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A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by DarkReyna16

Part 24 of 37

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Beauty Queen had disappeared.

Though they were still searching the city, it was strangely quiet, lacking the riot of sounds usually evoked when an akuma was loose. There were no screams of terror, no sounds of cars and pedestrians alike fleeing in the opposite direction from something.

Instead, there was nothing.

The silence made Ladybug very, very suspicious.

As they paused next to a large building to regroup, Ladybug glanced up, finding the mysterious new superhero that had suddenly appeared in their midst clinging to the wall next to them, near the rooftop, able to apparently hang on with the power of her gloves alone. Her green super suit had changed to match the color of the building—a crème color—and from what Ladybug could see, she was peering over the rooftop, dark eyes surveying the area. Normally, that would be Ladybug’s job, but since she currently had her hands full with Chat Noir…

“So…Camille,” she drawled, addressing the mysterious woman, who glanced down and smiled at the mention of her name, “you’re new.”

“Not exactly,” Camille replied, resuming her vigil after a moment, “I am just new to the city.”

“And your Miraculous is…?”

Abruptly, her costume shifted to an eye-catching yellow, and Camille glanced down, surprise evident in her wide eyes.

“But do you not know?”

She drew her legs up underneath her, pushing off against the wall. Her gloves came away from the building, and Ladybug tensed, unsure of whether or not to rush forward and catch this foolish new superheroine, but it proved unnecessary: Camille landed on her feet just fine, straightening with ease. Ladybug supposed Chat would make a cat joke here…if he was actually around to see Camille do that…

Talk about being present in body alone,’ Ladybug thought ironically, casting a glance over at Chat Noir’s body, which she made sit down as Emerald Shell and Chat’s face scouted the area elsewhere, leaving Ladybug to keep an eye on Camille and plot their next move. It was still eerie to see that blank stretch of skin where Chat’s face should be, and she found herself missing the wisecracks he’d be tossing out right now if only his mouth was present. Her gut clenched tighter every time his body twitched, as if he was reacting to whatever he and Shell were up to—bickering, probably. The sooner they caught this damnable akuma, the better…


Ladybug blinked, startled out of brooding over Chat; she turned her gaze towards Camille, who was standing next to her, her suit abruptly green again. Ladybug frowned. What was with the constant changing colors?

“I’m sorry?”

Camille tilted her head to one side, looking bemused.

“You asked what my Miraculous is. It is the Chameleon Miraculous.”

Briefly, Camille reached up, her gloved fingertips brushing against something around her neck: a green choker with a shining jewel in the center. As Ladybug leaned in for a closer look, the jewel abruptly flashed cerulean. Camille’s outfit soon followed suit, the color spreading from her neck, as if the jewel—her Miraculous, Ladybug was assuming—dictated the color change. Ladybug glanced up at Camille’s face in confusion, only to find her smiling.

“It is my pride and joy,” she explained, patting the choker. But Ladybug’s frown only deepened. A sudden new superhero with a necklace as her Miraculous, huh? Ladybug had heard all that before…

“I’ve never heard of a Chameleon Miraculous,” Ladybug wasted no time in telling this new “superheroine”. True, it didn’t seem as if she had the illusion powers Volpina did, so perhaps it would be a lot harder for her to fool Ladybug…but still, fool her once…

Camille gave a shrug; Ladybug’s ignorance did not seem to bother her.

“I am not surprised—as I understand it, there are many Miraculous users all over the world who do not know of each other’s existence. As it happens, I am not native to France.”

Ladybug blinked at this. Really, now? Well, she supposed that explained the very proper French with the slight accent…

“Then why—?”

“Yo,” a voice cut in, and Ladybug whirled around to find Shell approaching, hopping off his hover board once he was close enough. He lifted his shield, and Ladybug spied Chat’s face looking less than happy.

“Ugh…I think I’m gonna be sick…” he groaned, squeezing his eyes and lips shut. Shell gave him a flat look.

“Your mouth isn’t even attached to your stomach right now. You literally have nothing to throw up.”

“Urrrrgh,” Chat still groaned, and Ladybug spied his body swaying slightly where it sat, as if it, too, was motion sick.

“But that’s an interesting idea,” Shell mumbled, studying Chat’s face for a thoughtful moment. “If we try and feed you something, will it just stay in your mouth? It’s not like you can swallow right now without a throat, so—”

“Stop,” Ladybug ordered, shaking her head at the scheming Shell. “Just…stop whatever you’re thinking. Now’s not the time to experiment.”

“Party pooper,” Shell accused with a frown, and Ladybug rolled her eyes.

“Any sign of the akuma?”

“None,” Chat reported, though he still kept his eyes carefully closed; the rise and fall of his body’s chest suggested that he was taking deep breaths, which roused Ladybug’s morbid curiosity—was his face still attached to his body in some way? “She just…disappeared.”

“My guess is she’s holed up somewhere, waiting to get the drop on us,” Shell said.

Or,’ Ladybug thought to herself, gripping her chin, her brow creasing, ‘she could just be hidden in plain sight, waiting for us to drop our guard…

Right on cue, Camille shifted, and Ladybug’s gaze cut to her; she was green again, and heading towards Chat Noir’s body.

“We should keep looking,” Camille suggested over her shoulder, leaning over Chat’s body for some reason Ladybug couldn’t fathom, but still did not like. “It would be bad if she stole any more faces. Here—the black kitten needs looking after, yes? I will—”

Faster than she could blink, Ladybug was at Camille’s side, slapping her hands away from Chat’s body as she reached for him. Camille jumped, her dark eyes wide as she blinked at Ladybug in surprise, her costume abruptly shifting to saffron. Ladybug ignored her, leaning over to tug Chat Noir’s body into a standing position herself.

“He’s my partner. I’ll look after him,” she asserted, locking gazes with Camille. After a moment, the new superheroine seemed to realize something, for she took a careful step back, pink beginning to blend into the yellow in her costume before consuming the previous color completely, leaving her costume flushed.

“Oh…my apologies,” she apologized humbly, raising her hands in a placating gesture. “I did not mean to overstep—”

“It’s fine,” called Chat Noir’s voice from Shell’s shield, looking sheepish as his body raised a hand to rub the back of his head. “My Lady just gets a bit…edgy…around new superheroes. Long story.”

Shell was staring at Ladybug, frowning. There was a warning in his gaze, though for what, specifically, Ladybug couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she didn’t like that look, and she scowled back at him for it. A tense silence followed their stare-down, broken by Chat, who cleared his throat—or made the sound for clearing his throat, in any case—before asking in a hearty, offhand voice,

“So, that kaleidoscope thing you’ve got going on with your costume is neat. Can you change it at will?”

“Yes…when I try…” Ladybug glimpsed Camille playing with the end of her spiral hairstyle from her peripheral vision, looking both amused and exasperated. “But the colors come and go because my kwami is very emotion-based.”

“That’s gotta be distracting,” Shell chimed in, finally breaking gazes with Ladybug to focus on Camille. Ladybug briefly pondered if she should consider herself the victor of their staring match…hmm. It felt like a hollow victory, somehow. Perhaps because Shell willingly shifted his attention elsewhere…?

Get a grip,’ Ladybug ordered herself sternly, her self-scolding derailed by the distraction that was Camille’s laughter. The boys were getting awfully chummy with her, weren’t they…?

“It is distracting!” she agreed with an exasperated grin. “I am very obvious with my feelings because of it, like a…how do you say…‘mood ring’? It is terrible.”

She sighed, and the color of her costume shifted once again to blue…no, no, it was bypassing blue, turning darker, before the costume finally settled on a purple color as Camille smiled bittersweetly.

“It was better when I still had my partner—my costume was not so strange next to his feathers. He was very flashy, that Pavone.”

Ladybug was about to suggest that they cut the chit-chat and actually get back to hunting down the akuma, but the words stuck in her throat, her head snapping around so fast to stare at Camille that she nearly gave herself whiplash.

“What did you just say?” She questioned, the words more aggressive than she intended. Camille jumped again, her dark eyes wide, her costume turning yellow once more.

“What? I—”

Shell stepped in, nudging Ladybug back, throwing her a “cool it” look that she scowled at.

“You know Pavone?” He asked in a more reasonable tone, and Camille appeared to relax a little, the green returning to her costume as she gave Shell a curious look.

