling hand clutching at her chest. “I trusted you, believed in you, and all you could do was see the damn LIES this stranger told you! Wasn’t I there for you?! Wasn’t my word enough for you to at least investigate whatever she said?!”
 

“Don’t you dare try and slander my reputation!” A sneer crossed her lips, seeming almost amused, cruel, “Besides, that’s so like you. Being so damn childish over all this. Over a boy. Over a few stories that trump any crap you’ve done. Hell, how do we even know if you really know Jagged, maybe he just feels bad for you. You couldn’t even handle Lila’s teasing.”
 

Adrien handed off the food to Nino as he got between the two girls. “Woah, woah! Everyone calm down, we don’t need for this to escalate. Marinette, you need to calm down.” Honestly! This wasn’t like her, she always kept a calm head!
 

Her head whipped towards the blond, a tear escaping her luminous eyes. She looked betrayed, pained, before a snarl curled her lip, but her words never came because a taller boy stepped forward, placing Marinette behind him and away from him. Like he was at fault!
 

“Marinette, don’t waste your breath on such senile imbeciles.” Came the freezing snarl, Adrien taking an unconscious step back. “If they want to believe the words of a snake, let them. Lambs, the lot of them.” Those cold eyes froze him to the bone.
 

A steady laugh came from the mocha haired boy, grin unnerving as he clapped the icy blond on the back. “Wow Fé, so intense~.” Seemingly sorry, he placed a hand over his heart, pout on his lips, “I am so sorry for my friend here, we’re just really protective of our little ladybug princess here. But, you wouldn’t know that would you?” An easy chuckle escaped him, smile a little too sharp. “No, no, of course not. You isolated her. Abandoned her. Let her suffer alone as your precious little gossip blog got views from little Miss Lies A lot here.”
 

A shriek escaped from Alya, only Nino holding her back as she attempted to claw at the teenager.
 

“Now, now, no need to scream your silly little head off. You know, I admire you. I truly do. I never knew how damn much someone could fuck up until my sweet little sis told us about you lot. Especially you, little blond.” His eyes narrowed on Adrien, the smile in place but the eyes holding rage. “But then, this all only came to surface because of this pathetic piece of trash here.”
 

He sighs, as if wistful, stepping forward. “I just wanted to thank you for letting Marinette know who her true friends were and who were just using her. She managed to find us, and we found her, so thank you for being a pathetic liar in a crowd of idiotic people. It’s utterly amazing how much they ignore truths. How Marinette knows Jagged Stone, pretty cool dude by the way,” his eyes closed as if savoring the memory, “and of course there’s Miss Nightingale, Marinette has agreed to help out with accessories after Jagged got her in contact. And, oh! Marinette got you that interview with Ladybug didn’t she?”
 

Alya looked away, the truth seemingly too much for her.
 

“Come on Claude, we don’t deserve giving these dolts any more of our time.” The blonde girl sniffed, nose upturned away from them as she gathered their things to leave.
 

He hums in agreement, wrapping an arm around Marinette’s shoulder. “You’re right. Let’s head on back, maybe M. Devon has the theater room open.”
 

“Marinette, why are you doing this? You can’t just cut us all off!” Why wasn’t she seeing reason! All this over a poor girl who had been akumatized three times and Marinette was supposed to be their everyday ladybug. His princess. “I’m really disappointed with you.”
 

A sniffle escaped the small noirette, leaning into the mocha haired boy, “I’m disappointed in you too. And if I cut you off, chances are you gave me the scissors, M. Agreste. Goodbye.”
 

As he watched her leave, his heart ached inside. He wasn’t even aware he was crying until Nino told him. His face twisted, a cruel, petty part of him coming back up. Fine. They didn't need her anyway.

"Come on, we should eat before the food goes bad. Who needs her."
 

~
 

He watched from the shadows of the confrontation, defeated sigh escaping him. He had chosen wrong. The child only had one chance left. 

Chapter Text

 

“if you don’t fight for what you want, don’t cry for what you lose.” – a.h.

~

Early evenings at the “La Vie En Noir” was always sublime. The music was relaxing, the café held an almost nostalgic feeling, and the drinks were amazing.

“I should bring Marinette here. Asher and David liked it the last time I brought them here.” He hums to himself at the memory, smile playing at his lips as if he could hear Asher gushing over how vintage the establishment felt, David rolling his eyes fondly at his boyfriend, as Luka let the chatter fill him with warmth.

The past nearly three months had weighed in heavily on his heart with how things were progressing. At first it had been little excited tales Jules told him, about this special, amazing girl who had travelled the world and done so much! She was going to get them in contact with the Music Industry’s biggest producer so Kitty Section could get their name out there!

Then there were the snide remarks about Marinette’s jealousy, how Marinette was being petty and being childish over a situation that could so easily be fixed if she just apologized. Then it became how Marinette obviously lied to them all, to trick them with her ‘kindness’, for Luka to be wary of such a manipulative witch. That she wasn’t sincere.

Then this Lila slowly convinced their band members that it might look weird to be in a band with an older teen, that Jules, Rose, and Ivan were all about the same age while he was about three years older. Lila could join their band and they would be so much better now. Didn’t you know? Jagged Stone had asked her to guest star on an album but she couldn’t because she had to go to the Nile to assist villagers in getting water.

When he had met Marinette outside of school that one day, he had approached her with the intention of finding out the truth in all the gossip, snide remarks, and cruel words spilled about her. So she told him the truth, told him as she cried, as her wonderfully bluer than blue eyes dimmed down to a foggier color.

Until her wonderful melody had tempoed off, the minor keys could’ve broken even the strongest of hearts.

When he had held her close after her confession, the poor girl seemed to sag with relief at being believed, after being apologized to. So, he vowed she’d never have to experience it ever again. Not so long as he drew breath.

Marinette. The girl was almost always on his mind, huh? It was hard not to think of her, actually, but it wasn’t a complaint in the slightest; she had came stuttering into his life and only proved to make it brighter, warmer, with each new experience together.

Sure, she wasn’t perfect-who was?- and he was no stranger to Juleka’s old talks about how wild Marinette could be when it concerned her old flame, said girl had admitted that she had crossed the boundary too far and realized her infatuation was more akin to that of an obsessed fan, not of a friend crushing on another friend.

He had reassured he wasn’t too different when he was younger, but the discipline and realization of age helped outgrow old habits. None of them were saints and emotions held the best of them at any age anyway.

Da-Ding~!

“Hm?” Glancing down, he chuckles at the image of her icon flashing on his phone. “Wonder what she’s going to share today?” Swiping the screen to her contact, the musician expected the latest design she drew or progress with the pale mint blouse she was making, and read over her text.

And just like that, his mood soured and a fire bloomed in his soul.

~

“H-Hello?”

“What do you mean Alya yelled at you?”

Marinette sighs softly, curling on her patio chair as she gazed out towards the horizon. Tikki was silently curled on her shoulder, her warmth giving Marinette the courage to talk about that afternoon.

“She and Nino saw us at the park today. S-She saw us and came over, saying it was rude for me to leave without telling any of them I had left, how it was just like me to just d-disappear.” The softest of sniffles could be heard across the line, tears edging at the corner of her eyes. It had hurt to hear her yelling, memories soured with each insult hurled towards her.

“So I countered back, asking her why should have I told them? All of them had been alienating me for a month when Spring break hit, Alya managed to convince Madam Bustier and Madam Mendeliev to switch me to be solo, bringing up my tardiness as a good excuse so I wouldn’t drag anyone down.” Tikki presses more firmly against her, letting her know that they were both listening. Luka was good, he listened to her tales just as much as she listened to his.

“And then she began to call me a coward, tried to attack you guys! Saying you all were pathetic for believing a big liar like me! H-How you all were snobs or weird or just a big monster like me! I just- I couldn’t STAND for that.”

Head throbbing, Marinette groaned as she slumped back into the pink and white fabric, eyes sliding close, “And then Adrien came and tried to say I was all to blame for this. As if I was some person unreasonably fighting back against Alya’s words!” She snarls, fist slamming down onto her thigh. Taking a deep breath, she slowly released it as she opens her eyes once more. “Let’s just say, I’m so glad to be out of that toxic environment.”

His sigh carried out over the line, “I’m so sorry, Mari. You didn’t deserve any of their words. Do you want me to come over? We can watch those baking competitions you like so much, I heard Gordon Ramsey’s new season in the United States is pretty good.” He was much too kind for her, and his offer only made her cheeks bloom pink as she offers an airy laugh.

“As good as that sounds, I think I just need alone time. Can we all hang out tomorrow, though? I’d love to meet your friends too.”

“Of course, Marinette, whatever you want.”

They spoke for another ten minutes before she hung up. Luka, Felix, Claude, Allegra, Saranya, and Allan…she was so lucky to have them all in her life. So what if her old life didn’t want her? She was borne anew anyway.

She was Marinette. She was Ladybug. She could face any challenge in her life and laugh as she defeated it.

~

It had started months ago. It was little nuggets at the time, little things, things that went unnoticed.

Marinette being always late to class, the occasional ditch from a group hangout, bailing out of plans. She hadn’t noticed it at first because she wasn’t exactly a saint in that regard either, her journalism career came first, after all.

But then it became more frequent, and then the Lila hate started coming on, Marinette sometimes avoiding calls or texts all together.

Lila confided that she heard Marinette laughing to someone over the phone about her and their classmates, how gullible they were in believing she was their friend. She was always ditching; how could they not take the hint?

And who was she to deny Lila’s claims?! The girl was connected to /Ladybug/. She did amazing things all the time! Charitable, kind things. So Alya made sure the rest of the class knew the horrible things Marinette said about them. And it began to click together. Marinette stole Mylene’s role in Nino’s movie, all to kiss Adrien! It was her fault Alya was akumatized into Lady Wifi, for not BEING there for her. And all the truths came out!

So as punishment, they avoided her, kept her out of the loop and let her feel as horrible as she should be. She was a horrible human being, even Ladybug didn’t like her, they were never seen close to each other. And poor Adrien, he hadn’t known he had been basically stalked so the girls agreed to at least save him of that truth. Poor kid dealt with enough.

And then she left. Without a warning, Mrs. Cheng came to the school and excused her daughter from further attendance, and she vanished from their lives. Like they were nothing. She should’ve apologized, should’ve begged them to forgive her, for Lila to forgive her.

But no. She was rather chummy with her best friends, each of them looked stuck up like Chloe with their uniforms for Jeanne d'Arc Académie; so of course she confronted the little bitch over her childishness. How couldn’t she have seen that Marinette was nothing but a little liar, no better than Chloe!

Adrien was right, she should know better! Then that egotistical blond had called them idiots, the brown haired kid pointed out the  ‘lies’ in Lila’s stories. Yeah, sure, Marinette knew celebrities but they didn’t like her. Lila told her.

Besides, the Ladyblog was her prized possession! If she had lies on her blog, she would be a laughing stalk! All she had were hard facts and plenty of Paris’ superheroes saving the day. Who needed that stupid little girl anyway? She was no everyday ladybug.

~

Lying was one the simplest skills she ever learned, ever tested, and it only proved to make her better. Honestly, it wasn’t her fault no one was as smart as that pathetic baker girl. She’d never even spoken to the girl before and yet Marinette had known from the start! Lila could appreciate a person so observant, but the poor thing had chosen the wrong side.

Adrien didn’t though. He let her lies continue under the naïve idea that she could be a “better person”. So she left him alone, for now, so long as he played a good little kitten and behaved for her.

He was such a cute little plaything.

~

“I should’ve known to talk to her more as Chat, she would’ve learned to be a better person.” He growls, prowling the wide expanse of his room. “And then she tells her she’s done with us?! That I was the bad guy in all this? I’m one of Paris’ heroes!”

Adrien was furious to say the least. He thought he knew Marinette. Thought he knew the amazing girl she was, but all she was, was a selfish, rude little brat that couldn’t behave like she should’ve. Why couldn’t she understand that there was an order to these things? He had been in the spotlight his whole life! He knew how bad gossip could be, how liars could be, so Lila’s little exaggerations would’ve been found out eventually. Then Lila would’ve learned! She would’ve seen it was better to be honest, apologize for all she had ever done! It was so close to working too and then she ruined it.

With a roar of frustration he threw the charm bracelet, the beads breaking on impact against the wall, raged pants filling the bedroom. “I don’t need her! Saying she’s cut me off! Well, I’ve needed her! I have my Lady. That’s all I’ll ever need. She’s no princess, who needs a peasant when I have the Queen of Paris?”

Wait, why was he even losing his head over this? God, it was like he forgot who he was thinking of! He laughs, shaking his head, fingers brushing back the strands of his hair, taming the mess, as he remembered who he was talking about. Marinette.

