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am i supposed to love you?

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“Marin! Your alarm has been going off for fifteen minutes! You’re going to be late for your first day of school!” Sabine Cheng calls up the stairs, and Marin yawns into his pillow.

Another day. The start of another boring school year.

Stumbling out of bed and walking downstairs, Marin greets his mother with a kiss on the cheek. “Morning, maman.”

“I bet I’ll have Chloe in my class this year,” Marin says dejectedly, as he pours milk and chocolate powder into his breakfast bowl.

“Four years in a row? That’s impossible!”

“Nothing’s impossible when it comes to Chloe being the worst, and me having the worst luck.” Marc isn’t even in his class this year; they compared schedules last week and he has Mrs. Mendeleiev. So Marin will have to face her alone.

Marin reaches for an orange, but it evades his grasp and somehow manages to knock over half the items on the counter, including the open carton of milk, before Marin can stop it.

Sabine bends over to wipe up the spilled milk. “Now, don’t say that. It’s the start of a new year! There might even be some cute boys in your class, who knows!”

“MAMAN!”

Sabine straightens up, and gives Marin a wink when she meets his eyes. Marin groans and buries his head in his hands.

Marin loves his parents with all his heart. They’re the best parents he could ever ask for, and they’d taken his coming out as gay really well. But did they have to be so embarrassing?

Marin gets dressed--a plain gray sweatshirt layered over a white tee with leaves embroidered around the collar, accompanied by charcoal colored jeans and black sneakers. Nice, but not remarkable enough to make him an easy target for Chloe. Unless she picks up on the fact he embroidered his t-shirt himself.

His day is saved--truly saved--by his papa’s spectacular macarons. Marin’s class will love the delightful green treats, and Marin might actually make some permanent friends this year.

Not two minutes later does Marin pull an old man away from an oncoming car and manage to lose half of his macarons in the process, but at least he didn’t witness the death of an old man on his way to school, so there’s that. Think positive.

Marin sprints his way through the halls. There’s no one loitering, so he must be late, but he gets to Ms. Bustier’s classroom before the first bell. He slides into his seat and slumps forward.

A hand slams down onto his desk. “Marin Dupain-Cheng.”

Marin sighs. “Chloe.”

“That is my seat.”

“But Chloe, this has always been my seat,” he mumbles.

Sabrina, Chloe’s favorite tool, slides into the seat beside him, cornering him between her and Chloe. “New school, new year, new seats.”

“Why don’t you go sit over there, next to that new girl?” Chloe gestures over to a girl with dip-dyed orange hair and glasses. Marin’s never seen her, but at the words new girl, she turns towards them expectantly.

“But--”

The hand slams down again. “Listen, Dupain-Cheng. Adrien is arriving today, and--” she gestures to the seat in front of Marin-- “since that is going to be his seat, this is going to be my seat. Get it?”

“Who’s Adrien?” Apparently the question is funny, because Chloe and Sabrina let out high, mocking laughter.

“Can you believe he doesn’t know who Adrien is? What rock have you been living under?”

“He’s only a famous model,” Sabrina tells him.

“And I’m his best friend,” Chloe adds. “He adores me. Go on, get lo--”

“Hey!” It’s the new girl. “Who elected you queen of seats?”

Chloe stares at the new interloper on her reign of terror, and narrows her eyes. “Look Sabrina, we have a little do-gooder in our class this year. Whatcha gonna do, shoot beans at me with your glasses?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” the girl says, then grabs Marin roughly by the arm. He barely manages to grab his backpack and macarons, as she drags him to her bench. The macarons tumble out of Marin’s arms and spill all over the floor.

“Sorry, sorry!”

“Alright,” Ms. Bustier calls, “has everyone found a seat?”

Marin stares at his lap. The new girl nudges him, and offers a reassuring smile.

“I wish I could handle Chloe the way you do,” he confesses. He’s just met this girl, but he knows she’s everything he’s not. Bold, confident, and proud of who she is.

“You mean the way Majestia does it,” she says, holding up her phone. “She says that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. And that girl over there? She is pure evil. We can’t let her get away with it!”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Marin says. He slumps forward, resting his elbows on the desk and placing his chin in his hands. “She likes to make my life miserable.”

The girl leans back and levels Marin with a skeptical stare. “That’s ‘cause you let her, man. You just need more confidence.”

