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When Marinette was younger, she never imagined she would present Alpha. Her father was Alpha, sure, but he was also a man. It was so very rare for a woman to be an Alpha that she hadn’t even considered the possibility. At most, she figured, she would be a Beta, like her mother--someone destined to take care of others when they could not take care of themselves. She liked the idea.

Until the day she presented.

She was eight. Young for a presentation, for sure, but everyone matured at their own paces. Her mother told her later that her older brother presented as an Omega at nineteen, much later than the rest of his peers. She was in her physical education class, stretching in preparation to get into the school’s swimming pool, when a wave of competitive spirit washed over her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her classmate, Kim, smirk at her and ready to dive into the pool. Biting back a snarl, she’d rushed ahead of him and dove, slicing through the water with a precision she didn’t know she had. After she’d beaten half the class in an unusual display of speed and dexterity, her teacher escorted her to the nurse, where she heard the news.

“This is your presentation. Congratulations, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng--you’re an Alpha.”

Her father had chortled happily at the news. “My daughter--a female Alpha! Atta girl!”

Her mother had combed her hair and said, “There’s no reason to be embarrassed, bǎobèi. You’re still you, no matter what your presentation.”

And so she slowly came to terms with the fact that she was now part of a group she never dreamed she would ever be in. She was a female Alpha.

 

Most all of her classmates knew about her secondary gender after her presentation, and by some hand of God, they all managed to stay in the same class through primary school and into collège. She watched them all present; Kim and Ivan joined her as Alphas, sweet Rose and the shy Mylène became Omegas, and the rest, unpresented, went on as Betas. She started her Alpha classes with Kim and Ivan in Sixièm, sitting among a semi-large group of peers from other classes and learning how to take care of Omegas. It would have been more awkward if Marinette hadn’t been sandwiched between two boys she’d known for, basically, her entire life; they discouraged the other boys from staring at her too long. They may have all been Alphas, but Kim and Ivan were the biggest and the most intimidating. No one wanted to mess with them.

The biggest change in her life--apart from her presentation, of course--came in Quatierème. She met her best friend when she transferred into Mme. Bustier’s class that year, a little timid but clearly proud underneath. “I’m Marinette,” she said when no one else moved to greet her. As she approached the new girl, she sniffed the air. A Beta. After the new girl took the outstretched hand Marinette offered, she gestured to the rest of the stunned class. “We’ve all be together since primary school, so it’s weird to see a new face. They’ll get over it.”

“Alya,” the new girl finally said. “My name’s Alya. It’s nice to meet you, Marinette.”

That same day, she met Adrien Agreste. She and Alya were coming back from lunch when she saw him hunched over her chair. She immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was the one who put gum on her chair and quite literally barked at him, putting as much Alpha oomph behind the sound as she could. Chloé immediately flew into a rage that no amount of Alpha authority could ever smother and she bullied the Omega teacher to send Marinette to the principal’s office. Adrien eventually cleared the confusion up, and Marinette found herself devastated that this beautiful boy was a Beta. If only he were an Omega, she would think wistfully to herself that night, listening to the rain pound on her windows. I could have him if he was an Omega.

The final huge change was meeting Tikki.

With the kwami, though, came a freedom Marinette never thought she needed. When she was Ladybug, no one cared about her secondary gender. When she was Ladybug, she could use her Alpha strength and not be stared at. When she was Ladybug, the only boy she had to deal with was her flirtatious partner, Chat Noir.

Three years later, she still wasn’t sure which change had the most effect on her life.

 

Alya burst into her room the morning of her eighteenth birthday with the same familiarity she’d had since the first night she slept over. “Happy birthday, girl!” she crowed, throwing her arms around Marinette’s half-dressed form. The smaller girl nearly toppled over from the force, but she grabbed onto Alya to steady herself, laughing. “Damn, eighteen! You’re a real grown-up now, aren’t you? You can go buy beer now!”

Marinette laughed and pulled a white blouse over her torso after extracting herself from Alya’s clutches. It was one of her originals, a plain short sleeved blouse with a few frills near the hem and a cute black bow at the middle of her neckline. She may have been eighteen, but she liked to dress in a childish manner. She liked the feeling of not looking like an Alpha. “Yeah, because that’s just what I’ve been dreaming of. Alya, if I wanted alcohol, I could just ask my parents.”

Alya threw herself onto Marinette’s chaise and groaned. “You’re so boring, Mari! Where’s that Alpha spirit?”

“If you want to hang out with an Alpha, go find Kim. If you want to hang out with me, deal with my boring-ness.” She had to get on her tiptoes to reach the back of her closet and grab her pink shortalls over the mess of clothes and shoes that riddled the floor. She winced at the sight. I gotta clean that up soon. She stepped into the shortalls and pulled the straps over her shoulder to buckle them. The shortalls were her own design, too, and she was rather proud of them. She studied herself in her full length mirror, frowning. “How do I look?”

She heard a snort behind her. “Girl, I’ve been wearing the same jeans for three days. You don’t wanna ask me for fashion advice.”

“Alya.”

“Fine.” Alya stood up and considered her before grinning. “You look amazing, as always. Honestly, when aren’t you the cutest person in the room?” She moved up behind Marinette, putting her hands on her shoulders. “I still say you can stand to show a little more skin…”

“I show enough thigh already. No one wants to see my chest.” She sank into a crouch to feel around for her pink flats in the mess in her closet. “What should I do with my hair?”

“You should let me do it.”

Marinette considered the idea. “Okay,” she said, slowly standing back up. “Just nothing too weird, okay?”

“You wound me.” She was forced to sit on the chaise and Alya dug her fingers into her hair. “Your hair’s so nice. I don’t understand why you put it up all the time.”

“Because it’s easy and I’m usually running late.” Marinette closed her eyes and drifted off as Alya tugged gently on her hair with both her fingers and her hairbrush. Alya’s fingers were pleasantly cool against her scalp and she sighed, leaning into the touch. She’d never admit it, not with her Alpha pride, but she loved being taken care of like this.

“Ta-da!” Marinette snapped out of her daze when Alya finished, and she turned her head to evaluate the work. Alya had braided two sections of her hair to meet at the base of her neck, tied together with a little pink bow, and left the rest of her hair down. Marinette had woken up with slightly curled hair that morning, and she was glad to have someone else deal with it. “What do you think?”

“I think I love it,” she told Alya, turning around to embrace her best friend. “You ready to go?”

“It’s kinda chilly,” Alya warned. “You probably wanna grab a jacket.”

Marinette sighed but resumed her adventure in the closet, fishing around until she found a black jacket she’d modified to have pink polka-dotted lining. It wouldn’t look great with the rest of her outfit, but she could just take it off when she was inside, so it didn’t hurt much.

She’d always been kind of jealous of Alya. With her dark skin, large bust, and wide hips, she could make just about anything look effortless. Even wearing an orange plaid shirt and three day old jeans, she looked like a runway model.

She shrugged the jacket on and grabbed her purse. Its weight reassured her that Tikki had ducked inside before Alya came into the room. She then reached for her backpack, made sure her schoolbooks were in order for the morning, and shouldered it on. “Let’s go.”

 

By the same strange hand of God that ensured they stayed together through primary school, Marinette saw the same faces she saw every year as she and Alya entered their Terminale homeroom class. They all grinned at the sight of her and pelted her with affectionate well-wishes, as they did every year. She was one of the oldest members of the class, after all, and they loved to remind her of the fact. Kim gave her an affectionate noogie before he was chased off by Alya’s anger at messing up her work, Juleka and Rose took a selfie with her, and Mylène and Ivan gave her a gift of a new sketchbook. They were the only bonded pair in the class, and they acted like they were already married. Kim and Marinette had teased Ivan relentlessly when Mylène showed up to class after a heat with a bruise over her scent gland, but they were very happy together.

Chloé, of course, had no present to give. While they weren’t outright enemies like they were in collège, they still weren’t good friends, and Marinette wasn’t very surprised to recieve no gift from the mayor’s daughter.To Marinette’s surprise, though, Sabrina darted over to her and pressed a small box into her hands. “Happy birthday,” she said quietly, and then she ran back to the desk she shared with Chloé. Marinette opened the box discreetly and was delighted to find a beautiful silver chain with a circular charm bearing an M. I’ll have to send her a thank you card, she thought to herself. I don’t want her to get in trouble with Chloé.

She slid the sketchbook and the necklace into her backpack, fishing her schoolbooks out in the same motion. Alya plopped into the seat beside her and started tapping away at her phone. Probably checking the LadyBlog, Marinette thought, thinking to the fan blog she ran in honor of her other self. She’s gonna kill me when she finds out I’m Ladybug. She shivered at the thought. She might have been an Alpha and Alya a Beta, but she wouldn’t dare incur her wrath. Alya was a force to be reckoned with when she was angry, and her hair-trigger temper was nothing to sniff at. Marinette only hoped she would have a mate and pups by the time Alya figured out. She may take pity on me then. With that happy thought in mind, Marinette opened her well-worn sketchbook and started doodling.

The sound of her pencil scraping against the thick paper of the sketchbook drew Alya’s attention away from her phone, a feat not easily accomplished by any means. “What’re you sketching now?”

Marinette felt her face flush and she tilted the book so she could see. “Uh, I’m trying to design cute underwear for Alpha girls.” She felt like she was going to melt from the embarrassment of designing was what basically lingerie, but continued, “It’s hard for me to find underwear I like that can accommodate my… y’know… so I figured I’d try to make some of my own.”

Marinette was, clearly, a traditionally feminine person. Most people who saw her on the street thought she was an Omega, what with the way she dressed and acted. But, as an Alpha, she had a very impressive penis between her legs, one that had been growing since the day she presented, and she found it very hard to find underwear that could hide it well enough for her to wear clothes she liked. Even harder was finding underwear she felt cute in. It wasn’t a pressing issue by any means, and even if she did find a way to make cute underwear for female Alphas, it would be a very niche market. Only a little more than twenty percent of France’s population was Alpha, and less than a third of that twenty percent was female. Female Alphas were even rarer than male Omegas, after all, and they’d been dealing with buying boxers and boxer-briefs for generations.

Still…

“My mom says a good pair of underwear can really boost your confidence,” she concluded, staring at the sketch, “and I’ve never had that. I want to, and I want other female Alphas to, too.”

Alya wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “That sounds great, Mari. Make sure you model some for me when you have a prototype.”

Banter. She could do banter. “Yeah, ‘cause you definitely wanna see me in my undies.”

“Girl, I’ve seen you in your undies plenty of times. And let me tell you, if Nino never gets his shit together, I’d ride that seven ways to Sunday.”

“Alya!”

“Mari, come on. You’re hot. Deal with it. And our children would be beautiful, fight me.”

“You’re the worst,” Marinette grumbled.

“I’m serious! Anyone would be lucky to have you. Hey, Rose! If you weren’t engaged to that prince, wouldn’t you like Marinette?”

“Alya, I swear to God--”

Rose appeared startled, but she smiled in their direction anyway. It was a little sad, and Juleka turned just a little away, but Marinette felt her heart ache. Just about everyone in the class knew about Juleka’s feelings for Rose, but she was already claimed, so there wasn’t much that could be done. “Absolutely! Marinette would make a great Alpha.”

“Yeah!” Nath interjected, looking as red as his hair. “She’s so sweet and caring. You’d always feel loved if Marinette was your Alpha!”

Max popped up from wherever he’d been. “You’re biased because of your past feelings for her, so your view is unhelpful.”

“Shut up, Max!”

“I think it depends on what kind of partner you’re looking for,” Mylène interjected from where she was tucked against Ivan. “I’m such a big scaredy cat that I need someone big enough to hide behind. Marinette couldn’t do that for me. No offense, Mari.”

“None taken,” Marinette replied weakly. Damn Alya for doing this to me.

“You’re also biased, so your view is also unhelpful.”

“Max, dude, stop talking.”

“How about we all stop talking about this and spare me death by embarrassment on my birthday? How does that sound?”

“Stop talking about what?” Nino asked as he entered the classroom, Adrien in tow. He looked a little sickly for some reason; he was pale under his perfect model tan and his golden hair was limp.

Marinette sent Alya a very pointed look, but her devil of a best friend smirked and said, “About how anyone would be lucky to have Marinette.”

She. Wanted. To die.

After she killed Alya, of course. She was coming to hell with her.

Luckily, she was spared the agony of explaining what actually started the conversation when their teacher entered the classroom. She was much less forgiving than sweet Mme. Bustier, and the class immediately quieted and returned to their seats. Marinette kicked Alya under their desk for good measure.

 

By lunch, Marinette can see the pained expression on Adrien’s face from where she sits behind him. His usually handsome visage was twisted and he looked like he was going to be sick. Alya was preoccupied with her phone and Nino was slumped over his half of the desk, asleep, so Marinette took it upon herself to check on him. She slowly rose from her seat amid the sounds of her classmates packing up their books and found herself tiptoeing to him. When she stood next to his hunched, shivering form, she layed what she hoped to be a comforting hand on his forearm.

A jolt of heat rushed through her when their skin met, her nostrils flaring and pupils dilating. The sudden delicious smell of an Omega in heat flooded her senses and she felt herself start to harden. Shit.

Adrien was an Omega, and he was presenting.

Happy birthday to me, she thought while she still had a rational voice in her mind.

Chapter Text

The Betas in the room reacted immediately, as they were trained to. Alya and Nino tackled Marinette while Max, Alix, and Nath worked on Kim. Mylène pressed herself against Ivan so her scent would override Adrien’s. Two un-bonded Alphas in a room with a heated Omega was bad enough. “Someone get the nurse!” Alya commanded, and Sabrina and Chloé raced out immediately. That left Rose to try to comfort Adrien and distract him from the onslaught of hormones he was surely experiencing.

Adrien. Marinette’s eyes focused back on him, taking in every aspect of his presentation with all of her senses. He smelled delicious, God, how had she not smelled him before? It seemed that her touch sparked the actual presentation, and he was now curled up on the floor in a foetal position. She saw the blood that stained the crotch and back of his jeans and found it in herself to wince; her uncle was an Omega, after all, and he’d given her all the gory details of the presentation for a male. To spare the worst, a new hole was torn to make room for the developing reproductive tract. The younger the Omega was, the easier the process, but Adrien was almost eighteen, so it must have been excruciating. Rose was crouched next to him, rubbing his back and whispering comforting words into his ear, but he didn’t seem at all placated.

Marinette let herself fall limp beneath Alya and Nino. It was standard procedure, she knew, to try to prevent an Alpha from getting to an Omega who went into heat suddenly in public, especially if there was more than one Alpha in the vicinity. The last thing a poor Omega needed was to be the cause of a frenzy. As soon as the nurse came to retrieve Adrien, she and Kim and Ivan would be released and allowed to go take care of themselves until they were fit to return to class. The same thing had happened with Rose’s and Mylène’s presentations, after all. It wasn’t as if this were a new occurrence.

At least, that was what she thought until Adrien spoke.

“Marinette.”

It was more a hiss than a statement or a plea, but it rang in the air, clear as day. Marinette began to writhe beneath her two friends. “He asked for me! Let me go!”

“He can’t give consent!” Alya hissed. “We can’t let you go!”

Marinette bit down the growl that threatened to bubble out of her throat. That would not do her any favors in getting to Adrien. “I’m lucid. I won’t do anything, I swear, but he’s in pain and he asked for me!”

“Adrien!” The boy seemed to jump at the sound of Nino’s harsh voice, but he moaned in response. “What’s your father’s name?”

“G-Gabriel,” Adrien managed to get out.

“What does he do for a living?”

“He’s a f-fashion designer. Owner of the Agreste brand.”

“What’s his assistant’s name?”

“Nathalie Sanc-coeur.”

“Do you want Marinette to be with you?”

“Yes.”

His lucidity confirmed, Nino and Alya let go of Marinette, and she rocketed to his side. True to her word, she maintained her calm, simply laying a hand on his feverish skin. “Hey,” she said, struggling to keep her voice even. She hoped her… situation… was well-hidden beneath her clothes, but she pressed her legs together where she knelt to make sure it was a little less obvious. “I’m here.”

His hands reached up to grasp at the material of her shortalls, chest heaving. “It hurts.”

“I know, Adrien, I know,” Marinette said in what she hoped was a soothing voice. “My uncle’s an Omega, and he told me what it’s like. It’s gonna hurt for a while, I won’t lie, but you’re strong enough to get through this.”

The nurse came charging in behind Chloé and Sabrina. She took in the scene before her and winced when she saw Marinette. “M. Agreste, I’m going to take you to the infirmary now, okay? We’ll get you laid down in a bed and I’ll call your father’s assistant and we’ll take care of you.”

“I want Marinette with me,” he panted.

The nurse’s face twisted in distaste, but she conceded, and she and Marinette helped Adrien waddle painfully to the lycée’s infirmary. If he hadn’t been presenting, Marinette knew the nurse would outright refuse the request. However, most healthcare professionals were now trained to grant the requests of Omegas during their presentations so as not to upset them any further. Stress, it had been proven, had negative effects on an Omega’s psyche, which was already thought to be weaker than a Beta’s or an Alpha’s by the general public. Since she had an Omega family member, Marinette never bought into that, but she was grateful for it now, so she could be a source of comfort to her friend.

When they had Adrien situated on a cot in the infirmary, he still clung to Marinette’s clothes. She saw his chest rise and fall rapidly, heard his breath come in short bursts, felt his heart fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings. His body writhed on the sheets and his eyes and jaw were both clenched shut. He’s panicking, her brain supplied unhelpfully. I should do something.

“Adrien. Look at me.” It wasn’t a request--Marinette used her Alpha Voice. It demanded his obedience, his submission, his unending cooperation. She rarely used it if she wasn’t in her suit, and even then it was only used to bark commands and get civilians to evacuate the area. She’d always been uncomfortable bossing people around, but Adrien was on the verge of a panic attack and a panicky Omega needed a calm, commanding Alpha.

His eyes snapped open, feverish, and she stopped his thrashing. He wasn’t limp yet, but he was still, and that was good enough. For now. “You need to calm down,” she continued. While her voice had softened, it was still commanding, still undeniably Alpha. It was taking every bit of Marinette’s control to not mount him, knot him and fuck him until he was round with her pups, but she wouldn’t do that to him. Not now, when he was scared and confused and in pain from new organs and holes growing where they should have grown years ago. She released pheromones to help his calming process (a trick her father taught her when she first presented), and soon he was pliant beneath her gaze, his hand gone limp and her clothes released. “The nurse is calling your dad’s assistant now,” she continued, even though the nurse had said that not five minutes earlier. “She’s a Beta, right?” At his jerky nod, she smiled. “That’s good. She’ll take care of you until your heat’s over.”

