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Marinette was worried about the new school year. Last year had ended ...poorly, to say the least. Lila had tried to make good on her threat, but hadn’t succeeded completely. So while her friends were distant now, they were still her friends.

That said, they hadn’t spoken in a while. After another heated disagreement , Alya and Marinette had agreed to spend some time apart. Take some time to cool off, and hopefully have the other see sense.

It wasn’t like the whole Lila situation was all bad. She and Adrien were much closer, and she was actually friends with him, rather than so obsessed. Being the only two who knew Lila was lying forced them to stay together, for the sake of their sanity. Adrien had tried to talk to Alya and Nino, but they hadn’t listened, telling him that he'd “been spending too much time with Marinette”. Hearing about that had certainly hurt, but at least he’d tried.

He stuck with her, as he said he would. A few weeks after her return, Lila had tried to make some snide comments about Marinette, Adrien had shut that down immediately. Doing so prompted some of her classmates to spend some time with her, and they’d had a fun day. Despite Adrien’s interference, Lila had still cornered Marinette often to insult her when no one else could hear, and while the comments stung, Chloe had made her used to this sort of verbal abuse.

Still, Marinette missed Alya. Knowing her and the rest of her old classmates like she did, she knew they would see the truth eventually. They were good people and knew her well. Given all the time they’d been apart, they probably missed her. It would be good to see them all again. Due to this, Marinette was determined to be (cautiously) optimistic about the new school year. This was a mistake.

Marinette lasted one week in her old school when she came back after the summer. One week before she transferred schools.

 


 

Monday

Marinette had only just arrived in Ms. Bustier’s class and sat down next to Adrien when Lila walked in. This prompted the classroom to break into excited babble as everyone (with the exception of Adrien and Marinette) greeted her. Not one to break tradition, Lila immediately claimed that she was responsible for keeping the class together.

Marinette scoffed internally. Françoise Dupont kept most people in the same class. While some switches weren’t uncommon, in all likelihood you would stay with the same group for years. This was common knowledge, but her friends ate it up, showering Lila in praise and thanks.

 

Tuesday

Marinette was surprised that Lila didn’t speak to her at all on Monday. So when Lila approached her just before lunch she wasn’t entirely surprised. 

“Marinette, I was surprised to see you back at school. I honestly thought you’d get the message - you’re not wanted here.”

“Back off Lila, I’m not scared of you. Your little threat in the bathroom never came true, and do you know why? Because my friends won’t abandon me for some girl with fancy stories!” Marinette wouldn’t get shaken up by this liar this time! She knew her friends had her back. 

“Oh that’s so cute, you think they care about you. I know what I’m doing, but you’re smart, so I’ll give you a final chance to join me, otherwise your ‘friends’ will regret ever even seeing you.”

“I’ll only ever ‘join you’ when you stop lying, Lila.”

Lila smirked, “Have it your way then. Ciao, Marinette!”

Ugh, that brat. She really got on Marinette’s nerves. At least now she knew that Lila’s threat was nonsense. Marinette’s friends wouldn’t abandon her, she was a good friend.

Lila was gone for the rest of the day.

 

Wednesday

Lila is absent Wednesday too. People start to worry about her, considering all her ‘disabilities’ and such. Marinette and Adrien appreciate the break, and without Lie-la hovering around 24/7, Marinette gets to spend time with Alya. Turns out they both missed each other, and though Alya is still sort of distant, it’s nice to be back together again.

 

Thursday

Marinette is late for her first class, and with Adrien being gone all day for a photoshoot, obtaining notes will be a bit harder. Rushing into class, she doesn’t notice the glares directed at her, how Alya is seething in her seat, or that Lila has returned. Then, after class before she can leave, Alya corners her. 

 “Marinette! What is wrong with you?” Alya is furious and Marinette is confused. Just yesterday, they’d been planning times to hang out after school and now this? The whole class was around, they stared, some glared. Everyone seemed to understand except for Marinette. Had she done something wrong? Was there a misunderstanding? If she could just get a chance to sort this out… 

“A-Alya, I-” She’s stammering. She can feel they eyes of the rest of everyone else on her, hard and judging.

Nino speaks up, “We knew you were jealous of Lila, but attacking her? Seriously uncool dude.”

“I-” Attacking her? What? Then, for the first time that day, Marinette spotted her. Lila, still in her seat by the chair, with Rose and Juleka comforting her, was covered in scratches and bruises. They all thought she’d done that to Lila?

“Save it Marinette! She told us everything. How you threatened her in the bathroom on her first day back last year, how you threatened her again on Tuesday. She didn’t even feel safe coming back to school because you’ve been bullying her all summer! Looking at her now, I can certainly see why!” Alya was not about to let this go.

Marinette was too stressed to properly process that whole chunk of information, but she’d gotten one part she could disprove. Maybe that would be enough to make it all fall apart?

“B-bullying? I-I didn’t even s-s-see her all su-” That was as far as she got before Alya cuts her off again.

“Don’t play dumb, she showed us the messages. I can’t believe I ever called someone so cruel my best friend.” 

Once again, Marinette has no idea what she’s talking about. She glances back at Lila, wondering how she pulled this off. The girl in question visibly winces under her stare, prompting Rose, Rose, to glare at Marinette. They all were. They hated her. Somewhere, somehow, she’d messed up, and now, she’d lost them all. She was having trouble breathing. She had to get out, but as she moves to the door, Alya grabs her wrist.

“Oh no you don’t. You do not get to just run away . After all you’ve done?”

“Like, seriously dude? Teaming up with Adrien’s dad to spend more time with him? You know my bro barely gets enough freedom as it is.”

Marinette is stuck there, held in place by Alya’s hand on her wrist, stuck halfway between her desk at the back and the classroom door in the front. More voices are joining in. She doesn’t hear all of it, but she definitely hears enough. It’s everyone now, not just Alya and Nino. 

“Can’t believe you would do that….”

“How hard is it to be a good person?...”

“I’m disgusted that I ever considered you a friend….”

“Bullying? I knew you were crazy, but that was too far. ...”

“Why are we even surprised? We know how obsessive she got over Adrien...”

“Why was she our class president again? Even Chloe would have been better…”

“Poor Lila…”

More and more, the comments never stopped. She couldn’t breathe properly, she couldn’t see straight. She might have been crying but she wasn’t sure. All she could do was stand there and take it as they yelled at her, too many of them echoing some of her own doubts about herself. How long would this go on? How long had it already gone on? She was both grateful Adrien wasn’t here, and wishing for him desperately. 

The door to the classroom slammed open. Someone new was talking. A distraction. While everyone was looking at the newcomer, Marinette took her opportunity. Twisting her wrist, hard, she freed herself from Alya’s grip, and spun around. She tripped, landing on that same wrist, but losing no momentum, falling down the stairs until she arrived at the bottom. Picking herself up, she rushed out of there and ended up in the bathroom. The newcomer followed.

She was hiding in a stall when she heard them come in. Both of them. There were two sets of footsteps.

“Dupain-Cheng? I know you’re in here.”

Chloe? Now? Nononononononono. Marinette couldn’t deal with her right now. Weren’t ladybugs supposed to be lucky? A barely audible choked sob echoed in the bathroom. Marinette didn’t know what to do. 

The footsteps approached her stall, and pushed it open gently. She hadn’t even locked it, what a moron. 

“Marinette?” Sabrina now. “You need to calm down…” she trailed off, but even in the midst of this, Marinette knew what she meant. She was at risk of being akumatized. Paris was doomed if she was under Hawkmoth’s control. She didn’t want that, but she wasn’t able to focus on anything to keep herself from feeling negative emotions. What was she supposed to do? If she couldn’t stop herself from being akumatized, Hawkmoth would win. Chat Noir could get badly hurt, and might even blame himself, her parents would be disappointed, Fu would be disappointed, Tikki would be disappointed. Everyone would be disappointed. She was a disappointment. Lila was right, she couldn’t even be a proper friend, how was she supposed to be a proper hero? All because she couldn’t defend herself from some liar, everything would go wrong. Everything had already gone wrong. This was all her fault.

Her mind was buzzing, repeating everything over and over, this was all her fault. Her breathing got worse, her vision blurred as more tears came to her eyes. Chloe moved forward.

“It’s alright Sabrina, I can handle this. You go back to class.” Sabrina hesitated at Chloe’s order, but nodded and left the room. Chloe turned to Marinette, she spoke, but Marinette couldn’t make out the words. Everything was muffled, and a sort of numbing sense of ‘it can’t get worse than this’ spread over her.  

The rest of the day from there is a blur.

An arm around her shoulder, leading her out of the bathroom, out of the school, onto the street, and into the bakery. A muffled, short conversation. A different arm, leading her upstairs into her house.

Being led to the counter, where something cold was put on her wrist. Comments were mumbled at her. Blood was wiped off her knees, and a scratch on her face was tended to. There was little else that could be done, something was wrapped around her wrist and she was led to her room.

A high-pitched voice prompted her to change into pj’s and some part of her that could still consider wants told her to sit outside. She stayed there for hours, until she felt herself start to droop with exhaustion, and was ushered to bed.

 


 

Adrien hated all-day photoshoots for many reasons, but high on that list was missing things. Though, at least with it being only the first week of school, he couldn’t miss much.

At least, that’s what he had thought that morning. Now, having finally gotten back to his house that night, he checked his phone and saw a lot of messages. Several from Nino, a few from Alya, a couple from Lila, one from Sabrina, and many from Chloe, but none from Marinette. None of the messages said exactly what had happened, but he got the idea. Something had happened, and nothing good. The texts from Nino, Alya, and Lila, were supportive and comforting for some reason, and the texts from Chloe were angry. Sabrina was just telling him Chloe wanted him to talk to her immediately on Friday. 

Reading through the messages from Chloe, all he got was that something had happened to Marinette, and she had gone home early. Yesterday things had been going so well. Adrien was worried, what had happened? Maybe she had just gotten sick?

Adrien couldn’t go out tonight to check on her, no matter how much he wanted to, but Chat Noir could.

As he made his way over rooftops to check on his best friend he tried to convince himself that he was overreacting, Marinette was fine, just a little sick. He smiled when he spotted her sitting out on her balcony, she was just-

Oh no.

From a considerable distance, sure, she was fine, but any closer and she was not okay. Her right wrist was in a brace, and there were large bandages on both her knees. Large bruises spotted her arms and legs, and a small cut on her cheek outlined the nearby bruise on her face.

The closer he got the worse she looked, but the worst part were her eyes. Her eyes, which were typically big, and bright, were dull and unfocused. She stared out at nothing and didn’t react at all when he landed in front of her. His usually fashionable classmate was wearing mis-matched pajamas, and her hair had devolved into messy and loose pigtails. There was an untouched plate of food on her table with a glass of water to match it.

“...Marinette?” No response. She didn’t even blink. What had happened at school today?

He stood for a few moments, unsure of what to do. Part of him wanted to keep watch for akumas, but another part reasoned that if Marinette was to be akumatized, it would have been earlier. Not ...now, while she was so concerningly numb. Another part wanted answers, to rush to his classmates’ house and interrogate them. Yet another just wanted to watch Marinette, silently keeping his princess company, maybe that would prompt her to speak.

The latter was the option he ended up going with. Leaning against the side of her balcony, he watched her, while occasionally glancing around for akumas, or even Ladybug. He noticed when, after some time of them sitting in silence, her eyelids started to flutter, her breathing slowed, her already limp body drooped further. Of course. She’d had a long day, she was tired. It was probably impressive she was even still awake.

He stood, and approached her slowly. Mumbling nothing in particular to her about how she needed to rest, he gingerly scooped her up, careful of her injuries, and slipped into her room. Placing her carefully in her bed, he slipped out and went back to his own house.

He didn’t sleep well.

 

Friday

Marinette wakes up on Friday feeling off, it took a moment for everything that happened yesterday to catch up with her. Not long after that, the feelings came rushing back in too, feeling like a punch to the gut. Tears came to her eyes, and she gasped quietly. Tikki floated up to her face.

“Marinette? How are you feeling?”

How was she feeling? Bad, definitely. Scared? She wasn’t in any danger, but some part of her refused to drop her guard. Upset, hurt, sad… she was feeling a lot. Yesterday had been… what had she done wrong? Her friends had just abandoned her- no, it was worse, they believed she had been capable of hurting Lila, bullying and attacking her. Hadn’t they called her their ‘everyday Ladybug’? Did they think Ladybug was horrible too? If they thought both sides of her were horrible, did that make her twice as bad? Did-

“Marinette! Hey, it’s okay. Can you focus on me?” Tikki was in front of her face, patient and calm, even amidst her clear worry. 

“I-I f-f-feel-” Those two stuttering words were as far as she got before she shook her head and put her hands over her face. Tikki sits with her, comforting her holder the best she could.

When Marinette went downstairs, her parents told her not to worry about going to school, they pulled her out the day before. They were worried and curious about exactly what happened, but didn’t press her for details, which was good because Marinette wasn’t exactly sure what the details are. They said that they’d start the search for a new school later that day or the next, and that later they’d take her to a doctor, but for now she could rest. They gave her a new phone, her old one needed to be replaced anyways.

She went back to her room, shoving her old phone in the back of an empty drawer. Tikki suggested cleaning, and Marinette nodded, putting her hair in a messy bun, and changing into more comfortable clothes that make her feel …safer, somehow. She missed Tikki’s sad smile at her choice.

Wrapping herself in a blue blanket, she went to work clearing her desk, the walls, bulletin boards, everything. Photos, mostly, but also little trinkets, mementos from years of friendship. She worked in silence mostly, smiling softly at Tikki as thanks for the Kwami’s assistance. 

After a few hours, there is a soft knock at her trapdoor and Adrien poked his head in.

“Hey Marinette, how are you feeling?” He entered her room completely, giving her space, which is good, because that one part of her was still on guard, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I… don’t know” She still hadn’t figured that out, but he seemed to understand. He looked at her bruised body and sprained wrist in concern. 

“Mari… I get if you don’t want to talk about it, but what happened yesterday? Everyone at school seems to think I’m a victim, and Chloe says she only heard yelling before she intervened.” he paused, gesturing at her, “What happened? What led to this?

Marinette was quiet, then, “I tripped.”

He gave her a look, then sighed, “You can’t expect me to believe that.”

“I did.” It was true. No one had hurt her, she had tripped down the steps, not because anyone pushed her, but because she’d spun too fast. It was her own fault. Her own stupid fault.

He was silent for a moment, then, “Chloe says she thinks Alya tripped you. Or pushed you.”

“No! No, Alya wouldn’t do something like that! We’re- She- I-” Marinette’s reaction was immediate, but she slowed, stumbling over her words as she realized she didn’t know what to say in Alya’s defense. “She- she’s a good person. She w-wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t.”

Adrien looked doubtful, but left it alone. They talked for awhile longer then his phone beeped, he glanced at it and sighed.

“I’m sorry, Mari. I wish I could stay longer, but Father… “ He trailed off, but Marinette understood, he had to go.

The two said their goodbyes, and Marinette looked back at the pile of memories. She didn’t feel up to sorting through it then. Grabbing a trash bag, she stuffed everything in there, putting the now half-full bag inside of the case she used to keep the presents for Adrien in. She had gotten rid of most of them when she gotten less ... obsessed with him.

The rest of her day was fairly uneventful, the doctor’s visit went well, as did the search for potential new schools. She had to wear make-up to patrol, in order to cover up the bruise on her cheek, but that was fine. Chat Noir noticed she seemed off, but all she said was that she was transferring schools.

She missed his concerned look as she swung home. She had schools to research.

Chapter Text

Marinette stands in front of her new school worriedly. It’s a bigger, more expensive school focused on the arts, but with Marinette’s portfolio and accomplishments she had gotten in with a good scholarship. Despite being told how skilled she was for someone her age, she couldn’t help but feel out of place here. This was a nice school, for nice people, people better than her, both in personality and skill. 

A nudge from her purse prompts her to actually start moving. She hugs her bare arms, careful of the make-up covering the bruises, and hopes she can get through the day without anyone hating her. That hope is promptly shattered when she runs into someone, tripping past them and bracing for another fall when they grab her arm, catching her.

“You’re lucky I’m like an eagle- talonted at catching things.” A cheery male voice said, letting go of her arm after she steadied herself. Someone else nearby sighed in exasperation. Marinette turned.

In front of her is a tall boy with dark hair and a bright face. He was dressed in a blue and white t-shirt and black pants. Next to him was a blonde girl with her hair in a braid, she was wearing a white button-up shirt with a purple sleeveless top over it and dark pants. Marinette was worried. They looked like nice people. Nice people she had tripped over - way to make a first impression. They probably thought she was stupid. Or mean. Or both, why not both. They probably-

“Are you okay? That was a close call.” The girl this time, sounding legitimately concerned. Yep, definitely nice people, which meant she didn’t belong with them. She had messed up friendship. She wasn’t nice.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine. I’m really sorry.” Though she certainly didn’t look the part. She was pale and sickly looking, probably shaky too. She wasn’t sick, but Tikki had explained that it was a ladybug thing. Marinette had been through a lot of stress and felt unsafe, and well, predators won’t eat a sick-looking bug.

“It’s fine, really, it was actually nice of you to drop in.” he reassured her.

“I don’t recognize you. Are you new?” The girl again.

“Yeah…” She was on her way to the office, where she could pick up a schedule and meet-up with a student assigned to be her guide. Some poor kind soul that would be stuck with her.

“Are you Marinette? Marinette Dupain-Cheng?” What? How did this girl already know her name? Had she been a fan of the LadyBlog, one of those that passed over into Alya’s personal blog? Oh no. She’d just gotten here and already people knew about her failed past friendship.

“T-that’s me.”

“Great! Claude and I are actually your student guides! My name is Allegra.” She stuck her hand out in introduction and Marinette shook it. “Have you picked up your schedule yet?”

At Marinette’s shaking head, Claude spoke up again.

“Then we shall be your guides! Onwards!” He pointed forwards in a dramatic fashion. Marinette smiled shyly and small, his antics and pun earlier reminded her of her partner. The smile dropped when she realized that her partner was probably disappointed in her. She’d been distracted during the last patrols, and if he knew how helpless she’d been in defending herself, he’d probably want her to give up her Miraculous. She’d do it without a fight of course, Paris deserved a better hero.

Marinette hadn’t noticed how she had zoned out- staring at the pavement intensely when she was supposed to be following her guides. Not even five minutes at her new school and she’d already messed up twice. Great.

Shaking her head quickly, she looked up to see Allegra and Claude peering at her in concern.

“So t-to the office then?” She had to get their attention off of her. They nodded and the trio moved on, Claude keeping up regular chatter with puns sprinkled in. Allegra would groan at each one. When they arrived and her schedule was in hand, the tour began.

This school was way bigger than Françoise Dupont. She’d barely been started the tour and her head was already spinning.

“Don’t worry, it’ll get easier with time.” Allegra said as they lead her to her third hour. At Marinette’s confused and slightly panicked look, she continued, “Most new students typically say something about how confusing the school is. I figured you would feel the same.”

“O-oh, yeah. Sorry.” Was Marinette supposed to be talking more? Was she making them uncomfortable with her silence? 

“No need to be sorry! We always like meeting new students! That’s why we volunteer to show people around.” Claude responded. 

Eventually they had gone through her whole schedule, Allegra and Claude were in a few of her classes, as were their other friends Allan and Felix. When they’d told her this Claude had excitedly declared that they all must meet.

Entering the library, Marinette trailed behind Allegra and Claude as they looked around for their friends. Marinette was worried. Were they sure they wanted her to meet their friends? When it came to friendship she didn’t exactly have the best track record. In fact, she probably had one of the worst. How bad of a friend do you have to be to lose all but two of your friends in a day. She was such a-

“There they are! Allan, Felix, you have to meet this gem that we’ve been showing around! It’s crystal clear to me that we’ll all get along.” Claude ran up to a table with two boys sitting together. One, blonde and dressed in dark clothes, was reading, and the other had short dark hair and a green hoodie. He also had headphones on, slipping them off at Claude’s approach.

Allegra and Marinette arrived at the table, as they did they heard Claude ask, “Are you reading a book on anti-gravity, Felix? Because it seems impossible to put down.” Felix sighed and put the book aside. 

“Alright, Claude. I will put my book aside temporarily for the sake of introductions.” He turned to Marinette extending his hand, “Greetings, I am Felix Voclain.” Shaking his hand Marinette said, “Hi. I’m Marinette, um, Dupain-Cheng”.

‘Marinette um Dupain-Cheng’? Really? She probably made a terrible first impression. They probably all hate her now, like everyone back at-

“And I’m Allan.”

“Resident Mom friend” Claude finished for him. “He has, like, a grocery store worth of snacks on him.”

“A bit of an exaggeration, but I really can’t argue with your point.”

Claude and Allan slipped into a friendly conversation and Felix went back to reading his book. Allegra looked at her phone and turned to the table.

“Marinette and I should get to class. It’s not very close, and school starts soon.” 

At this, Felix glanced at his watch and nodded. He began packing the few things he had out back into his bag, apparently having the same thought.

“Yes. Allan, Claude, it would be for the best if you began heading to your class soon as well.” He turned to the girls, “Ms. Dupain-Cheng, Allegra, have a pleasant rest of your morning.” With that he left the library, as they moved to follow, Claude stopped them.

“Wait! We’re all going in the same direction, we should walk together. After all, Allan hasn’t gotten a chance to talk to Marinette. How can a mom properly adopt a child without time to fill out the papers?” 

Allegra sighed but waited, “Allan isn’t actually anyone’s mother you know.”

They were walking out now, and Claude gasps dramatically, “You shouldn’t speak to your mother that way, young woman!” Allegra rolled her eyes, he turns to Allan, “She didn’t mean it Mom. She’s just a teenager .”

The amusement clear on their faces made it clear this was all teasing. Marinette smiled softly at their antics. She hoped that she would be able to find some nice friends here- no, that wouldn’t happen. You blew friendship last time. No one will befriend you, at least not for long . They’ll all abandon you eventually too . You’re-

“So, Marinette, what art class are you taking?” Allan’s voice cut into her thoughts.

“O-oh. Um, I’m taking fashion and design.”

“Really? What sorta’ designs do you make?” At his question Allegra and Claude dropped their bantering to listen hear her answer.

“Um, I design and make most of my own clothes. And, um… a few other things…” ‘A few other things’? What was she even saying? She can’t even be more specific? Not to mention that they probably thought she was trying to brag about making her own clothes. Moments like these are probably why everyone turned on you.

“Didja’ make this?” he gestured to her outfit, a green shirt with quarter length sleeves and blue jeans. It wasn’t the most fashionable outfit, but something told her to wear it. The longer sleeves also meant she could use less make-up to cover her bruises, even if the weather didn’t exactly call for long sleeves. 

They had reached the girls’ first class, but Claude was excitedly making a little spinny motion with his finger, so Marinette raised her arms a little and spun in a small circle. Claude made a pun and Allan gave a thumbs up. She tugged her sleeve back down as the boys walked on, no one needed to know about her bruises. They would only worry about her, until, of course, they found out it was just because she was a clumsy idiot. Then they would just laugh at her.

Allegra lead her to a bench in the front row of the class, and the two sat down. She was quiet for a moment then, “Hey, where did that bruise on your arm come from?”

“...huh?” Oh no.

“Your sleeve slipped and I saw a bruise. It looked pretty bad, are you okay?”

“Oh...um, I tripped, that’s how this happened too…” she raised her right arm, where a brace still sat on her wrist.

“Must have been quite the fall. When did it happen?” Allegra’s voice held something that Marinette couldn’t quite place.

“I, uh, Thursday…” Was it really only Thursday that everything went wrong? It wasn’t even a week, and here she was leaving her friends for a different school and trying to replace them. No, they weren’t her friends, she’d messed that up… 

Allegra looked concerned, so she continued, “I’ll take the brace off tomorrow, I just… my parents and I figured it would be best to wear it today… ‘cause I’m going back to school.” Marinette didn’t want Allegra to think something was seriously wrong with her wrist. This was one of the worst sprains she’d had, but she was clumsy, it really wasn’t a huge problem.

Allegra nodded, and the two continued to talk until class started. 

 


 

When the bell rang for lunch, Allan led Marinette to the cafeteria after they both got their lunches. They sat down at a table while they waited for the others. Felix joined with his own home lunch, Claude and Allegra soon arrived with hot lunches from the school.

They spent a lot of time talking, trying to get to know Marinette as well as help her get to know them. She learned that Claude was here for acting, Allan was here for music. He was familiar with all types, but preferred more modern music. Allegra played the flute, and Felix the piano.

“If you do not mind me asking,” Felix turned to Marinette, “why have you transferred in during the second week? It seems as though if you were switching schools, you would transfer during the summer.”

Marinette froze. What should she say? What could she say? That she had failed at friendship? She liked these people, she didn’t want to have them realize she wasn’t worth their time. She couldn’t say nothing… her silence would probably concern them, and then they wouldn’t like her. 

“I, uh… there was… a delay! Something was wrong with my paperwork? So I… um, yeah.” Lying? She was no better than Lila now. What was wrong with her? But what else could she do? If she told them the truth… no, she couldn’t do that.

If the others noticed her panic and discomfort, they didn’t comment on it. The conversation moved on, but Marinette still felt a twist of guilt in her chest. Deceiving them would only delay the inevitable. One day they would realize that she wasn’t worth their time and she would be alone again. 

 


 

Marinette waved goodbye to the others as she began her walk home at the end of the day. They were nice- 

Her thoughts were interrupted by her phone going off. Looking at it, she saw a message from Adrien. 

 

Adrien: Hey Mari! How was your first day at the new school?

 

Marinette: I like the school I met some nice people

Marinette: Hey! Shouldn’t u be in class right now? >:( u cant have ur phone out in class, youll get in trouble

 

Adrien: I’m very sneaky! :) 

 

Marinette: Pay attention! U only have another 10 minutes

 

Speaking of when his school would be out, Marinette should hurry. If she didn’t she wouldn’t get home before Dupont’s day ended, and would risk facing her old classmates. 

One good side-effect of being a secret superhero was that Marinette was in very good shape, so she was easily able to cut her 10-15 minute walk home into about 8. She walked into the bakery and was greeted by her mother.

“Hello sweetheart! How was your first day?”

“It was pretty good, the people that gave me a tour were nice.” Hugging her maman, she headed into the back, waving at her papa as she headed up into the house.

Dropping her bags as she entered her room, she flopped on her chaise. Tikki flew up to her, sitting on her head.

“You did so well today! I’m proud of you!” the Kwami chirped.

“Ughhhh… Tikki, I can think of several ways I messed up. They probably hate me. Then I’ll have no friends, because Adrien will leave me too, and then I’ll grow up to be some crazy hamster lady who never leaves her house and-”

“Marinette! You didn’t mess up, those four that you met seem very nice! I’m sure they don’t hate you.”

Marinette was silent for a moment, then, “It feels so weird going to a different school… I’ve been going to Françoise Dupont for so long. I’ve known most of my classmates since école… well I knew them.” Her eyes welled up, her voice cracking, “Where did I go wrong Tikki?”

The Kwami’s heart broke, she hated this. Marinette was one of her best chosen in many centuries, she didn’t deserve this. The girl’s tendency to blame herself for everything certainly wasn’t helping her to move on. Tikki wanted nothing more than to set the record straight, and get to get even with all those people that had hurt her, but she couldn’t do that. Instead, she settled for nuzzling her chosen’s head, reassuring her that she would get past this.

Even if Marinette wasn’t open about how she felt in regards to this, Tikki would be able to tell. By this point Marinette was aware of the side effects of miraculous use, she just wasn’t aware of all of them. Ladybugs used their coloring as a defensive mechanism. Their bright colors and patterns warned predators to stay away. When Ladybug holders felt particularly stressed, uncomfortable, or threatened, they typically favored brighter colors and patterns. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but made them feel better. Anyone that knew Marinette would probably notice the strange choice of clothing she’d been wearing lately. Not that they would recognize the coloring for what it was, no, only other holders would recognize to be on guard, even if they couldn’t consciously tell why.

They sat together for a while, letting Marinette cry. She had very little homework, as it was only the second week so she could wait for a little while.

That is of course, until Tikki saw a pair of purple wings float into the room.

“Marinette! Akuma!” The girl sat up immediately, wiping the tears from her face and steadying her breathing. Focusing on thoughts that were not negative, she watched the akuma. I don’t want to be akumatized, I am Marinette Dupain-Cheng and I am better than you Hawkmoth. I don’t need a supervillain to fix things. I refuse to let you twist me into your minion, Paris needs me.

The butterfly hesitated for a moment before flying back out the window.

Marinette sighed, “Well, I guess I should take care of that. Tikki, spots on!”

As Ladybug exited Marinette’s room, she spotted for the akuma again. It was hovering around Françoise Dupont, waiting for one of the students leaving for the day to get upset. 

As worried as she was about going anywhere near her old school, Ladybug reminded herself that it was Marinette that they would be upset to see, not her alter-ego.

Swinging over to land on the roof, she was relieved to see no one had noticed either her or the akuma yet. The last thing she needed was for Chat Noir to hear shouts of ‘Akuma!’ and interrupt his daily life. He’d probably be even more upset when he realized Ladybug was already on the scene. He already was probably disappointed in her for being unable to focus on patrol, then to find out she couldn’t even handle an akuma that was still just a butterfly on her own. What kind of superhero are you? You can’t even pay attention when you’re supposed to be patrolling, then you can’t even do the one thing you’re good for? What a failure. What an absolute disapp-

“Hey! Ladybug!” Someone was shouting for her, trying to get her attention, but her mind was spiralling, she barely registered their voice. So focused on belittling herself, she didn’t notice her breathing getting more erratic, her emotions high.

She didn’t notice, but the akuma did.

-total failure. Fu will probably come for her miraculous himself, or Chat will. That is, of course, if she doesn’t mess up enough for the earrings to fall into Hawkmoth’s hands before then. She wasn’t worthy of this, Tikki probably-

A body tackled her to the roof, before she could even register what had happened, she was scooped up and carried to another nearby rooftop. She was set down, two gloved hands on her shoulders.

“Ladybug, hey, are you okay?” her partner was worried, but calm, “Can you breathe with me?”

Ladybug’s mind slowed, processing what had happened. She’d been after the akuma, then she’d… she’d done the one thing that you shouldn’t do near an akuma. She’d started thinking negatively, and now, the one thing that she’d wanted to prevent had happened, except worse. Not only had she dragged Chat out of his everyday life, but she’d worried him by nearly getting akumatized . She really was a failure.

“Ladybug?” Right. Her partner. She had to focus if she wanted any chance of her miraculous staying with her.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” She finally met his eyes, he wasn’t angry. Of course he wasn’t he was worried about her, he was just good like that. “I was going to cleanse to akuma, and then- I just- I’m sorry!” her words came out fast, rushed.

“You don’t have anything to apologize for.” he was still looking at her, his hands on her shoulders, grounding her. “You didn’t do anything wrong”. He looked over her shoulder, watching something. 

“B-but I- I’m sorry. I did , I was try- I was going to, supposed to-” her mouth wouldn’t co-operate, she was speaking basically nonsense, starting and restarting the same sentence in a bunch of different ways. “I’m so sorry, I just-”

Chat turned back to her. “No. You don’t apologize for this Ladybug. You did nothing wrong . I’m worried about you, and I’ll listen if you want to talk to me, but there is nothing for you to apologize for.” He looked into her eyes, reassuring and patient.

He glanced over her shoulder again, and she finally realized what he was watching. The akuma . The one that had now targeted her twice. Ladybug exhaled, and stood, turning to the dark butterfly. Chat took a step back, giving her space.

She threw her yo-yo, finally capturing the butterfly. Chat came up from behind her, looking at her, concerned. 

“Hey, Ladybug, do you want to talk? At least what you can tell me, and we can go somewhere less-”

“Hey! Ladybug! Do you have time for an interview? Is there an akuma in the area? Any message for the citizens of Paris?” Alya’s voice rang out over the people still around the school. The reaction was instant, Ladybug stiffened and tears came to her eyes. She rubbed her right wrist, remembering the last time they’d spoken

“Somewhere less out in the open, was what I was going to say…” Chat noticed her distress. “We don’t have to talk.”

“No! I can talk! You’re fine. I just-” her voice cracked, barely noticeable to someone without her partner’s hearing. “-don’t really want to talk to Alya right now.”

“Meet me at the Eiffel Tower, I’ll talk to Alya.” She nodded, swinging away as he dropped down to speak with the young reporter.

 


 

When Chat reached the top of the tower, he was met with a rare sight. Ladybug was sitting, hugging her knees, eyes unfocused and teary. He hadn’t seen her so upset since… the whole Stoneheart mess probably. 

When he landed next to her, she looked up at him and his heart almost broke at the sight of his lady so upset. He sat down beside her, ready to listen to his partner.

 


 

Ladybug wasn’t sure where to start. She wanted to talk to Chat, he was her friend, and should be aware in case something happened. On the other hand, he was her partner, who couldn’t know any details of her personal life.

“Chat, I- I don’t know. I just-” her voice cracked, thinking of everything that had happened. Her throat closed up. “I-I don’t understand. I messed up…”

Chat leaned in to her, offering silent support. “What happened? If you made a mistake I’m sure you can fix it. I’m sure your friends will forgive you…” At the word ‘friends’ Ladybug stiffened, a sharp intake of breath making him trail off. He looked at her, there were even more tears swimming in her eyes, and he couldn’t help but raise his arms in an offer of a hug.

He was surprised when his typically reserved partner immediately dove for it, burying her face in his chest. He hugs her tightly, worried.

“I don’t know . I messed up, and I don’t know-” her voice cracks again,“-what I did wrong! ” She’s shaking as she sobs quietly.

He holds her for a few minutes, watching for black wings, but none come, she is free to feel bad.

She pulls away, wiping tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry Chat. I shouldn’t-”

He cuts her off, “No. I told you, there isn’t anything for you to apologize for.”

She smiles sadly, if only he knew how badly she’d messed up. There really was something for her to apologize for. “I just-” She exhales, steadying herself, “I just think I’ve had a rough past few days. I’ll be okay.” Another lie, but she was Ladybug . She was supposed to fight akumas, not be targeted by them. Though maybe it wasn’t such a huge lie, in a few days she may not be better, but she’d be better able to fake it, at least as Ladybug.

“You’re a tough one, m’lady. I hope things get better for you.” The hero stood, offering a hand to his partner. She shook her head softly, standing on her own - though a little unsteadily. 

“I hope so too. Thank you, Chat Noir.” she hugged him quickly, before approaching the edge of the platform, yo-yo in hand. “You’re the best partner I could ask for.”

With that she swings away.

Chapter Text

Marinette eventually adjusted to the classes at her new school. Despite her fears, the group she met the first day stuck around. She’d never mentioned them to Adrien or her parents beyond the first day, for fear of the disappointment when they left her behind.

It was late September now, the month was almost up, and they only seemed like they wanted to stay. She’d been invited to join them on a few after-school activities, but she’d always declined - she didn’t want to get in their way. She didn’t want to be rude though, so maybe she should start going…

Currently though, she is finishing her homework on her balcony. Maybe she should go to bed soon, she is tired and it’s late…

She looks up when she hears something- or some one rather, land on the railing.

“Chat Noir. What are you up to this late?” She isn’t surprised to see him, everyone knows that he goes out more than Ladybug. She is surprised he decided to visit her , there had been several akuma attacks in the past few weeks, but Marinette hadn’t been anywhere near them.

“A knight should be sure to check on his purr- incess.” he grins at his own pun, “How are you?”

“Puns aside, I’m… okay” A lie, but he doesn’t need to know any different.

He looks at her strangely, she can’t place his expression. “That’s good to hear. Last time I saw you, you didn’t look so good.”

“What do you mean? I don’t remember the last time we talked.” Had they talked recently and she’d just forgotten him? Had she ignored him? She knows she’s a bad friend, but surely she isn’t that bad.

“I… don’t think you realized I was there. You were kind of… out of it.” He rubs the back of his neck. “It was a few weeks ago...”

