As the door shut behind them, fourteen year old Adrien Agreste flopped onto his bed and buried his face in his pillow with a frustrated growl. After a moment he lifted his head, dragging the pillow with him to hug to his chest like a child might hug a stuffed animal. "What are we supposed to do, Fé? This is crazy."
Félix sighed, slumping slightly against the door as he met his twin's gaze. "I don't know." The words felt bitter. He prided himself on knowing what to do-- of being in control of situations. It may have been limited by age and their commandeering father, but unlike Adrien, Félix could and would say no to things, or at least negotiate a suitable benefit in return for compliance. But there was nothing he could think of that would make any difference.
"Maybe we can still talk him out of it?" Adrien suggested hesitantly, but with a note of hope in his voice.
'Of course. Father confesses to planning on becoming an actual supervillain and Adrien thinks he could still change.' Félix thought to himself, a mixture of frustration and regret building. While Félix had learned to avoid hoping for things from the adults in their lives, Adrien couldn't seem to help but hope, however unlikely change was. And as expected, they always disappointed, and every time, it seemed to crush Adrien a little more. Félix hated when he had to be the one to dash his brother's hopes.
"Father never listens to us, Adrien. You know that." Félix tried to keep his voice as gentle as possible. Still as predicted, Adrien immediately looked downcast.
Adrien's miserable expression remained as he glanced down at his overshirt's pocket. "Plagg?"
The kwami emerged, scowling with flattened ears and an agitated lashing tail. "Not a lot of options. Yet." Plagg huffed and went to curl up on Adrien's shoulder, pressed gently against the side of the boy's neck. It earned the tiny god a scratch behind the ears as Adrien visibly relaxed.
Another point in Plagg's favor despite Félix's best efforts to dislike him. It had been a long time since anyone besides Félix had bothered to try to comfort Adrien about anything.
"What options do we have?" Félix asked, finally moving from the door to sit next to Adrien, on the side Plagg was not occupying. Adrien immediately leaned into him, and Félix put an arm around his shoulders with a half-smile. His brother was pretty much the most affectionate person in the world, and it was an easy way to make him feel better.
"The best of the bad options? I transform one of you, and you try to fight him." Plagg said with a sigh.
"You said that using powers without an active Ladybug is dangerous." Félix said cautiously.
"It is dangerous. Which is why it isn't a good option. Not only that, but you don't have any training, and training means more power use. And it would be a fight against an older, experienced user, and his freaky pal." Plagg grimaced.
"We could free his akuma though right?" Adrien asked.
"Won't be easy, but yeah. Not really equipped for akuma, can't really easily purify them… but maybe we could trap them?"
"I'll do it." Adrien said determinedly. "We can't let father control innocent people like that. I'll deal with the side effects."
"No way." Félix said immediately. "You'd be overpowered for sure."
"You don't know that!"
"Yes I do!"
Plagg tuned out the twins argument, closing his eyes and focusing. It had taken some time to build back up his reserves on the physical world, but maybe now he could finally track Tikki down. They were connected by forces even the Guardians could never understand. And though it was difficult and draining, they had long ago learned to contact each other for help, even if one was still sleeping in the miraculous.
She was in the city.
The last thing he wanted to do was give the kids false hope, if this didn't work. So he kept his face neutral, but it was hard to mask his excitement. Tikki was in the city, sleeping in the Miraculous, but close. It had been so long since Plagg had seen his other half. Decades at least since the ring had been lost. He hoped she was still with a Guardian, or at least that a new bearer-- rather, two new bearers, since he had accidentally bonded himself to twins-- would be easy enough to find.
Gathering every ounce of concentration and power he could muster, he focused on Tikki, and her bright, wonderful light, tracing the connection between creation and destruction before he sent his 'message' across as strongly as possible.
