On Monday morning, Adrien awoke feeling better than he had all week. He took a deep breath through his nose and stretched his arms above his head, relieved his cold had finally passed. Smiling brightly, he noted the fine weather, then flung his blankets aside to get ready for school. He hummed through his morning ablutions, and was still grinning when he tugged on his shoes and packed his bag.
‘You’re in a good mood,’ observed Plagg.
‘Of course I am. I can finally return to school, see my friends, and now I know that Marinette doesn’t dislike me. Nothing could bring me down right now.’
Plagg smirked. ‘Sure Kid. This has nothing to do with the fact that you kissed Ladybug the other night.’
‘It was wonderful,’ he sighed.
‘Come on, doesn’t it rankle that she kissed you, and not Chat Noir?’
Adrien rolled his eyes. ‘I am Chat Noir. Besides, if she fell for this side of me, then there’s no reason to think she won’t fall for the other. Eventually.’
Before Plagg could come back with a snide retort, Nathalie knocked on his door.
‘Adrien, are you up? You’re going to be late.’
‘I’m coming,’ he called. ‘Though I'm never late – she makes sure of that.’
Plagg snickered at his muttered aside, before diving into his school bag, clutching a wheel of cheese.
Passing the dining room, Adrien walked in to butter a slice of toast and shoved it in his mouth, then stuffed a croissant and a pain au chocolate in his bag for later.
‘Sugar, fat, and carbs. The breakfast of champions,’ he mumbled gleefully around his mouthful as he darted out to the waiting car.
When he arrived at school, Nino rushed forward to give him a hug.
‘Dude, I missed you. Last week was so boring without you here.’
Adrien laughed and patted his back. ‘It was no better at home; I was so bored, I almost missed even the photoshoots.’
Nino looked aghast as he drew back, still holding Adrien’s shoulders.
‘Wow, that is bored. Well, you're back now, so let’s go catch up with everyone.’
‘Awesome, can’t wait.’
Nino led him inside, to a bench on the right side of the courtyard. There, their classmates had gathered around Lila to listen to another one of her tall tales.
She’s in her element, Adrien thought, with slight resentment.
‘Hey guys,’ Nino hollered, ‘look who’s back.’
As one, the group turned, their faces brightening.
‘Yo, welcome back, Adrien,’ Alya said, as she looped her arm around Nino’s.
Alix punched his arm. ‘You better not be contagious.’
He rubbed his abused flesh and pouted. ‘Good morning, Alix. I feel much better now, thanks for asking.’
She stuck her tongue out, but was then replaced by Ivan and Mylène, who were much more solicitous.
Once most of his friends had welcomed him back, Chloé squealed from the other end of the courtyard, before sprinting over to clutch his arm. In the same moment, Lila stepped forward, batting her lashes, to hold his other arm.
Sensing impending doom, his classmates all took a judicious step back, leaving him trapped between the two dominant personalities.
‘Adrikins,’ Chloé crooned, ‘I missed you. None of these lame brains even hold a candle to you.’
‘Welcome back, Adrien,’ added Lila, as she shot Chloé an unsubtle glare. ‘Did you get my notes last week? I hope they helped in some small way. I wrote them for you every day, you know.’
Adrien put on a strained smile. ‘Yeah, thanks, Lila.’
Chloé’s grip tightened. ‘Well, I’ve booked the spa at Daddy’s hotel this afternoon. You can come and get a massage, or a seaweed wrap, or a mani-pedi, or all of the above. It’ll be just the thing after your dreadful illness.’
‘It was just a cold, Chloé,’ he told her, but he knew she wasn’t listening.
Lila’s fingernails dug into his skin, while her smile turned distinctly predatory. ‘Sorry, but Adrien needs to catch up on his schoolwork, and I've already cleared time this afternoon with Gabriel. Your little pampering session will have to wait.’
Adrien rolled his eyes as their bickering continued. Then their hold on his arms turned into insistent tugging, jerking him back and forth like a toy caught between two squabbling toddlers.
Kim met his gaze with a look of sympathy. ‘Normally, I’d be jealous of two girls fighting over you, but this is just scary.’
He could only sigh and nod in agreement, though the gesture was lost as the tugs morphed into possessive yanking.
Their spat was interrupted when Aurore burst into the courtyard. Everyone paused to watch as she shoved her way through small groups on her way to the locker room, her expression dark, while others scrambled to avoid being knocked down.
‘Get out of my way,’ she told a group of first years hovering by the locker room door.
The younger kids scattered before her fierce expression with looks of mild panic. Aurore stormed by, her nose in the air and her brow furrowed. From within came loud protestations and exclamations of surprise, which were quickly choked off.
‘Move,’ she ordered, as more shrieks came from inside.
Every student still inside the locker room fled, shaking their heads and giving significant looks to others who made their way forward.
Adrien exchanged perplexed glances with his own classmates.
‘I guess Little Miss Perfect isn’t so perfect after all,’ Chloé mused.
‘Her grades must’ve dropped again,’ Mylène whispered.
Lila tossed her head. ‘Well, that’s no reason to take her anger out on people here. Such behaviour isn’t tolerated at a professional level, so if she’s not careful, she’ll get fired. Isn’t that right, Adrien?’
Everyone turned to him expectantly, but then the bell rang, calling them to class. Adrien smiled, shrugged, and ducked out of Chloé’s and Lila’s grip, before jogging to class with Nino at his heels.
He threw himself into his seat and pulled his belongings out, before folding his hands on the desk. Adrien nodded to each classmate as they entered, but after Caline arrived, he noted that Marinette hadn’t made an appearance yet.