A few weeks ago? So like, early september? She was ‘out of it’? When would that have- oh. Oh. That Thursday. When she’d messed everything up. She unconsciously rubs her wrist, which he notices.  Now she comes to find out Chat Noir visited, and not only did she ignore him completely, but she worried him . Her breathing becomes unsteady, Chat looks at her in concern. 

Here she is, thinking about making new friends while she is mistreating the few ones she has left. How can she even consider making new friends when she’d messed up so badly last time . All she has left is Adrien and her partner, and she can’t even be good to them. She can’t do anything right. She’s horrible. She’s-

“Marinette!” Chat sounds slightly panicked. She looks up, a purple and black butterfly flutters nearby. She sighs, focusing on something other than her current train of thoughts. She is tired more than anything. She’s also not about to worry Chat even more.

She stares down the akuma, daring it to come any closer. When it floats away to land on a nearby rooftop, she flops backwards on her chair. That was what? The 5th - 6th? -  Akuma that she’s had to deal with. She really isn’t cut out for this hero stuff with all the ones that she’s caused to fly her way.

“Marinette? Are you okay? I didn’t mean to upset you.” He sounds apologetic, because of course he is. “I’m impressed with how quickly you fought it off though.”

“It’s really not impressive, ‘practice makes perfect’ as they say…” She is staring at the sky, careful not to think about how she’s feeling - that akuma isn’t far.

“...Marinette, what does that mean?” He’s approaching her, and his voice has an edge to it that wasn’t there before.

“Hm?”

“‘Practice makes perfect’. What do you mean by ‘practice’?” 

“Oh. That. I mean that’s not the first akuma that’s I’ve attracted this month, plus the 2 last school year.”

He’s sitting on the edge of her chair now, “How many akumas have you attracted?’

She shrugs making a ‘I dunno’ noise, “Lost count, at least 5 or 6? Sorry about the extra work though” She can tell something is upsetting him, it must be that.

“The extra work isn’t relevant Mari!” Oh, never mind. “I’m worried about you! First you’re covered in bruises, then I find out you’ve been attracted 5+ akumas! What’s going on? Are you okay?” If it wasn’t late, he’d probably be shouting, but as it is, he has to settle for exaggerated hand motions, and worried looks.

No. No, she’s not. She’s Ladybug though, and she has to be. She can’t not be okay because then Hawkmoth would win. As Marinette she didn’t want to stress the few people she had left, because then she would be alone. Lila wanted to destroy her, and being not okay would mean she’d won …right?

Chat is looking at her, his brows furrowed under the mask, as she stares at the sky. Taking a deep breath to compose herself, she said, “I don’t know. It’s not like I’m attracting akumas 24/7 so… I don’t know. I… just, I’m worried.”

“About what?”

“My friends, if I can call them that, I haven’t known them long. What if they leave me?” The unspoken ‘too’ hung in the air between them, “Like, I don’t even know their birthdays, what if I miss them-” she sits up suddenly, startling Chat.

Her hands cover her mouth and she looks horrified. In a voice barely above a whisper she breathes, “Adrien thinks I forgot his birthday. Oh no. What kind of friend does he think I am? It’s not like I can tell him…”

Now Chat is confused, but Marinette’s obvious dismay is his first priority (and despite what she may think, not just because of the akuma still nearby). “Hey, princess, it’s okay. I’m sure this Adrien guy won’t think you’re a bad friend just because you forgot his birthday.”

It really isn’t a big deal, Adrien and Marinette hadn’t been that close back then, there’s no reason for her to worry about it.

“But I didn’t.” She’s contained her feelings by now, but she’s clearly still thinking about it.

Now Chat Noir is really confused. Marinette had not gotten Adrien a present, he would have remembered that. Chat Noir isn’t supposed to know that though, so he has to ask, “What do you mean?”

“I got him a present, but he doesn’t know.”

“If you forgot to deliver it-”

“I did deliver it, but… something happened.”

Chat Noir has the feeling that when she finally tells him what happened, he won’t like it. Call it a sixth sense, but he has a feeling in his gut. Maybe he should leave it here, but curiosity killed the cat and all that.

“What happened?”

She turns to him, serious, “You cannot tell him this. He’d be really upset.”

“Marinette, if you-” She cuts him off.

“No. There’s no point in telling him now.”

“Fine.” He wasn’t lying to her, technically. Chat Noir can’t tell Adrien, because well, duh.

She flops backwards again, “I… made him a scarf. I forgot to sign it, so I snuck into his house during Bubbler’s party to add a card. The next day though, he told Ni- his friend it was from his father. I don’t know what happened, but I decided not to tell him.”

Chat Noir doesn’t know how to feel. There’s a war waging inside him of different emotions and reactions. That’s not a problem for now though, so he pushes everything down. He can deal with that later. For now though, he has some questions.

“Why? Why would you do that?” He has to know.

Marinette’s face takes on an almost dreamy expression, “You didn’t see him Chat, he was just so happy . With how awful his father is, you don’t realize how rare that is - for him to be that happy. He was so happy thinking his father made him a scarf, I couldn’t just take that away from him…”

Her expression sours some,”So that’s why I won’t tell him, even if it means he leaves me for better people. Besides, at least I know he likes the gift. Winter is coming soon, so he might wear it again.”

Oh he would definitely wear it again. He won’t be wearing any other scarf ever again. He glances over at Marinette, she is staring at the sky again, but her eyes are unfocused.

“Mari, he won’t leave you. I know you well enough that he’d be hard pressed to find ‘better people’ to leave you for.”

At her rueful smile, he continues, “As for now. I think you should get your beauty rest - not that you need it.” He winks at the last part, but his mind wants to be a million miles away.

She groans, and it turns into a yawn. 

“...okay.” She gets up from the chair, and slips inside through her trapdoor. “Goodnight, Chaton”

“‘Night Marinette.” As much as he wants to go back to his house, he has that akuma to deal with. Contacting Ladybug, he sees she isn’t transformed right now, because why would she be?  

Chat sighs, what is he supposed to do? He decides to wait for a few minutes, otherwise, he’ll just go find a jar or something, though he’s fairly certain that won’t work. Maybe-

“Hello Chat Noir.” A small voice behind him, but it isn’t Ladybug. He turns to see a little red Kwami. He doesn’t remember her name.

“Hi. You’re Ladybug’s Kwami? Is something wrong?” The universe really was against him just going to his house and thinking things through wasn’t it?

“No, she’s doing f- she’s not in any danger, just sleeping. I got your message about the akuma.” The Kwami smiles at him, “Thank you for waiting. Where is it?”

“Uh, it’s over there.” He points. Surprisingly enough, it hasn’t moved far from the balcony. Perhaps that is due to him and his thoughts on the scarf.

The little Goddess darts over and grabs the butterfly between her two paws. She closes her eyes, there’s a small white glow, and a white butterfly flutters away. Turning back to him, she says, ”Thank you. You should go home and rest now. Tell Plagg I said ‘hi’ please?”

He nods, then turns to head to his house. He has too much to consider to properly rest though.

 


 

It’s towards the end of lunch the next day, Marinette and her group are talking in the library. They are all going to hang out after school and are discussing places to get food. Marinette is debating if they would hate her more for accepting or refusing.

“Oh!” Allegra’s sudden exclamation pulls her attention back to the conversation, “There’s a place I’ve been meaning to try - I can’t remember the name… I’ve heard good things about it. It’s, um, over in the 21st arrondissement - a bakery.”

Marinette is certainly paying attention now, but just for the sake of confirmation she asks,”Tom & Sabine Boulangerie Patisserie?”

“Yes! That’s it! Have you been there? What did you think of it?”

Is this some sort of sign? This is a chance to accept their invitation, without it being weird. She wants to smile, this turned out well. Maybe Ladybugs are lucky after all, “Um, actually, I live there. Uh, we could hang out there after school… if you want?”

For a moment, there is silence at the table, and she wonders if maybe she messed up someh-

“YES!” Claude stands and shouts excitedly, slamming his hands on the table. Several people shush him, including Felix, “Sorry. But yes! Yes we do want!”

“I’m with Claude.” Allegra gives Marinette a side-hug, “I like the plan.”

“Sure thing, ‘Nette. Sounds good.” Allan smiles from his spot across the table from her.

Felix nods. “Yes. I take it Tom and Sabine are your parents then? Will they be okay with the four of us coming over?”

“Uh, yeah, but um, I can ask them.” She pulls out her phone to text her parents and the others look at each other excitedly. Not only did Marinette agree to join them, but she invited them over. Progress!

 

Marinette: Hi maman! Sorry to bother you but can i bring some people home from school with me?

 

Maman: Oh course sweetheart! We can’t wait to meet your friends!

 

That was a surprisingly quick response, especially considering the shop is probably pretty busy now. Hmm.

“They said it’s fine.” At this, Claude lets out an excited whoop, for which he gets shushed again.

“Class will be starting soon, we should head out. If we stay any longer, Claude may get us banned from the library.” Felix stands, packing his stuff. The others follow suit.

In the hallway, they go their separate ways, with Marinette following closely behind Claude and Allan to the class they all share. Claude is dramatically enacting the reactions they will all have when they try the ‘glorious wonders’ that will be the bakery goods.

He’s still going by the time they are making their way to their seats in the back of the class. Suddenly, Marinette stumbles on the steps, she starts to fall backwards, when someone grabs her wrist.

Alya . It’s her first thought, and she flinches, remembering the yelling, the anger, the-

Then her mind catches up, she’s at a different school now. Alya doesn’t even know where she is. Marinette isn’t heading for the door, she’s heading to her seat, next to her frie- next to Claude and Allan. It isn’t Alya’s hand on her wrist, it’s Claude’s. He isn’t trapping her here, just making sure she doesn’t fall.

When he sees her reel herself back into reality, he trades his worried look for a grin. 

“This is exactly why I don’t trust stairs, they’re always up to something.

Marinette groans, but there’s a smile in it. Sitting next to Allan, she chides herself for scaring them.

He turns to her, “You good? That was quite the tumble you could have taken there.”

She nods, “Mhm. Sorry to scare you guys-”

He waves her off, “Nah, it’s not your fault. We’re just glad Claude caught yah’ in time.”

“Can’t have our new best friend fall down the stairs!” Claude calls from his seat, “What would we all do then?”

Best friend? Did he just-? No. Marinette, you’ve learned your lesson. These people are just being nice to you. You don’t want to be a disappointment to them too. After last time, you don’t deserve friendship. These people don’t deserve to get hurt by you too.  

As Marinette pulls herself out of her thoughts, the teacher walks in and class starts.

 


 

“So we’ll just head home with you now?” Allegra looks to Marinette for confirmation. They’re all heading out of school at the end of the day.

“Uh, yeah. If that’s okay with you guys? Unless you guys have anything else to do…?”

“Nope!” Claude is clearly excited, Marinette doesn’t know why he so happy about this though, “Which means we get to spend more time with you!”

Allegra is about to say something when she gets cut off by a voice calling across the courtyard, “Hey! Mari!”

Five heads turn, four in confusion, and one in surprise. A blonde boy in nice clothes runs up to them. 

“Adrien? What are you doing here? Fran- your school doesn’t get out for another 10 minutes…”

“I had a photoshoot in the area, and we finished early! I wanted to see if we could catch you in time o pick you up.” He notices the bewildered group behind her, “Are these your new friends?”

Not that anyone (excluding Plagg) knows, but this is Adrien’s main goal - meeting her new friends. Once he’d sorted through everything that she’d told Chat Noir last night, he realized that she’d mentioned worrying her new friends would leave her. He had to meet them for himself, if they were the type who would leave her for something so small as missing a birthday she didn’t know about, he’d have to do something .

After how devastated Marinette had been at losing everyone at Françoise Dupont, he wasn’t about to let someone put her through that again. Not if he could help it.

A stiff looking blonde boy speaks up, “We are, and you are…?”

“Adrien. Adrien Agreste.” At this, a braided girl gasps.

“Marinette, you’re friends with Gabriel Agreste’s son? How did you manage that?” She turns to Marinette in shock.

“Because she’s Marinette, that’s how!” A tall boy in blue speaks up, “I’m Claude! Do you know how much a polar bear weighs?”

Adrien’s eyes light up, he likes this one, “Enough to break the ice!” He finishes immediately.

Claude grins, “No one has ever answered that correctly before!” Turning to the pig-tailed girl he asks, “How many friends like him are you hiding from me?”

The girl in question groans, “You two should never have been introduced.” She doesn’t want to lie, but she can’t exactly say she’s partners with the Chat Noir, so avoiding the question is the way to go.

“How many celebrities is she hiding from us? Next you’re going to tell me she’s got Jagged Stone in her contacts!” Allegra knows she sounds superficial, but she’s suspicious of this boy. She suspects Marinette has some serious self-esteem and confidence issues, and hanging out with some preppy rich boy sounds like a good way to get them. If this is a toxic friendship, she will end it.

“Um… ”

“Actually,” Adrien says, putting his arm around his friend’s shoulders, “She does! She designed his glasses and his latest album cover!”

A boy in a green hoodie that reminds him of Nino speaks for the first time,” That’s where I recognized your name from! Holy cow, Marinette!” He raises a hand and gives Marinette a high-five.

“That is an impressive feat. Especially for someone of our age. How did you receive the opportunity?” The tall blonde boy looks impressed.

Before she can answer, someone behind them clears their throat. Adrien turns to see his driver, clearly waiting for his young charge to move this along.

“Oh! Sorry!” He turns back to the group, “So, Marinette, do you want a ride home? I can give your friends a ride too if they want one.”

Marinette turns to the group, “Is that alright? I know we were going to walk, but I wasn’t expecting Adrien to show up…”

Claude is the first to answer, “That’s fine! I’ve always wanted to ride in a fancy car!”

The rest of the group gives various nods and ‘that’s fine’s. Following Adrien into the vehicle, they buckle in. As the car starts, Adrien asks, “So where to?”

“We were all going to head back to my house actually.” Marinette pauses, “I’m sure none of them mind that you’re joining us now…?” She doesn’t want to make any of her guests uncomfortable, but she doesn’t want to exclude anyone. Normally she wouldn’t think it would be a problem, but she doesn’t like the looks Adrien and Allegra are giving each other.

Allegra answers for all of them, “It’s no problem.”

Chapter Text

They pull up to the bakery, Adrien and Claude take a break from the puns as they exit the car with everyone else. Allegra, Allan, Claude, and Felix take in the bakery, making their first impressions.

Marinette, on the other hand, is staring both longingly and apprehensively across the street at her old school. Any minute now the bell will ring and all the students, Ms. Bustier’s class included, will pour out of it. Marinette is well aware that some may come this way looking for snacks.

Adrien notices her gaze and steers her inside after the others, who are now speaking with her maman at the counter.

“-help you today?” Her voice fades as she notices Marinette walk in. After glancing between both her daughter and the four teens at the counter she makes the connection, “Oh! You’re here with Marinette?” at their confirmation, she waves them behind the counter.

A school bell is heard, Marinette’s immediate discomfort is noticed by the boy at her side.

“Can we head upstairs now, Sabine?” Adrien doesn’t want Marinette downstairs if there’s any chance of seeing anyone from Françoise Dupont.

“Oh course, dear!” to the other four, she adds, “Just head on up, Adrien and Marinette can show you where everything is.”

They make their way upstairs, waving at Marinette’s father working with dough in the back as they went. Eventually Marinette leads them to a pale pink couch in what must be the living room.

“I’m going to go get snacks. You guys, uh, get to know each other? I’ll be right over there.” It probably isn’t a far enough distance to qualify her telling them, but she hasn’t had new guests over in a long time.

“So, Adrien. How did you meet Marinette?” It’s the blonde girl, who is currently Adrien’s top concern in the group. The kid in green, and the blond boy seem like they’re just more withdrawn, and Claude is friendly, but this one seemed a little too interested in Marinette’s celebrity contacts. If she’s just here for Marinette’s connections, something will have to be done.

At the question, Marinette almost drops something in the small kitchen. Adrien has the feeling these four may not know about why she transferred, or even where she went before, so he keeps his answer simple and voice sweet, “I let her borrow my umbrella one day. She was one of my first friends outside of modelling!”

“That’s very nice of you.” She sounds wary, and it’s less of a compliment and more of a statement.

The other three on the couch have caught onto the girl’s behaviour and look confused.

“Hey, I don’t think I ever got your names. Outside of Claude of course.” He would like to know their names. Not just to Google them.

“That is true, I apologize for that.” The blond boy extends his hand, “Felix Voclain.”

Adrien shakes the Felix’s hand, he recognizes the name, the boy’s father is a well known businessman.

“I’m Allan, and this” he points his thumb at the girl, “is Allegra.” He says her name like a mother would a misbehaving child.

Marinette arrives, carrying a tray of various pastries. As she sets it down the door opens.

“Dup- Marinette . Have you been avoiding me?” Marinette had immediately stiffened at Chloe’s voice, but has relaxed slightly.

“C-Chloe! What are you doing here?” 

“Looking for you, obviously ,” she rolls her eyes, “Honestly, that question was ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. You just disappeared on us, and Adrien wouldn’t tell me where you went! Some friend he is!”

He smiles sheepishly, “Sorry, Chlo…”

She holds up a perfectly manicured hand, cutting him off, “Save it. I’m here for Marinette.” Turning to the girl in question,”You look like you healed well…”

The pig-tailed girl glances nervously at her guests, “I d-did. Um, what did you need from me?”

Chloe’s face falls, and she looks away, “I-I’d like to talk to you.” glancing at the strangers around her, she adds, ”in private …?”

Marinette looks surprised, “Oh. Okay, uh, follow me.” With that she heads up the stairs to her room, leaving Adrien with her new friends.

Allan is the first to speak, “Allegra, you got sumthin’ you want ta’ share with us?”

The girl turns to Adrien, “I don’t like you.”

Before any of the other three can say something, Adrien speaks, his voice cold, “The feeling is mutual, at least, until I’m sure you won’t be hurting Mari.”

Allegra looks shocked and offended, “Hurt Marinette? I would never. You on the other hand, I’m not so sure about…”

Before Adrien can add anything, Claude interrupts, holding his arms up peacefully, “All right, you two. I don’t know what started this, but maybe you should both explain yourselves.”

“Yeah, we don’t wanna’ start a fight.” Allan adds in.

Adrien nods, fine, he can do that, “I don’t know what gave you the idea that I would hurt Marinette. She’s the kindest person I know and my closest friend.” His face colors a little,”I care about her a lot, and the last thing I want for her is for someone ,” At this he glares at Allegra, “to not treat her the way she deserves. So I have no ill will towards her. You on the other hand, I’m not so sure about.”

The entire time he was speaking, Allegra was getting more and more mad. At this point, she is fairly certain he wasn’t any sort of toxic person to Marinette, but to imply she is, and on what grounds? With him finally done speaking she’s ready to-

Felix speaks up, “I would like to know your reasoning for being rather accusatory towards towards my friend. As for you Allegra, I’m sure he has good reasons. It would do you well to keep your cool.”

The once friendly feeling of the room has cooled. Allegra takes a deep breath to steady herself, turning once more to Adrien, waiting.

“I wanted to meet Marinette’s new friends to make sure that they - you guys weren’t being…” he pauses, looking for a word or phrase, “ conditional with your friendship. She’d mentioned a few things and I wasn’t sure if it was her anxiety, or the people she was with.”

Allegra seems to have relaxed some,” And why did you dislike me in particular? You seemed fine with the others.”

“You were the most focused on Marinette’s celebrity connections. I didn’t want her being used by you for that.”

“Fair enough. I suppose it would be fair if I explained myself then. Marinette strikes me as someone with ...confidence issues.” at this, Adrien seems troubled, but Allegra continues,” A rich model seemed like as good a person as any to give them to her.”

Adrien nods as Claude pipes up,”Now that we’ve moved past all that, we should get to know each other! All we really know about you is your name, and that you think Marinette is just as great as we do!”

Adrien is about to respond when the trapdoor opens. Chloe walks down, followed by Marinette. Something about the two girls seems off, but he isn’t quite sure what. They stand awkwardly for a moment, before they give an equally awkward hug and Chloe walks out the door.

Marinette turns to her guests, clapping her hands together, “So! What were you guys up to? Got any ideas on what we should do?”

 


Earlier

 

Chloe’s face falls, and she looks away, “I-I’d like to talk to you.” glancing at the strangers around her, she adds, ”in private …?”

Marinette looks surprised, “Oh. Okay, uh, follow me.” With that she heads up the stairs to her room, leaving Adrien with her new friends.

When Chloe enters her room, she closes the trapdoor behind her. The blonde looks more uncomfortable than Marinette has ever seen her.

Taking pity on her former bully, she speaks first, “So, what did you want to talk about?”

Chloe takes a deep breath, “ I’dliketoapologize.”  

Being well versed in deciphering rushed speaking, Marinette knows perfectly well what was said, but out of surprise and confusion she reflexively asks,”What?”

I would like to apologize to you . Marinette Dupain-Cheng. I’m… sorry.” The normally pulled together girl looks frazzled and uneasy. This isn’t her element.

Marinette’s mind has caught up, but she needs more than that . “What exactly are you sorry for? And what brought this on? Start from the beginning.”

Chloe pauses - thinking,”The beginning? I guess that would be when I became Queen Bee. Like, when Ladybug actually chose me. I guess it...made me start thinking.”

Marinette was silent, though it was less out of respectful listening skills and more out of fear of breaking this strange spell. Who is this person and what did they do with Chloe Bourgeois? Should she be dealing with an akuma right now?

“It’s just like, someone believed in me you know?” she stops, “Oh, of course you don’t, but imagine that you do okay?”

Marinette rolls her eyes, but lets her continue.

“I- Ladybug’s only experience with me was all the akuma attacks and she still trusted me with a miraculous. She believed in me. She thought I could change…” She trails off lost in her own thoughts.

Little did Chloe know that Ladybug had had years of experience with Chloe. Years of being bullied by her. In all honesty, Marinette isn’t sure why she chose to trust Chloe, but something in her had told her that Chloe at least deserved a chance. If the Chloe before her was anything to go by, maybe she had been right.

“I wanted to live up to Ladybug’s expectations. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but I wasn’t sure how to do that, like, obviously, I had to be nicer, but I didn’t know how .”

The blonde takes a breath, and continues, sounding unsure and vulnerable, “I thought that being nicer meant not being mean, so I just avoided people, and tried to leave them alone. Like that ridiculous liar Rossi! Normally I wouldn’t let her even try to steal my spotlight - or my Adrikins-” She cuts herself off looking at Marinette strangely, then continues,”I thought I was being better - I even gave Sabrina gifts! That she could keep! Not just borrow! But… something still felt off, and I didn’t know why! It was ridiculous - utterly ridiculous! I hadn’t been mean for months! I hadn’t fired any employees or made anyone cry! Then… I heard the yelling from the classroom and I guess I realized, a true hero isn’t just not mean, they also, like, don’t let other people be mean. They don’t do nothing, they do something . They do something positive . So I figured I had to start doing that too..” 

Chloe is looking at the ground, she is shaking slightly, and hugging herself tightly, Marinette takes a step forward, and places a gentle hand on her shoulder, Chloe looks up and meets Marinette’s eyes with her own, which are brimming with unshed tears. Marinette is struck with how exposed Chloe seems. Underneath her self-centered persona she cared about what others thought about her- the same as any other teen. And she felt bad enough to actually apologize to Marinette, in honestly the most sincere Marinette had ever seen her.

“Chloe. Thank you. I don’t know if my opinion matters much to anyone- but I think that you’ve done pretty well. I think you’re being a pretty good everyday hero.”

“Dup- Marinette , uh, um, Thank you. And for your information- hearing that from the likes of you is nice.” Chloe may have been using the same phrases as always, but the fire behind it is gone, Marinette is going to need time to adjust to this, “I mean Adri en called you our ‘everyday ladybug’ for a reason- that’s um, actually another thing I should maybe talk about…” Chloe is sitting on Marinette’s chaise, alternating between staring at the wall and messing with the edge of the cushion. Distracted as she is, she doesn’t notice Marinette’s immediate change in posture.

At the words ‘everyday ladybug’ the pig-tailed girl immediately stiffens,her mind is reeling, she hasn’t heard that phrase in so long and- no. This is not the time for this. Chloe’s issues are more important- she needs to focus.

“...just so good . I didn’t like it. I had always been told I was special, better, and then there was you. You were poor- sorry. You weren’t rich like me, and yet, you- you seemed happier , your parents spent some time with you and I just-” Chloe takes a breath, and Marinette takes a moment to figure out what Chloe is talking about. She missed some, but from what she can gather, Chloe is apologizing for bullying her all those years and trying to explain herself. But why? No, no. Marinette, focus. Chloe is talking again , “I just didn’t understand. You weren’t supposed to be better than me. So I- I decided to fix that. I didn’t like that you - any of you were better, happier than I was. I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that. None of you did- well maybe some of ou- my idiot classmates do now - but um. Yeah, that’s all.” 

Marinette is silent, she’s shocked. Of all the things she expected from today this was not it . Even once Chloe came to visit, she wasn’t expecting this . Chloe is apologizing to her. She can’t help but wonder why? She knows why Chloe feels like she has to, but Marinette has to wonder why the girl thinks Marinette is worthy of an apology. She’d only ever told her the truth…

Chloe doesn’t seem to have taken her silence well. She stands slowly, looking fragile and starting towards the trapdoor, “So, um, that’s all I wanted to say, goodbye Marinette…”

Marinette shakes herself out of her thoughts, she has more she wants to talk to Chloe about, and she’s not about to let her walk out of here upset, “Chloe wait. I- um- thank you. For apologizing and, for being honest, and um, thank you.”

Chloe turns to her, eyes hopeful, “Do you think, that um, maybe we could talk another time? I had, some other things that I wanted to talk about, but I would like some more time to think about them, they have to be awesome enough for Chloe Bourgeois after all!”

“Sure, Chloe, we can do that.”

Chloe puts her hand out, Marinette stares at it questioningly, then Chloe says, “Your phone , Marinette, I’m going to give you my number, you should be honored.” 

Marinette hands over her phone, Chloe seems to have pulled her persona back on, and Marinette wonders how naturally it comes to her, how easy is it to pretend not just that she’s fine, but that she’s great when she feels like such a mess inside?

After typing for a bit, Chloe takes a selfie, looks at it, nods, and hands the phone back,“There, now you can contact me yourself, just don’t bother me too much.

Chloe walks out the trapdoor, followed by Marinette. At the bottom of the stairs, they stand for a moment, and Marinette can tell that Chloe isn’t sure how to end such a conversation. After some hesitation, Marinette gives Chloe an uncomfortable hug, which she returns, before walking out the door.

Marinette turns to her guests, “So! What were you guys up to? Got any ideas on what we should do?”

Chapter Text

There is an awkward silence for a second. Those at the couch were not expecting Marinette’s reappearance and are not about to tell her what they had just been discussing.

Claude, ever the actor, is the first to recover, “We were about to get to know each other! All we know is each other’s names and that we all are friends with you! Do you have any ideas on games for that ‘Nette?”

Marinette pauses, thinking, “Um… I guess… Two truths one lie? Or never have I ever? Are those okay?”

“Ooh! I haven’t played those in a while! Okay, we all know how to do those right? We’ll start with two truths one lie, then we can move on to never have I ever. Does anyone have anything to add or that they’re worried about?” The group glances around at each other Allegra shakes her head slightly, but Adrien cautiously raises his hand.

Marinette notices, “Adrien?”

“I’ve never heard of either of those before. What are the rules? How long do they take?”

There is a shocked silence from the group, but Marinette just sighs,”Right, okay. Um, I can explain them. But, um, do you guys want to head to my room first?” With everyone looking at her now, she panics, backtracking, “Not that we have to! Of course! I just, um-”

“Sure thing, ‘Nette.” Allan offers her a calm smile, and everyone nods, standing to follow her into her room.

Marinette goes first, holding the trapdoor open. Adrien is next, plopping down nearby on her case. As the others entered, she grew anxious, she liked her room, but they probably thought it was dumb, so pink and probably very immature looking, they would hate it, they would hate he-

“Ooooooh! I love your room Marinette!” Claude sounds as excited as ever. He and the others are looking around her room. 

“I like it!” Allegra declares. She gestures toward the chaise, “Can I sit here?”

Marinette nods, and Allegra sits on one end of the chaise, Allan sits at the other end, cross-legged.

Felix sits, leaning against the side of the ladder leading to her bed, “It is certainly befitting of you.”

As Marinette sits against the case that Adrien is on she says, “Thanks. I’m glad you guys like it.”

Wheeling her desk chair to move it closer to his friends, Claude says, “Like it? I love it!” As if to emphasize his point, he spins in the chair, throwing his arms in the air.

“So, uh, how do we play these games?”

“We can explain them as we go. We’re starting with two truths and a lie, right?” Marinette pauses, double-checking. 

“Yep!” Claude is slowing now, looking faintly dizzy.

“Okay, so, um, it’s pretty straight-forward. We take turns listing three things. Two truths, one lie, and everyone has to try to guess the lie.”

Adrien nods. “Okay, that makes sense. Who’s going first?”

“I can.” Allegra raises her hand slightly, then pauses, thinking, “Um, let’s see… I play the flute, I have 3 siblings and I do calligraphy.

Claude excitedly opens his mouth to answer, but she raises her hand, cutting him off, “Nope, sorry Claude, but I think Adrien should answer first, then Marinette, then the rest of you. We’ve known each other longer and these are pretty simple starter ones. You’ll all know the answers.”

Claude gives an exaggerated ‘harumph’, but turns to Adrien, who is thinking.

“Umm, I think the lie is… the calligraphy?” 

Without a word, Allegra turns to Marinette, who is considering all of the statements. She knows the first one is undoubtedly true, as for the second and third… she isn’t as sure. Calligraphy is pretty specific, so that could go either way. Siblings… she knows Claude has three siblings, but Allegra only has two little brothers - at least to her knowledge, so, “Is it the, um, siblings?”

“Yep!” Claude and Allegra say in unison. She turns to him and he shrugs sheepishly, “Sorry ‘llegra. I just got excited.” She rolls her eyes.

“I have only two siblings, little brothers.”

Felix speaks up, “Perhaps to even this out, we should alternate between Adrien and Marinette having turns, and one of the four of us having turns. Otherwise there will be several rounds where many people know the answer.”

“Alright! I can go next.” Adrien thinks, “Okay. I play Ultimate Mecha Strike III, I take fencing, and do fashion design.”

“Fencing.”

“Ulimate Mecha Strike III”

“Fencing?”

“...you don’t do fashion design” Claude is the last to answer, but he seems the most certain of all of them.

Adrien nods, grinning, “Yep! As Mari here will be quick to tell you, I know nothing about designing clothing.”

“He really doesn’t”

If the others thought it odd that the heir to Gabriel Agreste’s company knew nothing about fashion design, they kept it to themselves. After a brief pause, Allan spoke up,”Let’s see… I bake, I have a little sister, and listen to Jagged Stone.”

“Is it the little sister?”

Marinette is pretty certain about Allan’s lie. She knows he has a little sister - she’s seen pictures - and is well aware that Allan is just as big a Jagged fan as Adrien as herself, so that leaves only one option. “I’m pretty sure you don’t bake… right?”

Allan nods, “Mhm. Pretty sure you’re the only baker here, ‘Nette.”

Claude claps his hands together excitedly, “Marinette’s turn!” Everyone turns to her.

“Oh!” Right. It was her turn now. Should she try to stump them? It could be fun to reach out to her more far-fetched interests, and come up with a more complex li- no. She would keep it simple. Her lies didn’t need to be big, only what was necessary. “Um… I knit, I love hamsters, and I’m a terrible runner.” 

It’s part of the game. Why do I feel bad about lying to them? It wasn’t like she was lying for the same reasons as Lila did, but the guilt still burned through her, a familiar feeling from all the excuses she made for her alter-ego.

“I think it’s the last one!” Claude is the first to speak, drawing her back.

“I’m with him.” Allan jerks his thumb at Claude, and Felix nods.

“Same here. I mean, have you seen her when she’s running late? She looks like she’s an aspiring olympian!”

Adrien laughs, “It is impressive.”

Marinette nods, and Claude cheers before turning to Felix, “Felix! Your turn!”

“Alright. I do calligraphy, I have a dog, and I enjoy poetry.”

“You don’t have a dog do you?”

Marinette nods in agreement, Felix does not have a dog- to her knowledge.

“Indeed. However, I do have a cat, his name is Pluto.”

Felix , that was so easy .” Claude whined, “You gotta’ challenge him! I’ll go next, because I haven’t gone yet, and I shall be challenging!” 

Allan raised an eyebrow at him, and Claude concedes, “Okay, not that challenging. Here we go! I am a thespian, I have a golden retriever, and I do origami.”

This was easy - for Marinette at least-  Adrien, on the other hand, “Uhh, definitely not the first one… the origami?” He didn’t seem certain.

“Nope! I lamentably lack a pupper pal in my life. It’s tragic .”

Allan and Felix both give him a look. The latter says, “Claude. You do not have space for a dog. Not only that, but your father is allergic.”

“But it’s so ruff without a doggo in my life.”

After the proper groans and eyerolls from most of the group, Claude shouted, “Speed round! Allegra go!”

“What?”

“List three things, quick go! Then Adrien will guess, you’ll correct him if necessary, then we move on in the same order, going as fast as we can! Speed bonding! Go!”

“Alright, fine. Bullet journaling, I used to do gymnastics, and ballet when I was little.”

“Gymnastics!”

“Nope, ballet, your turn.”

“Um,  I understand Morse code, I speak chinese, and I play the violin.”

“...Morse code?” Allegra is cautious, Allan nods in agreement, and after a moment so does Felix.

Claude on the other hand, confidently declares,”You don’t play the violin!”

“Yep! I do piano.”

“Okay, so it’s my turn now?” Allan speaks,“Well lets see, I’ve got a goldfish, I cook, and I cosplay.”

“Goldfish?”

“Nah, I don’t cosplay, that’s more Claude’s thing, if any of us.” The boy in question grins.

“Okay, um, my turn now?” Marinette thinks, “I have a fear of wasps, I do embroidery, and I love horror movies.”

She seems to have managed to stump most of them, except for Adrien who, after spending a good amount of time with her over the summer, knows the red herring. Claude seems fairly confident, but again waits for the others, who agree on the wasps being the lie.

“I disagree with my friends here, I believe the lie to be the horror movies!” Claude is once again correct and does a victory spin in his chair at Marinette’s nod.

“So, wasps, huh? Get a scare when you were little or sumthin’?”

Marinette hesitates at Allan’s question. What is she supposed to tell him, that her magical earrings make her feel like the wasps are going to eat her? As if . She feels the guilt bubble up again as she lies, “Yeah, uh, something like that.”

“Felix go! Remember, this is a speed round!”

“Hmm. Okay, I know the meaning of many common flowers, I prefer nonfiction books, and I am an only child.”

“The flowers?” At Adrien’s incorrect response, Felix gives a small smile. 

“Actually, I prefer fiction books.”

“Aaaaaand now it’s my turn! Okay! I have two brothers, I am the youngest and I know the passwords of two other people’s phones in this room.”

For whatever reason, Allegra groans at that. Adrien seems to miss that, as he says,”the passwords?”

“Nope! I have two sisters, and one brother.”

The game continues for a few more rounds, Adrien and Marinette can’t help but notice that Claude gets every one right. Finally, Adrien caves,”Claude, how are you so good at this?”

Claude smiles mischievously,”I have become very good at reading people. Facial expressions are a good thing to be familiar with - especially when you can’t speak.” at Adrien’s confused look he adds, “I act, but I also do a lot of miming.”

Eventually, the game ends when Adrien says,“I have never told a bad pun, I can speak Japanese, and I’m a morning person.

“Adrien.” Marinette said flatly, “You’re only supposed to tell one lie.”

“I did.”

“I believe him Mari. There is no such thing as a bad pun!”

Marinette shakes her head, “That’s where you’re wrong.”

