It was an accident. One that Marinette had done all she could to avoid, but happened anyways. Her friend stood in front of her, mouth agape, her phone pointed towards the floor.
The first thing that Marinette registered was her own shock as she gasped in surprise. She had been so careful, she always was, always had to be, and yet her best friend had seen her de-transform.
Her best friend had seen her de-transform.
Marinette's heart rate abruptly shot up, panic rising in her as her eyes widened. Her friend knew, Alya was a target now, it was her fault.
Her guilt hit her next, mingling with her shock. She had lied to her friend for months now, and now Alya knew and she put Alya in danger all because she hadn't double-checked the alleyway.
Then she was hit with a wave of fear, taking a step back as she stared at her friend's shocked face.
She's gonna hate me now, the thought raced through her mind suddenly, surprising her, I'm not who she expected to be, she must be really disappointed.
All of this happened in only a few seconds, her transformation having barely faded. She barely acknowledged her kwami pressed against her comfortingly as her panic overtook her.
And then she saw the phone.
It was currently pointed to the ground, but Marinette had no way to tell if it had been up while she was de-transforming. A memory of her friend showing her the ladyblog's live-streaming feature flashed through her mind followed by the panicked thought that everyone might know now and suddenly she couldn't breathe.
Marinette was prone to freaking out over things, anybody who'd known her for more than a week knew this. Alya saw the panicked look in Marinette's eyes, the same look that accented her near panic attack level freak outs. Alya had only seen the look once or twice, usually in particularly stressful situations with high stakes, and something in that terrified expression pushed her to snap to attention.
Alya was one of Marinette's dearest friends, that was a given to anybody who saw the two, but never had Marinette been so utterly grateful to have her as a friend then she was right then. And she wasn't even sure if they were even friends anymore. Alya, who had wanted to uncover the spotted heroine's identity since she had first donned her iconic spots, followed said heroine's eyes to her phone, and acted quickly.
Letting the phone shift a little she let out a fake gasp. "Oh my god, I am so sorry," she said, sounding a little over dramatic even with her shock of finding out her friend's biggest secret, "I swear that I didn't see you, my eyes are closed, promise."
Marinette stood in a new kind of shock for a second before snapping herself out of it, pure gratitude filling her. She couldn't afford to be shocked at the moment, her friend's quick thinking had given both of them an out to their most urgent problem and she was not about to let it go to waste. She summoned all of the Ladybug courage that she had.
"N-no it's fine!" She said, forcing herself to take a deep breath after hearing herself stutter, she had to sound like Ladybug for a few more minutes, "it's ok since you're eyes were closed. I'll go ahead and leave, but you mustn't look until I am gone." Tikki was finishing the emergency cookie that she kept in her purse, she just needed to stall until her kwami was done. "Thank you for not looking, by doing so you're helping me to protect the people close to me, thank you." Tikki nudged her, nodding in confirmation that she was ready to go. Marinette whispered her transformation on, turning back into her hero persona, and let Alya turn the camera to her for a moment. She put on a grateful and brave face, pushing all of her shock and fear to the back of her head, trying to match her professional tone. She gave the camera a confidant smile, said thank you to the reporter again in a tone that sounded a lot braver than she felt, and yo-yo'd away.
Marinette fidgeted nervously in her chair, staring at her phone. She had sent the text for Alya to meet her half an hour ago. A rushed view of the live-stream had showed her friend had indeed pointed the camera down before her transformation had warn off. She had taken a few minutes after Ladybug had left to rant about who the spotted heroine could possibly be, throwing in a few ideas and whatnot that Marinette definitely knew to be false. The blogger had even restated what had occurred using their improvised story in a slightly hasty looking post.
Marinette had no clue how her friend would really react, if they'd even be friends after this, but she was eternally grateful for how far Alya had gone in her likely more than slightly stunned state to protect her identity.
Tikki watched her chosen carefully, the time spent with the girl and her many centuries of experience helping her to understand what she was going through, and that there was little that she could do to reassure the stressed girl at the moment. Still, the small goddess would try, if just to reassure her chosen that she wasn't alone. "It'll be ok Marinette," she said softly, catching the girl's attention for a moment before she looked away again. Tikki sighed, opting to flit away in order to give her chosen some time to prepare herself, though the little kwami was sure that everything would turn out ok.
The sound of footsteps shook Marinette out of her thoughts.
Her best friend stood halfway up the steps in her room, looking at her in shock and awe. Marinette stood up tentatively as Alya walked up the rest of the stairs into her room.
They stood in tense silence, staring at one another, then Marinette shifted nervously, which seemed to snap the the tension in the room because in the next second Marinette was pulled into a bone-crushing hug from the reporter.
"Oh my god girl I was SO worried!" Alya said, still hugging the life out of Marinette.
