Actions

Work Header

Ladybug and Reine Nuit

Chapter Text

First days at a new school are never particularly noteworthy. Even the horror of having to stand up and introduce yourself while the teacher smiles like they’re some messiah – a common trope in American teenage movies – is nothing more than a mild anxiety. And for someone like Alya Césaire, who can make herself at home in an unfamiliar environment in just seconds, this anxiety is pretty much non-existent.

As for making friends? She’ll find someone who can balance out her loud proudness. She did in Martinique, so why should France be any different?

“Stay out of trouble,” Marlena Césaire had said. “Behave yourself. Make some good friends. And do well at school!”

Okay, so Alya loves her mum and all, but if Marlena could have predicted the future then she would have totally understood why Alya had managed to disobey her first instruction before even reaching the school.

“Go away!” cries a voice from across the road. Alya whips around and catches sight of a small boy shoved up against the wall by a larger one, who’s shaking a fist in his face. An old man in a bright red Hawaiian shirt shuffles past with his walking stick, in the same direction that Alya is going. Or at least, the same direction she was going.

“Hey!” Alya storms across the road and over to the boys. When it comes down to obeying her mother or standing up for someone, well, sorry Marlena but the latter wins out. “Leave him alone!”

“Back off,” the larger boy sneers at Alya. She just rolls her eyes and yanks the smaller boy away from the wall.

“If you have to pick on people smaller than you than you’re clearly compensating for something,” Alya says. “Come on, kid.” She grabs the smaller boy’s hand and takes off running down the street past the old man before the larger boy can get over himself and start chasing them to flatten them.

If Alya had been paying more attention to her surroundings, she might have noticed the old man stop and frown after her. She might have also noticed him glance down at a hexagonal box in his hand, then stroke his grey beard. But saving kids from bullies isn’t very conducive to paying close attention to surrounding details, so the old man is the furthest thing from her mind by the time she rounds the corner.


 When Marinette Dupain-Cheng barrels into class to find one Chloé Bourgeois claiming her seat, she’s about ready to walk straight back out. Of course she’d end up in Chloé’s class for the fourth time in a row. The universe clearly hates her at this point.

“So, why don’t you just go and sit beside that new girl over there?” Chloé sneers, pointing at an unfamiliar girl at the front desk on the right side of the room. “Listen, Adrien’s arriving today, and since that’s going to be his seat, this is going to be my seat. Get it?”

Clearly, Marinette’s missed the memo. “Who’s Adrien?”

Chloé and her best friend Sabrina burst into loud laughter. “Can you believe she doesn’t know who Adrien is?” Chloé says. “What rock have you been living under?”

“He’s only a famous model,” Sabrina chimes in.

“And I am his best friend! He adores me!” Chloé says. Marinette immediately hates this Adrien person. Great. A male Chloé. “Go on, move!”

“Hey!” The new girl stands next to Chloé, crossing her arms. “Who elected you queen of seats?”

But even the new girl can’t withstand the might of Chloé’s Royal Entitlement. Honestly, if Chloé would channel that determination and stubbornness into something good and productive, she might actually be a prodigy at something other than being a brat. Rolling her eyes, the new girl grabs Marinette by the arm and leads her down to Chloé and Sabrina’s old desk, and although this is probably the smartest move to avoid detention before the school year has even officially begun, Marinette can’t help but feel like she’s letting Chloé win.

“I so wish I could handle Chloé the way you do,” Marinette says glumly.

“You mean the way Majestia does it!” The new girl shows Marinette a picture of a blonde superhero with a red and blue suit that’s saved on her phone. “She says, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing”.” The girl points at Chloé. “Well, that girl over there is evil, and we are the good people. We can’t let her get away with it.”

Marinette attempts a weak smile. “Well, that’s easier said than done. She likes to make my life miserable.”

“That’s ‘cause you let her, girl!” the new girl says. “You just need more confidence!”

Marinette hums, although being more confident is way easier said than done. Making a snap decision, she grabs the last macaron from her box and splits it in half, offering one piece to the new girl. “Marinette,” she says.

The new girl smiles and takes the piece, unknowingly cementing what would soon be not only a close friendship but also a legendary partnership. “Alya,” she replies.

Before Ms Bustier can start class, the classroom door slams open and a cute boy with messy blond hair comes skidding inside, panting with his hands on his knees. Marinette’s about two seconds from introducing herself to the second new student, who looks oddly familiar, when Chloé squeals, “Adrikins!” and darts from her seat to latch on to his arm.

Ah. That must be the Adrien that Chloé had mentioned. Marinette’s interest immediately shrivels and dies.

“Come on, Adrikins!” Chloé tugs Adrien over to the seat next to Nino, who resolutely ignores the blond. “This is your seat! Aren’t I just the best friend ever?”

“Um…thanks, Chloé,” Adrien says. Despite herself, Marinette peeks over her shoulder, but when Adrien meets her gaze and smiles, she just rolls her eyes and turns back to face the front.

“Great,” Alix says loud enough for everyone to hear. “Now there’s two of them.”

“Huh?” Adrien says. “I don’t understand –”

“Sure you don’t,” Marinette mutters. Although she doesn’t look around again, she can feel Adrien’s eyes scorching the back of her neck, but she refuses to believe that he’s genuinely confused about what’s going on. No one who’s friends with Chloé is clueless about what a rotten person she is.


 “Um, could I have a word?”

Marinette stiffens when Adrien pauses next to her table in the library, where she and Alya are studying while the other half of their class is at P.E.

“Why?” she snaps. “You’re Chloé’s friend. I think that says it all. Any friend of Chloé’s isn’t a friend of mine.”

“Wait, what? Chloé’s –”

“Oh, don’t play dumb!” Marinette winces when the librarian shushes her, so she lowers her voice to a hiss. “How stupid do you think I am?”

Adrien’s green eyes crinkle. His confusion looks genuine…but it could just be a ploy to gain Marinette’s trust before he screws her over. “Just one minute,” he pleads. “Give me one minute of your time. Then I’ll leave you alone.”

Marinette’s knee-jerk reaction is to tell him to clear off. But she pauses. He seems to be genuinely puzzled…and he is new…and it’s not like Marinette can’t tell when someone’s lying…

“Fine.” She stands up, leaving her open book and smiling reassuringly at Alya, who’s utterly failing at looking like she’s not listening in. “One minute. No more, no less.” She follows Adrien out into the corridor, where he laughs nervously and scratches the back of his head.

“So, uh…I think we got off on the total wrong foot,” he says. “I’m…well, I’m home-schooled, you see. My father didn’t even want me to come to school today, so he’ll be furious tonight. And I was so excited to meet other kids my age and make friends, but now everyone hates me, and I don’t know why!”

“Hmm.” Marinette rests her hands on her hips. Adrien seems genuine…but he could also just be a good actor.

“Why exactly does everyone hate Chloé?” Adrien says. “All she’s told me is that everyone’s super jealous of her and gangs up on her.”

Marinette snorts loudly. “Uh, no. She’s an awful bully and she’s made my life hell for years. That’s why everyone hates you – they think you’re just like her, and we don’t have time for another Chloé.”

“Wait, what?” Adrien’s eyes widen. “But she’s – she’s really cool – she’s never been mean to me –”

“You’re a famous model, right?” Marinette says. “That’s what Chloé said.”

“Um…yeah. My father’s Gabriel Agreste. I model his clothes for him.”

It’s Marinette’s turn for her eyes to widen. Agreste! Now she knows why this boy looks so familiar! His pictures are in her magazines! “Ah,” she says. “That would explain it. No way is she gonna be mean to someone who’s rich and famous and “worthy” of her attention like you.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m really sorry about her,” Adrien says with a grimace. “I never knew she was mean to you…and I know you’re not lying because the whole class backed you up.”

“The seat she’s in used to be mine,” Marinette says. “She forced me out of it to sit near you. And that’s, like, not even close to the worst thing she’s done. That’s tame for her.”

Adrien just looks even gloomier at that. “Well, I get why everyone would hate me. I just wish I could prove to the class that I’m not mean.”

“Hmm.” Marinette deliberates for a moment, then holds out her hand before she can change her mind. “Hi, I’m Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Welcome to Ms Bustier’s class! Maybe we can be friends.”

The way Adrien’s face lights up as he grabs her hand could rival the sun. “Hi, Marinette! I’m Adrien Agreste and I’d love to be friends with you!”

Before Marinette can say anything, there’s a loud crash and a shockwave that sends them both tumbling to the floor.

“What the –?” Marinette cries, clambering to her feet with Adrien. They rush back into the library to investigate on the security cameras, and Marinette’s heart leaps into her throat when she sees that the source of the disturbance is a gigantic stone creature outside the school gates!

Is this all just a nervous-for-the-new-school-year fever dream?

“Hey!” Marinette says when Alya sprints past her for the library doors. “Where are you going?”

“Where there’s a supervillain, there’s always a superhero close behind!” Alya’s eyes gleam with feverish glee. “No way am I missing this!”

She vanishes before Marinette can protest. Marinette looks back at the camera screen, only to be met with a Rainbow Screen of Death when the giant throws a car at the camera.

What the heck is going on?


 “What? No fair!” Alya exclaims. She tries to duck under the police officer’s arms, but to no avail.

“Go home, little lady,” the officer orders. “No way are civilians getting anywhere near this thing!”

“But –!”

“That’s an order!”

Scowling, Alya turns and storms off back in the direction of her apartment. This is an outrage! Censorship! What happened to freedom and liberty? She fumes all the way into her apartment and up to her room, her muttering only cut short when she catches sight of a strange little hexagonal box on her grey desk.

“Huh? What’s this doing here?” Torn between wanting to touch it and wondering if it’s dangerous, Alya’s curiosity wins out and she slowly approaches her desk. Now that she’s closer, she can see that the dark brown box has strange red carvings on the top; Chinese carvings, possibly? What even is it? Is Nora playing a prank on her? Nah, Nora’s much more of the brute force type than the sneaky, tricky type.

If Alya could have predicted how opening the box would have changed her life, she would have gleefully snatched it up immediately. But since she’s not blessed with precognitive powers, she’s much more cautious as she picks it up and looks it all over. Shrugging, she opens the box, and she gets just enough of a glimpse inside to make out a silver ring before there’s a bright green flash of light and a tiny black cat materialises in thin air in front of her.

What. The. Hell.

Chapter Text

 

For a moment, Alya is frozen, unable to do so much as breathe. The little cat yawns and stretches, then blinks, revealing brilliant green cat eyes.

“Uh –” Alya clears her throat and tries again. “Uh – what – guh?”

“Better than my last holder’s reaction,” the tiny cat drawls in a scratchy voice, then darts over to Alya’s computer. “Ooh, shiny! Can you eat this? No, you can’t,” he gags when he tries to bite a corner off the monitor.

“Um, hello!” Alya says in a high-pitched voice. “Less eating, more talking! What are you?”

This is all just a dream. It has to be. What other explanation is there for a talking cat appearing in her room?

“My name’s Plagg. I’m a kwami,” the little cat says. “I grant powers. Yours is the power of destruction. Got it?”

“Wait…” Something click’s in Alya’s brain and she shrieks and bounces on the spot. “You – powers – am I a superhero now?”

“Uh huh,” Plagg says. Alya squeals and snatches up the silver ring to slide it onto her right middle finger. “And no one can know I exist, you should have a partner to help out, yadda yadda, you know the drill. Seriously, you got anything to eat? I’m starving.”

“Omgomgomg yayayayayayay!” Alya throws herself into her blue beanbag chair, kicking and flailing. “I’m a superhero now! I get to go out and fight crime and save people and be badass and – and – wait.” She freezes and points out the window in the general direction of the giant stone monster. “Does that mean I have to fight that thing?”

“Uh huh,” Plagg says.

“How do I transform? Is there a magic word? Do I like – I dunno – do a dance or something?”

“You just gotta say claws out. Now, first thing you gotta know is –”

“Plagg, claws out!”

“Wait, I haven’t finished explainiiiiiing –!”

The ring on Alya’s finger pulses as Plagg is sucked into it, and she’s enveloped by bright green magic, cold and forceful and powerful. Although she’s not entirely sure why, she runs her fingers across her eyes from the bridge of her nose, then brushes a hand over her hair, then holds her other arm up in the air and does a twirl until the green sparkles fade away.

“Oh. My. God.” Looking down at herself, all Alya can see is shiny black leather. She rushes for her mirror, tripping over herself in her haste, and she lets out a high-pitched squeal of excitement when she catches sight of her reflection – her superhero reflection!

Her hazel eyes are now cat-like and bright green, with the whites of her eyes a paler green colour. Her features are concealed behind a black mask with two points above her eyes and one down her nose, like a cat nose and miniscule ears, and with a thin outline of neon green. She has fake black and green cat ears on her head, while her brown hair is pulled back into a bushy ponytail tied with a green ribbon, and she’s wearing a tight black suit with a high split neck and green trim, elbow-length bright green gloves, and thigh-high black boots with green around the tops. She’s also got a thin black belt around her waist that hangs behind her like a cat’s tail and a bright green cat’s paw on her chest, along with neon green cat paw pads on her black palms and fingers. A quick look at one of her boot soles confirms that her feet have the inverse: green soles and black paw pads.

No. Way. What. The. Heck. She looks just like a comic book superhero!

“This is the greatest day ever!” Alya grabs the baton resting at the small of her back and rushes over to her glass door to burst out on her balcony. She climbs onto the railing, takes a deep breath, then leaps.

“Wahooooo!” Alya shrieks before realising that she’s about two seconds from splatting on the road below. Acting purely on instinct, she shakes her baton to extend it into a staff and holds it above her head so that it catches on a street lamp, then grabs the other end with her other hand. The lamp acts as a hook, leaving her dangling, her vision blurring from the jarring force in her arms that should have dislocated her arms but strangely didn’t.

“Okay,” Alya groans, letting herself drop to the ground. “Lesson one: don’t go jumping off balconies two seconds after getting superpowers.”

She eyes up a nearby building, then looks at her staff, and then gives a rather shark-like grin. Using her staff as a vaulting pole and with the aid of what she can only assume are enhanced physical abilities, she manages to leap from the road to the roof of the building, letting out a hysterical laugh as the wind whooshes in her ears but the locks of hair hanging around her face magically stay put and don’t fall in her eyes.

“What else can this thing do?” she says. She frowns at a building across the street in the next block over, then throws her staff like a javelin and whistles when it nestles neatly against the other building, laid between that one and the one she’s on like a tightrope. “Should I? I mean…I can’t die if I fall, can I?”

There’s no response from Plagg. With a sigh, Alya gingerly places one foot on the staff, then the other, then thrusts her arms out on either side and ever so carefully inches across. Don’t look down, don’t look down…

“Hey, I think I’m getting it!” Alya says. Almost as if in response, there’s a shrill scream that steadily grows louder and louder, and Alya looks up just in time to catch sight of a red figure hurtling through the air before crashing into her. Thankfully, the figure has some sort of string-rope-thing that catches their fall and leaves them dangling in mid-air from Alya’s staff, bound front-to-front, although Alya’s currently too busy trying to coax her stomach out of her throat to really pay attention to what it is.

When they finally stop swinging from side to side and Alya manages to regain a few of her brain cells, she realises that it’s a yo-yo. And the wielder of the yo-yo is a girl who looks absolutely terrified.

“Uh…hi!” Alya grins. “Your first day too?”

“How could you tell?” the other girl says with a faint laugh, finally managing to untangle them. Alya nimbly lands on her feet, but the other girl is a lot clumsier and nearly crashes on her face. “Sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose!”

“No sweat, girl,” Alya says. “At least you didn’t nearly rip your arms out of your sockets.” She finally gets a good look at the other girl, who’s wearing a tight suit that’s red with black spots over her chest and upper arms, with a black abdomen, ladybug-patterned legs, and black elbow-length gloves and knee-length boots. Her jet-black hair is red-tipped and in pigtails, tied with red ribbons, and the eyes behind her ladybug-patterned mask are a brilliant shade of blue.

“Ouch,” the girl winces. “That sounds painful.”

“Oh, you bet.” Alya nudges the girl. “Anyway, you must be the partner my kwami told me about! I’m…hmm, okay, hold up. I gotta think of the perfect name!”

“I take it you’re a fan of superheroes?” the girl says.

“Am I ever! How about…Chatte Noire! Nah, too simple. I’m literally just calling myself ‘black cat’ in French.”

“Well, I’m Ma – er – Mar – uh…” The girl pulls her yo-yo free of Alya’s staff. Alya winces and groans when the end of it slams her on the head, but it also brings her staff down with it, so she bends down to grab it. “Madly clumsy! I’m so clumsy. And sorry. So sorry.”

“All good, clumsy girl,” Alya says. “I don’t have any more of an idea what I’m doing. Hmm…Patte d’Ébène? Ugh, no, that so doesn’t sound heroic. That sounds like some fancy rich meal.”

The ground beneath them suddenly rumbles, causing Alya to nearly trip over her own feet despite her enhanced reflexes. A tall building crumbles to the ground nearby, and Alya immediately starts running in that direction, using her staff to propel her to a nearby rooftop.

“Hey! Where are you going?” ladybug girl cries.

“Uh, to save Paris, right?” Alya calls back, then takes off again. “Dame Lune? Eh, that doesn’t feel right. Ugh, how does Majestia even do this?”


 

The stone monster turns out to be at the stadium, cornering one of Alya’s new classmates – Kim, judging by the monster’s cries.

“Hey!” Alya nimbly lands in front of Kim, shielding him from the monster. “Pick on someone your own size! Oh my god, that’s the actual cheesiest line. Can I have a do-over intro?”

“Huh?” the monster says. Rolling her eyes, Alya lets out a war cry and charges to slam her staff into the monster…and promptly gets her ass handed to her when it just grows bigger after she hits it and then flicks her away.

“Ow,” Alya moans. She untangles herself from the soccer net and runs at the monster again, but it lets out a rumbling, almost bored sigh and throws her into a row of seats around the stadium. Thank god for kwami superpowers, because otherwise Alya’s spine would totally be smashed to pieces right about now. On the other side of the stadium, at the very top, Alya spots the ladybug girl covering her mouth, making no attempt to jump in and help.

Okay, if Alya has to pull both their weights, she’s gonna be super pissed.

“You can do it, red bug hero!” calls a voice from nearby. Once she’s managed to extract herself, Alya pinpoints the source as the Adrien kid, who’s crouching near the entrance to the inside of the stadium, recording the fight on his phone with wonder in his eyes. Why is he even here? He hadn’t come along to P.E.; Alya distinctly remembers him asking to talk to Marinette back in the library.

Apparently, Adrien seems to have no sense of self-preservation, because he doesn’t move when the stone monster growls and rips up a soccer net, then hurls it in his direction. It’s purely instinct – adrenaline surges through her – Alya bounds across the stadium and throws her staff to catch the net above Adrien’s head. At the same time, a yo-yo comes hurtling out of nowhere, wraps itself around Adrien’s waist, and yanks him out of harm’s way so that Alya can retrieve her baton and let the net fall to the ground harmlessly.

“About time!” Alya says to ladybug girl.

“Sorry!” ladybug girl says. “I’m just…really not up to this.”

“You think I’ve had any experience before today either?” Alya says. “Let’s turn this guy into dust!”

“Kick his butt, awesome superhero girls!” Adrien calls from a safe distance.

“Excuse me, but the name’s…uh…Reine…Nuit…Reine Nuit! Yeah, Reine Nuit!” Alya – Reine Nuit – snaps her fingers. “Perfect!”

“Have you noticed now he grows bigger and stronger with every attack?” ladybug girl says. “We have to do something different.”

“Any ideas?” Reine Nuit says. Ladybug girl frowns.

“What’s your superpower?” she says.

“Uh…my superpower?” Reine Nuit says. “I mean, I’ve got super senses, this awesome staff –”

“No, no, you should have a special power!”

Reine Nuit blinks. “Shit. Maybe I should’ve let my kwami explain everything before I transformed.”

Ladybug girl snorts. “You think? I guess it’s up to me. Lucky Charm!” She tosses her yo-yo into the air and catches a ladybug-patterned wetsuit.

“Umm…handy?” Reine Nuit says. “So, uh, what’s the plan?”

“My kwami told me I have to break the object where the whatchamacallit – er, the akuma is hidden.”

“He’s literally made of stone,” Reine Nuit deadpans. “Unless you can figure out which rock –”

“His right hand!” Ladybug girl points. “It’s still closed! He never opens it. It’s like the Russian dolls – the object isn’t on him, it’s hidden in his fist!”

“Huh. Smart and cute.” Reine Nuit winks. “I reckon we’ll get along just fine. What’s your plan, red bug hero?”

“Hmm…”

Okay, Reine Nuit is eternally grateful that she didn’t end up with the Ladybug Miraculous. Ladybug girl’s plan involves sticking a hose into the Lucky Charm suit, yeeting Reine Nuit and then herself at the stone monster to make it drop the akuma, then getting Adrien to turn the hose on to inflate the suit and force the monster to let ladybug girl go. Once she’s free, ladybug girl smashes the dark object to bits, releasing a purple-veined butterfly that goes flapping off into the distance.

“Yeowch!” Reine Nuit cries when the stone monster dissolves into another classmate of hers and sends her crashing to the ground. “That. Was. So. Cool!”

“What’s going on?” the burly boy groans, rubbing his head, “What am I doing here?”

“You were incredible, red bug hero!” Reine Nuit gushes, jumping to her feet. “You did it!”

“Ladybug. Call me Ladybug. And we both did it,” ladybug girl – Ladybug – corrects. Purely by instinct, they punch at each other in a fist-bump, declaring, “Pound it!”

“Uh, what’s that?” Reine Nuit says when Ladybug’s earrings give off a loud beep.

“We’ve only got five minutes after we use our power before we transform back,” Ladybug says. “You should go. Our identities must remain a secret!”

“Yeah, yeah, first rule of superheroing,” Reine Nuit says. She bounds away, calling, “Until next time!” over her shoulder.

In the high of defeating a real live supervillain, Reine Nuit doesn’t realise that she’s forgotten to get one crucial detail from Plagg: how to turn back into herself. It’s not until she’s in her room that it hits her.

“Crud,” she says. “Uh…claws out? Detransform? Back to Alya?”

Nothing happens.

“I can’t be like this forever!” Reine Nuit cries. “I mean, not that I’d hate being a superhero forever, but I have a life and a family, and everyone will know who I am if I don’t turn back and –” She groans and facepalms. “That’ll teach me to rush ahead without listening to the magic black cat.”

Pouting, she slumps on her bed, fiddling with her ring, which is now black with a tiny green cat’s paw. She wriggles it off her finger, then gasps when she’s enveloped in bright green light that devours her suit and leaves her as just plain Alya again.

“Oh,” Alya says. “Uh…that should’ve been obvious.”

“Next time, you might wanna try not rudely interrupting me,” Plagg says when he’s zipped out of the ring and sprawled across Alya’s bed. “Claws in to detransform, by the way.”

“Right. Sorry.” Alya sits down on the bed next to the tiny kwami. “So, uh…what’s my superpower? If Ladybug’s is Lucky Charm –”

“Cataclysm.” Plagg says. “Destroys anything you touch. One-time use before you turn back. I’m so hungry!”

Alya blinks at him.

“What?” he says sullenly. “I gotta keep my strength up somehow. No food for moi, no more superhero for toi.”

“Ugh, fine,” Alya says. “Wait, what do you even eat, anyway?”

Plagg’s eyes light up. “Camembert! Beautiful, rich, stinky Camembert!”

“…Great.” Alya facepalms. “Now I’m gonna stink of cheese. Well…small price to pay for being a superhero, I suppose.” The words send a thrill through her.  

“Damn right,” Plagg says. “Where’s my Camembert?”

“Alright, cat face,” Alya sighs, pushing herself back to her feet. “Wait here. I’ll get your icky cheese.”

Plagg’s cheers follow her out of the room. She pauses outside her door, shakes her head, then smiles and heads for the kitchen. Alya Césaire is now a superhero! Who would’ve ever dreamt that this would happen to her?

Chapter Text

 

“The stone beings are scattered all over Paris, and for the time being, they are showing no signs of movement!” reports Nadja Chamack from the television. Marinette’s frozen in place, her heart in her throat, wondering if she’s got enough time to make it to the bathroom before she’s sick. “Police have cordoned off the area.”

The TV flicks to display the mayor, André Bourgeois. “We won’t stop until we find a way to get these people to their normal selves! But for now…we’re not making much headway.”

Then it’s back to Nadja, this time with a picture of Ladybug and Reine Nuit. “Paris is relying on our new guardian angels, Ladybug and Reine Nuit, to save us all. Our lives depend on them!”

Okay. That…doesn’t make Marinette feel much better about her complete and utter failure yesterday in not capturing the akuma, allowing it to multiply and infect more innocent people. She’d known she’d mess up, she’d just known it, she’d tried to warn Tikki…and the tiny kwami’s faith in her has proven to be their downfall. How can clumsy, awkward Marinette possibly be a superhero? Sure, Reine Nuit had messed up, but at least she seems to have the confidence to carry her. She’d been the one to jump in and get stuff done, after all.

Marinette jumps when a large arm lands around her shoulders, snapping her out of her thoughts, but it just turns out to be her father.

“Listen, I know how upsetting and scary this is,” Tom says, clearly having misinterpreted Marinette’s look of dread. “But don’t worry, sweetie; we’ve got two superheroes looking out for Paris, and the best way of helping them is to show them that we’re not scared, because we trust them!”

Ordinarily, Tom’s exaggerated fist-shaking would have made Marinette laugh; instead, she just looks down in shame.

“But what if Ladybug fails?” she mumbles.

“Then I’d come and save you!” Tom hefts a long baguette as a sword. “Super Baker to the rescue!”

Marinette giggles and leans up to kiss her father on the cheek. “Thanks, Super Dad!” she says before darting up to her bedroom to grab her purse. She pauses, looking at the vanity where she’s stored the earrings, and she takes the box out of the drawer, chews her lip, then nods and stashes the box in her purse.

She’s made her decision. She’s giving the earrings to Alya; the superhero enthusiast will do a much better job at being a hero than Marinette ever could. Tikki might be disappointed, but she’ll soon see that it’s for the best.