Adrien frowned. ‘Where’s Marinette?’
Alya leaned over her desk to mutter back to him. ‘She’s sick. Apparently, she caught a cold too, so I guess something’s going around.’
‘I hope it’s not too bad,’ he said, sorry to hear of her plight. He had a feeling Marinette was the type of person who didn’t take well to laying abed for days on end, with nothing to do.
‘It’s just a little cold,’ Alya replied. ‘She’s a dreadful patient, but it’s never as bad as she makes it out to be.’
‘Still, I hope she gets better soon.’
Nino patted him consolingly on the shoulder. ‘Marinette’s tough; a cold won’t keep her down for long. Besides, it’s not like it’s your fault she’s sick.’
He was about to reply when Caline called for their attention. After taking attendance, she moved on to the subjects that would appear on their next test. Concerned, Adrien raised his hand.
‘You have a question, Adrien?’ Caline asked.
He nodded. ‘Should someone be taking notes for Marinette?’
She looked up at Lila, who immediately began rubbing her right wrist and grimacing pitifully.
‘I’d love to help, but my arthritis is flaring up. I'm so sorry.’
Adrien frowned. ‘Wasn’t your arthritis in your left wrist?’
Confused whispers began stirring, but Lila was a quick thinker.
‘I have it in both wrists, though one is usually worse than the other. Sometimes, it feels like they switch overnight.’
‘I’ll bet,’ he muttered. ‘Madame Bustier, I can take Marinette’s notes for today.’
Behind him, he could have sworn he heard Alya cheer.
Caline nodded approvingly. ‘Thank you, Adrien. I'm sure she would appreciate that.’
With the issue settled, Caline began her lecture. Adrien made sure to pay close attention, and wrote every detail as meticulously as possible. He knew Marinette was intelligent, but as he wasn’t sure what kind of note-taker she was, he wrote down everything.
By lunchtime, his hand cramped and refused to open all the way. He rubbed his palm and shrugged it off, then followed Nino out the door.
‘You going to photocopy your notes now?’ Nino asked.
‘I was going to at the end of the day.’
Alya appeared at his elbow. ‘You know, Marinette printed out, and gave you her notes at lunch and at the end of the day so you wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the sudden influx of information.’
Adrien was surprised by the reminder. ‘Is that how people normally do it?’
‘Yeah, absolutely. You don’t want to throw too much at a sick person at once, you know. It can be bad for their recovery.’
‘Huh. I guess that makes sense. Lila did the same thing, now that I think about it.’
‘There, you see? I bet if you go now, Madame Cheng will give you free food, too.’
He could already feel his mouth watering. ‘Ok, see you guys later.’
With that, he darted up to the library, photocopied all his notes, then sprinted outside, heedless of the teachers and students calling out in his wake.
‘I’m on a mission,’ he hollered at Gorilla as he passed by.
Adrien entered the bakery and took a deep breath. He loved the smell of baking bread, so he took a moment to savour it. Unfortunately, there was a long queue before the counter, with all the customers demanding Sabine’s attention.
‘Good afternoon, Madame Cheng,’ Adrien greeted her over the hubbub.
‘Adrien,’ she returned cheerily, ‘what can I do for you?’
He held up his small stack of paper while she handed a customer his change.
‘I have this morning’s notes for Marinette, if she wants them.’
‘How sweet of you. I’m a little busy here, but you can take them up if you want.’
‘Sure thing. It was nice seeing you again, Madame Cheng.’
Tom stuck his head out of the kitchen. ‘Someone’s here for Marinette?’
Adrien raised his hand. ‘I brought some notes from class.’
Tom grinned. ‘Wonderful. Could you take these up with you?’
He held out a tray piled high with an assortment of foodstuffs. Adrien took it, wondering how he expected Marinette to eat such an amount.
Maybe they’re going to share it over afternoon tea, he mused.
After carefully making his way upstairs, he let himself into their apartment. It was quiet, but Marinette's bedroom hatch was open. Still carrying the tray, Adrien inched up the stairs to her room.
‘Marinette, it’s Adrien. May I come in?’
When there was no reply, he rose the next few steps until he could see inside. Her room was dim and a little stuffy, but he supposed that was to be expected of someone with a cold. He let himself in, set the tray on her desk, then opened the blinds, but left her windows closed.
A feeble cough drifted from the loft above him.
Cautiously, he took the ladder to her bed, crawling up slowly so he wouldn’t frighten her. However, it was a wasted effort. Marinette was curled up under her blankets, with her covers pulled almost completely over her head. Adrien had no idea whether she faced the left or the right, but he could hear her wheezing faintly as she breathed. Creeping forward, he shook the lump he assumed was her foot.
‘Marinette, are you awake?’
She hummed a drowsy, questioning note, then rolled over and sat up. Her hair was free of its usual pigtails and stuck up on one side, but lay unnaturally flat on the other. Her eyes were red rimmed with dark shadows underneath, and even her nose looked tender after she had blown it so frequently, the evidence laying scattered about her pillow, as crumpled tissues rolled around, jostled by the moving blankets.
Marinette blinked at him through squinted eyes, her jaw slack as she breathed through her mouth. Adrien could hear a sickly gurgle with each exhale. He winced, wondering how she had caught such a severe cold.
‘Hey, Marinette. How’re you feeling?’
He crawled forward to lay his hand across her brow, but Marinette’s eyes widened and she threw herself back with a hoarse shriek.
‘Nightmare Adrien,’ she screeched as her feet lashed out.
