Continuing Tales

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

Part 31 of 37

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Shade turned out to be a lot more slippery than Emerald Shell was comfortable with.

They weren’t even finished searching the area surrounding the Louvre yet, and already, he was ready to quit. He groaned and slumped over after ten minutes of searching, almost dislodging his goggles as he rubbed at his face.

“Damn it, she vanished. We’re basically chasing a shadow at this point. Whose bright idea was this?”

“Yours,” Ladybug reminded him, and Shell cringed to himself, straightening up.

“Oh yeah…well, this may be a job that’s too big for two heroes, y’know? If only the guy who actually has night vision was here, but I guess he’s slacking off somewhere—”

“I’d really rather you talk shit to my face, you mean, green, veggie-eating machine,” drawled a voice right on cue, and Shell gave a perfunctory roll of his eyes as he turned around to spot Chat Noir crouched on one of the streetlights overhead. Never in his life would he outright admit it, but he was actually glad to see the catty bastard.

“Well, talking shit behind your back seems to be the fastest way to get you here, just so you can say something back,” Shell pointed out as Chat leapt from the streetlight, landing smoothly in front of him and Ladybug. Shell squinted as the reformed hero straightened up, green cat’s eyes glittering. Huh. There was something different about him...

“Nice haircut,” Ladybug commented, smiling as she reached up and tugged lightly on one of Chat Noir’s wild blonde locks.

Oh,’ thought Shell as the comment immediately placed the change for him; Chat Noir’s hair was shorter, wasn’t it? Since it was just as messy as usual, he almost hadn’t noticed that the guy’s ponytail was now missing.

Chat’s gaze slanted towards Ladybug, as it always did, amusement playing across his face.

“Nice earrings,” he returned. Shell frowned as something silent passed between them, the both of them appearing entertained for some unknown reason. He cleared his throat to remind them that, once again, he still existed. They glanced over at him, giving him their attention, but they didn’t bother jumping away from each other like they normally did, whenever Shell caught them in a moment that threatened to get too personal.

Emerald Shell’s frown deepened at this, and he made a mental note to talk to Ladybug later.

“Hello? Villain to catch?” He prompted them. “Notorious shadow villain who also happens to be turning people into monsters, loose in the city?”

“Oh, right,” Chat mumbled, prompting Shell to stare at him.

‘Oh, right’? That was a really weird answer coming from him, considering he hadn’t been there when the baddie reveal had gone down…

Chat blinked at the look Shell was giving him, and he suddenly looked skittish.

“I, uh, was watching the fashion show on TV when Sh—that thing showed up,” he said, rubbing the back of his head as he glanced away from Shell. “I-it looked serious, so I rushed on over here!”

…Okay. Something was still bothering him about Chat’s response, but Shell couldn’t place it at the moment. And besides, the TV thing made sense; it was how Shell had found out that things weren’t on the up and up as well. He had had to vanish on Alya, unfortunately: they had been watching it together, wanting to support Marinette, even if it was from Nino’s couch across the city. But the moment the shadow thing began to constrict the Ladybug model, Nino regretfully informed his fiancée that he had to go to the bathroom, and had escaped into the night through his window. God, this was going to be a pain to explain later…

Shell shook himself from chagrined thoughts of that future headache, focusing on his teammates instead.

“Yeah, the Butterfly dude just revealed himself tonight. Turns out it’s a chick—the Shade lady LB told us about a while back. She just showed up and ruined that fashion show, so now we gotta track her ass down…or would you two rather stand here and trade compliments all night?”

Shell gave them a flat look, as if daring them to continue flirting in front of him. Ladybug and Chat Noir exchanged one more glance before they stepped away from each other, their game faces on.

“Let’s split up,” Ladybug directed, shifting into leader mode. “Chat, you take the west side of the city. Shell, you take the east. I’ll take the south. If you happen to spot her, do not engage her. Call us for back-up. We’ll rendezvous at the Eiffel Tower in an hour. Got it?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Chat and Shell replied at the same time, each giving her a salute before exchanging bemused glances. Ladybug rolled her eyes and smirked, whirling her yo-yo and swinging away to her self-assigned corner of the city. Shell removed his shield, ready to go, but—

“Shell,” Chat called, stalling him. Emerald Shell turned to give him a strange look. What, no stupid nickname this time? Or was he waiting for a set-up?

As Shell prepared himself to fire off a comeback to whatever smart-aleck quip Chat Noir was about to shoot at him, he noticed the speculative gaze on the cat man’s face. Shell raised an eyebrow under his domino mask.

“What?” Why was Chat Noir looking at him like that, like he was conflicted? What was the problem?

The cat man rubbed the back of his head, looking uncomfortable. Something about the gesture struck Shell, and he frowned thoughtfully. Huh…weird. He had never actually seen Chat Noir unsure of himself…and it was strange, this weird sense of déjà vu he was getting from just that look—

Chat glanced up, his eyes meeting Shell’s.

“…Stay safe,” he said, before he extended his staff, propelling himself upward into the air before he launched forward, heading for the west side of Paris. Shell could only stare after him for a moment, confused.

What…that was it? That was all he wanted to say? ‘Stay safe’? What was that supposed to mean? Did he think Shell was going to fuck up and get himself caught by the villain?

…Or…or was Chat Noir genuinely concerned about him…?

Shell didn’t know how to feel about that, so he put the matter out of his mind and headed for his assigned corner of the city, determined. If Shade was dumb enough to remain out and about, then they would sniff her out, even if it meant chasing shadows for an hour.

But their antagonist hadn’t remained hidden for so long by accident; an hour came and went, and though Shell didn’t really expect to find anything, it was with low spirits that he flew to the Eiffel Tower to report in. A flash of annoyance went through him when he noticed that Ladybug and Chat Noir had beat him there; he didn’t like the thought of them alone together for an undefined period of time. As he landed, he intended to barge into their intimate moment in the most obnoxious way possible…but as he approached, he noticed that they were sitting a little apart from each other, staring in different directions, the air around them awkward.

This made him curious: had they seen him coming and hastened to distance themselves? Or had something happened that cause some sort of discomfort between them?

Whatever the reason, they both seemed to be relieved when Shell appeared—a nice change of pace, admittedly. He plopped down in between them, and they scooted over to make room for him.


“Nothing,” Shell answered Ladybug’s query with a huff.

“Me, too,” she replied solemnly.

“Me, three,” Chat chimed in, looking as disgruntled as Shell felt. “Still, it was a long shot. Hunting for a villain that can literally manipulate shadows? At night? I know this is the City of Lights, but too much light doesn’t exactly help us either, does it?”

Ladybug sighed, getting to her feet. Shell watched with a frown as she paced away from them and back again, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

“This is a disaster,” she stated baldly. Shell concurred. Still, he hated to see Ladybug’s frustrated expression, and so he sat up, locking gazes with her.

“I know things are bullshit right now, LB, but it’ll be all right.”

Ladybug let out an irritable huff.

“Shell, we’ve just found out that everything we thought about the Butterfly was wrong. Instead of having Shade as a sidekick, they’re the same person, using two Miraculous! I didn’t even know that was possible!

“Yeah,” Shell said reluctantly, frowning as he rubbed his chin. “That did throw us for a loop…we’re gonna have to visit Master Fu soon.” He side-glanced at Chat, who was watching their conversation attentively. “…All of us,” Shell added to make his meaning clear. Chat blinked at him, looking startled. Shell looked away, refusing to be embarrassed. What, was it so weird for him to act like they were a team? Besides, the cat bastard started it, with all his ‘stay safe’ talk.

“Uh,” Chat began, tearing his eyes from Shell to focus on Ladybug. “I don’t want to stress you out further, Ladybug, but…there’s something you and Shell should know.”

“Whaaat?” Shell groaned, shooting an exhausted frown Chat’s way. Honestly, how much more bad news could they all take tonight?

Ladybug crouched down and nudged Shell, probably for his tone.

“What is it, Chat?” She asked, concern in her eyes as she gazed at Chat Noir, who shifted, resting an arm on an upraised knee as he stared out at the city.

“…Well, I don’t know this for sure…” Chat’s eyes tightened. He took a deep breath before his eyes flicked over to them once again, grim. “…But I think Shade knows who I am.” He tapped at his mask. “Underneath this, I mean.”

