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Marinette's Luckiest Charm

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Luka would rather have Tom's explicit threat of reducing him to component atoms if Luka had even thought about hurting Marinette over Sabine's implicit support of them having relations. She made an airy comment about how she'd rather not be a grandmother in her 40s after she pulled Luka aside to explain a rather tense Friday family dinner over at the Dupain-Chengs. Sabine told him she was just ensuring that he and Marinette shouldn't have to worry about any accidents and she wanted her daughter to explore and discover things safely and at her own pace.

Sabine continued barreling on through Luka's internal screaming and panicked breathing that while she trusted Marinette to make the right decisions, a little extra precaution wouldn't hurt so would he please be a dear and keep that in mind? He'd never wish as hard as he did to just stop existing for a little while.

It was shortly after Marinette's 15th birthday. Maybe it was the way Marinette leapt into his arms in front of everyone when he gave her a birthday present, a reference book on historical fashion he saw in a tiny bookshop when he was on route to a delivery. She was so grateful she pulled him down for a long kiss. In public, with her friends and family watching.

Maybe it was because he and Marinette usually shared the same chair (or spot on the couch) to watch movies or play games. Marinette had said she enjoyed sitting close and being wrapped up by him, so that's what he did. It got commonplace enough that not even Tom was bothered by it and unconsciously started expecting it, talking in Luka's general direction when he was expecting a response from his daughter.

Maybe it was when he had decided to be lazy and change shirts without ducking behind the changing screen after he finally agreed to be a model for her online fashion shop. It only took a few days of her pleading, looking up at him and batting her eyelashes with the tiniest pout, for him to give in. Sabine had opened up the hatch at the wrong time. That was probably it. A half undressed teenage boy in her teenage daughter's bedroom. Marinette hadn't even known because her back had been turned to gather the various additional pieces she wanted Luka to model.

Luka promised himself he would never be lazy in the Dupain-Cheng house ever again.

Marinette was understandably cagey about being alone with him in her room after dinner, so he suggested he go home early. She grabbed his hand and pulled him back. "No, wait. I wanted to show you something." She gave him a bouquet with 19 flowers of various colors.

Luka looked down at the… gift? "Thanks?"

Marinette smirked. "That's the Miraculous box."

He looked back down at the flowers and raised an eyebrow. "It doesn't look like a box right now."

"I know! ISN'T THAT COOL?" She beamed up at him. "I can tell it to change shape!" She put her small hand over his and the stems and said "Cardboard box, please!"

The flowers lit up and morphed into a cardboard box right in Luka's hands. She opened it to reveal smaller cardboard boxes inside, presumably carrying the other miraculous.

"That is… cool," Luka said, taken aback. "Actually pretty useful. Did Master Fu ever do that?"

Tikki piped up. "It's because Ladybug is the Guardian! I'm the Kwami of Creation so she can re-create it to whatever she likes!"

"I think the Turtle wasn't as flexible. It seemed like Master Fu had to carry and hide it away all the time." She had a sad smile on her face remembering the former Guardian.

"How do you get the Miraculous out when it's a bouquet?" Luka asked, trying to change topic.

"It kinda… opens up the flowers? It's weird. But anyway, I wanted to tell you that I can pull out the other Miraculous now!" She reached in the cardboard box and pulled out one marked with a pink and grey mouse and put on the necklace that was housed inside. A tiny mouse kwami popped out and enthusiastically said hello to Luka and Sass. "I think we can use this one! Mullo, Get Squeaky!" She transformed into a pink and grey suit in front of Luka. With her hair in buns. Oh wow.

Luka blinked a few times, taking it in. "What's the ability with this one?"

"Multitude," Marinette said, laughing as she skipped rope. Her magical jump-rope wrapped around her and she started splitting into 19 tiny versions of herself. "Hi!" They all said up at Luka, waving in unison.

He had to sit down. He couldn't handle it. How could she keep surprising him by being even more freaking amazing and adorable all the time? He sat down cross legged in front of her(s) and put his head in his hands.

"Luka? Are you okay?" 19 tiny Marinettes all asked at once, crowding around his crossed legs and climbing over to press up against him in tiny hugs.

"Just… processing all this," he laughed. "You're incredible."

Some of the Marinettes giggled and some said "Thank you!" and some just hugged him tighter. He put an open palm on his lap and one of the Marinettes climbed in. He lifted his hand and directed her to sit on his shoulder. "I was thinking maybe we could start scoping out places where Hawkmoth could be when I'm small and stealthy like this!" The Marinette on his shoulder said, holding onto his hoodie with tiny hands.

"How long can you stay this way?"

"Uh, probably 5 minutes?"

"That's too bad. I'd want to take one of you with me wherever I go."

"Well, you could! When we're trying to chase down Hawkmoth! That's the plan. We go in different directions and I think we're all connected so if one of… me… goes down the right way we can use Second Chance to restart and all head in the right direction! I think? Maybe? Did that make sense?"

"I guess we'll have to try it to see. How do you think we'll know when we're going the right way?"

"Um… yeah that's the part I'm not so sure about. We don't know where the akuma butterflies are coming from…" Said one of the Marinettes on his lap.

"The LadyBlog!" Another Marinette yelled. "We need to have lookouts? Maybe we can ask Alya or people to set up cameras around the city to see if we can spot the akumas when they come out."

"Yikes, but that's like… surveillance state!" said another Marinette.

"Maybe it should be crowdsourced?" Asked another Marinette. "Then people would volunteer information and it wouldn't be like, creepy!"

"But I think there are already plenty of cameras around? For like shops and stuff! Maybe we can ask Markov to hack them or something?" Another Marinette pointed out.