If only confidence was grown on trees. Marin opens his box of macarons to find one remaining. He splits it in half. “I’m Marin.”

“Alya.”

-

Outside the school, a teenage boy argues with his father’s assistant and his bodyguard.

-

Marin sits in the library, next to Alya, who doesn’t seem to mind his presence. There’s nothing for them to do here, as it’s a first period study hall on the first day of school. Instead, he learns about Alya’s obsession with superheroes, particularly Majestia.

“Female superheroes are my favorite,” Alya explains. “I love a woman who can kick ass.”

Alya’s in the middle of explaining the intricacies of Majestia’s hero work when the entire building shakes, knocking both of them out of their chairs. Immediately, people run around screaming.

“Come on!” Alya yells, grabbing Marin by the wrist and pulling him towards the front counter. The monitor behind it displays four of the school’s security feeds. In the top left corner, a live image of a giant stone statue crashes into the sidewalk, shattering the cobblestones.

Actually, that’s not a statue. It’s moving.

The stone beasts shouts in an eerily familiar voice. “Kimmmm!”

“Is that Ivan’s voice?” Marin wonders aloud. Next to him, Alya runs through a checklist, though Marin doesn’t fully pay attention until Alya heads for the door. “Where are you going?”

“It’s as if he’s been transformed into a real live super-villain! And where there’s a villain, there’s a superhero not far behind. No way am I missing this!”

For at least three minutes after Alya’s departure, Marin stares at the door through which she left, flabbergasted. Alya, he decides, is batshit crazy. He’s gonna go home, and not go towards the rampaging beast that just threw a car at the security camera.

Safe in his room, Marin loads the news onto his computer. The absurdity of straight-laced Nadia Chamack talking about supervillains would be enough to make Marin burst into hysterics, if he weren’t so terrified. Ivan had been turned into that… that thing. How did it happen? Were the police going to kill him?

Marin glances down, and his eyes catch on something he didn’t notice before. An ornate red box sits on his desk. He’s never seen it before.

Opening the box, Marin’s blinded instantly by a flashing red light. “Ack! What the what?”

“Hello Marin! My name is Tikki.”

-

Adrien’s not sure how his day took such a drastic turn of events, but he’s not complaining.

He lets out a yell of excitement as he races across rooftops, jumping between buildings with ease. He’s not tired at all. This is amazing!

A few minutes later, he’s balancing on his weird extendable stick, scaling the streets. “Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this,” he says, right before he hears the scream. He looks up.

A red blur crashes into him, and they end up tangled together, hanging upside-down. The figure opposite him wears the same spandex-like material that somehow never chafes, except his is red with black spots. “Well, it’s nice of you to drop in.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose,” the boy says, smiling awkwardly. It’s endearing.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m guessing you’re the superhero partner my kwami told me about. My name’s… Chat Noir. Yeah. Chat Noir.”

“I’m Ma- I mean ma- madly clumsy, I am so clumsy,” the boy says, grimacing at the ground. Maybe Adrien is biased, because he’s never met anyone he could consider a potential friend before, but he likes this person already.

“That’s okay, dude. I’m learning the ropes too. ” Adrien--Chat Noir, he’s Chat Noir now, he’s a superhero, is interrupted by a loud tremor in the distance. Half a block away, dust rises in huge, bulbous clouds as a skyscraper tumbles off its axis.

Time to go! He extends his staff--it’s like pole vaulting, but cooler, and leaps into the air.

“Hey! Where are you going?” the boy cries after him.

“To save Paris,” he says, and there’s nothing any supervillain or his stern dad could do to wipe the manic grin off his face, in that moment. “What else?” The now-familiar scream behind him tells him that his partner in crime-stopping follows not far behind.

He chases the path of overturned cars and booming footsteps to a football stadium, where students have PE class. As Stoneheart closes in on a teenager, Chat Noir extends his staff between them. “You know, it’s not nice to pick on someone who’s smaller than you. Why don’t you fight someone your own size?”

“I guess you’re talking about yourself,” the monster grunts, and advances on him. Normally, Adrien wouldn’t be half this brilliant in combat, but superpowers come with super-instincts and agility. Adrien dodges Stoneheart in a series of leaps and acrobatics that would’ve made his fencing instructor, Mr. D’Argencourt, cry. After one such leap, he successfully manages a hit on Stoneheart.

Only to watch the monster glow from the inside, and get bigger. Shit.