With his energy now spent, Plagg hopped down to Adrien's lap to curl up, pleased when the boy automatically started petting his head. He didn't miss Félix's eyeroll, but he only gave him a smirk in return. Félix was a prickly one, but he'd had kittens who were even more closed off. Bonding to twins hadn't really been on purpose-- he'd been so thrilled to find anyone who could be his wielder that he hadn't even noticed it was two people until too late-- but he was grateful now.
Together, they might just get through this.
A glow caught Fu's attention out of his peripheral as he was retrieving jewelry boxes from a drawer.
"Master!" Wayzz gasped, already fluttering over the miracle box. "The earrings!"
Fu abandoned the boxes and rushed towards the source of the light. Sure enough, the earrings of the Ladybug were glowing brightly pink, pulsing in and out slowly. Then, with a brighter flash, the red and black dots peeled back and coalesced into the form of a small, large-headed being.
"Tikki." Wayzz moved closer to his fellow Kwami. "You haven't come out in decades. Why now?" He asked the question Fu had been thinking but too stunned to ask. Tikki had grown slowly more despondent in the time since Plagg's Miraculous had been lost. Eventually, she began simply spending all her time sulking in the Miracle Box.
"It's Plagg!" The kwami buzzed with excitement, more vibrant than either of them had seen in a century. "He's here! Master, he's in Paris! He contacted me." Her bright smile lost a little light, but she was still too happy to lose it entirely. "His new charges are in danger. I don't think they are in immediate danger, because he was just worried, not panicking. But he needs our help."
Fu took a slow, calming breath. At over a hundred and eighty years old, he thought he would have been prepared for anything. He'd lived through the temple falling and multiple wars, but finding out that Nooroo had fallen into the wrong hands, and that Plagg was within the city but at risk all at once… he felt almost as uncertain as he had in youth.
Glancing back down at the miracle box, with the resting comb and pendant, and the now dark-red earrings emptied of their god, Fu went over his options. He could no longer just find wielders for the Bee and Fox. It had not been an ideal plan, as purifying akuma would not be an easy task, but the Ladybug could not be active without the Cat. Paris-- maybe the world-- would be in danger.
Except now the Cat was active without a Ladybug. Plagg never parted from his chosen wielders if he could help it, so recovering the ring was out of the question, and it would have been cruel to do so. Those chosen by bad luck had always suffered in some way and Plagg brought freedom to their lives. No, his first priority needed to be to find the person in Paris whose fate aligned with that of the Black Cat--
"You said charges, plural?"
Adrien hadn't really expected that convincing his father to let him go to school would work. He'd hoped-- he always did-- but intellectually he always knew it was useless. He hadn't planned on asking-- he'd wanted to sneak out and just go. The plan had initially been to go to school for a day or two without his father's knowledge and bank on Gabriel being too embarrassed to pull them out because it would mean admitting his son's disobedience to the public. Félix had tried to convince him it was a stupid plan from the beginning, of course, but conceded it might work, and that was enough for Adrien and Chloé.
But this morning, when it came time to enact the plan, Félix changed his mind and begged Adrien not to openly disobey their father. It had been one thing when he was just a rich, stubborn, and paranoid old man-- but Gabriel Agreste was, by his own admission, an actual supervillain. There was no telling what he might actually do, and Félix didn't even try to hide how afraid he was.
So here Adrien was, standing at the bottom of the stairs and feeling small and insignificant as his father barely even looked at him. It had taken several hours for Gabriel to emerge from his office, and now he stood on the landing, not bothering to go all the way down the stairs, and his attention was on the tablet in his hand. Whatever work messages were on the screen were more important than his son's pleading.
"School isn't as dangerous as you think it is!" Adrien tried again to get his father to even look in his direction. "Chloé goes to that school. So does Allegra. There are hundreds of kids at that school and they are all just fine."
"You are not like everyone else. You are my son, and you will not be going to that school." Gabriel snapped. "You both are safer here, and receiving a far better education than a public school could provide. This is not negotiable. You--" He paused, his hand going from swiping the tablet to the jewel hidden under his necktie. "I have business to attend to. Get back to your piano lessons."
