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Transmiraculous

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Chat Noir barely dodged another of the high-speed discs Hawk Moth’s latest victim threw with terrifying skill. “You won’t escape, kitty-cat!” the shining-silver Discus snarled. The larger disc that carried him around weaved between traffic signals and lamp posts without even slowing down.

Okay, almost in position now, Chat thought, diving behind a car for cover. Here we go. Hope she is ready.

The car turned into a fine mist as another disc struck it. Discus laughed. “No escape, Chat Noir!” He readied yet another disc...

And Ladybug came up behind him, pulling a bright red and black-spotted cloth bag over his head. He made a muffled sound of surprise and tore at the bag but too late. Chat jumped straight at the temporarily immobilised villain.

“CATACLYSM!”

The shining disc beneath the astounded villain’s feet dissolved into nothingness. He plopped to the ground with a cry just as a purple-black butterfly fluttered away from the dissipating disc.

“I free you from evil!” Ladybug’s voice rang out clear as a bell. Her yoyo displayed a shining arc as it trapped the tainted butterfly before it could escape.

By now Chat had grown used to the aftermath and focused on the defeated Discus, who at that exact moment shimmered and turned into a shocked-looking teen boy. “Wait... what...” he gasped.

“Everything will be all right,” Chat told him quietly and offered him a hand up. Around them toppled and disintegrated vehicles returned to normal as the magical ladybugs did their job. Disc victims appeared again with relieved and happy expressions.

“I think this is yours.” Ladybug handed him a frisbee, giving him a smile. Then her earring gave a beep. “Ah, Chat —“

“Yes, let’s.” Chat Noir bounded off with a staff-assisted leap, Ladybug close behind.

They stopped again not long after, alighting on a rooftop with enough cover to mostly conceal them. Chat turned to her and offered her a hand; she gripped it with a heart-stopping smile, her green eyes aglitter.

“We have so little time for this, Chaton,” she sighed when Chat’s ring also beeped and one of the paw-pads on it blinked out of view.

“Well, it is kind of in the nature of the job. Except the few times we meet outside of an emergency. And even then it almost always seems that something happens.” Chat shrugged, trying to make it look nonchalant.

“Let’s try again soon.” She tousled her partner’s black curls with her free hand. “Tomorrow evening, Chaton. I’ll call.” Her earring beeped again and she was off, her blond hair and ponytail shining in the late afternoon sun.

Chat Noir sighed, dropped into an alley hidden from prying eyes and turned back into a slender dark-haired girl with pigtails wearing gray, pink and white clothes. She took a deep breath and then turned her steps toward home. Life had gotten so much more complicated since the day she’d gotten her Miraculous.

***

Marinette sighed in relief when she finally reached the privacy of her room. Plagg zoomed out of her handbag and orbited her a couple of times. “At last!” he exclaimed. “I’m starving!”

She rolled her eyes. “Minifridge is all yours, greedy guts,” she told him. She could live with his cheese habit but she insisted on storing it responsibly and in a scent proof container. As always, Plagg zoomed straight into the fridge without even opening the door.

She smiled to herself as she sat down at her desk. The first time they’d met had been... memorable. The first words out of his mouth had been, “Wait, you’re a girl! You’re not supposed to be a girl!”

She’d been so indignant that it had made her fright evaporate and she’d stopped throwing things at him. Instead she’d put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “And what’s so wrong about that?”

“Nothing! Nothing!” The cat-spirit had zipped around in a confused circle. “It’s just that I am supposed to be partnered with a boy!”

“Partnered?” She’d blinked.

“Hoo boy, this is gonna take some explaining...” He’d sighed.

Just at that moment, a loud commotion had started outside. 

Plagg emerged from the fridge, looking as smug as, well, a cat who’d drunk all the cream. Or maybe eaten all the cream cheese. “Smooth work today, partner. You and Sugarcube are getting really good at this.”

Marinette tilted her head. “Why do you call her that?”

“Err well...”

She held a hand up palm out and smiled. “It’s her Miraculous spirit, isn’t it. And I bet you have a crush on — her, right? It’s a girl spirit?”

“You are too darn smart.” Plagg grumbled something she couldn’t hear, then went on. “Besides, you are sweet on Ladybug, so you don’t exactly have a high horse to get up on.”

Marinette blushed. “All right, I am sweet on her. I can’t help it. Only...” she trailed off and sank into gloom.

“Oh crud.” Plagg swooped around her, then sat on her lap. “Listen, Marinette, this is...”

“You told me, yes,” she sighed. “The Miraculous would only work for a boy, so when I use it, I have to become a boy.”

Plagg opened his mouth as if to say something, then shut it again in consternation.

“But I also love her when I am Marinette,” she went on, “so it’s not your fault or the fault of the Miraculous.” She sighed, then picked the little cat spirit up and hugged him to her cheek. “I am really grateful to you for all you have done for me.”

It occurred to her later that Plagg had been really worried. He hadn’t squirmed out of the hug with an EWWW like he usually did.

*** 

Adrien pushed his finally finished homework away with a sigh of relief. His days had turned even busier after he had become a superhero — well, superheroine — and he had very little spare time left. He’d had to schedule some of his most treasured free time activities with care in order to make the most of them. And in just ten minutes the best of them was about to begin.

Unprompted, Tikki flew over and put his papers into their proper folders and packed his schoolbag with quick efficiency, consulting his schedule once or twice to make sure she had selected the proper books.

Adrien smiled at her. “You’re spoiling me, Tikki.”

“Hardly.” She smiled back. “You work so hard, Adrien. It’s only reasonable I help out when I can.” She closed the schoolbag and hovered above it. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yes, let’s. Tikki, SPOTS ON!”

Moments later Ladybug once more sped along the rooftops of Paris. By now the transformation felt like such a huge relief in more than one sense — not just an escape from the pressures of being Adrien Agreste, supermodel and Gabriel Agreste’s son, but also being a girl just seemed so right at this point. She thought of herself as female at these times, and reverting to normal somehow felt like picking up a stressful burden again. She wondered why and wished she could talk to someone about it, apart from Tikki who sympathised but didn’t understand it either.

Even so this was one of the times where she wouldn’t mind being Adrien quite as much. Spending just part of the evening with Marinette would be the high point of the day or even the whole week. So it was with a light heart she set down in an out-of-the-way nook near the Dupain bakery and turned back to Adrien again.

***

“I’ll get it, Mama!” Marinette called when the doorbell rang and dashed down the stairs. Just as she’d expected, Adrien stood outside with a smile on his face. Marinette smiled back and waved him inside. 

They had been friends for a while now, ever since she had walked into the classroom and overheard him telling Chloé off for putting chewing gum on her seat. Then he had started to remove the gum. Marinette had walked up next to him, smiled into his surprised face and helped him get rid of the gum. Then she’d whispered, “Nice earrings,” he’d blushed in such a cute way and that had sealed their friendship.

Mama smiled at them as they walked up the stairs. “Welcome, Adrien. I and Tom are about to leave, but have a good evening, you two!”

“Thank you, Madame Cheng.” Adrien returned the smile. “I’m sure we will!”

They continued up to Marinette’s room. She let him enter ahead of her and closed the trapdoor behind them. He smiled at the life size poster of Ladybug that adorned one wall. The superheroine stood balanced on one foot, spinning her yoyo in preparation for a throw.

“That’s new. Where did you get that?” He sounded a little embarrassed for some reason.

Marinette blushed almost crimson. “O-o-ohh, that is a picture Alya snapped the other day, and I, um, talked her into letting me use it as a basis for a poster.”

Adrien blinked. “Marinette, I’m sorry — I didn’t mean to do anything to —“ he trailed off.

She sighed and let herself collapse bacwards on her bed. “You didn’t do anything, Adrien. It’s just... I like Ladybug. I mean, I really like her. But it’s not as if... never mind.”

Adrien frowned and nodded, seating himself on the edge of the bed. “If you ever want to talk about it, don’t hesitate to ask me.” He patted her hand.

Marinette gave him a wan smile. “Thank you.” She slipped to her feet. “Anyway, let me show you what I have gotten done.” She went to her closet and took out a light blue dress she’d spent all week perfecting, a white blouse and a vest that matched the dress, a pair of pale yellow stockings and delicate white cotton panties. She set it all down on the bed, gave Adrien a real smile this time and then went downstairs again to wait.

A few minutes later she called up, “Mama and Papa are gone. It’s safe to come out when you feel ready.”

A minute passed, then Adrien came down wearing the ensemble Marinette had created. A slight blush warmed his cheeks. He curtseyed, smiled and then gave her a twirl.

“What do you think?”

Marinette smiled back. “You look very pretty. It suits you.”

Adrien blushed a bit more, making him absolutely adorable. “Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome. Come with me to the kitchen, let’s make some dinner.” Marinette led the way, her heart lifting at how comfortable Adrien already seemed in the dress.

***

As they sat down to dinner Adrien luxuriated in the sensation of the dress against his skin. This felt so... right, he realised. Not quite the same as being Ladybug, but still good. That constant strain of being himself seemed to ease significantly. And Marinette didn’t just accept him like this, she enjoyed his company and embraced his desire to be feminine, helped him achieve it.

The thought made him stop dead as he examined it closely.

...I want to be feminine. 

I want to be a girl. Not just when I am Ladybug. I want to be a girl all the time.

He gulped, of a sudden feeling dizzy. He had no idea of what to do with this realisation, he only knew that it felt true. He wished he could talk to Tikki, but he couldn’t, not with Marinette there...

“Adrien?” Marinette frowned with concern. “Is something wrong?”

“No... no.” He tried to pull himself together. “I just realised something.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Her eyes held his, showing nothing but kindness and compassion.

Oh God did he ever. But could he? He gulped again, then took a deep breath. This was Marinette. If he couldn’t tell her, he couldn’t tell anyone. 

He blurted out, “I want to be a girl.” Then he bowed his head.

She didn’t smile, didn’t laugh, didn’t react in any of the ways he had feared. She only rose from her chair opposite him and moved to seat herself next to him. Then she took his hand and gave it a gentle encouraging squeeze.

He took a deep breath and found his voice again. “I am happy here, wearing dresses and being together with you. Much happier than I ever am at home. I can pretend I am really a girl for a time. No, I can be a girl for a time.”

“If that is what it takes to make you happy, you will always be a girl to me.” Marinette spoke with complete assurance. “I will make as many dresses and outfits for you as you need and I will help you in any way I can.”

“Thank you.” He almost sobbed with relief. “I was so afraid...”

“Of what? Of me laughing? Or making fun of you? I would never.” She gave him a hug. “You are safe with me, girlfriend. Now let’s eat before the food gets cold. You’ll feel better.”

She stayed in the seat next to him and moved her plate and utensils inside easy reach; then they dug in in companionable silence. Her presence next to him felt comforting and after only a few bites of food he stopped trembling. Soon he found himself calm enough to think about the situation in a rational matter and it did not take long to reach a decision.

I want to be a girl, so I will be a girl. I will think of myself as a girl.

She finished her meal and set her cutlery down. “Marinette?”

“Yes?” Marinette tilted her head and looked at her.

“Will you please call me Adrienne?” This is it, she thought, I am committed now.

“Of course.” Marinette smiled.

“I would like this... to stay between us for now.” Adrienne took a deep breath to settle her nerves. “I’m not ready to tell people yet. I’m still scared.”

“That’s perfectly understandable.” Marinette nodded. “It will stay between us until you decide otherwise.”

They took care of the dishes and deliberately kept their conversation light and on inconsequential matters. Still, it felt like such a huge relief to have this out in the open and it warmed her heart whenever Marinette called her ‘Adrienne’ or ‘girlfriend.’ Then they went upstairs to play computer games. Marinette was leading three games to two in Mecha Strike III by the time the talk returned to serious matters.

“How do you think your father would react?” Marinette sounded thoughtful and considering rather than worried, Adrienne decided.

“I am not sure. When he — HA!” Adrienne paused a moment to gloat as she managed to sweep Marinette’s mecha off its feet and finished it with a fast rocket volley before it recovered. Marinette muttered something unladylike and Adrienne giggled. 

“Anyway, remember two weeks ago when Simon Says abducted Father? Afterwards he was so relieved that he came to see me and actually embraced me.” She paused the game, set the controller down and stretched. “When he did, he noticed my earrings.”

Marinette blinked. “Only then?”

“I don’t wear them for photo shoots and he... really doesn’t pay much attention to me most of the time.” Adrienne felt a bit hollow admitting this. Marinette looked indignant and she felt compelled to defend her father. “He is a very busy man, you see... but well. He saw my earrings.”

“How did he react?” Marinette bit her lips. 

“Not the way I expected. He said, ‘I wish you had asked me before you had your ears pierced. Ah well, no matter. Done is done and now I know. It is actually quite advantageous — now we can have you model earrings as well. I will inform Nathalie and she will work it into your schedule.’” Adrienne smiled and shook her head. 