“Where are you, partner? I could use a little help here!” Chat Noir yells. The giant beast throws a soccer net at him, but as he darts out of the day, he hears a scream. The massive, metal-framed net is doomed to crash on a nearby girl--why hasn’t she fled? Chat Noir throws his stick, hitting the extend button, and successfully intercepts the oncoming disaster, saving the girl.

But now he’s without a weapon, and the monster used Chat’s moment of distraction to scoop him up in a massive clawed stone fist.

Crap.

Chat Noir starts contemplating his death; his father’s gonna miss him, but at least he won’t have to be homeschooled anymore- when his superhero partner comes to his rescue, a glint of red in the distance, shining against the sun and tripping Stoneheart with his yo-yo.

Chat Noir flies into the other soccer net, his partner a few steps behind him. “Sorry it took so long, Chat Noir.”

“It’s okay, wonder bug, now let’s get this guy!” He rushes forward, but gets held back by bug boy grabbing his tail of a belt.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Bug Boy, as Chat has mentally dubbed him, says. “Don’t you see? Every time you hit him, he just gets stronger! We have to do something different.”

“Different how?”

“I don’t… I don’t know.”

But Chat Noir does. “I do! Let’s use our powers!”

He summons his Cataclysm, the way Plagg told him to, and marvels at the swirling black particles surrounding his fist. He turns to his partner. “Apparently I destroy whatever I touch. Look at this!” He touches the pole of the soccer net next to him, and it disintegrates and turns to rust.

“Wait! Don’t do that!” Bug Boy calls after him, but Chat’s already flying forward, slamming his palm into Stoneheart. Only for nothing to happen. He tries again. Same result.

He meets the gaze of the rage-filled monster, and lets out an uncomfortable laugh. “I guess I only get once to use my power?”

A yo-yo wraps around his waist, and the bug boy saves him, yet again. He’s really starting to owe this guy. “Ha, I guess I didn’t think that through,” he says sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “I didn’t realize it only works once.”

“And you detransform five minutes after you use it! Didn’t your kwami tell you anything?” Bug Boy scolds him. In the distance, Stoneheart lumbers closer.

“Uh, I guess I was a little excited to jump into my new role.”

“Well,” his partner says, “I guess that means it’s up to me. Lucky charm!” He throws his yo-yo into the air, and when it comes back, he holds a red and black spotted jumpsuit.

“What are you gonna do with that?” Chat Noir asks. Somehow, a jumpsuit doesn’t seem like it’s going to do much against the raging, nearly-upon-them Stoneheart.

“My kwami said there’s an akumatized object that we need to break. But--” he glances at Stoneheart-- “he’s completely made of stone, I don’t see an object anywhere… wait! His right fist! It’s closed.”

Chat Noir stares at him, expectant, “So what’s your plan?”

Bug Boy looks around wildly. There’s a glint in his eyes. “I know!” He grabs the jumpsuit and attaches the neck to the nearby maintenance hose, and knots the arms and legs off. “Don’t resist!”

Chat barely has time to think don’t what before he grabs him with his yo-yo, swings him around wildly, and careens him into Stoneheart’s waiting fist. “This guy’s crazy!”

“You want me, Stoneheart? Come and get me!” Bug Boy yells. He leaps into the air, taking the jump suit with him, and Stoneheart’s second fist closes around him. A small, dark-colored object falls to the ground, but they’re both trapped.

Crazy. Officially crazy.

“Hey!” Bug Boy yells over his shoulder. He addresses the girl who still hasn’t run away, for some reason. “Get the tap!”

The girl runs over and unscrews the tap. The jumpsuit fills with water, causing Stoneheart to unclench his fist. Bug Boy runs over to the akumatized object and crushes it beneath his foot.

As Stoneheart goes limp and Chat Noir crashes to the ground, he amends his statement. “This boy’s awesome! He’s crazy awesome!”

Stoneheart turns into a normal, very confused teenage boy. “What’s going on? What am I doing here?”

Chat Noir turns to his superhero partner. His awesome superhero partner, who practically saved the day all on his own. A blinding smile overtakes his face. “You were incredible, mister, uh--”

His ring beeps. Chat Noir stares wide-eyed at the single pad left on his ring. If he doesn’t get home before he transforms back, what’s his father going to think?

“You should get out of here, before you detransform.” He doesn’t need to be told twice. He calls out farewells to his totally amazing superhero partner as he exits the stadium, his voice carrying with the power of advanced magic.