"I don't think Markov would want to do that!" Another Marinette added.

"Can't hurt to ask as Ladybug, maybe!" Another Marinette chimed in.

Luka was getting dizzy, his gaze bouncing back and forth from one tiny girlfriend to another. "Is this what it's like in your head all the time?" He asked.

They all looked up at him. "Mmm yep!" They all said in unison.

He smiled, then looked thoughtful. "Hmm, why not most of those, then? Ask Alya what she thinks about the Ladyblog crowdsourcing butterfly reports, then ask Max and Markov if they could filter through public cameras and maybe do image recognition? We already have tech for face recognition. People would probably be happier with butterfly recognition instead."

"Works for me! Us! Yeah!" The Marinettes chimed in. The 18 visible Marinettes all turned to smile up at him, all dazzling and unbelievably cute. He was never going to get used to that, but it was okay.

"How do you get back to normal size?" Luka asked. While it was enjoyable to watch miniature clones of his superpowered girlfriend running around, he really did like the size she was originally.

All of the Marinettes save the one on his shoulder ran toward each other and merged. She was almost back to normal size. The one on his shoulder gave him a tiny kiss on his cheek and leapt off. She fully formed and dismissed the transformation. "Thank you, Mullo!" The little mouse pressed itself against Marinette's cheek. "What was it you like eating again?"

"Cereal!" The little mouse said.

"Got it, be right back!" Marinette ran downstairs.

"You know, Sass is my partner!" Mullo said to Luka. "We're supposed to be paired up!"

Luka looked up in surprise. "Really? Are all the Miraculous matched up?"

"All but one yep! I don't know how well the Snake and Ladybug work together, though! Ladybugs are always paired up with Black Cats!" Tikki huffed, clearly not happy with the statement. The little mouse floated in the air playfully, talking at Luka upside down. "Creation and Cycles? That's pretty strange! There's no balance!"

"Well, it's a good thing it doesn't apply in real life. I think Marinette and I work pretty well together," Luka said, somewhat defensively.

"Yes, and I'd take Sass over that stinky sock any day!" Tikki said decidedly. Luka heard Sass snicker over his shoulder.

"Huh, okay!" Shrugged Mullo, right side up.

Marinette came running back upstairs with a handful of cereal. "Sorry, mom was asking why I wanted some. Here you go!" She held out her hand to the mouse kwami who ate the entire handful in one gulp.

"Does it matter if we're not balanced?" Luka asked, now somewhat more bothered than he wanted to be.

"I dunno!" Mullo shrugged.

"Not really," Tikki said.

"Balanced?" Marinette asked.

"Mullo was explaining the kwami are usually paired off in opposites. Ladybug and Black Cat. Snake and Mouse. Bunny and Horse. But the Miraculous Holders themselves aren't bound to this rule," Sass explained.

"Ugh, it's not even a rule. It's just a recommendation!" Tikki said, hands on her hips.

"The balance exists for a reason, Tikki." Sass said. "Creation needs Destruction. Destruction needs Creation. Space needs Time. Time needs Space. Cycles need Division. Division needs Cycles."

"Not too sure about that last one," Luka said. "I mean, I get it the idea, but…" He sighed.

"What's wrong, Luka?" Marinette asked. "I kinda get the feeling you're not really upset about the concepts."

Luka got up and laid out over her chaise. "Yeah," he sighed. "I need to think about what to say." Marinette walked over and settled herself into his embrace, resting her head on his chest. It was rare that he got contemplative, but when he did Marinette wanted to let him think in silence. She closed her eyes and let herself listen to his heartbeat. "I don't feel like I'm enough," Luka said quietly.

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"Not enough what?" Marinette asked, raising her head to look at him.

Luka frowned. "Good? I'm not good enough."

Marinette propped her head up with her hand and raised an eyebrow. "For what?"

He gave her a half-hearted grin. "For you."

"Yes you are," She said, her eyebrows furrowing. "Of course you are. Why don't you think so?"

He closed his eyes, trying to ease his tension down. "It's like I can't hear anything sometimes. When you're creating, when you've got inspiration, when you have a plan, when you know what you need and know how to get it—the whole world changes. I hear… the world change for you. Like that Miraculous box." He took in a breath and sighed. "Everything goes silent, waiting for you to take action. Then you do and make everything sing."

"I've ruined a lot of projects, Luka," Marinette said. "Some of those things are singing in pain," she giggled.

Luka's eyes were still closed. "They still come alive, even if you think they're bad." He opened his eyes slowly and focused on her. "I can make songs. Sometimes they're fun. You make things come alive. You did that for the song when you sang. You're Paris' purest melody in all its symphonies. Me, I'm just a guy with a guitar."

Marinette frowned, trying to listen for the unspoken words that Luka didn't know how to say. Even if he said he was just a guy with a guitar he hadn't actually brought any of his guitars over for several weeks. He had gotten more comfortable at talking with her, being more open and willing to stumble on his words to just try to say what he could.

So when he fell back to his music metaphors it felt like he was getting closed off.

She pulled herself up to a sitting position and placed her hands over his heart. "I was bullied for 4 years before I became Ladybug."

Luka's demeanor changed instantly from tired and depressed to concerned and enraged and he sat up and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Who? Who did this?" He asked.

Marinette almost laughed. "Oh, she's moved now, plus she really kind of backed off before she left anyway. It's not like she was the only problem, since there's… another now, but," Marinette paused. "But I can say that if I never became Ladybug, I would still be a pushover and quiet and tired and sad and uninspired. We probably wouldn't have met because I'd be hiding all the time!" She wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he started to ask another question.