“It hurts,” he whined again, fishing his hands in the sheets. “I need-- I need--”

Perhaps foolishly, she let one of her hands fall on his clenched fist, feeling his feverish skin. “I know, Adrien.”

“Marinette, please!”

Oh, if fourteen-year-old me knew he’d be begging me to fuck him, she would have died on the spot, Marinette thought to herself with a  small amount of mirth. She shook her head at him, making him whine even louder and start squirming again. That wouldn’t do. “You stop that,” she commanded, a bit louder than strictly necessary, and she took a strange amount of pleasure in watching him immediately go limp. What a good little Omega. “You can’t give consent like this, Adrien. Even if you could, your body isn’t ready for any kind of penetration. This is your first heat, you’re not on suppressants or birth control, and I’m both your friend and a nearby Alpha. I’d be surprised if you weren’t begging for it. But you’re not in your normal state of mind or body, and I refuse to take advantage of you while you’re like this.”

“Mari,” he groaned pathetically.

She shushed him gently, bringing her spare hand up to cup his red cheek. “I’ll make you a deal,” she muttered, already starting to regret the words that were about to leave her lips. “When your heat passes and you’re well enough to come back to school again, you should go on birth control.” He made a mournful noise in the back of his throat, but she quickly smothered the protest with a sharp look. “Now, don’t give me that. You only want to be pregnant because you’re in heat. You and your dad can discuss the suppressants, but I won’t bend on the birth control. I don’t want to be a parent before I get into university.” He seemed to perk up at the idea of having her children, which brought her no small amount of glee, but she barreled on. “After you’re on it and your heat is over, if you still want me, I’ll start courting you. I won’t make any other promise, but I’ll court you, like a proper Alpha would.” She put a teasing lilt on the last few words, hoping to get a smile out of him, but he was far too out of it.

“Do you promise?”

“I promise, Adrien.”

She stayed in the infirmary with him until Mme. Sancoeur came to collect him. The older woman gave her quite a scathing look, but Marinette’s patience was wearing thin due to her long proximity to a heated Omega, and she pulled her lips back in a snarl at her. Properly shamed, Mme. Sancoeur and Adrien’s bodyguard, who she’d heard him call “The Gorilla” on several occasions, escorted him to the car he arrived to school in every day. She felt the overwhelming urge to follow the car, but she fought it down. She was stronger than her instincts.

She had to be.

 

 

Her teachers decided to let her stay home that afternoon instead of returning after lunch due to “the stress that being so close to an Omega in heat could have brought upon a young Alpha.” She hurried home, giving a rushed explanation to her parents before taking the stairs two at a time to reach her loft bathroom so she could… ahem… take care of herself. When she was finally calm, she let herself fall onto her chaise. “Tikki?” she asked, eyes following the red blur that shot out of her purse.

“That was quite intense,” Tikki said, and Marinette could hear the careful control she kept in her voice.

“Why do you think Adrien kept asking for me?”

That was the question, wasn’t it? Had she been in her right mind throughout the entire ordeal, she would have asked him. Sure, they were friends, she wouldn’t deny that. Once she got over her stupid stutter and could actually hold a conversation with him, they were great friends. They snarked at each other on a daily basis. He called her parents by their first names and had a place at their table for his cheat days. He was her second closest friend, just after Alya and tentatively tied with Chat Noir.

But why did he want her?

Because he did. He clearly wanted her, judging by his body’s reactions to hers. How much of that was the heat was uncertain, but some recent studies showed that a heat was much like intoxication; it didn’t fundamentally change a person, instead lowering their inhibitions. Making them more honest.

Out of all the people in that classroom, Adrien had begged to have Marinette with him.

And she couldn’t figure out why.

And what the hell was wrong with her? Where did horny Marinette get off on promising to court someone so far out of her league? She couldn’t provide anything material he didn’t already have, so courting gifts were out the window, and she couldn’t afford to take him out much. The only categories she would excel in would be providing food and clothing, like he didn’t have enough in his fucking mansion. Her provision skills were null and void.

And that was if he still wanted her when he wasn’t drunk on hormones. He’d probably snap right out of it as soon as his heat was over, and if she was lucky, he wouldn’t mention their deal to anyone else and save her the embarrassment.

What a shitty birthday, she thought to herself, rolling onto her side and gathering a large pink pillow to wrap herself around. The only thing that would make this worse would be--

“AHHHHHHH!”

“Fuck me in the ass,” she cursed. Of course. “Tikki! Transforme moi!”

She heard her kwami’s melodious giggle as she was forced into the earrings. Let’s get this over with, she thought grimly, swinging out of her window and heading towards the sound of the newest akuma attack. At least I get a workout.

Chapter Text

The akuma attack wasn’t nearly enough to work her off her hormonal high, even with Chat gone AWOL. It’d been a depressed university student that failed a midterm and, in her self-pity, blamed the professor. The cursed item--the test paper--was easy enough to retrieve and destroy, and the student was sheepish and the professor promised to give her one-on-one tutoring to boost her grade. All was well.

Except for Marinette, of course.

She slipped back home before her parents noticed her absence, let Tikki recharge while she ate dinner and gave her parents the full rundown of events, and excused herself back up to her room within an hour of the attack.

She needed another outlet.

Five minutes later, Ladybug stood, tall and proud, at the top of the Arc du Triomphe, hands on her hips and foot tapping impatiently. “It figures,” she grumbled to no one in particular, “the one day I need to blow off some steam that damn cat stands me up.”

She may have seemed completely in control while she tended to Adrien, but the experience of being so close to an Omega in heat for such a long time left her wound up to the point of explosion. Had it only been arousal, she could deal just fine. Just her luck, though, the encounter sent something akin to adrenaline coursing through her veins, and she needed a good workout to get it out of her system.

With a snarl, she whipped her yo-yo away from her hip and pressed the button that would turn it into a communicator. Chat’s smirking visage blinked in time to the ringing, and when he didn’t pick up she simply jabbed the button again, knowing his kwami would be able to know she was trying to reach him.

It took seven tries for Chat to pick up, and even then, the screen stayed blank. “Hello, My Lady,” he said, sounding very, very ill. “I’m sorry I’m not there. I seem to have caught a stomach bug.”

Her anger melted away immediately, replaced by concern for her partner and friend. “I’m so sorry. How bad is it?”

She could almost hear his wince. “Pretty bad. I’m probably out of commission for the next week or so. Sorry, ladylove, but you’ll have to deal with the akuma on your own until then.”

Ladybug sighed loud enough to make sure Chat could hear it. “Well, hurry up and get better soon, kitty. I have a lot of stuff to tell you.”

“Oh, really?”

“Shut up.” She snapped the communicator shut and plopped down so her feet were dangling over the stone edge of the arch. “What have I gotten myself into?” she asked the night sky.

She had a sinking feeling that, were the sky able to answer her, it would say, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

 

 

When Marinette walked into her classroom the next morning, she was met with the shocked faces of her friends. “What?” she asked defensively, crossing her arms over her pink and white polka-dotted chest. She’d been feeling extra girly that morning, so she’d thrown on a sleeveless dress reminiscent of the fifties with tights and short heels. She thought she looked very nice, but not different enough to warrant the attention she was suddenly getting.

Alya pounced on her, Nino shortly behind, and Marinette braced herself for the worst. She knew that look, after all; she could see the questions bubbling in her best friend’s throat. “What’re you doing here?” was the first thing she asked.

Marinette tilted her head in confusion. “Am I not supposed to be?”

Kim pushed Alya and Nino aside gently. Not that it mattered; they would have made themselves scarce with just a pointed look from the large Alpha. “We don’t mean anything by it, Mari. We… well, we just figured you’d be with Adrien, since you went with him to the infirmary.”

She felt her ire start to rise. “I have better control over myself, thank you very much. I’m not gonna jump a scared boy going through his first heat because of a few hormones.”

Kim looked floored. “You resisted the heat?”

Marinette shrugged.

“Why were you gone for so long, then?” Alya asked, shoving past the stunned Alpha in front of her.

“He was panicking. He needed an Alpha to calm him down. I just sat with him and talked to him until Mme. Sancoeur came to get him.” She purposely left out the part about their deal. After all, she thought, Adrien could very well decide he doesn’t actually want me. “Nothing major. I was just doing what any friend would.”

“But you’re an Alpha,” Alya insisted. “You’re supposed to succumb to a heat as soon as you smell it! How did you stay lucid?”

Marinette let steel enter her eyes. She was tired of the conversation. “Do you know what happens when a male Omega presents?”

Alya’s face tightened, like she was offended. “They enter their first heat and their body begins the process of growing their reproductive tract,” she said. That was true, of course, but completely text-book. The presentation process for each gender and each secondary gender was pounded into Betas’ heads when it became clear they would never present themselves, the same way Alphas were taught how to court and take care of Omegas and Omegas were taught how to properly submit and raise the children they would inevitably bear. It was supposed to make them better caretakers of Alphas and Omegas while they were in rut or heat.

“That’s the clean version,” Marinette informed her. “Here’s the dirty truth your teachers either don’t know or don’t want to tell you: The older the Omega, the harder it is. Their organs are all in place, see, and they have to be shifted around to make room for the reproductive ones. Then the skin between their penis and their anus tears open so the vagina can grow. The hole’s bigger than it needs to be, though--big enough to fit a fist in. So after everything’s grown, the hole still needs to heal. There’s more blood than a Beta or Omega female has during one of their periods. They usually have to buy whole new sets of pants and underwear because their old stuff gets stained. So you have all of that, plus the agony of going into heat.” If she had bothered to look around, she’d see the ashen faces of her classmates, but she had eyes for Alya only. “Can you even imagine how scared he was? How much pain he was feeling--is still feeling? He’s almost eighteen, Alya. His body was done maturing. Then, all of a sudden, new organs start growing where they shouldn’t, pushing his insides around. His skin gets torn apart and there’s so much blood his pants basically turn red. You want to know why I didn’t knot him? I felt empathy for him. My first priority was his health, not my boner. He’s a person before he’s an Omega, just like I’m a person before I’m an Alpha and you’re a person before you’re a Beta. I wasn’t going to do that to him while he was already scared and in pain, and I’m pissed that you could even think otherwise.”

The normally bustling classroom was silent as everyone stared on in horror. It was shocking for Marinette to make any kind of speech other than the ones that came with her ongoing position as class president, and rarer still for her to swear as a civilian. She knew it was probably leftover hormones from being so close to Adrien, this sudden anger, but it was almost freeing. Alya looked like she was going to faint, and Marinette knew she would feel bad later, but now…

She felt fucking amazing.

“Ahem.”

Marinette jumped and spun around, and she felt the blood drain from her face when she saw Mme. Sancoeur. “H-how much of that did you hear?” she asked meekly, fisting her hands in the fabric of her dress.

“Quite enough,” the older woman sniffed. Marinette didn’t know her well enough to tell if she was pleased or not. “M. Agreste would like to speak with you, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng.”

She felt her heart leap into her throat. “M. Agreste wants to see me?”

“Yes. I’ve spoken to your teachers, and they say they are willing to let you have another day off of school to allow you to work out your… frustrations… so you are now available for the rest of the day. There’s a car waiting out front. If you’ll follow me?”

“Ah, of course.” Marinette repositioned her backpack to ease the sting and followed Mme. Sancoeur away, doing her best to ignore the carnage she’d just wrought upon her unsuspecting classmates.

The car was the same from the previous day, so Marinette had no trouble identifying it. Mme. Sancoeur opened the back door and ushered Marinette in before taking her seat next to her. “That was an impressive speech,” the older woman said once Gorilla had the car in motion. “I had no idea you knew so much about Omegas.”

Marinette may have been young, but she wasn’t naive. After four years of dealing with reporters, she knew how to spot an unasked question from an adult. “My uncle is an Omega,” she said diplomatically. “When I presented, he told me about what it was like for him. He was trying to make me feel better about what was happening to me.”

“Well, I guess Adrien is lucky to have you as a friend, then.”

“How is he, by the way?” Marinette asked, hoping she didn’t sound quite as concerned as she was.

“He’s eating between waves, so that’s not as big of a concern as it usually is. M. Agreste’s wife was an Omega, so the mansion is still well-stocked in the chance she should return.”

Marinette winced internally at the idea of Adrien using his mother’s toys to help him through his heat.

“If you don’t mind me saying this, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, I hadn’t the faintest idea you were an Alpha. You’re possibly the last person I would ever peg to be anything other than an Omega. Why is it that you hide your secondary gender when you could have almost anyone you want.”

Marinette flushed. “I wouldn’t say I’m hiding it, exactly, but I don’t like to flaunt it. I try to avoid muscle-building exercise and I design my own clothes so I’m no identified as ‘The Female Alpha.’ I would rather my secondary gender be something a person knows about me after they get to know the real me.”

“That’s certainly a progressive way of thinking. How does someone so young come across such thoughts?”

“My parents, mostly. They raised me to think of people as people instead of as whatever their secondary gender is.”

“Yes, you said something like that in your speech, didn’t you? Is one of them an Alpha?”

“My father. My mother is a Beta, with a family history of Omegas. As you can see, I got the whole spectrum growing up. I like to think that’s helped me empathise with others.”

As she spoke, Marinette felt relief wash over her. Thank God for Alpha confidence, she thought to herself when Mme. Sancoeur looked away for a moment. She’d eat me alive otherwise.

The car slowed, and when Marinette looked up to see why, she saw the gate in front of the Agreste mansion starting to open. Taking in a deep breath, she steeled herself. Whatever M. Agreste wants to speak to me about, I bet it’s not my designs.

Gorilla parked the car in a garage on the side of the mansion Marinette had never seen. Once they were stopped, Mme. Sancoeur ushered her out of the car. “Follow me,” she said, leaving no room for argument as she led Marinette through a side door and into the kitchen. She felt a small thrill; how many of her classmates have been brought through this side door, a door infinitely more intimate than the grand front entrance?

She couldn’t smell Adrien immediately, but if the mansion was as prepared as Mme. Sancoeur made it out to be, there was most likely a heat-safe room somewhere on the premises where Adrien would spend his heats. She was conflicted about this lack of him; his smell would have been a comfort, but it would also hinder her ability to have a conversation with his father. She was pretty sure concealing an erection under her thin skirt would make any kind of legitimate dialogue much, much more difficult than it needed to be.

So Marinette followed Mme. Sancoeur up the large center stairs and into what she knew to be Gabriel’s office. She’d only been in there as Ladybug, so she made a show to be slightly confused and then visibly awed at the photographs of Adrien on the wall. M. Agreste stood in front of one of his large windows, framed by the morning sun in what had to be a purposeful way. What a dramatic man.

He spun around to face her when Mme. Sancoeur cleared her throat. “M. Agreste, I have brought Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, as you asked.”

“Thank you, Nathalie. You’re dismissed.” Mme. Sancoeur gave them both a curt nod and left the room, her heels clicking on the marble floor. The sound the door made as it closed rang with a tone of finality. “Please, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, have a seat.”

Marinette carefully lowered herself into the strategically placed chair that sat opposite to his, with only his intimidating desk between them. “It’s nice to see you again, M. Agreste. How is Adrien doing?” While she’d asked Mme. Sancoeur, she did want a second opinion, and she honestly couldn’t think of any other way to initiate this conversation.

“As well as anyone in his situation can be, I suppose,” was his reply as he sat in his own chair. “The heat room is stocked and he’s eating and drinking. He’s lucid at times, so he could be doing much worse. Thank you for asking.”

“Of course. He’s my friend.”

“His friend, of course. Tell me, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, how many of your colleagues have expressed concern for Adrien’s well-being?”

Keeping her voice carefully neutral, Marinette said, “Well, sir, I haven’t had much of a chance to talk to anyone from school since the incident. From past experience, however, I can safely assure you the rest of our classmates are eagerly awaiting his return.”

“While your sentiments are pleasant, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, they do not equate to others’ concern. Wishing for the status quo to be reestablished is not the same as hoping a person is well. I do thank you for your concern, though. It is nice to know my son has some semblance of an ally at that school of yours now that he’s presented.”

“What do you mean?”

M. Agreste pulled his phone out of his pocket and tapped something on the screen. Immediately, her own voice filled the air. “You want to know why I didn’t knot him? I felt empathy for him. My first priority was his health, not my boner. He’s a person before he’s an Omega--”

She felt her cheeks heat and she felt like she was going to melt into a literal puddle. “I didn’t realize Mme. Sancoeur recorded that,” she managed.

“She’s very sneaky like that.” His casually slipped his phone back into his pocket. “I have to say, your little speech was an enlightening one. I had no idea any young Alpha felt this way about Omegas. Your self control is also very astonishing. Nathalie tells me you sat next to my son for nearly half an hour before you helped him to the car, and all you did was touch him. I’ve never seen an Alpha with such restraint--myself included.”

Marinette almost jumped a little. Had Gabriel Agreste just… praised her? “If I may say so, sir, I don’t think I deserve praise for being a decent person. While it’s nice, I believe you should save your praise for when a person does something extraordinary.”

He blinked, slow, a puzzled look on his face. Finally, he returned to a neutral tone, saying, “You really are something else, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng. However, that’s not the only reason I wanted to see you today.”

“May I ask why, then?”

“Of course. When I brought Adrien his supper last night, he was lucid, and he informed me of the… deal… you made with him.”

Her face was certainly on fire by this point. How mortifying. “Ah, I wondered if he would forget about that after the haze passed,” she said, voice only shaking a little. She had to keep up her appearances. Any time two Alphas clashed, appearances were the most important thing. “He remembered, then?”

“Yes,” Gabriel said, voice unreadable. “I have to say, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng, I approve.  I believe a courtship between you and my son is the best way to keep him safe.”

Marinette couldn’t believe her ears. “Really? Are you sure?”

“He’s young, objectively stunning, and a rarity in modern society. Every homosexual male Alpha in Europe will be clamoring for him. I know for a fact he is heterosexual, and with the bond of friendship you already share, the courtship would run smoothly. Even before you bond, your scent will be on him, and that alone will help discourage any ill intentions towards him. And, after you proved your self-restraint yesterday, I believe you are the only Alpha I can entrust the safety of my son to outside of the staff I employ.”

Marinette’s mind was reeling. Was she really talking courtship with Gabriel Agreste? “Uh, I’m flattered you think so highly of me, sir. And thank you for taking this conversation seriously. But I don’t think we should decide anything until Adrien is in the right state of mind to take part in this conversation. No matter what we decide, Adrien needs to have a voice. It’s his autonomy we’re trying to protect, is it not?”