“Ladybug is just so cool!” Alya gushes to Marinette, who just stares down glumly as they turn into the school’s street. How Alya has this much faith in her, Marinette has no clue. But that faith should serve her well as the new Ladybug. “I saw her yesterday! I was so close to her! Uh…hiding! At the stadium!”

“That’s cool…” Marinette says, handing Alya back her phone. Alya doesn’t seem to notice her mood. “But why do you trust Ladybug so much? All these stone beings…and what about Reine Nuit?”

“Oh, of course I love Reine Nuit too.” Alya swells when she says the cat superhero’s name. “But Ladybug’s just so amazing and – and just – aaaaah, I can’t even! A real live superhero! I think she’s totally my gay thing.”

“But what if she’s not really cut out to be a superhero even though everyone thinks she is?” Marinette argues.

“What are you talking about, girl?” Alya squints at Marinette, leans in close, then snaps her fingers. “Oh, wait. I know what this is about!”

Marinette gulps. Does Alya know? How can she know?

“You’re scared!” Alya nudges Marinette. “But don’t be! I just know that Ladybug is a true superheroine! She’s going to protect us all! I believe in her. And I believe in Reine Nuit.”

If Marinette needed any more proof that she’s made the right choice, this is it.

“Please, Nathalie!” pleads a familiar voice as Marinette and Alya draw level with the school gates. To Marinette’s surprise, Adrien is being cornered by a woman with a dark pantsuit and dark hair pulled back in a tight bun, along with a gorilla-like man who could rival Marinette’s father in size.

“Wow, what’s going on with Adrien?” Alya says.

“You had your fun yesterday,” the woman says calmly. “Your father is furious that you disobeyed him. Please don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

“I just want to go to school like a normal kid! Is that too much to ask for?”

The woman sighs. “According to your father, yes. Come on, Adrien.”

Adrien’s dejected face is such a stark contrast to his wide-eyed, innocent hope from yesterday that something hot settles in Marinette’s belly. Before she knows what she’s doing, she’s storming over and planting herself in front of Adrien, hands on her hips, glaring at the woman and the thickset man.

“Listen here!” Marinette declares. “Adrien deserves to go to school just as much as anybody else! And if that makes his father mad then too bad!” She grabs Adrien’s wrist. “Come on, Adrien. You’re going to class and no one’s going to stop you.”

Adrien offers no resistance as Marinette tugs him inside the school, Alya rushing to catch up. Undoubtedly, the only reason that the woman and thickset man don’t come after them is due to the utter shock plastered across their faces, but Marinette still wants to make sure that they’re well within the school grounds so as not to tempt the two. Once they’re in the courtyard, she lets go of Adrien and jumps away.

“Sorry if I was out of line!” she says. Adrien just stares at her with an open mouth. “But it’s not fair that you shouldn’t be allowed to go to school just because you’re famous!”

“Oh – uh – no, apologise – don’t apologise!” Adrien’s cheeks pinken and he scratches the back of his head. “Actually…that’s the first time someone’s stood up for me. Thanks, Marinette. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

Marinette beams at him. Next to her, Alya is smirking at Adrien, but Marinette can’t possibly begin to figure out why.

“Once a monster, always a monster!” Chloé’s annoying voice declares from the other side of the courtyard. Marinette turns just in time to see Ivan storming off. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

Marinette and Alya exchange furious looks. Before they can confront Chloé, however, Adrien gets in first.

“Chloé!” He storms over, fists clenched, but Chloé’s whole demeanour changes and she immediately latches on to him like an octopus.

“Adrikins!” she squeals. Their other classmates don’t exactly look all that impressed with Adrien, but their faces shift when he detaches himself from Chloé and steps away.

“That was totally uncool,” he says, crossing his arms. “You should be nicer to people, Chloé.”

“Pfft,” Chloé scoffs. “We don’t need to be nice to these peasants. You need to learn how to command respect!” Her face falls when Adrien turns and storms off. “Wait! Adrikins!”

“I thought he was her bestie,” Alix comments as Marinette and Alya draw level with them.

“Only because she was never mean around him,” Marinette says. “I talked to him yesterday. He’s actually really nice once you get to know him.”

“Huh,” Juleka says. “Who would’ve thought?”

“Maybe I should be his friend,” Nino says. “If he’s gonna sit near Chloé, I reckon he’ll need me to keep him sane.”

Marinette grins at Alya. “That’s a great idea, Nino. You guys should get to class. I’m going to go and find Ivan.”

With a little searching, Marinette manages to track down Ivan in the locker room, listening to music. After saving him yesterday and realising that his akuma had been a teasing note from Kim about his feelings for Mylène, Marinette had realised that he just needed a little push to confess to her, and she intends to give that push now and prevent him from giving in to negative emotions and being akumatised again.

“I’m no good with words, though,” Ivan mumbles.

“Who needs words?” Marinette says. “You could draw her a picture, send her flowers…”

“I could…write her a song?” Ivan says. Marinette beams.

“That’s a great idea! What girl wouldn’t want a love song written especially for her? Go for it, Ivan, and stay positive!”


“Hey, Alya, wouldn’t you want to be a superhero and go out and fight monsters and villains?” Marinette says when she and Alya have taken their seats in class. Her heart deflates at Alya’s response.

“Eh, not really. I’m more of a Lois Lane than a Clark Kent, you know? Why?”

“Oh…no reason.” Marinette stares down at her purse. Who else can she give the earrings to? She was so sure that Alya would be the right choice!

“You can’t ignore me forever, Adrikins,” Chloé sings. In front of her, Adrien doesn’t react. “Don’t worry, you’ll come crawling back to me soon enough when you realise that the riff-raff here aren’t worth it.”

“Shut up, Chloé,” Adrien growls.

“Hmm…” Marinette once again looks at her purse. If Alya doesn’t want to be a superhero, well, Adrien might be a great second choice. But how to get the earrings into his bag? Before she can figure it out, however, Stoneheart comes crashing into the classroom and grabs Mylène and Chloé amidst the screams of the other students.

“Gotta go! Need a close-up!” Alya bolts out of the classroom like her pants are on fire. Marinette dives under the table and starts to shimmy towards Adrien’s bag so that she can hide the earrings inside, but she’s thwarted when he whoops and jumps to his feet.

“Come on, Nino!” Adrien exclaims, his eyes wide and glittering. “We should go after him!”

“Uh…are you crazy, dude?” Nino says.

“Following him – seeing Ladybug and Reine Nuit – I’ve never felt so alive! I nearly got crushed to death yesterday!”

“That’s…not a good thing…?”

“Whatever! I’m following Stoneheart!”

“Wait!” Marinette cries. “Come back! You need –”

Adrien’s gone before she can even finish her sentence. With a groan, Marinette takes off after him, not quite managing to keep up as he runs through the streets after Stoneheart but managing to keep him in sight. When she rounds the corner, Marinette instinctively takes in the situation: multiple stone monsters, one of which has Reine Nuit clutched tightly in its fist, while she screams curses at it that have Marinette wincing.

“Hey! Let her go!” Adrien jumps onto the monster from on top of a car and kicks its fist. Although he doesn’t manage to hurt it, his kick makes it reflexively let go of Reine Nuit, who falls to the road with a groan and bounds back to her feet. But she’s not quick enough to save Adrien from being snatched up by the stone monster, which then heads after Stoneheart with Adrien squirming and shouting in its grip.

Adrien!” Marinette shrieks. Reine Nuit barely spares her a glance.

“Get to safety!” the superhero orders her, leaping off after the stone beings. “Ladybug, where are you?”

Marinette’s frozen to the spot. Reine Nuit is alone – Adrien’s in danger – there are three innocent people being held captive – her fault, her fault, her fault

“Gah!” Marinette fumbles for the box in her purse and inserts the earrings as quickly as she can. Tikki once again appears in a swirl of red light, beaming. “I need Ladybug!”

“I knew you’d come around!” Tikki says. Marinette sighs.

“I’m still not sure I’m up for this, but Adrien’s in danger. I can’t sit back and do nothing. Tikki, spots on!”


“Finally!” Reine Nuit could cry tears of joy when a familiar red figure lands on the monster that’s got Adrien in its grip.

“Reine Nuit, your staff!” Ladybug calls. Reine Nuit immediately springs to join Ladybug, using her staff to pry open the monster’s fist while Ladybug yanks Adrien out. Then they’re off, jumping through the streets in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, Reine Nuit using her baton as aid while Ladybug swings with her yo-yo, Adrien in her arms.

“Wow! I got rescued by Ladybug!” Adrien pulls out his phone and starts recording the instant Ladybug sets him down on the ground.

“Damn, this kid has no survival instincts whatsoever,” Reine Nuit comments. Ladybug snorts.

“Stay safe,” she says to Adrien. “Now we need to rescue the other two and take down the source.”

“Do we have to rescue Chloé?” Reine Nuit complains. To her surprise, Ladybug giggles.

“Afraid so, kitty cat,” she says. “We have to save everyone, even the civilians who don’t deserve it.”

“You hate Chloé too?” Reine Nuit high-fives Ladybug. “Awesome!”

“Uh,” says Adrien, “as much as I’m angry at Chloé, I do still care about her.”

“Fine, fine, we’ll save her,” Reine Nuit says. “But only ‘cause you asked so nicely. Let’s go, Ladybug!”

They arrive at the base of the Eiffel Tower near André Bourgeois and the police just as Stoneheart hurls Chloé at the ground. Although it pains her to do so, Ladybug swings in and snatches Chloé out of the air before she can become a yellow stain on the stone ground.

“I didn’t promise!” Chloé wails. Ladybug blinks.

“Huh?”

Now that Chloé’s out of the way and safely in her father’s arms, any concern on the police’s part seems to vanish; Officer Roger orders them to attack despite Stoneheart still having another captive.

“I have a new plan, unlike you!” Roger says when Ladybug protests. “Move aside and let the pros do their thing. You’ve already failed once!”

Ladybug deflates and looks down. “…He’s right, you know. If I’d captured Stoneheart’s akuma the first time around, none of this would have happened! I knew I wasn’t the right one for this job…”

“Oh, no you don’t.” Reine Nuit storms over to Roger and jabs a finger at him. “If it wasn’t for Ladybug, Chloé would’ve splattered just then! And if it wasn’t for Ladybug, Stoneheart wouldn’t have been defeated the first time around! Where were you guys? Oh, that’s right, cowering while we took care of it and I nearly got my spine broken!”

“Reine Nuit!” Ladybug dashes to pull Reine Nuit away from Roger, whose eye is twitching.

“You know I’m right!” Reine Nuit says. “Like you haven’t ever made a mistake before!”

“Hey!” Ladybug grabs Reine Nuit by the shoulders. “I appreciate the support. Really, I do! But maybe we should focus on the akuma rather than antagonising the police?”

Reine Nuit huffs and crosses her arms. “Fine. Only for you.”

“People of Paris, listen carefully!” announces a deep voice. Ladybug and Reine Nuit whirl around to find a swarm of purple butterflies hovering above a prone Stoneheart, in the shape of a face. Reine Nuit is keenly aware of Adrien skidding to a stop behind them, and she notices him raise his phone at the akuma swam. “I am Hawkmoth.”

“Hawkmoth?” Ladybug and Reine Nuit repeat together. Reine Nuit gasps. This must be the supervillain behind turning Ivan into Stoneheart! Oooh, now she knows who the true mastermind is! Her final archnemesis!

“Ladybug, Reine Nuit, give me the ladybug earrings and the cat ring now,” Hawkmoth says. “You’ve done enough damage to these innocent people!”

“Nice try, Hawkmoth, but we know who the bad guy is,” Ladybug drawls, clapping slowly as she approaches the akuma cloud. “Let's not reverse the roles here. Without you, none of these innocent victims would be transformed into villains. Hawkmoth, no matter how long it takes, we will find you, and you will hand us your Miraculous!”

With a cry, Ladybug throws her yo-yo at the cloud again and again, capturing akuma after akuma until the Hawkmoth face screams and explodes into purple butterflies. There’s not another sound anywhere; everyone is dead silent, staring at Ladybug as she lands on the Eiffel Tower and turns to face the helicopters in the air and people on the ground.

“Let me make this promise to you,” she announces. “No matter who wants to harm you, Ladybug and Reine Nuit will do everything in our power to keep you safe!” She opens her yo-yo and a cloud of pure white butterflies stream out, enveloping the Eiffel Tower before dissipating. All Reine Nuit can do is watch, her mouth wide open, her stomach twisting, her heart pounding, because this is so far from the timid Ladybug from yesterday and…wow. She’s always had a thing for strong girls who take no shit.

“I think I love her,” Reine Nuit murmurs.

“I think I’d love her if Marinette didn’t come along first,” Adrien adds, looking just as shocked as Reine Nuit feels.

All of a sudden, Stoneheart jumps to his feet. Reine Nuit jolts into action, leaping up to join Ladybug on the Eiffel Tower as Mylène screams for help, but Stoneheart just growls, “You’ll never take Mylène from me!” and starts climbing further up the Tower. Crashing sounds alert Reine Nuit and Ladybug to the fact that the other stone monsters are also climbing the Tower.

“We’re surrounded!” Reine Nuit announces. Her stomach churns at the sight of the monsters climbing on all sides, keeping her and her partner trapped where they are. “What do we do, Ladybug? If we attack him, he just grows bigger.”

“But we do know where his akuma is,” Ladybug points out.

“Yeah, in the fist with Mylène. He’s never gonna let her go.”

Ladybug frowns up at Stoneheart, then her face clears. “That’s it! If Stoneheart’s in love with Mylène, then we don’t separate them! We bring them closer together!”

“Uh…okay?” Reine Nuit says. “I mean, I don’t get it, but you sound like you know what you’re doing. I’ll just ruin whatever you tell me to ruin.” God, it’s only been a day and she’d follow this girl anywhere, and she proves this by bounding up the Tower with a swinging Ladybug to where Stoneheart and Mylène are.

Surrounded by stone monsters, with Stoneheart not letting Mylène or the akuma go any time soon and Reine Nuit getting slapped around from monster to monster like a game of volleyball, Ladybug finally ends up summoning her Lucky Charm.

“A parachute?” she exclaims. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Hurry up and figure it out!” Reine Nuit calls as another monster slams her into the cool metal of the Tower. “Owww…I’m gonna feel this in the morning…”

“His hand! Get ready!”

Reine Nuit rolls to dodge the next attack, then looks up in time to see Ladybug manipulate Stoneheart into kissing Mylène with her yo-yo like a puppeteer. In shock, Stoneheart drops Mylène, who screams and clings to his gigantic pinky finger, while Reine Nuit flings herself off the Tower to bat the little purple wad of paper up at Ladybug before using her baton to anchor herself against the Tower.

“Woo!” she cheers. “Forget drugs, this is the best rush I’ll ever need!” Maybe she should become an anti-drugs spokesperson on the side. Gotta use her powers for good, right?

However, this presents another problem: as soon as Ladybug frees the akuma, Stoneheart turns back into Ivan and both he and Mylène go plummeting towards the ground. At Ladybug’s order to save Ivan, Reine Nuit says, “Cataclysm!” and black sparks of power rush to her ring, fizzing, making her hand tingle with the same cold power as when she transforms from Alya into Reine Nuit. She uses her baton as a spring to leap up towards Ivan, slamming her hand against the Tower and gasping when the metal under her palm immediately rusts and ages.

Whoa. This is so cool.

A long shard of corroded metal splits and falls away to jut out into the air, giving Reine Nuit the perfect leverage to swing out and grab Ivan by the back of the shirt before he falls past her. A moment later, Ladybug’s yo-yo zips past her and back up to where they just were.

“Gotcha!” she hears Ladybug cry. Wow. She was totally right about Ladybug being so awesome. Okay, so she’s Reine Nuit and she’s a superhero, but – but Ladybug is Ladybug! Reine Nuit keeps hanging with Ivan, unsure of how exactly to get down, until Ladybug calls, “Miraculous Ladybug!” and a swarm of red and black ladybugs swirl around the Tower, righting everything that’s been wronged. One of these wrongs includes depositing Reine Nuit and Ivan on the ground and restoring Reine Nuit’s baton to its usual place at the small of her back, along with draining away all the aches and pains she’s accumulated over the course of the battle.

“Whoa,” an awestruck Adrien says from nearby, trying to get as much of the healing swarm on camera as he can. “Are you guys seeing what I’m seeing?”

“Yeah!” Ladybug gasps. “It’s beautiful! And amazing! It’s – it’s miraculous!”


Although Marinette’s heart is pounding as she sits down in her usual seat with Alya rather than at the front, she can’t deny that it’s totally worth it to see the look of sheer apoplectic rage on Chloé’s face when she tells the blonde to get lost because she sure as hell isn’t moving and “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing”. Alya grins at her.

“Good job,” Alya says, fist-bumping her. Adrien enters the classroom at that moment, and his face lights up when he sees that Marinette and Alya are sitting behind him and Nino.

“You guys missed the best action!” he says, pulling his phone out. “I was there! So close to the action that I actually got grabbed trying to help Reine Nuit!”

Dude,” Nino gasps. “Really?”

“Yeah!” Adrien’s grin widens. “But Ladybug saved me! Look!” He plays them the footage of the battle at the Eiffel Tower, and Marinette’s a little astounded at how clear the video is. Then again, it is a very good quality phone that Adrien has.

“I bet your father was happy that you went running after an akuma,” Alya smirks.

“Oh, he was furious,” Adrien says cheerfully. “But it was such an adrenaline rush! After years of being cooped up in my own house, it was like I was alive for the first time! Man, it would’ve been so cool to be a hero.” He pouts at his phone and says, “Guess I’ll have to settle for being Lois Lane. But I still don’t know what to even do with these videos.”

“Why not post them online?” Alya says. “People would kill to see that kind of footage.”

“True,” Adrien says. “Now I just need a catchy YouTube name.”

“And I can edit the videos for you if you need,” Nino says. “I love filmmaking, man.”

“Sweet!” Adrien high-fives Nino. “This is gonna be awesome!”

Chapter Text

“So, wait, why exactly is her Lucky Charm so…weird?” Alya says from where she’s sitting cross-legged on her bed and finishing off the last of her homework, while Plagg stuffs himself with Camembert cheese nearby.

“Tikki’s the kwami of creation,” Plagg says. “Creation does weird shit. At least we’re pretty straightforward – wham, bam, take it down.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

“And that’s why you weren’t picked to be Ladybug.” Plagg’s shit-eating grin makes Alya’s eye twitch, but she chooses to ignore it for the sake of her newfound superhero status. Who knows if annoying the tiny god creature will screw with her powers? “Ladybugs have to be quick on their feet and be able to make plans out of the weirdest circumstances. Adapt to the situation.”

“I’m quick on my feet!” Alya protests.

“They also have to be imaginative and creative,” Plagg says loudly. Alya rolls her eyes at him. “You’re impulsive and charge without thinking, even if you’ll get flattened for it. That’s why you got me. We protect the Ladybugs, so they can fix the crap that the akumas cause.”

“So, what, like brains and brawn?” Alya says. “Both equally as important for different reasons?”

“Exactly!” Plagg gulps down more cheese. “And we both know which one you are.”

“Alya?” There’s a knock on Alya’s door before she can strangle Plagg, powers be damned. Plagg dives out of sight just in time; Otis opens the door, then wrinkles his nose. “Phew! Since when d’you like that stuff?”

“…Acquired taste?” Alya says. She picks up a crumb of Camembert and pops it into her mouth, struggling not to gag and grimace at the disgusting taste that explodes across her tongue. “Mmm!”

Otis just blinks. “…Okay. Well, Nora’s plans got cancelled, so she’s staying home with you and the twins. Just thought I’d let you know. Your mother and I will be back later tonight.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Alya says. Otis shoots her one more suspicious look before retreating from her room, and Plagg emerges as soon as it’s safe.

“I expect compensation for that cheese,” he says, diving back into his stink nest as Alya coughs and spits out the gooey bit of cheese in her mouth.

“It was one crumb to cover for you in the future!” Alya says, downing half her water bottle in one go.

“Doesn’t matter. Camembert is sacred.”

Alya rolls her eyes. Then she grabs Plagg, ignoring his squawked protests, and stuffs him in her shirt pocket before scooping up her phone and heading out into the living room.

“I’m going for a walk,” she says. Nora, who’s stretching while Ella and Etta watch TV, just grunts, so Alya makes her escape before she’s roped into doing chores or helping Nora “practice” for her next match, aka fulfil her sisterly duties of being a punching bag. Once outside, she walks around to the next block over and then ducks into the first alley she finds.

“Why would you separate me and my beautiful cheese?” Plagg moans.

“Because I’m gonna take a bit of time to practice without having to fight for my life,” Alya says. “Plus, I don’t have to listen to you if you’re stuck in the ring. Plagg, claws out!”

The transformation once again washes over her with its cold green power. It’s just as thrilling as the first time turning into Reine Nuit, and she can’t help her giggle when she looks down at her black leather suit, the green bits almost glowing in the evening dimness. She spots a nearby building, takes a deep breath to psyche herself up, then takes a running start and tries to leap to the roof without the aid of her baton. No knowing when she’ll be left weaponless, right?

As it turns out, her super abilities also extend to strengthening her leg muscles, because she’s easily able to make half the jump, then bound off the brick to reach the top. She whoops and punches the air and spins on the spot giddily, shrieking, “I’m a superhero!”

A ringing sound suddenly emanates from her baton, and she looks down to see the green cat’s paw on the end of it flashing. With a frown, she presses the paw with her thumb, and she gasps when a small rectangular screen pops out, then flickers to life to reveal Ladybug’s face.

“Ladybug?” she exclaims. Ladybug waves.

“Hi! Uh…I was just testing out my yo-yo. I take it you’re out practicing with your powers as well?”

“You know it!” Reine Nuit says. “Wait, so our weapons are also phones? How cool is this?”

Ladybug grins. “Since we’re both out, maybe we should meet up and talk in person? How about the Eiffel Tower?”

“Sure thing! See you there!” Reine Nuit presses the cat paw to hang up, causing the screen to retract back into her baton, and then she starts to leap and vault her way in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. Just like last time, the wind whistles through her hair, making her ponytail stream out behind her in a brown bush, and she can’t help the laughter that escapes her as she flips off a building, extends her staff as far as it’ll go, then vaults herself through the air and uses her staff to catch in one of the gaps in the Tower’s interlacing metal structure.

“This is like a dream come true!” she whoops, bounding up the Tower with a combination of her enhanced abilities and her staff. When she finally flips herself onto the same platform at the top where she and her partner had fought Stoneheart, she realises that she’s not alone; Ladybug has gotten here first, watching her with a small grin.

“From the sounds of it, you’re having a lot of fun,” Ladybug comments when Reine Nuit stops next to her, panting.

“Are you kidding?” Reine Nuit says. “This is – like – oh my god, all my life I’ve wanted to be a superhero! And now not only do I learn that this stuff is real, but I actually get to be one!”

Ladybug laughs and sits down, crossing her legs neatly. Reine Nuit follows suit, hugging her knees to her chest.

“I’m sorry I was late to Stoneheart the second time,” Ladybug says. “I…well, I nearly gave up. I didn’t purify the akuma, and everything was worse, and…I was convinced that whoever’s behind these earrings made a horrible mistake. I was going to give them to a friend, until I realised that I had to step up and do the right thing.”

“You nearly –?” Reine Nuit shakes her head. “Are you kidding? I’ve only fought with you twice and I can already tell you that I don’t want anyone else as a partner! The way you told Hawkmoth off like that? And how you talked to Paris? Oh my god, you’re, like, my idol.”

“Stop that!” Ladybug nudges Reine Nuit. “Don’t idolise me. We’re partners – we’re equals. I meant it when I said that we did it.”

“Well, that Lucky Charm just proves that you’re Ladybug,” Reine Nuit says. “I asked my kwami why you get weird stuff and he said that part of being Ladybug is being creative and imaginative and adaptable. If you weren’t any good as Ladybug, there’s no way you’d have made that whole plan in the stadium out of a wetsuit! Or up here with the parachute!”

“Really?” Ladybug tilts her head. Her blue eyes are dark in the evening light, and Reine Nuit once again finds herself questioning just how straight she really is. Not that she’s thought of herself as straight since she was ten and first heard of Majestia, to be fair. “My kwami never told me that.”

“Oh, mine was super rude about it,” Reine Nuit says. “He’s a bit of a douche. But apparently, I’m the brawn and you’re the brains. My power’s meant to work with yours to make sure that you pull your Lucky Charm off.”

“So, we balance each other out, then,” Ladybug says with a small smile. “That makes sense.”

They lapse into a comfortable silence, gazing out at the sea of lights that is Paris at night. The sight is nearly as mesmerising as her partner’s Miraculous Ladybug, although she’s not sure anything could come close to that beauty.

“I think we should talk about our identities,” Ladybug says. “It’s bound to come up.”

“I know you said that we have to keep them a secret,” Reine Nuit says. “And as much as I’d love to know who my partner is, I agree. The more people know who you are, the more chance there is of villains finding out, so the more danger your friends and family are in.” God, if anything happened to her parents or her sisters – or her new best friend Marinette…

“Not just that,” Ladybug says. “We’re partners. I get the feeling that we’re gonna become pretty close, since we’ll be working together to take down this Hawkmoth. And if I know who you are, it’ll make it harder for me to put my feelings aside and focus on the job when you’re in danger. At least by seeing you like this, it’s easier to tell myself that you can take care of yourself.”

“That’s…actually a good point,” Reine Nuit admits. “I didn’t even think of that, but you’re totally right.”

“Of course I am,” Ladybug says with a mischievous little smile. She sobers and looks back out at Paris. “I still can’t believe someone thinks I’m the best one for this job. It feels like…”

“A dream?” Reine Nuit says.

“Yeah. A dream. I keep expecting to wake up and find that it’s the first day of school and I was just having a really vivid dream.”

“Mood,” Reine Nuit says. She hums when a thought occurs to her. “Should we – I dunno – patrol the city every so often or something?”

“Patrol?” Judging by the way her forehead creases, the thought probably hadn’t even crossed Ladybug’s mind. “What for? We’ll know when an akuma pops up.”

“Who says we have to fight just akumas?” Reine Nuit says. “We’re superheroes. Our job is to fight crime. We can totally practice our skills on normal bad guys.”