"Who's this other problem?" He looked… displeased.

"Don't worry about it. I'm taking care of it. What I'm saying is that I had to change to become Ladybug. To be a hero. To even stop being scared of things. You didn't hesitate once! When I asked you to become Viperion you didn't tell me you couldn't do it… like Adrien did eventually. Or me, actually. Did I tell you that I gave up being Ladybug once?"

"You gave up?" Luka asked, surprised.

"Yeah. Stoneheart. I totally messed up and didn't get the akuma the first time. It got worse! Do you remember?" Luka nodded. "I felt like I was a total screwup, and I was. I took off the earrings and I wanted to give them to Alya! Then Alya got hurt because I was too scared to step into the role. I had to change. So all this making the world change around me? I don't think it's true. It's that I changed. But you? You were always a hero. You always try to help. You help take care of Juleka, you help take care of your mom, you help take care of Paris, you take care of me, both as Ladybug and Marinette." She rested her forehead against his shoulder. "You've always been more than enough."

He pulled her in tighter for a hug, still unsure of his place.

"Um… um, I'm so sorry Luka," Mullo said from over Marinette's shoulder. "I wasn't trying to say that YOU were wrong or anything! I wasn't saying that at all!" The little mouse fretted.

Luka smiled sadly at the little mouse. "It's okay, Mullo. What you said about balance is something I've thought about for a while."

"You can't still be thinking that, are you, Luka?" Marinette asked.

"I don't know. I'm not sure what's in my head."

Marinette pulled back slightly. "What does this say?" She asked, tapping him over his heart.

"That I want to be here. With you."

She tapped over her own heart. "What does this say?"

Luka again smiled sadly, shrugging. "Sometimes I think I hear what I want to hear."

"Well, I can tell you what this says." She put both her hands over her heart. "I want to be here with you. What do you hear?"

"A song so beautiful it makes me wonder what I did to deserve it."

"You listened, Luka. That's what you do." She nudged him back a bit, encouraging him to lay back down. They both laid on their sides facing one another. "Everything's really pretty strange when you think about it. But if you and I," she placed her hands on their hearts. "Are feeling the same here, we can work through everything together."

"You have to admit, being the boyfriend of Ladybug is a tough job," Luka smiled wryly.

"I'm sure you can handle it," Marinette smiled. "You're doing a great job so far." She pulled him in for a kiss and he leaned over her to deepen it.

Chat Noir landed upside down on Marinette's bed in an embarrassed heap. "Sorry! Bad time?"

Chapter Text

"Well, I just wanted to ask if you'd ever consider that maybe we should have Ryuuko out more permanently?" Chat asked nervously, now upright and sitting in Marinette's desk chair. "It just seems like Hawkmoth already knows Viperion's running around whenever we get an akuma, and it… makes sense to me to have as much help as we can get when we're going after Hawkmoth. He's getting better at trying to work around Viperion, you know. More akumas like Party Crasher nowadays, the ones that keep trying to predict where we'll go and all."

Chat was half-rambling. He did make a rather impulsive decision to drop in on Marinette, but he certainly wasn't expecting to also find Luka with Marinette like… that. It wasn't that Adrien had hang-ups over Ladybug, he… well he somewhat did but he had Kagami now, and Kagami was an amazing girl, completely and absolutely amazing. For sure.

The problem was Adrien and Kagami were both locked down. The Tsurugis were private and strict. The Agrestes were controlled and reclusive. But Chat Noir wasn't locked down. So it was a foregone conclusion to Adrien that Ryuuko wouldn't be either.

Plus, if Ryuuko came to visit instead of Chat Noir going out all the time, they'd have access to way more games and stuff to do. Adrien could only handle so many UMS takedowns by Kagami before he went crazy. (It made way too much sense that the two people who could kick his butt in UMS, a game he spent well over 500 hours honing his skills in, were the two girls that could definitively kick his butt in general.)

Another plus. If Ryuuko were permanent, he'd finally be able to take Kagami out on more private, unchaperoned dates. They'd be able to have superhero dates, something Adrien had always wanted since he became Chat Noir.

Marinette looked unconvinced. Luka was unhappy. Adrien had to try something else, but he didn't know what, yet. "You're… asking me if we should make Ryuuko permanent because she's… unpredictable?" Marinette asked, sitting up on her chaise. Luka laid back in the chaise as well, one arm draped across the top of the chair.

"Okay, I was definitely not saying that," Chat said, slightly offended. He didn't realize he implied that. "Buuut, that is one of the cooler qualities that she has, right? She can throw off both Hawkmoth and the akumas!"

"I… guess?" Marinette said. "If you really wanted unpredictable, I would say King Monkey would be a better fit. Though I don't actually know for sure who he was."

"Really?" Both Chat and Luka asked at the same time.

"Yeah. King Monkey was Master Fu's choice," Marinette admitted.

"He must have been at Adrien's party," Luka reasoned. "I think Carapace and Pegasus were too. I mean, as civilians. I was."

Marinette nodded. "I don't know for sure, but I think I know who he is."

"Who?" Chat asked, excited to uncover more secrets.

"I think it's Kim Le Chien." Marinette tried to sound unsure, but Chat could tell she had some high confidence in her deductive reasoning. "He was the only one I didn't see running out when Party Crasher attacked. He also wasn't one of the civilians that were caught by Party Crasher and then released when King Monkey set us free."

"It could also be Adrien," Luka said lightly, his eyes on Chat. "He wasn't one of the civilians either." Chat blinked, unsure if Luka was trying to help him or… But it definitely felt like Luka was teasing both Marinette and Adrien!