“Yes, I know Pavone, though it has been many years since I have seen him. He was something like my mentor…” She glanced in between Ladybug and Shell, questions in her eyes. “Do…you know him?”

“Well, not exactly—

The revelation was brought to a screeching halt as a distant scream captured the heroes’ attention.

“We don’t have time for this!” Ladybug burst out, throwing a scowl at Shell and Camille. “There’s a face-stealing akuma on the loose, remember?!”

“Oh yeah…” mumbled Chat Noir, looking as if this reminder surprised him. “Huh, funny, this situation reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite shows—”

Later,” Ladybug insisted, turning on her heel and taking hold of Chat Noir’s hand to lead his body, as she had been doing. His hand squeezed hers, which managed to cheer her up, just a little. “We have to de-akumatize the victim, so let’s go!

“Yes, ma’am,” Shell replied, though there was just enough irony in his tone for Ladybug to make a mental note to have “words” with him later.

Since Ladybug had appointed herself to be Chat Noir’s guide, she was grounded with him, running at half speed just to make sure his body didn’t trip and stumble behind her. But despite not being able to see—his face was currently watching the ground fly by as Emerald Shell soared ahead of them, scouting the area—his footsteps never faltered once as he chased her, his hand warm and reassuring in hers. His implicit trust in her, the trust that allowed him to be led by her even though he was effectively blind, made Ladybug’s heart swell, and she gave his hand another squeeze, her pulse thumping harder when he squeezed back.

Camille leapt from rooftop to rooftop next to them, clinging to the edges when her jumps didn’t quite cut it, her whip-tail dangling behind her at every step. Ladybug wondered if she ever tripped over that thing, since it was pretty long, and Camille was rather short—


Shell’s sudden shout tore Ladybug’s attention from the stranger in their midst. Beauty Queen was crouched over what appeared to be yet another victim; she stood up as she seemed to hear them approach, whirling around to face them—

Ladybug yelped, drawing to a sudden halt; she pulled Chat Noir to a stop as well, and his body wobbled, the move unexpected. As she steadied him with a hand to his chest, Ladybug gaped at Beauty Queen. Just when she thought this akuma couldn’t get any more horrifying—

Beauty Queen glared at them. A quarter of her face—another stolen face—was torn away, leaving just a blank stretch of skin where half her right eye and the right corner of her mouth should be, her expression only partially formed. As an explanation, she lifted her mirror, where a thin crack could be seen running down the right side of it.

“You cracked my mirror,” she hissed at Ladybug, “now my face is ruined.

“Hard to call it your face when you weren’t exactly born with it,” Chat answered from Shell’s shield, looking smug. “Or are you operating by the ‘finders, keepers’ rule?”

Beauty Queen ignored him, aiming her mirror at Ladybug once again.

“You will pay, Ladybug.”

“I really wish I was well-compensated for every time I had to hear that same threat over and over again,” Ladybug sighed, letting go of Chat’s hand and pushing his body back as she unhooked her yo-yo from her hip. “But okay, I’ll play along—come and get me.”

Ladybug dove out of the way as Beauty Queen’s mirror fired, keeping on the move and refusing to look directly at the mirror, lest she be caught in its glare once again. Shell was attempting to get close enough to Beauty Queen to remove the akumatized item, but she sent a few shots of the mirror his way as well, shots he had to work hard to dodge, since he was unwilling to use his shield with Chat’s face plastered onto it. Chat Noir was doing all he could to help, yelling taunts as his body lunged for Beauty Queen when it could, but since Shell was keeping on the move, Chat couldn’t always see where his body was going—more often than not, his body tripped over something, leaving it sprawled in the street. Overall, this was quite a troublesome akuma they were dealing with, and Ladybug was pushing her brain into overdrive, trying to work out a solution that didn’t involve all their faces being lanced off their heads—

“Wait, I am confused,” said a voice beside her, and Ladybug glanced over sharply, surprised at Camille’s sudden appearance. It wasn’t like Ladybug had forgotten her—her attention had to be focused elsewhere if she wanted to keep her face intact, and she hadn’t seen Camille since encountering Beauty Queen for the second, out of sight, out of mind. But now that she was hidden behind this car, avoiding Beauty Queen’s fire (for now), Camille was suddenly at her side, frowning in confusion at Ladybug. Had she been camouflaged this whole time?

“Confused about what?” Ladybug questioned, cringing as Beauty Queen screamed for her to quit hiding and face her. Face her, ha…ugh, she had been spending too much time with Chat.

Camille glanced around the car, frowning.

“What is it we are meant to be doing?” She asked, returning her gaze to Ladybug after a moment. “This is a…villain, yes? What the French call an ‘akuma’?”

“What gave it away?” Ladybug drawled sarcastically, getting antsy as Beauty Queen’s voice grew closer, as Shell cursed in the background, and the sound of Chat’s body hitting the ground for the umpteenth time reached her ears.

“But how do you defeat it?”

Ladybug huffed. She really didn’t have time for an akuma-conquering lesson…but considering her options for helpful allies were pretty much thin on the ground, due to the circumstances…

“Okay, so that woman over there calling herself Beauty Queen? There’s actually a person in there. She’s just possessed—an object somewhere on her body is housing an evil presence. That’s the akuma. The woman’s just a victim who’s being used in the evil schemes of a villain that calls themselves The Butterfly. We need to find the possessed object, destroy it, and then purify the akuma before she can cause any more trouble.” Her Miraculous gave a beep, and Ladybug’s hand jumped to her ear, cursing under her breath. “And preferably before my time is up. But if none of us can get close enough to grab her necklace—”

“How do you know it is her necklace?”

“Call it a hunch,” Ladybug said shortly, chancing a glance around the back bumper of the car, and withdrawing quickly when Beauty Queen’s gaze flashed to her. Not quickly enough, however.

“Ah-ha! Found you, Ladybug!”

Fuck,” Ladybug hissed under her breath, pinching the bridge of her nose. She was trying really, really hard not to be annoyed with the akumatized victim, especially if she was who Ladybug was ninety-five percent sure she was, but when she kept coming after Ladybug like this—

“So, to get closer to the victim…it is a distraction you need, yes?”

“That would be helpful,” Ladybug huffed, blinking in confusion when Camille suddenly stood. “Wait, what are you—?”


Within a moment, Camille melted away, her camouflage ability taking effect. Ladybug squinted, just able to make out her movement as she shifted around the car, stepping to the side—

Beauty Queen rounded the corner, a manic smile on her twisted face.

Fuck to the second power.

“Caught you, Ladybug,” Beauty Queen cackled gleefully, raising her mirror in triumph. “Now hold still, or so help me—

Camille suddenly reappeared a few meters from Beauty Queen, giving a short whistle and a wave when Beauty Queen whirled around to face her.

Ciao, Bella,” she greeted pleasantly, unhooking her whip from behind her as she smiled at Beauty Queen. “How about you leave Coccinelle alone and play with the two of us instead?”

Ladybug stared as Beauty Queen squinted at Camille. What on earth was she doing?

“The two of who?” She snapped, apparently annoyed that Camille was wasting her time. “There’s only one of you!”

Camille grinned widely, her dark eyes glittering.

“Oh?” She asked, raising her whip. “Are you sure about that?”

“Wha—” Beauty Queen began, both mystified and irritated all at the same time, but before she could finish articulating her question, Camille cracked her whip against the ground.

“Double Vision!”

And, before Ladybug’s very eyes…Camille split in two.

“What?!” She squawked right along with Beauty Queen, gaping at the two Camilles, her warning instincts against the mysterious superheroine rocketing through the roof. That was a Volpina move right there!

But the longer she stared, the more Ladybug was able to catalogue the differences—whereas Volpina’s copies were completely identical and solid-looking, the vision of Camille flickered in between the two copies, as if she was moving very quickly from side to side instead of two of her being present, standing there grinning at Beauty Queen. It was very confusing and distracting, Ladybug felt, her feelings echoed to a larger extent by Beauty Queen, who screeched in rage.

“That’s cheating!!” She snarled as the Camilles effortlessly dodged the rapid fire from her mirror, all without moving very much. The Camilles smiled identical, flickering smiles.

“Is it?” They questioned in unison, their thoughtful expressions mirroring each other’s, tapping their chins in sync. “Oh dear, our apologies…but what do you intend to do about it, exactly?”