Unprepared, Adrien froze just as she kicked him in the chest, sending him sprawling backward over the mattress. He gripped the bedding and cast a panicked glance over the edge, which he had come perilously close to falling from.
‘I’m not a dream,’ he assured her quickly.
Marinette ceased flailing about, then opened her mouth to speak, only to be taken over by a coughing fit. She gasped for breath, but couldn’t seem to stop. Adrien approached her once more to thump her back until the fit subsided.
‘Sorry, I don’t know if that helped,’ he said.
She shook her head. ‘It’s fine. Sorry for kicking you.’
He winced at how raspy her voice sounded. ‘Don’t worry about it.’
Marinette lowered her blankets with a rattling sigh. Adrien suppressed a smile at the memory her pyjamas brought up; the same ones she wore when he snuck out of the house to see Emilie’s movie.
She really is a good friend. The thought warmed him from the inside out.
‘What’re you doing here?’ she asked. ‘Shouldn’t you be at school?’
‘It’s lunch, and I wanted to bring you this morning’s notes. Alya told me I should bring them in two lots since it would be bad for you if I brought them all at once.’
‘Alya sent you here?’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
What colour she had drained from her face. ‘But I’m sick, my hair is a mess, my room is a disaster, and I’m in my pyjamas.’
Her tirade was cut off by another round of coughing, so Adrien patted her back to help it along.
When she stopped, he said, ‘I know you're sick, and I don’t care if your room and hair is messy. It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t even bathed in the last three days, because I know how hard it can be to move when you're so ill.’
Marinette choked out a weak laugh. ‘I still shower and brush my teeth in the morning.’
‘Then you’re already doing better than I did. I hope you're not going back to bed with a wet head, though.’
‘Of course not. Maman would have a conniption.’
‘Speaking of, your parents sent up a tray stacked with food for you. I left it on your desk.’
Marinette looked suspicious. ‘Is there a lot of food?’
‘Quite a bit, yes.’
‘And they told you to bring it to me?’
‘They said to take it up with me, if that makes it any clearer.’
She watched him pensively for a moment. ‘I’d guess they wanted us to eat it together.’
‘Oh, that is surely a surprise.’
He hoped he wasn’t being too obvious. He didn’t want to seem rude or greedy by assuming he would be fed, but he still hoped Marinette would offer to let him stay for lunch.
Marinette suddenly looked downcast. ‘You probably shouldn’t have lunch with me. I’d hate it if you fell sick again so soon after recovering.’
‘No,’ he replied a little too quickly. ‘I mean, I’d still like to visit you, and make sure you’re doing ok. I could even talk you through this morning’s lessons while we eat.’
She appeared to think on that for a moment before nodding. ‘I’d like that.’
The rest of Adrien’s afternoon was busy. After school he had a photoshoot, one that had been postponed while he was sick, but would not wait any longer. He then had a Chinese lesson, and after that he had to practice the piano. The sun had long-since set by the time he was left to his own devices.
‘What a day,’ he moaned, as he flopped backwards over his bed.
‘Don’t get too comfortable,’ Plagg told him. ‘You still have to take Pigtails her homework.’
Adrien gasped as he sprang upright. ‘Holy Bast, I completely forgot. Plagg, transforme moi.’
Snatching the latest set of photocopies from his bag, Chat Noir leapt from his window to pogo across the rooftops.
I hope she’s feeling better, he thought. She sounded dreadful earlier, but maybe there’s something I can do to help.
An idea came just as he sailed over a pharmacy. Slipping into the deep shadows between streetlights, he detransformed and entered the pharmacy. It was too bright after the dim lights outside, but he smiled amicably at the assistant standing by the checkout. He strolled the aisles and picked up a packet of lozenges, a bottle of cough syrup, a box of herbal tea, painkillers, and nasal spray. Then, as he made his way to the register, he grabbed a block of chocolate, just because he thought Marinette deserved it.
She’s gonna be so happy. Well, as happy as anyone can be with a cold.
He made his purchases, then took his leave. Once he was outside, Plagg emerged from his overshirt and eyed the bag critically.
‘Don’t you think you went a bit overboard?’
‘Nope. Transforme moi.’
Marinette was still awake when he arrived. He could see her though the window, sitting at her desk as she read something. He hoped it was the notes he had delivered earlier.
It’s kind of funny, he mused. Somehow, Marinette convinced Ladybug to deliver notes to me while I was sick, and now Chat Noir is delivering notes to her. We’ve come full circle.
Grinning, he jumped to her balcony, landing with a thud. There was an echoing thump inside, then the sound of feet pattering on steps, before the rooftop access hatch was flung open.
‘Chat Noir?’ Marinette croaked.
He winced, sure she sounded worse than he remembered.
‘Hey, Mademoiselle Marinette. How’re you feeling?’
She clambered out, but remained a few feet away from him.
‘All right so far, but there's still time for everything to go horribly wrong,’ she replied. ‘Best not to get too close. We can’t have you getting sick too.’
‘I heard you weren’t well, so I brought you this.’ He held up the bag from the pharmacy, handing it to her with a smile.
Accepting it, Marinette peered inside. ‘Wow, thank you. You didn’t have to go to this much trouble for me.’
‘I’ve been sick before, so I know how miserable it is,’ he shrugged. ‘Luckily, Papillon decided to take that week off, so I had time to recover.’
Marinette looked up at him. ‘Who told you I was sick, anyway?’
He grinned, and pulled the photocopied notes from the back of his belt. ‘A mutual acquaintance flagged me down. Adrien told me about it, and that he was unable to bring you the afternoon notes after his extracurriculars took over. He sends his best wishes, and thanks you for sending Ladybug his way last week. He was most appreciative.’