"No way, it was his house! Adrien knows the best places to hide!" Marinette said confidently.

"Right, it has to be Kim. Nice going, Buga—I mean, Marinette." Don't call her Bugaboo, don't call her Bugaboo, Adrien thought at himself. Also, the conversation was going off track. He was supposed to be talking up Ryuuko! "I mean, we could make King Monkey full time. The more people we get helping us with Hawkmoth, the better, right?"

"Except Hawkmoth knows who King Monkey is," Marinette said. Chat just pointed at Luka with his thumb. "I don't know about that, actually. I've been thinking about it for a while now, but I'm pretty sure Hawkmoth didn't know anyone at first, it had to be Miracle Queen who told him who the Miraculous users were. But Miracle Queen didn't know Luka. She knew everyone else. It's why we've been able to do this for so long with Viperion, Hawkmoth still doesn't know who Luka is."

"Who was Miracle Queen?" Luka asked.

Chat answered. "Chloe Bourgeois."

Marinette nodded. "Do you know her, Luka?"

"All I know is Juleka hates her. Never met her," Luka shrugged. "Is she still around?"

"Nope, she moved." Marinette said simply.

Luka frowned. "Is this the person that bullied you for 4 years?"

"She picked on everyone for 4 years. Well, mostly me," Marinette sighed. "But yeah, she was the one. I think she hated me more than everyone else."

"Wait… what?" Chat asked. Chloe? She had been bullying Marinette for 4 years? He knew that they didn't like each other but… Adrien never knew Marinette had it worse than she let on.

Marinette waved dismissively. "Anyway, I know it's bad for me to be happy about her leaving, but if she stayed she would have outed Luka by now."

How nice for you both, Chat thought bitterly. They didn't need to escape from their families to see each other. Luka didn't need to be Viperion to be free. "Okay, so not King Monkey. But Hawkmoth knew Ryuuko's identity before Miracle Queen, and you let Ryuuko help out with Hearthunter?" Adrien had to know why.

Marinette hung her head. "I… made a mistake. I shouldn't have done that."

Chat blinked. "What… happened?"

"I… wasn't thinking straight." She looked to Luka, who put his hand over hers and squeezed it. "I wanted to break up Adrien and Kagami."

"Because Hearthunter was targeting people in love?" Chat asked. That's what Kagami said, even if it sounded hollow to him at the time. Marinette looked back up at him.

"No. Because I wanted to break up Adrien and Kagami," Marinette said, ashamed. "I thought I was in love with Adrien. I got jealous. That's why." Chat stared at Marinette. He took a while to move, or even breathe.

"Kagami is Ryuuko?" Luka asked, surprised.

"Yep," Marinette nodded. "She's really powerful! It's a pretty good fit, don't you think?"

"Wait—wait a minute. You thought you were in love with Adrien?" Chat asked. He felt the blood drain from his face. "What do you mean?"

"He was the other boy I was talking about. I… kept making myself miserable chasing after him," Marinette admitted. "It was sometimes the worst I ever felt. I kept making stupid mistakes left and right whenever I did anything that involved Adrien. In the end it wasn't very healthy, really." Marinette shrugged, leaning herself into Luka. "I know better now," she smiled. Luka kissed her forehead.

Chat wanted to throw up. Luka, that jerk! He set this whole thing up! Chat glared at Luka, but Luka only gave him sympathy. Go to hell, Couffaine, Adrien thought bitterly. He and Luka locked gazes, and Chat wanted Luka to break first, to blink, to look away in shame or embarrassment. But unfortunately, Chat was the one who broke.

Adrien was the one who asked about Ryuuko.

Adrien was the one who wanted Marinette to explain.

Adrien was the one who gave up on Ladybug.

Adrien was the one Marinette… made herself miserable for.

Adrien had made himself miserable over Ladybug so he understood all too well how unhealthy it truly was.

Luka had just waited for Marinette to recover.

"Chat, I… know that you've thought a lot about this. If Ryuuko is your choice for a second ally, then…" Marinette got up and grabbed something from a cardboard box on the floor. She handed a tiny box marked with a red and gold dragon to Chat. "You have my support."

Chapter Text

Adrien looked at the cardboard box Marinette had given him. It was plain looking thing, except for what looked like a stamp of a dragon in red and gold on its top face. He opened up the box and there was a silver chain necklace with a flat, 5 segment bar in the middle. He looked at his ring. "Plagg, can… I talk to you for a bit?"

Plagg floated up from the TV remote he was using. "Yeah, Adrien, what's up?"

"Do you… think it was a good idea?" Adrien asked. "To ask Ladybug to make Ryuuko permanent."

"Sure, why not?" The little kwami said. "I mean, Hawkmoth seems to be a jerk as always, so if you have Kagami help you out you guys would kick some serious butt!"

"Do you think Ryuuko is unpredictable?"

"Is Kagami?"

Adrien swallowed. "Sometimes?"

"Well, then yeah, sometimes," Plagg answered. Adrien sighed, flopping back onto his bed. Plagg was generally unhelpful, so Adrien should be used to how frustrating Plagg's non-answers were by now. He wasn't. "Hey, you're the one that wanted your girlfriend to come here more often," Plagg said, reading Adrien's irritated body language. "And you're right, the only way to do it is if she became Ryuuko!"

"Plagg, do… you think I'm in love with Kagami?"

"I dunno. Do you wanna see her every day? Do you wanna be with her every day?" Plagg sighed. "You know I'm bad at this feelings stuff!"

"Well, tell me how you feel about camembert cheese, then."