“Bitch!” Beauty Queen snapped, racing forward, still quite fast in those tacky heels. “I’ll claw both of your faces off!!”

“You have to catch us, first,” Camille taunted, dancing effortlessly around Beauty Queen as she lunged for them, screaming in outrage when she missed again and again. Ladybug, however, noticed that the flickering was beginning to slow down, and that one Camille was becoming more solid than the other. Shit—this power had a time limit, didn’t it?

“Camille!” Ladybug called, jumping to her feet and back into the action, “her necklace! Throw it to me!”

As the Camilles whirled around Beauty Queen once again, the more solid-looking one snatched the choker from Beauty Queen’s neck, turning to fling it towards Ladybug, who tossed it to the ground and stomped on it, crushing the jewel at the center. It was both a relief and a problem to see the akuma flitting out of it, flapping its wings as hard as it could to flee, a relief because Ladybug guessed right, and a problem because she was going to have to have a very awkward conversation with Erika, once she de-akumatized—

Ladybug sent out her yo-yo, capturing the akuma…or she tried to, in any case. But the minute her yo-yo made contact, the akuma crumbled to bits.

Ladybug swore violently.

“It’s a fake!” She cried with a prick of despair, glancing up at Camille’s puzzled expression as she stared back at Ladybug, unaware of the danger behind her. “Camille, watch—!!”

Too late: Beauty Queen snapped her arms around Camille, who squeaked in surprise, her suit flashing saffron.

“I wouldn’t if I were you, Ladybug,” Beauty Queen hissed as Ladybug fingered the wire of her yo-yo, ready to use her Lucky Charm. Beauty Queen dug one of her jagged nails into Camille’s face, and blood began to bead at the wound. Ladybug straightened, fingers tensing on her wire.

“That’s right—one wrong move, and I ruin this pretty face. Drop the yo-yo. Now.

Ladybug grit her teeth. The word “surrender” was not in her vocabulary—she was Ladybug, for god’s sake. And it certainly was not in her nature to take demands from an akumatized victim—

Beauty Queen’s nails dug deeper into Camille’s chin, and she twitched, wincing, fear in her eyes, her face draining of color as well as her costume, the color slowly fading until there was none left, like it had suddenly become lifeless—

Ladybug swallowed her pride. It was a bitter pill, nearly choking her the whole way down her throat. But when she looked at Camille, putting on a brave face, though her lower lip trembled ever so slightly…

“Fine,” Ladybug spat, tossing her yo-yo to the ground and raising her hands to eye level, glaring at Beauty Queen, who simpered.

“Good. And you! Yes, you, I see you sneaking around over there! Drop the sh—ah, but I forgot: it has a kitty face on it right now, which makes it useless, doesn’t it? What a shame.” Beauty Queen clucked her tongue, clearly enjoying this power trip too much. “Very well, you can keep the kitty shield, Turtle Boy.”

Ladybug could hear frantic muttering somewhere behind her. She couldn’t really pick up the words, but the cadences were clear: Shell and Chat were arguing about something again. Ladybug wanted to snap at them that this was not the time, but she could not pull her gaze from Beauty Queen, who grinned wickedly as she raised her mirror in front of Camille’s face.

“Well, since I’ve got you here, I might as well try your face on for size,” she purred as Camille stared, transfixed, into the mirror, which began to glow ominously. “It’s a little damaged, but since someone cracked my mirror, it’ll hardly make a difference whether it’s intact or not…now, smile pretty for me, hero…let me see those pearly whites…”

“Just do it!” Ladybug heard Chat snap behind her.

“Fine!” Shell barked back. She turned just as something green went whizzing past her—

Shell’s shield hit the tiara on top of Beauty Queen’s head, which was apparently tangled in her hair. The momentum of the tiara yanked at her curls and she shrieked, hands jumping to her hair. Free of the mirror’s spell, Camille jumped and melted away from sight once more, though a crack of her whip had Beauty Queen stumbling back, falling onto her backside. As Shell’s shield rebounded like an overlarge boomerang, Beauty Queen’s mirror was snatched from her. It floated, apparently unsupported, over to Ladybug as Shell approached, with Chat’s body in tow, and Ladybug snatched up her yo-yo once more.

“Smash it, Camille!”

The mirror was raised…but then, for reasons unknown, Camille paused.

“Um…but this is seven years bad luck, is it not…?”

Chat snorted.

“Give it to me, then. Bad luck is child’s play for me…or kitten’s play, I should say.”

“Boo,” Shell hassled, pointing a thumb down, and Chat’s face rolled its eyes.

“Everyone’s a critic,” he grumbled as his body stretched out a clawed hand, waiting for the mirror. Camille obliged him, and within seconds, the mirror was in pieces at their feet. Another akuma sprang forward from the mirror, and Ladybug bit her lip as she tossed out her yo-yo, hoping this was the real deal—

Her yo-yo snatched the akuma out of the air, enclosing it in the healing chamber. The heroes each breathed sighs of relief as the harmless white butterfly was released, flying off into the cloudy sky. Ladybug retrieved the repaired mirror as Beauty Queen finally de-akumatized, revealing—

Not Erika.

“Wha…who are you?” Ladybug sputtered as she approached, so surprised at the unexpected appearance of a woman she did not recognize that she was able to ignore the second beeping of her Miraculous. The woman on the ground rubbed at her head, startled dark eyes blinking at her surroundings, her skin smooth and unblemished, nose straight and lips full. She was beautiful, Ladybug realized. But then, this whole situation didn’t make any sense: why would a woman so pretty need to steal other women’s faces?

“What…where are…Ladybug?” The victim mumbled, disoriented. “I…oh no…was I…”

“You were,” Shell confirmed grimly as he approached, kneeling next to the flustered victim. “Are you okay?”

“I…I think so…oh…my mirror!”

Ladybug started, realizing that she was still holding the previously possessed object. She handed it over, and the woman clutched at it as if it were a lifeline, hugging the mirror to her for dear life. It clearly meant a lot to her…

“This mirror,” Ladybug began, operating on a hunch, as she was prone to do, “it was a gift from your…” The diamond ring on the woman’s ring finger caught Ladybug’s attention for a moment. “Husband?”

The woman’s expression crumpled into despair.

“My fiancé, Phillipe,” she whimpered, her grip on the mirror tightening.

“He did something to upset you,” Ladybug guessed again, patting the woman’s shoulder in a comforting manner as her eyes began to tear up.

“He’s always upsetting me!” The woman burst out, raising a hand to wipe at her eyes. “He’s a philanderer!”

“‘Philanderer’?” Camille questioned, the word rolling off her tongue, as if it was foreign to her. “You mean…like Casanova?”

“I think that’s the general idea,” Chat’s face muttered as the woman gave a wail.

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!” She sobbed, and Shell joined in the shoulder patting. “I-I’m nothing but loyal, l-loving, attentive…but he still cheats on me! H-he’s always going on about how b-beautiful other women are…right to my face! I don’t get it!!”

Understanding dawned on Ladybug as she put together the pieces: this woman, feeling unworthy and unloved by her philandering fiancé, became Beauty Queen and began to steal other women’s faces so that maybe her fiancé would stop straying. In other words, the culprit here was another broken heart.

She, Camille, Shell, and Chat exchanged glances.

“Dump him,” the four of them advised the woman at once. This unanimous decision appeared to startle the woman, who hiccupped herself into silence, staring at the costumed heroes before her.

“What? B-but I can’t! He’s…he’s the only man I’ve ever loved!” She glanced down, lowering the mirror to peer into it, her tears splashing against the surface. “And…wh-what if he’s right? What if…what if I’m not beautiful enough for him? What if I’m…not beautiful enough for any ma—”

Smettila!” An angry voice snapped, and Ladybug jumped, startled as she glanced over to find Camille kneeling next to her, her costume flashing crimson as she glared at the woman. “You stop that right now!

“Uh, Camille—?” Shell began, eyeing her nervously, but Camille ignored him, placing a hand flat across the mirror and pushing it down as she leaned forward, capturing the woman’s dark eyes with her own.

“You listen to me: you are a goddess. You have the power within you to make men fall at their knees when they see you, but you are kind enough to encourage them to stand and treat you like a normal human being. And you love fiercely, with all your heart. So how can you sit there and say that you are unlovable? You are crazy!”