“Why am I even losing my cool? She’ll come right back, like she always does. She’s overreacting. She’s learned too many of Chloe’s habits, it seems.” He chuckles to himself, smiling fondly over the thought. Of course she’d come back. She was his friend! She’d apologize for overreacting, for being so damn stubborn and selfish. Didn’t she know they needed to set a good example for Lila?

The God of Destruction watched it all unfold, flicking his tail behind him in agitations as he regarded the spoilt child rationalize to himself over this entire mess.

He cared for Adrien; of course he did, Adrien was a sweet kid with a really big heart and too oblivious of a mindset. He was ready to start the fun of being a superhero, to help people out, to be free from his life. But as time progressed, Plagg began to note the sour. Adrien was spoiled, entitled even, due to his upbringing. Sure he wasn’t Chloe levels of entitled attitude, but he had a sense of air that he deserved things instead of earning them.

The simplest examples was the irony just before him. Adrien felt entitled to Marinette’s friendship, her loyalty; Adrien never reached out a hand in friendship with her, never ventured over towards her home or her desk to just talk-or attempt to-or just to hang out with her. Marinette always put forward the effort in trying to hang out with him, include him in class activities, and helped him watch his mother’s movie! Of course Adrien protected Marinette, but that shouldn’t be connected towards an obligation. A hero, regardless of in or out of a costume, helps others selflessly. Besides all that, he was her friend, a friend should always try and protect you!

Don’t even get onto the Ladybug topic, the toxic attitude was something that needed to be curbed out of him as a child-hell, he is a child still but that damn bastard refused to raise his own brat-but yet it remained. Could Adrien grow from it? Sure, of course he could; but the brat refused to accept any ideologies that he was in kind of wrong.

The hissy fit at Syren was understandable, even if it was a punk move, because he was young and he did hate being held out of the loop. It was one of the many slights Plagg could forgive. He was only hitting his mid-teens, childhood, so he was still learning. It’s why he could forgive Adrien wanting to have fun with the role; his life was dull, lifeless, and the kid deserved adventure and excitement. So he encouraged the rebellion, advised Adrien to sneak out when his dad ordered him otherwise. But then Adrien seemed to almost regress back into his need to please his father, so the rebellions lessen to the point of only occuring for Akuma battles or for a planned romance for Ladybug.

Then there was this whole Lie-la situation that had gotten far too out of hand. It was utterly wearing on his nerves, no matter how old he was, with this whole higher ground strategy. Was pigtails’ idea the right course of action? No. But is the higher ground strategy? Also no. They should’ve nipped this liar in the ass months ago during the events of Volpina. Sure the lies would hurt but they were /fresh/ back then. Now the balance was broken.

He felt bad that the kid was going to lose him, the mausoleum of a home was cold even for him, but Adrien had been getting lessons from the Guardian since Spring Break and hadn’t learned a damn thing. Just because your hero, doesn’t mean you knew all. And he called himself a superhero fan! Even those weirdos in his comics learned lessons to improve themselves.

The time was drawing near, and the blond had used up too many chances.

~

It had taken everything he had not to throttle that blond that afternoon, because he knew Marinette wouldn’t like it. Knew he was better than that too, they all did. It just killed him not being able to do more for her, to show her that they cared and even though her previous schoolmates had been crap about her friendship, they weren’t going to be.

Claude groans as he flops back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling as the memory of her tears filtered through his mind. She didn’t deserve to be hurt again. Allegra was ready to destroy that pathetic tabloid writer, they all had been, but the thought of taking care of Marinette first was what mattered to them.

They didn’t need to bother themselves with those people anyway.

It’s a spicy meat-a-ball!

Grin spreading its self over his face, he sprung up to look over to his phone where Mr. Grump’s pretty mug was on. “Alright, Fé, what’s up.”

{From: FéFé }: I can hear your infernal music from over here. Turn it down, some of us are trying to rest.

Snorting, Claude smirks as he replies right back. Fé was such a drama king.

{To: FéFé }: You love Djadja just as much as I do.

{To: FéFé }: Don’t forget who caught you attempting to create a ballet from one of her songs~

{From: FéFé }: ….

{From: FéFé }: Just turn it down.

Laughing softly, he did as he was asked, turning down the beautiful singer. Lying back down, Claude knew that they had all still been in a funk after school. And it wasn’t exactly hard to see Félix had been furious earlier, and the boy didn’t anger easy. Annoy, yes, but not anger.

{To: FéFé:}: You worried about Marinette too? ☹

{From: FéFé }: ….

{From: FéFé }: /Sigh/, I am. I hated seeing her tears today, no woman should cry over such an idiotic situation.

{From: FéFé }: The liars’ claims are outrageous! How could they be such ignoramuses? Her lies are as obvious as a white ball in a hall of BLACK. She said she needed time but should we do something for her? I could ask mother if I could visit her with you lot tomorrow.

Claude smiles, seeing the absolute care in his friends’ words. Félix could be a hard ass and as cold as a Finnish winter, but his heart was set in the right place.

{To: FéFé:}: I’ll ask the guys to see if they’re up for it. Night Fé.

{From: FéFé:}: Very well. Good night, Claude.

Claude shut his music off, but sleep didn’t even creep on his body, it didn’t even whisper in mind. He was still too awake so he might as well go for a run. Setting a note with the time he left and the path he would take, Claude took off outside.

With summer just around the corner, the night air wasn’t cold, letting him enjoy Paris at night. After moving here from Wales, Claude never expected to love Paris as much as he loved Cardigan, his family’s hometown, but it had long since made him feel like /Paris/, here, was home. His home.

The city of love and all it’s interesting quirks. The superheroes were just a bonus.

He had been out for he thinks half an hour, deciding to head back home, when he heard a frightened cry not far off. His mother used to always lecture his impulse control would get him killed, his father fondly shaking his head and telling him his luck would run out from his decisions, but when did he ever listen to sense? He ignored all those warning voices as he sprinted towards the woman’s cry.

P-Please, I-I’ll give you my money! My jewels! Just let me go.” Her bargaining fell on deaf ears as the man gripping her sneered at her offers.

His voice was the stuff of /nightmares/, Claude snarling as he heard the man taunt. “LEAVE HER ALONE!” Bam! His fist stung but he swung again, jerking the woman back, barking at her to run, blocking the man from persuing the issue further.

“You’ll pay for that you little asshole!” He growls, moving to draw something out when a yoyo wound around him and jerked him back into trashcans.

“Don’t you dare!”

Ladybug landed down, a Valkyrie moving into battle before she wound the idiot once more, trussing him up onto a lamp post. “I’ll call the police, but are you alright? You’re lucky I heard her scream on my patrol, this man’s known for hurting people.” She lectured him, burning gaze cowing him into feeling ashamed before it softened her. “Thank you for helping her, but you could’ve gotten hurt too. Will you be fine running home? Or would you like a ride back?” She jokes softly.

“I’ll be fine, Ladybug.” His throat was dry, nerves raking through him, but he grins down to her. “Sorry, but I couldn’t just stand by waiting for you or Chat Noir to rescue her.” Taking a deep breath, he released a weak laugh. “But thanks again. Um, could you do me a favor, Miss Bug?”

She tilts her head, frown playing on her lips.

“Could you check on my friend Marinette? She…she had a really rough time lately and I’m worried about her. She means a lot to me. To all of us really.”

“Of…Of course! Yeah, I could do that.” Clearing her throat, she activates her ladybug communicator. “Get going, I’m sure your Maman is worried for you.”

Nodding, Claude took off, planning to call the guys so they could all visit Marinette tomorrow. Maybe they could go to visit the Eiffel tower?

~

Fu looked over his tablet, reading over old words long lost to the passages of time as he sipped at his tea. Chat Noirs’ actions as of late were troubling, creating a visible rift in the team as he justified his actions along the way, a self-righteous human in his own right. Now he needed to assign someone the Black Cat Miraculous.

He had several candidates to decide from, but he was old and would be seen wandering around too often near people so he had sent Wayzz in his steed. Wayzz had known far more Cat holders than he, had known many great holders in his time. So he told Wayzz which he was deciding upon and for the god to see if the potentials passed tests of a true hero.

They would not fail this time.

Chapter Text

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

 

~
 

The Parisian skyline was always so beautifully tranquil at night, the warmth from how brightly beautiful it all was helped to settle her nerves from that afternoon. God, she didn’t want all that to happen. If she thought about it, she could understand Adrien’s side on all this, what with him being from money and fame, how this was likely his first time dealing with people in all his life, and he was scared of losing friends. Did it make his actions right? No, of course not. But she could understand all the same.
 

It’s why she didn’t do a dramatic exit from the school. If he wanted it all to stay quiet, then she’ll LET him keep it all quiet and just bow out respectfully; it wasn’t to show Lila she won, but to show them that Marinette chose herself and her health over their toxicity.
 

“My Lady~, surprise seeing you around.” A charming voice purred, causing her to roll her eyes in slight annoyance. And here was another person that was bugging her.
 

Chat Noir.
 

“Chat, how was your day?”
 

His groan surprised her, his body flopping back onto the roof edge, “Don’t ask. I just can’t believe how stubborn people can be. Why can’t they be as sensible as me?” His eyes were closed, eyebrows knitted down, tail flicking from agitation. “And I thought she was smart like you.”
 

She shook her head, standing up as she stretched out her limbs. She didn’t have a long night open, she needed to head home for bed soon. “Come on, alley cat, we need to get going. You take the West, I’ll head East. Meet up at the tower in an hour?”
 

“Of course, my Lady~. It was a purrleasure to chat~.” And off he went, vaulting over buildings.
 

Shaking her head, Marinette took off in the opposite direction.
 

Ever since a couple weeks ago, Chat had been grumbling about a girl in his personal life. Honestly, it felt more like he was complaining about her trying to get better, but hey, she didn’t know the whole situation. She only told Chat to think of things from her perspective, how sometimes you had to leave a situation for your own mental health.
 

Was it always an easy transition? No. But it had to be done. She had done it, and she still missed the old times at Dupont where she had her friends all around her, the sleepovers with the girls, hanging with Nino, Adrien and Alya, just… she missed it. But she couldn’t continue on, not if she wanted to maintain her mental health.
 

When the hour finished, she found the agitated cat pacing the length of a beam. “What’s got your tail in a knot?” She questions. He hadn’t been this grumpy since Frozer.
 

“I went to go see her but she’s either out or she’s ignoring even Chat me. I’m sure if I just talk to her as Chat Noir, she’ll realize how stubborn she’s being.” He huffs, stomping his foot. “Why couldn’t she just play nice? It’s not like she was being bullied. If anything, she’s the bully.” His words were grumbled, reminding her of a toddler being denied his turn.
 

A shiver ran up her spine at the familiarity, Marinette biting her bottom lip before asking, “Did you ever ask?” Marinette had tried to tell Adrien, but he had always been too busy or Lila whisked him away.
 

“Don’t be ridiculous, she couldn’t be bullied. She dealt with Chloe enough times.”
 

Another shiver, her instincts flaring to stop this conversation but she pushed once more, just to be sure. “But did you ASK? I know it can be hard for victims to admit they’re being bullied. Especially when they feel they’re alone…with no one on their side.”
 

“But I was on her side! I told her that so long as we both knew, did it matter if the little lies continued?” He growls, glaring out at the skyline before shaking his mop of hair.
 

Golden like the sun.
 

“Sorry, M’Lady. I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just frustrated at her, is all. But I know she’ll come back. We’re her real friends, not those new people she hangs around.” He smirks, as if the idea is laughable. “We’re much more pawsome. And she’ll get over her tantrum, just like Chloe always does.” He never does. “Oh! I better head out, I got some pawsersome duties in the morning, good night M’lady!”
 

As he vaulted out of view, away from her, all she could do was whisper, the words caught in the winds, “All that glitters is not gold.” Seems Shakespeare was right.
 

~
 

“Master, we need to talk.” She couldn’t sleep, not after that encounter.
 

He glances up, surprised to see Marinette’s somber expression. “I’ll ready some tea. Please, sit. I was going to help myself to a cup anyway.” Best to keep emotions calm, if her expression was anything to go by; his apprentice was very good at helping her own emotions remain calm, but they were only human, after all.
 

When he returned with two cups of tea, one of licorice for Marinette and one of ginseng for himself, before settling down across from her. Tikki was speaking in hushed whispers to Wayzz, the little Goddess a mixture of worry and determination. “What is it that you wish to discuss?”
 

“Is Adrien Agreste Chat Noir?” She asks, her tone firm, but her voice wavered from emotion.
 

He had hoped they would never figure out identities of each other until they had defeated Hawkmoth, for safety measures, but he knew that the recent unbalance would allow them to see each other better, if one only looked closer.
 

“I am sorry you had to find out.”
 