"Oh! Now that I can tell you. I wanna see it, be near it, smell it, touch it, write poetry and songs and plays and have it with me and eat it ALL THE TIME! It's my favoritest thing in the whole universe! I can't get enough!" Plagg flew to hover above Adrien's face. "So speaking of, where's the other box?"

Adrien rolled his eyes. "Next to the trash can, like every other spare box of that smelly cheese." It should have been in the trash can, where it belonged. Actually, Plagg probably wouldn't have minded that at all, considering that's where the kwami slept half the time.

"Oh yeah!" Plagg flew next to the trash can and opened up another box of camembert.

Did he want to see Kagami every day? Did he want to be with Kagami every day? Adrien wasn't actually sure. It had gotten relatively boring, unfortunately. They didn't have that much to do besides play games or watch movies or how talk about how much it sucked that neither of them had a real life. Adrien had really banked his hopes on begging Marinette to get the dragon miraculous for Kagami, because at this point, Adrien wasn't sure it was worth having a girlfriend who was in the same kind of prison he was in.

Marinette just… gave it to him. She trusted him. She didn't realize it was really to solve a relationship problem, but… she didn't have to know.

How did Marinette and Luka not get bored of each other? How did Rose and Juleka not get tired of each other? How did Alya and Nino have enough to talk about to keep texting every 15 minutes? How did Ivan and Mylene not get frustrated at having nothing to do? How do relationships even work?

Would Adrien have gotten bored of Marinette? He knew he was going down a dangerous line of reasoning but couldn't stop himself.

Once, he had seen Luka heading home from his delivery job one evening and he asked G to stop. Adrien flagged Luka down and asked about some date ideas, trying to probe what it was exactly that kept Marinette and Luka going. To Adrien's surprise, Luka had actually listed a ton of different things that he and Marinette did together, anywhere from working on projects to playing games to watching Luka play in his two(?) bands to listening to music to attending concerts or fashion shows to ice skating to hanging out with Luka's friends to watching/entering gaming competitions with Max to hanging out with Ondine and Kim at the water park to watching movies with Alya and Nino to helping Marc and Nathaniel with their comic to hanging out at arcades and on and on. Maybe it was because the both of them were creative. Maybe it was because the both of them had a lot of close friends they had the freedom of seeing at any time.

It was only after some quiet contemplation that Adrien had found himself hoping that Luka would say he was actually struggling with Marinette like Adrien was struggling with Kagami. But Marinette and Luka were doing great. The idea that Adrien/Chat Noir would ever end up dating Marinette/Ladybug kept slipping away further and further.

Adrien hated realizing he kept thinking about Ladybug. He really, really, really wanted to make things work with Kagami. She was so cool, so confident, so direct, so beautiful, so bold, so elegant, so talented… why couldn't Adrien just appreciate that?

What did he love about Ladybug anyway? She was clever. So was Kagami! Most of the time. Except Kagami hated anything but the direct approach, so she'd never have the convoluted plans Ladybug had. Ladybug was kind. Kagami… could be! Ladybug was focused. Kagami definitely had focus. They were both confident. They both had a quirky (lame) sense of humor. They both were unafraid of telling Adrien/Chat Noir the truth. They both wore red and were exceedingly competent at all the important things. They were both incredibly scary when angry. Only one of them loved Adrien. Or at least, admired.

Adrien kept going back to the thought he had pushed to the deep recesses of his mind that he didn't know what true love was. He could only watch as the friends around him, none of them older than 16 (except for Luka) and yet they found their… soulmates? How were they so lucky? Yes, Paris may be the city of Love, but Adrien was still amazed that his classmates found their True Love so early.

Were… were Marinette and Luka the OTP?

Was Kagami thinking she was OTP with Adrien?

Did Adrien think Marinette was his True Love?

He wished he had his mom around to talk to. She was always so good at explaining the nuances of everything "love" to him. Then again, she had married his father. Ugh, Adrien had to stop thinking about… everything.

Why was everything such a disappointment?

He was seriously wondering if he'd ever be Hawkmoth's target. Marinette had told him that Chat Noir was turned into Chat Blanc in an alternate timeline, but would Adrien Agreste ever be the victim? He's had a slew of big disappointments recently, why hadn't he ever been targeted?

"Plagg? Would you… be angry at me if I gave up being Chat Noir for a while?"

Chapter Text

Kagami raised an eyebrow. "Adrien Agreste, are you proposing to me?"

"What? I'm… oh, no! Kagami, I'm trying to be serious," Adrien sighed. He had visited Kagami the week after he got the dragon miraculous, spending time deliberating/bargaining/pleading/arguing with Plagg. The little cat kwami was upset over a number of things, but over time Adrien had seen that the kwami saw his reasoning and started even accepting it.

Adrien knew the underlying fear of abandonment that Plagg had. It wasn't like that, though, Adrien wasn't abandoning him. Just… rehoming. He'd have a reason to come back and see Kagami more often.

He pushed the opened box containing the black cat miraculous to Kagami. "I think… I might need a change? I talked it over with Plagg. Part of the reason Ladybug was so hesitant to let Ryuuko come out is because Hawkmoth knows Ryuuko is you. But if we change things up on Hawkmoth, he wouldn't be able to tell who any of us are!"

Kagami had noticed that Adrien was now wearing a silver necklace. She reached out to touch it and Longg appeared. "Hello Tsurugi-sama!" Longg said. "I have been awaiting the day when I could again be in the presence of such a powerful spirit!" What the? Longg never said anything that flowery to Adrien.

"Greetings, Longg-sama." She bowed to the dragon. "I am pleased to see you. I hope you're doing well. Please call me Kagami."

