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Loveliness of Ladybugs

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At first, no one had noticed it.

It had become a sort of accepted fact to them, that Adrien Agreste, kind and sweet as he is, is rather bad at answering his cell during a crisis. And Marinette, so shy—surely she must be hiding! After all, why else would they vanish without a trace each time an akuma attacks?

They certainly don’t try and disperse these rumors. And they always vanish at different times, it seems, and show up from different places… it makes sense, in a convoluted, probably-influenced-by-denial sort of way.

But then—and here’s where things get weird—then they start disappearing and reappearing… together.

Adrien passes it off with a nervous laugh and a wave of his hand. He smiles more than he used to, or at least differently. He is the reserved and well-mannered type, except sometimes when he smiles it’s more cocky than sweet and every once in a while he’ll come out with a joke that makes everyone groan.

But he’s still the well-mannered one, even if he seems to be slipping, so they take his half-hearted excuses and agree. Of course it made sense for him to run off! He had a photo shoot! Even if it was, you know, pouring with rain…

Marinette is harder. Everyone and their mother knows about her crush on Adrien—except perhaps Adrien himself, but who knows with him—so her sudden lack of stuttering and outrageous blushing whenever she comes face to with him is rather startling.

So are the smiles she gives him, the ones no one had ever expected sweet, shy Marinette capable of. It’s a sly quirk of her mouth, teasing and fond, the smile of a lifelong friend to another except hers has an edge to it, a flirtatious undertone that makes everyone stop because Marinette? Flirting with Adrien? Without falling over herself blushing and stammering and scattering papers everywhere?

Check the skies for flying pigs, as they say.

If anything, these new changes only heighten their suspicions—but Marinette manages to answer absolutely nothing and everything whenever they manage to corner her. She laughs a bit, always nervously, her eyes flickering about, and then she’ll start to babble, and before they know it they’re talking about something completely different and Marinette has already vanished again, off to speak with Ayla or Adrien.

Everyone knows there is something up with them, a secret the two are keeping under wraps, but no one is entirely sure what.  They leave clues lying about with their every action, but none of the pieces make sense, and the picture they form is blurry and incomprehensible.

Because one day out of the blue Adrien Agreste ran through the halls and crashed into Marinette Dupain-Cheng like he couldn’t believe she was real, and she stiffened and hugged him back like he was a dream come to life. Because in the span of one night they went from distant acquaintances to something more, but no one can say why or how, and it is maddening how little they know about such a miraculous event.

They don’t understand why Adrien howls—howls!—with laughter when Marinette buys him a bell necklace for New Year’s, or why all Adrien seems to do is sprout cat puns whenever Marinette is within hearing range.

They don’t understand why Adrien looks at her as if she’s the stars themselves, and they can’t comprehend the aching affection in her eyes when she nudges his shoulder with a gentle fist and says, “You okay?”

They don’t understand but they know it exists, this strange not-quite-friendship and not-quite-love that surrounds the two, and all the secrets that bind them together.

Perhaps they will never understand, but that’s okay too—because Marinette is kind and sweet and Adrien is well-mannered but actually kind of funny, and they are their friends, so they’ll accept them anyway, changes and all.

(Though a little explanation would be nice.)

 

 

Chapter Text

Chat Noir feels cold. There is ice in his veins and ice in his heart and while some part of him is screaming, shaking, crying like the child he truly is, outwardly he stays calm and quiet and perfectly, carefully numb.

She isn’t breathing. Or maybe she is, and he is simply too far gone into hysteria to tell, but her eyes aren’t opening and her chest isn’t moving and her face is perfectly slack, no soft smile or determined scowl in sight. He brushes a hand through her hair and his fingers pull away stained with her blood, shiny and wet on the stiff leather of his uniform.

It is his fault. He is aware of that, in the same distant way that he is aware of Hawkmoth laughing cruelly on the other side of the room, the same distant way he is aware of Ladybug’s blood on his hands. He had been too hasty, too reckless, and too quick to disregard her fearful cries for caution, and the result of his actions is far worse than he has ever imagined.

He has always known, somewhere deep inside, that he would gladly die for her. He just never imagined that she would do the same for him.

He cradles her head and starts to cry, weakly and helplessly, messy tears that drip off his face and burn behind his eyes. His breath is catching in his throat with every broken sob, his hands trembling as he pulls her closer. Her mask remains, her suit nearly the same shade as her blood. Even in near-death, she won’t let him see her face.

He hears rather than sees Hawkmoth approach, and he refuses to look, just drags her broken body closer and screams at him, wordless and fearful and full of hatred. The emotion is like poison, burning and choking him, smothering his heart and blurring his vision.

And then there is ice again, cold and chilling, darkness sweeping through him. He thinks he must be dying, because there is no relief in this icy hatred, only pain, and the only reason he isn’t still screaming is because the darkness has sealed his throat shut.