“Well... that doesn’t sound too bad,” Marinette commented. “Of course this doesn’t tell us how he would react to learning that you are a girl, but at least him deciding to also having you model dresses doesn’t sound like the worst of all possible scenarios.”

Adrienne actually laughed. In fact she didn’t mind starting to model earrings, though it had forced her to discreetly have her ears pierced — the Miraculous earrings fastened themselves magically and it would have been really awkward to show at an earring photoshoot with unpierced ears. Her ears had ached and burned for a while but they already felt better.

At length she decided she couldn’t afford to stay any longer no matter how much she wanted to. “Time for me to go,” she sighed with regret.

Marinette nodded, looking a bit sad. “You’ll be okay?”

“I’ll be fine.” Adrienne rose to her feet with reluctance. “I’ll — I’ll go up to your room and get changed.” She really didn’t want to. But she had to.

“I’ll come with.” Marinette rose as well. “Ah...”

“Yes?” Adrienne tilted her head.

“I... I guess going outside dressed as a girl would be a big thing for you that you aren’t quite ready for, but you could step out on the roof with me for a couple minutes?” She bit her lip.

Adrienne felt her cheeks grow hot. “...yes. I think I’d like that.”

They climbed the stairs together, then emerged through the roof hatch into the evening air. The sun had almost set by now. The breeze played with Adrienne’s dress; it felt wonderful. She and Marinette stood together at the railing and watched the Parisian skyline in the last fading sunlight for a little while. 

“Hey M!” a voice called from below. They looked down and saw Alya on the opposite side of the street; she waved and moved on. Marinette waved back but Adrienne stood stock still, frozen with embarrassment.

“I don’t think she recognised you, sweetie,” Marinette whispered. “You can breathe again.”

Adrienne took a deep breath. “I really hope you are right.”

As they climbed down into Marinette’s room, the other girl commented, “You know, you don’t have to change all the way back. You could keep wearing the panties.”

Adrienne smiled. “Thank you, Marinette. I think I will.”

Coming home that evening, going back to being Adrien, took a grueling effort. The panties comforted her.

***

Next day at school as they all arrived she overheard Alya tell Marinette, “Hey M! Who was that girl I saw with you last night? She looked pretty.”

Marinette replied in a breezy voice, “Friend of mine I see on occasion. She is kind of shy, but maybe I can talk her into meeting you someday.”

Adrienne smiled.

Chapter Text

When the bell for the final class of the day rang at last, the whole classroom exploded into movement and rushed for the door. A whole weekend of glorious freedom beckoned, and the students of Collège Françoise Dupont did not delay a moment in heeding its call. Miss Bustier had with the wisdom of experience assigned her pupils their homework well before the bell rang and only smiled, amused at the eager exodus.

Adrienne, in less of a rush than most, left as one of the last. Nino stood waiting for her just outside the classroom.

She smiled at him. “You didn’t have to wait for me, Nino. You know my bodyguard is always waiting for me right outside school.”

Nino grinned. “Dude. I just want to make the most of your company. Your father keeps you, like, totally busy, my man.”

“He does. I have a modeling shoot in about an hour.” Adrienne sighed. At least this was the first of the earring shoots and it was the only one for today.

“Hey, A!” a voice called out behind them as they neared the exit. “Wait up!” Adrienne turned and saw Marinette waving at him, Alya at her side. 

Nino laughed. “Marinette, dudette! What is this ‘A’ stuff? Did Alya turn contagious?”

Marinette blushed and Alya laughed. “Oooooo, you are so gonna pay for that on our date tonight, buster!”

Adrienne elbowed Nino. “Go on, scat, Nino. You can pick up Alya, I’ll find out what Mari wants.” She smiled.

“Right, Adrien!” Nino beamed. “See you later! Oof!” He went with Alya who had just elbowed him on her way past.

Adrienne approached the still embarrassed Marinette who stood hunched pressing her hands to her face. She gave her a gentle pat on her shoulder. “What is it, Mari?”

“I — I — I’m sorry about that,” she whispered, taking a furtive look around the by now almost empty exit area to make sure no-one could overhear. “I couldn’t call you Adrienne here and didn’t want to call you Adrien so I panicked and —“

“Hey, hey.” Adrienne gave her a light hug. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Thank you for being so careful of me.” She released her. “But in the future, you can call me Adrien in public. I know it will be you covering for me.”

Marinette relaxed a little and gave her a wan smile. “Thank you. I guess I am just on edge right now. I, I wanted to ask you when you next want to visit.”

Adrienne sighed. “Not this weekend. I have back-to-back photoshoots. I think we are looking at Thursday at the earliest.” She hated having to wait so long. She wanted to go with Mari right now, to a place she could safely be a girl even if it was only Mari’s room while her parents were at home.

“I’m sorry,” Marinette commiserated, her eyes full of concern; obviously she read her tension with ease.

“I’ll be all right.” She lowered her voice. “I slipped the panties you gave me yesterday into the laundry last night and recovered them this morning. I am wearing them right now.”

Marinette brightened. “Oh good. I hope they help.”

“They do. They really do.” Adrienne hesitated. “...may I ask why you are on edge?” She nibbled on her lower lip.

“Oh, it’s Alya,” Marinette sighed and looked down. “She is being really annoying right now. She is convinced that I am Ladybug — which I am not — and is bugging me about it all the time.” She turned red again when Adrienne stifled an involuntary giggle. “Um, that pun was unintentional!”

Adrienne kept from smiling, if barely. “Well, it sounds like Alya just being Alya. Remember when she thought Chloé was Ladybug?”

“Ohmigod!” Marinette groaned. “I never thought I would agree with Chloé about anything but Alya is being so annoying right now that I almost wish that I could get Alya expelled for a week. And I have to spend all afternoon together with her. AND watch over Manon in the park. Madame Chamack called me for an emergency babysitting.”

Adrienne hugged her again. “I’m sorry, Marinette. I really hope she gives up soon.”

 

But as they headed for the exit the beginnings of a mischievous idea began to form in her head. The photoshoot was actually sited near the park, and if she managed to finish it fast enough, maybe, just maybe...

 

***

 

Marinette quietly counted to ten before she spoke again, keeping a careful eye on the boisterous Manon all the while. The hyperkinetic six-year-old girl currently participated in a loud game of ball with a handful of other children. The game’s exact rules escaped the older girl, though it certainly involved a lot of shrieking, giggling and running around.

“No, Alya. Just, no. I am not entertaining this ridiculous theory of yours any longer. I am not Ladybug.” She rose from the bench and glared down at her friend with her arms crossed.

“No?” Alya smirked. “Then you should not mind having me following you around.”

Marinette managed not to grind her teeth. “I don’t mind you following me. I do mind your constant harping on your Ladybug nonsense.”

“Easy, girl!” Alya laughed. “I just think it is interesting. You’re the right size —“

“Many girls are.”

“ — you care a lot about people and go out of your way to help them —“

“You can do that without being a superhero.”

“— and you keep disappearing just before Ladybug turns up.”

“Intelligent people run and hide when a supervillain appears!” They don’t go chasing them with cameras, Marinette almost added but stopped herself at the last moment.

“Wheeeeeeee!”

Both girls looked up in surprise. Ladybug suddenly zipped past on her yoyo line, then turned a magnificent somersault as she threw her yoyo again. Alya jumped to her feet, scrambling to get some footage on her phone, her expression avid. A few moments later the red-clad superheroine came to a rest atop a nearby building.

Marinette put her hands on her hips and smirked. “So. About that theory of yours, Alya...”

Alya sent her a dirty look. “Okay, so I was wrong. I’ll find out who she is sometime.”

That was the moment when the ball went flying out on the road. And Manon barreled after it through a gap in the hedge.

Marinette didn’t even hesitate and anyway there was no time to gawk. Manon was kneeling to pick up the ball as a car raced toward her, already braking but too late to stop, and Marinette threw herself at Manon, grabbing her and rolling out of the car’s path just in time —

— into the path of another car coming from the opposite direction and this time there was no time at all and Marinette stared in horror as it came at them —

— and then something very fast picked her and Manon up and suddenly they flew through the air and everything seemed to spin in circles —

— and they landed on the sidewalk safely in the arms of the red-clad figure who had snatched them from the jaws of disaster at the last moment.

Marinette found herself staring into Ladybug’s smiling face and blushed crimson. Around them people stood cheering in relief and admiration, Alya in the forefront with her camera phone running.

Somehow Manon had managed to keep hold on the ball through it all.

“Again!” she demanded.

“Nuh-uh, you little monster,” Alya replied, plucking her from the stunned Marinette’s arms. “You all right, M?” She looked at her friend with concern.

“Muh. I. Um. Guh.” For the life of her Marinette couldn’t form a single coherent word. She simply clung to Ladybug, her mouth opening and closing like a beached fish’s.

“I think she is in shock,” Ladybug commented with a frown. “Do you know where she lives, mademoiselle?”

“Yes. Above the Dupain bakery, it’s in that direction.” Alya pointed.

“I know it, I pass it on occasion. Thank you.” Ladybug inclined her head at Alya.

“M — Manon —“ Marinette tried, feebly reaching toward the now worried-looking six-year-old.

“I’ll take care of her, M. Get home and rest. You’ve earned your keep and then some, girl.” Then Alya grinned. “And it turns out I was at least not completely off track. You’re a heroine, and now I have the footage to prove it.” She pointed triumphantly at her phone.

Marinette blushed again.

Ladybug gave Alya a brisk nod, then jumped with her yoyo flying ahead. Marinette clung tight to her and closed her eyes.

 

***

 

As Adrienne soared between buildings with Marinette pressed tight against her — precious, wonderful, marvelous Marinette — she blessed the impulse that had made her transform and drop by the park. She’d only meant to put a stop to Alya’s foolery, but...

She’d almost lost Mari today. An involuntary shudder ran through her at the thought of how close it had been. She’d jumped too late to save Manon and then Marinette had arrived like a guardian angel to protect the child, buying Adrienne just enough time to save the both of them.

She marveled at the selflessness of it. And all without superpowers, too.

Then she dropped down on the rooftop balcony above Marinette’s room.

“You can relax, mademoiselle. We have set down now. This is the right place, no?” Adrienne put as much warmth and comfort into her voice as she could.

Marinette opened her eyes and looked around, then cleared her throat. “Yes. It is. Thank you.” She managed a small smile and loosened her death grip on Adrienne, who gently set her down.

“You are monsieur Dupain’s daughter, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Um. I’m Ma-Ma-Marinette.” She blushed crimson again. “Thank me for saving your life. Er. No! I meant, thank life for you — I mean —“

Adrienne smiled. “It’s all right, Marinette. Thank you. I’ve never seen anyone as brave as you before.” She put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“No! I’m not brave! I mean, you’re welcome. But I had to girl the save!” Marinette’s hands flew to her face as she babbled. “NO, not girl the save, anyway you girled us both, I mean, thank you, I love you, no WAIT I meant to say that, I mean I didn’t say to mean that —“

She came to a dead stop, dropped her hands and looked away in utter embarrassment; at this point the poor girl had turned completely magenta. Adrienne almost laughed but controlled the impulse — just — and leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek.

At least, that is what she’d meant to do. But in just that moment Marinette turned her head back to look at her again. And their lips met.

They both stood still in shock. Then Marinette melted into the kiss. Or perhaps Adrienne melted into it first. She couldn’t tell for sure.

It lasted for a small eternity. Or maybe only a month or two. Then they both drew back with a jerk.

“I, I, I, I’m sorry but I have to go, thanks again, ma’mselle —“ Adrienne stammered as she spun her yoyo, sure that she was just as crimson-faced as Marinette. She jumped away, but not in panicked flight. Not. Omigod omigod what did I just do what did I just do —

She didn’t see Marinette sink nervelessly to her knees behind her.

 

***

 

Marinette lay numbly on her bed, staring at the ceiling, trying without success to process what had just happened. Plagg had been no help whatsoever. He’d only commented, “You’re lucky you didn’t get killed. But damn babe, that was some kiss. Kazowie! Anyway, I’m starved.” Then he’d zoomed into the minifridge.

Her phone rang, and after a moment she picked it up and looked at it. Alya’s face beamed at her from it. “Hi, M! Just wanted to say, I got Manon safely handed off to Madame Chamack. I showed her the footage, she was absolutely horrified and very impressed. You might end up on the news tonight. So, what happened between you and Ladybug?

Marinette burst into tears.

Alya looked shocked for a moment, then spoke decisively. “Hang on tight, Marinette. I’m coming.” Then she switched her phone off.

 

Twenty minutes later Marinette sat on the edge of her bed eating chocolate ice cream straight from the carton Alya had brought, no longer trembling and her tears come to a stop. Alya sat down next to her, a concerned frown on her face.

“...I can’t believe I kissed her, Alya.” She gulped. “She fled from me in terror. What must she be thinking of me?”

“If she has any sense at all, I bet she is thinking ‘Wow, I just got kissed by another heroine, that is one for my diary.’ And Ladybug has a lot of sense.” Alya dabbed at Marinette’s eyes with a handkerchief and sniffed. “M, you were in a state of shock and your filter was off on vacation. She must have seen it before.”