Marinette stared at the back of Alya's head, too stunned to hug her back. "Y-you're not disappointed?" She managed to breath out.
Alya pulled her back so suddenly that Marinette was scared one of them would get whiplash. "Disappointed!?" She nearly yelled, "my best friend is a superheroine!!!" Marinette shushed her quietly, glancing down the stairs worriedly. Alya, thankfully, listened to Marinette and quieted down a little, looking her worried friend in the eyes. "Upset that you didn't tell me? A little, but I mean, that's like the first rule of being a superhero. But I am not disappointed. You're amazing Marinette!"
Marinette let out a breath that she didn't know she was holding, Alya wasn't disappointed, they were still friends. She initiated the hug this time, letting out a shaky "thank god". A few more seconds passed while she let the information sink in.
"Thank you," Marinette whispered once the silence had stretched long again. There was so much meaning behind her words, so much she had to thank her friend for, but Alya just chuckled.
"I got your back," Alya said, breaking away and smiling at the spotted heroine. So many things made sense to the blogger now, things like how her friend was often exhausted and randomly late to things, it all made sense. "How did you manage to keep this from me for so long?"
Marinette gave her a sheepish smile. "Well," she said, looking away sheepishly with pink tinting her cheeks, "it wasn't easy."
Alya knew that Marinette was thinking about all the excuses that she constantly had to give everyone, and laughed. "Well, you owe me an interview, with Chat Noir." She paused for a second as if realizing something then gasped happily, grabbing Marinette's shoulders excitedly. "Wait does that mean that you know who Chat Noir is? Do you like him? Are you two secretly dating after all!?"
Marinette shook her head frantically, trying to calm her excited friend down, as well as fighting back an embarrassed blush. She didn't entirely succeed in either aspect. "N-no! We're not dating! He's such a flirt, I-I mean, I don't even know who he is..."
Alya gasped in shock, staring Marinette dead in the eyes as said girl pointedly avoided her gaze. "So, you guys have been fighting together all this time without even knowing who he is behind the mask?" She said quietly, unable to comprehend that bit of new information. A sense of dread filled her for her friend, because no matter how capable the superheroine was she was still running around with a stranger, it was dangerous. "Marinette, he could be anybody under that mask."
Marinette couldn't help but be slightly offended by her friend's implications to her statement. Sure she understood where her friend was coming from, she had the same concerns as well, that her partner could secretly be the type of person that she hated in her civilian form. But she also knew that her partner had been nothing but loyal and trustworthy in all the time that they'd worked together, if anybody knew that than it was the journalist in front of her. "Yeah, he could," she said, looking back at Alya with a bit of defensiveness edging her tone, "but I also trust him with my life, and I know that he trusts me with his life as well." Marinette let her thoughts slip to Timebreaker, the akuma that had nearly erased her partner from existence. "He has trusted me with his life," she added in a softer tone.
There must have been something in her voice because Alya pulled her back into a brief hug, "I know, I'm just a little worried for you." She gave the heroine a brief squeeze before letting her go. A second of silence passed before an odd look crossed Alya's face. "What are you going to tell him," she asked the superheroine, elaborating as said superheroine paused in confusion, "about me knowing that you spend half of your time fighting akuma with a mysterious cat-boy in a leather getup."
Marinette froze with a wide-eyed look, likely in the process of freaking out about the fact that she'd have to explain her slip-up with her partner. Alya, knowing this process only too well, counted down in her head.
Three... Two... One...
"Oh no! I have to explain this to Chat Noir!" Marinette yelled, spinning on her heel and starting to pace back and forth in the room. "He's going to want us to reveal our identities to each other! Then I'll have to tell him no and we'll end up arguing then he'll lose his trust in me for being an incompetent Ladybug and letting someone find out my secret identity and then he won't want to be my partner and if he's not my partner then hawkmoth will be able to get ahold of our miraculous and take over the world we're doomed!!!" She finished, collapsing dramatically face-first onto her couch.
Alya snickered quietly and sat down in front of Marinette, petting her head sympathetically. "C'mon Mari, it won't be that bad," she said consolingly, "he trusts you right?" She paused for a moment as Marinette nodded into the couch. "Then he'll trust that I won't tell anybody and that it'll be safer if he doesn't know." She paused again as Marinette sat up and looked at her like a pouty child looking for reassurance. The mental image made Alya let out a little chuckle, "I promise."
Marinette took a deep breath. "ok," she said, resignation and determination evident in her voice, "I'll talk to him." She looked out of the window into the currently setting sun, her resolve dropping a little, "...tomorrow."
Alya nodded, smiling in amusement. "Tomorrow," she echoed, leaning back into the couch. It was quiet for a second, both girls reassured that their friendship was as strong as ever, "so when do I get to meet your kwami?"