Ladybug became a statue beside Shell. He stared at her, alarmed at the horror that widened her eyes and slackened her mouth as she stared at Chat Noir.

Great—he had made her catatonic.

Shell paused, registering with some horror and disgust that he had indeed made a cat pun within the confines of his own mind. He shook his head, disgusted with himself, and resolved to never let anyone know, ever.

“What makes you think she knows who you are?” He deigned to ask when it was made apparent that Ladybug was currently beyond words. Chat shifted uncomfortably once again, rubbing the back of his head, ruffling his already messy blonde locks.

“…Just a feeling,” he said mysteriously, causing Shell to frown.

“That’s it? You’re going off a ‘feeling’?”

“I know it sounds dumb,” Chat relented with a sigh, frowning at Shell. “But…okay, so listen: seven years ago, when I meant to return the Butterfly Miraculous to Master Fu, I went there as my civilian self. I went in, but he wasn’t there, and when I was trying to figure out a good hiding place for it, something flew at me. I could never make out what it was—it was just there and gone—and it snatched the Butterfly Miraculous from me. Think about it: awfully strange that Shade ended up with the Butterfly Miraculous if she didn’t have anything to do with its theft in the first place, right?”

“…Oh my god…” Ladybug finally spoke, and Shell turned to find her hands cupping her face, that look of horror still rounding her eyes as she stared at Chat. “When you came back…it was the first night. An akuma showed up that night…the first one in seven years…”

Chat’s solemn looked returned, his cat’s eyes serious.

“She knows,” he concluded grimly. “She knows I’m Chat Noir.”

A stunned silence followed, in which Ladybug and Chat Noir just stared at each other, communicating only with their eyes.

At least until Shell interrupted.

“Back up,” he said, glancing in between the two with a frown. “Let me get this straight…Chat Noir, you returned to crime-fighting the same night Patchwork appeared?”

Chat gave a self-deprecating grin.

“Well, it wasn’t so much ‘crime-fighting’, was it? But yeah. At the time, I just thought it was a hell of a coincidence, but—”

“Oh god,” Ladybug breathed again, covering her mouth with her hands now, but they weren’t enough to stop the horrified string of blaspheming that escaped from her. “Oh god oh god oh god oh god—”

“LB,” Shell interceded, placing a hand on Ladybug’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze. “Breathe. It’s gonna be okay.”

“How is anything about this situation okay?!” Ladybug demanded to know, jumping to her feet once again and wrenching herself from Shell’s grasp. “The enemy knows Chat Noir’s secret identity! That is dangerous!

“It’s a lot worse than that if I’m right about one other thing,” Chat continued, as if he was determined to bring their night to its lowest point, all by his own hand. “That shadow that attacked you in your apartment, Ladybug…was it her? Was it Shade?”

“Oh shit,” Shell huffed; he had nearly forgotten all about that. But now that Chat reminded him, his head swung around to stare at Ladybug, hoping against his common sense that she would deny it, that it had been something else, that it had been some inexplicable coincidence—

Ladybug’s expression shut down, her eyes growing haunted. Shell felt nausea roll through the pit of his stomach at such a look.

Slowly, Ladybug sank to her knees. She wobbled a little, and both Chat Noir and Shell reached out to steady her, a hand on either arm. She didn’t seem to register the assistance, her eyes aimed at the beam the sat on, eerily silent.


“It was her,” she confirmed in a whisper, and Shell went cold. “She was in my room. She tried to attack me. It was her.”

…Shade knew that Ladybug was Marinette.

Shade knew that Ladybug was Marinette!

Suddenly, the world was spinning. Shell clamped tightly to the beam under them with his free hand, his mind reeling.

The enemy apparently knew two out of the three superheroes’ secret identities. This was not okay. It was the exact opposite of okay, in fact—it was disastrous. How could this have happened? Didn’t this mean that Shade now had the upper hand, that she could simply bide her time, until the urge to strike took over? What were they supposed to do now?!

“Don’t panic.”

The voice of reason coming from Chat Noir was strange to hear, but Shell still seized it, desperate for some relief from the downward spiral that was currently his mind. He looked to the cat man, startled to find that his hand was on Shell’s shoulder too, and Shell wondered with some chagrin if he had actually swooned during that brief bout of panic. How embarrassing.

“Ladybug, look at me,” Chat commanded softly, and he and Shell waited until Ladybug’s dull eyes lifted, meeting his. Shell saw Chat Noir’s hand, which was currently resting on Ladybug’s arm, flex, as if to give her reassurance. “It may not be as bad as we think. There’s one other reason Shade might have attacked you.”

Ladybug stared at him, her expression uncomprehending.

“…What?” She asked, clearly not understanding. Neither did Shell, for that matter, but Chat didn’t seem to be concerned about that. In fact, with the way he glanced askance at him, it kind of seemed like he would rather be having this conversation with Ladybug alone.

Shell scowled. Tough shit—he wasn’t going anywhere. Whatever Chat had to say to Ladybug, he could say it with Shell present.

Chat paused; it seemed like he was trying to choose his words carefully.

“…Think about it,” he urged Ladybug after a moment, eyes boring into hers. “If Shade doesn’t know you’re Ladybug, why else would she go after you? What other reason would she have to target you, if she didn’t know about your superhero persona?”

There was the slightest inflection here, as if Chat was trying to tell Ladybug something significant without actually saying it, due to present company. Still, Shell listened shamelessly, trying to work out the cryptic clues he was stealing. What did that mean? He wasn’t completely sure…but the way Chat phrased it…it almost sounded like…

Ladybug’s eyes came back to life, and Shell’s relief at that was so strong that he promptly forgot what he was thinking about.

“…” After a moment, she frowned. “That doesn’t make me feel any better.”

Chat gave a half-shrug and a helpless smile.

“It’s not exactly the brightest ray of hope…” He grew serious again. “But I’m willing to take it.”

I’m not.”

“Maybe not, but our choices are rather limited, My Lady.”

“What are you two talking about?!” Shell finally burst out, fed up with this coded talk. Ladybug and Chat Noir jumped, startled, as if they had forgotten that he was there. Again, ugh.

“Nothing,” Ladybug said hastily with an edgy glance thrown at Chat Noir. Shell’s scowl intensified; he had had quite enough of the ‘nothing’ excuse.

“Bullshit. You two are leaving me out of the loop, again,” he insisted, including Chat Noir in the accusing stare he threw at Ladybug. “I’m tired of being treated like a sidekick. I thought we were a team, Dots.”

“We are a team!” Ladybug protested, actually looking hurt that Shell dared to suggest otherwise. He glared, refusing to be softened, because she started it.

“Then why don’t I feel like I’m a part of it? Why are you guys keeping all these secrets from me? Am I a member of this team or not?”

“You definitely are,” Chat replied this time, surprising Shell with the lack of hesitance in such a reply. Inwardly, he reflected on the fact that, even since he had returned, Chat Noir hadn’t tried to shove Shell to the side or purposely exclude him in anything, though he was complicit in the secrets Ladybug insisted on keeping from him. Still, the fact that he hadn’t tried to squeeze Shell out, no matter how much they antagonized each other, actually went a long way with Shell, and he found, if he searched his feelings, that it was not Chat Noir that was inspiring the most of his irritation.

It was the spotted hero who sat beside him who was putting him out, the only hero he knew outside of the mask, the one who was supposed to be his friend. Maybe that’s why it stung so much when she refused to share—he thought they were in this together, but if he was the only one…

Giving a curt nod to Chat Noir to acknowledge his acceptance (he’d sort out how he felt about that later), Shell turned his attention fully to Ladybug, letting the weight of his hurt and accusation fall on her as he gave her an intense, searching stare.

“Then don’t you think it’s time to fill me in?” He asked of her.

Ladybug bit her lip as she searched his face. The sheepishness of her expression suggested to Shell that she finally seemed to realize just how much it bothered him when she acted like this stuff only concerned her and Chat. There was silence for a while…and then—

“You’re right,” Ladybug agreed, letting loose a sigh. “I’m so sorry, Shell. Of course you’re right. You’re a valued member of this team, and I’m sorry for making you feel like you weren’t.”

The apology was sincere, so Shell had no trouble accepting it. But he only did it mentally; outwardly, he waved a hand, inviting Ladybug to continue.