Fu doesn’t judge her as silent tears slip down her cheeks, only lets the reassuring quiet between them remain. Pain was not to be bottled up and sealed away, it must be released and given a chance to be exposed, lest it explode once released all at once. He places a hand over her own, hearing her crying turn to sniffles, eyes gently reassuring her that pain was not to be her only teacher.
 

Taking a deep breath in, Marinette slowly helped herself find her center. To think that Adrien had betrayed her so much…and he knew she was such a big liar! Shaking her head, firmly deciding not to allow him to poison her mood, she turned her eyes back to her teacher. “What are we going to do about this?”
 

Chat Noir was her partner, but after this…could she even trust him again? When the knife he twisted so hard into her back was done with knowledge he’s known as long as she did?
 

“I have tried to council him, to show him how to improve your situation, less the balance be broken further.”
 

“Further? How did it-.”
 

“It was broken when he didn’t stand with you.” Tikki interrupted, landing down on the table before her Chosen. “Before, when Lila was just lying about not being in school, it had been fine. But when he said that, “So long as we both know, did it matter?”, he had made a pact between you. Whether or not a wearer recognizes it, and fate dictated it was, a pact made between the Yin and Yang miraculous is sacred and should be honored. When he didn’t stand with you, he broke it.”
 

She nods, frowning over that knowledge. Some small part of her had hoped that Adrien hadn’t stood up because he was scared, but thinking of it now, it seemed like he just wasn’t stepping in for his own skin. Regardless of his experience in public spaces, there was plenty of media that showed how harsh bullying and silence on bullying could be on someone.
 

“I have failed on my part in choosing a suitable cat wielder, I was hopeful the responsibilities of being the Black Cat holder would urge him into becoming more rebellious and stronger to stand beside you. But as I look over your battles, he has become childish in his handling of this duty…but I should not be so harsh over him, he is-you both are children still.”
 

“But I’ve placed the duty of protecting Paris over my own cares. Have I been foolish or unfair in my powers, yes, of course I have. I let my own stupid jealousy or anger get the better of me on a few occasions.” Volpina was an easy example, but so was using her powers to stop a dance between Chloe and Adrien during the Bubbler incident.
 

“Chat-Adrien is amazing in his role. He’s helped me defeat enemy after enemy, saved me a few times, but he’s been careless in battle as we continue on.” But was it even fair to take back the ring? As much as he pained her, wronged her for his spoiled views, his life was rough enough with the restrictions in his life.
 

Fu understood her stance, he didn’t want to take the ring back any more than she did. Admittedly, the test he gave the child had been simpler than Marinette’s own, but he had felt hope the child would grow. “He will remain Chat Noir until I have found a proper wielder, one that will balance you once more. We cannot think only of him when the balance is fractured as it stands already. Paris needs a balanced pair.”
 

Tikki took one of the cookies from Marinette’s purse, releasing a sigh softly. “Sometimes to do some good, you need to be a bit of a bad guy.” You couldn’t please everyone. Paris came first.
 

~
 

“Hah!”
 

Grunting, Claude fell back onto the cushioned ground, groaning as he flopped back. “Bloody hell, Mari, where did you learn to be so badass?” Sitting up, he rubs his chest, grinning a little. “Definitely giving Ladybug a run for her money.”
 

“Or maybe she’s giving me a run for mine.” She jokes, giggling as she helped him back up. She definitely needed this hang out time with Claude, even a week later. Shaking herself from her thoughts, she looks him over, “I didn’t hurt you too bad, right? I did warn you that the self-defense lessons are tough.”
 

Her grandmother had made them tough on purpose. She had seen how harsh the outside world was, so she wanted to prepare her granddaughter as much as possible when she was younger.
 

“Nah, I’ll live. Alright, show me that again!” Ever since that run in with the sicko, Claude, and all of them really, had been making a stronger effort to learn self-defense. Sure, Félix was basically a swordsman and Allegra’s ballet could kill a man, but they didn’t exactly put their strengths to much practice. So here he was, learning from his little sis on how to kick ass.
 

And boy, was she kicking his!

 

Marinette laughs as she displayed the move on him again, describing every move she did so she could flip him over. “Now, let’s practice that arm-bar again. All you need to know is that in the heat of the moment, your job is to keep yourself alive and send them to the hospital. Never hesitate with this stuff.”
 

Nodding, taking in her advice, Claude uses the technique she displayed to him earlier, going much smoother than his initial try but made sure not to hurt her. “Like this?”
 

“Perfect for right now, keep your palm firmly on my elbow as your hand keeps my arm in place. If you see you’re outnumbered, use as much strength as you could to harm the bone there on the elbow, so they get distracted by one of them getting hurt.” There was no fairness in street fighting, after all. Best to fight dirty.
 

Licking his lips as he firmly nods, Claude released her with a breathless chuckle. “Remind me to not get into a street rumble with you.”

 Shaking her head with a roll of her eyes, Marinette adjusts her ponytail before putting up her arms. “Alright, now, let’s practice this. When you punch, you want to keep it quick and focused. No wide swing, like this.” She displays, exaggerating how the swing rounded around. “It leaves you open to a hit; you don’t want that.”
 

For the next hour and a half, Claude went through the toughest workout routine/self-defense lesson of his life. They took another fifteen minutes to stretch and cool down their bodies so they wouldn’t be as sore later. “Thanks so much again. Your grandma showed you a lot!”
 

Fresh from the quick shower the gym provided, Marinette felt practically sleepy from it all. Warm showers always did that to her. “Not just her, my mom is pretty great at martial arts too! She just stopped practicing a little before my dad arrived.” Letting her hair down, she follows him to their locker area. “You did great, Claude, you’ll only get better from here on out.”
 

Rubbing his neck, the taller teen chuckles as he felt warmth at her praise. She was such a good person. “How about I treat you for lunch? Or did you wanna ditch early so you could go hang with Saranya and Allan?”

“As lovely as lunch sounds, Saranya wants to start on a project to introduce me, formally, to her VuTube and Fashion blog. Lunch tomorrow good?” She was free that Sunday, unless an Akuma decided to pop up.
 

“Sounds like a plan, Ladybug Princess~.” Bowing over her hand, he presses a kiss to it, causing her to groan before they exchanged a hug.
 

~
 

Allan whistles softly to himself, swinging his legs off of Sar’s balcony, bopping to one of the choices he had found, eyes closed as he envisioned Sar’s idea. It would work…but did it match Marinette? Sure, the girl was fiery, but she was sweet caramel while Saranya was spiced Chai. There needed to be a blend.
 

Tap tap tap tap tap tap
 

Opening his eyes, he grins at the sight of midnight hair flowing in the wind, Marinette racing to Sar’s door. “Mari’s here!”
 

“On it!”
 

Making his way back inside, it didn’t take long for the girls to return back upstairs, Mari seeming to recount what she and Claude had been doing for the morning. “He’s getting really good! Are you sure you don’t want to join us?” She chirps, seeming eager to have more students to teach.
 

“No way, girl, Claude told us how tough you are~.” Saranya teases as she settles down at her desk, Marinette setting her things on the girls’ bed. “Alright, Allan, hit her with your idea.”
 

Allan rolls his eyes, grinning from the floating chair as he hugged the gold flower pillow, “So, ya know how you and Sar have been talking about joining together for the blog?” Seeing her nod, he continued along, grinning, “Well~, why don’t we do a fashion show! We could get the rest of the crowd to model your designs and then show it all off! With you and Sar being the stars, of course.”
 

Standing up from the chair, he moves over to his laptop. “I’ve actually been looking up some spaces we could use, and my Aunt told me she could reserve a part of a Le Jardin du Luxembourg for the mini show.” He showed off the famous garden, grinning proudly, “She told me that they could close off an area for us to use for a few hours in the morning, for whatever day we decide. We could even go inside.”
 

“I-INSI-Allan! Are you serious?!” She squeals, running to hug him with an excited giggle. “Oh! I would love to do that! What about you Saranya? This is your blog and VuTube, not mine.”
 

She grins, gliding over to them as she wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Are you kidding? Of course, I want this! I’ll be able to premier Mlle. Dupain-Cheng’s clothing line, not just some hat!” She teases. “Besides, we’ll be helping each other out. You for your line, and me for my blog and VuTube channel! A win win, honestly.”
 

Marinette giggles seemed breathless as she held the other girl close, burying her face into Saranya’s cinnamon colored skin, grinning at the idea. “Thank you.” This would all be such a big opportunity! It would bolster her credibility.
 

“Alright you two, let’s get planning! We need to pick some songs for your ‘show’, Marinette we’ll help you out with whatever you need, probably a date too.” Allan grins, typing away at his keyboard to bring up their project notes. 

Chapter Text

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” - Robert Louis Stevenson


-


“Sunshine all the time makes a desert.” -Arad Proverb


~~


“Keep your voice down, Plagg. The Guardian is resting from our day of research.” Wayzz scolds, closing the door towards the human’s bedroom door so the three kwami could converse in peace.


Tail flicking, emerald eyes narrowed towards the turtle, the feline god flicking back and forth in the air. “Enough with this, tell me why the Guardian hasn’t taken me away from my current holder? I know damn well when someone is going to be replaced, we all do because we’re gods and practically built the very fabric of reality.” His growl was low, warning, as Tikki flitted over to his side.


Although the kwami wouldn’t admit it, he softened ever so softly for his Sugar Cube.


Trying to find the right words, Tikki gently placed her paw on Plagg’s arm, “Ma-My chosen believes that there might be hope for him. We disagree, but we came to an agreement earlier yesterday.” Taking a deep breath, she turns her other half towards her. “We are leaving the decision to you. You are always with him, you know him better than any of us. She knows who he is, knows what he’s done to her, but she still hopes he is a good boy beneath it all who can rise to the responsibility of all this. But the final decision is on you.”


“On me…? But, why-”


“Because we are facing a danger of human greed.” Wayzz interrupts, approaching the elder kwami. “We have not faced this sort of corruption in centuries, and we still had all of our miraculous with us when we did.” They all drew back to the memory of poor little Nooroo being abused by such a horrible human, and there was no telling what was wrong with Duusuu. “So you must decide. The Master has chosen your new partner, if you decide to go on your own.”


Switching chosens was rare, usually only to be switched to a new miraculous that better suited the human or because the Order of the Guardians deemed it so. When a miraculous was willingly given back or given up, memories would remain with the human; when forcibly taken by a guardian or enemy, memories would grow fuddled but still last; but when forcibly removed by the kwami themselves, all memories are taken away from the human.


Could he do this?

"Who did you decide?"


~


She didn’t quite know why she began to do all this as a child, perhaps she simply wanted a wandering mother’s attention, maybe some extra coddles by the nanny, or to get her mean father out of her life. She wasn’t sure but at this point, she no longer cared, so long as she got her way.


Stretching up from her bed, Lila released a soft yawn before standing to pluck an outfit from her wardrobe. It was a simple little find from back home that was ideal for this atrocious hot weather that was brimming as the school year came to a close.


‘Oh yes, my very best friend Ladybug chose it for me, isn’t it gorgeous? You know, I gave her all the very best fashion tips!’ Oh yeah, that would do it, kiss up to those Ladybug lovers. Ugh, Ladybug.


“What a lovely little model I’ll make.” She hums, fixing her long, flowing hair. “My god, I look divine.” Lila chuckles, admiring herself in the mirror. Oh, it was no wonder that old hermit permitted her to be around Adrien, she was model ready! She was ideal for someone as ri-amazing as Adrien. She could practically see herself parading around the blond heir, rightfully taking him as her own as she should do. Alya seemed eager to place efforts on their relationship now that Mar-trash was gone.


A snarl curled her lips as she recalled that pathetic little peasant that attempted to ruin her plans. But she was gone and far away that she couldn’t ruin her plans, and sweet Adrien had defended her from the noirette. Pathetic little mix breed. Her face relaxed to a smile, sighing softly as her heart curled with happy thoughts, “Things are working out according to my ultimate design.” Mari-trash couldn’t ruin her plans, and all their class was playing into her hand.


She did a little twirl, grin darkening as she faced herself in her mirror, “I destroyed that little peasant.” She did, Marinette had lost all she had told her she would. And now they were all under her spell.


Purr-ring~!


{Alya} : Down here bestie! Today’s the last day!!


“And now Dupont is all miiiine~.” Oh, how she loved to win.


Sinister laughter rang through the apartment, bouncing off of the walls as the liar left her home.


Silly little peasant, no one messed with a true ruler.


~


“Maaarrriiiiiinnnneeeeeettttteeeeeeee.” The drawn-out whine brought about several shushes, Claude ignoring them all as he slumped against his little sister. “Why are we in the library? Can’t we go somewhere funner? I thought we were having lunch.” She didn’t even need to face him to know the older male was likely pouting.


Rolling her eyes, she set her pen down on her notebook before facing him, “Claude,” She began, trying to keep the laughter from bubbling up to her lips, “we’re in here because it’s stupidly hot outside, and I told you I just wanted to sketch in here. I told  you I wasn’t hungry, and you chose to come with me instead of going with Allan to check out the Luxembourg for the fashion show, you said you wouldn’t dare allow me to leave here without an escort.”