Camille snatched the mirror from the woman’s limp hands, raising it to reflect her surprised expression.

“Do you know how rude you are being to this lovely woman?” Camille demanded, jabbing a finger at the reflection in the mirror. “She should be crying because you dare to call her not beautiful, not because of what any cheating bastardo thinks!”

Ladybug could only stare at this sudden, fierce side of Camille as she practically shoved the mirror in the woman’s face.

“If that is how you truly feel, then say that to her face! Tell that woman in the mirror that you hate her, that she is ugly and unlovable! Tell her that she is not good enough! Go on, I dare you! Repeat the horrible things the man you love says to you!”

The woman stared at her reflection in the mirror, her eyes wide. Her lips were trembling, and tears began to gather once again as she took shaky breaths.

“You…you’re…you’re ug-ug…”

She couldn’t finish. Instead, she burst into more tears, sobs wrenching from her. It was heartbreaking to watch, and Ladybug had to look away, half a mind to step in now, if Camille planned on bullying this poor woman—who had gone through quite enough for one day—any further.

But as she turned and opened her mouth to order Camille to lay off, the words died once she caught the tender look on Camille’s face, the red fading from her suit and replaced with its normal green as she scooted closer. Shell moved out of the way, allowing Camille to wrap an arm around the shaking, sobbing woman.

“There, you see? How can you say such things if you do not believe them? And how can you allow anyone else to say such hurtful lies about you? You deserve better, do you not?”

Once more, Camille lifted the mirror, though she kept it at a reasonable distance this time.

“Now, repeat after me: I am beautiful. Go on, it is fine! It is the truth, yes? Say it.”

“I…I’m beautiful,” the woman repeated, her red-rimmed eyes focused on the mirror.

“I am lovable.”

“I…I am lovable.”

“I am worthy.”

“I am…worthy.”

“Very good. Now, homework: repeat this chant five times a day,” Camille instructed, handing the mirror back the crying woman, giving her back a pat and a soothing smile. “And get rid of your philandering fiancé Phillipe. If that is how he would talk to a goddess, then surely he is unworthy of you, or any woman he lays eyes on. He does not know true beauty, and his opinion is unimportant because of it. You deserve better.”

“Well said,” Ladybug had to agree, and Camille smiled at her as well. Together, they helped the crying woman to her feet. “Come on. Let’s get you home.”

The crying woman lived just down the street, it transpired. Nevertheless, she got a full hero guard to see her home, and though she was still crying when they dropped her off, she bade them good day with the bravest smile she could muster, and Ladybug’s heart warmed at the sight. As they left the woman’s street, thunder rumbled overhead, and her Miraculous gave another beep. Her time here was almost up.

“Uh…Ladybug?” Chat spoke up, and Ladybug glanced over to find him cringing at her from Shell’s shield. “A little help here?”

Oh, shit. How could she have forgotten?!

“Miraculous Ladybug!” Ladybug called, tossing her yo-yo into the air. The miraculous ladybugs swarmed all around, righting the damage the akuma rampage caused. Chat’s face was removed from Shell’s shield and returned to its rightful place on his head, and Ladybug felt herself go weak with relief as he blinked, glancing around and feeling his face, as if to check that it was where it should be.

“Ah…that’s better. I’ve heard about the horrors of facelifts, but that was—!”

Whatever stupid joke Chat was about to make was cut off as Ladybug yanked him down to her eye level, fingers lacing around the back of his neck. She was so glad, so glad that such damage had been reversible, that Chat hadn’t been irreparably hurt because of her, because he, once again, threw himself in danger’s way just to protect her. He was so sweet and so thoughtful and so protective of her that it made Ladybug’s heart hurt and sing at the same time, and she was feeling so grateful that she could just kiss him—

And why shouldn’t she? Why shouldn’t she kiss her partner for protecting her once again, for saving the day with his sacrifices, from pushing her out of the way of the mirror one minute to allowing his face to be thrown into danger just to give them an edge? He deserved at least one kiss from her, his Lady, didn’t he? For his good services and good behavior? There was no good reason why she shouldn’t kiss him—

He is SEEING SOMEONE, Marinette!!!

The harsh reality check crashed through Ladybug’s fevered gratitude (that’s all it was, gratitude) towards Chat, and she froze before her face could get any closer to his. Chat merely stared at her, turning crimson under his mask, his cat eyes wide with confusion.

“My…Lady…?” He questioned after a moment, looking just as startled as Ladybug felt at herself. She shut her eyes, afraid of what she might see in Chat’s eyes if she dared to prolong the contact, covering up her temporary bout of insanity by bumping her forehead against his with a soft sigh.

“You need to stop scaring me like this,” she grumbled, unable to help the blame she placed on him. Chat chuckled weakly, his arms sliding around her for a brief hug.

“Forgive me, My Lady,” he muttered, drawing back as far as he could with her hands still around his neck. Ladybug reluctantly opened her eyes, finding that strangely gentle smile on his face once again, so out of place compared to the usual cocky grins he flashed…and yet, somehow, still so very familiar… “But I can’t very well stand on the sidelines and let you be harmed either, though, right?”

He was so very, very, very sweet. Ladybug opened her mouth, lips posed to say more…but then it occurred to her, quite abruptly, that she and Chat were not alone.

Feeling her face grow hot, Ladybug glanced over to Camille and Shell. The former of the superheroes was looking politely away, her eyes on the ominous, rumbling clouds overhead as she hummed to herself, though her costume was swirling with pink once again, which Ladybug took to mean that she was embarrassed.

But Emerald Shell was staring straight at her.

Ladybug hurriedly looked away, unlocking her fingers from Chat’s neck and stepping away from him, but it was too late. Shell had seen. He knew what Ladybug had been thinking, what she had almost done. He had been witness to that very near miss that had occurred between her and Chat.

Ladybug could deny, deny, deny all she wanted: actions always spoke louder than words.

And Ladybug was so very, very fucked.

A small gasp from Camille provided a welcome distraction, and Ladybug turned to her, wondering what the issue was.

Camille was still looking away from them, but her costume was flashing yellow, and her mouth was open as she stared at something in the distance. Frowning, Ladybug glanced over, wondering what was so fascinating.

She could only make out a flash of blue before whatever it was disappeared. Ladybug blinked, staring at the spot. Was that…?

Camille took a few steps forward, as if she meant to follow the flash of blue…but she paused in the middle of the street, just staring for a moment. Slowly, her head lowered, and she folded her arms behind her back, clutching at her right forearm, violet swirls overtaking the yellow in her costume. Ladybug bit her lip, taking a step or two forward after Camille, wondering what she should say.

“Uh…was that…Pavone?”

“It was,” Camille confirmed, raising her gaze to the sky once again, where she and Ladybug had glimpsed that flash of blue. “He was there for but a moment…but I would know my partner anywhere. I…did not expect to see him here.”

And yet, she obviously missed him—the purple in her costume had appeared when she was speaking of him earlier, too. Sympathizing completely, Ladybug raised a hand, patting Camille’s shoulder.

“Do you…want to go after him?”

Camille tilted her head to the side, still looking away from Ladybug. She appeared to be deliberating.

“…No,” she decided after a moment, surprising Ladybug. She finally turned to look at her, smiling slightly. “Before we parted ways, Pavone said to me that he had very important work to do. I do not know what it is he meant…but I suppose this must be part of it.” She nodded decisively. “I must respect that.”

“Mystery dude, that Pavone,” Shell said as he and Chat approached, and Ladybug carefully kept her gaze from the both of them. “He’s been helping us out this whole time, but he won’t join us.”

“Do you know who he is?” Chat asked Camille, who threw her head back and laughed at this.

“No…he was always very private about his identity. To this day, his true name is a mystery to me.”

Ladybug and Chat Noir exchanged furtive glances before hastily looking away.

“Well, maybe you’ll get a chance to find out, now that you’re both in the same place again,” Ladybug suggested. Camille blinked, her dark eyes perplexed.

“But do you not know?” She asked, and the odd phrasing of such a question distracted Ladybug, for it was the second time she had heard such odd phrasing…

Ladybug frowned. No—third time. This was the third time she had heard this question phrased so strangely. The last two times, it was coming from Camille, but the first time…

“I am not staying in France,” Camille announced, breaking Ladybug’s train of thought, smiling apologetically. “I am only here by coincidence, since I am currently visiting a very dear friend of mine.”