“So…” Ladybug glanced over his shoulder, and Shell knew she was looking at Chat. He glanced back just in time to see the slight nod Chat gave her, like his permission had to be granted in order for her to share. Shell frowned at this, but his attention was immediately stolen when Ladybug laid a hand on his shoulder. “Here’s the deal, Shell—”


The sudden cry startled all three of them, because it came from none of them, but below, through what sounded like a megaphone. Sure enough, when Shell looked down, he could just barely make out two figures below, one standing a little apart from the other, near a car. Well…this was different.

“Is that…” Chat began, and Shell glanced over, watching him squint at the screen on his baton, which brought the two figures into clear focus. “…The deputy mayor?”

“Is it?” Ladybug questioned, leaning over Shell to get a look at Chat’s baton screen. “What’s she doing here?”

“Interrupting, conveniently enough,” grumbled Shell, and he caught Ladybug’s apologetic look before he nudged her back and stood up with a huff. “We better go see what she wants.”

The other two heroes murmured in agreement, and on their own, they each scaled their way down the Eiffel Tower, landing a few paces from the figure that indeed turned out to be the deputy mayor, holding a megaphone. Her appearance was a surprise all on its own, but Shell was further confused to find that the person who accompanied her was no one other than Felix Chevalier, Adrien’s cousin and creep extraordinaire, according to Marinette. Wasn’t he supposed to be the mayor’s assistant?

Well, now that I’m thinking about it, the actual mayor’s nothing but a figurehead, isn’t he?’ Shell reasoned to himself as Ladybug approached Bridgette, shaking her hand. ‘It always seems like Bridgette’s actually calling the shots.

“What can we do for you, Depu—ah, Bridgette?” Ladybug inquired, catching herself at the last minute with an apologetic grin. The slip didn’t seem to bother Bridgette…actually, now that he was looking closely at her, Shell couldn’t help but note how tense the deputy mayor appeared—

“Ladybug, you have to come back with us,” she entreated, gesturing between herself and Felix. Shell spared him a brief glance, but he wasn’t looking in his direction—his cool blue gaze was focused on Chat Noir, who stared back at him, both of their expressions unreadable. Shell quirked a brow underneath his mask. What was with them…?

“Bridgette, slow down,” Shell heard Ladybug direct, and his attention returned to the stressed deputy mayor, who seemed to be babbling. “Take a deep breath, and start again. What exactly is the problem?”

Bridgette did as she was directed, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath before she opened them again, her blue eyes troubled.

“Well, we were waiting for you to come to City Hall for the peace rally we’ve been planning—”

“That was tonight?!” Ladybug yelped, looking abashed. “Oh, Bridgette, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to forget, I—uh, there’s a lot going on—”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Bridgette cut across her, her expression tensing more and more with every second that passed. “You just have to come back with us, Ladybug. All of you do, in fact,” she added, glancing at Shell, and then to Chat Noir, her face reddening inexplicably when he made eye contact with her. “Things have—oh, it’s no use explaining, just please, come back with us. You’ll see.”

The heroes exchanged glances.

“Why don’t we just meet you there…?” Shell asked, nudging his shield off his back. “It’d probably be a lot faster—”

“No,” Bridgette denied him with a swift shake of her head. “They can’t see you coming. We have to sneak you in.”

Team Miraculous glanced at each other once again, perplexed.


“There’s no time,” a curt voice cut in, and Shell glanced over to find Felix frowning at all of them, opening the back door of what appeared to be his car. “Get in.”

Ladybug scowled at him; it was clear she hated being ordered around by him. Chat Noir was frowning, too, though it appeared to Shell that he was sizing Felix up, as if wondering if he could take him in a fight. Neither of them made a move, and so Shell sighed, grabbing one arm each of his teammates and dragging them forward.

“C’mon,” he insisted, giving them significant looks. “We can finish our discussion later. Must be important if the deputy mayor herself came all this way to find us.”

That seemed to snap Ladybug out of her stubbornness, and Chat Noir out of whatever reverie the sight of Felix had put him in. When they reached the car, Shell gestured that Ladybug should get in first, and he followed after her, leaving Chat Noir to take the left window seat.

Bridgette approached next, looking harried, but was deterred from getting in the car by Felix insisting he open the door for her.

“Oh, Felix, that isn’t ness—” Her protests were cut short when the car door opened, and Felix gestured for her to get in. She ducked her head, her cheeks warming a little as she muttered quiet thanks to him, situating herself in the passenger seat before Felix shut the door for her. Beside Shell, Ladybug muffled a giggle.

They pulled away from the Eiffel Tower at top speed. With them all squished in together like that, Shell started to feel claustrophobic. His bulky shield didn’t help matters, and the feeling wasn’t soothed when Chat began sneezing nonstop.

“What the hell’s with you, Sniffles?” Shell finally burst out in frustration after the tenth or eleventh consecutive sneeze. “Did you develop an allergic reaction to cat hair or something?”

“I’m only allergic to assholes,” Chat quipped back, looking quite grumpy as he rubbed at his red nose. “And feathers.”

“Do you have a pet bird, Felix?” Bridgette inquired idly. Shell watched as Felix’s expression twitched in his rearview mirror.

“Something like that,” he replied casually. Whatever follow-up questions involved there were lost in more of Chat Noir’s sneezes, and Shell had to remind himself not to shove his teammate out of a moving car, because while it (probably) wouldn’t kill him, harming a fellow teammate was a big no-no.

As they neared City Hall, there was a telltale pillar of smoke issuing from somewhere below the building, drawing Emerald Shell’s attention.

“The hell is that?” He asked of no one in particular.

It was Felix who answered.

“You’ll see.”

Shell rolled his eyes. He was so tired of cryptic answers.

“Don’t you think we should know what we’re getting into before we…we…”

Shell’s rant trailed off as they stopped in front of City Hall, gaping at the scene before him.


That was the only way he could describe it. It was pure, unadulterated anarchy.

Everywhere he looked, there seemed to be people in face paint, rioting on the steps of City Hall, chanting loudly, flinging that hated purple goo at the horrified spectators and the police barricading them from the scene, spray-painting every conceivable surface with the logo of AVA. Somewhere in the middle of this mob, there was a large fire pit, smoking and burning brightly, with what looked suspiciously like a life-sized Chat Noir scarecrow burning in the center.

Akumatized Victims Anonymous was at it again.

“We are AVA! Give us peace, or you will pay!” The mob chanted as they shifted restlessly, never staying still, like a giant monster with limbs that thrashed so rapidly that it was hard to make out who was who and where. “We are AVA! Give us peace, or you will pay!”

“Oh my god,” Ladybug huffed for the nth time that night. She shoved the car door open, and Shell had to hasten out of the backseat himself and catch her arm to keep her from barging through the crowd that watched this flagrant display of rebellion.

“LB, hold up—”

“No!” Ladybug fussed immediately, wrenching her arm from Shell’s grip. “We have to do something! This has gone on long enough!”

“What’re we supposed to do, fight them?” Shell inquired, frowning as Ladybug pinched the bridge of her nose and growled.

“I don’t know! What else can we do?! I feel like we’ve tried everything else but fighting at this point, and they just won’t listen! What else are we supposed to—”

“Violence isn’t the answer.”

Chat Noir had joined them; his expression was anxious as he paused beside Shell, staring at Ladybug.

“There’re some problems you just can’t fight your way through. You taught me that, Ladybug…remember?”

Ladybug’s lips parted, but it appeared she had nothing to say to that. After a moment, Shell could recognize the surrender in her eyes, and she sighed, running a hand down her face.

“You’re right,” she groaned, making Shell indignant until she added, “You’re both right. I’m sorry, it’s just…it’s too much. What can we do that we haven’t tried already? How can we finally get them to listen?”

Well…Shell had an idea. It was an old idea, but it was one they hadn’t tried yet. And since they were all at wits’ end already…it could be worth a shot…

“LB…” he began, stepping closer and lowering his voice. He was about to suggest his idea again when he realized something: if Ladybug agreed to this, it would exclude Chat Noir. Shell turned, frowning at the cat man. Any time before tonight, he would’ve been fine with leaving Chat out of something he just might make worse. But after tonight…after Chat had wished him safety when they split up…after he had stated that Shell was an undeniable part of Team Miraculous…and after Shell had damn near pitched a fit about being left out of the loop…

Chat seemed to register Shell’s speculative frown, but he took it the opposite way Shell meant it; he took a step back, looking awkward, as if he recognized this was something Shell didn’t want him to take part of.