Chat Noir gets home in what has to be a world record, and then stands in the middle of his room, unsure what to do with himself. He’s exhausted. But how does he detransform? If the code phrase was “Claws out” he should probably try, “Claws in.”

There’s a glowing green light, and then Plagg is collapsing onto Adrien’s bed with a groan, “I am starving. I’m gonna die.”

Adrien turns an amused grin onto his over-dramatic kwami. “You’re not gonna die, Plagg.”

When the only response he gets is Plagg rolling over with a pained moan, Adrien gets worried. “Wait.” He rushes over, scooping Plagg into his hands. “You’re not gonna die, right? Right?”

“I need nourishment,” Plagg says. “You’ve used up all my power and now I need to recharge it. Give me food, Adrien! I’m suffering!”

Adrien glances at the clock. “It’s time for lunch anyway. I can have my personal chef bring us something to eat.”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Plagg says, curling into Adrien’s hand.

Adrien never turned the news off, and he watches a recording of the events he just participated in, and learns the name of his superhero partner. In his hand rests his phone, where he scrolls through dozens of missed texts from Chloe.

He should probably respond to her, let her know he’s okay, before she tells her dad to send the army after him.

Nathalie caught me before I could get there, sorry, I’ve been studying at home all morning. Just let off for lunch now. How are you?

ADRIEN

!!!

I know. I’m sorry.

You can still get in at the end of lunch hour

The doors don’t close until 13:30, and with the chaos today, you’ll probably be fine

Don’t let your stupid father keep you away again

Wait, really? Thank you, Chloe!

I'm the best

You are!

Adrien’s suspicions of Plagg being a tad bit over dramatic are confirmed when as soon as the two of them are alone with the food, Plagg shoots out of his pocket. “Food!”

He lets Plagg scour the food as he turns his attention towards the television. “Thanks to this amateur footage, we now know the name of one of the two heroes who saved Paris today. Thank you, Ladybug!”

“Ladybug! His name’s Ladybug!” Adrien exclaims. Does he have an actual friend now? He and Ladybug only just met, but he’s the first person he’s gone out and talked to all on his own, that isn’t a person hired by his father, like his fellow models, or a wealthy business associate’s daughter, like Chloe. Does that make them friends?

Plagg lets out an unholy screech. “This! I can’t eat this!”

Adrien turns his attention to the kwami and glowers at him. “My personal chef made that! What do you mean, you can’t eat it?”

“If you want to sustain me after a transformation, I need something more… delicate.”

“Alright,” Adrien says with a sigh. “What do you want?”

Plagg opens his mouth, but an alert on the television cuts him off. “Just as we were about to celebrate the arrival of Paris’s two new superheroes, another tragedy strikes! Across Paris, hundreds of people are turned into stone beings, frozen in place.”

Adrien stands up grabbing his ring. “But we defeated Stoneheart! How could this have happened?”

“Did you capture the akuma?”

“Did I what?”

After a brief explanation of how akumas work and how he, Chat Noir, is powerless to do anything about them, Adrien finds himself sneaking into the kitchen to find camembert cheese. He’s pretty sure Chef Brouillard knows he breaks into the kitchen regularly to steal food, and doesn’t care, but he makes sure to be quiet anyway. His father definitely wouldn’t allow this.

“Plagg,” he whispers, once he’s inside the fridge, “which one’s camembert?”

Plagg flies to one of the many wheels of cheese, and plants himself on top of it. He tries to bite it through the shiny silver wrapper. “Ack! What is this strange, reflective material keeping me from my beloved camembert? How dare you, foe!”

Adrien rolls his eyes and grabs the camembert. “Come on, let’s go.”

They need to hurry if Adrien’s to get to school before lunch recess ends. Despite the chaos in Paris today, the Mayor and the police are relying on Ladybug and Chat Noir to save the day, and school and work are not cancelled for most people. Including Adrien.

He waits impatiently as Plagg devours half the wheel of cheese, and then stuffs the rest in his backpack for later. While doing that, he catches a whiff of the camembert and nearly chokes.

“Plagg,” he gasps, “your ‘sustenance’ smells awful.”

“Don’t insult my beloved camembert!”

Adrien gives him a skeptical glance. “All right then,” he says. “Can I transform into Chat Noir to sneak out of the house without Nathalie seeing me?”

He transforms without waiting for Plagg’s answer.