Marinette’s face lit up with a warm smile and a bright blush. ‘He really said that?’
Chat Noir nodded. ‘Yup. How did you wrangle that, by the way? Are you friends with Ladybug?’
She waved a hand. ‘Yeah, we go way back.’
‘Neither of you have mentioned this before, right?’ he tacked on, as he handed her the papers.
‘Only a fool brags about being friendly with a superhero. I have no intention of endangering my friends and family while Papillon’s still on the loose.’
A less than subtle dig at Lila, he thought with amusement.
‘Anyway,’ he said aloud, ‘I should let you get back to your rest. You won’t recover standing out here talking to me, and you have your studies to catch up on.’
‘Right. Thanks for everything, Chat Noir. You’re a life saver.’
‘It’s all in the job description, and in this case, a genuine pleasure. Good night, Marinette.’
He bounded away without looking back, feeling that was the moment to make a cool exit.
The next few days passed in a similar manner. Chloé and Lila continued to vie for his attention, Aurore’s temper remained at a hostile simmer, and every afternoon and evening, Adrien visited Marinette, more often as himself rather than Chat Noir. Unfortunately, her condition showed no signs of improvement, her cough shaking her whole body as it tried to expel the mucus.
On Thursday, the girls had gotten her a Get Well Soon card, and had everyone sign it. Only Chloé declined to put her pen to paper, but everyone was sure Marinette wouldn’t want her well wishes anyway.
She probably wouldn’t want Lila’s either, he thought as he watched Lila write a passably cordial note in the card.
Over the last few days, Marinette had told him of her dislike for the other girl. She refused to go into detail, but she said she intensely disapproved of Lila’s constant lying and manipulations. Inwardly, he agreed, but he knew that confronting her about it wouldn’t end well, as she wasn’t mature enough to listen, or rectify her ways. Sadly, he felt he didn’t have enough life experience to be able to deal with her effectively, so he watched from the sidelines, waiting for her lies to catch up with her.
Caline clapped her hands to get the class’ attention. ‘Back in your seats now, students, and pay attention. You have another test next week.’
She smiled knowingly at the collective groan, then began her lecture after the class settled down. Adrien picked up his pen, and resumed taking notes for Marinette. She had been grateful for his assistance and had insisted on repaying him with pastries, which was something he would never turn down. But his true reward was getting to know the girl who he once assumed disliked him.
The lunch bell rang to a chorus of relieved sighs. Adrien rubbed his palm as Nino patted his back.
‘You going to visit Marinette?’ he asked.
‘Yup, as soon as I finish photocopying todays lesson.’
Lila sidled up to him. ‘You’re such a good person, Adrien, but is it safe seeing her every day? It’d be terrible if you fell ill again.’
He forced a brittle smile. ‘Thanks for your concern, but I'm fine. I should get going.’
He swept his belongings into his bag and almost bolted for the door, ignoring Lila’s plaintive whining as he fled.
‘That girl,’ grumbled Plagg, with an exclamation of disgust.
‘Maybe she wouldn’t be so bad if she got the kind of attention she needs,’ Adrien murmured pensively.
‘She gets all the attention she could possibly want,’ Plagg retorted.
‘No, not like that. I think I get how she feels.’
Plagg crossed his arms and grumbled, ‘who even cares?’
‘Think about it. I’m pretty famous now, and everywhere I go, people are always trying to talk to me, but I've never felt more alone. I think it’s because Father isn’t around as much as I’d like. Maybe Lila is going through something similar.’
Plagg shook his head. ‘It’s a reason, but not an excuse. What do you think is going to happen once everyone finds out the truth about her?’
He didn’t respond; he knew Lila’s popularity would plummet, but he hoped his classmates had more empathy than to ostracise her completely.
He had just finished copying his notes when there was an almighty boom downstairs. The floor shook, and the books fell off their shelves, while the librarian stumbled into a chair. Adrien grabbed the copier, as Plagg looked around in alarm.
‘Sounds like the weathergirl finally lost her cool.’
Adrien furrowed his brow. ‘We won’t know until we see for ourselves. Plagg, transforme moi.’
Chat Noir darted from the library before the librarian could right herself, and dashed downstairs. He paused on the walkway, staring in amazement at the debris floating in lazy circles around the courtyard. Chairs, books, rubbish, even janitorial equipment drifted around like a tornado in slow motion, at the base of which were two figures. However, the akuma victim was not Aurore. She sat at the feet of the villain, gazing up in terror, as the other girl raised her arm.
The akuma was clad in a form fitting, blue top with long sleeves, while her flowing skirt looked as if it were made from clouds. Misty wisps wrapped around her arms and neck, and her mask was like a cloud backlit by the sun. Jagged arcs stuck out of her hair like lightning bolts in a frightening crown, while snow fell from her shoulders, imitating a cape. Above her, storm clouds began to gather, rumbling ominously.
Chat Noir leapt down, landing behind the akuma to distract her while Aurore scurried away.
The akuma turned to him and held out her hand. ‘Give me your Miraculous.’
He folded his arms. ‘Aren't you Mireille, the Kids Plus winner?’
‘You can call me Weatherzone.’
She gestured sharply, directing a blast of arctic wind at him. Chat Noir held his arms up and braced his feet, but the force pushed him back.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked when the wind abated. ‘Get sick of people freezing you out? Can’t say I’m surprised when you act so frigid.’