Pout remaining in place, he grumbles softly, “A princess needs an escort, and since your two suitors,” a smile quirked his lips at her huff of air, and the disgruntled blush settling on her cheeks, “aren’t here, so it is up to me, your dashingly handsome brother, to escort you!”


Groaning, Marinette slumps over so she could attempt to hide her damn blush. His stifled snickers did nothing to reassure her. “Shut up. They are not my suiters.” Right?


“No need to be so shy, they’re both twitterpated over you.” He hums, taking his thermos to take a swig of the cool iced tea he got from Mama Cheng and Papa Dupain’s fridge when he picked her up this morning. “Buuuuuut, you didn’t hear that from me.” He chuckles, leaning back in his chair.


A little more put together, Marinette sat back up to look up to him. “They do?” But two of them? One would get hurt…


“Of course they do, Fé doesn’t just offer to anyone how to sword fight, and he showed you his favorite café. I don’t even know where that is and we’ve known each other since I moved here when we were eight.” He seemed a little put out, but not angry in the least that she was let on in a secret.


“And Luka always goes to greet you first and show you his music first. Sure I’ve known the dude, he’s chill and fun to be with, but he never seemed interested in hanging with us until we had you there too.” His lips quirked up a little. “Matter of fact, they’re both in better moods when you’re here.”


Sighing, Marinette carded her fingers through her midnight hair, gaze flittering down to her notebook, a distraction from her flustered thoughts. The notebook was opened to the unfinished sketch of a glamorous dress, yet to be colored but she would get to it once she scanned the design onto her tablet.


Inspired by Jagged’s latest rock song, a dark romance that seemed to take some vampiric tones, it was gorgeous with a gothic, beaded high neckline that would be more similar to a shoulder necklace than an actual fabric neckline, the bodice would be sweetheart for sure and embody an almost black coloring to it before it would flow out into a purple wine color-or maybe even an eggplant shade!- that would flow like one of Fouad Sarkis’ designs. The bodice would of course be somewhat jeweled to mimic the inky night sky, glittering under the lights of Paris. The skirt would flow out, not quite a ballgown but not quite an A-Line skirt, with just a slight train. She hadn’t yet decided how the back would look like yet.



It had taken her almost all day to finish this design, and she had already gotten little drifts of ideas for an ensemble for the suit to match this dress- it may or may not be with Penny and Jagged in mind; none of her classes had managed to grab her attention that day, but none of them were quite as strict with the usual plans seeing as it was the last day.


Maybe she should do something actually fun before an Akuma or someone from her past ruined it, she deserved it and Tikki was probably asleep in her purse anyway. It was a short day too! Get on it, Marinette! “We should go to that arcade you told me about.” She smiles, turning back to face the taller brunet. “I’ve been designing all day; I think I deserve a break. Call up the guys and see if we can go have fun.”


Claude grins, whipping out his cell phone. “On it! You pack up, I’ll be right outside.”


~


Luka glanced up, grinning as he spotted Marinette exiting Jeanne with Claude, the pair chatting it up with what seemed to be a teasing subject between them both.


“Oh please, Fé would totally kick that lame Turtle’s ass! You sparred with him! I bet he could even beat Chat Noir at a sword fight.” He grins, slashing at the air with his pen.


Marinette groans, rolling her eyes, before countering back, “Félix would never lower himself to fighting in a fencing technique, you know he’s all about sword fighting. He seemed even disgruntled that one time we fenced.”


He shrugs, before his blue eyes caught sight of the pale male. “Luka! C’mon Mari.”


Luka couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled up in his chest from Marinette’s put out expression, moving to offer her a hug first. “Hey, Ma-Ma-Marinette.”


Her glare held no bite, but her groan teetered on the brink of giggles. “I’m never living that down. Hey, Luka, how was your classes?”


“Done for today, seems like my last teacher decided to bail out.” He laughs, moving to side hug Claude. “Now, you were saying about an Arcade?”


~


“No! NO!! CRASH ALREADY, DUPAIN-CHENG!”


“I CAN’T HEAR YOU FROM FIRST PLACE, CHA-!! LUKA! NOOOOO!!”


WOOO-WOOO-WINNER! WINNER!


As Luka cheered at his victory, the two losers groaned about their loss and glared at the smirking male. “What? Not my fault you both abused your nitro boost~.” His purr got further under their skin, making the other giggle as he darts away from their reach. “Come on, let’s check out another game.”


Lurching up from their seats, they followed the other towards the next game they would play. Oh yeah, she had been in desperate need of the arcade and a fun hang out with her friend and crush.


‘Now if Luka would only LOSE.’ She huffs internally, pouting at having lost for the third time! Luka was unstoppable! Even when she managed to gain a lead, he somehow got a secret weapon or an advancement in the game! Simply unfair.


Claude sighs softly, jiggling the remaining 5 coins in his cup, “I’m getting a little low and my grandmum sent me a text so I think I’ll leave with my precious last place standing. I fought long and hard.” He grins, giving them both a quick hug and the last of his coins in their possession (he was saving his tickets for LATER, no you can’t steal them), he exited the arcade.


Laughing, Marinette glanced up to Luka, “I think we should stop soon too, Félix invited me to join him around two.” Her phone told her it was already one and she didn’t want to run late on him.


“Let me at least treat you to something first, we can come back here tomorrow.”


Her heart gave a little flip, nodding her head as she tried not to release a love sick sigh, “I’d love that. I swear I’m going to beat you at that last game.” His laughter only made her soften all the more.


They decided that they would save their remaining coins for the next day, but they would definitely get rid of their tickets now. Marinette managed to at least gather around two thousand, the first few games had been generous in luck, while Luka garnered a hefty four thousand.


“Gotta admit, I saved some tickets from the last time I came here. Been meaning to spend them.” He rubs the back of his neck, holding the (now) neatly folded tickets in his bag. “I’ve been saving up for this one prize I had my eye on.”


“Oh? I hope you have enough, I can give you mine. I just want to get that cute paper lantern they have and it’s only for five hundred.” Marinette looks over the approaching prize counter, feeling a familiar giddiness she had when she was a kid.


Luka shakes his head, a soft blush dusting his cheeks. “No thanks, I have enough. Um…do you mind if I go first? I want to make sure someone else doesn’t get it first.” There were already two other teens at the counter, and only three workers, so it was easy to agree.


As Luka got his prize, Marinette idly texts Félix that she should be at his club studio in 45 minutes, give or take, and she’d let him know when she was on the metro.


Finishing her text, she pocketed the phone before her vision was filled with plush pink and white fur. “Huh?”


“I managed to snag it before someone else did.” His voice was soft as a note over a pond at dawn, her eyes captured by the sincerity in his gaze. “I saw it a month ago and thought of you. It’s for you.”


“Luka…” It was an adorable little hamster plush with pale pink outer coat and a creamy white chest and cheeks, and it was holding a little dark pink macaron! “Oh, she’s precious!” Her coo was nearly a squeal, taking the sweet present. “Thank you.”


His blush deepened, grinning back to her as he glanced away, “I’m glad you like it. I remember you liked hamsters and I felt it suited you.”


Marinette melted over the sentiment, her heart giving a little squeeze as she squeezed the plush close to her heart. Not thinking, she rose herself to her tip toes to press a kiss to his cheek. “I love her. Thank you.” Thank you for being there. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for giving me your time. Thank you for being you.


“You’re welcome…” His voice broke before he cleared his throat, grinning to himself. “I-I’ll wait right here, it’s your turn.”


Energy vibrated through her, the need to shout and squeal and run around was strong but she held back. That was for tonight. She could freak out in the privacy in her room where only her mom and dad could somewhat judge her.


Maybe Tikki too.


Little baggie of prizes in hand, including Rosette, the pair of teens went off for a quick snack before Marinette left. “Over here, it’s café I really love. The desserts are pretty amazing, almost as good as your family’s.”


“We’ll see that.” She giggles, cheeks warm as she follows him inside. The familiarity of sweet desserts and savory meals wafted through the homey establishment, “La Vie En Noir” definitely lived up to all the talk Luka gave about it. “It’s so pretty, I love how they decorated it.” It felt like something from the twenties or thirties, vintage and filled with soothing jazz.


“I sometimes get to play here on open mic nights.” He confides, leading her towards an empty table. “I was planning on taking you here last week, but then you needed to finish that suit, I believe, for that fashion show your doing with Saranya.”


“Allan needed to have his refitted, thankfully that’s done. I still need to do yours.” She remarks, smiling teasingly to him before she glances up at the waitress placing down menus.


Ordering a pair of iced coffees, Marinette glanced over the menu as she tried to settle on her quick snack; finding the strawberry cheesecake, Marinette settled on that when the waitress returned to take their food order. “So, you’re going into Lycée after summer break, how’s it feel?”


“Surreal.” He chuckles, sipping at the refreshing caffeine, watching her from over the brim. “I’m going to miss seeing your pigtails bouncing across the campus.” Although close by, the Lycée was its own separate building.


“I’ll miss seeing your guitar case from across the hall.” Came her reply, stirring the ice in her drink as she watches them glide beneath the surface. “I still can’t believe I made it out of there and to Jeanne.”


Reaching out a hand, the musician gave her spare hand a gentle squeeze. ‘I’m here.’ His touch said, her eyes rising up to meet his, leaning in against the table. “You’re amazing, Marinette. Never forget that, okay?”


“Okay.” It was always nice to hear, and it meant even more coming from him.


The desserts came by as they began to get into the design for his outfit, the cheesecake before her and a parfa-actually, she had not idea what the heck that was. It looked almost like gelatin? With a white layer, then a pink layer, and then a red layer, with little red things on top of it. The heck?


Luka hums happily, scooping up the delicious mousse with his spoon when he spied Marinette’s befuddled expression. “Hmm? What is it?”


“I just…what the heck is that?”


Chuckling softly, and completely understanding her confusion, he offered her the spoonful he had. “Here, try it. It’s a triple layer pomegranate mousse. It’s one of my favorites.”


Her pout only made his smile turn up to a soft grin, but she took the offered spoon to try; her eyes brightening up from the taste made him chuckle at how cute that was.


“It’s so good! I never knew they made pomegranate desserts.” She had never given the fruit much thought before, but she was sorely give them another glance now the next time she went to the open market.


“Yeah, I really like them. Mom used to talk about her trip to the Gulf Coast near Mexico where she would get pomegranate seeds from the mainland, she’d cut open the fruit and get all the seeds out, and then squeeze a lime over them before shaking some salt over it.” Just the thought of his rare treat made him lick his lips. “It’s pretty good.”


“That sounds good, I’ll have to give it a try.” The tang of the fruit still buzzed on her tongue, tempted to steal another spoonful of his treat. “Here, it’s only fair.”


~


Félix stretched himself out, head gently bopping to the song playing over the speakers, his hair pulled back with a hair tie to keep dry from the sweat already on the back of his neck. The weather outside was torturous and had proven that mother nature could be rather spiteful towards her darling creations.


Not like he blamed her, it was mankind’s negligence that gave way towards the global epidemic. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to grumble over the stupid heat.


The thick, wooden door thudded open, echoing across the emptied studio, his newest friend finally gracing him with her presence. “I’m here! Sorry Félix, I missed the first metro here.” She gave a small wince, noting that they were all alone, “Did I come too late? Damn it! I knew I’d end up late again somewhere.”


Shaking his head fondly, he approached her before placing a calming hand on her shoulder, “You’re not late. I knew this would be your first time fighting with an actual sword, so I figured a private practice for us. My teacher gave us all the protection we would need, relax.”


Relief swept through her, her mood shifting back up as she rocked on her feet. “Great! Where can I get changed?”


“Right through there. I have everything set out, so take your time.”


“Thanks!”


Off she went to change and Félix needed to shift his music to something a little more instrumental, challenging. Although lyrics were always lovely with music, purely instrumental music tended to motivate his movements to be a bit more fluid. Settling onto his typical playlist, he fished about for her practice rapier, his own loyally in its sheath.


Blade in hand, he checked it over to ensure it wasn’t loose or would be ill fitting for someone so…petite. She a small thing but her fierceness with the saber reassured him that she was nothing to scoff at. She’d take to the rapier far better.


“Ready! I hope this is alright.”


“I’m sure it will be, I’ll have vests for us…to…um, yeah, YES, that’s fine. Quite suitable for this.”


Dressed in an off pink shade of cotton, the top was tucked into teal sweats with a white strip running down both of her sides. With her hair in a ponytail, she was -unfairly- a charming vision.


“Thanks, so tell me what to do.” Marinette grins up to him, sitting back on the bench.