Marinette groaned. “I can’t ever show my face outside again.”

Alya rolled her eyes. “Just relax, girl. Eat more ice cream. You are the woman of the hour and after that stunt you can do no wrong in the eyes of the public. Do you know how many hits that vid already has on the Ladyblog?”

Marinette wailed. “Stop! I don’t want to know!” She slumped in her seat. Then she ate another spoonful of ice cream, wishing everything would just go away. Well, everything except for chocolate ice cream.

“Anyway, all that is for tomorrow.” Alya pocketed her handkerchief again and gave her a brisk pat on the shoulder. “Tonight all you have to do is lie down and get better. I’ll stay here to make sure you are okay.”

Marinette sat bolt upright. “Wait, what? You can’t do that! You have a date with Nino!”

“I’ll cancel. I’ll call him and —“

“Oh no you don’t.” Marinette glared at Alya, threatening her with the spoon. “Poor Nino will be so disappointed. I bet he is already waiting for you. Go, Alya. I’ll be okay.”

“Well  — if you’re sure —“ Her friend rose, sounding reluctant.

“Just go. Tell you what, I’ll meet you at our spot in the park eight o’clock this evening so you can see I am okay. You get to show Nino off, and then we part ways.” She managed to smile.

“All right.” Alya smiled back, then gave her a wave as she descended through the trap door. After she closed it behind her, Marinette slumped back.

It wasn’t fair. She already liked Ladybug when she was Chat Noir. So what business did Ladybug have being TEN THOUSAND TIMES hotter when she was just plain Marinette? Especially when she was so close, smiling right into her face, smelling so darn nice —

Oh God. She was supposed to meet with Ladybug tonight. Ladybug might already have called her and she could have missed it. “Plagg!”

“I am sleeping. Go away.” The cat-spirit’s voice sounded muffled. He was hiding somewhere, probably someplace hard to reach.

Marinette sighed, then smirked. “Ah well. I guess I’ll just have to throw out all this cheese, which is probably going bad anyway.” She stood up and headed for the minifridge.

Plagg exploded out from underneath a pile of fabric she had selected for one of Adrienne’s next dresses, his eyes wide with horror. “NOOOO! You CAN’T!”

“Plagg, CLAWS OUT!” Marinette crowed, lifting her ring hand, and transformed.

Moments later Chat Noir sped across the rooftops again. She checked her baton for messages and found just one, which had arrived only three minutes earlier. It read, “Usual spot. I’m waiting. Bug.”

She texted back ‘On my way!’ and set off at high speed.

 

***

 

Chat Noir landed on the rooftop close to Ladybug, who was pacing back and forth, biting her lip in worry. “Hi, sweet. So what’s up?” Somehow she managed to sound relaxed.

“Oh Chaton! I’m so sorry.” Ladybug turned to face her, sounding upset and stressed.

Chat blinked. “Wait, what? Sorry about what?”

“I... I... I kissed a girl earlier. She was so beautiful. I couldn’t stop myself.” Ladybug looked down.

Chat felt like everything had been flipped upside down. What, Ladybug thought she had kissed her? In complete confusion she said the first thing that sprang to mind. “That... that sounds kind of hot, actually.”

Ladybug turned positively red-faced. “Oh, you stupid... BOY!” She stomped her foot. “I am confessing being unfaithful to you, you idiot!”

Chat backed a bit off in alarm. “Okay, okay! Easy there, Buglet. Let’s look at this calmly —“

“And don’t call me that!” She glared.

An idea formed in her mind and Chat gave her a sly smirk. “Bugatti?”

“NO! I don’t care how sleek and red and beautiful it was! You are NOT nicknaming me for a sports car!” Ladybug took a deep breath.

“Seriously, all it was missing was black spots —“

“No!”

“All right, all right, Bug,” Chat soothed her, grinning. Her impromptu trick had worked, Ladybug was so mad at her now that she’d forgotten she was upset. “Now tell me everything that happened. Leave out no detail.” She gave her a leer to keep her annoyed enough to not go off on a guilt trip again.

Hearing Ladybug’s version of events proved to be so flattering that she felt embarrassed. The way Ladybug had seen it, Marinette had thrown herself into a death-defying leap in spite of mortal danger, then tried to protect Manon with her own body as the second car came at them. Well, she supposed she had. She just hadn’t thought about it.

“...and then I leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek, and, and, she turned her head just that moment and our lips met and...”

“So,” Chat interrupted her, “it was a complete accident, and one you hadn’t meant to cause, and now you feel guilty because you enjoyed it. Right?”

Ladybug blushed again. “Yes.”

Chat sighed. “Listen, Bug,” she told her gently, “I love you, but I don’t actually have a claim on you. We haven’t even agreed on anything. All we’ve had is a few stolen kisses, and much as I’ve enjoyed them, they don’t entitle me to anything.”

“But —“

“No buts. What we are is basically friends with benefits, just without the benefits.” Chat looked into those so beautiful green eyes. “It might become more — I would be very happy if it did — but don’t feel that you owe me anything more than partnership in our work. Paris needs us. That is what really matters.”

Ladybug gulped. “You aren’t mad at me?”

Chat smiled. “Bug, if you think you can make me mad because you have a big heart that is full of love, you have another think coming.” Then she grinned. “If you like girls, that is good. I like girls, too.”

Ladybug nodded and managed a wan smile.

“You know.” Chat sighed. “I’ve had a stressful day, too. Maybe we should put it off?” She turned to look at the Eiffel Tower.

“You won’t mind?” Ladybug sounded worried.

“No, Bug. Be easy.” Chat winked at her. “Call again sometime soon if you like.”

She bounded off, feeling much better. At least Ladybug hadn’t hated their kiss. She did feel wistful, though. It would have been nice to spend an undisturbed hour or two with her.

 

***

 

Adrienne sat in silence for quite a while, watching the slowly darkening sky. “Spots off,” she whispered at last. Her transformation ended, she was back in her stupid boy’s body with its stupid boy’s clothes, and faithful Tikki zoomed free from her earrings.

“Oh Tikki,” she whispered. “What am I going to do?”

Tikki hovered in front of her face. She tilted her head. “Do? Well, let’s start with looking at what you need to do. First, is anyone in trouble right now?”

Adrienne blinked in confusion and looked around. “Er, not what I can see —“

“Good. That means you have time to think. Now think about what happened. You saved a girl’s life, then you kissed, and then you left really fast. Did anyone get hurt?”

“N-no —“

“Try again, Adrienne. Are you sure about that?” Tikki held her gaze.

“I — I — oh God, Tikki.” Adrienne felt like she’d been punched in the gut. “What must Marinette have thought of me? Oh, I am such an idiot.” She covered her face with her hands. “I have to find her, say I’m sorry to her.”

“Yes? For what?” Tikki did a small loop.

“Er, um, for kissing her...”

“Are you sure about that? Seemed to me you enjoyed that kiss a lot.”

Adrienne went red. “Tikki!”

“I am serious. What if she enjoyed that kiss, too? She didn’t exactly seem revolted by it. Imagine how she would react if she’d enjoyed it, and you then apologised for it. Do you think that would make her happy?” Tikki gave her a stern, no-nonsense look. “Tell me, what are you really sorry for?”

“For... for hurting her.”

“That’s better. So what do you say?” The tiny red spirit bobbed up and down as it waited for her answer.

“That... that I loved that kiss, and that I’m sorry I ran off, and that I would like to see more of her if she would like to.” She gulped. “And that I’ll leave her alone if she prefers that.”

“I think you can safely skip that last part. It’s sort of implied by the ‘if she would like to’ you put just before.” Tikki smiled.

“Thanks, Tikki. Now I just have to find her. I bet if she isn’t home, her parents can tell me where she went.” Adrienne stood up. “Tikki, spots on!”

 

***

 

“Bye, Mama! I’ll be back before nine, I’m sure.” Marinette closed the apartment door and set out for the park at a leisurely pace. She still didn’t feel too good about the day’s events, but all things considered it could have gone a whole lot worse. She’d helped save Manon. Ladybug hadn’t actually hated their kiss. And on the whole, not getting hit by a car couldn’t be said to be a bad thing.

When she reached the park, the general good mood there helped to lift her spirits. People there chatted, laughed, ate picnics and played boule. She soon arrived at the playground she and Alya usually visited when they were watching Alya’s sisters, or Marinette was doing babysitting. She felt a slight chill when she passed the carousel where Stormy Weather had trapped Alya and Manon inside a sheet of ice, but forgot about it again when she spotted Alya and Nino ahead. Alya waved at her and Nino smiled.

“Dude! I saw that video of you saving Manon!” Nino called when she drew close. “That was totally awesome!”

Marinette felt her face grow hot. “Um, actually it was Ladybug —“

“Don’t be so modest, M!” Alya laughed. “You did your part. That was going above and beyond, girlfriend.”

Marinette desperately tried to shush them by waving her hands at them but it was already too late. People around them had started to notice her and one little girl pointed at her and loudly told her mother, “That’s her, mama! She and Ladybug saved my friend!”

“Thanks a lot, guys,” Marinette muttered, ducking her head in embarrassment.

“Oh come on, M. You deserve some recognition and I am prouder of you than I can say.” Alya beamed at her and Marinette lifted her head a little, feeling a bit better. “In fact —“ she stopped dead, gaping up and behind her.

Marinette was about to ask what the matter was when she heard a soft impact just behind her. She whirled in surprise and saw a smiling Ladybug twirling her yoyo before she tamed it and fastened it around her waist.

Marinette gaped. “Um?” she squeaked, her hands flying to her throat.

“Hello, mademoiselle Dupain-Cheng. Ah, may I call you Marinette?” Ladybug stepped up to her, still smiling.

“Um, um, uhhh.” Lacking more coherent words she at least managed to nod. She heard a faint snicker from Alya, who was probably already getting footage on that darned camera of hers.

“Marinette...” Ladybug leaned close and lowered her voice. “I’m so sorry I left the way I did. I, er, sort of panicked.” She blushed and looked to the side for a moment. “I’m grateful to you, and, um, I would like to see more of you. Um. If you’d like me to.” She looked back at her, seeming worried, even... afraid?

Marinette felt her pulse pound in her ears. She could barely breathe. After a far too long silence she finally managed to make her voice work again.

“I’d love to,” she breathed.

Ladybug’s face lit up like a small sun. She smiled at Marinette. Marinette felt she could look forever at that smile.

Then their lips met again, and this time neither of them drew back from the kiss.

The people around them whistled and cheered. Dozens of camera phones snapped pictures and recorded film. Neither girl paid them any heed.

Then Ladybug snapped off her yoyo again and launched into the air with Marinette, one arm around her. Marinette held tight to the girl she loved, happier than she’d ever been before. Alya and Nino waved at them as they went, both grinning from ear to ear.

Chapter Text

Marinette hummed happily to herself as she walked to school. She’d gotten a lot of backlogged fashion ideas set into motion this weekend, she had finished a very pressing essay on time and best of all spent two hours every evening together with her new girlfriend. Who had admittedly come as a bit of a surprise to her parents being 1) female and 2) a famous superheroine. They had both come through in style, happily, though her father had seemed a bit bemused.

She hoped Adrienne hadn’t had too hard a time this weekend. Back-to-back photoshoots didn’t sound fun. She trusted that they had at least let her have a few hours free. But from the looks of it, it couldn’t have been too bad. Adrienne seemed chipper enough when Marinette spotted her, chatting happily with Nino just outside the entrance to school. She waved at them as she skipped into school, though tripping over the threshold and almost falling on her face while windmilling her arms did kind of spoil her entrance. She blushed a little at their relieved laughter but still giggled herself. She ignored Plagg’s sotto voce complaints from her handbag that she had ruined his nap and ought to be more careful of him.

Her good mood came to an abrupt end when she entered class and saw Alya already sitting at their desk. The brown-haired girl sat glaring at her phone with her lips flattened into a thin line, swiping ferociously at the display. Then she set it down in front of her, took a deep breath and slumped.

“Um... Alya?” Marinette bit her lip.

Alya jumped. “Marinette!” She smiled, but it looked forced to Mari. “How are you doing, girl?”

“Fine. Um, what was all that about?”

“Never you mind, my fine friend.” Alya sounded firm. “That’s all dealt with and we have more important stuff to discuss.”

“Like what?” Marinette sat down next to her.

Alya lowered her voice. “M, I can guess a bit about what happened after we parted ways last Friday. I’d love an interview, but there is something more important we’ll have to deal with first.”

Marinette blinked. Something more important than the Ladyblog? “...are you all right, Alya?”

A flash of irritation crossed Alya’s face. “I’m not kidding, girl! This could be —“

“Heeeeeeeey! The conquering heroine is here!” a boisterous voice called out.

Alya groaned as Lê Chiên Kim walked into the class with a broad grin on his face, trailed by Max Kanté who was frowning at his calculator and a cheerful Alix Kubdel who waved at Marinette and smiled. But she also mouthed something that looked like a warning and jabbed her thumb at Kim.