Weatherzone snarled. ‘Maybe I just got sick of other people trying to steal my thunder.’
Her growing storm cloud lashed out a bolt of lightning, scorching the ground by his feet.
‘Ooh, good one,’ he congratulated her. ‘We’ll make a punner of you yet.’
To his right, frantic yet excited whispering came from beneath the stairs.
‘Aurore, what did you do to piss her off?’ asked Alya, her phone up as she recorded the incident. Beside her, hunched Lila, looking annoyed more than scared, while Aurore sat across from them, her arms crossed.
‘I didn’t do anything,’ Aurore hissed back. ‘The executives just asked me if I’d be willing to be the new weathergirl. Of course, I said yes.’
Weatherzone’s expression darkened. ‘They said I wasn’t performing well enough, that I was bland and unengaging. They tossed me aside, only to replace me with her, the competition loser.’
Her voice rose until it was a painful shriek. Then, she pointed at the stairs where Aurore hid, encasing it in a block of ice, trapping her along with Lila and Alya.
‘Well, who’s boring now, huh? No one can say I’m lacklustre or underperforming anymore.’
‘No one can say you’re original or innovative, either,’ croaked a new voice.
Chat Noir spun around to see Ladybug swing into the courtyard, but her dramatic entrance was ruined by a terrible coughing fit. He raced toward her, and thumped her on the back.
‘Ladybug, are you ok?’
She straightened up, gasping for breath, and nodded. ‘I’ve got a bit of a cold.’
He felt his insides turn to ice. Oh no. Please don’t tell me she caught my cold.
Weatherzone clenched her jaw. ‘How dare you? I’m only taking back what’s rightfully mine.’
Ladybug sneered back. ‘The whole weather theme has been done already, Mireille, and by Aurore no less. You’re not proving your point by imitating her.’
‘My name is Weatherzone,’ she screeched.
Raising an arm, she called hail from her personal thunderhead. It clattered down all around her, hard enough to blast the dirt from the asphalt, but remained untouched herself.
Chat Noir pulled Ladybug to his side, and spun his staff above his head in a makeshift shield. Ladybug hunched between his feet and studied Weatherzone, searching for the corrupted item, but she shook her head.
‘I can’t see where the akuma is.’ She then doubled over as another round of coughing overcame her.
‘What will you do, hero?’ Weatherzone taunted him. ‘Ladybug is ill, and you can’t leave her while the hail is coming down. You’re stuck.’
She strode forward, her hand outstretched as if she were about to take Ladybug’s earrings. Chat Noir gritted his teeth, then swung his baton like a baseball bat, enduring the hail as it struck his head, shoulders, arms, and back. His staff connected with Weatherzone’s midsection, sending her sprawling backwards. Ladybug took the opportunity to stand up and summon her Lucky Charm.
‘A portable fan heater?’ she wheezed.
‘Please tell me it has batteries,’ Chat Noir pleaded.
As Weatherzone got to her feet, Ladybug flicked the On switch. It blasted hot air in her face, before she grinned, and turned the heater on the akuma. The heater blew away Weatherzone’s cloud skirt, revealing blue leggings that matched her top. It also destroyed the wispy tendrils winding around her arms, revealing a delicate silver bracelet with a snowflake pendant.
‘There,’ Ladybug crowed.
She darted in and snatched the chain, breaking it as she pulled away. The akuma fluttered out and attempted to fly away, but Ladybug caught and purified it with her usual phrase, before waving the butterfly away.
Mireille came back to herself, slumped over and sitting on her heels in the middle of the courtyard. She looked up and blinked at her surroundings, just as Ladybug threw her Lucky Charm in the air. The swarm of magical ladybugs cleared the mess, and removed the ice trapping Aurore, Lila, and Alya. They stumbled out, looking relieved.
Chat Noir turned to Ladybug with his fist out. She bumped it with a feeble smile.
‘Good job,’ the intoned.
Alya slung an arm around Lila’s shoulders. ‘Wow, you really weren’t kidding when you said Ladybug will always come to your rescue. Hey, Ladybug, do you have a message for your best friend here?’
Lila shrank in on herself as Ladybug squinted at her, blinking as if she needed to clear her vision.
‘Who’re you?’ she asked.
Alya stilled. ‘This is Lila, your closest friend.’
Ladybug slowly shook her head. ‘I’ve never seen this girl before in my life.’
She coughed again, the sound ripping from her throat like a bark.
Suppressing a mocking cheer as everyone turned to stare hard at Lila, Chat Noir wrapped Ladybug in his arms, and rose on his pole until they were on the roof.
There, he gripped her shoulders and waited until she could breathe again.
‘I’m fine,’ she wheezed.
‘Clearly, you're not. What happened?’
Despite her condition, a wide, dopey grin spread across her face. ‘The boy I’m in love with kissed me.’
Chat noir blinked, unsure how he felt about that.
I’m happy she’s happy, and I’m happy she’s in love with me, but she’s in love with me and I made her sick, his thoughts screamed.
‘Hmm, yeah,’ Ladybug hummed dreamily, still grinning stupidly.
He snapped his fingers in front of her nose. ‘Come back now, Ladybug. You have to get going before you time out.’
Shaking herself out of her daydreams, Ladybug straightened up with a frown. ‘Right. See you next time, Kitty.’
‘Until next time, LB.’
He turned his back on her, needing the time to come to terms with the fact that the love of his life loved him back, and that he made her ill.
‘Help,’ he whimpered.