She thought she saw his lips turn up at the corners in what might have been a smile. “Of course. Would you like to see Adrien?”

“Can I?” she asked, startled. “I thought he was in a heat room.”

“The door has a window just large enough to pass a plate of food through.” M. Agreste tapped a button on a mounted tablet and said, “Nathalie, is Adrien lucid?”

“Not quite yet, but it seems like his latest wave is waning. He should be lucid within the next half hour.”Agreste turned his gaze back to Marinette. “Are you willing to wait here until he’s lucid and go see him?”

“If you’re willing to put up with me for that long,” she replied. She really did want to see Adrien; she blamed it on her instincts. As soon as she touched his feverish, heat-riddled skin, she felt the beginnings of a bond. Nothing would come of it unless she pursued courtship, of course, but the seeds were there, and they made her want to be near him all the time.

“Of course. Now, if I recall, you’re an aspiring fashion designer.” When she nodded, he continued, “Are you working on anything in particular at the moment?”

If Marinette stayed flushed any longer, she was sure her face would be red for the rest of her life. “Well, uh, kind of? It’s more of a personal project than something I have big plans for.” She hoped the lie would discourage him from asking after it.

Of course, M. Agreste did anyway. “Tell me about it.”

She sighed internally and reached into her backpack, leaning against the leg of her chair, for her sketchbook and flipped to the appropriate page. “As I’m sure you can see, I enjoy traditionally feminine clothing. As such, I’ve always had an issue finding underwear that fit with my Alpha genitalia while still being suitable for the clothes I like to wear. I realized recently that I’m probably not the only Alpha female who’s experiencing this, and I decided to try to design feminine underwear that can conceal and support Alpha genitalia.” She handed the sketchbook to him across his desk and stared at her feet while he pondered over the page.

After  moment, he said, “While the designs are rudimentary, the idea is inspired. There are so few female Alphas that no one in the industry has brought this idea to light yet. I know nothing about undergarment designs, but I would be willing to contact an associate of mine that does. Would you like that?”

Jesus Christ, what even was her life anymore? She mentally ran over the list: she was a superhero, a female Alpha, had been given permission to court the male Omega she’d had a crush on for years (who just so happened to be the son of her idol), and was now about to get advice on her designing through a referral. If she got this kind of luck in return for being clumsy and not very intellectual, she’d gladly take it. “That--that would be amazing, sir.”

“I’ll call them within the week. That way we can discuss that when you come over to discuss the courtship.”

An electric buzz filled the air, startling Marinette, and Mme. Sancoeur’s voice rang out from over the tablet. “Adrien is lucid now, sir, and he’s expressed interest in speaking to Mlle. Dupain-Cheng.”

“We’ll be there shortly, Nathalie, thank you.” M. Agreste stood up and Marinette followed suit. “Are you ready, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng?”

“Yes, of course.”  She only hoped she sounded confident, and she followed M. Agreste at what she hoped was a modest pace when he left the room.

Chapter Text

The heat room door looked just like the rest of the mansion's doors, with the exception of a small window near the door knob. Just as M. Agreste had said, it looked large enough to fit a tray of food through. M. Agreste slid the cover of the window open and called, softly, “Adrien, are you decent?”

“I have a housecoat on,” came the raspy reply. Marinette felt her heart race at the thought of why his voice sounded like that, at the lewd thoughts that ran through her mind…

Stop! Bad Mari! she thought to herself, shaking her head. This dress doesn’t hide boners well! “Mlle. Dupain-Cheng is here,” M. Agreste was saying. “Do you want to speak with her?”

“Yes, please.”

At M. Agreste’s ushering, Marinette stepped up and crouched so she could peek into the heat room. It looked like an extremely posh bedroom, from what she could see, and she averted her eyes before they lingered on the white stains on the bedspread too long. The smell of an Omega in heat hit her full force, rendering all effort she made to hide her arousal null and void, and she could only pray it was tucked well enough away that it wasn’t immediately obvious. “Hi, Adrien,” she said, letting a fond tone enter her voice. If there was one thing she could control around an Omega, it was her voice. “How are you doing?”

She saw the green of Adrien’s eyes as he sat down to see her. “I’m okay,” he rasped.

She leveled a look at him. “No, you’re not. Not physically, anyway.”

His eyes looked sheepish, if that was possible. “I can never get anything past you, can I? Yeah, I feel awful. I hope I don’t offend you, but I didn’t even know you were an Alpha. What was it like when you presented? ”

Marinette let herself laugh at the unfairness. “Nothing nearly as dramatic as yours, I assure you. I was only eight, so I got to skip the ordeal that is puberty, and all I did was get super competitive. I actually beat Kim at swimming, believe it or not.”

He snorted. “Really?”

“Yeah. I bring it up when he’s annoying me.”

He laughed at that, the sound still thin. “I haven’t seen that.”

She smirked, making sure the expression reached to her eyes. “He doesn’t want people to be reminded, so he tries not to annoy me often.” She let the mirth leave her eyes after that. “So I hear you told your dad about our little deal.”

The skin she could see turned red. “He told you about that, huh?”

“Yes. And we’ll talk more about that after your heat. Until then, you just need to worry about yourself, okay?”

He made a grumbling noise. “But it’s so boring in here.”

“You’ll survive, I’m sure.” Tentatively, she stuck her hand into the slot, and found herself delighted when Adrien’s fingers brushed her own. “A few more days and you’ll be somewhat back to normal.” His skin began to heat--a sign the next wave was almost upon them. “I gotta go now, okay?”

“Can you come back and visit again?” he asked, voice desperate, and she couldn’t tell if it was because of his next wave or because he actually wanted her there, and that made her a little frustrated. “Please?”

“You’ll have to talk to your father about that. I only came today because he asked for me.”

“What?” His tone of voice suggested he hadn’t any idea his father wanted to speak to her. She could somewhat see the wheels turning, but all cogent thought was being quickly overrun by his hormones.

M. Agreste placed a hand on Marinette’s shoulder. “You’re welcome to come again and visit while he’s in heat. Your self control is remarkable,” he added, almost as an afterthought. “Nevertheless, Adrien, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng does need to leave. I’d rather not push the boundaries of her control, no matter how admirable. It’s not entirely fair to her, after all.”

Adrien whined in a way that made Marinette’s skin tingle, which was not a good sign. “I’ll come by tomorrow after school, Adrien, okay? I promise.”

“Okay,” he said after a moment, voice full of childlike simplicity. He was gone. “You smell good.”

“Thank you.” She stood up and let Gabriel resume his place near the slot. He spoke to his son in hushed tones before sliding the cover shut once more.

When he was done with that, he turned back to Marinette. “I’ll have Nathalie escort you out, now, if you don’t mind. You can take the car back to your parents’ bakery if you like.”

“Oh, yes, that would be nice.” While she only lived a few blocks away, it seemed rude to pass up the invitation. Plus, she knew from experience that walking with a boner was not comfortable. “So, you’re alright with me coming back tomorrow?”

His face was unreadable as he replied, “I might have you for a daughter-in-law someday. I might as well get used to having you around.”

Marinette flushed beet red and escaped after Nathalie.



The bell above the door dinged cheerily as Marinette stepped into the bakery, taking in the comforting scent of fresh bread and sugar. “Thank you for bringing me home, Mme. Sancoeur,” she said to the woman who was, for some reason, following her in. Her mother was manning the register, and she looked both surprised and confused that she was home early and had a grown woman along with her.

“It wasn’t a problem, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng,” Mme. Sancoeur replied. “M. Agreste has expressed interest in this bakery in the past. While I’m here, I’m going to buy some pastries and bring them back to him. They might make Adrien feel better, after all.”

“Oh, Adrien?” her mother said, interjecting herself rather forcefully into the conversation. “He’s such a sweet boy. He’s always so polite when he comes to visit. How is he holding up?”

“As well as anyone in his situation can, I suppose,” was Mme. Sancoeur’s terse response.

“Ah, Mama, I don’t have to go to school today,” Marinette said lamely. “I was invited to Adrien’s house and Mme. Sancoeur brought me back home. Is it alright if I go visit Adrien tomorrow after school, too?”

Her father emerged from the kitchen. She knew he’d heard everything from the look on his face. “Mari, I know you’re worried, but being around an Omega in heat, even with your self control, is a risk, especially if you’re not going to court him.”

“About that…” Marinette started.

She was interrupted by Mme. Sancoeur. “Your daughter has already made an offer of courtship towards Adrien, and M. Agreste has accepted.”

Her parents went silent for a split second before her father began to sputter and her mother’s eyes widened. “Marinette,” she gasped, sounding scandalised, “why didn’t you tell us?”

“I didn't think he’d remember, honestly!” Marinette said in her defense. Then she remembered Mme. Sancoeur and her “sneaky” spying habits. “I mean, I was serious about the offer, but I didn’t think it would be acted upon so quickly, since I made it while he was in heat. He was panicking, you know, and I was trying to get him to sit still for once in his life, and it just kind of… came out?” Keep digging, Mari, her brain said, cruelly. “I fully intend to make good on the offer if and when Adrien chooses to accept after his heat is gone and his mind is clear,” she finished awkwardly, staring holes in the shop front’s hardwood floor.

What followed was, probably, the longest and most mortifying silence in Marinette’s eighteen years of life as each of the three adults stared at her.

Thankfully, Mme. Sancoeur broke it by asking after Adrien’s favorite treats, and Marinette happily leapt over the counter to gather up the croissants and macarons he favored. She wrapped them up herself and tied a nice bow on it. “Y-you can consider it my first courting gift?” she suggested.

Mme. Sancoeur regarded the box and nodded. “An excellent thought. M. Agreste will be pleased.” She took the pastry box carefully and nodded to her parents. “It was a pleasure meeting you, M. and Mme. Dupain-Cheng. I trust we will be seeing more of each other in the near future.” With a brisk turn, she exited the bakery and stepped into the Gorilla’s waiting car before zooming off.

Marinette gulped as her parents turned their gazes on her. Oh, man, I’m in for it now.

 

When she was finally allowed to collapse an hour later, Marinette was regretting ever having met Adrien Agreste. “I never needed to know that much about my parents,” she whined mournfully to Tikki, who was sat upon her desk, giggling wildly. “I mean, I get that they’re trying to help, but I just need courting gift ideas, not sex tips from my parents. Oh, God, I’m never gonna be able to get that image out of my head.”

“If you didn’t want them to embarrass you, you should have told them what you did last night,” Tikki pointed out, and Marinette sighed, because of course she was right. This was her parent’s version of revenge for being left in the dark. If she’d just asked for courting tips the previous night, that’s exactly what she would have gotten.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket on pure instinct and winced when she saw her notifications. Eleven texts and two missed calls from Alya.

[mari im so sorry]

[mari please]

[i didnt mean to make you angry you know that right]

[dammit mari answer your phone so i can apologize]

[ill do whatever you want girl]

[mari please call me back]

[is adrien ok]

[man im a peice of shit]

[why didnt i ask sooner]

[hes okay right]

[mari please answer me]

Marinette felt the guilt that previously eluded her flush over her in waves. Hurriedly, she typed out a response.

[im sorry i freaked out back at school]

[i shouldnt have yelled like that]

[THANK GOD]

[no mari you did nothing wrong i was a bitch]

[i should have trusted you more you were right]

[adriens doing ok. hes eating and drinking and thats as good as itll get until his heat passes]

[thats good to hear]

[what happened at his house anyway?????]

Marinette laughed a little. At least we’re back to normal, she thought as her fingers flew over the screen of her phone.

[nothing i can tell you during lunch break]

[come over after school?]

[i have to watch my sisters]

[do you mind if they tag along?]

[i dont make all these dolls to play with them by myself do i?]

[ill steal day-old cookies and we can have a tea party while i spill you another kind of tea]

[why must you torture me this way]

[retribution for literally everything annoying youve ever done]

She flipped her phone back onto silent and flipped to a new page in her sketchbook. If M. Agreste was going to talk to a designer friend about helping her make underwear, she wanted to have more than one preliminary sketch to go off of.

 

She was so zoned into her sketching that she jumped when Alya’s knock fell upon the trap door that led to the loft. Her best friend’s head poked through the opening, smile a bit more sheepish than usual, and Marinette flipped her sketchbook shut. “Come on in,” she said, and Alya wasted no time doing just that. Her four younger sisters scrambled after her, looking shy and a little wary. “Hey, you guys,” Marinette greeted, waving at them. “Let me just run down and get some cookies. What do you want to drink?”

She dashed down the stairs after getting the orders and climbed them again a little more carefully. When she re-entered her room, she found the four younger girls already playing with her Ladybug, Chat Noir, and akuma dolls. They accepted the plate of cookies and their juice and milk while Marinette led Alya up and onto her balcony with their own cookies and two glasses of soda. “So,” Alya said when they were settled into the patio chairs. “What’s up?”

“I may or may not be courting Adrien Agreste?”

Alya’s jaw dropped. Like, it was gone, at an alarming rate at that. Before she could let loose a scream to wake the dead, Marinette ran her through the events of the past two days. She left all the details in, knowing Alya would be able to tell right away if she was leaving something out. “...and I think I solidified it when I called the croissants and macarons my first courting gift. God, Alya, what have I done?”

Alya took a minute to process it. Not that Marinette could blame her; a tale like this was an odd one to be spun. When she was done considering everything, she said, “So, I’m invited to the wedding, right?”

“Alya.”

“I’m serious, Mari. Why aren’t you more excited? You’ve been lusting after him since you thought he was a Beta. If his father agrees to everything and Adrien accepts, you’re, like, set for life. Your very own happy ending.”

“But what if he’s only doing it because he doesn’t want to be saddled with some creepy male Alpha? What if I’m the only one emotionally invested in this relationship? I couldn’t take that, Alya, I just couldn’t.” Marinette made sure to keep her eyes wide open to avoid any tears. “I mean, how would you feel if you and Nino were in this situation?”

“We’d talk about it, like adults, before we came to a decision.” Alya’s wise eyes caught Marinette’s through her glasses. “Mari, girl, even if he doesn’t love you yet, he trusts you enough to sit with him in a heat, and that’s a big deal. And I wasn’t kidding yesterday when I said anyone would be lucky to have you for an Alpha.” Alya set her glass down on a table and reached to put her hands on Marinette’s shoulders. “And if he does anything to hurt my precious Alpha baby, I’ll kill him, so he knows he better behave.”

“Because nothing says ‘form a lifelong bond with me and carry and birth my children’ like a death threat.”

“Girl, please, everything will turn out fine. You’ll get your man, mark my words.”

 

Marinette groaned as she looked over the list of courting gifts she’d spent the better part of the evening after Alya’s departure compiling.

  1. Food - croissants/macarons ✓
  2. Comfort -
  3. Clothing -
  4. Protection -
  5. Monetary Wealth -

“This is hopeless!” she whined to Tikki, throwing her pen against the wall of her room. “I can’t provide for him! His family’s rich and he has everything he could ever want! What was I thinking?”

Tikki crooned at her and flew to sit on her hand, staring down at the sheet of paper. “These are the same gifts people have been giving for millennia, Marinette. The only concrete ones are food, clothing, and wealth; it’s not a hard thing. You already gave him sweets, and you can make him anything he’d ever want to wear. And I know you have a jar full of change in your closet for spending money. There’s no stipulation for how much money you have to give him; just monetary wealth. It’s purposefully open-ended.”

Marinette fell silent before groaning and slamming her head on the desk. “You’re right, of course. How are you so smart?”

“I’m a god that’s been around since before mankind, dear. I’ve learned a few things in my time.”

Marinette retrieved her pen and scribbled on the page some more.

  1. Food - croissants/macarons ✓
  2. Comfort - sitting w/ him through his heat
  3. Clothing -
  4. Protection - keeping other alphas away
  5. Monetary Wealth -

“It’s… progress, I guess?” she sighed.

She was almost relieved when she heard the screams floating up into her room from the streets. She quickly transformed and leapt from her balcony. She only just barely checked herself from running a tad too fast, too eager--without Chat around to take the fall for her, she couldn’t afford to be as reckless as usual.

Until she found the akuma and, with it, another Miraculous, who had its small form restrained in her arms.

“Volpina?” she nearly snarled at the fox-clad heroine.

Chapter Text

She certainly looked like Volpina. The form-fitting costume was mostly orange aside from the pale brown chest, fox ears were sprouting from her head, and a long, fluffy tail, much more realistic than Chat’s, swayed back and forth from where it was attached to her belt.

The newcomer looked downright offended. “I’m not that faker,” she spat, and, upon closer examination, Ladybug can see minute differences in the suit, and her hair is loose and white at the tips. “I’m the real deal, I assure you. I got home this afternoon and found a box with this--” she lifted the Miraculous necklace from her chest “--in it, and this thing calling itself a kwami pops out…”

Yep, this seemed legit. “Okay, I believe you,” Ladybug said, laying a hand on her shoulder. “That’s what happened when I got the earrings. Did you listen to your kwami’s instructions, or did you rush out as soon as you figured out what was going on?”

“I waited. I’m not an idiot.”

She sighed. “Chat rushed out before his kwami finished and ended up using his Cataclysm too early, so I just wanted to check.” She turned her eyes to the akuma, a child (she hated the children; who could be sick enough to manipulate a child’s mind for their own gain? When she found Papillon, she would personally lock his cell and have Chat use Cataclysm on the key.) with long blonde pigtails and scared blue eyes. Papillon’s akumas seemed to have been more free of will as of late, and Marinette could see that she wanted to be purified, fast. “Hey, honey,” she cooed, settling down onto her knees so she was eye-level with her. “I’m Ladybug. You know who I am, right?”

The little girl nodded jerkily. “Papillon wants your earrings,” she said in a soft voice.

“I know, sweetheart, but I can’t give them to him. These earring are really special, and if they fall into the wrong hands, really bad things will happen. Do you understand that?” She nodded again. “Good. You’re a good girl, sweetie, I promise.”

“But… but I let him make me a bad guy.”

Slowly, making sure the akuma’s hands were down, Ladybug lifted her from the new one’s arms and gathered the young girl into her arms, conscious all the while of the new Miraculous’s eyes on her. “That doesn’t make you a bad guy. Papillon is taking advantage of when you feel bad. Having bad feelings doesn’t make you a bad person. If you want to make it up and stop being an akuma, you need to give me what that black butterfly landed on, okay?”