“We’ll just have to prove it to her then! Guys, I’m putting the game on hold, Adrien and I must do a pun-off! Dad jokes are acceptable as well.”

“I like the sound of that!”

Other than Adrien and Claude, only Allan seems to be enjoying this. The other three are rolling their eyes and groaning in preparation for what’s about to happen.

“The new clock was the tock of the town.”

“What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh!”

“Lumber companies have many board meetings!”

“Shepards are sheepish people who don’t like staff meetings!”

“What do you call someone with no body and no nose? Nobody knows!”

“Hey, do you know why a nose can’t be 12 inches long

“No, I do not. Why can’t a nose be 12 inches long?”

“Because then it would be a foot!”

“Of course! Hey, I decided to sell my vacuum cleaner - it was just gathering dust.”

“What do you call an elephant that doesn’t matter? An irrelephant.”

“What do you call a pampered cow? Spoiled milk!”

“The first carpenter to sail around the world took his screw with him.”

“A comedian stopped at a fabric store on his way to a gig - he was looking for new material!”

“If I had a nickel for every bread pun, I'd have a pun per nickel.”

“Some puns are so corny they hurt your ear.”

“Seven days without a pun makes one weak.”

“Wanna’ hear a joke about paper? Nevermind - it’s tearable.”

Claude holds up a broken pencil from Marinette’s desk, “Hey, Adrien, want to borrow a pencil?” He glances at it,”Nevermind, it’s pointless.”

This is the last straw. Marinette starts laughing, at first she tries to cover it up, but is unsuccessful - her glee overtaking her. Adrien looks over to her in surprise, then his face softens and he laughs with her.

Allegra smiles,”Felix, I think we’re the only ones here with a normal sense of humor.”

“Indeed”

Claude looks delighted, in between his own laughter he throws his arms in the air and proclaims, “I have won the pun-off!”

Marinette’s laughter eventually dies down, but a trace of a smile remains on her face as she asks, “Okay, what’s next? Do we want to continue ‘Two Truths One Lie’, or do we want to move on to ‘Never Have I Ever’? Or, um, if you guys wanted to do something else…?”

“‘Never Have I Ever’ works for me!”

“Alright.” Marinette turns to Adrien, “So, um, there’s a few ways to play this one? It can vary depending on who you ask? But I don’t know what rules you guys play by…?”

“I do not recall when I last played this game, however, considering our purpose is to get to know each other, we could simply move in a circle and list things we have never  done before.”

“And then! If you have done it we can hear your cool story!” Claude excitedly adds onto Felix’s suggestion. “I’ll start! Never have I ever… been outside of France.”

“Really?”

“Yep! Never left!”

“Well it looks like you’re the only one Claude…” Allegra comments, “I’ve been to England.”

“As have I.” Felix adds.

“I’ve got family in Canada.” Allan looks to Adrien and Marinette, “What about you two?”

“Uh, I’ve been to China a few times? For, um, family.”

“I’ve had photoshoots and fashion shows in other countries before, but Father has me there for work, so I never really get a chance to look around or explore.” he shrugs, “But I can typically see some landmarks, so it’s not all bad.”

“That sucks dude,” Allan looks at Adrien sympathetically, “Your Pops should really lighten up on ya’.” It’s such a Nino thing to say, Adrien and Marinette share a look that the others can’t quite decipher.

“Allegra, your turn!” Claude startles them out of their thoughts.

“Why me?”

“Because you were first in the last game, and we should probably follow the same order.” he shrugs.

“Right. Me then. Okay, never have I ever… had a cat.” 

Marinette and Claude raise their hands in agreement. He pouts dramatically though, mumbling something about allergies. Adrien looks down at his overshirt in an annoyed manner, and Marinette hears something that sounds like ‘lag’.

“Uh, we live in a bakery, so pets are kind of a no go…”

“Obviously I have Pluto.” Felix hold up his phone, displaying an all black cat with green eyes.

“We had one when I was little.” Allan says, “I’ve only got some blurry memories.”

“Uhh, same here! It wasn’t very well behaved though… it also got into our cheese a lot .” Adrien says the last part as though directing it at someone in particular, the others were confused, as was Marinette. She wondered if Adrien was still mad at the cat about the whole cheese-stealing thing. In the time the two had really known each other, Adrien always seemed to have Camembert on him. Maybe it was a habit he formed to protect it from the cat. Strange, but whatever, she wouldn’t judge.

“Uh, anyways! Is it my turn?” At the others’ confirmations Adrien nodded, thinking, “Okay, so never have I ever been to an amusement park.”

“Really?!” Claude seems horrified, “Even our resident grump has been to an amusement park!” Felix rolls his eyes at the moniker.

“I take it I’m the only one then?”

“I’ve been to one, though not for a while because of-” Marinette cuts herself off, because again, she can’t just say ‘because I’m Ladybug’, adding a (hopefully) nonchalant shrug she continues, “it’s just been a while.”

The others are seemingly too distracted to question her slip-up, Allan questions Adrien first,”So why not? Ya’ not like heights or sumthin’?”

“Father says that I must maintain ‘a prestigious image’ at all times, and that amusement parks and their attractions ‘do not allow for me to adhere to such a standard’.”

“I don’t think I like your father…” Allegra has the same face she did when she saw Marinette’s bruise, and Marinette still hasn’t figured out what it means, having only seen it twice now. Is it bad? It looks bad, it probably means Marinette messed up, though she isn’t sure how she managed it this time around.

“It’s fine, I’m pretty used to it anyways-” he is cut off by Allan.

“That really doesn’t make it any better…”

Adrien laughs dryly,”You sound like Ni-” he cuts off abruptly, glancing at Marinette who has stiffened almost imperceptibly, he puts an arm on her shoulder gently, trying to draw her back. “-one of my other friends.” He says the last word like he isn’t sure of it.

The whole interaction was short, honestly rather quick, but certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the other four. They cataloged it in the back of their minds, they may discuss this later. They tried to keep track of things that seemed to upset Marinette. While they may not know quite what happened, they still didn’t want to upset her and did their best to avoid things they thought might… remind her of whatever it was.

The game moved on and they made it through several rounds before Claude says,”Never have I ever met Ladybug!”

Adrien immediately lights up, “I have! She’s so cool!” No one notices Marinette’s light blush at this. She’s heard Adrien rave about her alter-ego before, but compliments will always fluster her.

“So have I, or at least I’ve seen ‘er in person.” Allan’s comment surprises Marinette. “Happened to be around near the end of an attack.”

When did that happen? Did she honestly miss one of her few fri- one of the few people she knew at an akuma attack? She was supposed to protect them, not miss them! What kind of a hero was she?

“Lucky! I’ve never seen her except on the news and stuff.” Allegra interjects, and Felix nods in agreement.

“Same here.” Marinette shakes herself out her self-critiquing. At her comment Adrien looks confused. 

“Yeah you have!” Now Marinette is confused… what? He continues,”Remember when A- Timebreaker? When there were two Ladybugs and two akumas?”

Oh. Huh, she’d forgotten that Marinette and Ladybug had both been spotted together before. Thank you Adrien for that, it could be handy for protecting her identity in the future.

“Oh… yeah, I forgot about that.”

“How do you forget meeting Ladybug? ” Claude seems appalled.

“Well, we didn’t really meet. Also, um, I like Chat Noir better.” It was only natural, he was the better hero after all. Paris only favored Ladybug for her ability to clean up the damage.

Adrien’s face lit up even more, but he didn’t add anything.

Claude nodded, satisfied, “True, he’s pretty cool.”

The group continued to discuss (or gush in some cases) the two main heroes. Suddenly, Adrien’s phone beeped, and after glancing at it, he sighed. Marinette knew that face.

“Sorry guys, I have to go. Father is having me practice extra piano for a musical competition that’s in April.”

Allegra frowned at this, her face seeming to begin to stray towards that expression, though her voice betrays nothing as she asks, “Concours d'arts musicaux?”

“That’s the one.”

“I hope to participate too. I wish you the best of luck.”

“You too!” Adrien leaves and everyone settles back into their spots.

“So what should we do now?” Claude is spinning in the chair again.

“Homework.” Felix and Allan speak in unison, and Claude groans dramatically, but nevertheless plops down on the floor to begin work. After an hour or two, Felix glances at his watch.

“It may be best if we head to our own homes now. It is rather late and we would not want to intrude.”

Allan frowned, “It’s not that la-” he glanced at the time,”Nevermind, we should be going.”

Marinette nods and helps them pack up their stuff. As they head outside, her parents stop them.

“Oh, Marinette, are your friends going home?” her Maman asks as she finishes ringing up a customer. At her daughter’s nod, the woman says, “Wait one moment dears.” She heads into the back.

She emerges with four bags presumably filled with various pastries. “For you.” She distributes the bags to Marinette’s new friends, “ Thank you.”

“Ma’am, this isn’t necessary, at least allow us to pay.” Allegra is the first to recover from the surprise, but Sabine isn’t having any of it.

“No payment is necessary. Especially for you four, and any friends of our daughter.”

“... Uh, well thank you.” Claude and the rest give various thanks to the woman, who shakes her head again.

“No. Thank you. ” She turns and goes back to tending to customers. Marinette walks the rest of them out, and they say their final goodbyes as they head in their respective directions.

Marinette headed back to her room and lays down on her bed. She and Tikki talk for a little bit, but Marinette is exhausted mentally - today was quite the day - and she wants a moment to just think. After about 10 minutes she’s about to get up when her phone goes off. Glancing at it she sighs.

 

Akuma Alert:

Type 1

Eiffel Tower

More information and updates available.

 

“Tikki, spots on!”

Chapter Text

Ladybug exits Marinette’s room, immediately heading to the Eiffel tower. She’s done this often enough that she’s on auto-pilot while her mind is focusing on acting right.

Marinette might be a mess, but Ladybug is fine. After her little melt-down with Chat on the Eiffel Tower, she was determined not to let that happen again. She is a hero . Heroes don’t have a melt-down over the simple fact that she’d messed everthingupsomuchshe’soterribleutterfailurec- 

No. No. That’s for Marinette . Ladybug is fine. Maybe a little more focussed on professionalism in the past few weeks, but that’s to be expected after that whole incident. Paris depends on her and she won’t let them down too.

Arriving on a rooftop nearby she surveys her surroundings. It doesn’t look like there is much damage, but it’s a type one, so that was to be expected. There seems to be some sort of event going on though - everyone around looked kind of dressed up.

Footsteps behind her, “Evening, M’lady!”

Pasting a gentle smile on her face and speaking in an easy tone, she turns to him, “Hello Chat. Do you know anything about the akuma?”

“Nope! Just got here.”

She sighs, pulling out her yo-yo, “Right, let’s see if the news has anything…”

Chat is about to suggest she check the Ladyblog, but thinks better of it. Alya may be a good source, but in the past few weeks, Ladybug has favored more professional news organizations. He doesn’t know what happened, but after their talk last month, he’s been trying to avoid upsetting her. He doesn’t know what caused her tears, but he hates the thought of her so upset. 

She certainly seems better now. In all honesty, the next time he’d seen her she’d already looked better, so maybe she just had a tough time adjusting to her new school - a few bumps in the road that’d smoothed with time.

“Okay, definitely a type one...”

That’s a relief, sometimes the alert gets it wrong and they go in expecting one type only to be met with another. 

Ladybug continues,”He goes by ‘Dressmaker’. He shoots glitter from his ...tentacles? Okay. If someone gets hit then they’re wearing a dress… they’re pretty tasteful.”

“Are you telling me this akuma isn’t a total eyesore?”

“Oh no, he definitely is, but his victims look great.” She turns her screen to him, where a man is wearing a dress… with tentacles? Yep. The akuma is wearing a glittery ball gown with three distinct colors. The top is hot pink, the middle is gold, and the bottom is a bright light blue. All the colors are entirely glitter and Chat can’t tell if it is just glitter or a very glittery fabric. Out of the middle there are four appendages that can only be described as tentacles - thrashing about, spraying glitter everywhere. Sure enough, when someone comes in contact with it, their outfit changes to a dress, though no one seemed to have the same one. On top of his curly hair sits a tall, heavily jeweled crown, with a blue flower gem in the center.

“That’s quite the outfit.”

“Isn’t it? But I guess there’s been worse ones. Though I’m pretty sure we’re going to have an afterimage of his dress burned into our eyes by the time we’re done with him.”

Chat nods, but looking at the akuma again on his own baton, something about the colors struck him.

“Wait, look at the colors on the dress…”

“What about them?”

“Pink, yellow, blue… isn’t that the pan flag?”
“Oh hey you’re ri-”

Ladybug gets cut off when a blast of multi-colored glitter shoots just past the two heroes.

“Ladybug! Chat Noir! Hand over your miraculouses!”

The Dressmaker is on a nearby rooftop, having climbed up with his tentacled dress.

“Sorry buddy! Not happening! Don’t you know how this works by now? My lady and I make a fur- midible pair! We’re going to win!” Chat Noir’s grin grows in response to his partner’s customary eye roll.

“You’ll never defeat me! All of Paris will try a dress!”

“...’Try’? I thought your goal would be for all of Paris to wear a dress?” Ladybug is to the right of the akuma, but pauses in her approach after her question.

“That would be ideal wouldn’t it? However Ladybug, people are welcome to change out of them, I wouldn’t force someone to continue an experience they didn’t enjoy.”

“Aren’t you forcing them to do that right now?” Chat is impressed, this is one of the more considerate akumas they’d had, but as always there is a bit of a questionable leap in logic there.

“I am forcing them to try it.” Dressmaker punctuates his statement with a glitter shot at both heroes, who easily dodge,”As I said, they are free to do with their makeover as they please.”

Out of the corner of his eye Chat Noir notices Ladybug gesturing for him to back off. Shrugging, he says, “Well all of them certainly look purr -ty. Un- fur- tunately, I have a prior engagement and simply must be on my way.” Giving a quick salute, he turns and jumps several rooftops away before using his baton to meet his partner at the top of the tower.

Seeing his two nemeses back off, Dressmaker resumes giving people glittery make-overs. After watching for a moment to make sure he wouldn’t try to scale the tower, Chat turns to Ladybug.

“Everything alright Bugaboo?”

Even as she rolls her eyes at the nickname, he can’t miss her small smile.

“Yeah, everything’s fine.”

“Then why-”

“I’d prefer to not get my suit turned into a dress. I think the easiest way to defeat him would be to catch him off guard. While he’s distracted with his makeovers I can wrap him up with my yo-yo.”

“Any ideas on the akumatized object?”
“It’s got to be that crown.”

He nodded, that had been his thought too, “Well, there’s no time like the present!”

“I mean… I’m sure there are some people that could consider this a learning experience.” She sits down, leaning against a beam in mock-relaxation.

Chat gives an over-the-top gasp of disbelief and goes along with her - she didn’t joke very often so he treasures every moment he gets, “What’s this I hear? Ladybug suggesting slacking off- during an akuma attack no less ? Is this the end? Has Hawkmoth got you under some spell?”

She swats at his arm playfully as she stands again, “Rest assured Kitty, this bug is under no one’s spell.”

“Well, I’m certainly under your spell.”

She shook her head, and though he may have imagined it, he is fairly certain he saw a light blush on her face.

They swing off the tower in unison, quietly landing on the rooftops once more. Dressmaker wanders around, glitter flying about, unaware of the heroes approaching. A yo-yo shoots out behind him, quickly wrapping around his tentacles - restraining them.

“Hey! How dare you!”

Walking up behind him, Chat Noir plucks the crown from the man’s head and throws it one the ground before stomping on it harshly. The delicate headwear breaks into pieces and a dark butterfly flies out.

Ladybug retracts her yo-yo and quickly purifies the butterfly. With the akuma gone she realizes that the fight was so simple that she hadn’t called a Lucky Charm. Technically, she didn’t need to have one - she could just use her yo-yo - but without a timer going, she’d have no excuse to get away from Alya if the girl comes along. There wasn’t a lot of physical damage, but this is the one thing she’s supposed to to, so she can’t just not .

“Uh... Lucky Charm!” a red and black spotted figure falls into her hands. Her ever curious partner leans over her shoulder. 

“What is it?”

“Uhh… a demon? I think?”

“Odd, but okay.”

She shrugs tossing it in the air, “Miraculous Ladybug!”

As the small bugs went about their jobs, the two heroes finally turn to the victim.

A curly haired man stands before them, looking disoriented. He’s dressed in a white dress with blue flowers.

Ladybug sees that the crown has turned into a blue flower hair clip. Picking it up, she holds it out to him. “Um, I’m guessing this is yours. Do you remember what made you upset Mr…?” 

“Oh! Just Leonardo is fine.” He accepts the clip, putting it in his hair. “Someone said something about how men shouldn’t wear dresses - usually that wouldn’t bother me, but it’s just been one of those days ya’ know?”

She nods, understanding. Her hands fly to her ears as her earrings beep, “Well, for what it’s worth, I like your dress. Bug out!”

She waves at Leonardo and her partner as she ducks into a nearby alley. She and Chat have patrol soon, so there is no use going home.

“Spots off.” She detransforms once sure she is alone, and Tikki flies out of her earrings, landing in her open hands.

“I think Hawkmoth might be running out of ideas, that was the easiest akuma yet!” Tikki bites into a cookie as she speaks.

“Or he’s just bored. With all his free time you’d think his akumas would look at least semi-decent.”

Tikki giggles at the comment as she finishes her cookie, having eaten quickly.

“Ready Tikki?” at the Kwami’s nod, Marinette transforms back into Ladybug.

Ladybug quickly makes her way back to the top of the tower, where her partner is waiting for her, having not had to recharge.

“Long time no see, Ladybug.”

“I’m sure you managed to live without me for all that time Chaton.”

“I did, but every second was agonizing.”

“How do you do it everyday then?”

“Even I’m not sure. I think it must be magic.”

Rolling her eyes, she said, “Alright, whatever you say kitty. Let’s start patrol.” Jumping from the tower she shoots out her yo-yo to swing to the rooftops. Chat follows behind her. The two take off across the rooftops along one of their usual routes.

 


 

 

They’d been out for about an hour, and Ladybug is starting to get tired. Not that she will say anything of course, but she’d had a long day - much more eventful than usual. Their patrols typically wouldn’t last more than an hour and a half, so she only has to last another 30 minutes. Just 30 more mi-

Distracted and tired as she was, she lands poorly on a rooftop, tripping on her feet and almost faceplanting, if not for the fact that she manages to correct herself. Despite her hopes, her partner certainly notices her stumble.

“Woah, Ladybug are you okay?” he sounds concerned.

Of course she can’t even manage to get through a whole patrol, who does she think she is? “Yeah, I’m fine.” She adds a smile at the end to really sell it, “Just tripped.”

Somehow he doesn’t seem entirely convinced, “Are you sure Ladybug? You look a little tired…” He looks over her, seemingly as proof of his statement.

She holds back a yawn, “What are you talking about?” Her eyelids decide to take his side - fluttering closed for a moment too long before snapping back open, “I’m fine.”

He gives her a look, “I think we should cut patrol short. We could both use some rest, and we can’t protect Paris if one of us falls off a building.”

“No, no! We don’t need to-” Can’t even last one patrol and worrying her partner, what an idiot.

Yes we do. Before you protest, I get the feeling you would sooner run yourself into the ground than admit that you’re just as human as the rest of us. You need to rest too.”

She opens her mouth to protest more, but all that comes out is a yawn, and she immediately blushes in embarrassment. Chat grins.

“See, I was right! Now go home.”

She sighs in defeat, Chat Noir isn’t going to let this go. Taking out her yo-yo she turns in the direction of her home,”Goodnight, mon chaton.” 

With that she swings away, hearing him call out a goodnight to her before he presumably turns to go to his own home. 

Landing on her balcony, she says, “Tikki, spots off!”

Her Kwami comes to float in front of her, “Marinette, Chat Noir was right, you should rest.”
“I know…”

“However, I wanted to talk to you first. I suppose it could wait until morning if you don’t think you can stay awake. Your health is important.”

“No, no, I’m fine.” She had climbed into her room, and now is sitting against her cat pillow, looking at Tikki.

“That’s what I wanted to talk about Marinette. I don’t think you’re fine. It’s been almost a month since you left Françoise Dupont, and I don’t think you’re handling it very well.”

“What?”

“I’m worried about you. I think you’re dwelling on it, and it’s making you scared to move forward. Marinette is stuck, and I’ve seen such a difference from how you acted before then, and now. Ladybug seems to have found a way to move forward though. As Ladybug you talked to someone - briefly - and I think it might have helped. I know most holders have a different mindset when they transform, and I think it might help a some if you brought a little Ladybug into your Marinette life.” The Kwami brings one of her paws to rest on Marinette’s face, looking at her chosen with concern.

“I don’t know Tikki…”

“It’s okay Marinette, it’s only a suggestion. I just want to see you move on, and I know your friends do too.” She kisses Marinette’s forehead softly before floating over to the small bed on Marinette’s desk.

Marinette sits awake for a few minutes, not sure what to think. Has she not moved on? She certainly moved schools… but was she dwelling on what happened too much? She tried to avoid thinking about that Thursday in general so surely she wasn’t. Tikki said that Ladybug seemed to have moved on. Was that true? Was Ladybug better? As Ladybug, she just tries her best to act like she did ... before . Ladybug only thought like Marinette when she was alone (during akuma attacks so that there’s no threat of attracting an akuma). Ladybug hadn’t gone through what Marinette did though. She has to move on right? So that means accepting what happened. She should make a list.

Taking out a small empty notebook from behind her bed, she starts writing.

 

Things to Accept:

 

Okay, what did she need to do? Write the things she avoided thinking about and...what? Just come to accept that they were true. That sounded right… 

 

You messed up.

Everyone Most people at Françoise Dupont hate you

You don’t know how to do friendship properly. 

 

That last one makes sense. She’d been pretty friendless before Alya and now… well she had a group of people that she enjoyed hanging out with, but they were just being nice. Okay, what else?

 

People want to believe you’re a bad person

 

It was like Lila said, she only tells people what they want to hear.

 

You’re a terrible hero, and Paris deserves better.

 

That one hurt, but it was true. What kind of hero attracts as many akumas as she has? That’s probably why Tikki gave her this advice. Best to tell Marinette before the earrings are gone and she can’t tell the girl anymore. Preferably, the earrings would be with Chat or Fu though, not Hawkmoth.

 

You’re an obsessive stalker-ish creep.

No one actually likes you.

 

Because if they did then what would that make her…? Her old classmates had thought her crush on Adrien was weird, and they’d all turned on her so quickly. She knew those people for years. They were good people, they were smart, she could trust their opinions. 

 

You shouldn’t be trusted with responsibility

 

She’d been class president, and had been pretty terrible at it. They’d said so. As Ladybug, come on, it doesn’t take a lot of research to know she’d messed up quite a bit. Even her first akuma battle managed to go wrong.

 

She continues with her list, eventually making about two pages. Reading them makes her want to cry, but that’s against the rules… rules, she should make a list of rules to follow. She’s always been good at following rules. 

 

Rules To Be Better:

Don’t cry

Smile

Be nice to people

Apologize when you mess up (again)

If someone needs a favor, do it

If asked, you’re doing good

Laugh at jokes, even when tired/sick

When tired/sick, do not show it

Take care of akumas as quickly as possible

Only lie if absolutely necessary - honesty is important

Adrien, Claude, Allegra, Allan, and Felix have been nice enough to be put up with you, don’t make them regret it.

 

There, that seems right. There is space to add to either list if necessary. Marinette reads over each list a few times. Reading over the facts helped make them feel less bad, that would lead to acceptance right? She would try to read them before bed when she could. As for the rules, she would memorize them, that would make sure she didn’t forget and accidentally break one.

Chapter Text

Kid Mime: So!!!! Wat do you all think of our new frend that weve had 4 a weeekkkk!!! Because I love herrr!!! We r going to keep her right!!!????

 

Melodie: Oh you bet we are. I’m a little worried about her though, I mean did you see that bruise? 

Melodie: Also she is precious and very sweet. If she doesn’t seem uncomfortable with the arrangement, we should keep hanging out with her. 

 

Felix: Are you referring to the bruise on her face? It did seem unlikely to have been caused on accident.

 

Melodie: WHAT BRUISE ON HER FACE?!

 

Kid Mime: SHE HAS A BRUISE ON HER FACEEEEE?! MOMMM SOME1 HURT UR NEWEST CHILD!!!

 

The Mom Friend: Wait wat? When did you see that Felix? r you sure?

 

Felix: On Thursday, when she seemed overly tired. She was falling asleep in class and her palm wiped some make-up off of her face. She excused herself to the bathroom when she realized, but I did see a rather concerning bruise on her face, and there seemed to be scratch above it. I assume you were referring to another bruise?

 

Kid Mime: HOW MANY BRUSES DOES THS PRECIOUS ANGLE GIRL HAVE!!!?

 

The Mom Friend: enuf that im concerned

 

Melodie: The make-up means that she’s hiding it, and come to think of it, she is dressed rather warmly for the current weather.

Melodie: I meant the bruise on her arm, it was pretty big.

 

The Mom Friend: yea long sleeves an pants in early spetember is kinda wierd

 

Felix: While I find this to be disconcerting, we would do best to avoid jumping to conclusions. It would also be for the best to avoid mentions of her past school - when it was mentioned on Monday, she seemed rather uncomfortable.

 

The Mom Friend: yea we don’t want to make assuptions and i don’t want to upset her

 

Melodie: She’d better have just fallen…

 

Kid Mime: Al’ no murder

 

Melodie: … 

 


 

Kid Mime: DOES ANY1 NO HOW 2 GET OUR AMAZING MARI TO HANG OUT W/ US??? I ONLY GET 2 SEE HER AT ACHOOL AND IT SADDENS MEEEEEE

 

Felix: She may just be shy, it would be best to give her time to adjust to her new environment.

 

Melodie: I do hope she decides to join us soon though. I think she seems like a pretty cool person, especially if she could get out of her shell.

 

The Mom Friend: allegra, give er time dont want to force her it might make her uncomforable

 

Melodie: I know, that’s not what I meant, I just worry about her. 

 

Kid Mime: Im with u there. i wory about her sometimes something just… i dunno

 

Felix: It is understandable to be concerned. It seems likely that she may have rather low self-esteem, and lacks confidence in herself. That, as well as the fact that we still do not know where she got so many bruises.

 

Melodie: I think we were right about why she was wearing longer clothes, did you guys notice she’s wearing short sleeves now.

 

The Mom Friend: poor thing at least she heeled now

 


 

The Mom Friend: does anyone no y mari was so tired today

 

Lovable Grump: I noticed, but she did not mention any reason in particular.

Lovable Grump: …

Lovable Grump: Claude, I’m changing my password again.

 

Kid Mime: NOOOO pls we all have fun nicknamesssss

 

Felix: Your nicknames have a tendency to be longer than my actual name, which makes them unnecessary.

 

Melodie: Accept your fate Felix. Claude can not and will not be stopped. Also Allan, I don’t know know about Marinette. She did seem pretty tired today though….

 

The Mom Friend: hmm…

 

Kid Mime: FEEEELLLIXXXXXXX NOOOOO UR NAME IS SOO BORING NOWWWW!!!

 

Felix: That is unfortunate for you.

Felix: It is not the first time that Marinette has seemed overly fatigued. She does commissions does she not? Perhaps one of her projects kept her up.

 

The Mom Friend: maybe she should take on les if shes being overworked

 

Kid Mime: *mom instincts activated*

 

The Mom Friend: im just concerned about her health

 

Melodie: He’s got you there, Allan.

 


 

Kid Mime: I CANT WAIT IS SCOOL OVER YET

 

The Mom Friend: only a little longer

The Mom Friend: then to mari’s

 

Kid Mime: I KNOOOOOOOOO

Kid Mime: I CANT WAIIIIIITTTTTTTT

Kid Mime: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

 

Felix: Claude, you should calm down. You do not want to overwhelm her.

 

Melodie: I’m excited too! She actually wants to hang out with us after school and she invited us over to her house!

 

Kid Mime: do u think i can finally get her number

 

Felix: I doubt she’s interested in your memes Claude.

 

Kid Mime: but i cant even send her cute baby animal oictures

Kid Mime: or texxt her good moring

 

Melodie: You mean texting her good morning like five minutes before first hour? After you’ve already seen each of us in person anyways?

 

Kid Mime: YES!

 

The Mom Friend: all of u guys need to pay attention in class

 

Kid Mime: :(((((( fine

 


 

Melodie: Why did she give us a bunch of pastries and thank us?

 

Felix: Perhaps she thought we were rather nice guests. Though I will admit I thought it rather odd as well.

 

Kid Mime: as much as i like baked goods i don’t get it??? I feel like were missing something? It seemed liek she was thanking us for soemthing else????? all we did was come over

 

The Mom Friend: did anyone notice that there was a school right across the street?

 

Melodie: Hmmm.

 

Felix: As much as I wish to get satisfactory answers, it is not our place if she does not wish to share.

 

Melodie: Fine, switching topics: Thoughts on Adrien?

 

The Mom Friend: u mean the boy you accused of bullying her

 

Melodie: >:(  I just thought he seemed suspicious

 

The Mom Friend: u meant well

 

Kid Mime: PERSONALY I DONT NO Y SHE HID SOME1 SO GREAT FROM US

 

Felix: Marinette was correct. The two of you should never have been introduced.

 

Melodie: He seemed nice. (Besides the puns) I liked him

Melodie: He’s got my approval

 

The Mom Friend: thats good i dont think it wood be good if two of her friends didnt get along. He seems to understand when shes upset so thats cool very good

 

Kid Mime: does our mom have another child now?!

The Mom Friend: …

The Mom Friend: …maybe

 

Kid Mime: :)

 

Felix: Moving on, I’m impressed with the connections she has at such a young age.

 

Melodie: RIGHT?! WHAT KIND OF BEAUTIFUL TALENTED STAR HAS BEEN GIFTED TO US?!

 

The Mom Friend: allegra stop snooping on the internet we just agreed not to do that sort of thing

 

Melodie: …

Melodie: Fine…

 

Kid Mime: i still didnt get her number :(

 

Felix: Perhaps you could ask her at school.

 

Kid Mime: BUT THATS SO FAR AWAY

 

Felix: It really is not.

 

The Mom Friend: let him be dramatic

The Mom Friend: its his middle name

 

Kid Mime: it is

Kid Mime: as my unofficial official mom, he wood no

Chapter Text

Marinette’s phone dings on her desk as her friends classmates are standing to go. She crosses her room to pick it up, glancing at the screen, “Oh hey, Adrien got his phone back! He says that he wanted to let us all know that he got into Concours d'arts musicaux!” She starts tapping at the screen, probably sending a congratulatory reply, “Isn’t that great?!”

Allegra smacks her palm against her forehead, “ That’s what I forgot to tell you guys! I don’t know how I forgot. I got in too!”

“You did? That’s wonderful, Allegra!” Marinette gives the taller girl an excited hug. 

“Yay! I’m jealous you two will get to spend a bunch of time together though, don’t forget the rest of us when you guys become stars!” Claude joins in the hug, pouting slightly.

“As if you’d let me forget you.” 

“Never!”

“That’s great Al’, do you know when it is yet?” Allan gives her a hug too.

“No, but it won’t be for another few months.” 

“Congratulations, Allegra!” Felix stands off to the side giving her a smile that she probably can’t see. Claude grabs him by the shirt and pulls him into the hug.

“There is no escaping a group hug, my friend!”

Felix sighs, accepting his fate for a moment and joining their hug before pulling away and straightening himself out. The other four break apart too.

“I’m so happy for you!” Claude is shaking in excitement.

Allegra shakes her head, smiling, “Claude, it hasn’t even happened yet.”

“Still!”

Eventually they do manage to get downstairs. As they say their goodbyes, Claude holds up his hands, “Wait!”

“What is it Claude?” Felix and the rest turn back to him. Marinette pauses in closing the door, looking at him questioningly.

“I have forgotten my textbook in Marinette’s room!”

“Oh, you can come back up and get it then.” Marinette opens up the door to let him back in. He races in.

“Do ya’ w-” Allan starts to shout after him before Claude calls down.

“No need to wait for me! You may go on without me, my pals!”

Allan shrugs, “That answers that question then.” He waves, “Bye ‘Nette!” The three turn and walk back to their respective homes.

Marinette shuts the door and exhales heavily, allowing the smile to fall from her face for one of the first times that day. That is, of course, until she hears Claude bounding back downstairs. At that, she fixes the look back onto her face, turning to greet him.

“Find it okay?”

“Yep!” He holds it up triumphantly.

She opens the door for him, “That’s a relief.”

He smiles at her, “Thanks for having us over again, Mari. It’s fun.”

She shrugs it off, “It’s no big deal-”

“We really enjoy hanging out with you, ya’ know.”

If Marinette had allowed herself to imagine him saying anything of the sort before, she may have reacted differently. However, as it was, she considered such a statement completely unrealistic and her surprise showed. She’d honed her acting skills in recent weeks though, so she was able to recover quickly, “Aw, you guys are sweet. It was nice having you over, goodnight Claude.”

Claude smiled at her, giving her a quick hug - seemingly on impulse - as he skipped out the door, “Goodnight Marinette!”

She shut the door, and as she did, his smile faded. He didn’t want to worry her - thank his wonderful acting skills for allowing him to pull that off - but she sounded more than just surprised by his simple statement - which would have been concerning enough on its own. She seemed completely caught off-guard, shocked - astonished even - and though he thought he’d noticed some hopefulness, it had gotten crushed immediately. The pig-tailed girl had better acting skills than he would have given her credit for, making him think through some things he’d filed away in the back of his mind as ‘off’ about her before. By the time he arrived home, he’d come some rather concerning and alarming conclusions. Pulling out his phone, he started putting a plan together.

He wouldn’t allow this to continue.

 


 

Marinette had actually gotten a reasonable amount of sleep when she woke up the next day. She’d slept in a little, which was a nice and surprising rarity. Checking her phone, she sees Claude’s usual good morning text.

Directly above it is an akuma alert. Darn it.

A type five too, fun . It could take a while, so she decides to quickly scribble a note to her parents that she would be out today in case they came up to her room. Saturdays can be pretty busy, but type fives are pretty annoying, and she didn’t want them to worry. Better safe than sorry.

Turning to her desk, she found her Kwami, still resting,“Hey, Tikki, you up?”

“I am now. What is it, Marinette?” the little Goddess sat up, looking to her chosen.

“There’s an akuma - type 5.”

“Okay, let’s go de-evilize it!” She floated up to be at eye-level as Marinette spoke the words.

“Tikki, spots on!”

Feeling the magic wrap around her, Ladybug takes a moment to prepare herself to go against another akuma. It is her job, yes, but keeping up the act when she is in front of a few people is very different than all of Paris. Not to mention the added stress of magical monsters and probably Alya. 

She hasn’t spoken to her as Ladybug since before… that Thursday. As Marinette, not since she left.

She exhales deeply. Ladybug doesn’t have time for this, not with a type five on the loose. Shoving everything deep back down where it belongs, she hops out of the bedroom. Swinging in the direction of the akuma, she focuses on getting her mind back together. It is a little ways away, so she has time. 

Ladybug is definitely approaching the akuma now. She can see plenty of citizens out on the streets. They look pained, and a few are speaking rapidly, many are crying. Others look upset or surprised at the very least. One couple seems to be in the midst of an impromptu proposal… interesting timing?

“Ladybug! Over here!”

Ladybug lets out a genuine smile for a moment at her partner. He’s one of her favorite people, and- no focus. If you can’t even stay on task you don’t deserve your miraculous. Quit smiling you moron.

She lands beside Chat Noir, “Sorry I’m late. Last time I’ll let myself sleep in.”

“I get that feeling. You let yourself get a few extra moments of well-deserved beauty sleep and Hawkmoth slaps you across the face with a dose of evil butterfly magic.”

“Heh. You been here much longer than me? Anything on the akuma?” Joking with her friend partner was something she didn’t earn today. She’d already treated herself to a few extra moments of sleep anyways. Time to actually do your job you airhead.