The bell at his neck is ringing, incessant and unending, and in its chimes he can hear a voice, whispering softly. It is not Plagg, it is not Ladybug, it is not Hawkmoth—it is a child, quiet and vengeful, the little rich boy he used to be, hating his mother for leaving and his father for not caring enough.

No one will ever take my friends away from me again, the voice whispers, soft and dangerous in his ears. We won’t let them. We’ll kill them all before they can ever hurt anyone of ours. Father, Hawkmoth, Chloe—we’ll never let them hurt us, never again.

He tilts back his head. His teeth feel too sharp, his claws too real as his fingers curl into his palms. His hands are clothed in white, and his vision is sharper than any human’s has a right to be, the whole world slipping into dizzying focus. When he looks up to see Hawkmoth smirking down at him, Chat Blanc smiles back, his teeth needlelike and too many, his grin wide and merciless, lips stretching back to expose every serrated edge.

And when he plunges his clawed fingers into Hawkmoth’s chest, eyes wide open and gleeful, his grin never wavering, the ice in his veins smothers the whisper of no, no this isn’t what I wanted and the tinkling of the bell chases all his doubts away.

 

 

Chapter Text

Marinette is burning.

Every breath is cold and ashy, burning in her lungs like acid, squeezing her heart and stealing her composure away. Her eyes are alight and only her will is keeping the tears from streaming down her wind-beaten cheeks, because her city is dying and her best friends are falling and she calls herself a hero when in reality she hasn’t saved anyone.

Each step is like the note of a funeral march, slow and low and whispering of her doom. She doesn’t mind it as much as she should, because she can still hear them calling out to her, the voices of her loved ones, and maybe she still has some time left after all.

Marinette!” Alya shrieks, and the terror in her voice strikes her like a blade, digging into her back and twisting, carving her shame into her skin.

You kept yourself a secret to keep them safe, the words read, and you broke their hearts with every lie and now they’re going to die and nothing you did could have stopped that. All you did, you did for nothing.

“It’s okay, Alya,” she hears herself say. She’d given her jacket to Alya, to use for Chat Noir—beautiful, overconfident Chat who had fought without hesitation even without her there, who had struggled and bled until he could barely stand. The wind is cold and biting against her bare skin, her scrapped forearms stinging, her knees worn down to blood and bone.

“It’s okay,” Marinette repeats, and feels Tikki rest on her shoulder, warm and comforting even when Marinette knows the kwami is mourning.

She turns to looks at them. Alya is fury and fire, her face twisted in anger but her cheeks stained with tears. Her parents are frozen and frightened, her father looking to be on the verge of a breakdown; her mother's heartbreak as clear as the bloody gash on her cheek.

She finds her gaze drawn to the last, who is struggling to stand despite his wounds, whose head was resting on Alya’s lap moments before, so great were his injuries. Chat Noir is quiet and fearful in a way she has never seen, staring at her with wide eyes and a look that begs her not to do whatever it is she’s planning.

She wonders if they will hate her for this, when all is said and done. She hopes not. She loves them, the both of them, her fiery friend and her flirty partner. They are her other half, the people she could never live without—and she is Ladybug. She is Lady Luck.

She is a hero, even if she’s never been all that good at it, and she will never let them die. Not so long as she still breathes, not so long as she can still move. She will bear Alya’s anger and Chat’s silence only if they are alive to give it.

“Tikki,” she whispers, and she has never felt more real than in this moment, with their pained eyes fixed upon her and ash burning in her lungs, “Tikki, transform me.”

Red light eclipses her vision, settling around her, spinning, twirling, changing, and as their faces fade from view Marinette opens her arms and reveals her last secret for the world to see.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chat can’t look away from her. Her eyes are wide with surprise, moments away from narrowing in the usual look she gives him—the one that questions his actions, or perhaps even the teasing smile she’ll sometimes give when she’s in a good mood and Chat has said a particularly good pun.

“I—” he starts, and his voice fails him, so he clears his throat and tries again, cheeks aflame from his mishap. “I love—”

Something flashes through the air, snatching his attention away from his lady. It looks like an arrow, and it’s definitely a weapon—and its heading straight for Ladybug’s exposed back.

“Look out!” he cries, and tries to move in front of her, but his earlier distraction and the tedious balance he has on his staff slows him down, and all he can do is watch in horror as the arrow slams into her back and dissipates.

She nearly topples forward and Chat grabs her, hugging her close with one hand on the wall to keep them both from falling. She is limp in his hold, and panic rises through him.

“Ladybug!” he pleads, and nearly collapses himself when she starts to stir. “Are you okay?”

“Never better, Chat,” she snarls, and suddenly her hands are on his chest and shoving him away. He stumbles, slipping off the staff and nearly plummeting to the street if not for his reflexes, grabbing onto his weapon with one hand and dangling dangerously over the sidewalk.