It wasn’t until after dark when Adrien realised he still had to take his notes to Marinette. He wasn’t sure if he’d come to terms with his discovery, but she was a friend in need, so he wasn’t about to let her down, regardless of what was happening in his personal life. So, he folded the notes, stopped by the store on his way, and bought her a tub of hazelnut ice cream.
Landing on her balcony, he knocked on her hatch.
‘Hello, is the world-famous designer, and video game champion home?’
She was slow to respond, but when she did, it was with a wide, foolish grin lighting up her face. ‘Good evening, Chat Noir.’
‘Hey. What’s with the smile?’ he asked.
She hummed a dreamy note. ‘Good memories.’
‘Ok, I’m intrigued. What memories would those be?’
She waved her hand as she retreated. ‘Come inside. I’ll tell you all about it.’
He followed her down and perched on her chaise, while she fell into her desk chair to spin around the room.
‘I got you some ice cream,’ he informed her. ‘I thought it might help your throat.’
She turned back to him, clapping excitedly. ‘I love ice cream.’
He extended the bag he carried it in cautiously. She took it, peering inside curiously.
‘Ooh, hazelnut. Yummy.’
‘I’m glad you approve.’
Sitting on the floor, she prised the lid up, and licked the ice cream with a hoarse mlem sound.
‘Yummy,’ she repeated.
Chat Noir blinked at her. ‘Ok, you’re delirious.’
She licked the ice cream again, his comment going either unheard or ignored. She then pressed the side of the tub against her face with a sigh.
Resting his elbows on his knees, Chat Noir leaned forward. ‘Marinette, are you running a fever?’
She didn’t answer, so he slid off the chaise to sit by her side. There, he saw that Marinette was licking the ice from the side of the tub.
‘Oh geez. Marinette, do you have a fever?’ he asked again, clearly enunciating each word.
She turned to him with a grin. ‘Thirty-eight point five.’
‘But I’m on medicine.’
‘All right, Princess. Into bed with you.’
Chat Noir hefted Marinette over his shoulder, ice cream container included, and carried her up to bed. He dropped her on the mattress, and held a finger up in front of her nose. She focussed on it as he waved it back and forth.
‘You stay here, I’ll be right back. Don’t move.’
She hummed obediently, and licked her ice cream once more. Shaking his head, Chat Noir descended her ladder and made his way to the kitchen. It was quiet downstairs, so he assumed Tom and Sabine had already gone to bed. Alone, he went to the freezer, and pulled out an ice pack. He then turned to the drawer and found a spoon for Marinette, before she decided to eat her ice cream with her fingers.
Once he returned to her side, he gave her the spoon and lay the ice pack over her head.
‘How are you feeling now?’ he asked.
She coughed. ‘Just dandy.’
‘So, what was this good memory you mentioned before, that had you so happy?’
Marinette had heaped her spoon high and shoved it in her mouth. She smiled around the stem, then released it with a pop.
‘I can see that.’
Her grin turned mischievous. ‘But you don’t know how.’
That stumped him. ‘How? You know how you got sick?’
He shook his head and blinked, then pulled his legs in to sit in a tailor’s position in front of her. ‘Will you tell me?’
Marinette’s expression turned serious. ‘Promise to keep it secret?’
‘Of course. You have my word.’
She smiled again.
‘I kissed a boy,’ she whispered conspiratorially.
That made him pause. No way. What’re the chances? Besides, doesn’t she like Luka?
‘Was it Luka? Do I need to have a word with him about being more careful with his germs?’
Marinette barked a croaky laugh. ‘No, it wasn’t Luka, silly. I don’t have a crush on him.’
Chat Noir furrowed his brows as he tried to make sense of that. ‘Are you saying you like the boy you kissed?’
Marinette’s face was red, but he wasn’t sure if the flush was caused by embarrassment or her fever.
She giggled and held her arms open. ‘Yeah. Big crush. Big, huge, enormous crush. He’s so amazing.’
‘Uh-huh. So, who is the lucky guy?’
Marinette hugged her ice cream and giggled again. ‘It’s a boy in my class. You know Adrien Agreste, right?’
Chat Noir was sure he stopped breathing. He didn’t recall kissing Marinette, but she wasn’t done talking.
‘I kissed him, but you can’t tell anyone, not even him.’
‘No?’ he squeaked.
‘No. He doesn’t know it was me. He thought he was kissing Ladybug. Well, he was kissing Ladybug, but he doesn’t know Ladybug is me. Me being Ladybug is a tippy top secret. I can’t even tell you that, so don’t tell anyone, not even yourself, ok?’
His brain had ceased all functions. He nodded mutely, still trying to process what she had said, but his brain stubbornly refused to believe it.
‘You’re Ladybug,’ he repeated, pointing at her.
‘Yes. Tikki’s around here somewhere. Where did she go?’
If he hadn’t been convinced before, the mention of her kwami’s name obliterated all remaining doubts, but his brain was nothing but static.
I can’t deal with this right now, he wailed internally.
‘Ok, Cupcake, time for bed,’ he announced.
‘Yup, sleep is calling you. Can you feel it?’
She blinked slowly, one eye at a time. ‘I guess.’
Chat Noir gently removed the spoon and ice cream, and ran them downstairs. When he returned, Marinette was under her sheet, peering groggily at him.
He crawled up her bed to plant a soft kiss on her brow. It was still too hot, but he hoped with the aid of the medication she mentioned earlier, her fever would break overnight.
He watched as her eyes closed, then turned off her lamp, before easing himself out of her hatch. When he got home, he detransformed, and screamed into his pillow while Plagg cackled in the background.