Sniffling, the girl pulled a necklace out of her shirt. Ladybug smiled and took it. “Thank you. What’s your name?”

“Crybaby.”

“No, your real name.”

“Cécile.”

“Okay, Cécile. I’m gonna take care of this, and then this nice fox and I will take you home.”

The newcomer started a little. I guess she thought I forgot about her. “Yeah, sure,” she said flippantly.

Fighting back a scowl, Ladybug summoned her Lucky Charm (a polka dotted mason jar), broke the necklace in her fist, and purified the akuma. Cécile hadn’t managed to do much damage before this new Miraculous holder restrained her, but her cleanse fixed the water damage from her tears. “All done!” she said, proudly, before looking back to the young girl. “Where do you live, sweetheart?”

Cécile rattled off her address and Ladybug lifted her into her arms. Before she set off, she looked back over her shoulder to the new fox. “You coming?”

 

 

After they deposited Cécile at her home and Ladybug let Tikki recharge, she met the new fox on the top of the Eiffel Tower. “So, you’ve been chosen. Congratulations.”

“I didn’t even do much today,” the fox moaned. “I just stood there! Where was Chat Noir, by the way?”

Ladybug sighed. “He’s sick. That’s probably why the Guardian picked a new Miraculous holder.” At the fox’s confused look, she explained, “The Guardian is the keeper of the Miraculouses when they’re not in use. He’s the one that chooses who becomes a holder. He told me he tests us, but I don’t know quite how. All I did was help him off the sidewalk.”

“WAIT. You mean that old man I found behind the school was the Guardian?”

“Probably.”

“I fucking reported him to Officer Raincomprix. Oh my god, I called the police on the Guardian.”

Ladybug groaned. “It was only a matter of time, to be honest. I’ve noticed him following me around in my civilian form. I’ve been wondering when someone would call the police. It’s not a big deal; it’s not like he’s gonna get arrested. He’s an old, feeble man. Anyway, so you’re the fox, right? What’s your name?”

“Alya--”

Thunder crashed. In her mind, at least. Shit. “Not your real name!”

The fox--Alya, this was Alya, how had Ladybug not seen it?--looked confused. “Don’t you and Chat know each other’s identities?”

“NO!”

“Oh, shit, I thought you did.” Alya had the decency to look sheepish, at least. “I’m sorry I fucked you up.”

“It’s--it’s fine. I won’t tell. What do you want your Miraculous self to be called?” Maybe this was just a dream. Yeah, that was it. This was all a bad dream.

Alya tilted her head as she thought. “Well, Volpina’s definitely out. Trixx--that’s my kwami, by the way--says I’m mostly going to do misdirection… so how about Maligne? Maligne Rouge?”

“Sounds good,” Ladybug said tiredly. “Chat and I only patrol on nights when there was no akuma, so you can just head on home now. If there’s no akuma tomorrow, meet me here around eight in the evening, okay?”

Alya--Maligne Rouge--saluted. “Yes, ma’am!”

 

 

“She’s gonna kill me,” Marinette said to Tikki as soon as her transformation melted away. “I know who she is and I didn’t tell her and she’s going to kill me.”

“You’re being dramatic. She won’t be happy, but she’s not going to kill you.”

“Tikki, do you even know Alya?”

“I’ve known her as long as you have.”

“Touché.” She fell onto her bed and sighed into her pillow. “And I have to give M. Agrest my list for approval tomorrow and it’s not even finished. Oh, Tikki, what am I gonna do?”

She heard Tikki’s frustrated groan. “Marinette, you’re going to suck it up and figure out what you’re going to give Adrien.”

“You’re supposed to be motherly!”

“This is me being a mom.”

“Ugh.”

 

 

The next morning found Marinette slumped in her seat next to Alya, relaxing into her friend’s hand as it rubbed circles into her back. “It’s a good list,” she said diplomatically, eyes scanning Marinette’s handwriting.

  1. Food - croissants/macarons ✓
  2. Comfort - sitting w/ him through his heat
  3. Clothing - a warm sweater
  4. Protection - keeping other alphas away
  5. Monetary Wealth -

That fifth gift was still eluding her. What could she possibly buy Adrien that he didn’t already have? Her father told her the previous night that his monetary wealth gift to her mother had been her wedding ring, but she and Adrien were both much too young to consider marriage. She was stuck, and that was that.

She felt guilty, too, as she looked up at Alya’s kind face. She looked tired--there were dark circles under her eyes and her usually vibrant hair seemed a little duller. Marinette could relate; after she first met Tikki, she’d had trouble sleeping for a few weeks. And right there, resting an inch below her collarbone, was the fox Miraculous. When inactive, it looked coppery, but the shape was undeniably familiar.   If you knew what I was hiding from you, you wouldn’t be so nice to me, she thought to herself, gloomy and tired and all sorts of other negative emotions. What kind of best friend was she to keep a secret this big?

“What are you lovely ladies looking at?” Nino asked as he sauntered into the room, eyeing Marinette warily. She knew most of the class would try to steer clear of her after her outburst, but she knew that things would return to normal soon enough. She let Alya explain everything to him in hushed tones, glaring down at the piece of paper herself.

Her purse moved a little, and she looked down on instinct to confer with Tikki. “Maybe Master Fu will have an idea.”

 

 

At lunch, Marinette declined Alya’s offer of fast food. “I’m going to visit a friend,” she said. “He’ll be expecting me, and I don’t want to ditch him.” Because she was certain Master Fu knew she was coming the moment he woke up that morning. Cryptic old men tended to know things like that, after all.

Alya tilted her head in confusion. “I thought you weren’t going to see Adrien until after school?”

“It’s not Adrien. He owns a massage parlor a few streets away from the bakery.” After a pause, she supplied, “I do part-time work for him, sometimes, for pocket change.” Not a whole lie; Marinette had been visiting Master Fu’s home to meditate and learn more about past Ladybugs, but the only time she ever got any money from him was when she cleaned the store for him or when it came in a red envelope at New Year’s.

She wanted to say, You should come, too! He might explain the Miraculouses to you! but she restrained herself. Surely her kwami would know the drill, and it would tell her what she needed to know when she needed to know it.

Fate, it seemed, had other plans.

Marinette’s phone rang. Actually rang, like she was getting a call. The only person who ever regularly called her was Alya, and that was only when she had a scoop too big to convey in text. Marinette fished it from her pocket and was surprised to discover Master Fu’s picture illuminating the screen. “Hello?”

“You should ask her to lunch with us, Ladybug. I’m sure she will have some questions for me.”

She sighed. “Understood.” She ended the call and turned to Alya. “Apparently, you should come with me.”

So Alya followed her on the familiar route to Master Fu’s shop. Marinette wondered where her kwami was hiding. The only option she could see was Alya’s messenger bag, and she knew from experience (read: Tikki’s grumbling) that such a big container was uncomfortable because it was easier for the kwami to get tossed around. Maybe it was tucked away inside her clothes?

She let herself and Alya in via the parlor’s back door using the key Master Fu hid under the fake plant in the ornate pot and slipped off her shoes, motioning for Alya to do the same. It had rained late the previous night, and Marinette didn’t want to track any stray mud into Master Fu’s actual home. She led Alya through another door and was unsurprised to find two bowls of corn soup, still steaming, waiting for them at the table. The smaller bowl had a plate of cookies next to it, so Marinette assumed it was hers and sat down.

“Uh, where’s your friend?” Alya asked timidly.

Marinette could see why she would be concerned: two meals being ready when he was only expecting one, Marinette knowing where the spare key was, no customers in the middle of the day. It was all pretty suspicious. She said, “He’s a little eccentric, is all,” she replied in what she hoped was a reassuring tone. “You better start eating before it gets cold.”

So Alya reluctantly sat and began eating. She lightened up after the first bite, and Marinette hid a smile. Master Fu had many talents, and cooking was only one of them.

Soon, Tikki started wriggling around. She probably knew about Master Fu’s plan (even if Marinette didn’t, because who needs to tell the heroine of Paris something if they’re magic), so Marinette sighed and reached down to open the clasp. “What does yours eat?” she asked, hoping she sounded nonchalant.

“My what?”

“Your kwami,” she said, watching in half-amusement, half-horror as Alya’s face shifted and Tikki flew up to grab a cookie. The fact that she didn’t scream, however, swept away any doubt she might have had. Alya was Maligne. “Trixx, right? Tikki’s pretty easy; she likes just about anything sweet. Chat’s always griping about Plagg only wanting to eat cheese. So, what does Trixx like?”

Alya took a moment before she suddenly shrieked and scooted her chair as far back as it would go. “You’re Ladybug?”

“The one and only.” She smiled when Trixx shot out from where it had, apparently, been hiding in her ombre hair. “It’s nice to meet you.”

The small fox-like god gave her an appraising look and turned to Tikki. “I like this one,” it said in a feminine voice. Girl, then. “She’s polite.”

“She’s my cutest bug to date!” Tikki replied proudly.

“Hold up!” Alya shouted, and Marinette and the two kwamis turned to look at her. “You’re telling me that you’ve been Ladybug this whole time?”

Marinette decided to mess with her a little bit. “Well, that depends on what you mean by ‘this whole time.’ Ladybug’s been around since the creation of mankind. If you mean that, then no. But I’ve been Ladybug since I was fifteen.”

“Oh my god. And--and you let me run around trying to figure out who you were! I talked theories to you! Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

Her gaze hardened. “Alya, this guy we’re fighting, he’s no joke. If I were to ever tell anyone that I’m Ladybug, and he somehow akumatized them, he could see everything. He would target Mama and Papa and everyone I ever cared about to get to me. I never told anyone to keep my family safe.”

Master Fu chose that moment to pop up in the doorway, scaring the ever-loving crap out of her poor friend. He was approaching his one hundred and eighty-ninth birthday in the upcoming months, and Marinette had teased him about the number of candles she would put on his cake, but, in all actuality, he didn’t look a day over eighty. Wayzz was floating next to him, but he zoomed down to converse with Tikki and Trixx. “Ah, hello Ladybug. I see you’ve already told the new Fox about yourself. What are you calling yourself, Miss?” He directed the last part towards Alya, who jumped again.

“Uh, uh--”

“Alya, meet Master Fu, the Guardian of the Miraculous Stones. You met him yesterday, right?”

Alya’s face was still white, but Marinette figured that was from the shock. “Uh, yeah, the old guy behind the school.” Master Fu nodded, a sly smile on his face. “Uh, I’m calling my superhero self Maligne Rouge.”

“Hmm. The Foxes always seem to vary. The last one called herself Vixen.” Master Fu lowered himself into a chair, and Alya seemed faint when Wayzz flew over to him with a steaming cup of tea. “Now, Ladybug, why did you need to see me so suddenly? I’m sure we’ll have time to discuss before Maligne composes herself.”

Marinette reached into her backpack to retrieve her list. “I kind of started a courtship yesterday and I’m having some trouble thinking of a gift for the monetary wealth portion. He’s very wealthy, you see, and I’m obviously not. Do you have any suggestions?”

“I’m sure any Omega you chose will be happy with whatever you get him.”

“You’re no help,” she said, pouting. “And it’s not him I’m worried about, it’s his dad. He’s super intimidating and I won’t want to mess this up.”

“Have you considered a piece of jewelry? Nothing as permanent as your mother’s wedding ring, of course, but something he could wear regularly. It would be distinguished from the ‘clothing’ gift due to its metal properties. Gold would be best.”

“But he’s always wearing this silver ring and you never mix metals!”

“Ladybug, I said gold would be best. Silver will do just fine. Have you told him about your secret identity?”

She leveled a look at him. “I think you know the answer to that, Master Fu.”

“I think you should tell him.” When she squawked a protest, he continued, “It wouldn’t be fair to him if he didn’t know, correct? If you’re trying to forge a relationship with him, you need to be honest with him. And since Maligne already knows, he has the right to, too.”

She sighed. “Fine. I’ll tell him once we’re alone. And I’ll look for something silver. Thank you, Master Fu.”

“I told you he’d have an idea!” Tikki said.

“And I acknowledged this.”

Alya finally got her voice back, and she screeched. Screeched loudly, at that. Marinette was concerned a neighbor would call the police if she kept up. When she finished, Master Fu said, tranquil as ever, “You seem surprised. Did you think you would never meet Ladybug out of her costume?”

“I didn’t think she’d be my best friend!”

“Ah. Yes, that does seem to be a frequent concern. I think it just makes it easier to work together cohesively, however. It could have been your lover.”

Alya’s face turned bright red.

“In any case,” Master Fu continued, “I’m sure you have some questions for me.”

Seeing as Alya still looked a little shell-shocked, Marinette asked the first question. “Why give out another Miraculous now? Chat and I have been doing fine on our own. Uh, no offense, Alya.”

“None taken,” she replied, dazed.

Master Fu smiled that mysterious smile that always irritated Marinette. “Now that Chat Noir has presented--”

“WAIT!” Master Fu looked surprised at Marinette interruption, but she barrelled on. “Chat presented? But he’s a Beta!”

“Black Cats are always complementary to their Ladybugs. Since you are an Alpha, he is an Omega. If you had been an Omega, he would have been an Alpha. It’s just how the Miraculouses work.”

“What about me?” Alya asked in a small voice.

“Foxes don’t have a match,” Master Fu replied. “The Ladybug and Black Cat Miraculouses are two halves of a whole. They are creation and destruction. One cannot exist without the other. They have to balance each other out in order to work together.”

“So… is Chat Noir an Omega because of the Miraculous?”Alya asked.

Master Fu shook his head. “No. Each Miraculous user is destined to be so. Just as this Ladybug was always going to be an Alpha, this Chat Noir was alway going to be an Omega. The Miraculous can’t fundamentally change their holder. It only gives them the power to grow into their full potential faster than those around them. You should eat that before it gets cold.”

Alya sat back and poked at her soup.

Master Fu turned back to Marinette. “As I was saying, now that Chat Noir has presented, he will be that much more of a target. Implementing another Miraculous Holder to bolster your ranks is the best thing I can do for you. I’m not that old, Ladybug, but I’m old enough that I can’t join the fight with you.”

“Master and I have been discussing choosing a new Guardian,” Wayzz added, and Marinette heard Alya’s whimper. “He’s held me longer than most of my others, and I’ve been feeling some really dark energy from Nooroo.”

“Papillion’s kwami?”

“Yes. We believe he’s working up to something big. He’s getting desperate for the Miraculouses. The Peacock Miraculous is lost, as well, so all we have left are the Turtle and the Bee. While Master is still looking for an appropriate time to get the Bee Miraculous to its chosen holder, he would like to choose a new Guardian so they can train together before things get too dangerous for him.”

“The Turtle Miraculous is typically passed down through families,” Master Fu resumed. “However, I have no children of my own, so that is not an option. I have a boy picked out, and I am simply waiting for the right time. I hope to have him implemented first, so that he can be the one to deliver the Bee Miraculous to its holder.”

“Let me guess,” Marinette said dryly, “you’re not gonna tell us who you picked.”

He simply smiled and shook his head.

 

 

Marinette and Alya finished their lunches and Alya interrogated Master Fu. Most of the questions could have easily been answered by her kwami, Marinette was sure, but she could understand the appeal of everything being answered by a human. If she’d known about Master Fu at the beginning, maybe she wouldn’t have messed up with Stoneheart.

As they walked back to school, Marinette said, “I’m sorry I never told you. Are you mad?”

Alya was quiet. Finally, she replied, “We're going to have words about this, but I'm not mad at you. I can see why you didn’t. It’s scary, thinking that some weird guy could come after the people you love. Oh, god, I have to deal with that now, too, don’t I?”

“Sadly, yes.”

An arm fell on Marinette’s shoulder. Alya’s arm. “At least I have my best friend here to help me out.”

Marinette returned the embrace and pointedly did not cry.

Chapter Text

Marinette took one last look at her list, face pale.

  1. Food - croissants/macarons ✓
  2. Comfort - sitting w/ him through his heat
  3. Clothing - a warm sweater
  4. Protection - keeping other alphas away
  5. Monetary Wealth - a silver watch

It wasn’t the most elegant of lists, to be sure. She could only hope M. Agreste would find it acceptable. Alya had been reassuring her over and over that it was fine, but Marinette still felt the twisting anxiety in her stomach. If he doesn’t approve, I don’t know what I can do.

Alya and Nino walked with her to where Mme. Sancoeur and the Gorilla were waiting with the familiar sleek black car. “Good luck,” Alya said into her ear when she hugged her. “Not that Lady Luck will need it though, right?”

Marinette sputtered at her for a few seconds before she slipped into the car.

 

 

She followed Mme. Sancoeur through the increasingly-familiar halls to M. Agreste’s office. She mustered up all the Alpha confidence her body possessed as they walked. She’d worn dark colors that day; a wine-red blouse tucked into a black skirt and short black heels weren’t her usual style, but the dark hues made her feel a little more business like. She hoped that would help in this meeting. She needed all the help she could get.

He had a pleasant enough expression on his face when she entered the office, much like the previous day, and she takes the chair she sat in before. “You look lovely today,” he said, startling her a little. “You look much more mature in dark colors. You should wear them more often.”

“Thank you,” she said diplomatically, with no intention of giving up her pastel pink.

“Now, then, onto business. Have you come up with a list of gifts?”

Marinette fished the paper from her bad and slid it across his desk. “I had a hard time thinking of a few of them,” she said in what she hoped was an even voice, “but I’m proud of what I have come up with. I realize I’m not as wealthy as you are, and I’m not going to pretend to be.”

“A very mature thought, to be sure,” he replied. “Interesting how you picked silver instead of gold. Gold is much more traditional.”

“Well, monsieur, Adrien seems to really like that ring he wears, and if I were to make him mix metals, I would feel guilty for the rest of my life. Besides,” she added, “I think Adrien is already golden. What use would he have for more of what he’s made of?”

He took a moment to reply, “Very poetic. I do agree with you, though. I believe these gifts will do just fine.” He stood up out of his chair, and she rushed to do the same. “Shall we go see Adrien?”

The heat door’s slot was closed when they reached it, but M. Agreste easily threw it open and she was again assaulted by the delicious smell of Adrien. Her skirt’s material was thicker than her dress’s was, so she wasn’t as worried about concealing her arousal this time around. “Hey, Adrien,” she called when she was squatting at the appropriate level. “How are you feeling today?”

“Better,” he croaked, which wasn’t all that surprising. Day three was usually an easy day for heats, according to her uncle.

“That’s good.”

“Thank you for the sweets.”

She flushed a little. “I thought they’d cheer you up. Must be boring, stuck in there for days on end.”