“My lady?” he asks fearfully, and his blood runs cold when he looks up to see her sneering down at him, lips painted black and eyes dark with cruelty.

“Never liked you much, kitty cat,” she spits, and her foot comes to slams on his fingers. He yelps and switches hands as fast as he is able, struck silent by the viciousness of her words.

“In fact, I hate you!”

This time when she makes to step down he moves faster than she does, flipping back up onto the staff and ripping it from the wall, jumping from windowsill to windowsill to get to the roof, his heart in his throat and eyes blurring with tears.

“What’s wrong with you?” he cries, whirling to face her, because of course she’d followed him up here. “Why would you—what did that arrow even do?”

She doesn’t answer, simply sneers, her yoyo spinning around her hand. He has never been on the receiving end of that stare, the one she reserves for criminals and the lowest of the low, and the sight of it cuts him like a knife. The hatred in her eyes breaks his heart.

“You aren’t like this!” he pleads, desperate, and barely manages to whip up his staff in time to block her attack. “You’re not—we’re partners! Ladybug!”

"Partners? With you?” She throws back her head and laughs. “You’re even more pathetic than I thought.”

“Please—” Chat tries, fumbling with both his words and his weapon, eyes blurring with tears and his heart aching, but Ladybug is already charging at him, her weapon whipping towards his face. With a heavy heart Chat raises his staff and sets his feet, and prepares himself for a fight he refuses to win.

 

 

Chapter Text

Alya is a pep-talker.

This is fact to her, as true as the sky is blue and Ladybug has spots and Alya’s own undeniable nosiness. Alya is a pep-talker, a motivator, a you-can-do-it-if-you-try-er. Her mother likes to call it hoarding, or picking up strays: in any case, if there is a shy, quiet, demotivated person in her vicinity, Alya is almost guaranteed to find them and attempt to cheer them up.

As such, Alya likes to think she’s good at pep talks. She’s urged dear, shy Marinette to try after Adrien time and time again after all, and before she moved to Paris it had been the same with her old friends as well. She gets invested in people’s lives, is the issue, and when someone gets invested in a life, they get invested in problems, and where there is a problem there is bound to be a pep-talk.

Which is why it is completely, utterly nonsensical for Alya, Master of the Pep Talking, to fail at giving one to herself.

And yet.

Okay, Alya tells herself, hands clenched into fists and face twisted into an expression that can only be labeled as complete and utter concentration, you got this, girl. Smooth sailing from here. No issues, no mess. Just go up and ask. Straight out! To the point! No complications!

Unless, of course, the answer is complicated. Or convoluted. Or deformed and twisted and rotten to the core. Maybe the ruin-er of friendship. Or, in the Very Worst Case Scenario, cause of the apocalypse. Though that chance is hopefully less than .1%.

Sometimes Alya hates her brain. She’s a reporter, and due to this she’s also a writer, which means she has as many ideas of how wrong this idea can go as she does the words to describe it with.

She can see the headlines now. Master of Pep Talks Fails at Self-Motivating. Fails at Confronting Friend. Is Distracted by Possible Apocalypse.

Though again. Less than .1%, but this is Paris, the city that gets attacked by random and oddly colorful supervillains at random hours of the day. Alya isn’t taking any chances with that.

The whole situation is Marinette’s fault, as most terrible situations tend to be. Marinette, Alya feels, has the singular and unique ability to just attract terrible situations. Take the Adrien debacle. Every time her friend gathers all the courage her small arms can hold and goes to confess, Something Happens. Those capital letters are very necessary, see, because when Something Happens it usually tends to be disastrous.

Case in point: Forgetting to sign her gift. The unfortunate voicemail. On a few memorable days, the villain of the week dropping down on their heads. Dear lord, the villain. So many villains.

So yes, Alya feels, much like most terrible situations, this one is due to Marinette as well. It’s not as bad as, say, the supervillain. But still pretty bad. Mostly due to the fact the entire mystery is giving Alya gray hairs.

Alya knows Marinette. Marinette is shy, sweet, kind. A bit morally gray. Tends to act on emotions rather than logic, and without any heed towards rules or standards. She’s also a constant. Her crush on Adrien, her odd tendency to have sugary treats on her at all times of day, her fights with Chloe. Her indisputable love of pink.

Marinette doesn’t go to school with bruises. She doesn’t giggle at random cat puns and then look downright mortified. She doesn’t get tackled-hugged by Adrien Agreste, the guy she’s been squealing over for the past six months, and then act like nothing happened.

Except. She did. Therefore, the issue.