Adrien went through the motions on Friday morning as if he were on autopilot. Plagg watched from his desk with an insufferably smug grin, but declined to comment, something for which Adrien was extremely grateful.
He got to school just as his brain caught up with him. He entered the courtyard only to see that Lila was still the centre of attention, but rather than regale her captivated audience with fabulous stories, they surrounded her demanding explanations and hurled accusations.
‘I told you,’ she pleaded, almost sobbing, ‘I have Tourette Syndrome. It makes me say things sometimes.’
Alya put her hands on her hips. ‘You realise, this calls into question every single thing you’ve ever told us, right?’
‘How can we believe anything you tell us ever again?’ asked Max. ‘There's always going to be some doubt about your truthfulness or sincerity, now.’
‘I realise that, but please believe that I really do consider you all my friends. I would never deliberately do anything to hurt you.’
Adrien leaned in close to Nino who stood at the edge of the group.
‘What’s going on?’
Nino leaned in to mutter back. ‘Ever since Ladybug claimed she didn’t know Lila, people have been asking questions, comparing notes. We’ve noticed some irregularities in her stories, so the guys decided to ask her about it. She says it’s Tourette’s, but I'm not sure.’
Adrien narrowed his eyes at the group. He wasn’t sure this was the right way to go about clearing up Lila’s lies, but there was one thing he could do.
‘You know, Marinette's been saying from the beginning that Lila’s a liar,’ he said, just loud enough to hear.
Alya flinched, while the rest of the girls cringed. Nino pulled the brim of his hat down and hid, but Adrien wasn’t done.
‘I think you guys all owe her an apology, especially you, Lila.’
She snapped her head up to stare at him in outrage. ‘Why do I have to apologise?’
Adrien narrowed his eyes at her. ‘I don’t know what you did, but I know you said something to her. She doesn’t dislike people without good reason, so whatever it is you did, you need to make amends. You haven’t even apologised to the rest of the class yet, have you?’
The others turned on her as if only just realising she hadn’t yet said she was sorry. But Lila looked mulish.
‘Why should I apologise to that mewling brat? She may not be as gullible as the rest of you, but she should still know when to roll over and die.’ Lila gasped and clapped both hands over her mouth, her eyes wide.
The others stared back, equally shocked. The silence was deafening as everyone in the courtyard turned to stare at her outburst.
‘I mean,’ she backpedalled, ‘I was so insecure when I first came here, and she was so mean to me. I was only trying to look out for Adrien, because Marinette wanted to sink her claws into him. She’s the real villain.’
‘Is this your Tourette’s again, Lie-la?’ asked Alix, her tone scornful.
Ivan shook his head. ‘You threw Marinette under the bus, just like that.’
‘Makes you wonder how she’d treat the rest of us,’ muttered Nathaniel.
Lila glanced at the others, desperate for an ally or sympathetic listener, but no one gave her anything. Realising she had alienated herself, she picked up her bag and stormed out, looking like she was trying hard not to cry.
‘Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out,’ Chloé called.
Once she was gone, a weighty hush fell over the group.
Alya rubbed her arm, her gaze stuck firmly on the floor. ‘I've been a bad friend.’
‘You’re in good company,’ Adrien told her before walking away.
He didn’t go to class when the bell rang. Instead, he found a quiet corner and transformed, then ran across the rooftops until he was exhausted. Lila didn’t reappear as an akuma, which was a small mercy, but he still found himself unreasonably frustrated with his classmates, as well as himself.
Finally, he wended his way back to stare at Marinette’s balcony. Shaking his head, he jumped over, and knocked on her hatch.
‘Hey, you awake in there?’
Marinette appeared below him, then indicated he could let himself in. Raising the hatch, he slipped inside to land beside her on the bed.
‘How do you feel today?’ he asked, resting the back of his hand across her brow.
‘A lot better actually. I had a lot of weird dreams lately, though.’
‘Oh, like what?’ He placed his hands in his lap, watching her with guileless expectation.
‘That I slept on a cloud of ice cream, things like that.’
Her voice sounded better; it wasn’t as hoarse, and he took her lucidity as a good sign.
‘I see your fever broke. That must mean you're on the mend.’
The sense of relief that washed over him was profound. Regardless of how tumultuous things were at school, he knew he could find peace and security with Marinette. His smile was fond as he looked at her.
I really love this girl, came the sudden, yet welcome thought.
She tilted her head. ‘How did you know I had a fever?’
‘I came to visit last night. Don’t you remember?’
Marinette’s face turned a brilliant red, before fading to an alarming white. ‘Oh no.’
He smirked at her. ‘What’s wrong? Something you want to tell me, Mari-buginette?’
A shrill whine escaped her as she put her hands over her face, her eyes wide and her jaw slack. Chat Noir decided not to tease her any further. He scooted around until he sat beside her, then pulled her into an awkward side hug.
‘Don’t worry, Milady, it’s really not as dire as all that. I happen to be an excellent secret keeper.’
She rounded on him, grabbing his bell to shake him vigorously. ‘You don’t understand, you stupid cat. If anyone ever finds out who we are, we have to give the Miraculous back.’
‘What? Surely that doesn’t include us,’ he scoffed.
‘I think you’ll find it does,’ she shrieked, still shaking him.
Chat Noir gently prised her hands off him. ‘Hey, calm down. Let’s think about this.’
‘There's nothing to think about. You know my identity. Fu’s going to take Tikki away from me, and I won’t be Ladybug anymore.’
‘How’s he going to find out?’
‘How is Fu going to find out I know who you are? I don’t plan on telling him; do you?’
‘I. No. But I have to be honest. What?’