“Yeah, it’s going to be risky for us. We should really try to avoid getting hit…” Chat takes a moment to survey the area, making sure the akuma isn’t going to sneak up on the duo. She gives him a quizzical look before he continues, “It’s an honesty based akuma. She’s got two abilities. She can hit her gavel, which lets out a wave - if you get hit, it’ll slow you down- all of this is from observation. Don’t worry, she hasn’t seen me yet. Anyways, what we got to really look out for is when she throws her gavel - or the other circle-thing. If someone gets hit by either of them, they spill their guts. Seriously, these people just, like, let it go. It looks like you can hold it off for a little, but it looks painful? I’m not sure. I think people’ll tell more if someone asks them a question.”

“Yeah, okay we definitely need to be careful. Our secret identities are on the line.” Stupid, he already knew that.  

Chat Noir nods, bowing, “Shall we?”

Ladybug scoffs, taking a few steps before leaping off the roof heading towards the akuma that has wandered a few blocks away. Her partner follows behind her dutifully.

Ladybug finally laid eyes on the victim. She has long hair and is dressed like Lady Justice but without the scales and sword. In place of the blindfold she has glasses. Her wrists are wrapped in thick, heavy chains, which trail behind her on the ground, ending in a ball, her ankles similarly have a weighty pair of ball and chains cuffed to them. Despite the burden, she moves quickly and purposefully, holding her arms aloft as she wanders the streets. In her hands she holds a gavel and a circular wooden sound block. Ladybug observes her for a moment longer, waiting to see her abilities in use. 

She doesn’t have to wait long, soon enough the akuma hit the gavel to the sound block several times, releasing blue crescent shaped waves that rush out towards the people closest to her. Some get out of the way in time - others not so much. They slow considerably, and one unlucky soul gets hit by two and could probably end up losing a race to a snail.

Ladybug decides she’d done enough surveillance. She quickly puts herself ahead of the akuma, but stays on the roof. She shoots out her yo-yo, and as much it would be nice to wrap-up this akuma quickly (Chat would have liked that pun), she knows better. Type fives are never quick, and never easy. So while she is aiming to have her yo-yo wrap around the woman, she mostly wants the akuma’s attention. Knowing their goals and views on their task often helps to defeat them,

The akuma notices the weapon immediately, hitting it back with her gavel. 

“Ladybug! Chat Noir! So you’ve finally decided to show up, huh? I am The Revealer, I was hurt by the truth being kept from me, so I’m going to make sure no important truths are kept from anyone! All secrets must be revealed, including yours!” She punctuates the statement by throwing each of the objects in her hands at the superpowered pair.

Ladybug steps out of the way, and Chat bats the one aimed at him away with his baton, “Thank you for the exposition, but I’m afraid some secrets are meant to stay that way. Purr -haps you could encourage good communication instead?”

“No! Lies will persist without my intervention.”

“I can agree with you there - no one like a liar.” Ladybug really sympathizes with this woman, she knows firsthand the pain lies can bring about, “But forcing people to tell the truth in this way could hurt more people than it will help.”

“If they lied,” the akuma bangs her gavel a few times, before throwing it and the block again - summoning new ones to replace them, “then they deserve any pain this brings about!”

The gavel hits a man walking with one of his friends. He immediately collapses - much to the concern of the friend. They drop to his side, and evidently hear many surprising and upsetting things. They pull out their phone, dialing a number before speaking rapidly both to the person on the other end and to the man when he snaps out of it. Grabbing their friend’s wrist, the pair hurry away.

Many similar scenes are playing out all over - Ladybug can hear the yelling of a woman who was cheated on and crying from various others. The akuma is blind to the hurt around her and continues throwing things. 

“Ladybug! Chat Noir!” The Revealer has focused back on the heroes, “Paris demands to know the identity of the so-called heroes protecting them. How can we trust those that we know nothing about?!”

Dodging the projectiles, Ladybug calls back, “It is for our own safety that our identities are secret. We get the job done, that’s all you need to know.” She hooks her yo-yo above her, swinging to get behind the akuma.

“Even we don’t know each other’s identities.”  Chat chimes in as he ducks beneath the gavel aimed at his forehead. “ Purr -tty sure that how superhero-ing works.”

The gavel keeps flying and hits someone standing nearby, “Babe! You good?”

Ladybug freezes - only her momentum keeps her moving - she knows that voice, even if she hasn’t heard in weeks. Nino .

Nino. Which means… if he’s talking to someone here - at an akuma attack - someone he called ‘babe’ then that could only mean…

She recovers, turning her head to the voice, and seeing him, and on the ground near him is Alya. She’s clutching at her chest and speaking rapidly. The heroine hears ‘Ladyblog’, ‘not good enough’, and ‘jealous of my best friend’, but can’t make out much more. The last statement throws her for a loop. Jealous of her best friend? She hasn’t seen Marinette in weeks, what is there to be jea-

Oh. 

Lila. 

Nevermind, she gets it now.

Stupid girl. Why would anyone be jealous of you ? You’re just some fool playing superhero until they find someone better. You’re not anyone’s best friend because no one would want to spend time - Wait hadn’t Claude said-

A crescent wave goes right past her face, snapping her out of her thoughts. Turning to Nino and (the now-recovered) Alya she says, “Get out of here. It’s dangerous.”

Alya is holding her phone, still recording, “Girl, I’m fine, I already got hit anyways and this isn’t live so nothing important can get out.” she looks to Ladybug, winking, “Unless you need some back-up?” She and Nino turn to her, smiling eagerly.

Ladybug stiffens slightly, though the pair don’t notice. Someone else does though, “She’s right. You two need to get out of here.” Chat blocks another gavel with his baton as he lands near them. Ladybug recovers, nodding in agreement before swinging back into the battle.

“Finally see sense? Have you decided to let Paris see your truths?”

“Sorry ma’am, but Chat and I have good reasons for the lies we tell.” Do you though? Not all your lies are about your Ladybug identity. Sometimes you just lie because you want to, sounds like someone else you know… 

“I doubt that! You don’t feel the weight of your lies on your chest! You need me to show you just how wrong you are! Without me, how are you going to know all that you’ve done wrong? How will you make things better?! For that you need the truth!”

Ladybug scoffs quietly, muttering under her breath, “Ha! Joke’s on you lady, I already know that I’ve messed up big time! There is no righting my wrongs - truth won’t help me.” She’s quiet, and distracted with blocking more attacks. She misses how her partner’s fake ears twitch before he shoots a confused and concerned glance her way.

The Revealer hits her gavel several times, spinning in a circle and sending the glowing crescents everywhere. Ladybug returns to the rooftops and Chat Noir isn’t far behind. Seeing the heroes are out of her range, the victim moves on to reach more areas.

“Uh, Ladybug, you good?”
“What?” Ladybug hears concern in his voice and her stress sky-rockets, what did she do?

“I just, uh, thought I heard you say something…? I thought maybe I should check on you…” He cocks his head, green eyes looking at her patiently.

You know the rules. You’ve memorized the rules. The rules are there for good reason and you can’t even follow them correctly.

She’s memorized the rules, and she knows them by heart and could recite them top to bottom, left to right, and she knows the last one well. It’s one of the more important ones, with them now numbered it’s #11.

 

Rule #11: Adrien, Claude, Allegra, Allan, and Felix have been nice enough to put up with you, don’t make them regret it.

 

It’s since been edited to include her partner, because unlike those she originally mentioned, he doesn’t even have a choice. His obligation to Paris requires him to put up with her idiocy on a near daily basis.

Stupid stupid stupid stupid you brainless numbskull. You’ve broken one of the rules, he’s worried about you now. For absolutely no reason. Fix this - now.

“Oh no, I’m fine kitty.” She puts on her most convincing smile, and pumps her voice with false sweetness and happiness that she doesn’t feel, “I think I just needed some more rest, that’s all!”

He keeps looking at her,”Are you sure? If something’s wrong…?”

“No, nothing’s wrong! I just need to be sure to get proper rest today, that’s all!”

He smiles at her weakly, “Alright, if you say so…”

“Mhm! Now, lets go get that akuma!”

“Right!”

The duo swings toward the direction they last saw the akuma head in. Ladybug’s thoughts trail behind her as she goes.

Stupid stupid stupid stupidstupidstupidstupidfailure…

 


 

It was just past noon, and they’d been at this for well over three hours and had gone through several Lucky Charms. Nothing seemed to be working, and it was hard to concentrate on setting up a trap for her when she was set on hitting them over the head with a gavel, or playing a painful game of frisbee with the sounding blocks, not to mention all the close calls with being slowed by a neon crescent wave.

“Maybe we should take a lunch break…” Chat has his hand on his knees, breathing heavily. They’re both tired, and have lost the akuma again.

Ladybug is about to protest - they need to do their job - but looking at her partner, doubled over and clearly overworked, she realizes he certainly deserves a break. He’s worked hard today, not to mention that she’d worried him earlier.

“Yeah, maybe we should. You certainly deserve one - be sure to eat something. Maybe check in with some people so they don’t wonder where you’ve been all day.”

“Bug, you deserve one too. We both have been at this all day. Besides, you must be tired out from being so radiant all day long.” He winks at her.

She huffs, folding her arms and turning away so he doesn’t see her blush. She is blushing from the compliment thank-you-very-much. She certainly doesn’t have any sort of crush on her partner. That would be unprofessional. She has a crush on Adrien and only Adrien . Not Chat Noir too - nope, no way.

“Farewell, my lady, enjoy your break!” Chat waves goodbye as he leaps away.

“Same to you, mon minou!” Ladybug heads in another direction, swinging from roof to roof until she lands on a familiar balcony.

“Tikki, spots off!” The Kwami in question shoots out of her earrings. Tikki waves tiredly at her as she floats down to presumably rest somewhere inside. She certainly deserves it - Marinette spent most of today transformed, with only a few very short breaks.

The tired and overworked girl flops onto her bed as soon as she’s inside. She wants to sleep, but her body refuses to shut down. Maybe it’s because she hasn’t eaten at all today. She’s fairly certain there’s leftovers in the fridge if she wanted them, but stairs seem like so much effort after hours of rooftop parkour. Her leg muscles are done with movement for now.

Her phone dings. Checking the screen she realizes that her friends have been messaging quite a bit while she was out, and there’s several messages asking about her. That’s right, she never responded to the good morning text from Claude - they’re probably worried now, good going.

 

Kid Mime: ✧・゚: *✧・゚:* Good morning my stars!!! *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

 

Felix: Good morning, Claude.

 

Melodie: It’s too early to be up do you wake up early just to send a text?

Melodie: I know you’re not a morning person how do you do it?

 

Kid Mime: i’ll never tell

Kid Mime: my secrets shall remain that way for all of eternity

Kid Mime: i’m taking them to the grave

 

The Mom Friend: youd better not be heading there any time soon

 

Kid Mime: i dont plan on it

Kid Mime: whats this??!!
Kid Mime: Allan isnt the last one up!

Kid Mime: this is almost unheard of!

 

The Mom Friend: im not?

 

Kid Mime: nope, Maris been quiet so far

 

The Mom Friend: huh

 

Felix: Perhaps she is sleeping in. She likely needs the rest.

 

The Mom Friend: that she does

 

Kid Mime: also unheard of! Today is a day of surprises!

 

Melodie: Marinette honey I hope we don’t wake you up.

 

Felix: I am fairly certain that we won’t. She may just have her phone off, or maybe it isn’t near her bed.

 

Kid Mime: maybe shes talking with adrien. I still wnat his number especialy now he has phone back

 

Melodie: How did he lose it again?

 

Kid Mime: i dunno

 

Felix: If I recall correctly, he did not perform as well as expected on a photoshoot, so his father decided to remove distractions, I believe he was pulled out of school for some time as well.

 

The Mom Friend: translation his dad sucks

 

Kid Mime: translatin allan is totally going to kidnap adiren

 

The Mom Friend: no I won’t

The Mom Friend: … not yet at least

 

Melodie: I’m in

 

Felix: You are all terrible influences on each other.

 

Kid Mime: u loooooveeee us!!!! :))

 

Felix: …

Felix: … 

Felix: I do.

 

Kid Mime: YAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!

The Mom Friend: awww

 

Melodie: You’re all adorable.

 

Kid Mime: u no who els is adorable????

 

The Mom Friend: marinette!

 

Kid Mime: ding ding ding!

Kid Mime: where is are favorite fabulous fashionista???
Kid Mime: i miss herrrrrrrrr

Kid Mime: :(((((

Kid Mime D:

 

Felix: You just saw her yesterday.

 

Kid Mime: but i stil miss her

 

Melodie: Oh got to go for a moment.

Melodie: I’ll be back eventually

 

The Mom Friend: careful theres a akuma out

 

Melodie: I will!

 

The Mom Friend: you better

 

Kid Mime: maybe she’s been kidnapped!!!
Kid Mime: we must find her

 

The Mom Friend: im sure shes good

The Mom Friend: jus getting wel deserved rest

 

Head Searcher: the hunt is on!!!

Head Searcher: she wil be found!!!

 

The Mom Friend: fe’ i can hear u sighing from across paris

 

Felix: Indeed.

Felix: Claude, it is very unlikely she has been kidnapped.

Felix: I agree with Allan’s guess.

 

Also Head Searcher: wat’s that Felix?

 

Felix: Nevermind.

 

Head Searcher: never fear! our cool, cute, and creative companion will be saved fromthe clutches of evil

 

Also Head Searcher: nice job with the alliteration

Also Head Searcher: ur on a roll today

 

Head Searcher: thx

 

Felix: The worst part is that I am unsure whether  Allegra would be another voice of reason or if she would join in on your nonsense.

 

Melodie: What?

Melodie: Oh, hmmmm…

 

Head Searcher: do it do it do it!!!!

 

Marinette smiles as she finishes reading the texts she missed. She hates to have worried them, but they seem to think she just slept in so they’re fine. Deciding that she shouldn’t leave them hanging any longer, she hops into the fray.

 

Patisserie Princess: hi!

Patisserie Princess: im ok guys!

 

Melodie: Hi!!

 

Felix: As I said.

Felix: Good afternoon, Marinette:

 

Kid Mime: YAYYYY!!!!

Kid Mime: (つ・▽・)つ⊂(・▽・⊂)

Kid Mime: (つ≧▽≦)つ⊂(・ヮ・⊂)

 

The Mom Friend: u get some rest mari?

The Mom Friend: its past noon

 

Patisserie Princess: nah, i didnt sleep in much

Patisserie Princess: just lost my phone

 

Lies. They deserve better than that, they deserve someone who can be honest.

 

Kid Mime: u should sleep some! U deserve it!

 

Patisserie Princess: thx, but i’ve got to go again

 

Kid Mime: noooooooooooooooo

 

The Mom Friend: take care of urself

 

Melodie: Yes, please do. Have fun with whatever you’re up to.

 

Felix: Farewell, Marinette.

 

Kid Mime: buh-bye!

 

Patisserie Princess: ( ・ω・)ノ

 

Marinette sighs, putting her phone down. Her smile fades eventually as she just stares at the ceiling for a while, thinking of nothing in particular.

After some time she exhales sharply and sits up. Sticking her head over the side of her bed she says, “Tikki, are you up? I think it’s about time we get back to that akuma!”

“Really? That was quick… alright Marinette, let’s go!”

“Tikki, spots on!”

 


 

Adrien is halfway done with his lunch when his monitor dings. He’s been eating at his computer, keeping tabs on the akuma. Plagg is sitting on the desk, munching on some camembert.

Clicking on the link, he sees that above the footage added this morning, Alya has added a quick clip to the front of the Ladyblog, “What’s up Ladybloggers? Alya here! After what was presumably a break for the heroine, Ladybug is back!” The camera turns around, showing a red and black spotted girl leaping across the rooftops. Alya continues with the commentary as she follows, “One question that remains on most everyone’s mind is where is the back-up lately? I know I for one would love to see Rena Rouge or Carapace out in the thick of it! Anyways, due to the nature of this akuma, I will not be filming this live. Alya out!”

Adrien closes the tab, turning to Plagg, so had been watching with him, “Plagg, I’ve got to go! Ladybug is out there again, she needs me!”

“Sheesh kid, does your partner have any chill?”
“This is serious Plagg!”

“So is your health! The two of you have been at this all day and have only been on break for an hour! You haven’t even finished your food!”

“But Plagg-”

“No. Adrien, you need to at least finish eating before you head back out there. And don’t just stuff your mouth, you’re going to be moving a lot. Can’t be much help if you make yourself sick.”

At Adrien’s doubtful look the cat continues, “Besides, you two have very different personalities. Cats are lazier, and rest more. Bugs are constantly buzzing around, you two are there to balance each-other out. Too much of either mindset would be bad.” he stuffs some camembert into his mouth, swallowing before he adds - almost as an afterthought, “Never leave a Bug and a Bee together on a project - they’ll work themselves to death.”

Adrien sighs, Plagg is right - he won’t be much use if he rushes out now. His Lady must just eat quickly, “Fine. But I’m only staying here another half-hour; 45 minutes tops!”

He resumes eating, albeit at a slightly faster pace.

“Fine by me, kitten.”

 


 

Despite the break, it’s been another six hours and the akuma is still around. People are starting to get upset, I know, I know, I need to do my job better - be better, please stop yelling at me.

Chat seems to be similarly over tired, having coming awfully close to snapping at a few people. She really needs to step up her game.

They’ve finally tracked down the akuma again, and they drop in front of her, ready to finally end this. 

“Ladybug, Chat Noir, ready to admit defeat?”

“Nope.” Chat’s tone is clipped - he dropped the puns and bantering some hours ago.

“That’s a shame, it would make this so much easier!” More hits of the gavel before she tosses the items out of her hands again. It’s a formula they’re well-adjusted to by now and they dodge the projectiles tiredly. Ladybug swings behind The Revealer to be opposite Chat. When it looks like she’s distracted by the feline hero, Ladybug shoots her yo-yo out, aiming to restrain her arms to keep more projectiles from being thrown.

The spotted weapon has almost reached its mark when the akuma turns suddenly, holding her gavel out where the yo-yo is headed. The string makes contact and loops around several times.

The woman grins, letting it go.

If it had been earlier in the fight, or if Chat had been closer, or even if Ladybug had eaten or gotten more rest, maybe things would have been different, but as it was, when the yo-yo wrapped gavel came flying back at her, Ladybug’s reflexes are too slow to do much good. 

The wooden mallet makes contact and Ladybug is down.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir reacts on instinct, he sees the gavel make contact with his partner and he sees her collapse. The akuma makes a move to get closer, but he shoves her back with his baton.

Racing over, he skids to a stop when he gets to her. She silent so far, but her face is scrunched up in pain and her hand is digging into her chest. He scoops her up into his arms and heads to the rooftops. He has no intention of trying to learn her secrets, but better him than all of Paris. 

Her breathing is heavy, and he frowns down at her. They’ve seen enough people get hit - even talked to a few - that they are both well aware of what happens when hit. 

“It’s like everything you’ve ever lied about is weight, and it grows heavier with every second you don’t come clean.” The words of one person rings through his head.

They’ve yet to see anyone last more than maybe ten seconds, but as usual, his Lady is able to persevere longer than most. He winces in sympathy as a whimper escapes from her.

“Just a little longer, Bugaboo, there’s still people around. They should learn to mind their own damn business. ” This would be the story of the decade though. Everyone is well aware of what the heroes’ most relevant secret would be - their real names.

It’s been a minute and she still hasn’t spoken a word, he’s really pushing it now, but there’s a few really persistent stragglers. She’s curled up tightly onto herself and he’s noticed tears of pain escaping her tightly closed eyes.

Pulling a few quick moves, and some tricks, he loses the last of them. Finding a suitable rooftop, he sets her in the corner.

“There you are. I’m going to be on the other side of the roof, ‘cause I’m not leaving you alone, but I’m not going to listen to what you say. You value your secret identity, and I trust that you have good reasons for what you’ve lied about.”

He turns and has taken not even three steps, when she speaks softly. It’d be barely audible to anyone else, but with his heightened hearing - especially in the suit - he hears it clear as day, and that - that was not what he was expecting.

Not in the slightest.

 


 

She felt the weight on her chest immediately, it was so much. She felt herself get lifted, and didn’t understand how someone else could bear such weight.

Her mind knew that the weight would stop increasing if she just spilled it all. People wanted to know. They had to know. They deserved to know.

No! These things needed to be kept secret. What were they again? It didn’t matter, she wouldn’t say them anyways.

The weight on her chest kept growing, she could barely breathe. 

Don’t tell. Don’t tell. Do not tell.

She felt the person carrying her jump some more, every movement hurt - a reminder of her burden. It hurt so much.

This wouldn’t be happening if she hadn’t lied. This is all her fault. 

What had she lied about anyways?

She could feel the words on her lips, it would be so easy to say it. 

What was ‘it’ again?

A rough landing, her eyes pricked with tears. It hurt so much

Why wasn’t she allowed to talk? She can’t remember.

No, focus, she wasn’t supposed to say anything.

Focus.

Focus.

Foc-

A voice. She realizes she’s no longer in someone’s arms - somewhere else now - she doesn’t register the words, or recognize the voice because everything hurts so much and-

One word gets through to her.

‘Lied’.

They know.

The voice knows.

The voice wants to know the truth.

Her eyes spring open - blind to her surroundings - as she releases the hold on her tongue. She speaks her truth:

“I’m a disastrous, catastrophic disappointment at everything I do, and everything I’ll ever try.”

 


 

What?!

Ladybug, no! Chat Noir rushed to her side, but it would seem she wasn’t done. Her eyes stayed unfocused, staring at nothing as she worked on her heavy breathing - preparing to continue. 

“Ladybug, what happ-”

“I can’t do anything right.”

“No-”

“I’m useless, incapable of being good in the slightest.”

“No! no-” She just keeps going, and he can’t stop her. He clutches her arm tightly, because what else can he do? Each statement came laboriously - likely due to how long she managed to hold herself silent, the pain on her chest must be unbearable.

“I’m a horrendous hero, Paris deserves better. Chat deserves a better partner.”

“NO! You’re a great partner! I-”

“I messed up, this is all my fault-”

“Ladybug, please-” He didn’t like anything about this. The words alone would hurt his heart, but the way she was saying it made it a million times worse. They’d been at this all day. He’d seen those hit cry, he’d seen them scream, he’d even seen a few laugh, but none of them, none of them had done this.

She said it all with such certainty . With full acceptance of every word coming out of her mouth as if it were an absolute fact

Wasn’t this akuma supposed to make people speak the truth? Where did these sickening lies come from?!

“I deserve everything that’s happened to me. They were all right.” She was crying now - tears of resignation - and paired with her sad smile it just stomped his heart into the ground even further. He wasn’t even sure if they were sad tears or if she was just in so much pain and it was probably both, but he was crying too because neither option was good.

“I’m obsessive and creepy. A-” even like this she stumbles over her words, catching herself - even as it clearly pains her “my crush would never be anything but disgusted by me.”

He wasn’t even remotely upset at the mention of a crush, partially because he already knew, but mostly because that didn’t matter right now. What happened? Who is ‘they’ and what did they do to her?!

He has to remind himself not to crush her arm because with how tightly he’s gripping it, he should be worried about leaving bruises.

“I don’t deserve my miraculous and Tikki. No one should ever trust me with anything, especially something so important.”

He knows that his heart would break if she sounded sad, but anything, anything would be better than this-this-this numbness . He’s almost sobbing at this point he’s just so upset, what happened? Why does she think any of this is remotely true? Why can’t she see how spectacular she is?

He’s angry, he’s sad, he’s- he’s- he doesn’t know what he is . That really didn’t matter right now, because Ladybug is his priority.

“I’m a repulsive moron that no one could ever legitimately like. No one in their right mind would want to spend time with-” she cuts herself off, as if something is occuring to her. For a moment his heart soars. She’s finally done . But no. No, she shakes her head and continues, “Everyone already knew I was a terrible person, but no one told me because it was so frightfully obvious that they didn’t realize I didn’t know.”

What sort of nonsense is she even spewing right now? He doesn’t know how much longer he can stand this-

“I’m a moron. She was right all along, I should have known better. She tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen and I messed up.” 

Going off the fact that everything she’s said so far is complete bullshit, Chat is willing to bet that this ‘she’ was very, very, wrong. 

Maybe a cataclysm to the face would help set ‘her’ straight…

“They’re all right to despise me, they were right.”

“Ladybug!” Was there no end?

“No one is with me willingly. No one would actually want that.”

What do you mean? Where is this coming from?” he can’t see with all the tears streaming from his face.

She freezes and he once again hopes that she’s finally done , but no, no she isn’t. Not by a long shot.

“I mean,” oh, right, he’d asked her a question and now she would answer, “that everyone who spends an extended amount of time with me does so for two reasons.”

Oh this’ll be good.

“They may hang out without me because they’re good people and it’s the right thing to do - like my fr- classmates. Or they have some obligation to, like my parents, or Tikki, or Chat Noir. Or they’d do it for both. I know I’m not actually worthy of lo-”

No, he can’t listen to another second of this, please , “Ladybug, my lady, please stop! None of this is true and I can’t bear to hear another second of it . Stop, just stop! He’s on his hands and knees beside her, his tears dot the roof and he’s the only one here that is remotely upset and that makes it so much worse .

She inhales suddenly - sharply. He glances at her in surprise, seeing her looking around in confusion, her breathing clearly returning to normal now that the weight is gone from her chest.

“Oh, Ladybug, you’re back. Oh, thank Plagg.” he puts a hand on the side of her face, finally drawing her eyes to him.

“Chat! W-what happened?! You-you’re crying? I’m so sorry! I-” 

“No, oh, Bug, don’t ap-” 

He’s interrupted by screams from the street. The akuma.

“Oh no! The akuma! How long have we been up here?!” Ladybug stands, rushing to the edge, looking over and surveying the area below. He comes to join her from behind.

“Ladybug-”

“I’m sorry Chat, I don’t know what happened, but can you just hold up until we defeat The Revealer?” 

Can he hold up? What about her?!

“I can manage.”

“Okay, thank you, I’m sorry about this.”

Before he can tell her stop apologizing , she swings away, he follows behind worriedly. 

Her mind is abuzz with thoughts.

What did you say?!
How did you mess up this time?!
You hurt Chat! You made him cry!

Marinette is probably just that much of a disappointment!

You got hit by the akuma, moron!

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

You’re a disappointment!

A failure!

 


 

Despite their best efforts, the akuma continued to wreak havoc among Parisians for another hour or so. Ladybug keeps sending worried glances her partner’s way. He seemed angrier than earlier. He is certainly a better asset in this fight than her - his exhaustion seemingly gone.

She misses the concerned looks he sends her way.

Finally, Chat seems to get entirely fed up with this whole ordeal, and when the akuma is distracted by Ladybug, he hits her over the head with his baton, cracking her glasses which release a butterfly. When he realizes what he did he slumps in relief and disbelief, laughing quietly.

Ladybug is quick to react. Shooting her yo-yo out, she quickly cleanses the akuma. 

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

She’s not going to bother with an unnecessary lucky charm - there’s no reason this time. She sees a few people stop in the middle of spilling everything, others return to their normal speed.

“Well, glad that’s over!” She turns to her partner, holding out her fist. He bumps it, giving her the saddest ‘pound it’ she’s ever heard. 

She must have really upset him…

“Hey, you okay Chat?”

He gives her a look of disbelief, shaking his head laughing quietly, “Yeah, um can you meet me at the top of the tower in, like, 30 minutes?”

“Y-yeah. I can do t-that.”

He nods, “See you then!” With a two-finger salute, he’s off.

She stands for a moment - worried. She knows what this is about, but she wishes it hadn’t come so soon. It’s selfish, she knows, but she’ll miss Tikki. 

He’s finally going to take her miraculous away.

 


 

She’s pacing frantically, in her room. She’s been back for a while now, and has about 15 minutes until the agreed meet-up time.

“Marinette, calm down, you’re going to wear a hole in the floor!” Tikki floats up to her, landing on her head.

“But Tikki, I don’t know what I said when I got hit! What does he know?! Probably my name! Who knows what else? Ooohh, I messed up big time…”

“Marinette, it’s fine, it was a mistake, you were overworked and tired, no one can expect you to be perfect! Even if he knows your identity, it’s not the end of the world, all true Ladybugs and Chat Noirs have learned the identity of their other half eventually. Besides, it’s no added danger, we’ve learned that Hawkmoth won’t be able to learn your identities from each other!”

“Still…”

“If it makes you feel better, maybe you should wear one of your Ladybug outfits?”

Months ago, Marinette had been inspired to make a small variety of Ladybug-themed outfits complete with a mask. It was partially for fun, but also in case there was an akuma that seemed likely to cause her to time-out at an inconvenient time, then her identity would still be safe - if she was able to change into one that is.

“... you think so?”

“If you’re so worried about talking to him face-to-face, this way you can still have a mask on, but I can be there too if needed.”

“Okay. I guess so…” Strangely enough, it did comfort her some. At least this way when he took the earrings away he wouldn’t have to look at any more of her awful face than usual.

Going to her closet, she shoved past everything to get to the back where there was a small variety of red-black spotted outfits with masks hanging from the hangers.

“Maybe this one? Dresses are good for first impressions!” Tikki flitted over to a hanger bearing a red and black spotted knee-length dress with long sleeves. It had the usual mask, and plain black leggings. It would certainly be warm enough for this weather, it’s one of the ones she made specifically for colder weather.

“Yeah, that one’s good.”

By the time she’s changed, it’s about time to go. When her the Kwami isn’t looking, she slips the miraculous box into the pocket of her dress.

“Ready, Tikki?”

The kwami nods, and Marinette transforms, her outfit changing to her usual hero-ing outfit. Ladybug leaps from the balcony in the direction of the well-known landmark.

She ignores her empty stomach’s protests and the aching fatigue of her muscles. She can rest once she’s home again. Chat is nice, he’ll bring her home before going to Fu’s.

Ladybug is nearing the top of the tower when the exhaustion finally gets to her. She meets her partner’s eyes just as her own slip shut and she collapses - right off the side.

Chapter Text

Chat Noir slips into the open window. 

“Plagg, claws in.”

Adrien wanders to his bed, flopping onto it and pressing his face into a pillow. He doesn’t scream, just covers his face and shuts things out for a moment. He can tell Plagg is nearby, forgoing camembert temporarily to watch his chosen.

Adrien flops onto his back, staring up at the ceiling blankly.

“Plagg?”

“Yeah, kid?”

“What do I do?”

The Kwami sighs heavily, sounding like the age-old God he is for once, “Adrien, that’s a tough question.”

“But you heard her right? You heard what Ladybug said?”

“It’s complicated. When I’m in the ring, I’m not exactly aware of things, but you had a strong enough reaction and dwelled on it enough that, yeah, I know.”

“I just- I- how?!” The boy’s eyes well up again, thinking of his precious partner, saying such terrible things - about herself no less - with that awful numb acceptance. 

“Bugs are good people kid, but they have their flaws.”

Adrien shoots up, staring at Plagg in disbelief, before he can speak Plagg holds up a paw, “Hold up, let me finish kitten. Bugs have flaws, many of them are double-edged swords, people often see them as positive traits, missing the cons - unless of course they reach this point.”

He floats over to his cheese stash, because Kwami knows he’s going to need it. Adrien moves to his desk chair, spinning listlessly.

“They see the best in people, even people that probably don’t deserve it. Yes, this means they can get allies everywhere, but often they can be blind to flaws. They care about their friends a lot. People that they’re close to are lucky to have someone like that in their lives. Often though, once someone is close to them, bugs can become blind to their flaws. Lots of Ladybug holders had the habit of holding the opinions of others above their own instincts. That’s all well and good, but your Bug has crossed the line from humble to hateful - targeted solely at herself.”

“But what happened? How did Ladybug get to this point?”

Plagg has several guesses, having witnessed a good amount first-hand. Pigtails got isolated by her friends, but as he said, she still held them in high regard, not trusting that she was in the right. There was that whole business with the Volpina girl, and the final incident that he and his kid had missed. He’d heard form Tikki though - the two tried to meet up when they could - apparently baker-girl was so far gone she was even blaming herself for the fall down the steps. Not to mention that she still wasn’t blaming her old classmates for what they’d done wrong. Holding all that on herself. That’s a lot of guilt to carry.

Yeah, the bug’s fallen far, his kid was going to have to work extra hard to pull her out this pit - on both sides of the mask. Without a reveal yet though...

“But Plagg, how could she get this bad? What about her Kwami - Tikki. Wouldn’t Tikki do something?” Adrien was distraught over this.

Tikki. Tikki probably didn’t even know. She had a lot of the same flaws as the Bugs, but she’d never let one of her ladies get so bad without intervening. No, Tikki was probably still in the dark.

“Kid, you thought she was fine until the akuma made her spill her guts, so you’ve got to have realized your lady is quite the actress.”

Adrien looked shocked, “But surely she can’t keep up an act that long? Her Kwami’s got to be with her, like, all the time!”

Plagg shrugged, “Kitten, your bug’s a stubborn one. I’d be willing to bet all my camembert that’s exactly what she’s been doing.”

“For how long?!”

“How long have you thought she’s been alright?”

“... fuck!”  

Well said, Adrien. Well said.

 


 

Chat Noir sat on the Eiffel tower at their usual spot near the top, well-above where normal citizens could reach. He’s a little early, but that’s fine. He talked with Plagg as long as he could, but his antsiness got to him eventually. He just couldn’t sit still any longer, he transformed, and well, here he is.

He sees a red spot in the distance. It swings from rooftop to rooftop, and his eyes never leave it. It’s her - his lady. His poor, precious Ladybug.

She continues on her way, eventually scaling the tower with practiced ease. She looks tired and after today, he can’t really blame her. She reaches him, and her big, beautiful, blue eyes meet his own for one brief moment. Then her eyes roll backwards into her head and her whole body slumps - falling backwards, back toward the ground - from hundreds of meters up.

“Ladybug!”

He reacts instantly, reaching towards her before realizing that’s useless - she’s fainted, not slipped. Slipping his baton from his back, he jumps over the edge, sliding down the bars, passing her quickly and catching her with ease. Unsure of what to do, he brings her back to their spot to check on her quickly so he can decide what to do from there.

It may be an overreaction, but his first thought was to check her pulse, followed closely by her breathing. Both are fine and he lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. 

This is unprecedented. Should he take her to a hospital? Do magical suits get in the way of medical procedures? How did she faint, or rather, why? When would she stop worrying him?

“Wha…?” Ladybug shifts, propping herself up slightly on her elbow.

“Ladybug! Oh thank goodness! You scared me!” He hugs her to him, then lets go, holding her an arm’s length away. Looking over her carefully, he still can’t see what’s wrong. Perhaps it’s just over exhaustion?

“Chat! What happened?” She’s looking at him in confusion.

“I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?”

“Huh?”

“You just dropped off the side of the Eiffel Tower! Ladybug are you feeling okay?!” He still refuses to let go of her, not that she’s in any danger right now. He’s not letting her anywhere near the edge.

“Yeah! I’m fine! I’m just a little tired, you know? An all day akuma fi-” She gets cut off when her stomach rumbles quietly. Her face flushes red.

“Ladybug. When did you eat last?”

She breaks eye contact, looking away at one of the bars.

Ladybug .” 

She mumbles under her breath, seemingly forgetting that at this distance he can pick up anything, “...yesterday…” 

His grip tightens slightly. “ Ladybug. Are you telling me you were running around the Parisian rooftops all day today - and you ate nothing ?! Did you even drink water ? Or anything for that matter?!”

“Uh, well, um… no.”

He sighs.

“But you know, it’s fine! When I get home I’ll just-”

“No. Nope. Do not even finish that statement, because you just fell off the tower so it is not fine.” He knows he sounds angry and he feels bad, but he’s not angry at her. He’s mad at himself, and this whole situation, and whoever ‘they’ and ‘she’ are, but he’s not mad at her. Worried? Definitely.

“Just - stay here. I’m going to get you something to eat, and please stay away from the edge. I will be right back.”