Kim leaned toward Marinette, spread his hands on the table in front of her and grinned. “Not bad, that stunt of yours, not bad. With some proper training you might even get pretty decent.” Behind him Alix rolled her eyes. Alya shook her head, clearly still not past her earlier anger.

Marinette blushed, hoping that Ms. Mendeliev would arrive soon. Most of the class already had. In this kind of mood Kim could be insufferable. “I — I am not really planning to make a habit of this kind of thing, Kim.”

“Oh all right. That wasn’t what I wanted to talk about anyway.” He waggled his eyebrows at her. “So, Ladybug — good kisser, is she? Did you get to try her in bed?”

The entire class gasped. Alya clenched her fists, Max winced and Alix’s glare turned into naked fury. Marinette felt the blood drain from her face and her pulse pound in her ears. And then an icy voice cut through the hubbub.

“Really, Kim. I am used to you acting the caveman, but today you are going above and beyond. Disgusting, utterly disgusting.”

Every eye in the class turned to Chloé Burgeois, who was studying her face in the mirror of her compact as if it were beneath her dignity to even look at Kim. Marinette gaped at her. Kim himself looked flabbergasted and turned toward Chloé.

“Look, Chloé, I just wanted to —“

“Act like a complete pig.” Chloé made a minute adjustment to one eyebrow with a pencil, nodded in satisfaction and closed the compact with a snap. Then she turned icy eyes on the hapless jock. “Ladybug has a right to both privacy and a love life, Kim, and she does not need an oafish clod like you poking into them. I suggest you go find some other sty to wallow in. And I should hope even Dupain-Cheng has the sense to not gossip like an idiot about Ladybug’s secrets.”

Kim looked outraged and seemed about to answer but then Alix elbowed him in the side. Hard.

“You said way too much already, Kim. Zip it.”

“But —“ Kim looked around and realised that every single other person in the class eyed him with hostile expressions. He fell silent.

“Kim.” Max looked at his friend, then back at his calculator. “When the entire class is siding with Chloé against you, I calculate a ninety nine point nine nine nine nine...” his lips moved for a moment, “eight more nines percent chance that you have, what is the technical expression, ‘done fucked up.’”

“Right, right, sorry about that, no offense intended...” Kim deflated and retreated to his seat with Max on his heels. Alix gave Marinette a small smile in support as she went past. Alya looked down and stared at her still-clenched fists. Marinette felt her own pulse slow and sagged.

“I’m sorry, Alya, but Chloé is right. I really can’t give interviews about Ladybug. Not even to you.” She felt miserable.

“Ugh. And I am agreeing with her.” Alya put a hand on her forehead. “This is the worst day.”

Nino and Adrienne entered the classroom and looked at their classmates in puzzlement, but before they could ask any questions Ms. Mendielev arrived. They rushed to seat themselves and then class commenced. During class Marinette had trouble concentrating; she felt relieved when it finally ended. But not for long, unfortunately.

Chloé rose and walked to face Marinette. “I need a word with you, Dupain-Cheng.” She tsked. “First I have to say, though, saving that girl was not too badly done. I suppose you aren’t entirely useless. I could have done it better, of course.”

“Yeah, you just wouldn’t have,” Alya muttered, glaring at her in suspicion. Chloé ignored her.

Marinette blinked in confusion. That had almost sounded like what passed for a compliment from Chloé. In fact, from her it was positively effusive. “...so what do you want, Chloé?”

The blonde girl frowned. “Ladybug made a bad mistake.”

Alya erupted. “Now that’s going WAY too far, Ch —“

“Shut up, Césaire. I am not talking about Dupain-Cheng.” Behind Chloé, Nino and Adrienne now paid close attention. “I am talking about Ladybug approaching her and kissing her in full public with dozens of cameras on them, yours included. Incidentally, Césaire, you will make an excellent journalist, you posted your footage without either hesitation or care for the privacy of your friend. I congratulate you.” Alya recoiled in shock while Chloé forged on. “Every paparazzo in Paris will have been hunting Dupain-Cheng all weekend. I am astounded they have not already found her. Between Kim, school gossip and social media I suspect they will be besieging the school long before today’s classes are over.”

Marinette paled. Alya rallied and snarled, “And what do you care?”

“About Dupain-Cheng? Nothing at all. About Ladybug? A good deal and I would rather not have her distressed by having her paramour harassed by those vultures.” Chloé tossed her ponytail and looked away.

“Chloé... Chloé is right.” Adrienne spoke up, her face pale. “That was stupid of Ladybug. I can’t imagine what she was thinking.”

“I imagine she wasn’t.” Chloé sighed, studying a fingernail. “But then, love can turn anyone stupid. Except for me, of course.”

“So what do we do?” Marinette whispered.

“I have a plan.”

They all turned to stare in surprise at Nino, even Chloé.

“Look, this is no different from ordinary security at a concert, right?” he explained. “And I’ve helped do that. We have our rock star —“ he indicated Marinette, “and we need to keep her safe from fans and paparazzi. First we get Mr. Hapréle — you go do that, babe — and warn him we have a situation. He will get school staff to watch the entrances.”

“On it!” Alya dashed off, looking determined.

“Next, we need an inner perimeter.” He looked at the rest of the class who had all followed the discussion in fascination. “Guys, I could use some help here.”

The eager clamour of volunteers that followed made Marinette blush in embarrassment, but it also cheered her and warmed her heart. Nino gathered them around himself and started to share out assignments from his tablet.

“Dude, no. You’re a secondary target. You can’t do perimeter work,” he told a protesting Adrienne.

“He’s right, Adrikins, but step over with me. I have a plan we can use if needed.” Chloé pulled Adrienne with her ino a corner. Adrienne listened to her, then nodded in determination. Meanwhile Nino’s volunteers started to head off, some singly, others in pairs. Marinette felt a bit dizzy from all this activity as well as singularly useless.

Alya returned, a sheen of light sweat on her forehead and out of breath. “I found him. He said he is on it and would inform Mr. Damocles.”

“Sweet!” Nino smiled at her. “Now, babe, I am giving you the very most important job. You are Marinette’s personal bodyguard and last line of defence. Stick to her like glue.”

Alya smiled and gave him a thumbs up, then collapsed into her seat and took deep breaths. Once she had recovered a bit she turned to Marinette and looked at her. “Mari, I am really sorry —“

Marinette hugged her. “Sh. It’s all right. We live and learn.”

Alya hugged her back looking like she was about to cry from relief.

 

***

 

Adrienne had to struggle not to bite her nails. She’d started to do that at one point after her mother vanished, but it had made her father furious. She hadn’t dared to ever since.

As it turned out, Chloé’s warning had come just in time. Mr. Hapréle had had all the side entrances locked and he and the gym teacher had taken up positions at the main entrance moments before several paparazzi arrived in a group to start nosing about. They had tried to shove their way past but an outraged Mr. Damocles had threatened to call the police on them. One paparazzo had managed to get in first but Nino’s perimeter spotted him and set Ms. Mendeliev on him. Faced with her fury, the man prudently elected to flee and left the school pursued by her angry promises to have him arrested if she ever saw him on school grounds again.

By now, however, a growing pack of paparazzi had settled down to besiege the school, most of them at the main entrance but some covering the sides and back. In response Chloé called her father and convinced him to send gendarmes to help keep the unwanted visitors out. Not long after a squad led by lieutenant Raincomprix arrived to reinforce Mr. Hapréle and his defenders. In the meantime Nino’s volunteers continued to prove their worth by catching two teens who did not even attend the school asking around for Marinette and having them led out. They also politely but firmly dissuaded actual students from pestering her though they did pass on a lot of well-wishing and supportive messages.

Marinette had called home and informed a distressed Sabine Cheng what was going on. She’d learned from her mother that a small handful of suspicious people with cameras were lurking outside the bakery but had so far not attempted to enter. Her father had wanted to go take a rolling pin to them but Sabine managed to keep him from rash action.

But now classes were about to come to an end and they had to get Marinette safely home. Nino had a plan for that, too. He’d selected Chloé’s scheme as the opening act and she and Adrienne were about to put it into action.

The first part went off without a hitch. As students started to trickle out, the Mayor’s limousine arrived at the entrance and caused several startled camera vultures to scatter. Then Chloé and Adrienne dashed out arm in arm laughing and giggling. Chloé gave Adrienne a kiss on the cheek, they both jumped into the limo and it drove off at a leisurely speed. More than half the by now bored and frustrated paparazzi swallowed this juicy bait hook, line and sinker and took off after them. Then the limo turned a corner, Adrienne and Chloé abandoned it to jump into the car Adrienne’s bodyguard waited for them in, and the limo driven by Butler Jean led the unsuspecting pack of paparazzi onward on a fruitless chase. Safe behind the Agreste car’s tinted windows Adrienne called Nino to report success while Chloé sat giggling.

That was when Bad Decoy Marinette went out, basically consisting of Sabrina wearing a too-large hoodie and flanked by Alix and Kim, the three of them making a run for the Metro. Only a few paparazzi took the bait, most of the less bright ones already having pursued the Mayor’s limo, and just one or two smart ones following in case this was the actual Marinette disguised as a bad decoy.

Good Decoy Marinette — Juleka wearing Mari’s clothes, her hair tied in pigtails and flanked by most of her remaining classmates — came next, leaving by one of the side exits. They drew off the paparazzi there and the ones at the front entrance caught wind of it. Most of them followed, too.

After all that confusion, no-one noticed when Marinette wearing Juleka’s clothes and her hair tied in a bun instead of her normal pigtails left by that same side exit flanked by Rose and Alya.

Adrienne breathed a sigh of relief when Nino texted her and told her that Marinette had made it safely to Alya’s home without being noticed and that she’d been invited for a sleepover there.

“We just have to be on guard for a week or two, Adrikins,” Chloé assured her airily. “Then something else will happen and the little baker’s daughter will be forgotten again. I am sure she will be happier then, too.”

Adrienne sighed. “I hope you are right.”

 

***

 

The crisis point came three days later.

Inventive distractions created by Nino, Chloé and even Kim (who convinced the entire soccer team of the Collège Françoise Dupont to help in one plan) had helped to thwart the paparazzi to the point that none of them had managed to even get close to Marinette. Many of them had given the whole thing up as a bad job. But the most stubborn of them persisted. And when school finished that day, Adrienne had an ugly suspicion that they might be on the verge of doing something nasty. I’m going to have Ladybug be on guard today, she thought. Just in case.

She selected a perch on a roof with a good view of the Dupain bakery. After a few minutes she decided she’d been right. The handful of paparazzi there didn’t lurk scattered about the way they usually did. They stood gathered in a group, talking and gesticulating. They were clearly up to something.

Her eyes narrowed. They headed around to the side of the building to the fire escape. They were clearly planning to climb it, and it would let them reach Marinette’s balcony and the trapdoor that led to her room. Either they knew she’d gotten home already (today she had returned disguised as a flour delivery girl) or they had guessed she had.

She waited until three of them had gotten up on the ladder and started climbing, then she launched her yoyo and let it pull her to the upper part of the ladder. She perched there and aimed a knife sharp smile down at the intruders.

“Really, boys?” She waggled a finger at them. “This is home invasion, you know.”

The upper photographer blanched and tried to climb down again. The one just below him hissed, “Stop, you imbecile! Think of the pictures!”

Ladybug showed a flash of teeth, then climbed a couple of rungs further down.

“You can’t do this!” a paparazzo still standing on the sidewalk yelled at her. “We aren’t doing anything illegal!”

You aren’t,” Ladybug agreed. “Your friends on the ladder? Not so much.” She descended another three rungs, head downwards, and the topmost paparazzo on the ladder panicked, lost his grip and pulled the other two with him. Ladybug launched her yoyo, caught them all three in a net woven from its string and lowered them to the ground unhurt. Then she dropped down to face them all, recalling her yoyo to her hand.

The topmost climber didn’t say a word but just got to his feet and ran in terror. For some reason, something wet dripped from one of his trouser legs and left a trail behind him.

Ladybug whizzed her yoyo. “I really think you should follow your friend, guys.” She gave them a hard look.

“You can’t threaten us, Ladybug!” a paparazzo sneered. “You are supposed to be a superhero.” He aimed his camera at her.

“Yeah!” a second paparazzo agreed, also filming. “We aren’t doing anything wrong. You have no evidence.” The two last climbers got to their feet with ugly expressions and also readied their cameras.

Damn, she thought. They’re right. I should have snapped pictures of them climbing — “Are you sure of that?” she bluffed, giving them another edged smile. She kept whizzing her yoyo and stood her ground. They actually hesitated a moment.

“You’re not going to attack us,” the first paparazzo sneered. “You aren’t scaring us.”

She clenched her teeth. He’s right, blast him —

“CATACLYSM!”

Chat Noir dropped down from above, landing just behind them. The pulsating claws on his right hand struck two, three, four times, leaving a trail of shadow behind them. Four very expensive cameras all turned dead black and quietly dissolved to ash.