“I can’t wait until this dumb heat is over and I can go back to school,” he admitted. “I’m sure I have a lot of homework to catch up on.”

“Nerd.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be nice to me?”

“Where would the fun be in that?”

He fell silent for a moment before turning serious. “Are you still thinking about courtship?”

She felt conflicted. If she told him about her trouble compiling the list, he might feel guilty and enter the courtship based on that. He was kind, after all. Instead, she said, “What I’m thinking about is no concern to you right now, Adrien. We agreed to talk about this after your heat, and that’s when we’ll discuss it.”

Her tone brooked no room for argument, and she took a little pleasure in how quickly he submitted.

She softened, then, and stuck her hand through so their fingers could touch. “That’ll come soon enough, Adrien. You just relax and focus on getting through this.”

“Will you come back tomorrow?”

She looked over her shoulder at M. Agreste. “Can I, sir?”

His smile was enigmatic as he replied, “If Adrien wants.”

 

 

In the car on the way back to the bakery, she got a text from Alya.

[we still on for tonight?]

She grinned and typed back a response.

[lets see if you can keep up with the heroine of paris :)]

 

 

She got to the tower before Maligne Rouge, so she threw her legs over a beam and toyed with her yo-yo while she waited. She couldn’t believe how big of a hole Chat actually left in their patrols. On a whim, she pulled her yo-yo back up and punched his contact.

He picked up immediately this time, though the screen was still dark. “Hello, My Lady,” he said, sounding significantly less sick than he had a few days ago.

“Hey, kitty. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually kind of miss your dumb puns. Hurry up and get better.”

“I’ll be back on my feet in a few days, I paw-mise.”

“Good. You need to meet Maligne Rouge.”

She could practically hear him bristle. “Who?”

“A new Miraculous Holder. She’s the real fox. Master Fu thinks we need more backup. His kwami senses dark energy getting stronger.”

He groaned. “Of course the one week I’m out of commision, all this happens. I’ll be back as soon as I can, My Lady.”

“You better, you dumb cat.” She closed her yo-yo, ending the call, just as Maligne hopped up to where she sat. She grinned at her new teammate. “You ready to learn the ropes?”

 

 

Marinette continued like this for the rest of the week. She and Maligne only had to fight one other akuma, thankfully, and her visits to the Agreste mansion were so commonplace that she overheard Mme. Sancoeur talking to the Gorilla about cutting her a key and she knew the way to M. Agreste’s office and the heat room by heart. She was really beginning to think Adrien could actually accept her offer of courtship with how familiar the staff was becoming with her. It almost made her a little uncomfortable, but she pushed past it. If this does work out, I’ll have to get used to being affiliated with the rich and famous, she told herself when her insecurity popped up.

Accustomed to life in the Agreste mansion as she was, when she entered the mansion at noon on Saturday, a box of pastries carefully cradled in her arms, she didn’t expect to come face-to-face with a man who could pass for Adrien’s twin. Mme. Sancoeur looked a little irritated, though she hid it well, but Marinette had no such luck concealing her own emotions. She found herself openly gaping at the attractive (if grumpy) young man in front of her, and the only thing that stopped a swell of arousal (a side-effect from being around Adrien while he was in heat, she was sure) was his scent.

This man was, without a doubt, an Alpha.

And he had Adrien’s scent all over him.

Chapter Text

When Adrien woke up the day his heat ended, he felt like a weight had been lifted off of him. He felt sticky and gross and all kinds of unclean (physically and mentally), but he wasn’t painfully aroused anymore. He hoped Plagg had been able to keep out of sight when he wasn’t being used as a communication device for Ladybug.

Fumbling, he pressed the button that would connect him to his father’s study. “I think my heat’s over.”

His father took a moment to reply. “That’s excellent news, Adrien. I’ll send someone with clothes for you and you can take a shower. I’m sure you need one.”

A male servant showed up a scarce few minutes after with a change of clothes, and Adrien waddled to his bedroom with sticky thighs. He couldn’t wait for this shower.

 

 

Plagg showed his face when he was clean again, naked but for the the fluffy white towel secured around his waist. “I never get used to my kittens presenting,” he grumbled. “You owe me a whole wheel of camembert after that.”

“Sure, Plagg, whatever you want.”

“What are you going to do about Marinette?”

That gave him pause. Over the years, his romantic feelings for his Lady diminished under her constant string of rejections, and, somehow, those feelings had begun transferring to Marinette.

Marinette. Sweet Marinette, who had been sitting behind him in class for almost four years now. Marinette, who brought sweets to school when her parents had a surplus at the bakery. Marinette, who had a smile for everyone who was ever kind to her. She was beautiful and intelligent and kind, and Adrien wondered how he’d never seen her before.

Of course, now that he was an Omega and she was, somehow, an Alpha (which didn’t fit his vision of Marinette, at all, like, what the hell), things were bound to change. She had offered courtship. Courtship. Not only that, but she’d managed to resist the smell of his heat, and she’d willingly come back all week to sit with him and talk with him. When his older brother had presented, it was nothing like that. He was constantly having to come home due to Omegas and their “overbearing scents.” How strong was she, to be able to resist what so many found impossible to look away from?

Finally, he said, “I’m going to accept her offer.”

Plagg made a huffing sound. “Finally. I’ve been watching you dance around her for a year now. It’s getting annoying.”

“Thank you for your unending support,” Adrien snarked, whipping his towel at the small god before moving to dress.

 

 

He dressed quickly, doing his best not to wince. His… well, his vagina, no reason to call it anything else, hadn’t quite healed up yet, and every once in awhile some blood would leak. To combat stains, he slipped on some black jeans (no sweatpants; Agrestes don’t wear sweatpants) and a comfortable shirt. And, since Marinette would probably be coming over again, he ran a brush through his hair and scrubbed at his teeth. She’d seen him at his worst, he knew, but he was still vain enough to want to look attractive.

Dressed and, eventually, stomach full, he approached Nathalie. “Did Marinette bring any homework for me? I’d like to get a head start on catching up. What day is it today?”

Nathalie opened up her file folder and pulled out a few sheets of paper. “Today is Saturday. I was just about to leave to go pick Mlle. Dupain-Cheng up from school. Would you like to come?”

He brightened at the idea, but his rear twitched, giving him a thousand reasons not to. “I don’t think I can sit down for a car ride today.”

“Very well. I’ll return shortly. In the meantime, I believe your father wants to speak with you.”

He sighed but headed  to his father’s office after taking his homework from her. He relished in the feeling of being able to move around. The heat room was nice, obviously, but it was also a single room. He’d missed being able to walk around the mansion freely.

He knocked on his father’s office door, surprised when instead of the usual come in, he was greeted with, “Who is it?” His father sounded very irritated, which wasn’t unusual, but somehow it was… different.

“It’s Adrien, Father. Nathalie said you wanted to see me.”

A pause. Then, “Ah, yes, come in.”

With some amount of trepidation, Adrien pushed the office door open. His father sat, prim as ever, behind his desk, though his pleasant mask was visibly cracked. And it didn’t take long Adrien to see why.

“Félix?”

His older brother smirked at him from where he was leaning against one of the office’s many windows. He was even more handsome, objectively, than he was when he left four years previous. His hair was a paler color than his own, and it was slicked back with perfection. His clothes were monochrome and elegant, and the only blemish on his pale skin was a dark purple bruise, just peeking out from the collar of his shirt. “Salut, Adrien.”

“Félix!” he exclaimed, forgetting himself and letting the excitement wash over him. He started running to him, but the pain made him wince. No matter, though; his brother came to him instead, wrapping him in a hug. Adrien felt himself freeze. How long had it been since he was given a hug as his civilian self instead of when he was wearing leather? “What are you doing here?”

Félix chuckled, letting the sound wash over Adrien. “I just wanted to come visit my little brother. I’ve got some big news.”

Adrien found himself grinning up at him. “I think my news is a little bigger.”

Félix’s face twisted in confusion, and then his nose twitched and his arms were gone. “Goddammit! All this cologne in here, Jesus Christ, you’re an Omega?”

“I just got done with my first heat.”

“Adrien, where has Nathalie gone?” Both brothers turned at the sound of their father’s voice.

Adrien felt his face heat a little. “Oh, uh, she went to get Marinette from school.”

“I forgot it was a half-day today. I’ll let the kitchen know to make a bigger lunch than usual.”

“Wait, who’s Marinette?” his brother asked, scanning Adrien’s face.

What was she? How should Adrien introduce his classmate to Félix? It wasn’t like she was just a classmate, since he intended to accept her offer of courtship. “She’s my intended,” he settled on finally.

His father’s face shifted. “So you’ve decided to accept the offer, then?”

Adrien nodded. “If she’ll still have me.”

“You know a female Alpha?”

Adrien nodded again. He felt like he’d be doing a lot of that for the next while. “We’re in the same class. When I presented in class, she was the only Alpha that didn't try to jump me. She even came over while I was in heat to keep me company. Oh, Félix, wait until you meet her!”

He saw his brother’s ears twitch. “I hear the car.”

Adrien brightened immediately.

“Félix, go greet Nathalie and Mlle. Dupain-Cheng at the door and explain to Nathalie what, exactly, it is you’re doing here. Adrien, I really do want to speak with you before I let you go.”

Adrien groaned but moved to stand in front of his father’s desk. Félix nodded in turn. “Should I tell the kitchen you want extra for lunch on my way?”

“If you don’t mind terribly.” The sarcasm dripped from his father’s lips.

Félix vacated the room, leaving Adrien and their father alone. “What did you want to talk about, Father?”

“Well, Adrien, now that you’ve presented and you’re about to accept a courtship offer, I believe it’s time to revise our sex talk.”

Adrien groaned.

 

 

One embarrassing fifteen minutes later, Adrien and his father made their way to the dining room. Marinette was sitting next to Adrien’s assigned seat, and he quickly (and gingerly) sat next to her. “Hey,” he said, softly.

She gifted him with a smile as bright as the sun. “Hi, Adrien.” Then her face hardened, just a little. “Why didn’t you tell me you had a brother?” She tossed her head toward Félix to indicate just who she was talking about, in case there was any confusion.

Thankfully, Félix answered as he cut into his salmon. “I left for Shanghai four years ago. At first, I believe he was too shy about being in a new school, but then I became irrelevant to his everyday life. Right, Adrien?”

His face flushed. “Something like that.”

Marinette caught something; he could see it in her eyes. “Shanghai?”

“Ah, yes, I went to school there. I just graduated a few months ago.”

“My mother’s family is from Shanghai.”

He was then audience to Félix’s gears turning. “What’s their name?”

“Cheng, with the characters for ‘to make.’

Félix choked on the bit on salmon in his mouth.

And, as if on cue, everyone’s heads whipped around at the sound of bare feet slapping against marble. Adrien noticed Félix’s face turn red and he only had a minute to ponder why before a young woman who looked remarkably like Marinette stepped into view, wearing only a pair of boxers and an oversized shirt. “Fé,” she said in slightly accented French, “I couldn’t find my clothes, so I borrowed yours.”

Time seemed to slow, allowing Adrien to look around and take in the reactions of the table’s occupants. Félix looked like he was about to have a conniption, his father looked like he’d just sucked on a particularly sour lemon, and Marinette looked as if someone had drained all the blood from her body. He could understand Félix’s reaction if this woman was his lover, and he could understand his father being upset at the lack of modesty, but why was Marinette reacting like this?

After the long moment passed, Marinette slammed her palms on the table and bolted to her feet. “Huiqing?” she demanded, voice high and tight, and Adrien started. That was a Chinese name.

This woman must be part of Marinette’s mother’s family.

For her part, this woman--Huiqing, Marinette called her--looked very happy to see Marinette. “Jing!” she exclaimed. The Chinese name that left her lips confirmed Adrien’s suspicions. “Oh, I mean, Marinette!” She rushed to his intended’s side and wrapped her in a hug. “It’s been years! I didn’t know you were friends with Félix’s younger brother!” Her French was remarkably good for a Chinese woman, he had to admit. He only hoped he sounded that good when he spoke Mandarin.

A throat cleared, and every head in the room swiveled to his father. “Mlle. Dupain-Cheng,” he said, tone carefully neutral, “do you know this young woman?”

Marinette nodded slowly. “She’s my cousin. But I thought you were in Shanghai.” She directed the latter part to Huiqing, a confused expression on her face. “Why are you in Paris?”

This time, it was Félix’s throat that cleared. “Bridgette is part of the reason I came home.” With a flick of his head, Huiqing or Bridgette or whatever her name was skipped to Félix’s side, wrapping her arms around his neck so her breasts were flush against his back. “Father, Adrien, this is my bondmate, Cheng Huiqing, though she’s adopted the name Bridgette for easier speech while in France.” As if to prove his point, one of Huiqing/Bridgette’s hands brushed hair away from her neck to display a large, purple bruise over the scent gland. “She wanted to meet my family before we officially married, and I’ve been wanting to visit for a while, so she decided to come with me.”

Adrien knew his brother well enough to tell when he was lying. It had been four years, yes, but some things never changed. His brother’s bondmate hadn’t come as an afterthought. When Félix planned his trip to Paris, he never thought for a second she wouldn’t come. Will Marinette and I be like that? he wondered absently. Will we be a single unit?

He looked to his father, whose face was unreadable. He wore that mask often, usually when he was displeased, and Adrien wondered why Félix would dare bring a person whose relationship to himself was an indiscretion. With his newly heightened sense of smell from his presentation, he could tell this woman was a Beta. Agreste men (or, at least, the Alpha men, he amended silently) went after Omegas exclusively. It was something of a tradition, from what Adrien heard about his ancestors. For an Alpha to bond with a Beta was normal, but Agrestes weren’t normal. They were extraordinary. The family would accept no less.

He’d been beyond relieved when his father approved of Marinette. Not only was he beginning to fall for her, he trusted her, far and above any other Alpha he knew (aside from Ladybug, of course, but his chances of landing her were beyond fantastical in nature), and he knew he would be safe in a relationship with her.

Because he knew there was no other option. Now that he was an Omega, he would be expected to bond with an Alpha. It was just how things were done.

But, then again, Félix and his father never saw eye to eye on many things.

Finally, his father said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mlle. Cheng. If you would, please locate your clothes and join us for lunch.”

“Sure!” Huiqing/Bridgette/whatever chirped. She skipped out of the dining room and his father waited until the sound of her footsteps had faded away before he turned his stony face to Félix. Adrien gulped and looked at Marinette in what he hoped was a reassuring way.

Thankfully, all his father said was, “We will talk about this later.”



 

After lunch, his father beckoned all four youths back into his office. Adrien felt a thrill in his stomach when he noticed Marinette was walking close enough to him that their hands would occasionally brush together. Now that he knew she was an Alpha, he noticed her confidence, the way her chin was held high, the steel in her bluebell eyes. How had he not seen it before?

A large, cushioned chair had been placed in the room, and Adrien lowered himself into it slowly. Marinette settled into the chair next to his, and he noticed that Félix and Bridgette remained standing. His father took his place behind his desk and folded his hands together. “Onto business, then.” Adrien heard a drawer opening, and his father reached into it and withdrew a slip of paper. “Mlle. Dupain-Cheng was kind enough to compile a list of proposed courting gifts for my approval. She has already given the gift of food in the form of sweets from her parents’ bakery and, if Adrien so decides, the gift of comfort by way of sitting and visiting with him during his heat.”

Adrien vaguely registers the sounds of surprise from both Félix and Bridgette, but he stares forward at his father instead. “That sounds reasonable to me,” he said, finally glancing at Marinette, whose face had taken on a red tinge.

“My thoughts exactly,” said his father. “Her other proposed gifts include a warm sweater for clothing, protection from other Alphas, and a silver watch.”

Adrien found himself nodding. He knew Marinette was a skilled seamstress, so the sweater wasn’t unexpected. He would be glad to have some sort of buffer between himself and other Alphas, as well, and he was relieved she wasn’t trying to give him gold. “Those sound perfect.”

“Hold on!” Adrien and Marinette both turned to look at Félix at his outburst. “Isn’t this all a little sudden?” he continued, looking a little angry. “I mean, if he just finished his first heat, he must have only presented a week ago! Why are you rushing a courtship?”

Adrien opened his mouth to respond, but Marinette beat him to it. “Forgive me, M. Félix--” Adrien almost giggled at how she addressed him, but he restrained himself-- “but I believe your opinion isn’t as important of a factor in this as Adrien’s. I made the offer and, by some miracle,” she added, glancing at him and turning red, “he accepted. He’s no less capable of making rational decisions now that he’s presented.”

“If it makes you feel any better,” his father said, the smallest bit of venom in his words, “they won’t be left alone together until the courtship is completed. They will see each other at school, and, should they decide to spend time outside school together, I will require either Nathalie, Adrien’s bodyguard, or Mlle. Dupain-Cheng’s parents to be in attendance. In any case, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng has exhibited a remarkable degree of self control, and I have decided to entrust Adrien’s safety to her when those I employ are not in the vicinity.”

When Félix failed to respond, Adrien took an opportunity in the silence. “Actually, Marinette, I’ve been wondering… why did you make your offer? I thought you didn’t like me.” She was polite, sure, but until about a year ago she could hardly speak to him.

Her face was blank, eyes round. “Are… are you serious?”

“What?” he asked defensively.

“Adrien, I’ve had a crush on you since you gave me that dumb umbrella back in collège.” Her face was red once more, and Adrien felt his mind go into overdrive. “I mean, I wasn’t exactly subtle. Everyone knows!”

“I didn’t!” he choked out.

“I did,” his father added, unhelpfully. “Adrien, this girl looks at you like you hung the moon. How did you not notice?”

“You’re not helping!” Adrien whipped his phone out of his pants pocket and sent a text:

[Does Mari have a crush on me?]

Nino texted back immediately.

[i mean yeah???]

[shes been drooling over u for years now]

[alya n i figured u just werent syaing anything 2 her]

[*saying]

Adrien groaned. “I am so sorry I’m so oblivious,” he said, mostly to Marinette. “Oh my god, I tried to set you up with Nino.”

“And he and Alya are now a little closer to getting their shi--stuff together because of it.” Adrien’s ears perked at the swear that almost left her lips. He’d never heard her swear before, and the prospect was… indecently exciting. What would such vulgar words sound like falling from her pink mouth…?

Get it together! a voice that sounded suspiciously like Nino’s said in his mind.

“Don’t worry about it, Adrien,” Marinette was continuing, so he focused his attention back on her words. “It’s not a big deal anymore, I promise you.” Then she paused, an unreadable look taking place on her face. “Does that make you uncomfortable with the idea of c-courtship?” she asked. He noticed (and secretly delighted in) her returning stutter.