Ladybug nodded, leaning back against part of the tower as he disappeared over the edge. What a moron, this is their last night as partners and she’s worried him, and now he’s running errands for her.

Hugging her knees to her chest, she stares upwards. The sky is clear tonight, she can see some stars. The moon is really bright.

She feels tears prick her eyes - she’ll really miss the views of the city from the rooftops. From the different landmarks. She’ll miss her partner, she’ll miss Tikki, she’ll miss all of it.

A tear rolls down her cheek and she stiffens. 

 

Rule #1: Don’t cry.

 

Because what right does she have to be upset? These are the facts plain and simple, she’s messed up and these are the consequences. Blinking away the tears, and wiping the escapee off her cheek, she rests her chin on her knees. Staring over the city, she focuses on not feeling.

A blond head with black cat ears pops over the edge. He smiles softly at her, handing over two energy bars and a water bottle. 

“I would have gotten more stuff, but I figured that it would have been harder to bring up.”

“O-oh, no it’s fine.” She accepts the refreshments and uncurls a little to set them in her lap. 

Chat sits beside her, watching the city as she eats slowly, sipping from her water occasionally. Putting the two wrappers in her yo-yo, she finishes off her water and puts that in there too.

Chat glances over at her awkwardly. Oh , she realizes, he doesn’t know how to start . He’s so nice and doesn’t exactly know how to tell her she’s a complete and utter failure. She figures she’ll make this easy on him.

“I, uh, brought the box.”

“...what?” 

“T-the box. The miraculous box. F-for when you take my earrings b-back to Fu…”

His eyes fly wide at her words. What did she do wrong this time? He grabs both of her hands in his, looking at her intensely.

“Ladybug. Look at me.” Doing as she’s told, she makes eye-contact with his green eyes, “Listen to me carefully. I am not taking your earrings away . You are the best hero Paris has, and an amazing and beautiful person.

Ladybug is confused, and shakes her head slightly. “Bu-”

“No. Ladybug. I don’t know what happened that you got to this point, but I’m worried about you, and as your friend and partner it is my obligation to talk to you. You are an inspiration to this city and myself, and I won’t allow you to think about yourself in such a way.”

“W-what are talking about? I messed up. Y-you know my identity, r-right? I g-got hit, s-so that me-”

He interrupts, but she continues and they speak over each-other

“-means I’m a failure…”

“You didn’t reveal your identity-”

He registers her words and a gloved hand flies to her face, cupping her cheek, “Oh, Ladybug, no.”

“What?”

“You are many wonderful, beautiful, spectacular things, but you are not a failure.

“B-but-”

“No. I don’t know what’s going on in your other life, but when you got hit, you didn’t say your real name or anything like that. It was worse if I’m being honest… the first thing you said - the first words that left your lips were, ‘I’m a disastrous, catastrophic disappointment at everything I do, and everything I’ll ever try.’ And you just kept going . The whole time you were out you kept saying such terrible things about yourself.”

Her heart drops. That little candle of hope that she’d been wrong about everything snuffs out.

“R-right, a-and The- The Revealer m-makes people s-s-say what’s t-true…”

He smiles sadly at her, “Oh Bugaboo, I think that you’ve misunderstood. The Revealer made people say what they considered the truth. Sure, that’s a lot of facts, but in your case, it was a whole lot of nonsense.”

Maybe the candle could be relit after-all…

“I know our identities keep us from revealing too much about our lives, but what can you tell me?”

Her eyes well up, and she looks away. “I- I don’t know. I just… all my friends… they just… I-” She doesn’t know what to say or how to phrase it, finally settling on mumbling, “...they’re not my friends anymore…” and isn’t that the understatement of the century. All the pain of Thursday and every other incident comes rushing at her, the tears well up and she screws her eyes shut. She’s not going to cry in front of Chat again. What would her think of her then?

He notices, pulling her closer, hugging her gently, “It’s alright, Ladybug, it’s their loss, I’m sure it hurts. You can cry.”

She hugs him tightly, “I-i-it-it d-does!” With that, the waterworks start, and she sobs quietly into his shoulder.

He holds her close, pulling her into his lap to better embrace her. He comforted her quietly to the best of his abilities as he watched the sky for akumas - Hawkmoth wouldn’t surprise him, Ladybug is allowed to feel any emotions she pleases. It’s one of the worst side-effects of akumatization - too many people decided that bottling everything up is the only way to go, and it never ends well.

 


 

The girl in his arms has quieted down now. Glancing down, he smiles softly when he realizes that she’s fallen asleep. It’s honestly not much of a surprise, given all she was up to today she had to be exhausted. He’s not in much better shape himself.

A beeping from her earrings startles him back to attention. She hasn’t been transformed long, and didn’t use a Lucky Charm, so her Kwami must be purposefully ending the transformation early on her own.

He sees a flash of pink light, but focuses on the horizon - he won’t look at her face.

“Chat Noir?”

He recognizes the voice, “Hey. Tikki, right?”

“Yes. Thank you for taking care of M- my chosen.”

“It’s no problem. We’re partners after all.”

“Still.” the Kwami pauses for a moment, thinking, then, “You can look at her.”

“What? But-”

“Don’t worry Chat Noir, she has a mask on.”

He looks down, and sure enough, Ladybug’s magic suit has been replaced by a warm-looking dress and leggings. On her face is a familiarly patterned mask, only clearly hand-made. Wow, she thought of everything didn’t she. Tikki rests on her forehead, a gentle paw resting lightly on her hair.

“What did she say?” The Kwami’s warm tone cools.

“What do you mean?”

“Kwamis are not entirely aware when their holders are transformed, and similarly to Ladybug I do not know what she said when she got hit. I have a vague feeling based on what you told her earlier, but I’d like to know specifics.” Her small face is entirely serious and displays little emotion, but he can see some anger behind the mask.

He sighs, looking away as he recounts everything she said. It’s not hard to remember because it’s branded into his mind permanently. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to repeat all the horrible self-hate. By the end of it his eyes have welled up again, and a glance at the Kwami before him shows she’s in a similar state. She covers her mouth in horror

“Oh M-” Tikki gets cut off by a bunch of bubbles. She shakes her head, looking down at her precious girl.

“It’s alright. You didn’t know - neither of us did. At least we know now…” It’s a small comfort - who knows how long this has been going on - and they both sit in pensive silence for some time.

The Goddess’ big eyes met his, “I think you’re one of the best black cats Plagg has had in a long time…”

His own ring beeps and Plagg flies out, “I’ve got to agree with you, Sugarcube. I really like this kitten.”

The cat goes over to join Tikki, looking down at the heroine they were resting on he muttered, ”Stupid baby bug.”

Tikki and Adrien protest in unison, “Hey!”

“Relax, I didn’t mean it. This little-bug just needs to see sense.”

“She does…” Tikki plays with Ladybug’s bangs solemnly. Plagg notices her look and rests a paw on her back.

“Oh, hey, Teeks’ this isn’t your fault, your bugs are just stubborn.”

“I know, but still …… oh that stupid girl .” She makes the closest equivalent to a fist that the Kwamis are capable of, clearly thinking of another person, maybe the ‘she’ Ladybug mentioned earlier. She pauses in realization, “Oh, Plagg you’re warm .”

“‘Course I am, it’s fall, got to start heating up for winter. Kid’s probably not doing too bad himself.”

Adrien startles, “I don’t feel any different…”

Tikki smiles at him from beside Plagg, “Of course not, but you’re noticeably warmer - to us bugs at least. Ladybug and I are already feeling the effects of the cold, not a lot - it’s not even November yet, and we’ve got a little stamina - your warmth probably contributed to Ladybug falling asleep on you.” She glances down at the girl, “Sorry about that by the way.”
“Oh it’s fi-”

“Trust me T, he doesn’t mind at all .”

Adrien makes a face at Plagg as Tikki giggles.

They sit like that for a while before Adrien has to ask, “Tikki, is Ladybug okay? What can I do?”

She sighs, looking away, “I’m not entirely sure. You can’t be present in her everyday life without a reveal, I’m not entirely sure she’s ready for that. But you can be there for her. Just check up with her - talk to her. She needs more people like you in her life right now, as many as she can get. Now that I’m at least aware of how she’s feeling, I can try my best to help, but Kwamis are no substitute for human beings.” She looks into his eyes, “Your species is an interesting one… just stay with her, be there for her, she needs time and she needs people who care.”

“I can do that.”

She smiles sweetly up at him, “I know you can Adrien.”

Another moment passes then, “I should probably wake her up.”

“Huh?”

“This is cute and all, but she should sleep in a real bed.”

“So should you kid.”

Adrien’s words are choked off by a yawn as realizes just how drained he is. Fatigue has finally caught up to him and rest sounds wonderful .

“Should probably transform back though kid. Bye Tikki.” The Kwamis hug quickly as he speaks the words and Chat Noir takes Adrien’s place.

“Hey, M- Ladybug . Ladybug! There you are sweetie, wake up please.”

The heroine grumbles and moves a little, and Chat can’t help but smile at her again.

“Ladybug, come on, you have to go to a real bed now.”

“Listen to your Kwami, m’lady.”

Another moment, then Ladybug opens her eyes, looking around in tired confusion, “Wha…? Oh.”

“There we are! Time to go home now, okay?” Tikki floats at eye-level, and Ladybug nods at her sleepily.

“Kay...Tikki spots on.”

A pink flash, and Ladybug is back in the outfit he knows so well. Chat takes a gloved hand and tenderly moves her bangs out of her face with his thumb.

“Hey Bug. You need to rest now okay. Take care of yourself, be nice to my favorite partner.”

“Hmmm…?” Ladybug is far too tired to speak proper French words.

“Heh, I think I’d better escort you down the tower. Don’t want you to fall… again.” At this, she blushes slightly, clearly a little more aware of her surroundings now.

He stands - she’s already shifted off to free him - and offers her a hand. She looks up at him, reaching for it and allowing him to help her up. Standing now, though a little shaky, she grabs her yo-yo and he watches carefully as the pair make their way down the tower. Once they are safely on the ground he grabs her hand lightly. 

“Ladybug. Take care of yourself.”

She looks at him, still not fully awake, then gently cups his face in her hand and gives him a kiss on the cheek. His face goes red immediately, she draws back.

“Goodnight mon minou. I love you.”

She throws her yo-yo and is off into the night. He recovers eventually and goes back to his house.

Ladybug arrives home and slips in through her trapdoor. With her face in a pillow, she mumbles the phrase sleepily, releasing Tikki. The Kwami rests on her head, playing with her hair. Marinette’s long day finally comes to an end as she drifts back to sleep in seconds.

Chapter Text

The bell on the door rings as Claude enters the bakery. Not intending to buy anything, he passes the line and waits patiently for Tom to notice him.

“Hey son! You here for Marinette? She should be in her room, head on back!” 

Once in the back, Sabine stops him,”Claude! I wasn’t expecting you. Do you guys have plans today?” 

“Oh no, I just was in the area and I thought I should stop by! It’s always great to see a friend!” She didn’t really need to know of his scheme, at least not for now.

“That’s sweet of you dear. While you’re up there, could you ask Marinette if she’s eaten recently? Tom and I didn’t see her at all yesterday, and it looks like she didn’t touch any of the leftovers.” The short woman shakes her head fondly, “Sometimes that girl gets too wrapped up in her projects - forgets that she needs to eat.”

“Will do, ma’am!” Claude hurries up the stairs at his usual excited pace. He should probably let Allan know that Marinette forgot to eat often enough that it was considered a habit of hers. He would certainly be the one to go about correcting that. Not that he and the rest of them weren’t concerned with her health, but Allan is the mom friend for a reason.

Seeing Marinette’s trapdoor he goes over his goals in his head. The main goal is to set her up to be distracted or busy for the rest of the morning. It wouldn’t do to have her try to make plans when he had them all gathered to go over his plotting. It would be nice to get Adrien’s number - preferably without her knowing. Of course, as always, he would aim to see that stunning smile of hers, she didn’t show it off nearly enough.

“Marinette, my magnificent- oh.”

He bursts into her room with his usual loud theatrics, but switches to be quieter impressively quickly. The girl in question is flopped across her bed, clearly dead to the world. Just to be on the safe side, he climbs the ladder, and whispers over to her,”Psst! Mari! How asleep are you?”

His only response is a light shiver, he frowns, finally noticing that Marinette is rather curled in on herself - her blankets kicked to the side - and the trapdoor to the balcony is slightly ajar. Well that just won’t do.

“Tsk, were you out late on your balcony? At the very least you could have shut the door properly. You’ll get yourself sick like this, and what would Allan say then?”

He moves onto the bed to correct her missing blankets. Pulling the trapdoor shut completely - it seems to have an annoying habit of sticking - he goes back down her ladder. Standing in front of her desk, he steals a sticky note and borrows a pen to leave note - he won’t be here when she wakes up:

 

Marinette!

I stopped by to say hello and I found that you were still asleep. Allan would be happy - he’s rather concerned about your sleeping schedule. He would have been less pleased to find that you were freezing yourself, what with your blankets off to the side and the trapdoor open! Your mom wanted me to remind you to eat, so you should do that! Can’t be our patisserie princess if you’re starving! We’d hate to see you suffer like that! Take care of yourself.

Your friend, Claude!

  

Seeing her phone nearby, he unlocks it quickly and goes to her contacts. He knows most of his friends passwords, for the sole purpose of spontaneously changing their background and their names in the chats. Occasionally he’ll set reminders for them to take care of themselves if he deems it necessary, but not as often. He would never use it to snoop, and his friends are aware he knows the password - they’ve given the all clear. 

In this instance, he has plans that Mari can’t know about. Not that it’s a bad thing, but he thinks it would be best to do it in secret. For this, he needs Adrien. The boy’s name is easy enough to find, with two heart emojis next to it no less.

Claude grins mischievously, another thing to add to his growing list of evidence to fuel his suspicions of Marinette’s true feelings towards the model. He has no issue with it - totally ships the two actually.

He returns to where Marinette left off last on her phone - the group chat actually - and sets it back where he found it. 

“Farewell ‘Nettie! Sleep well!” He exits the room with a wave, completely unaware of the blue eyes that were watching him carefully the whole time. The little being smiles after him.

 


 

Kid Mime: Guys meet me at my house in 30 minutes. This is Claude.

 

Adrien: Uh, okay. Did Mari give you my number? 

 

Kid Mime: sure

 

Melodie: Wait, what’s going on?

 

The Mom Friend: hes plottin agan al’

 

Felix: Oh wonderful, what is it this time?

 

Adrien: What’s going on?

 

Melodie: Don’t question it. 

Melodie: Am I right to assume you’re Adrien?

 

Adrien: Yeah? Did I miss something?

 

The Mom Friend: jus go with it. hes got good reasons

The Mom Friend: probably

 

Kid Mime: i do.

Kid Mime: trust me

Kid Mime: its abouut mari

 

Adrien: Alright. Uh, where do you live? I’m not sure if Father has plans for me today

 

Kid Mime: felix please

 

Felix: Fine. 

Felix: Adrien, I will be picking you up at your place 20 minutes from now.

 

Adrien: Okay?

 


 

Adrien is browsing through the Ladyblog posts of the last month. He’s reviewing all footage of his Lady to see if there was any point he could have seen through her facade. He’s got nothing so far.

A knock at his door.

“Adrien.” It’s Nathalie, “You have a visitor. He says that he is here to pick you up.” Right, Felix is here for Claude’s mystery thing. Adrien pushes back on the floor, flying across the room on his chair. It’d probably be healthy for him to stop obsessing over Ladybug anyways - it’s all he’s done today. He carefully scoops up the sleeping Plagg, putting him in his inner pocket.

“Coming!” He opens the door and sees Felix standing in the entryway, speaking to Father. He hasn’t even been here a minute and Gabriel Agreste is already willing to speak to him. It’s so surprising it’s honestly sad.

Felix , he thinks, teach me your ways .

As he comes closer, the senior Agreste turns to his son, “Adrien. It is pleasing to see you striving to make such promising connections at your age.” Behind him, it almost looks like Felix winks at him, but it’s so uncharacteristic of the boy that Adrien can’t be sure, “Enjoy your time with Mr. Voclain today.” 

With that he exits, shutting himself back in his office.

“Will you two be requiring a ride?” Nathalie is at the door, looking at them curiously.

“Uh…”

“No ma’am. I have my own driver.”

“Alright. Adrien, be back before curfew.”

“Yes, Nathalie.”

They walk out together. Felix’s car is much more toned down than Adrien’s normal one, it fits the boy’s taste better, and Adrien wonders if Felix is actually given choices when it comes to his things.

“We may proceed to Claude’s house now, sir.”

The driver nods and they join the other cars on the road.

“So, uh, what exactly is going on?”

“I am not entirely sure.That said, I do have some idea, so allow me to explain. You have not known Claude long enough to be aware of this, but occasionally, Claude gets an idea into his head and will draw us all together to pull it off. There is often a large amount of scheming and sneaking around on his part. Sometimes it is simply a prank or surprise of the sort, but this time I get the distinct feeling that it is more serious than many of the past plots. Considering what little he told us through text, and the fact that Marinette was not present in the chat, it likely has something to do with her.”

“Okay. Should I be worried for her? Like, did Claude find something out...?” 

“If it was dire, he would likely call us all to her house and tell us then. Seeing as he is planning, it is not anything to worry too much about.”

“Okay. Um, do you know how he got my number? He wasn’t exactly clear with his answer.”

Felix shook his head, smiling a little, “I have learned that attempting to decipher Claude rarely yields satisfactory results.”

They sit in silence for the remainder of the ride. Adrien is stewing in concern. Marinette has seemed fine lately - she’d seemed like she was doing a lot better actually - but then so had Ladybug. If Claude is concerned, then Adrien will trust his judgement, he spends more time with the girl than the model anyways. He would know if something was wrong. The idea of Marinette upset again hurts him, especially so close with Ladybug revealing her thoughts.

Were the kind pig-tailed girls of Paris just especially prone to emotional distress lately?

“We are here.” Felix breaks him out of his thoughts. Adrien glances up at the building before them. Time to find out what Claude’s got planned.

 


 

Claude’s room is a blue-gray rectangle with light carpet. He had two large fluffy gray rugs, a window seat what held a mish-mashed variety of pillows and two large green pillows on the floor - one of which Allegra was sitting on. Across from the door was a dresser cluttered with various knick-knacks with a tall mirror and a hamper to the right of it. There was a low shelf with a plant on it containing various books and games. The bunk bed had a giant teddy-bear under the ladder, and the bottom bunk had been converted into a couch of sorts. Claude was standing against the wall near a whiteboard that had various colorful markers on its shelf. Adrien and Felix enter, the latter sitting on the window seat, and after a moment’s hesitation Adrien sat on the bed-turned-couch.

“Alright, you two are here, now we just need-”
“Hey.”

“Allan! Yay, now we can get started!” Claude claps his hands together as Allan takes a seat on the other green floor cushion.

“What is it this time?” Allegra leans back on her arms, looking at Claude expectantly, “I’ve got the feeling it’s more serious than filling Felix’s locker with confetti?”

“It is, it’s about Marinette. I know that we all are aware of her issues with confidence-” Adrien frowns at this, hating to hear his everyday-Ladybug described like that. Not that it’s inaccurate, but it’s such a far cry from the confident leader he knew she could be. He can’t help but feel he could have done more. He tunes back in to what Claude is saying, because the least he can do is help bring her back, “But I think we under-estimated just how bad it is. When I went back for my textbook, I told her we enjoyed hanging out with her, and she was legitimately surprised-”

“But she’s so great!” Allegra interrupts incredulously.

I know! She covered it up quickly - honestly she would do great in acting - but guys it was more than just surprised. She was…” he trails off, looking for the words, “She was like, absolutely astounded - like this was some sort of staggering revelation, but also hopeful? Then that got crushed immediately, even before she covered everything else. What even happened?” Claude intended the question to be rhetorical, but as the others were processing what he said, Adrien sighed.

“A lot. A lot happened.” Everyone’s head snapped to him immediately, having forgotten that he may have answers. He ran his hand through his hair - Father would have a heart attack at his model son’s hair looking so unruly.

“So you do know.” Allegra looks to him in confirmation, “Not that I’m asking what happened - that’s for her - but you do know?”

“Yeah, I do.” His face darkens as he thinks of all the classmates he still has to interact with on a near-daily basis. It drives him crazy, but it’s more bearable than when they were constantly trash-talking his best friend.

“That’s helpful. Even without tellin’ us things, you’ll be able to know how Mari might feel about whatever Claude has planned.” Allan speaks carefully, clearly still thinking things over.

“What is it that you have planned Claude?” Felix draws everyone’s attention back to the other boy. 

“I have done some research on the best ways to help-”

“Willing to bet murder wasn’t one of them.” Allegra mutters under breath.

“No, unfortunately not. However! There were other options, aren’t illegal. A lot of it is just being there, so just letting her know we do actually care about her and making an effort to hang out with her.” He sums this up and puts it on the on the whiteboard next to a number one.

“What’s she doin’ right now? Does she think we’re all hangin’ out without her? I don’t wanna’ have her worrying about that.”

“A good point Al. I went over to her house to try and find a way to distract her while we would be doing this-”

“And?”

“And she was sleeping. Shocking I know, but it would seem that she is capable of actually sleeping.” Something about this sticks in Adrien’s mind. He feels like there’s something he’s supposed to remember.

“Good. I’m happy-”

“Allan, before you celebrate our baby bird finally learning to take a break, you should know she was basically freezing herself. Balcony door open and no blankets.”

Allan tosses his arms in the air in exasperation, “Someone needs to teach her the definition of ‘self-care’!”

“I’m with him.”

“We can work that in. Anyways, point two - when she says something bad about herself, we aren’t supposed to just tell her she’s wrong. We’re supposed to find the root of it I guess? Like instead of ‘you aren’t stupid’ we’re supposed say something like, ‘why do you feel that way’ if that makes sense.”

They all nod and he adds a second point to the board.

“This one is a little harder for the non-Adriens among us, but we should be aware of it in case it becomes relevant. We have to make sure she realizes that she’s allowed to feel bad about a bad situation - mostly the one that instigated this I guess? So as I said, she doesn’t talk about it much with us, but…” he adds it to the board next to a 3.

“How much do you guys know?” Adrien doesn’t want to reveal something that Marinette doesn’t want them to know.

Allan shrugs, “Not much really.”

“We just have what we can infer… or theorize - but then we sound nosy, and we really aren’t trying to dig into her personal stuff.” Allegra adds.

“We noticed that she reacted poorly to being asked why she transferred, as well as all the moments when she cuts herself off. It was simple enough to notice a trend. Our best guess is bullying, but we do not actually know anything for sure.”

“Not to mention the-” Claude starts the sentence, but the other three finish with him, “bruises.”

“Yeah, those.” Adrien rubs the back of his neck and messes up his hair more. The rest clearly wish to ask more questions, but realize that any questions may earn more of an answer than they feel they’re allowed to know. They’re worried, but don’t want to go behind Marinette’s back to get answers she hasn’t given them yet.

After a moment, Claude brings them back on topic, “So I think one more little thing is compliments? From what I understand, sincere compliments are better than just standard ones. I think though that these should be in addition to any compliments we normally give her, because if we suddenly started complimenting her less she might think it’s weird and take it badly.”

The others give various affirmations, and Adrien raises his hand. Claude notices and blinks at him momentarily before calling on him, “Adrien. Also, you can shout it out - not going to give you detention.”

“Oh, okay. What qualifies as a ‘sincere compliment’? I sincerely mean anything I say to her.”

Claude gets a mischievous look that the other three recognize, “Adrien, care to elaborate? What kind of compliments?”

“Well, like she’s really pretty and really nice. I used to call her our ‘everyday-Ladybug’ because she just so strong and brave. Not to mention talented. Have you seen some of her designs? Did you know she won one of my father’s contests? She’s such a good leader too, maybe a bit rusty now, but I’m sure that if it came to it she would come up with an amazing plan for really anything. And she got so many people together. She was so good at figuring out which people complimented each other and would work well together and-” he notices them all looking at him strangely, “What?”

“Well,” Allan is smiling at him,”Other than it being nice t’ hear ‘bout Mari before all this, your rambling kinda’ sounded…”

Claude is bouncing on his feet, grinning eagerly, “ I knew it.

“What?”

Allegra looks at him, “Maybe think about it for a moment.” To the rest she shakes her head, adding, “I don’t think he’s even realized.”

“No, it would not seem so.” Even Felix seems to understand what they’re getting at.

“What haven’t I realized?”

“Adrien. You precious sunshine boy.” Claude still looks delighted, “You have a crush on Marinette.”

“What? I don’t have a-” He had a crush on Ladybug, not Marinette. Sure, Marinette was beautiful, with her bluebell eyes, and adorable pigtails, and she had a lot of similar qualities that Ladybug had that had made him like her in the first- oh. “... I have a crush on Marinette.” His face immediately flushes at the realization and all the implications.

“Well that was incredibly pure.” Allegra and the rest seem to have found this entertaining. Adrien is panicking over the fact that he has a crush on two different girls. He’ll have to talk with Plagg later.

“Perhaps we should spare Adrien. Claude, do you have anymore points? You also have yet to inform us what ridiculous name you have thought up this time.” Felix draws everyone’s attention off Adrien. He certainly appreciates it, his face is still slightly red.

“Uh, that’s it for my points, but OMMAM do I have a name for you!” Claude quickly adds point four to the board, “Operation Make Marinette Appreciate Marinette!”  He looks to them, waiting to see if it sinks in.

Allan gets it first, smiling slightly, and Adrien gives a thumbs up soon after.

“Oh, come on, seriously?” Allegra rolls her eyes and Felix shakes his head.

“Anyways! November 1st - day one of OMMAM! Here we go!”

Something about that last statement strikes the same bell in Adrien’s head from earlier. Something about November maybe…

“Wait it’s November?” Maybe following it will fill in the blanks?

“Yeah, the spooky month ended yesterday.”

“What temperature is it outside?”

“Just below 4 (39℉). Why?”

Wait. November - cold. Adrien thought back to last year, remembering how Marinette had been oddly tired. He remembered vaguely hearing about a condition, which she had mentioned again over the summer. Claude had said that when he checked on her she’d been sleeping…

“Claude, you said Marinette was sleeping? You checked on her earlier today? Were there any heaters in her room?”

“No… why? Is something wrong? Do we need to go check on her? Her parents are home.”

No heaters and Mari’s room was typically close to the outside temperature. This could be bad.

“They’re catering today, they were only there for a little bit this morning. We should go over there now, just in case.”

All of them are standing now. Allan asks first, “What’s wrong? Should we be worried?”

He doesn’t really know, Alya knew the most and he can’t ask her for obvious reasons. Marinette’s parents’ phones will be silenced, Marinette herself won’t be much help if his hunch is correct.

“Uh… maybe? It’s only November, but we should still go...”

They’re all out the door quickly, heading in the direction of the bakery.

 


 

By some luck, Adrien has a key. He doesn’t even remember the exact circumstances that led to the Dupain-Chengs giving him it, but this is the first time he’s used it.

“Should we call up? So she knows it’s us?” Allegra asks cautiously.

“I don’t think she’d hear us. She’s probably still asleep.” Adrien leads them up the staircase. 

“Really? She doesn’t sleep in a lot and it’s pretty late even if she did.”

“It’s a thing. I don’t really know the details. If we get her up she can probably explain better. I wasn’t really the one she hung out with last year. She gets really tired when it’s cold? I think it’s more than that though.”

“Oh.” 

Adrien can see that they’re all stressed and concerned. That’s fair. He would be too if someone suddenly told him that they need to go check on his new friend immediately without a clear reason.

They reach the stairs to Mari’s room and Adrien pushes open the trapdoor. As he expected, the girl is still in bed. The others frown in concern, Adrien climbs up to her shaking her gently. She only hums in response.

“We should probably try to warm up her room.”

“Wait. Does she have a fever?” Allan steps forward and stands near the ladder, “We don’t want to heat her up too much then. Just make it not cold anymore.”

Adrien nods, turning to feel the girl’s forehead, “Probably? She feels hot but I don’t really know.

“Allan can stay with her while you show us where the heaters are.” Allegra suggests.

“Maybe find a thermometer?” Allan is above them now and they nod as Adrien leads them back down into the house.

“Hey ‘Nette, you awake at all?” If she’s been sleeping all day she should wake up to at least drink something.

She hums at him in confirmation. “Alright. Have you eaten today?” She shakes her head slightly, though it’s an odd gesture from someone laying on their side.

He sighs, having figured as much, “What did you eat yesterday?” She vaguely gestures behind him. He sees two energy bar wrappers and an empty plastic water bottle, “... that’s it?” He tosses them over the edge into the trash.

She nods and he sighs, “Mari, that’s not healthy…” She gives him an odd look, her eyes squinting at him. She doesn’t have the energy to elaborate verbally so he just shrugs at her.

The trap door opens and Allegra enters. She has a glass of water and a thermometer.

“I considered soup, but figured it could wait for now. The boys are getting the heaters.” She climbs the ladder carefully and hands Allan the thermometer, putting the water on a flat surface and sitting at the top of the ladder near the end of the bed.

After some negotiations, Allan convinces Marinette to let him take her temperature. A minute later, it beeps. Looking at it he reads,”38.8 (102℉).” He shakes his head at the sleepy girl.

“Hey, Mari, can we convince you to drink something?” Allegra lifts the water glass.

In response she scrunches up her nose and tries to burrow under the blanket, mumbling,” s’eeepp…”

“Marinette you’ve been sleeping for hours. Just drink something for us and we’ll leave you be, okay?”

Marinette’s brain is slow and she’s not quite sure what’s happening. She knows Allan and Allegra are here and they want her to drink water. Maybe? It’s all very confusing. Where is everyone else? Weren’t they here? What is that they wanted? She thought it wasn’t a school day today, so why are they here?

“Wha?” She tries to open her eyes further to get a better idea of ...anything really, but it turns out to be too difficult a task. She can spot a glass of water though, she thinks one of them is holding it. Or it’s floating magically. Water would probably be good, but that means sitting up. Sitting up means moving. A lot. She hears one of them mention the water again. She shakes her head. She hates to disappoint them but sitting up is such a task.

“Marinette, honey, just sit up quick then we’ll leave you be.” Allegra has pulled herself further on the bed as she and Allan continue to negotiate with their dazed friend. The boys have returned with the heaters but haven’t done anything with them. They’re all standing around the room waiting for further instructions. 

“What should we do now?” Adrien calls up to Allan. He hates that he feels so useless, but they can’t all just crowd around her.

“Ibuprofen? That could help the fever.” 

“On it.” Adrien’s the only one that actually knows where it could be so the others leave it to him. 

“How’s she doin’ Al?”

“She’s got a fever of 38.8 (102℉), and won’t drink water.” 

“She’s pretty tired, I’m not sure she can sit-up…” Allegra adds on.

She can’t sit up. Marinette wants to make sure they know they’re aware of this so she tries to speak. She greatly overestimated her ability to do so however, so all that comes out is,”noo...t’ muh wor’...”

Allan shakes his head at her and Allegra smiles softly. Claude and Felix can’t hear her from where they are. Adrien reappears with a bottle of ibuprofen, passing it up to those on the bed. Allan reads the bottle while Allegra moves to help Marinette prop herself up. The girl is too weak to really resist and settles for leaning heavily against the braided blonde.

“Marinette can you take some ibuprofen too? It could help.” Allan has the ibuprofen and water ready, holding it out for her. She somehow manages to summon enough strength to grab them both, swallowing the medicine with the water. She gets about halfway done with the water before her arm starts shaking from the struggle. One of the others takes it out of her hands for her, setting it down. She slumps further, ready to go back to sleep. Marinette really hopes there's nothing else they have planned for her. She doesn’t like to let them down, but she’s just so exhausted

It seems they finally understand that, because she’s allowed to lay down again and she vaguely registers them climbing down as she drifts back to sleep. She’s woken by her mother? She isn’t entirely sure how much time has passed, but she has soup for her so that’s nice. Marinette is pretty sure she had most of the soup. Or some of it? It’s not entirely clear to her in all honesty. Eventually she’s allowed to return to rest.

She wakes up again. It’s late, and she can tell it’s dark out. If she woke up on her own then she’s probably better now. That logic makes sense. Yeah…

There’s probably something she can do. The designer sits up slowly, thinking. Maybe she can- wait. Her plants! It’s fall and they can’t be outside in the winter, she has to take them inside so she can care for them!
This certainly isn’t something that can wait for morning! Not at all! She should get on that.

 


 

Chat Noir is on a late-night patrol. Too many of his friends are going through things and sometimes it helps to just run across the rooftops. It can help clear his head.

That said, he would like to check on them. Ladybug is unfortunately out of the question, but he can always swing by the bakery. Marinette won’t be up, but maybe-

He pauses as the bakery comes into view. The girl in question is currently up and on her balcony. That’s not right. He and the other four stayed at her house for a few hours and she slept the whole time. Her parents came home and the friends left after letting them know. Marinette was definitely very sick, so there was no reason for her to be outside on her balcony of all places .

She seems to be trying to move her plants? It can’t be easy with how much she’s shaking. He starts forward again, picking up his pace when it begins to look like she may collapse. He lands near her and she doesn’t even seem to notice. Before he can say anything, she goes to try moving a different pot and trips on nothing, falling backwards into him.

“Hey Princess.”

“...hi?”

He gently grabs her by the shoulders, turning her around to face him though still holding her up. As much as he wants to ask her just what she thinks she’s doing , he can’t exactly say ‘ hey I’m Adrien Agreste, I’m well aware that you are very sick and shouldn’t be outside in the middle of the night, especially in the fall. I was literally here hours ago and your temperature was almost 40 (104℉), you lovable moron.’

Instead, he says, “Are you okay? Lookin’ a little shaky there Mari.”

“ ‘m fine.”

He raises an eyebrow moving to feel her forehead, “Really now?” He can feel the heat of her fever through his glove.

“Mhm. Had a fever, but ‘m betta’ no.” She looks up at him blearily and blinks.

“You’re better now huh? The fever you’ve got begs to differ.”

“Don’ hav’ ah feev’r. All good…” She shakes her head and would have fallen over if it it weren’t for the fact he was still gripping her shoulders

“All good? And why is that?” This ought to be interesting.

“I woke up… an’ I got ou’ here…” She seems to be utterly convinced by this rock-solid reasoning.

“Princess, I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t actually better. You should get back to sleep.”

“ ‘m no’ tire’” She huffs like some defiant toddler, crossing her arms. It may have been more convincing if she wasn’t leaning heavily to one side.

“You should still go inside. It’ll be warmer.”

“No, an’ my plantsss…”

“Your plants can survive outside another night. Come on Mari.”

He guides her to the trapdoor, holding it open for her and following her inside. It feels weird being over so late, but he has a feeling that she may not actually sleep. He’ll just keep an eye on her until she does.

“See? t’s not warm.” She’s curled up near her cat pillow and is glaring at him feverishly. It isn’t all that menacing if he’s honest.

“Well,” he makes a point to look over the edge of the bed at the heaters they didn’t end up setting up earlier, “What about those heaters?”

She blinks at him.

He moves down the ladder. They didn’t do anything earlier because they didn’t want to make her too hot, but now the temperature has dropped and the girl’s room is rather cold.

After a bit, the room has warmed some and he returns to his friend. She hasn’t moved much and just blinks at him sleepily. He sits next to her.

“There, is that any better? Think you can sleep now Princess?”

“ ‘m not tir’d…” She just looks at him, as if suggesting she sleep is entirely bizarre.

“You’re sick. You need your rest Marinette. Your room is warm now so-” He gets cut off when she flops across him. Oh well, he’s probably the warmest thing in this room right now. If that’s what it takes to get her to sleep then he can deal with a Marinette blanket.

“ ‘re m’re w’m.”

He smiles at her, “Really now?”

“Mhm. but ‘m not tires..”

“Anything that could make you tired that you can think of? Because you do need to sleep. I could look something up…” He glances down at her. She’s making a weak grabby motion in his general direction.