Chat did a backflip and landed between Ladybug and the shocked paparazzi. His leather ears lay flat against his head and he actually hissed. His tail-belt stood straight up, its tip going slowly from side to side, and he crouched as if about to pounce.

“You’re right, boys. Ladybug won’t hurt you. She is a nice girl.” He raised clawed hands. “Me? Not so much. I’m bad. I am a bad cat.”

The paparazzi stared at him, looking stunned.

“Leave,” he said, his voice very quiet. Ladybug gaped in in amazement, his shoulders were actually going up and down.

The four cameraless photographers turned around and fled.

Chaton!” Ladybug reached out to touch his shoulder and the tension seemed to slowly leave him. “That was marvelous. Thank you. I — I just hope you won’t get into trouble for this.”

He turned his blue cat eyes on her and smiled. “I’m always in trouble, Bug. I’ll muddle through somehow.” He winked.

She hugged him. “I hope so, kitty. Now get your tail out of here before you turn back. I can take it from here.”

He laughed. “Right you are!” With a staff-assisted hop he vanished past the rooftop above.

Ladybug sighed and looked around. There didn’t seem to be any paparazzi left in the vicinity —

“Ladybug?” Marinette’s head peeked out from the balcony above. “Is everything all right?”

Her heart leapt, and she quickly scampered up the side of the building to join her. “Yes, I think so. For now, at least.”

Marinette smiled at her. “Want to join me inside for some tea, then?”

Ladybug put a kiss on Mari’s cheek and smiled back. “Sounds perfect.”

They climbed down into her room together.

Chapter Text

Marinette hummed to herself in contentment as she entered the classroom. She’d arrived before Alya today for a change, she realised. She smiled her thanks to Alix and Kim as she seated herself, they had helped her slip past the few remaining paparazzi on her way inside. They smiled back and headed for their own seats, already arguing with and elbowing each other. Marinette’s smile widened. They might not be a couple, but their friendship ranked among the cutest she had ever seen.

Alya finally arrived shortly before class began, yawning and appearing exhausted. Marinette frowned as her friend sat down next to her. Somewhat shakily applied makeup only partly concealed bags beneath Alya’s eyes and her normally impeccable hairdo bordered on being in disarray. “Goodness, Alya. Didn’t you get enough sleep last night?” Ahead of them both Nino and Adrienne gave Alya concerned looks.

“Not really.” Alya let out a huge yawn. “Was on social media half the night.”

Marinette patted her on her shoulder and smiled. “Silly girl. Social media will eat your life.”

“No, it wasn’t like that —“ Alya began, but then Ms. Mendeliev entered, cleared her throat and looked around at everybody, and the whole class fell silent. Alya actually looked relieved and Marinette wondered why, but put it out of her mind. Math class beckoned.

She’d pretty much forgotten Alya’s odd comments already by the time their double math lesson ended and everybody had begun the usual recess chatter. She’d just cleared her books away and packed them into her bag when she heard the funny voice of Max’s little electronic friend Markov.

“— I do not quite understand why anyone would refer to Adrien as a ‘faggot’, Max. Is a faggot not a piece of wood used as a primitive heating source through combustion?”

Dead silence fell while Max made desperate shushing gestures at the tiny floating robot. Marinette paled. Then Chloé’s voice rang out a whole octave above its normal level. “What?” Next to her, Sabrina recoiled in shock.

Markov turned his eyes on Chloé in mild befuddlement. “I apologise for causing you agitation. I am merely quoting a rather odd Twitter post I can not ma —“

Chloé jumped to her feet. “Tell me who made it this instant, robot!”

Markov blinked. “Of course, mademoiselle. Please hold up your phone to me and I shall relay it.” Chloé did so, her mouth compressed into a thin line, and then glared at her phone and began to swipe at it in outrage.

Marinette turned toward Adrienne; the poor girl sat frozen, her face pale and her eyes wide. Nino looked indignant. “Merde. What kind of thing is that to say? And what sort of person would say that about Adrien, and why?” he all but snarled.

Max turned an unhappy expression at Nino and fumbled with his glasses. “I — I happened to notice some new pictures of Adrien online and took a look. He was modeling earrings. The — some of the comments looked pretty gross.” He gulped. “I forgot to tell Markov not to discuss it. I’m sorry.”

Adrienne rubbed a hand across her forehead. “Don’t apologise, Max. You didn’t make those comments and Markov didn’t know better.” Her voice hardened. “I will not allow this to affect either my friends or our classes. I would like to ask you all to please not rise to the bait —“

Just then Chloé let out a loud screech of sheer fury and smashed her phone into the table over and over again. The horrified Sabrina put a hand on Chloé’s shoulder, but Chloé shook Sabrina off and kept hammering the hapless device down again and again until it snapped in half. Only then did she stop, panting for breath. Markov, Marinette noted, had prudently hidden behind Max in the meantime.

“Your phone, Chloé!” Sabrina gasped.

“Daddy will buy me a new one.” Chloé tossed her head and sniffed.

Adrienne just sighed.

As the excitement died, Marinette turned her attention to Alya who had remained silent throughout it all. “All right, Alya.” She kept her voice quiet. “This social media thing of yours. It’s related to this, isn’t it.”

Alya bit her lip and nodded, her eyes downcast. “...yes. Adrien did come up. Peripherally.”

“Peripherally.” Marinette’s voice went flat. “You mean, you were dealing with the same kind of thing, only about me and Ladybug. And you didn’t tell me.”

“I meant to, only this paparazzi thing came up and you already had enough on your plate...” Alya faltered.

“Oh Alya.” Marinette gave her a fierce hug. “I’m not angry with you. I’m unhappy that you’ve had to deal with this alone all week, and furious because you had to deal with this at all.”

“Marinette —“

“Shhh. Just take it easy. We’ll manage this. Somehow.”

Alya gave in and hugged Marinette back.

 

School seemed to drag on forever. When the bell rang at the end of the last class that day, Marinette went limp with relief. She poked Adrienne as soon as she got the chance to.

“Hey Adrien. Think you’ll have the chance to drop by this weekend? My parents will be gone most of the time.”

“I’m sorry. It’s another photoshoot weekend.” Adrienne sighed, then brightened. “But I have fencing practice today if you want to watch. And maybe time for a few games of Mecha Strike 3 when I am done.”

Marinette smiled. “Sounds good!”

 

***

 

Marinette sighed as she threw herself on her bed. It had been such a confusing afternoon.

Fencing practice had gone just fine until that Kagami girl arrived and made her challenge to join Monsieur d’Argencourt’s classes. Because of the heated emotions Kagami ended up possessed by another of Hawk Moth’s demonic butterflies, became the supervillain Riposte, and Chat Noir had been forced to intercede to save Adrienne from Riposte’s fury. Fortunately Ladybug had arrived just in time to save the day.

That wasn’t why Marinette felt so confused, though. For some reason Adrienne all of a sudden seemed super hot to her while she was Chat Noir.

It weren’t as if she wasn’t aware Adrienne was hot. She’d noticed that from day one. She’d just never been, um, interested in him that way before. Not even as Chat Noir. Admittedly, earlier she had never spent more than a few moments as Chat in Adrienne’s vicinity and never so intimately as she had this time carrying her around — she blushed crimson at the memory. She’d had an actual erection holding Adrienne as Chat. Which was awkward, scary and... and fascinating, darn it.

But she didn’t want to think about it just now. It was just that she couldn’t seem to stop.

 

***

 

Adrienne wished she could somehow turn time forward and magically make it Monday. She didn’t actually object to weekend photo shots, but she had done so many of them the past two months. And they had gotten harder after she realised that she was a girl. She needed to be manly Adrien full time while on set and the pretense — for that was what it was — had grown into a grinding burden. She wanted some time with Marinette, darn it. And not just as Ladybug. Ladybug represented a huge escape for her, but Marinette... Marinette let her be a girl when she was herself, too.

And then there was Chat Noir.

Adrienne liked Chat Noir. She kept several pictures and posters of the feline hero in her room. And being Ladybug together with him felt exhilarating. Their few stolen moments of flirting and kisses just had been so much fun. But today, actually being Adrienne with him...

Wow. Just wow.

Someone knocked at one of the doors to her room; Adrienne recognised Nathalie’s habitual pattern. “Come in, please.”

Nathalie poked her head inside. “Your father wants to see you, Adrien.”

“Coming!” She scrambled to her feet.

 

“Adrien.” As usual her father stood with his back to her, facing the portrait of her mother.

“Father.” Adrienne shifted from one foot to the other and struggled not to bite her lip. Her father hated when she did that. She kept her hands behind her back, twisting her fingers together. Nathalie stood at her side, her face bland as always.

“I have unfortunate news.” To Adrienne’s surprise he turned toward her, a distant frown on his face. “It seems illness has broken out at the shooting site you were supposed to go to this weekend. More than half the involved crew lies bedridden.”

Adrienne blinked. “That’s awful. How serious is it?”

“Bad enough. At the moment it is believed to be a new strain of the flu.” Gabriel sighed and adjusted his glasses. “Clearly you cannot be expected to attend under these circumstances. And I am afraid it will be difficult to adjust your schedule at such short notice.”

Adrienne’s heart leaped in her chest. “Um, maybe I could visit my friend Marinette Dupain-Cheng and practice my Chinese?”

“Dupain-Cheng?” Her father frowned. “I remember that name... ah yes, the young amateur designer. She is quite talented. I did not know she spoke Chinese.”

“She is fluent. In Mandarin, that is. She says her Cantonese is shaky at best.” Adrienne smiled hopefully. “She learned from her mother.”

“I don’t know...” Gabriel wavered.

“Sir.” Nathalie lifted an eyebrow. “May I remind you, Adrien’s schedule has demanded a lot of him for some time now. Perhaps it would not be out of place to loosen it up a little for this weekend at least.”

“Oh, very well. I suppose you have a point.” Gabriel sighed and turned back to the painting. “You may visit your friend, Adrien.”

“Thank you, father. Thank you, Nathalie!” Adrienne dashed off, eager to call Marinette, and didn’t notice the rare faint smile that played around Nathalie’s lips for just a moment.

 

***

 

Marinette finished setting the table and called, “Papa! Mama! Dinner is ready!”

“Excellent!” Tom Dupain’s voice boomed. “I am so hungry I could eat a horse!” Her father entered the dining room and seated his bulk in front of the table. His chair let out a rather alarming creak but managed to hold up under his weight. 

Sabine Cheng followed close behind and sat down next to him, smiling. “What’s for dinner, dear?”

“Spaghetti Bolognese with sautéed mushrooms in white wine.” Marinette smiled back.

“Oooh, perfect!” Tom beamed his approval.

They sat and ate in contented silence for a while. Then Marinette made a decision. “Uh, mama?”

“Yes, dear?” Sabine raised her eyebrows.

“Have you ever heard about boys who wanted to be girls, or the other way around?” I need to find out what Mama and Papa think about this. I need to know how safe Adrienne is here.

“Hmmm.” Sabine frowned in thought. “Yes, I have. It is more common than you’d think. My grandfather Li Cheng spoke of it as souls being born into the wrong bodies. He was a devout Buddhist, of course. In less religious terms it is called being transgender.” She looked grave. “And this is important, Marinette — it is not ‘boys wanting to be girls’ or ‘girls wanting to be boys’. We are talking about boys who look like girls and get treated like girls, but who still want to be recognised as boys. And the other way around, obviously.”

Marinette frowned and nodded. “I see, Mama. Do you know anyone like that?” She wove spaghetti around her fork and speared a meatball on it.

“I do indeed. A good person born in a girl’s body who fought long and hard to be recognised as a man.” Sabine sighed. “Many people have some very wrongheaded ideas about this both here and in China. I helped him with his struggles to survive.”

“It isn’t even necessarily an all-or-nothing thing,” Tom chimed in. “I know a woman who says she is happy enough thinking of herself as female but still feels more like a man in some ways. She always wears men’s clothes and likes masculine colognes.” Then he frowned. “She has very active facial hair — that isn’t all that unusual either. People gave her a lot of trouble for that. Then one day she got fed up and decided to grow a moustachio just to show them how little she cared, and she ended up loving it.”

Marinette blinked. “Really? How did it look?”

Her father’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, Mari. I almost cannot express my feelings of horror when I saw it fully grown.” He leaned forward and whispered, “It looked so much better than mine!”

Sabine laughed and Marinette giggled. “I would like to meet her someday, Papa. She sounds marvelous.”

Tom set down his glass and smiled. “She is. And you might. She lives in Marseilles these days, mind you, but she is a good friend and would probably come here if we invited her.”

“She was a bridesmaid when we got married,” Sabine added. “She looked magnificent in her tuxedo and with that moustache.”

“And all in vain, because it was your mama people looked at.” Tom gave Sabine a fond smile. “At least, I did.”

“Oh you.” Sabine giggled, then turned serious and looked at Marinette with a grave expression. “Why do you ask, ma cherie? Is there something you need to talk about?”

