Trying to decipher the grimoire was a tedious process, Alya admitted to herself. But it also was incredibly fascinating. Together with Marinette she brooded over the ancient texts, sometimes taking notes, more often crossing out ones previously made. Long ago Alya had shut out the background noises of sixteen kwamis buzzing around in Marinettes bedroom (or in Trixx’ case resting inside Alyas bag), and her friend had done the same. But now the green turtle-kwami, Wayzz – Alya had a little trouble remembering all their names, but this one she knew, if only because he was Ninos kwami – descended towards them, carefully avoiding sight of the open grimoire.
»Master«, he said in his soothing, even voice. »I believe it is Thursday tonight.«
Marinette, biting the end of her pencil and deeply immersed in a particularly tricky paragraph, just hummed affirmatively.
Alya looked up, seeing the concern on Wayzz’ tiny face. »Master-«
»Look, Alya, could this mean-«
Dismissing the kwami from her thoughts, Alya bend down again, reading the symbols Marinette pointed to. She had no idea how long the both of them tossed around some translation-variations, but eventually, they were interrupted again. This time it was Tikki, who, with a slight tint of urgency said: »Marinette, it’s already 8 o’clock!«
»And tomorrow is school, I know. We’re not going to work much longer«, Marinette said, her eyes still glued to the parchment.
Anxious blue eyes focused on Alya, who tried to ease the kwamis mind. »Don’t worry, Tikki. I’ve set an alarm for myself. My curfew ends at 9, so I won’t hold her up much longer.«
»That’s not-«, Tikki said, but was distracted by something behind the girls. Alya turned around just to see all the kwamis, one by one, returning to the hidden miracle box.
»Huh? Is it your collective bedtime?«
Tikki made a face. »Marinette!«, she whisper-shouted.
»What?« Finally her owner looked up, tired and a little bit bemused.
»Wayzz said the same thing«, Alya mentioned. »What is it with you kwamis and weekdays? Or is this a special day or someth-«
A soft sound from above them, from outside made Alya fall silent. Marinettes eyes widened, and her face went pale.
»Oh no. Thursday, after eight?!«, she breathed, panic in every word.
Alya was completely puzzled when her best friend nearly jumped out of her skin as a quiet knocking sounded from her balcony hatch. Tikki zipped into her hiding spot next to the miracle box, leaving the room basically kwami-free, but before Alya could so much as speak of her fears of an Akuma landing on top of the bakery, she heard a positively seductive voice talking through the hatch.
»Hello purrincess. I must say, you’ve whet quite an appetite in me with those delicious macaroons the other night~«
Alyas eyebrows shot up, her mouth fell open and at the same time she couldn’t suppress a wide grin when she slowly turned her head towards Marinette. Her best friend looked mortified beneath her intense blush, and Alya tried her best to hide the shivers of silent laughter moving her body.
»It’s not what you think!«, Marinette squeaked with a strained voice. »Not at all! He doesn’t know!«
»Uh-huh«, Alya managed to get out without laughing. »But I’m curious, ‘purrincess’, what’s that about those ‘macaroons’ you give him at night?« She batted her eyelashes, and without saying it out loud she mouthed ‘whet an appetite?’. For a second she thought she overdid it, as Marinette looked like she was going to faint from embarrassment.
»You know how he is!«, she hissed.
»Oh, I know who he is«, Alya said melodically and without loosing her grin. She then dove towards the ladder, climbing up while Marinette tried to hold her back by clutching at her feet.
»Oh, hey there purrincess, I almost thought you wouldn’t feed this stray toni-«
With a mischievous grin Alya emerged the hatch. »Well, good evening, Chat Noir. Is there an akuma?«
»Uh, no. No akumas, Al- errr, Ladyblogger…«, he stuttered, clearly startled by Alyas sudden apperance.
He looked a bit flustered, Alya noted contentedly. »So you’re just here for macaroons? You know they sell them at the bakery down there, right?« She pointed over the railing.
»The bakery is closed when he’s finished with his patrol«, Marinettes said, climbing up with a small plate full of tasty little french cookies in her hands. She avoided both Alyas and Chat Noirs gaze, simply extending the plate towards the latter.
»T-thanks. I didn’t want to interrupt anything«, he said, eyeing the still grinning Alya carefully while taking one of the macaroons.
»So, Mari, why haven’t you told me that you get nightly visits from one of Paris’ heroes? And do your parents know you’re letting a boy into your room after dark?«, Alya teased with barely contained excitement, wiggling her eyebrows at her best friend.
»A-Alya! I-It’s just the balcony!«
»It’s not like that!«, Chat Noir hastily reassured, but his cheeks sported a light pink blush. »Marinette and I-«
»Oh, look at the time!«, Alya made a scene to take out her phone. »I’d be better gathering my stuff downstairs!« And with that she hurried back through the hatch, closing it with a deliberately loud ‘bang’. But her stuff remained untouched, when Alya made a beeline towards Tikkis hiding place.
»How often does he come here?«, she whispered with excitement. »Does he really not know-?«
»None of them knows anything«, Tikki affirmed somewhat miffed.