“ ‘ugs?” She looks so hopeful and who is he to say no to her? He scoops her up so he can hug her without leaning down and squishing her. She’s curled against him and returning the hug feebly. 

After about ten minutes her breathing evens out and she falls asleep lightly. He doesn’t want her to wake up so decides to wait a moment before moving her to her bed properly. He doesn’t really mind.

Besides, sleepy Marinette hugs are wonderful. He can wait.

He eventually transfers her under her blankets so that she can sleep on a proper bed and he can go to his own. He brushes her hair out of her face carefully as her exits her room. Being sure to shut the trapdoor properly, he goes back to his house.

He’d rest easier knowing one of his friends is doing all right.

Chapter Text

Marinette woke up much later than normal. She could immediately tell that her fever had gone down some. Her memories of the day before were hazy at best, but she was pretty sure Allan, Claude, Allegra, Felix, and Adrien had come over. Maybe Chat Noir too? 

Her parents had clearly decided to allow her to stay home from school, which was probably for the best. She sat up, drawing the attention of her Kwami.

“Marinette! You’re awake! How are you feeling?” Tikki flitted up to her face.

“Uh, a little tired? But I think that’s just from the cold…”

Tikki handed her a thermometer so she could check her temperature. As they waited for the reading, Tikki crossed her arms and looked at her disapprovingly, “Marinette, you overworked yourself on Saturday. You probably gave yourself a fever. You have to take care of yourself more!”

The thermometer beeped and Marinette looked at it, 37.7 (100℉). Her fever wasn’t as serious now. That and the heaters that seemed to have been set up probably contributed to the fact that she is lucid now.

When did the heaters get set up?

“Speaking of taking care of yourself…” Tikki draws the girls attention back to her, “Chat Noir told me what you said when you got hit.” Her voice is serious.

“W-what did I say…” How much of a disappointment did she end up being?

“A bunch of nonsense, that’s what! Marinette you are a wonderful and talented girl who deserves every opportunity you’ve gotten! How long have you felt like this?”

“L-like what?”

“Oh Marinette. You called yourself useless. You said all your old friends treated you the way you deserve and are right to hate you. That’s not okay Marinette.”

“O-oh.” Marinette had been dedicated the past few weeks to committing those things into her mind as fact. Tikki might as well have been trying to convince her that 2+2=5. Something just doesn’t add up. “But-”

“Marinette. None of that is true. None of it . I think you should talk to someone.”

“But they can’t know about Ladybug…”

“You still need help.”

“It feels wrong to keep something like that from a therapist. They’re supposed to know everything right? I don’t like the feeling of it…”

“Alright. If you don’t feel comfortable with therapy at least speak to your friends. They care about you.”

“I don’t know…”

Their conversation is interrupted when Sabine opens the trapdoor carrying a tray with a small lunch of soup and water - with some cookies because her parents have noticed her sudden hunger for the treat. Tikki hides behind a pillow.

“Hey sweetie, are you awake?”

“Yeah. Uh, what time is it?”

“Time for you to eat lunch. What’s your temperature? You were pretty out of it yesterday. Your friends were really worried about you.”

“37.7 (100℉).” Marinette accepts the tray, setting it safely on a flat surface. She hears a ‘ding’ from below. Her Maman looks over to her desk. 

“Oh, you’ve got messages from your friends! Here!” She handed the phone up as well, “It’s good that your temperature has gone down. Be sure to eat!”

When she’s exited the room, Tikki floats back into view, looking at the phone, she gives Marinette a meaningful look, “You should talk to your friends!”

She floats to sit beside the bowl of soup on the tray. She munches on a cookie and watches the girl.

“Okay…” She opens her phone. There hadn’t been much activity in their group chat because it was a school day. Beneath Claude’s good morning text was another message from the actor. Another appeared just as she opened the chat.

 

Kid Mime: hey mari are you up yet

Kid Mime: its fine if ur not but we misssss uuuuuu

 

Patisserie Princess: I’m up

 

Kid Mime: yayyyyyy!!!!!!!!

Kid Mime: allan sayd to ask wat ur temp is

 

Patisserie Princess: 37.7 (100℉)

 

Kid Mime: thats better! 

Kid Mime: hey can we facetime? Itll be easier

Kid Mime: neither of us can eat if were typin

 

That’s a good point. She’s got nothing against it, but maybe she should warn Tikki.

“Hey Tikki, I’m going to facetime them. Is that alright?”
“It’s okay Marinette. I won’t show up on camera and they won’t be able to hear me either!”

Right. She’d forgotten about that. She nods, and starts a call. It doesn’t take long for Claude to pick up. She props her phone up so that she doesn’t have to hold it.

“Yay! Hi Mari! Alright I’m at the table now, so I’m going to prop- oh no you fell over - okay there you are!” 

The camera clears as Claude moves back. She can see Felix and Allan there too, Allegra is probably still in line.

“Hi guys!” She waves at them in view of the camera.

“Hi! How are you feeling?” Allan sounds concerned, which, given what had happened last he’d seen her, made sense.

“Uh, a little better. I’ve got food, and the fever isn’t as bad as yesterday. I’m a little tired but that’s normal.”

Allegra arrives at the table halfway through her talking and waves at her when she notices the girl.

“What do you mean by that? I recall Adrien mentioned something similar yesterday, but did not have a lot of information.” Felix looks up questioningly from his lunch.

“Oh yeah. I meant to tell you guys when it became more relevant, but uh, then I kind of overworked all my stamina away? Heh. Basically, last year I got diagnosed with a ‘yet-to-be-identified’ medical condition’” She scoffs at the air-quoted words, and the others get the distinct feeling that there’s an inside joke that they’re missing, “The general gist of it is that my body tries to go into hibernation? I get hungrier in the fall and once it gets around November I get really tired - the colder and later into winter the worse it is - and forget to eat and stuff.”

The others look a little alarmed at this and she quickly adds on,”I mean, it’s really not that dangerous for me. As long as I have food I uh, generally remember. And the tiredness isn’t really a problem as long as I stay warm. I probably won’t actually hibernate unless I fall into a snowdrift or something-”

Just as she finishes speaking a school bell rings. It’s from Françoise Dupont, and it’s a reminder of the consequences of staying home today. She tenses immediately, thinking of all of her old classmates who are right there. Right across the street and heading out for lunch. They’re probably with Lila and-

“What would happen then?” Allegra’s voice draws her back. She blinks as she jolts out of her thoughts.

“W-what?” Oh, right, the snowdrift thing…”I would uh, probably just fall asleep and stay there. My parents don’t really want me to go outside alone after there’s snow on the ground.”

“Can’t blame ‘em.” Allan jumps in. So far none of them have mentioned her little ‘moment’ after the school bell. “We can keep an eye on ya’. Don’t want you to freeze.” He sounds distressed, probably at the prospect of Marinette freezing to death .

“It’s really not that likely! I’ll just be really sleepy, so I’ll probably fall asleep on at least one of you by the time winter is over - whichever of you is the warmest in the room. Sorry in advance?” She says the last part sheepishly and shrugs apologetically. She hates to think that she’ll be such a bother to them, but there isn’t much she can do. She’ll try her best to avoid it.

“It’s all good! As long as you’re not in any danger, we don’t mind!” Allan speaks again and the rest nod in agreement.

“Mariiiiii! You haven’t been eating!” Claude calls her out as he swallows some of his own food.

She smiles in apology as she brings her tray into her lap. She can see that, as Tikki reminded her, the Kwami doesn’t show up on camera. Her phone dings as she sits back. Squinting at it as she reads, she flips it away. 

“Adrien says he can’t get away, so he won’t be joining us. Uh, do you guys still need his number?” She looks at them questioningly as she starts on her soup.

“Nope!” Claude chirps, “I got it yesterday!” The others give him some odd looks, but she brushes them off. It probably doesn’t matter.

“Yeah, sorry about yesterday. I don’t really remember much. I know you guys came over - I think?”

“Yeah, Adrien thought we should check on you because it was November, and when we got to your place you were pretty out-of-it.”

“You didn’t like we were interrupting your sleep, it took some convincing to get you to actually drink something.”

“Are the heaters set up now? I recall that we did not do so because Allan feared it may cause you to be too hot.”

She nods, though she isn’t entirely sure when that happened. Maybe her parents? Her fevered mind clearly didn’t think it was important enough information to remember.

Their conversation continues as they all eat theirs lunches together. After a little bit she starts to droop. It’s a clear reminder that she isn’t entirely recovered, and that winter is on it’s way.

She doesn’t plan on saying anything because it would be rude to cut off the conversation. Marinette tries her best to seem alert, but the others aren’t fooled.

“‘Nettie, you doin’ okay? You’re looking a little sleepy there.” Allan smiles at her, cocking his head.

She shrugs and any words she was going to say get cut off by a yawn. She blushes.

“We’re going to let you go now. You need some rest.” Allegra flutters her fingers at the camera.

“Rest well my priceless pigtailed pal!” The group waves as the call ends.

Tikki floats up to her,”Marinette, I know you’re tired but you can’t sleep with the tray on your lap.”

“...right” She moves it safely away before she lays down again. It doesn’t take long for her to doze off.

 

---

 

Marinette manages to arrive at school the next day at a reasonable time. She gets to their regular spot in the library and lays her head on the table. The only problem with so many heaters in her room is that it makes the outside seem that much colder, especially when she’s still got a (very) slight fever. She isn’t in her heaviest winter gear because she doesn’t want to seem weird and it’s only November anyways, she’ll manage. Her mom gave her a doctor’s note to show all her teachers to remind them of her ‘condition’.

Honestly the most annoying part of it not being that cold is that she feels tired, but she isn’t sleepy to the point where she can actually sleep. She just feels like she didn’t get enough sleep, even though she spent plenty of yesterday resting.

“Oh my good golly gosh, did Marinette beat us to school? ” She hears Claude as he approaches the table and forces herself up to look at him.

“Hi guys.” She can’t muster up the energy to add in the appropriate excitement. Maybe they won’t hate her if she’s still friendly. They put up with her through September…

“How are ya’? I wasn’t sure we’d see you today.” Allan sits at his usual spot and the rest follow suit.

“Yeah. I’m basically back to normal. Just tired.”

“It is good that your fever seems to have passed.” Felix says as he gets out his book as usual.

“It is good to have you back!” Claude gives her an excited hug. He glances at Allegra who is finishing her math homework, “Hey, why do you think math books are so sad?”

Marinette is too tired to try and stop him, but Allegra glances up. 

“Don’t you da-”

Because they have so many problems! ” He finishes excitedly, giving no heed to Allegra’s pleading.

Allegra drops her head onto the table and sighs heavily. Felix pats her on the back consolingly.

“Did you hear about that guy who got his left side cut off?”

Marinette sighs. At least when she was feverish she couldn’t remember the puns.

“He’s all right now!”

“Claude.” Allegra pleads, “I can’t do homework in the midst of this.

“What gender pronouns do you use for chocolate bars? Her/she!”

“Marinette I’m sorry that you had to return to this. There’s no end to his madness.” Allegra has yet to remove her head from the table. Claude’s grin only continues to grow. Allan is smiling as he watches. Felix is focusing intensely on his book.

“Ah, ‘legra. Look on the bright side. At least your music class is your last hour.”

The braided blonde finally sits up and glares at him suspiciously.

“That way you can end your day on a high note!” Claude’s looks at her, the pinnacle of innocence.

“No. Nope. I’m done.” She pushes herself up and packs up quickly. Felix glances at his watch and follows suit, “It’s close enough to first hour. Come on Mari, let’s leave these crazies to their insanity.”

“Let’s.” Marinette pushes herself out of her seat, and waves as they leave the library.

 

---

 

Allan and Marinette arrive at the lunch room together and claim the group’s usual table. Felix joins soon after.

“Greetings my great, glorious, and grand group!” Claude and Allegra arrive together, taking their seats.

“Please spare us the puns.”

“We’ll see…”

Marinette is about to say something when something catches her eye. There seems to be a girl in a heated argument with her father. She turns from him and returns to her seat, but that’s not what drew her eye initially. She could have sworn she saw…

There.

A purple butterfly floats near the man’s head. Before she can say anything, it makes contact with his glasses.

Marinette stands immediately, drawing the attention of her group.

“Is everything o-”

Ineedtogonowbye!” With that rushed excuse she hurries off to be out of sight. As she transforms she hears the screams as people realize what has happened. She sends a text to her partner and heads to the roof to await his arrival. It would be strange for Ladybug to show up so soon, especially when there had never been an attack here before. 

It would also be for the best. Akumas in smaller spaces could be extra difficult, especially when the duo didn’t know anything about their powers. It may be for the best to just wait for Chat Noir.

“Hey Bug!” Speak of the devil, here’s her partner. He seems tenser than usual. Probably because the last time they’d spoke- no, that isn’t for Ladybug, that’s for Marinette. Ladybug doesn’t need to feel .

“Hey Chat, I haven’t seen much of the akuma yet. I figured it would be best to wait for you-”

An explosion shakes the building they’re standing on. They meet each other’s eyes and move to enter the building. When an akuma causes damage they prefer to finish it quickly to lessen any risk of injury.

They arrive in the mostly empty cafeteria to see a hole blown in the wall and a few… interestingly dressed stragglers wandering about. Some have leaked out into the street. The akuma is in another part of the school, they can hear his voice echoing down the halls and follow the sound. Soon enough, they find him.

The man Marinette saw earlier has doubled in height, and has had an extreme outfit change. He’s donned an oversized hoodie covered in various emoji prints. He’s wearing rainbow tie-dye converse shoes that double as pants and seem to be denim. There are rips in various places up the pants but the lace cross over them, tying near his hips. On top of the shoe-pants he’s wearing Shrek crocs, and is wandering around on a gold light-up hoverboard. Around his neck is a glowing set of headphones with lights and animal ears. He’s got airpods in and pizza hat on his head. He’s wearing oversized glowing neon shutter shades that shift between different colors - much like the other light-up pieces of his ensemble. The source of the explosion becomes clear when he makes finger guns at the wall and an emoji shoots out and explodes it easily.

They remain some distance away, and he hasn’t noticed them yet. Ladybug sighs tiredly, she almost wants to cry looking at this mess, “Sometimes I wish Hawkmoth was some sort of fashion designer because these designs are just…they’re honestly almost the worst part of this.”

“My eyes.” Chat stares, “As a teenager, I don’t know if I should appreciate the effort or feel insulted someone thinks that is an accurate summary of my age group.”

The emojis that are being used as projectiles don’t just get rid of walls though. Ladybug and Chat Noir watch as an unfortunate student get hit by a fire emoji and and gains the akuma’s ridiculous sunglasses. He announces he must go hunt for ‘pokey-mans’ and heads off, passing a group of bottle flippers.

A teacher gets hit and gets an even worse makeover. She gains ripped jeans and a black hoodie that says ‘I didn’t choose the dank meme life, the dank meme life chose me’ and has a dabbing hot dog on it. She has the same headphones as the main akuma but is actually wearing them on her ears. There’s a golden light-up fidget spinner in each of her hands, matching the gold light-up heelys on her feet. Some of the affected students notice her and begin following her around.

“We must stop this.” Ladybug nods at her partner’s statement, immediately moving to get the akuma’s attention.

“Ah! Ladybug and Chat Noir my broskis!!!! It’d be very dank of you to hand over those swag miraculouses you’ve got!!!1!”

“Sir-”

“Why so formal??? I’m the Coolest Dad - so lit!!! No need to call me anything but your bestest bro!!1!” he gestures around him, “Look at all these Cool Dudes!!! Aren’t they sooo hip with the kids now?? IKR!!! So great! Look at all these savage Broskis, so happy to have people who understand!!” 

“Oh dear Kwami what is this?

“Anyways, if it’s all good with you fam, I’m just going to be on my way!!!” a purple butterfly mask appears over his face, “Nah, chill my mothy pal!! These hip teens will get with the program eventually! It’d be very uncool of me to take from them!!! I can get you your Gucci jewels in a moment!!!! For now I’m going to spread this fetch coolness around Paris!!!! #SquadGoals!!!1!!1”

As he rolls away they hear, “Paris will be the fleekest city around!!!”

“Uh, Is that it…?” Chat Noir turns to her.

“Yeah. I think so.” Ladybug hops down to the ground, looking around. There are several ‘Broski’s around, and some ‘Cool Dude’s. She sees a few dabbing and doing Fortnite dances and turns to see if there’s any civilians left in the area.

“Ladybug…?” She turns at the voice, beside her Chat seems to relax.

Allegra stands in the doorway of a classroom, she’s glancing around nervously, but when she can’t see the Coolest Dad she decides to take a few steps toward the heroes. Behind her are Allan, Felix, and Claude. Chat seems to look at the doorway as if waiting for another person. His worry returns.

“Yes? Is everything alright?”

Allegra nods, leading the duo back to the classroom. Inside are several students and staff, hiding from the akuma.

“We helped all of these people to hide, and we were wondering if it’s safe for them to come out now.”

“It is, though the akuma is still around the school, so it would be best to stay close to a hiding spot.” Ladybug assures her. Chat keeps glancing around at those in the room, seemingly checking for something.

“But, actually we had another question. Our friend disappeared just before the attack and we were wondering if you’d seen her.” The worry of the group is clear and Ladybug wonders who they’re talking about. Marinette didn’t see anyone else when she was sitting with them.

Claude speaks up, “Her name is Marinette Dupain-Cheng. I’ve only known her for a few months, but I’ve already fallen deep in platonic love for her!” His usual theatrics do nothing to hide his clear anxiety over- wait.

She’s their friend?!

They considered her their-

Focus.

Chat has stiffened beside her, and she jumps in before he promises to find the ‘damsel in distress’,”I’m sure she is fine. After the cure you can find her.”

“She’s hasn’t been answering her phone. We just don’t know if she’s ever been in an akuma attack before.”

“Oh, she has, though I typically don’t see her much.” She really doesn’t want them to be worried about her alter ego. How can she reassure them? “If I recall correctly, she went on a date with an akuma once so I’m sure she is perfectly capable-”

“She what?! ” Allan speaks for the first time.

“Wait you know her?” Allegra sounds surprise. Ladybug doesn’t know how to explain, but Chat helps her out.

“Oh that class…” He has a point. Even if she hadn’t been a student in it, her old class has a concerningly high rate of akumatizitions. The school as a whole really, “My partner is correct. Ma- Ms. Dupain-Cheng is a perfectly capable individual, I’m sure she’s fine She took over City Hall one time, so I trust she’s safe.” He sounds as though he’s trying to convince himself along with the group.

Yelling is heard near the front of the school, “I’m sorry miss, but we have to go now.”

They nod uneasily, and the heroes jump away. At the front of the school the Coolest Dad is shooting emojis at several passer-bys. Alya has arrived, but remains out of sight.

When the akuma notices them, “Sup my dudes!! I have got to ask, have you seen my hip daughter??? I wanted to show her how swank I am!!!!”

“No, uh, we haven’t

“Well let me know if you do!!! I’m like high key worried, and that’s the tea!1!!!”

“Oh I forgot how bad it was…” Chat looks so done already, and this akuma hasn’t even been around an hour.

“I will just have to finesse my search!!!! I feel so uber-not-blessed with her missing!!! I wish she hadn’t yeeted away!!1!!”

As he rolls away, Ladybug is suddenly struck with an idea. She catches up to him, grabbing his attention.

“Uh, actually, TBH, my dude-” The akuma looks to her patiently.

“Oh Bugaboo not you too. Please .”

“-I was thinking that your glasses were just so lit. They’re, uh, so swag my guy, could I maybe get a lit-er look at those, um, dope shades? It’d be very chill of you...”

The man looks delighted, and takes them off and sets them near her. Chat lands nearby, not wanting to leave his partner alone so close to an akuma. 

Up close they’re nearly blinding, and Ladybug avoids looking at the Akuma’s face, fearing what his eyes may look like under the glasses. Turning slightly to her partner, she hisses, “Chat, now!”

He nods, and before the akuma can do anything, he rushes forward touching the shades, “Cataclysm!”

A butterfly is released, and Ladybug wastes no time in purifying it.

“Miraculous Ladybug!” 

As the Ladybugs wash over the city, Ladybug hears a call of “Ladybug! Care for an interview?” The voice says more, but Ladybug can’t hear.

Alya. No no no.

Not here. She’s not supposed to be here.

This is where Marinette came to get away from her.

No no no nononono…

Chat’s ring beeps, bringing her back to reality. The two fist bump quickly, and leave to detransform. Ladybug doesn’t see where Chat goes, solely focusing on getting back to her school. 

To her friends .

She lands in an alley, and after a minute of making sure there is no one around, she speaks, “Tikki, spots off!”

The Kwami groans, landing in her purse to eat a cookie. Marinette spots her group and is about to join them when she sees her

It’s not really a surprise, she knew Alya was here, but she didn't know that Alya isn’t alone. She brought her.

She brought Lila .

The pair are talking with her new friends and nonononono. Now they’ll like Lila too. They’ll turn on her too. She’ll be alone again, she’ll have to leave, just as she was adjusting. Oh they’ll hate her, they’ll hate her.

They hate her, they hate her, they hate her nonononononono.

 

---

 

Adrien is standing in Chat Noir’s place. He knows he’s not allowed to miss school and should really be on his way back, but he needs to check on Marinette.

It was worrying enough to have Ladybug tell him that there was an akuma here, but then he saw Alya, and she brought Lila.

She probably thinks bringing the heroine’s ‘best friend’ will land her an interview.

If either of them see Marinette here- oh he hates to think what will happen.

Just when things were looking up for her too. If only her new friends knew what happened, this wouldn’t be so bad. He understands why she doesn’t want to tell them, but he wants her to realize that they care about her and won’t be upset at her for what happened.

“...but actually we’re looking for out friend-” He hears Allegra talking as he approaches the front of the school.

“Come on! Just a quick interview! A first-hand account of Ladybug’s first battle here!”

“No, we’d like to find our friend.” 

“What’s her name? I used to work with an international search and rescue group, I could help!” 

Before any of them can answer that question, he hops in, “Alya, Lila! I didn’t think you’d be out of school.”

He can see the confusion of Allegra, Allan, Claude, and Felix. They have no idea what he’s doing over here in the middle of the school day. Lila and Alya on the other hand look delighted. Lila latches onto his arm as usual, he stiffens slightly, but she only continues to hang off of him. Allegra’s eyes narrow.

“Adrien, what are you doing here? I thought you had a photoshoot?”

“It was in the area - got canceled ‘cause of the akuma attack.” He scratches the back of his neck. Lila rests her head on his shoulder.

Out of the corner of his eye he spots Marinette and oh she’s seen Alya and Lila. She looks like she’s having an attack. He can’t do anything without alerting the girls in question, but she is not okay.

“Well, if you’re out of school then you can hang out with us!” Alya seems delighted by this stroke of brilliance, “Nino can skip and we can all go on a double date!”

“Doesn’t that imply that I’m bringing a date?” Adrien knows where this is going.

“She means me, silly!” Lila giggles and runs her hand through his hair.

“Lila, for the last time, we’re not dating-” He tries to pull away, but she’s got an iron grip on his arm.

Sureee, lover-boy~” Alya winks at him, dragging them away. 

He manages to extract himself and sends a couple texts to the OMMAM chat, before excusing himself and heading back to school. He hopes Marinette will be okay.

 

---

 

Allegra is seething beside him, “Did you see how she was clinging to him?! Who does she think she is?! He was so clearly uncomfortable! Ugh that little-” Claude drowns out her angry muttering when his phone dings.

 

Adrien: You guys need to check on Marinette.

Adrien: Now.

 

He sees that the others have noticed the message. They’re looking at each other in confusion, worry clear. What’s happened?

“Oh dear, look.” Allan is the first to see the girl. Claude turns to where he points, his heart stops when he finally spots her.

The girl is crouched in an alley, her hands digging into her scalp, and breathing erratically. He could see her tears from here. The akuma attack hadn’t been that long, but in the time they’d been separated something had happened. 

They all rushed to her immediately, crouching by her side.

“Marinette, hey, can you hear me?” Allan speaks clearly, gently resting a hand on her shoulder.

To their surprise, she reacts immediately, looking at all of them panicked.

“I’m so sorry!” 

“What?”

“I don’t know what she said, I don’t know what she told you-”

“Marinette, hey-”

“Just- just- just- tell me and I’ll-I’ll-I’ll”

“Just breathe with me okay?”

“Marinette, we don’t know what you mean dear. Everything’s okay.”

“I’ll find sources, I’ll back it up this time, I’ll-I’ll I’ll call Jagged, please believe me-”

“Marinette-”

“Please, oh no no nononono.” She covers her eyes with her hands, finally breaking her frantic eye contact. Curling into herself tighter, “Oh please, not again, not again no no no-”

Her nails are digging into her skin, and Claude worries she’ll draw blood, but she doesn’t even seem to worry. She entirely distracted by whatever has consumed her.

Marinette! ” Allan stresses her name, gently trying to take her hands off her face before she hurts herself too bad. She doesn’t even notice what she’s doing, “Marinette, listen, it’s alright, just breathe okay? Do it with me…” 

Marinette doesn’t seem to notice initially, but eventually her breathing evens out. She looks around at them tearily, wiping at her face. She opens her mouth, but Claude beats her to it.

“Don’t apologize Mari. You were upset, nothing’s wrong with that.”

“But-”

Allegra hugs her gently, “No. No buts. It’s okay to be upset.”

But she’s a hero. A hero who fights akumas. Being upset means failing.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Talk about it? Then they’d know. She wants to trust that they’ll believe her, but that’s what she did last time. They don’t hate her currently, so she shouldn’t do anything to risk changing that. She shakes her head.

She feels her purse move strangely at her side. It’s subtle enough that she isn’t worried that they noticed, but when she hears a tiny cough she begins worrying for Tikki.

“Could I, uh, have a moment? I need to, um, call someone?” They nod at her and walk a little ways away. She ducks out of sight to check on her Kwami.

She opens her purse to see Tikki curled up in an uncomfortable ball.

“Tikki? Are you okay?”

She coughs, “Sorry, Marinette, I think I’m sick again. The Revealer…” she trails off into a coughing fit.

Right. If there are consequences to Marinette overworking herself for an all-day akuma, then the same can be expected of Tikki.

“I’ll go to Fu’s…”

Tikki nods at her, quieting herself as best she can. Marinette doesn’t want to delay helping the Goddess, so she prepares herself to lie to her friends again. She hates to think what they’d say if they found out just how much she lied to them.

Stepping out of the alley, she approaches them carefully and they turn to her patiently.

“Hey Marinette. How are you doing?” Claude speaks to her attentively.

She holds up her phone, pasting on a sheepish smile, “Uh, I have to go talk with my, um… mentor? If I come back late, can you let the teacher know?”

“There is no need to rush yourself. They have cancelled the remainder of the school day due to the akuma attack. Take your time.”

“O-oh. Okay.”

“We’re going to my place now, so you can come over when you’re done!” Claude holds up his own phone, “I can text you the address again if you need it.”

“No no. I’ve got it saved.”

They say goodbye, walking in their respective directions.

Chapter Text

Marinette knocks on the door, waiting for the Guardian to open the door. 

She doesn’t have to wait long, she’s allowed in quickly, “Ah, Marinette, we’ve been expecting you.” Master Fu speaks calmly.

“You have?” Did she mess up that bad?

“When Wayzz and I saw that The Revealer lasted so long, we were certain it would not be long before Tikki or Plagg fell ill. It would seem Tikki is the first.”

“Given Plagg’s nature to take longer breaks, that is no surprise.” The turtle Kwami shows up above Fu’s shoulder. They walk into the same room where Tikki first got healed. Marinette lifts her Kwami gingerly from her bag and gives her to Master Fu, who nods and begins.

After the ceremony is finished, Tikki munches happily on a cookie in front of Marinette.

“Master?” She’s been debating this for so long, postponing and procrastinating as long as she can, but being here already, she has no more excuses. “Yes, Marinette?”

“I can’t call on Rena Rouge or Carapace anymore.” Given how she reacted to simply seeing Alya and Lila, there is no hope that she can work efficiently as a team with them anymore. She studies the floorboards, unable to meet his eyes. She failed to choose heroes well. He’s going to be so disappointed.

He sips from his tea calmly, “Why is that?”

“I- you told me to choose someone I can trust, and…”

“And you no longer you feel that your choices are worthy of that honor.” She would have phrased it a little differently, more along the lines of fearing the wrath of a betrayed friend, but maybe she can think of it that way instead. It feels better that way.

“...yes.”

“Very well. It is understandable to come along bumps in the road. You are a smart heroine, Marinette, I will trust your judgement.”

“But what if I choose wrong again? How many ‘bumps in the road’ will there be?” She doesn’t want to mess up again. Not after last time.

“Perhaps you should consider the actions of a hero. When I looked for people to become the holders of the Black Cat and Ladybug miraculouses, I considered their actions. You, as well as your partner, proved yourselves to already being capable of heroic acts, without the jewelry.”

“So I need to find people who… already act like heroes?” She finally meets his eyes, and finds nothing negative in them.

“Indeed. Being heroic does not require magic jewelry.” He pours more tea for himself, “You mentioned that Rena Rouge and Carapace would not be fighting anymore, but what of Queen Bee?”

That didn’t even occur to her. She’d not even considered Chloe, because the blonde had been less involved in the actions leading up to Marinette’s transfer. No, that isn’t entirely right. She’d been involved, but in a positive way. She’d been the one to bring her home on Thursday, calming her down in the bathroom.

She’d even apologized for her past actions. 

“I- I think there will be a new holder for the Bee miraculous as well.”
“But…?”

“But I think that having the miraculous has helped Chloe change. For the better. I think that if I needed back-up and she was available, I would choose her. I trust her - more that Rena and Carapace.”

“So in the event that you require the assistance of the Bee, or if the new Bee holder is unavailable, you would allow Ms. Bourgeois to take up the title temporarily?” Master Fu looks to her for confirmation.

“Yes. I would.” She nods.

“I will inform Trixx and Pollen.” Wayzz floats up from his snack. Marinette feels bad, he and Nino seemed to get along well.

“I’m sorry, Wayzz.”

“It is quite alright, Marinette. I was aware from the start that the arrangement may not be permanent. I do regret that Nino made the choices he did. Perhaps this will be a learning experience for him. I can only hope.” 

Marinette smiles weakly at him and he flies to the Miracle Box. Her phone dings in her pocket.

“Perhaps you should be on your way. Unless there is anything else?”

“No, Master.” She starts toward the door, “Thank you.”

Once outside she glances around quickly before looking to her purse.

“How do you feel, Tikki?” The little Kwami looks a lot better, she’s sitting in the purse looking up at Marinette with bright eyes holding a cookie in her paws.

“Much better, thank you!”

“It wasn’t a problem, you were sick, I couldn’t leave you like that.” What if there had been another akuma? Tikki would have felt even worse after that, and that would be terrible.

“Why am I any different than you? ” She knows the Kwami is thinking of her behaviour on Saturday, overworking herself to get her to the point that she got to. Marinette shakes her head. 

Why is it different? It just is. Tikki is the Kwami of Creation and Marinette is just some human girl. But she’s Ladybug, she’s a hero. Maybe it isn’t that diff-

Tikki makes surprised squeak and ducks back into her bag, Marinette glances up and sees Adrien coming this way. She’s still standing in front of Fu’s place and there’s no way she could leave without catching his eye.

He hasn’t noticed her yet, due to how intently he’s looking into his bag, seemingly talking to himself. Once he reaches the massage shop, he stops and looks to the door. He finally notices Marinette and pauses, staring at her in slight confusion,”Oh, uh, hey Marinette. What are you doing here?”

“I- uh, um, tea! My… maman! Yes, my maman wanted some tea and sent me here! For the tea!” she smiles convincingly, “Wh-what about you?”

“My uh, Chinese tutor, uh wanted me to come to him today, so… yeah.” 

She nods, that makes sense.

“Actually, Mari, how are you?” He cocks his head at her slightly, looking at her caringly.

“What?” Did she worry him somehow? How did she do that? Why did she do that?

“I, um, happened to be near your school during the akuma attack. I saw Alya and Lila… it looked like you had noticed them too? I just, uh, tried to distract them. They’re back at Fr- school now.”

Right. Alya. And Lila . Do they know? Do they know where she goes now? Are they going to find her? They’re going to find her at school tomorrow. They’re going to confront her, her friends will find out just how much she sucks, they’ll hate her too, because of course they would that’s what she des-

Adrien puts a hand on her shoulder, interrupting her spiraling, “Marinette.”

“R-right. Um, I’m good. I-I’m fine.” He looks at her doubtfully, but before he can say anything more, she continues,”Anyways, I should get this tea! Back to Maman! And you, probably need to uh, get tutored! For chinese! Ummm… yup! Bye!” She turns and hurries away, waving over her shoulder at him as she goes.

The rules. The rules. She can’t just disregard the rules.

 

Rule #6: If asked, you’re doing good

 

She’s good. Absolutely fine. Perfectly great. No need for anyone to worry about her. Her phone dings again. 

Right! She’d completely forgotten that someone had texted her. She’d ignored someone. They were probably worried about her now. Stupid.

 

Rule #11:   Adrien, Claude, Allegra, Allan, and Felix have been nice enough to put up with you, don’t make them regret it.

 

Or it’s her parents, who don’t have a choice in enduring her stupidity. Either way, she’d ignored someone for longer than necessary and now they’d either been forced to check with her again or they were finally letting her know that they’re done with her nonsense.

 

Kid Mime: hey if u want to come over when ur dun u can!

Kid Mime: were mking cookies

 

HE LOVES US: I fear they may burn down the building.

HE LOVES US: ...

Felix: Marinette, excuse me for a moment to exact revenge on Claude.

 

The Mom Friend: dont worry

The Mom Friend: there fine

 

Oh. They weren’t mad. They didn’t hate her. 

Yet.

Maybe she should go? They wouldn’t hate her for it if she’d been invited. They were making cookies, that would be fun. 

You’d get in the way. You’ll be that killjoy that gets too specific about the recipe.

“You should go!” Tikki has made her way onto the girl’s shoulder, “Cookies are fun!”

Tikki likes cookies. She would go for Tikki. That’s okay, right? It’s not selfish if you’re going for someone else?

 

Patiserie Princess: im on my way

 


 

As soon as she knocks on the door, it opens and she is whisked into Claude’s kitchen, where chaos is likely about to ensue. There are, presumably, all the ingredients necessary out along with a few measuring cups. There’s a bowl on the counter that might be meant for mixing all the ingredients, but it’s probably too small. The stove has a pot on it but the stove is off. Claude already has some flour on him, despite the flour being closed. Allan is taking out a few more ingredients, while Felix sits at the counter with tea, content to watch for now. It’s probably a good choice considering his black clothing would display any and all flour that lands on it.

Something is placed on her head. She looks up to see Allegra beside her.

“Thank goodness you’re here. Claude decided I’m in charge and I don’t know what I’m doing. You’ve got the hat so you’re in charge now.”

“M-me?! Are you sure I should?”

“You live in a bakery, and regularly assist in baking goods for sale. Of all of us you will be the most capable of directing us in creating baked goods.” Felix sips his tea as he says this.

“Yay! Marinette’s here to save us!” Claude throws his arms in the air as Allan puts the last of the ingredients on the counter.

“Hey, ‘Nette.” he looks at the chef’s hat, “So what do we do?”

“I don’t know, uh… where’s the recipe?” She still wasn’t convinced that she is the best to be in charge. They’ve never seen her as a leader, are they sure they want her to do this?

Allegra hands her a sheet of paper printed from a website. Marinette skims it quickly. It’s pretty good, but being raised by two bakers she makes some small adjustments in her head. Used to correcting recipes at home, she grabs a pen and quickly scribbles them onto the paper. Something in her switches, and she steps back with a mindset she hasn’t used in her civilian life since before . Her friends see the different expression - a new one for them - and smile.

“Alright, so first we’re going to need to melt the butter. Allan, I’m going to need to you turn the stove to a medium heat and keep an eye on it. Once it is boiling, stir it constantly until it is an amber color. At that point let it cool for twenty minutes.”

