The first time it occurs to her, Alya dismisses it as improbable - impossible, even. She knows her best friend. She knows Mari’s values, Mari’s strength, Mari’s steely core and unshakeable faith in her ideals that can sometimes blind her to the truth. Alya knows that Marinette believes in what’s capital-r Right, what’s pure italicised wrong, and that the difference between the two is a matter of instinct.
That it’s simple. Clear-cut. Marinette’s morality is black and white.
After further thought, though, Alya realises with a sickening clarity that the possibility isn’t … actually all that far-fetched. Marinette’s timeline is marred with convenient disappearances and flimsy excuses surrounding akuma attacks, and while Alya loves to joke about Marinette’s tendency towards tardiness, things definitely changed about two years ago - the shadows under Mari’s eyes grew darker, her bruises more frequent, her explanations sketchier and stranger. Alya doesn’t want to consider that her best friend would lie to her.
Then again, Alya’s lying too. So that line of reasoning is factually incorrect - and this is the kind of analysis that Alya knows has to remain objective.
Thesis: Marinette Dupain-Cheng, who wants what she wants to the point of obsession and is stubborn in her decisions to a fault, moonlights as the supernatural terrorist known as Hawk Moth. Author: Alya Césaire, investigative journalist.
Supporting arguments: TBC.
“Trixx,” Alya wheedles, dangling a blackberry in front of her kwami, “I have some questions.”
“When don’t you,” Trixx returns, deadpan, making a dive for the berry; Alya dances it out of reach. “What do you want to know, Alya?”
“I want to know about Hawk Moth,” Alya tells the kwami, lilting her tone.
“You always do,” they sigh.
Alya waits. Clears her throat when it becomes clear that Trixx isn’t going to keep talking. “What do you know about her - him, then?” she hedges. “Trixx, this is important.”
Trixx frowns at her slip-up with pronouns, flashing one of their incisors. “Hawk Moth? He holds the butterfly Miraculous; he controls the akumas. What do you want me to say?”
“I know you’re not telling me everything,” Alya sing-songs.
“Of course I’m not telling you everything . I don’t know everything.”
Inwardly, Alya’s seething. Outwardly, she projects a cool, unbiased facade - the same one she uses in interviews. Trixx - kwami of illusions and deception - enjoys treading the line between truth and lies, in the grey zone that they insist is ‘technically true’ and Alya knows is pretty much a fucking fib . She has to watch her words, here. “Do you know anything about Hawk Moth’s secret identity?”
Trixx sniffs, unconcerned. “Might.”
“For fuck’s sake, I give up,” Alya seethes, tossing the berry at her kwami and turning her back as they chuckle. “You’re insufferable. I hope you’re happy.”
“Always am!” they trill.
So much for Alya’s cool, unbiased facade, huh?
“Rena Rouge,” Ladybug calls, sounding surprised, as Alya makes a beeline for the rooftop she’s standing on. “We didn’t call you - what’s going on?”
“Let’s just say,” Alya huffs as she touches down on the spire next to her idol, “I’m researching a hypothesis.”
Ladybug grins at her, with a strangely affectionate smile - almost fond ? “Of course you are.”
“I don’t get the joke,” Alya confesses. “But I, uh … have some questions.”
“When don’t you,” Ladybug says. Alya’s suddenly and forcefully reminded of Trixx telling her the exact same thing, and cringes - either the universe is feeling unoriginal in its dialogue today, or this is going to be a very unhelpful and obtuse pseudo-interview. “Alright, what’s up?”
“I need to know about Miraculous magic,” Alya explains, dropping into a crouch and then, after a scramble for balance, stumbling onto her butt to sit on the apex of the rooftop. “The stuff that, uh - the stuff that hides our identities? Could it theoretically make people think someone was a different gender?”
Ladybug frowns, sitting next to Alya in a much more fluid motion than Alya’s ungainly tumble. “Maybe? I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
Alya considers explaining - after all, this is Ladybug , and if anyone should be trusted with Alya’s worries it’s her - but decides against it. She has to preserve the integrity of her data-collection, after all, and this is the only way she can be one hundred per cent sure it’s accurate. “I’ll tell you later,” she says, and only once she’s halfway across Paris does she stop to consider Ladybug’s words.
A ‘maybe’ isn’t a ‘no’.
Alya feels sick.
“Hey, girl,” Alya says, as casually as she can manage. “Where did you go during that akuma attack?”
It’s not the most subtle of segues. Alya is not the most subtle of people. Regardless, it works - Marinette just about jumps out of her skin, and Alya flinches. “I went to … hide ,” Marinette expounds grandly, her voice wavering. “From. The akuma.”
It’s all too much confirmation. Alya’s guessed already, and she’s suspected for months - but seeing Marinette’s incriminating flusteredness is much worse with the added support from Ladybug. She has to take five, making excuses and heading to the bathroom.
She sits in a stall with her head in her hands, fingering her Miraculous absently.
Thesis: Marinette Dupain-Cheng moonlights as the supernatural terrorist known as Hawk Moth. Author: Alya Césaire, investigative journalist, possibly Hawk Moth’s BFF; also known as Rena Rouge, ally to Ladybug and Chat Noir, defender of Paris, holder of the fox Miraculous.
She has a duty.
Supporting arguments: Marinette is always missing during akuma attacks, and when questioned about her disappearances she provides no reasonable excuse and body language indicates a lie. Character witnesses (incl. Alya Césaire, other witnesses TBC) confirm that Marinette could plausibly be motivated to become Hawk Moth, though concrete motivation is TBC. The glamours surrounding the Miraculous stones could plausibly alter perception of a person’s appearance enough to misconstrue perception of their gender. There is no objective reason to believe Marinette is not Hawk Moth.
Duty or not, she still needs proof.