Marinette blushed brick red. “Um... not now. I mean, not really. Um. I was just looking for some answers.”

Sabine nodded, then gave her a smile again. “All right, Mari. But always feel free to ask.”

 

After dinner Marinette went to her room and checked her phone. She noticed some messages from Adrienne and checked them.

Hey Mari! I have awesome news. I am free the whole weekend!

Are you still free to meet up?

I would really like to.

Marinette smiled and tapped out her response.

Yes, I am free, and I would love to see you.

My parents leave early in the afternoon and will be gone until Sunday evening.

We could even have a sleepover if you like.

She waited a bit, then Adrienne’s answers rolled in.

I don’t know if Father will buy the sleepover, but I’ll ask.

Are you sure your parents will be okay with this?

Yes. They like you and trust you, and I made sure to ask them before I even invited you.

Oh. Of course. Now I feel silly for asking.

You weren’t being silly. It was only sensible of you to make sure.

All right. Ten o’clock tomorrow?

That works. See you!

See you!

Marinette smiled, then saw a message from Alya asking if she wanted to attend a concert Saturday evening and one from Juleka asking for some fashion advice. She regretfully declined Alya’s invitation, sent Juleka some suggestions and then set the phone aside. Then she looked at her sewing machine and cracked her knuckles. “All right. You and me, we have some serious work to do.”

 

***

 

Adrienne jumped out of the car and waved goodbye to her grim-faced bodyguard. After he drove off, she pressed the doorbell to the side entrance of the Dupain-Cheng residence with a song in her heart. Half a minute later Marinette opened the door smiling in greeting.

“Welcome! Come on in.” She stepped aside to allow Adrienne entry, then closed the door.

“Hello, Adrien!” Tom boomed, poking his head out from the bakery. “Thank you for coming to help our Mari practice her Chinese! She complains she doesn’t get to use it enough and I am useless at it.”

 Adrienne smiled, blushing a little. “Please, monsieur Dupain. It is me who is grateful. Thank you so much for your hospitality.”

“Mama is busy in the store,” Marinette explained. “Go up ahead, I’ll snatch some croissants and something to drink — if I don’t, Mama and Papa will be pestering us with trays full of stuff to eat all morning!” She giggled.

Adrienne smiled and went ahead, already feeling better. The Dupain-Cheng home felt so soothing to her. Maybe that was just Marinette, but... she liked Sabine and Tom. She felt more relaxed around them than most others.

When she climbed into Marinette’s room, she immediately noticed the three dresses Marinette had laid out on the bed. She recognised the first one, the blue, white and yellow outfit she had worn the last time she’d visited as herself. The second... she stared at it for a few moments, then had to take a deep breath.

The skirt and midriff shone a rich verdant green. Then a lighter green rim, and past it it flared a warm pink that swifly graded into red and then a deep rose red. The overall and obviously calculated effect made the dress appear like a rose in bloom.

She turned her attention to the third dress, then stared again.

For a few moments she could almost believe that Marinette had somehow extracted fabric from the morning sky itself. The bottom of the dress almost shimmered with the mauve of departing night, rising up through the colours of dawn until it reached a pastel blue at the throat.

Adrienne had seen far more advanced and intricate designs by professionals, not to mention craftmasters like her father or Audrey Burgeois. But Marinette’s amateur simplicity still breathed with a joie de vivre and love of art that held her spellbound. And Marinette hadn’t even attended art school yet.

Adrienne couldn’t wait to see what her friend would make when she had.

“Do you like them?” Marinette sounded shy, hesitant. Adrienne nearly jumped; she hadn’t even heard her enter.

“I love them.” She smiled at Marinette, then switched to Mandarin. “<You are very talented. Did you really make them just for me?>”

“<Yes, these are for you, made to your measurements.>” Marinette smiled, a faint blush warming her cheeks. “<And you deserve it. Especially since you... aren’t ready to go buy your own yet. I am very glad I can help.>”

Adrienne hugged her. “<Thank you. Thank you so much.>”

“<There’s more.>” Marinette went to her closet and took out several new sets of panties, pantyhose, and three odd-looking bras. She looked anxious as she held out the latter. “<I made these for your, um, chest. I kind of had to guess at how to make them for you and actual, um, inserts cost more than I had at that point. So you have to settle for handmade.>”

Adrienne stood speechless for a moment. Then she hugged Marinette again with tears in her eyes. “<Mari... you must have spent so much time on this. I... I can’t...>” She sobbed.

Marinette hugged her back, her eyes widening in alarm. “<No... no, please don’t cry! I wanted to make you happy, not — >”

“<I am happy! It’s just so much more... you’re a better friend than I deserve.>” Adrienne’s tears flowed freely now.

Marinette’s gaze softened, then she gave Adrienne a gentle squeeze. “<Well, you are stuck with me. So deal with it, sweetie.>” She kept murmuring soothing words until Adrienne finally calmed down again.

 

(Writer’s note: As the extra brackets are driving me insane, please assume all dialogue in the following section occurs in Mandarin Chinese. Thank you.)

 

“Okay, I think we could both use some tea and croissants now, and I set up the tea table downstairs. Come on.” Marinette took Adrienne’s hand and tugged her along down the trap door. “You’ll feel better when you have a few of Papa’s best chocolate croissants inside you.”

Adrienne didn’t require much persuasion and soon after they sat sipping tea and munching croissants. A little later only crumbs remained on the tray, the pastries all having fallen victim to teen appetites.

Adrienne leaned back with a contented sigh. “That was amazing. I don’t know how your father does it.”

Marinette smiled proudly. “He is very good. I have learned so much from him.” Then she leaned forward. “Speaking of my parents, I had an interesting chat with them last night.”

Adrien sat up again. “Yes?”

“I asked them if they knew anything about people who didn’t feel like the gender they looked like. Don’t worry, I didn’t mention you at all,” she hurried to add when she saw Adrienne start to turn pale. “I think Mama was wondering whether I might feel like that.”

An odd mixture of relief and concern crossed Adrienne’s face. “Good. I mean, I hope that won’t be a problem.”

Marinette smiled. “It shouldn’t be. But the important part is...” She proceeded to relate the whole discussion. Adrienne listened with clear fascination.

“There’s an actual name for what I am? Transgender?” She blinked, looking stunned. “That... that is really good to know.”

Marinette nodded. “Yes. I looked it up on the Internet and there’s tons of stuff about it. But some of it is written by some mean and scary people I think we shouldn’t listen to. And be very careful of.”

“I see.” Adrienne closed her eyes and took some deep steadying breaths, then looked at Marinette again. “Why did you ask them?”

Marinette bit her lip. “I wanted to know if you were safe here. We don’t have to tell them anything. But I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t flip out if they found out by accident.”

Adrienne nodded, paling a bit again. “That was probably a good idea. I’m glad you found out.”

“I don’t think they would tell anyone even if they did find out.” Marinette put her hand on Adrienne’s. “And in two or three hours we will have the place to ourselves for the rest of the weekend. You’re safe, sweetie.”

Adrienne gave her a wan smile, then took a deep breath, clearly struggling to relax.

Marinette climbed to her feet, crossed to Adrienne’s side of the table and hugged her from behind. “You’re safe here, sweetie. You’re safe,” she whispered.

Adrienne took Marinette’s hands in her own and clung to them. “Thank you,” she whispered back.

At last Marinette stepped back and gave Adrienne’s shoulders a gentle squeeze. “I should go down and help Mama and Papa close the store and clean. They want to leave early. You can go to my room, make yourself comfortable.”

Adrienne nodded. “Thanks.”

 

***

 

Adrienne studied the three dresses, then made up her mind. First she got out of the boy’s clothes she normally had to wear, folding them with care born from long habit. Then she put on the hand-sewn panties, luxuriating in their feel and fit. Then the pantyhose — store-bought ones — then one of the special bras, and at last the dress in pastels that reminded her of the morning sky. Everything fitted her to near perfection. When she turned to examine herself in Marinette’s full length mirror, she could barely recognise herself.

It felt wonderful. And she had all weekend like this ahead of her.

She turned around, trying to see herself from all angles. While studying herself in the mirror, she noticed yet another dress lying next to Marinette’s sewing machine, this one a bright red with Ladybug black spots. It looked unfinished, though.

A tapping came from beneath the trapdoor. “Okay, the store is closed and Mama and Papa just left for the train,” Marinette’s voice sounded. “Is it okay if I come in? My phone is in there.”

“Go right ahead! I’m decent.”

Marinette opened the trapdoor and climbed up, brightening when she saw Adrienne in the dress. “Do you like it? How does it fit?”

“I love it, and perfectly.” Adrienne smiled, then looked at the unfinished dress by the sewing machine. “You amaze me, Mari. Don’t you ever stop working?”

“Oh!” Marinette fumbled her phone and almost dropped it but Adrienne caught it in time and handed it back to her. “That one is for Ladybug. I’m, I’m having to sort of guess at the measurements. I don’t think it would fit you.” Mari blushed a bright red.

“I’m sure she will love it, Marinette.” Adrienne felt a bit red-faced herself. “Let’s head downstairs.”

“Oh, I hope so.” Marinette led the way down. “She is wonderful. I have no idea what she sees in me.” She sounded fretful.

Adrienne’s ears started to burn. “Um, maybe she sees the brave girl who risked her life to protect the child she was babysitting?” She tried to think of a subject change. “Oh by the way, still having paparazzi troubles?”

“Not around here, no.” Marinette visibly relaxed. “After Ladybug and Chat Noir scared that bunch off, they stopped coming. If there’s any left, they are hiding well.”

Adrienne drew a sharp breath before she could stop herself, then hoped Marinette didn’t notice. Which of course she did.

“Er, did I say something wrong, Adrienne?” Marinette stopped and turned worried eyes on her.

“No, no. It’s just... I met Chat Noir yesterday...” Adrienne tried to take hold of herself.

Marinette blinked. “Oh yes, there was something on the news.” She sounded a bit breathless for some reason. “He didn’t do anything inappropriate, did he?”

“No no! It wasn’t anything like that at all!” Adrienne’s face seemed to grow hotter by the moment. “It’s just —“ she stopped dead.

“Just what?” Marinette sounded concerned, almost distressed. Adrienne realised she couldn’t just leave Mari hanging. This was her best friend, darn it.

“It’s just — he is so handsome, so nice, so brave — I really liked him.” Adrienne felt sure her face must be crimson by now. “I mean, I liked him a lot. He probably saved my life from Riposte and, and...” she came to a stop again, unable to continue. She did love Chat Noir, yes. She already crushed on him as Ladybug. But it had been different this time. It had felt so much more intense, like...

...like it did when she was together with Marinette as Ladybug.

Guilt came down on her with crushing weight. She was seriously sitting right here and confessing love for someone else to the girl she loved, or at least the girl her other self loved. Marinette didn’t deserve this. She didn’t deserve Marinette.

“Hey, hey. It’s all right.” Marinette hugged her. “Nothing strange or wrong about that. I mean, him being — being a hero and all. I mean, I should know.”

“What’s she like? I mean, Ladybug,” Adrienne blurted in a desperate attempt to change the subject, then instantly wished she could kick herself. Of all the things to change subjects to! But Marinette brightened and looked so happy that Adrienne felt her own heart grow lighter. Screw it. It’s worth a little embarrassment to see that look on Mari’s face.

“Oh, she’s wonderful. Warm-hearted, kind, sensitive. And those eyes.” Marinette closed her own eyes, her smile turning dreamy, then opened them again. “We can talk about anything, and she is even a really good Mecha Strike 3 player! Not as good as me, though.” She sounded smug.

Adrienne couldn’t help herself, she laughed out loud and felt better as she did so. “Now is that any way to treat the savior of Paris?”

“Wiping the floor with her? Of course it is.” Marinette tossed her head in imitation of Chloé. “Her own fault for not being as perfect as me.” They both fell into giggling again.

“Speaking of, care to play a match?” Adrienne gave her a hopeful look.

“Of course!” Marinette’s eyes gleamed.

 

A few minutes later Adrienne once again strained into the headwind of Marinette’s gameplay. Sometimes she thought Marinette must know something about this game that the designers didn’t know. Adrienne muttered a bad word as Marinette once again thrashed her with almost insulting ease. And to add further embarrassment to injury, Mari even kept nattering on about how wonderful Ladybug was. Adrienne found that both endearing and distracting at the same time.

“...and she even knows so much about fashion,” Marinette chirped as she triggered the nucleonic accelerator cannon at Adrienne’s mecha; Adrienne yelped and ducked just in time. “She claims she is just a dilettante but she has a real eye for it.”

“Um, does she ever talk about Chat Noir?” Even that now seemed less embarrassing than listening to this endless stream of praise for her other self. But for some reason this made Marinette redden and toggle the wrong defence in a moment of distraction. Adrienne seized her moment and fired her EMP gun, taking off half of Marinette’s health and slowing her mecha for six seconds.