Attempting to not flounce about his flustered heart, he went through the basics of sword fighting, detailing how it was different than fencing but also how it was similar, before going over how to hold the blade. Quick as a whip, she followed his guidance as he displayed how to hold the handle, how her feet were positioned, how he was going to go very easy so she could catch onto how different this was.


“The saber, as you’ve found, is lighter than this blade, most of those attacks are direct and to the point, with a flexible blade to it. The rapier, on the other hand, is heavier, meant for the military, for battle, and is far more enjoyable in my opinion.” Their laugher mixed together, Félix using his body to guide her movements. “Some enjoy displaying fanfare a bit of flouncing with this blade, but you’re typically not the type. You’re sharp, sharper than the blade here. These blades will have the rubber ends, but always keep a careful eye on it.”


Departing from her warmth, he took a careful step back. “Now, let’s see how you far on a still opponent.” He taps the practice dummy. “Show me what you’ve learned.”


Her movements were clumsied yet determined, her gaze focused as he went through the stances and thrusts aloud, she definitely seemed a bit more steady with this blade than she had the saber. “Just like that but tuck your heel a little more.” He taps his boot against her sneaker, smirking as she adjusted her stance. “Better. You’re doing great.”


Once he deemed her ready, he called for a stop. “Here,” he tosses her the safety body gear, “put this on, you’re going against me now.” If she was anything like how she was weeks ago? He was in for a treat.


Marinette felt as if she were running through the Parisian rooftops at night, the thrill of holding a blade not losing it’s excitement in the least. Félix was right, the rapier felt even better in her grip than the saber had; the heaviness of it felt natural, safe, strong, and she was finding herself excited to battle against him again. Félix was amazing with the blade, and she sure hoped she got her ass kicked by him-though it’d be funner to kick his ass too.


With both sets of protection deemed fitted correctly, the older blond lead them towards the main dueling area. “Now, let’s begin.”


Ching ching cha-ching


Their blades sung together, clashing as Marinette slowly got used to the different fighting style, her movements somewhat timid but growing in confidence. As predicted, she was already doing well with the rapier, adjusting to the weight and difference of it.


“You’re doing well.” He praised, advancing as she practiced her blocking before he lightly tapped on her protected waist. “My point.”


A huff escaped from the mask, the petite fighter determined as she did the advancing this time. “Angle your foot a little that way, yes, exactly.”


She watched him, some of her ladybug persona blending over her as she used her instincts to instruct her. They were ebbing and flowing together, like waves, but his talent with the sword was easy to pick up, as was the quickness of his feet. But she was a fast learner. “My point.”


He grins, pleased at how fast their blades were going now, hardly a breath of pause.


“What made you start this? Did you, nnngh!, did you fence before this?” She managed to block his strike, narrowing her eyes at her opponent.


“My father, actually.” He hums, smirking as he garnered a point again. “Mother managed to get me into ballet, so father decided he wanted me to be a swordsman like my great-grandfather. And he knew I loved swords.”


A parry, block, a retreat. “How old were you? I doubt you started so late.”


“Four, father felt it was best to start early!” He grunts out the last word, heart pounding in his ears as he felt her sword tap his chest, narrowing his eyes. She was getting good. “Don’t get too cocky now, Mademoiselle Dupain-Cheng.”


“Wouldn’t dream of it, Monsieur Lupus.” Her giggle was infectious, his lips curling in response to the sound.


They danced together, occasional chuckles and giggles mixing between the pair, their scoring fairly the same.


“You’re doing well, for a novice.”


“I would say the same thing, but I am kicking your ass.”


Tutting softly, he moved close, their swords clashing as he peered down to her mask, almost able to see the blue of her eyes, “Now now, no cursing. You’ll be a bad influence on me. But since you’re so confident,” he grins, feeling her push him away as her sword tapped at his waist, “I’ll have to show you why Claude refused to learn with me.”


~


“Thanks again for this, Kagami. I hate that I had to miss our last sparring session.” Adrien chuckles, following the fierce fencer into the building. “I missed you too.”


“I missed you as well, Adrien.” She smiles, leading him through the lobby and towards the elevator. “I apologize that this is a different location, but it’s a fairly private area to practice.” Hardly anyone came here to practice fencing, it should be empty for them both to enjoy.


Adrien felt his heart clench at the kindness she displayed, especially since he had to ditch last time to deal with an emergency with his Lady. “After this, father gave me permission to have an early dinner, if you’d join me.”


“I would love that.”


A series of grunting and war cries echoed across the emptied hall as they came to their floor, the unmistakable sounds of swords striking heard from their position. “Wow, I guess we weren’t the only ones with an idea to come here.”


“It would seem so. No matter, we can share the space, it’s large enough for ten pairs, anyway.” Kagami settled, adjusting her bag. “Let’s ensure that it’s not a private lesson first.” If it was, then they’d have to simply wait their turn or ask to share the space.


The sight before them caused the pair to pause in their movements, a distinct feeling of déjà vu overwhelming as they took in the sight of the two fiercely competitive fighters.


Their steps were nearly precise, elegant, as they clashed their swords together-rapier- and battled for points. Bubbly laughter escaped the shorter opponent, idly  waving the blade at her side as she awaited her challenger to reposition himself, before they were clashing once more, blades singing off of each other. One was clearly less taught than the other, but it didn’t impede her almost dancer like steps.


Yes, exactly, they were dancing. Moving together as if they were always meant to be so. It made him think of grand battles he only ever saw in moves or television shows.


He didn’t know how long they were entranced for, but-sadly- it came to an end as the taller fighter had her on the floor. “I win.” His breathing was ragged, but the praise clear in his tone. He had won from a good fight.


“So it seems.” The ‘loser’ wasn’t at all put out, smiling as she rose her mask and-


Fuck.


“Good game, Félix. You’re right, that was so much fun.” There she was, his first, true, accepting the hand of that arrogant blond from the other week. “I can’t believe you tripped me.” Her smile was just as charming as ever, her nose wrinkling a little, as if to stop laughter from bubbling up.


“I believe it was you, who told Claude that fighting is never fair.” Came the cool reply, a twinkle of mischief in his silvered eyes. “You did well, for your first time. Next time I’ll-…” He paused, frown etching back onto his features, and the coldness from weeks ago billowed back as he took in the sight of their audience. “Oh, it’s you.”


Marinette finally turned around to see them, and her face twisted into a grimace as she frowns. “Agreste. Kagami.” Ouch, that hurt. “I didn’t except to see you both here…” Her arms crossed, her grip tightening on the handle. “What a surprise.”


A frown etched on the fencer’s face, glancing between Marinette and Adrien, waves of tension radiating off of them as she attempted to assess the situation. She knew of Marinette’s departure and what little Adrien complained about it, but she also knew of the Rossi girl. If distance was what the other needed from the liar, should Adrien have not encouraged such a thing?


“I apologize on intruding, I had thought this studio was unoccupied.”


“No need, you didn’t know.” The swift reply from the male at Marinette’s side surprised her, his face a cool mask of protection. “We were just about finished. Marinette, shall we go?”


“Yeah, I think we should.”

Animosity between the two were normal, but all of this frigid attitude was all firmly directed towards /Adrien/.

“Marinette, I need to talk wi-.”

“Agreste, please.” Marinette’s fist trembled, clenching her eyes shut before taking a deep breath and facing him. “We’ve said our peace. You weren’t there for me, you took advantage of my kindness, and you’ve never placed an effort into keeping our friendship a priority. Or even place an effort into hanging out with Nino or Alya when I was there.” Biting her bottom lip, she handed her sword to the taller male. “You promised me you’d be there. You told her you wouldn’t humor her if she hurt someone you cared about. You let me know quite clearly I am not part of that group, no matter how much you tell me otherwise. I’m not sorry for leaving, I’m not sorry that I ended this, but I am sorry that you think you can fix this. Now, if you would please.”

She passed them both, hurrying towards the changing rooms, as they were left alone with her companion. “I need to check on her.” He frowns, following right behind her before a hand stopped him.

“I will check on her. I’ll notify you on her emotions.” Kagami settled, especially seeing as it was a woman’s changing room and she didn’t want either male to catch Marinette in a state of undress.

Not waiting for a reply, she ventured into the room, following the sounds of sniffling cries until she came upon her old rival. “Why do you waste tears on someone who you claim gave you no loyalty?”

“Kagami, please, just-just leave me alone.” She tucked in further, face turned away. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Then make me understand. Adrien is very choosing about his information, I trust you will not be.”

Glancing her over, Marinette decided she had nothing else to lose. It wasn’t like she was very close with the girl. She told her tale, the sad beginning and all the betrayal that was conjured in a matter of weeks, but told of the warmth she found in her new school, in her new companions, how she was finding the strength to be beyond what she was at Dupont. “And I’m sorry for ever being rude to you, Kagami. It wasn’t right of me and I’m sorry my actions told you I was a different person. You deserve better than that….Kagami?”

“That…that...that BASTARD!” She growls, slamming her fist against the ground. “He left you? To fend for yourself against an enemy that displays her ill intent as easily as a fictional lion did?” Her eyes burned with fury, thinking back to all of Adrien’s words, all of his actions, all those petulant expressions he displayed when speaking about Marinette. “He never told me all of that! Even I have caught onto her lies, they are not exactly hidden well. She tried to steal credit for a technique my mother created, that viper.”

Glancing to the side, Marinette raised a hand to place on Kagami’s shoulder. “Listen to me. Adrien is not worth this anger, he is not worth getting akumatized over. I’ve found my happiness and if he doesn’t like that, that’s his problem.” Seeing the insect hesitate, Marinette settled her eyes on conflicted brown orbs. “Breathe, Kagami. I’m fine. I’ve grown and I won’t allow them to stop my growth.”

One breath, two…and Kagami finally drew in a deep breath and focused her mind on the gentle touch of the other. “I apologize, I didn’t-”

“Don’t apologize. Your anger in valid and I’m touched it was on my behalf.” Her smile was comforting, warmth, and gaze steady. “Besides, Adrien’s not worth that. Now, come on.” She hefts the other up, grin settled on her. “I need to change and you need to set a very stupid blond in his place.”

The grin Kagami gave her was predatory, vicious, and only made her give a soft giggle at another’s doom. It wasn’t very ladybug like for her, but it was certainly fun.

~

Moving from America to France wasn’t on the list of things Brett Spurling wanted to do, especially in the middle of a stupidly hot summer and to the sneers of his neighbors. His older sibling was just as disinterested in Paris as he was, but they had little input in the move when their parents seemed to be overly fond of the city.

“I’m going outside!”

“Where you going, we’re not exactly locals.” There they were, his sibling leaning against the doorway as they fiddled with peeling an apple. “Besides, it’s hotter than Vegas out there.”

He frowns, knowing they were right but he desperately needed to leave their too small ‘home’ and get some fresh air. No matter how much it held heat. “To that park two blocks back, I got my phone. I’ll be fine.”

Rolling their eyes at his claim, they cut a piece of apple out. “Fine but be back in an hour. Mom’s picking us up at four, something about dinner?” They gave a shrug, heading back into the kitchen. “Have fun or whatever.”

Grunting, he headed out, his bike in hand. If they were going to live here for however long their parents were into the crowded city, he might as well get to know the place better. Fastening his helmet on, he hopped onto the bike to take off down the street.

It wasn’t bad around there, but it wasn’t home. He had planned to hang out with Freddy and Freckles all summer, they were going to head to the Harvest festival and finally go on the Slingshot! They’d been psyching each other up for it for the last two years, Freckles needed a bit more motivation than them, and they had been ready for it!...only for him to move.

He missed his friends. And now he was nine hours ahead of them and they’d barely be waking up in three more hours, since it was about six in the freaking morning there. “Uuugh, why couldn’t they just buy a vacation house here and just fuck off here by themselves.” He grumbles, peddling down the streets, the foreign language all around him. It was too weird, they didn’t even know French.

“~~~~~~~~~~~!....~~~~!!” What? Who was yelling?

Glancing away from the path he was taking, he spied a group of kids his age, slowly approaching. “Um…Sorry, I don’t-”

“Oh! An American.” Came the clicked response of the leader, lazily chewing on the gob of gum in his mouth. “You on vacation then?”

Frowning, he hunched his shoulders as he glanced around at the group. “N-No, we just moved here…” He could hear a few whispers, tickling at his ears. Were they insulting him? Teasing him? He could barely pick up little words from the chittered conversation. “Ya know how dumb parents are.” He tries to chuckle. “I actually need to go-”

“Nah, stay here.” The brunet ordered, holding the steel bike in place. “We should teach you some French, since you’re too stupid to learn it.” His sneer reminded him of his old school jock, making him shrink down. “Come on, connasse, we’ll help you.”

“No, I gotta go.” He wasn’t much stronger, but his anxiety was pumping up his adrenaline, his nervous laughter apparent. “Um, I can see you later.” Like hell he was going to see them later.