I don't even have piano today, Adrien thought miserably, as he watched Gabriel go back up the stairs. He hadn't missed the way Gabriel's miraculous had seemed to alert him to something, and he had a strong suspicion what it was.
Adrien waited until Gabriel had left the hall to sprint up the stairs in the direction of their rooms. He slowed and paused by Félix's room, listening to figure out what he was doing. Classical music could be heard coming from inside, but it wasn't Félix practising the violin. He must have been going through his dance exercises instead.
For a moment, Adrien stood at the door, hand half-raised on instinct to knock. When the moment passed, Adrien let his hand drop to his side and went into his room, shutting the door behind him.
"Plagg. Father is going to send an akuma after someone, isn't he? It seemed like the miraculous distracted him back there."
"Probably." Plagg admitted, flying out of his pocket to meet his gaze. "Are you going to transform?"
"I can't let him hurt people like this." Adrien said, nervously running a hand through his hair-- a habit his photoshoot stylist hated. It wasn't the idea of turning into a superhero and fighting a villain that made him nervous. Actually, it sounded amazing, to go out and be someone no one could recognise, though he worried about the damage that might happen. Knowing his own father was the one behind it, though-- that made him nervous.
Then there was the powers issue. Plagg had explained soon after they found the ring about Tikki, the Kwami of Creation. They had to obtain balance, or the universe would balance it forcefully, without direction. The creation it could invoke was just as dangerous for human kind as destruction in large amounts-- severe storms, plagues, volcanoes, even solar flares were all possible. The balance didn't care what was disastrous for humans , as long as it was balanced from a cosmic standpoint. So he had to be careful, using any powers as sparingly as possible.
At least he was supposed to get a weapon.
"Remember. You can't purify it, so you're going to need to trap it to keep it from multiplying until we figure something out. Airtight jar or something-- and you have to make sure you aren't feeling strong negative emotions when you nab it or it will akumatise you." Plagg warned him.
Adrien nodded and started searching the room for something that could be used to catch the butterfly. He finally found an empty metal tin in Félix's stash of old tea containers that he kept to reuse for other things. He showed it to Plagg for approval.
"That'll work. You ready?"
"Think so. Plagg, transform me!"
The magic that quickly spread down over Adrien's body sparked with what looked like pale green electricity, but it didn't burn like electricity would have. Instead it felt surprisingly cool and pleasant, though a little tingly. It left what looked a little like shiny black leather behind, but it did more than change his clothes. He could feel the magic seeping into his skin, flowing through his veins. It felt amazing, like he was lighter on his feet, stronger than ever before. Almost like gravity had less of a pull on him.
He couldn't help a little bit of posing, thinking about the times he and Chloé had discussed the what-ifs of magical girl anime. As the transformation finished, he reached up to shake his hair out of its combed style, letting it fall wildly around his face, and then he sought out his mirror. He was dying to know what his new form-- he'd decided on Chat Noir as a name-- would look like.
The face that stared back was nearly unrecognisable as Adrien Agreste. His sclera had turned green, nearly blending into his irises-- and his pupils had become slitted like a real cat's. The leathery black colombina mask covering the upper half of Chat Noir's face fit like a second skin with nothing holding it there, yet it didn't move when he tried tugging at it. That was good. It seemed there was no risk of being unmasked in a fight. Strangely, the mask extended right up to the edge of his eyes-- and when Chat Noir blinked he briefly spotted that the mask somehow covered his eyelids too.
A smile began to spread over his face, wider than he had smiled in quite a while, and he quickly turned to see the rest of the costume. It was high-collared, with a zipper running down the front that attached to the large round bell resting just at his neck, and there was a short baton clipped to his back. The material of the suit was so strange, like leather, but he could feel through it surprisingly well, like it was just thin cloth-- but it felt sturdier than that, and he had his full range of flexibility. The belt-tail and cat ears were weird in more than one way, both seemed to move with him, and Chat Noir could feel the tail brush the ground and he could hear sound somehow from the ears, clearer and louder than what he could hear from the real ones.