That gesture and the look on his face shoved any lingering doubts Shell had about the cat man out of his mind for good. Because if he couldn’t trust his teammate, then he couldn’t really call himself a part of the team, could he?

“You get over here, too, Whiskers,” he demanded, jerking his head when Chat merely stared at him, as if he couldn’t believe Shell was asking him to join in this pow-wow. He even hesitated a moment, uncertainty in his gaze. Shell wasn’t having it: he leaned over, grabbing Chat’s arm and pulled him forward. Surprised, Chat stumbled, but Ladybug caught him, her hands lingering a little longer than Shell would have liked, but he brushed it aside for now, bowing their heads together as he muttered to them, for Bridgette and Felix were passing by; Bridgette was raising her megaphone, and it looked like she intended to attempt to calm AVA with words. Shell frowned at this.

“Listen…I know this might be a long shot, but it’s clear that they won’t listen to us, or anyone else in this damn city.”

He nodded towards where Bridgette was standing, just behind the police barricade, her pleas for peace going unheard, for AVA just chanted over her.

“It seems like nearly all the victims in the past are either in AVA, or on their side, but maybe…maybe if we have some people who were akumatized in the past that don’t agree with their way of doing things talk to them…maybe if we drop the superhero bit for a minute and talk to them as ourselves…maybe, just maybe, we can reach them. What do you think?”

Chat blinked, his eyes widening in comprehension.

“Do you mean…are you talking about…revealing ourselves?”

“Well, not in front of the angry mob or anything,” Shell amended with an edgy glance shot at AVA. “Just, y’know, we could find a quiet corner to de-transform. And it would be just us.”

“Oh,” Ladybug breathed; Shell saw recognition in her eyes as she seemed to remember him suggesting this once before. “Well…we could try it…but I’ve never been akumatized, Shell.”

“Nor have I,” Chat Noir admitted, surprising Shell. He figured, with the way he behaved when he first returned to crime-fighting…ah, but that was neither here nor there right now. Besides, maybe it was a Miraculous thing, that you couldn’t be akumatized if you possessed a Miraculous…but those were questions for Master Fu, and for another time.

“Okay, then I’ll be the front man,” he suggested with a shrug, fine with this. He preferred talking to fighting anyway. Glancing at Chat Noir, Shell added, “Chat, I say this not because I don’t think you can do it, but because I want you to choose for yourself. It’d probably be a long shot for them to listen to you, since you probably don’t know a lot of the akumatized victims personally. So if you want, you can opt out of this.”

Chat’s gaze flickered between him and Ladybug, his eyes intense.

“…Do you know a lot of them? Personally?” He asked carefully, his gaze settling on Ladybug.

…Oh shit. Didn’t Emerald Shell just put Ladybug in a difficult position? Damn it, he totally did. Sure, it was fine for Shell and her to reveal themselves, but that’s only because they knew about each other already. But with Chat Noir, who was the only enigma here, the only wild card—

“Yes,” Ladybug answered before Shell could begin beating himself up over his slip of the tongue; he glanced over to find her expression grave. Now Chat’s gaze switched to Shell, narrowing, as if…as if he was trying to see through his mask.

Shell blinked. Whoa…was it really so important for Chat to know who he was? He would’ve figured Ladybug’s identity would be more important to him, but—

“I know this is asking a lot,” Shell admitted, frowning at his teammates. “We’ve never actually…talked about revealing ourselves to each other…and I know it’s supposed to be some big taboo thing with our kwamis or whatever, but damn, the situation’s kind of dire, don’t you think?”


Ladybug glanced over at the riot, at Bridgette’s pointless attempts to make them see reason, something hardening in her eyes when her gaze returned to her teammates.

“And if we can’t trust each other…” She trailed off, only for Chat Noir to pick up her sentence.

“Then who can we trust?”

“Exactly,” Shell agreed, the three of them nodding separately to show that they understood each other perfectly. “So, maybe this isn’t the right time or whatever, but considering the situation…can we put all future discussions of identities to the side to try and solve this AVA issue, once and for all?”

Shell waited, watching the other two for their reactions. As good as he thought this idea was, he would not go through with it if there was a single shred of doubt or reservation on Chat Noir or Ladybug’s part. He would not pressure them into being so vulnerable if they would only regret it later, so if there was the tiniest bit of hesitation…

Chat Noir and Ladybug looked at each other for a long time. Shell let them be this time around, knowing that this decision meant more to them than it did to him.

And finally, after a moment that seemed to take forever—

“Okay,” Ladybug agreed at last. Something in Chat’s eyes warmed, and he nodded.

“Okay,” he concurred.

“Okay,” Shell concluded, suddenly feeling a little nervous. He never thought he’d be put in a situation where he would discover the secret identity of Chat Noir, but his life had gone screwy ever since he received his Miraculous; what was one more absurdity to the pile?

Glancing around quickly, he crouched down a little more, bringing Ladybug and Chat Noir with him.

“Okay, now the tricky part: we have to find a place to—”

An uproar from the AVA members wreaking havoc on the steps of City Hall distracted Shell. He glanced up to see what they were all reveling at—

In the highest window of City Hall, Shell could just barely make out a tall figure. He was finishing up a spray-painted message on the window, which seemed to be inspiring AVA’s cheering:


The figure gave a thumbs up, and then promptly disappeared.

“No!” Bridgette turned back to them, looking terrified. “Ladybug, please! The mayor’s in there!!!”


There went Plan A…

“Plan B?” Chat asked, his eyes narrowed.

“Plan B,” Ladybug and Shell agreed, and as one, they escaped the crowd of gaping onlookers and flew into the air, heading for the front doors of City Hall. The AVA members rioting outside of City Hall attempted to stop them—Shell now realized that they were meant to be the distraction—but short of lobbing those annoying goo balls at them, there wasn’t much they could do. Team Miraculous kicked open the doors and slammed them shut against the AVA members chasing after them, Chat using his baton as an impromptu lock.

“The mayor’s office is upstairs,” Ladybug reminded them, looking fierce as she sped towards the stairs. “Come on!”

As he and Chat raced after their leader, Shell’s mind whirled furiously. He didn’t actually believe AVA would be stupid enough to harm the mayor of all people, but this break-in wasn’t encouraging. Just what the hell did they think they were doing?!

Just as they reached the hall where Mayor Fantoche’s office was situated, their appearance was intercepted.

“Whoa, whoa,” called Dark Cupid as he approached, one hand raised (Shell spotted an incriminating spray can in his free hand), his smirk all mischief. “Sorry, Team Miraculous, but the mayor is having a very important meeting with our leader right now. They asked not to be disturbed.”

Shell opened his mouth to attempt to reason with the guy, but Ladybug got there first, stomping up to Dark Cupid and glaring at him so fiercely that his eyebrows shot up, and he looked slightly cowed, despite being much taller than the spotted hero.

“Kim, if you don’t get out of the way, I swear to GOD—”

Shell knew Ladybug wouldn’t hurt Kim, but at the same time, he was grateful for the silent, clawed hand that wrapped around one of her wrists, as if to ground her, to remind her who she was and what was at stake. She didn’t move, settling for glaring furiously at Kim, who glanced nervously over at a hooded figure behind him…huh. Had they been standing there the whole time?

Whoever was under that hood seemed to return Kim’s glance…and they gave a shrug, as if it didn’t matter to them whether or not Team Miraculous threw a wrench in their misbehavior for the night. Kim frowned at this, but when he seemed out of ideas, he had no choice but to step aside. Ladybug brushed past him, and Emerald Shell and Chat Noir followed her as she threw the doors open to the mayor’s office.

At a glance, Shell could tell that the room was large and handsomely decorated, but he couldn’t focus on it long enough to take in details—his attention was drawn immediately to the mayor sitting behind his desk, looking nothing short of alarmed, and the short figure perched cross-legged on top of his desk, looking casual as anything. She glanced over when the doors were thrown open, looking annoyed at the interruption. When she spotted who it was, however…

“Well well, look who decided to join the party after all!” Alix crowed, grinning and saluting them as she turned to face them. “If it isn’t the heroes of Paris!” Her blue gaze slid over to Chat Noir, becoming condescending in an instant. “Plus one hypocrite. What’re you doing here, Black Cat? Was our barbecue outside too subtle for you?”