"Yes, yes, Master Agreste is quite generous with his offerings to a lowly being such as I," Longg answered.

Adrien rolled his eyes. "What do you think, Kagami?" He asked again, directing her attention to the cardboard box with a black pawprint on its top. "I mean, what do you think about the plan?"

She picked up the silver ring, now slimmer and with a circular face like her Tsurugi clan emblem ring. She pulled her family heirloom off and put the black cat miraculous on. Plagg appeared before her and she bowed. "Greetings, Plagg."

"Ugh, so proper," Plagg sighed. "Where's my cheese?"

Kagami laughed and pointed at her table, where a covered plate laid on top. "Here, Adrien, take my ring. I think you still need to wear a ring so your father doesn't get suspicious," she said, giving her ring to Adrien. "One day, I'd like it back, but until Hawkmoth is defeated, I expect you to take care of it."

"Thanks Kagami," Adrien smiled.

"I do not think your plan is wrong. What does Ladybug think about it?"

"Let's leave that topic alone for now," Adrien laughed.

"You did not tell her?" Kagami frowned.

"It'll be a surprise! I mean, she'll understand. She's Ladybug."

"So what should we call ourselves?"

"I'm thinking about keeping it simple and calling myself Draco. Or maybe just Drake."

"Then I'll go with Kuroneko."

Adrien beamed at her. "Yes! Thank you Kagami!"

"Do you think I can fight as the cat?" Kagami asked. "I… am much more comfortable with a sword than a staff," she admitted.

"Kagami, you're amazing with any weapon," Adrien said, kissing her on the cheek. She blushed and accepted the compliment. "Anyway, I think we should try it out. Vipe told me that he and 'Bug plan to do some sweeps of Paris to try to find out potential hiding places for Hawkmoth. I figure it'd be the perfect time for the both of us to test out our abilities. We could practice using my sword against your baton!"

"Are you suggesting we spar?"

"… Sure, we could do that. How about 7pm tomorrow at the Eiffel to surprise Viperbug? I'll come by and pick you up if you need help."

"I'm sure I'll be fine."

"Aww, come on, Kagami, let me be your knight in shining armor and escort you at least once?"

She smiled up at him and put her hand on his cheek. "You are my knight. But I am no princess!"

Multimouse and Viperion were waiting at the Eiffel the next evening. They heard the two thumps of the other superheroes landing, coming as they all agreed.

"Wait, who're you?!" Multimouse pointed at both Drake and Kuroneko. "Chat? Is… that you with the Dragon? Is… is that you, Ryuuko?"

"Who are you?" Kuroneko asked, suspicious, preparing her baton.

Drake put his hand on Kuroneko's shoulder to calm her down. "Multimouse, meet Kuroneko. I'm Drake, just so you know. Kuroneko, this is Multimouse, Ladybug's alternate form, you could say!"

"Why did you guys switch?" Multimouse asked.

"We talked it over in person last night. If Hawkmoth knows who Ryuuko is, then we'll swap the Miraculous so he doesn't know who either of us are."

"Does this mean that… Ryuuko knows who you are, Chat?" Asked Viperion. "That you two know each other as civilians."

"I mean, yeah, but that's fine. It's not like it really matters anymore, does it?" Drake sighed. Multimouse, Viperion, and Kuroneko all looked at each other with doubt.

"I… I thought you were going to… uh… hmm," Multimouse shook her head. "Okay, I guess I can work with this. Um. Anyway, hello! Hi Kuroneko. I'm Multimouse, as Drake said."

"What do you do?" Kuroneko asked. "Why aren't you Ladybug?"

"I can explain!" Multimouse said overly cheerfully, trying to hide her discomfort. "I wanted to propose a plan to the both of you. Viperion and I have talked about maybe starting to scope out where Hawkmoth could be hiding, trying to actively find him instead of waiting for him to keep tossing out all these akumas. Does that make sense?"

"That's the most sensible plan I've heard, yes," Kuroneko said. "How do you intend to do this?"

Drake looked at Multimouse. "Actually, yeah, I'm curious too, 'Bug. I mean. Mouse?"

"Well, I was thinking that we'd start by… splitting up! I can turn myself into multiple tiny copies, and you guys can help me cover more ground and we'll search every nook and cranny of Paris to see if there's anywhere you can hide a supervillain lair! I was also thinking that we could use Second Chance to reset if one of me finds a lead, so we can all meet up and start in the right direction from the beginning."

"How do you know there's a supervillain lair?" Kuroneko asked doubtfully. "It could just be an angry old man throwing butterflies from different buildings."

Drake laughed. "That's a good point, kitty!" Multimouse widened her eyes at the use of her nickname for Chat on someone else.

"Well, that's still a possibility," Viperion said calmly. "Which is why we need to decide on what we think are good indicators for what to watch out for."

"I got stumped here and I wanted all of your ideas to see if we could get a lead," Multimouse sighed. "I did ask Alya Cesaire to consider getting a tracker for the akuma butterflies on the Ladyblog. The akumas can travel a long distance, I'm sure people can spot them when they're going out!"

"One thing we did do is map out where all the witnessed or known akumatizations have happened," Viperion said, pulling open a rolled up map. "It seems a lot of them have happened at Collège Françoise Dupont or the Le Grand Paris hotel, so we might start in either of those two places."

"Those are right next to each other," Drake said.

"It makes it either very easy or very hard," Multimouse said. "I think we'll just have to try and see what we can find, if anything. This might be a wild goose chase for all we know. I just think we have to try."

"I agree," Kuroneko said. "Even if we have no results, I believe it is good to be proactive."

"Thanks," Multimouse smiled.