A dear friend…

“And I leave tomorrow, so I very much doubt that we will see each other again before then,” Camille continued to explain. She glanced around, smiling pleasantly. “Still…my week in Paris was lovely…even if tonight took a…strange turn? I was so surprised! Though you certainly hear of the trouble Paris faces with your possessed citizens, I did not expect to see it when I was only visiting for a week!”

Only a week…

Wait a minute—

Raindrops began to fall; it appeared the sky had finally made up its mind about its weather patterns. As Ladybug glanced up, biting her lip, her Miraculous gave its fourth beep, and she knew her time was nearly up—it was a bad idea to keep Tikki working through the rain, anyway.

“Time to go,” Shell announced, as if Ladybug needed reminding. She sighed, dreading the walk home with him for a number of reasons, but if she didn’t want a reveal of her own to happen in a minute—

“Well, it was lovely to meet you…Camille,” Ladybug said, making sure to address the heroine by her preferred name…though suspicions over her true name had been aroused. Still, it was rude to assume, and even ruder to potentially out a fellow superheroine, and so Ladybug let it go, raising a hand for Camille to shake. “And…thank you. For everything.”

Ladybug let her smile be tinted by a silent apology; she had not treated Camille fairly upon first meeting her, suspicious and wary that she was an enemy in disguise, her paranoia over the whole “Volpina” situation refusing to disappear without a fight. But after seeing Camille in action, Ladybug was forced to conclude that she was wrong. And when she was wrong, she had to admit it…if only through a simple, friendly gesture.

Camille glanced down at Ladybug’s hand, her dark gaze flickering up to her face a moment later. There was a moment’s pause…and then Camille, grinning widely, threw her arms around Ladybug instead and squeezed. The friendly gesture took Ladybug by surprise—again—and she could only pat Camille’s back after a startled moment.

“It was an honor to meet you, Coccinelle,” Camille enthused, pulling back to grin at Ladybug, her suit changing to cerulean blue. “And you as well, uh…oh, but I never got your name, Monsieur—”

“Emerald Shell,” Shell introduced himself with an easygoing smile. “But Shell’s fine.”

“His really close friends call him Amante Lattuga,” Chat said after Camille had given Shell a tight hug as well.

“Hey, I may not know Italian—which is what I’m pretty sure you’re speaking—but I do know that a fist to the mouth is the same in every language,” Shell said, sending an unimpressed scowl Chat’s way, who folded his hands behind his head and attempted to look innocent. Camille giggled behind a gloved hand.

“You two are funny,” she complimented them, and Shell shook his head in disbelief as Camille approached Chat. “Well, goodbye, Chat Noir. It was nice to…ah.” Camille had stepped in for a hug, but then she paused, sending a furtive glance Ladybug’s way, her suit blushing for her. Checking her movement, Camille extended a hand to a bemused Chat Noir instead. “It was nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Chat replied, returning the smile a little sheepishly.

Sudden beeping interrupted the goodbyes, and Ladybug and Chat Noir swore at the same time.

“Gotta go!” They cried in unison, fleeing for opposite cover in the area.

“Take care, Camille!” Ladybug heard Shell call as he chased after her, and Ladybug chanced one last glance over her shoulder, glimpsing Camille one final time, looking startled at the sudden farewell even as she waved them along.

“Goodbye!” She called one final time before she melted from view once again, off to wherever she had come from…and Ladybug had a few ideas on that front…

As she and Shell scampered away, Chat Noir dove for the nearest enclosed space, glancing back briefly to confirm that, yes, Ladybug and Shell were headed in the same direction. Again.

That was way too suspicious…didn’t this confirm his theory that Shell knew who Ladybug was underneath the mask, and possibly vice-versa? And if so, how had Shell managed that? Just what had he done to earn her closest of confidences?

You have no right to be jealous,’ Chat reminded himself with a frown, though it was a hard fact to accept. But the matter was pushed from his mind the minute his transformation broke.

“I’m exhausted!” Plagg complained immediately once he escaped Adrien’s ring, flopping down into his Chosen’s open palms. “You are terrible to me, you know that? I work, and I work, and for what?!

“Save the guilt trip, you glutton,” Adrien huffed, shifting Plagg to one hand so he could retrieve a piece of camembert from his pocket. “I’ve got your cheese right here.”

Plagg promptly went silent, save for his happy squees as he tossed the camembert in the air and caught it with his mouth, swallowing in one gulp as usual, much to Adrien’s disgust. Patting his satiated stomach (for now), Plagg eyed Adrien with a smirk, his cat’s eyes glittering in the darkness of the alley.

“Someone was Mr. Popular today. Was that jealousy I saw from Ladybug earlier?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Adrien muttered, though his face flushed red at the implication. “Ladybug was just worried that Camille would turn out to be another Volpina.”

“Uh-huh. Which is why she almost kissed you just a few minutes ago.”

“She didn’t.

“She was going to.”

“You don’t know that.”

“What, you think I don’t know an incoming kiss when I see—”

Abruptly, Plagg stopped talking…and considering his mouth wasn’t full of cheese at the moment, that was a bad sign. His gaze was focused on something deeper in the alley, ears pricked up in surprise.

“Wha—” Adrien began, glancing that way, too, but since his night vision currently wasn’t as great as it could be, he could only make out the shape of something lurking in the shadows.

But something was definitely there.

His mind flashing to the shadow thing that had attacked Ladybug a few weeks ago, Adrien swore, widening his stance into a fighting position.

“Plagg, transform—”

“Adrien?” Gasped a voice from the shadows. Adrien stood stock still, feeling his eyes go wide in his face as someone approached…

The sight of a cellphone with a Ladybug keychain attached was the first sight as the figure stepped out of the shadows…a too familiar figure…

Adrien stared, his heart rate skyrocketing as hazel eyes blinked at him in stunned silence.





Alya didn’t know how to react.

Here she was, secretly getting footage of Paris’ superheroes—and a guest appearance of some new chick?—battling yet another akuma after she had given Adrien the slip, knowing he’d probably tell Nino if he knew what she was up to…but apparently, it was she who had been ditched instead.

For, apparently, it appeared that her friend’s not-boyfriend Adrien Agreste and mid-redemption Chat Noir were one in the same.

Sure, realizing Ladybug and Emerald Shell’s true identities was an ordeal all its own, but this?

This was just fucking bullshit.

“…Oh my FUCKING—” Alya began, her voice growing louder with every syllable she uttered, but Adrien hurriedly shushed her, glancing around nervously, as if the sound of her voice would summon every news reporter in Paris.

“Alya, shhh! Please! Don’t scream!”

“‘Don’t scream?!” Alya quoted him in disbelief, ignoring the rain as it began to fall heavier. Her hair was getting wet, and she was going to be a ball of disgruntled frizz later, but for now, that was unimportant, because Chat Noir, Chat fucking Noir was

“Alya, please!” Adrien begged, his hands up in protest, panic in his green eyes. “Please don’t tell anyone!! No one can know!”

Alya blinked. The fuck did he mean, no one can know?

…Wait, was he saying—

“No one else knows you’re Chat Noir?” Alya questioned, gaping at him, her eyes occasionally flicking to the black, cat-like thing peeking out at her from under Adrien’s collar, softly hissing every time she glanced its way. “No one else knows?

“Uh…w-well, my therapist knows…” Adrien admitted, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably. “But that’s all. So please, I’m begging you—don’t spread this around, okay?”

Alya eyed him. Was that true? Did no one else but Ivan know Chat Noir’s true identity? Not even…

“What about Ladybug and Emerald Shell?”

Adrien shook his head.

“No, not even they know,” he mumbled, something like regret in his voice. “It has to be a secret, Alya, for safety reasons. So, please—”

“So let me get this straight,” Alya talked over him, her sense of incredulity over the situation beginning to build, “the only people who know you’re Chat Noir are Ivan…and then me?”

“Yes,” Adrien confirmed, looking confused…as if he didn’t understand why Alya was staring at him as if he was born without a brain. As a matter of fact, they were all brainless, the three of them, running around in costumes every other night without knowing each other’s identities…were they fucking kidding her right now?!

Alya slapped a hand to her forehead and groaned loudly.