She hands him the two sticks of butter and turns to Claude and Allegra, “You two should measure out and mix the dry ingredients.” She hands them the corrected sheet, “And you’re going to want a bigger bowl.” She approves their new bowl, taking the old one with her as she clears a space a little away from the others to cut up the pretzels.

While they’re all distracted by their tasks, there’s a knock at the door. Felix stands and opens it, allowing Adrien into the kitchen. He starts to speak, but stops abruptly as he takes in the scene before him.

At this point Allegra and Claude have finished mixing and are just talking. Marinette has mixed the chocolate and butterscotch chips and pretzels together in a bowl. She’s standing at the stove with Allan and they’re talking as well. Felix has returned to his tea and none of those involved in the baking have noticed him yet. A timer beeps and Marinette straightens.

“Alright, the butter is cool now. Allegra, can you put the eggs and vanilla in with the butter? Allan can you do the brown sugar? I can mix it, and Claude, you can mix in the stuff in the other bowl when we get to that point.” Marinette is entirely in her element, having been raised on recipes that were probably more complicated than this one. She knows what to do and is easily directing those around her to include them all in the process.

Adrien hasn’t seen her so comfortable and confident - especially when directing others - in, well, a while now. It’s nice to see. He decides against interrupting and sits next to Felix to watch.

Father wouldn’t allow him to join in such a messy activity anyways.

Soon enough, the cookies have been put in the oven and Marinette sets the timer for them. She takes the hat off her head, “There! All done! I told you that it wasn’t that complicated!”

“That’s ‘cause you actually knew what you were doing!” Claude exclaims, hugging her.

“I am still certain that without your presence Claude’s kitchen may not have survived this experience.” Felix stands to put his mug away and the others finally notice Adrien.

“Oh hey, Adrien. When’d ya’ get here?” Allan sits at the table with the blond.

He shrugs, ”A little bit ago. I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“You could have said something, if you want to join.” Marinette has yet to flip back to her normal state of mind. She’s channeling her Ladybug mindset for public situations.

“Father wouldn’t have wanted me to.”

At this, Marinette gets a defiant tone and her expression changes to yet another new one for all but Adrien, “Well y-” She cuts herself off abruptly, remembering herself and slouching slightly, “Well that’s unfortunate.”

“I think that you should do what you want. He’s not here to stop you.” Allegra sits as well.

“Last time I tried that we were chased through Paris by a mob of fans.” The others are confused, but before any of them can question further, Marinette drops her head to the table.

“Ugh. I still can’t believe I was in my pajamas that whole time. How did I forget to change into my clothes before leaving the house? Aaaaaah.”

Adrien snorts at that and Claude slams his hands onto the table (but gently), “Storytime?!”

“It was on the news…” Adrien supplies, wondering if that would jog their memories - if they’d seen it at all.

“Don’t remind meeee…” Allan pats Marinette consolingly. Her head is still on the table.

“It’d still be more fun to hear it from you guys.” Allegra leans forward excitedly.

Adrien shrugs, deciding to start with the news footage. He pulls it up on his phone and puts it in view of all of them. Marinette sits up to watch it, cringing every so often.

“Anyways that’s just the early stuff-”

“So not even all of it, you didn’t even see my brilliant disguises.” Marinette covers her face with her hands.

“It turned into an akuma attack eventually.”

You got dropped off the side of a building …”

“He what?! ” Allan interrupts them, “Were you okay?”

“You guys lead very eventful lives...” Allegra adds.

“Ladybug caught me. Also her cure would have fixed anything anyways.”

Still. ” Allan shakes his head. Marinette’s point goes unspoken. What if it didn’t fix everything? What will happen when she inevitably messes everything up and can’t reverse the damage? People shouldn’t trust Ladybug so much.

“I don’t think that our lives are that eventful…” Marinette tries to draw their attention away from Ladybug. It’s hypocritical, but as much she wishes they wouldn’t trust her hero alter-ego so much, she fears the day when everyone realizes how useless she really is.

Well, maybe useless is a strong word.

“The lives of spectacular people are always eventful! That’s what happens when you’re talented Mari!” Claude throws his arms in the air excitedly and she blushes.

“Well, if the heroes of Paris recognize ya’ by name your life has gotta’ be at least kinda’ interesting…” Allan chimes in.

Marinette shrugs noncommittally. She wouldn’t mind telling them those stories, but they involve her old classmates and to think about them too long would make her feel bad - which would be against the rules - one of the newer ones.

 

Rule #12: Don’t do anything that could attract an akuma to you.

 

She’d already messed that up earlier, but she hadn’t seen it coming. Alya showing up with Lila had been a surprise.

You should have realized that she would have shown up at an akuma attack you idiot.

To be fair though, Alya was only part of the problem, it was Lila’s presence that had really pushed her over the edge.

No. No excuses. The whole point of her rules is to have her accept these things as facts. If they’re facts, then she shouldn’t feel bad, thereby making her safe from akumas. She can’t just follow them whenever she pleases - that’s not how rules work. She’s been breaking the rules a lot recently, especially when she got sick. Maybe it would be for the best if she re-read them tonight. For the sake of reminding herself.

She’d memorized them, so she hadn’t read them in almost a week.

“What should we do while the cookies are in the oven? Board games?” Claude suggests.

“Sure!” Allegra clears the table to make room for whatever Claude drags out of his room. He brings a few different things out. It’s impressive just how many things he manages to carry at once.

“Okay! I got Jenga, Suspend, Sorry, Sleeping Queens, Dixit, Coup…”

“That’s a lot of games at once, Claude.” Allegra looks at him doubtfully, “Do you two even know how to play some of these?” She looks at Marinette and Adrien.

Marinette nods, but Adrien shakes his head.

“The only board game I’ve played is Monopoly. I hadn’t even played that until a few months ago…”

“Welp. Claude’s gonna’ introduce ya’ to all of his.”

“You bet I am!” He punctuates this statement by dropping everything at the end of the table.

Eventually the group settles into their games, and when the timer goes off, Marinette takes the cookies out to let them cool, turning the oven off before joining back into the game. They play a couple different games for a few hours, eating the cookies while they play. Marinette slips a couple in her purse for Tikki.

“These taste like friendship!” Claude declares.

“They’re pretty good.” Allegra says, then notices Adrien hasn’t had one yet, “Do you want one Adrien?”

“Well, uh,” he rubs the back of his neck, “Do you think I’m allowed to? Father…”

Before the rest of them can respond, Marinette hits her palms to the table, looking at Adrien intensely, whispering conspiratorially, “ Rebel.

The group laughs when Adrien eats a cookie quickly, seemingly having been entirely convinced by this.

Eventually it’s starting to grow dark outside, and it’s time for them to leave. Claude shows them out.

“Farewell, friends!” The other five smile, waving goodbye as they leave. Once they’re outside Marinette wraps her coat around herself tighter, hissing at the cold.

“You gonna’ be good ‘Nettie?” Allan cocks his head at her.

“M’ house isn’t that far.” The girl sticks close to the rest of them, which doesn’t seem like it would do much good. Her miraculous condition makes her extra sensitive to heat in the winter though, so for her it’s a little better - she can sense their body heat. It’s entirely unconscious, but she always can tell where a heat source is. It’s not super useful when she’s too tired to move, but at least it means she typically falls asleep on the warmest person.

“We’ll walk with you - just to be safe.” Allegra wraps an arm around the shorter girl’s shoulders, who leans into her.

They carry on their conversation as they walk, dropping off Marinette first. She goes straight to her bed, as does Tikki. Before Marinette can sleep, she forces herself to sit up, remembering her promise to reread the lists.

After she reads them she thinks that maybe it had been too long since she read them last, seeing as now she felt bad and that is the whole thing she’s trying to avoid. 

She goes to sleep afterwards, because she’s still tired. She can think about the lists again in the morning.

Chapter Text

Ladybug and Chat Noir are sitting on the Eiffel Tower, looking over the city. They’ve finished their individual patrols and are sitting together as they think. It’s been a few weeks since Marinette spoke to Fu about Rena Rouge and Carapace, and Ladybug has been avoiding mentioning it to Chat Noir. He’ll be disappointed, she’s sure of it. He liked them, and he’ll finally realize that she’s a terrible leader. She can’t keep putting it off though. It’ll be December in a little more than a week and they’ll need assistance. He needs to know.

“Chat?” Ladybug doesn’t look to him, focusing intently on the Parisian rooftops instead.

“Yes?” He looks at her carefully, but she still doesn’t look at him. She’s wringing her hands and rubbing her wrist, thinking about what to say.

“I- We-... We can’t call on Rena Rouge and Carapace anymore-”

“Okay.”

“I know that they got the job done, and they were popular, but I just can’t- I mean-”

“Hey, Bug, it’s fine-”

“I know they didn’t do anything wrong, so it’s kind of wrong for me to kick them off the team, but I-” Her eyes well up with tears for a moment, but she blinks them away just as quickly as they show up.

He reaches out to her gently, “Hey-”

She clenches her hands into fists, staring into her lap, “I can’t- I wouldn’t be able to work with them- and I know that they didn’t do anything wrong at all, but I- I just-” She covers her face with her hands, her fingers digging into her skin. Her voice is muffled now, “I-”

He cuts her off, gently removing her hands from her face, “Bugaboo, it’s fine. If you don’t trust them anymore, then they don’t deserve a miraculous.”

“No! I should trust them! They- they didn’t do anything wrong. They’re good people. They were right. I-”

“Ladybug. Look at me.” She turns to him, fighting a losing battle against her eyes, which have welled up again, “If you don’t trust them, then I’m sure you have good reason.”

“I don’t! Just my own stupid-

“Hey! What did I say about talking bad about my partner? Let’s start simply. Do you trust them anymore?”
She shakes her head, looking ashamed and disappointed. He wants to address that, but one thing at a time.

“Would you be able to fight an akuma with them?”

She shakes her head again, looking down.

“Then it’s settled. They can’t have a miraculous anymore. They were temporary heroes as a test. They didn’t pass, so we move on to find others.”

“...But I should have tried harder… I just- I don’t know where I went wrong!”

“Are sure you went wrong?”

She pauses. This hasn’t occurred to her, or at least not for a while, and she gives the thought a moment’s consideration. That would mean that her classmates were wrong - that they abandoned and turned on her for no reason. That… that hurts. The tears finally spill over silently. 

It would also mean there’s nothing she can do to prevent this in the future. Nothing at all. She could be stuck in an infinite loop of pain and torn friendships.

No. Her old friends were right. It is the only thing that makes sense. She must have done something wrong. When she figures out what it was, she can finally correct it so that she doesn’t lose anyone again.

“Yes.” She speaks with certainty, but a seed has been planted in her mind. She won’t be the one to water it though - just looking at it hurts.

He sighs. Chat really doubts that’s the facts, but without knowing the situation, he has no ammo to fight her with, “What about Chloe?”

There’s no need to keep digging into the past right now.

“I’m not sure… I think the bee will move on too, but…” she trails off

“But what?”

“But, she’s actually working to improve. I think that if we really needed someone, we could go to her. I think she’s used the miraculous to grow as a person… and we should do our best to allow that to continue.” Her tears are gone now, and she’s staring out at their city again. He can tell she’s put some thought into this.

“I think that you’re right. She certainly seems to have grown.” Maybe a little distracted recently, but she’d told Adrien she’s planning something, “What about new heroes? Maybe your new friends?”
He remembered a few days after Coolest Dad, he’d asked during patrol how she was doing and to his horror she’d started crying a little. It was only when he had seen her small smile that he’d realized that they were tears of joy. Apparently her friends had called her their friend when they didn’t know she was around.

She’d been just so happy that they actually considered her a friend, and as great as it had been to see her so delighted, it was saddening that it was such a surprise to her.

“I’m not sure I should just choose friends anymore…”

“If that’s what you think, then how do you want to choose?”
“Fu said I should look for people who already act like a hero. So I guess I’ll be on the watch for good people and look into them from there?” She rests her head on his shoulder, “I’m not really sure?”

He nods, putting an arm around her as a cool breeze goes by. He waits a moment then asks, “Are you going to tell them that they aren’t heroes anymore?”

He knows it could upset her to even think about confronting her old friends, but he’s found that as she grows more tired with the cold she sometimes is too tired to dwell long on how she feels, it makes it easier for her to think about. Sometimes it makes her more emotional though, so baby steps.

She yawns, “I dunno’?”

Or, of course, she’s sleepy and entirely unable to focus.

“Ladybug?”

“Probably. I… don’t wanna’ surprise them bad.”

“‘Surprise them bad’? Interesting way to phrase it.”

“I meant… like… a bad surprise?” She hasn’t quite slipped into the full hibernating-ladybug mindset she gets during the winter, so her sleepiness is getting in the way of her attempts to convey her thoughts.

“I figured. You know what I think?” He looks over at her, watching her fight a losing battle against the cold. He’s purring quietly, but she probably hasn’t noticed.

“Wha’ you th- thee-” She trips over the enunciation before she gives up, knowing he’ll understand it.

I think that you need to go home.” He boops her nose with his other arm. She wrinkles her nose at him.

“Noo I don’. I-” She’s cut off by a yawn, “... okay.”

She can’t see his victorious grin as she straightens, readying her yo-yo to head back home. He watches until she’s on less dangerous rooftops before he heads back to his house.

 


 

Marinette is looking droopy. She barely paid any attention in her classes, and so far her lunch has been untouched - her bag not even opened. Her friends are a little worried, but seeing as it’s around 0° (32℉) they figure she’s just sleepy. They aren’t planning on commenting on it in case she feels embarrassed. 

Then Marinette slumps further and instead of falling over onto Claude she starts to fall the other way off of the table.

“Woah! Hey, wrong way, Mari!” Claude grabs her gently and has her rest on his side. She mumbles something about rules.

The group misunderstands, and Allan says, “ ‘Nette, we’re not in class. It’s not against the rules to fall asleep at lunch.”

She tired girl doesn’t say anything more, and the conversation moves on. As she fights against the cold, she thinks back to the conversation she had with her partner last night.

She really should get around to talking to Chloe, and Nino… and Alya. They deserve to know.

Chloe won’t be so bad, but the other two… those are scary. Those are terrifying. They’ll be upset, they’ll hate her even more.  

She wants to postpone it as long as possible, but time has probably run out. By early December she’ll be running mostly on ladybug instincts, and won’t be able to reliably convey the message well. Chat can’t know who they are due to secret identity reasons, so it’s up to her.

She probably should have done it last week, or the week before that. At this point she’s barely able to stand straight and is already forgetting to eat and drink. She’ll have to go after school.

She suddenly thinks the school day should be longer.

Claude nudges her gently. She glances up at him blearily, “Sorry to bother you, Mari, but you should probably eat something. That’s what lunch is for! You know, there was a mathematician who couldn’t afford lunch-”

Allegra cuts in, “ Don’t-

“-he could binomial. ” He shoots a mischievous grin at Allegra and she sighs defeatedly.

Marinette has finally opened her lunch box and is eating her lunch quietly. They had to remind her to eat. Would they be mad?

Probably not, because the group had been able to move onto their conversation. Then again, they’d had to pause the conversation in the first place. 

She’d mark this as a thing she only maybe messed up.

 


 

Ladybug lands on Chloe’s balcony, standing for a moment before knocking on the window to get the girl’s attention. She glances up and does a double take when she realizes who exactly is at her door. She stands and rushes over quickly, ushering the hero inside.

“Ladybug! What are you doing here?!” Chloe offers the heroine a seat, “Do you want me to call up something?”

“No, no. I just needed to talk to you. It’s about Queen Bee…” Chloe’s room is certainly warmer than the outside, and Ladybug definitely appreciates that.

“Yes?” She sounds nervous as she takes a seat across from Ladybug.

“We… I- There’s some changes being made to our back-up heroes. Rena Rouge and Carapace are retired. That much is final. They… they won’t be returning to the team. Ever.”

Chloe can hear the grief in her role model’s voice and wonders what led to this. It’s not her place to ask though, so all she says is, “I’m sorry.”

Ladybug shakes her head slightly, “Anyways. Queen Bee is a different case. I do think that the bee miraculous will be going to another eventually, but I can see that it has allowed you to grow as a person, and I’m proud of you. I think that, if I ever needed the bee - whether before I find a new holder, or if something happens once I- we do - then I would go to you. I think that you are worthy of the bee miraculous.” She’s barely finished speaking when she gets tackled. Chloe is hugging her and has tears in her eyes.

Thank you.

“What?” She’d just taken away one of the few things that Chloe really wanted, and she’s being thanked?

Chloe backs off, clearing her eyes, “It means a lot that you’re- you’re proud of me. You think I’m worthy of a miraculous, even if you are moving onto someone else.”

“I, um, thank you for understanding.” This went so much easier than she thought, especially considering it’s Chloe she’s talking to. They walk back to the balcony.

“Actually, Ladybug? Could I ask you a favor? Or like, two favors?”

“What kind of favors?” This could end poorly after all it would seem.

“Um, sometime - it doesn’t have to be soon, just when it works for you - could I maybe… say goodbye to Pollen? If it’s stupid to ask then-”

“No, that’s fine. I understand. When I get the chance, I’ll try to stop by.”

“Thank you. Pollen just…” The blonde trails off, but Ladybug understands. If she had to be away from Tikki for so long and then found out Tikki was going to someone else…

“And the second one?” The unknown condition continues to worry her.

“It’s… more complicated. I’m working on something, and I think if you were involved, it could be… better? I get it if it’s utterly ridiculous to ask of you because I don’t know anything super specific, but I’d appreciate it.”

That’s vaguely ominous, but Ladybug is somewhat curious, “I think you should talk to me when you have information. We can figure it out then.”

Chloe nods, and Ladybug swings away.

Chloe texts Adrien excitedly, she needs another Ladybug fan to freak out with. Ladybug is proud of her. 

 


 

Ladybug taps lightly on the window, as she hangs outside of Nino’s room. He looks over and smiles when he sees who it is. He opens the window, leaning out slightly to talk to her.

“Dude! I didn’t know there was an akuma! Need some Carapace?” He looks so excited and her heart sinks further.

“Actually, no. Um, this is about Carapace, but… it’s not what you’re thinking.” She’s nervous, but he doesn’t seem to notice it.

He looks confused for a moment then elated shock takes over, “Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Are you giving me my miraculous permanently?!” 

Oh. Oh no. She thought it couldn’t get worse, but now it has. He looks so overjoyed and it’s all about to come crashing down. She can’t back down now though.

“No. Um, you’re not going to like it.” 

His face falls, and he looks concerned, “Oh. Is something wrong?”

“Yes. Chat and I-” Lies. Chat only followed what you suggested. Don’t drag him into this, “We’ve been reconsidering those that we call on as temporary holders, and… we don’t think Carapace can be on the team anymore. I’m sorry, but this- this is final.”

His earlier expression has been flipped entirely. He looks crushed, on the verge of tears, “What? Why?” His voice is shaky and she has to force her voice to be level.

Look what you’ve done now. You’re hurting him. And why? For yourself? You messed up and now you’re scared of facing anyone who reminds you of that? Are you happy now?!

“It’s complicated, but this is why we didn’t give the miraculous out permanently at first. Nothing was set in stone. I’m sorry.”

You stupid, wretched fool. Are you really sorry about this? Or is this what you wanted all along?

“Oh. Okay. I’m sorry. Thanks for letting me know.” He turns, and begins to shut the window. Something occurs to her.

“Nino?” He turns back and just the look on his face hurts her soul, “Could you not tell A-Alya yet? I’d prefer she find out in person…”

He nods sullenly, quiet, and shuts the window completely. It’s just about dark out and Ladybug wants to go home and just break down.

But she has one more to go.

Alya.

 


 

Ladybug sits on a rooftop parallel to Alya’s for some time. She really doesn’t want to do this, but she doesn’t really have a choice anymore. The alternative is for Alya to find out tomorrow at school and that will definitely cause an akuma. 

No, she has to do this now.

She knocks on the window, Alya eagerly opens it up, “Ladybug! Are you here for an interview? In need of a fox in your life maybe?”

“No.” Alya gets a concerned look on her face at the flat tone in the heroine’s voice.

“Oh, what is it then?”

“It’s about you. You being Rena Rouge.”

The monotony of her voice keeps Alya from getting too excited, but there’s some hope in the journalist’s voice when she asks, “Are you giving my miraculous to me?”

Ladybug shakes her head, “No. You- You can’t be Rena Rouge anymore.”

“What? Like my name right? You don’t mean…”

“Alya Césaire, you can not be a holder of a miraculous anymore.” Her voice is lifeless, and it’s taking everything she has to keep it that way.

Alya tears up, “What do you mean?! What did I do wrong?!”

Nothing. I’m just a selfish jerk.

“It’s just the facts. We only had the miraculouses out temporarily in case someone didn’t work out. That’s what happened here.”

“No!” Alya gets in her face, shouting as tears stream down her face, “No! Being a hero has always been my dream! I deserve to know why! I was a good hero, you can’t just tell me that ‘this is the way it is’ you hear me?! I want some fucking answers!

“The factors that led to you being chosen have changed.”

“Bullshit! I deserve real answers! This isn’t fair to me!”
It isn’t. I know it isn’t and I’m sorry, but I can’t compromise my secret identity.

She isn’t going to hold up the facade much longer, she feels everything welling up inside her, and chokes out an, “I’m sorry.” before she goes to the roof. She continues suppressing it, waiting there a few moments in case an akuma comes, before she turns in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. It’s dark now, and she’d tired, cold, and an emotionally exhausted mess. She just wants to rest. She just wants her partner.

She could call him, but she doesn’t want to bother him, so she’ll just wait at the tower. If he comes out he’ll find her there and won’t be forced into dealing with her idiocy. 

She sits on their high platform and curls into a ball with her head in her knees, wrapping her arms around her legs. Now that she’s not near Alya, she’s allowed to cry-

Wait. No. No, she’s not. That’s the rule. She forgot again

You dense imbecile.

 

Rule #1: Don’t cry.

 

Stupid stupid stupid stupidstupidstupid…

The hateful train of thought keeps running through her head, gaining steam and making her want to cry even more.

She really hopes Chat will show up.

She really hopes he won’t.

She sits alone like that for another moment, the wind and cold blowing past the distraught girl as she put all her effort into not crying.

So focused on her task, she doesn’t notice the soft footfalls approaching her.

“Oh, Bug. ” The voice sits next to her, but she doesn’t register it, “My Lady, you could have told me. You didn’t have to do this alone.” She’s pulled into a tender hug, and finally notices her partner next to her.

“K-kitty?” Her voice breaks with his heart. He can hear the pain in her and wishes she would allow herself to acknowledge it. She’s holding back her tears and her grief and it’s not doing her any good.

Ladybug. You talked to Rena and Carapace didn’t you?” He’d figured it out shortly after Chloe had stopped texting Adrien. If Ladybug had talked to Chloe, then it only made sense that the next two would follow. He understands he couldn’t have talked to them in her place, but he could have been nearby for support.

She didn’t need to carry the world alone.

Mon minou, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” The heartbreak in her voice is terrible, and he wishes it wasn’t a familiar sound.

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” He hugs her tighter, as if that can single-handedly fix everything. 

If only it were so easy.

“I do. I’m a terrible no-good ab- ” Chat cuts her off. 

“No. We’ve been over this. You are my amazingly talented and beautiful partner. ‘No-good’? What do you call all you’ve done for the city then? ‘Terrible’? We looked up the definition, and ‘distressingly bad’ does not describe you. Ladybug, you are many things, but you are not those things.”

He can see the tears welling up in her eyes, the way she tries to fight them off.

“Do you know what else we’ve been over? You-” He pokes her gently, “Are allowed to cry. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

That does it, she finally returns the hug as she clings to him desperately while she sobs quietly. He holds her soothingly, doing his best to comfort her.

When she falls quiet as the chill finally gets to her, he reminds her that she should head back to her home. She nods, going on her way as he heads to his own house.

Chapter Text

Adrien really dreads going to school everyday. To think that just over a year ago it was his biggest wish. It’s not that school is never fun, but with Lila there it’s exhausting. Especially without Marinette.

He misses seeing her everyday.

He arrives before Lila as usual, so there’s that. Alya is sitting in her seat behind him, looking downtrodden. That’s odd. He’s fairly certain it’s her birthday today.

“Hey, Alya.” He greets her as usual, half-heartedly. 

“Hey.” As usual, she doesn’t notice there’s nothing behind his greeting, but today it seems like she isn’t noticing much of anything.

“Happy birthday?”

“Oh, yeah. Thanks.”

Nino walks in mopey, “Hey.”

Was everyone upset today? Was there some news he missed? Maybe Lila had finally left. 

Speak of the devil and she shall appear, Lila walks in, “Hi guys! Happy birthday Alya!”

Well, he could always dream.

Lila manages to get a half-hearted smile out of the journalist, “Hi Lila.”

Lila sits next to Adrien, as is the usual ever since his princess left, “Oh, Alya, is everything alright? You look so sad!”

Alya thinks for a moment then, “Lila, did I do something to upset Ladybug? I think she’s mad at me. What did I do?”

Lila hesitates for a moment, then pulls on a doleful mask, “I don’t know if I should tell you. I’d hate to upset, especially on your birthday…”

Alya and Nino fall for it, hook, line, and sinker. They turn to her and Alya speaks, ”No, no! Tell me! It’s not your fault anyways.”

Crocodile tears come to her eyes, “Oh but it is! I should have done something! I just thought Ladybug knew better…”

Adrien mentally prepares himself for one of those days. It would seem his closest friends - Marinette and Ladybug - were Lila’s favorite targets. Either to hurt or get attention. Ladybug seems to be on Lila’s bad side now.

He hates listening to this nonsense in silence, but there’s little he can do. If he makes any sort of scene at school, Father would pull him out immediately and give him even less freedom than before. He would take it as proof that Adrien had been wrong and the boy would be trapped in his awful room for forever again. 

He tries to shut his mind down at school now. Numbness makes it go by faster, and no one has commented on his quietness. 

“What? What happened?!” 

“It’s… Ladybug and I aren’t friends anymore. She’s been talking with her and now she hates me!” The liar covers her face.

“Who! Who has she been talking to?!”

Oh no. Adrien pretty sure he knows who Lila is pinning this on. Please be wrong. Please don’t be-

“Marinette.”

Alya’s sadness turns to burning fury, “That bitch! She’s not even here anymore and she’s still ruining everything! I can’t believe she was ever my friend. It disgusts me!” 

Nino shakes his head, “Yeah, she really took a turn last year. Kinda’ a shame, she used to be so nice…”

“It’s just, she’s been talking to Ladybug, and she’s convinced her that I’m horrible. She must have talked bad about you guys too! Oh, I should have done something!”

“It’s not your fault. Just tell us what happened.” Alya rests a hand comfortingly on Lila’s shoulder.

“Well, a while ago, Ladybug mentioned she made a new friend - I was so happy for her! But then, Ladybug started being more toxic and she started being mean to me. I found out she had been hanging out with Marinette. They’ve both been bullying me for a while now… Ladybug helped Marinette hurt me that day…”

Oh no. Marinette isn’t even here anymore and Lila still pins everything on her. What is even the point?!

“Ugh! I hate that girl! She ruins everything good! I guess it really was fitting to call her our ‘everyday Ladybug’!” Alya stews for a moment, then pulls out her phone, “You know what? Ladybug clearly sucks. Paris needs to know.”

Lila looks surprised. Adrien sees the moment when she realizes that such a statement could put her web of falsehoods on the line, “No, no! Please, I’m not comfortable telling all of Paris about my failure to help Ladybug!” 

Alya softens, “Lila you didn’t fail, but I guess I won’t post something if it makes you uncomfortable. If that’s too much then maybe I’ll just delete the Ladyblog instead. It’s supposed to be a place for Ladybug fans, but no one should give a shit about that kind of person and the self-absorbed asshole that goes by ‘Marinette’.” 

“Woah, Alya, are you actually deleting your blog?” Adrien did not see this coming. The anger he feels at everything she just said slips into his voice despite his efforts to keep it level.

Alya looks at him sympathetically, “Oh my precious sunshine boy. I know you were a huge a Ladybug fan. It must be such a shock. I know it is to me. I am deleting my blog. Ladybug deserves worse for the kind of stunt she’s pulled. Lila is such a sweetheart, and to think Ladybug left her for Marinette of all people.”

Adrien can feel Plagg shifting angrily in his pocket and it takes every ounce of self-control he has to just turn away and focus on the front of the classroom. He thought school was a nightmare before, he’d forgotten he’s bad luck - it can always get worse.

Marinette’s lucky charm hasn’t done him much good recently.

Maybe she was the good luck charm in his life.

 


 

It’s lunch period and by some miracle no one’s been akumatized yet. Alya’s phone dings and he sees her look at the notification in shock. She opens her phone and starts texting quickly and furiously, mumbling to herself.

He sighs, at least she found a way to distract herself from hating his favorite people. 

“Come on Adrikins, let’s have lunch somewhere that people aren’t ridiculous!” Chloe hooks an arm through his, dragging him away. Sabrina walks beside them as well. They’re out of the school and on the street. They’ve been waiting for a minute or so for Chloe’s driver to arrive.

Adrien’s phone dings, it’s Claude.

 

Kid Mime: i know you know alya. If you’re near her you need to get her to stop texting mari. now.

 

Adrien’s heart drops. When Alya starting text a few minutes ago, had she really…? He didn’t stop to wonder how, he just turns and rushes back into the school. Chloe looks up in surprise and she and Sabrina follow in confusion.

He hurries into the cafeteria and sure enough, Alya is still furiously typing away at her phone.

He puts a hand on the table harshly, drawing her attention, “Alya, you need to stop.”

“Stop?! Do even know what I’m doing?! That bitch had the nerve to text me! I’m just giving her a piece of my mind!”
“Adrien, are you really on Marinette’s side?” Lila makes her voice sound full of hurt shock.

“Bro…”

Adrien pauses. He wants to tear into them so bad. Marinette deserves better and so does Ladybug. Neither girl deserves all this hate, but he can’t cause a scene. Father would pull him out and he’d be isolated again. 

Alone.

Unable to see either of them.

Chloe shoves past him, “Really Césaire? Cyber-bullying? Leave Dupain-Cheng alone and listen to more of Lie-la’s nonsense.”

“Excuse me? I’m not bullying anyone! Marinette is the bully here! Her and Ladybug! I finally understand why she chose you - birds of a feather flock together!”

Chloe glares down at her, “Are you blind or just plain stupid? Dupain-Cheng hasn’t texted you back at all from the looks of it. Are you even reading what you’re sending? That’s bullying Césaire.”

“Oh, you would know.”

“I would.” Chloe’s voice is hard, “But at least I know my faults. You’re just some self-absorbed wanna-be journalist who can’t see what’s right in front of her.”
“Leave her alone Chloe.” Nino glares at the blonde.

“Shut it Lahiffe. You had a crush on Dupain-Cheng and knew her as long as I did. You should know better than to believe this faker’s bullshit. I do find it interesting that you finally grew a spine and decided you should speak up to me. Where was that back-bone all those years I went after Marinette?”

Nino just looks at her. Lila speaks up, “Oh Chloe, there’s no need to take your anger out on us. Just because Ladybug hasn’t called on Queen Bee for so long…”

“And she won’t be again. She told me so last night. I get it, it’s her decision and I’m just glad she ever considered me. That’s not what this is about.”

Alya slams her phone down on the table, standing to get in Chloe’s face, “Listen up Chloe, you don’t get to pretend you’re better than us-”

“I don’t have to pretend. It’s just the facts.” She flips her ponytail airily.

“Just because your dad’s the mayor doesn’t mean anything. I worked for what I got.”

“And then you threw it all away for some fake stories. Some journalist.”

“Lila would never lie to us!”

“And Dupain-Cheng would?”

“Yes! She’s a bully!”

“Since when have you been so protective of Marinette, Chloe?” Lila adds in.

“Because she’s a better person than everyone here. Haven’t you noticed how much her absence has messed the class up? Sheesh!”

“She’s one of the worst people alive! Her absence has only made things better!” Alya is shaking in fury.

Chloe wrinkles her nose, “Let me know when you wake-up and look around yourself. Adrikins, Sabrina and I have places to be.”
The trio walks out. As soon as they’re out of earshot, Chloe turns to her friend, “Did you get it Sabrina?”

“Yup!” She holds up her own phone triumphantly.

“Get what?” Adrien didn’t see what Sabrina had been up to during the yelling match.

“I took screenshots of what she sent to Marinette. I sent them to myself then I deleted the pictures so Alya wouldn’t know. I also deleted Marinette’s contact from her phone.

Chloe nods approvingly, “Good thinking. Now she can’t text her, because I doubt she put in the effort to remember her number.”

“Why’d you take screenshots?” He doesn’t understand the point of documenting whatever horrible stuff Alya said to Marinette.

“To report her for bullying, duh! Of course nothing will probably happen until Lila’s gone, seeing as even the school’s administration has their heads in the ground!”

Sabrina nods seriously, “That’s true.”
Adrien isn’t experienced in how schools are supposed to work, “Is the school really so bad?”

“Adrikins, why do you think I go here? This place’ll let anyone get away with anything. It’s ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous!” She thinks, “Maybe when I finally go to another school I should have Daddy do something about that.”

Adrien looks at her in surprise, “You’re transferring too?!”

“Not until the end of the year, obviously. Sabrina and I are out of here, this much of a stressful environment is bad for my hair.” At his look she says, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll get you out too. It won’t be too hard to convince your shitty father that a school with a more prestigious reputation would be better for his legacy. Maybe you can join your precious Marinette.”

He flushes slightly at that, then frowns thinking of the texts she must have seen. He really hopes she’s okay.

Chloe’s driver pulls up, and they all pile in. He sends Mari a quick text before turning back to those in the car with him. There’s nothing he can really do now

He trusts her new friends will take care of her, at least until he can be there too.

Chapter Text

Marinette is in a terrible mood. Her day had started badly. She couldn’t find her phone for a bit, and barely found it in time - stuffed in the back of a drawer. She has no idea how it got there. That really isn’t the biggest contributor to her mood though, it’s yesterday’s events.

She just feels so guilty. She’s supposed to be a good person and what she did…

Poor Nino. Poor Alya.

Alya… wait.

Today is her birthday! Marinette broke her heart on the day before her birthday.

What an asshole.

She can’t worry her friends though. They put up with her enough that if they found out what she’d done it’d probably be the final straw. 

Maybe she can cover up her misery with her sleepiness. It is pretty cold today. Paris is having a colder winter than usual this year it would seem.

“Are you quite alright, Marinette?” Felix and her are on their way to the library for the morning. 

So much for that, seeing as Felix already noticed, “Jus’ tired.” 

He looks unconvinced by her lie, so it would seem she deceived him for no reason. Stupid girl, can’t follow her own rules correctly. 

As they approach the table, Marinette hears one of them mention the Ladyblog.

“What?” Did Alya post something? Do they finally know what she’s done? Is this the last time she can hang out with them?

“Did you hear? The Ladyblog is gone. That Alya girl took it down!” Claude sounds shocked.

“She was pretty proud of it, from what I understand.” Allan adds.

“I never really used it anyways. I don’t really like her anyways…” Allegra’s voice sounds cold. Marinette didn’t know she knew Alya.

“Really? I think Alya’s pretty nice.” She should stick up for her ex-best friend, especially after what she pulled last night. It takes all her concentration to speak normally. They shouldn’t all have to deal with her slurred and mumbled tired nonsense.

The other four turn to her, slight confusion evident on their faces. What did she do this time? Allan speaks up, “We weren’t sure you knew her.” 

Marinette gets the feeling there’s something he’s leaving out, but she gets it. She shouldn’t be trusted with most things. Besides, they don’t know all her secrets anyways - it’s only fair.

Of course, now she’s dug herself a hole. In her effort to defend Alya, she’s removed all the distance she tried to put between her old classmates and her new friends.

“Uh, well, ummm, I use’ t’ read the Ladyblog a lot…” Her nervousness makes her stumble over the words slightly. She’s supposed to be pretending to be fine! Get it together! 