“Huh. That’s not a bad idea. We do need to make sure that we can hold our own against akumas. And it would let us develop a working relationship with the public and the police.”

Reine Nuit snorts. “I still say you shoulda let me go that one for what he said to you. Honestly, like he’s never made a mistake before, especially when he was new!”

“He was scared and facing something totally new,” Ladybug says. “Just let it slide, okay?”

“Fine. Only ‘cause it’s you. So…what nights should we patrol? Obviously not every night, since I’ve got schoolwork and all…”

“Same here,” Ladybug says. “Every second or third night?”

“Should we really be that predictable?”

“Only at first. Just until we find our feet. Then we can organise a more random schedule.”

“True.” Reine Nuit sighs and then jumps to her feet. “I should get going. I told my family I was just taking a walk. The last thing I need is for them to think I’ve been kidnapped or something.”

“Yeah, my mum will probably be up to check on me soon,” Ladybug says. She tosses her yo-yo out into the city until it latches onto something that Reine Nuit can’t see, then smiles and waves at Reine Nuit. “See you next time, partner.”

“Later, angel bug,” Reine Nuit blurts out. She can’t help it; against the blanket of Parisian lights, Ladybug really does look like a softly glowing angel. Ladybug blinks. “Uh – sorry, that was probably inappropriate.”

“I don’t mind it,” Ladybug says. The corner of her mouth turns up, and she says, “Bye, pretty kitty,” and swings off. Reine Nuit stares after her, transfixed, until she shakes her head to snap out of it.

“Right. Home.” She starts to leap down the Tower, praying that she can get home before Nora gets too worried and starts asking questions.

Chapter Text

“Uh – coming!” Marinette calls when the doorbell rings. “Manon, no!” Groaning and giving up on getting her phone back from the child anytime soon, she shuffles over to answer the door.

“Alya?” Marinette blinks. “Uh, what are you –?”

“Mireille! Mireille! Mireille!” Manon chants in the background. Alya grins and leans to look around Marinette.

“Well, I came to see if you wanted to go to the park and hang out,” she says. “Adrien’s got a photoshoot on, so I figured we could pull funny faces in the background while he’s posing.”

“Alya! You know his photoshoots are important!” Marinette protests, though she can’t stop the laugh that escapes her.

“To who? Him or his dad?” Alya says dryly. “Well, looks like we can’t do it anyway.”

“Yeah.” Marinette grins sheepishly and scratches the back of her head. “That’s Manon, one of my mum’s friends’ daughters. I’m watching her all afternoon.”

“Couldn’t say no?” Alya says. “Don’t worry, girl, I get it. It took me years to build up immunity to my twin sisters and their baby doll eyes. Hey, what d’you say we get Ella and Etta and take them and Manon to the park together?”

“Well…” Marinette chews her lip and looks over her shoulder at Manon, who’s running around the living room like she’s downed a whole energy drink. “I mean, Nadja never said that Manon had to stay here. And it might help to get out – uh, help? No! She’s…an absolute angel!”

Manon running past while clanging a pot and spatula wipes the pained smile off Marinette’s face as she shrieks and chases after the giggling child.

“Yay!” Manon cheers.

“Manon! Put that down! Ugh, come back!”

Alya snickers while watching the chaos. “You’re just a pushover, Marinette. I have to babysit Ella and Etta all the time, so I’m an expert in dealing with angels.”

Manon comes screeching to a halt when she catches sight of Alya. Not expecting this, Marinette flails as she tries to stop, resulting in her crashing to the floor after losing her balance.

“Who are you, anyway?” Manon demands, frowning at Alya. Alya grins and kneels, while Marinette groans and climbs to her feet.

“I’m a mythical unicorn from the world of Rispa, disguised as a totally fabulous human girl!” she says. “I grant magical wishes, but only to little monkeys to behave!”

“No, you’re not!” Manon says. Then she blinks. “…Are you?”

In response, Alya grabs Manon and tosses her in the air, then deposits her on Marinette’s shoulders.

“Okay, let’s go get my sisters and then go to the park!” Alya says.

“Yay!” Manon says.

“Okay!” Marinette says, wishing not for the first time that she could get people to take her seriously like Alya can.


 

“Park! Park! Park!” chant three little kids, yanking Marinette and Alya into the park. If Manon had been hard enough to handle alone, then Ella and Etta Césaire ramp the intensity up to eleven, especially being identical twins. Thankfully, Alya knows exactly how to handle them, so they’re more like exuberant children than little monsters from Hell.

Over at the fountain, Adrien is posing while a photographer snaps picture after picture of him wearing a lilac button-up T-shirt and pale grey jeans. The thickset man that Marinette had confronted two weeks ago, who happens to be Adrien’s bodyguard, stands nearby. Marinette gulps; she’s still unsure if he hates her for her show of defiance on Adrien’s behalf, and she doesn’t exactly want to find out.

“I want to see hunger in your eyes!” the photographer declares as Marinette and Alya are tugged past with the children. Adrien looks up at that moment, and when he catches sight of Marinette, his entire face lights up and he gives an aborted wave. “Yes! The passion! The hunger! Perfecto!”

Next to Marinette, Alya pulls a face, poking her tongue out, so Marinette crosses her eyes and gives a silly grin. Adrien snorts rather loudly, covering his mouth and looking down, but this backfires on Marinette and Alya because the photographer then starts celebrating Adrien’s bashfulness and demanding more.

“Marinette, I want a balloon with Mireille on it!” Manon says. “Can I? Pleeeeeease?”

“Yeah!” Ella says. “Balloon!”

“Please, Alya!” Etta says. Alya sighs and then shakes her head with a smile.

“Stay here with Marinette and I’ll get your balloons,” she says. The children cheer and start running around, while Marinette sinks to the ground and watches them through lazy, half-closed eyes. She wants to say that this is the last time she’ll let herself get suckered into this but…yeah, no, she’s a total pushover.

“You!” Adrien’s photographer is suddenly in front of Marinette, pointing at her. Marinette shrieks and jumps to her feet. “I need an extra!”

“Wha – who – me?” Marinette says.

“Sì! To pose with Signor Adrien! He specifically requested you!”

Over the photographer’s shoulder, Adrien looks as though Christmas has come early. It’s not like Marinette doesn’t want to do it, but…she can’t exactly abandon the girls. Alya isn’t back yet, and it’s totally unfair to expect Alya to look after three girls.

“Go on, Marinette!” Alya’s back with three Mireille balloons. “Trust me, I can handle these little angels.”

“Well…” Marinette looks at Adrien again. “I guess if you’re sure?”

“Yep!” Alya says. “We’ll go to Rispa and find us some sad little village kids and grant those wishes! Unicorns unite!”

“Unicorns unite!” Manon, Ella, and Etta cry. With a shrug, Marinette is about to head over to the fountain, but a sudden cackle above them stops her in her tracks.

“Oh no!” she gasps when she catches sight of the girl floating in mid-air, wearing a purple dress and white boots and gloves, with spiky purple and white striped pigtails, an electric purple mask across her pale cheeks, and a large parasol in her hands.

“I am Stormy Weather!” the girl announces. “Don’t worry, it’s only a light breeze!” She aims her parasol at the people below, and an enormously strong gust of wind comes bursting out, sending everyone flying. Marinette screams and tries to grab a nearby tree, only to fall flat on her face when the wind suddenly dies down. “I suggest you get somewhere a little warmer, because it’s about to get chilly!”

It happens almost in slow motion. “No!” Marinette cries, rushing for the fountain, but it’s too late; Stormy Weather shoots a bolt of ice out of her parasol, creating a thick dome of ice that traps Adrien, his bodyguard, the photographer, and the three girls inside. She’s rooted to the spot for a moment while people around her shriek and run, but then she remembers that she’s one of the only two people able to deal with this, and so she darts behind the tree she’d tried to use to anchor herself against the wind.

“We’ll save the girls, Marinette!” Tikki says firmly. Marinette nods.

“Tikki, spots on!”

As Ladybug, she immediately heads for the icy dome and tries to cut it open, but her yo-yo can’t get any traction on the slippery ice and so it just slides right off.

“Don’t worry about us!” Adrien says, his voice muffled by the ice. “Just go and take down Stormy Weather!” He groans. “Ugh, I can’t see the action from here!”

“Where’s Marinette?” Manon says, her lip quivering.

“And Alya?” Ella and Etta chorus. Ladybug smiles in what she hopes is a reassuring manner.

“Marinette’s safe,” she says. “She told me about you, Manon. And as for Alya…she probably got blown away with everyone else. I’ll make sure to find her!”

When Ladybug finds Stormy Weather, she’s slammed Reine Nuit into the ground with wind and ice and has summoned a thunderstorm to no doubt try and zap Reine Nuit with lightning. With a sigh, Ladybug throws her yo-yo to wrap around Reine Nuit’s waist, then pulls her out of harm’s way. Reine Nuit smirks and salutes at Stormy Weather as soon as she realises what’s going on.

“Just in time, angel bug,” Reine Nuit says when Ladybug deposits her on the ground. “I don’t think she’s a fan of cats.”

“I’m not a fan of bugs either,” Stormy Weather growls. “And unluckily for you, ladybugs shrivel in the cold!” She aims a burst of ice at Ladybug, who dances out of the way and then throws her yo-yo at Stormy Weather. The weather girl snorts and leans out of its way. “Is that really all you’ve got?”

“To be fair, I’ve only been doing this for two weeks,” Ladybug says.

“That’s not very ice of you,” Reine Nuit grins at Stormy Weather.

“Hey! Only I get to make weather puns!” Stormy Weather sends Reine Nuit flying over the rooftops with a burst of wind. Then she turns to Ladybug and commands lightning after lightning bolt to shoot down from the skies, and it’s all Ladybug can do to yelp and dodge each electric purple blast. How are they supposed to defeat Stormy Weather when they can’t even land a hit on her?

“Hee-yah!” A silvery baton comes whizzing out of nowhere and strikes Stormy Weather in the head, sending her crashing to the ground. With a snarl, the akuma whirls around and dodges Reine Nuit’s dive for her, then whacks Reine Nuit with her parasol.

“That was a sleety thing to do!” Stormy Weather hisses.

“Hey, that one wasn’t actually half-bad,” Reine Nuit says, reeling back from the whack. Stormy Weather looks torn between preening and attacking, but her bloodthirsty akuma nature wins out and she jumps out of the way of Ladybug’s yo-yo, then raises her parasol and summons a mini tornado on top of the heroes.

“I’m gonna be sick,” Ladybug groans as she whirls around and around in the funnel. The tornado then explodes, sending her and Reine Nuit careening over the buildings, screaming. Ladybug’s head whips around, trying desperately to find a good anchor, and she eventually grabs Reine Nuit by the tail, then throws her yo-yo to catch around a chimney and brings them crashing to a halt on the roof, tumbling over each other because Ladybug may have changed their path, but they were still full of momentum from the tornado.

“Man, she makes Stoneheart look like a piece of cake,” Reine Nuit comments, pushing herself to her feet. “How are we gonna take her down?”

“We find her, for starters,” Ladybug says. She accepts Reine Nuit’s helping hand up. “Then…uh, we wing it? Charm it?”

Reine Nuit holds up a finger. “Can you Lucky Charm me a sick bag?” she says before bolting to the edge of the roof and throwing up. Ladybug wrinkles her nose with a disgusted exclamation, although her stomach feels about the same after the treatment she’d just gone through, so she can’t exactly blame her partner. With a weak groan, Reine Nuit sinks to her knees. “That. Was. Awful. Why don’t they ever tell you about this in the brochure?”

“Sorry that it’s not all adoring fans and fun powers,” Ladybug says dryly. “Where could she have gone?”

As if in response to her question, a nearby big screen flickers to life, revealing Stormy Weather against a green screen backdrop of a map of France.

“Hello, viewers!” the weather girl chirps. “Here's the latest forecast for the first day of summer. Looks like Mother Nature had a change of plans. Summer vacation is officially over!”

“Good thing I like the cold, then,” Reine Nuit says. “Hot chocolate, blankets, fires…what’s not to love? Although it hasn’t been summer for a few weeks now, so I’ve got no clue what she’s on about.”

Ladybug scowls at her and shivers violently. Now that they’re not on the move, the cold is catching up to her, eating into her bones, numbing her hands and feet under her suit, turning her nose into an icicle. It seems that Stormy Weather had been right about ladybugs not exactly thriving in the cold.

“Well, we can’t all be furballs like you, pretty kitty,” Ladybug says. “But at least now we know where to find her.”


 

Of course the broadcast is a trap and happens to be just a recording. Really, after all the superhero stories Reine Nuit has read, you’d think she’d have been able to at least suspect that this was going to happen. But no, she and Ladybug had just waltzed right into the studio, leaving them utterly at Stormy Weather’s mercy as she fried the building’s circuitry, leaving them in total darkness.

Or, at least, leaving Ladybug in total darkness. Man, between her resistance to the cold and her newfound night vision, Reine Nuit is absolutely killing it here.

“Come on!” Reine Nuit grabs Ladybug’s hand as Stormy Weather cackles and runs away. “I’ll help you, angel bug.”

It’s a mark of how serious the situation is that Ladybug doesn’t fire back with a witty retort, but instead nods and lets Reine Nuit guide her out of the studio and down the hall after Stormy Weather. They burst through the door at the end of the hall, chasing Stormy Weather up a flight of stairs, and it’s purely by instinct that Reine Nuit tackles Ladybug to the ground to prevent a fire extinguisher from slamming her in the face when Stormy Weather throws it down at them.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take them long to burst out into what little natural light there is outside on top of the studio building. But now they’re trapped between massive billboards on all sides, with Stormy Weather floating above them.

“You airheads!” Stormy Weather crows. “You fell right into my trap! Tornado!” She thrusts her parasol up to summon another tornado, only this one is about five times the size of the one she’d created before. If that one had made Reine Nuit sick…well, she doesn’t even want to start imagining what this one will do to her once Stormy Weather unleashes it on her. If there was ever a time to summon a Lucky Charm, Reine Nuit would think it’s now. Apparently, so does Ladybug.

“Lucky Charm!” the red hero calls, then catches a ladybug-patterned bath towel that falls in response. “Uh, what am I supposed to do with this?”

“At least we won’t get wet,” Reine Nuit deadpans.

“Good thing too, since cats hate water,” Ladybug shoots back.

“Hail!” Stormy Weather seems to decide that the tornado isn’t bad enough and that the heroes could really do with some nice, thick chunks of ice raining down on their heads to crush their skulls. Purely by instinct, Reine Nuit shoves Ladybug down and starts spinning her staff like a propeller above their heads, creating a temporary hail shield. But she can’t keep it up for too long, not when her right forearm is starting to seize and cramp.

“I got it!” Ladybug’s voice is a blessed relief. She points at one of the massive billboards surrounding them. “Bring it down, Reine Nuit!”

“Got it! Cataclysm!” Once her ring is sparking with destructive energy, Reine Nuit calls, “My grandma could do better than that, Ice Queen!” to get Stormy Weather’s attention. It works; the weather girl howls and shoots lightning bolt after lightning bolt at Reine Nuit, who dances and ducks and dodges each one until she’s close enough to the billboard that she can run her hand along the base to corrode the metal into dust.

From there, it’s over quickly. Reine Nuit’s distraction gives Ladybug the perfect opportunity to grab Stormy Weather by the ankle and run her yo-yo around a crane and several pipes for leverage, using the bath towel to help her soar into the air on a current created by one of the ventilation pipes knocked out by the billboard. This creates a counterweight that pulls Stormy Weather down as Ladybug floats up, and the crane is yanked around by the yo-yo and rips the parasol out of Stormy Weather’s hands, which Reine Nuit catches and tosses to Ladybug.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma!” Ladybug declares, snapping the parasol over her knee. A black butterfly wriggles out of the broken pieces and tries to fly away, only to be swiftly captured by Ladybug’s yo-yo. “Time to de-evilise! Gotcha!” Once the pure white butterfly is released, Ladybug farewells it and then throws the bath towel in the air to summon her Miraculous Ladybug.

Just like with Stoneheart, Reine Nuit is mesmerised by the sight of the red and black swarm surging around, repairing the billboard and the pipes, dissipating the tornado and the storm clouds above them to summon back the brilliant blue sky and sunshine, then coursing outwards to fix the rest of Paris. Will this ever become any less wondrous? God, she hopes not. There’s just something so amazingly pure and raw about this that she could watch all day.

Stormy Weather, kneeling nearby, is encased in a purplish-black mass that strips away her villainous skin and leaves a girl with soft blonde pigtails and a blue frilly dress. She blinks and looks around. “Huh? What am I doing up here?”

Ladybug and Reine Nuit grin at each other. “Pound it!” they chorus, fist-bumping.


 

“Marinette!” Manon cries when Marinette detransforms and emerges from behind a tree.

“Manon!” Marinette kneels to let the little girl crash into her with a tight hug. “Oh my gosh, are you alright?”

“Sure, silly!” Manon says. “Adrien played a bunch of games with us! Did you know that he’s secretly a dragon?”

“Really?” Marinette raises an eyebrow at Adrien, who grins and shrugs. “I had no idea.” She lets Manon down.

“Girls!” Alya comes running from the other side of the park. Ella and Etta’s faces light up and they bolt to meet her.

“Alya, Alya, Alya!”

“Thanks for looking after the girls,” Marinette says to Adrien as Alya reunites with her babbling sisters. “I was so worried! I wanted to – but Ladybug told me –”

“It’s okay, Marinette,” Adrien says, thankfully saving Marinette from having to fumble for an excuse as to why she’d disappeared. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

Marinette throws her arms around Adrien gratefully, although she can’t for the life of her figure out why his face is so red when she pulls away.

“Sì!” The photographer seems to pop out of nowhere. “The sizzling chemistry! You are a perfect match for Signor Adrien, Signorina…”

“Marinette.”

“Signorina Marinetta!”

“Please, Marinette?” Adrien scratches the back of his neck. “It’d really mean a lot. I think I’m having an off day today.”

With that, how can Marinette refuse? “Sure,” she says. “Alya, you can take care of the girls, right?”

“We’re going dragon hunting!” Alya says. “Who knows how many more dragons like Adrien are out there?”

“Dragon hunting!” Manon, Ella, and Etta cry.

“Come on, girls! We have to find a magic feather before we can hunt the dragons!”

The photoshoot seems ten times more alive now. The photographer – Vincent, Marinette learns – arranges them in poses such as sitting back-to-back on the fountain, then Adrien lifting Marinette in the air like a lover, then Marinette kissing Adrien’s cheek, although the last one makes Adrien look like his face is going to explode from how red it is.

“Stupendous!” Vincent declares, snapping away. “Magnifico! Perfecto! These are the most vibrant pictures I have ever taken of Signor Adrien!”

“Maybe you could model with me more often, then,” Adrien teases when he’s sitting on the edge of the fountain with Marinette in his lap.

“Not unless it’s an emergency,” Marinette says with a grin. At a gesture from Vincent, they change poses so that Adrien is standing up and holding her bridal style. “I like modelling well enough, but I’m much more suited to making the clothes than modelling them.”

Adrien’s eyes light up as he lets her back down on her feet, then turns his back to her so that he can pick her up in a piggyback. “Well…uh, if you ever need a model, you know where to come. Not only because you helped me now, but…well, I’d be honoured to model for you.”

Marinette beams back. “I’ll definitely keep that in mind!” she says.

Chapter Text

“Don’t waste your time,” Adrien’s saying as Marinette and Alya draw level with him and Nino outside the school at lunchtime. “He’s not gonna change his mind.”

“Who’s not gonna change whose mind?” Alya says.

“His dad.” Nino grumpily blows bubbles with his wand. “Won’t let him have a b-day party.”

“Wait, really?” Marinette says. “That’s a load of crap! Did he let you have one last year, at least?”

“I didn’t have any friends last year,” Adrien points out.

“Oh. Right.” With a sigh and a small smile, Marinette holds out the gift that she’s holding. “Well, happy fourteenth birthday, Adrien. Even if you can’t have a party, at least we care.”

“You got me a present?” Adrien stares down at the blue wrapping paper. “You didn’t have to do that! We’ve only been friends for a few weeks!”

“We’re still friends,” Marinette says. “It’s not much but –”

“Anything from you will be the best present ever.” Adrien’s cheeks redden. “Uh – I mean – I know I’ll like it – because it’s from you – ugh –”

Marinette squints at Alya, who’s smirking behind her hand, but decides to just let it go. Adrien carefully peels off the wrapping paper, as delicate as though he was defusing a bomb, and his mouth falls open when he sees the blue knitted scarf inside.

“Handmade,” Alya chimes in, still smirking. “She nearly had an aneurism trying to figure out what colour would suit you.”

“I just remembered that you said you’d be happy to model anything I made, so…I thought you’d like it if I made you something for yourself,” Marinette says. “It’s a little plain, and it’s nowhere near the quality of the clothes you wear, but…I hope you like it.”

“Like it? Like it?” Adrien immediately wraps the scarf around his neck, then crushes Marinette in a tight hug. “I love it! Thank you, Marinette! I can’t remember the last time someone got me such a personal gift!”

“Ack – it’s nothing –” Marinette chokes. She gulps in air when Adrien finally lets her go, staring down at his new scarf as though it’s a piece of Heaven around his neck.

“Happy birthday, dude.” Nino presents Adrien with a medium-sized rectangle wrapped in green paper. Adrien beams when he uncovers a pair of headphones. “Best ones I could get! I know you could just get them yourself, but you don’t know headphones like I do.”

“I love them! Thanks, Nino!”

“Here you go, birthday boy,” Alya says, holding out a small red box. Before Adrien can take it, however, Alya is knocked aside by an unpleasantly familiar yellow figure, who proceeds to attach herself to Adrien.

“Happy birthday, Adrien!” Chloé chirps, giving him a big kiss on the cheek. “Mwah!”

“Thanks, Chloé,” Adrien says. “But you kind of pushed Alya –”

“Don’t worry about her. Did you get the gift I sent you?”

“Bitch,” Alya mutters from the ground.

“If you’re not going to be nicer than I don’t want your gift.” Adrien pushes Chloé away from him, while Nino helps Alya up. “Thanks for the birthday wishes, Chloé.”

“But –!”

“Here you go, Adrien,” Alya says loudly, holding her present out again for him to take. It turns out to be a Ladybug phone charm, which he delightedly attaches to his phone while Alya shows him the matching one on her phone. “Now we can be Ladybug besties.”

Marinette’s cheeks warm at that.

“Eh, I’m more of a Reine Nuit kinda guy,” Nino says, showing his Reine Nuit phone charm, which is black with a green paw on it.

“Uh, hello? I’m still here!” Chloé demands. She’s ignored.

“Same here!” Marinette holds up her phone to show her own Reine Nuit charm. “Ladybug’s cool and all, but she’d be nothing without Reine Nuit!”

Alya’s face flushes for a reason that Marinette can’t possibly put her finger on.

“Well, that’s my ride,” Adrien sighs when his car pulls up next to them. “Photoshoot. Later, guys.”

“Adrien –”

“Chloé, if you’re not gonna be nice to my friends then you can buzz off!” Scowling, Adrien gets into his car, leaving a stunned Marinette to hurry on to the bakery before Chloé recovers enough to throw a loud tantrum, while Alya heads back into the school and Nino heads in the opposite direction.


 

A couple of weeks ago, Alya might have totally freaked out at the sight of a gigantic purple bubble snatching up Ms Mendeleiev as she scolds two boys in the courtyard. Now, though? She just sighs and ducks away into a nearby empty classroom to transform, slamming the door shut just in time to avoid a bubble coming after her. Honestly, akumas have gone from awe-inspiring and surreal to just an everyday inconvenience, and this is only the third akuma that she’s ever seen.

“Go away, I’m getting my beauty sleep!” Plagg complains when Alya opens her bag.

“You’ll need another ten thousand years of that, then,” Alya says. “Plagg, claws out!”

In a flash of green light, Alya is replaced by Reine Nuit, who darts out of the room and back to the courtyard just in time to see her classmates caught in a massive bubble. The person behind the bubble is…absolutely hideous. Whoever this Hawkmoth is, Reine Nuit is going to be having very strong words about colour coordination, because blue skin with a bright red cropped shirt and yellow accents? Ugh. Especially with the black around his eyes, the ridiculous red stalk on his head, and the red, blue, and yellow leg warmers. At least his pants are black and not another outlandish colour. And at least there’s no green in there; Reine Nuit’s pride is sufficiently intact with the knowledge that this akuma hasn’t jacked her secondary colour.

“Come on, dudes!” the akuma says in an awfully familiar voice. “We’re gonna have a party for Adrien and it’s gonna be rockin’!”

Reine Nuit’s eyes widen. Nino? How the hell did Nino even end up akumatised in the first place? Probably over Adrien not being able to have a birthday party, judging by how he’s currently abducting their classmates to celebrate.

“Hey!” Reine Nuit leaps into the centre of the courtyard. “Let them go, Nino!”

“It’s Bubbler now!” Nino declares. “And you’ll be Adrien’s guest of honour!”

Reine Nuit dodges the first two bubbles that Bubbler sends easily. She bats another away with her baton, then leaps off a nearby pillar to narrowly avoid a fourth. But she’s not the lucky hero here; Bubbler’s next bubble catches her, knocking her onto her face as it floats up to join the bubble with her classmates.

“This is gonna be the best party ever!” Bubbler says, rising into the air with his captives and soaring towards Adrien’s mansion. Reine Nuit scowls and rolls onto her back so that she can cross her arms. That little shit Plagg had been right when he’d called her impulsive and brawny. If she tries hard enough, she can just imagine his smug smirk, but doing that makes her want to rip her own eyes out, so she forces her brain in another direction.

How is she going to get out of this? She can’t use her Cataclysm unless she wants to plummet to her doom, what with how high in the sky they are. And besides, there’s no guarantee that she’d manage to get away from Bubbler, and then she’ll be stuck timing out and revealing her identity. No, the best thing she can do for now is wait for Ladybug.

In the Agreste courtyard, tables of food and a DJ station have already been set up; clearly Bubbler’s doing before coming to kidnap the party guests. He frees the students from their bubble, but keeps Reine Nuit trapped next to the DJ station, no doubt so that he can keep an eye on her.