Beside Shell, Chat Noir stiffened. Shell could still see smoke coming from the pyre outside, and he grit his teeth. The paintings hadn’t bothered him so much, for they were mean-spirited at worst, comical at best, but this

“Alix, this needs to stop,” Ladybug scolded, stepping carefully into the room. Shell noticed the way Alix leaned forward, as if she was about to hop to her feet and fight, and his hand strayed to the strap of his shield, ready to slide it off and use it to defend whoever he needed to.

“Seriously,” he tacked on, edging into the room as well, keeping his gaze carefully on Alix. “We get that you’re angry, Alix, but whatever you’re about to do here isn’t really helping your cause.”

A troubling thought suddenly occurred to him—if shit went down, they could get jumped by Kim and his silent partner at any time. He turned, wondering if it wasn’t better for him to be protecting Ladybug and Chat’s backs…but then he saw that Chat was already on it, his back turned to Alix as he watched Kim and his friend, who eyed him warily in turn. God, if the tension in this place got any worse, someone was bound to explode.

Alix’s noise of impatience drew Shell’s attention back to her.

“It’s Timebreaker. And says who?” She challenged with a sneer. “Don’t you read history books, Turtle Boy? No change occurs without a riot or two.”

“You’re harassing the mayor of Paris,” Chat pointed out, turning to eye Alix critically. “How is this supposed to help your cause?”

Alix’s eyelids lowered dangerously.

“Well, no one’s flinging bombs, for one thing,” she said dryly, and Shell could hear Kim scoffing from the doorway behind them. “And we’re not harassing anyone, just having a friendly chat with the good mayor of the city about a few changes we think could benefit Paris. That’s allowed, isn’t it?” She straightened up from her slouch, openly glaring at Chat Noir. “The only thing that’s really getting hurt here is probably your feelings, Chat Noir…that is, if you still have any in that cold, dead heart of yours—”

Stop it!” Ladybug burst out, and the tension increased as she stomped her foot, as if she could not stand to hear another word against Chat Noir. “Alix, this isn’t right!! I know you want things to change, and we’re trying to help! But you’re not making it any easier with this insanity! I’ve neverbeen so disappointed in you!”

Alix’s eyebrows disappeared behind her bangs as she stared at Ladybug. The way she went quiet made Shell nervous, especially when she suddenly hopped down from Mayor Fantoche’s desk. Shell raised his shield, but she did not approach them. Instead, she made her way delicately around the desk, and it was almost comical, the way the mayor flinched away from her short stature as she drew near him. She ignored him, heading instead for the large window that had been spray-painted with Kim’s message. She climbed onto the windowsill, threw the latch, and pushed. The window opened, its panes swinging away under Alix’s force, and suddenly, they could hear all the noise from the outside—the other members of AVA still chanting, the confused churning of the onlookers, Bridgette still trying valiantly to restore the peace.

“Megaphone,” Alix suddenly said, and the hooded figure from before passed Team Miraculous as they entered the large room, swift steps making the cloak billow about them. Shell could only see a brown-gloved hand as the hooded figure reached forward, passing off a megaphone with AVA’s logo carved into it onto Alix. Alix nodded, and the hooded figure retreated, giving no other hints to their identity away, no matter how hard Shell stared at them as they passed. Weird—AVA already had the face paint and everything. Was the cloak really necessary? What did this particular AVA member have to hide…?

The identity of the mystery figure quickly became a non-issue; as Alix’s megaphone crackled to life with a high-pitched squeal, the noise outside died down, and Shell could just imagine her faithful followers staring up at her, awestruck. And even he had to grudgingly admit, she did look kind of impressive—with the smoke billowing into the night sky before her, and the way she stood ready for a fight, it was almost as if she were Jeanne d’ Arc, come back from her own funeral pyre to punish those who dared to oppose her.

Throwing a sharp glance at them over her shoulder, Alix brought the megaphone to her lips.

“You wanna hear something funny? And by ‘funny’, I mean stupid?” Without waiting for an answer, Alix continued, “Ladybug’s here right now, with her merry band of misfit heroes. She rudely interrupted my meeting with the mayor, and then she has the nerve to claim that she’s disappointed with me!

The displeasure was clearly voiced from the AVA members below. Shell noticed Ladybug tense, and together, he and Chat stepped forward, silently letting her know that they still stood with her, no matter what.

Alix turned to the side, allowing her to glare at Ladybug as she continued to address her followers below.

“…You know what disappoints me, Ladybug? A hero who chooses to fraternize with a ‘reformed’ hero who, just a few months ago, would gladly see us burning in that fire down there instead of him. I’m disappointed by a hero who claims she wants to help, but then comes up with some bullshit plan about a peace rally. I mean, what the fuck is up with that? Instead of telling us to stand and fight, you want us to sit down and be quiet? You really expect us to accept that? We, who have been accused of evil beyond our control, and you, who should know better than anybody else what we have to go through because of it? Are you telling us to lay down and die?!”

By this point, Alix was back on top of Mayor Fantoche’s desk, shouting through her megaphone at them, the volume making Shell wince, despite the largeness of the room. Her voice still carried out the open window, and the members of AVA answered her speech with furious cries.

Shell swallowed, uncomfortable. Once again, he was made aware of the fact that he sympathized with AVA a lot more than he should. As one of the heroes of Paris, he could not abide nor condone such behavior…but as a previously akumatized victim…

“Imagine having people hate you for something you had no control over. Imagine someone you once thought was a hero turn his back on you and condemn you for being used in a psychopath’s quest for magic jewelry, or world domination or whatever.

“Imagine finally, finally gaining the power to do something about it, to fight back…only to have your other hero welcome back the threat you were fighting against the minute he changes his tune.

“…Imagine that hero being one of your best friends, one of the best people you know, who you’d hate to see hurt again, all because she was a little too forgiving and put her faith in the wrong person.”

Emerald Shell shivered, his own words, thoughts, and feelings from the past surging back to haunt him, and he hated himself when he felt his sympathy swelling. It didn’t matter how he felt about things in the past, not anymore: this was the present, and right now, from where he was standing, looking up at Alix—Timebreaker—their anger was justified, there was no doubting that.

But the execution of that anger…?

Shell stared at the quivering mayor, his expression making it clear that he was terrified something was going to happen to him; he thought of the faces of the horrified onlookers who had turned up for a peace rally, and had received chaos instead; he thought of the Chat Noir scarecrow burning in the middle of the fire pit outside. He cringed.

No. This was not right. They had every right to be angry, but all of this madness…there had to be a better way. There had to be.

But Alix apparently would not be moved. As the chanting renewed in force behind her, Alix cried over all of it, her eyes burning as fiercely as the pyre outside:

“Well we will not sit down and be quiet! We will not lay down and die! We are Akumatized Victims Anonymous, and if you think we’re a problem, then we’ll give you a fucking problem!!

Emerald Shell would say this for Alix—she could give a rallying speech like nobody’s business. It was almost like she was growing taller, her little fist raised in the air in answer to the cries of her comrades looking on outside—


It happened too fast. Shell couldn’t process properly, so the scene before him was fragmented:

Alix, spinning through the air, her eyes wide with shock.

Gasps from both Ladybug and Chat Noir, and probably even from him, though he was unaware of making such a noise.

Mayor Fantoche, standing behind his desk and panting, some sort of award clutched within one of his hands.

Nobody moved. Nobody even seemed to breathe.

The only person who was in motion was Alix—the force with which the mayor had hit her sent her toppling off the desk, arcing almost gracefully through the air for one second…

And then she hit the floor with a dull thud. Shell stared at her crumpled form, too shocked to properly register that he should be doing something about this. He was waiting for Alix to get back up, for her to jump to her feet and start raging against the mayor who somehow had the nerve to strike her.

But she didn’t. No matter how long Emerald Shell waited, whether it was the space of a heartbeat or an eternity, Alix did not get back up.

There was an outcry, both from outside and in. The members of AVA must have witnessed what had occurred from down below, and they were screaming, their voices paired with Kim’s, who was shouting behind Shell as he just stood there, staring at Alix’s limp form.

“What have you done?! What the fuck have you done?!

“Mayor Fantoche!” Ladybug cried, sounding horrified. “What did you just do?!