The anxiety of facing the person possessed was lessening slightly. As Adrien it felt like an impossible task, but as Chat Noir it was simply a difficult one. He may not be able to use his powers, but he still had superhuman strength and reflexes and a near-invulnerable suit… and all of the fencing, self defence, martial arts, and gymnastics his father had made him take over the years. He had to appreciate the irony.
Chat Noir leapt out the window, pleased that he didn't even need to climb to reach it. Getting over the mansion's walls was almost laughably easy, and from there he jumped onto the roof of a low building, then a higher one, until he had reached the tallest building in the area.
Now, he just had to find the Akuma.
Today was the most surreal day Marinette Dupain-Cheng had ever experienced.
And to think, it had all started so ordinary.
The day began like a usual first day of school. Bridgette woke up first and went through the motions of dragging a groggy Marinette out of bed and down the stairs. When they got breakfast, Marinette managed to knock everything on the counter over with one clumsy mistake, possibly a new record for her. At least her mom hadn't been mad.
Then she had dropped the macarons. An old man was still on the crosswalk when a car came zooming through, and both Bridgette and Marinette had panicked and pulled the man out of the way. At least the old man was safe, even if most of the macarons were a lost cause.
School was normal enough. Bridgette was in her class (yay) as well as Chloé (UGH) and they had made friends with a new girl, Alya. Then Kim had been bugging Ivan about something… and that was when the day went weird.
The ground rumbled, jerking under their feet and sending most of the students sprawling to the ground with shrieks and pained yells. A good number of books fell out of the shelves, smacking a few students pretty hard. Marinette tumbled straight into Bridgette, who flailed out to try to lessen their fall with moderate success.
"Is this an earthquake?!" Someone else yelled. There was still screaming, getting even louder as people scrambled around, some trying to get to shelter while others went to the tv screen behind the librarian's desk, where a security feed was always playing.
There was another rumble through the ground as something came into view. It looked vaguely human shaped, but it was made of solid stone. It seemed to be roaring something before it began its rampage.
Out of the corner of her vision, Marinette saw Alya pull out her phone. "GPS good. Battery good. Alright." Grinning, Alya put her phone in her pocket. "See you later!"
"What are you going?!" Bridgette yelped, grabbing her arm.
"I'm going to check out that creature! There's always superheroes when villains show up!" Alya was clearly thrilled. "I'm not missing this."
Alya tugged her arm out of Bridgette's grip, loosened from surprise, and then she was out the door.
The library was mostly empty by now. Most people were evacuating. Bridgette moved closer to Marinette and took her hand.
"What should we do?" Marinette swallowed, gripping her cousin's hand tightly.
"I…" Bridgette looked just as lost as Marinette felt. "Home. We should go home. Aunt Sabine and Uncle Tom will be worried about us if we aren't there."
"You're right. If they see the news and how it started here they'll freak out." Marinette nodded. "Let's go."
It may not have been the best choice.
There were crowds in the street, people trying to evacuate buildings. People nearly trampling each other as they all fought to go different ways. Bridgette and Marinette held on to each other as tightly as they could, but the crowd was rough and hardly anyone seemed to notice the two small girls. Eventually, a particularly large man barrelled through, forcing their hands apart.
"Bri!" Marinette yelped, almost immediately losing sight of her cousin. She heard a faint yell back but there were so many people and they were all shouting and talking and screaming. Marinette ducked down slightly, trying to force her way through towards the edge of the crowd. Maybe if she could make it out into the alley, take a different route home… maybe she could call Bridgette and see if she could get her to meet her on the side route.