When the leader tried to keep him in place, Brett biked forward before jerking back and quickly peddling away.

“Get back here you wanker!” Called out the leader, glaring in his direction.

What was wrong with this place?! He biked as fast as he could, not looking where he was going as he biked away from the group, seeing they were trying to follow him on foot. So distracted by what was behind him, he never noticed the cart of flowers in front of him, crashing into it.

“~~~~~~~!!!! ~~~~~!!!” Screamed the man in shock, no doubt cursing him out as he was roughly jerked up. He hated it there! Why did they have to move? Why did they have to uproot from their home?

‘I hate this! Shut up! Please, shut up!’

“Hello, Night Clash.” Came a purred voice, French accent echoing through his head. Soothing. Calming. Reassuring. “I am Hawkmoth and I offer you a chance to gain revenge on those who bully you for being different, for a chance to go home. In return, all I ask for is a pair of earrings and a ring found on my enemies, Ladybug and Chat Noir. Do we have a deal?”

A smirk lifted his lips, glaring at the frightened florist before him, “I accept, Hawkmoth.”

~

“I don’t think I’m supposed to have two desserts in one day.” Marinette chuckles, plucking the cinnamon hazelnut macaron from the plate before her. “It’ll be bad for my teeth.”

Félix rolled his eyes, forking a corner of his cake. “I’ve seen you stomach five Lorinas in one sitting of lunch.” Her blush was everything, smirking confidently. “And you ate a dozen macarons with Allegra.”

“Shut uuuuup.” She grumbles, tearing into the macaron a little more aggressively.

Chuckling, he held out a forkful of cake. “Here, an apology.” At her skepticism, he rose his brow at her. Almost begrudgingly, she accepted the forkful of sweet chocolate with seemingly strawberry cream. But an all too familiar tang hit her tongue, her hum of approval escaping her. “I agree, it’s a favorite of mine as well.”

She covers her mouth, excited tingles racing through her at the bitter sweetness of the dark chocolate and pomegranate played along her tongue. “Mmm! Is it mixed with pomegranate?”

“It is, it’s a bit more of a bitter taste, but I quite enjoy it.”

“No no, it’s delicious.” It was, and to think she’s had two different pomegranate infused desserts in one day! The most she’d had before was a pomegranate drink or a little macaron. “Oh, I’m going to measure Luka on Tuesday, would y-?”

The café rumbled, the sound of screams outside causing the pair to flinch. Akuma.

Glass flew through the air as one, two, three windows were broken as rapid horse hooves galloped past the window, Félix grabbing the girl and shielding her beneath the table, holding her close. “You stay here, I’ll see if anyone needs help.” He orders, placing his hand over hers, “I know you get scared from Akumas but please don’t run. I don't want you to get hurt.”

He left, hearing a few cries for help of others.

Marinette’s eyes widen, cheeks heating from the intimate touch and reassuring words. Sure, she had created the small cover for having a fear of akumas due to her old school, but it still warmed her that her friends remembered.

“Marinette! Come on, we need to go cleanse the akuma.” Tikki reminds her, peaking out from the purse. “Go to the alley.”

“On it!” The crowd in the café was rushing out, allowing her to blend in as she runs towards the emptied alley way. A quick scan proved her safety, nodding firmly, “Tikki, spots on!”

~

Allan guided a group away from the streets and back into the buildings as the larger than life black knight laughed into the sunny sky, adjusting his stallion to charge back in his direction, his eyes darting over to Allegra. “Heads up!”

Her blonde hair bounced in the wind, eyes widening at the sight of the akuma. Although they’ve had a knight before, this one look far more sinister with his glowing gold eyes and fang tipped smile. His armor blacker than night, sword glittering silver, and his horse stomped it’s hooves, eyes blazing red.

Yep, nightmarish.

Street temporarily cleared, the pair ducked into safety as  Night Clash slid his sword along the road, the painful screech from the blade enough for them all to wince in pain.

“Uuugh!! I hate it when he does that.” Allan groans, glaring back at the street. “We need to find Sar, we lost her in the commotion.” They had just been walking back towards their typical hang out when they had watched a kid be taken over by Hawkass.

“I think I saw her down the street near the market space, come on!”

~

Alya grins in victory as she followed the akuma, Nino hot on her heels as she recorded the tall villain. Yes! Just what she needed from her blog AND Ladybug would, of course, need her help for this one. Rena Rouge and Carapace were right there for the-

“Get down!” Came a cry, a foreign curse hitting their ears as a pair of hands yanked them away from a swinging sword. “You idiots! Are you looking to get killed?!” Fury bled from the brown eyes of their savior. “Stay out of the fucking way before you get killed! तुम्हारी पिटाई की जरूरत है!” She growls, shaking her head.

“Saranya!” Her head whipped around behind her, grinning as she let them go in favor of her friends. “We thought you got captured!”

“Me? Never.” She chuckles, squeezing the pair close. “But we need to run, before that jackass finds us. You too! We are leaving this to the professionals.” She huffs, shoving them towards the safer area.

They knew who the hell these three were, the same stuck up kids who were with Marinette!

“Excuse you, I’m filming for my blo-!”

“Yes yes, we know but that psycho is going around and absorbing people into his sword. Get your asses that way, before we make you.” Snarled the blonde, eyes narrowed down at the pair. “Move.”

~

“My Lady, what a purrleasure it is to see you. And with a Knight in shining night.”

It took everything in her not to bite back a statement she’d regret, instead watching the akuma below them. “Now’s not the time, Chat, we need to get down there and stop him before we lose any more people.”

Pouting, he leant against his baton as he surveyed the scene. It’s not like this would be their most challenging akuma, they’d certainly gone against bigger. “Seems like an easy fight. How about afterwards, you’ll join me for a walk on the roofs?”

“Sorry, Chat Noir, but I got commitments to keep.” She wasn’t sorry in the slightest, but she needed to keep up some sort of normality.

“Purry well.”

They both jumped down, her yoyo winding around the horse and forcing it to a stop as the knight went flying Chat already darting to the knight to fight him, only to be clashed away by the hulking, glowing, sword. “Meowch. No need to play rough.”

“Maybe you should learn to fight better.” The akuma sneered, standing back up. “Ladybug and Chat Noir, I presume?” His voice was distinctly American, and he wasn’t speaking a lick of French. “I am Night Clash, hand over the miraculous!”

“Never.” Ladybug growled, her English a little rough but she had been getting better thanks to her friends.

“Then you’ll be added to my collection.” He grins, his eyes giving an ominous glow before he swung his sword, barely missing her by a meter as she jumped back. “I’ll make sure I’ll never have to spend another second in Paris.”

His horse galloped to his side, Ladybug assessing the situation as she watched the creature begin to charge at them, his master laughing as they leapt away. So not the horse, so it was the sword itself?

His movements were jerky, too overly swung, unused to such a weapon in his hand. Her mind racing as she thought of what to do-, “Chat! Duck!”

He was tossed aside, a tear in his suit, much to Clash’s irritation. “You’re supposed to be in my sword!”

“Miraculous, isn’t it?” Chat taunted, grinning back to him as he staggered back up, baton firmly in his grasp.

“Chat, focus. I need to get to his sword, can you distract?”

“Already on it, bugaboo.” He grins, charging in as she summoned her lucky charm.

~

Luka patrolled the Seine, ensuring no one was in the waters, navigating the boat safely through. “All’s clear Captain!”

“Aye! Good, keep yer eye open, lad, ya never know when someone’s gunna splash into her murky depths.”

He nods, grinning before keeping a steady eye on the battle nearby and the river below. It looked safe on his end, until he caught a sight of his friends from the Académie and a group of Dupont kids arguing near the bridge. Whatever it was about, seemed to strum the wrong cords in those from the Académie, their livid expressions making him pull the boat over towards port.

He needed to stop the lot and get them away from the nearing battle, before someone was hurt or captured.

Claude’s entire body bristled, snarl on his lip as their shouts argued back and forth with the three before them, knowing now wasn’t the time and they should really get about getting to safety, but his feet remained planted in as they fiercely defended their best friends’ honor. Like hell he was letting these brats talk shit about his sister.

It was in the middle of the reporter’s screeching lecture that he caught sight of Chat being thrown their way. “WATCH IT!” He cries, all their eyes watching Chat Noir sailing towards them before running out of the way.

“Ah!!”

Their eyes widen, watching the brunette fall into the water, tan hand reaching out towards them for help.

Cursing to himself, he thrusted his phone into the reporter’s hand before leaping into the water after her. The burst of cold would’ve been refreshing if he wasn’t aware of just how gross the water was, kicking his legs to dive down faster to reach the liar’s hand before propelling himself back up to the surface.

Félix glanced around, searching for a place for them to go to and come back to land, when he met Luka’s eyes. Nodding, he ran over to go help out his classmate, calling for Claude to come towards them.

Luka groans as he got the plank out, not even looking to see if Félix climbed on before hurrying towards the life boat they had on the side. Another pair of hands began to help him out, Claude’s reassured calls letting them know Lila was at least breathing and alive.

~

“A sword?” She frowns, before an idea clicked in her mind. Night Clash wasn’t adept to the sword, she was. “Hey Night Clash?” She grins, smirking to herself and silently thanking Félix, “Think your sword’s nice? I think mine’s better.”

His growl made her smirk widen, his strike down heavy on the blade, his sharp teeth pulled back in a snarl on his pale green face, before she shoved him back. He wasn’t much taller than her sword teacher, she had a chance.

Unlike before, there was no dancing between them, only Ladybug’s sure footedness and Night Clash’s clumsy attempts at victory, with a final hit towards the blade, it flew out of his hands.

“Cataclysm!” And there it went to dust, butterfly attempting to escape.

Once the butterfly was caught, she called out miraculous ladybug, feeling the soft warmth of the ladybugs do their job as she picked up the cell phone as a confused kid looked around.

“Wha…what happened? Where am I?”

“You’re safe. Here you go.” Ladybug gently gave the phone to the boy. “Don’t want to lose this.”

“T-Thanks, I…what happened?”

His expression broke her heart. He wasn’t a local, he wasn’t used to all this chaos. “You were Akumatized by Papillion. Come on, I can drop you off at home?”

He shook his head, looking a bit ashamed. “No, it’s fine. I just moved here, I should learn the streets or something.”

“Well, on behalf of Paris, welcome to our city.” The beeping in her ears alerted her, giving him a small smile. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll learn to like it here. Bug out!” With a two-finger salute, she left.

~

Two days.

He’s been thinking for two damn days over this decision (well, if he were honest, a lot longer than two days), and he had finally decided.


“I’m sorry kid, but Paris needs a new kitten.”

Chapter Text

Ch. 9: Citizen/Soldier


~


“You were unsure which pain is worse – the shock of what happened or the ache of what never will.”


~


You know, life is never how it’s supposed to be. It has all these twists and turns that it just loved to throw at you, and then watch you either struggle or overcome (sometimes both) with what it gifted you.


He idly glares at the little Kwami stuffing himself full of treats he managed to buy from Marinette’s place, bloody hell there were actual GODS in this world, before releasing a huff of air. “Tell me again why I have you?”


“Because Chat Noir wasn’t fulfilling his role right. Ladybug lost her trust in him, both in civilian life and superhero duties.” He chomps down on the cheese danish, tail flicking behind him. “So, we scouted for who would suit the ring right. You made the cut, the other two weren’t to my tastes.”



“See, that’s where I’m confused.” He stood up, beginning to pace about the room, “How the bloody hell did I make the cut? I’ve never been in a fight in my life outside of a recreational area; I still cry over Bambi’s mom dying in the movie; and I whimper every time I take a plane anywhere.” He sighs, flopping back on the bed. “Uuuugh. I just supposed to model for Marinette’s designs today, make sure my clothes fit, not get handed a piece of jewelry!”


Covering his eyes with his forearm, he half grumbles under his breath, cursing his great-grandpa because he TOTALLY place this kind of crap on him from up in heaven or wherever. Damn old man was probably still huffy over the stolen chocolates. “So!” He continues, sitting back up, accepting his apparent fate. “What exactly do I do.”


Finished with his meal, he zipped over towards his new holder, toxic green eyes watching over the befuddled human, “You say, ‘Plagg, claws out’ when you want to transform. Each uniform is different for each holder, so don’t worry about looking like the old cat. You’ve seen what the powers are but, because we think you’ll be a better partner for Ladybug, you may unlock a few new powers.


“Each partnership is different between each of the holders, it’s unique for each Bug and Cat.” He moves closer, tapping a paw on the pale nose. “We’ll train before your first Akuma, the last one was a difficult one. Get ready to be sore, newbie.”


Yeah, life was definitely laughing at him right now.



~


“You sure you have enough cookies for today?” She furrows her brow in worry, setting her room just right and carefully hanging the clothing bags up and around her room, the pearl of her collection draped so elegantly on the mannequin dress form, licks of pink dancing over her carpets.