‘If you’re so worried about Fu taking your Miraculous back just because I know who you are, then I say just don’t tell him. I mean, we already lie to everyone else we know, so what’s one more?’
‘It’d be dishonest, and I’m Ladybug. He has high expectations for me. I can’t disappoint him.’
He shrugged. ‘What does Tikki think?’
Marinette looked around, her expression lost and conflicted. ‘Tikki?’
Tikki twirled over the foot of the bed. ‘Hello, Chat Noir. It’s nice to see you again.’
‘You too,’ he returned. ‘What do you think about this whole identity conundrum?’
She drifted over to sit in front of them. ‘Once before, shortly after Marinette got her Miraculous, I asked her if she wanted to reveal herself to you. She declined, of course.’
Marinette cleared her throat. ‘Where are you going with this?’
Tikki closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. ‘If you wish to share your identities, that is your choice. It’s not a law that you relinquish your Miraculous upon doing so, it’s just a precautionary measure in case something goes wrong. However, as long as you trust your partner, then I don't see why you can’t continue being Ladybug. The only reason Fu made that rule was in case Papillon found out who you are, like he did with Chloé.’
‘She wasn’t exactly subtle,’ muttered Marinette.
‘She wasn’t supposed to have a Miraculous in the first place,’ Tikki told her meaningfully.
Marinette bit her lip and ducked her head. ‘Right. Sorry.’
‘So,’ Chat Noir cut in, ‘she doesn’t have to stop being Ladybug?’
Tikki shook her head. ‘I don't think so.’
‘You’re both terrible,’ Marinette whimpered.
‘Come on, it’s not that bad, Milady,’ he crooned.
‘Join us,’ Tikki intoned. ‘Join the dark side. We have cookies.’
Marinette pouted. ‘I have those anyway.’
She coughed, though it wasn’t the all encompassing fit she’d suffered through over the last few days.
Chat Noir rubbed her back. ‘I’m sorry I got you sick.’
She blinked blearily up at him. ‘You didn’t get me sick.’
‘I think you’ll find I did,’ he replied, struggling to suppress a smirk.
Marinette’s face went through a range of expressions, before settling on confused. ‘Huh?’
‘Let’s go over what happened last night, shall we? I came over with ice cream to find you a delirious, feverish mess. I asked how you got sick, and you asked me if I could keep a secret. That was when you admitted to transforming into Ladybug and kissing your crush.’
‘Don't make it sound so sordid,’ she protested. ‘He kissed me.’
‘I know. I was there.’
Watching realisation sink in was like watching the sun rise, slow, but spectacular. Marinette’s eyes widened, her jaw fell, and she pointed at him as she tried to speak. Unfortunately, all that came out was a pathetic whine.
He patted her shoulder. ‘It’s ok, I know it takes some time to sink in.’
‘Adrien?’ she finally wheezed.
He winked at her, then let his transformation drop. ‘Got it in one.’
Plagg settled next to Tikki. ‘Hey, Sugar cube. Where’s the popcorn?’
She shushed him impatiently as she waited for the drama to unfold.
Marinette was still pointing and soundlessly working her jaw. Adrien nodded in understanding.
‘Take your time.’
‘I’ve been in love with you this whole time?’ she demanded.
He felt his gaze soften. ‘I guess so. I can’t even be mad at you for rejecting Chat, since you were so faithful to me. It’s actually pretty heart-warming.’
Her face still bright vermillion, he pulled her into a hug and rubbed her back.
‘I still love you,’ he murmured, ‘and I’ll wait for you as long as it takes. But I’m not going to kiss you, ‘cause I just got over that cold and I don't want it back.’
Marinette stiffened. ‘You did this to me.’
‘Yeah, I guess. But you seemed pretty happy about it last night.’
‘I have been suffering,’ she stated, ‘all because you can’t control yourself, you mangy cat.’
Before he could defend himself, Marinette grabbed his face and planted a moist kiss on his lips, before shoving him away again. She turned away from him to bury her face in the pillow, her ears bright red.
Adrien’s surprise gave way to fond amusement. ‘You beautiful, impossible idiot.’
Still smiling, he lay down next to her, then gently nudged her into his embrace. She cuddled up with him, her head on his shoulder, as they twined their fingers over his chest, his other hand stroking her hair.
‘Oh yeah, before I forget, Lila has been outed as a liar. I don't think you’ll have to worry about her anymore.’
Marinette raised her head to look at him. ‘What happened?’
‘Don't you remember? After the akuma battle yesterday, Ladybug looked Lila right in the eye and asked who she was, stating they had never met. After that, everyone got to talking. Lila tried to cover herself, but no one could believe anything she said. She ran away after a few choice words of her own, but by that point, she’d already dug her own grave. Actually, you may come back to a well-deserved surprise once you feel well enough to come back to school.’
‘Everyone seemed to realise how badly they’d wronged you, after I reminded them they owe you an apology.’
‘You didn’t,’ she gasped.
‘I did, and worse. I may owe Alya an apology too, but I don't mind making her squirm for a few days.’
Marinette remained quiet, with a pensive expression, as she idly ran her fingers over his chest.
‘Actually, I owe you an apology too,’ he said. ‘I should’ve done more to help you, instead of sitting passively by. I’m sorry.’
‘Thank you, it means a lot to hear you say that.’
She lay her head back down, apparently content to continue cuddling. He didn’t want to move ever again, so he remained there, absently stroking her hair, and occasionally indulging himself by kissing the top of her head. He didn’t even notice when he began drifting off.
The real world could wait a little longer.