It was easier to get through the crowd when not trying to hold onto someone else, but it still took a few minutes for her to get out of the crowd. She started taking out her phone as she walked, turning a corner into another empty street, then another.
Too intent on scrolling her contacts to find Bridgette, she didn't notice the creaking sound at first, but then the ground under her feet shook and knocked her down, just barely catching herself on her hands and knees with a pained cry, the pavement scraping through the fabric of her capris and shredding her palms. She'd dropped her phone, but luckily it hadn't broken and she stuffed it back in her purse.
The noise was followed by another rumble and a series of crashing noises, and she looked up to see that one of the tall buildings had begun to crumble. And it was falling right towards her.
Marinette tried to scramble up, but the ground kept jerking under her feet from what was surely the stone creature smashing up the building, and she ended up thrown to the ground again. Panic started to set in as chunks of concrete and glass fell towards her, and she couldn't get away.
Too late now to make it away even if she ran, she hunched over and tried to shield her head, hoping desperately that she wasn't about to die.
Something barreled into her, not from above but from the side and suddenly she was moving out of the path of the building before she could even process what was happening. Marinette raised her head.
Green, catlike eyes met hers, startling a gasp from her. 'Those aren't human eyes.' But somehow, she suddenly felt less afraid, almost calm.
The eyes belonged to a boy wearing black, with a half-mask covering his face and leathery cat ears sitting amidst his messy bright blond hair. Marinette was being carried now, one arm under her knees and the other supporting her back. The boy looked at her with concern, still moving further away from the current destruction.
"Are you okay?" He asked her.
Marinette nodded numbly, still staring at his face and the accessories that surrounded it. A large golden bell at his collar, the cat ears that seemed to have some kind of fastener but she couldn't figure out how it attached-- and that mask had no straps, moving with his face as easily as skin. Her staring didn't escape his notice.
The cat boy gave her a sheepish grin. "Kinda weird to be rescued by a superhero, huh?"
"Y--yeah. Weird. I can't believe Alya was right-- my friend. She said superheroes always show up to stop a villain when something like this happens."
"Well, glad she turned out to be right. Where do you want me to drop you off?"
Marinette twisted slightly to figure out where they were, and was relieved to see that they were less than a block from home. "There! My family runs that bakery. You can leave me on my balcony."
The cat boy nodded and made another leap, effortlessly reaching the balcony. He gently set her down. "Sorry I didn't get you out of there earlier. I tried to clear that area you were in before Stoneheart could get there, I must have missed you." He said regretfully. He was surprisingly easy to read for a boy in a mask, and she could see he looked stressed.
"You didn't. I wandered in later." Marinette paused, then looked him over one more time. He wore what seemed to be skintight leather, but it bent as easily as spandex and seemed thinner. When he reached up to push some slightly sweaty hair out of his face, her eye caught on his hand. Over the clawed black leather gloves was a ring, as pitch black as the rest of his outfit. The ring had a flat part with a bright green paw print in the same colour as his eyes. "What's your name?"
A wide grin spread over his face as he did an over-dramatic bow. "Chat Noir, at your service. Well, sorry to rescue and run, but there's more people to save."
With that, he unclipped the baton at his back and it extended into a massive pole that he used to vault back in the direction of the creature.
"Oh no… oh no nonono this cannot be happening." Bridgette muttered to herself anxiously. She fidgeted with one of her long black pigtails to keep her hands busy as she tried standing on her toes to look through the crowd. She had moved to the edge of the crowd when she lost track of Marinette, hoping maybe to spot her if she wasn't in the thick of it, but they were both quite small and if Marinette was still there she was well hidden by all the adults that dwarfed her. Bridgette could maybe try to call her, but could she even hear the phone over the crowd? It would probably get knocked out of her hand in seconds.
For a moment Bridgette stared at the crowd in silence, weighing her options. Marinette was practically her sister, and Bridgette needed to make sure she was okay. But what could she do?