Tikki tittered a laugh, zipping up towards her face, “I’ll be fine! You got me everything I’ll need.” She reassured with a little aerial loop “Now go on, I like relaxing under the bed.” The bedding always smelled of Anne’s Lace and Tulips and Lavenders, something very comfortable and relaxing.



Giving her Kwami one last peck on the head, she watched the goddess flitter off before she began to head down stairs herself to get everything ready for her group to enjoy after she showed off her collection.


“Mon trésor! There’s my darling girl, here, fresh from the oven to enjoy.” Tom chuckles, a fresh array of treats laden in his arms in a pristine white box so they could close the lid if need be. “I hope these will do just fine.”


“They’re perfect, Papa, thank you.” She hums, rising up to her tip toes to press a kiss to his cheek. “Are you sure you don’t want me to pay this back?” After leaving schools, she realized how much she wasted on feeding her friends so often, she didn’t want her parents just giving away treats for free, regardless if they were the best patisserie and boulangerie in all of Paris.


“Nonsense! Young entrepreneurs need their snack breaks too, don’t forget the waters in the back of the fridge.”


“I won’t.” She giggles, grinning at her Papa’s kindness. She so needed to design them matching aprons for his birthday. Maybe sooner. Probably sooner.


First the pastries and breads went up to be placed on her desk, away from the designs, next came the dozen water bottles to drink from that were carefully placed on a plate so their condensation wouldn’t drip all over the place.


“Marinette!” Her mama called, smile in her voice, “Saranya’s here!”


Marinette all but burst her way down, grinning the whole way as Saranya met her half way and practically leapt into her arms. “Sara!” She silently thanked her super strength slowly wearing into her day to day life, the extra weight only making her wobble.


“I missed you! It’s been too long, Muthe!” The taller girl prattled, grinning as she finally bounces off of her.


She giggles, grinning up to her, protesting lightly, “It’s only  been a week, you lived.” Marinette escorted her upstairs, chattering away as Saranya became the first to witness Marinette’s dress, the others still hidden away in their bags.


“Oh Mari…oh gods, it’s gorgeous.” Her voice softened reverently, hand only ghosting the fabric, as if she were too scared to touch the pale fabric, taking in the nearly pastel-esque colors. “How the hell did you even think of this?”


She preened under the praise, warmth spreading through her body as she runs her fingers over the bodice, tears shimmering in her eyes at the gradient of colors from the waist out. It had taken her so long to finalize the project but it was so perfect, so perfect…. “It just came to me. I didn’t want to just do all bright pink, everyone expects that of me-not that there’s anything wrong with that shade of pink, of course.” She added, blue meeting hazel. “I just…I wanted to try something different, something subtle and soft, like a dream.”


“You definitely met that expectation.”


It wasn’t long until Allen and Allegra arrived, both eagerly chittering on about the music choices for the fashion show, how they found a perfect melody of sounds to best suit each ‘model’. They both fell silent at the sight of the gem of a dress, awed at the subtlety in the design, how very regal and  Marinette it felt.


She could practically burst.


With half of her models there, she felt it right to begin the fittings and changes, grinning at Allen’s excited cheer at being first. Marinette helped him to one side where the screen was extended to allow him some privacy as he changed. The suit jacket was a rich brown, almost a hickory tone, with golden designs scattered over the material, calling towards his more Monegasque roots. It was bold, yet understated with the dark emerald button up, more of an English cut overall. The near black, chocolate colored trousers completed the look.


“I wanted to take on a more refined look for you, maybe go a bit more subtle royalty.” She adjusted how the suit was supposed to rest, smiling at his wide grin. “Emeralds and greens really stand out on you, so I wanted to add them to the design.”


Once Allen was finished gawking at himself and twisting and turning, she ensured he was fitted to the suit well, had him walk a bit, insisting on a more casual pace than a robotic one (the girls had giggled at that) before she helped him get the suit jacket off first so he could finish up. All in all, perfect for the beginning of her final stage.


Next came Saranya, already getting her shoes off in her hurry to get behind the screen and change. Marinette had pained over the outfits’ design, wanting to pull from her friends’ Indian roots but keeping her modern fashion in mind, utterly proud of the overall product. From Saranya’s fluttery sigh, she guessed so was her friend.


A deep mulberry color set the tone of the satin like material, draped carefully over the top half of the body, a long piece of fabric acting as a type of mock-saree; a beaded cage was set for the neckline, extending over her shoulders and meeting and meshing with the material at the curve of her neckline, giving off a sense of jewelry. With the top low enough to cover her hips, the nude fabric with a sheer concord purple overlay, riddled with silver beads, acted as a type of suit pants, ending in a beaded cuff at her ankles.


“You talk a lot about your grandmother’s home a lot, back in Jaipur, and how the street fashion is what caught your eye along with the fabrics in the shops.” Marinette smiles, shifting the lay of the fabric, gently pulling back the endless tresses of chestnuts and magentas and violets. “So I wanted to make sure I took some inspiration from there, I hope you like it.”


“Like it?! Marinette, I LOVE it!”


Where Allen’s had been gorgeous but understated, Saranya’s was rich and powerful, exuding a type of confidence of a queen. When Saranya had finished twirling and grinning like an excited girl, it became Allegra’s turn.


“Hey, sorry I’m later than planned.” Luka apologizes, entering into the room just as Allegra leapt behind the panel.


Marinette grins, shaking her head, “You’re just in time, we’re still down two anyway. Find a spot to sit, you can go after Allegra.”


He nods, smiling at the sight of two outfits set aside to be hemmed at for later, taking in all the intricate details before his eyes landed on the only one draped on a mannequin. It was a ballgown of sorts, sorted in soft fabric, maybe tulle?, that layered and layered in a ethereal effect. From the waist outwards, it went from a pale wine color to a an almost peach shade towards the ends, something pastel and very Marinette appropriate.


“Oh Marinette, it’s so beautiful. It’s too much.”


“Nonsense, you look gorgeous, it fits you perfectly.” She was right, the golden leaf overlay of the dress adding patterns and dolling up the almost vintage looking dress. A Muse from the twenties? Allegra definitely had the goddess looks down, but he would always choose Persephone over Aphrodite any day. “You said you really loved that one jazz singer, Josephine Baker, right? She was really out there in fashion, but I tried to take some elements of her fashions from the 30s.”


Allen grins, directing a look towards the musician, fondly rolling his eyes at the smitten expression clear across his face. “Hey, lover boy, you’re next.”


Marinette giggles as Luka jerked up at the whispered comment from Allen, looking a bit more frazzled than she’s seen him before, smiling at the feign glare the DJ got in return. “Come on, you can glare all you want later. I think you’re going to like your outfit.”


~


“If you don’t tell me what the hell is wrong, I’m sending Allegra after you.” Fé threatened, drawing him out of my thoughts.


“Hmm? Oh, oh it’s really nothing. Just a bit of nonsense, over thinking is all.” I try to play it off, wanting to focus on the passing scenery. He was so bloody tired.


The blond was not at all happy about the situation, but he could at least back off. For now. He’d send Allegra and Saranya after him if he was still in this mood by the next day. “Very well, but we’re going to need to leave those thoughts and go up to Marinette’s room.”


Oh that’s right, they were there to try on outfits.


Félix watched the other seem to blink back into reality, frowning softly. What the hell was wrong with his best friend? Claude never acted this way unless it was something familial, was something wrong there? Did something in the family happen? “Claude…you know I’m here to talk, right? Don’t hide away in your own sorrow.”


For all of his fussing and sarcasm, Félix cared so deeply for his friends, would fight for their happiness.


“I know. I promise, it’s just my own thoughts. A funk, you know?” Claude reassures, glancing out in time to see they had arrived. “Come on, let’s head in. We’re already late anyway.”


~


Marinette was grinning excitedly as Luka stepped out, the black, felt boater hat settled on loose teal locks, the soft purple tinge of the material clashed perfectly with the hair. His button up would hang loosely on his frame, a whimsical tint to the soft lilac material bunched into soft frills in an almost ruffle sort of sense near his collar, which was perfectly set down with an almost mauve color decorated it, holding a white quartz gemmed bolo, three silvered buttons hidden behind the deep purple ribbons of the bolo. His vest was reminiscent of a spider’s web, that same deep purple as the ribbons while the web design was more lilac, with trousers the same color. Glittering, silvered black material decorated his shoulders, emulating a sort of  epaulets style, rounding off the whole fashion.


It was in this moment when the last two models entered inside-well, climbed inside  would be more accurate-to the sight of Luka looking this way and that in the mirror.


“Holy shit, Sis, you never told me you could do this. Most designers can’t do this!” Back to himself for a moment, Claude bounded up to take a closer look, grinning stupidly at every little design that hung off of the chuckling model. “Hush, pretty boy, we want to take a good look at you.”


“Be my guest.”


Félix felt as if he could swallow his own tongue at the sight. Couffaine was a vision all decked in an otherworldy kind of way, looking straight out of some kind of dark fantasy world where fashion seemed to always be better somehow. He stupidly stood there for gods knew how long, before he shut his mouth and sat down. “I-It looks well done, Marinette. You’ve outdone yourself.”


Damn him. Damn his blush.


Marinette only chuckles, smiling as she shooed off Claude to get back to adjusting the outfit as needed, though it was a near perfect fit, just a bit of hemming. “You said you were a fan of Jagged’s latest album too and I couldn’t just send you down the path of vampire, doesn’t fit you much. But I thought maybe a sorcerer or mage of some kind, darker elements though. And you said one of your favorite shades were purple.” She bit her lip, much to the teasing smile from the current model, “And it makes you look powerful.”


Luka couldn’t stop smiling after that, but he met Félix’s gaze in the mirror, noting the redness of his cheeks, and gave a wink. “Cat got your tongue?”


“Bite your tongue, Couffaine.” Félix snapped back, though the bite wasn’t there as hard, especially with the bloom of red on pale cheeks.


Marinette smiles at that, a warmth of affection bursting through her at the sight, though she wasn’t sure why, her heart singing happily as she helped Luka out of his vest and hat. “Félix, you’re next.”


Rising up, the blond tried to ignore the way his heart sped up at her charming little smile. “Yes, I guess Claude will go last?”


“That’s right. In you go.” She chuckles as Luka exited back out in his old clothes so the next model could undress and redress.


He stepped behind the screen to change, Marinette biting her lip as she waited for his reaction to his own outfit. Would he act as quietly awed as Luka? Or louder in his praise as the others had been? She didn’t think she’s heard him be loud unless it was to bark orders or moves or to put down her past classmates.


Out stepped the male, tall and regal in his subtle attire that embolden him in all the best ways. At first glance, it was a simple outfit all in black with charcoal type trousers, almost bland, until you noted the black leather being holstered in place with a side cape all of black and threads of silver whispering over the edges. Then you’d note how the black button up was a bit looser than traditional, silver tickling the edges of his sleeves, edges of his collar, and ran up the center along the buttons.  It was meant to give a hint of power and kingliness, as if he never needed to wear rich clothing in order to demonstrate just how powerful he was.


“Whoa, holy…Mari, how the hell….” Claude grins wildly at the sight.


Luka admired along with the others, absentmindedly thinking that a wreath of silver might’ve been appropriate for the unusually unruly blond curls. It would suit the silver in his eyes.


Marinette nods, needing to reach-as she did for Luka and Allegra- a little higher to adjust the outfit just as she desired. “Well, I have  heard of Félix’s nickname, so I figured to continue the kingliness of that title.” She smiles, facing the taller male to admire his reflection. “You always did say you were enamored with those knights growing up. All you need is a sword.”


“Marinette, it’s beautiful.” Félix whispers, his heart softening for the petite designer beside him. “You did a wonderful job in all this.”


Her heart couldn’t take  it, listening to the compliments so much-as well as the snapping of photos that were to be posted AFTER the fashion show- but her smile was shining all the same. With Félix off to change out, it was finally her big brother’s turn.


From what he’d seen of the others, Claude didn’t know what to expect as she drew out the outfit for him. He had expected color or more things on it, but all he saw as he pulled it on was black. Now, he had nothing wrong with the color, but he didn’t wear it on the day to day unless it was required.


But as he stepped out, soft little gasps burst out, soft smiles on their faces, especially Marinette’s, she lit up like a tree during Noel. “Oh good! It’s perfect on you.” In the light of the room, that had been hidden by the panel, the material shimmered and gleamed.


“Well, not to sound rude but you remind me of a crow.” She smiles, adjusting the cuffs to his suit jacket. “You can be loud and have the funniest humor, but you’re very…warm, affectionate, smart.” Her hand resting on his arm. “You always protect us, your little flock, you’re practically an angel; and people may think you’re only one shade but you’re more than that. Besides, crows are my favorite birds.”