“Get ready!” Bubbler orders when the mansion doors start to open. As soon as Adrien emerges, the guests start to cheer and wish him a happy birthday while side-eyeing Bubbler and his giant bubble wand.

“Hooray, yay, happy birthday,” Reine Nuit deadpans, crossing one leg over the other while reclining in her bubble. May as well make herself comfortable until Ladybug arrives.

“Hey, hey, hey, birthday boy!” Bubbler booms. “Guess what? Daddy’s gone! While the cat’s away, the mice will play!”

Adrien’s eyes widen. “Nino?” That’s as far as he gets before a red yo-yo wraps around his waist and sends him flying past the crowd and straight into Ladybug’s arms, where she’s perched on a low fence.

“Hey!” Bubbler whips out his bubble wand. “Give me back my bro!”

“Sorry, but the party’s over!” Ladybug meets Reine Nuit’s eyes and winks. “I’m taking the birthday boy out!” She turns and leaps away with Adrien. Bubbler snarls and zooms after her in a burst of bubbles, leaving Reine Nuit unsupervised at last.

“Cataclysm!” Reine Nuit pops her bubble and lands in an awesome superhero crouch, while the party guests (minus Chloé) cheer. Reine Nuit’s eyes dart around in search of food to refuel Plagg when she times out, and her face lights up at the sight of a massive cheese platter on one of the tables, with – thank god! – Camembert. She runs over and grabs the plate, then salutes the party guests. “Gotta split! Thanks for the snack!”

Her ring beeps as soon as she rounds a corner, so she says, “Claws in,” and lets Plagg out. He falls into her free hand, groaning dramatically and swooning.

“I’m ever so hungry!” he moans. “How will I go on? I – Camembert!”

“Yeah, yeah, hurry up,” Alya says as Plagg devours the cheese platter. “Ladybug needs my help.”

“Gouda’s real nice,” Plagg says thoughtfully. “Not as good as Camembert, but it’s still got that delicious taste of –”

Plagg!”


 

“I gotta say, this is the best birthday present ever!” Adrien says as Ladybug hops and swings through Paris with Bubbler on her tail. “Besides the scarf my friend made me, of course.”

Ladybug fights back her wide smile at Adrien’s words. Instead, she says, “I’ll make sure to gift-wrap it next year!” and takes a sharp right to avoid Bubbler’s bubbles, making Adrien clutch her around the neck even tighter.

“Give me back the birthday boy!” Bubbler shouts. “You’re, like, totally ruining the party, dude!”

“Then bring back the adults!” Ladybug calls over her shoulder.

“Never! Adults are boring! All they do is boss us around!”

“Kids need adults!” Ladybug throws her yo-yo and swings in a wide arc to land behind Bubbler, then run back the way they came. Bubbler skids to a halt in mid-air and resumes chasing after her. “Adults look after kids!”

“Most of them, anyway,” Adrien mutters rather bitterly.

“Ugh, you wanna be an adult? Then go and join them!”

In her attempt to dodge Bubbler’s next attack, Ladybug slips on a roof tile and goes flying over the fence of the park, screaming. She instinctively wraps herself around Adrien and braces herself to take the brunt of the impact, since she’s the one with the super suit that protects her bones and squishy parts and Adrien isn’t. As it is, he’s still groaning when they finally stop rolling.

“Adrien!” Ladybug dives to protect Adrien again but she’s too late; Bubbler’s bubble captures him and lifts him into the air, too high for Ladybug to risk trying to pop the bubble in case she can’t catch him and he ends up breaking his neck.

“Just chill there, bro,” Bubbler says to Adrien, then looks at Ladybug. “As for you, you’re gonna learn that what goes up doesn’t always go down!”

“Ms Mendeleiev would disagree,” Ladybug says. “Isn’t that one of the three Newtonian laws?”

“I’m a rainbow guy who can blow magic bubbles to trap people,” Bubbler deadpans. “What part of this do you think follows science, dude?”

“…That’s actually a good point. Gah!” Ladybug ducks to avoid a surprise bubble attack.

“Stand still, will you?”

“Why would I willingly stand still and let you catch me?”

God, what she wouldn’t give for Reine Nuit’s help right now. Bubbler’s sending attack after attack, wearing her down, giving her no chance to retaliate unless she wants to risk a bubble to the face. She can’t even use her Lucky Charm in case Reine Nuit turns up and she then has to come up with a whole new plan.

“Ladybug! No!” Adrien cries when Bubbler sends out a swarm of green bubbles that surround Ladybug and then hone in on her. She squeezes her eyes shut, expecting to go flying at any moment…but that moment never comes.

“Ugh, seriously?” Bubbler whines as Ladybug opens her eyes. She can’t help the wide grin that spreads across her face at the sight of Reine Nuit in front of her, staff in front of her, clearly having deflected the green bubble attack for Ladybug. “You again?”

“You left me,” Reine Nuit seethes, “in a bubble.”

“That’s…kinda my job, dude. I’m the Bubbler.” A purple mask outline appears over Bubbler’s face, and Ladybug and Reine Nuit exchange frowns. What does that mean? “I know, I know, Hawkdude.”

“Hawkmoth can speak to them?” Reine Nuit mutters.

“Makes sense,” Ladybug murmurs back. “Why turn someone into a supervillain if you can’t keep track of them?”

“Give me your Miraculouses!” Bubbler demands, holding out his hand. “Or Adrien won’t get his super cool party that he totally deserves!”

“Not that I don’t appreciate it, but I want a party from Nino,” Adrien says, his phone out to record the confrontation from inside his bubble. Of course. “Not a supervillain made by some guy with zero fashion sense.”

“I know I look like a douchebag,” Bubbler says. “But I still got powers!” He shoots a jet of red bubbles at Ladybug and Reine Nuit, who leap behind a tree and a bush respectively to dodge the attack, then leap out to dive at Bubbler together. He smirks and summons a bubble to lift him out of the way, resulting in Ladybug and Reine Nuit colliding head-on and crumpling to the ground in a groaning heap.

“Maybe you should Lucky Charm it,” Reine Nuit moans, trying to untangle herself from Ladybug’s legs. She winces when Ladybug accidentally kicks her in the head. “Ow!”

“Seriously?” Bubbler says. “You guys are pathetic.” With a wave of his bubble wand, he has them trapped in a bubble together and floating metres off the ground, only to sigh when the purple mask reappears over his face. “You think I don’t know what I’m doing, dude? Just wait for ‘em to run out of air, then I can grab their things without a fight.” A pause. “Yeah, I might look hideous but I do have good ideas.”

“I think you’re right,” Ladybug says, pushing herself up. “Lucky Charm!”

“Okay, wow, I’m glad I didn’t get the earrings,” Reine Nuit says when Ladybug is given a ladybug-patterned long-sleeved shirt. “Although to be fair, that is still more fashionable than what that guy’s wearing.”

“Hmm.” Ladybug frowns as she looks around, her mind frantically working overtime to try and concoct a plan to get the akuma’s bubble wand, which is no doubt where the nasty akuma is hiding. Her eyes land on Reine Nuit, a nearby tree, Adrien’s bubble, and then Bubbler. “Got it! Reine Nuit, I need you to get us out of here and then make him go near that tree. Use Adrien as bait!”

“You already have a plan?” Reine Nuit says incredulously. “It’s only been, like, two seconds! Whatever. Cataclysm!”

Once they’re free from the bubble, Reine Nuit heads for Adrien and uses her staff to propel his bubble in the direction of the tree that Ladybug had indicated. With a growl, Bubbler follows and shoots a jet of bubbles at Reine Nuit, and Ladybug takes advantage of the intense battle between her partner and the villain to scale the tree without being noticed. She holds the shirt open from the bottom, then leaps out of the tree to crash on top of Bubbler with a bellow. Just as planned, the shirt slips over his head and pins his arms to his sides, rendering his bubble wand useless. Ladybug hums as she ties the sleeves around Bubbler to make the shirt stay, then easily pries the wand from his hand.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma,” she says, snapping the bubble wand to release the purple butterfly, which she snags with her yo-yo. Once it’s purified and is flapping off into the distance, Reine Nuit hands Ladybug the shirt that she’d yanked off Bubbler, and Ladybug smiles at her partner as she takes it and throws it up into the air. “Miraculous Ladybug!”

“This is so cool! I was supervillain bait!” Adrien cries, dancing on the spot when the healing ladybugs deposit him on the ground after dissolving his bubble.

“Wow, you really are sheltered,” Reine Nuit comments dryly.

“Like you wouldn’t have been the same if you hadn’t been a superhero,” Ladybug teases. Reine Nuit snorts.

“Okay, point.”

With the damage undone, Bubbler falls to his knees and his hideous outfit melts into purple-black nothingness to reveal Nino.

“How’d I get here?” he blinks, looking around with furrowed eyebrows.

“You were an akuma! You totally abducted me and everything!” Adrien says.

“Pound it!” Ladybug and Reine Nuit chorus, doing their fist-bump.

“Sorry, dude,” Nino says glumly. “I probably ruined the whole day for you.”

“Are you kidding?” Adrien says gleefully. “Best. Birthday. Ever!”

“Alright, let’s get the birthday boy back home,” Ladybug says. She scoops Adrien up bridal style and turns to Reine Nuit. “Are you okay to take Nino back to school?”

“You bet!” Reine Nuit gives her a thumbs-up and then approaches Nino, kneeling to be on eye level with him. “Don’t feel bad, okay? I mean, there are way worse reasons to become an akuma than wanting to celebrate a friend’s birthday.”

“But I’m the one who got upset,” Nino says.

“Hey, this is Hawkdouche’s fault. Not yours. Don’t ever think that feeling things is wrong.”

“I think she’s got it well covered,” Ladybug says. With a flick of her wrist, she’s swinging out of the park and through the streets in the direction of the Agreste mansion, Adrien whooping and holding on tight. Once they land in the mansion courtyard, now free of party guests and DJ equipment, Ladybug sets Adrien down.

“Thanks for saving my friend, Ladybug,” Adrien says, scratching the back of his neck. Ladybug smiles.

“It’s what I do.” On impulse, she quickly kisses his cheek, giggling at how his face immediately flushes dark red. “Happy birthday, Adrien.” Then she’s off, swinging through Paris to get back to the bakery before she transforms back.


 

“There you are!” Marinette hugs Nino when he and Adrien are back at school at the end of lunch. “Are you alright? I heard you got akumatised!”

“Yeah,” Nino sighs. “I was super bummed that Adrien’s dad wouldn’t let him party. But Reine Nuit told me not to blame myself.”

“She’s right, you know,” Alya says from behind Marinette. “It’s not like anyone actually wants one of those icky butterflies in their head.”

“Did your father at least get you a birthday present if he’s not letting you have a party?” Marinette says. Adrien shrugs.

“A pen. Same as the last three years.” His face brightens. “But I got to swing around Paris with Ladybug and get up close to an akuma, so I’d say that more than makes up for it! Plus, I got these awesome gifts from you guys.”

“Too bad you didn’t get a selfie with Ladybug,” Alya smirks as they head into the school. Adrien groans loudly.

“I didn’t even think of that! A selfie would’ve been the best present ever! You think if I pray loudly enough, she’ll hear me?”

Marinette just grins and rolls her eyes. “You can certainly try.”

Chapter Text

Honestly, it’s not as though Adrien’s deliberately being an adrenaline daredevil. He just always seems to end up near akumas…with a little effort on his part to ensure this.

“Dude, you’re way out of your mind,” Nino used to say before giving up and obviously recognising that he can’t exactly tie Adrien on a leash and physically keep him out of danger. The fact that it annoys his father to high heaven that he keeps throwing himself in these situations is just a bonus. But even if Gabriel pulls him out of school, he’ll still find ways to sneak out to the akuma fights now that he’s had this giddy taste of freedom. He’s pretty sure Gabriel knows this, judging by the older man’s eye twitch whenever someone so much as mentions the word “akuma” around him.

As reckless and silly as he is, however, there’s one sacred rule that Adrien respects: don’t touch the secret identities. Literally everyone knows why secret identities are important for superheroes, and although he’d absolutely love to find out who’s behind the Ladybug and Reine Nuit masks, he can’t do anything to endanger their identities, especially if Hawkmoth happens to frequent his channel. That’s why, while watching Ladybug shrieking as she’s dragged after a helicopter while Reine Nuit chases with her baton, Adrien doesn’t immediately react when something falls out of the sky and lands in front of him.

“What the…?” he mutters when he’s recovered his wits. It’s…a history book. The same history book that his class uses, to be precise. Realising the implications of this, he picks the book up, examining it from all angles to make sure of what he’s seeing. No doubt about it, this is most definitely a history book from his school year. Does that mean that whichever superhero this belongs to is a student like him? Could she even be at the same school as him? She has to be; only their school uses this textbook. What if he sees her every day?

He shakes his head. Nope. Bad Adrien. No digging into secret identities. With a wistful sigh, he tucks the book away in his bag and sprints after the superheroes, only to arrive just as Ladybug yo-yos away with the reassurance that the helicopter pilot is safe.

“Reine Nuit!” he calls before the cat superhero can leap off as well. She smirks and salutes at him with two fingers.

“Heya, Ladybugreste,” she says.

“You know my YouTube channel?” Adrien gasps.

“Of course! I love that thing. Even though I don’t get why you’ve got such a death wish.” Reine Nuit’s ring beeps, preventing Adrien from descending into a fanboy coma because his idols know his work. “Uh, gotta go!”

“Wait!” Adrien says. “This is important!”

Reine Nuit squints at him. “You got two minutes,” she says and directs him down a nearby alleyway. “What’s up?”

In response, Adrien pulls the history textbook out of his bag and holds it out. Reine Nuit raises an eyebrow.

“You…wanna show me a history textbook?”

“What? No! I need to give it back,” Adrien says. “It fell from the sky while you and Ladybug were saving that helicopter.”

Reine Nuit’s eyes bulge at that. “You didn’t video it or take a picture?” she demands, snatching the book from him.

“Of course not!” Adrien says. “First rule of superheroing and all. But I don’t know which one of you it belongs to.”

Reine Nuit says a very rude word under her breath. “Thanks for handing it in, Adrien,” she says. Her eyes harden. “But if I hear you’re going on an identity hunt, there’ll be trouble.”

Adrien gulps and raises his hands in surrender. “Trust me, you don’t have to worry about that.”

“Good.” Reine Nuit opens her mouth, but whatever she’s going to say is cut off by her ring beeping more urgently than the last time. “Uh, later!” She bounds away, book clutched tightly under her arm. Adrien just shakes his head and emerges from the alleyway, instinctively looking around in case anyone had seen him heading in there with a superhero, before heading home to try and not think about the implications of what he’d just found. But as he’s found out, the more you try to stop thinking about something, the more you end up thinking about it.


 

“Seriously? The Egyptian exhibit?” Alya drawls as she, Marinette, Adrien, and Nino descend the museum stairs. “You sure know how to have a good time, Marinette.”

“I heard there was something about Ladybug!” Marinette says. “It could be great for Adrien and Nino’s channel!”

“Or it could be a massive waste of time.” Nino already looks bored as he slips his headphones on.

“Not for me,” Adrien says, then pulls a face. “Father only let me hang out with you guys this weekend because it’s “educational”.” Educational. Ha. The only reason Gabriel had let him come is to keep him out of trouble, no doubt hoping that his friends would put a stop to his mad akuma stalking.

“Besides, isn’t the thrill in the hunt?” Marinette chirps. Alya and Nino just stare at her. “Ugh, fine. I thought you’d be more excited about finding out more about Ladybug, Alya.”

“Of course I’m excited!” Alya says. “I just didn’t think it was gonna involve an afternoon of Where’s Wally? to find it.”

“Whoa!” Nino stumbles and nearly falls flat on his face when he’s violently shoved out of the way by a young brunet man holding a stack of papers. The man trips and his papers go flying, though he seems more concerned with the little pendant that had fallen out of his brown satchel.

“It’s not broken!” he sighs in relief.

“Yeah, and neither am I,” Nino says in annoyance as the man climbs to his feet.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the man says. “Hey, you’re in the same grade as Alix, right? I’m her older brother, Jalil Kubdel. So, you’re into Egyptian mythology too?” He looks up and bolts over to an approaching man with a brown moustache who he addresses as his father, leaving the teens free to head on over to an Egyptian papyrus hanging nearby.

“If there’s nothing about Ladybug on here, I’m not talking to you for two weeks, girl,” Alya says, her eyes pouring over the ancient paper.

“I said I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, didn’t I?” Marinette says. Nino isn’t even looking at the papyrus; instead, his focus is on his music. Adrien tries to pay attention to the hieroglyphics, but his focus is broken when Jalil pushes him aside and gestures to the papyrus.

“Excuse me,” Jalil says automatically, then points at two large figures on the papyrus. “There, as you know, the one with the sceptre is Akhenaten. And there, opposite, is Nefertiti, his princess! There are exactly one hundred mummies beside them. She died several years before him, and the sun god Ra took her as his goddess.”

“Yes, I know all that,” Mr Kubdel says. “I’m the director of this exhibition, remember?”

“Then you also know that Akhenaten wanted to bring his princess back to life, by offering the sun god a new wife. This seems to illustrate the ritual he devised. Nobody has ever fully deciphered the hieroglyphics, but I have!” Jalil adjusts his glasses triumphantly. “It's a magic chant that needs to be recited in order to complete the ritual! I'm sure of it!”

“Jalil, these types of frescoes are almost always the illustration for a legend. And it’s not for nothing that we call it a legend…”

“That’s what everyone thinks. But I know it’s real. I can prove it!”

“Really? And how exactly are you going to prove it?”

Adrien’s head swivels back and forth between Jalil and Mr Kubdel as each man speaks, like he’s at a tennis match. His friends’ heads do the same.

“I just need to get my hands on Akhenaten’s sceptre and recite the spell!” Jalil reaches for the blue and gold sceptre, but his hand is yanked away by his father.

“For heaven’s sake, you can’t be serious!” Mr Kubdel snaps. “Don’t even think of touching that sceptre! I’d lose my job on the spot! It’s a priceless historical object, not a toy!”

“Come on, Dad, we have to try out the spell!” Jalil pleads as Mr Kubdel storms off. “What if Akhenaten had found out how to bring people back to life?”

“Why would you want to do a spell like that based on some ancient pictures?” Nino says. He frowns at Adrien, who tries to conceal the interest that must be painted across his face. “Don’t even answer that, dude. We all know you’re not in your right mind.”

“All those years of home-schooling must have taken their toll,” Alya teases, nudging Marinette, who giggles.

“Hey!” Adrien crosses his arms and tries to look annoyed, though it’s hard when all three of his friends are now laughing openly. The sound of a security guard’s whistle blowing makes them turn around, and Adrien’s eyes widen at the sight of a tall man with pitch black skin and golden Egyptian pharaoh regalia. An akuma! Moving purely by instinct, he shoves his friends behind a wide pillar base and then dives to join them, whipping out his phone to start recording.

“Seriously?” Marinette hisses.

“Gods, give me time!” the akuma commands. He starts shooting golden bubbles at the people around him, such as the security guard that had tried to confront him, and anyone he touches immediately slows down to a snail’s pace, clearly stuck in time.

“You just don’t understand the thrill,” Adrien says.

“Yeah, because you’re being stupidly reckless!” Marinette says.

“I’d probably be doing the same thing if I was in his place,” Alya chimes in. Marinette face-palms, while Adrien just grins.

“No one’s saying that’s a good thing!” Nino points out.

“Hey, I’ve been sheltered and overprotected for fourteen years!” Adrien says. “I’m entitled to a bit of recklessness!”

“I regret ever agreeing to edit your videos for you,” Nino says.

Adrien’s suddenly keenly aware of the akuma striding in their direction, heading straight for Akhenaten’s sceptre, but Marinette and Alya scatter before he can point out another hiding place for them. With a sigh, he and Nino shuffle around the pillar to stay out of the akuma’s sight, though Adrien keeps his phone trained on the guy.

“Let’s go the museum and research Ladybug!” Nino says, gesticulating wildly. In the background, security alarms are wailing, and barred doors are sliding shut. “It’ll be totally awesome! Nothing’ll go wrong at all!”

“Will you shut up and let me record?” Adrien hisses.

“Hey, I only agreed to help your channel if I didn’t have to go chasing after them like you do!”

“It’s not like I knew there’d be an akuma today! Shh!” Adrien’s face lights up when a familiar figure in red slips under one of the closing barred doors and confronts the akuma with her hands on her hips just as he takes the papyrus that Adrien and his friends had been examining.

“You know that’s considered stealing, right?” Ladybug says.

“Actually, I’m taking back what rightfully belongs to me, the Pharaoh!” the akuma says.

“Yeah, if you were the real Pharaoh,” snorts Reine Nuit from behind Pharaoh. She crosses her arms and adds, “But you’re not, so just hand it back and we’ll go easy on you.”

“Isn’t it totally awesome, being right in the thick of the action?” Adrien says gleefully. Nino looks like he’d rather swallow a nest of hornets than be where he currently is.

“Gods, give me your strength!” Pharaoh cries, glowing gold, then turns to grab one of the display coffins and hurl it at Ladybug. She yelps and dives out of the way, then throws her yo-yo just as Reine Nuit charges Pharaoh with her baton and a bellow. Pharaoh just jumps back, grabs both heroes by the back of the neck, then slams their foreheads together and drops them in a moaning, semi-conscious heap.

“Holy shit, how did he not shatter their skulls?” Adrien gasps when Pharaoh proves just how strong he now is by bending the bars on the door as easily as parting curtains. “How much protection do they get from their suits?”

His last question is a little too loud, causing Pharaoh to look right in their direction and stalk over. Nino gulps and starts to shuffle away, but Adrien stays where he is to record; it’s not like they’ve got anywhere they can run, in any case.

“Adrien…Nino…” Ladybug groans, trying to push herself up off the floor. Pharaoh narrows his eyes at Adrien and Nino, and Adrien grins rather sheepishly.

“Hiya,” he says. “Anything to say to your audience?”

“Ladybug cares for you?” the akuma says.

“Yeah. We’re civilians. It’s her job.”

“Hmm.” Pharaoh grabs Adrien by the front of the shirt and slings him over his shoulder, then approaches Nino, who’s hiding behind another display. Nino yelps when Pharaoh picks him up too, tossing the boy over his other shoulder.

“Hey! Let them go!” Having mostly recovered, Ladybug is now back on her feet and swinging her yo-yo threateningly. Reine Nuit is also upright, though wobbling dangerously.

“Not unless you exchange yourself for them,” Pharaoh growls. “And I don’t trust you to keep your promise. You’re just as slippery now as you were five thousand years ago.”

Silence. Ladybug blinks.

“Uh…what?”

Chapter Text

“No way,” Reine Nuit says. “Ladybug’s not five thousand years old. She’s a teenager at best!”

“Not the girl,” Pharaoh says impatiently. He telekinetically opens the roll of papyrus and reveals a black-spotted figure in an Ancient Egyptian robe swinging a yo-yo. Huh. Marinette had been right, then. “Ladybug. My sworn enemy!”

“You don’t look a day over three thousand, Ladybug,” Adrien quips, looking over his shoulder from his captive position. Reine Nuit wonders if it would be morally acceptable to strangle the guy, since he seems so insistent on getting into deadly situations anyway.

“It does make sense that the Miraculouses would be that old,” Nino says, although he really doesn’t look like he wants to draw attention to himself at all. Poor guy. Reine Nuit totally owes him an ice cream as Alya for what he's been dragged into.

“I’m going to carry out the spell to bring my long-lost love Nefertiti back to me!” Pharaoh growls. “With one hundred mummies and an offering of a pure soul to persuade the sun god Ra to return my sweet princess!”

“Adrien’s the furthest thing from a pure soul,” Nino deadpans.

“Hey!” Adrien exclaims. “You’re not so pure yourself!”

“Neither of you are the sacrifice,” Pharaoh scoffs. “The best sacrifice would be my old nemesis. What purer soul than that of Ladybug?”

“Say what?” Ladybug blinks.

“But I don’t trust you to keep any promise you might make about exchanging yourself for these civilians,” Pharaoh says. “I’m very much aware of your ability to wriggle out of the tightest of situations like the little insect you are. Therefore, I’m taking these boys as mine. And if you don’t come and offer yourself when the time is right, I will rip their souls out and offer them to Osiris in the underworld myself.”

“Oh,” Adrien says faintly.

“Uh, is it too late to say that I don’t consent to this?” Nino adds. Pharaoh just turns and steps through the bent bars without a word, easily bending them back into place when Ladybug and Reine Nuit charge at him.

“Oh, come on!” Ladybug snaps. She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Think you can get us out of here, pretty kitty?”

“But of course, angel bug,” Reine Nuit says. “Cataclysm!” Once the bars are dusted, she and Ladybug bolt up the stairs out of the Egyptian exhibit and into the main museum.

“You should go and recharge,” Ladybug says. “I’ll go after them. It’s me he wants, after all.”

“Just don’t end up as a sun god sacrifice, okay?” Reine Nuit jokes. “It’d be a pain in the butt to replace you.”

Ladybug rolls her eyes with a smile, then heads for the main staircase out of the Louvre. Reine Nuit ducks into a side room and says, “Claws in,” to release Plagg.

“Ah, my love!” Plagg cries when Alya presents him with a wedge of Camembert.

“Hurry up,” Alya says. “Ladybug needs us back out there.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Alya crosses her arms and taps her foot, waiting for Plagg to finish his cheese. “So, when were you gonna tell me that Ladybug’s kwami is over five thousand years old?” she blurts out. Plagg shrugs.

“Even older. Same as me. We’re tiny gods, remember? Tikki and I are as old as creation and destruction themselves. What, did you think we just sprang outta nowhere just for you?”

“It would’ve been cool to know!”

“I thought it was obvious!” Plagg lets out a large belch. Alya wrinkles her nose.

“Ugh. Yeah, you’re done. Plagg, claws out!”

Outside the Louvre, hiding behind a nearby post with Ladybug, Reine Nuit spots Pharaoh surrounded by mummies shambling around him, forming the shape of a cross: an ankh, if Reine Nuit recalls her Ancient Egyptian correctly, with the base of the ankh against the Louvre pyramid. At his feet are Adrien and Nino; Nino looks like he’d love to make a break for it if not for the mummies, while Adrien’s eyes are glinting as he aims his phone around at the mummies to capture them on film. Once again, Reine Nuit questions his state of mind.