Her friend, her friend’s not-boyfriend, and her fiancé were so fucking stupid!

“Please, Alya, I’m seriously begging you, here,” Adrien pleaded, clasping his hands together as he unleased the force of his puppy eyes—kitten eyes!—on Alya, who cringed under the force. “I’ll do whatever you say, I’ll give you whatever you want. Just, please, don’t tell anyone. Especially not Nino or Marinette, okay? Please?”

As his words sunk in, the wheels in Alya’s diabolical mind began to turn as she eyed him. Hmm…anything she said or wanted, huh?

Well…this changed everything. And it had the potential to work out very well in her favor.

“…Anything I want?” Alya made sure to confirm, a slow smile beginning to spread across her face. Adrien eyed her, blood beginning to drain from his face.

“Uh…within reason…?”

“Oh, Adrien, Adrien, Chat Noir,” Alya drawled, just loud enough to make Adrien visibly nervous as she stepped forward, grinning up at him. “I reallydon’t think you’re in a position to bargain here, do you…?”

Rain saturated Adrien’s hair, melting the gel, causing his carefully coiffed blonde locks to droop. Alya muffled a snicker as she realized he had Chat hair. Well, now she felt a little stupid for not seeing it before as well. Maybe she should cut Nino and Marinette some slack…

“I…kinda feel like I just sold my soul to the Devil,” Adrien muttered, tense and anxious as Alya passed him, laughing softly.

“Oh, Adrien, comparing me to Satan just proves that you don’t know me well enough,” Alya said, turning to wink at him, wicked grin still in place. “But thank you for the compliment.”

Adrien swallowed loudly, and Alya turned, laughing to herself. He looked like he was about to pass out from shock…poor boy. Hmm…as much fun as this was…

“Relax, Agreste,” Alya insisted, glancing out of the mouth of the alleyway to make sure the coast was clear before she stepped out onto the sidewalk, waving Adrien after her. “Your secret’s safe with me.” She had a couple of other peoples’ secrets she was already carefully guarding, after all…what was one more?

“Really?” Adrien asked, his tone and expression guarded as he joined her on the sidewalk, eyes searching her face as Alya dug around in her bag, stowing her phone away and making a mental note to edit out the last part of the video, where the reveal of Chat Noir’s identity was accidentally recorded. The rest she would post to her blog, because she had a duty to her followers, naturally, but she was nowhere near cruel enough to expose Adrien’s secret to the world—poor boy had been fucked up enough from the world learning that his father had been Hawk Moth.

“Really,” Alya assured him, finally discovering what she was looking for: a beat-up umbrella. She deployed it and held it over her and Adrien’s heads, used to the height, since he and Nino were within a couple centimeters of each other, Nino being just a bit taller. As Adrien slouched slightly under the umbrella, Alya smirked at him.

“But I do hope you realize this means you’re going to be answering a lot of questions from now on. Starting with that thing,” she said, pointing to the cat thing poking out of Adrien’s collar.

“I am not a thing!” It protested, and Alya gave an easy shrug.

“Well, whatever you are, I’ll find out soon enough,” she assured it with a smirk that appeared to make it nervous, if its retreat further into Adrien’s jacket was any indication. Glancing back up at Adrien, Alya jerked her head and began walking. “Let’s go.”


“What do you mean where? Isn’t there a lost Italian chick somewhere you’re responsible for this week?”

“Oh…oh, right!” Adrien sputtered; apparently, he had forgotten all about Erika. Alya sighed and rolled her eyes. This boy was hopeless.

Still, though…knowing this piece of new information suddenly made his dynamic with Ladybug a lot more interesting…



The rain showed no signs of letting up.

Marinette sighed from where she and Nino were, tucked away in an alcove as they tried to wait the weather out. It had been Nino’s suggestion, since neither of them had an umbrella on them—if only Alya were here—and though Marinette felt the suggestion might have been innocent enough in nature…she could not help but feel cornered. The citizens of Paris had vacated the streets as the rain fell, for the most part, occupied umbrellas here and there hurriedly making their way towards their destinations, for who wanted to be cold and wet at the same time? It seemed like she and Nino were the only saps that had forewent umbrellas and were now stuck under the only shelter they had…just her and Nino…alone. (The kwamis, currently sleeping off their exhaustion, were excluded in the count.)

There was a small intake of breath next to her, stirring the silence, and Marinette steeled herself. Here it came—

“Hope Erika’s okay,” Nino said idly, and Marinette chanced a glance at him, finding him frowning out in the distance. Hmm…perhaps he didn’t share Marinette’s suspicions on the true identity of Camille, then…

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Marinette said, just catching the searching look Nino gave her before she glanced away from him, watching cars drive past them, their tires splashing water onto the sidewalks.

“You sound a little too confident, considering we haven’t seen her since we were at Francoise’s,” Nino pointed out, and Marinette’s brow furrowed. True, she did sound a little too self-assured, didn’t she? After all, hadn’t she believed, until she was proven wrong, that the akumatized victim in this situation was Erika herself? She could just as easily be wrong about Camille’s identity as well, couldn’t she?

…But if she was wrong again, that was a hell of a pile of coincidences between the two women…

“Call it women’s intuition,” Marinette replied with a mild shrug. Nino raised an eyebrow at her, but seemed to choose not to pursue it further. Silence fell once again in their little rain-free sanctuary…but Marinette knew it would not last. Sooner rather than later, Nino would say what was on his mind, the thing he was mulling over so thoughtfully, with his brow creased like that, his laugh lines pulled the wrong way as he frowned…


Marinette registered the use of her full name, closed her eyes, and willed herself not to run from this conversation, no matter how awkward it was bound to get...


“…I saw it. Earlier. I saw what you were about to do.”

Play dumb,’ a panicked voice in her brain tried to convince her, but she shook her head, ridding herself of such nonsense. What would be the point?

When she did not respond, she saw Nino’s head turn towards her, felt his gaze on her face, as if he could ferret out answers on his own if he stared hard enough.

“…You are, aren’t you? In love with him, I mean. You’re in love with Chat Noir.”

“I am not,” Marinette protested with a short huff, raising a hand to massage the side of her forehead. “For the last time, I’m not in love with him, Nino, okay?”

Nino paused, appearing to take a moment to chew that over, perhaps to decipher the sincerity in her eyes. After some time, he nodded.

“Okay,” he conceded, and there was no trace of sarcasm or doubt in his tone. His golden gaze, however, remained intent on her face. “But you dohave feelings for him. Romantically.”

Marinette wanted to deny this too, wanted to fight against it with all her might, tear the assumption to pieces. But how could she, when it held such weight, sat so solidly in front of her, like a pillar as ancient as time itself?

As much as Marinette wanted to deny it, wanted to hide, to blind herself from it…it was the truth. In the end, truth could never be ignored. It was always brought to light.

Catching her bottom lip in between her teeth, Marinette looked away from Nino, unwilling to see the disappointment she feared she would see in his gaze as she gave one slow, damning nod.

For a while, there was nothing but the sound of the rain between them.

“What about Adrien?”

Marinette winced as the question pierced her. Indeed, what about Adrien…?

She gave a sigh, hating herself. How had she let herself be pulled into such a mess?

“I like him, too,” she admitted, feeling wretched. From her peripheral vision, she saw Nino fold his arms.

“You know what I’m about to say, don’t you?”

“That I have no business fooling around with Chat when the guy I’m involved with now isn’t an infamous cat man and someone you can’t stand?”

Nino gave a short huff.

“‘Nette…how I feel about Chat Noir doesn’t matter here.”

Such an unexpected statement startled Marinette. She glanced over, eyes wide as she surveyed Nino, taking in his frown. There was no judgement there, no disappointment in his eyes…just worry. He was concerned about her…but he wasn’t begrudging her her feelings, either.

Marinette blinked at him, uncomprehending.

“It…doesn’t?” She asked slowly, almost certain she had misheard. Nino smiled a little at her surprise.

“No.” He rubbed the back of his head, glancing away as his expression became sarcastic. “Okay, so he bugs the hell out of me, I’ll give you that…” As Marinette watched, her shock only growing by the minute, Nino’s gaze softened. “…But if anything was proven today, it’s that he really doescare for you, and would die to protect you in a heartbeat. He gets on my nerves, yeah…but when it comes to what’s important, dude comes in clutch. I’ll never say it to his face, since it’ll probably go right to his head…but the cat bastard’s shaping up to be all right.”