Allegra frowns, “I met her after that akuma attack here. She didn’t make a great first impression.”

Oh. Right. That’s when they met.

They’d also met her then…

The group notices the way she stares intensely at the table. 

Claude puts an arm around her, “Anyways, you seem pretty awake today Mari! Find some way to fight the winter?”

“No, um, I’m just trying to seem kinda’ awake today…”

Allan frowns, seemingly picking up on what exactly she meant by that, “‘Nette if you’re tired you can rest.”

She shrugs. It’s tiring to pretend she’s fine, especially considering that she’s still dwelling on the events of yesterday evening. She can’t bother her new friends though. She’s been lax in being better to them. She should never have let her guard down - who knows what could have happened. 

Her water bottle is handed to her, “At least drink some water then.”

She does as she’s told. She’d forgotten how great water is. 

Their short time before class starts passes quickly to the stressed and tired girl. As they’re standing to go, Allegra turns to the boys, “Oh, I might be a little late to lunch today. I’m practicing extra for Concours d'arts musicaux.”

“Alright.”

The two girls head to class. They sit in their seats as the teacher walks in, Marinette is barely paying attention, too focused on staying awake and thinking about how terrible she is. She misses Allegra’s occasional concerned glances.

 


 

Allan and Felix had left to get their lunches from their lockers, and Claude is in line for his lunch, so Marinette is at the table alone. Claude had mentioned that they had one of Allegra’s favorite foods today,

She unlocks her phone and taps the first ‘Al’ she sees, sending a quick text to let her know. Her phone dings immediately.

 

Alya: you have some nerve texting me bitch

Alya: i know what you’ve done you worthless human trash

Alya: you disgust me

 

What? Marinette is so confused. She hasn’t done anything to Alya as Marinette recently. She knows that she’s awful, but why is Alya so mad at Marinette still?

Had she really been that bad of a friend?

 

Alya: you left and you’re still messing everything up

Alya: bullying? really? 

Alya: were you planning on ever revealing just how sickenly cruel you are

Alya: lila told us what you did to Ladybug

Alya: im horrified i ever called someone like her my hero. She’s just like you

 

Marinette doesn’t even consider how Alya’s contact got on her phone. It’s like when people stare at something horrifying. She can’t look away, and her grip on her phone tightens.

The difference for Marinette is that this is the confirmation she’s been expecting. It’s everything she’s thought of herself, and it’s straight from someone she cares about.

She had really been right all along. It hurts and she tears up. 

All her rules were for nothing.

Marinette really is a terrible person.

 


 

Claude had finally gotten out of the line. Of all the days for the line to move slowly, it had to be today. The rest of the group had noticed too - Marinette seemed extra off today. They were pretty sure it had something to do with the Ladyblog, but there’s little they can do, other than be there.

He’s been trying to be extra cheery today, hoping it could make at least a slight difference. 

He approaches the table and before he can even open his mouth he notices something is very wrong.

Marinette is staring at her phone silently and there are tears streaming down her face.

He has only her cry once before, and she’d stopped herself quickly. There hadn’t even been that many tears - but now? They just keep coming.

He sets his tray down and rushes to her side, “Marinette? Is something wrong?”

She doesn’t say anything, clearly having an attack and not at all paying attention to what’s around her. She’s hyperventilating and he really wishes he knew what happened. She flinches as her phone dings again, he reads the message with her and it becomes clear what’s going on.

 

Alya: you conceited cunt you left and things are still going wrong and it’s all your fault

Alya: i hate you so much

 

What.

The.

Fuck.

He had figured that Alya and Marinette knew each other, but why were they texting? 

Is this Marinette’s idea of a ‘nice person’?

Everytime the phone dings she flinches, but she reads the message anyways. He puts a hand on her shoulder and she doesn’t even notice.

“Marinette? Can you hear me?”  He speaks softly, and she continues staring at her screen like a lifeline. He tries to take it out of her hands, but she has a stronger grip than he would have expected.

People are starting to glance over at her, and he figures that being in crowded cafeteria isn’t helping matters.

“Marinette, do you want to leave?” She remains silent, only whimpering as the phone dings again.

He makes a command decision, scooping Marinette up. Her small frame makes her very light. She doesn’t even seem to notice. He leaves their bags behind, no one will touch them.

As he’s exiting the cafeteria, he sees Felix and Allan as they’re entering. The two notice him and the short girl immediately and rush to him. 

“What happened?”

“Is Marinette okay?”

“I’m not sure about that, but she’s definitely not okay. I’m bringing her to the library - it should be quieter there. Can you grab our stuff?”
They nod, hurrying to grab the bags and food. As he’s entering the library he sees Allegra who notices the little procession and hurriedly follows, the other two fill her in as best they can as Claude sets Marinette down on the couch.

The phone dings for the upteenth time

“Oh fuck.” The others look at him in surprise.

“Just what exactly is going on?” Allegra asks.

“Try and get her phone away from her - you’ll see. I’m going to text Adrien to see if can get that bully to stop texting her.”
They turn to the girl as he pulls out his phone and send a quick text to the model. He looks up just as Allegra reads the ongoing texts.

“That fucking bitch!

“Oh Marinette…” 

Felix stays concerningly quiet, but his anger is clear.

Claude steps closer, watching as Allan continues to try to pry the device from Marinette’s hands. Now that he’s had a chance to look at it properly, Claude has realized that the phone in her hands isn’t hers - or not her usual one.

The case certainly looks like something she would choose, but it’s not the one he’s familiar with, and he’s willing to bet that her backgrounds are different too. 

It’s been a moment and the notifications have died down. It would seem Adrien had been successful. The phone turns off and Marinette continues to stare at the blank screen.

“Marinette? Sweetie, can you look at me?” Allan continues to try and draw her out of her daze. The girl has yet to respond to any of them, focused entirely on that phone, which is now dotted with her tears. Her breathing hasn’t evened and Claude’s beginning to worry she’ll faint. The group is sitting around her, trying to give her space while still watching her in concern.

Now that the texts are finished, Claude decides to try once more to pry the phone from her once more. He succeeds and tries to unlock it, to see just what was sent to the poor girl.

Marinette’s usual password works, letting him in. He scrolls back to the beginning of it, Marinette sent a simple text clearly meant for Allegra, and the response had been immediate.
Reading the texts he feels tears prick at his eyes. He knew that they’d guessed Marinette had been bullied, but this? It was all so hateful. 

He’s willing to bet that this is the source of Marinette’s low self-esteem.

“Claude? Is everything alright?” Felix notices his distress, looking at him in concern.

Claude hands him the phone, “Just- read it. I-” He cuts himself off, shaking his head and turning his attention back to the pigtailed girl who hasn’t spoken yet.

Allan is tapping a steady rhythm on her hand gently, trying to help her steady her breathing. After a moment she seems to come back to herself.

She glances around at them in a terrified manner, unsure of how she got to the library and fearful of the consequences she’s sure she’s about to receive. They’re going to hate her now. Look what she’d done. She’s definitely broken several rules now. 

Alya confirmed for her that they’re useless, but Marinette’s considered them a safe constant in her life. She can’t help but cling to them.

 

Rule #1: Don’t cry

Rule #2: Smile

Rule #3: Be nice to people

Rule #11: Adrien, Claude, Allegra, Allan, and Felix have been nice enough to put up with you, don’t make them regret it.

Rule #12: Don’t do anything that could attract an akuma to you

 

That’s five rules in one go. Stupid. 

“I’m sorry.”

She says it once, then twice, then speeds up, repeating it over and over again.

I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorry…”

“Mari, there’s nothing to apologize for. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Allan interrupts her and she looks at him in bafflement.

She did do something wrong though. She broke five rules. In one incident. The only thing she could do is follow the other rules as best she can.

 

Rule #4: Apologize when you mess up (again)

 

“Marinette, really. He’s right. You did nothing wrong.” Allegra moves closer to the girl on the couch, “That Alya-girl was spewing a bunch of nonsense. You’re amazing.”

Marinette looks unconvinced, hugging her arms to herself tightly.

“‘Nette, really. We don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t your fault.”

“It is. I messed up.”

Felix finally puts the phone down, “I highly doubt that.”

Marinette looks down and doesn’t respond.

“Mari. Really. You’re a great person. She’s wrong.” Claude rests a hand on her shoulder. 

Marinette only covers her face and curls into herself further.

“Oh, ‘Nettie…” Allan squeezes her hand consolingly. 

She doesn’t speak, just remaining like that as they sit nearby, unsure of how to what to say.

They sit for a some time with her. Eventually, she slumps to the side and Allegra puts an arm around her. The girl is exhausted, both from the cold and from the events of the day. 

“You can go home early, Mari…” Claude tells her.

She stiffens, and shakes her head. It’s understandable, considering how close her old school is to her home.

Allegra hugs her tighter. They talk quietly while Marinette rests. Eventually lunch ends, but they don’t plan on leaving. They can miss a few classes.

Marinette has other plans, stirring as she mumbles something about going to class.

“‘Nette you don’t need to go to class. You’ve had a long day.”

She shakes her head, standing unsteadily, and making her way away from them.

They hurry to catch up with her, “Are you sure you want to go to class? You don’t have to.”

“It’s what I’m supposed to do.” Stupid girl. Worthless trash. She can’t just keep doing whatever she pleases, there are people depending on her- a whole city’s worth. 

“It might not be what you should be doing.”

The group arrives at the classroom and Felix and Allegra say goodbye, the latter giving Marinette another quick, tight hug before going on her way.

Allan and Claude walk with her to their usual seats. Claude forgoing the rules to sit with them three to a bench. 

Marinette shuts herself down. It hurts too much to think about how much of a failure she is. 

Soon enough, she gives into the cold, falling asleep sitting up. Claude shifts her to rest against him so that she doesn’t fall. The two sit with her in concern. Allan hasn’t seen all of the texts, but still has a good enough idea of what happened.

At least she’s resting now.

When class is over they walk her to her next one. She’s silent, seemingly within her own head. 

“I could just skip… it’s only a work day today and the teacher likes me…” Claude’s speaking to both, but Marinette doesn’t react. He’s worried and doesn’t exactly want to leave her alone for an hour. He’s still on edge, wondering if an akuma will come her way.

Surprisingly, Allan doesn’t try to talk his friend out of it, just shrugging, “If that’s what you want to do, I won’t stop you. I’ve got to get to class though. Bye Claude. Take care of yourself Marinette.”

She only blinks.

Claude stays with her during the next hour, the girl doesn’t speak, and he isn’t entirely sure she’s paying attention.

He passes her off to Felix for the last hour of school before heading to his own class.

 


 

The day has ended and the group is heading out together. Marinette is still quiet. They hear someone running up to them. Adrien appears at their side.

“Hey.” He glances at Marinette, taking in her blank stare and too-steady breathing, “Again? Oh Mari…” 

Allegra turns to him, “‘Again’?”

He hesitates, eventually settling on just saying,”Last time, she kind of… shut down.”

‘Last time’? ” Allegra is seething.

“What exactly happened?” He turns to the group questioningly.

“She’s got the wrong phone.” Claude hands Adrien the phone in question, “She texted that girl and…” He unlocks the phone and spins it toward him.

Adrien reads through the messages, and it sounds like he growls. Allegra and Allan read it next.

Allegra seems to be practically buzzing in anger now, and the rest of the group is similarly upset. Marinette remains still.

They walk to Marinette’s house, sticking close to her. As they climb into her room, Adrien is standing beside Marinette. As he’s directing her up the stairs, she blinks and turns to him, speaking quietly, “I want to tell them.”

He smiles at her softly, “That’s a good idea, Mari.”

It’s time to finally tell the others why she transferred.

Chapter Text

“I went to Françoise Dupont for years. It was the only school I’d ever gone to. I didn’t really have any close friends, but people were friendly with me, so that was enough. Chloe bullied me a lot, and I think people were scared to hang out with me for that - they didn’t want to be bullied too.” The group settles in attentively, ready to listen.

“Last year, at the beginning of the school year, I met Alya. She became my first real friend. That was nice.” She smiles softly, before wiping it off her face quickly in favor of displaying as little emotion as possible. Emotions get you akumatized.

“Then… Lila came. She lied about everything! And it wasn’t even remotely believable!” Marinette’s face changed to one of anger, then she corrected herself. She’s not allowed to be mad. This is her fault.

“Everyone believed her anyways, because I was just being ‘jealous’. It didn’t matter what I thought apparently. I guess they finally realized how stupid I am.” she says the last part under her breath - muttering. The friend group looks like they want to interrupt her, but if they interrupt she might not start again. They can address that after she’s finished.

“She got akumatized on her first day there, and ‘moved away’ to ‘travel in other countries’ for awhile. She was still in Paris though, not only was she akumatized again but there are public records showing that her mom -  who she was supposedly traveling with - was still in Paris. Things went back to normal eventually, and I thought it was over. I was wrong. Obviously. Moron.” Oh, Marinette.
“Then I came to school one day to find that everyone had changed seats. My new spot had been decided without me. I was in the back. Alone.” Adrien squeezes her hand gently.

“The seating chart had been rearranged so that she could sit in the front near Adrien, for her ‘tinnitus’. I tried to say something and they accused me of being insensitive… I just didn’t want to be alone…” She shakes her head, moving on.

“Anyways, at lunch she convinced the class I could have blinded Max - who wears glasses - by gouging one of his eyes out with a napkin. She cornered me in the bathroom and told me if I didn’t go along with her she’d take all my friends away.

“I didn’t believe her. Stupid.” She looks like she considers mentioning more, but decides against it.

“After I fought off another akuma, she managed to get akumatized instead. She pretended to be Adrien, but it was taken care of.” The casual way she says ‘another akuma’ concerns them. Adrien winces, thinking back to when he’d learned of his friend’s run-ins with akumas.

“For the rest of the year she didn’t really interact with me other than when she would corner me to insult me - but that was fine.” Adrien turns to her in surprise - he didn’t know about that.

“Anyways, I didn’t talk to my friends as much anymore, I didn’t see them over the summer either. On the first day back, Lila was still around, spewing her usual nonsense. She left early on the second day - after she threatened me again, but-” she shrugs nonchalantly before moving on, “-Wednesday was nice, she was absent all day. I got to hang out with Alya… one last time. 

“Then it was Thursday…” Marinette stares at the floor for a while. They think she might be done for a moment, but she continues - though her voice is noticeably shakier despite her efforts, “I-I was late and Adrien was gone. I d-didn’t see that she’d come back, but Alya was qu-quick to point it out to me once there was a break. Lila had fake bruises and said I’d attacked her. That I’d been b-bullying her over the sum-m-mer. And they all believed her. Rose glared at me. Rose. ” She tears up, covering her face with her hands, clearly upset that her former friends thought so lowly of her.

“A-Alya grabbed my wrist and then I… tripped down the stairs. I th-think Chloe found me in the bathroom? I don’t r-really r-reme’ber much from the rest o’ the day. I transferred to your guys’ school on M-Monday.” Adrien narrows his eyes at the mention of her ‘tripping’ down the stairs.

“Th-That’s the story, …you c-can all hate me now…” She curls into herself slightly, clearly drained, but holding herself together so they can yell at her or something.

“Never.” They say it in unison the instant she’s finished.

She looks too surprised by this.

“Told you, Mari.” Adrien looks at her softly, running a hand through her hair softly.

“Oh.” She blinks slowly, working to remain awake, “‘re you sure?”

“Marinette, you are an intelligent, kind-hearted person who did nothing to deserve that treatment.” Felix assures.

“Marinette, you’re our friend. We care about you. We’d never hate you.” Claude hugs her gently, and the other four join in. They release her, and she looks about ready to drop. At least she’s already sitting down.

“‘Nette, you can sleep if you want.” Allan suggests.

She nods tiredly, leaning over to the side to flop onto Adrien. He’s always been the warmest in any room. He doesn’t protest, just plays with her hair soothingly. Eventually her breathing levels and she’s completely out.

Adrien looks up at them, face hard, “So. You know now.” He pauses, “Revenge?”

Allegra doesn’t hesitate in the slightest, “Definitely.”
The others nod in agreement.

“Should we move Mari first?” Allan looks at the sleeping girl on top of Adrien. 

“She’s kind of clingy…” He demonstrates, pausing in playing with her hair to grab her shoulders gently to try and lift her. She only frowns in her sleep and sluggishly grabs for Adrien again, hugging him limply when he lets her go.

“Willing to bet he doesn’t mind having a sleepy Mari blanket.” Claude grins at the model, who blushes.

“Well, I mean…” He trails off, shrugging, returning to messing with her hair gently.

“So… I’m guessing you still attend her old school?” Allegra looks at him compassionately.

“It sucks. It took almost two weeks after she left for them to stop talking bad about her. I thought I would snap.”

“Are they unaware that you are still in contact with her?” Felix asks.

“Yeah. Honestly, I’d say more in her defense if it weren’t for the fact that any sort of ‘scene’ I might make would make Father take me out of school. Then I’d be stuck in my room again.” He looks off to the side at the floor, speaking near-monotonously, “He’d take it as a victory and I’d never get to anything I want. I probably wouldn’t leave the house for at least a month. Then he’d need me to do some stupid photoshoot. What’s the point of having a son if he isn’t constantly earning you money?” He speaks the last part caustically, clearly having thought about this before, “Besides, I’m pretty sure that Lila has some sort of deal with him so I can’t upset her either.”

“Mon Dieu.” Allan shakes his head, “You poor dear.”

Adrien shrugs in a resigned manner.

“You sure Marinette is the only one we need to get revenge for?” Claude raises an eyebrow.

“If you’re considering trying to get me my freedom, you may want to enlist Mari for that. Sometime over the summer my father did something - I don’t even remember what - and she snapped. I was legitimately worried she was about to storm his office.” Adrien grins, “She can be terrifying.”

“I believe that, just maybe not right now.” Claude pokes the girl’s face and she sticks out her tongue tiredly at them.

“Are you still in the class’ good graces?” Felix asks, seemingly having some ideas.

“They don’t hate me if that’s what you mean. I think I’ve faded into the background to them. I’ve gone entire weeks without speaking and no one mentioned it. I think I’m just Lila’s personal pretty armrest now.”

“Wow. I hate them.” Allegra looks ready to stab someone, “And Mari still thinks these are good people?”
Adrien thinks about what Plagg said about Ladybug. Marinette may not be Ladybug, but they have similar personalities - he’d called her their ‘everyday Ladybug’ for a reason. If Ladybug has decided to cling to the fact that her old friends were in the right, the same is probably true of Marinette. Especially considering what he’s heard her say about herself versus what she says of Bustier’s class.

“I think… she wants to believe there’s something she did wrong, so that she can fix it? Or so that she doesn’t do it again?” He looks down at her, frowning in concern. She remains unaware, only continuing to nap, “I don’t know. She doesn’t talk about it a ton.”

“Oh, ‘Nette…” Allan shakes his head at her, rubbing her arm softly.

“Well, on the bright side, we know now…” Claude says optimistically, “We can try to help her more.”

They all nod.

“Seeing as it’s Friday, we could have a sleepover here - if she’s comfortable with it.”

“I’ll stay as long as I can, but sleepovers are not something my father approves of.”

“I will pay Ladybug or Chat Noir to kidnap you so you can join us.” Claude sounds entirely serious about this foolproof plan.

Adrien snorts, shaking his head. Chat Noir would be entirely willing to kidnap his alter-ego to meet with friends - if that was physically possible. Ladybug may be more hesitant, but he could see her being convinced.

His phone dings, he frowns when he sees it’s a message from Nino, asking if he wants to hang out, apparently he’s tired of Alya’s ranting. He notes that Nino isn’t tired of Alya ranting about Marinette, just that he’s bored of her still ranting.

Another text: ‘i get that mari sucks but i want 2 do sumthing fun’.

“Ugh. Nino texted me.”
“I don’t know who that is, but if he’s one of the ones that contributed to this, I don’t like him.” Allegra doesn’t seem to plan on being lax on the class in the slightest, fully ready to get complete revenge on them for doing what they did to Marinette.

“What is our plan of attack?” Felix looks ready to take mental notes.

“Well we should definitely disprove all of Lila’s lies. From there I’m not really sure.” Adrien isn’t exactly well-versed in revenge plans. 

“If they can’t see for themselves maybe they deserve to stay blind. They’ll probably come crawling back to Marinette looking for forgiveness.” Allegra looks indignant on behalf of Marinette.

“She’d probably forgive ‘em.” Allan adds, “But that’s her decision to make.”

Allegra sighs.

“It may be for the best for all of us to keep our emotions in check. It is surprising - and rather lucky - an akuma has yet to make an appearance.” Felix points out.

Yes, very lucky indeed. Almost as if a Goddess of good luck is within their ranks. Regardless, the group takes a moment to calm down.

“So, this is her old phone right?” Claude holds up the offending piece of tech.

“Yeah…  I thought she got rid of it.” Adrien grabs it, frowning when he sees the lock screen is a smiling selfie of Alya and Marinette.

He puts it down. No one has to see that right now - it’s in the past.

“Why did she take this one to school? Where’s her normal one?”

A window is cracked open, and a cold breeze sneaks in, making Marinette stir. She catches Allegra’s question, and tries to sit up and respond, “los’ i’.”

They turn to her - surprised to see her up. Claude notices the window and crosses the room to close it, tossing a blanket from the chaise to Adrien on his way back.

Adrien convinces Marinette to lay back down - it really doesn’t take a lot of negotiation - and settles the blanket over her as she goes back to weakly hugging the boy that she’s currently using as a pillow.

They wait a moment, watching her to be sure they won’t disturb her again when they start up their conversation.

“Okay, so she lost it. Guess she grabbed the wrong one then?” Allan guesses.

Allegra gets her phone out, “I’ll call it. That way she can get rid of that. ” She glares at the innocent phone as if it is single-handedly responsible for all of Marinette’s problems.

They hear a buzz from above. Looking up, they see the phone laying face-down on the ledge next to her bed. It’s on the corner, right above their heads.

Allan stands, “Not even going to ask how that got there.” He climbs up and retrieves it, putting it on the desk.

They’re quiet for a moment, then Claude asks, “So, like, off-topic but I have to know… what exactly is happening here?” He gestures towards the corner of Marinette’s room where all of her balcony garden currently resides for the winter (After Marinette’s little stunt when she was sick, Adrien made a point to come over and help her move the potted plants safely inside her room).

The large multitude of plants look almost entirely red. They’re covered in a bunch of ladybugs, likely hundreds, if not more. It looks as though Marinette has a little dish of water out for the spotted beetles.

“Hibernation support group?” Allan suggests.

“I think I heard something about this last year? For whatever reason Marinette’s plants are the local ladybugs’ favorite ones to hibernate on. She’s got a bunch of little bug-ddies.” Adrien shrugs, smiling at his pun.

“Eyyy!” Claude approves of the joke.

They keep talking, and with the window now closed, the heaters can actually warm the room. Marinette begins to stir slightly, glaring at the lights for having the audacity to be bright.

Adrien boops her nose, “Hey Mari, welcome back to the real world.”

She frowns at him, “No.”

“‘No’ what exactly?” Claude leans forward slightly, enjoying the tired girl’s nonsense.

She just sticks her tongue out, clearly having not thought out her retort.

“A valid point. Carry on.” Allan nods solemnly.

As the room warms further, Marinette grows more lucid, eventually sitting up (mostly) on her own, still leaning heavily on Adrien. The model wraps the fallen blanket around her carefully.

“Hey Mari, what’s on your wall?” Claude gestures above her desk.

She turns, not sure which of her pictures he’s talking about, “Huh?”
“The purple, pink, and blue thing. It looks like my flag.”

“Oh. Tha’s jus’ a color reference. Wh’t flag?”

“The ambigender flag. I have one in my locker, but I don’t think you’ve seen it. I used to have one in my room, but I lost it.”
“I still don’t understand how you managed that. It wasn’t like, tiny, or anything. Seriously Claude how?” this sounds like something Allegra has dwelled on.

He shrugs unhelpfully.

“Wait, so what pronouns do you use?” Adrien asks. Marinette appreciates it, words are not her strong suit in the winter.

“I am he/him and they/them at the same time, all the time!”

“Huh. Okay, good to know.” 

“Yeah, I guess I never mentioned it.”

Their conversation moves on, eventually Adrien’s phone beeps and he glances at it,”Well, my time is up. I’ve got to head out in a moment.” He glances down at the girl who has fallen asleep on him again, “Mari, I’ve got to go.” He begins picking up her up carefully, but she has a surprisingly tight grip for someone of her stature.

He’s experienced in dealing with cuddly pig-tailed girls though, and manages to extricate himself. She looks at him tiredly and in distress. He feels bad, but he does have to go. She’d probably sleep the day away if given the opportunity and he does have places to be.

“Sorry.” He says goodbye to the others and slips out of the room. Claude is the next closest and Marinette flops on them instead to continue her nap.

“Ha! I have the tired girl now!” he raises his hands victoriously before readjusting the blanket she still has.

“That’s a bit of a double-edged sword bud. Adrien made escape look much easier than it actually is.” Allan warns.

“I think I’ll live.”

“If we’re going to stay over, we should probably get permission first.” Allegra points out eventually.

Felix nods, “Correct. We do not even know if Marinette is okay with the plan yet.”

“That’s corrected easily enough.” Claude pokes Marinette a few times to get her attention, “Hey, hey, Mariiiii.”

Her eyes crack open and she looks up at them, blinking a few times, “Hmm?”

“Do you wanna’ have a sleepover over here? Or I guess, do you want us to have one?”

The cogs in her mind are turning slower than normal - the stress of the afternoon has sped up her approaching winter-ladybug-instincts, which don’t mesh well with normal human life. Eventually she figures out what’s happening and nods sleepily, giving Claude a hug.

“Alright! Now we just need the permission of the parents!” Claude gets out his own phone, and the rest follow suit. 

Allan stands, “I’ll ask Tom and Sabine.” 

Eventually all the adults have given the go-ahead and the group is set to stay the night.

“Yay! First sleepover with Marinette!” Claude announces.

“She’s got the first part down pretty good.” Allan gestures at the limp girl that’s still napping.

“She was pretty awake earlier. Adrien must just be that much warmer.” Allegra shakes her head, “Another reason for him to have stayed.”

“Well, she was certainly right when she said she’d fall asleep on the same people a lot. Adrien and Claude must be the warmest of us.” Allan points out, “She uses them as a pillow the most.”

The trapdoor opens and Sabine peaks in, “Hi dears. Your parents are dropping off your clothes and such so you can go change now. Marinette will probably be better off in some warm pajamas. There’s some pizza things in the kitchen, you dears can make your own as dinner. Tom and I will be out for a few hours, but we’ll be back before too late. Don’t burn the place down while we’re gone.” She winks, then slips out.

“We should head down then. Mari can meet us in the kitchen.”

“If she ever sets Claude free.” Allan looks at the boy, who clearly underestimated the difficulty of freeing themself from Marinette’s clutches.

“I’ve got to go now…” he looks to the rest pleadingly, “Help.”

Allegra and Felix give him looks that clearly mean ‘you did this to yourself’, but Allan crouches beside them, carefully prying her off. Claude stands, free at last.

“You should get changed, Mari. Can you meet us in the kitchen?” he stands once she’s nodded at him.

Once the group have left, Tikki flies into the open. She’s not quite as tired as her holder - having not been emotionally traumatized today. 

“Marinette, you should get changed. Pjs are nice!” After the girl pushes herself over to her clothes, the Kwami goes to check the old phone. She’d been trapped in Marinette’s purse during the whole debacle and wanted to know exactly what had been said. She understands why they’d kept the phone away from her though, and Tikki is more than capable of patience.

“Oh, Marinette… ” The texts were worse than what she’d expected. That poor girl. Tikki hides the phone away, hoping to deal with it later.

The girl in question has dressed herself in pjs that look comfortable and well within her normal color palette. The Goddess is relieved to see no signs of aposematic coloration.

She flies to hide in Marinette’s hair as they make their way to the kitchen.

The oven is already preheating, and Marinette does the sensible thing and sits right in front of it. Tikki has no complaints, it’s warm and closed so they can safely sit there for a little bit at the very least.

Her friends show up again, each in a change of clothes, and place their bags near the couch. Allegra is the first to spot Marinette.

“Oh, honey, maybe you shouldn’t sit there. That’s an oven.”

Marinette just shrugs, not moving away. The heat has definitely helped her some. Maybe she should sit directly in front of heat sources more often….

The boys spot her, Claude shakes their head, gripping her arms and helping her to a stool. 

“There. Now you’re not right in front of an oven. Besides, you need to show us how to make pizzas!”

Marinette blinks at him, “It’s not too complicated?”

“Still!”

Marinette shrugs, grabbing the dough and splitting it into six equally sized balls. Marinette takes one and rolls it out to a flat circle. She tops it with all of the meat options at the table. She goes over a few other steps, then puts it in the oven. She passes a dough ball to each of them, including herself and they all go about topping their pizzas. Marinette adds mushroom to hers - a new thing for her, but having the Ladybug miraculous has changed her food preferences a little. 

Claude speaks, their voice grave, “Now, guys, I know what I’m about to do is controversial, but I hope that afterwards we can still be friends.” He’s holding his closed fist above his pizza. When he has all of their attention, he opens it slightly, dropping a pineapple chunk onto the pizza.

Dramatic gasps come from all the others at the table. Claude continues in his delinquent ways, adding a more equal amount on the pizza.

They move on, eventually everyone’s pizzas are done and added to the oven too. The group cleans up, putting the things away and clearing the counter.

“What should we do now?” Allan sits next to Marinette.

“There’s games downstairs, you guys could go pick some out if you want. I’ll watch the oven.”

“You just want to stay in the kitchen where it’s warm.” Claude winks at her.

She shrugs at him, “Maybe.”

“As long as you stay in the chair - no sitting near ovens this time.” Allan gives her a look.

She smiles sheepishly. They head downstairs, preparing themselves for Claude to have them carry every board game up for them to play.

Once she hears their footsteps grow softer, Marinette stands from her chair and quietly heads up to her room and out onto her balcony.

She stands at the far edge, looking around at the rooftops nearby. The cold begins getting to her and she begins to droop slightly. Her eyelids seem strangely heavy - she’d forgotten just how cold the outdoors are.

“Just what are you doing out tonight, purr-incess?”

She wheels around at her partner’s voice behind her. He’s looking at her in concern, resting above her on one of the taller walls that serves as a back to the balcony. “It’s a little cold for you isn’t it? Last time I was here you had a fever - can’t have that again.”

She only yawns, stumbling closer to the trapdoor. He lands on the balcony, steadying her.

“Let’s get you inside. It’s cold, Mari.”

Once inside, she climbs down the ladder, motioning for him to follow. He does so, confused.

“I made a…” The rest of the sentence comes out as tired gibberish that he can’t quite interpret.

She leads him into the kitchen.

“What was that?”

She leans against the oven, warming herself up for a bit before trying again, “I made you a pizza…”

He smiles, “Thanks, Marinette.”

She’s glad he doesn’t ask why. She can’t exactly say that it’s an apology for being unable to go to patrol tonight. It’d also be weird to say that she just thinks he deserves something nice.

A voice comes from the hall, “‘Nette, you’d better not be leaning against the oven again! Just ‘cause it isn’t dangerous doesn’t mean it’s a good idea!”

Chat Noir recognizes Allan’s voice. It would seem the sleepover happened after all.

“Princess are you doing something you’re not supposed to?”

“Nooo. He jus’ doesn’ like my warmin’ tactics. Mean.” She’s pouting, clearly still cold from her little venture to the outdoors. It seems likely she’ll fall asleep before the pizzas are done.

“Who are you talking to Marinette?” Allegra calls as they all turn into the kitchen again, stopping as they see who it is that has joined them spontaneously.

“Him.” Marinette points at the hero, as if further clarification were needed.

“Hi.” Chat flutters his fingers at all of them, “Princess here found a stray.”

“Not a stray… you go’ Ladybug.” Marinette corrects.

He clicks his tongue, pointing at her in agreement, “Very true, can’t argue with you there.”

“So we left for, what? Five minutes? And Marinette has just pulled one of the two heroes of Paris out of thin air? I need to stop getting surprised by these things.” Allegra shakes her head.

“Marinette is just that great!” Claude shouts.

“Marinette, what did I say about the oven?” Allan won’t let her surprise guest distract him from her rule-breaking.

In response, the girl only falls onto her side, her eyes fighting her to close.

“She may or may not have been outside for a little bit. I don’t know how long.” Chat adds, seeing how they’re looking at her slumped form.

“Alright, we can wait for the pizzas upstairs, Mari here should probably get somewhere warmer that isn’t an oven.”

She apparently hears this, pushing herself to a standing position, walking precariously to the stairs, the group follows her up.

She wanders over to her ladybug-covered plants, curling up near them and sleeping immediately. A few of the spotted bugs move to rest on her instead. 

They set down the games they’d brought up and sit around the room. Allan tries to cover the napping girl with a blanket without disturbing the bugs. He eventually moves some of them back to the plants, leaving three or so in her hair. 

“So how did you arrive here?” Felix turns to the cat hero.

“I was doing patrol and saw her on her balcony. Figured I’d check on her, seeing as the last time I saw her on her balcony she had a fever.” He shrugs, “Then she pulled me into the kitchen. Said she made me a pizza.”

“That’s what that extra was for!”

“She was on her balcony when she had a fever?” Allan frowns.

“She was very determined to get her plants inside. I talked her out of it.”
“So you guys know each other pretty well? You and Ladybug seemed to recognize her by name.”

“Yeah… her old school is kind of an akuma hotspot, she’s one of two students in the class that hasn’t been akumatized, including the teacher.” His face darkens, “Though apparently that almost wasn’t the case.”

At their questioning looks he continues, “She told me there’s been… 5? 6? Akumas after her just this school year.”

“Oh, ‘nette.” Allan brushes her hair out of her eyes, watching her sleeping face.

“Anyways, yes, I’ve seen her a few times near akumas, but she doesn’t typically stick around long. I only met her officially during Evillustrator.”
“Evillustrator?”

“One of her former classmates got akumatized and she agreed to go on a date with him if he would stop attacking people. She got his akumatized object- or almost at the very least, but boats aren’t the best place for a fight.”

Allegra thinks for a moment, “Didn’t one of you mention she took over City Hall?”

“Yup. While Darkblade was taking over the city she led her class in blockading the building - pretty impressive.”

“Goodness, Mari. Got anything else you’re hiding from us?”

A timer goes off from below and Allan and Allegra go to remove the pizzas. They return with waters and the sliced pizzas on a plate, having found a pizza cutter Marinette had left out.

They hand out the pizzas, Allan sitting beside Marinette and putting hers in front of her. 

He sets his down too, turning to try and wake the girl.

“Hey, ‘Nettie, ya’ gotta’ wake up. It’s time to eat. You didn’t have a lunch, and I doubt you ate breakfast. Come on.”

She stirs eventually. Her movement prompts the rest of the ladybugs to fly back to their plants.

She spots the water, and as usual, drinks some of that immediately. They’ve learned by now she’ll drink water if it’s put in front of her. Food is a different story.

Allan pushes the plate at her, and she blinks at him, as if daring him to suggest she eat instead of sleep. The nerve of this boy.

“Come on, you can’t just eat nothing again.”

“Again?” Claude sounds concerned.

Allan turns to him, “‘Member when she got a fever? All she’d had the day before was like two granola bars and a bottle of water.”

They look at the girl, “Mari…”

Something sticks in Chat’s head, but he can’t quite make the connection - deciding to drop it for now.

“Princess, we’re all in agreement, you need to eat. Majority rules.”

She glares at the group, though it’s not exactly effective given her exhaustion. She does start to eat though, so they take it as a win.

The warm food and multitude of heaters eventually wake her up further, and she’s capable of proper communication again. She’s better at sitting up too which helps for when they start on their board games. 

Chat stays for a few games, but does have to leave eventually. After a few hours, they put the games away - Marinette’s been sleeping on Claude for almost half an hour now, so it’s probably about time anyways.