“No!” he rushed to say, and he winced at how loud his own voice sounded in his ears. “You’re the only one I trust to do this with.”

Her face settled, and though Adrien wasn’t sure why she looked a little upset, he was just as unsure as to how to fix it.

“Now that that’s in the open,” said his father, snapping Adrien’s attention back to him, “I believe we should discuss Adrien’s modelling.” He heard Huiqing/Bridgette make a questioning noise in her throat before Félix shushed her. “As both myself and--” he took in a deep breath, as if to prepare himself, “--Félix can understand if you would rather not see him modelling now that the two of you are courting--”

“If Adrien wants to keep modelling, he can keep modelling,” Marinette interrupted, such strength in her voice Adrien wasn’t sure he recognized it. “Just because we’re courting doesn’t mean I own him. His body belongs to himself.”

“Are you sure this girl is an Alpha?” Félix asked, sounding genuinely curious. “I mean, she doesn’t act like one. Maybe she just bought a bottle of pheromones or whatever.”

Adrien looked back to Marinette just in time to see her stand, fire in her eyes. “Want me to lift my skirt up?” she asked venomously, clutching the offending pink fabric with both fists. “Would that satisfy you? Look, M. Félix, I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend you, but I hope you believe me when I say I care about Adrien. I loved him when I thought he was a Beta, and that still stands, four years later.” Her face was cherry red now, but she barreled on. “He’s handsome, absolutely, but he’s also wicked smart and he loves those awful puns and he’s awkward and I love him, and I hope that never, ever changes. I want to still love him in ten, twenty, fifty years, because I like the way being in love with him makes me feel. I want to be able to eat my meals with him and I want to play video games with him and I want to cuddle with him and I want to talk to him and I want to be with him.

“I haven’t known you long,” she continued, “but I can tell how much you love your brother. It’d be hard not to love someone like Adrien, honestly. And I can tell you mean a lot to him. Because of this, I want to like you. I want to like what he likes. Whatever I did to make you dislike me, I hope we can overcome it, for Adrien.”

The room was silent, so silent Adrien was sure he could hear his blood pounding in his ears. He knew Marinette was capable of impressive speeches, but being the subject of one was a new feeling entirely. To know that someone felt that strongly about him made his palms sweat and his heart pick up speed. How had he not noticed the intense feelings she’d harbored for him for so long?

Suddenly, Marinette went even redder and sat down and his father, to his surprise, started clapping lightly. “It’s always a pleasure to hear your speeches, Mlle. Dupain-Cheng. You’re very eloquent for your young age. Tell me, Mlle. Cheng, have you inherited these genetics as well?” Adrien wondered what other speech of Marinette’s his father heard. He never came around the school, where they took place, so how would he have been able to listen? He made a mental note to ask Nathalie later.

Huiqing/Bridgette started, as if she was surprised to be addressed. “Uh, no, monsieur. Uncle Tom is much more outspoken than our side of the family. She probably got it from him.” The He’s on the Alpha side of the family went unspoken, but it was heard nonetheless.

“In any case,” his father continued, settling his gaze back on him and Marinette, “I believe this is settled. I would like the bond to be finalized by Adrien’s next heat if you find the courtship agreeable. He’ll be eighteen by then, after all, and once he’s a legal adult any Alpha can move in on him. Does that work for you?”

Three months, Adrien thought. Marinette has Three months to give me three courting gifts, one of which is abstract, and woo me. “That sounds fine with me,” he said, voice strangely small to his own ears. Félix made a scoffing sound in the back of his throat, but their father threw a glare his way to quiet him. Adrien looked beside him, to Marinette, and waited for her answer.

Finally, she said, “Three months sounds good to me.”



 

Adrien, Félix, and Bridgette/Huiqing walked Marinette to the car to see her off after their discussion. Félix was still acting grumpy, but Bridgette/Huiqing was chattering happily at Marinette. “You should come by the bakery soon,” Marinette said, hugging her cousin as they reached the car. “Maman and Papa will be happy to see you. Oh! Do you want me to call you Huiqing or Bridgette while you’re here?”

“Bridgette,” said her cousin firmly. “I’ll be Huiqing in China and Bridgette in Europe. Tell your parents I’ll come visit as soon as I can.” Sending a sidelong glance at Adrien and Félix, she added, “I’m pretty sure M. Agreste wants to talk to me and Félix before too long.”

“Good luck,” Marinette told Bridgette gravely. She finally turned back to Adrien and offered him a smile, which he returned. They’d had exactly no time alone, so not much conversation had occurred, even if it needed to happen. He would have to tell her about being Chat Noir, eventually. It wouldn’t be fair to her to keep such a big secret, right? And he wanted to talk to her about her crush on him. And, and…

He wanted to talk to her.

“I guess I’ll see you at school on Monday,” he said, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. What kind of lame sendoff is that? Nino’s voice screamed at him. You just agreed to sleep with her in three months and all you can say is “See you in school?”

But she just smiled at him in that gentle way of hers. “If you’re feeling up to it tomorrow, we could hang out? Nino and Alya could come too, so we’re not alone and awkward.”

“That sounds great,” he replied. Maybe meeting up with his friends would help him relax and talk to Marinette.

Her smile widened just a fraction, her eyes soft and kind and, dare he say, loving. “Great. Just text me if you’re up to it tomorrow. We don’t even have to do anything, really. We can just play video games and binge on sugar.”

“What better way is there to spend a Sunday?” he joked. “I’ll text you tomorrow.”

Marinette nodded and a briefly conflicted look crossed her face. “Yeah, okay. See you later.” Then she let Nathalie usher her out the door and into the car.

Adrien felt a hand fall on his shoulder, and he looked back to see Félix. His face was slightly red in a way that meant he was either embarrassed or angry, though Adrien couldn’t quite tell which, which made his stomach knot up a little. “We have a lot of catching up to do, little brother.”

“So do we, Félix,” their father interrupted, making both them and Bridgette jump. “Please join me in my office.” It wasn’t a request.

Félix sighed and obeyed.

 

 

As night drew closer, Adrien grew more and more restless. As soon as it was an acceptably late hour, he excused himself to his room and locked the door. Plagg was out just a second later, and Adrien felt the familiar, calming yet exhilarating feeling of his transformation wash over him.

For the first time in a week, Adrien was no longer Adrien, but Chat Noir.

He slid out his bedroom window and raced out into the night. Can’t keep Ladybug waiting.

Light as a feather, he bounded over the Parisian rooftops with ease taking in the cool night air and all the scents that came with it. He wondered how many little smells he’d missed in his pre-presentation years. Maybe Marinette would show them to him.

Just as he thought that, he picked up on Marinette’s smell. Of course, he couldn’t be sure if it was her or her parents’ nearby bakery that produced the delicious scent. Since his enhanced sense of smell was so new, it was hard for him to tell what was her actual scent and what smells clung to her from the bakery. As such, he disregards the smell and makes his way up and over to the top of the tower.

Two figures were already waiting for him. One of them was a new sight, the fox. Seeing her immediately put him on edge and he thought of Lila and all the damage she did. He quickly schooled himself. Ladybug trusts her, so I should, too. The other, Ladybug, was as familiar to him as his own reflection. His romantic attentions may now be focused elsewhere, but Ladybug, his partner, his best friend, would always hold a high rank in his life.

He wondered if Marinette and Ladybug would get along. He knew he’d like that. Maybe their (eventual) children would call her “Aunt Ladybug.” Maybe they would have Ladybug and her mate over for the holidays. Maybe they’d be able to watch all their kids grow up together while they moved on with their adult lives. Who knew?

He landed on the metal of the tower with a soft whump, knees bent in a crouch. “Good to see you, my lady,” he said, teasingly, and looked up at her.

Ladybug looked like all the blood had drained from her body. Her skin was whiter than normal, her nostrils flared, her pupils dilated. He flinched back automatically. Why was she so upset?

The new fox looked just as confused as him, and she stepped up to put a hand on Ladybug’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

Ladybug pointed one shaky finger at Chat and said, with a devastatingly familiar stutter, “A-Adrien?”

Chapter Text

Félix remained stone-faced as the door of his father’s study closed behind him with an ominous click. He had to make sure his composure didn’t break. He knew what he was here for.

Or, rather, he knew what he had been here for. Now that Adrien presented as an Omega and some weird Alpha chick was hanging around, Félix was beginning to rethink how long this trip was going to last.

Instead of taking the seat Marinette had occupied earlier like his father obviously expected, Félix leaned against the wall of windows and crossed his arms. “You’re really letting some random chick court Adrien?”

His father sent him a pointed glare. “Mlle. Dupain-Cheng has demonstrated a remarkable amount of self-restraint on multiple occasions. She has been the class president for three consecutive years. She maintains a respectable grade in most of her classes. She babysits the daughter of a well-known newscaster and works in her parents’ bakery. Her teachers give her glowing reviews. While young, she is a talented designer, and I believe she will be an asset to the Agreste brand. What more do you need to approve of her?” His final question was a sneer, like, Not that she needs your approval, anyway.

But something caught Félix’s attention. “An asset to the Agreste brand? You’re going to hire her?”

“If the courtship is successful, she and Adrien will inherit the company.”

“And you don’t think she might be using the courtship to get the company?” Félix demanded, fire flooding his veins. “You said she’s a designer, right? She could be using Adrien to get a leg up in the industry!”

Gabriel scowled. “Nathalie has done some inquiring for me, and several of their classmates and teachers can all attest that the girl is head over heels for him. She’s talented enough to get hired as she is right now, so she doesn’t need to use Adrien.”

“Why not hire her now, then? You need an intern, right? You always do.”

“Because I want her to succeed.” His father stood, slowly, and folded his hands behind his back. He began slowly pacing in front of the portrait of his wife, like he always used to when he found himself on a particularly interesting train of thought. “I see a lot of myself in Mlle. Dupain-Cheng. She has the talent and the passion. But she needs competition. She needs to have to work for something against people on her level instead of her artistically inept classmates. I’ll recommend her to any fashion school of her choice, but after that it’s up to her to make it.”

“She still feels off to me,” Félix complained. Then, a new thought dawned on him. “Why are they set to inherit the company instead of me? I’m the oldest.”

Gabriel halted in his pacing and did a slow about-face to settle his eyes on Félix. “I was under the impression you wanted nothing to do with my name when you ran off to China and didn’t answer any of my or Adrien’s calls, so I wrote you out of my will.”

Félix took a long, long moment to think. Then, he said, “What would it take to get be back in your will, then?”

 

After Félix was called into M. Agreste’s office and Adrien wandered back off to his room to rest (with a plate piled high with, strangely, camembert cheese), Bridgette found her way back to the room she and Félix shared the previous night and opened up a Skype call with her fathers. It would be around eight in the evening in Shanghai, and she wanted to catch them before they went to bed.

Her Omega father, her bàba , answered the call. She took in his comforting face, smeared with what appeared to be leftover flour from making dinner, and his heavy-set frame. “Hello, Huiqing,” he said in Mandarin. “How is France?”

She sighed, letting herself lean back against the pillows. “Fé’s house is very big. His childhood bedroom is bigger than our living room! And his father is very intimidating. Not even Fùqīn is as intimidating as M. Agreste!”

“I heard my name!” her Alpha father, her fùqīn, called just a fraction of a second before his handsome face filled the screen. “Do I need to fly to Paris and growl at Félix’s father so he’ll leave you alone?”

Bridgette let herself laugh. “I think you’d end up in jail and sued within an inch of your life before you could make a sound, Fùqīn. M. Agreste is a very influential man.” Then she added, “Besides, I would rather my relationship with my future father-in-law is a positive one.”

“Whatever you say,” her fùqīn said obligingly.

“Oh! I ran into Jing! She’s courting Fé’s little brother. Isn’t that a funny coincidence?”

Her bàba levelled a gaze at her. “The two of you spent half her trip to Shanghai talking about your similar taste in men. It’s not that big of a surprise.”

She stuck her tongue out at him playfully.

“Forget all that,” her fùqīn interrupted. “When are you and Félix coming home? I know you’re being careful, but I’d rather you be married before you pop out any kids.”

Bridgette felt her face heat up and she knew, from experience, that her flush extended up to the tips of her ears and down to her chest. “Fùqīn!”

“He’s right, Huiqing,” her bàba said. “The sooner you come home, the sooner you can get married. You waited years for Félix to bond with you; I thought you’d want to get married right away.”

She sighed. “I know Félix isn’t very open with his emotions, but you should have seen him with his younger brother today. It’s obvious how much he missed him. I’ll stay however long it takes for Félix to reconcile with his family.” She let a soft smile cross her face. “Félix doesn’t do things by halves. We’re going to have the rest of our lives together, so I don’t mind waiting a while longer for him to be ready.”

Bridgette knew it was a risky thing to say to them. They’d been frustrated with her pining for years until Félix finally decided to court her. For that reason, when the phrase “You’ll spend your life waiting on that boy,” came out of her bàba’s mouth, the cadence of the words were familiar to her.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” she answered easily.

A quick, quiet rap on the door made her whip her head around on instinct to stare at the white wood. “Gotta go,” she said to her fathers, smiling at them through the laptop camera. “I love you. Talk to you soon!” She barely let them say their own goodbyes before she x-ed out of the call and shut the laptop. “Come in!” she called to whoever was on the other side of the door.

To her relief, it was Félix. His expression was thunderous when he first opened the door, but it softened when their gazes met. He made his way over to their bed and let himself fall on it, bouncing her slightly off and making her giggle. “I’m guessing the conversation with your father didn’t go well.”

He groaned and shifted his body until his head was in her lap. “No offense, Bri, but I don’t really like your cousin.”

Undeterred, she let her fingers card through his pale hair. “Care to explain why?”

“She jumped down my throat for nothing, for one thing.”

“Jing - sorry, Marinette, her French name is Marinette - has always overcompensated when she felt threatened. I’m not excusing her behavior, of course, but explaining it.”

“Did you know she was in love with Adrien?” he asked accusingly.

She shrugged, pausing her hand motions a little to switch to scratching his scalp. “I knew she liked boys with light hair and eyes. We would fawn over the same magazines when we got to visit with each other. I never knew it was your brother’s influence, though.”

“Apparently she’s been in love with him for years, and their entire year knows about it.”

“Yes, Félix, I heard,” she said mildly. “I was in the room with you earlier, remember?”

“Did you know she wants to be a designer?”

She scoffed. “Of course I knew. She spent half her first trip to Shanghai dragging me around the shopping district so she could sketch the different styles of clothes she saw. From what I’ve seen, she’s pretty good at it.”

“My father says that if the courtship is successful, she’ll inherit the company.”

Bridgette arched an eyebrow at the bitter tone in his voice. “I thought you didn’t want the company. You’ve never been interested in fashion, Félix. You want to be a journalist.”

“I know,” he growled, and while the sound was intimidating, Bridgette refused to flinch. She knew Félix wasn’t angry with her, so she saw no reason to be afraid. She resumed playing with his hair until he continued, “I’m just worried she’s using Adrien’s presentation to get the company and a trophy Omega. My father already seems to adore her, and I’ve never seen Adrien so excited to see anyone in his life, and even the Gorilla smiled at her; it’s like she has them under some sort of spell.”

“Or,” Bridgette interjected, “my cousin has my overwhelmingly charming genes passed down to us through our dear grandmother and was nice to them.”

Félix shuddered. “Your grandmother is the most intimidating woman I’ve ever met.”

“But you like her regardless, right?”

He gave no response.

“Anyway, Félix, it sounds to me like you’re just being a protective older brother, like any older brother should be. It’s natural to want the best for your brother, especially now that he’s entered a very vulnerable stage of life. Besides,” she added, “if she was really just going to use Adrien, she could have forced the Bond as soon as he went into heat.”

It was a sad truth of their world. Since Omegas had so few rights compared to Alphas and Betas, they were very vulnerable to rapes and forced Bonds, which would, more often than not, be seen as perfectly legal in the eyes of the law. A Bond was nigh irreversible, except for in extreme cases, such as death or medical intervention, which was still in the experimental stages and highly dangerous to the Omega.

Félix grunted, and Bridgette took that as a point for her. “I still just don’t like her.”

“Like I said, that’s probably natural,” she said warmly. “Give her time. I’m sure she’ll grow on you.”

“What makes you say that?” he grumbled.

“Because I managed to make you fall in love with me,” she replied lightly, leaning down to press a soft kiss to his lips.

 

Maligne stared, dumbfounded by the scene in front of her. Her best-friend-turned-idol was pointing a polka-dotted finger at Paris’s leather clad cat boy heartthrob and calling him “Adrien” and she had no idea what to do with this new information.

Judging by the way Chat Noir froze  up and went pale, Ladybug’s proclamation was true. Chat Noir was Adrien Agreste.

A grin slid across Maligne’s face. Oh, how delicious! As soon as she found out a way to keep running the LadyBlog while running around with Ladybug, she’d convince them to do an interview for it pronouncing Paris’s OTP was canon.

And as soon as they got their shit together, of course.

Trying her best to sound casual, Maligne cocked a hip and said, “It looks like you two could use some alone time. I’ll get a head start on patrol.” Then, without waiting for a response, she leapt from the tower to a nearby rooftop, giddy at the strength the suit gave her legs, and dashed off.

Now the trouble was focusing on her patrol instead of the possible make-out session taking place between Ladybug and Chat Noir.

...Well, now that she knew that Ladybug was Marinette and Chat Noir was Adrien, it kind of grossed her out, but she still couldn’t help but focus on it. She’d been rooting for both LadyNoir (as it was officially called in all the LadyBlog forums) and Adrinette (as she teased Marinette with on lazy days on her balcony) for going on four years now, and the idea that both of them were going to actually be a thing soon was both exciting and a little daunting. Deep down, she’d always been worried about how the relationship dynamics would change as a result of the newly budding romance.

If she was being honest with herself, that was part of why she’d been keeping Nino on his toes. She didn’t want too much to change. She liked the way their little foursome operated already, and she was afraid romance and/or sex would only complicate things, and she was scared.

She slowed to a halt on one of the many rooftops when her ears picked up on a noise. A masculine grunt and groan, the sound of flesh hitting flesh. Normal, mundane, violent crime. She could handle this. Maybe it would help get her mind away from scary thoughts of change.