“It’s not my fault!” Mayor Fantoche abruptly burst out, and Shell tore his gaze from Alix to see him sweating and trembling, his shaking hands dropping the award he’d used to club Alix. “I-I thought she was going to attack me! She was screaming like a banshee, and-and—she’s an akuma!” He cried hysterically. “You’re really going to judge me for wanting to defend myself against an akuma?! They’re all hoodlums, all of them! Tearing the city apart and carrying on like this—they all should be locked up!!”

“You motherfucker!!!” Screamed Kim, his face contorted in rage and anguish as he stormed into the room. “I’ll fucking kill you!!

“Kim, no!” Shell cried, whirling around and raising his shield as he stepped in Kim’s way. It absolutely disgusted him to have to defend the mayor after what he had just done, but when the alternative was letting a citizen—a citizen half of Paris already feared simply because he was an akumatized victim—brutalize an authority figure…

There was a great deal of clattering behind him, and Ladybug shouted in alarm. Mayor Fantoche was making a break for it, sprinting as fast as his legs would carry him to a side door on the left of the room.

“HEY!” Kim cried as Chat Noir and Ladybug pursued the mayor; he took a furious step in their direction, and Shell dived in his way, shield still raised—

There was an abrupt flash of orange, the shedding of a cloak, and another figure was suddenly in front of Shell.

Shell gaped at the back of this figure, because it was impossible. She shouldn’t be there, it was impossible!

But there she was.

“No!” She cried, throwing out her arms and thrusting Kim back. “Forget about him! Get Timebreaker, Timebreaker! She needs a hospital, and we need to go! Now!”

Shell watched as Kim grit his teeth, but one glance at Alix was all it took to apparently convince him; as the woman in the orange jumpsuit jumped onto the mayor’s desk, leaping onto the windowsill, Kim sprinted for Alix. There was a tender moment in which he cradled Alix’s broken form to him; Shell couldn’t put a name to the depth of agony in Kim’s features as he gazed down at his fallen leader, and he didn’t want to try.

“AVA!” Cried the orange jumpsuit-clad woman, fox ears sticking out of her dark hair. “Retreat!”

Kim raced over to the woman, clasping her outstretched hand. Together, they leapt from the windowsill.

“Wait!” Shell found himself crying, stunned at the fact that they had just jumped from a fucking window—

His worry was baseless; when he jumped to the window, he spotted them, touching down on the ground harmlessly, thanks to the foxy lady. As Shell gaped from the window, the front doors of City Hall burst open, and Ladybug and Chat Noir emerged, glancing around hurriedly, as if they had lost something.

Shell jumped from the windowsill as well, onto his hoverboard, speeding towards the stairs below as the fox lady raised a clenched fist. He called out again for them to wait, leaping off his hoverboard the moment he was close enough to land safely, because he had to get a good look at this woman, he had to—

As if she knew this, the woman in the fox costume paused, but only for one second longer—her dark green eyes surveyed him for a brief moment…and then she tossed what she was holding in front of her.

The stairs erupted in thick smoke, engulfing everything, Shell included. He coughed and wheezed for air, crouching lower to the stairs as he waved a hand in front of his face to dispel the smoke. As he coughed, his mind dwelled on those eyes he had seen.

They were dark green.

In other words, they were too dark to be Alya’s eyes, so that couldn’t have possibly been her.

But then…how—?

“Shell!” He heard Ladybug cry from somewhere within the smoke. Her call was followed by a fit of coughs, and Shell winced. “Shell, are you okay?!”

“I’m good!” Shell called back after a cough or two of his own. “Just—” he gave a wheezing cough, “—damn this smoke!”

“Here, hold on!” Called Chat Noir’s voice, and Shell heard the sound of something whipping through the air. A couple minutes later, the air cleared enough for Shell to breathe properly, and he straightened up, glancing around. Chat slowly lowered his baton from where he had been spinning it, wincing as he rubbed at one of his eyes.

“G-good thinking,” Shell wheezed, deciding that compliments needed to be given when they were due. Chat blinked in surprise at that, and an uncertain quirk of his lips turned into a tentative smile.

“Thanks.” His gaze went to Ladybug next, who climbed down a stair or two closer to Shell, a hand pressed over her mouth. “My Lady, are you all right?”

“Yes.” But Ladybug huffed like she wasn’t all right, glaring into the building. “Fantoche got away.”

“How did that happen?”

“He used some secret door that locked behind him. We thought it might lead out here…but apparently it doesn’t,” Chat answered, rubbing the back of his head as he frowned. “We could search the building, but chances are he’s long-gone by now, since he’d know about secret passages and stuff.”

“You think City Hall is full of secret passages?” Shell questioned, a touch incredulous. Chat gave a shrug.

“How would we know for sure? But if I was working on a government building, it’s what I’d do.”

“More importantly,” Ladybug said, staring at the spot where AVA had miraculously vanished, “…Was that who I thought it was?”

“I don’t know,” Chat replied, turning to frown at the spot as well. “It’s weird…I didn’t think Lila was in Paris anymore…but then again, it’s not like I’d know for sure—”

“Wait—Lila Rossi? You knew Lila Rossi?” Shell asked, startled at Chat’s information on the subject. “You…you know she was Volpina?”

Chat stared at him in return, looking bewildered.

“How’d you know which Lila I was talking about?”

“I asked you first.”

“Yeah, but—”

“It doesn’t matter whether it was actually Lila or not,” Ladybug cut in, folding her arms and frowning at the pair of them, an anxious edge in her voice. “What I want to know is how she pulled the disappearing act.”

“Yeah…” Chat said slowly, tearing his gaze from Shell to frown in speculation, though Shell still stared at him, nonplussed. Who the hell was under that mask of his? “I know they’re all running around as their akumatized selves, but…that shouldn’t have been able to happen. Unless they figured out how to make smoke bombs or something—”

“Not to mention she jumped from that window up there while carrying two people and landed like it was nothing,” Shell unwillingly added, glancing up at the open window into the Mayor’s office once again. When his gaze returned to his teammates, it was to find Ladybug’s face drained of blood.

“You don’t think—was that an akuma?” She yelped, staring wide-eyed at Shell and Chat Noir, the latter blinking in a startled fashion at this possibility.

“You think the Butterfly re-akumatized Lila?”

“Or something. That’s the only explanation there is, isn’t there?”

“Maybe? I don’t know…things have gotten so confusing that it’s hard to keep everything straight, now.”

“Hmm…what do you think, Shell? …Shell? Emerald Shell!”

Emerald Shell blinked, tearing his gaze from AVA’s vanishing point.


Ladybug frowned at him.

“Are you okay?”

Shell nodded automatically, though his mind was too full for him to respond properly.

Sure, it was possible that the Butterfly, for sick kicks, re-akumatized Lila Rossi, planted her within the ranks of AVA, and was now using her as a spy. It seemed like a perfectly villainous thing to do.

…But there was one other explanation. It was an explanation Shell hadn’t been considering, because he felt it to be impossible. After all, though she still wore the Fox Miraculous, Alya still hadn’t said anything to him, so he thought the Fox kwami was still lying dormant for reasons unknown...

…But what if it was no longer dormant?

What if…it had never been dormant?

What if Alya, catching onto the concept of her powers too quickly, had fooled him into thinking she didn’t think anything special of the Fox Miraculous necklace, and was instead working behind the scenes with AVA, for reasons all her own?

But those weren’t her eyes,’ his thoughts reasoned as he tried to puzzle out the inconsistency. ‘They were too green to be Alya’s eyes.

But then again: the Fox Miraculous held the power of illusion.

So, if she had wanted him to see a pair of green eyes instead of her actual eyes…then why wouldn’t he see just what she wanted him to see?

Such a realization struck him with such force that Shell nearly stumbled, gritting his teeth together.

If he had been worrying that he had royally fucked up with the Fox Miraculous all this time, only for his sly fiancée to be sneaking around with it—

“Shell? What’s—” Ladybug began, breaking him out of his reverie. But before he could think of how to respond—before she could even finish the question, even—there was a sudden call for her.

“Ladybug, Ladybug! What just happened up there? Was that the mayor attacking the leader of AVA?!”

“Is the mayor a hidden member of the Anti-Akuma Taskforce?! Has our own government been corrupted by this destructive conflict between AVA and the AAT?”

“Ladybug, can you explain the most recent akuma attack tonight, which took place during the premiere night of Fashion Week?”