That would be you if you didn’t get the ring, snickers a little voice that sounds so much like Plagg that Reine Nuit would happily allow Pharaoh to bash her skull again to shut it up.

“Oh, sacred Ra, god of the sun!” Pharaoh chants as the sceptre floating next to him begins to glow. “I, Pharaoh, offer to thee a pure soul! The sacrifice for the return of Nefertiti!” As he speaks, the Louvre pyramid begins to glow, and a bright beam of light shoots up from the point of the pyramid to create a dark, swirling mass in the sky. “I bow to you and present this gift with my mummies! In company, we pray to you the safe return of Princess Nefertiti! Awaken, Nefertiti! Awaken! Awaken, Nefertiti! Awaken!”

“At what point does this stop being Hawkmoth and start being actual Egyptian magic?” Reine Nuit says as the mummies start to chant with Pharaoh. “He doesn’t seem to have any limits when he’s creating akumas, does he?”

“Doesn’t bode well for us,” Ladybug agrees.

“Ladybug! Come out and offer yourself as the sacrifice in exchange for the lives of these civilians!” Pharaoh demands, grabbing Adrien and Nino by their wrists and shaking them.

“What’s the plan?” Reine Nuit says. “Does your Miraculous Ladybug also bring people back from the dead if he hurts Adrien and Nino?”

“I’d rather not find out,” Ladybug says grimly.

“Ladybug will totally take you down!” Adrien shouts.

“Hey, what am I? Chopped liver?” Reine Nuit protests. Okay, so Ladybug deserves all the attention she gets and more, but sometimes it’s disheartening to be the one brushed aside when Reine Nuit is just as much a hero as Ladybug.

“And she’ll purify the akuma that’s most likely in your medallion!”

“Huh,” Ladybug says. “He might have a death wish, but at least he pays attention.”

“Any ideas?” Reine Nuit says. Ladybug frowns.

“Hmm. Well…if he wants a sacrifice, I say we give him one.”

“You’re gonna give yourself up?” Reine Nuit says.

“While you sneak around and get the medallion,” Ladybug winks. “You’re used to skulking in the shadows, aren’t you?”

“If you get sacrificed, I’ll kill you.”

“I think I’ll be too dead to care.”

“Ladybug!” Pharaoh bellows. Ladybug emerges from their hiding place with her hands up.

“I’m here!” she says. While everyone’s attention is trained on Ladybug, Reine Nuit starts to edge around behind Pharaoh so that she can grab his akuma.

“You’ll exchange yourself for these mortals?” Pharaoh says. Ladybug looks at Adrien and Nino, then nods.

“I will.”

Pharaoh holds out his hand for Ladybug to take. Just before she lets him grab her, Reine Nuit springs out like a cat, aiming for the medallion around Pharaoh’s neck. But a split second before her fingers can close around it, he kicks Ladybug away and turns to grab Reine Nuit by the wrist, stopping her in her tracks.

“Oh, come on!” Reine Nuit complains as Pharaoh lifts her off the ground. She hisses and kicks, but he is totally unaffected each time her boot makes contact with his abdomen.

“Trickery!” Pharaoh bellows. “Fine! If you won’t give yourself up, Ladybug, I’ll just sacrifice your cat instead! Gods, give me wings!” He floats up to the beam of light emanating from the pyramid point and dumps Reine Nuit on it, and she grimaces at the ticklish warmth of the light against her stomach. Over Pharaoh’s shoulder, she catches sight of Ladybug summoning a Lucky Charm, but it’s impossible to discern it from this distance, especially since it’s so small.

“Oh, Ra, god of the sun, accept this humble offering and return the princess to me!” Pharaoh chants.

“Wait!” Ladybug cries. “Don’t hurt Reine Nuit! I’ll let you take me instead!”

“Too late, Ladybug!” Pharaoh says. “You tricked me once. I won’t let you trick me again!”

“Not even when I’m really giving myself up this time?” Ladybug says. Pharaoh squints down at her, clearly looking for any signs of deceit in her pretty face.

“Fine,” he says. He flies down to take Ladybug by the hand, then returns with her in tow, clearly not trusting her to keep her word if he frees Reine Nuit first. Reine Nuit studies Ladybug’s face for any sign of a new plan, but Ladybug’s not giving anything away, so Reine Nuit figures that her partner’s got it covered.

“Whoa!” Reine Nuit exclaims when Pharaoh knocks her off the beam of light and she goes tumbling down the pyramid, wincing every time she bashes her head on the glass. She crumples on the ground in a groaning heap, absently wondering if Miraculous Ladybug extends to healing concussions after all the head injuries she’s sustained today. When she looks up at the sacrifice, she’s mildly alarmed at the way her vision blurs and then refocuses, but it seems to be a one-off, so she just lets it go until Ladybug can heal her up.

“Reine Nuit!” Ladybug calls from on the light beam. Reine Nuit staggers to her feet just in time to see Ladybug hold up her Lucky Charm – a pair of scissors – and cut the cord hanging the medallion around Pharaoh’s neck. With a shout of rage, Pharaoh dives after it, but Reine Nuit is quicker.

“Cataclysm!” She uses her staff to vault her into the air and grab the medallion before Pharaoh can reach it, although she’s surprised that she manages to get to it first considering how her head is spinning. As soon as it touches her sparking hand, it crumbles into dust, releasing the evil little akuma from within it.

“No!” Pharaoh howls. With the akuma freed, the light beam flickers and dies, and Ladybug nimbly lands on top of the pyramid and slides down it to the ground.

“Nice work, Reine Nuit!” she says as she captures and purifies the akuma with her yo-yo.

“My head feels weird,” Reine Nuit giggles when her head begins to tingle. Looking alarmed, Ladybug throws her scissors into the air to summon her Miraculous Ladybug, and the healing ladybugs send a warm thrill down Reine Nuit’s body as they fix the physical damage done to her from the battle. Nearby, the kneeling Pharaoh’s villain skin melts away to reveal Jalil Kubdel.

“What happened?” he groans, looking around. Ladybug and Reine Nuit just grin at each other.

“Pound it!”

“Thanks for saving us, du – uh, Ladybug,” Nino says.

“Oh, no problem,” Ladybug says with a wink. “I couldn’t let anything happen to my two favourite civilians, could I?”

“We’re your favourite civilians?” Adrien whispers, eyes shining. Reine Nuit snickers, remembering his reaction when he’d caught her to give her back the book – the book!

“Uh, Ladybug?” she says. “Can I talk to you before we transform back?”

“Sure.”

“I just gotta get something first. Meet you around the corner?”

Ladybug nods and swings off. Reine Nuit dashes into the Louvre to fetch the history textbook from her bag, then heads back out to meet Ladybug behind a nearby building, wincing when her ring beeps urgently.

“Thanks for saving me from that weirdo,” Reine Nuit says. “I’m too gorgeous to be sacrificed.”

Ladybug giggles. “I couldn’t let my favourite partner be sacrificed, could I? Anyway, what’s up? It’ll have to be quick because we’re both about to transform back.”

In response, Reine Nuit holds out the textbook. Ladybug gasps and snatches it away.

“You dropped that when we were saving the pilot the other day,” Reine Nuit says. “Adrien gave it to me. Don’t worry, he didn’t video it or try to look into it or anything,” she adds when Ladybug’s eyes widen. “But he doesn’t know which one of us it belongs to.”

“Good.” Ladybug’s shoulders slump and she swipes open her yo-yo to store the book inside. Reine Nuit stares enviously. Why can’t her baton do that? “And…you’re not going to try and figure it out?”

“Nah,” Reine Nuit says. “Not gonna lie, it’s super tempting, especially ‘cause I know that only our school has that textbook.” Ladybug’s eyes widen again, but Reine Nuit doesn’t feel too bad about letting that slip. Even footing between them and all. “But I’d be a total hypocrite, since I’ve got a secret identity of my own.”

Ladybug gives her a soft smile that makes her insides flutter. “I’m glad I can trust you, Reine Nuit.” Her eyes widen when her earrings beep. “Uh oh. Bug out!”

“Wait!” Reine Nuit says before Ladybug can swing off. “Why exactly did you have your history textbook to save a helicopter?”

“Studying,” Ladybug says with a mischievous smile. “Duh. Don’t you study when you’re saving the day?” Then she’s off, leaving Reine Nuit to watch with a smile while timing out and turning back into Alya. After a moment, Alya shakes her head and turns to head back to the Louvre and meet her friends, mummification explanation on the tip of her tongue. At least she’s got a convenient excuse for vanishing during an attack this time.

Chapter Text

Just when Marinette thinks that Chloé can’t possibly get any more spiteful and mean, Chloé seems determined to prove her wrong when Gabriel Agreste announces a derby hat designing competition. They’ve only got a day to design and make their hat, and Marinette’s about two seconds from tearing her hair out.

“This is a disaster!” she groans, pacing back and forth in the courtyard at lunch while flipping through her sketchbook. “Derby hat, derby hat, derby hat, derby hat…I don’t have any derby hat designs! I’ve got top hats, caps, even two-horned hats! Need a beret? I’m your girl. A sombrero? No problem-o. But a derby?”

“Dude, what’s got Marinette so worked up?” Nino says when he and Adrien draw level with Alya. Marinette, meanwhile, is currently bashing her forehead with her sketchbook.

“The fashion competition,” Alya snickers. “She’s just overreacting, don’t worry. She always gets like this under pressure.”

“You know what? It won’t even matter, 'cause I’ll probably make a total fool of myself at the event, most likely trip over my stupid derby and collapse on Mr Agreste, give him a full-blown concussion, and he’ll hate me forever and remember me as the girl who knocked him out! I'll never be a world-renowned fashion designer. My life is over!”

“Well, you definitely won’t be a famous fashion designer if you give yourself a concussion, girl,” Alya says, prying the sketchbook from Marinette’s hands as Marinette hyperventilates. “Let me look through this, okay? There must be something in here.”

“Forget it, I’m a disaster zone,” Marinette groans, slumping on the bench. “I’ll probably mess it all up.”

“Like hell you will,” Adrien says. Marinette whines when she sees him looking over Alya’s shoulder at the sketchbook, and she covers her face with her hands. “These designs are awesome! You’re so talented, Marinette! You seriously have a good chance of winning.”

“You really think that?” Marinette peeks out from behind her fingers just in time to see Adrien’s face redden.

“Uh – yeah – I love –” Adrien clears his throat. “Yeah.”

“I probably shouldn’t even be talking about it with you,” Marinette teases hysterically, twirling one of her pigtails to try and calm herself down with the repetitive motion. “You know, in case people think that you’re showing favouritism or something.”

“Let them think,” Adrien says. “My father’s picking the winner, not me. I’ve got no input specifically for that reason. Although I wouldn’t mind modelling your hat.” He winks and then groans when his face grows even redder.

“Are you feeling okay?” Marinette says. “You’re not coming down with anything?”

“Trust me, dude, he’s totally fine,” Nino smirks.

“Well, that leaves you nine hours to come up with something to impress Gabriel Agreste, now that you know you’ve got a chance,” Alya says, handing Marinette’s sketchbook back and checking her phone.

“Gah!” Marinette jumps to her feet. “I'm off to my secret garden of inspiration. I’ll see you later!” She turns and promptly smashes into the brick wall behind her. “Ah! I’m okay! I’m okay!”

“Pfft,” scoffs a loud voice from nearby. “Look at the clumsy little freak. As if she’s got a chance of winning this competition.”

Marinette just rolls her eyes. Adrien, however, is far less tolerant of Chloé’s crap.

“Why are you being so nasty?” he demands. Chloé just shrugs.

“I still don’t know why you’re hanging out with those losers, Adrikins. Haven’t you realised yet how you’re dragging yourself down?”

“Being rich and influential doesn’t make you a better person,” Adrien says, crossing his arms. “Marinette and Alya and Nino are the nicest people I know. You’re just making me wonder how I never realised before what a mean person you are!”

“We’re besties, Adrikins!”

Adrien shakes his head. “No, we’re not. We haven’t been since I found out that you’re a bully. And if you keep going this way, I won’t even talk to you anymore.”

Chloé gasps, then rolls her eyes. “Since when do you have a spine? It’s never been a problem before.”

“Since I realised that I have to do the right thing and stand up against what’s wrong rather than ignore it.” Adrien smiles at Marinette and, with a pink face, adds, “Marinette taught me that when she fought to let me stay at school.”

Marinette bites her lip and ducks her head, her cheeks warm.

“Ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous!” Chloé stomps her foot. “You’ll see, Adrien! One of these days, you’ll learn that these losers aren’t worthy to even speak your name! And when that day comes, I’ll be waiting!” With a flip of her ponytail, she storms off, Sabrina scurrying off behind her.

“Uh…so, that happened,” Nino says slowly.

“Are you okay?” Marinette says when she catches sight of Adrien’s stormy face, resting a hand on his arm.

“I’m not gonna get akumatised.”

“That’s not what I was asking.”

Adrien tries to smile but ends up looking constipated. “I’ll deal with it. I can’t just stand by and pretend I’m okay with her being a bully.” He sighs, then adds, “I should get going. I’ll see you guys later.”

“Okay, you listen to me, girl,” Alya says when Adrien walks off. “You’d better get your butt out of here and design the actual best derby hat to ever exist. You capiche?”

Marinette’s lips twitch. “I capiche.”

***

Hours later, after a gruelling battle against an akuma pigeon-man overlord, Marinette wants to scream. Pigeons. Pigeons. Her pigeon feather hat is so cursed. At least she’s got an hour left to work on it though, otherwise she would have actually thrown herself off her balcony at missing out on such an amazing opportunity like this competition.

At long last, she’s attached the pigeon feather to the feathery black derby hat. Success! But then she catches sight of the time on her phone and shrieks when she realises that she’s barely got minutes to get to the school! She frantically drops her hat into a hat box and thunders down the stairs and out of the bakery, crying, “Bye, Mum! Bye, Papa!” as she goes.

“Where have you been?” Alya demands when Marinette finally make it back to school and skids to a halt next to her empty hat stand. “You got your hat?”

“Yep, here!” A wheezing Marinette deposits her box on the stand and takes the lid off to reveal her sleek, feathery hat. However, rather than looking ecstatic, Alya’s face falls.

“It’s the same as Chloé’s,” she points out. Marinette looks over her shoulder at Chloé’s hat and gasps. That thief! But how? She must have gotten her claws on Marinette’s design somehow! But then Marinette smirks when she remembers her secret weapon.

“Don’t worry, Alya, I can handle this,” she says. Now it’s her turn for her hat to be inspected by Mr Damocles, Adrien, and Gabriel Agreste through a tablet that a dark-haired woman is holding. Marinette gulps when she realises that the woman is the same one she’d yelled at on Adrien’s first day of school, and she prays to the gods above that the woman doesn’t remember that…incident. Under Gabriel’s intense scrutiny through the tablet screen, Marinette starts to fidget. What if she doesn’t pull this off?

“Hm. Turn the tablet back to Miss Bourgeois’ hat, Nathalie,” Gabriel orders. The woman obeys. “Is this a joke?”

Chloé immediately turns on the waterworks. “No fair! Marinette copied my design!” she howls. “It’s scandalous! How could you do that?”

Marinette meets Adrien’s eye and smiles. “I apologise for the situation, Mr Agreste,” she says to Gabriel. “But I can prove that this derby hat is my original design.”

Gabriel’s eyes narrow. “Go ahead.”

“Well, everything on my derby hat is handmade, from the embroidery, to the weaving of the band, to the stitching of the brim. All done by me. And last, there’s a special design element that only the designer knows about: I signed mine.” She turns her hat upside-down to reveal that the golden embroidery around the base of the hat spells out her name in beautiful cursive.

When Chloé gasps and knocks over her derby hat stand, everyone turns back to her to inspect her overturned hat, which displays the very same signature that’s on Marinette’s hat. Chloé starts bawling for real.

“That’s low, Chloé.” Adrien growls.

“But Adrikins –”

No. If you want me to be your best friend again, you’re going about it totally the wrong way. How could you do that to Marinette, especially when you know how Father and I feel about stealing other people’s work?”

Chloé runs out, crying for her father. Gabriel’s next words ensure that she’s quickly forgotten.

“Very exquisite creation. You definitely have the labouring hands of a hat maker, Miss…”

“Marinette,” Adrien says and puts his hand on Marinette’s shoulder. The woman’s eyes narrow, and Marinette gulps. Okay, yep, now she remembers who Marinette is.

“Congratulations on your demonstration, Miss Marinette,” Gabriel says. “You’re the winner.”

Marinette gasps and looks at Alya, whose eyes are shining. Then she turns back to Gabriel and cries, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” while bowing again and again in sheer joy.

“Adrien will wear your derby on our next advertising campaign,” Gabriel says. Adrien beams.

“I told you I wouldn’t mind modelling your hat, didn’t I?” he says, taking the hat from Marinette. Marinette smiles so widely that her cheeks hurt, especially when Adrien starts to put the hat on…but her smile vanishes when he sneezes loudly.

“Wait, what?” she says.

“Sorry,” Adrien says thickly. “Uh – allergic to feathers. Achoo!”

“…Gesundheit?”

“Ha. Thanks.”


 

Things come to a head during the class representative elections a week later. After Chloé runs for the position yet again and blackmails everyone into not running as a candidate against her, Marinette decides to run herself. Even if she doesn’t get in, at least she’d tried to do something, right?

Naturally, Chloé decides to resort to buying everyone’s vote by holding a campaign launch party and inviting Jagged Stone, with the promise of autographs for all. Marinette growls when she hears the news. She’s been slaving away all afternoon on a speech that includes everyone’s wishes, like Rose’s desire for comfy seats, yet Chloé’s just going to waltz in and win purely by throwing cash everywhere? In frustration, Marinette tosses her diary back into her lockbox and storms downstairs to see what this is all about.

“I'm pleased to welcome you all to the official launch of Chloé's electoral campaign,” André Bourgeois announces when Marinette arrives at City Hall and finds all her classmates squeeing over…Jagged Stone? And a special thank-you to world famous pop-star Jagged Stone for endorsing her!”

“And when you vote for me, you’ll get free tickets to Jagged’s next concert!” Chloé adds smugly. Marinette’s eye twitches. Well, at least if she loses, she can say that she didn’t have to resort to bribery and blackmail to win in the first place. Jagged Stone doesn’t appear all that happy to be there either, so that’s another small consolation.

“Do you realise that you’re all being bribed?” Marinette demands of her classmates. “Concert tickets are awesome, but they aren’t gonna solve classroom problems!”

“So, what’s your campaign then, Marinette?” Nathaniel says. His cheeks turn a faint pink when Marinette looks at him.

“Well, uh…I’m, um…” Marinette fumbles to remember everything she’d written down earlier. “I’m thinking that cushions would be more realistic than buying new chairs! Your cushion could be very pink,” she says to Rose, who gasps and beams. “And I’ll see about listening to music in the library,” she adds to Nino. “Through headphones, of course.”

“Remarkable,” Chloé drawls. “You actually sound like a class rep. Too bad you don’t have a chance of winning. A word?” She yanks Marinette behind a nearby pillar, and Marinette gasps when she sees her diary lockbox clamped shut around Sabrina’s hand. That no-good, dirty, cheating –

“If you don’t pull out of the race,” Chloé says with an evil grin on her face, “then all your secrets will be revealed.”

“Don’t – uh – I mean – what secrets?” Marinette tries not to let on how freaked out she is. Sure, Sabrina’s not getting that box off any time soon, but it’s not like the box is indestructible. And if Chloé finds out that she’s Ladybug…

“Ha! I guess we’ll find out…as soon as I get my hands on a chainsaw!” Chloé says. Just then, the sound of trumpets fills the air from outside. André carefully opens the city hall doors a crack to peek out, and he’s quickly joined by Marinette, Alya, Adrien, Rose, and Kim. They’re met with the sight of, well…a sea of black and green knights holding poleaxes. Honestly, Marinette’s so not in the mood for this.

“O-ye, o-ye!” one of the knights proclaims. “Darkblade shalt speak now! Listen or be imprisoned!”

Another knight steps forward, only he’s red and black instead of green and black, and he’s carrying a long, wicked sword. Out of the corner of her eye, Marinette only just registers Alya ducking and bolting from the room, but her attention is quickly drawn back to the red and black knight Darkblade.

“Henceforth, my flag shalt fly over thy kingdom!” Darkblade points his sword directly at the doors. “Bourgeois, pathetic knave! Come hither and do battle!”

“What did he say?” André whispers.

“He wants to beat you up and take your position,” Adrien says. André whimpers.

“Er…ask my secretary for an appointment!” he says before slamming the doors shut. From outside, the muffled chanting of the knights can be heard, and Marinette dashes over to a high window just in time to see Reine Nuit jump into the thick of the knights and start bowling them over one by one. But she’s no match against Darkblade himself, what with her lack of sword-fighting skills.

“What are we gonna do?” Ivan says, once again peering out through the doors. Marinette goes to join him to get a better view, along with Nino, Adrien, and Chloé, and her eyes widen when Darkblade turns and looks directly at them.

“The doors, quickly!” she cries.

“The doors, quickly!” Chloé mimics. Marinette smirks.

“Quit, Chloé!”

“Quit, Chloé! Oh…”

Heh. Sucker.

“Kneel before thy flag of Darkblade!” Darkblade approaches the doors, while Reine Nuit continues to fight knights in the background. Chloé shrieks and dashes away to hide. “Bow down before mine eyes!” In response, the students slam the doors shut and lock them.

“Chloé, what should we do?” Rose says, leaning over the front desk to look at Chloé, who’s hiding behind it. “What would a class rep do?”

“Well, if indeed you vote for me, I’ll provide you with an answer,” Chloé says. “Tomorrow.”

“But we can’t wait until tomorrow!”

“Then you’re out of luck. You’ll have to ask someone else!”

“Real helpful, Chloé,” Adrien says from where he’s now pressed against the window, watching the action outside with his phone out. “Thanks for convincing me to vote for Marinette.” He winces. “Ouch. I don’t know how much longer Reine Nuit can hold out!”

“What?” Chloé springs up. “I mean – ugh!”

While all this is going on, Marinette slips away to talk to Tikki about what to do, since she’s needed as Ladybug but also as Marinette. In the end, she finally has a plan.

“Kim, Ivan, lock the doors! Make sure all the windows are closed too! Quickly!” she commands. Kim and Ivan hurry to do as she says. “Nino, Juleka, Rose, Mylène, and Adrien, you come with me!”

It’s a mark of how much danger the whole class is in that Adrien doesn’t even complain about being ripped away from the action, instead running to Marinette’s side immediately.

“Hey, I was going to say the exact same thing!” Chloé whines. “Sabrina, Ivan, Kim, go lock the doors!” But no one even spares her a glance.

Once the entrance is barricaded and André has led Marinette’s classmates to safety, she calls out an excuse about checking the windows and then ducks out of sight. Tikki darts out, wide blue eyes trained on the locked doors. “It should be safe now,” Marinette says. “Tikki, spots on!”

***

“So, where were you?” Chloé demands when Marinette emerges after detransforming. Around her, everyone else is taking down the barricades and returning everything to its rightful place now that Darkblade has been defeated. “Safely hiding under a rock?”

“Very funny, Chloé,” Marinette says. “I got transformed…into a knight.” Then she crosses her arms. “Now that this is all over, I want my personal items back!”

The other students gasp and gather around them. Chloé’s eyes widen.

“I really have no idea what you're talking about! I –” She’s cut off by Sabrina shoving her aside and thrusting the box-trapped hand out at Marinette.

“Oh, yes! Please take it off!” With a smirk, Marinette takes the box key out of her purse and unlocks it to free Sabrina’s hand. Sabrina gasps, “Thank you!” and runs off.

“Got an explanation, Chloé?” Alya grins with her phone out and aimed directly at Chloé.

“I told you, I never took her diary!” Chloé huffs. “And I'm offended that you're accusing me!”

“Then how did you even know my diary was in here?” Marinette says with a raised eyebrow. Chloé pales and grabs Sabrina, shoving her best friend in front of her.

“Uh…it was Sabrina! Sabrina told me! It was all her idea!”

Sabrina shrinks as the class starts to mutter among themselves. Only Adrien gives her a reassuring smile and nudges her, and she gives him a nervous little smile and ducks her head.

“At least now we know nobody voted for Chloé,” Alya says smugly. “You're gonna be our new representative!”

But Marinette shakes her head. “Not so fast, Alya. I wanna be voted in fairly; not because you don't wanna vote for Chloé, but because you believe in me! I'm not gonna make promises that I can't keep, and I'm not gonna be able to get you everything that you want. But I am resourceful, and I know how to prioritise. I'm a good listener and a great multitasker. Representing you all is something I truly believe in. And most importantly, I believe in myself. So…vote for Marinette, for class representative!”

Everyone starts applauding. Chloé, meanwhile, seethes.

“This is ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous!” she snaps to Adrien. “How can you stand to listen to this junk?”

“Junk?” Adrien says. “Marinette’s just being honest. And unlike you, she didn’t have to resort to dirty tactics.”

Chloé scoffs. “Oh, Adrien, you know that’s just politics. Why have you got yourself so twisted?” She latches on to his arm, but he pulls away.

“That’s enough!” he says. Everyone falls silent to watch the confrontation. “I’ve put up with this for long enough. I didn’t want to be too hard on you because I hoped you could change, Chloé. But you’re just getting meaner and meaner!”

Chloé rolls her eyes.

“See? You don’t even take me seriously!” Adrien draws himself up and says, “We’re not friends anymore, Chloé. Not until you can prove that you’re genuinely changing for the better. And the only reason I’m even still talking to you is because I remember the nicer girl you used to be, and I’m hoping you can be her again.”

What?” Chloé’s eyes bulge. “Adrien, no –”

“Adrien, yes. Now leave me alone.” Adrien approaches Marinette and smiles. “I can’t wait to see what you do for us, Marinette.”

Marinette beams at him. Her smile dims when she catches sight of Chloé’s apoplectic face, though, and she realises that she’s going to have to seriously watch her back from now on, since Chloé will no doubt be out for blood.