Somewhere along the line, when Alya wasn’t paying attention, Marinette and Adrien transformed from Alya’s personal TV drama to what feels like an eternal joke at her expense. They fist bump over random victories, make odd references to “evil moths” and apparent talking grasshoppers (???), treat each other less like friendly acquaintances and more like people who have known each other for years—which, Alya knows, they aren’t.

To be honest, Alya is disappointed in herself. She’s a reporter, the de-facto leader of information gathering and gossip galore. And yet, somehow, she missed her very best friend of the whole wide world getting her act together and finally managing to connect to the guy she’s been crushing over for months.

Clearly, Alya isn’t nearly as nosy as she is supposed to be.

But even that, Alya could live with. Sure, she missed the biggest character development of Marinette’s life. Sure, she’s kind of out of the loop of whatever the hell they’re talking about. Sure, she has to rearrange her entire world view.

But. But. The reason for this whole fiasco in the first place:

Marinette won’t tell her about it.

Nay, not even that. Marinette denys it. Outright. To Alya’s very face!

“We talked,” she says Day 1 After Miraculous Event. “We got stuck on a ride together,” she says absently on Day 2. “Nothing happened, Alya, geez!” she says on Day 3, which is about when Alya realizes that Marinette is a lying liar who lies and has no intention of telling Alya the truth.

Alya was offended. Alya is still offended. Did those macaroons they shared day one of their friendship mean nothing? Did the hours of gushing Alya sat through amount to this? Were the numerous pep talks Alya came up with just to incite this very outcome not worth a few answers?

You think you know a girl.

Either way, after suffering through a week of selective ignorance of how Adrien and Marinette’s… thing—are they dating? Are they friends? What?—came to be, Alya had finally come to the conclusion that enough was enough, and confrontation was inevitable.

Now, she thinks miserably, if only she could psych herself up to do it.

She’s going to have to do something eventually. Partly because of her own curiosity, of course, but mostly because Alya’s been crouching behind this bush for nearly half an hour by now. Her knees are starting to cramp.

Only a few feet away, Marinette and Adrien are sitting together on a park bench, sharing a mint-chip ice cream cone and basically just being adorable. It’s a sight Alya thought she’d never live to see. She’s not sure whether she wants to high-five Marinette or shake her down for answers.

She sucks in another fortifying breath. Now or never, she thinks. C’mon, girl. Now or never.

She lets out the breath in a swoosh of air. Slaps at her cheeks. Rolls back her shoulders with a satisfying crack. Bends her knees a little farther, deems herself ready, and bursts up out of the bush.

Marinette yelps. Adrien almost drops their ice cream. They stare at Alya with wide eyes and open mouths, and Alya stares back with burning cheeks, having momentarily forgotten the fact they were within ear-shot.

“A-A-Alya?” Marinette stutters, and sags like a puppet with cut strings. “Alya, oh my god, you gave me a heart attack!”

Adrien, ever the sensible one, just says, “Were you in the bushes this whole time?”

“No,” Alya denies, and she’s keeping to that story upon pain of death. “I, uh. Was just taking a detour.”

Adrien looks dubious. Alya pounces on Marinette before he can ruin her confidence. “Marinette!” she barks, and Marinette’s spine snaps straight like she’s a soldier in roll-call.

“Uh, yes?”

Alya takes a breath. “Marinette,” she says again, “what’s going on?”

Marinette blinks wide blue eyes. It’s horribly disarming. “I’m… eating ice cream?”

“No!” Alya stops, swiping a hand over her face. “I mean, I just—this. This. You two. When? How? What?”

Marinette presses her lips together. They’ve broached this topic often enough that she knows exactly what Alya means. “Alya,” she says gently, clearly gearing herself up for Denial #34, “I don’t know what—”

“Nope.”

“Alya, seriously, there’s noth—”

“Nu-uh.”

“Alya—”

“Denied.”

Marinette hisses through her teeth. “Alya,” she says, pained. “Come on.”

Alya stands firm. So far, no part of this conversation has edged close to her worst case scenario, so she’s entirely unwilling to give up on it. “Marinette," she mimics, propping her hands on her hips. “I’m your best friend, girl! You and me against the world—or, well, Chloe—since the beginning! Are you,” and here she falters, uncertainty worming its way into her heart. “Are you seriously not gonna tell me?”

Marinette sucks in a breath and holds it. She looks as unsure as Alya feels. She glances back at Adrien and Adrien looks back at her, and he tilts his head at her in a way that says, your choice.

Marinette breaths out slowly and carefully. Her fingers tangle together like seaweed. She looks up and slowly sighs, and Alya’s breath stills.

“Okay,” Marinette says quietly. Her smile is quiet and shy, and any fears of a possible apocalypse have all but fled from Alya’s mind. “I’ll tell you. You, uh, might want to sit down though. It’s… kind of a long story?”

“Okay,” says Alya, stunned, plopping down beside her.

Then she settles herself comfortably, and listens.