She let herself fall into the alley below her, making sure her body spun just enough so she could worm her way between the attacker and the victim. It was a trick Ladybug had taught her during a mugging, and she found she quite liked the acrobatics of the move. Maybe she would have to take up an actual sport as a civilian so she could do more things like that outside of the suit. A quick gut punch and groin kick later, the attacker was scampering off, tail between his legs, and she was about to go after him when she heard a familiar voice go, “Holy shit.”

Maligne whipped around and came face to face with a bruised Nino. His glasses were askew and his clothes were rumpled, but he didn’t seem to have any major injuries, so there was no need to get him to a hospital. Instead of looking scared of her, like many other civilians had, Nino had a look of awe on his face, and it sent butterflies through her stomach.

She knew she had to say something. She opened her mouth to say something.

Instead, she fucking screamed.

When the sound finally ceased, Maligne clamped her mouth shut, felt her face heat up, and jumped right back up onto the roof to get away. As soon as she had put a good distance between herself and the alleyway, she ducked behind a chimney and released her transformation to glare at Trixx. Sure, Marinette said that their kwami’s animal traits would bleed into their real life, but she didn’t think something like this would happen. “What was that?”

For her part, Trixx looked absolutely jubilant. “That was beautiful!” she replied. “That’s the most beautiful scream I’ve heard in awhile! I’m sure your feelings got through to him.”

“What?” Alya asked again.

Trixx cocked her head. “If you don’t scream, how do humans proclaim their love for their mates?”

Alya’s face heated up again, so much so that she was sure it could have lit the way for Santa’s sleigh. She tried to respond to Trixx’s question, but she couldn’t make her mouth work. For the first time since she found out her best friend was Ladybug, Alya was speechless.

She heard Trixx laugh, a small, bell-like sound, and Alya decided to feed her stale fruit for the next week instead of the fresh stuff. Payback’s a bitch.

 

Chapter Text

After Maligne’s sudden and rather rude departure, Ladybug and Chat Noir, who was also Adrien (unless Chat Noir made a habit of hugging Adrien a lot, in which case that damn cat would have some explaining to do), stood all alone on top of one of the most romantic spots in the world.

Frustratingly, Ladybug didn’t know what to say. Ladybug was the methodical, quippy side of the Marinette-Ladybug Dichotomy, not the touchy-feely, conversational Marinette. Ladybug didn’t do feelings. How was she supposed to handle this?

Luckily for her, Chat Noir broke the silence first. “H-how did you know?” he stuttered, eyes wide and face pale.

“I could smell you, chaton,” she replied with a groan. She let herself fall into a sitting position, legs dangling precariously over the side of the tower, and patted the spot next to her with a gloved hand. “Sit down. We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Almost robotically, he complied, settling beside her like he had so many times before. The familiarity of the situation lent Ladybug the slightest bit of comfort, which she was grateful for. “God, this is just a big joke, isn’t it?” she sighed, tipping her head back to look at the stars. “Of course it’s you. God, can you believe how stupid we’ve been? Our whole lives could have been so much easier if we’d known.”

Chat fidgeted next to her, and she finally noticed how visibly uncomfortable he was. “So, we’re just… doing this? Now? After all these years, we’re revealing ourselves?”

She looked at him through her peripheral vision, a little confused. “I mean, Master Fu okayed it, and it’d be kinda hard to hide it now.”

“What do you mean?”

Ladybug finally turned to fully face him, eyes wide and mouth hanging slightly open. “Are you serious? Chat, it’s me. I was literally at your house a few hours ago!”

She could see the gears turning in his head as he processed the information. Then, his eyes went wide, his face pink, his mouth open. “Marinette?”

“You seriously couldn’t tell?” she asked, incredulous.

“My sense of smell is still new! I can’t differentiate between your smell and the bakery’s smell!” Embarrassed, he buried his face in his hands as if to hide his flush, even though Ladybug could see the red tips of his human ears under his mane of gold hair. “God, how didn’t I see it?”

“I didn’t realize it either, chaton. Don’t beat yourself up too much.”

“You don’t get it!” he wailed, lifting his face from his hands to glare at the sky, as if it was the stars’ fault he couldn’t recognize Ladybug outside of costume. “I loved Ladybug for years, and when I finally got over her, I started liking Marinette, and I still couldn’t recognize you. I’m such an idiot!” Then, something akin to realization dawned in his eyes, and his head bowed and his cat ears flattened. “Are you… upset? That Adrien is Chat Noir?”

Ladybug had to resist the urge to touch his head, like she’d gotten into the habit of doing to comfort him in their years of partnership. She didn’t know how much the suits affected their scents, and if his father or brother were to smell her on him the next morning, she was sure there would be hell to pay. “Never, chaton. I’d never be upset. Why would you think that?”

“I mean,” he started, looking seemingly anywhere but her face, “you never seemed interested in Chat Noir the way you are in Adrien. I mean, if you didn’t know who Chat Noir was, and he suddenly went into heat, would you have offered to mate him like you did with Adrien?”

Ladybug flushed at the memory of what her hormone-addled mind said, but she remained firm. “No, Chat, I wouldn’t. And do you want to know why?” When he reluctantly nodded, she continued, “Because it would have jeopardized our identities. Our kwamis always told us we had to keep our identities secret, right? We couldn’t exactly be mates if we couldn’t tell each other our names.”

Chat didn’t look very convinced.

Frustrated, she sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and index finger. “Do you want to know a secret, chaton? I once told my kwami I would have given Chat Noir a chance if Adrien weren’t in the picture.”

Disbelief marred his features.

This boy, she thought. “Look, Chat, our identities being secret was never about me not wanting to know who you were. If I wasn’t clear on that, that’s on me. I didn’t want to know in case it put our families in danger. Do you know how many times I’ve seen a dumb cat meme and thought, ‘Hey, I bet Chat would think this was funny,’ but I couldn’t send it to you? You and Alya, you’ve always been my best friends, and a domino mask isn’t going to change that, you silly cat, so stop pouting.”

He finally, finally met her eyes with his own. “You mean that?”

“Of course I do.”

He slumped over in relief, like a puppet with cut strings. “I’m sorry. I knew that. I just—”

“Adrien.”

The use of his civilian name had his spine ramrod straight in less than a second. “Yes?”

Making sure to speak slowly, so he wouldn’t be able to confuse her words for anything else, she said, “Never apologize for how you feel. If you ever feel anxious or insecure, I want you to talk to me about it.” Giving in, she placed one of her gloved hands over one of his fists resting on his knees, and she felt him relax almost immediately. “Now more than ever. If our relationship is going to work, it needs honesty and openness. I’m not perfect, so you need to communicate with me, and you have to let me communicate with you. Can we do that?”

Before Chat could say anything (though by the way his green eyes glittered, he was going to agree with her), a strange screech tore through the silent night. It was just a little unhuman, and it came from the direction Maligne had fled, so Ladybug pulled her yo-yo out and called her.

Maligne didn’t answer immediately. She’d had to call three times (unwilling to leave the tower in case it was a false alarm, since they’d heard not other signs of a struggle and saw no police lights) before she picked up, face flushed. “Yeah? What’s up? You two lovebirds done talking yet?”

“What was that scream?” Ladybug asked, trying to ignore the cute way Chat was peering at the small screen over her shoulder to get a good look at Maligne.

If possible, Maligne got even redder. “Just a… side effect of the Miraculous, I think? That’s what Trixx said.”

“What’d you do that’s so embarrassing?” Chat asked, addressing her for literally the first time. “I get random urges to knock stuff off shelves constantly, and I once saw Ladybug eat a flower covered in aphids.”

While Ladybug sputtered at his admission of one of her ladybug-esque habits, Maligne started twirling a lock of her hair. “I may have, uh… screamed at Nino.”

Ladybug arched an eyebrow. “Care to explain why?”

“You’re not my mother.”

While they bantered, Chat made a humming noise in the back of his throat. “So, do we know Maligne in real life?”

“Girl, you didn’t tell him?” Maligne demanded.

Ladybug groaned. “We barely got to talk about us before we heard your banshee impression. Chat, Maligne is Alya.”

Chat took a moment before barking out a laugh. “Of course she is. Who’s Master Fu going to pick next? Nino?”

Maligne, very much resembling a traffic light, looked like she was about to faint. “Literally anyone but him would be marvelous.”

“You know I’m going to look up why foxes scream when I get home tonight, right?” Ladybug asked.

“As long as I’m not around for you to tease when you do. Look, it’s getting early, and aside from me screaming, nothing’s out of place. Can we call it a night?”

“Before that, do you wanna see if Nino wants to hang out with me and Adrien tomorrow? I was originally thinking we could just hang out and play Mecha Strike, but I bet Adrien’s dying to stretch his legs, so maybe we could have a picnic at the park?” She addressed the last bit mostly to Chat, who nodded enthusiastically. “Picnic it is.”

“Sounds great,” Maligne sighed. “Yeah, I’ll text Nino when I get home, since I know he’ll be up. Who’s bringing the food?”

“I can pick up drinks on the way,” Chat offered.

“Maman and Papa would be happy to provide treats. Oh, Maligne, ask Nino if his mom could make lamb kabobs and hummus!”

Maligne tilted her head back. “Really?”

“Ugh, yes. Nino’s mom is one of the best cooks in the world, and since your mom will be busy, she probably won’t be able to make anything. Trust me, no one cooks lamb like Mme. Lahiffe.”

“Fine. I’ll tell him.” She faked a yawn. “Look, if you want me to text him before I fall asleep, you better let me go. See you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow.” She stuck her yo-yo back on her hip and turned to face Chat. “I better let you go, too.”

“But I didn’t even get to play tag with you,” he whined.

She laughed and risked a nose boop. “We can play tag with Alya and Nino tomorrow. You need all the rest you can get so you can play with us, okay? We’ll have all the fun you can imagine, I promise.”

“If you promise,” he teased.

“Oh, shut up, you stupid cat,” she said fondly. “Do you want to meet us at the park or do you want me to come pick you up?”

“I’ll talk to my father about it. He might want my bodyguard to drive me.”

“Alright. Good night, kitty.”

He made a show of bowing, and she was relieved to see him acting like Chat again. “I’ll see you in the morning, my lady.”

 

Marinette woke up the next morning to the incessant chiming of her phone.

It wasn’t her alarm; she didn’t have an alarm set for Sundays. Grumbling, she fumbled for her phone on her bedside table and pulled it to her face, wincing at the bright screen. Great. A group chat.

[Alya: welcome to the ultimate picnic group chat!!]

[Nino: alya its so early go badck to sleep]

[Alya: badck]

[Nino: i dont need your sass]

[Adrien: badck]

[Nino: i feel #betrayed i thought we were bros]

[Nino: neither of you get lamb kabobs or hummus]

[Nino: traitors dont get lamb kabobs or hummus]

Groaning, Marinette decided to get in on the fun.

[Marinette: i’m with nino. its so early. we get sundays so we can sleep in.]

[Marinette: picnics happen in the afternoon theres no rush just sleep]

[Alya: but im BORED]

[Nino: and were ur entertainment?]

[Alya: why else would i keep you idiots around?]

[Marinette: RUDE]

[Marinette: no pastries for you]

[Alya: SHIT NO]

[Alya: MARI]

[Alya: DARLING]

[Alya: APPLE OF MY EYE]

[Alya: SWEET POLKA-DOTTED SPRINCESS]

[Alya: I NEVER MEAN YOU]

[Adrien: sprincess]

[Nino: sprincess]

[Marinette: sprincess]

[Alya: I GET IT IM SORRY]

[Alya: DONT TAKE YOUR PARENTS SWEETS AWAY FROM ME]

[Marinette: then behave]

[Marinette: since we’re up]

[Marinette: nino, do you need anything to dip in the hummus?]

[Nino: if ur parents have any of their pita that would be amazing]

[Nino: mamas givin me a ton of peppers and carrots for it]

[Marinette: im sure they have some]

[Nino: sweet]

[Adrien: What kind of drinks does everyone want? My father says my bodyguard can take me by a grocery store to pick them up.]

Ah, that answered that question. Marinette would have to wait and meet him at the park.

[Alya: coke]

[Nino: excuse you??? pepsi]

[Marinette: *captain america civil war logo*]

[Marinette: i’m good with lemonade or water or something along those lines]

[Adrien: Got it! ;)]

[Alya: HEY]

[Alya: no flirting in the group chat]

[Adrien: How was that flirting?]

[Nino: dude winky faces are always flirting]

[Adrien: Maybe that winky face was for all of you.]

[Alya: wow i never imagined adrien agreste was such a slut]

[Adrien: Excuse you, I am a classy, one-woman kind of man.]

Well, she wasn’t going back to sleep now. Figuring hanging out in the chat much longer would be a waste of valuable prettying-up time, Marinette informed her friends she was going to hop in the shower and start getting ready for the picnic.

It was one of the most intense showers she’d ever taken. She washed and shaved every inch of her body, scrubbing so hard her skin turned red and started to burn a little. She was pretty sure she’d never been more clean in her life.

Once clean, she dried her hair and pulled it up into a ponytail and tied it with a pink ribbon. After a few minutes of deliberation, she pulled out a flowy high-low white tank top and a pair of high waisted pink shorts from the depths of her wardrobe and pulled them on. She took a selfie in the mirror and sent it to Alya in their private chat for approval, which she got in the form of several eggplant and water emojis. Satisfied, she fished a pair of cute sandals she could easily kick off to run around from her closet and slipped her feet into them. “How do I look, Tikki?” she asked, doing a spin for her kwami to scrutinize.

“Lovely as always, Marinette,” she answered.

“Should I expect you to sneak off with Adrien’s kwami during the picnic?”

If Tikki wasn’t already red, Marinette was sure she would have been blushing. “Yeah, I’ll probably spend time with Plagg, if that’s okay. We haven’t seen each other in a few decades, not since the last Ladybug and Black Cat.”

“Yeah, that’s fine.” Marinette peered at herself in the mirror a little more closely. “Makeup or no?”

“I’ve never understood humans’ insistence on painting their faces,” Tikki sighed. “Besides, if you’re going to run around in the park, the makeup could run, right? Leave it off, you look fine without it.”

“True,” Marinette hummed, leaning away from the mirror. “What would I do without you, Tikki?”

Before Tikki could answer, three quick knocks fell on the trapdoor leading down to the kitchen. Tikki instinctively ducked into Marinette’s purse as her mother’s head poked through the opening. “Marinette, if you want to take anything to this picnic of yours, you’d better get down to the kitchen and help us.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Marinette followed her mother down the ladder and into the kitchen. “By the way, do you and Papa have any pita left?”

 

Alya and Nino were already at the park when Marinette arrived, an actual wicker basket filled with pastries hooked on one arm and an old, worn blanket folded over the other. She didn’t see Nino’s face immediately, since he was facing Alya, but when he turned around to greet her, she felt the blood drain from her face.

His face was absolutely covered in bruises and cuts, and one of his eyes was swollen nearly shut. He looked like he’d been hit by a train, in all honesty, and Marinette was horrified thinking about who had done this to him. “Nino,” she exclaimed, discarding the basket and the blanket on the grass next to them, “what happened to you?!”

He laughed and scratched at the back of his head nervously. “I was hauling some recording equipment back to my place pretty late last night and some guy decided to jump me. That new fox hero saved me, though, so I’m not too beat up.”

“Maligne Rouge, right?” Alya asked, sounding surprisingly nonchalant. “What was she like?”

Oh my god, Marinette thought giddily, she isn’t…

“How so?” Nino questioned.

“You know, was she cool?”

She fucking is.

Marinette thought back to that day, years ago, when Adrien snuck up on her at her locker to ask her about Chat Noir. Now that she knew about his identity, that whole exchange made way more sense. He’d been fishing for compliments.

And now Alya’s doing it.

She watched with barely-contained mirth as Alya carefully examined Nino’s story of the night before. Marinette could almost see the gears working in her head as she processed all the information on her superhero self, and she knew she was taking mental notes to improve her standing with the citizens of Paris.

And possibly with Nino himself, not that Alya would ever admit it.

Rather than listening to Nino’s recollection, she spread the blanket over the grass and set the basket on one corner to prevent it from blowing away. They were in a nice place, just under one of the park’s larger trees so they were in the shade and away from the playground equipment so they wouldn’t get bothered by kids. When Nino’s voice cut off, Marinette called, “Hey, Nino, hand me your bag?” and, after he passed it to her, put it on the opposite corner of the blanket, further securing it.

Just as the three friends settled onto the blanket, a few sets of footsteps approach. Marinette’s nostrils flare as her lungs are filled with the scent of Adrien… and Félix. She feels her body turn without her permission to face the incoming party, seeings five faces rather than the one she expected. Adrien, Félix, Bridgette, Mme. Sancoeur, and the Gorilla are all approaching their blanket.

Marinette’s hope for a peaceful afternoon flies out the metaphorical window.

 

Chapter Text

 

Now that Adrien had finally arrived, the group settled onto the blanket that would have been the perfect size for four people but was woefully small for eight. Marinette thanked whatever god there was that Nino’s mom always cooked more than requested.

Adrien started fussing over Nino’s injuries almost immediately, lowering himself to sit next to his best friend. Before Marinette could claim the spot on Adrien’s other side, Félix set himself down, glaring at her, and pulled Bridgette down on his other side. With a sigh, Marinette resigned herself to sitting next to Bridgette instead. Thankfully, Marinette saw Mme. Sancoeur and the Gorilla migrate to a nearby picnic table to watch on from afar. “Are you going to introduce us to your friends, Marinette?” her cousin asked, smiling sweetly, and Marinette more than appreciated the prompt.

“Ah, yes! This is Nino Lahiffe and Alya Césaire. Nino, Alya, this is my cousin, Bridgette, and Adrien’s brother, Félix.”

Bridgette’s smile brightened and she turned to address them. “So you’re Marinette and Adrien’s classmates, right?”

Nino nodded. “Mari and I have been in the same class since maternelle! We went to a maternelle that catered to kids whose parents were immigrants, and a lot of us decided to all go to the same collège and lycée to stay together.”

“I never knew that,” Alya complained, finally sitting down next to Marinette, close enough that their shoulders brushed.

Marinette shrugged. “It’s not really that big of a deal, to be honest. He’s exaggerating; it was just us two and Kim that decided to stay together.” She reached for the container Nino brought along and pulled the still-hot dishes from it, biting back a moan at the delicious smell that met her nose. “God, Nino, your mom’s lamb smells amazing.”

Nino laughed. “She’ll be glad to hear it. She always says you never come over enough, by the way.” Then he grinned and his words took on a teasing lilt. “She misses having an Alpha to rearrange her furniture for her.”

“Do you help Nino’s mom a lot?” Adrien asked, reaching into the cooler bag he brought and handing her a bottle of water, just as she’d requested.