»What is it?«
»He’s eating all the macaroons! Every Thursday night! Not like Marinette isn’t feeding me beforehand, but last week she made this special batch for him, and I really loved that passionfruit…«
»Wait, every week? Since when?«
»Oh, I think he came here the first time right after Evillustrator, but he’s regularly visiting her ever since Kwamibuster. He took a liking to her ‘Multimouse’ and felt so bad when Ladybug retracted her Miraculous because she accidentally revealed herself in front of him…«
»You don’t say…«
Before Alya could delve deeper into the history Marinette and Chat Noir apparently shared, the hatch opened and slowly Marinettes feet appeared.
She looked a bit flustered and avoided Alyas gaze. »He’s gone. He just needs someone to talk to sometimes«, she mumbled, cheeks blushing.
»He sure does«, Alya said in a sing-sang. »Every week, getting himself some macaroons… You know you promised me exclusive footage, interviews-«
»No. Alya, no. It’s not like that!«
»Oh, come on. I haven’t said anything till now, because you’re my best friend and I knew about your crush on Adrien. But you know I was a huge LadyNoir-Shipper. Since I knew that you’re Ladybug I toned that down because I didn’t want to aggravate you – do you know how often I had to bite my tongue to not ask what’s going on between him and you? And now I get to know that there might be something going on between Chat and you-you!«
»He is just a friend!«, Marinette emphasized.
Where had Alya heard that before, huh?
»Well, at least you got a type«, she joked, arms crossed in front of her chest. Would Marinette take that bait?
»What do you mean?«, her best friend demanded to know.
»Blond, green eyed, at least a head taller than you are?«
Marinette blushed, but waived her hands dismissively. »But they are so different!«
»I know you denied it the last time, but don't you think Chat Noir and Adrien are looking pretty much alike?«
Being as attentive as she always was, Alya very much saw the flinch Tikki tried to hide. The red kwami had been silent for a long time, coddled up on top of her cushion, but very much listening to every word that had been said.
»What? No. Absolutely not«, Marinette objected.
»Look, I've gotten a lot better at photoshopping. Let's play a game: Chadrien.«
»Cha- what now?«
»I'll show you a pic, and you guess if it’s Chat or Adrien. Chadrien. If I’m being honest, I’m planning this for a while now… So, are you up to the challenge, Marinette?«
»Hah. I don't have to guess«, she announced proudly.
»I don’t know if this is a good idea«, Tikki said carefully.
»Just… Marinette, if you want to know Chat Noirs secret identity, you as the guardian could just ask. But making a game out of it – and I know how fast you are with catastrophizing over the smaller details…«
»Tikki, this is not about Chats identity. This is about me knowing both my partner and the boy I love.«
Ten pictures later, Marinette was clearly distraught. Alya had yet to tell her, which picture showed which boy – or parts thereof – but it had been much harder than she had anticipated.
»Okay, now to the conclusion«, Alya announced with a grin. The note on with Marinette wrote her guesses neatly placed in front of her. She opened up the first picture again, holding up her phone so that Marinette and Tikki could see it again. The red kwami had been silent for the time being, but Alya had seen more than one questioning frown towards the pictures, and she was sure that Tikki herself had made guesses to whom the pictures were of.
»First picture, Chat Noir next to Clara Nightingale – Marinette said ‘Adrien with Chats face’ and that is… mostly correct. I simply ‘shopped a mask onto Adriens face and colored the white of his eyes green.«
Marinette bit her lower lip, squinting her eyes in disappointment.
»Second pic: Chat Noir striking a model pose. Marinette said, and I loosely quote ‘that’s clearly Adriens model-smile, and that pose too!’ - so I’m sorry to inform you«, Alya said with a grin, »but this is pure Chat Noir with just Adriens hairdo.«
»What?! No way!«
»Number three«, Alya said, raising her voice to drown out Marinettes protests., »We got this lad here: Adrien modeling for his newest perfume ad. You said this was legit and not ‘shopped, and you were right.«
Marinette grunted proudly.
»But picture four, another Adrien one – sorry, but that is not only Chat Noirs smile but also Mister Bugs hair. And you said ‘Adrien on a windy day’.«
»Oh, come on, this is ridiculous!«
»No, it’s not. I stand by my theory: Adrien could very well be Chat Noir. And right now, you’re providing more proof for that than ever. Out of all 10 you only were correct four and a half times. If even Ladybug – who just so happens to have a huge crush on Adrien Agreste – can not distinguish between Chat Noir and Adrien, how high are the chances that they are both one and the same, huh?«
»Y-you’re just saying that because you want to push me to admit that I have feelings for Chat-«
»Hah! So you do have feelings for him!«
»T-that’s not what I-I- I knew I worded it wrong, the minute it came out of my mouth! Alya, no. I do not have a crush on Chat Noir. Please, can we change the subject now?«
»You’re lucky I like you, Marinette… But seriously: Think about it. I’m not going to push you any more, but I really think there is something, and you’re probably not aware of it yet.«