“She does. Actually I asked her about him.” Somehow Mari survived long enough to regain full speed and recover. Even with her health bar a deep red she didn’t panic, throwing Adrienne back on the defence with a fast counterattack. “I wanted to make sure he would be okay with the two of us being together. She said she’d discussed it with him and he’d told her he had no claim on her and that she shouldn’t feel tied down to him.”

Adrienne nodded. Then Marinette continued, “I’m going to have to tell her that I do not want her to feel tied down to me, either. It really wouldn’t be fair to make her feel she has to choose.”

Adrienne’s heart lurched and she hesitated for just long enough to let Marinette demolish her mecha with a Flying Hyper Storm. She tried to collect her scattered thoughts while Mari gloated.

“...you’re okay with that? With sharing her with Chat Noir?”

“I am.” Marinette sounded dead serious. “She is the most important person in Paris. I am not having her feel torn in two between me and her partner. That would be stupid and selfish.”

Adrienne set her controller down and leaned back with a sigh. “You’re amazing, Marinette.”

Marinette went pink. “Um. Er. Chat Noir set the example. I mean, er...”

Adrienne smiled at her. “Just take it, Mari. May I have some tea, please?”

“Of course! I’ll just put the kettle on.” She hurried off, still blushing.

Adrienne tried to focus on the situation. Mari didn’t mind Ladybug also being with Chat Noir. Did that also count for her normal identity? It ought to, didn’t it? But Adrienne couldn’t tell Marinette about being Ladybug. So would it still be cheating on her? She couldn’t work it out. Darn it, now she wasn’t even sure if she ought to feel guilty or not!

Adrienne sighed and got to her feet. She could at least go help Marinette prepare the tea. Anyway, she told herself while walking down the stairs, she didn’t even know if Chat Noir felt anything for her at all. Maybe he would think she was weird —

The doorbell rang and Adrienne stopped dead.

She heard Marinette head for the side door. For several moments she stood frozen with fear and indecision. What should she do? Should she run upstairs and hide? Maybe she should find her boy’s clothes again! What if —

The door downstairs opened and she heard Marinette exclaim. Someone came inside as Marinette closed the door, someone... crying? Adrienne listened harder. A girl’s voice, one she recognised. Her eyes widened. Rose!

“It’s okay, Rose. You’re safe here.” Marinette sounded very positive; she’d switched back to French again, of course.

“I’m so sorry!“ Rose started sobbing again.

Adrienne hesitated for a few more moments. What had happened to Rose? Should she hide so Marinette could help Rose without  —

All of a sudden anger surged up in her. Rose needed help. Adrienne wanted to help. And she felt sick of being afraid all the time. Sick of hiding. Sick of pretending to be something she was not. She set her jaw in determination and headed the rest of the way down, riding a strange wave of fear mixed with exaltation. Marinette stared wide-eyed as Adrienne arrived. Rose still sobbed into her hands, not recognising Adrienne yet.

Adrienne laid a gentle hand on Rose’s shoulder and spoke, also in French now. “Go make the tea, Mari, and bring it up when it is done. I’ll take it from here. Come on, Rose.”

The bleary-eyed Rose nodded without recognising her. Adrienne guided her upstairs while murmuring soothing words to her. Then she took her to the sofa and they sat down together, Rose sobbing into Adrienne’s shoulder while Adrienne hugged her. They sat like that for a while without saying a word.

Adrienne felt aghast as she looked her friend over. Stains and smears covered Rose’s outfit as if she’d been pelted with trash, her disarrayed hair had something greasy and smelly in it and an ugly bruise marred one of her cheeks. “...Rose, what happened?” Adrienne asked, managing to keep her voice calm and gentle in spite of a rising feeling of anger.

“Some mean people. I didn’t even know them. Th-they called me a dyke,” Rose sobbed. “And slut and other horrible things. And, and, and, they threw stuff at me and encircled me and shoved, and, and... and then Officer Raincomprix arrived. He was so angry and they all ran away. He wanted to take me home, but, but, I didn’t want to go home looking like this. Didn’t want Juleka to see me like this, either. And, and I thought Marinette...”

“Sh. You did the right thing. Marinette and I will make everything all right.” Adrienne looked up and saw Marinette had quietly arrived holding the tea tray. From her horrified expression she had clearly overheard Rose’s explanation. Adrienne made an urgent gesture at the tea tray and Marinette nodded, set it down and filled a mug with tea and liberal amounts of milk and sugar. Adrienne took the mug and held it to Rose’s lips; Rose sipped with a grateful little smile. After a few more sips her sobs slowed and at length came to a stop.

Finally Rose looked up and blinked her tears away, taking Adrienne fully in for the first time. “Adrien?”

Adrienne flinched, then steeled herself. “No. Adrienne.”

Rose blushed crimson. “OH! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were a girl. I mean, you are a girl, right?”

Adrienne blinked in surprise, then nodded, feeling too stunned to speak. Marinette looked startled, too.

“I am so sorry for misgendering you! I guess I am too shaken to think.” Rose let go of Adrienne and sat up, wiping her eyes. “I know better, really I do. I’ve read about it on the queer activist pages I and Juleka follow. It was so brave of you, to out yourself to me just because you wanted to help.”

Adrienne blushed a little, feeling embarrassed at the praise but somehow also proud. It had been scary, after all. She also wanted to ask about a hundred questions but forced herself to keep them in check. “Marinette, do you have some clean clothes that will fit Rose? And could you prepare a bath for her?”

“I think so, and yes.” Marinette gave a firm nod and took off.

Adrienne turned back to Rose. “If you are okay with it, I think we should call Juleka and tell her you are here. You can bathe and change before she arrives. And she needs to be warned in any case.”

“But, but, you don’t have to out yourself to Juleka, too!” Rose gave Adrienne a worried look. “You could at least change, if you prefer. I promise not to tell anyone. Not even Juleka.”

Adrienne sighed. “No. I’ve come this far. Juleka might as well know, too.” She fought down a spike of anxiety, then continued. “I can’t and won’t hide from everybody forever. Juleka is a friend. I trust her —“ she gulped. “And maybe she can help me. With — with —“

Rose nodded in understanding. “I’m sure she will. With everything.” She hugged Adrien. “I will, too.”

Adrienne hugged her back, tears welling up in her own eyes now.

“Oh!” Rose sounded distressed. “I wasn’t thinking. I’m all dirty and getting it over your beautiful dress!”

Adrienne laughed through her tears. “It’s all right. It’s all right. Just call Juleka. Do you need to borrow a phone?” She’d left her own with the clothes she arrived in, she realised.

Rose blushed a little and shook her head. “No, I have my own.” She got to her feet and moved into a corner, fishing her phone out of her small handbag. Adrienne studied her dress to see if anything had actually rubbed off on it. Not very much, it seemed, maybe she could clean it while Rose bathed.

“Juleka says her brother Luka wants to go with her, in case there’s more troublemakers around.” Rose looked worried. “He’s a really good guy and I think he can be trusted, but Juleka says he’ll stay outside and go home once she is here if she asks him to.”

Adrienne’s anxiety spiked again. Another person allowed in on her secret? The more people who knew, the bigger risk of it going all around town. Her heart started to pound and she felt dizzy. She gulped.

Rose bit her lip, then held up her hand. “No! I shouldn’t even have asked! I’m sorry —“

“No. Wait.” Adrienne had to struggle to get the words out. “What do you know of him?”

“Um. He’s the composer of our band Kitty Section. Ivan is our songwriter.” Rose gulped, too. “He is active on the queer activist pages, too — he showed them to Juleka — and he is a very good guitarist. Er, he dyes his hair cyan and paints his fingernails black. Also he wears earrings a bit like yours.”

Adrienne felt herself relax a little. “All right. Tell... tell Juleka he can come. And please give them advance notice of me. I’m... not sure I am up to trying to explain again.”

Rose nodded, still worried but understanding. She turned back to her corner, then resumed talking. Marinette came down the steps by the time Rose was finishing her call.

“All right. I’ve readied a tub bath and set clean clothes out for you, Rose. Leave the ones you’re wearing outside the bathroom door.” Marinette eyed Adrienne with a small frown and handed her a bundled up dress — the rose dress, Adrienne realised. “And you put this one on. I’ll be coming back for the one you’re wearing. I just finished it and it doesn’t need even small stains. Now come on, Rose.”

As Mari led an apologetic and protesting Rose up the stairs, Adrienne hurried to comply with her orders. Marinette in a Mood was a force to be reckoned with. After changing she folded the pastel dress with care and finished just as Mari returned. She handed the dress to her with meek obedience and Marinette gave a satisfied nod.

“Juleka will be coming soon with her brother. I’ll open the door for them, you go keep an eye on Rose.” Adrienne felt her anxiety spike a little again but kept it under control.

Marinette bit her lip. “Will you be okay?”

“I will. Go, go.” Adrienne hoped it was true.

Mari eyed her for a few more moments, then nodded and headed back upstairs. Adrienne went down to the ground floor to wait, walking back and forth in an attempt to let out nervous energy. The soft feel of the green skirt around her legs soothed her, somehow even now more comforting than hiding herself inside boy clothes.

When the doorbell rang, Adrienne almost jumped out of her skin. Then she calmed herself with an effort and looked out the lens in the door. Juleka stood there with a boy who matched Rose’s description of Luka, both of them with worried expressions. Adrienne hesitated for a long moment, then took a deep breath and opened the door.

Juleka stepped inside at once. “Where is she, Adrienne?”

“In the bathroom. Marinette is —“

Adrienne didn’t get any further. Juleka walked past her at once, face set. Adrienne blinked, then turned to Luka. “Please come inside,” she managed, her anxiety spiking all over again.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.” Luka entered and closed the door behind him, frowning yet in a gentle sort of way. “I cannot imagine how much it must have cost you to trust a complete stranger at a time like this, mademoiselle Adrienne. I am deeply in your debt and I promise to help protect your secret.”

The dam broke at last and Adrienne burst into tears, overwhelmed with fear and hope and relief. Somehow she could believe that Luka meant it, that he could be trusted, that she was still safe. She clung to that belief like a drowning woman to a spar as a shocked Luka stepped forward to offer support and let her lean against him. And even though she kept crying, she felt better than she had for a long time.

 

To Be Continued

 

Chapter Text

The five of them sat together around the Dupain-Cheng dining room table, a sombre mood hanging in the air.

Rose looked better, Marinette thought. The warm tub bath had worked small miracles for the sweet girl’s composure and the fresh clean clothes provided comfort enough to let her relax. With Juleka’s help she’d covered the bruise on her cheek with make-up. It still showed some, but at least it didn’t draw the gaze so much. Juleka sat next to Rose with a protective arm around her shoulder.

Adrienne sat across from them, displaying a calm poise that made Marinette feel proud of her. It couldn’t have been easy for her to share her secret with so little warning, but she had pulled through with determination and courage at a cost Marinette could only guess at. Luka sat next to her, his face grave.  Marinette held pride of place at the table’s end because it allowed greatest ease of access when bringing food and hot tea. But for now the platter heaped with some of her father’s best pastries would probably do.

Luka finally broke the silence. “Rose, do you feel up to telling us anything specific of your attackers?” He sounded gentle, concerned.

Rose nodded and gave him a wan smile. “Just a little. They were mostly boys. I think I recognised two or maybe three of them. One was a boy from school, from one of the other classes. A second might have been his classmate, but I am not sure about that.”

Adrienne set her jaw. “Someone from our school. I don’t like that.” Juleka looked shocked and Luka frowned.

Marinette took a deep breath. “That’s one shoe. And the third person?”

Rose looked unhappy. “Oh, I am sure of him. He lives on the street I live on. He always seems so sullen so I kind of feel bad for him. He must have fallen into bad company.”

“That’s the second shoe.” Marinette felt a stirring of anger. “This wasn’t random but calculated.”

Juleka gasped. “Why would anyone attack Rose?” she whispered. Rose turned pale.

Adrienne compressed her lips into a thin line. “It could be coincidence, but I don’t believe it.”

“Nor do I.” Luka’s eyes glittered with anger. “This was a queer bashing gang, and they were looking for specific targets. It has happened in other arrondissements , too, though this is the first time I’ve heard about it happening in the Twenty-First.”

Juleka hugged Rose, who hugged her back. Then Juleka looked at the other three with flinty eyes. “All right. What can we do to protect ourselves?”

“Um. Officer Raincomprix arrived in his squad car. If his dash camera was on, maybe he got images of them?” Rose piped up.

Marinette nodded. “Good idea. I’ll call Sabrina and ask her for his direct number. And I’ll tell her to warn Chloé, too. I bet these —“ she bit back a very rude word, “— cretins aren’t too selective and might pick on any girls that form pairs habitually.”

Luka sat tapping at his phone, then looked up. “I’ve posted a warning on our local forums and asked them to warn everyone they know in the Twenty-First. And now I am going to go take a look around the neighbourhood.”

Adrienne stood up, looking determined. “Wait for me. I’ll go with you, two are safer than one. I’ll change clothes and be right down again.”