'Okay, breathe. Mari will probably try to get out too, and then she's probably going to take a long way home. I'll wait a few minutes and then call her, so she won't try to answer stuck in the crowd.' In the meantime, she'd try to make it home, herself.
There were still a lot of people on this road, but it wasn't as bad. At least she wasn't being jostled from all sides, and the uproar of a packed street of scared people had been replaced with nervous chatter as people worked their way home and talked about the stone creature and wondered if their loved ones were alright. Bridgette pulled her phone out, wondering when she should call Marinette, but just as she was about to she overheard a bit of a conversation that caught her attention.
"--That boy with the cat ears. Did you see him?" One woman was saying to another.
"I did! He was helping evacuate my whole building. Had the people on the top floor slide down-- did you see that baton he had? It was insane! He made it extend four floors in just a moment." The second woman said back. "And my coworker Lucie is in a wheelchair, and he just carried both her and the chair down like it was nothing."
"Less strange than a supervillain made of stone. I can barely believe this is happening in Paris."
Bridgette stared at the two chatting women as they went a different way down the street. A boy with cat ears and some kind of magic baton? Alya was right afterall, and Bridgette hoped she hadn't gotten into any danger trying to watch the fight. At least they had a much better chance if someone with powers was helping around, and it sounded like the cat-boy was saving people.
She had other things to worry about though. Bridgette returned her attention to her phone and started dialing. Before she could finish, her phone started ringing, and the caller ID told her it was Marinette. She answered immediately. "Marinette!"
"Bri! Oh my gosh are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Mari. I'm almost home. Where are you? I couldn't find you again and I was so worried-- are you okay?" Bridgette sighed in relief, some of the tension melting away.
"I'm okay. I'm home. I'll meet you downstairs, see you soon."
"Okay. Glad you're okay. See you in a minute." Bridgette heard a click, then sped up her pace towards the bakery.
It only took another minute or so to make it the rest of the way. The bell at the front door made a familiar ringing noise when she pushed through. There were no customers, but her aunt and uncle were fussing over Marinette. No sooner had she opened the door though before Tom rushed over and practically scooped her up into a hug. He tugged her the rest of the way into the building.
"Bridgette! Ma chérie, are you alright?"
"I'm okay, Uncle Tom." Bridgette assured him, but she let herself enjoy the hug regardless. It helped to ease up the fear that had been eating at her. "Promise."
Once Tom finally let go, Sabine took a turn, hugging her and leaning up to press a kiss to the top of her head. "We only saw the news a few minutes ago, just before Marinette came down. We haven't talked to your parents yet." Sabine said. "I'll text them what happened and that you're okay."
Things settled down a little over the next few minutes. Eventually they went to the couch to watch the news, Bridgette and Marinette sandwiched securely between the elder Dupain-Chengs. The first thing they saw was footage of a boy with cat ears and a tail, the one Bridgette had heard about on the way. They showed him getting civilians to safety as the news reported on the danger areas.
"I forgot! I was going to tell you, I met him." Marinette said suddenly. "I wandered into an area he had already evacuated and he saved me and took me home. That's how I got on the roof."
Tom put an arm around his daughter. "Then we owe him quite a bit for getting you home safe."
"He looks so young." Sabine said softly, looking at the closeup of his face. "They said he's been helping people evacuate nonstop since that stone creature appeared."
Out of the corner of her eye, Bridgette caught Marinette frowning, leaning forward slightly to look closer at the television. More footage kept coming, Chat Noir rescuing person after person. Clearing people away from the destruction of the stone beast and scooping up any stragglers to safety. "It just keeps rampaging, though... He's not getting any time to try to stop it without people getting hurt, is he?" Marinette said, without looking away.
"He's not." Bridgette bit her lip, not taking her eyes from the screen either. "Superhero comics and what we hear about from America just… doesn't really get the reality of it, does it?" She leaned into her cousin, who put an arm around Bridgette in comfort.
"It really doesn't…"