Chapter Text

 

Although things on the Chloé front have been tense since Adrien had told her to buzz off, it’s all been relatively tame for a few weeks now. She hasn’t done more than scowl and drop a mean comment here and there when Adrien’s not around, with many nasty comments directed at Alix, who’s been quiet since her akumatisation into Timebreaker a few days prior. But, far from being a relief, it only puts Marinette on edge; when will Chloé strike next and what will she do?

Chloé’s next move comes during the Françoise Dupont tryouts for the Paris Ultimate Mecha Strike III Tournament in the library, to find a partner for Max.

“He’s totally unbeatable! And this tournament is his whole life!” Kim says as Max and Adrien mash their buttons. “He’s been grinding all year to level up!”

Just as Kim says that, Adrien utterly creams Max’s robot and comes out in the lead with more points. While everyone cheers, Max says, “Awesome job. We’re gonna make a killer combo!” and high-fives him, although Max looks a little miffed that someone had actually beaten him.

“So, like, Adrikins got the best score, right?” Chloé says. Why she’s even here, Marinette has no idea; if Chloé genuinely likes video games, Marinette will eat her earrings.

“Yes,” Max says. “That means if anyone was to beat me, they would take my place. But no one will beat me!”

“Oh, I don’t have to.” With a smirk, Chloé approaches Mr Damocles. “Mr Damocles, sir, I believe that second spot belongs to me.”

“Wait, what?” Max bursts out. “You haven’t even played, Chloé!”

“Mr Kanté is correct, I’m afraid,” Mr Damocles says. “If you’d like to try out then you’re more than welcome. But I can’t just give you his spot when he earned it.”

“Hmm. Pity.” Chloé pulls out her phone. “I guess my daddy will have to hear about this. Would be a shame if he pulled the school’s funding –”

“No! No! That’s not necessary!” Mr Damocles clears his throat. “Chloé Bourgeois and Adrien Agreste will represent Françoise Dupont High School at the Paris Ultimate Mecha Strike III Tournament. Good luck to both of you.”

“Yay!” Chloé bounces over to Adrien and plants a kiss on his cheek. “Isn’t this just amazing, Adrikins? Now I get to come over and practice with you! You can totally give me private lessons in this game!” She winks. Adrien looks like nothing in the world would please him less than having to hang out with her in private.

“This is totally bogus!” Alix says.

“Yeah!” Rose adds. “Max won that spot!”

“My decision is final!” Mr Damocles says quickly. “Now, the library is closing up, so I suggest you lot get moving!”

“Max?” Marinette rests a hand on Max’s shoulder, but he shrugs her off. “We’ll fight this, you know. Even if we have to kidnap Chloé and tie her up in a supply closet so that you can play.”

“I’m right here, you know,” Chloé drawls. Marinette pulls a face.

“Unfortunately.”

“Thanks for trying, Marinette,” Max sighs, standing up. “But there’s nothing you can do. I simply have to accept this unequivocal travesty.” He shuffles out of the library with slumped shoulders.

“Max! Wait!” Kim runs after him.

“What time suits you, Adrikins?” Chloé says in a sickly-sweet voice. “I know you must be very busy with your schedule –”

“How about never?” Adrien growls. Chloé shoots a quick glare at Mr Damocles.

“Ahem – um – Mr Agreste, cooperation and partner chemistry are very important –”

“You hear that?” Chloé throws her arms around Adrien. “Chemistry! You and moi!”

“Then I’m forfeiting my position,” Adrien says. “Max can have it.”

“You got the higher score,” Mr Damocles says. “That’s not possible.”

“Chloé didn’t even play!”

“This gaming session is over! Clear out!” Mr Damocles says loudly. Fuming, Adrien gets up and stalks out of the library. Chloé follows, though not before shooting Marinette a smug little smirk on her way.

“That cheating little brat!” Marinette hisses, clenching her fists.

“Girl. Chill.” Alya grabs her shoulders. “I’m just as mad, trust me. But calling her names isn’t gonna do anything.”

Marinette squints at Alya. “You’re telling me not to call Chloé Bourgeois names? Who are you and what have you done with Alya Césaire?”

Alya laughs and links their arms. “Trust me, I can’t believe it either. But if there’s one thing that Ladybug and Reine Nuit have taught me, it’s to plan someone’s demise rather than rushing in. Chloé won’t get away with this, believe you me.”


 

“Oh, it’s been so long since I was in here last!” Chloé sighs, bouncing with her hands clasped in the middle of his room. Adrien’s eye twitches. What did he do to deserve this? And what happened to the Chloé he remembers? The one who was biting and took no shit but wasn’t a nasty bully?

Maybe that Chloé never existed. Or maybe she only ever existed for him.

“Okay, so, like, how do you play this Mecha whatchamacallit?” Chloé says, throwing herself onto Adrien’s white couch. “We’ve only got a little time, partner!”

“You’re not my partner,” Adrien growls. “Not technically. You cheated your way into it!”

“Oh, please,” Chloé scoffs. “I didn’t cheat. I just offered a very strong incentive.”

“By threatening to cut the school’s funding! No wonder no one’s done anything about your bullying! Why would they, when you’re the one holding the strings?”

“You really got yourself in a twist over this, huh?” Chloé says. “I didn’t know you cared so much about some school, or some weird nerdy loser who wears suspenders.”

Adrien just shakes his head. “You need to apologise to Max. You’re really disgusting me right now, Chloé.”

Chloé snorts. “Me? Apologise? No way. Why should I?”

“Because otherwise, I’ll never talk to you again.”

“What?” Chloé jumps up. “What are you talking about, Adrikins?”

“I don’t want to lose your friendship,” Adrien says. “I never did. But if I stand by and let you pick on others, I’m just as complicit as you are. So, if you keep on getting meaner and meaner, I’m not going to talk to you anymore. I won’t want to talk to you anymore.”

“Ha! You’re talking to me right now. You just needed the incentive, didn’t you?” Chloé flips her hair. “It’s okay to admit that you need to come crawling back to me.”

With a growl, Adrien storms out of his room and down the staircase to the front doors. He has to get out of here. He can’t blow up at Chloé. The last thing he needs is to be akumatised over this.

As it turns out, he’s not the one who was akumatised over this injustice.

“Wait! Adrien!” Chloé cries, chasing after him just as he pushes open the front doors. His eyes are immediately drawn to the gigantic black and green pyramid looming over him with two massive mechanical legs. Its green eye locks directly onto him and Chloé.

“Chloé Bourgeois,” snarls a digitised voice from the pyramid. “Let’s see if you really can game against me, the Gamer, or if all you can do is go crying to Daddy.”

“Look out!” Purely by instinct, Adrien tackles Chloé as the pyramid shoots a ray of green coding at her. Chloé beams at him from beneath him, but he just rolls his eyes and jumps to his feet.

“And Adrien Agreste,” Gamer growls. Adrien’s eyes widen as he realises who it is. Max! “If not for you, Chloé would not have pulled her despicable trick.”

“Wait, what? How is this my fault?” Adrien says. “I tried to pull out and give my spot to you after you left, but Mr Damocles wouldn’t let me because of Chloé!”

“Hmm.” Gamer’s pyramid just continues to stare.

“Come on, do you really think I’d even want to be Chloé’s partner in the first place?” Adrien says.

“Hey!” Chloé huffs.

Before Gamer can decide whether he’s going to spare Adrien, two blurs of colour land in front of Adrien and Chloé.

“Sorry, but you haven’t unlocked these challengers yet,” Reine Nuit says, twirling her staff.

“You do know that implies that Adrien and Chloé are harder bosses to beat than us, right?” Ladybug says while spinning her yo-yo by her side. Reine Nuit rolls her eyes.

“Hey, I never said I knew a lot about video games.”

“Excuse me, but can you actually save us instead of bantering?” Chloé demands. Reine Nuit grimaces.

“Do we have to save Chloé?” she complains.

“Why is everyone badmouthing me when I’m right here?”

Yes, kitty,” Ladybug says firmly. “She’s a civilian.”

“Hmph. At least someone’s on my side,” Chloé says. Adrien struggles to conceal a snort at the way Ladybug’s eye twitches.

“Enough! Game over!” Gamer aims at them, but the heroes are quicker; Ladybug scoops Adrien up in her arms, while Reine Nuit groans and throws Chloé over her shoulder, and then they’re off just in time to avoid Gamer’s laser beam.

“Split up! Meet at the brat’s headquarters!” Ladybug calls to Reine Nuit, who salutes and takes off in another direction while Chloé loudly complains about how her expensive clothes are getting dirt on them. Ladybug heaves a huge sigh and swings behind a building for cover in case Gamer attacks them.

“I don’t think he’s coming for us,” Adrien says when there’s no sign of a laser beam.

“No wonder Gamer’s angry,” Ladybug says. “I heard that she cheated her way into his spot.”

“It wasn’t cheating,” Adrien says with an eyeroll. “Just heavy bribery and blackmail.”

“What a difference,” Ladybug deadpans. She bites her lip and peeks around the corner, but there’s no sign of Gamer. “Looks like he’s angrier at Chloé than he is at you. Why is he mad at you, anyway?”

“He thinks it’s partly my fault,” Adrien says as Ladybug swings off again, this time in the direction of Le Grand Paris. “Because if I didn’t end up getting the second spot, Chloé wouldn’t have done what she did.”

“Okay, that’s just taking it too far,” Ladybug says. “It’s not like you asked Chloé to do that. And from what I’ve heard, you tried to pull out and give your spot to Max.”

“Mr Damocles wouldn’t let me. Chloé threatened to cut the school’s funding, since her dad’s the mayor and everything.”

“Of course,” Ladybug mutters. Something small flutters in Adrien’s stomach at the sight of Ladybug with narrowed, determined blue eyes as she swings in a wide arc up to the top of the hotel. He doesn’t actually have feelings for Ladybug, he’s sure of that…but maybe if Marinette hadn’t come in first, he may have fallen for Ladybug instead. In another universe, perhaps.

“Oh, good, you’re here,” Reine Nuit says when Ladybug lands on the rooftop and lets Adrien down. “If I had to spend another minute with this brat –”

“Keep going and I’ll make sure all of Paris shudders at the sound of your name,” Chloé threatens with crossed arms and a petulant scowl.

“Wow, I’m so scared of the girl who needs her daddy to get anything done.”

“Okay, enough!” Ladybug says before Chloé can shriek in outrage. “We don’t have time for this. We need to figure out how to take down Gamer.”

“I want to help,” Adrien says. “It’s partly my fault, anyway.”

“What did I just tell you?” Ladybug says.

“I know that part’s not my fault, but I should’ve done more to stand up to Chloé!”

“Hey, don’t go taking the blame that isn’t yours,” Reine Nuit says. Her eyes dart from side to side, keeping an eye out for the massive akuma. “Chloé’s the one who blackmailed her way into the spot, not you.”

“What?” Chloé gasps, covering her mouth. “I didn’t – you liar! How dare you? You’re totally trying to ruin me in front of my BFF!”

“Save it, Chloé,” Ladybug says. “Adrien told me the truth. You need to take responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others.”

Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“Fine!” Chloé shrieks. “Gang up on me! But you’ll come running back to me soon –” She’s cut off by a green laser beam hitting her and dissolving her into code.

“Thank you!” Reine Nuit calls to Gamer, while Ladybug grabs Adrien again. “Sorry we have to kick your butt!”

Ladybug’s eyes widen when she sees that the robot has upgraded and now has arms and thicker legs. “He’s level three now!” she cries.

“And four is the highest level!” Adrien adds. He grins at Ladybug, who beams back.

“So…that’s bad, right?” Reine Nuit says as they bound off again.

“Yes!” Ladybug and Adrien reply. Ladybug yelps and dodges a laser beam, which hits a building and turns it into green code.

“Okay, well, we gotta get him out of here or he’ll destroy the whole city!” Reine Nuit calls, using her staff to propel her out of the way of an attack. Ladybug’s eyes land on a billboard advertising the gaming tournament at the stadium, and her eyes light up.

“The stadium!” she says. “Come on, Reine Nuit!”

As predicted, the robot follows them to the stadium, so Reine Nuit uses her Cataclysm to destroy it and expose Gamer himself. Although they get a tonne of loot for their trouble, Gamer just touches his glasses and respawns his robot around him.

“Aww, not the old spawn point glitch!” Adrien groans.

“But did you see how he pushed that button on his glasses?” Ladybug says. “I bet the akuma’s in there.” She touches their red loot sphere to claim it, and is gifted with a massive, ladybug-patterned cat robot. “Ha! We’ve levelled up too!”

“Uh, slight problem.” Reine Nuit holds up her beeping ring. “I’m fine for now, but I don’t know if we can take him down before I turn back. Plus, I’ve got literally no idea how to play this game.”

“I can help!” Adrien bounces on the spot, wondering if he’s died and gone to Heaven. He can actually help the heroes out this time? No way!

“It’s too dangerous!” Ladybug says automatically.

“It’s not like he’ll be any safer out here,” Reine Nuit points out. “Gamer’s after him, remember? Besides, he’s way better at the game than I am.”

Ladybug chews her lip, then makes a snap decision before Gamer can launch another attack. “Fine. Just stick around in case we need you on the ground, Reine!” she says before grabbing Adrien around the waist and swinging up to the top of their robot to slide inside.

“Can I man it?” Adrien says when they’re in the cockpit. He whips out his phone to take a rushed selfie for his Instagram before the action begins; thankfully, Ladybug doesn’t notice this.

“No way,” Ladybug says. “You can shoot. You’re already in enough danger in here as it is.”

Together, Ladybug and Adrien utterly lay the smackdown on Gamer with move after move, but he fires back just as hard. Stuck in a stalemate, Adrien can’t see how in the world they’re going to get out of this one.

“Take the controls, Adrien,” Ladybug orders, swinging herself out of the cockpit. Adrien scrambles over to her seat just in time to see her summon her Lucky Charm outside, which turns out to be a can of spray paint, and Adrien has no idea what the hell she’s supposed to do with that until he sees her leaping over to Gamer’s robot and spraying the eye.

“Of course!” Adrien gasps. “He’ll have to come out and –”

Sure enough, Ladybug snatches Gamer’s glasses when he pops his head out to fix the problem, then releases and purifies the akuma. Her Miraculous Ladybug deposits Adrien safely on his feet as their robot dissolves, and he bounces like he’s high on sugar as the ladybug cure fixes everything. He got to be an honorary hero! He totally helped Ladybug! This has to be a dream! Dammit, why didn’t he get the chance to record this?

“What am I doing here?” Max mumbles when he’s detransformed from Gamer and is pushing himself off the ground. Ladybug grins at Reine Nuit when the cat superhero comes over, before turning to Adrien and directing that grin at him as she holds her fist out.

“Oh my god, really?” Adrien gasps. Bouncing even more, he fist-bumps Ladybug and Reine Nuit. “Pound it!” he gets to cry with the heroes.

“I recharged while you were kicking his butt,” Reine Nuit says, holding up her hand to display her fully-charged ring. “So, I can take Max back to the school on my way.”

“I’ll take Adrien back, then,” Ladybug says. She slips an arm around Adrien’s waist and then they’re off, swinging across Paris, and Adrien can’t help the giddy laugh that slips out of him because this has been the best day ever.


 

“Where’s Chloé?” Marinette says to Adrien as he draws level with his classmates outside the stadium. “They’re about to call you guys up!”

“About that…” Adrien says. He holds out one of his controllers to Max, who squints at it. “She refused to come. Said that she “didn’t want to play that stupid game anyway”. I think she’s just still sore about Ladybug telling her to take responsibility for her own actions.”

“Really?” Max gasps, taking the controller and staring at it with shining eyes. “So – this means –”

Adrien grins. “We’re gonna kick their butts.”

“And now, representing Françoise Dupont High School…” comes the announcement from inside the stadium.

“Wait!” Marinette says. Adrien’s stomach does a hard flip at the gorgeous smile that lights up her pretty face when she holds out a little pink and green charm bracelet. “You should take this, Adrien. It’s my lucky charm.” She winks and says, “Can’t hurt, right?”

Adrien just blinks, then he blinks again, staring at Marinette with an open mouth. Is it possible to fall in love with someone all over again? Because he’s pretty sure that’s what just happened right now.

“Uh, dude?” Nino nudges Adrien. “They’re waiting for you!”

“…Right!” Adrien shakes his head and tears his eyes away from Marinette, otherwise he won’t move for the next ten years. He grins at Max as they approach the stadium doors. “Ready, partner?”

Max grins back. “Let’s show them who’s gold.”

Chapter Text

With Adrien officially no longer talking to Chloé, she seems to get ten times meaner in the following month. She’s rude to everyone, constantly criticising everything she can think of, and she treats Sabrina so appallingly that the poor girl now comes to school with bags under her eyes and a permanent defeated smile. Marinette’s heart aches for Sabrina, honestly.

Chloé’s also caused at least four akumas since Gamer had been defeated. Three are students from their school that she’d ruthlessly bullied, while the fourth is a little boy she’d gleefully picked on in the park. And now Ladybug and Reine Nuit are dealing with a fifth person akumatised because of Chloé: an elderly lady called Antiquator, dressed in a long white Edwardian dress, with primped, curly dark hair, short black gloves, lilac skin, and glowing violet eyes.

“How on earth does an old granny get akumatised?” Reine Nuit comments as she and Ladybug hide with Chloé, Sabrina, and Adrien in an empty store. Down the street, Antiquator is zapping people and things all around her, and anything she zaps turns into an antiquated version of itself. Cars turn into automobiles; streetlamps turn into old gas lights; and people are turned into versions of themselves that may have been around a hundred years ago or so. Nothing particularly harmful, but certainly annoying.

“No idea,” Chloé scoffs, clutching her broken arm to her chest.

“Chloé Bourgeois!” Antiquator howls. “Come out, my dear, so that I may teach you the manners that a rich young brat such as yourself should have learned years ago!”

“Of course,” Ladybug sighs. “Chloé, what did you do this time?”

“Nothing! And I’m offended that you’d think that of me, Ladybug!”

Ladybug raises an eyebrow. Chloé shifts.

“Well…”

“Chloé was in a hurry to get to her hair appointment, so she pushed the lady out of the way!” Sabrina says. “Then when the lady told her that she needed to learn some manners, Chloé just said that –”

“Are you actually serious, Sabrina?” Chloé stamps her foot and towers over Sabrina, who shivers and ducks behind Ladybug. “How dare you just spill everything like that, especially when Adrien’s filming it all? What, are you gonna tell her all your little secrets too? How you love to dress up as Reine Nuit? How you suck your thumb in your sleep –”

“Chloé!” Ladybug cuts Chloé off. “Stop it.”

“Why? She humiliated me!”

“By giving us the deets we need to figure out where Oldie’s akuma is?” Reine Nuit says. “I think it’s in her ring, by the way.”

“You should be nicer to your best friend, Chloé,” Ladybug says. “And to others. You’re not being a very nice person.”

Excuse me?” Chloé hisses.

“…So, I’m just gonna go Cataclysm the ring,” Reine Nuit says slowly.

“Lucky Charm.” Ladybug catches the bottle of motor oil and tosses it to Reine Nuit. “Pour that under her feet.”

“You gotcha, angel bug.”

“How dare you treat your number one fan like this?” Chloé swells with rage. “After everything I’ve done for you, Ladybug!”

“If you were really my number one fan then you’d want to treat others with kindness,” Ladybug says firmly. “I don’t condone bullying, Chloé.”

“Bullying? I don’t bully people! I only respect those who are worthy of moi!”

“Chloé –”

“No!” Chloé clenches her fists, whimpering when she moves her broken arm in the process. “How could you do this to me, Ladybug? How could you just betray me like that? Just because everyone treats you like you’re God –”

“Here you go.” Reine Nuit pops back in and hands Ladybug the empty bottle of oil, then stands aside to let Ladybug step outside and purify the akuma.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

Chloé doesn’t look any happier once her arm has been mended by the ladybugs. Instead, she just looks angrier.

“Perfect princess Ladybug,” Chloé hisses, her bright blue eyes glossy. “Everyone loves you because you’re such a goodie-two-shoes! Well, I don’t need your lecture! And I don’t need you!” She directs this last part at Sabrina, jabbing the redhead with her finger before flipping her ponytail and storming out.

“This is all my fault,” Sabrina mumbles. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No, you should have.” Ladybug puts a hand on Sabrina’s shoulder, giving what she hopes is a reassuring smile. “It takes courage to stand up to your friends, Sabrina.”

“But now she’ll hate me!”

“Can’t you make friends with anyone else?” Reine Nuit says. “That whole Chloé thing doesn’t seem healthy.”

“I don’t want to! Chloé’s just had a tough life, okay?” Sabrina snaps. “It’s my job to be the best friend ever for her! And I totally ruined that!” She runs out, sobbing. Ladybug grimaces at Reine Nuit.

“That went well,” she says. Reine Nuit just shrugs.

“I dunno what you want me to say.”

Ladybug is prevented from replying by her earrings beeping. “Gotta go! Bug out!”


 

The next day, Chloé’s not at school, but Sabrina is, and so she’s forced to sit up the front alone with hunched shoulders.

“We should talk to her,” Marinette whispers to Alya as Ms Bustier does roll call. “She looks pretty miserable.”

“Probably just Chloé drama,” Alya says dismissively. “Not our business, girl.”

“But still…”

“Now, class –” Before Ms Bustier can say anything more, their classroom door is kicked open to reveal a familiar blonde ponytailed girl. But it’s not Chloé; at least, not normal Chloé, anyway. Instead, she’s wearing Ladybug’s suit and mask but in inverted colours: black with red spots.

“I’ll prove to all you losers that I’m better than Ladybug! I am Antibug!” Chloé declares. Her eyes narrow at Sabrina, who whimpers when she approaches. “Sabrina Raincomprix. Antibug doesn’t like traitors!” She giggles. “Hey, that’s something Ladybug would say!”

“Help!” Sabrina shrieks when she’s dragged out of her seat and slung over Antibug’s shoulder. With a mad laugh, Antibug shatters the classroom window with her yo-yo and swings out, taking Sabrina with her.

“Um…” Ms Bustier blinks. “Class is…cancelled for now. I need to go and tell Mr Damocles that one of my students was just…kidnapped by another.”

Marinette takes advantage of her classmates swarming out of the room to duck up the back, where she can’t be seen. As soon as the classroom door shuts, Tikki comes flying out.

“This is my fault, Tikki!” Marinette says. “If I hadn’t been so hard on Chloé –”

“You told Chloé exactly what she needed to hear, Marinette,” Tikki says firmly. “Her reaction is on her.”

“But now Sabrina’s in danger!”

“Then you’d better go save her!”

Marinette takes a deep breath. “You’re right. Tikki, spots on!” The transformation washes over her, warm and bright and full of life, leaving Ladybug in her place as the pink sparkles fade. When she bursts out of the classroom and rounds the corner down the hall, she nearly collides with Reine Nuit, who yelps and catches her to stop her from falling.

“Guess I swept you off your feet,” Reine Nuit grins. “Get it? Because I transformed in a supply closet? With brooms?”

“Ha, ha, very funny,” Ladybug says, rolling her eyes. “You know the situation, right?”

“Chloé Bourgeois is Antibug. And she kidnapped Sabrina,” Reine Nuit says. “I think the whole school heard that. Where would she have taken Sabrina?”

Ladybug chews her lip, then pulls out her yo-yo and swipes to the news channel to see if there’s any information there. Nadja’s face immediately appears on-screen.

“I’m Nadja Chamack! Don’t be bemused, it’s just the news! We’ve just received reports of a new akuma called Antibug, who appears to have a hostage at the Eiffel Tower!”

“Let’s go!” Ladybug says, flicking her yo-yo closed. She and Reine Nuit bound away through Paris towards the Eiffel Tower, where helicopters can already be seen even from this distance. When they arrive, they spot the news crew and police force on the ground. Up at the top of the Tower is Antibug, who has a sobbing Sabrina tied up tightly and dangling off the edge of the Tower, with the extra rope from her bonds wrapped around the tip several times to secure her.                                                              

“Release my daughter, Antibug!” Officer Roger orders through his megaphone. Ladybug and Reine Nuit take this chance to leap up to one of the viewing platforms to avoid being seen. “Or the strong arm of the law will come down hard on you!”

“Then why hasn’t it?” Antibug cackles. “Ladybug, Reine Nuit, you’d better come and save this poor little civilian quick smart! Or else she’ll be taking an impromptu lesson in bungee jumping!”

“I’m sorry, Chloé!” Sabrina howls. “Please don’t hurt me!”

“Oh, shut your pathetic hole already,” Antibug sighs. “I don’t know why I put up with it, honestly.”

Ladybug and Reine Nuit exchange a look. They need a plan. They can’t just go charging in there –

“I’m going to count to ten! And if you “heroes” aren’t in front of me and giving me your Miraculouses, a certain police officer is going to end up childless!”

– but they need to make a move before Antibug sends Sabrina hurtling to her death.

“One!”

“We need to focus on saving Sabrina,” Ladybug says. “We can’t do anything while Antibug can drop her. And she’ll be expecting one of us to play diversion while the other saves Sabrina.”

“Two!”

“What if we do let Antibug drop her, though?” Reine Nuit says with narrowed eyes.

“Three!”

What? Are you crazy, Reine Nuit?”

“Four!”

“It might be the best way to free her, Ladybug. You can catch her with your yo-yo.”

“Five!”

“But what if she’s expecting us to do something like that?” Ladybug says. “She can’t be certain that we’re not hiding nearby, waiting for her to drop Sabrina so that we can save her.”

“Six!”

“You really think Chloé’s that smart?” Reine Nuit says.

“Seven!”

“She’s got Hawkmoth in her head now. We don’t know what he’s told her.”

“Eight!”

“We win either way,” Reine Nuit argues. “If she drops Sabrina, we catch her. And if she doesn’t drop Sabrina, we know that we need to be smarter about it.”

“Nine!”

“I hope you’re right,” Ladybug sighs. It’s too late now to come up with another plan anyway. “I don’t know how far my Miraculous Ladybug goes when healing stuff.”

“Ten!” Antibug giggles and goes silent. Ladybug and Reine Nuit tense near the edge of the platform, ready to spring into action, and Ladybug moves on autopilot when she hears Sabrina’s terrified scream. She swings out, ready to catch Sabrina…only to find that Antibug hadn’t actually dropped Sabrina, but rather had released the rope dangling Sabrina from the Tower just enough to create the illusion of letting the girl fall. Which would have made Sabrina scream. And Ladybug had fallen for it.