"Do we want to do this tonight?" Viperion asked. "Maybe we can wait until later since you two recently swapped."

"We'll be fine," Drake said, smiling. "I bet kitty and I are gonna be naturals."

Chapter Text

Drake had been more than excited to attempt his Wind form. He yanked Multimouse and Viperion toward the sky and sent them all flying over Paris 2000 feet from the ground. Multimouse shut her eyes tight and screamed internally. Viperion wished he had set his Second Chance power early. Kuroneko followed after in their wake, helicoptering her baton like Chat had when he had the Black Cat miraculous.

Somewhere in the midst of their transport, Viperion had grabbed onto Multimouse's jump-rope and pulled her in, even as the winds buffeted the both of them. He wrapped his arm around her and she held on tight, finally opening her eyes again. They were hovering over the College in midair, then Drake plunged them all straight down. About 10 feet from the ground they stopped plummeting and were gently let down by the dying gale. "Safe! See? I'm a natural."

"T-thanks," Multimouse sighed, still clutching onto Viperion, who himself looked more than happy to be on solid ground.

Kuroneko landed nearby, scanning the school grounds. "It looks different here at night," she mused.

"You know, I just got an idea from getting a look over Paris on our… flight here," Multimouse said. She took the map from Viperion and laid it out in front of everyone, drawing near concentric circles. "I think I'm doing some kind of… heat map? It seems like the places that get hit the most are probably going to be the closest to whatever we're trying to find. Coming to the school and the hotel was still a good idea, since Hawkmoth has to be nearby…"

She pulled back and let everyone take a look. "So what's in this innermost circle?" Viperion asked.

Drake gulped. His… his house was in there.

Kuroneko also pointed that out, tapping on the mansion's location on the map. "We have the Agreste mansion here. There is plenty of garden space."

"That doesn't mean anything," Drake said quickly. "There are butterflies in every garden!"

"Let's start here at the school," Viperion suggested.

"You seem… distant." Viperion was on the roof of the College, looking over across to the Notre Dame. He felt the little Multimouse clone that sat on his shoulder heave a sigh.

"Sorry. I'm… more weirded out than I thought I'd be because of… Uh, Chat and Ryuuko switching. I mean, I get it and I think it makes sense what they did, but, I don't really know how to take in all this change." Multimouse got up and walked closer, hooked her hands into his collar, and pressed herself into his neck in a tiny hug.

"One step at a time," he mused, trying not to be ticklish. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"Your 'nothing' usually means 'everything'."

"Yeah. But this time it really just means 'some things.'"

"So what's 'some things?'"

"I… guess I'm surprised. I thought I knew Chat but it turns out I really don't. And I think that scares me for some reason."

"He's been your partner for a long time," Viperion agreed. "If it's not something you expected then it does feel… like the world's shifted underneath you." He felt her snuggle into his neck more, her tiny fingers working to hold onto his collar. If it wasn't going to completely knock her off balance he'd probably give in to the giggles bubbling up in his throat.

"Thank you, Luka," she said, it sounding like the tiniest whisper. But it helped that she was right next to his ear. "For understanding, like always."


"I guess another thing that's been bothering me is that if we're right and Hawkmoth is so nearby, why haven't I found Hawkmoth already? Am I missing something? My… my house is next to the school. If he's somewhere here I feel so… so dumb."

"He's good at hiding. He's been hiding for a year, maybe more."

"I feel like I should have found him already."

"I don't think that's fair. He's probably got a bunch of tricks to keep him hidden. You're 15, Marinette, and you had been doing this only with Chat for a long time. We're in school, we've got our own lives to live. You can't keep throwing yourself under the bus for everyone else."

"But I'm Ladybug. It's… my job to keep Paris safe. I've failed everyone that I haven't found Hawkmoth and defeated him already."

"You have kept everyone safe. Sorry, can I?" He reached his hand up to his shoulder and Multimouse jumped into his open palm. He raised her to his eyes. "You're doing everything you can. You've been saving Paris since you were… 14? 13? Do you know how messed up that is?"

"Huh?" The tiny Multimouse in his palm asked.

"We're kids, Marinette. We're all kids and we're all new, fighting against some old man with nothing to lose. He knows we're kids. We don't know everything, and we won't know everything because he's in the lead with experience. The game's been rigged from the start, so don't think that it's your fault. It's pretty messed up all around. You're here doing your best, and I for one think you're amazing for doing everything you do."

Multimouse teared up, but smiled back up at Viperion. "Luka, I—" She blinked back rapidly, suddenly standing up straighter. "We need to go to the basement. Kuroneko and I think we found something."

"This… is just a wall," Drake said, his hand rubbing his neck impatiently. "Well, that's what it looks like to me. What are you guys thinking?"

Kuroneko threw her baton at the wall and it clanged… like metal instead. It had a brick façade, so it was naturally suspicious. "This is a fake wall."

"Gotcha." Drake pulled out his rapier and plunged it into the metal and slashed across several times to create an outline of an opening. Drake pushed it in and the piece of wall fell into darkness with a resounding thump. One of the Multimice on the floor climbed up and into the hole.

"I… um. I can't see anything," Multimouse said sheepishly. "It… smells like dirt in here though! It… sounds really big but empty!"

Viperion grabbed a flashlight and went in after Multimouse, the rest of the Multimice following. "It'd probably be best for you guys to stay watch out here," Viperion told Kuroneko and Drake. "We won't go far." He turned on the light and Drake and Kuroneko peeked in. It was a vast, empty cavern. He swept the light from side to side slowly, trying to find any distinguishing feature. But it was… a tunnel? A tunnel system? How far did it go?

