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Filou and Friends

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"Are they always like this?" Filou asks.

"Hm?" Queen Bee looks up from her phone, gaze landing on the 'just-friends' Ladybug and Chat Noir. "Oh, yeah. You get used to it."

She doesn't mention how it doesn't stop hurting. How every once in a while the knife will twist, and she's bleeding all over again. It's hard to get over the only two people she's ever really loved, especially when they're dating each other.

One night, she had asked Pollen if the Ladybug and Cat Miraculous always got together. Her Kwami had looked sad at that, expression bordering too close to pity for Chloé's comfort. "They are Yin and Yang; without one, the other is incomplete. I apologize to disappoint, my Queen."

She remembered the tears spilling over, the tightness in her throat. She wished for nothing more in that moment than to just- just scream. Scream her voice raw, until she had nothing left but the empty feeling in her chest.

And she definitely remembered the Akuma. That piece of shit interrupted her break-down for no wifi. "Sometimes someone is at 59, and something small can push them over the edge to 60." Pollen had explained, an effort to help Queen Bee stay composed.

The blonde sighed silently, standing up. "Come on, foxie, there should be an Akuma soon."

Filou nodded, "Alright. I'll go tell Chat and Ladybug."

Alya Césaire stared at her phone, disbelief and betrayal fresh wounds. A picture of Filou, jumping across the rooftops with the rest of the Miraculous Team, was displayed across her screen. How... Why did Ladybug do this? She was a good Fox! Her Illusions did the job, and yeah she's not the best but she's only been Rena Rouge a handful of times. She'd get better with time!

That's why she had bought a Rena Rouge Flute. Stores started selling them as soon as they were able to get a clear picture of what it looked like. Sure, it was lighter than the real thing, having been made of plastic, but she could play her music and fight with it. Sure, it felt different when her body wasn't clad in a material unknown to man and her Soul wasn't intertwined with that of a God. When fighting didn't come as easy as breathing. But she practiced! She trained! Nino had given her countless compliments on her slightly-prominent muscles.

She did all of that, and yet she was still replaced. By a boy who looked more child than adult.

Rage bubbled up her throat in the form of a scream, betrayal a constant undertone only she could taste.

A small, black butterfly flew into her flute, and she spoke in hissed words before he could. "Make me Rena Rouge again!"

There was silence for a moment, just a moment, before he spoke. His voice had a certain tilt to it, one she recognized as amusement. "I am sure you know what I want. Do not disappoint me, Vengess."

"Yes, HawkMoth."

Nathaniel lays on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Marc was so mean! So what if they just wanted him to sleep- the redhead was already behind on their comic! By pages! Marc worked hard on it, and he wasn't about to let hero-work or homework or sleep get in the way of their success.

He rolled on his side, watching Trixx eat some blueberries. Whole. Maybe he could stop by the bakery and get some fruit-pastries later. He's sure the Kwami would like them, and it's not like he has anything better to do. His lover(it feels weird to say that instead of Girlfriend or Boyfriend, too intimate for just teenagers who like each other, but he would respect Marc's wishes of not wanting to be called either) had taken not only his pen, but his tablet, too. Which was, admittedly, smart of them. He does have extra pens(Hanukkah was a goldmine for stuff like that).

His mind wandered to Filou, as he continued to watch Trixx. Can he just go out as him whenever? Or does he have to wait for an Akuma? And how will he know there's an Akuma? Some of them are very discreet and even Ladybug and Chat Noir are late to find them. Maybe someone could make an app or an alarm or something. So people know when there's one. Maybe-

The ground shook. Not violently, but it was there.

Was he supposed to wait for Ladybug to get him? Was he supposed to just leave? What if him being there just messes things up? Fudge it- "Trixx, let's pounce!"

He escaped through the window before he could change his mind, towards the destroyed and damaged buildings. Or fake-destroyed buildings? The image was see-through, like a layer with 50% opacity. It reminded him of Mirage, but he didn't have time to dwell on it as he arrived at the battle.

Chat Noir and Queen Bee were fighting... Rena Rouge? A very monochrome Rena Rouge. Every orange part of her outfit was now a dark gray, the black now a light violet, almost white, that matched her eyes. Ladybug was in the midst of holding a stopwatch, practiced eyes scanning the area. Her eyes widened as he saw her, and he could faintly hear the stopwatch in her hands beep.

She sent him a look that clearly said, 'we all need to talk.' He gulped at the implications, but nonetheless tried to help. What can he do? Fight? No, he was an illusion-caster, even if he could do combat. He analyzed their moves. The two heroes were on the offensive, but Rena Rouge wouldn't let them touch her. They kept dodging the translucent debris and fallen buildings. So it is an illusion, then.

He breathed in, desperately trying to soothe his nerves, and put the flute to his lips. Nathaniel couldn't play a flute for the life of him, but Filou seemed to be a master at it. The tune he played was low and sweet, like looking over a dark ravine filled with beautiful plants and flowers. Or watching a storm rage from your window, a warm mug of hot cocoa in your hands. "Mirage!"