“Ladybug?” Reine Nuit hisses, still safely hidden. “What’s going on?”

“There you are, you little insect!” Antibug says, securing Sabrina’s tether again. “You would’ve actually let me drop Sabrina, wouldn’t you?”

“Like I was gonna let her actually crash,” Ladybug calls back. With the game up, she swings up to the top of the Tower to confront Antibug, with Reine Nuit right behind her. There’s no point in Reine Nuit staying hidden; no way will Antibug fall for the same trick twice.

“Help me, Ladybug and Reine Nuit!” Sabrina sniffles. Her eyes are red-rimmed behind her glasses and her cheeks are shining wet, and Ladybug’s heart breaks for her but she can’t figure out a way to free Sabrina yet, so she forces herself to give Sabrina what she hopes is a reassuring smile.

“Help me, Ladybug and Reine Nuit!” Antibug mimics in a shrill voice. “Give me your Miraculouses, or I’ll drop Sabrina for real this time!”

“You expect us to believe you after what you just pulled?” Reine Nuit says. Antibug rolls her eyes.

“You might not even have been here yet,” Antibug says. “That was just a way to flush you out if you were. And it worked.”

Reine Nuit curses under her breath, then leaps forward and charges at Antibug. Antibug easily dodges, deflecting attack after attack with her yo-yo, and Ladybug takes this chance to rush to where Sabrina’s rope is attached to the Tower and unravel it. She’s only got one shot at this. If she fails, Sabrina could end up splattered on the ground!

“Ladybug?” Sabrina whimpers when she jolts downward as Ladybug gets her tether free.

“You have to trust me, Sabrina,” Ladybug says. “I’ll get you down.”

“Hey!” Antibug finally notices what Ladybug is doing, and she snarls and bats Reine Nuit aside. “Don’t you dare –!”

“Go!” Reine Nuit shouts, dive-tackling Antibug. Making sure that she’s got a tight grip on Sabrina’s rope, Ladybug takes a dive off the edge of the Eiffel Tower and waits until she’s near one of the viewing platforms before throwing her yo-yo at it while swinging a shrieking Sabrina back up at the sky. Her split-second calculations pay off; her yo-yo arc is perfectly angled to catch Sabrina as she starts falling, and Ladybug wraps herself around Sabrina to protect her as they go rolling along the cool metal floor of the platform.

“Oh my god,” Ladybug gasps, pushing herself onto her back. “I can’t believe that worked.”

Sabrina just keeps crying. Ladybug hurries to sit up and untie Sabrina, who throws herself at Ladybug and hugs her so tightly that black spots dance before the hero’s eyes.

“Thankyouthankyouthankyou,” Sabrina sobs. “You saved my life – thank you –”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Ladybug chokes out. “Let’s get you back to your dad first.”

Sabrina nods and lets go of Ladybug, who gasps in air. “But what about Reine Nuit?”

“She’ll be fine…I hope. I have to trust that she can hold her own.” Ladybug wraps an arm around Sabrina’s waist, then uses her yo-yo to carefully swing back down to the ground. Sabrina lets go about a metre above the ground, landing with a sharp exhale before running to her father.

“Dad!”

“Sabrina!” Roger throws his megaphone away and wraps Sabrina in a bear hug, burying his face in her hair. The scene makes Ladybug smile briefly before she remembers that she’s currently in the middle of an akuma battle and her partner is fighting said akuma alone. She swings back up to the top of the Tower, just in time to instinctively catch Reine Nuit when Antibug sends her flying with a hard kick while her baton lies nearby.

“Whew!” Reine Nuit breathes when Ladybug sets her down. She dives to grab her baton and hefts it in front of her. “Nice timing, angel bug.”

“Where could her akuma be?” Ladybug says. She dodges Antibug’s yo-yo and hits back with an attack of her own, but Antibug dodges that in return. They’re too evenly matched, like mirrors!

“Not her earrings.” Reine Nuit points at a pile of black dust nearby. “I crushed ‘em but no akuma came out.”

“Stand still!” Antibug snarls when Ladybug leaps out of the way of another attack.

“Her yo-yo?” Ladybug says.

“Don’t think so,” Reine Nuit says. “She didn’t have it when she was akumatised, did she?”

“Hmm.” There’s one way that Ladybug can solve this problem. “Lucky Charm!”

“Anti-Charm!” Ah. Of course Antibug can summon her own Charm. And when she gets a massive sword, while Ladybug gets a pepper shaker, Ladybug ponders the best way to throttle a kwami after she turns back into Marinette.

“You know, the only reason I’m not totally freaking out right now is because I’m choosing to believe that you have a plan, buggy,” Reine Nuit says rather casually. Too casually, really. When Ladybug glances over, she sees that her partner’s bright green cat eyes are locked on Antibug’s giant sword.

“Give me a minute and I will, kitty.”

“A pepper shaker?” Antibug laughs. “Really? I guess this goes to show that I really am the better one of us, Ladybug!” She springs into action, swinging her sword at the heroes, and Ladybug and Reine Nuit yelp and leap out of the way. “Now, give me your Miraculouses!”

“Hurry up!” Reine Nuit demands. She extends her staff to propel her to the other side of the narrow platform, just before Antibug can slice her in two. But Antibug is there in a heartbeat, knocking aside Reine Nuit’s staff and cornering her against the Tower tip with the sword.

“You see?” Antibug’s eyes glimmer as she digs the sharp edge of her massive sword into Reine Nuit’s unprotected chin. “I don’t need you, Ladybug. I don’t need your lectures! I don’t need Sabrina! I’m the better one!”

“I wasn’t trying to lecture you, Chloé,” Ladybug says, holding her hands up to try and placate Antibug into not hurting Reine Nuit. Her stomach jolts at the sight of the thin line of scarlet welling against Reine Nuit’s dark skin under Antibug’s blade. Why can’t she come up with a plan? What on earth can she use the pepper for? “I was trying to offer you advice.”

“Advice? Ha! I don’t need your advice!”

“Well, Adrien’s not talking to you anymore, is he?” Ladybug says. “I thought that my advice would help you get him to talk to you again.”

“It’s not about – why should I have to change myself to make my friend like me again?”

“You shouldn’t have to change yourself,” Ladybug says soothingly. “No one dislikes you for being stubborn. Or headstrong. Or not sugary sweet. What people dislike is that you’re mean to them. That you threaten them to get your way, just like you blackmailed Mr Damocles into giving you Max’s spot.” Her earrings beep at that moment. What’s interesting is that Antibug’s black mask also beeps and flashes, then loses a red spot. Of course! The akuma must be in the sunglasses she wears, and it looks like they’ve turned into her mask!

“It’s not my fault that they can’t handle me!” Antibug shrieks and leans back to swing her sword through Reine Nuit’s throat. With this opening, Ladybug acts purely on instinct; she throws her yo-yo to catch Reine Nuit around the waist and pull her out of the way of the sword. Now that she knows where the akuma is, a plan suddenly hits her, involving the pepper, Reine Nuit, and the tip of the Eiffel Tower.

“I need you to distract her again!” Ladybug says, yo-yoing her partner’s staff back. Reine Nuit groans as she takes it.

“If that sword cuts me in half, you’re so Lucky Charming up a tube of glue to stick me back together,” she says, then leaps back into battle with Antibug. Ladybug throws her yo-yo to loop around Antibug’s ankle, then leaps up to feed it around the tip of the Tower, much like Antibug had done to Sabrina. Then she jumps back down to the platform.

“Take care of her mask when I say so! That’s where the akuma is!” Ladybug calls. Reine Nuit nods.

“Cataclysm!”

With everything in place, Ladybug waits until Antibug and Reine Nuit are closer before jumping and sprinkling pepper all over Antibug’s head. As predicted, Antibug descends into a sneezing fit and loses her grip on her sword, letting Ladybug yank on her yo-yo to haul Antibug up into the air by the ankle.

“Now!”

Whistling, Reine Nuit walks up to Antibug and swipes her sparking claws across the black and red mask, which crumbles into dust and releases the horrid purple akuma. Now that Antibug’s harmless, Ladybug lets her drop to the metal below their feet to free up her yo-yo.

“Good job, kitty,” Ladybug says, catching and purifying the akuma before throwing the pepper shaker in the air. “Miraculous Ladybug!”

After the healing ladybug stream fades away, Antibug melts away to reveal Chloé, who blinks and squints around at her surroundings. “Uh, what am I doing here?”

“Pound it!” Ladybug and Reine Nuit say. Chloé narrows her eyes at them.

“I was akumatised, wasn’t I?” she says. Ladybug looks at Reine Nuit and nods down at the ground. Taking the hint, Reine Nuit starts to bound down the Tower to take care of Sabrina.

“You were,” Ladybug says, kneeling next to Chloé. “I’m not going to apologise for what I said during Antiquator, Chloé. But I will apologise for not making more of an effort to check up on you and make sure you were doing okay afterwards.”

Chloé snorts. “I don’t need your pity,” she snarls. “I need Adrien back.”

“Then try to be nicer. The reason Adrien won’t talk to you is because then you can continue to be mean while still having him as a friend.”

“Whatever.”

“Chloé –”

“Just take me home!” Chloé snaps. “I don’t need you, Ladybug.”

Ladybug’s mouth downturns. “Well, I’m more than willing to be there for you if you ever need me again,” she says as she gathers Chloé in her arms. Chloé just ignores her. Although she can’t deny that she really dislikes Chloé, Ladybug can’t help but sympathetically wonder what’s going to happen from here on out.

Chapter Text

The relationship between Chloé and Sabrina is rather strained after Chloé’s stint as Antibug. Although Chloé doesn’t actually remember what she’d done, Sabrina’s clearly been left with vivid memories of being dangled off the top of the Eiffel Tower by her best friend, judging by how she needs a whole week to come back to school and still can’t look Chloé in the eye. It doesn’t help that Chloé has been snappish and short with her ever since that incident.

Things finally reach breaking point between them during Parents’ Career Day. After Marinette trips over the contents of Chloé’s bag and Chloé’s brand-new bracelet goes missing, Chloé immediately accuses Marinette of thieving it while pretending to trip.

“We don’t accuse without proof, Miss Bourgeois!” Officer Roger says when Chloé demands Marinette’s arrest. “Now, everyone, please calm down. Maybe you simply misplaced your bracelet.”

Chloé gives a loud, fake gasp. “You’re calling me a liar? Daddy! Do something!”

“Roger, I demand you search this girl!” André Bourgeois orders. Chloé smirks.

“Please, everybody!” Miss Bustier attempts to play peacemaker but to no avail.

“Need I remind you that as mayor of this city, I am your superior!” André says.

“But sir, it's against the law!” Roger protests. “I can't just go –”

“Alright. Then you're no longer a police officer!”

Roger’s eyes widen. “Mayor, you can't be serious! Over a missing bracelet?”

“This is my daughter's bracelet we're talking about! You're incompetent and you're fired! Get out!”

“Good!” Chloé says as Roger trudges out with his shoulders slumped.

“But – Chloé – you don’t care that my dad just got fired?” Sabrina gasps. Chloé sniffs.

“Why should I? He clearly sucked at his job.”

Sabrina clenches her fists, but Chloé doesn’t notice.

“You should be thanking me, really. Maybe he’ll find a job he can actually do –”

“Shut up!” Sabrina shrieks. Marinette’s stomach jolts at the sight of tears streaming down Sabrina’s cheeks. “Shut up! You – you don’t even care, do you? Do you even care about me?”

“Of course I do,” Chloé says. “You do my homework, you do other things for me…”

“That’s not caring about her,” Marinette says with her hands on her hips. “That’s using her, Chloé.”

“Caring, using, same difference. Without me, she’d have no one! She’d be no one!”

“That’s not true!” Marinette says. But before she can try and defend Sabrina, the other girl runs out of the room, so Marinette settles for shooting a venomous glare at Chloé before sprinting after Sabrina. “Hey! Sabrina! Wait up!”

She finally catches up to Sabrina in the girls’ bathroom, but Sabrina looks anything but happy to see her.

“What?” Sabrina snaps. “I know you hate Chloé. Did you come to take it out on me?”

“Huh? Of course not!” Marinette holds her hands up. “I came to see if I could help make you feel better, Sabrina. What Chloé said was disgusting.”

Sabrina just snorts.

“And what she said wasn’t true,” Marinette says. “You do have other people. You are someone without Chloé.”

“Am I?” Sabrina crosses her arms. “Am I really? My favourite colour is Chloé’s. My favourite food is Chloé’s. My favourite music is Chloé’s. My clothes were picked out by Chloé. Everything I am is Chloé! I don’t even know who I am!”

Marinette doesn’t know what to say to that and it shows; Sabrina gives a cruel little smile and turns away.

“Just leave me alone,” Sabrina says. “Please.”

“Okay,” Marinette says. She pauses in the doorway and turns back. “But you’re not alone, Sabrina. I know you’re not Chloé. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here right now. If you need someone to talk to…”

Sabrina says nothing. Marinette sighs and leaves the bathroom, only to duck back inside at the sight of a massive blue robot man stomping down the hall towards their classroom.

“Didn’t I tell you to leave me alone?” Sabrina says. Marinette shushes her.

“Akuma!” Marinette hisses. Sabrina’s eyes widen, and she scrambles over to the door to peer out. She gets a glimpse of the akuma’s face just before he passes the bathroom.

“Dad!” she gasps.

“That’s your dad?” Marinette says. Sabrina nods and backs away from the door. “You should stay here until Ladybug and Reine Nuit take care of him.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Sabrina says when Marinette starts crawling out of the bathroom. “You’re just going to leave me here alone when there’s an akuma?”

Marinette’s about to point out that Sabrina had just told her to get out before she notices the way Sabrina’s face has paled to the colour of chalk and how her breathing has grown shallow. “Is it…you know…the whole thing from…”

Sabrina just nods, her bottom lip wobbling. With a sigh, Marinette pushes the bathroom door shut and crawls over to sit next to Sabrina. What good is it being Ladybug if she leaves people who need her help as Marinette?

“Have you talked to Chloé about it?” Marinette says. “I know she doesn’t remember what she did, but…”

Sabrina shakes her head. “I can’t. I know it wasn’t her, but I – I – I just freeze. All I can see is…Antibug and how much she h-hates me…and I remember the Tower…”

Marinette hesitates, then slides an arm around Sabrina. This seems to be the right thing to do, because Sabrina sniffles and sags against her, head bowed. With all the akumas Marinette has faced, she’s never once stopped to wonder about the aftermath. Why should she have? None of the akumas ever remember what they’ve done. But that doesn’t erase the memories of their victims.

“Why does Chloé hate me?” Sabrina whispers. “I’ve done everything for her. I’ve tried my hardest to be her BFF. She doesn’t even care that she got my dad fired! Now he’s an akuma!”

“Look, I don’t want you to think I’m badmouthing Chloé because I don’t like her,” Marinette says, “but she’s really a nasty brat. She’s made you do all her dirty work. Remember my diary? And the way she talks to you makes me so angry.”

“But she does care!” Sabrina reasons. “She has to! She gives me gifts! She does my hair and nails for me! We…um…we play Ladybug and Reine Nuit together, and she always lets me be Reine Nuit! Mostly because she always wants to be Ladybug, but she could have made me the villain!”

Marinette blinks. Chloé…cosplays Ladybug? Wait, no, this isn’t the time to focus on that. “You can care about someone and still be awful to them,” she says. “Just because Chloé cares about you doesn’t erase the ways she’s been a total cow to you. If she didn’t care deep down then you wouldn’t have stuck around, right?”

Sabrina slowly shakes her head.

“But just because she cares doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it,” Marinette says. “Why are you so determined to defend her?”

“Because…” Sabrina takes a deep, shuddering breath. “I was wrong. I’ve been wrong for years. I’ve always thought that Chloé’s just had a hard life and everyone’s unfairly hard on her, but…what if that’s not true? That means that – that everything I’ve done for her – everyone I’ve taken down for her…it was all a lie!”

Marinette’s brow furrows in sympathy as Sabrina tries to come to grips with her crisis. “You know…Chloé was wrong when she said you’d have no one without her.”

“How?” Sabrina says with a bitter laugh. “She was right. Everyone will just see me as Chloé’s friend. Chloé’s all I’ve had since we were children.” She climbs to her feet shakily and says, “Thanks for trying to cheer me up, Marinette. You’re not as bad as Chloé says you are.”

“Sabrina, wait –”

But Sabrina’s gone. Marinette sighs and opens her purse to let Tikki out.

“That was very good of you to try and comfort her, Marinette,” the kwami says. “I know it can’t have been easy when she’s been Chloé’s best friend all this time.”

“I think that’s changing, though,” Marinette says. “I think she’s finally starting to see that the way Chloé treats her isn’t cool.” She shakes her head. “Right. Akuma! Tikki, spots on!”


 

“You think Sabrina’s finally done with Chloé?” Alya whispers to Marinette the next day in class, after the whole Rogercop debacle. Although Chloé and Sabrina are still sitting together at the front of the class, it’s clear as day that they’re not actually talking to each other; or rather, that Chloé’s not talking to Sabrina, despite Sabrina’s meek attempts to talk to her and at least make peace between them, even if they’re no longer friends. After all, the only reason Roger had gotten his job back was because Ladybug had found the missing bracelet in the mayor’s office and slipped it into Chloé’s bag, otherwise she has no doubt that Roger would still very much be an ex-cop.

“I forgive you for being mean to me after Antiquator and after I was akumatised,” Chloé said loudly, slinging an arm around Ladybug’s shoulders. Well, yippee. At least Ladybug’s earned back her number one fan for “coming to help find her bracelet”.

“Alright, class!” Ms Bustier says. “Into pairs for this task, please! Nathaniel, you can move next to Ivan.”

As Ms Bustier writes their instructions on the board, Marinette ends up zoning out, watching Chloé and Sabrina out of the corner of her eye. Sabrina whispers something to Chloé, who doesn’t so much ignore her as act like there’s not even anyone next to her. Marinette’s fists clench in sympathy for Sabrina. How can Chloé be so – so – awful? Wait. Trick question. She’s Chloé.

“Ms Bustier, I don’t have a partner,” Chloé says loudly. “Can I, like, join another pair?”

“Chloé, that’s not nice to Sabrina,” Ms Bustier chides.

“Who?” Chloé says. “Never heard of anyone by that name.”

“Ms Bustier, I want another partner!” Sabrina says. “Chloé won’t even acknowledge my existence, and I refuse to do all the work by myself!”

“Oh.” Ms Bustier looks very much out of her depth. “Um…if another pair would be happy to trade partners with you two?” She looks around at the class pleadingly. “Anyone?”

Sabrina turns to look at her classmates. But she’s been Chloé’s friend for far too long and so her reputation precedes her; no one speaks up to agree to be her partner. In fact, several people even give her looks that are not outright hostile but very much unwelcoming.

“I – I’m not feeling too well!” Sabrina rushes out of the classroom.

“I’ll go after her, Ms Bustier,” Marinette says, already out of her seat.

“Uh – thank you, Marinette.” Ms Bustier shakes her head at Chloé. “Chloé, that was very nasty of you.”

Marinette misses Chloé’s reply as she shuts the classroom door behind her. Where could Sabrina have gone? The bathroom, maybe? That’s where she’d been when her father had been akumatised. When Marinette gets to the bathroom, though, Sabrina’s not inside. Could she have gone to the nurse’s office?

“Wah!” Marinette tumbles to the floor when something slams into her. Her head whips around, searching for the source, but there’s no one there. Maybe she just imagined it? That theory lasts for the few seconds it takes for the bathroom door to open and close…all by itself. Eyes widening, Marinette darts into a stall and locks it behind her. “Did you see that, Tikki?”

“I did!” Tikki pops out of Marinette’s purse. “Do you think that was Sabrina?”

“It would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Marinette says. “Chloé was treating her like she was invisible –”

“– so now she is!” Tikki finishes. “We have to help her!”

“Right you are.” Marinette sighs. “I should have offered to be her partner in class. Or I should’ve asked Alya to do it, even though I’d be stuck with Chloé.”

“It’s not your fault, Marinette,” Tikki says firmly, kissing Marinette on the forehead. “You’re not a bad person because you were a little selfish one time. Being too selfless can be just as harmful as being too selfish.”

“I guess…” Marinette shakes her head. “I can complain later. Tikki, spots on!”


 

The first indication Alya gets that anything is wrong is when Nino curses.

“Nino, we don’t use that kind of language in this class,” Ms Bustier scolds.

“Sorry, Ms B,” Nino says. “But my tablet moved by itself!”

Alya’s instantly alert. Nino could have just nudged it without realising, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And since she’s been stuck working with Chloé because of Marinette and Sabrina’s absence, she can’t see Nino around the Chloé.

“Ouch!” Chloé shrieks, whipping around while rubbing her head. Alya stiffens, watching out of the corner of her eye.

“What’s wrong, Chloé?” Ms Bustier says.

“Someone pulled my hair!”

“I didn’t do it,” Mylène says immediately from behind Chloé.

“It wasn’t her!” Chloé snaps. “It – it was some mystical invisible being. Like a leprechaun. Or a unicorn without the horn.”

The class starts laughing at her, but they settle down under Ms Bustier’s gaze. Chloé screeches and falls out of her seat as her purse starts attacking her seemingly out of nowhere, but Alya can’t stick around and enjoy the view.

“Gotta go to the bathroom!” she blurts out, leaping out of her seat and jumping around Chloé. Before she can leave, however, the door bursts open and a familiar yo-yo whips past Alya and grabs Chloé around the waist, yanking her away from the invisible presence.

“Sorry, Ms, but Chloé’s going to have to make up the work,” Ladybug says once she’s got Chloé secure. She turns and bolts down the hallway, and the invisible presence follows, judging by how Adrien’s bag gets knocked over and Alya gets pushed out of the way.

“I really have to go,” Alya says into the tense silence in the classroom. “Um…I’ll keep an eye out for Marinette and Sabrina!” She sprints out of the room before Ms Bustier can tell her to come back, then ducks into the girls’ bathroom.

“I woulda thought you’d love to watch Chloé get beat on,” Plagg says like the little shit he is.

“Trust me, it’s a dream come true,” Alya says. “But I’ve got a moral duty or whatever the comics call it. I’ll just have to laugh on the inside. Plagg, claws out!”

Once she’s Reine Nuit, she heads out to search for Ladybug and Chloé. The akuma must be keeping a low profile, judging by the shock of the students as they see her passing their classrooms.

“Reine Nuit!” calls a voice. A short boy bounces in the doorway of his classroom, eyes shining. “You’re here! Is there an akuma?” Behind him, his classmates try their best to look like they’re focused on their work, but it’s painfully obvious even to the teacher that they’re getting nothing done.

“Uh, yeah,” Reine Nuit says. “An invisible one, by the looks of it.” She snickers at her unintentional joke.

“Cool!” the boy cries. “You’ll protect us, won’t you, Reine Nuit?”

“Sit down, Daniel, and stop making your crush embarrassingly obvious,” calls a girl from inside the room. Daniel’s cheeks flush.

“Don’t worry, Daniel,” Reine Nuit winks. “I’ll keep you safe.” Then she runs off down the hall, preening about how damn cool and slick and superhero-like she just was. “Damn, I was born to do this.”

She finds Ladybug and Chloé in the library, but it looks like the akuma has found them first. Or rather, it doesn’t look like it, since they can’t be seen. What can be seen, however, is all the books that are flying at Ladybug and Chloé from the akuma; and since they’re invisible, it’s impossible to predict where the next attack will come from.

“Ugh, finally!” Chloé complains loudly when she catches sight of Reine Nuit. Naturally, this also alerts the akuma to Reine Nuit’s arrival, and what the cat hero wouldn’t give to be able to slap Chloé without repercussions.

“The akuma is Sabrina!” Ladybug calls, ducking under a table to avoid an entire shelf of books falling on her. Chloé shrieks when an invisible force picks her up, but when Reine Nuit dives towards Chloé, she falls straight through thin air and flat on her face.

“What the heck?” Reine Nuit says. “She’s holding Chloé! I shoulda grabbed her!”

Girlish giggling fills the air. “Vanisher is everywhere,” says a childish voice. “And Vanisher is nowhere. Vanisher is no one.”

“Good job, Chloé,” Reine Nuit snaps, clambering to her feet.

“What did I do?” Chloé says.

“What didn’t you do?”

“Guys!” Ladybug snaps. “We can argue after we take down Vanisher!”

“You can’t touch me,” sings Vanisher. The voice comes from near a bookshelf, but a table metres away goes hurtling at Ladybug.

“That doesn’t make any sense!” Ladybug says.

“Unless…she’s got telekinetic powers?” Reine Nuit says. “I mean, it’d explain why we can’t pin her down.”

“Of course!” Ladybug says. “Good thinking, kitty! But how are we supposed to find the akuma if we can’t even see her?”

“Boo!” Vanisher shrieks into Chloé’s ear. Chloé screams and runs, only to trip over a book that appears underfoot out of nowhere. “How does it feel to be the one hurt for once, Chloé Bourgeois?”

“Ladybug, help!” Chloé wails. She’s picked up by Vanisher’s invisible force and slammed back into the ground, then pinned by an overturned table. As much as Reine Nuit loathes Chloé, the other girl’s piercing screams of pain make her stomach churn because no one deserves to have their belly crushed by a large solid object.

“I get that you’re hurting, Vanisher,” Ladybug says. “But this isn’t the answer! Hurting Chloé back makes you just as bad as her!”

Vanisher just giggles. Reine Nuit yelps and throws herself to the ground when a single shelf row tears itself out of the whole bookshelf and comes hurtling at her, ready to decapitate her, but Vanisher then drops the bookshelf itself on her legs. Reine Nuit cries out when her left leg erupts in blinding white-hot pain, and she has to thump her head on the carpet and bite her lip so hard that she draws blood so that she can avoid zoning out from the pain.

“Lucky Charm!” Ladybug says. From where she’s prone on the floor, Reine Nuit can’t see what Ladybug summons. But when Ladybug says, “Cataclysm the floor when I say so!” Reine Nuit nods and pushes her top half off the ground enough to see the action.