Shell huffed in irritation, frowning down the stairs at the reporters shouting up at them, being held at bay by the police, seemingly on Bridgette’s command. Still, they hounded them, mostly Ladybug, with question after question, demanding answers, as if this night hadn’t dragged on long enough already, as if they didn’t have a million other things to deal with tonight—

It was with no small amount of worry and pride that Shell witnessed Ladybug squaring her exhausted shoulders before she began to march down the stairs, apparently intending to answer the press. Both he and Chat Noir reached out at the same time, gripping said shoulders.

“You don’t have to do this,” Shell told her.

“You’re exhausted. Explanations can wait until we figure this all out,” Chat insisted, looking just as concerned as Shell felt. Ladybug paused, and Shell waited, wondering if she would actually agree that her duty did not need to take over her night, for once—

No dice. Ladybug looked back at them with a small, tired smile.

“I don’t think this is actually something that can wait. Not after everything that’s happened tonight. Besides, I need to go down there to talk to Bridgette anyway. Something has to be done about Mayor Fantoche.” She frowned, momentarily showing her exhaustion. “I don’t know what we can do…but something has to be done. I have to make sure of it. I’m Ladybug, aren’t I? It’s my job to protect the city, no matter the threat.”

Shell sighed. He didn’t like this, but he recognized that Ladybug would do what Ladybug had to do, so he let his hand leave her shoulder. Chat was slower to let her go, and she sent him a reassuring glance before she focused on Shell, biting her lip.

“Shell, I’m sorry. I promised you an explanation—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Shell said, quick to dismiss the issue, now that he realized the hypocrisy in his anger. The appearance of ‘Volpina’ forcefully reminded him that it wasn’t only her keeping secrets within this team.

Ladybug gave his arm a reassuring squeeze, her faint smile growing a little before she turned, walking down the steps to answer the summons of the citizens. Shell watched her go, his heart aching. She had always been one of the toughest women he had ever known…but some days, it hurt him to recognize just how tough she had to be.

Emerald Shell glanced over at Chat, finding him staring at Ladybug’s back. His expression…it was complicated, like a combination of guilt, pride, and something else…something deeper…

“Chat,” Shell called him, partly to distract him, but mostly because he had to tell him something. “Listen—I have to go.”

Chat’s head whipped around to stare at Shell, incomprehension in his gaze.

“Go?” He parroted, as if the word was foreign to him. Shell gave a stiff nod.

“Yeah. There’s something I need to take care of, something I need to check, regarding…Volpina.”

Now Chat turned fully towards Shell, green cat’s eyes growing wider with surprise…and a glint of curiosity.

“Do you…know something?”

“I might. Can’t explain now, though,” Shell prefaced as Chat’s mouth opened to undoubtedly ask for more information. “I’m not sure if I’m right, so until I…confirm some things, I can’t say what’s up.”

Chat frowned at this. Shell waited, wondering if the cat man was about to call him out on his hypocrisy—

“…So you have to go see if you’re right?” Chat concluded, and Shell tried to hide his surprise as best as he could, giving a slow nod in response.

“Yeah.” He glanced down at Ladybug, who was currently taking the press’ questions. Poor LB…

Shaking his head, Emerald Shell returned his gaze to Chat Noir.

“I’m trusting you to stay with LB, make sure she’s all right.”

This managed to shock Chat more than anything else; his mouth actually fell open, and Shell inwardly snorted in amusement.

“…You’re…trusting me?”

“Is there an echo out here?” Shell quipped, smirking as he shrugged his shield off his back. “Yeah, dude, I’m trusting you. ‘Cause we’re teammates, and if we can’t trust each other, than who can we trust? Right?”

Slowly, so very slowly, something like a delighted grin spread across Chat’s face. It surprised Shell; he hadn’t realized just how much his mistrust of the cat man was bothering said cat man.

 “So…do we hug, or—”

“Let’s not get crazy,” Shell deadpanned, raising his fist instead. “Save the hugs for when I save your life or something.”

Chat chuckled, his fist pounding against Shell’s.

“Will do.”

While Shell had to admit the mutual understanding was nice, he didn’t have time to dawdle anymore. If he was going to find out whether or not his suspicions held any weight, he had to go now. So, after a clap to Chat’s shoulder, Shell hopped onto his hoverboard and sped into the air. He only glanced back once, watching as Chat Noir approached Ladybug, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder. Assured by the gesture, Emerald Shell escaped into the night.

Nothing would please him more to fall into bed after such a draining night, but like Ladybug, there was a duty as Guardian he had to fulfill before he could even think about sleep.



Kim wouldn’t stop pacing. The rest of AVA watched him as he walked up and down their hideout; it seemed physically impossible for him not to move. Still as restless as he was in collegé…the thought would have amused Alya, if things currently weren’t so grim.

“Kim,” Mylené said softly, looking anxious as he passed by her, “the doctors said they would do all they could—”

“She’s in a coma,” Kim growled, his hands flexing, as if he itched to break something. “There’s nothing they can do. She’s a vegetable now.”

“She could recover—”

“She’s not gonna just wake up tomorrow like nothing happened!” Kim burst out, wheeling around on Mylené and baring his teeth. “It’s not like she’s taking a nap! Do you understand what a coma is?! It means she got hit so hard that her brain could do nothing but shut down! Which means it’d be a miracle for her to recover! And I should know! I went to medical school!”

“Kim, calm down,” Nathanael insisted, brushing his bright red hair out of his face to temporarily reveal his left eye before it fell back over his face. “Shouting isn’t going to change anything, either.”

“Well what the fuck do you propose we do?!” Kim spat at him; he was apparently prepared to take his ire out on everyone he conceivably could. “Without Alix, AVA is dead! She was the brains behind everything! And I—I—”

Kim hastily turned away from everyone, but Alya could see the tears that burned in his eyes just before he hid his face. Unwillingly, she imagined herself in his position, the person she cared about lying invalid in a hospital bed, cut down just for fighting what she believed in. It wasn’t right. None of this was right.

The flame of righteous fury that had been burning within her ever since Alix had been attacked reached fever pitch, and she stood up. Enough was enough.

“This cannot happen again,” she said, her voice lower than she had meant it to be. Despite that, however, every eye in the room still turned upon her, as if they could sense the strength of her conviction.

After a moment, the blonde girl in the black costume with red polka dots spoke up.

“Well, what are we supposed to do about it?” She demanded with a flip of her blonde hair and a scowl. “Kim probably would have beat the stupid mayor senseless for daring to attack Alix, if only you hadn’t gotten in the way.”

Alya refrained from rolling her eyes. Never in her life would she have expected to be on the same side as Chloé, but then again, she never had expected to become a superheroine either, so she was learning to roll with the punches.

“If we hadn’t gotten Alix to a hospital when we did, it could’ve been much worse,” she pointed out. “And I wasn’t willing to leave any of you behind, just in case any of the other people out there got any bright ideas, or there were AAT thugs hidden somewhere nearby.”

Chloé pursed her lips, but seemed to choose not to respond. Alya would take what she could get from her, and she turned to face the room, addressing the whole of AVA.

“I know you all signed on knowing that anything could happen to you…but still, none of you expected this, right? Suddenly, we don’t have a leader anymore. So what do we do?”

The members of AVA glanced at each other, as if they were waiting for someone to announce a brilliant, deus ex machina scheme.

When no one ventured one, Alya gave it a shot.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Just like Alix said, we’re not gonna lay down and die. We’re gonna get back up, reorganize, and keep fighting. But this time, we’re gonna do it smart.”

“You saying Alix’s plan was stupid?!” Kim hurled at her, his eyes red, and not from the paint on his face. Alya reminded herself to have patience with him, because he was going through a lot right now.

“I’m saying that, while she has amazing charisma and is the best at getting people to mobilize…maybe that energy could’ve been used more productively.”

“I don’t see you coming up with anything better, Rossi,” Kim growled bitterly, and Alya nodded, raising a hand.

“If you’d let me finish, Kim…” She waited, watching him resign himself to silence before she continued. “So, based on what I’ve learned since joining AVA, we define ourselves in three ways: by our pride, our independence, and our ferocity. Our pride means we never apologize for being akumatized, because it was beyond our control, and we can’t possibly be blamed for something beyond our control; our independence, because we don’t need anyone to fight our battles for us; and our ferocity, because we’ll be damned if we let anyone push us around.”