Marinette almost protested, then thought better of it. “Okay. Please be careful. Just wear a hat or something to conceal your face, you are too famous.”

“She can borrow my hoodie.” Luka suited words to action and pulled his hoodie off.

“Thanks, Luka.” Adrienne gave him a quick smile, took the offered hoodie and then headed upstairs.

“Okay. I and Juleka will be on Internet duty. We’ll follow the news and look for clues on social media.” Rose pulled out her phone and frowned. “Marinette, may I recharge my phone here, please?”

“Of course. And let me get you and Juleka our WiFi password, too.” Marinette scurried off to get her own phone.

A few minutes later Adrienne returned, in boy’s clothes again and wearing the borrowed hoodie. Marinette followed her and Luka downstairs. She put a hand on Luka’s shoulder. “Are you sure this is necessary? I am not objecting to you going. I just want to know that there is a plan.”

“There is.” Luka gave Marinette a reassuring nod. “The whole point of what they are doing is to frighten us. Make us hide. Lose hope, and eventually give up and leave. So the one thing we can’t do is hide in fear. We need to find out more, too.”

“There’s also the public aspect,” Adrienne added. “If we do nothing to resist, this will probably be ignored in the news. If we go meet them and show we aren’t intimidated, that will make news copy.”

“That makes sense, but... if your father finds out you are involved, won’t he be concerned?” Marinette managed not to bite her lip. She really had to break that habit.

“More like furious.” Adrienne gave her a wan smile. “But I don’t really think that matters compared to this. This is more important. I’ll just have to be careful.” She pulled the hood up.

“All right. Good luck, guys.” She let them out and closed the door behind them.

Then she dashed up the stairs. As she passed Juleka and Rose she told them, “Make yourself at home! I need to, um. Go. Do stuff. I’ll be back when I am done.” She winced at the inanity of her excuse but they barely nodded at her, intent on their phones. When she reached the bedroom she prodded an indignant Plagg awake from a nap and transformed. Soon after Chat Noir stealthed along the rooftops, shadowing the unsuspecting Adrienne and Luka.

 

***

 

“I forgot to thank you for coming.” Adrienne kept her voice soft. “Juleka and Rose are good friends. I could tell you being there meant a lot to them.”

“Hm?” Luka blinked in surprise. “You don’t owe me any thanks. If anything, I should be grateful to you.” An unspoken for trusting me hung in the air between them.

“Let’s just call it mutual gratitude and let it lie there, then.” Adrienne gave him a brief smile. “You said you had a plan. Mind sharing it?”

“Not at all. In fact, I was about to. We’re headed to where Rose lives. They have likely moved on from there but it is a starting point.” Luka frowned in thought. “From there we move toward your school. Once we’ve reached it, we go look for the home areas of other potential targets. Remember, it doesn’t have to be someone actually openly gay. Marinette is right. They’ll happily target anyone that they even suspect of it.”

“Marinette is generally right.” In spite of the grim topic Adrienne smiled for just a moment. “Anything else?”

“Yes. Keep your camera phone handy. If we see any suspicious gatherings, snap some pictures, discreetly if possible.” Luka looked straight at Adrienne. “Also, if they try to surround us, don’t let them, evade or run. If necessary I will buy you time. But hopefully that won’t be needed.”

Adrienne wanted to argue, then realised that would be a perfect excuse to dash off and become Ladybug if things went bad. “All right. You’re calling the shots.”

“Good.” Luka smiled. “But let’s not borrow trouble ahead of time. With any luck it won’t even be an issue.”

Adrienne smiled back and they walked on.

They spent most of an hour searching. Occasional updates arrived by text from either Rose or Juleka. Then all of a sudden three hurried texts from Rose beeped on Adrienne’s phone.

We’ve gotten notice of queer bashers near the park and playground in 21st

they tried to beat up Marc and Nathanaël but they escaped

BE CAREFUL

Luka stared at his phone, clearly having gotten the same information, then turned to Adrienne. “Let’s go.” She nodded, sent back a thumbs up emote in response and they headed for the park at a fast walk.

They moved with speed but care. And if not for bad luck, they’d have been okay. If not for reaching a corner just as the pack of young bullies came around it, they’d have been okay. And even then if the ruffians hadn’t recognised Luka, they’d have been okay. As it was, before Adrienne and Luka had time to react, the dozen or so queer bashers moved to encircle them.

“Well well well, what do we have here.” One of the ruffians, possibly their leader, sneered at them. “A little faggot and his boytoy?” The rest of them jeered and made mocking gestures. One or two played with small clubs.

Adrienne dropped into a combat ready stance. She didn’t expect to be able to do much against this many, but maybe she could break through their line. Next to her Luka whispered, “Sorry I got you into this.”

That was when a figure in black leather dropped down from above and landed on all fours just in front of them.

The entire gang of queer bashers recoiled in shock.

Chat Noir unfolded himself with languid grace. “Well well well, what do we have here.” His indolent purr mocked the thugs. “A band of cowards looking for easy targets?” He took his staff out, extended it to walking stick length and leaned on it.

A few of them backed a pace or two off. The rest of them stood their ground, though they looked uneasy now. “Stay out of this, Chat Noir! This is none of your business!” one yelled.

Adrienne seized the opportunity. Camera footage, camera footage! She aimed her phone and started filming. Next to her, Luka already had his phone running.

“Why don’t you make me?” Chat’s purr, already predatory, deepened a bit. “There’s twelve of you after all. Twelve little mousies.” He shifted his stance to rest on the balls of his feet and extended his staff to fighting length.

The bullies muttered among themselves, their unease clearly growing. “You can’t do this, Chat Noir! You’re supposed to be a hero! Why are you defending this filth?” another bully complained.

“The only filth I see here,” Chat’s belt-tail swished slowly back and forth as he spoke, “is you.”

“Come on!” one of the ruffians to the rear called. “We can take him!” He drew his arm back and threw an overripe tomato at Chat.

Chat’s staff blurred. The tomato burst against it, its remains splattering several of the nearest bullies. “No. No, you really can’t.” He shook his head.

“Is this because of your dyke friend?” a tomato-stained bully snarled. “Where is she anyway? Scared to come out?” A small clump of them stood whispering among themselves, so obvious about nerving themselves to attack that Adrienne almost felt sorry for them.

“No no. I just don’t need her help to take out the trash.” Chat’s purr sounded more insolent than ever.

Four of the ruffians jumped Chat. Well, tried to, anyway. His staff blurred again and moments later three of them lay groaning on the ground. The last of them staggered away white-faced and clutching at his stomach.

“Last warning. Leave.” Chat Noir took a slow step toward the rest of the bullies, his voice heavy with menace.

The remaining bullies all broke and ran.

Adrienne lowered her phone after they had dispersed. Whew . “Thank you, Chat Noir. That was spectacularly timed.”

Chat turned toward her and Luka and swept them an extravagant bow. “My genuine pleasure, messieurs ,” he declared. “Are you both all right?”

‘We are, and thanks to you we have some splendid footage of them.” Luka smiled. “Mine is already uploaded and my sister will make sure it is shared where it needs to be. We were very lucky that you happened to be nearby.”

“Or maybe they were very unlucky.” Chat smirked.

“Either way, my sincere thanks.” Luka offered his hand; Chat shook it.

“What now?” Adrienne frowned, eyeing the remaining fallen bullies. One of them stirred and tried to crawl away.

“Let’s move on.” Luka waved Adrienne with him. Chat Noir sauntered along with them, his staff across his shoulder. Adrienne eyed him sideways, very aware of his presence and somehow feeling both comforted and excited by it. She felt sure she must be blushing.

Again? What is going on with me? Adrienne tried to take hold of herself. I see him like every other day as Ladybug! And yes, he’s hot, but he still doesn’t make me weak in the knees the way he does right now.. . “Where to now?” she asked, trying to sound casual.

Luka looked around. “I don’t think we’re being followed, so back to the bakery. We have what we wanted and I think Chat Noir just put a damper on their enthusiasm.”

“I am a true spoilsport, yes,” Chat agreed. “Is it the Dupain patisserie? It is close by, I could follow you there.”

“It is.” Adrienne gave him a warm smile, then immediately wanted to kick herself. Could you be any more obvious, idiot? Down, girl! But then Chat Noir smiled back and Adrienne lost herself and her resolve in these magical blue eyes. Was he blushing, too? He couldn’t be, could he?

Not long after they arrived at the bakery. “Well, here’s where we part ways.” Chat Noir dropped into a crouch and prepared to bound off. “Be safe!”

“Wait!” Adrienne blurted.

Chat blinked, rose again and looked at her. “Ah... yes?”

Adrienne felt her face grow even hotter. “We didn’t really get a chance to thank you. I’d like to, to...” she trailed off, wishing the earth would open up and swallow her right here and now.

“You, you really don’t have to, to thank you for, I mean thank me for, er, um,” Chat stammered. He was blushing, Adrienne realised. She reached out for him and put her hands on his shoulders.

“I know. But I want to. You are a good person, Chat Noir.” Adrienne leaned closer. “I am so very grateful to you. For everything.”

As if enspelled, he leaned closer, too. They stood like that for a timeless moment, then they embraced one another and their lips met. Adrienne wasn’t sure how long the kiss lasted, but she felt quite sure that it ended much too soon. Then Chat Noir backed off, still smiling and blushing in the most adorable way. “Ah, I must be on my way. Au revoir. ” He extended the staff’s length to lift him up to the bakery’s rooftop level and bounded off.

Adrienne stared after him, then finally remembered Luka. Oh God, what must he think of me? But Luka merely smiled and walked ahead to the side door, ringing the bell. Feeling grateful for her concealing hood, Adrienne hoped Marinette would let them in soon.

In fact it was only half a minute later that Marinette let them in, red-faced and a bit breathless from her run down the stairs. “Oh, you’re safe! Thank goodness! Come on in!” She shut the door behind them, locked it and put the chain bolt on. “It’s them!” she called up the stairs before she ran into the kitchen. “‘Scuse me, I am gonna get us something to eat!”

Adrienne and Luka followed at a more sedate pace. Rose and Juleka greeted them with smiles of relief. “What happened?” Rose demanded, bouncing to her feet and going to meet them.

“I kissed Chat Noir,” Adrienne blurted. “And he kissed me back.” Oh God, did I just say that? She felt sure her face must be crimson by now.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !” Rose squeed in delight, closing her eyes and hugging Adrienne hard. “I am so happy for you!”

“Easy, girl,” Juleka admonished Rose in her soft voice, hiding a smile. “You’ll attract every dog inside a mile like that.” Luka smiled, Rose giggled and Adrienne couldn’t keep a foolish grin off her face.

“Umm, I want to get changed again,” she told them, wrapped the last shreds of her dignity around herself and headed up the stairs. “Back soon!”

Adrienne climbed up into Mari’s room again and changed back into the rose-and-green dress with a feeling of relief. She all but danced down the stairs, feeling free again, happy to be safe and in safe company.

“You two are heroes in the queer community now, guys!” Rose exclaimed when Adrienne returned. “Cheers and praise are coming in from all over! Everybody is so happy that some of these awful people got taught a lesson!”

“We didn’t really do anything,” Adrienne tried to object.

Rose cut her off. “But you did! You lured them out in the open! You got them on video! Everybody wants to know your name but we aren’t saying. Luka just tells them it is someone who prefers to stay anonymous.”

Luka smiled. “Just roll with it, Adrienne.”

Adrienne blushed again, then seated herself. All in all, a little embarrassment wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to her. She smiled.

 

***

 

Marinette walked up the stairs balancing a tray loaded with sandwiches, cheese and more pastries. She’d silenced Plagg’s complaints about overwork and incipient starvation with a liberal application of well aged Camembert; he now snoozed in her apron pocket, quiet at last. The others looked up from their conversation and brightened when they saw the bounty piled on the tray. Marinette set it down with a smile. “Dig in!” she told her friends, who did not need to be told twice.

Rose smiled and poured herself a cup of the hot tea Marinette had brought up a few minutes before. “Thank you, Mari. Oh, someone else just posted a picture on the queer home page! You have to see this!” For some reason Adrienne blushed and looked away.

“Sure, be glad to —“ Marinette began, then stopped dead when she saw the image on the phone Rose held up. An excellent and sharply defined picture of Chat Noir kissing Adrienne in front of the bakery.

Adrienne’s face couldn’t be seen for the hood she had drawn over her head, fortunately. Marinette wished she could say the same for her own. “Oh. Oh.” She tried to come up with something sensible to say but all that emerged after that was, “Oh wow.”

“Isn’t it adorable? A passersby snapped it and put it on social media, and one of our members posted it here. This is so awesome!” Rose raised her arms in a victory pose and Juleka ruffled her hair with a fond smile.

“Yes, of course, awesome… be right back, I need to go to the bathroom!” Marinette scurried off. Goldarn it, people have way too many cameras! I really need to be more careful.

Ah well. She sighed to herself. At least nobody would be in doubt anymore about where Ladybug and Chat Noir stood in this particular conflict.