“C-Cataclysm!” she says thickly, keeping her hand off the ground so that she doesn’t ruin it before Ladybug gives her the go-ahead. There’s an explosion of white dust nearby, which reveals the floury outline of Sabrina, and Reine Nuit slams her hand down on the floor in front of her when Ladybug points. Ladybug tosses her yo-yo to create a net over the hole, then sends Vanisher tumbling onto the makeshift net with a hard kick. While Vanisher struggles, Ladybug snatches her glasses and snaps them in half, releasing the akuma and then purifying it.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

Reine Nuit groans in sweet relief when the ladybugs heal her leg and remove the bookshelf from on top of her. She jumps to her feet, marvelling at how there’s not a single hint of pain.

“Pound it!” she grins with Ladybug while Vanisher melts back into Sabrina.

“I – what – how did I end up here?” Sabrina gasps, looking around wildly. Her eyes widen when she catches sight of Chloé, and she sniffles and looks away.

“You’re okay now, Sabrina,” Ladybug says, kneeling to rest a comforting hand on Sabrina’s shoulder.

“No, I’m not!” Sabrina shakes her head. “I – Ladybug, I don’t know who I am. No one likes me, and I don’t blame them. Who am I without Chloé?”

“No one, that’s who,” Chloé drawls. Ladybug stiffens.

“Reine Nuit, can you please escort Chloé back to class?” she says tightly. Rolling her eyes, Reine Nuit grabs Chloé by the arm and hauls her out of the library.

“Hey! Ow! Watch my jacket!” Chloé complains as Reine Nuit drags her back to Ms Bustier’s classroom.

“You’re not in any position to make demands, prissy princess,” Reine Nuit growls. She slams the classroom door open and shoves Chloé inside, while their classmates and Ms Bustier stare in shock. “One Chloé Bourgeois, safe and sound.” Unfortunately. “And if any of you judge Sabrina in relation to Chloé after I just got my damn leg nearly broken because Sabrina was that upset, I’m gonna come back and haunt you all.”

She takes off running down the hall back to the girl’s bathroom, nearly crashing into Sabrina on the way.

“Sorry!” Sabrina says when Reine Nuit grabs her to steady her. “I’m sorry!” For some reason, Reine Nuit doubts that she’s apologising for the collision.

“Listen,” Reine Nuit says hurriedly as her ring beeps. “It’s gonna take you some time to figure out who you are without Chloé. But I can tell you that you’re not Chloé and you never have been.”

Sabrina gives her a soft smile. Behind her, Marinette comes skidding into view, panting.

“Sabrina! You’re okay!” Marinette wheezes. “I’m sorry I didn’t get there before you got akumatised!”

“Well, can you can do me a favour and take her back to class?” Reine Nuit says. “I gotta go!”

Once she’s turned back into Alya in the bathroom, she makes her way back to class, where Sabrina is standing next to her old seat and working the point of her shoe into the floor while looking down. Before Alya can say anything, Marinette is by Sabrina’s side and pulling her away from Chloé.

“You don’t have to sit next to Chloé,” Marinette says firmly. She stops next to Nathaniel’s desk. “Nathaniel, can Sabrina sit with you from now on?”

“Um…” Nathaniel stares at Sabrina, who pinkens and looks down again. “I don’t know…”

“Please?” Marinette says. “Just give her a chance? She’s not Chloé’s friend anymore. She’s not Chloé.”

“Hmph!” Chloé huffs. Alya ducks her head to hide her smirk when Nathaniel’s face flushes scarlet at Marinette’s plea.

“I suppose…” he says. Marinette beams and nudges Sabrina.

“See?” she says. Sabrina gives her a quick, hesitant smile and sits down next to Nathaniel, though she’s balanced on the edge of her seat as though ready to spring up at the slightest stimulus.

“Okay…well, now that Sabrina is back, I suppose we can continue the lesson,” Ms Bustier says awkwardly. The chirp in her voice fools no one. “Forget about the pairs. Just…do the work individually.”

“Can we work in pairs if we want to?” Rose says from the back of the class.

“Sure…” Ms Bustier still looks a little dazed. Marinette and Alya immediately gravitate towards each other and push their tablets together.

“Alright,” Alya says. “So, I’m thinking for this one…”

Chapter Text

 

“Ella! Etta!” A detransformed Alya bursts out of her room after the Akuma of the Day had been defeated: some whiny guy called Heartbreaker, sulking because the girl he liked wouldn’t go out with him. “I can do the makeover now –”

“No need,” Ella says.

“Nora already did it,” Etta adds. Nora, who’s somehow got red and green nail polish all over her face, screws the last bottle shut with an unamused eyebrow-raise at Alya.

“…Oh,” Alya mumbles. “I’m sorry, I really wanted to, but – I had to go to the bathroom, then I had to –”

“Save it,” Nora says shortly. “We get it. Every akuma attack, there’s always an excuse for why you can’t look out for Ella and Etta. Or you need to do your homework because you “never have the time for it”. And even if there’s no akuma attack, you still vanish.”

“Vanish? What? Me?” Alya scoffs. “You know me, good old reliable Alya!”

“Yeah, back in Martinique,” Nora says, while Ella and Etta coo over their superhero nails. “What the hell’s going on with you, Al? You’re never where you say you’ll be. Mum and Dad get on my case about it, even though I don’t even know where you are. I end up stuck with the babysitting because you’re never around! You know how many times I’ve had to skip out on wrestling practice or bring the girls along because you’re not around?”

“Nora – I’m sorry –” Alya blinks furiously to hold back her tears. But what can she do? She can’t reveal her secret identity! That’s, like, the first rule of being a superhero!

“Whatever,” Nora says. “Just…go. I got the girls.”

“I can help now –”

“Does it really look like I need your help, sis?”

Alya reels back as though she’d been slapped. Then, before Ella and Etta can notice her losing battle with her own eyes, she turns and bolts back to her room and throws herself on her bed.

“This isn’t fair!” she sniffles into her pillow, then punches her mattress. “This isn’t fair! I’m a superhero, for god’s sake!”

“Yeah, and no one said it’d be easy, genius,” Plagg says. Alya lifts her head to glare at the little shit.

“Unless you have something helpful to say, I highly recommend shutting the hell up,” she growls. “Nora hates me – Ella and Etta don’t need me – Mum and Dad are taking it out on Nora – I’m losing my family, and we don’t even have a single clue who the hell Hawkmoth could be! What if it takes years, huh? What if I have to push my family so far away that they don’t even know who I am anymore, just to take down Hawkmoth?”

For a long time, Plagg says nothing, just floating in mid-air and staring at Alya with his bright green eyes. But the longer he stares, the angrier Alya starts to grow, and she’s just about to grab her pillow and throw it at him when he finally speaks.

“Then tell her,” is all he says. Alya splutters.

Tell her? What part of secret identities don’t you get?”

“The part where you just spent five minutes crying about how you’re losing your family,” Plagg drawls. “And it’s not the first time a Black Cat’s told someone who they are, especially if they had siblings. Kids without siblings had it easier.”

“If Nora knows, I could put her in danger!” Alya says. “What if Hawkmoth targets her? What if she gets akumatised!”

“Hawkmoth only knows what an akuma tells them,” Plagg says. “You really think Nora would tell him that her baby sister’s one of the people he’s trying to cream, even if she’s akumatised? She’d probably just stop you from transforming in the first place. I dunno, akumas can be weird.”

“How do you know that?” Alya says. “How long haven’t you seen the Butterfly Miraculous, anyway?”

“Blink of an eye compared to how long we’ve lived,” Plagg says. “Look, kid, the Butterfly hasn’t always been the bad guy. Any of us can be used for good or evil.”

“Even Ladybug?” Alya gasps.

“Sure. Lucky Charm can make anything. Especially with more straightforward minds than your Ladybug’s. I’ve fought with and against the Butterfly. And trust me when I tell you that Hawkmoth can’t read akuma’s minds. He can see what they see, but his link with their mind only lets him talk to them.”

“Then…why don’t Ladybug and I just tell each other who we are?” Alya says quietly. Uncharacteristically, Plagg drops down next to her face and nuzzles against her cheek.

“You’re both superheroes, kid,” he says. “What if you already know who she is under the mask? It messes with your focus on the mission. You could out each other’s names, you could be stupid and constantly try to protect them when you don’t need to, or you could already hate her under the mask and that would screw with your dynamic…and it’s her choice to make. This one’s yours.”

Alya says nothing. On the one hand, she could keep her identity safe and push her family away. On the other hand…she could take this risk and potentially not end up estranged from her family because of her admittedly weird behaviour in their eyes. And it’s not like Nora would tell anyone. If she had someone to cover for her…

Before she even knows what she’s doing, she’s heading for her bedroom door and pushing it open. Thankfully, Ella and Etta aren’t in the living room; it’s just Nora, sprawled on the couch and watching some action movie.

“Oh, come on, that’s not even realistic!” Nora complains at the screen when an orange explosion lights it up.

“Nora?” Alya mumbles. “Can I…talk to you?”

Nora’s answer is a grunt. Alya stares at the floor, fiddling with her silver ring, trying to find the right words around the lump in her throat.

“Well?” Nora says. “Spit it out, sis. I don’t have all day.”

“Can we talk in my room?” Alya says. The TV switches off and when Alya looks up, it’s to see that Nora has turned to stare at her with a furrowed brow.

“Is this about all the weird shit you’ve been doing lately?” Nora says. Alya nods. “Fine. But it better be good.”

Once they’re in Alya’s room and the door is shut, Alya once again tries to find the words to reveal the fact that she’s a leather-wearing cat superhero who runs around Paris and gets the shit beaten out of her on a near-daily basis. But just like before? Nothing.

“Alright, seriously, what the hell’s going on with you?” Nora snaps, which is pretty much her version of heart-wrenching care.

Alright. So. Alya can’t just up and say it. But maybe she doesn’t have to. After taking a deep, shaky breath, she whispers, “Plagg…claws out,” and transforms in a flash of green light. “Um…surprise?”

Nora says nothing. Hell, she doesn’t even look like she’s breathing. Oops. Reine Nuit had better not have just killed her older sister, because that would forever cement her place as the Disappointment Daughter after all the times she’s been flaking lately.

“Look, I get it, it’s a shock,” Reine Nuit says. “Your baby sister being a superhero and all. But, uh…say something? Please? I can’t exactly be a superhero if I just up and murdered someone. Accidentally, of course! But, um…yeah! This is why I’m never around. Akuma attacks, patrols, being a disappointment of a sister –”

“Are you kidding me?” Nora springs to life and throws an arm around Reine Nuit’s neck to noogie her. And yes, Reine Nuit has super strength, but what’s she to do against an older sister who takes her by surprise? “You’re, like, the coolest sister ever!”

“Oh,” Reine Nuit chokes. “Good. I was worried that I was a disappointment to the Césaire name. So, uh, can you let go of me?”

When Nora releases Reine Nuit, it only takes a second for her ecstatic face to fall. “Wait. So, all those times Reine Nuit got the shit beat out of her, that was you?”

“Eh,” Reine Nuit shrugs. “Ladybug fixes everything. Claws in.” Her transformation drops and frees Plagg, leaving plain old Alya standing in her place. “Listen. You can’t tell anyone –”

“You think I’m an idiot, little sis?” Nora says. “Yeah, I’m gonna go and shout it on national TV.”

“Ha, ha. Anyway, this little demon here’s Plagg, my kwami. He’s what lets me turn into Reine Nuit.”

“I’d say it’s nice to meet you if I hadn’t been stuck in the same house as you for months,” Plagg drawls. “Now, where’s my Camembert?”

Nora snaps her fingers. “That’s why you stink of Camembert when you hate the stuff!”

“Yep,” Alya says. “So…you’re not still mad?”

“Hell no!” Nora says. “I’m not mad. I’m just gonna madly worry every damn time there’s an akuma ‘cause I’ll know it’s my baby sister out there.”

“Well, your baby sister can take care of herself, thank you very much,” Alya shoots back.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. All the times you’ve jumped off the Eiffel Tower made that super obvious.” With a groan, Nora adds, “This means I’m gonna have to cover for you, doesn’t it?”

“Yep!” Alya says brightly.

“Fine. But on one condition.” Nora flexes her biceps. “I get to arm wrestle with Reine Nuit whenever I want.”

“Sold!” Alya throws her arms around Nora. “Thanks, love ya, big sis!”

“Gag me,” Plagg mutters.

“Shut up, Plagg,” Alya and Nora say at the same time.

Chapter Text

“Nathaniel!” Ms Mendeleiev’s voice barks. Marinette jumps and looks over her shoulder at the teacher’s latest victim, along with everyone else. “What are you drawing?”

“Wha – wha –” Nathaniel stammers. Next to him, Sabrina shrinks away from the furious Ms Mendeleiev, who picks up Nathaniel’s papers and snorts.

“And these artistic endeavours are clearly why you are failing science,” she snaps, wiping her hand on her shirt.

“I’m sorry…” Nathaniel says. But Ms Mendeleiev isn’t having it.

“You go march yourself down to the principal’s office and show him that chicken scratch! Then you’ll be really sorry!”

On his way down the aisle of Ms Mendeleiev’s classroom, Nathaniel trips over a bag and goes flying, as does his sketchbook. Chloé immediately snatches it up, though not before Marinette gets a glimpse of…herself?

“Ooh!” Chloé squeals. “It’s Nathaniel as a superhero! And look who he’s saving! It’s Marinette!” She snickers. “He’s so totally crushing on you, Marinette.”

But no one else in the room laughs with Chloé. In fact, all Marinette can see are looks of utter sympathy for poor Nathaniel, who dives to snatch his sketchbook away from Chloé before Ms Mendeleiev shepherds him out of the classroom.

“Alright, class,” Ms Mendeleiev says once she’s at the front of the room. “If you don’t want to join Nathaniel, I suggest you listen closely as I call out the groups for your particle physics presentation.” She looks down at a piece of paper and says, “The first group is Alix, Mylène, Max, and Nathaniel, who’s not here for obvious reasons. The next group is Kim, Rose, Ivan, and Juleka.”

“Sweet!” Kim holds out a hand to Rose behind him for a fist-bump, then wilts under Ms Mendeleiev’s withering stare.

“Next is Nino, Adrien, and Alya.”

“Lucky!” Marinette says enviously. She closes her eyes and braces herself for the next announcement.

“And then Sabrina, Chloé, and Marinette.”

“So unlucky,” Alya says with a sympathetic back pat.

“Ms Mendeleiev, can’t I please join another group?” Sabrina says, looking down at her desk. “I don’t really get on with Chloé anymore…”

“I don’t get on with Chloé at all,” Marinette adds.

“This is a group presentation, so unless anyone wants to swap with either of you, deal with it!” Ms Mendeleiev says. Marinette immediately turns and looks at her classmates, mimicking Sabrina’s pleading pout.

“Hey, I’ll swap myself for Marinette,” Kim says after a moment. “No big deal. Means I’ll get to work with Chloé.” He grins at Chloé, who looks like she’d rather eat a bowl of earthworms than work with him.

“Thanks, Kim!” Marinette says, grinning at her new groupmates. But then her smile fades. “But, uh, I don’t mind if you swap with Sabrina instead…”

“No, no, it’s okay,” Sabrina says quickly. “I can handle it.”

“I’ll swap with you, Sabrina,” Mylène says quietly.

“Really?” Sabrina says. “You’re so nice!”

“Ugh, gag me,” Chloé says while Mylène smiles.

“Are we all done playing musical groups?” Ms Mendeleiev says acidly. “Now, pay attention.”


 

“Chloé, you look through this book,” Mylène says when the groups are in the library getting a start on their projects.

“Uh, excuse me?” Chloé says. “You expect me to pick up a book? You and Kim do the work and I present it. Equal!”

“Uh, not really,” Kim says. Marinette snorts to herself from the next table over with Juleka, while Rose and Ivan hunt down books.

“Did I ask you?” Chloé snaps.

“We’re happy to do a bigger share of the work, Chloé,” Mylène says. The usually mild-mannered girl looks utterly done with Chloé’s crap, although that’s possibly due to having been akumatised into Horrificator last week due to Chloé sabotaging her role in Nino’s horror movie just to kiss Adrien. “But you have to help. It’s a group project.”

“Ugh.” Chloé looks over at Sabrina, who’s sitting with Max, and says, “Sabrina, you do my research!”

“But I’ve got my own group to work with,” Sabrina points out.

“Then do my work too!”

“No!” Sabrina crosses her arms. “We’re not friends anymore, Chloé. You do your own work!”

“You go, girl,” Alix grins as she returns with a stack of books. When Sabrina wilts under Chloé’s scorching glare, Alix dumps her books on the table and grabs Sabrina’s hand to squeeze it in an unusual show of sappiness that, in her words, “she never freaking does”.

“How dare you?” Chloé growls. “After everything I’ve done for you –”

“What, bossed her around like a slave?” Alix says. Chloé hisses at her. “I dunno why you’re so pissed that I’m just telling the truth. You pretty much had her under lock and key.”

As though summoned by Alix’s words, a long chain materialises around Chloé’s ankles from thin air and hoists her upside-down. Everyone gasps and backs away, no doubt recognising this as an akuma attack, and Marinette immediately darts behind a bookshelf to transform.

“Hey, let me go!” Chloé says shrilly. “You’re totally gonna leave my perfect skin with ugly chain marks!”

A gigantic bottle of lotion appears out of nowhere, the cap popping open threateningly. Chloé shrieks and tries to angle herself away, but to no avail; that is, until a silvery baton whacks the chain to loosen them and send Chloé tumbling to the ground, while Ladybug simultaneously wraps her yo-yo around the giant bottle and yanks it away.

“That could’ve been a slippery situation,” Reine Nuit quips when she lands next to Ladybug, who rolls her eyes and tries not to let her lips twitch. They attack the bottle together, leaping over the chain when it lashes out at them, only to land flat on their faces when both bottle and chain disintegrate into blue sparkles.

“What the –?” Ladybug blinks. She gets her answer when she looks up at the top floor of the library and sees a boy with bright red spiky hair, pale purple skin, and a dark purple mask around his eyes similar to that of Stormy Weather’s. He makes a run for it as soon as he realises he’s been seen, and when the heroes try to follow him, he draws something on the sketchpad on his arm and a clear wall materialises into being seconds later. Ladybug and Reine Nuit, not expecting this, crash into it and tumble to the ground.

“Hey, where’d he go?” Ladybug says when they’re back on their feet and he’s nowhere to be seen.

“Dunno,” Reine Nuit says. “But we should get prissy princess Chloé to safety. Ugh.”

“You’re right,” Ladybug sighs. “We should take her back to – gack!”

“Selfie!” Chloé whips out her phone with the hand that’s not around Ladybug’s neck throttling her and presses the camera button. “This is totally going on my Instagram! Being saved by Ladybug!” She grimaces. “Wait, no. I look great, of course, but your smile is all wonky. I’ll take another!”

Ladybug resigns herself to being snapshotted with Chloé, who gleefully bounds away with her prize. Reine Nuit pats her on the back sympathetically.

“I’ll take her back to the hotel,” Reine Nuit says. “You go and look for that guy.”

“Are you sure you’re willing to make such a sacrifice?” Ladybug drawls. Reine Nuit snorts.

“Hey, it’s only because I know you’ll deck her if you stay here. I’ll think of a way you can pay me back later, angel bug.”

Ladybug laughs. “Thanks, pretty kitty. Couldn’t ask for a better partner. Call if you need anything!”


 

After combing Paris, a frustrated Ladybug is forced to admit defeat when she doesn’t find the akuma anywhere. Although Tikki can theoretically hold the transformation indefinitely until Lucky Charm is used, there’s no point in staying transformed while she can’t find the akuma, so she ducks into an alleyway to detransform and then heads back to the school. Even though Chloé’s not there, that’s where the akuma seemed to originate, so she might get lucky and find him there.

As it turns out, he finds her.

“Marinette!” says a voice. Marinette grins when a familiar limo pulls up next to her and the back window rolls down to reveal Adrien. “Do you – you know – want a lift back to school?”

“Well, I won’t say no,” Marinette says. She’s just about to get into the car when another voice calls her name and Adrien’s eyes widen almost comically. She whirls around, and her heart screeches to a halt when she sees the akuma standing right behind her, regarding her with a soft smile. Now that he’s not trying to attack her, she can see that his white shirt extends down to cover his hands and has black horizontal stripes and red, yellow, and blue spheres on his chest, while his purplish pants fade into scarlet at his feet.

“It’s you! From the library!” she gasps. She takes a step back towards the car.

“Hey! Don’t touch her!” Adrien’s out of the car and by Marinette’s side in a heartbeat, which forces his bodyguard out of the car to protect him from the clear threat.

“I won’t hurt you, Marinette!” the akuma says. “I’m Evillustrator. I’ve been looking for you.”

“Why?” Marinette says. “And why did you attack Chloé?”

Evillustrator’s face darkens. “Because Chloé is cruel and selfish!”

Marinette conceals her snicker behind her hand. “Can’t argue with you there. So, wait…you’re not going to hurt me? Why?”

Evillustrator’s eyes widen, as though Marinette had asked the silliest question in the world. “Because you’re Marinette! You’re beautiful and sweet and – you’re perfect. I could never hurt you!”

Something warm flutters in Marinette’s chest, even though it’s an akuma saying these words. “Wow – uh – that’s – very flattering! Um…thank you?”

“I just wanted to ask you…” Evillustrator fidgets like an awkward teenage boy – and judging from the hair and the drawing skills, Marinette’s pretty sure he is one. A certain one who’d been humiliated earlier, to be precise. “Uh – it’s – well, it’s my birthday today and, uh…would you wanna come to my party?”

Is this really happening? “Um…it’s actually not the best night!” Marinette says. “See, I’ve got a presentation to work on, and –”

“Oh, please, Marinette!” Evillustrator begs. “It’ll be just you and me.”

“She said no!” Adrien takes a step towards Evillustrator, whose face darkens. With a flourish of his pencil, Adrien and his bodyguard are trapped inside a clear box that even the thickset bodyguard can’t smash open. With Adrien and the bodyguard out of the way, Evillustrator draws something else and kneels to give it to Marinette, who gasps when she sees that it’s a sketch of the two of them joined by a ribbon, along with a birthday cake. Oh…wow. He…actually does have a crush on her! So, Chloé hadn’t been lying just to hurt him…

A plan starts to form in her mind. “I…love it!” she says. “So much that I will absolutely be at your party. On one condition.”

“Anything for you, Marinette,” Evillustrator says immediately.

“You have to let Adrien and his bodyguard go,” Marinette says. “Adrien was just worried about me because he saw that you were an akuma and thought you were after me. And you can't hurt Chloé anymore.” Marinette dramatically swoons. “I simply cannot bear violence!”

“For you and only you,” Evillustrator says. He erases the box encasing Adrien and the bodyguard, then holds out his hand. “Shall we? I want to spend some time with you before we go on our river cruise tonight – ah, I’ve said too much. It’s a surprise!”

Marinette panics. She’s meant to be able to turn into Ladybug and warn Reine Nuit! “I – uh – I’m just wearing these boring old clothes!” she says. “You deserve way better.”

“I can draw you the most beautiful clothes you’ve ever seen once we’re there,” Evillustrator says. Marinette’s eyes dart to Adrien, and another plan forms straight away.

“Just let me thank Adrien for trying to protect me,” she says. “He’s such a dear friend to me!” Before Evillustrator can protest, Marinette turns and pulls Adrien into a hug, then whispers in his ear, “Reine Nuit. Le Grand Paris. Tell her we’ll be on the river tonight.” She lets him go and smiles, then turns back to Evillustrator and takes his hand. “Okay. I’m ready.”


 

Okay, so maybe Reine Nuit’s regretting letting Ladybug be the one to look for the akuma. If she’d known that Chloé was going to be this much of an insufferable brat and complain non-stop about her particle physics project, she totally would’ve made Ladybug stay behind instead. Poor Kim and Mylène.

“Reine Nuit?” Chloé latches onto Reine Nuit’s arm and flutters her eyelashes. “Are you any good at particle physics?”

“Oh, no,” Reine Nuit says, yanking her arm free of Chloé. “I’m not doing your project for you, prissy princess.”

“Why not?” Chloé scowls and stomps her foot. “You don’t even have to do all of it! Just some of it! Kim and Mylène will do the rest.”

Reine Nuit is saved by Adrien – sweet, blessed Adrien, who she’s totally going to write a poem for. He bursts through Chloé’s suite doors, and she gasps and instantly attaches herself to him.

“Adrikins! You came to see me!” she croons. Adrien shakes himself free.

“Uh, actually, I came to see Reine Nuit,” he says. Chloé huffs indignantly. “The akuma – Evillustrator – he’s got a crush on Marinette, my classmate. You know, black hair, pigtails, pretty blue eyes?”

“Ugh,” Chloé gags as Adrien’s cheeks turn red. “Who’d have a crush on her?”

“Shut up,” Adrien and Reine Nuit say together.

Rude.”

“He’s got Marinette,” Adrien says. “But she told me to tell you that they’ll be on the river tonight. He’s taking her on a river cruise for his birthday.”

“Aww,” Reine Nuit coos. She’s totally going to have to tease Marinette about this as Alya. “Thanks for telling me, Ladybugreste. And no, you’re not gonna come along and film it,” she adds when Adrien opens his mouth. He droops.

“Can you at least get me out of here?” he says. “I told my bodyguard you’d take me back to school, so…”

“You just want a ride from a superhero,” Reine Nuit smirks, but she still slips her arm around his waist and heads for Chloé’s balcony. Before Chloé can protest about her project again, Reine Nuit leaps off and starts to leap through Paris to take Adrien home.

“Thanks,” Adrien says when Reine Nuit deposits him outside the school gates. “You’ll save Marinette, won’t you? I don’t think Evillustrator will hurt her but…he is an akuma.”

Reine Nuit salutes. “I’ll keep her safe. That’s my job, right?”

“Yeah,” Adrien sighs. “Man, I wish I was a superhero. It must be so cool to be in the action like that.”

Reine Nuit grins and ruffles Adrien’s hair, then bounds off in search of Evillustrator. Sure, she knows where he’ll be that night, but if she can take him down now then hey, so much the better. And where the heck is Ladybug?