The heroes' bodies split, and although he could see the illusion, Rena Rouge didn't seem to. The heroes, though a little unnerved at seeing themselves, followed Ladybug as she came to him. Filou, aware that it might appear as if he's floating, dropped down. He has five minutes, and then his illusion would drop, and so would his transformation.

Ladybug assessed him, "I have to recharge. Stay with Queen Bee." She turned to said girl, "Keep him safe."

They both nodded, turning to watch Rena Rouge fight the illusions, vaguely aware of the sound of a yoyo's string retracting and being thrown. "How is she here? I have the Miraculous."

"That's Vengess. She's the Akuma. And, apparently, she used to be Rena Rouge."

"... oh." So it's his fault then. If he hadn't accepted the Miraculous, she wouldn't be Vengess right now.

Queen Bee frowns. Discordanance settles in her chest, and she turns to Filou. He looked guilty. "It-" She's at a lost at what to say, "Ladybug couldn't work with her anymore, and she took it to heart, I guess."

She didn't have to explain her leader's actions, and the fox-themed hero was grateful she cared. He grinned, ignoring the beeping of the necklace, "Thanks, Queenie."

She huffed, the pink on her cheeks visible even after she turned her head away, "Whatever."

They waited in silence for a minute more - three minutes left - before Ladybug and Chat Noir came back. The heroine did her lucky charm, and ended up with a red and black polka-dotted necklace that looks strangely like Filou's. The brief moments of her making and explaining her plan passed, which lead to Nathaniel handing the Fox Miraculous to Queen Bee and watching the battle on his phone.

Queen Bee was using the necklace at bait- divert Vengess' attention to her so Ladybug and Chat Noir could take and break her flute.

If Vengess got to the Fox Miraculous, though, it would all be over.

The blonde heroine's words were inaudible, but her hand was outstretched, Nathaniel's necklace(when did he decide it was his?) dangling from her fingers like she would just an ordinary, cheap knock-off. An easy grin, sly and guileful, spread across Vengess' lips as she reached out to grab it. Her fingers nearly brushed the chain - actually, they might have - before her head snapped to Ladybug and Chat Noir, smile replaced with desperation as she watched her flute being wrenched from her and turned to dust. The little black butterfly didn't make it very far before Ladybug caught it, and soon enough they were all surrounding a very confused and still-hurt Alya.

Queen and Chat backed off for this one. Neither of them were particularly close with the girl. Queen because she used to bully Marinette when the two were still friends, and Adrien because he was never really given the time to get to know his friends. But Ladybug was best friends with her. But the keyword there is 'was.' Alya is smart, yes, but she was one of those very special cases of stupid.

"Why?" The girl croaked, voice rough and dry from her tears. "Why did you replace me?"

Ladybug looked uncomfortable, but she couldn't tell her the truth. To do that would mean she would reveal her identity. She can't lie either- it would be stooping to Lila's level, and she would rather die. So she settled on half-truths. "Ti- Someone important to me disapproves of you, for some reason, and it's not in my power to defy them. My best option was to give you back the Miraculous, but HawkMoth seems to know your true identity, based on your akumatized form. Because of that, we can never let you be Rena Rouge again. I'm sorry."

Her earings beeped, and the fact of her only having a minute left seemed to shake Alya out of her haze. She stood up, reached her hand out as if to catch her, but Chat's hand grasped her wrist firmly. Ladybug didn't seem to notice, continuing to leave. When she was a good ear-shot away, the hero looked her in the eyes, more than a little annoyed. "Please don't touch my Lady again."

He didn't wait for a response, following after the heroine.

Queen Bee clutched the necklace chain tighter, before jumping off towards Nathaniel.

To say Nathaniel was confused was an understatement. He had gotten a text from Chloé saying 'Come to Mari's house. Now.' It sounded urgent, so he rushed to end the facetime with Marc quickly, throwing a half-assed comment of explaining later.

And when he finally got to Marinette's room, all he saw was a huddle of teenagers under the softest-looking blankets he's ever seen. Chloé waved her hand in his general direction, beckoning him over. "Come on. It's team bonding time."

For a minute, Nathaniel didn't move. Marinette popped her head up from the blankets, eyes narrowed in a way that was both annoyed and sleepy. Her frown was a decidedly cute mix of a pout and a scowl. "Nath."

Adrien pulls the blanket back, ignoring Chloé's protest at the sudden colder air, and Nathaniel finally makes his way under them. He sees Trixx join the other kwamis on a nest of small pillows at the end of the bed. "Why do you do this?"

He can feel the blond boy's shrug through Chloé, "It helps ease the hurt."

Nathaniel snuggles further into the warmth, and he knows they're right. Being so close to people he knows he can trust makes him feel safe- safer than when he's in his mother or sister's arms. Safer than when he's with-

"Fudge!" The redhead sits upright, drawing the attention to him. "I left Marc!"