Claude felt his eyes well up as his little sis gave her explanation, the seemingly black suit revealed its iridescence in the shine of the sun, beautiful shines of greens and purples and blues brought it to life. It looked like any other suit at first, save for the silver stitched etching of wings extending all down his back and even curving towards the tapered waist and where his shoulder blades met. It was perfect.


Rubbing the near fallen tears from his eyes, the cool silver of his new ring so different than the warmth of the room, “I love it.”


~


Adrien felt…off. Not to say he was sick, he wasn’t, but he felt different. Maybe he hadn’t eaten a lot at lunch? But he had the same sized meal he had every day, it was appropriate for a boy his age and in the activities he was active IN. At least, that’s what Nathalie told him.


He rubs his hand along his neck, the fleeting sting of something catching on his hair swiftly vanishing before he could think on it, frown tugging at his lips. He didn’t wear anything on his hands, what the hell…?


Zing Zing. Hey dude!


His lips drew up in a smile, hurrying towards his bed where the message Nino left him awaited.


‘Hat-boy? Come oooon, let’s go for a run!’


“Not right now, Pl-.” He stops, frowning at his phone. Who…who had been talking to?


~


Not far from the Agreste mansion, Fu Wang walked towards his favorite bench, the one hidden away from view. “It is safe, come out, my old friend.”


Out came the old kwami, turning his body to the direction from where they had came. “He remembers nothing but…but he does, doesn’t he?”


“It is not the simplicity we had hoped for, no.” Fu sighed, his weary bones aching so slightly, his hand absentmindedly rubbing along his left thigh. “We allowed Plagg to remove the ring, but it was not taken by force. Adrien seems to have begun his punishment of sorts. Let us hope we do not need to interfere again, Wayzz.”


The kwami could only nod solemnly, hoping that the boy would simply forget and move on, but knowing Fate often did as it so willed.

Chapter Text

“Golden Child,
Lion Boy;
Tell me what it’s like to conquer.

Fearless child,
Broken boy;
Tell me what it’s like to burn.” – oh darling, even rome fell // p.s.

~

A cool breeze, a rare treat at the moment, blew over the buildings of Paris, granting her hero a moment of peace; piercing blue eyes glazed up towards the foreboding sky, the moon hidden away in the inky black of the sky, hugging herself.

It had been nearly two weeks since the initiated replacement had been chosen, since Adri-Chat Noir had been replaced as her partner, and one week since she settled on a new look for herself.

Her suit was still red and black, but now proved to display more of a sort of armor-flexible but still-with a black sort of center from the tops of her collar all the way to the inner parts of her calves; a charcoal black took on the collar of her spots where red was; a tactical belt around her waist with two pockets and two new ladybug yoyos, something she and Tikki had discussed about when concerning her new look, since some past Ladybugs had unique features; red boots, reaching just below her knee, a sharp spike detailing it in the same charcoal; black gloves over her hands that wound up her arms as if like bandages; and her hair tied back in a pony tail, streaked with a sheen of scarlet.

It had been more of an impulse than anything, a need to change with her new partner, to change from what she was to who she will become. She deserved a new change anyway.

The hushed click of boots sounded from behind her, but no steps coming forward. She turned to face them, surprised to find a nervously fidgeting figure there, not two meters away; he was tall, blue slitted eyes boring down to the ground. His costume was nearly all black with no signs of even silver in the coloring, but his claws glittered in the moonlight, sharp and dangerously pointed; his tail the same pretty coloring, though it did not glitter just so, looked heavy like a lion’s, solid; like her new armor, his own was more of a plated leather sort, making him look far more knightly; boots hugged his calves, plated, protected; and instead of a simple baton, he had a spear like staff, held in his twitching hands.

“So, I guess you’re my new partner.” The air felt stifled, the heat not helping in the least as Marinette rubbed her arms before glancing over to the newbie. He was taller than her, taller than he had been even, and sported unruly, dark hair that hid glowing blues. “Nice to meet you.”

He shuffles, giving a weak smile as he offers a hand, his claws carefully curved for safety on her part, “Nice to meet you, Ladybug. You can call me Shadow Cat. Little lame but I like it.” He sounded nervous, he looked nervous, and that reassured her plenty. “I like the change you did.”

“I like it. And…it felt like time I should up my costume, change is good after all.” Grinning gently, she turned towards the skyline. “Come on, let me show you the best routes in Paris.” She offers, holding out a hand towards him.

This was new, and they’d need time to adjust, but they’d get there.

~

‘…. stop fooling around! We need to focus on this.’ Came a familiar voice, tickling away at his mind, grin forming on his face.

‘Can’t help it …, you know I find your presence a purrleasure.’ Why was he making puns?

He couldn’t see her face, nor the eyes he knew were an amazing color, but she rolled her unseen eyes before facing down an enemy. Why was he in front of an Akuma?

“…, adrien, Adrien!”

“Wah! I-I’m up, I’m up.” He groans, sitting up, dream fading away as Nathalie’s soured expression greeted him. “Sorry about that, Nat.”

She hums softly, lips pressed into a firm line, before glancing down to her tablet, “You are expected to be at the Eiffel Tower for this morning’s photoshoot, then you’re free for the afternoon. I understand you’ve invited your classmates to the Jagged Stone backstage access conference?” Her brow rose at the last bit on her screen, glancing back to him.

He bit his lip, smiling timidly to her. “I had just hoped-” She rose her hand, silencing him at once.

“You’re allowed, your father permitted it onto the schedule, however, please notify me first so as to make this easier for later plans.”

Relieved, he felt warmth as she walks off to let him change.

He turns, ready to speak, but where he looked was nothing but air. Air and silence. He pauses, frowning as he felt a twist in his heart. What was he about to say?

~

‘One, two, three, four, five, six. Down, two, three, four, five, six. Up, two, three, four, five, six.’ Her eyes slid shut, stretching out her body as she calmed herself down. Running around with Shadow the night before had felt so amazing, to stretch her limbs as she grew used to someone new. Shadow was learning, but the bloom of trust warmed her, his blue eyes seeking her own to follow her lead, to learn boundaries, to practice how to best work together, growing used to each other.

Once all done with stretches, and a rather satisfying crack from her back sounded, she returned to the last details for the clothes for the fashion ‘show’ planned that Friday.

“It looks perfect, Marinette!” Tikki chirps, examining the applique up near one of the shoulder areas. “This one is for Félix, right?”

“Mmhm.” She hums, she finishes the edges with a grin. “And it’s all done! I’m ready for that show!” Marinette had never been so ahead of the game, not for a long time, and it felt so good to see how well this whole look came together.

Oh so carefully, Marinette set the finished clothes away in the needed bags, sighing happily at the finished works. “Now,” She gazes over to her sketch book, grinning, “time to finish those sketches.”

~

“Adrikins! You’re spoiling those little peasants too much, couldn’t you have just taken me with you?” Chloé pouts from her spot, clinging to his arm. “I mean, this is Jagged Stone.”

“Chlo, they’re my friends and you like them too.” He reminds her, grinning as he lead the group of students. “Besides, we’re getting VIP access! Let’s all just have fun.”

She huffs softly, nodding as Sabrina somehow was able to get Chloé to release her hold, Nino moving forward to hang out with him though he felt himself idly missing a certain noirette.

‘Adrien, when can I get some cheeeese? I’m huuuunnnggggrrrryyyyyyy.’

“Yo, dude, do you think Lila will be able to get like, actual stories from Jagged Stone? Like stories between them?” Nino grins, Adrien focusing back on the conversation after the throbbing pain in his temples from that weird voice.

He nods, not believing she would even be able to get a false ‘Ooooh, you!’ look from the rock star, the look you got when someone remembers YOU but you don’t remember THEM. “Maybe, he is a pretty busy guy.”

‘Marinette would be recognized by him.’

The chatter around him made his head hurt, a wince rocking through him, but he ignored it as they finally approached their destination.

There he was, the Rockstar himself, lounging casually in the back with his girlfriend/agent, chatting with her quietly before glancing up. “Yooo, model dude. Rockin’ entourage.” His smile seemed a little forced, polite, with his agent simply eyeing them.

“M. Stone! Lila came with us!” Rose squeals, pushing the Italian girl forward eagerly, who looked ready to simply book it. “Lila, go and say hi!”

“I-I uh, hello, M. Stone, I’m sure you don’t remember-”

“Don’t remember? You saved his kitten!” Kim reminds her, grinning all the while. “Of course, he’d remember you.”

The Rockstar did…not looked impressed in that moment, something dark in his gaze as he frowns. “What the heck is a Lie-la? And I’ve never had a cat, dude, totally not rocking. I’ve had Fang for years.” He looked her over, humming softly. “Ooooh, you’re the kid trying to steal my rockin’ niece’s awesomeness. You’re definitely not rockin’ enough to be like her.” He frowns, hand on hip. “This the one Marinette told us about, Pen?”

Penny walks over, not at all looking like a friendly face. “I believe it is. Lila Rossi, daughter of Benigna Rossi who works at the embassy, fourteen years old, only child, has been spreading rumors tying back to you.” She read off her phone. “I’ve already contacted lawyers for these false allegations. We do not need someone believing we allowed a young girl to endanger herself on our behalf, on a damn runway too.”

Adrien’s eyes widen at that, glancing over to Lila, who looked close to tears.

“Lila how could you lie like that?!”

She darts her gaze to a quickly glaring crowd of ‘friends’, using her hands as a shield before landing her gaze on Adrien. Scapegoat. “He! He knew I was lying! A-And Marinette too, she knew, but you’re all so caught up in what I could do for you, you didn’t even care!” She flipped her hair over her shoulder, a smirk rising on her lips. “But at least that brat fought back, smarter than the lot of you. Unlike him, isn’t he a darling puppy? He didn’t give any kind of fight~.”

“Bro…you…you knew?” Nino frowns, moving back from Adrien, expression hardening. “Dude! You knew and you never told us? Never…holy fuck, you knew she was lying and you didn’t even help Marinette?! What the fuck?!”

Adrien’s heart broke, those eyes glaring at him now. “I-I thought they weren’t harming anyone! A-And Marinette was just being unreason-!”

Alya’s snarl broke off any argument he had, her expression rivalling a storms’, “You abandoned her. We at least didn’t know, you left her on her own, willfully knowing you were.”

Disgust, anger, betrayal.

What had he done?

~

Gabriel hums softly, feeling those emotions from across the city, grinning as he enjoyed his tea. No butterfly yet, best to stoke the fires of dark emotions. He had learned from the past, he needed stronger emotions.

And besides, Adrien needed to learn he couldn’t trust the outside world.

~

Luka groans softly, leisurely stretching himself from his seat, licking his lips softly as the gorgeous scents of chocolate wafted through the air; he was jotting down some ideas for a music cover, an American song that was a bit more…spiteful, noting down to ask Marinette if she could help him shop for a new look that would fit the song.

Grabbing his wallet, since he’d likely be there for a while longer, he ventured up to the counter when he collided with someone else. “Sorry, wasn’t-oh! Hey Félix.” Now there was someone he wanted more company of.

Said blond murmured an apology as he helped to right them. “Couffaine, a pleasure. I didn’t know you ventured to the “La Vie En Noir” as well.”

“Their pomegranate treats sealed the deal for me, and relaxing jazz always helps the mind think.” He gave a gentle bow, a smile quirking at his lips, “Please, after you.”

The heat in his cheeks were worth it, especially with the blond blushing, even as the moody male gave a curt nod as he went first. With his treat ordered, Félix stepped aside for Luka to go next. “I do not wish to intrude, but may I enjoy your company? The weather’s too hot to enjoy outside.”

He hums, nodding as he guided the way back to the table. “I’d love to have your melody near.” Yeah, he really loved this café.

~

Warmth. He wanted warmth. Where was the warmth? He missed it terribly.

Adrien tossed and turned in his bed, his heart aching for a familiar warmth to return, for the scent of fresh roses and lavender and baked bread to be there, for tickling laughter.

Want warmth. Need warmth.

‘You don’t deserve the warmth from her.’

Who’s her?

~

Claude takes a deep breath of the fresh Parisian air so high above, ears flicking back at the lulling sounds of the city at night. He had this. He had all of this view to enjoy and appreciate thanks to Plagg.

“Shadow Cat! Good to see you’re enjoying the view.” And there she was, Ladybug, a new friend and partner. “It’s one of my favorites, though I like the one near Notre Dame too….”

He nods, taking another heady breath in before releasing it, grinning softly. “It’s beautiful out here…and the city…I never knew my home was so big.”

She nods, walking to his side. “It is, and it’s ours to protect.”

“I promise, I won’t fail you.” He grins, gazing back down to her. “Come on, you promised more sparring. I don’t want to look lame in front of an Akuma! I’m supposed to make you look good, not like you’re the only functioning one!”