"Oh man, this is… this is bigger than I thought it would be," Drake said, leaning his head in.

"I… think we found the first clue," Kuroneko said nervously.

Chapter Text

Viperion and Multimouse had dropped down around 30 feet into the cavern. "Wait Multimouse, you should leave one of you here in case something goes wrong," Kuroneko said. "Viperion, set your second chance here. This… doesn't feel safe." Luka would thank Kagami for that timely suggestion in person for it one day.

There were three things that happened a few minutes after he and Multimouse continued on down the path. There was a distant explosion. The air in cavern started pushing against Viperion and the Multimice in one direction. Then there was a wall of water that almost swept him and most of the Multimice away, even as he panicked and picked up all of the Mice he could to toss them back into the school as he sprinted back against the rush of air. Kuroneko reached out and held onto his arm as he tried to go back into the depths to get more parts of Marinette back and triggered the Second Chance for him.

For the times that she had let Marinette or Adrien get hurt as Ryuuko, she had made up for it with this crisis.

"This… doesn't feel safe," Kuroneko said for the 2nd time, the 1st for this particular timeline.

"It's not," Viperion said simply. "Something went wrong."

"What happened?" One of the Multimice said, one having indicated to be let up onto his shoulder. Viperion just held his tiny Marinette in his hands. "An explosion. The river overtook us."

"Oh crap," Drake whispered. "Do… do you think we should continue?"

"We have to," Multimouse said. "What else can we do? We can't just leave this!"

"I have no idea what we did to cause it," Viperion said miserably. Kuroneko jumped down.

"Hey!" Drake called out. "Are… are you guys just going to leave me here?!"

"One of us must stay behind, but we only have 5 minutes," Kuroneko said. "You have already used your power. I have the ability to see in the dark!"

"I have to call it here," Viperion sighed. "We're out of time."

"This… doesn't feel safe," Kuroneko said for the 9th time, the 1st for this particular timeline.

"We're dealing with a psycho," Viperion said plainly. "It's not safe. We weren't able to get past all the traps. For my sake and the rest of yours, we gotta get out of here."

"How… many times was that?" Multimouse asked hesitantly.

"8," Viperion answered quietly.

"What do we do about this hole in the wall?" Drake pointed out. "Can we even use the Miraculous Ladybugs?"

Ladybug could.

Luka laid face down on his pillow back in the houseboat. Marinette sat down by his side and stroked his hair. She knew he didn't talk until he was ready, especially when being Viperion weighed heavy on his mind. Sometimes he didn't talk at all for the rest of the day, but at least previously he said he liked it when she stayed by his side during his silent periods. She'd ride out the waves with him, even after days of leaving words unspoken. He told her eventually, he always did.

It was probably the toughest part of the superhero job. He was 16, nearly 17, and he was emotionally aging faster than everyone else, maybe except Marinette herself. As if he wasn't already forced to be the mature one 100% of the time.

Marinette looked up and scanned the room the Couffaine siblings shared. She hadn't thought about this before, but Luka didn't even have a place to curl up and be left alone that was actually private like she had. He perpetually put his mom and sister before him, so even if their shared room had a divider he let Juleka control whether she wanted to be closed off or not. It wasn't closed.

Juleka and Rose looked back at Marinette with questioning expressions, but neither said anything thankfully. Marinette just shook her head. Juleka plastered on a smiled and made an excuse to take Rose up to the deck. Tikki and Sass appeared when the other girls' voices faded away due to the distance. Luka got on his side and wrapped an arm around Marinette's waist, pulling her closer to him.

"Hey," she said, brushing the hair away from his eyes. "How are you?"

"Been better," he said quietly. "Getting better."

"Can I lay down next to you?"

"Always." She laid next to him and tucked her arm under his, hugging him. She could tell that his heart was beating faster than normal in his silent worrying. She discovered that secret early on, that his heart spoke more about him than words ever did. "Hawkmoth is… probably one of the richest people in Paris."

That seemed to come out of nowhere. Marinette furrowed her eyebrows and… tried to work backwards from that statement. "Because of the traps? And the caverns? And the wall at the school?"

"If what we discovered is linked to Hawkmoth, he… has a lot of money to prepare all that."

"Then not only are we dealing with a psycho, we're dealing with a wealthy psycho?"

"And someone who can cover his tracks. Did anyone know about this before? I bet it's not even officially recorded anywhere."

"Oh! Let me tell Alya. Let's see what she can find even if it's not official." Luka hummed in agreement. He went back to non-verbal. That was alright.

He told her once that even if he was able to fix things, to right the mistakes, to undo the damage as Viperion, it didn't get rid of the images in his head. Sass had told her that it was a matter of perspective. The power to undo time was the power of getting information from the immediate future, but most of the time the information was terrifying and overwhelming.

Luka hated horror, terror, feeling scared. But he was withstanding it so he could help Marinette. What kind of life was this? Why had Master Fu chosen teenagers to carry the Miraculous? What were they even for originally? Ladybug and Chat Noir must have fought other things. Hawkmoth wasn't always evil, was he? The last Ladybug was also in France, but… what had she fought against?


Marinette blinked, realizing that she had her mind wander. She looked back up at Luka. "Why? What's the sorry for?"

"It's like I left you on your own here. I'm too quiet."

"I don't always need attention, you know," she smirked. "The quiet is nice sometimes. But I'm listening to this," she pressed her head against his chest. "It's soothing. No sorryies, okay?"

He chuckled. One line of tension eased from his brow. "Alright."

Juleka and Rose came back down an hour later to find both Marinette and Luka asleep in each other's arms.