Nino returned his gaze to Marinette, a helpless smile curving his lips as he shrugged.

“So…if you ended up choosing him…well, I’d find a way to be okay with that.” He suddenly deadpanned her a look that proved he had been spending too much time with Alya. “But the minute you guys get gross, I’m putting my foot down.”

“Really?” Marinette questioned, her eyes searching Nino for any signs of insincerity, though she knew better. “You’d really be okay with me choosing Chat?”

“So you are considering choosing him,” Nino confirmed with a raised eyebrow, and Marinette flushed, hurriedly looking away from him.

“I…I don’t know,” she admitted, nervously tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “This is…still new to me. I…I don’t really know what I’m going to do, yet…”

“Well, not to pressure you or anything, ‘Nette, but you have to pick one of them,” Nino pointed out, as if that was not already painfully apparent. “If you choose Adrien, great. If you choose Chat, cool. As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.” He frowned now, looking like the stern big brother Marinette never had. “But I can’t watch you kiss Adrien one minute, and then slap on your polka-dotted mask to kiss Chat the next minute. That’s not how this works. You can’t have both of them.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” She protested, a little hurt and offended that Nino felt the need to point out something so obvious. “Do you honestly believe I’m the kind of person to do something like that, Nino?”

Nino looked uncomfortable.

“I really would hope not…” he paused, “…but you did almost kiss Chat today.”

Marinette flushed furiously. She wanted to complain that that wasn’t fair, but…

“But I didn’t,” she protested anyway, though her voice was small, as if her own body could not justify her actions.

“But you almost did,” Nino persisted, frowning. “What does such a near miss tell you, Marinette?”

Once again, Marinette was forced to look away from Nino, from the integrity of his words. He was right—the fact that she had barely resisted her instincts and avoided kissing Chat told her that there was some serious soul-searching she had to do in regards to the two men in her life.

And Nino was absolutely right on one other point, too: whether it was one or the other, she could not have them both.

But the question was…how did she choose…?

More importantly, how could she choose when she knew very well that Chat Noir was involved with someone else...?

Nino’s phone buzzed in his pocket, distracting them both. Marinette watched quietly as Nino pulled it out, his golden eyes zooming behind his glasses as he read the text.

“Adrien and Alya found Erika,” he reported, and Marinette breathed a sigh of relief as he quickly responded to the text. “Apparently she was waiting for us at Francoise’s. Alya wants us to meet them there.”

Marinette glanced out at the rain and sighed.

“Guess we’re gonna have to take one for the team,” she said, holding out a hand from under the overhang, feeling rain splatter against her palm.

“So what else is new?” Nino replied dryly, and Marinette couldn’t help but laugh. Making sure Tikki would stay dry tucked inside her coat, she and Nino made a run for it, Marinette squealing in protest in the chilly rain and Nino laughing as they splashed through ankle-deep puddles.

The rain persisted, unfeeling towards their problems, especially Marinette’s. And, in a strange way, it was comforting to know that no matter what decisions she made—no matter which blonde in her life she chose—the world would go on.

Marinette clung to that notion, shoving her current turmoil over her suddenly complicated love life into a locked box, to wrestle with another time. The Adrien vs. Chat debate could wait. The world was bigger than Marinette and her romantic troubles, after all…

Though, when she and Nino met up with Alya, Adrien, and Erika—who all proceeded to freak out over Nino and Marinette’s soaked state and worry about possible colds—as Marinette looked at Erika and catalogued the striking similarities between her and a certain superheroine, she was also reminded that the world was not so big, either.



As a proper send-off for Erika’s last night in Paris, the gang took her to the finest in French cuisine Paris had to offer. (Adrien agreed to pay and would not hear arguments to the contrary.) Though Marinette watched Erika carefully all through dinner, nothing about her demeanor was concrete proof that she and Camille were the same person. Sure, they both spoke Italian, but a lot of people knew Italian. Sure, they were both short with dark curly hair and dark eyes, but who wasn’t? And sure, Camille mentioned that she would be leaving the country the same time Erika would be, but everything so far was just circumstantial. So, at the end of the night, Marinette was no closer to an answer on whether or not Erika was Camille than she was when she first began to suspect her.

In fact, the only thing strange going on at the dinner table that night were the inexplicable smirks that sometimes crossed Alya’s face when she and Adrien made eye contact, always followed by Adrien’s face paling for some reason as he glanced away hurriedly. Marinette had asked Alya what that had been about as they were all leaving, but Alya merely winked and said it was between her and Adrien. Needless to say, this answer did not comfort Marinette in the slightest…but she had her own problems to contend with at the moment.

The next day, the four of them escorted Erika to Roissy airport, where her flight back to Italy was due to leave in an hour.

The problem? Erika had been in the bathroom for about twenty minutes now, and showed no signs of emerging any time soon. And Adrien was getting antsy.

“She still has to go through security,” he said again, frowning as he checked his watch and threw another glance to the ladies’ room five meters away. “If she doesn’t hurry up, she could miss her flight.”

“Dude, relax,” Nino insisted, clamping a hand on Adrien’s shoulder. “It’s not the end of the world if she misses her flight. Italy’s only two hours away.”

“Yeah, but it won’t be your phone Mr. Soriano calls, demanding to know where his daughter is,” Adrien grumbled.

“Yeah, he might think she’s been cat—I mean, kidnapped,” Alya corrected herself lazily, yet another inexplicable smirk crossing her face as Adrien tensed. He looked so put-out that Marinette took pity on him and got up from her seat.

“I’ll go check on her to make sure she isn’t sick or something,” she volunteered, and Adrien gave her a look so grateful it made her laugh.

“Thanks, Mari,” he said, and Marinette nodded, giving him a reassuring smile before she departed for the ladies’ room.

It was a huge bathroom, as the bathrooms in international airports tended to be, especially considering this was the second-busiest airport in all of Europe. Women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and temperaments bypassed Marinette, clearly either in a hurry to relieve themselves, or in a hurry to get to their destinations. Marinette stayed out of the way as much as she could, searching for familiar dark, curly hair or a sunny disposition, but no women in plain sight fit the description, and Marinette cringed. She was going to have to go hunting for Erika in the stalls, wasn’t she? Oh boy…

As she sighed, wondering where in the world she should start, she suddenly picked up on a soft voice, speaking with an accent that was familiar. As Marinette passed the stalls, following the voice, she frowned when she realized she did not understand the language it was speaking in, though she was sure it was Italian.

And, as she stopped to listen, she realized it wasn’t the only voice she could hear.

“Liion, per favore. E ‘proprio di due ore.

Ma io odio gli aerei! Mi ammalo!

Lo so, ma…

As the soft voices continued to chatter in Italian, Marinette frowned, glancing down at the floor. There were only one pair of pumps that could be seen under the stall door, so who—

And then Marinette understood.

‘Liion’, huh…

Carefully, Marinette retraced her steps, slipping a little on the bathroom floor, though she just managed to catch herself on a nearby trash can. Blushing under the stares of two women passing by her, looking amused, Marinette straightened up, and then called in a loud voice down to the stall where Erika was hidden.

“Erika? Are you in here?”

There was a muffled squeak, and after a moment of scuffling sounds, Erika replied.

“Oh…yes! I…I will be right out!”

An obligatory flush of a toilet later, Erika emerged, looking furtive as she stepped out of the stall. She gave Marinette her brightest smile, though if Marinette looked closely, she could see the edge of nervousness there, as if Erika was afraid Marinette had heard her…ahem, ‘talking to herself’.

Rather than calling her out, Marinette smiled back, watching as Erika moved to the sink to wash her hands.

“Sorry to rush you, but Adrien’s worried you’re going to miss your flight.” She raised a dark eyebrow at Erika’s reflection in the mirror. “Apparently, your father scares him.”

Erika let out a giggle that was equal parts amused and exasperated.

“Papa is…protective,” Erika explained, taking care to remove her rings before she waved a hand in front of the motion sensor, and water came gushing out of the faucet. “I am an only child, and he does not like it when his principesa strays too far.” Erika wrinkled her nose. “It was…difficult…to ask him to let me study in America. Very difficult.”