Marinette shook her head. “Not as much as he makes it out to sound. When I presented, she asked me to move some stuff in her house to make me feel better about the additional strength I got. Whenever I went over to visit after that she would find some new way to arrange the furniture in her living room to give me something to do.” As she spoke, she watched Adrien pass the rest of the group their drinks, mixing up Alya and Nino’s on purpose to get a rise out of them.

“I constantly had bruises on my shins because I kept bumping into the furniture!” Nino whined, popping his can of Pepsi open with a very satisfying hiss.

Alya tipped her head back and laughed. “Oh, poor baby.”

“I was, like, twelve. It hurt.”

Hoping to stifle an argument before it broke out, Marinette grabbed a plate and served herself a skewer of lamb. “Hey, Nino, where’s the hummus?” she asked, passing the dish to Bridgette. Thoroughly distracted, Nino began to dig through his cinch sack searching for his mom’s homemade hummus.

 

After the group realized how delicious Nino’s mom’s cooking was, they practically inhaled the food, making quick work of the meal portion of the afternoon. Throughout their meal, though, Adrien kept nudging Marinette’s foot with his own, and she smiled at the contact, even if it earned her a few glares from Félix.

Finally, dishes packed away and scraps and empty drink bottles and cans thrown in their respective bins, Nino proposed a game of Escargot.

Alya immediately shot that down, saying, “We don’t even have chalk.”

“How about a regular game of tag?” Marinette suggested.

Nino groaned, making an X with his arms. “You’d have an unfair advantage, Mari.”

“Hide and seek?” Adrien said.

“Only if you or Mari never get to seek,” Alya said. “Otherwise your noses would give each other away every time.”

Adrien quickly shook his head. “Oh, no, not me! My nose still gets confused with scents.” Then, sheepishly, he continued, “It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. I can’t wait to get myself trained so I can sort through all the smells.”

Marinette knew he was thinking of the previous night, and she had to choke back a giggle, disguising it as clearing her throat. She playfully nudged his foot and said, “I’m sure Félix would be willing to help you while he’s in Paris.”

Félix jumped like he’d been shocked and turned mistrusting eyes on Marinette. “Well,” he said icily, “you’ve been an Alpha longer than I have. I’m sure you have much more experience than me.”

Marinette, eyebrow arched, got the distinct feeling Félix was insulting her. She bit back a retort so colorful it would have made a sailor blush. Adrien wouldn’t want you to fight, she told herself, clenching her fists in her lap. Don’t rise to the bait. You’re a fucking superhero, you’re better than this. So, instead, she said, “I just thought you and Adrien could use the time to catch up! It’s been so long since you’ve seen each other, after all, and since Adrien will be at school most of the day during the week I felt like you could use some alone time.”

Adrien started beaming at her, and Marinette made a mental note to ask later if he was excited about spending time with Félix or that she had remained civil. “That sounds great, Marinette!” he chirped. Turning to Félix, he said, “Doesn’t that sound great?”

Marinette had the pleasure of watching a familiar, pained expression cross Félix’s face. She knew that look well; when faced with Adrien’s puppy dog eyes (a term she would never again be able to connect to Adrien with a straight face now that she knew he ran around Paris in a leather catsuit), no one but M. Agreste could resist. “Of course it does,” he finally said.

No one spoke for just the right amount of time for the silence to become awkward when Alya spoke up again. “So, basically, there are no good old childhood games we can play because of how unfair Mari is physically. Good to know.”

Marinette pouted at her friend’s teasing. “It’s not my fault!”

Before Alya could fire back, Nino’s phone released a shrill tone, startling everyone. He fumbled for it in his pocket and swiped it open. “Shit,” he muttered.

“What’s wrong?” Adrien asked, leaning into his shoulder to read the text.

“The new speakers I ordered just got delivered to the apartment. Mom can’t lift something that heavy and Dad’s still at work, so I need to head home.” Groaning, he hefted himself off the blanket.

Marinette handed him the insulated bag, dish firmly in place, from where she still sat. “Sure you don’t need help?” she teased.

“Hardy har,” Nino deadpanned back. “I think I got it.”

Adrien stood up. “My father wants us back at the house soon, anyway. We can give you a lift back to your place.”

“Thanks, man.” Nino and Adrien shared a quick fistbump.

Adrien looked back to Marinette, and she felt her heart stutter a little at the way he smiled at her. “I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

“Soon,” she agreed.

Marinette exchanged quick goodbyes with Bridgette before everyone minus herself and Alya loaded into M. Agreste’s car and drove away. When the car finally turned a corner and left their field of vision, Alya bumped her shoulder against Marinette’s. “I don’t know about you,” she said, “but I don’t really feel like going home yet. Wanna do a little window shopping?”

“Yes,” Marinette quickly agreed.

 

Alya and Marinette made their way to a nearby shopping district known for its low prices. “So,” Alya said after Marinette bought a couple balls of yarn and a new set of needles from a fabric store, “you gonna give me any details about your conversation with Adrien?”

“Which one?” Marinette asked.

Alya shrugged. “Both. Either. Any details at all would be delicious.”

Marinette laughed. “How did you live before you had me to gossip with?”

“Stop dodging the question. Details. Now.”

She sighed. “Fine.” She led Alya to a nearby bench. “Well, to start with, M. Agreste wants me to Bond with Adrien during his next heat.”

“You’re kidding.”

Mari cut Alya a sharp glance. “Do you want me to tell you what happened or do you want me to Google why foxes scream?”

Alya blushed. “The first one.”

“Then stop interrupting me.”

So Alya sat quietly and listened as Mari recounted everything from the initial encounter with M. Agreste to her and Chat’s talk on top of the tower.

The first thing Alya said after was “So his brother’s a dick?”

Marinette groaned and tilted her face up to the sky. “Way to miss the point, Alya.”

“All I’m saying is, your biggest problem sounds like his asshole brother. His dad respects you, he’s loved you for years, and your cousin seems like she’ll wear Félix down. Just win him over with your charm, wit, and your parents’ baked goods and you’ll be solid!”

“I hope so,” Marinette whined. She was about to continue ranting, but a buzz in her pocket made her pause. She pulled her phone out and saw, to her surprise, a text message from Master Fu.

[Master Fu: Good afternoon, Ladybug. If it would not be too great of an inconvenience, could you please invite Chat Noir and Maligne Rouge to meet at my parlor at midnight tonight? I would like to speak with the three of you regarding my choice of successor.]

Marinette quickly showed the text to Alya, who nodded furiously in agreement. She then quickly sent a text to Adrien, who replied promptly and affirmitavely.

[Marinette: Of course, Master Fu. We’ll come right over after our patrol tonight.]

[Master Fu: Thank you very much. I will have tea and some sweets waiting for you when you arrive.]

Marinette sighed and stood, wincing when she heard her joints pop. “Well, we better get home soon so we can rest up for tonight.”

Alya made a mournful noise, eyeballing the shops behind her, but agreed.

 

Patrol that night was nothing too special, aside from the way Ladybug and Chat kept making moon-eyes at each other when they first met up. After years and years of doing things like this, it was easy to fall into muscle memory and just do their jobs. Maligne being around actually made patrol easier, since they could divide the city into three sections instead of two.

They released their transformations when they got back on the ground. They’d all dressed appropriately; since Marinette was the only legal adult out of the three of them, Alya and Adrien had to be careful. Even if there wasn’t an imposed curfew, police officers usually sent underaged kids back home if they found them out this late at night. Thus, they were both wearing hoodies to cover their faces. Marinette made sure to exude as much of her Alpha pheromones as she could, just to make sure no one tried to mess with them while they moved through the streets to Master Fu’s parlor.

The door was unlocked, so Marinette let them in. As soon as the door closed behind them, Alya and Adrien took their hoods down, out of respect, and they all toed their shoes off and made their way into the apartment overhead.

Chapter Text

Adrien felt tense as soon as he woke up the next morning.

For one, sneaking back into the house was a lot harder when two Alphas were around instead of just one. Coupled with his newly aromatic scent, Adrien thought he was a goner. It wasn’t until he was safely wrapped up in his comforter that Plagg, the little shit, deigned to tell him his suit would dampen his scent to everyone but other Miraculous holders, so his sneaking was unnecessary. Adrien wondered, briefly, how long a kwami could go without being fed.

Bridgette was the only resident of the house to sleep later than him. His father was already gone to work and Félix was nursing a cup of coffee and blinking to dispel the sleep from his eyes. Adrien slipped quietly into the kitchen to grab something light; he’d never much been one for breakfast so he usually just had some fruit or some toast before he went to school. Apple in hand, he carefully chose a seat at the breakfast bar, just close enough to encourage conversation but far enough away to not appear deliberate. He’d make Félix work for it.

It took his brother a few minutes to even notice he was awake, which struck Adrien as a little odd. Before he left for China, Félix had hardly ever even touched a cup of coffee. He wondered, just a bit sadly, what else had changed in those past four years. “Good morning, Adrien.”

“Good morning, Félix. Did you and Bridgette sleep well?”

“Yes. The beds here are much softer than the ones back ho—in Shanghai.”

Adrien heard the slip-up. “You can call it home. You won’t offend me.”

“But it will hurt you,” Félix pointed out.

Adrien couldn’t refute that. “You never used to be able to read others so well,” he said instead, bringing the shiny red apple up to his lips to take a bite.

“Bridgette taught me a lot about emotions.”

Their conversation ran out of steam, and Adrien sat in the awkward silence, chewing on the same bite of apple until it turned into a vaguely sweet mush in his mouth, until Félix stood to rinse his mug out, at which point he made a hasty retreat, mostly uneaten apple discarded on the counter.

 

Marinette didn’t fight the urge to stick a little closer to Adrien than usual when he arrived at school. Part of the urge was the innate attraction she held for him, but she also felt on edge. Master Fu had advised them to be careful for the next few days; Papillion had been oddly quiet lately, and he would probably strike soon. She could tell Alya felt the tension, too, because she didn’t complain or tease about her and Adrien’s proximity and opted to switch seats with Adrien so he could sit beside Marinette in class. When Nino tried to ask about the change, Alya glared him into quiet submission.

She tried to focus on morning classes. She really did. She had her phone powered off and in her bag, she had her side of the desk clear of everything except class material, and she resolutely stared straight ahead instead of glancing to her left to watch Adrien. But his closeness, the smell of lavender and orange rolling off him in waves, the sound of his breath…

Now that she knew she was his and he was hers, it was hard to ignore the almost painful want welling up in her chest.

Her usually tame fantasies veered towards a dangerous direction, so far so that she had to focus to rid her mind of them. The last thing she needed on Adrien’s first day back at school was to get an erection because she couldn’t control her hormones. She did, however, allow herself to wonder if Adrien had similar fantasies about her. Marinette-her, Ladybug-her, any- her. Did he dream about her at night like she did about him? Did he wonder what waking up next to her would feel like? What their children would look like?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a combination of the lunch bell ringing and Adrien’s hand landing softly on her shoulder. She barely avoided jumping a foot into the air in shock by using the orange-lavender-Adrien scent to ground her. “Hey,” he said, softly, affection warm in his eyes. “Do you wanna have lunch together?”

“Sure!” she replied, far too quickly and too eagerly, but she didn’t care. “I usually go home for lunch, but I’m sure Maman made enough for you. She always makes too much, you know, since it makes leftovers for dinner so she doesn’t have to stop working—” She paused to take a breath and realized that she’d been rambling. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. I like hearing you talk.” He slid off the bench on his side to stand and Marinette mechanically followed suit, blushing furiously. “We’re walking, right? We should probably get going.”

 

Lunch was only slightly awkward. Marinette couldn’t blame her parents for not knowing how to talk to Adrien now. How would she feel if her child brought home a person they were planning on having sex with in a very specific time frame?

They did their best. Her mother fussed and shoved more and more food onto Adrien’s plate and her father asked him how he was enjoying the new Mecha Strike game. And if her elbow would brush against Adrien’s, or if their knees would bump together under the table, no one said anything.

“Lunch was delicious, Mme. Cheng,” Adrien said when the plates were cleared. “Thank you for having me on such short notice.”

“You two better get going,” her mother fussed.

“Actually,” Marinette said, “I wanted Adrien’s opinion on something before we leave.” Her eyes darted over to his, and the joy that crossed his face made her heart leap. “Can I take him up into my room real quick? I’ll leave the trap door open.”

Sabine looked conflicted, but ultimately nodded. “Don’t take too long!” she called as Marinette and Adrien raced up the ladder. “You don’t want to be late!”

Once they were safely in her room, Marinette let out a heavy sigh. She hadn’t anticipated Adrien coming to visit before she left for school, so her room was still a bit of a mess. Wayward scraps of fabric lay draped over furniture, needles were scattered across her desk, and her masculine and feminine mannequins looked more like clothes hangers than anything else at the moment. “Sorry for the mess,” she muttered.

“No, no, it’s fine! I invited myself over, after all.” The combination of his smile and his soothing scent put Marinette at ease in a second. “You said you wanted my opinion on something?”

“Oh, yeah!” Marinette scrambled over to her fabric basket near her desk and dug around until she fished out a bolt fabric, then held it up for Adrien to see. “I was thinking about the sweater I’m making you, and since you’ll be the one wearing it, I wanted your opinion. I managed to get my hands on some Merino wool a few weeks ago doing some work for Master Fu, but what color would you like?”

The long bolt of fabric Marinette was holding was still white, so Adrien took pause. He knew dyeing could be quite the process. “Do you know how to dye?”

Marinette nodded happily. “My grandma taught me! My dyeing pot is too big to keep in my room, so we keep it in the building’s basement. We have a space for storing extra bags of flour and sugar and the landlord lets me do my dyeing there, too.”

He hums. “I usually wear neutral colors like black and grey and white, but a little color might be nice…”

Marinette’s eyes light up suddenly, a flush of inspiration taking over her face. “Wait!” She carefully drapes the wool over her desk chair and dives back into her fabric basket. What she produces is a lovely piece of red silk, perfectly clean and uncut. “We can make the wool black and use this for some insulation! That way it’s not immediately obvious, but it will add color and keep you even warmer!” Then her face flushes even more and mutters something under her breath.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“I said I’d like to see you in red and black sometime…”

Adrien’s face flushed scarlet as well.

 

They walked back to school in companionable silence. Marinette found herself falling in place between Adrien and the busy streets, as if protecting him from the speeding cars of both locals and tourists. Every once in awhile, when Adrien had to move closer to her to allow others to pass on the other side of the sidewalk, their shoulders and arms would brush against each other and she could feel her heart pick up in pace. She wondered how he would react if she reached for his hand, entwined their fingers, ran her thumb over his knuckles. Would he pull away? Would he blush? Move closer?  When they were Ladybug and Chat Noir, high atop the city, she never wondered about his reactions. They were as familiar to her as her own thoughts. But this was Adrien, the civilian, not Chat Noir, the masked superhero, and she had no idea how their reactions would differ.

She was just working up the nerve to reach out when a scream cut through the air.

Instinct prompted Marinette to say, “I have to go!”, but Adrien was also saying, “I need to—” so they stopped and looked at each other before sharing a quirked smile. There was no need to lie anymore.

They ducked into a metro station bathroom to transform.

It was an odd experience, transforming in front of someone else. Marinette felt strangely self conscious, as if she was changing clothes instead of transforming, which was a bit silly. Adrien did the same thing every time he transformed, after all, so she really had nothing to worry about. Once they were both ready, Chat Noir gave her a cocky smile. “Ready to go, my lady?”

“Always, chaton.”

 

Maligne was already at the scene. The school, of course. “Are we the only schoolkids in Paris that get upset or something?” Maligne muttered darkly, eyeing the new akuma with distaste. “And what the hell are they upset about?”

This akuma reminded Marinette of the American movie Ghostbusters. It was tall and humanoid, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but instead of marshmallows, it was made out of wheels of cheese. “This is Plagg in akuma form,” Chat said under his breath, and Ladybug let out a little giggle. She remembered meeting the cat kwami at Master Fu’s house, and his distinctive personality certainly left an impression on her. She was sure, though, that his antics were much funnier to her than they were to his holder, whom he had to live with.

“Any idea where the akuma is?” Ladybug asked Maligne, keeping an eye on the akuma as she spoke. It was moving rather slowly, but she never knew when that could change.

Maligne shook her head. “I’ve just been trying to get people away so they don’t get hurt. I don’t even know if it’s a student or faculty.”

“It’s probably based around the cafeteria food,” Ladybug mused. “I don’t eat there very often so I don’t know of any recent changes.”

“Neither do I,” Chat said.

When they looked to her hopefully, Maligne shook her head. “My mom’s a chef, remember? She cooks all my lunches.”

Ladybug let out a frustrated breath of air. “So it looks like we have some digging to do.”

“Uh, I think we have more immediate problems!” Maligne warned.

Ladybug looked up just in time to see the akuma, now more active, stomping towards them with its large feet, causing small tremors in the ground with each step. Though it was slow, it had a large step size and was quickly moving closer. With the approaching caravan of police cars on the other side of the school gate, and the high walls of the fence surrounding the courtyard, there was little room to maneuver. Maligne’s illusions would do nothing against this very physical threat, Chat’s baton wasn’t strong enough to support the kind of weight this akuma had, and Ladybug wasn’t sure she would be able to figure out how to use whatever object her Lucky Charm called in time.

She resolved herself to stand strong and try to dodge the oncoming foot, but at the last minute, a green shield enveloped her and her companions. The akuma stepped on the top of the hexagonal-patterned dome instead of their heads, and the unexpected obstacle upset it, sending it to the ground. The shield fell shortly after, its job done, and the three heroes looked to the roof of the school.

A figure stood there, and Ladybug knew from experience they were trying to look confident in their stance. Their bodysuit was green, with a shelled pattern reaching from their chest to just below their navel, and a hood concealed their hair. Ladybug could see green goggles over their eyes, and their left wrist was held up to their face, a holographic display coming out from their…

Miraculous.

“Need a hand?” they called in a masculine voice.

“Yes, please!” Maligne shouted back.

The new guy leapt from the roof to land in front of them, between them and the new akuma. From this close, Ladybug could make out more of his features. He was on the short side, with dark skin and a wide, flat nose. She knew she’d seen him before, but she couldn’t place where. This, she knew, was part of the Miraculous magic. That was why it was so difficult to figure out their identities. And he had no distinct smell, which made it even harder.

Ah, well. She’d learn it later. “What do we call you in uniform, new guy?” Chat asked.

He smiled. “You can call me Coquillage Vert!”