A ripple of chuckling went through the otherwise disheartened group. Alya took the encouragement and ran with it.

“These three things are what makes us Akumatized Victims Anonymous. And I’m proud of that. …But, and stay with me here…I think the make-up and costumes are a little much.”

“…What do you mean?” Nathanael asked, his tone polite enough, but Alya had gotten to know him well enough when he was dating Marinette to know that he was taking her suggestion as a personal attack, since the idea had apparently been his in the first place. She raised her hands to placate him.

“I’m just saying—why do we have to hide, if we’ve done nothing wrong? The AAT don’t bother hiding their faces, and it’s not like our akuma names actually hide who we are, since a quick internet search would tell anybody our real names in a heartbeat. Yes, even those of you who were akumatized seven years ago. Nothing dies on the internet.”

Some of the AVA members exchanged side glances. In those glances, Alya saw that some of them had already realized this problem, but just had no idea how to bring it up before. And Alya had to admit that she didn’t blame them—Alix’s convictions were so strong that it made it hard to argue with her. But now that she was no longer here…

Somewhere in the middle of the room, a hand raised, as if this was school. Alya nodded at the hand.

“Yeah, Bari-Star?”

The red-headed woman stood up, clutching her arm in a self-conscious fashion.

“…But what about what happens after that?” She asked, looking uncomfortable. “If we stop using the face paint and…and start using our real names…won’t we be harassed in our daily lives, too? Just like the AAT?”

Alya frowned.

“…I can’t promise that won’t happen,” she said honestly, and this answer did not seem to please a lot of the AVA members, if the mutterings that began were any indication. Alya raised her voice to talk over them. “But if you’re all still with me—if we’re all still determined to support each other—I think we can get through it. I know anonymity is easier, but…” She shook her head. “We’re not doing anything to convince the rest of the city not to fear us this way.”

“Yeah? Well, why is it our responsibility to make them not fear us?” The guy known as Viner griped, folding his arms with a scowl. “Like Timebreaker always said, that sounds like a personal problem.”

“It is,” Alya readily admitted with a nod. “It shouldn’t be our responsibility to make them realize they have nothing to fear…” She locked gazes with Viner. “But do you feel good about exasperating that fear? Is that how you want people to react to you the rest of your life? With fear?”

“Listen, Vixen, if you have a point, spit it out already,” he challenged her with a glare. “Talking in circles like this is making my head hurt.”

Translation: she was making him think, and it was making him uncomfortable. Alya shrugged and did as he asked.

“Okay, here’s my point: I definitely want to keep protesting this stupid akuma fear. I want us to be as loud and proud as we can…but not as Frankenstein’s rabid creations. Not anymore.”

Deciding to lead by example, Alya reworked her current illusion, making her mask removable. It wasn’t her face, so she had no problem stripping herself of the mask and tossing it to the ground.

“I think it’s time we stop pretending to be the monsters someone else made us,” she said quietly, watching the room. “We’re people, just like everybody else in Paris. Don’t you think it’s time we remind them of that, too?”

More glances were exchanged, and some muttering went through the room. Alya had no idea whether or not they would even take her seriously; she was technically the new kid here. But it seemed like everyone was so lost without Alix that Alya couldn’t just sit there and let them flounder. If she could help, she would.

And if she could convince them that it was time to stop hiding behind face paint and goo…then maybe AVA could make even better progress with the public.


Alya turned towards the summons; it always took her half a second to realize that someone meant her when they called Lila’s name. But it was easy to tell who was calling by how they called her; Kim was usually the one to address everyone by last name, save for Alix…

He was watching her warily, something Alya noticed with intrigue. What—did he think she was trying to take over or something, now that Alix was out of commission? That honestly wasn’t her goal—she was just trying to help, to give them direction again. She never saw herself as the leader of AVA, not at all…but if she could help them rediscover their purpose, and they started treating her like the new leader…what would she do about that?

“There’s something you’re still not telling us,” Kim interrupted her musings, and Alya frowned. Oh boy, here they went again… “How do you do all the stuff you do if you’re not an actual akuma?”

Alya rolled her eyes to the ceiling.

“Is it so hard to believe that I would have a Miraculous?”

“Well, considering you lied about it the first time…” Chloé drawled. Alya scowled, hating that she had a point.

“Look, Kim, you’re just gonna have to trust that I want to help, no matter how I got my powers,” she told him point blank, shutting down the conversation with her tone. Brushing Lila’s long hair out of her face, Alya turned, facing the exit of AVA’s hideout. “I’m gonna take off for the night. You guys should get some rest, too—it’s been a long night.”

As she paused in the doorway, Alya looked back, taking in every discouraged and angry expression she saw there. Was it really okay? To leave them in such a state…?

A chime-like sound came from her Miraculous. Her illusion was about to break.

“Don’t do anything crazy, all right?” She said, the request directed mostly at Kim, who scowled and turned away, his fists tightening at his sides. “And remember what I said.”

Leaving them on that parting note, Alya exited the hideout, giving a curt nod to the guards before she leapt onto the nearest rooftop, hopping her way home. As she sailed through the night sky in between jumps, she felt her illusion melt away, and Lila’s guise was stripped off, leaving her as her true superhero persona. That didn’t particularly bother Alya; she was up too high and moving too fast for anybody to get a good look at her to tell the difference.

Even so, she did not slow down until she had reached her apartment, slipping into the window she had left open. Technically, she was still supposed to be at Nino’s, freaking out over how that thing, whatever it was, had ruined Marinette’s fashion debut. But Nino probably wouldn’t return until later that night anyway, and if he asked, Alya could just tell him that she had left to try and check on Marinette, but strangely couldn’t get a hold of her…

Whether it was because he felt she was getting suspicious again or because of his own guilt, Nino tended to clam up whenever Alya mentioned his or Marinette’s mysterious disappearances. Alya felt bad for using it to deflect questions about her mysterious disappearances, but hey, if it worked…

In the darkness of her bedroom, Alya took a deep breath and allowed her Miraculous transformation to dispel. Trixx gave a dramatic sigh, and Alya caught her before she could spiral through the air to the floor.

“I’m exhausted!” The kwami pouted up at Alya, her plum eyes glowing in the moonlight filtering in from the window. “Keeping your disguise on topof your transformation is hard work, you know!”

“I know, and your hard work is appreciated,” Alya assured her with a smirk, transferring the kwami to her hair just to cheer her up. “What do you say to a well-earned bowl of strawberries?”

“Yaaaay!” Trixx cheered, as Alya knew she would. It so figured that the fox creature was jazzed about strawberries, with how much she loved the color red.

Alya laughed to herself as she began to make her way through the dark bedroom, making a mental note to switch the light on before she left, just so she wouldn’t stumble over things when she returned—

The lamp behind her suddenly clicked on.

Alya whirled with a startled cry, throwing her fists up, ready for a fight—

Emerald Shell sat on her bed, his arms folded as he stared disapprovingly at her.

Alya’s jaw dropped, and she heard Trixx gasp before quickly burrowing in her hair.

It was too late, though. The damage had been done.


“U-uh…whoa, Emerald Shell!” Alya exclaimed; in her shock, her brain glitched, and though she knew it was pointless, she still tried to play dumb. “Wow, what a shock! Um, wh-what are you—”

“Wayzz,” Emerald Shell interrupted, confusing Alya with the strange word until he said, “revert me.”

Emerald Shell’s transformation came undone, and there sat Nino, in the same pajamas Alya had seen him in earlier, with one new addition: the floating green creature that rested itself on his shoulder, surveying her with a calm gaze.

Huh. So that was the kwami of the Turtle Miraculous…

Nino?!” Alya made herself shriek in surprise, inwardly cringing at how much she was overdoing it when she pointed an exaggerated finger at him, her free hand going to her cheek in shock. “You’re—

“Save it,” Nino cut across her, looking most displeased. He scooted forward until he was sitting on the edge of the bed, patting the spot next to him. “Sit down. We need to talk.”

Alya could feel Trixx peek out from under her hair, shifting restlessly.

“Are we in trouble?” She whispered to Alya, who sighed.

“Me more than you,” she muttered, her shoulders slumping as she took in the legitimate anger in Nino’s eyes.

Looked like she had some explaining to do.

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

Part 31 of 37

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