“Oh, that’s right, Adrien mentioned you went to college in America,” Marinette acknowledged as Erika held her hand out in front of the soap dispenser next, working the liquid soap into a lather between her wet hands. “What was it like?”

Erika laughed.

“It was very different! Never have I seen a place with so many cultures all together at once! Though I have to say, the food is better in Italy…and the fashion is better here.” Erika’s reflection smiled at Marinette. “And the company is lovely here as well.”

Marinette returned the smile, sensing an opening.

“Really? Even with the akuma attack?”

Erika blinked, her smile fading as she inspected Marinette’s expression, absentmindedly rinsing her hands.

“Yes…that was a surprise. I…did not know what akuma attacks here were like until now…”

Marinette approached Erika’s side as she moved to the hand dryer. Her brow was puckered as she stuck her hands into the automated drying machine, looking awfully thoughtful about something. Marinette tilted her head to the side, curious.

“What’s the matter?”

“Ah…nothing,” Erika mumbled, pulling her hands out and patting them dry the rest of the way on her jeans, her eyes still far away. “I am just…recalling something…”

As Erika continued to ponder whatever was on her mind, she was unaware of her surroundings; Marinette had to take her elbow and move her to the side as a tall woman rushed in, the strain in her face suggesting she was about to burst. The movement brought Erika back to her senses, and she cringed in apology.

“Ah…thank you.”

“No problem,” Marinette replied with a slight smile and a shrug, “but I’m curious now—what’s got you so distracted that I have to save you from being bowled over by women who have to pee?”

Erika giggled, looking amused before the look faded once again, replaced by a frown that marred her pretty features.

“I do not think it is important…just…something about the akuma attack yesterday is…bothering me.”


“Well…” Erika paused, sizing Marinette up, as if she was trying to decide whether it was worth getting into this conversation. Marinette smiled encouragingly, a gesture Erika returned without hesitation before she gave a tiny nod. “Do not tell Adrien this, please…but I was there when the akuma attack happened.”

“Really?” Marinette asked, making her eyes wide, as if this news surprised her. Erika giggled again and held a finger to her lips.

“Yes. I was, ah, hiding. Out of sight. But I was watching.” Her expression grew serious. “The first akuma, the fake one…it crumbled. Like ash. And just now, I remembered—I have seen this before.”

Marinette’s attention suddenly increased by two hundred percent. She had just been hoping for some sort of confirmation of Erika’s Miraculous identity…but was this conversation about to be more informative than she expected?

“Where?” She questioned, though she had to work to make her tone more polite, since it wouldn’t do to appear too interested in this…

The thoughtful expression was back on Erika’s face as she twirled a strand of her hair around her finger.

“In America. In my travels, I have learned this—Miraculous heroes exist everywhere. I know of two in Italy, Camille and Pavone, and there are a few more in America. When I studied in New York, I learned of one there.” Her frown grew more pronounced. “She called herself ‘Shade’.”

‘Shade’? Marinette had never heard of her…but then again, she had never heard of Camille either, until she appeared just yesterday…

“What was Shade’s Miraculous?”

“It was, ah, serpente,” Erika replied, cupping the elbow of her right arm, letting her hand snap forward and swaying her forearm from side to side. “The snake.”

A chill ran down Marinette’s spine, a pair of bright yellow eyes surfacing from her memory, accompanied by an ominous hissing sound…

“And…what about yesterday’s akuma attack reminded you of Shade?”

“The crumbling,” Erika answered, her fingers recreating the effect in the air. “I never saw myself, only in videos, but it was recorded that Shade could create objects from nothing, but only to create illusions. The minute they were touched, they broke.”

“That…does sound like the fake akumas…” Marinette frowned at the floor, gripping her chin in thought. Okay…so what did this new information mean for Team Miraculous, exactly? Were the fake akumas exactly that? Illusions?

And if they were…then what did that say about the true identity of The Butterfly?

Was this so-called hero named ‘Shade’ working with the Butterfly? Or…

“…I was told she is dangerous,” Erika said softly, breaking through Marinette’s train of thought. Marinette glanced over to find the Maserati heiress watching her, her dark eyes tight with worry.

“…Why? Because of the illusions?” Marinette wondered, but Erika shook her head.

“No. Because of her other gift. It is more subtle, and therefore, it makes her more dangerous.” Erika gestured to her mouth, twirling a finger through the air. “She is said to have a silver tongue, the power of…uh, the word is…ah, I know: persuasion.” Now Erika brought the tips of her fingers to her temples, touching them briefly before throwing them out, towards Marinette’s head. “She speaks with honey and velvet, and because of this, it is said that she can convince the most peaceful of rulers to go to war, and make them think that the idea was their own in the first place.”

“That…does sound dangerous,” Marinette mumbled, transfixed, as if Erika had hypnotized her. Erika gave a slow nod, looking grim.

“Yes. I am…not sure if yesterday was her doing. It could be that I am wrong. I hope that I am.”

Glancing down to her wrist, where a delicate little watch was nestled, Erika gave a squeak, shattering the serious moment.

“Oh, I am late! I need to hurry!”

Oh, right, plane to catch. Marinette had almost forgotten.

As she followed Erika out of the bathroom, something else occurred to Marinette that needed to be said, and she took hold of Erika’s wrist for a brief moment.

“Hold on,” she cautioned when Erika glanced back at her, looking startled. “There’s something I want to say to you. It’s, uh, regarding our interrupted conversation yesterday afternoon…”

Understanding flashed through Erika’s eyes, and she turned to Marinette, her arms folded behind her back.


Marinette took a deep breath, and a moment to gather her thoughts. She had hardly slept last night, tossing and turning on the issue that had presented itself yesterday: Chat or Adrien? Adrien or Chat? Only after confirming with herself that she was only still considering Chat on the very slim chance that he stopped seeing whoever he was seeing, she had done all the standard decision-making things—she had made list of the pros and cons of both men (no matter how long or hard she thought about it, they were even on both sides), she had tried to reason out who would make a better husband in the long run (she only talked herself in circles about the potentially dorky or cheesy things Adrien or Chat might do if she ended up marrying one of them), and she had, in a fit of desperation, even flipped a coin to try and leave it up to Fate (it rolled across the floor and disappeared into the air vent, never to be seen again).

In the end, Marinette made herself sit down and think about one very important question: which of the two was least likely to break her heart?

From that perspective, Marinette found the answer came easier, and though half of her felt it was unfair to judge the candidates on things she had already forgiven them for, she could not deny that past sins did indeed weigh heavily here.

And, while one man had said very hurtful things to her a mere few days after they reconnected, the other had broken her heart and her trust, and had left her hanging for a very, very long time before he finally saw the error of his ways.

In that context, the choice was painfully clear.

“I just want you to know,” Marinette began slowly, feeling out her words as she spoke them, trying to make her meaning clear, “that you don’t have to worry. I care about Adrien, a lot. And the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt him.” She squared her shoulders, looking Erika dead in the eye. “And, no matter what our relationship becomes in the future, whether it’s friends, or lovers, or whatever…I’ll always be there for him. This I can promise you.”

Erika stared at Marinette for a long, measured moment…

And then a bright, joyous smile broke out on her face, sending a rush of warmth through Marinette at the sight. Erika rushed forward, catching Marinette in another surprise hug, though Marinette laughed and returned the enthusiasm this time as best she could before Erika pulled back, her dark eyes shining as she stared up at Marinette.

“You are amazing. You know this, Marinette, yes?” Erika gushed, and Marinette laughed a little breathlessly.

“Well, I like to think so, yeah,” she teased, giving a wink. “Some might say…miraculous, even.”

Erika blinked, giving Marinette a curious look, but a shout from Adrien distracted her as he beckoned them both to make haste.

“Ah, coming!” With another smile thrown to Marinette, Erika hurriedly obeyed the summons. Marinette began to follow her…but then she paused, staring at the little face that peered at her from a part in the back of Erika’s dark hair, near her neck. The little face was green with dark eyes, and when its gaze met Marinette’s, it smiled and pressed one of three fingers to its mouth before it simply…vanished from view. Marinette stared at the place where it had been, cocking her head to the side, a curious smile forming on her face.

She would probably never know this for sure…but she had a sneaking suspicion that Liion was probably a mischievous little kwami.

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A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by DarkReyna16

Part 24 of 37

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